Just some nuggets of review...

*Communication Dept: You know, not a lot of superhero comics bother with letters columns anymore, but I expect there’s still something uniquely pleasing about having your name plugged into a little piece of a pamphlet, sent out to stores for everyone’s edification, all concerns about alternate formats and online communication aside. I certainly did a brief double-take when I saw Ian Brill pop up in this particular issue of Blade (#5); and it’s no normal installment of Blade either, but the big Wolverine-headlining, Civil War-following, variant cover sales goosing extravaganza!

None of that stops the book from being odd, and I think ‘odd’ is about as good a bet as this series could go for at the moment; this issue, for example, sees Blade face off with the Yellow Kid. No, I’m not kidding at all. The villain of the obligatory flashback sequence this issue is, without question, the Yellow fucking Kid, complete with yellow nightshirt (no words on it though, damn it), transformed by artist Howard Chaykin into an Max Schreck-style Nosferatu. Elsewhere, Chaykin and writer Marc Guggenheim amuse themselves with a continuity-baiting Morbius, the Living Vampire guest appearance (Chaykin particularly seems to enjoy drawing ‘70s vintage jumpsuit costumes), then I think things sort of tie in with Guggenheim’s Wolverine Civil War stories, and the plot meanders around from event to event until a particularly forehead-slapping finale joins past and present yet again.

I suspect the creative team takes special pleasure in presenting angry readers in the letters column, upset that they’re not exploring the pathos of Blade; nothing here is going to cheer them up. It's worthwhile to compare this to that New Avengers Civil War tie-in Chaykin drew, an awful, self-important, navel-gazing mess of Superhero Events: Serious Business that's nonetheless a zillion times more popular than something like this. So goes the current taste. I'll be back for Blade next issue, when he hopefully gets to beat the shit out of the Gumps.

*There’s rarely anything substantive to say about the first issue (#43) in a new The Punisher MAX storyline, but this one’s worth singling out for its special properties as something of a series-wide recap. Sure, it introduces us to the villains of upcoming issues, and offers some nasty gore to get things started, but this is mainly a Frank’s Greatest Hits deal, filled with references to prior storylines and explicit flashback bits, almost all of it focused on background details or cannon fodder characters you’re now going to want to search through back-issues to find. It’s interesting to me in how writer Garth Ennis constructs it as a very workable first chapter, yet it’s so plainly also a time-biding nothing issue, the sort of thing you might plug into a storyline that, say, needed to be seven chapters instead of six to make way for a big issue #50. All the usual cross-class cross-race themes are present, by the way, though I wish the funny accents were a little more consistent…

*52 Dept: I dunno about you, but that’s the least convincing heroic death sequence I’ve read in a while. Shot with a strange toxin and left muttering about ‘coming back’ doesn’t settle me in for finality, folks, even if you toss in the obligatory tear-jerking coda. This is the big Lady Stix battle issue, by the way, in which the book’s suspected archvillain is dragged off stage with a large cane before the audience can get to throwing tomatoes; actually, this is probably no more final than the Big! Character! Death!, but I’m keeping the faith that the space story’s climax really is this abrupt because it’s a lot more amusing that way. It's also filled with cute bits of business. I like how Lady Stix is seen just eating hearts out of a giant cauldron of blood - excellent shorthand, creative team! Fishy’s transparently bogus ‘translation’ of her comments was also good fun.

Actually, this was a more entertaining issue (#36) than we’ve seen for the last few weeks, as if the jokes and action suddenly enliven themselves with actual plot momentum, both beyond the stars and in the Skeets/Supernova/time-is-broken plot, though the Montoya bits come off as looking like she’s doing what ought to have been done weeks ago - which throws the wheel-spinning of prior weeks into sharper relief. Also: it’s maybe just the generally downplayed polish of 52 art that’s prompting this, but I’m suddenly struck by how much of the force of Adam Hughes’ art comes from his coloring. Just try to imagine his back-up short being done in, say, the colors given the rest of the book. It’s a total package. Though I agree with Douglas Wolk, that’s one freaky infant head.