Into the deep end, which would be the Grant Morrison end...
Final Crisis #1 finally hit, after months of full page ads and a good couple of years of build up and could it possibly justify the wait? Well for a start, the great JG Jones/Chip Kidd cover with Green Lantern on it, used in all the hype, seems to be in the minority, though I managed to get one, but now it won't necessarily match the rest (a bit retentive I know but it does bug me!).
There's a lot of set up in this issue, which is fine with me as I haven't followed two years of weekly comics and spin offs, I've never read the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman with any regularity and I've also no idea why Martian Manhunter has a rubbish costume. Story wise it starts hundreds of thousands of years in the past with Anthro the first boy in the past and finishes with Kamandi, last boy on Earth so there's nothing if not scope here. There've been some criticisms of continuity issues surrounding the New Gods, following all those weekly comics. Having not read them, I basically really enjoyed the first issue and am looking forward to where its going. To read Morrison's take on the first issue you can go to Newsarama here.
Artwise, I don't think there's anyone at DC who could have done this any better. JG Jones has quite a static quality, from the photo reference, but its all well drawn and Alex Sinclair's suit it really well, same as when he colours Jim Lee. One thing that worries me is whether, even with the skip month between issues 3 and 4, we'll not get DCs version of the Crusty Bunkers jumping in to help him finish. I was mildly traumatised by the ONE page in Marvel Boy he didn't draw, so forgive me if I'm edgy. We'll see.
Batman R.I.P. is two parts in already and as with anything Morrison, its not clear where its going but there's build up and stuff going on that you KNOW will be meaningful on a re-reading. The Black Glove from the JH Williams arc is revealed to be a group rather than one person, the Joker knows everything Hannibal Lector style but is being obtuse and we're not sure whether the first love interest Jezebel, is in on it.The panel above gives us a Batman sounding indecisive and also shows the bewildering art of Tony Daniel. We see the inside of the Batmobile and are still left with no idea what it looks like. Wow! Mysterious, edgy...
Lastly from the Morrison file is All Star Supes. What to stay. Understated in the extreme in both the dialogue and the art and yet so Huge that one feels obligated to go back and read it again to take it all in. Superman's getting sicker and sicker, 'dead' at the end of it. Lex Luthor is great, camp, genius al la Gene Hackman in the movies. Morrison also touches on DC One Million again with Solaris introduced, established and magnificently dispatched before you even have time to absorb the concept and chew over the questions posed as to how Superman knows that Solaris will be benevolent in the future. It's all so fertile and I can't imagine how anyone will be able to follow it. One more issue to go!
Dave Lapham's Wolverine: The Amazing Immortal Man and Other Bloody Tales is...weird. I'm a big fan of Lapham and this comic has Lapham illustrating one story with two guys touted as new comers on the other two. The title story has nice cartooning by a guy called Johnny Timmons that could get him on Gotham Central or Daredevil. The story's solid and features a silent Wolverine, clearly a bit down and out as a sidehow freak and in Lapham style has no innocents and plenty of revenge! The Second story, illustrated by Lapham with Daredevil's inker Stefano Gaudiano, features one of Lapham's other themes; the influence of one powerful force, be it Spanish Scott, Batman or the Punisher, on the weak people it comes into contact with.
A brief appearence by Wolverine inspires a bus driver to copycat and try to clean up his bit of the bronx. The thrid story in the book drawn by a fella called Kelly Goodine, did nothing for me on any level. The art's a bit Lenil Yu (who also does nothing for me), the colours are dreadful and the story's a bit of a nonsense about a parasitic baby mutant?!?! Probably worth the money for the first two stories and the nice Simone cover. WIll also sit nicely next to the great Giant Size Wolverine Lapham did with Iron Fist's David Aja a year or so back.
Finally got my Hellboy FCBD comic. Just great! It's no secret that the Mignolaverse is the most consistent group of titles being regularly published today. To get three new eight page stories by Mignola/Fegredo, Mignola/Arcudi/Davis and Mignola/Dysart/Azaceta couldn't be better. The Hellboy story takes place before Darkness calls and is a surreal story that's all 'a dream' while we know that nothing that goes on in Hellboy'shead is just a dream. Fegredo's art is excellent, consistent with Mignola's storytelling without aping as previous artists Matt Smith and even Ryan Sook had done.
The BPRD story follows on from the Killing Ground story where Johann Kraus acted kinda weird after getting a body that had senses, having been ectoplasm stuck in a bag for the longest time. This story has him go beyond weird, to suspicious...to be continued! The last story is by the team of BPRD 1946 which I've not read yet. This story stands alone and bodes well for the series. The art is moody and consistent and the writings good. A solo Professor 'Broom' story. As always, I'm left wanting more.
I picked up the collection of Lobster Johnson this week which I knew I was gonna like. I'd read the first issue in England and knew it was something to look forward to. It's good and pulpy, nuts and the art is great. Jason Armstrong's art is great cartooning, fitting nicely with the blacks all over and great Dave Stewart's colours you expect from the Mignolaverse. I was left a little underwhelmed because I was expecting so much and it was no doubt damaged by the anticipation factor. The Hellboy books are always great with the developmental art at the back showing the artist's take as well as Mignola's and in this case we get a bit of Guy Davis' too. It's all such a labour of lve that its difficult not to go back in and scrutinise it all to feel the love!
Palmiotti, Gray and Jordi Bernet deliver yet another great done-in-one Jonah Hex story. This series is obviously a labour of love and is a western, in 2008, which is not just good but great! Take the hint people. Pick it up. The balance of humour, horror and action is seldom found better. I'm sure the Darwyn Cooke issue next month will shake some life into to you!!!!
Loveless made it to 24 and the last issue is by Daniel Zezelj so it goes out on a high note. While it does feel like there's history here you need to be aware of the issue also stands alone well enough. It would be worth the $3 for the art alone but the story's sound too.Axxarello was kind of frank about it all: "I failed you guys with 'Loveless,'" Azzarello said. "It had a birth defect, and it just didn't survive. If we can come back to it, we will." My curiousity is where Zezelj will turn up next.
Neither Paul Smith or Mike Ploog turned up for Spirit 17 and we get art by Aluir Armancio who I'd never heard of and inked by Terry Austin who seemed to disappear some years back from comics. I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't pre ordered it and felt obligated. A good fun read with great looking girls and nice storytelling. The colours are nice the whole thing holds up well. Could have been a lot worse, artwise, to the degree I'll order it in future if they actually tell me he's going to be drawing it!
To wrap up, I picked up American Spendor 3 because it has Darwyn Cooke in it as well as on the cover. Harvey Pekar comics are always solid and rarely surprise. Annecdotal shorts or monologues that give us a 'working stiff's view of the world. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I found that 22 pages really wasn't enough so I'll problably be picking up some collections soon. The real surprise for me was the art of John Cebollero, who's work I knew from inking over Marshall Rogers on several funny looking comics. This was great caricature and nice storytelling. I'll keep an eye on him..!
That's it! If anyone's still out there, I'll be back weekly give or take holidays and I'll see you soon.