In the middle of the last issue of Multiple Warheads, when Brandon Graham began introducing and developing new characters, the realization dawned on me that he had no intention of wrapping up his storyline when this mini-series ended with this issue. I don’t think I have any right to complain – Multiple Warheads started as a one-shot at Oni Press in 2007, and Sexica and her boyfriend Nikolai were not heard of again until this series began.
Still, I expected to see them in this issue. Instead, the whole thing is given over to that other organ-hunter (I forget her name, and it doesn’t appear once in this comic), who has continued to track the clone bodies that she lost a couple of issues ago. In typical Brandon Graham fashion, the plot is secondary to the strange, pun-fuelled visuals that Graham has filled his world with. The hunter is travelling with a pair of strange guys, and they are riding a sentient motorcycle across a series of pipes in the sky.
Eventually they come to a flying whale with a city on its back, which has a tree in the centre of it that gives them information as to where their prey is headed. There is a pirate attack, a new game is introduced, and there are a few odd conversations along the way.
Story-wise, this issue is pretty simple, but Graham has made this a visually stunning comic, much like he did for the other issues. It’s a shame that it will probably be a year before Graham has the next four issues (subtitled ‘Ghost Town’) drawn, but it will be well worth the wait.
I have very fond memories of Diggle and Jock’s Vertigo series The Losers, which dealt with a group of American operatives who had to go underground after they discovered corruption in their leadership. It was a taut military black ops thriller, at least until it started getting kind of strange towards the end.
Anyway, I was excited to see that the pair have teamed up again for a new series, which is much more urbane and grounded in a day-to-day existence that would be familiar to many comics readers.
Jake is a comics store clerk who, while biking to work one day, finds a smartphone lying on the ground in Golden Gate Park. After opening his store, and chatting with his customer/friend Steve, he discovers a number of disturbing pictures on the phone, which suggest that a murder has taken place. When the phone rings, he answers it, and when told he is speaking to the police, he immediately gives his name and location. Of course, it’s not actually a cop who comes to pick up the phone, but a man with a gun.
Jake finally figures out that things aren’t right, and he gets out of there. When the cops aren’t interested in helping him, and in fact return the phone to the man in the pictures (who is very clearly not dead), Jake and Steve end up searching the guy’s apartment, where of course, they discover a body.
I like the storytelling in this book, but there are a few things that are just too hard to overlook. I would think that anyone who has read as many comics as Steve and Jake have would not so quickly put themselves into the kinds of situations that fuel hundreds of horror and thriller stories. One would expect them to act in a more self-preserving way.
Still, now that things are underway, I expect that this book will get better. Jock’s art is always terrific, but I think I like it better in black and white.
One thing that has consistently made Antony Johnston’s Wasteland stand out from other post-Apocalyptic comics is the extent to which he has gone to develop and explain the world into which he has dropped his readers. Social orders are thought through to a high degree, and every town and person has some kind of backstory that has already been worked out before we meet it or them. I imagine that Johnston has notebooks full of ideas and stories that we are never going to read, and that exist only to inform what does make it into the comic.
In this issue, Michael is continuing on to A-Ree-Yass-I, the mysterious place where he believes that he and Abi were born. He’s on his own, having split from Abi a couple issues back, and is simply following his instincts. He comes across a grove of trees that have grown alongside a river in the middle of some wasteland. Michael’s never seen trees in such number of or such height, and he becomes especially interested in an old man who lives among them – a former artisian from the town of Wosh-tun. Michael doesn’t know that he’s being followed by Thomas, a man we met a few issues back, who has abilities somewhat like Michael’s.
This is a quiet issue, but not in the manner of the last issue, where Abi found herself in the town where her former religious leader was born. This issue is not about Michael overcoming any particular challenge or hardship; it’s more of a filler to show his journey and to give Thomas the chance to catch up with him, but it is still very good, as we get to see a little more of Johnston’s world.
Animal Man #17 – A year and a half after the story began, Animal Man and Swamp Thing are finally coming to the end of the Rotworld saga. This issue is the first of the finale, and it’s a cross-over issue, co-written by Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder, and featuring Swampy almost as much as it does Buddy. The battle rages on two sides of Arcane’s castle, as everyone pulls out all the stops to defeat the Rot-infested Justice League. It’s a very exciting issue, with great art split between Steve Pugh and Timothy Green (handling the Swamp Thing pages). Good stuff, with the next chapter coming out the same week.
Avengers #5 – This is the third issue of Avengers to come out in as many weeks (more if you count New Avengers), and while I like Jonathan Hickman’s writing a great deal, this is way too often and way too much. Hickman tossed a bunch of new Avengers on the team for its first story, and is now playing catch-up in introducing them. This issue gives us the lowdown on Smasher, the first human member of the Imperial Guard, who is also somehow now an Avenger. Really, I wouldn’t think that possible, as the Guard tend to hang out in Shi’ar territory, but there it is. I do like the suggestion that this character is the granddaughter of legendary (non-Marvel) character Dan Dare, and I like the way Hickman works in hints of the next threat to come from space. Adam Kubert’s art looks much more rushed than it did last issue (but, with a weekly schedule, can we expect any better?).
Blackacre #3 – This dystopian series is beginning to feel more and more like it could be a TV show, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. The plot is interesting, but three issues in, I have yet to care much about any of the characters, and that’s a bit of a problem for me.
Daredevil End of Days #5 – As much as I like Mark Waid’s Daredevil series, I think I may be enjoying this out of continuity mini-series more. Ben Urich continues to investigate DD’s apparent death, and the meaning of the word ‘Mapone’, which was the last thing he ever said. His trail takes him to Riker’s, where he meets with the Punisher, and later to Melvin Potter’s costume shop, as it becomes obvious that he is getting further and further away from the possibility of solving this mystery. This issue also has appearances by Bushwacker and The Bullet, two characters from the under-appreciated Ann Nocenti/John Romita Jr. run, and terrific art by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz. Great stuff.
Dial H #9 – My second favourite New 52 book (after Wonder Woman) continues to be a great read, as Nelson and Manteau infiltrate the secret Canadian base that holds the other dial, while the Centipede works his own agenda. This book is a wonderful blend of oddball and conventional heroics, with an unpredictable story trajectory. I’m pleased to see it survived the latest string of cancellations at DC, and I hope it keeps on keeping on, despite its sales being in the same ballpark as many of the recently axed books. Maybe this is one of those books that will be allowed more rope, simply because it’s so damn good.
Earth 2 #9 – With this issue, we check back in on Jay Garrick, who is being hunted by the World Army, specifically Wesley Dodds and Al Pratt. We also meet Khalid Ben-Hassin, who is Earth 2’s Dr. Fate, although he’s gotten rid of the helmet in this issue. This is the start of a new story centred on Dr. Fate, who has been an ally of Hawkgirl. This was a good comic, with some very nice Nicola Scott art, but I’m still having the same problem with Earth 2 – that James Robinson hasn’t really revealed much about where this series is going, as he continues to introduce new aspects of the world, without tying everything together.
Fearless Defenders #1 – The name ‘Defenders’ has become a bit of a tough sell at Marvel, with the last incarnation of the title, under Matt Fraction’s pen, only lasting about twelve issues, and being all kinds of weird. This new version has the adjective ‘Fearless’ added to the beginning (hopefully not in the effort to remind readers of Fear Itself), and is starring Defender’s mainstay Valkyrie, as well as Misty Knight, who was also recently unable to fuel the wonderful Heroes for Hire series for long. Needless to say, I’m skeptical about how long this book will be able to survive, but at the same time, plan on supporting the book for as long as it lasts. This comic is written by Cullen Bunn, of the excellent The Sixth Gun, and a variety of decent Marvel appearances. I like that he’s making this an all-female comic (for now at least – I do hope that characters like Gargoyle get to show up eventually), and that he’s giving two characters that I’ve always like equal billing. I especially like that next issue is going to add Dani Moonstar to the mix! The art is by Will Sliney, who has come a long way since his Farscape comics. This issue concerns some highly-trained smugglers stealing Asgardian artifacts, and it displays a nice balance between humour and action. I really hope there is a place in the market for this comic, as I really want to see it succeed.
Great Pacific #4 – I was a little concerned about just how much material Joe Harris would be able to squeeze out of his story about the rich scion to a Texas natural resources company, who has claimed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as his new home, in an attempt to rid the world of its pollution problems and oil dependency. Now, with four issues in, we have US Navy SEALS, French pirates, and a Polynesian squid-god, and things are looking busier and busier. I love the way Harris is writing the character of Chas Worthington, and I am genuinely interested in where this story is headed. Great art by Martín Morazzo makes this series a winner.
Green Arrow #17 – With Jeff Lemire taking over as writer, and Andrea Sorrentino coming on for art, I figured it was time to give Green Arrow another try. I have never cared much for this character, and the first couple issues of Ann Nocenti’s run did nothing for me, but these are two creators I respect, so they get their chance. I think Lemire’s doing a bit of a ‘Daredevil Born Again’ kind of thing here, with Oliver’s friends getting killed, and his company blown to bits in the first few pages of the comic. It turns out that Ollie has some kind of secret family legacy, and now he’s being attacked by a guy called Komodo, who is also a skilled archer. Something happened to Ollie on an island (does his original origin still hold? How about the one Andy Diggle and Jock gave him a ways back?). Sorrentino’s art is terrific here – much better than his work on I, Vampire, as Lemire keeps the story moving. I’ll be back for the next issue, and then I’ll see how I feel about this from there. Definitely a good debut.
Harbinger #0 – Harbinger has been my favourite Valiant title (except when Archer & Armstrong is), and I’ve been a fan of Joshua Dysart’s writing for years, but I don’t really know why this zero issue needs to exist. We already know that Toyo Harada is a bad ass with huge ambition, and we know enough of his past that what is revealed about him here isn’t all that special. I do like how, in the present day, Dysart has Harada getting involved in what’s been happening in Syria (this is the same guy that made Joseph Kony a central, if unseen, character in Unknown Soldier), but at the end of it all, I didn’t get much out of this book.
Hellboy in Hell #3 – Here’s how you write an issue of Hellboy: You have some creepy older guy guide HB around, talking all the while about how things were supposed to be. You have HB fall through a floor. You have him fight someone who knows more about him than he does himself. You toss in some big monster somewhere. Oh, and don’t forget the prophecies and prognostications! Those are important too. And the sleeping army – you don’t have to show it, just talk about it. To hide the paper-thin plot, you get Mike Mignola to make the book really beautiful. Wait one month, repeat. I still like BPRD, but I’m getting really bored with Hellboy. Is it because the other books have co-writers?
Iron Man #6 – After the first few issues were so lacklustre, I dropped Iron Man from my pull-file, and decided to give it one last chance with this issue, my first non-reserved one. This book only got so many chances because of the writing of Kieron Gillen, who finally starts to impress a little with this issue, most of which has Tony flirting with an alien princess in a scene that would impress Captain James T. Kirk. There are still problems with this book though – the first being the awful art by Greg Land, and the second being that this new story arc is based on wrapping up threads from Avengers Vs. X-Men, a crossover I’ve long moved past worrying about. If Gillen didn’t write such a good Tony Stark, I’d already be gone; I’ll have to see what kind of mood I’m in when the next issue comes out.
Mudman #6 – It’s been a long wait for this book, but it’s totally worth it. Paul Grist’s Mudman is a terrific companion book to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, as it’s essentially the same story (young teenager struggles to become super-hero), but this one is told from a completely different sensibility, as Grist works in a small-town British milieu, and really has a unique sense of pacing. Not a whole lot happens in this issue – Owen practises his abilities with Captain Gull, while his friend stumbles upon, and disrupts, a criminal transaction. This book is utterly charming, and a great read.
New Avengers #3 – I think it’s time for something more to happen in this book, as the Illuminati induct Beast into their group (only because he has Professor X’s Infinity Gem), and they try to stop the incursion of another reality into our’s. It’s a good comic, but a little too chatty (I don’t normally have a problem with that, but this is the third chatty issue in a row), and I’m still not all that clear on how this threat works. I do like how the group chooses to resolve its difference of opinion with Captain America though…
Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #6 – I continue to enjoy this book more than I expected to, as Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko build their story about mutant human interference in Ape societies, and as Dr. Milo tracks down the humans’ lair. There is a lot of strong character work going on in this series, especially where characters from the original movies, like Dr. Zaius and Cornelius are concerned. It’s very good.
Repossessed #2 – JM Riguet’s story about an exorcising detective agency is a good, fun read. His highly-specialized trio continue to look for the girl Sara Gold, who they believe is possessed, and along the way, they run into more major demons. Ringuet’s style is loose and very cool, and his colouring of this book is bright and flashy – it’s not really like much else on the stands.
Scarlet #6 – This book was originally solicited for November 2011. To give some perspective on that, the Occupy Wall Street movement was at its height at that point, having started around the time that production on this issue should have begun. This is a comic about a young woman, Scarlet, whose boyfriend was killed by a corrupt police officer. She decides to take her own steps to stop corruption, and in the process, sparks off a mass movement. In the letters page, Brian Michael Bendis talks about the unexpected prescience of this storyline, and explains that it is because he and artist Alex Maleev felt a little too close to the events on the news that they took their time returning to Scarlet’s story. I was enjoying this book before it went on hiatus, and reading this issue, I enjoy it still, but I have some problems with the way this story has played out, especially when Bendis goes into info-dump mode to explain why Scarlet suddenly has an armed entourage. As Scarlet hijacks a morning news broadcast, I was quickly reminded of Jonathan Hickman’s vastly superior The Nightly News, which dealt with the exact same issues. Now that we the spirit of OWS is as ratty as the tents in Zucotti Park and other encampments. this book feels like a relic of a sadly bygone era. It’s always interesting (and rare) when real events take after those of a comic book, because it gives the book a completely different meaning, but sometimes reveals that the story, like real life, is lacking a clear direction.
Secret Avengers #37 – Rick Remender ends his run (and this title, for a week at least) quite well, as he finishes off the long-running plot he started as part of his Uncanny X-Force, and finishes off the plotlines of characters we aren’t likely to see again soon, such as Ant-Man Eric O’Grady and original Human Torch Jim Hammond. I feel that there may be a few details left hanging, such as what happened to Hank Pym, who is nowhere to be seen in the Marvel NOW! titles, but otherwise this is a satisfying end to a run that never clicked as well as X-Force.
Swamp Thing #17 – The Rotworld story continues, and I was surprised to see that this issue was drawn by Andy Belanger, the artist from Kill Shakespeare. It makes sense, like Jeff Lemire, he’s a local, and his style more or less fits somewhere on the spectrum between Steve Pugh and the regular Swamp Thing artists Yannick Paquette and Marco Rudy, but his interpretation of some of the regular characters looks off compared to how the rest of this story will look when collected into trade form. Anyway, things continue to get crazy for all of our gathered heroes as Arcane comes out of his castle and tries to finish off the Red and the Green. It’s decent stuff.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #20 – So just what is Ultimate Venom supposed to be anyway? In this issue, he/it shows up at Miles’s house, thinking that Miles’s dad is Spider-Man. The fight doesn’t go well, and Miles gets a good dose of Peter Parker-style guilt at the end of the end of the story. It’s very nice having Sara Pichelli back drawing this series, although I like her better for the more character-based stories.
Winter Soldier #15 – Knowing that Marvel is only going to give Jason Latour and Nic Klein one arc on this book is too bad, because they have done a good job of picking up where Ed Brubaker left off, taking Bucky back into his past in an attempt to restore balance and apologize for his misdeeds as a tool of the Soviet Union. What I like most about this issue is the inclusion of Nick Fury (the real Nick Fury, not his Samuel L. Jackson look-alike son) as Bucky’s new guide into his underworld past. I do feel that if this character is ever going to survive in the modern Marvel Universe, he’s going to have to get over himself at some point, but I like how this is being handled. Nic Klein is an artist who can use a variety of styles, and he seems to be playing it a little safe here. I’m hoping he really opens up in future issues.
X-Factor #251 – We finally find out why so many people want to kill Tier, Rahne’s son, and it’s kind of a ridiculous coincidence that has put such a huge target on his head, as all the various Lords of the Underworlds (Mephisto, Hela, Pluto, etc.) want to kill him. This is a pretty standard issue of X-Factor – the book is always at its best when it’s not in the middle of a big storyline.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
‘68 Scars #4
All-New X-Men #7
Caligula Heart of Rome #3
Detective Comics #17
Fashion Beast #6
Garth Ennis Red Team #1
Legends of the Dark Knight #5
Superior Spider-Man #3
Green Lantern New Guardians Annual #1 – I have not followed any of the Green Lantern books post-Blackest Night, and have no interest in them anymore, but Threshold, the new space book written by Keith Giffen did catch my eye, especially when I found out that Stealth, the old LEGION character, is involved. I’d heard that Threshold really starts with this annual, so I thought I’d check it out. This is kind of a mess of a comic. For some reason, the Zamorans send Star Sapphire, Arkillo, and Saint Walker into Lady Stixx’s territory to see if they can manipulate her into going to war with the Guardians (who, apparently, have all gone insane again). They end up on a planet where everything is a cross between the Hunger Games and the Running Man, and a deep-cover Green Lantern (who is apparently the star of Threshold) sorta helps them out. This was a very wordy comic, and Giffen couldn’t seem to decide if he was going for cosmic action (like in Annihilation) or Justice League-style tomfoolery, portraying Arkillo as an angry buffoon. I now don’t think I’m too interested in checking out Threshold, if this is what it’s like…
After finishing the brilliantBuilding Stories a couple of months ago, I felt a powerful need to read more Chris Ware, which is not an easy thing to do. I’d read Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth years ago, but aside from that, it’s very difficult to get ahold of the rest of Ware’s work. His slow-moving and sporadic Acme Novelty Library series is out of print, and often exceptionally expensive to buy on eBay (except that I got lucky with a reasonably-priced #19).
I’d originally avoided this book when it came out because I knew it continued the ‘Rusty Brown’ story, which I had not read the beginning of, and which I assumed would be collected one day, like Jimmy Corrigan. It having been five years, with no further movement on this story taking place, I decided it was time to dive in.
This volume is split pretty evenly between two stories. The first, ‘The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars’, is a comics adaption of a science fiction story written by Rusty Brown, the protagonist of the second story. It follows the story of a man (also named Rusty), who is part of a four-person expedition to Mars, in a tale modelled after the pulp sci-fi books of the fifties. The four people are really two couples, who set up farmsteads on opposite sides of a special atmospheric field that allows them to walk around in a small bubble of atmosphere and warmth. Their plans to farm and start a colony there are dashed by the lack of a relief ship, and by the bitter jealousy of Rusty. This story is much more poetic than those it is taking after, as Ware uses the design of the page, and his usual minute attention to detail to create a pretty interesting tale.
After that, we are treated to a story about Rusty Brown, as we follow him through his first love, during his early days in the ‘big city’, through to his hasty second relationship and marriage. This is pretty familiar footing for anyone who is used to Ware’s work – the hapless protagonist can’t relate well to other people, and constantly misreads his lover’s cues, moods, and motivations.
Reading this book leaves me craving a little more Ware, because despite how depressing his work can be at times, it really is marvellous.
Album of the Week:
Marc Mac – Message From Soulville – Marc Mac fills this album with dark instrumental beats, layered with audio snippets that discuss the Vietnam War, and the state of race relations in the Army and in America in general at that time. It’s a fascinating listen, giving perspective on a period of time I’ve always been interested in, while providing some very lovely music. This is an unusual project, and one that is worth listening to.