Slowly catching up on everything: Graeme's reviews of the 11/15 books.

The Thanksgiving week turns out to be a week of kicking my ass - Not that I've really had that much to do outside of work and helping Kate to pull together a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, but still: I am somehow sick again (or, rather, I've not really recovered from being sick last week), and therefore haven't had a chance to get myself to the store to pick up this week's books. I've heard Punisher War Journal was good, mind you, but for now, let's talk about what you were reading this time last week... ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE BOOK TWO #1: I've never really read that much Astro City before - Maybe one other issue? - so maybe that explains just why I was so surprised by how much I loved this. I'd previously written this off as yet another Analog Hero book; you know, the ones where the characters are stand-ins for the more famous, more copyrighted characters that the creators really wanted to write about? But this is something more interesting, metacommentary about the comics industry that still works as a story, with characters who are fully-formed enough that you don't get distracted by trying to work out who their inspiration was. Surprisingly James Jean-esque cover from Alex Ross, as well. Very Good

BIRDS OF PREY #100: Well, that's a somewhat misleading cover blurb: "Who will make the cut in the new Birds of Prey"? Well, apparently, everyone, if this seeming-Mission Impossible set-up that begins this "new direction" issue is to be believed. The new team - really just the old team with the exception of Black Canary along with some new members at this point - seems interesting enough, but part of me wishes that this had been the first One Year Later issue. The book felt like it was losing momentum and direction over the last four or so issues, and I'm wondering if it's because Gail was playing for time waiting for this 100th-issue spectacular and reboot, which may have had a better chance of reaching a new audience before post-OYL apathy set in... Nonetheless, this is Good and hopefully setting up a status quo that lasts more than six months (as opposed to the last new members; Shiva was written out of the book, but did I miss something happening to Gypsy?).

THE ESCAPISTS #5: With an issue to go, I'm not entirely sure what kind of ending this series is going to have. It might just be me... Things are happening, but there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency to anything, and the whole story feels kind of weightless, despite the apparent death of one of the characters at the end of this issue. I'm not sure why I feel so detached from the story; Is it Brian K. Vaughan's fault for not making the characters seem real enough to me, after the first issue? Is it that I can't find that much drama in copyright disputes? Or maybe it's me, considering that Hibbs loves it? Eh, with qualifiers that I may just have lost my taste and/or mind.

IRON MAN #13 and NEW AVENGERS #25: Two Iron Man spotlights in the whole Civil War way of things hit on the same week - Way to schedule these things, Marvel - and hammer home the fact that Tony Stark is going to be the next Director of SHIELD, post Civil War (Both books approach it differently; the Secretary of Defense tries to talk Tony into it in his book, while Maria Hill suggests it in Avengers by saying that it would piss off the administration. By this point, I'm not sure if I really care about consistency in anything other than core plot points anymore with this event, mind you). Despite that, though, neither of the two books really did anything else to move the story forwards; Iron Man in particular was Crap, with no core story as much as a collection of random subplots and an especially weak "Why you're great, Tony" scene. New Avengers was more enjoyable as a story, and generally Good - avoiding attempting to explain Tony Stark's motivations in favor of showing the way that Civil War is affecting the regular people of the Marvel Universe. I've really enjoyed the New Avengers crossovers; they've been giving me a lot of the background material that I would've wanted to see in the main series, but at least I've been getting it somewhere...

OMAC #5: Oh, boy, this was Awful. Bruce Jones's issues with sex are something that he should really either get out of his work entirely, or focus on and make something interesting out of it. The underage hero seduces the love interest (nine years his senior) despite her problems with the age difference, and then admits that he's broken her run of celibacy because she trusts him, and then in a "shock twist" - he gives her OMAC AIDS! Appalling.

SUPERGIRL #11: This issue is so close to what I'd like to see DC do with their schizophrenic teenage superheroine (Seriously - The version of the character here isn't anywhere close to Mark Waid's version in Legion, who wasn't anywhere close to her portrayal in the "Back In Action" Superman arc, which wasn't really close to her appearance in JLA before it got cancelled, which wasn't... well, you get the picture) and yet a million miles away at the same time - As much as the plots and artwork (Especially Joe Benitez's kind of disturbing take here) don't serve the idea well, for some reason I really like the idea of Supergirl as an awkward, swearing teenager who doesn't know who she is (just who she's supposed to be) and has random crushes on the other superheroes... I'd just like it to be done well, instead of the way it's being handled here. Imagine if that kind of Supergirl was being done with Becky Cloonan or Philip Bond artwork and didn't have stories that made it necessary for her to go undercover as some kind of someone's-idea-of-sexy pirate girl, but was just more honest and less contrived and self-conscious. Who wouldn't want to read that kind of Supergirl? Eh, and I'm getting bored of the missed opportunity that this book represents, to be honest.

PICK OF THE WEEK would be Astro City, with PICK OF THE WEAK being OMAC, which was horrible no matter which way you look at it. As you all probably expected by the pre-release excitement I'd displayed, TRADE OF THE WEEK was easily ABSOLUTE NEW FRONTIER; It's a beautiful presentation for one of the best things that DC has done with its main characters in years. The new pages are gorgeously illustrated but, for the most part, non-essential (although a couple of the scenes really help explain the breakdown one character suffers about midway through the book), but the value of the previously-unseen pages is, for me, the Darwyn Cooke-written annotations to the story, where he identifies the influences and secrets behind his work - Grant Morrison is Captain Cold? I knew there was something untrustworthy about him - in a way that makes you want to go back and reread everything one more time. If you have the money, then consider it recommended.

How did the rest of the Americans spend your Thanksgivings, and everyone else spend their weekends?