The Weekly Round-Up #97 With The Unexpected, Abe Sapien, American Vampire & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

The Unexpected #1

Written by Dave Gibbons, G. Willow Wilson, Alex Grecian, Josh Dysart, Jeffrey Rotter, Mat Johnson, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Brian Wood, and Selwyn Seyfu Hinds
Art by Dave Gibbons, Robbi Rodgriguez, Jill Thompson, Farel Dalrymple, Lelio Bonaccorso, David Lapham, Rahsan Ekedal, Emily Carroll, and Denys Cowan

I really like that Vertigo has started putting out these random, slightly thematically-linked anthology books every few months, even if they are pretty expensive.  Like the last one, Strange Adventures, The Unexpected is a nice mix of stories by established Vertigo stars, and some up-and-comers.  This collection has a supernatural theme, but it’s not one that is used in every story.

There is a lot to like in this book, but my favourite story is the one by Joshua Dysart and Farel Dalrymple, which tells the story of a Mexican laborer in 1950s or 60s Texas, who is accused of murdering the grandchild of his employer, although he knows the boy was killed by an ancient Aztec monster.  As with his Unknown Soldier series, Dysart makes good use of a particular culture’s fears and legends, and Dalrymple’s art is perfect.

I also quite enjoyed Alex Grecian (from Proof fame) and Jill Thompson’s story about a female zombie who has retained enough of her faculties to use her feminine wiles as a way of attracting prey.  Dave Gibbons tells a great story of an escape artist who cheats on his wife, and Mat Johnson and David Lapham give us a deliciously twisted tale of a brother and sister trying to survive in post-apocalyptic America.

Joshua Hale Fialkov reunites with his Echoes collaborator Rahsan Ekedal for a story about a man who is recently deceased and finds himself haunting his wife.  Ekedal makes good use of layout in this story, and uses a pixelated approach to imply ghostliness.

Brian Wood and newcomer (to me) artist Emily Carrol contribute a nice short story about a woman who is raised in a post-governmental United States.  It’s a similar vision to the one we’ve seen in Wood’s DMZ, but this time he takes a nicer, gentler approach to the disintegration of a country.  It’s pretty interesting, even if it ends a little abruptly.

I wanted to like G. Willow Wilson’s story about dogs taking over a town, but Robbi Rodriguez’s dogs were just a little too creepy and odd-looking for me.  To be fair, I think that dogs are among the hardest things to draw (check out how Dan Jurgens draws them if you need a laugh), which is why I have so much respect for Beasts of Burden.  The story ‘A Most Delicate Monster’ by Jeffrey Rotter and Lelio Bonaccorso (neither of whom I’m familiar with) was just a little too obvious to be successful.

Finally, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds and Denys Cowan provide a prelude to the upcoming Voodoo Child series, which really didn’t work for me.  I’m not sure what it is, but I feel like they were trying to cram too much into too few pages, with the effect that I wasn’t drawn into the story at all.  I’ll probably give the new series a try still, because I like reading about New Orleans.

I also want to mention just how brilliant Rafael Grampa’s cover is.  Brilliant.

Other Notable Comics:

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by James Harren

I’m a couple of weeks behind on this, because it was only shipped to my comic store today for some reason.

I really like Abe Sapien, who has been getting the shaft of late in BPRD (assuming he’s even still alive – they are being vague about this).  He’s become a competent and capable agent in recent years, but his earlier missions were marred by his uncertainty.

This story takes place in 1985, which means that Abe has not been a field agent for long.  He goes to Maine to investigate the fifty-year-old disappearance of a writer whose work he enjoys, only to stumble upon a bit of a supernatural mystery, complete with a creepy old house and a giant creature in a basement.

Really, the set-up of these types of stories in the Mignola-verse is getting pretty old.  I feel like we’ve seen this exact thing played out time and again in these books, with only the setting and the protagonist switching up.  I understand why they are written like this – the formula works – but just once, I would like to see Mignola and his collaborators play with our expectations a little more, and give us some genuine twists.

The art for this book is by James Harren, another newcomer to the Hellboy/BPRD fold.  His art is pretty good and is not that different from other newcomer Tyler Crook.  It fits the house look of these books nicely.  I love the cover by Dave Johnson.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy

As Vertigo shrinks as an imprint – a number of titles are being canceled, but we haven’t seen them replaced at the same level – it seems to be increasingly focused on creating a few franchise titles.  Fables has spun-off into a few different mini-series, graphic novels, and on-goings, with some success.  Unwritten is going twice-monthly for a while, which is kind of like launching a second book.  And American Vampire was given this mini, which starred two supporting characters from earlier arcs, and showed us one of their missions for the Vassals of the Morning Star.

Cash and Felicia’s mission to extract a Nazi scientist who perhaps has the cure for vampirism has gone all to hell, as giant ancient vampires have woken up and are fighting Nazi vampires all around them.  Cash and Felicia need to make their escape, although such things are never simple.

This issue does a good job of wrapping up the series, but also at hinting towards where Felicia’s story will take her.  She’s an interesting character, and I wonder how long it will be before we see her in the main title again.

The art on this mini has been terrific, and Murphy has outdone himself with this issue.  The scenes where the Nazis fight the old vampires is great, but the best page of the book has to be the silent splash page that comes after Felicia is rescued.  Great stuff all around.

Blue Estate #6

Written by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, and Andrew Osborne
Art by Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, and Nathan Fox

Blue Estate continues to be a complex book, which has me pretty drawn in.  The book has a large cast of characters, and they don’t all appear in every issue, so it can sometimes be a little tricky to remember who is who, although the recap page at the front of the book is helpful.

In this issue, Tony the mobster has taken Billy captive over a bad land deal, and has called in his sister, Rachel, to pay him off.  The only problem is that, despite the fact that Rachel is married to a famous movie star, she has no money.  Rachel, meanwhile, is trying to escape from her controlling and psychopathic brother, so she suggests to Tony that, were Bruce to die, she would be able to pay him.

There are layers upon layers of deceit in this book, which is what makes it so interesting.  When Tony’s father wants him to arrange for the assassination of someone else, it gives Tony the chance to bump off Bruce, although we’ll have to wait to see how that plays out.

As before, there are three artists working on this book, but their different pages work very well together, and I’m never quite sure who is doing what.  Blue Estate is a very cool comic, and it seems to be going pretty strong.  The first trade just came out recently; I recommend getting caught up on the series, because it is very good.

The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2011

Written by Matt Wagner, JH Williams III, AJ Lieberman, Brandon Montclare, Steve Niles, Carla Speed McNeil, Kazim Ali, J. Michael Straczynski, Dara Haraghi, Judd Winick, Richard Starkings, Mark Waid, and Dave Grilli
Art by Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Matt Wagner, JH Williams III, Riley Rossmo, Joelle Jones, Michael Montenat, Carla Speed McNeil, Craig Thompson, Kevin Sacco, Christopher Mitten, Thiago Micalopulous, Rodney Ramos, Shaky Kane, Boo Cook, Jeff Lemire, and J. Gonzo

I’ve never bought an issue of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual before, but seeing a number of creators I admire attached to it, I figured it was time to give it a try.  As with any anthology like this, the stories within are a pretty mixed bag, but I definitely admire the goals of the organization, which provides legal assistance to people in the comic book world who face censorship or legal difficulties related to comics.  The CBLDF is a champion of free speech, and as such, the stories and strips in this book are concerned with promoting that freedom.

There is a large emphasis in this issue on the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people.  Many stories focus on that, but none more effectively than Kazim Ali’s memoir strip, which is beautifully drawn by Craig Thompson.  Compared to it, Matt Wagner’s story, which features Hunter Rose, feels amateurish and ham-fisted.

Also of note in this book is JMS’s rant about the separation of church and state, which raises some good points, and Mark Waid and Jeff Lemire’s defense of superhero worship in children.  Carla Speed McNeil has a strip about her child, who has Down’s Syndrome, and the ridiculousness of trying to maintain a vocabulary that doesn’t cause offense.  Dara Haraghi and Christopher Mitten contribute an interesting story about growing up in Revolutionary Iran, which would be a nice companion to a story in the last issue of Dark Horse Presents.

Another item that is worthy of discussion in this book is the nude Elephantmen, just because that’s not something you see everyday.

This is a very decent anthology, and really, anyone who loves comics should be willing to plunk down the $5 to help support the cause.

Morning Glories #13

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

I was going to try to talk about this issue without referencing the TV show Lost, but I don’t think it’s possible, because this is basically the comic book teenage version of that show, as I, and others, have said many times.  It’s not just because of the almost utter incomprehensibility of the plot, but also because of the stellar character work that makes each issue, as strange as it often is, completely compelling.

This month, a recent scene between Casey and Hunter is repeated, as Casey breaks off their budding romance.  Almost immediately after that, she receives a note from Ms. Hodge, the guidance counselor, and goes running off to find Hunter.  Just as she does this, an announcement over the Morning Glory Academy PA claims that classes are canceled, in favour of a Woodrun.

Once outside, Casey and Jade are put into a team with Ike, and sent to compete in some mysterious game.  We don’t learn what this is though, as Casey has other plans, which include Ms. Hodge, a gigantic underground chamber, and possible escape.

Spencer continues to let information come at us in a slow drip, and so the more we think we learn about the academy, the less we know.  What makes this series such a success is the characters.  I love scenes where Casey has to put up with Ike, and I feel for Hunter, who is clearly devastated that Casey is not interested in him.   Once again, Spencer ends the issue with a good twist.

Northlanders #45

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Declan Shalvey

The first arc of The Icelandic Trilogy was pretty decent, but I think that this second one, set in 999 AD, is much superior.  In the time since Ulf Hauksson had his first child, Iceland, and the Hauksson family, have grown in stature.  Now, the family is run by the impressive Brida, and her twin brother Mar.  She is a healer and competent administrator, while Mar is successful at viking.

The feud between the Belgarssons and the Haukssons continues to this point, and the book opens with an attempt on Brida’s life.  Having survived it, she goes about the business of discovering who was involved in it, and exacting a pretty vicious vengeance.  Later, a priest from Spain visits, with news that could turn a simmering feud into full-blown warfare.

What I particularly like about this issue is that Brida feels nostalgic for a simpler time and way of life, a good thousand years ago.  Wood has frequently made use of this sentiment in this book, and therein we find the strength of Northlanders.  His characters, despite a gulf of a thousand years, are more like us than historical characters are often portrayed.  The conflict between Christianity and the old ways is another recurring theme in Northlanders, and I’m pleased to see it addressed one more time before the series ends.

This arc is being drawn by Declan Shalvey, who is best known for his work on Thunderbolts in recent months.  On that book, his art is loose and sketchy; here, it is cleaner and less rushed-looking.  I wouldn’t have recognized it as his.

Pigs #2

Written by Nate Cosby and Ben McCool
Art by Breno Tamura

I guess the fact that this second issue has come out on time puts to rest my main fear about this book – namely that Ben McCool would keep it off a monthly schedule (check his track record; neither of his two Image mini-series have finished yet).

Pigs has all the signs of being a pretty interesting comic.  It’s about a sleeper cell of Russians who have been living in Cuba, waiting to be activated.  That activation happened last issue, and we saw that the cell infiltrated the States, and that they’ve managed to do something to the President.

This entire second issue, however, is set somewhere between activation and implementation, as the members of the cell pay a visit to Felix, a possible member of their group who lives with his wife and daughter in Miami.  It becomes apparent, both through flashback and discussion, that Felix is a reluctant participant in this endeavour, feeling no great love for Russia or Cuba.

I like that the writers are taking their time in establishing this book, its characters, and their relationships with one another.  This series reminds me of The Losers, although is perhaps more sophisticated, especially in the way in which it jumps around through time.  I’m going to be adding this to my pull-list for sure now.

The Unwritten #30

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross, with Vince Locke

‘On to Genesis’, the story arc that has explored Wilson Taylor’s time working for The Cabal, and his connection to the Golden Age of comics concludes with this issue, and it’s another good example of just how strong this comic has become.

When the comic opens, Tom Taylor comes under attack from The Tinker, the comic book hero created by Miriam, Wilson’s lover in the 1930s, and the woman he betrayed.  The Tinker is like Tom – a fictional character that somehow has a real life in the real world.  He’s really Milton, Tom’s half-brother.  They fight for a bit, Frankenstein’s monster and the flying cat show up, and everyone has a little cat.  Basically, this issue follows the standard procedure for superhero team-ups.

I like how Tom is maturing throughout the run of this series, and is becoming a much more likeable character.  At the end of this issue, he learns something that causes him to have to step up his game in dealing with The Cabal, which then leads to the next big storyline.

I really like how Peter Gross draws The Tinker in a style that suggests the Golden Age, but is consistent with the look and feel of this comic.  Extra recognition is owed to the letterer, Todd Klein, for using an old-school font for The Tinker’s speech.  Cool stuff.

Who is Jake Ellis? #5

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Tonci Zonjic

It’s going to be difficult to talk about the final issue in this mini-series without giving away some of the surprises that take place.  Who Is Jake Ellis? has been a very interesting book since it’s beginning.

Jon Moore was an intelligence analyst until he was taken to some strange facility, and experimented on in unknown ways.  Somehow, he ended up with Jake Ellis in his head – a ghost-like character with incredible powers of perception.  He can tell you when a security camera is being watched, and always knows what’s on the other side of doors.  The pair of them have been in hiding for a while, using their unique situation to pull off jobs of dubious legality.  Since the series began, they’ve been on the run again, as both American intelligence agents and the people who run the Facility have been trying to take Moore in.  In the last issue, they’d infiltrated the Facility itself, and found Jake’s file.

This final issue answers the question in the title, and has Moore come to understand better what happened to he and Ellis.  Moore’s been portrayed as pretty stubborn throughout, and this issue confirms that status.

I’ve really enjoyed this book.  Zonjic’s art is lovely (I especially like the last few pages of this issue), and Edmondson’s script is very smart.  It’s hard to find new takes on the classic Fugitive story, but Edmondson has done that here.  It’s almost impossible to read this issue without thinking about his work on Grifter for DC’s new 52, and there are a number of similarities.  Personally, I prefer this title, and look forward to his The Activity, which is coming in December.

Quick Takes:

Alpha Flight #5 – So Alpha Flight robs a bank so they can pay Taskmaster to train their army of journalists and professors?  It’s weird, but it’s mostly still working for me, as Guardian works on his strategy to free Canada from its new evil right-wing prime minister, who of course is working for the Master of the World.  I love Taskmaster, so I’m always happy to see him, even if writers can’t quite decide how to treat him these days, and artists can’t figure out what to do with his mask (which is also sometimes his face).  In terms of complaining about the portrayal of Canada, I do have one bone to pick.  Waiting for dark to slip from Lake Ontario to a base in the Yukon is like waiting for dawn in New York to go to Los Angeles.  The distances are about the same.

Baltimore: The Curse Bells #3 – The notion of Madame Blavatsky, the infamous occultist, being brought back to life in a dwarfed little body, and being pretty grumpy about it, is sublime.  Baltimore is a cool, bleak little book, which I am finding pretty enjoyable.  This issue is the standard middle of the run issue – the story is progressed, but there’s not all that much to say about it.

Batgirl #2 – Page by page, this is a decent comic, but there’s something missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Barbara fights new villain The Mirror at the hospital, and then pursues him to a cemetery, where they fight some more.  She goes home, has a date, and then figures out The Mirror’s identity, and searches his apartment.  It works as a straight forward story, but the pieces aren’t adding up for me – why is Barbara dating her physical therapist?  Why is her conversation with her roommate so forced?  And why do we get Barbara playing a poor heroine angle, without even her own computers?  I want to like this book (I can’t accept that I wouldn’t like either of Gail Simone’s new titles), but if this issue is more indicative of where things are going, I’m not sure that I’m all that impressed.  There’s nothing that makes this book different from any other female vigilante comic (except for the fact that there aren’t many others in the DCnU – this and Batwoman; see below).

Batman and Robin #2 – I’m of mixed minds here.  I like that Peter Tomasi is giving more play to the relationship between Bruce and Damian – it’s what’s going to set this book apart from all the other Bat-titles after all, but I think it’s too easy to fall into schmaltzy TV notions of what fatherhood should be.  Buying a dog?  Really?  It’s like watching an episode of Parenthood.  Also, should I know this Morgan guy?  I figure he’s a new character, but I would like some kind of explanation of how he knows so much about Batman.  I really want to like this book, and I love the art and the action sequences, but I’m putting it on watch.

Batwoman #2 – The third Bat-book of the week turns out to be the winner, as JH Williams gives us another beautiful comic from cover to cover.  That alone would be enough to satisfy me with this book, but I like the way he’s working with the three women who look like they are going to share the spotlight in this title – Kate Kane, Kate Sawyer, and Cameron Chase.  I think I’m most excited to see Williams handling Chase again, but I like the rest of them too.  This ‘weeping woman’ case isn’t all that interesting, but again, when it’s this beautiful a comic, it’s all good.

Deathstroke #2 – I thought the first issue of Deathstroke showed some real promise, but this issue is a simple and mundane mayhem comic, as Deathstroke tries to find out who hired him before, and levels half a city to prove he’s still a badass.  It’s hollow, and filled with poorly designed henchmen who aren’t that interesting.  I think I might be done here, but might give Barrows one more issue to impress me, because I do like Joe Bennett’s art.

FEAR Agent #31 – I’m going to admit that I’ve completely lost track of the plot of this series, as it’s become ever more complicated by time travel and cloned bodies.  Now, with this penultimate issue, I don’t really remember what’s going on at all (the fact that it’s been about a year since we last saw an issue can’t be helping).  Anyway, as if sensing that this would be a problem, Remender gives us a number of scenes of young Heath Huston, as his relationship with Charlotte was just beginning.  These parts of the book are pretty nicely done.

FF #10 – Here’s a question I would like an answer to – Why isn’t Barry Kitson a bigger name?  I’ve liked his work since the LEGION ’89 days, but this issue of FF is one of the best he’s ever drawn.  I love his Ben Grimm.  This is a really nice-looking comic from cover to cover, as Reed goes home to talk to Sue, Spidey gives Ben some good advice, and Nate Richards chats with one of the other Reeds and Doom in Latveria.  It’s not exactly an interlude issue, but it’s definitely a quieter issue than the last few, and the timing feels right for that.  Hickman has spent a lot of time orchestrating all of these characters into their current positions, and I like that he takes a little pause for character work.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #2 – This series is definitely working for me, as Frankenstein and crew continue to fight the monsters in Bone Lake, and finding the source of the monsters.  Much of the issue is used to develop the character of Nina Mazursky, who is clearly very different from the version we met in the Flashpoint mini-series.  Good character work and pacing, and I like the way Alberto Ponticelli is drawing this book.  I still can’t help comparing it to BPRD though…

Generation Hope #12 – I’m going to assume that this is Kieron Gillen’s last issue on this title, as Hope and her team come to grips with the events of Schism, and more of the team finds itself less than happy under Hope’s leadership.  I’ve liked the work Gillen has done building up these characters, but I doubt that I’m invested enough in any of them to stick with the title when the new writer comes on board.  I’ll probably flip through it though, so if it looks good…

Grifter #2 – It seems like Nathan Edmondson is making his career on books featuring men with voices in their heads on the run, as Cash tries to stay a few steps ahead of the Daemonites, the cops, and his brother.  There’s not the same level of tension with this issue, but it’s still working pretty well.

New Avengers #17 – I know Bendis often gets criticized for having comics that consist entirely of people sitting around and talking, but this issue, which has Ultimo suddenly attaching a Stark Resilient factory, could have used a little more set-up to ground it.  Norman Osborn makes his first move, and we get a better idea of who is with him (AIM, Gorgon, Madame Hydra), as ideas that are not even old enough to be called old get trotted out once again.

Orchid #1 – Dark Horse has courted another music star (Tom Morello) to write a comic, but this is no Umbrella Academy.  Orchid is set in some wrecked future, where slavery and mutated creatures are common, as is too much exposition.  I know it’s a first issue, so a fair amount of explanation is to be expected, but this was a little too much, especially considering I didn’t find myself caring about any of the characters so far.  I do like Scott Hepburn’s art – he’d be great on a book like Fables.  I only picked this issue up because it was a dollar; I won’t be back.

The Shade #1

– Of course I was excited to learn about this new maxi-series starring The Shade and being written by James Robinson.  I, like many other people who barely stuck through the horrible 90s, loved Starman, where this character had scene-stealing status.  I was a little concerned about this series because, after all, Robinson recently wrote Cry For Justice, which is one of the worst comics of the 21st century, but I knew I’d want to give this a try.  The comic is good.  Shade is melancholy, because it’s October, and he shares that sentiment with his friend (blue alien Starman) and his girlfriend (Officer O’Dare).  Then Deathstroke shows up, and they fight.  This issue shows that Robinson still has a strong handle on these characters.  The problem with the book lies with the fact that this is set in the New 52, where the Golden Age never happened.  If the Golden Age never happened though, Shade never developed his relationship with the Knight family, and most importantly, Jack Knight would never have needed to become Starman if his father wasn’t the first of that name.  I was kind of hoping that this series would be set on the rumored ‘Earth 2’, but Deathstroke’s presence invalidates that.  And so, what would have been a very enjoyable comic two months ago, has now caused me to have a headache as I try to figure out what’s canon and what has been junked, which distracts me from the story.  Also, love Cully Hamner.

SHIELD #3 – I remember as a kid, I hated silent issues of comics – I often felt like I was getting ripped off – but as I’ve matured, I’ve come to appreciate it when writers haven’t felt the need to include dialogue that would just be kind of obvious, and have instead allowed artists an uninterrupted canvas on which to convey some big scenes.  In this issue of SHIELD, the Starchild Celestial baby gets all angry, and trashes the Immortal City.  What makes this comic so cool is the thought and effort which has gone into designing and depicting this city.  It’s futuristic for the 1950s, and while there are tall skyscrapers, they are all built out of stone, with an Italianate feel to them, just as you would imagine a futuristic underground city to look.  I can see why Dustin Weaver needs a couple of months between issues, and it’s worth it.

Suicide Squad #2

– I was hoping to be more impressed this month, as I do want to like this title, but I found that the story was pretty over-the-top even before we found out that the woman was pregnant.  Basically, the Squad has been sent into some sports arena where a techno-zombie outbreak has started (for reasons I guess we don’t need to know), and have to locate one woman, and kill everything else.  So many of the story beats are overly obvious, and for some reason two characters are being set up to take the Bronze Tiger’s role of conflicted hero among the bad guys, but neither are handled very effectively.  Deadshot would never be the leader, and Harley Quinn’s just annoying.

Superior #5 – This comic continues to be a cross between the movie Big and Millar’s own series Chosen (which has been ret-titled American Jesus), but it’s still very enjoyable.  Superior has fixed the world in seven days, and indulged his inner-twelve year old, but now the Satanic monkey has come for his due, and things aren’t looking so good anymore.  While this comic is pretty predictable, it’s still a fun read.

Uncanny X-Force #16 – This issue is just about moving the story along (and I feel like this story has been going on for a little too long), so there’s not much to say about it, except that the sudden appearance of Age of Apocalypse Iceman seemed a little out of left field.  Jerome Opena’s art is great though.

X-Men Legacy #257 – And just when you thought this story was finally almost over, it’s padded out for yet another issue.  I find this book pretty frustrating, as the stories always seem a little longer than they need to be, and the filler doesn’t add much to it.  Plus, Regenesis basically spoils the book…

X-Men Regenesis #1 – One thing that I always loved about Chris Claremont’s X-Men, that Scott Lobdell used to always do, but then did too often, is the ‘check-in’ issue, where after a big event, we’d get a quiet comic that let us know how many different members on this very diverse team were doing, and what was going on in their personal lives.  It usually worked well (until Lobdell ran it into the ground).  That’s basically what this one-shot is, as Scott and Logan go around gathering members for their post-Schism teams.  There is a lot of nice character work, as Kieron Gillen continues to prove he gets these characters better than most writers, and we get to see some favourites who haven’t been given any screen time lately.  Billy Tan’s art is acceptable, but the framing device of having Cyclops and Wolverine fighting in some Survivor tribal circle is silly and distracting.  I guess it’s an excuse to draw everyone in skimpy clothes though.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #671

Irredeemable #30

Legion of Monsters #1

Punisher Max #18

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3

Ultimate Comics X-Men #2

Bargain Comics:

Angel & Faith #1 – After the Buffy Season 8 series became such a clusterf*ck, I decided to skip out on Season 9 and its spin-off starring Angel and Faith.  I’m a curious guy though, and wanted to see how this was, especially since it’s being written by Christos Gage and drawn by Rebekah Isaacs (see below).  The problem is, it’s not all that interesting.  Whiny Angel is one of the worst things about the Buffy and Angel shows, and he’s a little too whiny here.  Plus, this book is way too mired in the crazy Twilight crap of the last season for me to want to go back there.  I think I’m done.

Batgirl #23 & 24  – I never developed quite the love for this title that my Nexus colleagues have, but I did find it an enjoyable take on super hero-ing, with a pretty likable main character and very nice art.  The final issue is a nice way of saying good-bye to the character, who has not reappeared in the DCnU.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Nine #1 – This is better than Angel & Faith, or at least, is more Whedon-y.  Buffy has a party at her new apartment, gets really drunk, and spends the next day trying to remember what happened.  So far as introductions to a new series goes, it’s weak, and I found that I had a hard time figuring out who the characters were (is that Riley with the van?).  And, to be honest, caring.  I think it’s time to move on, but I’ll probably grab the occasional issue to see how it’s going.

The Iron Age Omega #1 – I enjoyed this strange little time traveling series, which wraps up nicely in this issue.  The world needs more Rebekah Isaacs art; she deserves a higher-profile project than this, which is one of those oddball mini-series that Marvel just pumps out constantly these days.  EDIT:  And then I read Angel & Faith #1, so never mind on that last bit.

The Mighty Thor #3-5 – I pretty much hated the first two issues of this series, and am a little surprised to find that it’s become more enjoyable as the story has progressed.  Why buy something that I was hating?  I usually really like Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel, so I thought I’d give them another chance.  I dont’ really understand the thinking behind sticking the Asgardians in space armor fighting Galactus when so much of what JMS tried to do with Thor was ground him in his Medieval origins, but it does lead to some cool images.

Wolverine #11 – I really wouldn’t have expected that a writer like Jason Aaron would make Wolverine so boring, but there it is.  Most of this issue is spent explaining the reasons why a woman hates Wolverine, and we all know we’ll never see her again.  Pointless padding and uninteresting art make a bad mix.  If I read this before Scalped, I wouldn’t have bothered with it – hard to believe it’s the same writer.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Bite Club

Written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Art by David Hahn

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not exactly a fan of Howard Chaykin’s work, but that usually applies to his art, and I’ve enjoyed his collaborator, David Tischman’s writing on Fraction and Greatest Hits.  Plus, this book is drawn by David Hahn and the original comics had amazing covers by Frank Quitely, so I thought I’d check this out.

Bite Club is about a Latin American crime family in Miami, who happen to be vampires.  Vampires aren’t exactly rare in this world (although, if you were to know our culture only through our popular entertainment, they aren’t exactly rare here either), and people are generally accepting of them, which is kind of strange, and goes unmentioned throughout.

Anyway, the Del Toro family pretty much own Miami, although they’ve gotten someone mad at them, as their patriarch, Eduardo, gets killed in the first chapter.  After that, his family empire is in disarray, especially after it’s discovered that he left everything to his son Leto, the only Del Toro who had left the family and entered the priesthood.  From here, the story is about Leto’s wrestling with his new role, and the various problems of his two siblings, his mother, her lover, and their lawyer (it could be a Peter Greenaway movie).

The comic is entertaining enough, but I felt like the plot never gelled, and was stuck in a very episodic progression, with too many characters that needed their requisite screen time each issue, but who ultimately didn’t contribute much to the story.  Hahn’s a great artist, but even in his hands, this story stayed stiff and kind of artificial.  The First Second graphic novel Life Sucks covered similar ground, but with a lot more heart and heft.

The Homeland Directive

Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Mike Huddleston

This is the second time I’ve been impressed by Robert Venditti.  The first was with his Surrogates graphic novel, which later became a movie that I’ve never bothered to watch, because as a movie, the story doesn’t interest me at all.

Actually, as I was preparing to write about this book, I started to think about how it would have worked with a more conventional artist, and I think I’ve stumbled on the secret of what makes Venditti’s books work so well.  In a lot of ways, his stories are kind of standard fare, but he’s always been paired with a more experimental artist, who has helped elevate the material to a more sophisticated level (Brett Weldele drew The Surrogates).

The Homeland Directive is about a plot at Homeland Security to help increase their powers of surveillance and access to the lives of all American citizens.  Their plan is complicated, but it involves a bio-weapon, the end of paper money, and the death of a scientist at the Center for Disease Control.

The only problem is that the scientist, Dr. Laura Regan, is rescued by a trio of government agents (who only met because of the new era of post-9/11 inter-governmental cooperation) who have gone rogue, and are attempting to put a stop to the plot.  What follows is a pretty interesting twist on the standard thriller movie, as the three agents have to keep a step or two ahead of their agencies, and try to figure out just what is going on.

As I said above, what really makes this book work is the fantastic art of Mike Huddleston, who has also been wowing me on Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker.  Instead of playing this like a straight thriller, Huddleston mucks around with the art a great deal, incorporating collage and a variety of drawing and colouring styles.  Just about every page looks different from the one before, as he adjusts his style to the setting and content of each new scene.  I found this level of inventiveness really heightened my enjoyment of the story, which has some pretty interesting things to say about the level of ‘protection’ the American government offers its citizens.

Album of the Week:

B (Blu) – Jesus

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