The Weekly Round-Up #150 with Godzilla, Chew, Glory, Saucer Country, The Walking Dead & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #3

by James Stokoe

It’s hard to describe how wonderful this comic is.  James Stokoe, an artist like few others, is telling a long story about the people who have worked for half a century to stop Godzilla, and the other monsters like him.

This issue is set in Accra, Ghana, in 1975.  All of the various monsters – Mothra, Hedorah (MF Doom taught me the name was Geedorah, but whatver), Rodan, and all the others, have been summoned to this massive example of 70s urban African sprawl, along with Godzilla.  They haven’t come there by chance – there is a clear reason for their behaviour, and it involves an American scientist who has betrayed the AMF (I don’t remember what that stands for) and set out for personal gain.

Stokoe quickly introduces a number of new characters, who make up the specialist teams tasked with stopping each of the monsters.  My favourite is the pair who are assigned to Mothra, an afro’ed Black Power type and his bearded hippie companion, who drive around in a tricked out VW van.

Stokoe’s work is always visually inventive and almost overpoweringly detailed, and that continues here.  This book is a lot of fun, and is absolutely gorgeous.

Other Notable Comics:

The Activity #9

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Mitch Gerads

Every month, I feel the need to comment on the fact that I like this book, mostly because with every issue, some if the title’s flaws get in the way of my full enjoyment of the comic.  I wish this series could fix its problems, because I believe that a terrific comic is hidden in here.

This issue, the team is sent to Somalia to help a British SAS group rescue a British national who is being held by a warlord.  We meet the British team, and one of them shares some awkward flirting with Fiddler.  The mission is put into jeopardy when American missile support moves up their timeline.  Meanwhile, Stateside, plans are made to test the team to make sure that no one has compromised themselves, in the light of some recent mistakes.

The writing is taut, and the pacing very good.  The problem is that, nine issues in, it’s still hard to care about these characters, because they haven’t been very developed.  I know that’s part of this book’s shtick – that these people are so dedicated to their job and servicing their country that they don’t have personal lives – but it leads to a lack of emotional investment on my part.

The other big problem with this issue is the art.  Mitch Gerads, the usual series artist, switches up his style this issue, giving us a sketchier, more messy style.  It works with the subject matter, but it makes it even more difficult to tell who is who, especially when the action switches from the usual team to the British one.  I’m all for artists experimenting with their style, but storytelling should still come first.

The Activity is a good comic, and Edmondson is writing it intelligently, by allowing the on-going story of what’s happening at command levels to build with each issue, while still spotlighting the mission.  There are things that need to be fixed though.

Chew #29

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

It’s time for another great issue of Chew.  What I’m finding very cool about this book lately is the way in which Tony Chu, the main and title character, has been relegated to a supporting role while he recovers from his injuries.

This month, Tony’s sister, his ex-partner, and his other ex-partner’s ex-(and still-)partner team up to foil a plan by the powerful cibopath known as the Vampire and the Collector, from adding a new power-set to his collection.

A victuspeciosian has set up a beauty parlour, and the FDA, NASA, and the USDA have decided that they need an inter-agency task force to bring her down.  What’s a victuspeciosian you ask?  Well, a victuspeciosian is a person who has the rare ability to use a combination of food products to temporarily alter the appearance of another person into whatever they wish.  I’m sure, for a gifted etymologist, that would be obvious.  The rest of us must continue to rely on John Layman’s helpful notes.

As always, this is a fun issue of Chew, with excellent writing and art, a novel situation, and more than a few terrific sight gags.  Oh, and Poyo the cybernetic rooster fights a giant Mecha-Turducken in Japan.  Great stuff.

Glory #29

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell

Having never read even a single issue of Rob Liefeld’s original Glory series, I don’t know if the recent addition to the cast of Glory’s sister, Nanaja, involves resurrecting an older character, or if this is someone new to the title.  What I do know is that, despite being about seven feet tall and having a tail, Nanaja is basically Trilby, the character from Ross Campbell’s excellent series Wet Moon.  She has Trilby’s face, and her mouth, and her inclusion in this book has added a new layer of enjoyment for me.

After having fought off an incursion by her father’s people, Glory and her friends pack up their weapons and head to Paris, with the idea that they will recruit Nanaja to aid in their cause.  First though, Glory has to stop off in a small town to visit her old friend Jim, who she fought with in the war.

This leads to a couple of discussions about the dangerous path Glory seems to be taking, and the threat she poses to her human friends Gloria and Riley.  Jim is clearly in love with Glory, but is also more aware of her dangerous nature than anyone else.  It also looks like her reunion with her sister won’t be all that pleasant.

I’ve liked how Joe Keatinge has taken his time explaining all of the problems in this book, but I also feel like it may be time to pick up the pace a little.  Still, this is a refreshingly good comic, and I love Campbell’s art.  No one draws women like him, especially gigantic, muscle-bound alien women.

Saucer Country #8

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ryan Kelly

After two issues of data dumping concerning the existence of aliens and their technology, Paul Cornell returns to his main plotline, as Governor Alvarado prepares herself for a debate during the Democratic primaries.  Her opponent is a pretty smooth player, and Alvarado is still readjusting to life after her abduction.

Cornell gives most of the main characters some space of their own this issue.  The Governor’s ex-husband was abducted with her, and he’s also having a hard time, missing time, and having some difficulty managing reality (as we see in a beautifully executed, if complicated, scene).

Professor Kidd is using the campaign as cover to investigate other instances of abduction, including that of a woman who may have been on the alien craft the same evening as the Governor.  This is putting him on the trail, and quite probably the radar, of the ‘Men in Black’, who have a very peculiar way of keeping their existence out of the media, and paying homage to one of my all-time favourite TV shows at the same time.

Cornell is doing some very cool work with this series, and Ryan Kelly is one of the best artists for this book.  He excels at drawing real people, and putting them in real situations.  Few artists can pull off books that involve a lot of scenes of people sitting around talking as well as Kelly can.  This is a great title, and it proves that Vertigo still has some life in it.

The Sixth Gun #26

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

It’s often difficult to find much to say about issues that take place in the middle of an arc.  The Sixth Gun is a terrific book, that does not get as much attention and accolades as it deserves.  It’s set in the late 19th Century, in an America that is not unfamiliar with magic and the supernatural.

The book centres on Drake Sinclair, a former gun for hire, and Becky Montcrief, a former simple farm girl.  These two, between them, possess five of a group of six mystical pistols that each have a separate magical ability (one rots its victims, another shoots fire, and so on).  They are being pursued by any number of foes and opportunists, although at the moment, they are trapped in a wintry land by a Wendigo spirit.  In this issue, Drake reveals a story about the time he last encountered a Wendigo, and we learn the truth about the creature’s nature, and how to kill it.

While they are hunting for the creature, their friend Gord Cantrell is looking to find them.  He’s joined up with the lying gunman Kirby Hale, and the nine-foot tall mummy Asher Cobb.  They are being pursued by the Sword of Abraham, another group who want control over the guns.

This series is fast-paced, exciting, and excellently drawn.  I love how Bunn weaves a variety of traditional beliefs about the supernatural into the narrative, and I always look forward to the next issue.

The Walking Dead #103

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

It’s hard to imagine how the events of this issue must have felt for Rick.  Over the years, we’ve seen him swallow many a bitter pill, as his decisions and mistakes have led to the deaths of many characters that have been important to him.  Still, this issue must have been a rough one.

Negan shows up at the gates with a large force of his Saviors.  He’s there to pick the gated community where Rick and his people live clean, as per his new agreement with Rick.  His forces help themselves to mattresses, medicines (just the good stuff), and who knows what else, while Negan basically struts around like he’s cock of the walk.

Most of the issue is given over to this debasement, but thankfully, Kirkman does give us two scenes towards the beginning of the issue that tell us what is really going on.

As always, this comic is an excellent read.

The Zaucer of Zilk #1

Written by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing
Art by Brendan McCarthy

When I heard that IDW was publishing a two-issue mini-series by Brendan McCarthy, I immediately knew a few things about it – that it was going to be visually stunning and psychedelic, and that I probably wouldn’t understand much of it.

Surprisingly, this comic was pretty straight-forward in terms of its story and plotting, even if it was completely ridiculous from the beginning.  Basically, the role of Zaucer is a hereditary one, and the current Zaucer was the bastard child of his predecessor.  The Zultan of Zilk wants his powerful wand for himself, and so he has been obstructing his cousin’s heroic duties.

Enter into all of this Errol Raine, a drippy fellow who also wants the wand’s powers.  He abducts Tutu, a groupie who communicates through texting, and the Zaucer has to go rescue her.  The problem is that the Zultan has forbidden interdimensional travel, leaving the Zaucer no choice but to capture himself a pair of wild fancypants, which will let him travel to other worlds.

Like I said, this book is utterly ridiculous.  I love how McCarthy and his co-writer Al Ewing make use of many of the standard features of a hero’s journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell, to tell a story that is pretty much all LSD-induced nonsense so wild that it makes Brandon Graham look like Marv Wolfman.

In terms of a comic delivering exactly what it promises, you can’t find a better example than The Zaucer of Zilk.  This book is a lot of fun, and is more inventive than any five books from the Big Two put together.

Quick Takes:

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #5 – The second ‘Felicia Book’ spin-off mini-series draws to a close, with a pretty big shake-up for the Vassals of the Morning Star, the vampire-hunting organization.  This has been a decent mini-series, with some very nice Dustin Nguyen art.

AVX: Consequences #2 – This issue worked a little better than the last, but that’s because almost the entire book is made up of a conversation between Scott Summers and Logan.  Kieron Gillen is just about the only writer left at Marvel who could pull this off, as the two still try to justify their decisions throughout AvsX.  It’s hard to look at Summers’s stupid ruby crimson helmet and take the character seriously, but Steve Kurth does a better job with it than Tom Raney did last week.  I still don’t buy the non-Phoenix Five members of the Extinction Team being hunted, and I’m wondering when and where Gillen is going to be able to finish off his long-running ‘Unit the evil robot’ sub-plot.  I also think it’s time to see some Emma Frost, if only because Gillen writes her so well.

Batwoman #13 – JH Williams continues to impress with his Batwoman series, which is drop-dead gorgeous, but also an interesting read.  Kate is teaming up with Wonder Woman to track down Medusa, and this takes them to an ancient labyrinth, where the two women get attacked by a bunch of centipede-creatures.  I like how Williams (and co-writer W. Haden Blackman) are portraying Kate’s nervousness and awe at working with a demigod, as well as how they have her hold her own in the situation.

BPRD 1948 #1 – It’s been a while since the 1947 mini-series, and I think a short recap would have been in order, but this is an interesting start.  Professor Bruttenholm travels to Utah to investigate some strange goings on at a facility where scientists are experimenting with using atomic bombs to launch spacecraft.  That doesn’t sound like a typical BPRD story?  Well, flying creatures keep attacking their personnel.  Young Hellboy gets a little more play than he did in the previous 1940s stories, and Max Fiumara does a great job on art (I was going to complain that I liked Bá and Moon on 1947 better, but then I saw in the back the announcement that they will be drawing the follow-up to this, and all negativity left me).

Daredevil #19 – Mark Waid reveals just why Matt Murdock (and everyone who knows him) has been questioning his sanity so much lately, and upgrades an old Spider-Man villain to boot.  The problem with that is that this particular character had always been a favourite of mine, and I loved his design.  The new look doesn’t really work for me.  Besides that, this is once again, an excellent issue, with terrific Chris Samnee art.

Dark Avengers #182 – My lord but this title has gone downhill since it changed its name from Thunderbolts.  The long-running storyline about the time lost members of the team gets resolved here, as they arrive back in the present just in time to try to stop the Dark Avengers team from ruining the future.  Very little makes sense here, as Neil Edwards is not really able to manage so many different characters very well, and as Jeff Parker crams in a return to power for the Juggernaut (who came out of nowhere, and is given an even uglier helmet to wear than he previously had), and a completely unemotional emotional reunion for Troll and Songbird.  I get the feeling that this story was planned out to last a few more issues, but with Marvel NOW making a Thunderbolts relaunch imminent, Parker had to wrap it up quicker than expected (and with substandard art).  I know that DA is continuing featuring Norman Osborn’s team, but I won’t be there for it.

DC Universe Presents #13 – I had higher hopes for this arc.  Writer Marc Andreyko brings both Black Lightning and the Blue Devil into the New 52, and while I’ve never been overly fond of either character, there’s just not enough done in this first issue to establish them as new characters, or to show us how they are different from the originals.  We go through the usual set-up where the two heroes fight each other, and then Andreyko tries to backfill some characterization, but it’s not handled all that well.  I only jumped on-board because of how awesome and character-driven Andreyko’s Manhunter was, but now I kind of regret having pre-ordered the rest of this…

Harbinger #5 – The first story arc ends here with Peter Stanchek confronting Harada and his Harbinger Foundation.  Joshua Dysart has done a terrific job of building up this series, and it continues to be a great read.  The art is all over the place this month though, with a couple other artists pitching in to help Khari Evans.  I hope Valiant doesn’t become like DC, with random collections of artists completing single issues all the time – Evans had given the book a nice consistent look that I would like to see continued.

Hawkeye #3 – Hawkeye has easily become the most fun, and probably prettiest, book that Marvel publishes.  This issue has Clint head out on some errands, meet a beautiful woman with a beautiful car, buy the car, sleep with the woman, and somehow end up in a high-speed chase around Brooklyn involving some Mini-driving Russian mobster types (who, like in the first issue, brutally overuse the word ‘bro’).  David Aja’s art is fantastic, and Matt Fraction is clearly writing this just for him and his strengths.  Brilliant.

Marvel NOW! Point One #1 – Should I be faulted for expecting more from Marvel’s launch of their next big thing?  This book is designed to preview many of their new titles, but it sadly did very little for me.

  • There’s a framing sequence featuring the new Samuel L. Jackson version of Nick Fury (I know I never finished reading Battle Scars, and haven’t seen the Avengers movie, but did anyone else find it weird as hell that this guy has such a prominent role at SHIELD?) and his friend talking to a visitor from the future.  As far as framing goes, the transitions into the other stories made no sense (especially since one of them was a flashback), and this made me think that I may not be all that interested in Nick Spencer and Luke Ross’s Secret Avengers.  The inclusion of SLJ Fury was going to make that a tough sell already, but now?
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy piece just showed us the new, blond Star-Lord’s origin.  It neither read like a Brian Michael Bendis story, nor looked much like Steve McNiven.  I thought it had been drawn by Mike Deodato.  My interest in this project is waning even more, which is crazy, because I loved the Abnett and Lanning version from a few years back.
  • I didn’t hate the Nova story.  I don’t remember the last time I read something by Jeph Loeb that I didn’t hate.  That doesn’t mean that I’m going to be picking this up, but still, I have hated everything this guy has done since Batman The Long Hallowe’en.  What does this mean?
  • The Forge short, which is build-up for the Cable and the X-Force series gave me another reason to skip that title.  Dennis Hopeless’s story portrays Forge as a crazy eccentric, and suggests that there’s going to be way too much Cable in this series for it to be good.  Too bad, because without Cable, the rest of the line-up is gold.
  • Now for the good stuff:  Matt Fraction and Michael Allred have Ant-Man exacting revenge on Dr. Doom in a fashion inspired by Marcel Duchamp.  How can I not love this?
  • I’ll call it right now:  Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie is going to be the best comic Marvel publishes in 2013.  I can not wait to read this series, and that’s after a couple of pages where Loki has Korean BBQ with Miss America Chavez in an alternate dimension.

So, in the final analysis, this Point One special only confirmed for me that the books that already interested me will be good, while the rest will be skippable.  It also suggested that Secret Avengers may not be worth my time, because of the badly executed inclusion of movie characters that no one knows what to do with.

Nightwing #13 – I’m not sure why Tom DeFalco is writing this book for two issues instead of Kyle Higgins, but I don’t really like it.  There’s nothing exactly wrong with this issue, which has Dick hunting Lady Shiva while the rest of Gotham copes with the Joker’s reappearance, but there’s also absolutely nothing special about it either.  Higgins has a much better sense of the character I feel.  Good thing he’ll be back in two issues.

Star Wars: Agent of Empire – Hard Targets #1 – It’s good to see both John Ostrander and his character Jahan Cross back in the Star Wars playground.  Cross is an Imperial Agent who doubles as an envoy, which gives him access to some pretty powerful people.  He’s sent to assassinate an Imperial Count, as Ostrander sets up a new story that looks to be more filled with political intrigue than straight-up James Bond style espionage action this time around, which is what made the first series so unique.  It looks like Cross is going to become disenchanted with his masters in this arc, which I think may be a mistake – having Cross be such a true believer in an organization that the readers knew to be so evil was part of the appeal.  Still, there are appearances by Bobba Fett and the young Princess Leia, and the writing is sharp.  This is a very good book.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #16 – This time around, we’re given a pretty much all-action issue, as Miles decides to try to join the Ultimates just in time for a Hydra attack to break up the lecture he was getting from Captain America.  This is a fun, dynamic issue.  Pepe Larraz handles the art this time around – he does a fine job, but he’s no Sara Pichelli or David Marquez.  At the same time, since this isn’t such a character-focused issue, that’s not a problem.  I love that Miles uses Tony Stark’s Iron Man hand as a cellphone at the end; it’s a very nice touch.

Uncanny X-Men #20 – What a shame that Kieron Gillen wasn’t given more time on the Uncanny X-Men, as he has been the best writer on the book since Grant Morrison left.  This issue is pure housekeeping, as imprisoned Cyclops talks to Sinister, Danger has a final confrontation with Unit (I got my wish – see above – although it was less than satisfying), and Peter and Illyana fight in Siberia.  It’s fitting that Carlos Pacheco drew this issue, since he was the one who started this short-lived relaunch.  I’m going to miss reading a regular X-Men comic starting next month (I’m totally passing on Bendis’s series).

Wonder Woman #13 – As the title enters it’s second year, Brian Azzarello shows no signs of moving away from the Olympic-sized family drama that is Wonder Woman’s life.  While the full-blooded children of Zeus argue in their heaven, Diana starts off on a new quest to find her demi-god half-siblings on Earth, with the hope that they can lead her to Zola’s newborn child.  This quest begins in Libya.  This books is great – among the best that DC publishes – and I enjoyed Tony Akins’s return as the regular guest artist.  Also, I’m excited about the visitor in Antarctica, who I think we can assume is Orion.

X-Factor #245 – Peter David continues to clear the decks in this title, as Alex decides to leave the team (perhaps to join the Uncanny Avengers?), Lorna decides to stay, Jamie and Layla make another big decision, and a few other things happen.  Lately, I feel like this series is more focused on figuring out who is on the team at any given moment than at telling compelling stories.  I am getting a little bored.  My hope is that with the cast pared down, David is going to refocus his stories a little better now (or is that NOW!?).

X-O Manowar #6 – Half a year into this series’s run, and it’s time to officially put it on the pull-list.  Aric spends much of this issue knocked out thanks to Ninjak, which gives the Vine agent Dorian time to betray his own people, as news of an imminent Vine invasion sounds like a bad thing.  Robert Vendetti has really set this series up well, and while I preferred Cary Nord on this title, Lee Garbett and Stefano Gaudiano are doing a fine job.

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

Avengers Assemble #8

Mighty Thor #21

New Avengers #31

Ultimate Comics Iron Man #1

Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX #5

Womanthology Space #2

Bargain Comics:

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1 – This is all pretty standard stuff, except for the incredibly bizarre short by Peter David and Bill Sienkiewicz (have they ever worked together), which shows a Looney Tunes style cartoon where Donald Duck is a Rocketeer-inspired character.  It’s pretty bizarre.  The rest of this comic is pretty, but not all that memorable.

Album of the Week:

Mike Mictlan – Snaxxx – It’s been more than a minute since we’ve seen some solo work from Mictlan, the scrappier, more pugnacious member of Doomtree.  For this project, which is available for free, or can be bought in an awesome pizza box with a t-shirt and some other goodies, Mike went outside of the Doomtree collective for production and guest appearances, and the result is a bunch of bangers.  Mike plays hard, and just about every track shows that, in this funny and irreverent collection.  Paper Tiger produced one beat, and POS is the only other Doomtree family member to stop by and grace two excellent tracks, but while I’ve never heard of the other people who showed up or produced this, I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

Get in touch and share your thoughts on what I've written: