Scalped #4 (DC/Vertigo): Scalped continues its gritty, visceral depiction of a microcosm of society slowly crumbling away. Everyone here is trying to find a shred of honor or comfort, some way to build a life that shelters them from violence amid a world fraught with hidden motives, historical vendettas, sexual tension, and brutal honesty. This book serves as a shocking - and yes, entertaining - commentary on the plight of the few remaining indigenous people who inhabit third world like conditions, while residing simultaneously on US soil. Scalped deserves a much wider audience, and the weighty social commentary needs to be serialized in a forum like HBO. Yeah, it's that good. It could stand right up there with the pantheon of shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under that explore the societies within the society that compose the rich tapestry of American culture. Grade A.
Runaways #25 (Marvel): I haven't read this title since issue 18, as I've opted to pick up the digest sized trades. I was really curious to see how Whedon would handle his first issue and as expected it was a nice jumping on/transition point. He provided a great recap of what's happened to date, did some very straighforward character introductions (even the dead ones! even the gay ones!) right up front, and then plunged the kids into a cool story with Kingpin. It's got the trademark Whedon dialogue vibe and a really intense scene with Kingpin, proving that he doesn't need superpowers to be effective, only the will to do what his opponents won't. There's a really touching, but troubling scene between Karolina and Nico, and a surprise introduction of another "villain." Looks like we won't skip a beat between Vaughan and Whedon. Grade A-.
Justice League of America #7 (DC): I was wondering how this continuity gels with Wonder Woman? In the Wonder Woman book, she's not Wonder Woman, she's hunting Wonder Woman. But in JLA, Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman. Don't these titles occur at the same time in the same universe? Helloooooooo, DC Editorial... Hello? Anyway, it's a bit melodramatic with tears shed by both Hal and Dinah, but still a really cool touching moment as Hal and Roy embrace: "Welcome to the League, Red Arrow." There are also some nice nods to the original Outsiders continuity, with the friendship between Geo-Force and Black Lightning. Then we get the Superfriends Hall of Justice? Hrmm. That's either the coolest fanboy fan service moment, or utterly ridiculous. I'm still a bit undecided. It was interesting though that the facade is there for the public with immediate slide to the satellite. And, on the satellite? Meltzer throws in a sneaky "dangerous room," that Niles Caulder (Doom Patrol's old professor in a wheelchair) built. Sound familiar, anyone? The foldout was a little gimmicky, but it's a pretty cool, majestic shot nonetheless. Overall, there are some pretty fun moments here, but I got the sense there's no story per se, just a series of fun moments loosely strung together. I still have quite a few quibbles and reservations, but you can't really deny the mindless fun of this book. Grade B.
52: Week Forty-Eight (DC): The "twice named daughter of Cain." Katherine Kane. Kate Kane. Katherine "Kate" Kane. Batwoman. Bat-Woman. Kate "Batwoman" Kane. Umm, what the fuck are you talking about? They're trying really hard to make some byzantine distinction here that I just don't see, moreover, it's not really relevant to the plot anyway. This was so Retard-o Montalban and didn't make any sense. Darick Robertson's pencils are good (in that they're better than any other of the 52 artists we've seen so far), but bad (in that they're really rough and sketchy, hurried perhaps, compared to his usual work). And you're telling me that Nightwing, the second in command to Bats, Mr. Second-Best-Detective-In-The-World doesn't know who the fuck Renee Montoya is? He can't spot a former prominent GCPD officer? Whatever. That's almost as bad as Sarge Steel, Nemesis, and the entire Department of Metahuman Affairs not being able to tell that their 6 foot tall Amazon goddess named Diana Prince is not in fact, Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka: Wonder Woman. This book is like getting hit in the face with a shotgun blast. I am disoriented at everything happening, incredulous at nothing being resolved, don't know where to look or who to blame, what to focus on, and it feels totally violently random. This is "drive-by" comics. Yes! Can I coin a new term for haphazard and reckless storytelling? I thought that during the missing year, Bruce, Tim, and Dick went on a cruise or something? I'm so confused on the timeline. As usual, a decent backup story spotlighting the Birds of Prey. Grade D.
Painkiller Jane #0 (Dynamite Entertainment): Sure, I like to look at little hotties pulling their panties down and getting their asses tatted while licking phallic lollipops as much as the next cat. I just usually like a little more, I don't know... *story* while ogling such a mildly titillating set piece masquerading as a plot intersection point. Next time, let's spend less time on the myriad of alternate covers and put in a little more script time, boys. The dialogue is painfully deliberate in its construction, totally unnatural and laborious to sit through, has no sense of flow, and involves more about an unclearly motivated shootout than Jane herself per se. Is this really how we want to introduce a possible TV crossover audience to the character? Even for a 25 cent promo issue, this was pretty awful. Grade F.