The Weekly Round-Up #241 With The Wicked + The Divine, BPRD, Harbinger, Stray Bullets Killers, Unity & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Wicked + The Divine #2Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are masters of this comic book form, and so even when they use a second issue to provide a lot of important information in one of their series, it still comes off rather beautiful and as a compelling story.  We learn a lot more about the Pantheon, the gods who return to Earth in human form every ninety years to only live for two, and how one god, Ananke, is central to their existence.  Lucifer is in prison after appearing to have killed a judge in the first issue, and Laura, our POV character, is the only person who goes to visit her.  These creators are doing some interesting things with this book, and are hard at work building an interesting take on godhood.

Quick Takes:

Avengers World #9 – Now that Nick Spencer is the writer for this series, it appears that he’s trying to incorporate some of the stuff that he was working on in his short-lived Secret Avengers series, which is a good thing, because the relaunching of that book left a lot of questions unanswered.  This issue focuses on Sunspot and Cannonball, who are guests (that part is not clear) of AIM, but get sent somewhere into the future to stop AIM from getting future tech from Future AIM.  There are way too many time travel stories going on in the Marvel Universe these days, and that, mixed with the large number of story elements being juggled in this series, make this a bit of a frustrating read.  I’d love to be able to see the long-term plans for this series, just ot make sure there actually are some.

BPRD Hell on Earth #121One of the things I love most about this series is the way in which it can go from a story about a military-style incursion into New York to fight gigantic monsters in one arc, and in the very next, be about a creepy possession story that only features a few characters.  That versatility is what makes this the best of the Mignola-verse series, as the others are a little more enslaved by their central concepts.  Laurence Campbell’s art is gorgeously creepy (creepily gorgeous?) throughout this issue, which also features Young Hellboy in a flashback plot line.

Cap’n Dinosaur – Shaky Kane has released a second one-shot in recent months, this one focusing on the crime fighting detective Cap’n Dinosaur, who works with his partner Honey Moon.  They fight the Carnevil of Crime, which includes a bunch of different-sized Frankensteins.  Kane’s artwork is always fun, but this story doesn’t have a whole lot happening in it, especially when compared to last month’s much funnier “That’s Because You’re A Robot”.

Elektra #4 – While I appreciate the attempt at having Elektra’s character develop some by having her look back at how different her life could have been had her mother lived, this series continues to be so little about its main character that it could just as easily be about Black Widow or Shado as it is Elektra.  On the up side, Mike Del Mundo’s art is the reason I’m buying this book anyway, and in that regard, I have no complaints.

Great Pacific #16This has always been a very unique series, but with this latest arc, which has a Kraven the Hunter type appear on New Texas looking for nuclear weapons, is decidedly darker than anything that has gone before.  Joe Harris seems determined to trim his cast by a lot, and it makes me really wonder what he has in mind for this book in the months ahead.  This issue was a very good portrait of a leader who has lost control of his land and people.

Harbinger #25 – I’ve been a fan of Joshua Dysart’s writing since reading his Unknown Soldier series at Vertigo, but I think that in a lot of ways, his work on Harbinger has surpassed that excellent comic.  With this anniversary issue, Dysart shifts the series away from Peter Stanchek and his group of Renegades, as Toyo Harada, beaten, humiliated, and exposed to the world, decides to take over things.  Like all of Dysart’s run, this issue is as much about exploring how the events of the last few issues have affected the main characters of this book, and his work is logical and well thought-out.  There are a variety of back-up stories that show the characters in better (and sometimes worse) days, but they do little more than fill out the book and activate some recent feelings of nostalgia (except for the amazing one-pager featuring Paige fighting a battle that needs to be fought).  I’ve long felt that this comic is Valiant’s best book, and as we move into the Omegas mini-series (which follows Harada’s plans) and the Armor Hunters mini-series (which deals with the Generation Zero kids), I hope we get to bring the surviving members of Pete’s band back together at some point.

Manifest Destiny #8There is a one-page sequence in this issue, which has Lewis and Clark divided between ship and shore, with a strange frog-monster between them, that is worth buying the comic for on its own merits.  I don’t want to give much away, but let’s just say that it pretty much encapsulates all that makes this book wonderful.  Soon this expedition is going to run out of soldiers, as a few more people meet strange fates in the wilds of America.  Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts are creating one of the most original and entertaining books on the stands.

Ms. Marvel #6 – It looks like Adrian Alphona is taking a bit of a break, and Jacob Wyatt, who I’m unfamiliar with, has stepped in for an issue or two.  Wyatt is a very capable artist, and he approaches the book with a little more realistic understanding of proportion than Alphona does, which is interesting, especially since Kamala’s powers involve her making her limbs freakishly out of proportion.  I think this issue worked well, as Kamala continues to investigate the Inventor, eventually meeting his hologram in a death-trap designed to not actually kill her.  The obligatory guest star shows up, and it’s Wolverine, which is only notable for the fact that the cover did not give any clue that this was going to happen.  They team up and fight some alligators.  As G. Willow Wilson’s story continues, the book is falling into more and more familiar teen hero tropes, but with scenes like the one wherein Kamala has to have a sit down with her Imam, this book continues to blaze its own path.  It is, as always, a good read.

Original Sin #6 I’ve given up any pretext of lying to myself that I’m only going to buy this series until it becomes ridiculous, because we crossed that bridge a few issues back.  However, we are pushing to new heights of ridiculous, when we stop to consider that the greatest threat this series has mustered up so far is Dr. Midas.  Anyway, Nick Fury tells his story a little more, as the team he’s gathered together discover the real reason why they were gathered, and as the rest of the Avengers arrive at Fury’s satellite base.  While this is going on, The Orb starts to undergo a transformation (that I fear will make him the new Watcher), and nobody finds out who killed Uatu.  If you were to give this series to someone who has never read a Marvel comic before, they would likely not become a new fan, as it’s impossible to like any of the characters in this mess.

Savage Wolverine #21 – Like most readers, I’ve mostly been ignoring this series of random Wolverine arcs, set in different time periods, by different creative teams.  Then I saw the solicitation for this latest arc, which is written by John Arcudi and drawn by Joe Quinones, and is set during the First World War.  I love a good WWI story, and have full faith in the ability of Arcudi to be the writer who can pull this kind of thing off.  Logan is stationed in the north of France, a Sergeant in what I assume is the Canadian army.  He has become friends with a lieutenant who has some mind-reading abilities, and wears leg and neck braces.  They, and a small squad, have been tasked with taking a bridge from a group of Germans.  This kind of action is a little unique in the Great War, as it doesn’t involve the type of trench warfare usually associated with that conflict, but I don’t really care, because the story is well-written, and things look really nice.  I’m pleased I picked this one up, and now I’m wondering if this series is going to be cancelled when Wolverine gets killed soon, or if it will be the only place for Marvel fans to get their fix of the most prolific character in the shared universe…

Secret Avengers #5And with this fifth issue, Ales Kot starts pulling together a number of threads that have been lying around since the beginning of this series.  Maria Hill is getting closer and closer to MODOK (which is kind of interesting) while Agent Coulson seems depressed, and New Nick Fury has to betray his friend’s confidence.  From the early issues, I thought that Kot was going for a very light-hearted approach to this series, but that’s not very evident here.  Instead, we are deep into some mystery, with some very nice characterization.  Still, I’m hoping his Winter Soldier more closely resembles his Zero than it does this title.

She-Hulk #6 – Jen Walters’s efforts to unravel the secrets of the Blue File, a case that she is named in but has no memory of, continues to lead to strange moments, such as a large demon attack on the building where she rents space.  The story, under Charles Soule’s ever-capable hands, is a lot of fun to read, and keeps my interest in finding out where this series is going.  Ronald Wimberly’s art is even looser and stranger this month, falling somewhere on a spectrum between Kyle Baker and Larry Stroman, but in a very good way.  He colours this book too, and things are hella garish in a way I haven’t seen in years.  This is a great title.

Sir Edward Grey Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #2 – As I said last month, I was going to skip over this Mike Mignola-less title, but the first issue, with Tyler Crook’s wonderful art, sucked me into the story.  With this issue, Grey continues to try to figure out what’s going on in the small industrial town of Hallam, where eels are the order of the day.  This is an enjoyable book, but I would like to know why people in marshy Somerset use the word ‘I’ when they should say ‘me’.  It is kind of driving me nuts.

Stray Bullets Killers #5I guess it was only a matter of time before David Lapham brought back Amy Racecar, the murderous, rampaging id of regular main character Virginia Applejack.  Amy is a futuristic bank robber who does whatever she wants, and in this issue, she decides that she wants to fall in love and stop killing.  She falls for Gil, a legless and armless blind boy with some mother issues that reflect Virginia’s boyfriend’s problems, and while Amy has given up killing, she does need someone to protect her…  These are usually fun issues, but I much prefer the regular stories in this book.

Umbral #7 – I’m pretty amazed to see that Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten are putting out new issues of Umbral while they are also finishing up Wasteland together.  Now, for all I know, one or the other of these comics could have been finished a while ago, but still, I have to hand it to them, especially since the quality level of both books is so high.  In this issue, Rascal and her friends are on the run from the Umbral, and don’t know who they can trust.  In point of fact, they don’t even trust one another, and so we get a lot of suspicion, and the introduction of an assassin’s guild into the mix.  This is a very good dark fantasy series.

Uncanny X-Men #23 – While it does have a few continuity issues (such as who would have sent Charles Xavier’s will to She-Hulk, since she wasn’t working at her own practice when he died, and apparently wasn’t representing him when he wrote it), this is probably the best Bendis X-Book that I’ve read since he first took over the franchise.  The team is consolidating after recent events.  Dazzler is going through some things, but Hijack is welcomed back to the fold in a rare decent move by Cyclops.  A new mutant is introduced who has his roots in the Secret Invasion (which apparently happened earlier in the year – my god things are busy in the Marvel U), and the Jean Grey School mainstays are getting ready to hear Charles’s will.  Kris Anka draws this issue, and it looks terrific.  I’ve liked the darker look this book has had, with artists like Chris Bachalo and Frazer Irving setting the tone, but Anka’s work looks very good here.  Like Avengers, this Original Sin tie-in book has absolutely nothing to do with that event.

Unity #9I wasn’t sure how much Valiant was going to position important moments in their Armor Hunters tie-ins as that event unfolded, but reading this issue, it seems that they are holding all the important stuff for the main book.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not like this week’s Original Sin X-Men tie-in, which doesn’t reference that event in any way, shape or form, but this is a pretty disjointed book, as Matt Kindt checks in on all of the regular characters to see what they’re up to as a bunch of dog-things attack cities on Earth that Aric has been to.  Livewire needs to make sure she’s not part Vine, while Gilad and Ninjak try to kill some dog-things in London.  Kindt helps build the sense of importance that this event has been founded on, but at the same time, it does feel like a place-holder.

X-Men #16 – The X-Men take the fight to ‘The Future’, and for a change in an X-Book, that’s the name of the villain, and doesn’t refer to the time in which the comic takes place.  This is basically a tactical deployment issue, and those are always a little fun, but once again, Brian Wood’s depiction of Storm feels off to me.  Oh well, he’s not long for this title (and, when he goes, so do I, because I have no interest in a Marc Guggenheim-led X-Men title).

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

All-New X-Factor #11

Auteur #5

Magneto #7

Nova #19

Original Sin #3.2

Robin Rises Omega #1

Savage Hulk #2

Silver Surfer #4

Bargain Comics:

Batgirl #29&30I think that DC’s decision to relaunch Batgirl as a younger-skewing comic makes a lot of sense, because Gail Simone’s run on this book has always been much darker than it needed to be, such as in issue 29, where after trying to save a young girl from a crazed vampire hunter, we discover that the girl really is a vampire, and she’s destroyed with no real emotional effect on the people who just fought to help her.  Marguerite Bennett’s fill-in #30 is even worse, as it reads like somebody trying to be Gail Simone.

Batgirl Annual #2 – While still suffering from that need for darkness, this annual worked much better, as it explored Barbara’s relationship with Poison Ivy over a few seasons, as they sort of worked together to take down a man who has been using dying sick people to carry out terrorist acts for him.  I like the art by up-and-comers Robert Gill (from Eternal Warrior) and Javier Garron; although they are both sticking to the DC house style, you can see that they could do much better than that.

Batman and Two-Face, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman #28-30 – This title still hasn’t recovered from the early death of Damian Wayne, especially since Batman is still spending much of his time trying to deal with that loss (and the more recent loss of his body to Ras Al Ghul).  This used to be my favourite Bat-book, because of how well Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason work together, and these are all fine issues, but reading them now reminds me of why I dropped this title.

Batwoman #28-30Marc Andreyko’s tenure on this title is going pretty smoothly, as he has kept Kate busy tracking down a particularly gifted art thief, and at the same time started credibly laying down a reason for Kate and Maggie to break up that works with their characters, instead of just feeling like a random DC editorial edict.  Jeremy Haun and Jason Masters are doing nice work with the art, and while it’s not anything like it was under JH Williams, it is at least a capable comic book.

Batwoman Annual #1 – With this annual, Andreyko was tasked with wrapping up Williams’s and W. Haden Blackman’s plot involving the DEO, Batman, and the secrets of the Kane family.  They do an alright job (mostly by leaving Maggie and Kate’s relationship out of it), although I can’t help but wonder what the original writers would have done differently.  At least with Trevor McCarthy drawing, everything looks consistent.

Five Ghosts #9&10 – I’d like to focus on Chris Mooneyham’s amazing artwork, and how well he is able to evoke mood and place in this series.  His stuff reminds me of some very old-school artists like Frank Robbins, but he updates their style for more modern sensibilities, and makes this an incredibly nice-looking comic.  That’s why I keep picking up this book, because to be honest, Frank J. Barbiere’s writing is doing very little for me.  He starts each issue somewhere in the middle of the story he wants to tell that month, and then backs up to explain things, and while that works sometimes, with two books in a row, it left me thinking I’d missed something each time.  Narrative tricks are, perhaps, used to disguise the thinness of the plot, which has Fabian Gray and friends looking for a mystical island, and running into old friends who aren’t actually friends, and being rescued by somebody else with some Dreamstone stuck in her body.  Oh, and there are giant crabs…

Ten Grand #7&8 – As much as I’ve grown to dislike J. Michael Straczynski’s work for hire, and his persona as shown through the comics press, I have to admit that the man can have some good ideas when it comes to writing his own comics.  His Ten Grand didn’t do a whole lot for me over the first five issues, but once artist CP Smith came on-board, and the story shifted to taking place between Heaven and Hell, I got more interested.  There’s not a whole lot that’s new about this comic, in which a private investigator has made a deal with heaven to do their bidding so long as, every time he dies, he gets to spend five minutes with his murdered wife, but the delivery is pretty decent.  Smith’s art has continued to grow and evolve since he first showed up in the much-missed Stormwatch: Team Achilles, and while it’s become a little more geometric, it’s still pretty cool.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Crossed Vol. 1

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Jacen Burrows

I’m always wary of Garth Ennis’s Avatar work, as when he works for that company, he tends to indulge the aspects of his writing that I like the least, but at the same time, it was well past time that I checked out his Crossed, as it’s become that company’s tent-pole title.

The concept behind Crossed is a pretty simple riff on the usual zombie apocalypse scenario, only in this book, the infected don’t become mindless, instead they become incredibly depraved and simplistic, indulging in their most base instincts and desires.  The book begins in a small-town diner, when the first of the infected show up causing mayhem.  A small group of people make their way out of town, meet up with some other folk, and lose many along the way, as they decide to try to make their way to Alaska, where the low population density should provide them with some safety (although, really, Montana would have been a lot closer).

Stan is our narrator.  He’s a nice guy who had lived a pretty quiet life before everything fell apart, and he only survived because of Cindy, a waitress and single mother who has the Rick Grimes role in this story.  She’s a very tough woman, determined to keep her son safe and to raise him properly, and it is her steely determination that keeps everyone alive.  As the group moves north, they come across a group of Crossed (the name for the infected) that have evolved a little, capable of organizing, and following the group through the Rocky Mountains.

Ennis fills the book with enough gross-out scenes of mass rape, dismemberment, and bludgeoning with a certain large part of a horse’s anatomy to remind me of why I don’t often read his non-war comics (artist Jacen Burrows seems more than up for the task), and often his characterizations feel a little too simplistic.  We keep being told that Cindy’s son is a terrific kid, but he barely has any dialogue, and there is only one scene in the ten issues collected here where he does something nice for another person.  In another scene that almost becomes touching, an old man reveals some secrets about himself that go way over the top.

In all, I did enjoy this book, and it has some very good moments.  I especially liked the scenes in a downed military helicopter (furthering the argument that Ennis can really only write soldiers convincingly), but the book is pretty nasty a lot of the time.  Burrows is the artist that all other Avatar artists are expected emulate, and that makes things look pretty standard.

I’m wondering which of the other Crossed books are worth checking out.  I know that David Lapham and Jamie Delano have written for the franchise, and that interests me.

Old City Blues

by Giannis Milonogiannis

I’ve liked Giannis Milonogiannis’s work on Brandon Graham’s Prophet, so I thought it might be time to check out his web-comic turned graphic novel Old City Blues.

This book is set in New Athens in 2048, after a flood wiped out much of Greece, and the country (except for the walled off Old City) was rebuilt with the help of the Japanese Hayashi Corporation.  This is a police comic, centred on Detective Solano, who has been investigating a string of strange and seemingly connected murders.  They escalate to the point where Mr. Hayashi himself is the target, although a string of clues suggest that it was Hayashi’s own company that did him in.

This book is a love letter to manga, and so cops use ‘mobile guns’, which are armoured suits that can fly above the city tracking criminals.  We also have cybernetically enhanced humans, and advanced cars and things like that.  I can see why Milonogiannis was tapped to work on Prophet, as there is a similar visual aesthetic, although his work is rougher here than it appears these days.

Milonogiannis uses a lot of speed lines and rough figures to add excitement and kinetic energy to his story.  There is minimal character development, and the plot rolls out along somewhat predictable lines.  At the same time, there is a level of enthusiasm about this work that is pretty infectious.  I see that Archaia has recently released a second volume; I definitely enjoyed this one enough to want to read the new one.  I’d be curious to see how Milonogiannis has grown as a writer after working with Graham and his crew for the last couple of years.

 

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