Month after month, Chew is one of the most satisfying comics on the stands. This current arc, Major League Chew, is a little different from previous ones, in that the story directly continues from one issue to the other, whereas lately, each arc has been made up on done-in-one comics. I like that, as Layman’s story becomes ever more complex, that the stories are going to start getting longer.
This month, Tony is trying to figure out what has happened to his daughter, Olive, who has gone missing. As a traffic cop now, Tony has very few resources at his disposal, so he turns to his former colleague at the FDA, Caesar Valenzano, who is being run ragged since Tony was transferred, and has to do all of the awful jobs that his boss used to dump on Tony.
Most of the issue is centred on Caesar and his new partner’s investigation of a coffee shop that is believed to be influencing a crime spree. Instructions are being given to people in the foam of their latte, and the explanation of how Casear is saved from a bad situation is one of the funniest moments in the comic.
Heart is a surprise. Normally, I would have no interest in a comic about the world of mixed martial arts. The actual sport holds no interest for me, ranking somewhere around Nascar and scrapbooking on the list of pursuits I hope to never learn anything about, yet there is something very compelling in Butler and Mellon’s story about a young man who is driven to push himself physically and mentally to go as far as he can in this world.
This issue covers the beginning of Oren’s professional career, as he decides to pursue what began as a hobby full time (quitting his job over his haircut makes it a little more easy to spend time in the gym). What motivates Oren so far seems to be the pursuit of the endorphin rush he got after winning his first bout, although I have to expect that there may be a little more going on than that.
One thing that has surprised me so far, in the portrayal of Oren and his ‘team’, is the utter lack of female characters in this book. I’m not suggesting that a female writer would necessarily need to have female characters in order to fully communicate her story, I just assumed that so many straight guys in peak physical condition would attract a certain element of female to them, and so far, that is utterly lacking here.
I’m enjoying Mellon’s stripped down art as much as I am the story. I’m sure actual fans of the sport would enjoy this comic much more.
Sometimes this comic can be accused of being a little slow moving, or having not much happen in any given issue, but neither accusation can be tossed at the title this month.
In this issue, after spending a lot of time hiding out from the Dead Presidents (a government team of supernatural agents), Gwen is discovered. Scott gets abducted by Amon, for reasons we don’t know, and Ellie continues to fall for the mysterious Frankenstein-like creature she found recently. She also meets the vampire that was looking after him in the university lab.
Roberson has spent a lot of time introducing and developing a number of colourful characters in this book, and has kept his major plot more or less secret. We know that there is some kind of large conflict between Amon and Galatea (the woman who created the Frankenstein guy), but we don’t yet know what it’s all about, or what Gwen’s role in this is supposed to be.
I’ve found this book to be pretty intriguing, as monster movie cliches are mashed into a hipster, slacker-ish setting. Michael Allred is the perfect artist for this book.
With this issue, the three-part ‘Taxidermist’ arc comes to a close. As with many conflicts and meetings between Europeans and Inuit people in the years before this story is set (exactly 100 years ago this week, I noticed), things get pretty bloody this month.
The narrator, James Thacker, has traveled to Alaska to hunt for his missing soon-to-be brother-in-law. He finds him living with a group of Inuit, but he also finds a pretty wild story about the skeletons of gods, and the plague that they have brought. He also comes face to face with a hybrid baby, looking exactly like Gus, the regular main character of this comic. As is to be expected of an Englishman in the glory days of the Empire, he doesn’t react all that well to things, and decides to kill everyone.
This story is very well-told, and I’ve really enjoyed Matt Kindt’s art for the last three months. At the same time, I look forward to next issue, where Jeff Lemire returns to the art, and Gus, Jeppard, and company, return to the pages of the comic. This arc has raised a number of questions about just what has always been going on in Alaska, and what Gus’s role in the plague that has killed so many might be. Sweet Tooth is always an excellent comic, and I appreciated that Lemire has revealed (without ever clarifying) a few things about this series through this flashback.
Written by Antony Johnston, Duncan Fegredo, Andy Diggle, Robin Furth, Mark Rutter, Mike Carey, Gavin Ross, Sally Jane Thompson, Will Morris, Raymond Mak, Amy Evans, Kristyna Baczynski, Matt Sheret, HP Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon, Alice Summerscales, and Sophie Kamlish
Art by Charlie Adlard, Duncan Fegredo, D’Israeli, Frank Beazante, MD Penman, Gavin Ross, Jally Jane Thompson, Will Morris, Raymond Mak, Amy Evans, Kristyna Baczynski, Julia Scheele, Tula Lotay, Alice Summerscales, and Sophie Kamlish
I’m always a sucker for an inexpensive anthology, but picking this up at the comic store this week led to a nice surprise – this anthology of short stories by a mix of British comics professionals and prize winning-amateurs is printed on newsprint, and is folded over, making each page half the size of a page of Wednesday Comics. This allows the storytellers more space for their work, and makes reading this a treat.
As is always the case with a project like this, the quality of the comics included ranges quite a bit. The book starts with a one-page Wasteland strip, drawn by Charlie Adlard. It’s very cool, especially since it’s only the second time Wasteland has been in colour. It’s followed by a single page by Duncan Fegredo, looking back at his career. I also quite enjoyed Andy Diggle and D’Israeli’s strip about a cop who believes a murder was committed by time travelers.
Mike Carey gives us a very cool story about Leonardo Da Vinci, outlining some of his lesser-known accomplishments, such as break-dancing and playing for FC Milan. It’s drawn by MD Penman, and is a nice companion to Marvel’s SHIELD. There’s also a creepy adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story by Stuart Gordon and Tula Lotay.
Most of the rest of the book is kind of forgettable, but still a decent collection. It’s always a pleasure to be able to support projects like this, even if it ended up being published after the event it was intended to advertise.
Action Comics #4 – Is this really written by Grant Morrison, or has he quietly bowed out, and has someone ghost writing for him? Nothing here feels like a Morrison book, and his ‘fresh’ take on a more grounded, politically active Superman has disappeared from the comic almost completely. I’ve never dropped a Morrison title, but I need to see something remarkable soon, or I’m done. And by the way, ending the fourth issue with a blurb that says ‘Continued in Action Comics 7’ is not a way to build new-reader loyalty, even if I am personally more interested in an interlude story than I am this thing.
Animal Man #4 – I totally understand why this book has become so popular, but I still find myself completely put off by the art, unfortunately. I like how closely tied this comic is to Swamp Thing, but feel like more time should have been spent exploring Buddy’s family before splitting them up and putting them in so much danger. Still, this is the best take on this character since Jamie Delano’s run years ago.
Batwing #4 – I was a little surprised that I picked this issue up, but I knew that it would be explaining some of David’s history as a child soldier, and would feature art by Chriscross, both of which are things that interest me. It’s a very decent issue, with two problems – I still hate the look of Batwing’s armor, and feel that Chriscross could have used better visual references for the house that is burning at the start of the issue. I doubt very much that there are Cape Cod style mansions anywhere in Africa. This book is catching my eye, but if we discover that Massacre, the big bad of the series so far, is David’s dead brother, I’m not going to be happy. I’m hoping this will be more original than that.
Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes #2 – I am still amazed at how cool Boom’s two Planet of the Apes series are. I never would have expected that they would be so good. This is another very good issue, as former General Aleron is arrested for a murder that took place some 15 years ago, and the allies of Dr. Cato try to figure out what happened to him. I like that Dr. Zaius is portrayed as a good guy in this comic, which is set some twenty-odd years before Charlton Heston is set to arrive. Great Gabriel Hardman art makes this comic a real winner.
Defenders #1 – I want to really like this book, but I am instead finding a number of reasons to be concerned. First, this comic is a little too closely tied to Fear Itself for my liking – the team is going to have to find a reason to stay together after they finish hunting Nul, the Worthy version of the Hulk. Since most of these characters are Avengers, its going to be hard to justify the existence of this team. They can’t even play X-Force to the Avenger’s X-Men, because that’s what Secret Avengers is for. Also, since when is Danny Rand a millionaire and in charge of his company? It was firmly established in his comic that he gave away his wealth and closed the company to run charities and dojos. Now he’s testing advanced jets? It doesn’t fit the character as he’s been shown over the last few years. There is lots of nice art from the Dodson’s though, so we’ll give them that.
Demon Knights #3 – Having enjoyed the first two issues of the series Paul Cornell is going to continue writing (see below), I decided to pick up the third at regular price, and see how it’s holding up. I think I may have no choice but to add this one to my pull-file. Now that there is a lull in the action, Cornell is spending some time to develop characters and establish their relationships to one another, and things just keep getting better and better.
Hulk #45 – In an overly wordy issue, we learn the story behind Dagan Shah, the new bad guy that is up to some geopolitical stuff in the Middle East. Strangely, we also discover that the Arabian Knight is Afghani. Wouldn’t that make him the Persian Knight? I have only ever read a handful of comics with this character, but I always sort of assumed he was an Arab. Maybe Steve Rogers is really Mexican…
The Last of the Greats #3 – This is one title that is growing on me with each new issue. The Last, the supposed hero who we know is anything but, has an appearance on Oprah, and ends up going back to her dressing room for a little you-know-what. It’s a strange scene, and we are spared from seeing anything too graphic, but it does speak to how willing Joshua Hale Fialkov is to push some boundaries with this book. We also get to meet The Last’s assistant’s daughter, which is an interesting thing, since The Last is sort of her mother… A new inker (Nick Nix) joins the creative team with this issue, and the art is much improved for it.
Moriarty #7 – We get a bit of a filler issue this time around; as Moriarty continues searching for an old accomplice in Burma, he reminisces about the steps he had to take back in the day in Kingston Jamaica to make this person available to him. This issue really highlights the Professor’s brutality, cunning, and purpose. Mike Vosburg draws most of this issue, and it looks alright.
Stormwatch #4 – So just when this comic is really starting to gel, DC has to announce that writer Paul Cornell is going to be leaving the title in two more issues (to be replaced by the wildly inconsistent Paul Jenkins). I’d just decided to add this comic to my pull-file too. I guess I’ll finish out Cornell’s run, and we’ll probably end up looking back on this comic as one of the ones that could have been great (but may instead be cancelled within the year). This is a decent issue, but if you’re not already reading it, I doubt there’s much point in picking it up, even though the set up for the next issue sounds terrific.
Strange Talent of Luther Strode #3 – We hit the half-way mark on this book, as Luther starts patrolling for crime (which is hard to find), and the guy that has been pursuing him finally catches up (after killing off a few more of the people who know about Luther). Luther’s relationship with Petra gets a little stranger, and once again, there is some gruesome ass-kicking taking place. This is a fun take on the teen superhero, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
Swamp Thing #4 – This book just keeps getting better. I like Yannick Paquette on this title a great deal, but this issue is drawn by Marco Rudy, who is my pick as biggest up-and-coming artist in comics right now. This issue is gorgeous, if a little repetitive in its discussions between Alec Holland and the Parliament of Trees. I like that Scott Snyder is taking the slow road to powering up Swamp Thing, and that he has established Abigail Arcane as such a pivotal, and questionable, character.
Venom #10 – I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying Venom since the series started. This issue has a new artist, Lan Medina, who is drawing the book in a much more realistic manner than the previous artists, and I think that may be an error. Remender continues to write a great story, with Flash finding himself being blackmailed by the Crime-Master, which puts Flash in conflict with one of his heroes, Captain America. There’s a lot to like here, although I have decided to remove this title off my pull-list starting with the thirteenth issue, when it goes weekly.
Villains For Hire #1 – Marrying the Suicide Squad to the H4H franchise works particularly well here, as the Purple Man uses Misty Knight’s (and really, the Calculator’s, but that’s the wrong company) shtick to try to run a criminal empire. On their first mission though, they come across some pretty stiff competition. This is a good straight-up super-villain comic, with some nice art. My only complaint is that the portrayal of Avalanche doesn’t jibe with how he’s been shown recently in Uncanny X-Men.
X-Factor #228 – Weird things happen with Jamie Madrox this month, as the team’s confrontation with BB doesn’t go very well, and the exact same cliffhanger from the previous issue is used again. Also, the team finally learns about Layla’s true abilities, and how they have affected Guido. In all, a very decent issue, with one of the best covers of the week.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Amazing Spider-Man #675
Avenging Spider-Man #2
Moon Knight #8
Black Panther #518 – 524 – I’ve been slowly picking these books up for a while now out of bargain bins or at sales, because while the first few issues of David Liss’s run left me cold, this comic consistently has amazing art, and I thought I’d at least enjoy the pictures. There was some real potential with the idea of T’Challa living in New York and having to manage without the benefits of vibranium and the support of his country. I feel like a lot of that potential was squandered though, through the overly-long Vlad the Impaler arc, and the almost constant interruptions of editorially-mandated cross-overs (Fear Itself, Spider-Island) that followed it. In between, there were some decent stories, like the one with Kraven and Storm, and the one featuring the White Wolf (although his characterization was nowhere near as complex as it was under Christopher Priest). Of course, writing this character after Priest had his hands on him is almost impossible. I suppose in comparison to Reginald Hudlin’s butchering of the character, this is better, but that’s not saying much. I did love the work of Francisco Francavilla and Jefte Palo on this comic, but that’s not a surprise, as they are both excellent at everything they do. The letters in this comic are very small – I think that’s strange. I’m not surprised that this title is being cancelled – it never really established its own voice. I hope these artists get more work soon though.
Fear Itself #7.2 – Not reading Thor regularly, I skipped on this epilogue issue when it first came out, then later realized it may be useful in figuring out what’s going on in Journey Into Mystery these days. Nothing really got explained here, as Matt Fraction hit some kind of reset button, introducing Tanarus as the new god of thunder (without really introducing him), and making a big deal about the new rulers of Asgard, without really making it clear who they are or what their roles will be. Fear Itself was one disappointment after another, and could well be the ‘event’ that turned me off big crossovers forever.
Generation Hope #13 – I’d every intention of dropping this book once Kieron Gillen had left it, but then I picked up this first issue by the new team – James Asmus and Ibraim Roberson – and was pleasantly surprised. The issue starts off a little rough, with an overly staged training exercise with the X-Men, but when Hope and her crew go on a mission to Pakistan, things improve quite a bit. Most of these characters were introduced very quickly without much time for real development, so I’m happy to see that Asmus is revisiting some of the more pertinent details of each of them. Roberson’s art is very nice too. I’ll give the next issue a shot (I’m hesitant about what I assume is Sebastian Shaw joining the ranks of reformed villain X-Men), and may end up having to put this back on my pull-list.
Legion of Super-Heroes #3 – I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with the not-quite-rebooted Legion, but there’s nothing very special or particularly compelling about this book either. As a long-time Legion fan, I don’t see that this current title is adding anything to the mythos.
Mighty Thor #8 – All this Tanarus stuff is very tiresome. I appreciate that we learn the truth behind Thor’s replacement, but I’m incredibly bored with the notion that Thor isn’t dead. I don’t suppose he’ll return to the Marvel Universe and the Avengers in time for the Avengers movie, do you? That type of thing never happens, does it? I think this title is going to get downgraded below ‘bargain’ status for me (which means I just won’t ever buy it), which is too bad, as I usually like Matt Fraction and Pascual Ferry.
Mystery Men #3 – The mini-series hits its half-way point, and is still introducing characters, in the form of The Surgeon and Achilles. Like Black Panther, there’s nothing wrong with this book, but there’s nothing particularly memorable or special about it either.
Nightwing #3 – There are a few too many of the New 52 books that I keep finding myself returning to and enjoying, almost against my will. Nightwing is not spectacular in any way, but it is a solidly good superhero comic, and the first time I’ve ever liked Dick Grayson when he wasn’t wearing the bat-suit. I expected to be bored silly by this exploration of mysterious dealings at the circus where he grew up, but instead I’m finding myself really enjoying this take on the character. I may have to add this one to the pull-list too…
Spider-Island: Spider-Woman #1 – I’ve always liked the design of Spider-Woman’s costume, and have hoped that she may get a little more prominent place in the Marvel Universe, but for some reason, writers always have to play up her insecurity in such a way that she is a little hard to like or relate to. Someone with her self-esteem issues wouldn’t be super-heroing the way she is; we all know that Peter Parker has his share of insecurities too, but he has a very credible reason for putting on the costume again and again. Jessica Drew doesn’t seem to. Also, since when can she fly? I thought her thing, as strongly confirmed by the Bendis/Maleev short-lived series of a couple of years ago, is that she can only glide. It seems like a minor quibble, but she spends most of this issue flying.
Teen Titans #3 – I’m squarely on the fence about this title. I like the double splash-page that shows Bart running around a NOWHERE facility with a numbered path explaining how to read the page, and the appearance of Danny the Street made me very happy. Meanwhile, the Red Robin and Bunker scenes were pretty odd. First, Bunker climbs on a moving train as it is running along a sheer cliff. Where did he come from? Also, Lobdell and Booth’s are clearly straining under the effort of making it clear that Bunker is gay without making it a big deal – he talks about his ‘cute butt’ and wears exceptionally tight street clothes, and it all just doesn’t work. Too bad something like that can’t just naturally be part of the story, like it is in Batwoman…
by Naoki Urusawa after Osamu Tezuka, with Takashi Nagasaki
I’m starting to think that Naoki Urusawa could very well be my gateway into manga. My previous forays into that realm have me with mixed success, but I really do love Pluto.
This series is a collaboration between Urusawa and manga master Osamu Tezuka, in the same way that those Frank Sinatra Duet albums can be considered collaborations. In other words, Urusawa is working with one of Tezuka’s most beloved stories – “The Greatest Robot on Earth”, from his Astro Boy series, updating it and adjusting it to a more modern, adult sensibility. I’ve never read the source material (the extent of my Astro Boy knowledge does not extend past Saturday morning cartoons when I was eight or so), but I can say that this is an incredibly impressive story.
This second volume brings Atom (Astro Boy’s Japanese name) into the story. Atom is a robot, but appears to be a boy of about ten or eleven. Inspector Gesicht is trying to track down just who is killing the most powerful robots on Earth, and warns Atom that he is in danger. They exchange memory chips, so that Atom can be brought up to speed on the investigation, and we learn that he is more capable of feeling emotion than any robot we’ve met so far.
Shortly after this, the robot fighter Brando confronts the mysterious force that is destroying his brethren. This is a pretty exciting scene, with real emotional consequences. I like how Urusawa allows his mystery to deepen, while casting all sorts of questions about Gesicht’s memory, and just who understands what is going on. There is also a touch of political commentary introduced in this volume, as we learn a little about the 39th Central Asian War, which was apparently sparked by the belief of the President of the United States of Thracia (named Alexander, of course) that Persia was harbouring Robots of Mass Distruction (RMDs?). Sound a little familiar?
I don’t really understand how or why the society portrayed in this comic developed around having independent robots who live their own lives, renting apartments and pretending to eat food, would have developed, or why there would be such prejudice against them. This aspect of the story needs a little more clarification, but otherwise, this is a beautifully illustrated and very compelling series.
The last twenty years have seen a long string of books like this, where a Superman character is portrayed as being evil. Without giving it too much thought, projects like Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, and Peter Tomasi and Keith Champagne’s The Mighty (which shares an artist with this book) spring to mind, and I know there are many more.
A God Somewhere fits in this milieu, but it also distinguishes itself by being incredibly well written, and by focusing as much on the incidental characters around the Superman figure as on him.
Eric and Hugh are brothers and very close friends. They share a best friend, Sam, who has always had a thing for Hugh’s wife Alma. One day, something crashes into Eric’s apartment building, destroying it, yet also granting Eric great abilities. He springs into action to help rescue his neighbours, and is immediately exposed to the world as its first superhuman.
Eric is not very well-equipped to handle these abilities and the fame that they bring with them. He starts to depend more and more on his Christianity, while also distancing himself from his friend and family. Basically, he starts to lose it, and finds himself giving in to violent and dark urges. Eventually, he is pursued by the Army, in a number of scenes that remind me more of The Incredible Hulk than of Superman.
I really like the way that John Arcudi explores Eric’s reactions to his abilities, and how they affect his relationships. Sam is the most interesting character in the book – he ends up working as a journalist covering the Army’s hunt, but also feeling great empathy for his friend.
Peter Snejbjerg is one of the best artists working in comics today. His figures are very expressive, and he excels at evoking emotion. I really wish we would see his work more regularly.
Echo comes to a very satisfying finish in this final volume. Julie and her friends confront their pursuers in a gigantic secret super-collider hidden under the snowy wastelands of Alaska, with the fate of the entire world hanging in the balance.
While much of this volume is spent portraying the action scenes needed to finish things off properly, it is actually the quieter character moments that fill this book that really make it worth reading. Terry Moore created some very cool, very realistic characters in this book, and uses them wonderfully in the pursuit of his story.
I particularly like the interactions between Julie (who is also sort of Annie, the woman whose death sparked off this whole series) and Ivy, the super-spy who has been helping them. Lately, Julie has been growing at an increased rate, and Ivy has been de-aging at the same speed, giving a comic appearance to their interactions.
Echo is a terrifically grounded story about a woman who discovers a strange metallic alloy which bonds to her body and provides her with some new abilities. Of course, there is an evil corporation involved (corporations are the real bad guys, and we all know that), and it’s nice to see how things work out in the end.
I can’t recommend this series enough. It has been released in a single volume, which would make a nice Christmas present to a comics reader who has not branched far away from the Big Two companies, but who would enjoy a well-written, beautifully drawn, complete story.
And yes, Pulse Glazer, I know I should read Strangers in Paradise.
Written by Kako, Ricardo Giasetti, Rafael Coutinho, Pam Noles, PEOV, Fábio Moon, Jeremy Nisen, Clayton Junior, Rafael Grampá, and Shane L. Amaya
Art by Kako, Fabio Cobiaco, Rafael Coutinho, Bruno D’Angelo, PEOV, Fábio Moon, Jefferson Costa, Clayton Junior, Rafael Grampá, and Gabriel Bá
Gunned Downis a collection of short Western comics drawn by Brazilian artists. Why did the editor, Shane L. Amaya feel the need to construct such an anthology? I have no idea, but it’s a pretty decent book, clocking in at about 175 pages, and priced at only $10 (the book was published in 2005; I’m sure it’s pretty hard to find now).
In the short six years since this book was published, Brazilian artists have begun to achieve some serious recognition in the North American comics market. Included in this book are three of my favourite current artists – Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, and Rafael Grampá, in what I believe are their first North American comics. Moon contributes a cool three-page story about a gunfight. Grampá delivers a strange four-pager about a Chinese market in the Old West which sells some peculiar cuts of meat. He draws it in his usual Geof Darrow meets Rick Geary style. Bá works with the book’s editor to tell a long story (forty pages) about a half-breed family and some of their challenges. It’s bloody and rough, but also very impressive.
The coolest thing about this book is that the stories by unknown (to me) creators work just as well. There is a cool story about Harry Houdini foiling a bank robbery while touring the West (by Nisen and Costa) that is very generous with the ink, and a good story about a woman who ran a stagecoach (by Noles and D’Angelo).
Another forty page story, by Giasetti and Cobiaco, is a little hard to follow, but still interesting. It looks at the lives of two people, an American Lieutenant and a Native American warrior, who met when they were young and in conflict with each other, and then met again later in life when progress had left both of them behind. It’s good stuff.
Picking this up, I wondered if there would be any one dominant ‘Brazilian style’ of art, expecting most of the book to look like Bá, Moon, and Grampá, but instead I’ve discovered a great deal of diversity in the art of that very diverse country. If any one artist came to mind through most of the stories, it was Danijel Zezelj, whose work many of these artists resemble.
I know this would not be an easy trade paperback to find, but if you are able, you should grab it. I hope to see more from many of these artists in North America.
This is a terrific little novel about life in one of the saddest, most run down areas in Florida. Shelby is a new transplant to the region. She is probably too smart for her eighth grade peers. Toby is the disaffected rebel, who is both the object of Shelby’s affections, and the person who kidnapped her three-year old sister, and has been keeping her hidden in an abandoned bunker. Mr. Hibma is one of their teachers, and his despair at his own wasted potential has him plotting to kill one of his colleagues. This is a very funny, and often disturbing, book with some very nice, unadorned prose. It’s a read.