The Weekly Round-Up #168 with Mind MGMT, Conan, DHP, Fatale, Happy, Revival, Saga, Sixth Gun & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Mind MGMT #8

by Matt Kindt

As we move ever deeper into Matt Kindt’s unique and excellent series Mind MGMT, I find that my enjoyment of it only increases.  With this current arc, the once-again amnesiac Meru has begun working with Henry Lyme, the most powerful Mind MGMT agent of all time, to stop a former agent known as The Eraser from putting the agency back together.

In this issue, Meru and Lyme visit Perrier, the surviving member of a pair of sisters who, when working together, had the ability to create novels and graphic texts that could influence peoples’ behaviour.  The book starts with an excerpt from their graphic novel/memoir, which helps reestablish the characters, and bring us up to date on their abilities.  As Lyme recruits Perrier, it becomes clear that everyone is going to have to travel back to Zanzibar, which is a location of great significance for all involved.  They are being pursued by other former agents, and things don’t go smoothly.

Kindt continues to really impress with this book.  I love the way that he’s structured this story, so that despite the fact that reader knows more about the MGMT than Meru, we are still able to discover new things alongside her.  I also love some of the meta touches that Kindt works into the story.  After reading Perrier’s bio, Lyme comments that he “never liked the art”, which I’m sure is something that Kindt hears, seeing as his style is so unique.

Apparently there has been talk lately that Kindt has sold the movie rights to this title.  I think that means it’s a great time for new readers to start checking this out, not just because it’s a wonderful book, but so you can feel superior to your friends when the film comes out.

Other Notable Comics:

Conan the Barbarian #13

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Mirko Colak

The last story arc in this title was pretty tough on Conan.  He was alone among the crew of the Tigress in staving off a deadly disease which, while allowing everyone to recover, exacted a terrible price from Conan and his lover, the pirate queen Bêlit.

With this new arc, ‘The Woman on the Wall’, Bêlit has returned to her homeland of Shem, and has left her ship.  After helping the crew with repairs for a while, Conan decides to go after her, but soon finds himself conscripted into a large army which is laying siege to the fortress city of Ramah En Ram.

What makes this siege stand out for all of the men involved is the nightly appearance of a pale, beautiful woman who walks the ramparts of the fortress.  She is the cause of much speculation among the soldier, but it is only Conan who knows for certainty who she is.

Brian Wood writes this book extremely well.  Reading this story brought to mind the arc in Northlanders, his Viking history series, that dealt with the siege of Paris, but this is handled very differently.  Conan’s character shines through in many instances, most especialy when he takes his fellows to task for their attitudes.

Mirko Colak joins the series as artist for this arc, and he gives the book a much more realist vibe than previous artists have.  His characters all carry a great deal of weight to themselves, and it makes this arc feel more grounded.  It’s good stuff.

Dark Horse Presents #21

Written by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Michael Avon Oeming, Geoffrey Thorne, Neil Gaiman, Shaun Manning, Denis Medri, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Simon Roy, Duane Swierczynski, Shannon Wheeler, and Carla Speed McNeil
Art by Steve Lieber, Michael Avon Oeming, Todd Harris, Paul Chadwick, Andrew Drilon, Denis Medri, Gabriel Hardman, Simon Roy, Eric Nguyen, Shannon Wheeler, and Carla Speed McNeil

I really don’t understand the thinking here.  This issue of Dark Horse Presents has a story written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Paul Chadwick, and yet the cover is given over to Caitlin Kiernan’s middling Alabaster series, which has been running for a while, and is not all that interesting.  Sure Gaiman and Chadwick get their names on the cover, in rather small print, but I would think that picking any of Chadwick’s beautiful splash pages, and putting Gaiman’s name in larger print under the comic’s title, would have grabbed a lot more new readers at the comics store.  Their story is quite wonderful – a bit of a prose poem about the different ways the world can end, with a last one that is most devastating, and most personal.

Other than that, this is again a pretty mixed-bag issue of DHP.  There’s a new chapter of Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil, which is the main reason why I buy this book.  I was disappointed to see that the story ends with the words “The End”, and I’m hoping that refers to this ‘Third World’ storyline, and not the end of McNeil’s regular contributions to this book.

Simon Roy, the brilliant semi-regular artist of Image’s Prophet, and Jan’s Atomic Heart, debuts his new story, Tiger Lung, here.  We don’t know a lot from this first chapter, except that the story involves a young man journeying deep into an ice cave or glacier, despite the protestations of his people.  I love Roy’s work, and can’t wait to see where this leads.

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s Station to Station ends this issue.  It’s been a good story, with a real BPRD feel to it, but I think it didn’t really get enough space to breathe in these few chapters.  I just like looking at Hardman’s art though.

Denis Medri starts off his Arcade Boy story here, and it’s a fun look at teenager-dom and video games, set in a near-future that has hoverboards!  It’s kind of derivative, but enjoyable.  I’ve never read work by Shannon Wheeler before, and I enjoyed the first chapter of Villain House, which has a pair of supervillains breaking out of jail.

Beyond that, there’s not much to say.  Journeyman continues, and grabs my attention a little more than the first chapter did.  X is finally over, and Michael Avon Oeming’s The Victories continues to do absolutely nothing for me.

Fatale #12

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Since its inception, Fatale has been following Josephine, a mysterious woman who doesn’t age, and who has some control over the actions of men.  The first story was set in the 30s, while the second took place in the 70s.  Last issue, which was a done-in-one story, saw Josephine investigating her own strange situation, and talking to an author who has some insight into condition, based on his own experiences in the 1890s.

This issue is quite different from anything that has gone before, as Brubaker takes us to the Languedoc region of France in the late thirteenth century.  Here, we meet Mathilda, a woman who can not be injured, and who never ages.  She doesn’t understand any more about herself than Jo does, and after fleeing a religious group that tried to burn her at the stake, she ends up living in a small cabin in the woods with an older man.

This story doesn’t give us a whole lot of insight into Josephine, or the cult that is pursuing her, but it does establish that these ‘femmes fatale’ have been around for a long time, and that the larger story of Fatale has some very deep roots.

A comic by Brubaker and Phillips is always enjoyable, and I was very pleased to see that Bettie Breitweiser, my current favourite colourist, has joined the team.  She did incredible work on Brubaker’s Marvel books (Captain America and Winter Soldier), and I like looking at her work with Sean Phillips. This is a terrific series that just keeps getting better and better.

Happy #4

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Darick Robertson

Happy has been one of the stranger Grant Morrison comics I’ve ever read.  I can see how a statement like that may lead many to believe that this book examined drug-fuelled surrealism in a way that books like The Invisibles or Filth couldn’t, but that’s not the case at all.  What makes this book so strange is that Morrison wrote this like he’s Garth Ennis.

There are so many aspects of this book that read like Ennis at his crime-comic best (his war books are very different).  Nick Sax, the ex-police detective, has eczema and is always in a bad mood.  There is a child-porn ring that are planning on featuring a Christmas-themed live event on Christmas Eve.  Toss in the liberal use of the C-word, and you’d swear this was an Ennis book.

Regardless of whose voice Morrison chose to write this in, this has been a decent little mini-series.  Sax is a mess, but through the faith and support of a little girl’s blue flying unicorn imaginary friend, he is able to pull his act together.  Robertson is brilliant at this kind of thing, and he juxtaposes the ridiculously cartoony Happy with the dishevelled and scabrous Sax in a way that makes this book really stand out.

It’s not very ground breaking, but it’s good stuff.

Revival #7

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Since its beginning, I’ve found that Tim Seeley’s Revival has been a difficult comic to peg down.  Story elements have been introduced, and then almost instantly back-burnered or down-played, while new characters and sub-plots appear almost at random.

This issue has Officer Dana Cypress, who is pretty much the book’s main character, continue to investigate the reviver-involved murder of a local doctor, who happened to be sleeping with his step-sister.  While this takes place, we check in with her sister Martha, who is herself a Reviver (the premise of this series is that, in this small Wisconsin community, the dead all came back to life, and many of them seem a little off), who runs into a fellow Reviver in a store.

On the periphery of the town, where a quarantine has been set up, Seeley begins to explore some new aspects of this story.  A Fox-News style religious broadcaster has shown up suggesting that people are being kept out of the town because the government does not want good Christians to participate in “the Rapture”.  This is an interesting aspect to add to the story, especially after a bus crash reveals some pretty strange things going on.

Nowhere in this book do we learn anything more about the strange ghost-like creatures that are prowling the woods around the town, but we do meet three guys who are cutting people up with a circular saw.  I have no idea who they are, or what their deal is, and I’m not even sure that they will be addressed in the next issue, as Seeley is pacing this book rather strangely.

Still and all though, this is a very well-written comic in terms of characterization and concept, and I have always been a sucker for Mr. Norton’s art.

Saga #10

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

I often find it hard to discuss each new issue of Saga.  I love the book, and most of the main characters in it, but issue after issue, I find I have little new to say about the comic.

Brian K. Vaughan picked the right title for this comic.  This really is a saga – a story so immense that the forward momentum of any particular issue does little to progress the larger plot.  In this issue, Marko and his mother find Izabel, the ghostly baby-sitter, Hazel loses her umbilical stump, a planetoid-egg hatches, and The Will finds our heroes.

What I found most significant in this issue though, was the flashback that showed us just how Marko and Alana fell in love, and the moment when she decided to free him from her people’s captivity.  Time and again since the series started, we’ve heard reference to Alana’s love for a romance novel; now we know that it is this same book that brought her and her enemy prisoner together.  I like how this metaphorical bodice-ripper is examined by the characters, and how it also reveals a few things about Vaughan’s plans for this series, or so I imagine.

Fiona Staples’s artwork is, as always, gorgeous.  I do want to say that the last page made me very unhappy, and I am hoping that the suggested character death we saw there is going to be resolved happily.

The Sixth Gun #29

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

Two issues of The Sixth Gun, between this one and the beginning of its new spin-off mini-series, is quite a treat for one week.

This issue finishes off the ‘Winter Wolves’ arc, which really ended last month, as Drake and Becky meet up with their friend Gord Cantrell, who played a large role in rescuing them from their wintry fate.  They are not too happy to see who Gord’s traveling companions are, as they both have some bad history with Kirby Hale and Asher Cobb.

Now that the band is all back together, they figure that it’s time to go after Missy Hume, the widow of General Hume, and the only other person to possess one of the Six Guns.  Becky decides to pay a visit to Missy herself, using her gun’s special abilities.  This in turn leads Missy to visit a potential ally, promising that this series is going to continue to ramp up in intensity.

Bunn and Hurtt have put together a very consistently enjoyable series, and that continues to be true.  It looks like the next story arc, ‘Ghost Dance’ is going to feature Native American characters, and not simply rely on their mythology, as has been the case numerous times over the course of the series.  I’ve really been enjoying the way that Bunn has woven mystical aspects into the traditional Western setting, and so the addition of “Indians” is more than welcome.

The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun #1

Written by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
Art by Brian Churilla

The Sixth Gun is one of my favourite independent titles, which delivers a steady fix of mystical Western adventure.  I was a little surprised to see that the title was spawning a mini-series, Sons of the Gun.

This new title, co-written by regular series writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt, is focussed on the original owners of The Six, a set of magical six-shooters that each have a different ability.  These guns were brought into the world by the Confederate General Hume, who was the main villain in the series’s first arc, and were spread between his henchmen.  Eventually, Hume was captured and imprisoned.

This issue is about Bloodthirsty Bill, who has the first gun, which is as strong as a cannon.  When we first meet him, he’s close to death in a desert, but is soon saved by a group of thieves led by a man named Pagan Sam, who does some business with the Pinkertons, and is going about collecting mystical artifacts.

I found this issue a little slow in getting started, but it eventually delivered the same general feel of the main series.  Brian Churilla, fresh off the excellent Secret History of D.B. Cooper, provides the art.  Churilla is a great artist, and while this story doesn’t give him the same chances to cut loose as Cooper did, he does a fine job of sticking to the look that Hurtt established for this title.

Quick Takes:

Archer & Armstrong #7I like this book better when Fred Van Lente works in some social and financial commentary (like last issue’s debates about global warming), but even with that element barely present, he spins a good tale.  The new Geomancer, the Eternal Warrior, and our heroes figure out what the Null are up to (it involves the Anti-Life Equation, I mean the Null-World Equation), and Archimedes and Alan Turing have cameos.  It’s good stuff.

Avengers #6 – As much as I wish this book didn’t come out so often, I have enjoyed the last couple of issues as Jonathan Hickman has been working at introducing some of the newer members of the team.  This time around, the focus is on Captain Universe, and the reason why that persona has chosen to manifest itself on Earth, and in the body it has.  We also see what it’s like to have “Superior” Spidey in a team book, and learn that Adam, the character birthed in the first story arc, has a different name, and that it would be very familiar to anyone who read Marvel’s expanded comics line in the 80s.  I like what Hickman has planned for this book so far, and can’t wait to see how the “White Event” plays out.

Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank – This one-shot contains two short Baltimore stories, both of which capture the atmosphere of Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s post WW1 vampire-hunting series quite well.  Ben Stenbeck’s art is terrific, and this book would work very well as an introduction to this character.

Batwoman #17 – For a story that has been building for a year and a half (including the zero issue), the grand finale feels a little too quick and neat, but it’s still a gorgeous comic, as Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Firehawk (sorry, Hawkfire – an easy mistake), and some others fight Medusa and her gathered baddies.  This has been a very good run, although I’m not sure how I feel about the two revelations that JH Williams dumps on us on the last page – the one comes from left field, and the other feels like it’s happening too soon.  I’m really going to miss Williams’s art on this book; I wonder how long I’ll stick around for just his writing…

BPRD 1948 #5This third of the 1940s series ends decently, with a framing device I’d totally forgotten about in the last five months since this story started.  I enjoyed this book mostly for Max Fiumara’s terrific art, and for the fact that the story is going to be continuing next month in a new series drawn by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.

Daredevil #23 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee give us another solid issue of Daredevil, most of which focusses on Matt Murdock’s friendship with Foggy, who is waiting to hear the results of some medical tests.  There is a bit about people who are being exposed to the chemicals that blinded Murdock, but it is not terribly well developed, instead serving as a foil for Matt’s famed unreliability.  I feel like this book is starting to slip a touch.

Harbinger #9 – Joshua Dysart shines the spotlight on Faith this issue, as Project Rising Spirit captures Peter Stanchek and the rest of his growing gang of renegade Psiots.  It’s another very good issue, as Dysart continues to make the book very character driven.

Indestructible Hulk #4 – I still can’t make up my mind about this series.  After the last issue, I was ready to add it to my pull-file, but this issue feels much more disjointed, as Dr. Banner meets his new assistants, and Hulk gets sent in to fight off Lemurian aggression in the oceans.  There were a few too many coincidences (such as Banner having requested to explore Lemuria just prior to hostilities breaking out), and story elements, such as the Chinese underwater helicarrier thing, that just conveniently exist now.  I’m going to give this book one more issue…

Nightwing #17 I’ve been losing interest in this book lately, mostly due to the endless interference from whatever story is playing in Batman, and this issue is the one to sound the death-knell, at least so far as my pull-list is concerned.  Dick wanders the city feeling sorry for himself, and Damian follows him.  Some people in X-O Manowar suits show up to be fought (without much explanation), and I don’t know – some other stuff happens.  I kind of zoned out.  I usually like Juan Jose Ryp’s art, but I think he maybe had a week-end and a half to draw this book.  Compare it to last week’s issue of Clone – no comparison.

Number 13 #3 – I’d liked this story when it was a serial in Dark Horse Presents, but this three-issue mini-series has been very poorly paced, leading to big action scenes where I haven’t been able to remember who is who, or what side everyone is fighting on.  Had this been a five-issue series, I’m sure it would have been much more effective.

Thief of Thieves #12 – What’s more exciting than a good caper story?  A good caper story where things go off the rails.  In this issue, Redmond and his son plot to free the son’s girlfriend from her cartel kidnappers, while she reaches out to some powerful, and heretofore unknown, friends of her own.  This series is a great read.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #21 – Here we have another fair to middling issue of the Ultimates.  I saw rumors this week that Marvel may be planning to shutter the Ultimate line, which would be shame in the case of Spider-Man, and not much of a loss elsewhere.  I don’t feel that Sam Humphries is doing all that he can to make this a memorable title.  This issue has the Ultimates attack a Hydra base to recover the (supposedly) traitorous Nick Fury.  It’s not a bad comic, but it’s not terribly fresh either.  Perhaps, were it drawn by cover artist Dave Bullock, I’d feel differently…

Wonder Woman #17Almost every character who has appeared in Brian Azzarello’s excellent run so far shows up in this issue, as Wonder Woman convenes a bit of a family meeting at a bar, before heading off to try to rescue Zola’s baby.  There are a number of very well-written moments, and I particularly enjoyed seeing how Diana rehearses before giving someone bad news.  I don’t know what’s up with the art for this issue though.  Tony Akins starts the issue quite well, but his pencils later on don’t even look like he’s drawn them.  Another artist, Amilcar Pinna, is credited with drawing three pages, but these are not the ones that look so off.  I wonder if DC made a mistake on the credits, or if Akins was just really under the gun for this one.  As with most DC books, I’d rather have waited a week for a book that was more consistent.

X-Factor #252 – I find I really am not liking this Hell on Earth storyline, as Pluto (the Greek God, not the former planet or the dog) fights the team to kill Rahne’s child.  Everything feels a little too familiar and a tad rushed, while not being overly compelling.  I hope this story arc doesn’t last much longer.

X-O Manowar #10 – Another excellent issue from Robert Venditti and Trevor Hairsine, although I’m a little surprised with the ease with which the Vine invasion fleet was dispatched.  I hope that, as Venditti becomes busier and busier (with Demon Knights and now Green Lantern to write), that the quality of this title does not get affected.

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

Black Beetle No Way Out #2

Kill Shakespeare Tide of Blood #1

Savage Wolverine #2

Superior Spider-Man #4

Thor God of Thunder #5

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Last Call Vol. 2

by Vasilis Lolos

The first volume of Vasilis Lolos’s Last Call was published in 2007.  I think, taking that into account, I can be forgiven for being utterly lost when I started to read the second volume, which was published last week.

Lolos is an artist who first came on my radar for his excellent work on Rick Spear’s Pirates of Coney Island series, which started around the time that I came to realize how great Image Comics were in the last 00s.  I know that Lolos has had his problems over the last few years, so I’m not surprised that it took almost six years for this manga-sized book to be completed, and I’m happy to see that the artist is working again.  (Again, for contrast, Pirates of Coney Island has still not been finished).

In this volume, young Sam is still on the strange extra-dimensional train that he and his friend Alec boarded in the first volume.  Alec had fallen off, and much of this volume follows him through his adventures, which involve him becoming a cop on some planet where there is only one other human – his superior officer.

Now Alec is back on the train, and his old friend Sam is the same age as when Alec last saw him (Alec is now an adult).  There are train-based hijinks involving Sam avoiding the ticket-taking monster of a conductor, and really, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What Lolos is going for here is more of a kinetic, fast-paced surrealist adventure, and on those terms it works well.  Lolos is an exciting artist, and has plenty of strange ideas to cram into this book.  It is nowhere near being a very notable book (other than for its scheduling problems), but it’s a fun, diverting read.

Album of the Week:

J-Rocc V J-Man – This compilation/mix cd is a few years old, but I’ve only recently stumbled across it.  Legendary Stones Throw DJ is given access to the Jazzman vaults to weave together this excellent mix of dusty and rare jazz grooves.  Brilliant.

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