It’s Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, Celebration of Native American Genocide Day in the US, the weather is amazing, and the comics are just as good (not better – sorry, but the weather is really really nice).
Just pause for a moment and take in that cover. The fact that the scene it shows doesn’t exactly happen like that in the book doesn’t actually matter, does it? That is one freaking amazing cover.
Actually, this is one pretty freaking amazing comic, even if reading it does lead to a level of cognitive fatigue not found in comics since Grant Morrison’s Invisibles finished.
Casanova Quinn has stopped having to delete entire alternate timelines now, as he has instead discovered the true identity of arch villain Newman Xeno, and is instead working his way systematically through hundreds of alternates, taking him out. Were that all that was happening in this book, it would be kind of simple, and we could just sit back and enjoy the different situations and settings that Cass finds himself in. We could also enjoy the ways in which Fraction and Bá play around with things on a meta level. Cass goes to kill Luther Desmond Diamond (aka Newman Xeno), the aspiring pop star, in an ancient Chinese setting with pandas, and on the next world, Diamond is signing copies of the comic he drew about that very thing. There are lots of neat little tricks like that throughout this comic.
Where things become confusing though, is in trying to chart Casanova’s feelings towards Diamond, his sorta girlfriend Sasa Lisi, and towards his compatriots at EMPIRE, the organization he works for. There is a lot of subtle character stuff going on, made all the more difficult to follow because of the way the story is chopped up and spread across different timelines.
Fraction is putting his full brilliance behind this book, making it enjoyable on a number of levels (so unlike his recent Marvel work), and Gabriel Bá is straight killing on the art. I may not catch everything that happens on the first read, but I am definitely loving this comic.
From the beginning, this has been a strange and depraved book, but I feel, with this issue, like it’s beginning to lose its way. The first three issues of Caligula has followed young Junius (called Felix by Caligula) on his quest to extract revenge on the mad emperor for the vicious rape and death of his family. What made the book especially interesting were the supernatural elements that David Lapham has given to Caligula, and the way in which Junius struggled to maintain his sense of purpose around so much madness.
Following last issue’s attack, Caligula has remained on his gigantic palace-boat, where he feels safe (despite being apparently invulnerable and therefore safe everywhere he goes). Most of this chapter is taking up with an elaborate ‘murder mystery’ Caligula has concocted for a small group of senators and other notables he’s invited to his boat. Each person is required to play a different role, with most of them centred around infidelity and jealousy. Even Junius is expected to play a role, which puts him in a position of revealing his duplicity.
The problem with all these scenes is that none of the new characters are developed enough to care about. It’s difficult (especially with Nobile’s art) to remember who any of them are, and who is supposed to be married to whom. The anonymity of the actors in this farce rob it of any emotional weight. Junius/Felix takes some action at the end, which is interesting in terms of his character, but I think I would have preferred to learn more about his plot with the honest Centurion Laurentius, which is given very little space here.
I love Chew. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about that before, but it’s still true, so there you have it. It’s a hard comic to keep writing about, because as a reviewer, I have to wonder how often I can use phrases like ‘gets better with every issue’, despite the fact that it’s a true statement.
This issue begins a new arc, ‘Major League Chew’. The interesting thing about arcs on this comic is that they are almost always a series of done-in-one stories (at least lately) that could just as well fit with the previous arc. I guess every writer has to keep one eye towards the eventual trade these days, and that helps provide the structure of the book.
In this issue, Tony starts his new job. After the disaster of his last mission for the FDA, he’s been fired. Actually, he’s been reassigned to the city traffic division, but Applebee, his former boss, prefers to use the word ‘fired’. (He also gets a dance number, which opens the issue). Being a traffic cop means that Tony has to wear a helmet with a light on it, and a kilt. He also has to ride around on a Segway, marking him as one of the lowest of the low in the world.
Strangely though, the job gives him the opportunity to shine, and actually get appreciated for his talents for a change (at least, until the last page). Layman and Guillory give us a fun issue which focuses mainly on Tony, although it does raise the questions of what happened to his daughter, and where his former partner Colby has been reassigned. Great stuff.
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Jay Stephens, with Michael Allred
This month we’re given a flashback chapter, which focuses on Diogenes, the scarred and kind of surly veteran of the Fossor Corporation, the vampire and monster hunters who have begun to investigate the goings on in Eugene. Currently, Diogenes is partnered with Horatio, who has become iZombie’s main character, Gwen’s, boyfriend. Horatio found out last issue that Gwen is really a zombie, and I expected this issue to show us how that revelation affects their relationship.
Instead, we get a story about Diogenes on his first field mission, to Rio De Janeiro, to hunt a vampire infestation. Diogenes was originally partnered with Britia, a legendary Fossor, who prefers a sword to any other type of modern weaponry. Their trip takes them deep into the Amazon, and after handling were-jaguars, zombies, a poltergeist, and a village of dream-walkers, they finally reach the temple, and the vampires, they were searching for.
This is a useful story, in that it helps flesh out Diogenes rather nicely, and provides an interesting connection between his past and Horatio. The art is by Jay Stephens instead of Michael Allred. Stephens is good, but I do prefer Allred’s take on these characters.
Written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Art by Attila Futaki
Scott Snyder has, over the last two years, become a ‘big name’ comics writer, first receiving accolades for himself on American Vampire, and then taking over DC’s Detective Comics and making it the best its been in years. During the DC Relaunch last month, he had the second best-selling (and one of the most positively-received) titles in the whole line with Batman. But it’s Severed people should really be reading. It’s a shame too, because I’m sure the comic will be lucky to sell one twentieth of Batman #1, despite being vastly superior.
Severed is about a twelve-year-old boy named Jack who has run away from his adoptive mother to try to find his father, a traveling musician, somewhere in Depression-era America. Currently he’s in Chicago, having just missed his father, and is making money to continue his journey by busking. He is being watched over by Sam, a girl about his age who has disguised her gender for protection on the road. The pair have caught the attention of a mysterious serial killer, who we know has already cannibalized a boy about their age.
In this issue, the killer approaches them, in the guise of a salesman for RCA Victor. He attempts to befriend them, inviting them back to his accommodations for beer and duck. He seems like a good guy to Jack, but Sam is more astute, and knows something is up.
There’s a very suspenseful scene involving a bear trap, as the older guy tries to see if he can drive a wedge into their newly-formed friendship. Snyder and Tuft layer on the suspense once they are in the killer’s home, and with each page, I expected something seriously bad to happen. Futaki’s art helps add to this feeling by playing things very straightforward and ordinary – there is no use of shadow and light to try to make things seem scarier than they are, and that’s why the book works so well.
I’m very excited to see the next issue. Much more than I am for Batman #2…
Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats
Skullkicker’s second arc, ‘Five Funerals & A Bucket of Blood’ finishes with this issue, which features both that fifth funeral, and that bucket of blood. This story has our two heroes fighting a gigantic blood-sucking plant, while still being pursued by soldiers, an angry mob, and the local Thieve’s Guild.
The giant plant is central to the plans of Kusia, the woman who our boys have been running into since the first issue, although after she has a revelatory chat (to which we are not privy) with the woman who I still think looks like Gran’ma Ben from Bone, she sort of switches sides.
Basically, this is a big fun fight comic, with plenty of opportunities for Jim Zub to write large sound effect captions that say things like ‘dynamic action’, ’embarassing [sic] demise’, and ‘property depreciation’. The story is wrapped up well, and the last couple of pages both set up the next arc, and give us a sight that is a little confusing, but which I imagine will help propel the series forward.
Skullkickers is always a fun read, and I’m pleased to see that the series is doing well.
It’s easy to not expect anything from this comic. Two creators that I’m not familiar with are crafting a six-issue mini-series about an unhappy, geeky, skinny kid who sends away for a Charles Atlas-style booklet, and gains superpowers. It’s pretty much a cliché, right? I wasn’t going to get this book, but then I heard some positive buzz around it, and liked the art when I flipped through it at the store.
It’s really a very good comic. Sure, all of the elements that I mentioned above are overly familiar to anyone who’s been reading comics for some time (or even just their ads), but Jordan is doing a few interesting things with it to make it stand out.
To begin with, he’s leaving things for the reader to pick up on. That Luther’s mother is the victim of some sort of domestic abuse is an interesting element to the story, especially since it’s not really explained. Likewise, Luther’s confusing relationship with Petra needs more screen time, because it is a little unconventional.
Clearly, the powers that Luther has tapped into by reading about the ‘Hercules Method’ will lead to trouble beyond practically knocking the head off the school bully. There are a group of guys in chains, speaking with someone they call the Librarian, about a new potential candidate. Later, this Librarian is shown on a boat, obviously coming to find Luther.
There are a few elements here which don’t really make a lot of sense. First, we have the overly erudite school jock, a figure which really only exists in comics these days (at least he’s not as poorly written as Ronnie Raymond in last week’s Firestorm #1). Also, people still mail order from comic book ads? Why doesn’t the Hercules Method have a website?
What makes this book work is the way it mashes together influences like Kick-Ass, Invincible, Lee/Ditko Spider-Man, and Flex Mentallo. The art is squarely in the Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley, especially when the blood gets flowing. I found this to be a very enjoyable read, and will stick around for the rest of the mini-series.
Both Vertigo books that I bought this week were given over to flashback, although Lemire took things much further back in Sweet Tooth than Chris Roberson did in iZombie. This month (and, I presume, for the next two, as this is the start of a three-part story) we a told the start of the story of Dr. James Thacker, which begins in 1911.
Thacker’s soon-to-be brother-in-law left some six months ago to complete some missionary work in Alaska before marrying Thacker’s sister. He, and his expedition, have gone missing, so the Thacker family has paid a lot of money to hire a boat and send James on a rescue mission. The journey is difficult, and Thacker doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with the other men on-board, which becomes more clear when they need to trek in-land to search for the missionaries.
After a few days of hiking, the rescue party wake up to find their sled dogs slaughtered, and things become even more problematic once they reach the church that the missionaries had built. I have no idea what any of this has to do with Gus, Mr. Jeppard, and the regular Sweet Tooth cast, except for the fact that they were traveling to Alaska when they found the dam that has been the setting for the last few issues.
This story arc is being drawn by Matt Kindt, who is an excellent cartoonist. He employs his usual artistic technique to make the comic look much older than it is, and to add a sepia-toned, scratchy look to the art, reminiscent of old photographs. This book reads well on its own, and would be enjoyable even to people who don’t normally read this comic.
When a series is as character driven as The Walking Dead, I’m sure it can become difficult, after many years, to find ways to keep the principal characters fresh, interesting, and alive. There is a thin line between keeping characters and their situations believable, and ending up in soap opera territory. There have been times where I’ve felt that The Walking Dead may be veering too close to that direction – the recent drama with Carl being one such example, even though I found it thrilling – but Kirkman continues to impress me with his ability to get inside the heads of these characters, especially Rick.
This issue opens with Rick being all emotional. He’s leading a small group of people through the town around their community, hunting for supplies and other useful items, and has ducked into a building to have a good cry. It makes sense, what with all that he’s been through, and his conversation with Andrea, who discovers him there, is frank and very believable. At the centre of his worries is Carl, who Rick is beginning to believe is stronger than him. It’s a nice moment.
At the end of the issue though, we see Rick in full-on bad ass mode, as he returns to the community to find his leadership being challenged by one of the place’s earlier inhabitants. This guy has roused up just about everyone, and has been chasing after Glen, who has heard of his plans to kill Rick. What works well here is that in facing him down as he does, Rick is confirming the guy’s suspicions about him. Next issue should be pretty interesting.
Action Comics #2 – First things first – I thought, when paying $4 for this comic, that the story was going to be longer than twenty pages. Instead, we get a lot of self-congratulatory and pretentious commentary from Grant Morrison and Rags Morales to fill out the book. Not cool. Beyond that, I liked the story this month much more than I did last. Superman has been taken captive by the army, and Lex Luthor is torturing him, ostensibly for information, but it’s clear that there’s something else going on here. The new angry Superman is a cool approach, even if nothing is done with him in terms of character development this time around. Brent Anderson is a good addition to the creative team, although I would prefer a consistent artist (yes DC, even if it makes the book a little late).
Animal Man #2 – I thought the first issue of Animal Man was among the best of the New 52, even though I didn’t always like the art. I still think this is a terrific comic, but am worried that Jeff Lemire is treading on ground that is perhaps a little too familiar, as Maxine, Animal Man’s daughter has developed abilities overnight, and is now leading her father into ‘The Red’. This book is perhaps too similar to Swamp Thing below (which I read first) for my liking. I’m still very intrigued, but would have liked to see some more of the family dynamic in the Baker household before we went straight into the source of AM’s powers. A lot of the New 52 are eschewing the slow burn in favour of getting right down to business, and I think that may be detrimental in the long-term.
Hulk #42 – Now that most of the Hulk’s enemies have been dealt with, it’s time for this book to take a slightly different tack, and apparently that involves Red heading off to the Middle East to get involved in an Arab Spring-style uprising, where the government forces have access to futuristic weapons. The justification for his presence – that an old friend we’ve never heard of before was killed – is a little weak, but the appearance of a certain secret team at the end of the book has my interest. Patrick Zircher is okay on art, but I prefer Gabriel Hardman.
Invincible #83 – Has it really been just a month since the last issue of Invincible? Perhaps it’s getting back on track. Another very good issue, as Mark continues to reexamine his approach to being a superhero, and his place in the world. Kirkman is slowly taking what was once a cosmic riff on a Spider-Man like figure, and making it a more mature examination of the role of a powered individual. While this is going on, the book has maintained its fun, light-hearted approach, which makes it a real rarity in comics (and not just because characters actually change over time, which is itself kind of unheard of).
Iron Man 2.0 #9 – I swear, Marvel is on a mission to make this comic the least commercial book they publish. Once again, the title character (who is really called War Machine) barely makes an appearance, as we figure out just how the mysterious villain Palmer Addley has been able to escape death. The thing is, as much as I hate the art (Ariel Olivetti), I like the way Nick Spencer is writing this book (for the very non-commercial aspects I mention above). I see that Joshua Hale Fialkov has contributed to the writing of this issue, but I don’t see his fingerprints anywhere. I can’t imagine that this series is going to last much longer.
Last of the Greats #1 – This is a new series by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov. It reminds me, at different points, of the Mark Gruenwald Squadron Supreme mini-series from back in the day, Jonathan Hickman’s Red Mass For Mars, and of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, but is still an original approach. The Greats are a family of powered beings who attempted to usher in a time of peace and prosperity on the Earth, before they were killed off. Now, with the Earth facing an alien invasion, one final Great has emerged from seclusion, and a team of people who worked with the family have been sent to elicit his help. It’s an interesting book, with decent art, and a twist ending that really grabbed my attention. I’ll be giving this series a try.
Men of War #2 – The first issue of this series, starring the grandson of Sgt. Frank Rock kind of intrigued me, especially because I liked how a super-powered element was introduced (barely) into a military procedural comic. It reminded me a little of Stormwatch in its Team Achilles and PHD versions, and that worked. Now though, with this second issue shedding a little more light on things, I find that my interest and my attention are wavering. I know that this book is one of the ones in the most precarious of positions in terms of sales, and I like to support books that try something different, but I’m not too likely to come back for issue 3.
Moriarty #5 – This series, which stars Sherlock Holmes’s famous nemesis returns with a new storyline. The book opens on a strange dream sequence featuring Holmes, Watson, and their cook, before moving into a Heart of Darkness style plot taking place in Burma. There are a lot of elements in this story, and I’m not sure how well they work together. I liked the first arc, but feel like this title may be on a short leash.
Secret Avengers #17 – I didn’t get this last week (thanks Diamond). It’s another nice done-in-one by Warren Ellis, this time joined by Kev Walker. It lacks the cool factor of the last issue, but is another example of the original concept of this book being executed properly, as Steve Rogers takes a team into Kosovo to track down a tractor trailer that has been snatching up entire villages. It’s good stuff.
Spider-Island: Heroes For Hire #1 – I really don’t know what’s going on with Heroes for Hire. The monthly book has been canceled, but now there’s this one-shot tie-in, and later this month, ‘Villains For Hire’ is launching with a 0.1 issue. I think the formula was working well before the title became mired in Fear Itself nonsense, but just hasn’t been given enough of a chance to prove itself. This issue is okay, but once again, is hurt badly by ugly art by Kyle Hotz. Were he doing the Villains mini, I wouldn’t buy it.
Stormwatch #2 – Things are more coherent in this issue than they were in the first, but Paul Cornell is trying to do too many things at once with this comic, which makes it a little difficult to follow. I am finding myself getting interested in this take on Stormwatch though, despite myself. While I’m not entirely sure of where this book is going, I do feel like it’s one of the relaunched titles that has changed the most from its previous iterations. I may have to pick up the third issue…
Supernatural #1 – I’ve never seen the Supernatural TV show, and have no clue what it’s about. I only picked this up because it’s written by Brian Wood and drawn by Grant Bond. It seems that this guy named Sam works for some kind of monster-hunting organization, and is on a mission or exchange to Scotland, where he runs into Scottish bureau. They drink, ride a motorcycle, and then kiss while ghosts walk past. I don’t think there’s quite enough here to keep my interests.
Swamp Thing #2 – You may recall that I was underwhelmed with the first issue of Swamp Thing, but because it’s being written by Scott Snyder, I was more than prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. Well, that doubt is erased with this second issue, which has the previous Swamp Thing visit Alec Holland, and explain the nature of the threat that the Parliament of Trees wants him to face for them. Holland wants nothing to do with them, but an attack by that same threat does make it look like he may have to change his mind. Sure, this issue is pretty wordy, but Yannick Paquette makes up for it with some excellent page design, and fills the comic with hints and foreshadowing of what’s to come. I’m definitely sticking with this title for as long as these two are creating it.
Thunderbolts #164 – The notion of having the escaped Thunderbolts meet the Invaders in the past is a cool one, but of course, we need Baron Zemo and the Red Skull to get involved. This issue feels a little padded, and has no mention of the what the rest of the team is up to in the current day. Not a bad issue, but lacking something.
X-Men Schism #5 – I want to be excited about the new direction starting in the X-books now that this series has concluded, but I feel like it’s only going to last a year or so anyway, or maybe just until the end of this new Cable thing, so it’s not that big a deal. This is a decent issue, although I can’t buy Scott and Logan continuing to fight with each other during a Sentinel attack, just as I can’t quite figure out how Logan’s beef with Scott has led to such an extreme split. Why didn’t they have the same issues when Wolverine was asked to form X-Force, which had characters like X-23 and Wolfsbahne? Anyway, Adam Kubert’s art shifts from terrific to terrifically rushed looking (unless people always bandage broken ribs over their clothing). We’ll see what Regenesis brings next week.
Comics I Would Have Bought If They Weren’t $4:
Moon Knight #6
Incredible Hulks #627-633 – This book became the victim of budgetary concern, as I’d been enjoying Greg Pak’s family-based approach the green giant. Once most of the family were removed from the picture, the comic didn’t hold my interest as much. Reading this run (which is still missing the last two chapters), I can say that while I enjoyed it, it doesn’t really stick in the mind for long. There are too many C-list villains that are hard to keep straight (or that I just don’t remember), and kind of weak art. Not that I’m any more interested in seeing what Aaron and Silvestri do with the character though…
Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant 2011 #1 – I miss the Justice Society, but this collection of short stories doesn’t do much to satisfy me. Many of the stories feel amateurish and slapped together, with too much of a sentimental feel to them. Even Matt Kindt’s Green Lantern story was a disappointment, as I had no idea what was going on. Granted, had Kindt drawn it too, I probably would have loved it. Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein provide one of the better looking stories, but it’s too short.
Moon Knight #5 – I would totally still be buying this book every month if it were cheaper, but I don’t like spending $4 for Bendis style decompression. This is an entertaining issue, mostly because of the interplay between MK and Echo, who can somehow drive a car during a police chase and still look over enough to read lips. It’s nice to see MK in action a little though – Maleev is good at drawing people with big capes.
X-Men #15.1 & 16 – I guess they’ve found a purpose for this book, and that is to make it the new Marvel Team-Up, with the X-Men working with Ghost Rider in one issue, and the Future Foundation in the next. The Ghost Rider story is okay, but the FF one works a lot better. I like the casual way in which the teams work together, although with them, Emma Frost, and Dr. Nemesis, there is a lot of white on the page. Too bad Iceman’s not involved. It’s a time travel story that will have you reaching for Wikipedia, to figure out who Lee Forrester, and the character that show up on the last page are. Jorge Molina’s art has gotten really good.
Echo is a great series. The premise is that Julie Martin has been covered with bits of a high-tech atomic suit, which has bonded to her skin. She was covered in the material after witnessing an explosion in the sky, caused by HeNRI, the company that developed the suit, attacking its test pilot, Annie. Now Julie and Annie’s boyfriend are on the run from HeNRI, a homeless vagrant who also has some of the suit, and Ivy Raven, a woman who was originally hired by HeNRI to find Julie, and is now looking for her for her own reasons.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? The thing is, Moore writes this story so smoothly that all of the pieces work very well together. With this volume, we start to learn a little more about HeNRI, confirming that Annie’s death was not as accidental as it may have seemed at first, and that the big military research corporation is, indeed, evil. Of course, corporations in comics (and the news) just about always are evil, so that’s not a surprise. A new scientist is introduced to the story, as is his weapon that can be used against the beta suit that Julie is now wearing more of. Why this new character, a Chinese scientist, looks like a bad drawing of Whilce Portacio of Sebastian Shaw’s son Shinobi on the cover, I don’t know. He doesn’t really look like that in the book.
With all this plot, Moore still finds plenty of time for some nice character moments, reuniting Julie with her damaged and mentally delicate sister. He also raises (if not resolving) the issue of how one goes to the bathroom in a metallic body suit that has bonded completely with one’s body. This is good stuff.
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Paul Guinan, Ron Randall, and Bill Willingham
I totally understand why I passed over this Vertigo mini-series when it was first published in 1999 – it had John Bolton covers, and I was working hard at cutting back on my comics intake then. Picking it up now, I see that I’d missed out on a fun, if inessential, little mini-series.
The book is set in Las Vegas, specifically at the Thunder Road Casino, which is a B- or C-list establishment. Our hero, such as he is, is Joey Martin. Joey works at Thunder Road as a Proposition Player, which means he fills empty seats at poker tables, stirring up some action, and then bowing out when there is enough demand at a table. Joey’s a creep. He is rude to the regulars, and treats his girlfriend Lacy like garbage. He doesn’t really have friends, and is only concerned with building his stake, so he can move into the big time one day.
One night, when Joey is drinking with some of his co-workers, he ends up offering to buy one of his companion’s soul for the price of a beer. Everyone thinks this is a great joke, since Joey never buys, and soon some thirty-odd people have sold their souls away. It all seems like a big joke, until an agent of Heaven shows up looking to negotiate for the souls, and to shut down what he sees as Joey’s incursion into their territory. It isn’t long before someone working for the other side comes calling as well, and Joey and his circle find themselves in uncharted territory.
Like I said before, the book is a lot of fun. It questions the power base of religions, and shows how Christianity was able to usurp the primacy of other religions through the acquisition of assets; Joey has created a religion for a capitalistic, ironic age, complete with a great Chaos Monkey (who on one of the covers reprinted within looks a lot like Detective Chimp, a great character Willingham recently resurrected). The commentary is good, and never overshadows the sitcom-like presentation of the plot.
Willingham’s writing here is much closer to Jack of Fables than anything else he’s done, and I found it curious that he drew the first handful of pages before handing the book over to Paul Guinan and Ron Randall. The book looks pretty strange, although that’s mostly because of the character of Bill, Heaven’s agent. He’s overly over-sized, in a way that makes Marvel’s character Strong Guy look like a model of proportionality. I don’t know why they decided to draw him like this, but I found he ruined just about every page he’s on.
The book is perhaps a little predictable (the guys from Heaven are much more vicious than the hot chick from Hell, for example), but this is a fun read.