The Weekly Round-Up #231 With Archer & Armstrong, Fatale, Revival, Satellite Sam, The Woods & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Archer & Armstrong #20From its beginning, Fred Van Lente’s Archer & Armstrong has been built on an irreverent approach to modern finance and religion, but this issue, which has Archer searching for his birth parents, takes things to a whole new level.  Archer’s quest takes him to the Church of Retrology, a Scientology-like organization that is run by Jim Morrison.  This issue has everything – a crazy religious foundation, complete with its own shame technology, a bunch of celebrities that aren’t actually dead, and great Pere Pérez artwork.  I haven’t been so amused by a comic in a while – I really can’t wait for the next issue.  More people need to check this comic out.

Quick Takes:

Alex + Ada #6 – Now that Ada’s had her consciousness awoken, everything is new to her.  Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna have her spend a day with Alex discovering new things – like eating oranges and watching water boil, as her character begins to emerge.  I like the way the writers are taking their new relationship slowly, and it’s clear that they are going to have big problems hiding her new-found, and illegal, independence (Ada’s a robot – I just realized I didn’t mention that).  This is a very enjoyable series.

Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I? #1You would think, if Marvel wanted to give away the first issue of one of their new digital-only series in physical form, they would have done it last week as part of their Free Comic Book Day offerings, but Marvel doesn’t always make a lot of sense.  Sadly, neither does this story, which has Spidey (presumably Peter Parker) suffering some form of amnesia and helping a group of run of the mill bank robbers rob a bank.  There’s not a lot to bring the reader into the story – Spidey is confused, but willing to go along with his companions’ suggestions, but it’s clear that this is a form of mind-control that he will overcome by the end of the series.  The art, by Juan Bobillo, is nice but pretty undercooked, and perhaps because of the nature of the Marvel App and their Infinite line, whatever that really means, there are plenty of empty spaces left on the page that makes this a very quick read.  I didn’t mind this as a free comic, but I wouldn’t pay for the rest of the story.

Cyclops #1 – I’m not a huge fan of the whole thing Brian Michael Bendis has done in bringing the original X-Men into the present, but liked the idea of Past Cyclops getting his own series, especially when I learned that the Starjammers would be featured as regular supporting characters.  Then I found out that Greg Rucka would be writing the series, and I was all in.  Rucka is not the first person I would think of for a book about space pirates, but he’s a terrific writer, and is known for strong characterizations.  Really, I just wanted to see him write Hepzibah.  This is a very good first issue.  Rucka gives most of the Starjammers some space to be introduced to new readers, but wisely focuses the book on Scott’s relationship with his father, Corsair.  They, with Hepzibah, attack a Badoon ship, and at the end of the issue, the two Summers men decide to strike out on their own for a while to get to know each other.  The artist, Russell Dauterman, is not someone I’m familiar with, but since his style lands somewhere between Kevin Maguire and Stuart Immonen, I’m more than happy with his work.  This series has a lot of potential, and I hope that Rucka’s Scott doesn’t get sucked into cross-overs and events before we get a nice solid story out of him.

Fatale #22The third-to-last issue of Fatale examines the history of the Bishop, who has been chasing Josephine over the decades that this story has sprawled across.  It’s a very solid issue, as every issue of Fatale has been.  I’m going to miss this title, but not as much as you might expect, since Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are going to continue collaborating on a new series.  So long as I get a regular fix of their work, I’m happy.

Green Arrow #31 – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino wrap up The Outsider War with this issue, and there are a number of great moments squeezed into the book.  For one, I like to see Katana get as much screen time as she does, as she’s a character that has been mishandled for years, and could be pretty cool.  Green Arrow makes some decisions about the Outsiders and finishes off his conflict with Komodo.  At the same time, Lemire sets up the next arc, featuring Richard Dragon and the Longbow Hunters (!!!).  Sorrentino keeps impressing with each issue, and making this a truly unique and beautiful book.

Hinterkind #7 – I feel perpetually on the fence about this title, but I really want Vertigo to continue as an imprint, so I’ve been supporting it.  Ian Edginton starts his second story arc, which follows three groups of people.  Asa and his captors run into some problems with centaurs, and have to hole up in an old shopping mall.  Prosper is ill, and has no choice but to trust Jon, her captive, to look after her, but they don’t fare much better than the people they are searching for.  We also learn just what’s going on with the ruling family of Sidhe, who are turning on each other.  I like the concept of this series, which is a little bit Fables, a little DMZ, and a touch of Wasteland, and for the most part like Francesco Trifogli’s art, but the dream sequence’s garish colouring really threw me out of the story.

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #2It’s such a shame that Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, is one of those characters who can’t seem to exist apart from his origin.  He’s constantly being brought back to K’un-Lun, the mystical city where he received his powers, and that keeps the character from truly growing.  Kaare Andrews’s art is fantastic in this book, but the story, which once again has Davos striving for power in the mystical city, and has yet another retelling of Danny’s childhood, feels pretty clichéd.  I loved it when Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker revisited this same material, but that series is still too new for us to be returning to the same well.  Still, this is a book that can be bought for the art alone.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #4 – I guess it’s a little predictable that Loki is always going to pull some kind of double-cross in pretty much every issue of his series, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to watch him do it.  I’m leaning more and more towards adding this series to my pull-file list.  Last month’s issue felt like a misstep, with its focus on the ancient past of Asgard, but issues like this one, set in the present day and featuring characters like Sigurd, make me want to stick around.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1 – I’m really happy to be getting regular doses of Miles Morales again, as the nonsense that was the Cataclysm (non-)event has finally finished, making it possible for Miles’s story to focus on his own growth as a character.  Since discovering that he’s Spider-Man, Miles’s father has taken off, and he’s struggling to keep it together.  He’s getting closer and closer to his girlfriend, and wrestling with the idea of telling her his secret, while a pair of Spider-themed villains are going on a thieving spree, and Norman Osborn escapes custody.  There is a surprise at the end of the issue that I hope doesn’t go anywhere, and lots of terrific David Marquez artwork.

Moon Knight #3I’m so glad that Marvel is publishing a book like this.  Warren Ellis has distilled Moon Knight’s character down to a core concept that makes the character work, and is setting him loose in one-off issues that don’t belabour continuity or a larger narrative.  Declan Shalvey is doing incredible work with one of Marvel’s most visually unique characters.  This issue has MK trying to stop some punk ghosts from hurting the people of New York, and to do so, he has to break out his Ancient Egyptian gear and put together a new look.  More comics should be this cool.

Original Sin #1 – If you felt the need to investigate the apparent murder of a cosmic entity, would you appoint the real Nick Fury to the task?  What could be a decent event series hinges on some very strange decisions in terms of character selection, and makes the editorially-mandated nature of this comic hard to ignore.  Someone or something has killed the Watcher in his home on the Moon.  The Avengers are taking point on this problem (mostly because someone has stolen some weapons and technology, in addition to the victim’s eyes), with Fury playing Space Cop.  At the same time, someone else is putting together his or her own team of heroes, and that seems like an effort to tie in to a number of new movies or series (Winter Soldier, Moon Knight, Gamora, Emma Frost, Dr. Strange, and Ant-Man).  Had Jason Aaron been given more freedom to tell this story in a more logical manner, I’m sure that many of these characters wouldn’t be appearing.  Another thing of interest, especially considering that Ant-Man was just a guest of Uatu’s in Matt Fraction’s FF, is that nobody talks about the fact that the Watcher was recently revealed to be an expectant parent.  Anyway, Aaron works in a few good character moments – mostly involving the relative merits of cow and bear meat – and Mike Deodato draws this like every other Mike Deodato comic – on time and kind of interestingly, but without any real pizazz.  I’m a sucker for ‘important’ comics, and Marvel has sprinkled just enough into this book to get me to probably come back for the second issue, but I’ll kind of hate myself for it.

Revival #20The world’s finest rural noir comic continues to sprawl, as Dana gets sent to New York to investigate a possible reviver that has escaped quarantine, while her sister makes a new friend, and her father and boss discovers what’s been going on at the mayor’s house.  Tim Seeley’s story grows with each new issue, as new plotlines and characters are developed.  I really enjoy this book, and am pleased that it’s successful enough to continue working at this pace.

Satellite Sam #8 – Satellite Sam is probably the most HBO-friendly comic ever produced.  The various TV personalities of the LeMonde Network gather for their Christmas party, and take turns taking shots at each other, as Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin continue to chronicle the depths of self-interest and self-promotion that these characters stoop to.  Michael makes a surprising discovery in his father’s archives, and racial politics begin to get added to the series.  Most interestingly, a six-page ‘Tijuana Bible’ was included in my pullfile, apparently sent free to comic stores this week.  It’s as predictably smutty as any Tijuana Bible by Howard Chaykin would be expected to be, but what’s really cool is that it also has an appearance in the main story.

She-Hulk #4 – The fourth issue of this series covers a lot of ground, as Charles Soule has Jen visit San Francisco to have a chat with Matt Murdock, before she heads to Latveria to try to rescue her client Kristoff from his father.  This series has been a lot of fun to read, and with wonderful Javier Pulido art, even more fun to look at.

The Sixth Gun #40The Sixth Gun is one of the most reliably entertaining comics on the stands, but this issue stands out in the entire run for the amount of important things that happen in it.  Drake and Becky are on the run from the Grey Witch’s forces, but when they get caught, their enemies manage to get ahold of all six guns.  As anyone who’s been reading the series knows, this is a big problem, because these guns can be used to destroy the world.  Cullen Bunn has been building to this point for a very long time, and the payoff is incredible.  It feels like there isn’t a lot left to this series, but I don’t mind, because it’s just so damn good.

Swamp Thing #31 – We’ve met the Green, the Red, and the Rot over the last couple of decades of DC comics, but now we also get to know the Grey, as Alec Holland, trapped in a human body, gets to know the avatar of the spore world.  Charles Soule’s run on Swamp Thing has been incredibly good, and I really like how he’s taking the character into new directions that haven’t been explored in this title before.  I think getting rid of Abigail Arcane really opened the title up to new experiences.

Veil #3 – It seemed at first that this series was going to be about the title character, an amnesiac with enhanced strength, but in this issue, she’s barely present, as the story shifts to being more about a conflict between a magic user and some disreputable businessmen.  Oh, and rat fights.  This is not a typical Greg Rucka comic, with many pages being completely silent.  It is a nice showcase for artist Toni Fejzula, who is new to me.  His work feels like a mix of Dan Brereton and Matt Wagner, with a bit of Bernie Mireault tossed in, and it’s pretty interesting.

The Wake #8The Wake is a terrific read.  Scott Snyder’s vision of the post-flood future is incredibly interesting, and Sean Murphy’s inventive art provides innovative and compelling visuals.  Leeward finds herself with the Outliers, outlaws who live on the fringe of humanity, and discovers a little more about the signal from the depths she believes she’s heard.  The problem is that the Arm, the law in this time, comes after her.  Another very good issue of a great series.

The Woods #1 – I was going to consider trade-waiting this new Boom! series, but the first issue looked intriguing enough for me to pick it up right away.  I feel a little like Boom! is filling some of the Vertigo gap these days, with intelligent and original series like The Midas Flesh, and this book caught my eye from its appearance in Previews.  A rather typical suburban high school in Wisconsin is suddenly teleported to a large and wild forest on a distant planet (or moon).  The faculty and most of the student body are frozen with indecision and fear, and so a small group of misfits take it upon themselves to follow the only marker they can find, to see if they can figure out how to get home.  Writer James Tynion IV, best known for his Batman work with Scott Snyder, takes most of the issue to set up the characters and the situation, and he manages to make things work pretty quickly.  Artist Michael Dialynas makes the characters convincingly individualized, and has a lot of fun designing the woods and the creatures that live in it.  This book reminds me a little of Morning Glories, and hope that that comparison continues to pay off in terms of characterization, and not endlessly labyrinthine plotting.

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

 

68 Rule of War #2

All-New X-Factor #7

Amazing Spider-Man #1.1

Black Widow #6

Caliban #2

Dead Letters #2

Detective Comics #31

Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight #8

Magneto #3

Miracleman #5

New Warriors #4

Punisher #5

Real Heroes #2

Red Sonja #9

Savage Wolverine #18

Suicide Risk #13

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #4

Bargain Comics:

All-New Invaders #4Had you told me a while ago that James Robinson and Steve Pugh were making a new series featuring the Invaders, and that I wouldn’t be impressed by it, I wouldn’t have believed you.  This is one of those projects that sounds almost perfect on paper, but in actually, is doing almost nothing for me.  It’s not really horrible, but it’s lacking soul.  Plus, I think that a reunited Invaders team is not right for a story about Kree attempts to control the minds of gods (or Eternals), especially when that upends the galactic status quo just established in Infinity.  Most disappointing is Pugh’s chosen art style, which feels very standard, instead of reminding me of the cooler work he’s done with Animal Man, Shark-Man, or Hotwire.  Disappointing indeed.

Cable and X-Force #19 & Uncanny X-Force #17 – These comics wrap up the two short-lived X-Force series, both of which were disappointments.  I would have thought that with the interesting characters selected to be on the two teams – Forge, Dr. Nemesis, Puck, Spiral – that writers Dennis Hopeless and Sam Humphries could have made these series a little more memorable, but in the end they end up fighting Stryfe and each other, and it’s all a little boring.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the latest X-Force reboot is any better.  Such a drop-off from the height of Rick Remender’s series.

Cataclysm: Ultimates #3 and Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men #2&3Cataclysm was ultimately a let-down, and the non-Spider-Man mini-series were particularly unimpressive, but I’m a bit of a completist at heart, and so I felt the need to read the rest of these.  I didn’t need to though, and I think I’ve already forgotten them.  At least the Ultimates book introduces the new Machine Man who is starring in Ultimate FF now.

Superior Spider-Man #28&29 – It’s always nice to see a writer pulling a bunch of long-running story threads together, and that’s exactly what Dan Slott does with these issues of the Goblin Nation arc, which has the Goblin King systematically taking apart Spider-Man’s life.  The best part is when the Goblin, who knows that Spidey is really Doctor Octopus, makes a mistake in assessing the importance of a peripheral character, who is then given his own chance to shine.  The reason why Slott has made me like this book is because of the strength of the supporting cast, and these issues show just how good he is at using them.

 

That’s everything I read this week.  What did you get?  Tell us about it in the comments!

 

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