So we’ve got a couple of weeks of funnybooks to get caught up on today, and for the first time in more than a month, we actually WON’T be starting off with Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men. But that is in the mix, along with the finale of Zdarsky and Bagley’s Spider-Man: Life Story, a new season of Pretty Deadly, the opening issue of Something is Killing the Children, and the book we’ll be starting off with…
The Wicked + The Divine 45
by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
And so another of my favorite comics comes to an end. I’ve had a difficult relationship with this one, I’ll admit. Its focus on celebrity culture bored me to tears, but its mythological roots fascinated me. And though I felt little or no connection with the cast, I couldn’t deny that they were worth reading about. There were times when I thought the book was more shallow than I wanted it to be (it wasn’t), and other times when I thought I should probably just drop it (I was wrong). But in the long run, I came to love it. So it was with a touch of sadness that I approached this final issue. Which, appropriately enough, is set entirely at a funeral.
Set 40 years after the last issue, this final story is mostly about the characters. We learn (or, even better, are able to piece together) a lot about their lives and relationships in the last four decades. We get a peek into where they are personally. But Gillen and McKelvie don’t tell us much about what the former gods have done to shape the future, or how they’ve done it. I wanted to know those things, but it’s okay that I don’t. It may be better, even. Because, as Laura puts it in the end…
Yeah, okay. Okay, I’m down with that.
One additional note, by the way: Jamie McKelvie really outdid himself on this final issue. His work is always attractive and precise, but here… Holy crap. I’ve left the sample art pretty large, just so you can appreciate it better. So click to embiggen those images, folks. Check out that tree at the funeral. Check out Laura’s face in those last two panels. Beautiful work. Just beautiful.
I can’t think of a better eulogy.
House of X 4 &5
by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz
After six issues of the HoX/PoX linked series relaunch, we get to the proverbial ALL-OUT ACTION ISSUES. And, boy o boy, Hickman’s not playing around here.
Everything after this will be massively SPOILERY, by the way, so just skip ahead to the next review if you’re not up to date. Suffice it to say that big things happen, and that (taken together) these two issues
Cyclops leads a crack mutant team on an assault against the solar-orbiting Mother Mold (a Sentinel that develops and builds new breeds of Sentinels), to prevent the creation of the Nimrod model that is the ultimate doom of mutantkind. And they pull it off (mostly), sending the Mother Mold tumbling into the sun. But the Nimrod protocols are completed right before that happens, and it’s not 100% clear to me whether those plans survive the attack. Whatever happens on that front, though, the X-Men’s losses are heavy. The mission results in a Total Party Kill that takes out major characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Archangel, and Wolverine.
Professor X, psychically following the action back on Earth, does not take it well.
I, meanwhile, am VERY curious to see where the action takes us next. I am immediately reminded, of course, of that weird scene from the beginning of issue one with the naked X-Men hatching out of pods…
…which now takes on even more significance. That scene’s strangely unstuck in time, in a book that’s otherwise obsessed with when things happen. The very next page jumps back “Five Months Ago,” and events progress to “Now” across a few pages. And “Now” is later defined as “X-Men Year Ten,” with other time periods identified as Year Zero, Year 100, and Year 1000. So, yeah. One thing that’s been exceedingly clear in this book is when everything’s happening. Except for that one scene.
I’ve been working under the theory that it happens before everything else, and that at least SOME of the core X-Men we’ve been seeing along the way are Pod People. Scott and Jean, at least. And maybe Wolverine. It would explain a few things. But now… Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe that scene hasn’t actually happened yet, at all. Because if Xavier could just regrow the lost X-Men out of Krakoan pods, why would he be so upset?
It’s been pointed out, by the way, that the preview images of the various X-Line reboot titles don’t show any of the characters who died here. Except for Cyclops, Jean, and Wolverine. Which perhaps lends credence to my pod theory. And might explain why Xavier’s still upset.
But I don’t know anything for sure. And that’s what makes this X-Reboot so damned fun to read. I can’t freaking WAIT to see what happens next. And luckily, I only have to wait til tomorrow to find out.
Pretty Deadly: The Rat 1
by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios
The comic that once inspired an incensed funnybook store owner to rip a copy of it in half, dismissing it (for reasons I still don’t entirely understand) as “psychobabble”… IS BACK!
And, boy, do I ever hope that dude’s ass is chafed by it.
That said, I have to admit that my own history with Pretty Deadly is a little spotty. I like the story it’s telling quite a bit, but sometimes the actual telling of that story doesn’t entirely work for me. It’s a bit more obtuse than I’d like – and as a David Lynch fan, I know from obtuse – but I also suspect that’s a deficiency in me as a reader rather than in the book. It has a very feminine structure, circling around itself with more hills, peaks, and valleys than my straight-ahead male brain is accustomed to. But even I can see (or I can with the gift of hindsight) that the storytelling is more ornate than meandering. It gets where it’s going. It just takes a path I’m not familiar with.
And, good lord, is it ever gorgeous along the way.
Artist Emma Rios is the big reason I stayed with the previous two Pretty Deadly volumes, because even when the story wasn’t quite doing it for me, her rendering of it very much was. And she’s gotten even better. It’s work that resists quick reading, with open layouts that tell a lot more story than it looks like they’re doing at first glance. In the early pages, I had to force myself to slow down and really read her drawings. But once I settled into her rhythms, things went a lot more smoothly. Her panel-to-panel storytelling still isn’t always the clearest, but it’s improved dramatically. Those open layouts direct the eye around the page better than they once did, and the drawing itself (already quite good) is just better in general. She’s spotting more blacks than before, which always grounds the page well, and the story calls for a lot of silhouette work, which she handles beautifully. I won’t call it a tour-de-force, quite, but it is a very attractive artistic experience.
The story, meanwhile, centers on the death of a young woman working at a Hollywood studio in the silent movie era. Her uncle is a “Conjure Man,” gifted with a second sight that he squanders working as a fraudulent spirit medium. He wants to know what really happened to his niece, though, so he opens up that third eye again and opens himself up to Deadface Ginny and the supernatural world.
So it’s got a noir angle that I very much respond to, the kind of murder mystery I can’t resist, and gorgeous artwork that makes my eyes happy. Looks like I’m in for another round.
Spider-Man: Life Story 6
by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley
I am not ashamed to admit that this funnybook had me crying like a baby.
Like. A. Baby.
Seriously, this book had no business being this good. It’s the story of Spider-Man, told in real time across all six decades of the character’s history. Which is a neat idea, to be sure, but it’s not like we haven’t seen similar things done before. John Byrne’s Generations did more or less the same thing with Batman and Superman, for instance, and I like those characters as much or more than I ever have Spider-Man. But somehow Zdarsky and Bagley pulled it off, creating something more interesting, more genuine, and more touching, than corporate comics are generally able to be.
Part of it, I think, is that Spider-Man stories are intensely personal, in a way that most super hero stuff never quite approaches. Peter Parker’s troubles… his job, his romances, his triumphs and his tragedies… have always been just as compelling as Spider-Man’s spandex battles, and that makes the series more affecting.
It’s what makes this final issue so affecting, too. Because ultimately, it wasn’t the post-Civil-War situation that got me. It wasn’t the aging Peter Parker leading the super hero resistance against Doctor Doom’s domination of the world, or his passing the Spider-Man mantle on to Miles Morales, or how Chip Zdarsky found a clever way to riff on the Superior Spider-Man storyline, or… any of that. It was that, when things looked their bleakest for Our Hero…
(SPOILERS… MASSIVE Spoilers… on the way here…)
It was Aunt May that saved him.
Like. A. Baby.
Or maybe I’m just a sucker for parental-love schmaltz.
Either way, this was a very good ending for a very good series. It’s not complex or ground-breaking stuff, mind you. It’s just cleverly-written super heroes. Surprising, heartwarming, wholesome super heroes that plays on its cast’s long history to wring maximum pathos out of the story. It’s just good, and I like it an awful lot.
The Green Lantern 11
by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp
This issue continues the multi-dimensional Lantern epic this series has been slouching towards since issue one, and it works better than last issue’s rushed jumble of stuff. But that’s not what I wanna praise it for today.
It also features an awesome other-dimensional Carol Ferris as Star Sapphire (see above), who’s basically a female version of Hal Jordan, and that notion gets both of them kinda hot. Which is hysterical, and great, and says more about Our Hero than the previous ten issues combined. But that’s also not what I wanna praise it for.
It’s got a giant other-dimensional Golden Lantern, too, who functions as a sort of cosmic Don Quixote. And that’s hysterical and great, as well. But that’s not what I wanna praise this issue for, either.
No, what I wanna praise it for is this:
Morrison and Quitely gave us back original mincing fancy-man Sinestro, complete with original blue spandex. And for that, I cannot thank them enough.
Something is Killing the Children 1
by James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’edera, and Miquel Muerto
Real basic premise here: There’s monsters. They kill children. And there’s an organization of monster hunters dedicated to stopping them.
Which is a pretty awesome concept, all by itself. But the execution is nice, too. It focuses on a survivor of a monster attack, his trauma, and how the people around him react to the situation. THEN it introduces the monster-hunting heroine (seen above), and they (potentially) team up. To kill the monster. Because… That’s what this book is about.
It’s not especially ground-breaking or genre-defining, and it doesn’t represent any sort of new heights of excellence in horror-adventure storytelling. But it IS good. It’s compelling. The story’s well-told, and the dialogue is crisp and witty without descending into the kind of too-cute self-referential jokiness that sinks most things like this.
It’s just… good. And that’s enough.