The Weekly Round-Up #245 With Archer & Armstrong, Abe Sapien, Armor Hunters, Dark Ages, FBP, Sex Criminals, Star Wars, Unity, The Walking Dead & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Archer & Armstrong #23It’s hard to find the words to express how much I’m enjoying Archer & Armstrong.  In this issue, Fred Van Lente wraps up his American Wasteland arc, which features Jim Morrison as the head of a Hollywood religion attempting to use the Wheel of Aten to give himself great power, only to have to deal with a time travelling Archer and naked Armstrong, who put together a very interesting and amusing plot to stop him.  This book is hilarious (I love the scene where Elvis Presley steals a woman’s car) and very intelligent at the same time, with tons of little asides that reward long-time readers.  Brilliant stuff.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #15 – This month we get a flashback issue illustrated by the wonderful Juan Ferreyra, whose art I haven’t seen a lot of since Rex Mundi ended.  Anyway, this issue takes place a while ago, when Abe had pulled himself from field missions with the BPRD, and when Captain Daimio and Roger were the heavy hitters in the Bureau.  It’s nice to see Roger again, just as it’s nice to see Abe in his classic look.  This was a good issue.

All-New X-Men #30 – Remember when Chris Claremont used to take an issue of Uncanny X-Men after a particularly long storyline or a really big event, and just have the team hang out together (usually there was baseball)?  It worked really well as a way to advance subplots and check in with characters that hadn’t been getting a lot of attention.  That’s basically all Brian Michael Bendis does with this issue, although no subplots move forward at all.  Past Warren and X-23 hook up (Bendis has been determined to get her with one of the Past team), Past Jean and Emma have a long conversation and start bonding, while Kitty and Star-Lord use holographic FaceTime to flirt.  Basically, that’s all that happens this issue, until Storm and a few of the other Jean Grey School X-Men show up to invite everyone to a back issue of Uncanny X-Men.  In a lot of ways, this is the most Brian Michael Bendis issue of X-Men ever written, and I’m not saying that in a good way.  At least Sara Pichelli’s art is pretty…

Amazing X-Men #10I’ve liked this Wendigo storyline (it has Alpha Flight in it!), but am getting frustrated with the extreme level of decompression being used to tell the story.  For example, to explain why Doctor Strange is not around, we get a whole page shot of him doing some magic stuff back in his house that adds nothing to the story.  I’m also getting a little tired of how hard the writers, Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, are working to keep the tone light while telling a pretty horrifying story.  Still, Alpha Flight…

Armor Hunters #3 – Recognizing that they have very little chance of winning the conflict with the Armor Hunters, the Unity team and their allies decide to attempt turning the tables, which doesn’t go all that well for Los Angeles.  Robert Venditti has done a great job of maintaining a real sense of consequence to this event, as well as making it a great read.

Avengers Undercover #8 – With three issues remaining in this series, Dennis Hopeless finally kicks his story into high gear, as the kids have to decide if they are going to take down Baron Zemo’s whole operation, or join it.  The story has jumped three months forward in time, and more than a few of the kids have gotten a little too used to the villainous lifestyle.  A new artist, Tigh Walker joins the book, and I really like his work, which reminds me a little of Becky Cloonan’s art.  My interest in this book just spiked again.

Avengers World #11 – I’ve really lost the thread of this series, as a group of Avengers children from the future (because every Marvel book requires visitors from the future these days) come to help Maria Hill fight AIM on their island, while not addressing the fact that Smasher is being held prisoner there, and while complaining the whole time about how much they do not like Hill.  I felt like this series had some grand plan to it before, but somewhere in the handover of this title from Jonathan Hickman to Nick Spencer, I fear that the plot has gotten lost.  It’s nice to see artist Raffaele Ienco get a higher profile book at Marvel – he’s a talented artist.

Dark Ages #1I preordered this new fantasy mini-series from Dark Horse on the strength of The New Deadwardians, a cool Vertigo comic for a while back by Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard, who have reunited for this new comic.  I’m getting a little worn out by the rush of fantasy books that have popped up in the wake of Game of Thrones, but Abnett is a comics master, and Culbard has a very cool minimalist approach to his art that I enjoy.  I’m not all that clear on what’s happening in this comic yet – we meet a large group of unemployed mercenaries hoping to find a war, who are surprised at their campfire one night by items falling from the sky, which hatch dragon-like things that attack them.  There’s also a strange monastery.  Not a whole lot more happens in this issue, but it does look nice.  I’ll see where this goes…

Dream Merchant #4 – I’d pretty much forgotten about this mini-series, written by Nathan Edmondson, which is over a year late.  Edmondson has been pretty busy at Marvel, writing Punisher, Black Widow, and the upcoming Deathlok, so I can see how his Image books have fallen by the wayside (Where is Jake Ellis? also suddenly reappeared this week), but I would much rather get a new issue of The Activity, his excellent special ops book with his Punisher collaborator Mitch Gerads than an issue of this mini-series, which wasn’t working for me before it went on hiatus.  There are some creatures that are invading the Earth through a dream dimension or something, and there’s a kid who can see them, but he’s on the run from a mental institute.  I felt pretty lost reading this issue, and don’t know how much I still care about this book.  Sometimes, preordering works against you…

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #13I think it’s a bad thing that I don’t really know what’s going on in this comic anymore.  I enjoy the characters, and I like Robbi Rodriguez’s art, but the story is either confusing me, or is just not holding my interest enough to make me care about what’s happening.

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #5 – Kaare Andrews adds a little more to the mythology around the Iron Fist with this issue, but my interest in this book continues to decrease.  I find that Andrews isn’t saying anything new or interesting enough about this character, and were it not for the high esteem in which I hold his art, I’d have dropped the book already.  I just feel that after the classic Fraction/Brubaker Iron Fist, there was no need to return to the character in a solo setting for yet another story that is too focused on K’un-Lun.

Justice League United #4 – As the first arc finally winds down, Jeff Lemire gets around to establishing this new team as an actual thing, although the reasons for the heroes choosing to come together feel a little forced.  I’ve been a little surprised at how this series has turned out so far, having expected a lot more from this title than some by-the-numbers plots about villainous aliens.  Even the sacrifice of a particular hero has felt more like a necessary plot point than an actual event.  I usually really enjoy Jeff Lemire’s writing, and want to support a team book set in my home country, but am not sure I see myself sticking around much longer.  I have preordered the next few issues (not counting the Futures End thing, because I don’t care about that at all), but I’m quickly losing interest in this book (which is weird, because I love Lemire on Animal Man and Green Arrow).

Lobster Johnson: Get the Lobster #5 – Two Tonci Zonjic books in the same week is a big treat (see below) as the Lobster chases down the radio-control doctor guy, and they have a fight on a zeppelin.  The visuals are great in this issue, although the story does tend to follow all the usual Lobster Johnson tropes.

Original Sin #7I’m not all that clear on how Nick Fury, aging and wearing a battle suit, is able to hold off against the most powerful of Avengers, even accepting that he has a few tricks up his sleeves to take out some of the biggest guns.  This title just gets stranger and stranger as it nears its big conclusion, and I feel badly that poor Uatu had to meet such a dishonorable fate.  It now seems like this book is just working through a checklist of important events to set up already announced initiatives like ‘Girl Thor’ and the new Winter Soldier title.

San Hannibal #3 – I’m really glad I decided to stick with this interesting mystery comic.  There’s a lot that’s still not very clear, but as Avery gets closer to tracking down the missing photojournalist he’s been hired to find, it’s clear that she got herself into some very weird stuff that involves the upper crust of San Hannibal society.  Dan Schkade’s story is interesting, and I like his art, but what really makes this title stand out is Jesse Snavlin’s colours.  Most of this issue is told using only yellow (with a bit of blue), until Avery is apprehended, and then blues and magentas start busting out all over the place.  In a lot of ways, this book reminds me of Casanova, as Schkade’s art is reminiscent of Bá and Moon’s work from that classic series.

Sex Criminals #7 – This continues to be one of the most entertaining and thoughtful comics on the stands, and that’s largely just because of the letters page.  The comic itself is terrific – Suzy reconnects with her best friend, which involves letting her in on a big secret, while Jon decides to visit the home of the woman who runs the Sex Police, while using his time-stopping powers.  Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky balance humour, sexiness, and very real-feeling depictions of the characters very well.

She-Hulk #7 – This title is really pretty delightful.  She-Hulk and Hellcat need to rescue a scientist (who only apparently dresses in vintage Star Trek cosplay) who has shrunk himself in a backyard.  Hank Pym gets in on the action, but the book’s two heroines are at the centre of things.  Javier Pulido does a terrific job on the art, while Charles Soule keeps the script quick-paced and amusing.  I love that Marvel has books like this.

Skullkickers #30I’ve often enjoyed the ‘Tavern Tales’ issues of Skullkickers, but this one is easily the best yet.  Between story arcs, writer Jim Zubkavich usually gave over an issue of the series to a number of different creators to just have fun with his creations.  This time around, he’s worked up four stories set in alternate universes, showing our two heroes in different lights.  The book opens with a Chinese Wuxia-style story.  We also see a classic science fiction rocket adventure, and a biker zombie story.  The best part of this comic, though, is the story that casts Rolf and Rex as Batman and Robin type heroes, using their vast wealth to fight against the poor.  Lots of slapstick humour, and terrific, genre-appropriate art by Jeff Cruz and Royce Southerland really make this issue a winner.

Starlight #5 – Mark Millar and Goran Parlov are getting close to the end of their ‘Old Buck Rogers’ sci-fi epic, so we are given an issue that has a lot of action.  The bad guys raid the rebel’s base unexpectedly, and it seems like Duke McQueen may be the last chance the entire planet has for freedom.  I wonder what might happen next…

Star Wars #20 – I’m very sad to see that Brian Wood’s run with Star Wars, as well as Dark Horse’s, is finished.  I’ve really enjoyed this return to the original movie continuity, and the focus on building and maintaining the Rebellion after the events of the first movie.  This issue shows the core cast working to rescue an old friend of Leia’s, an undercover agent who has been gone so long as to be under suspicion.  I like the way this story sets up the logical move to the ice world of Hoth without even mentioning that planet, as well as shows some of the growth the Luke Skywalker undertook between the first two movies.  It’s a little strange that the flagship Marvel Star Wars title will be mining the exact same time period; I’ll be curious to see how similar the two books are, although I don’t know that I’ll stick with the Marvel title after John Cassaday either leaves the book or causes it to become ridiculously delayed (I’m predicting four issues, tops).

Thief of Thieves #23Redmond is in full-on vengeance mode, and so this issue is much bloodier than what we usually see in this comic.  I’m still interested in what’s going on, but feel like this title must be getting close to being finished, as I can’t see the series going much further after this arc is over.

The United States of Murder Inc. #4 – Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming are doing some really good work with this alternate history mob book.  It’s been a long time since their Powers (or Powers Bureau, if you need to be absolutely current) has held my attention like this series is.  Valentine and his protector go looking for help at the World Trade Center, which is a giant casino in this world, but instead find a hit squad from one of the other families.  The level of intrigue is growing, and we are still not totally clear on what the FBI has planned.  I also love that this book is coming out on a monthly schedule – it’s been a long time since these two have attempted something like that.

Unity #10 – This may be the first real misstep in the Armor Hunters saga, as almost nothing happens in the entire issue.  We get a confusing series of flashbacks involving Gin-GR (stupid name), the sentient ship that the Hunters fly around in, and a bunch of scenes that fit between parts of this week’s Armor Hunters, but which don’t really add much to the mix.  Disappointing.

The Walking Dead #130 – Rick and Carl make it to the Hilltop, and we get to check in with Maggie, meet her son, and see just how much Rick is worshipped as a hero there.  I’ve been enjoying this jump in time, although it does seem like there’s not a lot of drama in the world any more.  To address that, Robert Kirkman introduces a possible new twist on the dead, but I’m pretty sure that’s going to be an example of misdirection.  I still really love this comic, but it’s getting close to time for something bad to happen again.  I do really like the way the newcomers to Alexandria react to Negan.

Westward #8Ken Krekeler’s very interesting self-published series is really moving quickly now that it’s getting close to its big finish.  A lot is revealed in this issue, as the plans of CLAW, an anti-technology terrorist group, are laid bare, as is the identity of the mastermind behind all of the West family’s problems.  I am glad I stumbled across this book, as Krekeler is a very good writer.

Where is Jake Ellis? #4 – This comic was solicited to come out in February of 2013, so I guess I can be forgiven for not fully remembering all that was going on with Jon and Jake.  Still, Nathan Edmondson is very good at writing espionage-driven action stories, and Tonci Zonjic is an incredible artist, so I quickly found myself wrapped back up in the story.  Jon, Jake, and the woman from the state department try to escape their captors, but run into some trouble along the way.  Here’s hoping it’s not going to be another year and a half before we get to read the resolution of this good comic.

Wolverine and the X-Men #7 – I have not been too impressed with this series since it was relaunched under Jason Latour’s direction, but this issue is a step in the right direction.  Having finished off the confusing first arc, Latour takes a bit of a breather, checking in on a few different characters, and focusing on Wolverine’s loss of his healing factor.  I still feel like some of the characterizations (especially Idie’s) are way off, but I appreciate that at least some effort is being made to recognize that the strength of the X-Men books has always lay in the diversity of the characters.  It would be nice if something could be done about the art on this title – I’ve lost count of how many artists have worked on this title already, and this issue has three different artists credited.  It helps underscore what a mess this title is.

Zero #10Ales Kot uses this issue in a different way from the rest, showing us where Edward Zero hid himself for a while after leaving the Agency.  He spends the issue hiding out in Iceland, trying to figure out how to have a regular life.  Michael Gaydos drew this issue, which did not strike me with the same force as the last few.  It’s hard to make a regular, boring life visually interesting.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #5

Batman #34

Captain America #23

Captain Marvel #6

Deadpool #33

Fantastic Four #8

Hulk #5

Nightcrawler #5

Red Sonja #11

Wolverine #11

X-Men #18

Bargain Comics:

Batwoman #31&32As much as I like and respect Marc Andreyko’s writing (especially his Manhunter), I feel like his Batwoman is going nowhere.  Kate is not a detective-type now, nor is she particularly interesting as a hero.  Her personal life is a little more interesting, as she is helping her fiancée fight for custody of her daughter, but Andreyko is tossing a lot of new minor characters into the book that aren’t particularly memorable (or visually distinctive).  I feel like this book could be a lot better than it is, but I no longer know what Kate dresses up to fight crime, and find the villains that she encounters, Wolf-Spider and Nocturna, to be pretty dull, to say nothing of the bad idea that is Kill-Shot.  At least she’s not tripping in every second issue now…

Conan the Avenger #4 – I really want to like this Conan series, because it’s written by Fred Van Lente, who nails just about everything he writes.  I know that the Brian Wood series, which was my gateway to Conan, was not always liked by the purists, but I found the character to be interesting.  Here, he feels like a vehicle to drive the plot, which is not something I care that much about, with its wizard manipulating things in a kingdom where a sneaky vicious sister controls her hedonistic and stupid brother, who is the King.  What I did like was the way in which Eduardo Francisco drew a wizard to look like Dr. Strange, and Van Lente had him use the word ‘hoary’.  That part made me smile.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 13 – Things are really heating up in this series, as the death of the Friend causes a purge among the highest ranks of his organization, and the sparking off of a plague in an attempt to wipe out most of the world’s population.  As always, this massive series is an exciting read, and I’m always amazed by the way Naoki Urasawa weaves in new story elements in a way that still feels natural and not forced.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Chicanos Vol. 2

Written by Carlos Trillo
Art by Eduardo RissoCarlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso had a long and prosperous partnership together, creating some very interesting comics like Vampire Boy and Borderline, but their Chicanos is probably one of the stranger and more memorable projects they worked on.Chicanos tells the story of Alejandrina Jalisco, a short and awkward private investigator who can barely rub two dimes together, who lives and works in a poor Latino area of New York.  She is cursed with terrible luck – she has a tendency to get hit by buses whenever things start to go her way, which isn’t often – and is generally mistreated by almost everybody she knows, yet she maintains a level of optimism and goodwill about her.This second IDW volume collects the second half of Jalisco’s stories, I believe for the first time in English.  The collection is interesting – the stories stay pretty bleak but are humorous at the same time – and Risso’s art looks very nice, in the way that his work always does.  I wish IDW had done a little more to separate the various chapters, as it’s not always clear where one story ends and the next begins (plus, I’m sure there are some beautiful Risso covers that weren’t collected).

If you’re looking for an oddball graphic novel to entertain you, you could do a lot worse than this.

 

That’s everything I read this week.  How about you?  Let us know what you’re feeling lately in the comments section below.

 

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