Weekly Round-Up #36 with BPRD, DMZ, Morning Glories, Daredevil, Adventure Comics & more

Best Comic of the Week:

Daytripper #9

by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

As I picked up this issue of Daytripper to read, I started reflecting on how much I’ve enjoyed this series, and how I wish that it wasn’t going to end next month.  Then, as I read it, I got to the point where Brás, the main character, discusses life and death with his son, saying:

“Life is like a book, son.  And every book has an end.  No matter how much you like that book… …you will get to the last page… …and it will end.  No book is complete without its end.  And once you get there… …only when you read the last words… …will you see how good the book is.  It feels real.”

It was a little like the authors had read my mind, and it amused me.

This whole issue spun me out.  Over the last eight installments, it has become clear what the established structure of each chapter of this series will be.  With each new comic, we are sent to another point in Brás’s life, and they have all had a variation of the same ending (which I am reluctant to describe here).  This time around, the brothers have turned those expectations upside down, as Brás continually dreams of the different eras we’ve visited, and continually wakes from those dreams into other ones.

It’s a conceit we’ve seen before, but it’s especially effective here.  When Brás first wakes from his dream, he sits in his kitchen talking to his wife.  Slowly, over a number of panels, water spills from the sink, and fills the room.  This is handled well – I noticed the sink in an early shot on the page, but didn’t catch on to its significance until a little later, the way we will suddenly notice something in our dreams that has been there for a while.  As Brás revisits different moments in his life, I felt small twangs of recognition and nostalgia.

What is strangest about this issue is that it feels for all the world like the last chapter.  It ends as all of these chapters have ended, except in this issue, Brás is the author of the last text boxes, and we feel like we have reached the last words that will tell you how good the book is, to paraphrase Brás himself.  I don’t know what is going to happen in the last issue, except for two things – the art is going to be stunning, and I’m going to be very sad to see it all end.

Other Notable Comics:

BPRD: Hell on Earth – New World #1

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis

It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading through the entire back catalogue of BPRD and Hellboy comics, and I am finding it kind of exciting to be able to read these in ‘real time’, although it’s also frustrating, because as soon as this issue finished, I wanted to read the next one.

This comic is the first with the new, permanent BPRD: Hell on Earth title, as the Bureau adjusts to the new, post War of the Frogs status quo.  The Bureau now operates under the aegis of the UN, and with that comes any number of bureaucrats and paper work, at a time when the world has changed significantly.

This issue doesn’t dwell much on how the main characters are dealing with all of these changes, but it does set up hints as to where these characters are headed.  Kate is working too hard and trying to hold everything together, while Johann seems to be flaking out again.  Abe has become distant and takes off on a mission of his own, while Devon becomes increasingly suspicious, and maybe a little paranoid.

This is a great start to a new direction for this book, and while it might not be terribly easy for a new reader to jump on at this point, it’s worth checking out where this book is headed.  Even if you don’t understand everything, you’ll get to see further proof of Guy Davis’s genius.

DMZ #56

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Nathan Fox

The Collective Punishment arc is examining recent events in the DMZ to see how they affect some of the various back-up characters that we’ve gotten to know over the last few years.

This issue shines a light on Wilson, the protector (or warlord, depending on your point of view) of Chinatown.  Wilson has ruled the area for a long time, and the people who live there are very thankful to him for the protection he has provided them.  Now though, with the American army about to invade the island, Wilson is in a difficult position.

A representative visits, giving him a classic helicopter and 20 million in gold as payment for clearing Chinatown before the tanks roll in.  Wilson has never been one to roll over for anybody, and so he is left with a difficult decision to make.

The art for this issue is by Nathan Fox, who has appeared in this title before, and has recently done an amazing job on the Dark Reign Zodiac mini-series.  He provides his usual brand of detailed, slightly scratchy art, but also shows the odd flashback panel that has been inked with a finer line and coloured differently, making it really stand out.

My favourite panel of the issue (and possibly of recent memory) is the one where Wilson is buttoning his shirt on his bed before going out to address his followers, with David’s famous ‘La Mort de Marat‘ hanging in the background, suggesting a connection between Wilson and either Marat or perhaps his assassin, Charlotte Corday.  It’s a very powerful page.

morning glories #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  Nick Spencer is going to be the next Jonathan Hickman.  He’s been showing a remarkable range across his recent Image mini-series (Forgetless, Shuddertown, and Existence 2.0 and 3.0, which I haven’t read yet), and has now started this new title, which is unlike all of the others.

This first issue of morning glories is long, and the space is used to good effect to introduce a bunch of new characters who have been invited to study at Morning Glory Academy, an unconventional and secretive school, where ‘things aren’t what they seem’.

Each of the six main characters have enough space to establish themselves, and while they fall into some recognizable categories (emo girl, nice boy, nice scientific girl, psychopath), Spencer makes their interactions interesting and novel.  There is some strange stuff going on in the school, as we see right from the beginning when a student tries to escape, although that plotline does not get revisited (except for a glimpse through an open doorway).

Eisma’s art works well here, reminding me of the look of some of the second-string Marvel X-Men books that focus on the younger students (I can’t think of a single name, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

I’m not sure if this is a mini-series or if it’s expected to be on-going, but I’m definitely going to be sticking around for a while, as I’m curious to see where this is going.

Northlanders #31

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

This is a strange arc.  Prior to this arc, Northlanders has stayed focus on historical accuracy and realistic portrayals of life in the Norse period.  With this arc, Wood is introducing some of the old gods, as Erik, our protagonist, has frequent conversations with one god.

This leads me to ask if Erik is crazy, or if this is a shift in tone for the series.  Regardless, it’s a good story, as the consequences of Erik’s actions last issue (slaughtering a delegation of Christians and burning their half-built church) are explained to him by Ulf, the man who was berating him at the start of the arc.

Wood has chosen to focus on an interesting part of European history, and I’m interested in seeing how this conflict between the Christians and the Norse will play out.  In a lot of ways, this story works as a counterpoint to the earlier arc, The Cross + The Hammer, which had an Irishman resisting against Viking invaders.

The Unwritten #16

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross

While this series has been running for the last year and a half, Carey has kept readers almost as much in the dark about things as Tommy himself has felt.  With this issue, plenty gets explained, as Tommy is finally reunited with Wilson, his father, although the creepy muttonchops guy shows up as well.  The theme of fatherhood is also present when Lizzie Hexam, having returned to her own book, chapter, and original home, gets to meet with her dad.

This was a good issue, and the coolest stuff in it revolved around the scenes with the launch of the 14th Tommy Taylor book, as the publisher revealed how he pulled one over on the Cabal, although it looked to the rest of the world like he was simply avoiding press reviews and bootleggers.  It’s a very cool publicity stunt that Carey describes, and I wonder how well it would really work.

From its inception, this has been a series that has required a fair amount of reader attention and faith, and I’m interested to see where things go from here.

The Walking Dead #76

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

After the end of the last issue (before the aliens showed up), I would have thought this issue would be more of a game-changer than it is.  If Rick acted the way he did just about anywhere else, he’d be out on his ear, but instead, he gets to keep his job, and we get to learn the history of the community, including the story about this Davidson guy that we’ve been hearing about since they got there.

When he first showed up in the story, I wasn’t that fond of Douglas, the de facto leader of the community, but as I read through this issue, I began to admire his even-handedness and sense of consequence.

Most of this issue is made up of long conversations between Rick and Douglas.  It’s a talking heads comic this month, but because of the genius of Charlie Adlard, it’s never boring.  I can’t wait to see how Carl reacts to the last page, and I look forward to seeing if Rick will be able to patch things up with Michonne.

Quick Takes:

Adventure Comics #517 – I know that Levitz was trying to drum up some hype or controversy for this book, claiming that Legion fans will either love him or hate him when they finish reading it, but he should have left a category for remorseful indifference (do the Germans have a word for that?).  I want to love this series – it’s the Legion being written by my second favourite Legion writer – but it’s not living up to my expectations.  I want to see stories spread throughout the Legion’s history, and much less emphasis on Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Superboy.  To me, they are among the least interesting characters.  Let’s see some 70s era stories with Bell-Bottoms Phantom Girl and Tyroc.  Let’s see some weird-ass Blok, Tellus, and Quislet team-ups.  There’s so much rich history to mine and play with that this second rate Identity Crisis re-make falls flat.  The Atom story is better than the previous installments, but I don’t get how pulling the Calculator into Oracle’s computer room makes any kind of sense.  I feel much the same way about this back-up as I do the main series (I totally respect Jeff Lemire, but his Atom stuff is awkward).  I think this title is on watch with me.

Birds of Prey #4 – I haven’t really being feeling this relaunch before this issue, but as usual, Simone delivers in the end, using a cool parallel structure, and wrapping up a few loose ends from her last run with the Birds.  As an introduction to a new series, this seems way too mired in the past to attract (and keep) many new readers though, although she does almost make Hawk likable in this issue, which is not an easy thing to do.

Daredevil #509 – Elektra, Typhoid Mary, Power Man, Iron Fist, and art by Roberto De La Torre.  Does it even matter that Daredevil barely shows up?  I like the groove that this series is falling into during the Shadowland event.  The main book is worrying about the big picture, giving Diggle and Johnston time and space here to focus on how all of this stuff is affecting Daredevil’s friends.  Also, there are some big hints here as to what’s really going on with Matt.  Good stuff – probably better than the mini-series, but not able to stand on its own.

Invincible Iron Man #29 – This is another fantastic issue in a great run.  There’s no real ‘super-heroing’ going on here – the only person to even suit up is Rescue, in her new armor, but there is plenty of business intrigue, and Tony Stark proves once again why he’s the man when he takes off from his own party with Sasha Hammer.  This is probably the best Iron Man has ever been.

Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #2 – I like this book.  It feels like an old-school Captain America comic, especially with the reveal of the bad guy that has been messing with Steve by playing up his memories from his earliest days as a super soldier.  Here’s my question though – why is Steve wearing that suit?  What happened to his electro-shield thing?  Was any of this stuff explained somewhere?  I kind of expected this book to be about him transitioning to his new role in the Marvel Universe, but instead, we have this story, which while good, feels like it might have been an idea Brubaker had wanted to use before he killed Cap, and is only getting around to now.  It’s pretty standard stuff.

The Thanos Imperative #3 – This continues to be an excellent read, as the Abstract Entities get into the mix, and Thanos is given an idea of how to shut down the Cancerverse, if only Drax could resist his own nature.  Nova gets a few terrific character moments, and we learn how the Cancerverse version of Mar-Vell is still alive.  Great writing, great art.  The only problem is that there are a few too many characters to keep track of, as I wonder where the rest of the Guardians are (I need my Bug fix).

X-Force: Sex and Violence #2 – This is a fun little comic, although it’s Wolverine & Domino, not X-Force.  The League of Assassins is after Domino, and they bring in a huge compliment of C-list characters I love like Bullet and Bushwacker (ahh, the days of Ann Nocenti Daredevil).  I don’t really like Dell’Otto’s painted art, and don’t really know why Marvel has stamped an ‘Explicit Content’ box on the cover (there’s suggested sex, but everyone lounges around with their underwear on afterward), but as Kyle and Yost’s swan song with these characters, it’s serviceable.

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

Farscape Scorpius #4

Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #1

Mighty Crusaders #2

Shadowland Blood on the Streets #1 (I bought Ms. Marvel for months because The Shroud was in it, but I don’t want to pay these prices so much.  I might end up caving on this one…)

X-Men #2

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Eddy Current

by Ted McKeever

It’s hard to talk about Eddy Current.  This is a book that defies description on many levels.  It’s easy to explain the premise – Eddy is a lunatic, locked up in an asylum until the ‘dynamic fusion’ suit that he ordered out of an issue of The Amazing Broccoli arrives, and Eddy blows out the power for the institution trying to charge it, allowing him to escape, and save the world.  Except he has to be back in twelve hours, before his absence is noted.

Eddy starts small, trying to help a bum getting beaten up by some local thugs.  This results in his getting tossed off a building, where he is found by a nun who believes him to be the second coming.  He gets taken to their storefront atomic science facility (see, not easy to explain), although later on, Eddy and the nun (named Nun) look up Eddy’s old girlfriend, and have to stop a group of elderly and overweight women from broadcasting some sort of radio signal that will make all men docile and easy to control.

Sounds crazy, right?  And it is, but in a glorious way.  McKeever’s art, which is such an acquired taste as to be in the same category as oysters, is terrifically abstract and toothy.  This comic was originally published in the 80s, and that era of sartorial excess shows, although the story stands up remarkably well.

To be honest, I feel as if there is a deeper social or religious commentary that has passed over my head.  The book is peppered with biblical quotes, but I’m not wired to extract any great significance from them.  I know that the follow-up series to this, Metropol (which I loved when it originally came out and would really like to read again) was very biblical in its approach to things (and at some point featured Eddy again).

I’m thankful to Heidi MacDonald and The Beat for giving me the opportunity to read this excellent new collection of these stories (I won the book in an on-line contest).  If you are reading Meta 4, McKeever’s new Image series, it’s worth checking out his roots.

The Veil

Written by El Torres
Art by Gabriel Hernandez

When this book was first published as a mini-series, I remember it getting some positive attention at the Comics Should Be Good blog, so I figured it was worth checking out.

Really, this is a strange project.  It stars Chris Luna, a female private investigator (are there comics about male private investigators anymore?) in New York who can see and speak to the dead.  Taking on the cases of the dead is not terribly lucrative, so when she receives word that her recently deceased aunt’s home is being appropriated, she heads back to Crooksville Maine, her childhood home.

When Chris was a kid, she was one of the few survivors of a terrible train accident (which caused her abilities to manifest), and she’d had it tough from that time.  Upon her arrival in the town, things quickly start to fall apart, as she realizes that her nightmares of the last twenty years had been visions of what was to come.

At this point, the book becomes a pretty standard horror story, complete with a hideous monster with a silly name (The Slug Man).  From here, I found the book a little less enjoyable, but that’s because I’m not a fan of this type of horror.

Hernandez’s art is pretty cool.  It looks like a more sedate Ben Templesmith (I guess that’s how you know you’re reading an IDW book), and Hernandez uses a lot of browns, giving the book a very earthy feel.  It’s an interesting read in the first half, but unfortunately can’t rise above the dictates of its genre.

As a side note, I don’t understand why the writer and artist’s names aren’t on the cover or on the IDW on-line store entry for this book.  I know they aren’t terribly well known, but it seems disrespectful.

Groom Lake

Written by Chris Ryall
Art by Ben Templesmith

I’d wanted to pick up the individual issues that made up this series when they first came out, but I was put off by the $4 price (not that $20 for a trade is better – thank you used bookstores!).  I’m glad I got around to reading this, as it’s a lot of fun, and quite pretty.

Groom Lake is named for the location of Area 51, but the story starts elsewhere, with the abduction one night of a man in New Hampshire.  Some two years later, his twenty-year old son is contacted by agents for the US Government, and they take him to Area 51 to see his father, long presumed dead, who had been experimented on horribly by the little gray aliens that anyone who has ever seen a copy of Communion would be familiar with.

As it turns out, our young hero, Karl Bauer, has altered genes after generations of alien experimentation on his family.  All of his experimented upon forebears have died from exploding genitals, and the aliens want to study Karl.  The government has been working with these aliens, to develop genetic weapons.  It turns out that all of your favourite aliens from the movies – the Blobs, ET – have been living at Area 51, assisting with black ops projects.

The story is a little predictable – Karl escapes with Archibold, the pilot for the little gray aliens, and all sorts of stuff happens.  It’s the execution of this plot, and the little details, that make the book so good.  The aliens are obsessed with human genitalia (lacking any of their own), and like chocolate and cigarettes.

Templesmith’s work is as good as it always is here, and Ryall shows a good ear for dialogue.  This is a good quick read.

Torso

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko
Art by Brian Michael Bendis

I find it a little hard to believe that it’s taken me this long to get around to reading Torso, Bendis and Andreyko’s historic true crime novel and love letter to Prohibition-era Cleveland.

This is quite possibly the best Bendis comic I’ve ever read (it’s definitely in my top three).  In this, Bendis and Andreyko tell the story of the Torso killer, a serial killer who terrorized Cleveland at the same time that Eliot Ness took control of the police force, looking to drive out corruption and booze.

The story has been meticulously researched (as evidenced by the newspaper articles included in the backmatter), and carefully constructed.  Bendis has always drawn from photos, and so the characters are very close approximations of what the actual police detectives assigned to the case looked like.  As well, there has been some real thought put into the personalities and characters of the principal people involved in this case.  This reads better than most true crime, because the writers decided to avoid lurid description of the mutilated bodies (the killer was called Torso for a reason – that’s usually all that was found of the victims), leaving that to the illustrations.

As usual, Bendis has a strong ear for dialogue, although I got a little tired of some of the slang from the era.  If I have any complaint about this book, it’s that it seriously needed a proof-reader.  I was frequently pulled out of the story as I tried to figure out which ‘there’ the authors intended to use.  That’s a little shameful really – it’s a collection; there would have been plenty of opportunity to fix mistakes.  This is a whole other rant though, so I’ll leave it for now…

Album of the Week:

Super Chron Flight Brothers – Cape Verde

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