Scalped #11 (DC/Vertigo):
The phenomenal flashback sequences set the stage for a surprising conclusion to this arc. Psychologically, it was really fascinating to see how a person's sense of guilt can lead to a delusional memory of past events. "Requiem For A Dog Soldier" proves that Aaron is on a roll with aptly titling the single issues in the Casino Boogie arc. This issue (and the arc itself) has provided a nice backdrop that fills in some of the experiences of the elder generation characters that came before Dash; we see how the world that he now must navigate was shaped and came to be. Scalped remains a unique and disturbing slice of Americana. Grade A.
Astonishing X-Men #23 (Marvel): After a long wait, this issue simply shows that it was worth it. The Breakworld has proven to be a very fascinating construct, complete with infighting and different factions vying for power. Whedon's love for Kitty Pryde is both obvious and welcome, since I totally share it. What we get here is a well played reveal regarding a shocking and brilliant ploy in the script. And visually, Cassaday is able to portray it in a very inventive way by re-telling the same scenes we've already witnessed, but now with the added layer of Emma's telepathic link. Of course, Cyclops is not dead, adrift in space, and he is certainly not without his mutant abilities. I didn't see it coming, but in one fell swoop, Whedon and Cassaday capture his fury, the teamwork and leadership he inspires, and for my money, the torch is officially passed to Scott Summers as leader of the X-Men as he utters Professor X's infamous phrase: "To me, my X-Men." Grade A.
Immortal Iron Fist #10 (Marvel): We're offered an interesting way in to begin appreciating the pathos of Davos and how he came to be a character foil for Danny Rand. The audience is finally granted some empathy toward his perspective. It's evident that Fraction and Brubaker are really having fun with this arc (Fat Cobra!), exploring the kung fu side of the "kung fu billionaire" equation, and you can certainly see what happens when writers say that the characters begin to "write themselves" and go in unintended directions. Grade A-.
Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #3 (Dark Horse): Over in this little corner of the Mignola-verse, we have the perfect little noir thriller, full of airships atop beautiful deco inspired skylines, arcane scientists, mysterious motives, fantastical settings, surprising twists, and likable characters. Grade B+.
Hellboy: Darkness Calls #6 (Dark Horse): The end of this arc is full of big, bold, and wide action sequences. The muted color palette really brings out the solitary red Hellboy figure and allows the art to pop. Yes, Duncan Fegredo's art is right at home here. Unfortunately, on the scripting end, I feel like this is a rather unwieldy cast, the superstory with the Hellboy mythos is growing pretty obtuse, and I'm basically growing weary of references to Hellboy bringing about (or not) the Apocalypse with his army. My perception is that I'm forever waiting to discover his ultimate destiny and it's now causing me to approach the property with a sense of ennui. Blasphemy, perhaps. But it's honestly how I'm feeling. Oh, and by the way, I know it's a small nitpicky detail, but I really expect more from Mignola. Having been there, since my family is from there... the Italian town is actually called Lucca (<- spelled like that), not "Luca" with one "c." For fuck's sake people, there's an annual Comics Festival there that's pretty darn famous in Europe, often mentioned in the same breath as Angeloume, France. Let's get it right. Grade B.
Y: The Last Man #59 (DC/Vertigo): Is #60 the last issue of this series? Didn't I hear that somewhere? Yes, I'm sure I read that somewhere. So, I certainly hope that the final issue is some form of wrap up issue that summarizes what's gone on and how's it's been ultimately resolved. I read the first 4 or 5 trades or so, pop in now and then to see what's up, (admittedly, I mostly picked this up for the Brian Wood Northlanders preview, which looks excellent btw), but I'm kind of lost here. It appears that there's some big important stuff with Beth and babies and Israelis and Agent 355, but I'm not really sure what it all means. Purely ostensibly, it doesn't feel like a very satisfying conclusion; it feels like there's still much going on and much to resolve. A not-entirely-fair-since-I-haven't-read-it-for-months, Grade B.
Omega: The Unknown #2 (Marvel): If Marvel had a Vertigo imprint (no, not the MAX line!), this would be in that line. End random thought factoid. Anyway, Farel Dalrymple's unique and eclectic art style carried me through the scripting confusion of the first issue, but here isn't able to. His art can be ethereal and offbeat, so it really needs a grounded and easy to follow story, like his work on Caper. Even his own Pop Gun War had boughts of otherworldly intrigue, but the story arc was always clear and evident. Here, I'm starting to lose interest because I really have no idea what's going on, or what the story throughline is supposed to be. It *looks* interesting, but I can't seem to find an in to latch onto that lets me explore and understand the rest of this world. There's no clear story presented, no character to identify with, and no everyman to view events through the eyes of in this weird urban fantasy. It's a fine line between mysterious and frustrating. Grade B-.
The Vinyl Underground #2 (DC/Vertigo): Not as strong as the first issue, with no real hook to find interesting. The characters now seem difficult to keep track of and I'm unclear why they're all taking the actions they seem to be. There's unclear motivations, lack of any appealing sexuality, a difficult to follow IM chat session, and art that's stiff in spots and lacking background detail. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt with one more issue, but I'm pessimistic as this seems to quickly fade out with a Grade C.