The Weekly Round-Up #240 With The Life After, Armor Hunters, FBP, Rai, Star Wars, The Walking Dead & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Life After #1Knowing that Joshua Hale Fialkov was writing a new series at Oni Press was enough for me to know to preorder this book, and so I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into opening up this comic.  It opens on a young man who is living one of those standard lives of quiet despair.  He gets up, goes to work, comes home, and falls asleep on the couch watching second-rate cooking shows.  The one moment that stands out in his life is when he sees a woman get off the bus each day, always dropping a handkerchief on the way out.  He constantly wrestles with the urge to get up and return it to her, and when he finally does one day, everything changes.  Fialkov and artist Gabo drop little hints that this guy is in a Truman Show-type world, but the truth runs much deeper (and stranger) than that.  As he gets off the bus, he seems to flip through a wide variety of different realities, and after he catches up with the woman, things get even stranger.  It’s hard to talk about the secrets of this comic without ruining the surprise ending, so I won’t say any more than mention that Ernest Hemingway is a supporting character, which is all kinds of amazing.  Fialkov has often written pretty iconoclastic creator-owned books (and some incredibly middle of the road Big Two ones), but I think that this book might be his strangest and biggest, concept wise.  I like Gabo’s art, which is in that post Frank Quitely style, but it’s the story that really has my attention here.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #14Abe continues to wander his way towards Texas with Grace, his secretive companion.  This issue shows both characters looking into themselves a little, as the horror quotient gets dialed back a little.  This series, written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie, is always an interesting counterbalance to the other Mignola books, as it’s a lot more introspective.  With Max Fiumara drawing, it’s also quite beautiful.

All-New X-Men #29 – We all know that Brian Michael Bendis has no real interest in honoring continuity, even contradicting his own comics with great regularity, but there were a couple of things about this issue of All-New X-Men, which concludes the team’s latest confrontation with their future evil counterparts, that really bugs me.  First, I’m pretty sure that the Battle of the Atom crossover, if read again, would make it clear that Baby Xavier was not in complete control of all of his team at all times.  Secondly, I don’t understand why Maria Hill would be calling for Agent Daisy Johnston, when the entire point of the last run of Secret Avengers was showing how Hill had her run out of SHIELD.  There are other things that bugged me, like Bendis’s need to hook X-23 up with one of the Past X-Men (now it’s Angel’s turn, apparently), but it was the general lack of adherence to established fact that irritated me the most.  Now, had this been a particularly absorbing comic, I could have let all of that go, but as it stands, this was pretty mediocre stuff.

Amazing X-Men #9Now as a Canadian and life-long Alpha Flight fan, I admit that I’m going to be biased, but I’m very happy with what Chris Yost and Craig Kyle are doing with this book.  A Wendigo infestation is spreading throughout a rural area like a zombie invasion, and Wolverine’s in the middle of it.  A group of X-Men come to the rescue, but find themselves in a tough place.  There’s a nice balance between character interaction and action, and while I hate the way the writers are showing Iceman as an ineffective joker, I love that there’s a squad with Storm, Nightcrawler, and now Colossus on it.  Carlo Barberi joins the book as artist this month, and while I’m happy to see Ed McGuinness gone, I always find that Barberi’s work is too much like McGuinness’s for my liking.  I’d like to see someone a little less cartoony on this title, which I’m considering as the flagship X-book, since it’s the only one I don’t think about dropping every month.

American Vampire 2nd Cycle #4 – I find my interest in Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s longish-running Vertigo series to be waning.  This issue was a bit of an improvement over the last one, as the Grey Trader attacks Pearl’s farm, and she works with some of her new allies to escape, but there’s really very little happening below the surface of this story.  I feel like Pearl’s character grew so much in the first AV series, that Snyder doesn’t really have anything new to say about her or Skinner Sweet in this one.

Armor Hunters #2Valiant can really add some power to their event books, because their universe is so small and interconnected.  It’s not inconceivable that they are going to use this story to make big changes to their entire line, and that makes it a more exciting read than a Marvel or DC event.  In this issue, the Hunters continue to lay waste to Earth, targeting any place where Aric has been seen using his armor, while the Unity team tries to figure out a counter-strategy.  This is a very good event, and I even find myself considering grabbing the Bloodshot mini-series that ties in, which I had not originally intended to do.

Avengers #32 – Captain America continues on his weird time jumping journey, ending up far in the future chatting with Franklin Richards.  In this, writer Jonathan Hickman is returning to territory he mined to great effect in his excellent Fantastic Four/FF run, and therefore this issue felt a lot more solid than the last two.  I still don’t see how this has anything to do with the events of Original Sin, but I always like it when Hickman starts to reveal what some of his larger plans are.

Avengers Undercover #7 – Dennis Hopeless doesn’t seem to be winding up his story much, although it’s been announced that issue ten will be the last of this title.  I’m guessing that, unlike Avengers Arena, this is not a planned end-date, and has been mandated by Marvel, perhaps due to sales.  This is a good issue, as Nico comes to grips with her new powers and the general difficulty of her current situation.  Apparently this is also artist Kev Walker’s last issue, which is a shame, as he’s done some truly great work with these characters.

Daredevil #5This issue tells us all the details of how and why the world believes Foggy Nelson to be dead, when we all know that he isn’t.  It backtracks to the time before Matt moved out to San Francisco, but since that move is so recent, it’s strange that this story needs to be told right now (unless we just needed to spin the wheels for an issue before the Original Sin tie-in of next issue could be arranged).  Still, this book features Leapfrog, so there’s no getting mad at it.

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #12 – I’m still feeling a little lost by some of the things happening in this arc (because if Adam is in a pocket dimension largely of his own making, how are there people from our dimension chasing him?), but I enjoyed this issue more than I did the previous one, because writer Simon Oliver chose to focus more on the strange friendship between Adam and Rosa.  I feel like this arc will need to be read again when it’s finished to fully grasp all that it entails.

Ghosted #11 – I’ve been on the verge of dropping this title, but this one-off issue brings back original series artist Goran Sudzuka, so it looks great, and it focuses on Anderson’s backstory, which is pretty interesting (she’s now a ghost haunting the main character).  I might pick up the first issue of the next arc, and then decide.  If it’s like this issue, I’ll stick around.  The problem is that writer Joshua Williamson keeps getting rid of the most interesting characters, and not always in the nicest of ways…

Grayson #1I’m reading less and less DC books these days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hopefully take a good look at each new title they release, having been a fan of the company and its characters for years.  I was not a big Dick Grayson/Nightwing fan until Grant Morrison had him take over as Batman a couple of years ago.  I enjoyed his first New 52 series for a while, but lost interest when it became too involved in too many Bat-crossovers, and dropped it.  I did start liking the character though, and have always enjoyed DC’s more espionage-based books, like Suicide Squad (pre-52), Chase, or Checkmate (the Greg Rucka version).  This book, which has Dick working for Spyral, has started off very well, in a fashion that reminds me of the first twenty minutes of a James Bond movie.  We see Dick working to extract a Russian with some extreme body modifications from a moving train, which leads him into conflict with Midnighter.  Spyral’s whole deal is based on using mind control ‘hypnos’, which gives the book a slightly different spin from what we’re used to.  There are a lot of interesting spaces opening for development – just who New 52 Helena Bertinelli is, and what Spyral’s game plan with regards to the super community is.  Tim Seeley does a good job of setting up this new status quo, without going too deeply into Dick’s motivations, and Mikel Janin is a good choice for the art on this book.  I don’t know if I’m ready to add this title to my pull-file, but I think I will be getting the next issue to see how it is going.

Justice League United #3I’ve been finding it very hard to care at all about the main plot of this book, which is all about an evil alien genetically engineering a baby alien to be evil or something, as the people of Rann ineffectively try to stop him.  This is why there’s a very random group of heroes from Earth getting involved.  At the same time though, I do like the way Jeff Lemire has started writing this team, and of course Mike McKone’s art is very nice.  I can see that, if DC editorial mandate doesn’t interfere too much, this could be a very good team book.  More likely than not, it’s going to get screwed with soon, and I’m going to lose all interest in it though.

Rai #3 – With the third issue, Matt Kindt makes a lot of things more clear, especially the state of Rai as a protector of Japan.  This series has been a little unclear, but I’m happy to see that this problem is being fixed.  Clayton Crain’s artwork is not a favourite of mine, but he does have some very nice panels at times.

Star Wars #19 – We are almost at the end of Brian Wood’s run, and he gives us the beginning of a nice two-parter that has the core Star Wars heroes heading off to rescue a childhood friend of Leia’s that is also a deep cover Rebellion operative.  A lot of the comic is focused on the relationship between these main characters, as they mature into their Empire Strikes Back selves.  I’m going to miss this title.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #13One of Marvel’s best books seems to be correcting its scheduling issues, and also feels like it’s barrelling towards a big finale.  In this issue, Boomerang and his gang make off with the picture they’ve been trying to steal, while Mach VII has difficulty buying furniture, and as Shocker and Silvermane come to a sort of agreement on how they should proceed with things.  Nick Spencer has made this book very funny, and Steve Lieber does a great job of playing the art in a straight manner, making the book feel even more unpredictable.  Great stuff.

The United States of Murder Inc. #3 – I’m really pretty impressed with this new Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming collaboration.  They’ve hit their release dates for three straight months (something that hasn’t happened with Powers in years), and are building an interesting world and story.  We learn a little more about how the mafia came to be in control of so much American territory (it’s not contiguous, a fact that surprised me), as the CIA tries to kill Valentine and Jagger, and as the various heads of the families meet to discuss what happened in Washington.  Bendis has put together a pretty rich story, with lots of potential, and unlike much of his Marvel writing, really seems to be unfolding it in a natural and organic way.  Recommended.

The Walking Dead #129Over the last few issues, Robert Kirkman has been letting us explore the new world that Rick and his friends have been building, and things have felt kind of Utopian in a lot of ways.  People have taken on a number of different jobs, and are getting along on a scale we haven’t seen much in this series.  A major plot point is whether or not Carl should be allowed to go live at the Hilltop so he can apprentice with the blacksmith.  It’s been nice, but this is a Kirkman book, so of course things are not going to stay like that.  As he travels with Carl, they come across a group of walkers; this is no big deal, but the way in which Rick handles the negligent guard who should have cleared the area is informative.  Also, the new group of people that have been welcomed into town do some digging, and they find Negan, which can’t be a good thing.  As always, this book really draws the reader in, and keeps him or her pretty happy.

Wasteland #56 – Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten are spending the last arc of Wasteland showing us how the world ended, as Michael and his friends have finally made it to A-Ree-Yass-I, and are remembering the circumstances of their birth.  There’s a strong environmental message at play here, as we see that a group of scientists have used radical in vitro technology to basically create a group of children who should be able to weather the coming storms.  I have been loving this arc, as it pays off years of investment in this series.  I especially like the way the Sand-Eaters are introduced in this issue.  I’m really going to miss this title when it’s gone, but I love the way the creators are finishing it off.

Winter Soldier: Bitter March #5When this mini-series began, I liked the way that Rick Remender was writing a story about a character that he was using in Captain America, namely SHIELD agent Ran Shen.  In this book, he was trying to rescue a scientist from both Hydra and the Winter Soldier, yet in Cap’s book, set in the modern day, he is portrayed as a villain.  The thing is, in the modern day story, he’s also a boring villain.  This series is much much better than Remender’s Cap, and it has a very good ending this month that doesn’t upset anything we know about Bucky’s time with the Soviets, while fitting a good story into his history.

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

68 Rule of War #4

All-New Invaders #7

Captain Marvel #5

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #3

Deadpool #31

Detective Comics #33

Empty Man #2

Fantastic Four #7

Magnus Robot Fighter #0

Magnus Robot Fighter #5

Nightcrawler #4

Original Sin #5.1

Original Sins #3

Spider-Man 2099 #1

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #6

Wolverine #10

X-Force #7

Bargain Comics:

A + X #18Marvel’s strange experiment in an anthology series pairing a member of the X-Men with an Avenger has come to an end, and I’m guessing that sales and story-wise, it wasn’t seen as much of a success.  Most of the stories were by mid-level creators who are sort of well known, but without large or fervent fan bases.  Perhaps a few more stories by beloved veterans or by up-and-comers might have attracted more interest, especially if their names had been front-and-centre on the covers.  As it was, you never knew who was writing or drawing each issue without looking inside, and that caused me to never pick up a single book until I found them in the cheap bins.  The Kitty Pryde/Vision story worked well here, even if it was a little too similar to Joss Whedon’s Danger arc.  The Captain America/Cyclops serial started well, but it really limped over the finish line.

Aquaman #27-30 – While his first issue only sort of impressed me, I’d heard good things about Jeff Parker’s Aquaman, and liked enough of what I saw in the Swamp Thing crossover to give the series a second shot.  Parker is approaching this like an old-school superhero comic, eschewing clearly defined six-issue arcs in favour of introducing and building a number of slow-burn subplots, while making it clear that Arthur is going to have more and more problems with keeping control of Atlantis.  There are a lot of monsters for Arthur to fight, the New 52 debut of Hercules, and a high school reunion contained in these issues, which are very ably drawn by Paul Pelletier and a few others.  Parker is a writer I respect for his ability to make me like characters I previously didn’t care about (Red Hulk, Agents of Atlas), and hope he gets a good long run with this book.

Black Widow #6&7Nathan Edmondson is doing a good job in this series of starting to peel away at some of the layers of Natasha’s character.  She’s not just concerned with ‘clearing her ledger’, a device that has been over-used in recent years, but in finding some way to balance her natural spy’s distrust and paranoia, while engaging in a number of assignments for hire and for SHIELD.  It’s an interesting take, although the decompressed nature of Edmondson’s scripts leave little space to really explore her in any given issue.  Phil Noto is probably the exactly right artist for this character, and his work is always a pleasure.

Iron Man #24&25 – I like the idea of a character like Malekith gaining the powers that come with Mandarin’s rings, but I think it’s a little interesting that Tony doesn’t reference at all the amount of time he spent in the Asgardian realms during Matt Fraction’s run with the character.  Anyway, these are decent enough comics.

Iron Man Annual #1 – I don’t really appreciate Marvel’s strange approach to digital-only comics.  Their Deadpool comic affected continuity to the point that Wade met his wife in the online book, and apparently this Iron Man Annual is the epilogue to some on-line story.  Basically, that means that it was a little hard to understand what was happening in the first story here, as Stark has a tense conversation with a Soviet robot on the moon who wanted to control a city.  The second story has Arno Stark meeting with the space scientists that Tony betrayed at the beginning of Kieron Gillen’s run (something to do with Extremis, but I don’t really remember what), and the last story has Pepper Potts meeting a new man.  I enjoy Gillen’s writing, but this book is completely lacking in context, and that threw me off.

Nightcrawler #1-3I really wasn’t too sure about this new series going in.  On the one hand, I was a huge Chris Claremont fan when I was a kid; the guy wrote many of the comics that have most stuck with me from childhood and my early teen years, but on the other, his style has not really kept pace with the times (as evidenced by his X-Treme X-Men run of almost ten years ago).  The writing is actually pretty decent.  He’s toned down his Claremont-isms, although there are some weird inconsistencies in the writing (such as having a German circus performer speak with a large number of ‘ain’ts’ in her speech, as if she was American).  I was also not sure that Nightcrawler could really carry his own book, and the jury is still out on that front, as this first arc immediately involves the sorceress Amanda Sefton (who shows up in any and all solo-Kurt adventures).  I did like the scenes involving the X-Men, and especially the interplay between Kurt and Wolverine.  I’m not sure how I feel about the constant inclusion of the Bamfs in the book, especially since artist Todd Nauck is drawing them like Ed McGuinness did, instead of the way Chris Bachalo introduced them in the current X-Books.  In all, this story, which involves some very generic robot dudes attacking Amanda, hasn’t done a whole lot to draw me in on its own merits, but I do like the way Claremont writes Kurt.  If this were a $3 book, I’d consider picking it up regularly, especially since I’m on the verge of dropping some of the main X-titles.

Savage Wolverine #16&17Richard Isanove’s story about Logan fighting gangsters in dustbowl rural Colorado is pretty brutal.  Kids and kindly uncles get killed, while weird 20s gangster dialogue gets spouted with regularity.  These comics look great, but fall into the usual traps of out-of-continuity (or irrelevant to continuity, as the case may be) story arcs.  Not bad, but not essential.

Savage Wolverine #18 – In this one-off issue, Jen Van Meter has Logan getting involved in a dispute between farm workers and their bosses in November of 1963.  It’s interesting to see how Marvel is using this series to fill in some of the gaps of Logan’s life (if these stories are considered to be in continuity or not), especially since the Marvel way of creeping time forward means that there were no heroes running around in this time period.  The art is by Rich Ellis, and it works nicely for this kind of story.

Ultimate FF #1&2 – I’m starting to wonder if there aren’t two Joshua Hale Fialkovs running around out there.  There’s one, who has written such terrific comics as Tumor, The Bunker, and the brilliant The Life After (see above), and then there’s the one who has been working for Marvel lately.  Ultimate FF stars the new Future Foundation, made up of Sue Storm, Machine Man (who is a glorified tech), Falcon (who is wearing a ridiculous mask in the comics but not on the covers), Iron Man (who has changed and painted his armor for reasons that are not clear), and now Doctor Doom (who still has goat legs).  They are wandering around trying to fix dimensional rifts or something, that may or may not have something to do with Galactus.  None of it is too clear, and the weird art, provided by Tom Grummett and Maria Guevara, makes things even harder to understand.  It’s not a surprise that this book has already been cancelled.  It has a potentially interesting cast, but the wrong Fialkov is writing the book (or editorial is just too involved), and so things are not working at all.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Family Ties: An Alaskan Crime Drama

Written by Eric Hobbs
Art by Noel Tuazon

We all know that as the boomer population ages, senility and dementia are going to be a growing problem, involving a lot more health care, and putting a lot of stress on families.  I suppose it also makes sense that more and more popular fiction will also explore the phenomenon, and it looks like Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon are working to get ahead of the pack withFamily Ties, their mobster story that deals with the issue.

Jackie Giovanni and his associates made the trek up to Anchorage Alaska at a time when the entire state was ripe for the organized crime picking.  They built an empire for themselves, but now Jackie is starting to lose his grip on reality.  When the book opens, one of his two daughters, who have been taking on a bigger slice of the family business, has to deal with a drug dealer who used Jackie’s senility against him in negotiating very favourable terms for himself and his dealers.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Jackie’s two daughters have their eyes on a lot more than the slow transference of power from their father.  Their younger brother, Cain, has no interest in taking on any of the business, and is more interested in getting their father medical help.  Toss into this volatile mix a recently found bastard son of one of Jackie’s closest associates, who has his own designs on how to achieve power, and we get a pretty big mess.

Hobbs’s writing is pretty intelligent.  He leaves a lot for the reader to deduce, and that works (even if I sometimes had to flip back a few pages to remind myself how some characters were related to each other).  Tuazon is a very interesting artist.  I’ve enjoyed his work for a while now, but can see that he would not be for everyone.  He is a very minimalist artist, reducing faces and scenes to a high degree of abstraction, but then also covering the page with a lot of messy lines or blocks of shading that don’t exactly fit within the shapes they are tinting.  It can make reading one of his pages a bit of a challenge, especially since some characters aren’t as unique as others in their appearance, but at the same time, I enjoy the individuality of his work.

This graphic novel is a very solid read, and worth checking out.

 

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

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