The Weekly Round-Up #195 with Lazarus, American Vampire, FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Mind MGMT, Sex, Star Wars & More
by James Fulton on September 2, 2013

Best Comic of the Week:

Lazarus #3Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s science fiction series is terrific.  In this issue, Forever is sent to negotiate with a rival family, while members of her own scheme against her.  We get a much better sense of what’s going on in the Carlyle family, and just how much Forever’s father knows about it.  Rucka is plotting this book perfectly, and Lark is doing some wonderful work.  Recommended.

Another Notable Comic:

American Vampire Anthology #1

Written by Scott Snyder, Jason Aaron, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Gail Simone, Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, and Greg Rucka
Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Declan Shalvey, Ivo Milazzo, Ray Fawkes, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Tula Lotay, Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, and John Paul Leon

When American Vampire first started a few years ago, despite its coming out in the middle of the vampire-related glut of the post-Twilight world, it really stood out as a well-considered, and excellently-executed new approach to the genre.  I liked how Scott Snyder (and early collaborator, Stephen King) grounded the vampire, and other mythological creatures, in biology and history.  There was a strong emphasis on character, and under Rafael Albuquerque’s pencil, the book looked terrific.

As the series continued, as new characters were added to the mix, and as spin-off mini-series became more exciting than the main title, I felt that things needed a bit of a shakeup to keep my interests.  I wasn’t all that upset when I learned that the series was going on hiatus for a while, as I was considering dropping it.

Now, though Snyder and Albuquerque have headlined this anthology, which has gotten me excited about the property again.  First off, just look at the talent involved in this book, with names like Cloonan, Bá, Moon, Lemire, Francavilla, Rucka and Leon showing up on the cover.  In their numerous short stories, many of which were too short, they explored other aspects of this world, and I loved it.

Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes took us up to James Bay to see what the Canadian Vampire would look like, while Jason Aaron and Declan Shalvey revisited the early colonial days of the United States in a similar tale.  Regular series artist Albuquerque writes a story about a small town in Kansas, which is painted by the very interesting Ivo Milazzo.

Some of the stories feature characters we’ve met before, as in Gail Simone and Tula Lotay’s ‘Hattie’ tale, and in Becky Cloonan’s exploration of why Skinner Sweet came to Hollywood.  Skinner shows up in Greg Rucka and John Paul Leon’s story too, which explains what happened to him after Las Vegas, back in the second or third arc of the series.

Francesco Francavilla looks at the vampires’ influence in Hollywood, while Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon take us into a seedy nightclub.

This is a very nice looking book, which has managed to whet my appetite some for the return of the series, which is what it’s supposed to do I guess.

Quick Takes:

Avengers Arena #14Now that we know that this series will be ending soon, it seems that Dennis Hopeless is picking up the pace, and forcing confrontation in Murder World through the wide release of X-23’s trigger scent.  We get some interesting insight into Cullen Bloodstone, and some nice art from Kev Walker.

Batman Incorporated Special #1 – It is my hope that writers will revisit the concept, or at least some of the characters, of Batman Incorporated again.  I see a lot of potential in Nightrunner, Raven Red, and Batman Japan, and would gladly read more of their adventures.  I would also love to see more of Beryl as the new Knight.  Grant Morrison’s run on Batman got ruined by the New 52 relaunch, and I feel like DC is forgetting just how good Morrison is at leaving behind tons of new concepts for other writers to explore.  This book is pretty enjoyable, and has some very nice work from creators like Chris Burnham, John Paul Leon, and John Stancisi (although you really have to hunt for their credits).

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #2 – It’s a shame that Collider had to change its name to FBP, mostly because new Vertigo titles are not exactly resistant to brand confusion these days.  The book is very good, as our main characters are sent into a bubble universe that has formed in a major city to try to rescue some of the people trapped inside, including a wealthy industrialist.  Simon Oliver is building his characters nicely, and providing us with a betrayal plot that is pretty interesting.  Robbi Rodriguez’s art is pretty cool, especially in the way he makes the bubble universe look so different from ours.  This is a title worth checking out.

FF #11 - The adults in the FF are diverted in their search for the Fantastic Four by the Impossible Man, who wants to send his son to the Future Foundation.  This gives Medusa the chance to show a new side to her character.  This is one of the better issues of this series lately, although it doesn’t give enough space for the FF kids.

The Green Team #4 – While I’ve been feeling this series since it began, this issue was a bit of a disappointment, as the Team fights Riot, who turns out to have a close connection to one of the main characters.  The kids’ power suits gain a pile of new abilities that don’t seem necessary, and the characterizations, which have been the book’s strong point until now, feel generic and inconsistent.  As well, the art is a bit of a mess – Regular artist Ig Guara is joined by two more artists (and three inkers), and none of them agree on how Riot is supposed to look.  He has three X’s on his forehead on his first page, which later becomes four, and then two.  I know DC prefers to have its editors chase talent off of books than actually edit, but you’d hope someone was checking for things like this…

The Massive #15 – Brian Wood finishes off his ‘nuclear sub in New York’ story rather unexpectedly, as Georg becomes an ever-more complicated character, and what were previously hints about Mary being so unique become more clear, in a way I don’t feel really fits with the book.  I’ve been enjoying this book, but sometimes it just feels a little off – this was one of those issues.

Mind MGMT #14 – Now that Meru has control of her memories, she decides to travel around Zanzibar, where she is contacted by one of the Eraser’s people.  Matt Kindt is setting up some interesting questions over which side should be trusted – Henry Lyme or the Eraser, as this series continues to pack in the surprises and intrigue.  Kindt is building a rep for himself at DC and Marvel these days, but people should really be checking out how incredible his creator-owned work is.

Mind the Gap #13Jim McCann has really shifted into answer mode, as we learn who the Fifth is, and get a number of flashbacks (drawn by Dan McDaid) to explain his character.  Dr. Geller joins with Elle’s friends in their mission to help protect the comatose girl, and most importantly, we learn what really happened when she was ‘attacked’.  This book is picking up the momentum that it really needed now.

Morning Glories #30 – She’s been around for a while, but this issue marks the first time that we learn anything about Irina, the tough-as-nails leader of the second group of students we met at the Morning Glory Academy.  It turns out that Irina had a horrid childhood, and is a little closer to the leadership at MGA than we ever would have guessed.  After the confusion of the last few issues, it was nice to see a spotlight issue on just one character, even if it only served to deepen some of the mysteries around this book.

The Mysterious Strangers #3 – I’m really enjoying Chris Roberson and Scott Kowalchuk’s work on this sort-of updated take on the Doom Patrol.  The Strangers are undercover in a desert working to stop the Scarabs, a band like the Beatles, from opening a gateway to an elder god.  This is a fun read.

New Avengers #9 – Where last week I found myself getting excited about how Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity was carrying forward in Avengers, this New Avengers tie-in was more disappointing.  With the Avengers off in space, Thanos’s Ugly Brigade attack the Earth, mostly coming after the last people to wield the Infinity Gems.  Aside from a nice little bit of realpolitik from Namor, there’s not much of interest happening in this issue.  Maybe it’s just that Mike Deodato drew it, but this feels very dispensable at this point.

Secret #3It’s been well over a year since we saw the last issue of Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s corporate espionage series, and while I’m happy to see it being published again, a recap page would have been nice.  Grant is mourning the death of his friend, and gathering his suspicions that his boss may have been involved.  This book is very well written, and Bodenheim’s art is worth the wait.  I hope this book is back on schedule now.

Secret Avengers #8 – Mockingbird is trapped on AIM Island, apparently in the body of an AIM scientist, and she has no idea how she got there.  We do, of course, and it makes it entertaining, especially given her history (think Skrulls) to watch her try to sort things out.  Nick Spencer gives a lot of this issue over to AIM, as we check in with the various leaders in that organization.  This is a good read.

Sex #6 – Sex is my favourite of Joe Casey’s current series (of which there are four, if you count Godland), as it is here that he keeps his wildest urges in check, much like his protagonist Simon Cooke.  Of course, Simon continues to be the least interesting part of this comic, as the supporting cast gets more and more screen time.  If you’ve ever wondered what a Batman series would be like, were Bruce to retire, this is it.  And really, there is much less sex than the title suggests, kind of like how there are no mysteries in Journey Into Mystery…

Skullkickers #24 – With it being time for a new ‘Tavern Tales’ issue of Skullkickers, an anthology one-off between story arcs, Jim Zubkavich decided to go with a Before Skullkickers theme, complete with a wonderful cover that sends up DC’s similar recent efforts.  Zubkavich attracts some more name-brand contributors this time around, with Ron Marz, Stjepan Sejic, Todd DeZago, and Adam Warren all bellying up to the bar.  These issues are always a lot of fun, and a good way to introduce yourself to an excellent comic, if you’ve never read it before.

Star Wars Legacy #6Gabriel Hardman has stopped drawing this book (he still co-writes), and as disappointing as that news should be, he’s more than ably replaced by Brian Thies, who has a similar aesthetic.  This issue transitions this title into its second arc, as Ania Solo and her friends have to figure out what to do next in their lives, as the threat of Darth Wredd gets ignored by the people who are running the galaxy.  This is a very good book.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #26 – This title is at its absolute best when it is about Miles Morales.  This issue is more about Bombshell and Cloak and Dagger though, so it’s a little weak.  Still, you can’t really call a comic weak when it’s drawn by David Marquez…

Uncanny Avengers #11 – Rick Remender is taking this book to ever darker places, as Wanda is once again being put in the position of deciding the future of mutantkind (because that worked out so well last time), Wolverine confronts his dead son, and Rogue and Sunfire have a bit of a heart-to-heart, while Captain America, Havok, and the Wasp think that the best way to sneak up on the bad guys is in a boat with a giant A on the bow.  I’m enjoying this book much more than I did when it started, but something still feels a little off.

Uncanny X-Men #11 – Cyclops’s team spend the whole issue fighting a new kind of Sentinel that is a bit much for them.  That’s basically all that happens here, although there is a little side bit about Dazzler in Madripoor that doesn’t really fit.  Still, with nice art by Frazer Irving and Kris Anka, I’m satisfied.

Unwritten #52This whole Fables storyline is becoming ever more tedious, as the Fable aspect of the story utterly eclipses Tom Taylor in his own book.  The fact that the stuff happening with the Fables character has no bearing on what is going on in their own book makes it even more frustrating.  It’s been announced recently that Unwritten is set to be relaunched soon, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to use that as an excuse to drop the title, which is a shame, since before this stunt, I’d quite enjoyed the series for a few years.  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are masters of the comics form, but this book is losing my interest very quickly.

Wasteland #47 – I’m always happy for a new issue of this series, even if Michael and Abi aren’t in it.  Antony Johnston is building towards big conflict in Newbegin, and now Michael’s father (God?) comes knocking.  Good stuff.

Wolverine and the X-Men #35 – Jason Aaron wraps up the Hellfire Saga arc by basically hitting the reset button on a couple of characters, and teasing his next X-series, Amazing X-Men.  There are some good moments here though, and I like that Quentin Quire is going out with Idie.  Time for the Battle of the Atom!

Young Avengers #9 – Young Avengers continues to be one of the most enjoyable comics on the stands, as Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (with Mike Norton) make each issue an absolute delight to read.  Gillen has nested his stories in one another, and McKelvie makes these characters feel so real.  Great, great stuff.

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

Adventures of Superman #4

All-Star Western #23

A + X #11

Astonishing X-Men #66

Captain America #10

Kill Shakespeare Tide of Blood #5

Thanos Rising #5

Thor God of Thunder #12

Tomorrowland #2

Uncanny #3

Bargain Comics:

All-Star Western #20-21I dropped this book a while back, but have missed Jonah Hex and Moritat’s art in the meantime.  The thing is, this book is going into some strange places, as a visit in Jonah’s era by Booster Gold leads to him being tossed into our future, where Frank Miller’s Mutant gang is terrorising the streets, and Batwing is looking out for Gotham.  It’s not bad, but it’s kind of strange.

Astonishing X-Men #62-64 – The quaternary-level X-book takes some time, over these three issues, to really start looking at Bobby Drake, Iceman, in a way that can never happen in any of the more marquee-level titles.  Bobby has some sort of Apocalypse glowing thing in him (I skipped the cross-over with the z-level books like X-Treme X-Men) which is making him more powerful and angry, and is causing him to single-handedly solve global warming.  Mystique is in this book, which puts her in almost as many comics a month as Wolverine.  Marjorie Liu’s writing is nice and character-driven, and Gabriel Hernandez Walta does a great job on the art, even if some of his figures are not that easily recognized.  This is a solid comic, but there pace of the story is a little too slow, and I can understand why this title is being cancelled.

Avenging Spider-Man #21&22 – The first of these two issues is a little over-crowded, but the second one, which has Spidey-Ock dealing with a new Mysterio, the Punisher, and the Hobgoblin all at once is a bit of a delight, mostly because of David Lopez’s terrific art.  That he is supposed to be the regular artist on ‘Superior Spider-Man Team-Up’, the title that is replacing this book (see below) bodes well.

Cable and X-Force #8-12I find this book to be a little inconsistent, as Cable has his team running around fixing problems he knows about through his precognitive seizures, while the Uncanny Avengers relentlessly dog him.  They appear in this title almost as much as they do their own.  The mission-based parts of this comic are good, but the big reveal about where Cable gets his visions from is groan-inducing, as Dennis Hopeless returns to the Cable well one time too many.

Deadpool #6-13 – I never expected that I would end up enjoying a Deadpool comic as much as I am this one.  Writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan have embraced the aspects of the character that normally make me hate him, and have turned them into strengths, as this book is consistently funny and more intelligent than expected.  The best issues are the ‘inventory’ ones – fill-in issues set in classic Marvel periods.  One has Deadpool interacting with a very drunk Tony Stark in the 80s, while the second has him teaming up with the Heroes for Hire and fighting The White Man.  The current story arcs, which involve revived Presidents and a demon trying to take over from Mephisto are also very good, and with artists like Tony Moore, Scott Koblish, and Mike Hawthorne, the book looks great.  I may be adding this to my pull-file.

Legends of the Dark Knight #7-11 – While DC is certainly not holding back on delivering a lot of Batman stories on a monthly basis, most of them are designed as six-issue arcs.  Sometimes, it’s just nice to read a well-written, one-off Bat-story that has nice art and is not overly concerned with continuity and retconning some aspect of Bruce Wayne’s life.  That’s where this digital-first series, which is sadly not long for the world, comes into play nicely.  These are some great comics, by talent like Christos Gage, Chris Sprouse, Paul Jenkins, and many others.

Savage Wolverine #2-5Frank Cho’s arc on this book is pretty much exactly what you would expect.  There are dinosaurs, Shanna the She-Devil, tribal folk, a Man-Thing, the Hulk, and Amadeus Cho (who looks too old) all thrown into the Savage Land alongside Wolverine.  The story doesn’t have to make sense – you’re there for the art.

Savage Wolverine #7 – Where Cho’s story was kind of nonsensical, it was at least pretty tightly plotted and stuck to its own sense of logic.  Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira’s is pretty all over the place, as Logan and Elektra fight the Hand on behalf of the Kingpin.  There are a few too many monsters here, and things are kind of too over the top.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1 – Avenging Spider-Man is relaunched with the same excellent creative team of Chris Yost and David Lopez, with this story that has Spidey-Ock seemingly attacking just about every superhero in New York one at a time, which leads to a big conflict with the Avengers.  I like the way Yost is organizing this story, and planning for some big things to come.

Wolverine #3-7 – Paul Cornell is taking this book into some strange places, with Logan fighting genetically modified creatures from the Microverse, hanging out with Nick Fury Jr., and losing his healing factor.  Nothing about this book reads like a Wolverine story really.  When Alan Davis draws it, it looks terrific, and when he doesn’t, Mirco Pierfederici does a fine job.  The problem is that the book doesn’t feel all that true to the character – he acts as you would expect him to, but the situations are just off.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Absolution

Written by Christos Gage
Art by Roberto ViacavaChristos Gage has made a name for himself as a superhero writer who can navigate difficult continuity terrain, and is often used to help iron out difficult consequences of poorly thought-out event books at the big two (think of his Spider-Man tie-in to Age of Ultron).  I was curious to see what his work is like when he can develop his own world to play with, unconstrained by corporate policy and the weight of years of stories.Absolution is set in a world where superheroes are embraced by law enforcement, and work within the police or government agencies.  John Dusk is one of the most respected ‘enhanced’ police officers; he can project a blue ‘aura’ around his body, giving him abilities somewhere between a telekinetic’s and a Green Lantern’s.  Dusk has always had a strong sense of justice, but lately he’s decided that he needs to take matters into his own hands, when he finds that too many of the world’s most reprehensible individuals are given too many opportunities to reoffend.  Using his powers creatively, he starts executing some pretty awful folk.  And, this being an Avatar book, some of their crimes do get pretty disturbing.

Of course, this kind of thing can’t last forever, and Gage does a good job of examining Dusk’s responses to his own actions, as well as the reactions of the people he’s close to.  The comic is a very good read, moving into some territory that superhero comics don’t often explore.  The art, which adhere’s to the standard Avatar look, is a little weak.

This book works well as a trade, and I will probably wait to pick up the current follow-up mini-series in the same format.

Fishtown

by Kevin Colden

In Fishtown, Kevin Colden gives us a chilling and believable portrait of bored, remorseless teenagers who have been involved in the murder of one of their peers.

The kids, a trio of drug-addled boys and a manipulative girl, have pretty lost little lives.  They argue with their parents or adoptive uncles, and take whatever substances they can find.  When the girl comes up with the idea of robbing a high school dropout their age, everyone happily goes along with the plan, even when the suggestion is made that they kill the guy to escape being identified.

Colden tells the story from the perspective of the kids after they have been caught and incarcerated.  It’s not always clear if they are speaking to a cop, a lawyer, or a therapist, and it doesn’t really matter, as they seem more than happy to explain what happened.

Stories like this are sadly not uncommon – it wasn’t that long ago that we heard of a couple of kids who killed a tourist for something to do, and Colden’s portrayal of the kids feels very real.  The girl argues with her mother, and flies into a rage that she doesn’t believe her, despite the fact that she’s lying.  They seem to believe that a score of $500, split four ways, is all they’ll need to lead themselves to a better life.

Colden’s monochromatic pencils do a terrific job of capturing the slow decay of the parts of Philadelphia that have passed their prime, although he could be drawing any mid-sized American city.  The bleakness of this book lingers and sticks with you.

Album of the Week:

Shigeto -No Better Time Than Now- Shigeto is one of a newer breed of beatmakers, who contextualizes his sonic landscapes.  His pieces on this album are reminiscent of Detroit as it stands today, and are also examples of his skills as a musician.  This is an album that needs to be listened to many times over, and that surpasses his previous, excellent, work.



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