The Weekly Round-Up #275 With Southern Cross #1, Hellbreak #1, Ninjak #1, The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust #1, The Surface #1, The Walking Dead #138 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Southern Cross #1 – I have been a big fan of Becky Cloonan’s work for a long time now, so of course I was interested in this comic, but I am still very impressed with it.  Alex Braith is a screw-up in her late twenties, whose sister has died on Titan, a mining colony.  Alex has a berth on the Southern Cross, a tanker, and is headed there to claim her sister’s effects, but also to find out what happened.  She has to share her room with a chatty woman who is investigating the case, and by the end of the issue, it’s clear that something untoward has happened.  I like the way Cloonan builds these characters and the situation, and Andy Belanger, who I only know from Kill Shakespeare, has designed a very interesting look for this future.  I’m definitely intrigued by what’s going on in this book, and am impressed with Cloonan’s writing skill on a longer, more involved project.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #21 – I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen Abe take on a group of zombies, but even if Mike Mignola and his collaborators have gone there before, they’ve never done it as well as Sebastian Fiumara does in this issue, which looks terrific.

All-New X-Men #37Despite a cover featuring Beast and Iceman, this is very much a Jean Grey and Emma Frost story (I guess Marvel didn’t think having those two on the cover could help sales?).  Mike Del Mundo provides the art for this issue (which is interesting, considering that both it and his last issue of Elektra are late), which has Emma teaching Young Jean how to use her telekinetic abilities by having her go up against the Blob in Madripoor.  This is the type of issue that Brian Michael Bendis does well, as he’s always written a fun Emma.  I’m not sure if the time-lost X-Men will be sticking around after Secret Wars, but if they aren’t, there’s been a lot of time spent on them for very little pay-off.

Amazing Spider-Man #16 – Peter’s back from the Spider-Verse saga, and given little time to recover, as he’s got to fight the Iguana, explain his absence to his family and business partners, and give a presentation for a contract his company wants to win, all at the exact same time.  It’s all pretty familiar stuff here, but I did like the back-up story featuring the Black Cat, and her new, more evil, approach to life.  I usually don’t buy Spider-Man off the stands, preferring to wait to find it at sales usually, and this issue didn’t do much to make me re-evaluate that approach.  I got sucked in to Spider-Verse, but I’m not sure that Dan Slott and Christos Gage are going to keep me around with standard issues like this.

Ant-Man #3 – While this continues to be a fun read, I’m still a little annoyed with how differently Scott Lang is portrayed compared to any other Marvel comic he’s been in over the last decade.  Nick Spencer is writing him a little more like Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, bumbling and not too smart, and it doesn’t fit with the character.  At the same time, his confrontation with the Taskmaster is entertaining, and I am happy to see another D-list villain resurrected in this comic (if only for a panel).  I’ll give this book a little while longer to win me over, but I would like to know just why Cassie has gotten so much younger and makes no reference to her own powers.

Casanova: Acedia #2I’m predisposed to love any comic that has art by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and love it best when they are working with one another, but will always take their collaborating with Matt Fraction and Michael Chabon as a close second.  In the main story, Casanova Quinn, who is now the amnesiac Quentin Cassaday, has a strange encounter with a demon when trying to talk to the woman who tried to kill him last month.  We meet a couple of old friends from the EMPIRE days, but in this reality they are detectives.  In the backup story, aptly named ‘Kawaii-Five O”, the Metanauts have travelled to a strange reality to collect a Casanova Quinn who is a cute cartoon character with fangs.  Oh, and their JIMMY caps fail, but that’s a different kind of thing.  This series is smart, a little confusing, and gorgeous.

East of West #18 – We get to see a lot of Babylon this issue, as he meets with Orion, who reprograms Balloon, although we don’t know to what effect.  Also, Death rides out looking for his son.  I love Jonathan Hickman’s writing on this series, and don’t mind that the plot moves along at a glacial pace, because he’s made these characters very interesting, and because Nick Dragotta is drawing the hell out of this title.

Hellbreak #1 – Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla have launched their new title at Oni, after a bit of a delay.  We are introduced to a team who literally go to Hell for their clients, retrieving the souls of possessed individuals, so that they can re-enter their bodies.  This is very much an introductory issue, as we meet the team members, and their boss.  Churilla excels at drawing monsters and creatures, so he is a very good choice for this series.  I like the use of the Orpheus myth as a metaphor for this series, which addresses subject matter similar to Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta, but in a completely different way.  This first issue was only $1, so there is no excuse for not trying this comic out.

Howard the Duck #1I’ve never been a fan of Howard the Duck, and don’t care at all that the character was featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but Sex Criminals has made me a fan of Chip Zdarsky, who is writing this series.  Zdarsky is a very funny guy.  Last summer he held a one-man comics convention, Zdarscon, across the street from the convention centre holding the slightly larger Fan Expo, which consisted of him sitting in a leather armchair selling copies of Sex Criminals.  Anyway, Howard has rented an office across the hall from She-Hulk (and Angie and Hei Hei), and is trying to make it as a private investigator.  He’s hired to recover a necklace from the Black Cat, and gets a new friend he’s just met in jail to help him (in a complicated gambit involving pizzas and chefs’ hats), but his work is interrupted by a sub-contractor for the Collector.  This is a funny comic, with most of the best moments being little throw-aways and asides.  Joe Quinones’s art works in Marvel-lite vein, and there is even a musical montage!  I like that Marvel is publishing stuff like this.  I think I’m going to stick with this book for a bit – it fills the void left by Superior Foes of Spider-Man and She-Hulk’s book.

Justice League United #10 – The Legion of Super-Heroes story wraps up this month, with a plot device that Jim Starlin used a while back for the Rann-Thanagar War.  I love the Legion.  I like most of the people on this Justice League team.  I usually adore Jeff Lemire’s writing.  Unfortunately, though, this series is not really doing it for me anymore.  The story arcs run way too long, and the plots feel too recycled.  At the time of writing this, I don’t know if this title is returning post-Convergence, or if it’s going to have the same creative team, but even if nothing changes, I’m not all that sure I want to come back.  I would gladly read a more grounded version of this book, with a focus on characters like Equinox and Alanna Strange, but I don’t feel like DC is going to give us this.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #11Apparently this series is ending next issue, presumably because of Secret Wars-related nonsense, and when it comes back, I think the chances are pretty fair that Miles will be the only Ultimate character still around, and hanging out with the 616 characters.  This is a very good issue, as it focuses on Miles (a rarity in the series that bears his name, sadly), and finally advances a number of plotlines, chief of which is the fact that Hydra, through Miles’s girlfriend’s father, has kidnapped him, and is in the process of handing him over to Dr. Doom.  I’m not sure though, given Brian Michael Bendis’s penchant for dragging out stories forever, that we’ll be able to resolve this storyline, and the one about the two high tech thieves (who take out Jessica Drew in this issue) all in one comic.

Ms. Marvel #13 – This might have been the most delightful issue of this series since it debuted, as the focus is very much on Kamala and her family.  Old family friends are visiting, and while Kamala at first is resistant to meeting their son, who is her age, upon finding out that the two of them have a lot in common, she falls pretty hard for him.  G. Willow Wilson writes this series exceptionally well, and guest artist Takeshi Miyazawa is a good fit for it.  Even the Inhuman aspect of this story works well, which is not always the case.

New Avengers #31 – This issue focuses on Dr. Strange, and his use of the Black Priests  to try to get at Rabum Alal, the being worshipped by the Black Swans.  The revelation of who Rabum Alal is surprised me (I won’t say anything here), but aside from that, not much else happens in this issue to advance this very cumbersome, but still interesting, storyline.  It’s interesting to compare Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers story with East of West; both just keep sprawling, but the creator-owned book feels so much more under control.

Ninjak #1 I can’t think of anyone better than Matt Kindt to launch the new Ninjak series, especially since he’s handled the character so well in Unity and The Valiant.  This issue starts two stories – one set in the present day, drawn by Clay Mann, and one set in the past, drawn by Butch Guice.  Both artists work very well with these kinds of stories, as Kindt has Colin infiltrate a high-tech weapons-making organization in the main story, and sheds some light on his earliest days as a spy in the back-up.  As with just about everything coming out of Valiant these days, my expectations were met, and I am looking forward to seeing this series continue.

Reyn #3 – Once again, Kel Symons sent me a digital copy of this comic (thanks!), and with this issue, we get a much clearer understanding of Reyn’s world, and of the Venn, the creatures that have enslaved people.  It appears I was wrong in characterizing this series as a sword and sorcery book, as we learn that very advanced technology pervades this world.  The quest part of the comic takes place between panels, as Reyn and his new friends descend into the Venn’s birthplace.  This series is becoming more interesting as it goes along, and I’m really starting to like Nate Stockman’s art.

Sheltered #15 – Sheltered has been one of my favourite comics of the last two years, and I’m sad to see that it’s reached the end of its story, although at the same time, I love how Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas bring this to a close.  This series has been about a remote survivalist camp where a charismatic teenager has convinced all the other children to kill their parents and take over the property for themselves, to prepare for a coming volcanic eruption that will end society.  This is a wrap-up issue, and as such, it involves funerals, prison scenes, and press conferences, and I feel like Brisson and Christmas really nail the tone of how people would react to these events.  This has been a taut and exciting series, and the last page of this book is the perfect ending.  I highly recommend people read the three trades that comprise this series (do it before the TV show happens, so you can still feel like you aren’t late for the party).

The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust #1I feel like Cullen Bunn is not ready to let go of the world he created for The Sixth Gun.  The main title is getting closer and closer to its conclusion (and further and further behind on its schedule), and to pad things out, Bunn keeps releasing these prequel mini-series (the last one just finished).  This one focuses on Billjohn O’Henry, a character that didn’t make it out of the first Sixth Gun arc (which is not to say he hasn’t been seen since).  Billjohn was a very likeable character, and I didn’t like what happened to him, so I’m much happier to learn his backstory than I was the characters in the last mini-series.  We see Billjohn go about his bounty hunting, which we learn, is being done to support his sick daughter.  Drake Sinclair makes an appearance, and we get a good sense of what their relationship was like.  Tyler Crook draws this, so it looks great.

Star Wars #3 – I really like the fact that the first story arc didn’t spread out over six issues.  Instead, Jason Aaron has the Rebels complete their mission and make their escape, leaving Darth Vader with knowledge of Luke’s potential.  There is a questionable continuity issue, in that this comic shows the Overseer of the weapons factory killed, while the first issue of Vader’s series has him surviving this event.  I don’t require insane attention to detail with regards to continuity, but you would think with only three comics making up this line, there wouldn’t be errors like this so early.  John Cassaday’s art is terrific in this book.  The story moves quickly, but I find myself studying every panel.

The Surface #1I don’t think I can adequately judge Ales Kot’s new Image series, as like many of his titles, the first issue is not enough to give the big picture of just what this series is going to be about.  It’s the future, and everyone is, by default, sharing their entire life through social media.  Three friends, one of whom is the President’s son, head off into the desert of Tanzania to look for The Surface, which is some kind of hallucinogenic experimental physics thing.  The comic works at introducing these characters and this world, but also gives space to an interview with (presumably) Kot about himself, and his neo-Morrisonian ideas about writing and magic.  I have liked a lot of Kot’s work (especially Bucky Barnes, his run on Suicide Squad, and his creator-owned series Zero), but can’t help but feel that his own sense of his growing renown in comics circles is getting in the way of his telling a clear story.  I welcome experimentation, even when it leaves me feeling a little dumb, but can’t always get behind work that comes off as a little pretentious.  I’m just not sure where I stand about this title yet; my hope is that Kot can pull off some of his goals.  All the same, there is no faulting Langdon Foss’s art.

Thor #6 – Without actually revealing who the new Thor really is, this issue more or less makes that clear to us, and it’s not as dramatic as one would have expected.  Strangely, the title character barely appears in this comic, as once again, the focus is on the old Thor (I hate calling him Odinson), as he tries to figure out what’s going on.  I do like the way Jason Aaron has Roxxon entering into a natural resources agreement with Malekith, and of course, I love Russell Dauterman’s art.

Unity #16While there’s nothing wrong with this issue, which tells an Eternal Warrior solo story, there’s not a whole lot about it that stands out either.  Matt Kindt tells us a story about how living for thousands of years can be difficult, and we see the effect it has had on Gilad.  Along the way, we learn about a woman he fell in love with in feudal Japan, and how he has continued to honor her memory.  In some ways, it’s a little paint-by-numbers.  The next issue is going to focus on Livewire, which is a good thing, as she’s the least developed character on the team.

The Walking Dead #138 – More and more, it seems that Carl is becoming the central character of this series.  He and Lydia, who belongs to a creepy and unsettling new group, share an intimate moment, and then Lydia claims that she wants to stay with his people, since her own group have taken advantage of her sexually.  Later, when her people show up, Maggie trades her back to them easily, because she is busy fighting off a coup from Gregory.  This storyline started off feeling very happy compared to earlier arcs, but now we are seeing that there are still a lot of conflicts for our heroes to manage.  I love the way Robert Kirkman is writing Carl, and am already nervous about the consequences of the decisions he made this issue.

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

Batman Eternal #49

Captain Marvel #13

Deadpool #43

Fantastic Four #644

FBP #19

Guardians Team-Up #2

Nova Annual #1

Rachel Rising #32

Silver Surfer #10

Spider-Gwen #2

Spider-Man 2099 #10

Superior Iron Man #6

Tuki Save the Humans #3

War Stories #6

Wolverines #10

Bargain Comics:

All-New X-Factor #17&18After the Axis nonsense was over, Peter David gives us a delightful issue about the team heading to (presumably) Syria to recover the kidnapped body of their boss’s friend’s daughter.  It’s a great read, full of snarky comments, and a bizarre love triangle between Doug, Danger, and Warlock.  I think, if all issues of this series were like #18, this book wouldn’t be cancelled right now, and I’d have been reading it all along.

Detective Comics #36&37 – It’s so nice to see some smaller scale Batman stories that actually focus on Bruce’s detective skills.  Issue 36 finishes off a two-parter by a guest creative team that has Batman among a group infected with a new virus at the airport.  Issue 37 starts a story that (I presume) will introduce Anarky to the New 52.  The regular Detective team is a little weak when it comes to plotting, but man are Francis Manapul’s pages beautiful.  Anarky is a favourite character of mine from Norm Breyfogle’s era, which is one of the best Batman eras of all time.

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #1 – I’m happy to see that Alex De Campi has returned to her series of two-chapter drive-in style stories.  To start off this new run, she’s brought along RM Guera, best known for the incredible series Scalped.  The story is set in Northern Alberta, and involves an old lady and her step-daughter looking to stop a group of bad men (weirdly dressed as a clown, Bat Lash, and Colonel Saunders) who have just killed the girl’s father.  Leaving aside the gore and the shock factor (things get weird when the children show up), I’m impressed with how well De Campi and Guera build these two main characters in such a short amount of space.  Someone needs to get Guera on a monthly title again…

Guardians of the Galaxy #23It’s strange that, when given the chance to finally explore the world that Venom’s symbiote came from, Brian Michael Bendis would have one of Marvel’s most legendary characters of the last thirty years be from a race of altruistic warriors.  This whole thing feels a little too rushed, as Flash gets upgraded in time for a cross-over (The Black Vortex) in which he only appears in group scenes, and doesn’t do anything.

Legendary Star-Lord #7 – In the run-up to the Black Vortex story, Kitty rescues Quill from his father.  That’s about all that happens in this comic, which is just too decompressed for my liking.

Miracleman #9-13 – These issues comprise the end of the second book, and the beginning of the third, or Alan Moore’s classic saga.  We see Miracleman’s daughter, Winter, born, meet Miraclewoman, and travel to Qys, as MM’s marriage begins to fall apart.  The Olympus issues, drawn by John Totleben, are gorgeous, and are where this book really comes into its own.  I’m glad I’m not paying $5 for every new issue of this, as most of the time, you get sixteen pages of the comics you want to read, and the rest is filler.  It’s cool to look at original artwork, but that’s not what I’m after from this title.

New Warriors #12 – Chris Yost and Eric Burnham wrap up their too-short lived New Warriors series well, although their use of the High Evolutionary and Wundagore Mountain fly in the face of what we’re seeing in Uncanny Avengers.  It’s too bad that these characters couldn’t sustain their own title, as this book was well-written, and had a diverse and interesting cast.

Spider-Woman #3Now that Spider-Verse has run its course, continuing to read tie-ins feels a little odd, but at my core, I guess I’m a completist.  It’s interesting to compare this issue with the most recent one, which features a different direction for Jessica, and is without Greg Land’s artwork.  Guess which issue I like better!

Strikeforce: Morituri #15-19 – I’ve finally filled in all the gaps in my collection of this forgotten 80s comic, and so now I’m reading it for the first time.  Peter B. Gillis does a very good job of depicting a group of heroes who know they are going to die before they can complete their mission, and who are responding to those situations in different ways.  Brent Anderson’s art is very nice, for the issues he drew, but I can’t get over the fact that the alien Hordians all have hairless ballsacks hanging from their chins.  It’s really very disturbing.  Even more disturbing is the fact that none of the characters make mention of this.  Imagine if Matt Fraction were writing a new revival of this series…

Unwritten: Apocalypse #7-11 – As Mike Carey and Peter Gross get to the end of their long-running Vertigo series, things get more and more Apocalyptic, but also, to be honest, a little tedious.  I do hope to see them work together on something new soon, as they are one of those comics partnerships that do their best work when together.

The Week in Manga:

21st Century Boys Vol. 1 – Naoki Urasawa’s incredible manga series 20th Century Boys ended with some questions left unanswered, but in a move that reminds me of something Marvel or DC would do, there is this two-volume epilogue, which raises the possibility that the Friend left one more threat to world peace – an anti-proton bomb capable of destroying the planet.  To find it, Kenji has to enter the virtual world and talk to his child-self.  Someone who hasn’t read the preceding 24 volumes would have no clue what’s going on, but for long-time readers, this is great stuff.