Half of Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, the 6th and final volume. I must say the first half is rather aimless, not really snapping into focus until the fight with Gideon Graves, which is where I stopped. Here's hoping that O'Malley brings it home by the end. Continuing my tour of 1993 Vertigo, I started Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo's Enigma. This mini actually began with the imprint: the first issue is cover dated March '93, the launch month. Death: The High Cost of Living was the other miniseries on offer. I don't remember loving Enigma when I first read it, and I'm liking it even less the second time through. Milligan seems to be trying extra hard to be controversial with all the sexual subtext. And the whole warped super hero in the real world setting is a bit strained, too. Still looking forward to seeing how he resolves all this, since I've completely forgotten the ending! Since this mini was 8 issues long, there's even a letter column starting with the fourth issue.
Finished both of these. I was disappointed by the final Scott Pilgrim. I expected the final evil ex-boyfriend to be defeated and Scott and Ramona to wind up back together, and I got that. There's some kind of closure for the other characters as well, so it did its job wrapping up the series. But you'd think the final arc would have the kind of dramatic structure most of the other volumes had, where there was a clear buildup towards a conclusion, usually accompanied by significant changes in the characters. The final battle did involve quite a bit of self-discovery for Scott and Ramona, so they both wind up at least a bit older and wiser. But only a bit, then the story literally fades out. The short scene showing Scott and Kim playing "I'm A Believer" felt like it was put there for the movie.
Enigma's final reveals were bizarre. The Enigma really was a kind of superhero, made so by a set of "realistic" yet totally unbelievable circumstances. He turned protagonist Michael Smith gay, but Smith is comfortable with it. And the entire story has been narrated by a completely unexpected character, which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't read it. I give it points for imagination: I've certainly never read another "superheroes in the real world" story like it. But I don't think it has dated well, and could have been a couple of issues shorter.
Amazing Spider-Man #638-641* — This is, of course, the infamous "One Moment In Time" storyline, that starts with the Mephisto-altered Peter/MJ (non)wedding day, and continues through to show what happened between "One More Day" and "Brand New Day"; specifically, how Aunt May was saved, and how Peter's identity was put back in the bag. (No explanation of what happened to the organic web shooters, the inner-wrist spider-stingers, or any of the other post-The Other changes...)
Honestly, I appreciated this story for what it was — basically continuity porn to tie off most of the dangling ends from the Spidey semi-reboot — but don't think there was enough story to justify it being four double-sized issues of the regular series. It probably could've been trimmed down to one oversized one-shot. That wouldn't have made as much money, of course, but this story didn't need to be told in the main title, so it probably would've been a more honest move editorially.
* - Actually, I read Amazing Spider-Man #633-642, so that includes the "Shed" story of the Lizard, the "Grim Hunt" storyline, and the first part of the newest storyline, but I have less to say about those beyond "they were good."
Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son #3-4 — I read issue one months ago, never had access to issue two, and then read these; I don't feel like I missed anything, though. So Gabriel Stacy's back, suffers from multiple personality disorder, and wants to claim his birthright to be an Osborn. Oh, and has control of the American Son armor. Not a bad story, but empty calories; I doubt I'll remember much of it by next week.
Captain America #606-609 — I still like what Brubaker's doing with this book, but I wouldn't object if they walked away from stories about Bucky's tortured past coming back to haunt him. I'll tell you true, though: I actually liked the Nomad: Girl Without a World backup stories better than the lead story. :-/
Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1-2 — I thought this was an ongoing, but I guess it's a mini? Eh, either way... Good espionage stuff from Brubaker. Don't know if it's a must-read, but it was there and free-to-read (ah, Byrne-stealing, you're my savior), and I don't regret spending the time.
Supergirl #53-55 — The start of the Bizarrogirl storyline. I love the Gates/Igle Supergirl, so this was fun.
Thor #613-614 — Thor goes to Hell to save Hel. I didn't read the first two parts of this story, but it was easy enough to get what was going on (it helps that I've read Kieron Gillen's Thor #604-610, so I was familiar with the groundwork, though). These issues were getting some high praise on Awesomed By Comics, and I think that set my expectations a little higher than the book actually met, but it was still a good read.
Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters TPB — Collecting issues 110-115, the post-Civil War version of the team, marking the beginning of Warren Ellis's run. I actually read this TPB before, but I think I'd forgotten that (which might tell you something). Ellis does some great characterizations in this series, but I find it hard to get too invested in these stories, in part because even in the context of post-Civil War Marvel, I can't buy the level of popularity they're trying to sell me on these Thunderbolts have. (Until I'm explicitly shown otherwise, I'm going to pretend the breathless news coverage, action figures, etc. the Thunderbolts are getting are actually Norman Osborn's psychotic delusions of their place in the world...)
....and I think that's it? Oh, no. I also read the first two or three issues of Andy Diggle and Jock's The Losers, but it's just not grabbing me, so I think I'll abandon the rest of that TPB.
I just finished Ghost Omnibus, Volume 2. Ghost was a title and character I had totally forgotten about, and I never read or even saw more than three consecutive issues when it was out. It was helpful to read a straight run on the title, although what I saw was still awfully confusing. The art looked great, however.
Giant-Size Avengers #4, woof that was pretty tough to get through. I had heard how bad the art is on the main story, and it lived up (down) to that. And, to me, it represents what was bad about a lot of Marvel comics of this era. Way too much talking and too many caption boxes. It is like people saw that Stan would be verbose in his comics and then amped it up to a million. Each story got better art as the book went on though. With the Black Widow reprint with Buscema art being awesome.
Started House of Mystery Vol. 4: The Beauty of Decay. Most of the gang from the House are stuck in the City in the Space Between, where Fig brought them when the House was under attack in the previous collection. They're running out of food, and the ghosts that had seemed harmless are starting to do very dangerous things. The first issue has one of the better short stories in the series so far: "The Hounds of Titus Roan," written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Richard Corben. It's reminiscent of the Poe adaptations that Corben did, although the story appears to be original. Perhaps the title was a nod to Mervyn Peake's novel Titus Groan, but a similar setting looks like the only thing the stories have in common (I haven't read the novel, so I'm relying on a summary). Ceorel (from the Conception) and Cain appear in the city, using a pool of blood as their portal. Another notable short story in the third issue: "The Tale of Brutus the Bold," written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Jeff Lemire. It's a heroic epic about a cockroach.
I also read two-thirds of Sebastian O by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell. It's a steam punk story, featuring a dandy escaped from prison and looking for payback. He has somewhat super-normal physical capabilities, rather like the Batman. I think I'll wait until I've read the third issue tomorrow, then head over to the Morrison thread to talk about it in more detail.
Finished everything this morning. This arc really is a game-changer. We get a short story telling how Cain lost the House (kind of: it's not really explained). Fig makes a deal with the Conception (details to be revealed later) which sends Harry back to the world as a real person, and Cain regains mastery of the House. At the end of the arc the House has become unstuck and relocated to some new place, with neighbors. So there will certainly be a change in the story dynamic, with one of the central mysteries solved. Issue five also includes another notable short story, one of the longer ones: "Spellbound" by Matthew Sturges and Michael Wm. Kaluta. It features a librarian, a disgraced college professor, and some enchanted books. The first House of Mystery Halloween Annual completes the collection. It's an interesting group of stories featuring several magical Vertigo characters: Merv Pumpkinhead (from the Dreaming); John Constantine; the new I, Zombie series; and Madame Xanadu. They're all tied together by a magical mask. The Hellblazer story is actually a continuation of recent events in the series, making it a bit more than a free standing anthology piece.
Sebastian O is certainly a tightly plotted three-parter. The concluding issue manages to complete Sebastian's mission, with time for one more surprise. More in the Morrison thread later, I promise.
Madame Xanadu vol. 1: Disenchanted — Collecting the first ten issues of the Vertigo series. I loved the mythology of this book, and Wagner's writing and Hadley's art were both excellent. It's tough to say since I am familiar with DCU history, but I feel like this book would be perfectly accessible to someone who's never read a DC comic before, too. I've got vol. 2 sitting on the shelf, and will be getting to that shortly.
Red — Three-issue miniseries by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, soon to be a Bruce Willis film. It's kind of a thin story, but enjoyable enough. I will say, though, that it's very typical Ellis — he probably pulled this one out in all of ten minutes without breaking a sweat. You can never go wrong with Hamner's art, though, so it's all good.
Final Crisis: Revelations — The Greg Rucka/Philip Tan mini. It ties into Final Crisis well enough (except for one one-off bit of dialog referencing a different Final Crisis tie-in that undermined continuity more than it served it). The reason I wanted to read it, though, was to bridge the gap on the Question's story between the Five Lessons of Blood/Five Books of Blood mini and the Detective Comics backup, and for that it served its purpose well enough. I can never get enough of Rucka's writing, but I don't think I'm going to particularly need to keep any of this in my mind.
X-Men Noir — This was fun. Fred Van Lente clearly had a good time re-casting the X-Men cast into a noir setting, and it was easy enough to follow without needing to know anything about the X-Men (though there are Easter Eggs aplenty for those who do know the characters). The art was a bit muddier than I'd like, but overall it was a good-looking book.
Chew #1 — This series has a fair bit of buzz surrounding it, but after reading the first issue, it didn't really appeal to me to read it any further. Anyone want to convince me to give it a second chance before I return the trade to the library?
Ex Machina vol. 9: Ring Out the Old — With my book-buying budget non-existent, I had to wait for the library to get this volume. But boy, was it worth the wait. This one's a game changer, and makes me really excited to read the next volume (which comes out in a bit under two months). For those who have been reading this book, a question: I can't remember seeing the Red in action. Am I forgetting something, or is that coming up?
Dark Avengers: Ares — This collects two mini-series: 2006's Ares: God of War by Michael Avon Oeming and Travel Foreman, and Dark Avengers: Ares by Kieron Gillen and Manuel Garcia. Of the two, I definitely liked the latter better; between this and his work on Thor (and, to a lesser extent, Phonogram), Gillen has shown a real aptitude for writing mythological figures interacting with our world. The Oeming/Foreman mini was definitely a good read, though, and it answered a question I'd been wondering since Mighty Avengers #1: when the heck did Ares come on the scene as a viable player in current Marvel publishing? I somehow missed this mini's very existence back in the day, so didn't know it established him as someone to be used in Mighty Avengers and his son as someone to be used in Secret Warriors (even if his son's return during Secret Invasion does seem to invalidate everything that happened with the character in the 2006 mini).
Final Crisis: Revelations I had to admire how this is part of a long ongoing character driven arc of Rucka's centred on The Question and Batwoman. It's great that he committed himself to such a longform story, and probably makes it all the sadder that he couldn't continue it in Batwoman. Still, I'm not sure this needed to be 5 issues long, and I'm not sure it's a great fit with the Final Crisis backdrop.
Dark Avengers: Ares I just ordered this from the library, but I was worried that maybe it covered events from later in the Dark Reign era, which I don't want to read yet. You raise a good point about how Ares just suddenly popped up with no explanation. Forget Sentry, this guy was the real sudden unwanted continuity implant!
My friendly neighborhood comics shop has had a shelf full of old trade paperbacks and graphic novels on sale for $3, so each week I grab one and add it to my haul.
I recently finished Wahoo Morris, which collect the first five issue of an indie title about an indie rock band of the same name somewhere in Canada. Three of the band members are old friends from college (if not earlier), but the cute lead singer is new, a bit shy, and doesn't feel like she fits in. The lead guitar player is kind of sweet on her but he's also shy, leading to the kind of misunderstandings and missed opportunities that bedevil budding relationships. However, the lead singer has a secret: She dabbles in the occult, and there's a mysterious presence in her mirror that keeps beckoning ...
I also got CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Case Files, Vol. 2, which collects three miniseries, CSI: Dominos, CSI: Secret Identity and CSI: Dying in the Gutters. Funny thing; I can count the times I've watched the TV show on one hand (and I've seen CSI: Miami and CSI: New York even less frequently), but I liked the comics just fine, although the art is rather mediocre, and this book isn't in color but in grayscale. The nature of the show lends itself quite well to the comics format. And the CSI: Dying in the Gutters story is a hoot! The main action takes place at a comics convention, in which Rich Johnston, writer of the "Lying in the Gutters" gossip column, is "accidentally" electrocuted! However, our ace criminologists quickly determine there was nothing accidental about it! Suspects include Joe Quesada, Chuck Dixon, Beau Smith, Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, with cameos by George Pérez, Gail Simone, Erik Larsen, J. Michael Stracyznki, Phil Jiminez, Marc Silvestri, Tim Bradstreet, Robert Kirkman, Peter David and, of course, Stan Lee!