This was a gigantic new comics week, filled with some really great, and some not so great, stuff!
Best Comic of the Week:
by Sean Murphy
Sean Murphy’s black and white mini-series, which has now reached the halfway mark, continues to be the best thing that Vertigo is publishing right now. The series is set in the near future, and it revolves around the cloned Jesus Christ, who is the central person in a reality TV show called J2.
In this issue, Chris, the clone, ages from toddler-hood to being a teenager, as his mother continues to buck against the J2 system, especially the show’s chief executive, Slate. She is able to negotiate so that Chris can enter a regular public school, but after Slate pays off Chris’s African-American prom date, and instead sets him up with a cheerleader, and then micro-manages his appearance on Larry King (it’s not called that in the comic, but come on), she finally has enough.
Murphy has taken his time setting up the series and building the characters, considering that the title has yet to apply (assuming that Chris ever becomes a punk). It feels like we’re moving towards the pay-off though, as a newly isolated Chris will have to deal with the mess that his life has been, and a surprise ending suggests that the series may move in new, and more supernatural, directions.
Murphy has established himself over the last few years as an artist to watch, but I’m really quite impressed by his writing chops. This book is excellently paced, and has a strong commitment to character. The cast feels very well fleshed out, and I look forward to each new issue.
Other Notable Comics:
Art by Mitch Gerads
Last month, it was revealed that Bookstore had a relationship with a man named Mark, at least until she was told to end it by her commanding officer, with no reason given. Now he suddenly shows up as a civilian who is working with the ISA, and the scenes between him and Bookstore are very awkward. I feel like, if he was always intended to become a plot point, he should have been introduced into the series earlier; their break-up carried no emotional weight, and therefore his appearance in this issue doesn’t resonate at all.
Still, I’m enjoying this comic. I like that there is a place for an espionage comic that is well-written, has good art, and is very grounded in the possible, unlike most war and spy comics.
Art by Christopher Mitten
DeFilippis and Weir are strong writers of character, and they continue to put those strengths to good use with this series. I would like to read more Bad Medicine, and so hope that the series is continuing.
Art by Rob Guillory
Only in Chew would this be a viable plot, and that is what makes this comic so great. It revels in its own weirdness, as it feels like Layman and Guillory constantly challenge each other to come up with something wilder each issue.
This issue is as good as this series gets. We learn why Tony’s sister Toni is familiar to Caesar, Poyo gets to be Poyo (he’s one of the greatest comics characters of the 21st Century – he’s the cyborg rooster on the cover, if you didn’t know), and Guillory fills each page with sight gags in addition to telling a great story.
To top it off, there is a preview of the upcoming series Great Pacific, which looks very good.
Art by Vasilis Lolos
Lolos’s art is a good substitute for Becky Cloonan (who, it appears, won’t be returning to the book any time soon). They’ve always shared similar aesthetics, although Lolos’s Conan is a little more of a pretty boy. Lolos’s art has changed since his work on Last Call andNorthlanders; some of his faces, especially that of the old man in the village, show the influence of Rafael Grampá and perhaps Dean Ormston. I hope this means that we will see plenty more work from Lolos in the coming months (like perhaps Last Call Volume 2, or even, dare I say it, the conclusion to the excellent Pirates of Coney Island).
Art by Jonathan Case
In this issue, Oxel interviews Curtis’s father, who he knew back in college, and works with the contagion theory. Arcudi is setting the story up to suggest that there may have been more to Mike and Curtis’s friendship, possibly some secret involving the grandfather as well, but he’s playing it close to the vest.
Jonathan Case’s art is great. There’s a cool scene towards the end of the book where he switches to a sketchier, watercoloured look when Oxel tries to imagine the boys’ lives, which then continues into his own reality. It’s clear that Oxel isn’t well, but to what extent his condition affects his judgement, we don’t know. This is a series worth checking out.
Art by Nick Pitarra
In relation to this book’s usual craziness, things are a little quieter this month. We do learn that the Tunguska Event was alien-related, although Soviet attempts to reverse engineer the technology they recovered have not been too successful. The preponderance of squid creatures is never fully explained, but I’m sure we’ll get back to that at some point.
This issue is much more human than any of the previous ones, as Hickman shows Gröttrup as the victim of a number of unfortunate coincidences. Visually, this comic is as good as it ever has been, as colourist Jordie Bellaire mostly sticks to a red and blue palette.
Art by Garry Brown
The writing in this book is sharp, but I feel that what the Ninth Wave actually does has not been made clear. Last issue, they were in Alaska; in this issue they are in the Arabian Sea. By the end of the issue, they are setting off for Antarctica to find fresh water. This is a lot of journeying around, and a lot of diesel fuel being burned, for a group that is supposed to be committed to preserving the environment, for no clear purpose. This is something that Wood needs to clarify, and quickly.
The art for this issue has been done by Garry Brown, an artist I’m not familiar with. He does a decent job, but I did prefer Kristian Donaldson’s work. The revelation that Callum is in his fifties is not exactly borne out by how he has appeared in this series.
Art by David Lapham
Astelle, the newest member of the Bluebirds, has come out to Nevada to meet with the man in charge (I have no idea what his name is), and he gives her a lengthy presentation on the history of their group, which has coalesced around the journals of an American WWII pilot named Joe Bermingen, who after a close encounter during the war, became the foremost expert on alien flying technology at Lockheed.
Bermingen’s story is an interesting one, as he bumps up against the American government, NASA, and the original ‘men in black’. This is a very good series, and I like how Paul Cornell got things up and running for five issues before pausing to fill in the necessary back-story. I am ready to see things move forward again though, as we get an ever-larger view of the world that Cornell is working with.
Art by Matthew Southworth
When Dex goes to visit the guitar tech who last saw ‘Baby’, she finds skinheads in the middle of a home invasion, and it is clear to everyone that there is a lot happening with this case. As Dex is the type of PI who gets roughed up a lot, this is surely going to be an exciting mini-series.
Greg Rucka is one of the best writers in comics. I permanently associate his style with Ed Brubaker’s, and it’s great to see him working on a creator-owned book again. It’s been made clear that his divorce from DC is looking permanent, and aside from Punisher, he’s not doing much work with Marvel. So far as I’m concerned, that’s a great thing, as writers like him always do better on their own stuff. Here’s hoping the rumours of more Queen & Country are accurate. Matthew Southworth is an accomplished artist, and it’s nice to see his work on this book again.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #11– Well, if there is anyone who was surprised by how this issue went, they’ve probably not read many comics before. The big surprise ending, which got spoiled in the media anyway, was all kinds of obvious, as the Avengers and pretty much all the X-Men decide to try to shut down Scott Summers and his Phoenix powers. There’s a lot of Charles Xavier declaring his love for mutants, collectively and individually, and a weird scene where Captain America takes all the Avengers to the desert to beg the Hulk for help, because there’s no one better on your side for a big cosmic battle than a guy who is strong and angry. As for the big ‘death’ scene? I found it a little ambiguous, as a person who is knocked out looks like a person who is dead in a static drawing wherein no character commented on that death. Granted, very little here makes sense, but at least there are a few nice looking pages by Olivier Coipel.
Batman #0 – After the high of last month’s excellent issue, I’m not surprised that this month’s ‘zero issue’ is a big let-down. The main story has a Year One-era Bruce Wayne attempting to take down the Red Hood Gang sans bat-suit, but with a whole bunch of James Bond-style gadgets. It also has Bruce living in a brownstone near where his parents were killed, and is supposed to represent the time just after he came back to Gotham, as he was setting up shop. I categorically prefered Miller and Mazzuchelli’s take on this era, which was a lot more down-to-Earth, and didn’t involve gimmicky boomerangs that work on a timer. The conversation between Bruce and James Gordon was incredibly forced. After that main story, by regular creative team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (whose work pales oh-so much compared to Becky Cloonan’s last month), there is a back-up by the back-up squad of James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke that shows the first three Robins in various crime-fighting activities five years ago. There are problems with this too – Tim would have to be about eleven, but he looks sixteen, while Dick looks and comes off as being younger than Jason. Like all the DC back-ups, this is just filler that I paid an extra dollar for. Snyder’s run on this title has been excellent, but this issue was a misstep for sure.
Batman and Robin #0 – Unlike the above book, I thought that Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s fleshing out of Damian Wayne’s life in this zero issue was excellent. The book ends where Grant Morrison introduced Damian in the old DCU, but before that, we are given a nicley written, and very nice looking romp through some of the high points of Damian’s childhood, including the annual fight between him and his mother, with the prize of knowledge of Damian’s father hanging in the balance. This issue managed to satisfy the purpose of ‘zero month’, and provide a good read. It’s rare this month, isn’t it?
Demon Knights #0 – This issue tells the story of how Etrigan and Jason Blood came to be entwined, and it’s all pretty standard, except for one surprise about Merlin’s parentage. I’ve liked this title, but I fear that I’ve started to lose interest in it…
Fantastic Four #610 – As this series winds down, Jonathan Hickman continues to spin out minor plot points in an effort to sustain the series until Marvel Now! is ready to begin. The result? A comic that is okay, but not very memorable. I don’t like Ryan Stegman’s art on this title – it’s a little too 90s for me.
Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #0 – I don’t really understand how Matt Kindt can be such an excellent writer on everything he’s done (3 Story, Revolver, and the excellent Mind MGMT, among others), yet his Frankenstein just doesn’t do it for me. Well, I do understand – those other titles are things he writes without the benefit of DC editorial… I thought Kindt could be the one to save this book, but I’m rapidly losing any desire to keep buying it. This issue shows how Frankenstein was first recruited by SHADE, but the whole thing could have been summed up in a three-panel flashback in an interesting story just as effectively. I give DC credit for trying a title like this, but it’s been over a year, and I’m still not enthused. Time to say good-bye (unless I pre-ordered the next issue – can’t remember).
Harbinger #4 – The lustre is wearing off the Harada Foundation for Peter Stanchek, as he attempts to activate Faith’s latent abilities, and gets a spiritual visit from his friend Joe. Joshua Dysart has done a terrific job of showing how questionable Toyo Harada’s mission is, while also making Peter a character that’s hard to like and trust. This and Archer & Armstrong show that the new Valiant has some legs.
Haunt #26 – As Joe Casey and Nathan Fox’s run on this book continues, I will admit to losing some of my earlier enthusiasm for it. Between the long delays between issues, and the slow pace and lack of forward momentum of the plotline, I’m feeling a little disappointed by this book lately. The sort-of introduction of a character being called ‘Lady Haunt’ in the letters page, and the promise of a little more information about Still Harvey Tubman next issue, however, do give me hope that Casey will get out of whatever slump it is that’s not making this work as well as his first few issues did.
The Shade #12 – James Robinson ends his year-long revisit with his second most popular character (and no, Jack Knight does not appear), with a ‘Times Past’ story that shows us Shade’s origin. It’s a tale that involves family, evil dwarves, Charles Dickens, and a lion, all beautifully illustrated by Gene Ha. I feel like this series never quite reached its potential, but I am pleased to see that it was able to last out its full twelve issues; there were concerns at the beginning that its sales were too low.
Suicide Squad #0 – I continue to be completely disappointed in this series. In this issue, we see Amanda Waller get recruited by one of her former Team 7 teammates to help stop Regulus and his Basilisk organization from exploding an experimental bomb in the same small Malaysian town where Waller has been hanging out. The biggest problem this series has had since is its inception is that writer Adam Glass doesn’t know what to do with Waller. Under John Ostrander, she was an incredible character – manipulative and a few steps ahead of everyone, but also firmly determined to do the right thing as her own moral code demanded. When the ‘New 52′ made her skinny and Halle Berry-ish, they also took away every aspect of the character that made her interesting; now she’s vaguely angry, and sometimes very smart, but none of it is attached to anything. Sure, we find out she loved her teammate in this issue, but who cares? It’s all very facile.
Uncanny X-Force #31– Another great issue for this series. The team has returned to the present, and are setting about figuring out how they can save Genesis from the new Brotherhood. While they are doing that, we get to spend some time with Sabretooth, Mystique, Daken and the rest, while they continue to try to turn Genesis into Apocalypse. Great art by Phil Noto, and the right balance of light and dark from Rick Remender. This is one of the titles I’m going to miss most when Marvel Now! rolls around.
Uncanny X-Men #18 – You have to hand it to Kieron Gillen. In addition to handling the mantle of being Marvel’s best writer (shared with Jonathan Hickman), he really does do his best to redeem the ridiculousness of what Avengers Vs. X-Men has become, by trying to reconcile the story as its being presented in the mothership title with how these characters have been portrayed over the years. He shows Colossus and Magik trying to come to grips with what happened to them, and finally makes it clear that since becoming Colossonaut, Peter has not been acting like himself. What’s more, he honors the work done in New Mutants by showing Illyana to be totally nuts now. This scene worked very well. The scenes with Cyclops were a little less successful, but that’s mostly because he had to try to make his terrible characterization in AvsX make sense here. He tried; we’ll give him that. Ron Garney was a terrible choice to draw this book (that’s how I generally feel about him though), but at least he wasn’t Greg Land. I do hope that Gillen is given the chance to finish off his Unit sub-plot somewhere before Uncanny gets cancelled and replaced by Bendis’s ‘All-New (characterizations) X-Men’.
Winter Soldier #10 – Marvel’s best Captain America book gets even better as original artist Butch Guice returns, and he and colourist Bettie Breitweiser tear this book up visually, with a solid Steranko feeling to all the scenes set on the SHIELD Helicarrier. Black Widow has been brainwashed and is loose, and Bucky brings in some friends to help find her. Excellent from start to finish – I’m really going to miss Ed Brubaker on this book when he goes.
Wolverine and the X-Men #16 – Where Gillen tries to rationalize Avengers Vs. X-Men, Jason Aaron finally decides to just ignore it in his X-Book, instead giving us a story about Kade Kilgore, the Damian Wayne of the Marvel Universe (before he attempted to reform). We are given Kade’s origin, and do see him and his new under-age Hellfire Club take on the Phoenix Five. The latter half of this issue, when Kade is incarcerated, works much better than the first half, but I think the whole thing would have been disastrous without Chris Bachalo’s art. Still, I look forward to this book being about the Jean Grey school again…
X-Men Legacy #273 – Planet Rogue concludes this issue, as the warring factions of the unnamed other dimension where Rogue got dumped learn to work together thanks to the intervention of a certain skunk-haired mutant. It’s obvious to me that some editor told Christos Gage to keep Rogue busy for three months so that Avengers Vs. X-Men could continue, and this is the best he came up with.
X-O Manowar #5 – I keep giving this series one more issue, and with this one, I think it might be getting close to adding this series to my pull-file. Aric continues to be a little lost and disoriented in our time, and is being pursued by agents of The Vine, the aliens that abducted him 1600 years ago. When their first attempt to capture him fails, they hire the mercenary Ninjak, who has more success. Robert Vendetti has updated the original book quite well, and while I liked Cary Nord’s art on this title a great deal, I’ll admit that Lee Garbett and Stefano Gaudiano do a good job here.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Avenging Spider-Man #12
Captain America #17
New Avengers #30
Rocketeer Cargo of Doom #2
Avengers Assemble #4-6 – If we are to look at this Avengers Vs. Thanos story as Brian Michael Bendis’s try-out for his rumored Guardians of the Galaxy series, then I know that this is not a book I will need to buy. In these three issues, he has the Guardians team up with the Avengers to face the threat of Thanos, who has acquired a Cosmic Cube. The problem is that Bendis’s Guardians lack the wit and characterization the team showed when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were writing their book. Also, Bendis has made some rather random changes to the team, such as jettisoning some members, returning Star-Lord to the living without explanation (and making him blond, with a Quicksilver hairdo, although that may just be Mark Bagley’s fault), and taking away the team’s teleportation capability. Also, the logic behind taking a team of Avengers that includes Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America into space, without picking up some of the more cosmically-appropriate Avengers ‘assembled’ by Maria Hill escapes me. Add to this Bagley’s sub-par art, and this is not a very good comic.
AVX: Vs. #5 – Time to check in with the proudly pointless Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-in. The lead story features Hawkeye fighting Angel (and sort of Psylocke). Clearly Matt Fraction hasn’t been reading Wolverine and the X-Men, because this is not the Warren Worthington who’s lost his identity and thinks he’s an angel. The Jason Aaron-written Black Panther/Storm confrontation works much better, and goes to show that Aaron should be writing a Panther comic regularly. He remembers to put some character into this fight, as the two reflect on their marriage, and show that editorially-mandated weddings, much like arranged marriages, don’t always work out for the best.
Captain America #15 – This series continues to underwhelm, as some new, short-lived agents of Hydra called the Discordians appear and trash New York, while a Fox News mouthpiece starts calling for Cap’s retirement. Ed Brubaker’s plotting of this book has been the equivalent of ‘paint by numbers’ since it was last relaunched, and with Marvel Now! imminent, it’s clear he doesn’t much care anymore, and is just phoning it in (even with Cullen Bunn co-writing). Talk about going out on a low note, compared to how this book was just over a year ago…
Captain America & Iron Man #634 – Unlike the main Cap book, though, this one is becoming more delightful, as Steve and Tony team up to fight Batroc and his brigade, while also tracking the new super-villainess that was introduced in the Cap and Hawkeye arc. I think the big difference here is Barry Kitson, who excels at the straight-up superhero action comic.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
by Ross Campbell
Having forgotten what reading this book can be like, I stupidly thought that I could read twenty pages or so starting at 12:30 the other night before going to sleep. Needless to say, it was a late night, and the book was done before sleep took me.
Ross Campbell’s Wet Moon is a completely unique comics experience. It is a long-running series of graphic novels set in a Southern college town. It revolves around the lives of a group of (mostly) young women (there are a few male characters) who attend school, argue, and fall in love with each other. Most of the characters embrace punk styles, are bisexual or lesbian, and have bodies shaped like the ones that real women have, not like their comic book brethren.
Prior to volume five, which came out a while ago, Campbell’s story mostly stayed in the realm of teen/early 20s soap opera, but that fifth volume had one of the main characters, Trilby, viciously attacked and left for dead in a swamp by a crazed young woman (who is also sort of in a relationship with Trilby’s best friend).
This volume follows with the fallout from that attack, as Trilby lies in a medically-induced coma in the hospital, and main character Cleo and her circle of friends have to cope with mortality being thrown into their faces. That’s not to say that this is a group of people that are unused to the curves life can throw us – this book is filled with beautiful young women who are missing an arm, are ‘thalidomide babies’, and have facial scars (to say nothing of the sudden appearance of a pair of women who are conjoined at the head). But still, when you live in a safe college town, you don’t expect to get stabbed.
This is not the type of thing I would usually enjoy, but I find Wet Moon to be fascinating. Campbell has such a strong sense of his characters, and also throws them into such strange situations, that I can’t put these books down. His work is kind of trashy, but it also elevates itself beyond the confines of the genre he works in.
Artistically, Campbell’s work looks a lot looser in this volume compared to the others. At times the characters appear less solid than they have in the past; it’s a nice progression. Length-wise, I feel that this book could have had more story in it, especially given the price, but I also understand that with Glory coming out monthly (and being so good), Campbell is a pretty busy guy.
I eagerly await the next volume.
Album of the Week:
Brother Ali – Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color – Brother Ali is back with a very nice new album. Ali has always been a very personal rapper, and on this disc, he continues to talk about the problems and triumphs of his life. This time around, the beats are all by Jake One, and not by his usual collaborator Ant. There are plenty of nice tracks, but it also feels like Ali is pushing for some more radio-friendly songs, with the result being that a few pieces are pretty bland. Still, I love sitting back and listening to Ali’s warm, rich voice as he spits some truth.