The Weekly Round-Up #110 With Scalped, The Activity, Northlanders, Pigs, Sacrifice & More

Unfortunately, Diamond shorted my local store of all their issues of The Shade.  As we keep hearing that the mini-series may get truncated by DC, I wanted to be upfront that I intend to continue supporting this comic, and encourage everyone to check it out.

Best Comic of the Week:

Scalped #55

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by RM Guera

I don’t know how to talk about this issue of Scalped without talking about how it ends, except in rather vague and general terms.  I will say though that that has to be one of the coolest endings to a comic I’ve seen in some time, and it comes as a huge pay-off for almost five year’s worth of reading (and loving) this series.

The issue opens where it ended last month, with Shunka coming to kill Dash Bad Horse.  Their fight takes up most of the issue, and it is bloody and brutal in ways I haven’t seen before in comics.  I could imagine how it must feel to have the wiring holding your jaw together ripped out, that’s how effective RM Guera’s art was in conveying the visceral violence of this comic.

I also liked the way Guera referenced past issues during the fight, showing Dash’s childhood arrowhead collection at one point.  Jason Aaron has risen to great heights behind his work on this comic (although nothing he’s done at Marvel can touch the quality of this series), yet Guera has not become a star.  On one hand, that’s good because it means he’s never left the book, but he deserves equal credit for this comic being so amazing.

Some other stuff happens in this issue too – Catcher gets into it with his horse, while Agent Nitz finally raids Red Crow’s casino.  As for Red Crow, he shows up at Dash’s place during the fight, and this is what leads to that excellent ending, and to another memorable scene with Shunka.  This comic is amazing, and I wish everyone who isn’t reading it would pick up the trades.  If you plan on reading this series, don’t take a peek at the end of this issue – let it reach you in context when you get to it; you’ll be happy with it.

Other Notable Comics:

The Activity #2

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Mitch Gerads

The comparisons between this title and Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, or the TV show The Unit are pretty easy to make, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for this comic on the stands.  As a fan of war comics, and espionage, when it’s done correctly, I am finding myself really getting into The Activity, which chronicles the missions of a Direct Action Quick Response team.

This issue focuses on a mission involving a terrorist cell in Amsterdam that is holding an undercover agent hostage, and is going about procuring weapons.  We get the usual thing you would expect with a storyline like this – cool gadgets, and a chance to see the team in action.  There are a couple of surprises along the way, as we begin to get a better understanding of how this team operates, and just what they are all about.

To be honest, I would have appreciated a little more character development in this issue.  I get that these guys have to keep things professional, but aside from a little hazing of the new operative, there is nothing going on here to help us learn more about who these people are.  I’m hoping that Edmondson addresses this soon, or this series could quickly become dull, lacking any human connection.

Still, this is a nicely-plotted and executed comic, and I’m looking forward to learning more as things progress.  There are some seeds being planted that inter-agency issues will become a big part of the book; that could get interesting.

Northlanders #47

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Declan Shalvey

Change is not an easy thing to accept for many people.  It is especially difficult when that change is coming on the tide of history, and the way things have been for a long time is not going to be possible as the way things will be.  That idea is at the core of Brian Wood’s Icelandic Trilogy, the final arc in Northlanders, his Viking comic.

This issue finishes the second of the three arcs, as Brida Hauksson tries to hold on to her family’s way of living in the face of the increasingly violent feud with the Belgarssons, and with the encroachment of Christianity on Iceland.  The real surprise comes to Brida when her brother Mar finally returns, only to announce that he has converted.

While Mar is the male of the family, Brida has more or less run the show to this point.  Mar sees conversion, and marriage to a Belgarsson, as the only way to keep from limiting his family’s future.  Brida sees things differently, and her stubbornness reminds me of the resistance of Aboriginal peoples in the early days of European exploration in the Americas; she has no idea how large and pernicious Christianity will be.

I like how Wood has portrayed Iceland on the edge of modernity (the bit about the turn of the millennium provoking doomsayers reminded me that I really should read Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Signal to Noise again).  It’s very easy to draw parallels between this type of story and modern times – Brida reminds me of, among other things, comics fans refusing to acknowledge the creep of digital platforms into the business – but at the end of the day, this is a remarkable story about a time and people we don’t think of often enough.

Declan Shalvey has done some excellent work here – I love the exterior shot of the Hauksson’s compound, with the Northern Lights dancing above.  I hope we’ll see him continuing to work in more serious and realistic comics.

Pigs #5

Written by Nate Cosby and Ben McCool
Art by Breno Tamura

There is a lot about Pigs that I find interesting and which compels me to come back issue after issue, but at the same time, I really wish this series would hurry up and have a lot more happen in each issue.

Pigs is about a KGB sleeper cell that was planted in Cuba back in the 60s, and which now comprises the children of the original cell members.  They’ve finally been activated, and are carrying out some missions on American soil.  First, they were sent to get some information from a Senator.  Now, they are tasked with killing someone who is being held in San Quentin Correctional Facility, which, as you can imagine, is not an easy task.

Also making things difficult is the tension within the group.  Felix, the ‘White Russian’, has adopted a more peaceful stance than his brethren, and has become very skeptical of their aims.  He finds it especially difficult to manage Viktor, the youngest person in the cell, who was only a child when Felix left Cuba for the United States.

Cosby and McCool have been doing some cool things with the timeline of their series, showing us events that will happen much further down the road (like the abduction of the President, apparently), and this issue is no exception, as scenes from within the prison are sprinkled throughout the comic, although it’s not until the very end that their meaning becomes clear.

As I’ve said, I like this comic, but the writers are holding too much back, and need to start sharing a little more about what the group’s larger mission is, or where their information is coming from.

Sacrifice #2

Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Dalton Rose

There’s a great deal to like about Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose’s self-published, and self-distributed comics series Sacrifice, but a big one for me is that I don’t know when a new issue is going to appear in my pull-file.  I just got the first issue last week, and suddenly the new one is here!

Sacrifice is a very cool comic.  It’s about a guy who has ended up back in the period of time right before the Spanish conquistadors made contact with the Aztecs.  It’s a time of great sectarian violence, and a time of revolution, led by the female warrior Malintzin (known to the Spanish as Malinche).

Hector, our point-of-view character and time traveler has found himself embroiled in the conflict between the followers of two gods, and is pressed upon to kill Malintzin before she can be sacrificed, for reasons that are somewhere between complicated and unclear.  There’s a lot going on in this comic, and the pacing can feel a little off at times (especially at the end of the issue), but I really like what Humphries is doing with this.

There’s an easy parallel between this comic and what Brian Wood is doing with Northlanders at the moment – both tell of societies at the cusp of great change (and that’s before Cortes shows up; things are going to get a lot worse for the Aztec), and both tell their stories using plain speech.

Rose’s art is great, and everything about this self-directed effort is professional and very interesting.  Given the inherent rarity of this comic, I feel lucky that I’ve been able to secure a copy, and that it looks like I’ll be able to read it through to its completion.

Severed #6

Written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Art by Attila Futaki

I’ve been a supporter of this series from the beginning, despite the fact that it can, at times, strain credibility to the breaking point.  I’ve thought that writers Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft had a little more leeway in their depiction of a couple of kids in Depression-era America as being a little naive because, let’s face it, they wouldn’t have been raised on a steady diet of slasher films and/or overprotective parenting.

This issue, which ends with a pretty big reveal, however, hinges on either a series of coincidences or a level of planning that would be almost impossible to have work in the way that it has.  And this has tainted my enjoyment of the book.

I love Image Comics because it gives creators a great deal of freedom to innovate, but sometimes the lack of a strong editor can be a bit of a problem.  Were this a Vertigo-edited book, the wrinkles would have been ironed out, making the comic much stronger.  Because the truth is, Snyder and Tuft have a good story to tell, and Futaki is an interesting artist.

Here’s hoping that the ending can redeem things next month.

The Unwritten #33

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross and MK Perker

I really can not complain about this comic these days.  As Tom Taylor moves closer to finishing his conflict with The Cabal, the stakes get progressively higher, and the story steadily becomes more exciting.

In this issue, the newly-reinvigorated Tom (thanks to some digital-era Tinkerbell hand clapping) sets off to confront The Cabal before his powers wane.  This involves resurrecting a long-dead architect, and wading into his enemies’ base without a plan, appropriate back-up, or anything else.  It feels like whenever Tom has a lot of power, he also develops a fair amount of hubris.

Anyway, there are a few things that are not really working for me here – like the fact that no one would have bothered to look for the Frankenstein monster that got left in the middle of Antarctica before moving on with their plan, but the way in which The Cabal chooses to combat Tom’s incursion is pretty interesting, and amusing.

Does anyone know if The Unwritten is expected to end soon?  It feels like this book is moving towards a big finish, but I haven’t heard anything to that effect.

Whispers #1

by Joshua Luna

I’ve really come to enjoy the work of the Luna Brothers.  I’ve read their works backwards, starting with The Sword, then Girls, and not that long ago, their first series, Ultra. Long before that, I’d enjoyed their Marvel work on Spider-Woman, but they didn’t write that.  Anyway, I have really grown to appreciate their pacing, original plots, and above all else, the strong characters that they fill their books with.

I don’t know why Joshua Luna has struck out on his own with this new comic, but it makes things even less clear as to what Jonathan Luna contributed to their earlier work, as this is a very good comic.

Sam is a bit of a mess.  He’s clearly suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (when we meet him, he’s afraid to touch a door handle to enter a coffee shop), and his girlfriend has recently left him.  He knows he’s not normal, but he also doesn’t know what to do about it, especially when his dreams start to get very strange.

He tries to tell his ex about this, but seeing as she’s in the middle of caring for her recently injured father, she’s not too interested in Sam’s problems.  Her friends are openly hostile to him.  What we later learn is that Sam is not dreaming, and has instead developed the ability to have out of body experiences, or project his spirit elsewhere.  When visiting people he knows in this state, he’s able to read their minds, and make suggestions to them (hence the title of the series).

It’s hard to know where this series is headed after only this first issue, but Luna has me intrigued.  He does a great job of providing the dread that comes with actually learning what others think of you, as Sam visits his estranged mother in a haunting scene.

Artistically, Joshua Luna working on his own brings a different look to the book than what we’ve seen when he works with his brother.  There is greater textures to the page.  The digital colouring effects that he uses give the book a warmer, more burnished feel.  It’s strange – being so familiar with the brothers’ work, this solo effort looks very familiar, but I don’t think I would have accredited it to a Luna had I looked at it without reading the credits.

This series looks to have some promise – I don’t know how long it’s expected to last, but I’m probably going to be on board throughout.

Quick Takes:

Amazing Spider-Man #677 Now this is how to write a cross-over (see my Frankenstein review below).  I don’t usually pick up Amazing Spider-Man, saving it as a bargain bin title, but since this issue ties in to next week’s Daredevil, and both are written by Mark Waid, I figured I should get this.  It’s a very nicely written comic, with a good, organic reason for the two characters to team up, it has a couple good lines, and makes good use of the Black Cat, a character I’ve always liked.  The best thing about this issue though?  Emma Rios draws it, and it is gorgeous.  It’s clear that she spends a lot of time thinking about how a man swinging through a city would look, and portrays Spidey going about his business in a very cool way.  All around, this is a great issue; Waid’s Daredevil run has been terrific, and that quality is all over this comic as well.

Batgirl #5 – You know, Simone’s writing on this comic is just kind of weird (and not in the deliciously twisted Secret Six way).  In this issue, Barbara’s mother shows up, and somehow knows the name of Bab’s roommate, although no one comments on that.  I’ve never been all that clear on whether or not Barbara is James Gordon’s niece or daughter, and in the New 52, where we learn that he never remarried (yet we know that Barbara’s brother still is in continuity) it’s even more confusing.  Then we are introduced to Gretel, another oddball villain who seems to mindcontrol people into killing for her while talking about the number 338.  I’m not too sure where this comic is going, and as much as I usually love Simone’s writing, I think I might be jumping ship soon.

Batman and Robin #5 – The father and son theme gets taken ever farther in this series as we learn the backstory behind Morgan Ducard and his dad, while Batman goes looking for Damian, who has taken off with Morgan.  I feel like this story is moving into pretty familiar territory, and is a little predictable, but still, Tomasi and Gleason are doing good work with this comic.

Batwoman #5 Is it possible for art this beautiful to start feeling routine?  JH Williams is doing some of the best work of his career on this comic, and the fact that these last five issues have come out on time (even with all the lead time he had) is pretty amazing.  Storywise, I’ve really enjoyed this series, especially with the pivotal role played by Cameron Chase and Director Bones.  This issue lines up a little too neatly, with both the Weeping Woman and Bones pointing Kate towards a criminal organization called Medusa (because really, how many of these organizations are there in Gotham?), but aside from that, this is an excellent comic.

Captain America #7 – It’s amazing what an artist change can do for a title sometimes.  When Ed Brubaker was working with Jackson Guice, Cap’s comic was darker and grimmer, but also pretty feasible.  When he started working with Steve McNiven, the story became little more than a vehicle for some cool visuals, and nothing was very interesting.  Now, with Alan Davis on the book, we have a very successful example of what worked well in the comics of the 80s – colourful characters and a quick pace that manages to pack a fair amount of story into the book.  It’s not the best Captain America Brubaker has written, but it’s pretty damn enjoyable to read.  The ‘deactivating supersoldier serum’ plot is a little too old-school for me, but I do like looking at this comic.  I think it’s been saved from being dropped (here’s hoping Davis sticks around, and McNiven doesn’t come back).

Demon Knights #5 – This book has generated a lot of good press, and went from being something I had no interest in to something that I’ve put on my pull-list, despite the fact that five issues in, all we’ve done is get ready for a big battle (which, at this pace, should take the book up to about issue 20).  Paul Cornell is using some interesting characters though, and this month we get to learn a little more about them, as Mordru and his Queen wander through the village they are waiting to destroy, and talk to a few of our heroes, offering them a way out.  This is a very interesting book, even if it does move a little slowly.

Frankenstein  Agent of SHADE #5It seems that DC is really pushing the smaller cross-over as part of their New 52 experience.  A part of me loves a good two-parter spread between different books, when that team-up or fight organically fits with both stories.  In the case of Frankenstein’s fight with OMAC, I don’t feel that was the case.  I can almost imagine Dan Didio thinking to himself that since Jeff Lemire has become one of the higher-profile writers at DC, and since Didio is the boss whose own book was at the bottom of the sales charts (remember, we learned this week that OMAC is being cancelled), that he should force a cross-over in the hopes of raising sales.  I didn’t buy the OMAC story last week, and it clearly wasn’t needed to understand this issue, which was the weakest of this series so far.  In the last couple of pages, I saw that Lemire tried to salvage things by making the book be about Frankenstein again, but it was too little too late.  What I learned from this is to be wary of editorially-mandated cross-overs in the New 52 (the Animal Man and Swamp Thing connections are clearly writer-driven, and therefore work), and only continue to pick up issues of comics I already read.

Grifter #5 – With the news announced this week that Rob Liefeld (!) will be taking over the writing of this title, my time with it is limited to say the least.  The truth is, I’m not sure I’d be sticking around anyway if there were many more issues like this one.  Grifter hangs out for a bit with the woman who rescued him last year, and now wants to play Microchip to his Punisher; later he goes looking for someone to scam out of money, and instead runs into a huge group of Daemonites, who fight him.  There’s not a lot more happening than what is on the surface, and Scott Clark’s digitally-manipulated artwork is a little hard to follow in places.  Nothing too impressive really…

Heart #3 – I’m still kind of surprised that I’m reading Heart, Blair Butler’s comic about a MMA fighter who can’t always live up to his ambitions, but it’s a pretty decent comic, and a window into a world I’ve never understood.  Kevin Mellon’s scratchy art has grown on me too.

Invincible #87Invincible is pure fire these days.  Mark is now working with Dinosaurus to improve the world, although that’s made him a target for the Guardians.  He finally gets a chance to talk to Cecil, but this is interrupted by Allen showing up in space, ready to wipe out all of humanity in order to kill the Viltrumites.  Lots of talking and fighting this issue, and great Ryan Ottley art.  The best part of the issue?  Where Robert Kirkman says they are going to publish every three months until they are caught up, and then monthly through the rest of 2012!

Journey Into Mystery #633 – I never expected that a comic about a child version of Loki would be one of my favourite Marvel books, but with Fear Itself over, Kieron Gillen’s take on the young trickster just keeps getting better and better.  This issue opens with a meeting of fear-based gods, demons, and other entities, and it was both fascinating and amusing.  Rich Johnston wrote this week about the comparisons between this series and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and these two pages are a perfect example.  After this, Loki went about his way trying to stay out of trouble without succeeding, just as his bad dreams drew Daimon Hellstrom to him – expect one of those ‘first they fight and then they team up’ things to happen next issue.  I don’t know who the regular artist on this title is supposed to be, but if it’s can’t be Mitch Breitweiser (who killed the last issue), I hope it will be Richard Elson, who does a fine job here.

Last of the Greats #4 – Well this issue certainly went a few places I wouldn’t have expected.  I thought it strange enough when we discovered that the Last had a daughter with his male assistant (long story), and had found the Oprah stuff last issue amusing, but still never thought this comic would go where it did this issue.  I feel a little like what started out as a world-wide story has shrunk into a much smaller story about a pretty dysfunctional family, and I’m not sure that it’s the right direction to go.  Still, there’s only one issue left in this first arc, so I’ll read that – this is not Joshua Hale Fialkov’s best work.

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1I expected a lot more from the second Lobster Johnson mini-series, and the first to come along for a number of years.  I get it that Johnson was created as a pulp-style action hero, but Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are either too in love with the tropes of that genre, or are just phoning this one in.  The story opens with a bunch of thugs dressed as Native Americans attacking a couple in an alley, only to be stopped by the mysterious Lobster (who doesn’t have a speaking role in this comic).  Later, a plucky young female newspaper reporter (of which there were apparently hundreds in the Prohibition era, because there’s one in every comic set at that time), starts to dig into mob activity, which gets her in trouble.  Even Tonci Zonjic’s artwork, which was so terrific in Who Is Jake Ellis?, looks kind of flat here.  The best thing about this comic is the cover.

Moriarty #8 – I feel like this is one series that would definitely read better in trade, as it’s difficult to keep up with the twists and turns of the plot on a month-to-month basis.  This is a very complicated comic, but Daniel Corey includes enough character moments to keep me intrigued, even when I’m beginning to lose track of what is going on.  I’m definitely pleased that this arc is wrapping up next issue, as it’s kind of dragging out a little long (I blame the issue-length flashback last month).

The Ray #2 – The first issue of this four-part mini-series was fun, so I thought I’d come back.  Palmiotti and Gray are having a good time with this new version of the old hero – the best parts of this book have to do with Lucien’s relationship with his girlfriend.  The bad guy that was set up last issue doesn’t appear at all, which is odd, but this is a solid superhero comic, with very nice art by Jamal Igle.

Secret Avengers #21This issue is the last from Warren Ellis’s run on the title, which as been more or less brilliant throughout.  This is probably the weakest issue yet, as the team tries to stop a Shadow Council plot in an office building, only to have things go wrong.  The story seemed to go a little too quickly, and I didn’t find it as novel as the last couple of issues have been.  Stuart Immonen is a great artist though, and this was still better than most superhero comics.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire – Iron Cross #2 – John Ostrander’s ‘James Bond in Star Wars’ series is a lot of fun.  Jahan Cross, the secret agent, has traveled to the Corporate Sector to investigate some black market activity, and quickly finds himself under arrest for killing the widow of the man whose son he is investigating.  There is a great balance between action and intrigue, with very nice Stephane Roux artwork.  This doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars comic, except for familiar things like the speeder bike Cross flies through a mansion to effect an escape.  It’s good stuff.

The Strain #2 – I was surprised to have enjoyed the first issue of this series (although, with names like David Lapham and Mike Huddleston attached, I shouldn’t have been), so I thought I’d come back and check out the second.  Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire novel must be pretty sprawing – a number of characters are introduced here (although not many stick around long), and certain parts of the comic, like the ones surrounding the movement of the coffin, are not all that clear.  Still, I like the main character, and really enjoy Huddleston’s art, so I might be back for the third issue too…

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #4 – I’ve been enjoying this comic, as Luther has learned about his powers and began putting them to use.  Now though, the Librarian is after him, and things slow down a little for some exposition.  That’s not really the problem with this issue; that lies more in the way in which this book suddenly got all Darth Vader and Luke, forgetting that what made the earlier issues work so well was the interplay between the characters.

Suicide Squad #5 I don’t like this comic, but I keep buying it.  Why?  I’m not entirely sure – I don’t want to say that it’s out of loyalty to the property (the original SS is one of my all-time favourite comics), but it is out of continued hope that this will get better.  The concept is terrific, but for whatever reason, Adam Glass is content to barely develop his characters, and construct plots that make little to no sense.  How could Harley Quinn have orchestrated the prison riot that began last issue as the team was arriving at the prison?  And how could she have set it up ahead of time in response to a fact she learned once it was underway?  It really makes no sense at all.  Plus, when are we really going to get to know Amanda Waller – there was a hint that she’s got a family this issue, but that’s the closest we’ve come to learning anything about a character who was one of the most interesting of the real DCU.  It’s been five months; it’s time to give us more (or at least explain why the spelling of the prison’s name was changed in the reboot).

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 – This series is settling into its new, jokey, light-hearted approach to the X-Men, and while there is a great deal to like, I’m still getting stuck on a few things.  First, it’s just a little too hard to accept Logan as the kindly professor; had he simply set up the school and stuck to his usual portrayal, it would make more sense.  I also find it strange that it’s the type of school with uniforms and strict delineation between faculty and students; many of these characters have fought together, and I think that there should be a little more recognition of their shared history.  Also, this new approach to Angel feels too weird (although, since we’ve already seen Archangel in the AvX promos, I guess this won’t last too long).  Nick Bradshaw is a good fit for the book, playing Kevin Maguire to Jason Aaron’s Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis.

X-Factor #230It feels like it’s been ages since an issue of X-Factor was this good.  All the old magic is back, as the team squabbles, Wolverine pops by to help everyone gain some perspective on recent events, Jamie is lost in some alternate reality, and a couple of old friends show up and sign up.  The best lines go to Shatterstar and Longshot, as Peter David’s quips work better than they have lately.  I was starting to get a little bored with this comic, and hope it stays more like this moving forward.

X-Men Legacy #260.1 – I had some high hopes for Christos Gage’s debut on this title, but found this issue pretty underwhelming.  Actually, I thought it was a lot like an issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, just lacking in Wolvey and the other main characters from that book.  Instead, we have Rogue, Gambit, Frenzy, and Rachel Summers (who apparently doesn’t have a codename now, but does have an ugly new look) fighting demons and trying not to involve the students (because, you know, having the kids watch wouldn’t count as training).  This is a capable comic, it’s just not very unique.  I’ll give Gage one more chance, as I’ve kind of developed a liking for Exodus, who will show up next issue, but I can see not sticking around.

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

Brilliant #2

New Avengers #20 (I’ve had enough of being charged so much for a comic where so little happens; I continue to enjoy Bendis’s run, but I don’t think I’m getting the value for it, so I’m done).

Operation Broken Wings 1936 #3

Punisher Max #21

Scarlet Spider #1

Ultimate Comics X-Men #6

Wolverine #300 (okay, $5)

Bargain Comics:

Hellblazer #280-284 – I know that a number of people are really enjoying Peter Milligan’s run with John Constantine (which has been going on for quite a long time now), but personally, I find it kind of bland.  I like the comics well enough when I read them, but nothing really sticks with me.

The Punisher #3-6 – I’m not sure what I think of this latest approach to the Punisher.  I like that Greg Rucka is treating him as an almost complete cipher, giving him very little dialogue and no character development, instead focusing the comic on a couple of police detectives, the reporter Norah Winters, and the woman whose family was slaughtered at her wedding in the first issue.  The book is lovely, with nice art from Marcos Checchetto, Matt Clark, and Matt Southworth, but I don’t feel the need to add it to my pull-list.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #5 – Jonathan Hickman uses this issue to take stock of the big changes the world experienced in the first four months of this series, and in the Hawkeye spin-off.  Although not a whole lot happened, I enjoyed this issue, as I have been out of touch with the Ultimate Universe until just recently, and didn’t really have a feel for the characters anymore.  Hickman (as always), is doing some impressive work with this series.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Richard Stark’s Parker Book Two: The Outfit

Written by Donald Westlake
Adapted by Darwyn Cooke

When I started reading The Outfit, the second of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s (really Donald Westlake’s) crime novels, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what happened in the first one, The Hunter.  I remember enjoying Cooke’s work, but storywise, nothing stayed with me.

Reading this volume, I can see why.  Westlake’s stories are pretty effervescent.  This one is about Parker wanting to take on The Outfit – a mob-like group of career criminals who run large swaths of gambling and prostitution houses.  The man running The Outfit has beef with Parker, who has had surgery to change his appearance, and Parker is looking for payback.  Or something like that.

Truthfully, I’m reading this book for Cooke’s wonderful artwork; the story is secondary.  Cooke loves that late 50s/early 60s period, as we learned with The New Frontier, his love letter to the early days of DC comics.  The sense of design and iconography used in this book is terrific, and Cooke has a good sense of the correct pace to use in adapting Westlake’s writing.

The best parts of this book have Parker or his friends planning and carrying out various heists and robberies of Outfit businesses.  Cooke uses a variety of styles for these pages, drawing some of them like newspaper comc strips, and presenting one in an ‘illustrated novel’ format.  The look of this book is where the fun is; the rest is pretty inconsequential.

Album of the Week:

Question Mark – Be Nice to the People

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