The Weekly Round-Up #63 with Avengers Academy, Spider-Man, Fables, Batgirl & more

Best Comic of the Week:

DMZ #62

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

After a few months of flashbacks and one-off issues, Wood has brought us back to the current situation in Manhattan, as the United States Army enters the city in large numbers.  They have finished their massive bombing campaign, and are now making their way through the city with the goal of taking control of it, and then coordinating their entry into Free States territory.

Matty Roth, the usual main character of this series, is traveling with them in his new role as embedded journalist.  Matty’s been used by Liberty News and the army before, but he agrees that an independent, impartial record of the invasion needs to be kept, and that he is probably the only person able to do the job.  It’s amusing that for most of the issue, the soldiers don’t attempt to make use of Matty’s superior knowledge of the territory, and he doesn’t volunteer it.

This series has been about Matty’s growth more than anything.  Here, he reflects on the attitudes and actions of the soldiers entering the DMZ for the first time, and recognizes in them his own earlier self.  What remains to be seen is how Matty will leave this particular part of his journey, especially after an old, familiar face shows up towards the end of the issue.

I feel like, as the series nears its end, Wood is finally able to put into play some things he’s been planning for a long time, and that makes this series exciting again.  It’s very nice to see regular artist Burchielli back on the book, as he’s been gone for a little while now.

Other Notable Comics:

Cyclops #4

Written by Matz
Art by Luc Jacamon

This series feels a little predictable, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.  Our man Pistoia, who has become the central star of an independent military reality show is becoming ever more suspicious of his corporate masters, but is at the same time becoming ever more complicit in their shady dealings.

He’s beginning to question the purpose of the secret mission he was sent on a couple of issues back, especially in light of Multicorps’ winning of another UN contract in Argentina (although his assertion that he speaks neither Turkish nor Spanish rings pretty false, as everyone knows a little Spanish).  While this is going on, he’s being systematically seduced by a Multicorps press agent, and generally set up for blackmail.

Like I said, there’s nothing particularly original or groundbreaking about this book, but the story is being told very well by Matz and Jacamon’s work looks great.

Fables #102

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha

I thought this issue was going to continue to look at Blufkin the former flying monkey’s adventures in the Greater Oz Area, but apparently not.  Instead, we spend most of the issue in Haven, where it’s “six months later”, conveniently helping us to avoid all the settling in of the various Fables (farm and country) that had to flee to Flycatcher’s land after the events of issue 100.

This issue opens with Bigby being recalled to Haven from some mission to take part in the community’s planned attack on Mr. Dark.  It would seem that Ozma is putting together a squad of people who have no fear, and Pinocchio has convinced her to model it after traditional superhero teams (complete with costumes).  He’s even taken to rolling around in a wheelchair, to complete the Professor X/Niles Caulder role.

This is a pretty good issue, as it brings readers back up to speed with everything that’s been going on, and demonstrates quite credibly why Mr. Dark is a current threat, and not something that can be ignored until later.  I like the way that Willingham is poking fun at superhero books, but maintaining his usual feel for this series.

Quick Takes:

Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 – This .1 issue is much more concerned with establishing Flash Thompson as the new, American military Venom, and I like what Slott is setting up here, with the relationship between man and symbiote being established, and some interesting parallels to Spidey’s life entering Flash’s.  I think I’m going to have to check Venom out, which surprises me more than you can know…

Avengers Academy #9 – Another very strong issue for the fourth-tier Avengers book.  After Tigra expelled three students last issue, the faculty sits down to figure out how they should proceed, and Gage’s strong sense of these characters serves the book very well.  For some reason, Finesse, who wasn’t expelled, decides to track down Taskmaster, who she suspects is her father.  Gage writes Taskmaster brilliantly (as we saw in the Avengers: Initiative issues that featured him so prominently) so this is a nice treat.

Daredevil Reborn #2 – I don’t see how Murdock is being born again in this rather unspectacular story about a small desert town where things have gone bad.  There is very little focus on Murdock himself this issue, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve maybe read all of this before in a slightly different form (I know you can say that about 97% of superhero comics, but this series brings a lot of deja vu with it).

Doom Patrol #19 – I thought I’d pick this up to get the end of the story that started in the last issue of Secret Six.  I think we can just generally agree that it was a mistake, and leave it at that…

Generation Hope #4 – I have no idea why this isn’t simply a mini-series to introduce the “Lights”, before Gillen works with them in his Uncanny X-Men run.  That he will be writing two monthly X-Men books, including one with such a low profile, makes me wonder what Marvel is thinking.  This is a good comic, but it seems very tangential to what’s been going on in the X-World of late.  At the same time, seeing Gillen give over most of the book to character development makes me think it could develop into a great read.  I like Espin’s art, which is odd because I’m not usually much of a manga fan, and its influence here is huge.

Hulk #30 – I’ve been enjoying Parker’s run on this title, but this issue had a few things wrong with it.  First, Impossible Man should not be allowed to appear in regular issues any more.  Secondly, if Gabriel Hardman needs a skip issue, he should be replaced by an artist as talented, not Ed McGuinness.  Thirdly, Kluh?  The Bizarro Hulk?  Seriously?  I’m sure there are lots of long-time readers who found this issue to be silly fun, but it was completely not my thing.

Legion of Super-Heroes #10 – Much better this time around, as we finally finish off this endless Durlan assassin storyline, and Brainiac 5 takes over as acting leader.  There’s not a lot to say about this issue though, aside from mentioning that dropping the price on this title has probably saved it from getting cut off my pull-file for a while longer.

Proof Endangered #3 – This issue felt a little more coherent, as most of the sub-plots involving the Lodge were ignored to focus on the stuff that’s been going on with Proof and his crew.  It looks like one major character won’t be with us next issue, as Mi-Chen-Po’s plan is revealed a little.  This stuff is good, but I cannot imagine this renumbered series has managed to retain any new readers.

SHIELD #6 – So Book One ends with what I found the most confusing issue of this series yet, as Hickman jumps around in time, shows that Stark and Richards peres had superpowers that aren’t explained, and shows us the final battle between Da Vinci and Newton.  I like this title a lot, but this time around, I wished I’d just finished rereading the previous ones before I started this one.

Thunderbolts #153 – I like the way Parker has the Thunderbolts starting to come together as a team, and especially the way they deal with Hyperion in this issue.  I’m enjoying this run more and more.

Uncanny X-Force #5 – There’s a lot to like in this issue, as Remender has the team actually get together and talk as a team (much to Logan’s dislike), and devotes most of the comic to Fantomex, a character I’ve loved since Grant Morrison first introduced him.  The problem is, the ‘big bad’ for this arc is Deathlok, a character just recently similarly used in Jason Aaron’s Wolverine: Weapon X series.  It feels too soon.  I really like Essad Ribic’s art here, although I’d be happier were the pictures still being done by Opena.

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

Captain America: Man Out of Time #4

Deadpool Max #5

Suicide Forest #3

Wolverine #6

 

Bargain Comics:

Batgirl #15 – This comic gets a lot of love on this site, so I thought I’d take a look and see what it’s all about.  I never read any Stephanie Brown comics before, except maybe I read her first few appearances as the Spoiler back in the day, so I came into this pretty cold.  The comic is a very capably put together variation on a Robin comic.  There’s some detective stuff, some awkward ducking out of a get together with friends, and terrific Dustin Nguyen artwork.  I was confused to see that Batgirl had two wheelchair-bound Oracle wannabe friends to whom she’d revealed the entirety of Bruce Wayne’s secrets to though, and that threw me for most of the comic.  I might pick up the second part to this story to see how it ends, but I don’t know that I’m as impressed as I expected to be.  Unless I’m missing something….?

Content #1

by Gia-Bao Tran

I pulled this gem out of a bargain box, and was interested by Tran’s linework, which reminded me a little of Dave McKean’s Cages.

The story is about Elin Ohmart, a young man who participates in a psychological experiment involving his dreams.  He’s not entirely sure what the purpose of the experiment is, and mostly is there to talk to the pretty woman who is running things.  When he drifts into his dreams though, Elin finds himself talking to his younger self, and their conversation effects some change in Elin’s memories.  In short, he realizes that he can change his past, and so he insists on being able to return to the experiment again and again.

Tran paces the story very well, as we see Elin become both more and more obsessed, but also happier than he has been in some time, as he starts a relationship with Stef, the woman conducting the experiments.  It is Elin’s insistence that he correct the problems of his past that threaten the happiness he’s now found in the present.

Before I read this, I was interested in checking out Tran’s new book Vietnamerica; now I really want to read it.

Strange Science Fantasy #1-6

by Scott Morse, with Paul Pope

Somehow this series stayed completely below my radar until I saw the last issue.  Luckily, I was able to get the whole set during a sale at my comics store, as this is one very cool comic.

Basically, Morse is playing around with pulpy strange science stories, with each issue telling a done-in-one story (except for the last issue, which manages to bring all the different issues together).  We get characters like The Headlight, who leads a rebel group of Gearheads, the Shogunaut, G.I Gantic (a soldier who can grow to great heights), and Rusty Irons, a boxer who becomes a Plastic Man knock-off.  My favourite issue is the third, which features the Projectionist, a man with an old reel-to-reel movie projector as a head.

Morse has structured each page with three horizontal panels, with narration written between them.  He is definitely going for a wide-screen look, as his panels are as frenetic and bombastic as his writing.  The art is a cross between Darwyn Cooke and Frank Espinosa, while the writing feels like it may have been written by Stan Lee after a three-day binge on cocaine and poppers.

Each issue also contains a one-page back-up story by Paul Pope, which is in itself very cool.

Wolverine: The Best There Is #1 – Except it’s so very, very far away from that.  This is easily one of the worst Wolverine comics I’ve read in years – the story is ridiculous (Logan ends up cutting womens’ hair in the middle of a dance floor), although I like Ryp’s artwork.  It’s not enough to salvage this though…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Wet Moon Book 2: Unseen Feet

by Ross Campbell

I’m a little surprised by just how absorbed I found myself in the second volume of Campbell’s bizarre punk college girl series.  I liked the first volume, and love Campbell’s art, but found, with this volume, that I didn’t want to put the book down, and stayed up way too late to finish it off (I only wish I had the next three volumes handy).

This book picks up right where the last one left off.  Cleo and her friends are working their way through their various minor dramas, and just generally getting by and living their college life.  Cleo becomes close to Myrtle, the girl she literally ran in to in the last book, although some questions are being raised as to the nature of their friendship.  Trilby gets closer to her boyfriend, roommates eat peoples’ food, and so on.  In a lot of ways, this is New York Four set in the south, populated with chunky girls with ambivalent sexuality (except that it came first).

What makes this book so charming and beguiling is the strength of Campbell’s characterizations and artwork.  He does such a good job of conveying Cleo and the others through their physicality and facial expressions, that it is obvious what they are thinking at different moments.  There are some truly bizarre choices made in this book, like when a random cat plays with its food in its bowl, for no apparent reason, but scenes like this only add to my enjoyment of the series.

I don’t see this as the type of book to have a wide readership, but at the same time, I think it deserves a lot more attention than it has received.

Wondermark Vol. 2: Clever Tricks to Stave Off Death

by David Malki

Having become mildly obsessed with Malki’s Wondermark site, and having thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Dark Horse’s collections of the strips, I eagerly enjoyed this second volume.

Malki, for those unfamiliar with his approach, takes old Victorian images and repurposes them to create newspaper-style comics strips, with a decidedly contemporary outlook.  Much of the visual humour in the series comes from seeing people in petticoats and top hats discussing the Internet or modern celebrities.

Malki’s sense of humour is very strange, but always funny.  I felt that this volume is much more consistent than the first, which often seemed to feature strips that ended, rather than concluded.  You can trace his growth as an artist in this book, especially when he includes a few out-take strips that were never published on-line (because they aren’t good).

This book also includes Ransom!, his first long-form comics story told in this style (originally published in a volume of Myspace Dark Horse Presents).  Personally, I didn’t enjoy this story too much, as I felt like it was pretty forced (until the ending, which redeems it).

Overall though, this is a very funny book.  Check out the website, and then do yourself a favour and give this a try.

Album of the Week:

Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming

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