The Weekly Round-Up #120 With Freedom, BPRD, DHP, Dominque Laveau, Fables & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Freedom #1

by Seamus Heffernan

This comic caught my eye on the stands this week.  At 8″ by 12″, it towered over the other comics, looking more like a European comic, yet in soft cover.  Curious, I picked it up and was delighted to see that it was an historical comic with nice art.  I quickly decided that it needed to come home with me.

Freedom is an ongoing series (I have no idea when the next issue is to be published) that has been given a Xeric grant, a sure sign of quality.  It is set in 1779, two years after the Americans lost their revolution.  The star of this comic is young Adam Farr, who looks to be about twelve or thirteen.  He lives with his mother and brothers on a farm a ways outside of Boston.  As the comic opens, we learn that he is to go to Boston to be apprenticed to a Tory merchant.  It doesn’t take long for Heffernan to establish that all of the Farr boys are strong-willed and fiercely independent.

Post-Revolutionary New England is still a hotbed of Patriot terrorist activity and brutal repression by the British soldiers.  At a checkpoint before entering the town, Adam throws an apple core at a soldier who is roughing up a young lady, an act which almost finds him shot by a firing squad.  It’s clear that this is not a safe town, and Adam does not seem too willing to listen to the advice and commands of his older brother.  It’s not long before conflict finds the brothers again, in this exciting debut issue.

I’ve often been fond of alternate histories, when they are done correctly (ie., not by Newt Gingrich).  I don’t think Heffernan is pushing a political agenda with this comic, he’s just telling a very good story.  The larger pages give his art plenty of room to breathe.  His style is similar to Guy Davis’s, but a little cleaner.  He is quite deft at developing characters, and I’m very happy that I picked this comic up.  I will definitely be watching the pages of Previews for more of this series.

Other Notable Comics:

BPRD Hell on Earth – The Long Death #2

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by James Harren

The Long Death, the latest mini-series featuring the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, has been terrific.  Writers Mignola and Arcudi have taken a pause from the global weirdness that the various members of this book have been dealing with over the past two years or so (since they added ‘Hell on Earth’ to the title) to feature one of the more interesting cast members, Johann Kraus.

Last issue had Johann lead a team into the woods of British Columbia to look for some missing hikers and park rangers.  Johann promptly ditched them, and they were attacked by a creature that is familiar to long-term readers of the book.  This issue picks up with Johann sitting at the bedside of new character Agent Giarocco, explaining why he was absent when she was attacked.  As it turns out, Johann is up there hunting for Captain Daimio, who used to work with him before turning into a jaguar-god creature, and slaughtering a number of BPRD personnel, and killing the clone body that Johann was inhabiting.

We’ve seen before that Johann often works his own agenda.  This leads to another run-in with Daimio that is visually stunning, as Johann uses his ability to animate dead bodies quite creatively.  I don’t want to spoil the scene, but I strongly suggest that people flip through this comic on the stands if you haven’t already bought it.  New artist James Harren is a very strong addition to the Mignola-verse of comics, and I hope to see him continue to work with these characters for some time to come.

Dark Horse Presents #10

Written by Brian Wood, Colin Lorimer, Carla Speed McNeil, Steve Niles, Evan Dorkin, Alan Gordon, Steve Horton, Andrew Vachss, MJ Butler, and Rich Johnston
Art by Kristian Donaldson, Colin Lorimer, Carla Speed McNeil, Christopher Mitten, Evan Dorkin, Thomas Yeates, Michael Dialynas, Geof Darrow, Mark Wheatley, and Simon Rohrmüller

Anthologies can be hit or miss, and where the last few issues of Dark Horse Presents have been terrific, this one came off feeling rather lacking.

As always, to begin with the positive:

Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s The Massive has definitely caught my attention.  So far, each chapter has been used to introduce a new character, and to establish that all of them have almost died at sea, only to be saved, or brought back by it.  I really have no idea where this comic is headed, but the three-page overview of various key moments in the history of oceanic environmental degradation is enough to get me to add the upcoming series to my pull-file.  I trust Wood to impress me.

There is a new series debuting in this issue called UXB, by Colin Lorimer, an artist I’m unfamiliar with.  It’s yet another post-apocalyptic story, where people roam the ruins of our civilization wearing environmental protective apparati that look a little like high-tech codpieces.  Again, not much is revealed here, except that our trio of heroes are on the search for old DVDs, and the consequences of giving them nothing but Pretty Woman and the Backstreet Boys aren’t pretty.  I really don’t know where this is going either, but Lorimer has my attention.

Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder returns after a pause of a few months.  Now, Finder was my great discovery of 2011, and I can’t praise it enough (you really should click on the link and give yourself a treat), so I’m always excited to dive into a new story.  This one could probably have used McNeil’s usual annotations though, as I’m more than a little lost.  Jaeger finds himself well and truly lost after the events of the last chapter (whenever that was), but, because he is a Finder, and kind of lucky, he quickly runs in to an old acquaintance.  I just wish that a little more happened in this story, and that I knew what the deal is with the flying Chinese dragon-train thing at the end.  Still, I love McNeil’s work.

Rich Johnston’s ‘The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne’ finishes up this issue, and continues to be quite decent.

From here, we move into stories that I didn’t necessarily dislike, but that I wouldn’t pursue were they to get their own title:

The Tarzan story by Alan Gordon and Thomas Yeates is an odd throwback, and I found my attention wavering while reading this chapter.  I don’t know that I can handle a post-Apocalyptic immortal Tarzan, especially just after reading another post-Apocalyptic strip a few pages previous.

The ‘Amala’s Blade’ and ‘Skultar’ stories are fine.  They just aren’t my thing.  I feel the same way about the Cal MacDonald story by Niles and Mitten.  I’ve just never warmed to Niles’s writing, no matter what he does.

There’s a prose story by Andrew Vachss in this issue, which has lovely illustrations from the ever-talented Geof Darrow.  Now, I always associate Vachss’s name with brutal stories about children being murdered or abused, because I read some pretty dark stuff from him years ago, and basically avoided his work forever after.  This story is dark, but not as brutal, as it is concerned with an aging man who is not able to accept his growing diminishment. It’s rough, but there it is.

Finally, this issue features two stories by Evan Dorkin.  One is a short Milk and Cheese piece, while the other features a Munsters/Addams Family parody called The Murder Family.  I didn’t finish either story.  I don’t see how Dorkin, who has written such haunting and nuanced work in Beasts of Burden, also churns out such predictable, juvenile, and un-funny junk.  I know that Milk and Cheese have their fans, I just don’t understand why.

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1

Written by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds
Art by Denys Cowan and John Floyd

I really wanted to like this book.  It has a number of things going for it that make it seem like a natural addition to my pull-file list – it’s set in post-Katrina New Orleans, which has become a topic of interest, and its drawn by Denys Cowan, an artist that I’ve always admired, and who I’ve felt has not received near enough praise and recognition for the work he has done in comics.  Also, the covers are going to be drawn by Rafael Grampá, one of the most exciting artists currently in the business.

Unfortunately, things aren’t coming together the way I would like.  The comic is centred on Dominique Laveau, a university student who is helping to rebuild the city after the storm.  When we meet her on the first page, she is running from a werewolf creature that has just killed two of her friends.  She is able to scare the creature off by manifesting snakes out of her head (which surprises her), and then she runs to a friend, who we learn is a police officer.  Suddenly, he comes under fire from two gang-bangers, and he tells her to run to his station house.  She instead goes to a cemetery to talk to the tomb where they believe the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau is buried, where she has a vision.  It appears (more from reading solicitation info and the previews that Vertigo has been running in the backs of all their comics this month) that Dominique is descended from Marie (shocking), and that there are some people after her for her powers, or something like that.

The reason why this didn’t really work for me is that we are tossed into the action before we are given the chance to figure out who Dominique is.  After reading this whole issue, I don’t know why I should care about this woman, or who she is on any level beyond the surface.  This read too much like an action comic, and not enough like a Vertigo one.  Really, this could have been a New 52 launch with very few changes, as I feel it has much more in common with, say, I, Vampire, than it does anything that Vertigo puts out.

Cowan’s art is nice, but I don’t know if it’s enough to get me to keep coming back to this title.  I may give it another issue, because I want to support books like this, which depict something different from most of the mainstream, but I’m not sure there’s enough here to hold my interests.

Fables #115

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

Fables continues to flounder with this new Toyland arc.  Willingham has had a hard time maintaining a focused narrative since the Adversary was vanquished a few years ago, but I feel like this book’s plots are getting more and more threadbare, and more stretched out with each issue.

This month, we find out that Therese, one of Snow White and Bigby’s daughters, was taken by her toy boat to be the new queen of a rather downtrodden land, called Discardia, Toyland, Mattagonia, and Madland, all within the span of a few pages.  Basically, it looks like she’s living in the world of The Stuff of Legend, after a bomb hit it.  It’s nothing but broken old fashioned toys and awkward dialogue in this place, and I’m finding it hard to care.

Her disappearance also leads to some self-recrimination from her brother Darien, and more proof that Willingham really struggles to write children’s dialogue.  In fact, that may be the main reason why I find myself increasingly disappointed with this book – Willingham does fine with adults and all manners of magical creatures, but his kids sound a little like they’ve come from bad British post-War juvenile novels.

The other plots that are given a little space in this issue are more interesting.  King Cole has a long chat with Mrs. Spratt, who he’s discovered chained up and emaciated in Castle Dark.  Beauty and Beast consider sticking around Haven instead of coming back to our world.  And, many months after Blufkin climbed up on a scaffold to be hung, we learn that his rope still hasn’t dropped (I thought maybe Willingham just forgot about this completely).

Fables is usually a very good comic, even when it lacks direction, and so I’m hoping that all these plots concerning Snow and Bigby’s insufferably irritating children can get wrapped up quickly, and things can improve again.  Really, Mark Buckingham’s art saves this one…

Heart #4

Written by Blair Butler
Art by Kevin Mellon

More and more lately, I find it’s good policy to sample just about everything that Image is publishing, unless I know for certain that I’m going to hate it.  I don’t watch G4TV (I’m not even sure if I have access to that channel or not), and only know of Blair Butler because she is sometimes covered in the comics press, so her name was not a draw in getting me to buy this book.  Similarly, Kevin Mellon is an artist whose name I recognize, but I couldn’t name another comic he’s worked on.  Thirdly, I have no interest in mixed martial arts, wrestling, boxing, or any other sport that has grown men pummeling each other.

Still, I thought I’d give the first issue of this series a try, and I was interested enough in the story and career of Oren ‘Rooster’ Redmond to stick around and see this series through to the end.

Butler’s story is one of ambition, drive, and finally, the recognition of one’s limitations.  That this story plays out against the canvass of MMA is almost inconsequential.  Oren is an interesting character – he goes from being a bored office worker to a man obsessed with training in the first three issues, and this final one covers the end of his career, and the life that he builds for himself afterwards.  There’s a level of self-awareness and drive in Oren that is rare in people, and I found it interesting to watch him have to reassess his dreams as age and the inevitable realization that someone is always younger and faster than you are crept up on him.  It’s a well-written story, and is nicely complimented by Mellon’s scratchy pencil work.  This will be a good read when it’s collected in trade.

Hoax Hunters #0

Written by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley
Art by JM Ringuet

I picked this up as an impulse buy this week, mostly because I thought that the cover by Steve Seeley was very cool.

For a ‘zero’ issue, this comic doesn’t go very far in introducing and explaining the main characters.  We meet three people who work for a Myth-Busters style reality show, where they debunk hoaxes and urban legends.  One of the three hosts is named Ken Cadaver, and there is evidence to believe he is a zombie, but it’s not discussed.  Regan, the female host, apparently has mental powers, but that is never explained (nor is it explained how she escapes capture in one scene, but I’m getting ahead of myself).  The issue is almost over before we find out that the third member of the team is named Jack, and that’s not even clear.  I don’t expect to know everything about a character in the first issue of a comic, but I think some basics need to be established.

The team travels (between pages) to Russia to investigate sightings of an American astronaut being carried around by crows.  How did the team get to Russia?  Why are they able to travel around so freely and find that everyone can speak English?  Why didn’t they take their cameras?  I get it that the TV show is a cover for their possibly government sanctioned operations, but none of this is made clear here.  It really feels like this comic could have worked, had it had a more critical editor.  I do like the art (has JM Ringuet done anything else besides Transhuman, his book with Jonathan Hickman?), and the new character Murder is pretty cool, but I can’t see myself picking up the first issue of this series (which is going to be drawn by Axel Medellin, who I thought was the regular artist on Elephantmen).

The Infinite Vacation #4

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Christian Ward and Kendall Bruns

Fine, this comic is really late, but it is totally worth it.  Nick Spencer’s star has definitely risen since he started publishing this mini-series in January of 2011, and he has been writing some very good comics (Morning Glories, Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger, THUNDER Agents, and Thief of Thieves) and a couple of okay ones (Ultimate Comics X-Men).  It’s easy to understand why this title, more than any other, may have slipped through the cracks, because it is much more complex than anything else, with the possible exception of the multi-layered tapestry that is Morning Glories.

The Infinite Vacation (last seen in November) posits a multiverse where people are able to swap realities with their alternate counterparts, or visit them whenever they wish with the use of computers or a mobile phone app.  Mark, our hero, has been targeted by the people who run the Infinite Vacation for extermination, for reasons I don’t remember.  He has been helped by some of his alternates (ie. Hacker Mark and Nude Mark), but is also being pursued by himself (Psycho Cannibal Mark).  He has sought refuge with the Singularists, a religious group that avoids the Vacation, and who stay in their birth reality all their lives.

In this issue, Mark comes face to face with his psychotic other, and flees, leaving behind the Singularist that he is falling for.  He ends up in a reality where he has had just about the best life he could hope for, and within that, he finds new strength and direction, something he has never really had before.  Most of this issue is spent building up to next issue’s big conclusion, and I hope that the momentum I felt here carries forward for however many months it takes for the next issue to come out.

While Spencer does some interesting work with this series, exploring the various consequences and ramifications of this technology, it is Ward who really shines in this issue.  He’s always had a bit of a psychedelic style to his art (think Brandon McCarthy mixed with Dustin Nguyen), but in this issue he gets to really cut loose with some interest page designs and layouts.  I especially like the double-page spread where Psycho Mark chases Mark and the girl around a Mobius strip.

I also like the way photography (provided by Kendall Bruns, who apparently doesn’t get a credit on the cover) is integrated into this series whenever Spencer needs some space to explain some of the science fiction concepts he’s playing it.  It works as a very strong contrast to Ward’s crazy artwork.

This is a very cool series.

Prophet #23

Written by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and Frank Teran
Art by Simon Roy and Frank Teran

For the third straight month in a row, Prophet blows me away with its high degree of creativity and terrific artwork.

Since the book began, in issue 21 (I refuse to even acknowledge the earlier issues), we as readers have been given very little information to help us understand what is going on in this comic.  We know that John Prophet has awoken in a far-off future, after human civilization has disappeared from the Earth, and instead various groups of aliens or strangely-evolved creatures have taken charge, in a scattered patchwork of settlements and colonies.

This month, after twenty-four days of travel, John arrives at the sight of his mission.  To complete it, he must scale the Tower of Thauilu Vah, and get onto the GOD satellite.  To do this, he has to go through or around a variety of strange creatures, and deal with the Xiux-Guin Blade, a creature that has been tracking him since the last issue.

Once again, every page drips with new and unique ideas.  Graham gives us crystal-blessed aliens, living missiles, and living adaptive clothing.  Prophet’s world is exceedingly strange, and Simon Roy is more than up to the job of portraying it, in all its glory.  His work on this book has been remarkable, bringing to mind some of the most Surrealistic of Moebius’s stories, while still making perfect sense within the logic of Graham’s tale.

This issue also features the beginning of a back-up called Initiate by Frank Teran.  There’s not enough here to have a clear sense of what this is going to be about, but it is very pretty.

Ragemoor #1

Written by Jan Strnad
Art by Richard Corben

When I saw this book solicited a couple of months ago, I knew exactly what to expect from it.  Richard Corben, while always brilliant, tends to stick to what he does best, and so I figured that a collaboration between him and Jan Strnad would lead to a good old-school horror comic, featuring at least one buxom woman who would have to spend at least some of the comic in the nude.

Basically, that’s what we get, and it’s terrific.  Ragemoor is a castle that has a mind of its own.  It grows and changes, restructuring hallways on a whim.  The main character of the book, Herbert, feels that he and his father are prisoners of the castle.  When his uncle and cousin arrive for a visit after many years abroad, Herbert tries to warn them away for their own safety, and comes off sounding as crazed as his father is.  The uncle is not what he seems though, and has his own designs for Ragemoor.

This is a comic that could have been written just about any time between now and the late seventies, but that is part of the appeal.  There is a comfort in getting just what you expect out of popular media (why else would anyone watch network television), but it an extra special treat when what you expect is Corben’s impossible to imitate textured, creepy, and beautiful art.  This debut issue of the mini-series reads like a done-in-one, and so I’m not sure where this story is going, but I’m definitely sticking around to find out.

The Sixth Gun #20

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

It can be difficult to find something new to say about this comic, which month after month delivers a well-written story with good art.

In this issue, Becky Montcrief finds herself in the middle of a huge gunfight between the two towns of Penance.  The locals are fighting over a tainted well, and they’ve all undergone some form of mutation or change because of it, which makes the fight very visually interesting (especially when the guy who was going to force Becky to drink the water last issue decides to use all of his arms).  There is also a strong reminder of what happens when someone other than Becky tries to hold her gun.

While this is happening, Drake Sinclair, the man Becky has come to rescue, is being tortured at the hands of the Knights of Solomon.  The man torturing him isn’t looking for any information, he’s simply extracting revenge, although what exactly for is kept unclear.

One of the things that’s helped to make this comic so effective is that Drake, the hero of the comic, has been kept shrouded in mystery.  We know that he is not a good person, but we are not often given evidence of this.  I like the way each new arc helps build the story; I presume that Bunn has an ending in mind for this series, but I don’t get the feeling that we are anywhere near it.

Quick Takes:

Batman #7 – Scott Snyder’s Batman has been excellent, but I feel like the scene in this issue, where Bruce, recently returned from his ordeal at the hands of the Court of Owls, strikes Nightwing really rung false for me.  The rest of the issue is quite good, as Snyder has the Court up their game in preparation for their big assault on Gotham (and cross-over fans’ wallets).

Generation Hope #17 – I really am surprised that this series lasted almost a year and a half, in today’s comics market.  There never seemed to be a good reason for this comic to exist, although when Kieron Gillen was writing it, I was very happy to continue picking it up.  Since James Asmus took over, I’d planned on dropping it, but then continued to find reasons to get each new issue.  This month, it was because of Takeshi Miyazawa’s art, which is very nice.  Hope deals with a minor mutiny on her team, and realizes (once again) that people just don’t like her.  Here’s the thing, Hope, I don’t think much of the comics reading public does either (unless you’re trading quips with Namor in Uncanny X-Men).

Invincible Iron Man #514 – Matt Fraction has really been putting Tony Stark through his paces, as the plan concocted by the Mandarin, and carried out by Ezekiel Stane, Justine Hammer, General Babbage, and a sampling of Tony’s old enemies gets put into full effect.  There are some very good moments in this comic, and I really appreciate how much time Fraction put into laying the groundwork for this story.  It is very rare to see a run as long and as consistently good as his and Salvador Larroca’s has been.

Kick-Ass 2 #7 – It’s a big week for Millarworld, as the Kick-Ass sequel finally finishes with a gigantic brawl in Times Square.  There’s plenty of blood and gore, but also come cool moments showing how cops would likely react to real life superheroes who did the things that Kick-Ass and his friends do here.  Mindy is the real star of the book though, which makes sense since Millar is next going to return to these characters in a Hit-Girl mini this summer.  Also, it’s always a treat to see John Romita Jr.’s art not suck; I don’t know why all his Marvel work is so horrible these days, but he can pull it off just fine here.

New Mutants #39 – Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning take what could be a very bad comic – the team deal with the return of two of the stupidest characters they’ve ever been associated with (Birdbrain and the Ani-Mator) – and make it excellent through their use of Warlock as narrator.  D’n’A usually can do no wrong when it comes to writing comics, and they are slowly making this one of the most entertaining X-books on the stands.

Nightwing #7 – Well, I’m glad that I read this week’s issue of Batman before I read this, as the two are pretty intertwined (sharing the same dialogue for a few pages even – that same scene that I found awkward in Batman remains kind of awkward here).  The most interesting thing about this issue is the way that Kyle Higgins’s story lines up so nicely with Scott Snyder’s work in Batman, as Dick learns the full secret of Haly’s Circus, and finishes his fight with Saiko.  I haven’t added Nightwing to my pull-file list yet, but now I’m not sure why I haven’t.  Higgins has done really good work with this series, and the art by Barrows and Borges has been very nice.  I think I’m going to stick with this title.

Planet of the Apes #12 – I didn’t think that this title would keep getting better, but this issue is fantastic.  The City Tree is on fire after the humans pulled a 9/11 on it last month, but Bako is determine to rescue the Mayor and her newborn infant from the blaze, leading to a very exciting fight scene between him and Nix.  After that, the story jumps ten years, and we see the groundwork for the next big story arc.  Darryl Gregory and Carlos Magno are doing some very good work here.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Force Storm #2 – I’m a little surprised by how much of this issue is spent introducing characters and setting up the plot for this mini-series, seeing as how this is the second of five issues.  I understand the need for a lot of exposition – John Ostrander’s story is set 36 453 years before the first Star Wars movie, and concerns itself with the Je’daii, the precursors to the group that we all know and love – but I still feel like he’s taking his time on this, as if it were an on-going series, and not a proposed series of mini-series.  I am liking what I’m reading though – Ostrander and Jan Duursema continue to provide the only viable and entertaining Star Wars stuff I’ve seen in any form of media since Return of the Jedi came out.  In this issue we meet a few different Je’daii, and see how they react to the threat that we learned about last issue.  There is one thing that keeps bugging me about this comic – I would have thought that 36 000 years before the universe we know from the movies, things would look a lot different, in terms of the technology being used, and even the physical appearances of the various races.  Consider, that long ago, there may not have been any people living in the Western Hemisphere of the Earth, yet these guys are using space ships that don’t look that different from the ones in Luke and Leia’s days…

Super Crooks #1Say what you will about Mark Millar as a shameless self-promoter, the man does write some nice comics sometimes.  Super Crooks returns to similar ground as his Wanted, except that the villains he profiles are all on the down and out, finding that the near absolute control that superheroes have over American cities makes their lives more or less impossible.  When The Heat runs afoul of some gangsters, and has to get together a lot of money quickly, his young friend and recent ex-convict Johnny Bolt hits on the idea of going to Spain, where there are no superheroes, to pull his next heist.  There’s some good character work in this comic, and as is often the case, Leinil Francis Yu delivers.  There’s nothing groundbreaking about this comic, but it is a decent read.

THUNDER Agents #5 – I’m not sure I understand the thinking behind the decision to increase the page count of this comic (and the price) by adding a back-up strip set before this volume’s story, featuring a tangential story about an Undersea Agent.  That story was overly wordy and confusing (it’s by Michael Uslan and Trevor McCarthy).  The lead story, however, is very good, as Nick Spencer reveals that he has seeded this series with betrayals within betrayals from the very beginning of the first volume.  The earlier issues of this volume felt like they were taking a more action-oriented approach to this team, but now it’s become clear that this is not really the case, and I like it all the more for that.  I also really like Wes Craig’s art here.

Thunderbolts #171 – I really didn’t like this issue.  It was a Songbird-focused done-in-one, which has Melissa vacationing in Tahiti, where she meets a nice guy, and ends up getting abducted by an old old Marvel villain, who operates on her.  First, Songbird’s never really been portrayed as the type to just cozy up to any good looking guy, and secondly, I really think I could have lived happily without ever reading the scene where an Island of Dr. Moreau-style blowfish guy sucks on her toes while she’s unconscious.  Really, what the hell is that?  The news this week that Thunderbolts is being re-named Dark Avengers, and then this bizarre issue, makes me think that I may not be buying this title much longer…

Uncanny X-Men #9 – Kieron Gillen is single-handedly bringing back the compressed comic with this excellent issue (and his work on Journey Into Mystery) that has the X-Men teaming up with the Avengers as a large number of aliens escape SWORD custody in space, including Unit, one of the best characters from Gillen’s too-short SWORD series of a ways back.  The various members of the two teams split into different groups to face different threats, and Gillen also finds plenty of space to include an appearance of Hope’s team, and some more great character moments featuring Namor, Emma, Danger, and Illyana.  The only thing that needed to be addressed and wasn’t would be the tension that would have had to exist between Cyclops and Wolverine, who was along for the ride as an Avenger (or, as Emma puts it, one of the Assemble-friends).  Also, it’s very nice after three or four issues of Greg Land art to see Carlos Pacheco back on the book.  I know that Wolverine and the X-Men is getting most of the internet love these days, but this comic has been excellent since the relaunch.  Here’s hoping Avengers Vs. X-Men doesn’t ruin that…

Wonder Woman #7 – I’m really enjoying the way that Brian Azzarello has set about to update and explore the Greek Pantheon in the DCnU.  This issue has Diana, Hermes, and Lennox visiting with Eros and Hephaestus in a bid to get their help in rescuing Zola, who has been taken to Hell.  Along the way, Diana learns a few more new things about her Amazon sisters, and meets a whole bunch of new family members.  This is an exciting and very intelligent take on Wonder Woman, with wonderful art by Cliff Chiang.  It’s not getting the recognition that it deserves, as one of the best of the New 52.

X-Factor #233 – After the last issue, I was considering dumping this book, as I was rather bored with the Madrox solo story that ran for the last few issues, but now that he’s back in his own world, and the team is actually back in the book, I’m all happy again.  Madrox returns and immediately jumps into bed (actually a morgue drawer) with Layla, while the rest of the team, now under the command of Havok, work with Valerie Cooper to defuse an anti-mutant Waco-like militia group.  Everything we’ve been missing is back – snappy dialogue, snippy teammates, and Pip the Troll.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #682

Justice League #7 (because of Gene Ha; otherwise I have no interest in this book)

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1

Star Trek Legion of Super-Heroes #6

Wolverine #303

Bargain Comics:

Legion: Secret Origin #3 & 4 – While there’s nothing wrong with this retelling of the Legion’s earliest days, there is nothing particularly new or compelling about it either.  It’s just the same old thing.  I can see the desire to try to make the Legion more accessible to new readers, but anyone moving from this to Levitz’s parent title is bound to be completely lost.  On the up side, I’ve always liked the way Chris Batista draws the Legion.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Grandville

by Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot is one of those people I feel I should be reading more of.  His The Tale of One Bad Rat is a brilliant comic, but I’ve never dipped in to his other works, like Alice In Sunderland or The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright.  After reading Grandville, I feel like it may be time to put more effort in to tracking down the rest of his output.

Grandville is easily described as an anthropomorphized steam-punk detective alternate history thriller.  If Sherlock Holmes were a badger serving with Scotland Yard in an England that lost the Napoleonic Wars, he would quite likely have been Detective Inspector LeBrock.

This is a more or less straight-forward detective comic.  When LeBrock discovers that a British cultural attaché has been found dead in his cottage of an apparent suicide, he quickly realizes that something else has happened.  His suspicions take him Grandville, which is Paris, and his investigations soon bring all sorts of trouble his way, as he uncovers a plot that goes all the way to the top of the French Empire to plunge England into war with France once again.

Visually, the book is fascinating.  It’s an homage to the nineteenth century artist whose pen-name was Grandville.  Talbot has filled the book with all sorts of talking, walking animals, and has even included a few dough-faces (in other words, humans).  He’s also made good use of the steampunk aesthetic, creating steam-powered vehicles and automatons.

The mystery moves at a very good pace, and the characters are witty and interesting.  The size of the book, modeled after French graphic novels, is very inviting.  Great stuff.

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Edzayawa – Projection One

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