The Weekly Round-Up #268 With The Valiant #2, Ivar, Timewalker #1, Powers #1, Reyn #1, Spider-Verse’s Scarlet Spiders #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Valiant #2I feel like this mini-series couldn’t be better.  Writers Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt are creating an event that touches almost every aspect of the Valiant Universe, and are doing it in such a way as to make it look effortless.  The A-plot of this series is that the Immortal Enemy, a creature that appears every few hundred years to kill Geomancers, is going after Kay, the newest person in that lineage.  Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, has faced the Enemy three times before, and failed each time.  He is determined to not fail again, and so has recruited Ninjak to help him, and he in turn has brought Bloodshot into the mix.  The B-plot concerns some kind of box that Bloodshot retrieved on a mission last month, that cannot be opened.  This brings Breaker, a character that was introduced in Unity #0, into the story as well.  The story is interesting and well-written, and artist Paolo Rivera is absolutely killing the art (and colours) on this book.  His figure work is stunning, as are his layouts.  He gives these various characters a look that helps tie them all together into a believable shared universe, and constructs panels that I find myself studying slowly.  In the commentary in the back of the issue, Kindt points out one particular panel, of Ninjak hiding in snow, that struck me as one of the more brilliant things I’ve seen in a while.  I also love the way that Lemire and Kindt supply some art to the book, helping to illustrate Kay’s greatest fears.  Even the design of this comic is perfect.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #35 – It’s funny how Brian Michael Bendis will spend like three issues having the various members of the team spread out throughout the Ultimate Universe, but then spend just a couple of pages bringing them all back together.  I often wonder if he doesn’t just get bored with plotlines that he’s started, and that’s why he usually goes for a speedy wrap-up.  Of course, in light of this week’s Secret Wars and subsequent 616/Ultimate mash-up universe announcements, it’s hard to read this book without thinking that Bendis is perhaps laying the groundwork for all of these characters (perhaps including Miles Morales, who is prominent here too).  Personally, I think that Ultimate X-Men is a concept best left in Limbo at the end of that event, as these characters became little more than shadows of their 616 counterparts.  Anyway, this is an amusing issue, with many characters getting great lines (especially the Bobbies of both Earths).

Amazing Spider-Man #13I’m used to reading Dan Slott’s Spider-Man in chunks, as I don’t usually grab it off the stands the week it comes out.  Spider-Verse has convinced me to tentatively add the book to my pull-file list, but I was a little disappointed with this issue.  Slott uses this basically as a breather issue, as the various groups working to stop the Inheritors all check in with each other, as most of the main action takes place in other titles (Scarlet Spiders, Spider-Woman, 2099, and the Team-Up mini).  The next issue should be a pretty amazing one though, as everyone is headed to Loomworld to take out the Inheritors once and for all.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #3 – You really have to give Kurt Busiek credit for the way in which he builds his fantasy worlds.  Three issues into this series, I’m completely hooked.  The various survivors of a floating city’s crash to the ground have to figure out how they are going to make it in a hostile environment.  The various animals (this is an anthropomorphic talking animal series, if you didn’t know) have plucked their great Champion from the mists of history, and he’s a human from a science fiction world, complete with bio-implanted binoculars and other tricks.  The animals split into two groups – one that is concerned with salvaging wealth and comfort from the city, while the others are concerned with defense and rescue from the other floating cities.  A new cast member, a trader, has her own agenda.  Artist Benjamin Dewey is pretty incredible; his animals are a delight to study, and he’s put some pretty crazy designs to work on this book.  It’s a very, very good read.

BPRD Hell on Earth #127 – I like the way that Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are building up Howards, the BPRD character who has been possessed by the spirit of an ancient warrior.  This issue gives Howards a lot of screen time, as we learn of his and Enos’s escape from a creature, and then watch him flash back to an earlier era.  This is a book that has been working really well for a while now; I’m especially happy when I see that James Harren is drawing it.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4Marco Rudy does not draw the entire issue this time around, which means I was more focused on the story and Ales Kot’s writing than I usually am.  I’m growing a little dissatisfied with Kot’s writing, both on this title and Secret Avengers.  I feel like he’s so busy seeding his stories with literary (in SA) and musical references, that he’s letting that precedence over clear story-writing.  Don’t get me wrong – I like Easter Egg hunts, and really appreciated that he named a planet after the sublime Detroit musician Shigeto, but I found this issue a little hard to follow.  It seems that a future version of Bucky (possibly from a different universe) has come back to the planet Mer-Z-Bow to warn Daisy Johnson that our Bucky is in danger.  We see Future Bucky’s life for a bit, and then Daisy goes looking for our Bucky, who is on a ‘date’ with an alien princess.  Langdon Foss draws most of this issue.  I liked his work on the graphic novel Get Jiro, and am looking forward to the Image series he’s doing with Kot.  His stuff is fine here, but because of how much I love Rudy’s art, I found this issue to be a let-down.

Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #4 – And, now that Axis is over and done with, Al Ewing is back to making this one of the better-written Marvel titles out there.  We check in with many of the team members this issue.  Falcon-Cap is questioning himself after his actions during the ‘inversion’, while Luke Cage is trying to use his new questionable moral standing to infiltrate Quantrell’s organization and find out what he’s up to.  Power Man and White Tiger are investigating the death of the racist who killed the Tiger’s family, and Kaluu has portents of evil to share, presumably setting up a future plotline.  This is more the title I wanted from this book and it’s Mighty Avengers predecessor – one with strong character work, that makes good use of the diversity of the cast, and that doesn’t have a single drawing by Greg Land.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #2 – It’s nice to see Alan Moore back in fine form, as he is with this fascinating look at the Crossed world, one hundred years after ‘The Big Surprise’.  Future and her crew of archivists are continuing their journey through Tennessee, looking for information that can help their community of Chooga.  Along the way, they see a herd of elephants, and come across another next of infecteds in Graceland.  What makes this series stand out is the depth of Moore’s work at extrapolating what this culture would act and sound like.  Their speech patterns and sexual mores all make sense in the context of the story.  I like the languorous pace of this story, and am as intrigued as Future to find out the meaning of the shrines she keeps coming across.  This is a very interesting series.

Drifter #3I keep finding myself sitting on the fence when it comes to Drifter.  On the one hand, I appreciate the amount of world building that Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein have been doing, but I find that sometimes they are throwing new ideas at us a little too quickly, without giving them space to breathe.  Our POV character is Pollux, who has turned up on this planet after his ship crashed, although the crash was a while ago, and he only showed up three days ago, with no idea what happened in-between.  Now, he needs credits, so he takes a mining job that has a number of dangers, including possible run-ins with the indigenous population.  My issue with this part of the comic is that he has no clue what his job is, even when he’s in the mine.  It seems that there would be some level of job-training, or at least a job description, before he’s lowered into caves made by gigantic worms.  There’s another story that runs through this issue, that has a priest we’ve met before being menaced by another character.  These scenes didn’t work for me, because I wasn’t sure who the other guy was, or how this connects to the series.  I did really like Klein’s art here, and feel that this series is among his best work yet.

Elektra #10 – This issue has Elektra fighting a bunch of mind-controlled monkeys wearing doll masks.  From the beginning, this series has not made a whole lot of sense, nor has it really felt like an Elektra comic, but, at the same time, artist Mike Del Mundo is pretty amazing, so I’m still happy with it.  There’s only one issue left, and then I imagine this book will only be remembered for bringing back a pretty major Marvel villain, which is what happens in this issue.

Invincible #116 – So now Robot has secretly taken over the Earth, and like he said he would, he’s set about making it better.  This is messing with Mark’s head, as his first impulse is to seek justice for his friends, although that might put the Earth in a more precarious place.  Robert Kirkman has always made this a very unpredictable book, and he’s really sticking to that, as he examines the morality of benevolent dictatorships.  Also, there are a few pages that check in on the fight between Battlebeast and Thragg, and they are fantastic.

Ivar, Timewalker #1I had high hopes for this book, and it seems that Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry have satisfied them.  Ivar is the other brother of Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior, and he has a quantum compass that allows him to locate naturally occurring time portals.  When the issue opens, he appears at the CERN complex, trying to stop a physicist from accidentally discovering time travel.  She doesn’t take it well, but is then almost immediately attacked by Prometheans, artificial creatures from another dimension, who are also trying to capture her.  What follows is an interesting jaunt through a variety of time periods, ending in Rai’s era, that is supported by Van Lente’s sense of humour.  This looks like it’s going to be a very worthy replacement for Archer & Armstrong on Valiant’s schedule, and I’m curious to see where Van Lente takes the book.

The Kitchen #3 – I am really loving Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s work on this series.  This book is about a trio of women who are taking over their husband’s small-scale organized crime racket while they are in prison.  In this issue, we can see that they are really getting a taste for this new work, as they begin to go to ever greater lengths to make sure they keep themselves in business.  Doyle’s art is great – it’s nice to see her doing a book so down to earth after her work on Mara; she really nails the fading ambivalence the women feel about their new job, as they become ever more aware of the possibilities and challenges before them.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #10 – Al Ewing gives us the comic I’ve been waiting for since this series began.  After the ‘inversion’, Loki finds himself unable to lie anymore, and so he decides to come clean with Thor and his friend Verity about how he is not the Loki everyone thought he was, but instead the shade of his former self, inside the loveable child Loki’s grown body.  Thor, of course, does not take this very well, especially in light of his own recent personal problems, and so we are shown quite a beat-down.  Ewing has kept this character as interesting as Kieron Gillen did in his Journey Into Mystery run, and Lee Garbett really captures the emotion at play in this issue.  I don’t hear a lot about this title, and think that more people should be checking it out.

Moon Knight #11Anyone who chose to abandon this title after Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey left really did themselves a disservice.  Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood have taken a very interesting approach to this title, telling a larger story in very small fragments, through pages that are often further fragmented into tight little grids.  Wood lets Smallwood do all the heavy lifting with this issue, as Mark Spector finds himself in some sort of detention facility, operated under the US government’s rendition program.  He’s being kept without charges, and possibly without purpose, while the new agent of Khonshu is free to plan her vengeance on an African dictator.  This book is working very well, and I’ll be sad to see this team move on soon.

Powers #1 – It’s time to start what has to be the tenth or eleventh volume of Powers, and once again, I buy the first issue, expecting that this time around, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming are going to try to stick to a regular schedule (maybe even finishing off their United States of Murder Inc. in the process).  It’s probably all lies, but I have a hard time staying away from this book, even though I know that it’s going to disappoint me.  Deena Pilgrim takes centre stage for this issue.  She’s back to work as a Detective, and has written a book about the Powers conspiracy she stumbled over while working for the FBI (really, the conspiracy was the FBI).  Anyway, she and Detective Sunrise get a red ball on a rich guy’s boat, and we’re back into familiar territory.  This series is good, just painfully slow and always rebooting.  My hope is that with the TV show coming on the Playstation Network (I didn’t know that was a thing), the comic will be a little more regular, as Bendis chases that Walking Dead prestige.

Reyn #1 – I want to thank writer Kel Symons for sending me a digital review copy of this new series.  I’ve really enjoyed Symons’s series The Mercenary Sea, so it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me to read this.  It looks like this is going to be more of a sword-and-sorcery book, with a main character who is a Warden of something or other, an order that hasn’t been seen for a couple of millennia.  The book opens with Reyn rescuing a farmer from a large spider-creature, before carrying on into a town where a sorceress escapes the local gendarmerie.  They later try to capture Reyn.  The book reads smoothly, but is not really my cup of tea.  With the exception of Skullkickers, I don’t go in for this type of book, but it has nice art by Nate Stockman.  If fantasy is your thing, you should check it out.

Rumble #2John Arcudi and James Harren’s new series started off a little strangely, and nothing has really changed with this second issue.  We are beginning to get a better understanding of what is going on, as it seems that the gigantic guy made out of straw is looking to find certain individuals, who all seem to have strange creatures with them.  Even though this book is not part of the Mignola-verse, it has that kind of feel to it, and while I’m a little lost in the story, I’m intrigued enough to stick with it until everything gets explained.  Harren’s art certainly does help in making that decision.

The Wicked + The Divine #7 – Laura is determined to find out who the two guys who shot at Lucifer, and started the series of events that led to her death were, and so she’s agreed to appear at a fan convention.  This leads her to a couple of memorable run-ins with the god Wotan, who is easily the grumpiest member of the Pantheon we’ve seen so far.  As always with a comic by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, this is a very good, very creative book.  It’s good stuff.

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

All-New X-Factor #20

Batman and Robin #38

Batman Eternal #42

Batwoman #38

Black Widow #14

Burning Fields #1

Dark Horse Presents #6

Fables #148

Fantastic Four #642

Guardians of the Galaxy #23

Legendary Star-Lord #8

Magneto #14

Scarlet Spiders #3

Spider-Woman #3

Superior Iron Man #4

Über #21

Wolverines #3

Bargain Comics:

Batman Eternal #18-24I have to say that at this point, I’m pretty hooked on this series.  There are elements of it that I don’t like (such as having Hush show up in the New 52), but the scope of this story is pretty sweeping, and it’s working for me.  I like the idea that everything that has been happening is connected, and that we still aren’t all that clear on who is really in charge.  In these issues, Killer Croc helps Batman, Batgirl gets the evidence she needs to clear her father, Catwoman meets with her own father (that was a bit of a surprise), the Gates of Gotham mini-series gets confirmed as canon, and Spoiler makes her New 52 debut.  The art in this book is frequently very good, and the writing is pretty smooth considering how many people are involved in crafting these stories.

Fantastic Four #8-13, Annual #1 – James Robinson’s run on Fantastic Four has not exactly set the world on fire, but read in larger chunks like this, it’s not too bad.  Somebody has been targeting the FF, with the result that the team is persona non grata in New York, the Future Foundation has been taken away from them, Sue is experiencing anger problems, Johnny is powerless and partying way too much, Ben is locked up for the murder of the Puppet Master, and Reed has lost his confidence.  Most interestingly, characters from the god-awful Heroes Reborn era have been showing up.  I’m curious to see where Robinson’s taking all of this, but at the same time, I’m bored with yet another multi-versal storyline.  I’m also having a hard time reconciling what’s happening here with how Reed and Sue have been portrayed in New Avengers.

Inhumanity #2 – Reading this second part of Matt Fraction’s attempt to make the Inhumans relevant and interesting, I got kind of bored.  Fraction is a great writer, but he was working with too many editorial mandates, it feels, and wasn’t able to put any real heart into the book.  Let’s see what happens under Charles Soule…

Inhuman #2-8And, as I’ve come to recognize, Soule is the go-to guy to make just about any concept work.  This is no She-Hulk or Swamp Thing, but he has managed to take a pretty bland concept, and make it interesting.  What I like most about this series is the way that Soule is focusing on some new Inhumans (I hate the word ‘NuHuman’) and how they are integrating themselves into the diminished society of New Attilan.  There are a few characters that are interesting (although not all of them survive for long), and until people start searching for Black Bolt, I was finding myself invested in their story.  There are still some issues with this book – chief among them being the apparent death of Maximus which has already been negated by the Time Runs Out story in Avengers, but once Ryan Stegman replaced Joe Madureira on art, things really start to click.  It’s clear that Marvel is going to give this book a lot of promotion (especially with a second series launching), and with Soule captaining the ship, I’m curious enough to check out more issues.

Legendary Star Lord #3-6 – I found reading these issues a little frustrating, mostly because of the strong desire writer Sam Humphries has to match Peter Quill’s portrayal in the comic with how he was shown in the Guardians of the Galaxy film (which I finally got around to watching the other week).  The problem is that Quill sounds more like Andy from Parks and Rec than anything else, and scenes of him flying around space in a ship while singing Earth songs is just pandering to the film’s audience (which, at this point, is probably almost non-existent).  I’d much rather see this character written more like he was under Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, or (and I’m surprised to say this), even Brian Michael Bendis (i.e., like Peter Parker in space).  The stories are alright, but there is a lot of inconsistency around how Kitty Pryde’s holographic dates work.  At one point, Quill lifts her, but later, things go right through her.  This book could be a lot better than it is.

Scarlet Spiders #1It’s a cool idea, tossing the clones of the Spider-Verse saga (Ben Reilly, Kaine, and Ultimate Jessica Drew) into the same book, as they go off to try to learn about the Inheritors’ own cloning process.  Mike Costa’s writing is a little too poetic/pretentious for the type of story he’s telling, but at the same time, this was the least decompressed comic I’ve ever seen Paco Diaz draw, so it’s all good.

Spider-Man 2099 #6 – Unlike Spider-Woman, Miguel’s new series was launched prior to its involvement in Spider-Verse, and so it means a lot more when we see Miguel return to 2099, his own time, and try to stop one of the Inheritors that is chasing him and two other Spider-People.  This is a pretty solid issue, with Peter David providing a few laughs.

The Week in Manga:

20th Century Boys Vol. 22 – The last volume of this series (although there is a two-volume epilogue, 21st Century Boys) pulls together a dizzying number of sub-plots, as Kenji, Kanna, and just about all the other surviving characters find themselves face to face with the Friend just as he is about to launch his bio-weapons to wipe out almost the entire populace of the Earth.  This series is one of the most sweeping comics epics I’ve ever read, and I am in awe of Naoki Urasawa’s planning and writing.  Sure, there are some very strange elements to this story, but that is part of its charm.  I am so pleased that I decided to tackle this monumental series about cultism, totalitarian societies, and the importance of childhood dreams.  Now to read the epilogue, and get my last few questions (hopefully) answered.

 

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