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Sorry our list is late.  I blame Derek for having passed on his half of the Top 5 because his wife gave birth to his second child–another beautiful daughter–or something silly like that.

#5. Lazarus #6 (Image): Greg Rucka’s not a shy guy.  We know which way he leans politically–and there’s plenty of leaning here in Lazarus.  Sure, he could easily have turned this series into a didactic dystopian diatribe; however, he handles the political landscape with class, never becoming too heavy handed.  This chapter is beautifully bookended: it kicks off with a flashback to a young Forever–and the simmering mystery regarding her family ties–and ends with the hope of a brighter future for old Dennis’s granddaughter–a future with a family not her own.  The issue is a slow burn, satisfyingly so, which at its peak features the fleeting threat of violence.  Michael Lark’s art is as effective as ever, but it’s the pacing, the patience, that propels this part of the story. (SC)

Lazarus_06-1

#4. The Twilight Zone #2 (Dynamite): J. Michael Straczynski’s a frustrating fella.  His Joe’s Comics line, in general, has been a major disappointment; but we’re still willing to give him a shot, aren’t we?  Of course, we are: he’s JMS, after all.  And good thing, too: The Twilight Zone is something special–even if it isn’t so unique.  See: the storyline–what makes this initial arc a believable Twilight Zone episode–is the very same storyline at the center of JMS’s Sidekick.  No kidding!  But I’m not going to speculate as to the reason for his identical identity-swapping plots; instead, I’m going to put that inconvenient truth aside and celebrate what he’s done well.  Let’s be honest: it’s no surprise that Straczynski shines here: after all, he wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone television series some twenty-five years ago; and those TV writing chops are seen specifically in the furious pace that is set, the result of narration and dialogue designed to launch the story into the stratosphere, where, in true Twilight Zone fashion, the impossible becomes even more impossible: Trevor Richmond, who is technically the re-faced former Trevor Richmond, finds a new and improved Trevor Richmond, who unsettlingly looks the part and is looking to right the former’s wrongs–in the boardroom and in the bedroom–and the former is none to happy about it!  Straczynski and artist Guiu Vilanova set Trevor Prime in motion–a la Dan Aykroyd’s Louis Winthorpe III from Trading Places: he gets scoffed at, shot at, frying-panned at; and, unable to take it anymore, he swears revenge “one way…or the other” on an ominous final page that makes us believe him.  Something tells me that this new Trevor Richmond isn’t exactly what he looks like. (SC)

Twilight Zone #2

Twilight Zone #2

#3. The Massive #20 (Dark Horse): Once again, Brian Wood wields tension like a gun loaded with climaxes but not fired. He offers us a rope; we willingly pull it taut; and he challenges us along the way, never allowing any slack, but also never threatening to snap the rope in two. The telling tug-of-war extends to the characters, as well: Mag vs. agents of Arkady–and then Arkady himself; Cal vs. Yusup, himself a seemingly reluctant agent of Arkady; and, ultimately, roiling beneath the surface, waiting to boil over, Cal vs. Mag. The juxtaposition of the conversations is choreographed elegantly, and executed expertly by the game Garry Brown, through to the final page of this deliberate dance–a final page that hints at Wood’s willingness to finally pull the trigger: as his page-bound proxy promises, come next issue, “[A]ll will be made clear.”  Oh, and there’s something about Mary–something very mysterious and melodious about Mary. (SC)

The Massive #20

The Massive #20

#2. Fatale #20 (Image): Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale has been a well-Lovecrafted hypnotic thrill-ride from the smoking hot and super suggestive first issue.  But none has possessed as much raw demonic power as this month’s offering, in which Josephine lights up and lets go, revealing several sides of herself, including, most notably, her desperate suiside–well, her numerous attempts, anyway.  She’s driven to find Nick, and she ain’t kiddin’ around: in fact, in a particularly creepy scene, she kicks a kid–a boy who hits puberty hard in Jo’s “pretty, pretty” presence–out of a car she jacks and leaves him in the middle of the road, another casualty of the ruinous raven-haired femme fatale, who, in the end, lobotomizes Lance with a cigarette-flavored kiss and saves Nick, but not before leaving him with a memory that blows his mind–and an issue that blows ours to smithereens.  Sexy mothereffing smithereens. (SC)

Fatale #20

Fatale #20

#1. Mind MGMT #19 (Dark Horse): And now for Matt Kindt’s next trick: using a torn paper technique and tri-color coding to affect four–count ’em: four!–concurrent narratives, the incomparable creator sends Meru to Berlin for the next stop on her magical mystery recruitment tour, leaving us with that childish sense of wonder only a true wizard of the medium can inspire.  The Magician’s Tale–the issue’s spine, fractured from the moment the fem illusionist first steps on stage–takes us on a vertical adventure, page after page, from fleeing the increasingly unfriendly audience–and the agents she’s identified in it–all the way to the welcoming arms of the new Mind Management.  Attempting to keep pace with the disgraced mage, Meru’s crew splits into two teams, each–in its own series of panels–heading horizontally toward some precarious parallelism–all while the Eraser and her gang, in their own longitudinal fashion, actively pursue, and ultimately score the former agent.  Doesn’t matter for whom you’re rooting: it’s an issue that deserves a standing ovation and the top spot in our Top 5. (SC)

Mind MGMT #19

Mind MGMT #19

The Biggest Dis(appointment): Rover Red Charlie #3 (Avatar)

Our heroic hounds chasing chickens?  A tasty treat!  Umm, but having a former feeder toss a bulldog’s kibbles leaves a bad taste in the mouth, doesn’t it? Ugh. (SC)

Rover Red Charlie #3

Rover Red Charlie #3

Turning pages,

Scott

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