And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY 13


Image © Juke Box Productions.

First, isn’t that a great cover? The backdrop is in the style of Peter Max, and the foreground figures sure look like they’ve been cut out and dropped onto it, though it may just be Alex Ross painting wizardry.

This may be the most ambitious issue of ASTRO CITY to date, at least plot-wise. It follows several threads that, of course, intersect at times, and is further complicated by tagging each page of the story with a time-stamp, then mixing them all up so the reading order is not chronological order. This made me want to shake writer Kurt Busiek at times, as I had to keep flipping pages to see how certain events connected, and I suspect I actually read each page at least twice. But in the end it all made sense…I think. The mixed time order is something of a distraction, but the story is strong enough to overcome it.

And it’s a story of ordinary people, as so often in this book, but also a mythic god or spirit, The Dancing Master, apparently brought forth as an unexpected side effect of a scientific project. The character does indeed dance through the issue, in a variety of interesting styles, including that of Peter Max. We also have a super-hero vs. super-villain fight, a robot on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, an attractive bank teller, some overworked scientists… in short, it’s a well-crafted juggling act. The interior art by Brent Anderson is also excellent, and allows him to show off a variety of styles, including some I wouldn’t expect from Brent. I bet that was fun for him. The emotional content is fragmented by the storytelling, so the impact of that is less than some recent issues, but in all, well done.


And Then I Read: THE ROYALS 5


Image © Rob Williams & Simon Coleby.

Just when I thought this miniseries couldn’t get any more depressing, or the characters any more reprehensible, the King of England takes center stage. His younger son Henry is still trying to fight the good fight but ineffectively, his older son Arthur continues to be cruel, horrible and worthless, at least until he finds out what has happened to their sister Rose, but it’s the father who proves the worst of the lot by far. If your idea of tragedy is looking closely at destructive behavior, you may enjoy this series. I don’t, but having come this far, I’ll read the final issue when I get to it.

Not recommended.

First Sand Castle of 2014


Ellen’s family is visiting for a long weekend, and yesterday on the beach we did a group-effort castle. Here are several views. this one feature’s Dave Greene’s design with S.H. for Stone Harbor, where we go to the beach.


This side features bridges by Zach Greene and some decorations by me on the hillside. I also did most of the castle towers at the top.


This side shows more decorations by me as well as some by Anne Greene.


A closer view of the main gate with “Stone Harbor” in stones and shells by Ellen Klein over the doorway (hard to read in this light).


Flanking the main door are dripped Gargoyles by Anne.


Here’s the castle-making crew, also giving a sense of scale. Took us several hours, but they were hours when it was cloudy and raining lightly, so a good way to pass the time. Once the sun came out, we all went swimming.


As the tide came in, the castle first became surrounded by water…


…and then began to succumb to the waves. We didn’t have time to watch the entire castle fall, but such is the way of this ephemeral art.



Image © DC Comics, Inc.

The focus of the force against them has sharpened for the Corps, and it’s now clear that the Durlans are the real threat. They’re a sly, tricky lot, and when your enemy are shape-shifters, the hardest task is to identify them. Luckily, the Corps has one Durlan among them who shows the way, in a clever move that had me thinking the concept of power ring has certainly changed. Now it has a database that can be updated! Who knew? The Durlans are after the super-abilities of the people of Daxam, who under a yellow sun are as powerful as Superman, though not under their own red sun. Can the Corps stop them? That’s what it’s about here.

I’m continuing to enjoy the “Uprising” crossover storyline, it’s full of good ideas, making clever use of existing alien races and peoples from LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and elsewhere, and while not lacking action, is written with heart and intelligence by Van Jensen (here). The art by Bernard Chang and Moritat is excellent.




Image © DC Comics, Inc.

The best thing about this book and this issue is Batman really being a detective. The second best thing is watching him interact with another one, Gotham City Police Detective Harvey Bullock. Both men are following clues and making intelligent decisions based on those clues. Then there’s the gang/drugs angle which doesn’t interest me as much, but it leads this time to an entertaining set piece in the former Gotham Aquarium between Batman and a very large sea creature. There’s also a nice scene with the daughter of the woman who has just been murdered on Bruce Wayne’s doorstep, poignant and moving. The art is terrific, atmospheric, colorful, moody, perfect. Oh, and there’s a brief glimpse into Harvey Bullock’s personal life that I loved, too. After a start I wasn’t quite sure about, Manapul and Buccellato have made this a must-read.