The Weekly Round-Up #214 With Young Avengers, Afterlife with Archie, Bloodshot and HARD Corps, Star Wars and More

Best Comic of the Week:

Young Avengers #15Now that is how you end a comic.  I’m really going to miss Young Avengers as it’s been handled by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  They took the potential of the Allan Heinberg/Jim Cheung series and characters, and by mixing in a few other characters, made it work beautifully.  This issue, which features art from such amazing artists as Becky Cloonan (!!!!!), Ming Doyle, and Joe Quinones, alongside McKelvie, finishes off the New Year’s Eve party that began last issue.  Loki has a good chat with Prodigy, Noh-Varr admits his mistakes to Broo, and we learn how Speed came back.  The last few pages manage to lead the team off-stage in a heart-warming way without becoming schmaltzy or self-congratulatory.  I can’t wait to see Gillen and McKelvie work together again (I heard they’ve announced a new series at Image this week, which is not Phonogram 3 unfortunately), and look forward to the next incarnation of many of these characters.  It’s going to be a tough act to follow.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #9 – One of the things I like most about Abe Sapien is the way that, even during what are basically mundane scenes (such as Abe hanging out with some new friends at a bar), there is a mounting sense of dread at play.  Abe’s in a new small town, and is trying to help out the chief of police, but it seems that Fenix’s squatter squad is in the same town, and they aren’t happy that he’s around.  And, this being Hell on Earth, there are some weird things growing out of some horse corpses that have to be dealt with.  While this book depends a lot on what’s going on in BPRD to give it structure, Mike Mignola and Scott Allie have done a good job of making it it’s own thing.  And Max Fiumara’s art is awesome.

Afterlife With Archie #3This series continues to be a very pleasant surprise, as Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is doing some very good character work, building up Veronica’s father, and making bit characters like Nancy and Ginger among the most interesting in the book.  My concern is that, unlike The Walking Dead, which can constantly replenish itself with new characters, there is a limited number of members of ‘Archie’s Gang’, and at the rate that Aguirre-Sacasa is killing them off, this series won’t be able to maintain its on-going status for long.  Of course, the real reason to be buying this book is Francesco Francavilla and his incredible art.  I love the 70s horror reprints included with each issue as well (this month, classic Dick Giordano!).

All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1 – It’s time once again for Marvel to trot out short previews of its new and upcoming titles, and while one would expect to see nothing but the best, I’m a little disappointed to say that I found myself kind of bored with what was on offer.  Let’s look at it on a case-by-case basis:

  • Loki’s story became the framing sequence, as writer Al Ewing has him tracking down some ancient Norse keys, that a lot of people (like SHIELD’s increasingly ubiquitous Agent Colson) don’t want him to have, although most couldn’t know the keys’ true purpose.  This was all-right, but Loki was by no means as clever and interesting as he’s been in Kieron Gillen’s hands.

  • I think that expectations are very high for the Silver Surfer series by Dan Slott and Michael Allred, and while this preview was visually wonderful, it did nothing to excite me about the series itself.  Norrin has some kind of Earth girlfriend, about whom we know nothing at all, and is taking her around the universe to show her the sights.  She doesn’t know that he was (is?) the herald of Galactus, and doesn’t understand why aliens fear him, although that isn’t really a major point of the story.  This will be pretty, but my expectations have been lowered.

  • I am excited about the All-New Invaders series, because I love the classic comic, and Steve Pugh’s art, but again, this preview kind of bored me.  There is some Kree relic that the original Invaders broke up and hide around the Earth, and now the Supreme Intelligence is sending some bad-ass lady to retrieve it.  Wasn’t that the first arc of Archer & Armstrong?  Anyway, I’m sure once the actual characters are in place, this will get better.

  • The Black Widow preview also didn’t inspire much of anything in me.  Natasha is still working off that ‘ledger’ metaphor that some writer (was it Nick Spencer?) introduced, where she goes around the world trying to right her past wrongs, which of course has her killing some Russian in the snow.  Phil Noto’s art is lovely, as always, and I know from The Activity that Nathan Edmondson can write a good military-themed series, but nothing here made me want to come back, not at $4 an issue.

  • Perhaps the series that I have the highest hopes for in all of the All-New Marvel Now! launches is G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Mavel, and it was the story in this anthology that had the most life in it.  We are introduced to Kamala, who is fighting some kind of trash monster (that needed to be better explained) in a New Jersey dump, which has made her late for a family event.  Kamala’s character jumps off the page, and Alphona’s art is fantastic (if perhaps a little washed out by Ian Herring’s colours).  I feel like Wilson or the editor are making too much of a deal about Kamala’s cultural differences in some ways though.  The family scenes are perfect, but do we really need a translation of shalwar kameez, when the word clearly refers to the outfit she’s wearing?

  • You would think that I’d be down with the Avengers story by Nick Spencer and Rags Morales, but I found it a little too wordy, as Captain America and Maria Hill set up a new working arrangement that sounds just like the one they already had.  It’s nice to see Cannonball and Sunspot get some screentime, but they don’t even fully resolve their story.

In all, this book was a disappointment, and it has done nothing to convince me to try out the series that I was on the fence about.  There’s a sense that All-New Marvel Now! involves Marvel tossing more half-cooked ideas at the wall than DC did with their second and third waves of the New 52, and if these previews are any indication, I worry that many of these titles aren’t going to make it through their first year.

Avengers World #1To launch yet another Avengers title, Marvel would need some kind of hook that makes it different from the others (despite being co-written by people who are currently responsible for three other Avengers titles).  The hook is that the Avengers have made their relationship with SHIELD more formal, and Captain America and Maria Hill are now dispatching Avengers teams to deal with problems all over the world.  These problems pick up on threads from Jonathan Hickman’s Marvel work – Gorgon was built up as a villain in Secret Warriors, hidden cities under Italy belong to his aborted SHIELD title, and the whole AIM Island concept began in his Fantastic Four run, although it’s been getting a lot of play everywhere lately.  I like what I read in this comic, but it could just as easily be an issue of adjective-less Avengers.

Bloodshot and HARD Corps #18 – I had high hopes for this renamed and new-directioned series, once the prerequisites of the initial arc were out of the way.  The problem is that Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart have our heroes immediately dealing with a problem caused by the main bad guy of Bloodshot’s solo series.  This would have been the right time to set up some new potential threats for the team, instead of being so self-involved from the start.  Adding to this issues problems, Bart Sears has come onboard as the artist.  I haven’t really liked Sears’s stuff since the end of his Justice League Europe run, as he became looser with his pencils.  Ironically, Chriscross is on-hand to draw some flashback scenes set in the 90s; it should have been drawn the other way around, as he has a clean, modern look to his art, and Sears’s mutated and ‘roided up bad guys scream out 90s excess…

Cataclysm: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3I was worried that this was the last issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, as nothing more headlining Miles Morales had been solicited through March, but on the same day that I read this, I saw that Miles would be getting a new series in April (by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, thankfully), as well as leading a new Ultimates team.  I’ve really grown to like this character, and don’t feel that moving him to the 616 would be a good use of him, especially given the strength of his supporting cast.  Anyway, this issue is excellent, as Miles tries to save his father from a Galactus-threatened New York, only to have him reject him for being a superhero.  I love the way Marquez draws Miles; his face is always so expressive.  I am really looking forward to the next Ultimate relaunch (and hope that this is the one that sticks).

Deadpool #22 – I’m continuing to enjoy Deadpool now that I’ve added it to my regular pull-file, although I’m not sure how I feel about the way that Agent Coulson has gone from back-up to Nick Fury Jr. in his first appearances to now being a ‘legendary’ SHIELD agent.  He’s been a SHIELD agent for only a couple of weeks, in comic book time.  Are there fans of the SHIELD TV show that would be buying this issue of Deadpool just because Coulson is in it?  That makes no sense to me.

Elephantmen #53 – Things just keep getting stranger in the Picking Up the Pieces arc, which has Hip Flask working with a likely insane detective (he sees velociraptors in a hospital this issue) to try to find out who has stolen some old Mappo transgenic eggs.  Always entertaining, this series is getting harder and harder to predict.

Fatale #19The 90s grunge arc ends with a couple of surprises, as Josephine regains her memories, and Lance and his band are discovered by Wulf, the cop that has been pursuing Josephine.  As this series has grown in scope and length, it’s become increasingly more impressive, easily making it the best of all of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s collaborations.  Great, great stuff.

FBP #7 – New agent Rosa Reyes is put through her paces this issue, as she is kidnapped by some people who want to use wormholes for illicit means, and we get an even better sense of her character.  Simon Oliver’s crafted a strange little series here, but I find I’m enjoying it more and more with each new issue.  Robbi Rodriguez has the right style of art for this series, making things work very well.

Green Arrow #27 – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow is a really rare thing in the New 52 – a well-executed comic with some genuine surprises, a unique look, and an interesting story that doesn’t need Batman or Superman to make it work.  Oliver and Shado are attacked by the Shield Clan, while Oliver is made to question a lot of things about his time on the Island that he never really thought about before.  Katana has a cameo too, which is really cool because of how well Sorrentino draws her.

Hinterkind #4 – I found this to be the weakest issue of this series so far, as the various groups of central characters converge in an underground complex run by patchwork men.  I’ve liked this book, but found this issue felt a little off, as too many coincidences were put into play.  I’ll give it a couple more issues though, because it did start out pretty well.

Letter 44 #3I really like how much story Charles Soule packs into each new issue of this comic.  The President is considering revealing the truth about alien life and the Clarke’s mission to the public (which is clearly setting some governmental gears in motion), while on the ship, the crew finds something curious worth checking out on their way to the Chandelier.  Along the way, we learn a few more things about life on the ship.  This is a very impressive new series, that has really caught my attention.

Manifest Destiny #3 – One of my favourite new Image series continues to impress, as Lewis and Clark find themselves trapped in a fort full of plant-based zombies, while being surrounded by vicious buffalo minotaurs.  Some new characters get introduced this month, including one who I assume is Sacagawea, and Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts’s take on history gets ever more interesting.

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #4 – I think Marco Rudy’s art is getting better with every issue of this series, and it started out incredibly.  In this issue, Spidey is on an island being hunted by Kraven, as are a bunch of his other foes.  Matt Kindt’s plot is all over the place, but he has a good handle on Peter Parker’s inner voice, and although he has never been a favourite of mine, it is nice to hear the character again.  This book should be the thing to land Rudy on the map in a big way.

Morning Glories #36We’re still getting one-off issues exploring the different characters, mostly the ones that made up the Truants group, and this one focuses on Ian, who I really barely remember being in the book before now.  Like many others, he had met Casey in the past (when she was someone else), and it seems that Ian’s secret is a lot bigger than anyone would have guessed.  I love this title, but there are times when I really don’t understand it.  This is one of those times.

100 Bullets: Brother Lono #7 – It’s all moving towards the big ending now, as the various ‘good’ characters, by which I mean the ones that aren’t part of the Cartel, end up confronting it in some way or another.  It’s good stuff, especially as the scenes where Lono stares down his torturer.

Sex Criminals #4 – I’m not sure which I find more entertaining, the comic or its letter page, as Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are frequently hilarious in both.  This issue has Suzie and Jon facing off against a trio of ‘sex police’ or something, as they try to rob a bank using their sexual time-stopping powers.  We see the planning stages of the robbery, and figure out how the authorities are put on to their actions, in this original and fun comic.  This is a great book, and not just because it is more original than anything else on the stands right now.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Don’t trade-wait this series, as you’ll miss out on the letters.

Shaolin Cowboy #4 – The first issue of this four-issue return to the world of Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy made me think that there might be a plot to the series, especially as there was a scene set on (or utilising) a satellite, but as almost this entire issue is given over to pages of the Cowboy killing naked tattooed zombies, just like the last two, I was wrong.  The thing is, Geof Darrow can draw just about anything for page after page, and I’m still going to be happy with it.

Sheltered #6Since I first came across his short crime stories in his self-published Murder Book, I’ve known that Ed Brisson is a writer to watch.  Now that Sheltered has started his second arc, I’m more convinced of that than ever before.  Brisson opens this arc by backing the story up a little, and focusing it on the people who showed up in a truck outside of Safe Haven at the end of the last issue.  We’ve been so focused in this series on how the kids who have taken over their little survivalist camp are living, that it’s become easy to forget or ignore the outside world, which has carried on as usual.  Now that those two worlds are colliding, and violently so, things are getting even more interesting.  And, as always, the survivalist information page at the back of the book, this time examining climate change, is more chilling than the comic.

Star Wars #13 – It’s hard not to read the latest issue of Brian Wood’s Star Wars without thinking about the fact that the SW license is moving from Dark Horse to Marvel in a year.  Now, Wood works for both companies, so it is my hope that his series might be allowed to continue there, although I doubt it very much.  This is another very good issue, this time focusing on Darth Vader, who has set off with a small squad of elite Stormtroopers and a young officer (our narrator) to exact revenge for the events that took place on the Devastator over the last few issues.  Wood has a good handle on Vader – the emotionless visage barely containing rage, and uses the ensign effectively to help penetrate the Empire’s hierarchy.  This issue is drawn by Facundo Percio, whose art fits perfectly with the look that has been established for this series.  Great stuff all around.

Swamp Thing #27 – Charles Soule has Alec Holland step up in a big way, as he sets about working his way back to the world after being trapped in the Green.  This issue is going to have large consequences moving forward, as Soule breaks from a lot of Swamp Thing tradition.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes – Soule can really do no wrong it seems.  Should I be reading his Green Lantern stuff too?

Three #4Kieron Gillen really had a good week for new comics (see above).  Three is moving along nicely, as the three fugitive Helots try to escape their Spartan pursuers, which is not such an easy task.  Gillen does a great job of making a little-understood part of human history recognizable, and Ryan Kelly, of course, excels at drawing stories of this kind.  A great series.

The Walking Dead #119 – As All Out War continues, Rick’s people regroup and plan their next move, while Negan comes after them.  Another very good issue, as various characters get small opportunities to shine.

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

All-New X-Factor #1

A Plus X #16

Batman Black & White #5

Black Widow #1

Cable and X-Force #18

Cataclysm Ultimates’ Last Stand #3

Detective Comics #27

Fantomex MAX #4

Inhumanity Awakening #2

Iron Man #20

Revolutionary War Alpha #1

Savage Wolverine #14.NOW

Shadowman #14

Wolverine #13

Bargain Comics:

Earth 2 #16&17These two issues bridge the changing of the guard, as James Robinson walked off the title he started over ‘editorial differences’, and Tom Taylor came on board.  Immediately noticeable was the change in tone, as suddenly Superman and Batman get the bulk of the screen time.  I suspect that Robinson wasn’t happy at having to make the book be so much about the two characters appearing in the bulk of DC’s titles (since the rumors of a spin-off series haven’t exactly panned out).  The comic is alright, and I still find myself interested in it, but my problem with it from the beginning was that it lacked a clear direction; this change has muddied things up even more.

Fantomex MAX #1&2 – I think that Fantomex is one of the best-designed and most potentially interesting characters to come out of Grant Morrison’s X-Men run, and I was curious to see what this MAX story would be like.  Well, it seems that the writer has jettisoned anything to do with Fantomex being a mutant and having special abilities, in order to make him a high-tech thief with an AI in his vehicle that is in love with him.  The story is strange, in an appealing way, but this is not in any way the character that I was expecting.

Legends of Red Sonja #1 – Gail Simone provides a nice framework for these stories about Red Sonja which are all written by female writers.  What really stands out in this comic though is the wonderful art by Carla Speed McNeil in the last story.  I really miss the Finder stories that McNeil was doing in Dark Horse Presents, and this kind of satisfies that need, although I’d be much happier to see McNeil write as well.

Occupy Comics #3 – The Occupy anthology ends well enough, although it seems that the people at Black Mask comics put more of their big name contributors into the first two issues.  I appreciate what the various cartoonists were doing with this series, and it’s nice to see the Occupy movement commemorated here, but the series ended up feeling like it had missed its window.

Venom #41&42 – This series ends a little abruptly, as Cullen Bunn tries to bring some resolution to the whole Mephisto/demon thing he had going on, while Flash has to come to terms with the fact that he is now responsible for Mania, the Robin to his Agent Venom.  I like this character, and his costume design a whole lot, and hope that he might find his way back to one of the Avengers titles if he’s not getting used elsewhere – Secret Avengers was a better fit for the character than Thunderbolts.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Good-Bye

by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

I’m pretty sure that, withGood-Bye, I’ve now read all of Drawn & Quarterly’s collections of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s manga that have been published so far.  Tatsumi really is a marvel, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to have read so much of his work.

Lucky, and kind of depressed, as his stories are all about people who have been brutally isolated by modern, post-war Japanese society.  In one story, a man mourning his upcoming retirement decides to spend all of his money so that his cold and controlling wife doesn’t get any of it, and even manages to end up in bed with the girl he’s had a crush on, only to find the entire thing so incredibly sad and empty.

Another story has a young man become the only resident of his apartment building, after a corpse is discovered in the adjoining apartment.  In another tale, a young woman decides to prostitute herself out to American soldiers stationed nearby, mostly because she doesn’t know what else to do with herself.

This is a very bleak book, and with its frank and sometimes explicit approach to sexuality, not at all what I would have expected to have been published in Japan in the 70s.  These are very literary and mature stories, and reading them in quick succession is a little numbing, but ultimately in a good way.

So how was your week?  It would be nice to see some more comments every week.

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