The Muppet Show, #1-3 (of 4). This is a pleasant surprise that does a not-at-all bad job of replicating on the comic book page the experience of watching the classic TV show from 30 years ago. You've got Statler and Waldorf, Pigs in Space, backstage shenanigans, Muppet Labs, running jokes (can Gonzo's species be identified to qualify him for insurance?), pretty much everything except the comic doesn't sing the Muppet Show them when you open it up. It's written and drawn by Roger Langridge, whom I am otherwise not familiar with. It made me smile, and it gets 3 slithy toads.
DMZ #42 launches a new three-part story arc. The book's had some nice multi-parters since I last commented upon and gets an improved 3 toad ranking on this issue, which explores some new territory in the DMZ. The Empire State Building is the site of group therapy for mercenaries that we find out is designed to keep them all sulking in their misfortune to make their trigger fingers just that little bit happier. There's a guest artist, Ryan Kelly, and he does a good job of channeling regular artist and series co-creator Riccardo Burchielli. And writer Brian Wood chugs along. This has been one of the most consistent Vertigo books I've read over the past several years.
The same cannot be said of newer Vertigo title Air, which has had more ups and downs in 10 issues than DMZ in four times that. Air #10 is an issue to hate. It seems to have hardly anything to do with the story as we know it so far. I gave issue #2 a solid 3 toads, but this issue gets 1 slithy toad. DC/Vertigo's been totally behind the book with an extensive preview program and a special-priced issue down the road, and anyone who sampled that issue will probably wonder what's going on after reading this. Lots of good ideas in the series, but no focus. I'm not sure I'll keep paying.
I'd gone on hiatus with House of Mystery when it started an arc that seemed really really bad to me, resumed with the special 13th issue, and now am back for issue #14 that starts a new arc. Looks a little more interesting, but still good for only 2 toads in my book. Do I want to shell out for a book that's mediocre in hopes it might accumulate to something better? Enh. Really on the fence.
Ex Machina #43 sees this usually solid series from Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris in the midst of what will be an off arc. Seems a little too obtuse to me, really requiring a vast familiarity with the series continuity to understand a lot of what's going on, and with less of the alternate-NYC elements that make the series fun. Though I'm giving this issue only 1.5 toads, maybe 2.5 for the most careful students of the collected Ex Machina, I'll probably keep going with the series because it's often been very good. Yet I really worry that this series, like Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man, will end up drifting into disappointment as it heads toward its conclusion. I read Y to the bitter end, but if this arc doesn't pick up... I don't know quite what happened either, since I wasn't so negative on the first two issues of this arc, and yet this one has me really put off.
The Unwritten is a new Vertigo series, also with a lot of previewing and support from the company. It has an interesting premise, in which the son of the creator of a Harry Potter-like series may be a direct model for the series, or may be the character himself, or may... well, we don't really know and finding out what's going on is the idea of it all. The first issue was excellent. This 2nd issue not as good. There's some sense of mystery and weird bad guys and plots, but I wanted something a little bit more. 2.5 toads, will keep going and hope it settles at a high level instead of drifting down.
The Simpson's Summer Shindig #3 has one really good story, two so-so stories, and one with a cute idea that didn't end up working for me. Final grade, 2 toads. The best story has Moe looking to get rid of stale beer by starting to make and sell beer-flavored donuts from the bar. And then Scott Shaw! spoofs his own Captain Carrot and the Simpsons' Radioactive Man.
Simpsons #155 was a pleasant 3.5 toad surprise. It launches a 3-part crossover in which the purveyors of Radioactive Man decide on a major crossover event where the main gimmick will be secrecy, all of the other gimmicks having been done to death. It's a little bit Hembeck or Ambush Bug, starting out with the Kruller (a shot at the big Marvel thingie) before visiting death, new costumes, parallel worlds, and oh so much more.
And my final books, Superman: World of New Krypton #4 and Action #878, are prime examples of the whole gimmick stuff that I think is strangling the DC Universe. The current thing in the Superman books is that the Kandorians have been enlarged and have moved to a planet orbiting Earth called New Krypton. Superman has moved there, where he fights with and for General Zod. And of course Earth is without Superman. This story-line crosses from book to book though each book has its own separate story-line, and these are the two books I've been reading while not paying attention to Supergirl or Superman. It's big event after big event in the DC Universe, and a never-ending series of mini-events in the different individual books, and since I don't/can't read 28 DC books a month to keep track of all of it I keep trying something for 2 issues then giving up when it ends up crossing over with something else. The fact that I've actually read 4 issues of New Krypton with plans to be back for a 5th, that's a rare good sign. But the fact that I'm so doubtful on the whole affair... These are 2-2.5 toad books and for old time's sake to be reading an old line superhero book I'll keep going. But I just know it will end badly.