The Weekly Round-Up #205 With Trillium, Afterlife With Archie, Baltimore, Fatale, Morning Glories & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Trillium #4Jeff Lemire’s science fiction epic is getting wilder and wilder, as people from different eras swap places.  Nika, the scientist trying to save the human race from extinction is in the early 20th century, while Clayton has ended up on a distant planet in the future, with some of the last humans determined to blow up the alien temple that has brought him there.  Lemire’s work is great in this book, and I’m pleased that he gave up on the notion of having the reader flip the book upside down to read the pages set in the past.

Quick Takes:

Afterlife With Archie #1 – It’s taken a while to track down a copy of this, but it was worth the wait.  I’ve never been an Archie fan, and have only ever read a few of my sister’s comics when we were kids, but I am of course familiar with the characters.  In Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s take on the characters, a bad decision by Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Jughead leads to a zombie outbreak in Riverdale, with a couple of prominent characters being killed in this first issue.  There is a camp appeal to seeing familiar characters in such a different setting, but the main reason to buy this book is for Francavilla’s terrific artwork.  He makes the Archie crew look a little more realistic, and uses his talents for pulpy design to great effect.  I hope it’s easier to find the second issue, because I want to read more…

Alex + Ada #1 – Jonathan Luna has a new series (co-written with Sarah Vaughn), which starts off very promisingly.  At some point in the future, people have wired their heads into their homes, so that they can make coffee and flush the toilet without having to actually do these things (strangely, no one looks overly obese in Luna’s world).  Alex is turning twenty-seven, and is having a hard time getting over a break-up that happened seven months before.  His grandmother, who has found bliss with a new, fully functioning android ‘partner’ suggests he get one for himself, although he’s not sure.  This issue is mostly set up, but it’s the kind of thing that the Luna Brothers excel at – creating a milieu for their characters, and populating it with other interesting characters, before getting the story underway.  I’m definitely intrigued, and look forward to the next issue.

Amazing X-Men #1‘The Quest for Nightcrawler’ begins in this first issue of yet another X-Men series.  The comic opens in Heaven, or something like that, where Kurt Wagner is just hanging out, until some pirate-themed demon things show up to cause trouble, and he learns that his possible father, the demon Azazel, is behind things.  From there, we cut to the Jean Grey School, where Firestar is supposed to start as a teacher, but is instead dragged into some weirdness involving the Bamfs, the little Nightcrawler-looking demons who hang out in the school.  The comic, written by Jason Aaron, feels so much like a new issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, that you have to wonder why it’s taking place in its own book, and not as part of that series.  Ed McGuinness draws this book, and if you like his stuff, I’m sure that’s okay with you.  I’ve always been indifferent to his work, so I don’t really care.  I find it very odd that, by including Azazel, Aaron and Marvel in general are acknowledging that The Draco, which has to be one of the worst story arcs of Chuck Austen’s execrable Uncanny X-Men run, actually happened.  I would have thought that if any X-Men arc were ignored forever, it would have been this one.  Still and all, this was a fun comic, and I think that bringing Nightcrawler back into the fold might be just the thing to combat the endless hand-wringing of Brian Michael Bendis’s Uncanny X-Men.

Baltimore: The Infernal Train #3 – Lord Baltimore’s confrontation with a group of vampires on a train, and with the mad Inquisitor who has been hunting him, comes to a great conclusion at the end of this mini-series.  I love how Ben Stenbeck draws this series, and I was genuinely surprised by the end of the issue.

Captain America #13 – Nic Klein shows up to draw this issue, which is split between a flashback to the late 60s where Nick Fury confronts a SHIELD traitor, only to have the Winter Soldier show up and complicate things, and the modern era, where Cap gets sent in to stop Nuke from making it look like America is attacking a small, war-torn Baltic nation.  Rick Remender’s been playing the long game with this series since bringing Cap back from Dimension Z, as proven in the way he’s setting up Ran Shen to be a big-time adversary.  I like his plotting, and am always happy to see Nic Klein drawing something.

Catalyst Comix #5Joe Casey’s return to the Comics’ Greatest World characters just keeps chugging along.  It feels like the back-up strips are shorter this month, but still more enjoyable than the Amazing Grace story, which has taken the lead.

East of West #7 – It could be argued that not a whole lot happens in each issue of East of West, but the cumulative effect of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s futuristic Western Apocalypse series is quite impressive.  In this issue, we learn of the connection between the Keeper of the Word and the Horsemen, while Death goes searching for his son.  Hickman excels at this type of book, and I can’t believe how good Dragotta has gotten as an artist.  This is a smart, exciting series.

Fatale #18 – The penultimate issue of the grungy Seattle storyline really ramps up the intensity, as the members of the band have to deal with the death of one of their own, and as the amnesiac Josephine begins to recover control of her abilities, which leads to one wild video shoot.  It’s Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, so it’s always good, but I am consistently amazed by the quality of this series.

God is Dead #3 – And I’m done.  Jonathan Hickman’s idea about the various pantheons coming back to the Earth and fighting each other for its domination is a solid one, but with such poor characterization and pacing as shown in this title, it’s just not working for me.  The ‘heroes’, a group of scientists and a young woman in a miniskirt, are cardboard cut-outs, and it’s impossible to care about any of the gods.

Ghosted #5The first arc of Ghosted ends quite well, with layers of betrayals and twists.  This series was originally announced as a mini-series, I believe, so I’m curious to see if the next arc holds up as well as this one did.

Green Arrow #25 – I’m getting very tired of the degree to which DC is interfering with the flow of their few remaining monthly books that I’m buying.  Two months ago, Villains Month disrupted the flow of Jeff Lemire’s excellent long-term story for Green Arrow, and now with this issue, a ‘Zero Year’ tie-in, we suddenly find ourselves tossed back some six years in Oliver Queen’s life.  Apparently, at the end of last month’s issue of Batman, when it looked like the Riddler blew up some screens in Gotham’s Times Square, he actually set off an EMP, which has more or less turned Gotham into No Man’s Land again.  You would think, if DC were going to have a sizable amount of their line tie into an event, they would have had the Batman issue that makes clear what’s going on come out before the tie-ins.  Anyway, Oliver Queen has just returned from his mysterious island, and has to head into Gotham to rescue his mother from the lack of electricity.  Luckily, a confused wannabe villain comes along to make things more dramatic.  What’s really going on in this issue is the shoehorning of continuity and characters from the TV show Arrow into the New 52.  Diggle, Oliver Queen’s TV buddy makes an appearance.  I know he was never part of the comic character, who I’m only passingly familiar with, but I don’t remember ever having heard about Queen’s mother before.  Has she always been in the New 52 take on the character?  I have no idea.  Also, are we to believe that Ollie has been active as Green Arrow as long as Batman’s been around?  Why, then, does he come off as being so incompetent?  On the up-side, Andrea Sorrentino’s art looks great, and the Diggle-centric back-up feature is drawn by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, a duo who should both be getting more work either alone or in tandem.

Hinterkind #2I was interested enough in Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli’s new Vertigo series to give the second issue a shot, and I find myself a little more on the fence.  Basically, it seems that the premise of this book is that, as humankind has wiped itself out, a variety of storybook creatures – trolls, ogres, fairies, and the like – have made their return.  It’s a good concept, with enough similarities to Fables to make it commercially viable, and I like some of the characters that have been introduced so far, but I’m not sure how long the story will hold my interests.  I’ll probably give the next issue a shot before deciding whether or not it goes on my pull-file list.

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #2 – I want you to go grab a copy of Sandman Overture, and then compare it to this issue of MK Spider-Man.  Since I first saw his work, I’ve felt that Marco Rudy was the next JH Williams III, and this issue continues to cement that opinion (with a dash of Chris Ware tossed in to keep things interesting).  In Matt Kindt’s story, a drugged and confused Spidey is running a gauntlet of almost all of his foes.  Most of this issue has him fighting a few mainstays, Shocker, Mysterio, Hydro-Man, and Sandman on an airplane.  The story is kind of thin, but the pages are absolutely gorgeous.  If I wanted to find something to complain about, I just wish that all the ads were crammed into the back of the book, as they really disrupt the flow that Rudy has going from page to page.  Brilliant, brilliant art in this one.

Mighty Avengers #3 – I’m enjoying this series a lot more than I expected to, mostly because I really like the way that Al Ewing is writing Spectrum (Monica Rambeau) and Luke Cage.  He’s also got me somewhat interested in the Blue Marvel, a character I’d previously written off.  Of course, the art by Greg Land really makes me not want to read this comic at all, but like Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men run, I’m finding that the writing is strong enough to keep me coming back (I really don’t want to know what material Land referenced for the scenes where people all have elder god tentacles coming out of their mouths).  Right now, I’m taking this book on a month-by-month basis, but I really do like the lineup of this team.  I can’t help but wonder how great this comic would be with a better artist.

Morning Glories #34In this excellent issue, the gang more or less gets back together to hold a fittingly dysfunctional memorial for Jun/Hisao.  The flashbacks return to the car crash that claimed Jade’s mother’s life, putting those events in a slightly different light which still has me confused.  As Nick Spencer’s story has gotten stranger and stranger over the years, what has held everything together has been the strength of his characters, and this issue is a perfect example of why that makes this book work so well.  Good stuff.

Swamp Thing #25 – Swamp Thing does battle with Seeder, the New 52 version of Jason Woodrue, over the right to be the avatar of the Green.  It’s a visually very interesting issue, as Jesus Saiz makes good use of the possibilities inherent in a character like Swamp Thing.  I’ve been liking this book a lot since Charles Soule took over the writing.

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

‘68 Hallowed Ground One Shot

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand #1

Detective Comics #25

Fantomex MAX #2

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight #2

Iron Man #18

Legends of Red Sonja #1

Shadowman #12

The Star Wars #3

Uber #7

Bargain Comics:

A+X #11&12As with any other anthology series of this nature, things are very inconsistent here.  Issue eleven features 90s artists who aren’t seen too often now, namely Mark Texeira and Ron Lim, in a couple of throw-away stories (although I do like the Cyclops/Spider-Man team-up).  Issue twelve is the weightier one, as Christos Gage has Beast and Wonder Man working to rekindle their friendship in a fun story, and as Justin Jordan has Captain America taking Jubilee with him on a mission to deal with some WWII era Nazi vampires.

Astonishing X-Men #65-67 – These are some solid C-list X-Men comics.  Marjorie Liu is a decent writer, but it’s clear that she’s not really allowed to do much with these characters, and so we get stories that can be interesting, but which do nothing to upset the status quo of the other X-books.  On the plus side, the art, by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Amilcar Pinna, is quite lovely.

Cable and X-Force #14 – It looks like the rivalry between Havok’s Avengers team and Cable’s X-Force team is finally at an end, as Hope returns from the future with the means to fix Cable’s powers.  This is a good enough issue, and my hope is that subsequent issues will be a little more character driven, as this book is full of great characters who are barely being used.  This series is very different from Avengers Arena, Dennis Hopeless’s other Marvel title.

Deadpool #15 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the newest arc of this title, has a much darker feel to it than the previous ones, but writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan still find many spots for their unique brand of humor.  Deadpool tries to recruit Wolverine or Captain America to help him track down Butler, the man who has been harvesting his organs, and who has some kind of connection to the Weapon Plus program.  This is a very well-written comic, with great art by Declan Shalvey that matches the mood perfectly.

Hunger #4The build-up to Cataclysm ends with Ultimate Rick Jones being all heroic, and lots of chaos happening in Kree space.  I’m sure that nothing here really affects what happens in the Cataclysm series…

Indestructible Hulk Special #1 – The second chapter of ‘Arms of the Octopus’ is as much fun as the first, as Mike Costa has the Past X-Men and the Superior Spider-Man turning to Bruce Banner for help in figuring out what is going on with the time-lost young Doc Ock that has shown up in Manhattan.  The story works very well, and I’m really impressed with the art by newcomer (to me at least) Jacob Wyatt who maintains the look established for this cross-over by Kris Anka, while also sometimes moving into Bryan Lee O’Malley territory.  I find it odd that the cover neither credits the creators, nor suggests that Spidey and the X-Men show up at all.  In all though, a very good read.

Iron Man #16 – Kieron Gillen wraps up the story about the Recorder 451 and the giant Godkiller armor in this rather oddly-paced issue.  Tony wraps up his business in space after a three-month sojourn with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and then comes back to Earth, to have an odd interaction with Pepper Potts, before discovering something in his office.  From the beginning of this series, I blamed anything that didn’t feel right on Greg Land’s awful art, but now that the book has a decent artist, in Carlo Pagulayan, it is becoming clear that the title still has problems.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #3 – I was really impressed by Mike Del Mundo’s art in this Infinity tie-in.  He has a Steve Uy/Udon Studios feel to his backgrounds that I enjoy.  In this comic, Spidey-Ock and the new Mighty Avengers team continues to fight off Thanos’s goons in the streets of New York, until Spidey goes to meet up with a new electricity-based character who presumably got her powers from the Terrigen Bomb.  This is what these tie-ins should be, a chance for a prominent character to interact with the event without endlessly repeating what we’ve already seen elsewhere.

Thor God of Thunder #14So Thor is wanting to go after Malekith, the Dark Elf, but he has to take a force from the various worlds that make up Norse mythology.  The concept should work better than it does, but I couldn’t decide if I was supposed to take the story seriously, or read it as a bit of a humour comic.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Ron Garney’s art, but I really don’t like the way that Ive Svorcina is colouring it – things are a little too bright and burnished, making the art unrecognizable as Garney’s.

Thunderbolts #14-17 – Charles Soule continues to work hard to redeem this title, which got off to a very rocky start under Daniel Way.  Now that some of General Ross’s personal missions have been completed, it’s time for the team to turn to one of the other members.  Punisher’s name gets pulled out of the hat, and so the group is going after a very secretive mafia family who works support for all other criminals in New York.  Things get a little complicated, however, when Thanos’s armada attacks, tangentially making this an Infinity tie-in.  I like Jefte Palo’s art a lot here – this is a book that should have a more cartoonish look to it; Steve Dillon’s approach was too realistic to match the make-up of the team.

Wolverine #9 – This is probably the best issue of the Paul Cornell/Alan Davis run so far, as Logan interacts with the X-Men in trying to figure out just what Mystique was doing in the Jean Grey School.  Logan and Kitty go after her, and they run in to Batroc the Leaper.  Alan Davis is the perfect artist for the fight that follows.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The ‘Nam Vol. 3

Written by Doug Murray
Art by Wayne Vansant, Sam Glanzman, Michael Golden, Geoff Isherwood, and Frank Springer

Two weeks ago, I read GB Tran’s brilliant family memoirVietnamerica, and I couldn’t think of a better follow up than the third trade of Marvel’s mid-80s series The ‘Nam, which set out to tell the story of the Vietnam War, from an American perspective, in real time.

This trade encompasses the Tet Offensive, and many of the major events, such as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, that gripped Americans in 1968.  As always, this series explores the war through a very narrow lens, focussing on one infantry brigade, and the people who interact with them.

There is not much effort to understand the war from the Vietnamese perspective; the locals are portrayed as either the enemy or as interchangeable assistants, but that’s not the goal of this series.  Instead, it is to give the reader a more or less realistic understanding of what the American soldiers had to go through.  We see them piling in and out of helicopters, taking fire from unseen positions, and having to deal with the absurdity of rules of engagement that allowed the Viet Cong to disappear into Cambodia with impunity.
Writer Doug Murray does a great job of building characters slowly and episodically, as new soldiers join the 23rd Brigade frequently.  He’s helped a great deal by Wayne Vansant, who is the most consistent artist on this book, and who excels at balancing a loose cartoonish style with the difficulty of the setting and situations he has to draw.  Michael Golden provides two black-and-white stories at the end of the book that are gorgeous.
It seems that Marvel has stopped collecting this series in trade, and that means I need to start tracking down the individual issues, as I really want to see where this series ends up.

Album of the Week:

The Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio 2 – The first Black Radio album was an almost perfect distillation of jazz, hip-hop, and R’n’B.  Now Glasper and his crew have returned for another album, and it is just as beautiful as the first.  Glasper is joined by such artists as Common, Lupe Fiasco, Snoop Dogg, Jean Grae (!!), Macy Gray, Dwele, Jill Scott, Brandy, Anthony Hamilton, Faith Evans, Norah Jones, Bilal (of course), and strangely, Malcolm-Jamal Warner.  I’d recommend getting the Deluxe Edition, if only for the cover of Bill Wither’s Lovely Day, which doesn’t pack the surprise of the Smells Like Teen Spirit cover that finished the last album, but is still lovely.

 

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