This Week In Comics

What I picked up at the comic shop this week:

Fables 64

As mentioned earlier in the week, Fables is one of my favorite comics being produced at the moment, and this week’s issue continues the trend as the fables community mobilizes for war against the Adversary. Guest artist Aaron Alexovich provides a more cartoonish take on the characters than regular artist Mark Buckingham; it punctures the weight of the proceedings somewhat, but it’s still skillfully done.

Jack of Fables 13

This Fables spin-off features the titular Jack of many tales (Jack Frost, Jack be Nimble, Jack and the Beanstalk, and many more), who has been banished from the main Fable community for exposing himself to the nonmagical world via Hollywood to make himself immortal (for fables, renown is equivalent to health). Jack is now on the run, fleeing the agents of a figure who’s committed to removing all fables from popular memory. Self-absorbed and full of snark, Jack was grating as the series began, but recent issues have toned him down enough to make him humorous instead, as he is here when a former Knight of Camelot mistakes Jack as the rightful resting place for Excalibur.

Incredible Hulk 109

The Incredible Hulk and his alien allies continue their war of revenge against the heroes who exiled him into space in a story that is far more nuanced and entertaining than any megacrossover has any right to be. The Hulk finds support in Manhattan from former allies, such as Hercules and Angel, and societal castaways, but developments show that the Hulk may not simply be misunderstood here, as he often is. In its willingness to cast the Hulk as a villain, this installment plays against his past and creates genuine suspense as to the moral choices that will follow.

Dynamo 5 6

Imagine Superman had five illegitimate children, each of whom expressed one aspect of his power. Then imagine he died in flagrante delicto and his widow organized the group into a superteam to clear up his unfinished business (i.e. the villains of the city, not the unfinished business that did him in). This is the premise of Dynamo 5, which enjoys bending traditional hero group dynamics toward greater self-awareness. In this installment, the government has taken the heroes into custody, and, in a nod to the current political situation, threatens to hold them incommunicado. While the series’ dialogue occasionally comes off as being typed instead of spoken, the characters feel genuine, and writer Jay Faerber has a good knack for a twist.

Avengers Classic 3

A reprint series of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original classic, this issue features Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and the Wasp battling Hulk and Namor. The partnership of the issue’s noble villains revolves around their desire not to be disrespected (much like any NFL team) although each makes clear in retro thought bubbles that they plan to betray the other at the soonest opportunity. Blatant sexism infuses the characterization of the Wasp, who only cares how attractive each hero and villain is, but the story is fun, with over-the-top action and classic cape melodrama.

DMZ 22

Brian Wood’s series takes place in a United States of the near future, one split by civil war, with Manhattan serving as a no-man’s land for two opposing sides. Journalist Matty Roth is embedded in the free Manhattan community. His latest story investigates the army massacre of a group of peace activists, focusing on the tricky assignment of blame that follows. Wood aptly evokes the fog of war by presenting an inconclusive case, but he also presents the fury of the oppressed toward their perceived oppressors. The parallels to Iraq are obvious and effective, as Roth wonders, “Is sending roving packs of young soldiers into a civilian area with shitty training and no intel and expecting results a defensible act?”

X-Factor 22

Peter David’s revisiting his classic X-Factor run has been a success, even as this series has moved his mutants from running a noir detective agency to acting as protectors for their few remaining compatriots. This issue is a gem—each player is fully realized, able to create conflict simply by following his or her own nature. Interesting ideas abound, such as applying the protection of the Endangered Species Act to mutants, and a killer cliffhanger leaves you eager for the next issue.

Criminal 8

Ed Brubaker’s real-crime saga follows an ex-soldier seeking to infiltrate the bank crew he believes betrayed his brother. Sean Phillips’ art is dark and gritty, and Brubaker conjures up the lingo and misery of the underworld with skill and something resembling love. Hopelessness seeps through the pages, which contain enough story for two issues of most contemporary comics, and double crosses and botched hit jobs mark the steps of an inexorable path toward loss.