Weekly Round-Up #9

This was a very strong week, with a couple of books battling it out for the ‘best of the week’ title.  Were it not for Demo, it might have been a tie between Criminals and Scalped.

Best Comic of the Week:

Demo Vol. 2 #1

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Becky Cloonan

The news that Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan were returning to Demo, their early collaboration, had me very excited. I read the collection of the AIT/PlanetLar series a few years ago (having totally missed the boat on the original issues), and was blown away by the duo’s use of the ‘done in one’ story format to create strong characters and tell interesting stories. Originally, the comics were supposed to be about young people with super-powers, but that conceit seemed to melt away as the series progressed, turning instead into singularly strong individual stories.

Now the series has returned at Vertigo, for a six-issue run. This first issue features Joan, a young woman from San Francisco who has a dream about a woman falling in a church or cathedral. The dream has such power for her that she is unable to sleep for days, obsessing over finding its location and meaning. When she realizes that the dream takes place in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, she books a flight and rushes off to rescue the person she dreamt about.

The story is quite straight-forward, and Wood leaves Cloonan with a lot of space to tell the story visually. Her art looks very different here from what I’ve come to expect. Her figures and faces are not immediately recognizable as her’s (especially when compared to the preview pages for next issue included in the back of the book). That Cloonan experiments with her style and approach for different types of stories in Demo is exactly what I appreciated most about the original series, and I’m glad to see that continue here. As always though, her work is gorgeous.

I’m pleased that Vertigo has chosen to publish this book in black and white, and in a style very similar to the original series, including ample space for backmatter from Wood and Cloonan. That was something I enjoyed as much as the comic when I read Local, and I am always interested in hearing about how these two artists approach their craft. This should be a lure for anyone considering waiting for the trade on this series.

Other Notable Titles:

Criminal: The Sinners #4

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Through the penultimate chapter of this latest volume of Criminal, Brubaker keeps up the tension, as Tracy has to deal with the military man hunting him, meet with the triad, and have another assignation with his boss’s wife.

Of most interest in this issue is the way in which Brubaker works with the character of Noah, having him help Tracy on two different occasions, where it would have made more sense to ignore what was happening. Noah’s motivations, along with those of his two friends and the priest that has been directing them, have not been explored yet; I assume that will be taking place next issue.

Greek Street #8

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Davide Gianfelice

Saying this is a strange issue of Greek Street is a little like referring to a curry as spicy, totally redundant, but this issue does deviate some from the patterns that Milligan had established for the series.

To begin with, the dancer who usually narrates the story has entered it as a character (not that she does much). Also, Dedalus, the police detective, seems to appear as his original, ancient Greek, self for one scene. Eddie, who I think is our hero, manages to experience one of Cassie’s visions, although she doesn’t see it herself, and some random Islamist terrorist appears right at the end of the book, with no exposition or proper introduction.

I have found this comic interesting, but sometimes feel it’s a little like holding on to a wet eel.

Scalped #34

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by RM Guera

This just might be the bloodiest issue of Scalped yet, as a number of long-standing plot-lines come to a close. It’s a difficult issue to discuss without giving away some big surprises, so it’s enough to list off a few of the confrontations we see in this book: Red Crow and the Hmong; Dash and Diesel; Falls Down and Catcher; and Shunka and the drug dealer guy from the jail.

Scalped is a remarkable book, although its sales are not very high. More people need to be reading this.

Sweet Tooth #6

by Jeff Lemire

When I started reading this issue of Sweet Tooth, I got confused for a second, and thought I was reading one of Lemire’s Essex County books, as it opens with the character of Jeppard in a brawl in the middle of a hockey game. The scene is pure Lemire in that it features an oafish guy who can’t quite figure out how to do things properly. I quickly realized that the book was still Sweet Tooth, but it was a strange moment of dissonance.

Now that the book is in its second story arc, Lemire is backing up a little and giving us hints as to what has happened to the world. We see Jeppard, the captain of a professional hockey team, as he and his wife cope with the news of a strange disease appearing around America.

Jeppard’s story is told both in the story’s present and in flashback, and is interrupted by scenes of Gus as ‘The Preserve’, where he is locked in a room with some other animal hybrid children. Little is done here, except to establish that it is rare for a hybrid child to have human intelligence, and that kids that are taken out of that room never return.

I have been a fan of this series since its debut, and find that, as Jeppard’s character is developed, and our understanding of Gus’s world increases, so does my interest in the book. Lemire’s doing some wonderful work here.

Quick Takes:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #32 – I didn’t expect to enjoy Brad Meltzer’s debut on Buffy, but he struck a nice balance between cutesy, slightly annoying dialogue and plot progression, much as the show always did.  Of course, the fact that Dark Horse ruined the ‘big reveal’ of next month makes this all rather predictable, but any comic that so proudly name-drops Walt Simonson is good with me.

Doom Patrol #7 – This is a strange issue of a very strange title.  I didn’t want to start buying this book because of its high price and the fact that I hate the Metal Men back-up (both of which are going away soon), but the fact that Crazy Jane was scheduled to appear was enough reason to get it.  I love how Giffen is being so reverential to all former Doom Patrol series (even the bad ones), and is incorporating elements of all of them to the story.  That, and an appearance by Oberon as a furniture mover for metahumans, make up for the fact that the main characters only appear for a couple of pages.

Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire #6Jason Aaron’s work with Ghost Rider has been fantastic.  This issue features so many crazy comic book moments, I can’t even begin to enumerate them here.  It also wraps up the story that Aaron has been telling for years, and leaves Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch in a position where they can re-join the Marvel Universe, or sit in limbo for a few years.  Good stuff.

The Great Ten #4 – Did anyone else laugh when they realized that China’s super-team was fighting ‘counterfeit’ gods?  I have admired the way that Bedard has incorporated Chinese history, culture, and morals into his story, but this involved taking it further than I would have expected.  I like his take on the Immortal Man in Darkness too – good character work all around.

Invincible Iron Man #23 – As much as I’ve been loving this book, I think it’s time for this story to end.  It feels a little dragged out here, as Dr. Strange tries to guide Tony back into his right mind, the Ghost hunts for Tony’s body, and Maria Hill and Pepper Potts realize they have a little more in common than they knew.  Actually, had the whole comic been Maria and Pepper, I’d have been okay with that.

Jonah Hex#52Been there done that, but when Jordi Bernet’s doing the art, I’ll keep going back.  I do feel like this book needs to shake itself up by using some different artists or putting Hex into some new situations (no, I don’t mean dumping him in the future), but at the same time, it’s like watching an episode of Law and Order: western comic comfort food.

Kick-Ass #8 – I know this came out last week, but when a book is 8 months late hitting the stands, who cares if you buy it on time?  Millar’s finished off his Tarantino-esque splatter-fest, and it leaves me feeling pretty indifferent.  I didn’t pre-order Nemesis because I’m not sure how interested I am in his stuff anymore.  Does anyone else think Chosen and Wanted were way better than this?

Nova #34 – This current arc with the Sphinx and a bunch of heroes and villains from different points in time is strange.  It doesn’t fit with the general tone of the series over the last few years; it’s more like a re-tread of Secret Wars, with the Sphinx playing the role of the Beyonder.  At least it doesn’t have Deadpool in it…  Of most interest here is the scene where past-Black Bolt is in ruined future-Attilan, and sees a monument to his family, mentioning his recent death, and the death of Medusa in ‘The Shadow War’.  Is this going to be the next big Abnett and Lanning epic after Realm of Kings?

The Question #37Where has Denys Cowan been?  It’s really nice to see his artwork again, especially with Bill Sienkiewicz inking it.  This is probably the most unorthodox of the Blackest Night crossovers, as Renee and Lady Shiva (in a really peculiar appearance) discover another way of defeating (or at least avoiding) a Black Lantern.  It’s a decent comic, even if it really doesn’t add much to the story of either Question.

Siege #2 – This is how mega-events should be handled, without sprawling over into 10 000 tangential mini-series.  Coipel’s art looks fantastic throughout, and Bendis is keeping the work grounded by including some nice little character moments, like the one between Nick Fury and Phobos.  My only question – why didn’t Captain America gather up a few more Avengers?  I would have thought Pym’s team would have been invited, especially since Jarvis was.  I’m not mentioning the big ‘death’ scene, beyond complaining that it had to happen to the only Dark Avenger I like since Noh-Varr ditched the team.

Superman: World of New Krypton #12 I’m not sure how much I buy this shakily-friendly relationship between Clark and Zod now, even if it has taken a year to develop.  Perhaps it’s because I just read the Last Son of Krypton arc.  Anyway, I like where this book ends, even if it does just lead into yet another mini-series.  The Superman/Braniac/LSH crossover coming up has my interest much more than what is happening in any of the Super books right now.

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

Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk #1 (based on reports that the Micronauts will be in this series)

Siege Embedded #2

Wolverine: Weapon X #10

Graphic Novels of the Week:

Beast

by Marian Churchland

Marian Churchland first came on my radar when she did art for three issues of Richard Starking’s comic Elephantmen. Her approach, especially in her first issue of the book, was a real breath of fresh air. Somewhere in that issue or the one after it, Starking mentioned that Churchland was working on an OGN called Beast.

When the book came out towards the end of last year, it received a fair amount of praise, and I added it to my list of books to read. I’m quite glad that I did. It’s a very unique comic.

Colette is an aspiring artist and sculptor, and receives, through her father/agent a commission to sculpt a portrait of a mysterious gentleman out of a huge block of Carrera marble. When she arrives at the house where she is to work, she quickly realizes that things there are very strange. There is an older woman named Roz, who seems to be looking after the place. She is taken into the room where the hunk of marble sits, and meets Beast, her employer. Beast is never fully explained – his face is not just kept in the shadows, but seems to be made of shadow. He is evidently very old – he tells stories from his life in 17th century Italy – but little about him is ever explained. The book follows Colette through the completion of the work, and for about a week after that.

In many ways, this comic reminds me of a Paul Auster novel, in the way in which Colette seems to just accept the strangeness that has entered her life, and the ease with which she abandons her own identity, not even bothering to return to her apartment until the work is finished. She easily accepts that her identity is subsumed into the work, and finds more meaning there than she had in her previous existence; the problem being, of course, that all such work must come to an end.

Churchland’s art is very nice. She shades each page in a single, washed-out colour, and pays close attention to background details everywhere accept in the room serving as Colette’s studio. Her Beast (as he wishes to be called) is mysterious, yet never menacing or sinister. As a debut work, this book is a marvel.

Promethea Volume 4

Written by Alan Moore
Art by JH Williams and Mick Gray

There is very little in the first four issues collected here that is different from volume 3 of the series. Sophie and Barbara continue their journey through the higher realms of the Immateria, or through the Kabbalah, or something like that. Whatever – it’s a ton of mystical gobbledygook, made entertaining because of the incredible art of JH Williams. He recreates the visual language of each issue to match it to the spiritual concept being explored in Moore’s script. The whole thing is lovely, but a little dull.

Once Sophie returns to the real world, things pick up quite a bit. Stacia, her best friend and substitute Promethea during his absence does not want to give back her power (or the shared existences she has been enjoying with one of the earlier Prometheas), and things get physical very quickly. This in turn leads to a trial in the Immateria, presided over by King Solomon himself, to sort things out.

The volumes end on this lighter note, providing a much needed breather from the pretentiousness of its beginning.

Album of the Week:

Madlib Medicine Show #1: Before the Verdict featuring Guilty Simpson