The Weekly Round-Up #143 With Murder Book, Morning Glories, New Deadwardians, Prophet & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Murder Book Volume 3

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Jason Copland and Johnnie Christmas
When I bought a ticket to attend Fan Expo this past weekend, there was only one specific comic that I was there to buy – Ed Brisson’s newest issue of Murder Book.Brisson is a talented crime writer, whose stories in this series have always tended towards the bleak and the ironic.  If you could imagine packing the emotional intensity of an arc of Criminal into a short story, you’d basically have a good idea of what to expect from this series.

This issue opens with Fathers and Sons, drawn by Jason Copland.  This is a very good story about a man who owes money to a mobster, and whose family get caught up in the violence of collection day.  Brisson plays well with the father and son angle (it’s hard to talk about without spoiling the story), and the story looks great.

The second story, Midnight Walk, shows how it doesn’t always pay to be a good Samaritan.  It’s also a very good piece.

These self-published comics are always a good read.  I highly recommend people visit Mr. Brisson’s site to pick them up.  Brisson told me that he has a new series being solicited by Image soon, and he’s also the letterer on Prophet.  Clearly a creator to watch.

Other Notable Comics:

Morning Glories #21

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma
One thing that can kind of annoy about Morning Glories, Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s brilliant series about students involved in a Lost-like story about a strange school that kidnaps its students and manipulates their lives for unseen ends, and that is that the series often waits a few issues before addressing cliffhangers.A couple of issues back, Hunter, one of the core group of characters we as readers have been following since the series began, was at the mercy of another character, who was prepared to kill him.  He was suddenly, and violently, rescued by a girl we hadn’t seen before.  Then Spencer moved the story to other places for a while.  Finally, with this issue, we get to see what happened next.

It turns out that Hunter’s rescuers were part of the same group as Guillaume, Jun’s old friend and lover, who we met a while back.  They’d all been studying under the mysterious Abraham before being sent to the Morning Glory Academy to carry out some kind of mission.

Most of this issue is given over to introducing these new characters – we see in flashbacks that they went through the same events as our heroes did when they first came to the school, and we learn that they all knew Jun from back in the day.  We also get a slight sense of their mission, but Spencer plays that part pretty close to the vest, choosing instead to add to the high number of unknowns currently gathering throughout this series.

Spencer’s work here has always impressed me in terms of character and his ability to effectively use the individual issue to tell part of a larger story (really, this is a dying art in this day and age).  Eisma is equally adept at crafting a strong sense of atmosphere and dread in this comic.  Together, they give jsut enough information each issue to make me anticipate the next without frustration setting in.

The New Deadwardians #6

Written by Dan Abnett
Art by INJ Culbard
Things take a few different turns in the latest issue of The New Deadwardians.  Inspector Suttle comes up with a theory about his case (involving the murder of a vampire – something previously not believed possible) that I didn’t see coming, and also engages himself in a manner he hasn’t in some fifty years when his prostitute friend comes around with some new information.The New Deadwardians is set in a remarkably well-realized world where most upper-class Londoners have become vampires, and where areas outside of their control are subject to zombie attacks.
The murder victim is a Lord of some importance, and Suttle keeps coming across evidence of a secret society’s involvement in everything that is going on.

This leads to his having an interesting conversation with a Mr. Salt, a poet who was known to associate with Lord Hinchcliffe.  Salt discusses some numerology, the likes of which always loses me, and leads Suttle into some trouble.

As with the previous issues, Abnett is crafting a very good story, and it is being masterfully illustrated by Culbard.  This is a very good series.

Prophet #28

Written by Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis
In the last issue of Prophet, the newly-returned ‘Old Man Prophet’, as he is called here, reunited with his old friend Hiyonhoiagn, after a thousand-year absence (the friend is a living tree).  Together, they set off to find the remaining pieces of their old companion, the former Youngblood team member Diehard.In this issue, they’ve found most of that ancient android, and he has begun leading them to the rest of his body.  To find his head, they travel to Juno, where Dolmantles (the blanket-like creatures that one of Prophet’s clones used in an earlier issue to help him survive) have taken over all of the inhabitants.

The issue is full of bizarre action and Graham’s peculiar style of tossing readers into his strange worlds without taking any time to explain what is happening.  The level of creativity and individuality in this book is stunning, and I continue to enjoy it in a way that is different from everything else that is on the stands in the comic stores.

Now that Prophet has restored his friend, I hope that we are going to get a better idea of just why he is in opposition to the Earth Empire, and how he is going to interact with all of his offspring or clones that we have been seeing since Graham relaunched the title.

This is a very attractive book, and I guarantee it is like nothing else you are reading right now.

The Sixth Gun #24

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt
I think right off the bat it’s important to confess that I have had a weakness for the mostly-white cover ever since I bought Alpha Flight #6 back in my pre-teen days.  I find they are even more effective, now that technology is such that the inside cover doesn’t bleed through…Anyway, this is a gorgeous cover by Brian Hurtt, which leads to yet another amazing issue of The Sixth Gun, one of my favourite creator-owned on-going series.  This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc, ‘Winter Wolves’, which opens by checking in with a number of characters we haven’t seen for a little while.

The members of the Sword of Abraham are having a restless night, as General Hume, whose corpse they keep prisoner in their cellar, is stirring again, and when his body is confronted, he delivers a fair amount of foreshadowing, while also revealing that the Widow Hume has a different relationship to him than we expected.

Gord Cantrell shows up in these pages again, searching for his friends.  It looks like he’s being followed though, so expect that when he finds them, bad things will happen.

From there, the story shifts back to the people that Gord is looking for – Drake Sinclair and Becky Montcrief.  Having escaped from the strange predicaments of the last few issues, they have decided that they should no longer hide from the Widow Hume, but should instead confront her.  Before doing that though, Drake wants to pick up some allies at a place called Fort Treadwell.  Journeying there though, they run into problems as they are suddenly swallowed up by deepest winter and surrounded by wolves.

This is a good issue in a very good series.  Cullen Bunn’s name has been showing up all over the place at Marvel lately, and while some of his work there is very fine, he is similar to other recent up-and-comers at the company (Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, and Kieron Gillen all come to mind) in that his creator-owned work is much, much better.

Spaceman #9

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Eduardo Risso
Spaceman is a very cool comic.  It is set in a world feeling the effects of environmental collapse, where the rich live in walled communities (called the Dries), and everyone else lives in flood-ravaged ruins of former cities.  Our hero is Orson, a ‘spaceman’, the result of a genetic engineering program.  He looks more like a neanderthal than a man, and has great strength and resilience.He has stumbled into a kidnapping plot involving Tara, a young girl who has a key role on a reality show called The Ark, which involves a pair of movie stars adopting children from around the world.  Orson rescues Tara from her kidnappers, and finds himself now the target of any number of factions.

This final issue has Orson and his fellow Spaceman Carter working to free Tara just as the police descend on her new kidnapper’s location.  There is a lot of chaos.

What has made this series stand out is Azzarello’s use of his own invented English slang.  People speak a patois that is easily understood, and clearly extrapolated from how we speak today, and it’s pretty fascinating.  Azzarello has become quite fond of puns and word games (read any issue of his amazing Wonder Woman), and it wasn’t until the very end of the issue that I became aware of the one being used in Tara’s name.

Eduardo Risso is always an amazing artist, and when working on Azzarello’s scripts, he shines particularly brightly.  Vertigo has seemed to have diminished in the last couple of years, but they are still putting out some of the best new comics out there, and this is definitely a title that deserves as much acclaim as Azzarello and Risso’s 100 Bullets did.

Quick Takes:

American Vampire #30 – This was a much more action-filled issue of American Vampire than is usual, as Pearl and Skinner continue to hunt down vampires in hiding in Hollywood.  The focus of this issue is on the relationship between Pearl and her husband Henry, who is in a coma after a vampire attack.  We see how he originally proposed to her, and then at the end of the comic, Pearl does something completely unexpected that should have some serious repercussions. Rafael Albuquerque kills on this book.

BPRD Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master #1 – We’re back to a more centralized BPRD story, as all the main characters show up momentarily, and we learn of the Bureau’s next case – a man has escaped Russia and made his way to Scotland, where he plans something occult and bad.  This is a solid, good issue, and Tyler Crook has returned to the art chores, which makes me very happy.

FF #21 – Jonathan Hickman takes a very long time getting to his point in this issue, which is concerned with the peace negotiations of the Kree and the Inhumans, and when he does get to the point, it’s rather unspectacular.  Hickman is known for his grand sagas, which are meticulously plotted.  I feel like perhaps someone at Marvel editorial is getting him to drag out this story, so that his departure from the FF titles will match with the launch of Marvel Now!  Luckily, Hickman is an amazing writer, so even his meandering comes out good.  And with Nick Dragotta on the book, it’s a guaranteed purchase anyway…

Flash Annual #1 – I’m done with The Flash.  I don’t like Barry Allen, and I’m not feeling Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s writing like I was in the first few issues of this series.  Manapul is a gifted artist, but he only does layouts for this extra long, extra drawn-out story.  Flash continues his fight with the Rogues, and the issue ends with a segue into the 13th issue.  I liked it better when Annuals were self-contained stories; this is really Flash 12.5 or something.  There is a wide variety of artists drawing this comic, giving it a hugely inconsistent look, despite Manapul’s breakdowns.  The only pages that I felt worked were the ones drawn by Wes Craig; the rest ranged from typical to boring.

Journey Into Mystery #642 – Starting from this issue, and for the next two, Journey Into Mystery (one of Marvel’s best books) is crossing into The Mighty Thor, a book I don’t enjoy at all.  I was going to just drop JiM for these three issues, and pick it up again for Kieron Gillen’s final one, but since I got the Thor prologue issue at Fan Expo (see below), I thought I’d get this first chapter as well.  All of Loki’s roosters are coming home to roost, as the burning of the World Tree, and war with the Vanaheim, who are powered by the Manchester Gods, lead to him having to reveal to Thor all of his various doings since Gillen started writing him.  Those scenes are good, but the rest of the book is a little too complicated and busy, as is Carmine di Giandonmenico’s art.  I love Gillen’s Loki, but care very little for the rest of Asgardia.  I’m going to take a long hard look at the next issue of Thor, and decide from there if I want to bother continuing with this stuff.  I really don’t like cross-overs…

Mudman #5 – Paul Grist (slowly) continues his excellent superhero series, as young Owen starts to experiment with his powers, calling force some Mudrats, who get attacked by an old lady with axes.  Grist is a comics master, although he rarely gets the credit he deserves.  This comic is perfect for anyone who is enjoying Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.

New Mutants #48 – This title just becomes more tedious with each new issue.  This is the end of the road for me.

Powers #11 – I have been reading Powers since about the third issue of its original Image series, and I’ve almost always enjoyed it.  What I’ve found over the last few years though, as Brian Michael Bendis’s attentions have wandered over the Marvel Universe, is that it’s become little more than an afterthought to its writer.  With this issue, for at least the second time, Bendis unleashes all manner of hell on his world, and then switches up the status quo.  Whenever the next issue comes out (my money is on four to six months from now), Powers will undergo it’s fourth relaunch as Powers: Bureau, and I’ll still end up buying it.  I’ll probably complain about it though.  Especially if it, like this issue, doesn’t have a letters page.

Skullkickers #17Things take a less-funny turn in this issue, as the baby Thule and a gigantic sea creature trash the Mermaid’s Bottom, the ship that our usual heroes have been travelling on.  Death abounds, magic swords change hands, and even the narrator is forced to ask:  “Where are the #@$%ing ha ha’s?!”  I’ve always enjoyed Skullkickers, and I’m curious to see where Jim Zubkavich is taking the book in the next arc, especially since it looks like he just killed one of the principle characters.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #15 – I decided to commit to this book through the two Ultimate cross-overs, but I’m not sure about it.  Brian Wood wastes a lot of time setting up the last page, and I’m not sure that Paco Medina is the right artist for such a serious book.  With a more realistic look to things, matching the style of Ultimate Comics Ultimates, this would probably work a lot better.  I did like that last page though…

Uncanny X-Force #30 – Kid Genesis gets an issue all to himself, as he deals with being the prisoner of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Daken, Sabretooth and the Shadow King set about tormenting him, trying to turn him into Apocalypse, in this dark issue that lacks the humour this comic usually shows.  Dave Williams does the art this time around (because it’s a rule that no artist stay on this book for more than two issues I think), and it looks pretty good.  In all, a decent issue, if you like to see young kids have their lives ruined.

Winter Soldier #9 – It’s really a shame that Ed Brubaker is going to be leaving this title; I firmly believe that Winter Soldier is one of the better books that Marvel publishes.  This issue has Bucky continue to track down the newly brainwashed Black Widow, who is involved in a plot to kill the First Lady.  With ballet.  Great art by Michael Lark and his two inkers, and as always with this book, awesome colouring by Bettie Breitweiser really clinches the whole package.  I’m going to miss this title…

Wolverine and the X-Men #15 If only all of Avengers Vs. X-Men could be this good.  Jason Aaron uses this issue to check in on most of the book’s regular characters as they get ready for the last two issues of AvsX.  There are good conversations, a few humorous moments, and a sense of momentousness that has been lacking from the mothership title.  Jorge Molina’s art is much less cartoony than what we usually see in this book, but it works well with the material, and looks pretty good.

X-O Manowar #4 – I remain squarely on the fence about this title.  I like Robert Venditti’s writing, and love Cary Nord’s art, but I’m not sure this is a comic worth $3.99.  It’s feeling more decompressed with each new issue, as almost half the book is taken up with Aric fighting a jet.  We do learn that the spider-aliens have kept a finger or two in Earth’s development, and that they have human agents (or have disguised themselves as humans) who are going to be working to retrieve the armor.  I’m going to give this one more issue, because I’m curious about the debut of Ninjak, but then I’ll probably be done.

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

Avenging Spider-Man #11

Infernal Man-Thing #3

Bargain Comics:

Avenging Spider-Man #9 – This is a fun issue that has Spidey and Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) flying to Boston together in a heap of an aircraft, before being interrupted by some random metahuman who is being chased by a guy in a mech suit.  We are firmly in Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League territory here, as the whole thing is played lightly.  I suppose this was used to drum up more interest in the new Captain Marvel series, as it’s written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, but the art by the Dodsons is on a different level.  Honestly, had I read this first, I probably would have skipped the solo series.

The Mighty Thor #18 – I have not liked Matt Fraction’s Thor, and have avoided it since Fear Itself ended.  Then Marvel went ahead and crossed this title over into one of the best comics (Journey Into Mystery), making me drop that title.  But, seeing this issue for a low price, and knowing that it was drawn by Alan Davis, I thought I’d give it a chance, since this was the prologue to this week’s JIM (see above).  It’s basically exactly what we’ve come to expect these days from this comic.  There’s some sort of ancient threat to Asgard, and we see Odin doing some stuff a long time ago that is the cause of this threat.  Actually, even though I just finished reading this comic as I type this, I don’t remember what happened in it.  That’s not good.

The New Avengers #28 & 29 – No one can pad out a cross-over like Brian Michael Bendis.  In the first of these two issues, three Avengers try to escape from X-Men custody, only to find that they never tried to escape in the first place (which nicely explains away things like Hawkeye being able to get Magma to open his cell by twisting her arm when she can turn into, you know, magma).  The second issue is the type of thing that Bendis always gets criticized for, but also does best – a bunch of heroes sit around a table and talk for the whole issue.  Captain America brings back the Illuminati in an attempt to sway Namor to the Avenger’s side, and everyone bickers.  Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the Avengers Vs. X-Men main book, and know that nothing that happens in either of these comics is of any consequence.

Wolverine #305-308 – I feel like Marvel is using writer Cullen Bunn much like they did Kieron Gillen when he first came to the company – they are giving him some difficult assignments, and seeing just what he does with them.  It worked for Gillen, landing him Uncanny X-Men.  Bunn’s work on The Sixth Gun at Oni Press has been spectacular, but I’m not sure that Wolverine is as good a fit.  This story revisits the character Dr. Rot, created by Jason Aaron during his recent tenure with everyone’s favourite mutant.  The problem is, bringing Rot into things gives us yet another Wolverine mind-control story.  There are too many of these of late – in fact, it feels like that’s all anyone does with the character these days.  It’s time for some new ideas.  Bunn is a good writer, but to make it at Marvel, he’s going to have to bust out more creative ideas than this.

X-Men #33 & 34 – It really is a shame that Brian Wood is not staying with the X-Men (as we learned this week), because he seems to really get how to write a successful X-Men book – with a small cast, and a clear sense of purpose.  These two issues bridge two related stories having to do with proto-mutant DNA, which show the X-Men working in a thoughtful and reasonable way (even if they don’t agree with each other); something that is rare these days.  Also, there’s a eugenics cult, and nice art from David Lopez and Roland Boschi.  If I thought Wood were staying, I would be adding this title to my pull-list right now.

The Week in Manga:

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 7

Written by Eiji Otsuka
Art by Housui Yamazaki
I never get bored of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, the manga series that follows the adventures of a group of young university graduates who use their various skills (corpse dowsing, channeling, mortuary make-up) to locate corpses and take them to where they wish to be.  It sounds like the type of concept that would get old, but seven volumes in, I find that the series still feels fresh and exciting.This volume tells three stories across its six chapters, which all deal with themes of obsession.  The first story involves the Japanese love of robots, as a group of university students try to build a mechanized suit, and then a robot, to help with heavy lifting.  The Kurosagi crew, broke again, agree to test the equipment when they take on a job delivering heavy tombstones.  It’s not long before corpses are involved.  Japanese otaku culture is major component of this story, and that leads to endnotes by editor Carl Gustav Horn that would make David Foster Wallace jealous.  I learned a lot from this story.

The second tale involves the Japanese fixation on Audrey Hepburn (although the famous actress here is given a different name), and their predilection for cosmetic surgery.  A clinic is offering revolutionary surgery that gives its customers pointy ears like their idol.  The problem is that these ears often sport a jinmenso, or ghostly face of their own.  As the Kurosagi group get involved in this case, they discover that their sinister counterparts, the Shirosagi, are also involved, and have a plot to capture Karatsu.

The final story involves the ambitions of a long-time assistant to a famous Japanese director, who decides that he needs to take some drastic steps to move out of his boss’s shadow.

All of these stories deftly blend humour with horror, and all feature strong characterization.  I find that I am always surprised by just how much I enjoy this book.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Dead Space: Salvage

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Christopher Shy
I usually avoid comics that are video game adaptions, but the first Dead Space mini-series was written by Antony Johnston (Wasteland) and Ben Templesmith (Fell), two creators I have tremendous amounts of respect for.And that first mini-series was excellent.  From what I can gather, Dead Space the game is a cross between Aliens and The Walking Dead, where the player works their way through a gigantic spaceship killing reanimated corpses.  There’s not a lot of story potential there, but then Johnston added a controversial religion (Unitology), and its most holy relic, the Marker, which causes changes in people, and the series took off.

In Dead Space: Salvage, Johnston returns to this story.  This original graphic novel follows a group of illegal miners who have been strip mining an asteroid belt when they discover the Ishimura, the vessel on which all the Dead Space action takes place.  There are government forces looking for it, so the miners have to figure out how to strip the vessel of any value before being caught.  This causes them to board the ship, and the predictable happens, as corpses come back to life, and a lot of people die.

Johnston downplays the religious aspect in this story, which did cause my interest to wane a little, but the problem I had with this comic lay in Christopher Shy’s fully-painted art.  I’m not a big fan of painted comics in general, but I found that Shy’s art was unnecessarily stiff and murky.  The characters were not easy to differentiate visually, and some of the action scenes were ambiguous.  Compared to the work that Templesmith did on this series, this does not come close.

I don’t know that there is anything new to say in this franchise, but that doesn’t usually stop companies from producing more work.

Album of the Week:

JJ Doom – Key to the Kuffs – JJ Doom is the name given to the new collaboration between mask-wearing American rapper MF Doom (or is it just DOOM now?) and Brazilian beat-maker Jneiro Jarel.  Personally, I’d gotten a little too tired of Doom after his last album, and was more interested in this because of Jarel’s work.  Strangely, Doom kills this album, while Jarel opts for safer beats, which are decidedly less left-field than what he has done under his own name or as Dr. Who Dat?.  Still, this is a good collaboration – it’s no Madvillainy, but it’s up there with the Danger Mouse collabo.

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