1.30.08 Reviews

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.


1.23.08 Reviews

Astonishing X-Men #24 (Marvel): It's a bit disconcerting to see a typo right on the first page in the "previously in..." section with "Agent's Brand's S.W.O.R.D. forces" and a few other odd choices, such as "massing" instead of "amassing." That aside, the dialogue is really spot on. It flows naturally and is dramatic, memorable, and even cool, without sounding overly staged. Scott in particular has many great lines that show him as a real leader, not the whiny figurehead that he often comes off as. My favorite line? "You're my biggest brain and my oldest friend. Moment comes you have to take action, I'll never question it." Agent Brand and Beast also have a really nice dynamic that goes back and forth. The Kitty/Piotr moments are priceless. Whedon really can't help himself when it comes to focusing on Kitty Pryde, the adolescent latent female power fantasy is just in his Slayer-infused blood, but since she's my favorite of the X-cast, I don't mind one bit, and was happy to see her smiling on another (variant) cover. True, there are some convoluted bits with the various Breakworld factions, the duplicity of Emma, the question of lateness, and necessity of extending a 24 issue run into a final Giant Size offering, but that really all gets trumped by quality. This remains the most coherent and beautifully depicted contemporary rendition of Marvel's X-Men; it's destined to become a classic run. Grade A.

Dan Dare #3 (Virgin): There's an odd artistic sequence early on where Dan and Digby appear to switch sides repeatedly as they chat atop a mountain, it was just... odd. Moving on, Erskine has a nice page of retro art that accurately (though quite funny) depicts the spirit of the art of the time. I've really been warming to this mixture of sci-fi tropes and political drama (a twinge reminiscent of the recent Battlestar Galactica themes - in a good way), but this issue feels marred by a lot of exposition around the Treen/Mekon history, using the flimsy and all too common framing device of a child that needs explanation (conveniently at the same time the audience does) and characters yammering on about their motivations, and who they are, and what makes them tick, all in a way that real people off the printed page just don't do. I'm still interested, but a little more hesitant than before. Grade B.

I also picked up;

The Flying Friar (Markosia): I was happy to see this full color reprint/collection of the Speakeasy series from CBR Columnist Rich Johnston. It boasts a really attractive cover that strikes me as a hybrid of Ryan Sook and JH Williams III. I haven't read it all yet, but the early scenes balance some rough jump cuts with an interesting science vs. religion debate.


Why I Hate Thursdays

So about a week and a half ago, I’m driving home around 5:40pm in typical rush hour traffic near UCSD. There are a ton of cars near a major intersection that connects to I-5 North, but it’s your standard Southern California stop and go traffic, nothing out of the ordinary. The car in front of me stops, and then I stop. And when I say “stop,” I don’t mean that we came to a screeching halt or anything; I mean that we simply stop, you know, like normal people.

Well, fuckhole in back of me (read: blonde in SUV + cell phone = death) decides that she doesn’t really feel like stopping is all that necessary at this point in her life, so… CRASH! She rear-ends me. Metal ripples, glass shatters, tires pop, plastic rips. Then… BANG! I’m shoved right into the car in front of me. Bumpers scrape, paint shreds, hood buckles, and glass once again shatters. HISS! My radiator’s exploded, making a nice 8-foot geyser of steaming hot fluid to entertain passersby. I coast over to the side of the road, my car having died, but still enough inertia from the impact to roll along lifelessly.

We get out as fellow commuters continue to run over parts of our cars, like my front license plate, a chunk of my bumper, and glass from the broken headlights of Blonde Death Reaper’s SUV. It sounds like a rhythmic “crunch-crash, crunch-crash… crunch-crash, crunch-crash” as cars continue to mangle bits of my BMW.

Blonde Death Reaper runs up to me and is crying hysterically, something which sounds like “SOB-mydadscar-SOB-imsosorry-SOB-why-SOB-ijustgotanewjob-SOB-ohmygod-SOB-areyouokay-SOB-iwasntpayingattention-SOB.” The driver of the car I hit, who is surprisingly calm, walks up to me with a WTF-type look on her face. I simply say: “she hit me, I hit you,” she retorts with an “ah” of recognition and is instantly cooled out. I fight the queasy surge of adrenaline, kick into crisis management mode, survey the scene to ensure that none of us have any bloody or missing bits, that our cars are safely off the main thoroughfare, and then reach in and hit my hazard lights. I suggest that Cool Hand Sally call 911 while I try to calm Blonde Death Reaper down, then we’ll start the obligatory exchange of info. She agrees.

Yadda-Yadda-Yadda, a tow truck swiftly comes to load me up (I notice the trail of gasoline leaking from the rear of my car off the bed of the tow truck at this point), Cool Hand Sally departs, and I leave Blonde Death Reaper at the scene awaiting her own tow truck (seeing me on the phone, Princess Death Reaper actually had the audacity to ask if I’d called one for her too). Riding home, the tow truck driver gets lost – despite him saying that this is his usual beat, and I start feeling some really acute pain in my neck and back, along with a pounding headache. I begin imagining the x-rays and heaps of bullshit I’ll be going through all weekend long with insurance companies, urgent care clinics, salvage yards, and unexpectedly shopping for a new car.

And so… BMW #5 in my long streak of rides is no more. A "total loss," as they say in the insurance biz, where the cost of the repairs would outweight the relative value of the car.


1.16.08 Reviews

Fell #9 (Image): I’m thoroughly convinced that Templesmith’s pencils are at their most brilliant when he’s NOT doing horror, but is doing work that is grounded and gritty like this title, and uses unique (although admittedly scripted by Ellis) bits like the stick figures on the door. It’s really proof that magical things can happen when you pair an inventive writer with a talented artist. Ellis depicts a psychological angle to this investigation that would make legendary FBI profiler John Douglas proud. I had a little trouble swallowing the end act being all that believable, even in a place as fucked up as Snowtown, because nobody – owed favors from higher ups or not – would ever really get away with what he did, but for $1.99 this is extremely well done. Grade A.

The Umbrella Academy #5 (Dark Horse): I really dug the insightful notes from Dr. Pogo that serve as character profiles; they’re revealing and unique. The vibe I appreciated this issue was Spaceboy’s rooftop conversation that made the very idea of superheroes seem ridiculous, in their detachment from the very humanity they purport to save. Grade A.

DMZ #27 (DC/Vertigo): Nathan Fox is the “guest artist” exception that disproves the rule of guest artists somehow being sub-standard as compared to the regular series artist. His cityscapes and menacing figures truly remind me of early Paul Pope THB work. Somebody sign this boy up for a regular series, I do believe he has a promising future in this business. Wood offers us another in the series of interesting one-shots, this time focusing on DJ Random Fire. It’s a brilliant little analysis of local pride, what it means to be a DJ in general (and in the DMZ), and Trustwell’s monopoly on the closed system of creating fear and then offering protection from it. The dialogue has a ring of authenticity, whether it’s the paramilitary radio protocol or that of the DJ/club scene. First rate comics. Grade A.

Fear Agent #18 (Dark Horse): …or umm, Hatchet Job #2 of 5 depending on how you look at it. I’m still a little confused by the numbering system; they really need to copy the Hellboy/BPRD model for this to make any sense. There’s a nice plethora of activity here involving Mara’s impulsive attack, revelations about family, and acts of selflessness. Lines like “is too bad no one is here to see… I am like star of action movie” are the self-aware gems that make this title hum. Jerome Opena’s sleek lines and full panels perfectly capture this series. I love how Heath is brazen and outspoken, even in the face of danger, even when he’s captured and all hope seems lost. He’s truly a fully fleshed out character with a distinct personality, and the most charming likable rogue since Han Solo. Grade B+.

Immortal Iron Fist #12 (Marvel): While Danny’s involvement in the tournament turned revolution is all well and good, it’s visual and sensory dialogue like “the crush and crunch of snow beneath your toes is a metronome ticking away the last of your tomorrows,” slightly noir inspired, from Fraction and Brubaker, that really tickle the writer in me. That inherent fatalism and the subtle nuances like Mr. Xao grasping his mug of cocoa move this title from good to great. Grade B+.

Checkmate #22 (DC): This is a book with interesting cover art and some interesting history around the Mademoiselle Marie persona that quickly goes astray. The derailment is largely due to blatantly expository dialogue about a neurotoxin with physically impossible effects, and a core story that is less than centered. There are a flurry of French flashbacks, the infusion of the Rocket Reds, a discourse on Russian/Georgian politics, Bialyan terrorists, and instead of feeling like a typical intricate Rucka script, it instead plays disconnected and difficult, with unclear motivations and a story throughline I can’t seem to find. Grade B-.

’76 #1 (Image): The lead story from B. Clay Moore & Ed Tadem is hit and miss for me, but largely the latter. The hit is that Tadem’s art reminds me of Becky Cloonan in spots. The miss is that the Jackie Karma story as a whole doesn’t seem like anything very original. It’s a hybrid Shaft-like blaxploitation/low budget Power Man & Iron Fist sorta’ thing that we’ve really all seen before. I really loved B. Clay Moore’s Battle Hymn, but his other projects, including The Leading Man, Hawaiian Dick, and this just don’t seem to connect with me. I’ll always try his stuff though, that’s for sure, he’s earned that much. Cool by Seth Peck and Tigh Walker is certainly the better half of the book, with a fun (though pointless so far) cop buddy story, reminiscent of Lethal Weapon. Walker’s energetic and emotive art really shines here, but I’d like to see it with a script that resonates stronger with the audience. Grade B-.

Resurrection #2 (Oni Press): I vaguely recall hearing about this title on an SDCC panel with Guggenheim. Despite not warming to any of his other work, I remember thinking to myself “hrmm, I should check that title out.” I have no freakin’ idea why that was. I have no idea what’s happening in this story, something bad apparently happened and it involves bugs(?)… or something. The art from David Dumeer doesn’t help much, with its awkward and stiff poses. I’m not interested in seeing what “519” means and the comparison on the cover to something as grand as Battlestar Galactica seems grandiose to say the least. It appears the creative team is going for a Lost, The Walking Dead, The Exterminators sort of vibe, but I’d rather just watch those shows and buy those books in their pure forms than witness this paltry attempt at hybridization. Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Lust (Fantagraphics): Ellen Forney’s brilliant depictions of online personal ads is really an interesting gem.

The Last Musketeer (Fantagraphics): Hurray! Another book by Jason!

Fight for Tomorrow (DC/Vertigo): Yes! This six issue mini-series from 2002-2003 by Brian Wood and Denys Cowan is finally collected.

Lifelike (IDW): Yes, with the turn of the new year, I vowed not to purchase any more anthologies that I rarely keep, but the art here was just too pretty and the formatting too cool to pass up.


1.09.08 Reviews

Scalped #13 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron runs a nice bit of parallel storytelling here concerning the (arc) titular “Dead Mothers.” It’s remarkable again to me how many panels are sans dialogue and how many overall pages contain very minimal dialogue. The creative team is really relying on the art to convey setting, mood, and various story beats. Case in point, check out the panel where Dash is performing a bust and we see a half naked chic suspended from the ceiling. We instantly know where we are, what we’re doing, and how we’re supposed to feel about it, all without any exposition whatsoever. These are truly collaborators with a mastery of the duality of the medium. This is a nice set up for the next story arc that highlights what passes for police tactics on the reservation. Aaron is careful to present the cyclical nature of violence in this world, as a youngster is touched by strife which will ultimately spawn an entirely new generation of troubled kin. Grade A.

BPRD: 1946 #1 (Dark Horse): It’s great fun to see a young Professor Bruttenholm and the post-war Berlin of the Mignola-verse, with different Allied sectors vying for control of the collapsed Nazi epicenter. While there is some pretty stock “dirty dozen” characterization, overall we hit just the right horror notes, and Paul Azaceta’s gritty pencils perfectly capture the bleak remnants of the Reich’s occult experimentation. Grade B+.

The Twelve #1 (Marvel): I do like the way that these lesser known Marvel/Timely characters were woven into the tapestry of the more familiar icons of the time and even modernized with integration into the Superhuman Registration Act. Like BPRD this week, there’s a noticeable focus in the zeitgeist on the Russians’ ruthlessness as they took parts of the city during the fall of Berlin. I was into The Phantom Reporter as the POV character and thought his observant investigative mind deducing the clues around him was played well. I really appreciated the fact that JMS’s script was not de-compressed in the slightest and he accomplished here in one issue what lesser writers would have taken six issues to do. Chris “Ministry of Space” Weston’s art is also solid. Not earth-shattering, but competent and perfectly pleasant. I found it hard to believe that 12 heroes in cryo-stasis would go undiscovered in a major metropolitan city for 60 years. I also had trouble swallowing the Colonel’s speech, with its naïve nature regarding the 12 being some sort of idealized perfect heroes when they’re really just people who have their own inherent personalities, foibles, and flaws. Worth checking out at least two more issues, clocking in with Grade B.

Youngblood #1 (Image): Having never touched a previous Youngblood property, I bought this out of respect for Joe Casey. Surprisingly, Derec Donovan’s art is pleasant, reminding me of early Scott “Nightwing” McDaniel in spots, with the angular faces and extreme perspective shots. On the “recap” page we get an interesting, albeit completely transparent, industry commentary that functions as a dual narrative regarding the fictitious Youngblood team’s comeback and the real comeback of the property you’re holding in your hands. Casey’s usual media sphere of confluence is present, if a little thick. Apparently Douglas McGarry is the nephew of Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff to Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and nominated Vice President of Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) on Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, played by the late John Spencer. There are also some outdated John Travolta and Dire Straits references, a plethora of jabs at The Empire Strikes Back, Oprah Winfrey, and even uber-cute (to the point of uber-annoying) Rachel Ray. It’s difficult to tell if Casey’s script leans more toward rip-off/homage or satirical media blender. I suppose there’s some important commentary here on pre-packaged personalities full of corporatized spin, but I just feel like this isn’t a terribly imaginative or innovative angle in the modern age, where just about anyone off the street would make the same observations and agree. I didn’t like the staged villain and felt like Casey missed the mark on what viral marketing is all about. Pop culture personalities having MySpace pages that are a planned marketing angle, designed and contributed to by committee, is the very antithesis of true viral marketing. I suppose if you read this as straight superhero fair, it will come across as pure cheese. If you read it as a satirical comedy, it’s a tired form of entertainment, like the very reality TV shows it purports to condemn, which begs the circular question – what’s the point? Because I tend to trust Joe Casey, I’ll give it an issue or two, but for now, a very hesitant Grade B-.

The Infinite Horizon #2 (Image): It really bugs me that the back cover copy needs to be edited. The “sentence” that reads “In this modern re-imagining of Homer’s The Odyssey, a soldier’s long journey home after years in the Middle East” lacks a verb and thus ceases to be a sentence. We also have “she would worry about too much about you,” boasting an extra “about.” Oh, the fun’s not over yet. The last typo I caught before I sorta’ glazed over in disappointment was “just they were dead,” which in addition to being a fragment, just sounds awkward and doesn’t make sense. Phil Noto’s usual elegant lines feel hurried and stiff with skimpy backgrounds. I don’t understand the different factions in this world and what their motivations are. Why did the sub attack their vessel? Why did the protagonist feel the need to ram the sub? The Captain’s monologue also felt wooden with no real gravitas or regret detectable regarding the horrible fate he subjected the members of the abandoned ship to. The high premise here is still golden, but this issue fell extremely flat and wasn’t as promising as the first. Grade B-.

I also picked up;

BPRD: Volume 7: The Garden of Souls (Dark Horse)


1.04.08 Reviews

And away we go with the first reviews of 2008…

The End League #1 (Dark Horse): Rick “Fear Agent” Remender brings us an interesting world, set after an apocalyptic event brought about by superheroes unwittingly creates thousands of additional powered individuals. As I enjoy the Samuel Clemens quotes in Fear Agent, I was tickled by the Socratic lines here from a monologuing protagonist full of honest regret and self-doubt. The art is a bit stiff in spots, but employs great character designs and rich panels full of backgrounds, movement, and detailed work. The loose character archetypes (a Captain America type, a speedster, a dead sidekick, a Hulk/Thor hybrid, a demon, a Western hero, the girl who looks like Emma Frost, etc.) play not like swipes, but as homage to the industry. This could very well be billed as “the last JLA story” or “the last superhero story,” aptly titled “End League” as it chronicles the final days of a core group of A-list superheroes trying to right a previous mistake. Mat Broome’s art is inconsistent, and I actually mean that as a compliment. Most of the panels capture decent superhero art, but then there are these little flashes of brilliance, where I swear I can see some Sean Phillips influence, particularly in the line weight of the facial expressions. He might be one to watch as an artist whose style develops and improves over time. All in all, a very dense read that makes you feel like you got your money’s worth and makes you think about the ideas presented a little while after you’ve put the book down. Grade A-.

Northlanders #2 (DC/Vertigo): I enjoyed the washed out, muted, color palette here that really does the gritty artwork justice and captures the intended mood of the story. Wood’s script hits some nice notes here about the wisdom of age, the blind vigor of youth, and a brutal quest for identity. It’s only the second issue, but already Sven is planting the seeds for what promises to be an exciting coup d’etat. We’re establishing intense and intricate double-crosses, sex, and violence of truly Shakespearean proportions. Grade A-.

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #5 (Dark Horse): The final issue to a well done pulp adventure. Jason Armstrong has proven to be a nice addition to the stable of Hellboy/BPRD/Mignola-verse collaborators. This climactic and satisfying final battle boasts some inspiration from Das Boot and the work of Ian Fleming. Grade B.

Gravel #0 (Avatar Press): I applaud Avatar (which is increasingly becoming “the house that Ellis built”) for not shying away from violence and basically letting Ellis run wild with one idea after another. And the $1.99 #0 issue is a brilliant marketing device that worked quite well on Black Summer. The “Bill Gravel, combat magician” premise sounds sorta’ intriguing, and there’s even the occasional memorable line – “where you’re headed… there are no virgins,” but then I found stereotypical jihadists, British intel bits that play like watered down Queen & Country lines, and no real “hook” other than brutal violence and a tired mystical plot thread. Artistically, Caceres’ lines looked crisp and airy in Ellis’ recent Crecy (which was excellent), but here look heavy and muddy, perhaps due to the inking/coloring(?). Anyway, I’d prefer to stick to stronger works, like Ellis/Avatar’s own Black Summer. This is competent, but not terribly original. Grade C.

Teen Titans: Year One #1 (DC): The introductory character vignettes play like random non-sequiturs, thinly introducing the characters in the most simplistic terms. I think we’re meant to learn that Kid Flash is, umm… fast and impatient, Aqualad is intimidated(?) by Aquaman, Donna is lost(?) without Wonder Woman, and Robin umm… doesn’t like Bruce, apparently because he’s (once again) a raging asshole. And there’s no mention of Roy; wasn’t he one of the original five? In actuality, we don’t really learn anything about these characters themselves, we only learn about them as they’re defined by their mentors. This, to me, seems to run contrary to the spirit of the Teen Titans’ very core essence. They got together to establish their independence and unique identities separate from their mentors, and became an intimate family (instead of a stodgy League) in the process. That was the whole point. The worst part of the book though, is that it ostensibly looks like a cartoony, kid-friendly affair, but without warning introduces a most adult theme – Bruce striking Dick in an abusive manner. That stopped me cold. Not only is this horribly out of character for Bruce at this time period, but is horribly irresponsible of DC to surprise younger readers with that sort of out of place violence within a book that would otherwise seem to appeal to their very demographic. Sorry, but this was awful. Grade D-.

I also picked up;

Okko: The Cycle of Water (Archaia Studios Press): One of the best and most unique mini-series of last year, collected in a handsome hardcover edition, with breathtaking art by Hub. Check. This. Out.


Graphic Novel(s) Of The Month

Wasteland: Book 02: Shades of God (Oni Press): The only way to quickly sum up what occurs in this volume is to simply say that many plot points converge and all hell breaks loose. If the first volume was largely setting up The Big Wet universe and establishing character outlines, then this is where it all pays off. Shades of God is like being at that once in a lifetime party where the drinks are poured just right, all your friends are there, the music is your favorite, and your prowess with the ladies is unstoppable. All factors coalesce to create a truly memorable experience. Grade A+.

Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story (Houghton Mifflin): Frederik Peeters' work walks a fine line between being overly sentimental and emotionally omniscient and insightful and honest. For my tastes, it thankfully leans more toward the latter. I was particularly taken with the grains of truth found in his budding relationship with an "adopted" son and lovely exchanges of dialogue, such as the "why do you love me?" conversation. Peeters' line work is also emotionally charged, particularly in its ability to capture complex facial expressions and depict instantly recognizable surprise, admiration, or calm. Grade A+.