The Weekly Round-Up #233 With The Bunker, BPRD, Invincible, MPH, Saga, Unity, X-O Manowar & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Bunker #4This series just keeps getting more and more interesting with each issue.  The main characters of this title have been given access to a wealth of information about their futures, with the suggestion that they are responsible for great ecological destruction, although not all of them necessarily believe it.  Grady, who has the central role, is destined to become President, largely because of his actions in the wake of a terrorist bombing that happened last issue.  This one deals with some of the immediate ramifications of that bombing, and is an interesting character study looking at a couple of characters who have not gotten a lot of screen time so far.  I really like the way Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari and unwinding their story so slowly, and the way they are throwing curves at us with almost every issue.

Quick Takes:

American Vampire: Second Cycle #3 – I’m not sure that I’m as into American Vampire as I used to be.  I definitely felt some drop-off as the original series continued, but hoped that after a fallow period, Scott Snyder would come back with some better stuff.  What made the earliest issues of this series so good was the level of character development, and the quality of the interactions, and not just between Pearl and Skinner or Henry, but with whoever was introduced to the book.  Now, as Pearl is getting set to fight the Gray Trader, and Skinner returns to her life, this is reading more like a standard horror movie set up (don’t go into the field!).  I expect more.

Avengers World #6I cannot believe the glacial pace of this series, as Hyperion attacks the newly-upgraded AIM Island, and also flashes back to a chat he had with Thor.  I like that Jonathan Hickman is using this series to help develop the newer members of the team, but it bothers me that the larger story is barely moving forward, and that I still don’t know how this stuff relates to what’s going on in his other two Avengers titles.

BPRD Hell on Earth #119 – Liz Sherman has really received some power upgrades lately, as the BPRD team finish their mission into New York, and try to make their way off the island with as many of their people staying alive as possible.  This series has been wonderful lately, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Daredevil #3 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee show DD how difficult it can be to team up with crazed D-list heroes, as he and the Shroud try to deal with San Francisco’s Owl problem.  Always a delight, this book.

East of West #12 – This entire issue takes place in a meeting between the various heads of state that run the nations in what we would today recognize as the United States.  Each person sitting around the table has their own agenda, and Jonathan Hickman lets the meeting play out without revealing too much.  Nick Dragotta’s art and layout choice had me thinking of Keith Giffen’s work on the excellent 5YL version of Legion of Super-Heroes.  It’s all nine-panel grids and facial close ups, until something big happens.  This is an always inventive series, and stands as a strong contrast to what Hickman is attempting to do with Avengers World (see above).  This story is just as sweeping, but here it’s done correctly.

Elektra #2I really can’t make up my mind about this series.  On the one hand, Mike Del Mundo’s art is stunning, but on the other, I’m not getting any sense of Elektra as a character here.  This book, with its story about a hunt for a legendary assassin, could just as easily star the Black Widow with only cosmetic changes.  At the same time, though, Scalphunter has a gun that, when it fires, makes a noise like “YOLO.”  That was probably worth the price of admission.  I’d just like to see some actual character development take place for Elektra, something that hasn’t happened since Frank Miller stopped writing her.

Ghosted #10 – Ghosted is one of those perfectly fine Image books.  It’s not breaking any kind of new ground, but it’s also pretty decent, if not really memorable.  It’s a B-list Vertigo book, kind of like FBP and Hinterkind, in that it’s very easy to get in the habit of reading, without ever actually impressing.  Damning with faint praise, I know.

Invincible #111 – There’s a joke in the letters page about how Robert Kirkman, the writer of The Walking Dead, has taken over the writing chores for this series as of this issue (for people who don’t know, Kirkman has always written this book), and it’s funny, because this month, it’s very true.  Mark goes to confront Robot over his plans to take over the Earth, and Robot fights back rather viciously.  There are important deaths, important amputations, and lots of blood in this issue, which really does set up some big changes for the series.  If you love superhero books, but would like to read one where the stakes really do matter, this is the series for you.

Mercenary Sea #4This is one of my favourite new Image series, and I’m pleased to see that I’m still enjoying it as much now as I was with the first issue.  Captain Jack’s crew runs into some problems when trying to save a British spy from the Japanese military, and are soon hooking up with the Chinese Resistance.  It’s another exciting book, which, thanks to Mathew Reynolds’s unique art, looks great.

Mind the Gap #17 – It’s been a long time since there was an issue of this series out, but Jim McCann brings us up to speed in a hurry, giving an awake and aware Elle more screen time than she’s had since the first issue.  She’s in the care of Regan, who knows a lot about the whole Jairus Project, but we as readers are still being left in the dark.  It’s an interesting issue, with a good cliffhanger ending that has me looking forward to the next comic.

MPH #1 – Mark Millar is very good at writing first issues.  He creates interesting worlds, and spends his first issues to build up his main characters wonderfully.  MPH is about a poor kid in Detroit who dreams big.  He’s always bought into the self-improvement industry, banking his meager drug running wages so that he and his girl can invest in real estate and live the mainstream dream he’s only seen on TV.  Of course, that only lasts until his first bust, and we get to watch as this ever-positive kid starts to fall apart.  That’s where MPH, a drug that appears to give people super-speed, enters the story.  Duncan Fegredo’s art looks wonderful, although the colouring shifts rather abruptly a few pages into the book, moving from the more burnished digital look that we’re used to these days, to a more traditional, brighter approach.  I’m definitely interested by this debut, and look forward to the next issue.

Original Sin #2I don’t think anyone who has read Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider run will be surprised by the revelation of the main villain of this rather ridiculous event.  A widely ranged smattering of Marvel heroes are trying to track down the Watcher’s murderer, while another group, working for a still-secret leader, are doing the same thing.  There’s a lot of things that don’t make sense here, from the simple (Daredevil still living in NYC, Emma Frost still having telepathic abilities) to the bizarre (Punisher performs an extra-dimensional postmortem on a giant demon creature), but the main thing I don’t get yet is why anyone should care.  I’m enough of a stereotypical comics purchaser to be curious about getting the next issue, but I’m not sure why I’d want to, because nothing about this series has impressed or intrigued me yet.

Powers Bureau #10 – Sometimes, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming like to put a couple issues of Powers out rather close together, to give their fans the impression that they are still working on the book, and consider it a viable property.  It’s always crazy fun, but I don’t think as many people are falling for it as there used to be.

Prophet #44 – Once again, Brandon Graham gives us a bit of a done-in-one story, this time featuring one of the Earth Mothers, who travels to find out why another Mother has gone silent.  As has been increasingly the case with this title, this story is only a very small piece of a much larger story – the scale of this book makes the work that Jonathan Hickman is doing on East of West seem claustrophobic.  I’m not sure how this story links with what is to come in this series, but as often happens with this book, I am just happy to be along for the ride.  Dave Taylor draws this issue, which gives it a different, yet still very nice, look from what we’re used to.

Saga #19A new arc of Saga is always a reason for excitement, as Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples jump up a few years from the last arc (how long do Robot pregnancies last anyway?), and we see that our favourite family is living in secret on Gardenia, where Alanna is (poorly) making a living in the soap opera circuit, and where Marko is finding life as a househusband a little constricting.  As always, this comic is nicely written, and has great art, and while not a whole lot happens, it does a good job of establishing a new status quo (before suggesting that everything is going to change very soon).

Uncanny X-Men #21 – We’re getting a little closer to learning who it is that has been messing with Scott Summers and his team, as they are made to attack the Jean Grey school, and then so is a SHIELD helicarrier.  This is a decent issue, especially for a Brian Michael Bendis book, as stuff actually happens.  The best scenes feature Magneto in Madripoor; I’ve missed him since he left this book to be in his own.  Chris Bachalo always makes this comic look good.

Undertow #4 – Undertow is a pretty cool comic, although this issue feels a little too much like one of those middle of the arc books, where the story progresses, but not all that much.  Redum is having a hard time with the first amphibian Atlantean, while his rescue party comes under attack from some Atlanteans sent to kill him.  This is a pretty realized world, and it’s interesting to read about.

Unity #7I often feel like Matt Kindt’s mainstream comics writing is a distant second, quality wise, to his creator-owned work on books like Mind MGMT, and while his Unity has been okay, over the last two issues, he’s been playing with a concept that would fit perfectly in his own book.  Dr. Silk has created a mind control virus that is transmitted virally and visually, and now the team is scrambling around the globe to contain it.  It’s a cool idea, and helps establish the usefulness of this team, just before everything gets subsumed into the Armor Hunters event.

Velvet #5 – From the beginning of this series, we’ve kind of taken it on faith that Velvet Templeton, our heroine, used to be a pretty spectacular spy, although we’ve not seen a whole lot of her past.  That changes with this issue, as Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting take us back to the time when she was first chosen to work for Britain’s super-secret agency.  We also learn a few things about her husband, and why she’s not married anymore.  This has been a pretty exciting and interesting series right from the jump, and I like that the story is getting fleshed out a lot more.  The next story arc promises to be pretty exciting.

Wolverine and the X-Men #4 – Four issues in, and I’m finally seeing some hope for this title.  Quentin Quire, freaked out by the plans of Edan Younge and his people (which until this point was not exactly clear) goes to Cyclops for help, while Wolverine confronts Younge.  I’m still not understanding everything that’s happening at the Jean Grey School – I know that the Askani future guy is looking for Genesis, but the fight between Hellion, Rockslide, and a few others doesn’t make sense to me.  Still, I’m hoping that Jason Latour is settling into his role as writer for this series, and that future issues will continue to improve.

Wonder Woman #31Brian Azzarello gives our heroes a bit of a breather (aside from having to deal with rearranging Amazonian culture), but sticks it to some of the supporting cast gods, as the dead return to walk the Earth, and Hermes and Dionysus travel to Hell.  This is a book I’m really going to miss when Azzarello and his artists leave.

X-Men #14 – Brian Wood makes this new team official in this issue, and hopefully removes the on-going squabbling between Rachel Grey and Storm, which has been pretty uncharacteristic for both of them.  The team is facing the Future, who is apparently Shogo’s father, and they aren’t doing a good job of it, while Hellion and his friends continue to fight in Psylocke’s Danger Room program.  Something still feels a little off about this series, but my hope is that things will continue to improve.

X-O Manowar #25 – This anniversary issue was a disappointment.  While I wouldn’t begrudge a company like Valiant the right to celebrate a milestone issue, especially in their flagship title, I would have liked something more substantial for my $5.  The book opens with a very short story drawn by Bryan Hitch about Aric looking for and talking to the remains of his uncle.  Most of the comic is given over to an Armor Hunters story, introducing the characters a little, and showing them on their way to Earth to hunt Aric’s armor.  This is fine, but leaves more questions than it answers (like why Primary, the leader, looks so much like a Manhunter from DC’s Millennium event).  The rest of the book is filled with pin-ups, data pages, and odd little strips.  I’d have liked a lot more than that.

Zero #8Plans are in motion, as Sara Cooke, Edward Zero’s supervisor’s supervisor, comes under attack, and Zero shows up to help out.  Ales Kot is giving his readers barely anything to work with in this book, and that keeps us guessing throughout.  The artist of the month is Jorge Coelho, who I haven’t seen since the excellent Forgetless a few years back.  This is a very interesting series.

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

All-New Doop #2

All-New X-Factor #8

Amazing Spider-Man #2

Amazing X-Men #7

Flash Gordon #2

Magneto #4

Magnus Robot Fighter #2

Miracleman #6

Nova #17

Savage Wolverine #19

Solar Man of the Atom #2

Thor God of Thunder #22

Ultimate FF #2

Unwritten Vol. 2 Apocalypse #5

Bargain Comics:

A+X #17It’s not all that hard to understand why this series has been canceled.  The cover story here features a team-up between Iron Man and Broo, the Brood student at the Jean Grey School.  It’s a cute story, but I’m not surprised that is hasn’t set the comic shelves ablaze.

Black Widow #2-5 – Phil Noto’s art in this series is certainly beautiful, but I’m just not feeling Nathan Edmondson’s story.  Natasha is on a few different missions for money, before she gets sucked into a very pear-shaped case for SHIELD.  There are a few things that don’t work for me here – first, Natasha doesn’t seem like the type to ever be money-hungry, even if she is using her funds for good deeds.  Secondly, it seems that she no longer has her stingers, as there are a number of instances where they would come in handy, and she never once uses them.  Also, Edmondson’s portrayal of her as being very aware of her errors, and perhaps a little insecure, does not fit with how the character has been established over the last few decades.

Fairest #21&22 – The ‘Of Mice and Men’ arc, featuring Cinderella, was originally supposed to be written by Chris Roberson, who has written the other Cinderella mini-series, but after he badmouthed DC online, he was replaced by Marc Andreyko, who seems to be making his career by replacing writers at the last minute these days (i.e., Batwoman).  Even though he’s joined by regular Cinderella artist Shawn McManus, something feels a little off about these issues, which have Cindy revisiting the Fairy Godmother.  Like a lot of the Fables books these days, this is good, without being particularly great or exciting.

Indestructible Hulk #19.INH & 20Mark Waid finishes off his first Hulk series (it got rebooted immediately after issue 20 with a new ‘Indestructible-less’ title) in these two issues, which comprise a pretty weak tie-in to the weakest of tie-in events (Inhumanity), and with Banner getting fired from SHIELD.  It’s interesting to me that Jonathan Hickman has been making very good use of Banner over in the Avengers books, but none of that is reflected here, especially considering the rather extreme ending of issue 20.  I don’t understand how Waid can be so good on Daredevil, but his Hulk is so mediocre.  I imagine things get even worse with Mark Bagley drawing the new series – I intend to pass on it completely.

Infinity: The Hunt #4 – This ended up being the epitome of the event cross-over that didn’t really matter on any level, but at the same time, it featured a number of characters, new and old, that were pretty likeable.  The Marvel Universe has a lot of teen characters, and while we have Wolverine and the X-Men, New Warriors, and Avengers Undercover, that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for more.

Inhumanity: The Awakening #1 – But then the same writer brings some of the same kids into the Inhumanity non-event, and things fall apart pretty quickly, mostly because of the very annoying use of social media throughout the comic.  There are supposed Twitter comments running across the top of each page, and a new Inhuman uses her Instagram feed to narrate her change (because lots of teenage girls who wake up in a cocoon think that the first thing they should do when they get out is take photos of themselves washing goo off).  I’d love to see more of the Avengers Academy kids, but this didn’t do it for me.

Kings Watch #3&4I care very little for the King Features characters – the Phantom, Mandrake, and Flash Gordon, but I do like Jeff Parker’s writing, and am impressed with the way in which he’s plausibly brought together such a disparate group.  Ming the Merciless is beginning to invade Earth, and these heroes (with their close associates) are the only ones who can stop him.  This works surprisingly well.

Red Sonja #6&7 – These two issues finish Gail Simone’s first arc with the character, and launch the second.  I don’t think I loved the first arc very much, which was a complicated story about revenge, but the beginning of the second arc is much better, feeling very Gail Simone.  Sonja is trying to find a great chef, who is being held captive by a tribe of swamp-dwelling cannibals.  Simone’s twisted sense of humour is evident throughout, and it makes a good read.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 10 – For a little while there, I thought we were going to finally learn the identity of the Friend, the leader of a cult that is more or less running Japan, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.  This series continues to amaze me with its depth and richness, as Naoki Urasawa continues to introduce new plot elements in a way that feels natural and organic.

 

That’s everything I read this week.  What about you?  Let us know!

 

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