Slightly less giant stack of comics

THE INVINCIBLE HAGGARD WEST #101 — First Second was giving these away at Comic-Con. It’s actually the only issue even though it says FIRST ISSUE on the cover. I liked this issue a lot. Paul Pope’s draftsmanship is beautiful and distinctive and his storytelling is thrilling. Now I want to read Battling Boy which this issue is a preview for. Grade: A

WEDNESDAY COMICS #1 — I’ve already shared my feelings about this series. I find that the best stories in Wednesday Comics are the ones that take the most ¬†advantage of the larger page size — Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman is the prime example of this, but lots of the other strips also use more panels per page or more detailed artwork than would be feasible at normal comic book size. The least effective strips are the ones that are basically just regular comic book pages blown up to newspaper size; the Kuberts’ Sgt. Rock series is the main offender here. Grade: A

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #8 — I enjoyed this issue more than I expected to, given that I’ve been less than impressed with Nuhfer and Mebberson’s previous work on this series. It was an effective conclusion to the story, though it ended in an overly cheerful and syrupy way, even by pony standards. Yay for more camouflage slugs. Grade: B+

FF #9 — One of the most fun issues of the most fun comic Marvel is currently producing. I appreciate the focus on Vil and Wu, who have been totally enigmatic characters so far. I wonder why they have to wear gender-specific bathing suits despite not being sexually dimorphic. Luna’s reaction to Dragon Man was hilarious. Given Julie Power’s current apparent age, Alex shouldn’t just be starting to grow a mustache. Grade: A

FF #10 — Another quality issue, though not as good as the previous one. Some very nice (if rather unsubtle) fourth-wall bending with Matt, Mike and Tom appearing in the comic. The business with the tiger was very cute. I don’t think we were given a sufficient explanation for why Alex is freeing Maximus. Grade: A-

OPTIC NERVE #13 — I assumed issue 12 would be the last issue, based on Adrian’s discussion of how the monthly comic book format was obsolete, but I’m glad to see I was wrong. Given my academic interests, I was fascinated by the first page in which Adrian complains, in a self-consciously luddite way, about the decline of print and paper media. The first story, “Bad Owls,” initially seems like one of Adrian’s typical stories about screwed-up people, but it gradually becomes clear that the dude in the story is not just a harmless asshole, and that the story is really about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. That being the case, I thought the conclusion, in which the protagonist is saved because the dude gets hauled away by the cops, was maybe a bit too hopeful, a bit of a deus ex machina. The backup story was much more abstract and nonspecific, never really explaining the characters’ situation in depth or even showing their faces, but the artwork was some of the best of Adrian’s career. Grade: A+

INVINCIBLE #104 — I hesitated to read this because I expected that it would be very brutal and disturbing. Angstrom Levy seemed like a villain in the mold of Conquest or Thragg or Dinosaurus, a completely unredeemable monster who delights in being evil and who can never be defeated. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when Eve was able to make him see reason. Meanwhile the true villain of the issue proved to be the alternative version of Mark himself. At the end of the issue, I think it’s deliberately unclear who Mark is looking for, Angstrom Levy or the other-dimensional Mark. Grade: A

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2012) #14 — Both this and the last issue have been disappointing. Too much plot and not enough Carol. I admit that Carol’s sacrifice at the end of the issue is truly heroic as well as being a striking plot twist. I’m frustrated that this series has been involved with two major crossovers in a row, and I don’t want to see Carol change significantly; I like her the way she is. Grade: B/B+

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #33 – One of the best issues of the series. Idie is among the best of Jason Aaron’s many great characters, and her moment of transformation at the climax of the issue was quite powerful. I’m glad to see Kid Krakoa finally getting to play an active role in the story. Nick Bradshaw’s art continues to be excellent — I think I mentioned before that he is no mere Art Adams clone, he is developing his own personal style (the analogy Perez:Jimenez::Adams:Bradshaw is not correct).

MORNING GLORIES #14 — I still don’t understand the storyline at all, but I don’t mind when the characters are so fascinating. I continue to seriously detest Zoe (I felt this way even without knowing what was going to happen in the next issue), but I’m starting to lose patience with Hunter as well; he needs to grow some backbone. Grade: A

MORNING GLORIES #15 — In this issue, Zoe almost starts to regain my sympathy for a minute before revealing herself as an utter monster, a cold-blooded remorseless killer, a character I’m not sure whether I love to hate or whether I just hate. No, I am sure, I just hate her and I want her to die. Grade: A

FANTASTIC FOUR #7 — I am enjoying this series significantly less than FF, which explains why I’m three or four issues behind. This one has some interesting stuff in it, including very effective artwork by Bagley and Farmer (whose inking has the property of making any artist look like Alan Davis). But the issue ends with Reed and Valeria acting in a rather cavalier and unheroic way. Reed cheats Blastaar out of his deserved punishment, then brags about how smart he is. It’s odd that in this series Matt Fraction is depicting Blastaar as a horrible genocidal villain, while in FF he’s almost being played for laughs. I guess that speaks to the difference between FF and Fantastic Four more generally, the latter being far more serious than the former, and therefore less enjoyable. Grade: B/B-

CAPTAIN AMERICA #138 — Seriously fantastic stuff. I think the racial politics in this story (in particular, Stoneface’s use of pseudo-African ethnic symbols) are maybe a bit embarrassing today. But it is just so incredible to see John Romita drawing his two greatest characters, Spider-Man and Captain America, in the same issue, and his mastery of composition and action sequences is evident in every panel. Grade: A+

JACK STAFF SPECIAL #1 — Most of this story made very little sense to me since (A) this is the first Jack Staff story I’ve read, and (B) most of the characters in the story are explicitly based on British comic book or television characters that I’m not familiar with. (Besides the Cosmic Champion at the beginning of the story, who is pretty obvious even to me.) However, I am very impressed with Paul Grist’s page layouts; he makes great use of negative space, and he even reminds me a bit of Alex Toth. Grade: A-

LOVE IN TIGHTS #1 — I bought this by mistake because I confused it with LOVE AND CAPES. This issue features some early work by J. Torres, Francis Manapul and Takeshi Miyazawa, but that’s the only notable thing about it. This comic book has very low production values, looking like an amateur product, and all of the stories are simplistic, unoriginal and unfunny superhero parodies. Grade: F

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