Pull List – 22/08/10

All praises here, chaps – I return with some of my top picks of this and last week’s pull. Other issues I picked up were as follows:

Amazing Spider-Man #140, Casanova # 2, Uncanny X-Men # 527, Ex Machina #50, Batman And Robin # 13, Wonder Woman # 701, Ultimate Spider-Man #13

Booster Gold #35

The right Giffen and Dematteis for the job have steered DC’s best property back into character driven territory, silly as it is; Rip Hunter sanctions the time travelling narcissus to investigate and foil Max Lord’s plan (to use terminology from the house on left side of the street) to “sentry-ize” himself in the DCU canon. Here, stuck in a medieval battle for a macguffin book of sorcery (Giffen and Dematteis cleverly stress the “whatever” nature of the plot device by unceremoniously smacking it against trees – loved it), the core of the issue is between Booster and Blue Beetle, stressing the coming of age extremities that are perennially engaging for the Booster Gold mythos as well as offering some long term development that most ongoing comics lack. In short, Beetle has undoubtedly noticed a change in Booster, even if Booster himself hasn’t in his ironic well of self-loathing. Undoubtedly comic, it is a subversive warping of the form that ends up telling stories from the good old days.

New Avengers #3

I loves me the clean lines that grace the page via Stuart Immonen’s pen, as well as the surprisingly minimalist colours (Laura Jean Martin)  used on his work since he began his run on New Avengers (vol. 1) last year (then Dave McCaig). I had a whole lotta love for the new first issue, not so much for #2 – Here, the clunky exposition amounts to a typically Bendis battle issue that benefits from dashes of character for Ms. Hand (in the memorable opening pages) and Danny Rand. As always, the sequence-to-sequence panel progressions are linked more by banter than unifying action on behalf of the avengers and opposing demons (I still don’t get how a ghost can be hurt from being slashed by Wolverine), but Bendis understands the team is fresh and bubbling, and wisely incorporates dialogue between old and new (baffling) members like that between The Thing and Spider-Man. Acting as a bit of a sequel to the weak (but clearly erupting from a passionate Bendis) “new sorcerer supreme” story last year in vol.1, these opening chapters remember to cement, play with team personality dynamics, and see how they simmer in a battle… The result? The urgency is lost, albeit gaining from some unification of the new “DIY” team. Instead, the tension seems to apex in Iron Fist’s story, which is well handled. Not a particularly strong entry, but necessary one in what I feel will be as great a title as vol. 1 was.

SHIELD # 1 (Director’s Cut)

Represented here in the ludicrous “Director’s Cut” format, I am nonetheless given a second chance to discover this new (and wildly beloved) series, complete with the attractive gimmicks of Da Vinci, Newton, and BCE Pharaohs fighting the likes of The Brood and Galactus… Courtesy Jonathan Hickman. Hickman and Matt Fraction are undoubtedly the current big wolves on campus in the superhero genre, and if the former’s economical run on Fantastic Four (after a sensationalistic and often shit-disturbing short run from Mark Millar) is any indication, then deservedly so. S.H.I.E.L.D. only hammers this home. It’s not joyful writing, and it’s certainly not excessive; it’s a direction that allows his and Dustin Weaver’s out-there but rough vision to speak for itself. It’s about a clandestine organization turning out to be more clandestine than we thought, and foremost sets out to prove that the 20th century was not merely the “age of the superhero” as Warren Ellis has gleefully trod in the past. This book screams Ellis, but moreso in its actual existence rather than procedural writing. Hickman thankfully allows issue 1 to be a series of vignettes that fluster with shock and awe, while quickly waving the smoke from the fireworks with a knowing hand like a true storyteller. You’re in for something special here, understated as it is.

Note: In this “Director’s Cut”, there is the perfunctory rough character designs, but it is the artist and writer’s notes that feel more essential than the pencils.

Superman #702

It is astounding, or perhaps not, that JM Straczynski’s barely-begun Superman stories are deriving as much snark as they are. Stemming from racial recalcitration, Superman’s encounters with non-whites in the blue collar quarters of last month’s Philadelphia and now Detroit have been met with consistent unease – After all how much greater a white hope is there than Clark Kent. He’s also an immigrant, as I’m sure you’ve been told before. Yet anyone who’s put some thought into 1999’s Ride With The Devil can debate how hopeful that white is, I digress, Superman is as Caucasian as he is alien. If he’s got the straight edge and is guilty of being white, then I’ve never come across such a compelling counterculture zeitgeist, underdog indeed. Sprawling between all the reverse racism and overzealous urban sensitivity, many can get lost damning and tugging hair over what Straczynski is trying to do over what he is already doing in a maddeningly effective way; just look at how tentatively John Cassidy paints him holding that flag on the cover. The Man Of Steel is always on top of his game when his absolutism is challenged by the shades of grey in everyday American life (something I praised the arguably superior previous issue for) – A majority of the plotting here veers naively to the Spielbergian sentimental, but if regenerating post-bailout auto plants and local infrastructure isn’t a pretty super thing to do then I am sure there are a few other books on the shelf about fictional alien worlds in crisis. Getting Detroit men and women back to work is handled with as much weight as a four colour invasion from Apokolips, but rarely have Kent’s trials been simply this interesting.

The Nightly News

More Hickman, as Image releases his six part media epic in a single OGN. Hickman also illustrates, delving into a work that echoes the offbeat freedom of Grant Morrison’s The Filth. Amounting to slightly more than the writer/artist’s sociological fantasies, it is insufferably lurid and instigative, an appropriate counter to his reviled news correspondent’s actions. Structured and drawn unlike most sequential art, the very attractive art-school design of the affair allows it to be as much a coffee table piece as it is a vicious stab to writing and news coverage. Recommended.


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