The Weekly Round-UP #242 With Zero, Archer & Armstrong, Saga, Star Wars & More

Best Comic of the Week:

 Zero #9Ales Kot’s highly fragmented espionage series has often been brutal, but never to the degree of this issue, which focuses on Roman Zizek, who is the title character Edward Zero’s handler.  The story is set during the war in Bosnia, and Zizek has been selling weapons to both sides, presumably at the behest of his organization, but that’s never made clear.  He’s also fallen for a local girl, and is plotting to help her escape the region when he leaves.  The only problem is that his customers have some problems with him.  This issue is drawn by Tonci Zonjic, so of course it looks terrific.  Kot does not clutter up his pages with unnecessary words, and so an artist as atmospheric as Zonjic is really able to go to town on a comic like this.  Even the quietest scenes carry a hint of dread about them, and when Zizek is forced to make a sort of Sophie’s Choice, the pain on his face is palpable.  A very effective issue of a very good series.

Quick Takes:

All-New Ultimates #5 – I’m still not enjoying this new series, and have stopped pre-ordering it.  The problem lies with Michel Fiffe’s writing, as scenes jump all over the place, and characters (especially the members of the Skull gang) act without clear motivation.  I think we’ve gotten past the days of street gangs in comics just being bad because they are a street gang, especially ones that dress like they are in a post-Apocalyptic movie from the 80s.  I don’t want to be all negative though, so I think this is a good place to comment on how much I’ve been enjoying the cover art of David Nakayama.  He’s doing some pretty cool things at Marvel lately, and this cover is a good example of that.

Archer & Armstrong #22I love the work that Fred Van Lente has been doing with this series.  This issue alone has Elvis Presley, 2Pac, Biggie, Armstrong as an Arthurian knight searching for the Holy Grail, and a terrific fight scene between Archer and a nude Armstrong.  The book is hilarious, and also a pretty compelling story about the nature of our celebrity culture.  Van Lente has such a good handle on these characters, and is clearly having a great time writing this book.  Artist Pere Pérez always does a good job, especially on a book where so many characters are supposed to be readily recognizable.

Mighty Avengers #12 – It really is amazing how much Greg Land’s art hurts this book.  Al Ewing is doing a decent job of trying to put together an interesting team book (which, because of low sales, has to cross-over with a lot of Marvel event nonsense), but the art makes the story hard to follow, and almost completely kills my interest in the title.  I’m really buying this out of loyalty to characters, and that is something I don’t usually do.  Now that we know that Luke Cage’s dad was the most useless member of a group of heroes who called themselves the Mighty Avengers back in the 70s, can we move on from the Original Sin trade-dress and get to the story?

100th Anniversary Special: Avengers #1 – I don’t really understand the thinking behind Marvel’s decision to celebrate 100 years of Marvel comics with stories set in 2063 yet released in 2014, but when one of these one-shots is written and drawn by James Stokoe, I don’t care about the thinking behind it.  Stokoe is a brilliant and strange creator, best known for his independent comics Wonton Soup and Orc Stain (oh, how I wish he’d go back to that), and a terrific Godzilla mini-series that came out not that long ago.  Stokoe draws a very busy page, with lots of detail and strange creatures or technology taking up every empty space.  In this book, the Earth has survived an attack by the Badoon, but the Earth is a bit of a mess, and all of America has disappeared into the Negative Zone.  The remaining Avengers, Rogue, Doctor Strange, and Beta Ray Bill, have set up shop in Kuala Lumpur, and it is there that the Mole Man chooses to attack.  Stokoe’s art is wonderful, as always, and his story is a lot of fun.  I felt like he took a long time getting establishing the story, so the resolution had to come pretty quickly, but this was still a good read.  I would love to see Stokoe do more work in the Marvel Universe…

Revival #22Another issue, and more mystery and weirdness, as Dana makes some progress on figuring out what’s been going on in New York City around people ingesting Reviver meat, and as Em figures out that her new, too-good-to-be-true boyfriend has a seriously kinky side.  I really like the way Tim Seeley and Mike Norton keep expanding this story, taking an interesting but kind of limited original concept, and turning it into something on the scale of The Walking Dead.

Saga #21 – I’m really liking this arc, where Alana and Marko are dealing with rather everyday plotlines (the temptations of drug use and marital infidelity, respectively), and the main action involves the Robot royal family, as Prince Robot IV’s son has been abducted while IV has been in a fugue state on Sextillion.  This is always a great comic, and I love some of the small details that Fiona Staples tosses into some scenes, such as the spontaneous tail amputation of a scaly servant on the sex planet.  Great stuff.

Skullkickers #29 – Jim Zub and Edwin Huang finish off the latest arc of this series, as Rolf figures out how to work the Wartyke and protect his people from a bunch of Frost Giants or something like that.  As always, this is a very amusing issue.

Star Wars Legacy #17 – We are nearing the premature end of this series, and as such, things start to happen pretty quickly.  Ania and her friends have tracked down their captured companion Jao Assam to a rogue planet, and attempt to free him from Darth Wredd when a whole bunch of Sith show up.  Artist Brian Thies and colourist Jordan Boyd have a good understanding of the cool factor involved in having a large number of lightsabers be the main source of lighting in a scene, and this comic looks great.  I hope that writers Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko have time and space in the next issue to answer a lot of my questions about Ania Solo, such as her connection to Han, and the nature of his arrangement with the assassination droid that has been helping her.

Storm #1I have considered Storm to be one of my favourite X-Men for a very long time, and have long respected Greg Pak’s ability to make difficult comics or events work, but I was still not exactly sold when I heard about the new Storm on-going series.  To begin with, X-Men don’t tend to do all that well when they strike out on their own (with the notable exception of Wolverine, although even that could be debatable), and secondly, this series didn’t seem to have a clear direction.  Now, reading this first issue, I still feel that way.  Pak has Ororo showing up in a developing country (from the Spanish name, I assume it’s in Central or South America, although it has a Northern coast that fronts an ocean, so I really have no idea where it is – maybe an island in the Caribbean?  Ororo can fly there on her own from Westchester in one night, so maybe it’s just off New Jersey?) where mutants aren’t welcome, even when they save a village from a tsunami.  Back at the school, she gets called a sell-out by a student, and then goes back to the village to help rebuild things, even though that puts her at odds with soldiers working for a resort hotel.  The pacing and structure of this issue remind me of the kind of stories that would show up in anthology titles like X-Men Unlimited.  It does nothing to set this title up as an on-going series, and I have no idea what the next issue will be about.  I’m glad that this comic doesn’t spend time on Ororo’s marriage to Black Panther, or the weirdly hinted-at romance that is blooming between her and Wolverine, because this is a character who should be able to stand on her own, without being in a relationship, but I’d like to know there’s a reason for this title to exist, especially if it’s going to cost $4.

Supreme Blue Rose #1 – I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this new series, which has Warren Ellis working with Rob Liefeld’s old 90s character Supreme.  This character was originally a weak Superman rip-off, but once Alan Moore was brought in to write about him, became one of those few good books from that era.  Ellis has apparently jettisoned all of the previous work done with this character, as from the very beginning, we learn that the universe has reformed itself many times.  Diana Dane is an unemployed journalist who gets offered work by Darius Dax (who I remember being the Lex Luthor of the original series) to investigate some strange happenings in a small town.  Ethan Crane, Supreme, gets mentioned in this context, but the story sticks with Diana, who decides to take the job.  Ellis is not giving us a lot to work with here yet, establishing that Dax is very rich, and not to be trusted, but I have no real idea where this series is headed.  I like Tula Lotay’s art, but found the blue pencil-like lines that drape themselves over and around each page to be a little distracting.  I’m not sure if we’re dealing with auras, or if this is just a design element to make the book stand out.  Ellis is clearly not going for the minimalist approach that is working so well on his Moon Knight, reminding us that he is a multi-faceted writer, but I’m not sure that this issue really grabbed me enough to want to stick with this series long-term.  I’m going to assume that this first issue was mostly about setting up the situation and providing atmosphere, and so I’ll wait to see what next month brings before I really judge things.

Trees #3This Warren Ellis series, on the other hand, is almost as mysterious, but much more satisfying.  He uses this issue to develop a couple of characters first seen in the first issue.  An older professor in Italy is pursued by a young woman he met the other day, who has ties to the local Fascist movement.  In China, a young artist is convinced to leave the room he’s rented and explore the walled city built around one of the trees.  What makes this series so interesting is the way in which it’s not about the titular trees – large structures that aliens plunked down around the Earth one day, and which we know nothing about – or even really about the way in which the trees have affected various societies.  This series is mostly about people who live in a world that is just slightly different from ours, and Ellis is playing a very long game.  I imagine that the science fiction aspects will become important at some point, and that many of these different characters will end up meeting each other, but I have no idea how far down the road that is.  He, and artist Jason Howard, are doing very good work here on a very unique series.

Undertow #6 – This is one series that started off much better than it ended.  Steve Orlando and Artyom Trakhanov’s adventure series is set far in the past, when Atlantean civilization had flourished and then stagnated into a rigid class system.  One revolutionary, Redum Anshargal led a group of like-minded Atlanteans away from that society so that they could start their own, perhaps on the surface.  It is a great premise, and Trakhanov’s unique art has been fascinating, but I feel like the story fell short of meeting its promise, perhaps because this was originally going to have a longer run that got condensed.  This issue has Anshargal and his two companions return to their vessel, which has been taken over by a small Atlantean force, and have to ‘Die Hard’ their way through it to free their people.  It has its moments, but the action is a little hard to follow in places, and the ending doesn’t really satisfy.

Velvet #6The second arc of this series kicks off very well, as Velvet Templeton decides to do what none of her pursuers would expect of her – return to London and start getting answers as to just who has been manipulating her for years.  Ed Brubaker is very good at this kind of book, and he and Steve Epting work very well together, making this a very professional comic.  It might not be a total page-turner every month, but there is a lot to make you want to keep coming back.

Wolverine and the X-Men #6 – At the end of this issue, Logan says “I don’t even know what’s happening anymore,” and it was like he was speaking my thoughts.  This issue, and this entire story arc, has made almost no sense to me, as (even more) visitors from the future have shown up to handle Quentin Quire and Evan in the present so they don’t become major problems in the future, but in doing so, they’ve caused a lot of trouble now.  Some characters spend some of this issue in the future, others in the World, and with five artists on the book, nothing is consistent or clear.  Were the characterizations at least likeable or consistent, I’d not grumble so much, but I think that Jason Latour’s first arc on this book has been pretty terrible.  I have preordered the next few issues, so I’ll give him that time to see if he gets better.  I don’t like the plans for this title after Wolverine gets killed off (rotating guest headmasters or something, starting with Spider-Man), so I doubt I’m going to be here much longer anyway…

Wonder Woman #33 – This was an absolutely riveting issue of Wonder Woman as Brian Azzarello’s story gets closer to its conclusion, and because of that, ramps up the level of excitement.  The First Born’s forces attack Paradise Island, and the combined forces of the Amazons, Hephaestus’s men, a handful of gods, and Orion do not seem to be enough to hold them off, while Diana is the First Born’s captive.  Cliff Chiang captures the pivotal nature of this issue perfectly, as Diana comes to realize that it looks like she’s failed in her mission to keep Zola and Zeke safe.  It’s so rare in today’s comics to find a story that has been running for close to three years, let alone one of this quality.  I can’t wait to see where this story goes.

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

All-New Invaders #8

All-Star Western #33

Amazing Spider-Man #4

Armor Hunters Bloodshot #1

Batman #33

Kill Shakespeare Mask of Night #2

Original Sin #5.2

Original Sins #4

Ragnarok #1

Solar Man of the Atom #4

Tuki Save The Humans #1

Unwritten Vol. 2 Apocalypse #7

Bargain Comics:

All-Star Western #27-29In these three issues, Jonah Hex, who has traveled to our time, meets Superman, goes to a museum exhibit about himself, wrecks a motorcycle, gets plastic surgery, returns to his own time with his new girlfriend, fights Apaches, and tells a racist story.  The pacing of these issues has little to no connection to where one comic ends and the next begins, and it really just feels like, after so many years, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have run out of things to say about the greatest bounty hunter of all time, and are really just making things up as they go.  These are some weird books.

Batman and Robin Annual #2 – This was a cool look back to Dick Grayson’s first official mission as Robin, which of course was a bit of a disaster because of Batman’s need for total control of things.  The comic has a nice framing sequence involving the relationship between Dick and Damian Wayne, which is a pairing that I’ve missed, and the main story features terrific art by Doug Mahnke.  Peter Tomasi excels at writing stories like this, where the family ties in the Bat-world take centre stage, although I feel like we have gone back to the Damian well a few times to many since he died (yet, at the same time, this is really the only series that has done a good job of acknowledging his passing).

Detective Comics #28&29 – John Layman finishes off his run on Detective with the Gothtopia storyline, which was a bit of a letdown in the end.  His Detective was decent, but nowhere near as innovative and alive as his Chew, and it felt like it was trying a little too hard to be dark at the very end.

Detective Comics #30And then with issue 30, Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul arrive, and rather nicely upend things.  Their debut issue got a lot of very positive reaction on this site, but I didn’t come away from it with the same feeling.  Certainly, this is a very nice looking comic, but the current state of things at DC is that whenever somebody innovates a little with page layout, we gush over it because most of the New 52 books are so staid and boring in their visuals.  Sure, some people love what Greg Capullo has been doing on Batman, but I’m not one of those people, and much prefer Manapul’s way of drawing the character.  My problem is one of story.  Much like their run on Flash, there’s nothing too exciting here, and the dialogue often comes off as stiff, or, as one character puts it, “awk-ward”.  A bunch of lowlifes have stolen some drugs (and a bunch of children who look to be of varying ethnicities but only speak Chinese), and Batman (and some bikers) don’t like that, while a pretty woman with a daughter who does tricks on motorbikes tries to get Bruce Wayne to spend money on improving one of Gotham’s poorer neighbourhoods, which raises the ire of a crooked politician.  I found that interesting, because there is supposed to be some sort of urban renewal initiative at the core of Scott Snyder’s Batman, but it’s been ages since that was used as anything more than a reason to have Bruce run into Harper Row socially.  I think the ways in which the city of Gotham gets used in comics could make a very interesting urban studies master’s thesis.  Anyway, this is a perfectly average comic story-wise, that looks great because of Manapul.  At Marvel, this book wouldn’t really stand out, but in the New 52, this counts as groundbreaking and exciting.

Real Heroes #1 – Everyone knows and admires Bryan Hitch’s art, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic he’s written before now.  Real Heroes is about a group of actors who play what is basically The Avengers in a movie, who are surprised to see their on-screen nemesis show up at the premiere of their big budget sequel and trash the place.  Hitch spends the right amount of time establishing most of these characters before the chaos begins, and the concept has my interest.

The Star Wars #5-7I don’t suppose it’s a surprise that a rough draft of a George Lucas movie should be an absolute mess to read, but it’s still a little daunting to realize just how utterly bizarre Lucas’s notions of a story were when he was starting out.  Although, to be fair, this reads a little more like a finished Michael Bay movie, so maybe I’m just being a snob.  It’s still interesting to see how story elements from later films were present in the earliest draft (for example, the Wookies are really just giant Ewoks in these comics).  At the end of the day though, these are some pretty incoherent comics, filled with scenes of people getting trapped and freed in a matter of pages over and over again.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1&2 – I was a big fan of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s first volume of The Unwritten, at least up until the point that Tom Taylor’s life crossed over with that of Bill Willingham’s Fables, and everything took a nose-dive.  That arc just felt so misguided to me, as Tom and his crew took second place to Willingham’s crowd, and I really lost interest to the point that when the series was relaunched, with an increased price, I never bothered to pick it up.  These first two issues do rekindle my affection for Tom, Lizzie, and their supporting cast, and of course for Gross’s wonderful art, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to dive back into the series, which is unfortunate.  In these two issues, Tom makes his way home, only to find that the ‘real world’ is now experiencing numerous fictional incursions, as Leviathan is dying.  These are good comics, but I’m not sure that they’re good enough to recover the momentum this series lost by relaunching (and price-gouging).

Wolverine #2 – Reading this, I could barely remember what happened in issue one of this latest re-launch of Wolverine’s main book, which is all part of the build up to his eventual death.  Knowing that the character isn’t going to last too long, and that his death is going to be written by another writer, I really don’t get what Paul Cornell is doing with this book.  Logan seems obsessed with tracking down Sabretooth, having a rather confusing chat with Spider-Man (the Superior, Spidey-Ock version; man things don’t last long in the Marvel U), and joining with a group of powered criminals.  The story is not clear enough on its own to make me care about anything that’s happening in it, or what Logan is going through.  I get that he’s always been a loner when things are at their toughest, but that’s not really what’s being shown here.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

This week I read Seconds, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new graphic novel, and I wrote up a long review of it.  It should be somewhere on this site, or will be soon.

 

What did you read this weekend?  What did you hear from San Diego that got you excited (or angry)?  Let us know in the comments!

 

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