Tuesday, April 08, 2014

funnybook of the week: April 7, 2014

This week, two of the most fun comics on the stands lose to one of the most nihilistic, so I think I may hate fun...

7 - Moon Knight #2 (last issue - 1 out of 3 books)

We spend the first half of this issue on the victims of a sniper being picked off one-by-one. The presentation was clever, but the whole thing felt inconsequential and then just...ended. The title character barely figured into anything save for a nice badass line about not being real. I need more story in the age of the $3.99 comic.

6 - Pretty Deadly #5 (last issue - 6 out of 7 books)

I really want to like this, and the thematic of the inevitability of death and the cycle of life was a noble reach, but I think this is a title that is just constantly getting in its own way with needless artistic flourishes that confound rather than enhance the narrative.

5 - Trillium #8 (last issue - 3 out of 3 books)

When I was planning my wedding, we looked high and low for readings and passages that lacked the troubling imagery of two individuals melting away to become one person. I don’t find the idea of losing myself in my partner to be particularly romantic. But a metric ton of people do.

For those folks, this is a perfect ending for this series. Artfully and beautifully the conclusion of a story about love literally bringing to separate people and slowly merging them into one bright, flashing star. If this is your image of what love is, this is perfect.

If you’re me, though, this is a beautiful representation of a troubling worldview.

4 - Ultimate Spider-Man #200 (Survive - 4 out of 7 books)

It’s weird to think that a world where a super hero dies and stays dead exists. But here’s the Ultimate Universe and (with the exception of a strange Beast resurrection in the old Ultimate X-Men) dead still means dead, even when dead applies to the character without whom none of this would be possible.

But instead of just creating a world where death has more weight when it happens, we’ve also been given a world where the death of Peter Parker can affect characters two years after the fact. Surprisingly, it can affect readers as well.

3 - She-Hulk #3 (last issue - 2 out of 3 books)

It’s difficult to defy DOOM, especially if you’re his offspring looking to defect from Latveria. The legal complications that the younger DOOM created for himself through his arrogance, inherited from his father, but there’s also the matter of making it to court in the face of Doombots, which are more prolific in America than you’d think.

Soule has hit the jackpot here, with a consistently witty book that doesn’t slow down on the entertainment for even a little while.

2 - Red Sonja #8 (last issue - 7 out of 13 books)

And then speaking of consistently witty and entertaining, Gail Simone drops another chapter in her artisan collection storyline, with the best running subplot in any comic yet: Sword & Sorcery cheesecake character simply cannot get laid ever and it’s hilarious.

But there’s more to Red Sonja than cheesecake, and I’m glad to be learning it. Her moral compass may be hard to follow at times, but when she decides something is right, the decision is final and binding.

1 - Black Science #5 (last issue - 6 out of 10 books)

Liars. It’s right there in the title. What Remender is asking us to consider is which characters are telling lies and why. It was probably only a matter of time before Grant and company met up with the masked figure going after the children, but the version of events from this character are the real lies we want to consider.

The who of it is clearly a lie, but how much truth is in the rest? How much is true about the identity of the saboteur, for example? Or the account of how many realities end in the same tragedy? It’s slick storytelling with a nice little glimpse of the world of issue 6 right at the cliffhanger.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

funnybook of the week: March 26th, 2014

7 - Amazing X-Men #5 (last issue - 2 out of 3 books)

Here’s a thing: We’re bringing back the X-Man that is most equated to fun and high adventure, but the twist is that we’re going to remove the joy from him in a way that you probably should have seen coming from the start. I’m guessing that Aaron had a larger plan at first, but knowing that he’s turning over the reigns from here, I wish there’d been more of a solid end to this tale.

6 - Legends of Red Sonja #5 (last issue - 9 out of 10 books)

I don’t know why I’m glad that we don’t see a full resolution (one is strongly implied) to the framing device for this anthology. After all, the framing device was never really the point. The point was getting a nice collection of stories from a nice array of women in comics about Red Sonja.

So this passed the muster, with one beautifully drawn but overwrought-yet-simple front-end story and Kelly Sue DeConnick turning a lot of Red Sonja’s common perception on its ear with a fun little play in the second half.

5 - Uncanny Avengers #18 (last issue - 3 out of 10 books)

Welcome to a dystopian utopia where mutants rule and humans drool. No, not Age of Apocalypse. Not enough utopia. No, it’s also not House of M.  But there is a scary Magneto there because of the actions of the Scarlet Witch. It’s also not that little section of Avengers vs. X-Men where someone fixed everything and that was somehow bad because of scary aliens.

This one is new. But there are plenty of themes we’re familiar with as well as a tachyon dam that still needs some bursting. So a now-married Havok and Wasp, the last of the Avengers along with Beast, go for one last run. It’s an interesting-enough world, but this is really just the prelude.

4 - Survive (last issue - n/a)

This isn’t a bad check-into the Ultimate Universe at all for lapsed readers such as myself. I abandoned it, if you recall, when the American Civil War II started becoming more of a hobble to the stories being told in this Universe than a helper. Now that’s over, they’ve survived Galactus, and we need someone to fill the void of a world where Steve Rogers and Thor are dead and Tony Stark doesn’t have the will to go on.

It’s a nice setup for the next generation, and a relaunch of the Ultimate Universe I’m actually looking forward to.

3 - Bunker #2 (last issue - 3 out of 8 books)

This just got turned up a notch. The initial issue, letting us get to know each of the characters and setting up the plot was some fine time travel fun. This issue, though, setting future Grady free in the present day and clouding the original intent (especially knowing what we do know about the future as readers) changes the game.

We’re no longer questioning what went wrong, whose fault it was, and whose job it is to stop it. We’re no longer asking ourselves if we want these kids to listen to their future selves. We’re now asked to question who they’re even listening to. I dig it.

2 - Superior Spider-Man #30 (Superior Spider-Man Annual #2 - 3 out of 9 books)

Otto Octavius called himself the Superior Spider-Man for 29-and-a-half issues of this title. At a certain point in this issue, though, he realized that all of the ways he’d pushed Peter Parker and Spider-Man to make them better directly led to the chaos that New York is in.

Peter Parker, without Otto to heap a mindscape’s worth of guilt on him, remembers all the rest of what makes him who he is. In the end, we leave this issue knowing that one Spider-Man is truly Superior.

1 - Fatale #21 (last issue - 4 out of 11 books)

This issue finds a new outlet for Jo’s constant guilt for what she does to those around her. It gives her a long relationship with a man who doesn’t look at her the way other men do, and holds that harshly up to Nicholas, our through character, and the things he’s given up and is still willing to give up for her.

For the first time, we see not her regret, but almost her scorn/pity when she questions why he hasn’t decided that none of this is worth it even as he does exactly as he needs to and exactly what he’s been manipulated to. This is masterful storytelling from Brubaker and Phillips as we come chasing a conclusion.

Friday, April 04, 2014

funnybook of the week: March 19th, 2014

Some top flight titles take a plunge and something else gets cut.

9 - Ten Grand #8 (last issue 9 out of 11 books)

So (spoilers, I guess), this whole thing was to recruit Joe to switch sides in the massive heaven vs. hell war? Why Joe? We may find out later, but I won’t be on board for it. What started as an interesting noir thriller has devolved into Spawn II: Electric Boogaloo. I’m not interested in that, and I learned my lesson about holding out until a know end with the Secret Avengers.

8 - Thor: God of Thunder #20 (last issue - 7 out of 11 books) 

The epic feel is there, but the Roxxon villain has gone from modern corporate jerk to throwback mustache-twirling Captain Planet villain. In the future, Grumpy Old Thor is fun but as Galactus points out, there’s not really much Midgard to fight for. Not what I was hoping for out of this arc at all.

7 - Sixth Gun #39 (last issue - 6 out of 11 books)

I’m not sure what purpose this issue served, honestly. We saw Drake and Becky hit despair pretty hard last issue, and this one just seemed to be here to insist that, yes, it’s pretty bad for the good guys. There’s a little extra tragedy heaped onto the pile, but it doesn’t carry near the weight that last issue’s did. This title is prone to the odd misfire, and I think we got it here. Not necessarily a bad issue, but certainly a redundant one.

6 - Superior Foes of Spider-Man #10 (last issue - 4 out of 8 books)

James Asmus stepped in to do his impression of the book, and some of it worked (the overselling of minor victories and some of the incredulous word balloons), but it still felt like a hollow impression of the book that inexplicably came a week after the previous issue and in the middle of a story.

5 - Rocket Girl #4 (last issue - 3 out of 4 books)

Amy Reeder drew her ass off for this issue. Big, incredible chase scenes as Dayoung runs from the grown up security of the future in our present-day New York’s subway system. Glimpses of the future are still only giving us vague hints specifically but plenty thematically as to why Dayong’s mission is vital and the present-day just meandering in awe of Rocket Girl, this issue’s story felt pretty neutral.

But that art, tho...

4 - Ms Marvel #2 (last issue - 1 out of 5 books)

Well, it was going to be hard to top the last issue and still get us to the super heroics, so a small step down isn’t so bad here. Wilson gives us some time to really see Kamala take in what’s happening to her while seeing what’s going to drive her towards being a superhero outside of a superficial fascination.

It’s wonderful work that shows us the heart of a character, but still grounds itself in the very real teenageriness of it all.

3 - Superior Spider-Man Annual #2 (Superior Spider-Man #29 - 1 out of 8 books)

A two-parter about what makes a goblin a goblin. The first, longer story focused on Ben Urich’s reaction to all that his nephew has become and his attempt to try to make it right. Some big things for the Goblin Nation story happen here, and it’s just nice to see some of the characters that have been pushed to the periphery get some time to shine (Hi Norah!).

The second, in contrast to the first story about who wants to be a goblin, also gives a major development for the story-at-large and gives us the look and feel of someone who doesn’t care so much for the goblin life. It’s a nice heads-and-tails issue.

2 - Letter 44 #5 (last issue - 2 out of 11 books)

Nice game of parallel narratives, with quiet and cautious expeditions on two ends of the solar system end up going frightfully wrong. It’s a scifi shoot ‘em up and a political thriller shoot ‘em up in the same issue! But once again, it’s the actual politics that catch my attention.

The early pages show the President’s punishment for an errant temporary chief of staff that’s so wonderfully vile and perfect that I’m still not all the way over it.

1 - Lazarus #7 (last issue - 3 out of 5 books)

This is the first issue that Rucka gave us a really hard look at the way that the ruling class has subjugated the waste in their territories. Yes, we’d already met the put-upon Barret family, but their struggles are their struggles. The result of the environment they live in and the impetus for their going to the Lift, but it’s all very macro.

It’s when Forever, herself remembering a time when she was scared of pain and losing her father and her standing, runs out of ways to threaten someone who’s similarly excepted pain and want as a part of her life that we get it on the very micro level and Johanna gets to shine.

No more a vindictive caricature of a spoiled brat villaness, Johanna is shown here to be sharper when we’re shown just how well she understands how the subjugation works. It’s not through fear of pain or loss, but of hope and wish, that the Family Carlyle rules.

The close of the issue gives us a juxtaposed macro after the micro, and this comic really soars.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

funnybook of the week: March 12, 2014

This week is late, causing other weeks to be late. Explanations below, but holy crap this was a great, great week for comics.

8 - Fantastic Four #2 (last issue - 8 out of 10 books)

Much like the last issue, the solid hook of the story actually happens in the first few pages and the cliffhanger is less impactful (though, in this issue, it’s because the issue 2 cliffhanger was well-advertised as part of this story). So we have the Heroes Reborn universe being interesting for the first time this millenium, and the doom (poor choice of words?) of the Fantastic Four still teasing us.

There are still a few points where the characters seemed wooden, but that’s to be expected for a standard action issue (which this mostly served as, with beautiful art by Leonard Kirk to really drive it). That’s the second time I’ve excused some character flaws in two issues, though. So these hooks better be worth it.

7 - EGOs #3 (last issue - 5 out of 11 books)

“You only listened so you could rip his heart out while he wasn’t paying attention.” Damn, that’s a brutal character assessment. Also, it’s the only thing that’s going to bring me back after a kind of anti-climactic showdown with Masse. The opposite of the Fantastic Four issue, this one was great character beats with little else.

6 - Captain Marvel #1 (Captain Marvel #17 - 4 out of 8 books)

Part of the new business of comics is start-stop launches. We’ve seen the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man get them, Hulk is on the way, and now we have Captain Marvel with a shiny #1 issue. Kelly Sue DeConnick does a great job making this a nice entry-level comic to give us Carol and her support group (while wasting minimal space on her convoluted origin) while picking up with Carol in a place all of us who were on board for the last series can appreciate.

Dynamite job here establishing Carol’s standing in the community, new & old relationships, and where we’re going with the relaunch. It’s like coming home to an old friend, but one I can introduce around.

5 - Stray Bullets: The Killers #1 (Stray Bullets #41 - 2 out of 8 books)

I always love that Spanish Scott issues aren’t about Spanish Scott so much as about the people around him that he acts as a force of nature for or against. Lapham returns to remind us that Stray Bullets is a series that focuses mostly on innocence lost in almost every possible form, and it’s when we get an earnest kid and the force of nature in the same issue that it all really comes together.

Mostly, though, I’m just really happy this book is back.

4 - Superior Foes of Spider-Man #9 (last issue - 1 out of 7 books)

This is still the sharpest, wittiest book on the market. Boomerang gets the ol’ master tactician shoes out, banking on everyone to underestimate both him and his ambition (including his girlfriend). I love watching things fall into place even as his underestimation of his former (and probably future, because this title isn’t canceled!) colleagues comes to bite him at an inopportune time.

3 - Bunker #1 (last issue - n/a)

This was something else. As I understand it, this once existed in a digital only format, so I appreciate the thematic missive from the future that is Bunker-on-paper. Maybe it’s because of that digital format (first five chapters collected here and presented as one comic seamlessly) that we spend so little time putzing around and immediately get to it.

We don’t really meet any of the characters until they’re lives have already been turned upside down by a time capsule from their future selves complete with notes about how they’ll ruin the world and each other. It’s their reactions and the history that fills in. A damn compelling narrative, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

2 - Stray Bullets #41 (last issue - n/a)

I waited so long for this to come out that I had to go back and re-read Stray Bullets. It was a good idea at the time, but 40 issues that are that dark and violent take a while to get through. So now you know why I’m running behind. This book was nearly worth the wait.

Amy takes a step towards what we all know is her inevitable future, getting mixed up with one more suburban psychopath brawl. So many threads find their way to the end, so much of it happens so fast. All of it purely wonderfully awful. I’d buy that Lapham had this done and unpublished. After the binge-reading, this issue felt as natural as if the years had been minutes.

1 - Superior Spider-Man #29 (last issue - 5 out of 10 books)

This? This is it. The collapsing of the storylines onto one another to make a giant pile of beautiful, wonderful rubble. The differences between Otto and Peter starting to bare themselves out as Otto abandons loved ones even as he wonders what Parker would do, the obsessed goblin looking for a way to hurt Otto since he can’t kill Peter, Jameson’s anger reaching critical mass, alliances and relationships torn to shreds by Otto Octavius’ hubirs…

I was out of breath when I got to the end of this issue, AND WE’RE STILL NOT DONE YET. Bravo, Dan Slott, bravo.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

funnybook of the week: March 5th, 2014

Okay. Three books again this week. I guess there are going to be more weeks like this even with the influx of new titles to the list.

3 - Trillium #7 (last issue - 2 out of 5 books)

The flipping continues, but seems more tedious as this issue is the inevitable reunion dragged out a little further until a helluva cliff-hanger. It wasn’t a bad issue, but I didn’t feel like the betrayal/loyalty themes worked as well Lemire wanted them to.

2 - She-Hulk #2 (last issue - 1 out of 11 books)

You remember when I compared the debut issue to Boston Legal? Well, we now have a paralegal hired who has a weird quirk. So there’s another checkmark in that column for this delightful title. Also, we flesh out the supporting cast with Patsy Walker: Hellcat coming on board for a night of commiserating and booze like you and your friends do.
Only with punching. I’m really going to like this book. 

1 - Moon Knight #1 (last issue - n/a)

Warren Ellis crams a lot of versions of and visions for Moon Knight into one script, while still keeping it to a relatively simple procedural street crime with a hint of Nick Spencer’s Bedlam to keep things together. We see Mark Spector’s new setup, the way he’s going about Moon Knighting this time, and then work our way backwards to why. All in one issue.

The dialogue and monologue are both sharp, and surprisingly restrained for an Ellis script (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not...yet), and the art from Declan Shalvey has that gritty feel to it that a good street crime book should. The additional choice to draw a stark, white-suited Moon Knight almost as if he exists apart rather than inside that art is just perfect.

This is interesting comics.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

funnybook of the week: February 26th, 2014

10 - Secret Avengers #16 (last issue - 11 out of 11 books)

It ended, resolving nothing except that Mentallo and Taskmaster are friends. The questions about Bobbi remain blank, and I’m not even a little bit interested in the next volume.

9 - Legends of Red Sonja #4 (last issue - 7 out of 7 books)

The fresh take on the unreliable narrator story, which we’ve already seen employed in this anthology, was nice. That second story, though, about the weird plant god being knocked up by the she-devil? Not for me.

8 - Fantastic Four #1 (last issue - n/a)

This was interesting, and that’s pretty much as far as I can go with the first issue of the Robinson run. Starting at the lowest point and the going back to see how we got there was a nice hook, and the obligatory “Fantastic Family as I view them” issue showed a fair-to-decent handle on the characters for the most part.

I didn’t really love the “there, there, you hysterical female” tone to Reed, but I’m willing to write that off as exposition more than sexism provided things can more forward. I’m in for another issue, but that’s solely based on the hook more than anything else.

7 - Wolverine & the X-Men #42 (last issue - 4 out of 10 books)

The Jason Aaron era of Wolverine & the X-Men comes to its conclusion. It’s a nice, sentimental issue with a few Easter egg peeks into the future. Some foreshadowing Aaron is leaving behind for the next run, some winks to the larger Marvel Universe’s future that we’ve seen before. All of it to show that Wolverine eventually does redefine himself as Professor Logan.

I like Quentin Quire, Reluctant Hero and his natural conclusion. Something in the whole thing just felt a little off, though. The impending closing and resolution for the ghost of Wolverine’s school just rang hollow.

6 - Black Science #4 (last issue - 2 out of 5 books)

This one has a pretty major death in it, and still feels like a breather compared to the first three issues of the series. It’s two halves really, the first ending their time in the land of my liberal guilt surrounding football franchises, and the second the aftermath as lines in the sand are further drawn.

The most interesting piece of the story here is just how Grant’s daughter sees him compared to those whose respect he has worked to earn. I just wish we’d gotten that in something that didn’t read like two separate comics is all.

5 - Superior Spider-Man #28 (last issue - 8 out of 11 books)

Slott is playing almost everything brilliantly. The Goblin takedown of Spider-Island? Brilliant. Carlie/Monster’s search for help? Brilliant. The hunt for “Peter Parker” and the fall of his world? Brilliant. The constant hint that we’re dealing with Norman when that’s almost certainly not true? Brilliant. The world Peter Parker is going to return to when this is all over? Tragically brilliant.

The return of Peter Parker? Well, I said almost. The unnecessary and overwrought drama in the mindscape is really holding back this narrative, but I assume the melding of the minds is going to be important for the future.

4 - Wolverine & the X-Men #41 (last issue - 5 out of 7 books)

This was a wonderfully poignant issue. About Toad. And the sadness that comes when you can’t be trusted to be more than who you are. Or when you don’t believe you should be. The broken villain/hero/janitor faced with himself, and Paige left with more questions about herself even as Toad finds his answers.

The only think keeping this from leaping a few spots higher was the internal hypocrisy that gets called out right at the start, is the cause of Toad’s eventual decision, and just comes off as a heroic double standard.

3 - Uncanny Avengers #17 (last issue - 3 out of 5 books)

The stakes are definitely raised in a way they’ve never been in a story. The death, the destruction, the absolute futility in the face of an opening page assuring us that there’s hope. All of it at the fault of moral absolutes and decisions to condemn the other side, adding some more vaguity to the question of whether Wolverine’s Uncanny X-Force was totally in the wrong even after that had seemingly been answered.

The only downside to this isn’t the fault of the story. We know that, with a shared universe with other titles ongoing and licensed characters to keep in the world, a lot of the larger changes won’t stick and there’s a reset button on the way. 

But man, what a helluva story in the meantime...

2 - Rat Queens #5 (last issue - 4 out of 7 books)

There’s a surprising meatiness to the characters behind all of the over-the-top charm in this series, and it really came out in this issue. Reactions to one of their own being seriously injured all the way up to how each of the Rat Queens wishes to celebrate a hard-fought victory.

It’s those simple, quiet, and sweet moments from each of the four that blow away all of the marvelous humor and badass battle panels.

1 - Sheltered #7 (last issue - 4 out of 6 books)

Here’s where this series should be. Victoria tired of waiting and actively going after Lucas. Lucas seeing the mess that’s been made of things and questioning his own leadership while being oddly affected by the trigger-happiness of his pre-apocalyptic soldiers. One poor fellow alone in the woods realizing that his pursuers are all children.

There’s a depth of character across the board and, it took a while to get here, but this issue really pays off the promise of the title’s debut.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

funnybook of the week: February 19th, 2014

Ton of new #1s on the horizon, so this should be the last week like this, assuming most of them pan out.

3 - Morning Glories #37 (last issue - 3 out of 6 books)

The angle of the ghost outside of the coma patient feels at home for this series, but the cryptic jumping about from past to present as we further get to know Akiko is starting to get tedious as we’re not getting a ton of movement on the story itself.

That’s a shame, because Akiko seems to be one of the relatively few good eggs with little shortcomings as a character. I think her issue suffered from timing more than anything actually wrong with the book itself.

2 - Amazing X-Men #4 (last issue - 5 out of 8 books)

Jason Aaron is not just out to bring Nightcrawler back into the X-books. He’s out to prove to us that these books are all the better for Kurt’s being there. Flashbacks to pivotal moments with characters continue, these somehow more poignant with Beast and Logan than last issue’s with storm was, and definitely reflecting the status of what we’re seeing.

We watch Wolverine keep moving simply to get him back even as he hesitates to confirm that he’s still dead in the name of helping his friends on an obvious and a more hidden level.

We also get some great stuff from Firestar (an underutilized character if ever there was one), that’s only taken down by the weird shapes and contortions of her boobs, which McGuinness has decided simply can’t be held back with clothing. Like, are boob holes actually cut into her uniform that they fit in?

1 - Red Sonja #7 (last issue - 7 out of 13 books)

Oh man, what a brilliant send-up of foodies. I mean, believe me, I understand the love of food and herbs and seasoning. But how that works in a sword & sorcery book? Maybe not so much.

Gail Simone wonderfully juxtaposed those more refined needs with the basic needs of Red Sonja. A shower, some meat, and “someone to share a bedroll with.” In all cases, her lack of a refined palate plays wonderfully and this book’s playfulness just won me over at every turn.