Like every issue of Daytripper, Issue #4 follows the doomed Brás in the few days before his untimely demise. The crux of this issue is the death of Brás father Benedito, which occurs just as his wife goes into labor with Brás' first child. Even during what should be the greatest event of his adult life, Brás is unable to escape his parents' legacy and influence. Distracted as always, he is unable to really react to his son's birth, again falling short of human expectations. Daytripper continues to be a series that rewards the careful reader and repeated reader. By re-reading the first few issues, it's easier to stand back and see the direction of Daytripper. My favorite reoccuring motif has to be the obituaries. Himself an obituary writer, it's interesting to see how Brás's life is summed up by others, and the way that these obituaries never align with the character's view of life. If all that is a little too complicated, Daytripper #4 also makes for a great anti-smoking ad.
Breaking Into Comics, The MARVEL Way #1:
This was a big letdown. Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way is a bit of a misnomer for this two-issue series, as it's more of an artist showcase than an actual "how-to." So while it does contain some notable stories and impressive new talent, it lacks any kind of tangible advice for people who are getting their start in comics. No submission guide, no sample pitch or script pages, just some wishy-washy interviews with the book's artists that all basically say the same thing. It's worth picking up the book if you want to get familiar with Marvel's newest artistic talent, as there is some great work inside (Damion Hendricks, Michele Bertilorenzi, and Christian Nauck are the ones to watch), but if you were more interested in real advice on getting a career started in comics, you're better off reading something else.
After five stellar story arcs, Criminal remains an astounding achievement for both Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips. This book has yet to have a bad issue, story, or even a bad panel. And while "The Sinners" is far from the best arc in the series, it goes a long way in moving Tracy Lawless forward as a character, from tormented thug to unwilling detective back to a man of bare-knuckled principles. Though it's not a superhero story, there is a concrete mythos to Criminal, which makes it all the more rewarding. The back pages essay this month is a short history of the Femme Fatale by Jess Nevins, and though it's a good piece, it wasn't quite as entertaining as some of the other essays in the series. Personally, I like it more when the essayist focuses on a specific author, actor, film, or book, probably because then I know what to rent/read next. That's where this extra material comes in handy: as a short lesson in the genre, helping readers expand their knowledge of Crime fiction and film.
The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1:
When an impulse buy pays off, it's almost better than picking up a good issue of a reliable series. And with a name like Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange, how could I pass it up? This black and white one-shot was the most pleasant surprise of the week. At a whopping 48 pages, Hands of Doctor Strange does well by playing with Bronze Age traditions in storytelling, characterization, art, and content. Even Mark Carey's prose story, "Duel in the Dark Dimension," was surprisingly good. The Cure by Kieron Gillen and Frazer Irving also deserves credit for being the most straight-forward Bronze Age tale, adding a socially conscious moral to a fantastic story of Faustian deceit.
After a few disappointing issues, Jason Aaron redeems his first PunisherMAX arc by crafting one of the bleakest and better issues of any Punisher comic I've ever read. Aaron not only vindicated his characterization of the Kingpin, but he managed to weave in a new shade of desperation to every bloodied character involved. This issue is also a fantastic example of how to use cinematic elements in a comic book to your advantage. I think I actually held my breath during the silent first panel of the "after the credits" sequence. Now that he's laid the groundwork for a proper Kingpin/Punisher rivalry, expect things to only get worse for both camps. Like a lot of innocent bystanders to come, my fears about PunisherMAX have been laid to rest.
Ghost Projekt #1 (Oni):
I'm not sure about this book. I was really excited to see a book about missing chemical weapons in Russia, and the people tasked with accounting for these incredibly dangerous devices. But this looks like it's going to go the way of the supernatural, which feels like a bit of a shame. I was more interested in the story when it was completely grounded in reality, which it appeared to be for the first half of the issue. Despite this unfortunate plot turn, I'm not ready to completely give up on Ghost Projekt, so I'll reserve most of my judgments for the next issue.