So apparently it's been over a month since my last comics column.
Better just get started...
"Clockworks," the penultimate arc in Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke & Key, has now reached its conclusion. And boy, there is some great stuff in this issue.
It's hard to talk about this series in this particular venue, though. My assumption is that many of my readers are probably totally unfamiliar with it, so I certainly don't want to say anything to give away any spoilers.
I'll settle for saying this: while "Clockworks" was overall probably my least-favorite arc of Locke & Key to date, it was still awfully good, and the final issue brings it to a satisfying -- if occasionally heart-wrenching -- conclusion. This is grand storytelling, grand artwork, and a grand example of the comics medium near the best it is capable of being.
Part 2 of the two-part story "The Nocturnes" this time around. I enjoyed Part 1, and whattaya know, I enjoyed Part 2 almost as much. The art this time is not by series regular Rafael Albuquerque; in fact, it's not even by Roger Cruz, who supplied the art for Part 1. Instead, it's by Riccardo Burchielli. He does a good job, and there is one panel in particular that is very disturbing, and kinda hot, and even more disturbing because of how hot it is.
Frankly, that seems like a quality attribute for a vampire series.
The end of the issue is a massive cliffhanger, which obviously sets up a brand-new arc. Bring it on, says this I.
Speaking of Scott Snyder, let's take a step sideways over to DC and Batman #9.
Here's what happens in this comic book: Batman whoops a lot of ass. Seriously, that's pretty much all that happens. And that's fine by me.
Back in issue #8, the backup story -- which is also by Scott Snyder, but with art by the aforementioned Rafael Albuquerque -- really ramps up this time. It's set a long time ago, back in the happy old pre-orphan days for Bruce Wayne. I don't know exactly where this story is going, but it seems awfully promising.
Also on the dance card from Snyder's run on Batman:
This issue features THE TORMENT OF MR. FREEZE! Says so right there on the cover.
Can I be honest? I didn't like this issue. I was pleased to hear that DC and Snyder were doing a Batman Annual, but this one was not particularly to my liking. It isn't bad; it just isn't up to the level of quality I've come to expect from Snyder (who, on this issue, co-write with James Tynion IV, his collaborator on the Gates of Gotham miniseries).
For one thing, I simply DO NOT care about Mr. Freeze. He's not unique; there are a lot of Batman villains I don't care about, including the Penguin, the Riddler, and ... other ones who probably exist but who are not currently springing to mind.
Snyder tries hard here to make me care, and he comes close in a few creepy scenes involving various relations of Freeze's. Overall, though, this one was a bit of a letdown, especially because while it is shoehorned into Snyder's big "Night of the Owls" event, it seems to fall somewhere outside the timeline of what's actually going on in Snyder's Batman. Which is kinda confusing.
And the $4.99 price tag didn't help.
Speaking of annuals, DC also pulled that gambit with Animal Man, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Didn't mind having shelled out $4.99 for this one in the slightest. In fact, I'm thoroughly pleased with myself for deciding to hop onboard the Animal Man bandwagon a few months back; it's paid off well so far.
This issue has a defined place in the Animal Man story: right between #9 and #10. The majority of it, though, is a self-contained flashback story, which features a cool -- but unexpected -- Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover. The story is fun, the artwork is cool and grody in equal measure (typical of this series), and the issue overall manages to raise the stakes for the main series' storyline without requiring that you know a whole heck of a lot about it.
In other words, it's a solid issue, and one that ought to serve as a good sample for newcomers.
While we're on the subject of Jeff Lemire, he recently assumed the scripting duties on another DC title, Justice League Dark. Which, so far as I can tell, has bupkes to do with the Justice League. However, it DOES have John Constantine, Deadman, and Zatanna, so that's pretty cool.
I decided to check this out purely because this was Lemire's first issue on the series, and I wanted to see how it was. The story involves Constantine's team of supernatural don't-call-'em-superheroes, who have gone to South America (I think) and are fighting some sort of badass new cult (I think).
The writing here was pretty good, and the art also ... but I didn't particularly care about any of it. I might give #10 a look, too, but unless I like it quite a lot more, I doubt I'll stick with this one.
Let's stick with Lemire for a moment and talk about this one:
This issue is kinda nuts. In the good way.
First of all, John Constantine and Zatanna show up. Not sure how that fits with the timeline of Justice League Dark, but since my investment in that title is minimal, I won't be putting much mental energy into figuring it out.
Know who else shows up? Buddy Baker's former body, which is currently inhabited by one of the Hunters Three. And see, like, I know you probably have no fucking clue what that means. It's cool; roll with it. That's better than Buddy's son Cliff seems to be able to look forward to.
And on that vague note, let's talk about the goat-spirits and dog-spirits who are defenders of the Red, and who help Buddy -- the real Buddy, who is currently existing in spiritual form within the Red -- find his way safely to the Totems of the Red, who grumpily think they might be able to grow him a new body. Before this happens, the goat-spirit calls Buddy "Butter Baker" a lot in a Scottish accent, which -- amazingly -- is good for a laugh every time. EVERY TIME.
This is good stuff. It's dark, it's funny, it's got exceptional art, and it promises good things to come in the next issue. Again.
And we're back to Scott Snyder again. In the new issue of Swamp Thing, you will learn of THE BLOODY RETURN OF... ...ANTON ARCANE! Honestly.
And just as I had no choice but to profess disappointment with Snyder's Batman Annual #1, Swamp Thing #10 failed to engage me. Again, it's not bad, but I've come to expect exceptional work from Snyder, and I would not by any means call this issue exceptional.
Want to know what happens? Abby drives -- possibly naked for part of the tip -- Swamp Thing back to Lousiana while he rides in the back of the truck with a tarp over him. Meanwhile, Arcane is lying in wait, apparently beating someone to death with a rock; or maybe that happens later (it's hard to say). And a few other things.
But otherwise, not much. It's very ominous, and the art is great, but it felt like a stalling-for-time issue, to me.
Like I said, it's not bad; just not as good as I expect from Snyder. But this is ... what, like, the second time he's semi-let me down, out of how many issues of how many series?
That's an awfully fine batting average, there.
Transitioning a bit ... also out now is the final issue of IDW's Road Rage miniseries. Issue #4 concludes the two-part adaptation of Richard Matheson's Duel. I loved issue #3; I was not quite as impressed by #4, but I did still enjoy it, and I suspect that if I'd read the two back-to-back, I wouldn't have had any issues at all.
Overall, I think the Matheson issues of Road Rage came off better than the King/Hill issues. This may be a function of my never having read the Matheson story; beats me.
Readers of this blog may remember that back in February, I posted a bit of a rant about the very existence of (the then-upcoming) Before Watchmen. I am a massive fan of Alan Moore's Watchmen (by which I mean Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen), and I do rather wish that DC had taken the high road and never decided to tamper with that story's characters.
But, as I admitted at the time, I was grimly determined to give the prequels -- or sidequels, or midquels, or whatever -- a fair chance, based simply on the talent involved. Take Darwyn Cooke, for example: I don't know shit about Darwyn Cooke. But I've heard the name mentioned by a lot of people who seem to know what they're talking about when it comes to comics; and they seem impressed with the dude.
And I've got to say: issue #1 of "The Minutemen" is really quite good. Is it Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons-level good? Well, for fuck's sake, of course it isn't. It's unlikely that a comic that good will be released all year; maybe not even next year, or the one after that, either.
But on its own merits, it's quite good. Odds are that someone who has never read Watchmen who picks this up and reads it will probably enjoy it quite a bit.
The setup: the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, is working on his book,
Will that be true of any of the other arcs? Since this is the only issue out so far, that remains to be seen. But if they have as much to recommend them as this issue does, then I think a lot of people are going to reluctantly end up being glad that Before Watchmen happened.
You will hear all about it right here, of course, you lucky bastid, you.
Are you a nerd? A geek? A dork, a dweeb, a twerp, or a goober?
Well, I certainly am; all of the above, and brother, let me tell you, that cover there just makes me smile. It's a tempered smile, of the variety that makes me realize there will probably never ever ever EVER be a really-for-real crossover between Star Trek and Doctor Who; but, with the exception of one of those nifty Big Finish radio dramas, this is perhaps the next-best thing.
And this first issue (of eight) is quite good.
The artwork! Let's talk about the artwork. It's by J.K. Woodward, who turns in an entire book of lovely paintings. I hate to think how long it took him to do all of this. I've seen some reviews that carped about the art a bit. Those reviewers are daft; Woodward's work captures the look of these familiar characters in a manner that is, at times, nearly perfect. It makes the characters feel real in a way that even the best pencils can't do, and I think it's going to make the crossover elements feel like they are really-for-real happening in a way that you wouldn't get from a different type of art. Here's an example:
Now, if you are not familiar with the current incarnation of the good Doctor, then that art may not mean much to you. You may we wondering, "why didn't he show me some Next Gen characters instead?" Fair question. The answer: they only appear in this issue's final panel. Spoilers, lol. But I'm NOT telling you the circumstances under which they appear, which are kinda glorious for fans of the series.
Yes, sadly, the true crossover will apparently not be happening until issue #2. And that's fine by me. What we've got here is essentially the wrapup to one of the Doctor's patented adventures, and the writers do a fine job of making this sound just like an episode of that show. This will be just fine with Doctor Who fans; it may frustrate Star Trek fans, especially those who are too dense to know a proper setup when they see one.
Me? I enjoyed this a lot. Issue #2, I'm waitin' on ya.
I liked this issue a lot, and in case you were wondering, no, it did NOT have anything to do with the eight pages (I counted 'em) of prostitute boobs.
Well, okay, maybe that had something to do with it. What can I say? Boobs are awesome, even in cartoon form, which is basically what I.N.J. Culbard's art amounts to. Very rich, very effective cartoons. He's really quite good, and he continues to do a great job on this series. I especially like a brief scene here involving Inspector Suttle standing at a fence looking at the passive zombies, who essentially have no idea he is there at all. That, somehow, is more unsettling than seeing a zombie eat someone's intestines.
The vampire thing is totally played out; the zombie thing is totally played out. That's how it feels sometimes, at least. But then, along comes something like The New Deadwardians, which makes me realize that those things aren't played out at all. Who knows if writer Dan Abnett can stick the landing; he's got five issues left, and anything could go awry. However, it's been great so far, and I eagerly await issue #4.
Next up: a trip of Joss Whedony comics, beginning with:
See the tagline? It says "In Space No One Can Hear You Slay!" That is an Alien reference.
Does this mean that this issue -- which was a part of Free Comic Book Day -- is a Buffy/Alien crossover?
Yes. Yes it does. I'm not sure exactly how seriously you're supposed to take it; but it certainly is.
I won't ruin the specifics of how that works for you. This is an eight-page quickie, and it's a lot of fun, so if you can find a copy, add it to your collection. Odds are decent your local comic shop might still have copies.
Don't be fooled by that cover image. Nothing of the sort happens this entire issue. This is a common practice for comic books, and it's sometimes an annoying one; here, it's annoying.
In this issue, Robot Buffy -- yep, that's a spoiler -- investigates the disappearance of the "real" Buffy, who is busy getting slapped around and interrogated by that chick with the purple punk hair. Meanwhile, Xander and Dawn go slaying.
Not bad. Not one of the better issues, but not bad. Still digging the series; if you're a fan of the television show, you owe it to yourself to start reading these Season Eight and Season Nine comics, which mostly do a good job of continuing the story in what feels like a true direction.
The same is also true of the Whedon-produced Angel comics, particularly this:
Truth be told, this was not one of my favorite issues of Angel & Faith. It's good; funny at times, definitely, and also a nice chance to see what ole Ripper was like as a kid. We even learn where the nickname "Ripper" came from.
It seems to point in the direction of Giles coming back to life at some point. That's been Angel's focus since Twilight killed him, so it's been a topic of conversation for a while now. But it is starting to feel as if they might actually do it, and I've got conflicted feelings about that. On the one hand, I love Giles, and wish he had not been killed off in the first place; that was not one of the stronger elements of Season Eight of Buffy.
However, sometimes dead is bettah, as some old coot or another once said. And in this case, it feels like bringing Giles back would be a misstep. Superhero comics are puling that shit all the time. They "kill" some character in a big event, and then bring 'em back. Bullshit. You've got to leave one dead every once in a while; otherwise, any character jeopardy feels totally fake.
So, Angel & Faith: avoid that route, if you would, please. Or if you don't, do it well.
And, finally, another quality issue of the still-poorly-titled Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. In this issue, Miles and his uncle, The Prowler, team up to take down The Sorpion. Who is not, seemingly, the same Scorpion from classic Spidey comics. He's a big thug, though, and it's fun to see Miles whoop on his ass a little bit.
And let's close things out with a look at the third issues of three new series: Saga, Saucer Country, and The Manhattan Projects.
Fuck, man, I dunno what else to tell you about Saga beyond what I said about the first two issues: that they are awesome, and that you ought to be buying them each month. Those are the salient facts; everything else is me just waxing the cars of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
So, in lieu of that, allow me to show you this page, which involves a television-headed robot interrogating a rhinoceros-man:
The comic also involves a skater-chick ghost whose "body" ends at the intestines; a bare-breased spider-woman; male shirtless cereal eating; and ... a shocking revelation.
It's great. Fucking buy it already.
I also continue to be very impressed by Saucer Country. This issue features ominous rabbits, hypnotism, flashbacks, nosebleeds, hot Chloe, a gut punch, possibly-imaginary people standing inside a urinal, a new hallucination -- or is she? (wink-wink) -- by the professor, AND talk radio.
While you're at the comic book shop buying Saga, you may as well pick this one up, too. You probably won't get cancer if you don't ... but wouldn't you rather be on the safe side?
And finally, there's The Manhattan Projects. This series is growing on me; I'm not all the way onboard, but this issue helped. It's got Albert Einstein staring at a rock, a dude with a skull instead of a head drinking plutonium, Harry Truman dressed as an ancient Egyptian, President Roosevelt being turned into an A.I. program, and an atomic bomb explosion.
I still do not really know what this focus of this series is.
But I'll give it a few more chances. It's entertaining enough.
Alright, that's about it. I'll try not to let an entire month's worth of comics stack up next time. Work has been hectic lately, though, and it leaves only so much time for bloggin'.
Catch y'all where we all end up: in the future.