The Weekly Round-Up #227 With The Walking Dead, Bloodshot & HARD Corps, Invincible, Star Wars, Unity & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #125I’m really glad that I don’t have to wait more than two weeks to see the conclusion to the All Out War storyline.  In this issue, Rick and Negan face off outside the walls of the Hilltop, and the scene plays out a little like the last confrontation between Rick and the Governor on the TV show, but with a big difference or two.  All Out War has been a pretty big storyline, in terms of its scope, it’s body count, and the repercussions it will have on the series going forward.  Robert Kirkman has Rick, Andrea, and Carl talk about their belief that they are the three that never die, and that makes me nervous, given Kirkman’s penchant for messing with his main characters (just see what he did to poor Mark in Invincible this week).  Charlie Adlard has done an incredible job of keeping up with the increased publishing schedule of this storyline.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what last twists Kirkman has in store for us.

Quick Takes:

All-New Ultimates #1 – When I saw the line-up of the new Ultimates team (Spider-Man, Spider-Woman/Black Widow, Cloak, Dagger, and Bombshell) I knew that I would find the book interesting.  I like the work that Brian Michael Bendis has done with these characters in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, and I was curious to see how new writer Michel Fiffe would manage the series.  I have read the first collection of Fiffe’s self-published comic Copra, and saw some potential in it, even though I didn’t love it.  What I found, reading this new comic, is that many of Fiffe’s weaknesses have carried over to this comic.  Scenes jump around confusingly, and it’s not always clear what’s going on.  Characters show up without being properly introduced, and other characters just come out of the woodwork (like on the last page).  His character work is mostly successful, as the members of the team try to figure out how to make things work, but a reader who hasn’t been reading Spider-Man picking this up would be completely lost.  Amilcar Pinna is a talented artist, but he needs to work harder to smooth out the rough spots in Fiffe’s scripts.

All-New X-Men #25So this title has been published for something like seven months, and therefore it’s time to give it a big anniversary issue with a massive team of artists.  Should be fun, right?  Except that this has to be the most disposable issue of X-Men ever written (and I’m including that weird Chris Claremont Invasion parody from the early 90s and Chuck Austen’s whole run in that equation).  The Beast gets a big bald nighttime visitor, who talks about nothing for pages and pages, while we are shown a bunch of alternate futures for the X-Men, which are punctuated by some comic strip-style joke pages.  It’s pretty terrible all around, but especially egregious is the fact that the title’s main characters, the Original X-Men, don’t even appear in the real story.  This was not worth $5 at all, and makes me wonder why Bendis is spinning his wheels again.

Avengers Undercover #2 – The kids head to Baglalia to rescue Cullen Bloodstone, only to learn that he’s not all that unhappy to be hanging out in a city of supervillains.  Dennis Hopeless does good work with these characters, and Kev Walker’s art is great.  I am happy to get to return to these characters, and like the Hopeless seems to be pushing the inevitable confrontation with Arcade into the forefront of the run, so that it can go ahead and be something else.

Bloodshot and HARD Corps #21The Mission: Improbable cross-over between this title and Archer & Armstrong ends wonderfully, as Bloodshot and Armstrong make peace with each other and then work with their various factions to impose that peace on the Sect and Project Rising Spirit.  I like the levels of planning that some of these characters exhibit, and the way that the writers were able to blend Fred Van Lente’s humourous approach to writing into this usually more dour title.  I think Granite gets the best scene in the comic.  Also, Tom Raney’s new art style is growing on me.

Daredevil #1.50 – This strangely numbered issue is the celebration of Daredevil’s 50th anniversary, and I really liked the lead story, which is set when Matt Murdock is fifty himself.  He has to help his son, and most of San Francisco, recover when a villainess creates widespread blindness in the population.  It’s a cool idea, and Mark Waid uses the story to plant the seeds of some of his future storylines.  Javier Rodriguez draws it, so it looks incredible, except for the fact that Foggy Nelson looks younger than he does in today’s comics.  The second story is a prose piece written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, and it tells (with an abundance of grammatical errors) a story about another one of Matt’s future marriages.  This story just annoyed me, as it doesn’t fit with what Waid is currently doing with the character, nor does it fit with Bendis’s acclaimed run on the title, or even his recent End of Days mini-series, which is also supposed to show us DD’s future.  The last story is just kind of silly, and I glossed over on it.  In all, I would have liked to see a little more to reflect the variety of Daredevil’s last fifty years or strong supporting cast.

East of West #11Jonathan Hickman’s undeniable strength as a comics writer is that he constructs complex fictional worlds to set his stories in.  This issue almost serves as a survey of the geopolitical situation of East of West, as various leaders or their representatives from the different nations arrange for a summit.  We see some characters we haven’t seen for a while, and artist Nick Dragotta is given plenty of opportunity to shine, but like most chapters of this comic, the story continues to advance very slowly.  I don’t mind at all though, when there is this much attention to detail put into the book.

FBP – Federal Bureau of Physics #9 – This series is moving into some stranger territory, and I kind of feel like I’m missing something important somewhere, but I still do enjoy the way Simon Oliver keeps the series grounded in the strength of his characterizations, and of course I’m enjoying Robbi Rodriguez’s art.  I’m not sure how long this book is going to be around, but I do like the Vertigo is still willing to try something new some times.

Great Pacific #14 – So all these people are living on what is essentially a floating garbage dump in the middle of nowhere, existing at the whims of a spoiled rich boy.  What better way to spend their time than to start experimenting with plastic-derived opiates?  Joe Harris starts a new arc that shows that trouble is brewing in New Texas once again, as this series continues to buck expectations and move itself in some very strange directions.

Invincible #110Robert Kirkman has put Mark through his paces time and again over the last 100+ issues of this comic, but I think this might be one of the most brutal episodes in the character’s history.  Returning to his home dimension, Mark gets dumped by Eve, who is pretty angry about having to go through six months of pregnancy on her own.  Flying off to find and deal with Robot, Mark is sexually assaulted by the female Viltrumite who has been following him around.  It’s going to be interesting to see how Kirkman brings Mark back from this, as we look into something that rarely gets talked about, especially in superhero comics.

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1 – I’ve been a fan of Kaare Andrews’s art since I first saw it years ago, and have also always liked Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, so this new series felt like a solid win.  Andrews does a great job of making this book look and feel unique, in terms of its appearance, while more or less telling the standard Iron Fist story.  He begins to recap his origin, and deals with helicopter-riding ninjas who are trying to keep him from having to return to K’un Lun.  This is not the wisecracking Fist we’ve seen in Mighty Avengers of late, and Andrews goes a long way to suggest that he is dealing with depression.  I wish that writers would take the character in new directions, away from K’un Lun, just because it’s been done to death.  Following up on Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s epic run must be daunting, but Andrews does a good enough job, storywise.  I’m hoping to see something newer in the next issue.

Manifest Destiny #5&6Somehow the store where I shop got shorted on the fifth issue of Manifest Destiny, and because sales on the book are increasing, I wasn’t able to get a copy until the second print was released this week, which is kind of annoying, although it meant that I got to read two issues back to back, and really revel in how excellent this series is.  Lewis and Clark make their escape from the weird plant/zombie creatures, and then have to return to eradicate them once and for all.  Chris Dingess is pacing this series very well, and is slowly building the cast (Sacagawea is looking like she will be the most interesting person in the book), and Matthew Roberts’s art is great.  The splashpage of infected animals is amazing.

Mighty Avengers #9 – It’s amazing just how much a shift in art can affect a comic.  The last couple of issues of Mighty Avengers have been drawn by Valerio Schiti, a talented if unremarkable artist, and I’ve been enjoying the book, despite the fact that its focus on science heroics, interdimensional issues, and strained crossovers (Inhumanity) have kept it from even beginning to tackle its stated purpose, to portray street-level superheroes helping people.  With this issue, though, original series artist Greg Land comes back, and all of the weaknesses of this book become impossible to overlook.  Adam Brashear works on a family issue that might destroy the whole solar system, while Ronin fights a bunch of were-snake ninja things.  His identity is revealed at the end of the comic, and as it turns out, he’s the one person I was hoping he wouldn’t be (I guess the general dearth of viable black characters in the Marvel Universe really made the list of people he could be very short).  I can’t stand Greg Land’s art, and his work here really made me dislike the whole comic, whereas with the first few issues, I was able to overlook it because of the strength of Al Ewing’s writing.  I’d like to see this book get back to being about Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Monica Rambeau, and the younger members of the team.  The thought of this book moving into a three-issue romp through the seventies, while being drawn by Land and tying in to Original Sin has me wanting to drop the comic (although, if that same thing were being drawn by Francesco Francavilla, I’d be soooo excited).

Secret Avengers #2I’m really enjoying the tone that writer Ales Kot is using for this series.  The series takes a more espionage/black ops approach to an Avengers team, but Kot is using a fair amount of humour in his writing, making the book more fun than the last attempt at this title (a year ago).  Michael Walsh is growing quickly as an artist, and has some interesting layouts in this issue.  I fear that this series might not last all that long before being relaunched again, but I intend to enjoy it while I can.

Star Wars #16 – The Alliance is running in to some problems with their new neighbours as they start to work with the people of Arrochar, while Leia’s approach to royalty is beginning to create fiction with her impending in-laws.  An Imperial ship appears in the system, and Luke is sent on a mission with some Rangers.  Brian Wood is still building his story (which I predict will be the last Dark Horse Star Wars comic to shut down before the property moves to Marvel at the end of the year), and is taking his time to subtly shift Luke from the whiny boy of the first movie to the slightly less whiny young man of the second.  I don’t want to sound glib; I feel like Wood is doing a great job of connecting the dots between how the central characters were portrayed in the first film to the second, and writing a very readable story along the way.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11 – It’s very hard to separate my enjoyment of this comic from Marvel’s publishing practices.  The last issue of this book was a fill-in, focusing on the members of the Sinister Six who don’t get a lot of play in the title.  It was alright, but it weirdly came out a week after the previous issue.  Now, this issue comes along a few weeks later, and it is also a fill-in, although with no connection to the events of this series.  To make things worse, Mavel has raised the price of the comic by a dollar (and didn’t include a digital copy, making it the only book they publish at this price point that doesn’t come with a digital code).  Our editor and guiding light here at the Nexus wrote a great column recently about how Marvel hates its customers, and this counts as a great example.  The comic itself is fine, showing how two loser villains, the Grizzly and the Looter, have been doing since Doctor Octopus took over the mantle of Spider-Man.  It kind of addresses the fact that this comic has had Spider-Man’s name on every issue and he’s never actually appeared in it, and were it not for the pricing shenanigans, I wouldn’t have been annoyed at all.  Some of the comic was written by Tom Peyer, who doesn’t write nearly enough comics anymore, and some of it had art by Will Sliney and by Nuno Plati, both of whom are up and comers.  This is usually one of the best books Marvel publishes, though, and I expect better.

Unity #6I’m quickly losing interest in this title, as the team goes up against a mad scientist type who has engineered a virus that combines Vine microbes with special symbols to allow him to control peoples’ minds.  This is the type of concept that Matt Kindt should be able to weave into a fascinating story, much as he does in his Mind MGMT, but instead, things feel a little bland and common.

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

All-New Doop #1

All-New Ghost Rider #2

All-New X-Factor #6

Captain Marvel #2

Deadpool #27  (I was enjoying this series, but moving continuity to an online-only format for a major storyline, and then following up on that story with a $10 comic, with subsequent issues being $4, has killed all love I had for it).

Flash Gordon #1

Iron Man #24

Kings Watch #5

Magnus Robot Fighter #2

Nightcrawler #1

Bargain Comics:

Avengers AI #8.NOW & 9There’s something pretty underhanded about the fact that Marvel would give a .NOW false number one to a comic that is already slated to be cancelled, as the whole point of that promotion was to gather in new readers.  Anyway, this series that focuses on the artificially intelligent Avengers continues to limp along.  Andre Araujo’s art is very nice, but Sam Humphries story about a race of artificial lives living in a super-fast computer world and attacking the human world just doesn’t work on a number of levels, especially once Captain America and Rogue start poking around in it.  I’d wanted to like this series a lot more than I do.

Batman and Two-Face #26&27 – Batman continues to try to mediate between Two-Face and the female Irish gangster who created him in the longest arc this series has seen since Damian Wayne was killed.  It’s never a bad comic when Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are involved, but it’s also not among their best work.

Coffin Hill #2&3 – The first issue of this new Vertigo series didn’t do a whole lot for me, but a reader on this site told me that the comic was worth checking out, so I gave it a second chance.  Inaki Miranda’s art is fantastic, and makes the purchase of these two comics worthwhile, and the story is getting a little more interesting, although with its haunted woods and creepy insane asylum, it’s hitting a few too many familiar horror tropes without doing enough new stuff with them for me.  I will keep checking it out though, because it is showing promise.

Marvel Knights: Hulk #2-4I enjoyed Joe Keatinge and Piotr Kowalski’s take on the Hulk.  Kowalski has been impressing me with his work with Joe Casey on Sex, and it was interesting to see him take a more PG approach to a Marvel character, while still keeping many of his European sensibilities intact.  I’m not sure that this story said much that was new about the character, but that’s usually the case, so I’m not going to hold that against anyone.

Miracleman #1&2 – I have a scattered collection of Eclipse’s American editions of Alan Moore’s classic Miracleman series (and all the Neil Gaiman ones that were published), but I was still looking forward to getting my hands on the newly remastered Marvel series, as it means I can get the whole thing in one place, with nice new colour work.  Then Marvel decided (as is their way) to gouge as much money out of this project as they could, publishing the series at $5 an issue, and padding it with reprints of Mick Anglo’s original, incredibly derivative and silly Marvelman comics from the 50s.  This put the series into bargain bin territory for me.  The original comics, by Alan Moore (not that you’ll see that name anywhere in these books) and Garry Leach still hold up pretty well.  These first two issues are all about establishing things, and so they don’t really break any new (circa 1980s) ground yet.  I’d be curious to see how younger comics readers react to this stuff, since it’s been kind of copied to death in the years since it was first published.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Force War #2John Ostrander and Jan Duursema took way too long in bringing this series to this point, but now that the war between the Je’daii and the Rakata is underway, this book is a pretty exciting read.  I wonder if, when Marvel has the Star Wars license, they’ll allow Ostrander to chance to play with his excellent Agent of the Empire series again.

Thunderbolts #18 – Charles Soule can pretty much do no wrong, between his excellent Letter 44, She-Hulk and Swamp Thing, but his Thunderbolts is probably one of the less-impressive titles he’s working on these days (although I believe he’s off the book now).  This issue finishes off the Infinity tie-in, and it’s kind of fun.  Jefte Palo is the right artist for this book, but he does make things feel very cartoonish.

X-Men Legacy #21-24 – You have to admit that it’s pretty remarkable that Marvel published two years worth of comics (in a little more than a year, of course) of comics starring Legion, Charles Xavier’s disturbed son.  The series started out pretty well, but as it continued, things just kept getting stranger and stranger.  These last four issues resolve Legion’s story rather definitively, at least for now, but not all that clearly.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Jan’s Atomic Heart and Other Stories

by Simon Roy

I picked up the original printing of Jan’s Atomic Heart at the Toronto Comic Art Festival back in 2009, and was pretty impressed with it.  Since that time, writer/artist Simon Roy has been steadily making a name for himself working with Brandon Graham on Prophet, and on some random stories in places like Dark Horse Presents, and the recent new series The Field.  When I saw that Image was reprinting the original story, along with some other shorts as Jan’s Atomic Heart and Other Stories, I knew I’d want to own it.

The title story still reads very well.  Jan is a man whose consciousness has been transferred into a metallic body while his own body recovers from an illness or injury.  He is a little suspicious, however, that this body is not like other ones used for these purposes, and of course, things are not all as they seem.  Roy provides some interesting twists, and his sketchy, loose art style works well here.

I was pleased to enjoy the other short stories as much or more than the main tale.  In one strip, a man and a talking ape have been marooned on an island together for years, and when escape finally looks to be possible, they don’t react the same way.

Many of these stories feature alien creatures or beings that would not be out of place in Prophet.  In one story, Americans try to sell weapons to a faction of insect creatures as a ploy to gain land for themselves.  In another, a bar brawl turns weird very quickly.

Roy is a very talented storyteller, whose work keeps improving.  His is a career I look forward to watching grow and develop.

 

That’s everything I read this week.  What did you read?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

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