Best Comic of the Week:
Wasteland #60 – I picked up the first issue of Wasteland back in the summer of 2006, and was immediately swept up in the scope of Antony Johnston’s story. This series felt different from everything else that was on the stands that summer, and I was hooked. The book has suffered from some problems over its run, from lengthy delays between issues (you can do the math – 60 issues in almost nine years), and inconsistent artists, but it’s always felt like one of the most realized and thought-out science fiction/post-Apocalyptic books I’ve ever read. Not long ago, original series artist Christopher Mitten returned to the title, and since his messy, scratchy art is what really cemented Johnston’s vision of a pretty awful future, it’s been great having him back. This issue brings us from the time of the Big Wet to the beginning of the series, as we check in on a group of people surviving in a huge underground complex, and also get to see how Marcus found his way to the Children and what happened to them. I can’t praise this series enough – it rose above its genre limitations to really study human nature, and it never bored me. Sadly, I learned this week that Johnston and Mitten’s new series, Umbral, is going on hiatus because of low sales (everyone should go buy the trades ASAP), but I can recommend Johnston’s The Fuse, and am sure that Mitten will pop up somewhere interesting soon; he’s pretty prolific. If you’ve never read Wasteland, I strongly suggest you pick up the first trade or hardcover and treat yourself to a very impressive comic.
Abe Sapien #22 – It looks like Abe’s time in Texas is coming to an end, as he handles Mr. Arbogast, who has been dealing with demons, but loses himself some friends in the process. Increasingly, I’m finding this book to be very inconsistent in terms of quality and its ability to hold my interest. I’m going to be annoyed if it turns out that the supporting cast Mike Mignola and Scott Allie have been building up all disappear after this issue.
All-New Hawkeye #2 – The second issue of this series is as good as the first (if, somehow, a quicker read). We continue to see the two Hawkeyes rescue a group of creepy looking kids with dangerous powers from Hydra, while also flashing back to Clint and Barney’s childhood, as we see their first meeting with the Swordsman. Ramon Pérez’s art is wonderful – he switches from pencil work to beautiful watercolours depending on what time period he’s depicting (often on the same page), and Lemire continues to capture the tone of Matt Fraction’s run (if not his scheduling).
Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #5 – I never expected that I would be enjoying this series, but I’ve learned to just completely trust Kieron Gillen in all things. In this issue, Angela, Sera, and the Guardians of the Galaxy attempt to smuggle Odin and Freyja’s new baby into Heven so she can free her of Surtur’s influence, but the Asgardians attack at the same time, sparking off a whole lot of chaos. This book is being handled very well.
Ant-Man #4 – Covered by a beautiful homage to Miami Vice, Scott Lang sets out to rescue his daughter from the Cross family. Grizzly, his employee, suggests recruiting some local villains, and so Machinesmith joins the cast of the book. Nick Spencer is having fun writing this comic, and it remains a good read.
Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #7 – I like Langdon Foss’s art, but when Marco Rudy doesn’t draw this comic, some of the cracks in Ales Kot’s very strange choice of story really begin to show. This issue focuses mostly on Crossbones, but not the 616 version of the character. Instead, we get one who has been fighting with Old Bucky for decades. We see him as a child and as an adult, but it doesn’t do a lot to explain his motivations, nor how he really connects what is going on in the main storyline. I’m getting a little frustrated with Kot’s writing (see below). He’s talented, but he’s just trying too hard to be clever.
Captain Marvel #14 – I think this is the first chapter of the Black Vortex storyline that doesn’t involve any of the other heroes involved in the mini-event. Carol fights Thane and Mr. Knife for the Black Vortex, all without having to submit to its power upgrades. I’m getting very bored of this event now, which was clearly padded out much more than it needed to be.
Copperhead #6 – The second arc of this excellent new series starts here, and it’s a very good comic. Jay Faerber has put together an interesting world in this series; it’s a science fiction Western set in a dusty mining town populated by a wide variety of species. Our main character is a female sheriff who is new to the place, and we are able to learn about the place through her eyes. In this issue, we get to meet a number of people who live in the town, and check in on the supporting cast we’ve already met. Working alone on a Friday night, Sheriff Bronson locks up a guy who was harassing a working girl, and it looks like that decision could be a problem for her and the town. Faerber’s made this book a very interesting one, and artist Scott Godlewski looks like he used the brief hiatus between arcs to become an even better artist. This issue reminds me a little of Sean Murphy’s work, which is not a bad thing on any level.
Darth Vader #4 – When learning that the Marvel Star Wars comics were going to jettison all of the Dark Horse and Expanded Universe continuity, somehow in my mind, that included getting rid of the three prequel movies that came out in the 00s, and I was very much okay with that. That’s not the case though, as Kieron Gillen has Vader travel to Geonosis to begin building his own private army of droids. That goes well for him, and I like the addition of Doctor Aphra and her two psychotic droids to the cast, but I was a little disappointed to see the Wookie bounty hunter that Vader hired in issue one show up so soon, with his mission accomplished. I was hoping to see more of that guy. Still, I like the way Gillen has taken Vader off on a personal mission, and am curious to see where it leads. Artist Salvador Larroca and/or colourist Edgar Delgado have figured out a very cool way to shroud Vader in deep shadow, using a few reflective parts of his helmet and chest plate to really make him look menacing in this comic. It’s a very cool effect.
Descender #2 – Now that the story has been set up, Jeff Lemire focuses more on action and character development this issue, as the little Tim robot’s distress call (after he woke from a decade of ‘sleep’ to find that everyone on the mining planet he lived on is dead) has been picked up by some bad folk who are looking to sell his processors (robots became illegal during his down time). As Tim runs from them, we are treated to a number of memory sequences, and really begin to care about him as a character. Dustin Nguyen helps a lot with this, as he makes Tim look like an inviting character, while contrasting that with the ugliness of the guys hunting him. This is shaping up to be a very good series.
Elephantmen #63 – After the events of the last issue, which were pretty big, Richard Starkings and Axel Medellin switch things up a little, moving us forward by two months, and giving us a story about Farrell and Miki going to meet a boat which is carrying a rare Elephantman – one made from mammoth DNA. It’s a very nicely put together story, and the way in which it is self-contained is a nice change of pace after the last, long, arc.
Howard the Duck #2 – Chip Zdarsky’s writing on this series is pretty much exactly what I’d hoped for. I’ve never been a Howard fan, but I do like Zdarsky’s sense of humour a lot, and he’s really bringing it with this book. In this issue, Howard teams up with Rocket Raccoon to escape the Collector’s World, and then, in a back-up story drawn by the equally-funny Rob Guillory, fights off a copyright infringement case brought by Luke Cage and Iron Fist. This is a very funny comic (with it’s treasure trail map shaved into Rocket’s chest, and its Sweet Christmas Discount), but at the same time, Zdarsky is laying some groundwork to explore Howard’s situation on Earth. I recommend this book.
Imperium #3 – Joshua Dysart continues to use these early issues of Imperium to build on some of the new characters in this series, which continues the work he began on Harbinger. This issue focuses mostly on Mech Major, or Sunlight On Snow, the AI Harada has employed. This being has been effectively neutered by Harada, and chafes at his position, but still hopes that he may be able to earn greater equality for himself through service. He is used to help develop a Vine assassin, which Harada also intends to put to work for his own purposes. By structuring this book around the supporting cast members, Dysart is making this title much more interesting, and keeping the reader from seeing the full structure of Harada’s plans. It’s a dense, rewarding series to read, and with Doug Braithwaite on art, it looks very good. Dysart always writes very intelligent comics, and this series is no exception.
Jupiter’s Circle #1 – I do not like generally like prequels, but I enjoyed Jupiter’s Legacy, and am usually pretty comfortable buying Mark Millar’s creator-owned work, and thought I’d give Jupiter’s Circle a chance. In the Legacy series, the older heroes are not developed a whole lot, being left more or less as stand-ins for the Justice League or another Silver Age team. This new book looks back at their heyday, the 1950s, and at first it feels like a pretty typical thing, but then Millar swerves into exploring the closeted gay lifestyle of one of the team members. This being Hollywood in the 50s, it’s not long before J. Edgar Hoover shows up on the scene as well. It’s a decent issue, but a bit of a recap as to who each of the main characters are would have been helpful. Jupiter’s Legacy came out so infrequently that I don’t really remember the main characters very well, and this did not help much. I am not sure that someone just coming into this property would be too sure of how these characters are related to one another either. Wilfredo Torres is the artist on this book, and I’m completely unfamiliar with his work. He has an open, simple style, and it matches the time period, without being particularly memorable. If this is a twelve-part mini-series, I’m going to need a little more complexity in the next issue to keep me coming back for more.
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #12 – I’m not happy to see that Miles’s solo series is ending, especially since I have no idea what is planned for Miles or even his (ultimate) universe after Secret Wars. He is a rare character, with a very full supporting cast, and I would like to continue reading about him in his own environment; transferring the character into the 616 will remove much of what makes him special. Anyway, as with many Brian Michael Bendis last issues, way too much happens in this comic, as Miles somehow takes out Dr. Doom, the two costumed villains that have been developed over the last year, and much of Hydra on his own, as well as develops new powers that are not very well-defined. The New Ultimates show up, Miles breaks up with his girl, and becomes better friends with Judge. As I said, it’s a little too much, but I guess Bendis was up against a stiff deadline, since he also had to work in a Red Skies ending that helps prepare things for Secret Wars. At the end of this series, it’s worth taking some time to praise David Marquez, whose art has been terrific. Unlike many artists who draw teenagers, Miles really looks his age, and has always felt like a believable character largely because of how realistically Marquez draws him. I know that we’ll be seeing Miles again in Ultimate End, but that mini-series is being drawn by Mark Bagley, and I don’t know if I can swallow that.
Nameless #3 – We get a glimpse of what is in the gigantic asteroid hurtling towards Earth which the Nameless believes could be a relic of the former fifth planet of our solar system, which was destroyed millennia ago. Chris Burnham does some great design work in this issue, and Grant Morrison takes a bizarre space story and turns it completely weird by the end of the issue. This is a cool series.
Rai #8 – The second story arc ends, as does Rai’s revolution, but whereas the comic ends well, Rai’s mission does not. It’s going to be August before we see another issue of this series (I can understand why artist Clayton Crain needs a lot of lead time when I look at his work), but I expect it will be worth the wait, as this book has become a lot more interesting with each new issue.
Rebels #1 – Being a Canadian, even a Canadian with a history degree, I don’t know a whole lot about the American Revolution, or the players beyond the big names. Knowing that I might not pick up on some references, I was still very interested to dive in to Rebels, Brian Wood’s new series at Dark Horse. Wood’s focus is on the Green Mountain Boys of the New Hampshire Grants, specifically Seth Abbott, who has grown up on this land during a time of growing turmoil. After a prelude that establishes Seth’s father’s revolutionary spirit (and Seth’s intermittent speech impediment), we jump up a few years to a time where conflict has become more open. Wood spends the issue establishing the political situation and his main characters, and the issue works well. There’s enough going on that I’m interested in seeing where we go next, especially what role Ethan Allen will play in Seth’s story. Andrea Mutti does a good job of portraying the time. I figure that this is going to be a series that educates and entertains in equal measure, and I have learned to trust Wood when he’s writing a creator-owned book. It’s been a while since he’s had one on the schedule, and its great to see him back.
Saga #27 – Marko has a bad trip on Fadeaway this issue, and that leads to us being able to see a lot of the key moments in his life, and get a better understanding of the roots of his pledge of nonviolence, and his guilt around losing his temper with Alana a few issues back. Saga is always a good read, but I particularly liked the slower pace of this issue, and the fact that Ghüs is growing into a more pivotal character. I like Ghüs a lot, because he reminds me of a character in Achewood, which is my favourite webcomic (that I never read because I hate reading comics on the computer).
Southern Cross #2 – Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger’s new series continues to impress, as Alex Braith’s bunkmate, who is heading to Titan to investigate the death of Alex’s sister, disappears, and she spends the issue trying to figure out what’s going on. She learns that on the last voyage back from Titan, someone killed himself in her room, and we get lots of clues that whatever is going on is probably involving the ship’s new gravity drive. This is a very well-written comic, with strong characters and an interesting setting. I’m enjoying it a lot.
Spider-Woman #6 – The ‘new-direction’ Spider-Woman continues to be a lot of fun, as Jessica tries to figure out who is blackmailing the D-list villains of the Marvel Universe, and in the process has to go up against the likes of Big Wheel. I’m still not sure that this book fits with how Jess has been portrayed in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, but I’m enjoying the work that Dennis Hopeless and (especially) Javier Rodriguez are doing with this title. It’s hard to believe that just two issues ago, this book was drawn by Greg Land and tying in to Spider-Verse. This is so much better now.
The Surface #2 – I’m still not completely sure of what’s going on in Ales Kot’s newest series, but I still find the book interesting. The trio who have travelled to ‘The Surface’, which is a hallucinogenic landscape that perhaps fuels our imaginations (I’m guessing here) don’t stick together when one of them betrays the others. Langdon Foss is having a lot of fun portraying the strange things that lurk in Kot’s imagination, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
The Walking Dead #140 – A lot happens in this issue, as we get a glimpse of the Whisperers’ camp, see Maggie and Jesus debate what needs to be done with Gregory after his attempt on Maggie’s life, and, as if to underscore the problems of incarcerating criminals in this new world, get a surprising scene involving Negan. I really like stories about how society rebuilds after tragedy or destruction, and so really get into the issues of this series that are more concerned with those issues more than the ones that are cover-to-cover action. This book has been on fire lately.
Westward #10 – Were it not for the Comics Should Be Good blog I would have completely missed out on Westward, a very good self-published comic by Ken Krekeler. This last issue is extra-sized, and does a great job of wrapping up this series, which is about a robot who has taken the place of the useless son of an industrial empire. The book has a steampunk vibe to it, as the family deals with the son’s return, and then a series of attacks by an anti-industry group. This ending does feel a little ‘movie’, but people like endings like that, don’t they?
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Avengers World #19
Convergence: Nightwing Oracle #1
Convergence: Question #1
Crossed Volume 12
Guardians 3000 #7
Sam Glazman: A Sailor’s Story
Spider-Man 2099 #11
Batman and Robin #37&38; Robin Rises Alpha #1 – I’m very pleased to see Damian Wayne back in the land of the living, although I do wonder why he needs to have super-powers (which, strangely, everyone just accepts). I also wonder why a good chunk of the Robin Rises special needed to recap a good chunk of Batman and Robin #37. Peter Tomasi has always written the best Bat-Family of all of the current crop of writers working with these characters, and it’s a shame that he won’t be sticking around to continue to write Damian’s character after the Convergence Hiatus. I really like this character, and will be checking out what Patrick Gleason does with him on his own.
Captain Marvel #10&11 – I’ve never been able to embrace Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work with this character as much as her legion of ‘Carol Corps’ fans, but I keep checking out what’s happening in the book anyway. Issue 10 is extra-sized and boasts about being “Captain Marvel’s 100th solo adventure’. That’s pretty cool, except that the entire issue is given over to a group letter to Carol from her friends on Earth, which is really an ‘adventure’ featuring her young friend, Spider-Woman, and Jim Rhodes (I don’t know if he’s War Machine or Iron Patriot now, but no one else in the comic can figure it out either). Carol doesn’t do anything, making her 100th solo adventure a bust. DeConnick just keeps circling back on the same stories – a crazy woman is jealous of Carol. That’s it in terms of plot development. This book should be better. Bitch Planet, DeConnick’s Image book, is a great read.
Deadpool #40 – I’m not sure what the planning process that led to an entire issue of Deadpool being written as a parody of a propaganda colouring book for the energy sector would have been like. In this issue, the head of Roxxon (who, we know from Thor and Thors is a minotaur) hires DP to help him explain the benefits of gamma fracturing, or ‘gracking’. Basically, this issue outlines all the dangers and risks of hydraulic fracturing, as it’s being practised today, and features cameos by Sarah Silverman, Jason Aaron, and Jason Latour. I really don’t understand why this was done, but it’s amusing to imagine how DP’s more right-wing fans reacted to it. Do either of the Koch brothers read comics?
Nova #26&27 – One of the few things that worked in Axis was the death of Carnage, but it’s already been replaced, and now he’s trying to kill Nova, because Nova is one of the only people who remembers him being good. This is one series that continues to not live up to its potential, sadly.
Silver Surfer #8 – It makes sense that the Surfer has to finally confront his past as a herald in this series, as he and Dawn come across a planet populated by Galactus-survivors. As usual, this is a lovely comic.
X-Force #13-15 – By the end of this latest X-Force iteration, I really had no idea what was going on. Fantomex was some super-powered bad guy, Hope did something, Cable clones got killed, Marrow felt better, and Psylocke and Domino were just around? Is that about right? I like Si Spurrier’s non-Marvel work, but his Marvel work leaves a lot to be desired. To be fair, he may have had to condense a lot of story into these last issues when the book was canceled, so maybe he had something better planned. What I do know is that it’s time to give X-Force a good long rest before it is brought back out again.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Avengers: Rage of Ultron – It’s pretty clear that this book wouldn’t exist were a certain movie not coming out soon, but I don’t know if that should be held against it. Rick Remender’s work with the Avengers has been pretty inconsistent, and this book is no different. It opens on an old battle with Ultron, that ends with him trapped in a Quinjet that flies into space. Many years later, that same Quinjet crashes onto Titan (right outside Starfox’s pleasure palace), and it’s not long before he’s on his way back to Earth, with the entire moon full of Eternals infected or merged with his consciousness in tow. Coincidentally, the Avengers on Earth have just finished a fight with the Descendants, a robotic group that were antagonists during Remender’s Secret Avengers run. That battle ended when Hank Pym shut them all down with a device he created, murdering them in the eyes of the Vision, who is pretty mad at Pym for this. When Ultron comes, this convenient device looks like it could be useful, but the heroes still need to decide on the morality of it. There are some pretty big continuity issues raised by this book. Is it set after Secret Wars, as has been suggested on the Internet? Is it in its own continuity (this seems unlikely)? It’s interesting that the lineup is mostly the Uncanny team that Remender is currently writing, sans Rogue and Brother Voodoo, with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver a part of the squad. Leaving all continuity issues aside, this is a good read, very well assisted by Jerome Opeña’s terrific art, but the ending is a little ambiguous and not well explained (not what happens to Ultron, but how exactly). Ultron has a lot of potential as a character and villain, but there have been too many versions of him running around of late, and it’s time to consolidate them, or perhaps even better, give him a good long rest.
Invincible Universe Vol. 1: On Deadly Ground – Image’s Guarding the Globe was a fun but not particularly memorable book about many of the supporting characters in Robert Kirkman’s excellent Invincible series. It was relaunched as Invincible Universe (most likely to cash in on the increased name recognition), but didn’t last long, as much for story reasons as financial (because events in the main book took many of these characters off the chessboard. Phil Hester and Todd Nauck do a good job of maintaining the general feel of Kirkman and artist Ryan Ottley’s work, but with such a large cast, no one really gets much space to shine. They do some cool work with El Chupacabra (who is a recovering alcoholic looking to make amends) and with Best Tiger, who is very cool.
Tags: Avengers Rage of Ultron, The Weekly Round-Up