BEST OF WEEK: SECRET WARS #6 — We’re definitely ramping up for the big finish now. Valeria obviously senses on an it-looks-like-by-the-end conscious level that her “father” is the one responsible for the death of his sheriff while all who might successfully oppose the God Emperor have already aligned and are now making their opening gambits. There’s a lot to love in these pages for those of us who have been on the Hickman train for the past six years from the FF run through AVENGERS and up to now. I am a fan of Valeria, Alex, and Bentley trying to work it all out. Even though their minds have been totally altered on such a massive level, they’re still so themselves. Valeria’s reaction to her actual dad’s engineering is priceless. The two Reeds hanging out is definitely something begging for its own non-superfluous one-shot. My favoite beat of this, though, is when Valeria catches the Spideys creeping around the grounds of Castle Doom and she doesn’t recognize the original, who since Johnny died in Hickman’s run has kind of been like an uncle to her and Franklin, so our boy, whose secret identity has been such a mammoth issue for years and years, just steps up and says, “It’s me. Spider-Man. Peter.” That shit knocked me right out. But yeah, it’s all going down. The Spideys find Molecule Man and maybe earn his eternal gratitude with a three-week-old hamburger. Sinister schemes with and gets beat up on by punk-rock Carol Danvers. And in by far the most devastating pairing for AVENGERS fans, Namor & T’Challa just roll up on Stephen Strange’s sanctum sanctorum like they’ve always been bros, which is insane, and acquire the one weapon that might actually be able to take Doom out. Oh, and we finally learn what the party line is on the Fantastic Four. I’ve got to say, for the first time since the last two Marvel universes blew up, it’s not looking that good for old Victor von.
OLD MAN LOGAN #005 — A powerful conclusion. This one was meandering around here in the past couple singles, but Bendis really sticks the landing. No superfluous slugfests to be found here; instead we resonate back to the first issue and have a meeting with Emma, only it’s our Emma, hanging out in a Battleworld blend of 616/Ultimate New York. Really, it’s just very gratifying after all of this time to see our old man come home, to any home, and have a nice meal while all the youngins yammer on, astounded by his very presence. And there’s even a nice little bit in here with the latest Ultimate version of Wolverine who I guess was his son (?) but Loeb was writing it and he’s so shitty now, I couldn’t even pick it up even though Art Adams was drawing it, which was a shame, but I say this to point out that I have zero experience with or empathy for this young Wolverine character and yet still managed to be touched by what Bendis managed to mine out of the two versions meeting one another. Emma’s climactic monologue about what it all might mean is as much of a tour de force as you can pack into a corporate big event crossover mini-series, not as much foreshadowing as explicitly declaring climactic events that are yet to be published, which actually in hindsight makes sense given the fact that this book that could have been a throwaway crossover mini written by Sam Humphries or somebody had such A-list talent attached. And once again, Andrea Sorrentino delivers exquisite work throughout, particularly in the aforementioned series of double-page splashes. It will be pretty cool if Logan pops his head up from out of nowhere in the next couple of issues of SECRET WARS and just says, “Chaaaarge!” That’s a moment that’s going to come from out of nowhere to anyone who skipped this, but it will be very well earned. Marcelo Maiolo made a ton of interesting choices throughout these pages, not all of which I’m sure I agree with, but they were certainly striking. I enjoyed this ride, there is no doubt about that. But what’s this on the last page?!? Our boy survives the horrors of SECRET WARS and is going to be scripted by Lemire reuniting with Sorrentino in January? That is a pretty serious deal, right there.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 — Regular Wednesday night faithful will recall that I don’t pick this up the two or three times a month that it comes out or even every time it reboots (because that just happened, right?), but I have a lot of respect for Slott and definitely drop in for the milestone issues going all the way back to #600. This one was pretty good but didn’t knock me out as much as my previous drop-ins have. Camuncoli is solid but doesn’t quite seem to have his game up to the A-list level that this bold new global direction calls for; B+ for sure, but it’s just not quite there. And maybe I’m just getting annoyed with multimedia synergy, I will certainly cop to that, but as fantastic as she is in the show, having Adrienne Palicki riding shotgun here in the opening scene felt super tacked-in, whether or not it was Slott’s idea or Editorial’s. Also, I get why they did it, but I wasn’t a fan of them upcharging the cover price and then turning the back half of this to a commercial for every ancillary Spider-book except the one that doesn’t need any help (but hey, take a bow, Gwendolyn Stacy of Earth-65). All told, solid work, but it definitely didn’t make me like dying to pick up #2 or anything.
DOCTOR STRANGE #1 — I knew that I was going to dig this solely based on it being an Aaron/Bachalo jam, but man, these guys really knocked it out. A very reader-friendly first issue for the Sorceror Supreme. Bachalo coloring himself is just unparalleled. The guy can do anything. I loved the intro over the original Ditko panels and then that beautiful double-page reveal at the turn of the page (sneaking an old Kirby trick into even Ditkospace), and then all I could think was, “What’s with that giant fucking bear?” before a few more turns of the page made it all clear. And anyone who knows of Isotope’s James Sime’s love of/uncanny resemblance to the title character as well as his predilection for tiki bars had to be loving the Algonquin meeting there with Wanda, Shaman, and Voodoo. And Aaron is even pro enough to give us a new skeptical POV character who of course has something horribly mystically wrong with her before the curtain falls. And Nowlan blew it up on those back-pages! Glad to see that guy getting some mainstream Marvel love and dollars. $5 for thirty pages that have ads all over them is kind of a dick move for the Mighty Marvel Machine, but I guess we expect nothing less at this point. Really great damn first issue regardless.
STAR WARS #10 — Man, Chewbacca and -3PO tearing it up through bars on Coruscant should absolutely be its own show. “Blood and Lightsabers” is also a name begging for an arc. I’ve got to say, though, if Aaron’s going to go ahead and commit to stringing along this “Are they or aren’t they?” deal with Han and his maybe-wife, he probably needs to bury that in the dialogue just even a little bit and not have every single exchange between them be, “We sure are married!” “No, we’re not!” That flies like one time and then is straight bullshit, at least for those of us folks who are pacing it out in the singles. It is funny how Leia negotiates Han as payment for Sanna taking them to go help Luke, though. But bringing a Gungan into the mix, that dialect . . . man, that takes stones. Trying to read it is much much worse than hearing it spoke. I speck! And oh no, not Dengar.
DARTH VADER #10 — I’m still digging the tension between Vader and this new guy Thanoth. Dr. Aphra also remains a compelling character, though when she started in with the monologue at the guy on Naboo, it just sounded like Gillen typing every other character he does. The conversational beats, the “awesome,” I didn’t buy her voice at all. Triple-Zero calling his victim “adorable,” though, that is some chilling shit. But Vader’s reaction shot when Aphra says that it sounds like Padme was really special . . . some deft scripting and execution right there. That’s some sad shit, even though the poor guy’s still in the mask. And that’s even before the awkward moment that follows. A very well done beat.
STAR WARS: SHATTERED EMPIRE #2 — It’s unfortunate that Checchetto already needs help on art duties, but the other guys are solid. I’m a little surprised that we didn’t check in with Han and Poe’s daddy. And speaking of Poe, this timeline indicates that he’s already born and just hanging out with Bey’s dad, it sounds like? Too bad, the idea of him being conceived on Endor after the final battle is resonant. This one moves the plot along well enough, though it’s running a bit close to the recent excellent Waid/Dodsons Leia mini to have another female pilot strike up a friendship with her on the way to the next big adventure. And it looks like the Emperor is finally at long last done putting up with the Gungans’ shit, even from beyond the grave. We’re with you, Palpatine.
TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #10 — All right, why not a The Secret Origin of Destro issue? But is that Unicron on the cover? Don’t do that to us, Scioli! That opening double-page splash is just beauty. Very interesting to be charting the ancestral connections between Clan MacCullen and the Cobra/Serpentor ancestry. Like every other issue of this series, this one was the Kirbyiest goddamn thing for miles around. Page 18 detailing the rise of the Destro name is a beautiful piece of work. And of course, you’ve got to love that nonsense Baronesses finish. Scioli is absolutely mental and is taking all of us away with him to never come back.
PLUTONA #2 — Almost the entire issue takes place in the immediate aftermath of last issue’s cliffhanger, which of course makes plenty of sense as we learn a bit more about our cast based on how they react to stumbling upon the body of their city’s most powerful superheroine. Lenox’s art is such a great fit for this story and really sets up a nice tension between how cartoony/kid-friendly it appears on the surface while depicting the stark subject matter as well as these pre-teens straight up cussing each other out. Territory well mined by Lynch thirty years ago, but there’s still plenty of material there to be unearthed. And probably always will be, I suppose. There’s an even more disturbing cliffhanger this month back in the exact same setting, even, so nice economy there. And I do wish we could have gotten more than two pages of Lemire B-side this month, but I’ll take whatever he’s putting down.
PAPER GIRLS #1 — Vaughan has really not been doing it for me lately, but I’ll still give anything of his a chance, particularly with Azzarello’s WONDER WOMAN team rounding out the collaboration. And this is a solid opening. Terrific value, 36 ad-free pages of story for a measly 299 pennies, old BKV follows the time-honored trope of setting a story in his boyhood haunt. I had a strong hunch that it was Cleveland before that was revealed in-story. It was nice to see that old THE FAR SIDE daily desk calendar again; I had one of those too. No great surprise, this issue mines the same kind of Spielberg kids-on-bikes territory that Lemire’s having such fun with up top on PLUTONA. Which is fine with me; these characters are off to a good start. And the art, my goodness. Chiang is a force, and it’s lovely to see Wilson still working with him.
8house: Yorris #4 — Well, I have no idea how the numbering for this whole 8house deal is supposed to work, but the line certainly produces some good-looking books. It was cool to read about the creators’ history in animation and effects in the backmatter, as I was definitely picking up some 80s cartoon vibes right away. And I wanted to take a bath in Barlow’s cool palette, some very soft pinks and purples to be found here. And kind of a horrifying ending. I certainly want nothing to do with a Paralysite. This issue has beautiful art and an intriguing beginning.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #11 — Well, this is certainly an interesting wrinkle. You have got to love the congregation speaking in tongues and getting all snakebit. That’s country, all right. Latour turns in some really beautiful work, that first long shot of Boone out on the river being a particular standout. This continues to be a compelling series as the Jasons stake out a little bit more narrative territory here in old Craw County.
JUGHEAD #1 — Archie Comics chose this very crowded NYCC release week to debut the second series of their relaunched line. This issue has some pretty big shoes to fill because, as we all know, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples have been knocking the lights out over on the flagship title. Fortunately, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson are more than up to the challenge. Both are more than qualified to relate the exploits of Archie’s best friend. When he’s not busy putting the “graphic” into “graphic novel” and turning down Harvey awards for the critically lauded SEX CRIMINALS, Zdarsky scripts the adventures of one of Marvel’s funniest books, HOWARD THE DUCK, while Henderson’s angular lines are familiar to fans of THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL. The two are a terrific mix here as they waste no time dropping our hero into a crisis that rocks him to the core of his very being: no more hamburgers in the school cafeteria! Zdarsky’s naturalistic dialogue is well balanced throughout the ensemble, and Henderson’s facial expressions and evocative body language are a treat to study. I have got to say, though, that as a regular reader of the SEX CRIMINALS letters column (which is quite often better than the actual comic), I expected this first issue to be a little bit funnier than it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the jokes fall flat, there just aren’t that many of them. This isn’t really the gag-a-minute pace that was more of a hallmark of this character’s previous iteration. My favorite bit, though, has to be the whole Moose-as-Hodor deal during the GAME OF THRONES parody that Jughead dreams in the middle of the issue after collapsing when he finds out the bad news about the burgers. But what Zdarsky chooses to do instead is actually insert some heartfelt sentiment and warmth into the book that not only offsets the protagonist’s archetypal goofiness but makes for much more of a compelling read. In just this first issue, Jughead gets a new antagonist and a definable set of goals, no mean feat for a character best known for his lack of motivation past the point of, “I’m about to devour all of the hamburgers on this plate.” While not as transcendentally pitch-perfect as the main title, JUGHEAD is an enjoyable slice of sequential goodness that will entertain readers, new or old. You just probably want to throw some hamburger patties on the grill before you get started because you’re certainly going to be craving one before you make it to the final page.
ACTION COMICS #45 — The arc is off to a promising start. Though it’s still pretty weird to have the news both refer to our boy as just “Kent” and to have Perry pulling a J. Jonah Jameson here. Kolins work is a terrific stylistic fit for what we’re used to from Kuder, though there were a couple of wonky panels with the foreshortening. All told, an engaging beginning with a last page that fits right in here this month of October.
BATMAN & ROBIN ETERNAL #1 — I dug the last boy-wonderless volume and am happy to sign back up for this latest installment. As long as Daniel doesn’t go anywhere near scripting duties! Goodness day. This is an intriguing set-up, though they’ve obviously got a lot of explaining to do about that last shot. I don’t think anyone can claim that they’re not using Dick Grayson enough over there at Detective Comics Comics these days.
MIRACLEMAN #3 — Ah yes, the famous Warhol/Gargunza issue of MIRACLEMAN. I’m just kidding. I haven’t ever actually heard of this issue. Had no idea it existed before this week. Never laid eyes on old #19 before. But it’s some beautiful work. Buckingham’s white crayon on black paper is an interesting contrast to what we’ve seen from him before now, and of course his likeness of (the sixth) Andy Warhol is spot-on. This one felt a little bit more, I don’t know, British than the other issues? Or more Vertigoey? Is that too douchey to say? You could just feel the foggy malaise dripping off of this one. I very much expected John Constantine to drop by any page and light up a fag in his time-honored way. I’m glad they’re hustling these out because you can feel some kind of momentum building, but it’s a very slight thing. Three issues in, and we’re just barely beginning to get a big picture of what the deal is with this brave new world. At least the little retrieval doohickey finally found what it was looking for, looks like.