The Weekly Round-Up #249

This was a pretty strange, independent kind of week, where even the comics I bought from the Big Two had more of an indie vibe about them.  I like weeks like that.

I had a thought this week about the DC Futures End event, and how it pertains to speculators.  I decided that I should pick up the Grayson issue from last week, since it’s gotten a lot of good buzz on this site and others, and I was on the fence about it originally.  As it turns out, after visiting four comics stores, the 2D version of the book was sold out everywhere I went.  I refuse to pay an extra dollar for a shiny 3D cover, because I also noticed that all of these stores still have issues of it sitting on the shelf (more than 20 in one store).  I guess I’ll wait for the 3D covers to show up in the dollar bins in a few months and read it then.  I just wonder if other people have had similar experiences, and if the 2D covers are the ones that are going to be more ‘collectable’.  Thoughts?

Best Comic of the Week:

East of West #15I picture Jonathan Hickman’s plan for this series to be kind of like a large and complex puzzle of that kind that is saved for rainy weeks at a cottage.  Since the series began, he’s been connecting a few pieces here and there, but is finally starting to be able to connect some larger chunks, to allow the viewers, or the readers, to start to see the larger image.  The Horsemen are after Death’s son, but he’s finally disconnected himself from the machines that have been teaching him his whole life, and is ready to make his own way in the world, with only ‘Balloon’, a floating robotic device he’s tethered to (which is identical to the ones that the Nation uses) helping him, and interpreting events for him.  The boy, who gets a name this issue, has a confrontation with Conquest which goes unexpectedly.  The last couple of pages are as terrific, and tied to the image on the cover, as they are unexpected.  I love Hickman’s writing on this book, and cannot get enough of Nick Dragotta’s art.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #16 – Abe travels to Texas in this issue, specifically to the place where he was shot, in a slightly confusing story that has him run across the BPRD, and some familiar faces.  I’m not too clear on where this arc is going, but I continue to enjoy this title.

Annihilator #1 – The new Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving series is a little strange, but I really liked this issue.  Ray Spass (that’s pronounced ‘space’) is a screenwriter whose life has been on on-going party since his girl left him, but now he’s moved into a house with a history of murder and Satanism, and is desperately working on a screenplay about a haunted house set in space.  The scenes set in the movie (as visualized in Spass’s head) are a little different, and it looks like the two stories are set to collide in a very Morrisonian way (he does love to write about writers who meet their creations).  Irving’s art is terrific, and the production values on this book from Legendary Comics, are quite nice.  This is worth checking out.

Archer & Armstrong #24Mary-Maria gets herself a solo issue (written by Karl Bollers), as she travels to Brazil to take care of some personal business, which just happens to align with the affairs of her order.  I liked getting more insight into this character, but felt that the writing was not up to the standard that Fred Van Lente has set for this series.  Basically, the drama was there, but the humour was missing.

Avengers Undercover #10 – The conclusion to Dennis Hopeless’s second go round with these powered teens ends kind of abruptly, but satisfyingly enough.  Only one of the kids gets any real play here, and that’s Cammi, while the rest of the cast are relegated to being background extras.  I think the fact that this title didn’t last too long is proof that the Avengers brand is getting a little over-extended these days, and that the books with only tangential claim to that title need to get culled from Marvel’s catalogue.  It’s too bad though, because Avengers Arena, this title’s precursor, was pretty good.  This title never quite felt right though.

The Bunker #6 – Joshua Hale Fialkov backs up his story a little, and shows us what Future Brady and his companion (avoiding spoilers from last issue) were up to in the month or so they were in the present before the friends came across the bunker.  This book just keeps getting more interesting, as we start chipping away at the layers of deceit and deception that the future and past versions of these characters perpetrate on each other and themselves.  Joe Infurnari’s art is growing by leaps and bounds – there is a full-page splash of Grady burning some papers that is incredible.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #2Leave it to Joe Casey to make a series about a bunch of derivative-looking later Jack Kirby characters something I want to read (although putting Nathan Fox on art did not hurt at all).  The Rangers are busy hunting the two clones of their Captain that were jettisoned during their recent space battle with some bad guys.  One, a badly disfigured clone, has ended up on a junk heap of a world, where things are all pretty gritty, while the other, still an adolescent, has ended up in late 70s New York, where he is having trouble with a local gang.  Michel Fiffe (of the interesting Copra and the pretty terrible All-New Ultimates) also draws a few pages that show Victory’s ascent through the fascistic organization he works for.  This is a very nice looking comic.

Copperhead #1 – I almost didn’t pick up Copperhead, but I’m very happy that I did.  In this new series from Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski, a single mother and her son arrive in Copperhead, a dusty mining town on a backwater planet.  The woman has been hired as the town’s new sheriff (it is stated that she had to start her life over, but we have no idea why), and she doesn’t win any friends, treating her deputy (from a different species) poorly, and offending the owner of the mine.  We get the beginning of a murder mystery, and the start of a plotline involving the sheriff’s son disobeying her and sneaking out of their home after dark.  Faerber has set up a very intriguing world, and Godlewski’s art depicts it wonderfully.  As with most new Image series, I don’t know if this is a mini-series or an on-going, but I’m planning on sticking around if the next issue is as good as this one.

Dark Ages #2 – The first issue of Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard’s new series didn’t do much to impress me, but this issue adds a few layers to the story that makes it more interesting.  A band of mercenaries have holed up in a monastery that houses a silent order of monks, and they are besieged by a bunch of demonic creatures.  I love Culbard’s minimalistic art, and am curious about where Abnett is taking this story.

Hawkeye #20It looks like Matt Fraction is wrapping up Kate Bishop’s solo adventures on the West Coast, as she confront Madame Masque again in a story that plays a little loose with linear structure.  I think that the time is right for Hawkeye as a series to come to its conclusion, because it’s not really feeling as fresh as it once did.

Imperial #2 – Steven T. Seagle’s new series with artist Mark Dos Santos is a lot of fun to read.  Mark is a bit of schlub, but for some reason, he’s been chosen to take up the mantle of Imperial (who is a little more like Alan Moore era Supreme than he is Superman).  The hero rescues Mark at the beginning of the issue, and later they eat smores.  This is a good light comedy series which enjoys poking a bit of fun at Silver Age superheroes.

Invincible #114 – Robert Kirkman takes Mark and his family down ever darker roads as Robot consolidates his power base, getting some of the remaining heroes to turn on each other, and forcing Mark to reevaluate his position.  What I like most about this series right now is that I really have no idea where it is heading.

Justice League United: Futures End #1 – Putting Dawnstar on the cover of a comic book is a good way to make sure I’ll buy it (for a while at least – I did drop Legion Lost pretty quickly in the early days of the New 52).  In five years, Jeff Lemire’s United Justice League squad will have fallen apart.  Equinox is patrolling the vast reaches of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, while Animal Man has retired (and not followed through on the weird promise he made to some extra-dimensional creature towards the end of his series), while the Martian Manhunter has turned himself into the telepathic warden of a prison on Mars.  His charges have escaped, and that has him call Equinox to come help.  She has to go to the Justice League, which is now run by Cyborg, and which features a few new characters.  They fly to Mars to do battle with the bad guys.  The story works well enough, and I like that Lemire took this opportunity to make it clear that Equinox is a character who should be around for a while.  The art, by Jed Dougherty, has a pretty indie vibe to it.  Sometimes his proportions feel a little bit off, but the story works.  I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up the conclusion to this story though – if it’s written by Lemire, I’ll give it a good look.

Lazarus #11It’s time for the various families who run the world to come together for a Conclave, which it seems is exactly what the patriarch of the Carlyle family wants.  Forever continues to question her parentage, as we look in on any number of schemes and personal agendas, which are going to play out over the next arc.  I really like the work that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark are doing with this book.

Morning Glories #40 – When this series came out with great frequency, it was very easy to get swept up in the layering of mystery that each new issue brought, but now that it is running a few months behind schedule, and the waits between issues keeps growing, Nick Spencer’s penchant for throwing more stuff at us is becoming a little annoying.  In this issue, two ‘guest teachers’, both parents to students at the school, turn up to make up for the lack of a Science Fair, and we get lengthy discussions of quantum physics.  I used to love this book, but I feel more and more like it’s lost its way.

MPH #3 – Mark Millar’s exploration of the value of superspeed is interesting, but I still don’t fully understand how everyones’ speed is supposed to work, since sometimes they move so quickly that they are completely unseen, but at other times they leave a path of destruction behind them.  Anyway, that’s not the point of this comic, which has four poor kids from Detroit deciding to redistribute wealth in the United States.  There are a lot of cool little moments in this issue, and Duncan Fegredo’s art is very nice.

Ms. Marvel #8Kamala has adopted Lockjaw, the famous Inhuman dog, and is trying to find the other kids that have been kidnapped by the Inventor.  This is a pretty standard issue, and fun, but not all that special.  It’s nice to see Adrian Alphona back on the art.

Powers Bureau #11 – It’s weird to think that Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming are now working on this series at the same time that they are the superior United States of Murder Inc.  It’s been so long since the last issue of this series came out that I had a hard time remembering what was going on, although I was not all that surprised to see the issue end in a couple places I’m pretty sure we’ve been before.

Prophet Strikefile #1 – I was on the fence about buying this, because I outgrew ‘reference’ comics years ago, but the stable of artists working on this book (Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis, Matt Sheehan and Malachi Ward, for example) swayed my mind.  Simon Roy has written a short history of the Earth Empire, which might have come in handy a little more in the early days of Brandon Graham’s run on Prophet, but it was still pretty interesting.  The other profile pages were light on information.  If I pick up the next issue, it’s only out of my need to be a completist.

Sheltered #11 – It’s always a treat when a new issue of this excellent “pre-apocalyptic” series arrives.  The wider world is becoming more interested in what’s happening in Safe Haven, as a missing persons report sends a pair of cops to the house where much of the second arc took place, and as Victoria and her friend make their slow way back to civilization.  Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas really impress on this book.

Stumptown Vol. 3 #1I am, of course, happy to see Greg Rucka return to Dex Pairos and her life as a conflict-magnet of a private detective, but I’m sad to see original series artist Mathew Southworth depart.  Justin Greenwood (who is also currently working on The Fuse) takes his place, and while he’s a decent artist, his work is much more cartoonish, and doesn’t fit as well with the atmosphere of this series.  Dex and her brother go to a soccer game (after Dex loses one of her own), and that’s basically what happens in this issue.  There is a body discovered at the end of things, but really the whole issue is spent establishing that people in Portland love their soccer (and hate Seattle).  I was entertained, but didn’t come away from this issue with the same enthusiasm I did from the first volume.

The United States of Murder Inc. #5 – Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming take Valentine and Jagger to Las Vegas, where the newly made man tries to arrange a deal with the head of the Vegas mafia, despite the fact that his boss has already given him up.  We learn who actually killed the US Senator, a murder that Valentine has been framed for, although the why has not been forthcoming yet.  This series is a very good read, and works to remind me just how good Bendis can be at times.

Velvet #7 – In an interesting approach to this issue, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting move the focus away from Velvet Templeton, an ex-spy who has gone rogue to investigate the death of an agent (and lover), focusing instead on two of the agents that are chasing her.  I like stories that show some of the mechanics of the spy business, and it’s interesting to see how the two men use different approaches, and don’t trust one another.  This is a very smart, very engaging series.

The Walking Dead #131I’m still loving this arc, which has jumped forward in time to a much kinder, gentler era for our beloved characters.  Carl is set to begin his apprenticeship, and Rick and Maggie are coming to grips with the demands of leadership, and just how happy their jobs actually make them.  The optimism drips off each page, which has got to be a weird place to be for Robert Kirkman, as that’s not at all what he’s known for.  Drama is provided by the search for a missing man at the Hilltop, and a bad fate is hinted at for Michonne, but overall, these are some pretty pleasant days to live in a post-Zombie Apocalypse.  I think it’s a testament to how much I love these characters that I’m not bored by this arc, and instead would happily keep reading about these folk sharing communal dinners and planning an inter-community fair.  I love it, and dread when Kirkman makes everything fall apart, as he inevitably will, since he isn’t doing his job if he’s not bloodying somebody up.  I think that it’s that knowledge that makes even these bucolic issues feel vaguely menacing, at least in the background.

Wasteland #57 – We continue to learn, through flashbacks, what caused ‘The Big Wet’, destroying our civilization and sending the surviving humans on the road to the society that this series has been exploring.  As we get closer and closer to the conclusion of this book, my enthusiasm for it grows.  I’m still very happy that original artist Christopher Mitten returned to help writer Antony Johnston take us to the end.

Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:

68 Homefront #1

Amazing Spider-Man #6

Avengers #34.1

Batgirl Futures End #1

Batman Eternal #23

Batman Futures End #1

Caliban #6

Captain Marvel #7

Deadpool #34

Death of Wolverine #2

Ghosted #13

Legends of the Dark Knight 100-Page Spectacular #4

Magneto #9

New Warriors #9

Nightcrawler #6

Suicide Risk #17

Superannuated Man #3

Terminal Hero #2

Wilds End #1

Bargain Comics:

Batman #31-33Sometimes I think that I’m not reading the same comics that other people are.  I’ve been hearing nothing but positive things about Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run, but I got sick of it (and the constant appearance of over-priced issues) a while ago.  I thought I’d see how the end of Zero Year turned out, and to be honest, I don’t understand it at all.  Batman had to use some weird Tony Stark-like device to model the entirety of Gotham’s power grid on his own heartbeat?  Is that what happened at the end?  I like my Batman to be solving crimes in the dark, not fighting lions on a motorbike in broad daylight, for reasons that nobody can clearly explain.  And this is the story that effectively negates Year One, the Miller/Mazzuchelli classic?  I don’t really understand the thinking behind that.

Batman #34 – And then there’s this issue, which returns Batman more to type, as he investigates the murder of Dr. Leslie Tompkins’s patients.  It’s a little more traditional (it’s co-written by Gerry Duggan, who is mostly associated with Deadpool now), and it looks great, thanks to guest artist Matteo Scalera, but something still feels off about this story too.  It takes place during Batman Eternal, which I’m not reading, so maybe that explains why I was lost.

Captain America #23 – Now that Steve Rogers is an old man, the focus of the action has to switch to the Avengers, as Zola makes his big move, and Cap gets to see a loved one he thought long gone.  When Carlos Pacheco draws this book, I like it much more than I did before.

The Punisher #1-6I’ve been a big fan of Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’s work on their excellent Image series The Activity, and thought they’d be a very good fit for a new Punisher comic.  In the first arc, they have Frank work against a drug cartel that has set up shop in LA, that is working with AIM and doing some kind of evil with chemical weapons.  These creators make good use of their military comics experience, having a special ops team chasing Frank that could be the crew from their other book, while also integrating with the Marvel Universe by having Electro show up for a bit.  This is a pretty solid story, and Gerads does a very good job with it, although to be honest, I’d rather see the issue of The Activity that was supposed to come out in May of 2013…

The Punisher #7&8 – The second arc of this series starts off even better than the first, as Edmondson is joined by co-writer Kevin Maurer, and artist Carmen Carnero.  On the run in Mexico, trying to patch up some wounds, Frank ends up getting sold to a different cartel, which in turn tries to pass him on to somebody else, who has hired Crossbones to go get him.  Frank escapes from his captors with the help of a Special Forces guy that was also being held, and they spend two issues working to stay free.  These two issues are pretty exciting, and full of military jargon, although I prefer Gerads’s art to Carnero’s.

Shadowman #13-16 – Peter Milligan came on to Shadowman, and I’m sure that hopes were high that he could turn the floundering series around, although this was the Peter Milligan who wrote the X-Men for a while, not the one who wrote Shade or X-Force.  Suddenly, Jack Boniface is mentally unbalanced, and the Abettors decide they want to get rid of him, while he goes to a British punk rocker who works as a mambo in the swamp.  I didn’t get involved in this story at all, which wastes the talent of artist Roberto De La Torre.  I was curious about the follow-up mini-series, but now I’m going to pass.

Uncanny X-Men Special #1 – These Marvel Specials that come in batches of three are strange beasts.  I like the concept of having some characters who don’t normally interact come across each other, but the marketing of these mini-cross-overs is just terrible.  This issue continues in Iron Man Special, but you would never be able to learn that from reading this comic.  It ends with the words ‘To be continued’, but it doesn’t say where.  I presume that this story ends in a Nova Special, since Nova is on the cover, but he’s nowhere in this book.  Anyway, this is an entertaining story about Cyclops being abducted by Death’s Head (who isn’t named in the book, and is much smaller than he was when last seen in Iron Man) and a couple of other bounty hunters, for some familiar-looking space pirate type, who is also unnamed.  The younger members of the Uncanny team go after him, with one of the Cuckoos and the guy who can imitate other people infiltrating SWORD for information.  Sean Ryan shows a good handle on these characters, and I like Ron Ackins’s art, although the story is way too decompressed, and too much space is given to overly-large panels.  This story could have just as easily fit within a regular-sized, 20 page comic, and cost a dollar less.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Bad Houses

Written by Sara Ryan
Art by Carla Speed McNeil

I knew I wanted to read Bad Houses just on the strength of artist Carla Speed McNeil’s involvement, but I was not prepared on any level for how good this book is.

Bad Houses is set in Failin, a small town in Oregon that has seen better days.  It’s main industry, the Faithful Angus Brewery has been closed for years, and young people seem to be in a hurry to get out.  The story is centred around Cat’s Matchless Estate Sales, which organizes and runs estate sales as the town’s aging population dwindles.

Cat runs the business along with her son Lewis, who is just out of high school (I assume) and is learning the ropes.  He meets Anne at one of the sales.  She’s an artsy high school student who feels very deeply the connection that people have to objects.  Part of that comes from her mother, Danica, who is a hoarder.  Danica meets AJ when he admits his mother to the old age home where she works, and they begin a relationship.  The other important member of the book’s cast is Fred, a grumpy antique shop owner, who has a connection to Cat and Lewis’s absent father.

Writer Sara Ryan uses an interesting approach to telling this story, using a third person narrator who sometimes steps into the characters’ heads to help explain their thinking, and at other times leaving the heavy lifting to McNeil.  All of these characters are complex and very well-realized, and after reading through the book’s hundred and fifty pages, I felt that I knew them so well I’d been reading about them for ages.

This book explores our relationships with stuff as well as with other people, and has a good understanding of just how much emotion, hope, and memory can be invested in the things that we own.  It also looks at how hard it can be to share some of our most personal inner stuff with others.

McNeil is an incredible cartoonist, and it’s nice to see her portray a more everyday world than the one she has created in her superbFinder graphic novels (which I cannot recommend strongly enough).  I really wish that McNeil was more prolific, because her work is so strong.

 

That’s everything I read this week.  What about you?  Let us know what you liked in the comments section.

 

Tags: , ,