JLA #4 — Hitch is back in business and with only a single inker to boot. Of course his pages are rock-solid master-class storytelling, but the terrific news for me continues to be his very good ear for the nuances of all of these characters’ cadences in dialogue. Here, the continuity doesn’t matter; red underpants or no, these feel like the iconic version of these characters. Like the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED iterations. Which is like the nicest thing I can say about them, yeah? The characterization is all happening in and of itself, but then the big plot is also kicking them around the way that it should. How can you not love Hal stranded hundreds of thousands of years in the past hanging out on Krypton in Kandor of all places with the ancient version of the actual bad guy who’s been killing multiversal permutations of Superman for who knows how long? This is wonderful work, and it’s a pleasure to see Hitch blow it up to such effect and even without really showing off, no massive double-page city spreads like everybody else always asks him to do that take two weeks to draw, he’s just telling his story. As he should be. Really digging this run.
SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK #1 — I can’t express how great it is to get this character back. I was happy to embrace the New 52 version that Morrison cranked out four years ago, even if he got rid of the underwear. I fully understood that “my” Superman was the post-Swan reboot that sprang forth from John Byrne’s imagination in ’86 in the wake of the first Crisis. It didn’t really bother me when he got rebooted out of existence. We’ll always have those old comics and all that. And ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, for that matter. I didn’t feel like I particularly needed the guy I was reading about in the eighties and nineties to still be running around. And yet. I’m so glad that he is. It’s a lovely rush of nostalgic continuity to hear him referring to events that happened twenty years ago, but more importantly, it’s very interesting to see the way that this Lois & Clark will play against what’s going on here in the new Earth-0 (Right? I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to call the main New 52 place Earth-0, but then all of that multiversal madness scrambled my brain pretty good). Who better to script this than one of the principal creators of the era, Dan Jurgens? If nothing else, his presence ensures that any guest-star appearances by Booster Gold will be on-point. And Weeks drops solid storytelling chops on every page; he really is one of the more underrated talents in the industry, considering how long he’s been at it. I had high hopes for this one, and it was a little bit better than I thought it would be, even if the final-page cliffhanger falls a little flat.
BATMAN #45 — That was almost a crispy BatGordon. The Bruce/Julie dynamic continues to be interesting and something well worth exploring. I am very curious what Snyder’s plan is to inevitably reset the status quo, but it’s certainly been an intriguing journey so far. I love the deal with turning the trophies into a playground. And Gordon getting fired in the Walter White memorial chamber played out to much amusement on my part. Oh, and Capullo/Miki/Plascencia are still terrifying monsters. You wonder if Capullo is ever going to move on. I certainly hope not for a very long time to come.
BATMAN & ROBIN ETERNAL #2 — Things are moving right along. Seeley slides in to regular scripting duties as he did previously, and Pelletier provides quality interiors that aren’t too much of a stylistic leap from what Daniel had going on last week. It’s maybe a double-standard not to be like indignant at the exploitative element, but Stephanie Brown whispering her love for Dick “Sexy Batman” Grayson is just some priceless shit. And I don’t know if it’s just finally been long enough or what, but this is one of the first times where Jason Todd’s very presence doesn’t madden me and I can accept him as just another member of the family. Glad to see this book maintaining form thus far, though of course, we’re only getting started.
STARFIRE #5 — Guillem March’s Headless Starfire variant cover is quite striking. This is yet another quality issue that races along and leaves us with a particularly macabre cliffhanger that is well suited to the month of October. Conner/Palmiotti do such a terrific job displaying Kori’s innocent/naïve take on her own sexuality without ever coming across as exploitative, a really tough needle to thread. And Lupacchino’s work, as ever, is immaculately rendered.
STAR WARS: SHATTERED EMPIRE #3 — Terrific to see Bey, Leia, and the current Naboo queen in some dogfighting action. Though there will really only ever be one queen of Naboo for us all, naturally. There’s a wonderful moment when Leia senses the lingering presence of Darth Maul in the hanger all these years later. And even he was on the cover, but I was still surprised/delighted to see Lando roar to the rescue accompanied by classic racially offensive stereotype character Nein Numb. But “To Be Concluded?” Like, one more issue and done? That almost makes me question the point of this. Basically, “Here are Oscar Isaac’s parents for a minute,” and then call it a day. There’s not a lot of meat on this here bone, but what we got tastes fine, I suppose.
RADIOACTIVE SPIDER-GWEN #1 — Oh no, Bodega Bandit really is the worst. It’s wonderful to get this book back, though. Latour & Rodriguez seem energized and more focused than ever, though they certainly weren’t hurting in the all-too-short first volume there. We get a couple of tragic-in-hindsight flashbacks featuring this universe’s doomed Peter Parker that are kind of rough to make it through if you have a lifetime of experience empathizing with that character. It’s also gratifying to see Gwen’s dad playing such a prominent role. This book is back and as wonderful as ever .
A-FORCE #5 — Well, that ended just about the way that it had to. More terrific art from Molina/Martin, and Bennett/Wilson did a fine job juggling the substantial ensemble. Did anyone else think that there was a vibe happening there when Spider-Gwen saved MJ? They seemed to be crushing pretty hard on one another, but there was no follow-up. At any rate, I’ll dial back in on this thing when the next volume comes out. Since it looks like they’re surviving the nefarious pen of Jonathan Hickman, I guess?
BEST OF WEEK (singles): THE TWILIGHT CHILDREN #1 — When Vertigo announced their new slate of this year’s titles, I was most intrigued by the pairing of A-list talents Gilbert (Beto) Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke. The presence of either creator guarantees that whatever project it is will be a master class in sequential storytelling, but a first-time collaboration such as this is particularly intriguing. And that doesn’t even count having Dave Stewart, one of the industry’s best, on colors. I should disclose here that Beto is my favorite Hernandez brother and his PALOMAR cycle of stories is one of my favorite all-time runs, so I’m already totally predisposed to be all-in on this one after like a single scene, though I feel like that might be the case even if that opening two-page pan from the coast to the street didn’t evoke the sleepy Latin American village that Luba and Ofelia and Heraclio and Carmen call home. There are no overt signs right out of the gate, but the reader can already detect a tinge of magical realism in the salty air. Beto provides pinpoint characterization on the group of kids as they discuss Bundo, the town drunk. The sleepy-eyed look that Cooke puts on Grover’s face when he tells Jael that their parents are English teachers is an immediate classic and one of dozens of examples to be found in these pages that distinguish Cooke once again as a first-rate cartoonist. And then a damn Rover from THE PRISONER’s Village shows up, which is always a surprise in any context. What an arresting visual. The return of these ominous white balls leads to other fantastic events unfolding, confirming the initial impression that the Gabriel Garcia Marquez DNA woven into Hernandez’s other work is still very much in evidence here. And Cooke remains one of the most talented visual stylists working today. Any time that he deigns to work on interior pages is a cause for celebration. His soft line and economical detail here do a tremendous amount of work making these characters come alive and relatable to the reader. And Stewart’s colors enhance every single image, always popping without calling attention to themselves. The work these creators do on this series is a symphony, every element complementing the others and serving to enhance the whole at the highest level of craft. And they make it look easy. It is only just beginning, but it is already very apparent that this series is something very special, and we are so lucky to get it.
PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #3 — All right, and now we get to the tricks, the layout chicanery that was such a driving characteristic of YOUNG AVENGERS and had me dearly wishing these lads would come back home to this title. That sequence of Emily in side-scroll video-game mode across the multi-media madness of Pages 4-7 was the serious business. McKelvie is untouchable when he wants to be. I still need to run down the musical recommendations from this one but am intrigued by the notion of an Afghan Whigs cover of “If I Only Had A Heart.”
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #15 — Well, Stephanie Hans can definitely hold down the fort while the other lads are hanging out with Emily Aster. Very good-looking art. The story didn’t dial me in so much, but they were certainly pretty pages.
SEX CRIMINALS #13 — oh no, I got the XXX cover and now I can’t unsee that one on the back. Oh no. A, if I may, real dick move, Matt & Chipper. This is a very engaging interlude that is an interesting expansion of the universe. It definitely feels like a solid use of the narrative real estate despite the total left-turn nature of dropping something like this mid-arc. The first time through, I missed Chipper dumping coffee on Matt’s face because the foot massage was not going well over on Jon & Suze’s page. That was pretty wonderful. Where is this crazy story going next, oh Matt & Chipper?
I HATE FAIRYLAND #1 — So basically, one day Skottie Young drew one cutesy-cute variant cover too many and lost his shit, which resulted in the creation of his first creator-owned series, which stars this cute little girl named Gertrude who falls into a magical land and behaves in a most un-Dorothy-like manner (not counting the Wicked-Witch killing; I suppose in that regard, she’s spot-on). You’ve got to love the Jabba choke, and then that line of dialogue as they make their escape about tasting thoughts was channeling some straight Delirium. An entertaining beginning, though I’m probably not going to stick with this in singles. I did enjoy Young’s essay at the end. That’s right, 90s Image 4evah, Bro.
EAST OF WEST #21 — Once again, Dragotta/Martin draw the absolute hell out of this. You’ve got to love the chief on the hovercycle racing through the deadlands. And that’s before the whole cycle-cannon deal. Visually gripping stuff. Badass and so forth. And, you know, if this was an issue still in the single digits, I’d be excited that maybe here was a new ancillary character stepping up who I might be able to invest in going forward. But unless Hickman dramatically alters the course he’s been taking, I know that’s not going to happen. This is a recurring deal now that’s all the way up to being an actual trend. As we all know, Hickman’s FF run is my favorite since Kirby’s. I dig it more than Byrne’s, more than Simonson, more than Waid/Ringo even, rest in peace and stab my eyes out. It’s the perfect balance of big insane cosmic ideas that are always detonating all over the place but never manage to obscure the pitch-perfect ensemble-wide characterization going on throughout the entire run. Hickman managed to graft that balance for the most part into his AVENGERS run, but his creator-owned business, they’re always terrific ideas with stunning art, but then after a few issues, I realize that I don’t care about these people almost at all. Still worth picking up for the art alone and in case something starts happening with the characterization, but this could be so much more than it is.
LOW #10 — More very solid work from all involved, which is of course no surprise by now. I mean, who can’t get behind vampire mermaids? Remender’s certainly scorched enough earth character-wise in this book and over in BLACK SCIENCE that there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that that ex-pirate Zem fella was toast, so fair play there. This was another really beautiful issue; Tocchini/McCaig are in a solid groove and play to each other’s strengths. The only thing about this one that didn’t knock me out is that for the end of an arc that’s going to leave us on a months’-long break, it seems to me that we need a better cliffhanger than just ascending into white. I mean, I know that was a very conscious decision and probably there’s a terrific in-story reason for why we can’t get that first shot of what’s up there, but it makes the whole deal fall a little flat for me here in the days when you can’t just reach for Volume 3 of the trade and keep right on binge-reading. Remender should have kept us on the hook just a little bit better.
BEST OF WEEK (also): BATTLING BOY: THE FALL OF HOUSE WEST — Look, this was incredible. I’ve been trying to get around to doing a write-up that does it justice, but it’s been nearly two weeks and I haven’t, so I’m just going to go ahead and post this week’s run and maybe I’ll get around to it one of these days. But trust me. This and THE RISE OF AURORA WEST and the original BATTLING BOY are absolutely the shit and you have got to check them out, some of the very best comics getting made today.