Love and Rockets #19 — Creators: Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez
If you’ve never picked up this title…well, you’re an idiot, frankly. When everyone tells you something is good, you should at least try it, even if it turns out not to be to your taste, right? Anyway, if you’ve never picked this up, this is a good sampler issue: you have the final two chapters of a south-of-the-border story, two chapters of an LA story, and a surreal stand-alone strip. Beautiful, beautiful art, deft characterization, every panel a master class on composition — why, exactly, haven’t you ever tried this book? You there, with the four issues of World War III — put those back and try this book instead!
The Spirit #5 — Writer and Layouts: Darwyn Cooke; Finishes: J. Bone
Not quite at the level of the first four issues — maybe because the whole pork-and-beans thing never quite, um, gels (ooh, unfortunate food imagery), or maybe because Carrion just doesn’t have the cachet of, say, Sand Serif or P’Gell or even the Octopus — but still a perfectly entertaining, action-filled stand-alone story that’s better than 90% of the other books out there right now.
The Brave and the Bold #3 — Writer: Mark Waid; Penciller: George Perez; Inks: Bob Wiacek
I knew this was going to go on too long — we’re at part three of the story, with no end in sight, and to a mix that already included Supergirl, Batman, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, an alien luck artifact and three or four planets we now add Lobo, the Lord of Time and the Fatal Five. Any artist but Perez would have had an aneurysm by now, but fortunately he and Wiacek are able to keep things clear, and Waid’s able to juggle all the characters and various subplots and keep things moving. Impressive, but definitely suffering from bloat — it’s time to start resolving storylines and paring down characters, before everything collapses under its own weight.
DMZ #18 — Writer: Brian Wood; Artists: Riccardo Burchielli and Nathan Fox
Starting a new arc, as Matty covers a war crimes tribunal and interviews one of the soldiers accused of massacring civilian protesters. Wood’s getting very serious here — he’s making the parallels between his near-future urban war in NYC and the current urban warfare in Iraq obvious, but he’s playing fair, too: the PFC is portrayed sympathetically, as are practically everyone but the people in charge, and the system itself. In a year and a half, this has turned into a compelling, clear-eyed look at the business of warfare, and its effects on all the people involved, without pushing any particular ideology. That makes it an important book right now.
52 #50 — Writers: Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid; Breakdowns: Keith Giffen; Pencils: Justiniano; Inks: Walden Wong
Finishing up the Black Adam/World War III story, and satisfactorily enough, I suppose, although it’s mostly a bunch of yelling and punching that ends relatively quickly (if you want it to take longer, you can buy the four World War III issues to help flesh out the action — but, trust me, they aren’t necessary). The resolution’s haunting enough (“Isis… Batson …Eternity…”), especially to anyone who’s ever forgotten their computer password, and then the last two pages hook up Prof. T. O. Morrow with Rip Hunter and Booster Gold, presumably to bring everything home in the next two issues.
Justice League of America #8 — Writer: Brian Meltzer; Penciller: Shane Davis; Inker: Matt Banning
Nice to see another JLA/JSA team-up, with the third party this time being, apparently, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Meltzer spends most of the issue juggling three storylines at once, apparently just to show that he can; it works, although it crosses the line a few times into just being annoying, and the Reddy-screws-up bit seems unnecessary. The dialogue in the ensemble scene near the end has some good moments, though, and it’s nice to see the classic split-the-teams-into-groups tradition still in effect. So far, nothing in this relaunch has made my head buzz with pleasure the way the early Morrison issues in the last run did, but it’s all been smooth and interesting enough to keep me coming back for more; next to the Wonder Woman and Flash relaunches, it’s practically Shakespeare.
X-Men #198 — Writer: Mike Carey; Pencils: Chris Bachalo; Inks: Tim Townsend
This is the first Carey/Bachalo issue that really came together for me; it was easy enough to jump in and remember what was going on, the menace is sufficiently grim to be a challenge, and the art was able to handle double-page galactic splashes and small character emotions equally well, with a couple of cool effects on the bad …um, guy? thing? thrown in to boot. With two issues until #200, you can bet that this won’t be resolved next issue; once it’s is all done, though, it’d be nice to see Carey do a few self-contained, smaller-scale stories, just to remind us that he can.
Girls #24 — Plot, Script, Layouts: Joshua Luna; Plot, Script, Art: Jonathan Luna
The end of a two-year story, and a satisfying conclusion too: the main character arcs are resolved neatly enough, and the motivation behind the mysterious alien sperm thingy is left, wisely, unexplained — although there are enough clues floating around to show that the Luna brothers knew where they were going with it. An impressive sophomore effort, leaps and bounds more sophisticated and ambitious than Ultra, and enough to make me look forward to their next project (although, guys? Maybe just 12 issues next time?)
Ultimate Spider-Man #108 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Penciler: Mark Bagley; Inker: Drew Hennessy
Blah blah blah Bendis and Bagley blah blah blah final story arc blah blah blah dependably entertaining blah blah blah best ongoing superhero title of the decade.
The Mighty Avengers #2 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art: Frank Cho
The main plot moves forward about ten minutes, with the rest being flashbacks of how the various members were approached to join the team. The jury’s still out on the thought-balloon experiment; if I didn’t know better, I’d think Bendis was making it annoying on purpose, just to show why it got dropped in the first place — especially when the characters’ thoughts merely echo what they end up saying out loud. The big reveal — that the main character’s Ultron, and that it’s “killed” Tony Stark — is muted by (a) the cover, which has Ultron’s freakin’ head on it, and (b) the idea that, at this point, Tony Stark is the one Marvel character that we know isn’t going anywhere. As a stand-alone story, it’s no good, but as the second chapter of the inevitable trade it’s entertaining and competent enough.