The Weekly Round-Up #260 With Batman’s Gotham By Midnight #1, The Delinquents #4, The Manhattan Projects #25, Ody-C #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Gotham by Midnight #1There were two series that I love and miss that led to my picking up this new series.  Gotham Central was a wonderful police procedural set in the world of Batman, that focused on regular cops doing their jobs.  Fell was a brilliant and short-lived series of stories set in a feral city, drawn by Ben Templesmith, the artist on this book.  In Gotham by Midnight, Ray Fawkes establishes that there is a special detail of GCPD working out of a rundown old precinct house, working to solve supernatural crimes.  The lead detective of this squad is one Jim Corrigan, a name that should be familiar to anyone with a working knowledge of DC comics.  Strangely, there is a nun working with these cops.  This is a terrific first issue, using a sergeant from Internal Affairs to give us a point-of-view into the workings of this detail, and a cameo by Batman to help establish that Corrigan is the Spectre in the New 52 (has he shown up anywhere else?).  A new case leads the squad to look into the possessions of abducted children, and sets up a nice creepy cliffhanger.  Templesmith is always brilliant, and Fawkes feels like the right person to write this book, even though I’ve had some problems with his consistency on corporate-owned titles.  I’m not sure how long Templesmith can last on a monthly book, but I’m definitely going to be back for the next issue.

Quick Takes:

Amazing X-Men #13 – It’s a fill-in issue this month, that focuses on Anole, Northstar, and Nightcrawler.  Victor does not have the courage to go on a date, because he is uncomfortable with his lizard-like appearance.  Lady Mastermind somehow gets involved in things, and the two older X-Men come to the rescue.  James Tynion IV writes this issue (his first at Marvel?), and he has a good handle on these characters, except for the fact that I thought Vic was supposed to be running Worthington Industries these days.  Still, there is a sensitivity and charm to the writing here, although the issue borders on that after-school special feeling a little too often.

Baltimore: The Wolf and the Apostle #2We get to the end of this short mini-series, which is more about an Inquisitor than it is about Lord Baltimore.  It’s pretty standard Mike Mignola stuff, complete with a werewolf that falls through a floor in an old building.  If that’s your thing, you’ll love it.  Personally, I find myself getting a little bored lately.

Captain America & The Mighty Avengers #2 – I wasn’t all that impressed with the first issue of this relaunched series, but this one both addresses my problems with it, and creates a few more.  The full team is given something to do this time around, and that’s take down The Fast Five, a bunch of 90s villains on rocket-powered rollerblades.  The Axis tie-in mandated stuff is pretty silly, with Luke Cage looking to sell the team to an evil businessman, but Al Ewing’s style of writing every character who isn’t ‘inverted’ rings true.  My problem is with the art.  While I’m still very pleased that Greg Land is not drawing this title, new artist Luke Ross didn’t draw the whole issue (Iban Coello filled in), giving it a pretty inconsistent look.  I hope that this book can reach a point where it doesn’t get bogged down in event tie-ins soon, and can become the series I have been waiting for.

Cyclops #7 – John Layman and Javier Garrón continue to give us an entertaining book, as Young Scott becomes a crew member of the space pirate crew that has captured his father and left the rest of the Starjammers to die.  He has to figure out how to save everyone, and Layman does a good job of working with this character.  This is a fun series.

The Delinquents #4 – The conclusion to the mini-series featuring Archer, Armstrong, Quantum, and Woody, is a terrific read.  The gathered heroes have found themselves on the Big Rock Candy Mountain, and have to defend the fabled home of hobos everywhere from the corporate plans of Mondostano.  This series, written by James Asmus and Fred Van Lente, has been hilarious.  Artist Kano did a great job with this book, drawing everything from 24-panel pages to double-page battle scenes that the reader is encouraged to cut up and arrange on his or her own.  This was a really fun series, and it’s convinced me that I should pick up the Quantum & Woody trades.

Lazarus #13We get to meet most of the Lazari, the enhanced people who protect the families that run the Earth in Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s excellent series.  As the Conclave continues, and the families meet, we see more and more intrigue get underway, as different factions position themselves to improve their standing.  Forever has a rough issue, being humiliated by Hock, and then being sent on a difficult mission for her father.  Rucka and Lark are doing excellent work on this comic.

Letter 44 #12 – Things continue to heat up in this series, as the aliens take custody of the Clarke, and back on Earth, the President receives proof that it was the government of Germany that used a nuclear bomb to destroy his new weapons.  As the action in this series progresses, the political and social aspects that made the earlier issues so interesting receed some, but I’m still very impressed with the work that Charles Soule is doing here.

The Manhattan Projects #25 – I consider myself pretty up to date on comics solicitations, but I hadn’t noticed that there aren’t any more issues of The Manhattan Projects headed to my pull-file anytime soon.  Jonathan Hickman explains in the text page that the series is going to be relaunched in the spring, with a change in format that will bring about issues or story arcs that are going to be more focused on single characters, instead of the sprawling narrative that he and artist Nick Pitarra have built over the last twenty-five issues.  I love this series, and am pleased that it is continuing, in whatever format.  Hickman’s really done a number on the Earth in this alternate history, and this issue serves as a survey of where things stand.  There’s a new President after Kennedy’s assassination, and he’s working with the Projects with the goal of taking over the world.  In Russia, the alien hybrids are pursuing an expansionist policy as well.  Yuri Gagarin is lost in space looking for his dog, and the two Einsteins are dragging Feynman on a tour of alternate Earths.  It’s all good stuff.  This is a good time for readers who haven’t been following this title to get the trades, and be caught up before the series returns.

The Massive #29While it’s always been interesting, it’s often felt odd to balance the more mystical aspects of The Massive with it’s more realistic ecological message.  With this issue, Brian Wood takes his series squarely into magical realist territory, as Mary moves to the next stage in her life.  This series has moved in directions I never would have predicted, but as it’s winding down, I find I’m more and more attentive to every little detail.

Mind MGMT #28 – It’s pretty shocking to see how far Meru has come since the beginning of this series.  Now, armed with the umbrella that belonged to the First Immortal, Meru is setting out to track down her missing friends, and to find the Eraser.  Matt Kindt is moving closer to the conclusion of this series, and is keeping a pretty impressive pace.  This is always a great read.

New Avengers #27 – We are now five months away from time ‘running out’, and that means that some of the typical barriers between Avengers series are breaking down.  This issue is mostly focused on the team that Sunspot sent through the Auger, to try to find out what is causing the multiverse to decay.  This team, made up of Thor, Hyperion, and the characters that Jonathan Hickman introduced at the beginning of his Avengers run, get into a fight with the Black Priests, only to discover a familiar face among them.  It’s a pretty interesting issue, as Hickman plays with some new concepts (I like the way the Priests cast their spells), but it’s also a pretty dense and talkative issue for what has been recently a pretty quick-moving book.  I’m not really too sure what’s going on with Dr. Doom and Molecule Man.  I guess since Secret Wars is coming up, we needed to get MM back into the centre of the Marvel Universe?

Ody-C #1I really don’t know what to think about the debut of this new series by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward.  It feels like Fraction is doing his best Jonathan Hickman impression, starting the comic with a dense, colour-coded map, character descriptions, and lengthy chronology (which I didn’t get all the way through).  Then there is a stunning eight-page fold-out, before the story begins.  This is basically the story of the Odyssey, set in space, with almost all characters having undergone a gender switch.  Odyssia is leading her ship of warriors home after many years of battle at the planet Troiia.  We see a couple of threats along the way, and begin to get a sense of how things work on the Ody-C, Odyssia’s vessel, but there is way too much set-up, overblown narration, and info-dumping to get much of a sense of the characters and how this series is ultimately going to play out.  I love big sprawling epic stories, and I really like Ward’s unique art, but I’m getting a bit of a bad feeling about this series.  To begin with, neither Fraction nor Ward are known for their speed, so I’m a little reluctant to commit to a book that might not be around more than a few times a year.  Also, I didn’t care about any of the characters by the end of this issue.  I’m going to give them the next issue to really start their story and draw me in, because these are creators I respect, and I hope I get more impressed moving forward.

Pop #4 – This has been an interesting mini-series, but I feel like the most interesting aspect of the story, the way in which corporations control (and literally create) our pop culture icons.  The series was more concerned with the action movie tropes that propelled the narrative along.  Not bad, but it could have been more.

Prophet Strikefile #2 – I miss Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet, so I thought that this very late second issue of their Strikefile series might help tide me over.  Really, the opposite is true, as the parade of strange creatures just makes me interested in the upcoming Earth War mini-series.  This book itself is a disappointment, because while it has a lot of content, it doesn’t have any heart.

Rasputin #2I want to like Rasputin, but Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo’s new historical fantasy series is perhaps just too quick of a read.  Both this issue and the first one took only a couple of minutes to go through, and while that doesn’t usually bother me, in this case it does.  Young Rasputin gets into a bar fight with his neighbours who are harassing some visiting French soldiers (we have no idea what Rasputin’s relations with the people in his village are like), and he finds occasion to use his abilities once again.  Later, he leaves with the French, and we meet one of the people at the dinner table in the framing sequence.  There is a lot about this book that interests me, but I’m worried that it’s not getting anywhere quickly enough.  I’ll give it another issue though.

Roche Limit #3 – I think it’s time to give up on this one.  The series looked pretty interesting from its solicitation and excellent cover design (this being the year for Hickman-inspired sci-fi series, apparently), but writer Michael Moreci is just not keeping my interest with this book.  There are tons of good ideas here, but the execution is just off.  I don’t like or care about any of the characters, and am not sure where some of the sub-plots have come from, let alone how they are related to the main story.  There is not enough mystery or atmosphere in this title to make me want to stick around and figure things out, and so I shall move on.  Too bad, because this did look good, and is a rare misstep for Image.

Secret Avengers #10 – Things move along a little, but I find that I’m losing interest in this title pretty quickly.  I’d expected a lot more from Ales Kot on a book like this.

Sex #18 – We get another flashback issue, this time filling us in on the life story of the Prank Addict, the Joker-type figure in the Iron Saint’s world.  The art is by Luke Parker, whose work reminds me of a mix between Paul Grist and early Mike Mignola.  It’s a good issue, as they all are, but I’d like to see Joe Casey start moving his story forward a little quicker.

Sheltered #13I’ve been very impressed with every issue of Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’s thriller about survivalist kids, but this issue really took things up a notch.  The kids, who murdered their parents at the behest of a charismatic leader, now find their homes surrounded by the FBI, the ATF, and the local police, all of whom are in full-Waco mode.  The kids won’t negotiate, convinced as they are that a natural disaster will send them all underground any day now, but their superior planning, poor organization, and willingness to resort to bloodshed puts the various government agencies in a pretty precarious position in a real hurry.  I am really looking forward to seeing where the next issue takes this.

Stumptown #3 – Dex continues to investigate the beating of a friend of her’s, and the investigation takes her into the world of Portland soccer fandom.  She’s working with another investigator from Seattle, and it looks like their work is attracting the ire of the police.  This is pretty standard middle-of-the-run Stumptown stuff, but it’s interesting to see how Greg Rucka structures the story.  I’m still not sure that Justin Greenwood is the right artist for this book (I love his work on The Fuse – I’m not just hating), but I’m please to see Dex back on the stands.  Things get really interesting when a character from the first Stumptown series shows up; I like that Rucka is embracing the series’s past.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17 – It’s pretty easy to get down on Marvel, with their endless cycle of events and relaunches, their double-shipping schedule, and their constantly rotating art teams.  Then, they go ahead and produce and stand by a series like The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, giving it a pretty long leash, and (with the exception of a couple of disappointing fill-in issues), allowing the original series creators to tell their entire story before ending the book.  Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have put together one of those series that remind us that superhero (or villain) genre stories can be creative and a ton of fun.  This issue wraps things up, with Boomerang finally revealing all of his machinations, lies, and betrayals, as he tries to recapture a great moment from his past.  This series has always been funny and very aware of the zeitgeist, and the ending is no different, as we are given a few homages to beloved cable TV series.  If you have not read this book, I cannot stress enough how important it is to go get the trades; this was a Marvel classic.

Trees #7I am loving just about everything about Trees, Warren Ellis’s excellent new series.  Now that Ellis has firmly established all of his various characters and locations (although we haven’t been back to New York in a long time), he is starting to move things forward at a good pace.  In this issue, we learn what is going on with all the black poppies that have been growing in the Arctic, and the government of Somalia attacks Puntland.  In Italy, Eligia takes action to take over the Great Work.  Not enough science fiction comics explore the social ramifications of their events, and I love that that is really all Ellis is doing with this series.  His writing is very smart here, and Jason Howard’s art has really impressed me.

Umbral #11 – This issue of Umbral contains two surprises, one of which was a little predictable, and the other a complete surprise.  Antony Johnston has really built this fantasy epic into a compelling series, and I like the way he’s made it clear that the book is not as simple as I thought when I first started reading it.

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

All-New Invaders #12

Aquaman #36

Batman Eternal #34

Bodies #5

Deathlok #2

Death of Wolverine Logan Legacy #5

New Warriors #12

Nova #24

Spider-Man 2099 #6

Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring GI Zombie #4

Superior Iron Man #2

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #10

Unwritten Vol. 2 Apocalypse #11

Wayward #4

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Factor #9-11Reading these comics, I can’t help but wonder if Peter David even had a plan for this series beyond gathering up some mutants who wouldn’t normally team up, and have them hang out in an office.  They are spending a lot of time on the mutant girl they rescued from her father, only to find out that her biological father is an even bigger jerk, and a major supervillain.  Also, it turns out that Serval Industries has its own teleporter technology, which makes you wonder why they worry about their big private jets.  I’m not surprised that this book has been cancelled; it’s not an interpretation of the team that you would expect to see last for long.

Savage Hulk #2-4 – These three issues wrap up Alan Davis’s story of the Hulk meeting the X-Men way back in the day (circa Roy Thomas and Neal Adams X-Men).  It’s a decent enough story, and always a treat to see some Alan Davis art, but there’s nothing here I’m going to remember in a few weeks.  I’m curious to see how long this series can last, seeing as how Wolverine’s ‘Savage’ title of rotating creative teams rarely did much sales-wise, and the Hulk is not really one to be able to maintain two titles.  I’d love to see some pretty wild stuff go on here, like maybe getting Ted McKeever or Jim Mahfood to do an arc. but I doubt that’s going to happen.

Thor God of Thunder #25 & Thor #1 – These two issues cover the end of Jason Aaron’s first Thor series, and the beginning of his latest relaunch.  The end of God of Thunder highlights most of the strengths Aaron brought to Thor – there is a dark story that reveals Malekith’s origins, and then a pretty decent Young Thor story wherein he fights Frost Giants.  The Old Thor framing sequence feels a little forced, but overall, it works.  Then, in the new Thor #1, we get the follow-up to those seemingly unconnected episodes, as Frost Giants scour the ocean floor for something that was lost long ago, with Malekith’s help.  These issues cover the ‘unworthyness’ of Thor, Odin’s reaction to it, and eventually, the sort-of first appearance of the new female Thor, who can lift the hammer our usual hero no longer can.  What really stands out here is the quality of the art – RM Guera (from the brilliant Scalped) and Simon Bisley contribute to issue 25, while the wonderful newcomer Russell Dauterman does excellent work on the new series.  I’m not sure I’m interested enough in New Thor (who, I got the feeling from reading this, might be Freyja herself, but I’m sure that’s wrong – I just don’t know who else, other than the Enchantress, is powerful enough to change Odin’s inscription on the hammer) to keep buying the title as it comes out, but with art like this, it’s worth keeping an eye on this book.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Broadcast

Written by Eric Hobbs
Art by Noel Tuazon

In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast his radio play The War of the Worlds, adapting HG Wells’s novel of the same name about a Martian attack to radio.  Famously, people actually believed that the broadcast was factual, and panic broke out in a number of spots across the country (obviously the people of America were not as media-savvy in the 30s as the people of today, who know that everything broadcast by say, Fox News, is going to be true).

This situation provides the backdrop for The Broadcast, an excellent 2010 graphic novel by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon.  The story is set in rural Indiana, and it uses the event as a springboard to explore class and race at that time.

Our main character is Gavin, the charming son of a farmer, who wants nothing more than to marry Kim Schrader, the daughter of a powerful local landowner, and run off to New York to help her pursue her dream of becoming a writer.  As the book opens, Gavin goes to meet with Kim’s father, to get his blessing to propose, but he ends up leaving insulted and angry.  During this visit, we also learn that two of Mr. Schrader’s employees used to own the land that he now pays them to farm.  One of the farmers is fine with this situation, while the other, Jacob, a widower, is not.

The final player in this drama is Marvin, an African-American man who was attacked by a couple of whites and almost killed, who ends up near Gavin’s father’s farm, and is taken in by the very nice family to recuperate from his wounds.

The titular broadcast takes place on a stormy night, and the power goes out at a key point in the radio play, leading the characters to believe that the attack must be real, and that the radio station has fallen to the attacking Martians.  Everyone panics, and all of our main players converge, with their families, on Schrader’s farm, which is the only place in the area with a reliable storm shelter.  The hope is that the families can hide out there until the invasion is over.  The discovery of what happened to the men who attacked Marvin (it’s not pretty) makes their belief in the seriousness of their situation even stronger.

The big problems is that Schrader’s shelter can only hold a small amount of the assembled people, and so everyone falls to in-fighting, scheming, and class warfare.  Jacob is the most direct character here, resorting to violence so as to protect his daughter, but Schrader remains the most interesting character.

Hobbs does a terrific job of setting up these characters and this situation, and then just letting everything play out as it should.  Tuazon’s art, like always, is scratchy and at times hard to follow, but that adds to the sense of confusion that the characters are feeling.  Like their more recent book, Family Ties, this is a very good read that is not your typical graphic novel.

 

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