Thursday, July 05, 2012

The List - June 2012

This is the rare instance where I find all the books I read in a month were good.  Oh, some were better than others, but there are no stinkers in the bunch.  Probably has something to do with not picking up any free stuff, but the three Before Watchmen books were unknowns, though their authors were not.  So, here we go.

1. Scalped 59 - Man, I can't wait for next month's final issue.  This penultimate issue has the best cliff hanger since The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  I thought maybe Reservoir Dogs, but then I remembered how the big show down there made no sense.  The standoff at the end of this issue is not going to end well, though we could have predicted that with issue 1 five years ago.  This has been a largely testosterone fueled trip and it's ending with the kind of insanity that's so uniquely male.  But never mind all that.  Look at that cover.  That's phenomenal unto itself.  Look at the scale of that conflagration.  See the two tiny people down at the bottom?  Doesn't that just sum up how much larger events have become than the players in the drama?  Great work by Jock. 

2. Spaceman 7 - A lot of people these days like steampunk stories.  Those are ok, but near future stories?  Now those I like.  Spaceman is one of the best in the near future.  It's Waterworld meets Blade Runner and Truman, if Waterworld had been written and acted better.  Genetically engineered astronauts instead of androids, and the world isn't quite so covered by the seas, nor are the reality stars nearly as sympathetic as Truman, but those elements are there.  A little bit of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, for that matter.  Gold fever runs through the back story just as banditry for fame and fortune run through the present story.  Hard to believe Azzarello and Risso are going to be able to wrap all that's going on in just two more issues, but I'm eager to see how they do it.

3. American Vampire 28 - A new arc, The Blacklist, begins, and we have Pearl and Skinner together again, as never before.  There's a clever conceit in setting this in the 1950s during the Red Scare, which Previews tells me is going to run into unforseen complications for Pearl and Skinner.  Right now I'm most interested in seeing how Henry fares.  Another really wonderful cover here, too.  This one by Rafael Albuquerque.  The fluttering red pages escaping the dossier are a great contrast and the staging of Pearl and Skinner to evoke the backdrop this arc inhabits neatly summarizes where the book is going.  Evocative and concise.

4. Saga 4 - I want a Lying Cat.  That's one of the coolest things I've seen in a book in a long time.  No idea how it functions, but it's impressive.  That's something in a book with so many interesting characters in four short issues.  Just thinking of the main characters we have right now they include a love sick bounty hunter, a couple that represents a mysoginists nightmare, an amputee ghost, and a narrator who, so far, is an infant.  I'd say she's the only one we can guarantee will come out of this alive, but I wouldn't put it past Vaughan to have her contributing from the grave.  On top of that, Vaughan has the most engaging interaction with readers in the what might be considered a letters column since Kirkman's lively debates with readers in The Walking Dead.

5. Fables 118 - I'll never view Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer the same again, now that I've seen Willingham and Buckingham's island of castoff, really sinister toys.  The toys have laid down the law on Terese, nominally their queen but really a fuel source for them.  Dare, fortunately, has not yet met his demise, and Bigby's working the trail to find them both.  The price extracted by the three cardinal winds who aren't his daughter is undoubtedly going to be high.  And yet, for all the sinister about the toys, the reason for being discarded is extremely sad.

6. Fairest 4 - So far this offering is a much lighter touch than what's going on in this month's Fables, though much more replete with machinations.  Jonah the Bottle Imp thwarts Ali Baba's escape plan, which never had a chance of succeeding in the first place, but served the purpose of keeping the players together for Jonah.  Now Hadeon the Destroyer?  That was a bit unexpected.  I hope we get to see the battle between her and the Ice Queen.  Be shame not to see it after the neat ret-con Willingham pulled in making less a minion of a Geppetto than a victim of Geppetto.

7. The Unwritten 38 - It occurs to me that both this book and Scalped did a one year later jump and that it's working very well for both of them.  Where Scalped continued to focus on the same characters in a later time, The Unwritten is bringing in new characters, particularly our Aussie detective trying to infiltrate a Tommy Taylor cult.  Ritchie's still seen but we aren't seeing anything of Tom.  Madame Rausch is here, too, and her change from wood to human sure explains a lot about how she's still alive after all this time.  And now a talking unicorn.  Gotta be better than the traditional silent ones that just stand around looking all noble and mythical.

8. Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures 3 - More shorts stories from the cleverest robot in the world.  Well, about him and his mileu, actually.  Tesla's Electric Sky Schooner is an aforementioned steam punk tale of battling air ships in the 1800s.  To Kill a Sparrow keeps humming along in World War II spy capers.  Bruce Lee tries to tutor Robo in fighting skills over brute strength, which I never would have figured for a multi-part story but is only halfway through its 6 parts.  And then there's the Electromatic Dream Machine.  Psychedelic will suffice for description.

9. Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific 1 - Hard to believe we have two Atomic Robo books going on now.  Hard to believe this is the 7th arc in Atomic Robo stories in the main series of books, too.  Seems like just yesterday that Clevenger and Wegener were at the Baltimore Comi-con pushing their brand new book.  Glad I paid attention.  This arc is set in 1951 in, you guessed it, the Pacific.  Mechanical genius designed jet packs and super planes piloted by a robot battle nefarious air born pirates.  Sort of a theme, what with the Electric Sky Schooner story in Real Science Adventures.

10. Wonder Woman 10 - I knew that Diana wouldn't marry Pluto but this wasn't the how I expected.  The turn Diana engineered with her lasso that was being used as a truth noose wasn't nearly as surprising as the verbal battle fought between Pluto and Diana about love.  Azzarello neatly captures a couple of essential elements to Wonder Woman - she loves everyone, and she won't stop fighting, even if she can't win, because she won't lose.  And look at that cover.  It doesn't have anything to do with what's going on in the book, but it looks great.  Another great one from Cliff Chiang.

11. American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares 1 - Hot dog.  More Felicia Book stories.  Looks like the vampirism cure worked for Gus, who she's raising as her son.  If memory serves, Felicia took the cure, too, but I don't think it's having the same effect on her.  Maybe she didn't and my memory is faulty.  Just as well, because she's going to be after Dracula this time.

12. The Walking Dead 99 - The build to issue 100 is in full steam.  If the past is any guide, Glen and Maggie's decision to take Sophia and live in the larger community group isn't going to work out well.  Then again, staying around Rick hasn't worked out well for a lot of people, so maybe Andrea is the one who should worry.  Really, when's Kirkman going to kill off everyone but Carl and Michone so he can let them loose to roam the country killing their way through all the zombies?  Oh, wait.  That'd just be some cheap, shlocky zombie movie.  Guess we'll have to continue with the nuance and texture that Kirkman has been building for nearly 10 years.  But I'll bet Negan could take the Governor's lunch and leave him crying.

13. Before Watchmen: Minutemen 1 - Darwyn Cooke.  Really, do you need to know anything else?  You do?  Ok.  Some of the early days and gathering of the Minutemen is recalled by Hollis as he works on his memoir, Under the Hood.  But if you just want to be impressed, look at the first page and see how Cooke uses the art to shift perspectives from individual human, to city, to planet, to quantum mechanics in four panels while using the same shape structure in each panel's layout.  Great encapsulation of scale of story and characters in a brief span.

14. Saucer Country 4 - Creepiest damn rabbits I've ever seen.  I do hope the pre-occupation with anal probes is going to pay off with something other than an analogy to the fear of gay sex.  This issue center's on the governor's ex and his recollections of their abduction, with some nice context about recovered memory and such.

15. Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 1 - Darwyn Cooke again, but Amanda Conner has the art this time.  Nothing unconventional in Lori's story of how her mother shaped her into her successor as Silk Spectre.  Rebellion and all is to be expected, but it's nicely done and I have some expectation that Cooke and Conner are going to take some interesting turns with it further along.

16. Invincible 92 - Bulletproof as Invincible is more interesting than I thought it would be.  His ongoing relationship problems due to past philandering make him less than admirable but accurately show that no "hero" is perfect, be it comic book character or Founding Father.  And we're finally getting to the story of what happened between Robot and Monster Girl in the Flaxian dimension.  Seven hundred years?  Damn.  No wonder they have issues.  Couples in the real world have issues with only seven years.

17. Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 - Azzarello writing for the Comedian seems like a perfect match.  And it might be as the book goes on.  This is groundwork, primarily showing the Comedian as more of a human than he often appeared in Watchmen.  I do like the cover's nod to the famed cover of Watchmen 1.  Obvious, but nice.

18. Dark Horse Presents 13 - I like this installation better than last month.  Again, the prose work with minimal pictures was the strong suit, and Andrew Vachss again provided it; however, there are better other stories, including the start of Ghost.  This is an existing character that I know nothing about, so I have no idea how faithful this iteration is being to the original.  It looks great with Phil Noto's art, though.  I'd like to see more of The Creep, if I had the option of choosing what's going into DHP.

19. Batwoman 10 - I really have to re-read this book.  I've lost track of what's going on with the criminal organization Batwoman is fighting.  I know she's working with the DEO and that her former sidekick is still in a coma from an attack by some freak from the criminal organization, but the whole Sune hermaphroditic thing lost me.

20. Memorial 6 - So Em is Memory and Moment is her sister who wanted to take over everything because people weren't living in the moment any longer, but rather in memory and maybe.  It's an allegory of how modern man doesn't live in moment but dwells on the past or dreams of the future.  It feels like something conceived off of an aside in a conversation, and Roberson has run with it rather far.  It's reduced to a battle between sisters and the hunt for a lost sister, now.  I'll take a look at the next arc and see if it's worthwhile to follow from there.

21. iZombie 26 - Monsters, monsters everywhere.  What's a bystander to think?  With the harkening to Apple products that iZombie suggests, you'd think there'd be a technological angle to this title, but it's really a gathering of just about every monster and monster hunter you can think of, with some in service to the arrival of a lord high monster and others fighting to prevent it.  Roberson and Allred are near the end of their story and its heroine, Gwen, so we'll see how it wraps and give it the big re-read that it needs.

22. Incorruptible 30 - Speaking of final issues, this is one.  For such a hard edged book it had a rather sweet, if a little strange, end.  Max and Jailbait, together again.  Well, as soon as she turns 18, anyway.  Guess she'll have to change her name.  It came across as an afterthought to whatever happened in Irredeemable, where Plutonian was finally defeated.

23. Thief of Thieves 5 - Conrad proposes a deal with the Feds that'll spring his son from jail.  Why is it I think the deal isn't going to work out the way the Feds expect?

24. Dominique Laveau Voodoo Child 4 - You know, I re-read the first three issues, understood what was going on, and thought I was all set to move forward.  Then I get this issue and I've forgotten it all.  Well, not entirely forgotten.  It's just shifted into another plane with voodoo gods and tests of supplicants.

25. The Massive 1 - A near future story of environmental disaster.  This has a lot more realism than Spaceman.  In fact, I'd say it's supposed to be entirely realistic but for its slight shift into an environmentally degraded future.  Right now it reads like a Greenpeace primer, but it may get better.  I know from reading Wood's DMZ that he can go off into a preachy mode that wasn't to be found in Northlanders, so I'll probably have to decide if this is good enough to get past those moments, as DMZ largely was.

26. Animal Man 10 - This issue takes me back to some of the journey through Hell that Sandman took in Gaiman's great work.  Fantastical characters and quest through a foreign land, except these characters are looking to help the questing hero rather than consume or flagellate him.  Only the infestation of the Rot presents a danger.

27. Swamp Thing 10 - The other book featuring the fight against the Rot is reaching back to the great years of Alan Moore, not for the first time, and likely not the last.  Anton Arcane is returning, more dastardly and disgusting than ever.  I'm enjoying that the explanation for the expansion of the Rot at the expense of the Green and the Red is that the totem of the Red is so young (Maxine) and the totem of the Green resisted resuming his role.  Now that Alec is back fully as Swamp Thing I suppose he'll have to re-learn things he had known in the previous incarnation but his character is still very powerful and should handle the Rot without too much difficulty.  Obviously that won't be, for story reasons.

28. Blue Beetle 10 - I almost didn't get this one this month because I was less than enamored with the Green Lantern appearances last month, but I overcame my disdain and I'm glad I did.  Jaime's attempt to get help in learning how to be a hero has continued to go badly, and the DEO seems to have burned a bridge it didn't need to burn.

The List is a bit expansively long right now, but Incorruptible is done, Scalped is almost done, and iZombie is nearing an end.  The Before Watchment books are all limited series, too.  I see that Neozoic is supposed to be returning after a long absence, so there's that to anticipate.

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