The Weekly Round-Up #204 With Saga, The Fox, Prophet, The Sandman Overture, Sex & More

This was a strange week for new comics, as in terms of quantity, it was the smallest week I’ve seen in months, but in terms of quality and note-worthiness, it was pretty much off the scale, with a number of big-deal books being released.

Best Comic of the Week:

Saga #15It’s Saga.  Is there much more to say?  Marko and Alana play a board game with Marko’s mom and their favourite author, before thinking about getting jobs, while The Will gets his ship fixed and learns that wherever they are, they shouldn’t be eating anything.  We also get to meet another one of the Robots, in a great scene that has her discussing Alana’s military career.  You’d think that I’d automatically give the ‘best comic’ award to Sandman Overture this week, but Saga has such consistency in its storytelling and pacing that it ended up being the book I most looked forward to reading this week, and the one that satisfied the most too.  Plus, I love that cover.

Quick Takes:

The Fox #1 – This is officially the first Archie comic I’ve ever bought (mostly because I haven’t been able to get ahold of Afterlife With Archie yet), and I got it mostly because of Dean Haspiel’s art, and the wonderful Darwyn Cooke cover.  I’ve never had any affection for the Red Circle heroes (although the most recent DC iteration introduced me to the art of Marco Rudy), but have enjoyed Haspiel’s graphic novels at Vertigo, and having Mark Waid scripting will never hurt.  The story is pretty standard stuff.  I naturally assumed that the audience for this book would be young adults, but one of the villains, a skull-faced temptress, was a little more suggestive than I would have expected were that the case.  I don’t think I’ll be returning for more, but this was an enjoyable book.

Guardians of the Galaxy #8 – I’ve not been too impressed with Brian Michael Bendis’s take on the Guardians of the Galaxy, but this issue, an Infinity tie-in, was drawn and coloured by Francisco Francavilla, so I knew I’d want it.  The team is contacted by Abigail Brand, who is captured on the Peak by Thanos’s boys, and she wants to be rescued.  Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon stealth their way in to get her, but of course, things don’t go as planned.  It’s a good, tense issue, with Francavilla’s art giving everything a bit of a Buck Rogers vibe.  I kind of wonder why the aliens, who are so desperate for Brand’s command codes, didn’t bother interrogating her when they had her prisoner, but whatever.

Infinity #5I continue to be of two minds about Infinity.  I love the scenes in deep space, as the Avengers and their intergalactic allies mop up the Builders’ forces, but find the scenes on Earth, featuring Thanos, his son, and his band of poorly-named bad guys, rather tedious.  This really has been two events, and the point of one of them has been simply setting up the Inhumanity stuff that is coming down the pipe.  Were this just a cosmic story, I would have enjoyed it much more.

Avengers #22 – The follow-up to that issue is much more what I like about this event.  The Avengers and their various allies (you know things got desperate when Annihilus is hanging out at the table, and gets to deliver one of the few comic lines of the book) are now rushing back to Earth to remove Thanos and his armada from the picture.  Jonathan Hickman takes time to include some character moments, and to build up the tension for the rest of this story.  A pretty successful chapter, in all.

Prophet #40 – It’s more of the same in Prophet this month, but that means that the story has more new ideas per page than a year’s worth of standard Big Two fare.  Newfather John has people rearranging sleeping giant rock folk in a gravity well, which leads to the reappearance of a favourite Youngblood character, while Old Man Prophet and his crew continue to prepare for the coming war with the Earth Empire.  A bizarre but compelling story by Brandon Graham, and wonderful artwork by Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Matt Sheean, and Malachi Ward.  I love this book.

Sandman: Overture #1Like many people, I was very excited to learn that Neil Gaiman was returning to the world of the Sandman, and that he was taking artist JH Williams III with him on that journey.  I was, however, a little apprehensive about the fact that Gaiman was going to do a prequel mini-series, especially so soon after DC’s less-than-impressive attempt at creating prologues through the Before Watchmen line.  Still, it’s Gaiman, so you have to trust.  Having read this first issue, I’m still not sure where I stand on things.  The story opens on a distant world, where Dream, in the form of a carnivorous plant, appears to be killed.  After that, Death tells Destiny that this has happened, but later we see Dream as we know him, going about the business of trying to rein in the Corinthian, a vicious killer he created.  I’m not sure yet what the story is really going to be about – at the end of the issue, Dream is summoned somewhere far away, and I imagine that the creatures he meets there are going to be the story.  At the same time, I don’t see how that story can intersect again with the Corinthian’s, making me wonder why he’s there, except for nostalgia reasons, as with Lucien and Mervyn Pumpkinhead.  Williams’s artwork is as incredible as anything he’s ever done, which is to be expected, and I look forward to reading the next issue.  At the same time, I kind of wish that Gaiman and Williams had embarked on a new property, rather than revisiting this classic.  The inherent problem with prequels is that they cannot contradict anything that has happened before, and therefore can’t carry any real threat for the principal characters, making the story a bit of a non-starter from the beginning.  It is damn pretty though…

Sex #8 – Well, this is certainly the most explicit issue of Sex yet, as Simon and his lawyer-buddy arrive at the Saturnalia, a gigantic orgy for the 1%.  There’s a lot on display here, but the heart of this comic is the conversation between Simon and Annabelle, the Catwoman to his Batman.  This is a fascinating comic by Joe Casey, whose writing is insightful, deep, and salacious at the same time.  I feel like he’s really breaking new ground in superhero fiction with this book, which I don’t see getting near as many accolades as it deserves.

Swamp Thing Annual #2I’ve been enjoying Charles Soule’s run on Swamp Thing, and this annual is a good example of why that is.  He uses this extra-sized issue to explore the Parliament of Trees, and just how this august body of former defenders of the Green operate.  In the main title, Swamp Thing has found himself placed in opposition to Seeder, with a coming battle being designed to settle which of them gets to be the avatar.  Now, ST is being taken around the Green to prepare himself for this battle, and it gives Soule plenty of space to explore Alec Holland’s character, and the internal rifts within the Green.  Also, there’s a Swamp Thing dinosaur in one panel.  A good read.

Thought Bubble Anthology 2013 – I love a good anthology, and the annual Thought Bubble one, which is part of the Leeds Comic Art Festival, is always a great mix of big name independent creators and up-and-coming British cartoonists.  This year, we get such treats as an Elephantmen/Judge Dredd cross-over, and short strips by the likes of Cameron Stewart, Brandon Graham, Ming Doyle, Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, and Ramon Perez.  Lots to like, even if none of the stories are the most memorable.

True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #5 – With only one issue left to go, many things are made clear, as we discover why everyone is interested in The Girl, and we learn who Destroya is.  Becky Cloonan’s art on this series has been wonderful, and Gerard Way and Shaun Simon have kept things very interesting with their slightly obscure approach to the writing.

Uncanny X-Force #13The Owl Queen story is getting closer and closer to its conclusion, as the Revenants are poised to take over the world, and the ragtag group of X-Men, with Spiral and a Demon Bear, are all that’s left to try to stop her.  This book is really being hampered by the inconsistent art.  There have been reports that Ramon Perez drew his issue, a few back, in just a couple of days, while other issues have been beautiful, especially with Adrian Alphona involved.  This one, by Phil Briones and Angel Unzueta, is serviceable, but not consistently so.  I don’t think this book is a priority at Marvel.

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 – And so, in keeping with a proud tradition at Marvel with regards to event books that have had Brian Michael Bendis as their frontman, the grand finale of Battle of the Atom is neither grand nor very final.  The various factions of past, present, future, good, and bad X-Men are all in a big fight with each other, while SHIELD drops tons of missiles on them, and new generation Sentinels that SHIELD director Maria Hill somehow doesn’t know exist or are on her Helicarrier.  So, in other words, there’s a lot of chaos, both on the page, and among the people putting the words and picture on the page.  Bendis and Frank Cho are credited on the cover as writer and artist, but most of this book is written by Jason Aaron, and Cho has been replaced by Esad Ribic and Giuseppe Camuncoli, among other artists who step in for the epilogue.  Very little is resolved in this issue, although some folk die, and others just kind of disappear.  The epilogues are used to set a tone for the various X-books moving forward, and are quite successful, aside from the final one, by Bendis, which does not fit with the others at all.  I know some people have praised his handling of Kitty Pryde before, but her little temper tantrum here is completely out of character.  This event had been working rather well, and it’s a shame that it couldn’t have a clearer, and more epic, ending.

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

Cataclysm Ultimate’s Last Stand #0.1

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and The Red Death One Shot

Superior Spider-Man #20

Ultimate Comics X-Men #33

Bargain Comics:

Avengers Assemble #19This Infinity tie-in plays between the scenes of the main event, as Spider-Woman works to lead a group to free Captain Marvel and some others from the Builders.  Not bad, but definitely not essential.

Bloodshot #13 – I’d never read the last of the Harbinger War tie-ins, and always wondered what happened to the woman that hung out with Bloodshot throughout this run.  This issue answers that question, and mostly just repeats scenes from Harbinger or HW.

Captain Marvel #9-12 – Last week, when writing about Pretty Deadly, I said I wasn’t too sure of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing, and reading these issues of Captain Marvel, some of which were co-written or scripted by Christopher Sebela, only underscored that for me.  At times, the writing in this book is airy, light, and humorous, but at other times, it feels laboured and over-blown.  Carol has some sort of progressive growth in her brain that gets worse when she flies, and so she has been grounded.  Of course, Carol hates that, and hates her new sky-motorcycle thing even more, so there is some drama there.  What doesn’t make sense to me is that, with all of her friends and resources, Carol is seeing a GP for this issue.  Wouldn’t it be more likely for Tony Stark, Hank McCoy, Hank Pym, and maybe Bruce Banner (since Reed is lost in space, or is hanging out with the Illuminati) to be tackling this problem?  Another problem with these issues is the art of Felipe Andrade.  His cartoonish approach to drawing could work, but his faces are often little more than smudges, and he picks some very odd camera angles, making some of the story-telling hard to follow.  I really want to like this book, but it just doesn’t live up to expectations, and it’s not very easy for someone new to pick it up and run with it (I have no idea who Carol’s new boss is supposed to be, for example, but his appearance is made to feel significant).

Captain Marvel #15-16And then there are the Infinity tie-in issues, co-written by Jen Van Meter, which basically repeat scenes from Avengers Assemble, with barely any difference to them.  Carol’s been given a role of some prominence in the main event, but here she’s portrayed as unsure of herself and lacking most of her memories.  It doesn’t add to the character so much as detract.

Journey Into Mystery #652-654 – Kathryn Immonen and Valeri Schiti’s stories about Sif get much better when Beta Ray Bill shows up in space just as Sif tries to help out Gaea by going to the Avenger’s Deep Space Station.  That part of the plot is pretty creaky, but it’s fun to see Sif and Bill together; he’s a tough character to use well, but Immonen manages it.

Scarlet Spider #16-19 – I really like Chris Yost’s writing, and wish he could get some higher profile work.  In these four issues, the Scarlet Spider gets embroiled in a complex story involving Wolverine and the League of Assassins.  It’s plotted really well (although I didn’t really understand Kaine’s barely mentioned big costume change), and looks nice.

Album of the Week:

POS  MDS – WDELH RMX – Marijuana Deathsquads, a Minneapolis supergroup that constructs noisy, industrial-tinged dance music, has remixed POS’s year-old album, We Don’t Even Live Here, and released it for free through Rhymesayers.  I love the original album, but have to admit that some of these remixed tracks, particularly ‘Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks and Bats’ stand very well on their own.  Well worth checking out, even if it wasn’t free.


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