I’ve managed to one-up last week’s edition of The Pull List! This week, the list is a whopping 27 issues deep – one more than last week. However, its also a tick worse, with an aggregate rating of 3.055 compared to 3.17.
What did I pull this week? I caught up with Birds of Prey, Flash, and Titans to add to my DC pull list, sampled four new number ones, and dropped a pair of weak books. Here’s what I reviewed in brief:
- DC Comics
- Batgirl and The Birds of Prey (2016) #19
- Detective Comics (2016) #974
- The Flash (2016) #40
- Sideways (2017) #1
- Titans (2016) #20
- Wonder Woman (2016) #40
- Image Comics
- Dark Fang (2017) #4
- Death of Love (2018) #1
- Paradiso (2017) #3
- Port of Earth (2017) #4
- Sleepless (2018) #3
- Slots (2017) #5
- Twisted Romance (2018) #2
- Marvel Comics
- Avengers (2017) #680
- Cable (2017) #154
- Captain America (2017) #698
- Marvel Two-in-One (2018) #3
- Old Man Logan (2016) #35
- Weapon X (2017) #14
- X-Men: Blue (2017) #21
- Smaller Publishers: Aftershock, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse, Dynamite, & Zenescope
- Babyteeth (2017) #8, Aftershock Comics
- Barbarella (2017) #3, Dynamite Entertainment
- Black Sable (2017) #4, Zenescope Entertainment
- Cold War (2018) #1, Aftershock Comics
- Giants (2018) #3, Dark Horse
- Judas (2017) #3, Boom! Studios
- Xena (2018) #1, Dynamite Entertainment
Pick of the Pull
Big Two (Marvel/DC) Issue of the Week: The Flash (2016) #40, DC Comics
I have never before been so viscerally scared of Grodd. He is utterly terrifying here, and I was really concerned that we could be seeing the end of Flash at multiple points – and, in a way, we did.
Joshua Williamson is proving that he is one of the best writers in the business with this constantly thrumming plot that has been building non-stop rising action for 40 straight issues. While you could easily jump right one with every arc, each of them builds off of everything that came before. That means this run has notched itself as the third or fourth best extended Flash run of all time in under two years, and it shows no immediate signs of stopping.
Carmine Di Giandomenico continues to stun on artwork with vivid coloring from
Ivan Plascencia. This issue includes some of the most inventive action paneling I can think of reading in recent memory. The paneling of Avery catching the lighting rod is breathtaking.
An A+ book through and through, with a thrilling final moment.
Best Small-Pub Issue of the Week: Giants (2018) #3, Dark Horse Comics
There’s no denying the craft, power, and charm of Giants. For a third issue in a row The Valderrama Brothers. turn in a beautiful, action-packed comic full of heart.
We begin our story with Zedo, the boy left for dead who is now making a cavalier power-play to control the gangs of the underworld. Only a child could see things as so black and white, yet both in the last issue and here he is making vicious choices that he can’t take back.
In stark contrast, Gogi has found a group of other children who are necessarily tough but still enduringly kind. Their acceptance and willingness to give without asking anything in return is alien to Gogi. At first he resists it, then he resents it, but finally he understand that’s it’s easier to live openly then be on guard and full of distrust.
Gogi’s journey from underground child to hero in the wider wider stands in stark contrast to Zedo’s dark turn at the end of this issue. Neither boy can entirely blame fate, nor can he say that the choices were all his own. That makes Giants a powerful allegory for the role of environment on our lot in life.
We might not all be fighting giant monsters, but we’re frequently either the child who ran away or the child that was left behind.
Batgirl and The Birds of Prey (2016) #19
This story, which continues the plotline from the initial first 13 issues, feels a lot more like a Batgirl issue than a Birds of Prey issue. It’s not just that Barbara Gordon is the major focus, but that her inner life is the major focus. This has a lot of her struggle with if she can be Batgirl and Oracle at the same time.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but as readers we’ve been trained to expect that these big character beats come from a solo title (which Batgirl has at the moment) rather than a team one. Really, this theme continues from that initial maxi-arc, which was largely about how Batgirl is still learning how to be on a team where she’s not in total control.
This story feels just as dense as the one-shot in the prior issue even though it’s part of a larger story because it tells one big, complete chapter with a beginning, middle, and shocking end as Barbara pushes Oracle too far and gets someone she cares about killed as a result. I was surprised by the death, but that’s a hallmark of how fast this book plays its plot beats. There’s no time to stick with status quo.
The interior art from line artist Roge Antonio and color artist Marcelo Maiolo continues to amaze – they’re quietly and consstently shipping one of DC’s best-looking books once a month. (However, the Terry Dodson cover is a real letdown after a streak of magnificent ones by Yanick Paquette.)
Detective Comics (2016) #974
This is a spectacular issue full of fallout and grief somehow maintains the high drama from last issue’s climax to make the denouement just as thrilling – due to a major, organic schism in the Bat-Team.
No matter which side you take , you have to sympathize a little with the other. Orphan’s raging grief as she hurls herself at Batwoman is palpable, and there’s no way to reconcile that Batwoman hasn’t done something wrong even if she’s in the right. And, even if you completely agree with Batman, seeing Batwing immediately leap to Batwoman’s defense emphasizes that there is a generational divide in these adult heroes. Some of Batman’s methods are starting to age and become incompatible with the modern world.
Artist Phillipe Briones with Allen Passalaqua on colors kill it from the very first panel here. The book is gorgeous. I didn’t event want to keep reading past the first page. That keep happening on almost every page. I love great comic artwork, but it takes a lot to make me linger again and again – especially in an issue I’ve been hotly awaiting like this one!
Sideways (2017) #1
Finally, one of DC’s new books feels like it really did emerge from Metal and really does have the youthful sort of “all new all different” energy this New Age of Heroes promised.
This was a near-perfect first issue that teased some future conflicts, but the real highlight was on a young hero in the classic Spider-Man mold – excited by his powers, but unsure how to handle his new responsibility or the ramifications of how he acquired them.
Sideways is a wonderful story about a new teen hero (Rift) who wants to be carefree but has a bit of unaddressed PTSD from his recent origins. Dan DiDio scripts typically fall on the hokier side of youthful for me, but maybe his collaboration with Justin Jordan (of Luther Strode) reigned him in a bit, because this felt grounded and conversational throughout.
Kenneth Rocafort impresses me everywhere he appears, especially with his cosmic scope on Ultimates with Al Ewing, but I might like him the best drawing a pair of teenagers in a messy bedroom as colored by Dan Brown. He goes at the scene as hard as he does a battle in deep space, and there are so many little details and textures to absorb.
Titans (2016) #20
You can’t help but be a little disheartened by this “Titans Disassembled” plotline. It not only leaves us without teamwork and the chemistry that comes with it, but removes Omen from the book when she was one of the most fascinating characters of this run to date.
Penciler Paul Pelletier is at his peak of Alan Davis influence here, which adds a lot of zip to an unexacting issue. This Arsenal story (teaming him with old friend slash rival Jade) is strong, but feels more like a B-plot than an A-plot We’re seeing him teetering on the edge of unintentional relapse as he tries to bust Intergang’s drug trade with no support from his teammates.
As the primary action, it’s not enough to offset yet another issue of Donna Troy sitting around morosely on the Watchtower while Wonder Woman brings her tea.
Wonder Woman (2016) #40
I don’t know that I’ve ever read a comic book by James Robinson as dull and phoned in as this one. There’s no magic to the moments with Diana and her brother, nothing comes from a single awesome action scene of Steve Trevor, and the Silver Swan fight ends abruptly without even seeing Wonder Woman’s final struggle to win.
That’s not the only problem with this comic book. The lettering from Saida Temofonte is so unpleasant to read that I wanted to stop in the middle of page two. The choice of a curvy font face that makes the bubbles feel crowded makes the comic nearly unreadable. Also, there are several messy choices in styling Jason’s handwritten note later in the issue.
I would say this is an all-around bad comic, except Emanuela Lupacchino’s artwork is lovely throughout. If only I could see an unlettered version of it, perhaps I could imagine it to be something much better than Robinson scripted.
Slots (2017) #5 (Skybound Entertainment)
I’m really not reading this comic for the boxing acting, so this long beat-em-up that our sadsack hero Stanley has no interest in fighting was just as uninteresting for me. Yet, I think the coloring in this issue is as great as its been so far. Dan Panosian does some beautiful things with Gus’s face, which made me realize just how little of this art he’s drawing in ink lines – a lot of it is just pure color. For a boxing fan or someone who has been charmed by the first few issues of this book, it’s definitely worth it to keep reading.
Dark Fang (2017) #4
This issue gets pretty dark, which isn’t something I thought I’d be saying about Dark Fang and it’s light-hearted, cartoonish approach to the bloody violence perpetrated by its eco-terrorist vampire protagonist.
This issue keeps the same bright, cheerful artwork, but it almost entirely depicts Dark Fang’s torture at the hands of a purported agent of the Heavens. I appreciated the line it carefully toed – the threat to Fang was never sexual, and despite her spending a lot of the issue tied up, it never turned into a sensational BDSM device.
There’s a lot of exposition here to widen the scope of the title, and after a while I’ll admit I was growing a little tired of receiving it via monologue when the past three issues have been so full of globe-trotting murder.
We haven’t completely lost the fun aspect of this series, given that the issue starts with a fight between a shape-changing Dark Fang and a man weilding a very large bible. Even if this issue was a bit of dull-mid-arc exposition, I’m still loving this title.
Death of Love (2018) #1
Oh. My. Bowie. This Justin Jordan comic viciously and hilarious takes down “The Nice Guy,” point by point, with a backup column by Dr. Nerdlove.
We meet Nice Guy personified, Philo Harris, who tries getting to know a girl better and going to a pick-up class before he takes some seriously suspect pills from a fellow calling himself Eris. That leads to a madcap scene that opens the book that I won’t spoil, because I laughed at it so darn hard.
I love the artwork here, from artist Donal Delay with colorists Omar Estévez and Felipe Sobreiro. It’s got a bit of a weirdly-shaped-head Samurai Jack quality to it reminiscent of Jordan’s Luther Strode collaborator Tradd Moore, but the coloring makes everything feel like it has weight and depth. I especially loved an arcane espresso machine and its chipped coffee cup.
This mini-series will be immediate must-read for me every month. The level of wit is incredible, and I cannot even begin to imagine where the plot goes from here.
Paradiso (2017) #3
Paradiso #3 almost pushes too far from the elements that made the first two issues so thrilling. It feels for a moment like we’ve lost touch with Jack’s central mystery, which would make the title just another story of post-apocalyptic wandering.
Yet, in the middle, that fuzzy uncertainty about the direction snaps into focus. The various threads of plot quite suddenly all connect to each other. It feels satisfying, and it makes this issue feel extra long as the four plots it was juggling before gradually braid themselves into a single story.
Port of Earth (2017) #4
We get a burst of violence here, but I couldn’t make any sense of it. I’m not sure if it was a panel perspective problem, scripting the wrong beats, or what. Also, it was hard to tell if one officer was warranted in instigating a confrontation with the rogue alien, yet no one reprimands him for his actions.
I think this comic has an excellent concept and overarching premise, but I’m not digging the smaller main story sandwiched inside. Also, I forgot how tight the lettering in this comic can be! It’s a drop for me.
Sleepless (2018) #3
I’ve been waiting for this comic to burst into action – if not literal action, then plot conflict. Here we not only get that burst, but it’s so satisfyingly well done that I forgive all of the slow set-up in the first two issues.
The tournament of knights here is beautifully rendered – Leila Del Duca choreographs beautiful action beats. The information in this issue is more oblique. I’m wary of Sarah Vaughn’s tendency to write slightly flat, static scenes that report on conflict rather than show it. This issue doesn’t really change my opinion on her. We get some background on the Sleepless knight and his vow, plus some additional court intrigue during the tournament.
I’m still unsure about how long I’ll stick with this title, but it’s nice to see it going somewhere, and it looks beautiful all along the way.
Twisted Romance (2018) #2
The main Alex de Campi story here, “Twinkle and the Star,” is an instant modern romance classic with just a little bit of smut in it. It’s the story of photo assistant Twinkle and her falling for a big star at a shoot. He seems to really like her, but just won’t commit to a makeout session.
Is he embarrassed by her curvy figure compared to stick-thin models he shoots with? The answer is so much more than that! I loved the cartoonish style of this comic, which wasn’t afraid to switch up its style for a joke or to make a point.
I liked the concept of the backup piece, about if AIs can fall in love, but the word balloons kept changing style and color for seemingly no reason and after a while it stopped being readable for me.
Avengers (2017) #680
A tense issue where Rogue takes charge of the team in the wake of the loss of a teammate. This has a lot of little payoffs in it (including Rogue using her absorption powers without remorse, Voyager getting back into the field, and seeing Sunspot powered up!) and the eventual action is big and easy-to-follow.
Kim Jacinto is such a terrific penciler. At points looking at the Black Order I caught myself thinking “This is what this character really looks like!” even though I’ve seen them drawn by the likes of Jim Cheung and Jerome Opena.
That this issue could balance so many emotional moments with tense ones really shows that we’ve built a solid bed of plot in the first quarter of this series. Now let’s see how much it escalates.
Cable (2017) #154
This resolves the “Newer Mutants” story arc, which showed promise but dissolved into a hot mess as it wore on. It’s hard to understand what writer Ed Brisson and artist Jon Malin were shooting for here, because everything about this story has grown distorted. Between the incorrect timeline cues, nonsensical choice of team using the wrong powers, and wrongly proportioned artwork, I’m so happy to put this one behind me.
It ends with the barest hint of Cable trying to pre-empt Blink’s participation in Necrosha, but ultimately that makes the messed up timeline of this story even more confusing.
Captain America (2017) #698
A terrific issue of art, but the story is bad to the core. Why can Captain America only work when he’s dead or shoved into some alternate dimension or time where he’s a sole symbol of America? Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have really failed as storytellers here in not being able to figure out how to tell a present day story with Cap, who is starring solely in this book right now. It’s a cop out, and the story premise is dull as dishwater and shot through with holes.
Marvel Two-in-One (2018) #3
This series should be colorist Frank Martin’s submission for the Eisner Awards this year. His work has ranged from serviceable to strong for me on Marvel books the past few years, but here on this Fantastic Two title he is turning in an unprecedented performance. Just as Jim Cheung looked better than ever before with his colors, Valerio Schiti’s artwork has a new depth to it with Martin’s colors. Both are pencilers I already loved and now am appreciating more.
As to the story, for a while in the beginning I thought this was going to be a sort of dull middle chapter of this tale. However, as Ben and Johnny visited a mad scientist who could diagnose Johnny’s power problem, I found myself getting more and more engaged, and when we reached the end I had that, “aww, shucks, we have to wait for next month!?” reaction.
Chip Zdarsky has been so funny so often that it’s downright shocking to realize he might be one of the best straight-up superheroic scribes at Marvel right now. There’s hardly anyone else nailing this warm, vintage story tone at Marvel (while DC is swimming in it), plus Zdarsky keeps it rife with so many hints of the return of Reed and Sue that it would make a long-term plotter like Chris Claremont proud.
(This seems like it must be happening before Avengers No Surrender, since Hercules is just hanging out in a bar and seems like he hasn’t worked with Johnny recently.)
Old Man Logan (2016) #35
A fine, good-looking ending to this arc that actually addresses Logan’s healing factor problems, sliced up hand, and penchant for slashing before talking. While I still think this entire arc underplayed the return of the character beneath the Scarlet Samurai mask, it ultimate t did right by making her story about her and not her familiar or romantic entanglements. This final issue sets her free in a way she had never been before – which is a rare reward both for the readers and for Logan in this typically punishing series.
Weapon X (2017) #14
I enjoy artist Yildiray Cinar, but his slightly rough style (shades of Gabriel Walta) isn’t the right fit for what has been a pretty glossy comic book up to this point, even if it does look great. I wish Cinar had been swapped with Ibraim Roberson on Old Man Logan.
Greg Pak seems to be grasping at straws to string this plot along to trade paperback length. There’s more back and forth between the team, Nuke, and the local mercenaries, but it’s all a wash – it wooshes past with little consequence as each die keeps getting more and more powered up.
Pak wraps up the political plot with a nice stunt, but it involves leaving a literal loose end (which he pokes fun at). Is Warpath that bloodthirsty? Maybe after all these years of violence he is – and, ultimately that’s the most interesting thing about this story.
X-Men: Blue (2017) #21
This is a by the numbers adventure comic that finds the Blue team on a chase through an alien marketplace while Venom finds information his own way. Eddie Brock’s ease with navigating an alien world doesn’t really make sense to me, as he’s been almost entirely earthbound as Venom – it’s Flash Thompson who had all the space adventures.
This makes for a fine “all ages” adventure that doesn’t hold up to closer scrutiny – especially a final panel twist that is so very 90s. I guess it’s called “Marvel Legacy” for a reason.
Aftershock, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse, Dynamite, & Zenescope
Babyteeth (2017) #8, Aftershock Comics
A slightly slow issue that would have felt like it dragged without a hilarious interlude with Dancy and the mysterious murder raccoon we’ve spotted in the last few issues. We get a lot of information that helps to cohere the world. It feels like the right point to pause for that information.
Black Sable (2017) #4, Zenescope Entertainment
I continue to be really surprised by the utter strength of the art in this space pirates series, This issue has a lot of double and triple crossing, but it also brings many of our characters together (though a few aren’t entirely aware of each other’s identities). I keep wanting this to be a little bit more about piracy and strategy and a little less of a wild goose chase, but I very thoroughly enjoy it and would definitely keep reading if it was an ongoing.
Barbarella (2017) #3, Dynamite Entertainment
Mike Carey gets to an interesting place in this initial story. The final issue of this initial arc asks which is worse – a smothering theocracy or a violent rebellion that doesn’t care about the people its freeing. I still say it was too little of Barbarella’s perspective and the artwork wasn’t befitting a franchise revival. There are only so many times I can see eyes in the wrong place in a three-quarter perspective shot before I stop looking at the faces altogether.
Cold War (2018) #1, Aftershock Comics
I think this book has a pretty awful cover for a first issue. Like, despite Aftershock’s typically fantastic graphic design, it’s not exactly screaming “read me.”
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty accurate description of the interior contents.
This is futuristic sci-fi in a minimalist style, and too much information is lost in the low-definition artwork. It’s hard to tell characters apart and I was left squinting at every burst of action to try to discern what had happened. Christopher Sebela’s script might not be quite so scattershot as it came off here, with each word balloon attributed to another unidentifiable smudge of a character.
There’s something to this plot, about people connived into trying a deep freeze to preserve themselves and their families being woken up as clones in an epic war, but there is no one to care about and no significant plot development here.
Judas (2017) #3, Boom! Studios!
Now that we’re out of working within the framework of biblical events and imagining an entirely unseen story, I feel like Judas has slightly faltered. Not stumbled, but maybe stubbed a toe.
A lot of this issue is simply beautiful artwork of Jesus’s torture. Lucifer sees it as validating – that even God’s only son cannot avoid the fate he’s locked in to. Judas sees it differently – it helps to put his own unwilling sacrifice into perspective. based on those diverging viewpoints, the final pages aren’t really a surprise. In fact, they seem to indicate that this lovely book is meant to work entirely within the Bible myth, acting like a lost gospel rather than an imagined next chapter of Judas’s story.
I can’t fault it for that, but I do think it makes the story feel more claustrophobic – which is maybe apt, considering how Judas himself is struggling with the concept of free will. Even if this Jeff Loveness story plays out exactly as the bible told us it would, it gives us a perspective we didn’t have before, and I appreciate it for that.
Xena: Warrior Princess (2018) #1, Dynamite Entertainment
This Meredith Finch story was just an average Xena meet-cute, which was elevated a bit by strong artwork from Vicente Cifuentes and colorist Triona Tree Farrell, but I could barely make it through a single panel becase the lettering here is terrible.
It’s easy to ignore good lettering, but bad lettering can make even the best comic book a chore to read. Lettered Cardinal Rae elects to render all of the dialog in a doofy fantasy font with little triangles at the end of each line and spline. It’s hideous and hinders readability.
When you choose different lettering, it should be a judicious choice made to show contrast. Asgardian’s speak in a different font because they’re different from the people of Earth. Yet, there’s no indication of contrast here. The entire world speaks in this ugly, unreadable font. What are we supposed to be getting from this font choice? That everyone is speaking in a fake-old-English accent you might hear at Medieval Times?
Beyond the awful font face, the lettering makes several bad choices, like making longer words a smaller font to fit rather than accomplish the same task with kerning.
There might be a serviceable, average comic lurking here (although it feels like more of the same from Finch, who I’ve seen write this sort of story three times on three different comics now), but I cannot bear to squint through it again to find out.