The Weekly Round-Up #66 with the Walking Dead, Venom, Batman Inc., Warren Ellis’ Captain Swing, & more

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #82

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

Well, here’s another perfect example of why The Walking Dead is one of the two or three best comics being published on a monthly basis right now.

The wall protecting the community where Rick and company have been living for the last pile of issues has come down in one section, and walkers are starting to pour in.  Morgan’s been bit, the small group of people trying to protect the neighbourhood are quickly overrun.  Like we see on the cover, Rick and the others are left to hide out inside their houses and give over the town to the roamers.

This leaves Kirkman plenty of room to explore some of the characters, as Morgan, having had his arm cut off by Michonne, has a heart-to-heart with Carl (who is only 8?  That’s a little too young….), and Rick starts to make plans to get the people he’s hiding with out of the situation.  I sometimes forget how mercenary he can be when Carl is threatened…

Also of interest is the way the group that had left the area yesterday to rescue Andrea react to what’s going on.  Kirkman writes some very strong female characters, and Michonne and Andrea both get some great moments in this issue.  I’m constantly in awe of the level of emotion that Kirkman can squeeze out of me in this comic.

Other Notable Comics:

BPRD Hell on Earth – Gods #3

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis

There are a couple of things that have happened in this issue of BPRD that I’m not sure how I feel about.  To discuss one would spoil the ending of the comic, so I’m not going to do that, beyond complaining about how it’s going to be a few months before we find out what happens to a favourite character, as the next mini-series is going to spotlight Liz Sherman.

The other thing, that I know I don’t like, is that Guy Davis is leaving this title with this issue.  Davis’s art was part of the draw for me to become immersed in the Hellboy/BPRD universe last year, and I’m really going to miss his portrayal of these characters.  At the same time, I’m always excited to see how new artists interpret established settings and characters, so hopefully it will all turn out for the good.

As for the actual content of this comic that I will discuss, it’s really quite good.  Abe and his BPRD team catch up with the Bedouin group they’ve been tracking, as they hunt for the mysterious young woman named Fenix.  Finding them involves dealing with some giant, bizarre monsters, and some surprising stuff happens in the end.  Mignola and Arcudi make good use of the rivalry between Abe and Devon, which is clearly not as resolved as the last issue led us to believe.  The silent scene with Devon and Fenix is a perfect example of why I’m going to miss Guy Davis on this book.

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #3

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Raulo Caceres

This comic was supposed to be out in May of 2010, and the last issue was released (also behind schedule) in July.  To be honest, I’d pretty much forgotten that it existed, so seeing it on the schedule for this week was a surprise.

It took me a little to get back into the story, as I had a hard time remembering where things had left off, but once it all came back to me, it was easy enough to get back in the swing of Ellis’s Victorian electrical pirate story (pun intended).

At the heart of this story is a Peeler (a British proto-cop), who is in the middle of a conflict with a rival force of magistrates, to uncover the identity of the mysterious Captain Swing.  The Peeler has been taken to Cindery Island, and makes some good points about Swing’s organization and the quality of his help.  At that point, the other guy shows up, and there is mayhem.

Ellis is plotting this one by the numbers, but it is still a very readable comic, with decent art.  I hope that the last issue comes out before I’ve completely forgotten about this one.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #2

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Shawn McManus

Roberson and McManus’s second Cinderella series is a lot of fun.  Cindy is helping an old acquaintance, Ivan, escape from the crosshairs of Dorothy Gale, an assassin that has been sent by the leader of the Russian fables to kill him.  Their quest to take out Dorothy before she can kill Ivan takes them to Thailand, where one of the heads of the ‘Shadow Fabletown’ lives.

What makes this book work so well are the numerous flashbacks to previous missions where Cindy ran in to Dorothy.  The story of the Russian castle that began last issue is resolved, and an adventure from the 80s in Thailand is started.  As well, we get a glimpse of Dorothy’s only visit to Fabletown in the 40s.

Roberson has a good handle on Cinderella, and writes her much as Bill Willingham does in the mothership title.  McManus’s art is always great, and works very well on this book.

Elephantmen #30

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin

I often find a new issue of Elephantmen contains something totally unexpected.  Starkings has often taken the plot of the series in wild new directions, or has introduced new and unforeseen elements into the story with little warning.  This issue marks another strange departure in the history of this comic, as Starkings and Medellin give us an extremely steamy and suggestive issue.

Hip Flask, who is basically the main character of the book, ends up mending things with Miki, the cab driver who has had a crush on him for ages, and has recently been very angry with him.  This leads to the two of them skinnydipping in Hip’s pool, and getting up to much, much more (although, considering the size difference between them, I don’t see how).

At the same time, Sahara and Panya share a partially clothed hug, and a strange guy named Mr. Apostrophe (really?) offers his services to the Information Agency to help deactivate the imperiumite implants that can control the Elephantmens’ behaviour.

The story seems unconnected and random, but all complaints are easily ignored in the face of Medillin’s amazing artwork on this issue.  He employs a couple of different styles, and his erotic scenes are indeed quite lovely.

I, Zombie #11

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred

This series has really developed a sitcom feel to it – one of those non-studio sitcoms like Dead Like Me I think.  In this issue, Gwen goes home and checks in on her little brother, who she is having trouble remembering.  They don’t talk or anything – she just follows him around for a little while, while continuing to consider Amon’s offer to help her keep her memories.

Amon, meanwhile, meets with Galatea, who outlines her intent to bring an ancient god into our world.  While this is going on, Spot introduces Ellie to his grandfather chimp, with the hope that she can help him to possess a more suitable body.  Also, Horatio negotiates a possible truce with the vampire paintball girls.

See?  Just like a sitcom.  I’m amazed at how many characters Roberson’s managed to stuff this book with in such a short amount of time, especially considering how well-developed and fleshed out most of them are.  This is a great book, with fantastic Michael Allred art.  If you aren’t reading it, you should check out the first trade, which comes out next week…

The Li’l Depressed Boy #2

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

I’d had little intention to start reading this series, but the first issue was interesting enough that I thought I’d give the second and try, and the damn book is so beguiling and charming that I think I’m hooked.

The Li’l Depressed Boy is a strange series.  It’s about the LDB, who is a rag doll (I think), but no one talks about that.  He also doesn’t seem the least bit depressed; he seems more like the type of person that struggles with the simple mechanics of life, in the Scott Pilgrim vein (more on that in a moment).

In this issue, he realizes that he doesn’t know the name of the girl that he met last issue (and has dated 1.5 times).  They play video games, go bowling (in a very funny scene that introduces the concept of style points), and eventually, have to confront the fact that he is still ignorant of how to refer to her.

The charm of this series really does come straight out of the Scott Pilgrim school, although Grace’s artwork appears to be only slightly manga-influenced.  Maybe not a whole lot really happened in this issue, but enough happened that I want to read about what happens next.

The Stuff of Legend Vol.2: The Jungle #4

Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III

This has been an interesting title, and with this issue, the writers really work at chipping away at the emotional bond between the main characters.

This group of toys (with a dog) have been through a lot since journeying into The Dark to search for the child that owns them, and to rescue him from the Boogeyman.  In this issue, the toys have been separated into animal and human factions, and the humans are on the run from the rest of the animal kingdom, which is hunting them.  They come across a subject of the Princess, who renders aid, and some of them decide to go back to help their animal friends.

Meanwhile, Max, the bear, has revealed his greatest shame and secret to the rest of the group, with the effect that their friendships are fractured.  Max takes on a leadership challenge against the King of the Animals, and in the Boogeyman’s army, there are the first rumblings of discontent.  Meanwhile, the boy has escaped the Boogeyman’s people, and is running free through The Dark.

The writers are giving this story a lot of time to develop – the next issue looks like it will focus on the Jester and be out in the summer, and I appreciate their slow burn approach.  While a number of the concepts at play here are none too original (The Indian in the Cupboard?), the depth of the characterization and the beauty of the artwork really make this series stand out.

27 #4

Written by Charles Soule
Art by Renzo Podesta

This exploration of the fleetingness of creativity and talent has been a very enjoyable series.  Will Garland, in this issue, confronts the embodiment of the number 9, and the Erebus, which has been plaguing him.  His argument is that true creative genius – be it musical, artistic, or otherwise – can not be given or gifted, but must be earned through hard work and perseverance.  It’s an interesting argument, especially when tossed in the face of an all-powerful entity that views itself as being responsible for the breadth of human creativity.

Twenty-Seven has been a very cool series.  When it started, I expected it was going to go in a different direction (although I’m not sure what that would have been), although I really enjoyed the track that it took.

On the back cover, there is an ad for Twenty-Seven: Second Set.  I’m not sure that there is a lot of room left here for sequels – to my mind, this is a very nicely self-contained story, but I’m curious to see where the creators move next with this.

Quick Takes:

Batman and Robin #21 – I’m enjoying the way Tomasi is building the relationship between Damian and Dick quite a bit.  It’s the draw to this book (at least until Judd Winick takes over in May and I drop it), although I’m also enjoying Gleason’s art (there’s a wonderful splash page in here.  The story is interesting, with the revelation of just who the victims of the White Knight are.  Good stuff.

Batman Incorporated #3 – This is one book that is worth the wait, as Batman travels to Argentina, and gets involved in a strange case involving blind children and the works of a fictitious author created by, among others, Jorge Luis Borges.  And this right here is why I love Grant Morrison.  Truthfully, the story seems a little hard to follow (Batman impersonates Bruce Wayne?), but it’s very cool none the less, with lovely artwork.

Birds of Prey #10 – So now it becomes clear just what Oracle was trying for with this ‘Death of Oracle’ thing, and it makes sense, although I can’t really see Barbara leaving anyone in the lurch, especially a character like Manhunter who has been on her team.  There was a lot to like in this issue, with Huntress making Calculator look bad in front of his hired goons, and Canary actually using her scream powers for a change.  Inaki Miranda’s art is fine, but I noticed that whenever Calculator was screen, he looked like he was being drawn by the Luna Brothers.  Only him though – it was weird.

Farscape #17 – It’s a Scorpius and Rygel buddy issue, as the two continue to attempt their escape from the Kkore, and end up stranded on a water planet together.  There’s some witty dialogue between them, as they try to work together without trusting one another in the slightest.  This series has been really good lately.

Guarding the Globe #4 – This continues to be a perfectly fine large-cast superhero book, which suffers a little from the fact that few of the characters are developed much, and that every new issue seems to cram in 5 or 6 new characters.  Still, it’s an enjoyable read.

Incredible Hulks #624 – Things are moving along rather predictably here, as Hulk is taken prisoner by Miek, and the Warbound pull off a neat trick whereby the follow Miek to the Hulk, but get there ahead of him.  I like that Eaglesham is doing the art on this book, but I’m starting to lose interest again; I came on board because I liked the “family” focus of the title, and that the book was about Hulks plural, but I’m feeling that this approach has become less of a priority (it looks like the title is becoming singular again in a month or so).

Legion of Super-Villains #1 – I don’t understand DC’s approach to publishing the Legion.  The numbers for the main book, or for Adventure Comics, are all that good, yet they keep publishing one-shots as well.  Last month we got an Annual, and now there is this Special, which focuses on Saturn Queen’s attempts to rebuild the LSV, and to follow the directives of some blue flame thing.  To that end, they decide not to destroy Oa, and take out the Rock of Eternity instead.  I’m not sure where this is all going, and while it was a perfectly okay comic, it’s not all that impressive.

New Avengers #10 – I’m not sure where Bendis is taking this.  In the part of the book set in current continuity, the whole team is getting picked apart by one powered woman and some armed henchmen.  Oh, and Mockingbird needs paramedics.  In the 1959, Howard Chaykin-drawn part of the book, Nick Fury is putting together a team of Avengers featuring people like Sabretooth, Dominic Fortune, and Kraven the Hunter.  Oh, and Namora?  Really?  Why?  I don’t see any connection between the two plots, nor do I find myself too interested.  And this was the good Avengers book…

Northern Guard #2 – I’m enjoying Ty Templeton’s revamp of classic Canadian super-heroes.  He’s created an interesting backdrop – a world where electricity doesn’t work, except in a narrow band running from Long Island to Alaska (ie., through Canada).  There is a good effort being made to establish these characters, and the conflicted bad guy, the Red Rogue is interesting.  Cutler’s art is pretty standard, and the Golden Age reprint in the back is a nice addition.

Superboy #5 – The Superboy/Kid Flash race is a lot of fun, as Lemire takes a good stretch of the issue to work on Connor’s misgivings about what’s been going on in Smallville lately, and foreshadows some of what’s going to be coming up.  In addition to Kid Flash, there are cameos from most of the rest of the Titans, and the Phantom Stranger shows up again.  Pier Gallo’s doing a great job with this book, and I love the puzzle piece motif used near the front of the issue (it seems like something Lemire would do in Sweet Tooth).  I don’t like this character, but I’ve added this title to my pull-list.  That says a lot about this creative team.

Venom #1 – I really liked the new Venom as introduced in the last couple issues of Amazing Spider-Man, and when I saw this new series was going to be by Remender and Moore (although really, how long can that last before the book is five months late <cough> Fear Agent <cough>?) I figured it would be worth checking out.  I’m not sure though – I liked Dan Slott’s writing better, as this was just a little too much crazy, without enough substance, at least until the very end of the issue.  Also, the Joe Quesada cover is awful – did no one tell him that Venom looked different (ie. cooler) in this book?

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

Captain America and the First Thirteen #1

Punisher Max #11

Bargain Comics:

Batgirl #17 – It sometimes feels like this site is campaigning heavily for this title, so I thought I’d give it another try, and I really liked this issue, which has Batgirl teaming up with Robin to deal with some kidnappers.  It’s a fun little story, nicely drawn by Pere Perez.  I’m definitely warming up to this comic – I may have to pick up another issue soon.

I Am An Avenger #4 – There’s a very nice Thing story in here by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Sara Pichelli, in which Ben tells the FF that he’s joined the Avengers, and his loyalties are tested.  The rest is pretty standard, but that first story, especially in light of what’s happened lately in Fantastic Four, was touching.

John Moore Presents Dead Soldier #1 – I thought there’d be a lot more WWI in this military horror comic.  I guess the premise, from what I can understand, about an undead soldier from the First War knocking around in modern-day Darfur, is interesting, but the execution is lacking.

Turok Son of Stone #1 – The Valiant Turok was a favourite of mine, but this Jim Shooter written relaunch is pretty unspectacular.  I like Eduardo Francisco’s artwork though – it kind of reminds me of Rags Morales’s work on the Valiant issues.  I won’t be returning for more.

X-Men: To Serve and Protect#3 – The stories here are pretty good, dealing with Norse Storm, Blink, and Kitty Pryde, but the Anole and Rockslide serialised story is still the best part of the whole thing.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Black Panther: Enemy of the State

Written by Christopher Priest
Art by Joe Jusko, Mike Manley, Mark Bright, Jimmy Palmiotti, Nelson DeCastro, Amanda Conners and Vince Evans

As much as I loved Priest’s run on Black Panther, I didn’t get involved with it until later into the run around #15 I  think), and therefore missed the stories included in this volume.  Truthfully, that’s not such a bad thing, as these issues are nowhere near the level of complexity and sophistication that Priest developed.

It’s still a very good, if very plot-heavy comic.  T’Challa is exiled in the US, while a crazy man with a hand puppet named Achebe has taken over Wakanda (at the behest of some American governmental organizations).  T’Challa ends up facing off with him, but only after some complicated plotting involving Kraven the Hunter, the Avengers (and his quasi-betrayal of them), Bill Clinton, and the White Wolf (who I love).  Towards the end of the book, the brilliance of the later issues is anticipated, as we start to see the layers of planning and royal ineffability with which he infused his take on T’Challa.

The art in this volume is all over the map.  Joe Jusko does his usual late 90s thing, and it works okay.  There’s a cool sequence where Amanda Connor channels the ghost of Jack Kirby, and Mark Bright’s work is as journeyman good as usual, but Mike Manley’s stuff looks horrid.  If you look at that list of artists, it’s way too inconsistent for a book like this.  I don’t know if Marvel is going to keep reprinting the rest of Priest’s run.  I hope they do, as it was a terrific comic, especially when compared to just about anything to do with the Black Panther that’s come since.

Album of the Week:

Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows

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