And 2012 dawns. Flickers? Any light at all? It's the same old crap in the political and economic worlds, but in the world of comics, it looks bright to me. I have some new stuff that will be coming out in the Spring that I'm anticipating, and what I have now is looking good. Some of the New 52 titles are probably going to get the axe after issue 6, but they're not terrible. They're just not looking like they'll hold my interest, and my dollar, after one arc. But, as always, we start at the top.
1. Fables 113 - I love these kind of stand alone issues. This one gives Mark Buckingham a respite by using various guest artists. The book is entitled In Those Days and contains 4 short stories that tie to the larger Fables stories we've seen over the last decade and flesh out some background to some lesser known characters. The first is A Delicate Balance, with art by P Craig Russell, which is a treat unto itself. It's the story of a queen whose cuckold husband is a magician who turns her into a turtle, condemned to carry a tea cup that contains her shrunken kingdom. The second is A Magic Life, drawn by Zander Cannon, and tells the story of Kadabra, the magician killed before the big war with The Empire, and explains why he was killed. The Way of the World is drawn by Ramon Bachs and is a brief story of a challenge a young boy must face while living in the world in the tea cup. The last is Porky Pining, who gets himself cursed by Frau Totenkinder, a fact I wouldn't know but for having read the novel, Peter and Max. The perils of a smart mouth, which isn't a lesson I've learned yet. Great little stories.
2. The Unwritten 33 - This book is kicking into high gear. Tom has a real problem on his hand by the end of this issue, but I love the path it took to get there. Along the way there's a lovely tender moment with Lizzie that takes all of 3 panels. You know your book is doing well when readers think of the characters as people in whom they have a vested interest. Carey and Gross certainly have that here. M.K. Perker's finishes are great, too. The continued use of multi-media formats within the paper pages is really setting the book in our modern midst, what with all our electronic bombardment. But the Cabal's tactic in thwarting Tom's attack is the most interesting. At some point Carey and Gross are going to have to let us in on why Pullman doesn't just run the Cabal.
3. The Unwritten 33.5 - Ok, up 'til now I've been putting two issues for the same book in the same numerical listing, if they're consecutive in quality, but this time the two Unwritten books are so good I decided they deserved their own individual listing. Madame Rausch has been an important character in the main story line but not known at all beyond her rather extraordinary power. This issue lays the foundation of how she came to be who she is today. The entire story is touching and tragic, but the opening alone is worth noting. "I was worried about the little girl. She seemed so fragile, and so unhappy. So wounded, already, by the world. Before she had even ventured out into it." Bam! you're right into the thick of the story. Who can read that and not want to find out what happened to the girl? Of course, the prisoner hung in the cage outside the house at the bottom of the same page is interesting, too...
4. iZombie 21 - After more than a year of following this book and thinking that it was pushing the edge of being dropped, it's taking itself in a very interesting direction. Not that I doubted Chris Roberson's ability to tell an engaging story, but this one was more than Kirkmanesque in its slow build. J. Bone's art for this issue doesn't hurt, of course. It's a far more cartoon style than the usual art for the book, but there's something of a humorous element, especially in this issue, that's perfectly suited by Bone's style. And Michael Allred, whose own style is quite unique, gets a rest. There's so much happening and so much coming together now, my interest is such that I'm going to have to re-read all the issues before to fully enjoy the climax that appears to be in the offing. Speaking of climax, love the three way that Claire and Ellie have arranged. Almost platonic.
5. Scalped 55 - This is Scalped, so there's no going back, but Shunka? Really? Damn. Did Red Crow really not know? I mean, yeah, he acted like Bad Horse was his own son, but, hell, Shunka could see it. I sure hope Nitz doesn't end up smelling like roses out of this. If anyone in the FBI deserves a comeuppance, it's Nitz. I've seen some griping about how dark Guera's art is in this issue, but the entire story is set at night, and mostly in unlit locales. Between that physical aspect and the darkness of what's happening, dark and rough is how the art should be. The clear picture of Bad Horse at the end is the perfect counterpoint to what's gone before, with a bright light burning behind him, making his purpose and role clear to Red Crow. The whole issue is just how it should be in this darkest of crime thrillers.
6. Invincible 87 - Not that Mark or the reader is surprised, but Dinosaurus is a tricky ally, at best. Still, he and Mark brought us the best punch, and death of an enemy who hasn't been seen in 5 years, since the Mauler Twins bought it. It's one of those instances when I'm reminded why I like this book so much more than the superheroics in Marvel and DC. A dead character is going to stay a dead character, no matter how many other writers could put together the 40th good origin story for that character. Cecil's persistent attempts to have the Guardians of the Globe take on Mark or take on threats that Mark wants to handle is amusing, considering Mark and Dinosaurus quickly killed a threat that the entire Guardians couldn't handle. We had surprisingly less fight between Mark and Allen/Oliver than I thought was coming, but I'm sure we'll have lots of punching and dying now that Freddie Mercury is on the scene. I wonder if next issue will reveal that Allen keeps a handy supply of virus with him? Nah, probably not.
7. Northlanders 47 - The Icelandic Trilogy is up to its sixth part, the last we'll have featuring Brida. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that she's only 23 when these events are taking place, but she's aged well beyond the years of an American of the same age today. Viking Iceland will do that, I suppose. More surprising is how savvy Mar turns out to have been. This isn't the first story arc to address the effects of Christian conversion on the Vikings, but it's the first to show how complicated that can be. I'd like to see a lot more stories with Brida, but this is likely the last, at least for now. I expect our next arc in the trilogy will jump forward in time to see how Brida's plan came to fruition, or didn't.
8. The Walking Dead 93 - A Larger World starts in this issue, as you can see. At first I was taken aback by Rick's treatment of "Jesus". Then I remembered what world he lives in. I was more surprised at how quickly Rick's position changed, though. Given his history I expected his resistance to the proposed trade agreement with other survivor groups to be a longer lasting affair, needing more direct evidence that the other groups wouldn't harm his group. But, Rick has often been hopeful and only became as hard as he is now after many hard lessons, particularly with the Governor. And Kirkman's not likely to tread the same ground over again by having these other survivor groups be remotely similar to the Governor. 'Course, Rick's not entirely hopeful, as his last statement attests. Definitely hard.
9. Memorial 2 - Hey, look, it's another Chris Roberson book. He's on a good roll this month. And this book is quickly moving up in my List because I already want to know what's going to happen with Em. Roberson has a fascinating fantasy world here. We're right in the midst of a larger conflict right from the start. In fact, this is almost the anit-iZombie in how quickly it's moving to the conflict that is central to the story. The art by Rich Ellis displays a wide range of cultural influences in the story, always a favorite for me. Then there's the humor, intentional or not, of having much of what's happening being dependent on what's Behind the Green Door.
10. Wonder Woman 5 - Azzarello still has my favorite New 52 title clicking along. The longer it has nothing to do with the rest of the DCU the better, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, this iteration is almost worthy of separation from the DCU altogether. In other words, it would make a great Vertigo title. Alas, that's not the direction DC is taking, so I'll just have to hope they leave it alone enough to keep the high quality stories coming. No cross-overs or Events. The power plays of the gods are thick in this series, and this issue no less so. Diana seems to be making a play of her own, pitting Hera and Poseidon against one another. With Hera already mad at the Amazons, this seems to be a dicey strategem. Then again, Diana just told Zola that she's not always right.
11. Batwoman 5 - Another New 52 that seems to be in its own world and is the better for it. Okay, Batman does show up, but only tangentially. Besides, he's talking about Batman, Inc. which doesn't even exist in the New 52 as far as I know. I'm looking forward to next month's issue so I can read the first six all at once to get a better grip on how coherent it is. Sometimes I get lost in enjoying the art and don't pay enough attention to the story. That doesn't happen very often, so Williams obviously deserves credit for that alone.
12. Swamp Thing 5 - That's some kiss. Is the Parliament dead? I'm looking forward to finding out. This is a very different Swamp Thing from Moore's creation, but it's strongly tied to that at the same time. Scott Snyder's new take is a fresh look that the character needed in this new launch. If it has legs, I'll stay with it for quite a while.
13. Animal Man 5 - Lemire's other side of the battle against the Rot takes a different approach. Where Swamp Thing features an Alec Holland with no powers (until this month) and not wanting to be a part of the Green, Animal Man has his powers and is doing all he can to help the Red. Unfortunately, he's not having any more success than Alec. These two books make great companions but each can be read without the other. Two great authors are the key here.
14. Incorruptible 26 - I like getting Max Damage's origin story. His battle with Plutonian goes much further back than gaining his powers and committing crimes. Actually, the crimes part came first, but whatever. I think it's time to move back to the current story, though.
15. I, Vampire 5 - Not surprisingly, I think this book would be better served if it was less DCU. Batman just seems out of place in a fight with vampires. It is a DC book, so some involvement with the rest of the DCU is inevitable, but I think this book, which is good, would be better still if it was like Wonder Woman, less involved in the DCU. And I've lost track of who Andrew's companion is who wants to kill him. That's not a good sign.
16. Blue Beetle 5 - If Jaime keeps healing friends with the suit, the Earth is soon going to be overrun with battle suits. But why does one scarab suit want to destroy another? Aren't they supposed to be on the same side, especially considering Jaime's suit created Paco's suit. Ah, well. I hope Dona Cardenas is back soon, wherever she and her house disappeared. She's the most interesting new mainstream comics villain that I've seen in a long time.
17. Resurrection Man 5 - This is my first experience with the new Deathstroke. Can't say as I'm a fan of the bulky, '90s looking outfit. What the hell are those belts on his thighs supposed to be doing? Baggy pants half down the arse aren't bad enough? (Not on him, in the real world.) Whatever. Mitch Shelly is quite the tool in his life before the amnesia. No wonder the two indestructible hot chicks are looking to capture him. Amazing how amnesia can make a person better behaved.
18. Super Dinosaur 7 - Much as this is fun, I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm not the target audience for this all ages book. It feels too much like Invincible Lite. I'll give it a few more issues to conclude this arc, but that'll probably do it.
19. Batwing 5 - This one's probably going to go after the next issue. It's not a bad story but I haven't been able to get a good feel for its characters. I don't know why Batwing is Batwing or how he went from child soldier to who he is today. And the hunt for Massacre is kind of meandering. Oh, and Batman's here, too. I don't even read any of the Batman books, but he's in three of the books I do read this month. That boy sure does get around.
20. Demon Knights 5 - Another one that's probably not much longer for my reading perusal. I don't know. It could get a reprieve. I like the concept of the team but the betrayal, or at least apparent betrayal, by Vandal Savage is too early to be surprising. It's expected. If we had more development it might be more surprising. But, I like the other characters, especially Blood/Etrigan.
A light month, but some of that's due to no Spaceman and no DHP. I hope both return soon. At least I've been filling things in with library books and trades I've gotten on sale. I'll write about some of them separately.