The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #2 (Dark Horse):
Suffice it to say, Dark Horse has another unqualified hit on their hands. I predict that The UA will be the next BPRD-like phenom, that runs for years as a series of mini-series. Gerard Way has proven that he can hold his own as a "real" comic book writer and should no longer be referred to as "that guy from My Chemical Romance;" he's a fucking comic book writer through and through. Gabriel Ba's art is astounding in color, the covers by James Jean, and the ensuing the list of reasons why this title has everything going for it... does. not. end. I love Vanya as the estranged narrator; it's just flat out great all the way around. What sums up the off beat tone of the book for me is a nice line from new villain The Conductor: "I've written a new piece. The Apocalypse Suite. My life's work. Two parts Faust, three parts La Boheme, a dash of Messiah, and a bit of my own cantata." Grade A.
DMZ #24 (DC/Vertigo): As a big fan of DMZ, I'm slightly torn on this issue. Only because it's not full of the typical bluster and fury that a typical issue of DMZ is. Instead of that scathing commentary and visceral sequence of events, we get a somewhat quieter issue. That observation aside, it's a very fascinating story that highlights Amina, who was a bit player an arc or so ago. It's great to see the influences of her youth that led to the pieces of her story we're already familiar with. And though it doesn't necessarily advance the macro-plot of the DMZ-'verse, it's a treat nonetheless to see real world references to 9/11 pre-Civil War, and also get some of the minor character backgrounds fleshed out a bit. There are some striking scenes revolving around Amina's youth that effectively tell us quite a bit about her personality in just a few panels. Even a quieter issue of DMZ can still be pretty insightful. Grade A-.
Checkmate #19 (DC): Checkmate's actually getting better as time passes. It's more taut with suspense, has bigger political thrills, and an increased complexity to the multiple plot threads running. In addition to some precious little character moments scattered around, there's a beautiful scene at S.T.A.R. Labs' Ballistic Research Division that is pure Rucka in the way it rings and hums with a natural ear for dialogue and industry jargon, as Jessica Midnight and a Pawn try to analyze a sniper round. Just when Sasha Bordeaux, Michael Holt, and Taleb Beni Khalid begin to figure out how they're being played, Amanda Waller strikes right back, always staying one step ahead. It's a testament to her manipulative, political machinations that the assembled might of the White King, Black King, and Black Queen can barely keep up with the moves of her White Queen persona. Grade B+.
The Brave & The Bold #7 (DC): Well that was a long wait in between issues that really wasn't worth it, eh? Kara comes off totally unlikable and unsympathetic with no real character "in" for the audience to latch on to. The whole library plot device with Dr. Alchemy feels really hammered in and inorganic, as does the ending piece with the Challengers of The Unknown that's shoehorned in. The scenes with Superman should be the crescendo, but instead left me feeling a little flaccid. Scripting mis-steps aside, let's be clear though that the real treat here is the undeniable beauty of the great George Perez on art duty. He could probably illustrate the phone book and I'd march down every week and slap my $2.99 on the counter to behold his line work. Bob Wiacek (inks) and Tom Smith (colors) also deserve nods for just polishing off a breathtaking look for this less than intriguing story. I felt this title started extremely strong, botched the last issue of the first arc and apparently still hasn't recovered with this snoozer. I think I've got about two or three issues left in me to see if they get it back on track before I throw in the proverbial towel. But, The Flash and Doom Patrol next issue? Erm, ok. That best be some pretty entertaining Doom Patrol... fingers crossed. Based largely on the strength of the art alone this time out, Grade B.
The Death of The New Gods #1 (DC): I picked this up because Mister Miracle is one of my favorite characters of all time. I mean, really, who else in their right mind would get the original run from the 1970's all CGC'd in 9.0 or better? It's not like they're worth much as a collector's item. I think nostalgically I'm just wishing the Fourth World characters would be handled well, but they so seldomly are. Like much of Jim Starlin's work, the dialogue feels a little dense and sluggish (yeesh, and I'm saying this as a Dreadstar fan!). On the penciling side of the house, Matt Banning (whose work I enjoyed on the recent Mystery in Space mini-series) comes close at times (Black Racer, Orion...), but then there are some odd choices that make Jimmy Olsen's neck look like it belongs on Elongated Man, and Mister Miracle always seems to look as if he's in pain/surprised when in costume. And since when do Barda and Scott Free have The Kents over for dinner? And the end page? Hrmm, well... it does smack a little of the Sue Dibny ordeal, but if it sticks, I'll give some street cred for sheer cajones. Grade C.
Justice League of America #14 (DC): For every bit I like, there's a counterpoint that's utterly disappointing. The Superman/Black Lightning "team up" had its moments, but Luthor's over-the-top grandstanding monologues wore thin quickly. The Joker has a chuckle-worthy line, "Not that a rousing cavity search between loved ones can't be a good time...," but since when does Black Lightning have a plane? The action is fun enough I guess, but there's no real gravitas to this assemblage of baddies. Most importantly, Benes' art was digestable, right up until the two page splash that was pure in-your-face misogyny. Out of all the Justice Leaguers held captive, let's choose the three most prominent women on the team for our forced perspective shot and focus all of our manly secret girl loathing right on them. And in that shot, let's tie them all up in diminutive, unnatural poses that force their tits to stick up and out and their asses down and back into a nice S-curve so's we can better ogle their fleshy bits. Yes, let's class the joint up a little! (that's sarcasm, folks). Of course, let's put Wonder Woman (the most recognizable of the trio) right up front, all spread eagle like. Then, let's contort Black Canary and Vixen in such a way that we can look straight on at their asses, yet get a nice side profile shot of the tits, and still see their faces contorted in agony (or is that really pleasure, ladies? no means yes, doesn't it, sweeties? note sarcasm yet again, please...). To top it all off, let's really stick it to them and just make all their tits bigger than their fucking heads, since women, oh... I mean, girls, are stupid anyway. Overall, I'll just agree with Luthor: "It's unconscionable, isn't it?" I think I've invented a new grade, dirty penis. So in honor of dirty, to the power of penis (patent pending), we'll go with Grade Dp.