The Weekly Round-Up #181 With Mind MGMT, Occupy Comics, The Activity, The Bounce & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Mind MGMT #11

by Matt Kindt

Individual issues of Mind MGMT feel like the lightest, most insubstantial thing on the comics racks (mostly because of the light newsprint used to print it), but it’s in fact the densest, most rewarding comic being published.

This issue has Meru, our point of view character, interviewing Duncan, the former Mind MGMT agent who can predict the future and can kill people by putting his finger to their forehead.  Meru wants to know why Duncan is refusing to help Henry Lyme and his friends travel to Shangri-La, the base of Mind MGMT.  She is given most of Duncan’s history, including his predictions of doom around the way the organization was using its agents.  We also get our first glimpse of The Eraser, the agent who has wiped the minds of al other agents, and who is now trying to put the group back together.

After this, Meru and her group successfully travel to Shangri-La, attempting to find the list of all other former agents and their locations.  Of course, they aren’t alone.

While all of this is going on, we also, in the vertical text pieces that run along the side of each page, get to read more of Meru’s book, and see what the Mind MGMT Manual has to say about the approach to Shangri-La.  Most significantly, the Case File at the back of the book contains a surprise that I really did not see coming.

Matt Kindt continues to cover almost every page with fresh and crazy ideas, while still moving his story forward.  This book never stops amazing me.

Another Notable Comic:

Occupy Comics #1

with contributions from Joshua Hale Fialkov, Joseph Infurnari, JM DeMatteis, Mike Cavallaro, Douglas Rushkoff, Dean Haspiel, Ales Kot, Tyler Crook, Ben Templesmith, Ronald Wimberly, Joshua Dysart, Kelly Bruce, Allen Gladfelter, Alan Moore, Matt Pizzolo, and Ayhan Hayrula

The timing of this new anthology comic is very odd.  I understand that the book was first funded through Kickstarter, and then solicited through Diamond by Black Mask comics, and that all of these things take time, but the Occupy Wall Street protestors were kicked out of Zucotti Park back at the end of 2011.  Sadly, the movement has appeared to have dissipated since then, which makes me wonder just what purpose this book, which promises to donate profits to “Occupy related initiatives”, is really going to serve.

Still, I like anthology comics, and I like political discourse, so I thought this was worth picking up.  It’s really a very earnest little comic, with a couple of nice pieces.  Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari’s bit about the birth of the labour movement is nice.  I also enjoyed Matt Pizzolo and Ayhan Hayrula’s strip about sampling Occupy and it’s opposite, the Tea Party, and finding that they are neither of them accurately portrayed in the mainstream media.

Ales Kot and Tyler Crook have the best comic in this book, which shows the value of non-professional “citizen journalists”.  It’s the most linear and clear thing I think Kot has written yet.

I will admit to not really reading Alan Moore’s lengthy piece on the history of political satire in comics. At least I think that’s what it’s about – I lost interest quickly, which also explains why I have a few barely read issues of Dodgem Logic lying around.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but think I was examining a historical document, which is kind of unfortunate.  There was a lot that needed to be said by the Occupy Movement, but that voice feels to be missing from our day-to-day discourse.  Maybe this book will inspire some of it to come back?  Perhaps a couple of years ago…

Quick Takes:

The Activity #13A lot of the storylines that have bubbling away in the background of this series since it began have finally come to full boil, as one member of the Direct Action team is investigated for treason, the others do a little off the books mission for a friend, and it looks like Iran is up to no good.  This series is well-written, and clearly moving towards bigger things.  Some aspects of this issue could have been clearer, but I like seeing that Nathan Edmondson is taking it in a solid direction.

The Bounce #1 – Joe Casey is entering one of his fertile periods again, recently launching Sex, now The Bounce, and with Catalyst Comix coming soon from Dark Horse.  Usually, when opening up a new, creator-owned book by Casey, it’s hard to guess what you’re going to be getting.  The Bounce is a hard book to pin down.  In some ways, it’s a bit of an updating of Speedball, set in a city where superheroics are pretty much unknown.  Our hero is shown as a bong-smoking layabout, until he sees that a home invasion is taking place at the home of the city’s chief of police.  He goes there, and gets into a fight with a muscled, arm-spiked 90s throwback.  Later, he tries out some new drug (imagine inhaling the old Starman villain The Mist) and weird stuff happens.  Also, we meet a Lex Luthor type villain who dips lizards into his chocolate milk before eating them.  It’s not the balls-out crazy of Butcher Baker, but this is a pretty strange comic.  Casey has earned my trust, so even though this issue didn’t blow me away or impress me as much as Sex’s debut did, I’ll stick around for a bit and see where he’s taking this book.  I do like David Messina’s art, so that makes it easier.

Avengers #12 – This time around we’re given a quieter issue, as the team goes to the Savage Land to try to teach a group of Garden children who have incredible potential.  There is the return of a villain I haven’t seen in a while, but otherwise not a whole lot happens in this issue; at the same time, it was the first that I felt Jonathan Hickman spent working on character development, which was kind of nice.  I guess Nick Spencer is scripting or co-writing this book now.  That’s kind of strange.

Batman Incorporated #11I hadn’t realized that this was going to be an interlude issue, written by regular series artist Chris Burnham, and drawn by Jorge Lucas.  Embracing the Incorporated concept, this issue focuses on the Batman of Japan, whose date with Shy Crazy Lolita Canary is interrupted by a group of female motorcycle-riding females who dress kind of like Power Rangers.  It’s a pretty crazy issue, with some very dirty jokes (I’m a little surprised that they made it into the comic) and a villainous with robot tiger heads for hands.  It’s a little annoying to see that Grant Morrison’s story got interrupted so close to its conclusion, but at the same time, this is more or less what I expected this series to be like, and I really enjoyed it.

Daredevil #26 – This issue is extra-sized, with a nice little story about Foggy Nelson padding out the whole thing, although I’m not sure why.  The main story is almost as excellent as the last issue, as a very rattled Matt Murdock tries to avoid Ikari, who is just toying with him now.  The identity of the villain behind all of DD’s troubles of late is a little too telegraphed to be a surprise, but still, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have been doing some incredible work on this book lately.  Highly recommended.

Dark Horse Presents #24 – My love for this title continues to wane, as the stories become a little more bland with each month.  There is more of a superhero focus in this book these days, and I prefered it as a place to look for stories that aren’t so similar to the kind of thing you find everywhere else.  Seeing as Dark Horse tends to collect all their serials as one-shots anyway, I think that by dropping this comic, I won’t miss out on much, and it will save me $8 a month.

The Green Team #1I admire that DC is always trying out new stuff, even if it doesn’t always work out all that well for them.  Case in point – the Green Team features a group of insanely rich teenagers, who are on the lookout for ways to make themselves even richer.  Mohammed, a prince and our POV character, travels to a Poxpo (a pop-up expo) to meet Commadore Murphy, the richest kid and de facto leader of the Green Team.  Through Mohammed’s need to use social media, the kids are threatened by an assassin, and stuff goes kind of crazy.  Art Baltazar and Franco do a good job of setting up their story in this issue, and Ig Guara’s art is nice.  I may come back for the second issue; the concept feels just fresh enough to intrigue me.

Half Past Danger #1 – I picked this up on the recommendation of the guys who work at the comic shop I frequent, and I’m very pleased that I did.  Stephen Mooney has launched a new series in that most comic book of sub-genres: the World War Two dinosaur comic.  A group of American GIs are scouting an island in the South Pacific where they discover an unexpected Nazi presence.  Making their way back to base, they are attacked by dinosaurs.  Later, the survivor of this mission is recruited to return to the same island.  It’s a very effective beginning, introducing characters just to wipe them out later, but with a sense of pulp adventure and great art.  I think I’ll be sticking around for the rest of this mini-series.

Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells a Rat – These Lobster Johnson one-shots and short mini-series are fine, but there’s really not all that much to them.

The Massive #12One aspect of this book that has kind of bothered me since it began is the difficulty that the crew of the Kapital is having finding their sister ship the Massive.  While not explained fully, that side of the story seems to have been put to rest with this issue, which features art by the wonderful Danijel Zezelj, an artist I’ve long admired.  Brian Wood is still taking his time with this book, but it’s working.

Miniature Jesus #2 – As with most of Ted McKeever’s work, this is a book to be experienced as much as enjoyed.  Chomsky, our homeless alcoholic main character arrives at the church where a wall figurine Jesus came to life last issue just in time to watch the hand of god literally appear and smite the place.  I’m not all that sure what’s going on, but this is an entertaining book.

Nowhere Men #5 – Eric Stephenson’s title gets a lot more multi-media than usual with this issue, as more magazine-style pages are used to fill in backstory or introduce new characters.  This series is working on a number of different levels, and this is the first issue to really explicitly dig into the “science is the new rock and roll” concept.  I’m really enjoying this book, and don’t have a clue where it’s heading, which is nice.

Powers Bureau #4 – I’m as surprised as anyone that this title is practically on a regular schedule, and that consistency is making it a lot easier to enjoy this comic.  Walker’s undercover assignment requires some intervention by the FBI, but he is working his way into the organization that has been arranging to get women pregnant with powers babies.  Unfortunately, Walker and Deena Pilgrim end up confronting each other during a job, and that leads to problems.  It’s good stuff.

Revival #10I continue to really enjoy this book, but I do find that it’s probably much easier and more satisfying to read this in trade, since Tim Seeley keeps so many balls in the air.

Sex #3 – The second Joe Casey book of the week is a very good read, as Simon Cooke, the retired Batman-figure, has to come to grips with the fact that his life has become incredibly dull and barely interests him.  I love the look that Piotr Kowalski is giving this title.

The Sixth Gun #31 – Becky wanders through the Spirit World while her friends and enemies make plans for what will happen if she dies, seeing as she currently possesses the gun that gives this series its title.  Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt do wonderful work on this series, and I wish that it received more recognition than it does.

Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi – Prisoner of Bogan #5 – My hope, now that we are ten issues into John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s way-back Star Wars story, is that the next mini-series will be more focused on action and plot than on supplying endless amounts of backstory.  This series has not worked half as well as their wonderful Star Wars Legacy.

Star Wars Legacy #3 – Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are doing good things playing in the Star Wars future that John Ostrander established.  Ania Solo and her companions join up with an Imperial Knight, and together they realize that something bad is happening in the outer reaches of space.  This is a pretty straight-forward issue, and it’s quite enjoyable.

Talon #8If there’s anything that has been consistent about Talon since it started, it’s that nothing about this title is constant.  James Tynion IV (and his former co-writer Scott Snyder) keep changing up the status quo for this title, almost as if they fear that if things settle down for a moment or two, the book will be cancelled.  This issue changes Calvin Rose’s situation more than any other, as he finds himself back in the employ of the Court of Owls, in a bid to protect his girlfriend and her daughter.  I’ve liked this book, but am finding the pace a little tiresome.  It seems that Guillem March is off the title too now, and that Miguel Sepulveda is drawing the book.  His art is fine, although he does make the Butcher ridiculously too large.  I was going to add this book to my pull-file, but it’s now entering into a cross-over with Birds of Prey, which I’m not reading.  That means I have to decide if I want to buy a comic I don’t usually read, or if I should just drop this one.  See DC – cross-overs are not guarantees of increased sales!

Uncanny X-Men #6 – Very little happens in this issue – it must be written by Brian Michael Bendis.  Cyclops’s crew find themselves in Limbo, where Dormammu is attempting a takeover.  They trade quips and even fight a little.  Meanwhile, Maria Hill decides that she needs a mutant working for her at SHIELD, so she picks a character that lots of fans claim to love, but who has not been headlining her own book for a very long time.  Were it not for the lovely Frazer Irving art, this issue would have annoyed me a great deal.

The Unwritten #49 – Tom Taylor is finally taking charge of things, after an encounter in Hell with Pullman gives him a better understanding of his options.  Peter Gross’s art looks great here, as Tom begins to use the power of the really old stories to try to find out the secrets of Leviathan.  My only complaint is that I don’t like that this story is leading into a crossover with Fables.  I like this book standing on its own two feet better.

Wasteland #45New artist Omar Olivera shows up for this issue which takes us back to the city of Newbegin, where we check in on Jakob, who is not doing so well, falling into drink and self-loathing.  When Yan begins to plot against Marcus, Jakob is brought into the scheme.  This is a good issue, although I found Olivera’s art a little hard to follow at times.  I do think that this series has been hurt by Christopher Mitten’s departure, and the lack of consistency in artist since he left.

X-Men Legacy #11 – I found my attention wandering while reading this issue, and therefore I was pretty surprised to learn who is behind the visions Legion’s been having of his father.  It kind of ties this book more strongly into the Marvel Universe than I would have expected would happen.  At the same time, my attention is starting to wander – I may be giving this book up soon.

Young Avengers #5 – The first arc of this fabulous series concludes here, with the team finding a reason to stay together (which will kind of make Kate’s appearances in Hawkeye a little hard to understand), and the voice inside Loki’s head providing a nice clear explanation of what’s going on with the little godling.  This is a very, very good comic, and it seems like the team of Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton just keep getting better.

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

Akaneiro #1

All-Star Western #20

A Plus X #8

Fearless Defenders #4AU

Superior Spider-Man #10

Ultimate Comics Wolverine #4

Uncanny Avengers #8AU

Bargain Comics:

Avenging Spider-Man #17-19This title is doomed to be rather secondary by it’s very nature, as any real developments involving Spidey/Ock are going to happen in the main title, but that doesn’t mean that this comic can’t be exciting or amusing.  Things are closest to the mark in the 17th issue, which features the Future Foundation children, and a possible unmasking of Otto Octavius from temporal agents.  The other two comics, one which features Thor, and another with Sleepwalker, are too thinly-plotted to keep my interest for long.  Chris Yost has done wonderful work on secondary titles in the past, but this needs more attention from him.

Wolverine #1 – I’m not sure that Wolverine can carry two monthly series anymore (plus his ‘and the X-Men’ book), so I was surprised to see the approach Marvel took with this latest relaunch.  Paul Cornell is a writer I admire, but he hasn’t really proven that he can maintain a series (Captain Britain, Stormwatch, and Demon Knights all come to mind), despite having some very good ideas.  I hope this is the one that sticks for him, but I think this book is off to a strange start.  Wolverine seems to be fighting a futuristic/alien gun that takes over people’s minds, but I’m not sure where this story is going.  Alan Davis is a fantastic artist, as always, but he’s never been a great fit for Logan; his work is too clean.  This would be a decent enough $2.99 read, but of course, it’s a $4 book…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

by Matt Kindt

I’ve been consistently intrigued by Matt Kindt’s work since I discovered him a few years back.  Books like Spy Story, 3 Story, and Revolver have played with genre expectations in new and surprising ways, and have told some solid, interesting stories.  Currently, Kindt is hitting it out of the park on a monthly basis with Mind MGMT, his series at Dark Horse, and I imagined that writing and drawing a monthly comic for the last year, as well as taking on the occasional writing assignment for DC, would have kept him too busy to make an entire graphic novel on the side, but Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes is proof that this guy is a workhouse as well as a genius.

Red Handed plays with the detective and police procedural genres.  It’s set in the town of Red Wheel Barrow, a place with a very high crime rate, but with also a perfect rate for crimes being solved, especially when Detective Gould is on the case.  Using the latest in police techniques and gadgets, Gould solves every case that comes across his desk, no matter how random or strange it might seem.  And in Red Wheel Barrow, the crimes are always strange.

Each chapter in this book examines a different crime.  We have a woman who obsessively steals chairs, including an electric chair.  We have a frustrated wannabe writer who steals street and business signs so as to write her novel on the walls of five rented warehouses.  We have an elevator repairman who uses a hidden camera to take erotic photos of the women he rescues.

There are some threads that connect all of these crimes however, as Detective Gould has a nemesis who he is not aware of, someone who is working hard to arrange events that should bring Gould down.

Kindt’s storytelling in terrific.  He builds and discards his characters regularly, and finishes most chapters with what look like photographs of newspaper strips before they are published.  Kindt has always been one to play with the conventions of the comic book, and it’s very cool to see him do it here so effortlessly.  This is a very cool, very engaging book.

Album of the Week:

Cook Classics vs. Now-Again – Once again the fine folks at Now-Again invite a producer to have a go at their library to create an album of instrumental hip-hop tracks.  Cook Classics chops up some familiar Now-Again tunes, adds some live instrumentation over the samples, and provides us with a stunning mix of beautiful, beat-heavy music.  Great stuff.
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