Best Comic of the Week:
Secret Wars #9 – It’s taken awhile, but I feel like Jonathan Hickman wrapped up his long Marvel story (beginning in his Fantastic Four run, and carrying forward through his Avengers tenure) in the way he always intended. This issue gives some great moments to Black Panther and Reed Richards, and while it might feel a little anti-climactic, I really liked where Hickman left the Richards family. I am not sure how well Secret Wars will reread on its own, but as the last chapter in a much larger story, it works very well. There are, of course, way too many ads sprinkled between the last pages of story, but I am glad that Marvel avoided padding the issue out with a lot of unnecessary lead-ins to other series. I also like the way this ending leaves a lot of possibilities open for slight changes to the status quo in the 616. Esad Ribic really outdid himself in a number of places as well; it was the right decision to ship the book late with one artist instead of getting others to fill in to get the book out on time.
Abe Sapien #30 – Sometimes I really don’t know if Mike Mignola and Scott Allie have a real plan for this book or not. This issue pretty much abandons Abe completely, aside from a framing sequence set in the 80s, and instead tells the story of Gustav Strobl, an apparently big name in the occult world (and I think the guy who has had a subplot running in this series since it began). This issue is illustrated by Santiago Caruso, who is pretty amazing. I’m just finding it harder and harder to keep this book straight in my head – I enjoy it while I read it, but I can’t believe that thirty issues have gone by. I’m not sure if I can tell you about more than three or four things that have happened in all that time.
All-New All-Different Avengers #3 – This title is starting to coalesce finally, as the team handles the Chitauri who is trying to rip up the Earth, and as the larger of threat of Gryphon is pointed out to us, but not exactly explained. Mark Waid does well with these characters, although the secret that Nova wants to keep from his new teammates seems a little unimportant to me. I still don’t understand what’s going on with the team’s funding, but can see myself sticking with the title. I like the way this started with a three-issue arc; were this arc dragged out over five or six issues, I’d probably be dropping it.
All-New Hawkeye #3 – The first three-issue arc wraps up here, and hopefully with it, so do the flashforwards that have taken up most of each issue. It seems that Jeff Lemire is really focusing on what makes the relationship between Clint and Kate work (or not work), and that this is what the title is going to explore moving forward. Ramon Pérez’s art is so good here that I’m willing to overlook the fact that this series, and the one that preceded it, hasn’t done a lot for me story-wise.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #5 – I continue to think that this might be one of the best of the ANAD Marvel relaunches. Nick Spencer has taken a very old-school approach to Cap, giving us the return of CapWolf, D-Man, and the Serpent Society, while also situating Sam in modern America, with all of its xenophobia, violence, and terrible corporate and political leaders. At first I thought that the new Falcon was a little silly, but I’m growing to like the character, and I think artist Paul Renaud is a much better fit for the book than Daniel Acuña was.
Descender #9 – This feels like a bit of a placeholder issue of Descender, as it mostly shows us what everyone is up to as they travel along their different journeys. Tim-21 gets to know Tim-22 better as he is taken to the robot resistance’s homeworld. Andy is on their trail, meeting Driller on the G’Nishian homeworld. This book continues to be very lovely, thanks to Dustin Nguyen, and continues to be a compelling read thanks to Jeff Lemire (unlike Extraordinary X-Men, below).
Extraordinary X-Men #5 – Five issues into Jeff Lemire’s reign on X-Men, and I don’t think I care at all about anything that is happening here. Mister Sinister is nowhere near as cool here as he was when Kieron Gillen was writing the book. All this M-Pox and X-Haven stuff is just Decimation done again. The new looks and approaches to Colossus and Nightcrawler are annoying me, and the focus on Old Man Logan makes me worry that his own title by Lemire is also going to be a yawn. I want to like this book a lot, but Humberto Ramos’s art is not working for me, and I honestly don’t even believe this is Lemire writing the book, since everything else he’s done, including Justice League United at its worst, has been better than this. The next issue is the last one I’ve preordered. That means Lemire has one last chance to impress me, but since that’s going to be yet another comic set on Weirdworld, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.
From Under Mountains #4 – After the first three issues of this series have moved slowly, and felt more concerned with establishing mood, we get a fair amount of exposition. Elena has been thrust into running her family’s interests and land, without any help from her father in the wake of her brother’s murder. Sir Mardin, a disgraced ex-soldier has been pushed back into service to complete some important negotiations with neighbouring goblins, but he has figured out that Elena’s family has been behaving incorrectly in previous negotiations. We’ve gotten glimpses of who these characters are, but now that they are talking together, we get a better sense of who they are and what this series is going to be about. Sloane Leong’s art is beautiful in this comic, and makes up for the languorous pace of the story.
Huck #3 – Now that the world knows about Huck and his abilities, it’s not really a surprise to learn that he is getting taken advantage of by a whole bunch of people, including the governor of his home state. Mark Millar has made Huck a sweet, endearing character, and then stuck him into a pool of sharks. I like the way he chooses to handle it all in this issue. I’m also really enjoying seeing Rafael Albuquerque work on a series with a very different atmosphere to it from what he usually draws.
Injection #6 – It took me almost the entire first arc of Injection to get a sense of where Warren Ellis was going with this title, but now at the beginning of the second arc, he pulls the rug out form under us, and gives us a very different comic. Vivek Headland is a character clearly based on the Sherlock Holmes model, an independent investigator of very particular tastes and routines. Headland is the type of character that Ellis excels at writing; you can easily imagine him smiling while working on the book. Declan Shalvey gets a few chances to shine, especially at the end of the issue. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new plotline, which involves a stolen ghost and human ham, fits with the rest of the series.
Massive: Ninth Wave #2 – I like the way Brian Wood embraces the moral complexity of Callum Israel’s Ninth Wave group in this issue. The direct action environmental group had a reputation for violence, but were strictly pacifists (for the most part). This issue has Callum staking out a forest in the Queen Charlottes where he knows that some former associates of his would be working to stop clear cutters from destroying old growth forest. This issue doesn’t really resolve anything, but instead nicely illustrates the complicated set of contradictions Callum had to embrace to work towards his vision. Having him eat deli meat with a rogue forest agent only adds to his character. I am really happy that Wood and Garry Brown have chosen to revisit this title and these characters; I missed them all.
Mighty Thor #3 – The new Thor confronts a whole bunch of different versions of Loki in this issue, and while that whole dynamic has been pretty tired for a long time (especially since Jason Aaron’s Loki is not as interesting as Kieron Gillen’s or Al Ewing’s), at least with Russell Dauterman drawing the book, it is very pretty. I’d really rather see the new Thor take on different threats and explore some different facets of the character, mostly because Asgard and Malekith bore me, but as long as the art is this good, I’m going to stick with this title.
Ninjak #11 – Ninjak and Punk Mambo are stuck in the Deadside, the weird afterlife of the Valiant Universe (I’m curious to learn if this is in any way connected to the afterlife that Gilad is in in the Wrath of the Eternal Warrior series), and having to hang out on an island until they can figure out how to return to their mission. As with every issue of this series, the main story is pretty solid, with some interesting new ideas by Matt Kindt, while the backup helps to inform things. I’m not as interested in the Deadside stuff though; I like Ninjak better when working more in his usual milieu.
No Mercy #6 – I really enjoyed the beginning arc of No Mercy, which introduced a group of American teenagers who were lost in a Central American desert while on a trip to build schools. This second arc, though, is even better, as Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil focus on character development, and follow the teens as they’ve split and are all supposed to be finding help. This issue focuses on the brother and sister pair who hate each other. Chad is an absolute creep who is shocked to learn, when he calls home for help, that photoshopped images of him having sex with another man have been released onto the Internet, and that his family has disowned him. His sister, who he has tortured because of her orientation and gender identity, takes this as a good chance for some revenge. Another of the students, the ‘freegan’ character, gets discovered by a trio of vacationing Brits and decides he’d rather party than try to rescue the other kids. I would say, by reading this, that De Campi doesn’t think much of Americans, but now she is starting to spread her net of morally bankrupt characters to other nations as well. Either way, it doesn’t seem like she has a lot of faith in humanity, and therein lies a lot of the wicked fun of this title. I really can’t get enough of it, and like every panel of Finder, McNeil makes this book look so good.
Rebels #10 – Like Northlanders before it, I’m really going to miss Rebels. Brian Wood is so good at bringing complex historical moments to life on the comics page, although the series that he uses to do this never sell as well as they should. Rebels has given us a number of interesting glimpses into the American Revolution. This issue looks at the life of a British soldier who was present at the Boston Massacre of 1770. In typical Wood fashion, the story is not necessarily clear, leaving a lot for the reader to puzzle out. Tristan Jones’s art is very nice, and he is very good at capturing the confusion of the battlefield.
Scarlet Witch #2 – The only reason why I picked up this comic (and the one that preceded it) was because of artist Marco Rudy, whose career I enjoy following closely. Rudy is incredible here. He uses layouts worthy of JH Williams III, and blends painting with drawing in ways that often surprise. What I didn’t really expect though, was that I was going to enjoy this issue so much. Wanda has travelled to Santorini Greece to talk to the goddess Hekate about the problems she sees with magic in the Marvel Universe, and while there she learns that the fabled Minotaur has been preying on tourists. I like the way writer James Robinson is building a larger story through these issues that have worked well as done-in-ones, and how some of Wanda’s experiences echo what’s been happening in Doctor Strange’s title. Rudy was the star here, but even without him illustrating the next issue, I’m considering picking it up.
Squadron Supreme #3 – I’m surprised that I’m still buying this title, but this issue’s confrontation with the Uncanny Avengers has me even more interested in this title. I like the way James Robinson is building this team, and how each character is being given a few small moments of their own in each issue to make them more believable. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Thundra is going to fit on this title, although I really don’t know why Marvel keeps placing so many stories on Weirdworld. For the record, that’s two James Robinson books this week that I enjoyed. After Cry For Justice, I never thought that was going to happen again.
The Violent #2 – Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham are putting together the best crime comic on the stands right now. Anyone who enjoys the work of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, especially if they like Criminal or The Fade Out, would find this series right up their alley. In the last issue, we met Mason, an ex-con who is trying to live a straight life for his daughter, but who keeps messing up. At the end of that issue, Mason ends up in a bar trying to help his friend, while his daughter waits in the car outside. He was arrested for child endangerment and it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to see his daughter again. Things get even weirder, as now Becky, his wife, has gone missing. Fearing that she’s gone back to using heroin, and fearful that the couple will lose their daughter completely if the cops find out, Mason is trying to track her down, his only lead being that she was seen with their former drug dealer. This is a very hard book, and Brisson and Gorham build suspense beautifully. More people need to be checking this one out.
The Walking Dead #150 – Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard have trained us to expect terrible things happening in anniversary issues, but, while this is a good comic with one surprising scene, it’s not a total bloodbath. Weirdly, knowing this was an anniversary issue created a lot of tension for me, so I kept expecting something terrible every time I turned the page. Instead, Kirkman has Rick planning for the future of Alexandria and its associated communities, especially since they are all living under the threat of the Whisperers. Rick remains the original badass of independent comics, and the status quo shifts a little towards the more militant. I picked up the Tony Moore variant cover for this comic, and that made me happy, as although I didn’t start buying this book until Charlie Adlard was the regular artist, I fondly remember Moore’s covers for the first few years, and seeing that he and Kirkman have put aside their differences to the point where they are working together again made me happy (and made me realize that I want to read more work from Moore).
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Agents of SHIELD #1
All-New Wolverine #4
All-New X-Men #3
Amazing Spider-Man #1.2
Batman and Robin Eternal #15
Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #2
Gotham Academy #14
Guardians of the Galaxy #4
Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis #1
Robin War #2
Snow Blind #2
Uncanny Avengers #4
Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 – It’s very strange how Marvel decides to release these miniseries between the issues of Spider-Man’s comic; I don’t think they do this for any other title. Anyway, this is an odd story, that involves Spidey getting involved in the sudden resurrection of a nice family man who was suffering from cancer. I’m not sure what role the Santerians play, but we are introduced to this new group of characters; we’re just not sure yet if they are good or bad. I assume that one of them is supposed to be the medical examiner that Peter Parker talked with earlier in the issue, but that could be attributed to Simone Bianchi’s confusing artwork as well.
Deathlok #10 – It seems that Marvel had intended that this series would last a lot more than ten issues, since the whole title only served to introduce this new version of the classic character, and set up a status quo for an ongoing series. I wonder how much of this is now going to be tossed out the window in Agents of SHIELD, which is starting this week. I feel very conflicted about buying Nathan Edmondson’s comics now; he’s a good writer, but I keep reading about his behaviour on the internet, and recognize that he’s not someone I want to financially support (so he’s a ‘bargain comics’ purchase only from here out).
Doctor Fate #5&6 – I find this title to be one of the most disappointing of the DC You batch of new series. Sonny Liew’s artwork is fantastic in this book, and Paul Levitz has followed a formula that has the potential to make this series DC’s version of Ms. Marvel, but the story is so decompressed, and the threat (an old Egyptian god wants to flood the entire world) is so dull, that barely anything happens in each issue. Reading two in a row just serves to underscore how slow things are. I’d be down were Liew to replace Levitz as writer as well; his Malinky Robot was a lot of fun, and he’s a capable writer. I’m not sure that Levitz is anymore…
1872 #3&4 – This was probably the most Elseworlds of all of the Secret Wars tie-ins, and while I found the first two issues entertaining, these last two felt very obvious and a little uninspired. I can’t imagine this reintroduction of Red Wolf as a lead character is going to translate into a lot of renewed interest in the character.
Guardians of Knowhere #4 – So I guess the entire purpose of this Secret Wars tie-in series was to establish a couple of new characters who immediately showed up in Brian Michael Bendis’s new Guardians of the Galaxy series? Really, there was no value to this series, except for the fact that we got to see Mantis work with the team again, briefly, and that made it worthwhile to me.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Greg Scott
It’s not uncommon, for a comics reader, to find a moment when a character discusses how magic is science that is just not understood yet. Strange Attractors, by Charles Soule, upends that maxim, and gives us a story about mathematics so hard to understand that it may as well be magic.
Heller Wilson is a PhD. candidate who is working to complete his thesis in New York City. He’s studying complexity theory, and is led to meet with Dr. Spencer Brownfield, an ex-professor who did groundbreaking work on this concept before stepping down for reasons that are shrouded in secrecy.
We learn that Brownfield, who is more than a little eccentric and obsessive, spends his days adjusting the ebb and flow of New York City in a variety of ways, all in an effort to keep the living organism of the city healthy. It’s just about impossible to try to understand the mathematical underpinning in Brownfield’s actions, but the concept fascinates Wilson, who begins working with the older man.
As the story progresses, it becomes obvious that something cataclysmic is about to happen to New York. The professor has a plan, but it’s all pretty hard to believe, and Wilson goes through a lot of doubt as to whether or not he should commit to the project. We, as readers, have a good idea of what the problem will be, as we keep seeing glimpses of terrorists constructing a dirty bomb, as well as some behind-the-scenes moments at City Hall, where a police strike looms.
Soule is a very impressive writer. I love his Letter 44, and have been very impressed with his work at Marvel (She-Hulk, Daredevil, even the Inhumans) and DC (Swamp Thing). This is one of his earliest published works, but it’s clear at this point that he has a new way of constructing comics stories. Greg Scott is a capable artist, and he manages to make what is largely a talking heads comic visually interesting.
I don’t know how the mathematics behind this story could possibly work, or how an algorithm to map so many different data sets into a cohesive image could possibly be developed in such a rush, but the idea of cities as living creatures is a compelling one, and this book opens up some interesting notions for future exploration.
Tags: The Weekly Round-Up