The Weekly Round-Up #254

Best Comic of the Week:

BPRD Hell on Earth #124Here’s something we don’t see all that often with BPRD, a done-in-one story that focuses on just how changed and messed up the world is these days.  This issue is centred on a guy who works at a coffee shop in Santa Fe.  His next door neighbour has died, and a gigantic mushroom sculpture thing has pinned the corpse against the door.  He has to walk through a government check-point every day to get to work, where he has a nice view of one of the gigantic, gas-spewing creatures.  Then, one day, the BPRD shows up, trying to test out a new method of attacking the creatures, and that gives the guy enough hope to finally sleep through the night.  It’s a very effective issue, reminding readers of what is at stake in this long-running storyline, and giving us a chance to see regular characters like Johann and Liz through the publics’ eyes.  Tyler Crook drew this one, and as always, he killed it.  This would be a good jumping-on point for anyone who has been curious to see what BPRD is all about.  If you aren’t reading it, you should give it a try, as it’s a very good series.

Quick Takes:

Avengers & X-Men: Axis #2 – The people out there who want to see a big wide-screen action-based event, wherein gathered heroes fight against a gigantic Red Skull and his two unbeatable Stark Sentinels, will find nothing to fault with this comic (except, perhaps, for the way that Adam Kubert’s art looks kind of rushed).  People who take a few minutes to question whether or not Tony Stark would have ever designed Sentinels that don’t view super-villains as a threat, however, will find this book to be pretty ridiculous.  We get some hints as to why this series is called Axis (having more to do with the balancing line between order and chaos than with the Red Skull’s ties to the Nazis), but that makes me nervous that this series is going to turn into another House of M situation, where a jacked up and emotionally unstable Scarlet Witch is going to make a mess of things.  Nothing feels very original about this one, but I will say that writer Rick Remender has a good handle on Tony Stark.

Avengers World #14Since this series began, under Jonathan Hickman’s watch, it has spun three stories (Avengers vs. AIM, Avengers vs. the dragon that is Madripoor, and Avengers vs. Morgan Le Fay) into one long, long story.  With this issue, everything gets wrapped up in a hurry, with all the new characters (Chinese super-team, European super-team, and Future Avengers Children) given no real role in the story.  Seeing that the next issue is an Axis tie-in, it’s not hard to see why this story got wrapped up so abruptly, but it was really not handled very well.  This series has been a disappointment, and I wonder if it’s going to still exist when Axis is over and done.  I would think that it might be time for Marvel to cancel it, like they did Avengers Assemble when it outlasted its mandate.  There are too many Avengers titles…

Daredevil #9 – I don’t know how Mark Waid is going to write a story featuring the children of the Purple Man, and have it not include former Alpha Flight member Kara Killgrave, the Purple Girl/Purple Woman, but at the same time, I can’t imagine there’s much of a fan base clamoring for her return.  Anyway, this was yet another solid issue from Waid and Chris Samnee, as DD contemplates writing a book, and then tries to stop a group of Purple Children running amok.  I always enjoy this title, although it’s been a little while since it’s ‘wowed’ me.

Deadly Class #8 – Marcus’s secrets are revealed as we get to read his journal, and find out what secrets he’s been holding on to since he was at the orphanage, including why he’s wanted for so many murders.  This is a vicious and powerful issue, which really shows off artist Wes Craig’s talents.  I’m really enjoying the work that Rick Remender is doing with this title, and it works as a very nice counter-argument to all the people who only read his Marvel work and have a poor opinion of his writing.

Edge of Spider-Verse #5I don’t always love Gerard Way’s writing (but I do love that he usually works with my favourite artists on his comics), but I like it when Marvel reaches out to independent creators, so I thought I’d check this out.  SP//dr is a cybernetic suit run by a spider and a human.  The spider has chosen young girl Peni Parker to be its partner, and together they fight crime (along with some other guy who isn’t named).  Way does a good job of introducing this character, and making her interesting.  The art, by Jacob Wyatt, is nice and straddles the line between indie and mainstream.  I don’t think I’m all that interested in Spider-Verse, but I am always happy to support an oddball project like this one.

The Life After #4 – Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo continue to take us on a tour of a strange, 80s computerized afterlife, as Ernest Hemingway and Jude try to evade the Seraphim, but end up getting caught.  This is a very bizarre book, but one that I’ve been enjoying a lot, as Fialkov keeps making things weirder.

Loki Agent of Asgard #7 – This issue gives as much screen time to Doctor Doom as it does Loki, and I have to say that I really like the way Al Ewing writes his villains.  At the beginning of the issue, Loki is frozen in stasis, and Doom is trying to handle the outbreak of hate in his country, which is being caused by the Red Skull over in Avengers & X-Men: Axis.  This issue blends nicely into that event, but more than that, has lots of great character moments, with the best lines of the comic being given to Valeria Richards (who, I might add, does not look like she’s three).  With Superior Foes going away, I can see how this book might end up my favourite Marvel title, if it stays this good.

Manifest Destiny #11The second story arc ends very well in this issue, as Lewis and Clark solve a number of their problems at the same time, as they have to handle a gigantic frog-creature, the fact that their vessel has been beached in the middle of the river, and that one of their number is a rapist.  I’ve been nothing but impressed with this historical comic that is full of monsters and fantasy creatures, and look forward to see where the voyage takes our heroes next.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #6 – I hate the fact that, since relaunching this title with an emphasis on Miles’s name on the cover, the supposedly returned Peter Parker has been as much the focus as Miles.  This month, these two characters finally get a chance to talk to one another about where Peter’s come from, before being attacked, once again, by Norman Osborn.  I’m not sure how Norman knows Miles’s name, but the last page gives some hints towards that.  This is a good enough comic, and David Marquez’s art is wonderful, but I’d like to see Ultimate Peter shunted off soon.

Ms. Marvel #9 – I think it’s interesting that, just as Kamala becomes more intertwined with the rest of the Marvel Universe, I am starting to lose some interest in this series.  We had her teaming up with Wolverine a couple of issues ago, and now that the Inventor has attacked her school and she’s having trouble with her powers, Medusa shows up to take her to New Attilan, and explain her Inhuman heritage to her.  I don’t know, I found her a much more interesting character when she was just a young girl from Jersey who has to hide her powers from her parents, and the whole thing is seen through the lens of her ethnicity.  If she becomes just another superhero, this book won’t be quite as special.  That said, it has Adrian Alphona art, so it’s still pretty special.

New Avengers #25I’m seeing more and more anti-Jonathan Hickman sentiment lately, and while I find the pace of this series sometimes frightening, I am really enjoying the Time Runs Out stuff in this title and the main Avengers book.  This issue shows us the events of the last two, from the perspective of Reed Richards, Hank McCoy, the Hulk, and Captain Britain, as they hide out in the original SHIELD (i.e., Hickman’s Renaissance SHIELD) headquarters.  I’m not sure how long it’s going to take for Hickman to get to his main point with this series, but I am enjoying the ride.

San Hannibal #4 – Dan Schadke’s private investigator series has been pretty interesting.  I have found the story to be a little confusing, but I like Schadke’s art a lot, and am really getting into the aesthetic of this book, with it’s minimal use of colours.

Sir Edward Grey Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #5 – The first Mignola-verse series not written by Mike Mignola (it’s by Kim Newman and Maura McHugh) worked really well, and ends with a more modern-day cameo by one of the BPRD.  Grey’s trip to Unland has me wanting to learn a little more about British marsh communities, to see just how much of this is based on fact and/or common folklore.

The Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead #4 – I like this series, which is set some years before the main Sixth Gun title, but I’m not really all that clear on why we needed it.  Sure, it’s interesting to see some of the characters that have played secondary roles in the series at a point in their past, but I’m not finding that this mini-series does much to inform the main one.  At the same time, there’s Mike Norton art, and a decent adventure, so it’s all good.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #16The penultimate issue of this sublime series pits the Sinister Six against each other (yet again), as everyone tries to work one last scheme to put himself or herself on top, while the Punisher comes to town, and Mach VI (or VII?) makes it through a doorway without breaking anything.  Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have been quietly putting out the best book in the Marvel stable for a while now, and I’m really going to miss it when it’s gone.

Supreme Blue Rose #4 – Four issues in, and I think Warren Ellis just explained what this series is all about, which seems to be a comment on comics companies rebooting their lines as much as it is anything else.  The world has been revised, and now some old characters have slipped through the cracks.  Supreme, who has yet to appear in the series, is somehow connected to it all, and some other weird stuff is going on.  It’s getting pretty good, and I’m really liking Tula Lotay’s art.

Trees #6 – Warren Ellis gives most of this issue over to a discussion of sexuality involving the young Chinese artist, who is finding himself going through a couple of awakenings since he moved into the free city at the base of one of the Trees.  I love that Ellis is doing almost nothing to explore the science fiction elements of his story, while slowly making it clear that this is where the book is headed eventually.  Trees has been a very good read.

Uncanny X-Men #27 – I would like for somebody to do a tally of the number of times Brian Michael Bendis has destroyed a Helicarrier in one of his comics.  It’s got to be equal to the number of times he’s had one character interrupt another during a long conversation.  Anyway, that new uber-powerful mutant takes out another one when Rachel Grey proves once again that she is pretty inept as a telepath.  I’ve gotten used to Chris Bachalo employing a small army of inkers to finish his stuff (this issue has five), but I’m not used to things looking as inconsistent as it did this time around.  I don’t know how long Bendis is looking to spread out this storyline, but the end of this issue gives me hope that something interesting might happen in the next.

Unity #0Has anyone else noticed just how amazing Cary Nord’s art has gotten over the last couple of years?  I mean, the guy was always good, but he just keeps getting better lately.  He does a great job of illustrating this story about Unit Y, the original Valiant super-team that was operational during the First World War.  Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, was in charge of the team, which featured three other characters who make their debut (not Valiant legacy characters) with this issue.  The point of the book is for Gilad to quote Battlestar Galactica (everything has happened before and will happen again), while introducing at least one character who will probably show up next month, based on Matt Kindt’s designs on the last page.  This was a solid superhero war story, with its own Bucky Barnes moment.

Veil #5 – I like the way in which Greg Rucka finished up his demonic mini-series.  It’s not his usual type of series, and I think it would have read better had I waited for the trade (especially with some of the delays it suffered), but I did enjoy the book.  I think, had he introduced some of the themes of free will and control that took up this last issue a little earlier, I probably would have been more into it.  I do like Toni Fejzula’s art, which reminds me a little of Dan Brereton, a great deal, and look forward to seeing more from him.

Wasteland #58 – Continuing to look at the days before the Big Wet, we watch as the Father’s brothers show up, and the Earth starts falling apart.  I was a little surprised by how little actually happened in this issue, and wonder if Antony Johnston has started padding the last few issues of this series.

Wolverine and the X-Men #10 – You would think that, after the headmaster and (for many students) father figure of the Jean Grey School has died, a tribute issue would be touching in some way.  That’s not the case here, as Logan’s old girlfriend Melita wanders the school, ostensibly gathering information for the book she’s writing, and talking to students and faculty.  None of it tugs at any emotional heartstrings though, and this is only part one of the story.  Jason Latour’s run here has been nothing but disappointing, but I do like that among the smorgasbord of artists on this issue, we get to see people like Jim Rugg and James Harren draw an X-Book.  I would have been happier with a more emotionally present comic though.

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

Batman and Robin #35

Batman Eternal #28

Batwoman #35

Death of Wolverine #4

Death of Wolverine Logan Legacy #1

Fables #145

Fantastic Four #11

Magneto #11

Spider-Man 2099 #5

Storm #4

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #8

Wilds End #2

Bargain Comics:

Batwoman #33I’m not sure who at DC thought that splitting a comic between artists Jeremy Haun and Scott Kolins was a good idea, but really, it wasn’t.  I’ve never been a fan of Kolins’s work, but I can see that he holds appeal for some readers; the thing is, he belongs on books that are light and dynamic, not something dark and moody like Batwoman.  Haun’s stuff is much more suited, and the group of battling mercenaries that show up at the end of the issue are interesting, but overall, this is a little dull.

Dark Horse Presents #1 – I had thought about buying Dark Horse Presents again, but held off, since I’d gotten a little bored with what they offered in the last iteration of the title, plus Dark Horse’s tendency to collect serials and release them as one-shots made me think that I’d rather read the stories I was interested in in that format.  I hope that continues, as I’m excited to see the return of Resident Alien here.  The only other thing that caught my eye was a new serial written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Andy Kuhn.  The return of Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot is great for the Geof Darrow art, but ultimately as pointless as Darrow’s recent Shaolin Cowboy mini-series.  The Kabuki story confirmed what I’d always believed – that David Mack is a wonderful artist (in a very fine arts comics of the 90s way), but his stories are dull.  I like that this title has gotten cheaper, but I’m not sure I can be convinced to buy it regularly.  Now, were there to be another Finder story in it…

Silver Surfer #1-5I haven’t picked up Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s new take on the Silver Surfer because I wasn’t all that impressed with the All-New Marvel NOW! short, but I have always loved Allred’s work, so it was time to check this out.  They do an amusing job, with the Surfer being brought together with a young woman from a Cape Cod bed and breakfast to help stop a cosmic disaster.  There are appearances by the Guardians of the Galaxy (which feels a little like an attempt to cash in on the movie) and Dr. Strange and the Hulk, but the focus is really on the blossoming relationship between the Surfer and Dawn.  There is a lot of potential in this series, so long as Slott and Allred don’t go too hipster with it.

Spider-Man 2099 #2 – Peter David takes most of this issue to help solidify Miguel O’Hara’s place at this end of the 21st century.  He stops some bank robbers, and has two awkward conversations, one with the pretty girl down the hall, and the other with his boss, who he has no choice but to trust with his secrets.  It’s a good issue, with some sharp writing by David.  Artist Will Sliney is doing a fine job on this book.

X-Men #19 – Marc Guggenheim continues his ‘X-Men in Space’ story (although he does manage to work in a cameo by his own creation, Ink), and things are okay, but that’s about all there is to say about it.  This is pretty paint-by-numbers X-Adventure.  Rachel doesn’t like the Shi’ar, and of course the one member of that entire civilization that they meet is the one who advised the leadership to kill her family.  It all feels a little old.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 17The deeper I go into Naoki Urasawa’s manga masterpiece, the more enthralled I become.  In this volume, we learn about life outside Tokyo during the first three years of the Friendship Era, where neighbours turn on each other for the chance to be vaccinated against the plague, and the Friend exerts a North Korean style control over the average person.  We also check in with Kanna, who is running her own resistance cell, and see what has happened to the police officer from the earlier volumes.  This series truly is amazing, with its layers of plotting.  Part of me wants to stop reading here and go back and begin the series again, just to see how well things line up.



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