So we’re running short on time this week here on the nerd farm, and all long-time readers know what that means… CAPSULEREVIEWSAREGO!!!
Powers of X 4
by Jonathan Hickman and RB Silva
In lieu of our usual deep dive into what the hell’s going on here (time, again, being short), please accept this list of Hickmanesque bullet points instead:
Evil Camp Mister Sinister is the only Mister Sinister I’ve ever liked. (CAPES!)
The Sinister gossip column in this issue may contain clues to future X-Book happenings, as well as a hint at something I hadn’t even considered til this issue (see next bullet point). Of course, considering that the file label at the top and bottom of each page is [00.00_lies]… Maybe not.
You know who Professor X is dressed an awful lot like when he introduces Doug Ramsey to Krakoa?
The X-Men: Year 1000 sequences are increasingly fascinating to me. They seem to indicate that, as much experience and foresight as the reborn Moira MacTaggart has… Her perspective is still limited to one human lifetime, and that may not be enough. Everything we’re seeing here would seem to tell us that, in the long run, she’s just plain wrong.
Trees: Three Fates 1
by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
One of the better career turns I’ve seen a favorite funnybook writer make has been Warren Ellis’ later-days transformation from purveyor of sensationalist fun sci-fi to purveyor of quietly grounded idea-driven sci-fi. His dips back into sensationalism feel increasingly forced to me now, but the grounded stuff still hits. And so I’m very happy to see the return of Trees, Ellis and Jason Howard’s near-future sci-fi look at life in the shadow of giant alien technology that comes to Earth and just… sits there, slowly doing… things we don’t understand.
This time around, he’s reinvented the book as a Russian small town murder mystery, set in a crumbling capitalist system that can barely keep the electricity flowing. I mean… When a goat sleeps on your solar panels, and that takes out the area’s power supply… That is NOT a high-functioning society.
Anyway. This new Trees series is a welcome return, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.
by Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl
I still love this book for its imagination, gorgeous artwork, and embrace of the ineffable. But I must admit that I got a bit lost in the current story arc. What started as a story of missing children and people turned into were-animals melted into a feverish wander in the wood with a seductive crazy witch lady, and I wasn’t 100% sure that the two things were connected til this issue. I’m gonna chalk that up to the book’s irregular release schedule, my own myopia, and a few less-than-clear storytelling choices along the way. I’m not entirely sure what happened this issue with the witch-lady and the giant spider who was also her mother, for instance, or what we’re supposed to make of it. Is there one more part to this story, like I think, or are we moving on to something else? I’m not entirely sure, and that’s disconcerting.
Of course, I’ve had an awful lot going on lately, so I may just be reading dumb.
And like I said, I still love the book, too. It remains inventive and beautiful, and sometimes that’s enough.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight 2
by Sean Murphy
I kind of wrote off the first issue of this White Knight sequel as pointless, because without the hook of Batman and the Joker switching places, it just felt like a regular Batman story. Of course, being a Sean Murphy comic, it was still a pretty good regular Batman story. So I came back for issue two.
And I’m glad I did. Because it’s in this issue that Murphy really sets up the hook for the sequel: Batman vs Super Criminals is just the public face of the power struggle in Gotham City. Beneath all that spectacle is The Elite, a secret cabal of the rich and powerful who are very happy to have Batman out there beating up muggers and madmen because it distracts from their own activities. And when Batman threatens that carefully-maintained balance by revealing his secret identity and bringing it all crashing down… They come after him. Alongside this is the story of Azreal and the Order of St. Dumas, which is tied up in the history of Gotham City, and the Elite.
So, yeah. That brings the nasty edge of social commentary back to the book, and renews its examination of whether or not Batman’s brand of vigilantism is a good thing. And THAT… Is why I liked this book from the beginning.
Pearl 11 & 12
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
These two issues came out a few weeks ago now, but I didn’t want to let this series end without acknowledging it. Because Pearl is among the best Brian Bendis comics I’ve read this decade. It threatened, at times, to slip over into the sort of glib nonsense he writes when he’s over-worked and going on auto-pilot. In places, in fact, it did slip over that line. But only in a few places, and not in regard to anything too terribly important.
So, yeah. Pearl is a good book. Not “Pre-Marvel-Powers” good. Or “Scarlet Volume One” good. Probably not even “Alias” good. It lacks the depth of plot and character that those books delivered so admirably. But it may be in their league in terms of storytelling. In fact, it blows Alias (the previous Bendis/Gaydos collaboration) out of the water on that front. Michael Gaydos has grown tremendously as an artist since those days, and it shows in both the figure drawing and the things he does with a page.
The art in Pearl is as integral to the reading as the script, and that alchemy of story and art makes it better than the sum of its parts. So I wanted to make sure I said that, before it was ridiculously too late to review it one last time.
But speaking books that are made better by the art…
Silver Surfer Black 4
by Donny Cates and Tradd Moore
In this issue, Donny Cates hits us with one of the oldest time travel chestnuts in the world: if you had the power to go back and kill Hitler in the womb, would you? That’s the decision facing the Silver Surfer here, except that instead of Hitler, it’s Galactus. Which raises the stakes considerably. I mean, as bad as Hitler was, Galactus has killed a lot more people. Untold billions more. And the Surfer helped him do it. Plus, he’s facing all kinds of daddy / god issues on top of everything else. All of that makes it a far greater dilemma, and amps the drama up to eleven.
Plus, Tradd Moore makes it all look so damn good.
I mean, HOLY CRAP. Just… Just LOOK AT THAT.
Aaaannddd… That’s all we’ve got time for this week. Hope to see you next time, when we… Well, hell. I don’t know WHAT we’re gonna be doing next week. But I hope to see you there, anyway.