There's also one of those letters pages where they print stuff by angry fans.

*Apologia Dept: Sorry Diamond, you were right the other week. According to Marvel’s solicitations, Eternals has now been extended to a seven-issue miniseries. Now that I think of it, 1602 wound up having a longer-than-expected final issue as well, though not an entirely additional final issue - and there still wasn't an ending! I wonder what's going on with this one...

Elsewhere in the solicitations: The Punisher Presents: Barracuda MAX is apparently a five-issue miniseries.

Blade #3

Also on my mind in those solicitations? Blade. It seems issue #6 is going to be a “special self-contained issue!” Like I mentioned the other day, Marvel has also drawn attention to the self-contained nature of this issue, though not next issue (which is indeed “special,” if mostly for the holiday connection) or issue #5 (which simultaneously manages a variant cover, a Wolverine guest appearance, and a Casualties of War tie-in, kind of a sales-boosting hat trick), even though I presume they’re also going to be more-or-less self-contained. You’ve got to keep reiterating a book’s assumed strengths, I guess. Can’t run forever on cover pull-quotes from cast members of an already-cancelled television series.

But anyway, Blade’s kind of gotten to me, here by issue #3. It’s a crowded, slightly messy book, but it’s sorting itself out. It makes for a nice comparison with artist Howard Chaykin’s last superhero series as artist, the infamous Hawkgirl, written by Walt Simonson; that one basically got more and more messy as it went along, until issue #56 rolled around and characters started revealing they were thousands of years old and villains jumped out of nowhere and the giant cosmic vagina-with-teeth opened in a wall and ate everything and Hawkgirl swung a mace until someone fired a gun and everything exploded and the story ended with a joke about blogging, which to my mind is like flying the white flag. It was a bizarre run, more interested in goofy superhero horror stuff than anything - you could feel it liquefying by the end, perhaps under encouragement to get back to the concerns of the DCU.

Blade is smoother than that. Issue #1 had problems with balancing present-day sequences with tales from Blade’s past, and I see that difficulty has largely been resolved by making the past a tighter corollary to the present. Issue #2 also managed to have some fun with Doombots and time-travel, as Blade teemed up with Dr. Doom’s mom to fight vampires in the past, and possibly wound up orchestrating his own present-day problems in the process. In this issue, Blade goes on a date with a woman he found on the internet; she’s a vampire, and Blade feels the need to take her down, but all sorts of practical problems spring up from this simple exercise. There’s also one of those classic bits where a drunkard looks at something bizarre and unexpected, then looks to his bottle as the punchline (he doesn‘t smash it, sadly). And then the whole bit later fits into the plot, believe it or not.

It’s an interesting enough plot in that it takes time to just babble around, exploring the logical (and somewhat illogical) repercussions of Blade’s mission-in-life and relating it to his past for an issue’s length, and then stops itself when there’s not much else to be said, even though the plot itself never quite ends. It’s a downbeat piece, complete with Young Blade run out of town for accidentally killing humans instead of vampires, suffused with a general acknowledgement that super-senses and amazing strength can’t really save a person from doing anything but flee from the law’s answer to their lawbreaking ways. It doesn't all make complete sense from a 'the hero must escape!' perspective, but one gets the feeling that the title character is spending much of this issue trying to amuse himself with solving problems through smarts rather than strength; not a damn thing works on more than a superficial level. It’s a resigned, genuinely anti-heroic comic, in that the antihero neither believes in nor benefits from tenants of (super)heroism.

It’s good to see that writer Marc Guggenheim seems to be laying off the frentic action, maybe to play more toward artist Chaykin’s strengths; the action’s a bit more reserved now, leaving Chaykin’s characters to stalk around ominous streets and hallways. The old-timey sequences remain the best, visually, affording Chaykin lots of time to play around with costuming and décor - lots of textures everywhere. His contemporary superhero style is still comparatively fast and loose, but I think Edgar Delgado’s colors are more calming than Michelle Madsen’s work on Hawkgirl, which I felt emphasized the harshness of Chaykin’s inks to a somewhat garish degree. I like that Blade changes his facial hair around across issues; one of those minor details I appreciate picking up on.

The book's kind of grown on me. Hopefully Marvel's efforts at promotion will accomplish something, though you'll have to forgive me my uncertainty on that point.