The Weekly Round-Up #190 With Young Avengers, Mind MGMT, The Bounce, Dream Merchant, Star Wars & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Young Avengers #8This is easily the most enjoyable comic Marvel is publishing right now (although sometimes Hawkeye is better).  This issue has so many things to love – the return of a fan-favourite character, a total surprise ending, cute little green creatures, and lots of terrific dialogue.  The team is chasing the guy who is dressed as Patriot (and who has kidnapped Speed) through a number of different dimensions, and keep running into problems, especially in the dimensions where Noh-Varr managed to take over the Earth.  Each and every page of this book is a delight, and Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton deserve recognition for raising the bar at Marvel to this incredible level of quality.  Brilliant stuff.

Another Notable Comic:

Mind MGMT #13

by Matt Kindt

Matt Kindt’s monthly series Mind MGMT has been a terrific, genre-defying read, and with this issue, he begins his third story arc.  This is a perfect place for new readers who have been curious about Mind MGMT to jump on board, or to sample the title, as the inside front cover contains a summary of sorts, which also helps establish the spirit of this comic.

We know that Henry Lyme has put together a group of ex-Mind MGMT agents, psychic spies and the like, to help counter the group being put together by the sinister Eraser.  Meru, who has been our point-of-view character from the beginning is currently out of the picture, as both sides in the conflict scramble to find new recruits.

This issue doesn’t really touch on any of that though.  Instead, we are taken to a very nice little suburbia, where couples in nice homes have parties and gossip about one another.  The men in the community have been finding some of their things going missing lately, a treasured grandfather’s watch, and a priceless movie prop.  Accusations, and accusations of paranoia, threaten to overwhelm the small community, but it seems that the real culprit has to do with Mind MGMT’s Matryoshka program, which has embedded one of the suburbanites into the picture, for ends that don’t seem all that clear.

This is a nicely constructed single issue, which also fits into the larger story Kindt is working on.  It seems we may never know all of the MGMT’s secrets, but I really like the pace at which we are learning many of them.

Kindt’s art is not for everyone, but I can’t imagine a story like this being told by a slicker or more polished artist.  Plus, look at how wonderful that cover is.  If you aren’t reading this, please check it out.

Quick Takes:

The Bounce #3With this third issue, Joe Casey really clears up a lot of things about this series that had been mysterious before.  Jasper has a heart-to-heart with his roommate about the costumes that they wear (Jasper is trying on the whole superhero thing, while apparently his friend is a drag queen), and Jasper’s DA brother gives a better picture of the growing number of powered people showing up in town.  This is easily the most conventional issue of this series yet (keeping in mind that there are drag queens, bong hits, and some other weirdness still), and I can kind of see the path it’s taking moving forward.  Casey is always a lot of fun, and David Messina is doing a solid job on the art.

Dream Merchant #3 – I’m enjoying Nathan Edmondson’s newest dream-based thriller, but as I was reading this issue, I decided that I’d much rather be reading new issues of The Activity or Where is Jake Ellis?, Edmondson’s two other current Image titles, both of which have fallen way behind schedule.

The Green Team #3 – This is the only New 52 title that I bought this week – that says something, doesn’t it?  I’m enjoying this book, which has some of the Teen Trillionaires hire Deathstroke to help them find out who Riot, the group that has been attacking them, are.  Ig Guara is doing a fine job on art here, and Art Baltazar and Franco’s writing works well.  There are a couple of scenes which aren’t all that clear, especially the part where Slade discusses the yellow cape that Mohamed is wearing, which is coloured grey like his suit.  Ah DC, if they aren’t chasing writers off their books, they are doing a lazy job of checking everything else…

Hawkeye Annual #1The focus is on Kate Bishop, whose attempt to get away from Clint and relax for a bit in LA is waylaid by Madame Masque, who is looking for revenge for the way that Kate messed up her plans back in issues 4 & 5 of this series.  Javier Pulido draws this Annual, and the book is gorgeous.  He makes very interesting use of silhouettes in telling the story; a technique not used all that often.  Matt Fraction’s script is light and fun, and it’s always cool to see a classic Iron Man villain used in a different way.

Lazarus #2 – Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s new series is terrific.  Where the first issue spent a lot of time introducing us to Forever and her world, this one is more focused on having us meet her family, who are basically warlords controlling much of the American Northwest.  We get a sense of the rivalries between her siblings, and that there is some real question as to whether or not Forever, who is the family’s enhanced defender, is even really a member of the family.  Great work here all around.

Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1 – The latest Lobster Johnson story, a two-parter this time, works well within its established formula.  The Lobster is trying to put a stop to a string of Tong killings in Chinatown, while some cops are starting to get close to his operation.  Sebastián Fiumara’s art looks great, but the last page (which I can’t really describe without ruining some surprises) is creepy enough to really stick with you.

The Massive #14Things in this comic shift as quickly as the environmental changes that shaped Brian Wood’s bleak vision of the future.  The Kapital, Callum Israel’s vessel, is being challenged by the US Navy for entering American waters, while the crew continues to search for Georg, who has a stolen nuclear submarine.  There are a lot of tense goings on here, and Ryan, the lone American in Ninth Wave, decides to repatriate herself, at least for a while.  I really like the way Wood has structured this book, and feel that Garry Brown is growing as an artist to fit the style that was established at the beginning of the series by Kristian Donaldson.

New Avengers #8 – When Jonathan Hickman began his sure-to-be legendary run on Fantastic Four, he spent a lot of time establishing a variety of threats.  When he did it though, he gave each threat its own issue or two, while reminding the readers that the other ones were still in play.  In New Avengers and Avengers, he’s just bouncing from event to event without much in the way of clear story structure.  This issue checks in on the war between Atlantis and Wakanda, has Reed and Tony chatting about upcoming problems, has Black Bolt building weapons and angering his wife, and has a whole bunch of aliens invade the Earth.  I don’t think any of these things are connected to one another, and so this book feels very choppy.  I’m looking forward to Infinity being over so Hickman can get back to telling the types of stories he’s known for.

The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun #5The Sixth Gun prequel series ends here with General Hume’s band getting back together.  Basically, some creepy looking guys fight some even creepier monsters with magic guns.  So, in other words, it’s the kind of book that Brian Churilla was born to draw, and he does it very well.

Star Wars Legacy #5 – Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko finish off the first arc of this series, which builds on John Ostrander’s previous work.  This is a very capable comic, establishing new, likeable characters and a legitimate threat to the intergalactic peace carved out in Ostrander’s run.  I hope this book has a long run.

Uncanny Avengers #10 – I can never fully decide if I like this series or not, but I do have to give credit to Rick Remender for fitting a lot more story into each issue than is common these days.  The various splinters of the unity team are trying to track down the Apocalypse Twins, and that leads them into confrontations with the newly-resurrected Horsemen.  Before each fight, there’s a lot of space for talking, as Captain America’s exploits in Dimension Z finally get acknowledged as having happened, and Wanda continues to irritate me.  Here’s the main question I thought of reading this:  Did Rogue really bang the Sentry, as we were led to believe in that terrible one-shot that came out after he died?  Is this something that Remender is going to address, or will it wisely just get completely ignored?

The Unwritten #51 – I’m still not sure how I feel about having The Unwritten feature the characters from Fables, mostly because I don’t like how Tom Taylor’s story is being ignored for this alternate take on the Fables battle with Mister Dark, but at the same time, this comic is enjoyable in a way that Fables hasn’t been for a couple of years.  It’s like working with Mike Carey and Peter Gross has brought out the best in Bill Willingham (Mark Buckingham is always remarkably good).  Still, I look forward to getting back to grown-up Tom, Lizzie, and all the rest.

Wolverine and the X-Men #33The Hellfire Saga story gets marginally better in this issue, as it is more about getting stuff done plot-wise than in trying to be funny.  I’m still not sure how long I’m going to stick with this title after the upcoming X-event.  Jason Aaron’s writing here just hasn’t impressed me so much lately, and I don’t know how I feel about the news that he’ll be writing a second X-book with the upcoming Amazing X-Men.  When did it become a rule that every X-writer got two books?

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

All-Star Western #22

Bloodshot #13

Captain America #9

Doomsday .1 #3

Hunger #1

Superior Spider-Man #14

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1

Tomorrowland #1

Ultimate Comics X-Men #29

Uncanny #2

Wolverine #7

Bargain Comics:

The Shadow #1 I have never really bothered much with the old pulp heroes, but I’d heard some good things about Garth Ennis’s work on this book, so I figured I should check out the first issue.  It’s not bad – it establishes the Shadow as quite a badass, and gives us a good luck at Lamont Cranston as a very arrogant, insufferable human being.  If you like this sort of thing, I’m sure you’d be all over it.  It’s not quite at the level of writing that Garth Ennis just gave us with his Fury Max series though…

The Strain #5-11 – This is the comic book adaptation of a novel by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and it has terrific art by Mike Huddleston.  I haven’t read the source book, but I enjoy the way that David Lapham has handled the pacing of this series, which features vampires showing up and infecting much of New York City.  There is a wide cast of characters (some of whom, presumably, will have a lot more to do in the next part of this trilogy than they did in this one), and enough fresh elements to keep this series from feeling like yet another vampire comic.

Venom #27.1-36 – These ten issues bring me pretty much up to date with Venom after Cullen Bunn took over the writing on the title.  During his tenure, he’s moved Flash Thompson to Philadelphia, and apparently severed all of his ties with the military (although he does keep referring to himself as ‘Agent’ Venom).  I guess the move was partly to get him away from the newly Doc Ock-tified Peter Parker, who he would be sure to notice something different about.  Anyway, these are some pretty well-written standard superhero comics.  Flash is struggling to make a new life for himself, while also struggling to maintain control over his symbiote.  The appearance of Eddie Brock as Toxin is disappointing, as it comes too soon after Carnage showed up for the Minimum Carnage story, but the U-Foes have also been around, which made me happy.  The art has been pretty inconsistent on this book – Declan Shalvey’s stuff was amazing, and Pepe Larraz is very good, but I wasn’t as fond of the Thony Silas issues.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The ‘Nam Vol. 2

Written by Doug Murray
Art by Wayne Vansant, Michael Golden, John Severin, Geoff Isherwood, John Beatty, and Bob CampIt’s worth wondering how my reading and educational history might have changed had my twelve and thirteen year old self been wise enough to realize what a cool and special series Marvel’s The ‘Nam was when it was first being published.  Were a series like this being launched today, I would support it whole-heartedly and with great enthusiasm.Still, kids are dumb, especially given that some of these comics were drawn by Michael Golden, whose Micronauts issues were among the ones I treasured the most.Anyway, The ‘Nam was structured to try to show how the Vietnam War worked in real time.  A month of history passed between each monthly issue, and efforts were made to align the events that the soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Division experienced in the comic with what happened in the actual war.  It’s an interesting structure, causing characters to move in and out of the book as they are injured or they become ‘short’.  At times it doesn’t work – when an unpopular and possibly psychotic lieutenant meets an unexpected fate on the base, it’s two months before that event is dealt with by the brass.  One would assume the reaction would have happened quicker.This comic is not blind in its portrayal of the more questionable aspects of the war.  When our point of view character gets back home, he is surprised to see how the war is being portrayed and understood in the media and even by his own parents.  There’s not a lot of time for politics however, as Murray prefers to focus on the tight relationships formed among the men.  Many issues lack strong narrative structure on their own, and instead work as vignettes in a war that lasted a long time.The art in this book, which collects ten issues of the series, is superb.  Golden drew this with a much looser style than he was known for at the time, and Wayne Vansant, who drew the lion’s share of issues, echoed his style quite well while maintaining his own approach.  John Severin drew an issue, which is alone enough of a reason to buy this book.Reading this, I’m kind of surprised that we haven’t seen a more modern attempt to do this same sort of comic, but set in Afghanistan or Iraq.  Enough time has passed that these stories are becoming more common on television and in movies, but with the exception of DC’s short lived war comic corner of the New 52, we aren’t seeing enough exploration of these conflicts…

Templar, Arizona Vol. 4: Trouble Every Day

by Spike

While I still enjoyed reading it, I found this volume collecting the sublime webcomic Templar, Arizona, to be a little frustrating.  The firmly established main characters, Ben and Reagan, are barely present, and the two characters that got the most space in the book, EJ and Elliott Bigelow, were ones I could barely remember from earlier volumes.

At the same time, Spike’s strange world of Templar is a pretty fascinating one.  She is using her characters to reveal more and more of the world, as the Jakeskin go after Elliott, causing him and EJ to go on the run, and we get a better sense of what has been going on with Pippi, who is a bit of a mess.  Moze is having a good time with Tuesday, but she is still more concerned with what other people are broadcasting about her.  We also learn the meaning of ‘Churchyard’ in Templar, and it’s not what Ben thought it was.

This time around, Spike gave us some more information about other parts of the world in this alternate timeline.  Most interesting is the explanation of what happened to Australia after the Japanese ran a more successful Pacific campaign during the Second World War.  Her notion of an indigenous insurgent army only helped strengthen the comparison in my mind between this book and Carla Speed McNeil’sFinder.

I found this to be a quicker read than some of the other volumes of Templar, but haven’t checked the varying page counts.  While I did find this volume to be a little frustrating, I would gladly pick up a fifth volume, if such a thing were printed.  As it stands, I may have to start reading this on the web, which is not my preferred method of reading comics.

 

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