Best Comic of the Week:
Prophet #39 – Since he relaunched this old Image property, Brandon Graham has trained his readers to not ever know what to expect from each new issue. This month, Graham brings together an amazing group of artists to tell the life story of Die Hard, from his days with Youngblood through some ten thousand years, in tiny little snippets. The artists who worked on this issue are Giannis Milonogiannis, Joseph Bergin III, Matt Sheean, Malachi Ward, James Stokoe (!!!!), Aaron Conley, Lando, Ron Wimberly, Simon Roy, and Graham himself. While some of these artists aren’t well-known, they do an incredible job here of helping expand on this character, and continuing Graham’s true mission with Prophet – to redeem some truly horrible characters. I loved this issue, and especially enjoyed the reproduction of Graham’s script, which is the most visual one you’ll ever see.
Archer & Armstrong #13 – This series is always a delight, as Fred Van Lente has his heroes face General Redacted in a final battle in the Faraway. There are lots of surprises for the characters in this issue – Obie finds his sister in bed with Armstrong, Armstrong finds his oldest brother, and a certain lost aviator makes an appearance. Great stuff all around, but Van Lente’s consistent portrayal of Obie is what really makes this book. Easily the best Valiant book.
Avengers #19 – So I think I’ve got a handle on Infinity now. In the main book, writer Jonathan Hickman is so concerned with moving the big plot along that the book lacks heart, but in Avengers, he focuses on what the team in space is up to, and has time and space to make things interesting. The Builders have a chat with Captain Marvel, while Captain America lays out a (secret) plan at the Galactic Council meeting, all while J-Son (stupid name) tries to work his own agenda. Despite this being a shorter book, I feel like a lot more happened here than in last week’s issue of Infinity.
Avengers Arena #15 – When this title debuted, one of the characters I’d found the least interesting was Nara, the Atlantean girl from the Braddock Academy. With this issue, though, I found myself liking her a lot more, as Dennis Hopeless finally gave her the narrator’s role. A group of the kids are having to fight off Cullen Bloodstone’s other self, after he successfully saves them from X-23. There’s not much life left in this book (unless it’s being relaunched, or is transitioning into a new title), and I’m quite happy to sit back and enjoy whatever is still coming our way before its cancellation. Especially with Kev Walker drawing.
Batman #23.2 – Riddler – I hadn’t pre-ordered this comic, but since it was co-written by Scott Snyder (although it looks like Ray Fawkes did all the heavy lifting), and features a character who is central to the Zero Year story, I thought it might be worth checking out. I’ve only liked the Riddler when he was written by Paul Dini and was in his private eye phase, but this comic was squarely alright. Nygma breaks into Wayne Tower on a very personal mission, and the extent of his preparation is as interesting as his goals are lame. The Zero Year connect is pretty weak though, and I don’t feel like I know the character any better. I do like Jeremy Haun’s art though, and always wonder why he doesn’t get more work.
Eternal Warrior #1 – The first half of this comic is set in Mesopotamia, and serves to introduce Gilad’s two children. I’d not really thought about the immortals in the Valiant Universe as having kids, and it has me wondering just how many Armstrong would have created over the millennia. Anyway, Gilad’s daughter Xaran is portrayed as a vicious and expedient warrior, whose battle philosophy runs counter to her father’s. After a sequence involving some death cultists, we move to modern day, where Gilad has given up on serving the Geomancer. Did that happen in Archer & Armstrong, because I don’t remember it. Anyway, this is a good enough debut – Trevor Hairsine’s art is as it always is – impressive, but at times the characters look too similar to one another. This issue hasn’t really grabbed me the way some other Valiant books have, which surprises me considering that Greg Pak is the writer, but I’ll give it a couple of issues to turn things around before thinking about jumping ship.
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #3 – This continues to be a very promising new title from Vertigo. In this issue, Adam, our POV character, is attacked by his long-term partner while inside a bubbleverse – a small parallel world that is threatening to burst, with possibly grave results for our universe. Simon Oliver is doing some very good work, setting up these characters nicely, while keeping the weird physics from being too hard to understand. Robbi Rodriguez is the real hero here – I’ve always liked his art, and it’s great to get regular doses of it via this comic.
Ghosted #3 – Things are really heating up in this supernatural heist series. The crew sets about trying to steal a ghost from an old haunted mansion, and get a lot more than they expected. Joshua Williamson has done a great job of setting up this series, and his pacing in this issue is perfect, while Goran Sudzuka continues to do a good impression of Sean Phillips, and is perfect for this material.
The Manhattan Projects #14 – For the last little while, the scientists of the Manhattan Projects have been free to pursue their own scientific pursuits, without much governmental interference. That all changes in this issue, as JFK decides he’s had enough of them, and sends General Westmoreland in to take care of them. This is a delightful issue, as the scientists face off against the government (Westmoreland’s depiction is wonderfully funny), while off in space, Laika the dog has a close encounter. Nick Pitarra’s art feels looser and a little crazier here, which is a great thing, and Jonathan Hickman shows why he is one of the best writers at Image.
Mighty Avengers #1 – This newest Avengers title (because we all know that there’s a great need for a new Avengers title) is something I’m very ambivalent about. To begin with, I like the idea of a mainstream Marvel book that makes use of some characters that I really enjoy, like Luke Cage, Monica Rambeau (now called Spectrum), White Tiger, and the new Power Man. I can really see buying a book with that line-up, especially when you toss in Superior Spider-Man and this mysterious Spider-Hero character. I really like Al Ewing’s writing here. He gets the tone of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’s marriage perfectly (hey DC – someone is writing about superhero marriage and it’s interesting, and not always happy). He acknowledges that Spectrum has been mishandled for years and wants to fix that. He rolls with the editorially-mandated difficulty of writing an event cross-over (Infinity, in this case) while still making his book interesting and its own entity. All of these are reasons to buy this book. Why am I ambivalent then? Two words: Greg Land. His style is all wrong for this book. His Monica Rambeau is ridiculous. The Captain Marvel I grew up with would not be straightening her hair – she had a glorious sorta-afro, and that was one of the things that I felt made her stand out when she was the chairperson of the Avengers. Now she just wants to look like Halle Berry (or some random white porn star that Land traced a photo of)? His art just doesn’t fit with this book, which is supposed to be a more urban version of the Avengers (even if they are fighting space aliens in this issue). Imagine this book drawn by someone like Francesco Francavilla, Mike Huddleston, or Wes Craig. I’d be happy if it was done in a straight-forward Marvel style by artists like Wellington Alves or Brad Walker. Greg Land’s look makes me not want to buy this book. I stuck with his Uncanny X-Men run because of Kieron Gillen’s writing, but had to give up on Iron Man. I don’t know if Al Ewing is a good enough writer, or Luke Cage and Monica Rambeau beloved-enough characters to keep me coming back to this art. And I really, really want to read this book.
Resident Alien: Suicide Blonde #1 – I’m really happy to see that Resident Alien got a second mini-series out of Dark Horse. The concept is a strange one, but it really works – an alien has blended into the life of a small town in Oregon, and has even become the town’s doctor, who in his spare time, solves mysteries. It sounds ridiculous, but under Peter Hogan’s direction, it works very well. This new series has him and his nurse, Asta, heading off to Seattle to investigate after a young woman with ties to the town’s mayor turns up dead in a hotel room. Great stuff, with wonderful art from Steve Parkhouse.
Star Wars #9 – I really wish each issue of Star Wars was longer. Brian Wood barely has time to check in with one of his plotlines before having to switch to the next, and at the moment, all of them are in pretty exciting places. Han Solo and Chewbacca are still fighting Bobba Fett and Bosk over Coruscant, while Luke and Wedge are fighting their way through a Star Destroyer. Leia has met a man from her destroyed planet, only to learn that he has some serious Imperial connections, and we see the beginning of Darth Vader’s disillusionment with the Emperor’s rule. Wood has a great feel for this series, and Ryan Kelly’s artwork is terrific.
Ultimate Comics Ultimates #30 – I guess a lot of stuff happens here, as Joshua Hale Fialkov’s story doesn’t so much come to a close as lead into the whole Cataclysm event, which is either going to breathe new life into the Ultimate Universe or destroy it forever. There is a lot of focus on Reed and Sue here, while the actual main characters of this book get very little chance to do much of anything. I think that Cataclysm makes for a good jumping off point, and so I’m gone.
Uncanny X-Force #11 – I’m really not sure about all this revenant stuff that’s been filling up this series since the Betsy/Fantomex storyline got finished. Betsy, Storm, and Puck have been captured by their revenants, and Bishop is plotting and planning to free them, with the help of the Demon Bear, which is itself a revenant. My problem with all of this is that the word ‘revenant’ refers to something that has come back from the dead; our trio of heroes have not died. I’m confused. Ramon Pérez has some nice pages of art in this book, but other parts feel very rushed. Seeing as how this book is habitually solicited as being drawn by TBA or TBD, I’m not surprised if Pérez is drawing under quicker-than-normal conditions. The thing is, he’s a brilliant, gifted artist, and should be given more space to shine (go read A Tale of Sand).
The Walking Dead #114 – The exciting confrontation between Rick and his people and Negan outside of the Community concludes in this issue, as a few other people come to the party (one brings a tiger!), and battle lines are clearly drawn. Starting with the next issue, TWD is going bi-weekly for a while; something I hate when Marvel does it, but that I can’t wait for here because this story has gotten so exciting again. I particularly like the smaller character moments in this issue, especially the chat between Rick and Carl. As always, an excellent comic.
X-Men #5 – The Battle of the Atom continues, as the combined might of two X-Men teams can’t seem to pin down Young Scott and Young Jean as they Steve McQueen their way along the West coast. This cross-over isn’t bad, but it’s the definition of navel-gazing, as there isn’t even a threat beyond what might happen if the young X-Men aren’t returned to their own time. In typical Marvel fashion, strange inconsistencies pile up all over the place – apparently Jubilee has been in the background for the first two chapters of this story, because she just shows up here, already knowing what’s going on. Beast and Young Beast have been secretly building a new jet in their spare time. This makes sense to me, because Brian Michael Bendis just demonstrated recently that our Hank can’t even figure out how to put a motorcycle back together (he’s a biochemist, right?), and a jet is much less complicated than that. Perhaps it’s made easier because his past self is there to help – I know if I wanted to build something technologically advanced, I’d want people from the past to help me – they have the best technology in the past. I know I’m being nitpicky, but I hate big crossovers that kind of fall apart under their own weight, and this is in danger of doing that. Also, I really hate the way that Brian Wood is portraying Storm – she’s such a rich character, but I feel like she’s being reduced to being a little power-hungry and disruptive in what is, essentially, a leader-less X-Men team. The portrayal doesn’t fit her history or character.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Astonishing X-Men #67
Astro City #4
Captain America #11
Fearless Defenders #9
Indestructible Hulk #13
Infinity Hunt #1
King’s Watch #1
Rachel Rising #19
Red Sonja #3
Sons of Anarchy #1
Adapted by Matthias Schultheiss
I came across this single issue from 1991 recently, having never been aware of the fact that German cartoonist Matthias Schultheiss had adapted some stories by Charles Bukowski. I snatched this up right away, not sure of what to expect from it.
The story is set in the California desert, perhaps in the forties. The narrator is a wandering alcoholic who is picked up one day to work a manual labour job in the middle of nowhere alongside an older wino. The two men struggle through their job before moving on in life. That’s about all there is, plot-wise.
Schultheiss’s sparse style fits with Bukowski’s bleak prose. We don’t learn much about the narrator – and we only know a little more about his companion. The landscape is as barren as the art, and the protagonists’ hopes for their futures.
There are a few odd things about this book. To begin with, Schultheiss portrays the vehicles as having right-hand drive, which threw me out of the story. I also don’t understand what the cover, which is a little more explicit than one would normally expect on a comics shelf, has to do with the story. Still, I’m now on the hunt for any other Bukowski adaptations like this, and would gladly pick up a collection of them. This was a good find.
Joe Kubert Presents #2-6 – This anthology series became a very touching tribute to one of the all-time greatest comic book artists. Kubert collected a very random sampling of his work and interests for the lead stories, which ranged from a Sgt. Rock story to a bunch of vignettes set on a whaling ship, to his series The Redeemer, which never happened as planned. Some stories are old, and others brand new, being among his last work. Kubert was always an incredible artist, and an above-average writer, even if some of his stories feel a little overly-sentimental. These comics also feature Sam Glanzman’s stories about the USS Stevens, the battleship he was stationed on during the Second World War. These are excellent, often surpassing even Kubert’s work.
Mars Attacks #7&8 – Leave it to John Layman to consistently defy expectations for this title. He keeps introducing and establishing characters, only to wipe them out a couple of issues later. These two comics are mostly concerned with a mobster running from other criminals who want him dead, who tries to manipulate everyone he meets into helping him out, including the Martians. It’s a fun, enjoyable book.
Album of the Week:
The Weeknd – Kiss Land – Nobody can capture the sense of schadenfreude that comes from wild partying like The Weeknd, and it shines through on these tracks, which chronicle the darker side of a glamorous life. Abel Tesfaye’s beautiful soprano mixes perfectly with these swirling, morose, and menacing tracks. It’s not all gloom though; this is a lovely album.