Punctuation Really Does Matter!

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" aks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

Panda: large black and white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

Finally a book that gets it right! I'm not the only grammar, spelling, and punctuation geek out there. Lynne Truss' new book aptly titled "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" is a wonderfully hip tour through solid examples about why this stuff is so cool. Proper command of punctuation can make all the difference. Don't believe me? Check out the biblical passage from Luke, where a single stray comma can make all the difference as to whether you make it to heaven or not.

5.24.06 Reviews

Powers #18 (Marvel/ICON): Very fulfilling issue as the stand-up comic riff comes to a close, the flirtatious bisexual vibe from the FBI chic really hits on all cylinders, and Deena absolutely hits rock bottom with a fantastically rendered flashback sequence. First rate graphic storytelling. Grade B+.

Checkmate #2 (DC): For everything I like about this book, there's something I don't. I kinda' dig the cool mix of characters that make up this new incarnation of Checkmate. But I think Kobra is a retarded, hokey villain. I kinda' dig the espionage that Rucka weaves in Queen & Country style. But some of the dialogue, like the post-love scene between Mister Terrific and Sasha Bordeaux is ridiculous. I kinda' dig that the black side of the board is the covert ops arm of the organization, while the white side is the political arm. But then there's Alan Scott's eye patch. I mean really, what the hell is that about? It's serious and intriguing, then it's campy and expository, which makes it all kinda' average. Grade C+.

52: Week 3 (DC): For a second, I was really excited about the 52 project, but it's turning into dreck pretty quickly. Anyone who's ever been around a crime scene knows it doesn't work that way. Hearing anyone but Courtney (Stargirl) refer to Power Girl as "Pee Gee" is jarring. The lame-ass villain on the air-Harley just hurt to look at. The rebelliousness of Steel's daughter or whoever is wearing thin quickly. The Kahndaq bits with Black Adam are boring. The Booster Gold show is growing tiresome. I mean, yes, just find Rip Hunter already and sort out the time travel thing and why things aren't turning out as predicted. Time travel stories rarely work anyway, right? The fact that Booster is there in the "past" anyway, his very presence alters the future, it's basic Back to the Future logic, so that whole story thread is flawed. All in all, 52 just lacks any narration to let me know how all this crap is supposed to be connected. Like, what's the *story* here? So far, it feels like a bunch of disparate scenes strung together with not even a courtesy strand of dental floss or flick of scotch tape. I want to read it to know what happened in the "missing year," but so far it looks like nothing at all happened worthwhile. And the "History of the DC Universe" featurette in the back is basically a big barrel of monkey spunk. Grade D-.

X-Factor #7 (Marvel): Peter David's scripting remains very strong and engaging, I love the voices he brings to these interesting characters. And the cameo from Scott Summers was great. But, Jesus H, man! FIND A REGULAR ARTIST ALREADY!!! Dennis Calero got in, what, an issue and a half, as replacement for Ryan Sook? And now, here comes Ariel Olivetti with no explanation? What the hell? Who is drawing this book? It's very annoying and is starting to push me out of the story, which is unfortunate, because it's a good one. And I'm sorry, but Olivetti's style is just a little too cartoony and soft for the dark tone of this book. And what's with Peter David saying this is the last letters page? Is it cancelled already? Even before the Civil War crossover? Haha! Fuck man, just when this book was getting rolling, it's rolling off the tracks from a project management standpoint. Writing is an A, art fluctuations are a C at best. Overall, Grade B.

Squadron Supreme #3 (Marvel): Dude, I don't know what's happening with this book. The MAX run was one of my favorite books in the last few years. But this. Whew! It feels like a mess. All of the "extra" characters that were brought in after the MAX line just don't feel right. Too many to juggle and I don't have the history with them to care about them. And this story line was just so flawed logically. The dude controls minds so let's all rush in so that he can mind fuck us and make us fight eachother. How smart is that for America's secret super team? Lame. And holy shit, what a preachy political issue. The book had already been working as political analogue, you don't need to spoon feed us your political position. Grade C+.

The New Avengers #19 (Marvel): Worked about as well as they all do. Mindless entertainment, but don't eeeven try to apply any logic to it. Why is Iron Man suddenly the exposition king? Why does he choose to explain that you can't talk in the vacuum of space and then... proceed to do just that? Why is Tony not actually in the armor? Why isn't it more of a big deal that Director Maria Hill of SHIELD just unmasked Spider-Man? Does this happen before or after the first issue of Civil War, because if it's supposed to happen in the order they were released, it makes zero sense whatsoever from a continuity standpoint. Why don't I care who the "Michael" in space is? Oh wait, those are all pretty logical questions... never mind. Grade C.

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #5 (Marvel): Definitely a fun issue as the humor starts to creep back up to par with initial issues, and the self referential bits about the Marvel U with the Avengers, Cable & X-Force, etc. play pretty well. Immonen's pencils, aside from maybe ShockRockets, have never been better. Bang up character designs, inks, and colors. Which reminds me... damn was I bummed that my local shop sold out of the coloring book edition of this book before I could pick one up! COOL idea! I still want one! Grade B+.


5.17.06 Reviews

It's been one of those weeks with precious few moments to do full reviews, but quite a few great books came out. I also tried to make some personal time for writing a new story that's quite personal, so here's a very quick run down of some gems from this week.

Castle Waiting: Collected Edition (Fantagraphics Books): I only read a stray issue or two of Linda Medley's masterpiece. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for packaging and this slick hardcover edition was one that I couldn't pass up. Collects everything in one place.

Conan: Volume 3 (Dark Horse): This hardcover collects The Tower of the Elephant arc and a few other stories. I stopped picking up single issues of this book and am content to wait for these handsome editions. The bonus materials and "reads better collected" factor make it a no brainer.

War-Fix (NBM): Don't know a thing about this, but NBM's offerings are usually strong and the art quickly passed the casual flip test. Looks like some autobiographical journalism in Iraq.

Jack Staff #10 (Image): Wow, it's been a while since anything by Paul Grist came out. No idea what's going on in this book anymore. I tried picking up the single issues. I tried just getting the trades. Seems I've lost interest in anything past the Everything Used to be Black & White trade. Trying. One. More. Time.

DMZ #7 (DC/Vertigo): This book never disappoints. Can't wait to read it! Happy to see DC will be quickly publishing collected editions of this great Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli series.

Fear Agent #4 (Image): My new favorite book from Image. It's just so much fun to read. Cross Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity feel with a heaping dose of Indiana Jones and some kooky 1950's sci-fi tropes and you'll get an idea of the fun romp this book offers.

Fell #5 (Image): Best thing Warren Ellis has done probably since the inception of Planetary and the recent Desolation Jones mini-series. Pick it up now. It's only $1.99 each issue and every issue is self contained with some very imaginative layouts courtesy of Ben Templesmith.

Batman: Year 100 #4 (DC): Can't wait to see how this wonderful Paul Pope saga wraps up. Will definitely be picking up the trade. This was the best Batman book on the stands while it lasted.

52: Week 2 (DC): Read this a couple times and it might actually be settling in nicely. Feels a bit more character driven than event driven and I'm starting to like the lack of Bats, Supes, and WW in favor of spotlighting some bit players in the DCU. Grade B.

Shadowpact #1 (DC): Primarily wanted to see Bill Willingham write and draw something, but my attention faded quickly. Kind of fun to see the odd conglomeration of Blue Devil, Ragman, Enchantress, Detective Chimp, etc., but it didn't hold me. Obligatory cameos from Supes and GL with a not-to-interesting story. Good, soft, cartoony lines from Willingham, but will be passing on future issues. Grade B-.

Talent #1 (Boom! Studios): This much hyped Boom! project from Golden, Sniegoski, and Azaceta was a bit of a let down. Core premise was of average interest. Art felt pretty generic and lacked detail. And I guess I'm just tired of trying to figure shit out, like with the TV show Lost, which this is being compared to. Hiding information from your audience and stringing them along does not automatically equate to engaging or quality writing. It's just an artifical hook that can backfire if the payoff doesn't live up to the hype. Grade B-.


5.10.06 Reviews

Ex Machina #20 (DC/Wildstorm): The recent consensus of a few online critics has been that Ex Machina is slipping in quality. I don't see it. I think the pacing of the stories is a bit slower, as Brian K. Vaughan attempts to incorporate some more "real world" issues into the stories over outright superheroics or simply relying on flashy "Mamet-esque" dialogue. I still dig it. This one has a shocking ending! Grade B+.

Captain Atom: Armageddon #8 (DC/Wildstorm): This series is so much fun! The showdown of Captain Atom and Grifter vs. Apollo and The Midnighter was really cool! God, I hope Grifter is ok, I've followed him through so many incarnations, from the original Jim Lee to Scott Lobdell & Travis Charest, to Joe Casey & Sean Phillips, to Joe Casey & Dustin Nguyen, and now here. But we know he'll be ok for the Grant Morrison & Jim Lee resurrection, right? I don't really know what's going on in terms of destroying universes, assume it will all get resolved since we've already seen Captain Atom on "New Earth" over in Infinite Crisis, I'm just really enjoying all the Wildstorm gang in one place! Strong art from Camuncoli and a great voice over narrative courtesy of Will Pfeifer. Grade B+.

52: Week 1 (DC): I know it's the first issue and it's hopefully ramping up, but this was pretty boring. There's this attempt to make it feel like so much is happening in this "missing year" due to the condensed nature of the format, but I don't see it. We've seen the end of Infinite Crisis and we've seen the beginnings of the One Year Later stories and not much has changed, so how interesting could the time in between be? Hoping I'm proven wrong. Grade C-.

Also picked up the following pile of things which I'm looking forward to reading;

Popbot #7 (IDW): Been a while. Wasn't sure if more were coming due to Ashley Wood's sporadic nature. Looks like the first ish of "Season 3." Hoping there is more story to this and less pin up art.

Borrowed Time (Oni Press): Much of Oni's recent material has been hit and miss for me, mostly the latter. But the preview art looked really interesting on this, and for the price, it wasn't a very risky proposition.

Fate of the Artist (First Second): I really do dig the First Second logo - a stylized :01. And they launched quite a few of these digest sized books this week. Really excited about that. Looked like an interesting Eddie Campbell project. Hope it is more intriguing and doesn't lean toward being self-indulgent.

The Lost Colony (First Second): Art looked... interesting, I suppose is the nicest way to put it. But I was taken by the book design and interesting premise.

Vampire Loves (First Second): This is a collection of previous released material. And ever since the Anne Rice cults of the early 90's and culmination of Whedon's Buffy series, I've basically been all vampired out. However, Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat is one of my favorite books, so I picked this up based solely on trust in the creator.


Free Comic Book Day 2006 Report

This year, I tried 3 different comic book shops, with wildly different results. My first stop and my usual weekly store, Comickaze, was by far the best. In addition to the full spread of free publications, they also had a hand full of local creators, including Tom Waltz, writer of Children of the Grave, from Shooting Star Comics. Had a pleasant chat with Tom, he signed a free copy of issue #1 for me, and reported that the first arc of his book would soon be collected by IDW with a really slick cover from Dan Brereton. Also present was Mike Miller, writer of Deal with the Devil (Alias Enterprises), Lullaby, and The Imaginaries from Image. Got signed free copies of all of them.

Visited 2 other shops which were crap, so no free publicity for them. One of them had nothing else going on and didn't even order all of the free books, they stuck primarily to DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image offerings. The last store was by far the worst, no signage for the free books, and they also had a gaming tournament in full swing. It was difficult to get in, their typical selection of comics was buried and inaccessible, and yeah, having to search for free books on Free Comic Book Day is kinda' ridiculous. Lesson that all retailers should learn: The free books on Free Comic Book Day only get people into your store. They don't keep the people there lingering. And they don't get the people to spend money. Smart reatailers bolster the spread of free books with a promotion of some sort. Creator signings, sales on graphic novels, raffles, and trivia contests. Anyone who hasn't figured this out by now and isn't taking advantage of the droves of free people is just... dumb. Bravo Comickaze. Boo everyone else I saw this year. On to the offerings;

Bongo Comics Free-For-All (Bongo Entertainment): Pretty funny Simpsons, Futurama, etc. stuff. Aimed squarely at the direct market. Nice assortment. Enyoyed all of the Simpsons strips and the Nuclear Power Man and Iron Foot story. Grade B.

GI Joe: Sigma 6 (Devil's Due Publishing): Totally completely crap. Craptastic. A crapfest. Wonky art and ridiculously stupid dialogue. Grade F.

Star Wars/Conan Flip Book (Dark Horse): Perfectly *ok* Conan and Clone Wars stories. Doesn't particularly make me want to search out additional issues of either series though. Grade C.

Transformers: Infiltration/Beast Wars Flip Book (IDW): Looks like someone took a Transformers shaped shit on some nice paper. Incomprehensible story. Grade F.

Justice League Unlimited #1 (DC): Perfectly decent JLU story, but this is the same free book that DC has put out for like 3 years running, so it's growing old. Grade B-.

Superman/Batman #1 (DC): Perfectly good (insert title here) story, but this is the same free book that DC has put out for like 3 y-- whoa! Deja vu. Grade B.

Future Shock Sampler (Image): Reviewing these in the order I read them, and this is by far the best so far. Once I saw both a Fear Agent and a Godland short, the rest was just gravy. Nice smattering of Image shtuff, Invisible, Witchblade, Shadowhawk, Noble Causes, Spawn, and Savage Dragon. Not all my cup of tea, but just enough "tone" in all of them to make a good representative peak, enough to make someone curious for more. Grade A.

Free Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press): Everyone raves about how great Scott Pilgrim is and I *still* don't get it. It just reads so flat and uninteresting to me. The best part of this book for me was the back page ad for Leading Man by B. Clay Moore & Jeremy Haun. Can't wait! Grade C.

X-Men/Runaways (Marvel): Umm, what? How a great writer like Brian K. Vaughan can take two perfectly serviceable properties and make them so boring is quite a surprise. Really, *nothing* happens. I do like how Marvel tried to put some different things in here, but the X-Men/Runaways story bombed, the Franklin Richards story bombed, The Marvel Adventures story had pretty art, but lame-o writing that was little more than character intros, and the loooong text pieces for Ultimate Spider-Man? Yeah, way to show off the comic book medium guys. Take arguably your hottest character and don't do comics with him, just put a bunch of dull text in there. Awesome. Grade D.

Viper Comics Presents (Viper Comics): Dead @ 17 is their most successful book. Instead of a Dead @ 17 story, we get a few pages of pinups from it and story samples of other not-so great books. If it wasn't for Kazu Kibuishi's (Image's Flight Editor/Contributor) Daisy Kutter, this company wouldn't have a single book that I like. Bad, bad, bad decisions. Grade D.

Mr. Jean (Drawn & Quarterly): Now this was classy. Just like Time Magazine says, "the most elegant comics publisher in North America." Great sampling of material from Philipe Dupuy and Charles Berberian. Reads like a "real" comic and not a special free issue, but still uses the marketing opportunity and boasts great ads for the D&Q library of books. Grade A.

Funny Book #2 (Fantagraphics): The second Free Comic Book Day anthology from F'graphics is a riot! Laugh out loud funny bits and a great sampling of their creators, Jason, Jordan Crane, R. Kikuo Johnson, and Martin Kellerman to name just a few favorites. Not a piece of overt marketing to be found, but great creator bios for those more discerning fans that want to explore. Well done. Grade A.

TokyoPop Sneaks (TokyoPop): Manga is usally not my thing, aside from the occasional Blade of the Immortal trade or random issues of Usagi Yojimbo, but this was put together *extremely* well. Extended excerpts from Kat & Mouse, Mail Order Ninja, and Sea Princess Azuri, which is a great sampling of the diversity of the TokyoPop line. Was really getting into Kat & Mouse. And it's a trade paperback! That's like 128 pages for FREE! Are you listening!? What a way to end the publisher offerings, I feel satisfied! Grade A.

And the winners are? Image, Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, and TokyoPop. Well done! See you all next year!


5.03.06 Reviews

Strange Girl #8 (Image): I decided to pick this up because I've recently been investigating all things written by Rick Remender, and someone I trust boldly proclaimed that this was the "best comic on the stands right now." My first exposure to Remender's work was Sea of Red. *Hated* it. My second try was Fear Agent. *Loved* it. Third try was Doll & Creature. Didn't get it. Now, on the fourth try, Strange Girl falls somewhere in between Fear Agent and Doll & Creature. I don't get it yet, but I suspect that's not because the high concept is flawed, but because I came in cold to issue #8 without knowing a thing. And this was clearly the middle of an arc that was in full swing. The characters seem interesting and odd in an Eric Powell sort of way. I guess there was like a cataclysmic event of some sort? And this girl is special in some way? So now people are protecting her? And she has some sort of powers based on a faith system? Jerome Opena's (worked with him over at Hidden Agenda Press when he did a short western tale for an issue of their anthology book, Garish Zow Comics) art is a big time treat. Love his clean, lean, detailed style. The perspective and camera placement he brings to panel layouts is totally unique. Take a close look at the panels on the first page, and the stellar approach to the very last page and you'll see that this guy's star should definitely be on the rise. Anywho... "Best comic on the stands" is a stretch for me to see, but I was interested enough in this issue to pick up the first trade of the series collecting issues 1 through 4. Grade B.

GI Joe: The Hunt for Cobra Commander #1 (Devil's Due Publishing): For a 25-cent promo issue, yeah, this is about what you get. Not bad. A marketing pamphlet with some tidbits of cool info and a set up/"jumping on point" for the next arc. What I really was entertained by though, was the inside front cover. The retort to the "Civil Crisis" currently being put on by "The Big Two" was pretty damn ballsy. Rip the cover off of a book from "The Big Two," send it in, and DDP will send you a free comic. I like the aggressive nature of this. Not sure it'll work. But I like the attitude. Grade B-.

BPRD: The Universal Machine (Dark Horse) #2: I just don't have a lot to say about BPRD except that I still love it! The perfect balance of paramilitary coolness, ookie monster stuff, and ominous explanations for how the occult world works. Consistently executed with extremely high quality, like the ability to juggle 3 narratives in this issue, the present conversation with Captain Daimio and the BPRD regulars, the flashback to his origin story, and the impending doom of Kate Corrigan's adventure. Grade A.

Civil War #1 (Marvel) & Infinite Crisis #7 (DC): Decided to review these together. They're opposites in a big way. Two rival companies. First and last issues of their big blockbuster events. *Completely* different approaches. I'll preface by saying that I've always leaned toward being a DC guy. Grew up with Batman, Green Lantern, and Nightwing is probably my favorite character. But god damn, I think Marvel really has the edge here. Infinite Crisis feels event driven and coerced, while Civil War feels character driven and motivated by an organic "real" issue. DC's project feels like a blast from a shotgun. It's all over the place, it feels like a series of cool moments that have been strung together. Marvel's story is just that. Feels less like an "event" and more like a story. It has the surgical precision of a laser rifle. It's focused tightly on a single idea that becomes the throughline of the story. I can articulate very crisply what Civil War is about. A young hero F's up and now the government wants to register them and regulate it. Half oppose. But what's IC really about? Superboy being insane? Multiple worlds converging into New Earth? The arcs of Batman, Supes, and Wonder Woman? Some resolution to Identity Crisis, the launching pad for 52, One Year Later, and countless relaunches? I'm really not sure. There's too many things shoehorned in there. To make another strange analogy, ever heard that a camel is a horse built by committee? Well, DC has the camel here. And Marvel's feels like a thoroughbred. Infinite Crisis is fun, don't get me wrong. It's fun to go, oh hey! There's Klarion the Witch Boy! Oh no! Doomsday! Ouch! Will Nightwing be ok? Ooh! Batgirl. Bart. Mogo. The GL's blasting the bits of Kryptonite around Supes! But those are individual little moments. A pastiche. Not a cohesive story. Civial War on the other hand, is thought provoking. There's a single powerful idea here. Isn't it creepy to see a Sentinel silently watching Wolverine? Watching the clean up in progress. You can certainly feel things changing. It's in the air, like Daredevil said. DC seems to rely more on shocking fight scenes or action sequences, while Civil War relies on a shocking idea. A troubling premise. Albeit one that Bendis has really already started to explore over in Powers, but nevertheless, this is a very meaty issue for the Marvel U. And it's surprising. Who would have thought that Cap would be leading those in opposition to the law? That standoff on the SHIELD Helicarrier was intense! Lastly, and this is really where Marvel won me over, it just feels managed better. The whole project is a more coordinated attack. The primer from Joe Q in the back that points readers to other works. That was really smart. It really feels like an entry point that is accessible, compared to say the multiple Earths of the DCU that even for me, a DC kid, have to be explained to be understood - and they're not. And McNiven's art has really come a looooong way. Bravo Marvel. Infinite Crisis, Grade B-. Civil War, Grade A-.

Every once in a while, I'll do this thing. I'll feel the need to buy a bunch of random books I don't normally buy just to see what's going on. To get current on a random character or team. It usually doesn't go very well, but it's an entertaining test of the "any issue could be someone's first" issue of a title and should thus be pretty accessible. Here's what happened with JSA, Outsiders, Teen Titans, and Supergirl this week.

JSA #85 (DC): Basically just a bunch of mumbo jumbo about The Gentelman Ghost and some random characters shifting between a ghost world and their own reality. Boring! Always enjoy seeing Courtney with the power rod that the recent Starman gave her when he retired, and Dr. Mid-Nite's costume is still super cool. Other than that, had no idea what was going on. Why was Alan Scott on his deathbed? I don't remember Jade dying. Is Gentleman Ghost going to be in the Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters relaunch? If not, why was he given so much screen time? Grade D+.

Outsiders #36 (DC): After the nebulous feeling with JSA, I really appreciate the exposition on the first page letting me know where I was and what the conflict was all about. Not much to this except being a long extended fight scene that builds toward a big revelation ending. I'm *almost* curious enough to see how they're going to explain that last page to pick up the next issue. Fun to see Captain Boomerang's kid involved with the team after last seeing him in Identity Crisis. I really enjoyed Matthew Clark's art, which at times reminded me of a blend of Travis Charest and Dustin Nguyen, employing a very fine pencil line and some nice detail work. Loved his renditions of Metamporpho and Grace, even if his Nightwing left something to be desired. Grade C+.

Teen Titans #35 (DC): I didn't mind the gratuitous scenes with Robin and Rose in bed together. What I did mind was how she could undo the handcuffs, get dressed and armed, run to the other side of Titans Tower, and engage Cassie in about 5 seconds. That's just poor pacing. Other than that, a bunch of 3rd string characters who we know won't last, some ridiculous pin up poses from Cassie, and a Doom Patrol reveal that was telegraphed from the very first page. No clue what this is about. Grade C-.

Supergirl #6 (DC): Now, I loves me a good tale about Flamebird & Nightwing. The yarn about Superman telling Dick Grayson all about Kandor and these 2 Kryptonian heroes, the fact that Dick chooses his new name based on that is a favorite, touching, cool moment in the DCU. So I got kinda' interested based on those names alone on the cover. The guy in me did enjoy a topless Kara grimacing as she got her tat, but past that this was basically word vomit. Nice Image house art from Ed Benes, and hey, aren't those guys with Kal-El's shield using lightsabers? Come on! Grade C.

Graphic Novel Of The Month

I'm really going to have to preface this. If I tried to explain how tired I am or how stressful work is, it would likely be longer than this review and bore you to tears. So... this is an "off the top of my head" sort of deal. This book is phenomenal and you should buy it.

Alias: Omnibus (Marvel): I have honestly read just about everything Brian Michael Bendis has written. I think he's a great writer, with occasional moments of absolute brilliance. He can capture convincing dialogue and really provide some insight into people's psychological motiviation. Bendis takes a lot of heat, but like anyone, you get more credit for what goes right than you should and you take more heat for what doesn't. Like anyone who writes a ton of books, they're not all going to be award winners, misfires are healthy in the long run. And his overall body of work is quite impressive, for me this is the shining jewel in the crown. Michael Gaydos is one of those guys who's never my *first* choice as artist for a project, but quickly proves to be the *best* choice for said work. Inventive page layouts, ability to capture complex emotion, and work in whatever color palette suits the tone of the story. So, that said... Alias is my favorite title from these two. Amid a pretty strong body of work, I think this book is completely off the charts in terms of inherent quality and also for the impact it had on the medium.

First book in Marvel's fledgling MAX line for mature readers. With that single word, "fuck," on the opening page, Bendis announced to the world, here I am. Here's the book that I wanted to do. Here's the idea in my head with no holds barred. Here's the book that Marvel couldn't, perhaps shouldn't, publish, but took a chance on by creating a separate line for it to usher it into the marketplace. Bravo Marvel Editorial. And you don't hear me saying that very often. This wasn't just alcohol and sex and fucked up situations for shock value's sake, but included those things as a natural expression of the way some things, some people, and some situations really get. Now, mature readers books have been around forever. And I've heard that word and seen the act in comics before.Why so special here?

Because this book has Marvel A-listers in it. Move #1: Juxtaposition. We see Captain America and Spider-Man and Daredevil and The Human Torch. But they're not the headliners. The made up character of Jessica Jones and some B-listers like Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, and The Purple Man are. This was a clever move. You can do anything you want with B-listers. And as long as the A-listers are bit players in this tale, you can cleverly use the juxtaposition to your advantage. Jessica as a young girl is right there in her bed, masturbating to the image of Johnny Storm. But he's not in the room, he's removed, but inhabiting the same world. Captain America isn't really doing any of the creepy weird shit that Jessica is, but he's there inhabiting the same world, the same page. He knows about it. And that makes for some interesting reading and some very mature themes. That move ushered in a whole new style of attempting to expose the dark side of things that's had a lasting impact on the medium. Sort of a revival of what Frank Miller and Alan Moore did in the mid-80's. Dare I say it, Bendis is a Renaissance Man.

Move #2: Shift into reverse, slam on the gas. Role reversal that is. Remember Luke Cage as a blaxploitative joke? Gone. Now he's a caring, soulful, intuitive, bad-ass. Most importantly, remember Jessica Jones? No, you don't. She's a made up character that Bendis weaves into past Marvel contintuity, continuity be damned. Yes, he will burn this village in order to save it. Female lead in a largely male dominated arena. Troubled female lead. This chic has problems. She is literally and figuratively getting all fucked up. And we don't know if she's going to come out of it. The familiar certainty of most "superhero" books, that everything will work out, the good guys will triumph, and the world will be saved is blatantly missing here. Let's not forget what a bold move this was. And his swan song, The Purple Man. Remember him as a one line joke? I mean seriously, the guy is purple. That had been the extent of his character development for years. Maybe he'd use his mind controlling power to rob a bank or something. But what if The Purple Man was sick, sadistic, sexual, and brilliant in a Hannibal Lecter sort of way? Bendis explored that and made one of the scariest, creepiest, most uncomfortable villains we'd seen in a while. Out of The Purple Man.

Move #3: Understand the human mind. This book reads like a psychology text book. Let's examine this young woman. This young woman whose star was on the rise. This young woman who endured a traumatic and tragic incident, for months. How would she bury this incident in her sub-conscious, attempting to swallow it down to make it go away, but never truly addressing it? How would that manifest? What job would she take, who would she seek out, and what would she avoid? How would she punish and torture herself? What true friendships would emerge from this oddball cast of B-listers? Would she ultimately transcend her origins?

There's really only one way to find out. You know what to do. Grade A.