Bought 16 comics on Wednesday, and this week, I’m reviewing every single one…
Yes, clearly I’m insane, but let’s move on. Because I continue to feel incredibly positive, and somewhat inspired by the books I’ve been reading lately, I’m devoting another piece to talking about just that. Wanted to institute a maximum word count for every book, but that idea fell to pieces early on, so generally, the titles I felt most strongly about, received the majority of the attention. Except in the instances where they didn’t, and the opposite becomes true. With that all squared away, please enjoy the following, with my compliments. Oh yeah, and this I stayed more consistent on, if the cover from the issue appears, that means I’ve designated it one of the more notable releases of the pack. You know…that new hotness…
Let’s get it going…
Star Wars Rebellion/Knights of the Old Republic (Thomas Andrews & John Jackson Miller/Michel Lacombe & Brian Ching)
For anyone believing my Star Wars bias took hold of me last week, during my very…passionate diatribe about Knights of the Old Republic, it might only cost you a quarter to learn different. Twenty-five cents is all that stands between you, and two very strong stories that respectively set the stage for both new Dark Horse monthlies. One of them has Jedi in it, and the other has a Skywalker present, so that leaves me well covered, but for the rest of you, I’d say this is definitely worth a look, you know, just to make sure.
If you’re down, you got a couple new books to check out, and if not, you’re only out some loose change. It’s what some would call an almost foolproof plan…
Batman Annual #25 (Judd Winick/Shane Davis/Mark Morales)
The “official” story of how Jason Todd returned from the grave. I’ve been going back and forth over this particular development for months, because as I’ve said on a few occasions, the introduction of Tim Drake occurred just before I entered the game. Obviously, a big part of that was the actual murder of Jason Todd, a story that I actively sought out, making it a personal goal to secure every original issue, in which this very monumental thing took place. So, in a “loved this when I was twelve” sense, initially, it sounded like a really bad idea. However, Winick’s execution of it stands as some of his strongest work to date, and was built around a very secure emotional foundation, which is the most important aspect of any successful story.
Winick covered nearly every angle of Jason’s “return,” except for the actual mechanics of it, and here, with everything finally laid out, I’m swinging back into the “I’m not sure about this” territory. There’s stuff here to like, Todd having to dig his way out of a coffin, and his very understandable rage at The Joker’s continued survival, but my main disappointment comes from the whole Superboy knocking on reality thing. Given a certain context, that’s a pretty cool idea, but it seems a bit out of place here, and I’m groaning about it, for the same reason I’ve been hating on Scarlet Witch’s previously undiscovered mutant power of fixing erroneous continuity. Him being involved almost makes the explanation TOO easy, you feel me? Like you can explain away anything by saying, “Oh, well…Superboy Prime did it.” And this might be the last time something like this ever comes up, but seemed a dangerous precedent in Avengers/House of M, and I’m getting a similar vibe here.
Loved seeing the lost Aparo page though, and Jock’s homage is quite cool…
Fallen Angel #3 (Peter David/J.K. Woodward)
The painted artwork and exposed nipples are taking a little gettin’ used to, but I’d say that this series has made a pretty successful transition to its new home. The storyline feels like it’s built to hook the uninitiated, while rewarding those smart enough to have been following it, while it was running at DC. The title character’s origin is finally exposed, and like any decent back-story, it’s equal parts tragic and explanatory, which is all a storyteller can ask for. Do hope that IDW is able to release a trade of issues 7 and up, but it’s always good to see a great book find a second home, after the first proves a
Infinite Crisis #5 (Geoff Johns/Phil Jimenez/Jerry Ordway/Ivan Reis/Andy Lanning/Art Thibert)
“I couldn’t save our Earth back then, but I will save you. That’s what I do. That’s what I always did. Superman always saves Lois Lane.”
“If you’re from this Earth, it can’t be perfect. Because a perfect Earth doesn’t
need a Superman.”
Ordinarily, this would get saved for the bottom of the stack, but I had the first round of OYL releases, and I didn’t want to inadvertently spoil anything. Like previous months, this one got a couple consecutive read-throughs, because of the storytelling density, everything still happening all and once, but so much of it is cool, that it doesn’t diminish its overall effect. Batman building his “OMAC assault team,” Superman hearing an anguished scream from another Earth, Nightwing trying to rally the troops from a deserted Titans Tower, the sky filled with crashing Earths, the return of Superboy Prime, I mean, everybody is given something to latch onto. There are still a few aspects that are hovering a bit over my head, but the emotional resonance is still there, and you want most of these characters to survive the outcome, while realizing that the massive scope of the story means some of them won’t.
Godland #0008 (Joe Casey/Tom Scioli/Richard Starkings)
Still one of the most refreshing reads in comics. Still sports some of the best-designed covers in comics, which is becoming something of a Joe Casey trademark. Still features the ongoing adventures of characters with names like Friedrich Nickelhead, Basil Cronus, and Discordia. Still has a talking cosmic dog called Maxim, who in this installment, doles out the origin of the universe, and I’m talkin’ the full origin, not the one with all the really cool pieces left out. The one that tells of what existed before the known universe, which I mean, obviously, was the unknown universe, that was home to the greatest of all beings, the one and only IBOGA!
Seriously though, doesn’t that just sound like a book everyone should be reading?
X-Factor #4 (Peter David/Ryan Sook & Dennis Calero/Wade Von Grawbadger)
“At last: a girl I could bring home to kill mom.”
Lot had been made of exactly who is handling the artistic chores on this series, and I think it’s begun to overshadow the very obvious quality of David’s stories and characterization. The loss of Ryan Sook is naturally a big talking point, but I think Dennis Calero has been doing an excellent job splitting time with him, and now with him positioned to take over on a permanent basis, we can get back to the strength of this title, in the post-House of M landscape. Mutant Town was definitely one of many excellent ideas introduced during the Morrison run, and it’s cool to see David clearly establishing X-Factor as the “protectors” of the neighborhood, while putting them at odds with Singularity, which gives off a very noticeable, and probably intentional, Wolfram & Hart vibe. And besides all that, these people have Layla Miller, who just might be the cutest member of any X-team in recent history.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 (Peter David/Mike Wieringo/Karl Kesel)
David’s first non-crossover story in this title, and it’s a pretty good one. Reminds me of the work Paul Jenkins used to do on Peter Parker: Spider-Man, striking that delicate balance between sad, funny, and poignant. No matter what is happening in the book at the present time, this story will always work perfectly, reliant only on the most basic qualities of Spider-Man’s character, which you know, are still the best, after all these years.
Sure you’ve figured this out by now, but I think Peter David is really on a roll lately, writing some very distinctive books and characters, without losing the main strengths that are always associated with his work. Good move on Marvel’s part signing him exclusive.
Y: The Last Man #43 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan, Jr.)
“Thankfully, the gangster of love knows how to stimulate all passages, great and small.”
Hadn’t realized it, until it was mentioned this past weekend at the New York con, but this series is almost over. And you know, everything it was at the very beginning of its run, applies today, and that’s saying something. You ever had one of those books that was so consistent, that you almost stopped realizing how good it really was? Y is definitely that book for me, and maybe Ultimate Spider-Man to a certain extent, one of those titles that it’s just great to bring up every once in a while, to remind yourself that not every book manages to be good, and pulling that one off, can keep doing it for a number of years.
So, how would I describe this particular issue of Y?
Hell, I don’t know. Cool characters, clever insights, and a dope cliffhanger.
Business as usual, really…
Nextwave #2 (Warren Ellis/Stuart Immonen/Wade Von Grawbadger)
“Fin Fang Foom put you in his pants.”
Nextwave is cooler than you. It’s cooler than most other comics could ever hope to be, and it actually knows this. Few comics are truly capable of being aware of their own level of coolness, but this book is really that cool. Cool enough to be able to walk up to you on the street, give you that head-nod and the cool face, to let you know, without the least bit of doubt, that this is some cool ass shit. Probably the only thing in the known universe cooler than Nextwave is Jay-Z, which is perfectly fine, because let’s face it…ain’t nothing that cool.
But here in this comic, people do cool things, say cool things, and in general, conduct themselves in a cool fashion. Hell, I could fill this entire column with cool lines from the first two issues, and the only reason I don’t, is because, well…cause I just don’t want to. Doesn’t matter though, because this book is so cool, it gets its passionate, sweaty love from yo mama. Hey, hey, hey now, don’t give me that look…it clearly says so on the cover.
Ms. Marvel #1 (Brian Reed/Roberto De La Torre/Jimmy Palmiotti)
Decided to give this a shot because of New Avengers 15. Bendis gave Carol Danvers a really strong narrative there, that gave you basically everything you needed to know about Ms. Marvel, smashed into a few pages, and thematically, this new series picks up from that exact point. Carol is relatively disappointed in herself, and her career as a superhero, thinking she’s capable of much more than has been displayed of late, and this is a very relatable motivation to build a series on top of. Characterization is sharp, art is pretty tight, and the ending is quite cool, giving Danvers the problem of stamping out a Brood invasion. I’ve always liked those guys, for some reason…
Daughters Of The Dragon #2 (Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti/Khari Evans)
“I’m going to let you walk out of here…on the condition that you go back to Nunzio and tell him to sign over all his assets and operations to me. If he refuses, tell him I will castrate his three sons, starting with the nine year old.”
Okay, I’m gonna go out, and just demand a monthly Daughters of the Dragon book. If Marvel were not publishing the aforementioned Nextwave, Daughters would be the coolest book in the catalog. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are mad cool, the fights are cool, even the Z-list villains are kinda cool, in their own pathetic way, and the only thing that could actually make the book cooler, is a monthly title following on the heels of this mini. Khari Evans continues to reinforce my gushing from last month, turning in an issue that looks even better, even sexier than the first, with another couple of well-staged action sequences topping it all off. And come on, how can you not love that cover?
If I can’t have my “black Avengers,” you gotta give me this one. I think it only fair…
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #40 (Kurt Busiek/Butch Guice)
Yes, I bought Aquaman, don’t start with me. The new creative team was simply too much to pass up, but even after two readings, I still feel a little behind the curve on this one. Things get off to an incredibly fast start, a young man’s home is destroyed in a powerful storm, and he’s flung into the ocean, only to learn that swimming the ocean depths feels somewhat familiar to him. He’s confused and we’re confused, then he hears a voice in his head, directing him to an unlikely ally, who he rescues from death, before meeting the source of the disembodied voice, who’s under the impression that this confused kid is Aquaman. Learning exactly how all this is possible, I expect will be the fun part, and though it made my head spin a little, I’m down for a few issues to see where it all goes. If Busiek and Guice can turn this into a sort of “Conan under the sea,” which was the phrase that came to mind when Busiek was announced as incoming writer, then for the first time since I’ve been reading comics, I’ll have bought Aquaman for more than two consecutive months.
Outsiders #34 (Judd Winick/Matthew Clark/Art Thibert)
First thing…so glad Nightwing doesn’t die in the Crisis. Was sure after that scene in the fourth issue, between him and Batman, and his proposal to Barbara Gordon in the last issue of his own title, that he was a dead man. Felt all the elements necessary for a tragic sacrifice knitting themselves together, and considering that, am very relieved he makes it through. Past that, this marks a pretty cool approach for the “outsiders,” making them a black OPS superhero unit, operating on the absolute edge of their community, with their members working undercover in real world trouble spots. Reminds me of Joe Kelly’s Justice League Elite, and Diggle’s The Losers, both of which I was pretty fond of. Even though most of the team doesn’t show up until the final scene, this was still a pretty good start to things, and Dick’s last line indicates there are a few good stories to come.
Ex Machina #18 (Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris/Tom Feister)
Another consistently excellent book by Vaughan. The current storyline “March To War” gives him another opportunity to address some very topical political concerns, and playing Mayor Hundred as a true independent allows him to attack the issue from both sides, not quite liberal, not quite conservative. It’s something he’s displayed before, and it helps to keep the book from being unfairly labeled some kind of personal “soapbox” book, like there would be something inherently wrong with that, even if it was, but it gives the main character a somewhat unpredictable nature. Just when you expect him to react one way, he flips things in the other direction, and this delicate balance that Vaughan strikes, makes Mitchell truly three dimensional, a character trait that the current political party system seems incapable of provoking. Again, a book that deserves every bit of props it gets.
Ultimates 2 #10 (Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch/Paul Neary)
Every single action movie, least any that were actually decent, has a moment like this. Every one of them has the part where the “heroes” get the crap kicked out of ’em, where the worst possible thing happens, and then something else awful happens on top of that, to systematically dismantle the good guys. And if you don’t have that, the emotional turning point where the hero has to find someway back to his feet, while facing down unbelievable odds…well, then you don’t have an action movie. There are some conventions and clichés that persist for good reason, and the whole “darkest before the dawn” idea is still a very necessary component of the dramatic arc. And that’s exactly where we are now with the Ultimates…
Their base is shattered, their field commanders are either dead, crippled, or imprisoned. The enemy has turned them all against each other, and is preparing to have all of them publicly executed in the nation’s capital. But…it’s not over yet. They can still turn things around, and if this is done properly, the good guys will use “weapons” that were there the entire time. Tony Stark will prove why he’s one of the smartest guys on the planet, Hawkeye will make you remember that he can turn anything into a workable weapon, and the Wasp will get into that spot nothing else can get into. And then they’ll come back, and put the bad guys on their ass. And we’ll have a hell of a time watching it all happen.
Can’t believe that Millar and Hitch only have two more issues left, and acknowledging that, have found a way to top last year’s unbelievable conclusion, but somehow, it looks like they’ll pull it off.
Detective Comics #817 (James Robinson/Leonard Kirk/Andy Clarke)
“Time to get to work.”
If this “direction” were the only significant result from pushing things “one year later” it’d be worth it. Over the course of 22 pages, a strong gust of fresh air is blown through the entire Bat-franchise, and it’s incredibly refreshing, especially for those that’ve been following it over the last couple years. Right here, everything is stripped back to basics, familiar characters mark their reappearance, and it just feels right again. James Gordon is the police commissioner, Harvey Bullock is on the detective beat again, and Batman & Robin are answering the signal. Robinson is successful in treating these events as if they’re the most worthwhile development in months, while being simultaneously commonplace and somewhat obvious. This is how Batman titles are supposed to be, and it’s good to see that reflected as DC moves the franchise forward.
There are a couple real surprises, most notably Harvey Dent’s new role in Gotham, and a vigilante that’s taken to murdering some of Gotham’s villains, but here, the least surprising thing becomes the most.
Batman & Robin are back, ladies and gentlemen. And it’s about time…
All right folks, that’s all I got for this week. Thinkin’ I’ll probably take my skip week, but as always, I reserve the full right to change my mind, if properly inspired. Also, am making an effort to address the recent closing of Speakeasy, specifically from a creator’s perspective, so we’ll see what happens there. Thanks for wading through the last couple columns, know they’ve been on the beefy side. Take care.