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.