Weekly Round-Up #11

Best Comic of the Week:

Mesmo Delivery

by Rafael Grampá

When this book was first published by Adhouse a couple of years ago, I coveted it a great deal, but never actually bought it. I think I was put off by the $12.50 price tag for such a slim book. When I saw that Dark Horse was reprinting this title, and at only $10, I jumped at the chance to finally read it.

Mesmo Delivery is an insane collision of a Robert Rodriguez movie (not Spy Kids, one of the crazy ones) with Geof Darrow and Frank Quitely, with perhaps a touch of Paul Pope tossed in for seasoning. It is about a pair of truckers (one of whom can’t drive) and a fight at a seedy truck-stop. It’s also about the iconography of old school advertising, but less so.

Grampá’s art is incredible. He experiments with lay-out and page design, and includes every little detail you could think of when drawing. His characters have pores (and sometimes giant prosthetic fists).

This is a really fun read, and an impressive piece of work. I don’t know what this guy has been up to for the last few years, because I would really like to read more from him.

Other Notable Books:

Air #18

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by MK Perker

If you’ve never read Air before, and have been curious about the book, this issue serves as a very accessible starting point, in that it nicely recaps much of what has happened in the first year and a half of the title, and offers an explanation of Hyperprax technology which I will admit to not understanding at all. It also sets up the next arc by sending Blythe on her ‘pilot’s test’.

Air has been a unique and original comic since its inception. It, along with books like Sweet Tooth and Daytripper, show us that Vertigo is open to new experiments in monthly comics. Wilson and Perker have gone about this series in the best way possible. To make such a sweeping story with such elaborate metaphysical roots work, they have really invested in their characters, and that is the strength of this book.

I am very much looking forward to seeing Blythe perform the three missions set out before her.

Battlefields #3

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by PJ Holden

This issue closes off the ‘Happy Valley’ story in Battlefields. The crew of B-Beer goes on their last mission before they finish their tour, and as is to be expected, things don’t go exactly according to plan.

Ennis has given us an excellent example of a story that celebrates the camaraderie of warfare, and the bonds that grow between men placed in dangerous situations. Running in the background is the implication that the Commonwealth soldiers’ sacrifices were especially poignant, given that they were not fighting for their own country or security, but instead for some rather abstract notions of duty to their former rulers.

Holden’s art looks great in this issue, especially in the scenes in the back of the Wimpy. Those pages reminded me of Joe Kubert, which is high praise. I don’t know what was up with the undershirt on the pilot during the scene in his dorm room – it’s obviously been added on by the colorist, but I can’t imagine why.

Hellblazer # 264

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Giusseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini

Constantine’s Indian adventure comes to a close, and while the cover suggests a big Bollywood ending, there are no big dance numbers, and no one really gets the girl.

I’ve enjoyed this arc. Putting Constantine in such an unfamiliar setting allowed his shtick the chance to seem fresh and new, although this last issue puts things back to status quo so neatly, and with such a dismissive wave of Milligan’s hand, that I’m not all that interested in reading the next issue (even if it wasn’t drawn by Simon Bisley). It’s hard to accept that Chas isn’t even angry with John after the events of a few issues ago.

I have been on the fence with this title since Milligan took over, and I think I’m done now. It’s been decent, but I can live without it.

Joe the Barbarian #2

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

Little more is revealed than in last issue, as Joe continues to flit between the reality of his house and a strange fantasy world where his toys have come to life. He is now being helped by Jack, who is his pet mouse in the real world.

I’m not sure where Morrison is going with this. So far, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of comment on childhood, it’s just been a straight up adventure story, wherein the protagonist desperately needs some glucose.

As with the first issue, the pace is very quick, but the art is fantastic. I love Murphy’s way of re-drawing familiar (and copyrighted) icons of commercial childhood. The plastic Lego trees would be a favorite, just for the associations their image evoked.

I know that this title has become a source of some controversy, and I don’t think it’s Morrison’s best work, but it’s enjoyable.

Resurrection #8

Written by Marc Guggenheim, Chris Sims, and Chad Bower
Art by Justin Greenwood and Rusty Shackles

This series has been chugging along quite nicely since its relaunch. This issue has our crew in pristine Baltimore (which I still think is odd based on the image the world has of Baltimore thanks to The Wire), and meeting with the alien that appears to be running the show. Thanks to a text box, we know that this is the same alien that was running around in the woods in the first volume, although the story in no way makes that clear or relevant.

There is a discussion about semantics, and Clinton finally tries to kick ass. Not too much happens in the main story, but Guggenheim is taking his time unfolding this tale, and I’m fine with that.

The back up is (for the second month), written by a comics blogosphere luminary instead of a professional comics writer, this time in the form of Chris Sims, with Chad Bower. This is a smart move by Oni, as I’m sure it’s creating a lot more internet discussion about the comic, at least on the guest writers’ sites.

It’s a fun story about three adolescents who have been raised on 80s teen movies, and who have found themselves living in a town that could have been in Y the Last Man for its lack of male residents. Good stuff.

World War 3 Illustrated #40

This is my first issue of World War 3 Illustrated, even though the magazine has been published for years. One of the things that I love about comics is that it’s continuously possible to discover new titles and hidden gems. That’s sort of how I feel about this book here.

It’s a very left-leaning anthology of strips by a variety of artists who are new to me. In terms of its politics, reading this book is very much like reading the New Internationalist (which I love), but by Americans. And told only in comics form.

The theme for this issue is ‘What We Want’, and its short pieces can be collectively viewed as a manifesto for change in American society and economy. The expected topics are all here: health care reform, mortgage reform, education, New Orleans, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, environmental concerns, and community activism.

Some of the pieces are too crudely drawn or amateurish for my tastes (ie., the piece on BAAD), but some of it is fantastic.

I particularly liked Sandy Jimenez’s memoir of teaching, and Sabrina Jones’s piece on Jane Jacobs. What makes this book so endearing is the earnestness and hopefulness of its contributors. It’s hard to maintain a level of optimism for long in the face of the 24-hour news cycle and constant discoveries of new forms of bad news, and therefore it’s heartwarming to read work like this, which while fully cognizant of the difficulty of the path ahead of us, is assured of a positive outcome.

Quick Takes:

Avengers Vs. Atlas #2The whole main story is basically one giant fight between the Agents of Atlas and the Avengers from the time right after Cap joined up.  What makes it special is the way in which Gorilla Man deals with Cap; he tosses his shield away.  How many other Cap villains wish they’d thought of that one?  This is a good book, and helps to showcase why people should place preorders for Atlas #1, and give the book’s new iteration a fighting chance of survival.

Captain America #603 – I don’t think this issue will offend the Republican blogosphere, but then, just about anything can offend those guys, so who knows?  I’m sure some of them don’t like the fact that Bucky Cap is friends with the Falcon.  Of course, if Marvel was just looking for publicity, they’d have Bucky and Sam kiss…..  Not sure where I’m going with this.  Really good comic, as usual, although I’m not feeling the Nomad back-up at all.

Daredevil #505 – Antony Johnston joins Diggle as co-writer (is this why Wasteland is so late?) and they give us a strong ‘Daredevil goes to Japan’ issue, with (surprise surprise) opportunism and secret plans running through The Hand’s leadership.  New (guest?) artist Checchetto does a good job of approximating the Daredevil house style, and this issue has an amazing cover by Paulo Rivera.

Dark Avengers #14 – Even though it’s mainly a prelude to Siege, this is a great issue of Dark Avengers, with an interesting parallel structure.  First, Victoria Hand has to have a little ‘intervention’ for Norman Osborn, and then he needs to fly off to do the same for the Sentry.  Bendis really has a handle on these characters, and makes them very interesting.  Plus, there’s some nasty shenanigans going on in the main meeting room that made me (and Moondragon) smile.

Green Lantern #51 – Okay, so Reed Richards-looking Green Lantern fights the Spectre, the New Guardians (seriously?  we’re sticking with that?) fight to restore the colour of Hal’s sideburns, and this issue and the last put us right back at the end of the last issue of Blackest Night.  It’s like Johns knows he has to spin his wheels for a bit, and this is what he’s given us.  At least there’s a cool moment shared by Lex Luthor and Larfleeze.

Green Lantern Corps #45As much as I’ve been liking this title, it feels like Geoff Johns decreed that the various Corpsmen need to wait another month before flying to Earth for the big battle, so we get an issue of Mogo psycho-analyzing Guy Gardner using different coloured ring constructs before reverting to the tried-and-true medical method of leeching to cure what ails him.  If Tomasi didn’t have such a good handle on these characters, it would have been a bad issue.

Guardians of the Galaxy #23 – This issue features the return of a few things: the ‘dead’ Guardians, Wes Craig’s cool art (I love how he draws Bug), and the galactic UN, with Blastarr.  Fantastic comic.

The Incredible Hercules #141 – The main events in this issue have been telegraphed for months, and so didn’t come as much of a surprise, but there were a few more gods killed off or otherwise removed from play than I expected.  Coupled with last week’s issue of Siege, it makes me think that someone at Marvel is not fond of the Greek Pantheon.  This was not as strong an issue of Hercules as I grew to expect, but I’m very much looking forward to the new Prince of Power series, after the requisite two-issue (I mean month) mourning period.  I just wish the artists would make Amadeus Cho look a little more Korean…

Invincible #70 – Mark fights the Sequid invasion, and ends up going further than he ever expected.  Kirkman’s really been putting him through the ringer lately, and with the Viltrumite War coming up soon, I get the feeling things aren’t about to slow down.  This book is consistently great.

Punisher #14 – Dan Brereton shows up to help us get the background on Punisher’s new enemy, but I’m sorry to say I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to stick with this title.  It’s over-the-top crazy, but somehow not managing to hold my interests very well.  I’m not even sure why not.

Spider-Woman #6 – I like seeing Alex Maleev draw super-hero costumes, so I enjoyed this issue’s fight with the Thunderbolts, even if, as is usual with this comic it seems, it feels like almost nothing happened in this issue.  This title needs to get more serious about some content.  Pretty is only going to hold me for so long.

Uncanny X-Men #521 – I don’t really get why, when he has some fifty-odd X-Men at his disposal, Cyclops would send just three to take down the people that sent the Predators to attack them.  At the same time, it allows Fantomex to come to the rescue, which is always cool.  Also, Magneto does a nice thing, and Greg Land’s art doesn’t detract too much from Matt Fraction’s strong writing.

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

Doomwar #1

Farscape #4

Justice League of America #42

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Museum of Terror 1 – Tomie 1

by Junji Ito

I’ve finally worked my way through my ever-growing pile of books to read to reach my Boxing Day spoils. I don’t read manga – the only time I’ve ever read any was the first volume of Tezuka’s Buddha – but I’ve felt like that could be an oversight on my point. This horror volume came highly recommended by the manager of my comic store, and was only $5, so I thought I’d give it a try.

It’s strange, and in the same vein as Japanese horror movies like The Ring and The Grudge (except that the requisite creepy kid is older here).

Tomie is a high school student of exceptional beauty. She is so desirable, that she invariably causes a level of obsession in the men who fall for her, also invariably resulting in her being hacked to pieces by them, although she always seems to return from the dead, growing new bodies out of the remains of her old one.

This book touches on a lot of themes that I think are common in Japanese manga. First, there is the obsessive nature of adult men towards beautiful teen girls. It seems quite acceptable here, as no one ever comments on the inappropriateness of the obsessions, only on how far things seem to go. Also, there is a strange approach to relationships; teen girls buy photos of the boys they like, and violent behaviour appears to be overlooked by the authorities.

At its core, this work seems a little misogynistic, but perhaps that is partly the author’s intent. I don’t feel like I know enough about Japanese culture to really comment on a lot of what I see here; I am simply pointing out the differences. This is a strange, and disturbing piece of work. It’s also pretty damn cool in places though…

God Save the Queen

Written by Mike Carey
Art by John Bolton

Reading this, I was surprised by the parallels between it and Jamie McKelvie’s superb ‘Suburban Glamour’. Both books are about a conflict between Faerie’s Queen Titania and her sister Mab. Both involve a changeling girl on Earth. Both changeling girls have a nerdy best friend. I guess the only real difference is that this book replaces cool vintage clothing with heroin.

Perhaps I’m being too glib. This is a nice comic, although between McKelvie’s work and a lot of the faerie stuff in Sandman, I feel like I’ve read it all before. The notion of heroin-addicted faeries is a new one, and about the only thing in the book that is adding to the concept.

Bolton’s art is the same as always. Some pages are beautiful and technically stunning, while others are a little ugly, although I assume intentionally so. The cover, on the other hand, is hideous and poorly designed, and is probably the main reason why it took me so long to get a copy of this book.

The Abandoned

by Ross Campbell

Ross Campbell is a pretty unique comics creator. His interest appears to be telling stories about curvy tattooed, pierced teenage girls of poly-amorous sexuality. This time out, he’s giving us a zombie story set in the deep south, where the apparent only survivors are a group of teen orphans more or less led by Rylie, a spiky-haired dynamo who shares her name with the hurricane that has just devastated the community, perhaps causing the zombie invasion. Or perhaps not, it’s hard to tell.

The strength of Campbell’s story lies in the friendships between Rylie and her motley crowd. They quickly settle into the apartment of Naomi, a newcomer into their circle, and the target of Rylie’s affections, and they basically hang out. They have no real planning skills; not really thinking about how to wait out a large zombie siege, and act like a bunch of teenagers at a slumber party.

It’s a fun read, if you can overlook the ridiculous of the situations and the lack of internal logic in the story. Campbell’s art is beautiful, and he draws women that appear very realistic while still stylized. He represents a greater diversity in womens’ shapes than one ever sees anywhere else in comics, and that makes this a notable book.

Odds Off

by Matt Madden

Another Boxing Day door-crasher that didn’t strike me as my usual thing, but was recommended at my comic store, and was definitely worth the $5 price.

Madden has crafted an odd little graphic novel about relationships among some twenty-somethings. Morgan and Shirin have been together for years, but as Shirin tries to get into medical school (against almost impossible odds), she also realizes that Morgan and her don’t communicate well. He’s more interested in watching a French language instructional TV show, and speaking French to everyone he sees than in meeting her needs. Meanwhile, Lance, a gay writer who shares a mutual friend with Morgan has developed a major crush on him.

That’s mostly it with this book, except for the very bizarre subplot involving Lance’s having come down with a rare case of pediculus escritus, or ‘word lice’, a condition that causes his writing to be infected with small bugs, which cause itching when he writes (and burning sensation when he conjugates). I’m not sure what the purpose of this satire was, as it doesn’t fit into the more quotidian plot, but it did add a sense of the unexpected to the whole book.

This is a decent read, and worth getting just for the hilarious conversations between Shirin and her fundamentalist Christian co-workers.

Album of the Week:

The Whitefield Brothers – Earthology

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