Astro City: The Dark Age #1 (Kurt Busiek/Brent Anderson, DC/Wildstorm)
Busiek starts an epic Astro City story, 16 issues broken up into four four-issue chapters, about a dark time in the city's history in the 1970s. It's much less optimistic than most of Busiek's AC stories, and it seems that has turned some people off, but to me it's only natural that Busiek would approach this sort of material eventually, and there's still the sense of awe and wonder that his AC stories have. He takes a look at how that awe and wonder has a darker flipside, though, and after the relatively sunny Local Heroes mini, I think this is an interesting direction to take.
Dream Police #1 (J. Michael Straczynski/Mike Deodato, Marvel/Icon)
Wow, was this ever terrible. I didn't really know what to expect from this issue - I didn't even know when I picked it up whether it was an ongoing series or a mini or what (it's actually just a one-shot), and while I've liked some of Straczynski's work (Midnight Nation), I've had little interest in most of his Marvel stuff. The concept here is that a pair of hard-boiled cops (one is called Joe Thursday, har har) patrol the "dreamscape," regulating problems in people's dreams. It seems like an okay idea, but Straczynski goes with this weird deadpan comedy approach that does not work in the slightest. The story is just a bunch of terrible groan-worthy jokes that are all dream-related, and it just goes on and on forever. The deadpan tone gets old after a few pages, and the concept is played out even quicker. Deodato's dark, moody art, while very nice, is completely wrong for the book's tone. As a six- or eight-page short in an anthology, this might have been amusing enough, but as a longer than full-length comic, it's seriously painful to read.
House of M #2 (Brian Michael Bendis/Olivier Coipel, Marvel)
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...I'll probably buy the rest of your stupid mini-series. Yes, I am a total sucker for reading this, since yet again this issue offers nothing you couldn't glean from the previews or solicitation copy. In the new Marvel universe, mutants are in charge, and Bendis takes a tour of this alternate reality, showing what familiar characters are up to in their new situations. It's amusing enough (as long as you're familiar with a large number of Marvel characters), but I've read tons of similar alternate-world stories that pretty much accomplish the same thing. The last couple of pages finally get to what is presumably the engine that will drive the story - Wolverine figures out that something is not right - but at this point we are a quarter of the way through the series and still in the set-up phase. This whole event has been a huge disappointment.
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere #1 (Mike Carey/Glenn Fabry, DC/Vertigo)
I never would have picked this up if it hadn't come from the DC publicity office. I've never read Gaiman's original Neverwhere novel, and I only read American Gods because I got a free copy when I worked at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I thought Gods was mediocre, and Gaiman has never really done much for me. This issue, the first of a nine-issue series adapting Neverwhere, sets up a shadow world of fantasy in London, pretty much a standard sort of thing I'd expect from Gaiman. Carey struggles with adapting the novel to comics, using way too many narrative captions to just dump info, and if I really cared about the story I'd probably be better off just reading the novel anyway.
Noble Causes #11 (Jay Faerber/Fran Bueno, Image)
Just after I complained last issue that the alien adventure plotline was dragging on way too long, Faerber manages to tie it to the body-swap plotline and throw in some revelations about Gaia in the process. A very satisfying issue, plus the awful Opposites Attack back-up strip mercifully comes to an end, and Faerber promises more NC content in future issues. The plans for the upcoming storylines that he describes in the letters page also sound very promising. I'm excited for what's coming up.