Best Comic of the Week:
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy
I wasn’t too sure how interested I was going to be in The Wake, a new Vertigo mini-series. The comic’s writer, Scott Snyder, has lost some of his appeal in my eyes recently, as his Batman series has not impressed me as much as it apparently has most of the DC fan base, and I found that, prior to its going on hiatus, his American Vampire was also becoming rather underwhelming and tired, which is a good way to describe Vertigo in general over the last couple of years.
The only reason why I preordered this book was because of Sean Murphy’s art, especially coming off of his sublime Punk Rock Jesus (check out the nod to the Flak Jackets in this comic!).
Having read this, I’m very pleased that I did buy it. This feels like the Snyder of early American Vampire, setting out an interesting and sweeping story, without getting too bogged down in details. The story is book-ended by scenes set in distant times – the first few pages are set somewhere far into the future, at a time when cities are flooded by the oceans. We meet a young woman and her dolphin or porpoise companion, and know they are looking for something, but we don’t know what. The book ends some hundred thousand years ago.
In between is the bulk of the comic, in a time that doesn’t feel too far off from ours. We are introduced to Lee Archer, a marine biologist who specializes in whale song. We quickly learn that she is divorced, does not have custody of her son, and at some point got herself in trouble with the NOAA, a government agency. A representative of the Department of Homeland Security shows up, and plays her a tape of a strange whale song, convincing her to accompany him to a remote part of Alaska. When she gets there, she learns that she is expected to work with a team, and that nothing is what she expected.
There are high-tech sea-floor oil platforms, specialized subs, and a creature that is not a whale to contend with, as well as a former rival. The set up runs very smoothly, and while this has elements of movies like The Abyss, and comics like The Vault, there is more than enough to keep my interest, especially given Murphy’s wonderful artwork.
Finishing this comic, I felt that I’d been uncharitable in my assessment of its prospects, and I’m happy to have been wrong. I desperately wish that Vertigo could regain its place as a viable and respectable imprint at DC, and books like this are a step in the right direction.
BPRD Vampire #3 – In this issue, Anders comes face to face with the vampire he’s been hunting, in an ancient city under a Czech woods. There’s a lot that’s familiar in the set-up that Mike Mignola is using for this series, but Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are drawing the hell out of the book, making it absolutely gorgeous.
Chew #34 – Ah Chew, so brilliant. This issue has three front covers, which play on the old Mix-and-Match Monster books. Tony sort of confronts the Vampire, while Colby starts working for Savoy, who needs him to help entrap a US Senator in a compromising position. As always with this comic, it’s excellent, even without the wide variety of food-based powers we are exposed to.
Earth 2 Annual #1 – Even before learning that James Robinson has walked away from Earth 2, my interest in the title was waning. This annual is one of those perfect examples of why I should stop preordering all of the DC titles I buy, as I’m finding it harder and harder to commit to their titles, since month by month, it’s so hard to know if you’re going to actually get what you’re ordering. Anyway, this annual kind of introduces the new Batman of Earth 2, but it doesn’t give us any clues to his identity, or even give us a good look at his uniform. Most of the issue is about the Atom being deployed in Phnom Penh to capture a guy who makes weaponized prosthetics. Steel is also kind of introduced, and Mister Miracle and Barda show up for a couple of pages very randomly at the end. This book is as disjointed as the rest of this series has been, and knowing that Robinson is out the door, it’s very hard to care about where any of this is going to be headed.
Elephantmen #48 – There are so many storylines going on in this book that with each new issue, you just kind of go with whatever’s going on. Hip, Ebony, and Trench are fighting Chinese tiger TGs on the moon, while the Silencer hires an assistant to help him take out Gabbatha on behalf of the comic’s Jerry Falwell character. This is always a very good comic.
Fury MAX #12 – In the second last issue of this terrific series, Nick Fury finds that stopping something like a government program to use drug money to fund Contras in El Salvador is not as easy as he would like. Garth Ennis has done a great job of showing us a more real Nick Fury, embroiling him in each and every dirty conflict America participated in from the Cuban days to the Reagan era, and it’s been a wonderful read, among Ennis’s best. The Goran Parlov art has not hurt things either.
Lost Vegas #3 – Jim McCann kind of abandons the gambling and casino aspects of this story as we are instead given the full backstory of Roland’s friend Loria, and learn what a Godspark is. This has become a very good science fiction saga, and I’m enjoying it a great deal. I want to see more of Janet Lee’s art.
Mind the Gap #10 – Jim McCann dumps a ton of info into this issue of Mind the Gap, as ten issues into the series, we learn the identity of Elle’s attacker, and begin to get a better sense of where a number of people in the cast stand in terms of their relationship to Elle’s interests. There were a couple of genuine surprises, which have me wanting to go back to the earlier issues to see what clues I missed. McCann has crafted a pretty unique thriller with this series, and I’m pleased to see that I’m still enjoying it so much. This is one book that must read much better in trade though…
Morning Glories #27 – There is so much happening in this book right now, and thankfully, Nick Spencer has added some backmatter designed to help bring new readers up to speed, which also did a great job of assisting my slowly failing memory. Now that Hunter has fixed time, everyone is back in the same place, although apparently some of the rules have changed. Casey shows up at the school again, and we also get to see what her older self was up to while she was her own teacher. The complexity of Spencer’s tapestry stuns me, but also makes this one of the most fun books to read, as I try to figure out where things are headed (I’m always wrong). Great stuff.
New Avengers #6 – I’m not sure, but I think that the whole ‘incursion’ thing gets resolved this issue, in a way that seems like a bit of a cop-out, considering the stakes that Jonathan Hickman was raising this story to from the beginning. Still, Namor and the Black Panther get some good moments, and the book looks really good. I’m sure that Hickman has a lot more to say on this topic, and I should just trust him.
Thief of Thieves #14 – Andy Diggle takes on the scripting role for this title, as Redmond has to start working for the cartel in order to rescue his son. He sets about putting together a crew, while we examine the roots of his troubled relationship with Augustus once again. This is always a good read, and I look forward to finding out about the job that he’s going to pull, as this is the one he’s been planning for three years.
Uncanny X-Force #5 – This issue proves my earlier concern about the title, that it was Ron Garney’s art that was turning me off of things. Now, with Adrian Alphona handling most of the issue, and Dexter Soy pitching in for the pages set in the real world, things work better. Soy is more polished than he was on his earliest issues of Captain Marvel, but could still use some work. Alphona, on the other hand, is brilliant, taking us into Bishop’s mind and memories, as we learn about his fight against Revenants in the future, and just how he ended up back in the present day all crazy angry. This title is beginning to feel like it’s coming together, which is a very good thing.
Wolverine and the X-Men #30 – It feels like Jason Aaron is finally ready to pull the trigger on his Hellfire story, with this issue being touted as a prologue to the Hellfire Saga. The teachers at the Jean Grey School are busy trying to track down the identity of a traitor who is working for the Club, while Quentin Quire decides to take matters into his own hands. At the same time, Beast is up in space trying to find a cure for Broo. It’s a pretty decent issue, mostly drawn by the wonderful Pasqual Ferry.
X-Men #1 – I don’t really know why we need another X-Men title (the sixth one that comes out on regular basis with the word X-Men in the title, not counting Ultimate), but I cannot complain with the feel that Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel are going for. This feels like an old-school X-Men comic, with an emphasis on female characters who were all at their heights in the Chris Claremont days. In a way, Coipel’s art reminds me of Marc Silvestri’s when he was on the title (maybe it’s just because Jubilee is so prominent). Wood avoids all the time travel and angst that Brian Michael Bendis is drowning his books in, and the forced humour of Jason Aaron’s book. He brings back John Sublime, a villain from Grant Morrison’s run, and gives him a more evil sister. This is a very good start to a very character-driven run, which is nice to see, since so many of the X-books are event driven these days.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Avenging Spider-Man #21
Captain America #7
Indestructible Hulk #8
Kill Shakespeare: Tide of Blood #4
Savage Wolverine #5
A + X #5-7 – These short stories pairing one Avenger with one X-Men are very inconsistent in terms of their quality. Issue 5 has a barely readable Doop/Iron Fist team-up, and a kind of disappointing Loki/Mr. Sinister story (disappointing because it’s written by Kieron Gillen, but lacking the charm of his Young Avengers or Journey Into Mystery). Issue 6 is much better, with two poker themed stories – one featuring Wolverine and Captain Marvel (who have both been Avengers and X-Men) and Thing and Gambit. The first story is written by Peter David, and is a lot of fun (I’d love to see him write Carol Danvers’s book), while the second, written by Mike Costa, almost makes me like Gambit. These stories are by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Caselli respectively; two artists I already associate with each other. The 7th issue has Dale Keown drawing an Iron Man and Beast story, which was unexpected, and Orphans Cheeps (R’John Bernales and Chris Turcotte) drawing a Thor and Iceman tale. It looks like it was made at Pixar, and while that’s not my usual thing, I enjoyed it as a one-off thing. I’m kind of surprised that this series is still on-going, and I would never pay full price for it, but I do like reading it. I just wish that Marvel would put the creators’ names on the cover. At times, I’m sure it would be more of a selling point than the characters.
Captain America #4-6 – This series is getting better and better, as Captain America has spent eleven years trapped in Dimension Z by Arnim Zola, where he has raised an adopted son and has been living with some strange looking aliens. Over the course of these issues, Zola finds them, and takes the boy back; the boy’s older sister, who is a bit of a Big Barda character, falls for the Captain and wants her little brother back. Rick Remender’s writing is fine, but John Romita Jr.’s art just keeps getting worse. It’s like he’s lost all sense of proportion and anatomy; it’s hard to believe this is the same guy who drew his legendary Uncanny X-Men run.
Album of the Week:
Kenya Special – Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s & ’80s – The people at Soundway always do a fantastic job with these compilations, and this time around, they have decided to focus on a country which does not get a lot of musical credit. These two discs provide a nice overview of the afrobeat, benga, and soul scene, and reveal some real gems.
Tags: Adrian Alphona, Andy Diggle, BPRD, Brian Wood, Captain America, Chew, Dark Horse, DC, Dexter Soy, Earth 2, Elephantmen, Fabio Moon, Fury MAX, Gabriel Ba, Garth Ennis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Goran Parlov, Image, James Robinson, Jason Aaron, Jim McCann, john romita jr, Jonathan Hickman, kieron gillen, Marvel, Marvel NOW! (All-New Marvel Now!), MAX, Mike Costa, Mike Mignola, Mind the Gap, Morning Glories, New 52 (DC Comics), new avengers, Nick Spencer, Olivier Coipel, Pasqual Ferry, Peter David, Rick Remender, Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy, Stefano Caselli, The Wake, Thief of Thieves, uncanny x-force, Vertigo, Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Men