Weekly Round-Up #8

It was the last week for back-issue sales at my comic store, which also means it’s the last week for a while (hopefully) where I’ll be buying too many comics.

Best Comic of the Week:

Unknown Soldier #16

Written by Joshua Dysart

Art by Alberto Ponticelli

One thing that has nagged at me since the beginning of this series is the spectre of cultural appropriation. Dysart is telling a very African story in his reimagining of the classic DC war comics character. Moses may have been raised in America, but he is Ugandan at his heart, and the story that plays out in this comic is very specific to Uganda (although sadly, could be set in many other African nations with only minor changes to details). So, the voice in my head that is still in university asked, why should a white American be the one to tell this story?

The fact that the story is so well written, sensitive, and compelling did a lot to quiet that voice, much as taking the ‘mato oput’ helped quiet the voice in Moses’s head. The inclusion of Congolese artist Pat Masioni also lent a certain authenticity to things as well.

Now, with this issue, Dysart seems to be addressing the issue of cultural appropriation head on when he has Moses meditate, throughout the book, on the commonality of peoples’ facial expressions and emotions in the world. Perhaps he did not intend this acknowledgment of my concern, but it has helped erase it as unnecessary, in the face of such a good story.

And a good story this is. Moses has a confrontation with the Captain of the government forces in the camp, as he tries to discover the identity of the doctor’s killer. He also speaks with the woman that is being accused of witchcraft, and begins to attempt to replace the camp’s doctor, an almost impossible task after the theft of his medical supplies and the effects of the dry season on the camp’s water. Oh, and there’s a rhinoceros.

Ponticelli’s art has the same textured look as the last issue, and I find every page more compelling than the last. This book has really become an incredible read, and is now one of my most anticipated monthly books.

Other Notable Books:

Chew #8

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

Here we are, three issues into the ‘International Flavor’ arc, and the writer seems more concerned with introducing new story elements than dealing with the ones already established. There is nothing to do with the vampire from last issue here, as instead, Chu joins up with the Yamapula Chief of Police to track down a well-known rooster used in cockfights.

As usual with Chew though, it’s not so much the plot elements that matter as it is the overall feel of the book, which continues to be unique in the comics market.

As the book progresses, I notice that Tony does not seem as reluctant to use his ‘gifts’ as he did before, willingly drinking blood in this issue, and once again contemplating nibbling on a corpse. It seems like it has only taken a short amount of time for his character to change, which doesn’t feel totally realistic.

Northlanders #24

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Leandro Fernandez

As the winter continues, the settlement begins to run out of food and hope. Gunborg, the big greedy guy in charge of security decides to take a small group of men out of the settlement to travel to the next closest town, to assess the plague there and to hopefully trade. His journey remains hidden from us, although I imagine it will be addressed in the next issue.

At the same time, Hilda, the titular plague widow, receives much attention from a variety of potential suitors, although none of it appears to be very welcomed.

Wood uses this issue to give us some insight into the religious sentiments within the settlement, elucidating on how these Northmen, while having adopted Christianity, are still very much products of the ‘old ways’. This is a very powerful arc.

Okko: The Cycle of Earth #4

by Hub with Emmanuel Michalak

This got past me the other week, so I’m late in reviewing it, but considering this title’s publication history, no one should be casting blame.

The second Okko cycle has drawn to a close, and I find I am enjoying this title, even though it is a little hard to follow in places, due to the smaller size of North American comics when compared to French ones. I recently flipped through some of the original French volumes of this book, and found the art worked much better in that format, although the French was beyond my meager ability to translate.

Hub’s storytelling is definitely convoluted, as he crams the pages full of action and characters. There is only a limited amount of character development in this issue compared to the last one, but I am still intrigued to find out more about this group of heroes as they continue on their journeys. The marriage of French and Japanese sensibilities makes this book unique and interesting.

Resurrection #7

Written by Marc Guggenheim and Aubrey Sitterson
Art by Justin Greenwood and Brett Weldele

This is another strong issue of Resurrection. Guggenheim’s story takes some time for character work as the two Secret Service guys watch over the armored car our protagonists and Bill Clinton are sleeping in, although they don’t do a very good job of guarding it.

Guggenheim also introduces a new element into the story in the form of a group of people who have been worshiping the bugs, which has had the effect of keeping Baltimore safe throughout the invasion, and making it the nicest city in the world (which is ironic, since there are large sections of Baltimore today that look like the rest of the world does in this comic).

The back up, but Sitterson and Weldele is a nice little exploration of the ‘Burns’, the people that had been experimented on by the Bugs. Weldele colours his own work here, strengthening the comparison I usually make between him and Ben Templesmith.

The Sword #21

by the Luna Brothers

With only a few issues remaining for this comic, the Lunas decide to forgo a lot of action this issue, in favor of having Dara and Justin really explore their motivations and characters, and its probably the best issue I’ve read of this title in a while.

Dara takes a long hard look at herself, and the usually annoying and whiny Justin mans up, setting the story up for the final fight between Dara and Malia. The Lunas have always had great art, but I feel like they are really growing as writers with this issue.

The Walking Dead #69

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

If this book has been missing anything in recent months, it’s been zombies. Well, this issue more than makes up for that, as Rick, Abraham, and new character Aaron take a side-trip into DC to rescue some of Aaron’s people who had sent up a flare that they were in trouble.

This leads to a nice big zombie scene set down the street from the Capital Building, which is pretty cool. More importantly, these events help solidify with the group the importance of joining Aaron’s ‘community’, which does look to be a safe, pleasant place to live. Of course, we’ve seen that before…

The Walking Dead remains one of my favourite monthly books.

Wasteland #27

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Christopher Mitten

Wasteland appears to be on a bit of a Rashomon tip these days, as events in Newbegin are being explored through different perspectives with each issue. Where last issue was centred on Yan, this one is focused on Jakob, the sunner turned High Disciple, who has to deal with split allegiances and distrust from all sides.

I’ve always admired this comic for the level of detail paid to world-building and character development. This issue is another strong example of this, as Johnston slow-builds the coming conflict between Marcus’s people and the Sunners of Newbegin.

It’s nice to see Golden Voice again, although I was surprised to see him embracing a violent approach, it doesn’t seem to suit his gentle character, as he was portrayed in earlier appearances.

The ‘Walking the Dust’ textpiece is as good as usual as well.

Quick Takes:

The Atom and Hawkman #46If Hawkman is just a Black Lantern, then the title of this comic is basically cheating, isn’t it?  Kind of like when the solicitation and cover say the art is by Ryan Sook, but then most of it is by Fernando Pasarin (who is a good artist, he’s just no Sook).  Disappointing.  Also, why does the rest of the Indigo tribe look so silly?

Avengers: The Initiative #32 – This is how tie-in books should be done; Gage focuses on a few small characters roles in the big picture of Siege; namely Taskmaster,  Constrictor, and Diamonback, with a short interlude featuring the ex-Initiative Avengers team.  The end is probably a huge spoiler for next week’s issue of Siege though….

Batman and Robin #7 – I love the storytelling approach Morrison takes with this issue, as it takes most of the issue to get all the important details of the plot, but none of this really matters as you read it, because Morrison is really good at this stuff.  Stewart is the perfect artist to make the Knight’s costume not look ridiculous, as Morrison once again gives the Squire more stage time than he does her partner.  It’s about time Dick gets around to trying to bring Bruce back, in a non-Black Lantern way.

Captain America Reborn #6 – Well, it finally came out (just before Cap plays a major role in Siege), and it’s exactly what I expected it to be (is it a spoiler to say that Captain America is ‘reborn’?).  This whole series was Brubaker doing a Michael Bay version of Captain America, which may have had some appeal to some, but I’m looking forward to reading the other Cap stories that have been piling up lately that I’ve refused to read until this came out more than I anticipated reading this comic.

Captain America – Who Will Wield the Shield #1 – This is more like it – character driven, well written, less event-y.  I also like the fact that Bucky’s sticking around, too much has been invested in his character to side-line him now.  I like the Steve Eptingesque Captain America house-style art, although the pages with Cap and Obama look really odd though; apparently Steve Rogers doesn’t know how to pick out a suit that fits him.

Captain America #602 – I’ve missed this title being so good, as Bucky Cap and Falcon go off to track down Evil 50’s Cap in that ‘other America’ that I’ve read about, but have had little occasion to experience, where no one trusts the government, but everything said on Republican radio must be taken as gospel truth.  The Nomad back-up, I think I could do without, which is going to have to force a decision I’d rather not have to make, namely pay extra for the Cap story, or tradewait it.  I hope McKeever improves this.

Daredevil #504 Okay, so Matt’s acting pretty out of character, but I don’t really care, because I’m enjoying this interpretation of the character a lot, especially with DeLa Torre’s awesome artwork.  I don’t know how this book will jibe with the coming “Heroic Age”, and I hope Marvel lets Diggle play the story out as he intends.

Detective Comics #861 – This is the second comic this week where Batwoman teams up with Batman, and this is by far the more conventional of the two.  Jock hands in some nice art, although I’m sure there will be lots of complaining that he is not JH Williams.  One thing that confused me though – why is Dick wearing the yellow-oval Batman suit?  The Question back-up is decent as usual.

Fantastic Four #575 – Marvel has been promoting their upcoming ‘Heroic Age’, with a return to old-fashioned light-hearted comics, without realizing that Hickman has already taken their oldest title there.  The Mole Man comes to get help in dealing with an abandoned underground city of the High Evolutionary’s that de-volves Moloids.  It’s a strange story that feels more like it’s setting up some crazy future storylines.  It’s hard to see where Hickman is going with this book, and that’s what I like about it.

Green Lantern #50 – I know a lot of people are really into Blackest Night, but I think I’m officially bored of it now, especially as this issue has to drag Parallax out of the vault of bad ideas.

Guardians of the Galaxy #22 – This is a great issue, as the Guardians team up with the Luminals to rescue Moondragon from the Universal Church of Truth, Cynosure gets over herself, and the last page brings about an obvious, but welcome, hint as to where the book is going.  Abnett and Lanning are doing such a wonderful job on their cosmic titles at Marvel.

New Avengers #61 – It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Siege, but it’s another good issue of New Avengers, with some great dialogue between Spider-Man and Spider-Woman.  Have the Avengers fought anyone other than the Hood’s crew or Osborn in the last two years?

Punisher #13 – I’m having trouble deciding how much I care about the new Frankenstein-Punisher.  The story is crazy madcap fun, but I’m not sure how long it will hold my interests.

Secret Warriors #12 – Things feel a lot more structured and linear this month, although this current arc does still seem to jump all over the place.  It’s all building up to something big, I assume.  Caselli’s stuff looks good here.

Superman #696 – I really hope that the War of the Supermen is going to be worth all the build-up, because it’s taking a long time to get there.  The last-page reveal is either really cool, or kind of annoying, as it stretches credibility to its breaking point.  I haven’t decided yet.

X-Factor #201 – Another really strong issue.  Since renumbering the book at 200, it’s felt like X-Factor has been able to shake off some of the apathy of the previous, overlong storyline, and rejuvenate itself with this mystery story involving the Fantastic Four, and now, Dr. Doom.  There are elements that confuse me – I thought that Lyla wouldn’t know so much ‘stuff’ now, as I doubt that the historical records she’d have had access to in the future are all that detailed.  Shatterstar’s teleportation powers are silly when they require him to stand and pose like that.

X-Force #23 – I still see this as my guilty pleasure book – it’s a little trashy and sensationalistic, especially in the way it just keeps killing off minor characters (not so happy about Diamond Lil here – even if I had forgotten about her completely) and getting increasingly sadistic.  I like it better when Choi is handling the art though, as I find Crain’s stuff, especially this issue, to look a little out of focus.

X-Men Legacy #232 – Carey’s done some great work with the X-characters, but this isn’t it.  The Necrosha tie-in is only tangentially related to the main storyline, and is a little dull.  Also, Mann’s art looks pretty rushed.

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

Astro City: The Dark Age Book 4 #1

Ultimate Comics Enemy #1

Bargain Books:

Deadlocke #1 – I picked this up because of Arvid Nelson’s name being on the cover.  Apparently it has something to do with a young adult novel series, but it’s not something I want to know anything more about.  Too much teen angst and ambiguous plotting for me…

Dynamite Pilot #1

by Spanky Cermak

It’s hard to review this comic, because my issue was misprinted, repeating certain pages randomly, instead of running the pages that were supposed to be their originally.

Even with the confusion that this caused, it’s easy to see that this is a very cool comic. It’s about a young man who works as a ‘dynamite pilot’, the person who pilots large missiles into the sides of Great Sky Whales, large vessels that carry tons of supplies. The Pilots world (or territory) has been taken over by the Disintians, an apparently fascistic group of people. The Pilot’s people try to fight back, and to live off the husks of the Sky Whales they manage to down.

Within all of this, there’s something about our Pilot being a ‘chosen one’, and a person of great importance to his tribe and people. There’s not a lot of character-building in this first issue, the focus instead being on establishing the world the comic is set upon.

This comic has a real ‘Dune’ vibe to it, with its open deserts and Fremen-like culture. The art is quite nice, reminding me a little of Jamie Hewlett. Searching around on-line, I can’t tell if more of these are being published or not, but I would definitely read more about this character.

Jack of Fables #41 – This book now bears less resemblance to its roots than The Incredible Hercules does to The Incredible Hulk.  I don’t know why Willingham and Sturges have taken this direction, but I’ve confirmed that it’s not for me.

Peng

by Corey Lewis

Corey Lewis is a creator about whom I can’t seem to make up my mind. His work is on the same level as Brandon Graham and James Stokoe, both of whom I love, but seems to be missing some secret ingredient that those two cartoonists share. I think the problem might be that he doesn’t imbue much life into his characters.

Peng is a good example of this. It’s a comic book about an Advanced Kickball tournament. Four teams have made it to the ‘final four’, and we are given a quick overview of each of these teams, before diving straight into the action of the different games. The elimination games conclude, and we jump straight into the final game between two of the teams. There is very little time, amid the frenetic art and exciting gameplay, to get to know (and by extension, care about) anyone.

It’s too bad too, because the comic is otherwise pretty cool. The game of advanced kickball is neat. There are all sorts of special moves with kung-fu inspired names, and a variety of unique players. Sharknife shows up, as does Scott Pilgrim in a short, and inspired, cameo role.

Lewis’s art is pretty crazy – it’s all over the map and hard to understand. I think that his work needs to be seen in colour to be appreciated, as his recent Longshot story in Marvel’s Strange Tales anthology was much easier to understand. Still, this is an entertaining read.

Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard #3 – This is better than the first two issues, with the Guardsmen beginning to emerge as individual characters and not just LSH rip-offs, and there’s finally some follow-up on the Realm of Kings one-shot, with an appearance of a character from that book.

The Shield #1 – I’d always suspected that I would like this title, and I’m glad to see I was right.  Trautmann is an under-utilized writer, and he’s got some good ideas with what to do with this character.  I don’t know how long this title will stick around, but if it weren’t for the back-up I have no interest in costing an extra dollar, I’d be adding it to my pull-list.

The Week’s Graphic Novels:

Farscape: D’Argo’s Lament

Written by Keith RA DeCandido
Art by Neil Edwards and Juan Castro

When I originally saw that Boom was going to be publishing comics based on Farscape, I decided that I’d read the issues that were continuations of the series, and that had a high degree of involvement from Rockne O’Bannon, the series creator. The ancillary titles, such as the D’Argo comics set between episodes of the show could be skipped, as they ‘didn’t matter’, in my thinking.

My opinion of that changed when I started reading D’Argo’s Trial, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit (despite my unwillingness to pay full price for it). So, when I saw this book at a used book store, I figured it was worth the risk. And now, I know I was right the first time.

This story is set back when D’Argo was first learning to pilot his ship Lo’la (not that it factors into the story), and he and Jool go off on a supply run. In typical Farscape fashion, they quickly get caught up in a battle for supremacy between two mob lieutenants on a planet where Moya’s crew bumped off their leader a year previous (and in a short story by DeCandido also included in the book, more about which later).

It sounds like a good enough set-up for a good Farscape story, although a lot of important elements are missing, notably proper characterization of D’Argo and Jool. Their blossoming friendship was a key component of the episode that supposedly precedes this story, yet that is not touched upon at all here.

The art in the book is pretty bad. The aliens seem to be naked squid and snail people, and backgrounds are barely rendered. The art appears very rushed and stiff, completely unlike the excellent work done on the Trials mini-series.

The story included in the back reads like straight-up fan fiction, where DeCandido has taken the Return of the Jedi Jabba the Hut plot, and translated it into a Farscape story. When Chrichton impersonates a Peacekeeper officer, his fake name is not even given, just used by the narrator a few paragraphs later.

My final complaint is that the covers of the original issues are not included in the hardcover. I hate when companies do that, especially when each issue had two or three covers to begin with. Looking at them on-line, I see that they would have been the best art in the book.

Grrl Scouts

by Jim Mahfood

Jim Mahfood is one of those artists who I always felt I should read more of. Although not all of his output has grabbed my interest, I really liked his story in Popgun, and have been meaning to give his comics adaptation of the second Felt album another read.

I came across Grrl Scouts recently, and felt it was worth a try. This is a pretty enjoyable story, fitting somewhere on a map around Brian Wood’s ‘Couriers‘ graphic novels. The Grrl’s, Gwen, Daphne, and Rita are urban warriors, drug kingpins, graffiti queens, comic nerds, and more, all wrapped into three gorgeous packages. They hang out in a place called Freak City, where they deliver their drugs in ‘Grrl Scout’ cookie boxes, and chill.

Their activities attract the attention of the Brotherhood of the Cracker, a Templar-style organization, who decide to shut them down. Of course, it doesn’t work, and the girls go to war. A fairly typical set-up for this type of comic, but one that is effective nonetheless.

Mahfood’s art is very cool, and I like the use of gray tones throughout the comic. The story loses a bit of steam around the part where one of the Grrls reunites with her father, but otherwise moves at a good pace. I particularly enjoy the flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter, showing the grrls as young kids. This is a good comic.

Album of the Week:

Dessa – A Badly Broken Code Doomtree!!!!

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