The Weekly Round-Up #77 with Walking Dead, American Vampire, Butcher Baker, Star Wars: Legacy, Xombi & More
by James Fulton on May 30, 2011

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #85 / Witch Doctor #0

Written by Robert Kirkman and Brandon Siefert
Art by Charlie Adlard and Lukas Ketner

One of the things that has always appealed to me about ‘end of the world’ stories has been the actual mechanics of putting life back together.  The difficulties of rebuilding and reconstructing day-to-day comforts and routines would be massive.  Kirkman, in his long-running zombie comic, has addressed these issues a few times, like when Rick and his group moved into the prison a few years back, but now that the decision has been made to stay in the community where they’ve been living, and to improve upon it after their recent troubles, this is what’s taken centre-stage.

There’s a terrific scene where Rick meets with some of his friends, and the leaders of the community, to talk about methods that can be used to improve their safety, preparedness, and quality of life.  It’s a cool scene, as so many people have good suggestions.  Previously, this comic was about survival; now it’s beginning to become about rebuilding, and I’m looking forward to seeing these themes explored.

Of course, everyone is still recovering from the events of the last few issues.  Rick is in an especially dark place, for reasons I still don’t want to spoil.  Leave it to Kirkman to end the book with such an ambiguous scene, which has me worried about a certain character that I like very much, all over again.

On the flip-side of this book is the 0 issue for Witch Doctor, a new series being published next month by Kirkman’s Image imprint, Skybound.  The previews I saw of this title didn’t interest me, but reading this whole issue did.

The Witch Doctor is a man studying the mystical from a medical standpoint.  In this issue, he and his assistants (one of whom is X-23?) medically examine a vampire.  In this world, vampires are parasitic creatures, like the Goa’uld of Stargate fame crossed with the Aliens from Aliens.  The way in which this investigation is conducted is interesting, and the art in this book, with it’s attention to detail like stained glass hypodermic needles, is excellent.  I’m afraid I may have to buy the first issue when it comes out…

Other Notable Comics:

American Vampire #15

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

It’s becoming hard to find new ways to praise this comic, as it is so consistently impressive.  We’re in the middle of an arc (always the hardest time to review a comic) set during the Second World War.  Henry has traveled to Taipan with a squad of vampire hunters which is now under attack from a group of local vampires that are faster and more vicious than any type they’ve ever seen before.

They learn that the Japanese have built something strange on the island, but the locals don’t know what it is – only that it’s horrible.  What Henry and his compatriots don’t know though, is that Skinner Sweet is with them, posing as a normal American soldier.  While all this is going on, Pearl is rushing to Taipan to try to alert Henry of Skinner’s presence.

This issue flew past pretty quickly, but was still very satisfying.  As with every issue he’s done on this book, Albuquerque’s work is amazing.

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #3

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Mike Huddleston

The last issue left me a little unsure about this series, but with this one, I’m back on board whole-heartedly.  Casey really find a balance this month between his principle characters – Butcher Baker (who is maybe not all that interesting except as a walking, talking plot device), Arnie B. Willard, the walking cliche of a small town cop that is chasing Butcher, and the super villains who are looking for revenge.

I think the most interesting character in this comic is Jihad Jones, who in this issue, breaks into Butcher’s home/headquarters, and does some pretty nasty stuff.  He’s got that wise psycho thing going for him, and its interesting to see how the other, more bumbling villains relate to him.

Willard is another great character, in his homespun aggression and blissful embrace of trashiness.  And that, of course, is the central concept of this comic as a whole – the embrace of trashiness.  Casey admits as much in his essay this month, which compares comics to junk food.  What makes this comic work is its self-knowledge, as Casey tries to outdo himself with wackiness and trash, while maintaining a structurally sound exploration of superheroes.

I don’t think this comic would work without Mike Huddleston.  He employs a few different styles and art techniques while drawing this comic, and this helps keep things fresh and interesting on every page.

Kill Shakespeare #11

Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger

We’re getting very close to the conclusion of this remarkable series, but it seems like most of the big story moments that readers have been waiting for occurred in this issue, leaving the last chapter for final confrontations and wrapping up.  In this issue, we see Romeo and Juliet reunite, just after Will Shakespeare finally reunites with his children.

And that is where this issue is at its most interesting.  Shakespeare has been established in this series as a god, having created his ‘prodigals’, and then having abandoned them to the detrimental effects of free choice.  He likens himself to a father who has abandoned his children, and it falls to Hamlet (no stranger to daddy issues, him) to set him straight.  With this issue, it becomes clear that Del Col and McCreery have a lot more to say than just writing “Fables with Shakespeare characters”, which is how I saw this title when it started.  Instead, they are commenting on the nature of religion and higher powers, and the role that these things play for the common man.

Belanger continues to show remarkable growth, filling most of the book with terrific double-page layouts.  This book ends on three different cliffhangers, and I look forward to reading the conclusion.

The Mission #4

Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Art by Werther Dell’Edera

I’m really enjoying this title.  The Hoebers are making very good use of the single issue story to build upon a larger storyline, and are very slowly portioning out some information, leaving the reader to guess and puzzle together what is going on.

In The Mission, a man named Paul has been contacted by a man (or perhaps angel?) named Gabriel.  For the second time now, Gabriel has given Paul a mission, without explaining why he needs to do it, or what the greater purpose is.  The first time out, he commanded Paul to kill someone.  This time, it’s a much simpler task – Paul is to steal a carved ivory box from a small town museum.

The problem with this whole set up is that there is another side to whatever war Paul is fighting, and as he tries to complete his mission, he begins to run into the people from that other side.  Really, reading through this issue, I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone who isn’t a part of this great war.

I like the way the Hoebers are keeping Paul, and by extension, the reader, in a state of confusion.  I’m curious to see where this title is headed, and how long Paul is going to be able to keep his activities a secret from his wife.  Dell’Edera’s doing a fine job on the art, and the writing is pretty sharp.

’68 #2

Written by Mark Kidwell
Art by Nat Jones and Tim Vigil

This mash-up of war and zombie comics is really working well for me.  Kidwell continues to introduce and develop characters, such as the CIA agent Declan Rule, while establishing that the zombie phenomenon that our soldier protagonists is experiencing is happening across Vietnam.

Reading this, I had the thought that this comic is taking place in the same year that Night of the Living Dead was released, which explains why none of the characters are able to figure out what is going on exactly, and why the z-word hasn’t been used yet in this comic.

The main story jumps around some, introducing Rule, and also checking in on Yam, the Chinese-American soldier we met last month.  Yam has to decide whether or not he wants to rescue the sergeant that has been making his life miserable.  Meanwhile, back at Firebase Aries, the brass is figuring out what to do about the zombies.

Like the first issue, there is a back-up story set elsewhere in Vietnam, showing another aspect of the outbreak, this time in a comfort woman like enclosure.  In all, there’s some good stuff going on with these comics.

Skullkickers #7

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang

I’m still more than a little surprised that I’m enjoying this comic as much as I am.  I don’t usually go in for lighthearted sword and sorcery comics – it’s just not my cup of tea – but Jim Zubkavich has constructed this book in such a way that I’m really enjoying it.

This issue marks the return of the series after a short hiatus, and starts the new arc, ‘Five Funerals & a Bucket of Blood’.  Our heroes, who actually, finally, get named in this issue, are being taken to the capital city to be feted in their new roles as ‘Heroes of Mudwich’, after they saved the town from a monster in the first arc.

As is to be expected with these two characters, trouble is not far behind, and they quickly find themselves being ambushed while having dinner with a bunch of noblemen.  It’s not much of a surprise when they get blamed for what happened, and have to go on the run once again.  The character work in this comic is excellent, and the dialogue between the two is often very funny.  I like Huang’s artwork, which is starting to remind me of Leave It To Chance-era Paul Smith, were that book more influenced by manga.

This is a fun title.  If you haven’t been reading it, this issue is a great place to pick it up and give it a try.  Plus, the trade is only $10, so you should get that too…

Star Wars Legacy: War #6

Written by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema
Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, but since I was fourteen, I found it to be a guilty pleasure, tempered by my acknowledgment of the corniness and sheer hack-ery of George Lucas’s stories.  What I’ve always loved most about Star Wars was the potential to tell fantastic, sweeping stories on a grand scale.  That each of the movies (Empire Strikes Back least of all) fails in this has always bothered me, and I’ve tended to avoid the novels and comics that the franchise has produced.

And then I heard about John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s Star Wars Legacy, and decided to give the first trade a try.  This is what Star Wars should have been.  The Legacy book, which lasted for fifty issues before being wrapped up with this six-issue mini-series, is set while after the closing of Lucas’s stories.  It has a Skywalker, Cade, who is a roguish pirate, unsure of his connection to the Force.  It has a universe that is suffering under the grip of Darth Krayt and his vision of the One Sith.  Krayt is opposed by Roan Fel, who claims to be the true Emperor, and by Gar Stazi, the last free admiral of the Alliance.

The series was as sweeping as Star Wars should be, and Ostrander took the time to develop a number of characters, each with their own sense of a story arc.  This book delved into politics, and the usual Star Wars theme of good versus evil.  Best of all, this series was completely lacking in cutesy alien races and animals, and only had one droid, who got next to no screen time.  Like I have said before, it was Star Wars done right.

This issue, which wraps up the entire series, brings every sub-plot (except the Mandalorian one) to a fitting close.  Characters act according to their own internal logic, and the end of the book feels very satisfactory.  John Ostrander is a giant among comics writers, and it’s great to see him still putting out such good work.  As always, Jan Duursema does a wonderful job working with Ostrander.  The two of them are apparently working on a new Star Wars title; I can only hope it will be as good.

Strange Adventures #1

Written by Selwyn Hinds, Talia Hershewe, Peter Milligan, Lauren Beukes, Jeff Lemire, Ross Campbell, Kevin Colden, Paul Cornell, and Brain Azzarello
Art by Denys Cowan, Juan Bobillo, Sylvain Savoia, Inaki Miranda, Jeff Lemire, Ross Campbell, Kevin Colden, Goran Sudzuka, and Eduardo Risso

I wish that Vertigo did this type of thing more often.  This is a 75-page anthology of science-fiction themed short stories, by a nice blend of Vertigo all-stars (Azzarello, Risso, Milligan, Denys Cowan!), new comics royalty (Campbell, Lemire, Cornell, Miranda), and some up-and-comers who show that they deserve more of a spotlight.

The stories are pretty varied in their style and delivery, ranging from social commentary sci-fi through dystopian, and stopping off at alien abduction and weird alien space hero.  As with any project like this, not every story will work for every reader, but some of these stories were fantastic.

I think the Milligan/Savoia story about imaginary friends may be my absolute favourite.  It’s not exactly science fiction, but it fits with the tone of this anthology quite nicely.  A pair of friends are no longer sure which of them is real and which is imaginary, and they go to great lengths to prevent finding out.

Beukes and Miranda have an interesting story about consciousness sharing and the Brazilian favelas, which is beautifully illustrated.  Jeff Lemire resurrects Ultra the Multi-Alien in a bizarre, nostalgia-twinged tale.  Cornell and Sudzuka (now there’s an artist I’ve missed) give us a cool story about a writer who experiences alien abductions.

Surprisingly, Ross Campbell’s story didn’t work for me.  I love his work normally, but just like his recent story in an issue of Marc Guggenheim’s Resurrection, this tale didn’t actually end, and was therefore disappointing.  Likewise, I found Kevin Colden’s story about genetically engineered creatures as disturbing as it was wordy.

Most of the attention this book draws will be focused on The Spaceman, the introduction to a new character by Azzarello and Risso.  As usual, Risso’s work is brilliant, but I’m not sure I liked Azzarello’s writing.  I hate stories that rely on a lot of ‘future slang’, so I was quickly turned off this.  Still, I’m going to be giving their new series a try whenever it comes out.  I learned my lesson by not jumping on 100 Bullets very quickly.

In all, this is a great anthology, even if DC ruined a lovely Paul Pope cover by putting a ridiculous Green Lantern banner across the top (purposely not pictured here).

Xombi #3

Written by John Rozum
Art by Frazer Irving

Xombi has become my favourite DC Universe comic, and could be my favourite superhero monthly.  John Rozum and Frazer Irving are doing an incredible job with this book, and while I’m not surprised, I am saddened that this title is not getting more acclaim.

I don’t know anything about this character’s previous run with the Milestone imprint, except that it was also written by Rozum, and doesn’t appear to have ever been collected.  I gave this new series a try based solely on the strength of Frazer Irving’s artwork, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing.

In this first arc, David Kim, the Xombi, has been called in to investigate the escape of a prisoner from a prison comprised of a miniaturized subdivision, run by an interfaith coalition of jailers.  Aiding him are Catholic Girl, and a pair of superpowered nuns named Nun of the Above and Nun the Less.  As the story unfolds, David and his friends, along with a couple of golem and a creature made up of the souls of wasps that have died on windowsills have to fight Marantha, a lion-like wrath of god creature.

There’s more going on than this, but hopefully you can get the picture – this comic is crazy good.  In some ways, this book reminds me of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol, but it has more of a heart to it than that legendary series.  Amid all the action of this issue, Rozum treats us to a monologue on living given by a ghost, and uses a few pages to set up his villain, Roland Finch, as very smart man who only makes mistakes by design.

Wonderful writing, beautiful art.  Please, go buy this book; I fear it’s too good to survive in today’s comic market unless people start to get the word out.

Quick Takes:

Captain America #618 - It really is a shame that the current status quo on this book, with Bucky being the star and Steve Rogers working a supporting role, alongside Sharon Carter and the Black Widow is going to end, as it’s made the book very good.  I love the juxtaposition between the Butch Guice Bucky pages, and Chris Samnee handling everyone else, as this complicated story of Russian spies and grudges gets more tangled, and Bucky finds himself in an ever-worse position.  This is a great comic right now.

Detective Comics #877 - I still am really enjoying Scott Snyder’s run on Detective Comics, but found this issue suffered from a relative lack of Commissioner Gordon, who has been the best part of this series since Snyder took over.  I’m finding this arc a little strange, as Batman deals with villains like the Road Runner and the Tiger Shark, and confronting his own perceptions of the daughter of the man who killed his parents.  The writing and art are great, but I feel sometimes like the plot is designed to help show off things like Dick’s new Bat-Boat and Bat-Gauntlets.

FF #4 – I’m really enjoying FF, as Hickman is bringing together all of the plots and ideas he’s introduced into this book since he took over the Fantastic Four, yet is also finding lots of time to include some character moments.  This is easily my favourite FF run.  Reed is meeting with most of his deadliest enemies to figure out how to stop the alternate Reeds that are endangering the planet, while the Reeds make their first move, and Sue and Spider-Man head to Old Atlantis to stave off a coup.  Barry Kitson does the art on this issue, and it’s always great to see his work (even if him being on this title means that Ariel Olivetti is on Iron Man 2.0).

Iron Man 2.0 #5 – I was really enjoying the first arc of this series, and I think it’s a shame that a) Fear Itself has taken over the book for the next little while, causing that story to be abandoned, and b) Ariel Olivetti is the new artist.  What we get with this issue is a pretty disjointed story about the Immortal Weapons, that War Machine has just somehow been shoehorned into.  The story is way to decompressed, probably because it can’t go anywhere until Fear Itself #3 is published, and the art is as ugly as Olivetti’s worst.  I expect way more from Nick Spencer.

Justice Society of America #51 – Guggenheim’s doing just enough to keep me coming back, despite the fact that DC replaced one artist I don’t like (Scott Kolins) with another I like just as little (Tom Derenick).  I like the Monument Point angle – that there is something secret about the town that the JSA has decided to move to, and I’m really enjoying the parts that focus on The Flash as mayor.  I didn’t find much to like in the Dr. Fate and Lightning plot – it was too pedestrian – and wish that we would get some explanation of some of this new characters (like who the hell this Ri chick is).

Power Man and Iron Fist #5 - This was a decent enough mini-series, but wrapping up the overly complicated plot left little room in this issue for much interaction between the two title characters, which is what brought me to the comic in the first place.  I like Vic as Power Man, and think he’d be a good addition to Avengers Academy.

Secret Avengers #13 – I think we’ve now read what is going to have to be the strangest Fear Itself tie-in, as War Machine and Ant-Man fight to defend Capital Hill from Sin’s forces, while the Beast hangs out in Congress with an old congressman who has decided to hold his ground in an attempt to pass a bill for miners’ rights.  It’s strange even before the Lincoln Memorial comes to life and starts fighting Nazis, but gets even more bizarre when Beast hijacks Al-Jazeera to broadcast the politician reciting the Gettysburg Address.  Really, I’m not making this up.  I was excited that Nick Spencer was taking over this title, but now, I’m just curious to see where he’s going to go next.

Secret Warriors #27 – We’re close to the end now, and while I’ve been enjoying this book a lot lately, I found this issue to be pretty unbalanced.  We see the end of the Fury/Strucker/Kraken scenario that has been filling up the last few issues, and it’s quite final.  Then, there’s some stuff at the UN, and we check back in with Daisy and some of her team.  I’m not sure that this issue works on its own, but as a bridge between issues, I suppose it’s fine.  I’m not sure how I feel about the revelations of the last two issues – they cast a lot of doubt on a huge vein of Marvel history.

Super 8 #1 – This short comic was included in almost all of the DC books I bought this week, and while it was way too wordy, it had art by Tommy Lee Edwards, so I liked it.  I wasn’t sure what this movie was going to be about, so using this comic to bring us up to date on the backstory was clever.  So was not revealing how the aliens actually look.  Now I’m curious to see this movie.

Uncanny X-Men #537 – So Kruun is making his move on the X-Men, and taking them out one-by-one, at least until he starts to deal with Colossus and Kitty.  It’s good stuff, but it’s the middle of an arc, and it’s an all-action issue that leaves little to talk about.  I do like it when the Dodson’s are doing the art for this book though…

Venom #3 – I really didn’t expect that I would like this series as much as I have been.  Tom Fowler takes over for Tony Moore in this issue, but maintains a consistent approach to the title, as Venom gets manipulated by the Crime Master, and Spider-Man shows up for the obligatory third issue guest appearance (although not putting him on the cover probably negated the impact his appearance would have on sales).

X-Men Legacy #249 – This issue covers too much of the same ground as last week’s Prelude to Schism issue; in other words, Magneto revisits his time in Nazi Germany again, while the other members that make up the core cast of this book continue to recover from their experiences in the Age of X.  I’m hoping that next issue will be more impressive, or I might be done with this title (again).

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Amazing Spider-Man #662

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #6

Incorruptible #18

Mighty Thor #2

Planet of the Apes #2

Wolverine #9

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #38 – I picked this up because I like John Layman’s Chew so much.  It’s a good enough Spider-Man version of the plot of Flashpoint, where Spidey, the Hulk, and Deadpool are pulled into an alternate dimension, where the Amazing Spider is the only hero the world needs, but is not what he seems.  Good enough, but I’m not tempted to pick up the next two chapters.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5 – This series had started out so well, but has degenerated into Mojo-centred foolishness that can’t be saved by the efforts of either Adam Kubert or Jason Aaron.

Batgirl #20 – I don’t find this title to be as terrific as all the other writers on this site seem to, but it is a completely serviceable Bat-book.  That’s all I really have to say about it though…

DC Universe Legacies #10 – This trip down memory lane series was enjoyable, although bringing things right up to Identity Crisis and the OMACS in this issue made everything feel a little too recent.  I don’t know if this series was meant to smooth out any continuity issues post-Final Crisis, but it serves as a good primer to the DCU for any new readers.

Deadpool Max #7 – Things move from amusing to just kind of silly with this issue, as Deadpool goes through fatherhood and marriage issues.  Still, anything drawn by Kyle Baker makes the cut…

X-Men #9 & 10 – Okay, so the story is about as useless as this series (unless we needed a third or fourth monthly X-Men book), but Chris Bachalo positively kills the art on this thing.  The pages in issue 10 of Spider-Man and Emma Frost crawling through sewer tunnels are brilliant, as is just about any panel with the Lizard or one of his Lizard-y brethren.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

American Splendor: Another Day

Written by Harvey Pekar
Art by Ho Che Anderson, Zachary Baldus, Hilary Barta, Greg Budgett, Gary Dumm, Eddie Campbell, Richard Corben, Hunt Emerson, Bob Fingerman, Rick Geary, Dean Haspiel, Gibert Hernandez, Leonardo Manco, Josh Neufeld, Chris Samnee, Ty Templeton, Steve Vance, Chris Weston, and Chandler Wood

This is the first that I’ve read any of the late Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical comics series American Splendor, and I was surprised by two things.  The first is the caliber of artist involved in this anthology project.  Look over the list above – there are some incredible artists contributing here.  What I enjoyed most about that is seeing the different ways in which they draw Harvey.  He’s always recognizable, but each artist plays with his image subtly, emphasizing different aspects of his personality or appearance.  I think Richard Corben’s take on him was the furthest from the mark, but it was still very cool to see how he went about it.  I love Chris Weston’s contribution, and am always up for some Ty Templeton.

The second thing that surprised me was the utter aimlessness of the writing.  I expected that Pekar’s stories would be small, slice of life things, built around the struggles of everyday life.  What I didn’t expect was that they would be so dull in their depiction of the quotidian.  A typical story in this collection has Harvey get up in the morning, go to the bank, and then go to the pharmacy to get his prescription filled.  When it isn’t ready, he has to go to the HMO.  End of story.  There is no observation about life, or lesson learned; that’s just it.

Another good example has him call over the neighbour to help him fix the toilet.  Then he feels gratitude.  That’s it.  There’s another toilet-fixing story earlier in the book, but at least in that one, we can revel in Harvey’s victory.  Better stories involve conflict with his foster daughter, and there is one in which he remembers hurting a friend as a child.  These fit better into the autobiographical mode.  I know that the minute attention to boring detail was Pekar’s thing; it just doesn’t make for compelling reading.  Thankfully, the art is really good.

Chimo

by David Collier

Chimo is an autobiographical graphic novel from David Collier, who decided, in his early 40s, to re-join the Canadian military, with the goal of traveling to Afghanistan.  Collier was in the army as a young man, and achieved his first brush with success as a cartoonist during that time.

Now, married with a child, he wants to be involved in the Canadian Forces Artists Program, a successor to the glorious Canadian War Artist Programs of the first and second World Wars.  In its original form, the Canadian War Records, under the control of Lord Beaverbrook, sent Canada’s best artists (including the various members of the Group of Seven) into the trenches and along the front lines to paint what they saw.  This led to some incredible artwork.

The participants in the modern iteration of this program are not actual soldiers, and therefore are restricted, for insurance reasons, from going anywhere that is actually dangerous.  In order to get to Afghanistan, Collier re-enlisted, and almost immediately blew out his knee in a training exercise.

The bulk of this book is about a man fighting against time, and striving to live life on his own terms, albeit within a highly structured and regimented environment.  The text digresses all over the place, as we learn about the history of skipping rope, and the life story of Jackrabbit Johannsen, Collier’s childhood hero and pioneer of cross-country skiing.

I found the book to be very readable, and worked my way through it quicker than I expected.  That no part of this book ever took place in Afghanistan was not the disappointment I would have anticipated it to be.  Good stuff.

Hell Lost

by James Turner

I’ve become a big fan of James Turner’s work over the last few years, having first read Rex Libris, and then moving on to his other books, Nil, and Warlords of Io.  In each book, Turner has displayed a penchant for creating complicated bureaucracies and amusing characters.

This time around, he’s turning his satirical eye towards Hell.  This book, which I picked up at TCAF, comprises the first chapter of a new story, although I have no idea when or how the rest of it will be made available.  This is just a teaser, introducing characters and setting, and giving the reader just enough that he or she will want more.

The main character is Balthazar, a fallen angel who has just been released from “spiritual rehabilitation”, and tasked with fighting Archduke Baal.  We meet Balthazar, his pet dragon, his parents, and various other denizens of Hell.  Because this is a James Turner comic, we also get an exhaustive history of Hell, and a very detailed map.

This is a fun comic, although all it’s done for me is make me want to read the rest of the story.

The Tattered Man

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Norberto Fernandez

I’m not ever quite sure how I feel about the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.  I find their Jonah Hex to be wildly inconsistent, but often good.  Their superhero books, like the Freedom Fighters, have been disappointing, but their independent work, like The Last Resort and Random Acts of Violence have been brilliant.  I also enjoyed their Time Bomb at Radical.

So, when I saw this forty-page graphic novel being solicited, I thought it was a no-brainer.  It’s okay, but it’s not great.  Basically, the writers use this book to revisit the DC character of the Ragman, and re-write him into a slightly grimmer character.  That’s about it.

Of course, both the Ragman and the Tattered Man of this book have their origins in Jewish mythology.  In this book, an old man is assaulted by a trio of costumed junkie thieves on Hallowe’en, and while ransacking his home, come across a box of rags.  They ask him about them, and he proceeds to tell a lengthy story about his experiences as a child Holocaust survivor.  Then some stuff happens, and the rags are re-awoken to bring justice.  At that point, this book basically becomes an issue of the Spectre.

I’m not sure why these two writers felt the need to tell this story.  To read the back matter, both of them are incredibly proud of the originality of this book.  The thing is, there isn’t any.  I don’t see a single new idea or approach in this comic, and so I’m puzzled by this self-congratulation.  Fernandez does a good enough job on the art.  This isn’t a bad comic, it’s just not a special one.  I hope that the forthcoming one-shots written by these guys that I’ve pre-ordered are better.

Album of the Week:

Fallin’ Off the Reel III



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