Inside Pulse 12

The Weekly Round-Up #317 With Lazarus #21, East Of West #23, Omega Men #7, Black Magick #3 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Lazarus #21I’ve really liked this current arc of Lazarus, which has focused on the war between the Carlyle and Hock families.  Forever has been on a mission to knock out Hock’s anti-aircraft batteries, and it’s been tough going.  This issue combines battlefield suspense with the tension of sitting in a war-room, as Forever’s brother and sister have to prove to their allies that they are capable of running things while their father recovers from his illness.  Excellent work from Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, with a last page that really surprised me.  I’m not too happy that the book is now going on hiatus until May, but it’s all good.  I’d rather see it stay on schedule when it comes back, and these guys deserve a rest after this arc.

Quick Takes:

Black Canary #6 – Black Canary has been a fun series, and this issue continues that, as the band faces off against Bo’s band in a battle that is as physical as it is musical.  Annie Wu is doing some impressive stuff with the art on this title, and her fight scenes in this issue are phenomenal.

Black Magick #3 – Nicola Scott is killing on this comic.  Rowan is convinced that someone is after her, but has little choice but to continue going about her usual business.  Greg Rucka is taking his time with this comic, but we get a better idea of the threat this month, as Rowan has to decide how to best protect herself.  This is an impressive new series.

East of West #23It feels like it’s time for Jonathan Hickman to start tying together some different plot strands.  This issue shows the aftermath of last issue’s attack on the House of Mao, while the crown prince of the Kingdom makes his first move against his father, and decides to continue funding the Union.  We also learn of his connection to Wolf.  This is an endlessly complex series, and it’s great to see Hickman bringing together various story elements.  I do wish this book came out more quickly, but wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice any of the quality that Nick Dragotta puts into every page.  This is a gorgeous comic.

Morning Glories #49 – For a while now, I’ve felt like Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s Morning Glories has been spinning its wheels some, and taking way too long to get to the point.  All that changes with this issues, as a number of storylines converge, and the time 8:13 has some sort of significance.  It’s election day, and we find out whether or not Casey is going to get the chance to meet the mysterious Headmaster.  It’s the Towerball final, and we learn if Guillaume’s Blue Team is going to win for the first time ever.  Also, it’s time for the Science Fair, and we learn if it’s possible to contact the outside world.  I am not sure what all is going to happen in the next issue, but I imagine it’s going to be momentous.  It’s also interesting to note that no issues of the series have been solicited past #50.  Is that to allow Spencer to catch up, or is it because the next issue is a grand finale?  I’m looking forward to finding out.

The Omega Men #7It looks like Kyle Rayner and Kalista have managed to escape the large space station crash of last issue, but now they need to get off a planet where they are wanted as terrorists.  As with every issue of this series since it began, not everything is exactly what you think it is, and poor Kyle continues to get used in a game he doesn’t understand.  I continue to be impressed by the complexity and coolness of this series.

Rumble #10 – There aren’t really any other comics quite like Rumble, and that, along with James Harren’s endlessly inventive artwork, are keeping me coming back.  This issue wraps up the second arc before this title goes on a short hiatus (there’s a lot of that this week), so this is a good time to check this out if you’re looking for a well-written modern fantasy series.

Squadron Supreme #2 – The first issue of this series impressed me when I read it this week (see below) and since this was such a light week, I decided to give the second issue a try.  James Robinson takes this issue to introduce the Squadron as individuals, and while many of these characters are familiar, I appreciated getting to know them a little better, and seeing what kind of personal arc they might travel along.  This is an intriguing series, and while the mandatory upcoming fight with the Uncanny Avengers team (how many Marvel series are launching this way?) doesn’t interest me, Robinson’s plans and goals for this book do.  I think I’m likely to get the next issue too…

Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:

All-New Wolverine #3

Batman and Robin Eternal #13

Chewbacca #5

Doctor Fate #7

Dreaming Eagles #1

James Bond #3

Lobster Johnson Glass Mantis

Mercury Heat #6

War Stories #15

Bargain Comics:

A small week of new comics, mixed with a lot of time off, and some pretty good Boxing Day sales, means that this part of the column is pretty long.

All-New Wolverine #1&2I wasn’t sure what to expect from Tom Taylor and this title, but was pleasantly surprised.  I’ve never been a big fan of Laura, and don’t feel that much is done here to establish her as Wolverine, but the story, involving some Alchemax-made clones of our hero that have struck out on their own, works nicely.  David Lopez’s art is very, very nice as well.

All-New X-Men #1&2 – As much as I like Dennis Hopeless’s writing, my dislike for Mark Bagley’s art kept me from buying these comics when they hit the stands.  Having read the first two issues now, I stand by that decision, but it’s unfortunate, because I like a lot of what Hopeless is setting up in this series.  The original X-Men, minus Jean, but with X-23/Wolverine, Idie, and Genesis in tow, are wandering around hanging out with one another.  Scott is not with the team at first, preferring to wander around in a funk, but a group of mutants calling themselves the Ghosts of Cyclops bring everyone together again.  There’s some good stuff here, although the relationship between Laura and Warren is not very believable, and the art is a huge drawback.  It’s not 1992 anymore…

Amazing Spider-Man #3 – I am enjoying the more confident Peter Parker that is now starring in this series.  This issue has the Human Torch showing up at Parker Industries’s new New York headquarters – the Baxter Building – and he’s not too happy to learn that his close friend has taken over his former home.  I also really like that the Zodiac are being used as major villains in this series; I’ve always liked them.  Once again, I’m tempted to start buying this book regularly.  The only thing stopping me from doing that is the frequency with which Marvel double-ships this title.

Black Knight #1&2I used to really like the Black Knight back when he was in the Avengers, but I was pretty surprised to see Marvel expect that he can hold down a solo ongoing title.  Having read these first two issues, I don’t really understand what’s going on here at all.  Dane has become the leader of some corner of Weirdworld (how many series are going to take place here – how big is Weirdworld?).  For some reason, the Avengers (the Uncanny variety) are not happy about this, and come looking for him, bringing some woman with them who is never introduced.  Really, the pacing and development of this title is a mess if, after two issues, I don’t really understand what this series is about.  I can’t imagine I’ll be back for a third…

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1&2 – I knew before I bought it that this would be a pointless little Secret Wars tie-in, but when I see a book written by Al Ewing and drawn by Alan Davis, it’s hard to turn it down.  I was right, but I still enjoyed this.

Chewbacca #3&4 – The adventures of everyone’s favourite Wookie in helping free a group of slaves are fun to read, and Phil Noto’s art is nice.  This is still the weakest of the Star Wars books so far though, as they kind of scrape the bottom of the well looking for stories to support a five-issue miniseries.

Contest of Champions #1 – I get the feeling that this book exists only to support the new game Marvel has put out, because I don’t really understand why there would be a market for a title that spotlights characters that are either brand new or so obscure I’ve never heard of them (The Outlaw, Guillotine), mixed with former versions of characters we know (Joe Fix-it) and Gamora.  Really, this thing is a bit of a mess, and for a double-sized comic, way too decompressed.  I’m going to be passing from here on out.

Guardians of Infinity #1I really doubt that the market can sustain so many Guardians of the Galaxy spin-off titles, but this one is written by Dan Abnett, half the writing team that made the Guardians cool again.  I like the central idea, that three of the current team have entered a structure in space that appears to exist in multiple eras at once – some of the original Guardians from the year 3000 are there as well.  The concept might work, but it depends on just how many different versions of the team we really need to meet.  The back-up story featuring Rocket and the Thing is kind of annoying, except that Jim Cheung draws an amazing Ben Grimm.  I haven’t seen him look so good since John Byrne left the FF in the late eighties.

Guardians of Knowhere #3 – Brian Michael Bendis really didn’t do much with this Secret Wars series, but I do like the way this issue gave Gamora more screen time than she usually gets.  Mike Deodato’s art is pretty good too.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2&3 – Brian Michael Bendis is not one to keep a status quo going for long; no sooner does he install Peter Quill as the elected ruler of Spartax then he immediately goes about getting the planet ruined by Hala, the last of the Kree Accusers.  I’m not sure I understand why Hala is more powerful than the newly cosmically upgraded Gamora though.  I like the way Bendis is writing Ben Grimm and Kitty Pryde in this book, and wonder what happened to Kitty’s supposed new cosmic abilities.  Granted, it’s not like Bendis to stick to continuity, even stuff he wrote himself…

Gwenpool Special #1 – I feel like I owe some thanks to a reviewer (I think it was at The Beat) who said that this one-off featuring the newest sensation character I care nothing about was actually more of an epilogue to Charles Soule’s excellent She-Hulk series.  In fact, in all of the Boxing Day comics that I picked up, this might be one of my favourites so far.  The framing story is about She-Hulk’s landlord (also Howard the Duck’s) wanting to sell her building, and Jen and friends coming to realize that she is under a spell.  The way to counteract the spell?  To throw a big holiday party.  Langdon Foss drew the She-Hulk parts, and while I would have preferred Javier Pulido (although, that goes for almost every comic), he did a fine job.  The other stories, featuring Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, Deadpool and the Hawkeyes, and Gwenpool, were all pretty fun as well.  This book left me with two things – a sense of loss for the She-Hulk series, and a lot of confusion as to why Patsy Walker was cosplaying as the JSA’s Cyclone.

Hercules #2The first issue of Hercules was decent, but didn’t impress me enough to get me to continue buying the series.  This issue, which has Herc fighting Gigantes and getting a better idea as to why so many ancient monsters are popping up, was a lot funnier and had a better sense of itself.  I like that Hercules is aware that everyone thinks he’s a terrible hero, and is fighting to change that perception of himself.  It’s an interesting take on a character who, in the modern era, usually gets portrayed as a buffoon.

Howard the Duck #2 – As much as I had enjoyed the recent Howard the Duck series under Chip Zdarsky, I was not interested in paying $5 an issue for the lead story and a Gwenpool backup that I had no interest in reading.  It’s a shame, too, as the main feature is very good.  Instead of checking in with Howard at all, we spend the issue with Lisa and Shocket, the two female clones of Howard and Rocket Racoon, who were made by the Collector, but then freed and taken back in time by the guard who was tasked with raising them.  This is good stuff – almost good enough to make me want to keep reading the series.

Old Man Logan #3-5 – It’s strange that it was this series that probably best explained the whole situation on Battleworld (other than where the cities all got their food if the common people weren’t aware of other domains).  Logan travels through a bunch of them, and then the back half of the last issue is more or less the last issue of Ultimate End, although a lot nicer looking thanks to Andrea Sorrentino.  I’m less excited about the upcoming Old Man Logan series by Lemire and Sorrentino, mostly because Lemire’s Extraordinary X-Men has been a disappointment.  On the other hand, Sorrentino is incredible, so there is that.

Robin War #1The set-up to this event feels a little forced (that anything Robin-related has become illegal in Gotham, and that the police are now hunting the Robins movement, which draws in the attention of the real Robins), and I feel like Tom King missed a chance to make some comments on the way young people of colour are being policed in North American cities, but beyond all that, this is an entertaining story.  It’s nice to see Damian interacting with the kids that probably idolize him.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish this event though – it’s passing through too many titles that I don’t read.

SHIELD #12 – The end of Mark Waid’s run on this title (and the title itself) is as silly and inconsequential as any other issue of this comic.  The Scarlet Centurion attacks and kills Odin, causing Asgard to attack Earth and kill all of its superheroes.  Coulson leads his team to Asgard, but Heimdall backs them up in time to the point where they can stop the Centurion.  There are a few story inconsistencies, and weirdly, Odin has both of his eyes.  This book was drawn by Joe Bennett, who I usually really admire, but this was bland throughout.

Squadron Supreme #1 – Having heard so many good things about this comic, I felt that I should take advantage of Boxing Day sales and check it out.  James Robinson really makes a bold statement with this issue, which features the death of a very old, very prominent Marvel character (who I was hoping was going to be in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther).  The Squadron is a bit of a mix of The Authority and Uncanny X-Force, as they go about trying to protect their adopted Earth from whatever they perceive to be a threat.  Robinson’s recent Invaders series was a disappointment, but seeing as most of these characters are blank slates, I think he might be able to do something interesting with this.  

Silk #3-7 I really didn’t expect Silk to be as good as it is.  Robbie Thompson is an unknown quantity to me, but he’s got a really nice handle on this character, and is doing cool things with her.  I like the way the book addresses the possibility of Cindy needing help for her anxiety, while also building up a strong supporting cast (and making very good use of J. Jonah Jameson).  Stacey Lee’s art is terrific, and the frequent fill-in artists are also very good.  I am going to have to look into the post-Secret Wars relaunch.

Ultimate End #4&5 – This series does not really end well, as Miles Morales shows up to stop the squabbling heroes of the Ultimate and 616 universes (although, it’s not really them) from fighting with each other, and to instead turn on Doom.  No battle is shown – instead we get a massive grid of headshots that blink out one by one, suggesting that Doom is killing everyone.  It takes away a lot of the drama, and with Mark Bagley drawing things, everyone looks alike.  If this is the last word on the Ultimate Universe, then I guess it’s really lived a little too long.  

Uncanny Avengers #3 – In case you weren’t fully sure if the 90s were back, you need look no further than this issue, which features shoulder-padded Cable, holding a gigantic gun.  I’m not sure if Cable’s going to be on this team or not, but having him would go a long ways towards making this a more balanced ‘unity’ team, since right now, Rogue is the only mutant on the squad.  This book really lacks cohesiveness; it’s hard to care about what’s happening here, because I don’t buy this group as a team, and don’t much care about the individual characters here.

Uncanny Inhumans #3 – This whole issue is given over to a fight between Medusa, Black Bolt, their companions, and their son Ahura, who is now old, and in command of Kang’s usual role in a Marvel comic.  Steve McNiven’s art looks very nice, and Charles Soule finds enough time and space to work in just enough character development to keep me interested.

We Are Robin #6I dropped this title, mostly because while it’s decent, it’s not $4 a month good.  If DC weren’t gouging (or were offering digital codes) I’d probably still be buying it, especially since Lee Bermejo is finally filling it with the character development that I expect.  The kids take on a Talon here, and start to learn how to work together.  It’s taken a long time getting here, but this is getting more interesting.

Weirdworld #1 – I enjoyed the Secret Wars miniseries that this is the follow up to, mostly because of Mike Del Mundo’s excellent artwork, but even with him sticking with the title, I can’t see a lot of reason to stick with this relaunch.  We meet a teenage girl from Earth who has suddenly found herself on Weirdworld, which now looks like it’s off somewhere in space, and she quickly joins up with Lady Brienne of Tarth (the Valley Girl iteration) to go on some sort of wizard-killing spree.  I’ve enjoyed writer Sam Humphries independent work, but his Marvel work has mostly left me cold.  This is better than his Star-Lord, but I’m still not sure of it.  I’m also not sure why Marvel is putting so much weight behind Weirdworld, having it also feature prominently in Black Knight and Squadron Supreme.  There’s a lot that needs to be explained.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Ciudad

Written by Ande Parks
From a story by Ande Parks, Joe Russo, and Anthony Russo
Art by Fernando León González

Oni Press consistently puts out some very beautifully-designed and well-written hardcover graphic novels.  Seeing that this was published by them (and was clearly not a kids or YA-oriented book) was enough to get me to want to glance through it.  Recognizing Ande Park’s name on the cover, the writer of the excellent Capote in Kansas, was enough to make me want to buy it.

Ciudad is a story about an American mercenary who is hired to rescue a Brazilian drug lord’s daughter from kidnappers.  They have taken her to Ciudad del Este, the Paraguayan border town known for its open border and access to just about any kind of trade you can imagine.  The American, who goes by many names, gets her out of captivity in the first few pages of the book (the backstory is filled in as we go), and together they find themselves running a gauntlet of shady people, from police, the drug lord’s people, and others who want them dead or at their disposal.

The Russo brothers, who came up with the story alongside Parks, are filmmakers, and that blockbuster energy is clear on just about every page of this book.  Like many comics, I feel like this might have been made as a prelude to trying to make a movie, and so things rarely slow down for more than a page at a time.  Parks paces the story well.

The art, by Fernando León González, is nice but a little stiff.  Too many of the action sequences became confusing, when González had to fit multiple vehicles or people into panels that are a little too small.  His work is fine, but something more dynamic might have helped propel the story better.

Still, if you’re looking for a solid adventure read, you will be happy with this fine graphic novel.

The People Inside

by Ray Fawkes

Ray Fawkes is an interesting, very multi-faceted comics professional.  Over the last bunch of years, he’s become a much more recognized name, writing for Batman Eternal, Justice League Dark, Constantine, and the excellent Gotham by Midnight.  He also co-wrote the terrible Wolverines though.

Outside of that, he’s built a following for his children’s comic Possessions, and has put together some very artsy, very strange books like Intersect, The Spectral Engine, and the incredible One Soul.

The People Inside is a stylistic follow-up to that endeavour.  Where that book focused on individual lives, from birth to death, this one looks at relationships.  Each double-page spread follows twenty-four people.  Most of these people are paired up with one another, creating at most a six-panel grid on the page, but as partners separate, their panel splits into two smaller ones.  When a character dies, their panel goes black and stays that way through the rest of the book.  The position of each character’s panel never changes, although at one point, two people meet and begin a relationship together, and their panels merge.

Fawkes uses a very minimalist style in this book.  His simple pencils tell just enough information to get a sense of what’s going on, and he blends dialogue with stream of consciousness inner monologue, so it’s often impossible to tell if we are hearing a character’s words or their thoughts.  It’s very effective, although at times, I found it hard to keep track of who was who, and would sometimes have to flip back a few pages to remind myself which story was happening in which panel.

Fawkes includes a fair amount of sexual diversity in this book, featuring straight, gay, and bi couples.  We also see reflected in this book the full gamut of relationships, from one that is incredibly happy and rewarding, to one that is so abusive that one partner ends up in prison.  A couple of the characters never really find someone for themselves, although I kept expecting them to hook up.

While this book is very beautiful, it’s also a little cynical.  More than the average number of people end up killing themselves here, and very few of these relationships end up being fruitful in the long term.

This is definitely an important book though, and works nicely as a companion to One Soul.  I’d like to see more like this from Fawkes in the future – not necessarily in this format, but with this level of inventiveness.

Showa: A History of Japan 1926-1939

by Shigeru Mizuki

I really don’t know a lot about Japanese history, and since I liked Shigeru Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, his account of his own involvement in the Second World War, I thought it would be interesting to read his broader take on the country’s history.

Showa is a multi-volume look into the era that began when Emperor Hirohito took the throne.  This also coincided, roughly, with Mizuki’s birth.  The first volume of this series covers the start of the era through to the Second World War, and this was a time of great turmoil throughout Japan.

A devastating earthquake created economic instability, which was made worse by the Great Depression.  Following that, a number of ‘incidents’ in China, and a shocking level of independence in the military, plunged Japan into many years of militaristic expansion into other countries, notably Korea and China.

The larger history of the country is told a variety of ways.  We get straight narration, we sit in on discussions among regular men on the street, and are directly told what’s going on by Nezumi Otoko, a magical character from Mizuki’s other work.  These sections of the book are interesting, but often became a string of names and faces to me.

Of more interest were the sections that juxtaposed Mizuki’s own life with the events of the time.  We see young Shigeru move from being a small child through to his early adulthood.  This provides some context to the larger events, and remind us that at every point of history where major events have happened, there have been people just going about their day.

This is a hugely ambitious project from a much-loved cartoonist who sadly passed away this year.  I look forward to reading the rest of this.

Tags: