All-New Weekly Pull: October 30

A great deal of what I’d expected to be reading this week has been delayed into some time next month (or beyond). The result was an odd collection of books, comprising two endings, two beginnings, and a hybrid of both.

Battle of the Atom #2

The very first thing I wanted to read this week was the conclusion of the two-month-running Battle of the Atom crossover, masterminded by Brian Michael Bendis and spanning four ongoing series and two one-shots. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve quite been enjoying Bendis’ X-Men stories generally and enjoyed the first half or so of BotA without any real complaint. But as the series passed its midpoint, and as news began to stir about what would come after the event was over, my enthusiasm flagged. This week, it came very close to dying.

The truth is, for the “end” of an “event,” this issue was an extraordinary letdown. On its own it might possibly have been enjoyable, but taken as the final issue of a long-running arc, it feels deeply unsatisfying. Note that the remainder of this “review” will contain spoilers. Perhaps the worst part of this event is how little of an attempt is made to explain anything of consequence in the story. We have no reason for why the future “Brotherhood” came back — or what led them to become the “Brotherhood” in the first place. We have no indication of what they expected to accomplish by sending the O5 back in time. Speaking of the O5, we have no idea why they couldn’t go back; in the most obtuse “comic science” excuse ever conceived to justify crowding the publishing space with characters who’ve already had half a century to hog the spotlight, the reason we’re given is simply “the universe won’t allow it.” For a company that is just wrapping up a book they pitched to people who believed Marvel had too many teen heroes, the idea of making it even harder for those newer teen heroes to thrive by adding teen versions of the original characters is strikingly obtuse.

The thing about Battle of the Atom is that it was fun in the beginning but turned into a random, sluggish nightmare about halfway through. Things persisted without reason, people fought each other without thinking, none of the communication that should have transpired between friends did, and that inane lack of any kind of reasonable behavior was then used as the excuse for some of the stupidest events in the book, not least of which being the decision Kitty Pryde makes at the end. I’d call it a “shocking conclusion” but that would suggest it was a surprising decision made by a character — not a character-defying declaration which made no sense in the context of her life and relationships. Certainly it was unexpected, but that’s only because I try to expect good writing. I suppose those who expect less were also less surprised.

I disagree with the notion that “a story is only as good as its ending,” but in many ways the reason I didn’t hate this story while reading it was because I anticipated that my concerns were going to be addressed by the time the story wrapped. In hindsight, knowing how it concludes and how little is ultimately explained in a satisfying way, I can definitively say this is one of the worst events I’ve ever read. Outside of the handful of pretty cool spreads which the artists had a chance to throw together for this anniversary, Battle of the Atom is a wash. Read this issue if you’re a completionist; otherwise, if you decided to skip the crossover, you made a better decision than I did.

Scarlet Spider #23

Considering how late I jumped on the Kaine train, this whole arc has been an interesting blend of excitement and ambivalence for me. Unlike most readers, I know nothing of Kaine’s past, his connections with Kraven (or, really, any of his pre-Texas life), or any of his relationships beyond Aracely, since other than the brief mentions on the introduction page of every issue I’ve not yet read a story that featured them. Thus the backstory which leads to this confrontation with Kraven, and the threats to kill off Kaine’s loved ones, is less suspenseful or engaging for me than it likely should have been.

This proves to be a double-edged sword, because it means coming into the story with neither preconceived notions nor the typical risk of emotional scarring that accompanies the deaths of characters I’ve come to care about. Had I been reading for longer, the “who will die” hook would probably have made me drop the series; but since I knew I wouldn’t care, I let myself read on, and actually found myself enjoying the ride. Kaine has become one of my favorite titular characters (I say titular because most times I read books with ensemble casts), and seeing him wrestle against his past in a very literal way was a fun roundabout way of getting to know a bit of what, as I said, I’ve never read. This series ends in two issues, and Kaine & Aracely have already been confirmed to star in New Warriors next spring, so all that remains is to see how Yost has decided to tie up this story.

Cataclysm #0.1

I despise Cataclysm.

I figure that bears saying up front. The whole notion of Marvel more or less threatening to (and maybe even promising to) wreck a huge portion of their publishing landscape, and a slew of characters and relationships along with it, is indicative of the problems I’ve had with the company since almost a year ago when I started reading their comics. In fact, knowing since this summer that something terrible was going to happen to the Ultimate universe has been the main reason I’ve avoided reading anything in their line, despite the fact that they introduced Cloak & Dagger, two of my favorite characters, into Ultimate Spider-Man, one of the few books I’ve actually had an interest in reading.

Yet loathing aside, Cataclysm positions itself as the quintessential opportunity to watch a train wreck, and preliminary reviews of this prequel one-shot issue starring the Ultimate (female) version of Vision piqued my interest. So I read the beginning of the end. And it was beautiful: a story with crescendos of doom but a steady, quiet undertone of hope. One that made me (despite my ignorance) respect Vision and the universe she has inhabited, and run the risk of caring (if just for a moment) about this world of characters I do not know and have done my best not to know.

I don’t intend to read any of the rest of Cataclysm. I imagine it will be pretty bleak and upsetting. But I’m glad I decided to give this issue a shot.

Nightwing Annual #1

Folks seem to be pretty sure that DC is planning to kill Dick Grayson. While I’m not quite so cynical as to believe the company would actually kill two Robins in less than a year, I recognize the guy has had a really rough time of it lately. And while I’m not following Forever Evil, I get the sense that things look pretty bleak. Yet somewhere between all the massive crossover and world-changing events Kyle Higgins wrote a story with a lighter mood and happier times — one which, I realized only after I’d picked it up on a whim, actually ties into Batgirl and is a direct follow-up to its most recent issue.

Having never read an issue of Nightwing outside of the Death of the Family crossover, I came to the annual with few preconceived notions of Dick or his relationship with Babs. I understand they’ve had a pretty long history but what with all the changes the New 52 has wrought it’s been pretty uncertain to what extent their feelings for one another from days past had even actually happened, let alone mattered. And in that sense, the best reason you could pick up this book would be to see that question finally taken up and addressed in a way that feels sensible and meaningful without ignoring the developments in either character’s recent life.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that this book also involves a subplot of a mystery involving a firebug (I actually read this the same day as facing Firefly in Arkham Origins, coincidentally, though the character here is someone completely different). It provides an excuse for Barbara and Dick to run around Gotham together, but not much else; in fact, it’s almost a distraction, and not an utterly engaging one at that. That said, I didn’t find myself particularly bothered, and I don’t imagine most other folks would be either.

Whatever the future may hold for Dick Grayson, it was nice to see him have a chance to run around more or less carefree here. While by no means a “must-read” (unless you’re a huge fan of Dick or him with Babs), this is certainly a fun annual. You could definitely do far worse.

Sandman: Overture #1

In hindsight, the majority of this week’s entry could have been called “I don’t have much knowledge of the history of this, but I really enjoyed it.” So it goes with the book I saved for last in my stack, the long-awaited return of Neil Gaiman and Dream of the Endless — aka Morpheus — in a six-issue miniseries illustrated by the recently-departed-from-DC-but-still-(thank God)-drawing-this-series J. H. Williams III. And the truth is, this book is as much quintessential Gaiman as it is quintessential Williams. Both have a style that is instantly recognizable even as they are dynamic tellers of stories; which is to say, they vary in their delivery but the work is always also distinctly theirs.

My Sandman experience is, quite briefly, the first issue of the series and the deluxe hardcover collection of Death. I cannot be quite as excited for the return of the series as others since I have only the vaguest notion of just how missed it has been for these many years. What I can be is thrilled that Overture is phenomenal thus far. It is the rare book that makes me slow down and savor each page, makes me truly read and weigh the words, makes me worry about progressing because I might have missed some excellent detail in my haste. It is the first time I can think of I have read a comic and known for a fact that I was going to reread it, not because I’d need to in order to understand some obtuse plot point or reference or to unravel some future mystery, but because it was just such a joy to experience and I’d be looking to experience it again soon.

Sandman: Overture is every bit as whimsical and beautiful as it is disturbing and jarring. Gaiman and Williams present you with inhuman characters with surprising humanity and human characters who are surprisingly inhuman, and you learn quickly not to trust first impressions. This is a book in which Fate is made a character, and then is forced to read its own story; in which people who dream become different people when they do so; in which plants feel fear; in which Death tells jokes beneath her unnecessary umbrella.

This issue convinced me of two things. One, that I will be reading the next five issues. And two, that it’s about time I read Sandman.


All-New Weekly Pull: October 23

Halloween’s right around the corner, The Walking Dead is back, and Afterlife with Archie is now a thing, so I figured one more pseudo-resurrection would be par for the course. I don’t know that I have enough to say (or enough time to say it) that I’m going to be writing on a weekly basis, but after updating my Pull List, I thought perhaps a quick “I’m Alive!” was in order. For future reference, whether I post here or not I do read at least a few new comics every week, and have been quietly documenting my reading via Comic Vine’s list system. You know. In case you’re interested (most noteworthy: I breezed through the entirety of Locke & Key this month and am eagerly awaiting its final issue next week).

Wolverine & the X-Men #37

First up on this week’s small stack was Wolverine & The X-Men #37. It’s worth noting that Battle of the Atom has been an event which I’ve enjoyed, albeit with a slowly fading enthusiasm as the story masterminded by Brian Michael Bendis passed the midpoint and immediately started losing steam. Today’s was the penultimate issue of a two-month crossover. Sadly, that’s what it felt like: a book characterized by what it precedes, yet another piece of filler before whatever massive, surprising reveal Bendis has planned for next week’s closer. For the first time, I’m thinking the critics may be right about the man’s inability to craft satisfying conclusions despite arguably awesome inceptions. By this point the motivations and trustworthiness of most of the characters are still completely shrouded in mystery, and the final page’s setup for the finale leaves little reason to anticipate any worthwhile exposition or denouement because there’s still a heck of a battle to be had.

All that aside, Jason Aaron’s actual writing of the issue is fairly enjoyable, and is complemented by generally solid (if occasionally awkward) art. Despite the fact that Aaron’s book is the only major “X-Men” book not on my pull list, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t enjoyed his issues quite a bit, maybe even more than a few of the other parts of BotA. Of course, context is a big part of why I read this issue, and I imagine it’s also the deal -maker or -breaker for everyone else. Simply put, this isn’t an issue of Wolverine & the X-Men, it’s an issue of Battle of the Atom, so if you’re not following that there’ nothing here for you, and if you are following that, you kind of have to read this even if you’re not overly enthusiastic about doing so.

The remainder of today’s pull was courtesy of Image, who decided, it seems, that today was a good day for launching new titles.

Velvet #1

I’ve gushed a bit about Ed Brubaker’s writing in the past. It occurs to me that some folks aren’t fans of him, but I can’t imagine why not. To date, I’d never read anything of his I disliked — and with Velvet #1, that record stands. Brubaker is finally scratching a years-long itch to write a spy thriller, and partnered with utterly dynamic art from Steve Epting & Elizabeth Breitweiser, that’s a very, very good thing. As with FataleVelvet is a book which alternately fits and breaks the mold of its genre, feeling precisely like the spy stories you’ve seen before even as it shines with an implacable something you’ve not. For the unacquainted, this is the story of the pretty girl at the front desk who usually serves as window-dressing for the suave manly agent’s tale. In no time at all the agents become the window-dressing, and you realize that Velvet Templeton is by far the most interesting person in the room.

And then she kicks a few people in the face and jumps out a window.

Like I said, there are some people who, for whatever reason, don’t like Brubaker. Perhaps those people will find something to dislike about Velvet, too. Its adherence to (despite its defiance of) the spy thriller genre means that, to a great extent, you’ll need a taste for espionage and subterfuge if you’re to enjoy this book. But what Velvet sets out to accomplish, it does flawlessly, and I for one am excited to see where Ms. Templeton goes next.

Pretty Deadly #1

Yet by far the most thrilling debut of the week, for me, was Pretty Deadly, assembled by creative trifecta Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, and Jordie Bellaire. I hesitate to try to write anything resembling a “review” of it because inevitably I would fail to articulate properly what I loved so much about it. It is a western. It is gothic. It is ugly, but also quite beautiful. Like Deathface Ginny it is enchanting and frightening. Like the free-form autobiographical account of the book’s inception, it is riveting. I turned the final page, stared at the gorgeous wraparound cover, and felt so satisfied that I began to wonder why I bother reading anything which satisfied less.

Perhaps that sounds hyperbolic. No doubt at least one person out there will, in the spirit of the Internet, glance over Pretty Deadly #1 and say “meh.” In the spirit of the Internet, I’d answer, Don’t be that guy. I don’t typically give a call to action here, but really, you should be reading Pretty Deadly.

And those are my thoughts for this week’s pull ^_^

Weekly Pull: June 19th Edition

Hey folks! I’ll be heading off to Oregon for a little less than a week and plan to read a lot of trades while in transit and during downtime. So expect a lot of silence over the next week, and (hopefully) a bit of action the week after that. This week, Tynion kept me on the line with RHatO, Supergirl continued to please, part three of The Enemy Within was the best one yet, my favorite duo made a big entrance in the Ultimate universe, and the fifth issue of Brian Wood’s fantastic miniseries Mara FINALLY came out. Continue reading “Weekly Pull: June 19th Edition”