Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week is our first Marvel-free week in some time, featuring a DC crossover that I never knew I needed and an indie that won me over with its cover.
Spoilers: I try not to spoil the issues themselves too much, but I do post cover images, and I reference past events when they are germane. You won’t see any twists posted here, but some detail is inevitable.
Ratings: The Pull List rates a comic’s power level on a scale of 0 to 5, where 5 is something thought-provoking, groundbreaking, and/or masterfully executed, and 0 is something I wish I hadn’t even started reading.
Justice League of America #9
Writer: Steve Orlando; Penciller: Felipe Watanabe; Inker: Scott Hanna; Colorist: Hi-Fi; Letterer: Clayton Cowles; Cover: Felipe Watanabe & Hi-Fi; Variant Cover: Dough Mahnke & Wil Quintana
Gloriously weird, but also kind of basic. This is the back half of “The Man from Monster Valley,” as the JLA swing into action to stop Makson from slaughtering his entire (horrible, awful) family. The resolution is really not about the resolution itself — Makson is up against a whole team of metahumans, and while he may have been raised by raptors but he’s not even in the same league (wokka wokka) as Lobo. Rather, the resolution is clearly meant to be a chance to see more of the new League’s team dynamic and to learn more about them from the way they react to the revelations about Makson; unfortunately, we don’t get to spend much individual time with anyone except Batman, so we don’t learn as much as I’ve gotten used to seeing from your average issue of JLA. That said, what the issue has to say about Batman is very important and interesting — his conversation with Vixen about the price of keeping secrets feels especially pointed and poignant, and puts his relationship with and perception by the rest of the League in perspective. And then we get an ending hook that is pure Orlando, bizarre and illogical and a little nonsensical in that David Lynch/Twin Peaks way that makes you sputter but then also want to read the next page. This feels like connective tissue, but the organism as a whole is interesting; just don’t try to jump on with this storyline.
Power Level: 3 of 5
The Kamandi Challenge #6
Writer: Steve Orlando; Penciller: Philip Tan; Inker: Norm Rapmund; Colorist: Dean White; Letterer: Clem Robins; Main Cover Artists: Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson; Variant Cover Artists: Philip Tan & Elmer Santos
This series keeps reaching new heights of being the most Jack Kirby thing ever, and this issue is no exception. Tan’s art here tickles the King’s inventiveness and sense of both wonder and scale; everything here feels real and vital in a way that some artists could not pull off, and I never fail to feel the size and weight of both the small and the enormous things that make their way across these pages. Orlando’s writing, as is par for the course for him, is weird and zippy while also feeling like exactly what those characters would do in that situation, if it were possible for these bizarre ideas to be real. Kamandi, especially, feels more on-book here, still acting standoffish and a little snarky, but not to the exaggerated degree of the last couple issues. The plot is breakneck to a degree that it’s almost stunning: every single page has some major shift in the narrative or revelation about Kamandi’s situation. The speed is also the issue’s major problem, however. The cliffhanger from Issue #5 is resolved almost blindingly fast (though with an actual twist to it, rather than Kamandi just magically being safe on the first page), and the character of Renzi is introduced and thrust into a position of importance in the narrative with hardly any preamble, such that I had to make myself just trust that Kamandi would care that much about this near-stranger. While it feels rushed, it is at least fun all the way through, which is what a story challenge like this really needs to aim for. Bring on Issue #7.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Art by: Fiona Staples; Written by: Brian K. Vaughan; Letters + Design By: Fonografiks; Coordinated by: Eric Stephenson
Fun, fast, and profound. The highlight of this issue, for me, is the art: Staples is at the top of her game here, churning out page after page of inventive and engaging characters and objects that really help make the world of Saga feel like the darkly whimsical place it actually is underneath the deep human-interest stories. The story is good, reflecting more on miscarriage and parenthood; the focus is largely on Alana and her sudden ability to do magic, as revealed in the last issue, and on the family’s efforts to get from Point A to Point Abortion Town. For some reason, the message didn’t land as hard with me this time as last time — maybe that’s a fault of me as a reader, though, because so much else has hit like a ton of bricks — and the whole thing felt a little bit transitional, until we got to the last couple pages and Alana’s dream sequence, and that vexing final splash page whose exact meaning and implications I have still not parsed out. This one is just an issue of falling action, I think, and in an epic like Saga I can’t fault it for having a few.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
New and Shiny
Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1
Writer: Tom King; Artist, Interior and Color Cover: Lee Weeks; Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski; Letterer: Deron Bennett; Assistant Editor: Michael McCalister; Group Editor: Marie Javins; Millionaire: Joey Cavalieri; Variant Cover: Bob Fingerman
The comic we needed and deserved. This is exactly what it says on the tin, in every single wonderful particular: this is Elmer Fudd hunting Batman (or, more accurately, Bruce Wayne, but let’s not risk spoilers), narrated in Frank Miller neo-noir style, except with Elmer’s trademark speech impediment coloring all the spelling. The script is note-perfect, playing its positively hilarious content completely straight, never trying to be in on its own joke and spinning it up to exhausting heights of hilarity; and meanwhile, Weeks and Kindzierski put out art that was the only art I could imagine accompanying this script, drawn with attention to detail and deep, engulfing shadows and big blocks of color, honestly looking like Sin City or Ed Brubaker’s Criminal work while still never failing to be a story about Elmer Fudd asking us to be vewy vewy quiet because he’s hunting pwayboys. There is a backup story as well that is just a classic Bugs Bunny and Elmer story, but with Batman subbed in for Daffy Duck, complete with the Wabbit season/Duck season joke. This issue was perfect, and I am a better person for having read it.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Blood Brothers #1
Created by: Fabian Rangel, Jr. & Javier Caba; Script by: Fabian Rangel, Jr.; Art by: Javier Caba; Letters by: Ryan Ferrier; Blood Brothers Logo by: Dylan Todd; Original Series Edits by: Jim Gibbons; Cover by: Javier Caba
Detectives in a fantasy world? Trying to find a cursed Aztec skull? And one of them’s a luchador? And this is written by actual Hispanic creators? Yeah, of course I signed up for this, and I got what I wanted and a little bit more. The issue is silly, B-movie fun, just doing a bit of worldbuilding as we meet our two heroes, Diego and Gabriel Soliz, and their magic- and monster-inhabited version of modern Earth; but actually, there is more subtle worldbuilding going on below that level, with references to events that are a part of the book’s fictional history sold as casually as a reference to the JFK assassination or the War of 1812, and a few little asides that are not explained but tell you volumes in the way people react. Caba’s art is stellar, on top of Rangel’s writing — Gabe’s wrestling moves, in particular, are drawn with loving attention to detail, without ever sacrificing the overall style of the comic. Not much actual plot happens, but plenty of plot is set up for next time, and I am absolutely here for lucha libre noir and Aztec occultism and more hooded Cthulhus and track-suited wolf-men. This series has supplanted Misfit City as my fun indie mystery comic, and if you love noir, lucha, or Hellboy, I think you might like this.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“Be vewy vewy quiet. I’m hunting pwayboys.”
— Elmer Fudd, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1
And with that, I am off. I’ll see you next week; until then, keep loving comics!