August Comics

Teenagers from Mars #7

Rick Spears’ tale of teen angst, censorship, comic books and rebellion nears a close with this, the penultimate chapter, in which something actually happens. It’s a nice change from issue six where basically nothing at all happened (I had to go back and re-read it just make sure I hadn’t forgotten it in the stack some busy Wednesday), but where nothing happened in stylish fashion.

It’s good to see the series getting back to that whole “stuff actually happening” phase (one a lot of comics seem to skip lately — see Daredevil #50 below for more news on 22 pages of nothing for three dollars). Spears has crafted a quirky, unique tale that seamlessly blends the mundane and the bizarre, the first three issues of which constantly surprised. The middle of the series experienced a bit of a lag, so he did what any comic writer worth his salt does: brought in some guns.

One of the aforementioned guns is pictured on the extremely flashy cover by kickass artist Rob G. His art sells the book even when Spears’ writing gets a little off-pace. It’s stylish and kinetic, perhaps the most vibrant art in comics today. G. is sort of the anti-Alex Ross, eschewing fancy details and photo-realism in favor of panels that blur with motion and pages that yank your eyes from top to bottom.

It’s hard to say what will happen in the final issue. Spears has managed to turn the story on its ear once more, just when it was starting to get too familiar. If issue 7 is any indication, the finale should be unmissable.

Y: The Last Man #14

And then Brian Vaughn makes me look dumb.

The last few issues of Y have been good, but not quite as thrilling as those first six or seven issues when anything seemed possible. The astronaut story was clever and well-executed, but it lacked the freshness of those opening two arcs. Or so I said in my review of the last issue.

Vaughn’s story takes off as all the principals of the story are thrown together in a field, waiting for the shuttle to land. Yorick is handcuffed, kidnapped by the Israelis. 355 and the doctor need to get him back, but are they willing to trade the cosmonauts?

Y: TLM has recently experienced a bit of a critical backlash. When the series debuted, members of the online community tripped over themselves trying to be the first ones to say how great it was. The book caught on with the mainstream, selling enough copies to make it Vertigo’s #1 title, which, of course, critics hate. Now the tides have shifted and the general consensus among the four guys who write under all those personalities online is that the book is mediocre at best.

True, the third arc was a slow-starter, but Vaughn jacks the tension up to its highest level in the series so far. With so many guns and agendas crammed into a tiny space, every possible conclusion seems unthinkable. What if the cosmonauts survive? (Would they change the title to Y: One of the Last Couple of Men?) But what if they don’t?

This is excellent stuff, artfully drawn and full of thrills. It’s accessible to new readers with each new arc. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s full of twists.

What else do those four online guys want?

Daredevil #50

So for the fiftieth issue of Daredevil, which is, you know, important since it’s a really nice round number, we get something big and surprising. I mean, this is a big deal. Really. Major surprise.

What happens is (wait for it, wait for it…) Daredevil and Kingpin, like, fight. FIGHT.

I like Bendis a lot. I really do. The list of mainstream comics writers who produce more than one really good series a month is short, and he’s on it. His Daredevil book may be a little overrated, but it’s a solid superhero book with extremely pretty art.

Since Bendis has written so many fun superhero books over the past couple of years, I hold him to a bit of a standard. I’m not saying he has to keep up with Proust or anything (although the two share similarities in terms of sheer quantity of output), but it would be fun to have a “milestone” issue pass by with something other than the most obvious possible storyline. Daredevil punches Bullseye some, then he does his Ike Turner impression and bitch-slaps Kingpin around the room.


Ultimate Spider-Man #46

Bendis redeems (sort of) his incredibly weak story arc involving the X-Men and Geldoff, the mutant Balky from Perfect Strangers with this talking heads issue that turns Aunt May from sickly hindrance into a genuine character.

Don’t get me wrong… I love the Lee/Ditko stuff. It’s fantastic, groundbreaking work. But Aunt May was probably the worst-developed character ever, was a kind of walking health hazard who forever needed this or that pill to keep her from dying at any moment.

Bendis’s Aunt May is younger, stronger and yet more troubled. Her problems are less physical than psychological, which makes sense given her history. Bendis lays it all out and reveals May’s inner-struggles, her feelings about death and loss as well as her opinion of a certain wall-crawler.

Does it radically change her story from the regular continuity? No. Some critics seem to think that the Ultimate Universe should only exist if radical changes are made. The point of the Ultimate Universe seems less one of an Elseworlds where characters could be killed off with reckless abandon but rather a modern update where the pitfalls of the current continuity could be avoided and characters could be both streamlined and elaborated upon.

This latest issue is reminiscent of #13, another 22-page long conversation.

While the earlier issue helped better define the Peter/Mary Jane relationship, this latest chatty story helps define May, both as a character in her own right as well as in relation to Peter and the rest of the supporting cast.

Yeah, it’s a little psycho-babble riddled, and, true, it’s the denouement of a truly disappointing arc, but it’s a wonderful single-issue story with some sharp dialogue that brilliantly highlights the strengths and human frailties of the characters.

How many comics can you say that about?

Batman #618

The Hush conspirator has to be somebody, right?

I’m beginning to suspect that Loeb will just keep adding Batman villains until he’s finally down to Man-Bat’s third cousin Irv from Queens, and he’ll finally end the story with, “Yes, it was me, Irv, all a long, and I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling, emotionally disturbed costumed vigilantes!?

I’m a bit disappointed because I really, really wanted the killer to be Jason Todd. Loeb has spent so much time dragging the story along that the big reveal has to be awfully big to compensate for nine or ten issues of secrecy. Jason Todd seemed like a big enough shocker, even if it wasn’t entirely a surprise.

But apparently, as we find out early on in the latest issue of Batman, Todd is not Hush. So that means the killer must be… ah… well, I don’t have a fucking clue who it is, but wouldn’t I be smart if I did? Really, though, it better be Bill Clinton or Stephen Hawking or somebody really shocking, because anything short of lawsuit-inducing is going to feel like a letdown at this point.

Lee’s art is never a letdown, though. It’s just so damn pretty. Eight or nine years of being assaulted with Lee clones on lousy books really hasn’t dulled the excitement of seeing the real deal, which no one can seem to copy just right. He’s always drawn pretty pictures, but his storytelling continues to improve. As mainstream work goes, it doesn’t get much better than his art.

Lee is often the focus of the book on the fanboy end of it, but Loeb shouldn’t be ignored. He should be praised for an exciting story full of twists and turns… or crucified for an unfulfilling cock-tease of an action epic.

So what will it be? The Teen Wolf scribe put on a pedestal or dangling from the gallows? Tune in next month, same Bat-Time, same…

Ah, fuck it.

Wolverine #4

[Bryan Miller refuses to review this and any subsequent issue of Wolverine until "shit starts getting cut up," as he puts it, eloquently and drunkenly as usual. He has informed the editorial staff of that there will be no forthcoming review of Wolverine #4, the issue in which Logan tracks the Brothers to their headquarters, nor any new issues of Rucka and Robertson's series until "I get to see big fucking claws and shit, and the, you know, the grrrrrrr! Berzerker stuff! Fuck, I fucking love that fucking berzerker stuff! Grrrrrrr!?"

Miller opposes the current pace of the series on intellectual grounds, or rather the lack thereof. "Jesus Christ, it's fucking Wolverine or whatever! Enough with the talking... where's the stabby-stabby??" he slurred to via telephone over the sound of a shattering bottle. Miller went on to add that, if he wanted intellectual output he would blow Adrian Tomine like usual.

Apologies -- The Editors.]

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