The Weekly Round-Up #169

Best Comic of the Week:

The Massive #9

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

When The Massive, Brian Wood’s post-environmental collapse series began, I thought I had a pretty clear handle on it, and that the book really would be about the search for The Massive, the missing vessel owned by Ninth Wave, the environmental direct action group.  Along the way, I assumed that the crew of the Kapital would explore the new world that Wood has figured out, and that basically, the series would be like the first half of Wood’s other series, DMZ, only set on the ocean.

Then this new arc, ‘Subcontinental’ started, and it became more and more clear that there is a lot more going on in this series, even if I have no idea what it all is yet.  I feel like Wood has been peppering this book with clues to a whole other story, that only a little of which has been revealed now.

The Kapital has come to call at Moksha Station, a community of commandeered oil platforms in the Indian Ocean.  Ninth Wave’s leader, Callum Israel, has been captured by Sumon, the station’s director, after his girlfriend Mary destroyed Moksha’s communication array.  While this is going on, Mag, the Kapital’s third in command, has arranged for some kind of work to be done with a transponder, and his assistant Georg has gone after a nuclear submarine that sits under the station.  Israel knows nothing about any of this, and at the same time, we learn that he is harbouring a pretty big secret of his own.

This series began with a large number of lengthy info dumps, so it’s pretty cool to realize that Wood was really playing his cards close to his vest at the same time.  I’ve been intrigued by this book since it started, but this latest issue has really ramped up my interest.  It’s a very good, very nice-looking series.

Other Notable Comics:

Prophet #34

Written by Brandon Graham with Simon Roy and Matt Sheean
Art by Simon Roy and Malachi Ward

I love Prophet, and all the work that Brandon Graham and his amazing cast of artists have done to take an utterly execrable 90s character and turn him and his story into a sweeping futuristic space epic, but over the last two months, I’ve not been able to stop myself from wondering if the book has fallen into a bit of a rut.

In this issue, we revisit the John Prophet who we first saw in these pages, in Graham and Roy’s earliest issues.  He’s the guy who woke on Earth after millennia of hibernation, and who turned on the GOD satellite, which reawakened the entire Earth Empire.  Since then, we’ve met a number of different Prophet clones on a number of different missions, as well as the original – Old Man Prophet, who is gathering allies to stop the Earth Empire.

This issue has John Prophet come to the Empire’s central domus – a large structure that is the heart of its endeavours.  There, he discovers that some in the Empire fear him and want him dead.  Some other things happen too, as they always do in this book, that are pretty wild and wonderful in their own way.

Really, this is an excellent comic, but I feel like it’s time for the story to take a few larger leaps forward. It’s never been made clear just what the Empire is all about, or why we should be concerned about it.  There are portents of doom galore, but I think we might need some actual doom to hold everything together.

As always, I enjoyed Roy’s artwork, and was very intrigued by the back-up story, CARE, by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward.  Usually these back-ups are stand-alones, and aren’t given enough space to grow, but this is the beginning of a serial, which gives the creators a lot more space.

Skullkickers #19 / Uncanny Skullkickers #1

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Kevin Raganit

It’s been a little while since we’ve seen the Skullkickers, so I was pretty happy to be able to pick up a new issue this week.  For this new arc, called ‘Eighty Eyes on an Evil Island’, writer Jim Zubkavich is having a little fun with the comics industry.  So far, each issue of the arc that’s been solicited so far has been listed as a new #1 issue of a title which has simply changed an adjective or two in order to justify a ‘relaunch’.  This issue was solicited as Uncanny Skullkickers #1, but it was also possible to pick it up with the cover, title, and numbering shown to the right.  I hope that this little stunt gets Zubkavich the notice he’s looking for, because Skullkickers is an excellent series that more people need to be paying attention to.

As this arc opens, Rex and Kusia wake up on a remote beach, having been washed ashore after their sea-faring misadventures of the last story arc.  They have no idea where they are, and are left with a meager amount of supplies.  It’s not long before the elfin Kusia has hunted up some meat, while Rex has found himself a small patch of shade in which to enjoy some rum.  Later, there is an attack by vicious horned turtles, and some jungle-slogging, which leads to an unfortunate discovery.

Running along the bottom of each page is another strip, which keeps us current with the Dwarf who is usually the star of this book.  It’s one of the more exciting comics sequences I’ve ever read.

Skullkickers is a lot of fun, and it looks like Zubkavich is having a good time switching up the formula a little by rearranging the players.  Next month, I guess things in this book are going to be a little more canny, but also a lot more savage…

The Unwritten #46

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, with Dean Ormston

This issue continues the two-part storyline featuring Australian Detective Didge and vampire Richie Savoy, who are investigating a pair of zombie attacks that they believed were caused by the writing of a young boy.  Savoy suspects that Leviathan, the wounded creature that has the ability to make stories real, is involved in what’s happening, and he seeks out Madame Rausch, the ‘puppet lady’ for some answers.

Since the Cabal was taken apart by Tom Taylor a while back, this title has been casting about for a proper villain.  We got a cult leader for a little while, and have never been too sure where Rausch stands, although this issue suggests that she clearly has her own plans.  This issue introduces the idea that Leviathan is not the only creature of his kind, and that other such beasts, fed by more modern stories, are in competition to fill its place in the story-ecosystem.

This book has always been interesting, and I like the way that Carey and Gross give the spotlight to a pair of characters who don’t often get much play.  The dialogue between the two works very well, and I always think it’s nice when Dean Ormston provides inks over Gross’s pencils; it changes the feel of the book a great deal.

Quick Takes:

All Star Western #17 – I’m not sure why Jonah Hex is still hanging out in Gotham if he hates the place so much, but now he’s helping Alan Wayne recover his wife from a walled-off, plague-ridden section of town at the same time that Vandal Savage appears in town (you know that’s not all a coincidence).  This is a good-enough story with some overly-descriptive narration (it’s a theme this week – check out Uncanny Avengers below), and some always-nice artwork by Moritat.  In the back-up, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray channel their inner Warren Ellis, giving us a story about the steampunk Jenny Freedom, a century baby.  It looks like we’ll see the rest of the 19th century Stormwatch next issue, only I’m not sure I really care.

Avengers Arena #5As much as I don’t want to like this book, Dennis Hopeless’s strong character work keeps bringing me back for more.  The spotlight is on Kid Briton this issue, and as we suspected, he’s an arrogant jerk.  Arcade makes his first reappearance since the first issue, trying to ramp up the competition in Murder World, and some alliances are formed while others disintegrate.  Kev Walker is back on art, and things just keep moving along nicely.  I think I’m going to start preordering this book now.

Batman Incorporated #8 – I want to talk about this book without giving away any spoilers, despite the fact that the end of this comic was released in the news, has been all over the internet prior to the book’s release, and is talked about openly in that stupid new ‘Channel 52′ thing at the end of all the New 52 books, let alone given away by one of the two covers to the comic.  When Grant Morrison first came on to Batman a few years ago, he introduced a new character who has been one of the best things to happen to the Bat-books for years, breathing new life into an old dynamic.  I’m not sure why DC would want to change that, unless, of course, the events of this issue are going to be reversed soon.  I would suggest to DC that they reverse it in the very next issue, because as of right now, I’m going to be dropping one of the Bat-titles I read, only for the role that one particular character plays in it.  If he’s not there, neither am I.  On a less cryptic note, I love Chris Burnham’s art this issue – the scene where Dick and Damian lunge forward, with a big cloudy ‘Boom’ behind them is brilliant – pop art-y and cool all at the same time.

Comeback #4 – As Ed Brisson’s time travelling story continues, new elements to time travel keep getting introduced, although the agents that work for Reconnect are clearly not given a lot of details about their own business.  Brisson’s written a smart thriller, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends next month.

FF #4FF under Matt Fraction and Michael Allred continues to be a very fun read.  In this issue, She-Hulk goes out on a date (of sorts) with Wyatt Wingfoot, and the Moloid kids do their best to ruin the evening, because they are “pitching their woo at The Jen”.  I have next to no interest in Fraction writing the main Fantastic Four title, but this is a very good read.  On a side note, I never really noticed how much Bentley reminds me of Damian Wayne…

Hawkeye #8 – It’s becoming redundant to talk about how wonderful Hawkeye is, but when an issue opens with a scene that involves the Black Widow, Mockingbird, and Spider-Woman all dressed in 60s go-go dresses with playing cards in their beehive hairdos, and never feels the need to explain it, there cannot be enough praise.  Matt Fraction brings back the character Penny, who needs Clint’s help to rob her ex-husband’s gangster friends, and manages to manipulate him into doing just that.  David Aja’s wonderful art is augmented by some vintage romance comics covers drawn by Annie Wu.  Fantastic stuff.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire – Hard Targets #5 – John Ostrander’s wonderful James Bond/Star Wars mash-up series finishes off its second volume with this exciting issue, which features a fight with Boba Fett and a couple of very cool plot twists.  Ostrander does great work with Jahan Cross, his Bond figure, and Davidé Fabbri’s art is very nice.  Recommended.

Talon #5 – I think I have finally made up my mind about this title, and am going to be sticking with it for the foreseeable future.  Having taken the time to heal from his wounds, Calvin Rose is ready to make his next move against the Court of Owls, which involves his penetrating an impenetrable (ridiculously so – we’ve far exceeded Bond villain base here) corporate headquarters on an island in Gotham Harbour.  Batman and Nightwing have a cameo, setting up the inevitable guest appearance.  A big draw to this book has been Guillem March’s art, and James Tynion IV has been steadily building on these characters in such a way that I’m starting to like them.

Uncanny Avengers #4 I am still having a hard time getting into this series.  Rick Remender relies on a lot of third-person omniscient narration in this issue, which is a pretty rare thing in comics these days, with the effect that the this book had a bit of a Stan Lee vibe to it, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  It meant that Remender and John Cassaday didn’t really need to show what was happening, explaining uncharacteristic behaviour, and relying on some brutal prose (“Oblivious, Havok beats Rogue merciless, seeing in her the face of his foe,” is one prime example).  The whole mutants as metaphor for racial or sexual difference has never felt more strained as it does here, and I’m still having a hard time buying the need for an Avengers ‘unity squad’, when there are a few mutants on Jonathan Hickman’s team.

Uncanny X-Force #2 – I continue to have high hopes for this book, but there were a couple of things in this issue that gave me a bit of a pause.  Why, if we’re going to go to the trouble of bringing Bishop back to the current timeline, would he automatically have to start hunting another little mutant girl?  The guy is going to turn into more of a one-note character than he was before.  Also, why are Storm and Psylocke driving around in a steam-punk flying car?  This makes no sense to me.  Other than that, I’ve been enjoying the way that Sam Humphries writes Storm, Psylocke, and Puck, who is probably the main reason why I’m buying this book.  I’ve never been a big fan of Ron Garney’s art (and his Spiral is terrible), but I’m going to stick with this title for a while.

Witch Doctor #4 – Another very enjoyable issue, as Dr. Morrow needs rescuing by his paramedic assistant, and needs even more help to reattach his aura, and then use it to try to cure himself of his strigoism.  Brandon Seifert’s story is a great read, and I love Lukas Ketner’s art.  This is a creator-owned series that everyone should be reading.

X-Men Legacy #6And here we have yet another Marvel NOW! title that I can’t quite make up my mind about.  Legion rescues Blindfold from her eyeballs-only brother (I know), and comes to a few decisions about himself and his role in the wider mutant community, and six issues in, I’m still not entirely sure of the premise of this title.  Legion has cut ties with the X-Men, but wants to do good in the world.  I’ll probably give it another issue to impress me, because I like to support some of Marvel’s more esoteric books.

Young Avengers #2 – Things just feel right when Kieron Gillen is writing Loki again.  In this issue, Billy and Teddy realize that things aren’t right with Teddy’s mom, they get trapped in comic book panels and rescued by Loki, and bacon gets discussed.  This is a very stylish, fun comic, which is a little hard to pin down just yet, as Gillen keeps tossing new story elements at us in rapid-fire succession.  It’s all very enjoyably written, and gorgeous thanks to Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton.  This is probably the best book to come out of the Marvel NOW! line.

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

Answer #2

Astonishing X-Men #59

Avenging Spider-Man #17

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

Ultimate Comics X-Men #23

Uncanny X-Men #2

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Men #5I’ve really been missing the X-Men lately.  Sure, I’m reading Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, and X-Factor every month (or every two weeks), but not reading the ‘flagship’ x-title for the first time in many years has felt strange.  Then I read this recent issue, wherein people stand around and talk a lot, or stand around in Beast’s head and talk a lot, and I realize how little I’m missing.  I don’t like the concept of putting the teenage X-Men in the centre of this book, and I think that Beast’s new mutation looks stupid.  This is not Brian Michael Bendis’s better work.

Avenging Spider-Man #15 – This wraps up a fun two-parter featuring Peter Parker as Spider-Man (remember when?), and co-starring Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy.  There’s some very nice Gabriele Dell’Otto artwork, and some decent Cullen Bunn writing.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Templar, Arizona Vol. 2: The Mob Goes Wild

by Spike

I really enjoyed the first volume of Templar, Arizona, a webcomic that has been collected (so far) into four slim volumes.  The series is about the very strange town of Templar Arizona, where society has taken a few different turns from ours’.

This second volume continues to give us a tour of Templar. When the book opens, a rally for the Reclamation movement gets disrupted by the Cooks.  Reclamation is a social movement concerned with rehabilitating and squatting in abandoned and under-utilized industrial spaces, similar to the movements that have swept through Latin America.  The Cooks are a mysterious groups of anarchists who enjoy disrupting and escalating protests for their own, unknown purposes.

Someone from this rally, most likely a Cook, ends up on the ledge of our point of view character, Benjamin’s, window.  He talks his way into the apartment, smearing riot police “smelly paint” on Ben’s face, and marking his window with a mysterious vinyl sticker.

After this, we meet a number of new characters, as Ben, Scipio, and the loud-mouthed Reagan continue their usual dynamic of shock, disdain, and appeasement, and carry on across the city.  We meet people like Tuesday, a TV or radio star who likes to take off her clothes, Curio, her frenemy, and Sunny and Moze, who are in a band with the intellectually challenged Gene.  We also learn about Diesel, the Templar version of street hockey à la Thunderdome.

Spike has done a terrific job of developing these characters and imbuing Templar with so many interesting elements, that a clear plot is rather unnecessary.  This series reminds me a great deal of Carla Speed McNeil’s phenomenal Finder saga, mostly because of the depth of thought put into social structures, and the casual, breezy style of the footnotes that add so much to my enjoyment of the book.  I really need to get ahold of the next two volumes…

Album of the Week:

The Lions – This Generation – I don’t listen to a lot of reggae (I blame growing up in the era of Dancehall), and when I listen to an album like this one, I really have to wonder why that is.  This is a soul reggae super-group kind of album, and it is just what the doctor ordered as winter lingers and my thoughts turn to sunnier days.

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