The Weekly Round-Up #162 with Sweet Tooth, Star Wars #1, The Walking Dead #106 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Sweet Tooth #40

by Jeff Lemire

I feel that there are way too many titles that I love ending these days, and I don’t see clear replacements for them in the pipeline.  Scalped ended a few months ago, and while I loved its ending, I miss my monthly visits to the Prairie Rose Reserve more than I thought I would.  Now, I’m quite sure that I’m going to feel the same way about Gus.

Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth was always a bit of an odd comic.  Lemire made a name for himself with his amazing Essex County books, and when this monthly series about a hybrid deer-boy in a post-plague world started, it felt like quite a departure.  In no time though, Lemire sucked me into the story with his strong characterizations and his slightly wonky yet beautiful artwork.

As Gus and Jeppard grew into a strange type of family, and protected each other through encounters with angry militia men and the dangers of the road, my attachment to the story and these characters grew as well.  This series always told a solid story, and Lemire regularly experimented with layout and story-telling, to make it a reliably compelling read month after month.

This story borrows a page from other Vertigo endings, like Y the Last Man, by jumping ahead through the rest of Gus’s life, and showing us what the character has done since his last fight with Abbot in Alaska.  It’s a very satisfying ending, which is poignant, and complete.  I know that this title never lit up the sales charts, but it did lead to Lemire’s being a ‘big name’ writer at DC, with titles like Animal Man, Justice League Dark, Superboy, and soon, Green Arrow, under his belt (although he doesn’t draw any of them, which is too bad).

I’m thankful that Vertigo gave him the space to tell this story in such a complete manner, and I urge anyone who’s never read this book to go back and give it a shot.  I’ll miss Gus, but I am also looking forward to Trillium, which is the name of Lemire’s next Vertigo book.


Other Notable Comics:

Change #2

Written by Ales Kot
Art by Morgan Jeske

Change is a very cool, if somewhat hard to follow, comic.  Ales Kot has written a kind of stream-of-consciousness, or perhaps Impressionistic story about three people who have some kind of connection to each other, but it’s still not very clear what that is.

W-2, a successful rapper, escapes from a home invasion only to have his wife disappear in front of him.  He has no idea what to do, but ends up reconnecting with Sonia, a screenwriter he has just fired.  They are being pursued by the NSA, who are perhaps in league with the cultists that had just separately attacked them.  They go to a friend of W-2’s for help, but a phone call W-2 takes could have changed everything.

The first issue of this series also introduced an astronaut who was returning to Earth after a very long voyage to another planet (I forget which).  We learn a lot more about him this month, through a number of flashbacks to his childhood and his relationship with a woman who left him in debt.  At least, I assume those things all happened to the astronaut.

This book is never very quick to explain itself, and the art jumps from scene to scene without making it clear that it has moved in time or place.  Kot and artist Morgan Jeske excel at creating a mood and tone through their art and story, and that seems to be of more importance than plot.

I really like Jeske’s art, and I’m enjoying this story even if it’s not all that easy to understand at this point.  The ad in the back promises more answers next issue, and that is something I look forward to.

Clone #3

Written by David Schulner
Art by Juan Jose Ryp

I’ve been enjoying this thriller series that deals with the aftermath of a human cloning program that resulted in there being a large number of clones, all of the same man, spread throughout the United States.  Our hero is Luke, one of the clones, whose wife is pregnant with his child, something that hasn’t happened with any of the other clones.

Luke’s wife has been abducted by a government agency, which Luke has infiltrated by pretending to kill another clone who had helped him escape.  While he’s inside their facility, he is looking for his wife, with people outside waiting to help them escape.

While this is going on, a more interesting plot is developing involving the Republican Vice-President of the United States, who is expected to be the swing vote to pass a bill that will ban human stem cell experimentation.  That seems like a slam dunk for a Republican, doesn’t it, but the VP’s daughter is dying from Parkinson’s, and killing stem cell research will pretty much also kill her.  The thing is, the VP knows about the clone program, and figures that the man who started it could fix his daughter as well.

I like how Schulner has added this element of political ethics into his story, which elevates it above being a standard adventure comic.

Ryp’s art looks terrific in this issue, and he’s toned down the strange kinetic energy effect he usually uses in his art, to the point where it didn’t distract me like it has at other times I’ve seen his work.

The Infinite Vacation #5

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Christian Ward

It was definitely a pleasant surprise to see this book show up in the shipping lists for this week (it was originally solicited for May 2011), finally finishing off the long-delayed mini-series.

Opening the book, it’s not hard to see why this may have taken a while, as Christian Ward goes all out on the art, portraying some very complicated double-page spreads, incorporating photos into his work, and going into total psychedelia mode on multiple occasions. It’s a lovely, lovely comic.

The story in this series has been more than a little hard to follow, which was not helped by the length between issues, but so far as I can tell, this issue wrapped the story up pretty nicely.  The Infinite Vacation refers to a company that has figured out a way for people to swap their lives with those of their counterparts on alternate Earths.  People use a bidding app on their smartphones similar to Ebay that allows them to transfer, for a certain amount of funds, between worlds.  Obviously the science is never made clear, especially when  these alternates are able to meet with each other, and occupy the same space on one world.

The concept behind this, shaky as it is, is pretty interesting, especially since Mark, our hero, has been targeted by the company that runs things for execution.  This issue has Mark finally taking charge of his own life, and turning the tables back on the corporate types.

It’s confusing, but it’s also very, very pretty.

Mind the Gap #7

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo

In this issue, Ellis, who is in a coma, has woken up in the body of Katie, a young girl who was just taken off of life support.  Her good friend Jo arrives, and they try to talk, but as is to be expected in this sort of situation, all hell breaks loose in the hospital.  Jo tries to get some rest, makes friends with the nurse that has been helpful, meets the assistant to a psychiatrist who is also in a coma, and tries to help Ellis escape when she sees the guy in the hoodie who attacked her in the hospital corridor.

In other words, a lot happens in this issue, and McCann handles the pace very well, so it never seems like there is too much happening.  More hints as to what is really going on are being dropped all over the place – Ellis’s mother almost gives herself away as being involved, and I’m sure there are a number of hints being dropped in the analysis of the statements Ellis first made when she woke up.

One of those really stood out though, when the nurse attributed the phrase ‘sleeping furiously’ to “a long-dead guy, Chomsky”.  When exactly did Noam Chomsky die?  And why doesn’t the internet seem to know about it (I just checked my facts)?  Up until this point, no reference was made in this book that made it seem like it was taking place in the future.  Now, with a comic like this, I start to wonder if perhaps this isn’t a mistake on Jim McCann’s part, but is in fact a clue.  Or, conversely, perhaps no one needs to check facts on a book like this, since errors can just be treated as red herrings that ultimately don’t lead anywhere.  Still, it confused me.

I like this comic, and am enjoying the mystery of what happened to Ellis.  I do find some of Jo’s judgement to be pretty questionable in this issue, but McCann already explains some of that by showing us just how exhausted she is.  Rodin Esquejo’s art is lovely, but in the scene where Jo finds Dane’s father sitting by Ellis’s bed, I had no idea who he was at first, as he looks like a few other people in this book.  Otherwise, a solid issue.

Point of Impact #4

Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Koray Kuranel

I’ve enjoyed Jay Faerber’s Point of Impact, which is a quiet little crime/mystery comic.  In the opening issue, a woman was tossed off the roof of a building, and the series has followed four people who have been investigating that murder for their own reasons.  Her husband, a journalist, has discovered that she was having an affair, and believes that it was her lover who killed her.  The lover, meanwhile, has connected her murder to a corporation, and he has infiltrated their ‘special projects’ division, which is staffed with ex-Marines like himself.  The two detectives assigned to the case have been a couple of steps behind the others the whole time, but in this issue, everyone ends up on the roof of the building, holding guns, and revealing secrets.

Faerber has kept the plotting pretty tight, although with one pretty fatal error in this issue that pulled me right out of the story.  After all the smoke has cleared, and after leaving the police station, the journalist pulls a gun on one of the other people in this group.  I don’t exactly think it likely that he would still have that gun on him, especially since we know it’s connected to another crime scene that we saw in the last issue.  I also don’t think it likely that the cops would have just forgotten that he had it in his possession, especially since he was seen holding it on the rooftop.

Other than that, this has been a good mini-series.  I liked the way Faerber took his time revealing the corporate angle to things, and I felt that the characters were strongly written.  Koray Kuranel’s art is probably not for everyone, but I felt it was effective here.  This story should read well in trade.

Repossessed #1

by JM Ringuet

I’m down to try any new Image title these days, just about, and since I liked JM Ringuet’s work onTranshuman with Jonathan Hickman a few years back, I figured this would be a safe bet.

Repossessed has a good concept.  It’s about a trio who ‘repossess’ the bodies of people suffering from demonic possession.  They do this through a mixture of spells and firearms (I’m not quite sure what the girl is there to do, as the two men do all of this work), and they seem to be doing pretty good business.  One thing they’ve noticed is that lately the type of demon they’ve been battling has been more ‘major’ than they are used to, which is making their job tougher.

They are hired to look into the disappearance of a university student who has suddenly quit school to sing in Las Vegas.  They are not entirely sure that this is a proper possession, as it could just be the effect of someone trying to find herself, but after mixing it up with another major demon who has been running a motorcycle gang, it becomes clear that there is something major going on.

Ringuet is a talented artist, who does all the work in this comic.  He colours it in bright, kind of crazy colours, and gives it a very unique look.  It’s a solid first issue, and it has me interested in the story.  I’ll probably be back for the next issue.

The Secret Service #5

Written by Mark Millar with Matthew Vaughn
Art by Dave Gibbons

I’ve found Millar’s Secret Service to be a much more thoughtful and balanced comic than I’m used to reading from him these days.  Often in his Millarworld titles, he aims for a level of over-the-topness that puts him in league with contemporary Frank Miller or indie Garth Ennis, and that kind of turns me off.  I’ve stopped reading Kick-Ass or its spin-offs, and had no plans of picking up Nemesis 2 whenever it came out.

This book, though, is great.  Miller took a long time establishing the world in which young Gary, a London street thug, lives in, and as Gary is brought into a top-secret spy organization, we saw Gary’s growth as a character.  With this issue, Gary reaches his final graduation, not so far as his training is concerned, but in his quest to become his own, better, man.  He finally confronts his step-father and his friends, and he also finally looks after his mother, who has been trapped in an abusive relationship for some time.

With all the character stuff taken care of, Millar returns to the plotline about the big bad rich guy who has been kidnapping directors, actors, and animators since the first issue of this series.  We learn what this guy’s big plan is, and Gary and his Uncle Jack split up to handle things.

The end of this book did surprise me, as I thought that Millar was giving in to his more romantic urges, looking to write a book with a nice happy ending.  Dave Gibbons is always wonderful, and he does not disappoint with the art in this issue.  I believe that there is only one issue left in this series, and I expect it shall be quite good.

Star Wars #1

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Carlos D’Anda

If I had to sum up the first ten years of my life in only two words, they would be ‘Star Wars‘.  It was the first movie I ever saw, in a drive-in at the age of four, and it became an all-consuming passion through the release of Return of the Jedi.  Star Wars is also the reason why I started reading comics.  Star Wars #30 is the first comic I remember buying (again, at the age of four), and that became the impetus for a hobby that has lasted until today.

As much love as I have for the property though, I’ve never been much of a fan of anything that came after Return of the Jedi.  The prequel movies were a big disappointment, and I more or less ignored the Dark Horse comics until I recently came to realize that John Ostrander had been writing them, and I’ve read all of his work starting with his wonderful Star Wars: Legacy, and moving on to the equally wonderful Agent of the Empire, and the less impressive Dawn of the Jedi.

Anyway, it was with great excitement that I learned that Brian Wood, a writer I have tremendous respect for, would be given the opportunity to write a monthly comic that features the original, central characters of the first movie, in stories set between it and The Empire Strikes Back.  Wood is best known for comics like DMZ,Northlanders, and The Massive, although he has recently been working on some X-Men titles at Marvel.  Of all his books, I most love his Local, which is about as far removed from Star Wars as you can get, but with his ability to find small, personal stories in large, chaos-ridden backdrops (I mean, that’s basically what DMZ, Northlanders, and The Massive are), he struck me as an inspired choice for this kind of comic.

Having read this first issue, I am very excited to continue reading this series.  The story opens on Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and pilot Wedge Antilles scouting the outer rim of the galaxy for a suitable location for a new Rebel base.  They aren’t out of hyperspace long though before a contingent of Imperials arrive, clearly aware that they would be there.  There is some fighting, some crashing, and what have you, and later we learn that Mon Mothma, the leader of the Alliance, suspects that there is a traitor feeding information to the Imperials.  She puts Leia in charge of a small group of rebels that will be working independently and in secret to either flush out the traitor, or find a new home for the Alliance.

It’s a nice simple concept that provides Wood with opportunities to usher in the character growth that, between the first two movies, changed Luke Skywalker from the annoyingly whiny farm boy into an ace Rebel pilot, and which brought about a sense of selflessness in Han Solo.

One thing that always appealed to me about Star Wars comics was the opportunity to pour over large pictures of cool space craft.  In that, Carlos D’Anda does not disappoint, drawing some very cool Tie Fighters.  One problem that always exists in licensed comics is that the characters need to look enough like the actors and actresses that portrayed them, without looking overly photo-referenced and stiff.  D’Anda mostly maintains a balance between the two, which is a good thing.

I also enjoyed the fact that, at least for this issue, Wood and D’Anda resisted the urge to over-fill panels with cutesy aliens and funny droids, the two most regrettable facets of the digitally altered more recent DVD and Blu-Ray releases of George Lucas’s original work.  This book has a more adult feel to it than the movies do, which is appreciated.

The Walking Dead #106

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

This issue marks Charlie Adlard’s one-hundredth issue of The Walking Dead in his role as artist, something to be celebrated, considering how talented an artist he is, and how successful he’s helped make this book.  That also means that this is my one-hundredth issue of The Walking Dead in my role as a consumer, fan, and supporter, having bought the book with issue eight on a whim, and immediately going back and buying the issue before it the next week (and later getting the first trade).  I can’t think of any other comic that I’ve been buying for 100 consecutive issues that I still love as much, and have never gotten bored with in all that time.

This issue opens at Negan’s stronghold, where the psychotic leader of the Saviors is holding Carl prisoner.  Negan ponders how to properly punish Carl for killing some of his men.

After that, the action shifts back to Rick, Andrea, and the Community.  Rick has had a small group of people out looking for Carl each day since he’s disappeared, but without luck.  Jesus returns (I just realized how funny that looks – I mean Jesus the man from the Hilltop community who has been tracking Negan’s people for Rick) with news of where Negan lives.

Rick and a crew head out hoping to get Carl back, but run in to Negan on the road.  This leads to the type of cliffhanger that I find hardest to handle in this series – one that puts Carl in danger.  I guess Kirkman knows how effective a trick that can be, because he’s been doing it a lot lately, and it seems to work every time.  I’m not sure that there are any other characters, aside from Andrea perhaps, left in this series that I feel that same affinity for.

Anyway, as always, this is an excellent issue.  There is a quiet scene between Aaron and Eric, the two scouts that originally brought Rick to the Community, as they discuss whether or not they’d be better off on the road than staying under Negan’s thumb.  It’s scenes like these that always make this book – we see how Kirkman and his characters are really thinking through their choices and how to react to the world they’re stuck in, and it adds a level or realism to the book that I enjoy and appreciate.


Quick Takes:

Animal Man #16 We’re getting ever closer to the end of the Rotworld saga, and as such, Jeff Lemire keeps raising the stakes, as Buddy and his friends face some difficult opposition near Arcane’s stronghold.  This is a solid issue that keeps pushing forward at a good pace.  Steve Pugh is always an amazing artist, and the story is exciting, but I’m more than ready for a few issues that focus on Buddy, Ellen, and their family again.

Avengers Arena #3 – I think this might be the Marvel NOW! title that I keep buying, despite the fact that I don’t particularly like it.  I’m still having a hard time getting around the terrible central concept – that a group of teenage superheroes have been brought to some kind of environment by a super-powerful Arcade to reenact the Hunger Games.  What’s making it work is that writer Dennis Hopeless is investing in these characters.  This issue is narrated by Cammi, the young female character from Kieth Giffen’s excellent Drax the Destroyer and Annihilation mini-series, and it works pretty well, except for the ending, which the cover of the next issue suggests is not what it seems to be.  Kev Walker’s art on this book is great too – I just wish I could get behind the concept.  Right now, I’m buying this title on an issue-by-issue basis – I’ll get the next one, and maybe decide then if I’m going to stick around longer.

BPRD Hell on Earth #103 – I think it’s odd that Mike Mignola and Scott Allie set this story before the events of the last few issues, but then most of this issue takes place far in the past, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.  A small team of BPRD agents investigate an old Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra temple in Chicago, and one of them lifts an old sword, which somehow transports him back in time into the body of a savage chieftain.  The rest of the issue reads a little like Conan the Barbarian, and it’s a nice change of pace for this series.  James Harren returns to draw the issue, and his style fits the story very nicely.  BPRD can be inconsistent from time to time, but it’s always good.

Dial H #8 – With each new issue, I’m loving this book more and more.  Nelson and Roxie are in Canada tracking down another dial, while a Canadian operative finds Roxie’s basement base.  This leads to a confrontation between Nelson (as Flame War, the hero whose insults burn) and another Canadian operative, who has his own dial.  This is a very well-written series, which manages to poke fun at superhero conventions while still delivering a serious and original story.  Is Alberto Ponticelli the new regular artist on this book?  David Lapham kept getting called a ‘guest artist’, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen Mateus Santolouco, who was originally the artist for this book.  Ponticelli’s good, but like with his Frankenstein run, nowhere near as good here as he was on Unknown Soldier.

Earth 2 #8We are now nine issues into this series (counting the zero issue), and it feels like James Robinson is still just building up his world.  This issue focuses on Steppenwolf and Fury (the daughter of a certain ‘wonder’), and their attempts to seize control of a small closed-off nation.  It’s not really a bad issue, but if you asked me to explain where this series was headed, I couldn’t tell you.  At this point, I’m not even all that sure who the main characters are.  I like ensemble books, but this one needs a little more focus.

Secret Avengers #36 – As Rick Remender gets closer to finishing off his giant story in this series, most of the book is given over to large action sequences.  There’s a lot of excitement, but that whole ‘secret’ concept has been out the window for a while.  This stuff is good, but it’s still the poor cousin to Uncanny X-Force.

Shadowman #3 – I think it was right when Jack Boniface, who has fled into the Deadside to escape a gigantic demon, starts having a conversation with a monkey in a hat that speaks likes he was the star of a minstrel show, despite the fact that he doesn’t have to talk that way, that this book lost me.  The first issue of this series really grabbed my attention, but I feel that this issue is so lost in its own mythology that Jack’s character got left out completely.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep buying this book or not, and this issue pushes me towards saying no.  I’ll probably give it one more issue to see though, since so much of Valiant’s relaunch has been excellent.  But please, if you are reading this Justin Jordan, no more Minstrel Monkey.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Prisoner of Bogan #2 – I’m a couple weeks late in getting this, but it’s Diamond’s fault, not mine.  John Ostrander’s tale of the pre-Jedi days continues to just dump large amounts of information with each issue, but the plot is becoming clearer, and it’s always nice to look at Jan Duursema’s art.  This series is still not as good as Legacy or Agent of the Empire, but I find enough in it to enjoy.

Superior Spider-Man #1For the last few years, since Dan Slott took over the title, I enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man, but never really enough to buy it at full price.  It struck me as a great series to get caught up on a few times a year when I could buy it cheaply.  I feel the same way about Superior Spider-Man after reading this first issue.  It’s an entertaining comic, and it’s kind of cool to see how the new Spidey responds to things compared to how Peter Parker used to, but there’s definitely nothing here that is going to give me cause to go rushing out for the next issue.  I think seeing Spidey calling people ‘dolts’ is going to get old fast.  Also, I’m not sure how I feel about the last page revelation which basically sets the stage for the return of the Amazing Spider-Man.  It’s too soon, and smacks of pandering to fans that resist any sort of innovation.  I’d rather see Marvel commit to this change for a few years, not for the roughly six months I predict it will take before we see Peter Parker again.

Swamp Thing #16 – This issue is a lot like this week’s Animal Man – Swamp Thing gathers some new allies, and we all move closer to the brink.  One could question the ease with which Swampy is able to finish a chemical formulation that has been sitting around for close to a year, and just happens to have enough time to figure out how to operate a robot and equip the people of New Gotham with high-tech supersoakers, but I suppose that would be quibbling.  As always, a lovely issue.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #21 – I keep returning to this book, even though I find a lot ot fault in it.  In this issue, Kitty and the mutants who now live on a reservation hold a press release to let the world know about their ‘mutant seed’, which should end world hunger (despite the fact that we’ve never been told what it actually grows).  This leads to more in-fighting among the group, and an attack by military types, which is held off by Iron Man/Iron Patriot and the kids.  I like how Brian Wood (and apparently co-writer Nathan Edmondson, although his name is not on the cover) is exploring the consequences of upsetting Big Agriculture, but I’m still not sold on this book.

Wolverine and the X-Men #23I’ve been a little surprised to find myself losing interest so quickly in this title, especially during this nonsensical Frankenstein and his circus arc, but with a last page that brings back one of the worst characters from THE worst X-Men run ever, I kind of want to run away from this book completely.  The next issue has art by Ramon Perez though, so I do want to stick around for that.  If that issue doesn’t please me though, I’m done.  This title is too silly for me, without much else going for it.  This is not the Jason Aaron who wrote Scalped, that’s for sure.

X-Men Legacy #4 – This deeply strange series keeps drawing me back for more, as Simon Spurrier has Legion confront a squad of X-Men in Japan.  Legion has no respect for his father’s former students, but also isn’t able to explain himself well without getting everyone angry.  There’s a classic super-hero miscommunication-caused battle that follows, without the usual moment where they come to an understanding of each other.  It’s a solidly written comic, and Jorge Molina’s art is easier to follow than Tan Eng Huat’s work has been.  Once again, I can see myself picking up the next issue.

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

Action Comics #16

Cable and X-Force #3

Detective Comics #16

Legends of the Dark Knight #4

Thor God of Thunder #4

Womanthology Space #4

Bargain Comics:

Batgirl #0, 13 & 14There has been a lot of controversy and discussion lately around Gail Simone’s being pulled off this book and then returned to it after Dc was solidly criticized for firing her.  Simone is a terrific writer, but this is not one of her better series.  The New 52 Barbara Gordon does not have the qualities that the old DCU character had, and without the friendship with Black Canary that was the centrepiece of Simone’s Birds of Prey, this book feels a little hollow.  Perhaps giving the series another try over these issues isn’t fair – one is an editorially-mandated ‘zero’ event, and the others tie in to the Death of the Family Bat-Event, so in no place is Simone able to do her thing, but still, I don’t find this as well-written as I’d expect.  Also, Ed Benes is not the right type of artist for a female-empowering writer like Simone; he’s more of the cheesecake variety.  These aren’t terrible, but there’s nothing here that makes me want to return to the title.

Blue Beetle #0, 11-14 – I’ve come around to really enjoying Tony Bedard’s soon-to-be-over New 52 relaunch of the Blue Beetle, but I still wish that the book had done more in its early days to differentiate itself from the vastly superior John Rogers and Keith Giffen-written version of a few years before.  This book still exists in that title’s shadows, as Jaime reconciles with his friends and then ends up in Reach territory, trying to put a stop to that evil empire.  Still, these are good comics, with some nice art by Ig Guara.

Fables #119-123 – I dropped Fables a while back, because I found that the stories meandered endlessly, and that in the wake of dispatching Mister Dark, the book had no focus anymore.  The storyline about one of Bigby and Snow White’s children being sent to a world filled with toys that had killed children was equally dark and childish in a way that baffled me, and I was tired of the lack of forward movement in the stories of any of the other Fables.  Seeing the book continue to be reviewed well though, and make its way up a lot of people’s’ Top Ten lists for the year, I began to think I’d misjudged things, so I got caught back up.  This book is still terrible.  The Toyland storyline led to the gruesome death of one of the Wolf kids, while Bill Willingham decided to screw around with the timeline of the story, condensing years of Toyland time into a short span of time in the Mundy (despite the fact that the first few days Therese was away corresponded exactly to the time in the real world).  After that story, we got a two-parter that showed Bigby trade fates with a magician back in the Homeworlds before even the Emperor got his start.  There seemed to be no reason for that story, as it didn’t answer any question, unless Willingham needed to ham-handedly introduce a new villain, and chose this retcon-like method to do it.  All of these issues continued the storyline about Bufkin the monkey in the Land of Oz, in a few page segments, and they were not terribly interesting either.  The one thing I can’t complain about is the art – Mark Buckingham is always wonderful, as is Gene Ha, who drew the Bigby story.  This title is lost though – it totally lacks focus and drive, and I don’t understand why more people aren’t complaining about that.  Go back and read the trades around the time of the war with the Adversary, and compare it to these recent issues.  There’s no comparison.  This book needs to wrap up and end, instead of continuing indefinitely despite not having a storyline.

Punisher #16 – With this issue, Greg Rucka wraps up the Rachel Cole-Alves saga, one of the better Punisher runs of the last twenty years.  Frank has almost been a secondary character in this book, and I think that is where its strengths lie, because he’s a character who has been done to death.  This will be a nice omnibus read some day.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Right State

Written by Mat Johnson
Art by Andrea Mutti

Right State is a unique political thriller that works well, but probably could have worked a lot better.  It’s set at some unspecified after the Obama administration has finished its second term, and was met with some sort of disaster or fiasco which is not explained.  At the point where this book opens, Obama’s successor, also a Democrat and also black, is in the midst of running for a second term.  America has become even more divided than it is now between ‘red’ and ‘blue’, and the militia movement has gained in strength to a great degree.The story is centred on Ted Akers, a right-wing talking head who has spent most of his life fighting for veterans’ rights on Fox News like cable channels, despite having never fought in a war.  Akers gets contacted by the Secret Service when they receive word that a militia group known as Roots of Liberty, run by a demagogue named Dutton, are planning something for the President’s upcoming open-air address to the nation.The Service figures that Akers would have a better chance of infiltrating the group, especially since the agent in charge is a Muslim, and that’s basically the set up for this story.  It’s not terribly plausible, is it? And therein lies one of this book’s two big faults.  The second is that Akers’s character is not developed very well before he gets sent off to crazy-land.  It’s hard to understand why he’d be working to help an administration he’s fundamentally opposed to, just as it is hard to understand why they would really want him (unless you figure out where things are going pretty early into the book, as I did).

As a Canadian, I do enjoy fiction that shows just how messed up American often is (while knowing we aren’t all that much better, and increasingly so), and the Roots of Liberty crowd is pretty interesting.  My problem was that because I never bought into the plot or the main character, I never got all that wrapped up in the book.  Mat Johnson’s first graphic novel, Incognegro, was riveting; this one felt a little rushed, like it needed to be out before the American election, and therefore didn’t get workshopped or edited as stringently as it should have.

There was definitely a lot of potential in this story, and some of the sequences near the end get exciting, but this book just never gripped me as much as it could have.  Part of the problem is with Andrea Mutti’s art – he’s a talented artist, but often stiff in his layouts, and it’s not always easy to tell which character is which.  I hope that Johnson’s next book is something a little closer to home, and therefore perhaps as strong as his debut was.

Album of the Week:

Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio – This disc is an excellent compilation of rare jazz grooves from the Black Jazz vaults, curated by Gilles Peterson.  I’ve heard some of the same tracks on the DJ Mitsu the Beats compilation, but I love the way in which Peterson has selected and ordered these gems.

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