Howdy howdy howdy. This is Johnathan and I have been problem solving. You see, I used to arrange my comics according to my general "save the best for last" policy, but found myself running out of steam with regards to the ol' reviews by the time I reached the end of the pile. In effect, I was writing a whole lot more about the comics that I wasn't as excited for and sometimes barely anything about the ones that I was all worked up about. Unacceptable, says I, so I nerded up and shuffled this week's pile and deployed some virtual dice so as to read my comics in a random fashion. Let's see how that works out, shall we?
The Unknown No. 1 (of 4)
This comic's had plenty of previews and teasers and stuff scattered around - it seems like there's a new one every time I go to the BOOM! Studios website to... acquire covers, for example. It turns out that there's a good reason for all of the hooplah, folks: this is a damn fine read. The lead character (pictured left - I am highly fond of that cover, by the way), one Catherine Allingham, is the World's Greatest Detective, a title that I can never resist. The unknown of the title is death, the one mystery that she is unable to solve. Lots of very good writing here, care of Mark Waid - as much as I love Sherlock Holmes it's nice when a World's Greatest Detective doesn't sound exactly like him, or him in drag, I guess. It's also handy that Waid throws in a couple of interesting puzzles that Allingham just powers through in instants so as to showcase her deductive skills before bringing out the very cool main mystery of the series..
Minck Oosterveer provides the pretty pictures on this one, and fine pictures they are - a nice wide range of facial expressions (and lots of variations on pissed-off). Some cool giant machines, too.
What more can I say without giving things away? Unless Billy from Family Circus is tasked to write and draw the rest of this series I can confidently say that I will be reading it.
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers No. 1 (of 4)
I was torn over whether to buy this or not, but ultimately could not resist Lockjaw's mournful eyes. I am glad that I am powerless against dog manipulation, in this case. Heck, I'm not even out half a sandwich.
In case you aren't as easily sold on a book as I am, let me give you a tiny plot summary and Pet Avengers roster and see if you can resist.
Essentially, Reed Richards is out to find the Infinity Gems and make sure that they are kept safe and seperate. Lockjaw finds the Mind Gem but, unable to make himself understood, sets out to form a team to gather up the remaining however many Gems. The team:
Lockjaw, telporting Inhuman dog.
Redwing, Falcon's hawk, and a total dick.
Lockheed, Kitty Pride's emo dragon.
Hairball, which is what Speedball's cat has started calling himself.
Throg, who isn't Thor as a frog but a totally different froggy thunder god-type and is totally awesome. Origin inside.
And Ms. Lion, Aunt May's male, non-powered dog.
Can you resist? Can you? It's okay if you can but you'll be missing out on some fun.
Secret Six No. 9
Last second Battle for the Cowl tie-in! Catman, Bane and Ragdoll play Batman for the evening! There's lots of pretty at-night lighting and crazy fighting in this one, plus Ragdoll being creepy in a Robin outfit.
Gail Simone is one hell of a writer, folks. She writes dialogue like no one''s business and she writes action like... someone's business? Very well. She writes action very well. She has a fabulous and sadly uncommon knack for making each character speak in a distinct voice - in this case the villainous voice. A delightful villainous voice. This series is, for example, the first time that I've cared about Bane, except while playing Lego Batman.
Man, the (non-pseudoheroic) villains in this issue need to rethink their colour scheme, though. I was having a hard time keeping track of who was who, though I guess it was a moot point by the end of the issue.
Batman Confidential No. 29
I was very fond of Legends of the Dark Knight back in the day - it was home to some of my favourite Batman yarns ever ("Going Sane", woo!) and was some of the most approachable Batman around during the mid-Nineties. Therefore, I'm happy that Batman Confidential is starting to come into its own as a successor to that fine series. What with the Wrath stuff a while ago and the King Tut arc that just finished, Batman's rogues gallery is getting some neato new blood. This story might do the same - let's see how the second issue turns out.
This issue features a new Arkham inmate with anti-police tendencies, some good Joker wrting and the first evidence that I can recall of Bruce Wayne actually having had sex with anyone other than Talia al Ghul, which is heartening. Man cannot live by fisticuffs alone, after all.
Very nice artwork by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, by the way. Just stylized enough to look very interesting without crazying up the page to the extent that it's unreadable. It happens sometimes. Really.
Oracle: the Cure No. 3 (of 3)
Ugh. Blech. Blah.
Man, this reeked. THis series has been... okay so far but things just fell apart this issue. The plot both made no sense and felt like it was rushing to do so. There was more grousing by Barbara Gordon about her shooting - not that it wouldn't be the sort of thing to inspire introspection on anyone's part but I hadn't thought that she normally obsessed over it 24/7. Meanwhile, the cover is no longer just T&A, it's helpless, injured, does not reflect any scene in the book T&A. Actually, it's the first time the A has entered the equation, what with the chair and all. Perhaps we have found a reason for the bizarre contortions of logic and body on the cover?
The end of this damn comic also makes no sense. Not in terms of the plot - it's at least internally consistent - but there's no reason for it. There's no reason for the miniseries, in fact - were a lot of nerds calling DC every day begging to know if tiny pieces of the Anti-Life Equation were lingering on the Internet? Was there an online petition to get the Calculator's daughter out of that coma? Arg. Also, and I think that this is an important point, there was no cure in the comic. Nobody was cured of anything. Bah bah bah. Oracle: the Calculator's Search for Alternative Medicine gets my vote for alternate title.
Screw spoilers for this sucky story. Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you feel like reading it for some ungodly reason. The last page of this thing features Oracle sternly lecturing Calculator as he is being bundled out the door by police. Meanwhile, his teenaged daughter has just come out of her coma and can't feel her legs and is crying and wailing for her daddy and Oracle couldn't give two good goddams. What the hell? I know that complaining about a fictional computer nerd acting out of character is about the geekiest thing ever but damn. This is like Spider-Man sitting down to watch an Uncle Ben-hunting TV show on the Outdoor Life Network. Okay, not that bad.
It's pretty bad.
The Umbrella Academy: Dallas No. 6
Not that I, musical plebian that I am, had any idea who Gerard Way was before I got that Free Comic Book Day Umbrella Academy preview a couple of years ago (or was it last year? Curse my human memory), but he sure does stand as an object lesson in not assuming that a famous person is going to suck when they decide to try something wildly different from what they became famous for. The Umbrella Academy is good times! Dysfunctional super-family with neato powers and wildly eccentric physical appearances good times, crazy villains with world-wrecking plots good times, Eiffel Tower on the Moon thanks to the foiled machinations of cryogenic zombie Gustave Eiffel good times. Pretty friggin’ good good times, is what I’m trying to get at. It’s not just a bunch of good weird ideas either - there’s some damn fine writing in there as well, both in terms of dialogue and plot. I was going to say that I liked the first series (arc? Volume? Dammit, this thing’s numbered 12 in the indicia. WHAT’S GOING ON?) a bit better, but on reflection I think I’m just upset about the Time Trapper being back and taking it out on stories involving time travel. Number Five’s origin a few issues ago was terrific, for example, so yeah: I like ‘em the same (a lot).
Meanwhile, Gabriel Bá is providing highly appropriate art - check out how nice all of those chimpanzees look! He shares with Mike Mignola that sense of when to ramp up the detail and when to simplify the hell out of a panel. Also, that ability to make me utterly happy on a page-by-page basis. Plus: Johnathan’s Favourite Colourist, Dave Stewart, is on hand to make things extra-pretty.
Now if only we could get more stories featuring the Horror not being dead…
The Unwritten No. 1
Well, awright. This is another comic that I’ve seen previewed around a lot lately and the previews did not steer me wrong. The story is concerned with Tom Taylor, whose father wrote a series of thirteen Harry Potter-esque novels with him as the protagonist and then promptly disappeared. Tom now makes a living appearing as his fictional counterpart at conventions and bookstores, while simultaneously trying to distance himself from the whole thing. And then weird stuff starts happening.
You know, this is a good week for comics with mysterious happenings and such. The definition of the relationship between fictional Tommy and real Tom is likely to be an entertaining one - Tom’s an asshole but not an irredeemable one, so I’m betting that there’ll be some of that good old voyage-of-self-discovery-discovery-of-one’s-true-character sort of thing. Meanwhile, you got lots of nice drawings with interesting things going on in the background (what looks to be some Tommy Taylor slash fiction or similar at a convention booth at the London TomCon, some amusing news headlines on a sidebar, etc) and honest-to-goodness authentic-seeming dialogue in a Tommy Taylor chat forum of some sort. Someone’s spent time on the Internet, hooray (sorry - that Oracle book’s still haunting me)! It also helps that the glimpses of the Tommy Taylor books and movies that we get seem like they could actually be popularly loved, thus saving my suspension of disbelief for more important matters.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape No. 1 (of 6)
Hey, another mystery! One deepened by the fact that I have no idea what Nemesis is all about just now or when exactly he appeared in Final Crisis - in one of the side stories that I missed? Final Crisis: Submit? Final Crisis: Insist? Final Crisis: Soft-Shoe? I have no idea, nor have I been reading Wonder Woman lately (for no good reason, especially given how much I enjoy Gail Simone), nor Checkmate nor anywhere else that he might be appearing. How he might have ended up in a comic that reads like The Prisoner: The New Class is a question that might require some homework on my part, or maybe not. I remember liking him back in my Suicide Squad reading days, so maybe that’s enough. Speaking of which, Count Vertigo’s in this book too, along withCameron Chase from, uh, Chase and a lot of references to Jack Kirby’s Omac. Well, it looks good and the first issue setup is done - it’s starting out confusing so it’s either going to come to a satisfying resolution or end in a jumbled mess like some comics about wheelchair-bound computer nerds that I could mention. Let’s watch and see, shall we?
The Redux Pile:
Demon Cleaner No. 2 - Wait, is this weekly? Neat! Demon Cleaner continues to be a good read, with plenty of monsters and monster-fighting and monstrous dialogue. Also: a much better cover than last week. There's some backstory poking through the monster-fighting this time but if monsters are what draws you there's plenty of 'em. The Cleaner's, uh, handler is a bit much on the sexpot front, with these weird lips... you know in Sin City, when someone has really poofy, lovingly-rendered lips and you know that they're supposed to look sexy but they look like maybe someone punched their owner in the mouth and they're all inflamed? They're a bit like that.
Action Comics No. 877 - More Nightwing/Flamebird, more evil conspiracy, more building toward whatever military/Kryptonian confrontation is eventually coming. Either they're introducing characters in a particularly cryptic fashion or I missed a comic, because I didn't recognize the tattoo-face girl.
R.E.B.E.L.S. No. 4 - Once again a super fun issue. R.E.B.E.L.S. is filling my Legion needs nicely while still being relevant to the present-day DCU. Vril Dox is a bastard, Amon Hakk is my favourite Khund, Starros are everywhere. The Dominators come into the story this issue, which is great - they make terrific amoral/creepy bad guys. Just thoroughly entertaining stuff.
Green Lantern Corps No. 36 - I enjoy me some crazy aliens and Green Lantern Corps always delivers. This month more than ever, actually, as there's a prison riot on Oa whilst Sodam Yat is fighting a Mongul-led Sinestro Corps dictatorship on Daxam. All this and some family history from that nutty Sinestro. Scar appears briefly and looks creepy and not so all oily like she did during all of that "Origins and Omens" malarky. One of my very favourite things this week.
Booster Gold No. 20 - Booster Gold vs. Communism! Kind of. This was a bit of a pointless issue in terms of the overall thesis of the series - Booster had virtually no need to be involved, as far as I can tell - but a great time nonetheles. Booster in the Fifties equals fun, fun, fun.
Battle for the Cowl: Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight No. 3 (of 3) - That went pretty well. We have a new Azrael, working for a new subsect of the Order of St. Dumas and with a more… Old Testament approach to the whole Dark Knight schtick than certain batfolk. Evidently, this was a setup for a regular series, coming soon to a comic shop near you. Well, the character’s basically a blank slate and he’s been established in the Bat-Universe: the police think that he’s a murderer, Nightwing is sanctioning his activities until he screws up, Ra’s al Ghul is watching to see if he goes crazy, etc. The series, frankly, could end up being either bad or good.
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess No. 5 - Damn but I love this series and all of its siblings. This is a the last issue in the Black Goddess sub-series, so I can’t really tell you anything that would make out-of-context sense. As is the case with such issues it’s concerned with pay-off: wrapping up the action and setting up further questions (augh! This one was a doozy of a cliffhanger and it looks like it’ll be January until the next one comes out. At least there’ll be further deliciousness in the meantime, right?).
I also got the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book (hooray!) but haven't had time to finish it. So far: fantastic.