The Weekly Round-Up #234 With Trees, Chew / Revival, Conan The Avenger, Harbinger, Mind MGMT, Serenity Firefly, Sex, Star Wars & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Trees #1I love those periodic moments in the cycle of life that is comics when Warren Ellis returns in a big way to show people how this medium is done.  He’s been garnering a lot of attention with his brilliant take on Moon Knight at Marvel, but I’m always going to be happier with a creator-owned book, and so was very excited to hear about Trees, his new Image series being drawn by Jason Howard.  In Ellis’s near future, gigantic alien spaceships, shaped like massive columns, have landed on the Earth, but have done very little since, except for periodically dumping some kind of toxic waste.  They have not made any contact with humanity, which has taken to referring to them as ‘trees’.  The book introduces us to a number of different people all over the world – there are Brazilian favela dwellers, a man who wishes to be the next mayor of New York, a wannabe Chinese artist, and some polar scientists.  The only common thread to their stories is that they all live in the shadows of these trees, and their lives seem heavily influenced by them.  Ellis is playing the long game with this book, and mostly just uses this issue to introduce the complexities of this world.  Howard is an interesting choice of artist.  His previous work has included Robert Kirkman’s Super Dinosaur, and I’ve always thought of him as a more kid-friendly artist.  He shows a pretty good range in this issue, from manga-influenced characters to some very interesting establishing shots.  I don’t know if Ellis is going to tie together all of the different characters’ storylines or if this book is going to be just about exploring this odd vision, but I’m definitely already hooked on whatever is going to come next.

Quick Takes:

Aquaman #31My only DC purchase this week is of a book that I don’t regularly buy.  I like Jeff Parker’s writing a great deal, but his first issue of Aquaman wasn’t enough to wow me, but with a mini-crossover with Swamp Thing, one of the few New 52 books I buy, I thought it was time to check back in and see how Parker is doing.  The main story, that has Arthur searching for Swampy because of a trick he pulled with some algae a while back in his own book is good, in that ‘first the heroes must fight before they can get along’ kind of way.  I was also somewhat drawn in to the B-story, which has Mera visiting the Atlantean equivalent of a Red State, where she is not particularly liked.  Paul Pelletier’s art is as capable as it always is, and I’m thinking I might just give the next issue a shot.

Avengers #30 – The second Original Sin tie-in still has nothing to do with that event that I can discern, as Captain America, Iron Man, and a few more Avengers are tossed forward in time by the broken Time Gem, where they find a familiar face waiting to pass on some important information (and a bit of a beat-down).  The time travelling aspects of this story are losing me, but I trust Jonathan Hickman to have spent more than enough time making sure things work that I’m not going to think about it too much.  Like last issue, this one looks like artists Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan were not given a lot of lead time to draw the book properly.

Chew/Revival #1These are two series that you would never expect to have cross over with each other, but both titles’ creative teams put together stories where the world of psychically-powered food agents can plausibly interact with the residents of a town where the dead have come back to life.  The tones of the books are very different, as so the John Layman/Rob Guillory half of the book is funny and irreverent, while the Tim Seeley/Mike Norton half is pretty dark.  In all, a very successful cross-over that showed each series in a new light.

Conan the Avenger #2 – Fred Van Lente and Brian Ching’s debut issue kept my interest enough to bring me back for another issue, and now I’m afraid that I’m going to continue buying this series, even though I only ever began to buy Conan because of Brian Wood.  Van Lente has the barbarian working with a witch hunter to solve different problems, and it looks like the partnership might last for a while.

Dead Body Road #6 – This has been a pretty cool action movie mini-series, written by Justin Jordan and drawn by the brilliant Matteo Scalera.  Things wrap up very well with this final issue, as some characters get what they’ve been looking for in this revenge-fueled tale, while a lot more just find the grave.  Scalera is a very kinetic artist, and his work on this series has been top-notch.  I don’t remember ever having seen more successful car chases in comics before.

Deadly Class #5Wes Craig is one incredible artist.  In this issue, he shows Marcus help his friend kill his father, deal with casino security in Vegas, almost get laid, and run from a jilted gangster boyfriend, all well tripping on an almost lethal dose of LSD.  Craig captures the anxiety and psychedelia of the moment perfectly, while Rick Remender uses this as a perfect opportunity to help build on Marcus’s psychological profile.  This was a particularly captivating issue of a series that has been impressive since it started.

Elephantmen #57 – I was really pleasantly surprised by the new issue of Elephantmen, which was co-written by usual series writer Richard Starkings and the immensely talented (but nowhere near prolific enough) Marian Churchland.  The book was drawn by Marley Zarcone, an up-and-coming artist whose work I’ve enjoyed the last few years, and it is another story about Yvette, the transgenic-killing human from the war, who has frequently shown up in flashback throughout this series.  What sets this issue apart is the type of story it tells.  Young Agathe, who grows up to be an important bit-player in this series, is at home in Norway with her mother and two brothers, when a local boy, currently in the militia, asks the family to help nurse the injured Yvette back to health.  She becomes an object of fascination for the young girl, who dreams of fighting, just like her older brother is.  Curiously, Churchland and Zarcone chose to strip away all of the science fiction trappings of this story (save for a dead Elephantmen), telling a story that could just as easily have been set during the Second World War (there is no technology on view at all in this issue).  It’s a nice quiet comic, full of big moments in a young girl’s life, and very different from what usually takes place in this excellent series.

The Fuse #4I am really enjoying this police procedural series set on a space station.  Klem and Dietrich continue to investigate the death of a pair of cablers (homeless transients) with ties to the Mayor.  Now his chief of security has turned up dead, apparently from a self-inflicted wound, but that would be too easy.  Antony Johnston is one of the best world-builders in comics, and this series exemplifies the careful attention to detail that he is known for.  Also, this is my favourite series from artist Justin Greenwood – he’s getting quite good.

Harbinger #23 – Joshua Dysart has been building to this issue for a long time, as the Renegades make their move on the Harada Foundation, employing a couple layers of subterfuge, and of course Toyo Harada is not too happy about it.  One of the main characters doesn’t make it out of this book, and the death is handled perfectly, as Dysart shows the strength of the impact that it has on the other characters, while positioning Peter and Harada for a pretty big showdown.  This is a very well-written book.

Iron Patriot #3 – I really don’t get where Ales Kot is going with this book.  Jim Rhodes is out of his armor for the whole issue, while he is attacked, and then saved by a mysterious armored figure, and as his father and niece are held captive by a pair of guys posing as cops.  This whole thing feels pretty generic and is doing nothing to grab or keep my interest.

The Massive #23Sahara is one of the best arcs of The Massive so far.  The story spotlights Mary, who has left Ninth Wave and is now working on a convoy of large water tankers driving through a desert to Morocco.  We keep learning more about Mary, who is apparently way older than we were led to believe, as she exerts strength in a system that doesn’t believe women are capable of such a thing.  Danijel Zezelj is drawing this arc, and I can’t think of another artist who could do a better job of portraying the dust-choked desert.

The Midas Flesh #6 – Ryan North is playing with some pretty big events in this series that posits how the King Midas legend would have really worked.  Captain Joey and her crew have lost control of the Flesh, and are now scrambling to retrieve it, and to put a stop to the Federation and its totalitarian plans.  This series is always exciting, and always full of great character work.  It looks and feels like an all-ages comic, but then deals with some pretty serious themes, and is one of those rare examples of science fiction done properly.  The remaining two issues of this series promise a lot of excitement.

Mighty Avengers #10 – I continue to have a lot of problems with this series.  I really want to like it, but ten issues in, and the original concept for this book (that Luke Cage runs a team that helps the common person with their problems) only gets lip-service once again, while Blade gets attacked by were-chickens (seriously), Cage and Falcon fight a Mindless One, and Blue Marvel hangs out on the Moon.  Now, I do appreciate that some part of the Original Sin event finally acknowledges the Watcher’s girlfriend and child, but I’m not sure this is the right place for that.  Writer Al Ewing is keeping a few too many balls in the air on this book, but he is a talented character writer, and that usually works for me.  I just don’t know where this title is going, and am finding the reliance on editorially-driven events to be a distraction.  Of course, my biggest issue with this comic is Greg Land’s artwork.  The issues he doesn’t draw just read so much better than the ones he is involved with.

Mind MGMT #22As the Magician’s story continues, we are introduced to some of the earliest agents of Mind MGMT, including the Pipe Girl, who is an illegitimate child of Marcel Duchamp’s.  That right there is enough of a reason for me to love this comic forever, but Matt Kindt continues to give more reasons with every page.  It seems that Meru and Lyme’s efforts to stop the Eraser are just driving more ex-agents towards her, as the inevitable conflict gets closer and closer to happening.

Ms. Marvel #4 – I am loving this book, but I feel like G. Willow Wilson made a misstep with the writing that made the entire issue a little hard to swallow.  Last issue, Kamala stopped what she thought was a robbery at her friend’s convenience store, and in the process, kind of trashed the place and got injured.  When the cops arrive this issue, she reverts to her usual form, hiding her identity with a sleep mask.  The cop accepts that this young girl is a superhero, and just leaves, not taking any official statements, or asking her real identity.  Even in the Marvel Universe, where powered events are normal, I don’t think this situation would have played out that way.  Aside from that scene, the rest of the issue is excellent, as Kamala puts together her costume (out of a burkini, which made me laugh) and heads out on her first real mission.  Adrian Alphona’s art is gorgeous, and the character work is great.

Pariah #4The Vitros, trapped on a space station, continue to experience problems with Earth, which has now started lobbing nuclear missiles at them, despite the fact that they are unable to lock on to the station properly.  This is another issue where the kids have to figure out some kind of scientific solution in time to save themselves from destruction.  I enjoy this type of thing, but they need to switch things up more often.  I do like the implications of what happens at the end of the book.

Serenity Firefly Class 03-K64: Leaves on the Wind #5 – We are almost at the end of this first new Serenity arc, and Zack Whedon just keeps raising the stakes.  The crew’s attack on the facility where River was experimented on doesn’t go exactly as planned, and the New Resistance learn a few things about their organizational structure that look problematic for them moving forward.  This continues to be a very entertaining read, even if all the plot reduces the amount of space for Whedonesque character moments.

Sex #13 – I often find that I get a little worn out by a Joe Casey book after a while (hence the reason I’m not following The Bounce), but Sex just keeps getting better, as the various supporting cast members continue to steal the show.  Annabelle is trying to help out one of her workers, and that leads to a run-in with the Breaks’s best fighter, while poor Elliot finds he has more help to provide the Japanese businessmen than he ever expected.  Oh, and Dolph and Cha-Cha get dirty on the dancefloor.  I’ve seen artist Piotr Kowalski’s name showing up in solicitations for other books, and I hope that doesn’t lead to changes for this book, because it’s fantastic just the way it is.

Sheltered #9Things just keep getting crazier at Safe Haven, as the kids come to grips with what they’ve done, while the man who has escaped from the Survivalist camp comes across the kids keeping watch for him at the only neighbour’s house.  Ed Brisson’s story of savage children who have killed their parents in preparation for a coming disaster is an incredibly smart read, and is often quite chilling.  He and artist Johnnie Christmas are doing some great work on this book.

Skullkickers #27 – And now it just seems like Jim Zubkavich is determined to work as many bad movie and TV show cliches as possible into this story, as most of our heroes work to rescue Original Rolf from the dwarves.  What makes this book work so well is just how aware the writer (and the narrator) is of the cheesiness, lending things a slightly post-modern air.  Oh, and making them funny as hell.

Southern Bastards #2 – Jason Aaron continues to work his magic, portraying a slightly-off Southern town where everyone appears to be under the thumb of Coach Boss, an as-yet mysterious figure.  Earl, our hero, is in a rush to get out of town, yet he finds himself increasingly intrigued by what’s going on in the town.  There is a slightly questionable moment with some lightning, but I’m happy to see that Aaron is sticking closer to Scalped territory than he is Wolverine and the X-Men.  Jason Latour’s art looks great too.

Sovereign #3Where the first two issues of this series were split into three separate strands, now that all those stories have collided, the story is told more traditionally, as everybody converges on the palace, just in time to see the dead king return to a semblance of life.  Chris Roberson’s world building is on par with Antony Johnston’s in this fantasy series.  I’m really enjoying Paul Maybury’s art on this book, which is very reminiscent of Paul Pope’s.

Star Wars Legacy #15 – This issue finally sheds a lot of light on Ania Solo’s past, as we learn just who the bounty hunter that has been hunting her is, and how they are connected to one another.  With only a few issues of this excellent series remaining, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are kind of scrabbling to wrap everything up, and that means that it’s time for the Sith Lord to show up again.

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #2 – Matt Kindt is the master of the slightly strange spy comic, and is therefore the perfect choice for this espionage-focused mini-series.  This issue has Princess Leia working as the contact for a Twi’lek spy, and having to take over her mission when the spy’s cover is blown.  Kindt is filling this book with the same sense of adventure from the movies, and is so far keeping a lot of secrets, as there is no direct link between this issue and the last one.  It’s a good read.

Thief of Thieves #21I hadn’t realized that Andy Diggle is now writing this comic on his own, without credited guidance by Robert Kirkman.  That transition was handled seamlessly, as Conrad continues to deal with the repercussions of pissing off some very powerful and dangerous people.  His family pays a hefty price this issue, which also gives us the backstory of Lola, the man who forced Conrad back to work.  This is always an engaging read, although I miss Conrad’s assistant when she’s not in an issue.

Uncanny Avengers #20 – Rick Remender is moving ever closer to wrapping up this long-running story (I assume), as Alex Summers and his new allies fight the X-Men and X-Force to try to bring the Earth (and Rogue) back.  This being comics, it’s easy to know that everything will make it back to the way it was, so a lot of the drama is negated.  Still, Daniel Acuna makes this stuff look interesting.

Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #4 – I’ve been enjoying the fact that the true hero of this comic has been SHIELD agent Ran Shen, who is currently causing problems for Captain America, and that the Winter Soldier, the titular character, has been little more than a plot device.  That changes a little in this issue, as a Hydra agent with psychic abilities disrupts the Soldier’s programming, allowing the real Bucky Barnes to appear for a little while.  This has been an exciting story, and I look forward to seeing how it concludes.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

All-New Invaders #5

All-Star Western #31

Batman #31

Brass Sun #1

Deadpool #29

Doctor Spektor Man of the Occult #1

Fantastic Four #5

Guardians of the Galaxy #15

Iron Man #26

Rover Red Charlie #6

Shadowman End Times #2

The Star Wars #8

Thanos Annual #1

Wolverine #7

Bargain Comics:

Legends of the Dark Knight 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 -Most of this meaty prestige-format book is taken up by a story written by Dan Mishkin and drawn by Tom Mandrake.  It’s a bit of a thrill seeing Mandrake draw Batman again, and this is a pretty interesting and involved story involving gentrification, the role of the Catholic Church in blighted neighbourhoods, and Two-Face.  I don’t know why cops opened fire at their first sight of Batman, but other than that, this was a solid story.  The second story, by Jim Zubkavich and Neil Googe, is amusing, but I find few characters as tiresome as Harely Quinn, especially in her pre-New 52 iteration.  I’d rather read another issue of Zubkavich’s Skullkickers…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

New X-Men: Ultimate Collection Volume 1

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Scriver, Igor Kordey, Leinil Francis Yu, Tom Derenick, Tim Townsend, Mark Morales, Prentis Rollins, Dan Green, Gerry Alanguilan, Danny Miki, Rich Perotta, Scott Hanna, and Sandu Florea
 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a dozen years since Grant Morrison took over the X-Men, giving the property a conceptual shot in the arm, and setting up some story ideas that have been in use ever since.  I distinctly remember the excitement that came from reading New X-Men #114, when Morrison and artist Frank Quitely launched their story.  Suddenly, the mutant heroes were a “rescue organization”, were wearing sensible costumes, and had undergone some pretty sudden changes, not the least of which was a hugely different appearance for Beast.

This pretty solid trade paperback collects thirteen issues of the regular series, and one annual.  In these pages, we meet a ton of new characters like Xorn, Angel, Beak, the Stepford Cuckoos, Glob Hermann, John Sublime, and Cassandra Nova, many of whom are still important characters today.  We see the machinations of Nova, who goes from committing genocide in Genosha, to trying to use the Shi’ar Empire to wipe out all mutants on Earth, while infecting the X-Men with a curious virus.

Morrison’s writing in these comics is stellar.  He plays with the original core concept of the X-Men, that mutants are mistrusted and maligned, but updates that idea for a more modern, celebrity-obsessed culture.  He also returns to the original purpose of the Xavier School, to train new mutants and protect them.

Frank Quitely’s art is always wonderful, and it’s cool to see him play with some pretty iconic characters, especially since he doesn’t draw mainstream superheroes anymore.  Ethan Van Scriver’s art is also very beautiful, and Igor Kordey, who was famously given very little time to draw some of these issues, is understandably all over the place.

I’m not sure that many other comics from this era would stand up as well as the ones in this book.  I know that the current stable of X-Books do not look very good in comparison to these modern classics.

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

 

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