Just to let loyal readers know (I think there are one or two of you), I’m taking next week off from the column because I’m doing a little travelling, and won’t have the time. I’ll have a double-column for you all just in time for Christmas.
Best Comic of the Week:
Trillium #5 – I love how Jeff Lemire likes to play around with the comics page in his work. Many times in Sweet Tooth he would mess with layout, trying new things, and he does it again with this issue of Trillium, where each page is split in two horizontally, with the bottom story printed upside down and backwards, so that the reader reads through the comic’s top half, and then flips the book over and works back to the first page again. The top of each page shows Nika, now in a vaguely Victorian steampunk world, where she knows she was a soldier in a Great War, but is having a hard time reconciling her reality with her memory. On the flipside, which often echoes or reflects what’s happening on the other half of the page, William is working on a large spaceship, which will help the remaining humans escape a sentient virus that is hunting them down. I have no idea how this series will read in trade, but as an individual comic, this is some very cool stuff.
Amazing X-Men #2 – Northstar and Wolverine are in heaven, while Iceman, Storm, and Firestar are in hell, but both are fighting demonic pirates. Jason Aaron is going for a light-hearted adventure story, and while I’m happy to see Nightcrawler again, I’m not sure I’m ready for a return of Azazel, one of the worst characters to ever show up in an X-book.
Catalyst Comix #6 – It’s more comic book mayhem, as Amazing Grace finishes her fight with the amorous Seaver, Frank Wells fights Flood, and Wolfhunter attends a dance competition in his own head. Pure Joe Casey madness at its best.
Deadpool #20 – In sharp contrast to the issues discussed below stands this one-off issue of Deadpool that chronicles his Wakandan Vacation. As with most issues that take place between arcs, this is another fake inventory issue, this time drawn in the style of a mid-60s Jack Kirby comic by Scott Koblish. Deadpool is sent on a cosmic quest by a giant cosmic robot thing, and along the way has confrontations with Ben Grimm and Fin Fang Foom. It’s a fun issue, but not as good as the previous inventory issues have been.
Elephantmen #52 – The Picking Up the Pieces story arc continues, as Hip Flask and his new partner visit a museum dedicated to the atrocities performed by Mappo, which of course leads to the activation of an old training robot. Farrell, the private investigator working with Hip dominates this issue, as he continues to deal with his dead girlfriend, who is either haunting him, or has become a vivid figment of his imagination. This is a strange arc, but most Elephantmen arcs are kind of strange. I do like the way that Richard Starkings is laying out the mystery of who killed two scientists.
Fearless Defenders #12 – I feel like Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney’s Defenders series never had a chance – it was under-promoted, started off slowly, and just when it was getting good, had to survive a price increase. This final issue brings back a character from John Byrne’s classic Fantastic Four run (that I’m sure not many people were clamoring for), and kind of wraps up the team’s conflict with Caroline LeFay. I wonder if the changes made to Valkyrie in this series are going to stick around, or if that’s the last we’ll see of Annabelle Riggs.
Great Pacific #12 – Great Pacific just keeps getting stranger, but it’s a lot of fun watching Chas Worthington, the ruler of New Texas (aka the Pacific Garbage Patch), practice his own version of realpolitik. In this issue, he addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations (and decorates a cake), while the folks in the strange submarine launch their attack on the island. Zoe makes a decision or two, and there are squid tentacles. I really do find this series pretty interesting, and like that it’s almost impossible to predict where Joe Harris is taking it.
Green Arrow #26 – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino launch the Outsider War, as Ollie and Shado return to the island Ollie was stranded on, looking for the totem arrow of the Arrow Clan. I’m still not all that clear on how this whole weapon clan thing is going to work (it reminds me of the Immortal Cities in Iron Fist), but I do like how Lemire has made me like a character I’ve never really had any interest in before. The art in this series is incredible, and now that Villains Month and Zero Year are over, my hope is that Lemire will be able to tell his story without any further editorially-driven interference (at least for a few months). This might not be a perfect jumping-on point, but if you are tempted to check Green Arrow out, this is a decent place to start.
Guardians of the Galaxy #9 – It’s clear that Brian Michael Bendis is working hard to establish this series as a humour comic, as he has Peter Quill and company trading quips while fighting Thanos’s crew on Abigail Brand’s space station. This is a very pretty issue, thanks to Francesco Francavilla, but I’m still having a hard time with Bendis’s take on these characters. The Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run was funnier, and more interesting at every point.
Hellboy in Hell #5 – Hellboy is by far my least favourite of the Mignola-verse line at Dark Horse, and this one-off issue is another example of the kind of myth-fueled tone poem that Mike Mignola has done a thousand times. I like his art a great deal, but am ready to see him try something different for a change. On the upside, Hellboy didn’t fall through a floor, which might be a first for this character.
Hinterkind #3 – I’ve been a little bit on the fence about Hinterkind, having enjoyed the first two issues, but not yet finding enough to make adding this new Vertigo series to my pull-list a slam-dunk. This issue, however, does more than enough to keep my interests, as the various groups of characters we’ve seen – human and Hinterkind – begin to converge in a facility run by some very strange-looking people. We get a clearer history of just who the Hinterkind are; cousin species to humans who retreated out of our way, having been seen just enough to influence myth and folklore. This series is worth checking out.
Inhumanity #1 – I’ve had mixed feelings about the whole Inhumans thing since before Infinity started. These are classic Jack Kirby-era characters, but they’ve always been rather difficult to work with. Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee did a terrific job with them once, and they were put to somewhat good use in the Reign of Kings cross-over, but now they are being pushed as at tentpole of the All-New Marvel NOW! circus, and I don’t really think they’re up to the job. In Infinity, a Terrigen Bomb was set off, which caused lots of people with Inhuman DNA to go through some kind of chrysalis and become powered or at the least changed. So now, in addition to having mutants popping up again all over the place, we also have potentially thousands of new Inhumans hanging around the Marvel Universe. In this one-shot, Matt Fraction focuses on Karnak, who goes a little mad, and then sits in a cell talking to the Avengers Illuminati group, and Medusa, about a lot of backstory that anyone who’s read Infinity already knows. There really wasn’t much that excited me in this comic, or got me overly interested in the upcoming Inhumans series (which is, of course, being delayed because Marvel thought that Joe Madureira could draw a comic or two in the same year). Coming out of this one-shot, it’s hard to even imagine who the cast of that series would be, aside from Medusa (who strangely is now getting sick from Earth’s atmosphere, but wasn’t bothered at all in all the time she’s been a star of Fraction’s run on FF). In all, this felt slapped together, and like an event that exists for reasons that have nothing to do with good storytelling, and more to do with the rumors that the Inhumans are going to star in future Marvel movies. What a waste of superstar artist Olivier Coipel’s time…
Marvel Knights Spider-Man #3 – Marco Rudy is doing some very incredible work on this comic, which has Spidey fighting 99 of his foes (although, after the last two issues have only featured a few villains, there’s going to have to be a massive number of baddies showing up soon) while in a bit of a haze. The set-up doesn’t matter, because this book exists simply to showcase the degree of awesomeness that Rudy is capable of. His Venom and Carnage pages are astounding.
Marvel Knights X-Men #2 – Brahm Revel shows that he was absolutely the right person to write and draw this ‘indie’ X-Men mini-series, as he has Logan, Kitty Pryde, and Rogue hanging out in some remote Appalachian town trying to figure out what’s been going on with a couple of mutant teenagers. There are weird drugs, personal conflicts, and a number of cameos from X-villains of the past. Revel is a great storyteller, and has a great handle on all of these characters.
Prophet #41 – Brandon Graham and his crew have spent more than a year building up this singular, gigantic story, and now that it’s moving towards fruition, with various factions colliding into each other in space, the story begins to shift away from the main characters (one of whom gets dispatched off-screen), and become ever more confusing. Still, with art from the incredible team of Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Matt Sheean, and Malachi Ward, understanding is not even all that necessary. This issue also has a fantastic back-up strip introducing Lancaster Bleu, a hero in a future where an African-built city is the last functioning one in America. The strip recommends a soundtrack by Dedalus and Austin Peralta; that is more than enough to guarantee that I would definitely buy a comic by Ron Ackins.
Secret Avengers #12 – Ales Kot has come on board this comic, joining co-writer Nick Spencer, and I think it’s a pretty good fit. Kot is well suited to darker comics, and has been establishing his spy-comic credentials with Zero lately. In this issue, Mockingbird is trying to maintain her cover on AIM Island, without any intel, while another faction of AIM makes an offer to SHIELD that is too good for Maria Hill to resist. Butch Guice is the perfect artist for this comic, and continues to assist in making this one of the more interesting Avengers titles.
Swamp Thing #26 – Charles Soule continues to kill it on this title, as Alec Holland has been replaced by Jason Woodrue, although Alec continues to narrate the book from the Green. Woodrue decides to impress the Green by taking out Animal Man, and while that goes on, we get to learn his backstory, which includes what I imagine is the New 52 debut of Mister E. This is a well-written book, with very nice art from Jesus Saiz.
Velvet #2 – Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s new 70s espionage thriller continues to be an exciting read, as Velvet Templeton has to escape from the people who work for her agency, and try to start figuring out why she’s being framed. The pace is quick, with a movie-ready chase scene, and we learn a little about Velvet’s time as a secret agent. Brubaker’s working the long game on this series, so it will be a while before we know just what’s going on, and that’s fine with me when the craftsmanship going into the comic is this good.
Westward #6 – Ken Krekeler’s steampunk series has kept my attention from the first issue, but this one really moves things into much darker territory, as the manifold (read android) based on Victor West’s memories discovers some very disturbing things about his sister, and realizes that he’s been manipulated by someone he thought worked for his family’s company. I really like the way Krekeler has been structuring this series, and really didn’t expect it to move in this direction.
Young Avengers #13 – After thirteen issues, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie finish off their lengthy saga that has pitted the young team against Mother, an extra-dimensional demon. Of course, Loki has really been pulling everyone’s strings all along, and everyone finds that out with this issue. This book has been terrific at every step, and as it begins to move into its last few issues, continues to impress. Now that everything has been revealed (well, not including the stuff with the weird Patriot figure), I want to go back and reread the whole series; I’m sure there are a lot of clues I missed along the way. Great, great stuff.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:
Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand #2
Detective Comics #26
Fantomex MAX #3
Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight #3
Iron Man #19
Legends of Red Sonja #2
Rover Red Charlie #1
Six-Gun Gorilla #6
Suicide Risk #8
The Star Wars #4
Superior Spider-Man #23
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #7
Astonishing X-Men #68 – Marjorie Liu ends her run (and this title, really) with a nice done-in-one story narrated by Warbird that recognizes the value of the X-Men as a family, a sense that has really been lost in the post-Schism X-books. Gabriel Hernandez Walta does a wonderful job on the art here, and convinces me that I want to buy his upcoming Magneto series. I don’t know that this title has lived up to its potential at all in the last few years, and Marvel was probably right to put an end to it, but I do believe there is a place for quieter, more character-driven X-stories.
Avengers Assemble #20 – Al Ewing stepped in to write this very solid Infinity tie-in that has Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Wonder Man working the defense of Earth during Thanos’s invasion. They squabble over Simon’s pacifism, and then get involved in an odd situation with a gigantic naked man. This is a nice character-driven issue, and given recent events in Uncanny Avengers, a nice opportunity to see these old friends interact.
Cable and X-Force #15 – I still feel that the Dennis Hopeless who writes this title can’t be the same guy who writes Avengers Arena. That book is so character-driven, while this one has characterizations that end up feeling kind of awkward (check out Boomer in this issue). Anyway, this issue harkens back to an old X-Men adversary, and has piqued my interest a little, mostly because I’ve always really liked Forge.
Deadpool #16-19 – I’ve always hated Deadpool, at least until Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn started writing the character. This arc, ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ has been excellent, as Deadpool tracks down the person who has been abducting him and harvesting organs from him for years. His search takes him (and Captain America and Wolverine) to North Korea, where the government has built a team based on the original All-New X-Men team by combining those mutants’ DNA with Wade’s. The story is very dark, only occasionally funny, and never as silly as most other Deadpool stories have been. There is an element of personal tragedy for Wade, and a clever way of retconning his various appearances to make them consistent, even when his portrayal hasn’t been. Declan Shalvey has been an increasingly impressive artist over the last few years, and he absolutely kills these issues. If I wanted to quibble, I’d wonder why everyone in North Korea speaks such perfect English, but otherwise, this was a terrific arc.
Infinity: Heist #1 – You would think that I would have been all over a title about super-villains planning a heist – Superior Foes of Spider-Man is in my top three favourite current Marvel titles – but something had warned me away from grabbing this title as it came out, and I see now that I was right to be cautious. It’s not a bad comic, but it’s a little paint-by-numbers. Whirlwind and Blizzard watch the Avengers head into space, and use the opportunity to rob a bank, only to be recruited by Spymaster for a bigger job. The character interactions, thanks to Frank Tieri, feel a little off though, and it’s hard to really care much about what’s going on. Al Barrionuevo’s very nice art did make the whole thing go down easier though.
Infinity: The Hunt #1 – This is a very strange first issue for a tie-in mini-series. Most of the issue is spent introducing new characters from a wide variety of super-hero schools. The characters from Avengers Academy, the Future Foundation, and the Jean Grey School are familiar, but most of the rest are not, but they are given no space to shine as individual personalities. Too many characters and no plot really hampers this thing, although there are some characters with potential (Box has a son?).
Iron Man #17 – Kieron Gillen really works his usual reconstructive magic in this issue, debuting a new character into Tony’s life. It’s really hard to discuss this issue without spoilers, so I’ll leave off saying much. I’m not sure how this new status quo will affect the character, but it’s an interesting idea. Gillen’s run started off kind of rough, but it’s picking up nicely now.
Superior Spider-Man #19-21 – Things are feeling routine in this title now, as Spidey Ock goes about his business, cutting ties to some of Peter Parker’s old friends and co-workers, and strengthening new connections to people, such as his science tutor. These issues feature the end of the Spider-Man 2099 storyline, and a solid two-parter that has Doc Ock’s old girlfriend, Stunner, show up on the scene. Good stuff.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #4 – This second part of the Infinity cross-over is lovely, thanks to the efforts of Mike Del Mundo, and the story, which involves a new Inhuman, an Electro-Luddite, works quite well.
Wolverine #10 – Wolverine and Kitty Pryde are searching for Logan’s old sword, while he continues to feel the effects of not having his healing factor anymore. The best thing about this comic is the protectiveness that Kitty shows Logan, a reversal of their roles in Chris Claremont’s day. The easy interaction between these two characters really underscores how off the way their relationship is being portrayed in Bendis’s X-books really is. Also, I do love Alan Davis’s art.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Art by Jim Calafiore
Living in Canada has made participation in most Kickstarter campaigns prohibitively expensive, as the shipping rates for graphic novels have become a touch exorbitant over the last couple of years (thank you Peak Oil). When I saw that Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore, the creators behind The Secret Six, my favourite DC comic of the new century, were collaborating on a creator-owned graphic novel though, and that they had priced it reasonably, I was more than happy to support the endeavour.Leaving Megalopolis is the kind of book you would expect from these two, were they not fettered by corporate sensibility. The story is set in a city filled with powered heroes, which gives it the reputation of being the safest city in the United States. Something has happened though, and it’s turned all of the heroes into killers with no respect for the human lives they had previously spent so much time protecting. Now, they roam the city searching for people who have been hiding out, and force people to turn on one another to survive for a day or two longer.
The closest we come to a hero in this book is Mina, a police officer (maybe) who starts to pull together a small group of people to try to escape the city limits. As we follow them from one disturbing scene to another (this book doesn’t reach Crossed levels of gore, but it comes close), we are shown flashbacks to various stages of Mina’s life, and come to appreciate her as the sort of complex female character that Simone writes so well.
Jim Calafiore is one of those excellent artists who, I’ve felt, doesn’t get near the recognition he deserves. He has a strong sense of character in his figures, although I started to wonder if some of the Kickstarter rewards involved getting backers drawn into the book, as a few people looked very photo-referenced in places. He also writes and draws a backup story that helps flesh out a few of the super-powered characters we see in passing earlier in the book.
In all, this is a very capable graphic novel. There has already been some talk on-line about revisiting these characters and this location, which doesn’t seem like it would be too easy to do, but I do know that I’ll be there to support any future collaborations between this duo.