The Weekly Round-Up #259 With Deadly Class #1, BPRD Hell On Earth #125, Intersect #1, Thief of Thieves #25, X-O Manowar #30 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Deadly Class #9 – Marcus is getting closer and closer to the mysterious Saya, just as we as readers learn a little more about Maria’s past, and gain more sympathy for her.  I like how Rick Remender is not afraid to make his main character a little unlikeable at times, although I’m sure just about every reader will understand why he acts as he does.  For a comic about a secret underground school to train assassins in the 1980s, this book really resonates as a pretty serious character study.  It’s very good stuff, and artist Wesley Craig makes it even better.

Quick Takes:

Annihilator #3 – Things get ever weirder, as a screenwriter with a brain tumor drives around LA with his creation, who is actually a villain from outer space.  In a lot of ways, this is the epitome of Grant Morrison’s work, with its twin focal points of celebrity and the writing process.  I like this book, especially Frazer Irving’s art, but am starting to think it’s time to reread it all in one sitting, to make sure I’m not missing anything important.

Avengers #38 – So where this week’s issue of New Avengers (see below) disappointed me with its scattershot pacing, this week’s Avengers impressed me, as Jonathan Hickman tossed even more ideas into the mix, as Sunspot finally gets a moment to shine as a hero, and as a master planner.  Just about everything that’s going on in the Marvel Universe in another six months is laid out pretty clearly, as Bobby’s Avengers, Steve Rogers’s Avengers, the Illuminati, the Cabal, and possibly the X-Men are moving towards a pretty big collision.  Hickman returns to the first issue of his run for some of his story ideas, and I am intrigued by what he’s doing with Shang-Chi.  I completely understand why people are complaining about his approach, but I’m liking it more than I’m not.

Avengers & X-Men: Axis #6It’s getting harder and harder to care about this series, as for some reason, all the non-inverted (uninverted) X-Men must be following Apocalypse, even though we don’t see any of them in this issue, and I don’t think any of the X-Books are tying into this nonsense.  We don’t see too many Avengers either, but there is an extended scene between Loki and Thor.  Of the least interest is the way in which the Scarlet Witch has gone all evil again, trying to kill Doctor Doom.  I’m getting very bored of this thing…

Avengers World #15 – I’m always happy to see some D-list heroes get a little bit of the spotlight, but this issue, which has Valeria recruit a new Avengers team to help protect Dr. Doom from the newly evil Scarlet Witch (it’s an Axis tie-in, but whatever happens in this issue and the next comes before a small scene in this week’s issue of Axis), is a little too rushed to be fully enjoyable.  At the same time, Stingray shows up, which makes me pretty happy.  I’m not so sure I feel the same way about Elsa Bloodstone and 3D Man, both of whom I’ve long found annoying.  Wasn’t US Agent shown to be pretty badly disabled in Thunderbolts?  He look’s pretty good here, unless that’s someone else in his uniform…

BPRD Hell on Earth #125 – Mike Mignola and John Arcudi start another one of their more sprawling story arcs, as we check in with a number of characters we haven’t seen much of lately, as the BPRD goes about their new business of clearing towns for the air force.  Liz starts a garden, and we see that both Iosif and the Black Flame survived the events in New York.  James Harren drew this issue, so it looks fantastic.  I like these quieter issues in between some of the larger mayhem that often overtakes this title.

Daredevil #10It’s interesting, coming so soon after he used this series to explore postpartum depression, that Mark Waid throws Matt Murdock into the depths of his own depression this month.  The children of the Purple Man are the catalyst for this, but I like the way Waid puts the focus on Matt.  I especially like the way the last page is hidden behind the letters page, giving the story a more emotional ending and leaving us on a different note than expected.  It’s even more powerful after reading the letters, which all deal with how Waid handled depression in the earlier story.

The Dream Merchant #6 – I’ve enjoyed Nathan Edmondson’s writing on the Jon Ellis books, The Activity, and even on The Punisher (see below), but feel like The Dream Merchant is his first real mis-step.  Leaving aside chronic lateness (this issue is 13 months late), the title never really grabbed me the way his more espionage and military based work has.  The fact that the original artist didn’t even finish the series only adds to my disappointment.  If you trade-waited this, I would just skip it.

Elektra #8 – To find the leaders of the League of Assassins, Elektra has to get to Bullseye, who is being kept in a very high-tech SHIELD prison.  I’m not sure I like the notion of Elektra being so involved in such a technological world, but I do like Mike Del Mundo’s art, so it kind of cancels itself out.  I wonder if every SHIELD facility in the Marvel Universe knows that when Maria Hill is in close proximity, the place is about to be attacked.  Or maybe it’s just normal for the Director to respond to every single problem the organization has on her own…

Intersect #1I wasn’t sure about Ray Fawkes’s new series Intersect.  Fawkes can be a pretty ambitious and challenging writer, tackling big themes without really helping his reader through the story.  His art can be similarly difficult, especially when he uses the painted style he employs in this book, which is a little like a cross between David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz (in terms of layout).  It’s beautiful, but not necessarily helpful in explaining the story.  What we know is this – the main character appears to flip between two personalities (or perhaps two people housed in one body); one male, the other female.  There is someone with this person, who is trying to help them get out of town, although the male personality never wants to go anywhere.  These two are being pursued by some creature that maybe used to be a dog, but is now much larger.  In a diner, the proprietor is somehow growing into his grill.  There are references to mildew being everywhere.  Really, to be honest, I have no idea what’s going on.  I like Fawkes’s art though, and after giving this a second read, I might choose to come back for the next issue, to see if the story solidifies a little more.

Invincible #115 – We’ve waited for this issue for a while, but it was worth it, as almost the entire comic is made up of a fight between Battlebeast and Thragg.  This is easily one of the bloodiest issues of Invincible, and that is saying a lot.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #8 – Time for yet another Axis tie-in, and this one explores the adventures of Loki the good and truthful, who after the inversion is incapable of lying.  This causes him and the Enchantress to cut off their ties with friends and co-conspirators, and leads to a terrific fight between Loki and the Death Throws, a team of themed villains I thought I’d never see again.  Al Ewing always makes this an interesting read, especially when he shines the focus on Verity, a very interesting character.  Lee Garbett does well with this issue; few artists would capture the Death Throws with the right balance of ridicule and seriousness.

Moon Knight #9Warren Ellis established in his short run that Mark Spector had been visiting a doctor of some sort, and then Brian Wood gave that doctor some pretty questionable connections.  Now, Spector returns to her care to be put into hypnosis, and we learn just what she wanted Moon Knight for.  This title has remained interesting under its new creative team, and I like that I’m not too sure where Wood is taking this book.

Morning Glories #42 – For the last while, each new issue of Morning Glories focused on only one or two of the large group of cast members, and while each individual issue was a good read, they only deepened the mystery of this book.  Now, this issue checks in on a number of storylines, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like there is some forward momentum going on in the book.  Nick Spencer has characters trying to resurrect the dead, building mysterious devices, engaging in sibling rivalry, and launching student council campaigns.  In fact, Casey’s platform has to be just about the most Republican platform ever, with her promise to kill the headmaster and torch the place.  I have always been impressed with the scope and scale of this book, but this issue has given me real hope that there is a clear direction for the title again.  I really hope this book is heading back on track scheduling-wise too.

The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 – You kind of knew that an issue of Multiversity featuring the Charlton Comics characters that served as the inspiration for Alan Moore’s Watchmen, written by Grant Morrison, would have to be a confusing affair.  The story examines the actions of the group of heroes, starting with the assassin of the President by the Peacemaker, and then working both forwards and backwards from that moment through a confusing array of scenes.  At the centre of the confusion is Captain Atom, who experiences all time at the same time, I think.  We trace the development of these heroes, and are treated to a lot of terrific Frank Quitely artwork.  This title ties in to the rest of the Multiversity series less than other issues have, but it is a pretty engaging read (although I think I have to read it again once or twice to really take it all in).  On a side note, I’ve always loved the weirdness of the Peacemaker’s costume, and so loved getting to see it again, drawn by someone of Quitely’s caliber.  It’s hard to escape comparisons to the Watchmen, and it felt like Morrison embraced it, having The Question grunt a little like Rorschach, and having Captain Atom act and look more like Dr. Manhattan than his Charlton forebear.

New Avengers #26We get to learn where Tony Stark has been since this whole ‘8 Months Later’ storyline started, but this is a very disjointed issues.  We get to see two Avengers who have been missing for a while, check in on Doctor Doom in Latveria, and learn a few things about the Black Swan.  What I didn’t get is the same sense of momentum that the previous few issues have had.

Powers Bureau #12 – Yet another iteration of Powers comes to an end, after limping its way through various missed deadlines and shipping dates.  I like the work that Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming do with this series, but I’m very tired of the constant relaunches and delays.  I wish them good luck with the TV show that is debuting soon, and I hope that real or imagined interest in the comic because of the show leads to a more regular schedule for this book.

Revival #25 – The police finally find out about the facility that has been holding revivers, and that doesn’t go too well, as a number of different groups and peoples’ agendas begin to collide, culminating in the type of scene that can really only be pulled off in comics (it involves crucifiction).  I like this book – I feel like I never know where it’s going to head next.

Thief of Thieves #25 – I’d kind of expected that this would be the last issue of this series, but it seems that there is at least another arc left to go, although the book is on hiatus through February.  Things get kind of bloody, as Redmond confronts the psychotic Lola, and his family has to decide if they are going to try to save him or not.  This book has come a long way from its beginnings, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  I was much more intrigued by this title when it was a smart heist comic; we get enough bloody revenge comics, and I’m not sure this one is saying anything new about that genre.

Uncanny X-Men #28In this week’s Avengers, we see that in six months, Scott Summers will have brought together mutantkind in something called Nation X (although we have no idea how many people follow him there).  Knowing that this will have to happen in that time (right before whatever Secret Wars is gets started), it seems that Brian Michael Bendis is just spinning his wheels some more, giving us an entire issue in which Scott tries to reach the new mutant who has too much power.  This story could have easily been more condensed than it has been, but it’s Bendis.

Westward #9 – A while ago I took a chance on the first two issues of this series, having read some good things about it on the web.  Now, with what I think is the penultimate issue, I’m really very glad that I took a chance on Ken Krekeler’s strange steampunk mystery series.  This entire issue is told through the perspective of a character whose identity, revealed in the last issue, came as a surprise.  Krekeler, through mostly illustrated text pages, gives us a good look at insanity, as we learn all about the history of CLAW, the organization that has been working to take down Westward Enterprises, and make life hard for our manifold (think robot) protagonist.  This is a very interesting title.

X-O Manowar #30 – Now that Aric has gone public, and even has an official superhero name, it’s time for the governments of the world to get involved with his life.  That means that he has to become the target of the weapons inspection apparatus, which is fine, except that it looks like his next big villain, a morally bankrupt businessman, is going to manipulate the inspection to his own ends.  This book has been running for two and a half years, and in that time, writer Robert Venditti has been able to hide the fact that Aric is not a very interesting character; with this new arc, I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be able to do that.  This issue reintroduces the Armorines into the revamped Valiant universe, and of course they work for that evil business dude, but we haven’t seen enough of them yet to know if they are going to be interesting.

Zero #12Years ago, I worked at a used bookstore, and remember one of my co-workers having a very strong reaction to the cover of a cheesy horror book called The Fungus.  It didn’t bother me as much, but that image stuck with me, and has been on my mind of late, as the comics world has lately shown an interest in the mycological, with recent issues of Swamp Thing, BPRD Hell on Earth, and now Zero showing similar images.  I am a little surprised to see that Ales Kot has made Zero more linear these days, as this issue feels like it is set before the last few issues, but is, in fact, not.  In addition to a mushroom and fungus-filled set of row houses, we get a good look at the Agency’s headquarters this time around, as Edward Zero is brought back into the fold, just before something bad is about to happen.  The artist this month is Adam Gorham, who is new to me, and who does a fine job with such a difficult story to draw.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #10

Axis Revolutions #2

Batman and Robin #36

Batman Eternal #33

Batwoman #36

Black Widow #12

Dark Horse Presents #4

Deadpool #37

Death of Wolverine Weapon X Program #2

Fables #146

Guardians of the Galaxy #21

Legendary Star-Lord #4

Magneto #12

Punisher #12

Spider-Woman #1

Storm #5

X-Force #12

Bargain Comics:

Guardians of the Galaxy #14-19Reading these issues, I can’t help but wonder how much better this series would be if it had a different creative team.  The first storyline from these issues (running from #14-17) has the team captured individually by various enemies.  Star-Lord is the prisoner of his father, Rocket the Kree, Venom the Skrulls, Gamora the Badoon, and so on.  They each get a couple of pages per issue, to show that they are prisoners again and again, until they finally all manage to escape, or get their freedom handed to them.  Aside from Peter Quill’s fomenting of rebellion among the Spartax, nothing much happens here (although Venom, the team’s newest member, gets separated from everyone).  After that, there are the first two chapters of the Original Sin tie-in, which has nothing to do with that event (despite Gamora and Rocket having roles in the story), and everything to do with Gamora finally getting around to asking Quill how he’s still alive after the end of the last Guardians series, when he and Nova (Richard Ryder) captured Thanos in the Cancer-verse.  It’s a question I’ve had a few times (along with, why is Quill blonde now, but forget about that getting addressed).  Of course, very little is given in the way of answers, although these are the most coherent issues out of the bunch.  Bendis’s plotting is pretty weak, but what really tanks this book is the choice of artists.  Nick Bradshaw drew most of most of these issues (DC style, other artists come in to draw random pages in completely different styles), and I continue to really dislike his art.  I especially hate the way he draws Venom, after Tony Moore did such a great job of redesigning the character a couple of years ago.  You know things aren’t going well when I’m happy to have Ed McGuinness show up to draw things, because it’s an improvement.  I like these characters, and always feel that there is a lot of potential in this book, but I am consistently disappointed in it.

Legendary Star Lord #2The second issue of this series is a little better than the first, as we see Peter Quill and his newly discovered half-sister try to work a scam.  I guess the Guardians of the Galaxy movie (I haven’t seen it yet) plays up the rogue-ish aspects of the character, because his characterization here is nothing like what I got used to in the excellent Abnett and Lanning series, nor does it really jibe with the way he was portrayed in Bendis’s book before the movie came along.  It’s not like Star Lord had a huge fan base before this, but some lip service to continuity would have been nice.

Nova #18-21 – The Original Sin issues of Nova establish just what kind of Nova Sam’s father was, the meaning of the black helmets, and what dad has been up to lately.  Also, Rocket Raccoon guest stars, and the usual kind of hijinks ensue.  Gerry Duggan has a good handle on this character, but I wish the art wasn’t always so cutesy.

Original Sin #5.2 – I’m not all that impressed with ‘The Tenth Realm’, the storyline that confirms that Angela is related to Thor.  The conflicts feel forced, and Simone Bianchi’s art looks like he wasn’t given enough time to draw to his usual standard.  This does not even feel like Al Ewing’s writing, which is so good on the regular Loki title.

The Punisher #10&11 – Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads continue to do very good work on The Punisher, a character that’s become difficult to make convincing these days.  Here, Frank is locked up in a Costa Rican prison (after the Black Widow dumps him there), but not all is as it seems.  Back in LA, Frank’s cop friend looks to be adopting some of his world view, after she gets suspended for shooting a guy who had attacked her partner in the middle of a massive crime wave.  I’d still rather be reading Edmondson and Gerads’s The Activity, but this is a decent substitute.

The Week in Manga:

Mail Vol. 2 – In the hope that one day Dark Horse will publish more of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, I’ve been checking out Mail, a manga by Housui Yamazaki, the artist from KCDS.  This series involves a detective with a gun that lets him shoot ghosts, banishing their spirits.  Each of chapters in this volume tells another strange story of the Detective, Akiba, showing up just as something really bad is going to happen, to deal out his brand of closure.  My problem with the series, which can get really creepy at times, is that there is no heart to it.  Akiba is basically furniture, and that makes it hard to care about what’s going on.



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