Best Comic of the Week:
Moonshine #1 – Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are working together again, this time on a series set during Prohibition, and involving bootleggers, mobsters, the FBI, and at least one monster or werewolf. This is a strong debut, introducing us to an Appalachian bootlegger with a large family. Azzarello works very well on period pieces, and he and Risso have an incredible rapport. There is no clear hero to this series yet, but as with many of their other books, I know better than to expect easy answers from the beginning. Instead, I’m looking forward to seeing more about the world these two are creating.
The Autumnlands #13 – What started as a fantasy series about talking animals has slowly shifted into being a science fiction series about humans who have engineered a world of talking animals (who use magic). This issue has Learoyd and his pals meet with the woman who has been flying around for a while, and it raises a lot more questions than it answers, but with Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey working on it, it looks and reads terrifically.
Batman #8 – The Night of the Monster Men continues to underwhelm me. There are monsters. Some of them are Nightwing and Gotham Girl. Mold is making the small group of people meant to represent most of the city’s population, sheltering in caves, act like zombies, until Spoiler and Orphan use flares to stop it. It’s really hard to care about anything happening in this story, and it’s hard to not notice that there is no real motivation for Hugo Strange’s actions in this storyline, setting off these monsters (and I guess mold) during a hurricane. It’s all kind of dumb, especially when you consider that everything else I’ve read by Tom King and event-runner Steve Orlando has been a hundred times better.
Black #1 – I was curious about this new Black Mask series, which posits a world where the only people with superpowers are of African descent. The series starts with a sadly common event – a group of innocent black youth are accused of a crime and executed by the police. Later, one of them wakes up in the ambulance, and goes on the run, where he is contacted by a group of powered people, while also being pursued by some government types. The writer, Kwanza Osajyefo is unknown to me, and while he put together a competent story, it feels a little too routine in places. Jamal Igle’s art is always nice, but overall, this project didn’t stand out as much as I’d hoped it would. I love when superhero stuff gets intermingled with real current issues, but I couldn’t help but feel like this was playing it very safe. We’ll see what the next issue brings.
Bloodshot Reborn #18 – After Bloodshot Island, the various Bloodshots find themselves on a raft in the middle of the ocean, with nothing to do but tell some of their stories. This is a decent issue, as Jeff Lemire closes out the Reborn era, and gets us ready for Bloodshot USA.
Doctor Strange #13 – Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo throw Strange right back into the thick of things, as his attempts to rebuild magic and his arsenal are interrupted by the return of Baron Mordo, who is working for another, dreaded foe. This is kind of a slow start to the new arc, as there is a lot to set up (some of it presumably for all the new readers who are going to be confused/attracted by the #1 in the upper right corner, or so Marvel NOW!’s game plan reads), but it is still entertaining. I like the ingenuity being put into creating new weapons for Strange.
Invincible Iron Man #14 – I really liked most of this issue, which has Tony attend an AA meeting and running into Carol Danvers, but I think this is my last Iron Man comic for a while. Brian Michael Bendis has not had a clear vision or plan for this title, and the next relaunch feels pointless, and, with Riri taking centre stage in this book, and Doctor Doom in the companion title, needlessly complicated and confusing. I really feel like Bendis nails the complexity of Tony and Carol’s relationship in this issue, and helps make Civil War II a lot more palatable at the same time, but the fact that barely anything has happened in this book over fourteen issues, and the irritating cliffhanger ending, which necessitates reading the rest of CWII before coming to the relaunch book (which is probably going to come out before another issue of CWII), just turns me off completely. The saddest part of all this, at least for Marvel? If the book weren’t relaunching, I’d probably have just kept getting it for at least a few more months. Relaunches make good jumping off points.
Jessica Jones #1 – I remember the first Jessica Jones series, Alias, being a serious breath of fresh air when it launched at the turn of the century. Now original creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos are back at it again, with mixed results. The tone of the series feels right, as Jessica is hired by a woman to figure out why her husband believes that he was living a different life before (clearly this has something to do with Secret Wars), and with most of the issue given over to talking heads. At the same time, Jessica has moved forward as a character from that time, marrying Luke Cage and having a baby with him. Now, something’s happened to break them up, and a number of cameo characters like Misty Knight and Jessica Drew are looking for Danielle (the baby), and we have no idea what’s going on with that. This completely contradicts what we’ve seen recently in Bendis’s own Spider-Man, not to mention the Power Man and Iron Fist series, but I assume we will learn what’s happening eventually. This was a decent start, but I’m torn about feeling nostalgia for a book that I consider a little too recent to qualify for my Retro Reviews column.
Midnighter and Apollo #1 – I’m pleased that Steve Orlando gets to continue his time with this pair of Wildstorm characters after the too-early ending of the solo Midnighter title, although I do feel that for a six-issue miniseries, this first issue spends a lot of time on setup. Henry Bendix is going to be the big bad once again, as Midnighter tracks him down, only to find that he’s prepared for his coming. This is a decent read, but without ACO, it feels like it’s trying too hard to be as good as the last title and coming up a little short. Maybe the next issue will work better with all the setup out of the way.
Nightwing #6 – The Night of the Monster Men never seems to end. This issue at least explains why Hugo Strange is doing the things he’s doing, but not how a psychiatrist would have the skills to create massive monsters out of dead human bodies, or mind control fungus that can form its own giant monster. I also don’t really understand how two Wayne Towers are also devices that need piloting. This is too much toy line Batman, and not enough Detective Batman. It’s tiresome.
No Mercy #10 – This title returns from a hiatus, but it’s not exactly returning to a new arc, as various storylines are continued, and a new reader would be hopelessly lost. It was tough to get back into the story, because the previous issue only focused on one character’s backstory, so I had to try to remember threads from months back. At this stage, the series is very fragmented, as we continue to follow the stories of various American college student survivors of the bus crash in a Latin American country. Some of the kids have been abducted by rebels, another has fallen in with drug dealers, and a third is experimenting with hallucinogens. I assume that the stories will intersect again some day, but have no idea when. As much as I didn’t love this issue, I remain very committed to this usually excellent title, which has great work by Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil.
Paper Girls #10 – This delightful title keeps getting more and more complex, but this issue also returns to the emotional core of the book, the friendship between the paper girls. Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have moved beyond the nostalgia-driven first arc to give us an emotionally charged time travel thriller, and it just keeps getting better.
Revival #43 – We’re getting very close to the end of this series, and Tim Seeley is finally letting us learn some of the secrets that have kept this book going from the very beginning, including the identity of the person who was behind Revival Day. I’m not sure how many issues remain, but I expect that a lot more will be made clear before this is all over.
Shade the Changing Girl #1 – I was a big fan of the Milligan/Bachalo run of Shade the Changing Man, which this new Young Animal series is heavily indebted to. Loma is a Metan who has always been a fan of Rac Shade’s poetry, and who seizes the opportunity to steal his madness jacket and travel to Earth, where she inhabits the body of a comatose teenage girl. Parts of Cecil Castellucci’s story are not clear yet, but Marley Zarcone’s art is typically excellent. I like that the human girl is not a very nice person, and that neither her friends nor family are happy to see her back, even if she is different. I think it’s interesting that when Milligan wanted the original Shade to inhabit a terrible person, he chose a murderer who was about to be executed, but in the 2010s, when you want to signify that a person is terrible, the go-to is a privileged white teenage girl. I did not like the first issue of Doom Patrol at all, but this has me a little intrigued. I’ll probably pick up the next issue.
Shipwreck #1 – Increasingly, I don’t know what to expect when starting a new Warren Ellis series. Trees has been brilliant. Injection took a while, but became a favourite of mine with its second arc. Karnak has been a disappointment, but Moon Knight was incredible. The jury is still out on Shipwreck, which appears to be about a man who survived an experimental something or other, and is now a little unstuck and subjected to a lot of weirdness. It’s like the Peter Milligan Shade the Changing Man, if it was done by Ted McKeever, but maybe a little less absorbing. I’m going to have to read the second issue before I decide if I like this or not.
Squadron Supreme #12 – This issue ended up being slightly more interesting than the last few, but not interesting enough that I’m going to be sticking with this title. I feel like James Robinson has really lost his sense of pacing on this title, and I’m increasingly uninterested in the plot. This issue has the two Zardas fighting each other, while Hyperion and Spectrum, having been turned into ghosts, travel back to the moment when the Squadron killed Namor. I obviously want to see Namor returned to the Marvel Universe, but since it’s inevitable, I don’t feel any sense of anticipation for this. I’d stopped preordering this comic, and I think that I’m not going to bother picking up the next issue. At least, not until a Black Friday sale…
The Walking Dead #159 – As The Whisperer War hits the halfway mark, we get to see some very badass scenes, including a reunion between Negan and Lucille. This arc is interesting for the way that Robert Kirkman has made it much more dense than any storyline he’s told before in this series, and for the way in which just about every character, including some we haven’t met before, get a moment or two to shine.
The Woods #26 – Big things are happening in this series again, as it looks like the surviving main characters (and one that didn’t survive) are heading out to figure out what really runs the planet they’ve been stranded on. James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas are consistently putting out one of the best comics on the stands with this title. It’s not flashy, but it is very, very good.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
All-New Wolverine #13
Amazing Spider-Man #19
Black Dog Dreams of Paul Nash
Death of X #1
Green Arrow #8
Rise of the Black Flame #2
Scarlet Witch #11
Suiciders: King of HelLA #6
Uncanny X-Men #14
Civil War II: X-Men #1&2 – I didn’t really understand how and why so many X-Men sided with Carol Danvers in Civil War II, but while this miniseries shows rifts starting among members of the Extraordinary and Uncanny teams, none of the defections or changes of heart make a lot of sense. That’s been my issue with CWII from the beginning; the stakes and moral divisions have not felt serious enough.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Lifelike – This collection of short stories by Dara Naraghi, and drawn by a variety of artists (including mpMann!) is pretty enjoyable. Naraghi is an observant student of the human condition, and shows a spread of viewpoints through these very short tales. I’d like to see him work on something longer and meatier…
You Don’t Say – This is a collection of short pieces by Nate Powell, a cartoonist I’ve stayed firmly on the fence about for years now. He’s definitely very talented, but I often find that he doesn’t quite stick the landing with his work, leaving me wanting a little more.
Tags: The Weekly Round-Up