The Weekly Round-Up #262

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #135 – Maggie is really not having a good day, as she has to deal with the fact that her daughter was attacked by a pair of teens, that Carl just about killed them, that the boys’ parents are angry (and pretty ignorant), and that there are a bunch of people living among the walkers, wearing masks made from other walkers.  She probably does well with all of this happening at the same time, but her decisions make cracks appear in the Hilltop community, as Robert Kirkman reminds us that other people are the biggest threat after the zombie apocalypse.  As always, this is a very good issue, and I like the way that Kirkman is handling Carl after the time jump of a few issues back.  I would think it would be hard to have the upbringing he’s had without jumping to violence pretty easily.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #18 – Abe and his travelling companion Grace finally chat about Grace’s past a little, something Abe’s been wanting to do for a while.  They, along with the new friends they met over the last two issues, have turned up in a safe space in Texas, where things have not been touched by tragedy.  They are trying to settle into a new life, but it’s clear that the good life won’t last long, especially with a voodoo practitioner in town.  It’s a solid issue, as always, without being too exciting.  I like the way Mike Mignola and Scott Allie use this book to explore the effects of events in BPRD on regular people.

Afterlife With Archie #7 – I’m not going to complain about the lateness of this book, because I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of the way that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is writing this title, and am always happy to get a whole issue of art by Francesco Francavilla.  The Riverdale survivors are slowly making their way to what they hope is safety (although going to the CDC is too much like following the first season of the Walking Dead), and along the way, Betty finds lots of time to reflect on her life, write in her diary, and hook up (chastely) with Archie, which makes Veronica unhappy.  I find it amusing how Aguirre-Sacasa has updated these characters for the modern world, killed off half of them horribly, yet still sticks to the core identity of everyone here (even murderous incestuous rich twins).

Amazing X-Men #14An Axis tie-in shows us Evil Nightcrawler trying to exact revenge on the townsfolk that hunted him as a child, while Good Mystique tries to stop him from hurting anybody.  Chris Yost gives us a paint-by-numbers story, which is doubly irritating for the way in which every new story discussing their relationship makes it less likely that the “Mystique is Nightcrawler’s mother” story will ever get retconned away.  I’m going to give Yost one more issue to turn things around on this book, or I’m gone.

Avengers #39 – Things are starting to go into large-screen Civil War mode in the Time Runs Out cross-over, as Captain America’s SHIELD-Avengers attack the Illuminati, in a move clearly planned by Reed Richards.  There’s lots of good hero-on-hero action, and a surprising ending that makes the next issue of New Avengers a must read.  I like the way all of Jonathan Hickman’s Marvel work, including his Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors, feel relevant to this storyline.

Avengers & X-Men: Axis #7 – I know that we saw that most of the un-inverted Avengers were captured, but I find it hard to believe that the thousand or so X-Men who weren’t inverted in Genosha are cool with the leadership of every X-team hanging out with Apocalypse and planning to kill every non-mutant in New York.  This book is spiralling down the drain, and while some aspects of it are fun (like Hippy Deadpool), it’s not doing much for me.  Also, it’s always fun to find continuity gaffs in these events, such as showing us that Thor has both arms, making it clear that this entire event takes place before Thor #1, and therefore won’t have much of a lasting effect on the Marvel Universe.  In case you didn’t already know that…  Also, there is a terrible retcon that I don’t want to talk about, other than to say that for at least ten years, putting the Scarlet Witch in a comic is a good way to ruin it.  I once liked her character…

Avengers World #16I guess Axis is all about the retcons this week, as Doctor Doom uses the Scarlet Witch’s power to retcon a recent event he was responsible for in the Young Avengers Children’s Crusade mini-series.  I’m not sure I’m too interested in this either way, except the slapdash nature of this book lately makes me hesitant to check out Nick Spencer’s upcoming Ant-Man series (which this book effectively works as a preview of, for the last few pages).  It was good to see some characters I really like (Stingray!) get used again, but this two-part Axis tie-in was pretty pointless.

Batgirl #37 – I’d been swinging towards adding this title to my pull-file list, but this issue was a disappointment that has me thinking twice again.  This issue, because of its portrayal of a male artist dressing as Batgirl in an effort to replace her, has sparked off a little bit of internet controversy, although I found the book more ham-fisted than offensive.  This artist, Dagger Type, is aiming for fame, and is trying to take Babs’s identity as the easiest way to get there.  He’s supposedly an anonymous artist, like Banksy, but at the same time, is immediately recognized by Batgirl when she takes his cowl off.  A big part of the issue hinges on her losing her own cowl, although that happens between panels and is never explained.  There’s an awkwardness to this issue that the last two haven’t had, and a lot of that comes from the name-dropping and constant references to technology and social media.  Babs is also being portrayed as very man-hungry, flirting with someone at her school, and then getting all flushed when she meets a cute cop.  I love Babs Tarr’s art, but feel that this book needs a little more thought (or editing) put into it.

Bitch Planet #1 – I can’t deny that Bitch Planet, the new series from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro is ambitious, but as with much of DeConnick’s writing, I’m not entirely sure just how successful it is with meeting its aims.  The story takes place on a planet that has been set aside for a gigantic women’s prison, where (supposedly) criminal and non-compliant women are incarcerated.  DeConnick uses a point-of-view character who is equal parts Piper (from Orange is the New Black) and Beecher (from Oz); in other words, a nice white woman whose incarceration is a mistake.  DeConnick does use a good trick in showing how the woman ended up there, with her husband petitioning on her behalf (sort of) while she tells her story to a hologram done up as a slutty nun.  There’s a lot about this story that doesn’t exactly make sense yet, but my hope is that this book won’t be like Pretty Deadly, DeConnick’s weird Western that never actually ended up making sense.  DeLandro’s art is nice, but I can’t decide if this is a book I want to continue reading.  I guess I’ll read this issue again before the second one comes out and decide then.

Copperhead #4Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski have impressed me with this sci-fi Western series.  Sheriff Bronson continues to investigate the slaughter of a family of multi-armed beings, while her deputy deals with a related disturbance, which ends up giving us a little glimpse into his past.  Faerber is putting together an interesting world in which he’s set this story, and scenes like the one wherein the mine owner tries to dig up dirt on Bronson are excellent.  I see this being a title I’m going to want to read for a good long time.  I’m really glad I started picking it up.

The Fuse #8 – I love this book, which blends police procedurals with life on a space station.  Our two favourite detectives are trying to figure out just what happened to a star of the local illegal racing circuit, and why she died with a package of drugs in her hands.  It’s fun to sit back and let Antony Johnston have the detectives work the case, especially since that takes us to a few more parts of the Fuse that we haven’t seen yet.  This series is surprisingly rich and well-realized, and always compelling.

Justice League United #7 – It’s really great to see so many members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, although I’m a little surprised that the ‘Lost’ members of the team aren’t more interested in catching up with their old friends.  This is mostly an all-action issue, as the League and the Legion try to stop Byth from using Ultra to do something bad.  There’s portals in space, wraith-creatures, spare flight rings for all, some witty banter, and a beautiful Darwyn Cooke cover.  In all, a good issue.

Sex Criminals #9Another excellent issue of Sex Criminals in the bag, as we get the life story of porn star (and academic) Jazmine St. Cocaine.  We also get the porn version of Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine, which was pretty unexpected and had me cracking up.  The last issue of this book felt a little forced, but this one is pretty wonderful, as Suzie and Jon make a plan to get the Sex Police off their backs, and start to look for other visitors to ‘The Quiet’ to help them out.  Great stuff, and with a letter column that cracked me up.

Southern Bastards #6 – This new arc continues to explore the childhood of Euless Boss, the character who was set up as the main problem in town during the first arc.  We continue to see just how central a role football has always played in his life, as he begins to work with Big, an old blind black man, who takes him under his wing and trains him to get on the team.  We see that Big is still working with Coach Boss today, and writer Jason Aaron uses Boss’s father’s screw-ups to establish another aspect of life in Craw County’s underground.  I’m not sure how I feel about the use of the ‘magical older black man’ to magically transform Boss’s football skills, but I’m giving this series some latitude, in the hopes that Aaron will turn it into the next Scalped.

Supreme Blue Rose #5 – I think Warren Ellis is getting closer to being able to tell us what this series is all about, as his reporter narrator finally gets to the point of asking questions about Ethan Crane, and that puts her at risk.  This book has been pretty close to impenetrable at times, but with Tula Lotay’s art, it’s still been visually very interesting.

Uncanny X-Men Annual #1I was very excited to read this, as Andrea Sorrentino, the man who made Green Arrow look so good, has drawn it.  His work is wonderful, as we see just what happened to Eva a while back, when she disappeared for a while and came back older (even though that has barely been mentioned since).  Now we see that her journeys involved Killraven, the Rawhide Kid, and the X-Men of 2099.  Brian Michael Bendis keeps this interesting, and uses it as a platform to lead into some upcoming storyline featuring the trial of Hank McCoy for something or other.  This is a very beautiful book, and I love that Marvel is letting artists like Sorrentino and Marco Rudy just do their thing.

The Valiant #1 – Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt are collaborating on this mini-series which is being positioned as a top shelf project.  They revisit the Geomancer concept that has always been at the core of the Eternal Warrior’s story.  We learn that there has always been an entity, the Immortal Enemy, which turns up every bunch of hundreds of years to kill the Geomancer.  Each time, Gilad has been there to try to stop it, and he has always failed.  This issue establishes Gilad’s need for allies in this fight, just as the Enemy makes his return, and as the new Geomancer finally accepts her role in the universe.  Paolo Rivera is a terrific artist, and he outdoes himself on this book, which has very nice paper and production values.  In some ways, this book is going to be doing what I thought Unity would have when it started, unifying disparate sections of the Valiant U.  It’s a very good read.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #11

Batman Eternal #36

Brides of Helheim #3

Death of Wolverine Logan Legacy #6

FBP #16

Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1

Punisher #13

Rachel Rising #30

Thor #3

Wilds End #4

X-Force #13

X-Men #22

Bargain Comics:

Deadpool #27-35 – I got caught up on a big pile of Deadpool this week.  I never liked the character, but had heard so many good things about Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s writing, that I ended up adding the book to my pull-file list, only to take it down when I discovered that the 27th issue was going to cost $10, and feature Wade’s wedding to a character that got introduced in a digital-only mini-series.  Catching back up, I have to say that the wedding (to the queen of the monster underworld, which is literally under Manhattan somehow) was a big misstep for this title, and it wasn’t until almost the end of the Original Sin tie-in books that this series became enjoyable again.  The stuff with Wade searching for, and finding, his daughter works pretty well, and I of course loved the issue set in the 90s, even though it had hideous (and hilarious) 90s-style art.  I’m glad I dropped this book, but I am still interested in keeping track of it, in the hopes that the wedding and vampire plots (which don’t reference or fit with anything we’ve seen with vampires in the Marvel U over the last few years) go away soon.  This title also needs to get out of the Event Cycle, as constant tie-ins are limiting what the writers are able to do.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Concrete Park Vol. 1: You Send Me

Written by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander
Art by Tony PuryearI first read Concrete Park when it appeared in the 80-page run of Dark Horse Presents, and I was immediately impressed by what I saw.  Tony Puryear and his collaborators Erika Alexander and Robert Alexander (who is given a co-creator credit) have put together a very complete and interesting science fiction story, and each eight-page story only scratched the surface of the depth of planning and intent conveyed on each page.  It also left me wanting more, and kept me buying the anthology for longer than I’d intended.Concrete Park was recently given its own limited series, although unfortunately that’s been stealth-canceled by Dark Horse, with the last two issues to be printed as part of the second hardcover.  Just days before learning that, I’d picked up this first volume because I wanted to read these chapters again, and was curious to see how the story played out in a different format, with everything read together.

Basically, Concrete Park is about a whole bunch of people who were sent to a prison mining colony planet, who either escaped from custody, or were released on the surface, where they coalesced into Scare City, a gang-dominated warren of homes and businesses.  There are two main characters, so far as the reader is concerned.  Isaac was a gang-banger whose actions got his little sister killed.  We journey with him to the planet, where his prison ‘bus’ crashes on the surface.  Luca is the leader of the M-80s, a female gang.  Her territory has been targeted by other gang leaders, and when we meet her, she is in the middle of being set up by an ally.

Over the course of this short book, Puryear and company introduce a number of other interesting characters, like Monkfish the shape changer, and Silas, a gang leader who is really an alien.  The complexity of Scare City and its various factions is pretty fascinating, and Puryear’s bold sense of graphic design and figure work really makes this book look nice.  His characters are all visually distinct, while he captures perfectly the sun-drenched environment they live in.

There has been a real resurgence in terms of quality science fiction comics over the last five years or so, and I would put this book among the best of them.  Puryear has developed and extensive vocabulary for his world, often blending Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and other languages to come up with a vibrant slang argot.  Everything about this comic feels like it was considered carefully and has a purpose.

I’m not happy that the second volume had its plans shifted, but having read this book in this format, I know I’m not going to complain when I pick up the second volume and get to read through it in one sitting.

 

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