The Weekly Round-Up #129 With Mind MGMT, Chew, DHP, Fables, Prophet, Resident Evil & A Lot More

Best Comic of the Week:

Mind MGMT #1

by Matt Kindt

I’ve been anticipating this new series since I first heard about it, and Matt Kindt definitely does not disappoint with this debut issue that raises all sorts of interesting questions.

Mind MGMT opens with a dream sequence, which I feel is probably foreshadowing something, but it’s not yet clear what that may be.  It then moves to a flashback set two years prior, where an aircraft full of people suddenly suffer almost total amnesia.  They are able to land the craft without incident, but the 120 people who come off the plane never regain any of their memories from before.

We then are introduced to our main character, Meru, a writer of true-crime books, who has not written anything for two years.  She is supposedly working on a book about the Amnesia Flight, and the mystery of Henry Lyme, a passenger who boarded the flight but was never seen again.  The thing is, Meru is broke, and her agent is running out of patience with her.  He does send her to Mexico to investigate something strange that is happening there that may or may not be related to the topic of her book, and that’s where the comic takes another change.

You see, Kindt is a master of writing stories with an espionage angle, such as his terrific Super Spy and even his 3 Story, and with the inclusion of a sudden fight in a bar in Mexico, and the introduction of CIA Agent Falls, it’s clear that this comic is going to move into that territory.

As to what Mind MGMT is, Kindt is keeping things pretty close to the vest right now.  There is a two page ‘memo’ from 1980 about a man named Duncan Jones who has the ability to predict the future, and a short strip on the inside covers about how a man named Leopold Lojka was able to use ‘mind-managing’ abilities to protect the Archduke Ferdinand from the Black Hand’s first assassination attempt.  Kindt layers his story, and creates detailed back stories, and I can’t wait to watch how all of this is going to unfold.

I really like Kindt’s art, which is almost always displayed on yellowed pages.  His sense of design pervades this comic, right down to the fake ad on the back cover selling ‘Mindjuice’ gum which is apparently 1/6th of a puzzle that will unlock some on-line material after the first six issues of the series are published.

This is a very creative and unique new series, that really deserves to be checked out.  Also, look for the hilarious letter from a young Jeff Lemire on the letters page.  Highly recommended.

Other Notable Comics:

Chew #26

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

You know the drill by now – a new issue of Chew comes out, and it’s excellent.  One could almost get bored of the whole thing, except that this book is never boring, and constantly moves in different directions, to keep things fresh, and to move forward Layman’s large story – the new story arc that begins (and ends?) here, ‘Space Cakes’, is the one that marks the middle of the series, story arc wise, if not in terms of issue numbers.

This issue stars Toni Chu, Tony’s twin sister.  She works for NASA, and has some food-related powers, like her brother.  She is asked by her older brother Chow to help him stop a rival chef from destroying a pile of very special paintings, but things are not all that they seem.

Layman has a lot more going on in this issue than just that.  We get a glimpse of Toni’s relationship with her boss at NASA (including a splash page that seems very familiar), and check in on Tony in the hospital.  Once again, artist Rob Guillory impresses me with his art, and the numerous humorous signs he posts all over his backgrounds.

Chew is a great comic.  I’m a little miffed at having to skip the next issue (which was curiously already published a while back in an odd little gimmick), as I would have thought that the creators would have jumped straight to issue 28, instead of reprinting issue 27.  It’s hard to wait a month for each new issue of Chew – it’s even more difficult when the wait is going to longer.

Dark Horse Presents #12

Written by John Layman, John Arcudi, Carla Speed McNeil, Steve Niles, Evan Dorkin, Tim Seeley, Francesco Francavilla, Dean Motter, Mike Baron, Harlan Ellison, and Mike Russell
Art by Sam Kieth, Jonathan Case, Carla Speed McNeil, Christopher Mitten, Evan Dorkin, Victor Drujiniu, Francisco Francavilla, Dean Motter, Steve Rude, Richard Corben, Mike Russell, and Geof Darrow

A few new serials begin with this issue of Dark Horse Presents, which is always a good thing, as it shows that this title is constantly evolving and trying new things, or as is more the case with this issue, returning to its roots.

One of the new series is Mister X, Dean Motter’s classic examination of the effect of architecture on weak minds, set in a Deco-styled environment.  I’ve been a fan of this series for a long time, so it’s very nice to see it come back, even if this first installment is mostly just set-up for a new story involving the kidnapping of an heir to a pyschotropic pharmaceutical empire.

We also see the return of Aliens to DHP.  This property is one of the ones that Dark Horse made its name by publishing back in the day, but this first chapter didn’t do much for me.  John Layman’s writing was fine (if miles away from the tone he uses on Chew), but Sam Kieth couldn’t make up his mind between drawing beautiful and detailed images (the first three pages) or aping Kyle Baker at his worst (the rest of it).

Also showing up for the first time in many years is Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, which I’ve never read before now.  I wasn’t too impressed, really.  This reads like an Adam Strange story, and while Rude’s art is always lovely, I wouldn’t pursue this story into its own title.

There is also a prose story by Harlan Ellison, with a couple of illustrations by Richard Corben.  I’ve always admired Ellison more in terms of reputation than his actual writing, and this story did not hold my interests.  Likewise, I had to give up on Evan Dorkin’s story about zombie cosplayers, which was way too wordy for me.

The new chapter of Finder, however, was brilliant once again.  Carla Speed McNeil has Jaeger examining the region called Third World, and this leads to some interesting conversations about class distinction, ‘First World’ ego, and the place of nomadic tribes like the Ascians in the world.  I miss her detailed footnotes, but am extremely happy whenever another chapter of Finder shows up.

I also enjoyed the new chapters of Francavilla’s Black Beetle and Seeley and Drujiniu’s The Occultist.  Arcudi and Case’s The Creep was also very good.  The Criminal Macabre story held my interests more than it usually does too.

In all, another successful issue for this meaty anthology comic.

Elephantmen #39

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin

I don’t remember when any one issue of Elephantmen seemed so consequential, and final, as Richard Starkings wraps up a number of long-running plotlines, and sets up some new story potential for future issues.

The identity of the killer who has been wearing the deceased Elephantman Tusk’s skull was revealed last issue, and revealed, the killer has no choice but to go after her original target – Obadiah Horn, who is in his private terrarium, enjoying some private time with his wife Sahara.  Hip Flask and Ebony Hide race to the terrarium to help them, and there is a big stand-off.

This is an exciting issue, but Starkings never forgets to fill each page with smaller character moments.  I love the fact that, as they race to the tower, Ebony begins to suffer flashbacks to his recent experimentation with the drug Mirror, which means that he spends part of the issue picturing everything as if it were a Conan comic.  It’s a good way to add humour to an otherwise very momentous scene.

Axel Medellin’s art continues to blow me away, and he does a terrific job of balancing all the characters and events he has to draw in this comic.  Once again, Elephantmen has slipped from its monthly schedule, but when we are delivered an extra-sized comic of this level of quality, there should be no one complaining about waiting a little longer.  This is a great issue, and I look forward to seeing where Starkings and company take things next.

Fables #117

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

Take a moment to look at the cover of this month’s issue of Fables.  It looks like a sophisticated, ‘mature readers’ comic, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, that’s not what Fables has been for many months now.  This issue is spread rather thin, as we check in with the children of Bigby Wolf and Snow White in a couple of different situations, in the main story.

Therese is still the queen of some Toyland, but she’s hungry and unhappy.  Her brother Dare has arrived to rescue her, and he discovers that his favourite toy is there to help him (and is huge and powerful).  It’s not explained why his favourite toy would be in a place of discarded toys, but I guess it’s all good.  He goes to get his sister, but gets attacked by the residents of the kingdom.

Meanwhile, in the Mundy, Bigby figures out that his kids have left the world, and a few of the Fables move into Castle Dark, which is the new Fabletown.  These couple of pages are the only part of the comic that grabbed my attention, and they were way too short.

There’s also three pages of silliness featuring Bufkin in Oz.  I wish that plot would just end – it’s become very tedious.

I think this is the last issue of Fables that I have pre-ordered.  I may still pick up some of the future issues, to get to the end of this storyline, but I feel like my time with this book has come to a close.  The art in it is wonderful, but I’m just getting increasingly bored with Willingham’s storylines, and I don’t feel like he has a direction or plan for this series anymore.  I know it’s Vertigo’s sales juggernaut, but maybe it’s time for this series to wind down, and for Willingham and Buckingham to work on something a little fresher…

Hero Comics 2012

Written by Kevin Eastman, Tom Ziuko, Chris Ryall, Russ Heath, Christian Gossett, Alan Kupperberg, Richard Starkings, Robert Washington
Art by Kevin Eastman, Gerry Acerno, Ashley Wood, Russ Heath, Christian Gossett, Alan Kupperberg, Dave Sim, Chris Ivy

There is a different expectation when reviewing or discussing a book like Hero Comics.  To begin with, the comic is an anthology produced to funnel profits to the Hero Initiative, a fund that helps ailing and destitute comics creators who are in financial need.  The work they do is essential – these writers and artists are freelancers who have contributed to an art form that does not provide a pension or, frequently, gratitude for a life of service to a product that we all love.

The collection of work in books like this, then, is a hodge-podge of work by creators who are donating their time.  Usually, there are some cool and special things in these books for true comics fans.

This issue opens with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story by Kevin Eastman.  I’ve never been a Turtles fan, but this is a nice story.  There is also a collection of Zombies Vs. Robots strips, which did very little for me.

What had me most excited here was the fact that there is a new The Red Star story by that comic’s creator, Christian Gossett.  I love the Red Star, and have been missing it.  Gossett gives us a story about soldiers fighting in Al’Istaan, and the comic is clearly a metaphor for America’s current involvement in Afghanistan (the rest of the series can be read as an examination of the Soviet Union’s Afghan policies, albeit with science fiction flying crafts and magic).  Gossett doesn’t use any of the digital tricks he usually employs, but I still got a thrill out of reading this.

Dave Sims draws an Elephantmen story here too.  This is a matching of artist and story that I can’t believe hasn’t happened before now, as I can’t think of a better artist for this.  The story is wordy and doesn’t go anywhere, but it looks incredibly cool.

There are also a number of one-page strips spotlighting creators who have had to turn to the Hero Initiative for help.  They include comics legend Russ Heath, which just feels wrong to me.  Also included here are Tom Ziuko, Alan Kupperberg, and Robert Washington.

This is the type of comic that everyone should be buying, as it goes to a good cause.  If you felt even a little bit of outrage about the Avengers/Jack Kirby thing, you should go buy this comic, just to balance out your karma a little.

Prophet #25

Written by Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy, and Frank Teran
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis and Frank Teran

Prophet continues to be one of the most creative and original comics on the stand, but I am happy to see that this issue ends in such a way as to suggest that something different is going to begin happening sometime soon.

Since the series was relaunched (after being abandoned for some fifteen years), it’s been hard to predict.  The first three issues involved John Prophet reawakening on Earth after thousands of years of change, with a mission he had to complete.  Then, there was a done-in-one issue that involved a different, tailed, John Prophet waking up on a spaceship, having to complete a mission.

Now, with this issue, three different Johns (none named Prophet) are on an alien world, hunting a living tool-creature (it’s not all that clear).  The story is very similar to last month’s except now there’s more than one protagonist, and an ending that does lead me to believe that this series will acknowledge it’s god-awful roots in the 90s.  Brandon Graham (and his collaborators) continue to write this book in a Heavy Metal style, which is sometimes confusing, but also gripping.

This issue’s artist, Giannis Milonogiannis, is new to me, but he’s the perfect choice if the intent was to find someone who can bridge and blend the previous artists Simon Roy and Farel Dalrymple’s styles. Frank Teran’s back-up series Initiate continues, and it’s interesting and pretty, even if not a whole lot makes sense.

I feel like it’s time for Graham to start tightening up his plans for this series, but I am enjoying this series a great deal.

Ragemoor #3

Written by Jan Strnad
Art by Richard Corben

Well, this is one weird and creepy comic.  Strnad and Corben came out of nowhere with this haunted, sentient castle story, and have managed to keep what sounds like a great short story or done-in-one comic going as a four-issue mini-series quite nicely.

In this issue, Herbert, Master of Ragemoor, continues to care for the colony of baboons that live in the castle, and therefore doesn’t notice that the poacher Tristano has been visiting Anoria, the beautiful woman being held at the castle as the object of Herbert’s affections.  Broderick, the loyal manservant takes some strange hallucination-causing tea, and sees a vision of fighting golems, and Anoria makes plans to steal the mineral riches of the local countryside.

This book is unpredictable and strange, as every comic drawn by Richard Corben turns out to be.  There is a very memorable scene towards the end where Broderick examines his injured arm.  This comic appeals to a very niche audience, and while I wouldn’t necessarily place myself in the middle of it, I am enjoying this book.

Resident Alien #1

Written by Peter Hogan
Art by Steve Parkhouse

It kind of feels like Dark Horse is the new Vertigo, as they are beginning to take chances on new, off-beat series with a more adult feel to them, kind of like many of the mini-series that DC’s imprint used to publish ten years ago or so.

Resident Alien is a good little series.  This first issue can not be read without first reading either the stories that were published in Dark Horse Presents, or the ‘0’ issue that reprinted them last month.  The book is set in the small town of Patience, where the local doctor has been murdered.  The town does host a retired doctor, who is pushed into service examining the body, and then taking over the deceased’s practice until a replacement can be found.

The thing is, the retired doctor, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, is actually an alien from another planet, who crashed onto Earth years ago, and is trying to just live a quiet life.  His abilities to subtly influence the minds of others mean that no one else can see him for who he really is, although it appears that is presence gives one of the nurses a headache.

There are some standard small-town mystery things going on in this issue.  There is a suspect, who was known to have stolen drugs from the dead doctor, and who is being charged with his murder, despite his claims of innocence.  There is also suspicion that the doctor’s death was not an isolated incident, but is in fact part of a pattern of unexplained deaths.

Peter Hogan fills this comic with strong character work, and Steve Parkhouse, as always, turns in some very nice art.  This is not likely to become anyone’s favourite comic, but it is a well-crafted and drawn story, that is doing some interesting things with some conventional ideas.  It’s worth checking out.

The Unwritten #37

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross

It’s been a whole month since the last issue of The Unwritten was published, which is the longest we’ve had to wait for an issue for many months, as the bi-weekly run has come to its close.

Mike Carey advances his plot by a solid year since we last saw Tom or his friends (of whom only Richie shows up this month), and the world has changed a little.  To begin with, the Church of Tommy has grown a great deal, and has been linked with a number of disappearances in Australia.

We are introduced to Sandra Patterson, a Brisbane cop who is investigating the disappearances.  Her attempt to infiltrate the Church doesn’t work, but we do get to see what goes on in their meetings.  We also know that Tom is due to arrive in Australia soon, so we can imagine where this is leading.

Patterson is an interesting new character.  It’s made clear that she is of Aboriginal decent, and it is strongly suggested that she suffer from some form of dyslexia or other learning disability that impedes on her ability to complete all aspects of her job, although she is given a number of accommodations, causing some resentment among her fellow officers.

This is a nice solid issue of a series that I find hard to predict, now that Tom has finished his war with the Cabal.  I am curious to see how the last year has changed Tom, and to find out why a certain vampire/reporter is seen visiting Madame Rausch…

Quick Takes:

All Star Western #9 – I’m sure that DC is hoping that the inclusion of this story (however tangentially) in the Night of the Owls storyline will bring some new readers to the book, but what has me most excited is the first appearance in the DCnU of Tallulah Black, Hex’s sometime lover and all-around amazing character from the Jonah Hex series.  The issue itself is terribly unbalanced, as the August 7 story is wrapped up, and Hex has a run-in with a Talon in New Orleans.  After that, the action shifts to Gotham, where Tallulah has shown up at the Wayne Casino looking for revenge, but it’s not clear who that is revenge on.  This issue doesn’t feel like it was edited, really, as the writers jump all over the place with little explanation.

Batman Incorporated #1 – I think the first thing that we have to talk about when talking about this comic is just how amazing Chris Burnham is as an artist.  His scene where Batman and Robin chase a masked bad guy through a slaughterhouse is absolutely incredible, as is his splash page of Batman and Robin swinging through the city.  I’ve been following his art for a little while now (since Nixon’s Pals), but this is easily the best he’s ever been.  Grant Morrison is on top of his game as well, setting up this new series in a much more coherent fashion than the first volume, as he establishes from the start that Leviathan has a connection to the Al Ghul family, and that is why they are coming after Batman.  I love how he opens and finishes this comic, and can’t wait for the next issue.  I have been enjoying Scott Snyder’s Batman title a lot, but it really pales compared to this (and that’s without discussing the League of Dead Heroes at all).

Fantastic Four #606 – Jonathan Hickman take the FF on a ‘fantastic voyage’ to a strange environment, in a story that feels like a real throwback to a simpler age.  It’s a good read, and Ron Garney’s art works for this type of story (I’m not always a fan, but I do like how he draws the Thing).

The Flash #9 Francis Manapul introduces Grodd and his city of talking apes to the DCnU in this fine issue with terrific art.  There’s not a lot to say about this comic, except maybe to point out that the much-discussed ‘gay character’ is revealed here.  It’s the Pied Piper!  Are you as shocked as I was?

The Guild: Fawkes – I was reluctant to preorder this comic, because although I love the Guild, Felicia Day’s excellent web-TV series, the part of it that I liked the least has always been Fawkes, the character played by Wil Wheaton.  In this one-shot, co-written by Wheaton and Day, the leader of the Axis of Anarchy is still smitten with Day’s character Codex, and it’s affecting his work and his relationship with his guild.  Predictably, the dialogue here got tedious (as it does when Wheaton speaks in the show too), and even Jamie McKelvie’s art couldn’t save things.  The reality is, I like the Guild because I’ve developed fond feelings for the protagonists, not the dirtbag-y douche in a kilt.  It’s a shame that there aren’t more plans for Guild comics (or shows), because I miss these characters.

I, Vampire #9 – I’m going to call it right now that this title is not going to be around after September.  It feels very much like Joshua Hale Fialkov is setting up his chesspieces for a big finish, as Andrew Bennett struggles to maintain control of his new vampire army, and his friends travel to Europe to meet the Van Helsings, an army of vampire and monster hunters.  It’s a good issue, but it’s becoming clear that this series has only got one long story in it.

Journey Into Mystery #638 – The cross-over Exiled moves into unexpected territory as we learn the true story of the Disir and Sigurd.  This has been a very effective ‘event’, with some great writing and very nice art.  I feel like the rest of the Marvel offices could learn from it…

Justice League Dark #9Jeff Lemire uses this issue to prove why he is one of DC’s go-to guys for reinvigorating comics that have lost their way.  With his first issue on this title, he does what Peter Milligan never did – establish a clear place for this team in the DC Universe, chart out the relationships between the team members, and set a clear expectation of what future issues will bring.  ARGUS (which, had I not read the FCBD comic, I wouldn’t know about) reaches out to John Constantine to use the JLD (and they actually get called that) to track down Felix Faust and steal the source of power he’s using to do bad things.  Black Orchid joins the team, and we are left with the beginnings of a quest.  It’s a very well-balanced and full comic, with some nice art by Mikel Janin.  If you haven’t read this comic before now, this is a good place to jump in, especially if you like Lemire’s Animal Man.

Secret Avengers #27 – Well, this is one title that is quickly falling off the rails.  Rick Remender has the Avenger’s space team run into trouble on Hala, as the returned Captain Mar-Vell influences Ms. Marvel and the Protector to join him, and they beat down the rest of the team, before leaving the powerful members of the team free for no good reason.  Hardly any of these characters are acting consistently with how they are usually portrayed, and the story is kind of dull.  I do like Renato Guedes’s art, but I don’t understand why his Beast looks nothing like the character we’ve seen for the last twelve or more years.  I can’t wait for this tangential Avengers Vs. X-Men nonsense to end, because Remender was doing some good work with this book before that.

Wonder Woman #9 – Brian Azzarello’s take on Wonder Woman just keeps getting better, as Diana prepares for her nuptials to Hades, and the rest of the cast decide on their next move.  A number of Olympians are introduced here, and Tony Akins gives us some very cool designs for them.  This is a great comic.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #686

Astonishing X-Men #50

Captain America #12

Ultimate Comics X-Men #12

Bargain Comics:

Grendel Classics #1 & 2

by Matt Wagner, with Bernie Mireault

These two comics were published by Dark Horse in 1995, but they reprint four earlier Grendel comics from 1988.  I’ve been in a Grendel mood of late, and have been looking to fill in some of the gaps in my collection (truthfully, those gaps are more like chasms).

These two issues are terrific.  They both feature stories being narrated by the cop with the metal eye (can’t remember his name right now), and they both recount stories from the Hunter Rose days.  With both stories, Wagner indulged himself in some experimentation with layout and storytelling, which make these incredibly dense and meaty stories.

The first, Devil Tracks, is told almost entirely in a twenty-five panel grid.  Yes, twenty-five tiny pictures per page, with a text box under each one made up of the dialogue.  The story is a classic police procedural about some shady doings in the diamond industry.  A wealthy family looks to be smuggling diamonds and trying to game the system a little.  A police lieutenant figures out something is going on when he overhears his captain accept a bribe in a washroom (a recurring theme between these two stories), and begins investigating.  Eventually, this all leads to a confrontation between Grendel and Argent, the werewolf who works with the police, where the tight grid breaks down.  It’s a very good story.

The second tale, Devil Eyes involve a professional snitch who is fed bad information about a hit that Grendel is about to perform.  It turns out he was setting up Argent to look bad, and after everything is said and done, Tommy the snitch is sure that his life is going to end.  He holes up in his apartment, and descends into madness.  For this story, Wagner uses long thin panels (about 5 or 6 per page), above which are stage directions or the actual comics script describing what each panel would show.  Below that is Tommy’s running monologue.  I found this story wasn’t as effective as the first, but still very good.

I really wish that Wagner would return to his Grendel universe, and tell some more, non-Hunter Rose stories, as there is so much depth to his creation.

The Week in Manga:

Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka Vol. 8

by Naoki Urasawa, with Takashi Nagasaki, after Osamu Tezuka

It’s taken me a little while, but I’ve finally worked my way through Naoki Urasawa’s classic manga series Pluto, which he modeled on an Atom (in America, Astro Boy) story by Osamu Tezuka.  Urasawa has expanded on, and I imagine, improved upon the original story.

This final volume is all about wrapping up the action that has carried the various characters through the series, and about revealing some of the secrets that have been hinted at since the beginning.

When this book opens, things don’t look so good for the good guys.  Bora and Pluto, two enormously powerful robots with evil intentions (and very complicated senses of themselves) are poised to destroy the Earth, and it looks like Atom may be the only robot left who can stop them.  The problem is, Atom is filled with hate and anger.

There is a lot of stuff here about the ability of robots to feel, and it gets a little heavy-handed in places, but when read within the context of the entire series, it’s necessary in order to complete the character arc that Urasawa intended for them.  The story wraps up very neatly (it’s really hard to talk about this without spoiling things), and there are lots of examples of how great an artist Urasawa is.

This series is highly recommended, even to people who are not fans of manga.  I feel like this is my gateway series, and now I’m interested in checking out Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys

Album of the Week:

Ebo Taylor – Appia Kwa Bridge
Ebo Taylor is a master of modern-day Afrobeat, and this new album shows that he is still in fine form.  It’s good stuff.

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