STAR WARS #3 — Well, what a happy birthday to me. One of my favorite art teams of all time delivers more pages from one of the greatest stories in the galaxy. I had the vibe last issue that that was the end of the first arc, but there was obviously still plenty of exit strategy to engage. Vader taking down the AT-AT was, of course, terrific fun, and it was a pleasure to finally make hit lightspeed. Aaron once again nails all of the dialogue and characterization to the wall, and just when our merry band makes it to hyperspace, he does fine work teasing that all has not yet been told about the legacy of Obi-Wan Kenobi back on Tatooine, which is a tantalizingly possibility. Poor Luke can never seem to keep away from that place for long. That planet might actually have a stronger rubber-band effect for locals than glorious old Lubbock, Texas.
NEW AVENGERS #031 — Hickman gives Dr. Strange the spotlight as he leads a legion of I-forget-whats to storm a door to The Library before the world that houses it suffers the fate of incursion. The reveal at the end is huge and makes all kinds of sense. Who else would it be? Of course, the presence of Owen Reece is not much of a surprise to anyone who has heard about what’s happening next in the Mighty Marvel Universe. This is, once again, a very entertaining slab of sequential fiction that just makes you thirsty for more right away, but I’m not worried, I’m sure they’ve got the next one lurking just around the corner.
HOWARD THE DUCK #1 — I was expecting something a bit closer to the oddball zaniness of the madcap SEX CRIMINALS letter column or Zdarsky’s charming flirtation/affirmation of his local Applebee’s, but he plays it quite a bit closer here, which probably serves the material better anyway. What you see with the cover is pretty much what you get. Howard is a down-on-his-luck private eye just trying to close a case and get paid in a world he never yadda yadda. Guest stars galore in the mighty Marvel tradition, probably the funniest moment is when Spidey loses Howard and then just straight breaks down and falls to his knees right there on the rooftop, crying about Uncle Ben. That was some pretty side-splitting shit. Quinones/Renzi show up with art that’s probably stylistically closest to what Samnee/Wilson have going on over in DAREDEVIL. And in case She-Hulk, Spider-Man, and Black Cat weren’t enough for the guest stars, they do go ahead and play up the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film connection. And why not? This one is nothing but good fun, and I’ll definitely be picking up next issue.
SPIDER-GWEN #002 — I didn’t think anybody would ever top Morrison having deranged Zur En Arrh Batman accosted by Bat-Mite and being told about how imagination is the fifth dimension and so forth, but Latour comes close here with the Sporktcular Spider-Ham calling our eponymous heroine “Gwenzelle.” Not just a whole lot happens this issue either (that SPIDER-VERSE pilot was highly compressed to like a Silver Age level because, I guess, that might have been the creators’ only shot and they wanted to get everything in there, but now reader demand has clearly given the team the opportunity to lean back and take their time telling their story), but it’s a satisfying read. Really, it could have just been Gwen and Peter Porker the entire time, and that would have been lovely. These alternate versions of Frank Castle and Matt Murdock are kind of fun permutations to watch develop. Hoping to get some actual rock and roll happening next issue, as well as some daddy/daughter time, my two favorite things about that pilot issue. Terrific art once again from Rodriguez & Renzi, Marvel’s hippest new colorist, apparently.
SILVER SURFER #010 — Wow. This issue was really not fucking around. After such a relatively slow-burn series of done-in-ones to open the series, Slott & the Allreds just completely went for it this arc. I was completely ready to say goodbye to Dawn and lose her to Galactus forever. Tremendous character work from Slott, and of course, you can’t imagine anyone (living) beside the Allreds delivering these visuals. It is kind of funny, this has definitely been the Surfer by way of DOCTOR WHO since the get-go, so they just go ahead and throw BATTLESTAR GALACTICA into the mix while they’re at it. I don’t mind! Soar on, Norrin Radd!
FANTASTIC FOUR #644 — Robinson & Kirk have just about bring this global scale event-unto-itself to a close, and are doing a fine job tying up all of the loose ends, somehow still making the inclusion of Sleepwalker and the Heroes Reborn counterparts from eighteen years back make perfect sense. I just keep waiting for Darkhawk to drop in at the last minute to save the day, but I guess it’s probably too late for that now. Bentley-23 continues to shine, stealing every scene he’s in, despite the crowded ensemble. Of course, I don’t really believe that next issue is going to be the end of anything for more than maybe half a year, but the creative team has done solid work building this run up to a grand finale.
ALL-NEW X-MEN #037— Diiiiid #038 of this already come out as part of that BLACK VORTEX hoo-hah? I guess these pretty paintings took a little bit longer. This time, Bendis focuses on Emma and Teen Jean, as they head off to Madripoor for Jean to develop her non-telepathic skill set. Having Emma assume a mentor role for her time-displaced rival for Scott’s affections is a pretty brilliant move on Bendis’s part and very rewarding for those of us who have been following this relationship over the years. As if all of that isn’t enough fun, the antagonist in this issue is Lubbock’s own Fred J. Dukes, a wonderful person if ever there was one. Good fun all around to be found here.
ACTION COMICS #40 — The Quinones KAL & DOOMSDAY variant cover is brilliant. I mean, shit, I wish that Chip Zdarsky was writing that comic book, that would be some deeply out-of-control nonsense. Alas, we are saddled with the regular excellent creative team of Pak/Kuder/Quintana, who deliver yet another Bizarro tale that is better than any I’ve read in recent years. Pak actually got the language right the entire way through, it seems like! That pretty much never happens. I loved the mention of continuity and “This Wednesday” on the first page. Because why not? This one has a lot of heart, really wonderful work. I just hope they can scoot this back up to first week of the month when we come back from Convergence, I prefer to start my comics-reading month off with this title every first Wednesday just because that feels like the right thing to do, and I’ve been all out of alignment here these past couple of months, hey.
BATMAN ETERNAL #49 — Quality panelwork from Fernando Blanco. I particularly liked that shot of Stephanie bailing on her dad. Though of course, nothing is better than Alfred putting the smackdown on that stupid stupid villain called Hush. And what a last page, that is some triumphant combat cliffhanger business, right there.
FUTURES END #45 — Aw. The second death of Frankenstein was very well handled and even touching. I wonder if we’ll see Amethyst again for the curtain call or if that was that. It kind of felt like the latter. Overall, solid work, even with guys splitting up pencil/ink duties at this late stage. You’re almost there, just a little further, fellas!
ASTRO CITY #21 — Busiek has indeed been saying for years that Quarrel is his favorite character, and it certainly shows. She’s not quite the typical woman-on-the-street type protagonist that this book typically gives us, but her role as an unpowered member of Honor Guard lets her straddle the line, giving us insight into the way someone views the world who isn’t a full powered superhero like Samaritan, but who still comes from a meager upbringing, resulting in some of the richest characterization and most moving arcs in this magnificent title’s thoroughly engaging history. I can’t believe we were ever without this book for any length of time, it feels like it’s always been here, a dear old friend showing us all how its done. Kudos to Busiek, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair, Fletcher, et al.
EAST OF WEST #18—Babylon is definitely one of my favorite characters in this rather vividly imagined ensemble, particularly his dynamic with trusty old Balloon there, so an issue focusing almost entirely on him is a welcome respite from all of the other crazy that this book pumps out on a monthly basis. Between Hickman grooming Valeria Richards to assume the mantle of Dr. Doom and all of Remender’s recent fun with Evan/Genesis/Apocalypse, the theme of innocent children who are predestined to become the embodiment of evil is getting some serious panel-time here lately. Dragotta & Martin have, if anything, gotten even better as time has gone on. They really seem to be able to deliver anything, just jaw-dropping pages throughout. This crazy book still seems to be accruing momentum as we head into the back half of its second year. Always a pleasure to pick up.
SPAWN: RESURRECTION #1 — New series artist Jonboy Meyers is a friend of a friend whose work I’ve enjoyed via social media and cons over the past few years, so when McFarlane called him up to the big show, I couldn’t resist dropping in and seeing what’s what. It’s . . . been a while for Spawn and me. This is my first triple-digit issue. New writer Paul Jenkins makes the story accessible enough to someone who hasn’t checked in in a long time, and JonBoy definitely blows it up on the sequentials with dynamic staging and panelwork throughout. The story is a little boilerplate for an Eisner award winner. There’s the requisite newscaster-as-expository source, and most of the issue is our hero talking to a dog who is God before learning that he has to go to Hell to save the soul of his recently-deceased-by-way-race-riot wife who has joined the soul of their unborn son. That’s pretty much solid cliché. It would have been a really cool move to still 86 Wanda there in the riot but instead make her the protagonist, and she’s got to go get Al and the unborn kid’s soul. Inverting the dynamic to make her the hero and not the damsel would have been swell. But good on Jonboy, it must be said. The pages look great, and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people.
BEST OF THE WEEK: CASANOVA: ACEDIA #2 — Man, this volume acts all accessible and newbie-boardable unless you’ve read the first three volumes, and then it’s like, “What the fuck is Fraction actually doing now?” I need to go back and reread everything. I remember that photograph but completely space on the context altogether. The Moon art is thrilling, no matter what. That thing that crawls out of Zephyr is fucking horrifying. McShane and the Kato kid as buddy cops is a wonderful dynamic. And I deeply love that the kid is just reading DUNE on the clock there while standing guard over our guy, who is in serious danger just one door away. Wow, though. And then a page of Pulitzer-prize-winning Michael Chabon’s Metanauts discussing farts before it’s time to meet the J.I.M.M.Y. caps. We truly live in an age of science and wonder, my friends. Though Fabio’s demon calling Fraction “Bro” on the inside back cover is the finest thing of all. I’m sorry I can’t buy all five thousand or whatever the print run is because it certainly feels like they’re just making this thing for me.