The Punisher Presents: Barracuda #3 (of 4) — Writer: Garth Ennis; Artist: Goran Parlou
You know Ennis is having fun when he starts throwing in everything but the kitchen sink: transvestite commandoes, earless (and clueless) South American dictators, hemophiliacs, ex-porn stars, Mafia bosses — all somehow believeable in the context of the story, and all held together by the amiable, casually violent force of nature that’s the title character. Yes, this is a low-rent, guilty pleasure, but it’s all the more entertaining for that.
True Story, Swear to God #5 — Creator: Tom Beland
Beland continues his real-life adventures with his girlfriend, in her native Puerto Rico and during their trip to New York City. Some nice shout-outs to comics fans, including a small tribute to the effect of Spider-Man on young readers, a tour of the Marvel offices, and more. Like the best autobiographical creators, Beland isn’t afraid to be honest, either — even about stuff like sexual dysfunction, or minor arguments — and this book continues to be a pleasant, interesting look at interesting people.
Crossing Midnight #6 — Writer: Mike Carey; Penciller: Jim Fern; Inker: Mark Pennington
Vertigo’s lowest-selling title, which is saying something — it barely moves 7,000 copies an issue. That’s too bad, because although the series has been inconsistent, this is one of the “on” issues, with Carey and Fern offering haunting images from Japanese folklore (the werewolves whose severed heads are strapped across their chests are almost worth the cover price by themselves). The lead character has gotten more intriguing, too, with her defiant struggle to be free even as she undergoes her training and struggles with her damaged memory. Every time I decide this isn’t worth the time, an issue like this brings me right back; let’s hope other readers decide the same thing, before this quirky-but-worthwhile book disappears for good.
Daredevil #96 — Writer: Ed Brubaker; Artists: Michael Lark & Stefan Gaudiano
Brubaker’s love for crime fiction and police procedurals is really playing out in this story, as we see all the legal maneuvering, and all the various characters working at cross purposes, in determining the legal fate of Melvin Potter. It’s a pleasure to see the work that goes into this book, from the careful plotting to the dead-on characterization to the perfectly gritty, mean-streets art.
Usagi Yojimbo #102 — Everything by: Stan Sakai
One of the great things about Sakai is that he can offer so many kinds of stories: he can do lighthearted; he can do epic sweep; and (as here, and last issue) he can do fateful and grim. It’s all good, too — this is another of those books that comics fans should just be picking up automatically, issue after issue, as it offers its dependable monthly dose of great storytelling.
52 #51 — Writers: Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid; Breakdowns: Keith Giffen; Pencils: Joe Bennett; Inks: Jack Jadson & Balardino Brabo
Buddy Baker comes home, and it all works out well (Morrison’s influence, because of his affection for the character, is obvious, and it’s fun how the creative team keeps playing off of our suspicion that they’re going to mess up his life, or turn the homecoming into tragedy, somehow). Then, we finally get to see what’s up with Skeets, and it turns out the clues were there all along; there’s a shot of the horrific new/old villain (which looks like the Morrison influence again), and then everything’s set up for final issue. Still a cool ride, with plenty of thrills and chills, even here at the end.
Powers #24 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art: Mike Avon Oeming
We’re in one of those lots-of-stuff-going-on parts of the current story, where the main arc is resolved, but the Walker-Deena relationship is coming to a head — but not until next issue. As a single comic, this isn’t that satisfying, but as a chapter of the overall story it’s OK. Probably. Depending on what happens next. That’s the talent of Bendis and Oeming on this book, though — they screw around with us, the readers, knowing how much we care about these characters, and play with our expectations of whether everything will be put back reasonably happily by the end of the story. It’s frustrating, but satisfying when the resolution comes. If it comes satisfactorily. Damn it….
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #3 (of 4) — Writer: Kurt Busiek; Artist: Brent Anderson
Twelve years now, of Busiek and Anderson (and Alex Ross on the covers), and this book is still delivering some of the most solid, entertaining superhero stories available. It’s a good argument for creator-owned material, too, since the books only come out when they’re ready, and there’s no pressure to crank out lesser-quality material at a faster pace; when you buy an issue of this comic, you know you’re getting the top effort from everyone involved. If you’re a superhero fan, this should be an automatic buy, every time.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #29 — Writer: Tony Bedard; Penciller: Kevin Sharpe; Inkers: Mark McKenna & Jack Purcell
New creative team, which is kind of disappointing — both the scripting and art are a notch below the Waid/Kitson pairing — but the transition’s smooth enough, and this penultimate chapter of a long arc moves along briskly and hits most of the right notes.