This week, the comic book world was changed. While it'll be a while until we can gauge how successful this experiment is/was, just like Radiohead doing it, Brian K. Vaughn is the right person to do this. He's at the top of his game, he's got the name recognition and he'll set a new standard. I'm excited to include he and Marcos Martin's new book, The Private Eye, in my reviews below.
All New X-Men 9 - Good classic X-Men stuff in this issue. We open in the Danger Room, where Bobby is being very young Iceman and Jean is demonstrating the fact that she's got little control of her new powers. Beast seems to be handling this the best, which totally makes sense and also totally doesn't. (It's a great example of an oxymoron.) Angel is still on edge, so he goes off to talk to old Beast, who explains that he thinks his plan has worked: the mere presence of the young X-Men seems to have woken old Cyclops up, stirred his very nature. Well, Hank McCoy, you should know better than to utter those words, much less even think those thoughts. The issue ends with old Slim showing up in his new costume with Magneto, Magik and Lady Mastermind (if that's what she's gonna be calling herself, as the conversation with Mystique hilariously pointed out) ready for a throw down. Next issue should be fantastic!
Avengers 8 - Well, I cannot claim that I have any idea where this big picture is going, but I will fully testify to the fact that I am immensely enjoying the little chapters that are getting us there more and more! What a great book. Starbrand gets some characterization, and he goes rogue pretty quickly. There's some great battle scenes with he and Thor and Hulk, and then Nightmask takes him off-planet and they end up visiting Mom and Dad on Mars. Meanwhile, the dialogue between Cap, Thor, Iron Man and Bruce Banner is just about as good as it gets. The only higher note? The way that Captain Marvel is being used. It's clear that Hickman respects her, because it's clear that the rest of the team does as well. It's so amazing to see Carol Danvers used in the way she's deserved for so long. Here's to hoping that she gets one of these solo chapters some time soon, as well. Starbrand, Nightmask and Captain Universe keep talking about the White Event and the System being Broken, and I know there's so much more to this, but unlike the first few chapters which felt like they required being read in quick succession, this book is finally standing on its own. It's going to be even better when we have the hardcover with everything all together, sure, but I'm comfortable getting these small doses now.
Batwoman 18 - What we've been waiting for: a totally, 100% solid issue of Batwoman without JH Williams on the pencils. Great stuff here as we see all the angles, but each side only has a little piece of the whole picture. Bette's working with her uncle and with Kate, but Kate's not letting Bette know that she's working with the DEO and when Batman comes to crash the party, he figures the whole thing out in mere moments, but doesn't really deign to let all the parties know what he knows. It's a confusing picture, made all the more so by the fact that Batwoman is essentially stalking Mr. Freeze. Everyone can see that there's something wrong with that picture, but on one can piece it together like Bruce. I love the fact that the DEO is set up on the yacht and that Bones is as ruthless as ever in (presumably) setting Kate's sister loose. The almost-end bit, with Maggie scouting out a place for the newly engaged couple is truly touching, and I love the implications without being directly told of both time passed and discussions had. The ending page, though, I'll confess: I didn't totally get it. Is this the Party Crasher? Was I wrong in assuming that'd be Alice? I'm happy if it's someone new, because that's always fun, but the single most important takeaway here is that this book is no longer in grave danger when Williams moves to the plots without the art. Fantastic.
Daredevil 24 - We get a taste of the Big Bad behind DD's latest troubles, but I have no idea who it is yet. (It's ominous, with the coffin, and the slowed speech, and the need for two weeks of darkness, but that doesn't tell me much.) But the contrast between he beginning and the reality that set in as of last issue insofar as Foggy's health is really what makes the issue. The Big Bad is really stepping up their attacks and while the connections in this issue focus on Foggy and, somewhat, on Hank Pym, it's nice to see that Matt is still a part of the Marvel Universe as a whole. The word operatic is repeated several times, so I'm looking for some huge arias in the arc as well as some magnificent tragedy. The idea on the last page - that Matt would just trust some random guy who comes up to him with the much-vaunted truth - is beyond believability, even if he uses his hearing to give him the heartbeat test, but I have a feeling that we're going to be following this rabbit all the way down his hole and we're going to find out some pretty significant things next issue. Can't wait!
Fables 127 - Brandish continues his uniquely sadistic brand of abduction and hostage-holding of Snow White. Bigby's off looking for their kids in the other worlds. And, surprise, surprise, Ghost is still with Mom! Good stuff, if a bit retro, when it comes to the Mayor and his reluctance to jump into action. No surprise, then, that Rose Red serves as the jumping off point for the big bad rescue and even littler surprise that the big bad himself comes in guns ablazing on the last page to set things right. Things are going to be amazingly touchy next issue with the battle brewing, the legislation passing and the magic amping up to another intensely high level. Love the fact that this book constantly has its eyes on the long arc.
Invincible 101 - Man, what a great juxtaposition from the onslaught of the Viltrumite leader berating his troops for their love to the conversation between Mark and Eve. They're having a baby! This should be a cause for a celebration! But we all know that's not how the real world always works and Invincible has always been a title that comes as close to the real world (with gnarly alien races and superheroes as the ginormous caveat) as possible. The reaction from Rex really echoes the way Mark used to react when Cecil pulled some of his shady government stuff. And the punishment that Cecil foists upon Mark's dad does seem unfair to me, especially given the super ominous last page. All in all, another great book, with plenty of human characterization in the Kirkman style that we've come to expect.
Mind MGMT 9 - Another stunning chapter from Matt Kindt. Since I started reading this book, I've torn through his back catalogue and it's all slanted in this way. Mind MGMT, though, does seem like his most serious look at how deep it all goes. It's jam packed in the best kind of way. Every issue tells at least three stories, sometimes even four or five. I'm impressed with the progress of Dusty in such a short space. Lyme and Meru continue their quest and now we're going to integrate Duncan - or at least, they're going to try to do so. The fact that Lyme dodges certain death so many times is just another intriguing wrinkle.
New Avengers 4 - First of all, the cover is sick. The outline of Galactus, with the Illuminati inside, is worth the price of admission alone. But after that, this issue might be the single best issue that I've read of this book, not to mention of the entire Marvel reboot. It's simply incredible to see the brightest minds of the MarvelU giving up all hope. They're preparing for their own deaths, as well as the deaths of everything and everyone they know, none more so than Namor, who defiantly laughs about their circumstances. Then, when they come up with a plan to MAYBE squeeze a few more hours for themselves and their world, they're confronted with a cruelly logical foe who tells them the simple truth in the starkest terms. Terrax the truly enlightened presents a compelling case. Not good enough for the Illuminati, though, who attack him despite the veracity of the situation as he presents it. Unlike the mainline Avengers book, I can't say that I have any idea whatsoever about what's happening here. But I can say that it might be the most fun that I'm having in comic book form currently.
The Private Eye 1 - I have never kept a digital edition of a comic before. I've also never paid for a digital edition of a comic before. And even though I had a choice of paying nothing for this comic, I chose to do so. Compared to some of my friends, I paid less. Compared to some others, I paid more. ($2, if you're interested in judging me.) But what I can say for sure is that this is the first comic that I have been completely satisfied reading in digital form, and the first one that looked like it was designed intuitively for the screen. I'm not absolutely sure that's a great thing, but I know that it's something that's going to happen more and more as the years pass, so I think it's a good thing to get the ball rolling. I know there have been all-digital comics before, but this is the first one that felt so fresh. Insofar as actual judging of actual content, let me just say: Brian K. Vaughan is the master. And Marcos Martin, whom I've only seen previously in Daredevil, is a delight as a fit. The story concerns the (semi-?) near future, where the Internet has been destroyed (? or at least abandoned) yet people have access to fabulous technology they call nyms. These are amazing holographic disguises (that piss me off because I had an idea for a story that used sort of similar technology and of course a master beat me to it and is going to do it a billion times better than I could have anyway) that most people seem to utilize pretty frequently. This means they can appear as different people (or animals, even) and they can go about their business in private. Of course, in a world like this, the most logical enemy of the privacy of an individual would be called paparazzi. The media bills themselves as the fourth estate and we've got an advanced network (not the Internet, pointedly) of Dick Tracy-style watches that allow them to keep in touch with the police force - if they aren't one and the same. Simply put, this is one of the best debut issues in a long, long time, and the Afterword sets the precedent that The Panel Syndicate will, hopefully, be a nexus of both creativity and creator-owned brilliance for the foreseeable future. For now, we'll have to be satisfied with 10 (9 more) delightful issues of The Private Eye. Bravo.
Saga 11 - Oh my God. Once upon a time, I thought that I was a little bit sad at the death last issue of this book. Then this issue came up and I had a lump in my throat almost the entire time. The continuing story of Alana and Marko and their amazing baby Hazel continues here in just the fashion you'd expect it to if you've been reading every issue so far: some sex, some hilarious dialogue, a little backstory, big time conflict, witty banter, supporting characters doing things that push our definitions of them waaaay past one-dimensional, some serious heart ache, and then...Hazel's narration to bring it all back down to Earth (so to speak). The flashback that Marko experiences, while being totally untranslateable, serves its purpose perfectly. This might be the single most perfect comic to give your friend who's not into comics in order to get them into the genre - but only if they're OK with the first couple pages being gratuitous. BKV has got the master's grip on storytelling, mixing gravitas with jump cuts, complete with the word bubbles complementing each other in the most perfect way. This was it.
Ultimate Spider-Man 21 - Man. It was just a little while ago when Miles Morales represented the bet thing in the Ultimate Universe. What in the fuck happened? You'd think with Sarah Pichelli doing the artwork for the book, and with the return of Venom, things would be getting better and better. Unfortunately, this is just about the worst this book has been since I dropped it prior to the Ultimatum line. Mary Jane and Gwen look terrible. I know the book's not about them, but geez, they should have a little more gloss, even if they're not the focus. Ganke's part in this drama is still the best thing about the book on a regular basis and I like the fact that Miles is differentiating himself further from Peter Parker by talking about his best catchphrase as a cautionary tale. But this whole Venom storyline has felt adrift since it began and it hasn't found its legs yet. I'm holding out hope that it'll conclude in a better way, but for now, it's on the wavering line.
Book of the week goes to Saga. While I wanted to reward The Private Eye for pushing the boundaries and while I might have liked New Avengers the most, I can't deny this issue of Saga its place in the oeuvre.