Black Summer #5 (Avatar Press): The character of Kathryn is an obvious cipher here for Ellis’ political views regarding Blackwell, The Iraq Occupation, and US foreign policy in general. It’s quite transparent in fact, but it’s still remarkably relevant, valuable, and palatable. Kath’s position of revolting against a coup d’etat that’s an inside job by those in power is pretty creative. The unnamed General and Colonel “Bob” share a great conversation that can be boiled down to the sentiment that “dissent is patriotic.” It’s all about the value of listening to a dissenting voice in a true democracy and it’s topped off with some brilliant procedural military tactical crisis management government babble that just flows perfectly. Juan Jose Ryp’s art is still on point, a luscious hybrid of Frank Quitely and Geoff Darrow, check out the half page shot of a group of humvees, the tiny details and dynamic kineticism of the figures scurrying about. Grade A.
Suburban Glamour #3 (Image): I was really taken with the basic, noble morality of Astrid’s friends, and that’s really representative of why I like this title. The ethereal, magical bits are actually not as good as McKelvie’s accurate depiction of the seemingly aimless teenage suburban lifestyle. He captures the spirit of the mood and his clean lines and sparse details create some really iconic images, such as the shot of Astrid looking out over the city. Grade A-.
Action Comics #861 (DC): It’s really been about 20 years since I’ve picked up Action Comics with any sort of regularity. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have made it worth the wait, with a Superman/Legion story that’s truly a fun adventure, with inventive ideas. Johns offers a quick lesson here involving what happens when those in power control information. They can bend it and write the “official” version of history, despite real accounts to the contrary, which are largely suppressed. This is really everything that Action Comics should be and spurts of stories like this that sporadically run are why this title has been around for nearly 900 issues. Grade B+.
Narcopolis #1 (Avatar Press): Jamie Delano, one of the original Vertigo writers on John Constantine – Hellblazer, and artist Jeremy Rock give us a really Orwellian faux-utopia here, complete with a “big brother” voice and abbreviated language patterns, with hybrid words like “BadEvil.” There’s a few interesting ideas scattered about, like the government’s view of citizens saving more money than they spend creating a recession, which is bad for a totalitarian economy. It’s overall an interesting premise, but the goofy technospeak is all a little over the top and hard to slog through: “EradiCare AutoEros HoloCombat SlickTime FearPure.” Yeah. Grade B.
Conan #48 (Dark Horse): In the wake of Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord’s departure, Conan has become a good book – and that’s a bad thing, because it used to be great. Tomas Giorello’s art is good, reminiscent of Tony Harris even, but for me it doesn’t capture the hard angular lines and brutal savagery that I associate with Conan. Timothy Truman also has a good mastery of the character and settings, but it doesn’t have that inexplicable extra spark in the narrative that Busiek’s scripts possessed. I’ll stick with this book until the run ends with #50, but I have a feeling I won’t be on board for the relaunch, as I begin to cull the titles I buy down to the great ones, not just the good. Grade B.
Project Superpowers #0 (Dynamite Entertainment): At one point or another, nearly every publisher has thrown some characters together in a petri dish and tried to recreate the happy accident that was Watchmen. It seems that with this title and Marvel’s recent The Twelve, it’s happening now more than ever. Taking a bunch of washed up characters in the public domain and adding some retro WWII Hitler mystical interest is one of those ideas that works well on paper, but when pen and ink finally meet said paper, is just… boring. Some of the character designs are intriguing, but the story itself is obtuse and cryptic, and the prose is so dense that I felt like I was reading a prose novel with pictures. I’ve enjoyed much of Alex Ross and Jim Krueger’s work, early pencils and sketches from Doug Klauba and Stephen Sadowski looked promising, but alas, this was a real snoozer. Only because it was a $1 promo issue for 28 pages, Grade B.
Spider-Man: With Great Power... #1 (Marvel): I’ll caveat this up front by saying that I really don’t like Spider-Man. Pause. Pause. Pause. I know that will sound like comic book blasphemy, so let the booing and hissing commence! He always came off as a whiny doofus, never seems to act reasonably or responsibly, despite the infamous tag phrase this very mini-series employs, and the overt humor never sat well with me. That said, I figured if anyone could sway me, it might be this creative team. I’ve enjoyed David Lapham’s Stray Bullets and Tony Harris is just a great artist. Ahem. However… here we go with another re-telling of Spider-Man’s origin story. Aside from a blatant media/marketing angle, there’s nothing different or new or fresh offered here. We get some really dated high school antics with an “atomic wedgie.” I mean, come on. How rooted in 1960’s tomfoolery is that? It’s also ludicrous that a road race between a VW Karmann Ghia and a Plymouth Prowler would ever be considered even remotely competitive. Not only is Peter portrayed (still) as a big douche here, but he’s also full of lies and deceit and depicted as a thoroughly unlikable character. Sorry, but I still don’t get the allure. Grade C-.
Y: The Last Man #60 (DC/Vertigo): I confess that I’m a sporadic reader of this title. I pop in and out, try to keep up with the major events and even own an early trade or two. I enjoyed the flash forward of 60 years, used by Vaughan as an Aaron Sorkin-line storytelling device. I really only showed up for this issue out of curiosity to see what started the plague and how it would resolve. Instead I got a bunch of clones of Beth, Yorick, and Ampersand running around for no discernable reason. This issue looks nice, but certainly isn’t friendly to anyone as a stand alone story or one that offers a neat and tidy wrap up. Nobody can just pick this up without having read the series in its entirety. Admittedly, that’s not me. As I’m not qualified to really review this, Grade N/A.