The Weekly Round-Up #194 with Revival, Bloodshot, The Bounce, BPRD, The Sixth Gun, X-O Manowar & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Revival #13The biggest comics thrill of this week came for me when, in this issue of Revival, the Doomtree crew had a cameo.  This is not the first time this Minnesota rap crew has been referenced in the comic – Martha had a ‘No Kings’ and a Dessa poster in her dorm room, but this time around, Mike Norton has drawn the whole group performing at First Avenue, and has included some of the lyrics to ‘Beacon’.  The scene is in a flashback to a date Martha went on with her professor, and while it’s a minor moment in the issue, it made me very happy.  I love when what I consider to be disparate interests (Doomtree are not like the Wu-Tang or MF Doom, peppering their songs with comics references) coincide unexpectedly.  The rest of the issue is very good too, and feels better structured than the last few.  I like that Tim Seeley and Mike Norton take the time to let their characters date and generally come to grips with the strange things happening in their town, while also building on the mystery of the creatures that hide out in the woods.

Quick Takes:

Animal Man #23 – Jeff Lemire has brought back Brother Blood, but instead of his being a kind of dull Titans villain, he is instead a guy with a line on taking over The Red, which causes all sorts of problems for Buddy and Maxine.  This book has been floundering a little lately, and it’s nice to see it back on track.

Avengers #18 – It looks like people who are going to be reading Infinity are going to want to pick up the other Jonathan Hickman-written cross-overs, as this issue feels rather central to things.  First off, we see how the Builders’ forces have united the Skrull factions again, as Kl’Rt comes to represent them at a meeting where the Avengers are relegated to simple observers.  Later, the galactic fleet, made up of Kree, Shi’ar, and other races, attempt an attack on the Builders that doesn’t go all that well.  Hickman, with artists Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan (read his Elmer!), really build the sense that this is an epic storyline.  Sure, you can argue that it makes no sense to send the Falcon out to battle in space alongside guys like Hyperion, or that there would be no conceivable reason to even consider taking Shang Chi out there, but this is still a very solid read.

Batwoman #23I feel that I’m getting a little bored with this title, as Kate decides to take the Scarecrow’s fear formula as an act of contrition towards Maggie, and everyone else just kind of stalls their way through the issue.  I’d like to see a little more happening here, especially when you consider that this book is skipping next month because of the Villains event, that it got left out of.  I wonder how much disrupting a month’s worth of comics is going to affect sales, since many DC books seem to be hanging on by a thread.

Bloodshot #0 – I’ve wanted to like Bloodshot since Valiant relaunched a little over a year ago, but the series just never clicked for me.  With Matt Kindt writing this ‘zero’ issue, I figured it couldn’t go wrong, but I was a little underwhelmed with what we got.  Sure, we learned the origin of Bloodshot, but Kindt didn’t really lay a lot of groundwork for the incoming team of Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart.  Maybe, had Kindt drawn this book as well as written it, I would have been more excited.

The Bounce #4 – I fear I’m starting to get bored of The Bounce.  I like the character himself, but there is too much time being spent on the shady guy in the suit, and not enough is grabbing me.  I usually support everything Joe Casey does (I love Sex), but this is just not holding my interest.  I’ll give it two more issues or so before deciding…

BPRD Hell on Earth #110 – The last two issues of this series were excellent, but with the new arc, ‘Lake of Fire’ is much less focused, as it checks in with most of the series’s cast.  It’s nice to see Liz Sherman again, and interesting that Fenix has ended up at the Salton Sea, where Abe Sapien has been hanging out of late in his own series.  Tyler Crook is back on art for this arc, so things look terrific.

Conan the Barbarian #19After the hallucinations of the last story arc, it’s great to see Conan and Bêlit back doing what they do best – pillaging ships and slaughtering folks in a church.  The couple are on the trail of something called the Black Stones, which are clearly not a good thing.  Very nice art by Paul Azaceta makes this arc look like a winner.

Daredevil #30 – You have to admire the way that Mark Waid revels in telling untraditional Daredevil stories.  This issue has him teaming up with the Silver Surfer after a highly manipulative alien comes to Earth.  The art, by Eisner-winning Chris Samnee, is a delight.

Great Pacific #9 – Chas Worthington continues to try to build up the nation of New Texas, which leads him to seek recognition from other countries.  Unfortunately, the only state that is willing to talk to him is a rogue one run by a brutal dictator.  I like this series best when Joe Harris is looking into the more realistic and political aspects of Chas’s project, so this issue made me happy.

Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #2 – This is a very full issue of Lobster Johnson, complete with baby-faced, gun-toting monkeys.  Sebastián Fiumara does a terrific job with the art here, making this creepy and grounded at the same time.  I’m rarely all that impressed with the Lobster, really, but this mini-series is easily the best one yet.

Nova #7 – I liked the last issue enough to pick this one up.  Zeb Wells is having a good time showing us how hard it is to establish yourself as a new superhero in the Marvel Universe, especially if you try to start out in NYC, and run across Spidey-Ock, who is not exactly helpful.  This was a nice issue, with cameos by Justice and Speedball that will give any New Warriors fan reason to hope.

100 Bullets: Brother Lono #3I’m honestly not at all sure of what the plot of this mini-series is, but I love the atmosphere that Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are creating here while portraying this violent Mexican border town.  There’s a gritty authenticity to the book that makes up for the fact that not much has happened in three issues.

The Sixth Gun #33 – Things just keep moving along here, as Becky finds herself having dinner with General Hume and his crew in the dream world, while her friends in the real world fight a large group of Skinwalkers.  This is one of the most consistently good books being published right now.

Thief of Thieves #16 – Things are getting nice and complex for Redmond and his crew in Venice, especially since Cohen, the FBI agent that has been hunting Redmond forever, is also in town.  I love reading heist books, and find the preparation parts to be among the most interesting, so I love where this book is headed right now.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #29 – Sometimes when a series has hit lame duck statues, i.e., you know that it’s going to be cancelled soon, it can be a lot of fun to just ride it out, but in this case, the storyline really underscores how little character development work has been done on the Ultimates over the last few years.  I really don’t care about these folk at all at this point, and am kind of just sticking around out of inertia.  I doubt I’ll be picking up the Cataclysm mini-series though.

Wonder Woman #23 – Most of this issue is taken up with a fight between Wonder Woman and her squad and The First Born, which ends in a way that I really didn’t see coming.  I love how Brian Azzarello is constantly messing with peoples’ expectations of who Diana really is, especially now that she’s taken on a new role that doesn’t exactly fit with her pacifistic nature.  Great stuff.

X-Factor #261Monet and Darwin get their issue as Peter David continues to wrap up his lengthy run and multiple dangling storylines.  This is probably a better issue than the last few have been, but I’m still finding the long goodbye for a series that is going to be relaunched within three months to be pretty tedious.

X-Men #4 – Brian Wood writes this issue as one of those periodic X-Men tales between larger arcs, where the team just kind of interacts with each other.  The Wolverine/Jubilee scenes are very nice, as the two bond for a while in LA, but the parts with Storm, Rachel, Rogue, Kitty, and Psylocke don’t work very well at all.  It’s hard to imagine that this line-up would have so much difficulty saving an airplane with a burning engine – Storm should have been able to handle that crisis on her own.  The conflict between her and Rachel also feels very forced, especially since it would be hard to imagine anyone questioning Storm’s right to lead the team, let alone someone who joined under her tenure.  Still, a lot more happened here than in your average Bendis issue, so it’s all good.

X-O Manowar #16 – Aric finishes his fight with the Eternal Warrior and then goes about building up his new land (which, it should be remembered, is oddly in a park in the middle of Bucharest.  This current arc is not all that credible, and feels a little like it’s just being used to set up the upcoming Unity event.  Still, Robert Venditti has a good feel for this character.

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

Avengers Assemble #18

Cable and X-Force #13

Indestructible Hulk #12

Numbercruncher #2

Strain: The Fall #2

Superior Spider-Man #16

Bargain Comics:

Age of Ultron #10AIYou have to admire Mark Waid’s ability to take just about any character and make them relevant.  His look at Hank Pym’s history and psychology is wonderful, although it’s a bit of a shame that Sam Humphries isn’t using the character more prominently in Avengers AI, the series he’s headlining.  It’s a shame Waid isn’t writing that…

Batman and Red Hood #20 – As much as I like Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, I hate the fact that their title, which was often the most enjoyable of the Bat-books has been stuck being the only place where Batman is really showing his loss after Damian was killed, and I hate even more that the powers that be at DC are trying to shoe-horn Carrie Kelley into the story in such an awkward way.  Since the New 52 relaunch, has Bruce punched every single one of his Robins now?  That’s a tired kind of thing…

Battlestar Galactica #1 – As bad as the original Battlestar show was, there is something about the look of the show that always draws me back – I love the Vipers, and the faux-Egyptian themed helmets.  I was interested once I heard that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were writing this book – they’ve taken much lamer cosmic properties to great heights, but a little too much of this issue was spent on establishing things to really give a sense of where it’s headed.  There is talk of ‘time weapons’, and poorly-designed (visually) modified Vipers, all of which took some of the enjoyment out of this for me.  Not sure I’ll pick up any more issues.

Batwing #19-21 – I really liked the concept of Batwing – an African take on Batman, but the execution was pretty middle of the road, as David Zavimbe seemed to never go more than a couple of issues without showing up in Gotham, or being visited by someone from the Bat-Family, the implication being that he couldn’t handle his business on his own.  DC seemed to realize that it just wasn’t working, but wanted to still have a “Black Batman”, so when Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray took over the title, they shuffled David off to pasture (rather abruptly, I might add), and instead brought in Lucius Fox’s son Luke to be the new Batwing, complete with a very high-tech suit.  And then they send him to Africa to fight ant-costumed terrorists and a big lion guy.  We don’t get to know Luke very well over these three issues, and Batman himself is shown as being a little out of character.  There’s potential here, but you have to wonder why DC would need to pick a trust-fund genius to wear the costume, when going a little more street might have been more interesting.

Captain America #9I’m surprised that the route to making Steve Rogers more interesting was to make him a parent.  As the Dimension Z story gets closer to its finish, it’s the relationship between Steve and Ian, his adopted son, that places the character in a completely new situation; not even Bucky took Cap to this level of emotion.  And, since Rick Remender likes nothing more than to trash the characters he writes, this issue is pretty emotionally brutal.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 – So here Marvel goes and makes such a big deal of debuting Angela, the character they bought off Neil Gaiman for reasons I don’t understand, in this issue, and she barely does anything except fly towards Earth, and get in a fight with Gamora.  What really had me excited about this issue was the cameo by Mantis.  I like the way Brian Michael Bendis writes Rocket Racoon and Tony Stark, and with Sara Pichelli on art, I’m thinking I might need to add this to my pull-file.  This issue is much better than the first four were.

Indestructible Hulk #10 – I always like it when a writer pulls together characters from different books he’s writing, because the cross-overs are much more seamless than the more editorially driven ones.  I kind of forgot this was an issue of Hulk, as it kind of felt more like a Daredevil story, which is what Mark Waid excels at these days.  I really like Matteo Scalera’s art in this issue – he just keeps getting better and better.

Journey Into Mystery #650 & 651 – Kathryn Immonen’s tales of Asgard are kind of fun.  These aren’t the most memorable comics, but there’s nothing to be mad at here.

Legends of the Dark Knight #1The first issue of the digital-first series has art by Jeff Lemire and Nicola Scott, so that alone is reason to buy the book.  These stories examine Batman’s perception of himself, as he tries to prove to Alfred that he doesn’t have any weaknesses, and as he takes on Amazo single-handedly.  I like that these ‘out of continuity’ stories fit so well with the departed DC Universe that we all miss.

Superior Spider-Man #7-14 – Over the course of these eight issues, Dan Slott (and sometime scripter Christos Gage) fix what I liked least about the earliest issues of Superior Spider-Man, by exorcising Peter Parker out of his own head, leaving only Otto Octavius.  The constant, kind of whiny presence of Peter was annoying at best, and by getting rid of him, they allow Otto to really become his own Spider-Man, which includes him blackmailing J. Jonah Jameson, putting together his own army, and taking out the Kingpin’s Shadowland.  The best thing about Slott’s writing is the way he plays the long game, setting up things like the rise of the Goblin King long before he needs them.  I really enjoy this book, although still not enough to add it to my pull-file list (maybe if it didn’t come out every three days…).

Thanos Rising #2-4 – There’s not much going on in this mini-series which retells Thanos’s origin.  These issues take him on a journey from being the kid who likes to mutilate animals (on a pretty large scale), to a pacifistic space pirate, to the mad butcher he becomes, all for the love of a woman, who of course, is Death.  Simone Bianchi’s art is lovely, but I don’t understand why he’s given Thanos a dorsal fin.

Thor God of Thunder #11 – The Godbomb story, which has run for eleven issues, ends quite well, with the three Thors of different eras victorious, as we knew they would be.  Jason Aaron’s done a good job with this book.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #28 – Kitty Pryde puts an end to the fight with the Army, just in time to start a bigger one with Tian, the mutant city run by Jean Grey.  Like the Ultimates, this book feels like it’s just putting in time, and is a strange contrast to Brian Wood’s X-Men series, which is much more character driven.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Gone to Amerikay

Written by Derek McCulloch
Art by Colleen Doran

I knew going in that I’d be impressed with this book.  Gone to Amerikay is drawn by the gifted artist Colleen Doran, is a historical tale, and the type of graphic novel that Vertigo just doesn’t seem to publish anymore (despite the fact that this book is only a year old, it feels like it’s from an earlier era of risk-taking and quality work at the DC imprint, one that has been traded in for returns to the well, and Fables side-projects).

The book is set in New York, showing three different eras.  In 1870, Ciara O’Dwyer arrives in the city with her young daughter, coming ahead of her husband who never actually arrives.  Ciara has to learn to make ends meet on her own, although she is soon helped by a mysterious young man she knew in the old country.

In 1960, the newly arrived Johnny McCormack can’t wait to make his mark in the music or theatre world.  His close friend (who becomes very close) helps him out in this regard, but their partnership leads Johnny towards some personal problems.

In 2010, Lewis Healy, a very rich Irish businessman, and his wife Sophie, arrive in New York for a trip that Sophie has arranged.  She wants to take her husband around to various parts in the city where McCormack and O’Dwyer lived and worked, seeing as the strange connection between these two is what inspired Healy in life.

Derek McCulloch has put together a very interesting look at the immigrant experience and the history of New York.  The book is meticulously researched and each era is shown with a sense of authenticity.  Doran excels at this type of work – her characters are always very believable, and she has real skill at showing the different time periods.  I especially liked the way that parallels were found between the different stories, with the art often bleeding from one time to the next with a similarly parallel structure.

I wish there were more historical graphic novels of this level of quality being produced.  A truly excellent read.

Grendel: War Child

Written by Matt Wagner
Art by Patrick McEown and Monty Sheldon

War Child was most likely the first Grendel story I’d ever read.  There’s a good chance that I’d picked up an issue or two of the old Comico series – perhaps around the Christine Spar era – but this was the first time that I bought a Grendel series each month as it came onto the stands.  It is also this series that got me to start digging up some of the older issues, as well as launching me into the Grendel Tales mini-series that followed, some of which were brilliant.

War Child is a very good comic.  In it, Matt Wagner returned to the world he (and Grendel) had created.  A few years after the death of Orion Assante, the Grendel-Khan and ruler of most of the world, things aren’t looking so good.  His wife is pursuing her own desires, and using the power she holds over Jupiter Assante, the young heir to the throne, for her own ends.

Then, Jupiter is abducted by a single warrior dressed all in black, the Grendel-Prime.  Eventually, we learn that this warrior is doing Orion’s bidding, as he takes Jupiter on a trip across the world, trying to keep him safe.  Wagner went with a wild action approach for this series, which involves mutants, vampires, killer robots, and any number of other tropes to ratchet up the excitement.  He also does a wonderful job building these characters, including Jupiter’s stepsister and her guard.  Eventually, the grown Jupiter wishes to retake his rightful position, but that is not a simple proposition.

I love Patrick McEown’s art in this series.  His work looks similar to Matt Wagner’s, but there is a looseness about it that helps make the action scenes even more dynamic.  I think it’s a shame that Wagner hasn’t returned to this era of his Grendel story (I’m sick of seeing Hunter Rose), as it’s a pretty interesting place.

I really enjoyed revisiting this series and these characters.

Album of the Week:

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris – This album is a real study in contradictions.  It’s thugged out art rap at its absolute best, as Earl moves through a number of different moods, performing songs that fit well with the oeuvre of his Odd Future crew, but which also stretch and challenge the current state of hip-hop.  The production is minimalist, and mostly done by Earl himself, Tyler the Creator, the Neptunes, and the RZA.  BADBADNOTGOOD perform on my favourite track, ‘Hoarse’.  This is an album that needs to be listened to over and over again.

What would you like to know?