The Weekly Round-Up #176 With Chew, Miniature Jesus, BPRD, Comeback, Conan & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Chew #33

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

I’m not sure if there is any other comic coming out (more or less) monthly that I look forward to more than a new issue of Chew.  Layman and Guillory have worked into such a perfect groove for this title that each new issue feels better than the one before.

This issue opens on Colby having a terrible night at home, joined as he is by his boss, Director Applebee, who is forcing his company (and probably other things) onto him, and using his as a shoulder to cry on.

Tony Chu, meanwhile, is on loan to the US Navy for a mission that his him returning to the island of Yamapalu, the sight of an earlier mission for him.  Tony is being sent to abduct (render?) someone in a position of leadership in the Church of the Immaculate Ova, the chicken-worshipping cult that has been causing problems in the US.  To do this, he has to face a sciboinvalescor, a person who gains strength through ingesting food.

I don’t want to give away too much about this issue, but Poyo, the cybernetic chicken killing machine has a cameo, and Guillory’s depiction of the Navy is hilarious.  I’ve been fascinated by the turn towards darkness we’ve seen in Chu’s behaviour, especially since that same darkness is not reflected in the rest of the comic.

If you aren’t reading Chew, you really need to be.

Another Notable Comic:

Miniature Jesus #1

by Ted McKeever

Here’s a question for those of you who are more religiously inclined than I am – if a wall-statue of Jesus were to suddenly come to life, pull the nails out of its hands, and drop to the floor, what would you automatically assume?  If you are Ted McKeever’s preacher, you’d find it to be proof of demonic activity, a reaction that I find a little strange.  I would think that those that preach “the return” would be more inclined to interpret bizarre goings-on as proof of it, not its opposite.

But then, I’m not a preacher, nor inclined to think like one.

Anyway, it’s a new Ted McKeever comic.  It’s weird.  People act strangely.  Do I need to say anything else?

Most of this book is not about the titular miniature Jesus though; it appears that the true star of this series is a homeless alcoholic who has holed up in an abandoned motel, spending his days staring at the corpse of a cat.  His temptations take the form of a demon that appears to talk to him (when the dead cat isn’t).  Whether or not this demon is an actual demon remains to be seen.

McKeever is at his best when dealing with religious themes – hisMetropol is my favourite of his series, and this comic seems much more coherent than his recent Mondo.  I’ve always liked McKeever’s art – his establishing shots are beautiful, and his characters are always interesting to look at.  He’s the kind of cartoonist for whom Image’s ‘Golden Age’ format was created.

Quick Takes:

Avengers #9 – I know this came out last week, but this is the first I got it.  Jonathan Hickman  takes his plot further by having Nightmask and Starbrand confront the folks on Mars, before coming back to Earth and getting into a big punch-up with the whole Avengers team.  This story arc doesn’t balance character as well as Hickman’s Fantastic Four run did, but he is playing with some big, interesting ideas.  The switch in art from Dustin Weaver to Mike Deodato was pretty jarring.

Batwoman #19 – Trevor McCarthy is doing a fine job drawing this book, but in the wake of JH Williams’s departure from art chores, this comic feels a lot more traditional, and subsequently, a little more dull, as Batwoman’s complicated family relationships are once again the vehicles for driving the plot.  It would be nice to see Kate doing something else.

BPRD Hell on Earth #106 – The two-part ‘A Cold Day in Hell’ arc wraps up with Agent Giarocco going looking for Yosif despite her orders.  I like that the minor characters are getting so much play in this title these days, and I’m always happy to see Peter Snejbjerg drawing a comic.

Comeback #5 – I know this came out a little while ago, but I somehow didn’t get a copy of it until now.  Ed Brisson finishes his time-travelling crime comic off very nicely, as various threads and confusing elements come together, and the fate of Reconnect is decided.  This book will read very well in trade.

Conan the Barbarian #15 – It’s a shame that Mirko Colak didn’t finish off ‘The Woman on the Wall’, but the art duties are given to Andrea Mutti, who does a fine job.  In fact, this is the best work I’ve seen from Mutti, as we learn the connection between Bêlit and the fortress in the desert that has been under siege.  It’s a very well balanced issue, as Brian Wood continues to make Conan a fascinating character, seen in terms of his relationship with the Pirate Queen.

Daredevil #25Reading this issue, it’s not hard to see why artist Chris Samnee got an Eisner Award nomination this week – this book is just about perfect.  Mark Waid has Daredevil confront Ikari, a ninja with a radar sense who wears a very cool costume based on DD’s first outfit.  Waid has given a lot of thought to how a hero with radar sense would fight and use his environment, and really puts Matt through his paces in this fight.  This was a pretty thrilling comic, with one twist I didn’t see coming.  Great stuff.

Daredevil: End of Days #7 – I continue to love this series, as Ben Urich gets interrogated by the Hand before being rescued by the new Daredevil and the Punisher.  This series has been very well-written by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack, and has terrific art by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz.  The revelation of the new DD’s identity did not come as a surprise, having been pretty heavily telegraphed a few issues ago, but everything else about this book was bang-on.

Mara #4 – Mara Prince, once athletic hero and now super-powered pariah, takes a brief sojourn with the military in this issue, before striking out on her own.  Brian Wood is using this series to ask just how many self-absorbed, celebrity teenagers would, if they were to suddenly develop super-powers, suddenly begin to use them as heroes.  This is a contemplative and minimalist series, as Wood allows his themes to play out quickly, without much drama.  I’m really enjoying Ming Doyle’s artwork.

Nightwing #19 – When this series started, under Kyle Higgins’s pen, I was surprised that I liked it so much, having never really cared for Nightwing before.  Higgins and artist Eddy Barrows developed an interesting approach to Dick as an acrobat and as someone who was trying to create an identity for himself separate from his role as Bruce Wayne’s ward, while remaining an integral member of the Bat-Family.  Now, Dick has moved to Chicago (where, for some reason, police shoot at him when they see him) trying to track down the man who killed his parents, and is angry at Batman for the reasons that were never made convincing in the Death of the Family storyline.  This issue, which sets Dick up in Chicago, is a little hard to swallow in places, but the biggest problem with this book is the art by Brett Booth.  I remember being aware of him back in the days of bad Image comics, and I’m sorry to see that he has barely grown as an artist since the 90s.  All of his characters look to be about 20 years old, including Tony Zucco, who has an adult daughter.  Many of his pages are stiff and awkward, and the combined effect of his art and the magnitude of event-driven changes to the simple and interesting approach Higgins started this series with have led me to decide that it’s time to jump ship on this book.  Soon, I wonder how many DC books I’ll be buying…

Revival #9 I really wonder what the long-range plan for Revival must look like.  With each new issue, Tim Seley is introducing a few more characters and story elements, but very little is getting resolved (although I’m guessing that the story with the three brothers won’t last much longer, after this issue).  I’m quite enjoying watching this story play out, and am always happy for regular doses of Mike Norton’s art.

The Sixth Gun #30 – A new arc, ‘Ghost Dance’ begins here, as Drake, Becky, and their crew are being held by some Native tribes who have been sent to find them after receiving visions about them.  Also on hand is the old guy from the New Orleans swamps.  The Natives are trying to cure Becky of some rather existential issues, while Missy Hume’s crew, bolstered by her mother-in-law’s lizard people, are closing in.  I don’t think that description is adequate in explaining how awesome this book is.  Just take my word for it.

The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun #3 – As much as I like these books, I wish that they could be scheduled so they don’t come out in the same week – it’s too much of a good thing, followed by too long a spell in between.  Anyway, this month the spotlight is on Will Arcene, who owns the gun that shoots fire.  As it turns out, he’s a much worse character than his brothers in arms, as we learn a little about his upbringing in this straight-up horror comic.  It’s good, but not as good as the parent title.

Thief of Thieves #13 – It’s been a while since the last issue came out, but the reader is instantly tossed back into the action as Redmond and his son have to escape a building crawling with cops and FBI, and also make their escape from the cartel, which they are less successful at.  This is always a pretty taut series, and as the issues between father and son come further into the spotlight, it gets better and better.

Wonder Woman #19I really like how the Wonder Woman team embraced the potential silliness of the WTF cover gimmick to deliver a bit of a surprise.  This issue serves as an epilogue to the long story about Zeus’s lastborn, while also setting up the coming conflict with Zeus’s firstborn child, who is making an alliance with Neptune and Hell.  I love Brian Azzarello’s take on the Greek gods, and love this book.  I’m sad to see a few members of Diana’s entourage (family?  army?) go, but completely trust in what Azzarello has planned.  This is my favourite New 52 title.

X-Factor #254 – Whenever Peter David gets into his longer arcs, I find my enjoyment of the book drops precipitously.  That’s where we are right now, with the team still figuring out how to deal with the war between the various lords of various Hells, and me wondering why I still buy the book.  The thing is, I know that the aftermath issue of this arc, where the team stands around being rude to each other, is going to be gold.  I just have to wait it out.

X-Men Legacy #9 – Regardless of your feelings about this book, you have to admire Marvel for publishing such a different and unique take on the mutant corner of their universe.  In this issue, Legion and Blindfold go on a date on the moon, where Legion tries to convince her that they have to put a stop to a superhero before he tries to kill all mutants.  I like the way Simon Spurrier spins out this story, and that this book is so hard to predict.

X-O Manowar #12 – Aric continues to bring devastation to the Vine’s homeworld, and meets a number of descendants of his people who have been kept there as slaves.  This is another good comic in a very solid series.

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

Age of Ultron #6

Black Beetle #3

Bloodshot #10

Cable and X-Force #7

Captain America #6

Iron Man #8

Savage Wolverine #4

Superior Spider-Man #8

Wolverine and the X-Men #27AU

Bargain Comics:

Bloodshot #7This is a flashback issue, showing how Project Rising Spirit had been using Bloodshot to track down Psiots over the years (always, somehow, in Manila).  I’ve been avoiding this title, as the first five or six issues didn’t do much to impress me, but this issue does help inform what’s going on in Harbinger Wars, and features some nice art by Matthew Clark and Stefano Gaudiano.

Detective Comics #18 – Aside from the clearly editorially-mandated images of Bruce standing by Damian’s grave, this is one of the better issues of Detective I’ve read since John Layman starting writing it.  The Penguin figures out that Ogilvy, his former aide-de-camp, has taken his money, property, and identity, and he begins to fight back, rather badly, while Mr. Zsasz enjoys his time away from Arkham.  This is decent stuff – were the book not $4 a month, I’d probably be buying it.

Legends of the Dark Knight #3 – This issue of DC’s digital-first Bat-book is pretty decent, at least until you think about it.  I’m not the biggest fan of writer Steve Niles, but I do like Trevor Hairsine’s art, so I gave this a shot.  The Joker escapes mere hours after being locked up (after conveniently being placed in a cell that has a model revolving door and wrapping paper in it), and this causes Batman to question his effectiveness.  Conveniently, and for reasons I don’t understand, Gotham PD updating their computer files means that Commissioner Gordon calls Batman to come pick up bags of mail that they had been storing for him for years, and this in turn inspires him to continue with his mission.  I’m surprised that Batman only gets thank-you letters, and not requests for help.  Also, I kind of question when Niles wrote this story.  Hand-written letters and a corded red phone made me feel like I was reading a comic from the 80s.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Annotated Mantooth

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Andy Kuhn and Tim Fisher

I think most readers aren’t aware of the fact that Matt Fraction was bumping around the independent circuit for quite a while before getting noticed and published by Marvel, where he has become one of their main writers.  Some of his early work, likeLast Of The Independents andFive Fists Of Science are terrific, and Casanova is sublime.  And then there’s Mantooth.

There were three Mantooth stories told as part of an anthology series at Image, which were later collected and published alongside their script pages and with Fractions annotations in The Annotated Mantooth.  This extra material was needed in order to justify calling this book a trade paperback; otherwise, it would be just a little longer than a regular comic.

Rex Mantooth is a talking gorilla trained in kung fu and making things ‘splode.  He has a sexy human agent girlfriend, and he goes on James Bond-style missions for the US government.  In the course of these three issues, he fights an Oprah Winfrey stand-in who is training an army of beautiful lesbians, a gigantic Nazi robot called World’s Greatest Grandpa, Adolf Hitler in Fu Manchu drag, and an evil scientist who turns a room full of Nobel Prize winners into zombies.  I’ll admit, zombie Stephen Hawkings is pretty funny.

If all of this sounds a little familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it all before.  There has, over the last fifteen or so years, been a movement to develop ‘awesome’ as a genre.  It’s where humour books like Axe Cop and Buddy Cops belong, but you could argue it also contains titles like Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy.  ‘Awesome’ comics are created by cartoonists who look for the wildest idea they can find, and mash it up with some slightly less wild ideas, irregardless of character or logical plotting.  It can be fun, but it doesn’t stick with you.

If that’s your kind of thing, you’d probably like Mantooth.  It is a fun read, but it out Michael Bay’s Michael Bay.  You can kind of see the seeds that grew into Casanova here, and it’s always entertaining to check out a creator’s earlier work, but this is not a classic.

Album of the Week:

BonoboNorth Borders – I’ve only recently become exposed to Bonobo’s work.  This new album is less down-tempo (more up-tempo?) than his previous work, but still quite lovely.  A stand-out is the track that features Erykah Badu.  Recommended, if you like electronic music, and the Ninja Tune aesthetic.
What would you like to know?