Dan's shipment this month contained neither Fables nor Jack of Fables. This realization made me cry. Real, actual, wet tears. Honestly. What was even the point of reading anything at all this month? There wasn't any! I mean, I'm forever behind on Captain America and all the X-titles, so all that just got added to my ever-increasing pile. Luckliy for me, the new issue of House of Mystery was also in the box and we picked up Madame Xanadu at the shop, so my tears dried up and I got reading. Then I found What if This Was the Fantastic Four? and the tears started flowing again.
House of Mystery #2 – Hey, it makes sense now! Last month, I reviewed the premiere issue of this new series from Matthew Sturges and Luca Rossi and I said that I liked it, even though I had no idea what was going on. In this second issue, they explain pretty much exactly what we readers need to know, and they make us want to keep reading. Our protagonist, Fig, has been dreaming of a house for years and become so obsessed with it she’s even drawn blueprints. She’s shocked to learn that her dream house and the house she’s currently visiting are one in the same. We’re less surprised, but then we readers are a bit savvier than poor Fig. As snappy waitress Cress explains to Fig, the house is “a mystical place located at a supernatural crossroads between many worlds.” The currency is storytelling, and that’s where Bill Willingham comes in, this month aided by artist Jill Thompson. A process server bar patron tells of the time he had to travel to the bottom of the sea to serve King Krakenheart a summons for $3.57 in unpaid parking fines. These little stories are cute and a nice addition to the book, though I found the art a bit hard to follow this time. Back to Fig, we find out the mysterious people from the first issue just appeared in her bedroom and told her to come to this house or else she’d be in “terrible danger.” Ooh, I love it when there’s going to be terrible danger! She’s then informed by bartender Harry that while some people can come and go, a small group of patrons (including Cress, Harry, the Scary Pirate Lady are stuck and now Fig) are stuck there permanently. Again Fig is surprised. The issue ends with Fig laying in bed, a Disembodied Voice and Fig’s shocking lack of surprise. This book gets another B+ and I’m definitely onboard for the foreseeable future.
Madame Xanadu #1 – When I read it, I liked the preview (featured in the back of several Vertigo books last month) of this new series from Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley enough to head to the comic shop and give it a chance. But the shop I went to last week didn’t have it (poor guy seemed kind of confused when I asked him about it) so you did not get a post featuring this new #1 exclusively. Fortunately I was able to score it at another shop last night, but that means it’s being lumped into this batch review, which is kind of shame because I think I could have said a lot about it. Avalon? Camelot? I had no idea from the preview that this is where the series takes place. I love this stuff! And if I’d been using my brain at all, I would have put it together in about four seconds. But apparently I was saving up my brainpower to show up Fig. Anyway, in this series, Nimue is younger sister to Vivienne and Morgana, who you’ll remember as mother of Mordred, King Arthur’s son. She is of the forest, as Vivienne is of the lake and Morgana is of, um, evildoing, I guess. Also, true to legend, she’s sleeping with Merlin, who may not exactly be on the up-and-up. Plus, she’s being stalked by some doom-and-gloom (and kinda sexy) Stranger. The art is fantastic and perfect (and bonus! done by a chick!) and then ending is surprisingly bloody. This first issue is an A- if I ever saw one, and I cannot wait until #2.
Air free preview - Since it was in the back of the two books I just read, I thought I’d mention that nothing about the preview caught my interest, and the little interview between the creators at the end made me want to read it even less. That was harsh for no good reason, but there you have it.
What if This Was the Fantastic Four? - The much-missed Mike Wieringo was in the middle of drawing this What If…? issue when he passed away from sudden heart failure nearly a year ago (more on that this August). In tribute, writer Jeff Parker and Marvel teamed up with the Hero Initiative to have a group of other artists complete the issue. The story is a standard What If…? tale brought to you by the Watcher (I really hate that guy). Here, instead of the FF being temporarily incapacitated by Skrull agent D’Lilah, they are killed (except for the de-powered Ben Grimm, who ends up leaving NYC to care for young Franklin) and replaced permanently by Spider-Man, Wolverine, grey Joe Fix-it Hulk and Ghost Rider. At first, people don’t like the group; they’re unfriendly and too mean. But when they save the city from Doom’s new Frightful Four (featuring the Abomination and his new catchphrase “I’m going to Kill you, Hulk”) everyone warms to them and their newfound love helps defeat Mephisto. The list of artists who contributed to this issue is as long as it is distinguished: Art Adams, Paul Renaud, Stuart Immonen, Cully Hamner, Alan Davis, Casey Jones, David Williams, Sanford Greene, Humberto Ramos, Skottie Young, Mike Allred and Barry Kitson. Most of them worked “at a drastically reduced rate, many as low as one dollar per page….out of their love and respect for Mike, and to help maximize benefit for The Hero Initiative.” As wrong as it seems to criticize this issue, I do have one complaint, and it’s a doozy. Ghost Rider did not scream “VENGEANCE!” Not even once. But he did have some awesome lines, so I guess I can learn to forgive. Eventually. I leave you with Jeff Parker’s perfectly written last words and (most of) Barry Kitson’s flaming Ghost Rider skull.