Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.
Wolverine and the X-Men #19
(Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong, Laura Martin, Chris Eliopoulos; Marvel)
Let me just go ahead and put it out there that Wolverine and the X-Men is the best mature readers superhero comic on the market today. Now, by "mature," I certainly don't mean that it contains a gratuitous amount of sex, cursing or graphic violence. If that's your idea of maturity, then, well, I'll give my best attempt at niceness and suggest that maybe you've got a shot at someday working for DC on Identity Crisis 2. But the kind of mature comics that I'm talking about have less to do with the age appropriateness of their content and more to do with their honest attitude about just what kind of stories they're telling.
Who else but a confident, mature writer could ridicule the overused trope of superheroes fighting other superheroes right on the heels of contributing to a high-profile book all about that very thing? Jason Aaron isn't afraid to make fun of himself or any of the numerous weird elements of the world the X-Men inhabit. And yet, this is no mere parody comic, as its dramatic stakes are just as real as its jokes are funny. One second I'm laughing at Alpha Flight and the next I'm gasping as Headmaster Logan discovers a graveyard marked with the names of every student in his school. Wolverine and the X-Men is completely self-aware, fully embracing the superhero genre's potential to thrill alongside its inherent silliness.
Plus, Aaron gets bonus points this week for a Disney reference that seems so accidentally timely that it must have been divinely inspired. Star Wars Episode VII: A Warren Worthington III production?
– Chris Kiser
(Joe Casey, Nathan Fox, Ivan Plascencia, Comicraft; Image)
While I've been enjoying this bit of sci-fi horrorcore from Casey and Fox, I could not tell you what this run has been about except that Haunt turns into goth Spider-Man with the help of his ghost brother who constantly torments him. Also, there's an evil church and The Big Lebowski has ninja powers. So, yeah, it's a fun time, but again, the plot has felt a bit occluded.
That is, until this issue, where Casey and Fox take a breather to get readers up to speed and deal with stuff that happened at the beginning of their run eight issues ago. There's been a lot of crazy shit, but it turns out you need the odd subdued episode (at least, subdued for Haunt) for maximum effect.
As always, Fox draws the fuck out of this comic — he's one of the most energetic, talented artists that rarely gets his deserved cred because he rarely works on mainstream superhero titles. But the rest of us know better, and we're having a shitload of fun over here in the back of the comics bus.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Higher Earth #6
(Sam Humphries, Francesco Biagini, Andrew Crossley, Ed Dukeshire; BOOM!)
I'll say this about Sam Humphries: dude doesn't screw around with too much exposition. After spending the last couple months filling in theretofore unrevealed backstory, it certainly seemed possible that this book's penchant for dropping readers into the plot in medias res had just been an early issue trick to pique reader interest. Not so in Higher Earth #6, however, where Humphries is once again happy to leave the audience responsible for its own game of catch-up as he forges on ahead.
So, without warning we find ourselves on A-LI7761-841, a world with a Preak-Kardov rating of +3.7 (whatever that means) on which Rex has started a civil war. Or something. All we really need to know is that there's a whole lot of havoc up in this biz, Heidi's become wholeheartedly committed to throwing off the oppression of Higher Earth, and two new fighters for the cause are giving an undeniably honest answer to an age-old question. Would you make out with a clone of yourself?
It's bound to feel somewhat chaotic and inaccessible for some, but for those who can handle a little non-obviousness, it's a lot of fun. Between all the zero issues and gap-filling miniseries the industry constantly pumps out, most comic book characters these days are lucky if they can even find time to go to the bathroom. In the case of Higher Earth, you might actually buy the notion that these people are still out there doing stuff even after you put down the latest issue.
– Chris Kiser
Justice League Dark Annual #1
(Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin, Ulises Arreola, Rob Leigh; DC)
Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin complete their "War of the Books of Magic" storyline in a completely necessary annual that carries on from Issue #13 because that's not confusing. Frankenstein joins the mix, which should be cool but is actually kind of irksome because Janin chooses to draw Frankenstein as if he used some fat guy as the model. But hey, Frankenstein is being cancelled and I'm more than glad to have him in Justice League Dark.
This concluding chapter is fine, though characters like I Vampire and Amethyst literally appear out of nowhere for little reason except that at some point someone thought a comic about a broken, unconventional superhero team still kind of needed characters who could stand around and pose with swords against the bad guys.
Unless I read those final pages wrong and Tim Hunter did not just get abducted by a Mother Box, it looks like, paired with Wonder Woman #12, DC editorial is trying to cook up some unified cosmology of the DC Universe. Which is interesting, but I might also be completely talking out of my ass and this is just setup for an upcoming story arc where they're trapped on a planet without magic that isn't Apokalips.
Either way, I'm impressed that Mikel Janin — a pretty consistent artist who keeps getting better as he draws this book — could step up and deliver an annual's worth of pages a week after his previous issue came out. Maybe the #0 afforded him the time.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Rachel Rising #12
(Terry Moore; Abstract Studios)
This is the part where I feel like an asshole. I think Terry Moore is a fantastic, moody, expressive artist and Rachel Rising is a slinking, unnerving kind of creepy, but the story is moving at a pace too slow and deliberate for 18-page installments $3.99 a month. Which isn't Moore's fault — tell the story you want to tell, how you want to tell it — but rather indicative of the state of single issue comics. I want more of this story at once, but financially Moore can't afford to put out huge chunks of it because he needs to eat.
I'll be glad to rejoin this book for the omnibus edition, even though skipping the single issues makes that goal all the more difficult for Moore. Fuuuuck.
Happy! #2 (of 4)
(Grant Morrison, Darick Robertson, Richard P. Clark, Simon Bowland; Image)
Overall, Nick, David and I were cautiously optimistic when it came to Happy #1, but issue #2 carries on about how I expected, with punching and shooting and saying "fuck" a lot. On the bright side, it looks like Robertson is cutting loose on the storytelling and delivering some fine sequences and varied panel layouts.
The big set piece of this issue has a chemically fucked-up Nick intruding on a poker game just and using Happy to cheat for him to prove that the flaying blue unicorn really exists. Which is a hilarious thing for a protagonist to do — kind of reminds me of the morally bankrupt lead from In Bruges — and will surely make a great, tense, hilarious scene in the film adaptation, with a sweaty, detached Nicky Sax talking to an invisible horse and antagonizing people who wish to kill him. But here's the problem: I'm only thinking about the film adaptation as I read this comic.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning film
maker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.