Iron Man 3 smashed records, Gatsby is out. Star Trek is coming. While movies are overloading my brain (Man of Steel!!!!) the comic book industry is in good shape. Also, SHIELD is coming to TV, right? It's a damn good time to be a nerd.
Avengers 11 – I've been firmly on record as hating Mike Deodato's art for a long while now, but damn if this isn't some fine work! His Shang Chi looks just perfectly like Bruce Lee and his Chimera opening is beautifully authentic. But no matter how good (well, that might be giving him too much credit. Let's just say that it's less bad than it has been in the past) the art gets, it's still Hickman's show. When he has Natasha deliver the lines she gets to, when he plays around with the mythical backgrounds of Shang Chi, etc. that's when he proves that he's doing something better than anyone else in mainstream comics right now. Yep, crown him, if you have't already done so. It's the most obvious succession in a long, long time: Jonathan Hickman is the best writer in the Big Two Universe(s). Period. He's got the best long-term plans, he's got the best grip on a variety of voices and he's got the best subtle touch on how to make things more than the sum of all their parts. Sam and Bobby getting drunk with AIM agents was fun, but Carol gambling was even better. The relationship between Jessica and Natasha is one that can be explored in way more detail and, while he got the short end of the stick in this issue, Shang Chi gets to revel in his victory in the end, proving that not every single little detail needs to be shown in explicit breakdowns in order for an intelligent reader to understand the story. Way to go.
Batman 20 – Well, Clayface stories stay shitty. Even with Snyder trying his new act of evolution to make the bad guy more scary, they still all have to boil down to the same 1960s trickery, which makes the story feel less authentic. However, the authentic bits did shine through at the end when Clayface started talking about Damian. And the bit with Alfred asking if he could watch, after Bruce claimed he wasn't losing it (I'm still not convinced...) came off as hokey, but I didn't mind seeing those tears (or just that single one, to be fair) roll down his face. The back-up's best feature was still the art by Alex Maleev, which is always stunning. The magical angle wasn't up my alley, but I don't really care; it's always nice to see Clark and Bruce getting to be friends, especially with the new focus on Damian. The art made it worthwhile.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 21 - I still love this story. Let's get that straight right off the bat. I love the Buffy storyline and almost all of the stuff that goes with it. That being said, this issue, and this title in particular, have been awful. While Angel and Faith have carried the baton for the Buffy line overall, this book has failed. The art is terrible. The faces look smushed and everything looks condensed. (It's funny that Willow aks Xander what happened to his face, but it's not an in-joke, it's supposed to be a reference to his bruises. Unfortunately, I think most people will take it the other way.) It's cute that Xander wears a BPRD jacket and that there are Ghostbusters, Hellboy and Akira posters hanging on the walls (and Batman and Spider-Man models, and Death Stars and TIE fighters, and Indian Jones posters...Jesus, we get it, you're making Buffy out to be a nerd, some kind of self-reflection of the culture that consumes her...), but the backgrounds don't make up for the fact that the characters look bad. Bad. The dialogue is also curiously off-kilter. It might be the transition from TV to comics, but that doesn't account for the season and (more than) a half that we've already gone through. This issue was egregiously bad with the Xander and Buffy talk, though, when he gets back from his beating at the hands of Severin and Simone. Also, the fact that there was so much foreshadowing to the lack of a surprise ending... I'm severely disappointed in this book. The plan of the guardians to the entrance of the Deeper Well literally makes no sense unless you think of it as a necessity for this bit of so-called duplicity in the plot. There's no way anyone would ever conceive of a defense like that, unless it was specifically designed to be beat by this sort of plan. (It's like the old comic about Bowser and Mario.) And Willow and Buffy (and a token human) are “more assailants than expected!”??? That's just sloppy writing, poor planning, and worse execution. I'm hopeful that after this season is concluded, characters will have a new arc they'll be settled on, but this puppy needs to be put to bed. I'm in shock over the amount of complaining that I heard over Season 8 and the little chatter I hear over this one. Maybe every one else has already jumped off the ship? I'm sticking with it, maybe out of misguided loyalty, but I've still got faith in the overall story of Buffy and the Scoobies.
The Private Eye 2 – This book is fucking incredible and I don't think that I have the words to either describe it or recap it to any adequate degree, but I'm going to try. First of all, though, you need to be buying this. Then, you need to buy it in trade when it comes out. But you have to get it now, too, digitally, because it is MADE for this era. Damn, it's beautiful looking and it's not just the art. The layouts, the panels, the colors, everything about it screams 21st century digital comic. OK, on to the story. With Taj dead, the press comes in asking questions. Big sis pretends like she doesn't know what's going on, but she runs into Patrick Immelman pretty quickly. She's convinced that it's his job to find out who killer her sister just like his chauffeur is and was and they re-connect in a way that says there's a lot of backstory to be told. The eyeshadow effect is a nice one, and I'm curious about what it means. The ending, of course, was not a surprise, if you speak French and could decipher the meaning of the call to the killer, whom we find out is named DeGuerre (which has some scary meanings in French itself). He's putting together some kind of plan, it sounds nefarious and we're going to get the opportunity to see our heroes try to stop him. It's a great story, and it might sound like I'm kind of skimming it, but that's not the point. The point is that this is a one-of-a-kind thing that's unfolding in front of our eyes, and you're a fool if you're not consuming it. Also, in the afterword, BKV says there's no plans for a print edition (which I believe will change) but you're always taking the risk, if you don't get it digitally that you will never be abel to get it another way. (The silver lining to that black cloud, however, is that digital is for [nearly] ever.)
Thor God of Thunder 8 – Modern Thor talking to old Thor (the Thor-force still kills me!) has got to be one of the greatest things in recent comic history. He (our Thor) starts this issue by saying he's battle-starved! I mean, come on! (Plus, “Polish thine hammer,” has got to be a euphemism, right? Good one Aaron!) I'm glad we got an explanation on who the ladies were, too, since I don't mess with the AR-stuff, no matter how good people say it is. Looking forward to seeing more of them in the future. (Pun!) Beyond the rudimentary recap, which is coming, no doubt, let me say that I'm finding this storyline, two arcs in now, to be fascinatingly theological. The idea of a god of bombs helping to make this bomb, of Gorr's origin story, his son, his own nickname (the Redeemer?! Shit!) and his idea of a joke, wherein he lets the gods rest on the seventh day? These are all tremendously weighty concepts. I know you can get the story and enjoy it just fine without all the religious backstory, but it sure is better for me, having studied the various belief systems to the degree that I have. All right, so, the story itself in this one: Great, great stuff where we see that the Godbomb's been worked on for 900 years, that the builders have a plan to set it off before it's done and we get to see young Thor do his heroic thing. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Fortunately, it means we're going to have a hell of an exciting issue next time. This book is fantastic.
The Walking Dead – Fun times in the Kingdom. But honestly, this felt like a pretty light issue, the Micchone and Ezekiel stuff aside. Sure, it was a big step forward and yeah, it took up a lot of space, but I'm not convinced that it's that big of a deal. I'm ready for the fight. Let's see it.
Book of the week goes to The Private Eye. Brian K Vaughan is an inspirational force, but there's a lot of credit that should go towards Marcos Martin as well. Superb work on a fundamental seismic shift in the landscape of comics.