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Friday, July 10, 2009



It's the story of how Odin tired of his son's arrogant douchebaggery and rendered him mortal in order to teach him humility, told once again but with a solid script by Matt Fraction and suitably regal art from Clay Mann, Victor Olazoba, and Patrick Zircher. This time around I think Marvel's finally hit upon the definitive version of that bit of Thor's history, and this will appeal to both Thor groupies and the casual tourist through the Marvel Universe. (NOTE: apparently this came out near the New Year, but I only noticed it on the shelves last week.)

Cover by Amanda Conner.

Co-scripters Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue to bring the fun, and my old pal Amanda Conner supplies art that shows she's putting her heart and soul into every panel as she delineates the adventures of mainstream comics' most pendulously-dugged powerhouse. This issue was a particular treat for me because of its handling of one of my favorite DC villains, namely the Ultra-Humanite, so coupled with that and A.C.'s gorgeous artwork, I had no choice but to single this one out as one of the month's best.

Alternate cover by some hack named Adam Hughes.

Considering how often and badly we've all been burned by crossover stories, I went into "The Great Fables Crossover" with considerable trepidation, but also taking into consideration just how overall entertaining FABLES has been since the get-go I really shouldn't have worried. Honestly calling itself exactly what it is instead of getting saddled with a title along the lines of "Secret Infinite Storybook Crisis Wars on Earth-Vertigo" or some such horseshit, this crossover is livelier, funnier, and just plain more fun than any crossover I've read since...I can't remember when. Despite a huge cast of characters it's never confusing or bloated, and the narrative proceeds in a straightforward and interesting fashion while still taking time out for bits of amusing character business, proving scripters Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges to be quite adept at keeping such a potential train wreck on a steady course.

Part 5 finds Bigby's transmogrifying status becoming more and more vexing as Kevin Thorn, the guy who plans to rewrite the universe, looks for a way to overcome a crippling case of writer's block. As the paltry attack force lead by Bigby and Snow White Near's Kevin's stronghold, the Page Sisters get fed up with waiting for something to happen, carjack some wheels and set off for Wichita, there to arm themselves with enough heavy duty weaponry to make both Rambo and John Matrix look like a pair of limp-wristed Nancy-boys with a bad case of the croup. And though Kevin apparently cannot outright kill Bigby, he does manage to severely fuck with the once-Big-Bad-Wolf by altering his form once again, only that tactic may prove to be a very bad idea as this final bit of unwilling metamorphosis may have pushed Bigby to new levels of homicidal anger.

Part 6 features the onset of the siege of Kevin's Catskills sanctuary as the Page Sisters show up with guns-a-blazin' in a vicious firefight with the living embodiments of assorted fictional genres, while the intrigue within the commandeered mansion escalates...

The next chapter alternates between the goings-on at the Farm and at the besieged Catskills resort and focuses on Jack meeting (and messing with the head of) his son by the Snow Queen, the clearing-up of Stinky's misconceptions about Jack being the second coming of Little Boy Blue, Sambo's manipulation of Kevin once the crazed penman violently solves his case of writer's block, and Jack teaching Bigby and Snow White's kids the finer points of poker.

Part 8 features a tour de force of hilarious graphic violence from illustrator Russ Braun as a fed-up Bigby — now stuck in the form of an adorable little girl — recalls his own utter badassery and lays down some major league hurt on Kevin's forces. When I read that sequence on the subway I laughed my ass off, and promptly begged Russ to save one particular page from the battle for me when he gets it back from DC art returns (you'll know exactly the page I'm talking about when you read the issue).

There's only one chapter left to this story and I'm curious to see how it ends. It seems to me that there could still be a lot of narrative ground to cover, maybe too much to neatly tie up in one issue, so I'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.


In the wake of Mongul's subjugation of the planet Daxam and the self-sacrifice of its native son Sodam Yat, Green Lantern Arisia rallies the planet's xenophobic population and gives them a crash course in their new found, yellow sun-generated superpowers. (For those not geeky enough to know or care, the people of Daxam have basically the same abilities as natives of Krypton, so when exposed to the radiation from a yellow sun they become just like good ol' Superman, only minus the years of experience at wielding such borderline-godlike abilities.) As parts of the interminable buildup to the upcoming "Blackest Night" Green lantern arc, this was far livelier than most.


While the struggle to liberate Daxam and oust Mongul continues, the spotlight returns to the Green Lantern Corps' homeworld of Oa and the aftermath of the breaching of its "science cells," which resulted in the escape of all the psychotic criminals housed there and a bloody battle to once more keep them in check. Not a bad issue, but get to "Darkest Night" already!!!


Well, while not exactly bad. I've lost interest in the return of Barry Allen after only three issues. It's well-written and looks good, but in the end it's just another Flash story of the kind that I've found dull and repetitive since I was a kid. The only item of real interest here is the answering once and for all of that eternal comics-geek question, "Who's faster, Superman or the Flash?" It seems that most of the previous foot-races between the Man of Steel and the Scarlet Speedster were done for charity and ended up as a draw...but that was because it was for charity, and this time Barry sees no reason to salve Superman's ego. When the next issue shows up in my stack I may read it or I may not, but if I don't I doubt I'll be missing much.


You didn't actually believe Marvel would permanently kill off Steve Rogers, did you? Well, looks like he's coming back and the way that resurrection is being made to happen amounts to Cap being turned into a latter day Billy Pilgrim (look him up). When that element was introduced as Cap's possible way back to the land of the living, I rolled my eyes and let out a long groan as I read it on the subway. The art's nice, but otherwise my own personal verdict is still out on this story and awaiting further developments before I can give a real critique.


The best Marvel superhero book currently running, AGENTS OF ATLAS continues to hold me riveted, and this issue's inclusion of the Sub-Mariner was the briny icing on a delectable cake. If you haven't read the collected edition of the the mini-series that preceded this ongoing series, anything I'd have to say by way of a review of this issue would make little sense and give away the secrets and intrigue that mount with each issue, so I urge you to start with that. All others who read this book know how good it is, so I don't need to tell you guys nuthin'.


As of this issue all the core players in Mike Grell's barbarian saga have been re-introduced and while it's fun to revisit some of my favorites from my bygone youth, not much happens in the story and what does happen is strictly run-of-the-mill. Maybe the next issue will light me up a bit more, but the mostly generic art from Chad Hardin (and three inkers) fails to generate much interest and the narrative is nothing we haven't seen a million times. I would probably be more forgiving toward it if Mike Grell were actually drawing it (preferably shot from his pencils, minus inks), but such is not the case, and more's the pity. I will keep up with it though, unless is peters out the same way the original series eventually did.


I hadn't caught up with the adventures of any of the heroes who used to form the X-Men spinoff team Excalibur, so I decided to check this out due to my favorite of the Excalibur lot, Meggan, being featured on the cover. Now in Hell for reasons that remained obscure, the sweet-natured shapeshifter is illustrated by Mike Collins, and all I have to say to that is that it's a looooong way from the glory days of Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. The lead story, "The Harrowing of Hell," is a big nothing in which Meggan seeks a way out of the underworld and in the process instills hope and goodness in a number of the realm's previously damned and evil residents., and the backup piece showing Captain Britain playing cricket was virtually forgotten not five minutes after I read it. I've heard good buzz on the monthly CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI13, but if what's found between the pages of this feeble annual are any indication of the ongoing's overall quality, I find such acclaim highly suspect. If the series' supporters like this crap, their heads would explode if they checked out the immeasurably superior AGENTS OF ATLAS.


The month-to-month gun-slingin' fury of Jonah Hex continues with no loss of interest or entertainment as the six-part "The Six Gun War" kicks off in grim style. Hex runs afoul of one of the seemingly endless number of owlhoot gangs out to kill his ugly ass and is in no time flat shot, severely beaten, buried alive and left for dead. And then things get interesting. Tallulah Black and Bat Lash also figure into things, also running afoul of the douchebags who bushwhacked Hex, but Jonah manages to haul his ass out of the ground with the well-timed aid of a pair of grave-robbers and make his way to the nearest town, where he immediately passes out facedown on the floor of the local sheriff's office. TO BE CONTINUED, and I look forward to what's next. Could it have anything to do with a very pissed-off Hex seeking retribution? Mmmmm...Could be, rabbit. Could be...

PRINCE VALIANT VOL. 1: 1937-1938

Fantagraphics once more steps up to the plate and nails a homerun, this time with the best reproduction yet seen of Hal Foster's epic tale from the days of King Arthur. Still running today in some of the nation's Sunday newspapers' comics section, PRINCE VALIANT these days isn't even a pale shadow of the glorious work its creator lavished upon it, comics art, no, illustration, that deservedly earned it a place among the pantheon of the medium's early landmarks, and if you've only seen the strip over the past three decades you could be forgiven for asking exactly what the big deal once was. That question is answered within the pages of what may be the single most visually splendid Sunday comic strip of them all, a series that even now one would be hard pressed to find a visual equal to. If you've never read the Hal Foster originals, now's your chance and I urge you not to miss it. Val may look like a particularly butch lesbian cast member of a Medieval Times show and the dialogue may be kinda flowery, but bear with it and suck in Foster at his post-TARZAN best. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Secret Infinite Storybook Crisis Wars on Earth-Vertigo" ...

I love you, man. That's priceless.