Weekly Round-Up #26 with The Killer: Modus, Brightest Day, Invincible, more

Capsules, Reviews, Top Story

This was a thankfully short week after the last few monsters.  At the same time, there’s a ‘Fan Appreciation Con’ here tomorrow, so I’m sure my pile of stuff to read is only going to grow.

Best Comic of the Week:

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #2

Written by Matz
Art by Luc Jacamon

This second Killer series seems more meditative than the first, which is perhaps the product of the Killer’s having taken a few years off, and having returned to his profession with a more philosophical mindset.  I don’t know many jobs more given to introspection than that of the hired assassin, and there were elements of that in the first series, but I feel this time around that Matz has the Killer questioning his motivations a little more.

As this issue opens, the Killer is still hesitating to kill a famous Venezuelan nun for his mysterious employers.  He knows that his actions don’t matter in the long run.  If he refuses to do the job, someone else will.  Death in this case becomes inevitable for this nun.  These scenes are later balanced by a long scene where the Killer takes his four-year-old son hunting in the jungle with his grandfather, a traditional Guayapaqui.  In this part, the Killer meditates on living in balance with nature, something he recognizes that he does not do.

The jungle scenes are incredibly lush, as Jacamon layers shadows on the character’s faces.  His art always reminds me a little of Tim Sale anyway, but these pages evoked the recently reprinted Amazon series that Sale did back in the day with Steven T. Seagle.

Anyway, I find that I am enjoying this Killer mini-series even more than I did the first one; of course, the apparently reliable printing schedule is helping immensely in this.

Other Notable Comics:

Demo Vol. 2 #5

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Becky Cloonan

Basically, with this issue of Demo, Wood and Cloonan reconstruct the old Freedom 55 commercials, however the young woman who goes back to visit herself in the past is not that concerned about her financial security (because she’s already used her time travel abilities to deal with that issue).  With this, Wood and Cloonan tap into that very basic human wish: to know then what you know now.

Elisabeth is a seriously unhappy woman.  She has great success in business (because of her ability to travel through time somehow), but has not had a relationship that has lasted more than two months, and has great difficulty connecting with people.  Her teen years were pretty brutal, mostly due to her father’s mistreatment of her, and her biggest regret has been that she let go of her first love, Evey, a classmate who was always there for her.

Demo is always a pretty interesting comic, and I’m sad that there is only one issue left in this volume.

Greek Street #12

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Werther Dell’Edera

This issue of Greek Street marks a sudden turn in direction for the title.  This new storyline, ‘Ajax’, has (so far) none of the characters from the first year of the title, instead focusing on Alex, a young lower-class Brit who has returned from a tour in Afghanistan where he suffered some form of injury, and received no military decoration for it.

The story starts in the present, where Alex is bitter, disillusioned, and seeing visions of a skeletal Greek warrior.  The story quickly flashes back to Alex’s tour, where he shoots an unarmed local man who he thought was reaching for a gun.

I love war comics, so I’m highly predisposed to a story like this, but I appreciate Milligan’s approach to this story.  He’s keeping most of the information close to the vest, and while he works in the Greek connection, I’m sadly ignorant of what myth or legend he is updating with this story.

Werther Dell’Edera is a good guest artist for this type of arc.  The Afghani landscape suits his sparse penciling style.  Is this arc a one-off before we return to Eddie and the usual crowd, or is Milligan structuring this book more like Northlanders, with rotating, unconnected arcs?

I, Zombie #2

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred

This book is still in the process of establishing itself, as Roberson moves the focus away from Gwen some, and lets us meet a few more of the townspeople in Eugene, where the old folks’ home is the largest building in town, and where vampires operate a paintball arena.

I like how this is such an interesting town.  There are, in just a few pages, zombies, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and now a mummy.  The mystery of who or what murdered Gwen’s last meal is causing her to paint obsessively, and to chat up the recent widow of the deceased.  The two guys that were sitting in the car last issue are vampire hunters, and Scott/Spot has some geeky friends.

The ensemble cast approach is a good one for a book like this, and as always, Allred’s artwork is fantastic.  I’m still kind of on the fence about committing to this book, but with a couple more issues like this one, I will add it to my pull-file gladly.

Sparta U.S.A. #4

Written by David Lapham
Art by Johnny Timmons

With two issues to go, Lapham continues to keep most of the big picture to himself, and keeps readers as confused as many of the citizens of Sparta are at the end of this issue.

It seems most everyone in the town is scheming in one way or another.  Johnny Franks is after Godfrey’s football records, and is probably planning on betraying the returned hero.  At the same time, Wanda, Godfrey’s wife, seems to be chasing her own agenda, and has something to do with Johnny’s girlfriend’s suicide.  And then, at the very end of the issue, we learns something totally unexpected about the Maestro, who has remained hidden since the second issue.

This is a deeply strange series, as Lapham portrays a deeply strange image of an American small town set in isolation in a world that is very different from our own.  I’ve been enjoying his writing on this book a great deal, and like Timmons’s artwork.

Sweet Tooth #10

by Jeff Lemire

This is one of the best issues of Sweet Tooth yet, as Dr. Singh hypnotizes Gus so that he and the other people at the Preserve can try to figure out the mystery of his birth and upbringing.  Gus is the oldest of the Hybrid children, and it has been discovered that his birth (or creation) predated, and possibly caused, the plague that has all but wiped out mankind.

Gus wants nothing more than to go home, and is therefore a willing candidate for hypnosis.  While ‘under’, he sees his cabin in the woods, and we get to learn a few things about his father and his upbringing that were not even hinted at beforehand.

The hypnosis scenes are visually stunning, as Lemire has Gus and Singh walk across a representation of Gus’s head.  I love the way they crawl into his ear as a visual metaphor for getting into his mind.  This is such a cool title, and as some of Vertigo’s other non-conventional titles like Air and the Unknown Soldier face cancellation, I hope that this book is safe until Lemire has finished telling his story.

Quick Takes:

Adventure Comics #12 – This is an utterly charming issue marking the beginning of Levitz’s run on the other Legion of Super-Heroes book, which I believe is going to show the Legion’s past.  While I liked this story of Superboy playing hooky in the future (couldn’t he come back to the past right after he left, and therefore go to school too?), I hope that the stories are going to be set in different points in the Legion history, and will not always feature Superboy.  I’d like to see some of what’s happened in the unpublished past – the 20 year gap?

Brightest Day #3 – Well, I didn’t hate this issue, as Johns and Tomasi focus a little more on character development.  I’m still not feeling the title though, and can’t see myself sticking with it for much longer.  I was happy to see that Jason Rusch’s dad got his hand back.  That’s a nice trick…

The Great Ten #8 – My enthusiasm started waning for this book when I learned that DC was aborting it an issue early, but then I read this newest installment, and was once again impressed with the work that Bedard is doing on this title.  The origin for the Shaolin Robot is the coolest one yet in this series (granted, I’m sure the idea came from Grant Morrison’s original treatment for these characters).  I know I would glad buy a regular series featuring these characters, even though they are probably destined for limbo once this run is over.

Invincible #72 – It’s Invincible versus Conquest, round two, as the Viltrimute War starts off poorly for our heroes.  This book has been great lately, and I see no evidence of that letting up any time soon.  The Tech Jacket back-up is pretty decent too.

Serenity: Float Out – This is a nice little one-shot featuring three new characters from the Firefly-verse christening their new ship in honor of Wash, the pilot from the Firefly TV show who regretfully bought it at the end of the Serenity movie.  It’s nice to see a couple of these characters again, although Oswalt’s writing doesn’t seem to capture the peculiar way of speaking that Whedon used on the show.

The Thanos Imperative #1 – The only Marvel comic I bought this week is also one of the best ones they’ve put out lately.  This mini-series is the culmination of three years worth of stories, and ties together all the plot lines of Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, and the Realm of Kings titles.  So, while it does assume a certain level of familiarity with the characters that a new reader would not have, it rewards the long-time reader on every page.  Sepulveda’s artwork is gorgeous, and the story is magnificently paced.  I love that the Guardians need Thanos to be an ally if they are to repel the invaders from the Fault, and I like the S&M redesigns of classic Avengers and Defenders characters.  Cool stuff.

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

Avengers Prime #1

Bulletproof Coffin #1

Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven

Written by Garth Ennis and Robert Kanighar
Art by Chris Weston, Christian Alamy, Russ Heath, and Joe Kubert

This is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Garth Ennis-written update of a classic DC war hero.  As the Second World War continues, and as Germany starts losing skilled pilots, an old friend brings WWI vet Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace, out of retirement and into the cockpit of modern fighter planes.

What makes this story work is the tension between von Hammer and his fellow officer, a Nazi functionary.  Von Hammer is an aristocratic German who is fighting out of a sense of duty to his country, but he has no patience for or interest in Nazi ideology.  There are some very funny scenes as the two square off, but since von Hammer is such an asset to his forces, there is little that can be done about him.

The artists, Weston and Alamy on the first half of the story, and Heath on the second, do an excellent job of conveying the excitement and drama of high altitude dog fighting, and you can tell they had a great time drawing all of these old planes.

Included in this book is a reprint of a classic Kanigher and Kubert Enemy Ace story from the 50s.  It’s interesting to look back at the character’s roots, and Kubert’s work is always a treat.

The Chill

Written by Jason Starr
Art by Mick Bertilorenzi

So what makes a crime comic a crime comic?  This seems like it should be a simple enough question, but when one starts talking about the Vertigo Crime series, it’s one that I think has gone unasked.

My immediate guess would be that a crime comic is a comic that focuses on crime.  Murders, thefts, perhaps even the high-drama world of tax crime.  I wouldn’t usually say that a comic about a demon-infested reality show would qualify. And, in the case of this book, I don’t know that a story about a pair of immortal druids that practice murderous sexual rites as an easy candidate for a crime book.  Maybe the whole idea is that if a ‘crime writer’ writes the comic, then it’s a crime comic.  Of course, by that logic, Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America would qualify…

Regardless of the strange choice of branding for this book, it’s a strange comic in its own right.  To begin with, it never really establishes a clear protagonist.  Sure, there’s this older Irish guy who was the first victim of our druidic pair, but for half the book, he just seems crazy.  There’s also the cop who is trying to deal with all this, but he’s basically a cipher.  The book lacks an emotional centre, and so it becomes a little hard to care about any of the characters or what is going on.  The druid stuff is kind of cool, but the whole mystery aspect just evaporates too quickly to have any real investment in it.

The art is quite serviceable in a faux-Eduardo Risso sort of way.  Bertilorenzi seems to be from the seemingly endless stable of Italian artists that Vertigo has been tapping the last few years.  His stuff is good, but not too special.

Irredeemable Vol. 1

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Peter Krause

I had originally ignored this title as yet another overly grim ‘Superman gone bad’ horror show.  I think the fact that it came out as the same time as The Mighty was starting up, and cost an extra dollar an issue, gave me enough reason to overlook the book.  I do like Mark Waid as a writer, but he’s never been on my must-buy list.  A couple of months ago my old comics pusher put a copy of the first trade in my hands at a show, and told me I’d like it.

This guy really knew what I liked back in my teenage days, and he was right once again.  Waid’s ‘Superman gone bad’ horror show comic is exactly what it looks like, but it’s pretty engrossing at the same time.  Waid has an entire superhero and villain filled world constructed here, which seems to  share a lot of similarity with Busiek’s Astro City when it comes to cheesy character names (The Plutonian?  Charybdis?  Gilgamos?  Seriously?) and some questionable costume choices (except for the Plutonian, who looks fantastic).

In this world, the Plutonian (Tony) is the stand-in for Superman, and one day he just snaps and goes evil.  He trashes a few cities, throws tantrums, and kills a whole bunch of people.  The focus is on his surviving former friends, who are desperately trying to track down information they can use to kill him.  It’s a cool premise, with some neat flashbacks that remind me of Alan Moore’s Supreme run.  Krause’s artwork is more interesting than his old Power of Shazam work, and the book is very tightly plotted.

This first volume doesn’t collect the entire first arc – it’s more of an opening chapter kind of thing, but you can’t complain too much for $9.99.

The Hellboy Project: B.P.R.D. Vol.5: The Black Flame

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis

With this volume, Mignola and Arcudi make it clear that they are willing to really shake things up in the BPRD.  They kill off a pretty central character in their war on the Frogs, and then give another central character an expanded role and new importance, as Liz starts having strange dreams and visions involving an old Asian man who seems to have a lot of hints, clues, and cryptic suggestions for how to deal with the Frogs.

Meanwhile, the Frogs get a potential new boss in the form of the Black Flame. The Zinco Corporation CEO, in a very cool looking bad guy suit, helps bring about the coming of Katha-Hem, another gigantic Lovecraftian monster.

While the action goes pretty wide-screen here, the best parts of this book involve the different reactions to the aforementioned characters death from the other members of the team.  It is Johann’s stubborn optimism that the character is not actually dead that I found most endearing.

Album of the Week:

Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria

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