Friday, December 19, 2014

funnybook of the week: December 3rd, 2014

We're nearing Christmas, and I haven't even started narrowing down the best of the year 2014. But here's the best (and worst) of this week?

9 - Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 (last issue - n/a)

I really want to like what we’ve established here. Angela, having found out her entire life is a lie, clings to the one truth she knows - nothing from nothing - even though it’s based on the same lie she’s just escaped the shadow of. But it never gets past the surface. We’re shown how no-nonsense and good-at-slaying things she is, but nothing really about her as a character. Except that she has a friend. Who apparently didn’t get the memo about Angela’s forfeiture of Angelic status.

I was excited to see Gillen’s name on an Asgard book, but this one’s a pass.

8 - Secret Six #1 (last issue - n/a)
One of the growing concerns of a vocal portion of DC’s longtime audience is the inherent grimness of DC’s books, especially here in the New 52. There’s a darkness that just kind of lives over everything, and while the trend started before the company’s re-launch, the re-launch certainly solidified it.

The previous incarnation of the Secret Six was certainly dark. The issue that won it Funnybook of the Year honors was particularly dirty with grimness. But that issue also had layers of hope and the power of friendship. It also had the title’s air of whimsy that made all of the dark places Gail Simone took those misfits to all palatable. From the time the ongoing series hit almost all the way through its run, it was probably my favorite comic on the shelf.

What I’m reading now is a very New 52 version of that. The whimsy is gone. Sure, there are fun bits about how va-va-va-voom Catman is, but since we’re starting at zero, the fun dynamics of a team that loved each other until it was time for a betrayal have been erased. Now it’s all threats and who are you’s and where are we’s and I get that this is just the first issue - but we also know I’m notoriously biased against “getting the band together” stories.

It’s grim, I’m not sure I get any of the characters after one issue (though Catman’s insistence that he get out before bad things happen is an interesting note to keep hitting), and I don’t have that palate cleanser. If this was any other writer or any other title on a book, I’d be back down to zero DC-published books. But this is Gail and this is the Secret Six. So I’ll stick around.

7 - Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #7 (last issue - 10 out of 10 books)
I wasn’t big on how the last few issues went. But here we see Danny Rand trying to rediscover himself now that he’s been separated from the source of his strength, and I’m intrigued. Danny is going back to the past to discover what about him made him worthy to begin with, and the weird tension with Sparrow is helping.

Meanwhile, Brenda has awkwardly become the star of the book, working her way into the new Rand tower to save “Kung Fu Girl.” This isn’t perfect, but Andrews’ art is making up for the gaps at a strong clip.

6 - Nailbiter #8 (last issue - 2 out of 10 books)
Something about the bees, right? This was a sudden and odd shift, as we try to investigate the previous leads and find out more about what made the Bucakroo Butchers tick. So it’s the bees? In big letters? Well, they’re connected to the town and people are acting strangely there. So maybe? Seems a little bit off from the rest of the story, but we’ll see.

This issue does excel in other areas, though. The tension between the FBI and local law enforcement is well-worn territory, but works really well here as everyone is convinced that only half the cards are on the table.

And the Nailbiter himself responding to demands for his time and attention was a nice and creepy look.

5 - Hulk #9 (last issue - 3 out of 10 books)
Doctor Green (eschewing the less formal Doc for this trip) goes to Kitty Pryde - still inexplicably hiding out with Scott Summers - for some surgery that allows for a little bit of fun, but is just the warm up. An unexplained move in his chess match against Banner.

And that was the real delight in this little detour from the quest to put all of the gamma toys (save one) back in the box. Seeing Banner outclassed by an opponent before he even knew the rules of the game had changed so drastically.

4 - Sixth Gun #45 (last issue - 8 out of 10 books)
Hope exists in the bleakest of places. In a familiar and comforting face that’s actually neither one anymore. In the idea that the impossible has been done by lesser people than yourself. In one distraction being enough. In fear.

But hopelessness is in those same places. A friend asking you to end his misery. The impossible being a little too tall an order. A distraction being a small thing. Fear being available to everyone.

3 - Sheltered #12 (last issue - 6 out of 9 books)
And now? What it sounds like when a kid tries to explain that everything that could go wrong in a survivalist camp did, and it was the children that ran it. How one homicide turns to more than a dozen with one wild-eyed girl’s story. And how a bunch of kids ready for the end of the world react to being discovered as on their own and dangerous.

2 - The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2 (last issue - 1 out of 10 books)
Does it matter that we all knew what ‘animal’ the Champion would turn out to be as soon as the arguments started? The answer is no. It really doesn’t. Because that debut, to save what was left of a magical city’s residents even as the children recognized that this wasn’t bloodthirstiness but more the sum total of years of oppression. Everything was great. Again.

“They hate us,” our young hero puppy realizes, in a night-and-day contrast to what he was told about how fairly those bison have been treated. As the former elite realize that they’re now homeless and out of their element. As they know they’re now the oppressed save for the Champion, who they only want to study. This was just so very good.

1 - Sheltered #13 (last issue - 3 out of 9 books)
And then it got better. Lucas working the idea that they’re kids to buy them safety until such time as the end of the world that only our Sheltered children are ready for. Foiled plots and an FBI agent helpless to help because he doesn’t want to be the one who raided and shot up a camp full of kids.

But it’s the conclusion that really hits home. The end of this issue, showing us what kids sheltered not just from the oncoming apocalypse but from active participation in the outside world might be a little too exuberant. Even as the older, wiser, more experienced master manipulator sees his own scheming undone in one loud moment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

funnybook of the week: November 26th, 2014

Much better than last week. Everything was really good. Well, everything but one thing...

7 - Superior Iron Man #2 (last issue - 8 out of 11 books)
I wrote after the first issue that for this to work, the story needed a heart and a protagonist. They changed out Pepper for Daredevil, and then Tony continued to be entirely irredeemable. They really need to go back and figure out what made the last Superior hero work, because this is doing none of that and I’m out.

6 - Letter 44 #12 (last issue - 8 out of 10 books)
There’s a lot of rapidly rising action here, with a frustrated president, two soldiers on their last effort, an international betrayal, space baby surgery, the first lady making threats, a showdown with the aliens, kidnappings, and everything just keeps getting bigger and more dangerous.

With all that thrust forward, though, there was a lack of focus to the issue as a whole. This one was a glue issue that’s going to make a collection great, but on it’s own is below par for this series.

5 - Spider-Man 2099 #6 (last issue - 8 out of 8 books)
This was a fun little romp with lots of nods to the original series, which is great for old guys like me until we realize that old guys like me are probably the only ones reading the title and that’s why those little Easter Eggs can make the cut.

But from a pure enjoyment perspective, future dwellers infatuated by steampunk Spider-Ladies is hard to top. Really fun chase issue, from front to end.

4 - Transformers vs. GI Joe #4 (last issue - 3 out of 7 books)
More mindless fun, this time starring a we3 takeoff called US7 that must be seen to be believed. There’s nothing really to add to previous comments on this title beyond to reiterate how wildly entertaining a ride this is.

3 - Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17 (last issue - 1 out of 8 books)
I wanted to warn you away from this issue. The last page is as disappointing as its intended to be (with it’s blatant call-out and everything), the new Sinister Six’s future as a individuals felt forced in a lot of ways, and the last issue’s conclusion would have been such a perfect button for this issue.

But it was still so much fun. Abner’s bad day, Boomerang’s resignation to his lot in life, Shocker’s big moment...none of it was necessary after the last issue, but all of it was fun.

2 - Lazarus #13 (last issue - 5 out of 10 books)
It’s just hard not to get wrapped up in every bit of the macro drama. The families, and their alliances, all hinging upon whether one family “has what another one has.” But Rucka still makes sure that Forever, our heroine and through-character, still has a personal stake in the outcome with some of the sweetest (third kiss) and meanest (Johanna wants to make sure everyone knows she knows the score) panels we’ve seen from this title. A+.

1 - GI Joe #3 (last issue - 4 out of 10 books)
Plots designed to tie into each other coincidentally can be a mixed bag. You have to buy the coincidence. Here, that one Cobra deserter has attached himself to a GI Joe target that GI Joe’s new suitor is trying to help while ex Joe Duke happens to be in the area going after the self-same deserter we’ve already seen? That’s totally buyable.

It speaks to the world-building taking place and the importance of the moment in time we’re seeing.

On top of that, the characters are all real people who have human motivations and wants informing all of these separate plot threads finding a home together. I love it.

Friday, December 05, 2014

funnybook of the week: November 19th, 2014

Axis was bad. So bad it fell below not one, not two, but three titles I’ll be dropping from my list and another that isn’t going to make it past issue #1. But I’m still buying Axis. Because apparently, I’m a sucker.

Also, this week was really, really bad.

7 - Axis #6 (last issue - 9 out of 11 books)
Standard Big Event Issue. Snippets of stories for elsewhere, without a real point of view or much on the main story itself. There are some bad books in front of this. So I want you to know I’m serious when I tell you how useless I felt this issue was.

6 - Powers Bureau #12 (last issue - 8 out of 9 books)
I’m pretty sure, upcoming TV series aside, the creative team on this has just given up. This was the wrap up to the FBI portion of the story, and things just kind of happened. It felt more like a quick wrap-up so they could relaunch for the new series than any kind of satisfying conclusion. The schedule on this hasn’t enticed me to care, and now the story itself has stopped inviting me to care. So I won’t be around for the next volume.

5 - Intersect #1 (last issue - n/a)
It looks pretty, but narratively it’s a non-starter. Maybe I’m just lying to myself when I say I want comics to stretch the visuals and challenge me, but I’m pretty sure this is just a mess. A very pretty mess.

4 - Goners #2 (last issue - 3 out of 10 books)
The first issue had heart. This issue had quipping adults and very little of the kids its supposed to be about unless you count a tangential flashback. It’s a bloodbath so far this week.

3 - Guardians of the Galaxy #21 (last issue - 11 out of 11 books)
It’s not getting better yet. We get pages and pages of sulking without anything happening, the team randomly happening upon their teammate that they lost instead of, you know, actively looking for him, and then more nothing except for a re-hash of the “everyone hates symbiotes” that we had established already (and more strongly) before we diverged into crossover flashback story time and then we’re expected to clamor for the next issue because the Venom symbiote has found its 100th host? Oof. This week is terrible.

2 - Amazing Spider-Man #10 (Spider-Verse #1 - 5 out of 11 books)
Dan Slott is stacking the deck against our collection of heroes pretty hard, even going so far as to show us that death doesn’t mean a whole lot to the big bads of Spider-Verse. But he’s also masterfully brought Otto back into the fold and started teasing how our Peter Parker is actually going to deal with that even as Otto takes the lead.

Minus points for being the heart of a giant crossover, so we have to take a timeout to establish where the spinoffs are going. Still, even with those awkward flaws, it’s good enough for #2 in a bad week.

1 - Morning Glories #42 (last issue - 5 out of 10 books)
As bad as the week had been going, and as weak as relatively uninspired as Morning Glories can be, I was expecting the worst. But this issue was one of Spencer’s best in a long, long time. We’ve widened out to refocus our attention to the full cast and how their trails and machinations affect one another and this issue is all the better for it.

Cassie’s decision to run for class president isn’t just part of her story. It weaves into Jade’s story, which has run into Jun’s story and on it goes. This is wonderful storytelling in a week where I badly needed some wonderful storytelling.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

catching up: the walking dead

I dropped The Walking Dead in the midst of the All Out War arc, after Negan proved to be just another version of The Governor whose caricatured evil didn't catch up me, and the big death in the lead-up seemed to be a bigger loss to the cast than Negan was a threat. It seemed to be an endless cycle that they weren't going to break out of.

And then I heard rumors.

A time jump. A community established. Characters allowed to feel things other than angry or hopeless. Talking zombies. And man, most of those things are true.

I just binge-read volume 22 of The Walking Dead and then issues 133 and 134. This is just as good as it ever was, and maybe I was wrong to abandon it. Rick at his logical conclusion as the spiritual leader of a whole network of towns, but on the verge of becoming a pure monster in pursuit of keeping all he's worked so hard to maintain. Carl as the son of a great, finding his own path but still being super disturbing because, let's face it, he grew up in this world. Andrea playing house and not being sure how she feels about it. Maggie being happy.

And the talking zombie thing being both lamer and cooler than I'd imagined, and scarier, too.

All the while Negan, who'd I'd written off as cartoonish, sits in a cell as a cancer waiting to spread - but that spread isn't as easy as he'd like it. And it hurts him. It's kind of great.

I'm sorry I ever doubted.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

funnybook of the week: November 12th, 2014

Thanksgiving. That's fun. It also keeps things on a very delayed schedule. Again.

11 - Deep State #1 (last issue - n/a)
I wanted to like this, because I love this kind of “keep the unknown unknown” sort of thing. The problem is that it’s a genre rife with cliché, and this issue hits just about all of them without even the slightest hint at irony. That’s fine, but if you’re going to hit every note in the “guy in the shadows recruits girl who asks too many questions” song, you have to at least give me a character I’m interested in.

And this failed, badly, in that regard.

10 - Captain Marvel #9 (last issue - 7 out of 9 books)
Another issue with a pretty large case of the cutes. I’m not sure when this book became about how adorable a situation Captain Marvel can find herself in, but space kittens and rhyming aliens don’t make for the best one-two punch.

9 - Axis #5 (last issue - 9 out of 10 books)
Improvements abound with this issue. But we’re still being given good guys are bad and bad guys are good without a whole lot of nuance beyond that. But we do have the heart of this book established in Nova, so let’s see where we can go from there.

8 - Superior Iron Man #1 (last issue - n/a)
I’m cautiously optimistic here. The idea of Tony Stark reverting back to the asshole he was before Vietnam/Afghanistan/Wherever put a reactor in his chest is bold, fun, and the kind of thing that’s been proven to work under the Superior banner.

Right now, though, I don’t really want Stark to succeed. The last Superior version of a longtime favorite had Peter Parker’s lingering guilt trip (not Ghost Peter, mind you, but the actual Power and Responsibility lesson) driving him on a bastardized version of the original crusade.

Superior Iron Man has an app. You almost wanted Otto to succeed and become more than he was, even knowing the real Peter Parker was never too far removed. I’m not sure I want Superior Tony to succeed. But I do want Pepper to succeed, and she was clearly and perfectly positioned as the hero of this story. If that’s the playbook, this can be great. If it’s not...I’m not 100% confident I’ll find myself liking this version of Tony Stark enough to read his book.

7 - Red Sonja #13 (last issue - 4 out of 7 books)
Only Gail Simone can take a plot as simple as “Heroine takes on Wizard and suffers from an ironic curse” and breathe some depth into it. Tying everything back to Sonja’s origin to really give her a reason not to forgive, and escalating everything accordingly, though. That’ll do it.

6 - Wytches #2 (last issue - 1 out of 7 books)
Not quite as strong as the debut issue, but still some very solid horror storytelling that hits all the sweet spots as a targeted family freaks out over and over again and “being pledged” is teased for a second time. Mostly, though, Jock is doing The Lord’s work with the art here, capturing the spirit of the story perfectly.

5 - Spider-Verse #1 (Amazing Spider-Man #9 - 6 out of 10 books)
This was so much fun. On the one hand, it was nothing we hadn’t already seen over and over again in the Edge of Spider-Verse series. Here are some alternate takes on Spider-Man, and here is either Morlun to kill them or Team Spider-Man to recruit them.

I’m putting this up this high based mostly on Slotts play on the Stan Lee Spider-Man daily comics, which I don’t want to say anything about other than that it’s brilliant and worth the price of admission alone.

4 - Thor #2 (last issue - 7 out of 10 books)
Here’s what we needed that we didn’t get in her debut issue: The new Thor as someone to root for. Or, really, the new Thor as someone who appears in her own book. We still don’t know much about her, but the dueling voices Jason Aaron gives her as ????? struggles with being worthy against the big-time action is exactly what this book was supposed to be from the start.

3 - She-Hulk #10 (last issue - 2 out of 10 books)
The trial of Steve Rogers of course happens to involve nazis as it turns out, because of course eventually everything that touches Captain America turns to nazi. The story, though, really boils down to Steve being a good guy and She-Hulk being a good lawyer. I’m good with that.

2 - All-New Captain America #1 (Captain America #25 - 4 out of 10 books)
I was almost ready to go ahead and throw the top slot for this week to this book based soley on Bob Dobalina: Agent of Hydra, but even beyond the Easter Eggs we have a fantastic book that establishes from word go who our new Captain America is, what he’s about, and why that’s worth of the shield.

Also, it dives into high octane adventure head first and never particularly bothers to look back save for some great panels on a fishing boat.

Also, “cronyism beats nepotism.” Fantastic.

1 - Axis: Hobgoblin #2 (last issue - 7 out of 10 books)
This was so much fun. A frustrated Goblin Knight/King, looking for a piece of some action he feels he’s due, and the egotistical do-gooder and pyramid scheme tippy top Hobgoblin fighting for the spoils. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did, and it did so hard.

This is just a fantastic take on the inversion. Roderick Kingsley is just as ruthless as ever, but that one new wrinkle, that it feels good to be a sleezeball in the name of good? Incredible. Not just fun, but also the kind of character study that this series could have been doing along all sorts of lines.

And the Hostess pie knock offs? Brilliant.

Friday, November 21, 2014

funnybook of the week: November 5th, 2014

Two great debuts and a title going out of its way to solidify itself on my pull list when I could have sworn it was going in the other direction.

10 - X-Men #21 (last issue - 5 out of 10 books)
Manifold Tyger, the turncoat, and his assessments of Brand and the X-Men are essentially the best part of this issue right up until Deathbird strikes a tonal accord with Rachel. Probably not the best sign for your team book. When two of the best three characters aren’t on the team in question.

9 - Axis #4 (last issue - 9 out of 11 books)
More of the same complaint, in that basically there’s a lot of whackiness going on without a lot to ground it or let the reader know why. Even if we buy the inversion, we haven’t really gotten a chance to explore what specifically in each character is pushing them now.

Maybe there isn’t time for that kind of deep character work, but this is the kind of premise that demands that kind of deep character work. So maybe next time let’s not make this kind of story the event comic.

8 - Sixth Gun #44 (last issue - 8 out of 9 books)
There’s an odd narration here that assumes you haven’t met any of the characters. This was entirely a shifting pieces issue, setting up the next part of the story. But some stunning visuals from Hurtt.

7 - Spider-Verse Team-Up #1 (last issue - n/a)
The difference between this book and Edge of Spider-Verse is that the multiple versions of Spider-Man show up at the beginning rather than the end of the alternate-reality Spider-Man stories. Luckily for Marvel, I’m still digging the alternate takes more than not.

6 - Amazing Spider-Man #9 (last issue - 10 out of 11 books)
It’s started, and while I enjoyed it, it did get a little mired in that thing where the main character of the book discovers a plot point that you’ve known about for months. Better than the build-up, but still lacking the central heart that Slott’s last big-idea in Spider-Island had. And yes, that is the measuring stick for this sort of thing.

5 - Rocket Raccoon #5 (last issue - 7 out of 10 books)
This was a sweet issue that I was initially concerned would outrun its gag, but Skottie Young did a great job with what was essentially a silent issue (except not at all) and letting the visual medium do its job.

4 - Drifter #1 (last issue - n/a)
A strong point of view character can make up for a lot of sins. There isn’t much new ground tread in the opening issue of Drifter. The space-faring scoundrel meets with misfortune, stands up a little too tall when he shouldn’t, shows off his self-loathing to the first person to come for him, and runs off in a huff to prove something he can’t even put his finger on.

But because this character is so well-written, because his point of view is so well-defined, and because that emptiness rings just true enough, you want to follow that space-faring scoundrel and finish finding out where he came from, where he is, and how it all came to be. Excellent opening issue.

3 - Hulk #8 (last issue - 5 out of 8 books)
I’ve been kind of hanging on by a thread, based more on teases of what’s to come than what’s actually in each issue, but this is the one that stops me from wondering if I’ll still be on board when the next round of solicits come out. I’m in, and the reason I’m in is that Duggan is actually telling a very, very good story and this issue is the one that kind of shows you that.

Aside from the too-quick-and-neat wrap-up of the question of Banner’s shooting, this was fantastic. Rick and Betty, Doc Green and Betty, and even without appearing in the issue, Hulk and Skarr, are all about being set free from a curse. The curse that was the central premise of the Hulk character as I know him (because I was raised on the TV show).

Duggan is putting toys back in the box that probably should have been re-boxed a while ago, and finding a real purpose behind it buried in character. But lest we think that a weeping Betty and a happy Rick Jones absolve Doc Green, we have hints at a larger impropriety that should be dynamite.

2 - Nailbiter #7 (last issue - 6 out of 10 books)
Back when Powers was a comic that came out, Brian Michael Bendis did a ridealong issue starring Warren Ellis. Well, we’ve come full circle as we get an issue featuring Bendis himself running around our serial killer-generating town, being terrorized, and allowing the major players to make a few gains in their story quietly in the background.

The killer scene, no pun intended, is where the Nailbiter himself confronts Bendis about his long history of murdering well-beloved characters, essentially calling him a serial killer. Really fun stuff.

1 - Tooth & Claw #1 (last issue - n/a)
What if I told you that a beautifully illustrated opening chapter of what looks to be a marvelous fantasy epic was available for $2.99 and had 48 pages of story? Well, you’d not accuse me of pimping a Marvel comic, that’s for sure. What you would assume though, is that there was plenty of room for the premise to take hold, for the characters to introduce themselves and breathe, and that by the end of it, you’d be totally in if you enjoyed what you saw.

I enjoyed what I saw. Busiek gives us an introduction to a world, the way that world works, and a through-character to that world. And then he breaks it. By the end of the first issue, the best intentions come tumbling down and you’re left with nothing but want for whatever comes next.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

funnybook of the week: October 29th, 2014

Some truly, truly good comics at the top. And something fully forgettable at the bottom. But way more good than bad.

6 - Axis: Revolutions #1 (last issue - n/a)
If you want “hilarious” stories with no meat on them showing how various heroes are responding to the Red Skull’s hate wave? This is for you. I’ll be not reading any more issues or thinking about this one any more, thank you.

5 - Bunker #7 (last issue - 4 out of 9 books)
The storytelling is vague here, but it’s all there. I don’t know that the now and the then match up as well as Fialkov wanted it to, and that’s going to cause a few syntax issues, but all of the information is on the page. Just a little harder to parse out than you’d like to see.

4 - Southern Bastards #5 (last issue - 4 out of 10 books)
This title used to be about a man who came home, reluctantly, to find that his home needed saving. It was a story about a man who couldn’t save that home and died trying. Now, it’s a book about the one the town needed saving from, and there’s not a lot of sympathy to be generated, even though we flash back to a more underdog-ish time for Coach Boss.

Interesting to be sure, but missing the reason to care.

3 - Black Science #10 (last issue - 7 out of 7 books)
Oh we’re back. I’d thought maybe the book had lost its edge, but in the bitter daughter of our former hero, Remender has found a new and effective voice for the book even as alternate Grants start making their way back to the center. The character work, the insane art and colors, and the sci-fi mumbo jumbo re-found their perfect marriage in this issue, and I’m so glad they did.

2 - Rachel Rising #29 (last issue - 3 out of 9 books)
Zoe tries to effectively make it clear that Malus is going to have to find another candidate to mother the Anti-Christ, and it’s as funny and disturbing as it sounds. She’s going to win, even when she’s told she’s already lost.

Speaking of already lost, you have no soul if you don’t find a scene where Rachel goes shopping for the rope that killed her just all kinds of heartbreaking.

1 - Saga #24 (last issue - 6 out of 9 books)
The Brand is back, and this time she’s mad. Finding what’s become of her brother, and the support he had at the end - and what it all meant to him personally, was an amazingly personal story for The Brand. In the span of an issue, you learned so much about her that it felt like she’d been there since the first panel of the first issue. That’s such good work it’s hard to even say.

Also, how about the best Lying Cat panel yet?