DMZ #18 (DC/Vertigo): There's never an end to Brian Wood's ideas. And it's a pleasure to see what's next, what direction the new arc will take to further develop this harsh reality. This time we get a look at the pre-DMZ formation of the Free States of America, with the militia movement. I like how Matty appears to have "gone native" from the perspective of his dad. It's a huge departure from the brash, punky kid we saw in the first issue. The boy has grown up and entertained us along the way. I loved the framing device of interviewing a soldier at the center of a friendly fire incident. This provides some flashbacks that have a very gritty Paul Pope level of surrealism courtesy of artist Nathan Fox. Each successive arc of DMZ seems to be better than the previous. This title is unstoppable. Grade A+.
Ex Machina #27 (DC/Wildstorm): Another solid issue that highlights a good personal attack, hints at future threats (or is it threats from the future?), and a fun new character (one that I hope will be recurring) in the form of the Mayor's OEM (Office of Emergency Management) Representative. Grade A.
The Brave & The Bold #3 (DC): Not as overtly fun or focused as the previous two issues, mainly due to some attention being spent on a plethora of bad guys as much as any of the other threads. What we do see of the Batman/Blue Beetle team up is a fun continuity consistent note with La Dama in Houston. That's balanced with an in-tone Lobo/Supegirl riff. I just wished these two threads had been scripted separately in two issues, instead of hammered together here. Grade A-.
The Mighty Avengers #2 (Marvel): It's hard to escape the feeling that Frank Cho is here just so we could get a mostly naked female Ultron. Is that really the most efficient design for a brilliant killing machine(?). Why does it look like Janet? Giving the benefit of the doubt here and hoping those questions will be directly answered. I feel like the flashback sequences are now all too common, that disjointed out of sequence storytelling that seemed to permeate everything in a post-Pulp Fiction generation of storytellers. I'll just blame Tarantino, not Bendis, for this cheat that can sometimes be an exercise in style over substance. Was it really necessary to have Mole Man and Ultron? Two classic villains in the very same, first arc? I'm sort of conflicted with this title. For everything I find to like, there's something that nags at me. Ares is proving to be very fun, The Sentry is not. Black Widow is handled really cool here, The Wasp is not. I like Warbird, not Tony... it's pulling at itself like a scab, for me. Overall, it's harmless, and if you ignore the post-Civil War issues, it's pretty solid superheroics. Yes, Cho's art is cheesecakey, but still very effective from a panel to panel storytelling standpoint. Grade B+.
Justice League of America #8 (DC): It's nice to see Shane Davis (Mystery in Space/Captain Comet) getting some work; he feels right at home here. While some things still don't hold up to the logic test, and the juggling of multiple narrative threads is still confusing at times, the undeniable fun of the moments being woven together stands. Where else can you get Geo-Force, the LSH, the JSA, and the JLA, off on a old fashioned team up, complete with gratuitous splash pages and littered with little fanboy moments? The execution may be flawed, but it's clear Meltzer loves these character as much as we do. What more do you want from a JLA book? Grade B+.
X-Factor #18 (Marvel): Khoi Pham's art is painful at times, but by the end he settles into a fair amount of consistency. David's scripting is one of the most entertaining around, he has the fun ability to juggle a large cast, advance the main plot(s), and hit all the right interpersonal shit along the way. Grade B.
Manhunter #30 (DC): Kate Spencer's adventures are still well written and touch on more sophisticated issues than many other titles, but the book now feels listless. Is this the last issue? Will it continue monthly? Will it come out sporadically? Could it be a series of mini-series? There seems to be no direction or communication to the fans, which falls perfectly in line with the editorial retardation of things like, say... Wonder Woman. Here she is attempting to hide in plain sight, buying a Humvee and wearing shades, but still sporting the gold tiara. Huh? Too bad the intent of the creators is mired in poor editing. Grade B-.
52: Week Fifty (DC): We start with a very majestic and nicely rendered JG Jones cover, then jump right into some awful art. I guess Black Adam is supposed to look like a zombie(?). Like a rock skipping across a pond at the hand of a 12 year old, we jump all over the place here, from China to Australia, to some places we've never seen in 52 before, never staying in one place long enough to do anything. Booster Gold and Rip Hunter(?) appear for a second, which is a welcome return to something recognizable that needs to be resolved, but they leave just as quickly, funny they were the main players 50 weeks ago, haven't been seen since, and now have only two issues to resolve their story. Somehow I don't have faith in that happening. The only well paced scene was Black Adam, sans magic word, wandering through the Middle East. That had gravitas and was depicted nicely. Everything else is just random nonsense. Grade D.
World War III #1-4 (DC): Decided to review these all in one since they're all part of the same stupid debacle. In no particular order (much like the scenes in the books), here are some random thoughts I painfully dealt with while reading... Isn't it hard to believe that basically every single hero in the DCU can't stop Black Adam? That's just painfully unbelievable and lacks credibility, insulting the ability of many of the heroes present. Apparently, WWIII is a Martian Manhunter mini-series(?). That seems to be the only logical conclusion since it's told from his point of view and now seems to focus on his arc. Was *that* necessary? Were we just itching to seem more of him in spite of him never being popular enough to carry his own title for more than say, 20 issues? On the one hand, I give Dan DiDio credit on the DC Nation page for saying essentially "we fucked up" and didn't have enough room in 52 to tell these bits... on the other hand, he's admitting "we fucked up" and didn't have enough room. Isn't that like... umm, I don't know... basically his whole job as an editor? Martian Manhunter hasn't really been in 52 before, yet here he is, starring prominently. Huh? Since when were Firehawk and Firestorm such a big deal in 52? Huh? Who is this new Father Time? Huh? Doesn't this seem unnecessarily violent? Black Adam ripping people's faces off, pulling out their arms, killing Terra and Young Frankenstein? Killing millions of peole in Bialya wasn't enough to get the point across? The most interesting bit of these books were the recurring ads for Kirby's Fourth World collections, though I do wish they'd collect them by title - I just want the Mister Miracle stories. Since when is Jason Todd running around as Nightwing? Huh? Doom Patrol? Batgirl and Deathstroke? What? DC's era of "drive by comics" continues unchecked, like Orcs raping and pillaging the Westfold, these feel like I'm in Oz and a twister ravaged the DCU, random characters and story bits flying by haphazardly in no discernible order. There are a couple handy bits about Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange, but they don't belong here - they should be in the main 52 book. Harvey Dent and Killer Croc? When did this happen? Where did it happen? Why is it here, now? It's all just a collage of disparate parts, there's nothing to focus on and follow from start to finish, the majority of items have nothing to do with what's been presented in 52 to date, and the parts that are connected, by definition, should be in the main 52 book - like Booster popping in and out indiscriminantly. Good luck figuring out who Aquaman is in this book vis-a-vis anything going on in his own title. Hawk & Dove? Who? What? This does superficially address Martian Manhunter's new look in his own OYL book, but again, was that a burning question? And shouldn't it have been handled in 52? Amanda Waller & Bronze Tiger? Umm, yeah, that belongs in Checkmate, thanks. This is the worst bits of 52, intensified by a factor of 10. It's unwieldy, lacks a coherent thought, and has no focus or editorial guidance. More tangents are introduced which have no conclusion and will also go unresolved. In issue four, we have a close up on Wildcat's knuckles. Alan Scott's ring. Wonder Girl's lasso. Hawkgirl's mace. And... Power Girl's tits? I guess that's the key to her power? What? Halo? Why? Lightning strikes Martian Manhunter and that transforms him? What? Why? What a desperate attempt to try and explain something that could be relevant to what 52 was intended to do. We end with the Monitors saying "Some lived. Some died. And some... changed." Ummm, ok. Wouldn't that be the case at any random moment in the DCU? What does it have to do in terms of commentary on this event? What does that even refer to? Nothing happens. DC is quickly becoming the little boy who cried wolf. Ohmygod, it's going to be this crazy event! We all rush over. Nothing happens. Ohmygod, it's going to change things! We all rush over. Nothing happens. Ohmygod, it's going to be spectacular! We all rush over. Nothings happens. They're just teasing Countdown now. Countdown to what? Your story has to be about something to be classified as a story. Who cares? Countdown to the next fabricated event where, you guessed it, nothing happens. I'm done. Ohymygod, it's going to be this crazy event! Hey, we said it will be cool... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's pitiful to me that the "content" (using that word loosely here) of these 4 issues couldn't just be in 52, DiDio basically admits that when it started, they had no idea where it was going, what the plan was, or what was going to happen, they were literally making it up as they went along. Using proof by counter-example, isn't this like the very definition of his job, a lack of editorial control? Random ending thought, I like how Donna is in the Wonder Woman bracelets on a cover, and then she's not even in the friggin' book! That move is just totally emblematic of the nonsensical lack of coordination, attention to detail, no plan fuck-off that this whole train wreck was. Grade F-.