The Weekly Round-Up #199 With Sex Criminals, East of West, Jupiter’s Legacy, Mind MGMT, Saga, Sex & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Sex Criminals #1

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky

If you had the ability to stop time when you orgasm, and after years of not understanding this gift, finally found someone else who could do the same thing, what would you do?  If your answer is rob banks, then Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s new Image series is probably perfect for you.  Even if that’s not how your brain works, this is a comic that is well worth checking out.

Fraction has long established that he is a writer who is not afraid of exploring new ground, but you have to wonder where the idea for this book came from.  The obvious source is Nicholson Baker’s strange novel The Fermata, but the protagonist there used his time-stopping powers to masturbate, not the other way around.

Regardless where the notion came from, the writing in this book is excellent.  Fraction spends most of this issue building up Suzie, our narrator.  When she was young, Suzie’s father was killed in a workplace massacre, leaving the girl very much alone, as her mother retreated into a bottle.  Suzie explored a very usual adolescent escape, and that is how she learned of her ability.  Fraction follows her through the early teen years, as she figures out how her powers work, and learns that nobody else has the same ability.

The book picks up on Suzie as a young woman, who is obsessively trying to buy up the stock of local library that is being foreclosed upon by a bank.  Surrounding herself with old books, she throws a party to help raise funds to buy more.  It is there that she meets Jon, who she later learns has the same abilities she does.  That’s where the bank robbing begins, and where the issue ends.

I really like the way that Fraction is pacing this series (many of his other books are much more frenetic), and think he found the perfect partner in crime in artist Chip Zdarsky.  He has a slightly cartoonish style, but it works very well in the context of this series.  Suzie is shown at different ages, and it’s easy to tell how old she is in each scene.  As well, Zdarsky, a local artist, has Suzie living in a house not far from the spot where I pick up my comics every week, which is pretty cool.

Quick Takes:

Avengers #20Jonathan Hickman moves Infinity along in this tie-in that has Captain America trying to figure out his way forward in the face of the Builders’ insurmountable numbers, and Ex Nihilus and Abyss meet some of their counterparts in the Builders’ army.  Another solid issue.

East of West #6 – Jonathan Hickman’s alternate future saga gets a little more sprawling with this issue, as he spends it all with Bel, the man who was recently convinced to betray the Chosen.  He gets exposed early in the issue, and has to flee to Texas, where we learn about the Texas Rangers in Hickman’s world.  A very interesting issue, and one where Nick Dragotta continues to stretch his art and become ever more impressive (not an easy task).

Fatale #17 – I love the issues of Fatale that are split between the present day and the past.  This issue is as great as this series always is.  In the present, our main character (blanking on the name) travels with his rescuer, but is given reason to doubt whose side he’s really on.  In the 90s, the still-amnesiac Josephine wrecks havoc on the band that has taken her in, while the Bishop closes in on her.  This series is always brilliant.

FF #12 – Matt Fraction is now only plotting this title, but there are a trio of Allreds who are now doing just about everything else, and the transition is very smooth.  Caesar, Maximus, and Future Johnny are building a time machine that is supposed to help them rescue the Fantastic Four, while the rest of the cast carries on doing their normal stuff.  There is a good dose of fun in this comic, and great Allred art.

Guardians of the Galaxy #6Brian Michael Bendis spends pretty much this entire issue on a fight between the Guardians and Angela, the Image character no one ever cared about seeing again who is perplexing in the Marvel Universe now.  I see that Neil Gaiman is still being credited as a consultant on this issue, which is as far from anything he’s ever written as it’s possible to be.  Even Sara Pichelli’s usually fine artwork couldn’t save this dull book (how often do we have to blow up Groot before it gets old?  Too late).

Jupiter’s Legacy #3 – Mark Millar’s super hero/family squabble series takes a turn for the dark in this issue, as the Utopian’s teammates and son turn against him in an effort to implement his best friend’s plans for economic and social reform.  The Utopian, a Superman analogue, has always believed in free market capitalism, but with America stuck in a recession, the other heroes believe that they should be doing more to assist their country.  This book touches on themes left over from Millar’s work on The Authority, but are updated for today’s situation.  Like on that legendary run, he’s working with Frank Quitely, so this book looks amazing.

Mind MGMT #15 – Matt Kindt uses this issue to look at Henry Lyme’s time living in hiding, and how he manipulated main character Meru through a cycle of seeking him out to get her questions answered.  This fills in some important information, and the steady decline in Meru’s appearance helps highlight Kindt’s artistic ability.  Another solid issue.

The Mysterious Strangers #4 – I love that Chris Roberson’s hipster-ish take on the Doom Patrol is being told in two-part story arcs; there’s something so enjoyable about a quick story told as well as the ones he tells here.  The team continues to work to stop The Scarabs (think of The Beatles) from using their music to bring an ancient sun god to Earth.  Great stuff.

Nova #8Lots of people come looking for the newest Nova – a pair of former New Warriors get rejected (because, after all, he did also turn down the Avengers), but I don’t think one of Thanos’s lackey’s lackeys is going to feel the same way.  This is a fun book, but the Infinity cross-over aspect does feel a little forced.  I still recommend this book for anyone who is missing DC’s Blue Beetle.

Planet of the Apes Giant #1 – Darryl Gregory’s excellent Planet of the Apes epic finally comes to its conclusion in this oversized issue.  Gregory has done an amazing job constructing this series, which takes place long before the arrival of the human Taylor, and follows the history of the city of Mak.  After the ape-human war has ended, the city is now threatened by the massive army of the Golden Khan, and now Sullivan and Ayala have to lead their people to war again.  This ending is very satisfying, and while I would have loved to see Carlos Magno return to the book for its finale, Diego Barreto does a very good job as well.

Revival #14 – There are no Doomtree cameos this month, which is a little disappointing, but Em gets plenty of chances to be a hero again, as the ‘passengers’ (I guess that’s what we’re calling the ghost/alien creatures in the woods) try to kill a young reviver.  This series is constantly moving in unexpected directions, which is nice to see.

Saga #14 – Nothing is more welcome in the comics shop than a new issue of Saga, and this issue does not disappoint.  Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are deep into this story arc, and are just moving the story forward with this issue; there’s not much more to say than that.

Sex #7This is my favourite of Joe Casey’s current comics series.  His look at a post-Batman world is pretty fascinating, and I find that I’m really enjoying the stories of all the supporting cast members.

Star Wars Legacy #7 – Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are doing very good work on this series, building on the original Legacy series by John Ostrander, as the various groups of characters are being drawn towards Dac, the homeworld of the Mon Calamari, and site of a terrible genocide.  Ania Solo lives up to her family name in terms of her impetuousness, and Brian Thies continues to be a good replacement for Hardman’s pencils.

True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #4 – This book was late in arriving at the store where I shop, but as with anything drawn by Becky Cloonan, it was well worth the wait.  The Girl becomes disillusioned with the new Killjoys, just as Korse’s secret lover is discovered, and the porno droids make their break for the desert.  This is a very strange and complex book, but it is all sorts of wonderful.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #27 – Brian Michael Bendis is building quite the supporting cast for Miles Morales, as he, Spider-Woman, Bombshell, Cloak, and Dagger all fight the Ultimate Taskmaster for pretty much the entire issue.  I always like this comic best when it focuses more on Miles’s personal life, but this is still a decent issue, despite the lack of any of that.

Uncanny Avengers #12The Apocalypse Twins story is a good one, but it doesn’t really feel like its moving forward very quickly.  Instead, the characters spend a lot of time talking to each other, even during a mission.  Still, Rick Remender is doing good work with the Twins, and with Havok, although I still feel like the Scarlet Witch is beyond redemption at this point.  Salvador Larroca comes on-board to draw the book (is he still doing Cable and X-Force too?), so there is a definite visual shift from what Daniel Acuña was doing, but it’s not bad.

The Unwritten #53 – I’m really ready for this Fables storyline to end so I can go back to enjoying The Unwritten.  I hope that DC got the increased sales it was looking for with this stunt, because it’s almost cost my purchasing of this series, which I used to enjoy a great deal.

The Wake #4 – I can’t really imagine any other artist being able to pull off The Wake as well as Sean Murphy is.  He handles the various needs of this issue – tense action, strange creatures, and intricate underwater oil well design – remarkably well.  This is a very exciting read, although I’m very confused by the opening scene, set some 100 000 years ago and featuring modern technology.

Wasteland #48 – The appearance of Marcus’s father outside the gates of Newbegin throws a wrench into the plans of the conspirators who are looking to kill their leader, but also perhaps makes their goals moot.  Another excellent issue of this long-running series.

Wolverine and the X-Men #36Most of this issue is given over to a huge fight between the three factions of X-Men (Jean Grey School, Cyclops’s team, and Future X-Men), while Young Jean and Old Young Jean go at each other on the psychic plane.  If this isn’t confusing enough, Magik takes a pair of the Young X-Men to the future, which looks a little like the one that Jason Aaron introduced in this book about six months ago.  This cross-over is working, which is amazing considering how incredibly complicated this storyline is.

Wonder Woman #23.2 – First Born – I really appreciate that Brian Azzarello was able to make his contribution to Villains Month actually feel like it’s a continuation of his work on Wonder Woman, instead of being a half-assed after-thought of a story designed around a shiny cover.  This is what Villains Month should have been – a chance for the regular writers of a series to highlight the book’s current antagonist, and hopefully draw in a few new readers along the way.  But then, no one expects DC to play the long game – they are too busy chasing short-term gains.  This issue has three oracles telling Apollo about the First Born’s life, from the death sentence Zeus imposed on him upon his birth, through his war on heaven, to his eventual banishment.  Artist ACO works nicely in the style that the regular book has established, and the issue was interesting from beginning to end.

Young Avengers #10 – Another almost-perfect issue, as Kieron Gillen uses the device of the magic circle in a couple of interesting ways.  At the beginning, Loki has an illuminating chat with Mother, the other-dimensional monster that has been plaguing the team from the beginning.  This is the closest Loki has been to how he was under Gillen’s hand in Journey Into Mystery, and it’s great to see.  Later, Leah takes Hulkling to a support group for Young Avengers exes, as part of her own mysterious plan.  Great stuff all around from Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton.  I love this book.

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

A + X #12

Avengers Assemble #19

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #3

Bargain Comics:

Captain America #10The Dimension Z arc ends very well, as Rick Remender has made Captain America seen vital again, having really put him through the wringer over these ten issues.  I think I might start buying this book regularly, now that John Romita Jr. is off of it.

Captain America #11 – And, with Carlos Pacheco and Klaus Janson coming on for art, it’s even more likely that I’ll start picking this up each month.  Remender made this a quiet issue, as Cap and Jet adjust to being back in the regular Marvel Universe after their time in Dimension Z.  Cap is keeping Ian’s existence a secret, and so none of his friends have any idea how much his ordeal has affected him.  Remender has a really good handle on this character, and Pacheco and Janson give us some wonderful artwork more reminiscent of John Romita Jr.’s earlier work.  Oh, and Nuke.  A winner all around.

Fantastic Four #8 – While still on their cross-time adventure, the Fantastic Four let Ben Grimm use his one week per year of being human to go back in time and reform the Yancy Street Gang.  I suppose it’s a decent enough story, but I’m tired of The Thing always being reduced to the most basic premise of his character (we even get to meet Aunt Petunia).  Kinda dull, really.

Fearless Defenders #9 – I was all ready to drop Defenders when Marvel chose to raise the price of the comic, but I felt badly about it, as the series was improving with each new issue.  This one, which has all the current or past boyfriends of the team gathering to talk them out of being a team, is excellent.  The girls are late for their intervention because they are fighting a group of villains working for series baddie Caroline LeFay.  This book is quite funny, has great art by Wil Sliney, and very sharp dialogue from Cullen Bunn.  I might just stick around after all…

Thor God of Thunder #12When you think about Thor, he’s never really been much of a character.  Sure, there have been some legendary runs, but for the most part, the thunder god himself has been a bit of a one-note figure in his own stories – impetuous, father issues, temper, women – that’s about all there is.  With this issue though, Jason Aaron makes Thor a character I actually want to read more about.  Coming off his Godbomb storyline, Aaron has Thor pop in on a number of friends around the world, including nuns, veterans, Tibetans, and of course, bartenders.  He also goes to be with a prisoner on the day of his lethal injection.  Aaron doesn’t explain any of these relationships, but by showing they exist, he makes the character more nuanced.  He ends that part of the story with a touching moment between Thor and Jane Foster, and bookends the book with visits to Past and Future Thor.  Nic Klein does a terrific job of depicting these different scenes, and really helps to humanize the Norse god.

Album of the Week:

Lizzo – LIZZOBANGERS – I take it as axiomatic now that all the best music is coming out of Minneapolis.  Lizzo knows that, and that’s why she moved there from Texas to work on a solo hiphop career.  She hooked up with Doomtree’s Lazerbeak, who does all the production on this album, and put out a solid disc full of bangers.  Lizzo takes Lazer’s beats, some of which are familiar from Doomtree projects, in a completely different direction from what I’m used to.  She has a bit more of a street mentality to her rhymes, and is frequently funny and impressive.  If you get the chance, see her live – she puts on a fun show.

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