Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Wednesday Review: The Cure to the Fifth Wednesday Blues

July is one of those five Wednesday months. What does that actually mean? From a retailing perspective, you begin to notice certain patterns week to week, month to month. Most months have the number of releases pretty evenly spread out across the first three weeks. But week four tends to be relatively loaded up more than the first three as publishers scramble to get books out that should have dropped earlier in the month. Five Wednesday months play all kinds of havoc with the release schedule (for retailers who in many cases survive week-to-week, anyway). Week-to-week, the quantity of new titles gets spread out with publishers putting out perfunctory annuals or one-shots towards week five, and you can usually tell it's a five Wednesday month by Wednesday two. However, this month was Sand Diego Comic-Con, and most of this week's releases were in the first three weeks of the month to get product out in time for the con. I only really noticed the five Wednesday doldrums when week five actually hit because of the front-loaded release schedule. So it's Wednesday number five for July and it's a pretty small week in terms of quantity of new titles - my stack was still thirteen new books deep, but most weeks are in the 20-25 range. So what came out worth reading on Wednesday number five for July?

Vertigo, moribund Vertigo, pale shade of past glories Vertigo, Vertigo which has lost the banner of creativity to Image, that Vertigo put out two new number ones (and a solid number three) this week. In Tom Strong and The Planet of Peril, writer Steve Hogan takes a another go at Alan Moore's wonderful pulp science hero from the ABC days. Like the last mini-series, Hogan has Tom Strong co-creator Chris Sprouse (and Karl Story) back on art duties and their art in this universe is a constant delight. Sprouse gives the book the proper visual feel; unlike, well, pretty much everything else ever, Alan Moore is cool with Hogan taking the reigns and Hogan again does an admirable job taking Moore's creations forward. Tesla is pregnant but something is wrong, Flame Prince Val is duly worried, and the only solution is to head off to the parallel Earth Terra Obscura to ask Tom Strange for help. The first issue here doesn't have the same pop as the old ABC stuff, but there are surprises promised to come.

Then there's Collider, a new creator-sortof-owned series from writer Simon Oliver and artist Robbi Rodriguez. In an alternate now there's all kinds of weirdness with the actual physical laws of the universe are haywire, the Federal Bureau of Physics (the weird science FBI) respond to various problems as they arise. Rodriguez's art is energetic and a nice fit for the attitude of the story Oliver is telling, I just wish it was more interesting and engaging. This is just chapter one, of course and sometimes things work on a slow burn - for instance Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski's actual creator-owned Image book Sex. Issue five came out today and not much and a hell of a lot happened (there was some actual sex this issue, for once). Sex is a very interesting read - it's a non-superhero superhero character piece set in a futureshock corporate setting that is taking it's sweet time getting somewhere (or nowhere at all), but damned if it isn't consistently compelling. There are slow burns and then there is whatever the hell Casey is doing here. I can't wait for more and I can't even put my finger on why. Plus the best letters page in comics and this is a constant must-read every month. And back to Vertigo with another slowish burn in Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's The Wake. This week's issue three throws events into overdrive and it was one hell of a read (which cannot be said of the first two issues). Lots happens, there are more apparent distemporal flashes, and I'm finally interested in the story. Yay serialized fiction!

In Tom Strong, we got some cutesy comic book meta-references, but those were an actual artifact of the mechanics of the Tom Strong Universe. In FF 10, the actual creators and editors of FF show up to document the FF for Marvel Comics. Misadventures ensue, while back at the Foundation the kids have a creepy encounter with Maximus the Mad while Doom does his thing behind the scenes. But back to the meta-stuff: Matt Fraction, Mike Allred and Tom Brevoort showing up here isn't just self-indulgence (though, there's a little of that to be sure). In the Marvel Universe, Marvel Comics actually exists and chronicles superhuman activity both fictionally and metafictionally. More to the point, especially in stories involving the Fantastic Four, there is a long legacy of the comics' creators interacting with the FF that goes all the way back to the first brilliant time Doom forces Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to re-write Fantastic Four #10 to trap Reed Richards - a moment that still makes you go whoa even in the Age of Grant Morrison. So do the meta-references work here? Well, they're not meta-references: Fraction/Allred/Brevoort aren't making this FF comic, but an FF comic as part of the Future Foundation's public relations plans. It fits the attitude that this half of Fraction's Fantastic Four/FF duopoly has so brilliantly portrayed. It's funny, odd, self-indulgent, and completely appropriate. Yet another fun issue in Marvel's funnest-est comic.

The modern nu-nu-Marvel Now artistic wave led by Eisner winners David Aja and Chris Samnee not to mention Jamie McKelvie and Javier Pulido gives us yet another artistic revelation in Javier Rodriguez with Mark Waid on Daredevil 29. Rodriguez's stuff is getting better and better along with his peers who are marking this contemporary run of Marvel comics so damn visually memorable. Waid's usually tight scripting doesn't hurt in Daredevil 29's case. Last issue's cliffhanger has Matt Murdock going up against a whole building full of Serpent Society baddies where friend and foe could be anyone. Really fantastic stuff.

Ach, Guardians of the Galaxy 5 has Neil Gaiman's Angela and honestly, who cares. (That's a statement, not a question.) The least interesting new-to-you character in comics introduced in one of the worst superhero comics of the last five years, but hey, the last page is alright, I guess. And any excuse to look at Sarah Pichelli art is almost worth it. Batman Annual 2 is completely pointless, despite whatever claims at tying into Zero Year the cover makes (it really doesn't). On the other hand, Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve No 13 from Drawn & Quarterly will be the best six bucks you spend all this month. Or likely next month. (UPDATE: Read my full review of Optic Nerve No 13 here.)

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Enjoy the reads.

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