It’s a short week here at my wing of Savage Critic Towers; my family is still in town, and we’re celebrating by spending this afternoon going on a tour around the city on a fire engine or something. I’m still not entirely clear about what Kate and I have agreed to, apart from it being very exciting to my niece and nephews that we agreed to it in the first place (Yesterday, we spent part of the afternoon taking them to the pirate store at 826 Valencia, where we discovered that Kate and I – 29 and 31 years old, respectively – found the jokes there much funnier than my 3, 6 and 9 year old child companions). Also, it was a pretty dull week in terms of things coming out this week, wasn’t it? Or maybe that was just me. THE ESCAPISTS #1: Okay, it’s a reprint of the first chapter of Brian K. Vaughan’s sequel to “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”, which had formely seen life in the over-priced and under-read Amazing Adventures of The Escapist anthology, but still: this is good stuff. For one issue only, sadly, you get art by Philip Bond and amazing colors from Dave Stewart – really, the best coloring that Bond’s art has ever had – and a story that for the most part avoids the cuteness that’s started to creep into Vaughan’s writing lately (although the list of “alternative” influences from one of the characters is getting close to it), and all for only one dollar. It’s a good deal and a Very Good book.
SUPERMAN #654: I’m sure that there’s a train of thought that continually complains that the problem with Superman as a continuing series is that the same stories keep being told over and over again, and this issue – Kurt Busiek’s first solo one, and the debut of new art team Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino – isn’t something that’s going to convince anyone otherwise. It’s a fairly stock plot (Superheroic business interferes with Clark Kent’s personal and professional life), but it’s all about the execution; despite the familiarity, this is a Very Good Superman story. Busiek plays with the familiarity through the characters’ own reactions, and uses that to offset the superheroics that would otherwise threaten to overpower the more important domestic story. It’s wonderful that Busiek starts with this kind of story, as well; it harkens back to the stories that are in the recent Showcase collections from the ‘50s, where all of the fantastical elements were there as window-dressing to much more mundane plots (“How will I ever get Superman to marry me? Maybe the time-travelling Hercules, who’s gained super-powers by gaining all of his god friends’ abilities, can help me!”), and I’m a complete sucker for stories where Lois saves Clark’s ass while he’s saving everyone else’s. Pacheco and Merino, meanwhile, provide the glossy idealized superhero art you’ve come to expect from them, albeit with a couple of oddly ugly Superman panels and a Lois Lane who’s picked up hair tips from Ramona Flowers. It’s not the same kind of book as All Star Superman, but it’s almost as good, in its own way. Yes, I know, heresy. They’ll be taking my Grant Morrison Fanclub membership card away from me next.
X-MEN #188: And continuing my blasphemy trend, this book – Mike Carey’s first issue as regular writer – was much more enjoyable than Ed Brubaker’s first issue last week, although I’m not entirely sure why. There seemed to be less continuity porn, despite similar plots (last week, Polaris was being hunted by people for some reason I didn’t understand, and this week, Sabretooth is being hunted by people for some reason I didn’t understand – the difference being, I think, that I’m not supposed to understand why Sabretooth is being hunted yet), and the dialogue seemed less generic. The saving grace for the book, however, might be Chris Bachalo’s artwork, which has some beautiful storytelling and design – the move from the action scenes on page 6 to the open double-page spread on pages 7 and 8 is impressive in what it does to the pacing and atmosphere – elevating what I may, otherwise, have thought an awkward opener. I still have the problem of feeling that, more than anything, it’s an X-Men book and therefore kind of review-proof, mind you. It was Good for me, but Paul O’Brien might be the man to turn to if you’re more of an X-Fan than me.
PICK OF THE WEEK is probably The Escapists #1, despite it being a reprint with horrible horrible design and a pretty weak Frank Miller cover. PICK OF THE WEAK is a tough one, seeing as I read so little this week… I guess that it’s probably X-Men, but that was still pretty good, you know? There were lots of things I didn’t even pick up this week, so why not say that, um, Civil War Frontline #3 is my pick of the weak, instead? I’d probably have hated that more than X-Men. I couldn’t even tell you what my TRADE OF THE WEEK is, because I’m still reading that Elongated Man Showcase from last week (Carmine Infantino, you really could draw up a storm back then); if you haven’t bought that one yet, go and demand it. Everyone needs a Ductile Detective in their lives.
Next week: I will be in a state of shock – I’m doing the blogging panel in San Diego on Friday lunchtime, so you shouldn’t be surprised if all I write next weekend is a variation on “Heidi MacDonald… killed by Chris Butcher… Spurgeon was fast, but not fast enough to save her…” Consider yourself warned, friends.