The Best Comic of the Week:
The Walking Dead #127 – There were a lot of unexpected surprises in this issue of The Walking Dead. To start, it’s a massive issue, with no increase in price. What a nice contrast to just about any Marvel book, but especially this week’s issue of the Avengers. Story wise, I was surprised to see that the story has jumped forward by about two years, establishing a new status quo for Rick and his family. It would appear that the last two years have been very peaceful, and the community of Alexandria has grown a great deal. The scattered communities are working well together, and the people have a system to guide herds of roamers away from them that is working well. They even have a mill and are baking their own bread. One of the things I’ve always liked most about this series, and books like it, is the way in which it forces the reader to consider how society rebuilds after catastrophe, and now Robert Kirkman is showing us this exact thing. We get new characters, and new situations in this issue, as Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard set up a brighter future for characters they have spent years torturing. This is a Kirkman book though, so I imagine something truly terrible is going to happen next month…
Abe Sapien #12 – With this issue, Mike Mignola and Scott Allie move the series into some different territory. We’re used to seeing Abe explore the new world of the Mignolaverse, but we don’t often see that through other peoples’ eyes, especially the eyes of the disturbed. Some guy rescued a woman from a mangled car when large creatures trashed Gallup New Mexico, and since then he’s been holding her hostage in a remote house. When Abe comes along, he believes him to be the serpent of his particular paradise, and reacts accordingly. Abe is barely a character in this issue, which is narrated by the man and woman, and that makes the comic much darker than this series usually is. Once again, Max Fiumara astounds with his art.
Afterlife With Archie #5 – It’s been while since we last visited the zombie apocalypse version of Riverdale, but with Francesco Francavilla’s artwork looking so nice, it was well worth the wait. This is a very character-driven issue, narrated by Veronica’s butler. It finishes off the first story arc, as the gang decides to strike out for someplace safer, and setting up the rest of this continuing series. I remain very impressed by the writing, and the way in which some semi-familiar characters have been made brand new to me again.
All-New Ultimates #2 – Two issues in, and I’m still finding this series a little hard to follow. Michel Fiffe’s writing style here is similar to his Copra, where he really just throws a ton of stuff at the page to see what sticks. The big fight scene at the opening of the issue, between the team, the Serpent Skulls gang, a rogue Roxxon scientist, and a bunch of cops is very confusing. Likewise, later scenes that check in on a number of characters in random panels were also hard to parse and string together. In the issue’s quieter moments, I enjoyed the character development and interactions, but not enough has been done to explain who the Serpent Skulls are and why they are so powerful. I really want to like this comic, and am excited to see the debut of Ultimate Scourge, but am worried that if things don’t become more coherent quickly, I’m going to be jumping ship.
All-New X-Men #27 – I don’t want to spoil this comic too much, but apparently Professor Xavier and Mystique were much closer (at least once) than any previous issue of the X-Men would have had you believe. Then again, Brian Michael Bendis has never been one to care much about continuity and established characterization, so I guess there’s no point in being surprised. Anyway, the Future Brotherhood attack the base that the Past and Uncanny X-Men are using, and we get a full issue of people being attacked and fighting back. It’s mentioned more than once that some of the Future X-Men are supposed to be dead, and in a Bendis comic, I guess acknowledging a story problem is the same thing as resolving it, as nothing gets explained. In all, a pretty weak issue, as we learn that Future Xavier had a crummy childhood. Shocking stuff.
Avengers #29 – This week’s issue of Avengers settled something for me. You see, it says clearly on the third page that the comic takes place after Original Sin #2, which doesn’t come out until next week (taking a page from DC’s book, I guess), but I in no way found my ability to read the comic hampered by reading it out of sequence. I was worried that I might have to keep buying Original Sin in order to stay current with all the Avengers books, but it doesn’t look that way, especially since this tie-in never even mentioned the Watcher or any of the event shenanigans his death is causing. Instead, this issue reads like a mash-up of Identity Crisis and Civil War, as Captain America figures out that Tony Stark Zatanna’ed him (i.e., wiped his memory of the whole multiversal incursion thing that’s been happening in New Avengers) and they get into a big fight. The issue was padded quite a bit to justify charging an extra dollar for it (I really wish Marvel would stop doing that), but it also felt very rushed, as Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan’s art looked unfinished, and they used a weird colouring effect to try to hide that. If this is how Original Sin is going to go, I feel like I can skip pretty much the entire event. I’m pleased that Jonathan Hickman is finally making moves on stories he’s been setting up for a long time, but I’d like to see something a lot less derivative of recent series than this issue was.
Avengers Undercover #4 – Four issues into this series, and Dennis Hopeless finally solidifies the main concept, as Baron Zemo makes his pitch to the kids. Now, this is not the Zemo of Thunderbolts or of the Masters of Evil, but someone who is more interested in villainy as a lifestyle outside of the strict moral rules of the Marvel Universe; an anarchist more than anything else I guess. Kev Walker is back on the art, and things look a lot better than last issue, while Hopeless continues to embed each issue with some strong character work. This series is shaping up to be a pretty good read.
Bloodshot and HARD Corps #22 – Duffy Boudreau joins Christos Gage as co-writer of this issue, but things don’t miss a beat. The comic opens with Bloodshot triggering Genius’s head-bomb, and then escaping from Project Rising Spirit, which leads to the rest of HARD Corps pursuing him. There’s a nice little twist to this issue, and further development of the characters on this team (despite the fact that the HARD Corps have been nowhere to be seen in Valiant’s solicitations over the last couple of months). Al Barrionuevo’s art looks very nice, but the dark colouring on the comic often makes it very murky and hard to follow.
Captain America #20 – I find myself increasingly disappointed with Rick Remender’s Captain America once again. Half of this comic is given over to Cap being stuck in one of Dr. Mindbubble’s mind bubbles, giving the comic a heightened sense of decompression. On top of that, I find I’m just completely disinterested in the Iron Nail, the main antagonist of this arc. I don’t understand why Remender would go to such lengths to develop the character in the excellent Winter Soldier mini-series that is running right now, and then use him to such ill effect in this comic. I think that Cap might be finding himself downgraded to my ‘bargain comic’ list shortly.
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #10 – This series continues to interest me just enough to stick with it. We discover why things are going so strange for Adam and Rosa, who are inside a bubble reality fueled by their own self-conscious, and some men pay a visit to the reporter who has been helping Adam find the man that was with his father when he died.
The Field #2 – Ed Brisson and Simon Roy’s latest series started off last month appearing to be about a guy in a field in the middle of nowhere getting taken captive by a crazy Christian (named Christian). Now, with this issue, we learn a lot more about what’s going on, as it turns out that our hero is the Source of a lot of things, including some real depravity, and that rural Saskatchewan is not a bucolic as you’ve been led to believe. Brisson is revisiting themes he explored in his great series Comeback, although in a very different way, and Roy is showing that he is able to make a prairie titty bar look as alien as the weirdest thing he’s come up with in Prophet. In short, I am loving this series.
Hellboy in Hell #6 – I know that there are a ton of people who love Hellboy, especially when he’s being drawn by Mike Mignola, but once again, this is a one-off story that goes pretty much nowhere. Hellboy, still wandering around in Hell, has a chat with a couple of guys about the map of Hell, and then gets into it with a character that he’s encountered before. Oh, and he falls from a great height, which is the Hellboy equivalent of Wolverine talking about what he does best in the 80s. These comics are always very pretty, but there’s hardly ever anything new about them.
Jack Kraken – Two things caught my attention with this completely random-seeming one-shot: that the title character looks like a cross between Deadpool and the Checkmate knights, and that Ross Campbell drew it. As it turns out, this one-shot has three short stories, only one of which is drawn by Campbell, but the other artists (writer Tim Seeley and Jim Terry) do quite well as well. Kraken lives in a world where a number of strange creatures co-exist with humans, and he works for the agency that monitors inter-species interactions. He’s an interesting character, and Seeley provides just enough information about him to make the reader want to learn more. I don’t know if these stories were originally in Dark Horse Presents, and if we’ll see more of the character one day, but I do know that I enjoyed this book.
Justice League United #1 – If you’re interested in checking this new series out, you should be forewarned that this is the second issue, as last month’s ‘zero’ issue is really the debut of the book. The heroes who have gathered in Canada fight an elemental creature, while Hawkman fights Lobo on a distant planet. The new Cree character who has gotten a lot of press here does not appear at all in this issue, which is disappointing, but Adam Strange gets his jetpack and ray gun. I like the way Jeff Lemire writes Green Arrow and Animal Man interacting, but this book is not really coalescing into anything just yet. Mike McKone’s a great artist, and the whole thing is not as dark and grim as I generally expect Justice League books to be. I’m on board for the first arc at least.
New Avengers #18 – Yet again, we get a quiet issue of New Avengers, as the various members of the Illuminati prepare for yet another incursion. Sometimes this series feels very repetitive, and like it’s putting in time, but then at other times, Jonathan Hickman writes an issue like this one, and reminds of us why Marvel is giving him so much freedom. He has a real good handle on these characters, especially Black Panther. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he’s the best Panther writer this side of Christopher Priest, and when his Avengers tenure comes to an end, I’d love to see him write a series featuring T’Challa. Valerio Schiti drew this issue, and did a fine job of it, much like his recent Mighty Avengers work.
Secret Avengers #3 – I’m not too sure about this newest iteration of Secret Avengers. I like Ales Kot as a writer, but I feel like he’s trying too hard here to be cute with his plotting, and to try to be a little Grant Morrison in terms of his larger ideas, although they don’t appear to extend much beyond the kind of juvenile thrill of naming the issue’s villain Derrida and having him plan to deconstruct reality. I’m sure that a lot of college-age readers might get a thrill from the literary references, and the amusement of Spider-Woman talking a suicidal superbomb out of destroying reality by offering it gelato, but it doesn’t really add up to a good comic. This book should be a lot better than it actually is at this point.
Starlight #3 – Duke McQueen makes his return to the planet where he was once a hero, to discover that it has started to look a lot like West Virginia, with alien mines covering the landscape, and the people working in complete submission. His heroic instincts take over, and it’s not long before he’s a prisoner, destined to be executed in the morning. I like this book a lot, as it’s one of Mark Millar’s more thoughtful and plausible series. Goran Parlov’s art is wonderful – I love how he channels Moebius in many of his designs for this comic.
Star Wars #17 – Brian Wood reveals that all is not as it has seemed on Arrochar, the planet that is expected to be the new home of the Rebellion. I like how Wood has started to build on Luke’s character, explaining the growth in maturity he showed between the first two films.
Stray Bullets Killers #3 – This month takes us back to a story set before issue #2, as we learn about Virginia Applejack’s time with Desmond, the mobster who likes to pull of peoples’ fingers. Des takes Ginny to his house to babysit his kids, while she is really supposed to be finding his wife’s stash of money. It’s a funny, twisted issue, which is what I’ve always expected out of a Stray Bullets story. David Lapham is always able to works some real sadness into his stories, although this month’s installment doesn’t pack the emotional punch of last month’s. Still, a great read.
The United States of Murder Inc. #1 – I was pretty suspicious of the fact that Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming are starting a new series together, while their Powers Bureau has been languishing in the land of missed shipping dates. Still, these two have a proven record of collaborating together on some very good comics, so I figured I should give this a look. Basically, this series takes place in a world where the mob somehow negotiated with the United States government to gain almost total control over the Territories, a region that encompasses New York City and extends at least as far as Baltimore. Our point of view character is Valentine Gallo, who is ‘made’ in the opening pages of the book. After a wild party, he’s sent on his first mission, to deliver a briefcase to a senator in Washington DC. He completes his mission, but things don’t go as planned, and the book ends with a surprise that I didn’t see coming, but that clarifies the direction that this book will be going in. Bendis is a much better writer on his creator-owned work than he is his Marvel work, so I have the expectation that this series will continue to entertain. At the same time, with the Bendis/Oeming track record being what it is, I’m not sure that this book will be released on any kind of schedule that makes it realistic to not trade-wait.
Wasteland #54 – Now that Michael and his friends have finally found A-Ree-Yass-I, a place that has been hinted about since the series began years ago, it only makes sense that Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten would spend most of the issue giving us a flashback to our near future, where ecological collapse is nigh, and people are finally prepared to pay attention to it, even if it’s too late to do anything about it. I have loved this series since it began, and have been very pleased to see Christopher Mitten return to it for its conclusion. I especially like the fact that all remaining questions are being answered as it approaches the end. When this series gets put into a nice big omnibus edition, I urge anyone who hasn’t been reading it to dive in and get the whole story.
Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4 (or More):
All-New Ghost Rider #3
Astro City #12
Captain Marvel #3
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1
Fantastic Four #4
Iron Man #25
All-New X-Factor #3 – I’m really surprised that this series isn’t working better for me, but I find that Peter David’s new direction to be pretty uninteresting. It’s not really a surprise that the corporation funding the team is up to no good – that always happens in comics – but I’m finding it very hard to care about the characters, especially Polaris in this iteration. David writes the best Quicksilver of all time, but he’s not giving the character enough screen time. I usually like Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art, but this stuff looks hella rushed and is hard to follow in places.
Iron Man #22&23.NOW – Kerion Gillen’s Iron Man is really not bad at all. In these issues, Tony decides to give up on rebuilding the Mandarin’s city (at least, he gives up on being the public face of it), and focuses his attention on the fact that Malekith, the Dark Elf, is now trying to gather the rings. This is a pretty solid comic.
Nova #14 – I think that artist David Baldeon’s style fits this book better than the regular artist’s, as Sam and Beta Ray Bill head off to Knowhere to track down the space pirate that Sam mistakenly helped earlier. Big points to writer Gerry Duggan for bringing Cosmo back to the Marvel Universe – he was one of many great characters from Guardians of the Galaxy that aren’t being used right now and should be.
Savage Wolverine #14.NOW&15 – If people think that Logan is busy these days, being an X-Man, an Avenger, and doing all the other stuff he’s always doing, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that in the 30s he was hanging out with small-time booze runners that ran afoul of the Chicago mob scene, should it? Richard Isanove has put together this story, both writing and drawing it, but aside from the use of the claws and the healing factor, there is nothing here that is actually about Logan. The character is pretty much a cipher, and nothing is being added to his ‘mythos’ (to use a word I hate) by this story. In that sense, it’s pretty, but disappointing.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #10&11 – The secondary Spider-title continues to be entertaining, and to support the main book without being very essential to it. In the first issue, Spidey-Ock, Daredevil, and the Punisher try to save Spider-Island from the Goblin Nation troopers. The second issue tells a lengthy flashback to a time when Octavius teamed up with Norman Osborn. Both issues are good reads, and while I’ve never been a huge fan of the Ron Frenz/Sal Buscema style, I enjoyed seeing them collaborate on the flashback.
X-Men Legacy #300 – I love the concept behind this issue, which introduces an X-Men who’s been on the team for years, but because of his mutant ability to go unnoticed, has never actually been seen or remembered by anyone (outside of Professor Xavier). When a young woman tries to break into the Jean Grey School, he tries to help her out of one of the building’s traps, and tells her a couple of stories about himself, which also return to earlier eras in this series’s history, namely Age of X (in a sequence written by Mike Carey), and during Christos Gage’s time on the book. The framing sequence, written by Simon Spurrier is pretty touching and philosophical. I feel like there’s a place for more thoughtful mutant books like this, but I guess sales have proven me wrong.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
The Boys Vol. 1: The Name of the Game – I’ve never read any of The Boys before this, but it has gotten a lot of love on this website, and I thought it might be time to check it out. The reason why I stayed clear of it is because I don’t really love gross-out shock-humour Garth Ennis, much preferring his more intelligent war comics. The series follows a group of quasi-governmental agents who police the superhuman community covertly, and of course, the superhumans in Ennis’s world are a depraved and twisted bunch. I was definitely entertained by this comic, and love Darick Robertson’s art, but I’m not sure I’d come back for the second volume. I feel like I’ve read all of this before…
by Jonathan Dalton
One of my favourite things about TCAF is discovering new cartoonists, and that’s what happened when I happened upon Jonathan Dalton’s table. Dalton has been in the game for a while, making comics in British Columbia, but this was the first I’d heard of him.
The cover to his Lords of Death and Life jumped out at me, as I love historical comics, especially when they are set in time periods that don’t get a lot of play usually. This story takes place in pre-Contact Central America, and is both a political and supernatural thriller.
Mol Kupul lives a quiet life in a small village, but his dreams send him to the city of Xicalango, where he becomes a pawn in the growing unrest between the city’s Maian and Aztec populations. It seems that Mol has gained some superhuman abilities, and people from both cultures, trying to sow unrest, want him to work for their cause.
Dalton’s story is clearly very well-researched and alive with tons of little details about the time period, as well as strong character development. Dalton’s art reminds me a little of Phillip Bond, and is as detailed as the story. I’m really glad I picked this little book up, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Sam Humphries’s book Sacrifice.
So that’s everything I read in the last week. What did you read? Let us know in the comments below.
Tags: Marvel NOW! (All-New Marvel Now!), Original Sin, The Walking Dead, The Weekly Round-Up