All my favorite comics come out the same day. It’s weird. I’ll go three weeks just picking up one or two books I’m not super-excited about, and then… WHAM! I’m engulfed.
Last week was one of those weeks.
Hawkeye 11, by Matt Fraction and David Aja
I’m just gonna go right ahead and say that this is the best single issue of the year to date. In fact, I’m not sure we’re gonna see anybody beat it in the back half of the year, either. From the graphically-pleasing cover…
…to the title page that plays homage to both Anatomy of a Murder and Mickey Spillane…
…monthly funnybooks doesn’t get much more stylish and entertaining than this. We’re in the midst of a major storyline here. Hawkeye’s made all the wrong enemies. He’s on the outs with all the women in his life, including his crime-fighting partner/not-girlfriend. The most beloved supporting character in the series has been murdered on Our Hero’s roof. There’s an assassin stalking him, and he doesn’t even know it.
So obviously, it’s time to tell the story from the perspective of the dog.
This is the sort of thing that could easily get too cute for its own good, and it comes close once or twice. But Fraction and Aja earn those moments through sheer graphic brilliance. How does a dog understand and move through the world around it? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I think this is a pretty good guess:
I love everything about that page. The dog flow-charts are the real highlight, I suppose. Here, they convey every smell, thought, and memory Lucky (the dog in question) associates with his owners. I particularly like the shield associated with Clint, and the heart associated with Kate. That speaks volumes about both of them, and plays into the issue’s closing scene. But these diagrams continue throughout the issue in association with all the people and places Lucky sees. We get a thorough sense of his inner life through these things, and they even allow him a character arc. Lucky actually learns heroism in this story, and solves the murder in the process.
Not that anybody knows that because, you know… He’s just a dog.
I’m just as impressed with the human dialogue in the issue, though. Lucky only understands words he hears a lot, and even those only vaguely. Everything else is just black squiggles. But through the few words he does get, Fraction not only illuminates Lucky’s story, but moves the series’ larger plotlines forward. It’s an impressive piece of minimalist writing, both simple and effective. And it could only be done in comics.
Prophet 36, by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milonogiannis
I’ve said recently that I’ve been less happy with this book since it started offering more in the way of a recognizable plot, and characters with understandable human motivations. I may have to take that back as of this issue, though, because the mysterious alien threat that’s been hinted at over the last several issues has been revealed, and…
…it’s super weird.
(I left it extra-big for you, too, so you can see all the insane detail work from guest artists Matt Sheehan and Malachi Ward. How many unique aliens can you fit into a single scene of hellish torment? Well, if you count ’em all, let me know…)
I’m becoming more okay with the understandable human motives, too. The political barbarism of the Earth Empire Johns is disappointingly familiar, but it makes a point: alien as the Brain Mothers’ manipulations seemed in the earlier stories, they’re really just petty dictators, and their shock troops merely thugs.
This issue brought kind of a meta-shock, too, as Diehard finds some sort of holographic picture-globe with a photo of his old Youngblood teammates… drawn in the style of Rob Liefeld. Though the book plays it completely straight, it’s a pretty hysterical moment. Suddenly all the bizarre, twisted anatomies that have become this book’s signature visual style are put into context. Because weird as all the aliens, genetically-engineered Johns, and vagina-faced monkeys are, they really can’t hold a candle to this:
Fatale 15, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Sigh. Another issue of Fatale, another fascinating tale of blood and obsession. If Brubaker and Phillips keep going on like this, I’m just going to have keep buying everything they do sight unseen. Yawn.
Powers Bureau 5, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
I’m tempted to say pretty much the same thing here. At this point, I’ve reviewed so many issues of Powers that it’s difficult to say anything new. I fear that the book may have hit its peak a few years back, but it’s still consistently good, and consistently the best writing Bendis does. Mike Oeming continues to stun on the art, too. It’s just good comics.
Plus… how many comics are you going to read with super villain threats this hysterical?
Well… That’s only half the stack, but I’m out of time and energy to write more tonight. And I suddenly realize that I haven’t read that new book from Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, either, so… Good night.