The Weekly Round-Up #280 With Crossed Plus One Hundred #4, BPRD Hell on Earth #130, RunLoveKill #1, Unity #17 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Crossed Plus One Hundred #4 – I’ve already written about how much I’m enjoying Alan Moore’s approach to language in this series, which is set one hundred years after the ‘surprise’ that launched the Crossed property.  In this issue, he turns his eye to religion, and we learn that the only major one that appears to have survived is Islam, although it is in a very different form than what we recognize today (the town of Murfreesboro is run by a female ima’am).  Future hooks up with her counterpart in that town (as we are reminded that this is an Avatar comic) as her companions prepare a joint sweep of the area to clear it of any infected people.  Later, Future decides to scout the mountains near Chooga, setting up the last bit of adventure in Moore’s first arc.  I love the way he’s writing this book, and I love how dense a read this is.

Quick Takes:

Bloodshot Reborn #1 – Jeff Lemire has finally made Bloodshot an interesting character, as Ray Garrison, who used to be Bloodshot, spends his days working maintenance in a roadside motel, and his nights trying to deal with his memories of his time as a nanite-programmed killer.  I’ve not really liked this character since Valiant relaunched (with the brief exceptions of the Bloodshot and HARD Corps run, and his appearances in The Valiant).  Now that the character is free of his nanites (for now at least – the preview pages in the back make it clear that he’ll be getting them back), he’s also free of the burden of being characterless.  Mico Suayan’s art on this book (supported by David Baron’s colours) looks terrific.  He’s taking a very realist approach, which contrasts nicely when Bloodsquirt, a cartoon version of the character, starts talking to him in his head.

BPRD Hell on Earth #130This issue shines the spotlight on Johann, the undead cloud of vapor that inhabits a containment suit and works for the BPRD.  Something has happened on a mission, and now the regular agents are refusing to work with him, while he seems even more lost in his own head as usual.  It’s nice that, among all the craziness of the last couple of years in this title, Mike Mignola and John Arcudi still take the time to work on their characters.  Peter Snejbjerg drew this issue, which was a very nice surprise for me.  I’ve loved his work since I first saw it back in the 90s, and it’s always a treat to see him return to comics for a story or two.

Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #7 – Al Ewing wraps up a number of plotlines in this issue, as the team takes on the Beyond Corporation, Brashear reunites with both of his sons (if only temporarily), and Monica Rambeau gets her story (and appearance) sorted out.  This issue ends with the set-up to the upcoming Secret Wars tie-in issues, which I see as unfortunate, as it means that once again this very promising series is completely sublimated into an event, more or less dooming the title to permanent mediocrity.

Chrononauts #2 – One of Mark Millar’s two time travellers was lost in medieval Uzbekistan last month, and now his friend has gone looking for him, only to discover that he has been using his time travelling technology to create a multi-era kingdom for himself, simply to have a good time.  The friend joins him.  That’s the gist of this issue, which in no way takes into account any of the paradoxes that this behaviour would have caused.  It’s a fun romp, and because of Sean Murphy, it looks amazing, but spending even a minute thinking about the story makes it impossible to believe or accept, even if one accepts time travel as a story element.

Ei8ht #3 – Rafael Albuquerque’s time-exploring mini-series is a very good read.  I love Albuquerque’s art, but am also very impressed with his writing (with scripter Mike Johnson).  This is a very good read, and this issue finally gives us a good understanding of everything that’s been going on, including the revelation of our main character’s actual mission in the Meld, the strange time outside of time.

The Fade Out #5It hasn’t been that long since the last issue of The Fade Out, but I’ve missed this book, and was very happy to dive back into this story about the backroom awfulness of Hollywood in the late 40s.  Gil, the drunken secret writing partner of our main character Charlie gets a lot more screen time, stumbling across the owner of the studio in a backwoods bar, and taking a ride with Phil, the head of security.  Charlie, meanwhile, gets a little closer to piecing together what’s been going on.  This is a very dark story, and it is told wonderfully well by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

The Kitchen #6 – As we move closer to the end of The Kitchen, the excellent comic about female Irish American gangsters in the 70s, it’s not really a surprise that things are getting really bloody, but there were a couple of murders in this issue that surprised me.  This has been a very good read, and Ming Doyle’s art has been wonderful throughout.  I’m very excited to see how Ollie Masters takes us through the last two issues.

Legendary Star-Lord #11 – Way too much of the Black Vortex cross-over has consisted of decompressed issues of people posturing in front of a cosmic mirror.  This one is no different, as Kitty decides that she is the only person that can save the day, but that will have to happen in the last chapter, since nothing else happened here.

Letter 44 #15 – Charles Soule has jumped his story some three months forward, and now the world is at war.  The former president meets with a journalist to give her some of the history of the discovery of alien life that is at the centre of this comic, while out in space, the crew of the Clarke have been living, rather uneasily, with the aliens, who they are calling the Builders.  This is a very exciting and well-written comic, and I’m pretty interested in where this new arc is headed, now that Soule has plunged the world into such a dark place.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #13I’m not sure how much writer Al Ewing is talking about Loki in this comic, and how much he’s taking on the entire industry, with characters saying things like, “I was a fresh start.  What everyone said they wanted.  But the old was deemed preferable to the good.  As is always the way;” and, “Embrace nostalgia.  Enjoy the security of doing what’s expected.”  Meta or not, this was a very solid issue, as Loki faces the shades of his former selves, and has to make a decision, to join with Old Loki, or to embrace the duality of his own being.  The issue ends with a ‘red skies’ prelude to Secret Wars, making this yet another title I enjoy that is now going to be completely absorbed into that event.

Ms. Marvel #14 – I think this must the be strongest issue of this series yet, as G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa capture everything that has worked with this book so far just about perfectly.  Kamala’s met a new guy, a Pakistani-American Muslim that likes all the things she does, that her parents approve of, who also happens to be an Inhuman, and so she’s feeling the beginnings of her first real love.  She even sneaks out at night to hang out with the guy.  This, of course, does not go over well with Bruno, her close friend who is in love with her.  The best scene in this comic is the one in which Kamala’s brother lays things out for Bruno, in terms of how his parents would feel about his dating Kamala, and in that scene, the brother moves beyond being a bit of a joke into a more fleshed-out character.  As the issue ends, it becomes clear that I’ve missed some developments in the Inhuman series, but it does have me interested in getting to the next issue.  I do wish that this series wasn’t so tied in to that one, as Kamala would be an interesting character without the Attilan aspect (which also, always makes me wonder why her brother isn’t an Inhuman, especially if the terrigen mists are still around).

Revival #29 – This was a pretty big issue, as Edmund Holt’s plans stand revealed, and they involve a bombing at the courthouse.  At the same time, May has to deal with an insane Blaine.  Mike Norton does not draw this entire issue, sadly, but things still look pretty good.  For a while, I felt like there wasn’t enough forward movement happening in this comic, but this issue more than makes up for that.

Reyn #4 – Reyn and his companions make their way into the Venn city, where they discover a storehouse of many treasures, including guns and hibernating people from our time.  This is a decent read, but it’s way too decompressed for my liking…

RunLoveKill #1I’ve liked Eric Canete’s art on other projects (most notably Rick Remender’s The End League), so I figured that this new Image series would be an easy purchase to make.  Canete has written the story with co-writer Jon Tsui, and the first issue definitely has me interested.  The story opens with a long silent sequence that shows a woman escaping a medical facility, and falling off a high wall into the ocean.  Interspersed throughout this scene are images of a woman playing a cello, and a mechanical instrument counting down like a complicated metronome.  After that sequence is over, we move to the crowded city state of Prygat, where Rain rushes to a meeting with a woman who can smuggle her out of the city.  Prygat, which is run by a security apparatus called the Origami, is building a wall to keep itself safe from outside threats, but is clearly a bit of a 1984-style society.  I imagine that this is going to be seven more issues of Rain rushing through the city to try to escape, and I’m onboard for that.  I like Canete’s cluttered style; it really adds to the claustrophobia of living in this city, and I’m always up for a story about dystopian city states, especially when they look like this.

The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust #2 – The Billjohn Henry mini-series keeps trucking along with some very nice art by Tyler Crook.  Billjohn was not in this book for long (at least as a living, speaking character), so it’s nice to get his backstory, but I do think it’s still a very strange time, with the series just about to end, to explore his character.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #3 – Orson and Beth are getting closer and closer as he works to free her from the debt she owes Des Finger.  This arc has been a lot more fun than the Killers arc, with an easy sense of humour to it, and a more preposterous premise for many of the individual stories.  David Lapham is a master at this kind of story.

Thor #7It appears that Jason Aaron has let us know who the new Thor is, but at the same time, it’s all been hinted pretty obviously without actual confirmation.  This issue has the new Thor fighting against the Destroyer, which is under Cul’s control, while Odinson (I hate that name) and Freyja gather help for New Thor.  Russell Dauterman is the real star of this series, and his art in this book just keeps getting better.  Next issue should be a great one!

Uncanny X-Men #33 – Oddly, this is a done-in-one story starring Kitty and Illyana, who teleport to Monster Island to find a new mutant and work on their friendship.  A lot of people have liked the way Brian Michael Bendis has written Kitty, but I find her wise-cracking a little too precious at times, and out of character a little.  Still, it looks like the Schism nonsense of a few years ago is finally being rectified, as it appears that these two mutants are returning to the Jean Grey School.  I’m just beyond ready for Bendis to depart from these books.  At the same time, I hope that Kris Anka sticks around.

Unity #17 – We finally get an issue devoted to Livewire, the least exposed of the characters on the Unity team.  Like her teammates, she finds it difficult to transition to live off-mission, and we follow her around as she tries to live a normal life.  I like the way Matt Kindt has been building on these characters before he launches them into a new mission; it makes this book feel much more cohesive.

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

’68 Bad Sign One Shot

American Vampire 2nd Cycle #7

Crossed Badlands #75

Dark Horse Presents #9

Deathlok #7

Magneto #17

Nova #29

Strange Sports Stories Vol. 2 #2

Superior Iron Man #7

Wolverines #14

Bargain Comics:

Alien Legion (Vol. 1) #12-20It’s been pretty cool to dig into this classic Epic series.  Alan Zelenetz wrote these issues very well.  They are all done-in-ones that explore the reality of life in the Legion, although too many of them hinge on fighting ‘terrorists’ who appear without context.  Larry Stroman’s early art is much clearer and easier to follow than his later work, while he still gets to design some pretty crazy looking aliens.  The Harkilons, who were built up as the enemies of the Legion in the first ten issues are absent here, which feels a little strange.  There is some very good character work in this book, and the covers by Frank Cirocco and Carl Potts are awesome.

Batgirl: Futures End #1 – Gail Simone’s last hurrah with Barbara Gordon is predictably bleak, as Barbara has become an angry venom-fueled version of Oracle, directing a trio of Batgirls in her war on crime.  It would have been interesting to see how this story would have worked had DC given the ‘five years later’ issue to the new creative team to debut their vision.

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #15-18 – As I suspected when I was buying this comic monthly, this is one title that reads a lot better in clumps.  In these issues, writer Simon Oliver more or less redefines the role of the central characters, as we learn that the universe has passed the point of ‘peak dark matter’, which explains all the bizarre physics-related phenomena that now plague the world.  I have no idea how nonsensical the science in this book is, but I do like the characterizations, and am always happy with Alberto Ponticelli artwork.

Batman: Futures End #1 – If nothing else, what I learned from this issue was that I do want to check out ACO’s art on Midnighter when it debuts in June.  This is a good read, as future Batman, who is not doing too well physically, has to break into a Lexcorp lab that is very high-tech.  I’m not sure how Alfred has aged so much in five years, but otherwise, this was a nicely put-together done-in-one comic.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #5Anyone who has been reading my columns over the years will know that I’m a big fan of the writers/artist team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, so I was excited to see them try their hands at a Wonder Woman story.  For reasons I will never understand, Superman’s on the cover, but has nothing to do with this comic.  Instead, we follow Diana on a mission to Apokalips, where she fights the Furies and Darkseid.  Hardman is a good artist to depict the fire pits, as he does a great job with urban decay.

Star Spangled War Stories #1-3; Star Spangled War Stories: Futures End #1 – It is surprising that DC chose to greenlight this comic, about an intelligent immortal zombie who works for the US Army (dealing, it appears, with zombie-related issues).  The character, GI Zombie, doesn’t interact with the powered community at all, and his scope seems rather limited to support an on-going series (unless the plan always was to cancel the book within the year, thereby securing the Star Spangled trademark).  Anyway, within that, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have put together a compelling story, and Scott Hampton has drawn and coloured the hell out of it.  The Futures End one-off completely derails the momentum of the book, but otherwise, this is a decent read.  Were it an Image comic, I would have given it a chance when it was first published.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Wayward Volume 1: String Theory

Written by Jim Zub
Art by Steve Cummings

When Wayward, the new series from writer Jim Zub(kavich), whoseSkullkickers is a riot of a book, first debuted, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in it or not.  I like Zub’s writing on the other title, but that is a more comedic comic, and is something I never thought I’d want to read (it’s a really special comic).  This looked more serious, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to grab me.  Luckily, Image keeps the price low on first volumes of new series when they are published in trade, and since I was standing in front of Zub at a convention, I felt like I had no reason not to buy this.This series is centred on Rori Lane, a mixed heritage Japanese-Irish teenage girl, who has moved to Tokyo to live with her mother, who she has not seen in a year.  Almost immediately upon landing in Japan, Rori starts to notice reddish lines that connect her to her destinations, that no one else can notice.

On her first night, she is attacked by a trio of kappa, folkloric turtle-creatures that appear much more dangerous than how they are usually depicted.  A strange girl, Ayane, appears to help her out.  As the story progresses, Rori meets two other kids who have abilities, and stumbles across a plot by some other characters from Japanese folklore, who have evil deeds in mind.  It seems that Rori is a weaver, and this has something to do with her mother.

The easiest comparison to make here is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  We have the inherited abilities, the idiosyncratic group of peers, and a winking acknowledgement of the story’s debt to its genre forebears.

This is an engaging read, with nice art, and a strong sense of place.  I think, had I read these issues individually with a month between them, I would not have made it to issue five.  In the trade, there’s a better sense of the larger story, but I’m not sure that there is still enough here to really keep me interested for the long haul.  I would think that this book would appeal to teens, but the level of profanity would keep it from be shelved in a lot of libraries where it would be most welcome.