The Weekly Round-Up #361 With The Sheriff of Babylon #12, Mayday #1, Motro #1, Occupy Avengers #1, Rom: Revolution #1, The Walking Dead #160 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Sheriff of Babylon #12 – Tom King has come out of nowhere and cemented himself as one of my favourite comics writers.  This Vertigo series, which ends with this issue, just further confirms my esteem for him.  This series has been about three people in Baghdad during the American occupation.  Our point of view character is an American policeman, there to train Baghdadi cops, while the other two characters are Iraqis, a male detective and a female politician.  This last issue doesn’t really conclude the story, but seeing as how the various plots started by the American invasion are still not resolved in real life, that makes a lot of sense.  King makes a strong argument against poorly planned intervention in foreign affairs, and places most of the blame for everything that has gone wrong since squarely on American shoulders.  The characters in this story are going to stick with me, especially Sofiya, and I already want to go back to the beginning and read this series over again.  King and his collaborator Mitch Gerads have done a wonderful job of capturing a specific moment in time which is still shaking the world, and of telling a strong, morally complex story that could only happen within it.  This might be the best series I’ve read this year, and if it isn’t, that’s because King’s other recently finished title, The Vision, is.

Quick Takes:

Batman #10 – Now this is much better.  I’m really enjoying the I Am Suicide arc, and like how this issue actually, for the first time, focuses on Batman being Batman.  He enters Bane’s island nation, and fights the man, although everything that happens is part of his greater plan.  Mikel Janin is just such a better choice of artist for this title than Finch was, and Tom King is finally feeling like he’s Tom King on this book.  I was getting ready to dump this series, but I’m sticking around so long as it stays this good.

Bitch Planet #9 – Another excellent issue, as the prison riots, and Meiko’s father is behind all of it.  Things get tense when different facilities access each other for the first time, and the locked up political prisoner makes interesting use of the opportunities provided to her.  I love this comic, I just wish it came out more often, because I feel like it loses momentum between issues something fierce.

CBLDF Liberty Annual 2016 – I’d gotten progressively bored with some of the last few years’ worth of CBLDF Annuals, but this year’s is a real gem.  It mostly tells stories about various historical figures, mostly women, who have stood their ground against injustice, have worked to help everyday people, or who have been in some other way remarkable.  There’s work by Dan Schadke, Bryan and Mary Talbot, Paul Pope, Brandon Graham, Larry Marder, Shannon Wheeler, Ron Wimberly, and Ken Niimura.  My favourite is Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett’s piece on Ida B. Wells.  This is for a good cause, so you should go buy it.

Deadly Class #23 – We continue to get to know the new freshmen better, as Saya ends up playing Dungeons & Dragons with them, and Rick Remender gives us a clearer look into her head.  It looks like she’s going to be the main character of this title now, and that her family is going to be driving the plot at some point soon.  This continues to be one of the best books on the stands, but there are a lot of characters that I’m missing at the moment…

Dept. H #7 – As the underwater station continues to fall apart, Mia finds herself trapped with her father’s oldest friend, and they discuss one of the other crew member, Aaron, his faith and, his intelligence.  As this goes on, we watch Aaron deal with the crazy drugged out guy in the crew.  Matt Kindt is doing some interesting work with this book, which has a darker and more mysterious feel to it than his Mind MGMT did.

Jade Street Protection Services #2 – I thought that there was some clear potential in the first issue of this Black Mask comic, but that it needed a little more editing or clarity of storytelling.  That’s still my verdict with the second issue, which has some strong moments, as the magic girls start to get used to life in the mundie world, but there’s still an uncertainty in the storytelling that really draws me out of the book.  I get the feeling that the writers, Katy Rex and Fabian Lelay, know their story so well, that they are forgetting that we don’t.

Mayday #1 – I feel like Alex DeCampi does not get the recognition that she deserves as a writer on the same level as people like Brubaker and Rucka.  Mayday, her new series with Tony Parker, is a very interesting period piece.  A KGB operative defects to the US in 1971, and while a pair of FBI operatives are en route to California to debrief him, a pair of undercover Soviet agents are working to retrieve him.  Toss in some LSD, some hippies, an eight-track tape player, and the desert, and you get a very odd first issue that definitely caught my attention.  DeCampi says this is the first of a group of series featuring these characters, and I’m already looking forward to more.

Midnighter and Apollo #2 – I didn’t really expect that Steve Orlando would be using this book to look at the concept of the afterlife in the DC Universe, but it seems to be headed that way, as a terrible old DC villain shows up in Hell.  I loved ACO’s work on the last Midnighter books, but am finding that Fernando Blanco on this one is a suitable replacement.

Moon Knight #8 – Jeff Lemire and an amazing collection of artists continue to send Mark Spector down a rabbit hole of mental illness and confusion, as he flips through his various personalities and strange scenarios.  Francesco Francavilla gets the most space this month, art-wise, so the book looks terrific, but then it always does.  I like the way Lemire is really not explaining anything in this arc, making this one of the more unique Marvel books on the stands.

Motro #1 – I first became aware of Ulises Fariñas when he worked with Joe Casey on some superhero Dark Horse thing I can’t remember the name of right now, and he struck me as being very similar to Brandon Graham in terms of his general aesthetic.  I passed on his recent Amazing Forest anthology series at IDW, but decided I should give his new Oni title a shot.  Motro is an orphan with great strength, who feels obligated to save a small industrial village from some Mad Max-style marauders who are terrorising the place.  He has a small pet motorcycle that talks to him with emojis, and who gives him an idea to stop the large tanks that the marauders live with.  The tanks are sentient too.  One of the marauders has a literal block for a head.  This is a strange series, but also a pretty wonderful one.  Fariñas is using this book to explore the ramifications of violence inherent in hypermasculinity, which is an interesting thing to tackle in a comic book, considering that just about every other book in this column is built upon that same theme, without ever exploring it.  I’m coming back for the next issue for sure, and am now interested to see what his Judge Dredd is like.

Nightwing #8 – We get to the end of Raptor’s story this week, as Dick has to rescue Bruce from this master thief with an unexpected connection to his mother.  I like the way Tim Seeley has chosen to flesh out Dick’s mom a little more, and make Raptor a cool and sympathetic character.  This does feel like it’s wrapped up everything that was started in this series, which I guess explains why Dick’s heading back to Blüdhaven in the next issue.  I’m pleasantly surprised by this title, and am glad that I kept with it.

Occupy Avengers #1 – The first issue of Occupy Avengers doesn’t really do much to announce the title’s mission statement, or give much of a hint as to David Walker’s plans for the book, but it does give us a solid start to a Hawkeye story that portrays a more capable and less damaged Clint Barton than either Matt Fraction or Jeff Lemire did with their runs with the character.  Clint is in New Mexico, investigating a reserve and town with tainted water, and that leads him to encounters with Red Wolf, and then with a large group of gunmen, and finally with a familiar C-list villain.  I like the sense of relevance that this story has, making me think of both Standing Rock and Flint at the same time, and hope that this will continue to be a more socially aware look at superheroing.  Walker’s writing is nice, and I’m never unhappy with art by Carlos Pacheco.  I can see myself sticking with this title.

Prophet Earth War #6 – A few years ago, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy brought the old Image series Prophet back to life, and with it, bucked just about every industry trend going in the 2010s.  They didn’t launch with a first issue, but instead continued with the series’s original numbering.  They packed each issue with dense storytelling that didn’t follow usual conventions, never explaining what was happening, and instead building a rich and bizarre distant future, that occasionally brought old Image/Rob Liefeld characters back in strange ways.  The roster of creators grew, the schedule went all to hell (in true Liefeld fashion), and every issue was kind of wonderful, even if I didn’t really understand what was going on.  In this issue, the Earth War comes to an early end, and then we are treated to a shifting and non-linear history and future of Prophet’s universe.  There’s art by Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Grim Wilkins, and Graham himself, and it’s all beautiful.  I can’t recommend this title enough, and am sad to see that it’s finished.

Revival #44 – Things continue to pick up in terms of pace as Tim Seeley and Mike Norton move towards their huge conclusion.  There are confrontations between cast members, secrets get revealed, and we learn a lot more about the Amish ninja secret agent woman, who I kind of love.  I’m guessing that the plan is for this book to end at or before issue fifty, and like that things are getting unnecessarily padded.

Rom #4 and Rom: Revolution #1 – I continue to enjoy the Rom series, although I also continue to think that tying the character into the fortunes of the Cybertronians and GI Joe before he becomes established as his own character is likely a big mistake.  Still, there’s some cool stuff happening here as Rom is captured by the military, and freed by his new friends.  Most interesting is the appearance of other Space Knights, one of whom looks a lot like Sarigar from Alien Legion.

Shade the Changing Girl #2 – I found the first issue of this Young Animal to be pretty enjoyable, so I came back for the second, and continue to like this one.  The new Shade has travelled to Earth and moved into the head of a comatose teenager, who is a particularly awful kid.  Now she’s trying to adjust to her new world, the weird impulses of her body, and her desire to become a better person.  I’m less interested in the plotline set on Meta, where Shade came from, but the Earth stuff is great.  Marley Zarcone’s art has continued to grow since she worked on Effigy, and it looks terrific.

Southern Bastards #15 – I’m so glad to see that this title is back after a long break, as I think it’s the best current work being done by its creators, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.  Things continue in Craw County, but the high school football team appears to be on a losing streak (although it’s only two games), and this is casting a pall over the whole town.  I always have a hard time relating to the characters in this book, and the centrality of football to town life, but I love the way Aaron is building this story.  I just wish it came out more regularly, as I think it could be as good as his Scalped.

Spider-Woman #13 – Since taking over writing chores for Spider-Woman, Dennis Hopeless has kept things pretty light, but things go dark this issue, as Jessica goes about living her life while Roger, the Porcupine, decides that it’s time to sever all of his ties to his former villainous lifestyle.  There are consequences to this, and they are kind of unexpected.  This book keeps getting better, and looks great with Veronica Fish being, I presume, the new regular artist.

The Walking Dead #160 – The Whisperer War keeps moving at a steady clip, even with the extra panels and denser storytelling of this arc.  The war comes to the Hilltop, and we learn where Alpha’s daughter stands, and see how the seeds of conflict between other communities are already being set up for the next big storyline.  I never get tired of this title.

The Wicked + The Divine #23 – Kieron Gillen tries something new again, making this entire issue into a magazine that follows the Pantheon.  The interviews with key cast members help us to get a picture of the landscape after the massive events of the last arc, without bogging us down in detail.  Kevin Wada does nice work on the visuals, and this whole thing is a very dense, rewarding read.  

The Woods #27 – We are getting closer and closer to finding out all of the secrets of the strange moon where a high school full of kids have found themselves.  Isaac is ready to take a small group along the black road, to see if he’ll be able to master the planet, as we learn its history.  This book, by the brilliant James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas, really is the TV show Lost done correctly.  Great work, as always.

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

Avengers #1

Champions #2

Death of X #3

Rise of the Black Flame #3

Scarlet Witch #12

Strange Fruit #4

Superman #10

Unworthy Thor #1

World of Tanks #2

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Godkiller: Walk Among Us Vol. 1 – When I picked up this Black Mask trade, I’d expected it to contain a complete story, so I was disappointed to learn that this volume collects the first three of seven issues released so far (it’s supposed to be coming out again soon, but it’s a Black Mask comic, so I’m not holding my breath).  Matt Pizzolo writes this tale about demonic women who feed on the blood of men, preferring virginal teenage boys (who they perform oral sex on first).  I think, at least.  There’s something about organ harvesting too, and miseducation campaigns, but I think I missed most of it.  A big part of the problem is Anna Wieszczyk’s art, which looks nice from panel to panel, in a Ben Templesmith kind of way, but which belies a poor understanding of storytelling.  I’m not looking for the rest of these issues, that’s for sure.

Rachel Rising Vol. 6 – Secrets Kept – It’s taken a very long time, but it seems like Terry Moore finally gets all of his chess pieces in place to have the characters move against Malus, the evil spirit looking to end the world.  In this volume, Rachel learns who her sister is, and Jet starts dating the guy at the morgue.  Like all of Moore’s series, the character work in this comic is so strong that the slow moving plot doesn’t even seem essential to enjoying things.

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