Inside Pulse 12

The Weekly Round-Up #353 With Sheriff Of Babylon #10, Heavy Metal #282, Ninjak #19, Star Wars: Poe Dameron #6, The Walking Dead #15 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Sheriff of Babylon #10 – Once again, Tom King delivers a master class in comics writing.  After a lot of set up, Saffiya is finally meeting with Abu Rahim, the terrorist that has been the focus of a large hunt by the US military, and who has shown up to the meeting in a suicide vest.  Saffiya’s verbal takedown of this man is incredibly well-written, and in many ways, invalidates a number of jihadist/Islamist arguments in a way I hadn’t seen before.  It’s a pretty thrilling conversation.  While this is going on, we hear about an earlier attempt to capture Abu Rahim that went very wrong, and which finally gets us closer to solving the mystery of the dead Iraqi police trainee that sparked off the whole series.  This is an incredible read, and with only two issues left, I’m already beginning to miss it.

Quick Takes:

Batman #6 – Reading the end of Tom King’s first arc, I’m left with a few thoughts and observations.  First, I think that the upcoming Monster Men crossover (with Detective and Nightwing) must be completely editorially-mandated, as King sets up the subsequent story arc perfectly here.  Secondly, I think this upcoming arc, which will have Batman hunting for Bane in his own country, with his own Suicide Squad, might be the first one that King actually wrote himself.  All this Gotham/Gotham Girl stuff has felt like it was suggested by Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, or someone else who is not Tom King.  It’s definitely not the King of Grayson, Omega Men, Vision, or Sheriff of Babylon.  I still think that getting rid of Gotham (the character, not the city) so quickly was a mistake, and I kind of hate the way that Gotham Girl, in mourning and dealing with the Psycho Pirate’s attack on her, is portrayed here as a chattering fool who takes on a number of Batman’s most poorly designed foes.  It’s not played as comedy, but it’s not competent enough to qualify as tragedy.  I do find that I prefer Ivan Reis to David Finch on this book, although I still wish DC had gone with a less house-style artist for their top book.  Batman deserves to look distinct, not like fifty percent of their other books.  I’m going to give King through the Santa Prisca arc, but right now, I remain disappointed in this title.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #18 – So apparently this is the final issue of this series, and the remainder of Salt’s plans stand revealed, as Future confronts Robbie/Bashful, and the attack on the intelligent Crossed goes ahead.  This has been an interesting series.  Alan Moore put together a very interesting blueprint and start for this title, and Simon Spurrier has done a masterful job of moving it along since Moore left.  Of course, this is an Avatar book, so the art has really suffered as different artists cycled in to draw the comic.  Still, I’m going to remember this look at a terrible future fondly, mostly for the amazing work with language that Moore and Spurrier did here.

Daredevil #11 – I’m really liking this new arc, which has Daredevil dealing with a new foe, the artist (Vincent Von Gore?) who painted a mural with the blood of over one hundred missing people.  Half of the issue is given over to the opportunist who now owns the painting (because it’s in his warehouse), and how his attempt to profit off of it is ruffling feathers at City Hall.  Now he’s making new art, and that involves some Inhumans.  I kind of forgot that Charles Soule is writing Uncanny Inhumans as well as this book, so it makes sense that they would intersect eventually, even though I feel DD works best when he’s not that connected to the rest of the Marvel Universe.  This story is nicely balanced however, and feels like something different and new, which is rare.

Doctor Strange #11 – Kevin Nowlan drew half of this issue, and that is a reason to rejoice.  I’ve been a fan of Nowlan’s work since he drew an issue of the New Mutants back in the 80s, and it’s great to see him do more than just a cover here.  The fight with the Empirikull is over, and magic is barely existent in the 616 now.  Strange has to figure out a way to return to his old level of power, which dredges up a lot of memories of his early days.  It also drags back an old foe, but that’s for the next story arc.  Great stuff here; this title has been a real pleasant surprise (although I don’t think that launching a second Doctor Strange book, like Marvel is doing next month, is a good idea).

Drifter #14 – Another arc comes to a close, with the end of the fight between the Wheelers (the indigenous life on the planetoid) and the villagers, and with a pretty shocking revelation about Pollux’s wife, who he is supposed to be going home to.  This is not an easy read by any standard, as this series has a lot of depth and (we are learning) deception to it, and with Nic Klein on art, it’s very beautiful.

The Fuse #21 – The usual murder mystery in space stuff gives over to deep political conspiracy, as Klem’s son, who works in the mayor’s office, is implicated in a terrorist plot, and the truth of what’s really going on is even more shocking than that (although something that readers have been waiting to see revealed for a while now).  Antony Johnston’s writing on this title is always sharp, and the book feels very realized.  It’s a great series.

Heavy Metal #282 – I was excited when Grant Morrison took over the editorship of this venerable title, but now that I’ve read a few issues, I don’t think I need to continue with it.  There is some nice stuff here – especially a Bill Sienkiewicz story from the 80s, but for the most part, the stories here either don’t do anything for me, or they don’t do enough.  Morrison himself contributes two stories with artist Rian Hughes, but they aren’t particularly memorable.

Invincible Iron Man #13 – This is a real mess of an issue.  First, Brian Michael Bendis has Tony and Victor Von Doom trading quips like they are Peter Parker and another Peter Parker, which is completely out of character for both men.  Then, we get recaps of events that are now months old (all involving Rhodey’s death), and Tony, who last issue was sitting in the wreckage of his office tower, spends time wallowing in the basement of his office tower.  It’s seems like this story reads in a linear fashion, so I think we’re looking at Bendis’s usual disregard for his own continuity.  Riri Williams, who Marvel is so intent on pushing as Tony’s post Civil War replacement, does not even show up in this issue, despite having a large presence in the last one.  I really don’t get how Bendis can be so good on some books (like Spider-Man), but utterly phone it in on his highest profile titles (Iron Man and the Guardians).  This is why I don’t think I’m going to bother with the two upcoming Iron Man relaunches.

Kill or Be Killed #2 – The second issue of Kill or Be Killed is as good or better than the first, as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have Dylan accept the new reality that he is going to have to kill someone every month on behalf of a demon that doesn’t even make an appearance (making the reader wonder if it even exists).  This issue is focused on the mechanics of the whole thing – how to get a gun, how to select a victim – and allows further insight into Dylan’s nature, as a calculating side comes to light, as does a desire to right wrongs that he was never able to manage in his youth.  Also, there’s a reason for Phillips to paint some softcore vintage style sci-fi erotica.  Another triumph from one of the best teams in the business.

Moon Knight #6 – Jeff Lemire is taking this title down some new roads, as it appears that the various personalities that have lived in Marc Spector’s head over the years have separated, and the focus is on movie producer Steven Grant, who keeps running across his alter egos, and sometimes is them.  I won’t lie, this is a confusing issue, but it has some interesting meta commentary on Marvel movies, and some truly incredible artwork split between Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, and James Stokoe!  Intriguing and beautiful.

Nightwing #4 – On the one hand, I think that Tim Seeley might have wrapped up the Court of Owls stuff a little quickly with this issue, but on the other, I’m more interested in all of the things that we learn about Raptor this issue, and am looking forward to seeing more of him.  I’m definitely on board for this series now, and am pleased to see that Dick has kept his connection to Spyral as well as the Bat-organization.  It gives Seeley the opportunity to tell a wider array of stories.

Ninjak #19 – The Ninjak/Eternal Warrior team up continues about twenty years from now, as they track down Fakir in Las Vegas and find themselves facing an old foe (that can be read two ways).  It’s a good story, but I’m sick of the future plotline thing that’s been going around like a virus in superhero comics lately.  At the same time, the backup story that’s set in the present day suggests that Matt Kindt might be working an angle something like what Jeff Lemire did in his future arc of Bloodshot Reborn.  It’s entertaining, but feels way too familiar.

Nowhere Men #11 – Once again, the delay between issues of this very large-casted, sprawling series, has me feeling kind of lost, but I am still able to enjoy the component parts of this comic for what they are, and find it compelling, even if I feel like I’m missing some stuff that I should be catching.

Paper Girls #9 – There are a lot of Erins in this issue, as we figure out what’s going on with the future young Erin (although not if we can trust her), and some more time hopping looks set to happen.  This series just took home a pair of Eisner Awards, and it’s well-deserved.  This book is well-plotted, gorgeous, insightful, and steeped in a very trendy sense of 80s nostalgia.  Anyone who binge-watched Stranger Things would love this comic.

Poe Dameron #6 – The prison planet arc wraps up with some exciting scenes, and I still feel ambivalent about this series.  It’s really not adding anything to the Force Awakens future of the Star Wars universe, and I still don’t much care for Poe Dameron, or about him.  I think at this point I’m buying this largely out of inertia, which I thought I’d finally stopped doing with my comics…

Revival #42 – Tim Seeley and Mike Norton are starting to wrap up this series, and things are getting very intense.  The army has decided that the best way to clear the quarantine zone of any threat is to effect a scorched earth policy, and within the zone, people are behaving desperately, surrounding the police station to steal weapons.  With all of this going on, we also learn (or at least think we do) the identity of Martha’s murderer.  I’ve really enjoyed this title, and am thrilled to follow it to its conclusion.

Sex #31 – Like most issues of Sex, Joe Casey uses this one to advance a number of plotlines.  Keenan’s girlfriend learns all about his past, Simon continues to look into the Rothchild Group, and the white supremacist gang decides to go after the Breaks.  This continues to be one of the better superhero books on the stands, despite the complete lack of costumes.

Squadron Supreme #11 – I’m quickly losing interest in this title.  This month, the Squadron tries to stop Warrior Woman from getting Reed Richards’s time machine and using it to go back in time to save Namor, so that he can help her take over the world or something.  At one point, while the Squadron is dealing with an angry Spider-Man, they have to divide their forces to rush after Warrior Woman, so they decide to leave their speedster behind to fight Spidey, while the others race their enemy.  Because that makes sense.  I’d hoped, after Airboy, that James Robinson was capturing some of his old magic again, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Walking Dead #158 – The Whisperer War continues, and the Whisperers come en masse to attack Rick’s forward positions.  This is a pretty brutal issue, and it does not look like things are going to go all that well for our favourite characters.  Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard make good use of a dense page layout to check in with multiple characters and localities throughout this issue, and we learn that the Saviors are probably going to be a problem again when this is all over.  Good stuff.

The Woods #25 – For the first time since this series began, we get a look at what has been going on in Milwaukee since Bayside High disappeared and transported all of its students and faculty to another world.  Not unexpectedly, the parents are continuing to struggle, even though it’s now been two years.  On the planet, we see what the main surviving characters have been up to, and then they are summoned by Isaac, who has tapped into the planet’s powers.  I love this title.  James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas have perfected the ‘Lost’ formula, and filled this book with believable, compelling characters.  I’m glad to see this back from its short hiatus.

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

All-New All-Different Avengers #14

Angel Catbird Vol. 1 HC

Eclipse #1

Glitterbomb #1

Green Arrow #6

Mercury Heat #11

Rise of the Black Flame #1

Silk #12

Supergirl #1

Superman #6

Tomorrows TP

Uncanny X-Men #12

Bargain Comics:

Silk #7&8, Spider-Gwen #7&8, Spider-Women Omega #1 – The only parts of the Spider-Women event that I read up to now were the Alpha issue, and the one that happened in Spider-Woman, which I regularly buy.  Since I also enjoy Silk’s book, I thought I should catch up on the rest of the event, and I’m glad I did.  This was a nicely coordinated story, told by three different writers (Thompson, Latour, and Hopeless), and it felt consistent and measured throughout.  I really like the way Jessica takes on a mentoring role for these newer heroes, and think that it adds some texture to her character.  The one thing this doesn’t do, however, is convince me that I want to read Spider-Gwen’s regular series, and so I’m not.

Uncanny Inhumans #8-10 – Charles Soule steps back from the larger picture for a few issues, as we finally get a good look at how Medusa and Johnny Storm’s relationship works, and how Crystal reacts to discovering it.  Another issue really digs into Reader’s character.  One thing I like most about these issues is that Kev Walker drew them – I’m not sure what he’s been up to since his excellent Thunderbolts run, but I’ve missed his work.

Uncanny X-Men #6-9 – It’s not often that I’m going to express great pleasure in having Ken Lashley take over a title, but when he’s filling in for Greg Land…  The Apocalypse Wars storyline in Uncanny X-Men involves Angel, Genocide, and a plan to grow a whole host of Archangels for nefarious purposes.  It also involves M’s brother Emplate, who I’ve always hated.  These are not great comics, but you can see that Cullen Bunn is working at something, trying to recapture some of what worked so well in Remender’s X-Force run.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

A + A: The Adventures of Archer And Armstrong Vol. 1: In The Bag – While at Fan Expo, I decided to grab the first trade of A+A, because I was pleased to see that Valiant had set up a display booth, when the Big Two, and pretty much all the other prominent publishers, decided to snub Toronto once again.  I was a huge fan of Fred Van Lente’s run on Archer and Armstrong at the revitalized Valiant, and loved the original series that Barry Windsor-Smith did back in the day.  I didn’t buy this title as individual issues though, because I’m not a huge fan of David Lafuente’s art, and I do not know writer Rafer Roberts at all.  

To be blunt, I was pretty disappointed.  I think my illustrious editor might disagree with me, but I found this new iteration of the mismatched duo to be nowhere near as intelligent or heart-warming as Van Lente’s run.  Where he excoriated and savaged many aspects of modern American culture (the religious right, fringe religion, celebrity culture, the 1%, and many others) while making us generally care for the characters, this volume aims for cheap laughs.  The extent of withering commentary is limited to the humour inherent in the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness being named after pop stars (so, not much).  

Lafuente’s individual panels look fine, in a very exaggerated, cartoony way, but his storytelling is a muddled mess.  The whole story is about Armstrong going into his magic satchel, with Archer following, because the god Bacchus has hidden a treasured bottle of alcohol.  Bacchus then escapes, gets big, and makes party.  There is no subtext to this one at all, and the motivation for Armstrong, while adding a little to his character, felt forced.  

I was looking forward to the upcoming Harbingers: Renegades series at Valiant, because that is another property I enjoy, but with Roberts’s name attached to it as writer, I’m going to be cautious and maybe just pass on it altogether.

Coyote Vol. 1 – Coyote, like Scout, is one of those comics I used to see a lot of in my youth (remember the 3 for $1 bags that turned up in discount department stores?), but I’d never read, despite being a life-long fan of both Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.  I guess Image re-released the series in trade paperbacks about a decade ago, but I missed that too.  Anyway, this is a strange book, in that Englehart is going for a ‘mature readers’ vibe (think boobs and hallucinogenic drugs) in his story which is really about corporate control of the world.  It’s good stuff, but kind of odd.  The second half of this trade is taken up with the Scorpio Rose miniseries (the last issue of which was never completed), and it’s good, but reads as kind of racist today.  I do think I’m going to have to track down the other four trades, or the sixteen issues that made up Epic’s Coyote run.

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