The Weekly Round-Up #201 with Three, America’s Got Powers, Archer & Armstrong, Chew, Star Wars, The Walking Dead & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Three #1

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Ryan Kelly

I love a good historical comic, and have long had an interest in the Ancient World, so I was very excited to learn that one of my favourite comics writers, Kieron Gillen, and one of my favourite comics artists, Ryan Kelly, were collaborating on a new series set in Ancient Sparta, some one hundred years after the famous Battle of Thermopylae.

This comic is very much a response to Frank Miller’s classic 300 book.  Gillen states as much in the text section of the book, that he was irritated by the way in which Miller removed the slave aspect of Spartan society from his story, and set out to correct the historical record somewhat, and also tell a good story.

Spartan society survived only through the efforts of the Helots, the lower rung of a caste system that viewed them as less than slaves.  When the book opens, a group of young Spartan warriors attack some Helots who are gathering fruit.  Later, we meet a different group, who are having to listen to one particular Helot, from the city, who has put on some airs over his country cousins.

When a group of travelling Spartans insist that this group quarter them for an evening, this City Helot raises their ire by contradicting one man’s accounting of the famous Thermopylae encounter.

This is a very interesting comic, with terrific art by Kelly, who has always been a master of human expression.  Gillen doesn’t bog the story down with history, and instead provides just the right amount of exposition to make the social arrangements clear.

I’m not sure how long this series is set to run for, but I’m very excited to keep reading it until it ends.  Great stuff.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #6Abe Sapien is a strange title, more concerned with mood and atmosphere than actual plot progression, but I think it plays a very important role in the whole BPRD Hell on Earth family of titles.  Abe is wandering through the deserts of Arizona, and meets a group of migrants who are camping out.  They talk a lot about ancient Aztec stories, which apply to the world’s new situation.  Great art by Sebastián Fiumara really makes this comic work.

America’s Got Powers #7 – I’m pleased that this Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch epic has finally come to its end.  This series started out very well, but the length of the delays between issues has made it difficult to remember what is happening in the story.  Still, you can’t be mad at Bryan Hitch in his wide-screen glory.

Archer & Armstrong #14 – In this issue, we get to learn the secret history of the Sect, the collection of organizations that really run the world.  In the present, Archer, pissed off by what happened in the Faraway, is now working to take the Sect down, while his sister, Mary-Maria has her own problems with them.  As always, this is a great read, and this looks to be a very promising new arc.

Avengers Arena #16 – As we get closer to the finish of this book, the various heroes are finally trying to kill each other (at least it looks that way), while Apex and Deathlocket make their move on Arcade.  A very good issue all around.

Batman #24 – I was annoyed with Villains Month, partly because it caused the few regular DC titles I buy to lose momentum.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s answer to this?  A double-sized book the following month, making up for lost time.  Batman has started working as Batman, and he goes after the Red Hood Gang in this issue, in a battle that culminates in a familiar scene at ACE Chemicals.  Later, just as I was wondering why Gotham was all ‘I Am Legend’ at the start of the Zero Year, the Riddler shows up to make even more trouble for the city.  This is a strong issue from start to finish.  I’ve been getting really bored with Snyder’s Batman, but I did enjoy this comic a lot (although I didn’t enjoy the $7 price tag).

Captain America #12 I really like where Rick Remender is taking Cap, now that he’s back from Dimension Z and mourning the loss of his lover and his son.  Remender has Cap hang out with The Falcon, which has always been a dynamic I’ve enjoyed, and also has Nuke mowing down a bunch of soldiers somewhere.  Nuke, Carlos Pacheco, and a thoughtful take on Captain America?  I think it’s time to add this book to my pull-file list.

Chew #37 – As you can probably guess, it’s another wonderful issue of Chew, as Tony and his daughter decide to connect with some dead relatives, which in turn leads to Tony teaming up with his dead sister to help his jerk of a brother, who has run afoul of a food pornographer.  While all this is going on, Colby goes to FDA Prison to interrogate Savoy.  John Layman is really building up a big storyline here, and it’s a lot of fun to read.  This is a brilliant series.

Coffin Hill #1 – I really want to support the latest wave of Vertigo titles, as I’d hate to see the imprint decline any further, but I don’t think that Coffin Hill is working for me.  I love Inaki Miranda’s art, which is the main reason why I bought this comic, but I don’t know that, after reading the first issue, I care about any of these characters enough to come back.  Eve Coffin was the spoiled gothy daughter of an old family that has some ties to the occult (or at least pretends to).  When she was a teenager, she got into some bad stuff, but ten years later, she’s living somewhere else and has joined a police force.  After stopping a serial killer, she gets shot by her roommate’s boyfriend, and that sends her home.  My problem is that I don’t find Eve or her family terribly interesting, and so I’d be surprised if I read the next issue.  Too bad, because I’m sure it’s going to be lovely.

Eternal Warrior #2I’m enjoying this book, but I’m a little confused.  If Gilad walked away from his duties to serve the Geomancers some six generations ago, in the 1800s, how does that fit with his appearances in Archer & Armstrong?  Are we to see this book as set before that time?  If so, why aren’t we told that?  It’s a little hard to retcon out a character’s first appearances, when they’re only a few months old.  This is disrupting my enjoyment of the series, which is otherwise quite good (although the art is a little too muddy).

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #4 – I think that writer Simon Oliver is making it very clear in this issue that, just like the world he portrays, we as readers should not expect the storytelling to be complacent.  Jay works to free himself from a bubble universe after learning that his partner has betrayed him, and that leads to two outcomes, one involving the privatization of the physics management industry, and Jay’s setting out on his own.  I’m enjoying this strange and very unique comic.

Fearless Defenders #10 – The events of Infinity #4 (see below) have made it too easy for writers to introduce any number of new characters into the Marvel Universe now, and so we are introduced to Ren, a dancer who now has the ability to turn her hands into razor-sharp ribbons.  There’s a big fight between some of the Defenders (not enough Dani Moonstar in this book), Caroline Le Fay’s people, and some of Thanos’s crew.  This issue is nowhere near as strong as last month’s, which is disappointing.

Ghosted #4Joshua Williamson’s supernatural heist comic is pretty fantastic.  This issue has the crew of thieves and charlatans actually confront some real ghosts (or demons), as they realize that if they are going to succeed in their mission of stealing a ghost, someone is going to have to get possessed.  They didn’t expect their only exorcist to be the one though…  Goran Sudzuka’s art continues to remind me a lot of Sean Phillips on this title, giving the book just the right atmosphere.

Infinity #4 – So far, I’ve found that I’ve really enjoyed the deep space aspect of this story, while the whole Thanos/Inhumans thing has bored me.  That divide becomes even more pronounced in this issue, as Captain America has Thor negotiate peace terms with one of the Builders, while on Earth, Black Bolt takes drastic steps that don’t really make a lot of sense to me.  Were Marvel not so married to the need to launch their next big event out of the conclusion of their current one, the entire Inhumans plot could have been skipped.  Instead, we find ourselves in the middle of an editorial demand that is going to have us begging for another House of M soon enough.  This is becoming disappointing…

The Manhattan Projects #15 – Ryan Browne fills in on art as civil war rages in Joseph Oppenheimer’s head.  His brother Robert does his best to take control, but the intervention of the alien that Joseph consumed a while back makes things difficult, at least until the tables start to turn.  This is a wonderfully strange book, and one that is hard to compare to Infinity, Jonathan Hickman’s other comic this week, as this is just so many levels above that.

Miniature Jesus #5 – Ted McKeever’s latest bizarre mini-series comes to a bizarre ending, as Chomsky meets God, and then hangs out in a bar.  I love McKeever’s art, but find reading his stories in a serialized form to be incredibly difficult.

Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde #2Harry, the alien small-town doctor, has travelled to Seattle with his nurse and friend to try to clear his mayor’s name in the murder investigation that launched last issue.  He uses his alien intuition to try to track down people who were involved with the murder victim.  Basically, this is a really good private investigator comic, which has a little outer space twist to it.  Peter Hogan is telling the type of story that can only be told in comics, and it works very well.  Steve Parkhouse is just about perfect for the art in this series.  This is a great read.

Shaolin Cowboy #1 – I fondly remember the first Shaolin Cowboy series, back when the book was published by the Wachowski Brother’s Burlyman Press (back when both Wachowskis were brothers, but that’s a whole different story).  Now Geof Darrow has brought the character back, with a new storyline that picks up where the last one left off.  The Cowboy crawls out of the Earth in the middle of a desert, pursued by zombies.  A car full of jerky high school kids drives by.  They interact.  That’s almost all that happens, but each page is a work of absolute beauty, as only Geof Darrow can draw it (which means an insane amount of detail).  Great stuff, although I’ll admit to skipping the insanely dense recap pages.

Star Wars #10 – Even though not a whole lot happens in each issue, since Brian Wood is running about four plots, I really love this book.  Carlos D’Anda returns to the art chores this issue, and while I miss Ryan Kelly, he does a terrific job.  This series is a lot of fun for an original Star Wars fan.

The Walking Dead #115 – All Out War begins with this issue, as Rick and his alliance march on Negan’s compound.  Robert Kirkman does this kind of issue very well, as characters spend a bit of time together before heading out, and as he throws an interesting little twist into the end of the book.  This issue is most notable for two things though – that it marks the beginning of a bi-weekly run (I remember having to wait months between issues back in the day), and that Stefano Gaudiano joins the book as inker.  Charlie Adlard has been inking his own pencils since issue 7, and it’s interesting to see what Gaudiano adds to the book.  The line work is cleaner than Adlard’s is on its own, and the look of the book harkens back a little to when Tony Moore was drawing it.  It’s still a very nice looking book, but I think I prefer Adlard on his own…

X-Men #6Battle of the Atom is starting to run a little long, as the Future X-Men are revealed as who they really are, and the Now X-Men and Past X-Men try to stop them, with little effect.  I think it’s amusing how, in the chapters written by Brian Wood, Jubilee has such prominence, but then is barely present in the chapters written by Bendis or Aaron.

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

Astonishing X-Men #68

Astro City #5

Rachel Rising #20

Red Sonja #4

Sons of Anarchy #2

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #4

Thor God of Thunder #14

Ultimate Comics X-Men #32

Wolverine #10

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Men Special #1I found this to be a very enjoyable read.  Writer Mike Costa (who is starting to build a real name for himself) does what Brian Michael Bendis has hinted at but generally failed at doing in the main All-New X-Men title; he shows the Past X-Men as kids who have moved out of their proper time.  A day in NYC is pretty entertaining, but when a time-displaced Doctor Octopus attacks, leading to a run-in with the Superior Spider-Man, things get pretty interesting.  Nice character work from Costa, and really lovely artwork from Kris Anka that reminded me a little of Kaare Andrews, made this book work very well (although I don’t understand why the original team would be dressed like they just stepped out of Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man).  Now to remember to pick up the Indestructible Hulk Special it leads into…

Avengers Assemble #18 – It’s always a tricky proposition to pick up tie-ins to big events that aren’t central to the story, the way Avengers and New Avengers are.  Avengers Assemble is the book without any real purpose of its own, and so we get an expansion on the events of the a big battle already shown elsewhere, as narrated by Spider-Woman.  It doesn’t really add much to her character or to the larger story, but it does give this title a chance at boosting its sales a bit.  Also, it gives us a chance to see more art by Barry Kitson, which is something I’m never disappointed in.

Fantastic Four #9&10 – The team continues to wander through time and space, with a visit to Dr. Doom’s accident in his lab (that borrows heavily from the time travel issue of Planetary), and a trip to 1776, to deal with a Skrull Benjamin Franklin (who is clearly not the same Ben Frank we see in Deadpool).  These stories are alright, but there is still something missing in Matt Fraction’s take on Marvel’s First Family.

Thor God of Thunder #13Jason Aaron brings back my all-time favourite Thor villain, Malekith the Accursed, in a new arc that opens with the daring rescue of the Dark Elf by his followers.  Reading this, I was constantly reminded of the grandeur of Walt Simonson’s run with this villain.  The last issue really made me love Aaron’s take on Thor, but this one has the Thunder God revert back to his less-than interesting self.  Still, Malekith.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #29-31 – It’s interesting to contrast Brian Wood’s work on this comic with his other X-Men title, set in the Marvel Universe.  This one is so plot-driven that characters shift in their characterization, and really, very little makes sense.  This book is a disappointment.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 6 – Now that the storyline has jumped some fifteen years into the future, the main character of this book is Kanna, who struggles to keep alive a friend who has evidence that the police are involved in a plot to kill the Pope when he visits Japan.  Shogun has spent all this time in prison, but he is planning an escape.  Naoki Urasawa does an excellent job of maintaining a sense of suspense and excitement throughout this book, even as he introduces new characters (like the hapless imprisoned manga artist) and new threats.  This is a fantastic series.

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