Apologies for the lateness; I was off on a statewide trek to retrieve my brother from college. Plus side: lots of reading time. Downside: no keyboard at my disposal. Anyhow, this week was a handful of #1’s and the official first issue of a new season.
Morning Glories #27
Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma
If you’ve checked out my current pull list, you’ll know I sing high praises of Spencer & Eisma’s Morning Glories, the highly disturbing Lost-plus-prep-school-plus-superpowers tale of very unfortunate children and the school that they seem to have been destined to be a part of. After a stellar 25-issue first season and a one dollar interlude/prologue, Season Two of the planned-for-100-issue story kicked off this week in a double-sized, fantastic way.
It’s difficult to discuss anything in this book without stumbling either into spoiler territory or needless confusion, because the truth is this is a book which answers questions not with answers but with more questions. Given the various narrative threads being spun this book officially picks up at the end of several previous issues all at once, and alternates between a few different points in time. We see Casey’s return as well as snippets of her life on the other side, and have confirmed for us that everything about MGA has a fated duplicity to it. A lot of what has seemed inevitable is such because of self-fulfilling prophecy.
The highlight of this issue, particularly for anyone foolish enough to try to jump onboard without having read the first season, is actually not the issue itself but the backup content. Evidently for the past couple years a site called Multiversity Comics has been providing speculation and clarification on the goings on of Morning Glories under the header “Study Hall.” Aside from immediately confirming that no one should be reading this book without checking out the notes over there, the snippets included in the back of this issue are extremely helpful in figuring out some of the bigger knots in the narrative and draw your attention to some cool Easter eggs you may not have noticed otherwise.
But the best part is an adorable (if slightly unnerving) cartoon strip featuring “baby” versions of the characters which actually goes through the entirety of Season One in a quick and insidiously cute fashion. Though it’s likely to confuse the uninitiated as much as (if not more than) it helps, it was a refreshing inclusion and one I really hope we see more of in subsequent issues.
I honestly cannot recommend this series enough. The first issue is a double-sized $1 offering, and at that price I think it’s impossible to justify not giving Morning Glories a try. Then buy the rest.
Red Hood & The Outlaws Annual #1
James Tynion IV & Al Barrionuevo
I’ll admit up front that I am not the most confident person when it comes to the future of this series. As one of the many who loved Lobdell’s run (rather than celebrated his leaving), I was particularly angry by the events of the latest Batman & Robin and the subsequent RHatO which served as Tynion’s first on the book (and it didn’t help that the latter released before the former, leaving the matter of why Jason had done a complete 180 since Lobdell’s swan song completely up in the air for several weeks). The last issue provided a bit of good faith that Jason’s memories would eventually return, which is the primary concern I’ve had; it also cleared up a few questions which had lingered for a while in the series, particularly regarding Kori’s memories.
Happily, the annual covers a lot of ground and does a lot to assuage fears that Tynion is going to drive the book into the ground. Jason, perhaps not quite as certain about his decision as he lets on, goes digging to find out more about the life he’s tried to leave behind, while Roy grapples with a lifelong habit of not being trusted, first by Ollie and now by Kori. Of course if this were merely an issue rife with introspective brooding no one would be sticking around for it, and after a few quick emotional moments the book kicks into high gear with Green Arrow’s arrival at the Outlaws’ hideout and the simultaneous reveal of the New 52’s version of the lethal villain Cheshire.
I can’t speak to how she stacks up against her pre-Flashpoint self (having never seen her before), but Cheshire quickly becomes an enjoyable adversary, toying with the four island inhabitants as she handily demonstrates her very real lethality. As she duels Roy (the real star of this issue), you get a taste of the fun this book has been seemingly lacking for the last couple issues and the real draw of this crew of misfits. High-stakes fighting and witty banter needn’t be mutually exclusive, and Tynion nails the exchanges between Roy and Cheshire.
All that aside, this is sort of what one might expect from an annual. It helps progress some of the story but not in a deeply meaningful way, and feels quite a bit like treading water between numbered issues. Five dollars is a steep asking price, so I’d recommend picking this up, but digitally and in a month, when the price drop (should) kick in.
Primer: Part 1 of 3
Brian Wood & Olivier Coipel
People read X-Men comics for a variety of reasons, I’d guess. If my reasons don’t overlap with yours, the things I love you may despise. Which means in theory, there are people out there who would not love the first issue of the (adjectiveless) (all-women) new X-Men from Wood and Coipel. These theoretical people have my theoretical sympathy.
You can almost feel the tension that was on this creative team’s shoulders coming into the issue of a book which has been delayed several times and always to the chagrin of readers who have been champing at the bit to see what by all accounts is an incredible group of characters all crammed together into a single book. And crammed feels like a good word to describe the first part of a three-part arc: Jubilee, a mystery baby, international espionage, teenage drama, an epic train scene (complete with explosions), and a core conflict with roots stretching back into the time before life on earth. Anyone who has been yawning through the slow burn of Bendis’ All-New X-Men will find none of that torpidity here.
For the most part, characterization seems to be pleasing people (with the noteworthy exception of Kitty, who seems to have regressed into an adolescent at times…like, OMG). My ever-present caveat of being a new reader aside, those who have considered other writers’ presentations of female characters too uniform and lacking in distinction will not have that issue with Wood. Coipel’s art, meanwhile, is a joy (one glaringly gratuitous shot of Storm notwithstanding). I don’t tend to be terribly picky on art but it’s hard to imagine someone disliking Coipel’s striking style, which excels as much in detailed panoramas as in character close-ups.
There’s not a ton more to be said about the issue. I’d guess than anyone who keeps a finger on the pulse of the industry has known this book was coming for a long time. If you like these characters, or just like a fun superhero book, this is definitely worth picking up. This is the X-Men book many readers have been waiting for.
The Wake (2013) #1
Part One (of Ten)
Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy
Put simply, Snyder and Murphy’s The Wake is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has a tendency to feel stagnant and iterative. Its cover’s striking green and gold set it apart from its peers on the shelf (and I’d know, because this is the first physical book I’ve bought in several months). The interior art is relentlessly striking, from architecturally-stunning cityscape to believable underground bunker, populated with instantly believable characters whose faces are so expressive that you feel, only a dozen pages in, like you’re watching a movie filled with actors you recognize.
If The Wake is a joy to look at, it’s also one to read. From the nameless present-day adventurer to the charismatic Dr. Lee Archer to the eclectic group destined to carry the title, every character feels rich and real. The layers of mystery beneath both plot and character are palpable and tantalizing, as Snyder tells you just enough to get you interested but not enough to really let you know what to expect from this expedition and its crew. Why were these people really brought together? What happened in Archer’s past that got her blacklisted, and what are the chances anyone is going to make it out of this alive?
The Wake teases mysteries deeper and older than any of its cast could imagine, providing a rare look at what exemplary first issues should be: beautiful, captivating, and unique despite a vague sense of familiarity. If you only pick up one comic this week, it should be this.
P.S., in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out my standalone overview of Injustice #20. And keep an eye peeled for upcoming thoughts on Brubaker & Cooke’s Catwoman and Brubaker’s Fatale!