Inside Pulse » Marco Rudy 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, 21 Nov 2014 16:30:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Marco Rudy The Weekly Round-Up #252 Mon, 06 Oct 2014 20:00:53 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1To be clear from the start, I hate the notion that Nick Fury has secretly been fighting cosmic battles for years (with no apparent intelligence network to warn him of coming attacks from very random planets and cultures).  To further that, I don’t like that Bucky Barnes is now taking on that role, because he is a street-level and/or spy story character, and having him on strange planets just doesn’t fit his character.  All of those things being said, I think this might be my new favourite Marvel comic.  Somebody at Marvel wisely chose Marco Rudy to be the artist for this book.  I’ve been touting his skills for years (since I first saw his stuff on The Shield at DC), and the guy just keeps getting better and better, to say nothing of wilder and wilder.  This is book is absolutely stunning throughout.  Rudy draws or paints a planet of green aliens who worship a pig-like creature, a few planetscapes, a black hole, and a wonderful underwater battle scene in this issue.  He constructs his page layouts much like JH Williams III is known for, but there’s a stronger sense of anarchy behind Rudy’s methods, which gives the reader a sense of discovery with each new page.  The story, by Ales Kot, is a little hard to follow (that’s kind of Kot’s thing a lot of the time), but he brings Daisy Johnson into Bucky’s little operation, and gives Namor a cameo.  Kot also makes reference to Merzbow, a Japanese noise artist, in much the same way that his Secret Avengers has been a love letter to Jorge Luis Borges.  I like that Kot brings so many disparate influences into his work on mainstream superhero titles.  I don’t know how long this series can stay this good – I doubt Rudy will be able to stick to a monthly schedule for long, and I’m not sure that the average Marvel reader, who loved something like Original Sin, is going to stick with this for long, but I feel like this series might be one of those critical darlings that gets talked about for decades.  I already can’t wait to see how the next issue, which involves Asgard, is going to look.

Quick Takes:

Alex + Ada #9Ada, the sentient robot, has decided to strike out on her own into a world that is determined to track down and destroy her kind.  It doesn’t take her long to get into some trouble, while Alex is worried sick, and a little disappointed in his own choices.  Jonathan Luna (with co-writer Sarah Vaughn) is doing some pretty amazing work on this title.

American Vampire: Second Cycle #5 – I was ready to drop this title, and had even stopped preordering it, because it has felt like Scott Snyder has lost the magic that made the first half of the first volume of the book so exciting and enjoyable.  Then he comes along with this issue, and it has me rethinking that decision.  We leave Pearl, Skinner, and the others behind for an issue, and instead check in with Gene Bunting, the VMS accountant, who has driven out to Nevada to investigate the outrageous claims made in a hundred-year old miner’s journal.  About half of the issue is given over to this journal, in hand-written prose, which tells of a strange mining operation that just dug a massive hole in the middle of the desert.  Snyder recaptures the sense of mystery and suspense that this book used to teem with, and guest artist Matias Bergara does a great job of showing the two approaches used to tell this story.  I am reminded, however, that Snyder has shown before the ability to have a knock-out one-off issue (like the last one of volume one) while still not being able to transfer that excitement into the regular, on-going story.  I’m giving this comic one more chance, and if it’s this good again, I’ll stick around.

Armor Hunters: Aftermath #1 – Wrapping up the Armor Hunters event, we really get a stealth issue of Unity, only written by Robert Venditti.  Most of this comic is concerned with the way that, now that everybody on Earth knows about alien races and superheroes, Colonel Capshaw and her people at the newly renamed GATE, are going to market the Unity team to them.  It’s a good jumping on point for new readers, which is odd for an Aftermath comic.  I like the way that Venditti shows us some guys who like to sit outside Cape Canaveral and watch the goings on; it gives the book a more 60s vibe, but also reminds us of how these events would look to an average person.  Armor Hunters was, for the most part, a very successful event comic, and this issue does a good job of wrapping things up.

Captain America #25Always a slave to the hype, I decided to check out the final issue of yet another volume of Captain America, and the one in which the shield gets passed on to Sam Wilson to yield as the new (and probably very temporary) Cap.  Just about everything in this issue felt very forced, from the cover which attempts to hide the new Cap’s identity, through the first few pages, which try to make it look like Wilson has died, and right up to a big meeting of Avengers that is filled with comedic dialogue that even the worst sitcom would reject as unbelievable (unless you think the Vision making toilet jokes is something that could ever work).  There are only two things that redeem this issue – that Jet Black is written out of the story, and that there is apparently an Avenger working with a secret Hydra crew, and even that is problematic.  Whoever the traitor is (assuming he or she is not working as a double-agent) has been around for years, which somewhat limits the possibilities.  Also, the Hydra luminaries shown were all featured in Rick Remender’s Winter Soldier mini-series (set in the 50s), but were nowhere to be seen in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Avengers, which pretty much defined Hydra in the modern Marvel Universe.  I’m going to give the next Captain America series a couple of issues to impress me, because I’ve always liked the Falcon, but I don’t feel like we’re off to a good start…

Concrete Park: R-E-S-P-E-C-T #2 – I’m very happy to see Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s series continuing in this format.  The original stories, published in Dark Horse Presents, were terrific, but with twenty pages, the creators have a lot more space to really let their work breathe.  I’m very interested in learning more about Scare City, a slapdash city built and controlled by various gangs on a prison planet.  Isaac, our point-of-view character and newcomer to Scare, is taken in by Silas’s gang, where he’s given a nice room with a shower, but it’s not long before another gang attacks.  This feels like a very big story, but Puryear and Alexander are taking the time to tell it properly, with enough space for character development.

The Fade Out #2As I read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s second issue of their new series, The Fade Out, I couldn’t help but think of parallels with Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s series, Satellite Sam.  There are many differences, but both series are focused on the underhandedness of mass entertainment in the post-war period.  In Sam, degenerates and people with secrets work on a struggling television network’s most successful show, where the star has been killed, while in The Fade Out, we are looking at the film industry, which is working to cover up the murder of a starlet.  We learn a lot more about Charlie Parish this month, including the details of his secret working relationship with blacklisted screenwriter Gil Mason.  Really, this issue is as much about establishing the series as the first one was, but it’s still an enjoyable read, because Brubaker and Phillips are just so damn good at this kind of thing.

Gotham Academy #1 – I know that it’s been proven that the surest way to make sure that a DC comic does well sales-wise is to feature Batman in it, but I was a little surprised to see Gotham Academy added to DC’s schedule, and to see it branded as a ‘New 52’ title.  That it is co-written by Becky Cloonan (with Brendan Fletcher), and drawn by Karl Kerschl, is enough of a reason to check the book out, but I’m still a little surprised to see that this is a DC book.  It reads like a typical all-ages book about kids in a stuffy academy (where, for reasons I don’t understand, the Headmaster who looks like Ras Al Ghul walks around with a lit candle) who get in trouble for exploring, only set against the backdrop of Batman’s Gotham.  The POV character, Olive, is going through some growing pains, and doesn’t feel like maintaining her relationships with her friends and boyfriend.  His little sister has just come to the Academy, and Olive is tasked with showing her around, which ends up with them climbing the belfry, which is not structurally sound.  There’s also talk about the school being haunted.  The writers do a good job of making Olive interesting (Maps, the little sister, less so), but I don’t come away from this first issue with a real sense of where the series is headed, or why I should come back month after month.  Kerschl’s art is lovely, but then it always is.  I just don’t know if I want to read another issue, outside of my desire to support increased diversity in the DC line.

Grayson #3 - I thought I’d give Grayson another chance, because I really can’t make up my mind about this series.  I like the notion of Dick working as a spy, and this issue was not as pleased with itself as the first two were, but some things still feel a little off, although I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I think it’s a weird coincidence that the issue has the Spyral organization chasing some enhanced eyeballs, considering what’s been happening at Marvel lately, but I do like that Dick stands up to the Spyral way of doing things, working his own angles to try to bring in their target without bloodshed.  I see a lot of potential in this series, but am not sure that the writers are going to get there.  I think they’ve bought themselves another issue though, so I’ll be back to check it again next month (I really do want to read some DC series again, since dropping Green Arrow and being poised to dump Wonder Woman very soon).

Hinterkind #12 – To begin with, I think that the promotion that Vertigo is running this month, turning the cover of the comic into the first page, is kind of stupid, as it’s not all that likely to draw in new readers, and feels like the company is scraping the bottom of the attention-seeking barrel.  This is an imprint that used to be proud of the fact that the books that make up its line are varied and disparate, not crying out for a uniform look, like say, the New 52.  Anyway, the comic itself is excellent, as Ian Edginton keeps focusing a number of plotlines and groups, making it clear (a year in) that this book is going to be about the fight between the European vampires and North American Sidhe for control over the continent.  Edginton has taken a very long time to get this series to this place, and while I almost gave up on the book a couple of times, now I feel like the slow burn has added a lot of richness and texture to the story.  In this issue, the new Queen of the Sidhe finds her ambitions dashed against the rocks of tradition, while Hobb’s partnership with the vampires proves to be very short-lived.

Men of Wrath #1While I’m not the biggest fan of Ron Garney’s art, and am not always impressed with Jason Aaron’s writing these days, I was down for their new creator-owned Icon book, because with every new Aaron project, I hope for something that captures the skill and quality he brought to his brilliant Scalped series.  This new title is a personal one for Aaron, as he dredges up his own family’s history to start telling the tale of the Rath family, who were nondescript Alabama farmers until the family’s patriarch killed another man in a dispute over a sheep back at the dawn of the 20th century.  From there, a meanness just sort of seeped into the family, which has culminated in Ira Rath, a hired killer who, we are shown, thinks nothing of murdering a baby when he has to kill its parents.  We see that Ira, an aging, cancer-ridden man, has a pretty miserable life, and we really have no clue how to respond when his employer sends him to kill his own son.  This series feels like an inversion of Aaron’s other series, Southern Bastard, which is about an aging son returning to his dead father’s town for the first time since his youth, and struggling to live up to his father’s legacy.  The two books, both set in the south, work well as companions to one another, as Aaron sets out to be the comics writer of modern southern gothic crime fiction.  This is well worth checking out.

Moon Knight #8 – Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood continue to impress with their run on this title.  This issue is shown completely through camera footage – news reports, cellphone video, and ‘scarab cam’, a new invention of Mr. Night’s.  Moon Knight infiltrates the Freedom Tower to end a hostage situation, and we see a slightly different side of our hero as he cycles through a few personalities to resolve the problem.  My problem with this issue is that much of it hinges on MK’s having Detective Flint, his contact on the police force, contact his doctor.  I have no idea why he would need to do this in this situation, except to further the plot.  Wood is not usually so lazy in his plot constructs, so I’m going to assume there’s something I missed, that might make more sense later.

Morning Glories #41- This issue introduces us to Towerball, a pretty big sport at the Morning Glory Academy.  There are two teams who compete – the red and the blue – but it has been decreed by the Headmaster that only the red team will ever win the tournaments, and that has always been the case.  Guillaume, one of the Truants, is demoted to Captain of the blue team, as punishment for his involvement in the insurrection, but he has some plans for the position.  Guillaume is an interesting character, especially because he has to deal with the fact that his lover Hisao’s body is now inhabited by his twin brother Jun, who despises him, but is also instrumental to his plans.  Things are always complicated in this book, but Hisao decides to make them even moreso at the end of the comic.  Issues like this one, which are a little more focussed than the last couple have been, help remind me why I’m staying onboard for Nick Spencer’s utterly bizarre epic, even as it shows little to no forward movement story-wise.

Swamp Thing #35 – As shown in the Futures End one-shot, the Green, Red, and Rot are not the only ‘realms’ that have avatars and parliaments.  This month, Charles Soule introduces us to the Calculus, representatives of the Machine World, who want Swamp Thing to outsource management of the Green to them.  I like how Soule is expanding on a corner of the DC universe that has not often been played with in a novel manner, and find the differences in opinion between Holland and Jonah, his advisor, pretty interesting.  The clock is ticking on this book, as Soule has announced his Marvel exclusive contract, but it’s not too late for people to start reading one of the best New 52 books that DC is publishing.

Uncanny Avengers #25Rick Remender finishes laying the groundwork for Avengers & X-Men Axis with this issue.  Magneto, and a few of the Avengers Unity team are being held captive by the Red Skull, and his baiting of Magneto leads to the event that will start that event series.  Remender has the Scarlet Witch narrate the issue, with most of the focus being placed on her relationship with her father, and the immensity of his anger.  Magneto is a difficult character to write well, but Remender shows that he has a good handle on him here.  I’m curious to see what he does with Axis, as he’s not always the strongest writer for tent-pole titles (especially compared to his amazing creator-owned books like Deadly Class and Black Science).  I noticed that Uncanny Avengers has been taken off Marvel’s schedule for the duration of the event.  I don’t know if this is the last issue, if the book is going to be rebooted, or will just continue after that.  It does feel like its served its purpose.

The Walking Dead #132 – It’s been a long time since an issue of The Walking Dead only took a few minutes to read, but this one really feels decompressed and padded.  Andrea is being confronted by the newcomers to Alexandria, but we don’t know what she is asked by them.  Rick, Maggie, and their children enjoy a sunset.  The guys from the Hilltop who are searching for their missing friend get swarmed by the dead, and spend the rest of the issue fighting them off.  We learn the secret of the ‘Talking Dead’ that was introduced as a new story element a couple months back, and get our first glimpses of where the next big threat will be coming from.  I love this series, but this issue was over a little too quickly for my liking.

The Woods #6I’ve been getting a lot of enjoyment out of The Woods, the Boom! series about a high school that has been mysteriously transported to another planet.  It’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen what’s going on in the school, as this issue continues to focus on the students who have headed into the woods to explore.  Some students have been taken captive by some locals (who speak English), while others are pursuing them, or at least trying to figure out how to.  The woods themselves turn against everyone this month, as the trees develop mouth-like openings.  James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas are keeping the suspense level high, while also taking the time to back up and explore some of the characters’ personalities.

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

Batman Eternal #26

Black Widow #11

Bloodshot #24

Brides of Helheim #1

Death of Wolverine #3

Detective Comics #35

Fairest #30

Guardians 3000 #1

Kill Shakespeare Mask of Night #4

Legendary Star-Lord #4

Lobo #1

Miracleman #11

Names #2

Spider-Man 2099 #4

Suicide Risk #18

Thor #1

Uber #18

X-Men #20

Bargain Comics:

Batwoman: Futures End #1This is the first of the Futures End one-shots that I bought that actually had a 3D cover (I guess retailers are starting to dump them, since I only paid $2 for it), and I have to say that they aren’t really all that impressive.  I feel like the back cover, showing an ad for American Dad, made better use of the 3D effect.  Anyway, the comic is interesting.  Five years from now, Batwoman has been turned into a vampire, and her sister, along with her team (which is made up of Ragman, the Demon, and Clayface), fight her.  We don’t know how Kate got turned, or how long she’s been like this, and the whole book is just an extended chase/fight scene.  On the up side, it’s nice to see a character like Ragman show up in the New 52.  I love some of the unused DC C-listers!

Death of Wolverine #1&2 – Okay, so Logan is dying, and because of that, just about everybody is hunting him, including a very paunchy Nuke (who we saw killed recently in Captain America), Viper, Sabretooth, and even Lady Deathstrike (who we saw recently start inhabiting the body of a teenage Latino girl in X-Men).  I’m finding it very hard to care about what’s going on in this series, as it’s just a string of fights between Logan and characters we’ve seen him fight many times before.  I would think, with his death a foregone conclusion, that writer Charles Soule would be increasing the gravitas of the whole situation, but there is no tug of emotion to this story at all.  Part of the problem might be the art of Steve McNiven, which is always too clean and antiseptic to convey real feeling.  This series, so far, is a prime example of hype, special covers, and useless back matter taking precedence over the crafting of a comic that should be talked about for years to come.  Marvel likes to market their deaths well in advance, and that means that there is no real surprise in titles like this.  Now there’s no real reason to read them either.  I expected a lot more from Soule.

Savage Hulk #1I’m a little surprised to learn that the Hulk can support a ‘Savage’ title, like Savage Wolverine, that tells stories from different points in the Jade Giant’s history.  If Wolverine can’t make a series like that successful, who would really think the Hulk can?  At the same time, this first issue is by Alan Davis, and features the original X-Men in a story that follows up on the heroes’ first meeting with the Hulk in X-Men #66.  I love seeing Alan Davis draw characters like Marvel Girl, Havok, and Polaris, so I was very predisposed towards liking this book.  The story doesn’t really make a lot of sense – Charles Xavier vows to not rest until he cures Bruce Banner, which clearly never worked out for either of them.  It’s nice to see people revisit the ancient Marvel past, and I’ll try to get the rest of this arc.

Thanos Annual #1 – I don’t really understand Marvel’s need to almost constantly revisit Thanos in stories that say or do nothing new about the character.  In this, Jim Starlin takes the Thanos that just barely survived the fight over the Cosmic Cube back in the 70s, and has him meet with an avatar of the Thanos that wrested control of the Infinity Gauntlet in the 90s, so they can travel, A Christmas Carol-style, through the ghosts of Thanos Failures Future.  I like Jim Starlin’s writing, and it was kind of cool to see Ron Lim art again, but ultimately, this serves no purpose but to advertise the Thanos OGN that came out this summer, although without making it seem very appealing.

X-Force #6-8 – I haven’t been impressed with this latest iteration of X-Force, but curiosity does keep bringing me back, and finally, with issue 8, Si Spurrier’s approach to this team has finally clicked into place.  A big part of the reason for that is that the team barely appears in the issue, which instead focuses on a group of British soldiers moving secretly through a Middle Eastern desert, on a very hush-hush mission.  MI-13, led by Pete Wisdom, gets more screen time than X-Force, but when a series is about a covert group of mutants operating on their own, it kind of makes sense that they not get a lot of spotlight.  The other issues of these three that I read wrap up the first arc, and establish the reality of Cable’s daily death and return to life.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Johnny Hiro {The Skills to Pay the Bills}

by Fred Chao

I absolutely fell in love with Johnny Hiro when Fred Chao first started publishing his adventures through Adhouse Books.  I picked up andenjoyed the first graphic novel, even though I’d already read most of it, but I somehow didn’t know until just recently that a second volume, {The Skills to Pay the Bills}, had been published.

In Johnny Hiro, Fred Chao follows the titular character, a sushi chef who lives in New York, as circumstances create problems for him and his Japanese immigrant girlfriend Mayumi.  They sublet an apartment from Hiro’s best friend, and worry about money, their relationship, and what will happen if Mayumi’s work visa is not extended.  Hiro also has to spend his days fighting off the assistant chefs of Shinto Pete, his boss Masago’s bitter enemy.  They literally attack him at the fish market every time he goes.

Hiro and Mayumi are basically trouble magnets.  A nice lunch with Mayumi’s work friend, who is also Hiro’s ex from college, gets interrupted when a giant ape, the son of King Kong, randomly picks up the blonde, and tries to make off with her across the city.  It is Hiro who manages to save her, leading to the couple’s second meeting with Mayor Bloomberg (the book came out in 2013).

Later, Masago’s restaurant is chosen to cater an event at Gracie Mansion for Bloomberg, but that turns into a disaster when the Mayor’s usual caterers try to sabotage the event, and end up chasing Hiro through the historic building.

As we get deeper into the graphic novel, which is made up of short and longer stories, Chao abandons some of the hijinks in favour of having Hiro retreat into his head a little, and contemplate his life going forward, as he moves into his late twenties.  We also get Masago’s backstory portioned out over a couple of stories, as we learn why he’s so grumpy all the time, and just why Shinto Pete has such beef with him.

What really makes this book work is the depth of its charm.  Hiro and Mayumi are very loveable characters, and their relationship feels very real.  Chao blends the wacky and the profound beautifully, and I especially like the shorter vignettes, such as the one where Hiro watches a stranger comfort another stranger on the subway, and wonders why he’s not capable of such kindnesses.  Chao’s art is simple and straightforward, but capable of transmitting a lot of emotion.

I love how much New York City becomes a part of this book (New York and LA even meet for a beer at one point, sort of), as Bloomberg pines for the failed Atlantic Yards project, and we learn the true reason for the first King Kong film being made (as well as Peter Jackson’s remake).  Also, any book that has a cameo by rapper Grand Puba is okay in my books.

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The Weekly Round-Up #209 With Trillium, Catalyst Comix, Elephantmen, Hellboy, Inhumanity & More Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:30:13 +0000 Just to let loyal readers know (I think there are one or two of you), I’m taking next week off from the column because I’m doing a little travelling, and won’t have the time.  I’ll have a double-column for you all just in time for Christmas.

Best Comic of the Week:

Trillium #5I love how Jeff Lemire likes to play around with the comics page in his work.  Many times in Sweet Tooth he would mess with layout, trying new things, and he does it again with this issue of Trillium, where each page is split in two horizontally, with the bottom story printed upside down and backwards, so that the reader reads through the comic’s top half, and then flips the book over and works back to the first page again.  The top of each page shows Nika, now in a vaguely Victorian steampunk world, where she knows she was a soldier in a Great War, but is having a hard time reconciling her reality with her memory.  On the flipside, which often echoes or reflects what’s happening on the other half of the page, William is working on a large spaceship, which will help the remaining humans escape a sentient virus that is hunting them down.  I have no idea how this series will read in trade, but as an individual comic, this is some very cool stuff.

Quick Takes:

Amazing X-Men #2 – Northstar and Wolverine are in heaven, while Iceman, Storm, and Firestar are in hell, but both are fighting demonic pirates.  Jason Aaron is going for a light-hearted adventure story, and while I’m happy to see Nightcrawler again, I’m not sure I’m ready for a return of Azazel, one of the worst characters to ever show up in an X-book.

Catalyst Comix #6 – It’s more comic book mayhem, as Amazing Grace finishes her fight with the amorous Seaver, Frank Wells fights Flood, and Wolfhunter attends a dance competition in his own head.  Pure Joe Casey madness at its best.

Deadpool #20In sharp contrast to the issues discussed below stands this one-off issue of Deadpool that chronicles his Wakandan Vacation.  As with most issues that take place between arcs, this is another fake inventory issue, this time drawn in the style of a mid-60s Jack Kirby comic by Scott Koblish.  Deadpool is sent on a cosmic quest by a giant cosmic robot thing, and along the way has confrontations with Ben Grimm and Fin Fang Foom.  It’s a fun issue, but not as good as the previous inventory issues have been.

Elephantmen #52 – The Picking Up the Pieces story arc continues, as Hip Flask and his new partner visit a museum dedicated to the atrocities performed by Mappo, which of course leads to the activation of an old training robot.  Farrell, the private investigator working with Hip dominates this issue, as he continues to deal with his dead girlfriend, who is either haunting him, or has become a vivid figment of his imagination.  This is a strange arc, but most Elephantmen arcs are kind of strange.  I do like the way that Richard Starkings is laying out the mystery of who killed two scientists.

Fearless Defenders #12 – I feel like Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney’s Defenders series never had a chance – it was under-promoted, started off slowly, and just when it was getting good, had to survive a price increase.  This final issue brings back a character from John Byrne’s classic Fantastic Four run (that I’m sure not many people were clamoring for), and kind of wraps up the team’s conflict with Caroline LeFay.  I wonder if the changes made to Valkyrie in this series are going to stick around, or if that’s the last we’ll see of Annabelle Riggs.

Great Pacific #12Great Pacific just keeps getting stranger, but it’s a lot of fun watching Chas Worthington, the ruler of New Texas (aka the Pacific Garbage Patch), practice his own version of realpolitik.  In this issue, he addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations (and decorates a cake), while the folks in the strange submarine launch their attack on the island.  Zoe makes a decision or two, and there are squid tentacles.  I really do find this series pretty interesting, and like that it’s almost impossible to predict where Joe Harris is taking it.

Green Arrow #26 – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino launch the Outsider War, as Ollie and Shado return to the island Ollie was stranded on, looking for the totem arrow of the Arrow Clan.  I’m still not all that clear on how this whole weapon clan thing is going to work (it reminds me of the Immortal Cities in Iron Fist), but I do like how Lemire has made me like a character I’ve never really had any interest in before.  The art in this series is incredible, and now that Villains Month and Zero Year are over, my hope is that Lemire will be able to tell his story without any further editorially-driven interference (at least for a few months).  This might not be a perfect jumping-on point, but if you are tempted to check Green Arrow out, this is a decent place to start.

Guardians of the Galaxy #9 – It’s clear that Brian Michael Bendis is working hard to establish this series as a humour comic, as he has Peter Quill and company trading quips while fighting Thanos’s crew on Abigail Brand’s space station.  This is a very pretty issue, thanks to Francesco Francavilla, but I’m still having a hard time with Bendis’s take on these characters.  The Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run was funnier, and more interesting at every point.

Hellboy in Hell #5Hellboy is by far my least favourite of the Mignola-verse line at Dark Horse, and this one-off issue is another example of the kind of myth-fueled tone poem that Mike Mignola has done a thousand times.  I like his art a great deal, but am ready to see him try something different for a change.  On the upside, Hellboy didn’t fall through a floor, which might be a first for this character.

Hinterkind #3 – I’ve been a little bit on the fence about Hinterkind, having enjoyed the first two issues, but not yet finding enough to make adding this new Vertigo series to my pull-list a slam-dunk.  This issue, however, does more than enough to keep my interests, as the various groups of characters we’ve seen – human and Hinterkind – begin to converge in a facility run by some very strange-looking people.  We get a clearer history of just who the Hinterkind are; cousin species to humans who retreated out of our way, having been seen just enough to influence myth and folklore.  This series is worth checking out.

Inhumanity #1 – I’ve had mixed feelings about the whole Inhumans thing since before Infinity started.  These are classic Jack Kirby-era characters, but they’ve always been rather difficult to work with.  Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee did a terrific job with them once, and they were put to somewhat good use in the Reign of Kings cross-over, but now they are being pushed as at tentpole of the All-New Marvel NOW! circus, and I don’t really think they’re up to the job.  In Infinity, a Terrigen Bomb was set off, which caused lots of people with Inhuman DNA to go through some kind of chrysalis and become powered or at the least changed.  So now, in addition to having mutants popping up again all over the place, we also have potentially thousands of new Inhumans hanging around the Marvel Universe.  In this one-shot, Matt Fraction focuses on Karnak, who goes a little mad, and then sits in a cell talking to the Avengers Illuminati group, and Medusa, about a lot of backstory that anyone who’s read Infinity already knows.  There really wasn’t much that excited me in this comic, or got me overly interested in the upcoming Inhumans series (which is, of course, being delayed because Marvel thought that Joe Madureira could draw a comic or two in the same year).  Coming out of this one-shot, it’s hard to even imagine who the cast of that series would be, aside from Medusa (who strangely is now getting sick from Earth’s atmosphere, but wasn’t bothered at all in all the time she’s been a star of Fraction’s run on FF).  In all, this felt slapped together, and like an event that exists for reasons that have nothing to do with good storytelling, and more to do with the rumors that the Inhumans are going to star in future Marvel movies.  What a waste of superstar artist Olivier Coipel’s time…

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #3Marco Rudy is doing some very incredible work on this comic, which has Spidey fighting 99 of his foes (although, after the last two issues have only featured a few villains, there’s going to have to be a massive number of baddies showing up soon) while in a bit of a haze.  The set-up doesn’t matter, because this book exists simply to showcase the degree of awesomeness that Rudy is capable of.  His Venom and Carnage pages are astounding.

Marvel Knights X-Men #2 – Brahm Revel shows that he was absolutely the right person to write and draw this ‘indie’ X-Men mini-series, as he has Logan, Kitty Pryde, and Rogue hanging out in some remote Appalachian town trying to figure out what’s been going on with a couple of mutant teenagers.  There are weird drugs, personal conflicts, and a number of cameos from X-villains of the past.  Revel is a great storyteller, and has a great handle on all of these characters.

Prophet #41 – Brandon Graham and his crew have spent more than a year building up this singular, gigantic story, and now that it’s moving towards fruition, with various factions colliding into each other in space, the story begins to shift away from the main characters (one of whom gets dispatched off-screen), and become ever more confusing.  Still, with art from the incredible team of Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Matt Sheean, and Malachi Ward, understanding is not even all that necessary.  This issue also has a fantastic back-up strip introducing Lancaster Bleu, a hero in a future where an African-built city is the last functioning one in America.  The strip recommends a soundtrack by Dedalus and Austin Peralta; that is more than enough to guarantee that I would definitely buy a comic by Ron Ackins.

Secret Avengers #12Ales Kot has come on board this comic, joining co-writer Nick Spencer, and I think it’s a pretty good fit.  Kot is well suited to darker comics, and has been establishing his spy-comic credentials with Zero lately.  In this issue, Mockingbird is trying to maintain her cover on AIM Island, without any intel, while another faction of AIM makes an offer to SHIELD that is too good for Maria Hill to resist.  Butch Guice is the perfect artist for this comic, and continues to assist in making this one of the more interesting Avengers titles.

Swamp Thing #26 – Charles Soule continues to kill it on this title, as Alec Holland has been replaced by Jason Woodrue, although Alec continues to narrate the book from the Green.  Woodrue decides to impress the Green by taking out Animal Man, and while that goes on, we get to learn his backstory, which includes what I imagine is the New 52 debut of Mister E.  This is a well-written book, with very nice art from Jesus Saiz.

Velvet #2 – Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s new 70s espionage thriller continues to be an exciting read, as Velvet Templeton has to escape from the people who work for her agency, and try to start figuring out why she’s being framed.  The pace is quick, with a movie-ready chase scene, and we learn a little about Velvet’s time as a secret agent.  Brubaker’s working the long game on this series, so it will be a while before we know just what’s going on, and that’s fine with me when the craftsmanship going into the comic is this good.

Westward #6 – Ken Krekeler’s steampunk series has kept my attention from the first issue, but this one really moves things into much darker territory, as the manifold (read android) based on Victor West’s memories discovers some very disturbing things about his sister, and realizes that he’s been manipulated by someone he thought worked for his family’s company.  I really like the way Krekeler has been structuring this series, and really didn’t expect it to move in this direction.

Young Avengers #13After thirteen issues, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie finish off their lengthy saga that has pitted the young team against Mother, an extra-dimensional demon.  Of course, Loki has really been pulling everyone’s strings all along, and everyone finds that out with this issue.  This book has been terrific at every step, and as it begins to move into its last few issues, continues to impress.  Now that everything has been revealed (well, not including the stuff with the weird Patriot figure), I want to go back and reread the whole series; I’m sure there are a lot of clues I missed along the way.  Great, great stuff.

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

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand #2

Detective Comics #26

Fantomex MAX #3

Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight #3

Iron Man #19

Legends of Red Sonja #2

Rover Red Charlie #1

Shadowman #13

Six-Gun Gorilla #6

Suicide Risk #8

The Star Wars #4

Superior Spider-Man #23

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #7

Bargain Comics:

Astonishing X-Men #68Marjorie Liu ends her run (and this title, really) with a nice done-in-one story narrated by Warbird that recognizes the value of the X-Men as a family, a sense that has really been lost in the post-Schism X-books.  Gabriel Hernandez Walta does a wonderful job on the art here, and convinces me that I want to buy his upcoming Magneto series.  I don’t know that this title has lived up to its potential at all in the last few years, and Marvel was probably right to put an end to it, but I do believe there is a place for quieter, more character-driven X-stories.

Avengers Assemble #20 – Al Ewing stepped in to write this very solid Infinity tie-in that has Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Wonder Man working the defense of Earth during Thanos’s invasion.  They squabble over Simon’s pacifism, and then get involved in an odd situation with a gigantic naked man.  This is a nice character-driven issue, and given recent events in Uncanny Avengers, a nice opportunity to see these old friends interact.

Cable and X-Force #15 – I still feel that the Dennis Hopeless who writes this title can’t be the same guy who writes Avengers Arena.  That book is so character-driven, while this one has characterizations that end up feeling kind of awkward (check out Boomer in this issue).  Anyway, this issue harkens back to an old X-Men adversary, and has piqued my interest a little, mostly because I’ve always really liked Forge.

Deadpool #16-19 – I’ve always hated Deadpool, at least until Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn started writing the character.  This arc, ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ has been excellent, as Deadpool tracks down the person who has been abducting him and harvesting organs from him for years.  His search takes him (and Captain America and Wolverine) to North Korea, where the government has built a team based on the original All-New X-Men team by combining those mutants’ DNA with Wade’s.  The story is very dark, only occasionally funny, and never as silly as most other Deadpool stories have been.  There is an element of personal tragedy for Wade, and a clever way of retconning his various appearances to make them consistent, even when his portrayal hasn’t been.  Declan Shalvey has been an increasingly impressive artist over the last few years, and he absolutely kills these issues.  If I wanted to quibble, I’d wonder why everyone in North Korea speaks such perfect English, but otherwise, this was a terrific arc.

Infinity: Heist #1You would think that I would have been all over a title about super-villains planning a heist – Superior Foes of Spider-Man is in my top three favourite current Marvel titles – but something had warned me away from grabbing this title as it came out, and I see now that I was right to be cautious.  It’s not a bad comic, but it’s a little paint-by-numbers.  Whirlwind and Blizzard watch the Avengers head into space, and use the opportunity to rob a bank, only to be recruited by Spymaster for a bigger job.  The character interactions, thanks to Frank Tieri, feel a little off though, and it’s hard to really care much about what’s going on.  Al Barrionuevo’s very nice art did make the whole thing go down easier though.

Infinity: The Hunt #1 – This is a very strange first issue for a tie-in mini-series. Most of the issue is spent introducing new characters from a wide variety of super-hero schools.  The characters from Avengers Academy, the Future Foundation, and the Jean Grey School are familiar, but most of the rest are not, but they are given no space to shine as individual personalities.  Too many characters and no plot really hampers this thing, although there are some characters with potential (Box has a son?).

Iron Man #17 – Kieron Gillen really works his usual reconstructive magic in this issue, debuting a new character into Tony’s life.  It’s really hard to discuss this issue without spoilers, so I’ll leave off saying much.  I’m not sure how this new status quo will affect the character, but it’s an interesting idea.  Gillen’s run started off kind of rough, but it’s picking up nicely now.

Superior Spider-Man #19-21Things are feeling routine in this title now, as Spidey Ock goes about his business, cutting ties to some of Peter Parker’s old friends and co-workers, and strengthening new connections to people, such as his science tutor.  These issues feature the end of the Spider-Man 2099 storyline, and a solid two-parter that has Doc Ock’s old girlfriend, Stunner, show up on the scene.  Good stuff.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #4 – This second part of the Infinity cross-over is lovely, thanks to the efforts of Mike Del Mundo, and the story, which involves a new Inhuman, an Electro-Luddite, works quite well.

Wolverine #10 – Wolverine and Kitty Pryde are searching for Logan’s old sword, while he continues to feel the effects of not having his healing factor anymore.  The best thing about this comic is the protectiveness that Kitty shows Logan, a reversal of their roles in Chris Claremont’s day.  The easy interaction between these two characters really underscores how off the way their relationship is being portrayed in Bendis’s X-books really is.  Also, I do love Alan Davis’s art.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Leaving Megalopolis

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Jim Calafiore

Living in Canada has made participation in most Kickstarter campaigns prohibitively expensive, as the shipping rates for graphic novels have become a touch exorbitant over the last couple of years (thank you Peak Oil).  When I saw that Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore, the creators behind The Secret Six, my favourite DC comic of the new century, were collaborating on a creator-owned graphic novel though, and that they had priced it reasonably, I was more than happy to support the endeavour.Leaving Megalopolis is the kind of book you would expect from these two, were they not fettered by corporate sensibility.  The story is set in a city filled with powered heroes, which gives it the reputation of being the safest city in the United States.  Something has happened though, and it’s turned all of the heroes into killers with no respect for the human lives they had previously spent so much time protecting.  Now, they roam the city searching for people who have been hiding out, and force people to turn on one another to survive for a day or two longer.

The closest we come to a hero in this book is Mina, a police officer (maybe) who starts to pull together a small group of people to try to escape the city limits.  As we follow them from one disturbing scene to another (this book doesn’t reach Crossed levels of gore, but it comes close), we are shown flashbacks to various stages of Mina’s life, and come to appreciate her as the sort of complex female character that Simone writes so well.

Jim Calafiore is one of those excellent artists who, I’ve felt, doesn’t get near the recognition he deserves.  He has a strong sense of character in his figures, although I started to wonder if some of the Kickstarter rewards involved getting backers drawn into the book, as a few people looked very photo-referenced in places.  He also writes and draws a backup story that helps flesh out a few of the super-powered characters we see in passing earlier in the book.

In all, this is a very capable graphic novel.  There has already been some talk on-line about revisiting these characters and this location, which doesn’t seem like it would be too easy to do, but I do know that I’ll be there to support any future collaborations between this duo.

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The Weekly Round-Up #205 With Trillium, Afterlife With Archie, Baltimore, Fatale, Morning Glories & More Mon, 11 Nov 2013 15:00:17 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Trillium #4Jeff Lemire’s science fiction epic is getting wilder and wilder, as people from different eras swap places.  Nika, the scientist trying to save the human race from extinction is in the early 20th century, while Clayton has ended up on a distant planet in the future, with some of the last humans determined to blow up the alien temple that has brought him there.  Lemire’s work is great in this book, and I’m pleased that he gave up on the notion of having the reader flip the book upside down to read the pages set in the past.

Quick Takes:

Afterlife With Archie #1 – It’s taken a while to track down a copy of this, but it was worth the wait.  I’ve never been an Archie fan, and have only ever read a few of my sister’s comics when we were kids, but I am of course familiar with the characters.  In Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s take on the characters, a bad decision by Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Jughead leads to a zombie outbreak in Riverdale, with a couple of prominent characters being killed in this first issue.  There is a camp appeal to seeing familiar characters in such a different setting, but the main reason to buy this book is for Francavilla’s terrific artwork.  He makes the Archie crew look a little more realistic, and uses his talents for pulpy design to great effect.  I hope it’s easier to find the second issue, because I want to read more…

Alex + Ada #1 – Jonathan Luna has a new series (co-written with Sarah Vaughn), which starts off very promisingly.  At some point in the future, people have wired their heads into their homes, so that they can make coffee and flush the toilet without having to actually do these things (strangely, no one looks overly obese in Luna’s world).  Alex is turning twenty-seven, and is having a hard time getting over a break-up that happened seven months before.  His grandmother, who has found bliss with a new, fully functioning android ‘partner’ suggests he get one for himself, although he’s not sure.  This issue is mostly set up, but it’s the kind of thing that the Luna Brothers excel at – creating a milieu for their characters, and populating it with other interesting characters, before getting the story underway.  I’m definitely intrigued, and look forward to the next issue.

Amazing X-Men #1‘The Quest for Nightcrawler’ begins in this first issue of yet another X-Men series.  The comic opens in Heaven, or something like that, where Kurt Wagner is just hanging out, until some pirate-themed demon things show up to cause trouble, and he learns that his possible father, the demon Azazel, is behind things.  From there, we cut to the Jean Grey School, where Firestar is supposed to start as a teacher, but is instead dragged into some weirdness involving the Bamfs, the little Nightcrawler-looking demons who hang out in the school.  The comic, written by Jason Aaron, feels so much like a new issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, that you have to wonder why it’s taking place in its own book, and not as part of that series.  Ed McGuinness draws this book, and if you like his stuff, I’m sure that’s okay with you.  I’ve always been indifferent to his work, so I don’t really care.  I find it very odd that, by including Azazel, Aaron and Marvel in general are acknowledging that The Draco, which has to be one of the worst story arcs of Chuck Austen’s execrable Uncanny X-Men run, actually happened.  I would have thought that if any X-Men arc were ignored forever, it would have been this one.  Still and all, this was a fun comic, and I think that bringing Nightcrawler back into the fold might be just the thing to combat the endless hand-wringing of Brian Michael Bendis’s Uncanny X-Men.

Baltimore: The Infernal Train #3 – Lord Baltimore’s confrontation with a group of vampires on a train, and with the mad Inquisitor who has been hunting him, comes to a great conclusion at the end of this mini-series.  I love how Ben Stenbeck draws this series, and I was genuinely surprised by the end of the issue.

Captain America #13 – Nic Klein shows up to draw this issue, which is split between a flashback to the late 60s where Nick Fury confronts a SHIELD traitor, only to have the Winter Soldier show up and complicate things, and the modern era, where Cap gets sent in to stop Nuke from making it look like America is attacking a small, war-torn Baltic nation.  Rick Remender’s been playing the long game with this series since bringing Cap back from Dimension Z, as proven in the way he’s setting up Ran Shen to be a big-time adversary.  I like his plotting, and am always happy to see Nic Klein drawing something.

Catalyst Comix #5Joe Casey’s return to the Comics’ Greatest World characters just keeps chugging along.  It feels like the back-up strips are shorter this month, but still more enjoyable than the Amazing Grace story, which has taken the lead.

East of West #7 – It could be argued that not a whole lot happens in each issue of East of West, but the cumulative effect of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s futuristic Western Apocalypse series is quite impressive.  In this issue, we learn of the connection between the Keeper of the Word and the Horsemen, while Death goes searching for his son.  Hickman excels at this type of book, and I can’t believe how good Dragotta has gotten as an artist.  This is a smart, exciting series.

Fatale #18 – The penultimate issue of the grungy Seattle storyline really ramps up the intensity, as the members of the band have to deal with the death of one of their own, and as the amnesiac Josephine begins to recover control of her abilities, which leads to one wild video shoot.  It’s Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, so it’s always good, but I am consistently amazed by the quality of this series.

God is Dead #3 – And I’m done.  Jonathan Hickman’s idea about the various pantheons coming back to the Earth and fighting each other for its domination is a solid one, but with such poor characterization and pacing as shown in this title, it’s just not working for me.  The ‘heroes’, a group of scientists and a young woman in a miniskirt, are cardboard cut-outs, and it’s impossible to care about any of the gods.

Ghosted #5The first arc of Ghosted ends quite well, with layers of betrayals and twists.  This series was originally announced as a mini-series, I believe, so I’m curious to see if the next arc holds up as well as this one did.

Green Arrow #25 – I’m getting very tired of the degree to which DC is interfering with the flow of their few remaining monthly books that I’m buying.  Two months ago, Villains Month disrupted the flow of Jeff Lemire’s excellent long-term story for Green Arrow, and now with this issue, a ‘Zero Year’ tie-in, we suddenly find ourselves tossed back some six years in Oliver Queen’s life.  Apparently, at the end of last month’s issue of Batman, when it looked like the Riddler blew up some screens in Gotham’s Times Square, he actually set off an EMP, which has more or less turned Gotham into No Man’s Land again.  You would think, if DC were going to have a sizable amount of their line tie into an event, they would have had the Batman issue that makes clear what’s going on come out before the tie-ins.  Anyway, Oliver Queen has just returned from his mysterious island, and has to head into Gotham to rescue his mother from the lack of electricity.  Luckily, a confused wannabe villain comes along to make things more dramatic.  What’s really going on in this issue is the shoehorning of continuity and characters from the TV show Arrow into the New 52.  Diggle, Oliver Queen’s TV buddy makes an appearance.  I know he was never part of the comic character, who I’m only passingly familiar with, but I don’t remember ever having heard about Queen’s mother before.  Has she always been in the New 52 take on the character?  I have no idea.  Also, are we to believe that Ollie has been active as Green Arrow as long as Batman’s been around?  Why, then, does he come off as being so incompetent?  On the up-side, Andrea Sorrentino’s art looks great, and the Diggle-centric back-up feature is drawn by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, a duo who should both be getting more work either alone or in tandem.

Hinterkind #2I was interested enough in Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli’s new Vertigo series to give the second issue a shot, and I find myself a little more on the fence.  Basically, it seems that the premise of this book is that, as humankind has wiped itself out, a variety of storybook creatures – trolls, ogres, fairies, and the like – have made their return.  It’s a good concept, with enough similarities to Fables to make it commercially viable, and I like some of the characters that have been introduced so far, but I’m not sure how long the story will hold my interests.  I’ll probably give the next issue a shot before deciding whether or not it goes on my pull-file list.

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #2 – I want you to go grab a copy of Sandman Overture, and then compare it to this issue of MK Spider-Man.  Since I first saw his work, I’ve felt that Marco Rudy was the next JH Williams III, and this issue continues to cement that opinion (with a dash of Chris Ware tossed in to keep things interesting).  In Matt Kindt’s story, a drugged and confused Spidey is running a gauntlet of almost all of his foes.  Most of this issue has him fighting a few mainstays, Shocker, Mysterio, Hydro-Man, and Sandman on an airplane.  The story is kind of thin, but the pages are absolutely gorgeous.  If I wanted to find something to complain about, I just wish that all the ads were crammed into the back of the book, as they really disrupt the flow that Rudy has going from page to page.  Brilliant, brilliant art in this one.

Mighty Avengers #3 – I’m enjoying this series a lot more than I expected to, mostly because I really like the way that Al Ewing is writing Spectrum (Monica Rambeau) and Luke Cage.  He’s also got me somewhat interested in the Blue Marvel, a character I’d previously written off.  Of course, the art by Greg Land really makes me not want to read this comic at all, but like Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men run, I’m finding that the writing is strong enough to keep me coming back (I really don’t want to know what material Land referenced for the scenes where people all have elder god tentacles coming out of their mouths).  Right now, I’m taking this book on a month-by-month basis, but I really do like the lineup of this team.  I can’t help but wonder how great this comic would be with a better artist.

Morning Glories #34In this excellent issue, the gang more or less gets back together to hold a fittingly dysfunctional memorial for Jun/Hisao.  The flashbacks return to the car crash that claimed Jade’s mother’s life, putting those events in a slightly different light which still has me confused.  As Nick Spencer’s story has gotten stranger and stranger over the years, what has held everything together has been the strength of his characters, and this issue is a perfect example of why that makes this book work so well.  Good stuff.

Swamp Thing #25 – Swamp Thing does battle with Seeder, the New 52 version of Jason Woodrue, over the right to be the avatar of the Green.  It’s a visually very interesting issue, as Jesus Saiz makes good use of the possibilities inherent in a character like Swamp Thing.  I’ve been liking this book a lot since Charles Soule took over the writing.

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

‘68 Hallowed Ground One Shot

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand #1

Detective Comics #25

Fantomex MAX #2

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight #2

Iron Man #18

Legends of Red Sonja #1

Shadowman #12

The Star Wars #3

Uber #7

Bargain Comics:

A+X #11&12As with any other anthology series of this nature, things are very inconsistent here.  Issue eleven features 90s artists who aren’t seen too often now, namely Mark Texeira and Ron Lim, in a couple of throw-away stories (although I do like the Cyclops/Spider-Man team-up).  Issue twelve is the weightier one, as Christos Gage has Beast and Wonder Man working to rekindle their friendship in a fun story, and as Justin Jordan has Captain America taking Jubilee with him on a mission to deal with some WWII era Nazi vampires.

Astonishing X-Men #65-67 – These are some solid C-list X-Men comics.  Marjorie Liu is a decent writer, but it’s clear that she’s not really allowed to do much with these characters, and so we get stories that can be interesting, but which do nothing to upset the status quo of the other X-books.  On the plus side, the art, by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Amilcar Pinna, is quite lovely.

Cable and X-Force #14 – It looks like the rivalry between Havok’s Avengers team and Cable’s X-Force team is finally at an end, as Hope returns from the future with the means to fix Cable’s powers.  This is a good enough issue, and my hope is that subsequent issues will be a little more character driven, as this book is full of great characters who are barely being used.  This series is very different from Avengers Arena, Dennis Hopeless’s other Marvel title.

Deadpool #15 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the newest arc of this title, has a much darker feel to it than the previous ones, but writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan still find many spots for their unique brand of humor.  Deadpool tries to recruit Wolverine or Captain America to help him track down Butler, the man who has been harvesting his organs, and who has some kind of connection to the Weapon Plus program.  This is a very well-written comic, with great art by Declan Shalvey that matches the mood perfectly.

Hunger #4The build-up to Cataclysm ends with Ultimate Rick Jones being all heroic, and lots of chaos happening in Kree space.  I’m sure that nothing here really affects what happens in the Cataclysm series…

Indestructible Hulk Special #1 – The second chapter of ‘Arms of the Octopus’ is as much fun as the first, as Mike Costa has the Past X-Men and the Superior Spider-Man turning to Bruce Banner for help in figuring out what is going on with the time-lost young Doc Ock that has shown up in Manhattan.  The story works very well, and I’m really impressed with the art by newcomer (to me at least) Jacob Wyatt who maintains the look established for this cross-over by Kris Anka, while also sometimes moving into Bryan Lee O’Malley territory.  I find it odd that the cover neither credits the creators, nor suggests that Spidey and the X-Men show up at all.  In all though, a very good read.

Iron Man #16 – Kieron Gillen wraps up the story about the Recorder 451 and the giant Godkiller armor in this rather oddly-paced issue.  Tony wraps up his business in space after a three-month sojourn with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and then comes back to Earth, to have an odd interaction with Pepper Potts, before discovering something in his office.  From the beginning of this series, I blamed anything that didn’t feel right on Greg Land’s awful art, but now that the book has a decent artist, in Carlo Pagulayan, it is becoming clear that the title still has problems.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #3 – I was really impressed by Mike Del Mundo’s art in this Infinity tie-in.  He has a Steve Uy/Udon Studios feel to his backgrounds that I enjoy.  In this comic, Spidey-Ock and the new Mighty Avengers team continues to fight off Thanos’s goons in the streets of New York, until Spidey goes to meet up with a new electricity-based character who presumably got her powers from the Terrigen Bomb.  This is what these tie-ins should be, a chance for a prominent character to interact with the event without endlessly repeating what we’ve already seen elsewhere.

Thor God of Thunder #14So Thor is wanting to go after Malekith, the Dark Elf, but he has to take a force from the various worlds that make up Norse mythology.  The concept should work better than it does, but I couldn’t decide if I was supposed to take the story seriously, or read it as a bit of a humour comic.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Ron Garney’s art, but I really don’t like the way that Ive Svorcina is colouring it – things are a little too bright and burnished, making the art unrecognizable as Garney’s.

Thunderbolts #14-17 – Charles Soule continues to work hard to redeem this title, which got off to a very rocky start under Daniel Way.  Now that some of General Ross’s personal missions have been completed, it’s time for the team to turn to one of the other members.  Punisher’s name gets pulled out of the hat, and so the group is going after a very secretive mafia family who works support for all other criminals in New York.  Things get a little complicated, however, when Thanos’s armada attacks, tangentially making this an Infinity tie-in.  I like Jefte Palo’s art a lot here – this is a book that should have a more cartoonish look to it; Steve Dillon’s approach was too realistic to match the make-up of the team.

Wolverine #9 – This is probably the best issue of the Paul Cornell/Alan Davis run so far, as Logan interacts with the X-Men in trying to figure out just what Mystique was doing in the Jean Grey School.  Logan and Kitty go after her, and they run in to Batroc the Leaper.  Alan Davis is the perfect artist for the fight that follows.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The ‘Nam Vol. 3

Written by Doug Murray
Art by Wayne Vansant, Sam Glanzman, Michael Golden, Geoff Isherwood, and Frank Springer

Two weeks ago, I read GB Tran’s brilliant family memoirVietnamerica, and I couldn’t think of a better follow up than the third trade of Marvel’s mid-80s series The ‘Nam, which set out to tell the story of the Vietnam War, from an American perspective, in real time.

This trade encompasses the Tet Offensive, and many of the major events, such as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, that gripped Americans in 1968.  As always, this series explores the war through a very narrow lens, focussing on one infantry brigade, and the people who interact with them.

There is not much effort to understand the war from the Vietnamese perspective; the locals are portrayed as either the enemy or as interchangeable assistants, but that’s not the goal of this series.  Instead, it is to give the reader a more or less realistic understanding of what the American soldiers had to go through.  We see them piling in and out of helicopters, taking fire from unseen positions, and having to deal with the absurdity of rules of engagement that allowed the Viet Cong to disappear into Cambodia with impunity.
Writer Doug Murray does a great job of building characters slowly and episodically, as new soldiers join the 23rd Brigade frequently.  He’s helped a great deal by Wayne Vansant, who is the most consistent artist on this book, and who excels at balancing a loose cartoonish style with the difficulty of the setting and situations he has to draw.  Michael Golden provides two black-and-white stories at the end of the book that are gorgeous.
It seems that Marvel has stopped collecting this series in trade, and that means I need to start tracking down the individual issues, as I really want to see where this series ends up.

Album of the Week:

The Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio 2 – The first Black Radio album was an almost perfect distillation of jazz, hip-hop, and R’n’B.  Now Glasper and his crew have returned for another album, and it is just as beautiful as the first.  Glasper is joined by such artists as Common, Lupe Fiasco, Snoop Dogg, Jean Grae (!!), Macy Gray, Dwele, Jill Scott, Brandy, Anthony Hamilton, Faith Evans, Norah Jones, Bilal (of course), and strangely, Malcolm-Jamal Warner.  I’d recommend getting the Deluxe Edition, if only for the cover of Bill Wither’s Lovely Day, which doesn’t pack the surprise of the Smells Like Teen Spirit cover that finished the last album, but is still lovely.

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The Weekly Round-Up #200 With The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, The Activity, Batman Black & White, CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013 & More Mon, 07 Oct 2013 14:00:36 +0000

Editor’s Note:

On behalf of the Comics Nexus crew, I’d like to congratulate James Fulton for reaching #200 of his The Weekly Round-up column.

His work is a Monday staple. We’re proud of him for this achievement and for his continued writing excellence in spotlighting comic book gems from across the industry that may not get the profile they deserve. James produces an eclectic weekly column that keeps true comic fans in the know about what’s worth reading.

Thank you James and happy birthday! ;) – John

Best Comic of the Week:

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #4This issue is a perfect example of why this is my favourite Marvel comic (unless Young Avengers is – I can’t usually decide between the two).  Boomerang’s been kicked out of the gang, although after a visit from Power Man and Iron Fist, followed by a total “Heisenberg moment”, fortunes change for him yet again.  And he meets a very rude girl.  Nick Spencer is making this one of the funniest books on the stand, but also does some truly terrific character work throughout.  The way he builds to the last page of the issue is perfect.  Steve Lieber is terrific in this book.  He shows the superhero fight perfectly, but is even better at capturing the smaller character moments that make this book so terrific.

Quick Takes:

The Activity #15 – This book is at its best when the members of Team Omaha are on mission, and this issue splits the team in two.  Weatherman and Bookstore are scouting a location in Afghanistan while Switchfoot and Fiddler (who don’t really get along) are searching for a downed satellite in Siberia.  Very good character interactions by Nathan Edmondson and great art by Mitch Gerads.  Apparently these two are going to be doing some work for Marvel soon, which is exciting, but I hope they are a little better at meeting deadlines than they are with this book, and that this title doesn’t suffer because of their new work; I’d rather keep reading this than a Marvel book.

All-New X-Men #17So Magik, Past Beast, and Past Iceman have gone into the future to find out what’s going on with the Future X-Men, only to discover that at some point in the future, after Dazzler’s bid to become President of the United States goes wrong, the Future X-Men have a Future Schism of some sort.  If that sentence doesn’t confuse you, then you are the right kind of person to read this book.  Not a whole lot is explained, because you aren’t supposed to know your future, but we do confirm that the Future X-Men that are in the present are not to be trusted, which is why it’s time to bring the other Future X-Men into the present to figure out once and for all what should be done about the Past X-Men who are in the present.  Luckily, Magik has always had the ability to travel through time, and has just never used it before Brian Michael Bendis started writing the X-Men, or all of this time travel would have needed some sort of explanation, or a scientific device, or something.

Batman Black and White #2 – Mark Chiarello continues to do an amazing job of curating the list of contributors to this anthology series, bringing in such talented people as JG Jones, Rafael Grampá, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Alex Nino, Michael Uslan, and Dave Bullock to write and/or draw 8-page Batman stories.  Of course, because he’s the boss, Dan Didio is also included in here, writing the only piece that can’t be saved by the quality of the art.  The big thrill for me was seeing Grampá playing with Batman; this guy is one of the best artists in the business right now.  There’s not much new that can be done with Batman in such a short space, but these are almost all successful stories (and really, JG Jones deserves a better writer).

Bedlam #9This book has been faltering a little lately, especially in its timeliness, but Nick Spencer and new artist Nick Browne are putting out a very interesting comic.  Fillmore suspects that the recent terrorist attacks are the work of a single hypnotist, and The First, who is basically Bedlam’s Batman, is going about his own investigation.  There are some very good ideas at play in this comic.

Catalyst Comix #4 – The lead story shifts to Amazing Grace, who is being romanced by an alien being.  The Agents of Change go out for a night of clubbing, and Frank Wells continues his mission to address injustice around the world.  Joe Casey’s stories don’t feel as connected right now, but they are all entertaining, and with art from Paul Maybury, Ulises Farinas, and Dan McDaid, this book is gorgeous.

The CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013 – No anthology that opens with a one-page strip by Fábio Moon can be all bad, and this annual fundraiser does have some very good stuff in it.  There’s a nice bit by Richard Corben about a District Attorney who goes to great length to silence a cartoonist he doesn’t like.  There’s also a good story by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman about the patent men who tried to strangle the film industry.  Leah Sottile and Emi Lenox have a good piece about the band Pussy Riot in Russia, and what their story says about all of us, and Josh Williamson and Ron Chan have put together a great story that shows answers the question, “What if Wertham was right?”  Usually these annuals include some creator-owned characters that have on-going series, but they were generally the least impressive parts of this book – this year Hoax Hunters, Captain Midnight, and Hack/Slash were the titles; maybe it’s just because I don’t read any of those books that I didn’t care.  Still, I’m always happy to buy this comic and support a great cause.

Daredevil: Dark Nights #5The second half of David Lapham’s two-part story is just as good as the first.  DD has been chasing a ten-inch man named Buggit who was trying to help his cousin beat a criminal charge.  Because of Buggit’s actions, the cousin is now dead, and the little man is looking for revenge.  This is a very unusual story, as DD has to make his way through a New York filled with other superheroics goings-on, and it has one of the best endings I’ve seen to a story like this.  I wish Lapham did more superhero books; he has a unique approach.

Elephantmen #51 – Richard Starkings and Axel Medellin start a new arc in this issue, and it feels a lot more self-contained that is typical for this series.  This arc pairs Hip Flask with Jack Farrell, who I assume is a detective, although it’s not clear with which agency.  The two are investigating a double suicide, a murder suicide, or a double homicide, depending on your theory, that involves two scientists found dead in their apartment.  Farrell doesn’t much like Elephantmen, and has a habit of talking to a woman that no one else can see (think of Gaius Baltar and Caprica Six in Battlestar Galactica).  He narrates the story, which gives it a very different feel from any previous arcs.  I like the way this story is switching things up here, and appreciate the way in which Hip goes through the evidence in the apartment.  This is always a great series, largely because Starkings is always stretching himself as a writer.

God is Dead #2 – I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with Jonathan Hickman’s debut Avatar series, except that it doesn’t really feel like a Hickman comic.  The various pantheons of mythology have arrived in the present day, carving up the world into regions of believers, while the US military tries to take them out.  It’s a good idea, but really, this book should be examining the reaction of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish believers to what’s happening, instead of a small group of scientists hanging out underground in an abandoned subway tunnel.  Maybe if Hickman were actually writing this, instead of just plotting it, there’d be a lot more to sink my teeth into.

Green Arrow #24Jeff Lemire gets to temporarily return to his series (between September’s Villains Month, and November’s Zero Year tie-ins) to show us what happens when Count Vertigo shows up in Seattle looking for Ollie.  The cast of this book keeps expanding, with Shado facing off against Richard Dragon, and a familiar face from the TV show Arrow appearing on the last page of this comic.  Lemire manages all these outside distractions well, and continues to build an interesting series.  Of course, this book owes much of its force to the wonderful art of Andrea Sorrentino, who is perfect for showing how Vertigo’s powers work.  This is one of the best remaining books at DC.

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight #1 – I couldn’t resist checking out this new series written by Alex De Campi, which serves as a love letter to the cheesy and exploitative horror films of the 1970s.  The first arc, ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ is about the way that a strange beehive, dripping honey onto a grave, affects people in a small American town.  There’s some girl-on-girl action, a castrated and decapitated teenager, killer bees, and a one-eyed superstitious female deputy.  This is a fun comic, with nice art by Chris Peterson, but I’m not sure there’s enough to bring me back for another issue.  Maybe if it were a $3 comic.  Definitely worth checking out in trade though.

Hinterkind #1 – I have high hopes for the revitalization of Vertigo, and this new series, by Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli seems to be off to a good start.  The book is set in the future, where most people have died out, and nature has reclaimed the world’s cities.  Prosper, our main character, is a teenage girl living in a village in the middle of Central Park.  The area surrounding the park has reverted mostly to forest (jungle might be more apt), and lions and zebra run wild.  I suppose it’s a global warming thing.  Anyway, the people of Central Park have been in touch with other people in Albany, but now they are not returning their radio signals.  Prosper’s grandfather, a doctor, decides to make the journey to visit them, leaving Prosper to stay with her best friend, who she discovers has gone through a bit of a strange physical change.  He wants to leave the village, so she accompanies him, when they are attacked by lions, and saved by a giant.  It seems that a number of storybook-style creatures are now populating the world, a fact that none of the people are aware of yet.  I guess this book is going to be about the conflicts between these groups – it’s not too clear yet.  What I do know is that Edginton has done a good job of establishing these characters and making them interesting, and that Trifogli has lovely artwork.  I intend to pick up the next issue for sure.

Lazarus #4The traitors in her family attack Forever, as this series moves from its establishing mode and into the meat of the story.  Greg Rucka and Michael Lark always work well together, but the extra effort and pride being taken in this comic really shows.  One of the best of Images already impressive stable.

Mara #6 – Brian Wood and Ming Doyle took their mini-series about the nature of sports celebrity to unexpected heights, as this final issue has Mara judging humanity from outer space.  It’s a poetic and lovely comic, and it ended up being nothing like what I’d expected from this series.

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1 – I’ve been looking forward to this mini-series for a while now, because I firmly believe that Marco Rudy is the most under-appreciated artist in the business.  He’s done some low-profile work at DC, and worked his way up to being the alternate artist on Swamp Thing for a while, but he hasn’t really been given the opportunity to show his best work until now.  In this Matt Kindt-written series, Spider-Man (Peter Parker!) gets caught up in some kind of mind-altering gas/pill/explosion scenario, where he’s going to have to fight his way through 99 of his villains.  The story doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s really just been designed to give Rudy plenty of opportunity to show off.  There are some stunning images here, in the JH Williams III style, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

Mighty Avengers #2 – This issue read a lot quicker than the last one, which was a little disappointing, and I still hate Greg Land’s art, but I do like some of the stuff that Al Ewing is doing in writing this comic.  Blue Marvel gets introduced to the book this month.  I’d skipped the Blue Marvel mini-series a while back, and so don’t know the character at all, but he seems to fall into the Superman variety, complete with his own Fortress of Solitude under the ocean.  The rest of the issue is taken up with the team fighting against one of Thanos’s henchmen, so the book can qualify as an Infinity tie-in.  I’m curious to see who ‘Spider-Hero’ really is, and I like the way Ewing is writing Spectrum (Monica Rambeau).  Enough to come back next month?  I’ll have to see…

Mind the Gap #15This comic has been coming out a lot lately (the last issue was released only two weeks ago), but is now going on a short hiatus until December, and the beginning of its second act.  That gives people who haven’t been reading this the perfect opportunity to get caught up, as Jim McCann’s story about a young woman who falls into a coma after being attacked on a subway platform is really very gripping.  You see, everything that readers of the earliest issues of this series believed has been systematically attacked and destroyed by the last few issues, as truth after truth has been revealed.  Yet, even with all this truth, McCann has closed off this act with another great mystery.  Rodin Esquejo has been doing great work on this series, and his art just keeps improving.  This is a great book for anyone who likes medical mysteries, conspiracies, or dysfunctional family dramas.

Morning Glories #32 – This series is becoming increasingly convoluted, and I’m starting to think that I should dig out all the back issues and read through them again before reading each new issue (a prospect made even more daunting by the book’s recent bi-weekly schedule).  I’m thankful for the explanatory notes in the back of the book, otherwise I’m not sure I’d be able to keep up at all.  This issue focuses on Vanessa, who I’ll admit I’d completely forgotten about.  What I love most about this series, though, is that it’s perfectly possible to read each issue on its own merits, and try to place it in the puzzle that the series has become, and still enjoy it as a fine piece of comics craftsmanship.  I don’t like the fact that the nested references to earlier events make me question the strength of my memory, but I do love how complicated Nick Spencer has made this series.  And, as always, I’m in awe of Joe Eisma’s art on this book (and the fact that he’s pumping out a new issue every two weeks, with no dip in quality).

Savage Wolverine #9I like the idea of there being a Wolverine series like this, where various writers and artists can come on-board for a few issues, do their thing, and move on.  Now Jock, who first caught my eye with his work on Vertigo’s The Losers, and later impressed with Green Arrow Year One and Detective Comics drawing for Scott Snyder, comes over to Marvel to write and draw a three-part Wolverine story.  And I have to tell you, it’s kind of weird.  The story is set somewhere in the far future (I assume), and Logan is dumped on some kind of planet for reasons we don’t really understand, and is expected to kill a giant mite.  After that, a small child is sent to track him down.  That’s about all that happens in this comic, but with Jock’s minimalist and kind of dirty art, the whole thing looks amazing.  I doubt this will ever be considered a classic, but it’s nice to see someone trying something new with Logan.

Shadowman #11 – Shadowman has been my least favourite of Valiant’s titles (except for the months when that’s been Bloodshot), but I’m pleased to see that the company is working to fix it, bringing on Peter Milligan as writer in a couple of months.  I was interested in this one-off issue though, because it’s written by Jim Zub(kavich), who makes Skullkickers such an entertaining read.  This story is not as Skullkicker-y as I would have liked, but it’s an entertaining Halloween story, so there is that.

Swamp Thing #24 – Charles Soule continues to impress on this title, as Swamp Thing finally confronts Seeder, only to discover that he’s a character from the old DCU, and an old friend.  The art this month is by Andrei Bressan, and he does a fine job of keeping the look consistent with the work that Kano has been doing.

Trillium #3Jeff Lemire’s excellent time travel series continues to be an exciting and interesting read.  In the future, Nika is being blocked from continuing in her work, upon which the future of mankind balances, while in the past, Billy’s friend wants to plunder the temple.  Lemire continues to use aspects of the flip book style from the first issue, but just has the pages set in the past placed upside down in the comic; it makes reading this book a little more athletic than most comics.

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

Detective Comics #24

Fantomex MAX #1

Hunger #3

Infinity Hunt #2

Iron Man #16

The Star Wars #2

Suicide Risk #6

Uber #6

Bargain Comics:

Cable and X-Force #13I’m not really sure what’s going on with this title.  Regular writer Dennis Hopeless is joined by Cullen Bunn, who gets a scripting credit, while regular artist Salvador Larroca is joined by Gerardo Sandoval, who looks to have drawn almost the entire book (and in a 90s Joe Madueira style that has Havok looking a lot more like Cannonball).  Basically, the plot echoes what’s going on in Battle of the Atom, but a lot more disjointedly.  It feels like this title is getting away from itself.

Hunger #2 – So if the upcoming Cataclysm event is going to be about Galactus consuming (or being stopped from consuming) the Ultimate Universe, there’s no real threat from Galactus in this series, which is a prelude to that.  Rick Jones and Ultimate Silver Surfer fly around and exclaim a lot while Galactus does his thing.  Really, none of it matters until Cataclysm.

Indestructible Hulk #11-13 – Apparently Mark Waid’s the only person that remembers that the end of Age of Ultron was supposed to have big ramifications for the Marvel Universe, and so he has Banner and his other half seconded to TIME, a secret SHIELD project that deals with the timestream.  This new status quo has Banner’s consciousness downloaded into one of the Quislet robots that have been knocking around, so he can lead Hulk through some time encounters that involve fighting dinosaurs in the Old West, and helping the Black Knight retake Camelot.  Matteo Scalera’s art is great for this run, and Waid excels at making silly comic book set-ups work.

Iron Man #14&15Recorder 451’s plan is not working the way he wanted, which means that the Godkiller armor is hurtling towards the Earth.  Kieron Gillen ratchets up the tension in these two issues, and in the first, Greg Land makes everything look static and dull, but Carlo Pagulayan comes on for the second comic and fixes things.  Were it not for Land, I would totally be buying this book at full price.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2 – When the Scarlet Spider swings by New York to say hi to Peter Parker, the Superior Spider-Man reacts very badly to his presence.  It’s the usual ‘superheroes fight before they team up’ story, but it’s done well by Chris Yost and Marco Checchetto.

Thanos Rising #5 – Reading the end of this Thanos origin story has me wanting to do some digging in my longboxes, because I’m not sure what was retconned and what was originally part of this story.  Did Thanos always kill everyone on Titan?  What happened to Starfox?  And why does Thanos have a gigantic dorsal fin on his outfit that keeps disappearing (especially when he needs to be shown sitting down)?  With a little more editing, this could have been a much better mini-series.×120.jpg

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Were Money No Object – The Septembers Previews Edition With Dark Horse, DC Comics New 52, Image, Marvel Now & Valiant Fri, 06 Sep 2013 14:00:18 +0000 It’s time to wander through Previews once again, and see what looks interesting or puzzling.

Dark Horse

As much as I respect and admire John Ostrander, his Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi mini-series have been a disappointment so far, mostly because of the massive amount of world building that he’s crammed into them.  So now, with this new arc, Force War, I have to wonder if it’s going to be more of the same thing, or if he’s going to have reached the point where he can just tell a good story.  I’ll probably check this out to find out…


It’s interesting that DC is positioning Batman’s ‘Zero Year’ event as a more central cross-over than Forever Evil, with more tie-ins, and a place of prominence in this month’s Previews, especially since these cross-overs look to be of the ‘red skies’ nature.  In a lot of ways, these stories, which are supposed to be set five years before the New 52 launch, and subsequently at a time when none of these other heroes were active, is just going to be revisiting the same territory that the ‘zero’ issues of last September did.  Or, because this is DC, to contradict them.  Are people who don’t normally read these books going to be tempted to buy them?  And why is a 40 page issue of Batman priced at $4.99, while the same-sized Action Comics isn’t?  Are we experimenting with $5 being the new $4?  Oh wait, it has an embossed cover.  That should be worth a dollar more.  Of course, this being DC, I’m sure they’ll manage to screw up the orders on this too…

Is John Layman taking over Catwoman?  He’s writing issue 25.  That’s tempting, but for the $4 price tag which is keeping me from buying his Detective Comics.

I don’t like that Charles Soule is using the Greek gods in Superman/Wonder Woman.  Brian Azzarello has done a brilliant job of re-envisioning them for the New 52, but I can’t see any other writer keeping the characterization (and the predilection for using puns) consistent with his work.  I’d be tempted to check it out anyway, but it’s $4…

I’ve never liked Harley Quinn as a character in the DC Universe, but the zero issue to her new series involves Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Paul Pope, and Walter Simonson.  That’s a sale.  Future purchases will depend on whether or not the writers can overcome the annoying factor of the character.


Before moving over to Marvel, Rick Remender firmly established himself as a writer who is not afraid to take his stories into some pretty strange and wild places.  Now he’s launching Black Science, with artist Matteo Scalera, and I could not be more excited.  Scalera is a very dynamic artist and seems like the perfect collaborator for Remender.  I can’t wait to read this.

Umbral is a new series from writer Antony Johnston and artist Christopher Mitten, the team behind Wasteland.  I’m a little surprised to see them working together (part of me wishes that Mitten could have just returned to Wasteland, which has suffered since his departure), but also very happy about it.  I don’t know how I feel about ‘dark fantasy’, but this team has earned my respect, and my $3 for an extra-long first issue…

I love reading comics from the Luna brothers, so it’s nice to see that Jonathan Luna is starting a new series, Alex + Ada.

Manifest Destiny has intrigued me.  It’s about the Lewis and Clark expedition (which has already gotten its own graphic novel), and so appeals to my love of historical comics.  I don’t know anything about Chris Dingers or Matthew Roberts, but the preview pages look nice, so I’ll give this a shot.


As Infinity winds down, Marvel is launching another cross-over in the Ultimate line, with four mini-series under the Cataclysm umbrella.  I have no interest in reading this stuff, mostly because the main title is by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, a writer I’m always ambivalent about, and an artist I really dislike.  Since we all can safely assume that this is going to end with the dissolution of the Ultimate line, and with Miles Morales (a.k.a., the only Ultimate character that still sells) moving to the 616, I have to wonder why I’d care how it all finishes.  The one thing that has stood out about Joshua Hale Fialkov’s run on the Ultimates is how little he’s made me care about the characters.  Just let it end.  I’ll probably still get the Spider-Man issues, but that’s mostly because I really like Miles, and it looks like it continues the current story, with Cloak and Dagger appearing.

According to the solicitation text, Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 “ain’t no regular Annual buck-o!  This one counts!”  What does that say about the Wolverine and the X-Men Annual solicited some ten pages before?  I guess Marvel is telling us we don’t have to buy it, because it doesn’t count.

There are two issues of Superior Foes of Spider-Man coming out in November.  Get them – you won’t be sorry.

At Fan Expo this year, artist Marco Rudy promised that his art in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man is going to be pretty wild, and that he’s going all out on his layouts.  I am very excited for this mini-series, by Matt Kindt and Rudy, who I think is one of the most slept-on artists working today.  I’m also very excited to get Marvel Knights: X-Men, which is being written and drawn by Brahm Revel.  I’m a huge fan of his series Guerillas, and can’t wait to see what he’d do with such mainstream characters.

So this Amazing X-Men thing seems like a problem to me.  First, I’m kind of excited about the idea of Nightcrawler returning, if he’s handled properly, but the cover, which looks like it has him in full-on swashbuckling mode and fighting the Draco, worries me.  I’ve been increasingly disappointed in Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, as I haven’t always liked the madcap humour approach that he’s taking, and this looks to be no different, especially with Ed McGuinness coming on as the artist (for what, four issues?).  I feel like I’m either going to buy this title, or Aaron’s other one, but probably not both, especially if Marvel is going to keep double-shipping them.

One of my favourite artists to follow at Marvel is TBA, who often gets to draw random issues of double-shipped books that are mid-list, sales wise.  Now, it seems that TBA’s cousin, TBD is drawing X-Men Legacy for two issues this month, as well as an issue each of Uncanny X-Force and Cable and X-Force.  He or she must be the hardest working artist at Marvel.  Here’s the thing – what does TBD even stand for?  To Be Decided?  I wonder who gets to decide?  It’s a good thing people don’t buy comics based on who is writing or drawing them…


I like the idea of Unity, mainly because of who is making the book, namely Doug Braithwaite and Matt Kindt (who must never sleep, and is working for four companies).  I’m not sure if the concept – a bunch of Valiant characters team up to deal with X-O Manowar – is enough to sustain an on-going series, but I’ll give it an arc or two.

It’s clear that Valiant is trying to rejig Shadowman, which I can understand, as it’s been the book that appeals to me the least, and they seem to be between creative teams.  Last month they solicited a one-off issue by Jim Zubkavich; now they are doing an anthology issue, with three short stories in a standard-sized comic.  The creators include Ales Kot and Clayton Crain, so this is probably worth picking up.

So what catches your eye this month, and what would you buy Were Money No Object?

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The Weekly Round-Up #192 with Trillium, The Bunker, Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, and More! Mon, 12 Aug 2013 17:30:42 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Trillium #1

by Jeff Lemire

I’ve missed reading stuff by Jeff Lemire since Sweet Tooth ended.  Sure, he’s writing a number of books at DC, but he’s not drawing any of them, and they don’t really feel like a Jeff Lemire comic.  Trillium does.

This new mini-series is designed as a flipbook that tells two different, connected stories.  Nika is a scientist on a remote planet where the last of the human race, some four thousand people, are rushing to find a cure to a sentient disease that has been targeting the species across the galaxy.  Growing on this planet is a flower, a trillium, that has a property that can combat the disease, but the flower grows in a compound inhabited by the Atabithi, the indigenous people of the planet.  The disease is spreading quicker than expected, and so Nika is driven to extreme measures to try to secure the use of the flower.

On the flipside of the book, we meet William, a veteran of the First World War, who has an interest in the Amazon.  He signs on to an expedition looking for a ‘lost temple’ of the Incas, which is believed to contain the secret to eternal youth.  William pushes the rest of his expedition to take unnecessary risks, and they soon draw the ire of the locals.

I love Lemire’s unconventional artwork, especially when he’s being coloured by José Villarrubia.  I especially enjoy the moments in this book, like the last page of each story, that echo each other visually.   I love when books depict the Great War, even if it is just in flashback, and am intrigued in this particular vision of the future (which reminded me a little of David Hine and Doug Braithwaite’s excellent series Storm Dogs).  I would be happier were Lemire working on a new on-going series, but I am very pleased with this mini-series.

Another Notable Comic:

The Bunker #1

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Joe Infurnari

My strong dislike of webcomics developed an exception when I learned that Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin were publishing their wonderful Private Eye on-line only, and now this week, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari were also able to convince me to purchase a digital file with the first chapter of their new series The Bunker.

I’ve been a fan of Fialkov’s since I read the wonderful Tumor (which was also originally published as a webcomic), a became more fervent in my admiration of him after I read his brilliant Echoes and the very good Elk’s Run.  His DC and Marvel stuff have not impressed me to the same degree, but I suppose that’s to be expected.  With The Bunker, he feels like he’s back at his fighting weight.

This book opens with a group of young people deciding to plant a time capsule as a way of celebrating their friendship and the fact that life is taking them in different directions.  Not all of them are into it though, and it becomes clear that while these are close friends, they are not above taking the piss out of one another.

While digging, they uncover a strange underground bunker with all of their names printed on the outside but for one.  Luckily, one of the characters makes the obvious reference to Lost herself, so the reader doesn’t have to keep thinking it (that show has forever monopolized the old trope of finding a buried bunker in the middle of nowhere it seems – especially if it has a submarine-style hatch).  Inside the bunker are notes from their future selves, which depict a very bleak vision of where the world is headed, and explaining that most of the group are responsible for it.  One person doesn’t have his name anywhere, nor does he get a note, but the reason why is pivotal to the issue.

Fialkov is setting up a pretty interesting story, with the suggestion that as bad as things get in the future, if the friends don’t go about creating the things that got it that way, it’s only going to get worse.  After reading these thirty-odd pages, it’s hard to predict where this book is going to go.

Inurnari’s art is suited to Fialkov’s writing, just as his usual independent collaborator Noel Tuazon’s is.  Both artists are a little scratchy and loose, and Infurnari does a great job of suggesting what the different friend’s personalities are like just based on their appearance and facial expressions.

At just $2 a download, I highly recommend heading over to the Bunker website and getting this for yourself.  It’s pretty good stuff.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #5I like the way that both Abe Sapien and the regular BPRD title have been exploring the way in which the recent Apocalypse has been affecting people all over the US.  This issue digs into the need people feel to construct meaning in horrible events, as a young man turns up dead on the shore of the Salton Sea, and Abe feels the need to investigate.  This is a very good title, with great art by Max Fiumara.

The Activity #14 – I’m always happy to read a new issue of The Activity, especially since Nathan Edmondson’s started pulling together various threads that have been lying around from the very beginning of this series.  The downside of that is that it’s a little tough to remember who everyone is and what’s happened recently, but I appreciate the planning that has gone into this book.

All-New X-Men #15 – I think this issue was meant as a bit of a breather issue, as Brian Michael Bendis gets ready for the Battle of the Atom cross-over that starts next month.  As such, he lets the time travelling X-kids get some down time.  Scott and Bobby go into town and chat with girls, while Jean gets some training from Beast (which is very similar to a scene from Grant Morrison’s run), and discovers that he always had feelings for her.  There is a cute scene where Jean and Rachel Summers meet for the first time (which doesn’t fit with continuity at all, as it explains her absence from the last fourteen issues rather off-handedly, considering that Jason Aaron’s X-book is supposed to be happening around the same time), but it feels like Bendis is avoiding the potential for good dramatic story as much as Jean and Rachel are.  David Lafuente popped by to draw this issue, hence the more cartoony story.  I think, after the cross-over, I need to reassess how committed I am to Bendis’s titles; there is just not enough happening for me.

Avengers #17 - It’s clear from reading this book that Jonathan Hickman just spent the last seventeen issues of this series setting up Infinity, yet we still don’t know exactly what the nature of the threat in that event is going to be (because it has to be more than “Thanos invades”, right?).  I really hope this event doesn’t fizzle out like most Marvel events do, but I have my doubts.  Also, this issue had three different artists, as Marvel is trying very hard to match DC in terms of visual inconsistency (although, when one of the artists is Marco Rudy, I’m not really going to complain).

Avengers AI #2 – I’m still on the fence about this book.  Dimitrios, the malevolent AI inhabits one of Tony Stark’s old suits of armor, and sends a gigantic Sentinel to attack Washington DC, with only some of Hank Pym’s squad on hand to defend it.  We don’t get nearly enough Doombot this issue, and are given no clues as to who Alexis is.  The thing is, I like André Lima Araújo’s art (even though I hate the Vision’s new look), and have seen great work by Sam Humphries in the past, all of which makes me want to give this book another chance.

Burn the Orphanage #1 – This is the first of a three-part series by Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman that is, I believe, more of a thematic grouping of one-shots than it is a single story.  This book is about a young man named Rock who was the only survivor of an orphanage fire.  Now he’s an adult, and for some reason that is never made clear, has picked this particular day to avenge the deaths of his fellow orphans (many of whom used to beat him up).  He goes around the city beating on people until he finds out who was responsible, and then fights him on a roof.  Along the way he is joined by his two friends.  Grace and Freedman are clearly using this book as an homage to older fighting video games, and that’s fine, but I found that the references were just a little too self-conscious, much like in Grace’s other series, L’il Depressed Boy.  The characters are as one-dimensional as can be, and the plot makes no real sense.  I do like Grace’s art, but there was not a lot here to give me cause to recommend this book.

Catalyst Comix #2I’m finding that Joe Casey’s reworking of some of Dark Horse’s 90s heroes to be a bit of a mixed bag.  I love the art (provided by Dan McDaid, Paul Maybury, and Ulises Farinas), and find that much in these three stories works well, but I also can’t help but find a few too many similarities to some of Casey’s other recent comics, most notably his wonderful Butcher Baker.  Once again, we have a digitally tie-dyed cosmic character spouting gibberish, Pentagon shenanigans, and retired heroes who enjoy sitting around being crass.  Still, Casey is spinning out an interesting story, assuming that the three different strips in here will become tied together at some point, and the book looks very good.  My favourite part is the scene set in Jean M. Giraud High School, home of the Fighting Arzachs.  That poster made my day.

Daredevil Dark Nights #3 – Lee Weeks’s solid old-school DD story finishes very nicely with this issue.  It’s been good to see a story from Weeks again – he’s an underrated creator who should be getting more work.  Next issue?  David Lapham!

Dial H #15 – It’s been really easy to trash DC of late, but at the same time, they seem (less and less so) willing to give titles like Dial H a try.  This has been one of the strangest, least traditional superhero comics of the last few years, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  It’s not much of a surprise that the book didn’t last too long, but it feels like DC gave China Miéville enough space to finish up his story completely (and then there’s whatever next month’s Dial E Villains Month book is), and that’s something I appreciate.  That and the chance to see Brian Bolland covers every month.  I’ll miss this book; if you never gave it a chance, I recommend checking out the trades or the inevitable omnibus.  It’s a pretty creative comic.

Fatale #16The 90s grunge arc continues, as an amnesiac Josephine finds herself staying with a one-hit wonder grunge band trying to get themselves back on track.  Of course, her presence has an odd effect on just about the whole band.  Meanwhile, a serial killer who met Jo as a child is looking for her.  As usual, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do a phenomenal job on this comic.

Green Arrow #23 – I recently started watching Arrow, the TV show that features Green Arrow, and have been a little surprised to see how frequently Jeff Lemire has echoed some of the events and themes of that show in this title, although he’s been mixing it with Immortal Iron Fist and a bit of Frank Miller’s two runs on Daredevil.  Regardless of the influences, this comic works really well, especially because of Andrea Sorrentino’s art, which keeps getting better and better.  A good chunk of this issue is devoted to Shado’s backstory, and Sorrentino kills these pages, using a minimalist approach.  This issue features the first appearance of a classic DC character in the New 52, and it looks like Lemire is taking a very different approach to him, which has me looking forward to the next story arc.

Harbinger #14 – I know this came out a couple of weeks ago, but this is the first I was able to get an issue (something to do with Valiant changing the policy on their Pullbox Variants or something weird like that).  Anyway, this wraps up the Harbinger Wars from the perspective of Peter and his friends, and most importantly, completes the backstory of the conflict between the Harbinger Foundation and Project Rising Spirit, which is kind of essential to really understand the whole event.  This story has been decent, but I’m more interested in seeing Joshua Dysart refocus this book on the kids that star in it.

Helheim #6 – It seems that Helheim is over now, although Cullen Bunn and Joëlle Jones leave the door open for a second volume.  This has been a good series, but it has lacked the depth of Bunn’s The Sixth Gun.

The Manhattan Projects #13 – Among the many things I like about this title is the willingness that Jonathan Hickman has to jump his story forward in time.  In this issue, things move forward by a year, as the various scientists advance the projects that Oppenheimer laid out, although we still don’t have a clue what’s going on with his secret project.  JFK gets a cameo, which is brilliantly drawn by Nick Pitarra, perfect from the lines of coke on the desk to the woman’s underwear abandoned on a desktop.  There are so many great throwaway moments in this comic – I especially enjoyed learning a little more about Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who takes shoe lifts to a whole new level.

Miniature Jesus #4 – A drunk plays charades with a small living statue of Jesus Christ while a demon shouts in his ear and a dead cat goes looking for a tube of glue.  You’re either going to be open to it or you aren’t.

The Movement #4 – I’ve wanted to like The Movement, but have had a hard time with it.  I feel like Gail Simone finally figured out that she needed to actually introduce all of these new characters if she wants people to like and care about them, and so finally, we get a few backstories of the main folk who populate this book.  I’m still not sure how the small group of superhumans we’ve seen battling cops relate to the larger Movement that consists of people wearing masks and attacking corrupt cops, but that is perhaps something that will be picked up on eventually, as this book is written a little backwards.  The thing is, I might not be around to ever find out.  I took this book off my pull-file list, and by the time another issue comes out in October (thanks to DC suspending the title for Villains Month), I might not remember that I iked this one.  Ah, DC, the perfect example for how NOT to run a business…

Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #12Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko wrap up their excellent Planet of the Apes run with a story that weaves the continuity of the first two Apes movies into their story.  Milo stars in this issue, as his quest to save the Earth from coming doom from either the aftereffects of the Moon explosion that started this series, or from the machinations of the mutated humans.  These writers have done a wonderful job of intelligently extrapolating from the work of the original movies.

Prophet #38 – In a lot of ways, this series has been kind of coasting lately, but is still more interesting than most comics being produced.  It seems that Brandon Graham is going to keep giving us two stories per issue – one featuring Old Man Prophet putting together his crew (in this issue, his search for Badrock takes him to visit Suprema, who is now made of light and colour), and the other featuring Newfather Prophet, who returns to the floating gigantic body parts of a great warrior to blow them up.  Both stories work very well within the logic of this series, and feature great art by Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis.

Satellite Sam #2 – I’d kind of expected, after the first issue, that Satellite Sam would be more of a mystery series than it is; instead, Matt Fraction is exploring how the sudden death of a live TV show star in the 50s affects his son, his network, and the people who had to tolerate him on a daily basis.  For a book by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin, it’s shockingly focused on telling a straight-forward story, void of both creator’s usual excesses.  And therein lies its strengths.  This is very much a character-based comic, as the head of the network tries to convince his remaining actors, directors, and crew to stay with his failing business, and the actor’s son spirals into drunken despair.  It’s a very good book.

Sheltered #2I am loving Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’s ‘pre-apocalyptic’ series about a group of teenagers who have killed their parents and taken over their Survivalist camp in preparation for the end times.  There are two girls who are not onboard however, and this issue is given over to their discovering what has happened and reacting to it.  Very dramatic stuff, and it plays out very well.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2 – This title should be talked about as being up there with Hawkeye and Young Avengers among Marvel’s most original and enjoyable comics.  Nick Spencer is having a ball sharing the misadventures of Boomerang and his crew.  We the readers know a lot more than the rest of the Sinister Six do, so when the Punisher interrupts their latest job, it’s not much of a surprise to see how things turn out.  The end of the book though, did toss a wrench in Boomerang’s plans that I didn’t see coming.  Spencer is balancing humour and plausibility nicely, and Steve Lieber is doing a wonderful job of keeping the story from looking too cartoonish.  I hope this title has a long life.

Swamp Thing #23 – The two-parter featuring John Constantine comes to a satisfying conclusion in this issue, as Swamp Thing has to overcome Constantine’s magic to save a small Scottish town from the effects of Seeder’s Whisky Tree.  Charles Soule’s run on this title is going very well, and as much as I’ve enjoyed Kano’s art on it, I was very happy to see him share the bill with David Lapham, who has not been drawing enough lately.

Uncanny X-Men #9 – Slowly things are starting to happen in this title again, as Dazzler, now an agent of SHIELD, tries to interrogate the kid that quit Scott Summers’s team last issue, and this leads to the team invading a Helicarrier to get him back.  There are a lot of characters in this book now, and that always gives Brian Michael Bendis problems, so we get scenes like the one where one of the Stepford Cuckoos decides to cut and dye her hair black.  It’s a good thing that Summers’s secret X-Base in the middle of nowhere is stocked with hair dye, or that scene would have felt very forced and unnecessary.  I can forgive this book for a lot though, because of the Chris Bachalo art.

X-Factor #260This is the third last issue of X-Factor, although the ground is already being laid for the inevitable relaunch, perhaps with the team being corporate lackeys.  Most of this issue is about Lorna Dane sitting in a bar acting ridiculously uncharacteristically, and then getting into a fight with Quicksilver, who makes reference to his being an Avengers still, despite the fact that he’s never seen in any of the twenty-odd comics a month that have that word in their titles.  I’ve felt that there was a slow drop-off on this title for a while now, but it’s really hitting the skids in these last few issues.  I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d say this, but if Peter David is writing the relaunch, I don’t think I’ll be there for it.

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

Cable and X-Force #12

Detective Comics #23

Hunger #2

Iron Man #14

Legends of the Dark Knight #11

Suicide Risk #4

Superior Spider-Man #15

Bargain Comics:

Dia De Los Muertos #1I’m often of two minds about Riley Rossmo’s art, as I find that his storytelling can be very inconsistent, but I enjoyed this anthology of three short stories, each written with a different writer, centred on the Mexican Day of the Dead.  I’m not sure how these stories were written – I suspect that Rossmo plotted, and just had the others handle the scripting, but they show a nice range, from horror to romantic fantasy.  This book also made good use of Image’s ‘Golden Age’ format.

Fairest #15&16 – In this newest arc of Fairest, the spotlight shines on a young Indian woman who makes a long and dangerous trek to the new Maharaja to petition for help for her village, only to find that her peoples’ new ruler is Prince Charming.  I’m a little confused, as I thought he’d died fighting the Adversary (but now wonder if we saw him survive and if it’s just the people of Fabletown who believe him dead).  Anyway, he’s more or less his old self, and is more interested in catching the girl than the creatures that threaten her town.  The art for this arc is by Stephen Sadowski, who really needs to draw more comics, especially when Phil Jimenez is inking him.  These are gorgeous comics.

Punisher War Zone #5 – I hope we get to see more of Rachel Cole-Alves, the new female Punisher that Greg Rucka devoted his entire run on the title to developing.  This issue does a good job of showing how someone like the Punisher could stay ahead of a group like the Avengers, and stays plausible enough.

The Week in Manga:

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 11I love this strange little series, and found a lot to enjoy in this volume’s two stories.  The first is quite long (7 chapters), and it deals with a young girl who was believed to have murdered her sister and mother.  She’s out of prison, and attending a school where coincidentally, some of the Kurosagi crew have just been hired.  Strangely, it seems that this school is also the epicentre for a number of on-line warnings of crimes about to be committed.  Of course, all this stuff is connected.  The second story is concerned with the performance enhancing qualities of a particular brand of Olympic swimsuit.  In other words, neither story falls into the usual type of thing we’ve come to expect from KCDS, but with its strong characters, and voluminous explanatory notes, this book is as entertaining as ever.

20th Century Boys Vol. 5 – I’d been wondering for the last two books just how a story like this could possibly stretch out over more than twenty volumes, but in this book, Naoki Urasawa shows just how complex his story is.  When the volume opens, Kenji and his friends are working underground (literally) to stop The Friend and his plans.  As New Year’s Eve, 2000 approaches, they know that something big is going to happen, and it does.  And then, suddenly, the book jumps forward some fourteen years, and follows Kanna, Kenji’s niece.  She lives in a very rough neighbourhood where Chinese and Thai gangs fight for territory, and we slowly get the feeling that things are not good in Tokyo.  This is a sweeping, sprawling book, held together by the strength of Urasawa’s characters, and his wild imagination.  Very, very good stuff.

Album of the Week:

Ras_G and the Afrikan Space Program – Back on the Planet – Ras_G holds on to his position as the strangest beat maker and creator in the Brainfeeder camp, a title that is not easily won.  His new album represents his notion of ‘ghetto sci-fi’, a musical approach to a future that is dirty and strange.  There are some irritating tracks on this album (such as the first one), but it evolves into a really nice blend of dub, hip-hop, and EDM that holds up over repeated plays.

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Were Money No Object – the August Previews Edition Sat, 10 Aug 2013 12:00:43 +0000 Time to dig through the Previews catalogue once again, and find out what’s going to be looking good come October.

Dark Horse

One of the most exciting things in this catalogue is the fact that Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy is coming back in all-new comics.  This series was originally published by the Wachowski brothers’ company Burleyman, and it was always plagued by delays before the company just disappeared (taking the rather wonderful Doc Frankenstein, and maybe artist Steve Skroce with it).  This comic has never been much of an intellectual high, but it has been gorgeously detailed and bizarre.  I can’t wait.

The new series Grindhouse is intriguing – it’s an eight-issue mini-series that will tell four B-movie like stories, starting with one called “Bee Vixens from Mars”.  I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by writer Alex De Campi, despite having heard a lot of good things about her work, and I’m not familiar with artist Chris Peterson.  This is something I’m going to take a good hard look at on the stands.


In September, DC suspended (will suspend – it’s weird that I’m speaking in past tense about something that hasn’t happened yet) all of their regular titles for their Villains Month gimmick.  This caused me to pre-order the smallest number of DC books ever (or at least since I started pre-ordering my books back in the early 90s) with five titles.  Now in October it’s back to business as usual (although there are less than 52 books in the New 52), and I’m wondering if I bounce back to my usual number of orders, or if this is just a good excuse to cull my DC purchasing.  Let’s look…

I’m not interested in Forever Evil, so I’m going to be skipping the three new tie-in mini-series to that event.  Suicide Squad presents a problem for me.  I was really liking Ales Kot’s run on the title (of which only three issues have come out so far), and was very disappointed to learn that he was off the title in the usual manner of DC comics not retaining interesting creators.  He’s being replaced on writing by Matt Kindt though, and thus my dilemma.  Kindt’s creator-owned work, like his Mind MGMT or his recent Red Handed graphic novel, is brilliant.  His corporate stuff, like DC’s Frankenstein, has not been as impressive.  I’m not going to preorder this title any more, but I will probably give Kindt a chance or two, as the premise of the book is up his alley.  The fact that this is being tied in to Forever Evil is a definite strike against it though.  Were he drawing it, there would be no discussion at all – I’d be so excited to buy this.

Justice League 3000 could be an interesting concept, but as a long-time fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I have no interest in reading about a new take on the familiar Justice League characters operating in the Legion’s time.  The fact that this book is being made by the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire team that made me love the Justice League once upon a time is intriguing, but some of their work together has felt dated of late.

Wonder Woman is one of my favourite DC books, and I like a lot of what I’ve read from Chris Soule so far, but Superman/Wonder Woman is not for me.  Pass.

Damian: Son of Batman is a new four-part mini-series written and drawn by Andy Kubert.  There are some problems with this.  One, Damian is dead, which means that the book will have to be set in the past.  Two, this book may not even fit in New 52 continuity – who wants the headache of figuring all that out again?  Thirdly, Damian is a great character for character writers.  Andy Kubert is not a writer.  Pass.

Is anyone else surprised to see that Katana and Justice League of America’s Vibe both made it to their eighth issues?  This has been the cancellation threshold at DC for the last year or more.  Who would have thought?

The Darwyn Cooke cover to Batwing #24 almost makes me want to buy the book.  If he were drawing the interiors, I definitely would be getting this.  As it is?  Pass.

I’ve been enjoying the Green Team over its first three issues, so I think it’s time to add it to the pull-list.  I kind of haven’t been enjoying The Movement though, despite its being written by Gail Simone, so I’m going to do a straight swap here.

I resent the Swamp Thing Annual, because of its price mostly, but I’ve liked Charles Soule on this book, so I’ll get it.  Grrr.

That brings us to the end of the New 52 section.  Final count?  I’m ordering only 7 titles (8 comics if you count the Annual as a separate thing), which is down from 11 in August.  I really feel like DC does not want my business in their mainstream departments.

I am tempted by Batman Black and White #2, because it has a story from the incredible Rafael Grampá (although they misspell his name in the solicitation text).  Depending on how long his story is, I may have to have it (the book is $5, so it’s not a decision to be entered into lightly).

The effort to resuscitate Vertigo continues apace, with what promises to be the biggest book of the fall, The Sandman: Overture.  This is going to be a gorgeous prequel to the Vertigo classic, which pairs writer Neil Gaiman with artist JH Williams III.  I’m strangely not excited about this at all, although I know I’ll love it when it comes out.  I think I’d rather see Gaiman and Williams do something new – The Sandman is over.  But this is comics, and most of us would rather look backwards than forwards…

Two other new Vertigo series are debuting the same month – Coffin Hill and Hinterkind.  I know that I’m going to end up sampling both of them, but at this point, neither one of them is a definite enough want to get placed on my pull-list.  They both just seem a little too ‘Vertigo’ to me, without seeming very new or fresh.  Hopefully I’ll be wrong about that, as I do like writer Ian Edginton and artist Inaki Miranda.


I never watched the Samurai Jack cartoon, but the fact that Jim Zubkavich, the twisted and hilarious mind behind Skullkickers, is writing this new comic, I’m a little tempted.


No other company can compare with Image Comics when it comes to the diversity and quality of their line.  I don’t remember the last time I opened a Previews and didn’t get excited by something in the Image section.

Pretty Deadly is a new series by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.  Skimming the solicitation I see words or phrases like ‘magical realism’ and ‘western brutality’.  Stop.  I’ve already decided to buy it.  I don’t even need to look at the gorgeous preview pages.

Likewise with Velvet, a new series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (with colouring by Bettie Breitweiser).  It looks like it stars Nick Fury’s ex-girlfriend, and it’s all spy-ish.  I loved their Captain America, so I’m down.

I’m not sure about Rocket Girl though. I like Amy Reeder’s art, but her one-shot with writer Brandon Montclare, Halloween Eve, was only so-so.  I’ll look at this on the stands.

Three is a historical comic about Spartans by Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly.  I can not wait to read this.

To round out the new and notable books, the CBLDF Liberty Annual and the Thought Bubble Anthology are both coming out in October.  These are usually excellent collections of short comics.


Do you remember the days just after Fear Itself limped to its conclusion, and the powers that be at Marvel came to the realization that they’re publishing way too many mini-series that have little to no hope of finding success?  Apparently neither does Marvel, as they go back to the well again and again, offering us Infinity: Heist, Infinity: The Hunt, Hunger, Cataclysm, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Captain America: Living Legend (only the first issue of which is by Adi Granov), Thor: The Crown of Fools, Punisher: Trial of the Punisher, and a trio of Specials (All-New X-Men, Indestructible Hulk, and Superior Spider-Man) by the guy who wrote DC’s Blackhawks.  Is there a market for all of this?

I’ve resisted reading Guardians of the Galaxy, mostly because of the price, the abundance of Brian Michael Bendis in my pull-list already, and the recent addition of Angela, a character I care nothing for.  But now Francesco Francavilla is drawing an issue.  I may have to get this one.

I don’t want to support the return of the Marvel Knights line, especially since these stories are likely to be out of continuity, but the Marvel Knights: Spider-Man book is being written by Matt Kindt and drawn by Marco Rudy, who I think is a phenomenal artist (the next JH Williams).

TBA is drawing Uncanny X-Force!  I love his stuff.  Note to Marvel: If you don’t know who is going to draw the book yet, maybe you shouldn’t solicit two issues for that month.  Just saying.

Is that Jock’s whole cover for Savage Wolverine #10?  Because it’s really pretty strange.

I’m interested in Fantomex Max, but I’m unfamiliar with both Andrew Hope and Shawn Crystal, so I’m going to have to wait and see.  Were Francesco Francavilla drawing more than the cover, there would be no question of my buying it.

:01 First Second

How long have people been waiting for Paul Pope’s Battling Boy?  It’s finally coming out, and the people at First Second have wisely given readers a choice between the soft and hardcover editions at the same time (one is $9 cheaper, for those of you who are as cheap as I am).  I’m very much looking forward to this book.

Oni Press

Letter 44, a new series by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque looks like it has a lot in common with the recently cancelled Saucer Country, in that it involves aliens and presidential conspiracies.  The first issue is only a dollar, and Soule has been on fire lately.  This is worth getting.


Shadowman hasn’t really done it for me, but the Halloween Special is being written by Jim Zubkavich, so I’m intrigued.  I wonder if he’s going to play it straight or bring in some of his Skullkickers humor.  Pairing him with artist Roberto De La Torre is kind of interesting.

So that’s the catalogue (unless you like looking at weird merchandise in the back).  What would you be buying Were Money No Object?

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The Weekly Round-Up #157 with Storm Dogs, Bedlam, Creator-Owned Heroes, Great Pacific & More Mon, 10 Dec 2012 14:00:10 +0000 Best Comic of the Week:

Storm Dogs #2

Written by David Hine
Art by Doug Braithwaite

I’m really enjoying David Hine’s new science fiction series.  It concerns a group of cops who have been sent to a backwards mining planet where a number of attacks have been happening against workers there.

Most of this issue is centred on Jered Hofman, the team’s medical examiner.  He discovers a crystal on the body of one of the men who died last issue, and evidence of drug use on all of the bodies.  From that scene, we move to the local bar, where we learn more about society on Amaranth, and its two indigenous species.

By treaty, humans are supposed to stay away from the natives, yet three of them show up in the same bar.  Hine is doing a terrific job of world-building here, as we learn more about these different races, and the structure of the whole galaxy.  It’s easy to tell that he’s put more thought and planning into this book than this one mini-series will ever be able to reveal, and I hope that means that we will be seeing more stories set in this world once this one is finished.

Doug Braithwaite has always been an excellent artist, but his work here gives the impression of his being completely unfettered to create as he wishes.

Other Notable Comics:

Bedlam #2

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Riley Rossmo

You have to hand it to Nick Spencer – he does know how to put together an incredibly strange comic.  The first issue of Bedlam felt like a Joker story translated into a creator-owned venue, but with this second issue, Spencer reveals that he’s going somewhere very different with this book.

Most confusingly, the issue opens with two old friends running into each other at a Somethings Anonymous meeting, and going out for coffee, where they talk about old friends.  Then the one drugs the other, takes him home, strips him, ties him up, gets naked, and puts on metal angel wings and fishnet stockings.  Yes, this does happen.

From there, the book shifts back to Fillmore, the guy we met last issue, who is probably Madder Red, the Joker-analogue character.  Fillmore is back in a medical clinic with the doctor we met last issue, who had Red tied up after his supposed death.  It looks like this doctor is in the business of lobotomizing criminals and reintegrating them into society on a secret basis, for reasons we have yet to understand.  We know he’s up to no good though, because his assistants are a mixture of dwarves and women with slashed-up faces.

We also learn the consequences of Fillmore’s rather bizarre call to the police last issue.  Things don’t get too weird until the end of the comic though, which involves a horse dragging part of a corpse through traffic.

The weirdest part, though, is that as you read the book, none of these things seem all that odd.  Like with his Morning Glories, Spencer creates enough story logic and internal consistency in his tale that you just kind of follow along, and it’s all good.  It’s only when you try to recap the book that you realize how strange it is.

At the same time, there seems to be a growing interest in brain-experimentation in comics lately.  I’m thinking of the work of the character Dr. Rot in Jason Aaron’s Wolverine run (later revisited in Cullen Bunn’s), and of what’s been going on in Uncanny Avengers.  I wonder if this trend comes out of the zombie-obsession that has gripped comics for years…

I continue to not be overly impressed with Riley Rossmo’s art on this book, but I’m used to that.  I’m still not sure if this is an ongoing series or a limited one.  I can see sticking with this title for 6 issues or so – I don’t see it becoming a long-term commitment the way Morning Glories has.

Blackacre #1

Written by Duffy Boudreau
Art by Wendell Cavalcanti and Sergio Abad

Having no familiarity with any of the names involved in Blackacre, a new Image series, I didn’t add the book to my pull-list.  I’m fortunate to shop at a store that orders deeply on new, unproven independent titles (it’s not luck, seeing as I live in a city with a lot of comics stores to choose from), so after flipping through this on the stands, I figured it looked good enough to buy.

The series opens with a university lecture being delivered in the year 2202 which outlines the root causes of America’s Dark Age, which is nicely summed up as being the conflict between zombies and pirates.  According to writer Duffy Boudreau’s understanding of our current culture, the majority of Americans have fallen victim to the zombie meme, clutching themselves in the dark, waiting for everything to fall apart in one sweeping catastrophe.  The rich, however, have been taking their cue from the growth of pirate activity on the open seas, and have decided to simply take what they feel they are owed from the world.

This has led to the existence of Blackacre, a gigantic gated community for the super-rich and powerful. They’ve stayed comfortably behind the walls while the rest of the country went to hell.

The rest of this book is set in 2114, and it tosses a lot at us.  We learn that there is a class of young people raised in Blackacre as soldiers and guards.  We watch one of them graduate from his service along the wall and get recruited for a special meeting outside the gates, a place that very few people go (at least so far as the rest of Blackacre is aware).

We also get the sense that the outside is a pretty messed up place.  We meet a family that is in hiding.  They are attacked by one group of men, who kill the father, and are then attacked by a second group.  The issue then ends with the lesson that rich men in large towers can’t always be trusted, but I feel like we should have already known that.

Blackacre is a well-thought out and nicely told comic.  Boudreau has put a lot of thought into how this is going to play out, and has created an interesting, if familiar, world.  Cavalcanti’s art is clear and serviceable.  I’m probably going to check out the next issue.

Creator-Owned Heroes #7

Written by Darwyn Cooke, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles, Jeffrey Burandt, Seth Kushner, Chris Miskiewicz, and Dean Haspiel
Art by Darwyn Cooke, Jerry Lando, Scott Morse, Dean Haspiel, and Seth Kushner

With the news breaking this week that Creator-Owned Heroes, the comics anthology/self-publishing ‘zine being produced by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles, and a group of other people being canceled next month despite the ninth issue already being solicited, it’s hard not to read this new (now penultimate) issue without a tinge of sadness.

I’ve been a little critical of this title in the past, finding its non-comics content amateurish, self-serving, and ultimately uninteresting, but I have been supportive of the goal of the book – to champion creator-owned work.

The saddest part of the cancellation is that the folks involved in this book have really begun to fine-tune what this book does.  They’ve added more creators (most notably Darwyn Cooke), and have given over more of the book’s space to comics pages.  Also, instead of interviewing people like Jimmy Palmiotti’s personal trainer, or cosplayers, they’ve focused the editorial content on creating creator-owned comics, offering advice to those starting out, and interviewing independent legends like Evan Dorkin.  Still, I buy this for the comics, so let’s talk about those.

Darwyn Cooke’s ‘The Deadly Book’ is a terrific tale, about a book that kills anyone who reads it, and thief who tries to steal it from his collector grandfather.  The story combines Borgesian conceits with the type of crime comic that Cooke does so well, and it tells a complete story in a short number of pages.  It’s great.

Palmiotti, Gray, and Jerry Lando’s ‘Killswitch’ story continues in fine form, as we learn a lot more about the title character and his upbringing, just as the collected mass of the world’s assassin community come gunning for him.  I like Palmiotti and Gray on these types of stories best.

I don’t always care for Steve Niles’s writing, but when you pair him with artist Scott Morse, I’m going to be there for it.  Their new story, ‘Meatbag’ is about a private investigator who finds his contracted help ripped to ribbons (although his clothes are perfectly intact) on what was supposed to be a routine cheating wife case.  Morse paints this book in full-page panels that are gorgeous.

This issue also has a couple of shorter pieces.  ‘Blood and Brains’, written by newcomer Jeffrey Burandt and pencilled by Dean Haspiel, shows us what happens when two fan-favourite horror concepts collides.  ‘The Complex’ is a fumetti-style story about a video jockey who uses holograms and drugs to seduce women; I think it’s a preview of a longer piece, but there is no explanation provided.

It is sad that as the quality of this book increases, it’s publication is set to finish.  I believe there is a place for a book like this, and hope that something else will come along.

Great Pacific #2

Written by Joe Harris
Art by Martin Morazzo

Corporate malfeasance, environmental degradation, indigenous rights, and father issues are all colliding rather nicely in Great Pacific, a new mini-series from Image Comics.

Chas Worthington, son of the founder of Worthington Energy, has faked his own death after stealing millions of dollars, and has now laid claim to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic garbage from around the world, loosely held together by centrifugal forces.  He’s named his new land New Texas, and has already sent out feelers for recognition among the international community.

Much of this issue is taken up with the mechanics of starting a new country, which of course necessitates surveying it.  While Chas does this, he discovers some indigenous people, who perhaps have come from another island.  They give chase, but that kind of things doesn’t go well on land that is really only two feet of floating plastic.

There are also squids, and government-corporate dealings back home.

I enjoy the way that Joe Harris has worked an environmental message into his story, which is just as much about corporate greed as it is about conservation.  I’m curious to see where the story goes, and wonder just what Yalafath, a name spoken by the Natives and by the seamen Worthington hired to take him to New Texas, is.  I’m hoping it’s not the squid.

If you’re looking for an intelligent thriller with a bit of a message to it, this is a good book to check out.

Stumptown Vol. 2 #4

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

As much as I have come to love Stumptown and its rather difficult private investigator main character Dex Parios, I didn’t expect the newest issue to be so exciting.

This story arc, “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case” has had Dex chasing down a rock star’s guitar that was stolen, and may be involved in some sort of drug smuggling.  The guitar has mysteriously shown up at Dex’s house, and she stashes it at her office before going to collect Mim, the guitarist.  When they get to the office, they find the pair of rednecks that have also been searching for the instrument, holding a gun to Mim’s drummer.

What follows is an excellent chase scene as the rednecks take off, with Dex giving chase.  At this point, Matthew Southworth turns the art sideways, so as to best utilize the wide-screen format that a landscaped page allows.  When the cars stop, the pages return to portrait orientation, but as soon as the chase is back on, the art goes sideways again.  It’s a very effective technique, and I have to say that the bridge-jumping scene is executed perfectly.  Rarely does a comic book sequence create such excitement in me.

I am very excited to see what happens in the next issue of Stumptown, although I’m also saddened, because I imagine that will be the last we see of Dex for a while.

Quick Takes:

Amazing Spider-Man #699 – There is a lot of exposition in this issue, as most of it is spent with Peter Parker trying to figure out how Doctor Octopus pulled off his latest, and greatest, escape.  It’s hard to talk about this book without ruining the surprise of issue 698, but I can say that there are a few more revelations in place, including one about the Lizard.  It’s good stuff, but just like the recent back issues I’ve been getting caught up on, the shift in art from Richard Elson two weeks ago to Humberto Ramos in this issue is just too jarring, especially since Ramos draws Doc Ock like Travis Charest used to draw Lord Emp in Wildcats.

Animal Man #15 – The Rotworld story keeps chugging along, but as more and more super-powered survivors show up, the story becomes increasingly less about Buddy Baker and his family.  This month, Buddy’s group, consisting of Constantine, Black Orchid, Steel, and Beast Boy get joined by Frankenstein and his new army, as they all travel to Metropolis to rescue a certain well-known hero (but not who you think).  This story is still very good, but I think after fifteen issues, it’s getting a little long in the tooth.  Still, it’s the best non-Vertigo book that Jeff Lemire is writing, and I’m always happy to get a monthly dose of art by Steve Pugh.

Avengers #1 – I’ve been looking forward to seeing what Jonathan Hickman would do with Marvel’s flagship book, and he definitely does not disappoint.  He has the core (ie., the movie) line-up of the team taken apart pretty quickly by a new threat on Mars, which leads to Cap putting in motion an expansion effort that he and Iron Man had thought up earlier.  In a lot of ways, this book hearkens back to Kurt Busiek’s run on the title, where he tried to logically structure a global threat-response team like this, and as always with Hickman, it just makes sense.  I did think that the new villains, especially Ex Nihilo and Abyss, were a little close to the characters in DC’s Dial H (mostly because of their names), and I have no idea what their motivations are, but I’m very much into this.  Enough so that I’m probably not going to complain too much about the double-shipping schedule both this book and New Avengers is going to have (because weekly Hickman is something I can handle).  Jerome Opeña does some nice work on the art, although he does make the villains look like they could be henchmen of Apocalypse left over from his Uncanny X-Force run.  This feels like the most successful Marvel NOW! relaunch yet, and I appreciate how it explains Captain America’s uniform change, if not how the secondary Avengers books (Assemble and Uncanny) fit continuity-wise.

Daredevil End of Days #3 – I am really enjoying the way this out of continuity story set in the future right after Matt Murdock’s death is playing out.  Writers Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack are showing such respect for the character’s past (really, not usually a thing for Bendis), and such love for Ben Urich that I can’t wait for each new issue.  Then, on top of that, there is the wonderful art by Klaus Janson which is finished by Bill Sienkiewicz, that takes me right back to the days when Daredevil was just about the best comic I’d ever read.  This issue has an extra treat, as David Mack paints a few pages of his own, which of course, feature Echo, the character he brought into the DD mythos.  Urich tracks down most of Murdock’s exes, many of whom have red-haired sons it seems, while trying to find out just what Murdock’s last word meant.  It’s very good stuff, and worth the price of admission for the art alone.

Detective Comics #15 – I haven’t been all that impressed with John Layman’s run on Detective, based on the first two issues.  I was hoping for some of the magic I’m used to seeing on Chew, and have liked straight-forward Batman-ness of Layman’s writing, but this is a $4 book with generally minor story points being expanded in a back-up feature, and the art, while decent, is not the kind of thing that would sway me either way in deciding to stick with a title or not.  I decided to give this book one more chance, especially seeing that it tied in to the Death of the Family arc in Batman.  Except it really barely does.  This issue details Batman’s fight with Clayface, who has been manipulated by Poison Ivy.  There is some progression on the Penguin sub-plot, but that looks like it’s getting subsumed by the DotF cross-over.  I like Layman’s writing, I just don’t think I like this book at the $4 level.

Dial H #7 – I continue to find my enjoyment of Dial H increasing with each new issue.  China Miéville has Nelson and Manteau travelling the world looking for a second dial, which Manteau has figured out was recently found by cultists.  There are plenty of humorous moments, a big fight between collectively sentient plankton and a whale, and more terrific art by David Lapham.  With the news this week of Karen Berger’s departure from DC, I wonder what is going to happen to this title, the only non-Vertigo book she’s been editing.  I hope the level of quality remains the same or that it continues to grow.

Earth 2 #7 – This issue is basically two separate ones, as the first half of the book is taken up with a conversation between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl about whether or not Alan Scott is willing to work with her and the Flash (who never shows up).  The second half concerns the goings on at the World Army, where Terry Sloan has been given a position of great power, despite being wanted for mass murder.  Commander Khan, the Sikh Earth 2 answer to Nick Fury, starts to play his own game with regards to his new associate, and we finally meet Wesley Dodds, and find out what happened to Mister Terrific.  I like this book, but the pace is awfully slow, and the story is getting a little too self-referential.  It took six issues to get rid of Grundy, and with the book’s sales declining, I’m worried that the mandatory cross-over with the main DC Universe is going to happen before this book ever gets a clear direction.

Hawkeye #5 – There is just so much to love about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series.  This issue finishes off ‘The Tape’, the two-parter drawn by Javier Pulido, which has Hawkeye fighting ninjas, Madame Masque, and more in Madripoor, as he attempts to recover an incriminating videotape.  It’s all very well choreographed, with the right blend of humour and action.  Pulido is always brilliant, but Fraction is often much less consistent than he’s been on this title, which is quite probably my favourite Marvel book right now.

Hellboy in Hell #1 – As much as I like the Mignola-verse books, I think that Hellboy is the weakest of the bunch, despite its being the place where Mike Mignola started the whole line.  It’s just that every issue seems so predictable – Hellboy will fall down a hole, there will be giant monsters that bash him around, and some sort of mystical creature will speak to him in riddles or confusing prophecy.  That’s basically what happens here in Hellboy in Hell, the story of HB after he died.  Except, now with some Charles Dickens, as Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley show up in a puppet show (it is almost Christmas after all).  Mignola’s art is lovely, but I’m getting bored.  I may not last long with this series…

Invincible #98 – Robert Kirkman has been advertising that the upcoming 100th issue would feature ‘The Death of Everyone’, but I didn’t really expect him to mean it like this.  Having been unmoored in Mark’s absence, Dinosaurus has reverted to his old ways, and in an attempt to save the future of the human race, implements a new plan to cull the species a little now so it will still be around later.  His approach is a little unexpected though, and it looks like the next two issues are going to be splatter-fests once again.  Kirkman really is tough on his fictional worlds…

Iron Man #3 – Things are a little bit better with this issue, but I remain very disappointed in the Marvel NOW! relaunch of Iron Man.  This time around, Tony has to sneak into a Colombian drug lord’s estate to find some Extremis tech, but first he takes some time explaining to Pepper Potts why he’s gone back to using modular armor which he designs before each mission.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with it being more ‘toyetic’ and matching the look of the upcoming movie.  The story is a bit better this month, but Greg Land’s art still manages to annoy and offend in equal measure, and I’d still never guess this was being written by Kieron Gillen if the credits didn’t say so.

Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #4 – The first arc ends here, as some of the various groups of apes we’ve been following through the disaster caused by the launching of a nuclear missile at the moon get through the resulting titular cataclysm.  We also learn what the deal is with the ape who has been at the centre of all of these problems, as Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko reveal what is going to be the major conflict of this series.  I think I preferred the first Boom Planet of the Apes series, but this one is also pretty satisfying.

Shadowman #2 – Now that all of the introductions of the first issue are out of the way, Jack Boniface gets around to fighting some monsters, aided by the two Abettors we’ve met so far.  Jack starts figuring out what’s going on with himself, but we don’t really get a very solid explanation of just what being the Shadowman means.  Still, this is an enjoyable comic, as the rest of the Valiant relaunches have been.

Swamp Thing #15 – Alec Holland continues his journey to Gotham City, where he finds someone in the Bat Cave, just not who you would have expected.  This is a pretty action-based issue, as we watch Swamp Thing fight young William Arcane, and we see what Abby was up to before the Rotworld changes took place.  Marco Rudy does the art, so the book is beautiful.

Thunderbolts #1 – When I saw the line-up for this latest iteration of the Thunderbolts, I was intrigued.  Red Hulk, Elektra, Venom, and the Punisher could make an interesting team (Uncanny X-Force has made me not hate Deadpool as much as I used to, but still), and I’ve always liked Steve Dillon’s art, even if I do find him a little stiff on action scenes.  The reason why this book didn’t immediately get put on the pull-list, and why it won’t be put there now that I’ve read it, is because it’s written by Daniel Way, the undisputed king of needlessly decompressed storytelling.  This issue has General Ross assembling the team, framed by a conversation he’s having with a tied-up Punisher.  Basically, the entire story could have been told in about 8 pages instead of 20.  Adding insult to injury, none of the characters aside from Castle and Ross are named.  I know that most of these are very recognizable, established characters, but the whole idea of Marvel NOW! is to reposition books for new readers (or so I thought).  Also, I have no idea who the woman with purple hair seen fighting the Hulk in is supposed to be.  Apparently she’s going to be on the team, but she doesn’t warrant dialogue or naming.  The art in her sequence is not terribly clear either.  In addition, we don’t know why Ross is assembling a team, or under whose auspices it is going to operate.  Another point I’d like to make is the lack of research put into the visuals.  Venom is seen fighting in Somalia against people who do not look Somali (it’s like Black Hawk Down all over again).  Elektra is in Afghanistan assassinating a sheikh.  I wonder if he’s come there from Saudi Arabia, because I’m pretty sure the Afghanis don’t have sheikhs.  If they do, they probably don’t hire Latino-looking bodyguards.  Basically, so far as first issues go, this is a total failure.  That’s too bad, because this has the potential to be the next Uncanny X-Force, but not with Way writing.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #18.1 – Looking at Marvel’s sales charts recently, I’ve noticed that the .1 issues always fall behind the whole number issues of the series, yet Marvel persists in publishing them.  I think that the entire purpose for this book, which has the Ultimates working to stop a disgruntled nuclear power plant worker from trashing his former place of work with his gigantic tech suit, was to give Tony Stark a new idea to use a suit of armor we’ve already seen in the regular Marvel Universe.  It’s not a bad issue, but it’s not really special either.

X-Factor #248 – Now this is the type of X-Factor that I love most – a nice coherent story that allows for lots of humorous character moments, a role for everyone on the team, and some great art by Paul Davidson.  My enjoyment of this book goes up and down a couple of times a month, but this time, Peter David gets it right.  The team is trying to figure out who attacked Pip, who is now in Monet’s body, which allows for some hilarity.  It’s a good arc, this one.

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

Action Comics #15

All-New X-Men #3

Avenging Spider-Man #15

Fashion Beast #4

Fury MAX #7

Legends of the Dark Knight #3

Womanthology Space #3

X-Men #39

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #32 – As Bendis winds down his run, it seems he’s doing his very best to wrap up a great number of dangling plot-lines, and therefore we have Wonder Man appearing out of nowhere to try to help the team rescue the Wasp from inner space.  He’s turned away, but it’s still an awkward scene.  The rest of the book works better, but there are a lot of very powerful people just standing around talking – at least Bendis is going out as he wants to be remembered.

Captain America #16-19 – These issues round out Ed Brubaker’s eight-year run with Cap, which was excellent up until this latest (pre-Marvel NOW!) relaunch.  The first three of these issues end off the Codename Bravo/Hydra/mind control story (which is a little too similar to what Rick Remender has going on in Uncanny Avengers for my liking), and like the rest of the run in this volume, it feels totally phoned in.  The last issue, number 19, is a return to form for Brubaker, as his original Cap collaborator Steve Epting returns, and we get a nice quiet story about another one of the men who have filled in for Cap over the years.  It’s a little nostalgic, but that’s how I like the ends of legendary runs to be.

Marvel Universe Vs. The Avengers #1 – I picked this up on a lark out of a $1 sale, and I guess this title exists to fill the void left by the demise of What If?, but I’m not sure if that really was a void in the first place.  The book is surprisingly good – a story narrated by Hawkeye who is watching as the entire world undergoes some sort of zombie-like transformation that turns them into cannibals.  The title is a little misleading though, as most of the Avengers don’t make it out of the first issue, leaving me to wonder what’s left for the next three issues.  Jonathan Maberry writes a tight script though, and Leandro Fernandez is always good.  This is quite the niche product though, of a type that I’d thought Marvel was supposed to be cutting back on.

Album of the Week:

Roseaux (featuring Aloe Blacc) – Roseaux – This is one beautiful album.  Aloe Blacc collaborated with a French group a little while back, and it’s taken a long time for the music to surface (on CD in Europe, on MP3 only so far here).  He sings a number of songs that are much more sparse in their instrumentation than you would usually be accustomed to hearing from him, and the result is wonderful.  I’ve seen Blacc criticized before for not having more range as a singer, but this jazzy, meditative album is just about perfect.  Recommended.

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The Weekly Round-Up #139 With Mind MGMT, iZombie, Mind The Gap, Planet Of The Apes & More Mon, 06 Aug 2012 14:00:39 +0000 This feels like a week of endings – mini-series (Mondo), regular series (Rasl, iZombie), story arcs (Thief of Thieves), a universe (Godland), a legal partnership (in Daredevil), and a marriage (T’Charoro?  Orochalla?  Did we ever get a stupid Hollywood-style abbreviation for that?).

Best Comic of the Week:

Mind MGMT #3

by Matt Kindt

I love the fact that it’s not until the end of this third issue that the words ‘Mind MGMT’ are even mentioned in the main story.  Since this series began, we have been following Meru, a True Crime writer who has been trying to track down Henry Lyme, a mysterious figure who may have been responsible for an entire airplane full of people contracting total amnesia at the same time.

Meru has been chased by Immortals – unkillable agents of some sort of organization (Mind MGMT?) and aided by a CIA agent, a crazy woman who writes long rambling prose on a typewriter in Zanzibar, and now a talking dolphin (okay, a spelling dolphin) and an old Chinese man who tells her a legend.

There is definitely a sense of a trail of breadcumbs being left for Meru, a fact that is confirmed by the narrator (who is also revealed this month).

Kindt is taking his time getting this series up and under way, and that is one of the things that I love about it most.  All of the information we have about Mind MGMT so far has come from the short strips on the inside cover (called ‘The Second Floor’) and the case files that make up the last two pages of each issue.  What is slowly emerging is an organization that has influenced advertising and popular media for almost a century, whose goals are unknown to us.

Is Meru going to expose and write about the group?  Are they recruiting her?  I’m not too sure what’s going to happen, but I do know that I like the way Kindt is writing this, and I love his art.  With its washed-out colour scheme and yellowed paper, it is like nothing else on the stands right now.

Other Notable Comics:

iZombie #28

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred

The days of Vertigo being able to sustain long-running series (that aren’t Fables or starring vampires) seem to be long-gone.  iZombie had all of the right elements to be a successful and long-running Vertigo series, but it was not to be.  I think people just don’t like good comics the way they used to.

I am pleased that Roberson was given enough time to finish off this story in a satisfying way.  I’m sure, given more time, the story would have been a little more fleshed out – for example, we never learned much of the connection between Dixie the diner owner and Dixie Mason, the Barbie-like doll that we often saw in the comic.

Still, Roberson did what he could, having Gwen face down the elder god Xitulu, and figure out a way to stop it that didn’t involve having to sacrifice everyone she loves, likes, and has met a few times.  There are some big cosmic moments in this comic, but it remains grounded in the strong character work that made this series flow so well.

iZombie is not the most memorable series that Vertigo has ever published, but it did have a lot going for it – a cool, hipsterish approach to the undead, complete with an explanation that made sense (in a comic book way, of course), likeable characters, and a lot of wonderful art by Michael Allred.  I know this is the last time we will see a Chris Roberson comic published by DC, which is really their loss.  He’s someone whose career I’m going to be following for quite some time, I imagine.

Mind the Gap #3

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback

The thought of building a series around a woman in a coma sounds a little boring, doesn’t it?  Yet, Mind The Gap is anything but, as Jim McCann continues to weave a strange web of deceit and conspiracy around Elle as she lies in her hospital bed, doing everything she can to contact the world outside of her mind.

This issue doesn’t build as much on the mysteries of the last two, and instead introduces other new story elements, such as the house that Elle retreats to in The Garden, the shared mindspace of other coma victims, and the Memory Wall, upon which she is able to project some of the shards of her shattered mind.

As this series progresses, I find that I want to see much more of Dr. Geller than I do any other character, but that’s mostly because she has been the most proactive, in trying to treat Elle, and in trying to figure out what is going on with her colleague, Dr. Hammond, who seems to be working his own agenda here.

The story is smooth, as is Rodin Esquejo’s art.  I’m also really liking the variant covers to this series (Esquejo’s covers look too much like issues of Morning Glories), especially Skottie Young’s contribution this month.

Mondo #3

by Ted McKeever

If there’s one thing in comics that you can always count on, it’s that Ted McKeever’s work, post-Metropol, just keeps getting stranger and more obtuse.

This issue finishes the three-part Mondo series with all the various characters and plot elements coming together at Venice Beach.  A gigantic squid is threatening the Beach, and Catfish, our irradiated Hulked-out main character, shows up to fight it.  As does the mayor.  The girl on roller-skates rolls by too, and the crashing satellite also puts in an appearance.  So do three naked Teletubby-like children, who are apparently monks who protect the giant squid.

I really don’t know what McKeever was trying to say with this series.  His recent META 4 at least seemed structured around some kind of internal logic, but this series has read as one long, strange acid trip of a story, and I think in the end, I’m a little bored of it.

On the positive side, McKeever draws like no one else in the business.  His completely unique style works well for this type of story, but it also makes me think that he just wanted to write a story about a ‘roided up freak, a giant squid, and a hot girl, and this is what he came up with.

The back cover advertises the upcoming McKeever series Blacktop Apocalypse as ‘a transcendental road-trip through the zombie wasteland’.  Even though I’m a little tired of this type of thing, I predict I’ll end up buying this as well.  I just hope it’s a little more focused.

Planet of the Apes Annual #1

Written by Darryl Gregory, Corinna Bechko, Jeff Parker, and Gabriel Hardman
Art by Carlos Magno, John Lucas, Benjamin Dewey, and Gabriel Hardman

Last week Darryl Gregory and Carlos Magno’s Planet of the Apes series ended without resolving everything in the story, but they are already revisiting those characters in this Annual, which has a prequel to their epic.  In this story, Sully, the eventual Mayor of the humans, and Alaya, the future Voice of the ape city of Mak, are still young girls and sisters, each adopted by the Lawgiver.  In a story reminiscent of the school desegregations that happened during the Civil Rights Movement in the States, Sully attends her first day of school with apes.  This story nicely underscores why Gegory’s series has been so good – he finds parallels between human history and current events and how those same stories would play out in a PotA society.

The second story is by Corinna Bechko (co-writer of the upcoming Cataclysm series) and John Lucas.  It’s a cute take on the standard ‘boy and his dog’ story.  Lucas’s art reminds me a little of Mike Ploog’s.

Jeff Parker is the only writer here new to the Apes universe, and he turns in a cool little story about life on the fringes of Ape civilization, where an outpost has developed its own rules and forms of entertainment.  Cool stuff, with terrific art by Benjamin Dewey, an artist I’m not familiar with.

To close off the comic, Gabriel Hardman gives us a prequel to his and Bechko’s ‘Betrayal’ and ‘Exile’ series, featuring the young gorilla soldier Aleron, who would eventually become a celebrated general and lawyer, before becoming an exile.  This story shows us how Aleron lost his eye, and the beginning of his disenchantment with the way Ape society was run.  It’s nice to see Hardman drawing his own stories again.

If you have been on the fence about Boom’s Planet of the Apes stuff, I suggest you use this as a sampler to see what the two main series have been like.  You won’t be disappointed.

Rasl #15

by Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith’s second creator-owned series (actually, aside from Bone and that Captain Marvel book he did, has he done anything else?) comes to its end with this issue, which explains almost everything.

Basically, this series fits into the growing comics sub-genre of ‘Tesla’.  If you are willing to accept that ‘Kirby’ is a genre now (and there is plenty of examples of this), I think it’s time to give over a corner of the market to books influenced or inspired by the great inventor Nikolas Tesla.  This entire series ended up being about Tesla’s ideas and his secret notebooks.

Rasl, our art thief, confronts Sal, the lizard-faced guy who has been chasing him across dimensions since this series started.  After that, we find out who has really been pulling the strings from the beginning, as there is a final showdown over the journals and the use of the St. George’s Array, a powerful energy weapon that has unfortunate consequences on other realities.

This was a smart series, with some great art, but I feel like it dragged a little too much in the middle.  Too many issues felt similar to previous ones, and I had a hard time drumming up any great love for the characters.  As well, there were a few too many mysteries, including one that doesn’t really get resolved (that of the little girl that looks like she stepped out of a Munch painting).

In the final analysis, this was a decent series, but it is in no way going to eclipse Bone as Smith’s greatest work.  I do admire him for trying something so outside of what was expected from him, and will check out his next project, unless it’s specifically designed for children.

Sweet Tooth #36

by Jeff Lemire

The last arc of this series, ‘Wild Game’ begins with this issue, and in his usual fashion, Jeff Lemire starts off by doing something unconventional.  The comic opens with Gus, the main character, dreaming about many of the key events that have happened in this comic so far, before we see some foreshadowing as to how the series will end.  Lemire coloured these pages himself (Jose Villarrubia colours the rest of the comic), in garishly bright watercolours, giving everything that surreal dream-like quality that is so hard to achieve.

Once Gus wakes up, we find that he and his friends have made it to Alaska, where they hope to find the secrets of Gus’s birth, and find the now-deranged Dr. Singh, who has figured out everything that this series is based on – the creatures in the tombs under the ice, the plague, and where Gus really came from.

It doesn’t look like the group is going to have long to puzzle through all this new information though, as Abbot, the militia captain who has been hunting them is also on his way to Alaska.  With three issues remaining, it’s a little easy to predict how things are going to go (especially with Lemire dropping hints at the beginning of the book), but I still look forward to following this book through to its conclusion.

Thief of Thieves #7

Written by Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

I always love that moment in a good heist movie where the perpetrators sit down and explain what all went on off-screen, to show how the audience, like the police, were chasing the wrong thing, or were seeing events from the wrong angle.  Kirkman and Spencer pull off that same moment in this issue, as Redmond explains to his assistant the secrets behind his supposed ‘snitching’ out of his peers.

This is a masterful issue, showing Redmond to be as smart as we’ve been told he is since the series began, and showing the FBI Agent who has become obsessed with him as the victim of her own hubris.  Everything here is very nicely balanced, and Shawn Martinbrough does a great job of tying it all together visually.

I know that with the next issue, James Asmus is coming on board as the writer, and continuing with a new story arc.  I’m of mixed feelings about that – this issue ends so well, that I kind of feel like this would be the right place to finish the series.  I’m definitely on board to keep buying the book, but I worry that, like too many comics series, sometimes people don’t know when to just finish their story and move on (like Fables).  I would hate to see this series end up in the same predicament.

Quick Takes:

Animal Man #12 - I’ve mentioned more than a few times how for me, the high-point of Animal Man’s career, beyond even the Grant Morrison days, was when Jamie Delano and Steve Pugh were doing the book at Vertigo.  One of my favourite characters during that run was Mary, Ellen Baker’s mother.  This issue opens with a confrontation between her and Buddy Baker that shows me that Jeff Lemire really understands that character, and the importance of family to this title.  In a lot of ways, I can’t wait for all this Rotworld stuff to finish, so we can see where Lemire goes next with the only family in the DC Universe to feel real.  The rest of the issue is great too – Buddy, Maxine, and Ellen travel into the swamp to meet up with Swamp Thing, and then the two heroes travel to the realm of the Rot.  There are some great moments in this comic, and Lemire and Scott Snyder work well together, bringing potential new readers up to date (this is a great jumping-on point, if you are curious about this book), and advancing the story.  Of course, I’m very thankful that Pugh is drawing this title again; it looks great.

Avengers Academy #34 – While this is not tied-in to Avengers Vs. X-Men, this issue does make plenty of reference to that event, most notably when Hazmat, on the first page, says, “…this Avengers vs. X-Men crap just keeps dragging on.”  Brilliant.  We haven’t seen any announcements about this yet, but I’m going to predict that this title is going to be ending after this arc.  It really feels like Christos Gage is wrapping up long-running storylines, bringing back Veil, Jocasta, and that Jeremy Briggs guy, who ‘cures’ Hazmat and Mettle of their powers, and then goes on to prove that he actually is the villain that everyone always thought he was.  This is a good issue, if a little over-wrought in places.  Tom Grummett has returned to the art, which is a little disappointing.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 - When this series started, it was designed in such a way as to show that the Avengers were more or less in the wrong, being insensitive to the mutant condition, and bullying a minority group to get their way like they were a bunch of Republicans.  Now, though, we are given more and more evidence that the Phoenix Force is making the remaining powered-up mutants crazy, so the Avengers are heroes again.  There’s nothing like shifting characterizations to make a big summer ‘Event’ more confusing than it needs to be, right?  Still, this issue has some nice moments, specifically around Spider-Man stepping up into the Avengers role, and seeing some of the X-Men defect to the Avengers’ side.  There were also some bizarre moments, including the dissolution of the Black Panther and Storm’s marriage (without Mephisto, but still feeling editorially-mandated), and a scene that shows Professor X slicing up demons with psi-knives, something that even Psylocke, the inventor of the psi-knife, can’t do.  There’s also a very out-of-place scene that shows Emma Frost exacting revenge on a ‘mutant killer’ somewhere on the Earth when one page before, she was seen meditating in a desert in Ethiopia.  Ah, comics by committee…

Daredevil #16 – Mark Waid uses this issue to give us a bit of a preview of what his Avengers Assemble is likely to be like, as most of the issue stars Hank Pym, Tony Stark, and Dr. Strange more than it does Daredevil.  After being cured of the Latverian nanobots that have been messing with his senses, Matt returns to the office, where Foggy reveals what was in his desk before giving him the boot.  It’s a good issue, but it sounds like it’s time for Matt to get all depressed and mopey again.  Except that the next issue is being drawn by Michael Allred, who doesn’t really do depressed…

Defenders #9 – This series continues to defy simple plotting, as the team (minus Namor, despite him being on the cover) find themselves in some alternate 1960s, trying to get in touch with Nick Fury, who is in turn battling Hydra, as he always does.  It’s a fun issue, with a terrific double-page spread by Jamie McKelvie, but I don’t really know what’s going on, nor what Matt Fraction is trying to do with the book.  Is this series going to survive Marvel Now!?  I kind of doubt it…

Dial H #4 - Even more is explained in this issue, as we get an understanding of who the Squid guy and the Abyss are, and Manteau’s secret is revealed.  China Mieville is doing some very cool things with this comic – it’s very non-traditional to be considered part of the New 52 continuity, and this month, has contributed a character in Rescue Jack that can be easily cosplayed by many, many comics fans.

Earth 2 #4 – I was starting to get irritated with this book last month, but this issue, which has most of the characters we’ve been introduced to so far (no sign of Mr. Terrific though) coming together to fight Grundy in Washington.  The Atom makes a rather large debut, and we get a little more information on Hawkgirl.  The pace is nice and quick, and the interactions between the characters are handled well.  I’m not sure I’m interested in next month’s zero issue flashback, but I am curious to see where this book goes next.

Godland #36 – This book is eleven months late, and the last issue came out in December, so I think I can be forgiven for not really remembering, or caring, about what was going on in this over-sized penultimate issue that had Adam Archer face R@d-Ur Rezz in final conflict.  There is tons of cosmic mumbo-jumbo, and a few funny lines, but I feel like all the steam went out of this series a ways back, and I’m only just buying it still to finish off the collection (and because I pre-ordered the stuff a year ago).  Still, Tom Scioli really delivers with some incredible images in this issue.  I wonder if this series will end before the last issue of Butcher Baker is published…

Hawkeye #1 - I really had no idea what to expect from this book.  It’s been proven time and again that Hawkeye can’t hold his own book for very long in today’s market, but with two-thirds of the creative team that gave us Immortal Iron Fist present, I figure anything would deserve a chance.  The story here is downright strange – Clint spends months recovering from injuries, only to discover that the tenants in the building he sometimes lives in are being pushed out by a greedy Russian mafioso landlord.  Clint decides to do something about it, but because of his actions a dog gets hurt, and that makes him sad.  Seriously.  David Aja’s art is brilliant, but Matt Fraction should have to give some portion of his pay on this comc to charity every time a character uses the word ‘bro’.  He’d be broke.  I’m with this book as long as Aja is, but I’m hoping it picks up fast.

Invincible Iron Man #522 – Even though this book is coming out way too often (doesn’t Salvador Larroca deserve a rest?), the quality has stayed pretty consistent.  We finally figure out what Mandarin is up to with his giant robot things, as Tony continues to work with him and fixes Ezekiel Stane.  Rhodey, meanwhile, gets involved in a big fight with some of Mandarin’s people and the Detroit Steel bunch, and needs to be rescued by Rescue (remember when she was supposed to be defense-only?).  As much as I’m enjoying this, I’m very excited to learn that Kieron Gillen is going to be taking over Iron Man after Matt Fraction leaves.  It’s too bad he’s working with Greg Land, but I still expect some more good things to come from this title.

Swamp Thing #12 – Continuing from this week’s Animal Man, Buddy and Alec enter the Rot, where they find that Anton Arcane had already made plans for them, which will lead to the next story arcs, which will split the two heroes again.  Lemire and Snyder have done a great job of constructing this story, and telling it in a unique way.  This is a good issue (perhaps not as strong as the Animal Man one, but with a lot more plot to get through), and Marco Rudy draws the whole issue, so that is good.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13 - I really am blown away by the amount of emotion that Brian Michael Bendis is able to pack into any given issue of this book, but this issue stands out in terms of its excellent writing.  Miles is dealing with the death of his uncle, The Prowler last issue, and is wrestling with his amount of responsibility in that.  The newspapers and cops think that he killed him, and he’s not too sure himself what happened.  There is a scene where Miles’s father comes to tell him that his uncle is dead, and it is written and drawn perfectly.  Also, a few other Ulimate Universe luminaries decide it’s time for them to meet Miles, and it’s hard to tell how that is going to work out.  Oh, and the issue has Ultimate Batroc in it!  Bendis and David Marquez are doing the work of their careers on this book, and it amazes me, because I’m starting to hate Bendis on every other title.

X-Factor #241 – Things feel much more on track as Peter David starts a new arc, ‘Breaking Points’, which looks to be about tearing the team apart and stuff.  The other-dimensional bad guys that Madrox fought a few months ago make their play, while the team bickers and makes fun of Havok’s costume.  It’s a fun issue.

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

Action Comics #12

Avenging Spider-Man #10

Fury Max #5

X-Men #33

Bargain Comics:

Blue Beetle #7-10 – Tony Bedard has firmly moved this series into new territory, as he has Jaime run away to New York to avoid the problems that the Scarab has caused his family.  There are run-ins with lame super-villains, some of the New Guardians, and Director Bones and his people.  Through all of it, Jaime remains a thoroughly likeable character.  I wonder if it’s time to start picking up new issues of this comic…

New Avengers #27 – Bendis finishes off his K’un Lun Phoenix retcon with this issue (which is a little hard to follow), and then gives us a couple funny moments where Spider-Man is left in charge of training Hope, despite his having no idea how to do that.  I think it’s interesting that Kieron Gillen always wrote Hope as a character driven by her sense of her own destiny, but Bendis makes her a jokey, difficult teenager.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #9-12 – Having been impressed with Brian Wood’s debut on this title, I figured it made sense to catch up on the book and the end of Nick Spencer’s run.  The problem with Spencer’s work on this title is that it’s too all over the place.  Of these four issues, three of them are set in Camp Angel, showing as Storm ends up leading a revolt on the human forces that have imprisoned all mutants, only to have her plans thwarted by the rather unexplained appearance of the Nimrod Sentinels.  There are about three pages in all those issues given over to Kitty Pryde.  All of the last issue is about Havok, who is in a mental institute until he is rescued by a mutant whose identity isn’t shown until the last page, when a new threat is also introduced.  Spencer tried to do too much with this book, and to tell his stories in a highly decompressed way.  Those two things do not go well together, and the title suffered for it.

Wolverine #309 – This is a very attractive comic, as Rafael Albuquerque and Jason Latour trade art duties on a done-in-one extra-sized issue that is basically a sequel to the old Havok/Wolverine Meltdown series from the 1980s, which was painted by Kent Williams and Jon J. Muth.  This issue also uses the character Elixir, who hasn’t been seen since Rick Remender relaunched X-Force.  I enjoyed the comic (written by Ivan Brandon) and especially the art, although this quickly fell into the usual traps of the Wolverine one-shot.

X-Club #3 – So this week we learned that Si Spurrier is going to be writing one of the X-titles as part of the Marvel Now! initiative, and based on his work on this series, that should be fun, so long as he gets to use Dr. Nemesis.  This is a funny comic, but as it’s been a while since I read the first two issues, I no longer remember what’s going on.

The Week in Manga:

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 6

Written by Eiji Otsuka
Art by Housui Yamazaki

I think this is the strangest volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service that I’ve read so far.  A usual volume has four to six chapters, which are usually self-contained stories, but occasionally a story will take up two or three chapters.  This volume has six chapters, and tells a total of three stories, one of which doesn’t feature any of the regular characters in this comic.

The first story has the group, which carries out the last wishes of the recently deceased, and takes their corpses where they want to go, return to their roots, in Japan’s famous Aokigahara Forest, where many people go to commit suicide.  The problem is, there aren’t many corpses to be found, as the local postal office has begun branching out into the Kurosagi’s territory, by offering their own corpse delivery service.

In the next story, a woman’s body is discovered in an apartment.  When the Kurosagi group show up to offer their services, they discover that a new rival, the Shirosagi Corpse Cleaning Service has beaten them to the scene.  There’s something odd about these Shirosagi people though, as we learn when another body is found in the attic to the apartment (found only after Numata, the KCDS’s dowser, moves into the apartment for its cheap rent).  This leads to a long story which is not fully resolved in this volume, a first for this series.

After that, there are two chapters of a gaiden story.  This is translated as a ‘side story’, something peculiar to Japanese comics.  This one is set in the past, around the beginning of the 20th century, and involves a killer murdering women in Tokyo.  It is especially notable for two reasons – it brings the Jack the Ripper myth to Japan, and it features a young boy with some strange abilities who has facial scars matching those of the ghost that is always protecting Karatsu.  It’s a good story, but it only makes me more curious to find out what the connection between this child and Karatsu is.

This book is always a good read, and that has not changed with this volume.  I love the way that Otsuka blends humour into his horror, and continue to appreciate the editor’s notes in the back, which cover most of the cultural references that don’t otherwise translate into English.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Outlaw Territory Volume 2

Edited by Michael Woods

Reading through this anthology of western comics, I started to wonder if such a thing could have ever existed were it not for the HBO show Deadwood, which treated cursing as Shakespearean oration, but also made it okay to portray the Old West in terms of gender, race and class.

Anyway, as with any anthology of this size (almost 250 pages), there is a lot of variety when it comes to quality in this book.  Some of the better pieces belonged to Rich Johnston and Tom Fowler, who started the book off on an amusing note; Michael Woods and Rafael Albuquerque; Jeremy Barlow and Dustin Weaver (whose art is incredible, and very European); A. Freeman, M. Bernardin, and D. Lafrance; John Whalen and Werther Dell’Edera; Josh Wagner and Jose Jaro (whose art I though belonged to Skullkicker’s Edwin Huang at first, it’s so similar); Robert Kirkman and Shaun O’Neil; Joshua Hale Fialkov and Jeff Lemire (that’s an interesting creative team); Christian Beranek and Vivian Lee (exploring the contributions of Chinese workers to the railroads); Francesco Francavilla (probably the prettiest story in this book); Moritat (with what I assume is a tribute to Moebius’s Lt. Blueberry comics, as the protagonist’s name is J. Giraud); and Joshua Dysart and Paul Azaceta.

One reason why I enjoy these types of books is because they invariably expose me to an artist whose work I’ve never seen before.  There are a few people I’d like to see more from, including Rick Lacy, Jorge Coelho, Connor Willumsen (who has a bit of a Paul Pope thing going on), and Diego Tripoli.

In all, this is a successful anthology.

Book of the Week:

Dany Laferrière – I Am a Japanese Writer  This is a bizarre little novel that has the writer, a Haitian who has come to live in Montreal, deciding to name his next book ‘I Am A Japanese Writer’, and then proceed to figure out just what that means.  This declaration of Japanese-ness sets off a small cultural revolution in Japan, but the narrator just spends his days reading 17th Century Japanese poetry and bothering his landlord.  This is not as personal a book as Laferrière’s other novels, but I found that I enjoyed it all the same.

Album of the Week:

Dr. No’s Kali Tornado Funk – As it turns out, Oh No had a number of unused beats from his Ohnomite project, and decided to turn them over to his instrumentalist alter ego Dr. No for full exploitation.  This is a much better album than Ohnomite – Oh No’s beats are great, and shouldn’t be sullied with the list of tired and uninspired rappers he insists on working with.

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The Weekly Round-Up #136 With The Massive, American Vampire, Bad Medicine, Chew, Conan & More Mon, 16 Jul 2012 14:00:08 +0000 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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