Inside Pulse 12

The Weekly Round-Up #328 With Turncoat #1, Clandestino #2, Devolution #3, Imperium #14, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #5 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Turncoat #1This was an impulse buy, based on the art by Artyom Trakhanov, who impressed me on Undertow not that long ago.  Sometimes I really nail it with my impulse buys, because this is a fantastic comic.  It’s been five years since Management, a fungal alien lifeform that ruled the Earth for a few centuries, have left humanity to their own devices again.  Marta was a cop for the regime, but she switched sides and helped the resistance just before the aliens withdrew.  This puts her in a precarious place now, as no one trusts her, and she is stuck eking out an existence as a private investigator.  She is hired by a very wealthy woman, whose husband was a collaborator, to find her missing son.  There is some speculation that the young man is a Management/human hybrid, but it’s not clear yet.  Alex Paknadel, who is a new writer to me, has put together a very interesting vision of the future, and then let Trakhanov go nuts with it.  His art is exceptionally detailed yet kind of wild at the same time – imagine elements of James Stokoe, Simon Roy, and Farel Dalrymple – and it fits great with the weirdness of this world.  Boom! has been very impressive lately, and this is another title that I’ll have to add to my pull-file list.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing Ant-Man #6Cassie gets a whole issue of her own, as we finally get to understand how things have been from her perspective since she returned from the dead.  Cassie wants to use the new Hench X app to regain her growing abilities, but has no intention of becoming a villain.  At least, that’s how she feels until the Power Broker shows her a few things.  This is a good issue, although I’m still confused as to whether or not Cassie got de-aged when she was resurrected.  So far, she’s been portrayed as younger in this series, and it feels a little weird when she hangs out with Kate Bishop.  Anyway, I’m pleased to see that Nick Spencer is incorporating more continuity in this book.

Black Canary #9 – So DC pulled a bait-and-switch thing here, and gave us a fill-in issue, although that is not what was solicited for this month.  This is the kind of thing that makes me resist putting their titles on my pull-file list.  The comic is okay.  The writer, Matthew Rosenberg, did much better with his excellent We Can Never Go Home Again at Black Mask, but the artist is Moritat, so things look nice.  The thing is, had I known what the contents of this book were going to be, I would have not preordered it.  This type of thing makes me worried about DC’s ability to make this Rebirth thing work…

Captain Marvel #3This title continues to be entertaining, but with an alien vessel docked to the Alpha Flight station and growing into it, while causing Carol to have hallucinations, I can’t help but think that the writers, who come from television, are writing this series a little too much like it’s an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.  I’m hoping that after this first arc, they start making some more original moves with the book, or I’m going to be gone, even with Kris Anka’s art and the inclusion of real Alpha Flight characters making me want to stay.

Clandestino #2 – It’s been quite a wait for the second issue of this series, but it was worth it.  Amancay Nahuelpan is a big up-and-coming talent.  While his story is a little odd in places, and could definitely benefit from some more copy-editing, his art is fantastic.  He has a very open, broad approach to page layout that gives the comic a lot more excitement.  I’m curious about his story about a Latin American country that has been suffering under a dictatorship for years, but some of the story elements don’t add up very well.  Still, I’m sticking around for the art, which keeps getting better as we move into Nahuelpan’s more recent work (he drew much of this stuff years ago).

Devolution #3 I wonder if Rick Remender has a thing about spiders, because both of his comics this week feature some pretty nasty versions of the arachnids.  Anyway, this is another decent issue of this series, although it’s a very quick read.  I feel that the first issue packed a lot more into it than any subsequent issue has.

Huck #5 – Huck and his mother have been captured, and we get a full explanation of the last few mysteries in this series.  Now all that’s left is the big conclusion, and since this is a Millarworld book, I imagine that it’s going to be a little on the sappy side, but emotionally satisfying all the same.  Rafael Albuquerque is killing on this book.

Imperium #14 – Joshua Dysart once again bolsters my argument that this is the best Valiant series out there.  Livewire and HARD Corps have to deal with Harada in space, and then use the opportunity that Livewire has given them to try to stop the supposed aid shipment Harada is receiving from his new ally nations.  I love the way Dysart blends politics into this series, and always has me looking for characters’ true motives.  This is a great comic.

Injection #8Warren Ellis’s detective continues to work his case, involving a stolen ghost, a human ham, and a group of alchemists, while the other main characters work their way forward through their own various stories.  This series is pretty involved, and with every issue, becomes clearer and clearer, while staying very dryly humourous.  It’s good stuff.

International Iron Man #1 – I’m not convinced that Iron Man can maintain two series, but there is some sort of law that states that at least one of Brian Michael Bendis’s titles has to have a companion series, and I guess Marvel has decided that it’s this one.  Most of this issue is a flashback, as we look back on young Tony’s school days in England, when he meets a nice young lady whose family also happens to be in the weapons business.  There is, of course, a connection to Tony’s present day, as Bendis has him start to go looking for his birth parents.  I would have thought that Marvel would have Secret Warsed away this new revelation that Tony was adopted, because it doesn’t fit well with established continuity, but they went the other way – letting Bendis play with continuity is always dangerous.  Still, this is a fun issue, with Tony sounding as much like a young Peter Parker as himself.  Alex Maleev’s art is always nice, if a little too similar to everything else he’s ever drawn.  I wonder how long it will take before this book starts to fall behind schedule, since everything Maleev and Bendis have done together since Daredevil has ended up being very late.  I still remember when they said they could do Moon Knight and Scarlet at the same time and maintain their schedule – those issues of Scarlet still haven’t come out!

Low #12Stel has finally reached the surface of the Earth after years of dreaming.  Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini give us a pretty interesting look at the world that humanity abandoned, and for the first time, allow the pace of this comic to slow down some, as Stel and Zem start their hunt for the probe.  Of course, this is a Remender comic, so things don’t stay quiet for long, and we quickly see that other species evolved to fill the gap left by humanity, and they are just as brutal.  It’s a real credit to Remender’s writing that we can begin to feel empathy for the mouse family that we just met, so that when they are attacked by some wasp people, it feels kind of brutal.  This is a very good series, which I feel just went through a significant change with this issue.

Power Man and Iron Fist #2 – This title has turned out to be pretty enjoyable.  I’m digging the light humour approach taken to these two characters who, I think, are hard to play straight these days as a duo.  Sanford Greene’s art is delightful.

Spider-Woman #5 – Dennis Hopeless clearly did some research for this issue, which has Jessica caring for her new baby.  We get a look at motherhood from Jessica’s perspective, and things feel very authentic (from my standpoint as a newish uncle).  Javier Rodriguez is brilliant on this issue, especially the scenes where She-Hulk, Hellcat, Captain Marvel, and Hawkeye convince Jessica to take a night off and go out with them.  A very funny, very touching comic.  It’s a shame that the next two issues are going to be part of a crossover event, because this book is really finding its feet now.  Marvel needs to give its comics more time to be themselves before getting wrapped up in other nonsense.

Squadron Supreme #5I’m a little surprised by the quick pace of this comic.  With five issues in, we’ve had a character betray the team, picked up a new teammate, and now freed everyone in Weirdworld from Doctor Druid.  James Robinson is moving much quicker than I’m used to from him, and I have to say that it’s working.  I’m hoping that this is more of a return to Bronze Age pacing, and not just because he has to get the team in a certain place before Civil War II…

Starve #7 – I’ve been enjoying Starve a lot, but I absolutely loved this issue.  Gavin has bought a low-quality chicken joint in a crummy part of Brooklyn, and is going about changing it into a business that can support and improve the community.  Of course, this is going to cause him problems with the network suits that expect him to be on their television show.  I love how Brian Wood takes on gentrification with this issue, showing how it can be done to support instead of displace people who have been in an area for generations.  Wood often has a political side to his writing, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it exposed so clearly or effectively.  And, as always, Danijel Zezelj is superb.

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #5Now that the first arc is out of the way, it’s time for yet another flashback Eternal Warrior story.  This is a good comic, but I’m tired of Valiant going to the well with just about every story featuring Gilad.  We see a story set in Mesopotamia, wherein raiders kidnap Gilad’s son Kalam, causing Gilad to track them across the countryside.  I like the way Robert Venditti structures this story, and Juan José Ryp does a great job making this interesting, but I ended up with one big problem with this issue.  I don’t believe that the people of ancient Mesopotamia were white and blonde.  This is a little like that Gods of Egypt movie in that it’s really whitewashing history, and it’s a little ridiculous.

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

A&A #1

All-New Inhumans #5

All-New X-Men #6

Amazing Forest #3

Astro City #33

Batman and Robin Eternal #24

Dark Horse Presents #20

Doctor Fate #10

Extraordinary X-Men #8

Hit 1957 TP

James Bond #5

Robin Son of Batman #10

Scarlet Witch #4

Silk #6

Superman American Alien #5

Uncanny Inhumans #6

Bargain Comics:

Burning Fields #1-8I was intrigued by this Boom series, which is about, at first, a string of killings at an oil field in Kurdish Iraq which causes an investigator who used to work for a private military contractor to return to the country and partner with a local detective.  As things progress though, this becomes a dark horror story.  There’s a lot to like about this series, Colin Lorimer’s dark art and amazing covers being the first thing, but I often found the writing, by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, to be a little confusing or unclear in places.  I didn’t like Moreci’s Roche Limit, and find some of the same issues here, but also see some growth in terms of his potential.  

Sons of the Devil #1-5 – I was a big fan of Brian Buccelllato’s Foster series, so I wanted to check out this Image series.  It’s about a guy who is the son of a cult leader (who apparently has some supernatural connections), who was raised by a string of foster parents.  Now an adult, he has anger management issues.  It seems now that the cult is looking for him, as is a half-sister he never knew about.  Buccellato does a good job of setting up the mystery of the character’s past and parentage, and does great work establishing characters.  I’m definitely intrigued by this book, and like Toni Infante’s art a great deal.  I know this series is returning from its hiatus this week, and I’m a little tempted to start picking it up regularly.

Uncanny Inhumans #4 – Desperate to save their son from Kang, Medusa, Black Bolt and the gang travel to the distant past, as Ahura is about to emerge from his Terrigenesis cocoon in Randac’s court.  This is a solid issue with strong writing by Charles Soule, and decent work from Steve McNiven.  I’m increasingly not sure why I’m not buying this book.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Black Widow: The Coldest War

Written by Gerry Conway
Art by George Freeman, Ernie Colon, Mark Farmer, Mike Harris, Val Mayerick, Joe Rubenstein

Once again, I find myself wondering about the decision process that went into approving these Marvel graphic novels.  The Black Widow: The Coldest War was published in 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, but tells a story from three years prior.Natasha is contacted by a pair of KGB agents, who convince her that her former husband, the first Red Guardian, is still alive.  The promise to reunite them so long as Natasha does a job for them, and steals a microchip that runs SHIELD’s Life Model Decoys.This book shows us a very capable Natasha, who is working her own angle the entire time she is dealing with the Russians.  The story is steeped in Avengers history, and has a good Daredevil cameo, but in the short space that Conway has, never really becomes all that gripping.George Freeman’s art is very nice, although with so many inkers on this book, it often looks very different from one chapter to the next.  I feel like Klaus Janson would have been perfect for this book, as the art often reminds me of his work.

The Dreamwalker

Written by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer
Art by Gray Morrow

I really don’t know who at Marvel would have greenlit a project like this, which could not exist today, but any opportunity to get a full book of Gray Morrow artwork is not something to turn down, when discovered in a group of low-priced graphic novels.The Dreamwalker tells the story of Joshua McGann, an American secret agent who went rogue after the death of his girlfriend.  He continued to work his own missions, but this put him in the crosshairs of the Chairman of the organization he worked for.  They attempt to kill him, but it goes awry.  After this, he blackmails the Chairman into leaving him alone.Reconnecting with his family, McGann finds his father very ill.  His stepmother, a prominent DA, is working to take down a mobster, when a hitman executes her in her own home.  The shock kills his father.Later, McGann discovers that his father was once the masked adventurer known as the Dreamwalker.  He adopts this guise to ensure that the mobster faces justice, but quickly learns that there are even more complications in the case.  He continues to seek justice, putting his spy training to good use.The book ends with a very strange connection between the mobster and McGann’s family, which is pretty hard to believe, and leaves the door open to followup stories, which I don’t believe ever happened.The book is very straightforward in its approach and deliver, doing nothing new with a character like this (even though McGann’s background could have been mined in more interesting ways).  There’s really nothing to set this character apart from many 40s masked adventurers like the Crimson Avenger or Phantom Reporter, making me wonder why the writers didn’t just use a character like that for this story.

Morrow’s work is excellent, if a bit stiff in places.  This feels like a real throw-back of a comic today, but I doubt that it would have felt less so in 1989 when it was published.

Dry Spell

by Ken Krekeler

I really enjoyed Ken Krekeler’s series Westward, so was more than happy to find his earlier graphic novel,Dry Spell, in a pile of trade paperbacks.

Dry Spell opens with Tom, an apparently quiet guy who has a boring job, a girlfriend he mostly gets along with, and trouble sleeping.  As the book progresses, one of Tom’s co-workers figures out that he used to have a costumed identity, as does he, and tries to convince him to come out of retirement.

We learn that when Tom was operating as part of the super-community (which centres around Apollo, a Superman analogue), he had to make use of psychedelics to motivate himself.  His co-worker spikes his drink, and soon enough, Tom is sleeping with a woman from his former life, and contemplating returning to that world.  He’s also finally able to paint, something he’s been trying to do for ages.

Krekeler’s story is about people being true to themselves, even when that means embracing aspects of their personality that they don’t particularly like.  He includes a great deal of character development in a short space, and has a couple of twists in the book that I didn’t see coming.

Krekeler is a talented artist, and as a writer, has a very strong ear for dialogue.  I think he comes at superhero stories from an interesting perspective, and look forward to seeing some of his future work.  This book was recently re-released, and is worth tracking down.

The Interman

by Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker has had an impressive comics career, with his run on the Thunderbolts being a highpoint for me, and I suspect that The Interman is one of his first published comics.  Until I picked it up, I didn’t know that Parker drew as well as wrote.

The Interman is Van Meach, a young man who was created as part of the Interman project, a Cold War era attempt at creating a super soldier.  Funding for the project came from five Western nations, but Van was the only successful product of the experiment.

The project was sabotaged at an early stage, and Van was raised secretly by his adopted parents.  As he grew, he demonstrated an ability to adapt to his situation or circumstances, in a manner similar to Darwin of the X-Men.  Now an adult, Van is trying to live off the grid, working jobs that make good use of his abilities, but avoiding attention at the same time.  When the book opens, he is trying to retrieve a satellite from the bottom of the ocean.

This job has a higher profile than he is used to, and now ‘messengers’, assassins from the various countries involved in his birth, are coming after him.  He has no choice but to try to research his past and figure out what is going on.

Parker blends superhuman activity with espionage very well, giving this a Jason Bourne feel to it, while keeping Van a likeable and believable person.  There are places where the writing is not as clear as it could be, but the charm of this book wins out.  Parker’s art is nice; his lines are a little thick, but it works well here.

I’d like to see more from Parker.  His talents have been wasted at DC lately, and I think I’d be happier to see him return to independent comics, especially since his series Underground was brilliant.

Ka-Zar: Guns of the Savage Land

Written by Chuck Dixon and Tim Truman
Art by Gary Kwapisz and Ricardo Villagran

I’ve recently come into a small pile of Marvel OGNs from the late 80s and early 90s that I got for a very low price.  I can’t resist something like this, but I was a little disappointed to learn that Tim Truman was a co-writer on this and not the artist.I was pleased to see that the real star of Ka-zar: Guns of the Savage Land is Wyatt Wingfoot, the Fantastic Four supporting character who never really got enough space to call his own.  He’s summoned to Nevada when a First Nations person turns up in a remote stretch of desert, showing signs of having had not prior interaction with the modern world.After talking with the man, Wingfoot believes that he has come from an ancient underground land that may or may not be the source of the Hopi people, and may or may not be connected to the Savage Land.  He heads to England to recruit the Plunders – Ka-Zar and Shanna – to his cause.

We learn that Ka-Zar’s gone a little nuts after being exiled from the Savage Land by its united people.  Shanna hopes that this job for Wyatt might help him, so they join up.  They eventually arrive in this place, finding the pre-Hopi people they were looking for, but also finding evidence that they have been in contact with the modern world, in the form of Pluto Fuel, an energy company that Ka-Zar actually owns.

It’s not really clear if they are under the ground (there is light in the sky, but no sign of a sun, nor discussion of how the place is illuminated) or in a distant corner of the Savage Land that the Plunders hadn’t traveled to.  There are dinosaurs, but absolutely no one finds that weird at all.

In no time, Ka-Zar gets the natives mobilized against the oil people, and the ex-French mercenary who runs their paramilitary.  Wingfoot does not like the way that Ka-Zar acts like a colonial power unto himself, and Shanna doesn’t like the way Ka-Zar bosses her around.  I hope that this type of thing wasn’t considered very progressive in 1990, because it feels a little forced and pandering today.

I also don’t know where this OGN fits with the character’s continuity.  At the end of the book, he’s staying put in this land, and I don’t remember much about the only other time Ka-Zar got any real play in the 90s, which was in Mark Waid’s run with him, which I remember as being actually good.

While I didn’t love the writing in this book, the art is very nice.  Gary Kwapisz is a talented artist who does not get enough recognition (I was recently reminded of his talent while rereading the Hawkworld ongoing series a little while ago).  Ricardo Villagran painted this book, and that makes it quite lovely, if a little bright.

This was an interesting artifact of a time when Marvel put out OGNs regularly, and gave them to C-list characters for no apparent reason.

Nemo: The Roses of Berlin

Written by Alan Moore
Art by Kevin O’Neil

Nemo: The Roses of Berlin is the second of the Nemo graphic novels, building on the world Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil created in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Compared to the previous book, Nemo: Heart of Ice, I enjoyed this one more, but still had some problems with it.Janni Nemo and her consort, Jack, discover that their teenage daughter Hira has been captured by the Germans (it’s roughly World War II), and they head to Berlin to rescue her.  Like with Heart of Ice, we got tossed very quickly into the story, without taking any time to care about the characters at all.

Berlin has become a dystopian nightmare out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and we quickly learn that Maria, the robot from the movie, is as much in charge of things as Herr Hynkel (Charlie Chaplin’s stand-in for Hitler).

There is a brothel, a rescue, sleeping soldiers, and a fight with the woman from the last volume.  It’s all handled well, but it also feels like Moore and O’Neil are going through the motions, as if the clever references to literature and film are sufficient replacements for compelling story.

I liked it, and as always, enjoyed puzzling out some of the references (while knowing that way more of them went over my head), but never felt invested in the story at all.

Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace

Written by Jason Hall
Art by Matt Kindt

I enjoyed the firstPistolwhip book, and was a little surprised to see that Matt Kindt was not credited with any of the writing on the second one, The Yellow Menace, despite the fact that the story feels very much like a Matt Kindt story.Like the first book, this one is steeped in radio dramas, but also incorporates film, comic books, and pulp novels.  Our private detective, Pistolwhip, becomes embroiled in a weird plot involving a “Yellow Menace”, basically a serial killer going around murdering people in manners influenced by baser popular culture.

At the same time that this is going on, a travelling lecturer, Roderick Loom, is warning of the dangers of this type of entertainment, especially on children.  He is clearly based on Frederick Wertham, the guy who wrote Seduction of the Innocent and became ultimately responsible for the introduction of the Comics Code Authority.

Opposing the Yellow Menace is Jack Peril, a character popular in the pulps, movie serials, radio dramas, and comics, who seems to be real.  He first appears after an explosion at the radio station where his adventures are broadcast.

Pistolwhip is usually a pretty clueless character, and Hall builds on that with this volume.  The story can be hard to follow in places, but is ultimately entertaining.  Kindt works on some cool transitions between scenes.  I particularly like the way he moves the camera into a character’s ear, and then shifts to something else.  In one place, suggesting that a character is not mentally stable, we see a loose screw inside that character’s ear, which then becomes part of a moving vehicle, establishing the next scene.

Reading this, you can see the growing talent in Kindt (this came out in 2002), and it’s cool to compare to his more polished work of today. These stories have recently been collected as The Complete Pistolwhip, and that is probably the best way to interact with them, although I do like the oversized format of this book.

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