The Weekly Round-Up #183 With Abe Sapien, Skullkickers, All-New X-Men, Archer and Armstrong, Green Arrow & More

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #3The first arc finishes off quite well, as Abe fights a preacher turned monster while trying to avoid the BPRD agents that are searching for him.  This is mostly an action issue, and it gives artist Sebastián Fiumara the chance to really shine.  While a lot is done to establish the fact that Abe is going to be on his own from here on out, I’m not concerned that he can carry an on-going.  I was surprised to see a character who has been getting more and more screen time of late get killed off though.

All-New Secret Skullkickers #1 / Skullkickers #22 – Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang once again pull off an excellent issue.  Rex and Kusia lead a small army of apes with horns into the big creepy keep of the Thool, where they encounter a lot of resistance, in the form of Indiana Jones-style traps and a goo elemental.  This book is always a great deal of fun to read, and Zubkavich and his crew continue to have a great time playing around with some comics conventions (I especially like the monster that spells his ‘Scree’ sounds with a ‘k’).  Great stuff, as always.

All-New X-Men #12 – While Brian Michael Bendis’s run on X-Men has been almost universally praised, I can’t help feel that it’s becoming more and more like other Bendis team books – filled with long conversations and not much in the way of plot.  Case in point – the Avengers (Havok’s Uncanny team) pull over Wolverine, Kitty, and the original X-Men in a cornfield, so they can argue with each other for a while about whether or not the kids are committing crimes.  Jean gets mad at Wanda, Logan gets mad at Captain America, Havok catches up with Cyclops, and then they go their way.  That’s about it, except for Mystique stealing more money.  Something needs to start happening in this book, and quickly.

Archer & Armstrong #10A new story arc has A&A headed to Area 51, which belongs to Project Rising Spirit, at the same time that Archer’s ‘sister’ shows up to cause some mayhem.  This book is always a fun read thanks for Fred Van Lente, and it looks like that is going to continue.  I’m happy that the Eternal Warrior and Geomancer have moved on, and that the focus is back on the two protagonists again.

Avengers #13 – Two villains I’ve always liked show up in this issue – the High Evolutionary (although he seems to be missing the superfluous handle on top of his head) and Terminus, who always takes me back to John Byrne’s heyday.  This was a pretty decent issue, but having Mike Deodato on art really does limit a book’s range to just big fights.  You can tell that Jonathan Hickman is working to make Hyperion a likeable character, something that only Mark Gruenwald has been able to do before him.

Avengers Arena #10 – I guess it was time to kill another (fairly) popular character with this issue, so Dennis Hopeless targets one that has been around for a while, but who was beginning to look a little dated.  Riccardo Burchielli steps in to draw this time around, and his superheroes look a little strange, compared to his more realistic work on DMZ.  This is a decent enough issue, but I think that Hopeless could have done a better job of tapping into what makes this one character so popular before offing her.  I also wonder if these deaths are going to stick once this series is over.

Bedlam #7 – Ryan Browne debuts as the new regular artist on this series, replacing Riley Rossmo.  I’m not Rossmo’s biggest fan, but I did think that his scratchy, messy approached to art worked well with this story.  Browne is a little more traditional, although he does his best to dirty up his art, and the fit is perhaps not as good, but it worked to tell Nick Spencer’s story.  Detective Acevedo’s Extraordinary Crimes Task Force is getting closer to receiving full funding, and she’s thinking of putting Fillmore on the payroll.  At the same time, it looks like the city of Bedlam is facing a new threat in the form of a bomber.  I like that this is an ongoing series focusing on something other than the more superheroic citizens of the city, but I would like to see it delve more into the other aspects of city life, as well as follow the Madder Red/Fillmore storyline.  After all, the book is named after the city, not its villain.

Daredevil: Dark Nights #1It seems that Daredevil is strong enough to command a couple of titles these days, and so we get this mini-series which is going to be made up of three different stories (or so I learned from reading the textpiece, since the solicitations in Previews never bothered to make that clear).  This first story is by Lee Weeks, an artist I’ve long admired (he reminds me of classic John Romita Jr., before his art got all blocky and ugly).  The story is a little standard – DD is injured and taken to a hospital, with only spotty memory and control of his abilities, but when he learns that a helicopter bringing a transplant organ to the same hospital has gone down in a snowstorm, he heads out to save the day.  It’s pretty well-written, and very nice to look at.  I’ll be getting the next two issues.

Daredevil: End of Days #8 – If only Brian Michael Bendis were always this good.  He and co-writer David Mack bring their out of continuity, future-set ‘Last Daredevil’ to an almost perfect finish with this issue.  The new DD deals with a recent personal loss, and finally uncovers the secret of Mapone, the last thing that Matt Murdock said before dying.  I’ve loved the art in this book, mostly by Klaus Janson with Bill Sienkiewicz inking, and with the occasional page by Mack.  These are all artists whose work I don’t see often enough, and they are among the artists I most associate with Daredevil.  Really great stuff; I’m glad I gave this mini-series a chance.

Dial H #13 – I was not the least bit surprised to learn that this series is getting canceled in August, as it’s a little too unique to last in the new DC firmament, but I’m determined to enjoy every last drop of China Miéville’s strange story.  This month, the focus is on Open-Window Man, who tells a child from a world of creatures that live as chalk drawings on the walls of a ruined city his story, and that of his fellow members of the Dial Gang.  It’s a bit of an interlude issue that fills in a lot of gaps, and it’s very nicely written.  This is going to be one of the books that the New 52 is remembered for – the wild stabs at trying something new, for a little while at least.  It’s great stuff.

East of West #3Jonathan Hickman keeps this series interesting, as we are introduced to Mao V, and two of his daughters, one of whom was the wife of Death.  The other Horsemen are pursuing their older former compatriot, and there is still plenty of mystery on each page.  I’m loving Nick Dragotta’s art on this book; I don’t understand how this guy is not a star.

Fearless Defenders #5 – Cullen Bunn really embraces the Defenders legacy in this issue, as Misty Knight assembles a huge force of all-female superheroes to help with the fight against the Doom Maidens in an Asgardian spot in Brazil (I know, it confused me too).  I really like the cast of this book, and the way they interact with one another, but I am having a hard time dealing with my utter boredom with all things Asgardian in the wake of Fear Itself.  I keep looking forward to the second arc on this title more than this one.  Another very clever cover helps me appreciate this book more though.

Green Arrow #21 – Jeff Lemire wraps up his first arc on this title with a bit of a vision quest that reminded me a lot of how he laid out similar scenes in Sweet Tooth, except, of course, Andrea Sorrentino is a very different artist than Lemire.  Basically, he’s taking a bit of an Immortal Weapons approach to GA, and the book does feel more like Iron Fist than any Green Arrow run I’ve ever read.  That’s a very good thing, as he’s brought something new to the character, and has set up the ground for lots of stories to come.  This is not a comic I ever expected to be buying regularly, and it’s becoming one of my favourite DC books.

Mister X: Eviction #2Dean Motter’s return to Radiant City continues to entertain, as Mister X goes looking for the people who kidnapped his (girl?)friend, and the reporter Rosetta meets a colony of orphans who live on rooftops.  This is a book you read as much for its sense of design as its story, but neither disappoint here.

The Movement #2 – With the second issue, Gail Simone further establishes some of her main characters in this new series.  The heroes are working against a corrupt police force and city council, although they differ in their notions as to how to achieve their goals.  This is pretty recognizable as a Simone book – the off-colour humour, the strong female leads, well thought out characterizations, and the odd twist or two are all hallmarks of her style.  I’m not sure how invested I am in the story yet, and at times, I don’t like Freddie Williams II’s art as much as I did back when he was on Robin, but there’s enough going on here to keep me coming back.

Planet of the Apes Cataclysm #10 – I’ve really enjoyed this series, which I learned last week will be ending with issue 12.  Between now and then, it looks like Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are going to just make life even harder for their characters, as the military attacks Timon’s new movement, and the chimpanzees become even more unhappy upon learning that Ape City’s leaders have co-opted their spokesman.  It looks like revolution is coming.  This has been a very well-written series, and it maintains that high level of quality.

Swamp Thing #21Charles Soule’s new run on this book is making me happy.  He’s taking Swamp Thing into some interesting territory, as a long-lived woman shows up in his swamp seeking sanctuary, and the Seeder makes a move against him.  I like the way Soule is setting up some new stories that are not overly derived from ST’s past, and the art of Jesus Saiz is always welcome.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #25 – Joshua Hale Fialkov comes on-board for the new Disassembled arc, and immediately gets to work blowing up the Triskelion and bringing the team one of the toughest things they’ve ever had to face – the Infinity Gems in the hands of the Hulk.  This was a good issue, and it felt closer to the type of thing that Mark Millar did here back in the day than recent arcs.  Still, I can’t imagine this title has much life left in it.

Winter Soldier #19 – I didn’t really expect that this title would last long after Ed Brubaker left, but I was rooting for it.  Jason Latour and Nic Klein did some interesting work with the character, although it never quite clicked with me the way Brubaker’s work did.  I think the problem is that whoever writes Bucky now wants to have him brood about and explore the things he did in the past, instead of move him further into his own present and future.  I doubt this character is going to lie fallow for long, what with his apparently being featured in the next Captain America movie, but I hope when he comes back we’ll see something new.

X-Factor #257This issue helps illustrate exactly what has been wrong with X-Factor for the last year or more. Touted as the first issue of ‘The End of X-Factor’, the story arc that is taking the book to its upcoming cancellation (and certain rebirth a month or two later), this issue is more of an epilogue to the Hell on Earth War, which features Layla Miller tracking down Jamie Madrox in Marrakech, where he’s still in a demon form.  A boy wants to use Demon-Jamie to bring his mother back from the dead, and that doesn’t go well.  It’s a serviceable single issue, so long as you don’t think about the 15 other characters in this book, and the 75 other sub-plots that need to be resolved in the next five issues.  I have deep respect for Peter David, but I feel like it’s time for him to move on.

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

‘68 Jungle Jim #3

Age of Ultron #9

Astro City #1

Cable and X-Force #9

Caligula Heart of Rome #5

Detective Comics #21

Iron Man #11

Legends of the Dark Knight #9

Rachel Rising #17

Shadowman #7

Suicide Risk #2

Superior Spider-Man #11

Über #2

Bargain Comics:

Action Comics #15-18I’ve never been more disappointed with a Grant Morrison run than I have been with his take on Superman in the New 52.  I dropped the title a while ago, but thought I’d catch up on the end of the run, as I’d never dropped a Morrison book before, and part of me expected that there would be a little something more going on.  Sure, it’s full of clever references to things I don’t care about (having never been much of a Superman fan), but the book lacked heart and novelty.  The original ‘man of the people’ concept could have gone somewhere, but that was left out of these later issues.

Constantine #1 – Taking John Constantine from Vertigo and putting him in the DCnU was clearly going to upset some people, and so it seems that the plan was to effectively neuter him in his own series.  I guess he’s still a bit of a bastard – he does cause a friend’s death, but he’s not as sharp-tongued or manipulative as we’re used to seeing him, and his story, about finding a magical compass before a cult does, is pretty paint-by-numbers bland.  I would have expected a lot better from a comic written by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes…

Thor God of Thunder #2-6 – Jason Aaron’s Thor, with its story split over three different eras, is much better than I’d expected.  At different points in his life, Thor is confronted by Gorr, the Godkiller, and his own actions in the past are what shape his future.  It’s pretty effective stuff, with some very nice art by Esad Ribic.  The sixth issue, guest-drawn by Butch Guice and giving us the origin of Gorr is by far the weakest in the bunch, but I’m sure that Ribic just needed more time between issues.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Los Angeles Ink Stains

by Jim Mahfood

Los Angeles Ink Stains, the book, collects roughly three years worth of Jim Mahfood’s on-line comics diary of the same name.  It’s a chronicle of nights out, meals, late mornings, comic-cons, live art events, and a lot of drinking.  Basically, Mahfood decided to channel both Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman at the same time, and keep a journal of his life.  And it’s brilliant.

There are times when the monotony of this book gets to me – many strips start with someone visiting from out of town, lead to a taco joint, then a bar or three, where Food One and his crew run into people they know, followed by late night shenanigans, an after party at his crib, and then sleep.  The joy is in the details though.

This guy knows how to live.  Reading this, you’d wonder how he ever has time to write and draw, but at the same time, I came away from this book in awe not just of his talent, but of the circle of friends he’s been able to surround himself with.  Mahfood rolls with indie comics gods, fine artists, DJs, rappers, and musicians from the LA funk/rap scene.  This book is not name dropping in a pretentious way, this really is his crew, and he’s blessed to be part of it.

The book is at its funniest in the scenes set in comic conventions, especially the San Diego ones, which we get to see from an outsider’s insider perspective.  I also enjoyed reading about his travels to France and other parts of the world.

I’ve been a fan of Mahfood’s work for a number of years now (the first time I can remember coming across it was when he drew a comic for the Felt 2 album), but reading this, I felt a lot more affinity for the man as a person.  He finishes off the book with a few short strips, including the Gary Wilson piece he did for the Side A anthology, and a touching tribute to his friend DJ Dusk, who was killed when he was hit by a car.

This is a great comic, spotlighting the talent of a very unique creator.  Highly recommended.

X’ed Out

by Charles Burns

X’ed Out, Charles Burns’s oversized graphic novel, is a good quick read.  It’s a strange book – Dougie is a young man in his late teens or early twenties, who doesn’t do a whole lot with life.  He experiments with William S. Burroughs-style cut-up poetry and pretentiousness, argues with his girlfriend, and tries to pick up an equally pretentious photographer from one of his art classes (she likes to pose nude with a fetal pig).

At some point, he ends up spending his days in bed after caging his father’s pain medication.  When he sleeps (or hallucinates), he goes to a strange alien world to search for his lost cat and eat omelettes with a short strange-looking guy.

Burns makes all this weirdness work, but at the same time, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was reading a graphic novel that was only 56 pages long, but cost $20 (not that I actually paid that much).  Burns’s art is nice, but not at a price like that, especially considering that this is simply the first volume of an ongoing series (the second volume, The Hive, is out) that may take years to complete.

Album of the Week:

Kae Sun – Afriyie – Local artist Kae Sun’s second album is really quite lovely.  He’s got a Michael Franti vibe going for most of it, as he sings and plays guitar on ten new tracks.  I can predict that this is the type of album to be embraced by a variety of groups of fans, as it can appeal to just about anyone.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,