Been an abnormally slow week, so bear with me.

After two solid weeks of web-based frenzy over leaked solicits, high profile announcements, and creator shuffles, things finally appear to be dying down somewhat…at least until next month, when we’ll likely start all over. If the Internet is any accurate indicator, the industry is definitely going to be an interesting place come spring, and that’s never a bad thing.

Personally, I’m trapped in that strange writer’s void of uncomfortable waiting, where the material I’ve sent out needs that stamp of approval to continue. I used to sit around and obsess about this stuff, wondering when editors would hit me back with commentary, but recently I’ve adopted the habit of just working on something else, which actually works pretty well. So in addition to the various creator-owned things in the pipeline, I’ve started work on a couple interviews/features that I think you’ll really dig, which may or may not have something to do with Spider-Man Unlimited #3.

This week I leave you in the care of the best three books to hit your retailer last Wednesday, and a couple Quotables from recent weeks. Enjoy.

Y: The Last Man #20 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan Jr.)

Damn…and I thought the last issue was good. Perhaps this is premature and wildly speculative at this point, and you can get at me later if I’m wrong, but when this series is completed, it will become another excellent example of what Vertigo can accomplish. Why the books they publish, and the creators they support, are so important to the continued growth and maturation of the industry. It’s going to be one of those books that everyone else is measured up against for its premise, for its characters, and for its style. Yorick Brown is going to be added to the ranks of memorable Vertigo characters alongside fellow luminaries Jesse Custer, Spider Jerusalem, and King Mob, among others. Too soon, you say? There’s not enough proof, you say? I think Vaughan is trying to tell you very loudly and very clearly that he’s got the goods, and he’s doing it with every storyline.

Safeword, in three issues, illuminates then changes several things about the main character Yorick Brown, that should’ve been fairly obvious to us from the start. This isn’t the case of a writer pulling some shocking character development out of thin air to service the plot, artificially shifting things where they need to be. Vaughan planned this stuff from the very beginning, and nineteen issues later, we fully understand the storytelling device he implemented between the first and second issues. Something very important happened to Yorick in the two months Vaughan denied us, but I think he should be forgiven, considering the payoff we get here. The guy entering the story is quite different from the one who left it, and I think that’s one of the key distinctions between good stories and great stories. Like several of its predecessors, Safeword is simply a great story, told by a great writer.

“Endings have to be earned.”- Agent 711

Supreme Power #8 (J. Michael Straczynski/Gary Frank/Jon Sibal)

As well received as Straczynski’s work on Amazing Spider-Man has been, this is by far the strongest Marvel title his name is attached to. Some are dubbing this as “Ultimate JLA,” and judging by the roles the characters are falling into, that description is definitely valid, but I’m connecting with this material far more than I have with the “world’s greatest heroes” lately. Maybe the difference lies in simple conventions, but you almost have to wonder if this is a situation of another man borrowing his friend’s clothes, and looking better in them than he does. Something is definitely up when the traditional superhero fisticuffs don’t emerge until the eighth issue, and the book has been keeping your attention without them.

Despite that, finally seeing Hyperion throwdown with Colonel Joe Ledger proves that JMS can have it both ways, delivering a splashy, violent battle that gives Gary Frank the opportunity to cut completely loose, assisted by a terribly effective coloring job from Chris Sotomayor. It’s not all for show of course, as Hyperion learns the truth of his origins, turning everything he’s done into a complete lie, and leaving his deceivers in a very bad place. Since the beginning, this title has been defined by the untouchable man who exists eternally apart from the people he’s supposed to protect, and now he’s completely pissed off. Can’t wait to see what he does…

“I felt that. I…felt that. This must be what pain feels like. Do it again.”- Hyperion

Hard Time #2 (Steve Gerber/Brian Hurtt)

Had no idea what to expect from DC’s new Focus initiative, though at first glance, the titles seemed to heavily encroach on Vertigo territory, the addition of superpowers the only fundamental difference. New imprints are always a tough sell, even when the material is of the highest quality (see Eye of the Storm), but judging by Hard Time, Focus bears closer watching. What ultimately sold me were the eight page previews that DC ran in several of their titles the last couple months, that offered a better look at all four titles, and the individual spheres they operate in. The books being completely independent of one another is a definite plus, as operating within a shared universe can sometimes become problematic, especially at a title’s inception. But regardless of where everything fits into the overall publishing scheme, Gerber gets the most important thing right, telling an interesting story with interesting characters.

Ethan Harrow is going to jail for a very long time, for the part he played in a high-school shooting that left five people dead. What makes Ethan slightly different from your usual unfortunate headed upstate, is a strange ability that’s already caused the death of one person, and made quite a scene in the courtroom where the verdict was laid down. Now, Ethan is trapped in a high security penitentiary with actual criminals that have absolutely no problem with killing him, just for looking at them the wrong way.

I’ve seen some criticism that Hard Time’s central plot thrust, Ethan being sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit, and more specifically, the length of his prison term, is too harsh and a bit unrealistic. For some reason, the cynic in me doesn’t see the result as too
far-fetched, and certainly not incredible enough to diminish the work Gerber has accomplished thus far. The writer avoids the most obvious turn, casting Ethan as the timid victim of B-Block, garnering better results as Harrow maintains a defiant tone throughout the book, even when it works against him. Also working very well is the supporting cast he’s building, logic dictating that some of them will turn on Ethan eventually, bringing home the point that no one can be trusted. Ethan’s “ability” is also suitably mysterious, though the results have thus far proved far from subtle. If this is the brand of material that Focus plans to bring to the stage, I’d say they’re in pretty good shape.

“Either you learn how to take care of yourself in here, or you die. Nobody can afford to care, one way or the other.”- Curly


The Punisher #3 (Garth Ennis)
“…crime never ends. It claims its victims, accidental or intended. And as long as people want the things the law forbids them having, nothing you or I or anyone can do will make a difference. That’s why I had to walk away. Because you know all that and yet you do what you do anyway. You kill because you like it, Frank.”- Microchip

Code D’Etat: Wildcats Version 3.0 (Joe Casey)
“If we are what we say we are…then our responsibilities must supercede the lure of acting out old paradigms. I know you want to change the world. And I know you can. But the mere fact that you could automatically begs the question whether or not you should…”- Spartan

DEMO #4 (Brian Wood)
“Look around you. Look at this house. This isn’t a fucking fairy tale, this kind of life. We’re poor. It fucking sucks. This town sucks, and our jobs suck. Now, go do something about it.”- Amy

Take it easy, folks. Back in seven.

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