The Weekly Round-Up #151 With Multiple Warheads, DHP, Prophet, The Unwritten & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1

by Brandon Graham
It has been years since I read Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads one-shot from Oni Press, and I never really expected to see its main characters, Sexica and Nikoli, again.  I was very pleased to hear that Graham was returning to this title for what he promises the first of many yearly mini-series.

Multiple Warheads began its life as a porn comic, which explains the main character’s name, and why Sexica, the organ smuggler, sewed a wolf’s penis to Nikoli, causing him to have ‘wolf dreams’.  In the Oni Press issue, which abandoned the porn angle, a spaceship crashed on their neighbourhood, spurring the couple to hit the road.

This series is set in the type of weird future world that has become Graham’s stock in trade.  King City, his wonderful comic, is set in a similar world, where familiar things exist alongside weird, wonderful, and pun-based items of amusement.  Our two heroes in this book are driving across the country (world?) to travel to the Impossible City.  We see what their journey is like, as they come across strange beings (Otto Barons are people who are somehow physically attached to their cars), listen to their singing cigarettes, and bemoan the lack of high-quality pastries.

Running parallel to this story, Graham introduces another organ smuggler, Nura.  Her story feels like a bridge between this book and Graham’s hugely successful run on Prophet, as this character heads out to track down a Shov Puppet, a person who is able to grow magic organs, and has to kidnap him from a castle perched atop a large walking city.

Graham is one of the most inventive and funny creators working in comics today (I love the Misogyny Parlour – where men declare their hatred of women while getting deep tissue massages by other men with porn star moustaches).  His art is terrific, and also very funny, and the best thing about this comic is that it’s a solid 48 pages, with no ads, for $3.99.  This has been a wonderful year for new comics, and Graham has just made it even better!

Other Notable Comics:

Dark Horse Presents #17

Written by Carla Speed McNeil, Phil Stanford, David Chelsea, John Layman, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Corben, Michael Avon Oeming, Tony Puryear, Erika Alexander, Robert Alexander, Colin Lorimer, and Michael T. Gilbert
Art by Carla Speed McNeil, Patric Reynolds, David Chelsea, Sam Kieth, Tony Akins, Richard Corben, Victor Santos, Tony Puryear, Colin Lorimer, and Michael T. Gilbert
I don’t know if it’s just my mood when I read this anthology this month, but I came away from it feeling a little less than impressed.  There are still some great comics in this book, but somehow, it became much less than the sum of its parts this time around.  Let’s review:
  • I love ‘Finder’, Carla Speed McNeil’s epic comics series.  The DHP stories are usually excellent, as they are beautiful.  This month’s could have benefitted from the annotations that McNeil has filled her trades with; I kind of had no clue what was going on here, as Jaegar runs with some Laeske females, before being captured by some young people with horns, who appear to be poaching Laeske eggs.  I think.  Like I said, footnotes.
  • For the second month in a row, Phil Stanford’s ‘City of Roses’ feels like a lot of set-up with no pay-off.  Something solid needs to happen here soon.
  • David Chelsea’s ‘The Girl With the Keyhole Eyes’ finally finishes.  It’s a cool idea – a free-form poem or stream-of-consciousness comic, but that kind of thing doesn’t work in a serial format, and it got kind of repetitive.
  • John Layman and Sam Kieth’s Aliens story ends as most Aliens stories do; there’s never a surprise there.  This story had some potential, but it never quite reached it.
  • I think that ‘Deep Sea’, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Tony Akins’s ocean adventure series is very interesting, and one of the most effective pieces here, while still being a standard B-movie genre piece.
  • Richard Corben adapts another Edgar Allan Poe poem, ‘The Sleeper’.  It’s creepy and atmospheric, and less gender-ambiguously creepy as last month’s.  Good stuff.
  • There is a story here by Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos, called ‘The Sacrifice’, which I guess is a one-off.  It’s fine, if you’re okay with stories about elves and magic swords in trees.  It’s pretty.
  • I’ve been loving Concrete Park, by Tony Puryear, and I’m excited to see that the two storylines have finally collided (more or less literally), in this, the last chapter of the first ‘book’.  Puryear told me that there is going to be more of this story coming soon, and I look forward to that.
  • I vaguely remember the first chapter of Colin Lorimer’s UXB from six months back or so, and I remember that I liked it, but I found this new chapter very ambiguous (at the end), and totally lacking in context.
  • I’m not very enthusiastic about Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster.  Actually, I never bothered to finish this story.
Here’s hoping that next month’s DHP is a little more impressive.

Mind MGMT #6

by Matt Kindt

The first volume of Mind MGMT ends in a way that makes a lot of sense, as Meru’s meeting with Henry Lyme continues to reveal some of the secrets of the Mind MGMT organization, and Meru’s place in the world.

Matt Kindt is an incredible comics creator.  He’s woven together a rich and dense story, and infused it with situations that are logical, if you accept that people with mind control powers really do run the world.  Meru is an interesting character, as much a puppet of this organization as are the Immortals, even though we are no longer really sure if it still exists or not.

Kindt is clearly having a lot of fun with this book.  He has built up a rich mythology, and has given himself a place to play with some of his wildest ideas.  The blue text running along the left side of each page discusses the existence of the Mind MGMT Field Guide this month; a collection of rules and tips for agents that exists in a virtual environment in their own minds, and which defies description, explanation, or transcription.

As always, Kindt’s art is a bit of an acquired taste, but I don’t think any other artist would be able to pull this book off the way he does.  Next month, we’re being given a ‘zero issue’, a concept I usually don’t like, but I look forward to seeing where Kindt takes this story next, as he transitions into his next big arc.

If you are not reading this comic, you really should be.

Prophet #30

Written by Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis and Brandon Graham

Two Brandon Graham books in the same week?  What a great time to enjoy great comics!

This issue of Prophet is one of Graham’s best (and that’s saying a lot) as he starts to tie together some of the different threads of his story by having characters begin to meet and work together.

This issue opens with a focus on Rein-East, an assassin sent to kill one of a ruling clan on a world we haven’t seen before.  She is successful, but also captured.  This part of the comic is very cool, as once again, Graham throws a large number of strange concepts and ideas at us, which all seem perfectly normal within the world he’s created.

After that, we check in with Old Man Prophet and his traveling companions.  They’ve come to the same planet, where Prophet once lived with his greatest love.  Their arrival reminds me of a key scene in The Empire Strikes Back, and they are soon fighting for their lives, joined by Rein-East, and Jaxson, the robotic creature we were introduced to a few months back.

Giannis Milonogiannis handles most of the art in this issue, and his work has really grown on me to where I think he is equal to Simon Roy, the artist who first worked on this book when Graham relaunched it.  Graham himself finishes off the issue with his own art, something I didn’t expect and was very happy to see.

Prophet remains one of the best comics being published today.

Revival #4

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Revival just keeps getting stranger, but that is by no means a bad thing.  Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s ‘rural noir’ story is moving in directions that I didn’t really expect when I read the first issue, but I’m enjoying the ride quite a bit.

In this small area of rural Wisconsin, the recent dead have come back to life.  What started off as a positive miracle has taken a turn for the negative as some of these ‘revivalists’ have begun killing people or otherwise acting very strangely.  The police are only beginning to put this together, while the quarantine on the area is causing tempers to fly out of control (the odd handful of poop too).

Seeley is playing with a lot of different characters here, as it’s becoming increasingly apparent that characters that originally seemed pretty minor in fact have large roles to play in the story, such as the television reporter we see featured on the cover.  It also seems that the creature we’ve seen lurking in the woods is possibly a demon; I was thinking alien myself.

While this issue didn’t have any references to Doomtree (the main reason why I loved the last issue), it does have a compelling story and terrific artwork.

The Unwritten #42

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
I’ve felt that The Unwritten has been floundering a little of late, and while this issue looks backwards more than it does forward, I find that my enjoyment of the series has not diminished because of this lack of momentum.
I think what’s making this book work so well right now is the addition to the cast of Didge, the Australian police detective whose dyslexia saved her from Pullman’s wooden hand, and consequently caused it to short out.
In this issue, Didge tells Tom that she met Lizzie Hexam when she was sent to the Leviathan, and that in turn sets Tom off on a quest to enter the story-world Hades and find her.  Doing this involves an old Australian novel about missing school-children, and a legend about whales (it always comes back to legends about whales with this comic).
Carey and Gross continue, month after month, to impress me with this series, although after Tom’s latest foray into the world of fiction, I’m hoping that something is going to happen to move this series towards a final conclusion; I don’t want it to become like Fables, and keep creaking along well past it’s day.

Quick Takes:

All Star Western #13 – I guess it’s just supposed to be a coincidence that, at the same time that DC is pushing the Joker into all of the Bat-books, a circus clown starts killing people in 19th century Gotham, at least until Jonah takes him out?  I was less than impressed with the main story here, which involves someone peddling Dr. Jekyl’s transformation formula as a cure-all, causing people at Haly’s Circus to go all crazy, but I did like the back-up quite a bit.  Phil Winsdale joins Palmiotti and Gray to share a story about Tomahawk that places the classic DC character in the context of the Shawnee war with the Americans in the lead-up to the War of 1812.  It shows solid research, and works much better than the main story.

AVX: Consequences #3 – With this issue, we get a better understanding of just what Scott Summers is up to in prison, and we finally get to see where Emma Frost has been.  It’s always good to get the chance to read Emma when she’s written by Kieron Gillen, but when that includes a chance for her to trade quips with Kitty Pryde?  Gold.  Now we just need Gillen to toss Namor back into the mix….  This series is kind of waffling all over the place (I assume that’s because it only exists to bridge AvsX into Marvel NOW!), but it does have the odd very good character moment.

Batman Incorporated #4 – This book’s publishing schedule is so erratic, and a zero issue has come out between this issue and #3, so it took me a while to figure out what was going on, but I enjoyed watching most of the Batman Inc. crowd wipe the floor with the League of Assassins.  I’m not sure that the ending makes sense within the context of the rest of the series, but this is always a good read, and I love Chris Burnham’s art.

FF #23 – Jonathan Hickman wraps up his legendary run with the Fantastic Four with this issue, and it has just about everything that made me love this family under his tenure.  Most of the issue is taken up with the older Franklin saying good-bye to his family, after taking Franklin for a fun run through his pocket universe.  Hickman did a great deal to restore this title after years of neglect, and I hope that the new elements he created, most notably the Future Foundation, will exist for some time to come.  Nick Dragotta, arguably the best artist Hickman worked with on these titles, does what he does best, capturing the emotion of Hickman’s story,and making everything look beautiful.  People complain a lot about Marvel’s quality these days (I know I do), but this is one of the rare titles they handled correctly.

Invincible #96 – The Robot/Monster Girl storyline has finally ended, and we get to check in with the extended cast of this book – Marc, Allen, Oliver, Eve, and even the Viltrumites.  What’s made this series so successful in my mind is that Kirkman has developed a large cast that I like very much, so while it has more of an open-ended soap opera feel than even the X-Men does, I’m always happy to read a new issue.

Invincible Iron Man #527 – Matt Fraction wraps up his long, long run on Iron Man with a collection of some very good scenes.  Now that he’s back in control of his life, Tony feels a little bereft.  He is treated with suspicion from Maria Hill, and he’s letting some other things slide (such as letting Stane go free).  His solution is odd, considering that I thought he was going to be the main character in Kieron Gillen’s run, although the end of this book does seem to be setting up his presence in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy book.  I hope Marvel’s not planning on having the character work out of two, completely contradictory books (although that appears to be the plan for Captain America too).  Anyway, I think that Fraction’s run is pretty historic – he’s done a lot of really cool things with this character, and has had one ofthe most consistently good runs of the last decade.  I don’t know how Salvador Larroca was able to draw so many issues in such a short time, and while he has his detractors, I’ve always enjoyed his work.  I now look forward to seeing what Kieron Gillen is going to do with this book – I just hope that the writing’s good enough that I can look past the art by Greg Land…

I, Vampire #13 – So now Andrew Bennett is evil, and Mary Seward is the hero of this book?  This title has gone through at least two complete upheavals of the status quo since it started, and while this issue is better than most have been, I’m getting a little tired of the constant redefining of where this book is going, especially since it makes me wonder if there’s even a plan.  Main character turned evil twice in one year?  You can’t tell me that was in the original pitch…

Journey Into Mystery #645 – I dropped Journey Into Mystery at the start of the Everything Burns cross-over with The Mighty Thor despite the fact that I’ve been enjoying it more than most Marvel books for the last year, because I’ve decided that I’m not going to be keeping up with all the cross-overs Marvel has been foisting on its readers lately, unless I already read the books involved.  I’ve loved Kieron Gillens’s JIM more than I’ve disliked Matt Fraction’s Thor, but I really didn’t want to spend the money on the cross-over (I hope someone at Marvel is reading this).  Anyway, that nonsense is over now, and I figured I’d read Gillens’s swan-song epilogue issue, which is an example of all that has been so good about this book.  Gillen has made me love Loki, a character I’ve only ever been indifferent to before.  This is a touching issue, beautifully illustrated by Stephanie Hans.  I’m very happy that Loki and Gillen will be spending more time together in the upcoming Young Avengers series, but a part of me is always going to miss this book.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #14 – I decided a while ago to drop the LDB, but since this book is so late, my pull-file hasn’t figured that out yet.  This is still a charming comic, but between the vacuous pop-culture references and the often hard to follow art (how do you dislocate your shoulder by sticking your head in a garbage bag?), I’m kind of bored.  I like the new wrinkle introduced to the series by having the LDB date his boss in secret, but how many sitcoms have run the same story?  I think I still have two more issues ordered – hopefully they’ll come out soon so I can jump ship.

Justice League Dark #13 – After last month’s zero issue revealed the ‘big bad’ of this current storyline, his appearance here doesn’t cause much surprise, as the JLD gets their butts handed to them a couple of times, and there is a high speed house chase through some other dimension.  This book is decent – I like the stuff with Black Orchid and where her powers come from – but not all that impressive.  I feel like Jeff Lemire needs to step his game up here, and I wonder if he’s dealing with a lot of editorial interference, because this really doesn’t feel like it’s his book yet.

Secret Avengers #33 – As Rick Remender approaches the end of his run on this title, things start slipping all over the place.  I still can’t believe that the team so stupidly ignored the Black Widow’s claims about Ant-Man (and now she’s nowhere to be seen), who allows a robot death squad into the team’s headquarters, where they start rampaging around, possibly killing a team member or two.  Meanwhile, Captain Britain and Hawkeye have gone to a realm where everyone is dead to look for an Orb of Necromancy or something (this is from Remender’s X-Force, right?), but of course run into resistance.  The pieces are fine, but they don’t add up to a very coherent whole, and Andy Kuhn’s guest art looks very rushed, nothing like his fine work on Firebreather (which, granted, only comes out every few years).  Like much of Remender’s run on this book, I expected more.

Talon #1 – I can’t make up my mind about this title.  It definitely feels like DC is trying to extend their Court of Owls story, which was a huge success for them, indefinitely, as they come up with a character who has a reason to fight the Court month after month for a long time to come.  The premise of the series more or less works, but the sudden appearance of a mysterious man who can act as a Bosley-type to Calvin Rose, the only ‘good’ Talon, feels rather forced.  I do like Guillem March’s art though – it makes me think of a cross between Jordi Bernet, Joe Kubert, and Andy Kubert.  I’ll give it one more issue, as the first two (there was a #0) were more concerned with set-up than anything else.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #17 I remember first coming across (or at least first really taking notice of) Luke Ross’s art on the earliest issues of Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex series, and being blown away by his realism.  I bring this up because this issue (the third this month?) looks so rushed and inconsistent that I would never have guessed it was Ross’s work.  Some pages, including the issue’s big patriotic ‘moment’, look like high school fan art.  I really wish Marvel would let their creators take the time to write and draw good comics, rather than work them like they are in a North Korean animation studio.  Oh, and the story here is starting to fall flat too.  I like the Captain President (or would that be President Captain?) angle, but no one is bothering to explore it.  I expected a lot more from Sam Humphries – I’d rather be reading more Sacrifice, Sam.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #696

Astonishing X-Men #55

Avengers #32

Captain America #19

National Comics: Madame X #1

Wolverine #315

Wolverine MAX #1

Bargain Comics:

Captain Marvel #2 – I really do want to like this series, but it’s just not doing it for me.  If the purpose of this book is to establish Ms. Marvel as a character to be taken more seriously, then I don’t understand the premise of this current storyline.  Carol wants to prove that her idol, a female pilot really did break a record a long time ago, and so she decides to fly her plane to prove that what she did can be done.  Why didn’t the pilot just do it again?  From there, this turns into a strange time travel story.  I expected a lot better from Kelly Sue DeConnick…

Green Lantern #13 – This is the first Green Lantern comic I’ve read since just after Blackest Night, when I came to the conclusion that Geoff Johns was just spinning his ever-more colourful wheels.  One relaunch, and a new character wearing the ring later, and I’m still not overly impressed.  If Simon Baz, the Arab-American (or is he black?  the colouring doesn’t make this very clear) Green Lantern is supposed to be DC’s answer to Miles Morales, then a lot more time should be spent making him and his family likeable.  It’s always nice to see Doug Mahnke’s artwork, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed much in the last couple of years.  What a shame too – this title was amazing around the build-up to the Sinestro Wars.

Punisher #7-9; 11-13 – Were I not spending so much money on comics, I would totally be picking this series up on a monthly basis (and yes, I know it just ended).  Greg Rucka has made this one of the better Punisher series of the last twenty years by moving the focus of the series away from Frank Castle, and on to the people whose lives are affected by his existence.  It’s a cool way of writing a crime comic that just happens to feature a scary vigilante from time to time; a technique that worked very well for him and Ed Brubaker in the excellent Gotham Central series at DC.  There are a ton of good artists working on this series as well – Lark, Checchetto, Colak, and Suayan all impressed me.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Building Stories

by Chris Ware

Does a book have to be a book to be considered your favourite book of the year?  Chris Ware’s new graphic novel Building Stories is a large cardboard box filled with fourteen separate pieces of comics art.  Some of the pieces are hard-bound graphic novels, others large tabloid newspaper shaped stories (think Wednesday Comics), others mini-comics, and still others just long folded strips of paper.

The subject matter is typical Ware.  People live lives of isolation and displeasure in strips meticulously designed with an obsession for architectural and design detail.

The pieces of this box can be read in any order, but I found going in ascending size order more or less progresses through the larger story in a linear fashion.  The earlier pieces I read are all centred around a single three-story apartment building in Chicago.  The later stories are narrated by the woman on the top floor, after she left the building.  This nameless protagonist is the main character, although some of the other residents (including a bee from the hive outside) get a sizeable chunk of story for themselves, as does the building itself.

The old woman on the main floor is the building owner.  She was raised in the building, and looked after both it and her infirm mother until her death, and the time when she settled into an unhappy old age of her own.  The second floor is occupied by a couple who don’t seem to get along anymore, yet don’t know how to live apart from each other.

The woman on the top floor is the real centre of this box, however.  We slowly piece together her entire life, from the accident (never shown) that takes her leg as a small child, her first serious relationship, her unhappy period of isolation, and eventually her marriage and entrance into motherhood.  Branford (the best bee in the world) also gets some screen time.

I remember having read parts of some of this work in the New Yorker and/or in McSweeney’s, but when placed in the context of the rest of the material, everything is much more meaningful and impressive.  Ware is an excellent observer of the human condition, and is capable of casually tossing in moments that can just blow you away with the honesty they portray in the fallibility of his characters.  I found much of this work depressing, but even as it bummed me out, it blew me away.

It’s hard to explain the visual wizardry that Ware creates on the page.  His pages set up their own rhythm and flow that is unique among working cartoonists.  He doesn’t use a traditional grid, but manages to craft his work in such a way that it’s instinctive to follow.  I cannot recommend this book/box enough.

Zanta the Living Legend

by Jason Kieffer

Toronto has a proud history of being home to many a street-corner eccentric, and it appears that cartoonist Jason Kieffer has taken on the task of chronicling them through his cartoons.  Kieffer is best known in the city for his controversial book The Rabble of Downtown Toronto, a field guide to the downtown’s homeless, drug addicts, and harmless weirdos.  Now, he’s turned his gaze on one of our most storied folk, Zanta.

For people not from the city, Zanta is a muscle-bound man who, from 2003 at least until 2008, would pop up around the city, yelling at people, and performing very theatrical push-ups.  I distinctly remember eating lunch at Maison du Croissant (man I miss that place) watching him block traffic while yelling at cars and doing push-ups in the middle of the intersection at Yonge and Gerard.

Zanta was immediately recognizable – he was always wearing just a pair of shorts, a pair of boots, and a Santa hat, no matter the weather.  He often performed his calisthenics on top of newspaper boxes, or upside down in the subway, while making a hydraulic noise, or wishing everyone a “Merry Christmess”.

Kieffer’s book consists of a few sections.  It begins with a graphic novel transcription of a long interview Kieffer conducted with the man in 2006.  They discuss Zanta’s love for this ‘character’, and he chronicles his many issues with Toronto Police Services and the Toronto Transit Commission’s Constabulary.  As time went by, Zanta became banned from an increasingly large section of the downtown core, and TTC property excluding bus routes.  Much of the interview is made up of Zanta defending his actions.

The second section is more straight-forward transcription of a radio interview Zanta gave while locked up in the Don Jail.  In this part of the book, Zanta seems much more mentally ill than he does in the first; gone is the harmless eccentric, replaced by the ravings of a man who seems pretty deluded.

Later, we check in with Zanta when he is free once again, and see that the constant police harassment has broken the man.  That there is no indication that he ever received any kind of useful support or assistance can be seen as an indictment on our whole city.

Still, Kieffer paints Zanta as the type of person who makes the city exciting and unique.  He suggests that we need these types of characters in our lives, and is sympathetic to the man throughout.  This is a fun read, and a nice reminder of an aspect of our city that I haven’t seen in many years, and that I miss.

Album of the Week:

POS – We Don’t Even Live Here – There is no rapper in hip-hop that I admire more than POS these days, so I was very excited to get his new album this week.  In the years since the amazing Never Better, POS has gotten steadily angrier about the state of life in the United States, and that shows here in his anti-materialist credo, and anthems like F*** Your Stuff.  He is, at all times, an intelligent and thoughtful rapper though – this isn’t a collection of childish outbursts.  Most of the Doomtree crew is represented one one track or another (although the lack of Dessa hurts me), and the whole package is fantastic.

This week word came out that Stef (POS) needs a new kidney, and has had to cancel his tour dates until a transplant can be done, and he has time to recover.  As you can imagine, being an independent rapper in the United States means that news like this is financially devastating, so buy the album at the link above to help the man out, or even better, swing over to his fundraising site to contribute something more.

 

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