The Weekly Round-Up #210 & 211 With Hawken: Melee, Three, Abe Sapien, Black Science, BPRD, Saga, Star Wars & More

I apologize for the lateness of this column.  I took last week-end off to do some travelling, which happened to coincide with the two largest shipping weeks for new comics of the year, so there was a lot of stuff to read.  Also, I’ve had no electricity for a couple of days, after the ice storm hit.  Anyways, this is a big one, so strap in.

Best Comics of the Last Two Weeks:

Hawken: Melee #2

by Jim Mahfood

In such a busy new comics week as this last one was, it would be very easy to overlook something like this comic, but luckily, I noticed that Jim Mahfood was writing and drawing a video game comics tie-in.  I guess this Hawken: Melee series is a series of one-off issues, although it appears that the other issues are a little more traditional in their creators.This issue, however, has Jim Mahfood doing a science fiction comic.  I couldn’t possibly pass it up.  I have no idea what this Hawken stuff is all about, but it looks like it involves people fighting each other in walking battle tank things.

The story is about a single pilot, Lance Armourstrong, who while skilled, is a complete narcissist and liability to his team.  When the comic opens, we see Lance out for a night on the town with his fellow pilots, who are quietly plotting against him.

Mahfood is a master cartoonist, and it’s a real treat to see him handle something like this.  He brings a hip-hop sensibility to everything he touches, and I like seeing how that applies to a project that would have presumably had a fair amount of direction from the game makers.

I hope to see more things like this coming from the newly revitalized Archaia (of course, I’d be even happier to see them finish off more of extant and unfinished projects like The Secret History).

Three #3Kieron Gillen’s excellent series about Sparta continues to entertain and impress.  The three Helots who have attacked their masters continue their flight, and it becomes clear that the man we believed was crippled is hiding a great deal more than his ability to walk.  Much of the issue is given over to the man whose father was killed by the Helots, and his being labelled a ‘trembler’ says much about Spartan society.  I love books like this, that educate and entertain at the same time, especially if they are drawn by someone as talented as Ryan Kelly.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #8 – I never read the solicitations of books I know I’m going to buy, so I was surprised to see that this issue is a one-off flashback comic, with art by the wonderful Michael Avon Oeming.  It’s the early 80s, and Abe has been sent by the BPRD to investigate a flooded cave that may or may not be the actual Mayan Underworld.  He, of course, encounters some bad creatures in the cave.  A very good read.

Alex + Ada #2 – Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn are having a good time of exploring a near-future society where some people own very life-like androids, but the practice is not so common as to be universally acceptable.  Alex’s grandmother has bought him an android for his birthday, to help him get over his recent break-up, but he’s not too clear on what to do about it.  I like the way that the writers are portraying Alex’s ambivalence, and the reactions of his friends.  This is one of those quiet series that flies under the radar, but which deserves more attention.

All-New X-Men #20So here’s how things go, once again.  The Past X-Men stand around and talk for half an issue, and then go fight some Purifiers, the cannon fodder of the X-books.  I know that Brian Michael Bendis’s X-Men gets a lot of praise, but I am having a hard time seeing it being all that different from his Avengers run – nothing much ever happens.

Animal Man #26 – I’m not really too sure what Jeff Lemire is doing with this book.  We all know that it’s going to end soon, but I thought Lemire made it clear that Buddy Baker was going to be showing up in the upcoming Justice League Canada (which was announced months ago, but still isn’t on DC’s schedule).  Yet here, Lemire has Buddy agreeing to become the guardian of some other planet that may be the source of the Red and the Green.  To be honest, it feels like Lemire needed to fill in an issue, so he pulled Buddy out of his regular story and gave him a short space adventure.  Maybe Cully Hamner, who is very good at space creatures, came on board for this issue to give Rafael Albuquerque time to get caught up.

Archer & Armstrong #16 – The Sect Civil War continues, and has plenty of repercussions for the world as a whole.  Archer, reunited with Armstrong, but not happily so, starts to take control of things in his own way.  Fred Van Lente’s writing makes this series a delight.

Avengers Assemble #22 – To me, Avengers Assemble is the type of series that I buy when a comic store has a sale – it’s definitely not a $3.99 read.  Then I find out that Warren Ellis is joining Kelly Sue DeConnick as a co-writer, and I think to myself that this book just got itself promoted to a ‘must-buy’ level.  The thing is, Ellis joins the book for the second issue of an arc that has already started, and his presence is almost impossible to detect.  Clearly he’s not overly involved in the plotting, and the dialogue still feels more like DeConnick than Ellis, although perhaps a little better than I’ve seen before on this book.  The story features Araña (who is apparently called Spider-Girl now), and the Inhuman cocoons that are showing up all over the place in the Marvel Universe, to little interesting effect.  This is not a bad comic, and Matteo Buffagni’s art is pretty nice, but this is not what I expected from a comic with Ellis’s name on it.  I suspect that I’m going to stop preordering the rest of his run.

Batman #26Finally, a regular-sized, regular-priced issue of Batman.  The Zero Year storyline keeps limping along (despite not even showing the logo for it on the cover), as Scott Snyder decides to focus the issue on the relationship between James Gordon and Bruce Wayne (always with the daddy issues, Snyder), and to have Batman fight the weird boney villain guy, instead of dealing with the Riddler’s black-out.  Remember that all of Gotham is without power?  Neither did anyone else, judging from the fact that it barely gets mentioned in this comic, and scientists’ labs are powered, and apparently someone managed to x-ray Wayne’s head (I don’t know how else they’d know he has a fractured skull).  Every month, I think it’s time to drop this title, yet I keep buying it.  Why is that?

Black Science #2 – The first issue of Black Science, Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s new Image series, was an incredibly exciting read.  This second issue is still exciting, but it spends more time laying down the necessary groundwork – character relationships, rules for the story, and things like that – while remaining very intriguing.  This is one of the best new series that Image is producing right now.

Bloodshot and HARD Corps #17 – The fight between the HARD Corps and Toyo Harada finishes off this issue, as one of the Corps makes a pretty big sacrifice to achieve his mission goals.  This series, co-written by Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart is working pretty well, and is a huge improvement over the solo Bloodshot series it’s replaced.

BPRD Hell on Earth #114 – It’s taken them forever to get there, but finally Liz Sherman is back at the BPRD, and it looks like the bureau is going to start being a little more proactive, with a mission into New York planned.  This is an excellent comic that manages to juggle large casts and difficult storylines every single month.

Captain America #14 – One thing that is very rare in comics is writers who know how to make Falcon work as a character.  Al Ewing does it this week in Mighty Avengers, as does Rick Remender in this issue of Captain America.  Sam is at his best when he’s seeing things differently than Cap, and that is what happens in this issue, which has the two heroes trying to stop Nuke from starting an international incident.  Some strong writing, and some nice Carlos Pacheco artwork.  This is one title that just keeps improving.

Cataclysm Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2I’m not reading the main title for this little event (as I’ve kind of stopped caring about the Ultimate universe, and have never enjoyed Mark Bagley’s art), so I know coming into this comic that there are going to be things I’ve missed.  At least, I expected that, but so far as Miles Morales is concerned, all I’ve missed is some little scene where he teamed up with the other heroes for a minute or two, although he ditches them quickly in this issue to help out some little kids.  This series remains the best example of Brian Michael Bendis’s ability to write a good comic, and that continues here, as in the heat of the moment, Miles makes a decision that will have a lasting effect on his life (unless, of course, Galactus eats the Ultimate Universe, and Miles ends up in the 616, in which case this will have been a momentary dramatic moment similar to a choice Peter Parker made for a few minutes a few years back).  Anyway, Miles drawn by David Marquez is always a good thing.

Chew #38 – Once again, Chew is one of the most entertaining books in a very big pile of comics.  Tony continues to mourn a loss while his partner busts his ex-partner out of an FDA supermax prison.  Savoy is getting closer to the secret he’s been working to learn since we first met him, and along the way, we meet a large number of people with some strange new food-based abilities.  Great stuff from John Layman and Rob Guillory, as always.

Conan the Barbarian #23 – Despite being unfamiliar with Conan and his cast of supporting characters, it was apparent to me from the beginning of Brian Wood’s run that at some point, Conan and Bêlit were going to part, although I wasn’t really expecting what goes down in this issue.  Strong work from Wood and artist Riccardo Burchielli.

Daredevil #34 – As much as I love Chris Samnee’s art on this series, I’m a little happier when Javier Rodriguez shows up to draw an issue; his approach is reminiscent of the series’s start under Marcos Martin.  Anyway, Mark Waid has Daredevil taking the fight to the Sons of the Serpent, with a very suspenseful sequence involving Matt Murdock’s sometime girlfriend.  Good stuff.

Dead Body Road #1It’s another new Image series that is launching with a very promising start.  A criminal puts together a crew for a very specific bank heist, but something goes wrong, a prison guard is killed, and the specialist brought in for the job takes off running.  Now, his compatriots are after him, as is the boyfriend of the guard that was killed.  There’s a definite 70s vibe to this series, with the muscle cars and Eastwood-esque stoicism, and it’s caught my eye.  Justin Jordan takes his time establishing the story, and Matteo Scalera does a great job of creating the look of the book.  His action scenes are pretty exciting.

Deadpool #21 – I’ve been enjoying Deadpool enough that I’ve decided to add it to the list of books I pick up off the stands each week.  This issue launches a new arc that has DP trying to find Agent Preston a new body, which unfortunately means that he is going to have to go to war with SHIELD, or at least a corrupt agent or two.  This issue has art by Mike Hawthorne, and features Crossbones, so it makes me all kinds of happy.

East of West #8 – Jonathan Hickman continues to expand this already very large story, as he shines the spotlight on the new President of the Union, who has to deal with wide-spread unrest and revolt in the wake of her ascension to the leadership.  It’s all riot gear and jackboots, as well as terrific artwork from Nick Dragotta.

Eternal Warrior #4 – As much as I am enjoying Greg Pak’s take on the Eternal Warrior, I’m having a very hard time reconciling the events of this series with all of Gilad’s other appearances in the Valiant Universe.  I hope that stuff gets clarified soon because while continuity issues are annoying in the larger shared universes of Marvel and DC, with a small one like Valiant, I find they can be story-crippling.

FBP #6 – It’s interesting that Simon Oliver has changed the status quo of this title so completely within the first six months of the book running.  The FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) has been reduced to a shadow of its former self after the privatization of the physics insurance industry, and Adam has been given a new partner, who he finds difficult to work with.  This issue does a good job of introducing Agent Reyes, who seems a little autistic, but also has a weird physics-based past, and as always, looks very nice thanks to Robbi Rodriguez.

FF #15 – The Future Foundation launch their attack on Doctor Doom, and while the book has some very good moments, it’s hard to keep ignoring how completely unconnected it is to everything else that has been going on in the Marvel Universe, especially with the Inhumans (which is really weird, considering how involved writer Matt Fraction has been with both properties).

Gødland FinaleI’ll have to be completely honest, and state that it’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed Gødland.  I’ve been able to appreciate it, but the thrill of seeing Joe Casey and Tom Scioli both homage and update Jack Kirby’s work for a new century kind of wore off ages ago, and I found this grand finale more than a little lifeless.  At the same time, it’s been almost a year since the last issue came out (or at least, that’s how it feels), and I think the series just lost all momentum for me.  Still, I am pleased that they got to finish this book on their own terms, and think it’s something they can always be very proud of.  It just stopped being my cup of tea a ways back.

Harbinger #19 – The Renegade kids are finally out of their mental virtual reality worlds, and I’m pleased, because that conceit lasted a little too long for my liking.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes next.

Invincible #107 – It’s been a little while since Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley have torn up the world in this comic, so some lava dudes attack, while other plots progress a little.  It sounds like I’m being dismissive, but these guys have worked out such a winning formula for this comic that stuff like this never gets boring.

Lazarus #5 – The second arc of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s excellent science fiction series begins here, as we learn a little more about Forever’s childhood, and how society works.  This series is incredibly well-thought out, and incredibly well-executed.  This is as good a jumping on place as any, and I highly recommend this book.

Manifest Destiny #2 – The first issue of Manifest Destiny, which reimagines Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition as taking place in the context of an unexplored America peopled by creatures never seen before, was excellent.  Writer Chris Dingess developed the characters nicely, and he and Matthew Roberts kept the identity of the creature that attacks the party largely unrevealed to build up a sense of suspense.  This second issue cements my esteem for this book, as the group perform an autopsy on a North American centaur (think of a cross between a buffalo and Baron Karza from the Micronauts), and moves on to an American fort.  Along the way, they observe a woman jumping off a cliff, and then get attacked again.  I’m very intrigued by what’s going on in this book, and already can’t wait for the next issue.  This is shaping up to be one of the best new Image series of 2013 (and that’s saying a lot, considering the year Image just had).

The Massive #18 – What really makes The Massive work for me is the way in which Brian Wood writes Callum Israel, the main character.  He’s a very complex guy, and this is shown best in the scene where he and an old nemesis take shots at each other along the Norwegian coast.  Wood is constantly shifting around my expectations of this series, and I especially like the way in which he is changing the dynamics within the Ninth Wave group as Callum becomes more lost in his mission.

The Midas Flesh #1The store I shop at gave The Midas Flesh a lot of promotion, so I decided to give this new series from Boom’s new imprint, Boom! Box, a try.  It’s a science fiction series wherein the planet Earth was turned to gold by the actions of King Midas.  A trio of explorers (I assume that’s what they are) are now trying to sneak past the Earth’s ancient defenses to explore the planet, or to retrieve some of the gold.  At the same time, we see the story of how King Midas received his strange powers.  There’s a lot to like about this book – Ryan North has filled it with likeable characters (including a talking dinosaur), and artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb have a nice breezy style.  I kind of wonder how, if all of the Earth was turned to gold in ancient Greek times, one of the characters is clearly a Muslim human, but I presume some of these things will be explained later.  This book balances adventure and character nicely, and I’m interested enough to probably pick up the next issue.

Mighty Avengers #4 – Between the quality of Al Ewing’s writing and the coolness of the line-up of Avengers featured in this comic, I can just stomach the horrible Greg Land art.  In this issue, the team sets out becoming a team, with their own mandate and approach to heroing that is somewhere between the Defenders and the Heroes for Hire.  Falcon swings by to check things out, while Spidey-Ock makes a play for control over things.  A fair amount of space is given to Spider Hero, now wearing a more familiar outfit, but I still can’t quite figure out who he is (I was going to go with Blade, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate), and it’s bothering me.  Ewing is able to find a way to tie in to the whole Inhumanity thing without making it feel forced and editorially mandated.  I think I’m sticking around with this title, despite Land’s art.

Mind the Gap #16 – Jim McCann and Rodin Esquejo launch the second act of their story with this issue, which moves the conspiracy-laden plot into some new ground.  Elle, the comatose main character of the series has died, and her body has gone missing.  Both groups involved in her story – the Jairus Group that was experimenting on her, and Team Hoody, her friends, are scrambling to find out what’s going on, and it creates ever more intrigue.  This is a very good series, and I’m pleased to see it moving on to a new level.

Nova #11 – I was getting a real good vibe from Zeb Well’s writing on this title, but now he’s off the book, and Gerry Duggan is in charge of things.  I’ve really liked his Deadpool, but his Nova feels kind of off.  The characters are not as likeable as they have been, and there are just a few too many inconsistencies in the comic (Is Sam blind or not?  Why would the Nova helmet work the way it is?) to make it work.  I’ve been on the fence about committing to this title, but now I think it’s time to give up on it.

Pretty Deadly #3 – I’ve decided I don’t really need to understand what’s going on to enjoy Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’s very impressionistic magical Western.  Worrying about understanding the story would just get in the way of enjoying the pretty pictures.

Revival #16 – As the quarantine continues, more and more strange things are happening, from contaminated meat issues to arson attacks.  Tim Seeley keeps widening the scope of his story, and while that’s good, I think it might be time to resolve an issue or two.  Mike Norton continues to do excellent work on this book, and since we visit Martha’s dorm room again, we also get another look at her collection of Doomtree posters, which makes me very happy.

Saga #17The last few issues of Saga have been relatively quiet, as Marko and Alana have been building their family and planning their next moves.  Now, a number of plotlines come colliding into each other, as Prince Robot IV interrogates Heist, and Gwendolyn and Lying Cat show up at the lighthouse.  Of most importance, though, is the revelation of what the opposite of war really is, and it’s definitely not peace.  More brilliance from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Satellite Sam #5 – As Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s exploration of 50s television and production keeps expanding its scope into more of the characters’ lives, my interest is increasing.  The book doesn’t have much sense of a shape to it; Fraction is structuring the series more like a soap opera, and eschewing the standard trade-friendly arcs, but that kind of works for this material, seeing as how Satellite Sam’s own TV show followed an endless format built around having a cliffhanger ready for each new episode.  My only complaint is that sometimes I don’t know who the characters are, largely due to the fact that Chaykin draws a few of them similarly.

Secret #4 – Four issues (and a really, really long time between them) into this series, it’s only finally beginning to take shape, as the issues of industrial espionage are clarified.  This is a more sedate series than I’ve come to expect from Jonathan Hickman, and while I enjoy it, I find that the ridiculous gaps between issues are really hurting it.  I don’t really remember who anyone is, or how they are related to one another, and that’s making the book hard to follow.

Secret Avengers #13 – I’m seeing the increased influence of Ales Kot’s writing as the story becomes a little more fragmented this issue.  Maria Hill is trying to move against AIM, but she’s not sure she can trust her new informant, MODOK, and it appears the AIM leadership is better organized than she thought.  More good superhero espionage, wonderfully drawn by Butch Guice.

Sex #9 – Between arcs, Joe Casey decides to give us a mostly flashback issue, showing how Keenan and the Armored Saint used to work together (it wasn’t particularly friendly), and how things operated in Saturn City before many of the costumed folk retired.  It’s an interesting issue, with nice chaotic artwork by guest artist Morgan Jeske, and helps to clarify a few things.  What I found most interesting was the way that the Saint remained off camera, making sure we still don’t know what he really looked like.  This series is not really about him as a crimefighter, it’s about the man inside the armor, and doing it this way helps reinforce that.

Shaolin Cowboy #3 – It’s another silent issue of the Shaolin Cowboy fighting saggy tattooed zombies in the desert, and while it was a bit of a hoot last issue, it got a touch old this month, even though Geof Darrow did switch things up a little bit.  This book is gorgeously over-detailed, but needs a bit more story.

The Sixth Gun #36 – Cullen Bunn starts off the latest arc of The Sixth Gun rather quietly, which is nice, because it gives him the chance to check in with all of his principal characters, as they figure out their next moves.  This series continues to be remarkably consistent in its quality.

Sledgehammer 44: Lightning War #2 – I am really loving this creepy miniseries featuring Sledgehammer, the WWII Mignola-verse character.  Laurence Campbell’s art is wonderfully atmospheric and creepy, and I really like the way Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are writing this series.  An experimental plane has fallen into Nazi hands, and the pilot is being tortured to discover its secrets, while Sledgehammer is fighting the Black Flame in the skies.  Great stuff.

Star Wars #12Brian Wood is starting to take this series into new and strange territory, as he introduces a nephew to Mon Mothma, and a suitor to Princess Leia.  It was never made clear how much time passed between the first two (real) Star Wars movies, so I guess he’s taking the opportunity to fill in as much history as he wants.  I’m still enjoying this series a great deal, but like it better when Ryan Kelly is drawing it.

Star Wars Legacy #10 – I’m continuing to enjoy Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko’s take on the Star Wars world developed by John Ostrander.  Ania Solo and her friends work to stop a Sith from continuing to torture and abuse the people of Mon Calamari, while discovering that they are being manipulated on a greater level.  There’s good stuff in this title.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #6 – Once again, one of Marvel’s three best series (with Hawkeye and Young Avengers) delights to a great degree.  Boomerang, having stolen a priceless item from the Owl, goes on a date with a bartender, and then has to weasel his way out of trouble with his parole officer, Mach V (who has the greatest exit seen in comics in years), while his team is being held by the Owl.  The humor in this book is perfect, as Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber become ever-better partners, and we get to learn just who the new Beetle is, and it’s a bit of a surprise.  I cannot recommend this book enough – it is completely delightful!

Umbral #2 – I wasn’t too sure how I felt about the first issue of Umbral; as always, I admired Antony Johnston’s world-building, but I didn’t have any particular connection to any of the characters or the situation.  This second issue though, which has young thief Rascal running from shadow creatures who have taken human form, and receiving help from a mysterious old tramp, kept me interested throughout.  It’s really nice to see Johnston and Christopher Mitten working together again; they really play to each other’s strengths.

Uncanny Avengers #15 – If you weren’t sure what a Rick Remender comic looks like as it approaches the end of a major story arc, you need only look here, where a number of characters are dead, others incapacitated, and things are looking pretty bleak, until it suddenly all gets a lot worse.  This guy really excels at wrecking stuff for well-loved characters…

Uncanny X-Force #15 – The Owl Queen/Revenant story finally comes to its close in this issue, and since the series is now moving into a crossover with Cable and X-Force, so does my time with the title.  I’ve enjoyed Sam Humphries approach to this series, but wish that there had been more time to tell different stories.  I love the line-up (Storm, Psylocke, Puck, Bishop, and Spiral), although I wish that some portion of Fantomex had stuck around.  In typical Marvel fashion though, it’s out with the not-yet old, and in with the new, as the book gets ready to be relaunched yet again.

Uncanny X-Men #15.INHRemember that classic issue of Uncanny X-Men when the ladies of the team, tired of being stuck in the Australian Outback, get Gateway to port them to a mall in California, and they end up bringing Jubilee home with them?  Apparently Brian Michael Bendis does, because in this issue of Uncanny X-Men, he sends the women and girls of Cyclops’s team on a shopping trip to London, where they end up meeting a new Inhuman with a spiky face and an anti-mutant attitude.  Jubilee has never been my favourite X-Man, but compared to this guy, she’s the greatest character of the last century.  This is not a bad issue, but it kind of underscores the weakness of Bendis’s approach to things – I think the whole issue was structured around discussing why one of the Stepford Cuckoos doesn’t like Past Jean Grey, but too much time gets wasted, especially in light of the fact that very little happened in the last issue as well.  This title has a lot of potential, but I feel like Bendis is squandering it.  On the plus side, Kris Anka draws this issue incredibly well.  He’s an artist to watch.

Unity #2 – I find Unity to be a bit of a strange beast.  None of the characters are coming off as heroes, as Toyo Harada leads a team to take out Aric and his X-O Manowar armor.  The story is exciting and well-paced, but I can’t decide who I’m supposed to root for.  I’m usually a big fan of artist Doug Braithwaite, but he draws the Eternal Warrior very strangely – he looks like Samson from the Superman comics.  My favourite thing about this issue is the ad for Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT series.

The Walking Dead #118 – We’re only one-third into ‘All Out War’, but already the body count is starting to pile up, as Rick and Ezekiel lead squads to attack Negan’s outposts, while Maggie goes to work on building up support for the attack at the Hilltop.  It’s nice to see some other characters get so much screentime, as this arc just gets more exciting.

Wasteland #51 – Antony Johnston pretty much puts an end to the Newbegin half of this series with this issue, as the Father takes care of Marcus and his sister.  I get the feeling that this title is getting close to wrapping up, leaving only the mystery of what is at A-Ree-Yas-I.  Even the text piece, which is among the best things in this comic, has a sense of finality to it.  I wonder how many issues Johnston has left in this series…

Wolverine and the X-Men #39 – At some point, some writer is going to have to get Cyclops and Wolverine in a room together to resolve their differences.  While they fight side by side in this issue, Jason Aaron just increases the animosity between the two men, without moving their stories forward.  Most of this issue is given over to the two SHIELD infiltrators who are posing as mutants at the school; it made the book a good primer for some of the younger cast members, but too much time was spent on things we already know.

Wonder Woman #26This is a pretty action-packed issue of Wonder Woman, as she tries to rescue her brother Milan from her sister Cassandra, while Zola makes a decision about her own life.  Brian Azzarello has made this the consistently best-written DC title left, and Goran Sudzuka does a great job bringing his vision to life this month.

X-Men #8 – For this issue, Brian Wood barely shows the X-Men, dedicating most of the comic to the new Lady Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary, and the Enchantress, as they try to get their hands on Arkea.  This is a good issue, but I kind of wish it had more X-Men in it…

X-O Manowar #20 – Despite the cover referring to this issues as a Unity tie-in, it really is a straight continuation of that mini-event in the Valiant Universe.  Harada’s squad is in direct conflict with Aric for the X-O Manowar armor, as Aric’s vessel sinks into the ocean.  This issue feels more balanced than last week’s issue of Unity, perhaps because Robert Venditti has such a good handle on Aric’s character.  This issue looks a lot different from the last one, as Vicente Cifuentes finishes Cary Nord’s pencils, giving them a more traditional look than last month’s.  It should be kind of jarring when this is collected in trade.

Young Avengers #14 – Anyone who has read Phonogram knows that there is nothing Kieron Gillen does better than comics set in a club, and as he starts wrapping up his superb Young Avengers series, he puts the team, and most other teen heroes in the Marvel Universe, into a big club for New Year’s Eve.  Characters interact, plotlines get resolved, and good writing abounds.  Making things even better, regular series artist Jamie McKelvie is joined by a wonderful group of artists – Emma Vieceli, Annie Wu, and the always psychedelic Christian Ward.  I’m really going to miss this title, and am wondering why, right at the end, Gillen is giving so much space to developing Ms. America Chavez, a character who didn’t really get a lot of play in the series.  My hope is that it’s because Gillen will be using her again soon.

Zero #4I really love Ales Kot’s Zero.  He’s taken a very fragmented approach to telling this story, with each issue featuring a different artist, and taking place at a different point in Edward Zero’s life.  This time around, Morgan Jeske (Kot’s collaborator on the very strange Changes) comes aboard to give us a story of Zero tracking down a former agent in Brazil, where he has set himself up as a boss in a non-violent favela.  It’s a very interesting, and exceedingly violent, comic that works quite well.

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

A + X #15

Astro City #7

Batman Black and White #4

Cable and X-Force #17

Cataclysm Ultimates #2

Cataclysm Ultimate X-Men #2

Indestructible Hulk #17.INH

Inhumanity Awakening #1

Kings Watch #3

Legends of the Dark Knight 100 Page Super Spectacular #1

Marvel Knights Hulk #1

Red Sonja #6

Superior Spider-Man #24

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #8

Thor God of Thunder #16

Uber #8

Uncanny #5

Wolverine #12

Bargain Comics:

Batwing #22 & 23This continues to be a decent mid-level comic, although even with a new person in the Batwing suit, it’s still way too beholden to Batman appearing in every issue, or being the driving force behind what’s happening (i.e, someone wants to destroy Wayne Enterprises, so Batwing gets involved) to really feel like its own title.

The Enemy Within (Avengers Assemble #16 & 17, Avengers: The Enemy Within #1, and Captain Marvel #13 & 14) – This cross-over from Kelly Sue DeConnick wraps up some long-running plotlines from Captain Marvel, and borrows a few Avengers to assist. It really is Carol Danvers at the centre of things, as Yon-Rogg, the Kree baddie responsible for her gaining her powers returns and tries to take her out.  DeConnick often writes this series with an eye towards humor (totally different from her Pretty Deadly), and sometimes that feels a little too forced.  Not a bad story in all, but I find it interesting that the big status quo-changing problem that Carol deals with wasn’t reflected at all in Infinity, where she played a pretty large role.

Fables #129-134 – I know that Fables is set to end with (I think) issue 150, and I think that this was a good decision.  The book hasn’t really felt like itself for a long time, and now it either endlessly cycles back on itself (having Boy Blue show up to guide Bigby somewhere was a nostalgic touch, but exactly the problem with the book these days), or scatters out in new directions rather randomly (such as having Rose Red try to recreate the Round Table of Camelot so she can inspire hope).  It really is past time to end things, I feel.

Five Ghosts #2-6 – I checked out this pulp-style adventure series when the first issue came out, and while I liked it (and loved Chris Mooneyham’s art), I felt it was a little too decompressed for my liking.  Having read the rest of the first arc, I haven’t really changed my mind.  The book, which follows an adventurer who carries with him the spirits of five literary ‘ghosts’ (i.e., Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and the like), is interesting, and with its examination of the power of story, has the potential to stretch pretty far, but needs to work on its pacing.  Issue six, a one-off adventure drawn by Garry Brown, is much closer to hitting the mark.  I wish writer Frank Barbiere and his collaborators luck with the series; it could really grow into something.

Shadowman #6 – It’s more of the same.  This book isn’t bad, but it’s not all that interesting either.

Uncanny #1 & 2 – I tend to stay clear of Dynamite series, as I don’t always like their house approach to art, but the first two issues of Andy Diggle and Aaron Campbell’s Uncanny have really caught my attention.  The book reads a bit like Brubaker/Phillips light, as some guy with the ability to read other peoples’ minds, and who uses this gift to be a better crook, gets caught swindling someone, and is on the run.  He receives help from a woman he doesn’t know, as Diggle starts building up his story.  The action is just right, and Campbell’s art is pretty good.  I’m intrigued enough to look for more.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!  I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.


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