I continue to be very impressed with this comic. Vaughan’s chosen the correct title for this series, as it really feels like he’s building an epic story.
In this issue, Prince Robot IV discovers that he’s going to be a father, and that he won’t be allowed to return home for his child’s birth if he hasn’t caught Alana and Marko, the book’s heroes. They run in to a group of Robot’s men, and are forced to fight – something that Marko said he would never do again. While this is happening, The Will runs in to some problems on Sextillion, as he tries to rescue a child forced into prostitution. Also, The Stalk is back on the scene, hunting for Alana and Marko’s baby.
There are a number of different plot-lines being woven throughout this issue, and it feels like each of them is given the right amount of screen time. Fiona Staples is doing some incredible work on the art in this comic. There are a number of very unique designs being shown throughout this series, and its clear that everyday objects such as the phone that The Stalk uses have been carefully considered for aesthetic and functional purposes.
I do really love this series, and feel that this is the strongest issue since the first one.
The Activty, Edmondson and Gerads’s military black ops comic, has been criticized for being too TV, and for not building up its characters, as each issue has shown a done-in-one mission. That all changes with this issue, which launches a multi-part story arc called The Goat, and which gives at least one of the team members a private life (at least for a little while).
The comic opens with a team infiltrating a cargo vessel, and while searching it, finding a known terrorist from Yemen. He ends up giving some important information about an earlier Team Omaha mission to his interrogators, and soon our team is off to Uzbekistan to make their target, known as ‘The Goat’, want to come over to the American side.
The team employs a number of psy ops techniques to turn him, including having him wake up in his own bed to find a number of laser targets playing across his body. There is a bit of humour to this issue, as Team Omaha finally have a mission that doesn’t fall apart on them (at least so far), and doesn’t have anyone shooting at them.
Back home, one of the team, code-named Bookstore, is told that she has to end her relationship with her boyfriend, but is not given a reason as to why. I assume this will be picked up upon again.
Edmondson’s writing here is sharp, as is Gerads’s art. I’ve enjoyed this series from its beginning, but am happy to see that something larger is taking place. I wonder if this storyline is going to be the one that addresses some of the clues that Edmondson has been dropping about the team’s future.
Written by John Layman, Carla Speed McNeil, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dean Motter, Mark Verheiden, Bryan Oh, Tony Puryear, Mike Baron, Bo Hampton, Robert Tinnell, Chad Lambert, Michael Avon Oeming, Nate Cosby, George Schall, Rodrigo Alonso, and Kim W. Anderson
Art by Sam Kieth, Carla Speed McNeil, Phil Noto, Dean Motter, Mark Nelson, Tony Puryear, Steve Rude, Bo Hampton, Apri Kusbiantoro, Michael Avon Oeming, Evan Shaner, George Schall, and Kim W. Anderson
This month, Dark Horse Presents is 104 pages long. Take in the fact that that is equivalent to more than five comics from Marvel or DC, which could run you between 14.95 and 19.95, yet this book only costs $7.99. Clearly, the fine people at Dark Horse know how to give you value for your money. Even if you don’t love every story in here, you only need to love half of them or less to feel that you got your money’s worth, right?
For me, as always, the Finder story is worth the price of admission. This month’s instalment is great. Jaegar is still hanging out in Third World, the contested and unorganized region far outside the domed cities or tribal lands where he usually spends his time. He comes across a cemetery in a field that is at the centre of a large, and loud, dispute between various factions. It seems that a hotel corporation wants to build on the field, and were paying to relocate the bodies buried there. That’s all good, but a large number of previously unknown bodies have been found, and they are clearly Ascian. Ascians, like Jaegar, are an indigenous people in McNeil’s world, and the story can be read as a comment on problems that exist in North America today around sacred Aboriginal ground and the balancing act needed between tradition, cultural sensitivity, and the needs of commerce and current lifestyles. But, this being Finder, it’s not long before Jaegar finds himself stuck in the middle, and being perhaps, the only person who can resolve this issue, whether he wants to or not. Great stuff, although I was hoping we’d see a little more of Professor Shar.
Also of note this month is the return of Tony Puryear’s excellent Concrete Park strip. It’s been a little while, so I was a little lost as to what’s going on, but I’m really enjoying Puryear’s gangsta sci-fi.
Dean Motter’s Mister X wrapped up in this issue. This was a good enough story, but not among Motter’s greatest. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto’s Ghost works well, and John Layman and Sam Kieth’s Aliens is much improved.
Nexus, by Mike Baron and Steve Rude, still doesn’t appeal to me, but I did make it through this whole story about invasive alien bugs and a creepy space ship that has been in orbit around Ylam for fourteen years.
There are a number of new strips that debut this month. Some are one-offs, and others are set to continue. Some, I’m not sure if this is it or not. Mark Verheiden (been a long time since I’ve seen his name), Bryan Oh, and Mark Nelson have a good story about humans fighting an alien invasion in Falling Skies. It’s a little familiar, but it’s well told.
Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell begin Riven, a creepy monster story involving a strange little girl adopted out of a Romanian orphanage right after Ceaucescu’s regime fell. This story is full of suspense, and hinges on many successful little details. I was pretty impressed by it, and look forward to seeing where it goes.
Radio Ga Ga is a memoir by Chad Lambert and drawn by Apri Kubiantoro (whose work reminds me of Francesco Francavilla, only rougher). Lambert tells a story about his radio days, when a joke he made on the air was reported to the Secret Service as a threat to President Clinton’s life. Lambert writes this like a Harvey Pekar story, a fact driven home as he narrates it in a comic store, in front of an issue of American Splendor. I love this story simply for the fact that it references WKRP…
Michael Avon Oeming’s Wild Rover is a dark little tale about a man who is convinced that his vices are being caused by an evil entity in his stomach. This is a very piercing story that shows a side of Oeming that I haven’t seen in his work before.
Buddy Cops, by Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner, is a fun little strip about a Green Lantern-like galactic protector who has been demoted to serving on the NYPD, and his super-serious android partner. It’s cute.
A Spy Dream, by George Schall with writing assist by Rodrigo Alonso is a very cool little story about a female spy who dreams about settling down with her lover, who is on the other side, or is conversely about a bored housewife who dreams about being a spy. It’s beautifully drawn.
Finally (I’m not going to mention the short humour strips, as they don’t appeal to me at all), there’s Love Hurts, Kim W. Anderson’s strip about a woman who meets the perfect guy in the park. There’s a sinister side to his knowledge of all her favourite things though. It doesn’t help that the guy looks just like Steve Buscemi.
In all, a very satisfying heap of comics for a good price.
For the second month in a row, Glory is all action, and it is handled remarkably well. Glory’s father’s army has attacked her home on a remote French island, with the purpose of abducting (or rescuing, depending on who you ask) young Riley. As the issue opens, one of the creatures is trying to convince her to come with them, when he is suddenly split in half by a giant cat that shoots lasers from his eyes. Because that’s how this comic works.
The cat is Glory’s pet, and this is the first we’ve seen of it. Glory’s crew takes advantage of a lull in the action to gear up, before wading into the fight with the rest of their enemies.
Ross Campbell does some very cool work on this issue. His monsters are endlessly inventive and strange, and the action scenes are very kinetic. He also tips his hat to this character’s heritage as a Rob Liefeld property when he has Gloria (one of Glory’s friends) pick up a large Liefeldian gun labelled BFG 10K. It shouldn’t take a lot of work to figure out what those letters stand for.
I’ve really enjoyed this series since its relaunch, and am finding myself more and more intrigued with each new issue. At the end of this one, a new character from Glory’s family is introduced, and I look forward to finding out more about her.
I hadn’t realized, when I started buying this series, that it was going to end after five issues. I was under the mistaken impression that the series was an on-going, and that it would chronicle just what DB Cooper was up to following his true historical disappearance. Instead, this just takes us up to the events that happened on that airplane in the late 70s, but no further.
I’m not really complaining though, as this is an excellent comic. Churilla has taken a real-life mystery, and weaved out of it one of the most bizarre and original comics of the last ten years. In Churilla’s telling of the story, DB Cooper, famous airplane hijacker, was really an agent for the CIA, involved in a remote assassination program carried out in an otherworldly landscape called The Glut.
Cooper was so good at operating in the Glut that he no longer needed drugs to access it – he was really working in both worlds, going about his life (such as it was following the disappearance of his daughter and subsequent divorce from his wife) in our world, while tracking down monsters in another.
This final issue reveals a number of secrets, such as who had been working with the Soviets to access the Glut, where Cooper’s daughter has been all this time, and just what was going to happen with Cooper’s having become a gateway for Glut creatures to enter our world. It also addresses just what happened on that airplane.
Churilla did an incredible job with this series. It’s a very intelligent comic, with a new approach to historical fiction. I enjoyed it a great deal, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever project Churilla decides to follow this up with.
Written by Mark Millar with Matthew Vaughn
Art by Dave Gibbons and Andy Lanning
I’m used to Mark Millar books being filled to the brim with excesses – ridiculous amounts of violence, brutality, and a sort of one-ups-man-ship to surpass the level of nastiness he reached in the previous issue. It’s nice to see that Millar can still pull off a story that is compelling, but also has a touch of relevance to it.
Gary, nephew to Britain’s greatest secret agent, is continuing his training in this issue. Gary is a rough council estates kind of bloke, but his uncle saw his potential, and pulled some strings to get him into the training program. Now, Gary is showing true promise, outclassing all of his peers in things like observation and grand theft auto (which is an example of Millaresque excesses done right).
The problem is that Gary doesn’t exactly fit well with the social class that fills spy school. He mistakes Barack Obama for Osama bin Laden, and lacks the refinement necessary to become the next James Bond. The club scene, where the students are sent to infiltrate and score with women for points, is really pretty funny.
I wonder to what extent Dave Gibbons is reigning in Millar’s sensibilities. I can’t imagine Gibbons drawing the splatter-porn that Kick-Ass 2 became, for example. Gibbons’s art is fantastic, and the sub-plot about terrorists continuing to kidnap actors, writers, and now environmental scientists from around the globe is interesting. This is easily my favourite Millar book since he left The Authority.
Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang, Kevin Raganit, and Misty Coats
As is to be expected, the new issue of Skullkickers is a lot of fun. The baby Thool demon has taken over the minds of most of the women on the Mermaid’s Bottom, leaving only the Captain, the female Elf, and our two heroes to try to fight it, free the women who are attacking them, and keep the ship from capsizing in the sudden storm that has imperilled them all.
This is an action-filled issue, so there’s not a lot of space for character development or further explanation as to Baldy’s history and his arrival in this world. I presume we’ll get back to that stuff eventually, but for at least one issue, I’m perfectly happy to wallow in the madcap action and amusing sound effects.
A lot is learned in this issue of The Unwritten, as Tom Taylor is still absent (he’s much discussed, and even receives a voicemail message, but has not been in the comic for three issues now), but a few mysteries are revealed. Daniel Armitage, the former employee of the Cabal who has come to Australia and has ended up working with the police, learns which familiar item is now in the possession of the Church of Tommy, and just how he saw a woman turned to words before disappearing. We also learn just how the leader of the church was connected to the Cabal. The biggest surprise s that he’s also connected to Pauly Bruckner, who long-time readers know as the storybook rabbit who gets his own issue of The Unwritten every year or so.
I’ve been enjoying this book a great deal for a few years now. When it began, I was not sure if I would stick with it, and I’d even decided to stop reading a few times, always giving it one more chance to impress me. Now, I’m very pleased that I stuck it out, as Carey has built an impressive and well-structured story.
Peter Gross’s art has always impressed me, but I especially like the way he decides to tell the story of how the leader of the church and Bruckner had to deal with Wilson Taylor, Tom’s father. These pages are drawn in black, white, brown, and red, using a more abstract style than Gross usually uses. It really makes these pages stand out.
Avengers Academy #33 – Christos Gage really knows how to push the emotional buttons correctly some time, as he does in this story about the Academy kids defending Juston’s sentinel from Phoenix-ified Emma Frost. There are a few good moments here, even when the outcome is kind of predictable.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #8 – This is pretty much an all-action issue, as Namor uses his Phoenix powers to attack Wakanda, and a whole bunch of Avengers have to beat him down. There are a couple of odd notes in this book – Captain America doesn’t seem the type to be more concerned about being proven right than helping all the Wakandans who would be drowning in the wake of Namor’s tsunami attack, and it’s weird to hear Namor rep his homo superior status than his position as King of Atlantis. Then I checked the credits and saw that Bendis was writing this issue, so incongruities are only to be expected. Adam Kubert drew this issue, and it looks nice (and perhaps a little rushed in places). I’d prefer Olivier Coipel though…
Baltimore: Dr. Loskovar’s Remedy #2 – This is a pretty standard Baltimore story – he fights some monsters, and acts all dour. I enjoy the Mignola-verse comics, but I wonder if the decision to flood the market with at least three books per month lately isn’t perhaps too much of a good thing. Everything in these comics is starting to feel routine.
Batwoman #11 – The second story arc finishes here, as the varying plotlines that JH Williams and W Haden Blackman have been showing out of sequence converge into a big fight, which kind of doesn’t resolve anything. I find it interesting that new alternate series artist Trevor McCarthy needed Pere Perez to bail him out on pencils, and that this fact was not mentioned in the comics press nor on the cover. On a series like Batwoman, where the visuals are so heavily stylized, I would prefer that the book just ship late and be completed by a single artist. Granted, I’d rather the book be bi-monthly if that meant that JH Williams could draw every issue.
BPRD Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine #3 – Devon and Fenix are stuck in a boxcar being attacked by giant monsters while sinister things continue to happen at Zinco. That’s about it for this issue – it’s got great art from Tyler Crook, and some nice scripting by John Arcudi, but not a whole lot happens.
Captain Marvel #1 – I expected to be more impressed by this comic than I was. I like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing usually, but I felt that she was really struggling to choose the correct tone for this book. It opens with a scene where Ms. Marvel (she hadn’t changed her name yet) and Captain America fight the Absorbing Man while trading quips in such a way as to remind me of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League. I thought perhaps that was where this book would be heading, and that thinking continued through the scenes where Carol chats with Cap and Spider-Man. Then, suddenly, she flies off into space to reflect on her life and her greatest hero – a female pilot. A couple of pages later, she’s talking with an old sick friend, and learns that her pilot hero has died. Then there’s a flashback to the time she met her. The tone of the book changed a great deal, and I’m not sure where this title is headed. Silly as it is to complain about, the costume change is kind of bothering me. I did love the old costume (it’s a classic), but I can see the need for change. What I don’t understand is why a character who we know can function in space unaided (read the latest issue of Secret Avengers) would need a strange goggle-mask when flying through space. It doesn’t ever cover her mouth. Dexter Soy’s art is interesting and unique. I think I’ll like his work as he matures into the profession, but again, the roughness of it does not match the tone of this comic. I’ll probably give the book a second try with the next issue, as I do like Carol a lot, but it’s not looking good…
Daredevil #15 – DD is still in Latveria, and he’s lost the use of all of his senses, at least until his natural gifts try to compensate. It’s an interesting issue, getting into the core of Matt’s new look on life, but I am glad to see this storyline not being too dragged out. I don’t think Daredevil’s the right character to be getting involved in Latveria stuff. I do like Chris Samnee’s art, although I have to wonder if artists get their same page-rate when some pages are simply panels of black.
DC Universe Presents #11 – James Robinson and Bernard Chang’s Vandal Savage story ends with this issue, and it ends well. The ‘Silence of the Lambs’ inspired plot, while derivative, does give Robinson the chance to redefine Savage for the modern New 52 (Savage is also a regular in Demon Knights), and to build his daughter’s character. I was hoping for a Scandal Savage appearance though, so I’m ultimately disappointed…
Fantastic Four #608 – When Jonathan Hickman took the Future Foundation to Wakanda last month, I expected that something more epic than this story was in the works. As it turns out, Hickman was just re-aligning the character of the Black Panther, repairing some of the mis-steps the character was subjected to starting around the time that Reginald Hudlin ran the venerable character into the ground. Now, Hickman addresses who is the real Panther – T’Challa or Shuri, but then more or less leaves the status quo in place, just in time for Wakanda to get trashed in Avengers Vs. X-Men. In the end, this was rather disappointing. I’ve said it before, but I think mybe it’s time to give Christopher Priest another stab at Black Panther…
Invincible Iron Man #521 – Matt Fraction jumps the story forward by six months as this new story arc begins, and we learn that during that time, Tony Stark has been the Mandarin’s prisoner, James Rhodes has been acting as Iron Man without telling anyone, and one of the people left at Resilient has become the new Steve Jobs, turtleneck and all. This is a very good issue, but it does make me wonder how one of Marvel’s most visible characters is supposed to come off the board for such a long stretch of time, and have no effect on the rest of the Marvel Universe. Also, does that mean this story takes place before or after AvsX? I know that Marvel would never address such an issue, but it does show how poorly they manage their shared universe.
Journey Into Mystery #641 – A fantastic conclusion to the Manchester Gods storyline, as Loki and Leah borrow a page from V For Vendetta, Loki’s plans actually work, and he has a few existential moments. This has been a terrific series. I’m disappointed that the next pile of issues cross-over with Thor, a book I neither read nor wish to, and I’m torn as to what to do. Do I buy the JIM issues of the story only? Do I cave and spend the money on the Thor issues (I think it’s 3 per book, which is expensive)? Do I trade-wait it? Right now I’m leaning towards skipping the whole thing – I think that’s the only way that Marvel will stop putting out so many of these damnable things. It’s too bad though, because I really like this book… Were Kieron Gillen writing every issue of the cross-over, it would be a sure thing, but I haven’t liked Matt Fraction’s work on Thor (although I love Casanova and enjoy Iron Man).
New Mutants #46 – And now, in the rush to finish this series off before the Marvel Now relaunches start, this title is weekly. I really am surprised at how far this series has fallen – when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning came aboard and gave the book a clear mandate – to have the team clean up left over X-issues – I expected a lot more. After all, these are the guys that reinvigorated Marvel’s entire cosmic line, but this book has just limped along, in an endless cycle of self-reference and little forward movement. Monthly, it might feel alright; weekly, and it’s just too in our face how little is happening.
Nightwing #11 – The mystery of who is framing Nightwing for murder continues, as Nightwing deals with frustration at the way his name keeps getting tarnished. Kyle Higgins has a good handle on this character, and continues to do good work. There’s a new artist this month, Andres Guinaldo, who does a fine job, although I prefer Eddy Barrows on this title. Damian Wayne has a cameo, and gets all the good lines (as usual).
Ultimate Comics X-Men #13 & 14 – I was not too happy to learn that the Ultimate books were going to be crossing into one another this summer, as I only regularly buy two of the three titles. As much as I like Nick Spencer’s writing, his Ultimate X-Men did nothing for me. Then they replaced him with Brian Wood, and I was still going to ignore the book, until this week I caved. It’s a good thing I did too, as he has quickly fixed a lot of what was wrong with this title, refocusing the book on Kitty Pryde and her small band of mutant freedom fighters, who are travelling to the Southwest, where America has basically ceded territory to the Sentinels. There’s a clear sense of purpose in this book, and it reads pretty well. The big question is whether or not I’ll stick around after the cross-over.
Uncanny X-Men #16 – The Phoenix Five continue their assault on Sinister’s stronghold, and things don’t go as well as they may have hoped. This prompts me to wonder if perhaps the Avengers shouldn’t have perhaps put Sinister on one of their teams, as he’s much more successful in fighting them than Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes have been… It’s a good issue, but knowing that the events of AvsX have already moved past this story takes away any possible sense of threat or danger.
Wonder Woman #11 – So now that Diana and her crew have rescued Zola from Hell, she has to deal with Apollo and Artemis coming after her, and doing Hera’s bidding. The stakes keep rising in this book, which is full of some very sharp writing and dialogue. This really is one of the best books to come out of the New 52, but I don’t hear of it getting a lot of love. I can see how it’s not for everyone, but it’s up there with Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Dial H as a Vertigo-lite title. It’s great to see Cliff Chiang draw the whole issue too!
X-Factor #240 – Like New Mutants, X-Factor comes out way too often. This is a good stand-alone issue though, as Layla struggles with the uncertainties that exist in the wake of her decision to save Guido. Peter David plays with the old movie Run Lola Run for an effective gag, and also plays around with how events can play out differently now that Layla has reintroduced chance to her world. It’s interesting.
X-O Manowar #3 – Well, we’re three months in to Valiant’s relaunch, and I’m still coming back, so that’s a good sign. This book isn’t as good as Harbinger yet, but I have liked seeing how Robert Venditti has updated the work originally done on the character. This issue has Aric using the armour to fight the Vine aliens, and eventually make his way to Earth. It’s good, but I’m wondering if it’s $4 good…
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2
Infernal Man-Thing #2
Mars Attacks #2
Rachel Rising #9
Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX #2
Wolverine #309 (this one was $5?!!!)
Hulk #50-52 – I’d dropped Jeff Parker’s Red Hulk book because I found that it was constantly circling between the same few stories, and because I needed to cull my pull-list a little more. It’s nice to be able to sit down and read one whole story though, as Red gets help dealing with an entity that’s been haunting him, from Dr. Strange, the Legion of Monsters, and the good vampires from X-Men. Were Marvel not so intent on double-shipping this title all the time, I would have stuck with it. Granted, it’s being turned in to Red She-Hulk soon, so it’s academic…
Stormwatch #11 – I’d decided to drop this book, but then thought I’d give it one more chance. This issue is pretty awful, as the team fight a trio of immortal Neanderthals who have been trying to devolve humankind for thousands of years, and have kept bumping up against previous Stormwatch teams. Beyond the poor pacing, it’s worth pointing out that the word ‘Neanderthal’ didn’t exist prior to the mid-19th century, but Peter Milligan has characters using it in the 1400s. Also, only one of the three have Neanderthalic features. I think, like his runs on Elektra and X-Men, we are looking at ‘Bad Milligan’ writing again.
I can’t express enough how much I enjoy The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. This manga series is pretty bizarre in its subject matter and characters, but I find it an effortless read (thanks in no small part to the helpful and informative notes by the editor, Carl Gustav Horn).
The KCDS is a group of underemployed Buddhist Studies graduates who have either an interest in, or abilities pertaining to, the dead. They seek out corpses, and then communicate with them to help them achieve their final wish. They hope that there will be some sort of profit in this, although there usually isn’t.
This volume has four stand-alone stories. The first has to do with a small village that was left abandoned after a killer murdered all of its inhabitants. The second story has to do with a professor of Egyptology who has been manufacturing mummies as a way of paying off his debts. The third has the crew working as professional mourners at funerals, and stumbling upon a mystery. The final story addresses the shadier sides of the cryogenics industry in Japan.
All of these stories work as examples of Otsuka’s ability to blend creepy horror with a sharp sense of humour and a lighthearted approach to writing. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but he does it well. He also does a great job of showing the growth of the characters, and deepens the mystery of just where Karatsu’s abilities come from, and who the figure we see appearing around him at times really is.
This series is highly recommended.
Book of the Week:
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas – This engaging novel is really six interconnected short stories, told in a nesting doll fashion (each of the first five are interrupted by the next, and then returned to later, in reverse order). Mitchell touches on a number of different genres – mystery novel, travel journal, science fiction – and gives us six fascinating looks into very different worlds. This is a fantastic novel which would have a lot for comics and sci-fi fans to enjoy.
Album of the Week:
Elzhi – Elmatic Elzhi’s tribute to Nas’s classic album is both respectful and fresh. Elzhi is an under-appreciated MC, who deserves this chance to shine.