Monday, September 22, 2014


Welcome to Round 2 of our COMICS ELIMINATION CHALLENGE! The current standings are:
  1. Magento (5pts)
  2. The Wake (4pts)
  3. Hawkeye (4pts)
  4. The Last Phantom (3pts)
  5. Brass Sun (3 pts)
  6. East is West (2pts)


Every round I read six single issues (starting with issue #1). At the end of every round, each book's points are added to their total. Any book scoring 2/5 or under in a given round is eliminated and replaced with a new book.

The scoring system is based on a simple question: do I want to keep reading this book? Anything above a 2/5 is a "yes" and anything below is a "no." The score sheet:

5/5: highly recommended.
4/5: strong overall but not as good as it could have been.
3/5: just good enough to read the next issue.
2/5: some limited potential.
1/5: objectively terrible.

So without further ado, here are the books in Round Two

Returning Books

Five books return from Round 1:

The Wake #2 (Snyder/Murphy: Vertigo, 2013)

I liked the first issue of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s underwater science fiction series, but issue two really blows the roof off things. There’s the central mystery of the merman-like creature which connects (in still unclear ways) to human evolution on Earth and the theoretical “death” of Mars several million years ago. The characters are coming into focus, and Snyder does a good job setting up potential cracks and fissures as pressure on the team mounts. Genuinely creepy and genuine quality, with bonus echoes of seminal Detroit electro outfit Drexciya. 5/5: highly recommended. 

Magneto #2 (Bunn/Hernandez Walta: Marvel, 2014)

Bunn keeps the revenge noir thing going strong. The book reminds me of Richard Stark's Parker novels--the good second half of each one after the heist is done and Parker goes about getting his revenge on everyone who double-crossed him. We learn Magneto has lost much of his power, so rather than twist bridges and throw tanks he kills people with nails and their own bullets. The one downside is leaving Magneto's perspective for that of two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. I see why Bunn did it that way, but the result is a bit meh. Otherwise this is a great issue. 4/5: strong overall but could still be better.  

Hawkeye #2 (Fraction/Aja: Marvel, 2012) 

A tale of two Hawkeyes—Clint Barton and Kate Bishop—and their relationship to each other. Everything else is fairly unimportant, but helps tell that story and never gets in the way. So it’s good, and has a sleek noir feel reminiscent of work by other Marvel mainstays, like Ed Brubaker on his series Criminal and Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Moon Knight. Barton, however, could use a bit more depth beyond just “wiseass who cares.”  4/5: strong overall but could still be better. 

Brass Sun #2 (Edington/Culbard: 2000AD, 2014)

Things start ominously, with a multipage infodump that had me ready to kick this series to the curb. But then Edginton stops narrating and gives us story, with Wren and Conductor Seventeen on a journey to another world orbiting the eponymous Brass Sun. There they become enmeshed in a complex power play between two ageing (and very English) aristocrats. I wish Edginton just let the world build itself—after all, when the book stops throwing encyclopedia entries at us, it’s pretty good. 3/5: just good enough to keep going.

The Last Phantom #2 (Beatty/Ferigato: Dynamite, 2010)

The “white savior” thing still grates—I mean, why bother updating a series if you don’t challenge the problematic aspects of the source material? But otherwise the series is a taut and well-realized slice of revenge noir. Warning though: this one is ultra gritty. Nearly every character introduced in the first issue is dead by the end of the second. It’s borderline overkill, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see where Beatty is headed. 3/5: just good enough to keep going.


Letter 44 #1 (Soule/Alburquerque: Oni, 2013)

Our new entry is another science fictional tale about a mission to the Asteroid Belt, where sensors have detected a non-human mining operation. The first issue is largely setup, and centers on the newly elected President of the USA, who inherits and is debriefed on the secret mission to make contact. We are then introduced to the crew of the Clarke, an unsubtle reference already used in the video game Dead Space, and their social dynamics. The art style takes risks, which I appreciate, but the not-proportional bodies are very distracting. 3/5: just good enough to keep going.


The Wake #2 wins round two! No books eliminated, all return for round three--coming next month. Standings:
  1. Magneto (9pts) [tie with]
  2. The Wake (9pts)
  3. Hawkeye (8pts)
  4. Brass Sun (6pts) [tie with]
  5. The Last Phantom (6pts)
  6. Letter 44 (3pts)
  7. East is West (2pts)