Inside Pulse » comeback 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. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:23:16 +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 » comeback 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 #169 Mon, 04 Mar 2013 21:30:20 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

The Massive #9

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

When The Massive, Brian Wood’s post-environmental collapse series began, I thought I had a pretty clear handle on it, and that the book really would be about the search for The Massive, the missing vessel owned by Ninth Wave, the environmental direct action group.  Along the way, I assumed that the crew of the Kapital would explore the new world that Wood has figured out, and that basically, the series would be like the first half of Wood’s other series, DMZ, only set on the ocean.

Then this new arc, ‘Subcontinental’ started, and it became more and more clear that there is a lot more going on in this series, even if I have no idea what it all is yet.  I feel like Wood has been peppering this book with clues to a whole other story, that only a little of which has been revealed now.

The Kapital has come to call at Moksha Station, a community of commandeered oil platforms in the Indian Ocean.  Ninth Wave’s leader, Callum Israel, has been captured by Sumon, the station’s director, after his girlfriend Mary destroyed Moksha’s communication array.  While this is going on, Mag, the Kapital’s third in command, has arranged for some kind of work to be done with a transponder, and his assistant Georg has gone after a nuclear submarine that sits under the station.  Israel knows nothing about any of this, and at the same time, we learn that he is harbouring a pretty big secret of his own.

This series began with a large number of lengthy info dumps, so it’s pretty cool to realize that Wood was really playing his cards close to his vest at the same time.  I’ve been intrigued by this book since it started, but this latest issue has really ramped up my interest.  It’s a very good, very nice-looking series.

Other Notable Comics:

Prophet #34

Written by Brandon Graham with Simon Roy and Matt Sheean
Art by Simon Roy and Malachi Ward

I love Prophet, and all the work that Brandon Graham and his amazing cast of artists have done to take an utterly execrable 90s character and turn him and his story into a sweeping futuristic space epic, but over the last two months, I’ve not been able to stop myself from wondering if the book has fallen into a bit of a rut.

In this issue, we revisit the John Prophet who we first saw in these pages, in Graham and Roy’s earliest issues.  He’s the guy who woke on Earth after millennia of hibernation, and who turned on the GOD satellite, which reawakened the entire Earth Empire.  Since then, we’ve met a number of different Prophet clones on a number of different missions, as well as the original – Old Man Prophet, who is gathering allies to stop the Earth Empire.

This issue has John Prophet come to the Empire’s central domus – a large structure that is the heart of its endeavours.  There, he discovers that some in the Empire fear him and want him dead.  Some other things happen too, as they always do in this book, that are pretty wild and wonderful in their own way.

Really, this is an excellent comic, but I feel like it’s time for the story to take a few larger leaps forward. It’s never been made clear just what the Empire is all about, or why we should be concerned about it.  There are portents of doom galore, but I think we might need some actual doom to hold everything together.

As always, I enjoyed Roy’s artwork, and was very intrigued by the back-up story, CARE, by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward.  Usually these back-ups are stand-alones, and aren’t given enough space to grow, but this is the beginning of a serial, which gives the creators a lot more space.

Skullkickers #19 / Uncanny Skullkickers #1

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Kevin Raganit

It’s been a little while since we’ve seen the Skullkickers, so I was pretty happy to be able to pick up a new issue this week.  For this new arc, called ‘Eighty Eyes on an Evil Island’, writer Jim Zubkavich is having a little fun with the comics industry.  So far, each issue of the arc that’s been solicited so far has been listed as a new #1 issue of a title which has simply changed an adjective or two in order to justify a ‘relaunch’.  This issue was solicited as Uncanny Skullkickers #1, but it was also possible to pick it up with the cover, title, and numbering shown to the right.  I hope that this little stunt gets Zubkavich the notice he’s looking for, because Skullkickers is an excellent series that more people need to be paying attention to.

As this arc opens, Rex and Kusia wake up on a remote beach, having been washed ashore after their sea-faring misadventures of the last story arc.  They have no idea where they are, and are left with a meager amount of supplies.  It’s not long before the elfin Kusia has hunted up some meat, while Rex has found himself a small patch of shade in which to enjoy some rum.  Later, there is an attack by vicious horned turtles, and some jungle-slogging, which leads to an unfortunate discovery.

Running along the bottom of each page is another strip, which keeps us current with the Dwarf who is usually the star of this book.  It’s one of the more exciting comics sequences I’ve ever read.

Skullkickers is a lot of fun, and it looks like Zubkavich is having a good time switching up the formula a little by rearranging the players.  Next month, I guess things in this book are going to be a little more canny, but also a lot more savage…

The Unwritten #46

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, with Dean Ormston

This issue continues the two-part storyline featuring Australian Detective Didge and vampire Richie Savoy, who are investigating a pair of zombie attacks that they believed were caused by the writing of a young boy.  Savoy suspects that Leviathan, the wounded creature that has the ability to make stories real, is involved in what’s happening, and he seeks out Madame Rausch, the ‘puppet lady’ for some answers.

Since the Cabal was taken apart by Tom Taylor a while back, this title has been casting about for a proper villain.  We got a cult leader for a little while, and have never been too sure where Rausch stands, although this issue suggests that she clearly has her own plans.  This issue introduces the idea that Leviathan is not the only creature of his kind, and that other such beasts, fed by more modern stories, are in competition to fill its place in the story-ecosystem.

This book has always been interesting, and I like the way that Carey and Gross give the spotlight to a pair of characters who don’t often get much play.  The dialogue between the two works very well, and I always think it’s nice when Dean Ormston provides inks over Gross’s pencils; it changes the feel of the book a great deal.

Quick Takes:

All Star Western #17 – I’m not sure why Jonah Hex is still hanging out in Gotham if he hates the place so much, but now he’s helping Alan Wayne recover his wife from a walled-off, plague-ridden section of town at the same time that Vandal Savage appears in town (you know that’s not all a coincidence).  This is a good-enough story with some overly-descriptive narration (it’s a theme this week – check out Uncanny Avengers below), and some always-nice artwork by Moritat.  In the back-up, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray channel their inner Warren Ellis, giving us a story about the steampunk Jenny Freedom, a century baby.  It looks like we’ll see the rest of the 19th century Stormwatch next issue, only I’m not sure I really care.

Avengers Arena #5As much as I don’t want to like this book, Dennis Hopeless’s strong character work keeps bringing me back for more.  The spotlight is on Kid Briton this issue, and as we suspected, he’s an arrogant jerk.  Arcade makes his first reappearance since the first issue, trying to ramp up the competition in Murder World, and some alliances are formed while others disintegrate.  Kev Walker is back on art, and things just keep moving along nicely.  I think I’m going to start preordering this book now.

Batman Incorporated #8 – I want to talk about this book without giving away any spoilers, despite the fact that the end of this comic was released in the news, has been all over the internet prior to the book’s release, and is talked about openly in that stupid new ‘Channel 52′ thing at the end of all the New 52 books, let alone given away by one of the two covers to the comic.  When Grant Morrison first came on to Batman a few years ago, he introduced a new character who has been one of the best things to happen to the Bat-books for years, breathing new life into an old dynamic.  I’m not sure why DC would want to change that, unless, of course, the events of this issue are going to be reversed soon.  I would suggest to DC that they reverse it in the very next issue, because as of right now, I’m going to be dropping one of the Bat-titles I read, only for the role that one particular character plays in it.  If he’s not there, neither am I.  On a less cryptic note, I love Chris Burnham’s art this issue – the scene where Dick and Damian lunge forward, with a big cloudy ‘Boom’ behind them is brilliant – pop art-y and cool all at the same time.

Comeback #4 – As Ed Brisson’s time travelling story continues, new elements to time travel keep getting introduced, although the agents that work for Reconnect are clearly not given a lot of details about their own business.  Brisson’s written a smart thriller, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends next month.

FF #4FF under Matt Fraction and Michael Allred continues to be a very fun read.  In this issue, She-Hulk goes out on a date (of sorts) with Wyatt Wingfoot, and the Moloid kids do their best to ruin the evening, because they are “pitching their woo at The Jen”.  I have next to no interest in Fraction writing the main Fantastic Four title, but this is a very good read.  On a side note, I never really noticed how much Bentley reminds me of Damian Wayne…

Hawkeye #8 – It’s becoming redundant to talk about how wonderful Hawkeye is, but when an issue opens with a scene that involves the Black Widow, Mockingbird, and Spider-Woman all dressed in 60s go-go dresses with playing cards in their beehive hairdos, and never feels the need to explain it, there cannot be enough praise.  Matt Fraction brings back the character Penny, who needs Clint’s help to rob her ex-husband’s gangster friends, and manages to manipulate him into doing just that.  David Aja’s wonderful art is augmented by some vintage romance comics covers drawn by Annie Wu.  Fantastic stuff.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire – Hard Targets #5 – John Ostrander’s wonderful James Bond/Star Wars mash-up series finishes off its second volume with this exciting issue, which features a fight with Boba Fett and a couple of very cool plot twists.  Ostrander does great work with Jahan Cross, his Bond figure, and Davidé Fabbri’s art is very nice.  Recommended.

Talon #5 – I think I have finally made up my mind about this title, and am going to be sticking with it for the foreseeable future.  Having taken the time to heal from his wounds, Calvin Rose is ready to make his next move against the Court of Owls, which involves his penetrating an impenetrable (ridiculously so – we’ve far exceeded Bond villain base here) corporate headquarters on an island in Gotham Harbour.  Batman and Nightwing have a cameo, setting up the inevitable guest appearance.  A big draw to this book has been Guillem March’s art, and James Tynion IV has been steadily building on these characters in such a way that I’m starting to like them.

Uncanny Avengers #4 - I am still having a hard time getting into this series.  Rick Remender relies on a lot of third-person omniscient narration in this issue, which is a pretty rare thing in comics these days, with the effect that the this book had a bit of a Stan Lee vibe to it, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  It meant that Remender and John Cassaday didn’t really need to show what was happening, explaining uncharacteristic behaviour, and relying on some brutal prose (“Oblivious, Havok beats Rogue merciless, seeing in her the face of his foe,” is one prime example).  The whole mutants as metaphor for racial or sexual difference has never felt more strained as it does here, and I’m still having a hard time buying the need for an Avengers ‘unity squad’, when there are a few mutants on Jonathan Hickman’s team.

Uncanny X-Force #2 – I continue to have high hopes for this book, but there were a couple of things in this issue that gave me a bit of a pause.  Why, if we’re going to go to the trouble of bringing Bishop back to the current timeline, would he automatically have to start hunting another little mutant girl?  The guy is going to turn into more of a one-note character than he was before.  Also, why are Storm and Psylocke driving around in a steam-punk flying car?  This makes no sense to me.  Other than that, I’ve been enjoying the way that Sam Humphries writes Storm, Psylocke, and Puck, who is probably the main reason why I’m buying this book.  I’ve never been a big fan of Ron Garney’s art (and his Spiral is terrible), but I’m going to stick with this title for a while.

Witch Doctor #4 – Another very enjoyable issue, as Dr. Morrow needs rescuing by his paramedic assistant, and needs even more help to reattach his aura, and then use it to try to cure himself of his strigoism.  Brandon Seifert’s story is a great read, and I love Lukas Ketner’s art.  This is a creator-owned series that everyone should be reading.

X-Men Legacy #6And here we have yet another Marvel NOW! title that I can’t quite make up my mind about.  Legion rescues Blindfold from her eyeballs-only brother (I know), and comes to a few decisions about himself and his role in the wider mutant community, and six issues in, I’m still not entirely sure of the premise of this title.  Legion has cut ties with the X-Men, but wants to do good in the world.  I’ll probably give it another issue to impress me, because I like to support some of Marvel’s more esoteric books.

Young Avengers #2 – Things just feel right when Kieron Gillen is writing Loki again.  In this issue, Billy and Teddy realize that things aren’t right with Teddy’s mom, they get trapped in comic book panels and rescued by Loki, and bacon gets discussed.  This is a very stylish, fun comic, which is a little hard to pin down just yet, as Gillen keeps tossing new story elements at us in rapid-fire succession.  It’s all very enjoyably written, and gorgeous thanks to Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton.  This is probably the best book to come out of the Marvel NOW! line.

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

Answer #2

Astonishing X-Men #59

Avenging Spider-Man #17

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

Ultimate Comics X-Men #23

Uncanny X-Men #2

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Men #5I’ve really been missing the X-Men lately.  Sure, I’m reading Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, and X-Factor every month (or every two weeks), but not reading the ‘flagship’ x-title for the first time in many years has felt strange.  Then I read this recent issue, wherein people stand around and talk a lot, or stand around in Beast’s head and talk a lot, and I realize how little I’m missing.  I don’t like the concept of putting the teenage X-Men in the centre of this book, and I think that Beast’s new mutation looks stupid.  This is not Brian Michael Bendis’s better work.

Avenging Spider-Man #15 – This wraps up a fun two-parter featuring Peter Parker as Spider-Man (remember when?), and co-starring Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy.  There’s some very nice Gabriele Dell’Otto artwork, and some decent Cullen Bunn writing.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Templar, Arizona Vol. 2: The Mob Goes Wild

by Spike

I really enjoyed the first volume of Templar, Arizona, a webcomic that has been collected (so far) into four slim volumes.  The series is about the very strange town of Templar Arizona, where society has taken a few different turns from ours’.

This second volume continues to give us a tour of Templar. When the book opens, a rally for the Reclamation movement gets disrupted by the Cooks.  Reclamation is a social movement concerned with rehabilitating and squatting in abandoned and under-utilized industrial spaces, similar to the movements that have swept through Latin America.  The Cooks are a mysterious groups of anarchists who enjoy disrupting and escalating protests for their own, unknown purposes.

Someone from this rally, most likely a Cook, ends up on the ledge of our point of view character, Benjamin’s, window.  He talks his way into the apartment, smearing riot police “smelly paint” on Ben’s face, and marking his window with a mysterious vinyl sticker.

After this, we meet a number of new characters, as Ben, Scipio, and the loud-mouthed Reagan continue their usual dynamic of shock, disdain, and appeasement, and carry on across the city.  We meet people like Tuesday, a TV or radio star who likes to take off her clothes, Curio, her frenemy, and Sunny and Moze, who are in a band with the intellectually challenged Gene.  We also learn about Diesel, the Templar version of street hockey à la Thunderdome.

Spike has done a terrific job of developing these characters and imbuing Templar with so many interesting elements, that a clear plot is rather unnecessary.  This series reminds me a great deal of Carla Speed McNeil’s phenomenal Finder saga, mostly because of the depth of thought put into social structures, and the casual, breezy style of the footnotes that add so much to my enjoyment of the book.  I really need to get ahold of the next two volumes…

Album of the Week:

The Lions – This Generation – I don’t listen to a lot of reggae (I blame growing up in the era of Dancehall), and when I listen to an album like this one, I really have to wonder why that is.  This is a soul reggae super-group kind of album, and it is just what the doctor ordered as winter lingers and my thoughts turn to sunnier days.

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The Weekly Round-Up #163 with Saga, Comeback, Conan, Creator-Owned Comics, Elephantmen & More Mon, 21 Jan 2013 14:00:55 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Saga #9

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

One of the things that make Saga such a wonderful series is the way in which Brian K. Vaughan has developed his science fiction universe in such a way as to allow for side stories beyond the monthly check-in on Marko and Alana, neither of whom appear in this issue.Instead, this issue is all about The Will, and Marko’s ex-fiancee, Gwendolyn.  She is the person who originally hired The Will to track down our favourite little family, and she’s annoyed that he hasn’t done what he was paid to do.  They argue for a bit, and then The Will agrees to go back to work for her, so long as she first helps him rescue the young girl he met a few issues back on Sextillion, the sex-resort planet.

The rest of the issue is spent on having these two work to free the Slave-Girl, and in typical Saga fashion, things dont go exactly as planned, but they are very entertaining.  Having finished this issue, I find I am as interested in reading more about this new trio (not counting Lying Cat, who I love), as I am in reading about Marko, Alana, and their daughter (whose narration I found I missed this month).  I didn’t expect to like Gwendolyn so much, especially since Marko hasn’t portrayed her in the most positive of lights.

Vaughan and Staples are creating one of the most consistently entertaining comics on the stands with this book.

Other Notable Comics:

Comeback #3

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Michael Walsh

Ed Brisson’s time travel intrigue story Comeback has been an interesting read from the beginning, and as the series progresses, Brisson is providing some more information, but also adding new wrinkles to the story.Reconnect is a company that can travel through time within a sixty-six day window (I don’t know why yet).  They use this technology to rescue rich people from death, and take them into the near future to be reunited with their families, all for a very large fee.  The thing is, that’s not exactly what happens, and Seth, one of the field agents, has gone to the FBI, and contacted his past self to try to put a stop to things.  Seth’s partner is in the uncomfortable position of having to hunt him down, and now their latest client is also refusing to cooperate.

Brisson is the type of writer who leaves a lot of this for the reader to figure out, avoiding lengthy explanations and text pieces in the back of the book.  That works well here, as it adds complexity to the story, and maintains a greater sense of mystery throughout the series.  Michael Walsh is a capable artist in the Paul Azaceta/Tonci Zonjic school, and the book is a good read, giving us a fresh take on time travel stories.

Conan the Barbarian #12

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Declan Shalvey

There are a lot of things to like about Brian Wood’s Conan series, but one of the things that gets overlooked, but is key to the book’s success, is the way in which Wood writes short story arcs, mostly of just three issues in length.  I find this to be a very effective way to tell a story long enough to engage the reader, without getting too bogged down in unnecessary complexity, or too decompressed and stretched-out to fit a trade.  This way, the story is just the right length, and still packed with action and character development.  The other great thing is that it means that there is always a new artist coming on board to be excited about.This issue finishes off ‘The Death’, the arc that has Bêlit and the crew of the Tigress down with a mysterious illness, with only Conan healthy enough to try to care for his lover and to protect her ship from hostile forces in the town where they’ve pulled in for shelter.

The last issue raised the question of whether or not Conan would abandon his love and new lifestyle, which she had urged him to do.  I don’t know Conan well as a character, but Wood makes it clear that he is not someone to run from his problems, as he stands his ground on a couple of different levels in this issue.

Declan Shalvey has done a terrific job on the art this arc, and I especially like two things this issue.  There’s a scene where Conan faces off against a small mob on the town’s docks, and I love the way in which Shalvey has him returning a spear that has been thrown at him.  Later, Conan is sitting on the deck of the Tigress, waiting for news of Bêlit’s health.  In the foreground on the deck is a dead rat.  It’s a small detail, but it absolutely makes that scene.

Creator-Owned Comics #8

Written by Steve Niles, Darwyn Cooke, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Justin Gray
Art by Scott Morse, Darwyn Cooke, and Jerry Lando

I would have thought that perhaps the time had come for a book like Creator-Owned Heroes, but seeing as this is the series’s last issue, I guess it hadn’t.  It’s easy, and very tempting, to play armchair quarterback and talk about why this book didn’t last (in fact, Jimmy Pamiotti mentions how many websites seemed to revel in doing that when the news of the cancellation was announced), so I’m going to refrain from that sort of thing.Instead, I’d like to focus on how much this book was starting to do correctly.  Each issue was anchored by two serials, one written by Steve Niles and the other by Palmiotti and Justin Gray.  These varied in quality (something’s never really clicked for me in Niles’s writing), but they were consistently non-traditional.  Recently, Darwyn Cooke was added to the mix, and given space for his own stories month after month, which really raised my interest in the book.  As well, the magazine-content had become much more focused on independent and creator-owned comics, which was a much better fit for the title than say, another interview with Jimmy Palmiotti’s personal trainer (which really did appear in an early issue).

As for this list issue, it closes out the series in style.  Steve Niles finishes off his ‘Meatbag’ story in a completely unexpected way.  The first chapter, drawn by the incredible Scott Morse, was a pretty standard-seeming gumshoe kind of thing, but this chapter takes the story into some otherworldly territory, and that genuinely surprised me.

Darwyn Cooke had to abandon a three-part story because of the cancellation (although I hope we get to see it as a one-shot some day soon), and so instead included a very personal little story he’d made for the woman he recently married.  It’s sweet.

Palmiotti and Gray closed off their ‘Killswitch’ story in a way I wouldn’t have expected, as Brandon tracks down the person who tried to kill him, only to trick her into falling in love with him and marrying him (which I’m sure many would say is greater revenge than murder).  There’s a lot of nudity in this chapter, as if the writers were enjoying the freedom cancellation brings.

In closing, I think I’m going to miss this book more for the potential that it had than what it ever actually was.  I was really looking forward to new monthly work by Cooke that didn’t feel amoral (like his Before Watchmen work that I’ve avoided), and with artists like Morse joining the stable, to see who else may have been published here.  Palmiotti and Gray are always entertaining writers, and I wanted to see where they would have journeyed on a book that allowed this much freedom.  I do want to say that I admire all of these creators for trying something new.

Elephantmen #45

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin and Tula Lotay

One thing that I love is the way in which creator-owned books allow their creators to explore whatever tangents they wish to through their story.  I doubt anyone who started reading Cerebus at its inception would have ever expected Oscar Wilde to show up in it (to pick one of the more extreme examples), and yet when Dave Sim felt like writing about Oscar Wilde, there he was.Similarly, this issue of Elephantmen, which we were all reminded back in December is a prequel series to Richard Starkings’s Hip Flask series, which comes out once or twice a decade, has a retelling of the story of the birth and early life of Siddhartha, who became the Gautama Buddha.  What makes that even stranger is that this story is being told by an Elephantman (a genetically-engineered man/animal hybrid soldier) during his service as a medic to another Elephantman who has been injured.  In typical Starkings fashion, this scene is being recounted by that same injured soldier, Ebony Hide, to his doctor while being treated in the present (really the far future, but the story-present) for another recent injury inflicted by the same person who injured him in the flashback.  Got it?  Good, because that’s only one of a number of things that happen in this issue.

Starkings’s story gets ever denser, but also increasingly effective in the way in which he has developed and strengthened his characters.  Individual issues, and really even arcs, mean little to Starkings, who has this very complex story mapped out in his head, and has decided to tell it in his own fashion, and at his own pace.  This issue also has Hip Flask and Miki get into a big argument over his having caught her kissing another man after he stood her up.  We also see Ebony make a fool of himself outside of a Hooters (further proof that the future isn’t going to be all that bright?), and we learn who the Silencer’s next target is.

This is always a lovely book to look through, as Axel Medellin continues to impress.  Tula Lotay provides the Siddhartha pages, and they are gorgeous.  At first I thought the pages were drawn by Marian Churchland; I need to check out more of Lotay’s work.

Quick Takes:

Archer & Armstrong #6 - It’s probably not surprising that this is another excellent issue in a fantastic series.  Most of the comic is given over to Kay McHenry, a deeply unhappy spokeswoman for a capital firm (modeled on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, I’m sure) who also happens to be the Earth’s next Geomancer, although it takes most of the issue (and a conversation with “a monkey dressed like ‘mother nature’ from the 1970s Chiffon margarine commercials”) for her to realize that.  Fred Van Lente uses the same humour and winking asides to Republican America that made the first few issues work so well.  The 1% are back as villains, and we are introduced to another aspect of the Sect, called The Null.  This is a terrific comic, and this issue would be a great jumping on point for anyone who has been curious about checking it out.  Emanuela Lupacchino has been an excellent addition to the book.

Batman #16 – I know that comics fans everywhere are loving the Death of the Family arc that has the Joker back in Gotham and messing with Bruce and his extended family.  This is an exciting issue, with a few strong visuals, but ultimately, I’m a little bored with how repetitive everything here feels.  Batman is working his way through Arkham Asylum, which the Joker has modified and weirded-up, and for some reason, he narrates a lot of positive ‘self-talk’, where he keeps referring to himself by his first name, which doesn’t fit with how I understand Batman’s character.  Anyway, he’s able to dispatch many of his rogue’s gallery with absolute ease, taking out Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, and Clayface in a panel or two each, but later it takes him pages to get through a door that is being blocked by some furniture.  This is after he used a shape charge to blow the door in the first place.  I don’t know – I’d just toss another charge onto the furniture, but I’m not Batman.  Anyway, the Joker has set up another strange death-trap involving an electrified chainsaw stuck in a block, like the sword in the stone.  Actually, all of Joker’s tricks have an electrical theme to them, which seems odd, especially considering the pains to which Scott Snyder has gone to introduce his young electrician character whose name escapes me at the moment.  Makes me think that the main story’s final scene with the electric chair might not have gone the way it looks.  Greg Capullo has some very nice pages here, but there are other places where I had to go back and look at the panels a few times to figure out what’s going on (I still don’t know how Clayface got taken down).  Still, everyone else on the internet thinks he’s a great artist, so what do I know?  I can’t wait for this arc to be finished….

Batman and Robin #16 - I wonder how much better this book would be if Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason weren’t having to constantly accommodate the story arcs in Scott Snyder’s Batman series.  Robin is being held by the Joker, and is being forced to fight his father, who is under the Joker’s control, except (SPOILER:) it’s not really Bruce Wayne, which makes sense because then he, like the Joker, would have to be in two places at once.  I’m not sure how Damian didn’t figure that out.  I suppose if you want to see a whole comic given over to a young boy having to fight his father almost to the death, this is a good comic.  Personally, I like the more character-driven issues of this series…

BPRD 1948 #4 – Science and magic don’t get along, in this story that cleverly references the last Witchfinder mini-series, and works to set up the upcoming BPRD Vampires mini-series (with Bá and Moon!).  On its own merits, this is also a decent story, as Professor Bruttenholm finds that his beliefs have probably blown his chances with the pretty scientist that he’s come out to the desert to help.  Max Fiumara’s art is great here.

Daredevil #22 – When Mark Waid was writing Amazing Spider-Man as one of the Brand New Day crew, I found myself buying that book a lot more often (that he worked on it with Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido didn’t hurt), and now he works the Superior Spidey into Daredevil, and it really has me wishing he’d return to writing Spidey, as well as sticking around on DD and Hulk.  He captures the corniness of Octavius’s dialogue perfectly, and contrasts that nicely with DD, who can’t understand why his closest superhero friend is trying to take him down.  Luckily, there’s Stiltman to help them work out their differences.  This is a really fun issue, which ends with a good heart-to-heart between Matt and Foggy.  All this, and Chris Samnee!  What a great comic.

Demon Knights #16I was very sceptical about sticking with this book once Paul Cornell left it, and I removed the title from my pull-list at the store where I shop, but on the strengths of Robert Venditti’s other work (The Surrogates, Homeland Directive, and X-O Manowar), I did pick up his first issue, and I like what I read.  Thirty years have passed since Cornell’s storyline ended, and the Knights have scattered and gone their separate way.  The book opens with Horsewoman (who doesn’t age) being pursued by bounty hunters.  They take her to Spain, where she meets up with Exoristos and Sir Ystin (neither of whom age), and eventually with Al Jabr (who is the only person in this book who ages, and rather savagely), who gives them a new mission.  Unfortunately, this mission involves Cain, who I was hoping we’d seen the last of in I, Vampire, but what can you do?  The writing in this book is solid, and Bernard Chang is always good.  I think I’ll stick around, and see how the next issue works before deciding if I’m back on this title.

Indestructible Hulk #3 – I want to give it another issue, but I think that Indestructible Hulk may be one of the bigger winners of the Marvel NOW! sweepstakes.  Mark Waid has given Bruce Banner a real purpose in this book, and made him the more interesting half of his dual personality.  In this issue, Maria Hill interviews candidates to work in Banner’s lab while Hulk is used to infiltrate and take out an AIM base.  Waid is employing the same light humour that works so well in Daredevil, and we finally meet the Quislet/Skeets-like floating helmet thing that has been shown in promo art for this series.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #15 – Once again, I found this issue completely charming, and since it wasn’t so bogged down in pop culture references, it didn’t annoy me, aside from the fact that it was over so quickly.  I’ve been wanting to drop this title, but it’s so far behind, I’m still waiting on issues I’d preordered months ago.  I don’t think I’m going to completely drop it, but switch to a trade-waiting approach, as the individual issues are too effervescent to stick with me.

New Avengers #2Well, I’m definitely enjoying this book, as Jonathan Hickman takes the classic Brian Michael Bendis approach to writing the Avengers (a bunch of people sit around a table for most of the issue), and instead of just having everyone snipe at each other while the plot goes nowhere, instead lays out a clear and massive threat, with each member of the Illumanati (except, perhaps, Dr. Strange) bringing something unique to the book.  I love the way Hickman writes T’Challa, and I’m excited to see where this book goes.  I’m not bothering to try to figure out how this fits with the other Avengers book, because the timelines are weird, and am instead enjoying this for what it is – the culmination of the Big Idea approach that Hickman took to writing Fantastic Four, taken to an even larger scale (I can’t help thinking that the Council of Reeds would have had no problem fixing this issue).

X-Factor #250 – Does anyone know yet why so many people want to kill Tier, Rahne’s child?  Darwin takes some shots at him, then Jezebel, and then a whole bunch of other people line up to kill the kid.  Strong Guy returns, Pip leaves off panel, and the whole issue moves at a good pace as Peter David kicks off his ‘Hell on Earth War’ story arc, which apparently was promised a long time ago.  It’s a good issue, and I wish Mr. David a speedy recovery from his recent stroke.  I hope that Marvel does the right thing here and gives him time to recover instead of slotting another writer onto the book for a while.  Maybe they should delay any double-shipping issues that are already in the can, releasing them monthly instead to give David time to get well.

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

All-New X-Men #6

Avengers Assemble #11

Avenging Spider-Man #16

Black Beetle #1

Bloodshot #7

Caligula Heart of Rome #2

Captain America #3

High Ways #1

Savage Wolverine #1

Threshold #1

Ultimate Comics Iron Man #4

X-Men #40

Bargain Comics:

Hulk #53-57I’d given up on Jeff Parker’s Red Hulk title, not so much because I didn’t like it, but because I didn’t like having to read it so often, as Marvel consistently double-shipped the hell out of the title.  This last story arc, ‘Mayan Rule’, both illustrates what was great about Parker’s run with Gen. Ross and what didn’t work.  This story features Alpha Flight as guest stars, which makes this Canadian very happy, but the team barely does anything, and don’t stand out in any way.  Some resurrected Mayan immortals show up, suck power out of superheroes, and wreck some stuff for reasons I never fully understood, before being beaten down by Hulk and Machine Man.  The plot worked out okay, but was a little too stretched out for a story like this.  Ross and Annie, the LMD, continued their ‘will they or won’t they?’ relationship, but it never got much stage space amid all the chaos.  Issue 57 is basically the last one of this series, as after that it became Betty Ross’s book, and the words ‘Red’ and ‘She-‘ were added to the title.  It’s not a satisfiying ending for a run that lasted around thirty issues, and it did nothing to set up Ross’s next appearance in the Marvel NOW! relaunch of Thunderbolts.  It’s almost like Marvel told Parker the series was ending after he’d written the story…  Anyway, Dale Eaglesham’s art is fantastic, so at least there’s that.

Legends of the Dark Knight #2 – I kind of love the idea behind this book, which publishes Batman stories that were originally released digitally.  That’s not what excites me though, it’s the fact that they have a varied and kind of indie crowd of artists and writers that they dip into to fill the book.  This issue is written by B. Clay Moore (who has written some very good superhero books like Battle Hymn), and drawn by Ben Templesmith, whose work I adore.  It’s a Joker story, at a time when I’m filled to the brim with those, but it also features Killer Croc and the Mad Hatter, and it’s kind of bizarre.  Good stuff; I just wish it wasn’t a $4 title, considering that DC’s already gotten their money’s worth from the content.

Resurrection Man #11-12, 0Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning wrapped up their New 52 revamp of their 90s series quite nicely.  This book was always good, but it never really stood out as being good enough for me to commit to buying it monthly.  The surprises of the last couple of issues played out well though, and I’m sure that a single trade collecting all thirteen issues would be the best way to read this comic.  I’m kind of impressed that it lasted a year, considering how obscure this book was.

Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX #4 – I don’t know if these were just unused inventory stories that Marvel wanted to burn through, but they’ve all fallen into pretty much the same pattern.  Frank finds out a problem, goes to solve it, learns he’s been duped, kills everyone.  It’s just the settings that change.  Still, this is a decent read from Nathan Edmondson and Fernando Blanco.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Elk’s Run

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Noel Tuazon

I really don’t know why I’ve never read this book before now.  Creators Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon made Tumor together, an excellent detective graphic novel, and independently of each other, I’ve loved Fialkov’s Echoes, and am very excited to see a new issue of Tuazon’s Foster, whenever it’s supposed to come out (issue three is very, very late).  I’ve seen Elk’s Run numerous times, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to finally buy it and read it.It’s excellent.  Elk’s Ridge is the name of a small former mining town in West Virginia.  When we first see it, it looks like any other idyllic small American town, but slowly the reader comes to realize that all is not as it seems.  The town was populated by Vietnam War vets who wanted a better life, and they’ve gravitated around John Kohler, a charismatic and firm man who has a vision for the town.

The area is completely cut off from the outside world, accessible only by a tunnel that goes through the surrounding mountains.  The rest of the area is surrounded by electrified fence, and supplies are brought in only occasionally.  Things sound great, but not to the teenagers who live in the town, are bored out of their minds, and a frustrated by a lack of young girls to get to know.  John’s son, also a John, is our protagonist.

The story opens with John and his friends playing in the tunnel, a place that is forbidden for them to go, especially after dark.  The youngest of the boys is hit by a car, driven by one of the neighbours who has decided to flee the town.  This death leads to the execution of the man, and later of the police who come looking for him.  This is turn leads to John Jr. stepping up his rebellious nature, as he discovers new information about the father that he already hates so much.

Fialkov does a masterful job of combining usual teenage angst with the isolationism of a certain breed of Americans.  This story touches on events like those in Ruby Ridge and Waco Texas, while also tapping into post-9/11 fear of the wider world.  It’s a very effective combination, and he uses the location well to create a very exciting climax.  Tuazon’s art is never very detailed, and that works well here to help propel some of the uncertainty of this story.  This book is a very solid psychological adventure, and I recommend it.

Album of the Week:

Jeremiah Jae – Black Jungle Radio – Just when I was thinking that I needed some new left-field, blunted and strange hip-hop music, Jeremiah Jae shows up with this mixtape, which features him and a few other people (Zeroh, Raja Black, FABLE, and Young Black Preachers, none of whom I’ve heard of before) spitting over his production, as well as beats by Ras G, Jonwayne, Kutmah, and Lord Raja.  It’s not as strong as his Raw Money Raps release, but it fills the gap nicely as I await more new stuff from the Brainfeeder camp.

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The Weekly Round-Up #159 with Multiple Warheads, Comeback, DHP, Happy #3, Saga #8 & More Mon, 24 Dec 2012 14:00:27 +0000 Merry Christmas to Inside Pulse readers everywhere!  This week was just about the largest new comics week I can ever remember, as most publishers pushed out two weeks’ worth of material, in a bid to close off their books for the year, I assume.  I feel bad for all the retailers who had to process these shipments.

Best Comic of the Week:

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #3

by Brandon Graham

Brandon Graham can never be accused of having the most linear and clearly delineated plots, but three quarters of the way through his new Multiple Warheads mini-series (following up on an Oni Press one-shot from years ago), we are meeting lots of new characters, and are finally getting some glimpse of a greater plot.

None of this bothers me though, because Multiple Warheads is an absolutely brilliant series.  Sexica, a retired organ smuggler, and her wolf-penised mechanic boyfriend are on a road trip, and have ended up in a hotel on the Whaling Wall.  They’ve just been chilling, eating pastries and putting legs on their Lenin (a car).  In this issue, two of Sexica’s old colleagues show up with a job for her – to break into a fabled wizard’s larder; she of course takes the job.

We also check in on the other organ smuggler, who spends a few dialogue-less pages searching for the body she’d been transporting, which flew off on her last issue.  It’s not clear if her story is going to run into Sexica’s or not.

We also meet a couple of new characters – Moontoone, a little platypus-like creature who likes to knit hats and works as a delivery boy, and Sunshine, his dancer boyfriend.  I have no idea how these two fit into things, but again, with a book like this, that kind of thing doesn’t matter in the least.

Multiple Warheads is one of the densest, most rich comics on the stands right now.  Each and every page literally drips with new ideas, clever wordplay, and numerous sight gags.  The thing is, this isn’t just a psychedelic science fiction humour comic; the characters are fully fleshed-out and quite relatable. I can’t wait to see how this mini-series finishes.

Other Notable Comics:

Comeback #2

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Michael Walsh

Comeback is an odd beast of a mini-series.  Writer Ed Brisson is playing with some interesting ideas, but is also refusing to spell things out, leaving the reader to connect dots all over the place to fully understand the story.

This series is about Reconnect, a company which travels back in time (no more than 66 days) to pluck loved ones away from accidents or disasters, to save their lives.  They, for reasons we don’t understand yet, have to make it look like the accident still happened so that there is no problem with the timeline.  In the first issue, we met two of their agents, Mark and Seth.  Seth has not been feeling well, and has decided to quit.  We also got intimations that the company was being investigated, but we weren’t told by whom.

With this issue, we get some answers, as we discover that the FBI is fully aware of time travel, as apparently are medical examiners, and that one agent in particular has been spending a couple of years trying to put a stop to Reconnect.  We also get a fair number of new mysteries, as Seth ‘Freedom 55s’ himself, showing up to tell his slightly younger self a few things about the company he works for (and, perhaps between panels, talks to him about the importance of buying life insurance).

What makes this book confusing is that I’m not always sure of who the characters are, or their relationships to one another.  As with many time travel books, it’s also hard to tell what sequence we are reading the stories in; is young Seth the ‘now’ character?  How far up the line is older Seth?  I’m sure this is something that will be made clear, but these are the things I wonder about while I read the comic.

Ed Brisson is a writer that I have come to admire, but this is the longest story of his that I’ve read so far, and I can see where the pacing is at times a little off.  Still, I have trust that this series is going to all make sense in the long run, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Dark Horse Presents #19

Written by Duane Swierczynski, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Joshua Williamson, Matt Kindt, Phil Stanford, Peter Hogan, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, and Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Eric Nguyen, Steve Lieber, Tony Akins, Ulises Farinas, Victor Ibáñez, Matt Kindt, Patric Reynolds, Steve Parkhouse, Gabriel Hardman, and Giovanni Valletta

You know, I’m starting to wonder if it makes sense to keep buying Dark Horse Presents, since most of the stories I’m interested in, aside from Finder, are always getting collected into single issues before the mini-series that almost inevitably follow a three- or four-issue run in DHP.  I think the problem I had with this issue, more than anything though, was the lack of a Finder story by Carla Speed McNeil (which is the absolute best reason to buy this comic).

Anyway, there are still some gems in this issue.  Matt Kindt provides a Mind MGMT short story which helps showcase why his on-going series is such a wonderful thing.  This story introduces us to Duncan, an agent with the ability to predict the future by reading the minds of those around him.

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, who have been impressing me on their Planet of the Apes stories at Boom, debut Station to Station, a new science fiction serial about a science experiment that has destroyed a small island in the Bay Area, and has somehow brought some very BPRD-looking creatures into our world.  Hardman’s a great artist, so I was very happy to see him working on this.

I am becoming every more intrigued by Gamma, a strange science fiction series by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas.  We get a good idea of why the main character is considered a coward in this installment, but we are given a very bleak view of their fictional world, without an explanation of how society came back from it.  I hope this series is running for a while…

I also enjoyed the new chapters of Resident Alien and Deep Sea, although I got the sense that the latter story is finished for now, and not in a satisfying way.  It’s been a while since we last saw The White Suits, and I didn’t enjoy this chapter as much as I did the first, partly I think, because of the length of time that has passed.  I am enjoying the Captain Midnight serial.

The cover to this issue is given over to the relaunching of X, one of Dark Horse’s Comics Greatest World titles from the 90s.  I didn’t like it then, and it continues to read like a Punisher knock-off with a fetish twist.  Not for me.  Likewise, I’m not a fan of the Alabaster or City of Roses stories.

Here’s hoping for some Carla Speed McNeil next issue.

Happy #3

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Darick Robertson

Three issues in, and I still have to keep glancing at the cover credits to convince myself that I’m not reading a comic by Garth Ennis instead of Grant Morrison.

Nowhere in this book are the usual things we’ve come to associate with Morrison’s writing – sure, the main character has hallucinations, but they are of a blue flying imaginary horse, not of extra-dimensional gods or something like that.  Likewise, the plot of this book is more or less linear, as Nick Sax, disgraced ex-cop, assassin for hire, eczema sufferer, and general creep decides to ignore the exhortations of the imaginary horse to save a little girl from a Santa Claus impersonating serial killer, and instead tries to leave town to avoid the mobsters that are after him.  Add to this scenes of murder in a train toilet, and it’s hard to imagine that this really isn’t being written by Ennis.

Regardless, this is a good comic.  Sax is the type of curmudgeon we’re used to seeing in comics, and the surprise that his ‘redemption’ hinges on is telegraphed pretty obviously earlier in the book, but still, Morrison paces things nicely enough to keep our interests, and Darick Robertson’s is always a treat.

I doubt this will go down as one of Morrison’s more memorable comics, but it’s nice to see him try something that is not uber-ambitious and kind of obscure for a change.

Nowhere Men #2

Written by Eric Stephenson
Art by Nate Bellegarde

I was intrigued enough by the first issue of Nowhere Men to come back for the second, and I think now I’m hooked.

This series appears to split each issue between two related stories.  The first half of the book concerns the scientists who founded the company Worldcorp, and became the celebrity scientists of their age.  Now, those that are left, are old men, and they find that they are cut off from the world they helped create.  There is some intrigue among these guys, but it’s a little unclear just what’s going on with them, at least so far.

More interesting is the second half of the book, which has been following a group living in secret on Worldcorp’s space satellite.  They’ve all come down with a strange virus that is causing parts of their body to scab over in the most unappealing way.  Last issue, they learned that they’ve been cut off by the company, and are basically being left up there to die.  They began working on a secret teleportation device, which should make it possible for them to get home, even though that threatens to infect the world with their virus.

In this issue, the device is made operational, although there is not enough power to properly test it.  Most of the crew sees now choice but to walk through the gateway anyway, but one person starts to argue against it, and things get pretty crazy.  We don’t really know these characters, but Stephenson writes their scenes so that we care about what happens to them, and I am excited to see where they’ve ended up.

Nate Bellegarde is doing a great job with this book, giving it a Jamie McKelvie feel.

Saga #8

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

It’s becoming kind of routine to sing the praises of Saga, the brilliantly readable science fiction family drama epic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, but let’s face it, books this good are anything but routine.

In this issue, Alana finds herself alone on the family’s spaceship tree with Marko’s father, and they begin to bond with one another, despite all the tension in the family caused by Marko’s marrying one of the enemy.  We get a lot of insight into Alana’s character in this issue, which starts with a flashback to when her and Marko first met, and the influence the romance novel she was reading had on her.  We also get a good idea of how unique she was among her people.Meanwhile, Marko and his mother are searching for Izabel, their ghostly babysitter, on the planet where Marko’s parents sent her.  This involves a fight with a rather nasty-looking ogre, and further arguing between Marko and his mom.

All of these characters are written so strongly that they are very believable, despite their wings or horns.  Character work is what makes Saga so wonderful, both Vaughan’s as a writer, and Staples’s as an artist.  I’m sure some would argue that the plot of this book is slowing down, as the focus becomes ever tighter on the family, but I appreciate the way in which the characters’ bonds are being shown, especially as I’m sure that the relatively peaceful moments in this book won’t last much longer.  This continues to be one of the best series on the stands.

The Sixth Gun #27

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

The Sixth Gun is a terrific comics series, and one reason why that is the case is because of the level of self-doubt and uncertainty that Cullen Bunn has written into his characters.  Drake Sinclair, who is more or less the main character of this book, is not the sort of person you would immediately choose as the guardian of something as deadly as The Six-  a collection of mystical six-shooters that together can usher in the end of the world.

In this latest arc, ‘Winter Wolves’, Drake and his companion Becky (the owner of the titular sixth, and most powerful, gun) have found themselves trapped in a winter reality, held captive by a Wendigo that is anchored in the bodies of a group of women and children from a nearby fort.  The usual way to kill a Wendigo is to kill the hosts, who are basically comatose while it wanders.  Drake is not one to kill defenceless and innocent kids, and he makes the mistake of engaging the spirit in conversation, with results that I didn’t really expect (the scene where the extreme cold takes its toll on Drake’s hand is chilling on many levels).

While this is going on, Drake and Becky’s friend Gord Cantrell continues to travel with the undead mummy Asher Cobb, and the lying gunman Kirby Hale.  These three have an interesting conversation of their own, as they each admit to wanting The Six for different purposes.  Whatever happens when they find Drake, Becky, and the guns, should be pretty interesting.

Brian Hurtt continues to make this book look terrific, as Bunn continues to spin out a very compelling story.  I know that Bunn is getting more and more work at Marvel these days, but I’m happiest to see him continue with this title for some time to come.

Thief of Thieves #11

Written by Robert Kirkman and James Asmus
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

As much as I’ve been enjoying Robert Kirkman’s heist slash family drama series Thief of Thieves, this second arc has been a good example of why sometimes it’s better to tradewait a series.  Usually, I can’t be bothered waiting months on end for a story to be completed, and prefer to get the smaller chapters on a monthly basis.  I find I prefer it in terms of keeping engaged with the story, and because I just love the monthly comics format.

This book though, moves at a strange pace that would work better in larger servings.  With each issue, which is always well-written, it takes me a while to back into the swing of the storyline, and then I always feel that the book is over too quickly.  I know that these are the complaints many comics readers have about most series, but there are only a few where I feel this so acutely.

Anyway, in this issue, Redmond and Augustus start to plan to rescue Augustus’s girlfriend from the cartel this is holding her hostage.  They don’t have as much time to plan as Redmond prefers, and so he’s having to work closer to his son’s pace, which is not good, considering what a failure of a thief his son has been.

It’s clear that Kirkman and Asmus want to reconcile the two men with each other, and I think that Redmond wants that too, but circumstances keep stopping that from happening.  Reading this, I can’t help but think about what a network like HBO would do with this property.

The Unwritten #44

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

This issue of The Unwritten is book-ended by appearances from characters I didn’t expect to see again, one ever, and another, for about four more issues.

The rest of the comic was filled by following Tom Taylor, newly arrived in Hades, searching for a way out of it.  Tom had gone to the fabled land of the dead looking for Lizzie Hexam, his companion, but after drinking from the river Lethe, he has no memory of who he is, or what he is looking for.

Tom is joined by the Chadron children, who we last saw being killed in the Swiss prison where the Cabal first tried to kill Tom.  They travel across Hades, meeting a few old acquaintances of Tom’s, before figuring out a way to get across the lake of flames and arrive at Hades’s palace.

There is a sense throughout this book that the underworld is not what it used to be, although if that’s because of the sickness that has infected all stories, it’s not made clear.

As with most issues of this series, this is a very high-quality book, although I feel like some of the momentum is missing from this comic lately.

Wasteland #42

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Russel Roehling

Last issue, Abi and Michael went their separate ways, having argued over how to get to A-Ree-Yass-I, the fabled location where they believe they were born.  This issue follows Abi on her journey.

At the beginning of the comic, she finds herself in Sunspot, a town that is central to her faith as a Sunner.  The town is not what it once was – it’s done to having only twenty-three inhabitants, and all but four of them are sick with some form of plague.  Abi has the ability to heal, however, and she sets herself to work curing everyone she can.  For some reason, though, the cure doesn’t work properly, for the first time ever.

This issue returns the Sunner religion to a place of prominence in the book.  Since Abi and Michael left the city of Newbegin a while back, there has been very little discussion of religion.  The people of Sunspot interpret Abi’s abilities as being proof that she is one of Father Moon’s children, all of whom were long believed to be dead.  It is the close attention to world building, and faith’s place within that, that has made Wasteland stand out among other post-Apocalyptic comics.  I’m pleased to see Antony Johnston return to that.

This is a good character-study issue, and I’m happy for the extra insight into Abi’s character.  Russel Roehling is working well as the new artist of this series, and I’m especially happy to see it return to a monthly schedule.  This issue doesn’t have a text piece featuring the journal of Ankya Ofsteen, and that is missed a great deal.  Ankya is referred to in the story, which is a first for this series, but I’d prefer her story continue to be told on its own, and not just be woven into the comics.  I wonder if Michael or Abi are going to meet her on their travels…

Where is Jake Ellis? #2

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Tonci Zonjic

Nathan Edmondson keeps this book moving very quickly, as unknown men chase ex-CIA agent Jon Moore through Thailand, and he is forced to take a young American embassy worker with him in order to keep her safe.  Meanwhile, Jake Ellis, the man who spent years living in Moore’s head (or something like that – it still needs to be explained) is brought to Thailand, with the hope that proximity will engage their connection once again.

It’s not clear just who is after Moore, and whether or not the people who brought Ellis over are with them, or are with the American government.  Presumable, Edmondson’s going to shed some light on all of that at some point in this series, but who knows?  There could be a third series planned – How is Jake Ellis? perhaps?

Regardless, the plotting is very tight in this book, and Tonci Zonjic continues to provide some very impressive art.  I’m most interested in learning more about the guy who has his eyes sewn shut, but seems able to see what Jon is up to, much as Jake is.

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #2

Written by Brandon Seifert
Art by Lukas Ketner

Witch Doctor is a really fun series that treats magic as a real, medical condition.  Our good Doctor, Dr. Morrow, has been infected with a strigoi disease, and is being extorted by some unknown figure, who wants to trade the cure to the illness for a very powerful spellbook.  Morrow, being Morrow, does not want to deal with this guy, and instead takes his assistant to a place called the Red Market, where magical spells and items are traded and sold.

Looking for a cure, and a way of remaining invisible to his assailants, Morrow makes a couple of questionable deals, one of which requires him to perform a post-mortem on a couple.  Later, he attempts to get in touch with some angels or demons (we aren’t told which they are), who can cure him, but are going to do it in the most painful way possible.

Brandon Seifert is really expanding on the magical elements of this series, stepping away from the more medical-based premise of the first series, and not following up at all on the elder god angle he introduced towards the end of it.  Instead, we are learning a great deal about the broader world where Morrow lives and operates.

One of the things that first drew me to this book was the depth of thought placed into the designs by Lukas Ketner.  His arcane hypodermics and other medical paraphernalia are inspired, yet in this issue, I was a little disappointed with his designs for the Surgeons – they look like they’ve walked straight out of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.  I find that interesting, considering that Seifert is writing for that series at Boom right now.

Still, this continues to be a very original and entertaining book.  Recommended.

Quick Takes:

America’s Got Powers #4 – It seems we’ve come to the point in this series where people just hit each other a lot.  This is a good comic, but after such a long delay, I was hoping for a little more character than what came with this issue.  Still, it’s a decent read, with great Bryan Hitch art.

Avengers #2 – This book continues to satisfy, as Jonathan Hickman shows us how Tony Stark and Steve Rogers went about recruiting new members to the team (although I have no idea where Hyperion and Smasher came from, or who Captain Universe is) and what it was that sold them on joining.  The comic also explains the story of Ex Nihilo and his companions.  Basically, this issue was a bit of an info-dump, but it had enough character to it, and pretty art, that I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

Avengers Arena #2 – I’m still firmly on the fence about this title.  I probably wouldn’t have picked it up this week if it weren’t for the gorgeous Chris Bachalo ‘Lord of the Flies’ homage cover, and I’m not sure if I’m happy I did.  I like the fact that more of the characters are introduced, such as Kid Briton and his friends from the Braddock Academy (I’m assuming these are all new characters, but I might be wrong), as the issue is narrated by Ryker, the Deathlok-ette.  My problems with the title continue, however.  I don’t understand why Arcade would have selected such an obscure group of teen heroes to abduct, including one powerless teenage girl who was last seen bouncing around the deep cosmos, and I don’t understand why they aren’t banding together from the outset.  The characterizations are handled nicely by Dennis Hopeless, and Kev Walker’s art is terrific, but I just can’t get behind the concept.

Batwoman #15 – JH Williams and Haden Blackman take this issue to explore the character of Maggie Sawyer a little better.  Maggie’s been around the DCU forever, but I only know her from the brilliant Gotham Central series.  This is a decent issue, but with art by Trevor McCarthy instead of Williams, it’s only so good.

BPRD 1948 #3 – While I’m enjoying 1948, everything feels a little drawn out, like Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are writing for the trade, and making sure it’s going to feel thick enough.  Not a lot of note happens in this issue, except for Professor Bruttenholm’s awkward courting of a female scientist whose theories only he fully supports.

BPRD Hell on Earth #102 – The main BPRD title reads almost like an opposite to the 1948 title this month, as nothing but big things happen in this comic.  The Black Flame returns, and his arrival sparks off a whole bunch of catastrophic events around the world, as more of those giant monsters show up and start trashing major cities.  This is an exciting read, but with such a focus on fitting in so many big events, the issue kind of lacked heart.

DC Universe Presents #15 – This Black Lightning and Blue Devil story has fallen way short of my expectations of a Marc Andreyko comic, but if all you’re looking for is a straight-forward, old school superhero story, you could do a lot worse.

FF #2 – This title continues to be much better than the Fantastic Four, as the two titles finally diverge, and we see the new FF in action against Mole Man.  Matt Fraction’s written a fun story, and Michael Allred draws the hell out of it.  There’s a lot of potential here, although I’m not happy to see that the next issue likely revolves around the Human Torch.  I’d rather this new team get to do its own thing, especially since I have no interest in having to buy the other title.

Harbinger #7 – Joshua Dysart is introducing the rest of the original Harbingers, starting with Flamingo, who in this version, is a stripper who has had a difficult life.  Peter Stanchek activates her, and things get a little fiery.  Dysart is joined by Barry Kitson this month, an artist who I’ve admired for years.  Lee Garbett and Khari Evans also draw some pages, making this book a little too like DC’s New 52 for my liking; I wish books could stay more consistent with their looks.  Still, this is a very good comic, and I especially like the way Dysart is using the character Kris to explore the morality of Peter’s actions.

Hawkeye #6 – I think it’s safe to officially declare this Marvel’s best book, as Matt Fraction employs a frustrating yet awesome non-linear approach to telling a simple story about Clint’s efforts to take a few days off from being a hero, setting up his television set, and watching a season’s worth of Dog Cops on his DVR.  (I hope this isn’t some kind of Disney vertical integration thing, and Dog Cops isn’t the next big Disney cartoon or something).  His plans are interrupted by the Russian Bro Mob once again, as Clint starts to question his ability to effectively protect the building he now owns.  David Aja remains the real star of this show, as he continues to experiment with panel layout in a way that reminds me more of Chris Ware than anything else – a total rarity for the superhero genre.  I particularly love the page that has Hawkguy, Wolverine, and Spider-Man fighting a group of AIM guys – it’s laid out like a 90s video game.  Awesome stuff all around.

Haunt #28 – Okay, I officially don’t have any clue what’s going on in Haunt any more, on the level of the story, and on the business level.  This title was terrific when Joe Casey and Nathan Fox started on it, and delivered some weird but enjoyable comics.  Lately though, as it’s been plagued by delays, the stories have seemed increasingly static and uninteresting, and I’ve had a hard time remembering what’s going on.  Now though, with this issue, the story waffles all over the place, and then suddenly the book is taken over by Todd McFarlane for the last three pages, and stops making any sense at all.  Is Todd trying to recover the property (by having it continue into Spawn?)?  There is no text page or explanation, and I’m wondering what’s going on with all the other issues that have been solicited as being by Casey and Fox (this issue was mostly drawn by Kyle Strahm).  Either way, I think this is time for me to say goodbye.  This book is a mess, but I can guarantee that the one way to not fix it is to parachute McFarlane into the mix.  This kind of thing happens to Joe Casey a lot, doesn’t it (I’m particularly thinking of his excellent Youngblood run that got taken over by Rob Liefeld, got Obama-cized, and then disappeared unfinished).

Indestructible Hulk #2 – I think that Mark Waid is making a name for himself by taking characters that are known for their moroseness, like Matt Murdock and Bruce Banner, and finding ways for them to be happy again.  It’s an odd move in an industry that likes their heroes grim and gritty, but it works for him.  Bruce wants to show off his new approach to things to Tony Stark, and of course, they end up fighting somewhere off in the Himalayas.  I think that the fight feels a little contrived, and that Leinil Yu draws the Iron Man armor rather strangely, but in every other aspect, this is a very good comic.  I wasn’t going to buy it regularly, but I’m starting to think this might end up on the pull-list.

Nightwing #15 – I think the constant interruption of Bat-crossovers into this book, followed by a two-issue stint with a guest writer, has taken the shine off this title for me.  I’ve liked the way that Kyle Higgins has been writing Dick, a character I never liked until recently, but I’m not sure how many times I can handle seeing the good people at Haly’s Circus being threatened before I stop caring.  Oh wait, I think it already happened.

Number 13 #1 – I enjoyed the three or four serialized chapters that began this series in Dark Horse Presents, so I decided to jump on board for Robert Love and David Walker’s science fiction story about a young amnesiac robot boy in a world where humanity is divided between ‘Fected’ – people who have been badly mutated by a virus, and ‘Munes’, the people who are immune to it.  I like Love’s loose drawings, and the creativity that has been put into the characters.  I am curious to see what happens to poor little Thirteen, who is apparently the key to curing humanity.

Secret Avengers #35 – We’re very close to the end of this series, and it’s all plot now, as Captain Britain and his squad finish up their mission on the Undead Avengers Earth, and Father and his Descendents make their big moves in New York.  It’s a pretty exciting issue, and Matteo Scalera does a good job with a gigantic cast of characters.

Star Wars Agent of Empire: Hard Targets #3 – In the wake of the news this week that Marvel is going to be taking over the comics end of the Star Wars license in a few years, I’m left wondering what’s going to happen with characters like Jahan Cross, the Imperial secret agent that John Ostrander has used to such great effect in Hard Targets and the previous Agent of Empire mini-series.  I hope that books like this will continue, although only if Ostrander is around to write them.  Meanwhile, I’m going to keep enjoying these for as long as I can.  This issue has Cross racing off to save the young Count Dooku from his abductor, a sometime paramor of Cross’s, who he later has to spring from prison.  Ostrander is writing a pretty dense plot that rivals the best of the James Bond movies, and Davide Fabbri is doing a wonderful job of drawing this book.  It’s good stuff.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #18 – I have hated how the Divided We Fall and United We Stand mini-crossovers have derailed the wonderful Ultimate Spider-Man, but I feel that with this issue, Brian Michael Bendis has his story back on track.  Miles Morales gets a lot more room to breathe as a character this month, as he fights a Giant Woman on his own in a cornfield, and his relationship with Jessica Drew takes an interesting turn.  I’m especially happy to see art by David Marquez, who is one of only two artists who should be allowed on this book (the other, of course, being Sara Pichelli).

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #19 – I feel like this book is really floundering.  When Jonathan Hickman relaunched it, he made a huge mess of the world in a hurry, and spent lots of time really looking at just what that means for everyone the world over.  Since Sam Humphries took over, he’s made Captain America president, and has quickly fixed all of Hickman’s problems, with the result that this has kind of become a buddy-hero book focused on the Avenger’s version of the trinity.  The reveal on the last page is kind of interesting, but I’m getting bored of this book; I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to stick with it.

Uncanny X-Force #35 – It’s not going to be hard to imagine that this book is going to be remembered as one of the better Marvel runs of the early 21st century.  While it’s not rare for a mainstream book to keep the same writer for a span of thirty-five issues, it is rare for that book to stay so consistently good, and to tell a complete story from start to finish, without getting caught up in cross-over nonsense, or losing its focus along the way.  Rick Remender should be incredibly proud of his work here, and it shows what happens when a writer is given a non-headlining title and is allowed to just go nuts with it.  This issue works as an epilogue to the entire series, with Logan disbanding the team after the events of the last few issues.  Betsy works to rebuild bridges she’s burned (is she still missing her emotions?  that part was never clear), and Deadpool calms down a little, and has a nice moment with Evan.  Phil Noto was just the right artist to finish off this series, which also manages to hint a little as to its next incarnation, with an explanation of just why the promo images for that series have a female Fantomex in them.

Wolverine and the X-Men #22 – In the aftermath of Avengers Vs. X-Men, I’m surprised by how little interest I have in the more traditional mutant titles.  I’ve decided to not bother with the Bendis titles (until I can get them at half-price or better), and my enthusiasm for Jason Aaron’s book has fallen off precipitously.  This issue has more mind-controlled X-Men fighting against the students in a circus being run by Frankenstein so he can track down the last of his maker’s relatives.  The story is needlessly silly and too filled with characters the world really doesn’t need, like Eye-Boy (who sounds like he was made for the Legion of Substitute Heroes).  If things don’t pick up with the addition of Ramón Pérez as artist, I’m out of here.

Wonder Woman #15 – The best of the New 52 continues to impress as Diana meets another one of her half-brothers, who is apparently friends with Orion of the New Gods.  Meanwhile, Hera and Zola hang out in a hotel room, and a little more happens with the first-born of Zeus in the Antarctic.  Cliff Chiang’s design for Orion is great – using the best of Jack Kirby’s original, but updating the look nicely.  There seems to be a lot left unsaid in this issue, which has me looking forward to next month already.

X-Factor #249 – It’s another all-action issue of X-Factor, so I find my interest waning once again.  I like this title, but I find that the rapidity of its release schedule keeps Peter David from worrying about making each issue balanced between the necessities of action, character development, and plot.  I imagine him thinking, “We can make this one all one big fight, with a few one liners tossed in, since I only have to wait two weeks to move the story forward.”  I would like to see this book come out a lot less often, but be a little more dense and organized when it does, because we seem to be only hitting the mark with every second issue lately.

X-Men Legacy #3 – This is one of the more oddball of the Marvel NOW! relaunches, and I can’t fully decide if I want to stick with it or not.  The series is centred on Legion, the son of Charles Xavier, who suffers from a variety of mental illnesses and is host to hundreds of multiple personalities.  In this issue, Legion travels to Japan to rescue two mutant children from some Yakuza, except that they don’t feel the need to be rescued.  The writing is amusing (I especially liked the gangsters’ dialogue), and Tan Eng Huat’s art suits the material, but I really don’t know if there’s enough here to keep me coming back month after month.  I’ll probably give it one more issue to establish itself before I decide.

X-O Manowar #8 – It’s another excellent issue, as Aric and Ninjak attack MI-6 headquarters in London to purge it of Vine operatives.  There’s a lot of excitement in this issue, as Robert Vendetti continues to set up the upcoming big fight with the Vine forces that are on their way to Earth.  This is a very nicely balanced comic, with some character progression, and some very cool visuals thanks to Lee Garbett and Stefano Gaudiano.

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

A Plus X #3

All-New X-Men #4

Astonishing X-Men #57

Cable and X-Force #2

Captain America #2

Mars Attacks #6

Rachel Rising #13

Thor God of Thunder #3

Bargain Comics:

Astonishing X-Men #56 – The conclusion to Marjorie Liu’s first story arc is much more satisfying than most of the issues that led up to it; it feels like she’s relaxed into the characters a little better, and isn’t pushing so hard to write a memorable run.  This is an X-team with some potential, and I’m curious to see where the book goes from here.

Captain Marvel #3-7 – Here’s an example of a series that I really wanted to like, but which has just not clicked with me.  The first arc of this book dealt with Carol Danvers being lost in time and suffering from some serious hero worship issues surrounding a female pilot.  Carol did not come off as confident or self-assured as I’m used to seeing her, but at least the two issues drawn by Emma Rios were gorgeous.  Regular series artist Dexter Soy’s work began to grow on me too.  Issue 7, which has writer Kelly Sue DeConnick joined by co-writer Christopher Sebela, worked a lot better, as Carol gets called by former Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau to help out with a Bermuda Triangle-like issue off the Louisiana coast.  I think maybe, it’s just because I like Monica Rambeau that I liked this issue so much, but I have a hard time accepting that she has a fear of water that prevents her from diving in and helping out.  I’m not ready to add this series to my pull-list, but I will keep checking it out from time to time.

Infernal Man-Thing #1&2 – Like with many of the late Steve Gerber’s stories, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here.  Gerber was like the proto-Grant Morrison, and this story, which sat in a draw for many years waiting for Kevin Nowlan to paint it (you have to check out the portable word processor the main character uses), is vintage Gerber.  It’s a sequel to an old Man-Thing comic he wrote in the 70s (reprinted in the back of these two issues), which was about a man whose creative ideas take on some form of real life (at least to him).  The guy ended up fixing his life and working in kids’ animation until a mental break sends him careening back to the swamp and weirdness.  Nowlan’s work here is beautiful, and it’s nice to see him doing comics on his own again (so rare).  Still, this story did not grab me much at all, I’m sorry to say.

Scarlet Spider #1-4 – I missed the entire Clone Saga back in the day, and so had no clue who Kaine was when he returned in Amazing Spider-Man a year or two back, and didn’t much care about the character.  I do like Chris Yost as a writer though, and always enjoy series set in non-traditional places (this book happens in Houston), so I figured it was time to check this out.  These early issues do a good job of establishing Kaine as a reluctant anti-hero, and start building a supporting cast.  I really like the costume they’ve designed for the Scarlet Spider, and the way that, despite being a clone of Peter Parker somehow (the recap page was confusing), he looks so much beefier than Peter.  I’m not sure what’s up with his camouflage powers, but otherwise, these are very solid issues.  I may need to start reading this book…

X-Men #38 – There has to be a place for solid stories of one or two issues in length featuring various X-Men in solo or small-group adventures by a rotating creative team.  This issue is a bit of a delight, as it begins a story featuring Domino, who ends up teaming up with Daredevil to take down a bar filled with bad guys.  Seth Peck (whatever happened to ‘76, his excellent Image mini-series anyway?) and Paul Azaceta deliver a light-hearted, enjoyable story that is not mired in continuity or cross-over madness, and can be enjoyed on its own merits.

The Week in Manga:

Black Blizzard

by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

I really enjoyed readingA Drifting Life, manga legend Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s gigantic manga memoir a couple of years ago.  It portrayed his early days in the manga industry, a business that he helped shape with his resolve to write darker, more adult stories for a more adult audience.

In that book, the act of his creating Black Blizzard is a watershed moment for the young Tatsumi, and I was curious to read this book.  Luckily, the fine people at Drawn & Quaterly decided that this book was deserving of a North American edition, and so I was able to get the chance.

Black Blizzard is a Japanese noir story set in the late 1950s.  It opens with a young pianist showing concern that he may have murdered another person, although he was drunk at the time, and does not remember what happened.  He is arrested, but while being transported alongside another prisoner, to whom he is handcuffed, the train derails.  The two men make good on this chance for freedom, and end up spending hours together in a forest ranger’s cabin, hiding from the police and trying to get warm (they’ve just walked through the titular blizzard).

The young man tells the hardened criminal his story, one of love, music, and the cruel ringmaster father of his circus performing girlfriend who does not want them to be together.  Later, desperate to be free, the older criminal contrives to drug the younger, and cut off his hand.

The story is pretty simple in its design and execution, but for all that, it is effective.  This is a classic noir story, and it illustrates how little that genre has changed in sixty years.  Tatsumi’s early art is much cruder than what was in A Drifting Life, but there is a charm to this work by a young man looking to stretch the possibilities of an entire medium.  As a story, this is entertaining.  As a historical document, this book is essential.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand

Screenplay by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl
Realized by Ramón Pérez

I’m sure it’s not possible to find someone who doesn’t have fond memories of something done by Jim Henson, be it his Muppets, his work on Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, or the Dark Crystal.  He was clearly a visionary artist, whose oeuvre has had a lasting influence on children’s entertainment and the psyches of generations.

Personally, I didn’t realize he was such a surrealist visionary as well.  A Tale of Sand was the name he put on a screenplay for a live-action movie he wrote with his frequent collaborator Jerry Juhl back in 1967 or so.  The film was never made, but the script was recently uncovered and adapted as a beautifully produced hardcover graphic novel by Ramón Pérez.

The story doesn’t explain much – a man is attending a party in a small town in the middle of a desert.  He is escorted away by the town’s Sheriff, who rather vaguely explains that he has a ten minute’s head start to run out of town, and that if he makes it to a group of mountains, he should be safe.  The guy has no clue what’s going on, but quickly heads out of town, with only a backpack of supplies, and an over-sized skeleton key to aid him.  It’s not long before he realizes that he’s being followed by a slim, bearded man, who starts shooting at him.

The guy continues to try to escape, and his journeys lead him through a surrealistic desert landscape, populated with angry Arabs, football players, Kalahari bushmen, busy highways, a shark-infested saltwater swimming pool, and other odd things.

As strange as all of this sounds, on the page, it seems to make perfect sense.  Pérez has done a phenomenal job of drawing this book in such a way as to present its internal logic as ultimately sane and very compelling.  He plays with colour and page layouts to help propel the story, and generally, has created one of the most gorgeous graphic novels I’ve read in a while.

This book is highly recommended.

Album of the Week:

Feten: Rare Jazz Recordings From Spain – This is an amazing collection of older Spanish jazz from the fine people at Vampi Soul.  This is not an era or place I’m familiar with, but listening to these recordings really make me wish I was born earlier, and on a different continent.

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The Weekly Round-Up #155 with DHP, Clone, Comeback, Glory, The Unwritten & More Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:00:45 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Dark Horse Presents #18

Written by Joshua Williamson, Carla Speed McNeil, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Corben, Dara Naraghi, Phil Stanford, Peter Hogan, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Colin Lorimer, and Mike Richardson
Art by Victor Ibáñez, Carla Speed McNeil, Ulises Farinas, Richard Corben, Victor Santos, Patric Reynolds, Steve Parkhouse, Steve Lieber, Colin Lorimer, and Ron Chan

This issue of Dark Horse Presents is much stronger than some of the recent issues, as some new serials begin, some of the better ones continue or return, and we are given an excellent one-off memoir.

The book opens with a story about Captain Midnight, by Joshua Williamson and Victor Ibáñez.  A WWII plane comes flying out of the Bermuda Triangle, piloted by the Captain, who ends up on the deck of a US aircraft carrier.  It’s clear that he is lost in time.  What’s not clear is if this is a new character or one that has shown up before (the title loudly proclaims that he ‘returns’).  All I know is that I enjoyed this story, but I’m not familiar with this character.

From there, we get a new chapter of Finder, my now-favourite science fiction comic.  Jaegar is in a city he hasn’t been to before, where it appears that all the citizens suffer from something called Apex Sudden Death Syndrome.  Consequently, no one goes outside, and are instead represented by different types of holographic avatars.  This is pretty typical work from Carla Speed McNeil – it’s dense with ideas and characterization, and there is a general assumption that we already know what she’s talking about, even though these ideas are brand new.  I’m completely hooked on this serial.

After that comes ‘Gamma’, a new serial by Ulises Farias and Erick Freitas.  It’s a bizarre little story that starts off being about a ‘coward’ who hangs out a bar all day, where people pay $50 to punch him in the face.  Later, he’s asked to help a battered woman stand up to her husband, and suddenly this story is about people using holographic ‘monsters’ to fight each other.  Farias’s art has a bit of a Brandon Graham meets Moebius vibe to it, so I’m on board.

Richard Corben gives us another adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe poem or short story, and as is always the case with these things, it’s lovely and odd.

One of the best pieces this month is Dara Naraghi’s memoir of growing up on the shore of the Caspian Sea in Iran.  It’s lovingly illustrated by Victor Santos, and very nicely evokes a lost time and place.  I really wish we’d see more things like this in anthologies and comics in general.

Resident Alien, which is an excellent series, returns this month with a strangely-paced story.  It opens with a dream shared between the alien doctor’s assistant and her grandfather (I think?), before we move back in time three years, and see the US military men who found the doctor’s spacecraft, as they investigate his arrival on Earth.  I’m not sure where this is leading, but I’m happy to see more of this story.

Alabaster returns, and City of Roses continues, but neither really grab my attention.  I feel the same about The Secret Order of the Teddy Bears, which is an all-ages story that is lacking the complexity of some of the other all-ages pieces that have run in this book (I’m thinking of Beasts of Burden, which is brilliant).

UXB, another on-going serial, continues to mystify me in its lack of narrative cohesion.  I really do not understand what is going on in this series.

Still, this is a very successful issue overall.

Other Notable Comics:

Clone #1

Written by David Schulner
Art by Juan Jose Ryp
And the Image hits just keep coming.  Clone is a new series (a mini-series, I assume, but it’s always hard to tell with Image) that touches on familiar story elements, but does it very effectively.

Luke Taylor’s wife is about to have his baby.  He’s still bitter about the fact that his own father abandoned him, which heightens the usual concerns new father’s have about being ready for things.  One morning, as he is getting ready for work, he finds a man who looks just like him quietly bleeding out on his kitchen floor.  This guy warns him that someone is after his wife.

This someone, who looks just like Luke and the guy in the kitchen, shows up at the hospital where the wife is getting a check-up, and takes off with her.

We figure out a little while before Luke does that we are dealing with a cloning story (admittedly, the title kind of tipped that off), and that ‘they’ are after Luke for reasons we don’t know.  There are some people ready to help him, and I’m sure we will get the back story in the next issue or so.

This is an effective opening, and the book falls into that ‘movie good’ category quite nicely.  Juan Jose Ryp’s art is dynamic and detailed in equal measures (although I still hate the weird effect he draws around any spot where a character hits something), and it helps propel the story along.  The clone story has not reached the ubiquity of the zombie or vampire story yet, but with books like Garrison andDancer touching on similar themes not that long ago, it does seem like there’s something going on.

Still, newcomer David Schulner has crafted a nice introduction here, and I’m curious to see where he takes it.

Comeback #1

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Michael Walsh

Ed Brisson has impressed me on a few occasions with his excellent short crime stories in his self-published seriesMurder Book, which seems to come out about once a year (and which has featured this series’s artist, Michael Walsh).  Brisson writes some fantastically dark stories in that series, so I knew I’d be in for something mysterious in this, which to the best of my knowledge is his first mini-series.

Brisson plays things very close to the vest here.  I found that I learned more about the structure of this series from reading the ‘next issue’ blurb on the back cover than I did reading this first issue, but that’s okay, because Brisson and Walsh are masters of creating atmosphere.

The comic opens with two men knocking on the door of an older man, claiming they represent the hydro company.  In no time, they have forced their way into the home, and have abducted the man.  He is taken to an empty warehouse, where he is then exposed to a very bright light, which takes him some sixty days into the future.  The trip doesn’t work well for the man.

The reader slowly figures out that these men work for a company called RECONNECT (actually, the company doesn’t get named in the issue) that specializes in pulling people away from their imminent deaths.  This is not cheap – we see a new client pony up five million dollars to save his wife from a car accident.  Many of the mechanics of the operation are outlined here, but everything is kept a little bit obscure and oblique.  We do learn that one of the agents doesn’t want to keep working for this company, and it looks like someone is investigating them, but we don’t know a whole lot more than that.

There are a lot of mysteries introduced in this issue; perhaps a few too many, with no clear idea who the ‘hero’ of the story is going to be.  At the same time, I trust Brisson to pull this off.  Walsh’s art is very nice, in the Paul Azaceta/Michael Lark school.  The feel of this book is terrific, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Conqueror Worm

Adapted by Richard Corben

I will confess that I’ve never really loved Poe.  I’ve found his work to be a little overwrought, or maybe even a little pretentious.  I’ve tried a few times to really absorb his writing, and it seems that no matter how many times I’ve read ‘The Raven’, I’ve never paid attention to it right through the very end.

Richard Corben, however, I do like.  He’s always been a comics artist that has stood out for me as someone whose work I can immediately recognize, and I’ve appreciated his eye for the bizarre.  I’ve been enjoying his Poe adaptations in Dark Horse Presents lately, although I’ve often wondered about just how many liberties he’s been taking with the source material, as it’s always just seemed a little too weird, even for Poe.

With this one-shot which adapts one of Poe’s more famous poems, I feel like I finally have a handle on how Corben adapts things.  Basically, it seems that he takes Poe’s more bizarre poems, and then transplants them into the types of settings he most enjoys – the deserts of the Southwest.

In this book, he shows us what happens to a Colonel Mann, whose wife has just run off with his cousin (and a servant).  He kills them, and then has a strange encounter with some Aboriginal puppeteers, who invite him and the rest of his family to a puppet show.  The show itself is a grotesque business that looks to tell Mann’s story, complete with real guns and the prerequisite nude buxom women (a Corben specialty).  Oh yah, and there are some carnivorous worms.

The poem is reprinted on the last page of this comic, and while there is little in it to connect it to the surrealistic, dream-like narrative Corben has constructed from it, I will never be able to read it without thinking of this comic again.  I’d love to see Corben adapt some other writers in a similar vein.

Glory #30

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Roman Muradov and Ross Campbell

I love it when a comic throws you an unexpected curve.  Since relaunching this book, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell have delivered an excellent set of issues that have an aging and diminished Glory preparing to fight against her father’s other-dimensional army of monsters.  This issue, however, opens with a story involving Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso.

The first three pages of this issue feature Jim, Glory’s old friend, recounting the tale from her days in Paris in the 20s.  These pages are drawn by Roman Muradov, in a simplified, cartoonish style.  After that, we’re back to the usual stuff, but the whole thing was very effective at changing the tone of the book, and illustrating just how long this character has been on Earth.

The rest of the issue involves Glory’s effort to recruit her sister, Nanaja, to help her in her battle with their father.  Since Glory and Nanaja don’t get along, this means they have to fight first, as people always have to in comics.  Ross Campbell doesn’t hold back in the fight scenes, which are vicious to a degree rarely seen in comics not published by Avatar Press.  It’s pretty gruesome.

Later, there are a couple more surprises in store for the reader, and ultimately Glory, as the series continues to move towards a huge family confrontation.  It’s great stuff, and Campbell’s art is looking better than ever.

Mind the Gap #6

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo

I’m really glad I chose to stick with Jim McCann’s Mind the Gap.  Around the third and fourth issue, I was beginning to worry that this series was just a little too pleased with its own cleverness, and I found myself losing interest, but between last issue’s flashback story, and this month’s excitement, I’m really getting wrapped up in this book.

Elle has been in her coma for a while now, and she’s started to figure out how she can place her consciousness in the bodies of other, recently deceased, coma victims.  She is asked by a young girl, Katie Lawrence, who was taken off life support, to go and make sure that the secret behind her ‘accident’ is revealed.

Elle does this, and is able to make a phone call to her best friend Jo, while in Katie’s body.  She’s found by Katie’s family though, and all hell breaks loose in the hospital.  There is a very cool scene where Katie’s body, being taken to an MRI room, accompanied by Dr. Geller, almost collides with Elle’s, who is also being taken for imaging by her doctor.  The two victims have the same brain wave patterns, and exhibit other synchronized actions.  It’s a very creepy scene.

Also in this issue, we learn a little more about what happened to Elle, and what role her mother and her doctor play in it.  Katie/Elle is yelling gibberish in the hallway (it reminds me of the libretto to much of Phillip Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach), but in light of her mother’s conversation with the doctor, I think that McCann is dropping some major clues.

Now that McCann has stopped pointing out his own cleverness in the text page, and is not filling the book with long psycho-babble scenes in The Garden, I find it much easier to get swept up in this story.  I’m completely invested in figuring out what happened to Elle, and just who is responsible for what, and I look forward to the next issue.

The Unwritten #43

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The events of this series have made quite a mess of the fictional worlds, which has been hinted at for a while, and really only shown in the latest ‘Pauly Bruckner’ issue of The Unwritten.  Well, now Tom Taylor is in the fictional worlds, looking to rescue Lizzie Hexam, and he gets to see just how messed up things are.

Many fictional characters have ended up in the same place, as refugees from their usual spots.  It’s not long before Tom runs in to his old friend, Baron Munchausen, who agrees to take him to the land of the dead.  The problem is, they are being pursued by an army of militant storybook animals, and when Munchausen’s involved, nothing ever goes properly.

This is a solid, good issue.  I’ve felt for a while now that The Unwritten has been moving towards its grand finale, as without the threat of the Cabal, there doesn’t seem to be as much for Tom to do.  The rescue mission concept feels a little tagged on, although now, as we see the problems surrounding Leviathan first hand, I assume that Tom will have to now fix whatever is wrong with fiction.

This book continues to be a very good read, but I would like some better understanding of its structure going forward, less it begin to feel like it’s being improvised in the way that Fables is.

Quick Takes:

Amazing Spider-Man #698 – I have some random issues of Amazing Spider-Man piling up somewhere, as I don’t usually pay full price for this book, and instead try to track it down at sales and in bargain bins.  I’ve liked Dan Slott’s run, but the book comes out way too often to keep buying it at full price.  Anyway, I fell for the hype and picked up this issue, after reading a few too many internet articles about how essential it was going to be.  Most of this issue is spent checking in with Peter Parker and where he is in life – it could be read by someone who hasn’t read a Spidey comic since the 80s and that person wouldn’t be lost (unless they wondered why Peter and MJ weren’t married).  The entire book hinges on the revelation of the last few pages (which I won’t spoil here), and it was definitely not something I expected to see happen.  It also opens things up pretty wide for the upcoming Superior Spider-Man title, when this book is relaunched after issue 700.  I’ll probably stick around until then; I’m intrigued.

Baltimore: The Play – Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden do things a little differently with this one-shot, which barely features Lord Baltimore, the title character.  Instead, it tells the story of how Haigus, the vampire lord he’s been hunting, decides to get involved with the staging of a play in the plague-ridden city of Verona.  The story involves a powerful muse, the decapitated but still speaking head of Edgar Allan Poe, and vampiric lust.  It’s a strange one, but I liked it more than I did the last Baltimore story.  Ben Stenbeck does great work here.

Batwoman #14 – It’s another drop-dead gorgeous issue of Batwoman, as Kate and Wonder Woman figure out where Medusa is, just as she and her army make their move on Gotham.  There is some nice character work on Kate and Diana, and some incredibly beautiful pages.  But then, that’s what always happens when JH Williams is drawing the book.

BPRD 1948 #2 – There is a lot more weirdness going on in the desert as Professor Bruttenholm investigates strange happenings surrounding a nuclear site (and strange happenings going on in his heart), Anders acts weirder than before, and Hellboy gets ready to meet the president.  A very good issue.

Daredevil #20 – I have no idea how you would even begin to explain the science behind this issue, even in comic book terms, but this is yet another solid issue, as DD faces off against Coyote, the newly upgraded Spot, who has begun using his powers in some very interesting ways.

Dark Avengers #183 – Well, the whole Dark Avengers thing really did ruin this title.  This is the final issue before the book becomes a Marvel NOW! title (making it Marvel THEN!?), and I know that I am really not all that interested.  I don’t get it – Jeff Parker is a terrific writer, but this book just keeps getting worse.  This issue tries to wrap up all dangling plot-lines, but really just becomes a huge mess, as characters flit in and out of scenes at random. Much of the blame falls on Neil Edwards, whose art is stiff and awkward throughout, and whose characters all look the same.  Still, I feel like some collection of corporate folks are writing this one, not Parker, who is just trying to connect the dots and keep the characters true to each other.  A sad ending to what used to be a great comic.

DC Universe Presents #14 – I am also disappointed in this Black Lightning/Blue Devil team-up story.  I preordered this on the strength of writer Marc Andreyko’s excellent work on Manhunter, but this is not as character driven as that series was, and the story suffers for it.  I like the twist on the Blue Devil’s origin that we are given here, but the rest of the book is just way too conventional and everyday.

Harbinger #6 – Kris, the girl that Peter Stanchek forced to love him in the first issue of this book, returns to narrate and make this the best issue of Harbinger yet.  Kris finds herself wrapped up in Peter’s drama again, but when she learns about the Harada Foundation, and the Project Rising Spirit folk (I’d forgotten about them), she decides to leverage the influence she has over Peter for the good of the world.  Joshua Dysart is doing some very good stuff with this title, and the art by Phil Briones is very nice.

Hawkeye #4 – If David Aja couldn’t draw an issue of Hawkeye, my choices to replace him would be either Marcos Martin or Javier Pulido.  And so, I was very happy to see that Pulido was drawing this issue and the next.  There is some sort of video tape with footage of Clint killing someone, and it’s gone missing from SHIELD, who send Clint off to Madripoor to try to recover it.  As has become status quo for this series, he totally bungles the mission, and ends up the hostage of Madame Masque.  This continues to be a fun, amusing comic with some truly incredible art.  It has become one of my favourite Marvel books.

Indestructible Hulk #1 – I’m not a huge Hulk fan, but I wanted to see what Mark Waid could do with the property, and I was pleased.  Putting the focus on Bruce Banner, who wants to do good deeds in-between ‘Hulk-outs’ is a nice change for the title, and having him work at SHIELD results in that organization being better-defined than it has since before Norman Osborn shut it all down.  Leinil Yu’s art is nice, if a little too complicated in the action scenes.  I’ll pick up the next issue I think (I’m not sure how aggressively Marvel is double-shipping this book; that will affect whether or not I continue to read it).

Iron Man #2 – I continue to be shockingly uninterested in the Marvel NOW! relaunch of Iron Man.  It would be easy to place the blame at Greg Land’s feet – his art is pretty awful (check out the overly-static fight scenes) – but I fear that some of the blame has to be Kieron Gillen’s as well.  This issue has Tony challenged to fight duels with a bunch of King Arthur-themed Extremis-enhanced armored fighters in Symkaria.  We don’t know who they are or what their deal is, and it’s next to impossible to care.  Gillen writes some very nice dialogue, but there is no sense that this book is moving anywhere interesting.  Strangely, Gillen writes in the text piece about how his intent with this title is to be more improvisational with his plotting than he was with Uncanny X-Men, Journey Into Mystery (and one would assume, Phonogram).  To me, that sounds like he’s decided to forgo his strengths with this book.  Pair that up with a crappy artist, and my desire to read this title is fading quickly.  Since it’s often double-shipped, I’m going to be taking it off my pull-list with the next issue of Previews, and we’ll see what happens from there.  Very disappointing…

Nightwing #14 – I still don’t understand why Tom DeFalco has been writing this book, but he’s kept things consistent with what Kyle Higgins was doing, and turned in a decent enough story about Dick fighting Lady Shiva that tangentially ties in to the whole Death of the Family thing.  I think it’s interesting how the Penguin is getting built up as a major player in the Bat-Books these days.

Revival #5 – I’d say this was the first disappointing issue of Revival, as Tim Seeley’s plot slid all over the place, without barely showing us its usual main character, Officer Dana Cypress.  Instead, we saw Martha, our hero’s sister, get involved in the drama surrounding Blaine Abel, the phony demonologist, and the strange white creature that we’ve seen from time to time in the series.  I’d assumed the creature was an alien, but now that is looking less likely.  I think what trashed this issue for me is the scene where Abel chases Martha and journalist May across some fields on snowmobiles, before they end up in highway traffic.  If the entire area is under quarantine, why are there semis driving along highways?  Perhaps they were outside the quarantine zone, but that doesn’t make sense either.  I don’t want to pick this book apart, because I’ve been enjoying it, but that wrinkle kind of wrecked things for me.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire – Hard Targets #2 – Political and familial intrigue, a flying pirate ship, and plans within plans.  John Ostrander’s James Bond meets Star Wars series continues to impress as an intelligent read that should appeal to a wide variety of fans.  It’s good stuff.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #17 – I was worried that the United We Stand mini-crossover in the Ultimate books would have too much of an impact on Miles and his title, and I was right to worry.  This issue fills in what Miles was up to during SHIELD’s war with Hydra in Wyoming, and while it’s still nicely written, it really upsets the vibe that Brian Michael Bendis had going with this title.  I hope that things go back to normal soon (and that includes getting Sara Pichelli or David Marquez back on art – Pepe Larraz is fine, but I prefer the other two).

Ultimate Comics X-Men #18.1 – I’d planned on being finished with this series, but I figured that since 0.1 issues are priced at a level I support, I’d give it another chance.  Brian Wood basically constructs his own version of an Ultimate M-Day here, as many thousands of mutants undergo the government’s ‘cure’, and become human.  This leads to all sorts of tensions, and Kitty gets interviewed by the Feds about the state of mutantkind for the whole issue.  The timeline of events runs way too quickly to be credible, and there is a strange lack of any adult mutants in the story.  That said, Wood writes a mean Kitty Pryde.  I might give ‘The Reservation’, the next arc, one chance to impress me.

Uncanny X-Force #34 – This issue wraps up The Final Execution Saga, which has been running for a while now.  Logan confronts his son (hopefully for the last time), while the other members of the team face off against the rest of Daken and Sabretooth’s squad.  This has been a very good run, and I’m sad to see that Rick Remender has only one issue left.

Wolverine and the X-Men #21 – I just don’t know what’s going on with this title.  In this 20-page comic, six of them are given over to introducing the X-Men in their new circus-themed mind-controlled guises, but we never find out how they came under the thrall of Frankenstein’s circus.  The plot involves the Frankenstein Monster wanting to find and kill the last descendant of Victor Frankenstein, and so to do so, he puts all the adults of Westchester under the thrall of some witch, so they’d come watch the X-Men perform circus acts, and then get their souls stolen, or something.  The plot twist?  The last Frankenstein is not an adult!  He’s a child!  It’s like reading a bad Silver Age Jimmy Olson comic.  I find it hard to believe that this is written by the same Jason Aaron who wrote Scalped.

Wonder Woman #14 – As expected, another terrific issue of Wonder Woman.  Diana gets to know her half-sister Siracca (who wants to kill her), while the identity of the big guy who crawled out of the Antarctic is more or less revealed, and the Olympians scheme.  We also see Highfather and Orion, which is kind of cool.  Brian Azzarello’s run on this title is becoming legendary for, if nothing else, making me like Wonder Woman, something no previous writer has been able to do.  Tony Akins does a terrific job on the art, just like he always does.

X-Factor #247 – Peter David gives us a good issue wherein Jamie and Layla’s honeymoon in Vegas gets interrupted by someone who is cutting the heads off of Abe Lincoln impersonators.  It’s the kind of issue that the X-Factor crew does best – a few jokes, a few hints to an upcoming problem, and no reference at all to the cliff-hanger from last issue.

X-O Manowar #7 – It seems that not all Vine plantings feel the same way, as Alexander Dorian summarizes Vine culture in a less-than glowing way for Aric and Ninjak, and they decide to start working together to protect the Earth from Vine-wrought destruction.  This is a very good issue of what has been a very good series.  I miss Cary Nord’s art, but Lee Garbett is a good replacement.

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

Astonishing X-Men #56

Avengers #34

Captain America #1

Rocketeer Cargo of Doom #4

Wolverine #316

Bargain Comics:

The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk Vol. 1 – There was a time when a new series by Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley would have been a reason to rejoice, but this is most definitely not the same Matt Wagner who wrote the Grendel series.  Bisley has never been a huge favourite of mine, but these days his art looks like a cross between Richard Corben’s and Glenn Fabry’s, instead of the looser, dynamic work he did on Lobo back in the day.  This series, from Legendary Comics, this year’s version of Radical Comics (i.e., a comic company that exists only to develop film properties), introduces us to John Tower, a killer for hire who specializes in the occult and weird.  He ends up working a vampire case with the FBI, but never becomes more than a cipher through the whole issue – we don’t really get to know him, and therefore don’t begin to care about him.  I will not be returning for future volumes…

Ultimate Armor Wars #1-4 – I’m always willing to get drawn in to a Warren Ellis-written mini-series, and in that sense, this doesn’t really disappoint.  He has Ultimate Tony Stark tracking down some missing Stark Tech, in a series that really just retreads on one of my favourite Iron Man runs of all times, but with booze and a little more snark.  The craziest thing about this series?  The knowledge that I’ve been complaining about $4 comics for at least three years!

The Week in Graphic Novels:


Written by Alan Moore
Art by Jacen Burrows

Having never read any HP Lovecraft, I’m left wondering just why he has such a lasting influence on comics writers and artists.  I’d rank him up there with Nikola Tesla as having almost become a comic book genre unto himself.

Neonomicon is Alan Moore’s love letter to Lovecraft.  This edition contains two separate stories – the comics adaptation of Moore’s prose story The Courtyard (adapted by Antony Johnston), and the four-issue Neonomicon sequel mini-series that Moore wrote for Avatar.  Both stories are illustrated by Jacen Burrows.

In The Courtyard, a racist FBI agent with a rare ability to find connections between disparate threads of cases, becomes interested in a new drug called Aklo.  Users of this drug exhibit the use of a strange language similar to speaking in tongues, and have a tendency to chop up people around them.  The Courtyard is a little trippy, but also kind of grounded in things.  It introduces the character of Johnny Carcosa, a dealer who keeps the lower half of his face hidden behind a silk handkerchief, and who hangs out in a nightclub called the Club Zothique.

In Neonomicon, some time has passed since the events of The Courtyard.  It’s not clear how much time, but things feel very different.  Cities are protected by large domes, but there is no explanation for it.  Two new FBI agents, Brears and Lamper, begin to look in to murders that appear to be connected to the same club.  They try to apprehend Carcosa, but he escapes (the second time, in a very cool, very Alan Moore scene).  The two agents catch on to the recurring HP Lovecraft theme in everything that is going on, and travel to Salem to continue their investigation.

This is where things start to get really weird, as the two agents are inducted into a cult that uses sex and orgone energy to attract a merman creature.  This part of the story is pretty explicit, and I can understand why there was some controversy surrounding this book when it got its start.

I enjoyed reading both stories in this book.  I know that Moore has his detractors, and personally, I don’t see the appeal of Lovecraft, but I did enjoy the way this story was structured.  He plays around a little with people’s perceptions of the world, and the scene where Carcosa makes his escape is incredible.  Burrows is a talented artist who has a good handle on the range of human expressions, but can also graft those same emotions onto a merman creature thing.  This is a good read, but it’s not a book you’d leave lying around the house.

Album of the Week:

Karriem Riggins – Alone Together – Karriem Riggins is one of those unsung heroes of hip-hop.  His name has shown up all over the place over the years, working with a number of artists, but this is his first solo album.  It’s a collection of some thirty instrumental tracks mostly composed on an MPC 3000.  There’s a lot of great head-nodders here, and the requisite Dilla homage track.  It’s good stuff.

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Were Money No Object – The September Previews Edition Mon, 10 Sep 2012 13:00:02 +0000 November looks like it’s going to be a big month for comics, with Marvel Now! getting into full swing, and Image dropping a ton of new titles.  Let’s look through Previews together…

Dark Horse

I’m going to assume that theNumber 13 #0 solicited this month is a reprint of the stories that were in the earliest issues of Dark Horse Presents.  I liked Robert Love and David Walker’s story about a boy robot hunting for his father in a post-Apocalyptic world.  It’s taken Dark Horse a long time to revisit this story in what I assume is a mini-series.  I have to assume too much here – I wish that Dark Horse’s solicitations were clearer. Similarly, I don’t get what’s up with Mind MGMT #0.  It says here that this comic contains three stories that will help new readers get up to speed on the series (which is amazing), and that it’s ‘specially priced’.  However, it’s a 24 page comic for $2.99.  What’s special about that?  Oh well, I love this series, and Matt Kindt’s work in general, so I’ll buy it.

The new horror series Colder has a well-respected writer (Paul Tobin), and a great artist (Juan Ferreyra, who drew the last few year’s worth of Rex Mundi), but that cover is really creeping me out.  I don’t generally go in for horror comics, but I might give this a shot. Speaking of horror, I am on-board for Richard Corben’s adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Conqueror Worm.  That should be cool.

The first Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi mini-series spent way too much time introducing characters and setting up the ancient Star Wars universe, sacrificing drama and characterization to do so.  Normally, I would pass on this new mini, The Prisoner of Bogan, but John Ostrander has accrued so much respect and faith in me over the years, that I’m gladly giving this another try.


Is Kyle Higgins off Nightwing now?  This month Previews has Tom DeFalco writing it, but I haven’t seen any articles or reports about this on the ‘net anywhere (which is strange, because following DC assignments has become the raison d’etre for many websites now).  I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know that I’m dropping this title now.I also think it’s time to drop Frankenstein Agent of SHADE.  I’ve wanted to like this comic, but it’s just not working for me, which makes it the first thing that Matt Kindt has written that I don’t like.  I am going to chalk it up to editorial interference, as I couldn’t find Jeff Lemire’s voice in this book when he wrote it, and I don’t sense Kindt’s now.  Tying it in to Rotworld reeks of desperation (as does his inclusion in Justice League Dark), so I’m done.  Unless the next issue amazes me…

Having dropped a bunch of DC titles lately, and with Vertigo cancelling or ending so many of theirs, I’m now buying the same number of DC comics I was in May 2011.  I thought that was interesting.  The only difference is that back then, I read a pretty diverse spread of comics.  Now, Batman-related titles make up almost a third of my DC purchases (and two of my Vertigo titles are ending this month or next).  I don’t even particularly like Batman more than other characters…


Image is launching a number of new titles this month.  Lately, this company has been on fire, but these can’t all be amazing, can they?  Let’s look… Clone looks lovely (with art by Juan Jose Ryp, how can it be otherwise), but the story sounds a lot like Dancer and Garrison.  I don’t know writer David Shulner, but this is being put out by Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, so it’s something I’ll want to take a look at when it hits the stands.  On the other hand, Great Pacific, written by Joe Harris, whose Ghost Projekt was awesome, is a definite buy.  It is about a young man who decides to fix the problem of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (something I’ve been interested in ever since I saw Ramin Bahrani’s amazing film Plastic Bag).

Comeback is written by Ed Brisson, the writer of the very good crime anthology Murder Book, and the letterer of Prophet.  He told me about this series at Fan Expo, which is about a company that uses time travel to save the lives of their clients’ loved ones.  Or maybe they don’t.  It should be good.  Nowhere Men is written by Image publisher Eric Stephenson, and looks like it might be good, if a little too slick.  It’s about science and fame.  I’ll flip through it. Storm Dogs is a science fiction crime thriller by David Hine and Doug Braithwaite.  I didn’t read past those two names – this is a definite addition to my pull-file, whatever it’s about.

I have no interest in the return of the Perphanauts, having not read their first series,but I am very excited about Where is Jake Ellis?, the sequel to the amazing Who is Jake Ellis?.  Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic created one of the most slick espionage comics of the year, and I’m looking forward to returning to their world.  Witch Doctor returns as well, with Malpractice.  This series can be described as Dr. Strange meets House, and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve never seen Scene of the Crime, a noir-ish crime comic by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Sean Phillips which is being republished in a deluxe hardcover edition this month.  I’m going to need this.


November marks the beginning of Marvel Now!, and that means it’s time to decide on whether or not I’m going to use it as a good opportunity to trim the number of Marvel titles I buy each month.  My issue with most of these new titles is that Marvel is not being very up-front about how often they are going to be coming out.  If I’m on the line about a series, and it’s going to get double-shipped most months, I’ll pass.  Especially if it’s a $3.99 title.

Indestructible Hulk written by Mark Waid should be a no-brainer, but it’s $4, and I don’t know how often it’s going to come out.  Also, I’ve never been a big Hulk fan, except for the first half of Peter David’s run on the character.  I’ll wait on this, even if I am curious to find out how Quislet from the Legion of Super-Heroes becomes a member of the title’s cast.

I’m bored to death with Brian Michael Bendis these days (except for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, which is awesome), so I’m going to pass on All-New X-Men.  It’s coming out every two weeks, it’s $4 an issue, and it features the original teen X-Men coming to the present.  The only thing I like about this idea is Stuart Immonen art, but if he’s having to pump it out on a bi-weekly schedule, even that’s probably not going to be very good.  Pass.

Kieron Gillen is tied with Jonathan Hickman as my favourite writer at Marvel right now.  Greg Land is one of my absolute least favourite artists.  I like Iron Man though, and Gillen is one of those writers who can rise above terrible art, so I’ll get this.  Land won’t be likely to stick around for long either, and hopefully he’ll get replaced by somebody good.

I love Jason Aaron when he writes his own stuff, and often like his Marvel work, but I imagine his Thor: God of Thunder is going to end up like his Incredible Hulk run – skippable.  For the last few years, too many Thor stories are steeped in the distant past; that Aaron is doing this again does not excite me.

So Rick Remender is sending Captain America to Dimension Z?  So how is he going to still be in all the Avengers titles?  I like Rick Remender’s writing, but I’m beyond done with John Romita Jr., and this doesn’t sound all that interesting to me.  Pass.

X-Men Legacy sounds like it could be good.  It’s focusing on Legion, which is an odd choice, but it’s double-shipping and it’s $4 an issue, with a writer who hasn’t really proven himself enough for my liking (Simon Spurrier), and a wildly inconsistent artist (Tan Eng Huat).  Pass. Matt Fraction has been very hit or miss at Marvel.

For Fantastic Fourhe’s joined by Mark Bagley, an artist I strongly dislike (perhaps even more than I do Greg Land).  He’s got the team heading off into ‘infinite time and space’ (maybe they’ll find Captain America), and I’m not that interested, even though the book is priced properly at $3.  FF, on the other hand, features an oddball team (Ant-Man, Medusa, the real She-Hulk, and Miss Thing), and is being drawn by Michael Allred.  This, I will buy.  I’m hoping we get the Matt Fraction of Casanova, as I can’t imagine Marvel is going to be watching this one too closely.

I’ve never liked Deadpool, so the combination of double-shipping and unproven Hollywood comedy writers with my intense dislike of the character means that art by Tony Moore is not going to get me to try it.  I do love that Geof Darrow cover though… Kelly Sue DeConnick being given Avengers Assemble is intriguing, but I’m still not interested in a tertiary Avengers book with Jonathan Hickman giving us two titles starting in December or January.

So Journey Into Mystery is continuing without Kieron Gillen and Loki.  Really, that means it’s continuing without me too.  I have a lot of respect for Kathryn Immonen, but I have no interest in reading the adventures of Sif with an unknown artist.

I’m pre-ordering three less Marvel books in November than I did in October.  Of the 19 I’m ordering, there are only 15 titles, and two of them (Avengers Academy and Defenders) are being cancelled with these issues.

Adhouse Books

I love Ethan Rilly’s Pope Hats, and am excited to see that the third issue has been solicited.  This series is like a cross between Optic Nerve and Scott Pilgrim, and mostly follows the travails of two young women who live in Toronto.  It’s good stuff.


I’m happy to see that Garth Ennis is bringing back the Battlefields title.  I like Ennis best when he is writing war comics, and I enjoyed all the previous incarnations of this title.  Ennis is paired with Carlos Ezquerra on this comic, returning to the ‘Tankies’ characters.  This will be good.


You have to hand it to Valiant – they are expanding their line at a sustainable pace, and not just rushing endless amounts of product onto the stands.  The return of Shadowman might be interesting – Justin Jordan did a decent job on The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, and Patrick Zircher is a very reliable artist.  I’m looking forward to checking this out.

So, what would you buy, Were Money No Object?

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THE VIEW FROM DOWN HERE #114 – CommGames Mon, 11 Oct 2010 07:46:31 +0000 Look, there’s not a huge amount of results, but there’s a lot of news and, boy!, do I rant a lot in this one! Oh, and I let you know where to holiday whilst Down Under.

Australian Rules Football
It’s trade week, meaning the teams are changing as players are swapped like commodities, lives are put on hold, futures are placed in the balance. Clubs have no qualms about dumping players, and yet get all uppity when players want to move on. It is the reason why rugby players defect to the super league in Europe. Loyalty is a two-way street and clubs just do not show any. Why? Because the AFL only cares about money and not about people. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, but the AFL does not care about the sport or the players. And draft week makes it obvious. And what’s worse is this draft means not a real lot because of the insane amount of concessions given to a team that has not even a culture of the sport being played in its area of operation. Well done, AFL. Morons.
            Next uproar – following the news that a few Collingwood players (who have since been named and shamed by a Melbourne radio station, despite not having been charged yet) were alleged to have sexually assaulted a young female, former AFL star ‘Spida’ Everitt tweeted: “Yet another alleged girl, making alleged allegations, after she awoke with an alleged hangover and I take it an alleged guilty conscience” and followed up with: “Girls!! When will you learn! At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy ITS NOT FOR A CUP OF MILO! Allegedly……” Then morning TV hostess Kerri-Anne Kennerley waded in, sort of saying that Spida made some good points.
            Both are being blasted as if they condone sexual assault. What a joke. I am not going to put my personal opinion on it here because some one is bound to misinterpret what I say as well. And yet the man who outs these as yet uncharged players is not condemned at all. Mob justice is to justice what a lynching is to appropriate punishment.

Rugby League
Parramatta player Timana Tahu walked out of the New South Wales State of Origin team because of racist remarks aimed at another player. A man of conscience and morals. A man who has now been accused of using a derogatory racial term against a sixteen year old Aboriginal player at a tournament. The complaint has been formalised and is now being investigated.
            And speaking of investigations, several Cowboys players are also being interviewed regarding a suspicious betting plunge.
            It never ends, does it?

First Test – India v Australia
Australia 428; India 405; Australia 192; India 9/216 – India won by 1 wicket
            Australia just cannot seem to win in India. This was a close match. Maybe one or two dodgy decisions, but Australia really only had themselves to blame for that second innings collapse.
            Quick note: Last year I put in all the scores from the domestic season here, but it seemed that no one actually cared too much except at the business end of the season. So I shan’t be doing that this year unless there is such an outpouring of dismay that I have no other option.
Still all quiet on the scandal front.

A-League Round 9 (finished)
Melbourne Heart 2 def Melbourne Victory 1
Why bother?

V-8 Supercars – Bathurst 1000
This is the single biggest race on the Australian racing calendar. It is seen as the pinnacle of closed wheel racing in this country. The all-day broadcast attracts viewers who would normally avoid car racing like the plague. To win this race more than once automatically makes you a legend in this country.
            Which is why the Seven Network in Australia broadcast it on 20 minute delay and peppered it with too many ads and generally did one of the worst jobs of covering the car race in its illustrious history.
Crash from Youtube
            Raced at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, NSW, over 1000km.
1st TeamVodafone: Craig Lowndes / Mark Skaife (Commodore VE)
2nd TeamVodafone: Jamie Whincup / Steve Owen (Commodore VE)
3rd Toll Holden Racing Team: Cameron McConville / Garth Tander (Commodore VE)
4th Trading Post Racing: Jason Bright / Matthew Halliday (Commodore VE)
5th Jim Beam Racing: James Courtney / Warren Luff (Falcon FG)
Formula One – Japanese Grand Prix
1st Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2nd Mark Webber (Red Bull)
3rd Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

Commonwealth Games
As of 6pm, Central Australian Summer Time, the medal tally (top 10) sits thusly:
Australia – 61 gold, 39 silver, 37 bronze, 137 in Total
India – 29g, 22s, 23b, 74T
England – 26g, 46s, 33b, 105T
Canada – 22g, 12s, 25b, 59T
South Africa – 11g, 11s, 9b, 31T
Nigeria – 8g, 7s, 11b, 26T
Malaysia – 6g, 7s, 7b, 20T
Kenya – 6g, 4s, 4b, 14T
Singapore – 5g, 5s, 6b, 16T
Scotland – 4g, 8s, 6b, 18T
Australia has suddenly gained for itself a reputation as sore losers. We are dominating everything, but people not winning are acting pathetically. It is what we have seen from Americans in the past (and by seen, I mean I have seen it – protests, threats of lawsuits, sit-down strikes, the works… at least ours weren’t that bad). Sally Pearson was spectacularly disqualified from the 100m sprint after thinking she had won gold… 3 hours later! But she accepted it. She was teary and confused, but she accepted it. However, the same cannot be said for Shane Perkins who was sent to the back of the pack for causing an accident in the kieran (a cycling event) and gave a two-fingered salute to the judges, or Hassene Fkiri in the wrestling who refused to shake hands with his opponent or the judge and gave another two-fingered salute when he finished second; he was subsequently stripped of his silver medal. Morons.
            All right, now the Games themselves. Watching on TV there seem to be two things wrong with this edition of the CommGames. First, there are no crowds. Fear and the fact Indians only care about sports they do well in are mainly to blame. And those crowds that do turn up think nothing of trying to distract divers, swimmers, gymnasts, whoever, with no recourse to normal sporting etiquette. Second, it is really everyone battling for second with Australia being so dominant. And this does not augur well for England in their bid for hometown glory at the 2012 London Olympics.
            Oh, and TV viewing figures are down so much it is believed free advertising slots after the games are being offered to keep the sponsors on board. Eek.
            Enough negativity. It has been a stunningly beautiful Games so far. India comes across as picturesque and calm and placid (even if people do wander across roads without looking at anything). And the joy of this entire event is that smaller countries and more athletes get a chance to compete in a large scale international event.
            And now the highlight of the first week of the Games from an Australian perspective. Geoff Huegill has marked an amazing comeback to the sport with a gold medal. He quit swimming after the 2004 Athens Olympics, but decided to aim for a comeback, starting in 2008. He hit the pool at 138kg. By the time these Games came around he had dropped 43kg and, at the age of 31, captured an individual gold and silver, and medley relay gold. Wow. The guy is a true champion.

 “Hey! Love the column. Were coming 2 Australia in feb. Where should we go”
            That’s an email from one Peter S of Sacramento. Well, why not indulge him?
            So let me list my 5 favourite holiday spots in Australia. Before then, first, you just have to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory and the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Just given. I find the Sydney Opera House odd, the Harbour Bridge just a bridge and Sydney Harbour not the world’s best, not by a long way. So, anyway, my top 5:
            (Highly commended goes to Cradle Mountain, Tasmania for hiking, Barossa Valley, South Australia for wine, and Fraser Island, Queensland, for camping. Add Uluru and the Reef, this makes ten spots in total…)
5) Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound (South Australia). If you want a camping trip with lots of glorious hiking, native wildlife and wonderful views, this is for you. Climb St Mary’s Peak, explore the fossil sites, just have a long look around.
4) Perth (Western Australia). If you want a holiday in a larger city, Perth is for you. It is my favourite big city in Australia. Beautiful beaches, great shopping and a national park within walking distance of the CBD. Catch a ferry down to Fremantle, look at the history, it’s a great city.
3) Bendigo and surrounds (Victoria). Smaller country town in the middle of a state, surrounded by natural beauty. Take a drive down to Hanging Rock, walk around the city and the marvellously preserved historic buildings, some of the very best second hand book shops, great climate, this place has it all.
2) Port Arthur (Tasmania). If it’s history you’re after, you can’t go past the site of Australia’s most infamous penal settlement. Do the ghost tour at night and be caught up in the atmosphere, catch the boat out the Isle of the Dead, spend a few days wandering and taking too many photos. It is also poignant for being the site of Australia’s worst mass killing. Take the guided tours; you will not be disappointed.
1) Kangaroo Island (South Australia). My favourite holiday spot. Wonderful beaches (including Vivonne Bay, voted best beach in Australia), the seal colony, Flinders Chase National Park, great fishing, historical sites. You can stay in accommodation from tents through to the luxury of Southern Ocean Lodge. Relaxing or hiking or fishing or sand surfing or boating, the spot to go.
            So, I hope this gives you some ideas if you’re planning on coming to Australia!

And that’s the View through to October 11, 2010.

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Will Schumacher's return be a success? Thu, 25 Mar 2010 14:06:39 +0000 Returning after having retired from the sport in 2006, Michael Schumacher finished in 6th spot in Bahrain. His return is seen as one compared to George Foreman and to Bjorn Borg. Both were tops in their sport but when they returned both had vastly different results. From winning the heavyweight title after coming out of retirement, to losing every match he played in his ‘comeback’.

Schumacher’s return has been a boost to TV ratings for F1 and he is the best known face in the sport for most people. He leads the F1 all time with 91 wins way more than the second place racer with 51. For over 10 years he was seen as the best winning the WDC seven times, he became known as the best “statistically and visibly the greatest racer ever.”

Hoping to keep this legacy intact, and having to adapt to the changes made in the past few years, it is probable that he might not win a race, but having seen him drive, he surely will adapt and possibly try to finish in the top 5 for drivers rankings which would be incredible at his age. Having to compete with racers like Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa is hard for any racer because of the lack of overtaking in the sport, but experience does play a huge factor in racing, knowing where to be at the right moment can help you avoid a crash and win a race. Having won on most F1 courses, I look forward to him possibly adding a few more to his list and over the next few years if he decides to stay in the F1 maybe he can reach a 100 wins, and raising the bar for excellence in a sport.

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The View From Down Here #77 – End Of The Decade Special Tue, 12 Jan 2010 11:36:48 +0000 25 top moments in Australian sport for the decade 2000-2009

 Everyone’s doing end of the decade stuff here, so I thought, from an Australian perspective, I’d throw in what I consider the top 25 moments in Australian sport for the past 10 years.

Before I go on, there are the many events that were ignored because, basically, it’s my list. However, in these following three cases I feel I should explain myself:

            Cathy Freeman won gold at the 2000 Olympics. Feel good factor, wow. But it was one medal in one race at one Olympics. They said she had the weight of Australia on her shoulders; that was the media’s doing, not her own. Yes, she also won 2 world championship golds in the 1990s, and four Commonwealth Games gold medals (one in 2002, in the 4×400 relay), and she was a powerhouse 400m runner, but really most of her career was not in the 2000s. She has been called Australia’s greatest female indigenous athlete; I think Evonne Goolagong Cawley is far more deserving, of that title, especially winning Wimbledon in 1980 (her 7th grand slam singles title) after having her first child! [I didn’t mean for this to be a rant, as Freeman was a truly gifted runner and an inspiration for a number of children and young athletes, but I just know this one is going to cop me the most flak.]

            Stephanie Rice may have won a swag of medals at the 2008 Olympics, but who cares? She only got publicity because of her looks. And all swimmers by then were cheating with their swim-suit technology anyway.

            Geelong won 2 out of 3 grand finals (2007-2009). Sorry, guys, Brisbane did so much better. And Central Districts better still.


Honourable Mentions: Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett in swimming. Just couldn’t quite fit them in. Again, this is my list, but at least being here they get some mention. Ditto for Mark Webber in Formula One, and Lauren Jackson in the basketball. The Melbourne Commonwealth Games as an event also get a mention here as they were a well organised event, but failed to capture the nation quite like the Sydney Olympics. And finally, the 2002 reinstatement of the South Sydney Rabbitohs to the NRL; this would have made the actual list if they had then gone on to do something amazing with this, like make a grand final (even if they didn’t win), but they didn’t so it’s not in.


Countdown, from 25 to 1:

25. Rugby Union – Sailor, Rogers and Tuqiri leave league for union
            Three of the biggest names in league leave to play union. It may not seem like much, a trio of players changing codes, but at the time it was huge news. The aftermath of the Super League wars in rugby league saw a bit of disillusionment, and these three were coups for union. And for this decade, league struggled.

24. Athletics – Steve Hooker and the pole vault
            Australia has not had a track and field athlete be on top in an individual sport for a very long time. But after winning gold at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Hooker won Olympic gold in 2008 and the world championships in 2009 (while injured), with only the great Sergey Bubka having jumped higher than him. And he seems a genuinely nice guy as well. Now, after my comments about Cathy Freeman winning one gold in one event above, this may seem like an inconsistency. The difference is, all his achievements have been this decade, and the Olympic Gold has not been the pinnacle of his career, but the start of it. And, damn, but pole vault is hard to do!

23. Basketball – national league almost collapses
            It’s a shame a negative like this has to come in, but it is a big moment, when the NBL went from 12 teams, including teams in New Zealand and Singapore to a struggling 8 team comp in 2009.

22. AFL – Sydney win first premiership in 74 years
            A feel-good moment for sure, as one of the longest droughts in Australian sport was finally broken and long-suffering supporters found a reason to cheer in 2005.

21. Golf – Karrie Webb youngest winner of the LPGA Career Grand Slam
            She started the decade dominating women’s golf to such a degree that this honour in 2001 was not only well-deserved, but also half-expected. While she may have fallen a little off the radar as the decade ended, her youth means she will undoubtedly be back.

20. Rugby League – Hopoate’s finger ban
            Hopoate was banned for sticking his finger up the anus of opponents in 2001, a tactic that allegedly was given tacit approval by management and leadership of his rugby league club. While it is a negative and it is actually amusing, the publicity it garnered was unbelievable! Hopoate, it should be pointed out, is the current (as of writing) Australian heavyweight boxing champion.

19. Cricket – Hayden sets new high test score
            Matthew Hayden became the highest individual innings test run scorer with 380 against Zimbabwe in 2003. This would have appeared higher on this list, by the way, but West Indian Brian Lara scored 400 not out 6 months later against England, relegating Hayden to number 2 in the overall standings.

18. Cricket – Steve Waugh retires
            Another feel-good moment in January of 2004. Waugh had been under pressure for a while, announced his retirement, then scored an 80 in his last innings. His departure was also the start of the end for Australia’s dominance of world cricket. On a personal note, having been brought up on cricket, Waugh was/is my favourite Australian captain.

17. AFL- Jason McCartney’s comeback
            McCartney suffered terrible burns in the 2002 Bali bombings – more than half his body suffered second degree burns. After extensive rehabilitation, the North Melbourne Football Club allowed him to have one last game for the club, a moment that will stick with all who saw it.

16. Tennis – Hewitt number one for a year
            2001 to 2002 he was number one, winning Wimbledon along the way. He went from a lucky kid to a dominant force in the sport. And while the decade may have ended in lean fashion for him, results in 2009 indicate that he may be making his way back.

15. Rugby League – Queensland win 4 straight State of Origin series
            The State of Origin series between New South Wales And Queensland has always been about pride with no one side getting too much over the other. However, for the first time since it became a series (instead of one-off matches), one team dominated the other, with Queensland winning from 2006 to 2009 inclusive, and New South Wales getting more and more desperate as the years have gone on.

14. Commonwealth Games – Australia wins 221 medals
            The 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne (Australia) saw Australia so dominate with 84 gold, 69 silver, and 68 bronze medals that there were serious concerns for the future of the Games.

13. Boxing – Kostya Tszyu unifying boxing titles
            The Russian-born Australian unified the junior welterweight titles, dominating the weight division until 2005. Pound for pound, he was one of the best fighters in the world at the time, and certainly one of the best in Australian history.

12. Rugby League – Bulldogs stripped of points for salary cap breach
            The Canterbury Bulldogs were stripped of all their competition points when on top of the ladder after rorting of the salary cap by its administration was discovered. The fans and players were distraught as this shut them out of the 2002 finals series. Another negative, but all clubs were on notice that this was now looked at seriously. It would also have future ramifications, with players leaving for bigger pay cheques elsewhere in the world.

11. AFL – Brisbane win 3 in a row
            2001, 2002 and 2003 were the years of the Lions, setting up what looked to be a new northern dynasty. Their fourth grand final in 2004, however, saw them defeated by Port Adelaide, and the dynasty thing never really came into play after that (hence this not as high as expected position) but for the start of the decade, they were the team to beat.

10. AFL – Ben Cousins, his fall and resurrection
            He won the Brownlow Medal in 2005, then in 2006 resigned the West Coast Eagles captaincy after running from a police ‘booze bus’. In 2006 the Eagles won the premiership. In 2007 he missed some training and was internally suspended by the club, then underwent rehab for substance abuse. He came back to the Eagles with very strict conditions. He was then sacked for being arrested for possession. The AFL banned him for a year. In 2009 Richmond threw him a lifeline and his comeback was nothing short of amazing.

9. Tennis – Hewitt beats Sampras to win the US
            Young Lleyton Hewitt defeated Pete Sampras in 2001 to win the US Open, surprising everyone. He had won the doubles title the previous year, but 2001 was his year with 6 titles. And that first one was still such a great Australian sporting moment.

8. Soccer – Australia make their 2nd ever World Cup
            They’d only been there once before, in West Germany in 1974, but in 2006 they not only made it, they made it through to the second round. And this was not the end, as this achievement has been followed through with qualification for the 2010 World Cup, one of the first countries to do so.

7. Cricket – Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath retire
            Even more than the retirement of Steve Waugh, these two leaving in 2007 made the hole in the Australian team almost impossible to fill. The two greatest bowlers ever produced by Australia both bowing out at the same time was shocking. And Australia has yet to really recover. [At the same time batsmen Justin Langer and Damien Martyn also retired (four at once!) but although their experience was invaluable, there have been other batsmen come up to take their place.]

6. Horse Racing – Makybe Diva wins three successive Melbourne Cups
            The first horse ever to win three cups, in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (in which year she also won the Cox Plate), she was a beloved racehorse. She retired at the end of 2005, by which time she had become the highest earner in the history of Australian horse racing (estimated at more than $14 million).

5. SANFL – Central Districts domination
            Formed in the 1960s, they couldn’t buy a win at first. That started to change in the 1990s, and by the new decade they were completely rampant. They appeared in all 10 grand finals and won eight times, being runners up in 2002 and 2006. They have set a new and impressive bench-mark for football in South Australia.

4. Rugby League – Sonny Bill Williams leaves for union and cash
            He stirred up controversy when he left the Bulldogs rugby league club to go to France and play rugby union for Toulon. He was branded a traitor and some-one in it for the money. However, as was pointed out at the time, he may have left for the money, but if he had had a bad year, the club would have had no problem in dumping him. Turn around is fair play, and now the boundaries have been set slightly differently.

3. Olympics – Sydney hosts 2000 Games
            Number 3? Yes. Now Sydney hosted a marvellous Games, well organised and everything else. And they included other parts of the country and it really did pull the country together like nothing else. But it really is letting a foreign country invade your soil, so I didn’t go the whole hog with it. However, as a sporting moment, there was little to beat it.

2. Motor Sport – Brock dies
            Peter Brock was a legend in motor racing in Australia. He won Bathurst nine times, and Sandown nine times. When you thought of closed wheel car racing in this country, you thought of Brock. However, in September of 2006, while driving in a rally in Western Australia, he had an accident. The car hit a tree and he died instantly. A sad moment, but one of the ones that stands out this decade. Unfortunately.

1. Winter Olympics – Steve Bradbury wins Australia’s first gold
            Australia had never won a gold medal at a Winter Olympics. But everyone thought we would in 2002 – Alisa Camplin, the aerial skier. She did win gold… but she was the second to do so at these games. The first went to Steven Bradbury. In the final of the men’s short track 1000m speed skating event, Bradbury was bringing up the rear. Then the four in front of him took a spill on the last corner, he skated through and took the gold medal. Some said he was lucky, but he had still made that final where so many others had not, he had won a world championship in the 1990s, and had even broken his neck in 2000 in a training accident. So, no matter what, he won, and his courage and the underdog status he enjoyed has made him into an Australian folk hero. Was he lucky? Of course. Did he deserve to win the medal? Hell, yeah. And that was the finest moment in Australian sport for the past decade.

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