The Weekly Round-Up #62 Featuring Walking Dead, BPRD, Cinderella, Hotwire, The Unwritten, And More!

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #81

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

Well, it’s not like things were going to stay calm in the town where Rick and his friends have settled for long…  Surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of roamers, the residents of the community have a number of things that they need to deal with.

Glen decides that resupplying Andrea, who is in their lookout tower and cut off from the group is a priority, so he sets about making a plan to get to her, and hopefully to draw some of the roamers away from the wall at the same time.  This leads to some truly suspenseful moments.

At the same time, the wall is beginning to buckle in one section, and doesn’t look like it’s going to hold for long.

While all this stuff is grippingly exciting is kind of a given for this title, but it is the quieter character moments that open the book that makes this issue stand out.  Rick has now hooked up with Jessie, the widow whose husband’s abuse Rick revealed a while ago.  I love the scene where he tries to divert Glen from figuring out what’s going on.

This is an amazing comic.  I can’t wait to see if the group is going to make it through this situation.

Other Notable Comics:

BPRD Hell on Earth – Gods #2

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis

The first issue of Gods barely had any of the Bureau in it, except for the last page, as it instead introduced Fenix, a young girl leading a nomadic group of people across Texas, always steering them away from danger.

This issue shows us what put the Bureau on her tail, as the UN guy (I have no idea what his name is) debriefs the team on the growing number of these nomadic ‘Bedouins’ and makes a plan to track down Fenix for further study.  Their briefing gets interrupted by crazy old Professor O’Donnell, who has some ideas about how the current situation in the world is connected to the post-Hyperborean age, which has haunted the Mignola-verse for a while now.

Most interesting though is the scene where Abe Sapien and Agent Devon finally discuss Devon’s suspicions of Abe.  I’ve been a huge fan of the character of Kate Corrigan, and like the way she handled this little problem that has been brewing for a while now.

It’s nice to see Davis get a chance to cut loose on the art in the flashback sequence, although I would have liked to have seen some space given to Johann and Panya, as they’re both up to something lately.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #1

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Shawn McManus

The first Cinderella mini-series by Roberson and McManus was a lot of fun (even if I passed it over at first), so I didn’t have to think twice before adding this new offering to my pull-list.

Cinderella has been working for centuries as a spy for the powers that be in Fabletown.  Previously, she was answerable only to Bigby, but after Beast took over the role of sheriff, he has been sending her on missions.  None of this is known by the rest of the Fables, who think that she is more or less a flighty socialite.

This new series opens with a flashback to early-80s Russia, where Cindy, in nothing more than a bikini, is tracking down some powerful Russian Fables, and looking to find out the secret of their own Fabletown.  She is interrupted in her mission by a Fable only referred to as Codename: Silverslippers (we later find out who she is, but I’m not going to tell).  It seems that the two become something of nemeses to each other.

In the modern day, during the evacuation of the farm (seen in Fables #100), evidence shows up that suggests that Silverslippers is back and causing some problems, so Cindy heads back into town to get ready to deal with her.

It’s interesting that this book is more tied in to current Fables continuity than the last one; I wonder if there will be some kind of connection later on.  Roberson is a good writer.  I only tried out the first Cinderella book on the strength of his work on I, Zombie, and I have yet to be disappointed.  McManus is always a great artist, and this is the type of story where his somewhat exaggerated style works best.

Hotwire: Deep Cut #3

by Steve Pugh

This is a good week for comics that are incredibly late (it’s been 3 and a half months since we last saw Alice) and that I enjoy a lot.  This issue wraps up the Deep Cut story, and is, once again, very well written and stunningly painted.

Deep Cut has had Alice find herself in a lot of conflict with Bear Claw, an independent contractor that has been put in charge of managing bluelight (electro-magnetic ghostly manifestations).  Both groups have been chasing an experimental exo-skeleton housing the soul, or bluelight energy, of a deceased soldier, who has been trying to prove his heroism, and save a recently killed pregnant woman.

Pugh really gets the character of Alice (the cover credits Warren Ellis, but he only came up with the original concept), and makes her a very compelling character.  Matching this with his fantastic art, this is one of the best comics on the stands.  I hope that we’ll see a third Hotwire story at some point.  If you haven’t checked out this series, you owe it to yourself to find a copy.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #1

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

Image has got to be the most diverse comics publisher around these days.  They put out work of such variety, and I’m always interested in seeing what new titles they give a chance to.

The Li’l Depressed Boy is drawn by the person who is now writing letter columns in Walking Dead and Invincible.  That was the extent of name recognition I walked into this comic with, but it had enough of a Forgetless meets Scott Pilgrim meets Pope Hats vibe that I figured it was worth checking it out.

The Li’l Depresed Boy is about a young man (not really a boy, but it’s hard to tell – it seems he lives alone, and his friends seem to be in their 20s) who I took to be a cross between the figure in Munch’s painting The Scream and Caspar the Friendly Ghost, but who the text in the back of the comic calls a ragdoll (whatever), and his quiet, sad search for friendship and love.

Not a whole lot happens in the comic – LDB goes out for a bit, meets a girl, does laundry, meets the girl again, and then goes to a concert with her.  I didn’t get the feeling that he was particularly depressed, so much as a little lonesome, and that seemed to end when he met the girl.  I’m sure there’s more going on here though – we just have to wait and see what happens next.

The story moves at its own pace, but the art became the thing that kept me interested throughout.  Grace’s art reminds me of Marley Zarcone, and a bit of Vasilis Lolos (where is that guy, anyway).  This comic has a certain charm to it, and I will be picking up the next issue.

Northlanders #37

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Simon Gane

It’s always exciting when a new arc of Northlanders starts off.  The book is constantly shifting through time and location with each new story, with the overall effect being that I’ve learned a great deal about European history in an era I knew very little about.

This time around, the setting is France, in 885 CE, and the topic is King Sigfred’s siege of Paris on the way to richer spoils further inland.  There are thousands of Northmen surrounding the city, but it has held out for days against their tactics.

The story is narrated by Mads, who leads a small squad of men that have been together for a number of years, viking on their own before joining up with Sigfred’s army.  Mads does not want to keep plugging away at the tower that defends Paris like his fellow countrymen, and instead scouts a more direct approach to defeating the city by taking one of two main bridges over the Seine.

This comic quickly becomes a character study, as Mads gives us a grounds-eye view of the campaign.  Much of this comic reminded me of Warren Ellis’s Crecy, although it is nowhere near as wordy.  The art for this arc is being provided by Simon Gane, whose stuff I’ve never seen before.  He has a bit of a Phillip Bond thing happening here, and it works.  He gives us some very nice establishing shots, but also makes Mads and his crew a group of individuals.  This is shaping up to be a good arc.

27 #3

Written by Charles Soule
Art by Renzo Podesta

I think this mini-series is getting better with every issue.  Will Garland continues his quest to gain some understanding of what the living embodiment of the number nine has done to him, and is turning to science for the answer.  His new friend, a quantum mathematician (who just happens to have an MRI machine in his lab), convinces him to push the button embedded in his chest again, and he gains the ability to teleport to any place he can sing about.

This leads to an interesting chat with Jim Morrison, who is now a hermit hanging out in Death Valley.  This affords the reader with a better understanding of the number nine and the rotting entity that has been chasing Will.

Also in this issue, we see some resolution to the hostage stand-off that has been mentioned every time someone in the book watches TV since the first issue.  Soule is doing some cool things with Garland’s character, and his story is covering a lot of interesting ground.  I feel like there is a lot of potential to return to this world, and its exploration of the nature of creativity and artistic genius, after this four issue series finishes.

The Unwritten #22

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross and Vince Locke

When we last saw Tom, he was stuck in the novel Moby Dick, and had somehow managed to freeze the story around him.  This issue, after yet another cryptic conversation with the Frankenstein monster, he learns how to move between stories with his magic door knob.  You see, the problem before was that he was using the knob on the Pequod, which has only ever been in one story, instead of the sea, which has been in many.

This leads Tom on a bit of a nautical journey, and in short order, we see him travel to Sinbad’s story in the Arabian Knights, and we meet Baron Munchhausen.  It seems that stories can become interconnected, and it is possible for Tom to move between them, although it’s not known how that can lead him home.

While this is all going on, his two friends are still in the clutches of that weird puppet master guy, who is used to deliver a few hints as to where the series is going, and what certain characters will say when we get there.

I’m more interested in this book than ever, as I like the way that Carey is dropping Tom into and out of different classic novels.  The addition of Vince Locke to ink the ‘novel pages’ is brilliant, and has injected new life into the book’s appearance.

Wasteland #30

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Christopher Mitten and Remington Veteto

Well, it’s only been seven months since the last issue of Wasteland, which used to be just about the most reliable independent book I bought, showed up on the stands, so I suppose I can be forgiven for being a little bit lost here.

For the last four or five issues, the series has been focusing on a particular character, and showing us their perspectives on a string of events, taking place over almost a year of story time (and so much more in real time).  This issue focuses on Golden Voice, the Sun Singer who has been leading the Sunners’ Rebellion over the last few issues.  It’s a good issue, as it shows us the progression of this pacifist into increasingly violent tactics.  As the issue comes to its close, it looks like Goldie is going to reveal one of the secrets that has had me intrigued since the series began, but that looks like it will happen next issue (hopefully that will happen this year – no other issues have been solicited).

The issue continues to feature Christopher Mitten’s layouts, although I thought that was not going to happen any more.  New artist Remington Veteto, who was supposed to be getting the series back on track, does a decent job, although his line work is much more solid (and occasionally more stiff) than Mitten’s.

There is no text piece explaining what is going on with this book, but there is another very interesting Ankya Ofsteen travelogue piece, which stands out because it discusses the colour of the sky in the Wasteland world, something I’ve given no thought to before, as the book is black and white.

Here’s hoping we’ll see another issue of this comic by the summer.

Quick Takes:

Adventure Comics #523 – This issue marks the beginning of the Legion Academy stories, with art by Phil Jimenez.  The book looks great, even if some of the Academy kids have some of the worst costumes around, and the story is interesting, if pretty much just like reading an issue of Avengers Academy.  I like that Levitz is introducing Glorith, who was such a major part of the 5 Year Gap Legion, as a new recruit and that the story is mostly told from her point of view.  I can see this holding my interest, so long as Levitz distinguishes it from its Marvel counterpart.

Amazing Spider-Man #654 – I thought it was time to check out this book again, and I liked what I read.  This is the second half of a Spider-Slayer two-parter, with a pretty emotional ending that I didn’t see coming.  The next issue (after next week’s .1) has Marcos Martin art, so I’ll be getting it for sure.

Batman and Robin #20 – I was looking forward to seeing Tomasi and Gleason take over this title, especially after the train wreck of the Cornell/McDaniel filler.  They show that they understand the chemistry between Dick and Damian, even if the main story seems a little like an attempt at Morrisonian plotting (involving Man-Bat and a jumper with golden wings).  I love the opening scene, which has Bruce settling in for a movie night with his family, and like the way that Gleason is drawing Robin like he’s actually a kid.  I think this series is in good hands.

Birds of Prey #9 – I still can’t make up my mind about this title.  I feel like the story arcs are being dragged out for some reason, and I’m bored of the same few elements getting used again and again (Oracle vs. Calculator!  Canary examines her life!).  At the same time, Gail Simone is one of the writers I trust most in comics, and so I keep giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Black Panther #515 – At this point, I’m only buying this comic for the art, as I love Francavilla’s work, especially when he handles his own colours.  There are some terrific pages in this issue.  Unfortunately, I’m not too impressed with the story.  Liss, who is not a comics writer, does not handle dialogue very well, especially when attempting to replicate a Romanian accent.  Things are pretty stilted, although nothing is as bad as the scene between T’Challa and his social worker neighbour.  I want to like this book, but I’m not sure if I can stay with a title for art alone…

Farscape #16 – This ‘War For the Uncharted Territories’ arc has been pretty good.  Chrichton is bringing together a new coalition of races to fight the Kkore, while a captive Rygel reminisces about Zhaan, and Scorpius does what he does best.  There’s a lot going on in this comic, but O’Bannon and DeCandido are holding the story together nicely (except I don’t understand why it looks like everyone has wormhole or starburst technology now).

The Flash #9 – You know, I really want to like this title, but I just can’t seem to manage it.  There’s great art (it’s nice to Manapaul back on the book), and this issue at least briefly shows us the rest of the Flash family (I’d buy a Wally-Flash or Kid Flash book in an instant if it had art like this), but everything Barry Allen makes me cringe.  The crime lab works on Saturday, and somehow that’s a big deal (because I guess crime takes week-ends off usually).  It’s such a big deal, that when they get a body, they ALL go see it.  There are like 6 crime-scene guys here, but they need to get someone who left the force years ago to come help isolate a chemical in the victim’s blood?  Silly.  Even stranger is that Barry is the only one working in the lab like two pages later.  Where did the rest of them go?  Maybe to the Apple store to show other people how they apparently have an app on their ipad that lets them scan fingerprints?  I don’t even want to talk about the guy on the motorcycle, and the fact that we are starting yet another arc about Barry’s connections to the future.  I don’t think I’m going to be on board for Flashpoint at this rate…

Heroes For Hire #3 – Do Abnett and Lanning ever write a bad book?  Paladin is hunting down Misty Knight’s true location, which causes him to cross pat with Iron Fist, while Moon Knight is on a job for Misty that involves some crazy Savage Land imports.  This book is very satisfying, with great writing and art.  Check it out.

Incognito: Bad Influences #3 – Just like with Sleeper, Brubaker shows off how casually he can build a really cool superhero world, as this issue takes Zack to All Points Junction, a hidden subway station that has become the main hangout for science criminals.  Zack is working his way into his mission, and finding his new principles constantly being tested.  It’s a good story, with more fantastic Sean Phillips artwork.  Great stuff.

Incredible Hulks #622 – I’m very happy to see that this title is now reduced in price to $3, and that the back-ups, which haven’t been so great, are gone.  This is a strange issue though, more concerned with setting up the status quo on the new Mount Olympus than anything else.  What I wonder is, if Zeus and Hera are back, what about Ares?  That should be addressed I feel.  This is only an okay story, but I’m looking forward to seeing the Hulk family hit the Savage Land, even if that damnable Miek character has to be involved.

Knight and Squire #5 – Another great issue of the strangest series to come out of the Batman Inc. concept.  This issue focuses on Jarvis Poker, the British Joker, who has received a terminal diagnosis, and is going about cementing his reputation as a major British villain.  Things are going well until his actions draw some attention from across the pond.  Cornell and Broxton really make this title work; it’s a shame there’s only one issue remaining.

New Avengers #9 – While I’ve been enjoying this series, this issue was a let down for a few reasons.  1.  I don’t like Howard Chaykin very much, and don’t understand why half the issue had to be given over to Nick Fury playing around in Cuba in the 50s.  2.  Not much happened in this issue in the present day, except for an Avengers stake-out followed by an attack on a pretty random group of bad guys.  3.  The supposed cliff-hanger ending that makes it look like a certain character is going to die, although said character only just came back from the dead.  This issue was way too decompressed for $4.

Power Man and Iron Fist #1 – I liked the new Power Man in his tangentially-Shadowland related debut series, and since this new mini-series is written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Wellington Alves, I figured it would be well worth the risk.  This is a good little title, which continues to cement Vic’s place as the new Power Man, and gives Iron Fist something to do as his frustrated teacher.  The Obi-Wan and Anakin shtick could get a little old, and I don’t really see Danny jumping into bed with someone so soon after his break-up with Misty Knight, but I like how Van Lente is mining the Heroes For Hire past to come up with his plotline.  I’ll probably check out the next issue.

REBELS #25 – Taking this book back to its Starro-fueled roots is a good move, as things feel more invigorated than they have in months.  Dox is taken prisoner by Starro, and the rest of the team scrambles to rescue him, while Starro’s plans, and their limitations, are revealed.  This is a good comic.

Secret Warriors #24 – So Hickman spends the whole issue setting up and establishing the people on Mikel Fury’s team, only to treat them like cannon fodder.  This is a great series, but the last thing it needed was a dozen new characters to play with.  Still, I’m very interested to see this title through to its conclusion soon.

THUNDER Agents #4 – I’m learning that, with Nick Spencer comics, no one is really who they seem, as he hands us an interesting twist (yet again) at the end of this issue.  I’m really liking the way this comic is shaping up, with it’s multi-layered storytelling, and guest artists (this month George Perez!) providing background on individual characters.  I’m not sure how long a series like this will last in the current DC climate, but I’m going to be around for the duration.  Check it out – it’s good.

Wolverine #5.1 – Despite how much I like Jason Aaron, I haven’t been buying this comic because of its price.  I heard some good advance buzz on this issue though, so I picked it up.  It’s Logan’s birthday, and his new girlfriend is throwing a surprise party for him in a cabin in the woods, with all his X-Men and Avengers friends invited, but Logan’s hunting a couple of cannibals who have guns carved out of bones (you have to see what type of bullets it shoots).  Good times.

X-Factor #215 – With this issue, Peter David more or less returns Madrox to his noir roots, as he and Layla get involved in a case where a daughter is accusing her step-mother of murdering her father.  Of course, there’s an Ethiopian demon involved (which would be cooler if the Ethiopian girl looked the least bit Ethiopian), and lots of cryptic Layla-speak.

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

Assassin’s Creed: The Fall #3

DC Universe Legacies #9

Frenemy of the State #4

Invaders Now #5

Osborn #3

Punisher Max #10

Bargain Comics:

Back To Brooklyn #1-5

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Garth Ennis
Art by Mihailo Vukelic

This ultra-violent mobster family squabble series is a pretty decent read.  Bob Saetta is pretty high in his brother Paul’s criminal organization, and Paul owns pretty much all of Brooklyn.  Bob finds out something about Paul though, and decides to turn him in to the police.  The only problem is that Paul has Bob’s wife and son, and so, inexplicably, the police and FBI turn Bob loose to go back into Brooklyn (hence the title), to find his family.

What follows is a ton of violence and bloodshed, as Bob gathers a couple of allies, and starts taking apart his brother’s organization, while trying to stay ahead of Paul’s in-house psycho, a guy named Churchill.

I found myself getting into the story pretty easily, despite the massive amounts of disbelief I had to suspend, and Vukelic’s sometimes awkward art.  He’s a competent artist, it’s just that he seems to rely a little too much on photo references for people’s expressions.

Strangely, the best part of the entire comic series was two of the text pieces by Jimmy Palmiotti, as he reminisced about his own Brooklyn upbringing and misadventures in and around the Catholic school he attended.  Some of his stories are very funny.  I imagine these are not included in the trade, which is a shame.  There is plenty here that could become an excellent graphic memoir, were he to mine it.

Bullseye: Perfect Game #1 & 2 – This two-part series is a perfect example of the random way in which Marvel is pumping out material these days.  A Marvel Knights series centred on the company’s most notorious assassin?  It sounds like a good idea, but why publish it right after he was killed in Shadowland?  Anyway, it’s a good story, with Bullseye trying to relieve his boredom by taking on a baseball hit, and deciding to work his way up to the major leagues to do it.  I picked it up for the Shawn Martinbrough artwork, and he did not disappoint.

Stupid Comics #1

by Jim Mahfood

I feel like I really need to track down more of Jim Mahfood’s work.  I’ve read the Phoenix Edition of his Stupid Comics, basically a collection of a strip he did for an independent paper, and I read his Grrrl Scouts, but this is the first I’ve read of this series, which looks like it lasted three issues, spread over a number of years.

Anyway, this issue is made up of a number of one-page strips, with a couple lasting two pages.  Mahfood is a comics creator after my own heart – he listens to hip-hop, funk, and afrobeat music, and writes about jazz, the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, Catholicism, celebrity worship, technology obsessions, and gender relations.  He takes street kids to task for being boring, but also rails against hipster ‘loop diggas’.

His pages are crammed full of his angry comics goodness, making this single issue a lengthy, complicated read.  I’m not sure what he’s been up to lately, but I feel like I need to find out.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Lone Wolf 2100 Vol.1: Shadows on Saplings

Written by Mike Kennedy
Art by Francisco Ruiz Velasco

I’ve never read the original Lone Wolf and Cub, despite having looked longingly at the Frank Miller covers as a teenager, but thought I’d give this update from the early part of the last decade a try, basically because I liked Francisco Ruiz Velasco’s work on Wildcats 3.0.

Basically, Kennedy took the original idea of a ronin wandering through the Japanese countryside protecting a small child, and set it in a post-Apocalyptic future.  The ‘lone wolf’ is an android (an EmCon, in the language of the story).  So basically, this is Grendel: War Child, except not as good.

This book got off to a slow start, although it did pick up towards the end, once everyone was introduced and there was a little more action.  I can see how there would have been potential for this series, had it gone a little wilder in terms of its plot elements, but I don’t feel like there’s enough here to bring me back for the next two volumes.

Album of the Week:

Bossa Nova:  Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960s

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