By Molly Jane KremerScott Southard, and Jarrod JonesOur Week In Review collects our thoughts on the comics that demand attention. Do you have a deep-rooted desire to know what we think about all your favorite books? Well. This is where you need to be.

4806922-dpthan2015002_dc41_lr-0Deadpool vs. Thanos #2

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Tim Seeley.

Art by Elmo Bondoc; Color by Ruth Redmond.

SS: Everyone’s favorite (or at least agreeably prolific) postmodern posterboy for pandemonium simply cruises in this new mix-n-match series from Tim Seeley. While there are no unfamiliar trails being blazed or walls being broken (except for the 4th, har har), it’s always nice to get another solid story from within the Deadpool frame of existence. Everything in his world is a little wackier, the gravitas of all situations lowered to a cartoon-level of consequence-free violence, and the cameos boil over in excess. It’s just a bunch of dumb fun to shake up the Marvel Universe, to see how heroes and villains function when taken out of their element.

As with a large portion of Deadpool’s previous output, Deadpool vs. Thanos does the Odd Couple routine, with Wade Wilson playing the spunky loudmouth and Thanos taking the role of the out of place, ultra-serious brute. The latter’s dominance of outer space lends itself to a clunky terrestrial existence (measuring time in light years is a nice touch) that continues throughout the titular characters’ naturally strained relationship, while Deadpool keeps mugging for the camera and trying his best to not give a damn about the plot.

The most interesting part of this series, however, is the plot conceit: Death has disappeared from the universe, effectively granting everyone a kind of de facto immortality. What this does is amplify the Wile E. Coyote-level near-death experiences Deadpool seems to face on a daily basis by giving into the fact that death is now impossible, and we no longer need to pretend that the fights are life-threatening bouts over the fate of existence (at one point, Deadpool points out that there is no threat of death and asks, “What is this, a Marvel Comic?”). Instead we get to bask in the fun of a wacky, constantly rotating cast of Marvel names, big and small, as they interact with Wade Wilson’s gift of gab and the shenanigans he can never seem to avoid.

Deadpool’s witticisms and asides are hit or miss, sometimes crossing lines that I wish he wouldn’t. Other times, he does awesome things, like call Thanos a “thousand-pound bag of lumpy grape yogurt,” and then I’m thankful a character like Wade Wilson exists. But that’s Deadpool for you: there’s always a load of fun to be had, interspersed with approximately half a dozen eye rolls and at least one solid grimace.

Deadpool vs. Thanos is another Deadpool comic. It’s not groundbreaking, and the stakes aren’t high. You won’t find yourself on the edge of your seat, nor will you blazingly turn the pages to find out what happens next. Instead you’ll revel in the small moments, the one-liners that are horribly out of place when uttered by a man being punched in the head, the witty back and forth between Thanos and Deadpool, and the repercussion-less over the top violence that smears every other page. It’s a pretty straightforward run, and if Deadpool’s been your cup of tea in the past, you can continue to slurp it up here.

As for me, I’m always down for another slice-n-dice session, a couple of dick jokes, and a one-on-one dialogue between myself and the protagonist. I hope Wade Wilson’s immortality turns out to be permanent, just so we can have this conversation again. And again. And again.

7.5 out of 10

JUL150611Rumble #7

Image Comics/$3.50

Written by John Arcudi.

Art by James Harren and Dave Stewart.

MJ: Rumble continues to be one of Image’s strongest titles, consistent in its storytelling, composition, and defiance of genre categorization. Its seventh issue has qualities similar to stand-alone episodes of a great television series: while separate from the main ongoing plot, it furthers its own independent story while also fleshing out the personalities and motivations of the overarching storyline’s main players… and, of course, still managing to keep the reader in rapt attention.

James Harren’s art continues to contain echoes of Mike Mignola, while still retaining an inventive style very much his own. His Rumble character designs continue on in their uniqueness even seven issues out, and his group shots have so many imaginatively weird individuals it’s hard to turn the page before stopping to marvel over each one. His layouts and panel-flow are fluid and exciting, dragging you into the story while never letting go.

There’s a certain structural strength given this architecture, which is due to both Harren and colorist Dave Stewart. Stewart’s nuances of shadow and perspective give the locations a physical heft (not to mention he just makes them that much more… pretty). Much of the comic is in warm earth tones (yet at no point does it ever become muddy, because it’s Dave Stewart, duh) and matches the grounded introspectiveness of much of the issue, until splashes of neon green or a panel bathed in blood-red put some extra punch into an action sequence.

Writer John Arcudi has given Rumble numerous complexities in both plot and character, especially in Rathraq, the meditative warrior-spirit trapped within a hulking scarecrow. He speaks like a poet and has interludes of introspective monologue, and after leaping into a sewer in pursuit of a possessed rat, seems to have a crisis of confidence. Each main character appears in this issue, and each has a facet or two of their personalities refined.

Rumble contains a compelling mix of philosophy and action, of the earthly and the arcane, highlighted by fascinating characters and frequent occurrences of humor and whimsy. An excellent entry in an excellent series.

8 out of 10

STK674286Nameless #5

Image Comics/$2.99

Written by Grant Morrison.

Art by Chris Burnham; colors by Nathan Fairbairn.

SS: Rarely is the abstract comic a good idea. With the restrictions of release schedules, issue length, and distinct breaks in schedule, it’s hard enough to enjoy a straightforward story, much less if the story makes itself hard to follow. Obviously this changes when a name like Grant Morrison decides he wants to make something decidedly abstruse. If we can trust anyone to pull off a comic with an atypical storyarc, we can trust the pioneer of postmodern paradoxical narrative to navigate the voyage. All we have to do is hope everyone makes it out alive.

So far, we’ve flashed back and forth between timelines and realities, and in true Morrisonian fashion, the anti-chronology of Nameless leads us to the beginning of the story in issue #5. It seems necessary to outline the outset at this point, because so far, the more that’s been explained has just opened deltas of questions and confusion without much ground to firmly stand on. Giving us a sprouts of knowable truth allows the story to continue at it’s chaotic pace,  careening through space like our eponymous astronaut.

And that’s a good thing. The way the book reads mimics real life dreamscapes where mind and reality mix, and at the time we’re experiencing it, everything seems like the truth. I’m rarely genuinely scared when reading comics. The barrier between mind and what’s on the page is too great. But Nameless taps into an unknowable fear that all good interstellar thrillers build from: the true madness and finality of being lost in space. The book reads this way, in the sense that all of the religious alien occult thematics (God is a P.O.W. and an asteroid in our universe is the detainment camp?) are swirling by us at such a rate that we have no control over how we take in all of this information. We’re just as helpless as Nameless and the rest of his crew.

While Morrison’s ultra-heady exploration moves forward, the art surrounding the narrative manages somehow to keep pace. Burnham and Fairbairn (there is either a law firm or British joke in there somewhere) juxtapose epically horrific imagery of parasitic aliens and human hosts with the Earthly normality of a police procedural. The human gore is great and all, but the alien physiology is what gets me. The drippy organic sentient seedling look makes me want to throw up and then throw all of my houseplants out the window in fear of a viney assault in the middle of the night (you ever see Jumanji? These aliens are like those plants times a thousand plus gross eyeballs). This is a compliment.

What’s happening as we go along isn’t really the point, because you don’t need to know much about Grant Morrison to know that he’s got an overarching plan in mind. From the start, Nameless reads like chapters of a book that’s already been written in whole, and as we move forward, the Danielewski-esque reality shifting begins to make more and more sense. Truly interesting and innovative moves are being made with this comic, and I think it’s a testament to the creative team and to the medium that we never once have to stick to a preordained mold. I’m aching for the run to end, just so I can go back and read through the whole thing with a concrete matrix of information in hand. At this point, things are still obtuse and opaque, but as small building blocks begin to accrue, it’s easier to trust the story than it ever was before. As if there was ever any doubt in the first place.

9 out of 10

1459931_xl (1)Grayson #12

DC Comics/$3.99

Written by Tom King & Tim Seeley.

Art by Mikel Janin; colors by Jeromy Cox.

JJ: We may have been enjoying Dick Grayson in his crazy new life for the last year and some change, but for most of the masked vigilantes living in Gotham City, Dick Grayson has been gone for a long, long time.

But now, after a disastrous plot twist last month, Dick is back in Gotham to reunite with the one man who’s been his anchor the entire way through this journey. And all he can do — after the events of Endgame — is make niceties with him. The Bruce Wayne as Dick remembered him, from acrobat to superspy, is gone. But there he sits anyway, smiling and talking about things like joy. Alfred is sadder these days. And now that he’s home, Dick can be sad with him.

That’s pretty painful stuff, a far cry from the usual pop and crackle of Tim Seeley & Tom King’s Grayson. Though ardent fans shouldn’t ought to worry; there’s plenty of Spyral intrigue here (Agent Zero makes a rather bold introduction this issue), but the real fun is immersing ourselves in the world of Robin, or rather, Robins: Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, everyone who ever wore a yellow cape and a green domino mask makes an appearance in Dick Grayson’s book, perhaps as a fitting precursor to the crazy-sounding Robin War crossover that’s about to thunder through the Bat-books. Whatever storm is coming, there has to be some house cleaning in Wayne Manor first, and it looks like Grayson #12 is the book to do it. And boy, has it been a long time coming.

Mikel Janin’s slick artwork (made absolute gorgeous, as always, by colorist supreme Jeromy Cox) is put to the test this issue — he’s only given one double-page fight sequence to let the fur fly — and of course he nails it. His stupendous model work for every character stays true throughout the issue, even when those characters are put through an emotional spectrum that ranges from anger and hostility to happiness and relief. Janin’s work keeps Dick’s unenviable task of coming clean to the Bat-family grounded, even when Seeley & King make our former Nightwing take flight. (This time, in a bittersweet aerial dance with Barbara Gordon.)

And there’s so much more to unload here. For instance, the writing team has given us a couple of puzzles to solve (one of which we’ve played in Grayson before), but the most challenging one is guessing which past Bat-issue the many quotations that pop up from Dick’s memories came from (I’m pretty sure “Batman needs a Robin, no matter what he thinks,” is from A Lonely Place of Dying, and to me “You’re right — it is none of your damn business,” sounds like it came from Knightfall; but I’m positive Keep your clues and your detective skills and your limits. I’ll do this my way!” is from Grant Morrison’s run on Batman and Robin and you already know that I know that “So far I’d say you’ve been my favorite partner. We were the best, Richard. No matter what anyone thinks,” is from Batman Incorporated, issue #8).

To take the time to read through every single memory as Dick confronts one member of his family after the other, trying to connect the dots from Grayson #12 to the Bat-books’ rich and storied history (now freed by DC editorial’s more liberal rules on continuity), well. It’s a rewarding experience for the devoted reader. And even if someone is new to all this Bat-craziness and is trying Grayson out for the very first time, through Seeley & King’s diligence and care (they picked all the pertinent and touching lines to share with us), that vital connection is made.

At a time when DC is striving ever forward into an uncertain future, Grayson makes sure to glance back at the path that brought us to this wonderful present. That’s fitting, mostly because when it comes to legacy, there’s no one in the DCU who understands how important it is quite like Dick Grayson.

10 out of 10

Agree? Disagree? Which books are YOU reading this week? We want to know! Tell us about them in the comments section below.

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