More comics from the past, although not all of them (I still hadn't read all of my back issues of Incredible Hercules at the time issue 140 came out this week, and I hadn't caught up on Agents of Atlas yet, so I couldn't start on Avengers vs Agents of Atlas mini-series that began this week). Let's talk about the others I did allow myself to actually read.
There were a lot of things to put me off this issue: it has David Lapham as guest artist (he's a good artist, and does a good job of drawing the full variety of the Fables background cast); it has baseball as the central basis of the story (you Americans and mythologising of baseball ...); and it apparently riffs on a famous poem I've never heard of before. However, Bill Willingham keeps me hooked with the development of the relationship of Ambrose and Red Riding Hood (and the image of Ambrose hiding his erection) and an ending that sets up a problem for the kingdom of Haven.
Joe The Barbarian #1
Do Vertigo really need to sell the first issue of a new Grant Morrison creator-owned mini-series for $1? Were the sales on Seaguy that bad? This is a very straightforward story for Morrison: an artistic teenage boy is home alone and starts to have a hypoglycaemic reaction and starts to hallucinate his toys coming to life. That's all, but the story is sold on the art by Sean Murphy. There is very little dialogue and no exposition – the fact that his father was a soldier who was killed in the services is only revealed through art – and we learn everything from the art, including set-up for the journey of the narrative. That's a lot of pressure on his shoulders but Murphy is more than up to the task; his art has little touches of Chris Bachalo before he went too far up the deliberately obscure path, and it's delightful and has great storytelling skill.
Alex Maleev's artwork continues to be the draw in this book; although sometimes his people can look ugly, or the action doesn't flow quite as organically as it could, he can draw some beautiful images, particularly some of the close-up panels of Jessica's face, which are exquisite. Very little actually happens in this issue: Jessica gets herself back inside the police station, mostly to get her costume back, and then she escapes. That's about it; not a satisfying narrative chunk, and the thought of Jessica fighting the Thunderbolts in the next issue doesn't induce excitement the way it should, because Maleev's costume work doesn't always look as good as his non-costume character work. Pull your finger out, Bendis, and get on with it.
I might have mentioned before that I haven't paying any attention to the Blackest Night crossover, so there has to be a good reason for me to buy a crossover book. That reason was James Robinson writing Starman again. The rather clever idea with these books is that dead characters are coming back to life, thus providing an excuse to revisit old books by doing an issue with the next issue number. Starman finished with issue 80 back in 2001, and was one of my favourite series on the 1990s, as Robinson introduced me to the concept of legacy superheroes in Jack Knight. This issue doesn't have Jack but his brother David, who died in the first issue of Starman, thus causing Jack to take up the mantle; now he is back and killing in Opal City again, and The Shade (the other great character from Robinson's run on Starman) deals with him eventually, with his wonderfully dry delivery of Oscar Wildisms ('Apologies for the tardiness. I couldn't find my spats.'). Beneath the lovely Tony Harris cover, Fernando Dagnino provides pencils but it's the inking from Bill Sienkiewicz that is the real draw: it's wonderful to see his moody, atmospheric stylings on interior artwork again. I really enjoyed this, suggesting that Robinson still has got what it takes.