Ex Machina #34 (DC/Wildstorm): I like the shift over to focusing on Angiotti, who is surprisingly interesting and by no means one dimensional. I deeply appreciated the realism of the shootout, it happens quickly with no time for smart-ass quips, and is essentially over before anyone even realizes what’s happening. Jack Pherson remains a solid counterpoint of a villain that highlights the dichotomy between nature (him) and technology (Hundred). Vaughan recently admitted that like Y: The Last Man before it, Ex Machina will also have a definitive end planned that’s looming on the horizon. I’m looking forward to all the unresolved plot threads, (like Pherson) and the info provided by the recent Papal arc, all coming together. Reminiscent of the very first issue, Vaughan leaves us with an unexpected last page reveal that’s beautifully depicted, unexpected, smile-inducing, and sweet homage. The Number of the Beast preview offers yet another story that plays around with the pantheon of familiar archetypes and offers little beside Chris Sprouse’s pencils. As an aside, I vote for him to take over as artist on The Brave & The Bold when Perez departs. Grade A-.
Zorro #1 (Dynamite Entertainment): Damn it! Why didn’t my LCS order the John Cassaday cover? The Wagner cover is great, but I want Cassaday! Deep breath. Ok. Ahem. Matt Wagner and Francesco Francavilla (who did a really cool Nightwing sketch for me at the CBLDF booth at the San Diego Con last year) provide a really crisp introduction to the character that’s able to capture the mystery of the legend. Francavilla’s creative page layouts are really enhanced by the lush coloring of Adriano Lucas. You can really see how Diego’s father and his cultural ambition were strongly imprinted upon his son. There are many bits I enjoyed here, including the fox as a totem and the interesting imagery that serves as a precursor to Bruce Wayne’s exploits, however I didn’t feel the emotional hook that Zorro’s “sister” book The Lone Ranger hit me with in the debut issue. A cautiously optimistic, Grade A-.
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #6 (Dark Horse): The end of this initial arc feels a bit abrupt, but this is still a fascinating and fun new property. I think the basic character archetypes are actually pretty standard, as is the action and melodrama, but when they’re placed in the nuanced fantastical settings provided by Gabriel Ba’s art, the whole aesthetic becomes a little greater than the sum of it’s constituent components. I think this book is very good, but am anxious to see if it can defy it’s beginnings and become great. Grade A-.
The Brave & The Bold #10 (DC): The narrative flow is quite disjointed as we skip from set to set, but we do get an eclectic and fun tour of some oddball corners of the DCU. The Teen Titans story has a very vanilla sort of innocent charm to it, but the real treat as usual is George Perez’s luscious and detailed art. As Hannibal Tabu over at CBR has so aptly termed things lately, it’s a bit of a “confectionary” treat. It looks pretty with a glossy aesthetic, tastes sweet and delicious, but doesn’t make a lasting or nutritious meal by any means. I dig it, but I need to read something else to be full. Grade B+.
Checkmate #23 (DC): I love the White Queen in crisis management mode, as the script hums with some of the best Rucka espio-speak in recent memory. It’s nice to see the resurgence of the undercover Pawn 502 plotline. Bennett draws a downright hideous Superman, but his inclusion is otherwise fun. The Castellan preparing to brief owes a bit to a Jack Ryan scene in The Hunt for Red October and the Ops Room monitors with mission status are pure Queen & Country, but the issue is otherwise high on originality. I like the simple, but believable little treats like Sasha calling Superman “sir.” Overall, this is a pretty thrilling spy book that’s solidly rooted in the superheroics of the DCU, thus providing a nice balance of two genres I really enjoy. The Titans “preview” does not provide sufficient data to make any strong conclusion. There are two pages of competent art, then two pages of horrific art, all with no story. Grade B.
Conan #49 (Dark Horse): The narrative this issue feels pretty heavy, with scarce dialogue in spots. I liked Conan exhibiting a moment of compassion in the way he chooses to save Princess Ereshka. This allows the story to move forward nicely as they both are indebted to Iniri. This is a good enough story, but is a bit difficult to muster excitement for since this incarnation of the book will conclude next month. Grade B.
The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall & The Green Mist of Death #1 (Marvel): Ok, I say this as a fan of Matt Fraction and as a fan of the regular Iron Fist series. But… this did not work for me. One, I don’t understand why I had to pay an additional $3.99 for material that could have just as easily been included in the regular ongoing title. There are already numerous flashbacks and different artists fleshing out the early Iron Fist lore taking place in that book, why is this content any different? Two, there are way too many artists at work here. When I have to tune my eye to eight (yes, that’s eight, ocho, 8!) different artists, the jumps become extremely jarring. Lastly, there’s just some odd dialogue choices here. They were completely lost on me. I don’t know if they were supposed to be kitschy humor or what, but this preoccupation with “Chores” and “the whites of their thighs” just was not something I appreciated. Your mileage may vary. Grade C-.
I also picked up;
Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye (Dark Horse): Nice to see volume three in the Fear Agent saga collected so soon.
Fablewood Anthology (Ape Entertainment): Basically picked this up on the recommendation of Big Tom over at .newseedcomics.