I'd like to welcome you to a very special and a very late edition of EXPRESSions. Somehow the entire week has managed to fly by with me only taking the time to talk about the Flashpoint titles that I read, and while that's great and all, I would like to spend at least a little bit of time talking about all the other comics that I got my paws on this past week. To do so in relatively timely fashion, I've decided to try to be as concise as possible for this post. Therefore, I'm going to try to express some thoughts about most every comic I read, but I'm only going to spend one paragraph on each book. It's not exactly a hard and fast rule and it might make for some lengthy paragraphs, but we'll see how it plays out.
Amazing Spider-Man #664
Written by: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
After a few rough patches, including Gage's two fill-in issues and an exposition heavy issue by Slott last time around, Amazing Spider-Man feels like it is back on track. The issue focuses on the Anti-Venom and Mr. Negative storyline that was introduced / brought back last issue, but with all the necessary explanations for newer readers (like myself) out of the way, things move at a quick pace. The back and forth between Anti-Venom and Spider-Man in this issue is worth the cover price alone, but the creative team is also kind enough to provide some excellent action pieces, character development, and moments of levity to complete the whole package. The three page "Infested" back-up story is also great, including a sparring match between Spider-Man and Shang-Chi that is beautifully rendered over a two-page splash. Things are definitely right again for the Friendly Neighbourhood Wall Crawler.
American Vampire #16
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Rafael Albuquerque
Wow. This series seems to get better with every issue, and this one is no exception. Continuing the "Ghost War" storyline, the book provides a bit more information on the new breed of vampire that has recently appeared and has a nice scene dedicated to Pearl, but really focuses its attention on Henry Preston and the remaining members of the team that infiltrated the island (including Skinner Sweet). There's a lot of introspection on Henry's part that is handled beautifully by Snyder and plays directly into helping to rationalize his actions in a key moment later on in the issue. Snyder is really knocking this book right out of the park. Fortunately, he isn't alone, because Albuquerque also seems to be getting better with every single issue. His style has been evolving and changing over the course of the series, adapting to fit the needs of each story arc, and his choice for "Ghost War" fits like a glove. His mix of realism and horror is so perfect that I can't imagine the book looking any other way. The more Snyder and Albuquerque work together, the better they get. I can't wait to see what comes next.
Batman - Detective Comics #878
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Jock
Speaking of getting better with time, Snyder's run on Detective Comics fits right into that. He has gotten better every single issue, and the art, whether its Jock or Francesco Francavilla, is doing the very same. This issue represents part 3 of "Hungry City", and it is a pretty good conclusion. I must admit to being a little underwhelmed by Tiger Shark, the new villain that the reader meets for the first time in this issue. It simply strikes me as kind of a stupid name, and Tiger Shark's habit of talking through his minions (at least for the first little bit) doesn't really work for me. However, everything else in this issue works gloriously. Snyder has long been the only writer (outside of Grant Morrison) who has been able to successfully write Dick Grayson as Batman, and this is perhaps the best issue of that. He has a lot of similarities to Bruce, but they are also completely different people, something that Snyder manages to capture perfectly here in Detective Comics #878. I was also really happy to see some more time spent with the James Gordon Jr. sub-plot. Since his re-appearance in this book, it's been unclear what's going on with James, and even after Snyder's reveal in this issue, I still have no idea what his deal is. A great issue that wraps up all the loose ends introduced over this three-issue arc, while also setting up some story moments for the remaining issues. Love it.
Batman Inc. #7
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Chris Burnham
I was disappointed this week because my comic book shop did not have any copies of Scalped #50. Fortunately, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham had my back, because they wrote a great issue of Scalped with a special guest appearance by the Bat-family. Okay, that might be pushing it a bit far, but I certainly saw a lot of similarities between Man-of-Bats and Raven trying to do the right thing on their Lakota reservation and Dashiell Bad Horse doing what he does on his. And that's not a bad thing. As it stands, this is a great done-in-one story that examines the challenges of trying to fix the many problems of reservation living through vigilantism There are some successes (as shown on the wonderful opening page that tells an entire story in its own right) and some failures (as shown by Man-of-Bats having to defend his actions to his boss as the hospital or being arrested for his vigilante acts). While doing all that, this issue also manages to move forward the wider Batman Inc. storyline, showing the evolution of Leviathan. There are many reasons why this issue represents storytelling at its best. The one I'll point out is that everything that happens in this issue is important to the story. It isn't always clear at first why something occurs, but it is by issue's end.
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Barry Kitson
As I've said before, I'm new to the Fantastic Four universe of stories, initially picking up this series only because Spider-Man was part of the team. While I wasn't around to witness all the work Hickman did to build towards the current storyline, I'm glad to be here to see the payoff. This issue continues to explore the enormous problem of having four evil Reed Richards running around the world, with Sue encountering one of them for the first time. This encounter is the main action sequence for the issue, and it's a doozy. Kitson does a great job juggling lots of different characters performing many different actions without things ever getting confusing, so kudos for that. It's also a great sequence, because it leads directly into a solid confrontation between Sue and Reed, because apparently he didn't bother to mention his four doppelgangers to his wife. That confrontation would be the highlight of the issue if not for Benjamin Grimm and Alicia Masters' two pages of working through Ben's issues of Johnny's death and the strain that's been putting on their relationship. It's only two pages, but it is expertly done. This series continues to blow me away, whether or not is has 22 pages (FF has been cut down to 20 for the last few issues and will probably continue at that length, but it hasn't slowed the series down at all).
The Goon 34
Written by: Eric Powell
Drawn by: Eric Powell
This comic is slightly disingenuous, as it promised an entire issue of the Goon beating up sparkly vampires, but we only get five pages worth. Fortunately, it's an excellent five pages, and as the Goon explains (while breaking the fourth wall) "pastin' these sissies in the chops is a waste of my frickin' time". With this revelation out of the way, the issue can focus on the real problem, the fact that "evil like this wouldn't exist if it wasn't for one thing... Tween Girls". That's right, the issue becomes a comic about the Goon beating up little girls! Well, that's slightly disingenuous on my part. The Goon only beats up one little girl. And she is totally evil. It also makes for an incredibly funny comic. This issue wasn't what I was expecting, but it's what every The Goon issue should be: fighting, cussing, and slightly inappropriate joking. I'm glad it's back.
The Incredible Hulks Annual #1
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Al Barrionuevo
This issue represents part three in John Layman's three annual spanning "Identity Wars" story, whereupon the Hulk, Spider-Man, and Deadpool were all transported to an alternate dimension that was similar to the regular Marvel Universe, but had small differences throughout (most of which were pretty funny). I didn't really know what to expect coming into this series, only showing up because of Layman's continuing work on Chew, but I'm glad I came for the ride. He demonstrates a solid handle of all three characters' unique voices, and all the insane craziness that went on throughout makes a certain amount of sense. A lot goes on in this final issue, with some final challenges and solutions being introduced over the course of these pages, but it ultimately works. Of course, once everything is said and done, things go right back to the status quo that we had at the beginning of the three issues, but that doesn't mean the ride to get there wasn't fun. Because it was.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #8
Written by: Nick Spencer
Art by: Dan Panosian, Mike Grell, Nick Dragotta
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #7 was the first book I reviewed on this blog, so I would be remiss if I didn't spend a few words talking about the next book in the series. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book continues its past excellence throughout issue #8. The present day, 80s, and 60s sequences from last issue are back for another go-around, and they are just as exciting and interesting as before. Colleen is getting ever closer to her mother, and as she does, the reader gets more and more the Iron Maiden's backstory through those flashback sequences. I really enjoy how they add to the story, but what they add is sometimes left to the reader to determine. My main complaint is that, though Mike Greel and Nick Gragotta are back for their respective sequences, CAFU is noticeably absent this issue. There's nothing wrong with Dan Panosian's art, but it is a radical departure from CAFU's style, and so I found myself really distracted when it came to the present day sequences (of which there were many in this issue). I don't know if CAFU was busy working on his title for the relaunch come September or what, but I hope he isn't off the book for good. His art added a lot to the title. That aside, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents continues to be one of the best titles DC is publishing, and I am glad that it will be back in October after taking a month off for the September relaunch. If things continue like this - and I don't see why they wouldn't - I'll be there to welcome the series back with open arms.
So there we have it. Eight paragraphs (some longer than others) to talk a little bit about eight books that I read last week. And even with this plethora of pontificating, I still had to skip over a few of the titles I picked up last week. Short version: Venom #4 and Skullkickers #8 were great. Go buy them. I hope you've enjoyed reading through this edition of EXPRESSions, because I certainly enjoyed writing it.