The Weekly Round-Up #250

This is my 250th week of writing this column for Inside Pulse!  To celebrate, I was going to wrap the column in a nice shiny 3D cover, and charge you all an extra dollar to read it, but I can’t figure out how to do that over the Internet, so instead, I did nothing.

Best Comic of the Week:

Avengers #35In yet another of the comics industry’s many odd coincidences, the main Avengers titles jump eight months forward in time in the same month that the entire DC line makes a similar move, albeit they are going five years into the future.  Here’s the thing though – five years or eight months forward in ‘comic time’ could take years to reach in publication time, and that means that the lengths of both jumps are ultimately meaningless.  The difference between the Avengers move and the New 52 one, is that we all know that Jonathan Hickman has planned out every little character beat that would have happened over that time, and managed to make the issue much more interesting and exciting because of it.  Some of the things that have happened in eight months of story time:  Cannonball and Smasher have moved to Hala, and have had a baby (which would mean that Izzy’s been pregnant for a while now; Sunspot has bought out AIM; Nightmask has started de-aging; Hyperion’s adopted children have gotten a lot bigger, and are speaking (and working with AIM); Thor has developed a drinking problem; SHIELD has taken over the Avengers; the Illuminati team have become hunted (and have added Amadeus Cho to the group); and Iron Man is pretty universally reviled.  There are a couple of other surprises, but I don’t want to spoil things.  What’s clear is that some big cosmic problem is centred on Earth again, and that we’re going to be returning to some plot points from Infinity.  I don’t know if the incursions are still a problem, and I really don’t know how this story is going to reconcile itself with titles like Avengers World, which aren’t doing the time jump.  This is a very well-written issue, but any comic that has both Jim Cheung and Nick Bradshaw drawing it is going to look like an inconsistent mess.  Bradshaw and Paco Medina are terrible choices for a story like this.  It’s too bad that Cheung and Dustin Weaver couldn’t have drawn the whole thing.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #32It’s established in this issue that the Past X-Men (and X-23) have been shunted into the Ultimate Universe, although they’ve been separated all over the globe.  Jean Grey runs in to Miles Morales, who Brian Michael Bendis writes much better than he does these characters, but the rest of them are just scattered over a number of pages that don’t do much more than pad out the book (a Bendis theme this week – see below).  I’m guessing this arc may take a year to resolve at this pace.

Armor Hunters: Harbinger #3 – This issue ties up Generation Zero’s mission in Mexico nicely, as the kids deal with an insect infestation launched by the Armor Hunters as a way of purifying the area.  The last issue didn’t do a great job of explaining why these insect creatures were there, but this one does, and that makes the story fit into the larger event in a more organic way.  I liked the notice at the end of the comic that Generation Zero will be back, as I hope to see Joshua Dysart continue to work with these characters.

Avengers World #13 – This series has been unspooling the same three storylines since it began.  I don’t mind a slowly-unfolding story, but when the book features some of the most high-profile characters in the Marvel Universe, there are problems inherent in the slow burn.  In this series, Wolverine is still alive, Falcon is still Falcon, Captain America hasn’t gotten old, Bruce Banner hasn’t been shot, and weird things are going on on AIM Island and Madripoor that don’t jibe with any other comic that features those places.  And so, instead of speeding the story up a little, Nick Spencer gives us a non-story that becomes an excuse to give each member of The Ascendant (China’s new super-team) a page or two of flashback to introduce their characters.  The Avengers are barely in this issue.  The last issue was almost exactly the same, only featuring the new Euro-heroes.  It’s getting a bit monotonous, really.

BPRD Hell on Earth #123It only makes sense that, when some of the BPRD go to Japan, there has to be a fight between some gigantic monsters.  I like the way one monster gets to be considered the ‘good’ one, as we finally see one of those gigantic tree-like things get taken down.  Joe Querio, the artist for this issue, is a good addition to the Mignola-verse team.

Daredevil #8 – When he wrote Alias, the Jessica Jones series, Brian Michael Bendis took the Purple Man, a silly villain, and turned him into a pretty terrifying one.  Now, Mark Waid has brought him back to the current Marvel universe, and I have to say that his children (think Purple Children of the Corn) are potentially as or even more terrifying.  This is a very effective issue, which also has Matt Murdock meet his girlfriend’s father, who has an interesting offer for Daredevil.  As always, this is a good comic.

Deadly Class #7 – It’s great to go back to 1988!  At least, it is if it’s Rick Remender and Wes Craig taking you there.  Deadly Class returns for its second arc, and Marcus is doing a lot better.  He’s over his depression, although his girlfriend, who might be more than a little nuts, is in rough shape after the events of the first arc.  Marcus is fitting in a little better at the strange school for assassins where he lives, has a job, and is still perfectly happy pissing off the absolute worst person.  Remender is leaving most of the assassin and criminal elements out of this arc, instead giving us a teen drama that just happens to feature assassins and criminals.  It’s all really very good, especially Craig’s wonderful art.

The Delinquents #2Reading this series, which combines the casts of Valiant’s Archer & Armstrong and Quantum & Woody titles, is making me think that I should pick up the trades of Q&W, which I’ve previously not paid any attention to.  This series is a lot of fun, although I’m not sure how I feel about Archer drinking absinthe in the quest for new experiences.

Elektra #6 – I was disappointed when I saw that Mike Del Mundo didn’t draw this issue of Elektra, but I didn’t need to be, as Alex Sanchez stepped in and did an excellent job.  While not as adventurous an artist as Del Mundo, he is perhaps a little more cohesive, while still playing around with layout and page design a little.  This issue also featured the Serpent Society attacking Elektra and her friends, and I was a little surprised at how happy that made me.  I fondly remember when they were a real threat for Captain America, and thought it was cool to see them being taken semi-seriously again.  I’m not sure how I feel about the upgrade Lady Bullseye gets this issue, but I feel that this particular comic might be the best written of the series to date.

The Field #4 – Ed Brisson and Simon Roy wrap up their very bizarre mini-series with this issue, and they do it quite well.  The Field has been about an amnesiac man who has woken up in a corn field to discover that a number of strange people are after him.  He falls under the protection of a psychotic fundamentalist Christian (named Christian), but we eventually learn that our hero is the cause of a weird Groundhog Day-like time loop, only as time keeps restarting, everybody becomes slightly more deranged.  It’s a good book, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys a truly bizarre comic.

Great Pacific #17 – Chas is still on the run from a Kraven the Hunter type, in an issue that is pretty dark.  This series has never quite settled into its genres, and has always been just about impossible to predict.  I enjoy it, but have no idea how much longer writer Joe Harris intends to keep it going.

Justice League: Futures End #1I enjoyed last week’s Justice League United comic enough to pick up the conclusion to the two-parter, which has the JL of five years from now fighting a handful of major villains (Mongul and Grodd, for example) on Mars, while also having to go up against a hero who has moved to the mad/evil side of the spectrum.  Jeff Lemire tells a nice, mostly complete story here, while hinting at a whole pile of things that are likely never going to happen in the New 52 world, but most importantly, he adds Wildfire to the mix, in addition to Dawnstar.  I have high hopes for his upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes appearance in JLU.

The Life After #3 – Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo’s strange mini-series about bureaucrats who manage purgatory, and a suicide who awakens in this world, and hangs out with Ernest Hemingway, just got a lot stranger, after we learn who our main character really is, who his father is, and how it all ties in to the life of Jesus Christ.  I have to say I admire Fialkov for even attempting this one, let alone pulling it off so well.

Manifest Destiny #10 – After a few rough issues for Lewis, Clark, and their men, it’s time for the two great American heroes to turn the tables a little, and to try to get control of their mission.  Lewis works on an insecticide to protect against the deadly gigantic mosquitoes, and also comes up with a plan to get their ship off the strange arch that has beached them in the middle of the river.  Sacagawea proves, once again, that she is not to be messed with, and Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts continue to create one of the most unique comics on the stands.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #5 – It’s funny how, when Marvel actually publishes a book on a monthly schedule, it feels like it’s been a long time since you’ve last read it.  After their fight with Norman Osborn, Miles and the returned Peter Parker (if that’s who he really is) find themselves in trouble with the NYPD.  Parker escapes easily, but Miles catches a bullet and now has to rely on Maria Hill to help him out of the situation.  This is another good issue in this excellent series.  I especially enjoyed a scene between Osborn and J. Jonah Jameson.  This is the best superhero book that Brian Michael Bendis writes, and David Marquez is incredible.

Mind MGMT #25 – Matt Kindt launches the second-last story arc by having Meru review all that she’s been through since the series began, while travelling to India to try to rendez-vous with her compatriots.  Kindt fills this book with some very strange and interesting ideas, and that has not changed over the last two years.  This book is always a rewarding read.

Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1 It looks like Multiversity is going to consist of a bunch of one-shots that just help to explain who some of the characters in the background of Multiversity #1 are, and how they ended up in the Orrery.  I liked the issue, which has Doc Fate’s collection of heroes (Atom, Lady Blackhawk, the Immortal Man) fighting off a collection of invaders from a parallel Earth led by Vandal Savage.  Chris Sprouse drew this issue, which is up his alley, seeing as this version of Fate marries pulp technology with magic.  Ultimately, this book didn’t do a whole lot for me, as Grant Morrison didn’t take the time to properly develop these characters, instead leaving it for their Elseworlds familiarity to long-standing DC heroes to do the groundwork for him.  It’s still much more interesting to me than the rest of DC’s output this month, but I was hoping for a little more…

Satellite Sam #10 – Things just keep getting weirder at the LeMonde network, as a sham wedding is performed, stockings are purchased, expletives are uttered on-air, wives are offered up, and firebombs thrown.  Matt Fraction’s dissection of a particularly difficult television network at the dawn of the industry is also a pretty fascinating character study.  It looks like the series is going on hiatus until 2015, when it returns with its last story arc.  There are a lot of characters and plotlines that have been introduced over the last ten issues; I hope I can remember most of them by the time the next issue comes out.

Sir Edward Grey Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #4 – As this mini-series, not written by Mike Mignola, proceeds, I find myself drawn more and more into it.  This issue gives us a little background on the marshes of Unland, and how Horace Poole’s child was killed in the marsh.  Tyler Crook’s doing some pretty awesome things with this title; the policeman who becomes half eel is seriously creepy.

The Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead #2Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt are doing a good job of filling in some of the blanks of the Sixth Gun backstory with this mini-series, which has Drake Sinclair show up, involved in some sort of situation that has brought in characters like Jessup, Eli Barlow, and Vargas.  This is always a good series, and I’m never going to complain about the chance to see some Mike Norton artwork (although, I’m not sure how he’s doing this book and Revival at the same time).

Stray Bullets Killers #7 – With Eli heading off to art school in Baltimore, Virginia feels it might be time to look up some old friends to try to find a place for them to stay.  That means she’s moving back into Dez’s orbit, which means that it doesn’t take an hour before some people are dead, and Eli’s introduction to Virginia’s world isn’t going so well.  David Lapham loves to put his characters through some tough times, and that’s exactly what happens here.  As always, this is a very good issue, with great, evocative art.  I am so glad that this series has returned.

Supreme Blue Rose #3 – Things don’t get any less weird with this issue, as Warren Ellis appears to be making some sort of comment on the deleterious effects of relaunches, and is making this book, with its focus on revision, as much about the comics industry as it is about a young woman’s quest to discover what happened in a weird little town.  Tulay Lotay’s art is very nice, and the story is starting to gather my interest a lot more.

Trees #5 – Warren Ellis’s new series about alien structures and the effects they are having on the Earth is excellent.  This issue features military posturing in Somalia, sexual awakening in China, the effects of mysticism in Italy, and suspicious poppies in the Arctic, and it all is starting to slowly fit together.  This is a very impressive title by Ellis and Jason Howard.

Uncanny Avengers #24Rick Remender is busy setting up his Axis event, so he has Rogue, the Scarlet Witch, and Havok get into it with the Red Skull’s S-Men.  Magneto shows up in this issue, and strangely, decides that a rescue by his daughter and former lover is a good time to get all political and argumentative.  This is a solid issue, but I can do without images of a brainless Charles Xavier, with the top of his skull lopped off, chatting with Rogue in her mind.

Uncanny X-Men #26 – This issue does a great job of pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of Brian Michael Bendis’s X-Men run.  The stuff about Scott Summers not wanting to carry out Charles Xavier’s last wishes, and the reactions of the other X-Men, is handled very well.  The stuff about people like Maria Hill and Nick Fury being afraid of an all-powerful mutant developing abilities and killing a lot of people feels very forced, especially when you consider that Bendis did this all once before, when he had the dude who eventually became Weapon Omega kill Alpha Flight during his Avengers run.  Most awkward was the lengthy fight scene involving the younger members of the Uncanny team and some holographic Avengers.  It went way too long, and was mostly used to just pad out the issue (although I like that the healer kid is beginning to question Scott’s long term plan, which so far has amounted to nothing).  I have no idea when the Stepford Cuckoos developed the ability to turn to diamond, and how they can use their powers while in that state.  Once again, Bendis cannibalizes his own work, and shows a very casual attitude towards established character history and fact.  But Kris Anka is phenemonal.

Unity #11 – It’s another placeholder issue, basically, as Ninjak and Eternal Warrior work to disable some Armor Hunter drone things, only to have more of them around by the end of the issue.  Writer Matt Kindt does work to establish just how much of a forward thinker Ninjak is (think Batman when Grant Morrison writes him level), but it doesn’t really do all that much to help develop the character.  I’m more curious to see where this book is headed after the cross-over is finished.

The Wicked + The Divine #4 We meet a few more of the pantheon of gods who have been reborn in teenage bodies, as Laura works to prove Lucifer’s innocence of murder.  Baal is an over-sized egotist, whose greatest excess is his faith in his own modesty.  Laura’s not happy with the answers she gets, and Lucifer even less so.  Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are amazing together, as always.

Wolverine and the X-Men #9 – I have not been enjoying this series since it was relaunched, and have stopped preordering it (although I still have at least another month where I’ve committed to buy it).  In this issue, Logan, knowing that he’s not long for this world, infiltrates the Hellfire Club, which is now owned by Quentin Quire, so he can have a chat with the boy.  These two characters fall into the same patterns over and over, so that even when writer Jason Latour tries to add a different take on their relationship, it ends up feeling the same as always.

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

 

All-New X-Factor #14

Armor Hunters Bloodshot #3

Batman Eternal #24

Dark Horse Presents #2

Devilers #3

Fables #144

Nova #21

Original Sin #5.5

Savage Hulk #4

Superior Spider-Man #33

Thor God of Thunder #25

Unwritten Vol. 2 Apocalypse #9

Bargain Comics:

Iron Man #27&28 – Considering how long Kieron Gillen spent setting up his Mandarins storyline (wherein the dead villain’s rings found themselves new hosts à la a DC Green Lantern-themed event), he wraps it up pretty quickly over these two issues, I guess because Marvel was forcing him to make way for the Original Sin tie-ins and the upcoming Superior relaunch.  Anyway, Tony and Arno go up against a bunch of bad guys, Pepper suffers a personal tragedy, and that’s about it.  This series, under Gillen, really ended up in a pretty mediocre place.  I’m not surprised it’s being relaunched, although I’m not sure that’s making me any more interested.  Writers don’t seem to be too sure of what to do with Tony Stark these days.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Wrenchies

by Farel Dalrymple
Farel Dalrymple’s work can be a little inaccessible at times.  I enjoyed his Pop Gun War, but by the end of it, wasn’t really sure of what it was that I had read.  His Omega: The Unknown is universally adored, but he didn’t write that.

I went in to The Wrenchies a little unsure of what to expect, but came out of it with a massive appreciation of Dalyrmple’s plotting and story construction, to go along with my usual enjoyment of his art and sense of design.

The Wrenchies is a multi-layered book, basically about a future where only the young are able to survive, and even they are in a constant battle with the Shadowsmen, as well as with the hostile environment the Earth has become.  The gang of kids who have built a reputation as being able to best fight off the Shadowsmen are The Wrenchies, who have named themselves after an old comic book.

This comic was written and drawn by Sherwood Presley Breadcoat, who as a young child entered a cave with his brother, did battle with demons, and then embarked on a long adolescence of being a hero, then an art student, and eventually an unhappy comics artist.  He embedded The Wrenchies #1 with a number of puzzles, to draw mystics to him.  Next door to adult Sherwood lives young Hollis, a misfit child in a bad homemade superhero costume, who has a ghost as a best friend, and who believes that his Wrenchies comic may be making him do bad things.

The narrative shifts between these different groups of characters as the book unfolds, and as we learn just how connected all of these different plotlines are.  Dalrymple blends, very successfully, a variety of genres in this graphic novel.  We get some pretty cool post-Apocalyptic action, a coming-of-age story that I’m sure a number of comics fans can relate to parts of, and some pointed commentary on the nature of the comics industry, and its influence in the world.

I found the book’s shifting narrative structure, and embedded connections to different layers of the story, to be reminiscent of novels like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.  Dalrymple’s art is terrific, and I especially liked the pages where he laid out the floor plans to secret underground lairs or scientific laboratories.  There were some pages where the colouring process rendered things a little too dark or muddy, but overall, this was a beautiful and rewarding book that screams out for second and third readings so that its nuances can be completely understood.  Highly recommended.

 

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