ALL-NEW X-MEN #039 — This is generally good all-hands-on-deck fun that’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that Bendis is almost done with this incredible run, and here at the end, he’s got the core characters of this book out here messing around with the casts of three or four other titles that I don’t read. The Sorrentino art continues to impress. I’m ready to get back to Earth and finally launch the endgame, which, guess I’m in luck because I don’t see the next issue of this title on the checklist for the end of this crossover. A charming reunion between Teen Jean & Teen Scott, anyway.
BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #5 & #6 — There was some release-date trickery or some such because #5 completely got by me, but all is made well now. Langdon Foss stays on board to provide a kind of stained-glass splash-page art for the framing sequences before Marco Rudy resumes absolutely cutting loose and pushing himself to greater and greater heights during the feature presentation, conjuring the greatness of recent JHWIII layouts while populating his panels with images that dial all the way up to Mack or Sienciewicz watercolors or other mixed media. He even drops a Sienciewicz homage there on the Daisy-is-not-dead reveal. Really spectacular work. Ales Kot sneaks some Burroughs in here with the word virus thing, which is even cooler when you make it down to ZERO, a nice bit of same-day release syngery, there. The one negative criticism I have is that character work is occasionally getting lost in the shuffle of all of this cosmic alien madness. Six issues in and I don’t feel that dialed in to either Bucky or Daisy, at least at the depth that the first issue implied we might should be by now, but Crossbones’s planet-pistol is obviously the Sensational Character Find of 2015.
BEST OF WEEK: PRINCESS LEIA #2 — Waid & the Dodsons deliver on the promise of the first issue by sinking their teeth in to the narrative now that things are rolling. On just a linear level, this is perfectly engaging, fun bits sprinkled throughout with Leia giving the false name of Solo being the equivalent of a lovelorn student writing her crush’s name on her school notebook, but then there are a couple of tricks that completely put this over the top. The bottom of Page One shifts to a flashback of Leia eating ruica as a child on a royal terrace with her father, and he has one line about her growing big and strong, which then cuts back to her telling Evaan that she likes it just fine, which is enough all on its own before Waid takes us to a few years later and, in a single page, does more to flesh out Alderaanian culture than anyone I’ve ever run across (my Expanded Universe mileage is admittedly pretty low). That was well done enough, but then that page when Leia sees the stained-glass image of Amidala and then the damn picture turns and looks at her but Evaan doesn’t see her . . . that gave me goosebumps. Very strong character work. And what a great last-panel twist, quite deftly set up there amidst all of this other greatness. The Force is strong with these creators.
CHRONONAUTS #1 — Millar has been on a roll lately and bringing in the art team responsible for THE WAKE doesn’t exactly hurt his situation. The conceit is pretty simple here: a couple of quasi-douchebag Texas-based scientists perfect time-travel technology and unveil it live on global television before Things Go Wrong, but no surprise, what elevates this into greatness is the masterful work of Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth, who in a very short time have achieved particularly stratospheric synergistic heights and bring Millar’s widescreen vistas to life with a bombastic joy that revels in the medium while simultaneously elevating it. And the fun is only just getting started. Highly recommended to fans of STARLIGHT or anything Sean Murphy has ever drawn, natch (and really, if you don’t have JOE THE BARBARIAN or PUNK ROCK JESUS in your life already, make that fix pronto, buckaroo).
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS: THE SUN BEYOND THE STARS #1 — After a ten-page opener that is terrific but just as head-scratching for those of us who have been on board since the last (and first) #1 as the new kids, the story zooms in on poor Yuri, who has been awaiting trial in a cosmic court where justice is arbitrary, insane, and terribly swift. Rest in peace, Garru. No worries, though, our Yuri manages to not only survive but see his fondest wish come true by issue’s end, though there’s also a surprising component to what happens next. This new format of zooming in on specific characters for short mini-arcs seems to be working here at first blush, and Pitarra has once again managed to tighten up his already ridiculous linework, making Quitely and Darrow proud. Recommended jumping-on point!
SATELLITE SAM #12 — Chaykin continues to bring the black-and-white thunder as Fraction starts ramping this one up for the home stretch. This one definitely feels like part of the third act as the various plots skid toward some kind of potentially messy resolution. I really can’t praise the complexity and depth of Chaykin’s fine linework enough. You get the feeling that he could make someone walking uptown from the Village for twenty pages pretty much one of the most compelling series of pages you’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m definitely fully engaged to see where all of this lands.
ZERO #15 — As someone who has been waiting two years for his fourth issue of DEAD BEATS, starring exciting psychedelic action versions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, to be drawn by people who obviously have better things to do, all I can say about this issue is great job on Ales Kot for nailing the cut-up vibe of Burroughs language, Ian Bertram was a terrific choice for the art style this issue, and it is certainly a narratively compelling choice to have all of this possibly be trapdoored out into the multiverse by way of a fungal Burroughs word virus.
BATGIRL #40 — Well, of course it wasn’t Oracle after all, but respect to all parties for the convincing fakeout. Babs Tarr just gets better and better over Cameron Stewart’s layouts, these is kinetic terrific pages. Great resolution with Dinah’s canary cry saving the day. We’re getting our rock band fix here while Gwendolyn sorts out her business with The Mary Janes across the street there, but now that she’s out of the picture, it looks like the roommate Frankie is all set up to provide technical support. I will confess to flinching when I read BATGIRL #41 in the Next Issue blurb.
BATMAN ETERNAL #50 — Well, Blackgate is still rioting, Gotham is still burning, Batman is talking shit to a battered Bane, and it’s pretty much business as usual here. Alvaro Martinez turns in quality pages. I particularly like that shot of Batgirl discarding her opponent. She looks just like Tarr drew her, is the finest compliment I can give. Bruce’s follow-up comment that his sidekicks should “Save Everybody” is an interesting permutation of Hickman’s plan for Reed Richards to “Solve Everything.” The reveal at the end is earned and even terribly obvious in hindsight, but of course, I never saw it coming. Just one more, I suppose.
FUTURES END #46—The cover spoils this one, and people were happy to as well on the Internet, but that doesn’t take away from the execution of the story, pun intended, I am so sorry. The Fifty-Sue/Elsie-Dee creature is still providing a species of comic relief opposite Cole & Lana. That ending, though, it played well enough, butwas a little bit abrupt. Like, the injuries didn’t seem that definitive from a storytelling perspective to the point that it’s just like, Oh yeah, this guy totally has less than a minute to live suddenly. Not exactly a heartbreaking farewell, but competently conveyed.