The Weekly Round-Up #226 With Moon Knight, Archer & Armstrong, The Field, Starlight, Veil & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Moon Knight #2Moon Knight is a serious competitor for the title of Marvel’s best comic.  In this issue, Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey boil down the book to a very simple story.  A sniper is killing some people he used to work with, and Moon Knight is trying to stop him.  The first half of the comic is told in an 8-panel grid, where each panel ‘belongs’ to a different victim.  We see them going about their evening, and at the point where they are shot, their panel fades to white and remains that way, in a manner that reminds me of Ray Fawkes’s graphic novel One Soul.  The second half of the book shows us MK fighting the sniper, and the visuals are just stunning.  Shalvey (thankfully) takes MK out of his all-white suit, and gives him an updated version of his classic uniform, which looks fantastic as he glides across the night sky.  This is the type of superhero book that Ellis does very well.  There are no subplots or supporting characters.  In fact, the issue of Mark Spector’s mental health doesn’t even come up.  In some ways, this could be a Batman story with very few changes.  Great stuff, and it gives me big hope for the rest of this run (which I hope lasts a very long time).

Quick Takes:

Archer & Armstrong #19 – Mission: Improbable, the cross-over with Bloodshot and the HARD Corps is a fun crossover.  Archer has been taking prisoner by Project Rising Spirit, and is now trying to escape while sleepwalking, while Armstrong tries to lead the Sect in a rescue operation, and Bloodshot starts working his own agenda.  Fred Van Lente makes this book a delight to read, as he finds time and space for all the main characters of both comics to have a moment or two of their own.

Black Science #5Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera continue to do an amazing job with this series.  In this issue, our weary travellers are getting ready for another dimension-hopping jump when the mysterious masked figure we saw last issue arrives and tries to take Grant’s children with him.  This leads to another exciting chase, and along the way, we learn a few more things about the Pillar, the damaged device that the travellers use to get around, and who its likely saboteur is.  Remender finds an excellent balance between character and action, and Scalera gets to design all manner of crazy things.  This is a very impressive series.

Captain America #19 – And then there’s this week’s other Rick Remender-written comic, Captain America, which is entertaining enough, but comes nowhere close to Black Science for quality.  The Iron Nail is putting his plan in motion, which means that his giant stolen SHIELD helicarrier gets to blow up some smaller ones, while Cap gets really really angry.  The story moves pretty quickly, and lacks strong character work.  Nic Klein, who is often a wonderful artist (read his Viking series) comes off here as looking rushed and perhaps uninterested.  If anyone gets inspired by the Captain America movie to try the comic this week, I imagine they will leave disappointed; there’s not a lot going on here, and I think I’m going to consider dropping this title if it doesn’t pick up in the next issue.

Elephantmen #55‘Picking Up the Pieces’, the story arc that has seen Hip Flask working with a human private investigator, has been a strange one, and the ending in this issue is particularly mind-bending and bizarre.  It’s hard to discuss this issue without giving away any spoilers, except to say that Richard Starkings was able to take all the story elements of the last five issues that didn’t really make sense and weave them together into a plausible and unexpected conclusion.  Elephantmen never fails to impress.

The Field #1 – I’ve been a fan of Ed Brisson’s writing since I first picked up one of his self-published Murder Book comics at TCAF years ago, and have followed him through series like Comeback and Sheltered, and was excited to check out The Field, his new series with frequent collaborator Simon Roy (of Prophet fame).  This book opens with an amnesiac man coming to in a cornfield, wearing only a pair of underwear.  A cellphone close by warns him to avoid the car that is driving towards him, but he is forced in at gunpoint.  The driver of the car, Christian, is an interesting character.  He won’t use swear words, dresses our hero in a Christian t-shirt, and decries Satan-influenced rock and roll, but also thinks nothing of doing lines of coke and shooting up a diner, while also making vaguely homoerotic come-ons.  I don’t really know what’s going on here yet.  Our amnesiac has a flashback to some kind of scientific lab, and there are a group of bikers that are pursuing him, for reasons as yet unknown.  Roy is the right artist for this type of thing – his characters approach the level of caricature, and he works well with Brisson to keep the reader guessing.  I’m very curious to see where this book is headed.

Green Arrow #30 The Outsiders War continues to heat up, as all the various factions gather for a big fight in Prague, including the surviving members of the extended Queen family.  Jeff Lemire opens the book with a very interesting way to explain the events of the last issue, before moving full-speed ahead with this story.  Andrea Sorrentino continues to do incredible work with this book.  When he started drawing I, Vampire when the New 52 launched, I knew he was a very talented artist, but I didn’t expect his art to get this good this quickly.  He makes this comic unlike any other book DC is putting out right now.

Lobster Johnson: Get the Lobster #3 – This latest Lobster series is getting better as it goes along, as our hero stumbles across a plot to rob a number of banks simultaneously, and is trapped by the police while trying to stop the criminals.  Tonci Zonjic’s art is a delight in this series.

Loki Agent of Asgard #3 – I’ve enjoyed the first two issues of Loki, mostly because of Al Ewing’s writing, but have stayed on the fence about adding this book to my pull-file list.  The problem is, I don’t really like Asgard comics.  When Loki is mostly out in the modern world, I’m fine with some Asgardian story elements shaping the book, but I’ve never been too interested in stories set in Asgard’s past, or even stories set contemporaneously in that realm.  This issue fills us in on the first meeting between Loki and a young Odin, and the story behind his sword, Garm.  It’s well written, but I found my attention wandering some.  I do like the fact that Sigurd is coming into play; I enjoyed the way Kieron Gillen wrote him in Journey Into Mystery.  I’ll see how the next issue looks, and decide then if I should buy it or not.

Pretty Deadly #5The first volume ends with this issue, and I still am not all that clear on what has happened in this series.  I think it’s a bad thing when, in the last issue of an arc, a character starts talking about another character by name and I have no idea who she means.  I love Emma Rios’s art on this book, and appreciate that Kelly Sue DeConnick was trying something a bit different, but the story just never worked for me (much like her Captain Marvel run).  Lots of potential, but her writing never quite lands the delivery.  I am not really sure I’d come back to this series after its hiatus (however long that is planned to be).  If I do, it’s just going to be for Rios’s art…

Revival #19 – Revival has been running for a while now, and I don’t really have a clue as to where this book is going.  The people in the quarantine zone are getting stranger and stranger, as tunnels are dug, and the mayor ties up a lady in a washroom.  Martha is getting more and more out of sorts, and Dana finally opens up to Ibrahaim about her sister’s murder.  I really like what Tim Seeley and Mike Norton are doing with this comic, and the sense of dread that each new issue leaves me with.

Secret #7 – Grant’s plans all seem to be coming together, as he reaches out to the ex-Soviet half of the Kodiak project, settles a score or two, and makes his big move for the future.  I kind of think that things are happening too neatly though for this series to get to a happy ending, so I’m assuming that things are going to fall apart quickly next issue.  Jonathan Hickman’s writing a series that is not like anything he’s written before here – it’s smaller and more compact than his usual work, and doesn’t wrestle with big themes, but it is enjoyable.

Self-ObsessedI’m not sure where I stand on Sina Grace.  I liked his art in L’il Depressed Boy (which seems to be on a very long hiatus), and in Burn the Orphanage, but I didn’t really like the writing in that series, and I never bothered to pick up the third issue.  I do want to read his Not My Bag, a memoir about time spent in retail, but haven’t ever gotten a copy (maybe if he comes to TCAF I’ll buy it there).  Anyway, Self-Obsessed is a collection of strips that he’s done about himself at various times from when he was a teenager to today.  It tackles issues of family and sexuality, and as a whole, is pretty compelling.  I think Grace could be a huge talent.

She-Hulk #3 – When starting a new law practice, what better client than the son of a villainous dictator?  Jen takes on Kristoff, Dr. Doom’s son, in his bid for asylum in the US, which means wrangling Doombots as much as the legal system.  This book is establishing itself as a fun comic, with wonderful art by Javier Pulido.

Starlight #2 – The first issue of Starlight introduced an aging Buck Rogers figure, who spent some time being a hero on another planet before returning to Earth to raise a family and live quietly.  At the end of that issue, a spaceship appeared on his lawn, and now a young boy is trying to recruit him to return to that distant galaxy to save his people once again.  Mark Millar’s interesting exploration of aging is more or less abandoned in favor of getting the plot underway, but this is still an enjoyable comic.  Goran Parlov does a great job of blending the fantastic science fiction elements with the daily life of our world.

Swamp Thing #30 –  I didn’t buy Inhuman, but Charles Soule’s other two books this week were definite winners (he also wrote She-Hulk, above).  Swamp Thing’s body has been captured by people who faked being members of the Sureen, a cult that worships him.  Alec Holland is now in the body of a dying human, and his friends work to save him, which involves calling in Vandal Savage, and flying to India.  Soule has filled this book with an interesting supporting cast, something that Swamp Thing has never really had before (I’ve never been a fan of the Arcanes, or Tefé, his pre-DCnU daughter).  The art is split between Jesus Saiz and Javi Pina, two artists whose styles are remarkably similar, making the book pretty much seamless.

Trillium #8 – I didn’t expect Jeff Lemire’s time-bending (and page-flipping) mini-series to end the way it did.  The series began telling two stories, one set in the 1920s and the other in the far future, that became intertwined through ancient temples and trillium flowers.  The characters switched places, rewriting history, and now in this final issue, they are finally together, although the end of the human race is minutes away.  I really like Lemire’s art, which is pretty much unique in comics, and it was great to see him draw and occasionally paint pages the play around with layout, much as he did with his great series Sweet Tooth.  I know that Lemire has become DC’s go-to guy for well-written superhero comics (see Green Arrow, above), but I hope that he’s going to start working on a new Vertigo graphic novel or miniseries soon.

Ultimate Spider-Man #200Brian Michael Bendis’s greatest strength as a writer is his ability to capture human conversation in a way that sounds real.  Often, when he’s writing a book like the Avengers, this can grate and get annoying after many issues of a team just sitting around a table.  When he writes a book like this one, though, it really is an asset.  On the second anniversary of Peter Parker’s death, Aunt May invites his friends over for a party to celebrate his life, and she includes Miles Morales, the current Spider-Man.  I love Miles.  I think he’s one of the best new comics characters of this century, and I feel that Bendis has made him a very believable and likeable person.  I never read the Peter Parker Ultimate Spider-Man series, so am unfamiliar with some of the characters here (like the mohawk guy who hugs Kitty Pryde), but could still enjoy this as a story about people exploring their grief and loss after a major figure is taken from their lives.  The double-page spreads where different characters talk about how they think Peter would have grown up is a little too drawn-out and fan-servicey, but the rest of this book really hits all the notes.  I can’t wait for the new Miles Morales series to start, as I miss this guy, and think it’s a shame that the Cataclysm event derailed his story for so long.  I also need to get my regular fix of David Marquez art, as he’s as good or better at establishing character than Bendis is.

Veil #2 – In his first issue, Greg Rucka spent his time establishing tone and mood for this series, and making it clear that the title character, who we met as she woke up naked and confused on a subway platform, has something going on beyond her amnesia and nice body.  Now, in the second issue, we get a better look at what all that is really all about, as Veil and her new friend Dante run from the cops, only to land in the clutches of two of them, while a supernatural element is added, hinting at an explanation for Veil’s abilities.  This is an interesting series.

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

68 Rule of War #1

Black Widow #5

Caliban #1

Dead Letters #1

Detective Comics #30

Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial

Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight #7

Inhuman #1

Juice Squeezers #4

Magneto #2

New Warriors #3

Punisher #4

Red Sonja #8

Red Sonja and Cub

Suicide Risk #12

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #3

Bargain Comics:

All-Star Western #25&26Jonah Hex is still in the present, where he gets into trouble with a demon and John Constantine at Burning Man, which leads to a run-in with Swamp Thing and the Black Mercy flower, before he goes to Metropolis and meets Superman.  What’s really weird is that none of these guest stars are on the cover of any of these comics, especially considering the sales on this book.  It’s entertaining, but strange, and a pale shadow of the brilliance of the Jonah Hex comic from the pre-New 52 days.

Batman Black and White #3-6 – Mark Chiarello should edit more anthology series like this, where DC gathers up some top talent (Adam Hughes, Becky Cloonan, Mike Allred, Dave Johnson, Lee Bermejo, Damion Scott, Rian Hughes, Javier Pulido, Chris Weston, and Cliff Chiang are just some of the artists who contributed to these comics) to tell some short, iconic or experimental stories about one of their main characters.  This series is all about the art, and the art is phenomenal.

Magneto #1 – I’ve always liked Magneto, but I’ve always liked him best when he has been trying to be good.  When he was headmaster of the Xavier School, and had to get the X-Men and especially the New Mutants to trust him; when he was working with Charles on Genosha; when he came to Utopia before the Schism; these are all the times when I’ve felt this character has been someone more interesting than a cardboard cut-out villain.  Now, with this new series, I fear that Erik is moving in the wrong direction, as he casually attacks a police station looking for a man who has admitted to killing three mutants.  I want to like this book.  Cullen Bunn is a great writer (you should be reading Sixth Gun), and Gabriel Hernandez Walta is an artist to watch, but this first issue didn’t really have the feel I was looking for.  Maybe Magneto needs to be around other people in order to function as a proper human being, and so far the closest this title has to a supporting cast is a motel maid.

Origin II #3Kieron Gillen can usually make even the most ridiculous of corporate-mandated series ideas work, but Origin II is a limp affair.  Logan has been chained up as a circus freak, where he is electrocuted to pop his claws, at least until Nathaniel Essex, Mister Sinister, steals him away to cut him up a lot.  On the positive side of things, Adam Kubert’s art looks as nice as it usually does.  I just don’t feel that this story adds anything important to Wolverine’s backstory, or needed to be told.

Strikeforce Morituri #11-14 – I’m slowly trying to gather up a set of this 80s Marvel series for as low a price as I can, and the hunt is always as much fun as reading the comics.  These science fiction comics about heroes who have been given powers that will kill them within the year are pretty well done.  Peter B. Gillis is able to keep the cast churning over without feeling forced (although his hero names are pretty terrible – Scaredycat?) and Brent Anderson’s art is great.  It would be interesting to see this property revived.

 

Those are all the comics I read this week.  What did you enjoy this week?  Let us know in the comments section!

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