This Week’s Haul

Despite having Thanksgiving week off, I never did an entry for that week, so here’s the catch-up:

Last Week:

  • Action Comics #895, by Paul Cornell & Pete Woods (DC)
  • Batman Beyond #6 of 6, by Adam Beechen, Ryan Benjamin & John Stanisci (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #45, by Marc Guggenheim & Scott Kolins (DC)
  • Madame Xanadu #29, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder & Richard Friend (DC/Vertigo)
  • Captain America #612, by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice (Marvel)
  • Fantastic Four #585, by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting (Marvel)
  • Chip: Second Crack #2 of 3, by Richard Moore (Antarctic)
  • Incorruptible #12, by Mark Waid & Marcio Takara (Boom)

This Week:

  • Action Comics Annual #12, by Paul Cornell, Marco Rudy & Ed Benes (DC)
  • American Vampire #9, by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque & Mateus Santolouco (DC/Vertigo)
  • Fables: Witches TPB, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, David Lapham, Andrew Pepoy, Jim Fern & Craig Hamilton (DC/Vertigo)
  • Secret Six #28, by Gail Simone & Jim Calafiore (DC)
  • Irredeemable #20, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
  • RASL #9, by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
  • The Boys #49, by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun (Dynamite)
The Batman Beyond mini-series has been fairly clever and entertaining, sitting sort of in-between the kids books that DC publishes based on its animated properties, and the more serious mainstream fare. This one attempts to bridge the two continuities – comic book Batman and animated Batman Beyond – and does a pretty good job. I’m not really a fan of Ryan Benjamin’s artwork, which also tries to bridge the styles between the two continuities and I thought just looks kind of weird, the characters not having much emotional range beyond a grimace or a scowl. But it’s okay.

The series has apparently been successful enough to warrant a new ongoing series, but while this was a cute little series I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to jump on-board for a longer-term commitment. One of the problems with Batman Beyond was that it never managed to establish itself as a series with a purpose; the best episodes tended to be ones revolving around Bruce Wayne’s past, and while Terry McGinnis – the Batman of the future – is an enjoyable character, he’s not strong enough to carry the series himself. I just don’t see that an ongoing series will provide a satisfying payoff, especially given that the mini-series was fairly light and by-the-numbers.

In the “light entertainment” department, this is a pretty good series and the ongoing series may be just as good. But for me, I think I get the idea and that’s enough.

Madame Xanadu comes to a close with this issue, with Amy Reeder (formerly Amy Reeder Hadley) coming back for the denouement.

The series has been erratic, starting with Madame Xanadu’s origins in the days of King Arthur (who is revealed as being Nimue, who in DC continuity is the woman responsible – tragically, in this instance – for imprisoning Merlin prior to the fall of Camelot, and also Morgan Le Fey’s sister), and progressing up through the 1960s. So it’s basically been a big retrospective, since the character is well-established (albeit as a mysterious individual without any personality) in present-day continuity.

The series has been an extended story of Xanadu’s maturity, starting as a credulous girl who encounters the Phantom Stranger, meeting him again through the centuries to her frequent regret (it’s also implied that the Stranger is living his life backwards through time, and interesting nugget which isn’t really explored), and also manipulated by her sister, but who gradually gains maturity, wisdom and knowledge to become a powerful sorceress. She’s certainly a more interesting character here than she’s ever been before.

Yet the series never really gelled for me, as it frequently wandered away from its main story arc, and seemed to lack focus. I think Wagner was enjoying playing around in the corners of the DC Universe, in much the way Neil Gaiman did in Sandman, but I don’t think he was nearly as effective in doing so; he doesn’t have the same touch for the fabulous that Gaiman does. I often find Wagner’s writing to be rather distant, more interesting for the complex and subtle mechanics of his plots and less for his characters, who tend to be rather flat (I love both Grendel and Mage, but neither is really memorable for its characters). Madame Xanadu is one of his stronger characters, but he seems to struggle with how to develop her in a satisfying manner, especially since the stories have been so low-key in nature. Seen in hindsight it’s clearer how he was building the character, but the emotional impact was often muted. The most effective issue on that score was a 1950s housewife who finds her body being creepily transformed, but I didn’t think the follow-up (after our heroine dealt with the problem) provided a satisfying resolution for the character; Wagner follows up on her here, but her story, although it has a happy outcome, is seen from a distance and doesn’t feel very rewarding for the reader.

Amy Reeder’s artwork has been the real strength of the series, channeling a bit of Charles Vess in her designs and layouts, and delivering most of the emotional impact the series did have. I sometimes wished she had an inker who would soften her lines, someone like Joe Rubenstein or even Tom Palmer, but certainly she’s quite a find and I hope she gets more work in the future.

Overall, though, Madame Xanadu has been a bit disappointing; I suspect DC hoped it would build a following more in line with Sandman or Starman, but it was never really that kind of book. Really it was just the sort of book that would slip under the radar in today’s market, and it didn’t have any developments or twists that made me want to tell people that they must read this book. 28 issues is a good run for a low-profile book like this, but it feels like Wagner should somehow have gone for the splashier storyline so it could be more high profile. In that way, the series feels like a missed opportunity.

Richard Moore’s plan seems to be to corner the “cute, sexy, and a little scary” comic book market. He did a great job on this in his regular comic Boneyard, which he wrapped up a while back since I guess it wasn’t making much money. Now he’s been doing a number of little side projects for Antarctic Press, one of which is Chip. This comic features a 4-inch gargoyle who is determined to show he can be just as scary as his brethren, with the help of his pixie friend Ash. He’s not very successful, though. Second Crack is his second series, in which Chip and Ash are trying to capture the Jersey Devil.

The thing is, Moore’s gone way too far into the “cute” realm for my tastes, and Chip is a pretty slight book in both plot and characters. His writing style works better when he can develop things over a period of time as in Boneyard, or his more serious wild west fantasy Far West. Moore has a pretty wry sense of humor, but the jokes here seem cheap.

Heck, I somehow missed the first issue of this series, and I don’t feel like I missed very much. Hopefully he’ll have the time to do something more ambitious sometime soon.

I think I’m running out of gas on Gail Simone’s Secret Six. Part of it is that Jim Calafiore has replaced Nicola Scott as the regular artist, and he seems like the go-to guy for second-tier series who need a reliable artist: But while he’s reliable, his figures are too stiff and generic for my tastes. I had the same problem when he was drawing Marvel’s Exiles series.

But part of it is that the series has been floundering around, losing its focus, that being a group of mercenaries with extreme personalities who have trouble getting along. The team broke up and splintered into two factions, both of whom ended up in the underground primeval world of Skartaris, fighting each other and the locals, a story which wraps up in this issue. I wasn’t quite clear what they were supposed to be doing there – I think one group was being manipulated by a rogue element inside the US government, while the other was sent by Amanda Waller, but no one seemed to be keeping their eyes on the prize, whatever it was. It seemed like an excuse to have the protagonists beat up on one another.

The series has been at its best when it puts its characters – who have questionable morals – in situations which challenge both their well-being and what sense of right and wrong they have. But such stories usually require a pretty strong focus, especially with a large-and-growing cast of characters as exists here, particularly when the characters are a group of anti-heroes at best, and the reader won’t always relate to them. Throwing in an exotic land and a confusing mission as this story featured throws off the balance of the story and makes it difficult to figure out what the story is trying to accomplish.

Series about villains are difficult to keep going, especially characters who aren’t ones who naturally tend to work together, and Secret Six is probably the most successful such comic in history (Suicide Squad, remember, was anchored by several clear-cut heroes; Secret Six is more like trying to write a series about The Joker or Lex Luthor). But it feels like it’s spiraling out of control.

This Week’s Haul

A.K.A., last week’s haul, desperately late.

I thumbed through Marvel’s The Siege in the store and decided – as I do for nearly every Marvel event comic – to skip it. Chad Nevitt at Comics Should Be Good sums it up pretty well: The “Dark Avengers” (villains acting as the Avengers since the real Avengers have been ousted by the powers that be) attack Thor and Asgard. My fundamental problem with Marvel’s events – and the way their comics have gone generally in recent years – is that the heroes aren’t very heroic. J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor was bland and dull, and having a bunch of villains attack a group of gods who really aren’t very heroic themselves is just not interesting to me. Sure, I like Thor a lot better than I like the villains, so I’d prefer him to “win”, but I don’t care enough to get engaged with the story.

  • Suicide Squad #67, by Gail Simone, John Ostrander & Jim Calafiore (DC)
  • Echo #18, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #1 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • Gigantic #5 of 5, by Rick Remender & Eric Nguyen (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #38, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
Suicide Squad #67 Part of DC’s Blackest Night event involves resurrecting some cancelled comics series of years past for one more issue. One of the more unusual comics of the late 80s/early 90s was John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, which Gail Simone’s Secret Six bears some resemblance to: The Squad were villains who were recruited for high-risk government-sanctioned missions, with the promise of a pardon afterwards. The Six are a small organization of criminals. The Six are sort of the darker version of the Squad.

So in this one-issue revival of Suicide Squad, there’s a little of the usual rigamarole regarding dead Squad members being revived as black lanterns, but mainly it’s about Amanda Waller of the Squad deciding she needs Deadshot for a mission, and staging a trap for the Six to both put them out of business and capture Deadshot to force him to rejoin. It’s a good set-up for the next Secret Six story arc, and Ostrander and Simone co-write it. It ought to be good, as long as the black lanterns don’t play too big a role.

Gigantic #5 Rick Remender and Eric Nguyen’s Gigantic comes to an end, the last issue being extremely late (issue #4 came out last May), and unfortunately it wasn’t worth the wait. The trappings are those of big monsters smashing each other, but the story itself is rather depressing, and the upbeat ending in this issue not only doesn’t really put a brave face on the earlier events, but it feels very out-of-place next to the rest of the story. Greg Burgas found it disappointing, too, and he touches on some of the series’ other flaws: The lead character is unsympathetic, the story is hard to follow despite not being very complicated.

Nguyen’s art doesn’t work for me at all: It’s too sketchy, which doesn’t do justice to the designs of the characters. I didn’t care for it in Sandman Mystery Theatre a few years ago, either.

For a similar premise – a young man leaves with aliens, and comes back years later to find he can’t go home again – I’d recommend Dan Vado’s graphic novel The Griffin instead. It has its flaws too, but the story is far more satisfying than Gigantic.

This Week’s Haul

What does a mediocre week at the comics shop look like? A lot like this.

Fables is an A-list title whose story isn’t really exciting me, and The Marvels Project feels like a well-done re-hash of any number of Marvel history navel-gazing series from the last 20 years. All the rest are solid meat-n-potatoes titles which I enjoy but I don’t necessarily look forward to. The best series here is probably Booster Gold, whose ongoing storyline is quite interesting, but it fights against Dan Jurgens’ awkward storytelling and dialogue.

So why do I buy all these books? Well, honestly they are all entertaining “enough” to keep reading. Green Lantern Corps and Secret Six are relatively new additions to my list so I’m still trying them out, but neither is yet rocking my world. (GLC‘s early issues, which I read in collection, were quite good, but the series has lost its focus because of all the damned crossover events.) The Unwritten has a lot of potential, but is only starting to explore it, and I fully expect it’ll be a year or two before I decide whether it’s worth it. And I am honestly running out of steam on the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. line, and am really hanging on at this point because apparently it will be reaching a climax within the next year.

Still, even mediocre comics are better than no comics!

  • Booster Gold #25, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Fables #89, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Green Lantern Corps #41, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne & Tom Nguyen (DC)
  • JSA vs. Kobra #5 of 6, by Eric S. Trautmann, Don Kramer, Neil Edwards & Michael Babinski (DC)
  • Secret Six #14, by Hail Simone, Nicola Scott, Carlos Rodriguez, Doug Hazlewood & Mark McKenna (DC)
  • The Unwritten #6, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Incredible Hercules #136, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Reilly Brown & Nelson DeCastro (Marvel)
  • The Marvels Project #3 of 8, by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: 1947 #4 of 5, by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon (Dark Horse)
  • Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #7 of 8, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
Secret Six #14 Secret Six wraps up its latest story arc, “Depths”, in which the team was hired as muscle for a maximum-security prison and slave trading operation by a shady character named Mr. Smyth. The prison has imprisoned Artemis (the former substitute Wonder Woman) and a group of Amazons who attacked the US a few years back, and is operating with the blessing of governments who want to get such dangerous individuals out of their hair. There are some other nasty secrets around, too, as the team learns when Wonder Woman shows up to rescue her sisters and is defeated by the Six, leading to a schism among the team as to whether they should fulfill their contract or not sell their souls quite so cheaply.

Gail Simone’s script is pretty intense: The Six are all mercenaries with their own sense of morality, but who often find the people who hire them or fight them are a little too nasty for even their hardened sensibilities. As the Six one-by-one turn against the man who hired them, you get a sense of how callous each member is – or how much a sense of obligation outweighs a sense of morality for each one. As he was in John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, Deadshot is usually the most entertaining character, as he seems utterly amoral most of the time, but every so often (perhaps too inevitably) he says “fuck it” and changes sides. He’s given a run for his money in this series by Ragdoll, who seems equally amoral but less intense.

Simone does a good job navigating the plot and unstable characterizations, but it feels like something’s missing from the series. Unlike Suicide Squad, these characters are unlikeable to a man; a few are perhaps borderline admirable in their convictions, but it’s difficult to see them as “heroes in their own minds”, and honestly if they all got killed off it would be hard to shed a tear for any of them. Maybe it’s the fact that the series works so hard to keep all six in the gray area between good and evil, the lack of a sense that any of them are moving in one direction or another, makes it less satisfying than it might otherwise be.

Incredible Hercules #136 This month’s Hercules is pretty funny – a welcome change for a series which often tries to be funny, but isn’t really all that funny. For instance, the set-up to get to this issue was pretty uncomfortable at times. But the payoff is hilariously silly: Hercules pretending to be Thor fights Thor pretending to be Hercules in a big fight scene filled with great facial expressions (penciller Reilly Brown does a bang-up job on the art) and very silly sound effects (helpfully scanned by Greg Burgas for his own review – go take a look).

This issue is a high point in a series which has been dragging lately (by contrast, Chris Sims thinks it’s “the single best comic on the stands today”, although it’s unclear whether he means the series or just this issue): It started out a couple of years ago as a quirky “two buddies against the world” series, but it’s become progressively more lighthearted and this difficult to take its dramatic side seriously. Currently it’s alternating issues between Herc and his sidekick Amadeus Cho (the seventh smarted person in the world, also a teenage boy), which doesn’t work so well when you’re only reading an issue a month. The series feels directionless, and this issue an aberration in being so entertaining.

This Week’s Haul

  • Batman & Robin #3, by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (DC)
  • The Flash: Rebirth #4 of 5, by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Scyver (DC)
  • Green Lantern #45, by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #30, by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Jesús Merino (DC)
  • Madame Xanadu #14, by Matt Wagner & Michael Wm. Kaluta (DC/Vertigo)
  • Secret Six: Unhinged vol 2 TPB, by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood (DC)
  • Wednesday Comics #8 of 12, by many hands (DC)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #17, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hercules #133, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Rodney Buchemi (Marvel)
  • Nova #28, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea DiVito (Marvel)
  • The Unknown #4 of 4, by Mark Waid & Minck Oosterveer (Boom)
  • Boneyard #28, by Richard Moore (NBM)
Batman and Robin #3 Reading the effusive praise heaped on writer Grant Morrison by folks like Greg Burgas (who calls him the “God of All Comics”) or Chris Sims often makes me blink in surprise. Over his long career, I’ve always seen Morrison as a fine idea man, but only a pretty good writer, with haphazard plotting and characterizations that lean towards being thin and heavy-handed. Many of his stories are very good, but over the last few years his facility as an idea man seems to have declined sharply, and his ability to play out the interesting ideas he does have seems to be dwindling away even faster. In every respect, I’d say Morrison’s been lapped by Warren Ellis at this point. (I’d say Ellis’ peak is higher, too, with Planetary and Transmetropolitan being better than Morrison’s best work, JLA and The Invisibles.)

All of which is a lead-in to my disappointment with Batman and Robin #3, which wraps up the series’ initial story arc in a decidedly unsatisfying manner. The villain, Pyg, has a master plan to extort Gotham City, and he also performs some exotic surgery on his captives by fixing a grotesque read-haired mask over their actual faces and drugs them into becoming his henchmen, a fate which he threatens to inflict on the captured Robin. But Pyg is a nonentity as a villain, just another overstylized grotesque, a less-comprehensible Joker. His plan, such as it is, is explained after he’s been defeated, with little real threat of it ever coming to pass. A circus is involved, for some reason, but as a backdrop it’s irrelevant.

The best part of the series so far has been the two main characters: Dick Grayson is clearly still crushed by the apparent death of Bruce Wayne, and is not entirely comfortable going to the lengths that Wayne would go in pursuit of justice, as you’d expect since Dick was the original happy-go-lucky boy wonder, the counterpoint to the darknight detective. The new Robin is a vicious and opinionated boy who barely has any respect for his mentor, yet who is highly skilled, even if occasionally over his head and lacking in good judgment. Bringing him up should be a real challenge for Dick. Morrison only really brushes the fringe of his characters, suggesting a great deal but leaving it unexplored, being more interested in the mechanics of propelling his plot. I also suspect Bruce Wayne will be back well before the potential of this set-up could be realized even in the hands of a writer more skilled in characterization, so it may end up being a non-starter anyway. Which would be too bad, but that’s life for a comic driven more by marketing and branding than by serving the interests of the story.

I think I’ve gone into Quitely’s art before: I like his approach to drawing figures, the solidity he gives then, but I often find his characters’ faces to be grotesquely ugly (whether or not they’re supposed to be), and the skimpy backgrounds often drives me (uh) batty – it really sucks the life out of the extended fight scene here. I generally find that what I like about Quitely’s artwork I find in a more attractive package in Gary Frank’s work (although Frank also has a problem with a lack of backgrounds).

Batman and Robin is an okay comic. It’s a pretty shallow story, grotesque for no good reason, but with some good character bits. But what it really wants to be – a strong character drama focusing on the title characters – is not Morrison’s forte, and so I think it’s never really going to reach its potential. And the praise I’ve seen it receive seems far out-of-proportion compared to what the series has actually delivered. But, you know, diff’rent strokes.

Secret Six vol 1: Unhinged I’m sure I’ve read something by Gail Simone before, but nothing comes to mind. I haven’t been avoiding her writing, it just seems like she’s largely been working in areas that don’t much interest me. For example, I dropped Birds of Prey around the time she started, because I felt the concept had been largely played out, having drifted considerably from the early issues I enjoyed. And the current Wonder Woman series was a total disaster for its first year and I bailed before she signed on to the title. Her other current series, Secret Six flew under my radar, since it spun out from a spin-off of another stupid DC event series, and the name comes from an old series that I never had much interest in (honestly, I find DC and Marvel’s tendency to reclaim old names for new premises to be rather distasteful; it’s an example of branding at its worst). Nonetheless, the series has been getting good word-of-mouth in the blogosphere, so with a new paperback collection out this week (which turns out to be the second collection, although the first was of a mini-series) I figured I’d give it a try.

The premise is sort of the mercenary version of the Suicide Squad: A bunch of B-grade (and lower) villains work together to make money. Rather than engaging in the traditional criminal activities – knocking over banks, etc. – they’re for hire for shady and difficult jobs. The team is led by Scandal Savage, daughter of the immortal Vandal Savage (and saddled with an unfortunate name), and includes: Rag Doll, eccentric son of the original; Cat Man, a vicious hunter in a garish orange outfit; Deadshot, the psychopathic marksman late of the Suicide Squad; and Bane, the nutjob who once defeated Batman, who’s trying to stay off the drugs that make him immensely powerful, yet also an unreasoning brute. The sixth member of the team apparently died shortly before the volume begins, and they gain a new member for this story.

The story itself has the team head to California to break a woman out of Alcatraz (which in the DC Universe is a prison for superhumans), since she knows where to find a card which holds great and mysterious value to those in the know. A mysterious crime lord named Junior hires every Z-grade villain he can to bring them down and bring the card back to him, so the team has to run a gauntlet to get back to Gotham to get their payoff. But the card itself is only of use to one person at a time, and once they learn what it is, it sets the team at each others’ throats.

With my references to Suicide Squad, it isn’t a surprise that the story feels like it could be a Suicide Squad story, only with selfish rather than nominally noble motivations behind the team’s actions. Both series are marked by the interactions among the strong personalities – with a few weaker personalities thrown in as followers – and with the characters’ loyalties shifting (or seeming to) as they have to make difficult decisions. Their opponent, Junior, is an unusually extreme and grotesque villain, perhaps a little too over-the-top for my tastes, since we don’t really get a good feel for what makes him tick (although there may be clues in the earlier stories that I haven’t read yet). Simone also knows how to write a climax, as the volume ends with a big one with a couple exclamation points at the end.

Nicola Scott’s a solid superhero artist, whose work I haven’t seen before. I like her work here better than Frank Quitely’s in Batman and Robin, for instance, as she has most of his strengths but draws more intricate panels with nicely-rendered backgrounds. Her style is on the generic side, though, not terribly different from artists like Dale Eaglesham or Jesus Merino or Dan Jurgens.

This collection is entertaining enough that I think I’ll try the regular series for a while.

Wednesday Comics #8 This week’s Wednesday Comics round-up: In Metamorpho, Gaiman and Allred are clearly just having fun playing with the graphic construction of the story, as this week the hero and Urania the Element Girl spent a page imitating half of the periodic table of the elements – the other half will be next week. The creators’ contortions to fit into their self-imposed structures is cute, but it doesn’t leave much space for actual story, which means the thing as a whole has been pretty disappointing.

While Flash is overall the most intriguing and entertaining story in the package, I worry that it’s playing around with overlapping timelines a little too much; I’m having a hard time untangling exactly what’s going on. Although at the end of this page, it appears that Flash may be having the same problem, and it’s coming back to bite him, so that may be the point.

Most of the stories should be having their climaxes over the next 2 weeks (with their denouements in the last 2 weeks), which will determine how good the adventure strips like Strange Adventures and Supergirl end up being.

The Unknown #4 Mark Waid’s series The Unknown finishes its first story arc this week, to be continued in a new mini-series next month. The first story involved Catherine Allingham, the world’s greatest detective (a broad premise Waid also played with in his earlier series Ruse) hiring a new assistant, James Doyle (not the Governor of Wisconsin), to whom she reveals that she’s dying of a brain tumor. The pair investigate the theft of a casket which may hold the clue to proving the existence of human souls, and they follow it to a remote castle where they apparently find the door to the afterlife, to which Catherine is strongly attracted, being curious as to what she’s going to face when she dies.

Despite all this neat stuff, the story felt weirdly disjointed and unsatisfying. The mystery of the disappearing casket is resolved off-panel, and it’s not clear to me what happened to Catherine in the final encounter at the doorway: Was her brain tumor cured? Sent into recession? Or does she still just have a little more time left? Strange.

The best parts of the comic were Catherine’s presence as the ultimate representation of rationalism, yet one whose situation makes her attracted to the fantastic, and James’ presence trying to ground her in the real, even though they really do find supernatural phenomena. It’s a dynamic familiar from The X-Files, only James isn’t a skeptic, he’s just firmly grounded in our world and is not so much skeptical of the existence of the fantastic, as suspicious of the motivations behind and goals of those phenomena. Minck Oosterveer’s art is also pretty nifty, sketchy at times but remarkably solid at others, especially the EC-Comics-like creature who haunts Catherine’s visions. I suspect Oosterveer could benefit from a strong inker rather than inking his own work, though.

Waid is usually much stronger in his plotting, and not so fuzzy in his themes, so I wonder whether he’s got some master plan for pulling the pieces together and giving them more emotional resonance, or if this is an experimental series for him. Tthe series is titled The Unknown, so I guess I could see it go either way. I’m certainly interested enough to stick around for a bit, but if it ends up being one enigma after another, then I’m likely to run out of curiosity much as I did with The X-Files.

Boneyard #28 Think some nice thoughts about one of the best independent comics of the decade, whose final issue was published this week. Richard Moore apparently hadn’t intended to end Boneyard with this issue, but I guess it just isn’t selling well enough for him to devote the time to it anymore. The tale of Michael Paris, the graveyard he inherited, and all the spooks and ghouls that live therein has been part comedy, part drama, and part soap opera for some years now, but it’s always been entertaining. I enjoyed it most when it focused on the interplay of the main characters, and thus this final issue wraps up perhaps my least-favorite storyline in the series, Paris trying to save a childhood friend from an unhappy marriage and getting his fat pulled out of the fire by his vampire friend Abby. Not to my mind the most fitting end to the series, although the last couple of pages between Paris and Abby are sweet.

I’d still recommend going out and reading the earlier volumes of the series (start with the first collection and see what you think), but sadly it’s come to a premature end. A real shame.