Literally nothing for me this week but this isn't a problem as I didn't write anything last week!
Criminal book 3: Dead and the Dying came out. (n.b.the image shown is from what'll be in the next book, lifted from Sean Phillips' blog. Can't scan the inside of Trades) This series is just great. It's different to but fills an open wound I have where Stray Bullets used to be. So far we've got a load of meaty crime stories about grubby, real characters in a grubby, real underworld with occasionally overlapping names and references to characters we hope we'll see later. In fact the only constant character in the book is the bar, 'THE UNDERTOW(n)' which often serves as the catalyst for the unpleasant fates of the principles.
The third volume collects the first three oversized issues of the second series. Three standalone stories which overlap greatly telling one story from three perspectives, also gives us a chunk of the origin of Mr Hyde who rules the modern day Criminal world. A great book. Part of me wants the issues with the great back matter written by all sorts of great writers and directors about crime/thrillers in all mediums. Space is the limitation for me, after years as a comic fiend, but either way, if you're not reading this you're missing good comics; both Brubaker and Phillips at their best.
Welcome back to the monthly Action Comics is great section. Action Comics is great! Tee latest issue gives us great Daily Planet moments, great Clark and Pa moments, and great Superman moments. What I find most impressive in the writing is that we're getting all of this Superman continuity stuff but told in such a way as to be completely accesible to anyone who doesn't know these characters. I've always thoughs Superman had the worst villains gallery in comics but Geoff Johns has already given us a definitive Lex Luthor, Bizarro and is now in the process, along with great designs from Gary Frank, of a definitive Braniac. We're also getting The Bottled City of Kandor for the 'first' time. I've always fancied the idea of The Bottled City of Kandor.
Lastly, a comic I'd been looking forward to for months! One of those great gems that'll dusty and forgotten to all but a few with good memories. Every once in a while both DC and Marvel will publish weekly mini-series or fifth week events to fill in the publishing schedule gaps left by the fact that 52 doesn't divide by 12. There's generally a gem in every bunch. I've yet to see one which has all quality books. Here are some examples of previous winners.
In '97 DC published the Tangent universe. An idea of Dan Jurgens, this was all basically concepts created from scratch based only on existing DC names. It was alright. Forgotten until recently made canon in the current DCU and collected in trades(!?!?!?). Far and away the best of the buch was Green Lantern by James Robinson, JH Williams and Mick Gray. The interpretation of the name is a ghost narrator who carries a chinese green lantern and tells stories of the unjustly dead coming back for closure/revenge. Though reitively early in his comic career, JH Williams already shows off his chamaelionic abilities, giving each of the short tales a different style. ONe looks like JH Williams, one has a Kirby/Kurtzman mix and the third has a weird mix of what looks like Noel Sickles, Alex Raymond and George Evans. Robinson's writing is great, as it generally is.
In '98 DC came up with New Year's Evil. Not too much of a high concept here, just one-off stories about baddies, all with great covers by Jason Pearson.Grant Morrison introduced his anti-Batman, Prometheus, who'd become a running villain for the JLA but the rest of the books only really made an impact if you were reading the related books (Flash, Resurrection Man). There was also a lame Darkseid one and a so-so Gog from Kingdom Come. And the winner was, by a country mile, the Scarecrow by 'Milligan' and Fegredo, with great colours by Bjarne Hansen (Superman: For All Seasons. This story got me good. A great impromptu redesign of the character (which stuck), Fegredo's kinetic art really coming into it's own after comics like Enigma and Face. We see clear influences of Toth via Mignola as well as an obsession foe page design and detail when necessary and empty space when not. The story has Scarecrow getting the run around by a girl that he can't scare and deciding that he's in love. It's screwed up as all tales of Batman villains should be.
Perhaps the most successful overall of these weekly books was Marvel Monsters from...Marvel. All the books had a monster reprint at the back and nice Eric Powell painted covers. We got Monsters on the Prowl by Steve Niles and Fegredo which has Hulk, Thing, Giant Man and (pre blue) Beast from the X-Men. The collector nicks loads of the monsters from Monster Island, which the Mole Man's not too happy about and while trying to get them back, accidently sets them all loose on Manhattan. Who can save the city, with the Fantastic Four out of town, if not the aforementioned Good Monsters? A fun story with great art as well as a Kirby reprint at the back.
FIn Fang Four by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge has a where are they now team up of monsters reduced by Reed Richards and holding down a steady job in society. Fin Fang Foom as a chef in a Chinese restaurant, Elektro as a delivery boy, Googam, Son Of Goom working as valet parking and Gorgilla as his sidekick. It's a great, funny, loving homage to Kirby/Ditko monsters that we'll see more of. Lastly is Devil Dinosaur by Eric Powell which has Hulk zapped back in time to be misled into fighting Devil Dinosaur. Then there's the inevitable team up against their manipulators. Like all the rest of the Marvel Monster books, there's a real affection for the source material (Kirby) and it's difficult not to enjoy it. (Plus the Coming Of The Hulk; but not THAT Hulk).
All of which brings us to DC's current outing into seemingly random weekly one-offs. Joker's Asylum are all stories narrated by the Joker. Now, Penguin is the first I've read, awaiting the Scarecrow but skipping the ones that I've no 'in' to. With Jason Aaron and Jason Aaron, there was no way I was going to pass. We seem to get a comic per year out of Jason Pearson over the last few years. They're always worth waiting for artwise but this is the strongest collaborator he's had in a long time. Aaron writes grim, violent, psychosis/physchotics and a lookback over Pearson's career and his own Body Bags show that he likes drawing them. His style has always evolved including colouring his own work but here he's coloured by Dave McCaig who's never failed me. The story's a great tale of the Penguin's neuroses and violent, defensive, overeaction for being a fat midget with a big nose. The character came to life a bit during Batman: No Man's Land but Ed Brubaker's run set him up as a villain to contend with. Though Burgess Meredith was Cool! Wagh!