Inside Pulse » Chew A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Tue, 28 Oct 2014 21:00:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Chew Wednesday Comments – Showing Image Comics Some Love Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:00:39 +0000 So this is my column devoted to comics. But sometimes it feels like it’s devoted to DC Comics, because their comics and characters are often the focus. And in fairness, the majority of comics that I read are published by DC.

But for the sake of parity, I’m devoting this week’s edition my love of Image Comics. Image publishes a dozen ongoing books, in addition to several miniseries, that I read on a regular basis. And I just don’t show those books nearly enough love, which is weird because they’re usually the books I can’t wait to read when I get back from the comic shop.

Well, today changes that.

C.O.W.L. – I really don’t think this book is getting enough praise. I know that I love it and I know a few other people that do too, but I want this book to be huge. It’s a book set in Chicago in the 60’s about a superhero union. It’s written by Kyle Higgins and Alex Siegel and features some amazing art by Rod Reis.

It’s got shades of Watchmen, in that it takes a look at what if heroes existed in a historical setting and has a nice mystery brewing. Trust me, give this book a shot, you won’t be disappointed.

Lazarus – When you’ve got two of the creators of Gotham Central working on a book, chances are it’s going to be a good read. Thanks to Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, Lazarus is just that. I can’t imagine how Lazarus could be any better.

Lazarus is set in a bleak future, where the rich run the world and everyone else is pretty much garbage. It’s grim and beautiful. It’s got a female lead and has invested so much in world-building. If you’re a Rucka fan and you’re not reading this book, I have to question if you’re actually a Greg Rucka fan.

Southern Bastards – I trust Jason Aaron. I fell for his work on Scalped, so I knew was going to jump onto Southern Bastards. Plus it’s got great art by Jason Latour.

Southern Bastards is a book full of creepy Southern clichés. It’s a about a man trying to tie up loose ends in the town he grew up in and ending up getting sucked into the muck. It’s brutal but it’s so good.

Velvet – Another former Gotham Central collaborator writing another female protagonist. This time the collaborator is Ed Brubaker who, along with Steve Epting on art, chronicles the adventures of Velvet Templeton a former agent who jumps into the fray to uncover a conspiracy.

There are so many reasons to love Velvet. It features a female protagonist, who is middle-aged. It’s also a great espionage book. Also, it’s Brubaker and Epting.

Saga – Everyone loves Saga. It’s Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan. Saga has great characters and fun dialogue. And Staples really goes wild with her alien lifeforms. Every issue has at least one moment that’s guaranteed to elicit an emotional response from readers.

Fade Out – So Fade Out just launched, but it’s Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips doing a noir in the murky past of Hollywood, so how can it not deliver?

Saviors – I love this change of pace for James Robinson. How can you not fall in love with a book about a stoner who stumbles upon an alien conspiracy? Plus it’s got visuals by J. Bone. It’s funny and scary all at the same time.

Nowhere Men – This book comes out sporadically, but it’s entirely worth the wait. It’s about The Beatles of science, what happens after they break up and involves human experiments. I’m not quite sure I understand everything, but I know that I enjoy this book.

Supreme Blue Rose – I know for a fact that I don’t understand this book. Warren Ellis has that effect on me. But the book is only two issues in and features some haunting art by Tula Lotay. Also, it’s a reimaging of Supreme.

The Walking Dead – I think everyone knows about this book.

Thief of Thieves – I love a good heist book and this is a good heist book. Redmond is the greatest thief in the world. Despite his attempt to give up the life, he keeps getting deeper and deeper into world of crime. Andy Diggle and Shawn Martinbrough deliver thrills issue in and out.

Chew – I’ll admit that I’m not as much in love with Chew as I used to be. But Layman and Guillory still have the ability to make me laugh and occasionally cry.

What Image books are you reading or would you recommend that I read.

It’s Wednesday, so go out and get some fresh new comics from your local comic shop.×120.jpg

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The Weekly Round-Up #221 With Deadly Class, Chew, Mind MGMT, Pariah, Serenity / Firefly, Star Wars & More Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:30:25 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Deadly Class #2Rick Remender is killing at Image Comics these days.  In the second issue of Deadly Class, he broadens the scope of the book, introducing a large number of new characters at the secret assassin school Marcus has found himself enrolled in.  We meet a variety of cliques that, while being completely typical in their identities, have a bit of a twist to them, since they are all studying to be master assassins.  Remender moves Marcus through a number of scenes that could be lifted from any teen movie of the era – the threats for the new kid, the jock that beats people up in the shower, the assignment that pairs up our hero with an unlikely partner – but keeps them feeling fresher than you would expect.  The greatest strength of this book is artist Wes Craig, whose art is fantastic.  He has a great sense of character throughout the book, and has some very nice layouts.  This is a 29 page comic for only $3, and that alone is reason to love it.

Quick Takes:

Avengers Assemble #24 – When Kelly Sue DeConnick started co-writing with Warren Ellis a couple of issues ago, things felt a little stilted, but with this issue, it feels like they’ve fallen into a nice collaborative rhythm, as Spider-Girl works with Iron Man to find her missing teacher, and they go up against AIM some more.  It’s strange that while this is still very much an Inhumanity tie-in, there is nothing on the cover to suggest that.  It’s like Marvel finally realized that it’s not a brand that brings in readers, so they’ve given up on marketing it.  I was going to drop this book after this issue, but now I’m more likely to let it play out until the series ends.

Black Science #4Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s dimension-hopping adventure series is keeping up the momentum of the first issue rather nicely.  This issue has the group of lost travellers finish up their time on a world where Native American forces have invaded Europe, as one of the group has to put himself at great risk to save Grant, the scientist who built the device that is jumping them all over the place.  Remender lays some groundwork for future issues by doing further character work on Kadir, the corporate creep, and by introducing a mysterious figure who looks to be pursuing our heroes.  Scalera is having a great time filling this book with some strange and unexpected visuals, making this an even better read.

Bloodshot and HARD Corps: HARD Corps #0 – Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart do a terrific job of establishing just how terrible Project Rising Spirit is as an organization, in three stories that take place across three decades.  Again and again the men and women of HARD Corps find themselves at odds with their organization, as the writers work to establish a clearer history of the Valiant Universe.  The three artists who draw these stories, Valentine De Landro, Joseph Cooper, and ChrisCross do fine jobs, although it would have been cool had they tried to match their style to the decades they are portraying.  This book has been Valiant’s most inconsistent since it was rebranded, and if more issues were like this one, I’d never consider dropping it (which, unfortunately, the last two issues have had me thinking about doing).

Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5Despite myself, I got sucked in to the end of this Ultimate event, as the surviving heroes make a last-ditch effort to get rid of Galactus before he destroys the planet.  I’m kind of curious to see if anyone is going to explore the ramifications of Galactus not being in the 616; I’m pretty sure it got established somewhere that without him, the universe would just create another.  Anyway, this issue is filled with action, and of course just leads into the Survive epilogue comic, because as we all know, Brian Michael Bendis is pretty much incapable of finishing a story in the comic it started in.

Chew #40 – Tony and Colby go on a case for the FDA after eating “half of a psychedelic space fruit, in full bloom and at peak potency then slow-cooked in the juices of genetically-engineered psychedelic amphibian.”  What follows is one of the funniest issues of Chew yet, as Tony also gets to have one final conversation with his sister Toni, learn about the alien skywriting, and get some hints on how to deal with the Vampire.  I loved every page of this comic, as Rob Guillory matches John Layman’s crazy script with his drug-induced animal versions of main characters.  Brilliant through and through.

Dead Body Road #3 – Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera’s Elmore Leonard-influenced crime comic continues to entertain, as Gage picks up a new ally, and confronts one of Lake’s key men in a mall food court.  This book is violent and quick moving, and makes for a good read.  Scalera’s work is just as good as it is in Black Science, but also feels much more grounded.

Deadpool #24It’s time to get Agent Preston out of Deadpool’s head, but of course that’s not going to go as smoothly as anyone expects.  Another decent issue from this title I never thought I’d ever purchase.

Elephantmen #54 – I’m finding that the ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ arc is dragging on a little long here, as Hip Flask and his new partner infiltrate a large cloning facility in order to find out what’s going on with some stolen Elephantmen eggs.  Hip is now openly talking to a character that everyone assumed was the figment of someone’s imagination, and I’m going to admit to getting a little confused.  The book has a new back-up, Liberty Justice, by Tyler Shainline and Andy Suriano, that reads like a parody of a Joe Casey and Toby Cypress collaboration that gets a little too dirty towards the end.  I don’t think I liked it.

Guardians of the Galaxy #12 – It should be made very clear that The Trial of Jean Grey, the cross-over between this title and All-New X-Men really is just an extended X-Men story that happens to feature the Guardians on a few pages.  Writer Brian Michael Bendis tries to include a little bit about Star-Lord’s father in order to make the book look more balanced, but most of the Guardians don’t even have a single speech balloon to their name.  It’s a good enough comic, although I was hoping that it would have explained just how Corsair is still alive.  Sara Pichelli’s art looks very nice next to Stuart Immonen’s, and the shift between their pages isn’t too jarring.

Hawkeye #15We finally get a new issue of Hawkeye that actually features Clint Barton, and while I want to complain about the messed up schedule, including the fact that we won’t see David Aja back on art until issue nineteen, this book is too beautiful to grumble about.  Aja is one of those artists who deserves to be given as much time as he needs, although I find it frustrating that the resolution to this issue’s cliffhanger won’t be addressed until issue #19, which is anywhere from three to fifty months away from now.  I have one question that needs clarifying – when people talk about ‘dropping their draws’ (because Clint doesn’t saw ‘drawers’, which is what I would have assumed), are they referring to their pants or their boxers?  I always thought it was the latter, but that’s not how it’s used here.  It’s like Matt Fraction’s insistence on using the phrase ‘samo-samo’ instead of having characters say ‘same ol’ same ol’’.  It drives me crazy.

Manhattan Projects #18 – General Westmoreland squares off against the alien creature that Einstein and Feynman brought back to Earth, in a pretty delightful issue.  Westmoreland’s portrayal in this issue is among the funniest skewerings of historical figures that Jonathan Hickman has done since starting this always entertaining series.  It’s hard to talk about the back half of this issue without giving away some pretty big details (Betrayal!  Murder!  Ears!), except to say that I can’t wait to see what happens next after the last couple of pages.  Great stuff, as always.

The Massive #20It’s getting harder and harder for Callum Israel to avoid some of the strangeness that has been around him since this series started, especially as he’s given information about what was on the Massive’s transponder.  This is always a good read, as are most Brian Wood comics, and it has been a very consistent comic.  I wonder how artist Garry Brown is going to manage drawing this and Iron Patriot at Marvel…

Mighty Avengers #7 – This issue is not as strong as the last one, mainly because it trades the lengthy character-driven scenes for a more action-oriented storyline, as the White Tiger goes after the man who killed her family, forcing her teammates to have to try to stop her.  I am still enjoying this title a great deal, especially these issues that are drawn by Valerio Schiti and not by Greg Land.

Mind MGMT #19 – Matt Kindt launches us into the second half of this series with this issue, and it’s another example of his creative approach to storytelling.  Meru, Lyme, and their crew try to recruit an illusionist to their team, but when Meru cancels her abilities during a performance, she goes on the run.  Much of this book is split into four strands of the story, which appear on each page in a colour-coded fashion.  A big part of the appeal of this series, beyond the terrific writing and unique art, is seeing just what Kindt is going to do with the comics form.  I feel like this is a book that is not getting anywhere near enough recognition for being so ground-breaking and cool.

100 Bullets: Brother Lono #8This mini-series ends the only way it could have, with a lot of blood.  I’ve enjoyed revisiting the world of 100 Bullets, and especially enjoyed seeing Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso collaborate again, but this mini-series lacks the narrative drive of the original series, and instead feels more like a cash-grab than that final story that the creators just had to tell.

Pariah #1 – I pre-ordered this book on the strength of the creative team (Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele) and the fact that I enjoy science fiction comics.  The thing I didn’t know is that Pariah has already had a bit of a life on-line, and that this is technically volume two of a series.  It picks up with a bunch of young people, called Vitros, trapped on an old space station, which is in decaying orbit.  Little to no effort is made to explain why and how these people ended up there, or why they have some guy stashed in a storage locker.  It’s left to the reader to figure out what a ‘Vitro’ even is, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of coming in halfway through the movie.  At the same time, the story did grab me, as I’ve a fondness for ‘broken sci-fi’, and as always, I love Weldele’s art.  I’m going to keep picking up this book, but I think I need to take a look around for the recent Dark Horse edition of the first volume, so I can get myself up to speed.  Really Dark Horse, a textpage recap would have been a nice touch.

Satellite Sam #6Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s book about live television in the 50s is back from its hiatus, and seems to be getting a little more sordid with each new issue.  I’m not really sure if there is a larger plot that has been planned for this title or not, but I’ve been enjoying watching Fraction put these characters through their paces.  He’s giving us a good look at just how messed up the entertainment industry has always been, and I’m finding that I actually like Chaykin’s art in black and white (I usually can’t stand his stuff, like the A+X story I read the other week, but am starting to think that his stuff should just never be coloured).

Secret Avengers #16 – This volume of the series comes to a slightly unsatisfactory ending, as Nick Spencer and Ales Kot have the team leave Mockingbird behind.  It’s felt like the last bunch of issues have only served to set up the relaunched title coming out next month, instead of really working towards wrapping up a number of plot lines.  I’m still looking forward to the new title – I’m a fan of Kot’s writing – but hope that it feels a little more substantial than this title has been feeling lately.

Serenity Firefly Class 03-K64: Leaves on the Wind #2 – I love everything about this comic, except for its over-long title.  Zoe needs medical care, and so is taken to a ship, despite the fact that this leads to the Alliance tracking down the crew of the Serenity, and forcing them to leave her behind.  Shortly after that, Jayne arrives with some new friends, but doesn’t get the welcome he expects, while Jubal Early goes on the hunt.  This book gives me such a great feeling of nostalgia, and Zack Whedon and Georges Jeanty continue to really capture the feeling of the original show.

Sex #11Joe Casey uses this issue to advance a number of plotlines, but nothing terribly remarkable happens.  The cast of this book continues to grow, adding Japanese businessmen with peculiar predilections, Lois Lane-like determined journalists, and expanding the role of one of the workers at a brothel.  I’ve really enjoyed this book, and my esteem for it continues to grow, as it’s clear that Casey is working at a less frenetic pace than usual, and is putting more time into character development.

Sheltered #7 – Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’s story about Survivalist children continues to really impress me.  This issue has a lot going on – the camp is trying to contain the damage from last issue, when a bunch of the kids attacked some men trying to make a delivery, and it looks less and less like Lucas is going to be able to maintain control of everything that is happening.  This is a very exciting and, with its Prepper text pages, terrifying comic.  It’s also apparently going to be a movie, so you might want to think about getting caught up.

Star Wars Legacy #12 – I wonder if Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko are now writing to an accelerated timeline in the wake of the announcement that the Star Wars rights are moving to Marvel in a year.  This issue feels like it’s picking up the pace a little in terms of revealing some things about main character Ania Solo, and teasing a whole lot more about her past.  The thing I find most interesting is that AG, the assassin droid has some sort of connection to Ania’s grandfather Han.  I have found this to be a consistently good title, but especially enjoy the issues that Hardman is drawing, like this one.

Three #5This historical drama set in Ancient Sparta comes to a fitting end, as a massive group of Spartan warriors have our titular three Helots cornered.  Kieron Gillen has done an amazing job in writing this historically accurate and nuanced story, and I can’t think of a better artist for him to work with than Ryan Kelly.  I always, thanks to Local, think of Kelly as THE artist for books about people in everyday environments, but he really proves his versatility with this series; his action scenes are thrilling.  If you have enjoyed Frank Miller’s 300, you really need to check this series out for a nice balancing of that era and how it’s portrayed in comics.  I also highly recommend this to fans of Age of Bronze.

Umbral #4 – We’re four issues in, and writer Antony Johnston is still laying in a ton of new information with each new issue.  This one has ghostly pirates and historical rivalries to add to the mix.  I feel like, at this point, it might be time to reread the series again from the beginning in case I’ve missed some key information, but I am continuing to enjoy the book.  It’s really nice to get regular doses of Christopher Mitten’s art again.

Uncanny Avengers #17 – Unlike Rick Remender’s two Image books this week, this title is starting to feel awfully stale.  A variety of heroes make a last ditch effort to save the world from a Celestial bent on destroying it, but they don’t succeed.  The thing is, obviously, Remender is not going to be allowed to permanently destroy the centre of the Marvel Universe, so it looks like we’re off to another alternate reality for a while.  I was totally swept up by his Uncanny X-Force when things like this happened, but it’s starting to feel like a trope we’ve returned to a few times too often.

The Wake #6For the second half of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s science fiction epic, we travel a few hundred years into the future, where America is a soggy shell of its former self, surrounded by the Mer-creatures who attacked in the first half of the mini-series.  Our new hero, Leeward, is a scavenger who spends her time listening for radio signals, which for some reason is not allowed, and is in danger of being arrested or worse.  Snyder has an interesting premise here, but it is for Sean Murphy’s art that you should be buying this book.  I love his designs and character work.

The Walking Dead #122 – All Out War has entered it’s final act, as Rick consolidates his forces at the Hilltop, and Negan considers using biological warfare to ensure his victory.  The sense of excitement in this long story arc continues to build, but Robert Kirkman continues to find time for some quieter character-based moments.  It looks like Negan’s grip on the Saviors might not be as tight as he thinks it is.

Wolverine and the X-Men #42 – Now that it’s over, I’m starting to realize just how disappointing Jason Aaron’s tenure of Wolverine and the X-Men really was.  I have nothing against the attempt to make the book lighthearted and fun, but I’m not sure that Aaron did anything of substance with these characters.  Now, he’s graduated a bunch of students (mostly ones that never really do more than appear in crowd scenes anyway), and given us a large number of pages of Quentin Quire being afraid of becoming an adult.  The present-day story is interspersed with scenes set in a future where an aged Logan is shutting down the Jean Grey School because it’s no longer needed.  These scenes really don’t work, because Idie and Quentin look to have only aged about ten years, while Logan is a much older man.  I’m hoping for better from Jason Latour when he relaunches the book next week (whatever happened to letting a series rest for a bit before restarting it?).

X-O Manowar #22Poor Aric, he’s finally got his armor back, and a big chunk of Nebraska set aside for his people, but the US government has him on a leash.  Robert Venditti’s story has flowed very organically from the first issue, and I’m pleased to see that he’s continuing to logically extrapolate how events would be handled, instead of just establishing Aric as a run-of-the-mill armored hero.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4 (or More):

All-Star Western #28

Fantastic Four #1

Indestructible Hulk #19.INH

Legends of Red Sonja #4

Miracleman #3

Origin II #3

Superior Spider-Man #28

Vandroid #1

Wolverine #2

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Factor #1&2I used to love Peter David’s X-Factor, but over the last year and a half of the last run, I found I was getting kind of bored.  I decided to not bother with the All-New relaunch, mostly because I wasn’t all that excited about the corporate aspect to the story (the new team is working for Serval Industries, who apparently like to help people), and the inclusion of Gambit in the book was a definite drawback.  Picking up these first two issues, I can see that I was right to be cautious.  First off, there is nothing about these comics that make them friendly to new readers, as recent and past events get discussed frequently without a full explanation (I don’t remember what happened between Quicksilver and the MLF members a few years ago; a little editorial box would have been helpful).  I’m also not feeling the group dynamics – I don’t really understand why Gambit would choose to join Polaris in this new venture, or why she’d want him.  I can see from the cover and from the internet that Danger and Cypher are going to be joining the team, and these are both characters I like, but I just don’t see this incarnation of the book really working for me.

Cable and X-Force #18 & Uncanny X-Force #16 (Vendetta parts 1&2) – This crossover was used to finish off, and coalesce the two X-Force titles, and it’s not bad for something so editorially-driven.  Stryfe shows up as the bad guy, and the guy still looks absolutely ridiculous.  I don’t know how he can even move in that outfit without spiking himself in a variety of places.  Both of these titles had a lot of promise and potential, but neither was given the time and space to develop.

Captain Marvel #17Kelly Sue DeConnick wraps up this volume of Captain Marvel (the next one starts soon, with the same writer) with a nice story about the appreciation that New Yorkers feel for Carol Danvers.  It’s never made very clear as to why they are celebrating her instead of just about any other Avenger though, and the issue’s villain is pushed to murderous rage because a magazine decides to put Carol on the cover instead of her.  Aside from perhaps Drake, I’m not sure that anyone else could relate to this, and it doesn’t explain how she gets ahold of weaponized drones with which to attack Times Square.  I also think it’s very strange that Carol’s brain damage and memory loss only get referenced in this series, and not in any of the many Avengers titles where she regularly appears.  As with much of this run, the art really doesn’t match the story.  I like Felipe Andrade’s work here, except for his faces, but I can imagine that the scratchiness of the art kept some people from getting involved with this title, especially since the insides of the comic never looked like the beautiful covers.

Indestructible Hulk #17.INH&18.INH – These two Inhumanity tie-ins show how petulant Banner can really be, as he chases away Hank Pym and Tony Stark from helping him concoct a solution to the whole Terrigen Bomb situation.  Of course, when they come back to see his results (bringing the Beast with them), a tiny misunderstanding turns into a huge Hulk-fueled drama.  I kind of felt like Mark Waid had just about everyone acting a little out of character; with Jonathan Hickman giving Banner such prominence in the Avengers titles, I doubt that there would be such immediate mistrust in the case of a crisis like this one.

Indestructible Hulk Annual #1Jeff Parker has written a fun little story featuring Hulk and Iron Man having to manage with an island imbued with the sentience of a former teacher of theirs.  It’s an interesting book, in that it builds on the rivalry between these two characters, and it has nice art from Mahmud Asrar.  I wish Parker was writing more comics, I’ve always liked his stuff.

Iron Man #20, 20.INH, & 21 – Marvel gets even more creative than usual with their numbering in this book, as they slip an Inhumanity crossover between two regular issues, while keeping it completely in-continuity.  Kieron Gillen is doing some interesting work here, as Tony and his brother rebuild Mandarin City, and attract the ire of the now-sentient Mandarin Rings, who are going around finding new hosts for themselves.  There are some strange choices here – the rings are starting to resemble the rings of the various Colour Corps at DC, and the new character Red Peril is problematic on many levels.  To begin with, she looks like she’s wearing Rachel Grey’s away team uniform, and her choice of name is silly, considering that the character is a left-wing journalist.  It’s like she’s a villain designed by a Fox News commentator in the 50s.  Anyway, these are enjoyable comics, even if the story is dragging on a little too long, and there’s not enough of Tony’s supporting cast around, which is this book’s real strength.

Thor God of Thunder #17&18 – Jason Aaron’s Thor is at its best in one-off stories, like the one that followed the lengthy Godbomb arc, and like issue 18, which features a story of Young Thor and his blossoming friendship with a dragon.  It’s drawn by the incredible Das Pastoras (whose art looks a little like Michael Kaluta’s), and it’s a fun and beautiful issue.  Number 17 finishes off the Accursed arc, which ends rather well for Malekith.


Well, that’s everything I read in the last week.  What about you?  Let us know what you enjoyed, and what you didn’t, in the comments section!

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The Weekly Round-Up# #216 With Deadly Class, Chew, Eternal Warrior, The Midas Flesh, Mind MGMT, Star Wars & More Thu, 30 Jan 2014 21:00:31 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Deadly Class #1One thing that I haven’t been able to understand, since I first saw his art in Guardians of the Galaxy, is why Wes Craig is not a bigger-name artist.  This guy’s work is great, and so when I heard that he was partnering up with Rick Remender for a new creator-owned series, I had very high expectations.  Gladly, those expectations were met with this first issue of Deadly Class.  The series is focused on Marcus, a fourteen-year-old homeless kid living in San Francisco in 1987.  Through his narration, we get a real good sense of just how awful Marcus’s life has been, and Remender and Craig do a great job of showing us just how desperate he is for a better life.  Strangely, that opportunity comes his way at a Day of the Dead celebration where a group of cops try to arrest him (it’s hinted that he’s done something horrible, but I have no idea what), and he is rescued by a girl with a sword and a motorcycle.  From there we discover that there is a school for assassins that has been watching Marcus, and is willing to offer him admittance if he wishes it.  There are some elements of the story that don’t work (mainly the double-page spread that ends the book), but this book gets a solid recommendation based just on the portrayal of character and place.  I know that Remender is sometimes criticized for not being able to maintain the power and energy of his first issues, but this book feels very personal to the creators, and I’m very curious to see where it leads.  Another Image Comics success, I predict.

Quick Takes:

All-New Invaders #1Well, I have to say that that was disappointing.  As a kid, I scoured back issue boxes for every issue of the original Invaders series, as I loved the idea of superheroes being involved in real historical events.  I’ve been let down by every attempt at reviving the team since then, but figured if anyone could do it, it would be James Robinson and Steve Pugh.  Really though, this comic was pretty dull, and felt rather formulaic in its delivery.  Jim Hammond, the original android Human Torch has gotten a job as a mechanic in some small town that feels like the 50s never ended in it (people all chat with each other at the local diner, and there is not a Wal-Mart or morbidly obese person in sight), but all that falls apart when a Kree warrior woman shows up looking for something (you’d have to read All-New Marvel Now! Point One to find out what), and attacks the Torch.  The dialogue is hackneyed, as is the weird flashback to remind the Torch of where this particular adventure got its start.  Pugh, who is one of the best artists around, looks like he rushed through this issue in no time flat.  I don’t know if that’s the fault of the colouring or what, but I wouldn’t have even recognized this art as his.  I’ve been pre-ordering this book on the strength of the creative team, but it feels like they are both phoning it in on this series.  Again, very disappointing.

All-New X-Men #22.NOW – Continuing the yo-yo of quality that is Brian Michael Bendis’s writing in general, and on the X-books in particular, we get a pretty decent issue of All-New X-Men this week, making up for last week’s.  Past Scott and Past Jean get into a pretty entertaining argument, with poor Past Warren stuck in the middle, before a bunch of Shi’ar warriors show up to abduct Jean.  This is the beginning of the ‘Trial of Jean Grey’ cross-over with Guardians of the Galaxy (another inconsistently written Bendis book), which may prove to be interesting.  I find it very strange how this team (with Kitty and now X-23) live in the same place as Now Scott’s Uncanny team, but they don’t really show up in this title often.

Animal Man #27Jeff Lemire’s moving towards his big finale with this title, as the newly powered-up Buddy fights the last Totem of the Red, the rest of the creatures of that domain work to protect Maxine from Brother Blood, and Ellen finds herself in a real old-school looking jail cell in downtown LA.  This is not a bad comic, but it really does feel like Lemire’s said all he has to say with these characters.

Avengers #25 – Post-Infinity, Jonathan Hickman still has a large number of balls in the air, and it would appear that he’s moving his alternate reality incursion storyline into the main Avengers title as well as dealing with it in New Avengers.  AIM (these guys are everywhere these days – are they going to be in the next Avengers movie or something?) are pulling things out of a dimensional gateway, and manage to snag themselves the original Avengers, although luckily, Hickman is not borrowing too much from Bendis’s All-New X-Men playbook.  He is, I’m afraid, perhaps borrowing a little from the Bendis Guide to Writing Multiple Series, as things happening here contradict the way things are happening in Avengers World, making me wonder if these titles need to be read in a particular order.  I don’t understand Maria Hill’s hostility towards the team at the end of this issue, and have no idea in what order these stories are taking place.

Avengers World #2 – The first issue of this yet another Avengers title established three different threats for three different teams to deal with.  This issue, however, is basically a Smasher solo issue, as young Izzy finds herself a guest of AIM, on their rapidly advancing island.  I’m going to assume that this whole story takes place after the current arc of Secret Avengers, as AIM is making big moves (that are wholly reminiscent of the work that Jonathan Hickman did in his opening arc on Ultimates).  So far as character goes, Hickman and co-writer Nick Spencer do a good job, but the pacing of the plot left something to be desired.

Batman #27While there are some good parts to this issue, I’m really not enjoying Zero Year.  Scott Snyder is reworking the history of Batman in such a way as to cement the character as a technology-dependent hero who started out with a full stable of specialized boats and the like, and it doesn’t really give his obsessions, which were painted so beautifully in Frank Miller’s and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman Year One the space to explain his motivations.  The thing that really bothers me about this story arc though, aside from its unending length, is the way in which a key story element, the total blackout of Gotham, is given little space, and is not even always shown (unless, of course, James Gordon is running a generator to fully light his house so his kid can play with a dog).  Snyder’s doing some interesting things with Gordon’s character, but I’m not going to believe that the guy would have single-handedly fought off some crazed dogfight dogs, and then responded to the call that the Waynes were murdered.  Snyder is trying to cram too much into these issues in terms of playing on readers’ emotions, and isn’t taking the time to make the story work.  Between my waning interest in this story, and the way in which DC keeps searching for reasons to jack up the price of individual issues, I’m seriously considering dropping this title.

Bedlam #11 – I continue to enjoy the way that Nick Spencer is writing this book, effectively inverting the roles of Batman and Joker in this arc (I mean, The First and Madder Red), as Fillmore confronts the person behind a string of terrorist-like attacks.  My problem with this series is that the gaps between issues are really messing with my enjoyment of it; I find myself spending a good chunk of each issue trying to remember what’s going on.

Captain America #15Rick Remender has taken some time to build up the Iron Nail as a threat in this series, and now we learn that he is behind Nuke’s actions of late.  That confused super soldier is at the centre of this issue, as Cap, Falcon, and All-New Nick Fury try to turn him back to their side of things.  A solid issue, with some very nice Carlos Pacheco artwork.

Chew #39 – It feels like John Layman is bringing a number of different story threads together, as Amelia and Tony’s daughter go to work to snap him out of his depression.  This involves infiltrating FDA headquarters, and making use of some creatures I didn’t really expect to see again.  Another very solid issue, with a couple great scenes (the blender one made me cringe).

Conan the Barbarian #24 – Brian Wood’s penultimate issue manages to be reflective and mournful and full of action at the same time, which is not an easy trick to pull off.  I’m sad to see his run on Conan coming to an end, as he made me like a care about a character I’d never previously been interested in reading about.

Dead Body Road #2 – This very violent revenge road movie comic continues nicely, as our hero rescues the girlfriend of the guy who helped pull the bank job last issue from Lake’s men.  Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera are making this book work quite nicely, if you’re looking for this kind of thing.

Deadpool: The Gauntlet #1It’s clear that Marvel is really pushing their digital-only comics these days, giving away the first chapter to this Deadpool story for free, re-launching Daredevil on-line, and starting an Iron Man story that is going to finish in an upcoming Annual.  This comic is alright, but not as good as recent issues of Deadpool’s main series have been under Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, who also write this book.  The story is supposed to take place in current continuity, and references the North Korean exploits that just ended in the main title, but the SHIELD agent currently living in Deadpool’s head is nowhere to be found here.  It was free, so I’m not going to complain about this book, but there’s nothing here that is going to get me to buy the future digital issues.

Eternal Warrior #5 – I had a hard time reconciling the way Gilad was portrayed in the first arc of this series with all his other appearances in the Valiant Universe.  That’s not an issue with this new arc, as writer Greg Pak has jumped us some two thousand years into the future, where Gilad is now the Eternal Emperor, and is protecting a small group of people in a world devoid of technology.  Or so it seems, until a mechanical creature shows up to cause havoc, leading to Gilad and his granddaughter taking a trip towards a city.  There’s a very good post-Apocalyptic vibe to this future, which was likely caused by Gilad’s killing of the ‘gods’ of the world.  The best thing about this issue is the art of Robert Gill, an artist who is new to me, but whose talent, evocative of a more detailed and polished Trevor Hairsine, is sure to attract the attention of the Big Two soon.

FF #16The second series to feature the Future Foundation comes to a close, as Ant-Man uses some weird comic science to give Dr. Doom a smack-down.  Most of this issue was a disappointment to me, as it always is when this series has focused on the adult characters, but it does end nicely with a big family party on the moon.  This title (actually, really, it was Jonathan Hickman’s first FF series) has introduced a number of introducing new characters to the Marvel Universe, and I hope we see them again in some way shape or form.  I’m particularly going to miss the Moloids.  I don’t know if James Robinson is going to keep them around in his Fantastic Four series, but I know that their presence would go a long way towards getting me to check the book out.

Hawkeye #16 – Marvel is now publishing these issues out of order, which is kind of strange, but since alternating issues feature different Hawkeyes, it doesn’t really matter.  Kate Bishop is back in the spotlight in this bizarre issue that has her getting involved in the life of a famous reclusive musician from the 60s, a cross between the Beatles and JD Salinger.  It’s a deeply strange story for a Marvel comic, but in Matt Fraction and Annie Wu’s hands, it works nicely.

Marvel Knights X-Men #3 – Brahm Revel’s take on the X-Men is working very nicely, as he has Kitty, Rogue, and Wolverine in a weird situation in a backwoods town in Appalachia.  He has a very good feel for these characters, and his new mutant, a young woman who makes memories corporeal, is really bringing the chaos.

The Massive #19Callum Israel is going after Arkady, a man from his mercenary past who is determined to shut down Ninth Wave.  This brings up a lot of stuff, and ties into things that Brian Wood has planted from almost the beginning of the series.  I’ve enjoyed The Massive from its start, but I’m very pleased to see some of the threads coming together.

The Midas Flesh #2 – I’m really enjoying this Boom mini-series written by Ryan North and drawn by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb.  It’s a science fiction comic that posits that, had King Midas really gained gold transmutation abilities, the entire world would have been turned to gold.  Far into the future, our three heroes have discovered this gold planet, and are working to find the weapon that caused the change.  They’ve drawn the attention of the Federation, which is not a good thing, although they don’t know that yet.  North is packing a lot of story into this comic, with solid explanations of the comic book science at play, as well as substantial character work.  I am very thankful that the staff at my LCS pointed this book out to me, because I probably would have passed on it, and now I’m completely into it.  Look for it.

Mighty Avengers #5 – Luke Cage and Jessica Jones give Spider-Man the comeuppance he’s been deserving lately, while the rest of the team finds themselves in a strange situation in the wreckage of Attilan.  I’m really enjoying Al Ewing’s writing on this comic, and the way he’s handling a variety of characters I’ve always liked.  Unfortunately, Greg Land is still drawing this book…

Mind MGMT #18Matt Kindt brings us an excellent one-off story this month, which focuses on Ella, a young girl with an ability to speak to animals (sort of).  She is not exactly on board with the agenda of Mind MGMT, where she spent time training animal assassins, and ends up leading an exodus of her friends.  Kindt’s art is becoming lusher with every issue, and this issue looks amazing.  My favourite page is the one that imagines Shangri-La (the Mind MGMT training facility) as a page out of a Richard Scarry kid’s book.  Unexpected nostalgia is always the best kind…

Origin II #2 – I wasn’t all that impressed with the first issue of this series, but it really felt more like a prelude to things, so I thought I’d come back for the second issue and see what this series is really about.  Apparently, it’s about Mr. Sinister (before he’s called that) conducting weird experiments, and about Sabretooth (before he’s called that) helping some people I either don’t recognize or don’t remember from the first Origins series (it was a long time ago) to track down Logan, maybe so they can put him in a circus.  In other words, there’s nothing all that original going on here, and I don’t see myself coming back for the next issue.

Pretty Deadly #4 – While I still don’t rightly know what all is going on in this comic, I feel that the cast has finally coalesced, and I’m getting a better sense of how everyone in this mystical Western relates to one another.  Emma Rios’s art is wonderful in this series, and the writing is good enough that I can follow along.  I’m really just buying this for the art and the hope that the story will develop in such a way as to make more sense soon enough.

Sex #10I love what Joe Casey is doing with this book, as Simon Cooke finally becomes involved in his company, and a number of other characters, both old and new, go about their business.  Casey is slowly building to something, but just what that will be is being kept from us.  This is a book about going through the motions until they seem real, and that’s just what most of the characters are doing.  Except for Keenan, of course, who seems determined to bring Simon back to his old life.

Star Wars Legacy #11 – I’d forgotten that Gabriel Hardman was going to be drawing this arc in addition to co-writing it with Corinna Bechko, so that was a nice surprise.  This issue starts to dig into Ania Solo’s history a little, as she runs into an old friend, and someone else goes looking for her at her old junkyard.  This issue felt a little off compared to the first two arcs, mostly because of a strange later-years Lucasian scene involving Ania trying to ride a bucking bronco.

Umbral #3 – Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s new fantasy series keeps improving with each new issue, as the threat of the Umbral is becoming more clear, and as Rascal starts to gather another person to her cause.  Much of this issue is told in flashback, and it’s a little hard to tell when the transition is being made, and there is one big inconsistency (as some pirates’ bodies are discovered far from where they are shown being killed), but still, this is a very good comic.

The Walking Dead #120We’re now half-way into All Out War, and Robert Kirkman just keeps upping the stakes, as Negan and his people start lobbing grenades into Rick’s community, and Maggie gets a great scene.  This is such an excellent comic.

Wolverine and the X-Men #40 – This issue perfectly captures what I find to be the dichotomy of Jason Aaron’s X-Men writing.  Much of the issue is silly and inconsequential, as the school’s students deal with the two SHIELD agents who have infiltrated the institution by ‘bamfing’ them into weird spots like a zero gravity bowling alley.  It’s the kind of thing I’ve hated most about Aaron’s X-Men; a conscious attempt to recapture the fun of Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, without the heart.  At the same time, though, Aaron also has Wolverine and Cyclops sit down and share a beer together, and try to talk out some of their differences.  Of course, Cyclops can’t fully explain his behaviour of the last two years, because it’s all been editorially-mandated and out of character, but I appreciate that an effort was made.  Aaron’s run on this title is ending soon, but it feels so far like his Amazing X-Men is more about the silly side of his approach, and it’s already starting to bore me.

Wonder Woman #27 – As DC’s New 52 continues to degrade into something about as appealing to me as mid-90s Image or Marvel comics were, there remain a (very) few gems, and Wonder Woman is certainly the shiniest of them.  Diana is looking for Zola and Zeke (again), as is Cassandra, while Apollo continues to torture the First Born.  Brian Azzarello does not move his plot along very quickly, but each issue is a joy to read, especially when the series’s showrunner artist, Cliff Chiang, is around, as he is this month.

X-Men #9I’m finding myself getting a touch bored with Brian Wood’s X-Men series these days.  The new Lady Deathstrike has taken her new team, including Arkea, to the UAE, and it seems that only Monet is fast enough to get there to deal with them.  The rest of the team spends much of the issue talking about what they should do, and Sabra is brought in, alongside some guy in a cape I don’t remember (Gabriel Shepherd? – internet research tells me he was in Wood’s first run on adjectiveless X-Men, which I now remember, but he didn’t have the half-cape then), but doesn’t do anything.  This book needs to tighten things up, and quickly.

X-O Manowar #21 – The Unity storyline is over, and Aric and his people are now basically in Guantanamo Bay.  Aric gets lots of opportunities to show how firm his resolve is, and Robert Venditti works things in such a way that he becomes useful to the American government.  This is a transitional issue, and it’s handled well.

Zero #5 – I really have to hand it to Ales Kot for completely upending my expectations of this series with this issue.  Zero had kind of settled into a pattern of showing us various moments from the life of Edward Zero, a black ops agent for a very secret organization.  Many of these stories have been set in the near future, and we’ve seen a framing device that takes place far into the future.  This month, Zero is recovering from the injury he sustained last issue, and is unwittingly in the middle of a bit of a pissing match between his handler and that guy’s superior.  It’s mostly a pretty sedate issue, until we get to the end, and it’s made clear that this series is something else entirely.  Will Tempest provides the art for this issue, and Jordie Bellaire’s flat, drab colours really accentuate his straight-forward way of drawing the book.  I really want to know what’s going on in this comic now; I liked it before, but it’s just become way more interesting to me.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4 (or more):

All-New X-Factor #2

Black Widow #2

Cable and X-Force #19

Cataclysm Ultimate X-Men #3

Indestructible Hulk #18.INH

Iron Man #20.INH

Legends of Red Sonja #3

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #9

Unwritten: Apocalypse #1

Bargain Comics:

Scarlet Spider #20-25 – These issues round out this series’s run, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed it.  Sure, Kaine has been a little too broody for a guy living in a luxury hotel suite, but I’ve liked the way that writer Chris Yost (with sometime co-writer Eric Burnham) have worked on differentiating this character from the rest of the Spider-Family.  It will be interesting to see how Yost plays with Kaine when he ends up in the upcoming New Warriors book, since he is definitely not a team player.

Well, that was my week of comics.  What did you read last week that you really liked (or really didn’t)?

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The Weekly Round-Up #201 with Three, America’s Got Powers, Archer & Armstrong, Chew, Star Wars, The Walking Dead & More Mon, 14 Oct 2013 14:00:01 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Three #1

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Ryan Kelly

I love a good historical comic, and have long had an interest in the Ancient World, so I was very excited to learn that one of my favourite comics writers, Kieron Gillen, and one of my favourite comics artists, Ryan Kelly, were collaborating on a new series set in Ancient Sparta, some one hundred years after the famous Battle of Thermopylae.

This comic is very much a response to Frank Miller’s classic 300 book.  Gillen states as much in the text section of the book, that he was irritated by the way in which Miller removed the slave aspect of Spartan society from his story, and set out to correct the historical record somewhat, and also tell a good story.

Spartan society survived only through the efforts of the Helots, the lower rung of a caste system that viewed them as less than slaves.  When the book opens, a group of young Spartan warriors attack some Helots who are gathering fruit.  Later, we meet a different group, who are having to listen to one particular Helot, from the city, who has put on some airs over his country cousins.

When a group of travelling Spartans insist that this group quarter them for an evening, this City Helot raises their ire by contradicting one man’s accounting of the famous Thermopylae encounter.

This is a very interesting comic, with terrific art by Kelly, who has always been a master of human expression.  Gillen doesn’t bog the story down with history, and instead provides just the right amount of exposition to make the social arrangements clear.

I’m not sure how long this series is set to run for, but I’m very excited to keep reading it until it ends.  Great stuff.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #6Abe Sapien is a strange title, more concerned with mood and atmosphere than actual plot progression, but I think it plays a very important role in the whole BPRD Hell on Earth family of titles.  Abe is wandering through the deserts of Arizona, and meets a group of migrants who are camping out.  They talk a lot about ancient Aztec stories, which apply to the world’s new situation.  Great art by Sebastián Fiumara really makes this comic work.

America’s Got Powers #7 – I’m pleased that this Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch epic has finally come to its end.  This series started out very well, but the length of the delays between issues has made it difficult to remember what is happening in the story.  Still, you can’t be mad at Bryan Hitch in his wide-screen glory.

Archer & Armstrong #14 – In this issue, we get to learn the secret history of the Sect, the collection of organizations that really run the world.  In the present, Archer, pissed off by what happened in the Faraway, is now working to take the Sect down, while his sister, Mary-Maria has her own problems with them.  As always, this is a great read, and this looks to be a very promising new arc.

Avengers Arena #16 – As we get closer to the finish of this book, the various heroes are finally trying to kill each other (at least it looks that way), while Apex and Deathlocket make their move on Arcade.  A very good issue all around.

Batman #24 – I was annoyed with Villains Month, partly because it caused the few regular DC titles I buy to lose momentum.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s answer to this?  A double-sized book the following month, making up for lost time.  Batman has started working as Batman, and he goes after the Red Hood Gang in this issue, in a battle that culminates in a familiar scene at ACE Chemicals.  Later, just as I was wondering why Gotham was all ‘I Am Legend’ at the start of the Zero Year, the Riddler shows up to make even more trouble for the city.  This is a strong issue from start to finish.  I’ve been getting really bored with Snyder’s Batman, but I did enjoy this comic a lot (although I didn’t enjoy the $7 price tag).

Captain America #12 - I really like where Rick Remender is taking Cap, now that he’s back from Dimension Z and mourning the loss of his lover and his son.  Remender has Cap hang out with The Falcon, which has always been a dynamic I’ve enjoyed, and also has Nuke mowing down a bunch of soldiers somewhere.  Nuke, Carlos Pacheco, and a thoughtful take on Captain America?  I think it’s time to add this book to my pull-file list.

Chew #37 – As you can probably guess, it’s another wonderful issue of Chew, as Tony and his daughter decide to connect with some dead relatives, which in turn leads to Tony teaming up with his dead sister to help his jerk of a brother, who has run afoul of a food pornographer.  While all this is going on, Colby goes to FDA Prison to interrogate Savoy.  John Layman is really building up a big storyline here, and it’s a lot of fun to read.  This is a brilliant series.

Coffin Hill #1 – I really want to support the latest wave of Vertigo titles, as I’d hate to see the imprint decline any further, but I don’t think that Coffin Hill is working for me.  I love Inaki Miranda’s art, which is the main reason why I bought this comic, but I don’t know that, after reading the first issue, I care about any of these characters enough to come back.  Eve Coffin was the spoiled gothy daughter of an old family that has some ties to the occult (or at least pretends to).  When she was a teenager, she got into some bad stuff, but ten years later, she’s living somewhere else and has joined a police force.  After stopping a serial killer, she gets shot by her roommate’s boyfriend, and that sends her home.  My problem is that I don’t find Eve or her family terribly interesting, and so I’d be surprised if I read the next issue.  Too bad, because I’m sure it’s going to be lovely.

Eternal Warrior #2I’m enjoying this book, but I’m a little confused.  If Gilad walked away from his duties to serve the Geomancers some six generations ago, in the 1800s, how does that fit with his appearances in Archer & Armstrong?  Are we to see this book as set before that time?  If so, why aren’t we told that?  It’s a little hard to retcon out a character’s first appearances, when they’re only a few months old.  This is disrupting my enjoyment of the series, which is otherwise quite good (although the art is a little too muddy).

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #4 – I think that writer Simon Oliver is making it very clear in this issue that, just like the world he portrays, we as readers should not expect the storytelling to be complacent.  Jay works to free himself from a bubble universe after learning that his partner has betrayed him, and that leads to two outcomes, one involving the privatization of the physics management industry, and Jay’s setting out on his own.  I’m enjoying this strange and very unique comic.

Fearless Defenders #10 – The events of Infinity #4 (see below) have made it too easy for writers to introduce any number of new characters into the Marvel Universe now, and so we are introduced to Ren, a dancer who now has the ability to turn her hands into razor-sharp ribbons.  There’s a big fight between some of the Defenders (not enough Dani Moonstar in this book), Caroline Le Fay’s people, and some of Thanos’s crew.  This issue is nowhere near as strong as last month’s, which is disappointing.

Ghosted #4Joshua Williamson’s supernatural heist comic is pretty fantastic.  This issue has the crew of thieves and charlatans actually confront some real ghosts (or demons), as they realize that if they are going to succeed in their mission of stealing a ghost, someone is going to have to get possessed.  They didn’t expect their only exorcist to be the one though…  Goran Sudzuka’s art continues to remind me a lot of Sean Phillips on this title, giving the book just the right atmosphere.

Infinity #4 – So far, I’ve found that I’ve really enjoyed the deep space aspect of this story, while the whole Thanos/Inhumans thing has bored me.  That divide becomes even more pronounced in this issue, as Captain America has Thor negotiate peace terms with one of the Builders, while on Earth, Black Bolt takes drastic steps that don’t really make a lot of sense to me.  Were Marvel not so married to the need to launch their next big event out of the conclusion of their current one, the entire Inhumans plot could have been skipped.  Instead, we find ourselves in the middle of an editorial demand that is going to have us begging for another House of M soon enough.  This is becoming disappointing…

The Manhattan Projects #15 – Ryan Browne fills in on art as civil war rages in Joseph Oppenheimer’s head.  His brother Robert does his best to take control, but the intervention of the alien that Joseph consumed a while back makes things difficult, at least until the tables start to turn.  This is a wonderfully strange book, and one that is hard to compare to Infinity, Jonathan Hickman’s other comic this week, as this is just so many levels above that.

Miniature Jesus #5 – Ted McKeever’s latest bizarre mini-series comes to a bizarre ending, as Chomsky meets God, and then hangs out in a bar.  I love McKeever’s art, but find reading his stories in a serialized form to be incredibly difficult.

Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde #2Harry, the alien small-town doctor, has travelled to Seattle with his nurse and friend to try to clear his mayor’s name in the murder investigation that launched last issue.  He uses his alien intuition to try to track down people who were involved with the murder victim.  Basically, this is a really good private investigator comic, which has a little outer space twist to it.  Peter Hogan is telling the type of story that can only be told in comics, and it works very well.  Steve Parkhouse is just about perfect for the art in this series.  This is a great read.

Shaolin Cowboy #1 – I fondly remember the first Shaolin Cowboy series, back when the book was published by the Wachowski Brother’s Burlyman Press (back when both Wachowskis were brothers, but that’s a whole different story).  Now Geof Darrow has brought the character back, with a new storyline that picks up where the last one left off.  The Cowboy crawls out of the Earth in the middle of a desert, pursued by zombies.  A car full of jerky high school kids drives by.  They interact.  That’s almost all that happens, but each page is a work of absolute beauty, as only Geof Darrow can draw it (which means an insane amount of detail).  Great stuff, although I’ll admit to skipping the insanely dense recap pages.

Star Wars #10 – Even though not a whole lot happens in each issue, since Brian Wood is running about four plots, I really love this book.  Carlos D’Anda returns to the art chores this issue, and while I miss Ryan Kelly, he does a terrific job.  This series is a lot of fun for an original Star Wars fan.

The Walking Dead #115 – All Out War begins with this issue, as Rick and his alliance march on Negan’s compound.  Robert Kirkman does this kind of issue very well, as characters spend a bit of time together before heading out, and as he throws an interesting little twist into the end of the book.  This issue is most notable for two things though – that it marks the beginning of a bi-weekly run (I remember having to wait months between issues back in the day), and that Stefano Gaudiano joins the book as inker.  Charlie Adlard has been inking his own pencils since issue 7, and it’s interesting to see what Gaudiano adds to the book.  The line work is cleaner than Adlard’s is on its own, and the look of the book harkens back a little to when Tony Moore was drawing it.  It’s still a very nice looking book, but I think I prefer Adlard on his own…

X-Men #6Battle of the Atom is starting to run a little long, as the Future X-Men are revealed as who they really are, and the Now X-Men and Past X-Men try to stop them, with little effect.  I think it’s amusing how, in the chapters written by Brian Wood, Jubilee has such prominence, but then is barely present in the chapters written by Bendis or Aaron.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Astonishing X-Men #68

Astro City #5

Rachel Rising #20

Red Sonja #4

Sons of Anarchy #2

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #4

Thor God of Thunder #14

Ultimate Comics X-Men #32

Wolverine #10

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Men Special #1I found this to be a very enjoyable read.  Writer Mike Costa (who is starting to build a real name for himself) does what Brian Michael Bendis has hinted at but generally failed at doing in the main All-New X-Men title; he shows the Past X-Men as kids who have moved out of their proper time.  A day in NYC is pretty entertaining, but when a time-displaced Doctor Octopus attacks, leading to a run-in with the Superior Spider-Man, things get pretty interesting.  Nice character work from Costa, and really lovely artwork from Kris Anka that reminded me a little of Kaare Andrews, made this book work very well (although I don’t understand why the original team would be dressed like they just stepped out of Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man).  Now to remember to pick up the Indestructible Hulk Special it leads into…

Avengers Assemble #18 – It’s always a tricky proposition to pick up tie-ins to big events that aren’t central to the story, the way Avengers and New Avengers are.  Avengers Assemble is the book without any real purpose of its own, and so we get an expansion on the events of the a big battle already shown elsewhere, as narrated by Spider-Woman.  It doesn’t really add much to her character or to the larger story, but it does give this title a chance at boosting its sales a bit.  Also, it gives us a chance to see more art by Barry Kitson, which is something I’m never disappointed in.

Fantastic Four #9&10 – The team continues to wander through time and space, with a visit to Dr. Doom’s accident in his lab (that borrows heavily from the time travel issue of Planetary), and a trip to 1776, to deal with a Skrull Benjamin Franklin (who is clearly not the same Ben Frank we see in Deadpool).  These stories are alright, but there is still something missing in Matt Fraction’s take on Marvel’s First Family.

Thor God of Thunder #13Jason Aaron brings back my all-time favourite Thor villain, Malekith the Accursed, in a new arc that opens with the daring rescue of the Dark Elf by his followers.  Reading this, I was constantly reminded of the grandeur of Walt Simonson’s run with this villain.  The last issue really made me love Aaron’s take on Thor, but this one has the Thunder God revert back to his less-than interesting self.  Still, Malekith.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #29-31 – It’s interesting to contrast Brian Wood’s work on this comic with his other X-Men title, set in the Marvel Universe.  This one is so plot-driven that characters shift in their characterization, and really, very little makes sense.  This book is a disappointment.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 6 – Now that the storyline has jumped some fifteen years into the future, the main character of this book is Kanna, who struggles to keep alive a friend who has evidence that the police are involved in a plot to kill the Pope when he visits Japan.  Shogun has spent all this time in prison, but he is planning an escape.  Naoki Urasawa does an excellent job of maintaining a sense of suspense and excitement throughout this book, even as he introduces new characters (like the hapless imprisoned manga artist) and new threats.  This is a fantastic series.

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The Weekly Round-Up #196 With Trillium, Baltimore: The Infernal Train, The Bunker, Chew, X-Factor & More Mon, 09 Sep 2013 14:00:21 +0000 This was one of the biggest new comics weeks in a while, with the launch of Villains Month, Battle of the Atom, and Forever Evil, as well as the second issue of Infinity coming out.  At the same time, ignoring all of that stuff, I found it harder to pick my ‘best’ comic of the week than usual.  Chew, Sheltered, and Superior Foes of Spider-Man were all good enough to make the cut, had they come out in a quieter week.

Best Comic of the Week:

Trillium #2Jeff Lemire’s excellent Vertigo series foregoes the flip-book formatting of the first issue, as the two main characters have met now, and that format wouldn’t make any sense.  These people from two different times have difficulty communicating, as the woman from the future desperately tries to figure out how she got where she is, and if she can use the trilliums to cure humanity from a sentient alien disease.  I wonder if there is some sort of illicit thrill for Lemire to show people picking and eating trilliums, since to do so is illegal in the province where he and I live (one of Canada’s weirder laws, I’m sure).  This is great work from Lemire – much better than any of the DCnU stuff he’s doing right now.

Quick Takes:

Avengers AI #3 – I’ve given this book three issues to impress me, and while I am fond of some of the characters here, I’m just not really feeling this series.  Hank Pym is portrayed in a strange way – the issue of Avengers Arena that came out a few weeks back really underscored that, as this Hank is not the one that was shown there.  Likewise, the changes made to the Vision have only served to sever the character’s past, making him hard to understand.  I also don’t understand the whole AI Diamond thing.  Apparently, all of these artificial beings live in a world that moves at computer speed, and have developed their own society, yet they spend much of their time fighting off threats to their lives.  Except, the comic only shows one threat, still hours away, and moving at our speed.  It doesn’t really add up.  Similar storylines have played out recently in Ultimate Comics Ultimates and in Secret Avengers, and they worked better there.  I doubt I’ll be back for the next issue.

Baltimore: The Infernal Train #1Lord Baltimore is back in a three-part mini-series, giving Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden a lot more space to develop their story.  Baltimore is in Hungary, which is supposed to be safe from the plague, looking to confront the Inquisitor that has been hunting him, but he stumbles over something else that is going to keep him from hunting down Haigus, his usual prey.  It’s nice to see this character get a longer story, especially when it means more art from Ben Stenbeck.

Batman Black and White #1 – Amid all the hype for a bunch of inventory comics by mostly unproven creative teams with shiny covers, this new volume of Batman Black and White is quietly slipping into the marketplace, without anywhere near the push that it deserves.  This issue has some truly impressive creators working on it – Chip Kidd, Michael Cho, John Arcudi, Sean Murphy, and Chris Samnee all hand in some very impressive work.  Things are not all wonderful though – I found Howard Mackie’s writing to be a little stale, and the Maris Wicks and Joe Quinones Harley Quinn story was dull and predictable.  Neil Adams has a story that he wrote and pencilled (and that someone really needed to ink) wherein he tries to reestablish himself as a socially conscious creator, but instead just demonstrates once again that he can’t really pace out or plot a story.  It was pretty painful (but not as painful as his Blood or Batman Odyssey).  The $5 price tag is pretty steep, and some of the stories were over a little too quickly, but there is more than enough talent in this book to win the day.

The Bunker #2Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari continue to do some very good work in their web-only comic.  In the last issue, a group of friends discover a myserious underground bunker that has letters for each of them written by their future selves, outlining just how they will contribute to the ending of the world.  This issue doesn’t touch on any of the apocalyptic stuff, as the various characters instead are more concerned with some of the secrets that the letter writers use to prove their authenticity.  It turns out people in the group have some big secrets, enough so that for now the end of the world is overshadowed.  Fialkov does some very good character work in this issue, and Infunari is backing him perfectly.  This is worth a download.

Catalyst Comix #3 – I don’t know why exactly, but this issue of Catalyst Comix ‘clicked’ with me much more than the first two, as Joe Casey has settled into the three stories he’s telling in this book.  Frank Wells is taken on a bit of a spiritual journey that ends in slave camps in Côte d’Ivoire, Amazing Grace greets an alien visitor, and Elvis Warmaker indulges in some 90s style violence at his safehouse.  The art in this book is great.

Chew #36This flashback issue brings back Toni Chu, Tony’s sister who we haven’t seen for a while (for a reason I won’t explain, in case anyone is behind in the trades).  It so happens that Toni helped out her sister Sage a little while ago, in a story that is presented as Chew #29½ .  John Layman and Rob Guillory are always brilliant, and it was a treat to see Toni again.  I love this comic.

Daredevil: Dark Nights #4 – I’ve been a fan of David Lapham’s work from even before his classic Stray Bullets series, so the thought of him writing and drawing a Daredevil story had me pretty excited.  I didn’t think it would be one of the strangest DD stories I’ve ever read though, as our hero spends a whole issue chasing a little one-foot tall man named Buggit across the city to recover some evidence the guy stole from the courthouse.  The story is bizarre and funny, but also fits wonderfully with the general aesthetic of Mark Waid’s run.  Great, strange stuff.

God is Dead #1 – Usually, when you pick up a non-Marvel Jonathan Hickman book, there is an sense of design to it that tells you that it’s a Hickman book, even though he hasn’t been drawing his own comics in years.  That is completely lacking with God is Dead, his new series at Avatar Press, of all places.  In the story, which is co-written by Mike Costa, a fact that I’m pretty sure wasn’t in Previews when this book was solicited, various pantheons of classic mythology make their return to the Earth, causing widespread destruction and unrest.  Very few characters are developed, except for a group of scientists who are hiding out in a sewer and plotting to do something.  Awkwardly, one of the scientists is the spitting image of Albert Einstein, who is used to much better effect in The Manhattan Projects.  Clearly, the wheelchair-bound scientist is an homage to Stephen Hawkings, but he doesn’t have that man’s face.  The art, by Di Amorim, is pretty much the standard Avatar fare, and while there are some topless women, and some people chained up, there isn’t any of the gratuitous and juvenile splatter that Avatar is known for.  This book is not really what I was expecting – it’s kind of like someone got Hickman to plot out a series while he was drunk at a ComiCon bar, and the Avatar people are just going with it.  I’d hoped for something on the scale of what I’m used to seeing from Hickman.  I suppose there is always hope that the book will lead up to its title, as the ramifications of what this issue shows get explored.

Green Arrow #23.1 – Count VertigoJeff Lemire makes an alright use of this Villains Month issue to flesh out the backstory of Count Vertigo, who is currently being used to cause problems for Oliver Queen.  This issue is pretty straight-forward, but is made more interesting by Andrea Sorrentino’s excellent art.  He draws most of the flashbacks from young Werner’s perspective, which is kind of cool.  I’m glad that Lemire was able to work this into his current storyline, but it’s still rather obvious that this is a filler issue.

Infinity #2 – Jonathan Hickman is unfurling his event at a grand scale, and while that leads Jerome Opeña and Dustin Weaver to draw some pretty incredible images, it also means that the human scale and perspective is often lost.  I feel like this series will read much better in trade…

Invincible #105 – It’s the standard thing with Invincible:  a new issue comes along, various plots are advanced a little, and everything is very good.  There’s really nothing else to say.

Justice League of America #7.1 – Deadshot – In typical DC bait-and-switch fashion, this book, which was solicited as being drawn by Pascual Ferry, was instead drawn by Sam Basri, Keith Champagne, Carmen Carnero, and Bit.  Why?  No idea, but I’ve long since given up on the idea of DC comics being drawn by the people they say were going to draw it.  This book doesn’t have any creators listed on the cover either.  Why?  Because DC thinks that characters trump creators every time (remember, this is the 2D cover, which was only recently printed, so the ‘months before’ excuse doesn’t fly here).  Anyway, the book is okay, as it shares Floyd Lawton’s new origin in the New 52.  Gone is his monocled first incarnation, and his strange obsession with Batman, leaving us instead a very controlled, penny-pinching version of the Punisher, if Frank Castle fought his war for profit.  Also gone is much of the nuance that made Original Floyd such a compelling character when written by people like John Ostrander and Gail Simone.  Also missing is Floyd’s death wish, which always made him so interesting back in the day (I could also complain about his hideous New 52 costume, but I’m not going to).  Matt Kindt does an alright job here, but he’s clearly been horribly constrained by the dictates of Forever Evil, and just what is supposed to happen in his upcoming Suicide Squad arc.  There are glimpses of greatness – the scene where Floyd’s family is accidentally killed could have led to an amazing layout in the fashion of David Aja’s Hawkeye work, had it been handled by a better artist.  In fact, I would have loved to see Kindt draw that scene.  It’s hard to assess these one-shot Villains Month books.  Were this the first issue of a new series, I don’t think there’s enough here to bring me back for the second issue, aside from historic attachment to the character, and my great regard for Kindt’s creator-owned writing.

Love Stories (To Die For) #1I picked up this flip-book on a whim, and I’m glad that I did.  Both stories are written by Dirk Manning.  The first is set in Germany at the end of the first millenium, and features some Norse warriors fighting revenants outside of a monastery.  It’s good, with a bit of a twist at the end, and has some 90s style art by Rich Bonk.  The flipside story was my favourite, a story about a man fighting his way through a space station full of aliens to get his wife to safety, never knowing that she’s hanging out in a shuttle with her new boyfriend.  The husband looks and dresses like Cable’s friend GW Bridge, and Owen Gieni’s art is a nice mix of Tony Moore and Jerome Opeña.  Good stuff.

Satellite Sam #3 – Matt Fraction’s period piece, set in the dawn of the TV age, continues along quite well.  Michael White continues to explore his father’s secret life, trying to find the girl who was with him while he died, while just about everyone else involved in the LeMonde Network continues to scheme and plot for their own desires.  It’s a very rich story.

Sheltered #3 – Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas are doing some wonderful work on this ‘pre-Apocalyptic’ comic about a group of teenagers who have violently taken over their parents’ survivalist compound.  Two girls are not with the group, however, and they have to try to figure out how they’re going to escape, and just what is really going on.  Brisson taps into the paranoia that floats around the modern Western world, crafting a story that is believable and suspenseful.  Great series.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3 - I think this book might just have surpassed Hawkeye as the second most delightful comic Marvel publishes (after Young Avengers).  Boomerang is out of prison, but he has Mach VII as his parole officer.  There is some long-standing animosity between these two characters, and his entrance into Fred’s life causes his crew to abandon him.  Also in this book is a wonderful story about the head of Silvermane, and we finally get the complete story of Mirage’s life and two deaths.  Nick Spencer is really packing this book full of great stuff, and Steve Lieber’s art is perfect.  Check this out.

X-Factor #262 – Peter David brings his long-running X-Factor to a close with a story that focuses on Layla Miller and Jamie Madrox.  In a lot of ways, I feel like this book has gone on for too long, and I’ve not been very happy about anything in it since the beginning of the Hell on Earth War story, but I am going to miss these characters, and David’s unique take on many of them.  I know it’s not Marvel’s way to leave properties alone for long, but I think the cast of this book should be off-limits for a couple of years.  I really don’t ever want to read anyone else’s Layla…

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1Marvel’s other big event of the month launches in this comic, which is mostly drawn by Frank Cho, but a little bit drawn by Stuart Immonen as well.  The X-Men detect a new mutant (apparently they use cerebro again, and not cerebra), and Kitty heads out with the time-travelled junior original team to get her, and of course runs into problems with Sentinels.  Cyclops’s ‘Uncanny’ team show up to help out, and when young Scott almost gets killed, everyone finally figures out that having the kids in the present is problematic.  Eventually, a team from the future shows up, after Illyana travels there for reasons that are hard to believe, and using an aspect of her powers that I don’t think existed before Brian Michael Bendis got involved with her.  In other words, it’s a typical start for a Bendis event, with the kids playing the role of Wanda in House of M, and complete with a page of ‘shaky’ art for no clear reason, à la the beginning of Age of Ultron.  Here’s hoping that the whole thing ends better than it started.  At least the art was nice…

All-New X-Men #16 – The story continues here, as the Jean Grey School group get to chatting with the future X-Men (who strangely have only added one member to the team that isn’t around in the Marvel Universe today, and he’s a legacy character).  Wolverine smells them to confirm their identity, but clearly Xorn’s mask also masks her smell, because we have to wait until the very end of the comic to find out who she is.  Jean Grey is being set up as the problematic character, refusing to not go back to her own time, and manipulating Young Beast and Young Cyclops in the process.  This Battle of the Atom story isn’t working too badly yet, but like all Bendis-driven events, I expect it to collapse on itself.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Iron Man #15

Legends of the Dark Knight #12

The Star Wars #1

Suicide Risk #5

Superior Spider-Man #17

Uber #5

Bargain Comics:

Detective Comics #19-23; Detective Comics Annual #2The John Layman who is writing Detective Comics is really not the same guy that writes Chew.  While that book continues to be absolutely hilarious and unpredictable, Layman’s Batman is no-nonsense, straight-up good superhero stuff.  In this run, he celebrates the 900th issue of Detective with a Man-Bat story (which then continues in the back-up stories), wraps up his Emperor Penguin arc, and brings The Wrath to Gotham.  Layman makes good use of the GCPD (which the Wrath is picking off), and grounds Batman nicely through his interactions with Alfred.  This is a good Bat-book, with nice art from Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke and Scott Eaton.

Thunderbolts #9-13 – Of these five issues, the first three were written by Daniel Way, while the second two were by Charles Soule, and what a difference those two issues make.  Way has always struck me as a writer who enjoys plotting out long, oblique stories which introduce elements that may never get explained or meaningfully included.  That was definitely the approach he was taking to this title, tossing in characters like Mercy, and then barely using them, and introducing villains like Elektra’s brother, seemingly out of thin air.  Once Soule took over, he got right to work providing backstory and coherence to this book, making it much more readable, and a lot less decompressed.  It was a much-needed change.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Autobiographical Conversations

by Ryan Claytor with Dr. Harry Polkinhorn

A few years ago, Ryan Claytor had an appearance at the comic store I shop at, as he was travelling around supporting his self-published series And Then One Day.  That series is an autobiographical one, and creating it led to his pondering the nature of autobiography.

This book depicts, in comic book form, Claytor’s conversation with Dr. Harry Polkinhorn,  a professor at San Diego State University, who teaches classes on the personal essay.  At the time the two men met, Claytor was doing graduate work on comics, and they had a long and kind of rambling discussion on autobiography, the concept of objective versus emotional truth, and the proper way to convey personal experiences in a comic format.

Of course, the conversation is shown as a comic, and the two men move from Polkinhorn’s office to a lunch spot, and then walk around the campus while they chat.  The conversation is pretty academic, but is rendered in an easily understood format, and is quite interesting.  They do discuss other cartoonists, such as Craig Thompson and David Chelsea, but most of the conversation is given over to Claytor’s own approach to his work.

What has me most curious after reading this is seeing how the concepts touched on in this conversation shape Claytor’s future work.  He thinks about things at a level that few cartoonists do, and so I’m interested in seeing how these notions get applied.

This is an interesting little book, which can be grabbed at Claytor’swebsite, if it sounds like it might be your thing.

Album of the Week:

Oh No vs. Now Again 2 – Once again the fine people at Now-Again records have let producer and rapper Oh No into their vaults, and he’s put together a great mix of music.

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The Weekly Round-Up #188 with Sheltered, America’s Got Powers, Chew, The Death of Haggard West, Great Pacific, Star Wars & More Mon, 15 Jul 2013 23:00:21 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Sheltered #1

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Johnnie Christmas

I’ve been a fan of Ed Brisson’s writing since I first bought an issue of his Murder Book at TCAF a few years ago.  He has subsequently written the Image mini-series Comeback, which was interesting, but nowhere near the quality of the first issue of his new series, Sheltered.

This mini-series is set in Safe Haven, a collection of trailers and underground bunkers set in some remote location in the United States.  It’s populated by a group of ‘preparationists’, militia-types who are laying in supplies for the end of the government or the world.  The adults in this small community busy themselves digging bunkers and buying canned goods, and we learn that not everyone in the group agrees with how they are going about things, but Brisson creates the impression that their sense of common purpose overcomes any procedural differences they might feel.

The kids are another problem though.  It’s quickly apparent that not all of the teenagers that live in the area see things the same way as their parents, and as is normal with teenagers, they go about rebelling in their own way.  A pair of boys borrow a HAM radio because their own is broken, but are pointedly shown not using it.  A pair of girls like to sneak out into the woods to ‘hike’, but they take a flask with them.

During what looks like a normal day, the sound of a gunshot in the woods brings everyone running.  It seems that some men are trying to attack the compound – just what the adults have been expecting and training for.  Things are not exactly what they seem though, and I don’t want to spoil the book.  Suffice to say, it’s a very good read, and I’m looking forward to the next issue.

Johnnie Christmas’s art looks quite nice in colour (I’ve only ever seen black and white work from him in Murder Book).  This book reminds me a little of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon’s excellent Elk’s Run, but the twists are quite different.  I recommend checking this out.

Quick Takes:

America’s Got Powers #6It’s been so long since I read issue five that it took me most of this comic to remember what was going on, but I did enjoy the way Jonathan Ross has been moving this story forward.  The best part of this comic is his and Bryan Hitch’s portrayal of President Obama, and the woman who looks remarkably like Sarah Palin (who is determined to take over the powers that our main character can confer on others).  This book has really lost steam because of the delays, but if you compare it with Hitch’s other recent comic (Age of Ultron), it’s Sandman or Maus…

Avengers Arena #12 – In a nice reversal, a character previously believed to be dead gets better, and lays a whopping on the person that ‘killed’ him or her.  In order to help things stay extra spoiler-free, Marvel decided to give this issue a cover that features a character that doesn’t even show up inside the comic.  This is a good series, but this particular issue felt rushed; it had no character work in it at all, and the art seemed hurried.  Maybe it should only be published monthly…

Batman #22 – The Zero Year continues, with Bruce Wayne posing as Oswald Cobblepot in order to flush out the Red Hood gang.  This was a pretty cool issue, although I have to wonder what’s going on with Scott Snyder always finding ways to manipulate characters as close as Bruce and Alfred into slapping each other – it reminded me of the incredibly out-of-character slap Bruce gave Dick back in the Court of the Owls story.  Another random thought – since Snyder is spending months on this flashback story, will anyone remember that the rest of the Bat-family is still pissed at Bruce by the time we catch back up to present day?  It’s strange that so much time was spent creating that situation for it not to be explored at all in this title (or, I think, the other Bat-books, although I’m really only reading Batman Incorporated, which lives in its own continuity).

Chew #35A new issue of Chew is never a disappointment, but this issue, which finishes off the ‘Bad Apples’ arc is fantastic.  Tony has to deal with a hostage taking in a giant pumpkin house, which leads to a prophecy by the leader of a radical chicken worship cult, while his partner Colby has to get used to a strange new living arrangement.  Colby decides to stop working with Savoy, and Tony and his daughter have a heart-to-heart-to-toe conversation which ends with a welcome surprise.  Just about everything in this issue is perfect – John Layman and Rob Guillory are at the absolute top of their game with this book.

Daredevil #28 – Once again, Daredevil delivers, as Mark Waid has Matt Murdock’s childhood bully show up at his office, needing his help in a false arrest case.  Waid plays the emotional beats in this issue perfectly, contrasting Matt’s natural anger with his sense of justice.  Of course, once the Serpent Society connection is revealed, things get a lot more interesting.  Javier Rodriguez is handling the art, although his work looks so much like Chris Samnee’s, it’s hard to notice there was a change.  This is a great series.

The Death of Haggard West – This one-shot, made up to look like it’s issue 101 of The Invincible Haggard West, a series that doesn’t exist, is a teaser for Paul Pope’s upcoming graphic novel, Battling Boy.  This book has been highly anticipated for years, so I was happy to get a look at it.  This comic shows us the last battle of Haggard West, a Batman-like hero who goes out fighting a group of creepy looking kidnappers.  It’s a Paul Pope comic, so the art is dynamic and exciting, and everything looks incredibly cool.  There’s not a huge amount of story here, but things are really very nice to look at.  I’m definitely looking forward to Battling Boy…

Demon Knights #22The Knights make their way back to Al-Wadi with the Holy Grail, but are pursued by an army of giants, thanks to Vandal Savage.  This is a pretty typical issue of this comic, and it’s pretty enjoyable.  Robert Venditti has done a decent job of maintaining the feel that Paul Cornell gave this series.

East of West #4 – This was a pretty exciting issue of East of West, as Death and his two companions attack New Shanghai and slaughter Mao’s forces in a bid to reunite with Xiaolian, Mao’s daughter and Death’s lover.  It looks like the events of this issue will have serious repercussions for the other three Horsemen and their plans.  Nick Dragotta is just killing the art on this book, and Jonathan Hickman’s writing is solid.

Fearless Defenders #6 – I think this is the most solid issue of this new series yet, as Valkyrie faces her inner demons with the help of a new character.  Cullen Bunn more or less sets the tone for future issues of this title here, and he catches my interest.  Unfortunately, it looks like Marvel is planning on upping the price of this book to $4, and I think that means I’m going to be abandoning it.  It’s a good comic, but is it $4 good?

Ghosted #1 – It may be too early in the life of Skybound, Robert Kirkman’s imprint at Image, to tell if they have a house style, but Ghosted reads just like a supernatural take on Thief of Thieves.  In Joshua Williamson’s new series, a rich man busts a highly skilled criminal out of prison because he wants him to steal a ghost from a particularly creepy haunted mansion that is going to be demolished soon.  Our protagonist goes about assembling his team, and things feel kind of familiar.  Interior artist Goran Sudzuka opts for a style that brings to mind cover artist Sean Phillips’s work.  It’s a very good comic, with a nice little twist at the end.  I’m not sure how long this is supposed to run for, but I imagine I’ll be back for the second issue.

Great Pacific #8Things are getting a little stranger in this title, as Chas has to deal with being shot, and with vague threats from the Little Chief.  I really can’t tell where Joe Harris is going with this series, but I am enjoying it.

Hawkeye #12 – Francesco Francavilla shows up to draw the book again, as we get an issue that focuses on Trickshot, Hawkeye’s brother.  The last anyone saw Barney Barton, he was in the Dark Avengers (which i stopped reading), but I guess it didn’t work out so well for him, as he’s now living on the streets, and letting the Russian tracksuit mafia pay him to beat him up.  There’s a very cool scene that was in the last issue – the pizza dog one – but which is much better explained here.  It’s becoming more and more clear that Matt Fraction is structuring this book like he did Casanova, although not as insanely, and that he’s working through a very specific master plan, despite how random the book might feel at times.

Helheim #5 – This was a real quick read this month as Rikard finishes his battle with the with Groa, leaving him with only one witch to fight.  Joëlle Jones’s art is lovely, but there’s not enough going on in this series, especially when compared to Cullen Bunn’s other Oni book, The Sixth Gun, to sustain this comic for long.  I can feel my attention beginning to wane.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm #11 – All of the tension in Ape City boils over in this action-packed issue, as the chimps push back, arranging a coup against Dr. Zaius.  I’ve been continually impressed by how well Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko have plotted this series, and am looking forward to its conclusion next month.

Secret Avengers #6I’m kind of surprised by the freedom it looks like Nick Spencer has been given in constructing his story in this series.  This issue takes place before the events of the last one (kind of like reading Morning Glories), and has Mockingbird infiltrating AIM Island, while James Rhodes gets friendly with the squadron of Iron Patriots that are flying around causing trouble.  The real story is the plot to remove Daisy Johnson as Director of SHIELD though, and it’s pretty interesting.  Butch Guice draws this issue, and he’s the perfect artist for this series.

Star Wars #7 – As if Brian Wood’s Star Wars wasn’t already good enough, now Ryan Kelly is drawing it!  It’s hard to imagine that the team behind the absolutely brilliant series Local would be as effective creating a Star Wars comic, but the proof was just in my hand.  There was nothing wrong with Carlos D’Anda’s art on the first arc, but Kelly is a much stronger character artist, and Wood has made this series as much about the growth of the characters as it is science fiction swashbuckling.  In this issue, Luke and Wedge hatch a plan to discover who the traitor in the Rebel fleet is by infiltrating the Imperial Star Destroyer, while Darth Vader puts his own plan in motion to regain his former command.  There’s a lot more Han Solo in this issue than the last few as well, which is welcome.  This series makes the life-long Star Wars fan in me very happy.

Storm Dogs #6 – I have absolutely loved Storm Dogs.  I’ve mentioned before that there is a real dearth of intelligent science fiction in popular culture these days, but this series has satisfied that need on a number of levels.  In this issue, David Hine and Doug Braithwaite really up their game, revealing a few surprises, including the motivations of one of the main characters of the book.  This series could be described as Avatar done properly, but there is a lot more going on than that movie ever could have hoped for.  This issue finishes the first mini-series, but it also promises a second season coming at some point; hopefully the creators will get more lead time so that the book is not plagued with delays.  Still, I’m eagerly waiting more.  When this comes out in trade, you should really check it out – great characterizations, an interesting vision of the future, and lots of cool anthropology.

Suicide Squad #22When it was announced that Ales Kot would be coming on as the writer of Suicide Squad with issue 20, I was intrigued, but reluctant to add the book to my pull-file, because DC has quite the track record lately of announcing writers and then firing them or having them quit in their first two issues.  By the time issue 20 came out, it looked like Kot was staying with the title, so I bought it and enjoyed it.  I have since added Suicide Squad to the ever-dwindling DC section of my pull-file list.  Then we found out that Kot is gone after the next issue.  Dan Didio claimed this was “always part of the plan”.  I just wonder why DC would make a fuss about landing an up and coming writer like Kot, and never tell people that they only planned on keeping him for four issues.  Because, and this is the big problem here, Kot’s Suicide Squad is actually really very good.  This issue takes a slightly non-linear approach to a Squad mission that involves mind-controlling billboards in Las Vegas, and a giant creature made of the bodies of suicides.  The book is strangely funny, exciting, and beautifully laid-out and drawn by Patrick Zircher.  I guess the trick is to not get too attached to anything at DC these days; just because a book is critically acclaimed and increasing in sales does not mean that it’s safe from some wrong-headed editorial meddling and summary dismissal.  DC still believes that their characters are what draws in customers, and that creators don’t matter.  Like, perhaps, people are reading this book because they are huge King Shark fans, and would continue to read it if it were written by Chuck Austen and drawn by Rob Liefeld…

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #2 – This is a pretty complicated series, as Gerard Way and Shaun Simon have tossed us into the middle of a complex society structured around control of citizen’s environments, and the rationing of batteries to robotic sex slaves.  In the desert, the new Killjoys are recovering from the attack of the first issue.  Way and Simon are throwing a lot of characters at us, but the book is very compelling, especially with Becky Cloonan’s wonderful artwork.  I’m still figuring a lot of things out, but I love reading this.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #27It’s become pretty apparent that the Ultimate line is being shut down or majorly overhauled soon, and it really feels like the powers that be just told Joshua Hale Fialkov to come on this book and kind of wreck everything.  I can’t really explain much of what is happening in this title right now, except to say that Reed Richards is still crazy, and Tony Stark’s talking brain tumor is actually something else.  I’ll ride out the end of this arc, but I think I’m not going to bother with Hunger and whatever comes after it.  It all feels kind of pointless now.

Uncanny X-Men #8 – Chris Bachalo is back to drawing Uncanny X-Men, so things look really great, but I don’t know if the fantastic art is enough to paper over the thinness of Brian Michael Bendis’s writing.  I know he has to draw things out a bit before the next cross-over begins, but I’m getting a little tired of seeing Cyclops’s team standing around talking about themselves and their broken powers or their lack of training.  The new characters could be interesting, but every single one of them seems like a minor variation on the standard, snarky, Bendis character.

The Walking Dead #112 – Looking back over the ten years or so that The Walking Dead has been published, it really is a wonder that Rick has managed to stay alive for so long.  He really can fly off the handle at times, and when he returns to the Community to discover that Negan has killed one of his people, it’s one of those times.  Things don’t go well.  Nobody is better than Robert Kirkman at building up such a crazy level of tension in a single issue, and then leaving the reader hanging for a month.  This is great, great comic.

X-O Manowar #15Aric has brought his people back from their enslavement to an alien race, and decides to lay claim to a good-sized chunk of Romania for them to live in.  This is a bit of a problem, but it is Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, an old friend, who comes to address the problem.  This is a pretty solid issue, with nice art by Lee Garbett.  The premise is a little silly, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Young Avengers #7 – I’m not sure which series I love more – Hawkeye or Young Avengers (even though their depictions of Kate Bishop don’t match, perhaps she is the secret to great comics in the Marvel Universe).  This issue has wannabe Skrulls, Nina Simone references, heart-to-heart chats, Instagram-fuelled exposition, and big breakfasts.  Kieron Gillen’s writing couldn’t be smoother, and Jamie McKelvie’s art is phenomenal.  This is such a fun, well-designed comic.  Prodigy gets in touch with the team, and they go after Speed.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

‘68: Jungle Jim #4

Astonishing X-Men #64

Astro City #2

Indestructible Hulk #10

Rachel Rising #18

Six-Gun Gorilla #2

Superior Spider-Man #13

Wolverine #6

Bargain Comics:

Avengers Assemble #10-13Avengers Assemble is the Avengers equivalent to Astonishing X-Men – it doesn’t fit into the plans of the more central Avengers books, nor does it have its own unique mandate, like Avengers Arena or Uncanny X-Force.  It’s just sort of there to round out the line, I guess, as Marvel tries to squeeze every last $4 out of the franchise (hence Avengers AI and Mighty Avengers).  The comics are not bad – Kelly Sue DeConnick is using her book’s lower profile to give more space to strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman, and the Black Widow, and that’s a good thing.  The stories are pretty inconsistent though – the first one is all light-hearted fun, while the second is more serious.  The lack of a consistent artist also makes this series feel like a string of fill-ins.

Avenging Spider-Man #20 – Chris Yost really takes his time getting this issue going, but once he does, things work pretty well, as Spidey-Ock infiltrates a SHIELD Helicarrier in a scheme to free the Chameleon, only to find that Black Widow and Hawkeye are there, and that a group of Russians are coming for the same guy.  There are a lot of parts in play, but Yost writes a good Spidey-Ock, so it works.

Captain America #7 – I like the “Captain America as a father” approach Rick Remender has taken to his run with the character.  It gives Cap a different angle, and makes him a little more interesting, especially with Ian having been abducted by Arnim Zola.  The problem with this run continues to be John Romita JR’s god-awful artwork.  Cap’s shield is never at a consistent size – sometimes it’s smaller than his forearm.  I used to love Romita’s art, but his work here is really hurting this title.

Iron Man #9This was easily the most enjoyable issue of Iron Man I’ve read so far (in the Marvel NOW! era), and there are ___ reasons for this:  1) Kieron Gillen writes a perfect Death’s Head, as we learned in his criminally short-lived SWORD; 2) Gillen also does a good job of playing Tony Stark’s character against others who don’t always see things the same way he does; and 3) Greg Land’s art is only on the cover.  Instead, the super-talented Dale Eaglesham draws this issue, and it looks great.  With the news that Land has moved on to Mighty Avengers, I might actually start buying this series when it first comes out.  I’m not sure how much I like the idea of Gillen retconning more stuff with Howard Stark though (this is the same guy we saw in Jonathan Hickman’s SHIELD, right?).

Minimum Carnage (Minimum Carnage Alpha & Omega, Scarlet Spider #10&11, Venom #26&27) – Had I known that the Minimum Carnage crossover included the Micronauts (now called the Enigma Force, of course), I would have bought it off the stands.  This is the first time I’ve ever read a comic with Carnage in it (I think), and the character is really pretty annoying.  He gets taken to the Microverse to destroy the universe or something, and Venom and Scarlet Spider give chase.  This crossover has some nice Declan Shalvey art, and does a good job of keeping itself contained and complete.  It’s not bad for that kind of thing, and it’s always a thrill to see Arcturus Rann, Princess Mari, and Bug again.

Savage Wolverine #6 – I wonder if this story arc was originally going to be the second arc of Avenging Spider-Man, seeing as it’s by Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira, who were going to be the on-going creative team of that book, and as it features Peter Parker as Spider-Man (with no hint of Dr. Octopus in his head), and is concerned with the dead body of Bullseye (see recent issues of Daredevil to see why that doesn’t jibe).  Anyway, it’s kind of a fun comic, although Madureira’s art doesn’t lend itself to a lot of multi-panel pages.

Thor God of Thunder #7-9Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s epic story about three Thors and Gorr the Godkiller works much better in chunks like this than it would as individual issues.  There are some pretty major fight scenes in these comics, and I’m enjoying it much more than I usually would a Thor comic.

Über #0 – As much as I like Kieron Gillen’s writing, I’d decided to pass on his new series at Avatar, mostly because I’d gotten a little tired of how that company’s comics all come out looking the same.  Gillen’s taken an odd approach to this zero issue for a series about a German superhuman project that appears to have kicked into gear in the waning days of the second world war.  The story is told rather kaleidoscopically, showing us a number of characters who are in and around Berlin as the Russians and Germans advance, and then eventually introducing the superhuman element.  It was a little hard to keep some of the characters straight, but it was also very effective at drawing me into the story.  I may have to rethink my approach to this title.

The Week in Graphic Novels:


by Gerry Alanguilan

I’ve wanted to read Elmer for a while now, although I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to love the book quite as much as I did.  This is one fantastic graphic novel, mixing allegory, social commentary, and humour with a gripping, emotional read and fantastic art.  I cannot believe that this book is not discussed ore as an example of the type of story that can only be told effectively through comics.

In Gerry Alanguilan’s fictional world, something happened in 1979 that caused all the chickens in the world to spontaneously evolve to human levels of cognition, speech, and ability.  After a few very difficult months during which violence was the most common human response to this change, chickens were declared ‘human beings’, entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms as everyone else.  It’s a crazy idea, but it does allow for a pretty interesting story.

Elmer is centred on Jake Gallo, an angry young chicken who has been having trouble finding himself decent work.  He returns to his family’s home when he learns that his father, Elmer, has had a stroke, and after his father’s death, spends most of the book exploring his father’s journal from the time of his ‘awakening’.  The first generation of self-aware chickens suffered a great deal, but Elmer was not one to let his problems stop him.  His close friendship with Farmer Ben, the man who saved him many times over, and his ability to write eloquently for a local newspaper gave his life purpose.

Learning about the challenges his parents faced has a profound affect on Jake, and Alanguilan shows that beautifully.  It’s rare to see characters so well developed in such a small amount of space, and to see how profoundly the events of a book can change them.  Alanguilan has really thought out how this change would affect society, from the impact on the poultry industry to the way in which people would react to mixed marriages.

Alanguilan is best known for inking comics artists like Whilce Portacio and Leinil Francis Yu, but he shows here a draftsmanship and attention to detail that eclipses these superstars.  His chickens are incredibly human in their facial expressions, while still being very chicken-like – it’s not an easy trick to pull off.

One thing I really liked about this book was how clear it was that the comic was not set in North America (Alanguilan is from the Philippines), while remaining universal in its storytelling.  I cannot recommend this book enough – it’s an incredible read, and would be perfect for anyone who enjoys Chew (I’d love to see Elmer sit down for a chat with Poyo one day).  Actually, I think this should be required reading for any true comics fan.

Revolver Vol. 1

by Salgood Sam (with John O’Brien and A. J. Duric)

Salgood Sam is one of those comics creators that I feel we should see a lot more from.  He first caught my eye on the excellent Sea of Red vampire series, and his graphic novel with Jim Munro, Therefore, Repent! is a favourite of mine.

Revolver is an anthology of shorter comics by Sam, which are very introspective and powerful.  At the heart of the book is “The Rise and Fall of it All pt. 1″, a story about a man who was downsized during the recent economic turmoil, and unable to pull things back together in his life.  This is a very poetic story, matched beautifully with Sam’s expansive page layouts.

‘Pin City’ is an interesting bit about a very special city in the sky, and the way in which a man has to go about making a life for himself within it.

Some of the other stories are comics based on dreams, or the usual sort of short ephemera of sketchbooks.  Sam is a very interesting artist, and one worth keeping an eye on.

Album of the Week:

Thundercat – Apocalypse – If this is what the Apocalypse is going to sound like, then I’m okay with it happening.  Thundercat returns with his second album, executive produced by his label mate Flying Lotus, and it is a very lovely affair.  There are a lot more vocals than there were on the first record, and that works well here with the laid-back tone of the album.  The music is less spacey, and a little more focused on telling a story.  This is a very good, very mellow collection of music.

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The Weekly Round-Up #182 With The Wake #1, BPRD Vampire, Chew, Earth 2 Annual & More Mon, 03 Jun 2013 14:00:27 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

The Wake #1

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy

I wasn’t too sure how interested I was going to be in The Wake, a new Vertigo mini-series.  The comic’s writer, Scott Snyder, has lost some of his appeal in my eyes recently, as his Batman series has not impressed me as much as it apparently has most of the DC fan base, and I found that, prior to its going on hiatus, his American Vampire was also becoming rather underwhelming and tired, which is a good way to describe Vertigo in general over the last couple of years.

The only reason why I preordered this book was because of Sean Murphy’s art, especially coming off of his sublime Punk Rock Jesus (check out the nod to the Flak Jackets in this comic!).

Having read this, I’m very pleased that I did buy it.  This feels like the Snyder of early American Vampire, setting out an interesting and sweeping story, without getting too bogged down in details.  The story is book-ended by scenes set in distant times – the first few pages are set somewhere far into the future, at a time when cities are flooded by the oceans.  We meet a young woman and her dolphin or porpoise companion, and know they are looking for something, but we don’t know what.  The book ends some hundred thousand years ago.

In between is the bulk of the comic, in a time that doesn’t feel too far off from ours.  We are introduced to Lee Archer, a marine biologist who specializes in whale song.  We quickly learn that she is divorced, does not have custody of her son, and at some point got herself in trouble with the NOAA, a government agency.  A representative of the Department of Homeland Security shows up, and plays her a tape of a strange whale song, convincing her to accompany him to a remote part of Alaska.  When she gets there, she learns that she is expected to work with a team, and that nothing is what she expected.

There are high-tech sea-floor oil platforms, specialized subs, and a creature that is not a whale to contend with, as well as a former rival.  The set up runs very smoothly, and while this has elements of movies like The Abyss, and comics like The Vault, there is more than enough to keep my interest, especially given Murphy’s wonderful artwork.

Finishing this comic, I felt that I’d been uncharitable in my assessment of its prospects, and I’m happy to have been wrong.  I desperately wish that Vertigo could regain its place as a viable and respectable imprint at DC, and books like this are a step in the right direction.

Quick Takes:

BPRD Vampire #3In this issue, Anders comes face to face with the vampire he’s been hunting, in an ancient city under a Czech woods.  There’s a lot that’s familiar in the set-up that Mike Mignola is using for this series, but Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are drawing the hell out of the book, making it absolutely gorgeous.

Chew #34 – Ah Chew, so brilliant.  This issue has three front covers, which play on the old Mix-and-Match Monster books.  Tony sort of confronts the Vampire, while Colby starts working for Savoy, who needs him to help entrap a US Senator in a compromising position.  As always with this comic, it’s excellent, even without the wide variety of food-based powers we are exposed to.

Earth 2 Annual #1 – Even before learning that James Robinson has walked away from Earth 2, my interest in the title was waning.  This annual is one of those perfect examples of why I should stop preordering all of the DC titles I buy, as I’m finding it harder and harder to commit to their titles, since month by month, it’s so hard to know if you’re going to actually get what you’re ordering.  Anyway, this annual kind of introduces the new Batman of Earth 2, but it doesn’t give us any clues to his identity, or even give us a good look at his uniform.  Most of the issue is about the Atom being deployed in Phnom Penh to capture a guy who makes weaponized prosthetics.  Steel is also kind of introduced, and Mister Miracle and Barda show up for a couple of pages very randomly at the end.  This book is as disjointed as the rest of this series has been, and knowing that Robinson is out the door, it’s very hard to care about where any of this is going to be headed.

Elephantmen #48There are so many storylines going on in this book that with each new issue, you just kind of go with whatever’s going on.  Hip, Ebony, and Trench are fighting Chinese tiger TGs on the moon, while the Silencer hires an assistant to help him take out Gabbatha on behalf of the comic’s Jerry Falwell character.  This is always a very good comic.

Fury MAX #12 – In the second last issue of this terrific series, Nick Fury finds that stopping something like a government program to use drug money to fund Contras in El Salvador is not as easy as he would like.  Garth Ennis has done a great job of showing us a more real Nick Fury, embroiling him in each and every dirty conflict America participated in from the Cuban days to the Reagan era, and it’s been a wonderful read, among Ennis’s best.  The Goran Parlov art has not hurt things either.

Lost Vegas #3 – Jim McCann kind of abandons the gambling and casino aspects of this story as we are instead given the full backstory of Roland’s friend Loria, and learn what a Godspark is.  This has become a very good science fiction saga, and I’m enjoying it a great deal.  I want to see more of Janet Lee’s art.

Mind the Gap #10 – Jim McCann dumps a ton of info into this issue of Mind the Gap, as ten issues into the series, we learn the identity of Elle’s attacker, and begin to get a better sense of where a number of people in the cast stand in terms of their relationship to Elle’s interests.  There were a couple of genuine surprises, which have me wanting to go back to the earlier issues to see what clues I missed.  McCann has crafted a pretty unique thriller with this series, and I’m pleased to see that I’m still enjoying it so much.  This is one book that must read much better in trade though…

Morning Glories #27There is so much happening in this book right now, and thankfully, Nick Spencer has added some backmatter designed to help bring new readers up to speed, which also did a great job of assisting my slowly failing memory.  Now that Hunter has fixed time, everyone is back in the same place, although apparently some of the rules have changed.  Casey shows up at the school again, and we also get to see what her older self was up to while she was her own teacher.  The complexity of Spencer’s tapestry stuns me, but also makes this one of the most fun books to read, as I try to figure out where things are headed (I’m always wrong).  Great stuff.

New Avengers #6 – I’m not sure, but I think that the whole ‘incursion’ thing gets resolved this issue, in a way that seems like a bit of a cop-out, considering the stakes that Jonathan Hickman was raising this story to from the beginning.  Still, Namor and the Black Panther get some good moments, and the book looks really good.  I’m sure that Hickman has a lot more to say on this topic, and I should just trust him.

Thief of Thieves #14 – Andy Diggle takes on the scripting role for this title, as Redmond has to start working for the cartel in order to rescue his son.  He sets about putting together a crew, while we examine the roots of his troubled relationship with Augustus once again.  This is always a good read, and I look forward to finding out about the job that he’s going to pull, as this is the one he’s been planning for three years.

Uncanny X-Force #5 – This issue proves my earlier concern about the title, that it was Ron Garney’s art that was turning me off of things.  Now, with Adrian Alphona handling most of the issue, and Dexter Soy pitching in for the pages set in the real world, things work better.  Soy is more polished than he was on his earliest issues of Captain Marvel, but could still use some work.  Alphona, on the other hand, is brilliant, taking us into Bishop’s mind and memories, as we learn about his fight against Revenants in the future, and just how he ended up back in the present day all crazy angry.  This title is beginning to feel like it’s coming together, which is a very good thing.

Wolverine and the X-Men #30It feels like Jason Aaron is finally ready to pull the trigger on his Hellfire story, with this issue being touted as a prologue to the Hellfire Saga.  The teachers at the Jean Grey School are busy trying to track down the identity of a traitor who is working for the Club, while Quentin Quire decides to take matters into his own hands.  At the same time, Beast is up in space trying to find a cure for Broo.  It’s a pretty decent issue, mostly drawn by the wonderful Pasqual Ferry.

X-Men #1 – I don’t really know why we need another X-Men title (the sixth one that comes out on regular basis with the word X-Men in the title, not counting Ultimate), but I cannot complain with the feel that Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel are going for.  This feels like an old-school X-Men comic, with an emphasis on female characters who were all at their heights in the Chris Claremont days.  In a way, Coipel’s art reminds me of Marc Silvestri’s when he was on the title (maybe it’s just because Jubilee is so prominent).  Wood avoids all the time travel and angst that Brian Michael Bendis is drowning his books in, and the forced humour of Jason Aaron’s book.  He brings back John Sublime, a villain from Grant Morrison’s run, and gives him a more evil sister.  This is a very good start to a very character-driven run, which is nice to see, since so many of the X-books are event driven these days.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Avenging Spider-Man #21

Captain America #7

Indestructible Hulk #8

Kill Shakespeare: Tide of Blood #4

Savage Wolverine #5

Bargain Comics:

A + X #5-7These short stories pairing one Avenger with one X-Men are very inconsistent in terms of their quality.  Issue 5 has a barely readable Doop/Iron Fist team-up, and a kind of disappointing Loki/Mr. Sinister story (disappointing because it’s written by Kieron Gillen, but lacking the charm of his Young Avengers or Journey Into Mystery).  Issue 6 is much better, with two poker themed stories – one featuring Wolverine and Captain Marvel (who have both been Avengers and X-Men) and Thing and Gambit.  The first story is written by Peter David, and is a lot of fun (I’d love to see him write Carol Danvers’s book), while the second, written by Mike Costa, almost makes me like Gambit.  These stories are by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Caselli respectively; two artists I already associate with each other.  The 7th issue has Dale Keown drawing an Iron Man and Beast story, which was unexpected, and Orphans Cheeps (R’John Bernales and Chris Turcotte) drawing a Thor and Iceman tale.  It looks like it was made at Pixar, and while that’s not my usual thing, I enjoyed it as a one-off thing.  I’m kind of surprised that this series is still on-going, and I would never pay full price for it, but I do like reading it.  I just wish that Marvel would put the creators’ names on the cover.  At times, I’m sure it would be more of a selling point than the characters.

Captain America #4-6 – This series is getting better and better, as Captain America has spent eleven years trapped in Dimension Z by Arnim Zola, where he has raised an adopted son and has been living with some strange looking aliens.  Over the course of these issues, Zola finds them, and takes the boy back; the boy’s older sister, who is a bit of a Big Barda character, falls for the Captain and wants her little brother back.  Rick Remender’s writing is fine, but John Romita Jr.’s art just keeps getting worse.  It’s like he’s lost all sense of proportion and anatomy; it’s hard to believe this is the same guy who drew his legendary Uncanny X-Men run.

Album of the Week:

Kenya Special – Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s & ’80s – The people at Soundway always do a fantastic job with these compilations, and this time around, they have decided to focus on a country which does not get a lot of musical credit.  These two discs provide a nice overview of the afrobeat, benga, and soul scene, and reveal some real gems.

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The Weekly Round-Up #176 With Chew, Miniature Jesus, BPRD, Comeback, Conan & More Mon, 22 Apr 2013 14:00:00 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Chew #33

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

I’m not sure if there is any other comic coming out (more or less) monthly that I look forward to more than a new issue of Chew.  Layman and Guillory have worked into such a perfect groove for this title that each new issue feels better than the one before.

This issue opens on Colby having a terrible night at home, joined as he is by his boss, Director Applebee, who is forcing his company (and probably other things) onto him, and using his as a shoulder to cry on.

Tony Chu, meanwhile, is on loan to the US Navy for a mission that his him returning to the island of Yamapalu, the sight of an earlier mission for him.  Tony is being sent to abduct (render?) someone in a position of leadership in the Church of the Immaculate Ova, the chicken-worshipping cult that has been causing problems in the US.  To do this, he has to face a sciboinvalescor, a person who gains strength through ingesting food.

I don’t want to give away too much about this issue, but Poyo, the cybernetic chicken killing machine has a cameo, and Guillory’s depiction of the Navy is hilarious.  I’ve been fascinated by the turn towards darkness we’ve seen in Chu’s behaviour, especially since that same darkness is not reflected in the rest of the comic.

If you aren’t reading Chew, you really need to be.

Another Notable Comic:

Miniature Jesus #1

by Ted McKeever

Here’s a question for those of you who are more religiously inclined than I am – if a wall-statue of Jesus were to suddenly come to life, pull the nails out of its hands, and drop to the floor, what would you automatically assume?  If you are Ted McKeever’s preacher, you’d find it to be proof of demonic activity, a reaction that I find a little strange.  I would think that those that preach “the return” would be more inclined to interpret bizarre goings-on as proof of it, not its opposite.

But then, I’m not a preacher, nor inclined to think like one.

Anyway, it’s a new Ted McKeever comic.  It’s weird.  People act strangely.  Do I need to say anything else?

Most of this book is not about the titular miniature Jesus though; it appears that the true star of this series is a homeless alcoholic who has holed up in an abandoned motel, spending his days staring at the corpse of a cat.  His temptations take the form of a demon that appears to talk to him (when the dead cat isn’t).  Whether or not this demon is an actual demon remains to be seen.

McKeever is at his best when dealing with religious themes – hisMetropol is my favourite of his series, and this comic seems much more coherent than his recent Mondo.  I’ve always liked McKeever’s art – his establishing shots are beautiful, and his characters are always interesting to look at.  He’s the kind of cartoonist for whom Image’s ‘Golden Age’ format was created.

Quick Takes:

Avengers #9 – I know this came out last week, but this is the first I got it.  Jonathan Hickman  takes his plot further by having Nightmask and Starbrand confront the folks on Mars, before coming back to Earth and getting into a big punch-up with the whole Avengers team.  This story arc doesn’t balance character as well as Hickman’s Fantastic Four run did, but he is playing with some big, interesting ideas.  The switch in art from Dustin Weaver to Mike Deodato was pretty jarring.

Batwoman #19 – Trevor McCarthy is doing a fine job drawing this book, but in the wake of JH Williams’s departure from art chores, this comic feels a lot more traditional, and subsequently, a little more dull, as Batwoman’s complicated family relationships are once again the vehicles for driving the plot.  It would be nice to see Kate doing something else.

BPRD Hell on Earth #106 – The two-part ‘A Cold Day in Hell’ arc wraps up with Agent Giarocco going looking for Yosif despite her orders.  I like that the minor characters are getting so much play in this title these days, and I’m always happy to see Peter Snejbjerg drawing a comic.

Comeback #5 – I know this came out a little while ago, but I somehow didn’t get a copy of it until now.  Ed Brisson finishes his time-travelling crime comic off very nicely, as various threads and confusing elements come together, and the fate of Reconnect is decided.  This book will read very well in trade.

Conan the Barbarian #15 – It’s a shame that Mirko Colak didn’t finish off ‘The Woman on the Wall’, but the art duties are given to Andrea Mutti, who does a fine job.  In fact, this is the best work I’ve seen from Mutti, as we learn the connection between Bêlit and the fortress in the desert that has been under siege.  It’s a very well balanced issue, as Brian Wood continues to make Conan a fascinating character, seen in terms of his relationship with the Pirate Queen.

Daredevil #25Reading this issue, it’s not hard to see why artist Chris Samnee got an Eisner Award nomination this week – this book is just about perfect.  Mark Waid has Daredevil confront Ikari, a ninja with a radar sense who wears a very cool costume based on DD’s first outfit.  Waid has given a lot of thought to how a hero with radar sense would fight and use his environment, and really puts Matt through his paces in this fight.  This was a pretty thrilling comic, with one twist I didn’t see coming.  Great stuff.

Daredevil: End of Days #7 – I continue to love this series, as Ben Urich gets interrogated by the Hand before being rescued by the new Daredevil and the Punisher.  This series has been very well-written by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack, and has terrific art by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz.  The revelation of the new DD’s identity did not come as a surprise, having been pretty heavily telegraphed a few issues ago, but everything else about this book was bang-on.

Mara #4 – Mara Prince, once athletic hero and now super-powered pariah, takes a brief sojourn with the military in this issue, before striking out on her own.  Brian Wood is using this series to ask just how many self-absorbed, celebrity teenagers would, if they were to suddenly develop super-powers, suddenly begin to use them as heroes.  This is a contemplative and minimalist series, as Wood allows his themes to play out quickly, without much drama.  I’m really enjoying Ming Doyle’s artwork.

Nightwing #19 – When this series started, under Kyle Higgins’s pen, I was surprised that I liked it so much, having never really cared for Nightwing before.  Higgins and artist Eddy Barrows developed an interesting approach to Dick as an acrobat and as someone who was trying to create an identity for himself separate from his role as Bruce Wayne’s ward, while remaining an integral member of the Bat-Family.  Now, Dick has moved to Chicago (where, for some reason, police shoot at him when they see him) trying to track down the man who killed his parents, and is angry at Batman for the reasons that were never made convincing in the Death of the Family storyline.  This issue, which sets Dick up in Chicago, is a little hard to swallow in places, but the biggest problem with this book is the art by Brett Booth.  I remember being aware of him back in the days of bad Image comics, and I’m sorry to see that he has barely grown as an artist since the 90s.  All of his characters look to be about 20 years old, including Tony Zucco, who has an adult daughter.  Many of his pages are stiff and awkward, and the combined effect of his art and the magnitude of event-driven changes to the simple and interesting approach Higgins started this series with have led me to decide that it’s time to jump ship on this book.  Soon, I wonder how many DC books I’ll be buying…

Revival #9 - I really wonder what the long-range plan for Revival must look like.  With each new issue, Tim Seley is introducing a few more characters and story elements, but very little is getting resolved (although I’m guessing that the story with the three brothers won’t last much longer, after this issue).  I’m quite enjoying watching this story play out, and am always happy for regular doses of Mike Norton’s art.

The Sixth Gun #30 – A new arc, ‘Ghost Dance’ begins here, as Drake, Becky, and their crew are being held by some Native tribes who have been sent to find them after receiving visions about them.  Also on hand is the old guy from the New Orleans swamps.  The Natives are trying to cure Becky of some rather existential issues, while Missy Hume’s crew, bolstered by her mother-in-law’s lizard people, are closing in.  I don’t think that description is adequate in explaining how awesome this book is.  Just take my word for it.

The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun #3 – As much as I like these books, I wish that they could be scheduled so they don’t come out in the same week – it’s too much of a good thing, followed by too long a spell in between.  Anyway, this month the spotlight is on Will Arcene, who owns the gun that shoots fire.  As it turns out, he’s a much worse character than his brothers in arms, as we learn a little about his upbringing in this straight-up horror comic.  It’s good, but not as good as the parent title.

Thief of Thieves #13 – It’s been a while since the last issue came out, but the reader is instantly tossed back into the action as Redmond and his son have to escape a building crawling with cops and FBI, and also make their escape from the cartel, which they are less successful at.  This is always a pretty taut series, and as the issues between father and son come further into the spotlight, it gets better and better.

Wonder Woman #19I really like how the Wonder Woman team embraced the potential silliness of the WTF cover gimmick to deliver a bit of a surprise.  This issue serves as an epilogue to the long story about Zeus’s lastborn, while also setting up the coming conflict with Zeus’s firstborn child, who is making an alliance with Neptune and Hell.  I love Brian Azzarello’s take on the Greek gods, and love this book.  I’m sad to see a few members of Diana’s entourage (family?  army?) go, but completely trust in what Azzarello has planned.  This is my favourite New 52 title.

X-Factor #254 – Whenever Peter David gets into his longer arcs, I find my enjoyment of the book drops precipitously.  That’s where we are right now, with the team still figuring out how to deal with the war between the various lords of various Hells, and me wondering why I still buy the book.  The thing is, I know that the aftermath issue of this arc, where the team stands around being rude to each other, is going to be gold.  I just have to wait it out.

X-Men Legacy #9 – Regardless of your feelings about this book, you have to admire Marvel for publishing such a different and unique take on the mutant corner of their universe.  In this issue, Legion and Blindfold go on a date on the moon, where Legion tries to convince her that they have to put a stop to a superhero before he tries to kill all mutants.  I like the way Simon Spurrier spins out this story, and that this book is so hard to predict.

X-O Manowar #12 – Aric continues to bring devastation to the Vine’s homeworld, and meets a number of descendants of his people who have been kept there as slaves.  This is another good comic in a very solid series.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Age of Ultron #6

Black Beetle #3

Bloodshot #10

Cable and X-Force #7

Captain America #6

Iron Man #8

Savage Wolverine #4

Superior Spider-Man #8

Wolverine and the X-Men #27AU

Bargain Comics:

Bloodshot #7This is a flashback issue, showing how Project Rising Spirit had been using Bloodshot to track down Psiots over the years (always, somehow, in Manila).  I’ve been avoiding this title, as the first five or six issues didn’t do much to impress me, but this issue does help inform what’s going on in Harbinger Wars, and features some nice art by Matthew Clark and Stefano Gaudiano.

Detective Comics #18 – Aside from the clearly editorially-mandated images of Bruce standing by Damian’s grave, this is one of the better issues of Detective I’ve read since John Layman starting writing it.  The Penguin figures out that Ogilvy, his former aide-de-camp, has taken his money, property, and identity, and he begins to fight back, rather badly, while Mr. Zsasz enjoys his time away from Arkham.  This is decent stuff – were the book not $4 a month, I’d probably be buying it.

Legends of the Dark Knight #3 – This issue of DC’s digital-first Bat-book is pretty decent, at least until you think about it.  I’m not the biggest fan of writer Steve Niles, but I do like Trevor Hairsine’s art, so I gave this a shot.  The Joker escapes mere hours after being locked up (after conveniently being placed in a cell that has a model revolving door and wrapping paper in it), and this causes Batman to question his effectiveness.  Conveniently, and for reasons I don’t understand, Gotham PD updating their computer files means that Commissioner Gordon calls Batman to come pick up bags of mail that they had been storing for him for years, and this in turn inspires him to continue with his mission.  I’m surprised that Batman only gets thank-you letters, and not requests for help.  Also, I kind of question when Niles wrote this story.  Hand-written letters and a corded red phone made me feel like I was reading a comic from the 80s.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Annotated Mantooth

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Andy Kuhn and Tim Fisher

I think most readers aren’t aware of the fact that Matt Fraction was bumping around the independent circuit for quite a while before getting noticed and published by Marvel, where he has become one of their main writers.  Some of his early work, likeLast Of The Independents andFive Fists Of Science are terrific, and Casanova is sublime.  And then there’s Mantooth.

There were three Mantooth stories told as part of an anthology series at Image, which were later collected and published alongside their script pages and with Fractions annotations in The Annotated Mantooth.  This extra material was needed in order to justify calling this book a trade paperback; otherwise, it would be just a little longer than a regular comic.

Rex Mantooth is a talking gorilla trained in kung fu and making things ‘splode.  He has a sexy human agent girlfriend, and he goes on James Bond-style missions for the US government.  In the course of these three issues, he fights an Oprah Winfrey stand-in who is training an army of beautiful lesbians, a gigantic Nazi robot called World’s Greatest Grandpa, Adolf Hitler in Fu Manchu drag, and an evil scientist who turns a room full of Nobel Prize winners into zombies.  I’ll admit, zombie Stephen Hawkings is pretty funny.

If all of this sounds a little familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it all before.  There has, over the last fifteen or so years, been a movement to develop ‘awesome’ as a genre.  It’s where humour books like Axe Cop and Buddy Cops belong, but you could argue it also contains titles like Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy.  ‘Awesome’ comics are created by cartoonists who look for the wildest idea they can find, and mash it up with some slightly less wild ideas, irregardless of character or logical plotting.  It can be fun, but it doesn’t stick with you.

If that’s your kind of thing, you’d probably like Mantooth.  It is a fun read, but it out Michael Bay’s Michael Bay.  You can kind of see the seeds that grew into Casanova here, and it’s always entertaining to check out a creator’s earlier work, but this is not a classic.

Album of the Week:

BonoboNorth Borders – I’ve only recently become exposed to Bonobo’s work.  This new album is less down-tempo (more up-tempo?) than his previous work, but still quite lovely.  A stand-out is the track that features Erykah Badu.  Recommended, if you like electronic music, and the Ninja Tune aesthetic.

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The Weekly Round-Up #172 with The Private Eye, Chew, DHP, Five Ghosts, Mind MGMT, Revival, Saga, Storm Dogs & More Tue, 26 Mar 2013 12:00:38 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

The Private Eye #1

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Marcos Martin
The easiest way to get me to overcome my dislike of reading comics on my computer?  Tell me that there’s a new digital-only series by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin.  Want to sweeten the deal even more?  Tell me that it’s being offered as a ‘pay what you can’ purchase.

The Private Eye, available here, is a pretty excellent comic.  Vaughan posits a world where the Internet has been abandoned after everyones’ personal information was made available to everyone, causing bankruptcies, divorces, and a ton of embarrassment.  In this future, everyone has become so concerned with their privacy that they wear disguises whenever they leave their homes.  Some of these disguises are mundane, making a person just look like another person, while others wear elaborate costumes (one guy has a fish face) or expensive holographic rigs to hide their true faces.In this environment, which is explained very naturally over the course of the issue, we meet a PI, also called a Paparazzi, in this world where the 4th Estate has some sort of policing role, who specializes in uncovering peoples’ real identities.  At the beginning of the issue he is staking out a young woman, photographing her real face for a man who has been in love with her since high school.

Later, he is asked by a woman with a tiger face, to investigate her background, as she is applying for one of the few jobs which require a background security check.  Of course, there’s a lot more going on with her than what the PI is told, but this is just the first issue, so we don’t know what that’s going to be yet.

Vaughan takes a slow, organic approach to explaining how things work in this world.  Most of the issue leaves us in the dark, until the PI has to talk to his senile grandfather, who clearly used to be a hipster when he was younger (i.e., in our time).  The PI, who sometimes goes by the code-name Patrick Immelmann, is an interesting character.  He has quite the collection of memorabilia, and is shown reading Joseph Heller. Martin shows us around his office, where books by Barack Obama and Henry Miller share prominence with Freakonomics.

Martin is always an exciting artist, although he is only given one opportunity to cut loose in an early chase sequence.  Still, this is a visually exciting comic, and I’m very pleased by the fact that there are nine more instalments to come.  Go check this out – and make sure you throw some money the creators’ way.

Other Notable Comics:

Chew #32

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

I feel like I could never get tired of reading Chew, especially an issue as dense and meaty as this one.

Tony and his FDA compatriots are called out to assist a group of USDA agents, who are completely swamped by a string of attacks by members of the Immaculate Ova Cult, who have sworn to kill all chicken eaters.  Tony and his crew show up at a Mexican fast food joint, where a torta-espadero is killing agents using shuriken-shaped tortillas.

Tony handles this problem, and returns to the office to continue his investigations into the whereabouts of the cibopathic ‘vampire’ who killed someone close to him, while Colby and Caesar stop of at a chicken speakeasy for a little lunch.

This is a pretty pivotal issue for a few reasons.  First, Colby figures out that Caesar is still working with his (and Chu’s) former partner Savoy, who has been set up all along as a villain in the book.  Colby has been steadily becoming a more complex character, and this issue really sees him grow.  The second pivotal event happens when Tony’s boss gets on his case one time too many – it’s a scene that made me want to cheer.

Layman and Guillory have taken this series, with its very odd central concept, and made it a very character-driven title.  While this is a humour comic, these characters have real weight to them, which makes the stakes in recent issues feel ever higher.

Dark Horse Presents #22

Written by Howard Chaykin, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Michael Avon Oeming, Geoffrey Thorne, Denis Medri, Mike Richardson, Patrick Alexander, Simon Roy, Jason Wordie, Kel McDonald, Shannon Wheeler, and Steve Moncuse
Art by Howard Chaykin, Steve Lieber, Michael Avon Oeming, Todd Harris, Denis Medri, Geof Darrow, Patrick Alexander, Simon Roy, Kel McDonald, Shannon Wheeler, and Steve Moncuse

It’s not easy to give up on an anthology title, especially one that serializes stories over many months, but I think I just might be done with Dark Horse Presents.  Increasingly, I haven’t found the stories on offer as interesting as they were when this series was relaunched about two years ago, and Dark Horse has made it pretty clear that most of these stories are going to be reprinted in ‘zero’ issues or as one-shots, which makes me wonder why I’m paying $8 a month for a fair amount of content that I’m not all that interested in reading.  Were Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series still running, I wouldn’t even be thinking about jumping ship, as I consider paying $8 for 8 pages of her work completely reasonable, on the off chance that something else in the package would strike my fancy.

This issue, the story I enjoyed the most was the continuation of Simon Roy’s Tiger Lung, which is an indigenous spiritual adventure.  I have been a fan of Roy’s since buying his Jan’s Atomic Heart from him at TCAF a few years ago, and I’m always happy to find more of his work.

Howard Chaykin, who is not a creator I’m overly fond of, did entertain me with his alternate history about George Custer (he becomes President and declares war on Canada!), although I can’t tell if this was a one-off or if there will be more to come.

Journeymen, by Geoffrey Thorne and Todd Harris, is interesting, with its pirates, monsters, and teleportation, but I’m not sure I’m following the whole thing properly.  Arcade Boy, by Denis Medri, is kind of cute.

The interview between Mike Richardson and Geof Darrow was interesting enough, as they share their remembrances of terrible jobs for ad companies in the 70s, and talk about meeting Moebius, but it was the kind of self-serving stuff that tanked Creator-Owned Heroes.  I’d rather have just seen more Darrow art.

Beyond that, I found this issue pretty lacklustre, and not really worth talking about.

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1

Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Chris Mooneyham

I figured that it was an easy bet to take a chance on Five Ghosts, a new Image mini-series.  The writer, Frank J. Barbiere has caught my eye with his ‘White Suits’ stories in Dark Horse Presents, which deal with a mysterious Russian mafia.  The artist, Chris Mooneyham is new to me, but he has a style that reminds me a little of a cross between John Watkiss and Francesco Francavilla, with a little Frank Robbins tossed in, which is an interesting mix, giving this book a bit of a retro look to it.

The story is about Fabian Gray, a ‘treasure hunter’ who was somehow possessed by five ‘literary ghosts’ after touching an artifact.  Now, how exactly literary characters can exist as ghosts (outside of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s Unwritten) is not very clear, but it does give Gray the ability to tap into the knowledge and special skill sets of Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, some wizard (Merlin?) and a samurai (that one stumped me).

The story is set in the Second World War, and after an Indiana Jones-like opening sequence in a Nazi castle, followed by a little canoodling with his client, Gray hangs out with his advisor, before getting all possessed and crazy.  We learn that there are forces coming for Gray, and then he and his friend get shot down in Africa by spider-eyed Zulu warriors, or something like that.

I don’t have a great handle on this book right now.  I like the art a lot, but am having some problems in following the story.  Perhaps a second read would help.  As it stands, I’m not all that sure if I’m going to stick with the title, but I would like to give it a second chance to impress me.  I think I was expecting something a little more literary (and yes, I know that Iago is in it), and maybe read this in the wrong mindstate.  I’ll give it another go before the second issue comes out and see how I feel about it then.

If you’re looking for an interesting adventure, you could do worse.

Mind MGMT #9

by Matt Kindt

I can’t think of another new title that accomplishes what Mind MGMT does on a monthly basis.  Matt Kindt is telling his large story on a number of different levels, showing us the main story of what is happening to Meru, Henry Lyme, and the small but growing group of ex-Mind MGMT agents that are helping them to try to foil the plans of The Eraser, but also filling in the background of the agency, and introducing us to a number of its agents through short strips at the front and back of the book.

In this issue, Meru and her crew survive the attack on Dusty, an ex-agent with music-based powers’s mansion, and try to use his half of a map to find Shangri-La, the former base of operations of Mind MGMT.  We learn that, despite the agency being defunct for a few years, Dusty has recently received missions.  We also become a little more intrigued about the often-mentioned figure Duncan, who we can imagine has some sort of beef with Lyme, but who is also likely to be essential to this mission’s survival.  Meru is getting closer to figuring out (again) her relationship with Lyme, as she becomes more and more convinced that she has had her memory wiped.

One thing that is really cool about this issue is the way in which Kindt shows us Dusty’s history, through the tracks of his first album.  The first letter of each song title spells out a message, furthering the use of subliminal information which is a theme in this comic.  Also of interest is the way in which the text from Meru’s book (which runs up the left-hand side of most pages) intersects with her own experiences.

Mind MGMT is one of the more impressive comics on the stands.

Revival #8

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Revival, Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s rather involved series about a town where the dead came back to life, not as zombies but more or less as the people they once were, continues to sprawl and grow with each new issue.  Rather than making this a very focused, and limited, series that centres itself on the police procedural aspects of the story, Seeley is using the strange event of Revival Day to explore a number of facets of human, and particularly American, behaviour and culture.

This issue moves a little further into the politics of the situation.  Both the right and the left want to make use of the town of Wausau Wisconsin, and we learn that the Mayor of the town has some kind of hold over the Sheriff, who is the father of the two main characters.

Seeley touches base on a number of on-going plots, such as the difficulty of policing the quarantine zone, and Martha’s adjustments to her new role as a Reviver.  The hunt for Reviver murderer Anders is called off by the Mayor, and May, the young reporter, tries to trick her way into interviewing local fitness legend Lester Majak about his involvement with the ‘exorcist’ who tried to kill her and Martha.

We also meet some new characters at a gay bar, and are introduced to a couple at the end of the issue who are anything but normal.

I’ll admit that I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of all the various sub-plots in this title (a character sheet would be helpful), but I am enjoying this book very much.  It is a strange mash-up of The Walking Dead, Twin Peaks, and Picket Fences or maybe Fargo, and it has wonderful art by Mike Norton.

Saga #11

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

It’s another issue of Saga, which means it’s time to find a new way to praise a series that is consistently wonderful.  Maybe it’s not needed?  Saga is becoming synonymous with quality after all.  Maybe its sufficient to just give a short recap.

This issue opens with a flashback to the night that Hazel was conceived; it seems that Vaughan and Staples try to open each new issue with a splash page that people are going to find shocking, at least in a mid-American Wal-Mart.  I don’t really think it’s necessary, but it’s usually kind of fun (and this month, sexy).

After that, we see how Marko and Alana’s family escape from the perilous gravity-space-baby thing that showed up last issue.  To get their wooden, living rocket ship out of harm’s way, both Marko and his father have to resort to some rather extreme measures, both of which have consequences that are going to affect the family for some time to come.

On The Will’s ship, he performs a rescue of Lying Cat, who got sucked out to space (apparently exposure to space is not much of an issue for these guys), and argues a little with Marko’s ex.

Really, this is a pretty quick read this month, but as always, the book is absolutely lovely, and filled with good character work.  As always, I enjoyed it immensely.

Storm Dogs #4

Written by David Hine
Art by Doug Braithwaite

Storm Dogs is a rare comics series.  It’s an intelligent, thoughtful science fiction title with fantastic art, that features detailed world building, well-developed characters, and a number of surprises and twists on its way through the story.  It’s the kind of science fiction that I wish would show up on TV and in movies; something engaging, balanced, and with relevance to our world.  In some ways, this is Avatar done correctly, but that seems a little reductionist.

So much has happened in this series that I find it hard to believe that we are only four issues into things.  This issue opens with Sheriff Starck fighting with his deputy, Bronson, who he has decided is involved in at least one, if not all of the murders that have brought a special group of investigators to the planet of Amaranth.  Bronson goes to the mining consortium that he has secretly been working for to lick his wounds, and to help them in their interrogation of a Joppa, the race that seems to run things on the planet.  There is some sort of secret that the Joppa are keeping about some mysterious gems.

Our heroes, the investigative team being led by Cassandra Burroughs, make their way to a village of Elohi, a group that are roughly analogous to minimally-contacted tribes that live in the Amazon, where they are hoping to learn more about the work of the anthropologist, Professor Sarlat, who once stayed with them.  This leads in turn to more mysteries.

We also get to learn a little more in this issue about the wireheads – people who rent out their body so that others can move and manipulate them.  This practice is illegal in the rest of the Union, but appears to be tolerated on Amaranth.

In the letters’ page, Hine talks about having the story prepared for a second mini-series, and discusses the potential for much more Storm Dogs, if the demand warrants it.  I hope that this series gets the chance to continue to run, as Hine and Braithwaite have built an interesting world, with the potential for many more stories.  Reading the text pieces show that this is a fully realized universe he’s setting his stories in, and it’s one I would like to learn a lot more about.  Please check out this series.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #9Just when I thought it might be time to start buying this book regularly, Brian Michael Bendis gives us the most Bendisian issue to date, as the original X-Men squabble with Kitty Pryde after an overly-long Danger Room sequence, and Jean Grey starts to look kind of evil, with motivations that are hard to understand or reconcile with how she was being portrayed just a few issues ago.  It felt like this issue was spinning its wheels waiting for the last page, so it could coincide with last week’s issue of Uncanny X-Men.  Marvel could have just skipped this whole issue pretty safely.  This does not bode well for me and this title…

Avengers #8 – Continuing with his integration of the old New Universe characters into the Marvel Universe (by way of Warren Ellis’s aborted newuniversal), Jonathan Hickman has the Avenger’s strike team face off against the new Starbrand.  This is a pretty quick-moving issue, with some very nice art by Dustin Weaver, but I can’t help but wonder if there wouldn’t have been a way to explain what’s going on without relying on such confusing explanations.  I also wondered if it really makes sense to have a Hulk on the team…

Batwoman #18 – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this issue, which is the first after the epic-length Medusa story ran its course.  JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman plot this one rather strangely – Batwoman is now working with her cousin Hawkfire (I still want to call her Firehawk), but each of them receive their orders from different people at the other side of their earpieces.  They fight Mister Freeze, and Batman has a cameo.  Later, Maggie Sawyer goes house-hunting, and Bones and Cameron Chase make nefarious plans for Batwoman, which involve the return of someone Chase hasn’t seen for a couple of years, in one of the worst issue endings I’ve seen in ages.  The pacing of this book is very poor, mostly because of the ending, but Trevor McCarthy, who I assume is now the new regular artist, does a terrific job of maintaining the general look and feel of Williams III’s run, keeping me visually engaged in the whole issue.

BPRD Hell on Earth #105Two people return to the BPRD this month, and both made me very happy.  The first is Abe Sapien, albeit only in a very short scene, but I’ve missed BPRD’s central character over the half year or so.  The second is artist Peter Snejbjerg, whose monthly absence from store shelves is something I can never understand (although I hope it’s by his choice, and not because his work is underappreciated).  There’s a lot going on in the Mignola-verse these days, and I like the increased profile given to the Russian counterpart to the BPRD; this issue deals with the current location of Varvara, the young girl who used to run the organization, and also used to appear to Professor Bruttenholm.

Conan the Barbarian #14 – Another excellent issue, as Conan leads a small group through the walls of the fortress that the army he was pressed into is laying siege to, while continuing to pine for Bêlit.  Mirko Colak’s art is wonderful, and Brian Wood’s writing is tight and introspective.  This is a wonderful series.

Daredevil #24 – Once again, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee turn in an excellent issue of Daredevil.  Most of the focus is on Foggy’s cancer diagnosis, as he prepares for a procedure to learn how advanced (and therefore fatal) his cancer is, while Matt tries to make up with his DA friend, and the people who have been messing with him take another try, this time sending enhanced dogs to his offices.  Solid stuff all around.

Elephantmen #47 – Richard Starkings continues to take his plot into strange territory, as Hip Flask, Ebony Hide, and Trench are sent to the Moon to investigate the source of the virus-ridden meteors that struck ages ago (number-wise), and discover a Chinese installation that is not as abandoned as they thought.  I seriously don’t remember the ‘Elephantmen as astronaut’ story element before a few issues back, when we learned that Hip and his people had visited Mars, and I’m wondering if Starkings is actively retconning his own title.  Weird plot pacing aside, Elephantmen continues to be a solid source of strong character-driven writing, and with Axel Medellin drawing, is always lovely.

Harbinger #10I’ve been a big fan of this title since it started, but the presence of four different pencillers made me feel like I was reading a DC comic  Peter and his group arrange their escape from Project Rising Spirit, and that’s about all that happens this issue, as Joshua Dysart positions the book to be ready for the Harbinger Wars cross-over, which I rather would like to skip, seeing as I’m not as big a fan of the Bloodshot title this is tying into.

Indestructible Hulk #5 – I was enjoying the beginning of Mark Waid’s new take on the Hulk, but the last two issues have left me a little cold.  The whole Lemuria plot felt very forced, and I found it distracted from the new approach of making Banner a SHIELD scientist.  I’d say I’m done with the title, but the next two issues are drawn by Walter Simonson, so I’ll probably stick around to check those out.

Invincible #101 – In the aftermath of the last issue, people are working to put their lives back together.  Invincible shows up to help out with reconstruction, but not to a very warm welcome from his fellow heroes, while his father has to live under Cecil’s terms if he is to stay near the Earth.  As always with this title, Robert Kirkman has a lot of characters to juggle, and spends most of the issue checking in on them, but it is all very readable and enjoyable.

New Avengers #4 – As a new incursion begins, the Avengers Illuminati attempt to implement their plans, although they are not ready.  This has been a very talkative series since it began, and simply based on the appearances of Captain America (pre-Marvel NOW!), Reed Richards and Iron Man (early Marvel NOW!, before they both went off into space), and Beast (most recent appearance) this book does not fit anywhere easily within Marvel’s continuity.  Setting all of that aside, there is something very cool about Namor laughing in the face of cosmic doom, and something rather thrilling about the appearance of Galaktus and Terrax this issue.  Jonathan Hickman is doing good work here, but like the main Avengers title, it’s a little lacking in heart, although a strong scene between Dr. Strange and Wong does work to fill that gap.

Nightwing #18I’d felt like I’d stuck around this title a little too long, and have had that confirmed as Dick grieves for Damian, and then decides to uproot and move to a new city, to track down a figure from his distant past who everyone thought was dead.  It’s all pretty humdrum, and Juan José Ryp’s art looks very phoned-in, especially compared to the work he’s been doing in Clone.  I think I pre-ordered the next issue of this title, but after that, I’m done.  It’s too bad – for a while there, this was a pretty interesting title.

Star Wars Legacy (Vol. 2) #1 – John Ostrander’s Star Wars Legacy series brought me back into the franchise after some twenty years away.  His vision of the future of the Star Wars universe, set over a hundred years after the end of Return of the Jedi gave us Star Wars as it should have always been – without cutesy droids and furry aliens, focussing instead on high adventure (and perhaps a little too much Jedi mysticism).  Now, the timeline, if not the central characters, are being revived and put in the very capable hands of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, the duo who have been doing amazing work at Boom on Planet of the Apes.  Even better though?  Hardman is drawing this title!  This series follows the descendent of Han Solo and Leia Organa; Ania Solo is a junk dealer at the far end of the galaxy, until she comes across a lightsaber lost by one of the Imperial Knights after a surprise Sith attack.  Most of this issue is set-up, as Bechko and Hardman bring us up to speed on galactic politics and the types of projects being undertaken by the new government to unite the galaxy under a banner of peace.  I was pretty impressed with this first issue, and am happy that I’ll be able to revisit this well-constructed time period with such fantastic creators.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #21 – Following Venom’s attack at his his home, which injured his dad, Miles tries to figure out what he needs to do, and is aided by Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacey.  A very good issue, that works as a bit of a rest in the middle of a big story.

Wonder Woman #18DC’s best comic continues to please me, as Diana fights Hermes for the fate of Zola’s child (with Orion at her side), Ares acts out of character, and the first son of Zeus has it out with Poseidon.  It’s a lovely issue, with a cobbled-together melange of artists who I admire, including Goran Sudzuka, Tony Akins, and Cliff Chiang showing up to tie it all up.  It feels like Brian Azzarrello’s first long arc on this title is finally finished, and I look forward to seeing where he takes things next.

X-Factor #253 – More Hell on Earth War means more middle of the road X-Factor, as the team is too swept up in grand events in the various underworlds of the Marvel Universe to be of any particular interest.

X-O Manowar #11 – Reading this book, I was once again reminded of what an incredible artist Cary Nord is – he illustrates the history of The Vine, the aliens who captured and tortured Aric for millennia, and lays out each page wonderfully.  Another solid issue in what has been an exceptionally solid series.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Action Comics #18

Cable and X-Force #6

Captain America #5

Savage Wolverine #3

Superior Spider-Man #6

Bargain Comics:

Batgirl Annual #1This team-up featuring Batgirl, Catgirl, and a female Talon (who apparently is in the Birds of Prey) is a pretty decent read, with some very nice art by Admira Wijaya.  I have no idea what the relationship between Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle is in the New 52, and this didn’t shed a whole lot of light on that, but it was entertaining enough.  The mute Talon reminded me a little of when Cassandra Cain was Batgirl – I wonder if that was intentional.  I have never been overly impressed by Gail Simone’s Batgirl, and this didn’t do a whole lot to change my mind.

Punisher War Zone #1 – Greg Rucka on Punisher has been an impressive thing.  He knows that the story is not in Frank Castle himself, but in how others react to him, and construct his legend.  This issue is really as much a Spider-Man comic as it is a Punisher one; Spidey goes up against him, and then decides that it’s time for the Avengers to take him down.  I’m kind of kicking myself for not having bought all of this mini-series as it was hitting the stands – Rucka does good work, and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is lovely.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

by Shigeru Mizuki

Take a moment and think about how the West has portrayed Japanese soldiers of the Second World War in films, novels, and other media.  The image that immediately comes to my mind is of tenacious fighters who attack suddenly, and who never give up an inch of ground.  I can’t think of a single movie I’ve seen or book I’ve read that gets into the Japanese perspective though.

That’s why I was excited to crack open Sigeru Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, the collection of a manga story that was originally serialized in 1973.

This book is, according to the author, 90% true.  Mizuki was stationed on New Britain, an island in the Papua New Guinean archipelago, and was home to some fierce fighting between the Japanese and the Americans.  Mizuki introduces us to a number of characters of all ranks, and shows the boredom of the soldiers awaiting an Allied attack.

Much of this book is given over to portraying the officers as dehumanizing the men under their command.  Barely a page goes by where someone isn’t being slapped or beaten simply because of their lower rank.  The men have their time wasted by officers looking to keep them busy, and the men slowly lose all sense of respect for the war effort in general.  When it becomes clear that the soldiers holding an area around Baien have no hope of success, their leaders decide that the appropriate course of action is to attack the Americans in a frontal suicide charge.

Some of the men survive this, and make their way to their larger forces, far to the rear of the fighting.  That they survived is seen as something between an inconvenience and a complete insult.  Their deaths have been reported to military command, and so it is necessary for them to attack again, ensuring their fate is what their commanders expect.

This book lays bare the problems of Japan during the war.  The need for honor, and for keeping up appearances sent men to needless deaths, while doing nothing to halt the Allied advance.  Mizuki does a terrific job of humanizing this senseless slaughter, and portraying it in a light, enjoyable fashion.

Mizuki’s art is very interesting.  His backgrounds and establishing shots are exceptionally detailed and photo-realistic, while his figures are drawn in a very simple, cartoonish style.  Many of the characters look like the racially stereotypical drawings of the Japanese seen in American comics of the war period, which kind of surprised me.

I enjoyed reading this book a great deal.  None of the characters, with the possible exception of the doctor, stuck with me, although that is something that often happens to me when I read war comics; all of the characters are usually so similar that as individuals, they don’t matter.  Which was more or less the point of the Japanese command.

Shutterbug Follies

by Jason Little

Having read and enjoyed Jason Little’s second ‘Bee’ graphic novel,Motel Art Improvement Service, about a year ago, I set out to find his first book featuring his nosy young heroine.

Shutterbug Follies is a quick-paced a romp, but it is also a much more inconsistent graphic novel with more than a few problems that were never properly explained.

We are rather quickly introduced to Bee, an intelligent eighteen year old who works at a photo developing shop (this book came out in 2002, when I guess people still actually had film in their cameras and developed it).  Bee likes to keep copies of the stranger photos she develops, and shares them with her best friend, who is only a slight presence in the book.  One day, a man named Oleg Khatchatourian comes in asking for his pictures to be developed, and he warns Bee that they might be a little grisly.

As it turns out, Khatchatourian is a well-known fine arts photographer who specializes in Weegee-like portraits of recently murdered people.  For some reason, Bee becomes a little obsessed with him, and starts researching everything she can about his life.  She discovers that his wife was recently killed in an accident involving a hansom cab, and so Bee is off to prove that Khatchatourian is really her killer.  Through a series of unbelievable coincidences, she becomes friendly with Khatchatourian’s assistant, and a cab driver who is happy to help her trail the guy.

Eventually, Bee discovers that Khatchatourian has ties to the Russian mafia, and that his wife was poisoning their son in a Munchausen by proxy scenario that goes nowhere.  Likewise, she discovers that the artist’s assistant is a peeping tom, but that goes nowhere either.  Most difficult to understand is why Khatchatourian would need to have photos developed at her shop, seeing as he has a completely operational darkroom in his two-story apartment, along with an assistant whose only job is to develop his pictures.

It was these kinds of inconsistencies which really drew me out of the story.  Also, Bee’s character is not developed very much at all – had I not known who she was from the second book, I’d have found it hard to care at all about the character in this book.  Little’s art is nice, but the story needed a lot more work.

Album of the Week:

Spiritual Jazz 4: Americans in Europe Model, Esoteric and Progressive Jazz from the European Underground 1963-1979 – I can’t stress enough how much I have loved Jazzman Records’s Spiritual Jazz series, but this newest edition, a double-disc set, feels like it’s taking things to a whole new level.  Beautiful, rare groove music in a very nicely designed package.

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The Weekly Round-Up #164 with Chew, Bedlam, DHP, Prophet, Saucer Country & More Mon, 28 Jan 2013 15:00:59 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Chew #31

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory
In the last issue of Chew, John Layman did something that has permanently changed the tone of this title, as a tragedy was visited on the Chu family.  This issue follows up on that event, returns the series to its roots, and also gives a clear indication of where the second half of the story is going to lead.

That’s a lot to do in a single issue of a comic, especially considering that Layman and Guillory also fit in some very funny scenes and images.

The book opens with the funeral of the family member killed last month (I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers for any trade-waiters who may be reading), which also causes Tony to flash back to his wife’s funeral.  This is significant because we haven’t really learned much about Tony’s marriage, other than that Tony keeps his wife’s finger in his freezer.  At the funeral, the Chu family solidifies around Tony, something that has probably never happened before.  Also, surprisingly, he gets reinstated in the FDA, and partnered up with Colby again.

Soon they are back on the job, trying to figure out why overweight people have been combusting spontaneously.  This in turn leads the two agents to discover a larger plot taking place.

As always, Guillory makes this book, and he even makes a cameo in a scene at a comics convention.  I like the change in tone the first half of this issue shows, but also that the book returns almost immediately to the light-hearted tales that marked the first year and a half of the run.  This book is always great, but I do believe that it’s getting steadily better.

Other Notable Comics:

Bedlam #3

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Riley Rossmo
Nick Spencer’s new series is a strange one, but I feel like it’s really hit its stride in this issue.  The series is about Madder Red, a Joker-style homicidal maniac, who has gone through ten years of psychiatric treatment, and has been sent back into the world by the strange doctor who treated him.

When this issue opens, he’s confessed to a grisly murder that happened outside his building, but we readers know that he didn’t commit this murder, or the others in a string of killings involving elderly people.  The cops like him for these crimes and others, and he’s interested in helping them investigate the case.  Most of the issue is taken up with him going over homicide files, believing that he’s in some sort of partnership with the Detective in charge of the cases, while she thinks that she’s got the killer, and that he’s toying with her.

It works very well, as Spencer portrays the guy as being off his rocker in a rather simplistic way, like an idiot savant of serial killers.  As the reader knows what’s really going on, without knowing why the real killer is doing these things, the story becomes more and more intriguing, as we hope for mysteries to be solved.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Bedlam, and I don’t like it as much as I do Morning Glories, but at the same time that I’m bored out of my skull with the Joker in Batman, I’m really interested in learning more about Madder Red.

Dark Horse Presents #20

Written by Michael Avon Oeming, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Geoffrey Thorne, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Frank J. Barbiere, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Joshua Williamson, Peter Hogan, Duane Swierczynski, and Carla Speed McNeil
Art by Michael Avon Oeming, Steve Lieber, Todd Harris, Ulises Farinas, Toby Cypress, Gabriel Hardman, Pere Perez, Steve Parkhouse, Eric Nguyen, and Carla Speed McNeil

More and more, I feel like the lustre is coming off this title, as the serials are increasingly being produced in service of introducing upcoming mini-series, and the sense of getting a complete story out of this rather expensive monthly book is drastically diminished.  In addition, I’m not sure I’m happy about the increased presence of superhero-style stories.  That has never been a particular strength of Dark Horse, yet there seems to be a drive to compete in that area again.

This issue features a Victories story by Michael Avon Oeming.  The Victories is either currently running, or just finished running as a mini-series as well, so this story doesn’t feel the need to introduce the characters.  When Oeming writes his own superhero stories, they tend to be pretty bleak (check out his Rapture title of a couple of years ago), and this is no different, with a scene where a father cuts off the head of a dog, and forces it over his own son’s head.  This doesn’t work for me.

I was enjoying the Captain Midnight story, which ends here without an ending, but instead an ad for an upcoming mini-series.  Both Joshua Williamson and Pere Perez have done nice work on this, but I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to get me to buy the book when it comes out.

I do know that I don’t like X, Dark Horse’s answer to the Punisher.  I didn’t like the character in the 90s, and I’m not feeling him here under Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen.

In the non-super hero category, the charm of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Alabaster continues to escape me, although I did like this chapter better than the previous ones.

Journeymen is a new series by Geoffrey Thorne and Todd Harris, and I don’t really have an opinion of it.  I think it needed more space to grow, as it didn’t leave much of an impression either way.

Gamma, the strange story about monsters and cowardice, by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, ends on a very good note, as the story becomes one of redemption.  I feel that Farinas is a creator to watch.

Frank Barbiere’s occasional series ‘The White Suits’ takes a very positive turn with this instalment, which is drawn by the fantastic Toby Cypress.  This time, we get a story about an FBI agent who has dedicated her life to finding her missing father, who she now believes is somehow involved with the White Suits – Russian mobsters of great mystery.  I like how Barbiere has been building the mythology of this group without really telling us anything about them, and I like how he’s been working with a variety of artists.

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s ‘Station to Station’ feels like it could easily fit into the BPRD world, and it continues to work well.

Resident Alien is one of my favourite serials in this series, and while it annoys me that the last three chapters haven’t even told a story, but just follow our good alien doctor through his recovery from his first mini-series, I do enjoy Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s work on this story, and will definitely be there for the next mini-series.

Of course, the best part of this comic is Carla Speed McNeil’s ‘Finder’, which finds Jaeger in a bad place, as he discovers that he’s in a city where everyone is terminally ill, and that they are able to pass their ailments on to another person, namely him.  This is a new type of sin-eating for Jaeger to perform, and I can’t wait to see what McNeil does with it.

I think I would continue to buy this book if Finder is the only story in it I want to read.  Luckily, next month we get Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick working together, which should be exciting.

The Massive #8

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

There is a lot going on under the surface of The Massive that makes this book rather hard to predict, especially since in the eight months since the comic began, we haven’t learned very much about the main characters beyond Callum Israel, the leader of Ninth Wave, the environmental direct action group that the series is focused on.

After a worldwide ecological collapse, the central leadership of Ninth Wave, alongside a number of recruits onboard the Kapital, are searching for their sister ship, The Massive, and trying to keep their operation running.  We’ve already seen the difficulty they’ve faced in securing supplies, and the way in which some members, specifically Mag Nagendra, have wrestled with the group’s pacifistic ideals.  When this issue opens, the crew of The Kapital are aboard Moksha Station, an independent nation made of oil derricks.

Callum is being held in custody by the director of the station, Sumon, while his girlfriend Mary runs about in a storm sabotaging the station’s communications, for reasons we don’t yet know.  Mag is in the bowels of the station, alongside to other members of Ninth Wave, making some kind of deal with a gigantic Russian.  It seems that everyone in the group has their own agenda, and Israel doesn’t seem to know about any of it.

When The Massive began its run, some on-line commentators complained that Brian Wood was cramming too much information into each issue, with his lengthy descriptions of the effects of The Collapse, but I think what he was also doing was obscuring the true designs of some of the crew.  Especially with the surprise that Mary drops at the end of this issue, I’m not too sure where things are headed in this book, and that’s exactly how I like it.

Mind MGMT #7

by Matt Kindt

When the first arc of Mind MGMT ended pretty much exactly where it began, I wondered if the next stories would perhaps not include Meru, the main character.  As it turns out, it looks like Meru will continue to be the centre of this series, as she wakes up in her apartment and realizes that someone has delivered a letter to her on a Sunday.  Since she’s convinced that she has sent a letter to herself, she pursues the guy who delivered it, and is once again sent on a journey of discovery, as she tries to track the original sender down, and is once again apprised of the existence of Mind MGMT.

Eventually, Meru ends up in New York, at the office of someone named Brinks, an adman with the ability to influence people through his work.  Brinks spills the beans, and is then assassinated by a gunman.  Meru is rescued by a familiar figure, and together the two go on the run.  It turns out that someone known as The Eraser is trying to put Mind MGMT back together again, and they see Meru as a threat.

This series is a very good read.  Kindt’s got a great sense of pace, and he continues to fill his pages with information.  Where the first arc had messages from the Mind MGMT training guide running along the left-hand side of each page, this arc is printing the text of a true crime novel called Premeditated, presumably written by Meru.  The bottom of each page (for about half the comic), contains information about the history of assassination letters, which helps inform the main story.  As always, there is also a ‘case file’ at the back of the book, this one introducing the Mind MGMT agent known as Hulk.  I find that many of these extras distract from the main story, but in a good way, as they almost caused me to miss the identity of the person shown following Meru; I guess that means they are doing their job in proper Mind MGMT fashion.

I’m really enjoying this book, and am happy to see that this new arc looks to be just as good as the first.

Prophet #33

Written by Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis

To the extent that you can have a typical issue of Prophet following its rebirth at the hands of Brandon Graham, this would be it.  I don’t want to suggest that this book is falling into a rut, because it remains wildly inventive and original, but there’s not much in this issue that doesn’t feel familiar and predictable, within the confines of the weirdness that Graham has set up for this story.

Old Man Prophet and his crew fly their ship to a rendezvous with the woman armada (it says Amanda in the book, but I think that’s a typo) of the Babel-Horolegion.  These are butterfly-like creatures that travel in living ships that are “a union of thought and form”.  We learn that their ship is being powered by the long-dead body of Supreme, and soon enough, they are attacked by some kind of wave of psychic pain.

One of the many things that I’ve loved about this series is the way in which Graham has taken his time setting up the coming conflict with the Earth Empire, and this issue continues in that vein.  This issue doesn’t really further that plot, and I kind of wonder at its inclusion in the storyline.

At the same time, Graham’s writing is sharp, and Milonogiannis makes use of some very cool designs.

Revival #6

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

It’s kind of surprising to think that Revival has only been running for six issues.  In that time, Tim Seeley has introduced a number of concepts and characters, and has created a pretty well-realized environment for his story to take place in.

Wasau Wisconsin is a small community where the recently deceased have suddenly returned to life.  This is not a zombie comic – most of the Revivalists appear perfectly normal, but there is something wrong with many of them.  An old lady became murderous and deranged, and another appears to have been returned in a comatose state.  There are also glowing alien-looking creatures wandering around the woods who may be spirits, but we really don’t know what their deal is yet.

Our POV character is Dana Cypress, the police officer assigned to manage and and all Revivalist-related cases.  She is called in to investigate the death of a well-known man whose stepsister is a well-known TV personality in the community.  The pair were also in a relationship of some sort, although it’s not too clear who killed him, at least not at first.

Seeley is juggling a lot of balls with this book – something is going on with the older Hmong lady who was attacked by an exorcist, and now people are trying to sneak into the town from outside its quarantine zone.  Mike Norton is always wonderful, and his character-based art goes along way towards making this book successful.  I’m not usually the type to be attracted by a book billed as ‘rural noir’, but this book is definitely working for me.

Saucer Country #11

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Mirko Colak and Andrea Mutti
It was announced recently that Saucer Country, like every Vertigo book that I enjoy not called The Unwritten, is going to be ending in a few issues.  Knowing that, and knowing that Paul Cornell doesn’t have the space to tell the end of the story the way he would like to, I would have expected the pace of these last few issues to pick up, but that is not the case here, as he instead introduces a completely different element to the series.

Michael is Governor Alvarado’s ex-husband, her close friend, and the person that was with her when she was abducted by aliens.  We’ve seen him as a self-pitying drunk, and we know that he has been manipulated to believe that he was behind the recent assassination attempts on Alvarado and her security team.  What we didn’t know is that as a child, he saw and spoke to fairies.

This issue opens with Michael and Arcadia visiting the farmland in Colorado where he grew up.  He talks about how he and his older sister made up imaginary stories about fairies, and how one day, the fairies appeared to them as real creatures.  Their appearance also helped solve a different problem for Michael’s sister.

This is an odd issue.  I’m not sure how it fits into the larger story, which has dealt with alien abduction and governmental conspiracy.  Paul Cornell makes a thematic connection by discussing how the 90s were all about recovered memories of child abuse, while the 10s appear to be about conspiracy at higher levels as a way to explain society’s and individual peoples’ problems.

This issue is drawn by Mirko Colak and Andrea Mutti, who have a very different style than regular series artist Ryan Kelly.  The book looks very nice, but I do prefer the way Kelly draws Arcadia, with a little more weight and gravitas behind her.

I’m sad to hear that this series is ending soon, but I know that I’m going to enjoy what’s left of it.

Stumptown Vol. 2 #5

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

With this issue, The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case comes to a close.  After last issue’s terrific car chase, PI Dex Parios has finished her case, reuniting Mim, the guitar player for the band Tailhook, with her beloved Baby, her guitar.  The skinheads who stole it (the second time) are in custody, and Dex is wondering just what is going to end up happening to her.

As it turns out, Dex is not getting charged, and is instead told rather firmly by the band’s lawyers that her involvement with the group is at an end.  Of course, Dex doesn’t often listen to people, and the fact that she doesn’t know who took the guitar, or why, is bothering her. She convinces Mim and Click, the band’s drummer, and I suspect a future love interest for Dex, to help her try to figure out the drug-smuggling angle that was responsible for Baby’s original disappearance.

This has been a very enjoyable series.  Dex has been less combative than she was in the first volume, but she does remain her prickly self.  Greg Rucka excels at writing strong female characters, and Dex is just that; complex someone you want to keep reading about.

I’m not sure how I feel about Matthew Southworth’s continued experimentation into the colouring (with Rico Renzi) and texturing of the art; his use of markers sometimes leaves the pages feeling a little stiff.  Still, this is a terrific comic, and I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we get to read Volume Three.

Quick Takes:

Avengers #3I really like the fact that Jonathan Hickman found a threat big enough to pull together a huge Avengers team for his first story arc, but also easily enough dealt with that we won’t have to spend six issues seeing them fight it.  Ex Nihilo and the others are handled nicely, as we learn why it’s handy to have Captain Universe on the team.  This book needs a lot more character work, but I think that Hickman has set the title up to be interesting for a good long run.  And, it goes without saying, Jerome Opeña’s work is fantastic.

Banshee Origins – According to the inside cover of this freebie from IDW, there’s a TV show on Cinemax called Banshee, about a weird little town full of Ukranian gangsters and Asian cross-dressers and stuff.  I’ve never heard of this show, and don’t have access to Cinemax up here in Canada, but hey, free comic.  It’s not bad too, as we meet a guy who is figuring out a way to rip off the Ukrainian mob from the inside, and escape with his girlfriend, who is the mob boss’s daughter (of course).  It’s a decent crime comic, even if I’ve read a few times before (I think it was better when it was called Criminal), and I think I’ll look to see if I can find the show on-line.  That’s what free comics are supposed to do, right – lead you to free TV?

Battlefields #3 – Garth Ennis finishes up his Tankies story in this issue, as Sergeant Stiles uses his tank to help a group of soldiers retreat in the face of a massive Chinese advance during the Korean War.  Ennis writes these stories so well – this issue is a tribute to those who have fought against impossible odds, and it works perfectly.

Batwoman #16This was an absolutely gorgeous issue of Batwoman, as the main character and Wonder Woman arrive in Gotham to fight Medusa and the Hydra.  JH Williams gives most of the book’s main cast members a double-page spread and a share of the narration, as we move ever closer to the culmination of this long-running story.  Beautiful stuff.

DC Universe Presents #16 – Marc Andreyko’s story featuring the Blue Devil and Black Lightning wraps up this issue, and it’s enjoyable so far as straight-forward superhero stories go, but it’s not something people will be talking about in a year or two.

FF #3 – It may have taken three issues, but now that the Fantastic Four are well and truly gone (except for a John Storm from the future), the team is starting to come into their own, as Scott tries to get Darla back to the Baxter Building, they chase Internet jerks, and the Moloids begin working their own agenda, which is never good for anyone.  Michael Allred’s art, and especially his use of layout, is fantastic, and Matt Fraction’s clearly having a good time with this book.  I’m not bothering with Fantastic Four, and I’m happy to see that this book can stand on its own.

Harbinger #8 – Peter Stanchek is continuing his tour of the US, looking for other Psiots to activate, and that takes him to a sad crippled boy who lives in his head to a greater degree than the rest of us do.  Peter and crew are attacked by Project Rising Spirit, and things don’t look too good for them.  This is a pretty solid issue of a terrific series.

Nightwing #16I’m really getting bored of this Death of the Family stuff, and I’m questioning the Joker’s multi-tasking abilities, as it seems he’s set up death traps for lots of Bat-related heroes, yet all this stuff would be happening at the same time.  Also, I have to question why we’ve spent almost a year and a half building up the Haly’s Circus aspect of Nightwing’s life, only to wipe it out in this story.  Was that always the plan, or is this another one of Dan Didio and company’s random directives?  With Eddy Barrows leaving this book soon, as well as the general slipping in quality of the story, I may be leaving too…

Number 13 #2 – I think I enjoyed this story more as a serial in Dark Horse Presents, where strangely, the creators gave themselves more space to develop their story.  Thirteen, an amnesiac cyborg, has found a new home among a colony of Fected – mutated humans, but his own people are coming for him, and they are killing anyone they find along their way.  The story moves too quickly, with not enough space between scenes to allow any sense of time passing, resulting in a lack of empathy or identification with the characters.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #20 – I suppose it makes sense that, with Nick Fury in the 616 being made to look just like Samuel L. Jackson, Ultimate Nick Fury would suddenly turn up looking like the Nick Fury we all know and love.  Actually, that probably doesn’t make much sense at all, but there it is, as the Ultimates and SHIELD identify their former leader as a Hydra agent being called Scorpio.  It’s not too clear what side Fury is really playing for though, as he takes out Hawkeye when he is sent in to extract him.  Granted, Hawkeye is wearing the horrible costume he wore in Jeph Loeb’s Ultimates volume, so that alone is grounds for a beat-down.  This book is wavering a little in its focus under Sam Humphries, and I for one, would like to see it get back to the kind of epic-feeling story that Jonathan Hickman was writing on it not all that long ago.

Uncanny Avengers #3You’d think that a book featuring a combined Avengers/X-Men squad, created by Rick Remender and John Cassaday would be a slam dunk, but this book is really very dull.  The Red Skull has gotten himself Charles Xavier’s power, and is using them to turn crowds into murderous anti-mutant mobs, and luckily now mutants are everywhere in New York like it was 2001.  The characters are mostly going through the motions, and the Skull’s group of S-Men are some of the least interesting new villains I’ve seen in ages.  Writing this, I find that I’m having a hard time remembering what happened in this book, that I just finished reading, because it could barely hold my interest.  I don’t know how long I’m going to stick with this title…

Uncanny X-Force #1 – Sam Humphries and Ron Garney launch their new, Marvel NOW! take on this title, and I have to say that the debut was better than I expected.  Storm and Psylocke travel to LA where they meet up with Puck (yay!) to investigate a strange new drug, which is being distributed by Spiral.  We also see Bishop come back to our time (not a good thing, in my opinion – that is once character that needed a good ten years in limbo at least), and some small intrigue between Fantomex and his female clone, Cluster.  I don’t usually like Garney’s art all that much, but it seemed fine here, and I’m pleased to see both Storm and Psylocke dressing a little more sensibly.  I’m definitely curious enough about this series to come back for the next issue.

Winter Soldier #14 – I’m really going to miss Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice on this comic.  While this last story arc has dragged a little (and has been a little late), their work together on this character, along with extraordinary colourist Bettie Breitweiser, has been top notch.  This issue wraps up the mind control sleeper agent storyline, and kind of ends Bucky’s relationship with the Black Widow, setting him up as a complete loner character for incoming writer Jason Latour.

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #3This series continues to be a source of great joy, as the crotchety Dr. Morrow sees that he has no chance to cure his strigoiism but to deal with the people who gave it to him in the first place.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the cure either.  As the issue proceeds, the number of double-crosses pile up like cars on the highway during a white-out, and the story gets ever more entertaining.  Great work all around by Brandon Siefert and Lukas Ketner.

Wolverine and the X-Men #24 – I was ready to drop this book after all the nonsense of the Frankenstein Circus and AVX arcs, but just in time, Jason Aaron writes a near-perfect issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, reminding me of the promise this title held when it debuted.  Various members of the teaching staff go on dates in this issue, while Logan is forced by Storm to reexamine his role in the school, and how he feels about it.  Teen Jean Grey has a good chat with Quentin Quire, and new Ape-Beast visits Abigail Brand.  Also, there is some forward movement in Broo’s story.  Helping things along is the wonderful art by David and Alvaro López, which I prefer very much to Nick Bradshaw’s.  I’m not reading any of the Bendis X-books, and I hope that the titles don’t tie together too closely, but I do think I’m going to stick with this comic a while longer, especially if it stays this good.

Wonder Woman #16 – Unsurprisingly, this issue of Wonder Woman is as good as the fifteen before it.  Lately I’ve been reading (and in a small way writing) about growing dissatisfaction among DC readers with the level of editorial interference and general directionlessness of the New 52, but this book really stands out as the opposite of all of that.  Brian Azzarello has been allowed to chart a path for Wonder Woman that has led her far away from what readers usually expect from the character, and in doing so, he’s made her more interesting than she’s ever been.  This issue has her meeting with one of her half-brothers and the New God Orion to try to track down Zola’s baby, while Zola and Hera run into a few other Olympians, and Zeus’s first son gets into it with some smallish giants.  This book is beautifully drawn (by Cliff Chiang), and is always an interesting read.

X-O Manowar #9Robert Venditti has done a great job of building this series up to this point, where the Vine are poised to wipe out all life on Earth because of the fact that Aric has taken the X-O armor there.  The Vine send in a small force to try to take him out first, and that doesn’t go exactly as they’d hoped.  Most interesting in this issue is that Aric is able to contact the hivemind that the Vine use to communicate.  Trevor Hairsine joins the book with this issue, giving it a grittier look than it had previously, which suits the stakes of this storyline well.  Good stuff.

Young Avengers #1 – There is no book in the Marvel NOW! stable that I was looking forward to reading more than this one.  It pairs the Phonogram creative team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, with Mike Norton thrown in, and features many of the characters from Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers, along with Loki, Marvel Boy/Protector, and Miss America Chavez, from Joe Casey’s underappreciated Vengeance mini-series.  Needless to say, with all these awesome elements, my expectations were quite high, and happily, this is one book that delivers.  Kate Bishop has hooked up with Noh-Varr in space, and are attacked by Skrulls.  Wiccan and Hulkling have a heart to heart talk about being superheroes (“I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth” is probably the greatest line of dialogue I’ve read in years), while Loki and Miss America get into it on top of their building.  So many great moments, a slightly shocking ending, and this book satisfies on every level.  I’m not even going to complain about not getting the Bryan Lee O’Malley variant cover…  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Answer #1

A Plus X #4

Astonishing X-Men #58

Bargain Comics:

Battle Scars #4-6I can’t really get my head around the decision to make the character of Marcus Johnson and then turn him into the new Nick Fury, so that there can be a Samuel L. Jackson look-alike running around the comics and the movies, after which point the character has barely been used.  I know he’s going to be in the upcoming Secret Avengers relaunch, but still, I doubt that there are too many fans who will be joining the comics directly from the movie now.  Still, for all its being the bastard child of corporate interference and editorial fiat, this ended up being a halfway decent comic, which is a testament to the skills of Chris Yost and Scott Eaton.  I kind of like Marcus as he’s shown here, but the decision to pluck out his eye and scar him up still sticks out as being unnecessary.

Batwing #11-14; 0 – I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.  When this title was announced, I praised DC’s commitment to diversity in their line, and was pleased to see that a title would explore the Batman concept, but set it in Africa.  What we’ve gotten instead is a very bland comic that doesn’t really do that at all; instead it sets very traditional superhero stuff in a setting that could be New Orleans as easily as the fictional city of Tinasha.  I feel like Judd Winick has squandered the opportunity to make this comic groundbreaking (and, I suppose, so did DC, as he’s recently been replaced by Fabian Nicieza, although I don’t expect much better from him).  On a positive note, during these issues, at least Batwing has become more self-reliant, and the last two (13 and 14) are the first in this pile that don’t feature guest appearances by American heroes.  Still, this book could have been so much more than this…

Journey Into Mystery #643&644; Mighty Thor #20-22Instead of paying for $4 issues of The Mighty Thor, I opted to drop Journey Into Mystery a few months back when the two books crossed over for ‘Everything Burns’, despite it being one of my favourite Marvel comics at the time.  Digging back into that storyline months later, I realize that was a good decision, and I should have trusted myself more and left the whole thing on the stands.  The problem that plagued Matt Fraction’s run on Thor almost completely poisoned the great work that Kieron Gillen was doing on JIM.  The issue is that he wanted to write epic, sweeping Thor stories, but without spending the time necessary to lay the groundwork and invest in the tale.  Gillen was doing that in his half of the story, planting the seeds back in his earliest issues of JIM, but Fraction would just jump to some big event, expecting readers to care.  For example, when Odin is brought back to help save the day, I had no idea why that was important.  Also, Thor himself is an almost total cipher in this book – he’s there, people talk about him, but he has no personality on display.  It’s great to see Gillen return to writing Loki in Young Avengers this week, as no one has ever written the character so well, but it’s a shame that the end of his solo run with the kid had to end so poorly.  Even Alan Davis art couldn’t quite rescue things…

New Mutants #49 & 50 – Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run on this title became frustrating, as the poorly-executed storylines outnumbered the excellent ones (like when Magma dated Mephisto), and I dropped the book, only to find out it got cancelled two issues later.  These are characters that I feel I grew up with, and have a lot of affection for, and I enjoyed issue 50, which had the team enjoy a nice big barbecue together.  I think it’s a shame that there isn’t a place for this team in the Marvel Universe, but I’m also excited to follow Sunspot and Cannonball to the Avengers, and especially to see more of Dani Moonstar in the upcoming Defenders series.

Album of the Week:

Mixed Blood Majority – Mixed Blood Majority – This group consists of rappers Crescent Moon and Joe Horton spitting over beats by Lazerbeak.  I preordered this as soon as I heard about it because I’m a huge Doomtree fan (where Lazerbeak produces the bulk of the crew’s work), and I was not disappointed.  Many of the beats are familiar, having appeared on Lazerbeak’s Lava Bangers beat cd, but their more street-based lyrics give it a different feel.  In some ways, listening to this reminds me of a lot of the late 90s, early 00s music that was coming out of New York.  It’s worth a listen, especially the eighth track, which features Cecil Otter.

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