Been one of those weeks.
What I was hoping to be my first creator-owned release suffered a major setback over the weekend, and in response, I’ve been sulking around in a terrible mood for a few days. Two steps forward, three steps back, I swear. But it’s all good, hoping to have it remedied before the month is over, and will talk about it at length in an upcoming column that’s far more complicated than this one. But whenever I get like this, my “distractions” take on additional value, so this week the focus is on the $34.80 I spent at the shop last Thursday. Every book stands reviewed, even the ones I didn’t quite like, and for the first time ever, I set myself a word limit to make things a little leaner. 14 titles, 100 words a piece. And a few other things at the end that kept me sane this week. Thank God for comics.
Ultimate Spider-Man #62 (Brian Michael Bendis/Mark Bagley/Scott Hanna)
Hmm…who can I blame for spoiling this comic? It’d be easy to point the finger directly at Marvel, for it is their latest batch of solicitations that have completely blown Bendis’ ending here, but isn’t that some kind of Internet cliché by now? Blaming the publisher for every little hiccup, miscommunication, or unintended tragedy? Does a telegraphed ending completely subtract all merit from this issue, which continues the saga of Peter Parker’s blood sample growing feet, and going out at night and eating people?
Okay, okay, now I’m just being an asshole. Good book here. Great ending.
Fantastic Four #515 (Mark Waid & Karl Kesel/Paco Medina/Juan Vlasco)
Well, I like the cover on this one, but not much else. This is probably the most “typical” storyline that’s hit the title since Waid came onboard, and with two years of stories proving otherwise, there’s no reason why “Dysfunctional” reads like every other mid-range superhero book on the stands. We have the consortium of random villains that jack up our heroes without any trouble, Johnny Storm falling for one of the “bad” guys, who just might be an innocent caught in the middle, and the most obvious of cliffhangers wrapping things up. Where have the imaginauts run off to?
Birds of Prey #69 (Gail Simone/Ron Adrian/Rob Lea)
DC is on a cult kick recently. We’ve got cults in Outsiders, Teen Titans, and now Birds of Prey, but true to form, Simone contributes an exceptionally strong opening chapter to her bi-weekly shipping “Between Dark and Dawn.” The opening scene immediately throws you into the story, on the back of a good mystery, and even though Simone is just setting the board here, the excellent characterization remains in place.
Though cults tend to be inherently generic concepts, I trust that Gail will bring something notable into the mix before she’s done here.
Y: The Last Man #24 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan Jr.)
Damn, this book is good. Seriously, every month, it’s something else. A new character.
A new development. A new reveal.
Every storyline counts, and Vaughan is kind enough not to force us to suffer through lifeless “transition” stories that bridge the larger arcs, taking full advantage of the serial format, while never allowing us to forget that a larger story is always at work.
Y is just as exciting and well-executed as it was 2 years ago, which is no small feat, and you know what, I just can’t knock a title that’s predictably excellent.
Firestorm #3 (Dan Jolley/CrissCross/Rob Stull)
Three months in, and I’m still down with this. Jolley wraps his initial storyline in a tidy three issues, taking full advantage of the same strengths he began with, an interesting
well-developed lead in Jason Rusch, a strong mystery surrounding this new hero’s abilities, and dynamic visuals from the pencil of CrissCross. He relates a couple of very important flashbacks, without appearing overly obvious about it, and twists the story’s climax to avoid a more typical and expected close, proving the more things change, the more they remain the same. Even with Cross departing with issue #5, I’m staying put.
The Milkman Murders #1 (Joe Casey/Steve Parkhouse)
Read this twice, and still don’t know if I care yet. I mean, I get what Casey is doing here, penning a suburban horror story, because really, what’s more terrifying than picket fences and warm cookies, but the situations here run dangerously close to shock for its own sake, which overstates the point a bit. Right now, some suburban family is doing shit that’s even more fucked-up than what’s going on in this comic, but I mean, who doesn’t realize that? A bit obvious and heavy-handed, but the ending and Casey’s rep has me down for at least one more.
Hard Time #6 (Steve Gerber/Brian Hurtt)
Every month, I finish Hard Time and feel nervous. Enjoyed the book since its launch, but realistically, it probably won’t last until a natural conclusion. Two of its Focus branded companions have already received the ax, and Gerber’s latest looks certain to die by association. One thing holding the book back, is its general audience language and themes. My high school had worse language flying back and forth in its halls, than this maximum security lock-up, and it makes the title feel sanitized and antiseptic during certain scenes. Shift this to Vertigo, relaunch, and remove the safeguards.
NYC Mech #3 (Ivan Brandon & Miles Gunter/Andy McDonald)
Following the very unexpected end of the last storyline, the focus moves uptown to supermodel Valeria, and her pretend-cop brother. From a storytelling perspective, this is a significant risk, shifting the POV between characters, but the creators have pulled it off thus far, and I hope they continue to do so. It gives the title a unique, almost transient feel, that always remains grounded in some kind of human emotion, despite all appearances. No idea where we’re going, no idea what’s coming next, but still excited to watch someone taking chances.
Thundercats: Enemy’s Pride #2 (John Layman/Joe Vriens/Sacha Heilig/Scott Hepburn/Roberto Campus)
Yes, yes, I bought Thundercats. Reason one being…well, I like the Thundercats, have since childhood, can’t help it. Reason two is that my boy John Layman is writing this, and you know, always gotta support my people. So, the story of “evil” Lion-O continues as his newly established Thunderguard begins to encroach on neighboring territories, in the name of national security and general safety. The unstable king has even presented fabricated and “exaggerated” evidence to defend his actions, raising many a suspicious eyebrow. Does your favorite 80s property come with political commentary? I think not.
Monolith #6 (Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray/Tomm Coker)
Another book that makes me nervous. In a perfect world, a James Jean cover, guest art by Tomm Coker, and a Batman appearance would be more than enough to spike sales on this book. I mean, if the excellent scripts weren’t doing that on their own, which of course, they would be. But the writers have gone out of their way to craft an excellent jumping on point for the uninitiated, this issue spotlighting many of the aspects and perspectives that make Monolith a welcome departure. And Batman is in it. You like Batman, don’t you? Of course you do.
Wildcats Version 3.0 #23 (Joe Casey/Duncan Rouleau/John Dell/Trevor Scott/Eric Nguyen)
This is a completely different Wildcats Version 3.0 without Dustin Nguyen. Not a terrible Wildcats Version 3.0, but it just doesn’t have that flavor, that manic energy bleeding off some frantically inventive cover design into the book’s interior. If we had to lose the title before Casey was even close to being done with it, Dustin should be riding shotgun. Rouleau’s stuff is good, when he’s not inked by three different guys, but am I allowed to be petty and bitter for a minute? “Coda War One” would be the hottest thing on paper under Nguyen. Check Batman for evidence.
Supreme Power #11 (J. Michael Straczynski/Gary Frank/Jon Sibal)
It’s like…it’s like JLA done good. Have you ever let a friend borrow a shirt, and then you give it to him, and he ends up looking better in it than you do? Like you went out and bought the thing, and were only holding onto it, just so he could eventually ask you to borrow it, and then force you to pretend that it doesn’t fit him better than you?
Supreme Power is JMS wearing DC’s Hawaiian shirt, and making it look like it was never ridiculous looking to begin with. Now they have to pretend it doesn’t fit.
Powers #1 (Brian Michael Bendis/Mike Avon Oeming)
The first thing you’ll do is check this baby out, cover to cover, just to make sure that everything is where its supposed to be. Letters column. The F-word. The new Powers personals.
The only sign of Marvel related presence is a tiny, tiny mention buried within the fine print on the inside front cover, and Bendis’ most accomplished work to date emerges unscathed and re-energized. Structurally, the first issue of this volume isn’t terribly different from the previous one, through the eyes of Deena Pilgrim, but the status quo has been completely altered, making this well worth the wait.
Captain America and the Falcon #5 (Priest/Joe Bennett/Jack Jadson)
Thank God for Joe Bennett. No disrespect to Bart Sears, but I couldn’t even begin to endorse Priest’s latest work, his scripts becoming even more complex than usual, while grafted to “chaotic” artwork.
I liked the Bart Sears from The Path, but this didn’t look like the work of the same guy, and it caused this title to stumble out the gate. Bennett drops us into this with a poster worthy two page spread of the title heroes, and laces Priest’s script with clear and dynamic visuals until the final page.
No excuses now people. Go buy this.
For the most part, this was thirty-five bucks well spent, and my picks for the week are the ones lucky enough to rate visual aid. Something else that deserves mentioning is Warner Bros. latest release of volume 1 of Batman: The Animated Series on glorious DVD. Been huddled up with that most of the week, and just having these random flashbacks of a twelve year old me, thinking this was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. And it still holds up, a decade removed. I really want to sit down and review it, but can’t decide on a format that’s special enough. But you know, go cop this, if only so WB won’t have any problem dropping these every six months until the entire series is rightfully collected.
And go read Grant Morrison’s latest interview at Pop Image right now, if you haven’t run across it quite yet. Seriously, I think it makes you smarter.
Note: Next Monday, there won’t be a new column posted, because two days later, I’ll be starting a five day run of daily columns, direct from the San Diego Con. Yes, I’m aware that I’m a glutton for punishment, but with any luck, this trip won’t involve almost dying. More on this very soon.