The Weekly Round-Up #115 With Glory, The Activity, BPRD, Fables, Peter Panzerfaust, Wasteland & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Glory #23

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell

Rob Liefeld’s relaunch of Extreme Comics, his line of derivative excessive 90s characters, is now 2 for 2 with the return of Glory.  I have no idea who Glory used to be, but now she is an other-dimensional warrior woman, whose birth brought peace to two warring peoples, ending millennia of hostility.

During the Second World War, Glory came to Earth to experience a more normal life, and to participate in the conflict.  After the war, she stared down Supreme, and continued to chart her own path.

This issue is split between the flashbacks that show Glory’s glory days, and suggest that this book may not be the complete redesign that Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet series is, as this book references other Liefeld ‘creations’ (to the extent that someone could create a character like Supreme, who is basically Superman, with a few letters adjusted), and contemporary scenes that introduce the character of Riley Barnes.

Riley is a young reporter (or, would like to be) who has spent her life dreaming of Glory.  Now, she’s decided to track her down as part of her master’s thesis, and her research takes her to an underpopulated island in France.  I don’t want to spoil anything, except to say that this book takes a Rick Jones/Captain Marvel thing, and uses it in an interesting way.

This issue didn’t blow me away the way the first issue of the relaunched Prophet did, but it is a solid examination of a Wonder Woman like character.  Joe Keatinge is new to comics writing, but shows some solid promise.  The surprise for me is Ross Campbell.  His art here is very nice, but doesn’t have the same thickness (of line and character) that I got used to seeing in his highly addictive emo youth love series Wet Moon.  Campbell is one of the best artists around for drawing women that look like real women, and so his Glory does not have the tiny waist and large bosom that we think of when we think of 90s superheroines; instead, she looks like a woman who is incredibly strong would look.  Riley is equally plausible, visually.

This series has a lot of potential, and I look forward to seeing where Keatinge is going to take it, even if it is more conventional than I would have expected.

Other Notable Comics:

The Activity #3

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Mitch Gerads

Nathan Edmondson’s new monthly series, The Activity, is a strange beast.  It’s a military special ops comic, about a Direct Action group, and as I’ve said before, it brings to mind some of the best of Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country series, and the television show The Unit. What is strange about this comic is that Edmondson has been slow to develop the characters beyond showing them as functions of their positions on the team.  Another book this is reminiscent of is Andy Diggle’s The Losers, but again, that comic was full of strong character work.

This issue feels like it is trying to correct this problem, but it’s done in a manner that is perhaps not all that effective, while still making an interesting read.  As the comic opens, the team is being extracted from a mission in Afghanistan which has clearly gone badly.  While flying in a military transport back to the United States, the team begins to second guess their decisions, and the decisions of each other, leading to conflict, catharsis, and the sharing of military stories.  All of these are good things, but I leave the comic no clearer as to who each of these people really are.

As I was reading the book, I was struck with the thought that Edmondson is going to need to start to develop a longer narrative here.  Having each issue spotlight a particular mission is, while within the nature of a team like this, not going to create a sustained sense of development in the series.  I’m not suggesting they need some shadowy organization to go after month after month (á la Cobra or Al Qaeda), but a sense of progression is needed.  The end of this issue does lead into the next, which is a good sign, as is the suggestion that this team may be reaching the end of their usefulness.

It also needs to be said that Mitch Gerads’s art is improving quite a bit from month to month.  At first, he seemed like a decent if somewhat generic indie artist; now I’m starting to see the development of a more individualistic style, and I like it.

BPRD Hell on Earth: The Long Death #1

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by James Harren

This start to the latest BPRD mini-series felt, in many ways, like a return to form for the series, which has been consistently good, but perhaps floundering for a while (since Abe Sapien got shot, I’d say).

The issue opens on a strange scene shared by Johann Kraus and Captain Daimio, which is quickly revealed to be a dream.  That is significant, since Johann, who is a ghost, hasn’t had a dream since he died and began living in a containment suit.  He believes that the dream is indicative of the normalizing effect of his new suit, which he got in the Russia arc.  Panya sees it more literally, but before they can explore it further, Johann is dispatched to lead a mission.

It’s great to see Panya in the book again.  She’s an ancient mummy from Egypt who is somehow still alive, if rather brittle.  She’s been a favourite character of mine since she debuted in the series, and we haven’t seen much of her of late.  I’m not sure that she can be trusted, and some of the scenes in this issue help that along.

Johann’s mission is in the same area of British Columbia where Abe encountered Captain Daimio a while back, and like Abe did on that mission, Johann ditches his troops to search for his former colleague.  The troops don’t do so well though, as a creature attacks their bivouac.

There are two things I found especially enjoyable about this issue.  The first is the introduction of Agent Giarocco, who takes charge after Johann’s disappearance.  Apparently, she’s been around the margins of this title for some time, but in just a few pages, Mignola and Arcudi flesh her out into a pretty likeable character.  The second thing I liked most about this comic was the art.  James Harren had worked on the Abe Sapien mini-series of a few months ago, and it was good, but this issue looks much, much better.  I was enjoying Tyler Crook’s work on this title, and hope to see him again, but for now, I’m very happy with Harren.  Also, I love this cover by Duncan Fegredo.

Fables #114

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Shawn McManus

I really feel like Bill Willingham shouldn’t be writing comics with young children in them.  This issue was not as cringe-inducing as the issues that had the children competing for the role of North Wind, but still, the kids in this comic do not come off as very authentic on any level.  They read like children in post-war British children’s novels, which is to say fully manufactured.  The idea of using Bigby Wolf and Snow White’s children is a very interesting one – with their mixed parentage and abilities, there are a wealth of stories that could be driven by them, but this isn’t really working for me.

One of the kids is upset about the fact that she got a toy boat for Christmas, and the boat is, of course, eeeevil (read that with a creepy voice).  This plot kind of bores me, and so I’m done with it.

Much more interesting is the return of some of the Fabletown crowd to their old stomping grounds, which is now the site of Castle Dark.  In exploring the castle, they find the imprisoned and newly-skinny Nurse Spratt (of course, she too is now eeeevil).

As well, there is some stuff about Bigby and the kid who is going to become the North Wind (who worries that she may, one day, turn eeeevil), and we return in a back-up to Oz, and the revolutionary army that Blufkin put together, although we are given no updates as to his fate.

Fables is always a good comic, although it feels lately like there are more mediocre issues than great ones.  The art, however, is always top notch.

Peter Panzerfaust #1

Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Tyler Jenkins

I hadn’t originally planned to pick up this comic, but I’m a sucker for an impulse buy, and I thought I’d give it a try.  It should have worked better for me – this is a retelling of the Peter Pan story, set in the middle of Nazi-occupied Calais during the Second World War.  A group of orphans are the only survivors of a bombing run that hit their orphanage.  While despairing as to their future (very briefly), the mercurial Peter Panzerfaust appears in the hole the bomb ripped into the side of the building, and promises to lead them to safety.

The spend the rest of the issue dodging Germans before finding themselves in the abandoned store that Peter has been staying in.  We learn that Peter is an American teenager, who is searching for a woman named Belle.  Some Germans chase a British soldier into the store, and the issue ends very suddenly and strangely, with Peter howling like a wolf behind three Germans.

Clearly Wiebe is writing for the eventual trade, or this issue is missing some pages, because the ending does not make any sense whatsoever.  What also doesn’t make much sense is that a bunch of orphans would be able to speak fluent English, but no one has any trouble understanding Peter, which rings false.

There’s not a lot that makes sense in this issue, but the chase sequence is pretty cool.  I like Tyler Jenkins’s art; his characters are lanky in a way that only teenage boys are able to be, and he has a good handle on the action and drama of the story.  I’d be surprised if I picked up the next issue though…

Wasteland #34

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Justin Greenwood

I’m very pleased to see that Wasteland is back on a regular schedule, and therefore welcome the addition of new artist Justin Greenwood, since it seems that it is his efforts that are helping the book return to its previous status as one of the most dependable (and high-quality) independent books on the stands.

The tone of this comic has shifted quite a bit with the new artist and new story arc.  Where before, Wasteland was largely about survival in a difficult future, and the politics of the city of Newbegin, this story arc is also exploring issues of faith in greater depth than the series did before.  Our heroes, Michael and Abi, who are traveling with the Ruin Runner Gerr, find themselves in the town of Godsholm, which is a Crossed Chains town.  The populace of this isolated town are Christians, and it is curious to see Johnston introduce such a familiar thing into his story.  He has not shied away from religion before, but in those cases, he has only given us the Sunner religion, which is much simpler in its belief system than Christianity.

The people of Godsholm are convinced that the travelers are demons, and everyone is upset about the fact that they were recently visited by a giant naked man who mocked their beliefs.  Abi and Michael realize that this same figure, who visited them last issue while they slept, is their father, and that he is traveling to Newbegin, to deal with Marcus, the leader of that city.

This arc is very much grounded in what has come before in the series, but is also rather accessible for new readers.  It may not feel that way at first, but many of the things that seem unclear, such as Michael’s abilities, and the mystery of A-Ree-Yass-I have been mysteries since the series began.

As I’ve been saying for as long as this comic has been running, Johnston has done some incredible world-building with this series, and it is always fascinating.  Greenwood’s art works well here – I preferred Christopher Mitten on this title, but am also very pleased to see the book coming out again, so I’m not going to complain.

Quick Takes:

Batman #6Batman, who has been the prisoner of the Court of Owls for a couple of issues now, finally fights back, in a scene that is pretty surreal in parts.  The most surprising thing about this issue is the growth of Greg Capullo’s art once again.  When this series started, I found that Capullo’s art really took away from the story.  Now, it seems like he’s stepped up the game to the point where I’m beginning to like his work, and the fact that his style has become tighter and less flashy is actually begin to add to Scott Snyder’s story, instead of hold it back.  Who would have thought?

Daredevil #9 – Moloids have been getting a lot of play in the Marvel Universe of late, which is really very strange, as they aren’t very interesting characters.  Mark Waid handles them right though, in this strange story that has Daredevil investigating subterranean grave robbing, including the casket of his own father.  There are two things that Waid has done well in this series – bringing a sense of fun to one of Marvel’s most dour characters, and exploring the benefits and downsides of Matt’s radar sense.  As always, Paolo Rivera’s art on this book is spectacular.

 Generation Hope #16 – I kept deciding to drop this book after Kieron Gillen left (nothing against James Asmus, but it generally didn’t interest me a whole lot when Gillen was on it, so a new writer I’m not blown away by becomes a reason to bail), but I have kept coming back for the art.  This issue is drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa, whose name I have not seen since he did some issues of Runaways a while back.  It’s an okay comic, as the more disaffected members of Hope’s team decide they’ve had enough of her manipulative ways, and join up with the Utopia 90s Reject Squad to handle her.  It’s interesting that Asmus does nothing to make Hope a more sympathetic character; I immediately sided with Kenji.

Invincible Iron Man #513Iron Man has been floundering since Fear Itself started, but it feels like Matt Fraction has found his footing again with this issue that has Tony fighting Dreadnoughts over the Three Gorges Dam.  A new team of Chinese superheroes, The Dynasty, show up to fight, and Fraction wisely avoids the usual posturing and fighting that precedes team-ups of this type.  Instead, they actually work together, before the Chinese government choose a face-saving option that doesn’t work for Tony.  War Machine shows up (not wearing the newer armor from Iron Man 2.0 for reasons that aren’t made clear), and take Tony into military custody.  This is a well-balanced issue, especially as we see Mandarin make his next move.  Salvador Larroca’s art looks great, but you knew that already.

Moriarty #9 – The Lazuarus Tree arc concludes in this issue, which has a whole lot of talking, followed by some confusing action sequences.  I’m not sure if this title is set to continue after this issue (I don’t think any more have been solicited yet), but I can feel myself losing interest, despite the fact that this comic has a lot going for it.  Maybe I’ll trade-wait the next story, if there is one.

Nightwing #6 – I’m beginning to wonder if I should just add this title to my pull-list, as I do keep buying it each month.  Eac issue is good, but is yet to be good enough for me to commit though.  Dick is continuing to hunt for Saiko, and when his circus decides to throw a tribute show for his parents in Gotham, he knows it’s going to draw him out, but still manages to be unprepared.  Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows are doing good work here; I just wish it grabbed me a little more or a little less, so I could make up my mind either way.

Planet of the Apes #11I continue to be pleasantly surprised by this series, although I find that the story is starting to sprawl a little too much.  Many of the major characters don’t appear in this issue, as Sullivan gives birth to her child, and the humans who have taken over the ape airship arrive in Mak.  Carlos Magno’s art is still the best thing about this comic, but the story by Darryl Gregory is also very good.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Force Storm #1 – I’m not particularly interested in the events of the Star Wars universe 36 000 years before the original movie, but John Ostrander and Jan Duursema proved themselves (as if they needed to) with Star Wars Legacy.  This story details the origin of the Force, and then moves up to a point where an ‘Infinite Empire’ is hunting down traces of that power (thankfully there is no discussion of mitichlorians).  There is way too much exposition at the beginning of the book, but as we are introduced to the bad guys, the story becomes more interesting.  Ostrander is one of my comic book heroes, so I’m staying with this title for sure, but I can see a lot of potential in it.  I did wonder how, exactly, a race like the Wookies wouldn’t have evolved at all in 36 000 years…

Thunderbolts #170 – The time-lost Thunderbolt story continues to be pretty entertaining, as the team of escapees continue their misadventures in Camelot, where they mess up a pretty important plan of Merlin’s.  It’s a very well-balanced issue, with nice art by Kev Walker.  The only problem I have with it is that Ghost appears, revealing that he’s been following the team, and then we don’t see him again at the end of the issue.

Uncanny X-Men #7 I think it’s a real shame that this whole Avengers Vs. X-Men thing is going to likely ruin a nice new status quo in the X-titles.  I like how Kieron Gillen is writing this series, and am afraid he won’t be on it when the dust settles from the next big cross-over.  In this issue, the team continues to be in the middle of the conflict between the two surviving members of the Apex race, as they fight over what to do with the land of Tabula Rasa, which was created in Uncanny X-Force.  There is more terrific dialogue, and aside from one full-page splash featuring Storm, I actually don’t hate Greg Land’s art all that much.

Winter Soldier #2 – I am very happy with this series; much happier than I am with Captain America or Captain America and Bucky.  Ed Brubaker has a story that is equal parts espionage and superheroics, and it works very well.  In this issue, Bucky and Natasha finish fighting one of the Red Ghost’s super-apes, and then try to figure out who is buying up Russian sleeper agents to attack Dr. Doom.  Visually, Butch Guice is at the top of his game, and the colours of Bettie Breitweiser make this one hella pretty comic.  If you were enjoying Captain America before Steve Rogers had to look like he does in the movies, you will like this comic a lot.

Wonder Woman #6 – This has to be one of the most interesting ‘New 52’ titles, consistently impressing me with its new approach to Wonder Woman.  This issue has Diana and her new friend/half-sibling Lennox manipulating Poseidon and Hades for their own ends.  The confrontation with Hera was a little unclear visually, but overall, Tony Akins has been a good replacement for Cliff Chiang.  I really don’t know where Brian Azzarello is taking this series, and that’s the thing I like most about it.

X-Factor #232Here’s yet another good issue of X-Factor, although the focus is entirely on Jamie Madrox, as he jumps to another reality, one wherein he is the apprentice to Dr. Strange, who was just killed by Dormammu.  They fight, stuff happens, etc., and most importantly, Jamie heads back to the 616.  This has been a good story, but the timing has been odd.  I would have preferred to spend more time with the rest of the team, especially now that Havok and Polaris have rejoined, and seen their continued reaction to Jamie’s death, more than I would have liked this multi-part romp through the multiverse.  Terrific cover on this issue, by the way.

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

Avengers #22

Avenging Spider-Man #4

New Avengers #21

Star Trek Legion of Super-Heroes #5

Ultimate Comics X-Men #7

Wolverine #301

Bargain Comics:

Ferals #1 – I would have thought that there would be a lot more to a werewolf story written by David Lapham, but this is pretty conventional stuff.  A small town’s main asshole is found torn up in the woods, and the only person torn up about it is his cop drinking buddy, who is sleeping with his ex-wife.  Later, she gets attacked by a werewolf as well.  Lots of bosoms, little character development.  Basically, this is nothing special.

Sugar Shock #1 – I already own these stories in the Myspace Dark Horse Presents trade, but one can never own enough Fábio Moon art, so I thought it was time to get the one-shot that collects Moon and Joss Whedon’s humorous space rock band epic.  Actually, the story is a little too much of the cutesy Whedon that can get on my nerves, but Moon’s work is brilliant.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Existence 2.0/3.0

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Ron Salas and Joe Eisma

I had felt like I’d missed the boat by not buying Nick Spencer’s debut mini-series Existence 2.0.  At the time that it started coming out, I obviously didn’t know the man’s name, and while the concept sounded interesting, the art didn’t do anything to grab my attention.  By the time the sequel came along, I was starting to read some of Spencer’s other books, such as Forgetless (which is awesome) and Shuddertown (which isn’t, but started out very well), but I wasn’t going to dive into a project in the middle.

This trade collects both the 2.0 and 3.0 stories, and it is interesting to read as an artifact of a now very popular writer’s genesis.  Which, I guess, is another way of saying that it’s not very good.  The first mini is pretty decent, actually.  It’s about a scientist who has developed a conscious-transfer device, and when he is assassinated, he uses it to jump into his killer’s body.  This works well, especially when the scientist is enjoying life in the new body.  Like he’s doing with The Infinite Vacation (which is on semi-infinite hiatus, it seems), Spencer takes some time to explore some of the ramifications of this technology, and looks at it from a social and individualistic perspective.  As for how the device works, there is no explanation beyond showing people pointing a cell-phone sized device at the person they ‘jump’ to.

The thriller movie aspects of the first mini, which involve mafia backers, work out okay, and Spencer goes for a big emotional pay-off in the end.  Had he stopped there, this would have been a debut he could be pleased with, but for some reason, the decision was made to return to this story with the 3.0 sequel, which is awful.  The plot makes no sense.  The survivors from the first mini are being chased by henchmen for some CEO with a split personality disorder that causes him to walk around his office in women’s underwear.  I honestly could not keep anything straight here, and quickly found that I didn’t care.

The art in this book is problematic as well.  The 2.0 story looks better than the sequel, but not by much.  Ron Salas provides most of the art, and is joined at the end of the book by Spencer’s Morning Glories collaborator Joe Eisma. Had I not read that on the cover, I never would have guessed it.  Much of this book looks rushed and poorly-rendered (except for a cool action sequence that is split between two different times at the beginning of 3.0).

In all, this book is a disappointment.

Album of the Week:

Shawn Lee’s Incredible Tabla Band – Tabla Rock

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