Another week, another pile of reviews.
I grouse about Hickman, but this last chunk of Avengers – since about the issue where Banner found out about the Illuminati – has been good and what you want out of Hickman writing the Avengers. There’s still too much wank about the fundamental nature of order – I roll my eyes at things like “Planet Ultron is an intertwined single system – like a root system that appears to be a forest but is, in fact, composed of just a single tree.” But it’s good comics, and interesting, and the larger plot is working well at the moment. B+
Mark Waid’s take on Daredevil – do it as unlike Frank Miller as possible – has stopped feeling fresh and brilliant, but it’s still a reliable bit of fun month-in and month-out. The use of a more thoroughly Miller-style hero to contrast Daredevil with is a neat hook, but equally, the A-plot of this storyline is less interesting than the background characters, and I’m looking forward to when Waid goes back and explains things like what’s going on with Foggy. Still, it’s fun. A-
A book I’m sticking with out of pure inertia at this point, the title has fallen absolutely miles from all of the things it was at the start. One suspects that Willingham is going to end it in a place that I don’t like, simply by virtue of the fact that I don’t think that Willingham and I have much taste in common. I’m curious where it will all end, but at this point that curiosity is all that’s pulling me through the increasingly slow plotting and the increasing excess of continuity. Few stories, if any, deserve an issue 141. C
Iron Man #28
Gillen’s final issue on the title, and a reminder of how many things about this he did well. His characterization is spot on, there’s loads of interesting ideas, and the fact that nobody is going to make sufficient use of Red Peril in the future is absolutely tragic. His run was cut short, and there’s clearly things he never got to do, and I wish I could read the comic he clearly wanted this to be instead of the one it was. But the one it was entertained me more months than it didn’t, and this is as good an execution of the rushed ending as exists. B
The Manhattan Projects #21
This is, for me, the most interesting of Jonathan Hickman’s books right now. And this is a fun issue. In amidst all Hickman’s big ideas and intricate plotting, it’s easy to forget that he’s wickedly funny and excels at single-issue storytelling. This, for instance, is about Laika staging a jail break from a giant alien zoo. It’s delightful. A
Original Sin #4
The nature of this event – the completely bonkers noir comic – is bewildering. I like the bonkers much more than the noir, but it often feels like the bonkers is just there as a sort of joke – a concession to utter ridiculousness in a comic that’s trying to be serious. Four issues to go, and it’ll be interesting to see how they land this. As big summer events go, it’s not bad, but at this point it’s in that strange space where the coin is spinning in the air, waiting to land and reveal how good any of this is. I will say, though, I love the speed at which major deaths get undone in comics these days. B
Sex Criminals #6
I’m not quite as partial to this as the consensus, in that I merely think it’s quite good and not the single greatest thing anyone has ever done in the history of humanity. But this walks a really fascinating line – it’s a super-aggressive, angry book about sex and anxiety and broken people, done with a huge sense of humor. This issue is particularly strong, offering one of the best takes on depression and mental illness that I’ve ever seen in a comic and then closing with a fantastic cliffhanger. I assume the first trade of this is out soon, if it’s not already, and it’s worth checking out. A
Silver Surfer #3
I’ve been quite partial to this series since the teaser, in that it’s Dan Slott and Michael Allred doing Silver Surfer as a flagrant Doctor Who ripoff. Here we finally finish up the origin story for this particular concept of the Silver Surfer, giving him his human companion and demonstrating the underlying premise of the book, which is pretty much as it appears: this is completely mental and anything can happen. It’s good fun, and reliably brings a smile when I get to it in a given week’s stack of comics. A
Thor God of Thunder #23
So, we’re dynamiting the status quo of Thor and getting rid of Broxton. Fair enough. I’m interested in this ecological focus within Thor, and I hope Aaron’s run continues to explore it. There are interesting ideas here. I’m thoroughly unconvinced we needed five issues for this storyline, though, and I wish that there were more character beats and less epic epic smash smash. Actually, given that there were too many issues, I’m downright cross that there aren’t more character beats. Still, this is interesting in the broad strokes. Strange, as I look over these reviews, how often this happens – the books I like in the broad strokes keep tossing out mediocre issues, whereas the ones I’m kind of bored with on the big idea level keep being delightful as single issues. Ah well. B
Uncanny X-Men #22
Bendis’s X-Men run is in a somewhat frustrating holding pattern as we wait for the big plot that’s starting next issue. This wraps up a number of major threads in his run, and it continues to be interesting and something I want to read, but at this point I’m kind of twiddling my thumbs waiting for it to get to the next point where there’s a clear statement of “here’s what the X-Men are right now.” Glad Dazzler’s actually doing things again, though. B
The Unwritten Apocalypse #6
I long ago just shrugged at this book and decided I would be picking up every issue with the intention of reading the entire series when it was finished. I did the same thing with the pair’s earlier Lucifer, and it justified the money I’d been spending for several years, so I’m optimistic I can repeat the feat here. I’ve no longer got a damn clue what’s going on, but it was pretty and exciting and so I presume this is a good issue of the comic. No reason to jump on at this point (this is the second series of The Unwritten, to be clear, and not a true issue #6 at all), but probably worth checking out when it’s all done. B+
The Wicked + The Divine #1 (Pick of the Week)
It’s almost annoying just how good this is. I mean, I’m a big Kieron Gillen fan, obviously, but even still. This has felt like a major book since it was announced. A creative team that’s been working together for nearly a decade now, where everything they’ve done has been acclaimed, cuts loose with a creator-owned original property where they unapologetically storm out and proclaim “this is our big idea comic about what comics should be in 2014.” What jumps out, for me, is the confidence. Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, in the hype and promotion for this comic, put it all on the line, removing all options other than “fucking nail it” and “die horribly in public.” That people such as Gillen and McKelvie would even bother speaks of a rock solid confidence. Very well, but even given all of that, this is good. I’m sure there have been bad reviews somewhere, but they’re scattered at best. “Comic of the month” and “comic of the year” are being thrown around casually. It’s all true.
Gillen and McKelvie have their pet theme. Most creators do, but when you get Gillen and McKelvie together, what you get are stories about the price for being who you want to be. Not so much “being yourself” as being an idealized version of yourself – being the person who deserves to be the hero in your own narrative. The book’s protagonist, such as it is, wants to become a god. Like you do. In a world where gods are real, at that. Gillen has said this is a book about wanting to become an artist and what you do to accomplish that, and yes, that’s very clear. It’s also a book about death, as the splash page of a skull that makes up the first page makes clear. And it’s about other things too, like pop music and the devil.
This is an issue of setup. One that begins to lay cards on the table, and not even all of them. Just the ones that commence whatever elaborate magic trick is being set up here. Gillen and McKelvie (Can we call them GilKelv, just like people are calling the comic WicDiv? No? OK.) playing with Jonathan Hickman-style big graphic designs – a wheel of twelve icons representing the gods that clearly anchors the story and speaks to its breadth. This is a comic that is going to rip up and subvert the plan with breathless regularity, clearly. Still, here’s where we start: the Jazz Age, makeup, “best gig ever FYI,” the devil, the press room, machine guns, exploding heads, and ill-advised judicial proceedings. Jamie McKelvie draws great exploding heads, by the way. It’s exquisitely paced, and beautifully structured, and worth reading half a dozen times to appreciate the meticulousness of the craft, but mainly, worth reading once. At all.
This is big. And important. I don’t think there’s a possible version of 2014 where this isn’t the most important bit of the Last War in Albion. Buy it. Read it. Holy fuck. A+
Wonder Woman #32
I missed some issues of this at some point, so my sense of the plot is entertainingly hazy. I continue to like the feel and tone of the book, though. There’s an effort to do something new with Wonder Woman, and while I wish that they’d instead do something old with it, I continue to appreciate this and think that in thirty years it’ll be an interesting and worthwhile moment in the character’s history. I wish more of the New 52 had been like this, and less of it like, well, the other 51 books, all of which I’ve dropped at this point. It’s a pity this corner of the DCU is already getting set up to be swept away, because it’s the interesting corner, and it would be lovely if instead there were other books in and around it – that Swamp Thing and Animal Man never set up adjacent to this book’s conceptual space is tragic. B+