The Weekly Round-Up #174 With Godzilla, Abe Sapien, Glory, Great Pacific, Mind The Gap & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #5

by James Stokoe

Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Gigan, and a new Mechagodzilla fight it out for the last time in a battle that includes a gigantic cannon that shoots miniaturized black holes.  In a comic drawn by James Stokoe.

I’m not usually one of those readers who gets totally swept up in the potential for excessive grandeur in comics; I prefer a nicely drawn character-driven piece more often than not, but this is a freaking awesome comic.  James Stokoe has taken a property that I’ve long associated with little potential for real drama, and put together a mini-series that told a solidly entertaining story.

We follow the narrator of the story from his first encounter with Godzilla in post-war Japan through a half-century of escalating monster-threats, and ever-more destruction across the globe.  In this final story, set in 2002, he’s an old man who knows that he doesn’t have much time left, but he’s determined to go out fighting.

Sure, in that sense the story is kind of conventional, but none of that matters once you look at Stokoe’s stunning artwork.  And the best thing about this series?  Now that it’s done, hopefully Stokoe will go back to his brilliant Orc Stain…

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #1I’d thought that this new Abe Sapien series was going to be a mini-series, but apparently it’s an on-going, and is going to feature the art of the various Fiumara brothers (I assume they are brothers, but don’t actually know that), starting with Sebastián.  This issue establishes that Abe has fled the BPRD after spending months in a coma, and now spends most of this issue on a boxcar trying to get away from everyone he knows.  Mike Mignola and Scott Allie use a few hobos to establish what’s been going on in the Mignola-verse, but are much more coy about Abe’s current state of mind and why he’s on the run.  It’s a good start, and I’m happy to see more of a character I’ve always enjoyed, and who has been pretty scarce of late, but I’m a little worried that the Mignola brand is getting stretched too thinly, what with at least two BPRD minis running, and a constant stream of one-shots and minis featuring characters like Sledgehammer 44 and Baltimore.  Mignola puts out almost as many monthly books as all of Valiant these days.

All-New X-Men #10 – Scott Summers (from the current day) comes calling at the Jean Grey School in a bid to recruit some more soldiers for his fight, and of course, that leads to a lot of posturing and arguing.  At the same time, Mystique is going around causing trouble, and gaining the attention of Maria Hill and SHIELD.  Not a whole lot happens in this book beyond that, but I will say that Brian Michael Bendis is doing some good character work.  I didn’t really like the way that Stuart Immonen is drawing Logan in this book – he looks really animalistic, even when just standing around, and this issue helps prove my long-held belief that the only person who should be allowed to draw costumes designed by Chris Bachalo is Chris Bachalo.  Magneto’s helmet looks ridiculous.  While reading this, it struck me that we haven’t seen Rachel Grey react to Jean’s presence yet, and that seems like a missed opportunity.  As well, I’m sure Rachel would have been able to pierce Cyclops’s squad’s psychic defenses, seeing as how we know that Emma Frost’s powers aren’t working.  Anyway, I’m giving Bendis a few months to impress me with the X-books, and this is not really living up to the hype.

Animal Man #19When DC makes such a big deal about their covers for an entire month, promising that each of them will make you stand in the store and say, “WTF?”, you wouldn’t really expect that to happen, but you might, at least, expect that something surprising were to happen on that cover.  Now, had I not read the last issue of Animal Man, I may have been slightly surprised to see that this issue’s cover stems logically from the events of the last issue, and I suppose for some comics, which often don’t have covers connected to their content, that would be a surprise, but here, the promotion fizzled, like many of DC’s recent initiatives.  Now, I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing covers – I buy comics for their content.  This is a good enough issue.  Ellen is utterly bereft in the wake of the death that occurred last issue, and she’s ready to split from Buddy for good.  Grief-stricken, he travels to the Red, where he gets himself in a bit of trouble with the totems, as Jeff Lemire works at setting up a future for this title in the wake of his year and a half long epic story.  I’m always happy to see Steve Pugh art, but I felt that this issue needed more Mary Frazier, Ellen’s mother, and my favourite member of the cast since the Jamie Delano Vertigo days.

Bedlam #6 – The first story arc finishes here as The First (think Batman) fights a naked metal-winged castrated man on a killing spree in a hospital while the series’s real hero, Fillmore interviews the man responsible for his murderous actions, an incarcerated defrocked Catholic bishop.  Bedlam is a very strange title, in the way in which it has upended the usual Batman/Joker situation, and I find that it keeps getting more interesting as it continues.  I’m not sure what the second arc is going to be about now, as Fillmore’s relationship with the police appears to have come to an end without anyone figuring out who he really is, but I always trust Nick Spencer to have a few more cards up his sleeve.

Dial H #11 – The only successful WTF cover of the week shows us Nelson dialling The Flash, as things step up another notch in China Miéville’s excellent series.  We’ve already established that the dials pull heroes from somewhere, but this is the first we’ve seen a well-known hero show up (I’m pretty sure this is the New 52 Barry Allen Flash, although his costume lacks all the speed-lines of his Francis Manapul-drawn self).  While Nelson and Manteau are dealing with this, and the new level they’ve taken their relationship to, the Centipede has brought the shadow on the line around to help him.  This is a great series, and it keeps getting better.

Earth 2 #11I can kind of see how this went down – James Robinson received a memo from the DC powers that be saying that he needs to debut a new character on the inside portion of the WTF cover this month, and so he just picked out someone that was eventually going to be in the book, and gave them two measly pages that don’t really interfere with the story that was always planned for this issue, and also don’t really shock or surprise the reader (or, in any way, live up to what is suggested on the cover).  As far as issues of Earth 2 go, this one was fine, although I find my interest in this comic continues to wane.  Khalid has a chat with Nabu’s spirit before putting on the helmet again, while Flash fights a creature in the Tower of Fate, and his mom learns Wotan’s origin, not that anyone particularly cares.  The book is pretty, thanks to Nicola Scott, but I’m finding myself getting bored.

Glory #34 – Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell wrap up their epic run on this title with this issue, and I have to say that it hits all the right notes.  Following last issue’s climax, Gloriana is gutted by the deaths of so many of her friends, and she makes special arrangements to be allowed to visit the afterlife with the stated intent of saying goodbye one last time (although she really plans to bring them back).  The afterlife in general, and especially in comics, is usually portrayed as either a very forbidding place, or one that is pretty dull.  Not in Keatinge’s worldview though, and the visit gives us a nice bit of closure, and some insight into Glory and Riley’s characters.  Campbell’s art has been wonderful throughout this run, but it especially stands out in this issue, where he employs a few different styles, depending on the mood he is trying to evoke.  And really, what could be cooler than a comic with cameos by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald?  I’m really going to miss this series, but also applaud the fact that it’s ending at such a natural place, instead of being dragged out indefinitely.

Great Pacific #6 – I feel like this comic is getting stranger and stranger.  Chas Worthington confronts the US military on his doorstep, gets rescued by a giant mutated octopus, and later witnesses an atomic explosion, while his uncle effects a takeover of his father’s company.  Strangest of all in this issue is the way in which the HERO device gets used – it was designed to remediate waste plastics, but now apparently it can be used kind of like Iceman’s ice bridges?  That didn’t make a lot of sense.  I’m not sure where Joe Harris is headed in the long-game anymore with this series, but I am enjoying the ride.

Green Arrow #19I’m really getting into Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s run on this title, as they give it a bit of an Immortal Iron Fist vibe.  Ollie keeps fighting against Komodo, and learns that he is responsible for his father’s death.  We don’t get much new information in this issue, but are instead treated to a very nicely drawn long action sequence.

Harbinger Wars #1 – I was not really planning on picking up this Harbinger/Bloodshot cross-over mini-series, but it had a few things going for it.  To begin with, it was a pretty light week, new comics wise, and this issue is scripted and co-written by Joshua Dysart, who I have a lot of respect for.  The story is pretty good – we are introduced to a large number of young Psiots being held by Project Rising Spirit for their own ends.  Dysart takes the time to develop some of these new characters, before injecting them into the on-going stories of the two books this story involves.  The Bleeding Monk sends Peter Stanchek and his crew on the trial of PRS, despite Harada’s objections, while Bloodshot attacks the facility and frees the kids.  I haven’t been following Bloodshot, as I’m not really a fan of that book, but I’ve really enjoyed Harbinger, and have had my curiosity piqued enough to consider coming back for the next issue.

Indestructible Hulk #6 – I was starting to lose interest in this title, especially after the last two issues’ Attuma storyline, but this issue has revived things nicely.  Banner leads some of his science team to Jotunheim looking for a superconductor, which puts him on a course to run in to Thor and some Frost Giants.  What really makes this issue work is the art by Walter Simonson, especially since he gets to revisit the height of his career, when he worked on Thor’s title.  This book has not been working as well as Mark Waid’s Daredevil does, but when the focus is on Banner’s scientific goals, it is at its best.

Mind the Gap #9To do something a little different, Jim McCann gives us a silent issue of Mind the Gap, mostly drawn by guest artist Dan McDaid (who has a much rougher, but very cool look to his art).  It’s a very good read, despite the fact that it’s wordless (although, isn’t using text messages kind of cheating?), as the ‘hoodie’ character breaks in to Dane’s apartment to kill his father, and Jo also decides to show up there to do a little snooping.  This looks like it’s setting up a pretty big ‘reveal’ in the next issue, which should be kind of cool, as it’s been a while since we’ve been given any solid facts to work with.  The biggest problem I have with this issue is the return of the self-congratulatory and rather pretentious (to say nothing of poorly copy-edited) text pages in the front and back of the book.  I have no problem with McCann writing about his love of theatre and how that informs Elle, Dane, and Jos’ characters, but refusing to show the character sheet at the front of the book (right after giving us a recap page that names most of them anyway), and covering it over with a discussion of how ground-breaking their silent issue is (because, you know, Batman and Robin #18 didn’t come out three weeks ago) was a solid turn-off.  This book is best when McCann simply uses his story to tell his story.

Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #8 – Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are really picking up the pace of this series, as we learn the truth behind the creatures in the cave, and the Chimpanzees begin to protest their poor treatment in Ape City.  I’ve really been enjoying this series, and while this particular issue has a lot of balls in the air, it continues to be very entertaining.

Repossessed #4 – JM Ringuet’s series ends rather well, after leading its trio of heroes into a confrontation with Lucifer.  Ringuet definitely sets things up for a sequel, but also manages to tell a complete story, with some very nice art.

Snapshot #3 – Andy Diggle and Jock’s thriller mini-series becomes much less far-fetched this issue, as Diggle moves things steadily towards his conclusion.  This is a flawed series, but it’s getting a lot better.

Swamp Thing #19Yet again, the WTF-Certified cover does not shock, surprise, or make me question anything further than why TF someone at DC thought this was a good idea…  The comic itself, which launches Charles Soule and Kano’s run on the title, is very good.  Alec Holland has come to accept his new role as defender of the Green, and has been travelling the world correcting the work of someone called Seeder, who has been basically terraforming deserts or providing areas of famine with fast-yielding food crops.  Swamp Thing agrees with his goals, but cannot allow the Green to be manipulated in this way; I hope that the series will explore ideas like this further.  Alec travels to Metropolis, hoping to have a conversation with Superman, but instead ends up in conflict with the Scarecrow.  I like the way Soule is approaching this title (and actually think he may have some interesting insight into Superman’s character), and I always like Kano’s work, so I’m going to be sticking with this title for a while now.

Winter Soldier #17 – I wasn’t too sure what to expect when Jason Latour and Nic Klein took over this title, and they’ve kept very close to the root of what Ed Brubaker was doing with the book, while going a little grander in terms of their scope.  This is a pretty typical issue for the middle of a story arc – some stuff happens, the plot moves along.  It’s nice looking, but I don’t have a whole lot to say about it all.

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

Age of Ultron #4

Caligula Heart of Rome #4

Kill Shakespeare Tide of Blood #2

Legends of the Dark Knight #7

Shadowman #6

‘68 Jungle Jim #1

Superior Spider-Man #7

Thanos Rising #1

Uber #0

Ultimate Comics X-Men #25

Bargain Comics:

A + X #2-4 I like the idea of this anthology title which has two short stories every month, all written and drawn by A-list talent, and featuring a team-up between an Avenger and an X-Man (although since those teams have been cross-pollinating for a while now, sometimes it’s just an Avenger and an Avenger).  I don’t understand why Marvel is not putting creator names on the cover of this book, with people like Kaare Andrews, Chris Bachalo, Pasqual Ferry, Jason Aaron, Peter David, and Mike Del Mundo contributing.  None of these stories are classics, but most of them are enjoyable.

Joe Kubert Presents #1 – The comics world really lost a great man when Joe Kubert passed away recently.  It’s quite fortunate that DC was putting together this six-issue anthology series before he passed, as it gives us a final chance to enjoy his work.  The Hawkman and Hawkgirl story feels positively ancient, especially because of its politics, but the art is lovely.  I feel similarly about Spit, a story about a street urchin during the Depression.  I couldn’t get through the Angel and the Ape story, but I enjoyed Sam Glanzman’s USS Stevens strip.

Wolverine #316 & 317 – For a placeholder story arc, Cullen Bunn and Paul Pelletier did a decent enough job.  There’s really nothing memorable about this story, unless Bunn is planning on bringing the Covenant into The Fearless Defenders, which feels like it would be a good fit.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Marathon

Written by Boaz Yakin
Art by Joe Infurnari

Ancient Greece has had a pretty impressive, if limited, run in modern-day comics.  I’m not talking about Wonder Woman orEddie Campbell’s Bacchus here, but more such historically-influenced classics as the (slowly) ongoing Age of Bronze, and Frank Miller’s 300.  I’ve always been a little surprised that there aren’t more books set during the beginnings of democracy, seeing as there is such a wealth of great stories from that period.

With Marathon, writer Boaz Yakin and artist Joe Infurnari set out to tell the story of the Persian invasion of Athens in 490 CE.  As the Persian forces landed on the shores of Marathon, a young soldier named Eucles was sent to bring word to Sparta, a dangerous journey undertaken on foot.  He ran back with the response, helped battle the Persians at Marathon, and then had to run to Athens to deliver another message; it is from his deeds that the marathon was born.

Not knowing a whole lot about Greek history, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the historical content of this book, but I can say that it’s a well written story.  It’s established at the beginning that Eucles, the son of slaves, is much quicker on his feet than any other boy in Athens, but by being so, he brings about the displeasure of Hippias, the dictator who controls the city.  Later, Eucles helps the Spartans in deposing him, although Hippias later returns with the armies of Darius of Persia.  Yakin develops the personal animosity between Eucles and Hippias’s son, Philon, to give the book an added sense of drama.

Joe Infurnari’s art is left pretty rough throughout most of the book, which sometimes makes identifying characters difficult, but it also avoids the demands of rigorous historical accuracy which could cripple any period book not drawn by Eric Shanower.  His scratchy lines work well at adding to the sense of urgency that permeates Eucles’s story.

In all, I enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to seeing other comics creators return to Ancient Greece.

Album of the Week:

Mark de Clive-Lowe & the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra – Take The Space Trane – I’ve been listening to a lot more jazz over the last few years, but I’ve tended towards the quieter and smaller, soul-jazz stylings of the Black Jazz label, or the Jazzman archival recordings.  This is a full-sized European orchestra playing some very sweet spacey jazz.  Recommended.

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