Inside Pulse 12

The Weekly Round-Up #347 With Black Panther #4, 4001 A.D. #3, Jupiter’s Legacy 2 #2, Nightwing #1, Rom #1 & More!

My column is late this week because I disappeared for a bit this weekend.  It’s all here now though!

Best Comic of the Week:

Black Panther #4Once again, we are given a complicated and compelling look at the problems that Wakanda faces, as T’Challa’s attempt to appeal to his people ends in tragedy, and as the Midnight Angels turn down help offered by Tetu.  Most interestingly, Ta-Nehisi Coates reveals who is behind a lot of what has been happening, and it’s not a character I’d expected to see again (and one that is not linked to the Panther at all).  Great stuff as always.  I’m sad that Brian Stelfreeze won’t be drawing the next arc, but not too sad, since Chris Sprouse is coming to fill in, and he’s just as brilliant.

Quick Takes:

Aloha, Hawaiian Dick #4 – I’ve found this miniseries to be a bit of a struggle, but with this issue, B. Clay Moore pulls some threads together nicely, and does away with one of the more realized supporting characters in the comic.  I continue to really enjoy Jacob Wyatt’s art on this book.

American Monster #4This Aftershock series, by Brian Azzarello and Juan Doe, is really very good, but the perennial lateness of the book makes it difficult to keep up on some of the more subtle plotlines that Azzarello is advancing.  To be honest, four issues in, I couldn’t really summarize the plot of this series, but I do enjoy the way the creators are exploring this strange town’s inhabitants.  This book is a good companion to titles like Southern Bastards (which also doesn’t come out nearly often enough).

The Autumnlands #12 – For a series that, when it started out, was about talking animals using magic and scheming for political power, Kurt Busiek has really taken us into unexpected territory, with this issue that focuses on the Galateans, robotic statue women who were largely responsible for shaping magic in the world, but were then left for millennia in dormancy.  Learoyd, our ‘champion’, is not very happy with the way these beings were treated, but his attempts to show kindness and respect do not lead where you would expect.  Benjamin Dewey does amazing work with each issue of this series, which I really cannot make any predictions about.  Busiek is writing one of the best books of his very highly-regarded career here.

Batgirl #1I was enjoying the Burnside era Batgirl, and felt that Babs’s sudden departure from Gotham felt forced (especially since she’s still there in the Batgirl and the Birds of Prey series which debuted last week) and unnecessary.  I’m still not sure how I feel after reading this issue, which I did enjoy.  Barbara is in Japan, looking to interview an older superhero, the Fruit Bat, who was active in the 40s (which raises some interesting questions, given that this would have been during the war).  She runs into an old friend in a completely unbelievable coincidence, and then has to rescue him from an attacker.  I don’t know if Hope Larson has done enough to make this series feel viable yet.  It feels like it is lacking direction or in a mission statement, but that could still be coming.  Rafael Albuquerque’s art is very nice, but since it’s already been announced that he’s going to be drawing Hit-Girl for Mark Millar, I don’t think he’s long for this title.  I’m going to give this a second read before the next issue comes out to see if I want to keep reading it.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #3 – This is really the first issue of this series to feature Cap since we learned about his affiliation with Hydra.  I felt that the last issue, which explained why Cap is part of the organization he’s spent much of his existence fighting came too soon, but with this comic, I see that Nick Spencer has built another plot that revolves around various levels of deceit and deception, calling Cap’s motives into question yet again.  Spencer is making this book the most interesting and relevant it’s been since Ed Brubaker left; I hope that next issue’s CWII tie-in doesn’t wreck his flow too much.

Captain Marvel #7 – One thing that Christos Gage has always been good at is weaving stories into the tapestry of the Marvel Universe.  In this issue, he addresses just how Captain Marvel is in such a position of power in Civil War II, while still finding time to also show her grieving for Rhodey.  This is a good issue.

Civil War II #4Okay, now that we’ve hit the halfway mark on this series, we are at last ready to see the actual civil war among the heroes take shape.  The problem is, I’m still not buying it.  Tony Stark finally explains his objections to using Ulysses’s powers in a more coherent manner, and we are given a good example of his abilities perhaps leading us in the wrong direction, but the quick mobilization of various hero factions rings false, especially when groups like the X-Men are included, as they tend to stick to their own counsel in such matters.  Is the next issue just going to be a slugfest?  I hope there’s a little more to it than that, as Bendis and Marquez are getting some things very right here, usually when they focus on the smaller character moments.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #17 – As the various communities that have unified in opposition to the organized Crossed plan on making an assault on their enemies’ main base, Future can’t shake the feeling that something very wrong is about to happen.  Simon Spurrier does a great job of building suspense over the course of this issue, culminating in a surprise on the last page.  I know that this is an Avatar comic, but I really need to complain about either the art, the colouring, or the combination of the two.  Character’s faces look very odd, and over the course of three panels, Future’s bosom seems to visibly grow.  I often find the art on this book to be very distracting and hard to follow.

Detective Comics #937 – The purpose of The Colony is exposed, as Batman has a chat with his uncle after breaking free, while Batwoman and the others come to his rescue.  This title has held my interest very well, but I still feel like James Tynion IV is rushing through the story a little too quickly.  Now we have yet another secret organization operating in Gotham (in addition to the Colony, I mean)?  Sometimes it’s just too hard to suspend my disbelief…

Divinity II #4Knowing that Divinity III has already been announced makes the end of this miniseries less momentous than the end of the first one, but still, I like the way that Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine wrap things up, with a lengthy comparison to a Dostoyevsky novel (reminding me that he is a writer I should really read more of).  

Drifter #13 – Drifter is often a very challenging read, and while there’s a lot going on this issue, much of it is given over to a fight between the indigenous Wheelers and the people who have come to inhabit a small town on this small planetoid.  It’s pretty brutal, and thanks to Nic Klein’s art, it’s also pretty glorious.

East of West #28 – People are hunting for Babylon, which means we get to return to one of the most interesting characters in this series for a while.  Death is also closing in on his son, which should make for a pretty interesting scene.  I like how Jonathan Hickman moved away from the big events of the last issue in favour of these quieter scenes.  I also really like the new characters, bounty hunters basically, that showed up in this issue.  Nick Dragotta’s character designs are fantastic.

4001 AD #3 – Rai faces Father for the last time, and it reminds me a little of Empire Strikes Back in a few ways.  There is still one issue left to go, so clearly Rai’s problems are not finished yet; this has been a good series, but really, it should have just been left as an arc in Rai’s own comic.

International Iron Man #5Unexpectedly, Tony Stark learns who his real mother is this issue, and it’s not, as I feared, Victor Von Doom’s mom, which I thought was where Bendis was taking this series, especially once he worked in an Eastern European connection to this story.  Now that my sense of dread is gone, I’m curious to know his mother’s story and hope that’s covered next issue, since it looks like this title is disappearing in the upcoming Marvel NOW! relaunch cycle.

Jupiter’s Legacy 2 #2 – No one constructs a big superhero fight like Frank Quitely.  As the heroes go about gathering some more allies, which involves a pretty daring attack in Dubai, the President works to consolidate his hold on the world by attacking China.  Great art and good writing make this series a winner.  My problem is that I sometimes have a hard time remembering who is who in this book.

Micronauts #4 – One thing that always stood out in the original Micronauts series was how cool a villain Baron Karza was (especially in his centaur form).  Sure, he was basically a Darth Vader knock-off, but my young self didn’t really get that.  Anyway, this issue finally explores Karza’s character in this relaunched world, and we learn about how he came to kill the son of his Emperor.  I like how Cullen Bunn is expanding this story, and incorporating some of the elements of the original series, like the Time Travelers who get discussed a fair amount this time around.

Ms. Marvel #9 – This Civil War II tie-in has Kamala continuing to struggle with the implications of using Ulysses’s visions to stop crimes long before they happen, especially after her friend Josh is accused of planning to accidentally burn down the school.  I find the neo-fascist trappings of Kamala’s cadets a little hard to swallow, especially the converted warehouse prison, but G. Willow Wilson works in some great character moments, especially involving Zoe, Josh’s ex.  I also really like the way that Wilson is giving us a framing sequence in this arc that digs into Kamala’s family’s past.

Nightwing #1Like with Batgirl, I’m a little trepidatious about committing to this title.  Were it monthly instead of biweekly, I think I’d be on board, but I don’t know if I’m interested enough in this new take on Nightwing, having him working undercover in the Parliament of Owls, and working with a new character named Raptor, to buy this every second trip to the comics store.  Still, Tim Seeley has a good handle on Dick, and the art by Javier Fernández is nice, in that DC house style way.  I’ll see how I feel after the next issue comes out.

Old Man Logan #9 – I’m not sure how I feel about this book still focusing so much on Logan’s past in his alternate timeline where in the future the villains take over the world, but I still find myself enjoying this title a lot more than I expected to.  Of course, the credit for that goes to Andrea Sorrentino, who continues to blow each and every issue out of the water.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #19 – I think we get a lot of answers this issue, but delivered as cryptically as possible, as Kyle is held prisoner by the old guy who is apparently the leader of the things that are possessing people in town.  This is very much a bottle episode, as we spend the whole time with Kyle, who learns a little about what makes him an Outcast.  I haven’t watched any of the TV show based on this series – is it any good?

ROM #1I have every issue of the Marvel ROM series, it being one of those first titles that I chased down in quarter bins as a kid (alongside such classic titles as Micronauts, Invaders, and All-Star Squadron – the quarter bins being full of toy and WWII superhero comics in the 80s) and so I was curious to see what IDW would do with this character that I have both a lot of affection for, and at the same time, no real connection to in terms of supporting cast and personality, Marvel’s ROM having been a bit of a wet blanket.  Writers Chris Ryall and Christos Gage have taken an interesting approach at first, establishing that the Dire Wraiths have a much deeper hold on America (or maybe the whole Earth) than we would have originally thought.  ROM has come alone to stop them, and in the first issue, manages to rescue a cop (the FCBD story is reprinted at the start of the issue) and a soldier who is home suffering from PTSD.  There is an unexpected tie-in to another IDW book at the end of the issue, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I would like to get to know ROM a bit more, rather than have this be too guest star-centric.  At the same time, like with the original comic, I’m most excited to see when some other Spaceknights roll around.  I like the redesign of the character, and especially enjoy the way David Messina captures the transformations between different modes of ROM’s weaponry.  I’m not sure how much life this series is going to have in it, but I’m interested in finding out where this will all lead.

Thief of Thieves #33This issue makes clear why a pair of Russian billionaires want to hire Redmond and some other top thieves, but much of the issue is given over to Conrad’s reaction to being punked by one of his competitors.  I didn’t see the need for another arc of this series, but Andy Diggle has found a new way to approach the character, while separating him from the baggage of the earlier stories, making this a good jumping on point for interested new readers.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #9 – This issue has Amadeus dealing with some of the fallout of what’s been happening in Civil War II, as he mourns for his friend and has to face a pile of heavily armed SHIELD agents on his doorstep.  I’m very happy to see that Mike Del Mundo is finally drawing a book that I want to read, and he makes this all look terrific.  I’m glad that this issue doesn’t spend any time debating Ulysses and his abilities, but instead focuses on how the event is going to shape upcoming issues of this series.  A rarity for CWII…

Wonder Woman #3 – Despite having read comics for decades, I don’t actually know anything about the relationship between Wonder Woman and Cheetah.  Apparently they used to be friends?  Anyway, Diana needs Cheetah’s help to find Themyscira again, but Cheetah meanwhile has to deal with the god-like creature that turned her into a cheetah-woman in the first place.  I continue to be intrigued by this book, and think that Liam Sharp’s art looks as good or better than it ever has.  I just don’t have a lot of context for what’s going on.  Maybe it will all be made clear in the Year One issues.

X-O Manowar #48As we get closer and closer to the big finish, Aric and the world have to deal with the coming of the Torment (think Galactus, but for collective memory) and the threat posed by Commander Trill.  Robert Venditti does a good job of raising the suspense level in this issue; I’m going to miss this series when it’s done.

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

All-New All-Different Avengers #12

Civil War II: Choosing Sides #3

Crossed Badlands #100

Doctor Fate #14

Extraordinary X-Men #12

Howard the Duck #9

Lobster Johnson: Metal Monsters of Midtown #3

Mighty Thor #9

Mockingbird #5

New Avengers #14

Bargain Comics:

Uncanny X-Men #5 – I’m a little surprised by some of the things that Cullen Bunn is being allowed to get away with in this series, especially when it comes to the complete destruction of Genosha (hopefully this sticks and lasts forever).  The Dark Riders get dispatched pretty quickly, and most of the issue is given over to actually positioning this title with respect to the other X-books, and setting up new plotlines.  I like this comic, and really, really wish that Greg Land weren’t drawing it, so I could bring myself to buy it off the stands as it comes out.

Wolf Moon #1-6 – It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that a werewolf story by Cullen Bunn and Jeremy Haun is excellent, but I think I’d reached a point of diminishing expectations with Vertigo books that this still managed to take me by surprise a little.  Bunn’s new addition to the werewolf mythos is a marrying of it to the legend of the skinwalkers in Native American lore.  Basically, a single werewolf has been jumping from body to body with each full moon, where it creates havoc for a few days, before moving on, utterly untraceably.  Dillon was a victim of this once, and the memory of being the wolf has driven him to try to hunt it down and finish it forever.  He is helped by two other people who have had their lives ruined by the creature as well, but as he continues in his investigation, we learn that there is someone else hunting the former werewolves.  This is a very well-plotted story, and Haun’s art works well.  I recommend this.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Ramshackle

by Alison McCreesh

The myth of the North plays big in Canadian consciousness and literature, and it is this curiosity about Northernness, coupled with the fascinatingly detailed watercolour that makes up the cover, that hadRamshackle: A Yellowknife Story calling to me from a table at TCAF.

Alison McCreesh has collected her various comics strips, drawings, and ideas about her and her boyfriend’s summer visit to Yellowknife a few years ago.  The pair, freshly graduated and unhurried about settling down, by a beater of a soccer mom minivan, and drive it from Quebec to the Northwest Territories (clear across the country/continent, for the less geographically-inclined), before spending most of a summer living in it in an abandoned field.

McCreesh fits nicely in the Canadian tradition of honest comic memoirists, giving us a clear portrayal of the downsides of her adventure as well as sharing the beauty of the land and the people who live there.  She alternates between grey tone illustrations and rich watercolours, and gives a strong sense of place to this book.

As much as I enjoyed reading about Alison’s experiences, I found that I really gravitated towards the parts of the book that dealt with the way in which Yellowknifers have constructed their day-to-day existence in a city just below the Arctic Circle.  Details about the inability to construct sewage or water pipes on solid bedrock, and the subsequent system that has developed around ‘honeybuckets’ – pails used to collect washroom waste which homeowners have to take to a disposal site themselves, fascinate me.  Likewise, I was very interested to learn about the informal community called the Woodlot, a group of quasi-legal shacks that have become the nexus for a very special part of the city.

McCreesh has done some very good work in this book, which entertained me as much as it informed me.  Recommended.

The Squidder

by Ben Templesmith

I’ve been a fan of Ben Templesmith’s art since he worked with Warren Ellis on Fell (or perhaps sooner, but I can’t think of what that would have been), so I was curious to see what the results of his Kickstarter campaign were.  Never one to hide from the weird in the world, Templesmith created the world of The Squidder, and it is a pretty different one at that.

The future of the Squidder is one where the Earth has been taken over by squid-creatures from another dimension.  After years of rule and some weird genetic stuff, humanity is on its last legs.  Our hero, who never gets a name past Squidder, I don’t think, is an augmented human, the last survivor of a push to get rid of the invaders.  Many years later, he ekes out a quiet, secretive existence, until the usual stuff happens, and he gets dragged back into the conflict.

I like this story, but I feel like it could have used some more time or space to develop.  I didn’t feel like I knew the main character until the back half of the book, and much of what is going on can feel pretty obscure.  At the same time, I appreciate that Templesmith put a great deal of philosophy into this story (it can be read as a fight between collective action and individual thought), and of course, the artwork is phenomenal.  We don’t see enough from Templesmith these days…

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