The Weekly Round-Up #156 with Chew #30, Saga #7, Fatale, Marvel NOW, DC New 52 & More

My favourite store finally got in the Saga issues they were shorted two weeks ago, but didn’t get Bedlam.  You have to love Diamond…

Best Comic of the Week:

Chew #30

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

There were plenty of signs that this issue was going to be a big, important one, but I still didn’t expect it to go down the way it did.

As someone who has spent his whole life reading comics, it is rare that I am genuinely surprised or shocked by what I read.  Pretty much the only writer able to pull it off these days is Robert Kirkman, who has, three times in the last few years, caused me to pause and take a breath before continuing to read (twice major characters died, another someone special was shot in the head).  John Layman totally did it to me twice in this issue.

The book opens with Toni Chu’s wedding to Paneer.  It’s as great as that fold-out cover shown above makes it look, with the extended Chew cast acting much as they always do.  Oh, and Jim Mahfood makes a cameo!  It’s a great scene, but as Layman has often been doing to us, it’s not completely accurate, and then things take a decided turn to the dark, as some pretty terrible things happen.

I can’t discuss it at all without spoiling it, except to say that this issue packs a solid emotional wallop, while still being funny as hell.  The series is now half-way through its run, and this is clearly a turning point, as the Collector (the supposedly vampiric cibopath) pushes things to a new level.

Layman and Guillory are perfect collaborators, much like Brubaker and Phillips and Kirkman and Adlard are.  Chew is one of the best comics being published today, and this is one of its best issues.  I’m still spinning from what happened in it.

Other Notable Comics:

Fatale #10

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

The second arc of Fatale, set in the 70s, ends with this issue as many a 70s scene did – with a bunch of dead cultists and third-rate actresses.

Miles raids the Method Church’s compound to steal a book for Josephine, and finds the place deserted.  The reason?  The church has figured out where Josephine is, and they’ve gone after her in force.

This is a bloody, violent issue, and it’s great.  Brubaker announced this week that the series is now an indefinite on-going, and I am very happy about that (even if part of me worries that, as the story jumps forward through time, it will start to lose some of its strength, like what’s happened with American Vampire).

Anyway, there’s not a whole lot to say about this issue, except to make a comment about Brubaker’s writing style.  He’s always been very open about the fact that he starts arcs without knowing how they will finish, but he’s such a good writer that no one would believe that.  Jo’s gardener, first seen in the second issue of this arc, who appeared to be a complete throw-away character, gets a scene that feels like it had been predestined.  It is these little touches that make this book so great.

Morning Glories #23

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

I’m not uncomfortable admitting that I no longer have much of a clue as to what’s going on in Morning Glories.  Nick Spencer’s excellent series about a group of children who have been sent to a very strange, probably evil, secret school, has become very convoluted and confusing, especially for someone who is reading it in it’s (not quite) monthly comics form, as there are way too many plot threads to keep track of from issue to issue.

I don’t care though, because this book is still great, even when it’s just way too confusing.

Hisao (who we know as Jun) is angry with Irina for her treatment of Hunter and her decision to leave his brother Jun (who we know as Hisao) to be a sacrifice to something.  We have learned that Hisao/Jun used to be a part of Irina’s group, but we’re still not very clear as to what their mission is.  Meanwhile, Fortunato and Akiko, other members of Irina’s group, have made their way to Jun/Hisao’s sacrifice, and witness first hand what goes on there (the cover is a hint).

We are also shown some flashbacks to a point two years previous when Irina’s group made their first move against the Headmaster of the Academy.  It’s these scenes that are among the most confusing, as it’s hard to be clear on just what the kids are trying to accomplish (and because I have a hard time distinguishing between Akiko and Irina).  Also, we check in on Ike and Jade, who were last seen still playing the Woodrun game (I think – it’s been a while).

This is a very solid issue, despite all the confusion.  Spencer has a great handle on each kid’s personality and character, and in a lot of ways, it’s just fun to sit back and watch them all interact.  Joe Eisma’s art is always wonderful.

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #2

by Brandon Graham

I wonder if it would be exhausting to hang out with Brandon Graham.  The man crams so many ideas onto one single page of comics, it makes me wonder if he does the same thing when you talk to him.

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity continues to tell two, so-far separate, stories.  Sexica and Nikoli continue their road trip, driving up into some mountains.  Along the way, they meet some death-obsessed druidz, survive an alligator attack, and hang out in a nice hotel.

While this is happening, the organ smuggler (her name escapes me) finds a few more clones of her target, and enjoys some noodles (in a Pol Pot, of course).

It becomes clear, while reading this, that the plot mostly exists to serve as the vehicle for Graham’s next crazy idea, as he strings together strange sets and cute wordplay.  The characters feel developed however, and the book chugs along very nicely under its own set of rules.

Graham’s art is always beautiful, the lovechild of Geof Darrow and Moebius, and the comic is frequently very funny.  Highly recommended.

Nowhere Men #1

Written by Eric Stephenson
Art by Nate Bellegarde

When I think of Eric Stephenson as a writer, and not as the publisher of Image Comics, two things come to mind – god-awful work on Rob Liefeld’s god-awful comics back in the day, and hipster romance books like The Long Hot Summer.  That last one was enjoyable, but he’s never been a writer whose work I’ve sought out, and in the last ten years, he really hasn’t written much.

I was intrigued a little by Nowhere Men though, mostly because Nate Bellegarde’s name has been popping up in a few different places lately, and I’m always willing to try a new Image title.

This book owes a little to the success of The Manhattan Projects in making people want to read about scientists again, as Stephenson gives us a slightly confusing first issue.  When the book opens, we are introduced to four scientists who have just formed their own company – World Corp (they are all supposed to be brilliant, but that is the best name they can come up with apparently).

A couple of pages later, and we’re watching footage of an indestructible gorilla tearing through a lab.  We learn that it’s been ten years, and that there are only three of the World Corp. crew still around, and they do not get along with each other.

From there, we are introduced to a group of people who are working for World Corp. somewhere, and they are all getting sick with some unknown disease.  They discover that their funding has been cut, and that they are to remain where they are under quarantine in perpetuity.  The last page reveals where they are (which, so far as surprises go, wasn’t that momentous).

Stephenson spent most of this issue on exposition and introducing a large cast of characters.  He piqued my interest a little, and I definitely liked Bellegarde’s art, which is a little like a cross between the Luna Brothers and Nick Pitarra.  I’ll probably pick up the next issue, but I’m not sure if I’m in for the long-haul or not.

Planetoid #4

by Ken Garing

Planetoid came out of nowhere a few months ago – an interesting science fiction mini-series by a creator who I’d never heard of before – and it caught me up right away in its bleak tale of a human crash survivor who finds himself on a barren post-industrial wasteland of a planet.

The first three issues really stood out in terms of the quality of their art, and the strength of Garing’s story.  There was a bit of a pause between the third and the fourth issue, but I’m happy to see that this series is back, and moving forward as strongly as before.

Our hero, Silas, discovers a small space-worthy vessel in the hold of the large crashed ship he’s been trying to rebuild along with the community of scavengers he’s drawn to himself.  Before he can test it out, he receives word of a fresh crash, and decides to go investigate it personally.

He ends up in the hands of the Ono Mao, the alien race who claim the territory that the Planetoid the story is set on is in.  Silas is, of course, wanted by the Ono Mao for the actions that led him to the Planetoid in the first place, and his interaction with these creatures is pretty interesting, as are his actions after that.

Planetoid is definitely a strange series – it doesn’t follow the usual pattern of events in stories like this, and that is why I’m enjoying it so much.  Garing is a terrific writer and artist, and I look forward to following his career.

Prophet #31

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

I feel like, as Old Man Prophet has gathered up a group of allies to help him stop the Earth Empire, this book is getting a definite Farscape theme to it, and that is something I don’t mind at all.

In this issue, John and his companions travel to the remains of the body of Ixpoliniox, a space giant whose body has now been colonized by creatures that mine his blood, muscle, and flesh.  The body parts are the site of an active trading colony, and, for some reason, are a target of the Earth Empire.

John’s crew confront one of his clones, while John runs in to The Troll, another one of Rob Liefeld’s characters from back in the day that I only vaguely remember (after looking at images on-line) as a bit of a cross between Wolverine, Puck, and the Beast.  He hints that another Youngblood mainstay is still bumping around the galaxy as well, but this is really not the focus of the book.

The characters are beginning to interact with each other a lot more, with the tree-alien Hiyonhoiagn providing some comic relief, and helping to add to the general Farscape feeling I mentioned earlier (this whole issue reminded me of the episode where the crew of Moya ended up on the body of a space-whale).

Graham is the master of the inventive and strange, and he uses a vastly different tone here than he does in Multiple Warheads, although both books are fantastic.

Saga #7

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

I know this issue came out a couple of weeks ago, but the store where I shop got shorted their entire order (thanks Diamond!), so it took until this week before I scored myself a copy.  As expected, it was worth the wait.

In the last issue, which marked the ending of the first arc, Marko’s parents appeared rather suddenly on the family’s new tree-ship.  They zapped Izabel, the ghostly baby-sitter, and now are confronted with the fact that their son has married an ‘enemy’, and that they have had a child together.

Marko and his mother take off to try to rescue Izabel (as it turns out, she wasn’t killed, but banished to another planet), while Marko’s father starts to get to know Alana, although the two of them don’t hit it off so well.

Among all the things that make Saga such a rich and gorgeous read is the extent to which Vaughan has structured this as a character-driven series.  We know that Marko’s parents are going to be around for a while, and I like how Vaughan has tossed the family into two different situations that are going to give the readers a chance to get to know them.

This book reads very smoothly, and is drop-dead beautiful.

Wasteland #41

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Russel Roehling

It is so good to see this series back on track again, as new regular artist Russel Roehling shows improvement in his art and his handling of the regular characters, and Antony Johnston does what he does best, providing another exciting chapter to his post-Apocalyptic epic saga.

Michael and Abi were visiting the small settlement of Far Enough when they saw an object come crashing from the sky into the nearby Pre-city.  They investigated with a man they had just met, Thomas, who has the ability to get a psychic reading off of people and objects.  The object that fell, an old satellite, provides Thomas (and a reader) with an image of how the world came to its end.

Our heroes don’t get much time to dwell on this new information however, as Thomas’s daughter, Diana’s boyfriend shows up in the Pre-city, being accosted by some Dwellers.  The group’s fight and flight from these mutated creatures ends with them back in Thomas’s home, where they all discover that they have a few things in common.

Johnston’s always done a remarkable job of building his fictional world, both through the main story and the text pieces narrated by explorer Ankya Ofsteen, and this issue continues that.  There is some dispute as to whether or not the ‘talking machine’ that Abi relies on to lead her and Michael to A-Ree-Yass-I, the fabled land they think they were born in, is leading them astray.  Johnston has been building the mystery of that place since the very first issue, and I hope we’ll get to see it for what it really is soon.

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1

Written by Brandon Seifert
Art by Lukas Ketner

I’d really enjoyed the first volume of Witch Doctor (Under the Knife), and I’m very pleased to see that the series has returned for a new six-issue arc.  The series follows Dr. Vincent Morrow, an occult physician, who alongside his two assistants, treats the medical conditions that cause a number of things we recognize as magical or unnatural phenomenon.  The first volume had Dr. Morrow ‘treat’ such conditions as vampirism, changeling babies, and demonic possession.  Basically, it was Dr. Strange done correctly, were Stephen Strange a total crank and misanthrope.

With this new volume, writer Brandon Seifert switches things up a little bit.  Instead of telling a series of one-off stories, he’s giving us a longer arc that has to do with the unfortunate after-effects of a one-night stand the doctor has indulged in.

Seifert tosses right into things with this issue, as the Doctor continues his treatment of the young boy suffering from multiple possessions (I think it was the first or second issue of volume one that introduced him), and he doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the medical explanations for things.  That could be a mis-step, as it doesn’t establish for new readers just what makes this book so unique.  If the concept sounds interesting, I urge you to track down the trade, or just dive in to the this new series, with the expectation that all will be made clear eventually.

Lukas Ketner’s art has continued to improve in the almost year-long gap since the last Witch Doctor comic was published.  He excels at inventing arcane-looking medical equipment, but is also a strong character artist.  The book looks very nice in his hands.

Quick Takes:

All Star Western #14 – The best part of this series in recent months has been the relationship between Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black, but for some reason, in this issue, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have her head off on a new adventure of her own, with the Barbary Ghost, a Chinese female who has been searching for her missing mother.  This takes place amidst the chaos caused by Dr. Jekyll’s formula having been sold by circus snake oil healers.  Things in this comic are really rather strange, especially since this book is apparently launching whatever the Black Diamond Probability is.  More to my liking has been the Tomahawk back-up strip, which features DC’s fictional aboriginal hero fighting in the era of Tecumseh and his brother.

American Vampire #33 – It’s all big confrontations and big turning points this month, as Pearl and Hattie have their final fight, and we learn Henry’s fate.  This series has always looked very good (thanks to Rafael Albuquerque), but it’s felt like Scott Snyder’s attentions have been elsewhere for a while now.

Batman Incorporated #5 – Grant Morrison returns to the future world of Batman #666, where Damian is wearing the cowl, and all of Gotham has fallen to a new form of Joker toxin.  This issue is heavy on the doom and gloom, and is an enjoyable read, but I doubt anyone believes present-day Batman when he tells Damian that he’s going to have to stop being Robin.  The character is just too popular, and too rich a source of good stories.  Chris Burnham’s art is great, but you already knew that.

BPRD Hell on Earth #101 – Things just keep getting worse for the BPRD crew, as The Master becomes ever more powerful, the Zinco Corp animate the clone body (and not as you’d have expected), and Fenix takes off on the Bureau.  There are some nice character moments amid all the chaos, and a steady sense of moving forward to some big events.  Tyler Crook’s art is great.

FF #1 – I had not intended to add Matt Fraction’s Fantastic Four to my pull-file (due to a combination of my not really liking the characters or the artist), but FF was a definite from the beginning.  This book is being set up to star Ant-Man, Medusa, She-Hulk, and a girlfriend of the Human Torch in a Thing suit, and is drawn by Michael Allred.  I’m usually all over Marvel’s oddball books, and this promised to be a good one, based simply on cast and creative team.  Fraction is wisely keeping the Future Foundation in place as Jonathan Hickman structured it, and these stars are being pressed into service as the replacement Fantastic Four while the Richards extended family takes off on a space-time adventure.  This is definitely the Good Fraction writing, as he gives the characters plenty of space to be themselves.  At the same time, this issue is just a lot of set-up, so it’s too early to assess how successful the book really is going to be.  It is definitely pretty…

I, Vampire #14 – I’m ready to drop this book, but then I find myself getting more interested in it again.  Andrew Bennett (now evil) and Tig (also now evil) attack one of Andrew’s old girlfriends, who gets rescued by Mary Seward (now good) and the old professor guy (I keep wanting to call him Tot).  Andrew then goes off to start making himself a new vampire army.  Not a lot happens in each issue, but the story feels less random now than it used to.  I have stopped pre-ordering it as of now, so I’ll see how I feel next month when the new issue comes out…

Justice League Dark #14 – Jeff Lemire finished off his big story in the JLD Annual last month, and now this book is just spinning its wheels.  Constantine, Xanadu and a few others spend the issue trying to figure out where Zatanna and Tim Hunter went, while Black Orchid, Amethyst, and Frankenstein get lost in the House of Mystery.  The whole book barely goes anywhere, until Black Orchid finds the John Constantine equivalent of Rip Hunter’s whiteboard, the now mandatory method DC uses to hint at upcoming storylines.  Also, the Phantom Stranger pops up to preview the Trinity War.  I admire Lemire a great deal, but I think it might be time to cut this book loose – it’s not really going anywhere, and it feels like it’s going to be way too editorially driven in the months ahead.  On a positive note, I like the fact that Graham Nolan did the pencils this month a great deal.

Secret Avengers #34 It’s strange how sprawling, multi-part storylines have worked very well for Rick Remender on Uncanny X-Force, but with Secret Avengers, I’ve found his story to be needlessly convoluted and kind of annoying.  This issue has Venom, Valkyrie, and Black Widow escaping the robots’ attack on their base, while Captain Britain, Hawkeye, and Beast fight undead Avengers in another dimension.  No one story gets enough space to become compelling, and the book ends up feeling a little rushed.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Prisoner of Bogan #1 – The first Dawn of the Jedi mini-series wasn’t as impressive as John Ostrander’s other Star Wars series have been, and I’m afraid that this new mini-series is heading in the same direction.  Like the first one, which is set some 37 000 years before the movie continuity, this book is more exposition than plot, as the Je’Daii, the precursors to the Jedi order we all know and love, continue to deal with the knowledge that there are other Force users in the universe.  Xesh, the Force Hound, is being kept prisoner on the moon of Bogan, although when he meets an exiled Je’Daii who had gotten in trouble for having visions that Xesh’s presence helps confirm, he also gets off the moon in a hurry, making the series’s title a lie.  Jan Duursema’s artwork is lovely, and John Ostrander has enough cred to get a lot of time to impress, but I do hope this becomes a little more like the pair’s Star Wars Legacy.

Talon #2 – This is only the third issue of this series (including #0), and we already have a guest artist?  Juan Jose Ryp takes care of the pictures this month, as Calvin Rose and his handler go after a Court of Owls base that holds their most prized possessions.  This is a solid issue, as writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV introduce some distrust between the two principal characters.  I still question just how long the writers will be able to draw out a book that is basically about a man fighting an organization, before it gets too old, and the constant revelation of new assets in the Owls’ possession becomes tedious.  I do think this is the best issue of the series yet though, which means I’ll buy next month’s too (I was looking to drop this title after the lacklustre zero issue).

Ultimate Comics X-Men #19 – I really can’t make up my mind about this series.  After being offered ‘the cure’, there are only twenty mutants left in the United States, and President Captain America has deeded them some desert wasteland that used to be used to test weapons.  Gone are just about all of the X-Men, and among this twenty are some new characters.  Kitty Pryde, who has been the leader, almost loses a vote for power to a twelve year old, and the group falls to distrust and in-fighting immediately.  I’m not sure why, with the regular Marvel Universe reversing the M-Day events, the Ultimate universe needs to go through its own version of Decimation and Schism all in the same issue (the mutants have even dubbed their new compound of shipping containers ‘Utopia’).  At the same time, Brian Wood is a great writer, and I feel like he’s finally exerting some control over this book after months of just writing what the editors have been telling him to do.  I don’t want to keep buying this series though – I wonder how I’ll feel about it when the next issue comes out…

Uncanny Avengers #2 – Is this really how this series is going to go?  The Avengers, with a couple token X-Men, stand around debating the ‘mutant situation’ while a clone of the original Red Skull goes around convincing humans to kill mutants, and gets the Scarlet Witch to sign on with him (for all of 5 minutes).  Suddenly, we’re back in the early 00s, with a whole bunch of weird mutants with no story potential bouncing around, Wanda being incredibly annoying, and the story feeling very disjointed.  And the Red Skull has a base that provides different landscapes?  Why?  Because one of his followers has powers that let her teleport through water, and we needed a way for Rogue to show up.  I expect a lot better than this from Rick Remender.  At least Cassaday’s art is nice…

X-Men Legacy #2 – FF has some serious competition for the most oddball book in the Marvel NOW! line-up, as X-Men Legacy continues to intrigue me, mostly for how unlikely a comic it is in the current industry.  Legion is on a bit of a rampage in China, while his personalities are on a bit of a rampage in his mind.  He meets a pair of disembodied eyeballs (seriously), who have some sort of plan for him, while the X-Men figure out that he needs to be found.  Simon Spurrier is making this story equally compelling and perplexing, and Tan Eng Huat’s art is much better suited to this than it was to the Annihilators.  I hadn’t intended to stick with this title, but I will definitely pick up the next one…

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

‘68 Scars #3

A Plus X #2

All-New X-Men #2

New Avengers #34

Thor God of Thunder #2

Ultimate Comics Iron Man #2

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #682-687 – These issues make up the Ends of the Earth arc, which has Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow running around the globe trying to stop Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six from either curing the world of global warming, or frying it to a crisp.  Dan Slott paces this story very well, and blends character and action very nicely.  There is perhaps too much of a reliance on gadgetry, as Spidey wears special armor that looks kind of ridiculous.  Art-wise, this story is a mess, in exactly the way most Marvel books are these days.  In their insistence that their books need to come out multiple times a month, they are forced to use multiple artists on their comics.  This story is mostly drawn by Stefano Caselli, but a couple of issues are drawn by Humberto Ramos.  They are both great artists (at this point, I think I prefer Caselli), but since they have such different styles, switching issues is very jarring.  I understand the need for multiple artists (if not the need for double-shipping), but I wish they’d find more consistent pairings.

Astonishing X-Men #55 – Marjorie Liu’s run on this title has gotten progressively darker, as the nano-worm controlled X-Men have started trashing Madripoor under the control of Karma’s long-lost evil sister.  This is a decent book, but Mike Perkins’s art is not well suited to cramming so many characters into panels – I was having trouble telling Northstar from Gambit for a couple of pages.

Avengers Assemble #7 – If you want a perfect example of what’s wrong with Brian Michael Bendis’s team comics, this series is it.  Bendis has spent seven issues establishing Thanos as a cosmic-level threat, and has shown that the combined might of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are barely enough to deal with the Badoon.  Now, there will only be one issue left for them to deal with Thanos, who has just killed all of the Elders of the Universe.  Want to bet that issue 8 is even worse than this one?

Avenging Spider-Man #8 – This is an epilogue to the Ends of the Earth arc from Amazing Spider-Man (see above).  Spidey feels badly about how that story ended for Silver Sable, and decides to regale the rest of the Avengers with a story about her, Dr. Strange, and Doctor Doom set back in the day.  I’m not sure if this is an inventory story that Ty Templeton had written a long time ago, or if this was just what someone at Marvel decided was needed, but it is definitely an old-school punch-up.  It’s fine if you like that kind of thing.

The Week in Graphic Novels:


Written by Eric Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa
Art by Steve Lieber

America’s involvement in Iraq is starting to provide as rich a literary and filmic tradition as the Vietnam War did, as Americans come to grips with the extent of the damage their actions in that far-off country caused both places.  Among the more worthy of the explorations I’ve enjoyed of that war is Shooters, a graphic novel that explores the effects Iraq had on one soldier.

Terry Glass was a Chief Warrant Officer until the day that a friendly fire incident wiped out most of his troops and ended his war.  Back home, he had great difficulty adjusting to life with his wife and daughter, especially given that the military was hiding the truth about the incident, and that his soldiers were not being formally recognized for their sacrifice.

The book is a solid study of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on soldiers who never quite manage to reconcile their military life with their civilian one.  Eric Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa capture the irrational rages that grip Terry, and the crushing apathy that keeps him from holding down a successful job, or keeping his marriage together.  Eventually, Terry returns to the only world he feels comfortable in, but as a private contractor.  Now he’s still an outsider, despite being involved in military operations.

This book is pretty gripping.  The reader feels for Terry and his situation; his desire to make things right is palpable, but he’s just not capable of pulling it off in a meaningful way.  I felt that the writers really captured the dilemma that a lot of former soldiers go through, and that they didn’t need to sensationalize things to make it feel dramatic.  I’m not sure how I feel about the confrontation that ends the book though; it feels a little too neat and predictable.

Steve Lieber is just the right kind of artist for this kind of thing.  He’s proven himself a capable artist for military-based action, but he also excels at portraying quiet human moments.  It’s rare these days for Vertigo to produce original graphic novels (or, increasingly, much of anything else), and I really wish they would create more work of this caliber.

Album of the Week:

The Hot 8 Brass Band – The Life & Times of The Hot 8 Brass Band – These guys are the sound of modern New Orleans music.  Some of these songs are familiar from Treme, the wonderful HBO series set in New Orleans.  This album is a great blend of jazz and hip-hop.

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