Amelia Rules #17 — Writer and Illustrator: Jimmy Gownley
Yes, this comic about fifth-graders without superpowers (although a few of them would like to have some) is the best book of the week. That might seem strange if you’ve never read it, but look at the Terry Moore cover, the cranky but affectionate fan mail from Harlan Ellison, the other fan mail from writer/producer David Fury, from the guy who created Akiko, from the team that created Kim Possible, from Luann creator Greg Evans, and from others. What do they know? That Gownley is an extremely talented writer and artist, a keen observer of the human condition (especially at the ages of 10 or 11) whose warm, skillful storytelling is always a pleasure. Buy this to give to any kids you know who don’t currently read comics — but, once you’ve read it yourself, you won’t want to give it up to them.
All-Star Superman #7 — Writer: Grant Morrison; Penciller: Frank Quitely; Inker/Colorer: Jamie Grant
Morrison/Quitely’s take on the Bizarros, the first of two parts. The nice thing about the All-Star line is that there’s no continuity required, so the creators are free to be as — well, bizarre — as they want in creating/explaining the characters, without having to depend on past variations. Here, the result is an eerie, dreamlike tale, ending with Superman trapped in the red-sun twilight of the Bizarro planet. Will he escape? It depends on one word: “Zibarro.” Seriously, how can you not like this comic?
Marvel Illustrated: The Jungle Book #1– Writer and Penciller: Gil Kane; Script: Mary Jo Duffy; Inker: P. Craig Russell
This adaptation of the Kipling book originally appeared in early issues of Marvel Fanfare back in the ’80s. Kane had a knack for animal drawing that didn’t often surface in his superhero stuff, although his ’50s work on westerns and on Rex, the Wonder Dog showcased it. Here, he was probably at the height of his powers, and his wolves, tigers and panthers (not to mention the other jungle dwellers, plus the child Mowgli) are gorgeous. But wait — there’s more: P. Craig Russell provides the inks. This is a faithful adaptation of a beloved classic, and a master class for artists on composition, design, rendering and overall storytelling; you get 37 pages and three pinups from the main creative team, plus a backup story by others — and all for $2.99.
As a special treat for local readers, I’ve got eight pages of Kane’s original breakdowns for this story, done in pencil and then inked, that I’ll try to bring into the store on Monday and set up as a display. No, they aren’t for sale — they’ve been on my bedroom wall for the last seven years, and I’m not done looking at them yet — but they’re an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how careful Kane was at working out his ideas before moving to the final pencilling stage.
Thunderbolts #113 — Writer: Warren Ellis; Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Ellis is making this a book about compulsion: everyone’s obsessed with something, whether it’s Norman Osborne’s fixation on Spider-Man, the Swordsman’s on resurrecting his sister, Penance’s on his pain, the Steel Spider’s on being a hero, or the other unregistered powers with just trying to lead quiet lives under the radar. The joke is that the only happy people are the total psychotics, like Bullseye and Venom, who don’t think about anything and just cheerfully go about their bloody jobs. If you like optimistic, heroic comics, this isn’t for you, but if you prefer nasty, gutter-action pessimism, then this is your comic.
52 #49 — Writers: Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid; Breakdowns: Keith Giffen; Pencils: Eddy Barrows; Inks: Dan Green, Rodney Ramos and Eddy Barrows
Really nice cover design this week: Magnus’ s James Bond stance, that pipe, the Metal-Men-as-bullets conceit, and the spiral design just force the viewer to reach for it. Slickly-produced as always, with the whole issue wrapping up the Mad Scientists’ Club story, letting Professor Will Magnus and his responsometers take the spotlight. Just three issues to go, and I continue to be in awe of the talent and coordination that this project has required: every issue on time, every one competently done, and it’s happened once a week for the last year. Monthly comics now officially have no excuses or whining allowed when they’re late; it’s clearly because their creators are worthless and weak.
Optic Nerve #11 — Creator: Adrian Tomine
Extremely high-quality work, but it’s covering very familiar territory: the young, smart, bitter protagonist who can’t help screwing up his love life because he (or, sometimes, she) is a morose jerk. There may be surface differences and themes — here, it’s the Asian-American experience, with various rifts on the subtle ways that racism can warp your personality — but in the end it’s the same conversations in bars, the same opposite-sex best friends who are gay, and the same downer ending. Very well done, again, which is why it’s in the “buy” group, but it would be nice to see a creator like Tomine pull up stakes, and go mine some completely different vein for a while.
Fell #8 — Writer: Warren Ellis; Illustrator: Ben Templesmith
A change of pace in the narrative, as Ellis’s lone-wolf detective chronicles one night on the beat through a photo album and captions — up until the last few pages, where the action goes “live” again as he wraps up a murder mystery. Still a dependably good comic, each issue like an episode of some quirky late-night TV cop show broadcast from some cool, low-rent cable channel.
Fables #60 — Writer: Bill Willingham; Penciller: Mark Buckingham; Inker: Steve Leialoha
Starting a new story focusing on Flycatcher, the Frog Prince, as he struggles to deal with his returned memories of his family’s slaughter by the forces of the Adversary, and ends up deciding to invade the Homelands in a guerrilla war of revenge that can’t possibly end well. Various other subplots and omens of coming trouble pop up too, including the disturbing suggestion that Frau Totenkinder has never actually stopped living up to her name. A good jump-on issue, for those of you who haven’t sampled Vertigo’s current franchise title yet.