So, this weekend Contessa and I had a few folks over to swim, one of whom had recently had a friend covertly kill a chicken in her duplex as part of a voodoo ritual. Why yes, my friends are more interesting than yours, that’s an excellent point. Some of these people came bearing gifts, including a copy of William Gay’s Provinces of Night, which I’m much looking forward to reading, and the Prawngoose gave me those cool new DC superhero stamps. Ah, but those stamps were only half the present, for the Prawngoose had also constructed a box made entirely of cut up Nick Fury comics! That’s a panel from the side up there—here’s what the whole thing looks like:
Don’t tell me that’s not cool.
II. Extremely brief comics notes.
Birds of Prey #96. Did the powers that be at DC ever give Blue Beetle a proper funeral? Maybe it was somewhere in the hyper-proliferating crossovers and countdowns to Infinite Crisis, I dunno, or maybe we’ll see it in 52. My suspicion is that Gail Simone, who actually seems to like the characters she writes, realized that BB needed a send-off, and so we get a nice informal memorial service for him in the series where he last regularly appeared. Simone’s deft hand with characterization is on display as she continually deflates the sentimentality with silliness, in keeping with the spirit of the deceased. On the other hand, Black Canary’s new “sister” has already pushed the needle on the cloy-ometer well into the red zone, and I hope she isn’t sticking around for too long.
Daredevil #67. Thumbs-up to the big reveal of the replacement Daredevil’s identity. A roll of the eyes to anyone who was surprised by the other big “reveal” on the final page.
New Avengers #22. Like last issue’s Chaykintastic story of Captain America’s rebellion, this story would have been a lot more compelling had its conclusion not been spoiled, oh, two months ago, in the mini-series with which it is crossing over. Nevertheless, this is a solid issue that finds Bendis playing to his strengths—writing Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a panel of Cage reacting to the real identity of the replacement Daredevil—if Deadpool and Dakota North can figure it out, then surely Power Man gets it—but you can’t have everything, I guess.
Captain America #20. The longer I read Brubaker’s Cap, the more I’m convinced that the Winter Soldier isn’t going to survive past Brubaker’s time on the title. At least, that’s what I tell myself to get past the one impediment my enjoyment of what are otherwise the best Cap comics to come along since the Waid/Garney pre-Heroes Reborn run. The Red Skull is creepy here, genuinely threatening in a way that he hasn’t been since…well, at least since that Gruenwald issue where he went skinny-dipping with the Viper. That was real, real creepy.
Update: Because Gorjus Demanded It!
Yeah, and here’s a close-up of that last panel, just to confirm that this isn’t one of those periods where he’s merely wearing a red skull mask:
Please note the pile of discarded clothes in the background there. I’ve spared your having to see the panel where they’re re-robing and the Viper compliments the Skull on being an “impressive physical specimen.” No doubt because he was at this time inhabiting a cloned Captain America body.
Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways #1. I love both these series and have been looking forward to the crossover, but my heart sank a bit when I realized that no one from either title’s usual creative team would be involved. I needn’t have worried much; in particular, the continuity-based characterization that made YA such a treat informs this issue as well, as we see two “sons” of Ultron meet for the first time. I presume there will be a Skrull v. half-Skrull showdown later in the series as well. I know Young Avengers’ reliance on references to a handful of decades-old Avengers stories for its dramatic tension drew complaints from many who found it inaccessible and geek-pornish, but I say if you’re writing in a shared universe with years of history from which to draw and you don’t tap into that history, then you’re wasting an opportunity to add depth and resonance to your stories—to make them real. There are degrees, of course—Runaways is a great comic despite its (‘til now) relative autonomy from the mainstream MU, and no one wants it to become the orgy of copyright upkeep that is Thunderbolts.
JLA Classified #25. I remember hearing about this story and being excited. I also remember thinking that it was a two-parter. This is chapter four of a storyline that sees the Detroit-era League trapped in a forest fire and menaced by the Royal Flush Gang. I assume the editorial mandate for this storyine was “Write us something that makes the Detroit Leaguers seem incompetent and unlikable and which will kill off once and for all any lingering affection some fans might have for the team.” If that’s the case, Englehart will be rewarded sevenfold. And you know there’s going to be a trade paperback collection of this.
The Mountain Goats fans among you know that Get Lonely comes out August 22. NPR’s All Things Considered is streaming one track, “Wild Sage,” “Woke Up New” (which I like better) was on that Pitchfork online collection, and, since the album has leaked, it’s out there on the P2P services for anyone who wants it. I’m still holding out for the magic of release day, though, mostly because I discovered that iTunes now has available for download the vinyl-only EPs that the Goats did for Yo Yo records, including 1998’s ultra-rare and ultra-awesome New Asian Cinema. No doubt everyone but me knew about this ages ago. But if not, then people: do yourselves a favor. Give Apple your four bucks for five nearly perfect songs, or at least give them 2.97 for the first three tracks. Released between Full Force Galesburg and The Coroner’s Gambit, New Asian Cinema occupies what some—not necessarily me—would consider to be the happiest medium in the Mountain Goat production spectrum from the growliest boombox grind to the slickest 4AD records: minimalist, but warm and somehow lush nonetheless, the inevitable Darnielle guitar strum supplemented with banjo, organ, and occasional backing vocals. “Coo Dai Blowout” is the jittery but resigned confession of a man bedeviled by his father’s poltergeist, the protagonist of “Korean Bird Paintings” tries to hang on to a dying relationship by rolling around in its detritus, and “Narakoloka,” the boomboxiest track, is appropriate for soundtracking the last long look in the rearview at the partner in your doomed summer romance. It is chiefly about cabbage.