DC needs to get their overall act together. The planning is lacking and while some individual series are doing okay, the overall line is faltering. In addition the lame hardcover programs they are running are for the most part failures. The “Classic” stuff is a $40 price point for cheap paper and collecting many things that have been done before. The six issue collection from both companies are just trades with a “golden book” cover and glued binding, nothing that will really last. The stuff that is screaming to be done right languishes. The Sinestro War and Grant Morrison’s run on Batman are would be great as deluxe format books with maybe 10-12 issues per book for $40, the Absolute line is printing the Azz/Lee Superman and leaving All Star Superman in the gutters. Archives should be churning out the old sci-fi DC books from the sixties with Space Cabby and other odd ball characters that other companies have made a success of with small print runs.
The news that Judd Winick is writing a Batman book come June is horrendous news as he is one of DC’s weakest writers and to make the “new” Batman work that line-up has to be the best of the best writing those books. I’m now worried that DC is going to do something incredibly stupid like have Tim be Batman with Damien as Robin and Red Robin will be Dick Grayson, which maybe the time that I drop all the Bat titles (if that happens). This idea that seems to permeate DC that if the fans want it, it must be bad or we can never do what makes sense since no one would be surprised. Well enough of my griping about DC, they did get my top Best book for the week.
Madame Xanadu #8 - Writer Matt Wagner, Pencils Amy Reeder Hadley, Inks Richard Friend, Colors Guy Major. This book has never disappointed. This issue we see that the Phantom Stranger had been blocking Madame Xanadu’s attempts to stop Jack the Ripper until he killed a woman who was carrying Jason Blood’s child. Jason (Etrigan the Demon)’s child would have grown to be a depraved and mad leader who would have caused untold suffering. Once the unborn child and woman were killed the Phantom Stranger dispatches the Ripper. Madame Xanadu now plots to be ready for the Phantom Stranger when next they meet as his mysterious ways have her ticked off. The artwork as always is a joy to behold and I lack the needed superlatives to describe how beautiful Amy Reeder Hadley’s art is. In a comic world of wild exaggerations and Jack Kirby or Neal Adams inspired art, she stands unique and brings true beauty to this book. Matt Wagner weaves a wonderful tale that is both Vertigo and the regular DCU like no one else has done before. This book is vying for the top spot every time it comes out.
Battlefields Dear Billy #2 (of 3) – Writer Garth Ennis, Art Peter Snejbjerg, Colors Rob Steen. This was a beautiful and disturbing story all at the same time. In the midst of the war in the Pacific theatre a young aviator and nurse have found each other, but the nurse is so damaged from her being raped and almost killed at the hands of the Japanese she is not longer quite sane. As prisoners are brought into the hospital she is killing a few of the soldiers as a cathartic sort of revenge for the rage that lives within her. The story is being told in the form of a letter she is writing to Dear Billy. It is both a beautiful and touching love story and a horrific tale of what can make a person go insane. One of the most compelling stories I have read in a long time and a story that again illustrates the horrors of war. The artwork by Peter Snejbjerg fits this story perfectly. While I look forward to the final chapter I fear the end will not be a happy one.
Echo #10 – By Terry Moore – Terry self publishes so I forgive the $3.50 price tag for 18 pages of black and white art, plus this is a great story. This issue we see Ivy confront her employer to find out what exactly is she fighting against with the suit. We find out that suit is a power plant that utilized the electrical synapses of the brain, which helps to explain why Julie hears the Echoes of the girl who was killed wearing it. Then Ivy reaches out via cell phone to Julie and tries to convince her she can help her and at the same time Ivy appears to be threatening Julie’s sister. We are not sure what way Julie is going to go when the homeless guy who has another part of the suit shows up to try and kill Julie again. This is a great series with real people, great scientific concepts and theories in it and strong art. Terry Moore is showing everyone how to write a true graphic novel and is issuing it a chapter at a time.
Blue Beetle #36 – Writer Matthew Sturges, Pencils Carlo Barberi, Inks Jacob Eguren, Colors Guy Major. It is a crying shame this book was cancelled. I know sales and other things dictate many of these decisions, but this was a good book. From Keith Giffen and John Rogers to just Rogers and now as Matthew Sturges has just hit his stride on this book, it is gone. It was the best new hero DC has come up with in a long time and it was great to see a young hero grow up and learn what it is to be a hero. I know he will be in Teen Titans, but that will not be the same. Blue Beetle was unique because he had a real family to draw strength from and his own circle of friends and now as a group member that supporting cast will be invisible or play only a minor role. This issue exemplified all that Jamie was and his willingness to sacrifice to save others. The final issue had action, humor, family, loss and gain and left you wanting more. Three years was not enough.
Mouse Guard Winter 1152 #5 (of 6) – by David Petersen. Mouse Guard makes the best list because it is Mouse Guard. No other reason is even needed in my mind. David Petersen has crafted what I think will become a true classic and deserves to be a book that all ages can read and enjoy. I wish that I had young children to read this with because I think it has all the elements of the old time classic children’s stories as it has heroics, but a dark edge of danger and death. Many of the old classic Grimm Fairy Tales in their original forms were quite graphic and horrific and over the years we have sanitized the world for our children to a ridiculous extreme (and of course the internet stripped away all the shelter parents were striving for). The battle with the Owl this issue was very memorable and I hope we see issue #6 and the hard cover and then I hope a more viable publisher gives David Petersen his due.
No Hero #4 (of 7) – Writer Warren Ellis, Art Juan Jose Ryp, Colors Digikore Studios. Warren Ellis has spent a good portion of his career showing us what it might be like if super heroes were in the “real” world. Each interpretation brings to light a different idea. This issue focuses on the cost to be a super hero, Josh, the man trying to gain powers, has survived the drug and gained super powers, but at the cost of having skin, hair, his genitals or his teeth. He is grotesque to look at, but yet at the end of the story he is still happy because he has super powers. The overall story arc of who is trying to kill this world’s super group is ongoing, but this issue clearly exemplified the cost of wanting power or fame at any price.
Astounding Wolf Man #13 – Writer Robert Kirkman, Art Jason Howard, Colors FCO & Ivan Plascencia. I know very few fans willing to give Wolf-Man the love he deserves and I think part of it is the artwork, more on that later. As a story Wolf-Man delivers what I love to see in a comic and that is a story that advances. Gary has just been trained by the elder werewolf and comes back to his home. He is immediately captured and put in jail. Chloe his daughter learns all about her Mom and Dad’s history and it does nothing to dissuade her from her need of vengeance against Wolf-Man. Gary is found guilty of the murder of his wife and is incarcerated. We find out Chloe has been training with Zecheriah and apparently has been turned into a vampire or at least a half vampire. I’m even leaving out plot elements. The bottom line is this book moves and things happen that actually have repercussions on the characters. It reminds me of when Marvel used to let things actually happen to their characters (during the sixties). I think this book lacks a strong vocal following because of the art. Jason Howard is a young artist and his ability is improving, but some of the earlier efforts were lacking. Jason’s story telling skills are growing each and every issue and you can see him starting to push his style forward. In my opinion I find each issue to be better then the last and Astounding Wolf-Man is a worthy companion book to Invincible.
New Avengers #50 – Writer Brian Bendis, Pencils Billy Tan, Inks Matt Banning, Colors Justin Ponsor and a host of guest artist doing one or two pages. Remember learning that if you have nothing nice to say about someone then say nothing ……………………………………Well……………..I never learned the lesson 100%. First the wraparound cover is a glorious scene of the Dark Avengers versus the New Avengers, the fight never happens. I hate false advertisement, especially to the scale of this book. Second was Bendis long series of pages of talking heads. When he does it in a book like Daredevil with a solo character and one or two supporting cast members he can pull it off. When he has a group of heroes whose voices he constantly gets wrong it comes off as stilted and annoying, this issue he achieves the latter. Instead we have a big battle between the Hood and the bad guys versus the New Avengers. Ms. Marvel with Spider-Woman’s help takes all of them out (unfortunately this does not line-up with Ms. Marvel’s book). Next we see Clint Barton in his Ronin gear (a whole other can of worms) walk on TV and say how the people presenting themselves as Avengers are actually bad guys, but his group will be around to protect everyone for real. The logic of the scene makes no sense, as there is no TV station that is just going to allow some bozo to walk in and broadcast some rant he wants to do. It did have lots of pretty pictures and enough new pages to justify the $5 price tag, but this is Bendis at his worst. I love Bendis ideas, but I think he lacks in the execution of those ideas.
It is funny how hard it is for a book to make my worst list, I'm expecting one week to have no book in that category. By freeing myself from my old system I can now see that many books are in that vast middle category, but I’m sure with so many new series coming out that some weeks will have more then one worst of the week.