The Weekly Round-Up #251

Best Comic of the Week:

Outcast #4 – Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta are really firing on all cylinders with this title.  It’s not the thrill-a-minute ride we usually expect from Kirkman’s writing, but is instead a well-paced, methodical exploration of how things would work for somebody in Kyle’s position (i.e., somebody who seriously angers the demons that possess people).  A detective has tracked Kyle down to see if he can help him with a very personal case, while strange things happen at Kyle’s neighbour’s house.  Kirkman is setting up a number of plotlines, including marital problems for Kyle’s adoptive sister, signalling that this book will be around for a while.  Azaceta is a great artist for this type of book – his work is moody and evocative.

Quick Takes:

Amazing X-Men #11 – You know, I love Alpha Flight, but that team has hardly been handled properly since John Byrne left their first title.  They’ve been starring in this arc of Amazing, but the story has become so predictably post-Byrne Alpha Flight as to be a little brutal.  The appearance of a bunch of Wendigo has, of course, led some of the combined teams to the Spirit Realm to confront the Great Beasts, the consummate AF antagonists.  Beyond that, the characters aren’t being handled very well.  I find it creepy that Puck has hooked up with Talisman, a young woman he’s known since she was a teenager, and I really don’t know why they turned Aurora into such a self-centred bitch.  The X-Men, especially Iceman and Rockslide, are basically playing comic relief in their own book, and in general, I’m getting a little bored.  I expected a lot more when I saw that Chris Yost and Craig Kyle were writing this title, as I’ve really enjoyed their previous work on New X-Men and X-Force.

Armor Hunters #4Robert Venditti brings this event series to a satisfactory conclusion (excluding, of course, the Aftermath issue coming out next month).  The various Valiant heroes face off against Primary and the remaining members of his squad in a huge final battle.  This event has worked very well, largely because in the Valiant universe, big events like the trashing of Mexico City and Los Angeles feel like they might have some actual repercussions in months to come.  I also feel like this event has helped define Aric’s role in this continuity, and it has made me more curious to learn more about where the X-O Manowar armor really comes from, and why this suit, which was in the possession of the Vine for so long, seems so different from the other armors that the Hunters fought.

Baltimore: The Witch of Harju #3 – This was a disappointing mini-series.  I think that, once the vampire threat was extinguished, it might have been time for Lord Baltimore to hang up his harpoon and peg leg, at least for a longer break than he had.  I’m not clear on where this character is headed anymore, and everything feels too familiar.

Captain America #24 – Proving once again that even the most jaded and burned comics fan can succumb to the hype, I thought I’d check out what is happening in Captain America prior to Axis.  A big part of my reasoning is that I’ve always liked Falcon, even if he’s only rarely been utilised well in his many years of hanging around Cap’s and the Avengers’ titles, and I’m curious to see how he’ll work wearing the Captain America costume for a while (I’m not so hype-prone as to believe that this storyline will last more than eighteen months).  Anyway, Rick Remender has spent a lot of time building up to this, and I like his suggestion that everything that has happened, including Jet’s betrayal of her father, were all part of Arnim Zola’s plans.

Chew #43 Tony is barely in this issue, as his daughter Olive embarks on her first mission (with Colby and Poyo), and does most of the heavy lifting.  As always, this is a delightful issue, although the last page suggests that the next one may get a little brutal.  I read recently that sales on Chew are slumping a little of late.  I can’t imagine starting this series and not sticking with it.

Cyclops #5 – I’ve really been enjoying Greg Rucka’s writing on this series.  In this issue, Young Scott and Corsair lure bounty hunters to the planet where they’ve been trapped so they can get off that world.  Rucka is determined to show that the younger version of Scott still contains a lot of idealism and goodness within him, and so he has him strike an interesting bargain with the hunter’s servant.  I hope that, when John Layman comes aboard as writer, the quality level stays as high as it has been.

Deep Gravity #3 – Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko, and Mike Richardson have put together a very taut and exciting science fiction story that balances a number of different elements perfectly.  The surviving crew of the Vanguard have to figure out how to save themselves from falling to Poseidon after their ship became crippled (we learn how this month), while also avoiding the strange and dangerous creatures they brought aboard the ship.  The writers have done a lot of good character work in a short amount of space, while also keeping the plot moving quickly.

Harbinger: Omegas #2 – Toyo Harada is staking his claim on the Earth (or, at least on a portion of Somalia formerly under al-Shabab control), and while the governments of the entire planet are working to stop him, Peter Stanchek is doing nothing at all.  Joshua Dysart does a terrific job of weaving this story into current world events, and is really setting Harada in place to achieve his dreams, if he can figure out what he really wants.  I am sad that after the next issue, Dysart’s excellent run with these characters will be over, at least for now.

Loki Agent of Asgard #6Returning after its Original Sin-mandated hiatus, Al Ewing continues to impress with this title.  Loki is back on Earth, but now Dr. Doom is after him because he’s learned that the god of mischief will be a problem for him at some point in the far future.  The battle between Doom and Loki is handled on a meta level, reminding me a little bit of the way Neil Gaiman might have written such a situation.  Jorge Coelho comes in to replace Lee Garbett on the art, and does a very good job.  Apparently this story is part of the “March to Axis” but I have no idea how, nor do I care.  It can be read on its own merits.

Letter 44 #10 – The crew of the Clarke is under attack (or are they?) while the ‘Blades Brigades’ come under a different sort of attack in Afghanistan.  This issue is lacking much of the political aspects that often make it stand out as such a unique sci-fi series, but almost every scene in this issue is important.  I’ve loved this book, and the work that Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque are doing with it, since it began, and my enthusiasm is not diminishing at all as it nears the one-year mark.

Low #3 – My usual experience with Rick Remender’s creator-owned work is that he launches his series with spectacular beginnings, but slowly his books kind of fizzle out.  Compare the ends of titles like FEAR Agent or Strange Girl to their beginnings, and sometimes it feels like a lot of the promise was lost somewhere along the way.  That is not the case with Low, which has been getting better and better with each new issue.  I didn’t love the start of this series, but felt that this issue was fantastic.  Stel is determined to make her way to the surface of the Earth to search for the interstellar probe that has just returned, except that nobody goes to the surface, since it is so toxic and dangerous.  She convinces a political leader to allow her to take her disgraced and suicidal son Marik with her, but he has no interest in helping her.  Stel’s eternal optimism has become the main focus of this character, and on a dying world, apparently optimism is not enjoyed by anyone.  The art on this issue, which has our two heroes traversing the ocean alongside a number of strange characters while wearing elaborate dive suits, is quite beautiful.  I was a little down on Greg Tocchini’s earlier issues, but his style really helps nail this one.  I’d considered dropping this title, but if it stays like this, there is no danger of that happening.

The Massive #27Over the last two years, I had kind of forgotten the significance of the title of this comic, as well as the central missions of the Kapital and Ninth Wave in the post-Crash world.  Now, with this issue, Brian Wood has brought everything back into focus, as a reunion of sorts leads to a massive (see what I did there) change in the status quo of this comic.  I really enjoyed this stuff, as we see yet again just how pivotal Mary is to this entire series.

Mighty Avengers #14 – I liked this title, which ends with this issue, before being relaunched as Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, after the Falcon takes over the iconic shield.  My hope is that the next iteration, while keeping the excellent cast and writer (Al Ewing), hews more closely to the ‘Mighty’ team’s mission statement – to help the average citizen of New York.  I also hope that Greg Land stays away from the book, as it was his art that I think scuttled this title before it had a chance to attract an audience.  I know it’s why I almost never bought it.

Mind MGMT #26 – Meru’s journey takes her to the first Immortal, as Matt Kindt keeps his series moving along.  Mind MGMT is always an inventive and interesting series, and this month, Kindt has the side texts (which are usually from the Mind MGMT Field Guide) incorporate themselves into the book’ main text.

New Avengers #24 – Last week’s Avengers, which kicked off this new 8 Months Later arc, was a pretty exciting comic.  The New Avengers look into the future is a lot more bleak.  Namor and his Cabal have been destroying alternate Earths to protect the 616 from the threat of the incursions, but with each mission, Namor has been finding it harder and harder to rein in his allies.  This is not surprising, since one of them is Thanos (who, thankfully, doesn’t get any Death-worshipping dialogue).  Namor turns to Doom for help, which doesn’t go well (it’s quite the week for Dr. Doom, between this book and Loki), while the Black Panther and his sister attempt to destroy Namor’s stock of weapons in Wakanda.  I think Jonathan Hickman must really have it in for that African nation, as he’s had Thanos and the boys lay waste to it off-screen.  I’m curious to see where Hickman is taking this whole storyline, as it’s set after the upcoming Axis event, but also feels like something that will have to be retconned away by the end of the story; too many changes have taken place in the Marvel Universe in this storyline so far that aren’t likely to become the new status quo.

Pariah #8Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele bring this series to a very interesting close.  The Vitros are faced with a choice – return to Earth, or launch deep into space looking for a new home.  The decision is one that each Vitro has to make for him or herself, and that leads to some pretty interesting scenes, as characters that we’ve gotten to know, and others we’ve never seen before, wrestle with their decision making process.  I’ve enjoyed this series a great deal, especially since most of the plots have been presented as problems to be solved.  I took a chance of preordering this series (the logic being that with Brett Weldele involved, I’ll love the art no matter how the story goes), and I’ve very glad that I did.

Pop #2 – I felt pretty ambivalent about the first issue of Pop, a new series about vat-grown pop stars and the horrible people that control them (and, by extension, our reality, since pop music has such a central role in creating the zeitgeist).  This issue, however, worked a lot better, as Elle, the woman that escaped from her pod, drops DMT while a Joey Ramone look-alike tracks her down.  There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking about this book, but it is enjoyable.

Roche Limit #1 – There has been a wealth of good original science fiction comics being produced in the last few years, with titles like Letter 44, Deep Gravity, Pariah, and The Fuse more than satisfying a segment of the comics market that is usually underserviced.  At the same time, these titles have risen the bar to a point where a new series has to work to stand out in the niche.  Roche Limit sounded promising – a new series set in a decaying and more-or-less failed colony poised at the edge of an energy anomaly.  The writer, Michael Moreci, has put in a lot of effort in terms of establishing backstory, including a write-up about the man who founded the colony, and seeding it with a strange new drug, Recall.  The problem is that, with all the groundwork laid so well, the story itself appears to be a pretty standard “rogue cop goes looking for missing sister; gets involved in organized crime” kind of story.  There are plenty of interesting story elements, but I don’t care about the main character, or the guy who decides to help her out.  Everything about this story, aside from the novelty of some aspects of its setting, feels like something I’ve experienced before, and that’s disappointing.  Moreci relies a little too heavily on his narration to explain away a lot of things, and artist Vic Malhotra doesn’t really do anything too spectacular to make the story stand out.  I’m going to pick up a few issues and give this book a chance, because it’s the type of project I like to support, but I’m hoping that it feels a little more fresh and new soon.

Saga #23 It’s Saga.  There are unexpected things happening, some great dialogue, and wonderful art.  At this point, there’s not a whole lot to say about this series.  If you like it, you’re going to like it.  There are no bad issues.

Secret Avengers #8 – Ales Kot’s strange series spends most of this issue addressing the issue of Maria Hill’s having hired MODOK to work for SHIELD.  We learn just what MODOK’s own plans are, and what has caused them to be derailed, while Hill and Spider-Woman try to figure out how to proceed amid all the weirdness that Kot has dropped in their laps.  This is definitely not your typical third-tier Avengers comic, but if Kot is able to pull off what he’s going for with it, it may end up being pretty memorable.

Sex #16 – Joe Casey continues to impress with this tightly controlled yet sprawling examination of a retired Batman figure.  I’ve come to be very interested in the different character arcs that Casey has been building, and am pleased to see that the book likes it will continue for some time.

The Sixth Gun #43 – As Cullen Bunn moves ever closer to what I assume will be a big finish, this book carries ever more promise of big things happening.  Drake, Becky, and the ghost of Screaming Crow know where the Grey Witch is, and what she’s planning on using the Six to do, but their quest for new allies has hit a few snags.  We see a number of faces familiar to long-time readers at the end of this issue, which is kind of cool, but what I like best about this month’s chapter is the scene where we see that Becky still contains some of her innocence and joy at the world, although Drake and Screaming Crow know they have to trample on even that to achieve their goals.  Brian Hurtt draws that scene (and really, the rest of this book) brilliantly.

Umbral #9Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten are really taking their time with this series, with the end result being that the pace is kind of slow.  Rascal and Dalone are travelling with a bunch of Wodelings now, and their other friends, who hate each other are searching for them.  Most interesting in this issue is the fact that one of the Umbral, who whispers to Rascal when she sleeps, is trying to make her suspicious of Dalone and his motives.  I’d like to see the speed of this series pick up a little, but I am enjoying it quite a bit.

X-O Manowar #29 – Despite the fact that there is an official ‘Aftermath’ epilogue to Armor Hunters coming out next month, Robert Venditti uses this issue of X-O Manowar to wrap up a number of threads from that series.  First, Aric is officially given a title from Colonel Capshaw (hint: It’s the title this comic has been using for almost two and a half years), and then has to go help figure out what to do with Malgam, the guy whose body has been half-taken over by the armor.  Like most of Armor Hunters, this is a solid issue helping set up where this series is headed.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

All-New Invaders #10

Bodies #3

Brass Sun #5

Edge of the Spider-Verse #3

Empty Man #4

Guardians of the Galaxy #19

Magneto #10

New Warriors #10

Rachel Rising #28

Red Sonja #12

Storm #3

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #4Here’s something I don’t understand:  If the spider that bit Peter Parker, giving him his abilities, then went on to bite another person, wouldn’t she have the same abilities?  It seems weird that she would have developed more and different powers, doesn’t it?  Anyway, this is the first Original Sin tie-in, where Peter learns of the existence of a younger woman who has been locked away since being bitten, because of something to do with a villain I’ve never heard of (really, Marvel, it’s time to bring back the explanation box, or at least use the recap page at the beginning of the comic a little better).  I don’t know what this Morlun stuff is all about (is this left over from the JMS era?), so that kind of killed some of the sense of danger around this issue for me.

Magneto #2 – It’s rare that a writer can write a convincing Magneto.  It’s too easy to go all bombastic and Stan Lee-ish with the character, or to wallow in Claremontian over-writing.  Cullen Bunn does feel the need to revisit his roots in the Holocaust, which is too easy a go-to, but I like the way he has him quietly investigating the disappearance of homeless men, which is connected to an Omega Sentinel thing.  I don’t understand how Gabriel Hernandez Walta is not a bigger name artist by now.

Superior Spider-Man #32 – It felt like a breath of fresh air to read the adventures of old Doc Ock in Spidey’s body again.  The time travel stuff has gotten kind of old, as has the alternate reality stuff (it’s like there are no new ideas anymore), but I did enjoy seeing Otto use his brains once again.  I have no idea who this threat that the entirety of Spider-Verse is going to be built around, or why he’s so angry at spider-based heroes, but I’m intrigued.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 16Once again, Naoki Urasawa switches things up with this volume of his long-running manga epic.  The first half of this volume returns to the childhood of the main characters, but this time, we see things from the Friend’s perspective.  Urasawa suggests that the Friend’s whole life, including his machinations that put him on top of the world, were because Kenji and his friends weren’t interested in hanging out with him.  It rings a little false, but there it is.  The rest of the book takes place three years after the end of the last volume, in what is now known as the Friendship Era, which has elements of the Orwellian.  Tokyo is walled off from the rest of the world, and is kept in the past, as Otcho discovers when he makes it over the wall.  I love this series.