Inside Pulse 12

The Weekly Round-Up #336 With The Vision #7, American Monster #3, 4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1, Star Wars: Darth Vader #20 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Vision #7I remember always liking the Vision the best when I read Avengers comics as a kid.  There was something about his visual design that always caught my eye, and from there I found the character to be a very interesting one.  I’ve been liking Tom King’s work on this series a great deal, but this issue, which explores the Vision’s relationship with the Scarlet Witch over the years, blew me away in terms of its quality and its nostalgia factor.  We see various moments over Vision’s relationship with Wanda, the good and the bad, and we see the root of Vision’s current relationship with Virginia, his wife.  Virginia and the kids just showed up in the first issue of King’s run with no real explanation, but this issue makes a lot of things clear, especially her recent instability.  King has got to be the most exciting new writer in comics today, and he is joined by the wonderful Michael Walsh on this issue, who does a great job of mixing his usual style with this series’s regular artist, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, while showing us various great moments in the history of the Marvel Universe.  I love this title.

Quick Takes:

American Monster #3It’s been a while since we saw the last issue of this series, and I kind of lost track of the various plotlines that Brian Azzarello has set up over the first two issues.  That said, this book has a nice feel to it in terms of characterization and general set-up.  Nice meaning that it feels unique, not that it’s at all warm or fuzzy.  The burned man is up to something, while the local criminal buries his brother.  Juan Doe’s art on this book is very nice, and I think this will read great in trade when it’s finished.  It doesn’t exactly work all that well in individual issues, but that’s because of the slow publication pace.

Black Panther #2 – I saw some criticism of the first issue of Black Panther that basically boiled down to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates having made the book too complicated.  I don’t really see how that’s a criticism, really, as I prefer to look at this book as having taken a few pages from Jonathan Hickman’s playbook – the story is sprawling and rich, as Coates chooses to not just focus on T’Challa, but on the entirety of Wakanda, a country that has undergone great strife, and is in the process of either pulling itself back together or falling apart.  To that end, we see as much of the Midnight Angels as we do the Black Panther, and that’s a big part of what I like about this comic.  Coates is applying real-world complexity to what is ultimately a science fiction concept, and I feel like it’s playing out well.  T’Challa pursues the woman who incited the riot at the vibranium mound, and this leads him to some morally questionable actions at the border to Niganda.  The Midnight Angels are working to support the rights of women in the very traditional country, while we meet Tetu, a new character who is forming an ‘order’, which might be a protest group, but could also be an armed militia.  Brian Stelfreeze is killing it on this book, and I’m fully invested in the story.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #15It appears this title has changed artists again, now featuring work by Martin Tunica, who manages to be even more cartoonish in his approach than the previous artist, who I wasn’t a big fan of.  This book features a very realistic look at the period of time one hundred years after the Crossed outbreak, and as such, would actually be best served by the typical kind of house style artist we see at Avatar.  I find it strange that the company gives this book such a different look.  Anyway, no one comes to Avatar for the art; Simon Spurrier continues to impress with this series, as this issue has Future meet a new group of people who have good items for trade, and has her figure out the code to another of Salt’s diaries.  

Darth Vader #20 – Pretty much the entire main story of this oversized issue is given over to Vader having conversations with old men, first the Emperor, and then Inspector Thanoth, and as we all know, Vader’s not the greatest conversationalist.  That works in our favour though, as I imagine it makes it easier for writer Kieron Gillen to get the other characters to talk more, as someone will always fill in the silences.  There’s a great backup story in this issue, featuring Triple-Zero and BT, who I’m sure have become fan favourites.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how much I like this series, when I thought it would fizzle out after the second story arc.  Gillen was clearly the right choice to write this.

The Fix #2Nick Spencer’s and Steve Lieber’s new series about two corrupt cops is so over-the-top as to be absolutely delightful.  In order for our anti-heroes to finish a job for their other boss, to whom they owe a lot of money, they need to infiltrate the K-9 unit, which means one of them has to get shot in the hand, while the other goes about ruining the life of one of the best cops on the force so he can get his own way in another matter.  This book is very much like Superior Foes of Spider-Man in the way it’s been set-up, and in how the main character has plans upon plans.  I’m really enjoying this title.

4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1 – Valiant always does this one-off tie-ins to their events, which I much prefer to having the regular series disrupted once a year, but their relevance sometimes varies a great deal.  This issue explains the appearance of the large mech suit used by Rai in 4001 AD #1, and its connection to Shanhara.  It’s a good enough issue, but it was done awfully quickly I felt.

Heavy Metal #280 – Grant Morrison makes his debut as the new editor-in-chief at Heavy Metal, and aside from a short story by him and the excellent Benjamin Marra, nothing much seems to have changed from the last two issues, which I’ve read recently.  There’s some good stuff here (I especially like the 49th Key), and some stuff that does not interest me at all.  I don’t feel like there’s a huge shift in direction with this issue, but at the same time, it might take Morrison a little while to find his feet.  I’ve decided to give him a few issues before I decide if I’m going to start buying this regularly.

Island #7I’m very pleased to get a new issue of this excellent anthology series, which, when compared to Heavy Metal, really stands out.  The first large story is the beginning of a new tale by Johnnie Christmas, the artist of Sheltered and the upcoming Margaret Atwood graphic novel.  It’s about a city at the base of a mountain, cultists, and third-wave cultists who oppose them.  It’s also about a love triangle, and it’s very good.  The second large story is the continuation of Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s four-parter.  This chapter reveals what the rich guy who has locked a bunch of people in his house is up to, and it involves taking humanity to the next step in evolution.  This has been an enjoyable story, and it feels like it’s moving in a new direction here, which is always interesting for a penultimate chapter.  The other stuff in this issue is cool too, but not all that memorable.

Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #6 – Mark Millar finishes up his look back on his take on the Justice League during their Silver Age.  The focus for this issue is on the Utopian, and his relationship with his first (normal) wife.  I wish I had read these comics before the first Jupiter’s Legacy series came out, as it would have provided a lot more useful context.  I do think that when the second volume of Legacy starts next month, having read the two Circle series will enrich that book.  I’m very much looking forward to some new Frank Quitely artwork!

The Massive: Ninth Wave #6This issue of the Massive prequel series addresses the Cecil the Lion issue from a few months back.  Mary and Mag are working to stop a typically wealthy American blowhard from killing a lion while on Safari in an unnamed African country, while Callum gives a speech at a recruitment drive.  I’ve really enjoyed being able to return to the world of The Massive, as it was one of my favourite series when it was running.  I hope that Brian Wood revisits this title again some day.

Ninjak #15 – Ninjak continues to go through his own version of Daredevil’s Born Again storyline, as he tries to figure out which of the Shadow Seven has destroyed his life.  As always, this is a good series, but it always falls just a little short of being great; I just don’t know why that is.

Powers #6 – If a new issue of Powers comes out (after any length of delay) but it doesn’t have a letters page, is it really an issue of Powers, or is it just half an issue?  Anyway, we get to the bottom of all the stuff with the new Powers that have been showing up.  It’s a pretty standard issue, as we watch Deena continue to go to a very dark place.  I like this series, but nowhere near as much as I did back when it was at Image and came out more than a couple of times a year.

Prophet Earth War #4Even though there is a lot of similarity between random issues of Brandon Graham’s Prophet, I don’t know that I’ll ever get bored of the structure of his issues.  This one has, for the most part, Hiyonhoiangn, Rein-East, and John-Ka attempting to evade some of the Crystal-Blessed who pursue them across a strange landscape.  This comic, with its incredible art by Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, and Grim Wilkins, makes me happy.

Southern Bastards #14 – The Homecoming arc finally ends after a long delay, and we finally get to know Roberta Tubbs, Earl’s daughter.  She’s back from Afghanistan, and heads to her father’s home to start cleaning it out.  Like her father, Roberta doesn’t get along well with others, especially her dad’s racist neighbours.  This issue doesn’t so much finish up Homecoming (aside from thematically) as it does set up the next arc, which should be pretty interesting.  Jason Aaron and Jason Latour do some very cool stuff in this series, but for it to eclipse Scalped, Aaron’s high-water mark, it’s going to have to come out more often.

Ultimates #7 – It becomes increasingly clear that it really is all up to Al Ewing and this series to stitch together the modern Marvel universe.  This issue has a Shi’ar functionary threaten the Earth over the use of Cosmic Cube fragments, as the team debates what to do with Anti-Man, and as Thanos makes his return to real space and time.  This book also pulls together some of what’s happening in the solo series of Captain Marvel and Black Panther, and really makes all these disparate corners of Marvel’s line feel a lot more cohesive, while also giving us some good characterization work.  I’m liking this series a lot so far, and hope that it survives Civil War II intact (events were what ruined Ewings’s earlier Avengers series).

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

A&A #3

Abe Sapien #33

Agents of SHIELD #5

All-New All-Different Avengers #9

All-New X-Men #9

Batman #52

Crossed Badlands #97

Gotham Academy #18

Guardians of the Galaxy #8

Harrow County #12

House of Penance #2

Silk #8

Uncanny Inhumans #8

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Fables #150/Vol. 22: FarewellI really feel like Fables lived too long.  Had the series ended shortly after the defeat of the Adversary, I think it would be something that gets remembered like Y: The Last Man or Scalped; a perfect example of the potential of comics.  Instead, it spawned many spin-offs, repeated itself a few times, and struggled to find an audience, making it more like a long-running TV show that doesn’t recognize when it’s time to let go.  This final storyline hasn’t done much for me, but I did enjoy the numerous one to five-ish page “Last Stories” that checked in on many characters over the title’s life, featuring work from a variety of artists, closely associated with the book or not.  I didn’t start reading this series until about five or six trades had been released, so it feels fitting that I end it with a trade as well.  Congratulations to Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham on a good long run, even if it became a case of ever diminishing returns…

Killraven: Warrior of the Worlds – This Marvel graphic novel from 1983 is written by Don McGregor and drawn by P. Craig Russell, so even though I only know Killraven from his various appearances over the year where he’s interacted with regular Marvel characters, I thought it would be a safe purchase.  In fact, it’s kind of a mess.  Most of the book is spent building up the supporting cast (the book opens with profile pages of most characters, since this is the conclusion to a long run of McGregor’s and Russell’s, from the Amazing Adventures series), and the final big fight with the Martian invaders of Earth is over in a hurry, and generally dissatisfying.  Russell’s art is fine, but this is earlier in his career, and it’s nowhere near as good as what we came to expect from him later.  In all, this was disappointing, and hard to follow.

Streakers

by Nick Maandag

To me, the nicest surprise of Free Comic Book Day was that two local cartoonists, Nick Maandag and Jason Kieffer stood at a busy intersection and handed out their comics to passers-by.  Kieffer’s work is all stuff I had previously bought and enjoyed (especially is Rabble of Downtown Toronto and his biography comic about Zanta), but they made great gifts for some co-workers.

Maandag’s Streakers I had never seen before, and thought was excellent.  It tells the story of a group of three sort of friends who make up the ‘Streakers Association of Summit City’, an advocacy organization for streaking enthusiasts, of which they are the only members.

The main character is a sad figure.  He has a job as a dishwasher at a busy restaurant, but over the course of the story, becomes demoted to junior dishwasher, because he’s just not that good at his job.  His dream is to start streaking, but so far, he’s only been interested in talking about it.

Maandag gives us a good look into this character’s life, and contrasts him with the much more accomplished leader of their group, who once interrupted an important marathon with his carefully planned streak.  The third in the trio is more of a flasher than a streaker, and he gets off showing women his junk while hiding his identity.

These guys are creeps, which is especially clear after a couple of young women come to one of their meetings, but they are also sort of endearing and kind of relatable.  There is more depth to this book than you would expect from a comic about people who like to talk about streaking.

I’m thankful for the unexpected gift, and wonder how many of the other people, who are probably not comics people, that received it last Saturdy, felt about it.

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