Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I read one issue each month of long-completed series.
100 Bullets #23: A slower issue, but not boring. Brian Azzarello intentionally has the narrative creep along, partly to create an air of suspense and also, I'd imagine, so the reader can fully absorb all the cryptic dialogue. There's a lot of very vague stuff said between Benito, Megan, and Daniel about the Trust and each of their roles in it, and since we don't know exactly who/what the Trust is, it's helpful to have time to completely digest what little info we're offered here. Megan, it seems, had to replace her father in the Trust at a young age when he died, whereas Benito's dad is still around and still in charge. This creates tension between Benito and Megan, since she sees him as immature, inexperienced, and lazy while he sees her as stuck up and too serious. The significance of their less-than-stellar relationship isn't clear yet, but it's a nuanced dynamic that Azzarello introduces and explores well in this issue. The far more active and interesting part of the story is, of course, Hank being beaten at poker by Benito and deciding to get some form of revenge. Hank's semi-impotent rage in the face of an ultra-rich opponent is relatable, and helps make him sympathetic even with his rough edges. His dying wife also soften his image, but it's the futile anger that really sells him as a likable if misguided character. When Cole Burns makes his surprise return at the end of the issue to give Hank a hand, it's an exciting and somewhat scary moment. We know what a cold-blooded killer Cole can be, and for him to influence Hank in even the smallest way creates the potential for some serious shit to go down. So Azzarello has his dominoes all lined up, and though he took his time to get them there (and may not even be done yet) the pattern that's emerging is exciting enough that it's worth the wait. This was not Eduardo Risso's best effort, unfortunately. There was anything awful in it but nothing great, either. And it's a little hard to tell how much of Megan's brazen sexuality is necessary for her character and how much of it is just cheesecake. I think Risso mostly does a good job with her in that regard, but there are a few moments that feel oversexualized for no specific reason, and that's always a drag to see. Still, the opening poker game scene was deliciously shadowing and intimate and uncomfortable, and Cole's ultra-coolness shined through in the end, so while it was a mid-level issue visually, it did get bookended by nice, sharp art.
Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn #5: Far and away the most exciting and best-looking issue of this series yet. The whole thing is one long, intense, knock down drag out fight between Legion and the Green Lantern Corps, and M.D. Bright makes it a legit thrill ride. All the constructs Hal Jordan creates to try and keep Legion down are awesome, there's an amazing full-page splash of Salaak and Tomar-Re being punched through a wall, and when Legion spills out of his armor and becomes a giant shiny amorphous blob of death it is spectacular. Bright has been a strong penciler on this book all along, but the art hasn't ever demanded my attention like it does here with the non-stop, highly imaginative action. Legion comes across as a truly serious villain for the first time, and the awesomeness of the Green Lantern Corps is brightly highlighted, most of all Kilowog. The story side of things doesn't suffer any, either. We get Legion's backstory, meet the Guardians for the first time, and watch Hal come into his own as a Green Lantern, exploring his powers creatively and pushing back against the rigid rules of the Corps. Even in the context of the sprawling battle, Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones (plot and script, respectively) manage to get a lot of story progress done and fill in some missing details about what's been going on. Emerald Dawn has seemed a little unfocused up to now, not sure how quickly to move or what its main character was all about, but everything snaps into place here at last. A shame it had to happen in the penultimate chapter, I suppose, but better late than never, and the results are fantastic. This is some top-notch superhero comics, and it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger, so I'm stoked to see what the conclusion has in store.
X-Force (vol. 1) #23: The Externals get dealt with once and for all (I hope) as Fabian Nicieza and Greg Capullo continue to burn through all the crap Rob Liefeld left behind when he departed this series. I appreciate the patience with which they've been doing this, but it also makes me a little anxious for them to finish so I can find out what comes next, what this creative team can do in their own space. Luckily, this issue made a ton of progress, because on top of the Externals finally being bested—not beaten, exactly, but told to fuck off in a convincing way—the two B-plots that have been running for a while suddenly become one and the same. I didn't even know that's where they were headed, mostly because I didn't recognize that the person Deadpool's been hunting, Vanessa, is also the woman who impersonated Domino in the earliest issues of the series. I probably should have figured that out, and it's even possible I was explicitly told it at some point and just forgot, because that thread has never for one second held my interest. It feels so distant from the stuff X-Force is doing, in terms of geography, story, and tone. Similarly, the story about Domino, Grizzly, and Hammer trying to dig up info on Cable has been hard for me to pay serious attention to in the past. I don't want Cable back in this title, so I can't get very enthusiastic about people trying to find and/or research him. But in this issue, Domnio's group goes after Vanessa, so what has up to this point been two storylines I generally ignore will only be one moving forward, and that's progress. Also, Vanessa promises to tell Domino where to find X-Force, indicating that this may all become part of the main plot soon. The sooner that happens, the sooner the series can move past all these characters and concepts I don't care about, so I'm all for seeing Domino and crew catch up with X-Force as soon as next month. I guess we'll see if I get my wish then.