Best Comic of the Week:
Deadly Class #21 – I was really not prepared for the emotional force of this issue, as friends patch up friendships, others betray friendships, and more than a few bodies get dropped. Rick Remender and Wes Craig have taken a ridiculous concept, that there is an underground school for teenage assassins under late 80s San Francisco, and turned it into one of my favourite comics of this century. The characters in this book are far from nice people, yet many of them have become very relatable, as we get to see them in all of their failings and vulnerability. This last arc has been focused on the kids trying to kill one another as part of their year-end exam, and Remender has kept the surprises coming throughout. This issue ends on one hell of a cliffhanger, and I’m not sure when the series is set to return (there is no new issue solicited through August). A text piece giving us some indication would have been nice…
Batman: Rebirth #1 – It’s been a while since I’ve really enjoyed a Batman story (unless you count Joe Casey’s excellent Image series, Sex), and I was very primed to love Tom King’s debut with the Dark Knight. Opening the book, I saw that Scott Snyder also received a co-writing credit (why did DC end up doing this on so many of their titles this week?), and could feel his fingerprints on the title still. Bruce is not exactly hiding that he’s Batman anymore it seems (unless he really thinks that Lucius Fox wouldn’t put it together when he hangs from the side of Wayne Tower by his fingers during what is supposed to be a business meeting, and it appears Alfred has his hand back. I’m not going to pretend to understand all the changes that have come because of Rebirth. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the fact that this title looks like it’s going to feature Bruce training Duke to be a new kind of sidekick. King’s a great writer, so I can’t wait to see what he does on his own with this character. Mikel Janin’s art throughout this issue is fantastic, but unfortunately, he has to share the regular Batman title with David Finch, whose work is fine, but not as refined nor as interesting as Janin’s. I’ve missed Batman, so I’m going to give King at least one arc, but can actually see myself buying this title again.
Casanova: Acedia #5 – The delays and breaks between issues are killing this series, but any time I get the chance to take in some new art by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, I’m going to be happy. The main story has some interesting stuff happening in it, as Casanova’s new boss’s supposedly hidden history is exposed to him, and some occult stuff happens in a hospital. The backup, written by Michael Chabon, makes no sense to me at all, but is cool looking.
Civil War II #1 – I have to admit that I was impressed by this first issue. A wide cross-section of Marvel heroes unite to stop a Celestial from destroying the Earth, and at the after-party, Tony Stark and Carol Danvers learn that they got their information from Ulysses, a new Inhuman with the ability to predict the future. This becomes the cause of the schism between friends, as Tony doesn’t think Ulysses’s powers are a good source of information, seeing as they expect everyone to trust his calls on faith, and don’t take into account the mutability of the future, while Carol sees it as a means towards achieving the Ultimates’s goals of proactively stopping threats to the Earth. I like the way the content of the FCBD preview is incorporated into the story, happening between the pages, but sparking off the entire ‘civil war’. Brian Michael Bendis gives us a very talking heads approach for a summer tentpole event, but David Marquez is such a good artist you don’t really mind. I wasn’t going to get into this thing, but because of any number of personal failings and weaknesses, here we are. I still don’t have a lot of faith in Bendis to be able to land this thing, but I’m going to give it a few issues for sure now. I am hoping that both of the character deaths that happen in this issue get reversed, as they are two very important Marvel characters, especially in terms of representing diversity in the Marvel U.
Deadpool #13 – This was an interesting experiment. Basically, this issue is 80-pages long, comprising a four issue miniseries crossover, with the bookend issues written by regular writer Gerry Duggan, and the two in the middle, featuring Daredevil and Power Man and Iron Fist, written by those title’s regular writers, Charles Soule and David Walker, respectively. Because I like those two titles more than I dislike Deadpool, I decided to give this a shot (at $10), but came away feeling disappointed. The story, about Deadpool trying to help a crooked banker avoid his angry clients, including Typhoid Mary, came off as pretty silly, and kind of annoying. When Brian Posehn cowrote Deadpool with Duggan, the title was a lot more genuinely funny, and a lot less mindless slapstick. I feel like Soule and Walker tried to match Duggan’s style, and it left me a little cold.
Elephantmen #71 – This issue ends off an odd two-part arc that has had Hip and some other recurring characters standing around a stolen golden elephant statue, holding guns on one another. As a character issue, this one works very well, having left the awkward set-up for the previous issue. I have been getting a little bored of this title lately, but an issue like this, which also has a short backup drawn by Tula Lotay, restores my interest.
4001 AD #2 – When I wrote about the first issue in Valiant’s summer event, I mentioned how I felt that Clayton Crain’s storytelling was perhaps the easiest to follow that I’ve ever seen it. I don’t feel that way with this issue though, which is back to the usual muddy action that I’ve gotten used to from this very talented artist. I’ve always felt that the issue is that his work is coloured too darkly, making it hard to always delineate different shapes. Anyway, Rai and his friends pilot a giant X-O armor thing at Father, who has turned Japan into a giant dragon, and we get a lot of fighting in space. This issue didn’t do a whole lot for me, unfortunately.
The Goddamned #4 – I guess it’s too easy to complain about how Goddamned late this comic is, but I am very pleased to see a new issue on the stands. Cain meets Noah in this issue, and as is to be expected, they don’t like each other. Jason Aaron is making an interesting case for Cain to be seen as an anti-hero, and RM Guera’s depiction of pre-flood Bible lands is awesome. This is a great Goddamned comic.
Invincible Iron Man #10 – I’m still having a hard time following this storyline. Tony is undercover in Japan, using his new stealth armor to disguise his identity, but while meeting with a woman who can control any technology near her, his secret remains hidden. Friday, Tony’s AI, tries to get Mary Jane Watson to take over Stark Enterprises (or is it Stark International now?), while James Rhodes tries to help his friend. I have no idea how this story can be considered on “The Road to Civil War II”, since none of what I see here seems to have any bearing on CW2 so far. Maybe Bendis just likes cross-marketing?
Moon Knight #3 – Jeff Lemire’s new take on Moon Knight, which has Marc Spector locked up in an old-school insane asylum which might really be an Egyptian otherworld, continues to keep my interest, as the reader and Marc work to unravel what’s really going on. I like how this take on the character incorporates the classic stuff while being very different at the same time. The Punisher (see below) could learn a few things here.
Nowhere Men #10 – After a long road, this series is starting to take on some of the trappings of a more traditional superhero story, while still finding time and space for discussions of sexuality, and the primacy of love over appearances. Eric Stephenson is doing some interesting things with this book, and he’s taking his own sweet time in doing it.
Old Man Logan #7 – I am really enjoying the dark take that Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are bringing to this book. I thought that this series would end up being kind of lame, simply because the idea of bringing OM Logan into the current Marvel Universe is kind of a dumb one, but they are really making it work. This issue has Logan confronting Lady Deathstrike, who has threatened the little girl who grows up to be his wife (some creepy undertones here). This book is gorgeous.
Paper Girls #6 – If your twelve year old self could meet you now, would he or she be disappointed? The Girls have found themselves in 2016, and are hanging out with Erin’s future self. Brian K. Vaughan works in some very cool and crowd-pleasing cultural references, while also building this new arc around a different set of unknowns than the first arc, and Cliff Chiang, of course, shines. This is a wonderful read.
Power Lines #3 – Jimmie Robinson’s latest series gets some backstory this month, as our main characters learn why their new abilities only work in each other’s neighbourhoods. I like the way Robinson is using this series to explore the growing racial divide in America.
Providence #9 – Alan Moore finally gives a fair amount of space in this comic to HP Lovecraft, the eccentric author that this series is focused on. Robert has finally made it to Providence, where he meets with members of the Stella Sapiente before going for a long walk with Lovecraft, who affects some very irritating speech patterns. I feel like we are getting closer to learning some of the secrets that underpin this series, but then it seems like Moore keeps pulling back from giving us real substance, preferring we figure it out for ourselves. This title is very slow, but always interesting.
The Punisher #2 – I’m sad to say that I’m disappointed in this title. I’m a huge fan of Becky Cloonan’s artwork, and I’ve enjoyed her writing on her minicomics and her Image series Southern Cross, but her Punisher is just so typical of the character that I can’t make myself care about it at all. Frank Castle is a difficult character to make interesting; he’s a force of nature, not a regular person, and the best way to build interest in him is through the characters around him. In this book, though, Cloonan is giving us a very average story about Frank dismantling a drug organization. He has no real motivation, nor do any of the other characters we see. Sure, she’s spicing it up with a guy who collects the faces of the people he’s killed, and a little girl in a suicide vest, but nothing here feels new. Part of the problem might be the art by Steve Dillon, which is very good, but which makes me feel like this is the same stuff I’ve read over decades. I think I’m done with this title…
Saints #9 – This series comes to an end here, and to be honest, I don’t know how much I care. The first couple of issues of this comic, by Sean Lewis and Benjamin Mackey, were great, but as the series moved forward, the quality of the storytelling really slipped. I suspect that this was designed to be a longer series, and it had to be truncated, perhaps due to sales. The last four issues felt much more rushed, and were lacking the character work that made the earlier issues so compelling.
Spider-Woman #8 – This issue pretty much perfectly encapsulates everything that Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez have been doing with this title. Leaving her baby with Roger for the night, Jessica heads out on her motorcycle to fight some crime, and is directed by Ben Urich to Tiger-Shark’s swanky apartment. Their fight, which involves a giant sea monster that was being kept in a large tank, ends up on, and then under, the street. I like the way Hopeless has Jess narrate this story, and I especially love Rodriguez’s art for the fight scenes. I’m not sure how long a title just about a mother crimefighter heading out at night to crimefight and then coming home to pancakes could keep my interests, but we’ll never have to know, as Marvel keeps shuffling this title from one event to another. The Spider-Women cross-over ended with the last issue, and the next one has Jess getting drawn into Civil Wars II for a few months. I’d rather see more issues like this one though.
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #15 – What has already been a very complicated story about a theft at a strip club becomes even more complicated this issue, as we learn that Kretchmeyer’s plans have been about as complicated as Beth’s, although that provides her and Orson with an out after having been captured by Spanish Scott. Stray Bullets has long been the best crime comic out there, and that doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
The Walking Dead #155 – It looks like Rick’s people are going to be heading to war with the Whisperers soon, as Dwight leads a squad to rescue Michonne and Aaron. Negan gets to know Alpha, and stakes just keep raising all over the place. The Walking Dead never fails to create more excitement.
The Woods #23 – This issue focuses a lot on Sander and Calder, and how their relationship to each other, forged in their mutual love for Karen, has changed over the last six months. They’ve been out looking for the missing Bayside students, but when they find them, they also find a ton of trouble. As always, James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas give us a very good story, as much about character as plot.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
All-New All-Different Avengers #10
All-New Wolverine #9
Amazing Forest #6
Amazing Spider-Man #13
Art Ops Vol. 1
Cinema Purgatorio #2
Doctor Fate #13
Hellboy in Hell #10
Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia HC
Spider-Women Omega #1
The Week in Graphic Novels:
The Cape: 1969 – The problem with prequels is that you really have to understand and know the main event story before diving into what happened before. They are designed to inform the main story, but rarely stand on their own. That’s how I feel after reading this 1969 story, because I’ve never read The Cape. Some medic’s helicopter is shot down in Vietnam during the war. He is taken prisoner, and forced, by a sadistic Vietnamese who used to live in the US, to spend time with a naked tattooed man who can somehow fly. The guy gets his powers, and uses them to escape. There’s very little content or story here, and the art is just alright. I had heard good things about The Cape, which is written by Joe Hill, but this did not make me want to seek it out.
by Shigeru Mizuki
It’s kind of strange readingNonnonba so soon after I completed Mizuki’s firstShowa book, as it covers much of the same material. That book is a mixture between personal autobiography and straight history book, examining Mizuki’s childhood in a small town in Japan in the 1920s and 30s.
In Nonnonba, Mizuki focuses on his childhood, his relationship with the old woman who often worked for his family in a domestic capacity, and their shared belief in the rich spirit world of Japanese mythology and folk tradition.
Young Shige gets up to some pretty usual boyhood stuff, fighting with the kids from a different neighbourhood, visiting a ‘haunted house’, and drawing about his experiences. He does terribly in school, and often exasperates his mother.
Nonnonba’s familial relationship to Shige or his family is never made very clear, but it is obvious that the two care very deeply for one another. She teaches him about the various spiritual creatures that live all around them, and as the book progresses, Shige gets to know a few of them on a personal level.
This is an interesting book. It shows a touching example of inter-generational friendship, and helps document a way of life that is now gone. I feel like Showa, which is supposed to be a broad examination of Japan’s history, does a better job of explaining minute details about the mangaka’s life, but this book is much more affecting and charming.
Tags: The Weekly Round-Up