BEST OF WEEK: SECRET WARS #2 — Now, forgive the pun, but as good as the first issue was, this was some seriously thunderous next-level business. It seems to me that it would have made a much better first issue of this whole deal, with the previous issue in hindsight serving as a much more effective finale to all that had come before packaged in a single entitled AVENGERS #45. Last issue was the end of all that came before. But this was a new beginning. And what a beginning it was! Even though the Ross cover should have acclimated us to the insanity of what’s essentially a Thor Corps, the opening scene with the young worthy from Higher Avalon serving as our entry-point character into Doomgard, a world (or nation, as it turns out) that houses the thunder knights of Doom, who go forth to wreak justice in his name. Just when we’ve barely got our brains wrapped around that, it’s off to meet a Braddock dynasty headed up by a sane James, and then there’s Mr. Sinister and Hyperion allegedly conspiring against the crown, oh but then they go to Doomstadt and the executive folks that God Doom has crouched around him are almost too much to handle in that first opening shot. And a version of the Future Foundation are still alive and well, as Dragon Man and Alex Powers-with-an-S unearth a crashed ship while giving voice to scientific speculation that borders on treason, and Doom’s ears are everywhere . . .
This is a fantastic conceit for an event. It’s kind of funny to see how CONVERGENCE basically ripped off the old SECRET WARS, but then Hickman comes roaring up doing them one or five better. Of course, I was expecting an insane map at the end and was not disappointed. He’s put that same level of craft and world-building that he did on EAST OF WEST into this monster, and there is a whole lot of ground to cover on this new Battleworld, many potentially very interesting stories to be told. Really, at first blush, given most of the creative teams listed on the solicits, it seems like just a few months isn’t enough. I could do an entire year of this. Ribic/Svorcina continue to excel, giving these pages the gravitas and weight that the massive plot demands. Very impressed with this, and they’re still just really barely getting started.
BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #008 — Good lord, Marco Rudy! These are probably the most beautiful pages yet, and that is really saying something. You just want to take a bath in all of that celestial brilliance. The innovative layouts, the mixed media, this book really pulls you in and never lets go. Those two sideways double-page splashes, in particular. This issue is a trip in every sense of the word, but it’s over too quickly and at such a tantalizing place to break off, too. Very glad to see the next issue solicited for a mere five weeks from now. Don’t chafe your wrists on the handcuffs keeping you at your board, Marco! This is all worth it! We love you!
DARTH VADER #005 — The creators continue to plunder the depths here and make Vader a workable protagonist, which is no mean feat. The plot thickens as we add an entire new faction to the cast, a welcome development. Larocca/Delgado once again absolutely slay it on the interiors, and Gillen is able to keep a surprise up his sleeve until just the right moment, even though it’s spoiled for you right there on the cover (I thought this was more one of those hypothetical covers that doesn’t necessarily have to come true). And of course, all of this is just set-up to make us really impatient to pick up the next issue. Fine work, all.
UNCANNY AVENGERS #004 — All right, knowing the copyright politics behind it, I (along with most other folks, I’m sure) do indeed find the retcon on Wanda & Pietro’s parentage absolutely stupid as hell. No, they were never mutants! That said, Remender sells it in-story as well as possible, and I was surprised to find my eyebrows involuntarily raising when presented with the alternative. And hell if Sabretooth’s internal monologue re: Logan wasn’t pitch-perfect Claremonty enough to make me interested in where this guy is heading. I haven’t been feeling this second volume too strongly, but this is more than a step in a positive direction. And the fold-out ad insert for all of the SECRET WARS mini-series and their creative teams, man, I wasn’t aware of those until reading this issue. That is quite a presentation, all stacked up one after another like that.
BLACK SCIENCE #14 — These guys appear to have found a way to up their game on this title again. Of COURSE we believe that Remender will kill the teenage daughter, he’s offed everybody else here and over in LOW without remorse, so the stakes are very palpable throughout this one. And but then there’s a great reversal with our hero’s overall attitude that was definitely needed, the disconnect between the principles that got them to where they are and the effect that all of this jumping has been having. Man, is this like Cosmic Time-Jump Wednesday or what? Just about every one of these titles is science fiction as hell and involves some form of time-travel or dimension-hopping. I mean, poor old DARTH VADER is the most boring one, is how we’re doing tonight. Oh well, cue the next round of yahoos.
CHRONONAUTS #3 — The hits just keep on coming. Millar can’t seem to resist having too much fun on nearly every page with laugh-out-loud concepts flying all over the place as all of the hijinx start bleeding innocent civilians together across multiple times. Players in Super Bowl 1969 getting gunned down by future timecops with their bodies flung into London 1895. A Lee Harvey Oswald gag with a punchline beat so perfect, it simply must be experienced to be believed. And the pace is so fast and furious, you can’t help but be dragged along in all of the insanity’s wake. Terrific fun, and Murphy/Hollingsworth continue to display an absolutely intimidating command of craft. Strong work all around.
ODY-C #5 — We zoom in on beautiful, bearded Hera this time out, and Christian Ward continues to deliver absolutely loony-bird eye-popping pages. Interesting tension building throughout, and then what a terrific release on that last page there. Fraction has crafted a really cool situation for himself here, very much out of what I perceive to be his comfort zone, and it’s causing him to dig deep and deliver some really compelling work.
EAST OF WEST #19 — Oh man, Babylon issues are just the best issues. Seriously, nuke everybody else in #25 and make the whole series suddenly now be nothing but him and that balloon wandering across the post-post-apocalyptic landscape of the seven kingdoms or whatever we’re calling them, and it would be one of the best books ever. Something about the tabula rasa innocence with which he views the world while simultaneously being such a hyper-genius about it all, delivered through that youthful naïveté, man, it just really works.
SAGA #28 — Staples really has this straight-digital thing worked into a very distinctive style that I feel like I could spot through a crowd of wannabes. The script was all right and didn’t put me off as much as it usually does, though once again, just opening with that aside about abortion feels like being needlessly transgressive for the sake of just being transgressive, which is happening way too much in this series, I feel like. I miss the guy who walked me down the road with Yorick Brown and 355 and that wonderful damn Capuchin named after the little sign on your keyboard up above the 7.
ASTRO CITY #23 — A talking gorilla drummer. This set-up is so immediately wonderful, it seems nearly impossible that it took twenty years for us to get to this point. I guess Busiek was out of pocket for a little while, but still. Once again, the creators join up in lockstep and do tremendous work getting the reader to not only care about Sticks in general but actually invested in seeing him fulfill his dreams. Of being a rock and roll drummer even though he’s a talking gorilla. There’s nothing in the world like this book, and we are all so lucky.
INJECTION #1 — Oh my goodness, Uncle Warren can just rat-a-tat-tat that dialogue can’t he? He’s talked before about the effect of percussion in general and (I want to say?) his father’s drumming in particular on his writing, and that’s almost never been more evident than when you get to the bottom of Page 3 here. Past that, it’s fairly standard creator-owned Ellis, which is not intended in a pejorative manner. If someone handed Uncle Warren the boilerplate, he would grab your free hand, sear all of the epidermis off of your palm with the boilerplate, and then type out some insane kind of nanite science that grafted new stem cells onto the damaged area while muttering curses about your grandmother’s dental hygiene (the cells doing the muttering, to be clear). There is nothing normal about this man or the way he crafts plot and character. We have a couple of lead protagonists, an interesting high concept that we can barely even see the tip of, and plenty of Englishness (not Britishness) to go around. And Shalvey/Bellaire are as wonderful as ever. The pacing here is the opposite of the MOON KNIGHT deal; this is very much open-ended and not a done-in-one, and I wonder if the folks who complained about devouring the other series inside of four minutes are finding this more to their liking. This is nothing more than an interesting beginning that actually barely gets its hooks into you, but I have so much regard for the creators that I can’t wait to see what happens next. The only blip in the entire affair for me is that I didn’t care for the unboxed block yellow letters in the narration, but there you have it.