There’s just the tiniest bit of bait and switch at work here in this long-awaited volume. See, while Tom Taylor does wind up falling through reality to meet the cast of “Fables” these aren’t the same versions of the characters we know from that title. What Mike Carey and Bill Willingham have given us with this volume is Tom’s encounter with an alternate universe of “Fables.” One where Mr. Dark still reigns supreme after taking Snow White as his wife and the children she had with Bigby Wolf as his own. It’s a universe where everything has gone wrong -- wait until you see what Richie Savoy is like in this place -- and it’s up to Tom to help put things right before Mr. Dark realizes that there are other worlds out there for him to conquer. Problem is that our protagonist isn’t going to be much help as he is. At least, not without Frau Totenkinder unlocking his innate power and manifesting Tommy Taylor, Sue Sparrow, and Peter Price in the flesh for the first time in the series.
Essentially this storyline is an “Age of Apocalypse”-style crossover with a literate, mature Vertigo bent. Even if the version of “Fables” that we’re getting here isn’t the real one, the characters still feel true to their original incarnations thanks to Willingham’s involvement. That being said, the volume reads like Carey handled most of the dialogue for Mr. Dark and Frau Totenkinder and he proves to be a natural for handling these characters. Though the battle between the Fables and Mr. Dark’s forces is good, nasty fun it feels like an exercise in fanservice more than anything else. Seeing Tommy and his friends is cool, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how *ahem* dark everything got with these incarnations of Snow, Bigby, Boy Blue and the rest of the cast, but there’s very little advancement of “The Unwritten’s” plot until the very end. As a crossover event, it’s certainly better written and put together than most. It is, however, ultimately not up to the title’s usual high standards.
There’s a kind of item being offered in these solicitations that I’ve never seen offered before. Either that or I just can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a TV series on DVD/Blu-Ray being promoted in comics solicitations. What’s the series being solicited here: None other than “Batman ‘66.” After decades in legal limbo, you’ll be able to buy all 120 episodes with plenty of physical and digital extras come this November -- just in time for Black Friday and Christmas too! I’ll be passing on this because, as I’ve probably mentioned here before, I didn’t watch this series as a kid and didn’t acquire the necessary suspension of disbelief to make its camp interpretation of the franchise palatable. As it is, whenever I see this series I’m reminded of how it continues to cast a defining shadow on comics themselves that the medium continues to struggle against to this day.
...Man that was maudlin. In other solicitations news, Lego variant covers are the theme this month. Why, because everything is awesome!
In the best cases, a comic is entertaining because it has great art, interesting characters, entertaining dialogue, and a compelling story. More often than not, a title finds itself lacking in one or more of those areas, but is able to compensate enough in the others to present a worthwhile reading experience. Then you have those very rare titles that manage to entertain in spite of a complete lack of the above-mentioned qualities. That is what we have here in the first volume of “Terra Formars.” It is not a good start to the series by any objective standard of measurement, yet it nonetheless winds up being one of the funniest things I’ve read all year.
The company announced a lot of interesting projects at Comic-Con this year, with the most notable being a sequel to “Fight Club” written by the book’s original author, Chuck Palahniuk, with art from Cameron Stewart. It’s not the first time a book has received a sequel in comic form, but the fact that its creator is returning to write the sequel makes this an extremely rare beast. Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire also announced new superhero-themed projects at the company: “PastAways” and “The Black Hammer,” respectively. For the former, it further establishes Dark Horse as his home for creator-owned work in the wake of “Mind MGMT,” while this is the latter’s first major project with the company. Given that both creators have pretty much made their names working for DC, the fact that they’re pursuing creator-owned work at Dark Horse has to be seen as a burn to Vertigo. There’s also going to be a “new secret thing” from Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran from the publisher, and Jim Zub will now be co-writing the “Conan/Red Sonja” crossover with Gail simone. Originally, Simone was supposed to be doing it with Brian Wood, but his replacement is likely a knock-on effect from the sexual-harassment controversy the writer found himself embroiled in earlier this year.
The short version is that despite what the title would have you believe, this volume is certainly not that. It continues the story of former superhero Simon Cooke as he tries to resume life as an ordinary billionaire head of a multinational corporation. Complicating this is the fact that his former sidekick isn’t ready to give up the life at all and is embarking on his own plan to clean up the streets of Saturn City himself. Even though they used to work together, the dynamic between them couldn’t be more different and writer Joe Casey gets some good dramatic irony from their relationship as we know why Simon quit the life. Keenan, the sidekick, is justifiably pissed at him for apparently doing it without a good reasons. Then you’ve got Simon’s former rogues gallery from his time as the Armored Saint, and it’s pretty amusing to see that they’re just as lost as he is without this opponent to pit themselves against. I liked what I read, but there’s no denying that the story is on a very slow burn here. While the deconstruction of the cast is interesting to watch, after a while you start to wish that something would happen to give the story a bit more direction and momentum. Something more than watching the Cooke Company manage a trade deal with a Japanese corporation and cover things up when the sexual proclivities of its boss lead to disaster.
Ah, but I can’t forget to talk about the title element. There’s still plenty of sex in “Sex” and if you’ve read “Sex Criminals” and thought to yourself, “This isn’t bad, but what it really needs is MORE penises!” then this is the book for you. Really, by the end of the volume I wish we had seen more of the Prank Addict’s fake cock gag given the amount of male genitalia on display here. The sex also feels a lot more gratuitous in this volume compared to the first. You could argue that its presence here in this volume is to show how it forges connections between people both good, with Keenan and his girlfriend, and bad, the Old Man’s interrogation of the Prank Addict. In that context, the three pages we have of Simon masturbating in the shower make perfect sense. It still doesn’t make me think that it wasn’t completely unnecessary, and now that this book has to exist in a post-”Sex Criminals” world these kinds of scenes really stand out. That title does an excellent job of making its sexual content feel like a natural part of its world, and more relatable too even in its fantastic context. Should there be less sex in “Sex?” I’m starting to feel that would be a viable and welcome approach after these two volumes.
After years in seclusion, Matt Murdock emerges to take on Bullseye in a knock-down, drag-out fight in the middle of New York that ends with the death of The Man Without Fear. Left to pick up the pieces is reporter, and friend to Matt, Ben Urich. Initially reluctant to take the job, Urich soon finds his investigative curiosity stoked when a bystander to the fight shows him cellphone camera footage that reveals Daredevil’s last word to be, “Mapone.” What does it mean? That’s what Urich is going to find out as he goes around investigating everyone important in his friend’s life who also happens to still be alive.
What does the future hold for everyone’s favorite barbarian? Brian Wood takes a literal approach to that question in the latest volume of his run on the character’s ongoing series “Nightmare of the Shallows.” The results are good enough to make up for the half of the volume that doesn’t involve Conan tripping balls with his girlfriend. However, as Wood has wrapped up his serialized run, Fred Van Lente will be taking over for him on the new ongoing title “Conan the Avenger.” It’ll be a while before I find out how he fares there, but I figure that the miniseries he did with artist Ariel Olivetti “Conan and the People of the Black Circle” would offer a pretty good impression. In the end, it just made my waiting for the first volume of that series a lot easier to take.
When I heard that Jason Aaron would be coming back to tell a Wolverine solo story as a digital promotion for last year’s movie, I knew I’d have to check it out at some point. Given that the man wrote the character better than anyone else in recent memory I was a little disappointed to find out that he only co-authored the story here. Jason Latour, who is probably best known for his artistic contributions to various Marvel comics, “B.P.R.D.” and Aaron’s “Southern Bastards,” the the other co-author of the story and the scripter here as well. Regrettably, it becomes fairly clear early on that the Jason who spends all of his time writing is the better storyteller. As the title implies, Wolverine becomes Japan’s most wanted after his latest battle with the Sabretooth-led Hand ninja clan leaves a politician dead. In addition to clearing his name, Logan also has to protect a girl known as the Hon alive because she has the secret history of the Hand tattooed all over her body. It’s this knowledge that will hopefully keep the clan’s honor alive as Sabretooth does his best to grind it down for his own ends.
Aaron’s “Wolverine” stories were great because even as he was never afraid to go completely over the top, the writer knew exactly how to pitch the tone to get the reader to take the drama seriously or laugh along with the more ridiculous parts. Latour doesn’t have Aaron’s fearlessness in this regard and what we get is more middle-of-the-road for the character. We see Wolverine fighting a metric assload of ninjas, several encounters with the new Silver Samurai -- who winds up being the main antagonist here -- and lots of talk about honor and duty. This is a story set in Japan after all, it HAS to be about these things. It all looks pretty slick thanks to Paco Diaz’s artwork, even if the fill-in from Ale Garza halfway through is pretty jarring. I’d say this is one for the completists, but even they might balk at the fact that Marvel is asking you to pay $35 for a 160-page hardcover. I got this for half that at Comic-Con and still feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth. Better to just pick up one of the “Wolverine by Jason Aaron Complete Collections” to see what the writer is really capable of with the character when he’s the only one in charge.
How do you follow up one of the most thrilling volumes of comics I’ve read all year? If you’re mangaka Makoto Yukimura, you dig right into your new status quo of the united factions from the previous volume taking on the King of Denmark for all he controls. It’s a setup that doesn’t offer as many visceral combat thrills as the previous volume, but it does make for an utterly absorbing and compelling read as our protagonists try to out-maneuver a man whose mind has not grown dull with age. All of that is so good here that you may be left a little worried once you get to the end and witness the title’s latest change in direction.