Weekly Round-Up #42

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #77

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

It’s predictable to say this, but this is another amazing issue of The Walking Dead.  There are some really amazing scenes in this issue:
– Carl finds Rick talking on his Lori telephone, and their relationship splinters a little bit more.
– Glen and Maggie have a heart-to-heart.
– Andrea goes on a date (sort of).
– Pete (the guy that Rick beat up recently) decides to kill him, and interrupts a discussion about a funeral, which leads to a few more funerals being necessary in a scene that is going to lead to a lot of different problems for the community in the issues ahead.

The last couple of pages are chilling, as Adlard finally gets to draw some zombies again.  I especially like the change that comes over Douglas after events in this issue.  Kirkman seems determined to test his character’s morals, now that the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have been met by moving into the community.

Other Notable Comics:

Elephantmen #27

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin

It’s been a couple of months since we last saw Elephantmen, and I found I wasn’t terribly interested in reading this comic.  I started it twice before I finally read it through, which is not something that happens to me often.  I’m surprised by this reaction too, as I like this comic.

I think the problem is that this current arc, “Questionable Things” is very plot-driven, and Starkings has come at the story from a strange angle (which he does a lot, but that’s usually what I like about the book).  There’s a Mappo sleeper cell planning on doing some Elephantmen-based terrorism, but I’m not sure that their motives or methods are all that clear.

Hip, Ebony, and that strange Blackthorne chick are going after the Mappo base, so they release a bunch of reactivated crocodile Elephantmen into a cattle factory.  Maybe it’s a strategically important cattle factory, I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, Sahara continues her walkabout and hangs out with the giraffe tailor guy.  Not much more happens.

I like Axel Medellin’s art on this book.  It would seem he’s going to be the regular artist for the next little while, so it’s good that I do enjoy his work.  I hope he can help put the book back on schedule.  Also, the new “Charley Loves Robots” back-up starts here, by Szymanowicz, Roshell, and Bautista, and it’s pretty cute.

Fables #98

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Dan Green

Now that Rose Red is back on the job, it feels like the good old days in Fables, as she exerts her authority over the Farm by threatening Geppetto’s bodyguards, joining Stinky’s cult of personality, and effectively side-lining the traditional Fabletown leadership.

A good portion of this comic is taken up with a variety of one-on-one interview Rose has with the different citizens of the Farm, as they bitch, moan, complain, and occasionally come up with a good idea or two.  These scenes are very well-written, and at times quite funny.

I am enjoying this build-up to the coming conflict with the Dark Man, and especially like that Willingham is leaving us out in the rain with Old King Cole and the Beast, instead of making us privy to these plans.  I imagine this book is going to be pretty good through issue one hundred, although I do question how much life it has left in it past that.

Skull Kickers #1

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Chris Stevens and Edwin Huang

As I’m sure you’re aware, this title has received a ton of positive press in the last two weeks, and has had Bleeding Cool reporting that copies were selling for five times cover price on Ebay the day before the book even hit the stands.  There seems to be a huge speculative interest in new creator-owned Image books of late (Chew being the gold standard, but books like Morning Glories are good examples).  I don’t understand this type of thinking, but I like that it is helping ‘the little guys’ get some readers.

I’d already decided to buy this comic before all the media storm started, because the manager at my comic store is friends with Zubkavich, and the store was doing a lot to promote the book.  I missed the launch party, but when I picked up my books this week, Zubkavich was standing their signing them.  I’m always willing to pick up a new comic if it supports local creators, and I’ve learned to trust the Beguiling’s staff and their recommendations.

It’s not the type of comic I would have picked up otherwise.  It has a little too much of a ‘classic Image’ look for me, and the first couple of pages did nothing for me.  But then, I slowly found myself being drawn more and more into the story, and by the time I finished reading it, I was pretty sure I’d pick up issue 2.

Skull Kickers is about a pair of mercenaries.  One is a large bald human, who seems very strong and packs a chunky pistol.  The other is a red-bearded dwarf, who seems a little touchy.  Together, they’ve been killing werewolves in some medieval-looking town, and the local lieutenant refuses to pay them.  Their negotiations become interrupted when a young chancellor arrives in town, only to be promptly assassinated.  Our as-yet nameless heroes go after the killer, but fail.  Later, they are hired to steal his body.

The art is split between Stevens and Huang, and I found that I liked Huang’s pages better.  The style reminds me of Udon Studios’s work, which make sense as Zubkavich has done work for them.  This is a fun comic, and is worth a look.

Quick Takes:

Avengers #5 – This issue raises a number of questions:  Why is The Vision on the cover when he’s not in the book?  Why does future Tony Stark have Rip Hunter’s blackboard (or, why does Bendis think it’s okay to rip off Geoff Johns’s shtick?)  Why does future Ultron look like the lovechild of present-day Ultron and Penance (the Speedball Penance, not the one from Generation X)?  Does the ‘time travel science’ in this comic make sense to anyone, because it’s lost me?  How much longer do we have to have the Oral History feature – is it going to carry up to modern day?  Best question of all:  why am I still reading this?

Avengers Academy #4 – I think this might be the best Avengers book being published right now.  It is definitely the most consistent.  This issue has the end of the Thunderbolts cross-over, as some of the kids have a chat with Norman Osborn while the Raft is without power, and have to make some difficult decisions.  The spotlight is on Mettle this month, who has become a more interesting character.  Is it worth wondering why the black character is the one to be turned into a cross between Colossus and the Red Skull?  Does he still count as a black character?  Anyway, this is a good run, and should be checked out if you’re not already reading it.

Fantastic Four #583 – Once again, we have a decidedly non-linear story, as Hickman starts to pull together some of the disparate trails he’s been taking this book down, as Valeria puts some things in motion that are unexpected (like visiting Dr. Doom).  Steve Epting’s on the book now, so it looks fantastic.  As much as I like the way Hickman’s writing this, I feel like his entire run will go down a lot better if read in one sitting.  Also, have we retconned out Millar’s storyline where Doom becomes uber-powerful?  I don’t remember that, but it seems like everyone’s been ignoring it.

Flash #5 – I’m still not feeling this title.  Barry’s just a dull character, and the Mirror Lord story feels forced.  Also, I have no idea what happened in the middle here with Boomerang going all White Lantern for one page.  It’s too bad that Francis Manapaul is stuck on such a stinker of a title – his art is wonderful.

Garrison #6 – The end of this series (much like the end of Wildstorm itself this week) is pretty abrupt and illogical.  It almost reads like the creators got to the second last page and figured they had to end things fast.  There is room left for a sequel, but in light of what’s going on with the publisher, it’s clear that’s never going to happen.  This was a decent series, most notable for Francis Francavilla’s art.

Green Lantern Corps #52 – This was going to be my last issue of GLC.  I’d dropped it from my pull-list after this, and was ready to let it go, as I’m finding myself less and less interested in the Brightest Day titles, but then Bedard went and made this issue work in ways that his previous issues have not.  He’s started writing this more as a team book, giving some good moments to the various alien Lanterns that make up the current iteration of this title’s rotating cast, and Syaf’s art looks better than ever.  I think I’ll be picking up the next issue now…

Hulk #25 – I have not followed the Red Hulk’s story at all, but now that Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman have taken over the book (fresh off their fantastic, and tragically canceled Atlas title), I figured it was time to check it out.  Their take on this character is that he’s going to work for Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers, to fix the mess that MODOK and the Leader made (much as Parker has to fix up Jeph Loeb’s mess).  It looks like this series is going to feature as many guest stars as it is monsters, and that’s kind of cool, as I like the notion of seeing Hardman draw the major Marvel characters.  There’s also a Rick Jones back-up that is not as pretty, but still decent.  I’ll give this a few months before I add it to my pull-list, but if it stays this good, it might become a regular title for me.

Legion of Super-Heroes #5 – This is the best issue of this book so far, as things start to feel more coherent and balanced.  The Legion fight some more xenophobes, and Earthman starts to display a new attitude, which makes him a bearable character.  It was nice to see Timber Wolf get some screen time, although I don’t know why he’s wearing such an ugly costume (it’s like futuristic laderhosen).  I also don’t know why the Legion would only own one medikit, aside from the obvious reason that they needed an excuse for Phantom Girl to discover the revelation of the last page.

Millar & McNiven’s Nemesis #3 – It’s more splatter and degradation from Millar, with pretty McNiven artwork.  It’s nowhere near as intelligent as Millar thinks it is, but it’s entertainingly nasty.

Secret Avengers #5 – I like the way Brubaker explains the appearances of Nick Fury in this comic, as he gives us a good little history lesson, and brings back a character last seen in his Marvels Project comic.  The art this month is by Aja, Lark, and Gaudiano, so it’s by far the prettiest issue of this title to come out.  I wish this series were always this good.

Thor #615 – It‘s pretty clear reading Matt Fraction’s first issue of Thor that it was originally intended to come out immediately after Siege, so it feels a little odd for Balder to still be cleaning up the throneroom.  The story is mostly set-up, as a ‘quantum cosmologist’ briefs Volstagg about a new threat to reality, and that same threat attacks a bunch of elves.  There are a lot of big panels and double splash pages, so there’s not a lot of room for the story to develop.  On the plus side, it seems that Fraction has given Pascual Ferry a lot of freedom in doing what he does best – namely creating a large group of new characters with a unified look, and setting them up in an interesting, if almost monochromatic, environment.  A lot of this comic reminded me of Ferry’s run on Ultimate Fantastic Four (which was the only time that book was good).  My biggest issue with this comic?  The notion that Thor and Don Blake can do a Ronnie and Professor Stein/Firestorm talking heads thing.  It’s not necessary.  I’m reluctant to fully commit to reading Thor.  I don’t like the character (or the price of the book), but I usually adore Fraction and Ferry independently, so I’m curious to see where they take this together.

Uncanny X-Men #528 – I think I’m getting bored with the whole ‘Five Lights’ thing.  Each issue has Hope finding a new mutant in trouble, touching them, and making everything better.  It’s a little repetitive, although it is nice to see Storm get some time on stage for a change.  I like the scene with Dazzler and Northstar battling art critics, and the Kitty/Emma/Shaw story is interesting.  I’m pretty sick of Whilce Portacio’s art though.  I liked him a lot back in the day, but his style doesn’t fit the type of story that Fraction is writing.

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

Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis #3

GI Combat #1

Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #2

Shadowland: Moon Knight#2

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Crogan’s Vengeance

by Chris Schweizer

Despite having read a number of positive reviews for this book (and the subsequent entry in the series), I resisted reading this for a while because at first glance, Schweizer is the type of cartoonist whose art I don’t usually find myself attracted to.

Having read this now, I can safely say this has become yet another example of how I don’t always have very good instincts when it comes to picking my comics, because this book is very cool.  The story is all about ‘Catfoot’ Crogan, a sailor who becomes a pirate when the vessel he’s sailing on, under the command of an unfair and cruel captain, is taken over by pirates.

Catfoot has three talents.  He’s fleet-footed, strategically gifted, and morally correct.  Some of these talents land him in hot water with his fellow pirates, such as Mr. D’Or, a massive and cruel man with great ambition.

This story is a lot of fun to read, as Schweizer keeps the pace moving quickly, and his art, which seems overly thick and crowded by his gigantic letters, grew on me.  This is the first in a series which is going to check in with Catfoot’s various descendants, who, according to the family tree included in this book, have had a variety of interesting professions, almost all of which have involved weaponry.  Recommended.

DC: The New Frontier

by Darwyn Cooke

I was surprised it’s taken me this long to get around to reading this comic, and have found it to be a real treat.  Basically, Cooke writes an almost total reboot of the DC Universe, set between the end of the Second World War and the early 60s.  It’s the time when the new heroes of the Silver Age begin to emerge, and it respects and honors as canon the work of the Golden Age.

The story begins with the last mission of The Losers (the Kirby version, not the Vertigo crew), as they end up on the Island That Time Forgot, searching for Rick Flagg.  From there, the story mostly follows Hal Jordan as he flies missions in Korea, and later becomes a test pilot for Ferris Airlines.  We also follow J’onn J’onnz as he becomes a Gotham police detective and sometimes partner to Slam Bradley.  As the books progress, we check in with a number of different heroes, although little is seen of the Golden Age crowd, with the exceptions of Superman (who is working for the government), Wonder Woman (who is fired by the government after expressing her opinions), and Batman (who is operating in Gotham against federal law).

The storyline seems very scattershot and random for the first of the two volumes, but in the second book, it begins to pull itself together as we learn of the type of threat that the Island that Time Forgot (now called the Centre) poses to life.  The various heroes, government agencies, and science-based militias (Challengers of the Unknown, Sea Devils, etc.) have to work together to defeat it, and perhaps usher in a new age of heroism.

I like the consistent approach Cooke takes to these characters.  He works hard to have them, and the people around them, react believably to the fantastic things they are or are seeing.  I also like that he integrates so many corners of the DCU in a way that could never have happened when they were first being published.

The art in this book is, of course, amazing.  What I like most about Cooke’s work is the way he pays so much attention to architectural detail.  While I’m sure many are attracted to his shiny rockets and experimental jet planes, what I love the most is the air traffic control tower at Ferris.  It’s the way he draws people’s offices and high-tech bases that make this such a wonderful comic to me.  He employs the same aesthetic sense he used in his Parker comic, and it makes the book very satisfying.

What really makes this project work is the way he taps into the reader’s nostalgia and love for a certain era of comics history, but also manages to tell a contemporary and compelling tale.  This is some great stuff.

Album of the Week:

Exile – Radio AM/FM

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