More evidence that the '90s were made of LIES: summertime has arrived, and contrary to the Fresh Prince's promises, there is no groove, nobody looks good in 125% humidity, and if you're dumb enough to dance in the open while the sun's up, you deserve the inevitable dehydration and/or dissolution into a puddle of skin-colored goo. As if that weren't enough, June was a seriously weird month for comics - I read nothing but 2000AD for three weeks (new Nikolai Dante story), and suddenly almost every single series I'm following has an issue out on the 25th. To which I say:
CROSSING MIDNIGHT #19 marks the unfortunate end of the latest ongoing series by Mike Carey and Jim Fern. I liked this one - Vertigo's done a lot with British and American mythologies, and it was a nice change of pace to apply that same exploratory approach and lovely artwork to the Japanese mythscape. Of course, the direct market being what it is, there was no way this series could've lasted more than two years; that said, it's still disappointing that CROSSING MIDNIGHT ends on such an unsatisfactory note. It's pretty much the same pattern most premature cancellations follow: we get a compressed finale that skips through the last act, sacrificing any emotional resonance or genuinely surprising plot twists for a quick, straightforward wrap-up. Only in this case, there is no wrap-up because we get a last-page cliffhanger, and that's the sort of thing that really gets on my nerves - the axe dropped on this series months ago, and the least Carey could've done was deliver a real conclusion to the story. Writers have a responsibility to provide closure for those readers who stuck around to the very end; it doesn't even have to be good closure (see: HARD TIME). But if I'd known CROSSING MIDNIGHT would fizzle out with an OKAY non-ending, I wouldn't have kept buying it for nineteen months.
Sticking with Vertigo, Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley kick off a new ongoing with MADAME XANADU #1. I wasn't quite sure what to expect here: Wagner's done some amazing work (recent Hunter Rose stories aside), and I didn't know anything about the titular character, so it was worth checking out. And... well, I'm underwhelmed. Something about this issue just doesn't work: the dialogue's stilted even by Arthurian standards ("Grant me this boon, oh generous elm! Thanks be for your sacrifice, leafy grandfather. May the winds spread your seeds far and wide") and there's a guest appearance by one of the most irritating characters in the DCU, the Phantom Stranger, whose entire purpose in any story is to hang around and drop cryptic comments before disappearing. I came away feeling like I'd seen all this before, from the druidic tree-hugging to Merlin doing his Mrs. Robinson thing with Nimue, and while I'm aware that it's only a prelude and that the main story moves out of the Arthurian setting, I honestly couldn't find anything here to make me continue reading. EH and better luck next time, I suppose.