The Weekly Round-Up #221 With Deadly Class, Chew, Mind MGMT, Pariah, Serenity / Firefly, Star Wars & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Deadly Class #2Rick Remender is killing at Image Comics these days.  In the second issue of Deadly Class, he broadens the scope of the book, introducing a large number of new characters at the secret assassin school Marcus has found himself enrolled in.  We meet a variety of cliques that, while being completely typical in their identities, have a bit of a twist to them, since they are all studying to be master assassins.  Remender moves Marcus through a number of scenes that could be lifted from any teen movie of the era – the threats for the new kid, the jock that beats people up in the shower, the assignment that pairs up our hero with an unlikely partner – but keeps them feeling fresher than you would expect.  The greatest strength of this book is artist Wes Craig, whose art is fantastic.  He has a great sense of character throughout the book, and has some very nice layouts.  This is a 29 page comic for only $3, and that alone is reason to love it.

Quick Takes:

Avengers Assemble #24 – When Kelly Sue DeConnick started co-writing with Warren Ellis a couple of issues ago, things felt a little stilted, but with this issue, it feels like they’ve fallen into a nice collaborative rhythm, as Spider-Girl works with Iron Man to find her missing teacher, and they go up against AIM some more.  It’s strange that while this is still very much an Inhumanity tie-in, there is nothing on the cover to suggest that.  It’s like Marvel finally realized that it’s not a brand that brings in readers, so they’ve given up on marketing it.  I was going to drop this book after this issue, but now I’m more likely to let it play out until the series ends.

Black Science #4Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s dimension-hopping adventure series is keeping up the momentum of the first issue rather nicely.  This issue has the group of lost travellers finish up their time on a world where Native American forces have invaded Europe, as one of the group has to put himself at great risk to save Grant, the scientist who built the device that is jumping them all over the place.  Remender lays some groundwork for future issues by doing further character work on Kadir, the corporate creep, and by introducing a mysterious figure who looks to be pursuing our heroes.  Scalera is having a great time filling this book with some strange and unexpected visuals, making this an even better read.

Bloodshot and HARD Corps: HARD Corps #0 – Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart do a terrific job of establishing just how terrible Project Rising Spirit is as an organization, in three stories that take place across three decades.  Again and again the men and women of HARD Corps find themselves at odds with their organization, as the writers work to establish a clearer history of the Valiant Universe.  The three artists who draw these stories, Valentine De Landro, Joseph Cooper, and ChrisCross do fine jobs, although it would have been cool had they tried to match their style to the decades they are portraying.  This book has been Valiant’s most inconsistent since it was rebranded, and if more issues were like this one, I’d never consider dropping it (which, unfortunately, the last two issues have had me thinking about doing).

Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5Despite myself, I got sucked in to the end of this Ultimate event, as the surviving heroes make a last-ditch effort to get rid of Galactus before he destroys the planet.  I’m kind of curious to see if anyone is going to explore the ramifications of Galactus not being in the 616; I’m pretty sure it got established somewhere that without him, the universe would just create another.  Anyway, this issue is filled with action, and of course just leads into the Survive epilogue comic, because as we all know, Brian Michael Bendis is pretty much incapable of finishing a story in the comic it started in.

Chew #40 – Tony and Colby go on a case for the FDA after eating “half of a psychedelic space fruit, in full bloom and at peak potency then slow-cooked in the juices of genetically-engineered psychedelic amphibian.”  What follows is one of the funniest issues of Chew yet, as Tony also gets to have one final conversation with his sister Toni, learn about the alien skywriting, and get some hints on how to deal with the Vampire.  I loved every page of this comic, as Rob Guillory matches John Layman’s crazy script with his drug-induced animal versions of main characters.  Brilliant through and through.

Dead Body Road #3 – Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera’s Elmore Leonard-influenced crime comic continues to entertain, as Gage picks up a new ally, and confronts one of Lake’s key men in a mall food court.  This book is violent and quick moving, and makes for a good read.  Scalera’s work is just as good as it is in Black Science, but also feels much more grounded.

Deadpool #24It’s time to get Agent Preston out of Deadpool’s head, but of course that’s not going to go as smoothly as anyone expects.  Another decent issue from this title I never thought I’d ever purchase.

Elephantmen #54 – I’m finding that the ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ arc is dragging on a little long here, as Hip Flask and his new partner infiltrate a large cloning facility in order to find out what’s going on with some stolen Elephantmen eggs.  Hip is now openly talking to a character that everyone assumed was the figment of someone’s imagination, and I’m going to admit to getting a little confused.  The book has a new back-up, Liberty Justice, by Tyler Shainline and Andy Suriano, that reads like a parody of a Joe Casey and Toby Cypress collaboration that gets a little too dirty towards the end.  I don’t think I liked it.

Guardians of the Galaxy #12 – It should be made very clear that The Trial of Jean Grey, the cross-over between this title and All-New X-Men really is just an extended X-Men story that happens to feature the Guardians on a few pages.  Writer Brian Michael Bendis tries to include a little bit about Star-Lord’s father in order to make the book look more balanced, but most of the Guardians don’t even have a single speech balloon to their name.  It’s a good enough comic, although I was hoping that it would have explained just how Corsair is still alive.  Sara Pichelli’s art looks very nice next to Stuart Immonen’s, and the shift between their pages isn’t too jarring.

Hawkeye #15We finally get a new issue of Hawkeye that actually features Clint Barton, and while I want to complain about the messed up schedule, including the fact that we won’t see David Aja back on art until issue nineteen, this book is too beautiful to grumble about.  Aja is one of those artists who deserves to be given as much time as he needs, although I find it frustrating that the resolution to this issue’s cliffhanger won’t be addressed until issue #19, which is anywhere from three to fifty months away from now.  I have one question that needs clarifying – when people talk about ‘dropping their draws’ (because Clint doesn’t saw ‘drawers’, which is what I would have assumed), are they referring to their pants or their boxers?  I always thought it was the latter, but that’s not how it’s used here.  It’s like Matt Fraction’s insistence on using the phrase ‘samo-samo’ instead of having characters say ‘same ol’ same ol”.  It drives me crazy.

Manhattan Projects #18 – General Westmoreland squares off against the alien creature that Einstein and Feynman brought back to Earth, in a pretty delightful issue.  Westmoreland’s portrayal in this issue is among the funniest skewerings of historical figures that Jonathan Hickman has done since starting this always entertaining series.  It’s hard to talk about the back half of this issue without giving away some pretty big details (Betrayal!  Murder!  Ears!), except to say that I can’t wait to see what happens next after the last couple of pages.  Great stuff, as always.

The Massive #20It’s getting harder and harder for Callum Israel to avoid some of the strangeness that has been around him since this series started, especially as he’s given information about what was on the Massive’s transponder.  This is always a good read, as are most Brian Wood comics, and it has been a very consistent comic.  I wonder how artist Garry Brown is going to manage drawing this and Iron Patriot at Marvel…

Mighty Avengers #7 – This issue is not as strong as the last one, mainly because it trades the lengthy character-driven scenes for a more action-oriented storyline, as the White Tiger goes after the man who killed her family, forcing her teammates to have to try to stop her.  I am still enjoying this title a great deal, especially these issues that are drawn by Valerio Schiti and not by Greg Land.

Mind MGMT #19 – Matt Kindt launches us into the second half of this series with this issue, and it’s another example of his creative approach to storytelling.  Meru, Lyme, and their crew try to recruit an illusionist to their team, but when Meru cancels her abilities during a performance, she goes on the run.  Much of this book is split into four strands of the story, which appear on each page in a colour-coded fashion.  A big part of the appeal of this series, beyond the terrific writing and unique art, is seeing just what Kindt is going to do with the comics form.  I feel like this is a book that is not getting anywhere near enough recognition for being so ground-breaking and cool.

100 Bullets: Brother Lono #8This mini-series ends the only way it could have, with a lot of blood.  I’ve enjoyed revisiting the world of 100 Bullets, and especially enjoyed seeing Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso collaborate again, but this mini-series lacks the narrative drive of the original series, and instead feels more like a cash-grab than that final story that the creators just had to tell.

Pariah #1 – I pre-ordered this book on the strength of the creative team (Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele) and the fact that I enjoy science fiction comics.  The thing I didn’t know is that Pariah has already had a bit of a life on-line, and that this is technically volume two of a series.  It picks up with a bunch of young people, called Vitros, trapped on an old space station, which is in decaying orbit.  Little to no effort is made to explain why and how these people ended up there, or why they have some guy stashed in a storage locker.  It’s left to the reader to figure out what a ‘Vitro’ even is, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of coming in halfway through the movie.  At the same time, the story did grab me, as I’ve a fondness for ‘broken sci-fi’, and as always, I love Weldele’s art.  I’m going to keep picking up this book, but I think I need to take a look around for the recent Dark Horse edition of the first volume, so I can get myself up to speed.  Really Dark Horse, a textpage recap would have been a nice touch.

Satellite Sam #6Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s book about live television in the 50s is back from its hiatus, and seems to be getting a little more sordid with each new issue.  I’m not really sure if there is a larger plot that has been planned for this title or not, but I’ve been enjoying watching Fraction put these characters through their paces.  He’s giving us a good look at just how messed up the entertainment industry has always been, and I’m finding that I actually like Chaykin’s art in black and white (I usually can’t stand his stuff, like the A+X story I read the other week, but am starting to think that his stuff should just never be coloured).

Secret Avengers #16 – This volume of the series comes to a slightly unsatisfactory ending, as Nick Spencer and Ales Kot have the team leave Mockingbird behind.  It’s felt like the last bunch of issues have only served to set up the relaunched title coming out next month, instead of really working towards wrapping up a number of plot lines.  I’m still looking forward to the new title – I’m a fan of Kot’s writing – but hope that it feels a little more substantial than this title has been feeling lately.

Serenity Firefly Class 03-K64: Leaves on the Wind #2 – I love everything about this comic, except for its over-long title.  Zoe needs medical care, and so is taken to a ship, despite the fact that this leads to the Alliance tracking down the crew of the Serenity, and forcing them to leave her behind.  Shortly after that, Jayne arrives with some new friends, but doesn’t get the welcome he expects, while Jubal Early goes on the hunt.  This book gives me such a great feeling of nostalgia, and Zack Whedon and Georges Jeanty continue to really capture the feeling of the original show.

Sex #11Joe Casey uses this issue to advance a number of plotlines, but nothing terribly remarkable happens.  The cast of this book continues to grow, adding Japanese businessmen with peculiar predilections, Lois Lane-like determined journalists, and expanding the role of one of the workers at a brothel.  I’ve really enjoyed this book, and my esteem for it continues to grow, as it’s clear that Casey is working at a less frenetic pace than usual, and is putting more time into character development.

Sheltered #7 – Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’s story about Survivalist children continues to really impress me.  This issue has a lot going on – the camp is trying to contain the damage from last issue, when a bunch of the kids attacked some men trying to make a delivery, and it looks less and less like Lucas is going to be able to maintain control of everything that is happening.  This is a very exciting and, with its Prepper text pages, terrifying comic.  It’s also apparently going to be a movie, so you might want to think about getting caught up.

Star Wars Legacy #12 – I wonder if Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko are now writing to an accelerated timeline in the wake of the announcement that the Star Wars rights are moving to Marvel in a year.  This issue feels like it’s picking up the pace a little in terms of revealing some things about main character Ania Solo, and teasing a whole lot more about her past.  The thing I find most interesting is that AG, the assassin droid has some sort of connection to Ania’s grandfather Han.  I have found this to be a consistently good title, but especially enjoy the issues that Hardman is drawing, like this one.

Three #5This historical drama set in Ancient Sparta comes to a fitting end, as a massive group of Spartan warriors have our titular three Helots cornered.  Kieron Gillen has done an amazing job in writing this historically accurate and nuanced story, and I can’t think of a better artist for him to work with than Ryan Kelly.  I always, thanks to Local, think of Kelly as THE artist for books about people in everyday environments, but he really proves his versatility with this series; his action scenes are thrilling.  If you have enjoyed Frank Miller’s 300, you really need to check this series out for a nice balancing of that era and how it’s portrayed in comics.  I also highly recommend this to fans of Age of Bronze.

Umbral #4 – We’re four issues in, and writer Antony Johnston is still laying in a ton of new information with each new issue.  This one has ghostly pirates and historical rivalries to add to the mix.  I feel like, at this point, it might be time to reread the series again from the beginning in case I’ve missed some key information, but I am continuing to enjoy the book.  It’s really nice to get regular doses of Christopher Mitten’s art again.

Uncanny Avengers #17 – Unlike Rick Remender’s two Image books this week, this title is starting to feel awfully stale.  A variety of heroes make a last ditch effort to save the world from a Celestial bent on destroying it, but they don’t succeed.  The thing is, obviously, Remender is not going to be allowed to permanently destroy the centre of the Marvel Universe, so it looks like we’re off to another alternate reality for a while.  I was totally swept up by his Uncanny X-Force when things like this happened, but it’s starting to feel like a trope we’ve returned to a few times too often.

The Wake #6For the second half of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s science fiction epic, we travel a few hundred years into the future, where America is a soggy shell of its former self, surrounded by the Mer-creatures who attacked in the first half of the mini-series.  Our new hero, Leeward, is a scavenger who spends her time listening for radio signals, which for some reason is not allowed, and is in danger of being arrested or worse.  Snyder has an interesting premise here, but it is for Sean Murphy’s art that you should be buying this book.  I love his designs and character work.

The Walking Dead #122 – All Out War has entered it’s final act, as Rick consolidates his forces at the Hilltop, and Negan considers using biological warfare to ensure his victory.  The sense of excitement in this long story arc continues to build, but Robert Kirkman continues to find time for some quieter character-based moments.  It looks like Negan’s grip on the Saviors might not be as tight as he thinks it is.

Wolverine and the X-Men #42 – Now that it’s over, I’m starting to realize just how disappointing Jason Aaron’s tenure of Wolverine and the X-Men really was.  I have nothing against the attempt to make the book lighthearted and fun, but I’m not sure that Aaron did anything of substance with these characters.  Now, he’s graduated a bunch of students (mostly ones that never really do more than appear in crowd scenes anyway), and given us a large number of pages of Quentin Quire being afraid of becoming an adult.  The present-day story is interspersed with scenes set in a future where an aged Logan is shutting down the Jean Grey School because it’s no longer needed.  These scenes really don’t work, because Idie and Quentin look to have only aged about ten years, while Logan is a much older man.  I’m hoping for better from Jason Latour when he relaunches the book next week (whatever happened to letting a series rest for a bit before restarting it?).

X-O Manowar #22Poor Aric, he’s finally got his armor back, and a big chunk of Nebraska set aside for his people, but the US government has him on a leash.  Robert Venditti’s story has flowed very organically from the first issue, and I’m pleased to see that he’s continuing to logically extrapolate how events would be handled, instead of just establishing Aric as a run-of-the-mill armored hero.

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

All-Star Western #28

Fantastic Four #1

Indestructible Hulk #19.INH

Legends of Red Sonja #4

Miracleman #3

Origin II #3

Superior Spider-Man #28

Vandroid #1

Wolverine #2

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Factor #1&2I used to love Peter David’s X-Factor, but over the last year and a half of the last run, I found I was getting kind of bored.  I decided to not bother with the All-New relaunch, mostly because I wasn’t all that excited about the corporate aspect to the story (the new team is working for Serval Industries, who apparently like to help people), and the inclusion of Gambit in the book was a definite drawback.  Picking up these first two issues, I can see that I was right to be cautious.  First off, there is nothing about these comics that make them friendly to new readers, as recent and past events get discussed frequently without a full explanation (I don’t remember what happened between Quicksilver and the MLF members a few years ago; a little editorial box would have been helpful).  I’m also not feeling the group dynamics – I don’t really understand why Gambit would choose to join Polaris in this new venture, or why she’d want him.  I can see from the cover and from the internet that Danger and Cypher are going to be joining the team, and these are both characters I like, but I just don’t see this incarnation of the book really working for me.

Cable and X-Force #18 & Uncanny X-Force #16 (Vendetta parts 1&2) – This crossover was used to finish off, and coalesce the two X-Force titles, and it’s not bad for something so editorially-driven.  Stryfe shows up as the bad guy, and the guy still looks absolutely ridiculous.  I don’t know how he can even move in that outfit without spiking himself in a variety of places.  Both of these titles had a lot of promise and potential, but neither was given the time and space to develop.

Captain Marvel #17Kelly Sue DeConnick wraps up this volume of Captain Marvel (the next one starts soon, with the same writer) with a nice story about the appreciation that New Yorkers feel for Carol Danvers.  It’s never made very clear as to why they are celebrating her instead of just about any other Avenger though, and the issue’s villain is pushed to murderous rage because a magazine decides to put Carol on the cover instead of her.  Aside from perhaps Drake, I’m not sure that anyone else could relate to this, and it doesn’t explain how she gets ahold of weaponized drones with which to attack Times Square.  I also think it’s very strange that Carol’s brain damage and memory loss only get referenced in this series, and not in any of the many Avengers titles where she regularly appears.  As with much of this run, the art really doesn’t match the story.  I like Felipe Andrade’s work here, except for his faces, but I can imagine that the scratchiness of the art kept some people from getting involved with this title, especially since the insides of the comic never looked like the beautiful covers.

Indestructible Hulk #17.INH&18.INH – These two Inhumanity tie-ins show how petulant Banner can really be, as he chases away Hank Pym and Tony Stark from helping him concoct a solution to the whole Terrigen Bomb situation.  Of course, when they come back to see his results (bringing the Beast with them), a tiny misunderstanding turns into a huge Hulk-fueled drama.  I kind of felt like Mark Waid had just about everyone acting a little out of character; with Jonathan Hickman giving Banner such prominence in the Avengers titles, I doubt that there would be such immediate mistrust in the case of a crisis like this one.

Indestructible Hulk Annual #1Jeff Parker has written a fun little story featuring Hulk and Iron Man having to manage with an island imbued with the sentience of a former teacher of theirs.  It’s an interesting book, in that it builds on the rivalry between these two characters, and it has nice art from Mahmud Asrar.  I wish Parker was writing more comics, I’ve always liked his stuff.

Iron Man #20, 20.INH, & 21 – Marvel gets even more creative than usual with their numbering in this book, as they slip an Inhumanity crossover between two regular issues, while keeping it completely in-continuity.  Kieron Gillen is doing some interesting work here, as Tony and his brother rebuild Mandarin City, and attract the ire of the now-sentient Mandarin Rings, who are going around finding new hosts for themselves.  There are some strange choices here – the rings are starting to resemble the rings of the various Colour Corps at DC, and the new character Red Peril is problematic on many levels.  To begin with, she looks like she’s wearing Rachel Grey’s away team uniform, and her choice of name is silly, considering that the character is a left-wing journalist.  It’s like she’s a villain designed by a Fox News commentator in the 50s.  Anyway, these are enjoyable comics, even if the story is dragging on a little too long, and there’s not enough of Tony’s supporting cast around, which is this book’s real strength.

Thor God of Thunder #17&18 – Jason Aaron’s Thor is at its best in one-off stories, like the one that followed the lengthy Godbomb arc, and like issue 18, which features a story of Young Thor and his blossoming friendship with a dragon.  It’s drawn by the incredible Das Pastoras (whose art looks a little like Michael Kaluta’s), and it’s a fun and beautiful issue.  Number 17 finishes off the Accursed arc, which ends rather well for Malekith.

 

Well, that’s everything I read in the last week.  What about you?  Let us know what you enjoyed, and what you didn’t, in the comments section!

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