The Weekly Round-Up #230 With Southern Bastards, Chew, Rai, Serenity Firefly, Star Wars & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Southern Bastards #1I’m very happy to see Jason Aaron return as the writer I admired so much in The Other Side and the incredible Scalped.  His Marvel work has not really impressed me, but with this new series, he’s returning to his strengths – character-driven crime comics.  Southern Bastards stars Earl Tubb, a grown man who has returned to the Southern middle-of-nowhere town of his birth to pack up his father’s house.  It’s the first that he’s been back in forty years, and he’s not happy to be there.  The town appears to be under the control of a man called Coach Boss, who we don’t meet, but whose influence is everywhere (I can’t help but picture Boss Hogg, but I’m hoping for someone more like Lincoln Red Crow).  Tubb’s father was Sheriff, and he had famously once stood his ground in front of his own home when people came to attack him.  He is a bit of an ambiguous figure in this book, but I imagine that much of the series will be dealing with Earl’s relationship with him.  Jason Latour is drawing and colouring this book, and his style carries a sense of menace that really fits the mood that Aaron is going for.  The characters look like no other that you see in comics today – everyone is carrying some extra pounds, and lacks dental insurance.  Most of this issue is used to create atmosphere and set up the story, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of the first issue of Scalped, which also featured pretty dark artwork and set up a sense of place that felt very authentic.  I have high hopes for this series, but also expect that they may get met.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #26I’ve seen Brian Michael Bendis’s X-Men get a lot of praise, but I feel like he’s just spinning his wheels, going over the same basic plots time and again.  Our Scott talks to Young Jean.  Young Warren tries to convince X-23 to not leave the school, which only seems to be happening so she can have an encounter in the woods with someone who attacks and hurts her, and then everyone can forget that she has a healing factor for a while, so she needs to crawl back to the school for help, thereby showing the way to the bad guys, who are the same bad guys that were in the big story arc prior to the last one.  I’m not seeing anything new here.  Sure, Stuart Immonen’s art is pretty, but this book is becoming more decompressed and slow moving with each new issue.  I’m not sure I’m going to stick with it much longer, if things don’t start changing.

Avengers #28 – For the first time since Infinity ended, I’m pleased with a new issue of Avengers (the franchise which dropped four titles this week, three of them written by Jonathan Hickman).  I’ve not been the least bit interested in the appearance of an Avengers team from another reality, which is evil and interested in conquest.  It’s felt like it’s been spinning its wheels waiting for Original Sin to start, but finally, with this issue, which only really features Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, we get some serious forward movement.  Strangely, that movement has more to do with what’s happening in New Avengers than this title, as Banner learns about the incursions from some AIM scientists, and then questions Stark about the Illuminati’s actions.  I like the way Hickman writes these characters, and I get the feeling that the plot in these books is going to start picking up steam again, which would be a nice thing.

Avengers World #5For this issue, the focus is on Eden, the Manifold, whose powers have apparently been a little wonky since Infinity, although he works on that in this issue.  This series continues to move insanely slowly, and has yet to prove itself essential to what’s happening in any of the other Avengers titles.

Black Science #6 – The first arc ends in a big and unexpected way, as Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s new series never once slows down.  Grant has figured out that it’s Kadir who is responsible for many of his problems (at least the ones he hasn’t caused himself), and their fight has some very large consequences for everyone.  I’m sad that this book is going on hiatus until July, because I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Chew #41 – Ah, Chew, the land of Vegas weddings (yes, plural), chocolate fudge-based weapons, egg-worshiping terrorists, and endless supplies of funny signs in the background.  I love this series.

Deadly Class #4 – I’ve really been getting a lot of enjoyment out of Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s series about a high school for assassins that is set in the late 80s, but this issue, which has Marcus busted out of detention (which looks more like solitary confinement in a pit) to go on a road trip to Las Vegas with a few other students, to kill one of their fathers.  Along the way, they stop to buy some sheets of acid at a Grateful Dead concert, and Craig ends up giving us what could be a teenage version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  The visuals in this issue are amazing.  Craig has caught my eye for a while now, but I feel like this series is taking his art to a whole new level.  I also really like the way Remender handles these characters.  Great series.

EGOs #4Stuart Moore and Gus Storms don’t seem too sure, in the text page, of whether or not this series will be continuing.  This is a one-off issue that works on building the characters on this team, which still reminds me a little of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  I am still on the fence about supporting this book long-term, but would probably come back for another story arc.

Elephantmen #56 – Elephantmen continues on its recent hard-boiled theme, as writers Mark Schweikert and Richard Starkings give us a tale narrated by Trench, who is reminiscing about his beat cop days, and a particularly sad murder scene he investigated.  The issue is drawn by Shaky Kane, so it’s of course insanely nice looking.  I particularly like the way that Kane juxtaposes the difficulty of his images with bright colours.  I’m getting a little tired of this book featuring endless meditations on the nature of man and animal, but this was a particularly effective issue.

New Avengers #17 – Jonathan Hickman spends this issue of New Avengers setting up his Avengers/Justice League crossover, featuring the Great Society in the JLA role.  Namor and T’Challa continue watching the effects of the incursions of the Society’s world, and Rags Morales bridges DC and Marvel house styles (a little strangely, as his Black Panther and Sub-Mariner look a little short).  An improvement, but still the same issue over and over with this series (I blame the lead-up to Original Sin, as Hickman doesn’t usually have these kinds of pacing problems).

Pariah #3I’m really enjoying Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele’s work on this title.  This month, the focus moves to the last Vitro on Earth, a young teenager with hacking skills, who helps his brethren trapped on a satellite by infiltrating the government installation that has all the information on them.  I’d really like to read the graphic novel that leads into this series, but I’m having a hard time locating it.  Still, I like the way Gelatt is making this series work without any prior knowledge, and am always happy to gaze on Weldele’s art.

Rai #1 – I really liked the original Rai series back in the day, so it was a sure bet that I was going to check this new one out.  Matt Kindt is setting the story in a very crowded Japan where everyone has their own PT (read personal robot), and where no one has killed another in a thousand years, at least until the first pages of this comic.  There is stuff going on in Japan, involving radicals who are trying to avoid dependence on machines.  Rai, Japan’s hero, comes to investigate the murder, and gets a sense of impending change.  This is not really the clearest of first issues, as Kindt has a lot to set up and explain, and Clayton Crain’s artwork, while often lovely, has never been good at helping establish a story, being often stiff and a little obtuse.  Still, Kindt’s piqued my interest enough to come back for the next issue.

Serenity Firefly Class 03-K64: Leaves on the Wind #4 – Another very satisfying issue, although as it spends most of its space advancing plotlines, and not featuring a lot of the dialogue that the TV show was known for, it’s not the strongest in the series so far.  Malcolm and his crew are getting ready to move on the Alliance facility where River was experimented on, but there’s no way that’s going to work out for them, right? Man, I miss this show still.

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1Brian Wood’s look at the time period between the first Star Wars movie and Empire Strikes Back has worked very well, so it completely makes sense that Dark Horse would recruit Matt Kindt (whose independent work is in the same caliber as Wood’s) to write a Han Solo-focused mini-series.  This issue is narrated by a new Rebel recruit, who is told to contact Solo in a dingy bar, and is then swept up in some craziness as the Empire comes after him and eventually captures them both.  It’s clear to the reader (but definitely not to the narrator) that Solo has some kind of crazy scheme worked out (the subtitle of the series kind of points us in that direction).  This is a very fun issue.  My only complaint is that I wish Kindt had drawn the whole book and not just the cover, because that would have been pretty interesting.

Umbral #6 – Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten wrap up the first arc of Umbral with Rascal and her friends making their escape, although it looks like Rascal may yet be in big trouble.  This series has really built a lot of momentum as it’s continued, and I’m looking forward to July when the book will return from hiatus (presumably so the creators can finish up Wasteland together).

Uncanny Avengers Annual #1 – Rick Remender gives us enough of a wink and a nudge to suggest that he knows that this over-priced annual is kind of crappy and doesn’t make sense, but his meta-analysis of stories written by committee doesn’t go far enough to make me feel like I’m in on the joke; I feel more like one of the victims.  Basically, Mojo kidnaps a bunch of mystical heroes and anti-heroes (and the odd villain), and brainwashes them into thinking that they are an Avengers team, which then attacks and kidnaps the Unity team, to force them to star in a teen drama TV show, before everyone has to work together to stop the Spirit of Vengeance that has taken over Ghost Rider.  Yes, it’s that bad.  Avoid this one, and pick up Black Science or Deadly Class instead, where Remender’s writing is actually good.

Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK #1I’m always going to be a sucker for a solid Vertigo anthology, especially one that has creators like Fábio Moon and Ken Garing represented.  At the same time, I often find myself frustrated by the limitations of an eight-page story.  This book, which explores the theme of cyan (blue to the rest of us) works on a more conceptual level than the recent anthologies which have dealt with themes like ghosts and witches, making it a more diverse read.  I know that there has been some controversy attached to this book around editorial meddling in Joe Keatinge’s story (which didn’t read all that clearly), but that shouldn’t take away from the stories that work well, such as Moon’s, Lee Garbett and Jock’s, James Tynion and Martin Morazzo’s, and Robert Rodi and Javi Fernandez’s.  There are some cool ideas here, from the Banksy of serial killers to the emancipation of numbers.  This is well worth a look.

Free Comic Book Day Comics:

Armor Hunters – Valiant’s FCBD offering is exactly the type of thing I hate most about this day.  It’s just a collection of the first few pages of three recent Valiant comics, Armor Hunters (the only one here not already published, but these pages are also in the back of any other Valiant book this month), Rai, and X-O Manowar.  There is no story, and no incentive for a regular reader of just about everything this publisher puts out to go pick this up.

FubarThe two stories in this war/zombie mash-up both feature Americans finding long-sought after enemies (Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden), but also finding zombies at the same time.  I particularly like the lead story, written by Chuck Dixon, that has all the soldiers named after classic war comics creators (Kubert, Glanzman, Heath).  Good stuff.

Guardians of the Galaxy (FCBD) #1 – Basically, Tony Stark spends the whole issue describing the current Guardians of the Galaxy team to Agent Venom, who he is sending to space to work with the Guardians for a tour.  So far as introducing characters to potential movie-goers, this issue does well, but in terms of giving a reader a reason to pick up the regular series, I’m not so sure.  Writer Brian Michael Bendis defines the team as defending Earth, but doesn’t give them much more of a reason to exist.  Also, I’m not sure why Captain Marvel is on the cover but is not in the comic.  There are also previews of Jim Starlin’s upcoming Thanos graphic novel, and the coming Spider-Verse event, but neither did much for me.

Hip Hop Family Tree Two-In-One – I’ve looked at Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree before, but haven’t been all that tempted to buy it, at least not until I’ve read the excerpts given away in this very cool little edition, which spoofs Marvel’s classic anniversary covers.  Piskor’s put together a number of little vignettes from the earliest days of Hip Hop, and I learned a great deal (because while I knew my comics inside and out in the eighties, I didn’t discover my love for hip hop until later on).  Now I’ve got to make a point of getting the full book.  This is one of my favourite offerings from this year.

Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other StoriesI like the hardcover design of this book, which mostly doesn’t interest me, except for the short Farscape story by Ramon Perez, which was a real treat.  I didn’t know that Boom/Archaia were doing anything more with this property, and this has gotten my hopes up that we may be seeing Crichton and company again soon.

The New 52: Futures End FCBD Edition #0 – I’ve barely been keeping up with events in the New 52 lately, as I only buy three of their titles with any regularity, but I was curious to see what they were pushing as their big thing for this summer.  This comic opens thirty-five years from now, and it looks like Brother Eye (which I’m going to assume is a satellite) has taken over the world, turning most of the heroes into OMAC mechano-bug things.  A few heroes, all of whom are familiar and active today, and are therefore in their late fifties to sixties, are trying to stop things, while Batman is trying to send Batman Beyond (no idea what he’s actually being called) back in time to stop everything from going wrong.  This sets up the Futures End (no possessive?) weekly series which is starting soon.  The art in here is nice, in that New 52 house style, and the set-up could make the weekly series, which is set five years from now, interesting.  I don’t like that DC are forcing this event on all of their books in September though, and I think I’m going to take a pass on almost the whole thing.

Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of JapanI enjoyed Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, and find that this history of Japan during the war contains a lot of the same self-deprecating humour, wrapped in a lot of historical context.  These are also graphic novels I should be shopping for.

Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe #0 – Tom Scioli is probably doing more than anybody in comics (except perhaps Dan Didio) to keep Jack Kirby alive, and so while it’s fun to see him apply his bombastic Kirby approach to these two legendary Hasbro toy properties, he also manages to completely satisfy my need for such a thing for all time within these pages.  Kind of fun (once you accept a talking, maskless Snake Eyes), but a little more of this would go a long way.

Über: The First Cycle – Kieron Gillen uses interviews with different characters to catch a new reader up to the speed on Über, his excellent WWII superhuman saga.  It would have been nice to see a new story added in as well, but this book works better as a way to attract new readers than most of the stuff that was distributed.

VWars #0 – VWars is a new IDW series about vampires appearing on Earth and going to war with regular folks.  It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect from this concept in this day and age.  Not bad, but not very original.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #1

Hulk #2

Origin II #5

Rachel Rising #25

Shadowman End Times #1

Silver Surfer #2

Uber #12

Vandroid #3

Wolverine #5

X-Force #4

Bargain Comics:

Legends of Red Sonja #2-4This is an anthology series featuring only female writers providing short stories about Red Sonja that fit into a larger framework, written by Gail Simone.  It’s an interesting approach to the anthology, but the short length of the stories doesn’t provide the writers (who include people like Mercedes Lackey) a lot of space to do much with the character.  The art is pretty variable, as it moves from the usual Dynamite house style to more dynamic approaches.  I especially like the work of Tula Lotay and Phil Noto (the artists are not all women).  I would love to see an issue by Becky Cloonan and Ming Doyle, among others.

The Movement #6-11 – When Gail Simone’s series started, I gave it a chance based on her name alone, and I was disappointed in it.  I felt that the characters lacked personality and motivation, and I couldn’t find much reason to stick with the series.  I did hear that it had improved though, and I’m glad I picked all of these issues up, because the book did get a lot better.  In these issues, the team fights off a group of villains who have been hired to stop them, get into a tussle with Batgirl, and help team member Burden with some of his family issues.  Simone is a great character writer, and when she let the characters take over the story, the book became one I could see continuing with (except for the fact that DC has canceled it).

Uncanny #5 – Andy Diggle’s series reminds me a lot of Sleeper, but without the government agency angle.  It’s a very good read, and I’m really liking Aaron Campbell’s art.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Ferals Vol. 1The return of Stray Bullets has reminded me of just how great a writer David Lapham can be.  Ferals, to be blunt, doesn’t.  This is a good start to a story about a reclusive sect of semi-werewolf folk living in the hinterlands of Minnesotta, but some of the story elements, such as the government agents that show up towards the end of the book, feel awkwardly tacked on.  It’s an Avatar comic, so it’s unnecessarily bloody in parts, and has that house style that I don’t really love in terms of artwork.

Pariah Vol. 1 – When the current Dark Horse series began, I ordered it on the strength of the creative team (Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele), not knowing that the new series was a continuation of one that had previously been published by a small press.  I’ve been liking the Dark Horse books, but thought that I should take advantage of Free Comic Book Day sales to get myself fully caught up on the story.  Pariah is set not all that far into the future, where an attempt to fix some genetic defects in utero led to the creation of the Vitros, incredibly smart young people, who have been shunned by society.  When this books opens, a group of Vitros who have been working for a science company are framed for releasing a fatal pathogen into the environment.  As we move through the four chapters of this book, we meet different major players in the Vitro world, as the authorities round them up, and one of their own makes an attempt to save them all.  Gelatt (working from a story by Aron Warner) balances character development and pacing quite well, extrapolating how people with these gifts would think.  Brett Weldele is an artist I’ve always admired, and his work here is as good as it usually is.  The Dark Horse miniseries can stand on its own very well, but I’m glad I’ve gotten myself completely caught up on this series.

 

That’s everything I read this week.  What about you?  How was your Free Comic Book Day?  Let us know in the comments below!

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