As you might have guessed, the Freak-Out is taking a break this week to utilize our trademark snark and vinegar in a more traditional manner: Sniping at family as we dig in on our Thanksgiving dinner. But while this was a somewhat light week for comics, I thought I’d go ahead and share my picks o’ the week. So take a break from self-loathing and turkey hangovers to wander through the best comics of the week!
Let’s start off with a “I can’t believe I skipped this last week” entry:
Mudman #1 (Image)
from writer/artist Paul Grist
This was a wallet casualty last week, but I’m damn glad I went back and picked it up. It’s got atmosphere to spare, and while “turning into mud” might be the un-sexiest super-hero power this side of Concrete, Grist has kicked off this series with a cleverly staged origin that does a great job of keeping the reader just as off-balance as protagonist Owen Craig, who stumbles his way into some strange new abilities not to mention a hazy mystery he can’t quite get his head around. I’ve stated time and time again that #1’s have an unfortunate knack for being all opening-hook-no-staying-power, but I’m digging where this book seems to be heading.
Now on to this week! In order of “good” to “holy crap, that’s great“:
The Mighty Thor #8 (Marvel)
from Matt Fraction & Pasqual Ferry
The mystery of Tanarus, the new God of Thunder is revealed! I’ll admit I expected Fraction to tease this mystery out a bit before giving us this big of a reveal, but it looks like Matt’s got some tricks up his sleeve yet. While not as strong as last week’s Journey Into Mystery, this issue delivers a solid story while letting readers in on how the denizens of the Nine Realms are reacting to their new accommodations in Broxton, Oklahoma. Loki finds himself in unusual position of looking for the truth as he attempts to understand why no one remembers Thor, and we find out where this new God of Thunder really came from. Talk about bang for the buck.
Yea, verily! Pull it!
Hellblazer #285 (Vertigo)
from Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Carli Idhe.
I just can’t quit you, John Constantine. Apparently I can’t quit Peter Milligan either, even though the version of Constantine we’re getting via his work on DC’s Justice League Dark is so maddeningly de-balled when compared to the hard-living perennial bastard I’ve been reading since 1988. Milligan’s rescued this title from a slow descent into mediocrity by giving us a Constantine who, while still ever the bastard, actually has something to live for. This month continues the dual-storyline of following John’s evil-as-balls trench coat as it hops from hapless owner to owner while John and Epiphany try to save John’s niece Gemma from her own mistakes. And yes – I’m going to be seriously pissed if this title goes away.
Pull it, ya gob!
Invincible Iron Man #510 (Marvel)
from Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
Delivering on the promise made in Fear Itself, Tony makes good on bringing the Dwarven weaponsmith Splitlip out into the world (and to AA) while Ezekiel Stane gets his destruction on in the service of the Mandarin. Oh, and someone knows Tony hit the bottle again, and is dead set on making sure the world knows. Fraction’s continuing his ‘awful-after-awful’ gauntlet for the Avenger, and this issue serves as a great bookend to Fear Itself. Most importantly Fraction is showing us that the while the war may have been won, the aftermath will haunt Marvel’s core heroes for some time to come. While it’s not knocking my socks off like some of the other Avengers solo books, Invincible Iron Man has consistently delivered month-after-month.
Very much a pull
Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel)
from Warren Ellis and Michael Lark
I wasn’t nearly as excited as the Cap’n to have Warren Ellis take over the Secret Avengers, but I’m happy to admit I’m eating crow on that now. Ellis certainly knows how to play in the “secret history of the world” sandbox, and he’s got this unique knack for creating hidden corners of a universe that feel like they carry a rich and mysterious history that are satisfyingly weird in even the barest bites. This issue has Steve Rogers, Moon Knight, Black Widow, and Sharon Carter tracking down former Soviet-bloc drug dealers who’ve turned to peddling something far more sinister, and I found myself giving a mental “well played, sir” to Ellis by the end of it. Ellis is a genius with single issue adventure, and this month is no exception.
Pull it like a rope that rings a bell made of awesome.
Wolverine and X-Men #2 Regenesis (Marvel)
from Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo
Holy crap, but could this title be any more fun? I’ve adored artist Chris Bachalo since his stint on Generation X back in the 90’s, but his wall-o-pencils style perfectly compliments Aaron’s breakneck “throw everything including the sink” pacing as headmaster Wolverine tries to keep the chaos under control while the newly reformed Hellfire Club attempts to break the “worst first day of school ever” record by hitting the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning campus with everything from drugged up state school board inspectors to a little living island named Krakoa.
Aaron is having a hell of a lot of fun with this title, and that comes through every single panel. Bonus points for deciding to let perennial slacker Bobby Drake step up and find the potential he’s been wasting for years. Snappy dialogue, crazy action, and a promise to not only up the ante, but jam the pedal to the floor with upcoming issues. This is the most fun we’ve seen in an X-title in ages, and I for one am ALL IN.
If you don’t pull this, you don’t enjoy fun.
Astonishing X-Men #44 (Marvel)
from Greg Pak & Mike McKone
Oh, Greg Pak you clever, clever man. This is one of those X titles that I’ve been pretty “meh” on for quite some time, but that just means it’s all the more (dare I say) astonishing that a new creative team could come in and make me throw this onto my monthly pull list with a single issue. Yes, the eye-grabbing cover shot of Storm and Cyclops getting their make out on really happens, but not before we’re treated to a clever throwback to Uncanny X-Men #201 as Storm puts Cyke through his paces in an impromptu throw-down designed to get the X-Men’s fearless brooder back on his game.
Storm is one of those characters that, when not treated well, tends to just fade into the background until someone comes along and remembers that she’s not just a powerhouse but also cornerstone of the X-franchise with all the rich and engaging history that entails. Pak gets in a fantastic one-two punch by reminding us of how great a character Storm can be before throwing a curve-ball that would make Lucy (the gold standard of football yankers) herself cry tears of prideful joy. Seeing as the man has a knack for turning out consistently entertaining comics that are willing to swing for the bleachers with every crazy idea that comes his way, I for one cannot wait to see what Pak has up his sleeve for this title.
Pull it like taffy that tastes like DREAMS
Fantastic Four #600 (Marvel)
from Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Leinil Yu, Farel Dalrymple
Oh, man… Talk about an issue that could have easily stumbled into needless navel-gazing! Thankfully the talented Mr. Hickman accomplishes a mean triple feat here: Telling a compelling story fraught with real peril and consequences, honoring the 50th anniversary of the title that kick-started the Marvel Universe, and a little thing called “bringing back Johnny Storm in a way that made sense without negating the First Family’s loss and heartbreak”. I mean, just….wow.
Hickman’s proved time and time again that he likes playing on a cosmic canvas, and many times the scope of the story he’s trying to tell requires you to step back from the details to take it all in. That can be frustrating for readers who find themselves confronted with a seemingly unrelated subplot (or the return of a thread that had been left alone for multiple issues), but here Hickman pulls together the seemingly disparate story-lines of the last few years to show you that yes, he has a plan, and yes there is a payoff for all the ups and downs we’ve been put through.
Where many an author would be content to leave us hanging with the big reveal, Hickman goes a step further to show us what happened to Johnny Storm from the other side of the Negative Zone portal, as well as give satisfying previews for what’s next via three codas that underscore one of the basic elements that make the Fantastic Four such great adventure: Scale. Mind-bending, reality-twisting scale that reminds us that this family plays in corners of the universe the rest of the MU can only dream of.
Fantastic Four #600 is the perfect reminder as to how this family has endured in our imagination for the last 50 years.
Really? You need me to say it? PULL THIS
Well, that’s it, folks! My (admittedly long-winded) picks of the week. We’ll see you next week for the return of the Four Color Freak-Out!