Abe Sapien #5 – I like the way that both Abe Sapien and the regular BPRD title have been exploring the way in which the recent Apocalypse has been affecting people all over the US. This issue digs into the need people feel to construct meaning in horrible events, as a young man turns up dead on the shore of the Salton Sea, and Abe feels the need to investigate. This is a very good title, with great art by Max Fiumara.
The Activity #14 – I’m always happy to read a new issue of The Activity, especially since Nathan Edmondson’s started pulling together various threads that have been lying around from the very beginning of this series. The downside of that is that it’s a little tough to remember who everyone is and what’s happened recently, but I appreciate the planning that has gone into this book.
All-New X-Men #15 – I think this issue was meant as a bit of a breather issue, as Brian Michael Bendis gets ready for the Battle of the Atom cross-over that starts next month. As such, he lets the time travelling X-kids get some down time. Scott and Bobby go into town and chat with girls, while Jean gets some training from Beast (which is very similar to a scene from Grant Morrison’s run), and discovers that he always had feelings for her. There is a cute scene where Jean and Rachel Summers meet for the first time (which doesn’t fit with continuity at all, as it explains her absence from the last fourteen issues rather off-handedly, considering that Jason Aaron’s X-book is supposed to be happening around the same time), but it feels like Bendis is avoiding the potential for good dramatic story as much as Jean and Rachel are. David Lafuente popped by to draw this issue, hence the more cartoony story. I think, after the cross-over, I need to reassess how committed I am to Bendis’s titles; there is just not enough happening for me.
Avengers #17 – It’s clear from reading this book that Jonathan Hickman just spent the last seventeen issues of this series setting up Infinity, yet we still don’t know exactly what the nature of the threat in that event is going to be (because it has to be more than “Thanos invades”, right?). I really hope this event doesn’t fizzle out like most Marvel events do, but I have my doubts. Also, this issue had three different artists, as Marvel is trying very hard to match DC in terms of visual inconsistency (although, when one of the artists is Marco Rudy, I’m not really going to complain).
Avengers AI #2 – I’m still on the fence about this book. Dimitrios, the malevolent AI inhabits one of Tony Stark’s old suits of armor, and sends a gigantic Sentinel to attack Washington DC, with only some of Hank Pym’s squad on hand to defend it. We don’t get nearly enough Doombot this issue, and are given no clues as to who Alexis is. The thing is, I like André Lima Araújo’s art (even though I hate the Vision’s new look), and have seen great work by Sam Humphries in the past, all of which makes me want to give this book another chance.
Burn the Orphanage #1 – This is the first of a three-part series by Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman that is, I believe, more of a thematic grouping of one-shots than it is a single story. This book is about a young man named Rock who was the only survivor of an orphanage fire. Now he’s an adult, and for some reason that is never made clear, has picked this particular day to avenge the deaths of his fellow orphans (many of whom used to beat him up). He goes around the city beating on people until he finds out who was responsible, and then fights him on a roof. Along the way he is joined by his two friends. Grace and Freedman are clearly using this book as an homage to older fighting video games, and that’s fine, but I found that the references were just a little too self-conscious, much like in Grace’s other series, L’il Depressed Boy. The characters are as one-dimensional as can be, and the plot makes no real sense. I do like Grace’s art, but there was not a lot here to give me cause to recommend this book.
Catalyst Comix #2 – I’m finding that Joe Casey’s reworking of some of Dark Horse’s 90s heroes to be a bit of a mixed bag. I love the art (provided by Dan McDaid, Paul Maybury, and Ulises Farinas), and find that much in these three stories works well, but I also can’t help but find a few too many similarities to some of Casey’s other recent comics, most notably his wonderful Butcher Baker. Once again, we have a digitally tie-dyed cosmic character spouting gibberish, Pentagon shenanigans, and retired heroes who enjoy sitting around being crass. Still, Casey is spinning out an interesting story, assuming that the three different strips in here will become tied together at some point, and the book looks very good. My favourite part is the scene set in Jean M. Giraud High School, home of the Fighting Arzachs. That poster made my day.
Daredevil Dark Nights #3 – Lee Weeks’s solid old-school DD story finishes very nicely with this issue. It’s been good to see a story from Weeks again – he’s an underrated creator who should be getting more work. Next issue? David Lapham!
Dial H #15 – It’s been really easy to trash DC of late, but at the same time, they seem (less and less so) willing to give titles like Dial H a try. This has been one of the strangest, least traditional superhero comics of the last few years, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s not much of a surprise that the book didn’t last too long, but it feels like DC gave China Miéville enough space to finish up his story completely (and then there’s whatever next month’s Dial E Villains Month book is), and that’s something I appreciate. That and the chance to see Brian Bolland covers every month. I’ll miss this book; if you never gave it a chance, I recommend checking out the trades or the inevitable omnibus. It’s a pretty creative comic.
Fatale #16 – The 90s grunge arc continues, as an amnesiac Josephine finds herself staying with a one-hit wonder grunge band trying to get themselves back on track. Of course, her presence has an odd effect on just about the whole band. Meanwhile, a serial killer who met Jo as a child is looking for her. As usual, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do a phenomenal job on this comic.
Green Arrow #23 – I recently started watching Arrow, the TV show that features Green Arrow, and have been a little surprised to see how frequently Jeff Lemire has echoed some of the events and themes of that show in this title, although he’s been mixing it with Immortal Iron Fist and a bit of Frank Miller’s two runs on Daredevil. Regardless of the influences, this comic works really well, especially because of Andrea Sorrentino’s art, which keeps getting better and better. A good chunk of this issue is devoted to Shado’s backstory, and Sorrentino kills these pages, using a minimalist approach. This issue features the first appearance of a classic DC character in the New 52, and it looks like Lemire is taking a very different approach to him, which has me looking forward to the next story arc.
Harbinger #14 – I know this came out a couple of weeks ago, but this is the first I was able to get an issue (something to do with Valiant changing the policy on their Pullbox Variants or something weird like that). Anyway, this wraps up the Harbinger Wars from the perspective of Peter and his friends, and most importantly, completes the backstory of the conflict between the Harbinger Foundation and Project Rising Spirit, which is kind of essential to really understand the whole event. This story has been decent, but I’m more interested in seeing Joshua Dysart refocus this book on the kids that star in it.
Helheim #6 – It seems that Helheim is over now, although Cullen Bunn and Joëlle Jones leave the door open for a second volume. This has been a good series, but it has lacked the depth of Bunn’s The Sixth Gun.
The Manhattan Projects #13 – Among the many things I like about this title is the willingness that Jonathan Hickman has to jump his story forward in time. In this issue, things move forward by a year, as the various scientists advance the projects that Oppenheimer laid out, although we still don’t have a clue what’s going on with his secret project. JFK gets a cameo, which is brilliantly drawn by Nick Pitarra, perfect from the lines of coke on the desk to the woman’s underwear abandoned on a desktop. There are so many great throwaway moments in this comic – I especially enjoyed learning a little more about Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who takes shoe lifts to a whole new level.
Miniature Jesus #4 – A drunk plays charades with a small living statue of Jesus Christ while a demon shouts in his ear and a dead cat goes looking for a tube of glue. You’re either going to be open to it or you aren’t.
The Movement #4 – I’ve wanted to like The Movement, but have had a hard time with it. I feel like Gail Simone finally figured out that she needed to actually introduce all of these new characters if she wants people to like and care about them, and so finally, we get a few backstories of the main folk who populate this book. I’m still not sure how the small group of superhumans we’ve seen battling cops relate to the larger Movement that consists of people wearing masks and attacking corrupt cops, but that is perhaps something that will be picked up on eventually, as this book is written a little backwards. The thing is, I might not be around to ever find out. I took this book off my pull-file list, and by the time another issue comes out in October (thanks to DC suspending the title for Villains Month), I might not remember that I iked this one. Ah, DC, the perfect example for how NOT to run a business…
Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #12 – Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko wrap up their excellent Planet of the Apes run with a story that weaves the continuity of the first two Apes movies into their story. Milo stars in this issue, as his quest to save the Earth from coming doom from either the aftereffects of the Moon explosion that started this series, or from the machinations of the mutated humans. These writers have done a wonderful job of intelligently extrapolating from the work of the original movies.
Prophet #38 – In a lot of ways, this series has been kind of coasting lately, but is still more interesting than most comics being produced. It seems that Brandon Graham is going to keep giving us two stories per issue – one featuring Old Man Prophet putting together his crew (in this issue, his search for Badrock takes him to visit Suprema, who is now made of light and colour), and the other featuring Newfather Prophet, who returns to the floating gigantic body parts of a great warrior to blow them up. Both stories work very well within the logic of this series, and feature great art by Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis.
Satellite Sam #2 – I’d kind of expected, after the first issue, that Satellite Sam would be more of a mystery series than it is; instead, Matt Fraction is exploring how the sudden death of a live TV show star in the 50s affects his son, his network, and the people who had to tolerate him on a daily basis. For a book by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin, it’s shockingly focused on telling a straight-forward story, void of both creator’s usual excesses. And therein lies its strengths. This is very much a character-based comic, as the head of the network tries to convince his remaining actors, directors, and crew to stay with his failing business, and the actor’s son spirals into drunken despair. It’s a very good book.
Sheltered #2 – I am loving Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’s ‘pre-apocalyptic’ series about a group of teenagers who have killed their parents and taken over their Survivalist camp in preparation for the end times. There are two girls who are not onboard however, and this issue is given over to their discovering what has happened and reacting to it. Very dramatic stuff, and it plays out very well.
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2 – This title should be talked about as being up there with Hawkeye and Young Avengers among Marvel’s most original and enjoyable comics. Nick Spencer is having a ball sharing the misadventures of Boomerang and his crew. We the readers know a lot more than the rest of the Sinister Six do, so when the Punisher interrupts their latest job, it’s not much of a surprise to see how things turn out. The end of the book though, did toss a wrench in Boomerang’s plans that I didn’t see coming. Spencer is balancing humour and plausibility nicely, and Steve Lieber is doing a wonderful job of keeping the story from looking too cartoonish. I hope this title has a long life.
Swamp Thing #23 – The two-parter featuring John Constantine comes to a satisfying conclusion in this issue, as Swamp Thing has to overcome Constantine’s magic to save a small Scottish town from the effects of Seeder’s Whisky Tree. Charles Soule’s run on this title is going very well, and as much as I’ve enjoyed Kano’s art on it, I was very happy to see him share the bill with David Lapham, who has not been drawing enough lately.
Uncanny X-Men #9 – Slowly things are starting to happen in this title again, as Dazzler, now an agent of SHIELD, tries to interrogate the kid that quit Scott Summers’s team last issue, and this leads to the team invading a Helicarrier to get him back. There are a lot of characters in this book now, and that always gives Brian Michael Bendis problems, so we get scenes like the one where one of the Stepford Cuckoos decides to cut and dye her hair black. It’s a good thing that Summers’s secret X-Base in the middle of nowhere is stocked with hair dye, or that scene would have felt very forced and unnecessary. I can forgive this book for a lot though, because of the Chris Bachalo art.
X-Factor #260 – This is the third last issue of X-Factor, although the ground is already being laid for the inevitable relaunch, perhaps with the team being corporate lackeys. Most of this issue is about Lorna Dane sitting in a bar acting ridiculously uncharacteristically, and then getting into a fight with Quicksilver, who makes reference to his being an Avengers still, despite the fact that he’s never seen in any of the twenty-odd comics a month that have that word in their titles. I’ve felt that there was a slow drop-off on this title for a while now, but it’s really hitting the skids in these last few issues. I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d say this, but if Peter David is writing the relaunch, I don’t think I’ll be there for it.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Cable and X-Force #12
Detective Comics #23
Iron Man #14
Legends of the Dark Knight #11
Suicide Risk #4
Superior Spider-Man #15
Dia De Los Muertos #1 – I’m often of two minds about Riley Rossmo’s art, as I find that his storytelling can be very inconsistent, but I enjoyed this anthology of three short stories, each written with a different writer, centred on the Mexican Day of the Dead. I’m not sure how these stories were written – I suspect that Rossmo plotted, and just had the others handle the scripting, but they show a nice range, from horror to romantic fantasy. This book also made good use of Image’s ‘Golden Age’ format.
Fairest #15&16 – In this newest arc of Fairest, the spotlight shines on a young Indian woman who makes a long and dangerous trek to the new Maharaja to petition for help for her village, only to find that her peoples’ new ruler is Prince Charming. I’m a little confused, as I thought he’d died fighting the Adversary (but now wonder if we saw him survive and if it’s just the people of Fabletown who believe him dead). Anyway, he’s more or less his old self, and is more interested in catching the girl than the creatures that threaten her town. The art for this arc is by Stephen Sadowski, who really needs to draw more comics, especially when Phil Jimenez is inking him. These are gorgeous comics.
Punisher War Zone #5 – I hope we get to see more of Rachel Cole-Alves, the new female Punisher that Greg Rucka devoted his entire run on the title to developing. This issue does a good job of showing how someone like the Punisher could stay ahead of a group like the Avengers, and stays plausible enough.
The Week in Manga:
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 11 – I love this strange little series, and found a lot to enjoy in this volume’s two stories. The first is quite long (7 chapters), and it deals with a young girl who was believed to have murdered her sister and mother. She’s out of prison, and attending a school where coincidentally, some of the Kurosagi crew have just been hired. Strangely, it seems that this school is also the epicentre for a number of on-line warnings of crimes about to be committed. Of course, all this stuff is connected. The second story is concerned with the performance enhancing qualities of a particular brand of Olympic swimsuit. In other words, neither story falls into the usual type of thing we’ve come to expect from KCDS, but with its strong characters, and voluminous explanatory notes, this book is as entertaining as ever.
20th Century Boys Vol. 5 – I’d been wondering for the last two books just how a story like this could possibly stretch out over more than twenty volumes, but in this book, Naoki Urasawa shows just how complex his story is. When the volume opens, Kenji and his friends are working underground (literally) to stop The Friend and his plans. As New Year’s Eve, 2000 approaches, they know that something big is going to happen, and it does. And then, suddenly, the book jumps forward some fourteen years, and follows Kanna, Kenji’s niece. She lives in a very rough neighbourhood where Chinese and Thai gangs fight for territory, and we slowly get the feeling that things are not good in Tokyo. This is a sweeping, sprawling book, held together by the strength of Urasawa’s characters, and his wild imagination. Very, very good stuff.
Album of the Week:
Ras_G and the Afrikan Space Program – Back on the Planet – Ras_G holds on to his position as the strangest beat maker and creator in the Brainfeeder camp, a title that is not easily won. His new album represents his notion of ‘ghetto sci-fi’, a musical approach to a future that is dirty and strange. There are some irritating tracks on this album (such as the first one), but it evolves into a really nice blend of dub, hip-hop, and EDM that holds up over repeated plays.