STAR WARS #009 — Man, these Immonen/von Grawbadger*/Ponsor pages are just stunning. A very impressive kind-of-Moebius-but-all-sleek-and-cleaned-up-as-hell opening cityscape followed by some roof-running that looks to be a straight homage to that already iconic Star-Lord romping at the top of 2014’s highest grossing motion picture. And this depiction of Luke Skywalker, really one of the best one’s I’ve seen in any adapted medium. I’ve got hyperbole all over the place about it. And of course, there’s no progression on the is-she-or-isn’t-she? front vis a vis Sana Solo this month (and probably, come to think of it, won’t be anything like real resolution to that one until arc’s end at #012 or #013, I betcha), but Aaron keeps everything racing along fast enough that we almost don’t much care. That one panel where Leia’s bitching and then Sana asks Han if she’s always this cheerful then Han says he should be flying and then they both tell him to shut up is piiiiiiitch-perfect. Very nice. And a cool moment there with Luke and all the holocrons before the least surprising (but certainly good-looking) final page of the week lands. This series continues to be just a hell of a great ride.
BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #011 — I have to say that I was pulling for an all-Rudy final issue, but at least there was a thematic in-story explanation for the difference between the two artists. Kot lands this one with a bit more passion and apparent investment than he did over in ZERO, though I still would have liked to see what a more seasoned writer with stronger character work would have done with this material and collaborator. But as ever, the real star of this book is Rudy’s lush and vibrant pages. The last sequence, in particular, is jaw-dropping splendor and really quite possibly the best work that he has produced, which is of course the kind of high note that you want to go out on. Really beautiful work.
BEST OF WEEK: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #005 — Lemire/Perez bring the first arc to a beautiful and dramatic conclusion before cannonballing it forward in a final scene that still has me picking my jaw up off the ground. Powerful and emotionally resonant throughout, Lemire can’t resist his current interest/obsession with pushing the form of concurrent narrative transitioning and, for the big finish, actually has the art alternating between past and present every single panel, which produces a lovely, nearly rhapsodic, effect. If this had just been a five-issue mini-series, then it would have been a very worthy successor to Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth’s nigh-unfollowable run, but the fact that these guys are just getting started is cause for celebration and even a touch of horror over the notion of what they’re going to try next.
ROBIN: SON OF BATMAN #4 — Quite an escalation to bring old Slade in the mix. Of course, the art team continues to tear it up. That wide shot with the titles where Goliath is flying in over the city might be the prettiest picture in this series so far. But then what about that fight? Those tiny eight unbordered shots of Damian vs. Slade are for the ages, strong sequential storytelling channeling both Quitely and Stewart’s greatness during the Morrison run while always reminding us of the source, the fount, Kirby’s immortal Cap vs. Batroc sequence from the all-time classic TALES OF SUSPENSE #85. More strong work from this crew. Anybody who bitches that DC isn’t consistently putting out any quality mainstream superhero titles, I laugh in their face and then choke them with my reader’s copies** of this series.
BLACK CANARY #4 — Pia Guerra! Just that opening splash makes me miss Y THE LAST MAN so much. What a terrific call for a fill-in, she’s turning in work that’s obviously very much her own style but that still fits right in with the Annie Wu greatness. We’re focusing here on ousted singer Bo with a gang of flashbacks that pretty effectively both solidifies and tees her up as series antagonist (particularly in light of that last scene). But I assumed Dinah was the blond ninja in white? Beautiful colors from Loughridge as well, it must be said.
THE PAYBACKS #1 — This was good fun with some terrific humor liberally sprinkled throughout. This series is about a group of superheroes who don’t have pockets as deep as old Bruce or Tony and can’t pay off their loans so are then drafted into service to repossess the assets of other superheroes in the same boat. Sort of a weird circular riff on DAMAGE CONTROL that is pulled off to maximum effect. The initial repossessee is Night Knight, a spot-on riff on a grim’n’gritty Miller Batman with a unicorn who just about steals the show. If you dug that old McDuffie series or love it when Garth Ennis takes the piss out of superheroes, then this one is 100% for you.
THE FADE OUT #9 — We’re really ramping up to the big bad finish now, you can tell. This is an interesting digression so late in the game to finally spell out the whole deal between Charlie & Gil. It’s not like this book has ever wanted for seamless exposition. At any rate, our heroes (such as they are) are aligned and it won’t be long until the curtain comes crashing down over this whole wretched mess, just the way old Ray Chandler woulda done it.
SEX CRIMINALS #12 — I scored the Kate Leth butt-plug XXX variant! But then almost left it lying around my office for an impressionable pre-teen music student to happen across (sad trombone). Close call. But this right here is more quality from Mt. Chipper and his little Spike. For all of Fraction’s dissembling in the letters column of ODY-C about how not-smart he is, he strings together a coherent lecture walking us through the history patriarchal suppression running all the way back to the Olympians that remains engaging even while disrupting the extreme magic-fairy vagina-tentacle action unfolding elsewhere. This is the first issue that’s actually made me wonder what the plan is for this thing, whether it’s finite or we’re just in the middle of one big old great-God-a’mighty first arc. I’ve mentioned it before, but Zdarsky seems to be refining his palette in minute ways but really streamlining the colors into the most eye-pleasing situation he can muster. These boys do fine work. And I loved reading the story of the 1,000 sketch variants that nearly broke them.
ODY-C #7 — This one, I didn’t love. Don’t know if I only needed a single about the He-Bull beast of Troiia or just want more lavish spreads of hyperspace, but this one felt something like drudgery, which absolutely should not be happening in a series with a premise this wild and beautiful. It read kind of like the kind of revenge porn people sometimes accuse Tarantino of, which, I can see their point these last couple of movies certainly, but it’s always executed (no pun intended) in a way that remains entertaining. Not so here. Maybe the backmatter’s rubbing me the wrong way, Fraction so heroically taking up the flag against women’s suppression with his iceberg metaphor and signing off with that ridiculous last line. Yes, dude, boys who rape should all be destroyed, are we supposed to cheer you proclaiming such a pedantic obvious thing from your lofty creator-owned mountaintop?
MIRACLEMAN #2 (18) — Wow, and the big guy doesn’t even show up in this one at all (except in no-dialogue imagination panels, I guess). However, Miraclewoman is actually a character in this comic and appears for more than a couple of pages. I’m not complaining, mind, as young Our Neil crafts another simple though poignant tale of an everyman who falls in love with the perfection of a goddess. And Mark Buckingham is good enough to supply perfect lines with which to tell the tale. This, just like last month, is a tale of aching humanity, which I suppose is going to be the deal going forward, more a story of the repercussions of the gods taking up residence on the planet rather than a tale of the gods themselves. Not unlike what Busiek and company got up to with ASTRO CITY a scant five years after this hit the shelves. I rather enjoyed the back-up story with the kids. Though I must say, I was rather horrified when the little girl uttered, “There’s a kid in Glasgow who made a potion in chemistry that made him invisible for a week.” Now, this story was originally released in August 1990, so it’s very likely that it was written after ARKHAM ASYLUM had already blown up the graphic novel records the previous Christmas. And it’s even likely that Gaiman and Morrison were already friends. But had Morrison already conceived off and confided in his probably-already-friend about his magnum opus/roman a clef entitled THE INVISIBLES that wouldn’t see publication for another four years? Or is this just another example of shared ideaspace? Chilling.
*nice of them to put his name on the cover this time
**I’m just kidding, I don’t buy reader’s copies; but if something like that happens, I choke them with my own copies and then go out and buy another one for myself or hey, maybe I should wait for the trade at the point.