The Weekly Round-Up #65 Featuring Sweet Tooth, Chew, Joe The Barbarian, And More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Sweet Tooth #19

by Jeff Lemire, Nate Powell, Emi Lenox, and Matt Kindt

Sweet Tooth often does something different (like last month’s sideways issue), but it was a surprise to see that Jeff Lemire has invited a few other comics creators into his sandbox to play for a bit.

This issue has the three female characters that have joined Jeppard and Gus on their trip to Alaska wandering around in the woods and talking to each other, sharing parts of each of their stories.  Each story is written and drawn by a different cartoonist.

Nate Powell shares a little more about Lucy, who was a nurse in her previous life, before she was mysteriously abducted.  I’ve not read Powell’s Swallow Me Whole yet, although it’s been on my list of books I’m interested in for a few years now.  Emi Lenox, of Emitown, gives us a look at Becky and her memories from just before the plague.  This story follows her through a number of unfortunate events, as she’s managed to survive where so many others didn’t.

The final story is by Matt Kindt, who has done a number of books that I’ve read and enjoyed in the last year, and who I now consider to be a ‘buy on sight’ artist.  He shows us what life was like for Wendy, the pig-hybrid girl, before she was discovered by the militia.  His faded artwork is an interesting contrast for Lemire’s pencils that follow it.

This issue is a very good place for a new reader to jump on the title, as it introduces these three characters very well, and leaves them hanging (literally) in an interesting position, which will help launch the next arc.  Sweet Tooth is one of Vertigo’s better books, and is worth taking a look at.

Other Notable Comics:

Chew #17

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

Here’s something we haven’t seen for a while – a more or less straight-up FDA procedural issue of Chew.  Agents Chu and Colby are called to Francis Bacon High School, where a food fight has turned deadly, and the person responsible is holding hostages in the Home Ec. room.

Of course, because this is Chew, things are deeply twisted and food-related, with asides that involve Tony’s estranged daughter, a joint American-Russian space station, the return to these pages of the gallsaberry, and the ever-mysterious alien letters that have appeared in the sky.

Chew just keeps getting more and more fun with each issue.  I like the way this chapter eases off on some of the longer-running plot lines (even while an old villain makes his return) and opts to return the book to its buddy-cop roots.  This is a comic that really stands on the strength of its characterizations, and its nice to see Tony doing some of his usual FDA things.  In all, a very good issue.

Joe the Barbarian #8

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

While it’s nice to see that Morrison and Murphy’s hallucinatory epic has finally finished, I think the wait between the seventh and eighth issues was long enough that I more or less stopped caring about this title and its characters.

The series has always been a little strange.  It’s about a boy named Joe who, in a hypoglycemic episode, has imagined his house as a strange fantasy world where his pet rat and his toys take on mythic proportions, and the spectre of King Death looms over everyone.

The story has been pretty conventional, and this issue is no exception.  It reads more like a young adult comic than anything Morrison has ever written, and when taken in that sense, it’s very good, but when read as a Grant Morrison comic, it feels a little lacking (there is no reason why this should be labeled a ‘mature readers’ comic.

The strength of this title has been Sean Murphy’s artwork.  His designs of the house and the mythical world of Hypogeia are fantastic, as is his figure work.  This comic would have been a lot less impressive in the hands of another artist.

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #2

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by John Severin

It’s impossible to read this comic and not marvel at the artwork of John Severin.  Sure, he’s always been a great artist, but to read this comic and realize that he’s still drawing like this at the age of eighty-nine is astounding.

This volume of Witchfinder has been very different from the first.  It has Sir Grey tramping around the American Southwest looking for someone, and he’s fallen in with a friendly man who seems only too happy to help him (although we as yet know next to nothing about this man, except that he helps take care of another man who is mentally challenged).

This issue has a witch ministering to an Aboriginal group, and a strange figure taking pot shots at Grey on the prairie.  Most interesting though are the scenes where Grey talks about hunting down a werewolf at the age of twelve.  Grey has often felt like a cipher in his own comics, so it’s good that we’re getting the chance to learn a little bit more about him and his background.  He’s still a difficult character to get a solid hold on, which can be frustrating, but also makes the comic interesting.

Quick Takes:

Annihilators #1 – I hadn’t realized how much I missed Abnett and Lanning doing cosmic comics in the short while since the Thanos Imperative gutted their two on-going series.  Now, they’re back with this series, which has two stories.  The Annihilators story is decent (but really, Dr. Dredd?), but it’s the Rocket Raccoon story that makes the comic.  Rocky has taken on a mail-room job in the wake of the disbanding of the Guardians of the Galaxy, although it doesn’t last when a killer clown automaton comes looking for him.  This story has fantastic art by Timothy Green III, and looks to only get better, as Groot joins in with the next issue.  The main story deals with Spaceknights and Dire Wraiths, and so has a nice nostalgic feel to it.  Artist Tan Eng Huat is turning in some art that is much more conventional than I would expect from him.

Avengers Academy #10 – First, the cover has nothing to do with this comic, except on the most tangential level.  Instead of the magic-based mayhem the cover advertises, we have another nice character-based issue where Veil tries to deal with her guilt from the last two issues, and goes about it in all the wrong ways, and Hazmat gets the chance to take her suit off for a while thanks to Leech.  Gage’s writing here is wonderful (the Hazmat/Giant-Man scene is golden), and the addition of Sean Chen to the art team is very welcome.  This comic is consistently fantastic.

Heroes for Hire #4 – This is probably the weakest issue of this title to date, but also a necessary one, as the entire comic is devoted to Misty Knight struggling against the Puppet Master’s control.  There’s a guest artist on this issue (Robert Atkins), and things don’t look as smooth as they usually do.  I’m curious to see how the on-going status quo for this book is going to be established, once Misty breaks free of her Puppet Master controlled Oracle-role.

Incognito: Bad Influences #4 – I think this arc is surpassing the original Incognito, as Zack wrestles with the changes in his personality since going over to the ‘good side’, and starts to see his former life as shabbier and less enjoyable than he remembered.  Brubaker and Phillips have done a great job constructing this story, and I look forward to seeing how it all pays off in the end.

Jonah Hex #65 – Unless I’m mistaken, this is actually a kinder, gentler Jonah in this issue.  This title has had a couple of misses lately (I hated last issue), so it’s good to see it return to form with a story that has Jonah being helped by a reclusive cow-herder in the mountains.  It’s always nice to see Bernet do the art too.

Powers #7 – The latest issue of Bendis and Oeming’s semi-quarterly series has Walker and Sunrise, along with Deena Pilgrim, pondering the nature of godhood while they investigate the murder of Damocles.  It’s a good issue, but not really worth the wait.

Secret Six #31 – One of the best things about this comic is the way that the Six’s (or is that the Eight’s?) animosity for each other can fuel so many different plots.  In this issue, Scandal thinks to use the ‘get out of Hell free’ card that the team has had since this series began to rescue her dead lover Knockout, but Ragdoll has other plans.  Oh, and there’s an infomercial made for the team.  Great stuff, as always.

Secret Warriors #25 – There’s not much left to this series, but that’s okay with Jonathan Hickman, he’ll just go back in time, reveal a ton of stuff about all the characters, and tie the book into his very strange SHIELD series.  And that right there is why I think this is one of the most interesting comics that Marvel publishes.

Thunderbolts #154 – So this is basically a Man-Thing solo story, as Jennifer Kale busts him out of the Raft to return to the swamp, and a whole bunch of people try to figure out what’s best for the swampy creature.  It’s a good issue.

X-Factor #216 – In all, a pretty standard issue, as Jonah Jameson brings Madrox a case, Monet and Shatterstar hang out, Rahne and Lyla have a chat, and the stalled sub-plot involving a strange blond woman gets picked up again.  Pip gets the best lines this month, although the Spider-Man cameo is amusing.

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

Captain America and the Falcon One Shot #1

Irredeemable #23

John Byrne’s The Next Men #4

Ultimate Comics Captain America #3

Bargain Comics:

Angel Vs. Frankenstein #1 – I have a lot of affection for John Byrne’s work, so I thought I’d check out this odd little tale that has Angel fighting with the Frankenstein monster over his creator’s supposed fortune.  It’s a weird comic, but it has some very nice Byrne artwork.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Fogtown

Written by Andersen Gabrych
Art by Brad Rader

I’m of two minds when it comes to this entry in the Vertigo Crime imprint.  There is a lot I liked about Fogtown, but there were also elements of the plot that I found pretty irritating.

Fogtown is about Frank Grissel, who is introduced as your typical genre hardboiled private detective, in San Francisco in 1953.  The thing is, Frank is a homosexual, and is very deep in the closet about the whole thing, which leads him to be a jerk to his girlfriend (and, we find out later, his family).  This is the interesting part of the book, as Frank has to navigate his own secrets in the course of solving a case.

The problem with this book is the case itself.  It’s clear that Gabrych saw the actual crime part of the book as secondary to exploring Frank’s character, and that’s fine, but the main plot, with its dead prostitutes, weird priests, dead bookkeepers, gigantic bodyguards, and transsexual smuggling is too overly complicated and interconnected to really work.  I wish that Gabrych had tried for a less ambitious plotline, and spent more time just working on Frank and his family.

Brad Rader’s art is pretty good, although there are a few scenes that are hard to follow.  In all, this is a middle of the road entry to the Vertigo Crime Library, but it definitely had the potential to be one of the most interesting.

The ‘Nam Vol. 1

Written by Doug Murray
Art by Michael Golden, Wayne Vansant, Armando Gil, Pepe Moreno, John Beatty, and Bob McLeod

My experience of The ‘Nam has been limited, until I read an older Marvel trade a few years ago, and realised that I’d missed out on a terrific comic in my early-teen fixation on superhero comics.

The ‘Nam, the first ten issues of which are collected here, was an attempt to explore, within the boundaries of the Comics Code, a realistic view of the Vietnam War.  The stories were designed to play out in ‘real time’, so that one issue of the comic took place one month before the next one, and characters who survived got ‘short’ and went home at the end of a year.

The writing, by Doug Murray, a veteran, captured a number of aspects of the war that weren’t usually seen in comics, from the graft of Top, a corrupt First Sergeant, to the random and unexpected violence of the war.  The book did not shy away from massacred villagers, or the lives of the VC (portrayed in one memorable issue in which a Kit Carson ex-VC shares his story).  Some issues end abruptly, or are hard to follow, but that helps add to the war’s atmosphere.

The art for most of this book is by Michael Golden (the VC issue is by Wayne Vansant).  Golden has been a favourite artist of mine since I read his early Micronauts books as a kid, although the style he employs here is much more cartoonish than his usual work.  This volume has been retouched, so the colours are brighter, and in some places, downright bizarre.

This comic is an interesting contrast to the Vietnam Journal book I read last week, which was both darker and denser, but also was not constrained by the Code.  Together, the two books help construct a fuller picture of the War.  Now I need to get Volume Two, and hope that Marvel will continue to republish the rest of this series.

Album of the Week:

Sims – Bad Time Zoo

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