There are many comics I want to talk about this week, and I am abandoning my usual practice of only reviewing good books of the week. I review some I liked, loved, and one I particularly hated. Hopefully it will be a nice change of pace from the usual reviews.
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #643
Written by Kieron Gillen and Matt Fraction
Art by Carmine di Giandomenico
Long time readers of this title definitely do not want to be missing out on this issue that crosses over with Thor. Little Loki puts his plan into affect and seemingly has gotten the best of all of the other characters around him. All the worlds connected to Asgard are at War, Surtur thinks he is about to enact a final vengeance on Loki, and Thor is fighting on his brother’s behalf.
There are many great moments throughout this issue. The true nature of Leah is revealed. Loki’s supposed true colors are also shown here. (He appears much more like classic Loki, which was a disappointment for me inasmuch as I had grown fond of the trickster with a good heart Loki appeared to be.) Volstagg as a King is rightly hilarious. The first few lines in his War Journal are priceless. And there is a great conversation between Loki and Leah where we learn she is the living embodiment of a story Loki had written. The book almost breaks the fourth wall when she talks about how Loki (the writer) has trapped her inside a form of his prose.
Many of the foundations and slices of story that Kieron Gillen had placed in JIM throughout his run are brought to a head in this issue. Thor learns of Loki’s real treachery, Leah is revealed as a character Loki wrote into the Serpent’s history, and the War continues to wage on. Loki appears to be the victor on the last page and even knowing that soon this series will end I cannot help but to feel that Loki has one more trick up his sleeve. Has he really been planning Thor’s death all along? Has he returned to his classic Loki roots? Or is he still the kindhearted trickster doing right through wrong? I cannot wait for next issue to find out.
The art by Carmine di Giandomenico is gorgeous and I was glad to see him illustrating this part of the story. I love the way he gives the characters life as each moves from panel to panel with their own sense of body language. There are also some really nice striking images captured in the pages.
FINAL WORD: As a single issue it is not the best of the week, but as a culminating tale that speaks to the run as a whole it is without a doubt one of the best titles of the year. Excellent issue!
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth
Dex Parios might be my favorite detective in comics. Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s first volume of Stumptown is a masterpiece of modern detective fiction, and one of the best stories I read in recent years. This second volume is a longtime coming, and I certainly think it was worth the wait.
Dex is opening up an actual office (no longer running her detective agency out of her home) just in time to take a new case. The guitarist of the musical group Tailhook had her most prized guitar stolen from her and she wants Dex to find it. Just like that, “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case” begins. Dex’s first stop to the house of the Roadie that normally handles the guitars after Tailhook’s shows where she meets two skinheads trying to get information about the guitar themselves. Throw in a DEA agent, a mysterious crime Dex turns down at the beginning of the book that is bound to make a reappearance, and an awesome confrontation between the skinheads and Dex and we have a marvelous first issue.
You do not have to read the first series to give this one a try, but I would recommend picking it up sometime simply because I have no doubt you will love it. This issue is perfectly designed for new readers. I also enjoyed the comic because there is nothing clichéd or uninteresting about Dex’s case. Rucka is a king at making each new case original and different.
Matthew Southworth’s art has really come a long way. His style is a bit more refined and his facial expressions are much better than in the previous volumes. I always enjoy seeing an artist expand his style and Southworth goes from good to great all in this first issue. Another plus.
FINAL WORD: A return of one of my favorite detective series, and a great first issue. Highly recommended to all!
PUNK ROCK JESUS #3
Vertigo (DC) Comics
Written & Illustrated by Sean Murphy
This is one of the most engaging and original comics I have read this year. This issue time jumps a little and we get a glimpse of why the series has the title it does. Gwen’s outbursts, threats, and manic behavior hit a boiling point, but she promises the creator of the reality show that she will behave if Chris (the clone of Jesus), her son, is allowed to go to public school.
Over the course of the issue we see what Chris’ childhood was like and how the show interfered with him wanting to take a specific girl to a dance. He is very much a prisoner and Gwen has a final meltdown before she is kicked out of the compound, much to Thomas’ dismay. Thomas had grown to care and maybe even love Gwen, and losing her hits him hard. Losing Gwen hits Chris even harder though and we see the first true signs of his rebellious nature. (I’m betting he becomes a Punk Rock star next. Just saying.) In the final pages Gwen tries to take her own life, but has a surprising encounter instead.
You would think that with all of the crazy characterizations, time jumping, and mythology building Sean Murphy is doing here that the story would be lost among the chaos. Oddly enough the chaos supports the story and propels it forward in wonderful ways. The dialogue is fresh and matches each character perfectly, and the story is expertly paced. The art is nothing short of breathtaking and I just eat up every issue with my eyes. You never know what to expect or what strange twists the story will take as a result.
FINAL WORD: If the rest of the series is as good as the first three issues it will be one of the top contenders for Book of the Year. It is THAT good.
AVENGERS VS X-MEN #11
Story by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, & Jonathan Hickman
Script by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Olivier Coipel
Inks by Mark Morales
Almost six months into this Event with one issue to go and I feel confident in saying that Avengers Vs X-Men will most likely win my 2012 Award for biggest waste of talent on a book. It has been a hackneyed series at best that is serving little more than filler story to launch Marvel Now.
This particular issue offers one moment of coolness among a series of increasingly irritating character interactions leading to what is supposed to be a shocking, but ultimately anti-climatic resolution. The first two pages open with a magnificent conversation between Captain America and one other character that made me smile. Sadly, it was all down hill from there.
The centerpiece of this series is now the final downfall of Cyclops who has finally gone the way of Jean Grey. He has given into the Phoenix entity and his journey to be the biggest jerk in the Marvel Universe is now complete. Some would argue that this is in line with the characterization of Scott Summers since Grant Morrison left the X-titles, maybe longer. And on one hand they would be right. On the other hand though when looking back on it from that point until now it reads like a series of writers contributing to character assassination. Cyclops never had Wolverine’s popularity, but there was a time when he was the most true-blue hero the X-Men ever had. Even with all of the lead up this turn feels cheap to me.
Second, the death readers’ witness in this issue holds no weight, because we have all been here before. They made a huge deal out of a character that had not been around much in recent years and I cannot say I cared about where the story took me. If the crutch of the series and this issue in particular is the turn of Cyclops and the death of this other character, well, the previous ten issues were wasted in setting that up.
The art was great, but I think it is clear that a story by committee makes for a lackluster series. I could have maybe forgiven Marvel this blatant money-grab-over-substance if the series was six issues or less. Milking it for twelve-issues did little, but to rob artists like Adam Kubert, John Romita Jr, and Olivier Coipel from being on better books. It was a book where even the combined writing talent of Bendis, Fraction, Brubaker, Hickman, and Aaron could not save it from itself.
FINAL WORD: A waste of talent for one of the most mediocre and anti-climatic Marvel stories in the last ten years.