Inside Pulse » Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE http://insidepulse.com 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. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:00:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 » Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE http://insidepulse.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://insidepulse.com Demythify: The Top 10 DC Comics New 52 Time Anomalies For The New 52: Futures End 2014 Weekly Series http://insidepulse.com/2013/12/23/demythify-the-top-10-dc-comics-new-52-time-anomalies-for-the-new-52-futures-end-2014-weekly-series/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/12/23/demythify-the-top-10-dc-comics-new-52-time-anomalies-for-the-new-52-futures-end-2014-weekly-series/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 16:30:52 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=345498

As you may know by now, DC Comics has announced a new weekly series for 2014 called The New 52: Futures End that explores that past, present and future of the current DC Universe (DCU). It will kick off with a Free Comic Book Day 2014 issue. This series will bring Batman Beyond into continuity, create new characters and concepts and presumably tackle the several anomalies currently present in the DC New 52 (the series is called “Futures End” after all as in plural futures).

Below are the Top 10 timestream anomalies that are present, and in one case that “should be” present (cue fans rejoicing), in the DC Comics New 52.

(10) Justice League 3000

The Justice League 3000 just debuted as a team and as New 52 ongoing series occupying the 31rst Century playground previously enjoyed by DC’s storied Legion of Super-Heroes. There were some interesting revelations in the Justice League 3000 debut issue about who the team’s benefactors are and who the JL3K are really.

In an interview about the series, co-writer Keith Giffen shut the door to the Legion of Super-Heroes being used in any capacity in Justice League 3000 by saying:

    “If I need a guy who can throw fireballs around, you can guarantee it’s not going to be Sun Boy. Let’s think of somebody new. I’m tired of treading old ground. I have as much affection for the Legion of Super-Heroes as anybody — maybe more than most, since I kept returning to the book like a mental patient. But this isn’t the Legion. And it shouldn’t be judged on Legion of Super-Heroes terms. Sorry Legion fans, but you’re going to have to wait until somebody comes up with a take on the Legion. This is not a Legion of Super-Heroes book. They’re not going to be going to Braal.

Alrighty then onto the…

(9) Legion of Super-Heroes

Well, after the climactic end to the LOSH series with teases that they may not have been in Prime Earth’s future, but perhaps another Earth’s, where does the team fit into the DCU?

The Legion of Super-Heroes is still important and relevant for the DCU as seen in the cliffhanger to the recent Superboy #26 issue.

(8) Teen Titans’ Kid Flash

Bart Allen is from a/the future of the DC Comics New 52. He is a boy out-of-time and member of the modern-day Teen Titans.

He’s recently ventured into his future where he has had to take responsibility for his… crimes… as seen in Teen Titans #25?

(7) Captain Atom

You may wonder why Captain Atom is on this list. Well, at the end of Fury of Firestorm #15, sadly another book you weren’t reading alongside the cancelled Captain Atom, he absorbed the powers of Firestorm and exploded into three shards that spread across the timestream. One of those shards landed in the future and became Nathaniel Adym a character that tangled with the Legion Lost. The other two time-lost Captain Atoms have yet to be revealed.

The New 52: Futures End takes place over the past, present and future of the DC New 52. Well, Nathaniel Adym seems to be a “future” Captain Atom. Will past era and present era versions be next to debut?

(6) Legion Lost

The premise for Legion Lost was that members of the Legion of Super-Heroes travelled back to the modern-day DCU to capture an infectious fugitive. That threat was neutralized, but the team is still “stuck” in the modern-day New 52… with Superboy?

(5) All Star Western’s Jonah Hex

Another character-out-of-time is late 1800s / early 1900s bounty hunter Jonah Hex stuck in the modern-day New 52 because of the time-lost hero Booster Gold. Despite Hex’s efforts, a mysterious force is keeping him from returning to his own time in the past of the DCU.

Co-Writer Jimmy Palmiotti did say they were building to something big after all. New 52: Futures End me thinks. Will that be the vehicle to get Hex home?

(4) Booster Gold(s) / Justice League International (tie)

We’ve seen Booster Gold pop into All Star Western for a spell and then travel through the timestream with Jonah Hex, trapping the latter in 2013. However, Booster hasn’t been seen since.

Prior to his Hex encounter, Booster Gold’s older future self – a member of ARGUS – popped up at the Justice League International Annual #1 to try to avoid “something” on a mission and then saw Superman and Wonder Woman getting together. Was that his mission; to foil the budding romance that may just spell doom for the DC New 52? That older Booster simply vanished in that same Annual.

How many Booster Golds will show up in Futures End? Will the Justice League International be far behind?

(3) Superboy(s) / H’el(s) (tie)

A future son of Lois Lane and Superman, the evil Jon Kent whose origin is revealed in the WTF Certified Superboy #19 and Teen Titans Annual #2, has taken over the DC Comics New 52’s Superboy series while Kon-el is elsewhen. Is Jon Kent’s future assured?

We’ve also seen H’el, a new villain for the Superman Family, make life hell – pun intended – for Superman, Superboy and Supergirl. In trying to re-write Krypton’s past he created new timestreams stemming from events he changed. More than one timestream and seemingly different H’el(s). However, the Superman Family was able to travel to three different time periods in Krypton’s past to avert incursions by H’el. While they succeeded in stopping him, the price for victory was too high.

Could Jon Kent and/or H’el be primed for bigger things in Futures End?

(2) Batman’s Robins

Perhaps Futures End can explain how Batman can have had some many young Robins in under five years? ;)

This was thrown on the list for fun because if you’re tinkering / exploring time, why not finally explain the most glaring head scratcher of the DC New 52.

(1) Wally West, (A) Flash

Wally West fans have been waiting patiently since the DC New 52 began to see their era’s Flash make his New 52 debut. One of things DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has said in the past that made Wally compelling was his family man status; a husband and father. And DiDio teased last Christmas that we may see him this past year; and then nada this year. Well, with his pre-Flashpoint mentor Barry Allen as a younger solo Flash, is this the time to bring in Wally and his family? He could be explained as having been Barry’s first partner who through some quirk of fate, traveled into the past and was stuck there and aged to the point where is older than Barry.

This would be similar in concept, but not execution, to the Supergirl / Superman dynamic; she is technically Superman’s older cousin, but due to quirks of science and space travel came to Earth years after Superman. She did not age, but her younger cousin did and now is chronologically older. I’m suggesting something similar for Wally akin to Superman being the younger-yet-older hero.

Well, unless of course Wally West is actually the Justice League 3000’s Flash. Fun times ahead!

(BONUS) Art Teaser for Futures End

On the cover to The New 52: Futures End teaser art, we see OMAC’s Brother Eye – the red symbol everywhere – seemingly having taken over all of the core DC New 52 heroes in the 5-year forward future.

CBR talks with artist Ryan Sook about his concept art including the first one on the left captioned as “Cyborg Superman”. Is that Superman who has been mechanized or is it actually the villain Cyborg Superman?

A freakishly mechanized Hawkman follows to the right, then Wonder Woman, and finally a mock-up for a cover to New 52: Futures End.

Interesting.

I would also like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays. For those of you dealing with ice storm, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families. Stay safe and be warm. Happy ho ho!

Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome. :)


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The Weekly Round-Up #186 With Hawkeye, The Bounce, BPRD, Lazarus, Prophet, Star Wars, X-O Manowar & More http://insidepulse.com/2013/07/01/the-weekly-round-up-186-with-hawkeye-the-bounce-bprd-lazarus-prophet-star-wars-x-o-manowar-more/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/07/01/the-weekly-round-up-186-with-hawkeye-the-bounce-bprd-lazarus-prophet-star-wars-x-o-manowar-more/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 13:00:05 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=334623 Best Comic of the Week:

Hawkeye #11Clearly Matt Fraction and David Aja have been OD’ing on the work of Chris Ware lately, as they give over the entire issue to Lucky, the Pizza Dog.  Our canine hero spends the book trying to figure out who killed a resident of Hawkeye’s building, and making friends with a smaller dog.  The issue is mostly wordless – when there is dialogue, we only are privy to the words the dog understands, but through the magic of comics, we can also partake in the dog’s enhanced senses, especially smell and hearing.  We do get some forward movement on the book’s main plotline – clearly Kate and Clint aren’t getting along so much these days, but the dog, and the art, are the big stars.  This is a very cool comic.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #13 – The first of two Brian Michael Bendis X-Men books this week is entertaining.  Wolverine takes the original team to find Mystique, who is trying to use her mountain of money to buy herself a certain notorious island from Hydra.  There is a lengthy discussion on the Blackbird about the “M-word”, as the characters react to Havok’s speech from Uncanny Avengers; it’s a little heavy handed, but it also reminds me why I like Kitty Pryde so much.

Avengers Arena #11 – This time around the spotlight shifts to Reptil and Hazmat, who is not doing so well in the wake of Mettle’s death.  Her way of dealing with it is to lie around a beach acting ‘normal’.  I still don’t like the concept behind this series, but I have to hand it to Dennis Hopeless; he’s doing a terrific job with these characters.

The Bounce #2Joe Casey is taking his time to bring readers up to speed on just what is going on in The Bounce, but this issue makes things a lot clearer, as we get an origin story, and learn a little more about the main character’s life.  In a lot of ways, this is reading like a 90s comic with a lot more drug use; I’m not really feeling the Casey magic yet.

BPRD Vampire #4 – There’s not a lot of story in this issue, but Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are doing such a great job on the art, I don’t even care.  There’s a battle between the vampire-possessed BPRD guy (I don’t remember his name) and some witches, and the visuals are stunning.

Daredevil #27 – The last few issues of this series have been just about perfect, as an old villain has taken on a new approach, and has really put Matt Murdock through the ringer.  This issue wraps up the story, with DD facing his enemies.  I love the way Mark Waid and Chris Samnee show the threat to Matt’s friends, and then reverse it.  Great stuff.

Elephantmen #49 – Gearing up to the big 50th issue, Richard Starkings checks in with many of his characters, and has Sahara talk about what happened on Mars.  This is one of the nicest looking issues of Elephantmen yet – Axel Medellin really outdoes himself on the art.

Fatale #15 – A new story arc begins, which means we readers are brought back to the present for some of this issue, as Nick escapes custody with the help of an acquaintance of Jo’s.  The rest of this issue is set in the middle of the 90s in Seattle, as Josephine crosses paths with a member of a one-hit wonder grunge band who has just robbed a bank.  Jo has escaped from some sort of bad scene, but doesn’t really remember who she is.  Fatale is such an excellent read, and it’s great to see it moving forward in time again, suggesting that it won’t be much longer until the series catches up to Nick’s story.  As always, brilliant stuff from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

FF #8This is a pretty scattered issue of FF, as Matt Fraction digs at some of the relationships in the book, such as how She-Hulk feels about Medusa, and how the kids feel about Bentley and Ashura.  It has some nice moments, and we learn a little about Dr. Doom and his allies that suggests that there is a longer-range plan for the book, but the story is not all that satisfying.  Michael Allred’s art is though, so it’s not all a loss.

Fury Max #13 – Garth Ennis has written one of the best examinations of warfare in comics that I’ve ever read with this series.  This final issue looks in on Fury after all of his wars have been fought, and he and his closest associates (Nick Fury doesn’t have friends) have to try to find ways to live with all of the dirt they’ve been involved in.  This series is as much about the degradation of America on the world stage as it is about Fury – it’s interesting that one of the ‘villains’ of the title ends up being the most notable character.  This deserves to stand among the most respected of Ennis’s comics, and Goran Parlov’s beautifully expressive artwork is to be enjoyed.  I wish there were more series like this.

Green Team #2 – I’m still not sure if this title is going to be able to sustain my interest for more than a couple of months, but for now, I am intrigued by Art Baltazar and Franco’s take on the extremely rich youth of the DCU.  That Commodore has some noble intentions for his money is good, but his girlfriend is portrayed as a rather extreme example of Hollywood brat.  This issue was entertaining enough that I’ll pick up the next, but this is not a book I’m prepared to add to my pull-file list yet.

Jupiter’s Legacy #2 – This is a very beautiful book, thanks to Frank Quitely.  Mark Millar’s story, about the celebrity-obsessed children of the world’s greatest superheroes, is a little predictable, but he manages to hit all the right storytelling notes still.  This is the kind of book that you can feel very justified in buying, just for Quitely’s art.

Lazarus #1Greg Rucka and Michael Lark have reunited to bring us this new series set in a future where the world’s richest portion of the richest 1% have effectively taken over, structuring society around their corporate interests, and selecting one person from within their own families to serve as their enhanced protector.  Forever is one of these ‘Lazaruses’ (so named for their ability to recover from most forms of attack), and she’s the only one to have managed to develop a conscience.  When a rival family attacks her people’s farm, she is not happy doing her duty.  Rucka always writes strong female characters, and I like seeing how he is extrapolating on our current state of great income inequality.  This looks to be a very good read.

The Massive #13 – Brian Wood returns to the scene of his DMZ series, as The Kapital tracks Georg’s nuclear sub to the submerged island of Manhattan.  This is pretty typical for an issue of The Massive – there are disagreements among the command staff, people have secrets, and we get tossed a lot of facts about the Collapse which don’t always advance the plot.  I don’t really understand how the crew found Georg again – last we saw them, they were in the Alaskan Arctic, and now they’re in Manhattan – even if the ice caps had melted, that’s not a short trip.

Mind MGMT #12 – Matt Kindt finishes off his second story arc in this issue, revealing a lot of information to and about Meru along the way.  There are scenes here that help explain events from the first few issues, and provide a number of answers.  I’ve been engrossed in this book since it started, and love the way that Kindt is structuring this story.

Morning Glories #28I feel like this series has reached the point where the explanatory notes being provided in the back are necessary, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I am a pretty smart person, with what I consider to be a better than average memory, but I cannot keep all the threads of this book straight anymore.  Also, I’m finding that as characters are shown at different ages, it’s becoming a little hard to always know who a character is if they are not named in the text somewhere.  Nick Spencer has done some amazing things with this series, but I’m beginning to worry about his ability to bring everything together, and that the frequent comparisons to the TV show Lost may become prescient with regards to the payoff, which would be a shame.

Powers Bureau #5 – I guess Walker is not so good at being an undercover bad guy, as his new crew figures things out pretty quickly.  This is a pretty average issue of Powers – people swear in ways that people in real life never do, and some folks get bloody.  I’m finding myself getting bored.

The Private Eye #3 – Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s digital-only comic is one of my absolute favourite series right now.  It’s the only comic I read digitally – I’m pretty old school I guess – but since there are no print options at the moment, and I can’t wait for a new issue, that’s what’s up.  This issue has PI and Ravenna escape from their attackers, and seek refuge with PI’s grandfather.  We get a sense of what is going on, and a little more appreciation for the way Vaughan’s vision of the future, where the distinction between journalists and cops is blurred and everyone wears a disguise, works.  Martin’s art in phenomenal, but then you probably knew that.  If you aren’t reading this series, go to Panel Syndicate and get on it.

Prophet #36Some of the gelling of disparate storylines that I’ve felt this book has needed for a while begins to happen with this issue.  Troll is trying to recruit both Old Man John Prophet and Newfather John Prophet to his cause, which involves defeating some big floaty thing that can control minds.  If that’s not the clearest description you’ve ever read, that’s because Brandon Graham doesn’t really write this series for clarity; he’s more interested in immersing the reader into his strange and wonderful world, and letting them figure it out as he goes.  There are some nice moments in this issue; I particularly enjoyed the conversation between Diehard and the reptile woman (whose name escapes me right now).  This is a great series, and I feel like it’s regaining some of the momentum it lost in the last few months.

Secret Avengers #5 – Now this series is really beginning to feel like it’s been written by Nick Spencer, as a team of Avengers argue over whether they should assassinate the Supreme Scientist of AIM in his own country, and we get hints that everything is not what it seems.  This book has taken a little while to gel, but now it feels like its working exactly as it should.

Sex #4 – I’m finding myself getting more and more drawn into Sex, as Simon Cooke goes about the business of trying to put together a life for himself while not really feeling like having one.  We check in with a variety of different characters, and get a better sense of the city where this series is set.  This is building slowly, but I find I’m pretty interested in seeing where it goes.

Star Wars Legacy #4A lot of action takes place in this issue, as Ania Solo and her friends are captured by the Sith who is posing as an Imperial Knight, and later, they escape.  Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman have a good handle on how to approach this book, and Hardman’s art is great.

Uncanny X-Force #7 – This is another Marvel NOW! book that is finally coming together.  This issue focuses on Psylocke’s relationship with Fantomex, who has now been split into three different people.  We learn about Betsy’s time in Paris with Fantomex and Cluster (his female version), and catch up with her in the present, where she is trying to save Fantomex from Weapon XIII (his evil version).  Great art by Adrian Alphona and Dalibor Talajic really makes this book work.

Uncanny X-Men #7 – Illyana’s fight with Dormammu ends in a rather spectacular way, as it becomes increasingly clear that no one on Cyclops’s renegade team is able to control their powers very well.  Has Illyana always been able to use her ability to travel through time?  I don’t remember that, and think that it would have been put into use a little more frequently (i.e., someone just killed all these people, let’s show up five minutes before instead of after).  Frazer Irving’s art is very nice.

The Unwritten #50 – When I first heard that Tom Taylor would be visiting the Fables universe for his fiftieth issue, I thought it would probably be a bad idea, more driven by a desire for the marketability of such a cross-over than any story-based reason.  Now that I’ve read it, that’s exactly where we are, and I kind of wish I’d dropped this book from my pull-file for the length of this story arc.  Tom gets summoned by the witches of Fabletown to help them fight Mister Dark, the abstract evil that the characters took out a while back in their own book.  I think that the idea here is that this is not the same Fable-verse as in Bill Willingham’s series; instead it’s an alternate one where the fight with Dark went poorly.  Or, Willingham has cycled back on the same story in his book – I stopped reading it a while ago, and don’t know what’s going on there.  Anyway, Tom is secondary to the Fables characters, and the story feels very disjointed.  I expect a lot more from Mike Carey and Peter Gross.

The Wake #2Scott Snyder seems to return time and again in his writing to the theme of distant or absent fathers, but in the Wake, it seems he’s taking more of an evolutionary approach to the concept.  The collected scientists are given the chance to take a look at the creature that has been captured deep beneath the ocean, and they all have differing theories on what exactly it is, or how it has influenced human folklore.  Snyder has gotten most of the set-up out of the way now, and the story is beginning to move forward on its own quite nicely.  Sean Murphy’s art is stupendous, and it’s easy to understand why this is the best-selling Vertigo book of the last ten years, even though it’s quite different from what that imprint usually produces.

Wolverine and the X-Men #32 – I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to stick with this title.  The light humour approach is really not working for me – it comes off feeling way too forced, and too many characters are acting out of character.  Part of the problem is that I just don’t like Nick Bradshaw’s art – his Lockheed was unrecognizable, and I’ve noticed that whenever he is drawing an issue or two, my interest wanes.  I’ll stick around through the upcoming X-crossover (because I’m buying all the other titles in it), but probably not after that, barring drastic changes in the way this book is being made.

X-Men #2 – The most common description I’ve read of Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel’s new series is that it’s ‘Claremontian’, and I certainly agree, although it is missing the lengthy text boxes and overblown scripting for which that classic X-Men writer is known.  What it does have is tight plotting, great character work, and a sense that more is accomplished in the book than any two or three issues written by, say, Brian Michael Bendis.  This is definitely my favourite X-book now.

X-O Manowar #14The ‘Planet Death’ story comes to its close as Aric leads the various slave factions on Loam in a fight against their masters, effecting regime change for the Vine.  This is a solid issue, which effectively takes out the threat that Aric has been fighting against since the series began.  The trick now, moving forward, is going to be in finding new things for Aric to handle that will feel credible.

Young Avengers #6 – In a departure from the first five issues of this series, writer Kieron Gillen gives the comic over to Speed (a former YA), and Prodigy (one of the more likeable characters from the New Mutants/New X-Men revamp of a few years back), who has lost his powers but not the knowledge they gave him.  The two have ended up working for some company that is involved in the superhero world, and they have become friends.  When a mysterious intruder wearing The Patriot’s old costume breaks in, they try to stop him, although that has some very unclear consequences.  This is a terrific character issue, with very nice art by Kate Brown.

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

Age of Ultron #10AI

All-Star Western #21

Battlestar Galactica #2

Captain America #8

Guardians of the Galaxy #4

Ultimate Comics X-Men #28

Uncanny #1

Wolverine #5

Bargain Comics:

Alpha #1&2Okay, so like many people, I didn’t much like this kid when he showed up in Amazing Spider-Man a while back, but I do really like writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (at least, I do when he writes his creator-owned books), so I thought I’d give this a try.  The results are pretty bleh – Alpha’s an unhappy jerk who gets his powers back because of Dr. Octopus’s new residency in Peter Parker’s head.  Fialkov is trying to show him as a basically good kid who is just a little too arrogant, but the whole thing comes off like a bit of a throwback (do Americans still wear varsity jackets in high school?).  I do like Nuno Plati’s art – it reminds me of a strange mix of Humberto Ramos and Paul Smith, but I doubt I’ll get the rest of this mini-series.

Fantastic Four #3-7 – While I’ve been enjoying Matt Fraction and Michael Allred’s FF, I wasn’t as interested in the parent title, mostly because I’ve never been a huge fan of either the Fantastic Four or artist Mark Bagley’s work.  I decided to catch up with the book and see how Fraction’s concept of taking the family on an adventure through time and space was working out.  I think these are okay comics, but they really don’t excite me.  Fraction has a good handle on the relationship between Reed and Sue Richards, but his Ben Grimm is simplistic, and it feels like the character hasn’t developed at all over the last few decades.  The adventures seem random and a little bland.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #14-16 – Here’s another example of a New 52 series that just kind of faded out due to an unclear or undefined purpose (see my comments last week on I, Vampire and Blue Beetle).  Matt Kindt is one of the best writers working in comics today, but I think that corporate-controlled characters and editorially-mandated stories (like the tie-in to the Rotworld story) are not his forté.  Brian Wood can kind of pull it off, but Kindt is way too individualistic a writer, and so these tales fell flat.  Kindt’s good friend Jeff Lemire, who started this series, also had a hard time making a go of it, and he’s usually much better at straddling the independent and corporate worlds.

Threshold #1-4So this ‘ongoing series’, which has only lasted eight issues, is a good study in what DC is doing wrong these days.  First off, the title.  Why is this book called Threshold in all the press and solicitations, but then the cover makes it look like Threshold: The Hunted?  Neither of these are established DC titles that will awaken a sense of nostalgia, and Threshold doesn’t do a thing to suggest the content of the stories.  Next, this is a $4 book, with a back-up strip.  The main story is a Hunger Games knock-off, set on a world deep in space.  Writer Keith Giffen has brought together a potentially interesting crowd, headlined by a disgraced Green Lantern (because DC still thinks that is enough to draw in a big crowd), but featuring classic characters like Stealth (although she’s nowhere near as interesting as she was in LEGION under Giffen’s control back in the day), Tommy Tomorrow, and Captain Carrot (in the Rocket Raccoon role now), but none of them have enough space to be themselves.  Even Blue Beetle feels randomly tacked on to things.  It’s hard to believe this is the same Giffen who killed the first Annihilation mini-series, which revamped the entirety of Marvel’s cosmic characters, especially Star-Lord, very successfully.  The back-up strip features Larfleeze, and it’s pretty terrible.  There’s a new Larfleeze series starting up, and if this is any indication of what it’s going to be like, it’s not going to last much longer than this book did.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Holy Terror

by Frank Miller
 

For a very long time, I revered Frank Miller.  He was one of the first comics artists whose work I could identify on sight, and I can remember reading the first chapter of his seminal Daredevil Born Again story over and over again when it first hit the stands.

I followed his career from that point forward, but can remember getting a little bored around the time he did his fourth or fifth Sin City story.  There was a gaudy decadence in his story-telling, which was at odds with his ever more minimalist art, and it kind of bothered me.  The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to the excellent Dark Knight Returns really turned me off.

And then there’s Holy Terror, the “Batman” story he published 2011.  It was originally intended for publication at DC, but they wisely passed on this story that has a caped crusader and his cat burglar companion take apart an Al-Qaeda cell in his home town.  It ended up at Legendary, and enough minor changes were made to the characters so that Miller could avoid a lawsuit.

The book opens with The Fixer chasing Cat Burglar across Empire City.  When he catches her, they engage in some light S&M foreplay before bombs start exploding all over the city.  Of course it’s terrorists, and so the hero and the villain decide to team up (with help from some guy who looks like The Question with a huge Star of David tattooed on his face) to kill the terrorists.

There is a casual racism at play in this comic that would undoubtedly disturb many people, but it is the lack of character that bothered me the most.  Everyone here simply plays the most simplistic of roles, and the act only so that Miller can provide a number of bloody scenes that neither engage nor excite the reader.

Miller is a wonderfully talented creator who now makes terrible comics.  Maybe he’s gotten too big to take creative direction from editors (he does have a pretty famous ego), but sadly, that also means he’s gone too far down a path I don’t want to follow.  My eleven year-old self would not have believed that possible…

Shadoweyes

by Ross Campbell
 

I consider myself a big fan of Ross Campbell’s work, but at the same time, I have to say that the cartoonist confounds me sometimes.  Campbell is best known (aside from his recent work on Glory at Image) for Wet Moon, a sprawling late teen drama about punk kids who have trouble navigating their relationships, and who are dealing with a killer in their midst.  It’s a strange series of graphic novels, but there’s something about it that makes it almost impossible to put down.

Shadoweyes is Campbell’s newer OGN series (two volumes have been released so far), and it contains a number of the features one would expect from a Campbell comic – physical deformity, gender ambiguity, and girls and women shaped like real girls and women, in all their diverse splendour.  It’s also unlike his other work (predicting the evolution that brought him to Glory), as it has a much more frenetic pace, and the art is much more hurried.

Scout is a young black girl living in a dirty, crowded metropolis in the future.  She is vegan, and very politically conscious.  She likes to patrol the city as part of a neighbourhood watch initiative with her best friend Kyisha (who is, of course, intersex).  After taking a knock on the head while helping a homeless man, Scout later turns into a blue creature with a tail.  At first, she can control the transformation, and uses her new abilities as a chance to help others, but does that according to her own moral code.  For example, when she stops a guy from robbing a store, she then stops the cops from arresting him, since he didn’t actually do anything.

Scout rescues Sparkle, a girl from her high school, from a weird kidnapping scene, and they begin to get very close to each other.  It’s at this point that the series most begins to resemble Wet Moon, as Campbell suggests that the two girls fall for one another (the next volume is called Shadoweyes in Love), and as Sparkle is missing fingers and toes.

At times, I found myself frustrated with the pacing and lack of clarity in some scenes, but at the end of the day, this is a very good book.  Campbell tells stories that no one else in comics tells, and you have to admire the consistency of his artistic vision and gender politics.

Album of the Week:

Dessa – Parts of Speech – I can’t write an impartial review or recommendation for this album.  There are few recording artists that I respect more than Dessa.  Her writing skill, her voice, her ability to rap as hard as any MC out there, and her beauty combine into an almost-perfect package.  On Parts of Speech, she stretches herself into a number of new directions, co-producing many of the songs on here, and flowing over some beats that are unlike anything she’s tried before.  Oh, and she covers Bruce Springsteen.  The other day Dessa joking referred to her music as “songs to bleed out to” in an interview, and while there is a darkness to this album, it is surpassed by pure beauty.  This is one of the best albums I’ve bought this year.  Doomtree!!!!

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Demythify: A Fourth Justice League DC Comics Title & Five Trinities For 2013’s New 52 Trinity War? (Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, R. B. Silva & More) http://insidepulse.com/2013/01/28/demythify-a-fourth-justice-league-dc-comics-title-five-trinities-for-2013s-new-52-trinity-war-geoff-johns-jeff-lemire-r-b-silva-more/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/01/28/demythify-a-fourth-justice-league-dc-comics-title-five-trinities-for-2013s-new-52-trinity-war-geoff-johns-jeff-lemire-r-b-silva-more/#comments Mon, 28 Jan 2013 05:00:34 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=323876

Thanks for popping by and checking out my weekly Monday Demythify column.

This week marks the one year anniversary of this column. While I’ve been writing various columns over my decade plus as a blogger, this one is… the least jaded. I want to thank all of our regular readers for checking us out weekly. I also want to thank our topic-specfic visitors for their patronage too. In addition, those of you who have gone the extra mile and taken the time to provide feedback also deserve acknowledgement. Your feedback here, on Facebook and/or Twitter (my coordinates are located at the end of this column BTW), have always been passionate and insightful. I also want to thank the head honcho here at the site Jonathan Widro and the Nexus EIC Graham Scherl for letting me do my thing. You all make it easy to come to work. Ok, with the thank you’s out-of-the-way, if any readers have ideas for future columns let me know.

Before I get into this week’s column, I’d like to bring to your attention three other regular features here at the Comics Nexus.

On Mondays, along with my Demythify column, James Fulton brings us The Weekly Round-Up where he dissects the best of the best comic books from the week that was. On Wednesdays Mathan Erhardt brings us Wednesday Comments where he puts his wealth of comic knowledge to good use plus provides a unique analysis on today’s industry. And, our EIC Grey Scherl does a column called The Gold Standard that gets published whenever he wants. Currently Grey is counting down the Top 50 comic books of 2012.

Ok, now onto this week’s Anniversary Edition of Demythify. Instead of doing a retrospective of the last year, I’ll do what we’ve done for the last 40 columns, and that’s move forward. With that, this week, we discuss the DC Comics New 52 “Trinity War” promised for 2013.

Enjoy.


What is 2013’s Trinity War?

It was in last year’s DC New 52 Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) issue where we were introduced to something called “Trinity War” from DC Comics. As part of that free comic book we had a 3-page gatefold Jim Lee spread showing heroes vs. heroes and a strange new Green Lantern who we would later know as Simon Baz.

Since last year, and with 2013’s FCBD coming up on May 4, 2013, we have not heard a lot about Trinity War. Since last year, there has been a lot creative changes on DC titles with cancellations and new books popping up too. While there are rumors that DC is still finalizing Trinity War, we know there have been a few changes already with the original 2012 FCBD Jim Lee popping up on the internet (see below).

With the original plan seemingly having Hal Jordan and not Simon Baz in it as Green Lantern.

So, despite a lack of any new formal information on what Trinity War is, there were teases in some books and comments from creators that point to at least five “trinities” that could be part of the Trinity War together, in part or singularly.

Here they are.


5. A Multiversal Trinity of Worlds

Now this trinity only came to me this past week when I started reading how CW Arrow’s Andrew Kreisberg, and co-writer with Geoff Johns on the DC New 52’s new Vibe series, started talking about the Multiverse. The hispanic hero Vibe gets his vibrational powers from the mutliversal vibrations that spring from the weakness between worlds that resides in Detroit. Almost like TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Hellsmouth. Detroit on Prime Earth is where Darkseid punched through to tangle with Justice League on Prime Earth and seemingly on Earth 2 when he and his New Gods decimated that world’s “Wonders”. Earth 2 has its own New 52 series, two refugees from that world in Power Girl and Huntress anchor the Worlds’ Finest series from Prime Earth, and now we have Vibe a character who acts as the Guardian of the Multiverse Gateway.

Perhaps Huntress and Power Girl in their efforts to get back to Earth 2, as has been established in their series, get past Vibe and pop up on another Earth, one we haven’t seen, and trigger the War? Then the Justice League of Earth Prime get pulled in?

And, could Grant Morrison’s Multiversity maxi-series play into all this?


4. Trinity of Timelines

In the last issue of Flashpoint we had Pandora appear. She was instrumental in deconstructing the Flashpoint world into the New 52. Interestingly it wasn’t three multiverse worlds she pulled together, but three timelines as she noted herself. Despite Wildstorm being established as part of DC’s Multiverse as Earth 50, it seems it was retconned to a timeline not a world that was merged with the Vertigo “timeline” and the main DCU timeline into the DC New 52 timeline. Retconning this kind of stuff is not surprising. DC did something similar confusing the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, an evil Justice League. There were two iterations floating around the DCU pre-New 52: one from an alternate multiverse Earth and another from the Anti-Matter Universe. They were virtually the same, except for where they came from based on editorial and/or writer whim.

Anyhow, three timelines into one when we have a Trinity War on the horizon does seem too convenient to be coincidental.

Plus, in relation to the Superman / Wonder Woman duo (read on), in Justice League International Annual #1 a Booster Gold from the future came to the past to avert a tragedy. He starts to dissipate at the end of the issue and wonders if SuperWonder (a la Brangelina) is what he came back in time to unmake.

Trinity War may have an impact on the trinity of timelines that lead to the creation of the New 52? Could it somehow play into the Vertigo imprint (and/or “timeline“) 20th anniversary celebrations of 2013?

I know many fans think DC has a backdoor plan to bring back some of or all of the old DC Universe. I don’t share that view, but “three timelines” coming into one New 52 timeline does seem interesting in light of this upcoming war involving a trinity or “three”.


3. Trinity of Sin

As part of 2012’s FCBD we saw the debut of the Trinity of Sin. We saw the mysterious Pandora also seen in Flashpoint, as noted earlier, and in all of 2011’s New 52 #1 issues. On FCBD we came to learn more about her and the other two that make up the Trinity of Sin.

All three committed transcendent sins and were punished by the SHAZAM pantheon. We have Pandora, joined by the Phantom Stranger and a mystical Question that appears a lot like Vic Sage pre-metamorphosis. Poor Renee Montoya.

This Trinity likely will have a large role in Trinity War since the 2012 FCBD cover featured Batman holding “Pandora’s Box” and he also has it in that Jim Lee Trinity War spread above.


2. Battle of the Trinity of Justice Leagues

In the recent Justice League #16 we had a call for reinforcements by Cyborg to assist the League in the War with Atlantis. Many of those faces were on the Justice League #1 teaser cover from 2011.

Slight spoilers below. You have been warned.

Not sure who Goldrush is, but everyone else are known quantities to fans of DC Comics.

End of spoilers.

Interestingly, when looking at the 2011 Justice League #1 Jim Lee spread, we see the core Justice League in the middle bordered by other heroes with the ones on the left in red and the ones on the right in blue.

Could those bordered heroes actually represent other Justice League rosters yet to coalesce? Deadman on the left is clearly one of writer Jeff Lemire’s Justice League Dark heroes. Could the rest on that side represent the JLD? The Atom, as Dr. Ray Palmer, on that side has appeared sans costume in the now cancelled Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. series. While DC creators has said that the Atom in the JL #1 Jim Lee picture is not Ray Palmer, but Ryan Choi a younger Atom, we’ll see.

On the right we have Hawkman, Green Arrow and others. Could this side represent Justice League of America? It even has Mera it seems at the bottom and we know she is as aggressive as the rest of the “heroes” on that side.

In addition, that 2012 FCBD gatefold Jim Lee spread has Black Adam in it instead of Shazam. Could Black Adam be joining the JLD or JLA or JL?

We’ve had four Justice Leagues in the New 52: Justice League, Justice League of America, Justice League Dark and the recently cancelled Justice League International. However only a trinity of Leagues exists today. Could another JLI emerge from a Justice Leagues Civil War?

Well, it does appear that R.B. Silva is on such a project featuring Shazam, Nightwing, Black Canary, Batgirl, Red Tornado and a previously spoken for Hawkman. Check out the pic from Silva’s Instagram below.

BTW, did you notice the Justice League International hashtag in the second pic above? Hmmm. With that, here are some of those JLI heroes as drawn by Silva on his instragram: Shazam, Booster Gold and Black Canary.

Fun times ahead.


1. DC’s Traditional Trinity

Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. These characters have been referred to as DC’s Trinity for decades. Two of them are now a couple and the other one knows and knew the moment the relationship started. In Justice League #14 Superman and Batman Wonder Woman embraced with Batman looking on from the Justice League’s monitor.

In a tease of things to come in 2013, we see that Superman and Batman come to blows. Could this be a key part of Trinity War? Is a plausible scenario that Batman and Superman exchange blows over Wonder Woman? Is there a super-break-up in the cards? Superman and Wonder Woman have gone toe-to-toe before. What happens when that kind of battle is loaded with emotion?

And, why are Superman, Wonder Woman and Shazam fighting in the earlier teaser?

In that same teaser, Pandora hands her box to someone. Is it Batman who has it as per the many other images we’ve seen or did he steal it from whomever Pandora gave it to?

Lastly, in relation to the preceding Trinity section of this column regarding a Justice Leagues Civil War, the teaser above also includes Cyborg noting that their core JL membership drive let in a traitor. Who among the newbies are a traitor to the League? That doesn’t mean they’re evil. Maybe they are doing it for JLD or JLA? A distrust of the powerful Justice League does seem like a motivation for the creation of the new JLA. Interesting.

Whatever it is made up of, I’m looking forward to Trinity War. Any other theories that YOU have to share?

Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome. :)


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DC’s New 52 Sees Four More Cancellations In January http://insidepulse.com/2012/10/15/dcs-new-52-sees-four-more-cancellations-in-january/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/10/15/dcs-new-52-sees-four-more-cancellations-in-january/#comments Tue, 16 Oct 2012 00:30:35 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=314906 DC released their solicitations for January today, giving us a complete list of previews for the month and in a few cases announced final issues. This isn’t some new method of surprise, really, DC has done this with both the second and wave of New 52 books. They bring a few books to an end to replace them; Blackhawks, Hawk and Dove, Static Shock, Men of War, Mr. Terrific, and O.M.A.C. all ended to make way for Ravagers, Earth 2, Worlds Finest, Batman Inc, Dial H, and GI Combat. Come the next wave we saw the ends of JLI, Captain Atom, Resurrection Man, and Voodoo to make way for Talon, Swords of Sorcery, Phantom Stranger, and Team 7.

In other words, DC has a method that has been working for them. End some books that are either not working in terms of sales, or that have reached a conclusion, and then you pump in new ideas and creators to fill the created gap.

In January we’ll be seeing the final issues of Blue Beetle, Legion Lost, Frankenstein, and Grifter.

Justice League of America is set to start in February, which makes one of the replacement titles announced. The other is the recently announced Keith Giffen title, Threshold, which is going to be all cosmicy and include a new Green Lantern as a lead character. I wouldn’t be surprised to see DC stay mum for another several weeks about the other two. Pacing things out to time the reveals up with the release of the February solicits.

My guesses? A new Edge title and a new Dark title. Captialize on Wildstorm and find somewhere to keep pushing the Daemonite plot forward with Grifter and Voodoo gone, and maybe find some new Dark title to spin out of Rotworld. The timing is right.

Now, the Snyder/Lee Man of Steel book I’m imagine we won’t see until next summer, and my gut is telling me WildC.A.T.S. next fall or winter, but DC has been doing a great job of not telegraphing new books in advance.

I mean, I wouldn’t have expected a Talon ongoing, or Phantom Stranger, hell, don’t get me started on Sword of Sorcery.
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Were Money No Object – The September Previews Edition http://insidepulse.com/2012/09/10/were-money-no-object-the-september-previews-edition-2/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/09/10/were-money-no-object-the-september-previews-edition-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2012 13:00:02 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=310580 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.

DC

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

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.

Marvel

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.

Dynamite

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.

Valiant

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 Weekly Round-Up #140 With Punk Rock Jesus, American Vampire, Conan, Godzilla & More http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/13/the-weekly-round-up-140-with-punk-rock-jesus-american-vampire-conan-godzilla-more/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/13/the-weekly-round-up-140-with-punk-rock-jesus-american-vampire-conan-godzilla-more/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2012 14:00:02 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=308078 Best Comic of the Week:

Punk Rock Jesus #2

by Sean Murphy

I enjoyed the last issue of Punk Rock Jesus, but I feel like Sean Murphy really brought his A-game to this issue.  There is so much to like about this series.  In it, Murphy has put together a reality show, called J2, around the idea that Jesus Christ has been cloned, and has been born to an 18-year old virgin girl who was carefully selected (and then surgically altered to reflect the correct demographics.

This issue takes place six months into the project.  Young Chris has become a media star, despite the fact that he has no contact with anyone other than his mother, his doctor, and the security personnel that protect the J2 island compound from incursions by the NAC – the New American Christians, who are opposed to the show and all it represents.  When the issue opens, Thomas McKael, the director of security and former IRA soldier, attacks them as they blockade the island.

From there, we learn that Gwen, Chris’s mother, is having a hard time dealing with her celebrity, basic incarceration, and postpartum depression.  She’s begun drinking, and is unable to understand why her family hasn’t visited.  Geneticist Dr. Epstein (don’t remember her first name) is worried about her, and announces her own pregnancy.  Eventually, McKael takes Gwen out for a spin, to try to cheer her up, although that doesn’t go so well.

There’s a lot happening in this comic.  Murphy uses a Larry King type character to show us how the media is responding to Chris, and his first two miracles, and it’s increasingly clear to everyone that the people behind J2 care nothing about anything other than profit.  No mention is made about the surprise ending of the last issue, although I’m sure that has something to do with Epstein’s announcement.

Murphy’s art is great, and while I still suspect that the book’s black and white presentation was a cost-cutting move on DC’s part, I like it a lot, and don’t even mind the cheaper paper stock used.  This is well worth picking up.

Other Notable Comics:

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #3

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Dustin Nguyen

We all knew that eventually Scott Snyder would have no choice but to get around to dealing with Dracula, and I like the way it’s being handled.  The big D is the name commonly given to the ‘Prime Carpathian’, or the sire of an entire species of vampires, much like Skinner Sweet is to the American Vampire.  Dracula has been taken by the Soviets, and fed a little blood, which means he has the ability to influence any vampires in his line, and at times, even control humans.  This does not work out well for the Soviets.

At the same time, Dracula tries to use Gus, Cash McCogan’s son, to kill Agent Hobbes, although unsuccessfully.  This leads Hobbes and Felicia Book to travel to Germany, to seek out The Firsts, a group of vampires from older lines who have been hiding throughout Europe.

Even though we are half-way into the series, Snyder is still setting up a lot, as the conflict between the Firsts and the Carpathians is going to be the central focus of the book from this point on.  Book is a great character though, and the story flows really well.

Dustin Nguyen has been killing it on this book.  During an extended conversation between Hobbes and Book, Nguyen borrows a tool from Eduardo Risso’s bag of tricks, and shows us a scene involving animals in the snow, which perfectly encapsulates the tone and feel of this series.  It’s good stuff.

Blue Estate #12

Written by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, and Andrew Osborne
Art by Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, and Peter Nguyen

Blue Estate has been a truly unique comic experience, and with this issue, Viktor Kalvachev brings his experimental approach to a very satisfying conclusion.

There is no easy way to summarize or encapsulate all that has led up to this issue, except to say that through a long string of coincidences, bumbles, and fate, a large group of people have, when this book opens, converged on a termite-infested house, and, with few exceptions, are all looking to kill one another.  There are Russian and Italian mobsters, idiot sons, police, hitmen, private eyes, and Hollywood starlets all caught up in the mix.

This issue is full of the bizarre and violent deaths, and the strange coincidences (ie., a gangster escapes bullets and police, only to run into a football player he had his men brutalize months earlier) that have made this book such an entertaining read.  It also wraps up every storyline I can remember, and dangles the secret of the beluga, without explaining just what that mythical sex act really is.

What has made this comic so unique is the rotating roster of artists who have contributed different pages or panels.  Kalvachev has brought together some of the most interesting artists in the business, and has melded their different styles in such a way as to give the book a consistent look and feel, even when the styles used usually would clash.

I highly recommend picking this series up in trade.  I can’t wait for the second season to begin…

Conan the Barbarian #7

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Becky Cloonan

Two Becky Cloonan comics in the same week?  It’s like the comic book gods knew it was my birthday this week or something…

This issue begins a new arc on Conan – Border Fury – which has everyone’s favourite barbarian return home to Cimmeria, because he has heard rumours that someone is going around killing his countrymen and putting the credit for it in his name.  Of course, being Conan, he’s there to track down and kill whoever this person is.

What makes this issue interesting is that Conan has brought Belit with him.  While in the south seas, and while on her boat, Belit is feared and revered in equal measures, but here in Cimmeria, she is just a foreign girl, ill-suited for the environment.  Wood and Cloonan do a terrific job of conveying the discomfort and rage Belit feels, and also do well at showing the conflict within Conan between his loyalty to his people and his need to protect his lover.

This arc feels much like Wood’s Northlanders to me, but that would be because I’m not all that familiar with Conan, and so immediately read the cold and harsh landscape as being somewhere Vikings would have lived.  As always, this is a very entertaining and beautiful comic.

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1

by James Stokoe

Much like Conan before Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan came along, Godzilla is not a character or comics property I have any interest in.  Why then am I buying this latest IDW mini-series with such a sense of excitement?  James Stokoe.

Stokoe first caught my eye with his Wonton Soup English-language manga series at Oni, but it is his Orc Stain that really exposed the depth of his comics genius.  That series, which chronicles the adventures of a nameless one-eyed Orc who may have a role in fulfilling some great prophecy, has been on a hiatus for a while, and so I’m happy to get my fix of Stokoe with this book.

Stokoe excels at pages filled with finely detailed mayhem.  His work is like a cross between Geof Darrow and Brandon Graham, and it is never boring.  This series is about a Japanese soldier, Lieutenant Ota Murakami, who first encounters Godzilla in 1954, when the monster first attacks Tokyo.  Murakami and his friend are able to protect a large number of evacuating civilians by distracting the monster, and later they are offered a job which, we are told, leads to Murakami spending half a century dealing with the giant radioactive lizard.

Story and character are secondary to visuals here, and Stokoe does not disappoint.  There are some excellent scenes of Tokyo being devastated, and the book is fun, inventive read.  I look forward to the next issue (even though I’d rather be reading Orc Stain).

The Massive #3

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Kristian Donaldson

I love The Massive.  I can understand why some on-line reviewers have chosen to complain about how exposition-heavy this first arc has been, but I think it’s understandable when you consider the length to which Brian Wood has altered our current world.

Basically, a string of natural disasters and environmental catastrophes have created great upheaval throughout the world, upending established social orders.  The series follows a small group of ecological activists (some would say terrorists) as they search for the other ship that makes up their fleet, for their friends aboard it, and for a way to continue their mission of environmental protection and conservation in the face of global calamity.  Without the frequent examples and explanations that Wood has provided over these first three issues, the magnitude of change would not be properly understood.

This issue, which finishes off the first arc, is a little anti-climactic compared to the other two, but it feels necessary in that it helps establish just how the crew of The Kapital has been able to resupply and keep running where so many other ships have fallen apart.  It also provides some insight into just how Callum Israel, leader of the Ninth Wave, is seen by his crew.

Wood excels at this type of book.  Kristian Donaldson’s art is crisp and clear, and the book is intelligent and exciting to read.  I hope this is getting enough attention in comic stores, and that it gets a nice long run.

Wasteland #39

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Sandy Jarrell

A new issue of Wasteland is always a small cause for celebration, but I especially like the one-off issues that Johnston always writes between longer story arcs.  This issue takes us further back than we’ve ever been in this series, with a story set just ten years after the ‘Big Wet’, the disaster that changed the entire world.

This story is centred on Michael, Marcus, and Mary, as a trio of children (they look to be about twelve to fourteen years old) as they travel through the wasteland the world has become.  These names are familiar to regular readers of the book.  Michael is the ruinrunner who is the series’s main character.  Marcus becomes the ruler of Newbegin, a walled city that is probably the pinnacle of human civilization in this world, but he runs it as a dictator.  Mary is his consort, who only recently arrived in the city, having led an army of Sand-Eaters in an attack before switching sides.

This issue shows the three kids as allies, if not quite friends.  There is a rivalry between Marcus and Michael, although Michael doesn’t particularly care about it.  It’s clear that Marcus is in love with Mary, but she is more interested in Michael.  When a group of scavengers find them, and decide that they would like to take the girl, things get interesting, especially when Marcus has a vision of Michael killing Mary.

Wasteland has had a number of artists since Christopher Mitten made his departure (there is yet another artist coming on board for the next arc).  I’ve never heard of Sandy Jarrell before, but I like his work here.  It fits nicely with the look Mitten established for the book – scratchy and as sparse as the landscape, although still capable of telling a clear story.  I like Jarrell’s work much more than I did Justin Greenwood’s, and I hope we see him on this book again.

Quick Takes:

Archer & Armstrong #1 – I haven’t looked to see how the Internet is reacting to this relaunch of the Valiant classic, but I can imagine that a certain right-wing segment of the American population might not like the comic much.  In Fred Van Lente’s new series, Archer is the son of a preacher and congresswoman, who has been trained since birth in a variety of martial arts, to track down and kill an evil figure, who apparently has possession of a machine that made him immortal some 10 000 years ago, killing everyone on Earth in the process (the machine looks a lot like the one Einstein has in Manhattan Projects).  Of course, poor Armstrong has been lied to, as he is attacked by his parents’ allies just when he captures the enemy (a bouncer who likes to quote Carl Sandburg) because, “Greed is godly.”  This has a lot of potential – there’s the stranger in a strange land aspect to Archer’s story (he’s only lived in his family’s religious theme park), and the send-up of the 1%.  Clayton Henry is no Barry Windsor-Smith, but he does a fine job on art.  I may now be adding another Valiant book to my pull-file list.

Batman #12 – This was on track to being my favourite mainstream comic of the year, and then things get a little weird at the end.  The first twenty pages of this comic are written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Becky Cloonan (Becky Cloonan on Batman!!!!), and they are fantastic.  The story features Harper Row, a young woman who works on Gotham’s electrical system and tries to protect her younger brother from homophobes.  She’s living in one of the neighbourhoods that Bruce Wayne is working to revitalize, and we get a pretty good look at her life and its challenges.  One night, Batman rescues her and her brother from his tormentors, and Harper decides to start helping him in his mission, working on the boxes he’s attached to the city’s electrical grid.  This part of the comic is wonderful, but suddenly we hit the last eight pages, and Snyder is joined by James Tynion IV (with no real noticeable change in the story, although it becomes more conventional), and Cloonan is replaced by Andy Clarke, who makes everything look like a normal, everyday super hero comic.  I have nothing against Clarke’s art (and really liked his work on REBELS), but he is not the person to pair with Cloonan.  Actually, she should have been allowed to draw the whole comic, even if that made it late.  The maniacal insistence of DC’s editorial to sacrifice good art for timeliness has bothered me (assuming that’s what this is, because the alternative is complete editorial myopia) before, but here it’s just wrong.  I’ve seen it argued that Clarke came on for those pages because they showed Batman fighting a bad guy, and were not so exclusively Harper’s, but were that the case, Cloonan would have come back to finish the book.  Still, I did enjoy this comic a great deal, and only wish that this book could have art this good on a regular basis.  Greg Capullo has grown on me (and as an artist) since taking on this title, but he (and the rest of DC’s regular artists) are nowhere near being in Cloonan’s league.  I would love to see her return to this series, at least semi-regularly.

Batman and Robin #12 - Reading this right after reading Snyder and Cloonan’s book is probably not fair, but I think I’d be unimpressed even if I read this after reading Jeph Loeb’s Wolverine.  This title works best when focusing on Damian Wayne, and his relationship with his father.  The last couple issues have had Damian feeling the need to prove himself compared to the past Robins, and that’s worked well, but the plot about this Terminus dude who wants to fight Batman is not good at all.  This issue has Bruce put on some Iron Batman armor, and fly off to Bucky Barnes a missile full of neurotoxin or something, like this is some other comic.  Batman doesn’t work when it’s about selling new action figure variants.  Get back to Bruce and Damian, and this title is a winner.  More issues like this, and it’s going to be dropped.

Creator-Owned Heroes #3 – I’m not sure what to do with this title.  I like the Trigger Girl 6 story (by Palmiotti, Gray, and Noto) even though it gets a little stiff in this issue (check the scene where the dudes on the street are talking to the Trigger Girl – it’s a study in awkward dialogue).  I was enjoying American Muscle (by Niles and Mellon), but this month’s instalment is not good – mutants force one of the main characters to wear a dress and parade around in a stockade, yet there is no explanation for that or why the sheriff keeps shooting people – it’s like Quentin Tarantino and Roberto Rodriguez at their worst.  In terms of the ‘magazine’ content which is supposed to be setting this title apart from others, while it remains squarely in the realm of fanboy puff interviews (with Mark Waid) or self-serving, zineish columns.  The only interesting part had Phil Noto discussing painting.  Palmiotti and crew should read the back of any of Ed Brubaker’s creator-owned books to get a better idea of how that stuff should be done.

Dancer #4 - This Nathan Edmondson and Nic Klein thriller series is moving at a good pace, as the main character continues to try to find his younger clone in Austria.  This feels very much like an action movie, and Klein continues to play it much safer than he usually does (although I like the shape the man’s blood made in the snow).  Not bad at all, but also not exactly memorable.

Demon Knights #12 – The team fight Morgaine Le Fey, because there is a rule in comics that states that if you have characters from, or your story is set in, Arthurian times, Morgaine must make an appearance within a year.  It’s a good enough issue, but I prefer this book when it is more character-driven.

Fairest #6 – This spin-off of Fables has been better than the mothership title for the last few months, but I’ve reached the end of my enjoyment of Bill Willingham’s work with these characters.  I know that both titles continue to be popular with readers, but I feel like they are just going over the same old stuff again and again, and I’ve lost interest.  I may jump back onto this book from time to time, as it is going to have rotating creative teams, and I can see a day where it will have a line-up that is not to be missed.  But then, the way Vertigo is losing talent lately, that may not ever be the case…

Fantastic Four #609 – Do you remember the last season of Babylon 5, when JMS just kept explaining and revisiting minor things from earlier episodes?  It was a long good-bye, lasting half the season, and it bored the pants off me.  Why do I bring this up here?  Because it’s the closest thing I can compare Fantastic Four and FF to, now that Hickman has finished his big story, and yet is still writing the comic.  In this issue, he returns to the Nu-World characters that Mark Millar introduced to the book, including Banner Jr., the old Hulk dude.  At least he deals with them, but who really cares now?  The art is by Ryan Stegman, who I think has been reading a few too many old Art Adams comics, but mixes Adams’s large eyes with Ron Garney’s pacing.  There are only two or three panels on most pages, which works for a comic with next to no story.  I never thought I’d look forward to Hickman leaving this title, but it’s time to move on.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #12 – I thought that Matt Kindt coming on to this book would result in stories that were a little quieter and focused on the craft of whatever it is that SHADE does, but he’s gone in the opposite direction, amping up the comic book craziness of this series, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  Frank kills the Leviathan that is a living prison for retired SHADE agents, and it goes to its graveyard, which is an underwater forest given atmosphere by the mystical bone energy of other Leviathans (seriously), gets a free verse poetry spell put on him that doesn’t work, and then causes some mayhem.  This kind of thing worked when Grant Morrison was doing it in Doom Patrol, but now it feels overdone and under-considered.  We are one year into this book, and I have yet to care about any of these characters.  Of course, now there is some sort of tenuous connection to the Rot stories in Swamp Thing and Animal Man, but I suspect that’s just a last-ditch attempt to gain some crossover sales.  I just put in my pre-orders for October, but I think that will be the last issue of this book that I get.

Spider-Men #4 – Almost this entire issue consists of the 616 Peter Parker sitting around and talking to Ultimate Aunt May, Gwen Stacey, and Miles Morales, and I have to say that it is excellent throughout.  I never read any Ultimate Spider-Man comics until Miles came along, so I know as much as Peter about what’s happened there (Kitty Pryde?), but in terms of straight-up character writing (and drawing), this was an excellent issue.  There is a huge problem with continuity though, as May and Gwen know Miles already, but we know that didn’t happen until after Nick Fury went into hiding, and yet here he is front and centre.  Leaving that aside, this is an emotionally poignant and fun book, with great art.

Suicide Squad #12 - I suppose this issue is a slight improvement over the last, but I’m seriously done with this book.  We meet Regulus, the leader of Basilisk, and learn that had DC stuck with Kobra, things would have been cooler.  We learn who the ‘traitor’ is, and of course it doesn’t match with how the character has been portrayed all along (and of course, it’s one of only three characters I like in this book).  I think some other stuff happens – I know that Captain Boomerang showed up to accuse Deadshot of stinking ‘like a sheila’, which I think is either the most misogynistic or just perplexing thing I’ve read in a comic in a while.  Partway through reading this, I realized that it’s like reading a 90s comic all over again, just without all the cross-hatching (although the awkward sense of anatomy does show up).  I’m done (unless I pre-ordered next month’s issue).

X-Men Legacy #271 – I guess Marvel needed Rogue out of the way of Avengers Vs. X-Men, because now Christos Gage has her on an alien world (or in another dimension), helping a race of characters that look like the Thundercats fight a race of insects for survival.  The characterizations are strong, but this basically feels like Planet Red Hulk, or any of a number of similar stories.  We are clearly just spinning the wheels until this book is cancelled and replaced as part of Marvel Now!

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

Avengers Assemble #6

Captain America #16

Mighty Thor #18 (I am not buying Journey Into Mystery now because of this cross-over)

New Avengers #29

Bargain Comics:

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #4 – I don’t really understand why the variant cover of this issue is a cover by Dave Stevens that has been used before, but whatever.  This issue is really pretty decent, with a solid story by the Simonsons that has Cliff showing his worth in Washington, and another good story by John Byrne that has Cliff working to save the World’s Fair from a 9/11-type attack.  These two stories, with some of my favourite creators from the 80s, really took me back.

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1-6 – I really miss the Legion of Super-Heroes, having given up the title not long after the New 52 relaunch did nothing to restore it to its former glory, so to satisfy that gap, I thought I’d give this cross-over with the original Star Trek crew a look.  It’s a pretty decent comic – Chris Roberson comes up with a workable reason for the two teams to meet, and then does a great job of integrating their histories (I assume – I’m not that knowledgeable about the original Trek stuff).  The interactions between the two teams are a lot of fun (Spock and Brainiac 5, Kirk and Shadow Lass), and the art by Jeffrey and Philip Moy is very good.  I don’t quite understand why, in the 25th Century, Chekhov would be constantly complaining about Cossacks though – is that a thing he does?

Untold Tales of the Punisher Max #1&2 – Kind of like Before Watchmen, there’s no real reason to return to the Max version of the Punisher, especially after Jason Aaron finished the character off so definitively, but as we all know, the Big Two will return to the trough as many times as they can, and so we have a mini-series of one-shots featuring Frank in his more realistic (ie., more vulnerable) incarnation.  The first issue is by Jason Starr and Roland Boschi.  It’s a pretty standard story about an incurable gambler who gets himself in too deep, and is told to pay up or kill a man.  Starr does a good job with the crime elements, and despite yourself, you start to feel for the character, at least until Frank shows up.  The second issue is more interesting, as writer Jason Latour and artist Connor Willumsen show us what happens with a white trash drug family get Frank trapped in the barn, and end up turning on each other.  Just last week I saw Willumsen’s art for the first time in a story in Outlaw Territory, and commented that he had a bit of a Paul Pope feel to him.  This issue looks more like Kyle Baker in a lot of places – I feel like this guy is an artist to watch.

Wolverine and the X-Men:  Alpha & Omega #3 – Brian Wood has a great handle on Quentin Quire in this issue, although all the scenes featuring Wolverine and Armor feel a little too heavy-handed.

X-Men #30-32 – After being impressed with Brian Wood’s take on the Ultimate X-Men, I figured it was time to check out his new run on the adjectiveless book.  I don’t think of superhero comics when I think of Wood, despite the fact that I know he used to write Generation X, so it’s kind of strange to see him doing a book like this.  He is making good use of Utopia’s ‘security’ team, although I’m hard pressed to understand why two of the Extinction Team (Storm and Colossus) are on it.  What happened to Warpath?  Anyway, the team discovers that someone is using mutant DNA from an earlier era, proving that there were once proto-mutants.  Storm keeps this information to herself, causing a rift in her squad.  I like how Wood uses Storm as a decisive leader – I always think of her as the team’s leader, because it was during the mohawk days that I first started reading the book, and she’s been underutilized for a decade.  I found the team dynamics to be great, except for the conflict between Storm and Colossus, and the fact that despite his bald head, his Juggernaut issues aren’t mentioned.  The art, by David and Alvaro Lopez, is terrific.  I hope this book is sticking around after Marvel Now!; if it is, I may add it to my list.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Blacksad

Written by Juan Díaz Canales
Art by Juanjo Guarnido

I kind of expected Blacksad, published here in English by the fine people at Dark Horse, to be a pretty standard noirish private eye comic, featuring talking animals acting as people.  That’s basically what this book is, but it is just about the best possible form of that.

There are three stories in this European-sized hardcover, each a self-contained tale although they are told sequentially.  John Blacksad is a private eye who investigates stuff, like so many of his literary, pulp, and comic book forebears.  In the first story, he gets involved when an old girlfriend, an actress, turns up dead.  In the second, he searches for a missing girl, and in the third, he tries to help an old mentor who has been marked for death.  All standard stuff, except for the quality in which the stories are told.

These are some very well-written stories.  Writer Díaz Canales sets these stories in post-war America, and makes very good use of the talking animal element to flesh out his tales.  In the second story, Arctic Nation, the young girl’s disappearance is connected to racial tensions, caused by white supremacist animals who make up the upper class and the police department, and directed towards black animals, especially the Black Claws gang, an analog of the Black Panthers.  One would assume that the easiest way to portray racial difference would be to have different species of animal stand in for races, much like Art Spiegelman did with Maus, but instead, Díaz Canales sticks with colour as the dividing line, and so a white cat is treated as different than a black cat, at least in that city.  It adds some texture to things, as we have a hero with a white muzzle, who has an established aversion to rats.  So this is a society where intolerance is even more ingrained and complex than in ours.

Juanjo Guarnido’s art is wonderful, in that European way, and displays great detail, especially in terms of the time period shown.  I was very impressed with this book, and am happy to know that Dark Horse is publishing more of these.

Book of the Week:

Rick Bass – In My Home There Is No More Sorrow: Ten Days in Rwanda  This is a travel memoir by a writer who went to Rwanda to help his friend run a two-day writers’ workshop for young would-be writers in a country with no infrastructure for publishing.  Bass’s writing is clear and inspiring as he travels to a few of the country’s genocide memorials, teaches the workshop, and travels up into the mountains to watch the gorillas with his family.  This is a surprisingly powerful book that reminds us of the power of the written word, as a way of serving witness, and of reminding that world that things are always more complex than we think.  I found this book very inspiring.

Album of the Week:

Kelan Philip Cohran & Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – The HBE are all children of jazz legend Phil Cohran, and on this excellent album, they pay tribute to him by playing his music.  It’s a very nice album.
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The Weekly Round-Up #136 With The Massive, American Vampire, Bad Medicine, Chew, Conan & More http://insidepulse.com/2012/07/16/the-weekly-round-up-136-with-the-massive-american-vampire-bad-medicine-chew-conan-more/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/07/16/the-weekly-round-up-136-with-the-massive-american-vampire-bad-medicine-chew-conan-more/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2012 14:00:08 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=304706 Warning:  There is no discussion of San Diego in this article; a rarity on comics websites this week, I know.

Best Comic of the Week:

The Massive #2

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Kristian Donaldson

Glancing at this cover while flipping through my pile of new comics this week, I caught myself thinking, “Oh good, a new DMZ.”  It’s an easy enough mistake to make, what with John Paul Leon’s cover showing a ruined city, but in many ways, The Massive has already surpassed Brian Wood’s earlier vision of a broken future by providing a much more complete, global and fully realized look into a future that is even more broken than the one that Matty Roth ran around in for five years.

This second issue of The Massive continues to detail some of the results of The Crash, the term that Wood has given to a series of ecological catastrophes, which have restructured the globe, and affected every person living on the Earth.  It continues to follow the crew of The Kapital, the only ship remaining to the Ninth Wave, a direct action environmental group, through stories set in two different time periods.

The present-day sequence (well, story time present-day, as it all happens in the near future) has the crew of the Kapital continuing to evade pirates off the coast of Kamchatka, while searching for their missing sister ship The Massive.  They pick up on that larger ship’s signal again, and even make radio contact with it, but all is not as it seems.  As well, Mary, one of the book’s main characters, has not returned from her mission last issue to draw off some of the pirates.  Ship’s captain Callum Israel, and his right-hand man Mag are concerned, and find themselves in a few tough places.

Interspersed between this story and scenes showing what happened during the crash are scenes set in Hong Kong shortly after the Crash.  Most of the city is under water, but the inhabitants built a new port out of recycled and repurposed junk, and when the Kapital arrives looking for refuelling and resupplying, it’s not long before Callum and Mary find themselves in trouble with the locals.

This book is very compelling reading.  There is a wealth of material that Wood is fitting into each issue, as he manages to satisfy my need for background while not sacrificing space to tell an exciting story.  Kristian Donaldson’s work is excellent, as always, and colourist Dave Stewart does a fine job of dividing the different strands of the story through their own colour palette.

This is one of the best new series to debut in a year that has already had a number of fantastic debuts.  This is a great time to be reading independent comics.

Other Notable Comics:

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #2

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Dustin Nguyen

I don’t understand why Dustin Nguyen does not get more recognition, or have a higher profile among comics artists.  This guy’s work is amazing.  In this issue, he’s called upon to show the history of the prime Carpathian vampire, Dracula, for all intents and purposes, and over a series of pages, Nguyen shows us watercolour paintings, imitation woodblock prints, engravings, and maps.  The collage effect works very well, and underscores how versatile he is as an artist.  Later, he cuts loose on a splash page that would have made an amazing cover image.

This issue is mostly spent exploring Dracula’s history.  Agent Hobbes is filling in Felicia Book on the dangerous vampire’s story, and lets her (and us) know about his ability to mentally control any other Carpathian vamp or their offspring (including, perhaps, an American vampire).  While this happens, the people who took Dracula arrive at a rendez-vous with some a pair of Soviets, although the American who confronted Hobbes in the first issue have other plans.

This is a successful mini-series, adding to the American Vampire story.  Scott Snyder and Nguyen work very well together, although I still find it difficult to accept that Gus, who looks and acts like a ten-year old, is supposed to be fifteen.

Bad Medicine #3

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Art by Christopher Mitten

Bad Medicine uses this issue to establish the future and direction of this new series.  The first two issues introduced a number of characters with varying backgrounds – a New York detective, a disgraced doctor who has travelled the world learning about alternative healing, and two CDC doctors, one nice and enthusiastic, the other crusty – and had them work together on a case involving an invisible man.

With this issue, a reason is given for this group to get back together when a werewolf is shot and killed in Maine, before turning into a young man who appears normal.  There is evidence of some sort of virus in the man’s system, and so this group, more or less under the control of Dr. Horne, is dispatched to investigate.

They are led to a very small town, which seems like a very strange place, in that way that small towns are always strange places in these types of comics.  The plot might be a little predictable in this comic, but the writers excel at strong character work, and that’s what makes this a successful comic.  Dr. Horne is a difficult character to pull off – his guilt at having caused a patient’s death has led to him spending six years talking to her, and she has taught him about his weaknesses and limitations.  Dr. Teague, the crusty CDC doctor, is very similar to him, and for that reason, he seems to dislike him the most.

I think it’s interesting that the last issue ended with scenes set somewhere in Brazil (I believe – I don’t have the book in front of me), and I thought they were setting up the next storyline.  I guess that story will be addressed after this werewolf one.  This book is following a very TV-friendly pattern, but it’s working for me.

Chew: Secret Agent Poyo #1

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

Poyo is a gamecock from an island in the South Pacific, who first appeared in Chew when main character Tony Chu was in that part of the world looking to rescue his brother from a cibopathic vampire.  There was something about Poyo, who was unstoppable, that resonated with readers, and so the character returned, enhanced with cybernetics, and as an agent of the USDA.

Now, Poyo finally gets his own one-shot, and it’s about as strange and over-the-top as you can expect.  Poyo is sent to England to assist in an investigation involving a twisted scientist who specializes in ranapuliva, or the raining of frogs from the sky.  He’s using his knowledge to terrorize England Dr. Evil style, with the threat of dropping all sorts of farm animals on downtown London.

It’s a silly plot, but it works for this book.  As is often the case with Chew, Rob Guillory peppers each page with little sight gags and amusing moments.  Tony Chu’s former partner, and Poyo’s new partner Colby has a cameo, but for the most part, this story exists outside of the Chew continuity.

There are some great pin-ups as well, by artists such as Ben Templesmith, Joe Eisma, and Jim Mahfood.  This is good stuff.

Conan the Barbarian #6

Written by Brian Wood
Art by James Harren

Among the many things that I like about Brian Wood’s new Conan series is that so far, each arc has only been three issues long.  This is pretty refreshing in an era where most mainstream comics only manage to tell one or two stories a year, and where two or three issues can pass with very little taking place.  It gives me confidence that there’s always going to be something new happening in this series, and I like that the artists rotate so quickly – it gives me a chance to see different interpretations of this character, who I’ve ignored for so long.

This issue has Conan escaping the city of Messantia, after Belit arranged his opportunity to avoid the gallows.  Now, because of the actions of Belit and her crew of pirates, the entire city is in chaos, and Conan is racing, with the old shaman N’Yaga, to return to the Tigress, Belit’s vessel.

This issue is full of action from start to finish, yet Wood also finds the space to have Conan examine the choices that he is making – to become a pirate who fights without honour, all for the love of a woman.

James Harren’s art is spectacular in this comic.  His fight scenes are vibrant and kinetic, and he’s just as good at showing the depth of emotion that exists between Conan and Belit.  This is a great series.

Dracula World Order: The Beginning

Written by Ian Brill
Art by Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey, and Gabriel Hardman

Were it not for a mention on Bleeding Cool, I would have completely missed this comic.  Ian Brill self-published and distributed this one-shot, following Sam Humphries model for the brilliant (and very late) Sacrifice, and this book was shipped to only some comics stores in North America.  I like supporting people who do their own thing outside of the Diamond system, and when I saw the list of artists involved in this project, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pass up on this book.

Dracula World Order is a science-fiction vampire story (because we all know that the world needs more vampire stories) which shares a great deal of similarities with the work that Victor Gischler just did with Marvel’s take on Dracula in the Curse of the Mutants storyline.  In this book, Dracula has co-opted the language of the Occupy movement, and has elevated the richest one percent of the world to vampire status, recognizing their ability to herd and control the 99% into a more efficient system of slave labour and food sources.

There is nothing left to oppose the most powerful vampire, except for his son Alexandru.  The book is split into four chapters (each drawn by a different artist).  Three of those chapters follow Alexandru’s journey to gather allies in his fight against his father, including a seasoned vampire hunter, and a Vietnamese snake lady.  The second chapter is used to share Alexandru’s backstory.

This is a very attractive book, but I would expect nothing less from those artists.  The story is clear and engaging, if perhaps a little familiar.  The book ends on a cliff-hanger, and Brill writes in his afterword that he doesn’t know when it will continue.  That’s a little annoying, but not unfamiliar with independent self-published books.  I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this title popping up on Kickstarter soon.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #12

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

I’ve written before about how I was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of forward momentum in The Li’l Depressed Boy, and so I was rather pleased to read this issue and find that things more or less do happen in it.

The LDB has been getting used to his new job at the movie theatre, and has been enjoying the attentions of the kind and lovely female manager, Spike.  In this issue, he flirts with her a little, and then has a conversation about her with his friend Drew, who encourages him to ask her out.

This book is still not moving terribly quickly – there are five whole pages devoted to LDB waiting for Spike to drive him somewhere, but it is starting to feel a little more like there is a plan in place for this comic.

This title is always charming, but I have decided to stop pre-ordering it, because of the lack of content.  That gives the creators a few issues (since it’s pretty behind schedule) to make some changes, or to get me to change my mind.

Planetoid #2

by Ken Garing

I’m really enjoying this new series.  In the first issue, main character Silas crashed onto a strange planetoid in the territory of the Ono Mao, an alien race that does not get along well with humans.  Silas spent most of the issue scouting the planetoid, which is covered with the wreckage of many ships, and the remains of an abandoned mining operation.

Eventually he met another person, who in this issue accompanies him to The Slab, a large expanse of metal where people live.  When attempting to scavenge a recently-downed ship, Silas meets Onica and Ebo.  She is a human who has grown up on the planetoid, while he is a member of the Ono Mao slave caste.  Silas, and we as readers, learn more about how things work on the planetoid, including the dangers of the sentry robots taken over by the Ono Mao for their own purposes.

Garing is setting this series up to be similar to books like Conan, but set on an alien planet.  There are few advantages to technology, although it covers every page.  Silas helps a larger group of settlers, and we get a good sense of where this book is headed.

Garing’s art is awesome.  I’ve always been drawn to the post-Industrial look, and I love the splash pages that show the wasted landscape.  This is a good book for people who are enjoying Prophet, or who want a darker type of science fiction than what we usually see on the comic store stands.  Recommended.

Punk Rock Jesus #1

by Sean Murphy

Here is one comic that ended up being nothing like what I expected (and surpassed all of those expectations).  When I know that I’m going to buy a comic, and a comic by Sean Murphy is something I’m going to buy, I don’t read solicitations, and I don’t look at preview pages, short of just glancing at the art.  I prefer to be surprised, and to enter the project only with the expectations raised by the creators’ previous work.  Still, you can’t help but have preconceived notions, and there’s nothing about the cover to this first issue that told me this would be a story about cloning, reality TV, and the IRA.

When this comic opens, it’s twenty-five years ago (well, twenty-five years ago from the standpoint of 2019), and young Thomas McKael is having a nice meal with his family.  Suddenly, there are people outside the house, there’s some shooting, and Thomas is stuffed in a closet with a gun, and told to shoot at anyone who tries to open the door.  This night ends with both his parents dead.

We then jump up twenty-five years, to learn that a corporation called Ophis has arranged to have DNA belonging to Jesus Christ (taken from the Shroud of Turin) cloned, and to inseminate a woman (a virgin, naturally) so that she can give birth to a new Christ.  This is the basis of their new reality TV show, of course.  They’ve hired a gifted scientist who is working on fixing the world’s ecological problems to take care of this for them, but they’ve also interfered with her work, insisting that she change the messiah’s DNA to give him blue eyes, bringing his appearance into line with their childhood illustrated bibles.

Thomas McKael shows up as the head of security for Ophis, who know about his checkered past as an IRA terrorist and wanted man.  There is a level of brutality to this group, best shown when the woman chosen to play Mary also gives birth to an unexpected female twin.

Murphy’s previous solo work, Off-Road, was more of a light comedy and so I didn’t expect this to be such a serious science-fiction story, but I welcome it.  I also welcome Vertigo’s decision to publish this in black and white.  Part of me suspects that it could just be a cost-saving move, but it works well with Murphy’s detailed art.  This book is not at all what I expected, but I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing, and I’m definitely sticking with it.

Revival #1

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

The fact that I picked this comic up is a tribute to the ability of Free Comic Book Day to generate sales, even a couple of months after the event.  Revival had a short preview in Image’s FCBD anthology, showing a police officer who was present when a dead woman woke up at a morgue.  There wasn’t a lot there, but it was enough to catch my interest.

In this first issue, writer Tim Seeley takes his time in getting around to sharing just what’s been going on with the ‘revivalists’.  We know that on a certain day, the dead reawakened, and we are given evidence that this phenomenon has continued afterwards.  We don’t know yet how recent the deceased had to be to qualify, or if the affected rural Wisconsin communities are suddenly awash in great great grandparents.  We do know that the area has been quarantined, which has led to some frayed tempers and strange conflicts.

Slowly, we are introduced to Dana Cypress, the police officer from the preview.  She is given a new task by her father, who is also the Sheriff, to be on the Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team, keeping track of the revived people.  On her way to a call involving a genetically modified horse (do zorses really exist?), she runs in to her sister, who looks like she’s going to kill herself by jumping off a bridge.  She accompanies her, and things go pretty bad at the zorse farm.  Like Walking Dead bad, except that people don’t stay dead.

This book is being billed as ‘rural noir’, and that label is as good as any for it.  Seeley has a good handle on the community, from the way in which people indulge the old Hollywood actor, to the casual racism of the Sheriff (implied in his case) and the horse farmers (who don’t trust their Hmong neighbour).  Mike Norton is always great, so the book looks very good.  I think this is well worth checking out.

Saucer Country #5

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ryan Kelly

Well I’ve been pretty intrigued by Saucer Country since it began, I had one concern with the book that I didn’t even realize until I read this issue, as Paul Cornell put that problem to bed.  Basically, the series is about Arcadia Alvarado, the Governor of New Mexico, and her campaign for President of the United States.  Just before declaring her intention to run, Arcadia and her ex-husband were abducted by aliens, giving her a new purpose for running (she is convinced that the aliends pose a threat to the country, and that she is the only person who will be able to use her office to stop them).

My problem was that Arcadia was being portrayed as someone to whom things happened, not as someone who took charge.  I know that every Presidential candidate has to give up a certain level of control to her handlers, advisers, and security personnel, but I also imagine that they are the ones driving the car, and I didn’t really see Arcadia in that role.

That changes with this issue, as she pulls of an impressive feat while being hypnotized by a disreputable therapist who had already caused her ex-husband to change his story while under his influence.  The hypnosis session gives us our best look at what actually happened to Arcadia and Michael, but that doesn’t mean that the therapist, who had already broken his non-disclosure agreement before even treating her, got what he wanted.

Cornell has been keeping this pretty mysterious in this comic.  We do know that there are at least two groups with an active interest in alien visitation, but neither of their goals are clear yet.  Ryan Kelly is the perfect artist for a book like this, and his collaboration with Cornell feels very smooth.  This is an interesting comic.

The Walking Dead #100

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

Well, we knew going in that this was going to be a brutal issue.  Anniversary issues never end well for Rick and his crew (go back and read issues 50 and 75 if you need some proof of that), and when the cover (granted, one of many covers for this issue) shows Rick standing over a field of dead characters from the previous 99 issues…  Let’s just say that subtle foreshadowing has never been a strength in this series.

I doubt it’s much of a spoiler to say that someone important dies in this comic.  I’m not going to say who, but I will say that it’s a character I’ve grown very fond of, and who I’m going to miss, as will everyone else in the Community, assuming they survive having to deal with Negan and his crew.

As the issue opens, Andrea is patrolling the walls of the Community, having been left in charge by Rick when he led a small group to try to receive aid from the Hilltop, the community they have just entered into a trade relationship with.  Rick’s leaving had seemed really stupid, and sure enough, we know that Negan has people staking out the Community, and making plans to attack at dawn.

Rick, meanwhile, has misjudged the distance to the Hilltop, and has to spend the night on the road.  This leads to a scene with a little too much unsubtle foreshadowing for my liking, as Rick has a couple of heart-felt conversations with a couple of close friends, which only heightened my sense that one of them wouldn’t make to issue 101.

Later, a large contingent of Negan’s Saviors attacks, taking the small group prisoner.  That’s when we meet Negan, and learn that he makes the Governor look sane and reasonable.  This is a pretty harsh issue, and Kirkman drops enough F-bombs that soldiers and convicts might begin to feel uncomfortable.  Things really don’t look good for Rick and the other survivors of Negan’s visit, as Kirkman changes the tone of the book for the foreseeable future.

This issue is a bit of an odd duck.  Sure, it’s remarkable that an independent series reaches such a milestone issue in this day and age, and that it’s poised to be the top-selling comic of July, if the numbers reported on-line are to be believed.  Kirkman has really led the way in championing the creator-owned comic, and we’ve reached a point where the best comics on the stands are being made by people with real ownership of their content, which is a beautiful thing.  My problem is that this issue, and the last one, both feel a little forced.  Rick is operating without his usual caution and forethought, and I can not believe that Andrea wouldn’t be perched in her tower watching for Negan’s people.  These two mistakes are costing the characters dearly, and they are making the story feel less thought-out and realistic than I’m used to.

Still, this is a book that is able to force a real sense of dread on me (especially with some of the creepy twisted things that Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn had to show us this month – and show us so well), and for that, I love it.

Quick Takes:

Batman #11 – We finally come to the conclusion of the almost year-long Court of Owls story, as Bruce fights Lincoln March in a battle that stretches credulity numerous times (unless, of course, Batman can survive falling from a jet and crashing into the very building that March is hanging out in).  There’s a lot of talk towards the end, but Scott Snyder does bring the issue to a close in a satisfactory way, downplaying some of the retcon excesses of the last issue, and putting the Bat-Family in the right place for things to move forward.

Batman and Robin #11 – The scene between Damian and Jason Todd is excellent, but the rest of the issue, which involves this guy Terminus having a group of strange minions start branding all citizens of Gotham with a bat-symbol is just strange and pretty disjointed.  I’m not too clear on who any of this villains are, and that makes the story kind of weak.

Bloodshot #1 – It’s another Valiant revival, and writer Duane Swierczynski does a good job of establishing the title character as a sort of Weapon X – constantly being mindwiped and lied to by his military handlers.  There is a ‘bad guy’ introduced, who shares some truths with Bloodshot, but it’s not clear just who he is.  I didn’t like Swierczynski’s work on Iron Fist a couple of years ago, but I do like what he’s doing here.  I’m not sure how I feel about the art though.  The imaginary, or implanted, scenes feature the highly burnished art that always makes me think of Ariel Olivetti and Ben Oliver, which I’m not a fan of.  The ‘real’ scenes are more traditional pencils in a bit of a post-Neal Adams style.  I’m not sure who is doing what – Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi are credited as artists, but neither section looks like the Garcia I’m used to.  I liked this enough that I will probably give the next issue a try.

Dancer #3 – Nathan Edmondson and Nic Klein’s series about a retired operative who is now having to hunt down his younger, better clone, continues to chug along quite well with some nice action sequences set in European public squares.  It’s a good read, although I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a treatment for a movie as much as it is a comic.  I wish Klein would use some of the cool visual tricks that he did in Viking.

Dark Avengers #177 – Two issues into the retitled series, and I’m still coming back, but that’s because the only thing that’s changed about this title is the title itself.  This is still Jeff Parker, Kev Walker, and Declan Shalvey sharing the adventures of the Thunderbolts every 2-4 weeks.  Sure, there’s a sub-plot involving the new team going to the alien city in Northern Africa that Parker introduced in Hulk a few months back, but most of this comic is concerned with the time-lost team fighting Dr. Doom and trying to make it back home.

Defenders #8 – Reading this issue, it struck me that one could easily swap out the characters that make up the Defenders with other characters with similar powersets, and the book would read exactly the same.  Perhaps Iron Fist is needed for the connection to the Immortal Weapons, but even that doesn’t seem all that intrinsic to the story.  Matt Fraction is giving us pure plotting here, in a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  On the up side, the art is by Jamie McKelvie, but it doesn’t really look like his work…

Demon Knights #11 – If you have a comic that is set in some sort of post-Arthurian time (the timeline for this book has been pretty difficult to pin down), then the reveal of the villain behind this latest cannot possibly be a surprise.  She’s been around the Marvel Universe for years, and is a public domain character, so her appearance here was expected for a while.  This is a decent issue, as the group make their way closer to Avalon, and get a new ally.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #11 – This is Matt Kindt’s second issue, and I think he’s figured out what this book was missing before he came along.  Frankenstein himself has not been developed at all as a character, and so that’s what Kindt is working on a little, as he has him and Nina explore Leviathan – a gigantic living retirement community for the SHADE set.  Everything is pretty off the wall here, and I’m finding it hard to care much about what’s going on, but I’ll give Kindt a few issues to settle in before I decide whether or not I’m staying with the book.  This is definitely not as good as Kindt’s Mind MGMT, but maybe he’ll be able to pull it together.

Harbinger #2 – I continue to be impressed with the relaunch of this old Valiant title.  Joshua Dysart has the book working in the opposite direction of the original – where it had Peter Stanchek and his friends escaping from Toyo Harada’s evil corporation, this one has him turning to Harada for help.  Is that because we look more fondly on big corporations in 2012 than we did in the 90s?  I doubt it, so there must be some other reason.  Khari Evans’s art is great, and Dysart is really building these characters well.

New Mutants #45 – This issue is better than the last, but with the news that Marvel is cancelling this book in October, I guess there’s nothing more to say.  I wonder if they are relaunching something with these characters, or just letting them rest.  I still think there’s a place for a ‘New X-Men’ style book among all the other X-Books, but would rather see something more like what Kyle, Yost, and Skottie Young were doing a couple years back.  I think that moving Illyana to the ‘Extinction Team’ proves that these characters can grow up and hold their own on the main squads.

The Shade #10 – Shade’s descendent has him captive, and that means he and his companion get to talk their way through most of this issue, before Shade gets to make his move.  This is a solid issue, although an artist like Frazer Irving is rather wasted on pages of dialogue.

Spider-Men #3 – The Spider-Men of the 616 and the Ultimate universes fight Mysterio together, and then Peter takes off to track down his own life in the Ultimate Universe.  I suppose it’s interesting, but having never read Ultimate Spider-Man before Miles Morales came on the scene, I guess I’m almost as confused as Peter is.  Still, this is a more focused and story-driven Brian Michael Bendis, and Sara Pichelli’s work is always a treat (even if a few pages look a little rushed).

Suicide Squad #11 - Where things were starting to tighten up, this comic is becoming a bit of a mess again.  Frustrated with the idea that she has a traitor on the Squad, Amanda Waller doubles their numbers and sends them on another mission.  Immediately all the new members are killed (easier than having to give them names, I guess), and the usual crew find themselves in a village full of Ancient Mayans who have never had contact with the modern world.  But they’re on the coast of the Yucatan.  I feel like Adam Glass is barely trying.  I’m starting to think that my loyalty to this title is being stretched to the point where it’s time to drop this book.  If I can drop a treasured title like Legion of Super-Heroes, I should be able to do it to my other all-time favourite DC property, Suicide Squad.

Swamp Thing #11 – There’s not a whole lot happening in each individual issue of this series lately, but with art by people like Marco Rudy, I don’t care all that much, because things are just so pretty.  Anton Arcane is back (as are his Un-Men), and they attack Abby and Swamp Thing.  There’s fighting, a child-like Parliament of the Trees, and an appearance by another super-hero who has been having his own issues with the Rot of late.

Uncanny X-Force #27 – After a couple of meandering issues, Rick Remender refocuses on what this series does best, in this new issue that appears to have killed off two of my favourite mutants (both of whom better not be dead) as the new Brotherhood snatches Genesis from his classmates, and Fantomex fights alone against the Shadow King and that skinless dude.  There’s some very nice Phil Noto art, and a good pace throughout.  The stuff with EVA is a little confusing though…

Wolverine and the X-Men #13 – When this series started, I wondered when we would get some of the backstory on some of the new characters, such as Kid Gladiator and Warbird.  Well, it’s taken thirteen issues, but we finally learn something about the young warrior who showed up at the Jean Grey school to protect the son of the Shi’ar Emperor.  This is really all pretty standard fare though, as the Shi’ar engage the Phoenix Five, and neither Wolverine nor the Avengers make an appearance (I normally wouldn’t care about that, but Wolverine’s name is in the title, and the cross-over is called Avengers Vs. X-Men, not Shi’ar Vs. X-Men).  I appreciate that Jason Aaron is trying to do something interesting with what is clearly an editorially-mandated connection to the summer’s ‘Big Event’, but it’s not very satisfying.

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

Avengers Assemble #5

Avenging Spider-Man #9

Before Watchmen:  Minutemen #2

Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred #6

New Avengers #28

Ultimate Comics X-Men #14

Bargain Comics:

Age of Apocalypse #2 - A lot more character work is needed if this dark alternate reality series is going to have much of a chance.  The only character that seems like an individual is Jean Grey, but since this is supposed to be a comic about the group of humans fighting mutant rule, that’s not a good thing.  I do like Roberto De La Torre’s art though.

Avengers #26 – It’s been a little hard to reconcile just how and where all of the tie-ins to Avengers Vs. X-Men fit together.  I believe this issue came out before some of the Secret Avengers comics that it follows, storywise, but since I didn’t read it until now, it all more or less fit together.  Bendis has suddenly remembered that Noh-Varr is on the team, and so devotes most of this issue to his exploits in trying to stop the Phoenix force from reaching the Earth.  Stuff actually happens, and because Bendis is joined by Walter Simonson, the book feels much more like an old-school action book.  Simonson’s stuff looks great here (it wasn’t so good on the previous issue), as the large-scale cosmic realm is where he excels.  It’s a thrill seeing him draw Thor.

Avengers Assemble #1 – For a completely pointless third (really, fifth or sixth, but I’m just counting the Bendis books) Avengers title, this is a lot better than I’d expected it to be.  Of course, Bendis is writing for the droves of people who started buying comics again because of the movie (and what makes up a drove these days?  10 people?  30?), so he’s actually crammed a lot more into the comic than he usually would.  Mark Bagley’s art didn’t bother me quite as much as it usually does, but I did wonder why two of the new Zodiac guys look exactly like Quicksilver…

Captain America #11-13 – It feels like his title is moving back to being on track, as Ed Brubaker brings back a few of the old 80s/early 90s Captain America standards (Diamondback, Scourge, Henry Gyrich), making this arc a bit of a love letter to Mark Gruenwald’s Cap.  I wish Marvel would clarify just what organization it is that Cap runs – they go out of their way to avoid calling it SHIELD, yet we have Dum Dum Dugan in a key role as a secret agent.  I don’t understand the mystery.  Anyway, these issues were almost good enough to make me regret having dropped this title – if this book were $3 an issue and never double-shipped, I’d be buying it.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Guerillas Vol. 2

by Brahm Revel

Brahm Revel’s Guerillas first began life as a series at Image in 2008, where four double-length issues were published within nine months, before Revel decided to move the project to Oni Press.  Then, in late 2010, the first three issues were reprinted in the black-and-white trade size that Oni often uses (bigger than a digest, smaller than a standard comic page).  And then there was nothing, until this week, when the second volume, comprising of the previously printed fourth issue, and the never before seen fifth and sixth issues, came out.

When Guerillas first hit the scene, I was immediately impressed and taken away by it.  The series is set during the Vietnam War, and it involves a group of chimpanzees who have been trained to be soldiers.  They are fierce fighters, and in their unit, have adopted the same command structure and various duties as the humans they are emulating.  The problem is, this unit has gotten loose, and are on their own mission through the jungles of Vietnam.

Guerillas is also the story of John Francis Clayton, a clueless private who was the only survivor of his first firefight.  Clayton has been adopted by the chimps, and he is accompanying them through the jungle.  This series is also about Dr. Kurt Heisler, the German who trained the chimps, and who is travelling with a group of American soldiers to look for them.  Heisler has brought his first project, the baboon Adolf, who is helping them to track the chimps.

This volume opens with the chimps assaulting a Viet Cong village, which they utterly destroy.  They begin to follow some escaping VC into a tunnel system, which eventually leads them to a fight so big that they take casualties for the first time.  Meanwhile, the soldiers that are following them link up with another group, and are ambushed by a large number of Vietnamese.  Adolf, meanwhile, snaps, and starts killing just about anyone he comes across.

Revel has done an incredible job on this book.  His art is great – he makes uniformed chimps firing rocket launchers believable, and he also excels at having his human and non-human characters display emotion.  His writing is also very sharp – Clayton is an interesting character; the coward who is determined to do the right thing and help his new friends.

I’ve long been a fan of Vietnam War fiction, and can count this among my favourites.  I hope the wait is not another two years before the final volume is published.

One Soul

by Ray Fawkes

One Soul, Ray Fawkes graphic novel which was released last year, just might be the most successful experimental comic I’ve ever read.  Fawkes has designed the book so that each page maintains a tight nine-panel grid.  Each pair of facing pages then consists of eighteen panels.  Each one of those eighteen panels tells one piece of eighteen different stories, all of which begin with the first moments of life for the character narrating them.  Each of these stories is told in first person, without any dialogue, and the position of each character’s panel does not move.

Right there, I know I’ve turned a fair number of people off, but I found this book to be utterly fascinating, if sometimes frustrating.  The eighteen people represent a variety of different eras, settings, and social strata.  One is from a pre-agrarian society, another is a vestal virgin in a Greek temple.  One raises silkworms in China, while another tends sheep, and another sees to plague victims in Europe.  There is an American Revolutionary and an African slave, a chorus girl and a thief.  Many of the characters are soldiers or warriors, but in different wars.

Fawkes has arranged their stories so that themes overlap and coincide, and so that their narratives interweave with one another, even though they never meet.  While they all begin life at the same time, they don’t all end it that way, and so some panels become blacked out before others, although Fawkes still provides the dead with a voice, and an opportunity to question their fates. This is a very philosophical piece of work, as eventually all of them have to accept their mortality and their place in the universe.

I suppose it’s possible to read each story separately by only reading one panel per page, but I liked the challenge of having to keep all of the different stories straight in my head while also looking for commonalities between them.

Fawkes’s minimalist pencils remind me of Keith Giffen’s a little, but that could just be because of the use of the grid.  This is a very thoughtful and provoking piece of work, and it’s a little hard to believe that it was done by the same person who wrote The Apocalipstix

The Underwater Welder

by Jeff Lemire

The introduction to Jeff Lemire’s new original graphic novel, written by Damon Lindelof, talks about the similarities between this book and The Twilight Zone.  Personally, I find that to be a little facile, because while there are definite points of comparison on the surface, I don’t think that the Zone ever got so deeply into the mind of the characters that it featured as Lemire does here.

Setting aside Lemire’s more commercial work at DC (Superboy, The Atom, Animal Man, Frankenstein, and now Justice League Dark), it’s easy to see a clear progression from his earlier (and still best) Essex County, through The Nobody and Sweet Tooth, to this piece of work (in fact, Gus and the two main characters in those other books have a bit of a cameo here, although its easily missed).

The Underwater Welder is about Jack, a man on the cusp of fatherhood who has never been able to reconcile with his own father’s disappearance when he was ten years old.  His father used to dive for treasure and salvage in the area around Tigg’s Bay, a small fictional town on the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, and Jack has always felt connected to the sea because of this fact.  After leaving town to go to university, he felt the need to come back, bringing his pregnant wife with him, and getting work as an underwater welder on the oil rig that is just a half-hour’s boat ride away.  Being under the water makes him feel close to his father, and he’s always happiest when completely alone.

This is beginning to cause some strain on his relationship with his wife, who is not from the area and doesn’t know anybody.  On a more or less routine dive, Jack experiences some strange things – he hears voices, and comes across a familiar pocket watch.  He comes to on the surface, and is sent home pending some medical tests.  This sends him into a bit of a spin, as he no longer feels sure of what exactly happened to him, and feels a growing compulsion to both return to the deeps, and to connect with his father.  It is here that the Twilight Zone comparison is most apt, especially when everybody else in town disappears, but this remains an intensely personal book, as Lemire dives ever deeper into Jack’s psyche and his wounds.

Lemire has often played around in terms of layout and design in his work on Sweet Tooth, and here he does similar things, having Jack morph into his younger self and his father at different places, and in one case, sit down and have a conversation with himself.  It’s the type of thing that only works in comics, and Lemire does it very well.

His art looks thinner than it has in his other black and white books, being much closer to what he’s done on Sweet Tooth, and different scenes are shaded very differently.  The look of the book is such an integral part of the story, and Lemire demonstrates a very tight control over what is shown, and how the different approaches inform the story.

This is one of the best new graphic novels to be released this year.  Lemire remains a very exciting creator to watch, and I like that while he is becoming increasingly better known for corporate ‘for hire’ work, he is also able to find the time and freedom to put together something as personal and insightful as this book.  Highly recommended.

Album of the Week:

Ryat – Totem   This is the album of the summer, if you are in the mood for some Flying Lotus meets Portishead kind of spacey, ethereal left-field electronic music.  Highly recommended.
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The Weekly Round-Up #132 With The Massive, American Vampire, Bad Medicine, Conan, Planetoid & More http://insidepulse.com/2012/06/18/the-weekly-round-up-132-with-the-massive-american-vampire-bad-medicine-conan-planetoid-more/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/06/18/the-weekly-round-up-132-with-the-massive-american-vampire-bad-medicine-conan-planetoid-more/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2012 14:00:20 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=302160 The Best Comic of the Week:

The Massive #1

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Kristian Donaldson

I really hadn’t realized how much I’ve been missing DMZ every month until I read the first issue of The Massive this week.  Brian Wood is one of the best speculative fiction writers in comics (really, I feel like it’s just him and Jonathan Hickman, with Carla Speed McNeil being in her own category), and this new series is off to an incredible start.

Wood has not disclosed what year this story takes place in yet, but it’s not too far into the future, just after a series of ecological and geologic catastrophes have plunged the world into a new, darker age.  Tsunamis, earthquakes, the calving of the Antarctic ice cap, and other events have shifted global weather patterns, and sunk many low-lying areas (including Hong Kong).  The effect on the global economy has been just as devastating.

The Massive is centred on three members of Ninth Wave, a ‘marine conservationist and direct action force’, reminiscent of the Sea Shepherds.  Callum is the group’s leader.  Mary is his second in command and his lover, and Mag is his close friend.  They have been patrolling the oceans on their vessel, Kapital, since the Crash, and looking for their sister ship, The Massive, which went missing during a storm.

This issue is nicely balanced, providing a lot of important background information, and introducing the characters, while also providing some action in the form of pirates that attempt to attack the ship.  Wood makes good use of the locale, off the coast of Kamchatka, to add force to the action, and keep things interesting.  There is also a good amount of back matter that helps to add texture and context to the story.

Kristian Donaldson has worked with Wood many times before, and it’s clear that they have an easy rapport.  Donaldson does equally well drawing the talking head scenes, the action, and the flashbacks to global catastrophe.  This issue has me very excited to read the next, which is what we want in a debut issue.

Other Notable Comics:

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #1

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Dustin Nguyen

It seems that the people at Vertigo are determined to turn American Vampire into the next Fables, spinning out into mini-series featuring peripheral characters a couple of times a year now.

This new series, Lord of Nightmares, is not exactly a sequel to the recent Survival of the Fittest, but it does (eventually) follow up on the character of Felicia Book.  This series opens in London in 1954 (the comic has been moving forward through the twentieth century since it began), and has Agent Hobbes, who we know as the head of the secret vampire hunting organization The Vassals of the Morning Star, meeting a strange American at an outdoor cafe.  Hobbes feels he has the upper hand in this conversation, until explosions make it clear that a recently purchased U-boat has attacked the Vassal’s main London base, under the Tower of London.

Later, we see Hobbes in Paris, where he confronts Felica Book, who has been living under the radar for fifteen years with Gus, the vampire child she cured in the previous series.  Hobbes reveals that the attack involves Dracula, the King of the Carpathian vampires, and the series is underway.

I believe this is the first that Snyder has made reference to any fictional (and public domain) vampires before now, and I find it interesting that he decided to bring up Dracula in a spin-off setting.  When Hobbes first meets with the American guy at the cafe, he starts to call him Ren___ (it gets cut off), perhaps a reference to the character of Renfield from Stoker’s classic.

Dustin Nguyen joins Snyder on art for this series, which is great news.  It’s been a while since Nguyen has been on a project, which is strange, because he’s a brilliant artist.  His work is great here, although his portrayal of Gus, who is supposed to be at least fifteen years old, makes him look way too young.  I wonder if there’s a story-based reason for that.

Bad Medicine #2

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Art by Christopher Mitten

When this new series began (as part of Free Comic Book Day), I thought it was going to be a mini-series dealing with the investigation into a crazed doctor who has made himself invisible.  I was more than a little surprised when that story resolved itself in this issue, followed by an epilogue that set up some sort of story involving a group of people turned cannibal in Brazil, presumably by a disease.

I guess that the rather rag-tag group assembled in this series so far – a pair of doctors from the CDC, a disgraced doctor turned student of alternative medicines, and a New York detective – are somehow going to start solving medical mysteries together.  It’s not a bad premise for a television show, so it will be interesting to see how it works in comics.

So far, this series is working, based on DeFilippis and Weir’s ability to craft strong characters.  I particularly like the rather odd Doctor Horne, who is constantly sneaking off to talk to the ghost of the patient he killed.

This creative team works very well together, so I will stay on board this title simply out of my faith in them, but I do question how this concept will hold up over a long stretch of time, if this is indeed an ongoing series.

Conan the Barbarian #5

Written by Brian Wood
Art by James Harren

It’s a good week for Brian Wood comics.  His take on Conan has worked really well.  I still can’t compare it to other writer’s use of the character, having not read the series before Wood and Cloonan took the reins of Dark Horse’s latest relaunch with the character, but I do know that I like how this book has been going.

In this issue, Conan faces execution at the hands of the authorities in Messantia.  Walking up to the gallows, Conan despairs that his lover, the pirate queen Belit, is not going to be able to free him, but she soon appears, disguised as an upper-class lady, and requests that Conan be tried through combat, with the prize of his freedom dangled before him.

This leads to an issue full of action which really shows off James Harren’s skill as an artist.  As Conan fights the gigantic champion of Messantia, I was reminded of the recent amazing fight scene between a Wendigo and the were-jaguar in BPRD.  Harren is really very good at these sorts of things, but it is his landscapes and urban scenes that I like best.

This is a great series.  If you’ve always found yourself unenthused by the idea of reading a Conan comic (as I was), you should try this – it’s not what you think.

Dancer #2

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Nic Klein

The title of this series is a little odd, as the dancer in question is a secondary character, who is used as much as a prop as an important character.

Instead, Dancer focuses on Alan, a former assassin or secret agent for the CIA.  We learned last issue that Interpol is after him, as is a sniper who looks just like him, only younger.  In this issue, Alan learns that the government cloned him back in the seventies, and that the clone that has been shooting at him has also killed another Alan in Brazil.

Now, the clone has Alan’s girlfriend, and Alan finds himself reactivated, and on the hunt.  The problem is that the clone has all of his skills, talent, and knowledge, but is also younger and doesn’t have a heart condition.

The set up is a good one for this type of action thriller, and Nic Klein is more than capable of making the book look terrific.  Storywise, this reminds me a great deal of Garrison, the Wildstorm series by Jeff Mariotte and Francesco Francavilla (which received no press and has never been collected).  On some pages, Klein’s layouts remind me of Francavilla’s.

This book does not have the level of sophistication I’ve seen in some of Edmondson’s other comics, like The Light and Who Is Jake Ellis?, but it’s still a decent read.

Mind the Gap #2

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback

I enjoyed the first issue of Mind the Gap enough to come back for a second look at things, and I’m glad I did.  Jim McCann has designed this story (so he tells us) so that every page has a clue as to the big picture of what is really going on in this comic, and I find that kind of thing pretty intriguing.

What we do know is that Elle is still in her coma, and that almost everyone in her circle of family and friends are behaving suspiciously, suggesting that any one of them could be behind the attack on her.  Meanwhile, Elle’s consciousness is in The Garden, communicating with other coma patients.  Somehow, she manages to enter the body of one of them in the moments before his death, and now she wants to explore this ability.

This is a very intriguing series.  The character work is top-notch, and the addition of a police officer to the mix, who seems to be working on a related matter and who is married to the doctor that raised her suspicions about Elle’s treatment last issue gives us an idea of who the heroes of this comic will likely turn out to be.  McCann writes these two characters very well.

Artwise, Rodin Esquejo continues to impress.  Sonia Oback’s art is another matter though – there are a couple of pages featuring two characters talking outside a darkened theatre that are so muddy as to be impossible to see.

I’m definitely adding this comic to my pull-list now – McCann has sucked me into the story enough that I want to continue with it.

Planetoid #1

by Ken Garing

When I saw the solicitation for this new series by Ken Garing, I thought it looked pretty good, and decided to take a chance on it.  I’m very pleased I did, as this is a very good comic.

The book opens with a spacecraft pilot finding himself being drawn towards a planet with a strange electromagnetic field.  He ejects from his ship just before it crashes, and finds himself on a field of ruined vessels and space junk.  Alone, he begins to explore the world, coming across some small lizards, and a particularly aggressive mechanical sea snake.

He also finds another person, who explains that the planet does have some human inhabitants, remnants of a slave-run mining operation who were abandoned when the planetoid’s region of space was taken over by an alien race.

Garing’s art is terrific, as he shows us the strange landscapes and industrial decay of this planet.  The book reminds me of the early issues of Brandon Graham’s run on Prophet, but without the variety of strange creatures.  There seems to be a resurgence of good science fiction in comics lately, which is a nice thing to see.  Garing has figured out a lot about his vision of the future, and I like how he’s sharing that information slowly.

I do wonder how this planetoid could have been used for mining, if it’s impossible for vessels to leave it, but I’m sure that will be addressed eventually.  This is well worth checking out – go get it.

Saucer Country #4

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ryan Kelly

Paul Cornell is structuring this series with mysteries piling up upon mysteries, as Governor Alvarado (that’s her name right?  I think this is the second straight issue that doesn’t say it) tries to figure out what happened to her and her ex-husband that night right before the series began.

The ex shows up at her office, and sits down to explain his version of events, although Professor Kidd doesn’t believe him, especially after he finds out that he’d gone to Dr. Glass, the hypno-therapist.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that a number of different groups are involved in the ‘alien business’ in New Mexico, but that the elected officials who run the place have no clue about any of it.

Cornell’s doing a great job of creating a sense of intrigue in this series, and Ryan Kelly is doing his usual phenomenal job of drawing the book.  This issue in particular has a number of scenes that are ‘talking heads’ only, but he fills his pages with more than enough drama to keep the interest level high.

I don’t think that sales on this book have been all that impressive, so I implore you to check this comic out if you ever enjoyed The X-Files, or if you are just interested in a well-written political drama about alien abductions.

The Secret History Book 20: Watergate

Written by Jean-Pierre Pécau
Art by Igor Kordy

I was very surprised and impressed to see that the newest volume of The Secret History actually came out in the month that it was solicited for,something that I don’t think has ever happened.  I was prepared to praise Archaia for finally getting their schedule in order, and figuring out their shortcomings.

And then I read the issue, and realized that for it to make complete sense, one would have had to have read The Secret History: The Games of Chance, a spin-off that was originally solicited as a five-issue mini-series, and then, after those books were ridiculously late, as a hardcover that has yet to appear.  According to Amazon, it was supposed to come out back in April…

Anyway, this is an interesting issue, as it incorporates the Vietnam War into the on-going struggle between the three remaining Houses of Archons.  The war brings with it a great deal of chance and unpredictability, which works wonders for the various players drawn to that conflicted zone.  We are introduced to a pilot named Chance, who appears to be flying for Air America, and doing a little drug running in and out of Laos on the side.  There is a German ex-SS officer there, playing Mister Kurtz.  Later, Stateside, Chance is involved peripherally in the Watergate scandal.

It feels like Pécau is using Chance to replace the character of Curtis Hawk, who would be too old to be of continued use in this series.  Now that the storyline has moved into a time that is more familiar, I find it much easier to follow, as it continues to jump all over the place, geographically and in terms of plot.

The Sixth Gun #23

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Tyler Crook

It’s strange that this issue of The Sixth Gun is considered a part of the Town Called Penance arc, as it has nothing to do with that story, but is instead a stand alone, one-off issue featuring Kirby Hale, the gunslinger who seduced Becky Montcrief a while back, when the cast of this comic was in New Orleans.

It seems that Kirby regrets his actions at that time, and is merely going through the motions of his former careless lawless lifestyle.  When he runs afoul of Missy Hume, the widow of the General whose evil started off this series, Kirby finds himself back on the trail of Becky and Drake Sinclair, and the five mystical guns that they possess.

This is a good issue, and it’s used well to flesh out this character.  When Kirby goes looking for the map to the mystical Gallows Tree, it reveals a fair amount about his character, especially since he finds it in the possession of an old friend.

Tyler Crook provides the art this month, giving the brilliant Brian Hurtt a well-deserved break, I presume.  Crook is a good substitute for Hurtt, as his art has a similar style.

Skullkickers #15

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats

This issue of Skullkickers reveals more of Rex Maraud’s history, as he continues his battle with the creature that hatched out of an egg two issues back.

I don’t want to spoil Rex’s history, which is pretty unexpected in a swords and sorcery comedy fantasy comic like this, but suffice it to say, we do learn what happened to his hair, and how he reloads his gun.  I doubt you expected either explanation to turn out the way it did.

Zubkavich and company continue to do some very nice work on this comic.  Zubkavich uses a dual narrator thing with this comic that reminds me of how some writers write Deadpool, except for the fact that here it’s actually funny.

Really, any comic that features Tlahuelpuchi, the Vampire Turkey, however briefly, deserves to be bought immediately.  Now I’d like to see a comic where Tlahuelpuchi fights Poyo, the gamecock from Chew…

Quick Takes:

Batman #10 – Well, this seems ill-considered to me.  Scott Snyder springs a surprise on everyone in this issue of Batman, which almost wraps up the Court of Owls story (one more to go), with the kind of soap opera reveal that makes suspension of disbelief just about impossible (while also explaining what I thought was an example of Greg Capullo’s inability to draw a variety of faces in the earlier issues of this series), and cheapens the rather impressive story he had built.  But, it does explain how there can be another Batman spin-off coming up in the just-announced Talon series.  I’m not trying to spoil anything, but I will say I’m disappointed with how this story has turned out.

Batman and Robin #10 – Hey DC, there are too many Bat-books coming out each second week of the month!  They don’t compare well with one another.  This one is all over the place this month, with the introduction of a rather strange villain falling flat, and the strained relationships between the former Robins with this current one working well, for the most part.  Damian is feeling the need to prove himself (again) to his ‘brothers in yellow, red and green.  This feels a little too familiar, and the sudden appearance of the Red Hood is jarring and poorly constructed.  At the heart of the book, Tomasi writes a good Damian, but this issue needed more space to dig in to the subject matter, before the fists flew.

Demon Knights #10 – Well, things are getting a little weird here, as the group continues their journey towards Avalon, having to deal with sea monsters and gigantic wolves along the way.  Cornell’s excellent character work is a little muted here, and I found Diogenese Neves’s art a little hard to follow in places.  There is an exchange between the Shining Knight and Exoristos that makes up for any other shortcomings however.

Fantastic Four #607Apparently Jonathan Hickman is the first person since Christopher Priest who can actually write the Black Panther, and that is quite a treat.  His T’Challa had already planned for the destruction of Wakanda’s vibranium stores, but he has called in Reed and the Future Foundation to help him with another problem, which looks to involve Ancient Egyptian Zombies (I always thought that Wakanda was more in Southern Africa).  That part of the story is a little weak, but the rest is very well-written.  The art team of Camuncoli and Kesel looks like they’re trying to fit with Ron Garney’s style, which is a mistake.  Camuncoli doing his usual thing is a much better artist.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #10 – Matt Kindt takes over the writing with this issue, and it’s a little disappointing.  I didn’t expect it could be as good as Kindt’s Mind MGMT, which debuted from Dark Horse a couple of weeks back, but I thought the story would be more coherent than this.  It seems there is some sort of issue with traitors in SHADE, and Frank and his crew are sent to some upside-down cloud city to investigate.  It feels like Kindt is trying for some sort of over-the-top Morrisonesque thing, but I wasn’t really feeling it.  I think it was the sexy librarian at the beginning that killed it…

Invincible #92 – Robert Kirkman’s books are often criticized for being endless – his stories and arcs just continue without definite conclusions, and always bleed into the next.  I don’t mind this usually, but this style is especially disruptive in this issue of Invincible.  Mark is recovering from his wounds at the Pentagon when some squid aliens attack.  The Guardians of the Globe show up, and this leads to the reveal of what happened with Robot and Monster Girl when they went to the Flaxan dimension.  Except, it’s only part of the story, as we also check in with Bulletproof, who is having his parents over for dinner, and some other stuff happens.  I guess the Robot/MG story will take five issues, and that’s fine, because I’ve been curious about it, but this book feels more scattered than ever.  On the plus side, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker are sharing the art for this arc, which creates a bit of a Peanut Butter Cup effect.

The Shade #9 - Shade moves on to England, where his descendant is up to no good.  James Robinson gives us Silverfin, the Irish/Romani superhero, but the rest of the book came off a little dull to me.  I do like Frazer Irving’s art, although every time I see it, I’m reminded of how much I wish his Gutsville would finish.

Spider-Men #1 – Fair warning – Miles Morales only appears on one page of this comic, which starts a five-part mini-series chronicling the first meeting of the new Ultimate Spider-Man with the more familiar 616 Peter Parker.  This is also the first time that these two fictional universes have met.  Basically, this is Brian Michael Bendis writing a Spider-Man comic, so you know how it goes.  Spidey webs around the city, soliloquy-ing about how much he loves it, fights Mysterio, and gets shunted into another dimension.  It’s an incredibly basic issue, but it has lovely Sara Pichelli art, so it’s all good.

Suicide Squad #10 – Finally, things feel a little more like I’d expected them to from the beginning, as the Squad is sent to deal with a Basilisk-initiated hostage situation.  Adam Glass has started borrowing a little more from the original, good, Squad, as Deadshot repeats a famous scene from back in the day (demonstrating his approach to hostages), and Black Spider fills in the Bronze Tiger role.  This book still needs a ton of work, but it may be improving.  We’ll see what the next issue brings.

Uncanny X-Force #26 – The reborn Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are pulling a ‘divide and conquer’ move on X-Force, as the various team members face a variety of threats.  It’s a good enough issue, although I’m getting a little tired of the whinier version of Psylocke.  Phil Noto art is always nice.

X-Men Legacy #268 – This Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-in focuses on Frenzy, who has been sent to a fictional African country to put down some militia forces after Cyclops used the Phoenix power to stop a war there.  Apparently the newly-powered X-Men are acting like The Authority, going around the globe fixing problems in a sloppy and ill-considered way.  Christos Gage uses the opportunity to explore Frenzy a little, albeit in a pretty predictable manner.  It’s not a bad issue, but it feels like filler.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4 (Or Morally Indefensible):

Amazing Spider-Man #687

Avengers #27

Avengers Assemble #4

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1

Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred #5

Captain America #13

Ultimate Comics X-Men #13

X-Men #30

The Week in Manga:

Kurosagi Corpse Deliver Service Vol. 4

Written by Eiji Otsuka
Art by Housui Yamazaki

Once again, I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.  With each new volume I read, I’m more convinced that the creators have stumbled on a winning formula – the horror sitcom comic.

KCDS is about a group of Buddhist graduates who have formed a business designed to help the dead complete their final wishes, which usually involve having their corpse returned home for them.  While it’s not a winning business formula (I’m not sure if they’ve ever received more than one payment from their clients), it works very well as a structure for stories.  Among the employees of the service are a medium who channels a distant alien consciousness into a sock puppet, a guy who can speak with the dead, and another who has the ability to dowse the location of corpses.

This issue has four stories in it.  The first involves the discovery of an ‘alien’ body.  The second involves a conspiracy centred around a Bodyworlds-like exhibit, where some evil scientists are ‘plastinating’ the bodies of the dead.  The third story features the haunting of a baby-killer (and features a guest appearance by a character from one of Otsuka’s other manga series), while the fourth is a weird story about parasitic slugs and a traveling American student.

All of these stories are deeply weird at their core, but are played lightly.  Otsuka’s characterizations are strong, and very consistent.  One would think that there are only so many ways to tell stories that involve wronged corpses, but with each additional volume I pick up (so far there are twelve available in English), I’m surprised by how fresh the concept feels.  This is good stuff.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Murder Mysteries

Written by Neil Gaiman
Art and Adaptation by P. Craig Russell

I believe that Murder Mysteries began life as a prose piece written by Neil Gaiman, that was later adapted as a radio play before being turned into a graphic novel by the uber-talented P. Craig Russell, much as he did with Gaiman’s Sandman: Dream Hunters.

This book reminds me of just how much I miss Sandman.  It opens with a man telling his story.  He’s been stuck in Los Angeles for a while, trying to get a flight back to England, but because of poor weather there, he’s not been able to go anywhere.  He discovers that a former girlfriend is in town, and he goes to meet her.  After their time together (which is not as satisfying as he’d hoped), he sits out on a park bench and begins to talk to a homeless man, who decides to tell him his own story.

As it turns out, this man is the angel Raguel, the ‘vengeance of the Lord’.  Raguel was activated when the first murder took place in Heaven, and he is sent by Lucifer (before the fall) to investigate.  The victim, Carasel, had been working on the concept of death, and his partners and supervisors are suspects.  The story proceeds along a familiar, Hercule Poirot-like trajectory, complete with a scene where Raguel gathers all the suspects to hear his accusation, but set in Heaven, which makes it pretty unique.

Gaiman’s portrayal of Heaven and the various angels is completely consistent with the approach he took in Sandman.  This could easily have been a story set in that fictional universe.  Russell’s art is stupendous, but then, it always is.

Album of the Week:

J Dilla – Rebirth of Detroit  Dilla pulls a Tupac and Biggie, releasing yet another posthumous album of middling quality.  This is definitely no Donuts, as Dilla’s mom finds a bunch of C-list rappers to spit over beats that Dilla had probably rejected or not quite finished.  That said, there are some nice tracks on here for sure, and I figure this is the last time I’ll ever listen to a new Dilla beat.  I just wish this was on the level of Donuts or Ruff Draft
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Demythify: Team Seven to Justice League to Seven Soldiers? DC New 52’s Secret History? http://insidepulse.com/2012/06/11/demythify-team-seven-to-justice-league-to-seven-soldiers-a-dc-comics-new-52-roadmap/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/06/11/demythify-team-seven-to-justice-league-to-seven-soldiers-a-dc-comics-new-52-roadmap/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 04:00:25 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=297911 I had been planning on writing up a column on DC Comics New 52 “Team 7″ that has been teased throughout a few titles in the last few months. I was going to speculate on who might be on the team; from those that DC has revealed so far, to who they may be swerving us with, and rounding out the rest with wild speculation. Then, last Friday, DC Comics confirmed its one year New 52 anniversary plans, including four new ongoing series for a “Zero Month”. Yes, you guessed it, one of those new ongoing series is… Team Seven.

Well, the solicit pretty much unveils the cast of Team Seven. It it will be set in DC Comics’ past joining Demon Knights and All-Star Western as the only ongoing titles that do.

    Team Seven #0: Set in the early days of DC Comics-The New 52, threads of the entire DC Universe collide. As Superman emerges, so does the world’s counter measures against him and his kind. Comprised of Dinah Lance, Amanda Waller, Steve Trevor, John Lynch, Alex Fairchild, Cole Cash, Slade Wilson are Team 7—and their story will change everything you know about DC Comics-The New 52. (Written by Justin Jordan and art by Jesús Merino)

I’ve mapped out the solicit against the cover and most characters seem self-evident. However, it would appear that one of two Wildstorm Gen 13 related icons appears to have changed from caucasian to African American?

When DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio responded to my suggestion through his Facebook account, he used an intriguing choice of words:

    The New Team 7 book is a mix of new, DCU and former Wildstorm characters.

The “new” word in the quote isn’t necessarily a confirmation, but it would appear that all is not as it seems from that Team Seven #0 cover. Fascinating! I am intrigued.

Assuming that John Lynch (not Alex Fairchild since his presumed daughter Caitlin is caucasian in the New 52) turns out to be African American that would mean that his son, Burnout who was a founding member of Wildstorm’s Gen 13, would also have had an ethnicity change if he were to debut in the New 52.

In addition, Team Seven may also have some loose tethers with or impacts on a few other modern day titles:

    Justice League – Steve Trevor is currently the team’s government liaison.

    Wonder Woman – We may learn about how Steve Trevor met Wonder Woman. They appear to have had a relationship of some kind in the past as teased in Justice league.

    Birds of Prey – Dinah Lance eventually became Black Canary and a lead in this all-female team. We may also learn more details about how she became a fugitive.

    Teen Titans – Dinah Lance’s supposedly dead husband Kurt Lance is on the trail of the Teen Titans in modern day DC. In addition, in Teen Titans #8 he seemed to indicate that he was a member or affiliated with Team Seven.

    Ravagers – Presumably Alex Fairchild’s daughter is Dr. Caitlin Fairchild who is currently leading the teen fugitives known as the Ravagers.

    Suicide Squad – Amanda Waller currently leads the black ops prisoner-worker-release program known as Suicide Squad.

    Grifter – Cole Cash has his own modern day DC title.

    Deathstroke – Slade Wilson also has is own modern day series.

    ????? – John Lynch is the wildcard here. This Team Seven will be his first appearance in the New 52 DC universe. In the old Wildstorm days he had an affiliation with Gen13 (a teen super-team).

When the concept of Team 7 debuted under the Wildstorm imprint, it was the seventh incarnation of a military wetworks team made up of several branches of government service men. Hence the name Team 7. The original roster of Team 7 actually had more than 7 members.

So, in the New 52, it does not appear this is the seventh incarnation of the team. Does it refer to seven team members? If so, despite what Kurt Lance indicated to Amanda Waller in the pages of Teen Titans #8, the originating Team Seven roster in the New 52 seems to include his wife and not him. Does this signal a quick departure for a team member to be replaced by Kurt? Is Kurt a support for the team and not a frontline fighter?

Anyhow, in the Wildstorm days, Deathblow was actually a founding member of Team 7. It doesn’t appear from the solicit for the new series that he’s part of the New 52 team, but fear not, the character debuted recently in Grifter #9.

Team Seven writer Justin Jordan, of indy hit Luther Strode, has revealed a few nuggets of information about the new series’ premise that is intriguing:

    …in the New DCU after Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman all become public knowledge, the government is concerned about the run of superhuman threats and develop Team Seven to help deal with them… the government has taken an interest in trying to get ahead of any kind of superhuman threat before it becomes an issue, so they assemble a fairly covert team to deal with it.

On the roster and what they means for the many characters that have modern day set New 52 titles:

    Well, the Team Seven book is set just after Superman makes his big appearance, so it’s approximately five years in the past of the current DCU… If you want to know why some of the characters are the way they are or want a little insight into their history and the events that shape them, this is the place where you’re going to see a lot of that.

What this Team Seven stuff got me thinking about is the Justice League #8 issue where Green Arrow was really trying hard to join the team. The issue ended with Steve Trevor taking Green Arrow aside and offering him something else.

Perhaps I’m fixated on the number “7”, but that got me thinking whether Steve Trevor is starting his own super-powered covert team to go on missions that the Justice League can’t called, perhaps, “Seven Soldiers”. :)

In the old DC universe Green Arrow and Speedy (later Arsenal) were members of the “7 Soldiers”. Grant Morrison revamped the concept in recent years with some of the characters having made into the New 52 such as Frankenstein.

Is Green Arrow on a 7 Soldiers team lead by Steve Trevor who is itching to get back in the field or is 7 Soldiers Grant Morrison’s playground and the concept won’t be touched by anyone else, but him (which certainly seems to be the overall editorial approach to Morrison at DC nowadays).

Or, it may just be as simple as Steve Trevor reconstiuting a new Team Seven for the modern day dc universe? Time will tell, but the Green Arrow / Steve Trevor Justice League subplot is an intriguing one.

Is 7 DC’s lucky number?


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The Weekly Round-Up #127 – The Post-TCAF Edition With Morning Glories, BPRD, Fairest & More http://insidepulse.com/2012/05/14/the-weekly-round-up-127-the-post-tcaf-edition-with-morning-glories-bprd-fairest-more/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/05/14/the-weekly-round-up-127-the-post-tcaf-edition-with-morning-glories-bprd-fairest-more/#comments Mon, 14 May 2012 14:00:14 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=298871 Best Comic of the Week:

Morning Glories #18

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

If there’s one thing about Nick Spencer’s terrific series Morning Glories that you can always count on, it’s that there is always another layer to the story waiting to be uncovered.  And it seems that each new layer adds new intrigue and mystery to the title.

This month, instead of the conclusion to the P.E. arc that we were expecting, we receive an issue that focuses on Jun, the quietest and most enigmatic of the main characters.  It’s worth remembering that Jun’s name is really Hisao, and that he switched names with his brother Jun, who is also a student at Morning Glories Academy.  Hisao has been thoroughly brainwashed by the faculty at the school, and it’s been very unclear as to just what Jun’s role in this series was going to be.

This issue begins a few years before the start of the series, where Jun (still called Hisao at that point) is being trained at an MGA-like facility.  We see him shooting a rifle, and then getting into a fight with his rival, a boy named Guillaume when he tries to take his target to Abraham, who appears to run this facility.  At that point, we see a glimpse of Ms. Darabont, the head teacher at MGA negotiating with Abraham for six students, one of whom is Guillaume.

In the present, Jun gets into a fight with Hisao, who believes that the strange events of a few issues back, which resulted in all the faculty and guards vanishing from the school, is his fault.  They fight, before Jun is rescued by Guillaume.

Apparently, Guillaume and Jun are there on some kind of mission to rescue Abraham.  It’s all a little complicated (not this series!), but also very interesting.  I would need to go back through some back issues, but I’m pretty sure that we saw Abraham visit each of the core cast members in flashbacks, but I’d assumed that he was recruiting them for the MGA, not for something else.  Also of interest is the relationship between Jun and Guillaume, which I’m sure could get the book banned in South Carolina…

Once again, Spencer delivers a compelling and mysterious book that raises more questions than it answers, but that is also a master class in character writing.

Other Notable Comics:

BPRD Hell on Earth – The Pickens County Horror #2

Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Art by Jason Latour

I’m a couple weeks late in reading this comic (thanks Diamond!), but it was well worth it, as these short little BPRD mini-series that the people in the Mike Mignola department of Dark Horse are putting out so many of these days are really quite excellent.

Everyone loves a big epic, sweeping story, but we sometimes forget that a focused, taut little mini-series can be just as, if not more, rewarding.  With the Pickens County Horror, Mignola and co-writer Scott Allie have crafted a terrific little look at the types of missions undertaken by the agents of the BPRD who aren’t Abe Sapien, Johann Kraus or Liz Sherman, but that are regular people involved in some deeply weird crap.

This issue concludes the story of just what some American vampires (no relation to Scott Snyder’s Vertigo characters) have been up to in rural South Carolina.  Mignola has rarely shown vampires in his Hellboy-verse (which is not in the same continuity as his Baltimore stories), but whenever they’ve appeared, there have been hints at a larger plot to literally seed the world with vampires, preparing for a particular date when they would all awaken.

In this story, Agents Vaughn and Peters have taken refuge in a shack covered in crosses, and lived in by an old man who is there to study vampires.  Peters is quite ill, and we learn that whatever the strange fog is that has descended on the town every night, it’s had a hand in changing Peters into something else.

This issue is mostly filled with action, and Jason Latour has done a terrific job of filling the scenes with some creepy images.  The creatures that come out of the fog are kind of like jellyfish-people, which he makes work, and his establishing shots are great.

When I first saw that Dark Horse was planning on flooding the shelves with BPRD mini-series this year, I was annoyed (for the same reasons I don’t like Marvel’s double-shipping of their titles), but I do really like the way they are using these short series to examine different aspects of the ‘Hell on Earth’ status quo in this series.  So long as they keep giving us new situations like this, with such terrific art, I’m going to be buying whatever they come out with.

Fairest #3

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning

I think that I’m getting closer and closer to being done with Fables and its spin-off title Fairest.  The parent book has moved from being an edgy ‘mature readers’ comic into being a drawn-out kids comic about kingdoms of lost toys and children being trained to take on ‘important roles’, with none of the dread or forward planning that used to make the book such a good read.  Fine, I thought, at least Willingham is going to use this new series, which is to spotlight the female characters of his gigantic cast, to tell the types of stories that he used to use the main title for.

Instead, we get a lengthy adaptation of the Disney Snow White movie, with a few bare breasts tossed in to keep things ‘edgy’ (because as we all know, breast are evil).  For a book that should be about the empowerment of female women, from a writer who has written a number of strong female characters over the last ten years of playing in this sandbox, this is a big disappointment.  The first issue was all about Ali Baba and his bottle imp.  The second was about Ali Baba trying to woo Briar Rose, and failing.  Now, this issue is mostly about the bottle imp working his powers of seduction – of a literary kind – on the Snow Queen.  None of these women appear particularly empowered; they are all acting in response to the two male figures in this comic.  Normally, I wouldn’t even notice something like that, but seeing as this title is supposed to come with a bit of a mission statement attached, I come to it with more sensitivity to things like that.

I’m definitely not disappointed in the art in this book though – Jimenez is killing it, if perhaps overdoing it a little on some of the ice constructs the Queen creates (kind of like Chris Bachalo drawing Iceman, only more delicate).

I’m going to stick out this arc, and from that point, I’ll read Fairest on an arc-by-arc basis, depending on who the creators will be.  I guess we won’t be seeing the next Chris Roberson Cinderella story anytime soon, after he so publicly resigned from DC the other week, which is too bad.  I hope they know better than to try to rush something through in order to meet publication dates; you never know with DC these days…

Fatale #5

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

The first ‘book’ of Brubaker and Phillips’s Fatale ends with this issue, as the reader really starts to see things come together.  Main character (of the flashback sequences, at least) Hank Raines has been abducted by the cultists, while Walt Booker, having performed some blood magic on himself, goes to meet with Josephine for what is probably the last time.

Since this book began, it’s been a bit of a guessing game to try to figure out where each character’s loyalties lie.  It’s been clear that Hank is under Jo’s spell, as Booker used to be, but the extent to which Booker has escaped her influence has never been too clear.

Those questions get cleared up here, and not necessarily in the way I expected.  We also get a good sense of the threat posed by Bishop and his people, and everyone ends up in a big fight scene in some creepy tunnels under San Francisco.

The issue then moves to an epilogue set in our time, where Nick is still trying to piece together what happened to his godfather, and what has happened to him.  I’m not sure if the next arc is going to remain in the current day, or if we will also see more flashbacks to Hank Raines’s day.

Fatale has been a huge success for Brubaker and Phillips, and it is completely deserving of that, although I’m a little surprised that Criminal, their noir crime series, hasn’t been more popular, as it was a much more accessible piece of work.  Who knows – maybe there is a renaissance of more sophisticated comics readers underway?  Or maybe it’s just because Image better knows how to market a book like this than Marvel can.

iZombie #25

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred

After this, there are only three issues of iZombie left to be published before the series comes to its end.  That 28th issue will also be Chris Roberson’s last for DC, after he disparaged the company’s ethics on the Internet the other week, and was then removed from an arc he was slated to write for Fairest because of it.  Many people agree with Roberson’s viewpoints, some don’t, and to many, it doesn’t matter, because not all that many people read this comic, compared to the rest of DC’s output.

And therein lies the real shame of all this, because iZombie is pretty good.  Roberson has been building this story for two years now, and we are moving into pay-off mode, as the final story arc begins here.  There is going to be an apocalypse in Eugene, of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer variety, and Gwen and her friends seem to be the best bet for stopping it.

Much of this issue is used to set up the last few issues.  Gwen receives ‘training’ from Amon in tapping into her full potential, and they take a little astral tour of the town, which is suffering from multiple incursions of weird monsters, as a precursor to Xitulu’s appearance, which will destroy the world.  Along the way, we check in with every member of the cast of this book, and see just where they are placed on the grand chessboard.

This issue is notable because it reveals some of diner owner Dixie’s history, although not her connection to the line of dolls that share her name.  I suspect that the axe dropped a little soon on this title, or we would have seen a flashback issue or arc starring Dixie at some point.

As always, Michael Allred’s art in this book is wonderful.  I  think a monthly dose of Allred is what I’m going to miss the most when this title is gone.

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #5

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Tonci Zonjic

I wasn’t all that invested in this series when it began, but by the end, I was really pretty happy with it.  I think the first issue started off a little too slowly for my liking and was too mired in the standard trappings of a pulp vigilante to really catch my interest.  What kept me coming back was the strength of Tonci Zonjic’s art (no surprise there – the guy’s stuff is gorgeous), although I slowly developed more of an interest in the story.

The biggest problem with this series is that I don’t care about Lobster Johnson at all.  The guy is a cipher – we know nothing about his motivations, or why he has such a dedicated network of helpers.  He doesn’t seem like the type that anyone would go out on a limb for.  I think that future stories featuring him will really need to work at fleshing him out – it’s not like when he first appeared in the Hellboy comics and fit in a supporting role – if he’s going to star in his own book, there has to be a reason to care for him.

Still, I did enjoy this series in the long-run, but mostly because of the incredible set pieces that Mignola and Arcudi set up for Zonjic to draw.  Previous issues had some very cool scenes featuring the Black Flame, and this issue has an amazing image of the Lobster and a basement full of cannibals (although I don’t understand how they are distinct from zombies).

Mind the Gap #1

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback

I wasn’t sure if this new series was for me or not, but I’m always willing to sample an extra-sized first issue when it’s released at a regular price, so I gave this a try.

Jim McCann’s Mind the Gap is definitely different, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to read it a second time to figure out some of the nuances of this comic, but it has me pretty intrigued right now.  The book opens with a series of phone calls, as friends and family of Ellis Peterssen, an actress (I assume) and beautiful young woman suffers some sort of attack at a subway station.  She is taken to a hospital, where she is in a coma.

There’s a lot more going on than just that though.  It’s clear that the attack on Ellis was planned, and is part of some larger group of events that have been set into motion.  A number of the people standing vigil around Ellis’s bedside appear suspicious.  Her brother is a jerk, and really, so is her boyfriend.  There is a dust-up between two doctors over Ellis’s treatment, and what information is being kept in her file compared to what is on her chart.

Oh yah, and Ellis is kind of hovering over her body watching the whole thing; at least she is until she meets another phantom, who is also in a coma somewhere, and is there to school Ellis on the whole situation.

There’s a lot happening in this comic, and its structure makes me think of the more recent vogue in television dramas of embracing weirdness and portioning out information over a long period of time (Lost being the best example).  In a lot of ways, this feels as much like a TV pilot as it does the beginning of a comics series, but I’m okay with that.

Rodin Esquero’s art is lovely.  He’s best known for his covers on the brilliant Morning Glories (which, in terms of tone, is similar to this book), and he does a good job with the various emotions that Ellis’s circle feels while standing at her bed.  I’m definitely going to be getting the next issue of this.

Mystery in Space #1

Written by Duane Swierczynski, Andy Diggle, Ming Doyle, Ann Nocenti, Nnedi Okorafor, Steve Orlando, Robert Rodi, Kevin McCarthy, and Michael Allred
Art by Ramon Bachs, Davide Gianfelice, Ming Doyle, Fred Harper, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Francesco Trifogli, Sebastian Fiumara, Kyle Baker, and Michael Allred

There’s nothing quite like a good anthology book, as I attest with each new issue of Dark Horse Presents.  Lately, Vertigo has also entered the anthology business, putting out a one-shot every quarter or so.  This one uses a space and science fiction theme, and it contains some very good stories, and some I could have done without.

What first struck me about this book is that it is largely made by people who I either don’t associate with Veritgo comics (Duane Swierczynski, Ramon Bachs, and Kyle Baker), or by people that I am completely unfamiliar with (Nnedi Okorafor, Steve Orlando, Kevin McCarthy, Fred Harper, and Francesco Trifogli).

There are a couple of themes that keep being revisited in this book, such as a future where people lack control over their lives and actions, and stories that involve people not perceiving things properly.  These are good stories, and they are all told quickly.

I did have trouble getting through Okorafor and Kaluta’s story about a carnivorous jungle (although it was lovely), and McCarthy and Baker’s story of two cultures discovering a powerful new substance.  It was kind of tedious, and Baker drew it in the cartoon style of his that I don’t actually enjoy.

I found that I most enjoyed Diggle and Gianfelice’s story about revolution, Doyle’s tale of love and suspended animation, and Rodi and Fiumara’s tale of love in a space junkyard.

Orlando and Trifogli’s story about centaurs and self-determination was one of the most interesting, but also a little hard to follow.  I would like to see more of Trifogli’s art.  I look forward to Vertigo doing another book like this soon, but would like to see a little more variety in terms of themes.

Skullkickers #14

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang, Misty Coats, and M. Goodwin

This issue of Skullkickers moved into unexpected territory very quickly.  We’d been promised the story behind Baldy’s gun, and we do learn where he got it from in this issue, but it was not in a way I ever could have predicted.

The comic starts with him still on the sailing ship from last issue, fighting a slimy monster that just hatched out of an egg.  He makes reference to having fought one before, and the comic then moves into a flashback set in New Mexico in 1876, where notorious bounty hunter and gunfighter Rex Maraud has just arrived in a small town to do some monster hunting.  After the usual display of skill for some town idiots, Rex moves out to a site known for supernatural goings on, and waits for a cult to begin some kind of strange ritual.

Eventually, after fighting another slimy monster, he ends up in thrall to a Lovecraftian demon-thing.  Somewhere in all of that, he gets his gun.  We are promised that the next issue will show us how he ends up in the medieval fantasy land that we are used to, and where his hair went.

Jim Zubkavich is not one to fall back on conventional plotting or ideas, and I love how fresh each new issue of Skullkickers is.  This is Jonah Hex played for laughs, which is a nice change from the usual in this book, although I hope it doesn’t take long to get us back to the main story.

This issue also has a back-up collaboration story featuring Shorty and a girl from a comic called Princeless.  It’s cute, and nicely drawn, but I don’t know if it’s enough to get me to check out that other title.

Thief of Thieves #4

Written by Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

With each new issue of Thief of Thieves, Kirkman and Spencer have been revealing a new side to Redmond, the series’s titular character.  The first issue introduced him and his assistant, and the idea that he was ready to retire.  The second issue let us meet his ex-wife.  The third focused on the police detective who has been tracking him for years, while this latest issue is centred on his son, who looks just like him.

It seems that Augustus has followed in his father’s footsteps, only without any of his innate skills and talents.  Augustus is in custody awaiting trial, and if convicted, will fall under a ‘three strikes’ rule, thereby placing him in prison for a very long time.  Knowing this, the cop (or is she FBI?  she’s not identified in this issue and I forget) is trying to get information from him, but for now, he’s standing firm.

This is a very well-plotted book, as the final pages loop back the beginning of the first issue.  I think that all the set-up is finished with now, and expect that we are going to find the book moving quicker from this point out.  I like that Kirkman and Spencer have taken their time to build this series, but I think it’s time for a little more to start happening.  Still, with all this excellent Shawn Martinbrough art to look at, I’m fine with whatever pace they choose to set.

The Walking Dead #97

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

The newest arc in comics success story The Walking Dead begins with an issue that spotlights many of this series’s strengths.  The book opens in the Community, where people are holding a Sunday church service.  There are prayers for the safe return of Rick and his group, who we later see coming home after their time at the Hilltop over the last few issues.

They are soon approached by some of Negan’s men.  Negan is the leader of a group that calls itself the Saviors, and who we learned last month are more or less holding the Hilltop community hostage, extorting them for food and trade goods.  Of course, people who cross Rick don’t last long, and the seeds of the next big conflict are sown.

Once Rick’s group returns home, the book gets back to what it does best – having people go about the business of surviving.  Plans are made to prepare for conflict with Negan, and we learn that one of the cast members is pregnant.  Also, Rick and Andrea inch ever closer to one another, and Abraham starts to chafe under the perception that he is now subordinate to Rick.

What always makes this book work so well is the balance between plot and character, and the way in which Kirkman doesn’t let things slow down for long.  Of most possible importance here is the observation that some of the walkers are looking more decayed, and that Carl’s memory is returning to him.  This is great stuff as always, and as we approach the 100th issue, I find myself beginning to feel a little dread, as we all know that Kirkman likes to kill off main characters in landmark issues.

Wasteland #37

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Justin Greenwood

Wasteland is really finding its feet again after its long hiatus and recent return with a new artist who is keeping the book on a monthly schedule.  For the last few issues, our heroes Michael and Abi, and their companion Gerr have been in some trouble in the Crossed Chains (read that as Christian) town of Godsholm.  Now, with the two men surrounded, Abi is confronting the leadership of the town, and a good number of its citizens while holding an open flame to their Bible.  Needless to say, she gets their attention…

Johnston uses this issue to show the lasting changes wrought in Godsholm by the main characters’ appearance in the town, and returns the trio to the road.  The thing is, both Abi and Michael know that Gerr, who saved them from the Dog Tribe, is actually in the employ of Marcus, the insane ruler of Newbegin, where most of this series took place.

Two things have made this comic work over the years:  the depth and detail of Johnston’s world-building, and his strength in constructing strong characters.  This issue balanced both nicely, and has me excited to see where the wanderers are headed next.

Quick Takes:

Batman #9 - The Night of the Owls is in full effect, as Batman has to fight off a number of Talons who have attacked him in the Batcave.  While fighting them, he wears his Iron Bat-Suit, and drops the temperature in the cave to twenty below (that’s insanely cold in Fahrenheit, right?  I don’t speak American), which somehow wakes up a bunch of bats in a scene I don’t understand.  Also, the dinosaur does some stuff, which is cool but weird.  I know everyone loves this title, and I do like it, but I think that the back-up, co-written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion, and drawn by the superb Rafael Albuquerque makes the issue.  The back-up is going to reveal some of the secrets of the Wayne family, as revealed by Jarvis (seriously?) Pennyworth which tie in to the Court of Owls stuff.  The main story feels a little disjointed, especially in the aforementioned bat scene, and at the very end – some of this is due to Greg Capullo’s poor storytelling I think.  If only Albuquerque (or Francesco Francavilla) were drawing the whole book.

Batman and Robin #9 – Damian gets to take on a Talon of his own, in this Night of the Owls cross-over.  He is tasked with protecting a National Guard General on a training exercise.  Damian demonstrates both his tenacity and his strategic skill in this issue, and it’s another very good read.  Lee Garbett does most of the art, and while I prefer Patrick Gleason on this title, he does a very good job with it.  Damian is a character who could handle his own title, and if he was written as well as Peter Tomasi’s been writing him, I’d be happy to buy it.

Demon Knights #9 – This issue serves to launch the next large story for this book, as the band of heroes are sent on a quest by the princesses of Alba Sarum to journey to mystical Avalon to try to bring the recently murdered Merlin back to life.  Of course, Etrigan has his own plan in mind, and I’m sure it’s not going to be long before Vandal Savage betrays everyone again.  This is a very solid comic, especially considering the strangeness of its subject matter – a medieval Justice League of self-interested and untrustworthy ‘heroes’.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #9 - I know that sales on this book aren’t all that great, so I’m not surprised to see that DC is trying to boost the books profile by tying in, very tangentially, to the critically acclaimed story that’s happening in writer Jeff Lemire’s other monthly book, Animal Man.  I think this is Lemire’s last issue of Frankenstein (soon to be replaced by Matt Kindt, another independent writer/artist I admire), but instead of closing things off, he’s leaving open the question of whether or not Frankenstein will remain with SHADE, and also builds the relationship between him and Nina.  It’s a good issue, answering the pivotal question of what ever happened to the body of that cop in Animal Man, but it still lacks the heart that that other title has.

Hell Yeah #3 – After the last issue, I was ready to drop Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz’s alternate reality series.  It felt way too similar to Infinite Vacation, and generally fell flat.  Well, this issue revived things quite a bit, with various versions of the main character appearing in this reality (including a Liefeld-90s version) trying to escape whoever it is that is killing them.  This issue was much more balanced and interesting, and I think I’ll give the book another chance, instead of dropping it next issue like I’d intended.

Higher Earth #1 – Sam Humphries is the new it writer, having made his splash with Our Love is Real and Sacrifice, and now splitting his time between his self-published projects, work for Marvel (see below), and a pair of series for Boom.  This first issue is only a dollar, so I thought I’d check it out, but I’m not sure if I was impressed.  It took a while to make sense of the random violence at the beginning of the issue, although the high concept – that some parallel Earths use others as garbage dumps and/or open pit mines – is interesting (if awfully similar to what Jonathan Hickman played with in The Red Wing).  There’s some guy who rescues a girl from a dump planet, and takes her to a better Earth, but I don’t understand why they are being pursued, and I’m not sure how much I care.

Invincible #91 - Invincible rarely disappoints.  This issue follows up on some of the bigger events of the last few months.  Mark is still recovering from the Viltrimute Plague, but now he’s woken up in Dinosaurus’s lair, except Dinosaurus has reverted to human, and also doesn’t know what is going on.  Meanwhile, Mark’s friends are looking for him, which leads to a big fight with a completely Kirkmanesque surprise ending (which means I didn’t see it coming at all).  Great stuff.

Journey Into Mystery #637 – The JIM/New Mutants cross-over, Exiled, continues here with a slightly re-made world that has recast all of the Asgardians in Exiled #1 into local folk, with no memory of their previous lives as gods or Disir.  It’s the New Mutants who figure things out, and who manage to restore Loki to help them put things right.  As with the first chapter, the writing is excellent.  I should have mentioned the art last week, but this issue is also drawn by Carmine Di Giandomenico (I wonder if he’s going to do the whole event?).  His faces, especially Dani Moonstar’s, remind me a great deal of Barry Windsor-Smith’s art, while everything else fits within the Camuncoli/Gaudiano style that I like so much.  I miss Barry Windsor-Smith…

Suicide Squad #9, and Resurrection Man #8 & 9 – There have been a lot of these little cross-overs in the DCnU of late, and I figured this would be another good chance to check out Resurrection Man, a book I’m as on the fence about as I am Suicide Squad, except I’m only buying one of the two.  The Squad is after Mitch Shelley, because Amanda Waller wants to study his regenerative abilities.  This leads to a fairly standard dust-up between the casts of the two books.  As usual, the Squad comic falls short because it lacks the type of characterization and character-driven writing that would make it successful.  I wish both of these books were better…

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #10 - I’ve always been a fan of comics where everything is falling apart, and Jonathan Hickman and new co-writer Sam Humphries have definitely put the Ultimate world into that state, with most of Washington wiped off the map, the Ultimates being hunted by SHIELD, and Tony Stark having health problems.  I do question some of the priorities of the new SHIELD leadership, but otherwise find myself enjoying this comic more and more.  Humphries is a welcome addition to the book – his Our Love is Real was one of the most memorable comics of last year, and I am loving his Sacrifice, and guest artist Luke Ross also performs commendably.  I still don’t understand how this is all happening in the same continuity as Ultimate Comics Spider-Man though…

Uncanny X-Force #25 – I hope Marvel isn’t planning on testing out this idea of stuffing some unwanted reprints in the back of a comic and then charging $4.99 for it, because that’s not cool.  This new issue of Uncanny X-Force is a good one – the team is dwindling as Psylocke and Fantomex both leave for various personal reasons, leaving only Logan, AoA Nightcrawler, and Deadpool to get involved with some high-tech assassination retail outlet, that has been cloning Omega Red (because every stupid 90s villain deserves a resurrection or two).  Mike McKone draws this issue, which gives it a very different look from what we usually see, but it works here.  The back-ups are both by Remender and Jerome Opena; one is a decent Wolverine story, and the other is a typically stupid Deadpool thing.

Wolverine and the X-Men #10 – At least Jason Aaron remembers that many people on opposing sides of the Avengers/X-Men fight are friends, especially with Wolverine having sided with the Avengers.  Cyclops pays the Jean Grey school a visit, and he and Logan have a chat, which doesn’t really resolve anything, but does give some of the other members of the cast the chance to defect to the Utopian perspective.  Wisely, Aaron also gives over some space in the book to Angel and Genesis, two of the most interesting characters in this comic, perhaps with the expectation that people reading this comic who usually don’t may stick around.  Chris Bachalo’s art is the best reason to keep coming back, as he is once again spectacular.  This is way better than Avengers Vs. X-Men.

X-Men Legacy #266 – I decided to give Christos Gage one last chance on this title (I generally like to support the $3 comics), and shee what he would do with the AvX-mandated crossover.  Rogue’s group (who strangely never really show up in Jason Aaron’s parent title) struggle with their response to the war with the Avengers, at least until an odd trio of that team (Falcon, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight) show up on their doorstep to keep an eye on them.  Marvel really isn’t going to great lengths to paint the Avengers in a sensitive light in this crossover.  Anyway, it’s a decent read, and I like how Gage is writing Fury.

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

Avengers Assemble #3

Avenging Spider-Man #7

Captain America #11

Dan the Unharmable #1

Fury MAX #1

New Avengers #26

Ultimate Comics X-Men #11

Wolverine #306

TCAF Goodies:

As I mentioned last week, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival is the best comics show that happens in Toronto each year.  It’s not like a comic convention – there are no dealers except for the shop that organizes the event, The Beguiling, few publishers, and almost no cos-players (I saw only one).  Also, the people who attend this free show are on the whole, better dressed, cleaner, and more attractive than the people you’ll see lined up for Fan Expo, the Toronto opposite.  Basically, TCAF is one gigantic artists alley, and the people who attend have to be vetted as having quality comics.  Here’s what I bought that I’ve read so far:

Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes

by Michael Cho

The first time I ever attended the Toronto Comics Art Festival was the last year that it was held at Victoria College, on the University of Toronto campus.  While looking around for comics to buy, I came across Michael Cho’s table, and was blown away by the prints he had made of some of his drawings and paintings of back alleys of Toronto.  I bought two, and they have been hanging in my house ever since.

Now, Drawn & Quarterly has published Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes, a collection of Cho’s urban scenes, which means I get to own all of these fantastic pieces of art, at an affordable price.

I have always been drawn to quiet or forgotten urban settings.  I have long been fascinated by abandoned buildings or spaces where progress has marched on.  The back alleys of Cho’s book are neither forgotten nor abandoned, but they often feel like they are.  The areas that he draws and paints are frequently shabby and devoid of human presence, just back walls, fences, and detritus.  There is a timeless quality to many of his pieces here, and save for the proliferation of satellite dishes and large plastic garbage and recycling bins, they could have been drawn at any point in the last hundred years.  These are the old neighbourhoods of Toronto that Cho captures here, and his record is appreciated in a city that is so determined to constantly reinvent itself.

These pictures were made using a variety of tools, from paints to ink markers, and they are largely organized by time of year and colour scheme.  His evening pictures perfectly capture the orangey-yellow of life under mercury vapor street lights, while his winter scenes, tinted blue, evoke the cold of a Toronto winter (okay, not lately).  Spring is filled with greens, while his autumn pictures are more reddish and yellow.

Every page of this book feels familiar, although there are few scenes I can identify with any certainty.  Cho has captured aspects of my city that I love, and I am certain that this is a book I am going to treasure.  It is a beautifully designed book, and I’m pleased that Drawn & Quarterly put this together for us.

Foster #1 & 2

Written by Brian Buccellato
Art by Noel Tuazon

When I looked through this month’s Previews, the one new project that most caught my eye was Foster, a self-published series by Brian Buccellato (co-writer of The Flash, and colourist of many titles), and Noel Tuazon (who drew the wonderful graphic novel Tumor). The title sounded very cool, so I figured I would give it a chance, and added it to my pull-list.

Luckily, I hadn’t sent in my July order yet, because Noel Tuazon was at TCAF this last week-end, and had the ‘Special Limited Edition’ of the first two issues for sale.  Despite their costing significantly more than the direct market editions will be selling for, flipping through these comics, I knew I had to have them.  That Tuazon drew a sketch on the back covers of each was really just a bonus.

Foster is a very good comic.  It’s set in a gritty, 1970s style city (apparently it’s an amalgam of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles).  Foster, the title character, is an unhappy alcoholic Vietnam veteran who lives in a rat-trap apartment.  When his junkie neighbour Trina disappears, he ends up looking after her young son Ben.  Foster feels some responsibility for the kid, as he and Trina were together for a while, before her behaviour brought back too many memories of his childhood.

The next day, after dropping Ben off at school, and deciding to wash his hands of the kid, Foster is visited by a large and menacing character – one of the Dwellers, a race that lives secretly alongside mankind, who is looking for the kid.  They aren’t vampires – they are more likely an offshoot of Neanderthal man.  There is a reason why they are after Ben, but I feel it’s pretty significant, so I don’t want to say what it is.

Needless to say, Foster feels the need to look out for the kid, although it’s not long before the police are interested in him as well, as is a researcher at the university.  There’s a lot going on here, as Buccellato plays with a number of genre tropes, but mixes them up in an interesting way.  By the time I got to the end of the second issue, I found myself completely invested in the story.

A lot of the credit for this goes to Tuazon.  He captures the urban environment perfectly, and his Dwellers are very menacing.  His art is not all that detailed, which leaves the finer features of the Dweller to the reader’s imagination, and that makes them all the more creepy.

This is a very good comic.  It’s in this month’s Previews, and I can not urge you enough to check it out and pre-order it.  I imagine that this is the type of project that a number of comic stores may not be aware of, so if you are interested, please speak to your retailer soon.  You won’t be sorry with it.  Also, check out Buccellato’s website to read previews or order your own copy (or a download).

Fragment

by John Lang, with Jeff Sebank

This self-published comic was an impulse buy that I picked up at TCAF.  Lang has just written and drawn a comic about the Canadian WWI pilot Billy Bishop called Lone Hawk, and I thought this comic looked interesting.  I was not disappointed.

In a short amount of space, Lang constructs a pretty detailed vision of the future.  The story is set in 2036, in an America that has been riven once again with civil war and challenged by a new Depression.  Our main character wakes up for his night shift job only to learn that he and all his fellow employees have been laid off.  He makes his way to a bar, where we learn a great deal about the state of the Union from a news broadcast.  We also learn that our hero was involved in some ‘Uprising’ as a tech runner.

In a lot of ways, it feels like Lang was setting up a much longer series with this comic.  This comic was published in 2006, so it predates many of the financial problems that the comic depicts, which struck much sooner than the forecasted time frame.  If one sees the ‘Uprising’ as a form of Occupy Wherever, this book looks even more prescient.

Lang drew this comic in a noir-ish, thick lined manner that works very well with the material.  I enjoyed this comic, and I’m glad I picked it up.

The Mire

by Becky Cloonan

The Mire is a new mini-comic by comics goddess Becky Cloonan, which had its debut at TCAF last week-end.  This ‘TCAF Edition’ is slightly different from the version sold by Cloonan (buy it here, and get Wolves while you’re at it!) in that the cover stock is not of the same quality as what the official release will have.  Knowing that I already bought this comic as a preorder when it was first available months ago, I found I still couldn’t resist buying a copy from the lovely Ms. Cloonan in person.  That this edition has a very limited press run added to that desire.

Like Wolves, the mini-comic she made last year, this is a gorgeous little book.  It’s set in some medieval period, and it involves a young squire, Aiden, being sent by his knight to deliver a message on the eve of a great battle.  Aiden has to be sent through something called The Withering Swamp, as any other passage takes him through enemy lands.  This swamp is known as a haunted, supernatural place, and Aiden is forced to face his fears as he journeys through it.

This is a strange, creepy story, with some wonderful art.  There is a bit of a twist at the end of the book that I thought I could see coming, but I still found myself swept up in the story, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Recommended.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #8

by Michael Kupperman

This latest issue of Michael Kupperman’s whimsical anthology series isn’t scheduled for release until July (it’s in the issue of Previews that came out last week), but the fine people at Fantagraphics brought copies of it with them to TCAF this week-end, and I couldn’t resist getting my copy early.

As always, this is a great comic.  Kupperman opens this issue with some pages from ‘Red Warren’s Train & Bus Coloring Book’, a series of black and white images around the themes of trains (not many buses) and their peculiar mating habits.  These pages are narrated by Red Warren (I have no idea who that is) in a rather peculiar way.  Look out for the eyes!!!

The next story, ‘Murder, She Goat’ involves a famous lady detective who travels with a goat that helps her solve murders.  When she is invited to a party at a stately manor, the guests begin to question just why it is that people always die whenever this woman shows up.

After that comes an extremely educational comic strip history of Bertrand Copillon, ‘The Scythe’, a French hero who put his scything skills to good use in the 1400s to defend his country.

Almost half of the comic is taken up with ‘Moon 69 – the True Story of the 1969 Moon Launch’.  This story reveals, at long last, just how NASA was able to come up with their rocket design (a contest), where they recruited their astronauts (prison), and how the Three Musketeers saved them from Richard Nixon’s sandwich bombs.  This is a very funny strip, with guest appearances by Quincy and Columbo, and with an excellent sponsor in Roman pizza garden style ranch dressing – the salad dressing that will give you syphilis.

Kupperman is a singular talent, and his melange of old TV references with random story elements is never dull.  I highly encourage you to pre-order this comic now.

Bargain Comics:

Avenging Spider-Man #4 & 5 – I get it that the purpose of this comic is to replace the old Marvel Team-Up series, which had Spider-Man and a guest deal with some kind of problem in a done-in-one story each month, which frequently had longer arcs made up of individual chapters featuring a different guest hero.  These two issues have Spidey hanging out with Hawkeye and Captain America, and both issues feel pretty off.  To begin with, Hawkeye is acting like Johnny Storm without his Ritalin in his issue, not like the guy who has led multiple super-teams.  He’s juvenile, petulant, and annoying.  In the second issue, Spidey has some Captain America hero worship issues that might make more sense were he Miles Morales, and not Peter Parker, who has spent the last few years as an Avenger.  At least the fifth issue, with art by Leinil Francis Yu looks nice, unlike the Greg Land-traced fourth one.  I thought that Zeb Wells would have had a better handle on these characters though – it’s strange.

Born #1-4

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer

I haven’t read any of Garth Ennis’s Punisher comics, and I’ve never been particularly interested in reading any.  I think, some time after Preacher ended, I reached my saturation point on Ennis’s writing, unless he’s writing a war comic.  Somehow, his war comic starring the Punisher that came out in 2003 got past me until this last week.

Born shows us what the end of the Vietnam War was like for Frank Castle. He places Frank, on his third tour of duty, in a mostly forgotten Firebase (Valley Forge) near the Cambodian border.  The officer in charge just wants to wait out the war, and is concerned more about rocking the boat than keeping his men alive.  Most of the soldiers are addicted to drugs, and hardly anyone cares about doing their actual job.

Frank, being the super-soldier that he is, is holding everything together, although his motivations aren’t exactly pure either.  Ennis seems to suggest that the Punisher is a different persona, speaking to Frank, either from within, or from without, a concept that wasn’t ever picked up on again, to my knowledge.  I made a conscious decision to read this as more of a war comic than as a Marvel comic, so I tended to fixate more on how Ennis portrayed the war as one completely bankrupt of purpose and justification.  Many of the usual Vietnam tropes were trotted out (grenades in the latrines, the overwhelming number of enemies outside the wire, etc.), but Ennis always uses these elements to good effect.

Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer created some very nice art for this book, as both their reputations demand.  I did find that their Vietnamese did not often look very Vietnamese, but other than that, this was a very likeable comic.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Lost Dogs

by Jeff Lemire

In Timothy Callahan’s introduction to this new edition of Jeff Lemire’s first published graphic novel, Lost Dogs, he talks about how when he saw the first edition at MoCCA just after it came out, he almost passed on it due to the roughness of Lemire’s art.  This reminded me of a time a few years back, right before Sweet Tooth began, but after I’d read the Essex County books, when I was in a complete hole in the basement comic book store (we’ve all spent too much time in places like that) in Toronto’s north end, looking for some back issues.  They had a copy of Lost Dogs, I think priced at $10, but for some reason I don’t recall, I didn’t buy it.  Reading today that there was only a 700-copy press run for that book (it won a Xeric grant), I definitely regret not picking it up.

Anyway, thanks to Top Shelf, the chance to read the book, now with legible lettering, has come around again.  Lost Dogs is a pretty rough piece of work, but it’s not hard to see the seed of Lemire’s later brilliance in this very heart-felt graphic novel.

The book is about a gentle giant of a man who wears a red and white striped shirt, set some time in the late 19th or early 20th century.  He lives in a rural setting with his wife and daughter, and shortly after the book opens, they take a trip into a big city.  When the daughter begs to look at the boats in the harbor, the family is attacked by ruffians.  The man tries to fight back, but is overwhelmed and dumped in the water.  Later, he is found by some fisherman, and through a strange course of events, he ends up being used in some bare-fist boxing match to defeat the unstoppable Walleye Thompson.

As I said, the book, and Lemire’s art, are both very rough.  Lemire slops ink all over the place, and that creates a very distinct look for this comic.  Some of his panels and figures are awkward, but his better pages look very much like what we are used to seeing from him today.  I enjoyed this book as a piece of comic book archaeology, and as the only published piece of work by a creator that I admire a great deal that I have not read yet.

Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book Vol. 4

by Terry Moore, with Jimmy Palmiotti

I think it’s time for me to take a little break from Terry Moore’s award-winning and famous series for a little while.  I do find myself completely enthralled in the lives and tribulations of Francine, Katchoo, and all their friends, but I’m also finding reading these thick books so close to one another to be a little exhausting.

In the first three volumes, each of which contain some seventeen comics, there have been complete story arcs, which have always involved Katina Choovanski’s past rearing up to haunt her, and to drag her and her will-she or won’t-she best friend and wannabe lover into a maelstrom of violence.  In this fourth volume, that doesn’t really happen.  Instead, Francine gets engaged, becomes pregnant, breaks off her engagement, returns to Katchoo, they fight, Francine goes back to Brad, and the whole cycle keeps repeating itself.

I feel like perhaps,that Moore was starting to cast about for some new ideas to keep the series alive.  We have a number of new characters (a psychiatrist, a rape victim, an FBI Agent digging into Katchoo’s past), and old characters gaining new prominence, as Casey becomes close to Katchoo, and Tambi becomes close to David, for a little while at least.  We meet a couple more of the Parker Girls, deadly assassins and former operatives of Darcey Parker, Katchoo’s old boss.

Moore also plays around a little more than usual with time, and tries his hand at some metatextuality, such as in the scene where Francine’s grown daughter tries to sell the manuscript of her gigantic novel, which is basically a text version of this comic, and which asks some questions about how much of this comic is really taking place.  Actually, I found that kind of annoying, as it was abandoned almost immediately.

Still, strange tricks and circular plotting aside, this is an endlessly engaging and readable comic.  I look forward to reading the next two volumes, but I do need a bit of a break.

Album of the Week:

Fela Kuti & Egypt 80 – Fela Kuti Live in Detroit 1986

Strut Records has just released this recording of the Black President’s show in Detroit, with his Egypt 80 band.  It’s only four tracks, spread over two discs, but the tracks are often 40 minutes long.  Fela and his band are in top form, and this sounds like it was an amazing concert.
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