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Three stellar debuts and one astonishing finale. And the latest Mister X. Even as folks breathlessly scramble to prevent the Death of Comics, the medium is producing a broader range of excellent material than at any time in its history. Spread the word true-believer: everyone should be reading them. The List:

5. Lazarus #1 (Image): This book immediately stakes its ground alongside Brian Wood’s The Massive as a vital, involving piece of speculative science fiction. Whereas the former primarily deals with the effects of all-too-credible environmental disaster, Lazarus extrapolates our current economic debacle by asking ‘What happens when the 1% becomes the .0001%?’. Greg Rucka’s vision of a tech-saturated medievalism is compelling not only because of the verisimilitude of Michael Lark’s art, but precisely because it doesn’t feel as far-fetched as perhaps we’d like. A gripping debut. (DM)

Lazarus #1

4. Thumbprint #1 (IDW): Jason Ciaramella’s and Vic Malhotra’s excellent adaptation of Joe Hill’s novella involves a disgraced female soldier whose return home from Abu Ghraib is disturbed by an apparent stalker with knowledge of her dark past. Even as her privacy and safety are compromised, the reader is left to wonder who the real monster is. Adaptations of other media are tough to do; what works well in prose doesn’t always necessarily translate to comics. So far, Ciaramelia and Malhotra are pulling it off with aplomb. (DM)

Thumbprint #1

3. Mister X: Eviction #2 (Dark Horse): Hands down the most stylish book on the stands: retro-futurist, German Expressionist, neo-noir, New Wave, Pop Art. Dean Motter makes it ALL work, and then gives comics nostalgists an unexpected gift in the backup feature “Little Urchin Andy”, which is like Harold Gray’s classic as re-imagined by Katsuhiro Otomo and filmed by the Fleischer Bros. To call it a ‘mash-up’ would be to trivialize it. It is rather, a glorious orchestration, with Motter holding the conductor’s stick. Or is it a magic wand? (DM)

Mister X: Eviction #2

2. Fury: My War Gone By #13 (Marvel): A fitting finale for a series that has gone by far too quickly.  In this issue of reconciliation and resignation, the point of Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s hard-hitting history lesson–as seen through the aged eye of Nick Fury–is hammered home by George Heatherly’s grand-daughter during a conversation with the weathered warhorse: “most of it had been completely pointless.”  Our experience, however, tracing all of the lines on Fury’s face (see Dave Johnson’s terrific cover below), has been anything–everything–but. (SC)

Fury: My War Gone By #13

Fury: My War Gone By #13

1. Six-Gun Gorilla #1 (BOOM!): Easily our favorite book of the month.  And to think I thought it’d be no more than a one-note guilty pleasure!  Silly me.  In all actuality, Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely have cooked up something far more complex.  From one panel to the next, I was awed; I oft guffawed; and each turn of a page–and commensurate peel of a layer–cemented this sucker as a Book of the Week.  And as the month played out–and it was a heck of a month–what was left standing head and hairy shoulders above the rest?  A gorilla with a gun and a come hither “Howdy.” (SC)

Sixth-Gun Gorilla #1

Sixth-Gun Gorilla #1

Biggest Dis(appointment): Scott Snyder

SeveredAmerican Vampire Gates of Gotham.  Most of Batman‘s Court of Owls arc.  Most of his run on Swamp Thing.  Great stuff.  No hesitation at all: Scott Snyder’s the goods.  But as good as he’s been, he’s been pretty underwhelming of late.  Yup: he’s shown some cracks in the ol’ armor–especially with the superhero books he’s headlining.

Now, I don’t know how to explain it; I mean, I’m just the consumer; I don’t claim to have the answers.  But he seems to have become a victim of his prior success–success that translates directly–fairly or not–to expectations.  Super high expectations.

This is how I envision it:  Snyder’s a damsel in distress tied to the tracks, and the hype train that bears his name is bearing down on her–err, him.  And, you know what?  He needs a hero!  He’s holding on for a hero till the end of the night.  Sadly, neither Batman nor Superman was able to save him.

Just think about it for a minute.  Wash the hype from your eyes.  You know–you know it in your bones–that Batman #21 isn’t what you were hoping for when you first started salivating over the ubiquitous Zero Year adverts.

Batman #21

Batman #21

Really, now: what does it offer?  Another Death of the Family scenario?  Instead of the Batfamily, we’re looking at a Kane/Wayne war?  And the antagonist this time?  No, not the Joker: it’s the Riddler!  Really?  The Riddler?  There’s something funny about that, isn’t there?  Ugh!  Doubtless, we’ve seen Snyder borrow effectively from his previous work.  But this?  Come on!  This is almost insulting to us readers!  We deserve better, don’t we?

Well, we sure as hell didn’t get better with Superman Unchained #1.

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1

Sure, the thing sold a ton; but what does that really mean?  I’ll tell you one thing it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean that the book is good–because it isn’t.  It’s a muddled mess that recalls the awkward wordiness of George Perez’s New 52 Superman and, inexplicably, the frivolousness of Scott Lobdell’s.  You know what it is?  It’s a special-effects laden blockbuster that, for all it’s blockbusting, fizzles out once the smoke clears.  (I am still talking about the comic, by the way.  No, really, I am.)  We all know that Scott Snyder’s better than this, don’t we?

Isn’t he?

Turning pages,

Derek & Scott