The Weekly Round-Up #380 With Captain America: Sam Wilson #20, Super Sons #2, Casanova: Acedia #8, Invincible #134 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Captain America: Sam Wilson #20 – For the last few months, Nick Spencer has been attacking the intertwined issues of race, police brutality, and inequality in America in a very effective way.  This issue adds the topic of for-profit prisons, as Rage is sent to a place (poorly) designed to hold supervillains while New York City protests on his behalf.  It’s a very powerful issue, with a very dark ending.  Nick Spencer is a vocal critic online, but I believe he is being most effective with this comic (especially when compared to his rather lacklustre Steve Rogers title), and wish that this was getting to more readers.  This might be the most important book that Marvel is publishing right now (and I’m sure that it makes all the right people very angry).  It’s good stuff.

Quick Takes:

Batman #19 – My problem with this whole thing about Bane being the most menacing of Batman’s foes just doesn’t work for me, and it never has.  I feel like this arc is what Tom King’s entire Batman run has been building towards, and while the arc that had Bats infiltrating Santa Prisca was great, I’m just finding it hard to care about Bane’s insane need for revenge on Batman.  This entire issue is made up of Bane working his way through the various inmates at Arkham that Batman has set in his path, and I just feel like we’ve been here so many times before, that it’s hard to care much.  Also, I kept expecting Kite Man to show up, and that never happened.  This title is very inconsistent, but I’ve noticed that whenever David Finch is drawing it, it’s just not as good as when he isn’t.

Batwoman #1 – James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett do a fine job of setting up this new series, which as Kate and Julia (Alfred’s daughter) sailing around the Mediterranean looking to track down the identity of the person selling the monster formula.  This is connected somehow to Kate’s past in the region, and the general setup works well, drawing me in.  I haven’t seen Steve Epting draw a superhero book in a while, and it’s nice to see him back at it (although I’d rather be reading more Velvet).  I think I’m going to stick around on this title for a little while.

Black Panther: World of Wakanda #5 – As the story of the Midnight Angels comes to its close, we are brought to the early issues of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s BP run.  This story has done a great job of fleshing out these two very interesting characters, and I enjoyed it, even if my hopes of a cameo by Queen Divine Justice never materialized.  Anyway, it seems that there is only one issue of this series left, and it’s a look at Kasper Cole, another deep cut character from Christopher Priest’s run.  I’ll take it.  I am hoping that writer Roxanne Gay might get some more work at Marvel again soon; she handled this story very well.

Casanova: Acedia #8 – I’m always happy to see a new issue of Casanova, primarily for the artwork by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.  This issue focuses on Boutique’s daughter, as we watch how her schooling has preceded over her life, and learn about the mystery of what happens to her teachers.  It’s a good setup that feels very familiar to people who read a lot of Matt Fraction’s comics.  The backup, by Michael Chabon, was a little confusing, but still pretty.  I don’t really know what Fraction is trying to do with this comic anymore.  This entire Acedia run has been inconsistent, confusing, and really really late.  Were it not for Bá and Moon, I’d have dropped it (and seeing as the first run of this title is a favourite of mine, that’s saying a lot).

Daredevil #18 – So the whole deal behind Daredevil wiping the world’s knowledge of his identity has something to do with the Purple Man.  I feel like perhaps Charles Soule is telegraphing his moves a little too obviously here, but still enjoyed this issue that has two of the Purple Children coming to SF Matt for help.  Ron Garney’s work on this title has been very impressive; I especially like the scene that shows how Killgrave got free again.

East of West #32 – Things are moving more quickly now, as Chamberlain puts all of his carefully considered plans into effect, turning on some of his allies, meeting with the King of New Orleans, and going to collect Bel.  This series has been on a slow burn almost since it began, so the last few issues have been pretty exciting and Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta move towards their main act.  As always, this is a subtle and very good read.

Ether #5 – I’ve liked this series a lot, and from the end of it here, I get the sense that Matt Kindt and David Rubín have a lot more they’d like to say about this odd world.  We learn what happened to the relationship between Boone and Hazel, and get some truths behind the mystery that started this story off.  Rubín’s artwork is gorgeous.

Horizon #9 – Horizon seems to be flying under the radar, but it’s a very solid series that is growing in its complexity as we begin to learn more about the relationships between the main characters, a group of aliens who have been sent to Earth to stop our planet from expanding into their territory.  Juan Gedeon’s fight in a snowstorm scene is very impressive.

Injection #11 – Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s excellent series is back with a new story focusing on a mysterious stone ring discovered in Cornwall that looks to focus on Brigid, one the least developed characters in this book so far.  As usual, Ellis blends a few of his interests nicely, as Brigid covers herself in wearable technology.  This title always feels like the less-pulpy follow-up to Planetary to me.

Invincible #134 – As Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley hurdle towards the end of this series (only ten issues left!), they remind us of what has made this book work so well in the past.  Mark and Eve get ready to go to war with Thragg and the Viltrumites for the final time, and most of the issues is spent getting things in order.  Those are the issues that always work best in this title though – the coming threat is more exciting than the actual coming battle.  I’m going to miss this book when it’s gone.

Island #15 – I’m very sad to see that Island is done with this issue.  This anthology, under the direction of Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, has provided a platform for unique and new artists and writers to shine, and while I haven’t loved everything in every issue, I have found it to be one of the most exciting things on the stands.  I hope that many of these creators will be heard from again at Image or other accessible places, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.  I am also happy to see Graham return to Multiple Warheads here, although the story is sprawling quite a bit these days, and no longer works in the random chapter format.

Kill or Be Killed #7 – Kira has been a major part of this series since it started, as she was Dylan’s best friend, and for a while, maybe his girlfriend.  This whole issue is given over to her, as we get to explore her past and her relationship with her family.  We also get some new and interesting insight into Dylan and what might be going on with him, in terms of the orders he has been receiving from a devil.  Ed Brubaker is so good at fleshing out complicated and compelling characters, and that continues with this issue.  Sean Phillips is a terrific accomplice in this.  Little details, like the fact that Kira has coloured her hair, are included without comment, but say a lot about her.  This is a very impressive issue.

Manifest Destiny #27 – The Lewis and Clark expedition basically end up in that standard episode of Star Trek where something makes everyone see something that isn’t there, but everyone sees a different threat.  Everyone but Lewis it seems, who is immune to whatever is in the fog that is encircling the fort.  This alternative history series is always fun to read, and this is another strong issue, that starts to hint a little more about what is in store for Sacagawea’s baby.

Nightwing #17 – Tim Seeley makes interesting use of the old Deathwing character in this issue, as Dick and Damian are forced to confront Dick’s darker side.  I’m not sure how I feel about the ongoing ‘fridging’ of Dick’s new girlfriend, but I otherwise continue to enjoy this arc.

Sex Criminals #17 – Even though the cover made it clear, I did not expect that most of this issue would be written and drawn as an homage to Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal.  Chip Zdarsky used a style that emulated Phillips’s, down to the font, while Matt Fraction structured the story around Myrtle Spurge’s narration of how she catches a sex criminal.  It’s funny, and maybe a little disturbing how close they are to the feel of Criminals.  So, once again, a very memorable issue in a great and totally unique series.

Spider-Man #14 – I decided to save Miles from the culling my pull-file list has undergone, but then Bendis decompresses this penultimate chapter of the crossover with Spider-Gwen, and I start to rethink that decision.  I find I get really frustrated with Bendis these days…

Super Sons #2 – I almost didn’t pick this up (really trying to cut back), but I’m glad I did.  Peter Tomasi’s writing and handling of Jon and Damian is really enjoyable (I still think his Batman and Robin run was the best Damian’s ever been written), as they figure out the secret behind a break-in at Lexcorp and have to face off with Lex Luthor himself.  Jorge Jimenez’s art is very charming on this book.

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

All-Star Batman #8

Amazing Spider-Man #25

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #6

Dark Horse Presents #32

Green Arrow #19

Guardians of the Galaxy #18

Head Lopper #5

Mighty Thor #17

Mirror #6

Ms. Marvel #16

Poe Dameron #12

Star-Lord #4

Superman #19

Totally Awesome Hulk #17

USAvengers #4

Uncanny Avengers #21

Uncanny X-Men #19

Wild Storm #2

Bargain Comics:

Civil War II:  Kingpin #1-4 – I was intrigued by this title, because I’ve really liked some of Matthew Rosenberg’s work at Black Mask (especially 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank).  This is nowhere near as good, and I’m not sure if that’s because Marvel editorial was pretty strict about what was supposed to happen, or if it’s just really hard to write a good comic about the Kingpin.  I mean, all you can really do with him is build his empire, take it away from him, and then watch him get it back.  Which is what happens.  I wonder if the same story is playing out again in his new ongoing…

Howard the Duck #6-11 – It’s a shame that this title didn’t last longer, as Chip Zdarsky’s writing is sharp and very funny here.  I’m not sure how I feel about him getting all Grant Morrison and writing himself and artist Joe Quinones into the story for the last couple of issues, but otherwise, this stuff is great.  I especially love the way Zdarsky writes Spider-Man in this book.

Red Wolf #5&6 – Nathan Edmondson really fell off the comics map in a hurry, didn’t he?  I remember that there was some sort of scandal involving his treatment of women, but don’t remember the details.  It’s a shame, because he is a talented writer, who clearly intended for this title to last past six issues.  At least Red Wolf is now in Occupy Avengers, which is set to run for at least a total of nine issues.  In today’s Marvel, that’s a long run.

Weirdworld #6 – You know what’s weird about Weirdworld?  How quickly the concept, which got the push in a few Marvel titles in addition to this one, has completely disappeared.  I’m not surprised this title didn’t last, although it’s worth looking at just for Mike Del Mundo’s excellent artwork.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Atmospherics

Written by Warren Ellis
Painted by Ken Meyer Jr.

I recently came across this limited edition sketch hardcover version of a slim graphic novel by Warren Ellis that was published by Avatar in 2011.  It was pretty inexpensive, and I usually love Ellis’s more self-contained work, so I thought I’d give it a shot.Atmospherics is a strange story.  A woman, Bridget, is the only survivor from the small town of Helen, where everyone else has been horribly mutilated.  The entire story is told from the perspective of a man who is interrogating her in a room somewhere after the events have played out.

The reader learns very early on that nothing is right with the scenario we are seeing.  Bridget claims that aliens cut up the entire town, except for her, but she does not agree with her interrogator around simple issues such as whether she walked or drove out of the town.

As the story unfolds, Bridget is accused of driving over some FBI agents, possibly having a rare, homicidal sensitivity to heroin, and questions arise over whether she is being interviewed in a hospital or police station.

Ellis does his usual thing, shifting the reader’s understanding of just what is going on nicely.  The truth, of course, is stranger than anything presented so far.

This is a very quick read, and it works.  Meyer’s paintings tell the story nicely, without being too flashy.  I liked it when Avatar used to come out with stuff like this more often.

Catwoman Vol. 6: Keeper of the Castle – I’d heard some interesting things about Genevieve Valentine’s run on Catwoman that has Selina taking over as a kingpin of crime figure in Gotham.  I was especially intrigued by comparisons between this story and the much-missed Gotham Central series, so I thought I’d check it out.  I’m glad I waited to read the trade paperback of this story, because I don’t think the individual issues would have kept me going.  Read in a couple of sittings though, this is an interesting crime comic with some tangential connections to the DCU.  It’s not Gotham Central, but it is a solid approach to a character that too many times, people haven’t known what to do with.  Garry Brown, of The Massive and Black Road, does a good job of keeping this story nicely grounded artistically, and the new Catwoman who is introduced here is an interesting character.  I think it’s too bad that Rebirth has apparently undone all of Valentine’s work with this character.  Is Valentine writing anything else right now?  I haven’t seen her name in a while…

Crossed Vol. 12 – Much of Avatar’s Crossed stuff is dreck, but David Lapham can always be trusted to put together an interesting, character driven take on the end of the world.  The main character is in jail for trying to kill the pornographer who raped and murdered his teenage daughter when the Crossed event happens, and after getting free, he goes looking for revenge.  He ends up having to work with the guy though, as he knows where the rest of his family is.  I’m not going to pretend that Lapham’s writing is as strong as it is in Stray Bullets, but it’s entertaining.

Guerillas Vol. 3

by Brahm Revel

Guerillas started life, at Image, as a semi-regular comic, before it shifted to a graphic novel format at Oni.  The delays between volumes are long, and this Volume three, which came out last May, is the first to contain all-new material.  It took me a while to get around to reading it, but now I remember why I was so enamoured with this project in the first place.

Guerillas is a story set during the Vietnam War, and concerns itself with a platoon of chimpanzees trained to be soldiers in the United States Army.  They’ve gone rogue, and are continuing the fight on their own, without direction.  Back in the first volume, they rescued a hapless private, Clayton, and taken him under their wing (mostly because he can light their cigarettes).  At the same time, a group of human soldiers, along with the German scientist that trained the chimps, and his trained baboon Adolf, are out in the jungle looking for them.

Where this kind of set-up could easily lead towards a solid comedic series, or feature just a ton of extreme style violence, Revel is approaching the concept directly, and with seriousness.  The chimpanzees, especially the leader, Goliath, have very distinct personalities that come across strongly in Revel’s storytelling and drawing.  Revel digs into Goliath’s past, and that of another of the squad.  Clayton is also a more multi-faceted character with this volume, as he reflects on his childhood and relationship with his grandfather (who died when he was quite young).  We also get a better look at Dr. Heisler, who started this program with his twin brother.

There is a very Apocalypse Now scene in an old temple to Shiva that really helped demonstrate some of the themes of this series.  I feel that, as Revel works so slowly on this book (mostly, I believe because he has other projects and film work), he really spends a lot of time making it more rich and complex, to the readers’ benefit.

I don’t know when Revel is going to complete this series, but I do know that it’s a title that deserves a lot more recognition.

Palefire

Written by MK Reed
Art by Farel Dalrymple

Palefire is a very attractive graphic novel that makes for a quick read.  The artist, Farel Dalrymple, is someone I have a lot of respect for, both for his solo work like Pop Gun War and The Wrenchies, and for his collaborations on Omega: The Unknown and Prophet.  I’m not used to seeing him draw such a straight-forward drama story, so I was curious to check this out.Alison is a pretty typical small-town teenager, who finds herself drawn to Darren, a kid with a reputation for starting fires.  When they attend a party together, Darren gets singled out and angry, and so they end off going into the night together, and Alison gets to discover the truth behind what everyone says about him.

The story is charming, but ultimately kind of slight.  The thing about realistic stories about teenagers is that teenagers are a little boring – especially the ones who just want to party and complain.  I’m not saying that this book is boring, just that the characters are pretty typical, and not all that compelling.

Dalrymple’s black and white drawings, however, are lovely, and he brings a lot to the project.

A Sailor’s Story Book Two: Winds, Dreams, and Dragons

by Sam Glanzman

I read the first of Sam Glanzman’s A Sailor’s Story a while ago, and wanted to see how the second volume compared.

Glanzman served on the USS Stevens during the Second World War, and as such, saw a fair amount of action on the Pacific, including surviving kamikaze attacks.

Like with the first book, Glanzman takes an episodic approach to the war, sharing anecdotes and taking time to teach the reader about the ship’s various weaponry.  There aren’t really any themes that he explores, and aside from a recurring bit about his difficulty finding a quiet place to sleep under the stars, no real narrative progression.

What the reader does get is a good sense of both the monotony and terror of life on a Destroyer while the War was going on.  Glanzman’s art is capable without ever being flashy, and holds the reader’s attention.

There are some strange end pages where black and white battle scenes are liberally splashed with flat red ink, that look pretty dated now.  Aside from that, this is a great document.

I know that there is a new publication of both of Glanzman’s graphic novels, and I would be curious to see if they have updated the colouring or left the book as it was originally published.

Secret Identities – I picked this trade up on the strength of Jay Faerber’s name, not knowing that his involvement was only on “story edits”, whatever that is, with the actual writing having been done by Brian Joines.  I was actually really impressed by this very strong book.  The Front Line are a group of superheroes based in Toronto (and while they go to lengths to remind everyone that they are not a Canadian team, this did a lot to endear me to the comic) who are joined by a new member (who looks just like the old Alpha Flight character Windshear) who is in fact there to discover their secrets and take them down.  There is a lot of great character development in the short seven issues collected here, and very nice art by Ilias Kyriazis.  I regret that this book didn’t expand into an ongoing, as the characters and concepts work really well.

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