Away from the shop #1: Jeff Talks About X-Men Forever

Hey, whattup? I have somewhere between three to six deadlines barreling down at me but I've been itching to write a post since forever. And I've got a couple of books under my belt, so.... why not, right? What's a few posts going to hurt? Doesn't matter that some of what's being reviewed is, between a year and four decades old, does it? First up, behind the cut, the first trade of Chris Claremont and Tom Grummett's X-Men Forever.

X-MEN FOREVER V1 TPB:  So I followed Graeme's advice and have started checking books out of the local branch of my library.  I'm finding I'm absolute crap when it comes to logging on to the system and trying to think of stuff I want to read and requesting it, but if I just visit my nearby library, there's usually a few items on the shelves I wouldn't mind taking the time to read. (Actually, I have to *make* the time to read 'em--which isn't the same thing at all--but there's enough of a surreptitious thrill to getting a big ol' comic book for free(!) that I make a point to read it, even though I've got plenty of other fine stuff lining my own shelves I haven't checked out. The deadline and the late fees probably help.)

I also followed Graeme's advice in that one of my library choices was the first trade of X-Men Forever, which collects the first five issues of Chris Claremont's surprisingly fiscally viable "what if we just let the guy do what he wants and pretend that he didn't leave the title back in 1991?) reboot/retcon/whatever-it-is series.

As you probably remember, Graeme found it weirdly readable and recommended it (both on our podcast and here on the pages), and I gotta say, I pretty much agree.   I won't waste your time with all the crazy plot twists that happen in these pages since you can use Wikipedia or a million other sources on the web to find out for yourself (if you don't already know about it), but what I will mention  is that it has a whole bunch of stuff I like about Claremont and none of the stuff that skeeves me out.

For example, on the first page of the second issue, there's a page with a couple of cops chewing the fat--they only exist to both kill time until the splash page on the turn and to be the discoverers of the revelation on that splash, but Claremont gives you their names (Ahmet and Gary), the fact that one of them has a kid who loves Latin, and the other is Muslim (hint on the latter: it's not Gary).

Now while there are people who might roll their eyes at both Claremont's political bias, to say nothing of all the unnecessary verbiage spent on two characters I feel comfortable saying we will not see again...that's precisely what's great about that page for me. Coming as it does after a panel talking about the joys of Central Park after dark, the page with Gary and Ahmet does a great job of underscoring the melting pot nature of New York.  And New York, in the Marvel comics I grew up on, is probably the best character Marvel comics ever had, as valuable to the line-up as Spider-Man or Doctor Doom.

There are times when having something like Gotham, your own imaginary city to destroy and rebuild, has its appeal--and in these days, where you can just sit down at your computer and virtually scroll through a 3-D representation of NYC whenever you get the urge, having an imaginary city may  well be preferable--but back in the day, having imaginary characters move in and out of real locations aided in the delight that blurring of what's real and what isn't. I'm sure you've seen those comments by Grant Morrison at his SDCC panel dismissing Batman's real age, and I'm definitely not the guy who's playing for Team Internal Consistency but I do think part of the hook of superhero books with the Big Two is the idea of this vast collective universe and the way all the pieces of that universe fit together.  And what I think Marvel Comics brought to the table wasn't slotting in the pieces of their current mythos with its previous mythos (the way DC did with its Earth-1 and Earth-2 mythology) but the way the pieces of Marvel Comics seemed to fit with the real world. For those of a more literal mindset, this led people to start thinking that the appeal of a good superhero book was how "real" it was. And for people like me, it was a ball of string in the labyrinth, something I could follow out of the maze of superheroes and into the real world, even as sketchy a representation as it might two cops you never see again talking about their kids before discovering the shocking reveal on page two.

Beyond that, there were a few things that felt like "classic" Claremont X-Men for me in this book, stuff I won't enumerate to the point of exhaustion.  But when the X-Men's Blackbird Jet gets shot out of the sky in the first few pages of the first issue/chapter, I realized there's something awesome about a superteam that continues to insist on flying around in a jet, even though no more than a third of its team can fly at any given  time.  It's a good two+ page action scene gimme (and always a nice way to have everyone sum up who can do what) that Claremont goes to so often, I'm kinda bummed Morrison's run didn't have the characters build the Blackbird train or an armored humvee or something.  Why the X-Men seemed so tied to a simultaneous reliance on, and underlying fear of, air travel is something I can't wrap my brain around fully.  (Was it those damn Airport movies from the '70s, when the team first came into its own?  All those stories Claremont wrote on a plane, flying from one con to the next?)

And, finally, despite all the good characters turning evil, and evil characters turning good, and secret love affairs, and shockign revelations, what was great about this first volume of X-Men Forever is how refreshingly free of psychic rape and all the mental BDSM stuff Claremont dumps into his work.  (Although weirdly, what struck me as off about the Claremont/Manara issue of X-Women that just came out here was how it dodged what the two old pervs most have in common--an obsession with submission--and went with a half-baked adventure caper with Manara drawing upskirt shots and panting mouths of rapture on the women whether it suited the action or not. The whole thing was annoyingly coy and kind of chickenshit, especially given how long Mr. C has been sticking our collective comic book bar of chocolate into his personal peanut butter jar of fetishes.)  X-Men Forever feels free, not just of the baggage of continuity of other X-books and the Marvel universe as a whole, but free of Claremont's own sexual fetishes, and the feeling really is like re-reading the comics of my childhood--except while they were already there way back then but I was too young to notice, here they just seem gone.  And I'm glad, because they were--like any unshared fetish--dull and predictable.

So yeah--I'm going to be hunting down more.  And although I can't really say, whether it's worth it to shell out $16.99 for the trade ($16.99? Yowch), I will say it's surprisingly GOOD work.  A person looking at library shelves could certainly do worse.

Claremont's X-Men 5: The Last Huzzah

Hey, remember when I promised I'd have the next installment of this up before February? Funny story... Or, you know, not really. That's the last time I promise a post by a specific date on here. Anyway: The John Romita Jr. years! It's when Uncanny X-Men got really good! I'm entirely biased by the fact that the comic I started "collecting" comics with was UNCANNY X-MEN #185, but that doesn't necessarily make me wrong when I say that the run between Uncanny #173 and #200 - Yes, I'm stretching my previous two-year-at-a-time rule here - are the best the series ever managed. Claremont's writing was bold and getting more and more idiosyncratic each issue (Look at some of the titles! "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?" "He'll Never Make Me Cry" "Lifedeath" "Wraithkill!" These are not titles that someone both unconfident and with a sense of embarrassment could come up with), and he finally manages to pull the series out of the somewhat directionless slump it'd been in, to varying degrees, since Jean Grey's editorially mandated death in #137. Yes, it took a fake Jean Grey resurrection in order to exorcize that particular ghost, but whatever works, right?

It's also the period where the X-Men stopped being part of the Marvel Universe and a thing unto itself; aside from a couple of Secret Wars II crossovers a few issues later - although, even those crossovers are more like Beyonder guest-shots, as opposed to really "crossing over" with any MU books - things like the Dire Wraith storyline, Secret Wars aftermath and Kulan Gath (and, to an extent, Asgard) storyline here is pretty much the last time that Claremont really acknowledges the non-mutant rest of the contemporary Marvel Universe in the book. I'm not quite sure why it happens - Ego? Having finally grown sick of Jim Shooter? Somewhere between the two? - but it coincides with the period where New Mutants started really being a second X-Men series instead of just a spin-off: Storylines and characters crossed over between the two with increasing regularity, leading to the still-surprising "return" of the de-powered Storm happening outside of the book she'd called home for the last decade or so, and a period where it looked as if she's stay with New Mutants for awhile, instead of rejoining the X-Men. By the time #200 had rolled around, ending months of cross-continuity between Uncanny and New Mutants that included annuals, "special editions" and Alpha Flight-co-starring mini-serieses, there really was a sense that Claremont had created a fiefdom as much as a franchise, and was happily walling himself off from outside forces.

(That plot, of course, had Loki fall in love with Storm the same way Dracula had earlier. Between that, and the sincere-yet-preposterous "LifeDeath" stories that followed Storm losing her powers, the weird fetishization of Storm as more Beautiful Black-And-Therefore-Exotic Goddess than character was in full-strength during this period, Claremont eagerly working out his kinks - literally? - with the character in front of his audience.)

Part of the groove that Claremont got back during all this time comes, I'm sure, from the stability and versatility of John Romita Jr.'s artwork (taking over from Paul Smith with #175), which seems at once "classic" Marvel and something more contemporary; unlike any artist on the book since Byrne, he can handle the melodramatic soap opera and superheroic action scenes equally easily, and make the combination of the two natural, and that pushes Claremont to become more grandiose in his scheming - For the first time in years, he starts long-term planning, putting subplots into motion that he'll come back to later (In some cases, probably later than he intended: Nimrod's appearance in #191 doesn't really lead to anything for, what, fifty issues or so?) - but also, more successful in his execution: the whole "mutants are hated and feared and hunted" status quo is finally brought to the foreground with surprising subtlety, and through a combination of A-plot (Storm's depowering) and B- (The appearance of Rachel, who finds this world too close to her own).

The climax of #200 - the X-Men left without their mentor and guiding light, who may or may not be dead, and their former enemy now, seemingly, reformed in charge despite his own misgivings, having to earn everyone's trust - feels, in many ways, like a ballsy conclusion to the series, from a man with full confidence in his abilities. Claremont certainly had plans for how to continue, but within a couple of months, he was about to watch as his own success started to be his undoing.

No Use Brooding In Space: The Long Awaited Claremont's X-Men 4

Some would say that this post is, what, two months overdue? And they'd be right, but I'd rather think of it as "Well, I'm doing two years at a time, so really, I'm 22 months early.

...Okay, the next one will be here before February, I promise.

The couple of years of Uncanny X-Men between #149 and #172 see the book go through some strange comic version of adolescence, or perhaps a mutant metamorphosis - If you compare the first of those issues with the last, it's as if more than just the artist had changed: After a year or so of space epics that took the series away from the glossy soap operatic formula it'd perfected during the Byrne/Austin era, the return to Earth brought changes in focus, storytelling and characterization, and made the book what it still is today, in many ways.

Claremont has often made reference to trying to adapt his writing to suit his artist, and the latter Cockrum era feels like the place where that's most obvious. After a period of trying to do more of the uber-superheroics and mindswap drama that had made the book so popular previously, it must've become clear that Cockrum wasn't enjoying himself - Look at the surprisingly bland pages he produced, and also the number of fill-ins - because, suddenly, the book became a space opera, with the Shi'Ar and the Brood pretty much dominating the book between #153 and #167, with only a four issue breather back on Earth in the middle (Two of which, maybe tellingly, are done by fill-in artists). Cockrum's art seems more alive in the space issues, with more exciting design work and more interesting layouts, but the book feels weirdly un-X-Men-like, nonetheless. Despite the family connections to the Starjammers and Claremont giving it his best Alien rip-off (Between this and the Kitty-In-The-Mansion-Oh-No-A-Monster's-After-Her issue a couple of years earlier, he obviously really liked Ridley Scott's movie. Which, considering Ripley is very much a Claremontian character, makes a lot of sense), the X-Men themselves feel superfluous in their own series for the majority of this time; with little work, the stories could've been reworked as Avengers or, more likely perhaps, Defenders issues (The Shi'Ar issues feel like muddier versions of The New Teen Titans stories about Starfire and her sister, it has to be said, but I'm not sure about the timing on who came first).

Cockrum's gone from the book - off to create The Futurians, according to the lettercol, but probably because he wasn't gelling with the series that he'd helped co-create a second time around - before the Brood storyline finishes, and replacement Paul Smith brought a much lighter, much more open style to proceedings; his early work seems years away from Cockrum's more classic, illustratorly, approach but also Byrne's. It's more graphic, and more empty (Look at his backgrounds, which're often missing or abstract shapes or iconography, which seems to fit particularly well with Tom Orzechowski's lettering - oddly enough, Orzechowski was absent from Cockrum's last couple of issues, with Joe Rosen filling in; the return to Orz's smaller, tighter, cleaner letters in addition to Smith's similarly-clean art in #165 really makes the book look different in its entirety). With Cockrum gone, the in-process Brood storyline wrapped quickly (and detours back into more familiar territory before it ends, with Professor Xavier's Brood implant acting more like a mind-control story than the alien abductor of the Cockrum issues) and we're slammed back into territory introduced in the Byrne issues: Not only teen angst ("Professor Xavier is a jerk!") but bondage imagery (The Morlocks with their collared-and-trussed Angel) and questions of identity (But, instead of "Does power corrupt Jean?" it's "Does leadership corrupt Storm?"). It's exciting, fast-moving stuff, and reads at times like Claremont's been dying to do this kind of stuff for a long time, with the speed and smoothness he brings to the material. It's also - and this is maybe my betraying when I started reading the series, the most "X-Men-y" the book has felt yet; a return to the values of the Byrne era, perhaps, but in a different way, and with a broader scope and, for better or worse, less focused intent (Only the Madelyne Prior subplot really meets any kind of quick resolution, although that'd end up undone before too long; Rogue joining the team, and Storm's uncertainty about who she is, open up threads that will continue for years to come). But even more refining of what'd become the cliched Claremont writing technique was right around the corner, just when it'd look like fresh starts were about to happen.

Claremont's X-Men 3: It's All Downhill From Here, Maybe.

The Phoenix Saga ruined the X-Men for a few years.

I know Jeff Lester disagrees with me on this, but he's wrong; as exciting and classic comics as it may be, the whole Dark Phoenix thing derailed UNCANNY X-MEN all the way through #175, and I'm blaming it all on Jim Shooter and John Byrne.

Okay, that's maybe not entirely fair - especially Byrne left the book within six months of the end of the storyline, and Shooter probably bears less responsibility than Claremont, who was, y'know, writing the book and all - but while everything from #125 through #137 has become Official Comic Landmark material because Claremont and Byrne are working in such sync and with such success that even introducing Dazzler can't slow them down, the following year is a pretty great example of watching a writer thrown entirely off his game.

That year between #125 and #137, though, is a great read; Claremont and Byrne are on fire, introducing the Hellfire Club, Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde as well as Dazzler, and keeping the main characters evolving (Colossus has to kill! Cyclops stands up to Professor Xavier because he knows the X-Men better!) even before the big cosmic showdown that sees a character turn, essentially, outright evil and then pay the price for it. The year seems like the fulfillment of basic Marvel ideals, mixing soap opera and superhero, showing the need for responsibility that comes with power and ending with a tragic self-sacrifice that "This Man, This Monster" would've been proud of. It's really good stuff, and a peak (the peak?) of the series as a whole, one of the few times that everything comes together with such intensity and sincerity that it actually works... and then everything falls apart.

It's actually understandable that it did, and surprising that it didn't happen more obviously or more horrifically; Claremont and Byrne were forced to redo #137 after it'd been completed, because the original plan of leaving Jean alive with depowered wasn't thought to be enough after she'd destroyed a planet as Phoenix (FWIW, I think it was a change for the better), but even if they hadn't been, where do you go after a story so cosmic and... well, big? It's no wonder that the majority of the next year (all the way up to the subplots starting in #147, even if the A-plots remained weak until #150) seemed so generic and pedestrian in comparison: After saving the universe from one of their own gone bad, visiting Alpha Flight in Canada to go after a Hulk villain (Even one with Wolverine history) or taking on Doctor Doom and Arcade just doesn't really seem as interesting.

(There's a two-issue exception, of course, the "Days Of Future Past"/" Mind Out Of Time" story in #141-142 that would, once Claremont had exorcized his Phoenix demons, come to define the X-Men franchise with its dystopian, never-smile-because-you're-hated-and-by-the-way-your-future-duplicate-is-more-depressed-than-you-about-it vision. In the context of what followed its initial publication, though, it just seemed like a two-part story without a lot of impact. It'd take a few years to get full-on-depressathon.)

(The ghost of Phoenix haunted the book in more ways than one; she makes a hallucination-appearance in #144, and then the cover of #147 shows an out-of-control Storm with the tagline "We did it before -- Dare we do it again?" It's hard to know whether Scott Summers or Chris Claremont was most affected by Jean Grey's death.)

The loss of Byrne hits the book hard, too; looking back, I still think he and Austen lacked a lot of the personality of Cockrum's earlier issues, but the Cockrum that returns to replace him is a different artist, one who's more conservative and lacking the verve and invention that Byrne papered over with glamor (He's not helped by Joe Rubenstein's inks, either; Rubenstein tends to flatten out a lot of the pencilers he works with, giving everything a kind of generic quality that makes him perfect for a multi-artist project like The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe, but not something where you want someone to follow Byrne and Austen.

As the series approached #150, it seemed to have flamed out. With the big villain hinted at for the anniversary issue Magneto yet again, capping off a year of familiar (and non-traditionally-X-Men) villains, it'd wouldn't have been too surprising if fans following the series then were wondering if the series' best days were behind it. Oh, how right/wrong they were.

Claremont's X-Men 2: How John Byrne Changed The World

More Claremont retrospective! This time, the first two years of the Byrne run, wherein everything comes together remarkably quickly, and I compare John Byrne to Joe Sinnott. Or something.

Ignoring the fill-in in UNCANNY X-MEN #106 (Although: Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo together! There should've been much more of this), #107 starts off Claremont's third year on the title with an important milestone: The last issue before it truly becomes the X-Men we recognize. Oh, so many things are almost there, but it's as if Dave Cockrum was holding Claremont back from achieving full Claremont or something; as soon as John Byrne and Terry Austen appear in #108, everything clicks into place: The characters' speech patterns, the "giving your life force to save existence" soon-to-be-cliche makes its first appearance (including Storm saying "It is my life to give, my friend" by way of explanation), the overly elaborate soap opera - space pirate and furry Corsair is Cyclops' dad?!? - the book just suddenly becomes the X-Men through some unexplainable magic, much in the same way that Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four suddenly makes sense when Joe Sinnott starts inking Kirby in the late #40s. By the end of that third year, Claremont has already worked in his first psychic mind-rape.

(It's possible that one of the reasons that the early Claremont/Byrne issues seems like the book makes this leap into a more pure X-Men-ness is because that run has become the touchstone for most fans, and subsequent creators, as the "best" X-Men run ever, but it's more than that; Claremont's writing suddenly becomes much clearer and more focused when Byrne appears. I don't know if there was an obvious reason behind the scenes - The editor's still Archie Goodwin throughout, so it's not that...? - but the shift is noticable and somewhat odd, when reading the issues in quick succession.)

By the book's fourth year, it's made it to monthly status in time to really start working out the kinks; oddly enough, the fourth year feels very much like the first two, in that Claremont revisits old X-Men villains and stories (Magneto, Sauron, the Savage Land, Sunfire), but at the same time, you can tell that he's also more in control of the characters and the plot than he was previously - Magneto's appearance pays off months of foreshadowing by showing Cyclops' fears about the new team "not being ready" and getting their asses handed to them, for example, leading to the first period (of many, it becomes a favored Claremont trick when he wants to switch things up) where the world believes they're dead, which allows him to show Scott and Jean outside of their relationship for pretty much the first time in their history. Unlike before, where it felt as if Claremont was using old characters and ideas because he didn't know what else to do, this time it feels as if he's comfortable and knows what he's up to.

The confidence is matched by Byrne and Austen's incredibly slick visuals. I mean that as much as an insult as a compliment, I have to admit; as revered as the art in these issues is - and as good as it is, as well - it really is very much eye candy, and at times overly glossy and soulless. Byrne's women, in particular, are almost distractingly... I don't know what the word is... vapid? glamorous, in a bad way? generic? They lack personality, despite what Claremont puts in their mouths (Now, that doesn't sound right), and occasionally the art feels so... professional, and impersonal, and "perfect," that it pulls me out of the experience and leaves me cold. Am I alone in that?

The comfort and confidence - and newfound success and acclaim - were making Claremont and Byrne more bold, though; by the end of the fourth year of Claremont's run on the book, he'd put the team back together with one exception... and that's because he was already at work laying the groundwork for the Dark Phoenix storyline, which would change superhero comics - and Uncanny X-Men in particular - in ways that he couldn't even have imagined.

Claremont's X-Men 1: Before They Wuz Fab

The first couple of years of Chris Claremont's UNCANNY X-MEN (#94-105 - the book was bi-monthly back then) are really weird to look back on, knowing what came later: Len Wein had introduced the All-New, All-Different team in Giant Size X-Men without Claremont's involvement, and so the first couple of years feels like the writer trying to work out what to do with the characters.

There's no real singular voice to the series, at this early point, probably because Claremont himself hadn't really worked out what we'd later come to recognize as his voice; instead, everything reads pretty much like the generic late '70s Marvel comic book that is was - Free of the expectations of what an X-Men comic should be, Claremont and Dave Cockrum pursue their own interests (space opera!), bring in characters from other books (And when you're bringing in supporting characters from The Hulk, you've got to know that you're desperate) and pick at tidbits from the original incarnation of the book, just to keep that sense of continuity going.

It's enjoyably free of the oppressive angst that the books went on to develop, the consistent sense of persecution and fear and loss that defined the franchise after the Phoenix arc, but it's also... pretty bland stuff, really. If the characters hadn't gone on to bigger and better things, there'd be nothing to really differentiate this from Marvel Team-Up or The Defenders or whatever. As it is, it's mostly worthwhile to see Claremont slowly realizing who each character was, in fits and starts (Storm's sudden claustrophobia which affects her when she's in a castle in #102, but not when she's in a sealed military base within a mountain in #95, because he hadn't thought of it, back then; or Wolverine's claws being revealed to be part of him in #98 and the way it seems to crystalize the character so that he finally feels like the Wolverine we know by #100), and also what kind of story worked for them.

There's a free-wheeling, unrestrained feeling to the series here that it lost somewhere in the mid #100s and never regained, sadly enough, but one of the side-effects of that is that there's also no real sense of weight or importance to anything, either; the closest you get is Jean Grey's transformation into Phoenix, but even that has a familiar, never-ending Mighty Marvel Soap Opera feel to it that doesn't turn into what we know it as now until much later. For now, though, these issues are Okay, but nothing more, unless you know what comes later.

The view from the retard pen -- Hibbs does 1 book from 3/21

Just one from me tonight, in order to say I did it: EXILES #92: I swear to god there should be a Chris Claremont drinking game. Like when someone utters the phrase, "You're good... I'm better", you take a drink. Or when someone calls something a "Caper", you drink. Dude, even people who are ON capers don't call them capers. Rassen-frassen. The worst part is I have a soft spot for this book, this situation, these characters -- even when Judd was doing his Echoes-of-Claremont thing -- but this isn't where I want to read "real" Claremont, no I don't. EH.

More tomorrow.


Oooh, colors

Look, Jeff has changed the template! What a mensch! And yes, go read his Fanboy Rampage, as linked below, GO NOW NOW NOW!

(Huh, we need to add those links on the side... and I need a lot more "away from here" links too... give us a few more days folks!)

Ben's asleep (for the mo'), and I dinged 28 in City of Heroes, and I have 30 minutes before I have to get to work, so let's see what else I've managed to read, shall we?

MAJESTIC #1: Wow, fuck yah. I expected nothing from this (not of the previous iterations were all that hot), but I thought this was wicked funny and well characterized all the way through. Silver-age Superman level powers can be FUN, sometimes. Excellent, and barring some big surprise later in the pile, I'm willing to call this one The Pick Of The Week.

UNCANNY X-MEN #447: Damn Alan Davis can draw. Daddy likee. The story was a bit meh -- we've seen this one before from Claremont, more or less. I seem to recall essentially the same conflict circa the 200's -- that Sentinel from the future? Wossname? Nimrod, I think? (heh) But, this looks fab, so let's go with a real strong OK.

MILKMAN MURDERS #2: Despite how shocking this book is looking to be, I like that the first 3 pages were so understated and elegent in what they presented. I liked this quite a bit -- might be the strongest narrative I've seen from Casey, and Parkhouse art is always a joy to look at. Very Good.

HARD TIME #7: "Meanwhile, back at the ensemble..." Now that the Focus "line" has been winnowed down to 2, it's time for a little of that comics Activism for this and Kinetic. Both are very strong books focusing more on human reaction than the garish zow of super-books. Both books have found their rhythm and both should be selling at least twice as well as they do. While I'm not giving this PotW, I really do urge you to pick up a copy the next time you're in the LCS, and give it a chance. Very Good.

MONOLITH #7: It's always smart to try and guest-star Batman to goose your numbers, but, folks, the bottom third of a cover is THE SINGLE WORST part of your cover to put any sales information. MOST stores overlap covers, and that's "dead" sales space. Seriously. (Wake up, there in DC -- Vertigo, especially, has been putting out a lot of covers lately with "misplaced" logos). Very nice art from Tom Coker, a good solid story from Palmiotti and Gray, and now that the story has started moving at a slightly brisker place, you should give this one a gander on the racks. Good.

SOF' BOY #3: Great cartooning from Archer Prewitt. While I've been a bit turned off by the sadism this has sometimes shown towards it's indefatigable, invulnerable lead, this I thought was wonderful and sweet and joyous. And god-damn nicely drawn. $4.95 is kinda a lot to swallow, but dem's the economics of doing askew work like this. This was a terrific issue: Very Good.

And so endeth this session of the Savage Critic. Wow I kinda liked everything is this part of the pile! More later.....