The Weekly Round-Up #148 With Fatale, LP, Non-Humans, Sweet Tooth, Rotworld, AVX & More

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians, and Happy Genocide Day to my American readers!  Let’s talk about comics…

Best Comic of the Week:

Fatale #8

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Fatale is such a great series.  This second arc has jumped in time into the seventies, although the series central figure, in flashbacks at least, Jo, has not aged or changed.  This issue ties the first and second arcs together in a number of ways.

The book opens with another present day ‘interlude’, featuring Nick, who is still trying to figure out the mystery surrounding his godfather, Dominick Raines, Jo, and the creepy men who are following him around.  Nick has gone into hiding while trying to figure out his next move, although he can’t stay away from misfortune.  He suddenly remembers that he met Jo in his past, in an interesting scene which is later shown from a different perspective in the flashback.

Back in the 70s, Jo is rather freaking out, knowing that the cult she has been hiding from has discovered that she is alive and in LA.  She is wracked with uncertainty, and is more than happy to find comfort in the arms of the failed actor who has been our POV character in this arc.

We also learn a lot more about Hansel, the leader of the Method Church, and what his goals really are.

This is an incredibly well-scripted and drawn comic.

Other Notable Comics:

LP

Written by Curt Pires
Art by Ramon Villalobos
I’m always up for an interesting, attractive self-published comic, so when I saw and flipped through this one-shot at the store I shop at this week, I figured it was worth bringing home.

LP is a comic about F, a rock star who owns a particular record.  It’s not clear just what the record does for him, but when it gets stolen backstage during one of his shows, he feels the need to track it down and slaughter the people who have it.  He finds it at the right time too, because the drug dealers he owes money to want it for themselves.

This is not a particularly long comic, but it’s pretty enjoyable.  Curt Pires develops F’s character and world just enough to give the story a more textured feel than we would get in a shorter piece, but it’s Ramon Villalobos who is the star of this show.  His art reminds me of Geof Darrow and Rafael Grampá, in that it’s highly detailed and pretty crazy at the same time.

Apparently this book was available at Fan Expo this summer, but I missed it.  I’m glad I got a chance to catch up with it.

Non-Humans #1

Written by Glen Brunswick
Art by Whilce Portacio

Often in comics, great ideas lack the execution or follow through that would allow them to become great comics.  I was unsure about picking up Non-Humans, the new series (mini-series?) by Glen Brunswick and Whilce Portacio.  I’m disappointed to say that this is an example of that type of idea.

Brunswick caught my eye with his series Killing Girl, which also didn’t live up to its potential (but the blame for that lies in the shift in artists half-way into the project).  Portacio is an artist that I’ve both liked and disliked over the years.  He was a cool alternative to artists like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld back in the pre-Image days, but at other times, I’ve found his storytelling difficult to follow, and his art very unclear.

I think Portacio is the biggest problem with Non-Humans.  The central idea is very interesting.  NASA space probes have brought a strange disease back to Earth that causes inanimate objects to come to life.  Somehow, this birthing is caused by a person who is carrying the disease, which is most active in adolescents.  That means that it is most frequently toys that gain life.

The implications of this are wide-spread.  Everyone between the ages of 13 and 18 are forced to take medication to deaden their creative impulses, leaving the world full of addicts who have to continue buying the pills on the black market once they hit the age of 19.  It also means that toys and other things that spark imagination, such as the Internet and television, have been banned.

The living Non-Humans are conferred some basic rights, assuming they have the appropriate paperwork, but they are discriminated against, and live in ghettos.  One Non-Human, Humphrey, a former ventriloquist’s doll, has made a name for himself as a serial killer and assassin for hire.

Our hero in this series is Detective Aimes, your typical overworked brilliant detective, who comes complete with a failed marriage and a difficult relationship with his son Todd.  Todd has been dating a Victoria Secrets mannequin, and they want to start a family, so he’s stopped taking his medication.  Aimes has to manage this issue, hunt for Humphrey, answer to his bosses, and break in a new partner.

That part of the story is pretty standard stuff, but Brunswick makes the characters interesting.  The problem for me is mostly visual.  Many of these Non-Humans are impossible to understand.  Action figures, mannequins, stuffed animals all make sense, but there are some truly horrific, human-sized things wandering around in this future world, and I don’t understand what they are supposed to be, or why anyone would have made them.  There is a Non-Human detective, named Medic, and he looks like a robot.  Were he a crash-test dummy, it would make sense, but this doesn’t.

And, as is usual with a Whilce Portacio comic, there are sequences I just can’t decipher.  I wish this comic had a stronger artist, and had been workshopped a little further, because it’s an interesting read.  At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll be getting the next issue or not.

Sweet Tooth #38

by Jeff Lemire

As a long-running series like this gets closer and closer to its big finish, it becomes ever more difficult to say anything new about the final few issues.

Abbot, the main villain of this series, is approaching the small Alaskan town where Jeppard, Gus, and the rest of the cast have holed up.  Jeppard and Jimmy, his old hockey buddy, plan on holding off the attackers so that Becky can escape with the hybrid children.

As usual, plans don’t work out the way they are supposed to, and this is probably the bloodiest and most violent issue of this series to date.

Lemire continues to play around with the layout of his pages, and continues to do some very cool things with this book.  I love the two facing pages where Jimmy lights some dynamite as a way of slowing down Abbot’s men.  The lit fuse travels around one page before blowing up the explosives on the opposite one.  It’s little tricks like that that have kept this series so entertaining from the beginning.

Thief of Thieves #9

Written by Robert Kirkman and James Asmus
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

How much literature is built around the theme of sons trying to claw their way out of the shadow of their fathers?  It’s not hard to think of many examples, but I am having a harder time thinking about stories about fathers being disappointed by their children.  We tend to root for the underdogs, so therefore it is the children of the powerful, domineering, or wildly successful that we have more sympathy for, than for the men who have perfected their craft, and have to deal with the awkwardness of having their offspring attempt to follow, and fail utterly.

This, however, is what the second arc of Thief of Thieves is most focused on.  Conrad has gone to great lengths to get his son Augustus out of jail, and make it so that the FBI had to drop their charges against him.  Now though, Augustus is owing money to some very dangerous people, and is just not smart or skilled enough to keep himself out of trouble.  He’s spent too many years trading on his father’s reputation, and is now expected to produce the master thief, if he wants to protect his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Conrad has discovered, through his own sense of hubris, that the FBI agent that has pursued him so vigorously over the years, has decided instead to target Augustus, since he’s easily the weakest link.

This arc is very well plotted, and nicely scripted by James Asmus, who is a positive addition to the team.  Shawn Martinbrough is always brilliant.  I can’t think of many other noir family dramas – this is an original and very cool book.

Westward #1

By Ken Krekeler

I gave this a serious look through at the comics shop last week, but decided not to give it a try.  Then, I read at the Comics Should Be Good blog about how this is an excellent comic, so I added it to my haul for this week.

It is a very good comic.  Ken Krekeler is telling a pretty different storie in this series.  We open with a few establishing scenes that let us know that we are a little ways into the future, and that not everyone is happy with corporate dominance.  We don’t know much more than that though, when we are introduced to Victor, who has just woken up from a ten-year long coma.  He has no real memories, although his personality seems intact.

As the comic progresses, we learn that Victor is the son of the owner of Westward Enterprises, a very powerful corporation with a wide variety of holdings.  His sister, Annabelle, more or less runs the company now.  We also learn, through flashback, that Victor was a high-priced model and complete and total moron.

What we don’t know, but can start to figure out, is just what kind of accident Victor was in, why so many people are so interested in just how his recovery is going, and why the ‘manifold’ project, which seems to involve him, has been so expensive.  There are a couple revelations handed to us in quick succession at the end of the book that make me look forward to the next one.

Krekeler is a fine writer, and his art is serviceable, in a way that reminds me a little of when Brian Michael Bendis used to draw his own comics (if he had a steampunk aesthetic).  This is a nice thick comic, that only cost $2.99.  There is definitely more than enough going on here to bring me back for the next issue.  You should ask your store to start carrying this, or order a copy online from Krekeler; it’s very good.

Quick Takes:

Animal Man #13 – Jeff Lemire really ramps things up in Rotworld.  A year has passed while Buddy was in the Rot, and now Arcane and his kind have taken over the world.  A few surviving heroes take him on a tour of what’s left, while in a flashback, Ellen goes looking for the missing Cliff.  There are some very strong visuals in this book, thanks to Steve Pugh in the Rotworld segment, and Timothy Green on the flashbacks.  These ‘few heroes left to defend the world’ stories always work for me, so I’m enjoying this.

Avengers Academy #38 – Now that all the Avengers Vs. X-Men nonsense (see below) is over and done with, Christos Gage is able to do what he does best – write a solid, character-driven comic.  The Academy kids and faculty host a flag football game against a bunch of students from the Jean Grey school, and we are given a very, very good comic.  Gage excels at the types of character interactions that fill this comic, as the students get to know each other a little better, and move forward (although, unfortunately, that looks like they’re moving forward to a new series where they end up killing each other (Avengers Arena)).  Tom Grummett’s art continues to leave me cold, but everything else about this issue is great, even if some of the moments between characters get a little saccharine.  Mettle and Rockslide discussing the state of each other’s ‘junk’ is worth the purchase price alone.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 – Well, this all ended pretty much as I would have expected it to.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but really, are there any surprises in this book?  I guess I didn’t expect one of the big changes of the Quesada era to be reversed here, mostly because I don’t feel like this change is going to improve the Marvel Universe, especially without a tent-pole X-Men book that would be interested in it (as Bendis is not into using new characters, just bringing back old ones).  I feel like this book neither impressed me, nor angered me.  I’m glad the cross-over is over (aside from the two mini-series that start this month following up with it – which I would ignore were Kieron Gillen not writing one of them).  Yawn.

Daredevil: End of Days #1 – I keep telling myself that I’m done with Brian Michael Bendis and his comics (with the notable exceptions of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Powers), but then this series, set somewhere in the future and detailing the death of Daredevil comes out, and has two of my top three Daredevil artists attached to it.  After Frank Miller, Klaus Janson is my go-to Daredevil guy.  He followed Miller’s historic run (actually, Miller was still writing when Janson landed on the title), and he is an artist that I’ve long felt doesn’t get enough work in comics.  He’s being inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, who painted a Daredevil OGN back in the day that I found thrilling.  I had to get this, no matter who was writing it.  At first, this comic didn’t grab me, but by focusing the book on Ben Urich, the Daily Bugle reporter, Bendis and his collaborator, David Mack, slowly drew me in.  The comic shows DD getting killed by Bullseye very early on, but as Urich starts to investigate it for what is likely going to be the last real article the closing Daily Bugle ever prints, we learn a lot more about what Matt Murdock was up to over the years, which included him taking over Hell’s Kitchen and publicly executing the Kingpin.  Ben Urich has always been a favourite character of mine, this comic looks fantastic (I love the page where Sienkiewicz draws the Kingpin in one of those 80s vests), and the pacing is much less decompressed than any of Bendis’s recent superhero work.  I’m on board for this one now.

Defenders #11 – Here’s a story that’s destined to be retconned out of existence or just completely ignored.  The Silver Surfer discovers the secrets of the engines that the team has been investigating, and also learns just why so many wonderful things happen on the Earth in the Marvel Universe, as his teammates try to figure out what to do about the Death Celestial.  The story is making more sense now, and artist Mirco Pierfederici does a good job, but often his lines are thicker than I usually like.

Detective Comics #13 – Too many of the DC books I buy are Batman books.  I love the character, but don’t need to be buying one or two titles featuring him or his family every week.  However, when I learned that John Layman, the writer of the excellent Chew would be taking over this title, I figured I’d have to add it to my pull-list.  Obviously, I wasn’t expecting the writing on this book to be as funny, inventive, or as free as what Layman can do on his own title, but I was expecting a little more from this.  The story is about a large plot by the Penguin to keep Batman busy so he can kill Bruce Wayne, mostly so he can take his place as Gotham’s biggest philanthropist.  It’s a kind of pedestrian plot, and while I liked the focus on Batman as a detective, I felt like there was nothing new being done here.  I don’t know if this issue underwhelmed because DC editorial is placing Layman on too tight of a leash, or if it’s because Layman doesn’t have as much to work with when it comes to Batman as he does his own material, but I’m not sure this title will stay on my list, especially since it’s one of DC’s $4 titles…

Dial H #5 – “Most of the time, mix up math, philosophy, history, spiritualism, telephone engineering and an open mind, it would get you nowhere.”  Really, this is as good a description of China Miéville’s ‘Dial H’ as anything I can think of, and it’s kind of amusing to hear one of his own characters say it in what has to be the best (okay, maybe second best, because the zero issue was great) issue of the series so far.  Nelson has to face off against Ex Nihilo and the Abyss with only a broken dial to help him, and he’s been turned into Cock-a-Hoop, the half-chicken, half-hula hoop superhero.  This book is whimsical and strange, while strictly to its own internal logic.  It’s really growing on me.

Earth 2 #5 – This title also continues to grow on me, as the various ‘wonders’ work together to stop Grundy, and the council that runs the World Army brings in Terry Sloan to figure out how to stop everything.  There are hints of more characters (Red Tornado, Steel) to come, and a growing sense of cohesion among the characters we’ve already been introduced to.  Add to that Nicola Scott’s great art, and this book is really working well.

Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm #2 – The moon has exploded in a nuclear explosion, and now bits of it have come raining down on Ape City, causing fire, structural collapse, and other issues.  Where Darryl Gregory and Carlos Magno’s excellent Apes series seemed like a comment on Israel and other Apartheid states, Cataclysm has more of a Hurricane Katrina vibe to it, as Gorillas bar the Chimpanzees from leaving their part of the city, and flood waters begin to rise.  This is a very good book.

Swamp Thing #13 – Parallelling this week’s Animal Man (see above), Swamp Thing returns to the Earth to find that the Rot has taken over.  He journeys to the Parliament of Trees, with Poison Ivy and Deadman as companions, and learns that things look pretty hopeless.  This series continues to impress, and it’s nice to see Yanick Paquette draw an entire issue.

Uncanny X-Force #32 – Another excellent issue, as the team infiltrates the Brotherhood’s base looking to free Genesis before Deadpool kills him.  Rick Remender has managed to find the space to give all of these characters (okay, maybe not Eva), their own cool couple of moments as he continues to unspool his long storyline.  Phil Noto’s art is great.

Uncanny X-Men #19 – And now how much better is this than Avengers Vs. X-Men #12?  I firmly believe that Kieron Gillen is one of the three or four best writers employed by Marvel; in fact, I’d say that he’s tied with Jonathan Hickman for the top slot, but Jason Aaron, who wrote AvsX 12 is a damn fine writer too (read Scalped, not his Marvel work, and you’ll agree).  So why is this the better comic?  Because it’s not written by committee, and it doesn’t feel the need to give a number of different characters their one or two minutes in the sun.  Instead, it simply shows us where Scott Summers’s head was at during that final large battle, and in its immediate aftermath.  Gillen (and Matt Fraction before him) both understood Cyclops in a way that not even Chris Claremont could, but Gillen is the one that made him a great character.  Too bad Marvel has more or less ruined the character for a number of years with this crappy cross-over.  I’m really going to miss Gillen writing the X-Men…

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

Action Comics #13

Amazing Spider-Man #695

AVX: Vs. #6 (only for the Jim Mahfood strip)

Fashion Beast #2

Legends of the Dark Knight #1

Bargain Comics:

The Phantom Stranger #0 -I’m pretty sure this is the first Dan Didio comic that I’ve ever read.  I’m also pretty sure that it’s going to be the last.  It’s not horrible, but it’s also not the least bit interesting.  Didio is determined to make it clear that the Phantom Stranger is Judas Iscariot, but he’s never mentioned by name, which is weird.  It’s also weird that, in 2000 some years of wandering the Earth, PS has never started to ‘redeem’ the silver coins that are stuck to his skin (but which somehow let him put shirts and jackets on under them), but now he will.  I give this eight issues at the most, and that’s with the boost that the Trinity War (whatever that really is) is going to give the series.

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #4 & 5 – Brian Wood’s Wolverine, Armor, and Quentin Quire mini-series was decent, but didn’t need to exist.  Jason Aaron has already addressed the Quire/Logan relationship in the main title.  Still, this was a decent read.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Marquis Vol. 1 Inferno

by Guy Davis

I have been a fan of Guy Davis’s work since I first came across it in the pages of Sandman Mystery Theatre, the excellent Vertigo series that followed the early career of the Golden Age Sandman.  I’ve also found a great deal of enjoyment from Davis’s work with B.P.R.D., but I had never read his solo work, The Marquis.

To be completely honest, I was disappointed.  I had pretty high hopes for this book, because the concept sounded terrific.  Set in an alternate history in a fictional city in 18th Century France, the Church has taken over most aspects of society.  There is an almost fetishistic obsession with confession, and Inquisitors run the show.  This city, Venisalle, has been overrun with demons who are inhabiting the bodies of the citizens.

One elderly man has the ability to see these demons for what they really are, and the ability to dispatch them back to hell.  He takes on the guise of The Marquis, a masked and cloaked figure armed with very special firearms and a sword, and he tracks them down, gaining the attention of the Inquisition at the same time.

It should be really cool, right?  Especially given Davis’s incredible artistic skills, and penchant for creating incredibly bizarre creatures.  The problem is that the first story, Danse Macabre, which takes up most of this book, is in fact pretty dull.  The two subsequent stories, ‘Hell’s Courtesan’ and ‘A Sin of One’ are much better though, and by the time I finished this volume, I was wishing there was more to read.

Davis worked on these comics over many years, and it’s clear that over that time, he learned much about the craft of writing comics.  I would not hesitate to pick up a new Guy Davis-written comic (especially if he drew it), but I can’t really recommend this book.

Album of the Week:

Flying LotusUntil the Quiet Comes – This new album is easily Flying Lotus’s most accessible works to date, but that does not detract from its haunting beauty.  FlyLo is a master at spinning out thoughtful, intelligent post-hip-hop constructions that are steeped in tradition but chart their own path.  One of the best new albums of the year.

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