Monday, February 25, 2013

comics for the week of 02/20/13.

Not caught up on Daredevil yet, so those reviews will be starting next month, but I did read BPRD Volume 1 and, oh my Lord, it was incredible. I know this isn't news to serious comic book fans, but Hellboy has always been one of my blind spots, so it was awesome to start to dig in.

Avengers 6 - All right! This is getting some serious traction at this point! I love how Hickman deftly handles clues and humongous stories; he parcels out actual pieces, not saving the ultimate reveal for the second to last panel and this issue is proof positive that he knows what he's doing and has been leading us along the right path the whole time. The Builder Code that Hickman lays bare at the end of the issue and the revelation that this character is, in fact, Nightmask, not some new invention called Blackveil, make for some great long-term intrigue. But insofar as shorter-term goals, the therapy session with Shang Chi and Captain Universe, where we learn why this ultimate power has been endowed and upon whom it has been thrust is one of the slowest builds with the largest payoffs. The scenes with the new Spidey are amusing, too, but I wonder how long Otto will last, even in his own book, if he's consistently being written like this. I mean, people have GOT to notice the huge change, right? I know it's being exaggerated for the sake of the readers, but there's got to be some realism to it, too. And there are characters who have known him for (at least) ten years of comic book time, no matter what they've done with time, and they're bound to see that fundamental shift as something going wrong. But enough about Spidey. The main takeaway here is that my faith in Hickman has been restored and that I'm rolling with this book no matter who's on the art duties. Great stuff.

Batwoman 17 - Sometimes I get tired of repeating myself in regards to how good Batwoman is. Then I have an issue like this one, with its cover and its first page, with the blank inks and the hypercolor backgrounds and the way that JH Williams is constantly innovating in a medium that's been around in this format for at least 80 years. The layouts, which were so mind-bendingly amazing when I first saw them, are now old hat. Something that he may not have invented but he damn well perfected is now a mere expectation. The page featuring Hawkfire's new name being revealed is the perfect example. How can a page this astounding seem just ordinary to me now? The following double-page spread takes a standard of comic books, a staple, something we've literally seen hundreds of thousands of times, and still brings the new! The end of Medusa is another old story told in an old manner, but it still feels fresh, especially since we've known that she's not the Big Bad for a while now. So when she gets her just desserts, we know it's not the end. We know Batwoman & her cousin and Wonder Woman haven't triumphed yet. And the twist that arises with that Big Bad is an example of Williams' improved storytelling. It's not just the art that we're staying around for nowadays. The reveal with Maggie and the post-script prove that there are long-term plans, that there are definite beats that have been planned, and that this book is DEFINITIVELY the best of the New 52. When this comes out as a hardcover, you'd be a damn fool not to pick it up.

Fables 126 - I've been a fan of this new style of narration since it started and this chapter proves to be no different. Plus, older Ambrose writing out the history of the Fables and Fabletown just plain makes sense. The confrontation between Brandish and Snow White gets big time serious, while Leigh is still hiding in plain sight. Bigby and Stinky are still off looking for the wolf cubs and the cover was awesome, too. The prince comes across like the truly stunning asshole he is and the way he talks makes us hate him with ease. But the power that Leigh can see coursing through him, plus the disdain with which he knocked out the Mayor and Rose Red makes it clear that he's not some chump that's going to be easily taken out. Snow White's promise, then, to take him out herself, comes off as even more incredible. The end bit with the Blue Fairy and Beast and Reynard and Geppetto (and his weird potted plant) is a good lead-in to next issue. As always, Fables is operating on a level far above most other comics.

Green Lantern 17 - All right, sure, this is interesting enough. The first lantern is a good concept, but it's just more backlog from Johns. At some point, he's going to have to tell a story that resonates in the current time period (other than Hal and Sinestro being trapped in the land of the dead, and Baz now joining them) if he wants his mojo back. I didn't read the introduction of Volthoom, so I felt a bit lost, but I don't feel like I lost out on anything, per se. That's a problem when your book brings up apathy as the foremost emotion. I'll probably keep track of Green Lantern from here on out, but I can't see myself continuing to read it.

Locke and Key: Omega 3 - Holy shit. That was ominous and nothing seems good. Tyler goes to his last dance, Uncle Duncan gets taken care of by the shadows, Nina gets mentally and emotionally abused in the worst ways conceivable and then Kinsey gets home and misunderstands everything. They're all on their way to the Cave Rave, where Dodge is set to win. There are a few great things about this issue, though, insofar as the hope department: the return of Jordan and Tyler's mature approach to her suggest that she's going to be a supremely important bit character, just as we'd suspected in the beginning of the story. She is a gun, and she was shown in Act I for a very specific reason. Plus, the pencils are starkly beautiful during their love scene and it's a superb contrast with the naked and raw torture that Nina is put through beforehand. Those scenes were uncomfortable to read/look at, but the contrast with Tyler and Jordan makes it clear that it was a conscious choice. Hard to deal with, for sure, but they've made a phenomenal book by making hard choices, and they're not gonna shy away at the climax.

Mind MGMT 8 - Like Batwoman, there's only so much repeated gushing I feel comfortable thrusting upon Mind MGMT. But when it comes to storytelling and brilliant art, Matt Kindt is God. The beginning of the story made me think that we were going to get a one-off kind of tale, but we shift to Henry Lyme making his little self-effacing dig, which made me laugh out loud. The story moves back to Zanzibar, which Meru doesn't remember, picking up a Perrier sister on the way, then to Egypt, where we meet a kid named Dusty. It's full of the kinds of clues that we'll look back on and find so obvious, but for now, I'm just enjoying the ride. The last page is too good to make us wait another month.

Saga 10 - There's been a lot of high praise going around this week for a few writers and artists and you can be damn sure Brian K. Vaughn is on that list, too. Saga gets another chapter, where Marko and his mother get back after finding Izabel. The relationship between Alana and Marko's father continues to improve, but Gwen and the Will are closing in on the runaways' ship, even if they can't see it. The planet turns out to be housing (e.g. the way the Celestials are born?) something called a Timesuck, which the Will is tremendously frightened of, but Gwen forces him to push on. Turns out, that's a bad idea, and there are some prices to be paid; some collateral damage as the narrator puts it. Sad stuff in this book, but one of the highlights that I haven't talked about nearly enough in any of my reviews of this book is the art, by Fiona Staples. The looks on the faces of Alana and Marko's dad when their respective partners get back is a superbly pencilled panel, and the look of Izabel, both herself and her gorilla illusion, is great throughout. This is a book destined for greatness.

Thor 5 - Gorr's appearance in this book is simply jaw-dropping. The art, by Esad Ribic, has reached a new, incredible plateau. He's always been great, but this is some incredible work. The consistency is key. The progress of each character (including Thor, obviously, but mostly focusing on Gorr) as the time periods pass is beautiful. And the end, when modern day Thor meets his future self, confuses him for Odin, and future Thor cracks, "I'm not your father, you beardless whelp," is the best. Jason Aaron is proving that he's so multi-faceted in his writing skills and I'm excited for this book in a way that very few other Marvel books are making me. Fantastic.

Book of the week goes to Batwoman. No matter how much I'm turning away from the Big Two, and no matter how insanely great Locke & Key, Mind MGMT and Saga always are, I've got some major feelings about the level of this work that's being put out. I think it even gets bonus points (in my head and in my warped rating scale) for being produced by DC, as though Williams is succeeding despite his setting, as opposed to the indie creators who have always had the freedom to produce work at this level. All that should be read as a large disclaimer that I think this was one of the best weeks in comic book history ever. You can't lose. (Unless you're still hanging on to Green Lantern. Which I'm not.)

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