Best Comic of the Week:
Written by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Evan Dorkin, Tony Puryear, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Alan Gordon, Brian Wood, Martin Conaghan, Rich Johnston, and MJ Butler
Art by Duncan Fegredo, Jill Thompson, Tony Puryear, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Thomas Yeates, Kristian Donaldson, Jimmy Broxton, Simon Rohrmüller, and Mark Wheatley
There are a lot of new things popping up in Dark Horse Presents lately, as some of the inaugural series in this anthology have conclude or gone on hiatus. With these new stories come some big-name creators, and some people with whom I’m unfamiliar but am very curious to see more from.
This issue starts with a Kate Corrigan story. Kate is a central character in Mike Mignola’s BPRD, and in this story she reacts to the news of Hellboy’s death, after meeting his companion Alice in a cemetery in England. Some of the emotion in this story feels a little forced, and I found myself much more interested in what was happening between Kate and her German boyfriend Bruno than I was in the death of Hellboy.
There is an excellent Beasts of Burden story by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, involving our usual cast of animals meeting a group of strange sheep one day. Dorkin and Thompson have just about perfected their approach to these horror stories that feature talking animals. Normally, I’d stay away from something like this, but these two have made these characters so loveable, and their stories so sad and loving, that I can’t stay away. This is one of the best comics being made these days.
I continue to be very interested in Tony Puryear’s Concrete Park. It’s a near-future gangster science fiction story, and while he’s still really just establishing characters and their relationships to one another, I find it pretty fascinating. I’ve always been drawn to strong world-building in comics, and I’m appreciating the level of thought and planning on display in this series.
Howard Chaykin’s Marked Man ends well. I haven’t always enjoyed this story of a hired thief and assassin who, after many years of successfully anonymous crime, is exposed, and his family killed. He gets his revenge in this chapter, and Chaykin makes some interesting choices.
There is a very strange Tarzan story that starts in this issue. It’s set in a future world where most of our world lies in ruin. Tarzan lives in a series of hidden apartments which are also greenhouses (I think), and gets approached by some people to do something. Really, I think I need to read this again. I did enjoy Thomas Yeates’s art, which always looks so old school and so great. This story reminded me a lot of Arvid Nelson’s Zero Killer series of a few years back.
Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s new series The Massive debuts here, although what all it’s going to be about is not yet clear. We do get some very cool visuals of an independent military contractor being the only survivor after an oil rig that has been taken over by eco-terrorists gets buffeted by insanely strong waves. It’s Wood, so I know this is going to be great.
Martin Conaghan (who?) and Jimmy Broxton (who I loved on Knight & Squire, and who has reached some internet notoriety of late over his involvement in the failed Kickstarter sequel to Smoke) give us a very cool done-in-one story about time travel and cloning (two things which should never mix).
Rich Johnston, of Bleeding Cool fame, starts off a new series here, ‘The Many Murders of Miss Cranborne.’ This is about a little old British lady who kills men of the cloth who she believes are not pure in their intent. With Simon Rohrmüller’s art, and the doughty speech patterns of the murderess, we are strongly in Agatha Christie meets Rick Geary territory, and I love it.
There are also new chapters of Skultar, which is kind of funny, and Neal Adams’s Blood, which is still god-awful. It’s a shame there isn’t a new chapter of Finder this month – that would have made this just about perfect.
Other Notable Comics:
Written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Art by Gabriel Hardman
Boom’s two Planet of the Apes comics have continued to be a pleasant surprise. The main title is excellent, month-in and month-out. This mini-series, Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes has also exceeded all expectations.
It is set long after the main title, and about twenty years before the events of the first (presumably original) movie in the franchise. The focus of this book has been the main rules passed down by the Lawgiver – that ‘ape shall not kill ape’, and that all apes should ‘beware the beast man’. The story centres around Aleron, a retired gorilla general and now lawyer. After he defended a chimpanzee who trained a human to speak with sign language, Aleron was put on trial for a long ago murder – the first ape murder recorded – and sent to prison.
All of this was a pretext for a corrupt member of the council to try to seize power. This final issue has Dr. Zaius learn a few things about humans and their history at the edge of the Forbidden Zone, and has all the other characters confront one another one last time, as a number of truths are revealed.
Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman have done an excellent job of crafting this story. The plot is very tight and involved, and Hardman’s art is, as always, amazing. There is going to be a follow-up series, Exile on the Planet of the Apes starting next month by the same writers, although sadly without Hardman’s art (he starts on Secret Avengers next week). This is a series anyone who’s ever enjoyed the films should read.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
I’d found the first issue of Fatale to be a little confusing (although still very good). This second issue helps make things a lot clearer, as the whole issue remains in the 1950s, and makes much clearer the relationships between the principal characters.
It seems that Josephine, the femme ‘fatale’ of the title, has been using men to prolong her longevity for some time. Her current ‘protector’, police detective Walt Booker is on the way out with her, and she’s begun to manipulate Hank Raines, a reporter, into helping her dispose of Booker, and to take his place.
As is to be expected with a Brubaker/Phillips production, this is a very capable comic. Brubaker is taking his time laying out all the groundwork for the story, introducing us to the Bishop responsible for the cult suicides we saw last issue, and giving us a few hints as to Josephine’s secrets, without giving anything much away.
This is a very cool comic, although I can’t help but wonder if it won’t read much clearer in trade.
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred
Lately each issue of this comic has really just been more of the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – iZombie is a pretty cool comic, and it’s been remarkably consistent throughout its run, especially for the last year or so.
Gwen is freed from the custody of the Dead Presidents by Horatio, who loves her. Scott’s boyfriend is looking for him, and ends up interrupting his grandfather (who is in a chimpanzee’s body) at dinner with diner matron Dixie (about whose past we are given another clue). Scott, meanwhile, is still a prisoner of Amon, who is also hosting a summit between the Fossor monster-hunters and the Dead Presidents, a group of government agents who are also monsters.
The book moves very quickly, and since there are so many characters, and each needs their moment or two in the spotlight, it often feels like not a whole lot has happened in each individual comic.
Michael Allred is back after last month’s hiatus (covered by J. Bone). Allred was originally the draw that got me to read the book, and it’s always nice to see his wonderful art.
by Jeff Lemire
I think just about everyone knew that things were not above board with Walter, the man in the refurbished hydro dam who has been sheltering Gus and his friends for a little while now. This issue, Jeppard finds out the truth about Walter and Project Evergreen, at just the same time that the girls who opted to stay behind at the dam learn the same truths, but in a much harder way.
Like I said, that part of this story was kind of predictable. The thing is, Jeff Lemire rarely goes for the predictable in his comics, and so we have Dr. Singh manipulating Gus and playing on his worst fears as he tries to convince him to abandon Jeppard and the others and travel with him to Alaska. We are also sort-of introduced to a new character as Jeppard races back to the dam to rescue everyone.
Lemire’s kept this title interesting from the start. He doesn’t go for conventional story patterns very often, and his art is always a treat. Reading this book, it’s easy to understand why DC decided to make him a central part of their New 52 (announcing this week that he’s going to be taking over Justice League Dark soon, in addition to continuing his critical hit Animal Man). What doesn’t make sense to me is why more of the people who enjoy his superhero work aren’t checking this series out.
Action Comics #6 – This is the second half of the two-part story that has Andy Kubert join Grant Morrison for a strange origin tale that is more than that. The Superman of the current day is back in the timeframe of Action Comics (five years before the rest of the DCnU), and is working with the Legion of Super-Heroes to stop the Anti-Superman Army (who are hiding in Superman’s brain!!!!). I love the Legion, and I am curious about this incarnation, which is clearly not the team that Paul Levitz is running into the ground in their own title. This is interesting, because I suspect that the Legion of Levitz’s title are still in the old DCU, and the team shown here is the New 52 Legion, from within the Flashpoint barrier. Or, Morrison and Levitz just aren’t talking – either thing is possible. This story has also been a return to form for Morrison; the first four issues of this series have been predictable and not very challenging; this story is more what I’ve come to expect from Morrison. Oh, there’s also a pointless back-up that fills in the rest of Clark’s history, establishing that in this version, Ma and Pa are dead, if anyone cares. Personally, despite liking the Chriscross artwork, I’d rather have learned these things as Morrison’s story unfolds, than have it crammed into an infodump like this.
Animal Man #6 – I kind of have to wonder about the decision-making process behind this issue of Animal Man. Almost the entire issue is taken up with the story of Red Thunder – a Kick-Ass/Phoenix Jones character who dresses up and acts as a vigilante, but not a very good one. His life is in tatters, and he has no sense of himself outside the costume. The story is pretty interesting, with wonderful art by John Paul Leon, but it’s clear that what we are watching is really just a movie being shown on a cellphone or gaming device. The actual Baker family (it’s implied on the cover, but never in the story that Red Thunder is being played by Buddy Baker, who I guess is not just a stunt double now) only shows up for a few pages, and their story is not really advanced so much as recapped. The strange thing is that Leon’s art is very realistic, while Travel Foreman’s continues to be kind of strange – it’s an interesting juxtaposition that when we return to the ‘real’ story, things seem less realistic. At this point, I’d follow any story of Jeff Lemire’s, and I assume that this is going to be relevant somewhere down the road, and is not just filler, despite how it seems.
Avengers Academy #25 – The Hybrid story ends here, as there is more time-travel mindswapping, and the return of a couple of characters that weren’t expected to show up again so soon. This is a good comic, but I’m not entirely clear on just what Reptil was supposed to be doing in the past.
Defenders #3 – From moment to moment, this is a very enjoyable comic, as Nul tries to touch some kind of Jack Kirby engine thing, and some silent dude stops him, while Prester John flies away. The problem comes when you ask yourself what this story is really about, and you realise that nothing here makes much sense. Matt Fraction is in his ‘crazy stuff’ mode, which works much better on a book like Casanova, but is fun here nonetheless; however, I don’t really know what’s going on, and I don’t really care all that much. So far, there has been no reason for this book to continue past this arc. I’m hoping that some kind of rationale for this team’s existence becomes clear soon, or I will probably be dropping this title.
Hulk #48 – There’s nothing really the matter with Jeff Parker’s Hulk, but I find that I’m losing interest in it. The threat of Zero/One is addressed here, and there are some good action scenes; there’s just nothing too remarkable going on. Elena Casagrande’s art is fine, but she’s no Gabriel Hardman. I think it may be time to cull this title…
Invincible #88 – Invincible is on an every-three-weeks schedule until it gets caught up with its solicitations, and I couldn’t be happier with that. This is always an excellent series, but once again, Kirkman tosses some curveballs into the mix, and leads things into a new direction. When the issue opens, Mark is in a standoff with Allen (the leader of the Coalition of Planets) and Oliver (his angry younger brother) over whether or not they should be allowed to release the Scourge virus in the Earth’s atmosphere, guaranteeing the deaths of all the Viltrumites on the planet, but potentially also killing off all human life. Thragg, the leader of the Viltrumites stands (okay, floats) with Mark, and we are treated to an interesting study in Cold War negotiations. At least, that’s how things are until the Guardians of the Globe show up, and all hell breaks loose. I especially love the way Mark and Oliver interact. This feels like an issue with some real consequence to it, especially when you see the last page, and the cover to the next issue. Ryan Ottley kills on this comic, art-wise.
Stormwatch #6 – What a shame, now that the team is pulled together and given some direction, that Paul Cornell will not be writing this series any longer. This comic got off to a slow start, to be sure, but as a reader, I could feel that Cornell had some sort of plan in mind. Now, with Paul Jenkins coming on board for a while, to be replaced later by Peter Milligan, it’s easy to feel like there is no plan for this comic beyond throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. I’m not sure that I’ll read the next issue.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #5 – Whereas this series started off with a lot of good character work and some amusing scenes, it’s now nothing more than another splatter-fest, as Luther fights to save his girlfriend and mother from some bad people.
Swamp Thing #6 – I seemed to burn through this issue in a hurry, as most of it is devoted to big, creepy scenes of what the world will look like after the Rot wins the day, courtesy of regular guest artist Marco Rudy (of whom I’m a big fan). Abby takes a turn towards the evil that she was prophesied to be, and Alec begins to regret his earlier stubbornness. Rudy’s work always impresses, and this issue is no exception. I like that Scott Snyder took the time to establish the extent to which the Rot is a threat. Another good issue in a very good run.
The Twelve #9 – I really didn’t expect to ever read this comic, so I’m very happy to see that J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston have returned to finish off The Twelve. It’s been a few years though, and I think a more detailed recap page would have been in order, as I spent most of the issue trying to remember what was going on with most of the characters when we last saw them. This issue has the death of the Blue Blade, which was foretold at the very beginning of the series, and we are given some history about Electro and The Fiery Mask. I’m not usually a big JMS fan (Babylon 5 notwithstanding), but I do believe that this series is the finest work he’s done in comics. Weston, on the other hand, is always great.
Uncanny X-Force #21 – I’m probably supposed to know the guy that shows up at the end of this comic, aren’t I? It’s weird that I can get so excited to see Widget, the odd Quislet-like character from Chris Claremont and Alan Davis’s Excalibur, but I have no clue who the big-reveal bad guy is, except to think for a moment that it’s Warren from Buffy the Vampire Slayer wearing a George Washington wig. Ahh, comics. Anyway, this is a better issue than the previous one, as Greg Tocchini’s art is easier to follow, and Remender’s story follows suit. I do wish that Jerome Opena would get back on this title though…
Uncanny X-Men #6 – The last issue of this series was filled with great character moments, but this one is much more focused on advancing the plot, which is a shame. The team continues to investigate the strange land left behind by Archangel’s evil turn in Uncanny X-Force, and meet a couple of the inhabitants. There’s a lot of pure science fiction being mixed into the story here, and it’s pretty interesting, but this series is at its best when Kieron Gillen has the various X-Men are squabbling with one another. This is kind of a strange fit. On the up side, Greg Land had to do some design work of his own, unless he’s found a cache of alien porn to trace…
Villains For Hire #3 – It’s one group of villains against another, as Purple Man’s crew attacks Misty Knight’s, and then just buys most of them out. There’s a reveal at the end of the book that harkens back to the beginning of the Heroes for Hire comic of about a year ago, bringing the story full-circle, and helping to explain Misty’s odd behaviour. This is a good old school comic.
Winter Soldier #1 – Now that’s more like it. I’ve found that Ed Brubaker’s Captain America comic has fallen flat since Steve Rogers put the flag back on, and I have not enjoyed it anywhere near as much as I did Brubaker’s run with Butch Guice featuring Bucky in the role. So now, we have the Winter Soldier series by that same team (with the incomparable Bettie Breitweiser on colours), featuring the further adventures of secretly-alive Bucky and the Black Widow. The book looks great (Breitweiser is incredible – there are very few colourists I can recognize on sight, and she’s probably my favourite right now), and the noir-ish, adult feel works well. Bucky is tracking down a trio of old Russian sleeper agents that were put in suspended animation like he was, and running in to any number of problems along the way. I think I may just give up on Cap’s title, and focus on this.
X-Factor #231 – It’s an all-Madrox issue, as the rest of the team doesn’t appear even once in this issue. Madrox has found himself in an alternate world where Tony Stark is one of the last humans remaining (the Scarlet Witch decided that ‘no more humans’ was the way to go in this world), and Captain America is a Deathlok who doesn’t seem to like either humans or mutants – actually, it’s not too clear why he’s fighting Tony. Anyway, Madrox is temporarily caught up in all this drama. It’s a good issue, but at the moment, I’m much more interested in reading about Havok and Polaris’s return to the team, and all the stuff going on back at X-Factor headquarters.
The Comic I Would Have Bought if it Wasn’t $4:
Amazing Spider-Man #679
Brilliant #2 – I don’t mind this Icon series from Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley (who, when he draws superheroes, I can’t stand as a rule). I’d be happier to see new issues of Powers, but it seems that Bendis is more interested in starting projects than finishing or continuing them these days (he’s like the new Rob Liefeld in that respect). The story is kind of interesting – a group of college kids have figured out how to create super powers, but things don’t work the way they want. It’s a slightly new take on an old theme, and it’s not bad.
Justice League Dark #5 – So Peter Milligan spent five issues setting up a lame reason for all these disparate characters to come together to fight the Enchantress, only to have John Constantine solve their problem for them from a distance? And then the ‘team’ broke up at the end of the issue? I can’t imagine why Peter Milligan is getting pulled off this book, not at all. I’m more interested in this title now that Jeff Lemire’s going to be coming on board, because I’m curious to see what he will do with it. Is it going to trend towards Animal Man, or be more of a standard superhero title, like his excellent run on Superboy? There has not been enough in the first five issues of this comic to establish an on-going series, so I get the feeling that Lemire will be able to do whatever he wants, which could be interesting.
The Week in Manga:
by Naoki Urasawa after Osamu Tezuka, with Takashi Nagasaki
It’s getting difficult to find new things to say about this series by this point. With each new volume, there are a few less of the world’s most powerful robots left alive (another one buys it in this volume, after fighting Pluto over an ocean), and we get to know our main character, Gesicht, a little better.
In this volume, Gesicht remembers what happens when he killed Adolf’s brother, and has to protect Adolf and his family from an attack by the KR, the anti-robot group modeled on the KKK (if they’d had cluster cannons and flying tanks that look like the heads of Star Wars Snow Walkers). We also get to learn more about the creation of Atom, when his creator attempts to revive him, and has a few pop psychology theories about why he’s not waking up.
This is easily the best manga series I’ve ever read (out of a very limited pool), and I like the way that Urasawa continues to build on his characters throughout the series. Each volume I read leaves me excited to learn what will happen in the next one.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Written by David Hine and Shaky Kane
Art by Shaky Kane
When The Bulletproof Coffinfirst came out as a six-issue mini-series, I passed on it, despite the fact that it was receiving good reviews. I had no real reason to pass it up, because I don’t usually trade wait the titles I want to read, but the $3.99 price tag on each issue scared me off, because this was a title I couldn’t get my head around based on the solicitations and reviews I’d read.
Really, this is a pretty complex comic, that brings to mind work like Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and some of Alan Moore’s work on Supreme. Steve Newman (later Noman) is a voids contractor. Basically, he cleans out the homes of the recently deceased (specialising, it seems, in the recently murdered), a good job for someone with a bit of an obsessive habit for collecting a variety of toys and comics. He is especially fond of the output of Golden Nugget Publications, a company built around the work of two men – David Hine and Shaky Kane – which was pushed out of business by the dominant comics company Big Two.
Steve finds a cache of new issues of Golden Nugget comics in one house. What’s interesting about them is that they are all dated after Hine and Kane were bought out, and after Big Two had cancelled these titles. Soon, Steve is reading his way through titles like ‘Shield of Justice’, ‘Ramona, Queen of the Stone Age’, and ‘Coffin Fly’. From there, he soon finds himself living through Coffin Fly’s adventures in a future world overrun by zombie Vietnam War vets and dinosaurs.
The comics begin to show scenes from his own life, and as his heroes begin to meet some terrible fates, helped along by the silent Shadowmen, Steve learns that he must find the Creators – Hine and Kane themselves – in order to make things right.
There is a lot to like about this book – the metatextual fun of the plot, the satire of the comics industry, and the kooky art by Kane. His work is like a mix of mid-career Keith Giffen, Frank Quitely, Michael Allred, and Steve Ditko. This is a very good-looking, very smart comic. I may have to start picking up The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred, the new mini-series that started a couple of weeks ago…
Album of the Week:
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas