If every new comics day of 2013 could be so filled with quality comics…
by Sean Murphy
Punk Rock Jesus has to be one of the best series Vertigo has published in years. Unlike many of their other recent projects, this title best exemplifies what Vertigo was designed for – delivering intelligent, thought-provoking stories that didn’t shy away from material that may make some people uncomfortable.
With Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy has created a science fiction epic that examines the role of Christianity in our modern, science-fuelled culture. It also touches on issues as diverse as the Irish Troubles, and environmental collapse. This issue runs thirty-two pages, without ads (still for only $2.99!), and wraps up the story wonderfully.
We open with Thomas McKael’s arrest for his involvement in an IRA bombing of a police station, which reveals some information about his childhood that we didn’t know. From there, we rejoin Chris, the supposed clone of Jesus Christ, and his band, the Flak Jackets, as they travel to perform in Jerusalem. As expected, this doesn’t go well, and they are attacked by terrorists almost immediately.
In the wake of this violence, many questions are asked back in America, and Rick Slate, the producer of J2, the reality show based on Chris’s life, has a lot of questions to answer. Later, the New American Christians attack a television studio in an attempt to kill Chris.
I have been completely blown away by the quality of Murphy’s writing for this series. I already knew he was a phenomenal artist, but the depth of the story he told in this series, both in terms of the questions in raises, and in the way in which he wrote these memorable characters, has impressed me. I wish that Vertigo, or any company really, was able to produce books this good more often. Very highly recommended.
Albuquerque has always done a wonderful job on this title, and this issue is no exception. He also seems a little reinvigorated by the prospect of a new, darker storyline. It’s very nice to see that this book is getting back on track, and now I hope that the hiatus is not going to be a very long one.
I love the fact that Ed Brubaker has decided to make Fatale an on-going series instead of limiting it to the sixteen or so issues he’d originally intended, mostly because it gives him the space to tell stories like the one in this issue.
This is kind of a ‘Times Past’ one-off, checking in with Josephine back in 1936, at a time when she still hadn’t figured out everything about herself and her abilities. When the book opens, she’s convinced a police officer in Texas to take her across the state, ruining his own life in the process.
Jo goes to visit Alfred Ravenscroft, a writer of mystical pulp stories, who Jo thinks may know something about her and her situation. Ravenscroft’s story is a strange one, encompassing his own brush with the otherworldly as a boy in Mexico in the 1890s, which has had a lasting effect on him and his mother.
This is a strange issue, and while it doesn’t reveal a whole lot more about Jo, it does suggest that there is a lot more to Fatale than its central character. We start to get a sense of the larger forces at work in this series, and this story provides Brubaker the chance to include the pulps that this series is a love letter to.
The back-ups in this issue are drawn by Ulises Farinas, who I’ve only just learned about through his story Gamma, in Dark Horse Presents. I’ve been enjoying that strip, but was surprised to see him use a much more detailed art style in this book, making his pages pretty consistent with the wonderful work that Ross Campbell has been doing here monthly.
I know it’s difficult to recommend a book once its conclusion has been announced, but Glory has been a terrific series, and I encourage anyone who likes their superheroics to be a little left-field, or anyone who is sick of the way women are usually portrayed in comics, to check this out.
With this, the penultimate issue in his mind-blowing Godzilla mini-series, James Stokoe asks the question that many monster-hunters are probably afraid to ask themselves – how do you retire when you’ve never been able to accomplish your mission?
This issue is set in India in 1987, and Ota, the man whose story we’ve been following since the end of the Second World War, is starting to feel both his age and the futility in his mission. Just about the only two constants in his life have been Godzilla and failure, and he’s getting a little tired of both of them.
Of course, this is the 80s, so science has progressed to the point where the people in the AMF have built their own Mechagodzilla, a Shogun Warriors style giant robot to fight the lizard. Ota has almost nothing to do on this mission, until he happens to notice Deverich, the bad guy with the monster-luring device we met last issue. The device brings a new type of Godzilla to the sub-continent, and things get pretty crazy.
Stokoe is so good at books like this that it could be illegal. His hyper-detailed art looks fantastic here, as it has in every issue of this series, but I’m noticing that his writing is really growing as well. I’ve mentioned before how difficult it is to make anyone care about anything in a monster comic, but now I’m quite looking forward to seeing how Ota’s half-century war with Godzilla ends next issue.
Last issue, the combined leadership of the American Manhattan Projects and the Soviet Star City initiative decided to join forces and pursue their own scientific ends separate from their respective masters’ wishes.This issue, the Americans decide to put a stop to them. The comic opens on a meeting between President Harry S. Truman and his advisors, which appear to include a man in a luchadore mask, someone who only speaks in Egyptian hieroglyphs, and most surprisingly, the AI of former President FDR, who we thought was firmly entrenched in the Projects’ ranks.
What follows is a bit of a bloodbath, while FDR-controlled robots attack Los Alamos, Star City, and the Singularity, the orbital space stations the Russians had built. Much of the comic focuses on Wernher Von Braun, the former Nazi rocket scientist who drives much of what happens in the Projects, as he has to escape Star City and make his way to Los Alamos to shut off the FDR AI.
This is another very entertaining issue in a series that has surpassed all expectations I had going in to it. Hickman has consistently written a crazier, freer flowing story than I’ve seen him do before, and Nick Pitarra has been there every step of the way backing him. This is a terrific comic.
by Simon Roy
I have loved the work that Brandon Graham had done with this series since relaunching it early last year. He has moved the old Extreme character into the far future, and has created a myriad of strange races, worlds, and situations for Old Man Prophet, and his various clones who work for the Earth Empire, to adventure in. This issue, however, is not by Brandon Graham, but is instead written and drawn by Simon Roy, the artist who drew the first few issues of Graham’s run.
Simon Roy first caught my eye with his excellent self-published comic Jan’s Atomic Heart, which I bought at TCAF a number of years ago. For this issue, he keeps things within the formula established by Graham (Roy often gets a story credit on this series). John Ka is a Prophet clone who wakes up on Earth and spends a fair amount of time alone (aside from an insect which has bonded with her) until she discovers that a group of feral humans are living up on the side of a mountain.
These humans have more in common with Neanderthals, and are usually raised as meat by the races that now control the Earth, but this group has learned to wield tools, and are definitely sentient. As it turns out, they are living with another Prophet, one who was reawakened a few years ago. This John has to choose between her mission and her new lifestyle, in a story that echoes some of the best literature built up around missionary work (it kind of reminded me of At Play in the Fields of the Lord).
Roy is an excellent artist and a strong writer. I like what Graham does with this book, but also enjoyed getting a bit of a break from his story to explore this world in a little more detail.
This issue also has a very good sci-fi back-up story by Daniel Irizarri, who I’m unfamiliar with.
All Star Western #15 – In this issue, Jonah Hex gets into it with Mr. Hyde, but things are complicated by the fact that Dr. Arkham has been dosed with his formula, with some amusing results. This arc is starting to drag a little, I’m afraid. I’ve been loving the Scalphunter back-up, but this month I really have to question that Palmiotti and Gray are showing a British officer assisting an American against the very angry Scalphunter; it really doesn’t match with the spirit of the time period, unless it’s all a ruse that will be explained next issue. Still, I’m all for a comic that depicts a reasonable portrayal of Tecumseh.
Batman Incorporated #6 – I find it strange that the regular Batman title gets so much press, when Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. title is so vastly superior. Batman and Talia Al Ghul are arguing again, and Batman is given a choice – either his son is to live, or Gotham, in this story that involves Bat-robots, the probable death of at least one of the Incorporated crowd, and a new pet for Damian. Morrison balances his strange plot with some nice character work, and Chris Burnham never disappoints.
Blackacre #2 – This bleak futuristic series is managing to hold my attention pretty well, as Hull runs in to trouble completing his mission, which reveals to him how that mission was supposed to end. We learn a little more about the politics both inside and outside of Blackacre, the gigantic walled community where the rich are living out the end of the American experiment. I think I’m curious enough to get the next issue, but am still not sure if this is a mini-series or an ongoing.
Daredevil: End of Days #4 – Ben Urich’s investigation into Daredevil’s death continues to take him to some very dark places in this out of continuity mini-series by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson, and Bill Sienkiewicz. It also continues to be one of the better Daredevil stories I’ve read in a long, long time, with a feeling to it that reminds me more of Frank Miller’s run on this book. It’s good stuff.
Great Pacific #3 – The adventures of oil industry scion Chas Worthington continue on New Texas, the name he’s given to the Pacific Garbage Patch, which he’s claimed as his own sovereign nation. This issue, Chas is lost on the Patch, and is being stalked by Yalafath, the giant octopus. He finds a Frenchwoman and an airplane, but none of these things help all that much. This series is beginning to get a bit of a Lost feel to it, which is not where I’d expected it to go, but I am enjoying it nonetheless. Great work by Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo.
Hellboy in Hell #2 – Everything here is very dreary, and it all feels like I’ve read it before, yet I like Mike Mignola’s art, so I’m sticking around for a little while, I think. I definitely don’t enjoy this book as much as I do BPRD, mostly because very little seems to happen here. Hellboy is just being given a tour of Hell, and revisiting the moment of his birth.
Invincible #99 – Thousands are dead as the world’s coastal cities are flooded, and Invincible spends the issue fighting Dinosaurus in a series of splash pages. This issue mostly just exists to set up the big 100th issue next month, and Kirkman and Ottley do fill the comic with excitement.
Iron Man #5 – I’m still not feeling this latest Iron Man series, but think that sending Tony Stark intos space with the next arc might breathe some life into things. This first arc has simply had Tony running around dealing with people using Extremis in done-in-one stories that have lacked emotional punch. This issue at least has Pepper Potts examining Tony’s mindstate, but I still don’t hear Kieron Gillen’s voice in this. Most mystifying is the letters page, which only has people praising Greg Land’s art – I wonder if those are the only letters they got. Do people actually like Land? If you do, please comment below – I want proof that those people exist.
Justice League Dark #15 – Ray Fawkes joins Jeff Lemire on the writing with this issue, but it does not mean that the book is as good as One Soul and Sweet Tooth combined. I’ve been on the fence with this title since it started, only committing to it when Lemire started writing it, but I think I may be jumping off soon. The rotating cast has left me without strong feelings for any of the characters (although I do like this issue’s very truthful John Constantine). There’s just not enough going on in this book to really keep my interests anymore. I thought Tim Hunter showing up might be what did it, but it’s not enough.
Morbius The Living Vampire #1 – I think we all can agree that a series featuring Morbius was going to be a tough sell in today’s comics market, and so I have to wonder at the notion that the first arc should be based around him living on the streets in Brownsville and running afoul of a local street tough with facial piercings and a penchant for having teenage boys roll bums for him. I’m not seeing the kind of drama that would make me want to come back for another issue. The only thing that might get me to pick up this comic again would be that the writer, Joe Keatinge, has really impressed me with his run on Glory. This, however, didn’t make me like Morbius’s character a whole lot, or care about what will happen next to him.
New Avengers #1 – Towards the end of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and FF, he had the Richards crew travel to Wakanda, where he easily fixed just about everything that had been wrong with T’Challa since Reginald Hudlin first started messing with the wonderful work that Christopher Priest had done with the character. Now, this secondary Avengers title looks like it’s going to be built around T’Challa, and I couldn’t be happier about that. The threat introduced in this book is pretty vague, but I trust Hickman a great deal, and I can’t wait to see where he takes this story. I do wonder how this book is going to fit into continuity, seeing as how three of the main characters here (Captain America, Iron Man, and Mr. Fantastic) are all off to other worlds, times, or dimensions in their own titles. Still, Steve Epting’s art is great, and the writing is top-notch.
Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #5 – This issue starts a new arc in Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s excellent Planet of the Apes series. After the flood waters have receded, Dr. Zaius has to figure out how to feed his people, and protect them from the telepathic humans who blew up the moon. This is an interesting look at Ape politics, and forges a stronger tie to the two writers’ previous two Apes mini-series. I’m very impressed with the writing here, and find myself increasingly drawn into this story.
Talon #3 - I’d decided that this issue was going to be the last one I bought unless this comic did something to impress me quickly, and then it did by introducing a team to help Calvin Rose take on the Court of Owls, and to help him do it in a slightly more unconventional way than we’ve seen so far in this series. Guillem March’s art looks terrific, and I feel that James Tynion IV is growing into his role as writer for this series. I’m going to get the next issue now, and if it stays this good, I might be putting this back on my pull-list.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #19 – Sara Pichelli is back to drawing this comic, and things couldn’t look better. The series is getting itself back to normal after the last two Ultimate cross-overs, and that means that Miles is trying to figure out how to be a hero (and make web-fluid), while Detective Maria Hill is investigating Betty Brant’s death, and Venom is lurking around. It’s a very good issue, except I don’t understand why Miles and his friend are showing each other large-print messages on their phone across a classroom instead of just texting each other, which would be a lot more subtle. This is a solid issue.
All-New X-Men #5
Bloodshot #3-6 – Bloodshot is the only Valiant book I wasn’t immediately taken with (although I’m still a little unsure with Shadowman), but I thought I’d give it a second chance. I still think it’s the weakest of the line, as Duane Swierczynski can’t decide if he’s telling a decompressed story, or just jumping from action scene to action scene (like moving between issues four and five, only to learn that between issues, Bloodshot had found the scientist that helped make him, and got him to work with him. I still feel like there’s a lot of potential in this book, and Manuel Garcia’s doing a great job drawing it, but I’m still not hooked. The big question will come when the cross-over with Harbinger happens, and I have to decide if that will cause me to drop that superior title.
Captain America and Iron Man, Namor, & Black Widow #635-639 – I like the way Cullen Bunn had Captain America continue to fight the same threat while teaming up with different Avengers, although the multi-versal shenanigans get a little confusing by the later issues, when there are two Black Widows and multiple Earths involved. The Namor .1 issue doesn’t fit with the rest of the story, but does introduce the shadowy group that Bunn’s been writing about in Wolverine. I wonder if they’re going to be showing up in his Defenders series? I have to say that I am a little disappointed by Francesco Francavilla’s art in the Black Widow arc – it’s much more rushed looking than anything I’ve ever seen him do.
Ennis has a really good handle on Nick Fury as a character and as a force of history. The book is not just about Fury and the missions he’s sent on, it’s also about a shady American senator and his wife, who is also Fury’s girlfriend. Ennis is quite upfront about the corruption in the American government and its involvement in foreign affairs, and that’s always interesting to read about.
I especially like Goran Parlov’s artwork. He’s drawing this series in a very European style, and it works well with the settings he portrays. I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t been buying this series all along, but now that I’m caught up with it, I’m going to get the remaining four issues for sure.
Mars Attacks #1&2 – I loved Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks movie back in the day, but that’s the extent of my engagement with the franchise. I will say that I think IDW couldn’t have picked a better team to approach this new comic based on the classic trading cards, as John Layman and John McCrae have the right sensibility and humorous approach to make this series successful. The first issue is a prologue to the whole series, showing what happened when the first four Martians arrived on Earth, while the second issue introduces the President of the United States, and an ex-astronaut turned Senator who helps keep him alive. This is an enjoyable, fun book.
Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1&2 – I was very excited to hear that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, the team that make Marvel’s wonderful Daredevil series, were going to be collaborating on a new Rocketeer mini-series. And then I read it. There’s nothing wrong with this comic, if you like the Rocketeer as Dave Stevens did it, but there’s nothing new or exciting here either. I can understand wanting to make a tribute story that is reverent and pays homage to the original, but this adds nothing to the character or the title. Also, if you haven’t read Stevens’s original stuff, you’d have no idea who the characters are (especially the villain). Disappointing.
Scarlet Spider #5-9 – I’m continuing to enjoy Chris Yost’s run on this book, as SS gets used to being a superhero, and ends up having some problems with The Rangers, which has to be just about the strangest team in the Marvel stables. I prefered Ryan Stegman on the book to Khoi Pham, but still, this is a very good comic.
Wildcats: Ladytron – I was hoping for something more like Joe Casey’s later Wildcats Verson 3.0, but this is more of a wild, ultra-violent look at the origin of the cyborg killer who will be showing up in the DCnU soon enough. This one-shot from 2000 was well worth picking up though, because of the early Eric Canete art, and because of how much I miss Wildstorm.
Worlds’ Finest #0, 6 & 7 – This is an effervescent little title, with some very nice art by Kevin Maguire and George Perez. I have no idea how or why someone from Apokalips would be stealing Bruce Wayne’s money, but it did lead to a nice two-issue guest stint for Damien Wayne, which is always fun. There is nothing at all wrong with this comic, but at the same time, I don’t see any reason to keep buying it beyond the art. I wish the story were a little more compelling.
Wolverine MAX #1 – I don’t see much here to recommend this series. It opens with Logan being the sole survivor of a plane crash and shark attack, before being rescued and taken to Japan. He’s unable to remember anything about himself (although he knows he can speak Japanese). There are also some flashbacks through most of his life, which while drawn by Connor Willumsen, look like someone’s bad attempt to draw like Kyle Baker. The only thing that makes this issue a MAX comic are the three or four f-bombs Logan drops; there is a lot of potential in taking this character to a ‘mature readers’ setting, but this book by Jason Starr and Roland Boschi is not it.
by Naoki Urasawa, with Takashi Nagasaki
Partway through this second volume of 20th Century Boys, the very popular manga series by Naoki Urasawa, I was hit with the somewhat unwelcome realization that I would have to get all twenty-five or so volumes of this series, because I think I’m hooked.
This is a strange story, unfolding in a manner that is pretty unconventional, at least for Western comics, and which really adds to the mystique and wonder of the series. A strange cult has popped up in Japan (I’m not sure when this series was begun in relation to the Aum Shinrikyo attacks) led by a mysterious ‘Friend’. The cult has members throughout society, and many connections to a group of friends who grew up together.
Of that group, one member was killed in the first volume. Now Kenji, who was the leader of the group as children but currently tries to keep a struggling convenience store afloat while caring for his missing sister’s baby, is trying to figure out what happened to his old pal. The series is arrayed in a bit of a kaleidoscopic fashion, as each chapter frequently features new characters or events that then become connected to the main story, sometimes unexpectedly. We get to know characters like the only girl from Kenji’s group, and a homeless man who seems to be able to predict the future in his dreams. We also learn a fair deal about Kenji’s missing sister, which only adds to the mystery.
Urasawa, in addition to being an excellent artist, is a strong writer of character. We meet an older detective in this issue, close to retirement, and in the span of two chapters, come to care about him and his life’s struggles. There are hints of bigger problems to come, as we get glimpses of germ warfare using an ebola-like virus, and of course, the threat of giant robots rears its head. Still, this is a series that is very grounded in the day-to-day life of its characters, and therein lies its greatest strength.
I only sawQuadrophenia once, years ago, and so can’t remember to what degree Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel The Originals matches the story note for note, but the homage does run pretty deep.Lel and Bok, two British teens, dream of becoming Originals. They already dress the part, with jackets that go down to their ankles, but they haven’t been able to get together enough money for hovers, the Originals version of the scooters the Mods rode. After meeting some Originals, and helping them in a fight with some Dirt, the boys get invited in to the gang.The story moves along pretty predictable lines. The presence of a girl strains the boys’ friendship, and conflicts with the Dirt escalate after Warren, a wannabe, takes things too far one day.
Still, as much as I knew how this would end before I’d read five pages, I enjoyed the way that Gibbons drew and told the story. The gleaming and very complicated hovers were the only real futuristic element to this book – everything else looked much as it would have back in the late 60s and early 70s, aside from the clothing, where Gibbons really let himself go nuts.
Gibbons has always been a wonderful character artist, and that continues to be the case here. This is an entertaining book.
I really enjoyed Blue Estate, Viktor Kalvachev’s screwball gangster series that ended earlier this year, and I wanted to check out his earlier comics work.Pherone was originally serialized in Heavy Metal, and is constructed that way, with a series of short chapters telling the story. Eve is a beautiful woman who is shown seducing and killing men that she has targeted. The thing is, every morning after a job, she has no memory of what has happened to her beforehand. She keeps dealing with a pair of handlers who she does not like at all, and we learn that she used to have a close relationship with a woman named Cass, but for most of this book, we are as in the dark as Eve is.Eventually, we get the full picture, and we learn what Pherone is. This is a nicely structured story, and Kalvachev shows off his ability to use a number of different styles to tell a story. There’s definitely an element of Sin City to this book, and it should appeal to readers who like that series. This is a good, quick read.
DJ Mitsu the Beats – Solid Black – As I try to learn more about rare jazz recordings, I can think of no better tour guide than Japan’s DJ Mitsu the Beats, and this wonderful compilation of stuff you’re not likely to hear anywhere else. It’s good stuff.
Tags: 20th Century Boys, All Star Western, Batman Incorporated, Bill Sienkiewicz, Blackacre, Bloodshot, Boom, Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Burnham, chris samnee, chris yost, Corinna Bechko, Cullen Bunn, Daredevil End of Days, Dark Horse, David Mack, DC, Duane Swierczynski, Ed Brubaker, Fatale, francesco francavilla, Gabriel Hardman, George Perez, Grant Morrison, Great Pacific, Greg Land, Guillem March, Hellboy, IDW, Image, Invincible, Iron Man, James Tynion IV, Jeff Lemire, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Casey, Joe Harris, John Layman, John McCrea, Jonathan Hickman, Justice League Dark, Justin Gray, Kevin Maguire, khoi Pham, kieron gillen, Klaus Janson, Manga, Manhattan Projects, Manuel Garcia, Mark Waid, Mars Attacks!, Martin Morazzo, Marvel, Marvel NOW!, MAX, Mike Mignola, Morbius, Naoki Urasawa, New 52 (DC Comics), new avengers, Nick Pitarra, Planet of the Apes, Planet of the Apes Cataclysm, Prophet, Ray Fawkes, Robert Kirkman, Rocketeer, Roland Boschi, ryan ottley, Ryan Stegman, Sara Pichelli, Scarlet Spider, Sean Phillips, Simon Roy, steve epting, Takashi Nagasaki, Talon, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Valiant, Viz, wildcats, Wildstorm, Worlds' Finest