BLUE BEETLE #4 (DC, 2012) – In this series Tony Bedard (or his editors) took one of DC’s best new concepts of the past decade and stripped it of everything that made it interesting, creating a boring and excessively violent mess. This is the worst comic I’ve read since I started this project. Grade: F
THE SUPER COPS #1 (Archie/Red Circle, 1974) – This one-shot comic is based on the real-life adventures of New York cops Dave Greenberg and Bob Hantz, who were also the subjects of a movie of the same name. Though I don’t understand what was so notable about these two guys, I guess I can see how an interesting comic could have been done about them. Unfortunately, this is not that comic, because all the stories are written by Marv Channing, whose writing is utterly devoid of any sort of excitement. He manages to take exciting material, as well as good artwork by Gray Morrow, Vicente Alcazar (as “V. Hack”) and Frank Thorne, and suck all the life out of it. I see why there was never a second issue of this series. Grade: C-
RASL #2 (Cartoon Books, 2008) – I never really connected with this series, and I think it’s because I don’t think Jeff Smith has the right sensibility to write a serious work of science fiction. Of course Bone eventually turned into a work of epic high fantasy, but even at its grimmest, it always had a basic sense of humor and cuteness which Rasl completely lacks. Without that, this comic is never really able to arouse my interest, though Jeff’s artwork is up to its usual high standards. Grade: C+/B-
LAZARUS #3 (Image 2013) – This is another enjoyable issue which is notable for its depiction of the utter horribleness of the dystopian future in which it takes place. Forever’s siblings Johanna and Jonah are starting to emerge as utterly heartless sociopaths who have not the slightest concern for human life. Of course the scary thing about all this is its plausibility: some recent evidence suggests that privileged people in real life have a similar lack of concern for those less fortunate than them. This series is so disturbing and hits so close to home that it can be depressing to read, but it continues to be an impressive piece of work. Grade: A
SEX CRIMINALS #1 (Image, 2013) – This review is tentatively scheduled to appear at The Comics Alternative.
MORNING GLORIES #31 ( Image, 2013) – With this issue I’m finally caught up on this series. The artwork in this issue has a jarringly different appearance which appears to be due to a new colorist, Jason Lewis. I liked the previous colorist, Paul Little, a lot better; Lewis’s colors make Joe Eisma’s pencils look muddy and dull rather than crisp. The focus in this issue is on Hunter, who would be the most sympathetic character in the series if he wasn’t such a spineless wimp, but this issue advances his character arc by giving him a purpose and a group of friends. (One reason I grew to hate Zoe was because she murdered the only character who was nice to Hunter; thankfully that is no longer the case.) I look forward to continuing with this series now that I’m almost up to date with it. Grade: A-
MORNING GLORIES #30 (Image, 2013) – This issue focuses on Irina, in the same way that issues 7 through 12 each focused on one of the six original characters. Irina’s upbringing is horrible enough to shock even a reader who has read all kinds of stories about horrible parents. And yet the reader ends up wondering whether Kseniya’s abusive parenting may actually have been justified by the dangers she was trying to protect Irina from. I still don’t know why Irina is important in the grand scheme of the series, but this issue effectively fleshes out her character. Grade: A-
STRANGE TALES II #3 (Marvel, 2011) – This comic, in which indie and alternative creators work on Marvel characters, includes a very diverse range of material. Of the various stories in the issue, my favorites were: 1) the James Stokoe Galactus/Silver Surfer story, which is drawn in a hyper-detailed style reminiscent of but also quite different from that of Geof Darrow. I’ve been curious about Stokoe’s work for a while but this story gives me an extra incentive to seek it out. And 2) the Brandon Marra story, which reminds me a lot of certain alternative comics, especially those of Spain, because of the style and the brutality of the satire. There’s also some enjoyable work here by Kate Beaton, Alex Robinson and Terry Moore – the latter story pleasantly surprised me because I tend not to like Moore’s writing. On the other hand, the stories by Tim Hamilton and Eduardo Medeiros were just kind of dumb. The final story, by Harvey Pekar (who died before the issue was released) and Ty Templeton, was very touching but also seemed kind of like a litany of Pekar clichés. Grade: A-
MORNING GLORIES #26, 28 and #29 (Image, 2013) – These two issues include a lot of bizarrely convoluted storytelling that doesn’t completely make sense to me, but #29 ends with a return to the status quo, which hopefully means that the series will now be easier to follow. The main thing that stuck out to me here is that each issue subsequent to #26 ends with a “Notes from Study Hall” section which is credited to Professor Matthew Meylikhov. I was initially unsure if he was a real person (apparently he is), but his assistance makes this series much easier to navigate; thanks to him, this series is only confusing instead of bewildering. Grade: A- for all
SIX-GUN GORILLA #3 (Boom!, 2013) – This review is tentatively scheduled to appear at The Comics Alternative.
SAVAGE DRAGON #191 (Image, 2013) – This was a rather depressing issue. In the first place, Dragon is becoming so bitter and violent that he’s almost losing my sympathy; if he really does die in a couple issues, it’ll be almost a relief. In the second place, Maxine and Malcolm are a cute couple and their breakup is a real shame. I hope this series gets more fun after #193. The backup story in this issue is completely pointless; it’s illustrated in a style of artwork that I thought went out of fashion in the ‘90s. I applaud Erik for using his comic to help promote the careers of younger artists, but some of those artists just aren’t that good. Grade: B+
SAGA #14 (Image, 2013) – The best moment of any comic this week is when Slave Girl says “I am all dirty on the inside because I did bad things with—“ and Lying Cat says LYING. Quite an effective rebuttal to the awful notion that any female who is sexually abused is somehow damaged goods. Besides that, this is another entertaining issue, though it represents something of a lull in the storm, a pause between major events, and we still haven’t gotten back to the point where issue 12 ended. Part of the appeal of this series is that it’s full of hilariously weird throwaway ideas, and this issue contains one of the best yet: The Will and Gwendolyn fishing for flying sharks with a kite-sword. Grade: A/A+
FF #12 (Marvel, 2013) – Another massively entertaining issue. The scenes involving the kids are as hilarious as ever. Mik (or Korr, I can’t distinguish the two) and Artie spend an entire page proving their theory that Impossible Man is a supervillain because of his green-and-purple color scheme. Which leads to an adorable scene where Adolf and Luna, both of whom are feeling neglected by the other kids, strike up a friendship. It is a great shame that the TV show Luna is watching on this page is not actually real. Surprisingly, though, the scenes with the adults in this issue are almost as cute. Matt Fraction has been developing a romance between Scott and Darla in such a subtle way that I didn’t even notice, but in this issue it kind of comes to a head. (One of the Scott/Darla scenes also includes the best line of the issue: “No time for important listening. Plenty of time for pitching woo.” I think the phrase “pitching woo” has been unjustly forgotten.) There is also an ongoing plot here, as easy as it is to forget that, and at the end of this issue it takes a significant twist which makes me curious about the next issue. Grade: A
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #11 (IDW, 2013) – This review is tentatively scheduled to appear at The Comics Alternative.