Wasteland #8 (Oni Press): Another slick as hell issue. As our wayward refugees from Providence are uncomfortably settling into Newbegin, the tension is cranked up another 10 notches. This is like a ticking time bomb ready to go off, all of the plot threads are going to converge. It's going to be so crazy! Johnston is a real craftsman here, simultaneously advancing the plot, while filling in little holes in previously extablished material with clues about Michael, Golden Voice, and past residents of Providence. It all comes off seamless and entertaining to the reader. Mitten's art has come a long way and that's not intended to sound like a backhanded compliment. I loved his work on the Queen & Country: Declassified arc, but he seems to have grown so much as an artist here, varying his line weight, working harder at backgrounds. This guy is going to be a superstar one day - you saw it here first. It sounds overly simplistic, but this is just very professional storytelling from the creative team. Just like Michael's infiltration skills, do not underestimate this creative team. In some ways, Wasteland reminds me of Whedon's Firefly/Serenity universe, because it's so thoroughly worked out, so fully realized, you get the sense that the world extends forever, beyond the confines of the TV or the panel border. It feels real, which is the best compliment you can probably pay to a fiction writer. This title is brimming with politics, sex, religion, jealousy, and scandal. In short, it's full of what makes the world tick, making this that rare thing... even in a fantastical setting, it's become socially relevant. Grade A.
Fell #8 (Image): The style of the daily activity reports by Fell initially reads a little dense. But when you realize Ellis is going for a portrayal of a bleak, repetitive vibe, it works just fine. And hey, for $1.99, I'm up for any type of experimentation here. There are some priceless moments here, like the description of "death coffee" and its ingredients and effects. The tidbits about Fell's past across the bridge in the city are welcome as they help expand his persona and tolerance of different things (pimps beware!). Overall, a very effective issue that captures this bleak world, while offering just a small glimmer of hope in Fell's value of the human life. Grade A.
All-Star Superman #7 (DC): Can I just say that I love Quitely's Lois Lane? You can almost feel her shivering as she stands in the snow and her hair blows in that skimpy little dress. As not a huge fan of Bizarro, I dug this issue. I like the plausible (ok, not plausible, but finally explainable) explanation of the Bizarro world, the little treats like the Bizarro bits sometimes breaking the panel walls, and the random humor of viagra being the antidote to the Bizarro effects. The best part of this re-introduction had to be the twist at the end, a novel concept about one in x million copies being not so flawed. *That* is going to be an interesting showdown. You can't ask for a better Superman after Morrison & Quitely's version... because there isn't one. Grade A.
Tales of the Unexpected #7 (DC): The lead story achieves its goal (not in the way it intended) of horror by being totally horrible as usual. Grade F. As for the Dr. 13 back up feature, I can only quote the Puerto Rican Pirate guy: "Joo god me lob'sick baby." Azzarello swings for the fences again and delivers a hysterical, self-aware, meta-commentary adventure that belongs in that Pantheon of industry greats like Automatic Kafka and Flex Mentallo. We actually see a figurative and literal game of "52 pick up" as thinly disguised visages of the 52 architects, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and Greg Rucka are shown constructing the post-event DCU. I'm so impressed with Azz showing this side of his writing self and extending his skills beyond their typical comfort zone with this tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall-breaking surrealism. The commentary about "full stories dangerously close to being ignored" is a great plea against the multiversal events that end up nullifying previous continuity, which is balanced with the pressure to make the "universe current so people will believe." Smart not to choose sides in this battle, but simply present the conflict. All in all, a brilliant story. Please save Traci! I want to see more of her! The fact that I'm still paying $3.99 an issue to only enjoy a third of this book says it all. Long live Dr. 13 and his eclectic assemblage of cohorts. Grade A+.
BPRD: Garden of Souls #2 (Dark Horse): This issue walks a fine balance between fleshing out previously established bits like Abe Sapien's true origin and Captain Daimio's personality, while expanding the BPRD-verse and introducing some new robotic automaton characters and their master(?); the two threads on a seeming collision course. I'm starting to pick up a little Liz/Kate vibe too. Anyone see that? My only passive criticism is that since it's mid arc, it sorta' feels like "all middle" with not much happening. Grade A-.
New Avengers #29 (Marvel): I still don't know why the dual running narratives are necessary. All they do is create confusion as to where we are, both physically and in the timeline. Otherwise, this is entertaining enough. It's above average, but never quite acheives the level of greatness it's hoping for. My favorite bit was Rand attorney Jeryn Hogarth delivering some much needed bitch slapping to uber-dick Tony Stark/Iron Man, pointing out the ridiculous nature of enforcing this supposed "law." Yu's art now feels hurried, resulting in some sketchy and unifinished spots which don't live up to the usual level of refinement in earlier issues. It now seems clear that Ronin is neither Danny Rand, nor Matt Murdock. So who is it? Steve Rogers, perhaps? Would be a nice way to hide him in plain sight while he's supposedly "dead," making for a nice build toward an eventual showdown between Cap's hand chosen New Avengers and Tony's team of Mighty Avengers. Grade B.
The Nightly News #5 (Image): I'm starting to fear that this may ultimately be classified as a "noble failure." The savvy media critique is dead bang on, but as a narrative with a clear throughline, it's a bit obtuse and doesn't work as well as it needs to purely as a comic. I like the induction of terms like "culture of argument" and journalists thinking the public is overloaded with information as the public feels they are not told everything. It's a smart debate that highlights the fact that what the public actually wants is meaningful information. In that regard, that doesn't necessarily equate to more information. It's your standard quantity over quality debate. While the typos and factual errors have largely subsided, there is still the occasional gaffe like referncing Pachelbel's "Chaconne" as a wedding song. Isn't it Pachelbel's Canon? Sounds rude to say, but the most exciting bit of this for me was an ad for Ellis' Fell Limited Edition Hardcover collecting issues 1-8 due out in April. Grade B.
Stormwatch: PHD #6 (DC/Wildstorm): Not to over-caveat, but this is still a surprisingly strong and engaging read. The group dynamics are really handled nicely as we gear up for a showdown between alien baddies and a precinct full of regular Boys in Blue. I wish Gage and Mahnke were getting more credit for this overlooked title; Gage is quickly becoming one of my favorite new writers. Grade B.
52: Week Forty-Nine (DC): It's all Oolong Island, all the time this issue, which is really my least favorite thread of this mess. Man, if you thought Rob Liefeld couldn't draw feet, check out the disproportionate anatomical happenings of Eddy Barrows here, downright ugly. Not even the back up feature could save us this time around, as Don Kramer (the reason I stopped reading Dini's Detective Comics) gives us a JSA origin. Grade F.
I also picked up;
Wasteland: Volume 1: Cities in Dust (Oni Press): Do I really need to say anything more about this book? One of the best indy comics currenty on the stands. Buy it. Now. Buy more than one copy. It makes a great gift for anyone who likes comics, movies, TV, pop culture... hell, anyone that speaks the English language. Collects issues 1-6. Special thanks to Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, and the gang at Oni Press for using a pull quote right here from 13 Minutes to adorn the back of the trade! Thanks guys! Grade A+.
All-Star Superman: Volume 1 Hardcover (DC): Ok, everyone. Ready? It's the best Superman comic around. 'Nuff said. Grade A+.