Wednesday, April 29, 2015


BEST OF WEEK: STAR WARS #004 — The pacing on this series has been a really cool thing where every single issue after the first one has ended on a beat that felt like a solid resolution to any sort of arc that the reader might feel like arbitrarily imposing, but the story just continues unfolding, the plot ever thickening. Aaron mines some good fun out of Vader hanging out at Jabba’s palace for a few pages before we check in on our banged-up heroes in the aftermath of all that action on Cymoon 1. Luke bitches out Leia in a pitch-perfect young Mark Hamill whine before a gang of set-up for next issue. Not only are Vader and Jabba chilling on Tatooine, but there’s a mysterious new bounty hunter with a really cool voice-actuated scattergun crashing the party, in addition to an old favorite, and oh look, now Luke & R2 are headed in that direction, as well. I foresee a shootout at the old Kenobi homestead! Cassaday/Martin continue to absolutely burn it down to the ground. Be sure to blast this cut starting at 2:40 as soon as you start reading this issue. The effect is powerful. 

ALL-NEW X-MEN #040 — It’s funny. Well, actually, it’s really frustrating. But every time there’s some chance for a plot-twist to grab some mainstream hype, the Big Two will always announce it ahead of time and ruin it for anyone who actually shows up every Wednesday to help keep the book in print. And I didn’t hear any official announcement on this one, but every-damn-body, pros, friends of mine, so many people felt fine talking about it on Facebook 48 hours before the damn thing came out (pun intended, oh no). And not just talking about it, debating the pros and cons and implications of it, and I’m just like, “Could we please read it first before forming an opinion?” At any rate, Iceman is gay now. Or has always been, according to Bendis. It’s actually an interesting little wrinkle in your standard coming-out situation because the individual in this case is a time-displaced character whose modern-day version hasn’t ever really seemed demonstratively gay. But 39 issues of hanging out in the present seem to have unlocked something inside of young Robert Drake. The reveal is, of course, completely damaged by the advance hype, so it’s hard to judge it on its own merits. It definitely hit me as pretty arbitrary and out-of-nowhere. But at least it’s only Page 6, so there’s two-thirds of issue left. The subsequent conversation is definitely an idealized best-case scenario of being outed by your telepathic friend. It’s a pretty on-the-nose move to double-down on Bobby being a persecuted minority, given the whole metaphorical “feared and hunted” set-up with this book from the get-go, but it will be interesting to see what happens next. I’m pretty sure that Bendis is almost done with these crazy mutants, though, no? This run doesn’t really seem like it’s about to wind up. Is he just going to leave the kids in the present? That would be an odd play for the Trade Federation. I dug Maria Hill banging her head on her screen at even the thought of more mutant madness. And Mahmud Asrar, man, what a monster that guy is. I really loved that bucolic shot of the team just lying in a circle in the grassy meadow just the way young mutants do.

CONVERGENCE: THE NEW TEEN TITANS #1 —Now, this did my heart good. I grew up with the original Wolfman/Perez run, and from this first page, the tone is just right there where it’s always been. There’s no doubt in your mind who Donna is talking to from the very first bubble. Man, it’s just good to see Donna in the old red one-piece again. The interaction between Vic and Gar. Dick telling Donna he’s sorry. Kori’s bloodlust, bless her. I really didn’t care about the other team at all, would have been just happy with an issue of these folks having down-time. Nicola Scott joins Mr. Wolfman and does Mr. Perez proud with dynamic and detailed sequential work throughout. Admittedly, the nostalgia factor might be clouding my usual absolutely unbiased critical acumen, but that’s kind of the point of this whole deal anyway, it kind of seems? A welcome stroll down memory lane.

CONVERGENCE: THE FLASH #1 — I was glad to check in on Wally and the kids but certainly couldn’t say no to this gorgeous Allred cover. The inside’s working, as well. Abnett scripts a relatable unpowered Barry who remains interesting even when he can’t run fast (it probably doesn’t hurt that he meets Bruce Wayne for coffee, admittedly). Our hero regaining his power is a great moment that Dallocchio completely sells. The one problem is that I don’t really care in any way about this version of Superman from maybe the Tangent Universe? We’ll see how it all shakes down next issue.

EMPIRE: UPRISING #1 — Well, what a surprise and delight this was. I had no idea that Waid/Kitson even had this in the hopper until the Wednesday it came out, truly a wonderful thing to stumble upon. It’s been ten years for us but only one for Golgoth, and our evil protagonist is as inscrutable and fearsome as ever. The rebels have some cajones this issue but are, of course, as doomed as ever. Like the first volume, the real tension looks like it’s going to reside in the form of Golgoth’s lieutenants and the moves they make against or alongside their dread master. A welcome return, to be sure.

CHEW #48 — The capricious heart of Layman knows no bounds, not only resurrecting the vile Mike Applebee but straight-up assuring us that he will totally be around many years later in #60 to still be hating on poor Tony Chu, who it looks like might have lost everybody else except for Caesar. That’s all to come, though. Olive has plenty of agency here, proving that a little thing like The Collector slicing up her face so apparently fatally a few months back isn’t going to slow her down one bit, now that she’s up and at ’em. Guillory continues to absolutely put it down. Four-fifths of the way through its run, and this title remains one of the very best and most consistently entertaining books on the rack.

SATELLITE SAM #13 — Roaring into the serious endgame as Mike, at least, thinks he’s solved his father’s murder and is on the way to dispense justice with a full can of gasoline. And there’s certainly a grim development for poor Gene. I hope Libby comes running up toting a sawed-off shotgun to resolve that particular issue. Hey, it would be in character for her at this point. Chaykin is still an animal. Fraction continues to stretch out a bit here. It will definitely be interesting to see how they wind up these last couple of issues.

VELVET #10 — More solid spycraft from the Brubaker/Epting/Breitweiser machine. There’s nothing flashy about this, and most of the pages are darker than a Zach Snyder Superman movie, but the milieu is a perfect fit for the story, and we can’t help but root for our heroine as she makes moves and countermoves against her faceless, potentially legion, opponents. But in the letters column, Brubaker says that she’s going back home to America next issue? Is this the first that we’ve heard that she’s not a Brit? I’ve been reading her accent wrong in my head for over a year now!

Friday, April 17, 2015


Well, this Convergence is certainly agreeing with my pocketbook! Goodness day, what a light week.

CHRONONAUTS #2 — Now, this is a lot of fun. These guys seemed like fairly serious assholes last time, but Millar does a terrific job taking this somewhat wacky premise and stretching it pretty much to the breaking point. You can tell that he had a gang of fun writing it. This issue is packed full of crackling ideas, oftentimes several per page. The 1961 to 1929 montage is bananas, and that one’s got nothing on what follows later in the issue. And Quinn’s scoreboard is fucking hilarious. Lots of wit to be found throughout all of this time-hopping madness. The real stars of the book, though, are not Millar or his douchebag protagonists, but Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth, who already put it down so hard last year on THE WAKE but really elevate their collective game to a new level here. Really, the cover just about says it all. I love the purples and soft blues and greens that Hollingsworth kicks in as soon as Danny makes it to the palace. They right away create the feel of an oasis almost subliminally; I totally missed it the first time, but that business was working on me. And Sean Gordon Murphy. Man. Nobody can do it for you like that guy. What a monster. Just on every level. So many people sing his praises, but he’s still one of the most underrated guys in the industry. I figured that this series would be good, but these guys are really knocking it out of the park on every level, here.

THE FOX: FOX HUNT #1 — Haspiel & Waid dial down on the Silver Age zany but maintain the Kirby dynamism (and krackle, natch) and overall sense that, hey, comics should be fun to read. Bringing Paul’s kid into the fold is a terrific way to ratchet up the tension here at the top of the second volume. Shinji is already following in his father’s footsteps as a photographer, and it makes all kinds of sense that he’d be drawn to his dad’s other gig, as well. The son priming himself up as an aspiring legacy just as our hero is losing heart in his mission adds a compelling dynamic to the series and will be interesting to watch the creators explore in future issues. Quality tones from Passalaqua make every page pop without calling attention to themselves, and of course you really can’t do better than scoring the lettering talents of the legendary John Workman. And this one is even all-ages-appropriate. Recommended for all human beings.

THE FADE-OUT #5 — Black-and-white SATELLITE SAM mug shots notwithstanding, the creative team is really hitting their stride here and carving out a narrative that’s engaging. Phillips has been so good for so long, it kind of freaks you out if you start to add up how many pages he’s been steadily throwing down with this Brubaker joker over the years. Brubaker continues to absolutely nail the tone and voice that he’s established for this entire family of books over the years. There was one little hitch where our hero mentally tells his drunk co-writer, “You had one job.” This is, of course, grammatically correct but much more evocative of latter-day slang than I think we might want, dispelling the timeframe with a brief anachronism before the mists of Golden Age Hollywood return. A minor quibble, this one’s pretty much perfect. Award for Least Surprising Plot Twist of All Time: Of course Brubaker loves BETTER CALL SAUL. I could have told him that two months before the pilot aired.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #7 — That is grim, indeed. It’s too bad that this whole series couldn’t have been Pearl & Felicia for most of the time. The two ladies dial into a really solid camaraderie right off the bat. Vampires in Space! really is a terrific conceit on our way out the door, here. I am a fan. Albuquerque/McCaig continue to knock it out of the park on the interiors, these guys are in the zone.

BEST OF WEEK: UNCANNY X-MEN #033 — I’m way way in the wrong demographic to review this objectively. Twenty-six years ago, of all the complicated latticework of relationships amongst all of the characters who had a place to crash at good old 1407 Graymalkin, my absolute favorite nexus was the triumvirate of Piotr Nikolaievitch, Illyana Nikolievna, and that too-good-to-be-true Katherine Anne Pryde. As with several other interpersonal groupings, Claremont loaded these characters up with enough unique qualities that they could have filled up an entire book all on their own instead of sharing it with fifteen other merry mutants. All of which to say. Last issue, when Illyana grabbed Kitty and they bailed, I was certainly hoping that Bendis wasn’t going to make us wait too long to see where they went. It turned out well for me. Kitty & Illyana vs Monster Island is the medicine that I didn't know I needed so badly. And how about that Kris Anka bringing the justice page after page? As strong as the cover was, I was initially just the least bit melancholy that Bachalo was out of rotation for this adventure, but never mind all of that. No one could have done better. And as much as I enjoyed the entire issue, those last two pages back on the grounds of the mansion are just on another level. Storm only gets two lines, but her second one is a humdinger. And then, though, right there at the end. That last exchange between the two of them snuck up on me and punched me in the gut. Illyana’s “NOT LIKE BEFORE. I MISS YOU AND I MISS MY BROTHER. I MISS THOSE DAYS.” Maybe I’ve just been mainlining too many MAD MEN episodes lately and thinking about the course of my life, but when that demon princess threw down that quiet nostalgia for days gone by out of nowhere, it just about broke me down.

One weird thing, though, on Panel Four of that final page, the one that starts that last exchange. There’s a silhouette of someone watching little Bo run into the mansion after Ororo. The dialogue attribution of the bubble in the panel seems to indicate that this silhouette, who is saying, “YOU WERE RIGHT. WE DID NEED THAT,” is Kitty. Straightforward enough. However. When the pair follows Bo into the mansion three panels later, that silhouette returns in the exact same place in-panel. Which is creepy, like the girls are being watched, kind of? But the fact that the silhouette is exactly the same size as before even though the shot is zoomed in makes me wonder if it’s some kind of Photoshop error that just made it through edits. I don’t know. I was so messed up by Illyana, I missed it the first time, but that’s an odd little beat to land on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Happy L O S T day, one and all. Oh, and holy shit, I've been doing this for exactly five years. Every week. For five years. Happy anniversary, Wednesday Night Faithful. That is like 260 weeks. Holy shit. 

BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS G.I. JOE #6 — More glorious and absolutely mental insanity. Any collector of Joe action figures in the eighties is required by law to love Raptor mentioning Roadblock’s file card on Page One. And I could not help laughing my ass off at Snake Eyes kicking the drink in the face of that robot. I did not see that coming! That moment is The Sensational Character Find of 2015. It took a minute for me to adjust, but that phonetic recreation of Torch’s Dreadnok accent was spot-on. And using Metatron as an early bastardization of Megatron is fucking brilliant. And I don’t care who you are, Optimus Prime jamming his pink lightsaber/electron sword down through a Kirby cross-section of the Joes’ underground headquarters, The P.I.T. is simply the business. And then, out of nowhere, old Bruticus shows up to cue us into a double-page splash that of course features the series-first appearance of Battleforce 2000. Because why not? This comic book is so much fun, it should be illegal.

NAMELESS #3 — Jesus Christ. I thought we took a hard left into horror last issue. This last page right here is one of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen in my life. Dear Lord. What is wrong with these people? Think of the children. Beautiful art, but I mean, my God. The children!

DESCENDER #2 — Now, I thought that first issue was very strong out of the gate and very nearly perfect in every way possible. But this one right here, featuring the secret origin of TIM-21 on most of the odd-numbered pages, punches you right in the gut over and over. Lemire’s script fuses with Ngyuen’s sepia washes to render a remarkably full breadth of characterization for our protagonist in really quite a short amount of time. The result is that the reader gets mainline dialed into this brand-new character and very invested in his fate even though we’ve spent less than fifty pages with him so far. This is strong, strong material. Highly recommended.

ASTRO CITY #22 — Well, this right here is one of the best single issues of this magnificent series that I’ve ever read. I can’t recall whether or not we’ve ever met Starfighter in passing before now, but Busiek loads this one up with rich characterization throughout, generating a fully immersive and rewarding experience. Just like the deal with Quarrel these past three issues, Busiek provides the story of a character who is actually a superhero but still experiences the foibles and peccadilloes that used to be reserved for civilian point-of-view characters back during this book’s first couple of volumes. The beauty of this one is that you can just give it to any newbie without any prior understanding of this series, and it’ll knock him or her out just as hard. Wonderful fill-in work from Merino. This one is nothing short of slamming.

JUPITER’S CIRCLE #1 — Respect to my brother Ben for pulling me the Sienkiewicz cover because he knew that I’d “want the MAD MEN one.” This kind of retro how-they-did-it-in-the-fifties thing is pretty commonplace now, I guess since at least Cooke’s gauntlet-throwdown on that THE NEW FRONTIER, and there’s both nothing wrong with this issue and nothing to really separate it from the pack (with the slight exception of that same doomed-future cloud hanging over everything just like in those excellent STAR WARS prequels). Wilfredo Torres turns in some terrific art, and Millar throws a couple of breadcrumbs teasing elements that will eventually lead to the massive betrayal in the original series. It’s kind of wacky that Hoover appears to be the Big Bad of this thing.

ODY-C #4 — The science fiction insanity takes a back-seat to the straight-up bone-crunching gore of the Cyclops chomping through meat, bone, and gristle. All is as it should be. Fraction has really found a unique voice on this one that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from him, and of course, that Christian Ward is completely out of his mind. I do hope the rumours about Fraction keeping him chained down in their basement until the series is done are untrue (or at least distorted and inaccurate).

SPEED FORCE #1 — Such a blast of nostalgia reading those words: “My name is Wally West. And I’m the fastest man alive.” Wally was always my guy growing up, this whole deal with Barry is still a relatively recent phenomenon. They were banking on that nostalgia with this whole Convergence deal, I suppose. They could have picked Wally up from any point in his career, but Bedard elects to use the most recent version that Waid set up during his short-lived second stint on the character that borrowed more than a little liberally from THE INCREDIBLES. No Linda to be found here in town, unfortunately, but the kids are along for the ride. This one didn’t knock me over or anything but was solid and well-done.

DARTH VADER #004 — Wow, in hindsight, those first two issues were basically treading water, at least relatively speaking. Last issue set up the new status quo with the seventy-five-percent brand-new ensemble, but then this one pays it off immediately in terms of dynamics of character interaction and just the simple madcap glory of having evil/homicidal counterparts to Threepio and Artoo. The good-news/bad-news deal at the end is an instant classic. We just rewatched EPISODE II this weekend with the little girl, so this is as punch-in-the-gut affecting as a flashback to Anakin kissing Padme on the threshold of the arena in Geonosis is ever going to get. Larroca’s art looks quite a bit more rushed than those first couple issues that I bet he took twice as long on, but I don’t mind. Even a couple shots of wonky foreshortened anatomy have a kind of charm to them. Overall, this is really a terrific read. I kind of just naturally assumed that the Aaron/Cassaday/Martin crew was just going to have such a tactical advantage due to cast and set-up that these other two books wouldn’t be able to come anywhere close, but both crews are giving the flagship title a serious run for its money already.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #007 — Okay, it turns out I really need Brother Rudy on at least a few pages to sell this for me. I have been liking Foss on those framing sequences the past couple of months, but the art style got a bit tedious when it was time to carry the entire story. And the scripting, if this and that latest ZERO are anything to go by, did Kot just stumble into the stream-of-consciousness writings of Burroughs/Kerouac/et al? That kind of thing is often much more fun to write than read, and that’s certainly what’s happening here. Bring back Rudy. And take a month off, even. The world did just fine without regular installments of the adventures of Bucky Barnes for like fifty years. Or really, for all time until just a couple three years back.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #04 — Man. In just the four panels of that second page, Waid makes you miss his classic run with ‘Ringo so much. You’ve got to love him writing Johnny against type, spouting off advanced vehicular jargon that is almost stupefying. And leave it to Sue to completely carry off a solo adventure, both tactically and narratively. Sprouse/Story/Almara provide arguably the best interiors on this series yet. This is a terrific done-in-one that doesn’t need any crossovers or hyper-advanced knowledge of continuity to be completely entertaining on its own merits. I got the beautiful Doran variant.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #002 — I was worried that this would suffer from the dreaded second-issue slump after I loved the first one so much, but these guys manage to crank it up just a little bit. Adding Swordsman into the flashback scenes is a terrific way to elevate the dynamic there, and you’ve got to love Kate pulling Clint out of trouble. Though I’ve got to say, these guys are already starting to pummel that fine old series beat from Volume One into the ground. Overall, this is top-drawer work from all of these creators, though the tagline about “doing what they do best,” how that’s just straight copping Claremont Wolverine (deliberately, surely), you have to wonder if Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth and the old sick crew can even bear to look at these pages. As great as this set-up is, it’s basically the exact opposite of everything they were winning all those awards for just a couple years ago. That’s got to kind of cut you up inside, I would think. How many issues is this new team going to pump out before Aja can wrap it up with #022? I vote four.

Friday, April 10, 2015


FUTURES END #48 — Huh. This is the last issue? As an installment unto itself, it’s well done and all. I certainly wasn’t quibbling while I was reading it. However. When you make it to the last page, you will not find terribly a lot of resolution for folks who have been plunking down three dollars every single Wednesday for eleven months solid. I mean, I’m all for those “The adventure continues . . .” endings. But there was like no resolution here at all. A time-travel reunion across thirty years doesn’t count when the antagonist is still just sitting there controlling the moon and making the DC skies all Crisis-red like he has been since the beginning. Solid art, but I have to call bullshit on these overall very talented writers for not resolving basically anything.

BATMAN ETERNAL #52 — On the other hand! Tynion returns to script a damn solid finale. As much as this series meandered in the middle and ebbed and flowed in terms of overall quality, everyone involved stuck the hell out of this landing. I will cop to having totally forgotten about the whole deal with Lincoln March that Snyder/Capullo set up at the top of their run (forgive me, I have never gone back to reread those issues since their debut on the rack during the grand and glorious reboot), but it makes all kinds of sense, him showing up here and now, and it’s a nice little final-act twist. Very cool to get contributing writers Tim Seeley and Ray Fawkes to draw a couple of pages each for the finale. Seeley, in particular, draws the hell out of that scene with Selina. These 38 pages pull off the spinning-plates maneuver of not only serving as a satisfying resolution to all that has come before but then delivering nice little epilogues for the entire ensemble that both provide closure and set these characters up for the next great thing. This was fine fine work, all around.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND ROBIN ANNUAL #3 — Another Tomasi-scripted blast of young Master Damian! After bidding such a sad farewell last week to BATMAN AND ROBIN, the appearance of this annual on the rack felt exactly like Christmas. Seems like Ryp drew the last annual, and he might well have been hard at work on these pages ever since turning that one in. The detail of the man’s linework is massive and impressive. And I haven’t seen Sonia Oback coloring anything lately; I remember when she used to always blow it up with Mike Choi back there on that pre-REmender X-FORCE. For this story, the dynamic duo go to the moon and fight aliens who have copied deceased astronauts and are occupying NASA’s discarded lunar landing modules. That’s pretty much all I feel like I have to say; the creators execute the magnificence of that premise to masterful effect. They ride a moon buggy. Nice touch having Damian quote Darth Vader while picking his father up from lunar orbit. And then that last line just sucker-punches the reader in the gut, ah God (I normally don't do this, but I couldn't resist posting the last page of the issue here; if you're planning on reading it and haven't yet, I certainly recommend not reading the dialogue until you've hit the rest of the issue). Don’t miss this perfect epilogue to Tomasi’s years’ worth of all-time brilliant character work with Damian Wayne.

SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN 19 — I didn’t realize that Tomasi and Mahnke were on this title, but I couldn’t resist picking it up after that GONE WITH THE WIND cover lured me in. This one’s pretty solid, not approaching BATMAN-AND-ROBIN-level thunder but Tomasi does good work with little sprinkles of characterization throughout and Manhke draws the hell out of our titular leads beating the shit out of each another. There’s a really nice turn at the end with Diana staying up all night writing obituaries for the folks who were collateral damage; that detail sits quite well with me.

CONVERGENCE #0 — Ethan Van Sciver’s art on this is magnificent. That one shot of all the Supermen dying on the receding islands, in particular, is quite iconic. But the story hits me pretty flat. Brainiac is basically just playing The Beyonder with the multiverse? Right? That is not knocking my lights out. Can’t decide if I’m even going to give #1 here a shot, might just quit while I’m mostly ahead with the DC weekly goodness.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: ENDGAME #1 — I’m such a fan of regular series artist Kerschl that I almost talked myself out of buying this, but I’m glad I didn’t. Of course, regular writers Cloonan & Fletcher bring the thunder with the terrific conceit of the girls freaking each other out with spooky Joker stories while all of that Endgame rages through the regular Snyder/Capullo narrative. Fine work all around, and there’s Sonia Oback again on Olive’s story. And there’s even a cool little revelation at the end, there. This is such a great new title.

SPIDER-GWEN #003 — The pacing on this issue feels just right. I think I was missing the father/daughter chemistry just a bit there in the first two issues. Latour has crafted a very complementary nemesis for our heroine in Officer Castle, and Rodriguez/Renzi continue to knock it out of the park on sequentials. The shot of Gwen decking The Vulture was magnificent. All this and we left The Mary Janes and evil Matt Murdock on the bench this month. There’s too much rocking material in this book!

AVENGERS #43 — I’m not crazy about artist Mike Mayhew’s work here. It’s solid storytelling but not quite the A-list thunder that we need as we rocket through this long-simmering climax. Gladiator is really popping out of this insanely dense ensemble and scoring some quality character beats. I also dig how Bobby & Sam manage to save the day and then disappoint the entire world all in a couple of pages. Those loveable buffoons! I’m not quite sure what the deal is with phasing the rogue planet in but am unclear if I’m missing something or if that will just be explained next issue. Probably the most impressive part of this one was Reed comparing and contrasting he and Steve’s motivations with Tony’s; that’s as solid an analysis of Mr. Stark as I have read in quite some time. Reed is so smart!

UNCANNY AVENGERS #003 — This time out, I made a conscious effort to attempt to enjoy this series on its own merits, not in the context of being the second volume to a steadily escalating story that I found far superior. And it’s all right. Remender certainly nails Rogue’s voice (some will tell you that having her employ “ah” as a first-person pronoun in internal monologue captions is taking the Claremont dialect a bit too far, but I am not one of those Philistines). I’m still not crazy about all the questions Wanda keeps asking herself. I don’t know. I’m going to hang out for this arc and then make the call whether to bail or not.

BLACK SCIENCE #13 — The title of this series is so appropriate, I’m just getting it’s possibly intended as a correlation to “black magic,” but yeah, that’s what’s going on here. With this issue in particular, you can’t help but feel dirty reading the thing. Extra-dimensional plague! Remender does more competent work making the reader care about characters and then just arbitrarily executing them, Martin-style. For me, though, he’s almost hitting the tipping point. There have so many “holy shit” surprise character deaths already, I wonder if it’s about to train me just not to get too invested in any of these people because they’re all eventually going to be cannon fodder anyway. The Scalera/Dinisio art remains absolutely stunning, and that cover for #14 is some next-level shit.

THE DYING & THE DEAD #2 — The opening credits to that excellent new series MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES make it hard for me to have any reaction to the action-movie trope besides uproarious laughter, but once we dig into the pages, the intricate Bodenheim linework drew me right in. If last issue was the pilot episode, this one definitely scans as the first regular installment now that things are getting up and running. Most of the exposition is out of the way, and it turns out we’ve got an entire team to meet. Hickman spends most of the first half of the issue letting us get to know some guy who appears to be our protagonist’s right-hand man, and then we’re off to the races. I was able to dial into this one a little bit better, though it remains surprising to me how much I prefer Hickman’s Marvel work and THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS compared to his other creator-owned shenanigans.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #8 — Earl who? Hell if these Jasons didn’t take the apparent series villain and make him more sympathetic than old Red Crow back over yonder in SCALPED. I’m almost rooting for the evil bastard now. He gave up everything to pursue what he loved most in the world and completely own it in every way possible. Aaron’s script is rock-solid with the exception of including “alright,” which is not a word that occurs in the English language, not once but twice, but if you can ever chalk something like that up to the ignorant intent of the person expressing said grammatical offense, it’s a pass, which I think is pretty much the case here. Latour is stretching out and really creating several iconic shots in this issue alone: the splash of Euless dealing with his father, the shot of the Rebs taking their field with the new coach for the first time, the final fate of Big, and that last page. Two arcs in, and these boys are clearly still just getting started. I’m already licking my chops for “Homecoming,” due in June. Which is funny. I didn’t think this book had anything to do with that CONVERGENCE at all, there.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #7 — Pity Ryan Browne. The artist continues to depict his inexorably unraveling mind breaking down in full public view, panel by panel, page by page. More captivating than a train crash, more haunting than a pre-orbital space shuttle explosion, this series continues to exist and to horrify. In a bold move, Browne retires his best character, the loveable narrator 3-D Cowboy, replacing him with Exclusive-Marvel-UNCANNY-INHUMANS writer Charles Soule, who is right away just a total dick about good ol’ 3-D and really rubbed me the wrong way. Not even his extensive etymological cheeseburger wisdom could win me back over. Bring back 3-D or we riot in the streets!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


THE MULTIVERSITY: ULTRA COMICS #1 — The story goes, as told by the man himself, that Morrison’s first superhero comic was FLASH #163, which depicts our titular hero showing the prospective reader his foreshortened empty palm in a halting gesture and proclaiming, “STOP! DON’T PASS UP THIS ISSUE! MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!” In the halcyon Schwartzian days of premises-delivered-by-cover crafted to move product, this one was a doozy and certainly worked its magic on the young boy and future multiversal architect. Morrison & Quitely first referenced it in 1996 on the cover of FLEX MENTALLO #1, a series that gives the impression of going on to say absolutely everything that Morrison had to say about the medium up until that time. But if he emptied out his tank twenty years ago, he still has plenty to celebrate about the DC Universe as a whole, which brings us to this final installment of single-Earth issues before the grand finale, featuring none other than the Earth designated for we the readers to occupy, the former Earth-Prime that is now known as Earth-33. As readers who have been on board with this series since the beginning know, this is a very special comic book. We’ve already seen the cover several times before and even gotten a glimpse at, I believe, five unlettered interior pages months in advance. The catch is that this is apparently a haunted and cursed comic. Every character on the other Earths who reads this thing winds up going on some psychotic rampage or committing suicide or doing something to make an army of Superman robots invade the entire planet or some other such horrible thing. Shit happens when you read this book. And I was completely convinced. Stared at the damn thing for twenty minutes and was just like, Nope nope, not yet. Kept thinking about my wife and daughter sleeping upstairs and wanting them to wake up to a happy Thursday morning free from invaders from the North Pole or the Phantom Zone or higher dimensions.

But of course, I couldn’t resist and finally sucked it up and opened that cover. And these were pages I had already seen! What I had assumed to be climax was only the opening. And that fourth wall came crashing down right away. Our hero just straight up addresses us first thing, confirming our worst fears and then freaking out at whatever he’s seeing when he looks at us and then screams for us not to turn the page, don’t turn the page! Who could resist? This leads to a framing sequence with some guy in a suit reading the same comic that we are (a THE MULTIVERSITY trope by now) and assuring us that all will be well, though in kind of a creepy manner. There’s a cool little one-page commercial that leads into our hero, Ultra Comics, emerging from some hyper-colored bath that immediately brings THE FILTH to mind. This is followed by a brief orientation, as much for the reader as our protagonist, and then we’re off into the adventure proper, which kind of has a whimsical Captain Marvel kind of vibe to it by way of a post-apocalyptic filter. This makes sense, given Ultra Comics’s costume’s evocation of not only The Big Red Cheese but also the aforementioned Scarlet Speedster and even Miracleman, who, remember, began his four-color existence under the name of Marvelman.

Okay, but then everything takes a seriously dark turn as our hero is defeated by a freaky dude called Ultraa, who is basically the Mad Max version of Prime from that ridiculous Malibu Ultraverse from the nineties, which I’m sure is some kind of commentary on how grim’n’gritty almost ruined comics or at least finished up The Bronze Age’s job of pretty much scrubbing them of all the Silver Age wonder. But, courage! That bad of rapscallion urchins and ne’er-do-wells, The Neighborhood Guard are in-panel stand-ins for us readers and help us along with sending our hero back to the beginning of the issue to warn us before summoning him back just in time to save the day. Which would work out perfectly, but this is a THE MULTIVERSITY issue, and so far, the only happy ending was more just that one with the Marvel Family flying forward to the next thing before something horrible had a chance to happen. Doug Mahnke, with the help of four inkers and two colorists, completely nails every page just the way we’ve come to expect, delivering the chops to execute every mad image that Morrison slings his way. I haven’t gone crazy or tried to kill anyone yet, but there is definitely foreboding in my heart about what will happen when the final issue of THE MULTIVERSITY is finally released upon our poor Earth-33, if we’re all still even here in four weeks.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #40 — This was a pretty tragic read for me. Early on, this became my favorite series in The New 52 with only Morrison’s ACTION and Snyder/Capullo’s BATMAN even coming close to matching it in terms of soaring month-after-month greatness. This was one of those books where every element lent something indispensable and the whole truly was greater than the sum of its parts. Going to miss it so much, but am so grateful to the creators for the ride.

It’s tremendous fun from the first page, with Superman’s in-dialogue reference to Wonder Woman’s sudden appearance since last month hitting just the right tone of knowing wink at the reader, whether or not the creators really did just randomly decide to include her after it was too late to draw her into #39. There are so many wonderful Holy Shit! moments occurring almost with the turn of every single page. Damian crossing heat vision with Superman, setting up Shazam calling down the lightning on that first cybernetic antagonist, Damian’s kiss-off to the entire League on the following page, passing out at the dinner table three panels after destroying a chicken leg, finishing the family portrait, failing to fly when jumping out of his bedroom window, that askew shot of the family in silhouette looking out the window at the Bat-Signal, as ever, that final glorious two-page no-dialogue Getting Ready montage, which is as magnificently executed as I’ve ever seen that old trick done, and those last perfect two pages. What a triumphant capstone to one of the best all-time runs in superhero comics, executed to such perfection from first page to last that I couldn’t help but shed a tear of gratitude over my beaming smile, this was always the best book of the third Wednesday of the month, and it was a privilege and honor to watch masters of the craft regularly deliver lessons on how to execute perfection of the form we all love so much while always remembering to entertain the reader by keeping character front and center. Bravo, Maestros!

GOTHAM ACADEMY #6 — What a terrific ending to the first arc, which it turns out has basically functioned as a pilot episode for my favorite new show-that’s-a-comic. Kerschl’s art continues to offer dynamic action at every turn of the page with Mingue Helen Chen more than holding up her end on the fill-in action. And just when we’ve got a snapshot status quo established, here comes that charming young Master Damian to upset the apple cart right away. Really looking forward to checking all this out in June.

BATMAN ETERNAL #51 — I dig the way that the double-page titles have lately been checking in with every sidekick across the bottom of the pages. Just realized that Julia Pennyworth looks almost exactly like Daisy Johnson during her time spent in SECRET WARRIORS. Another random thought: when someone off-panel says Selina’s time on the next page, I suddenly really wanted the middle two letters to be emboldened and it to turn out to be Holly from YEAR ONE saying her name. The random things a brain pumps out in times of crisis, Wednesday Night Faithful! Back on-point, I am very onboard with Cluemaster’s conceit that Bruce is, in fact, only human, and when he makes a mistake, he makes them bigger than anyone else. The ring of truth! And wow, Stephanie Brown, after all of that fanboy squawking for her return, she’s in and she’s out. And that guy at the end certainly comes out of nowhere all ex machina style. Kind of seems like a cheat at this point, but we’ll see how they explain it next week.

FUTURES END #47 — Terrific to have Ponticelli on some interiors here. He is definitely who you want for the slouching Brother Eye zombie fun. Cannot fucking believe they still have Plastique making Dick (Grayson) jokes. What a ridiculous motif to insert in a weekly series (innuendo unintentional). That’s a solid payoff on the Madison/Tim reunion, though, I will give them that. I do wish they didn’t have Tim dialogue that “Ain’t gonna lie.” That line is blossoming into a serious pet peeve of mine. A solid back end to the issue starring Tim in the suit, though. The writers do know how to craft a cliffhanger. I certainly want to know what’s on the next page. I thought that both of these weeklies were ending this week to get out of the way for CONVERGENCE next week, but obviously that is not the case.

FOREVER MAN AND THE INFINITY PEOPLE #9 — And so it ends. Another Kirby revival bites the dust before making double digits. It bums me out, man! This one functions as more of an epilogue, giving us the secret origin of the titular character at the expense of the rest of the cast. Giffen’s work is really strong here, as usual. Going to miss this monthly blast of Kirby in my life, but I’ve been meaning to go back through the original Fourth World issues for a while now, so there’s always that.

AVENGERS #032 — Well, so much for all of those guys. I mean, yeah, Bobby called it a few issues back, but I didn’t think Hickman was going to actually go through with it. There was so much going on at the time, it didn’t occur to me until now that it’s too late, but I really wish they had gotten someone to do solo series with that Star Brand or Nightmask. I wish they had gotten me, actually. Hickman did solid work imbuing Thor & Hyperion’s final exchange with just the right amount of gravitas. I got a little choked up, even. Of course, it’s too bad that by now we’re all so jaded that no one in their right mind believes that Odin’s boy won’t be not only alive again but also will have reclaimed that hammer by the time that Hemsworth’s third movie comes out, but this is still a powerful way to depict a momentous last stand. Deodato/Martin absolutely crush the interior sequentials, as ever.

UNCANNY X-MEN #032 — I’m surprised to find myself a little bit bummed at Scott closing the school. Didn’t think I was really that invested. Bendis shades Mr. Summers’s character with a bit of nuance here, explaining exactly what’s been going through his brain amidst all of his televised terroristic threats. Bachalo is wonderful again. This one reads a little bit skinny but is a necessary step to get to wherever Bendis is going to wind up taking us. My favorite line was Kitty explaining where she just got back from.

DAREDEVIL #014 — New heights of brilliance. Waid is such a beast at this point in his career that he is crafting every single issue to be both a pretty ideal jumping-on point and a terrifically engaging done-in-one for long-time readers that also pushes the overall plot forward. And of course, Samnee/Wilson continue to deliver a monthly master class in crafting superior superhero sequentials. And that Jordan Gibson and Bethany Gogo can’t seem to stay out of trouble; of course, within minutes of setting foot in San Francisco, they’re getting mugged and making Matt late for court. That suit, though, wow. Terrific design.

DARTH VADER #003 — There’s a bit of a hitch in the opening crawl. It shifts to past tense in the last sentence of the first paragraph when it should go to present. I do not care for that! Grammatical quibbles aside, Creative does very well with this issue. Larocca continues to impress, carrying a great deal of the first half with several pages of no dialogue. I dug the “How Vader Found Her” montage, some dark humor to be found there. But yikes, that Triple Zero dark Threepio guy is kind of terrifying. I guess I shouldn’t be hearing Anthony Daniels’s voice recite his lines? He’s only the opener for BT-1, though, the homicidal R2-unit. I can’t believe no one’s thought to do this in all these years, terrific idea. And the beat on the last page about Vader having no feelings about Geonosis is perfect. It’s an interesting call to wait until the third issue to introduce all of these supporting players, but I’m certainly glad that I hung around this long. They set up the potential for quite a cool dynamic.   

CHEW #47 — Poor Tony Chu just cannot catch a damn break, man. It’s that evil bastard Layman’s fault. D-Bear continues to stand out while John Colby is wracked with guilt and misery before the long-arc plot with Mason & Olive gets a serious push forward. There’s probably still close to two years left before these guys can pump out another thirteen issues (plus one more Poyo special?), but I’m already missing this one.

WYTCHES #5 — This one opens up in a pretty dark place and just gets more horrifying from there. Jock & Hollingsworth are really doing something special here every time, and Snyder has done a fine job ratcheting up the dread and tension before really pulling the trigger on it this month. Interested to see how this one’s going to turn out, but I’ve got a very bad feeling about how that’s going to go.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #6 — Well, this is not only batshit crazier than what we’ve grown accustomed to but also the best issue yet. There are so many terrific artists working today who wear their Kirby influence on their sleeve—Tom Scioli, Erik Larsen, Mike Allred, Keith Giffen—but I seldom think about the fact that of course Joe Casey has the writing nomination pretty much locked up. It might be offensive if somebody else just straight quoted the first page of NEW GODS #1 like happens here, but in this case, you’re just like, “Of course.”  And that is one impressive assortment of guest artists! Dragotta knocks it out of the park first up, and then everyone else does a terrific job seamlessly integrating into the greatness that Fox has already laid down. My man Morrison even slides right into place on a page of Kirbyesque sequentials. The walls really are breaking down. We need a mini-series with him as writer/artist. But this is a fantastic finish to the first (only?) arc of this series. “An adventure like no other,” indeed.

THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE #9 — This one fell a little bit short for me after the last two have been hitting hard. I just don’t care that much about a televised interview and am not invested enough in these characters that the Norn Three-in-One thing or whatever it is showing up is a big deal. God, that McKelvie/Wilson art, though. They could draw the phonebook and I would buy it every month. Or something.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #1 — I was always much more of a ROBOTIX man during that old SUPER SUNDAY anthology show back in good old ’85-’86, but this has remained the most successful property over the years. I really dug Ross Campbell’s art on GLORY just a little while back and that combined with being the father of a budding rock grrl convinced me to give this one a shot. It’s solid work, rebooting the franchise for a new generation while keeping all of its bombastic eighties awesomeness intact, all without the Misfits even showing up on-panel yet. Haven’t hit it with the little girl yet (we’re drowning in MY LITTLE PONYs and allllll of those damn Marvel STAR WARS and she just showed up with Jeffrey Brown’s excellent-looking JEDI ACADEMY), but time will tell.

MORNING GLORIES #44 — This one’s a relatively straightforward issue, typical non-linearity notwithstanding, that answers more questions than it asks. We really are coming up on the halfway point! Eisma continues to deliver straightforward staging in his storytelling, which is much appreciated while we wrap our brains around Spencer’s the-opposite-of-that scene-crafting. And I still want to just take a bath in those Esquejo covers, what a beast.

NEMO: RIVER OF GHOSTS — Janni Dakkar’s story finally comes to an end more than fifty years after we first meet her, and this final adventure is a powerful and rollicking finale to her story. Moore really sank this teeth into this character and obviously had no trouble dialing in from the get-go, and his obvious regard for her has been apparent at every step. Casting an elderly science pirate of Sikh descent as the protagonist against an army of Nazi Stepford wive automatons who can trace their lineage directly back to Maria of METROPOLIS (not that Metropolis) is a brilliant subversive move that is yet another example of Moore maximizing his premise and developing it far past the obvious connections and over the horizon into pure brilliance. Every succeeding installment has dramatically raised the stakes in Janni’s life, with this final issue finding her still captain of The Nautilus even in her twilight years while continuing to surround herself not only with her daughter and the Ishmael family but taking counsel and derision from the lingering ghosts of all of her significant loved ones who have already passed. This is a terrific set-up that begs for a whole raft of adventures spread out over many episodes, but of course, the creators can’t resist burning everything down by the final page even while setting up the next iteration because the story must, as ever, go on. There’s a deep and abiding level of pathos and tragedy to be found here when remembering the girl who we first met cliff-diving in the nude long ago back in 1907 to open that initial installment of CENTURY. For all of her passion and fury and initial resistance to adopting her father’s mantle, it found her anyway, and she was the best damn science pirate of the twentieth century, passing the legacy all the way down another three generations. There is something so beautiful and sad about the inescapability of that, I almost don’t know what to do. Between THE BLACK DOSSIER and CENTURY, a whole gang of people have jumped overboard from this series, but taken as a whole, this NEMO trilogy stands tall with the finest work that Moore & O’Neill have produced for this title since first embarking upon this patchwork voyage just before the turn of the century.

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BEST OF WEEK is too close to call between the titans, Morrison on ULTRA COMICS and Moore on the final NEMO installment. Both are perfect executions of their respective premises. And then there’s the end of BATMAN AND ROBIN. I don’t even know where to begin. Hell of a damn week.