These anniversary packages can be a drag sometimes, with too much self-importance and congratulation weighing things down, but this one gets it right: it starts with a James Robinson/Chris Samnee story about the day the FF went up in that rocket and kickstarted the Marvel Silver Age, focusing not on the event but on what a bunch of other characters were doing at the same time; it’s jammed with little bits of continuity and Easter eggs, and… well, come on, it’s Samnee art, and it’s a great opener. Then, Bruce Timm illustrates the first comics story Stan Lee ever had published, a text piece in Captain America #3 in 1941 (Yes, Stan’s been working in eight different decades), and his full-on Kirby Kartooning mode is equal parts awesome and fun. Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos offer a new Alias story, with Jessica going back to her private-investigator roots, while Bendis also sets up a bunch of parody covers of books Marvel never actually did (a Silver Age Squirrel Girl, a grim-and-gritty Power Pack, etc.) that artists like Bill Sienkiewicz and Kevin Maguire then illustrate. Mix in a Tom Defalco/Stan Goldberg Peter Parker story, and a Wolverine one by Len Wein and Paul Gulacy, and this really is an all-star celebration, and worth every penny of its $5.99 price.
Image has developed a reputation for high-quality indy books by top-level creative teams, many of them sf/fantasy-related, and this is the one that started the trend (well, maybe Walking Dead, but that was years before the current crop): as always, it’s fast-moving, imaginative and equal parts idea- and character-driven. Only one of the three main characters appears, and only then on the last page, but Staples makes it all look so good, and there’s so much going on otherwise, between the talking seal and the great Lying Cat splash and the spotlight on a couple of newer faces (the ones on the cover), that the reader doesn’t even notice. The book reaches one of its every-six-issues breathers here, as it’s time for the next trade collection to come out, but the last-page reveal guarantees that Saga’s many fans will all be back when the new issues start up again in a few months.
This is the second issue reprinting Smith’s online comic about early hominids in the world of two million years ago, and somehow it just looks better in print than it does online — the action flows more smoothly, and there’s a lot of it, as a big fight between the title character and a giant… ape, sort of… takes up most of the second half of the book and ends on a cliffhanger. Smith’s expert composition works better on the printed page, too, even in the sideways format used here — there’s a tendency to think of his Bone as a humor book, for kids, but that ignores just how well-crafted the story was, and how many dramatic moments it featured, and how perfectly everything moved around on the page. A work like this reminds us — which is not to say that there isn’t some humor here, too, and at least one quick slapstick scene where you can see elements of that earlier work peeking through — and indicates that Smith is still one of our top creators; whether or not you’re reading the work online, having it in a permanent format like this just makes sense.
This is a collection of some of the digital-first Wonder Woman stories, and all three here are smart, modern, kid-friendly versions of the character: Sean Williams and Marguerite Sauvage have her trying to deal with the modern world by being a rock star and helping some kids, while Ollie Masters and Amy Mebberson offer a team-up with Catwoman, and Gilbert Hernandez has her fight the old Justice League foe…. oh, who cares? It’s a freakin’ Wonder Woman story by Gilbert Hernendez! As Brian Hibbs has already pointed out, the one drawback to this book is the cover: it’s bloody, generic and boring, the polar opposite of the comics inside, and is likely to drive off exactly the fans who would most love the book’s contents. Don’t be put off by the stupidity of corporate DC: ignore the cover, buy this comic, enjoy it, and give it to any fans — female, especially — who might get hooked on the sharp, cool pop-art versions of Diana that it offers.
This series is Powell in full-on dramatic mode, instead of the goofy Mad-like style that he sometimes uses with these characters, and the emphasis is on sidekick Kid Gargantuan and his backstory — which ends up affecting the present plot, too, as a number of bad people (and some not-quite-people) attack the Goon’s town and friends, and everything gears up for a bloody climax next issue. There are the standard really-nice horror and noir effects, and some effective, restrained uses of color that work particularly well because so much of the book sticks to muted, almost-black-and-white tones; this is another comic that’s often under the radar, but always worth a look.
As the title says, this is the story of the Russian Mad Monk, starting as he’s at the height of his power and then flashing back to his early years. The big attraction is the Rossmo art: it’s good at the quiet parts, but when it gets to the six-page sequence of the drunken giant Russian guy with the axe fighting the bear, all the stops get pulled out, and it just shines.
David’s said in the past that he’s a big fan of The Ghost Who Walks, and he’s written his adventures before; his style, with its combination of humor and suspense, is a good match for the character, and Velluto’s solid, competent art is a perfect comlement (Velluto drew the Black Panther book for years, so he’s no stranger to jungle settings). David’s also said his dream matchup would be The Phantom and Tarzan — and while, contractually, he can’t quite do that here, it looks from the ending, and the cover to the next issue, as though he’ll be coming very close.
This is Vertigo’s third book in its “four color” series, the gimmick being that each collection has stories that, somehow, focus on one of the four primary colors used in traditional comics printing: cyan, black, magenta and, in this case, yellow. Two of the stories involve lemons, and one a traffic light stalled at that setting, while others just soak the background in the hue. Of the ten offerings, the best are a Gerald Way/Philip Bond tale about a cab driver and a supernatural child; a psychedelic “life is a journey” meditation with cool art by Toril Orlesky, a story about a haunted room by Marguerite Bennett and Bill Sienkiewicz, and a typically quiet, typically excellent work by Fabio Moon. There are five others, too, almost all with interesting work, so even though the book’s price is $7.99, there may well be enough here to spur your interest.
This is a typical Harley romp/jam session, written by the regular writers and also featuring art by Stjepan Sejic, Joe Quinones, Ben Caldwell, Kelley Jones, Rico Renzi and Michelle Madsen. However, the big gimmick is olfactory, not visual: a variation of “scratch and sniff” technology where, if readers rub their fingers on designated panels, various odors reveal themselves, from the benign (leather, suntan lotion, pizza) to the ridiculous (burps, garbage and other more-foul scents). This is even more fun than you might suspect, and makes this a perfect Hallowe’en comic to give to kids, who should find it both fascinating and, depending on the odor, gross. Rub it if you dare!
At the end of the last issue, Aaron took the gutsy step of having his viewpoint character, the guy who looked like he was going to be the lead player for the next 50 or 60 issues, beaten to death with a baseball bat. All righty, then: that’s the kind of swerve that indicates a creative team’s not messing around. This issue, the focus is on the man who killed him, the football coach of the scruffy small Alabama town where all the action takes place, and which is full up with the bastards in the book’s title. Where’s it going from here? I have no idea (although the dead guy had a daughter…), but I’m hooked.
Groo does what Groo does best, while Conan does what Conan does best, but somehow, both survive — because a hallucinating Sergio and put-upon Mark do what they do best, too, and it all works out, both in the fantasy crossover world where the two warriors meet and in the “real” world, where the biggest problems aren’t barbarians, but lawyers. If that all sounds confusing, read the mini-series: both Aragones and Evanier are expert storytellers, and it all makes perfect sense there.
This is the conclusion of the three-part story that answers the question: what ever happened to Richard “Nova” Rider, and how did he, Thanos and Peter Quill get out of the dying cancerverse they’d exiled themselves to at the end of the last Abnett/Lanning cosmic mini-series (you know, the one that ended long before any civilians knew or cared who or what the “Guardians of the Galaxy” were)? The answer won’t thrill Rider fans, but hey: a cosmic cube is involved, so it’s not like it has to be permanent….
Ennis continues his series of historically-accurate tales of combat, with this incarnation focusing on the American crews who flew B17 bombing runs out of England to Axis territory during WWII. As Joseph Heller did in Catch-22, he’s dealing with the very particular paranoia that occurs when you’re encased in a shell of fragile metal, high in the air, subject to flak from firing positions on the ground and German fighter pilots in the skies, with no real protection but your own machine-gunners and pure luck. Where Heller used this as the occasion for dark slapstick satire, Ennis is more focused on clear-eyed reporting, and meditations on matter-of-fact heroism; the result, as always with these books, is compelling comics storytelling.
We’re venturing into quick-hit territory now, with books that I’ve already talked about, and so don’t need to repeat my praise on, other than to mention that I’m still buying them. This one’s easy: Chaykin on The Shadow, in post-war Moscow, with a protagonist contemplating retirement but geared up for one last save-the-world adventure; other than Chaykin’s mildly annoying penchant for using Cyrillic lettering on English dialogue (to indicate when someone’s speaking Russian), it’s great, so why wouldn’t you buy this comic?
This is a comic about hope, with mankind driven to the ocean depths by a steadily-expanding sun, and one woman trying to save them, by searching, in the face of negativity and despair, for the evidence that will let them migrate to another planet. At this point, it’s all discouragement and betrayal, but Tocchini’s art continues to impress, and Remender’s got a very solid story going, so I’m trusting him to craft an inspiring tale out of these elements (if everyone dies and the book ends, I’m going to be so disappointed…).
So, it turns out the real star of this book is Zoe, who’s equal parts spunky smart preteen girl and ancient evil, and, while she isn’t exactly trying to do the right thing, at least she’s trying to avoid doing the wrong one (except, you know, when circumstances force her to slit someone’s throat). This is a good issue for newcomers to dip into, as it’s a satisfying, focused slice of a larger story that will hook them into coming back for more.
It makes me happy that the comics market can support a quirky, one-of-a-kind style like Kindt’s (even if he has to write some corporate DC books to live on while doing it). This is a relatively slow week for superheroes, so readers owe it to themselves to experiment: pick up this, or Vertigo Quarterly, or Rachel Rising or Low or War Stories or Tuki or Rasputin, and get lost in a comic you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
This comic, you probably do know about, and this typical issue continues the dimension-flung cast’s adventures, particularly Young Jean Grey in the Ultimate Universe, teaming with Miles Morales to try and get back home. It’s a little by-the-numbers, but Asrar does a not-bad Jean Grey, and a good Ganke and Miles, and of course they’re all Bendis’s characters to begin with, so it feels like a smooth little chunk of continuity.