The Weekly Round-Up #180 With Fatale, The Dream Merchant, The Rollerbladers of Sulayamaniyah & A Lot More

Best Comic of the Week:

Fatale #14 

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Fatale is a supernatural comics story set in various historical periods, so it was only a matter of time that the story would encompass the Second World War.

Josephine, the closest thing this series has to a ‘hero’, has made her way to occupied Paris, where she met an older woman who teaches her about herself, and all manner of occult things.  She makes her way to Romania, trying to figure out what the creatures we’ve seen all through this series are up to, and she is captured.

This issue shows us the first meeting of Josephine and Walter Booker, a character of some prominence from the first story arc.  He’s always had some abilities of his own where the occult is concerned, and this knowledge leads him to the same place where Josephine has been held.  The rest is history.

I like the way that Brubaker has snaked back to the beginning of his series, and this issue can be seen as a prequel to the very first one.  Fatale is continuously becoming more complex and textured as it continues, and I love watching this story unfold.  Very good stuff.

Other Notable Comics:

The Dream Merchant #1

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Konstantin Novosadov

In the years after Neil Gaiman’s Sandman ended, it felt like dreams were off-limits in comics, but that has changed with Nathan Edmondson’s new series, The Dream Merchant.

It tells the story of Wilson, a young man who has been institutionalized for his stubborn insistence that he has been having the same recurring dream his entire life, and that it has led him to obsession.  When the series opens, he is in a hospital, where he has lived since early teenage-hood.  A new doctor tries regressive therapy, and under hypnosis, Wilson travels to the same dreamscape that he always goes to, only this time, there are other entities there.

They come looking for him at the hospital, and he has to make his escape with his friend Anne.  A mysterious figure aids him, and soon they are on the road, trying to stay ahead of his pursuers.

This extra-length issue is mostly concerned with setting up Winslow’s story, but at the same time, it doesn’t give us a lot of information to work with.  Konstantin Novosadov’s art works well here – he uses a lot of wide panels, and keeps the story moving at a good pace.  This is not the typical Nathan Edmondson comic (i.e, it’s not a military or spy-based book), and I like seeing him try out new things.  I’m definitely intrigued by the story, and the revelation of just what it is that Winslow’s been dreaming about all this time.  This book could go somewhere.

The Rollerbladers of Sulayamaniyah

by Sarah Glidden

I enjoyed Sarah Glidden’s debut graphic novel, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, a great deal.  I was excited to see that she was at TCAF last week-end, and was happy to be able to pick up her mini-comic The Rollerbladers of Sulaymaniyah, which is about her time in Iraq.

The book is a slim one, drawn in the same style that Glidden used in her Israel book.  She has accompanied a pair of journalists, friends of hers, into Iraqi Kurdistan, an area of great calm compared to the rest of the country.  While there, the trio interview a man who was deported from the United States because of a comment made by one of the 9/11 planners.  He suggests that they leave Sulaymaniyah, the very peaceful capital, to travel close to the Iranian border and the site of Saddam Hussein’s gas attack against the Kurds.

Researching online, I learned that this comic was completed in twenty-four hours, and that rush kind of shows, but at the same time, Glidden has caught my attention, and has guaranteed that I’m going to buy Rolling Blackouts, her upcoming graphic novel about her time travelling through the Middle East.  Glidden’s approach to comics is similar to Guy Delisle’s, but as a female traveller, her experiences are quite different.  Also, I enjoy the watercolour approach she takes (not evident in this photocopied mini-comic).

Quick Takes:

Batwoman #20There is a lot packed in to this issue of Batwoman, as Kate gets to talk to her sister again, makes a deal with the DEO, and talks to her father for the first time in ages.  I’m pleased to see that JH Williams’s story isn’t petering out after his first large arc, and am finding Trevor McCarthy to be a suitable replacement for him on art.

BPRD Hell on Earth #107 – If you’ve never read BPRD before, or you are a lapsed reader, I suggest that this is the perfect issue to jump on with.  It really has become ‘hell on Earth’, and issue embraces that fully, as it tells a story that features Johann and a BPRD squad whose helicopter goes down on their way to Chicago.  They find themselves in a town where most of the inhabitants have been turned into monsters, and where they are prey for creatures that dwell underground.  Laurence Campbell makes his debut as a Mignola-verse artist, and he’s the perfect person for this book.  His art is dark and menacing, much like this story, which reminds me a little of the earliest days of The Walking Dead (maybe just because the man Johann finds reminds me a little of Morgan).  Very, very good stuff.  I’m very excited for the next issue.

Conan the Barbarian #16 – So Conan and Bêlit, taking a bit of a vacation, decide to try some form of hallucinogenic ecstasy, and spend the rest of the issue revisiting the challenges of their relationship, in the form of unseen attackers, corpses, bear gods, and sunken treasure.  It’s a good enough issue, but Davide Gianfelice plays the art rather straight for this type of story.  I found myself picturing how cool it would have been were it drawn by someone like Brendan McCarthy…

Demon Knights #20 – This issue came out last week, but I missed it.  That means that I couldn’t help but read this issue in the light of the news this week that the title is ending in August.  Truthfully, it’s been a surprise that a fantasy-based series set deep in the New 52s past would last so long, but it’s been a pretty good series, maintaining a high level of quality even after original series writer Paul Cornell was replaced by Robert Vendetti.  This issue has the team set off on their quest for the Holy Grail, which involves a tentacled sea monster.  Regular artist Bernard Chang has been replaced by Chad Hardin, and the transition is not as smooth as the one on writing was.  This book looks a little rough.

FF #7 – This action-packed issue has The Wizard and his new Frightful Four try to convince Bentley to switch to their side, while the whole Future Foundation comes after them.  It’s a pretty hectic issue with a few too many characters vying for position.  Not the best of this run…

Helheim #3 – Three issues in, Cullen Bunn does a couple of things that were very necessary towards propping this book up for the long run.  First, he explains (a little) the rivalry between Bera and Groa, the two witches whose fight has terrorized the countryside.  Second, he humanizes Rickard, the gigantic Frankenstein-Viking (in a scene reminiscent of the classic Frankenstein film), and gives him a more sympathetic companion.  This is a very enjoyable book, with great art from Joëlle Jones.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #23 – Do you remember when DC did their One Year Later gimmick a few years back, and for the most part, it fizzled?  Well, that’s not the case with this comic, which jumps a year forward from the tragic events of the last issue.  That decision works very well, as we see Miles still coping with his grief, and having gone an entire year without wearing his costume.  It seems that everyone wants him to go back on the job though, as we see his friend Ganke, Spider-Woman, and Gwen Stacey all doing their best to convince him.  What makes this issue such a treat is the excellent writing by Brian Michael Bendis (and that’s not something I say all that often now), and the terrific art of David Marquez, who ages Miles perfectly, and whose work is subtle throughout the book.  Tremendous stuff.

Wolverine and the X-Men #29Just when I was getting close to dropping this title, Jason Aaron gives us an issue full of heart, hints of what the future holds, and some nice characterization which almost has me liking Eye Boy.  The book opens with Logan addressing the faculty and students of the Jean Grey school, and planting a time capsule.  Twenty-five years later, older Logan opens it, and it causes him to relive the dark times that are coming for his school.  Ramon Perez’s art is wonderful, although since we already know that Logan is hella old in our time, I don’t understand how a further twenty-five years would make such a difference in his appearance.

Wonder Woman #20 – I don’t read Justice League, and aside from a short appearance in Batwoman, have not seen how Wonder Woman has been treated in the other New 52 books, and so when I read this book, I prefer to imagine that it’s a Vertigo treatment of the character.  Why?  Because I don’t think a standard DC book starring the Amazon could be this good.  Brian Azzarello continues to delight with his wordplay and pacing, as Moon attacks Zola’s baby, leading to a fight with Wonder Woman.  There are some cross words spoken on Olympus, and Zeus’s first born comes to see the baby too.  Goran Sudzuku does a good job of imitating the look that Cliff Chiang established for the book, and Chiang actually draws a few pages himself.  This is probably the best New 52 book being published, and I’m happy to see that it hasn’t fallen victim to the cancellations that are plaguing the line elsewhere.

X-Factor #256 – There are a few too many deaths in this issue for any of this story to be allowed to stand for long, but I will admit that Peter David surprised me a little with his ending.  I know that X-Factor is being cancelled soon, and I’m a little surprised that I don’t care more.  This Hell on Earth War storyline is almost an argument for cancellation in and of itself, since it has gone one way too long, and has not played to any of this series’s strengths.

X-O Manowar #13The Planet Death arc is reminding me more and more of Planet Hulk, but in a good way, as Aric fights off hordes of Vine who come to kill all the humans on Loam.  It’s an action-packed, and very effective issue.

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

Age of Ultron #8

Battlestar Galactica #1

Bloodshot #11

Cable and X-Force #8

Doomsday.1 #1

Dream Thief #1

Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher #1

Iron Man #10

Bargain Comics:

Avengers Assemble Annual #1I’ve kind of wondered why Marvel brought the Vision back to life when they haven’t really used him.  He’s always been a favourite character of mine, so I was happy to read this story that has him helping the Sunturion, a corporate hero who works for Roxxon, and whose story kind of parallels his own.  This is a well written book (but then, which Christos Gage comic isn’t?) and it’s very nicely drawn by Tomm Coker and some associates.

Iron Man #7 & 8 – I dropped this title because of Greg Land’s art, despite being a huge fan of Kieron Gillen’s writing.  His take on Tony continues to be entertaining, especially since he keeps sticking Death’s Head into the book, but I do find the whole ‘Tony in space’ approach a little odd.  Not bad, but not good enough to pay full price for.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #23-25 – It’s amazing how much a change of artists can affect the feel of a book.  I am a huge Brian Wood fan, but found myself dropping his UC X-Men because the tone of the art never matched the writing.  Now, with Mahmud Asrar coming onboard, things are looking a lot better.  The mutants living on the government-granted sovereign land of Utopia have begun to do well for themselves, especially since their sentient seed turned the place into an actual, and not ironic, paradise.  There is still drama involving Mach Two and her crowd, and the government doesn’t like that the mutants are drawing in new residents, but most of these issues are more character-driven than anything else.  I’m kind of considering following this title again…

X-Men #40 & 41 – The last two issues of the least necessary X-book ever launched (being either the third or fourth regular title at the time of its inception, and generally lacking an identity for much of its run) end the series much as it began, in mediocrity.  Seth Peck gives us a two-part story about a new mutant becoming active and causing a situation between the X-Men and the new Freedom Force.  The thing is, the mutant can control technology, kind of like Madison Jeffries can, but somehow can’t use this power on the big cyborg guy that he’s fighting.  Everything about this story seems very forced, especially the way in which Storm leads the squad.  Jefte Palo’s art is a mess here; his characters are out of their usual proportions (I honestly had no idea who Iceman was supposed to be), and everything looks very rushed.  I also thought it interesting that both covers feature characters that aren’t in the book.  I’m more interested in checking out Brian Wood’s imminent relaunch of this title; his short run was the best this book ever got.

Album of the Week:

The Uncluded – Hokey Fright – The Uncluded is the name of the collaboration between indie rapper demigod Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson, a folky singer-songwriter.  This album is hella quirky and fun, and I love Dawson’s voice.  It probably takes a few listens to really get the hang of this thing, but it’s very rewarding.


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