Finally got that massive one volume Bone trade, but I’m not quite ready for it.

Lost track of the series somewhere in the middle, when Jeff Smith shifted back to Cartoon Books, after spending a little time under the Image umbrella. Discovering the comic in the first place was a bit of a surprise, as I’m pretty sure my tastes back then consisted of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman comics, with little else breaking into my tunneled vision of things. Regardless, I read something about it and ended up seeking out the first two trades and picking it up monthly from there on out, until losing it in the publisher shuffle. It’s one of those things that I always regret not keeping up with, but the trade collections made it easier to leave behind, and years later, the entire saga rests within one monstrous package. And as befits such an occasion, I’m intending on taking a week or two, to crawl through the contents with little interruption. But I can’t just pick the thing up and start reading you understand, that’s over 1000 pages of certified hotness right there. So, this week, I’m stretching out a bit, getting the muscles warm and the blood circulating with reviews for the latest Runaways digest, the new Authority hardcover, some Rucka Wolverine, and the independently released Subatomic.

We’ll start in the Marvel Age…

Runaways Vol. 2: Teenage Wasteland (Brian K. Vaughan/Adrian Alphona/
Takeshi Miyazawa)

I e-mailed Brian Vaughan a couple Wednesday nights ago, and told him that I was beginning to hate him. I’d just finished reading Y #27, twice mind you, and felt compelled to congratulate the clever bastard on yet another remarkable cliffhanger ending, in a string of remarkable cliffhanger endings. You know what I’m talking about. Ya’ll read that shit last week. And you have been reading it for over two years now, and 27 issues in, Vaughan is still punishing those patient enough to wait for this series in trades, strange, disciplined creatures you are. But enough about Yorick and company, this whole thing is supposed to be about Runaways, not how Vaughan is locking things down. However, can you really separate one from the other?

Runaways, Y: The Last Man, and Ex Machina are three of the best reads in comics, and all written by a slightly different version of BKV. There’s commonality there sure, a tempo or cadence that isn’t difficult to spot, but there’s no reasonable way to argue that he’s saying the same thing in all of his books. The expanse between characters like Alex Wilder, Yorick Brown, and Mitchell Hundred is apparent, and what makes this even more notable is that all of these books sprung in large part from the head of Vaughan. Maintaining consistency across multiple platforms is hard enough, but doing that across a body of creator-owned (or creator participated) work deserves mention.

So, what do I have to say about this second collection of the critically acclaimed Marvel series, that follows a group of teens who learn their parents are really supervillains? Maybe that Vaughan is hitting you with the same deep characterization and the same frequent plot twists, with the same skill he always has been. Maybe I’d tell you it’s more of the same. And maybe that’s more than good enough.

The Authority: Human On The Inside (John Ridley/Ben Oliver)

First off, this is a gorgeous piece of work. Wildstorm is touting this as Ben Oliver’s first interior work for an American comics publisher, and from cover to cover, there’s not a thing to complain about. The story is a bit open to debate, but not from a lack of execution on Ridley’s part. It’s well paced, the dialogue snaps and snarls where it’s supposed to, there are a few nice twists, but I think the entire concept of The Authority helps this story miss its potential stride.

The book works best when operating without the limits placed upon your traditional superteam book, doing the unexpected and most importantly, what convention would tell you shouldn’t be done in superhero fiction. Didn’t follow Robbie Morrision’s run, but I think the strengths of Ellis’ and Millar’s material was in its plot-centric focus, and the intense pre-occupation with pitting the “heroes” against the next big threat. Not that characterization fell completely by the wayside, but when present, it bolstered the plot, not impeded it. Those other superteams might bring their personal business and post-human angst to work, but The Authority is gonna put the bad guy down, and figure out the rest of that bullshit later.

Ridley’s conflict here is largely internal, and the changes it brings in the cast, making them fallible, petty, and jealous is a bit of a logic stretch, making it difficult to accept that Hawksmoor and his crew could be mis-directed so easily. I mean, these are the people that literally fought “God” and walked away, so some dude conning his way onto the Carrier, and kissing people until everything falls apart is a bit off. Maybe if this were Teen Titans or something, I’d buy it, but here it’s a little too personal and insulated, something that works better on a smaller, more intimate stage, like the aforementioned Runaways trade, but for a higher authority, the stakes aren’t nearly elevated enough.

That said, there are some clever bits to be had here, and the whole package is remarkably pretty. Just another example of how difficult it is to truly nail these characters, while keeping the adversaries bigger and badder than your predecessor, and Ed Brubaker has his work cut out for him come November.

Wolverine: The Brotherhood & Coyote Crossing (Greg Rucka/Darick Robertson/Leandro Fernandez)

Greg Rucka’s run on Wolverine officially ended Wednesday before last with the release of Mark Millar and JRJR’s first issue. Chasing that with a double shot of Rucka’s Wolverine shows a very obvious and notable shift in tone and style for the book, even though both creators are coming at the material from similar angles. It’s just that one is a fast paced brightly colored affair with more than a few MU guest stars, and the other burns considerably more slowly, a grimier take on the mythos, with Logan standing against very human monsters.

I admit that the pace of the stories led me to drop the book at issue 6, but provided the luxury of reading everything all at once, I wonder if I wasn’t being too impatient. This is a very “real” examination of the character, Logan running across people that have been turned into victims, through little fault of their own, with no one to stand up for them. But hell, that’s what adamantium is for, right? Despite Logan’s tendency to take the law into his hands, he’s often left guilt ridden and frustrated after he goes berserk and slices the bad guys into cross sections.

Rucka plays in dark corners throughout these 11 issues, setting up kidnappers and smugglers for Wolvy’s particular brand of justice, and then examining the consequences of his impulsive actions, providing them emotional weight. It’d be easier to allow Logan to just tear into dozens of people and rationalize it away, pointing that all of his victims were undeniably “bad,” but Rucka puts the screws to the hero’s actions, using a strong supporting cast and a rhythmic, surgical narrative to bring the point home. It’s well delivered without becoming overbearing, or distracting from the ultimate weapon aspect that everyone’s come to love. When Rucka hits the gas, Logan is wading through automatic gunfire, taking out dozens of guys, and picking the bullets out of his skin later. The much sought after intelligent action story with great visuals from Robertson and Fernandez.

No idea how Millar’s run will ultimately play out, but Rucka’s work here was much more relevant than I initially gave it credit for. Just needed the right format to properly showcase it.

Subatomic (Patrick Neighly/Jorge Heufemann)

Neighly’s The Paper Curtain at Newsarama led me to this one, after reading several of his articles there and being impressed by their content and scope. Feel some kind of strange connection to other Internet columnists, regardless of their particular viewpoints, and thought the least I could do was put some money down for his work, since I was really feelin’ a lot of the things he was saying about the importance of independent comics, and their constant uphill battle to penetrate the marketplace. Bought two of his books, and threw myself into Subatomic first, due to its subject matter.

I’ve talked about the X-Files here before, so I’ll spare you the fanboy gushing, but that show provided an appreciation and adulation of the conspiracy thriller that’ll be following me around for several years to come. Hell, I’m even writing a damn conspiracy comic now, so it’s obvious that if there’s a good hook behind it, I’m down for at least a look. And for this beautifully designed graphic novel, I got more than that.

Neighly begins by posing the question, “What happens when the US government decides that the greatest threat to society is its own population?” Then he shows us the secret spy agency ATOM that’s based in a floating fortress, and fully staffed by men and women whose only possibility for escape is death. They read your mail, monitor your life without your permission, and are completely sanctioned to take you out, if they don’t like what they see. We know this of course, because the story centers on that one guy with the unpopular independent thoughts, who breaks loose and spends the next year staying a half step ahead of the menacing Agent Stone.

The story serves as a clever commentary on a post 9/11 world, and the possibility of the wholesale invasion of personal privacy, in the hope of fighting terror and violent dissent. It blends the mutual distrust from both sides of the fence, along with classic staples of the spy genre, the elaborate headquarters, the virtual reality based training, and the need for all encompassing control, rationalizing it away as something for the greater good. Borrowing what’s available and then creating what is not, Subatomic contains more than enough twists and turns, and strong characters to distinguish itself from similar fare.

On a side note, the day I bought this, news hit that the book’s artist Jorge Heufemann passed away, which is terribly unfortunate, because based on the work he contributes here, he had a promising career ahead of him.

On that note, I’m outta here for another week. Might hit you with another interview next week, as I’m knee deep in a new script I can’t say one thing about. Except for what I just said right there. But it’s the perfect chaser after a disappointing summer, and hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it shortly. Back soon.



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