The Weekly Round-Up #164 with Chew, Bedlam, DHP, Prophet, Saucer Country & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Chew #31

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory
In the last issue of Chew, John Layman did something that has permanently changed the tone of this title, as a tragedy was visited on the Chu family.  This issue follows up on that event, returns the series to its roots, and also gives a clear indication of where the second half of the story is going to lead.

That’s a lot to do in a single issue of a comic, especially considering that Layman and Guillory also fit in some very funny scenes and images.

The book opens with the funeral of the family member killed last month (I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers for any trade-waiters who may be reading), which also causes Tony to flash back to his wife’s funeral.  This is significant because we haven’t really learned much about Tony’s marriage, other than that Tony keeps his wife’s finger in his freezer.  At the funeral, the Chu family solidifies around Tony, something that has probably never happened before.  Also, surprisingly, he gets reinstated in the FDA, and partnered up with Colby again.

Soon they are back on the job, trying to figure out why overweight people have been combusting spontaneously.  This in turn leads the two agents to discover a larger plot taking place.

As always, Guillory makes this book, and he even makes a cameo in a scene at a comics convention.  I like the change in tone the first half of this issue shows, but also that the book returns almost immediately to the light-hearted tales that marked the first year and a half of the run.  This book is always great, but I do believe that it’s getting steadily better.

Other Notable Comics:

Bedlam #3

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Riley Rossmo
Nick Spencer’s new series is a strange one, but I feel like it’s really hit its stride in this issue.  The series is about Madder Red, a Joker-style homicidal maniac, who has gone through ten years of psychiatric treatment, and has been sent back into the world by the strange doctor who treated him.

When this issue opens, he’s confessed to a grisly murder that happened outside his building, but we readers know that he didn’t commit this murder, or the others in a string of killings involving elderly people.  The cops like him for these crimes and others, and he’s interested in helping them investigate the case.  Most of the issue is taken up with him going over homicide files, believing that he’s in some sort of partnership with the Detective in charge of the cases, while she thinks that she’s got the killer, and that he’s toying with her.

It works very well, as Spencer portrays the guy as being off his rocker in a rather simplistic way, like an idiot savant of serial killers.  As the reader knows what’s really going on, without knowing why the real killer is doing these things, the story becomes more and more intriguing, as we hope for mysteries to be solved.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Bedlam, and I don’t like it as much as I do Morning Glories, but at the same time that I’m bored out of my skull with the Joker in Batman, I’m really interested in learning more about Madder Red.

Dark Horse Presents #20

Written by Michael Avon Oeming, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Geoffrey Thorne, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Frank J. Barbiere, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Joshua Williamson, Peter Hogan, Duane Swierczynski, and Carla Speed McNeil
Art by Michael Avon Oeming, Steve Lieber, Todd Harris, Ulises Farinas, Toby Cypress, Gabriel Hardman, Pere Perez, Steve Parkhouse, Eric Nguyen, and Carla Speed McNeil

More and more, I feel like the lustre is coming off this title, as the serials are increasingly being produced in service of introducing upcoming mini-series, and the sense of getting a complete story out of this rather expensive monthly book is drastically diminished.  In addition, I’m not sure I’m happy about the increased presence of superhero-style stories.  That has never been a particular strength of Dark Horse, yet there seems to be a drive to compete in that area again.

This issue features a Victories story by Michael Avon Oeming.  The Victories is either currently running, or just finished running as a mini-series as well, so this story doesn’t feel the need to introduce the characters.  When Oeming writes his own superhero stories, they tend to be pretty bleak (check out his Rapture title of a couple of years ago), and this is no different, with a scene where a father cuts off the head of a dog, and forces it over his own son’s head.  This doesn’t work for me.

I was enjoying the Captain Midnight story, which ends here without an ending, but instead an ad for an upcoming mini-series.  Both Joshua Williamson and Pere Perez have done nice work on this, but I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to get me to buy the book when it comes out.

I do know that I don’t like X, Dark Horse’s answer to the Punisher.  I didn’t like the character in the 90s, and I’m not feeling him here under Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen.

In the non-super hero category, the charm of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Alabaster continues to escape me, although I did like this chapter better than the previous ones.

Journeymen is a new series by Geoffrey Thorne and Todd Harris, and I don’t really have an opinion of it.  I think it needed more space to grow, as it didn’t leave much of an impression either way.

Gamma, the strange story about monsters and cowardice, by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, ends on a very good note, as the story becomes one of redemption.  I feel that Farinas is a creator to watch.

Frank Barbiere’s occasional series ‘The White Suits’ takes a very positive turn with this instalment, which is drawn by the fantastic Toby Cypress.  This time, we get a story about an FBI agent who has dedicated her life to finding her missing father, who she now believes is somehow involved with the White Suits – Russian mobsters of great mystery.  I like how Barbiere has been building the mythology of this group without really telling us anything about them, and I like how he’s been working with a variety of artists.

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s ‘Station to Station’ feels like it could easily fit into the BPRD world, and it continues to work well.

Resident Alien is one of my favourite serials in this series, and while it annoys me that the last three chapters haven’t even told a story, but just follow our good alien doctor through his recovery from his first mini-series, I do enjoy Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s work on this story, and will definitely be there for the next mini-series.

Of course, the best part of this comic is Carla Speed McNeil’s ‘Finder’, which finds Jaeger in a bad place, as he discovers that he’s in a city where everyone is terminally ill, and that they are able to pass their ailments on to another person, namely him.  This is a new type of sin-eating for Jaeger to perform, and I can’t wait to see what McNeil does with it.

I think I would continue to buy this book if Finder is the only story in it I want to read.  Luckily, next month we get Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick working together, which should be exciting.

The Massive #8

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

There is a lot going on under the surface of The Massive that makes this book rather hard to predict, especially since in the eight months since the comic began, we haven’t learned very much about the main characters beyond Callum Israel, the leader of Ninth Wave, the environmental direct action group that the series is focused on.

After a worldwide ecological collapse, the central leadership of Ninth Wave, alongside a number of recruits onboard the Kapital, are searching for their sister ship, The Massive, and trying to keep their operation running.  We’ve already seen the difficulty they’ve faced in securing supplies, and the way in which some members, specifically Mag Nagendra, have wrestled with the group’s pacifistic ideals.  When this issue opens, the crew of The Kapital are aboard Moksha Station, an independent nation made of oil derricks.

Callum is being held in custody by the director of the station, Sumon, while his girlfriend Mary runs about in a storm sabotaging the station’s communications, for reasons we don’t yet know.  Mag is in the bowels of the station, alongside to other members of Ninth Wave, making some kind of deal with a gigantic Russian.  It seems that everyone in the group has their own agenda, and Israel doesn’t seem to know about any of it.

When The Massive began its run, some on-line commentators complained that Brian Wood was cramming too much information into each issue, with his lengthy descriptions of the effects of The Collapse, but I think what he was also doing was obscuring the true designs of some of the crew.  Especially with the surprise that Mary drops at the end of this issue, I’m not too sure where things are headed in this book, and that’s exactly how I like it.

Mind MGMT #7

by Matt Kindt

When the first arc of Mind MGMT ended pretty much exactly where it began, I wondered if the next stories would perhaps not include Meru, the main character.  As it turns out, it looks like Meru will continue to be the centre of this series, as she wakes up in her apartment and realizes that someone has delivered a letter to her on a Sunday.  Since she’s convinced that she has sent a letter to herself, she pursues the guy who delivered it, and is once again sent on a journey of discovery, as she tries to track the original sender down, and is once again apprised of the existence of Mind MGMT.

Eventually, Meru ends up in New York, at the office of someone named Brinks, an adman with the ability to influence people through his work.  Brinks spills the beans, and is then assassinated by a gunman.  Meru is rescued by a familiar figure, and together the two go on the run.  It turns out that someone known as The Eraser is trying to put Mind MGMT back together again, and they see Meru as a threat.

This series is a very good read.  Kindt’s got a great sense of pace, and he continues to fill his pages with information.  Where the first arc had messages from the Mind MGMT training guide running along the left-hand side of each page, this arc is printing the text of a true crime novel called Premeditated, presumably written by Meru.  The bottom of each page (for about half the comic), contains information about the history of assassination letters, which helps inform the main story.  As always, there is also a ‘case file’ at the back of the book, this one introducing the Mind MGMT agent known as Hulk.  I find that many of these extras distract from the main story, but in a good way, as they almost caused me to miss the identity of the person shown following Meru; I guess that means they are doing their job in proper Mind MGMT fashion.

I’m really enjoying this book, and am happy to see that this new arc looks to be just as good as the first.

Prophet #33

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

To the extent that you can have a typical issue of Prophet following its rebirth at the hands of Brandon Graham, this would be it.  I don’t want to suggest that this book is falling into a rut, because it remains wildly inventive and original, but there’s not much in this issue that doesn’t feel familiar and predictable, within the confines of the weirdness that Graham has set up for this story.

Old Man Prophet and his crew fly their ship to a rendezvous with the woman armada (it says Amanda in the book, but I think that’s a typo) of the Babel-Horolegion.  These are butterfly-like creatures that travel in living ships that are “a union of thought and form”.  We learn that their ship is being powered by the long-dead body of Supreme, and soon enough, they are attacked by some kind of wave of psychic pain.

One of the many things that I’ve loved about this series is the way in which Graham has taken his time setting up the coming conflict with the Earth Empire, and this issue continues in that vein.  This issue doesn’t really further that plot, and I kind of wonder at its inclusion in the storyline.

At the same time, Graham’s writing is sharp, and Milonogiannis makes use of some very cool designs.

Revival #6

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

It’s kind of surprising to think that Revival has only been running for six issues.  In that time, Tim Seeley has introduced a number of concepts and characters, and has created a pretty well-realized environment for his story to take place in.

Wasau Wisconsin is a small community where the recently deceased have suddenly returned to life.  This is not a zombie comic – most of the Revivalists appear perfectly normal, but there is something wrong with many of them.  An old lady became murderous and deranged, and another appears to have been returned in a comatose state.  There are also glowing alien-looking creatures wandering around the woods who may be spirits, but we really don’t know what their deal is yet.

Our POV character is Dana Cypress, the police officer assigned to manage and and all Revivalist-related cases.  She is called in to investigate the death of a well-known man whose stepsister is a well-known TV personality in the community.  The pair were also in a relationship of some sort, although it’s not too clear who killed him, at least not at first.

Seeley is juggling a lot of balls with this book – something is going on with the older Hmong lady who was attacked by an exorcist, and now people are trying to sneak into the town from outside its quarantine zone.  Mike Norton is always wonderful, and his character-based art goes along way towards making this book successful.  I’m not usually the type to be attracted by a book billed as ‘rural noir’, but this book is definitely working for me.

Saucer Country #11

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Mirko Colak and Andrea Mutti
It was announced recently that Saucer Country, like every Vertigo book that I enjoy not called The Unwritten, is going to be ending in a few issues.  Knowing that, and knowing that Paul Cornell doesn’t have the space to tell the end of the story the way he would like to, I would have expected the pace of these last few issues to pick up, but that is not the case here, as he instead introduces a completely different element to the series.

Michael is Governor Alvarado’s ex-husband, her close friend, and the person that was with her when she was abducted by aliens.  We’ve seen him as a self-pitying drunk, and we know that he has been manipulated to believe that he was behind the recent assassination attempts on Alvarado and her security team.  What we didn’t know is that as a child, he saw and spoke to fairies.

This issue opens with Michael and Arcadia visiting the farmland in Colorado where he grew up.  He talks about how he and his older sister made up imaginary stories about fairies, and how one day, the fairies appeared to them as real creatures.  Their appearance also helped solve a different problem for Michael’s sister.

This is an odd issue.  I’m not sure how it fits into the larger story, which has dealt with alien abduction and governmental conspiracy.  Paul Cornell makes a thematic connection by discussing how the 90s were all about recovered memories of child abuse, while the 10s appear to be about conspiracy at higher levels as a way to explain society’s and individual peoples’ problems.

This issue is drawn by Mirko Colak and Andrea Mutti, who have a very different style than regular series artist Ryan Kelly.  The book looks very nice, but I do prefer the way Kelly draws Arcadia, with a little more weight and gravitas behind her.

I’m sad to hear that this series is ending soon, but I know that I’m going to enjoy what’s left of it.

Stumptown Vol. 2 #5

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

With this issue, The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case comes to a close.  After last issue’s terrific car chase, PI Dex Parios has finished her case, reuniting Mim, the guitar player for the band Tailhook, with her beloved Baby, her guitar.  The skinheads who stole it (the second time) are in custody, and Dex is wondering just what is going to end up happening to her.

As it turns out, Dex is not getting charged, and is instead told rather firmly by the band’s lawyers that her involvement with the group is at an end.  Of course, Dex doesn’t often listen to people, and the fact that she doesn’t know who took the guitar, or why, is bothering her. She convinces Mim and Click, the band’s drummer, and I suspect a future love interest for Dex, to help her try to figure out the drug-smuggling angle that was responsible for Baby’s original disappearance.

This has been a very enjoyable series.  Dex has been less combative than she was in the first volume, but she does remain her prickly self.  Greg Rucka excels at writing strong female characters, and Dex is just that; complex someone you want to keep reading about.

I’m not sure how I feel about Matthew Southworth’s continued experimentation into the colouring (with Rico Renzi) and texturing of the art; his use of markers sometimes leaves the pages feeling a little stiff.  Still, this is a terrific comic, and I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we get to read Volume Three.

Quick Takes:

Avengers #3I really like the fact that Jonathan Hickman found a threat big enough to pull together a huge Avengers team for his first story arc, but also easily enough dealt with that we won’t have to spend six issues seeing them fight it.  Ex Nihilo and the others are handled nicely, as we learn why it’s handy to have Captain Universe on the team.  This book needs a lot more character work, but I think that Hickman has set the title up to be interesting for a good long run.  And, it goes without saying, Jerome Opeña’s work is fantastic.

Banshee Origins – According to the inside cover of this freebie from IDW, there’s a TV show on Cinemax called Banshee, about a weird little town full of Ukranian gangsters and Asian cross-dressers and stuff.  I’ve never heard of this show, and don’t have access to Cinemax up here in Canada, but hey, free comic.  It’s not bad too, as we meet a guy who is figuring out a way to rip off the Ukrainian mob from the inside, and escape with his girlfriend, who is the mob boss’s daughter (of course).  It’s a decent crime comic, even if I’ve read a few times before (I think it was better when it was called Criminal), and I think I’ll look to see if I can find the show on-line.  That’s what free comics are supposed to do, right – lead you to free TV?

Battlefields #3 – Garth Ennis finishes up his Tankies story in this issue, as Sergeant Stiles uses his tank to help a group of soldiers retreat in the face of a massive Chinese advance during the Korean War.  Ennis writes these stories so well – this issue is a tribute to those who have fought against impossible odds, and it works perfectly.

Batwoman #16This was an absolutely gorgeous issue of Batwoman, as the main character and Wonder Woman arrive in Gotham to fight Medusa and the Hydra.  JH Williams gives most of the book’s main cast members a double-page spread and a share of the narration, as we move ever closer to the culmination of this long-running story.  Beautiful stuff.

DC Universe Presents #16 – Marc Andreyko’s story featuring the Blue Devil and Black Lightning wraps up this issue, and it’s enjoyable so far as straight-forward superhero stories go, but it’s not something people will be talking about in a year or two.

FF #3 – It may have taken three issues, but now that the Fantastic Four are well and truly gone (except for a John Storm from the future), the team is starting to come into their own, as Scott tries to get Darla back to the Baxter Building, they chase Internet jerks, and the Moloids begin working their own agenda, which is never good for anyone.  Michael Allred’s art, and especially his use of layout, is fantastic, and Matt Fraction’s clearly having a good time with this book.  I’m not bothering with Fantastic Four, and I’m happy to see that this book can stand on its own.

Harbinger #8 – Peter Stanchek is continuing his tour of the US, looking for other Psiots to activate, and that takes him to a sad crippled boy who lives in his head to a greater degree than the rest of us do.  Peter and crew are attacked by Project Rising Spirit, and things don’t look too good for them.  This is a pretty solid issue of a terrific series.

Nightwing #16I’m really getting bored of this Death of the Family stuff, and I’m questioning the Joker’s multi-tasking abilities, as it seems he’s set up death traps for lots of Bat-related heroes, yet all this stuff would be happening at the same time.  Also, I have to question why we’ve spent almost a year and a half building up the Haly’s Circus aspect of Nightwing’s life, only to wipe it out in this story.  Was that always the plan, or is this another one of Dan Didio and company’s random directives?  With Eddy Barrows leaving this book soon, as well as the general slipping in quality of the story, I may be leaving too…

Number 13 #2 – I think I enjoyed this story more as a serial in Dark Horse Presents, where strangely, the creators gave themselves more space to develop their story.  Thirteen, an amnesiac cyborg, has found a new home among a colony of Fected – mutated humans, but his own people are coming for him, and they are killing anyone they find along their way.  The story moves too quickly, with not enough space between scenes to allow any sense of time passing, resulting in a lack of empathy or identification with the characters.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #20 – I suppose it makes sense that, with Nick Fury in the 616 being made to look just like Samuel L. Jackson, Ultimate Nick Fury would suddenly turn up looking like the Nick Fury we all know and love.  Actually, that probably doesn’t make much sense at all, but there it is, as the Ultimates and SHIELD identify their former leader as a Hydra agent being called Scorpio.  It’s not too clear what side Fury is really playing for though, as he takes out Hawkeye when he is sent in to extract him.  Granted, Hawkeye is wearing the horrible costume he wore in Jeph Loeb’s Ultimates volume, so that alone is grounds for a beat-down.  This book is wavering a little in its focus under Sam Humphries, and I for one, would like to see it get back to the kind of epic-feeling story that Jonathan Hickman was writing on it not all that long ago.

Uncanny Avengers #3You’d think that a book featuring a combined Avengers/X-Men squad, created by Rick Remender and John Cassaday would be a slam dunk, but this book is really very dull.  The Red Skull has gotten himself Charles Xavier’s power, and is using them to turn crowds into murderous anti-mutant mobs, and luckily now mutants are everywhere in New York like it was 2001.  The characters are mostly going through the motions, and the Skull’s group of S-Men are some of the least interesting new villains I’ve seen in ages.  Writing this, I find that I’m having a hard time remembering what happened in this book, that I just finished reading, because it could barely hold my interest.  I don’t know how long I’m going to stick with this title…

Uncanny X-Force #1 – Sam Humphries and Ron Garney launch their new, Marvel NOW! take on this title, and I have to say that the debut was better than I expected.  Storm and Psylocke travel to LA where they meet up with Puck (yay!) to investigate a strange new drug, which is being distributed by Spiral.  We also see Bishop come back to our time (not a good thing, in my opinion – that is once character that needed a good ten years in limbo at least), and some small intrigue between Fantomex and his female clone, Cluster.  I don’t usually like Garney’s art all that much, but it seemed fine here, and I’m pleased to see both Storm and Psylocke dressing a little more sensibly.  I’m definitely curious enough about this series to come back for the next issue.

Winter Soldier #14 – I’m really going to miss Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice on this comic.  While this last story arc has dragged a little (and has been a little late), their work together on this character, along with extraordinary colourist Bettie Breitweiser, has been top notch.  This issue wraps up the mind control sleeper agent storyline, and kind of ends Bucky’s relationship with the Black Widow, setting him up as a complete loner character for incoming writer Jason Latour.

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #3This series continues to be a source of great joy, as the crotchety Dr. Morrow sees that he has no chance to cure his strigoiism but to deal with the people who gave it to him in the first place.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the cure either.  As the issue proceeds, the number of double-crosses pile up like cars on the highway during a white-out, and the story gets ever more entertaining.  Great work all around by Brandon Siefert and Lukas Ketner.

Wolverine and the X-Men #24 – I was ready to drop this book after all the nonsense of the Frankenstein Circus and AVX arcs, but just in time, Jason Aaron writes a near-perfect issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, reminding me of the promise this title held when it debuted.  Various members of the teaching staff go on dates in this issue, while Logan is forced by Storm to reexamine his role in the school, and how he feels about it.  Teen Jean Grey has a good chat with Quentin Quire, and new Ape-Beast visits Abigail Brand.  Also, there is some forward movement in Broo’s story.  Helping things along is the wonderful art by David and Alvaro López, which I prefer very much to Nick Bradshaw’s.  I’m not reading any of the Bendis X-books, and I hope that the titles don’t tie together too closely, but I do think I’m going to stick with this comic a while longer, especially if it stays this good.

Wonder Woman #16 – Unsurprisingly, this issue of Wonder Woman is as good as the fifteen before it.  Lately I’ve been reading (and in a small way writing) about growing dissatisfaction among DC readers with the level of editorial interference and general directionlessness of the New 52, but this book really stands out as the opposite of all of that.  Brian Azzarello has been allowed to chart a path for Wonder Woman that has led her far away from what readers usually expect from the character, and in doing so, he’s made her more interesting than she’s ever been.  This issue has her meeting with one of her half-brothers and the New God Orion to try to track down Zola’s baby, while Zola and Hera run into a few other Olympians, and Zeus’s first son gets into it with some smallish giants.  This book is beautifully drawn (by Cliff Chiang), and is always an interesting read.

X-O Manowar #9Robert Venditti has done a great job of building this series up to this point, where the Vine are poised to wipe out all life on Earth because of the fact that Aric has taken the X-O armor there.  The Vine send in a small force to try to take him out first, and that doesn’t go exactly as they’d hoped.  Most interesting in this issue is that Aric is able to contact the hivemind that the Vine use to communicate.  Trevor Hairsine joins the book with this issue, giving it a grittier look than it had previously, which suits the stakes of this storyline well.  Good stuff.

Young Avengers #1 – There is no book in the Marvel NOW! stable that I was looking forward to reading more than this one.  It pairs the Phonogram creative team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, with Mike Norton thrown in, and features many of the characters from Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers, along with Loki, Marvel Boy/Protector, and Miss America Chavez, from Joe Casey’s underappreciated Vengeance mini-series.  Needless to say, with all these awesome elements, my expectations were quite high, and happily, this is one book that delivers.  Kate Bishop has hooked up with Noh-Varr in space, and are attacked by Skrulls.  Wiccan and Hulkling have a heart to heart talk about being superheroes (“I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth” is probably the greatest line of dialogue I’ve read in years), while Loki and Miss America get into it on top of their building.  So many great moments, a slightly shocking ending, and this book satisfies on every level.  I’m not even going to complain about not getting the Bryan Lee O’Malley variant cover…  I cannot recommend this book enough.

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

Answer #1

A Plus X #4

Astonishing X-Men #58

Bargain Comics:

Battle Scars #4-6I can’t really get my head around the decision to make the character of Marcus Johnson and then turn him into the new Nick Fury, so that there can be a Samuel L. Jackson look-alike running around the comics and the movies, after which point the character has barely been used.  I know he’s going to be in the upcoming Secret Avengers relaunch, but still, I doubt that there are too many fans who will be joining the comics directly from the movie now.  Still, for all its being the bastard child of corporate interference and editorial fiat, this ended up being a halfway decent comic, which is a testament to the skills of Chris Yost and Scott Eaton.  I kind of like Marcus as he’s shown here, but the decision to pluck out his eye and scar him up still sticks out as being unnecessary.

Batwing #11-14; 0 – I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.  When this title was announced, I praised DC’s commitment to diversity in their line, and was pleased to see that a title would explore the Batman concept, but set it in Africa.  What we’ve gotten instead is a very bland comic that doesn’t really do that at all; instead it sets very traditional superhero stuff in a setting that could be New Orleans as easily as the fictional city of Tinasha.  I feel like Judd Winick has squandered the opportunity to make this comic groundbreaking (and, I suppose, so did DC, as he’s recently been replaced by Fabian Nicieza, although I don’t expect much better from him).  On a positive note, during these issues, at least Batwing has become more self-reliant, and the last two (13 and 14) are the first in this pile that don’t feature guest appearances by American heroes.  Still, this book could have been so much more than this…

Journey Into Mystery #643&644; Mighty Thor #20-22Instead of paying for $4 issues of The Mighty Thor, I opted to drop Journey Into Mystery a few months back when the two books crossed over for ‘Everything Burns’, despite it being one of my favourite Marvel comics at the time.  Digging back into that storyline months later, I realize that was a good decision, and I should have trusted myself more and left the whole thing on the stands.  The problem that plagued Matt Fraction’s run on Thor almost completely poisoned the great work that Kieron Gillen was doing on JIM.  The issue is that he wanted to write epic, sweeping Thor stories, but without spending the time necessary to lay the groundwork and invest in the tale.  Gillen was doing that in his half of the story, planting the seeds back in his earliest issues of JIM, but Fraction would just jump to some big event, expecting readers to care.  For example, when Odin is brought back to help save the day, I had no idea why that was important.  Also, Thor himself is an almost total cipher in this book – he’s there, people talk about him, but he has no personality on display.  It’s great to see Gillen return to writing Loki in Young Avengers this week, as no one has ever written the character so well, but it’s a shame that the end of his solo run with the kid had to end so poorly.  Even Alan Davis art couldn’t quite rescue things…

New Mutants #49 & 50 – Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run on this title became frustrating, as the poorly-executed storylines outnumbered the excellent ones (like when Magma dated Mephisto), and I dropped the book, only to find out it got cancelled two issues later.  These are characters that I feel I grew up with, and have a lot of affection for, and I enjoyed issue 50, which had the team enjoy a nice big barbecue together.  I think it’s a shame that there isn’t a place for this team in the Marvel Universe, but I’m also excited to follow Sunspot and Cannonball to the Avengers, and especially to see more of Dani Moonstar in the upcoming Defenders series.

Album of the Week:

Mixed Blood Majority – Mixed Blood Majority – This group consists of rappers Crescent Moon and Joe Horton spitting over beats by Lazerbeak.  I preordered this as soon as I heard about it because I’m a huge Doomtree fan (where Lazerbeak produces the bulk of the crew’s work), and I was not disappointed.  Many of the beats are familiar, having appeared on Lazerbeak’s Lava Bangers beat cd, but their more street-based lyrics give it a different feel.  In some ways, listening to this reminds me of a lot of the late 90s, early 00s music that was coming out of New York.  It’s worth a listen, especially the eighth track, which features Cecil Otter.

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