The Weekly Round-Up #238 & 239 With Outcast, Moon Knight, Conan, Invincible, Saga, Serenity Firefly, Sex, Star Wars, X-O Manowar & More

Best Comics of the Fortnight:

Moon Knight #5Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey give us another just about perfect issue of Moon Knight.  Some gang-related guys have kidnapped a girl and are holding her in a derelict building.  MK walks in the front door, and makes his way up the stairs to rescue the girl.  That’s it in terms of plot, but this issue is a master class in bad-assery, as Ellis gives Shalvey a number of interesting ways to take out the punks.  This book is brilliant – it’s so simple, but so perfect because of that.

Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta #1 – I really liked this comic, but the first thing I want to talk about is how terrible the ‘by Kirkman and Azaceta’ sounds when tagged onto the title of the comic (and, according to the indicia, that is the book’s real title).  Anyway, I think that Robert Kirkman has another big hit on his hands.  This first issue is very compelling, introducing us to Kyle Barnes, a man with a pretty messed-up past that involves allegations of physically abusing his daughter who now spends his days barely living in his house.  It also introduces Reverend Anderson, an exorcist who seems to get a lot of work in this West Virginia town.  By the end of this first issue we have a pretty good sense of the set-up – a demon possessing a young boy recognizes Kyle as an ‘Outcast’, whatever that means – and a good idea of just how misunderstood Kyle is by his family and neighbours.  Kirkman lets the story and the important background unfold naturally, while artist Paul Azaceta makes the book feel very creepy.  I really appreciate how nice and thick this first issue is, for only $3, and look forward to seeing where the always-unpredictable Kirkman takes this series.

Quick Takes:

All-New Ultimates #4Michel Fiffe continues to disappoint me with this title, as he does slow things down a little to work on the team-building aspect of the series, taking the female characters to Coney Island to hang out, but not managing to control the flow and pacing of the comic.  The dialogue is beginning to feel a little more authentic in some places, but in others it feels very forced, or very unnatural.  Black Widow reveals some of her secrets to the other girls in a scene that works well, but right before that, their discussion of sex barely makes sense.  Also, I wonder if artist Amilcar Pinna has ever read any of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics featuring Miles Morales, because it’s clear he doesn’t know what Miles’s friend Ganke looks like.

Avengers Undercover #6 – I was a little surprised to learn that this series is going to end with its tenth issue, considering that writer Dennis Hopeless took the first five issues to get to the point where the book’s central concept (that the Murder World survivors are trying to infiltrate Baron Zemo’s criminal empire to shut it down and restore their hero cred).  This issue is focused on Deathlocket, who is suffering from a bit of Stockholm Syndrome.  It’s a well-written issue, but guest artist Timothy Green II’s artwork looks nowhere near as nice as his work did a few years ago, when he drew the Star-Lord mini-series.

Captain Canuck Canada Day Summer Special 2014 – Far be it for me to say anything negative about a free comic, especially one featuring my supposed national hero (whose storied past is more about the difficulties of publishing a comic starring him than the actual comics that star him).  There is a sweetness to this book, which is clearly a labour of love for the people involved, and it’s always cool to get free stuff.  I’m utterly perplexed by the back cover ad for a cosmetic dentistry clinic in Cancun though…

Conan the Avenger #3I only bought the last Conan series because of Brian Wood’s involvement, but thought I’d give Fred Van Lente’s new series a try.  I liked the first issue, but now that we’re in the third, I feel like I don’t have any clue who this Conan is, and even worse, I’m not sure that I care.  Wood’s Conan was smitten by a woman who had great power over him, but Van Lente’s is just lost, choosing direction based on whatever way the wind blows.  These are good comics, but since I’ve never had much interest in the character, and care little for medieval scheming, I think I’m going to jump ship, despite the fact that this comic has awesome art.

Daredevil #4 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee bring the Owl/Shroud story to its end as Matt tries to figure out how to help the lost hero, and the Owl does something with photons or something.  At this point, it kind of feels like Waid and Samnee just do their thing, and while it stays very good, it’s also doesn’t feel as fresh as it did a year and a half ago.

Deadly Class #6 – Rick Remender brings the first arc of this series to a very nice close with this issue, as he has Marcus’s new friends step up for him and try to protect him from Chico’s rage, solidifying the group in the process.  We also meet the guy who has been stalking Marcus from the first issue, and get confirmation of what his role in the story is likely to be.  Remender is filling this book with some very nice character work, and Wes Craig’s art continues to be amazing.  I look forward to the second arc beginning in September, as this has become one of my favourite books.

East of West #13In this issue, we revisit the scene the last time we checked in on Death, where his conversation with a powerful Aboriginal witch was cut short by one of the Texas Rangers.  There’s a lot of action in this issue, as Death takes his revenge, and the witch’s son has to stop a creature from gathering up his father’s soul.  Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta are doing wonderful work in this title, and it just keeps getting more complex.

Elephantmen #58 – It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on Sahara and Obadiah, and to be honest, I’d forgotten that Sahara is pregnant with the first human/Elephantmen baby, but her father hasn’t.  This is another very good issue of a series that has always had a high level of quality to it.  I hadn’t really expected the surprise of the last page, and am curious to see where Richard Starkings plans on taking things.

The Field #3 – It’s all time loops, sociopathic Christians, murderous cosplaying Trekkies, and biker gang chase scenes in Ed Brisson’s all-out crazy mini-series.  Simon Roy is the kind of artist who can take the wildest ideas imaginable and make them visually believable – he has done this in Prophet, which is set far into the future, but to see him do the same thing in rural Saskatchewan is pretty impressive.  I’m glad that books like this come around from time to time.

The Fuse #5Our intrepid detectives finally figure out who is behind the murders they’ve been investigating, as Antony Johnston keeps his very interesting police procedural science fiction series moving at a very good pace.  This series has really impressed me, being so different from Johnston’s other series (like Wasteland and Umbral), and yet being a masterful read.  I’m pleased to see that he’s announced the second arc, as I want to keep reading about the detectives, politicians, and homeless population living on this space station.  I especially want to be able to dig deeper into Klem’s past…

Green Arrow #33 – Jeff Lemire has brought back Damian Wayne, only he’s calling him Emiko, as Ollie’s sister shows up with plans to be his new apprentice.  The Green Arrows and their crew fight Richard Dragon’s group, and we get a lot of flashbacks to why Ollie and Diggle stopped working together some four years prior.  As always with this run, this is a very capable comic, with incredible Andrea Sorrentino artwork.

Hinterkind #9 – It’s weird that it took adding vampires to the mix to get me to really get into this book, as I think vampires are done to death, but as the threat of a vamp army invading the US from Europe moves into the centre of the book, it gives cause for all the other characters and their plotlines to begin to coalesce.

Invincible #112Robert Kirkman has set out to thin the cast of this book pretty drastically, as Robot tries to convince Monster Girl of his new plans, and meets a little resistance from the hero community.  There is no sign of Mark or the other major cast members, but there have always been a lot of people in this comic, so Robot has a lot of people to rip to shreds.  In all, a very good, but very bloody comic.

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #4 – Almost this entire issue could be categorized as filler, as Kaare Andrews takes us back to Danny Rand’s night with the female reporter, as they engage in a little pillow talk and a little more pillow kung fu.  If Andrews’s art weren’t so stunning, I’d be gone by now.

Lazarus #9 – The Lift arc ends with this typically excellent issue.  Michael and Casey get assessed for service with the family while Angel makes his move with his bomb.  I really enjoy the world that Greg Rucka has constructed in this series.

Letter 44 #7 – Charles Soule has used this issue to back up to the earliest days of Project Monolith and give us background on two of the characters, both of whom feel very different here than they have in the first arc of the series (which, granted, is set after they go through astronaut training and spend months on a spaceship together).  Charlotte Hayden is a brilliant Nobel laureate who is having trouble carrying a baby to term, while Dr. Rowan is an arrogant geologist who organizes an illegal expedition into Siberia for personal reasons as much as academic ones.  Joëlle Jones drew this issue, so it looks very nice, but the characters look pretty different from how they do in regular artist Alberto Albuquerque’s hands, so I spent a chunk of the issue being a little confused.  I liked seeing some of the origins of this story, but I now want to reread the first six issues to see how these characterizations match up with what’s come before.

The Massive #24Mary’s solo story ends with this issue, and Brian Wood makes it a lot more clear just who and what the most enigmatic character in this series really is.  The tanker full of water that she’s been protecting arrives in Morocco, and only Mary has figured out that the female guards are going to be seen as dispensable by the people who are in charge.  This story arc has been a very nice character study, and I was really happy to receive a regular supply of Danijel Zezelj artwork.  It’s going to be nice to see Callum and the rest of the cast next month.

The Mercenary Sea #5 – Jack and his crew fight to rescue a group of Chinese villager women from the Japanese, while still working to get a British spy out of China.  I’ve been really impressed with this series from its beginning, and am pleased to see that as the honeymoon ends, the series still catches my eye.  I’m really enjoying Kel Symons’s writing, and Mathew Reynolds’s artwork is gorgeous.  I especially like the way he’s coloured an evening battle scene – it feels a little retro while looking great and avoiding any muddiness.

The Midas Flesh #7 – What really attracted me to this series at the beginning was the very logical way in which writer Ryan North chose to approach the issue of the legend of King Midas, positing that he would have destroyed the whole world with his abilities.  Now, as our heroes have pushed the Federation to the very edge, that same logic feels a touch heavy-handed, as a Federation General makes a last ditch (and nihilistic) effort to win the day.  Still, this has been a wonderful series, with great characters, fun art, and a thoughtful approach to science fiction in comics.  I look forward to seeing the ending, but am a little trepidatious about how North will be able to pull it all together.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #3Miles tells his girlfriend his biggest secret, which doesn’t go well, just as Norman Osborn’s escape hits the news.  Brian Michael Bendis continues to do good work with this title, as does artist David Marquez, but I like these characters best when they aren’t living in the shadow of Peter Parker.  Basically, I hate the Green Goblin in general, but I really hate Ultimate Green Goblin.  I’m looking forward to moving past this current arc.

Mind MGMT #23 – Meru’s group is not doing so well, as a couple of key members meet their end this month (or so it looks, but you can’t always trust what you see in this series).  Matt Kindt has been building to this story arc since the series began, and he does not disappoint.

Morning Glories #39 – It’s a Casey issue this month, as she confronts Hodge and is instead manipulated into helping organize a surprise party for the class president, who Casey has met before.  As has become usual with this series, this issue is confusing as hell, and a little too aware of itself.  That said, I like the way Nick Spencer handles these characters, so I’m always coming back for more.

Ms. Marvel #5 – Kamala’s first real outing as a superhero doesn’t go that well for her, so it’s off to the training montage, as her and her friend Bruno help her get ready to take on the Inventor’s robots to rescue Bruno’s brother.  G. Willow Wilson gives Kamala and her father a touching scene, as the ever-present theme of parental disappointment rears its head again.  This continues to be a very charming and affecting comic, with beautiful Adrian Alphona art.  I was a little taken aback by the Inventor’s appearance, but am otherwise loving this comic.

New Avengers #20The Illuminati face off against the Justice League-like heroes of another world in an attempt to stop an incursion from taking place.  It’s mostly a punch-up issue, but Jonathan Hickman does some interesting work with Dr. Strange, who got a lot of attention this week.  This is a pretty solid issue in a run that is feeling a little long in the tooth lately.

New Avengers Annual #1 – There is a written rule somewhere that just about every story that features Dr. Strange has to spend some time flashing back to a story about his ego and hubris when he was a doctor, before travelling the mystical pathways.  Frank J. Barbiere (best known for Five Ghosts and The White Suits) has written a pretty formulaic Strange story in this annual – Stephen has to fight a demon who has possessed a young girl, while reminiscing about a time when he was an arrogant jerk as a doctor.  This story touches on the changes that Jonathan Hickman has had the character undergo in the regular New Avengers series, but this story adds very little to that one.  At the same time that I can put the story down as pretty generic, I have to say that thanks to Marco Rudy, this is one beautiful comic.  Rudy does his usual thing, messing with layout, blending paint with pencils, and just generally going visually nuts, making it hard to notice how thin the story really is.  Since I first came across Rudy’s art (in DC’s The Shield), I’ve been talking about how he’s the next big thing, and as he gets higher-profile books like this, I figure it’s only a matter of time before he gets jobs at the JH Williams III level (I’d love to see him work with Grant Morrison some time).  I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and that’s just because of the amazing art.

Original Sin #5I’m sorry, but what?  We get told about Nick Fury’s other job in this issue, which has been to single-handedly protect the Earth from any and all threats for the last forty-plus years.  The retcons in this issue stretch credibility to an unbelievable degree, as Jason Aaron makes this series that is supposed to be about the death of the Watcher into something completely different, and very strange.  I don’t really understand how this got to be the central story for Marvel for the summer.

Pariah #5 – I really like the way Philip Gelatt is writing this series, as the Vitros trapped on a space station go about making plans to improve their lives.  The series has a structure that reminds me of Stargate Universe, where with each new issue they need to solve a problem related to their continued survival, although at this point, they’ve become comfortable enough to start planning for their long-term future.  I like the way each new issue is told from the perspective of a new character, as the former spotlight characters remain prominent in the story, adding more layers to the series.  And, of course, I always like Brett Weldele art.

Revival #21 – Dana has come to New York to investigate some reviver-involved crimes, and it doesn’t take long for her to find a weird one, while things back in Wausau continue as they have been.  Em is getting closer to Road Rash, and Lester has an interesting chat with an old friend about Native spirituality and the nature of Reviver Day.  This book continues to interest me as Tim Seeley never shies away from adding more and more layers to the storyline.  My only complaint this month is that there is no clear explanation of why a certain body bursts into flames in a refrigerated meat packing shop.

Saga #20You never know where Saga is going to take you.  This arc was beginning to look a lot like it was going to be about the difficulty of finding domestic bliss when you have a toddler (and are in hiding from two powerful armies), but with the events at the end of the book, that involve Prince Robot IV’s wife and newborn son, things take a completely different direction.  The truth is that Saga barely needs a plot; Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s characters are so loveable that I’m kinda good with just checking in with them on a monthly basis.  I am starting to wonder what’s up with The Will though, and hope we’ll see him again soon.

Satellite Sam #9 – Things really just seem to be getting worse for the employees of the LeMonde Network.  The Satellite Sam showrunner’s cancer is getting worse, while one of his main writers has decided to quit on principle before embarrassing photos can ruin his career.   Michael, meanwhile, is still looking into the night of his father’s death, and is beginning to suspect that his father’s nocturnal activities were even more problematic than he originally thought.  Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s period piece continues to hold my attention, even if half the time I can’t remember who the different characters are.

Serenity Firefly Class 03-K64: Leaves on the Wind #6 – The crew of the Serenity go to free Zoe from prison, as Zack Whedon finishes off the first arc of the new Serenity series.  He hits a lot of very good moments just perfectly, as the cast of the book continues to grow.  I hope it’s not long before we return to the ship…

Sex #14Joe Casey takes us back a bit with this issue, as we learn just how The Alpha Brothers rose to power in a flashback drawn by Chris Peterson.  Regular artist Piotr Kowalski is on hand for a framing sequence that checks in on most of the main characters as well.  As always, this is a very enjoyable book – I like how Casey has transposed the whole Batman mythos into a new city, and has taken places DC would never allow.

Sheltered #10 – Ed Brisson is one brutal writer.  He’s like Robert Kirkman in that no characters are safe in his stories, especially if they are nice children.  Things keep getting more and more tense at the survivalist camp, as the girls make plans to leave, and Lucas’s grip on his followers continues to slip, giving them license to find violent solutions to their perceived threats.  This is a great series, which is getting ready to start its final story arc.  This book is highly recommended.

Skullkickers #28 – All the various Rolfs and Rexes are together in Dwarye, where a rescue mission has gone as wrong as possible.  The dwarves are all figuring things out, but then the Glacier Giants attack, and there’s even more chaos.  Jim Zub always writes an entertaining comic (the best part this month is when the modern-day narrator and the flashback narrator get into it over bad words).

Southern Bastards #3With Southern Bastards, I feel that Jason Aaron is redeeming himself for a few years of solidly mediocre comics at Marvel.  We are back in Scalped territory, with this story about an incredibly stubborn man refusing to accept things as they are, while also fighting with his own concept of his past.  There is subtlety to this book, as Aaron both skewers and celebrates Southern culture.  Jason Latour is a good choice of artist for this title, as his over-sized panels and people fit the story perfectly.

Sovereign #4 – There’s a lot of exposition in this issue as Chris Roberson has one of his characters explain the Convergence, and a lot of other fantasy stuff.  Basically, the dead are coming back to life, and the three brothers who each hope to rule Khend seal off their palace to protect themselves while they come up with a plan.  Paul Maybury is given lots of license to go a little nuts in this issue, and so things are visually pretty stunning.  This is a very curious comic, clearly heavily influenced by Game of Thrones and other tales like that, and it’s one I’m getting a lot of enjoyment out of.

Star Wars Legacy #16 – Ania Solo goes from being considered an enemy of the Empire to leading a platoon of Stormtroopers after Darth Wredd takes off with Jao Assam.  Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are moving things along before their Marvel-imposed end date, but this continues to be a good read.

Star Wars Rebel Heist #3Matt Kindt gives the spotlight to Chewbacca this month, but also continues the narrative trick of having a new character provide the point of view narration (which really makes sense given Chewie’s vocabulary).  A traitorous Stormtrooper holds Imperial secrets in his DNA, and is so accompanied to a backwater planet where he can access a ‘galaxy drive’ and send some sort of signal, apparently to some of our other heroes.  There’s starting to be a bit of a formulaic feel to this series, but each chapter is beginning to come together, and I look forward to seeing how Kindt wraps it all up next month.

Stray Bullets Killers #4 – This issue returns to the end of issue two, as Virginia and Eli are continuing their relationship, although that puts Eli in hot water with the rest of his family.  David Lapham gives us another brutally effective examination of family life in this issue, and as always, it’s pretty brilliant.  I’m so glad this series is back.

Swamp Thing #33 – When Swamp Thing shut down the Green, he trapped a trio of former avatars on our world.  One of them has been a good guide and friend to Alec, while the other two have been scheming against him.  This issue, the Wolf makes his move, putting a large and complicated plan into motion.  What I like most about this issue is that Charles Soule doesn’t worry about the little details about Alec’s battles, choosing instead to focus almost the entire issue of the Wolf’s exposition of his plans.  It’s a pretty effective way of telling the story, and it saves us the tedium of watching too many big monster fights.  Soule is a really interesting writer, who has been doing a lot of good stuff with superhero comics (and even better stuff with his Letter 44).

Thief of Thieves #22Redmond goes to work with Lola this month, which is probably not going to be good for anybody, least of all the mobsters who they are going after together.  This series is a decent read, but now that Redmond is more reacting to things that have happened in his personal life, instead of carrying out a ridiculously complicated plan, I’m not as interested as I was.  Unless this is all a ridiculously complicated plan…

Trees #2 – With black poppies growing in the Arctic, and increasing tension between Somalia and Puntland, Warren Ellis’s trees – gigantic alien structures that landed on Earth a decade ago and have done nothing since – provide a lot of interesting story material.  Ellis continues to introduce new characters and situations, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the people working at an Arctic weather station (I assume that’s what it is) are going to be at the core of this book.  He’s definitely drawn my interest with this rather original story.

Uncanny Avengers #21 – It’s weird how no other comics have talked about Rogue since her ‘death’ a few months back in this title, which we now see has been negated through time-travelling wizardry.  Does the fact that she hasn’t appeared in any X-books portend that she won’t make it through to the end of the saga Rick Remender has been writing in this series?  Or just that nobody else at Marvel understands what the hell is going on in this comic, kind of like the rest of us?

Undertow #5Anshargal finally gets what he wants from the crazy amphibious Atlantean, but only after climbing a mountain and helping him kill a mammoth, while the Atlantean government makes its move on Anshargal’s people.  This book has surprised me with its density and great artwork, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things end next month.

The White Suits #4 – Ultimately, I was pretty disappointed in this mini-series.  I bought it for Toby Cypress’s crazy art, which didn’t let me down, but the story did.  The comic is about a group of Soviet killers, and an FBI agent who is tracking them down in this day and age.  My interest wasn’t kept, and I’m still not all that clear on what motivated which character.  If you’re thinking about getting this in trade, understand that you’re really only doing it for the art.

The Woods #3 – Even though some of the faculty are acting more Lord of the Flies than the students, I’m really liking this oddball Boom! Studios book.  A high school has been mysteriously transported to an alien planet, and a small group of students have decided to try to find their way through the Woods to look for salvation.  James Tynion IV writes these characters well, and Michael Dialynas does a terrific job of constructing the strange locations.

Wonder Woman #32I have really been enjoying the way that Brian Azzarello keeps ramping up the tension in his First Born story.  Zeus’s first son has taken over Olympus, and it seems that the now united Olympians are not going to be enough to stop him.  Goran Sudzuka’s art looks great over Cliff Chiang’s layouts, and I love the way Azzarello keeps injecting puns and wordplay into almost every scene.

X-O Manowar #26 – My complaint about the Armor Hunters event so far has been that the actual Hunters seem like pretty generic characters.  I guess the people at Valiant and X-O writer Robert Venditti thought the same thing, and so it looks like Aric’s book is being used to provide the necessary backstory.  We meet Reebo (dumb name) and Malgam, back when they were bounty hunters.  They get hired to take on their first armor, and of course, the whole thing goes horribly for them.  This is a solid issue that provides the beginning of the grounding that this event sorely needed.

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

All-New Doop #3

All-New Ghost Rider #4

All-New X-Factor #10

All-Star Western #32

Amazing Spider-Man #3

Batman #32

Black Widow #8

Brass Sun #2

Caliban #4

Captain America #22

Daredevil #0.1

Doctor Spektor Man of the Occult #2

Fantastic Four #6

Flash Gordon #3

Guardians of the Galaxy #16

Legendary Star-Lord #1

Magneto #6

Miracleman #8

New Warriors #6

New Warriors #7

Original Sin #3.1

Original Sins #2

Punisher #8

Savage Hulk #1

Shadowman End Times #3

Solar Man of the Atom #3

Suicide Risk #15

Thor God of Thunder #24

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #5

Uber #15

Wolverine #9

X-Force #6

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Factor #5-7I’d given up on X-Factor, but have a hard time resisting books with some favourite characters in it, and when I saw that Peter David was adding Warlock and Cypher to the cast, I figured it was time to give it a second chance.  David is at his best when he’s randomly adding people to his team books, as he is very good at ensemble books.  I still don’t really understand why Serval Industries need this team, as the owner of the company is more interested in sleeping with his secretary and attempting takeovers of other companies, but I do like to see under-utilized characters given some space.  I feel like this title is improving.

Hulk #1-3 – Here’s another prime example of Marvel’s unnecessary relaunching of titles for the slightest of reasons, as writer Mark Waid stays on the book (although he’ll be gone by issue 6 apparently) but is joined by Mark Bagley (which is never really a good thing).  Bruce Banner has been shot in the head, and has been put into hiding by SHIELD while he recovers, although he still gets discovered by his enemies, who send a remote-controlled revived Abomination to kill him.  Waid is doing a weird reverse Flowers for Algernon thing here, and I’m not sure that it’s working.  To begin with, he spent his entire Indestructible run building up a new supporting cast for the Hulk, and with the exception of Maria Hill, they are now all gone.  I’d expected a little better from this.

New Warriors #2Chris Yost is taking his time pulling together this team, but he’s doing it in a more or less organic way, and is starting to draw me into the story.  This is a much better issue than the first one, as things start to work.  Marcus To is doing some good work making this a pretty standard superhero comic.

Nova #15-17 – I really want to like this series, but it just doesn’t give me enough to work with.  Too often, it feels like writer Gerry Duggan is taking the easy way out in writing this comic, going for the simpler set-ups and plot-lines.  Sam is a really likeable kid, but that doesn’t come across often enough, and like any book drawn by Paco Medina, not enough happens on any given page.  On the plus side, the first two issues feature Cosmo and Beta Ray Bill, both of whom are characters I’d like to see more often.

Thor God of Thunder #22 – While it’s kind of cool to see Thor at the mercy of corporate evil, I’m finding this arc to be pretty tedious.  I understood why Jason Aaron spent so much time with Future and Past Thor when the series started, but I really don’t see why we need to spend half of every issue in the far future these days, unless it’s to pad out a pretty weak story.  I love Esad Ribic’s art though…

Thunderbolts #19-24 – Once the Infinity tie-in got out of the way, Charles Soule has really started making something with this book.  This is an unlikely team, yet he is working to find reasons for this group to stay and work together.  The growing relationship between Elektra and the Punisher makes more sense here.  The Red Leader is written amazingly well.  Even the inclusion of Ghost Rider fits with the feel of the book, and has internal logic.  I’m guessing that’s why Soule is off the book now…  I was just thinking of adding it to my pullfile list too…

X-Force #2-4Simon Spurrier’s X-Force is a strange beast.  On the one hand, he finds a nice balance between gritty and humorous (I like when Psylocke messes with Marrow’s brain to keep her from swearing), while still maintaining his love of off-beat characters (like the French superheroes introduced in issue 4), but on the other, it’s hard to see where this book is going, and the digitally gritty art of artist Rock-He Kim makes the action hard to follow.  I’ve never been a big Cable fan, but I feel like recent portrayals of him just keep moving things further and further away from the character’s core.  Also, I really don’t understand what’s going on with Fantomex and his insecurity complex; this is a very cool character that has been in rough shape since Rick Remender split him into three different people at the end of Uncanny X-Force.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 11 – It’s hard to find new things to say about Naoki Urasawa’s amazing manga series.  Each volume is excellent, and the plot moves forward in new and shocking ways, but this is the eleventh volume I’ve read.  It’s good.  Even if you don’t like manga, you’d find something to like in this book.  Buy it.  Read it.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Avengers: Endless Wartime

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Mike McKone

It’s a shame that this original graphic novel,Avengers: Endless Wartime, wasn’t published when the Avengers movie was released, as I think it’s exactly the type of book that the Marvel bigwigs would like to be able to put into the hands of the supposed droves of new readers who come into comic stores when a comic movie comes out.

Basically, Warren Ellis takes the hundred-odd pages in this book to distill the Avengers into a hybrid of the film and comics versions.  He works with a larger cast than the movie, including Captain Marvel and Wolverine, but keeps the Whedon-esque kidding, especially where Hawkeye and Iron Man are concerned.

The plot for this book is pretty basic.  A new mildly intelligent drone is being used by military contractors in a civil war taking place in a small fictionalized country bordering Afghanistan and Iran.  These drones are connected to a mission that Captain America ran in the Second World War, but also have a connection to Thor.  When Cap learns of these new weapons, he goes to investigate, and essentially gets his team involved in American foreign policy and puts them at odds with SHIELD, although that isn’t really treated as a big deal.

Ellis gets superhero comics on a level that few writers do.  He has a knack for getting right to the central concepts of characters and power sets, and then tries to make them fit in our real world.  His Cap is still having trouble adjusting to living in the modern world, just as his Bruce Banner is still wracked by the guilt caused by his other self’s actions.

Most of this book is given over to getting the team ready for action, as Ellis approaches this like he would a blockbuster movie, portioning out the big screen action scenes so as not to over-excite the reader.

Mike McKone is a very good choice for the art here.  He’s always been a very strong character artist, expressing a variety of emotions easily and effectively, but also able to really throw down in the action scenes.  I never really understood the design of the creatures the Avengers are fighting, but otherwise this is a very nice looking book, and a great gateway into the confusing world of 15+ Avengers titles that Marvel currently publishes.


Well, that’s everything I read over the last two weeks.  What have you been reading lately? Let us know in the comments below!


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