The Weekly Round-Up #261 With Crossed Pulse One Hundred #1, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1, Hellboy and the BPRD #1, Secret Six #1, Rai #5 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 – I’ve really only dabbled in the world of Crossed, having read some of the online comics and the first trade, but there was no way I wasn’t going to check out Alan Moore writing the title, and moving the story one hundred years into the future.  As Moore sees it, one hundred years after the Crossed virus wipes out most people, society will survive in small fragments, living off the bones of what came before.  We meet a group who are travelling through Tennessee on an archiving mission, looking for readable books and useable technology, to help them regain lost knowledge, and gain an understanding of what happened during the outbreak.  I originally wondered what about this series might have attracted Moore to it (being the reluctant writer that he is these days), but seeing the way in which he has invented new patterns of speech, it all makes sense.  The archivist and her team do not expect to run into any Crossed (or the other predator they come across), but of course they do.  It’s nice to see Moore write something other than the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which I gave up on after the Century books), and I look forward to seeing where he takes this.

Quick Takes:

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 – I only picked this book up on the strength of Keron Gillen’s name, because really, I have never had an interest in the character Angela, and still can’t figure out why Marvel went to such lengths to acquire the character from Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman.  Anyway, a few things are clear from this first issue.  One, I suspect that Angela’s antipathy towards Asgard (isn’t it still called Asgardia?) is not going to last long, or else the book would have a different subtitle.  Two, I don’t believe Gillen will be on the book for long, and that Marguerite Bennett, whose DC work did nothing for me, will be taking over the writing chores.  This issue is spent working to establish the character, without her saying much (a friend of her provides most of the character development through a flashback story beautifully illustrated by Stephanie Hans), as Angela ends up in some town in some Limbo, pursued by Asgardians.  I enjoyed the book well enough, but don’t see a lot of reason to come back in a month for the next issue.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2I hadn’t even noticed the name change for this new series from Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey, which is apparently because of some trademark issue.  The first issue of this series really blew me away with its scope and world building, but this issue has cemented for esteem for the title.  This book is set in a world where magical resources are dwindling, and a desperate attempt by a group of magic practitioners (representing the variety of animal species who people the world) to try to secure a new source, has gone pretty wrong.  When this issue opens, one of the floating cities has come crashing to the ground, and now the survivors are facing an attack by one of the ‘lower species’ that they have exploited for generations.  Central to this book so far has been the mystery of the ‘Great Champion’, the historic figure who first brought magic to the world before disappearing.  The wizards have brought him to the present, and his species is revealed.  This book is very interesting, and very well written, although it is Dewey’s phenomenal art that has me excited about following this title into the future.  This is a series any fantasy fan should be checking out, and that’s coming from someone who is not often a huge enthusiast of fantasy or talking animal comics.

Chew #45 – The aftermath of last issue’s attack on the Vampire is the focus this month, as various main characters are in surgery, and Tony is good and angry at Colby for betraying him, and getting his daughter hurt.  This issue ends with a very difficult scene, as John Layman and Rob Guillory kill off a fan-favourite character for reasons that I can’t even begin to understand.  In terms of shock value, this ranks up there with the end of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, and I’m sure that a lot of the book’s loyal readers are going to feel some kind of way about it.  It’s always a surprise when a humour book gets so serious.

Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #2 I continue to be less than impressed with Peter Milligan’s writing on this mini-series, although I supposed this issue was better than the first.  Gilad is forced to choose between two twin Frankish babies, one of whom is destined to lead his people against the Magyars who are oppressing them.  It looks like he perhaps chose the wrong kid.  The story is fine, I suppose, but it’s not doing a lot for me.  Also, I am very certain that the word or concept ‘terrorist’ didn’t exist in the Middle Ages.

Gotham Academy #3 – This series keeps charming me into picking up another issue, even though it’s not my typical thing.  In this issue, Olive pulls together a group of people to help her figure out what’s going on in the North Hall of the school (which apparently has a river and forest on its grounds that looks like it’s in Louisiana) with respect to a possible haunting.  I really have no idea what’s going on in Gotham in general these days, seeing as I’m not buying any of the mainstream Bat-Books right now, so I don’t know if this stuff is connected to anything else, or if I’m supposed to know anything about Olive beyond what we see here.  I am enjoying the character interactions in this book, and love Karl Kerschl’s art, although this issue looks pretty washed-out in places.

Grayson #5 – I continue to be very impressed with this series, and the unorthodox approach that writers Tim Seeley and Tom King are taking in presenting it.  This issue opens with Dick, Helena, and the Midnighter in a crashing helicopter with a woman giving birth.  They all, aside from the mother, who dies, in a desert, with a 200 mile walk to civilization.  The writers focus the story on Dick’s unfailing sense of purpose, and it’s a very effective story.  I like that we don’t see what led to them all ending up in the chopper, and that backstory is only briefly discussed, with the situation being the focus of the drama.  Mikel Janin does a terrific job of giving the desert a real vastness.  I’m really glad I chose to stick with this title, and I like how it’s slowly moving through its larger plot, while still providing strong single issues that tell stories of their own.  This is one of the best books DC is producing right now, and I love the Darwyn Cooke cover.

Hellboy and the BPRD #1We go back to 1952 in this new series, and get to see Hellboy’s first field mission with the BPRD.  Professor Bruttenholm sends a team to Brazil to investigate some weirdness, and decides to send Hellboy along with them.  This book picks up on some of the threads of the BPRD 1948 and Vampire series, but is mostly focused on the lack of cohesion among the team.  Alex Maleev draws this series, and at first that seemed like a pretty excellent choice, but his art here is a little dull.  Maybe things will improve once the story really gets underway.

Hinterkind #13 – I was a little surprised to see that writer Ian Edginton has moved his story back to the time before humanity and our society fell apart, and before the Hinterkind began to take things over.  We are in Paris, around the time we live in now, where Jon Hobb sells some biological information to someone, just as the US government learns of a bioweapons plant in Afghanistan that produced a weaponized bird flu.  We also get to see Asa at a time when his children were still young, and what the Queen of the Sidhe was up to.  After a slow start, this book has become very strong.  That said, I’m more interested in the time in which the story is regularly set than in seeing how things got there.  This might make for an interesting jumping-on point for new readers though.

The Humans #2 – I didn’t love the first issue of The Humans, a new series about a biker gang in a world where everyone is an ape, but I’d preordered the first three issues and so felt obligated to pick this one up.  I’m very glad I did, because it was an excellent issue.  This is all about Johnny, a Human who had signed enlisted to fight in Viet Kong, and who was reported as KIA.  As it turns out, he’s not dead, and has made his way home.  Johnny is one angry ape, feeling disillusioned about what he had to do overseas, and not sure of the life that he wants to live now that he’s home.  In a lot of ways, this story is pretty familiar, and has been done time and again, and the ape angle just adds a little wrinkle to things, but it is being handled very competently.  It appears that Johnny is going to persist in being the main character of this book, and I’m finding myself getting much more interested in it because of that.  I might be putting this title on my pull-file list if the next issue is as good as this one.

Low #5I did not love Low at the beginning either, but with each issue, I’m finding myself getting more and more engaged in the story, as Greg Tocchini’s art becomes easier to follow, and as Rick Remender gets me to really care about these characters.  Stel and Marik have been held captive by the man who killed Stel’s husband for a few months, and he’s been building Marik up in gladiatorial combat, with the intent of crushing Stel with his death.  This is a pretty exciting issue, and with the way Remender has structured the series, it’s very hard to predict where it is going to go.

Men of Wrath #3 – Jason Aaron and Ron Garney’s brutally violent family drama takes a turn as father Ira meets his son Ruben with plans to murder him.  Most of the action takes place in a church full of worshippers, so as you can imagine, it doesn’t take long before innocent people start getting hurt.  Between this book and Southern Bastards, Aaron must really be working through some father issues (it’s almost like reading earlier Scott Snyder!).

Rai #5 – Rai is back, and Matt Kindt’s story is moving a lot faster than it did in the first arc.  Rai is committed to bringing down Father, the artificial intelligence that runs Japan, and we get a good overview of who his allies and supporters are.  As with the first arc, I find Clayton Crain’s art a little muddy and hard to follow in some places, but it looks very good in others.  I wonder if reading this book in a digital format, and playing with the screen contrast, might make it look a little better…

Secret Six #1When DC shut down their line and rebooted everything for the New 52, the book that I was most upset to see end was The Secret Six, which, under Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore, was easily the most entertaining and enjoyable book the company produced.  Now, three years later, DC has brought the title back, and put it back in Simone’s capable hands.  I was pretty excited to return to the book, although I was also very trepidatious to see how the team would exist in the New 52, when some of the main characters have been moved into other titles (and, quite frankly, made less enjoyable).  The book opens with Catman being taken prisoner by some people posing as government agents.  He wakes up in a large room (which apparently looks like the inside of a coffin, but I didn’t get that) with five other people, none of whom were on the team’s previous iteration.  The characters are Porcelain (who I assume is new), Stryx (from Birds of Prey), The Ventriloquist (New 52 Batgirl villain), Big Shot (no clue), and Black Alice (from Simone’s Birds of Prey).  I was really hoping that we’d see Scandal Savage and Ragdoll on the team, but perhaps that’s still to come.  Anyway, this crew is locked in this room, and they have to answer questions or get killed.  That’s all there is.  There’s not enough to get a real sense of the title’s tone, or where it’s headed.  Simone attempts some of the gross-out humour and weirdness that made the last title work, but it feels a little forced.  For some reason, DC decided to give this book to Ken Lashley to draw, instead of Calafiore, and then because it’s a New 52 book, had someone other than him ink a few pages at random.  For most of the book, Lashley inks it like he’s trying to be Rafael Albuquerque, with a slightly shaggy look to everything.  It doesn’t work all that well, and there are a few pages where it really looks like nothing is happening at all, but the pages inked by Drew Geraci are worse, simply because the art is more traditional, and jarring with the rest of the book.  This is not the debut I hoped for, but I will give Simone five issues to make me happy before I give up on things.  Coming out of this issue, though, I’m finding it hard to care about the next one.

The Sixth Gun #45 – While this issue didn’t feel as impressive as last month’s, it did keep up the same pace, as Drake and Becky try to work out a plan to stop Griselda from ending the world, while she focuses on putting a stop to the Thunderbirds that are ruining her plans.  We see a character I didn’t expect to see again as well.  I’m really enjoying the ride on this book as it moves closer to the end of its story.

Swamp Thing #37The Machine kingdom get themselves a new avatar, and it’s someone who is very familiar to readers of Charles Soule’s run.  John Constantine shows up for a cameo, as does the avatar of the Grey, the fungal kingdom.  Soule’s work on this book is very good, and I intend to enjoy the hell out of the rest of his stay on the book.

The Woods #8 – This is a series that really should be getting more attention than it is.  James Tynion and Michael Dialynas are crafting a very good series about a high school that has mysteriously been transported to an alien world.  For the last few issues, we’ve been following a group of teens who are looking for a way home, while also seeing flashbacks to their life back home, as a way of building their characters.  This time around, we focus on Adrian, the most difficult of the teens, who has somehow gained the ability to control some of the weapons systems in the woods, which makes the other humans the kids have met very nervous.  This series is slowly changing into a very large-scale story, and I like the way the creators are still grounding it in the individual character arcs, and the insecurities and relationship problems, of the kids.  This is a great title for fans of Morning Glories.

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

’68 Homefront #4

All-New X-Factor #17

Axis Revolutions #3

Batman Eternal #35

Deadpool #38

Death of Wolverine: Weapon X Program #3

Detective Comics #37

Fairest #32

Legendary Star Lord #6

Uber #20

Valiant-Sized Quantum & Woody #1

War Stories #3

Wolf Moon #1

Bargain Comics:

Magneto #4-11Cullen Bunn was starting to do some interesting things with Magneto before his work got co-opted by the needs of the Axis event.  He has Magneto walking his own path again, away from the X-Men, and looking to help mutants, without concerns for heroic restrictions or morality.  Bunn has added some interesting story elements to the book, such as having Erik depend on mutant growth hormone to supplement his failing abilities, and having him track down and murder the Marauders in order to reprogram their next iteration.  The Axis stuff gets a little silly, as he has time to ponder his place in the world before travelling the globe to gather a bunch of villains to his side, but the rest of this series works great.  I especially like the art of Gabriel Hernandez Walta and his alternate Javier Fernandez.  This might be a series worth sticking with after the Axis stuff ends…

Miracleman #3-8 – I’ve only ever read this series in bits and pieces, and so it’s nice to be able to go through it all in larger chunks, although that has led me to realize a few things I didn’t know before.  To begin with, the start of Alan Moore’s story is a little boring, as Miracleman mostly just reacts to things happening around him, and Moore employs a style as wordy as Chris Claremont.  The Warpsmith stories, never collected until now, are dull.  Further in, things get a lot better, but then Chuck Austen becomes the artist (replacing the much better Alan Davis) and the story hits a few more bumps.  It’s nice to be able to read this classic series, but I’m looking forward to the next batch, where I know things are going to get a lot more exciting (and ground-breaking).

Thor #2 – New Thor gets a whole issue to herself, as she starts to realize the extent of her powers, and then flies from the Moon to the Earth to stop some Frost Giants (and Malekith) from attacking a Roxxon facility.  Weirdly, she leaves a bunch of Asgardians and the Avengers frozen in ice, despite having the power to free them, instead to focus on saving the evil head of Roxxon.  Jason Aaron is not giving us many hints as to who the new Thor is, although I’m guessing the fact that she was on the Moon limits the list of possible characters.  Weirdly, when she thinks, New Thor seems like a very regular, everyday person, but when she speaks, she sounds Asgardian, and knows things that her inner voice doesn’t.  The best thing about this issue is Russell Dauterman’s art, which is pretty impressive, looking even nicer than his work on Cyclops.  I’m curious to know what the story behind New Thor is, but not curious enough that I’m going to start picking this book up at regular price.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 19 – For many volumes now, the whereabouts of one important character has been a source of mystery.  It looked like he showed up in the last volume, but it wasn’t certain if it was him or not until this volume, as Yabuki Joe leads a small revolt at a checkpoint, getting a lot of refugees into Tokyo, and as Kanna decides that she has to kill the Friend.  I’ve been impressed by Naoki Urasawa’s great work from the beginning, but I just keep getting more and more into this series with each volume I read.


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