Inside Pulse 12

The Weekly Round-Up #322 With Mirror #1, Exodus: The Life After #3, Saints #5, X-O Manowar #44, The Walking Dead #151 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Mirror #1Apparently this series was originally supposed to be a part of the 8House shared universe that Brandon Graham has constructed, and like From Under Mountains, it does feel like it’s a part of that excellent (if currently AWOL) work.  Emma Rios writes this story, about a world where a man has been creating human/animal hybrids to fight in a war.  Ivan is a powerful mage whose childhood dog was turned into one such hybrid, and became his lover.  Now, many years later, Ivan is very unhappy, and wants to free the few remaining sad creatures left.  This series is a strange blend of fantasy and science fiction, and features some very beautiful art by Hwei Lim.  Fans of Elephantmen or Autumnlands might enjoy just how different Rios and Lim have made this series from those other ones that explore similar themes.  I found this a challenging read, as Rios doesn’t ever go in for easy exposition, but am looking forward to reading this again to pick up more of the story before the next issue arrives.

Quick Takes:

Batgirl #48This is another enjoyable issue of Batgirl, which includes appearances by Black Canary and Batwing.  I feel like Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart have dipped into the story well one time too many in crafting this story about Babs’s memories, but at the same time, they write this one very well.  I hope that this title doesn’t get too mucked up by whatever this Rebirth thing is going to be, because I don’t think there’s much that needs to be fixed with this comic as it is right now.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #6 – The first arc of this series has made me very happy.  Nick Spencer has blended the best things about Mark Gruenwald’s legendary run on Captain America (Serpents!  Cap-Wolf!) with a pretty pointed critique of the 1%, Millennials, and corporate American culture, all while giving us a great story.  Joe Bennett draws this issue, and that’s a good thing, although I do find it annoying that we are on our third artist on this series only six issues in.  It’s too bad that we’re moving into the Standoff crossover now, as Sam still hasn’t had enough time or space to make the Captain America guise his own.  

Captain Marvel #2I didn’t expect to enjoy this title so much, and while this issue is not as strong as the first one, I think I might be sticking around with this title for the foreseeable future.  To begin with, I like the way the writers, Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, are handling the three members of Alpha Flight that make up the supporting cast of this book (even though I don’t believe any of them are qualified to investigate and operate an ancient derelict alien vessel).  Kris Anka’s art is very nice, and Abigail Brand is put to very good use.  I’m not sure what the long-term plan for this storyline is, but I’m interested.

Doctor Strange #5 – I like the way Jason Aaron has built limitations into Stephen Strange’s abilities, and has made Wong so instrumental in compensating for these limitations.  This is a big issue, as Strange gives everything he’s got to stop the Empirikul, who have been destroying magic in many dimensions.  Is that enough?  Well, there’s one more issue in this arc, so obviously he’s not going to be done just yet.  This series continues to be one of the best of the ANAD line.

Exodus: The Life After #3 Have you ever imagined what a conversation between a long-dead Ernest Hemingway and the all-powerful potato that is God would be like?  You don’t have to wonder any longer – Joshua Hale Fialkov has written that scene (or, you know, the potato has made him write it), and it’s all pretty wonderful.  The Life After, and this follow-up second series, has been a delightful exploration of Christian views of the afterlife, but nothing we’ve seen so far beats this issue for clarity of vision or humour.  Great stuff, and a great read, even if you are not a fan of either character.

Invincible Iron Man #6 – I’m starting to get second thoughts about buying two Iron Man titles a month from Brian Michael Bendis, since he doesn’t have a whole lot happening in this main book right now when it is the only one coming out.  Tony has breakfast with his new girlfriend, and Doctor Doom stops by to chat, while Rhodey looks for answers about what Madame Masque tried to steal from Stark, and searches for the techno-ninjas.  Very little happens, and I found Mike Deodato’s layouts to be confusing in places.  I’m quickly losing interest in this title.

Midnighter #9 I’m hearing that Midnighter might not be returning after whatever Rebirth is, which is a shame, because it’s one of DC’s best comics.  This issue has M working for Spyral to retrieve something from Task Force X.  This leads to two things – the discovery that Henry Bendix is working for Amanda Waller, and a fight with the Suicide Squad.  I’m happy to see Bendix brought into the New 52, as he was one of my favourite of the Wildstorm characters, and I’m always happy to see the Squad used well.  ACO’s art is always great on this book (even if he didn’t draw the whole issue), and I’m hoping that writer Steve Orlando will be sticking around at DC even if this title is gone.

Obi-Wan & Anakin #2 –  I’m still not too clear on why Charles Soule has chosen to set this title on a weird world where two factions of people are so intent on killing each other over what are, I assume, philosophical differences.  The flashback sequences do give some new insight into how Palpatine started to corrupt young Anakin, and we see his temper quite a bit, but after just rewatching the terrible Revenge of the Sith recently, I’m not really all that interested in seeing Anakin slowly go bad (and even worse, give in to the evils of overacting).  I’m glad this is a limited series, because if this were an ongoing, I’d probably be dropping it about now.  I’m hoping that in the next issue, Soule can give us a good reason to keep coming back.

Paper Girls #5I’ve been enjoying this title quite a bit, and while I’m sorry to see it go on hiatus until June, I am pleased that Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have a long story in store for us.  This issue answers a few things about what has been going on, and gives our girls new problems to deal with in the next arc.  Great stuff.

Providence #7 – After the last issue, I had expected a pretty big change in tone in this series, as Robert continues to recover from the shock of the last issue.  He is in Boston, and ends up the houseguest of the photographer whose work he keeps coming across.  The photographer keeps trying to impart wisdom on Robert, but our hero keeps misunderstanding what’s going on around him.  This has been an odd series from the beginning, as Moore explores Lovecraft’s history, but always an interesting read.

Saints #5 – I feel like things are really clicking in this series now, which is about Catholic saints who have returned to the world in the bodies of modern people.  The writing is sharp, if occasionally a little confusing, and I really like Benjamin Mackey’s artwork.

The Sheriff of Babylon #3With this series, Tom King is giving us a very complex look into life in American-occupied Baghdad, and it’s a title that is much more intelligent and intriguing than anything else Vertigo has published in years.  With this issue, we begin to learn a little more about how our various main characters are connected to each other, as the investigation into the death of an Iraqi soldier being trained by the Americans starts to stir up some trouble.  This is also the best work of Mitch Gerads’s career!

Spider-Man #1 – I’ve really missed Miles Morales in the months since his series ended, so I am happy to see his new series starting.  I don’t fully understand how Miles’s world integrates into the 616 (Does he have memories of the Ultimate universe?  If he’s been retconned into the 616, how could he have become the character he is without some of the key moments that couldn’t be duplicated here, such as knowing Gwen Stacey?) but I’m okay with letting go of that stuff for a while, to see where Brian Michael Bendis takes the character.  It’s great to see Sara Pichelli back on art, although she seems to be aging Miles a little.  In all, this is a good issue, and I love that it brings back Blackheart, a character I remember fondly from his earlier appearances in Daredevil.  A lot of the ANAD Marvel titles have been disappointments, but I hope this one gets a good long run (without any more relaunch or tie-in nonsense).

Velvet #13 It’s always worth the (unfortunately long) wait between issues of Velvet.  This feels like a big issue, as Templeton is confronted by Lake, and begins to suspect that she is being manipulated somehow, even though she has stayed ahead of all of her pursuers.  This is a terrific 70s spy series that shows no signs of slowing down.

Vision #4 – This title is quickly climbing it’s way up to being one of my favourite corporate comics, which is not really a surprise, seeing that Tom King is quickly becoming one of my favourite work-for-hire writers (see Sheriff of Babylon, above).  The Vision’s children return to school for the first time since Viv’s attack and Vin’s suspension, and it seems life is easier for them than it is their mother, who confronts the person that has been sending her messages and who wants to blackmail her.  The ending of this issue is terrifically ambiguous, and the constant foreshadowing in King’s narration fill every page with a sense of dread, just as he is showing us reasons to feel optimism for these characters.  This is a very unique title, and I’m glad Marvel is publishing it.

The Walking Dead #151It’s good to see that the people of Alexandria are building their army, with Dwight at the head, as Rick finally realizes that it’s time for him to pull back in terms of direct conflict or operations that put him at risk of running across walkers.  Robert Kirkman is taking the various communities that make up this book into new territory, and that keeps things interesting.  The end of this issue is the type of thing that Kirkman has always been good at – it feels like a cliffhanger, and could either spell doom for our heroes, or just be something very innocuous.  

The Woods #20 – A lot happens in this issue, as Isaac uses his new abilities, and allows for an interesting conversation between Karen and a character we know is dead.  I think that James Tynion IV is getting ready to let us know some of the secrets behind the strange world our heroes have found themselves on, and to start moving towards this story’s original purpose.

X-O Manowar #44 – As Aric and Ninjak continue to hunt down Vine Plantings, Trill makes an appeal to the Vine who have just arrived on Earth to join him.  There has been a lot of Vine stuff in the Valiant Universe again, and I wonder if that means this title might feature the VPLA that we’ve seen in Imperium.  Anyway, this is another fine issue.

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

Amazing Forest #2

Amazing Spider-Man #7

Batman and Robin Eternal #18

Crossed Badlands #93

Guardians of Infinity #3

Howard the Duck #4

Mercury Heat #7

Nova #4

Scarlet Witch #3

Tuki Save the Humans #4

Uncanny Avengers #5

Uncanny X-Men #3

War Stories #16

Bargain Comics:

Convergence: Infinity Inc. #1&2 – And here is where I realize that picking up any more Convergence minis, even for a dollar, is going to be a mistake.  It’s nice to see June Brigman drawing again, but I bought these books for Ben Caldwell’s art, so even that was a bit of a letdown.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Astro City Vol. 1: Life in the Big CityI don’t know why, but I’ve never really read much Astro City, except for some of the one-shots and miniseries that came along during the Wildstorm era.  I figured it was time to finally start addressing this gap in my comics knowledge, and so picked up the first volume not that long ago.  I like the way that Kurt Busiek and Brad Anderson go about building their environment while introducing us to the major players in this world.  Astro City is basically a place where the Marvel and DC Universes combine, with characters analogous to the major characters at the Big Two.  As this is Busiek writing, there is a huge focus on the personal worlds of these characters, and it’s incredibly effective.  I also like how much he packs into each issue, which work as done-in-one stories that collectively paint a picture of this interesting city.  I think it’s time to dive into this world completely, and track down all the issues or trades I’m missing.

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