The Weekly Round-Up #284 With Thor #8, Injection #1, Rebels #2, Chrononauts #3, Imperium #4, The Walking Dead #141 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Thor #8We finally get to see the identity of the new Thor, after a huge fight with the Destroyer that brings in a number of female superheroes and Asgardians, and after Odinson has a chat with his replacer, where he makes his best guess as to her identity.  As I predicted, Jason Aaron swerved away from what appeared to be the obvious choice for Thor’s identity, and has instead chosen a pretty interesting approach to the character.  Russell Dauterman’s art is as fantastic as it’s been since he launched this title.  Like with Angela, the timing for this book to go on its Secret Wars-mandated hiatus is a poor one, since the series has been gathering steam for some time.  If the current creative team returns with it, then I can guarantee that I’ll be on board.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #23 – I enjoy the Mignola-verse, especially the BPRD corner of it, but over the years, the stories that Mike Mignola and his stable of collaborators tell have become a lot darker, what with the Earth being overrun with gigantic monsters, and much of humanity wiped out.  That’s why it’s always refreshing to get a flashback issue like this one, which features Abe, Hellboy, and art by Kevin Nowlan (!!!).  Abe and Hellboy are in British Columbia in the early 1990s, investigating the legendary lake monster Ogopogo, when they come across a plot involving a local hermit descendant from the Aboriginal people who originally lived in the area and worship the creature.  Nowlan’s art is terrific; I really wish he drew comics more often.  It was also nice to see the pre-transformation Abe hang out with Hellboy again.

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #6 – I have no idea if this series is going to be returning after Secret Wars, although this issue does set up a reason for a second story arc.  Herein lies the problem with Secret Wars in general, and the long-term effects of putting the entire line on hiatus for a few months.  People will always return to books like the Avengers or X-Men, but something like Angela, which is a bit of an oddball book, can easily be forgotten after a lengthy absence (I don’t count the Angela Witch Hunter thing coming out, since it’s not the same series).  Anyway, this first arc ends well, as Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett resolve Angela’s issues with the Asgardians and the Angels of Heven.  Then there’s a bit of a surprise where Angela’s friend Sera is concerned, that I really did not see coming.  I’ve enjoyed this book, and if Gillen is still involved in writing it, I will likely be back for more after Secret Wars.  If I remember, that is…

Black Science #14This issue marks a huge turning point for Grant McKay, as he has to save his daughter from near death, and confront the truth about his actions.  This title is always exciting, and Rick Remender never allows anyone much time to rest.  The high point of this issue for me is when the Shaman, a character who the other Dimensionauts more or less kidnapped from his own world, and who has mostly remained quiet, goes off on Grant, pointing out that he is constantly healing and reviving Grant’s children.  I like the way Remender has the characters confront their own moral choices this month, and as always, Matteo Scalera makes even the conversation scenes very exciting.

Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier #8 – Most of this issue is given over to Bucky and his future self taking powerful psychedelic drugs.  While that’s strange for a Marvel comic, it’s the perfect recipe for a book painted by Marco Rudy, who more than delivers.  This book is so beautiful, I’m actually thinking of looking into the cost of the original art, which is something I’ve never done before.

Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #8 – My complaint about this title and its previous iteration, has been that it has always been too involved in tie-ins and ‘events’ to ever stand on its own as a series.  Now the season of Secret Wars is upon us, and writer Al Ewing has to bring us through the eight months of Marvel Universe history that we more or less lost when Jonathan Hickman had his Avengers books jump eight months forward in time, and then launched Secret Wars from that vantage point.  We already knew that the Mighty team would get involved in the larger fight between Steve Rogers’s and Reed Richard’s factions.  This issue shows us a number of scenes that help to get a larger sense of how the heroes, and everyday people, dealt with knowledge of the incursions and the potential for the destruction of the multiverse.  As always, this is a good issue, and Ewing is able to work in some of his own subplots, showing us a scene between White Tiger and her family, and the ongoing identity crisis of Monica Rambeau.  He also gives us a very good scene where Adam Brashear confronts Richards.  I have no idea what this title is going to be doing, if it even exists after Secret Wars, but I hope to see Ewing given a larger role at Marvel; he’s a very good writer.

Chrononauts #3It doesn’t take a lot of reflection to realize that Mark Millar is writing this mini-series with an eventual movie in mind, as I think the whole thing has been constructed around the chase scene that happens in this issue.  An armed group have been sent after the two Chrononauts, and they end up pursuing them through time in space in a gigantic car chase scene that encompasses the Great Wall of China before it was completed, a legendary football game, and the space outside a Texas book depository on a key date.  It’s a very fun scene, made better by the fact that one of the two main characters is wearing only a pink bathrobe.  Millar is giving artist Sean Murphy a lot of space to just do his thing, and Murphy does his thing very well.  None of this series makes sense in terms of paradox or how the time stream works, but it’s good fun.  Just don’t think too much.

Copperhead #7 – This was a quick read, but still another satisfying issue of Copperhead.  Sheriff Bronson is on a date, but a gang of criminals need to come and free the guy she arrested last issue, and get their revenge on her.  Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski have put together a pretty amazing science fiction western series that I can’t get enough of.

Darth Vader #5 – The problem with Marvel’s Star Wars series being set between the first two movies is that there can only be a limited amount of character development or progression, as the end point is so clearly demarcated.  Kieron Gillen’s done some interesting work in this series by introducing a supporting cast that can be easily jettisoned or killed off, but as this series continues, it will be difficult to keep Darth Vader, a character who does not grow until after the second movie, interesting in and of himself.  This month we learn what the Emperor’s agent has been up to, and it involves creating cybernetically enhanced beings to replace Vader.  They used Jedi lightsabers, but are not Jedi.  It’s an interesting idea, but five issues into this series, the Emperor is already aware of what Vader has been up to in trying to satisfy his curiosity, and I’m not all that sure where we are going to go from here.

East of West #19This entire issue is focused on Babylon, and his continued tutelage under Balloon, who has now had his programming adjusted to better prepare the youth for the role he is meant to lead.  That means that Balloon, a floating device that controls what the kid can see, is now trying to turn him into a more active killer, adjusting his perceptions of creatures that are not a threat, and generally manipulating the kid.  What makes this issue interesting is the ambiguity in how we are to interpret Balloon’s feelings.  Jonathan Hickman has spent a lot of time laying out this story in a very particular way, and while I have no idea where this is headed, ever, I do enjoy it very much.  Nick Dragotta makes that a very easy thing to do.

Howard the Duck #3 – I think that this series is well on its way to becoming my favourite Marvel comic right now.  Chip Zdarsky continues to have a lot of fun writing this book, as Howard gets involved in trying to figure out why people across Manhattan are getting robbed by senior citizens, and gets Aunt May to help him.  A classic Marvel villain is behind all of this, and May’s appearance gives Zdarsky another reason to show why he might be the best person at Marvel to start writing Spider-Man soon.  He just gets the character.  Anyway, there’s a lot of duck-nudity in this issue, which I guess explains why it’s rated T+, but a hilarious backup story with art by Jason Latour makes up for it.

Imperium #4 – Joshua Dysart is taking a very different approach to this series, which is more or less about Toyo Harada’s efforts to take over the planet, starting in Somalia.  Much of this series is more focused on Project Rising Spirit than on Harada though, and Dysart has been throwing a number of new and unique characters into the mix.  This month, we focus on Angela Peace Baingana, a PRS scientist who, during an exploratory trip to another dimension made possible by a PRS psiot, gets taken over by an entity.  Back at PRS, Kozol, the boss, is happy to let this new being have access to whatever she wishes, as she has promised him an impressive new piece of technology, even if that does mean that she has to butcher someone.  I like the way Dysart is layering this series with a number of interesting character arcs, and hope that this series is going to be around for a while.  No other Valiant book is like this…

Injection #1I feel like I’m going to definitely give this one a second read…  Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, who killed on their Moon Knight run last year, have joined up again to create a new Image series.  It reminds me a fair amount of Planetary, Ellis’s classic series of exploration.  Over the course of this issue, we meet a few very smart people who have done work, under bizarre circumstances, for the British Government.  Maria Kilbride now resides in an asylum, but she is brought back when a government ministry has difficulty with a new archeological artifact they have uncovered.  Robin Morel is a philosopher whose family has some sort of tie to the land, and a history of ‘cunning’.  Brigid Roth is a talented hacker.  There’s something that they’ve all worked on together called Injection.  Brigid even has a tattoo.  It shows up on some computer monitors at the end of the issue, next to a guy who has seen better days.  Beyond that, I’m kind of in the dark, but I’m definitely interested.  I presume that Ellis’s story is intended to run for a while, and I’m more than happy to give him a few issues to put together his ideas and plans.  Shalvey’s art is nice, but is lacking the stylistic flourishes he indulged in with Moon Knight.  It’s a different kind of comic from that, with a lot more substance.  I’m looking forward to seeing where all of this is headed.

Ms. Marvel #15 – Kamala’s found herself basically kidnapped by the guy she has a crush on, who also happens to be an Inhuman, while some strange things are going on in New Attilan.  I am months behind on the Inhuman series, but I get the idea that Lineage is attempting a takeover.  Most of the issue is focused on how Kamala escapes from these guys, while Bruno tries to show up and help out.  It’s a good, quick issue, which finally (yet circumspectly) addresses the fact that none of Kamala’s family are Inhumans.

Project Superpowers: Blackcross #3Warren Ellis is beginning to pull together the various storylines he introduced in the first issue, as the characters we’ve kind of known would become superheroes begin to manifest their abilities more clearly, and someone gets their jaw punched off.  This story is odd, and not all that engaging, except for the scenes featuring various levels of law enforcement; those scenes are great, and carry the title.

Rebels #2 – Brian Wood’s new series about the American Revolution is off to a very good start, as we get to know Seth a little better, and see how the growing conflict is tearing him away from his new wife.  Wood makes this interesting by keeping the focus on one person, and resisting loading his story down with a ton of overt patriotism and hero-worship.  As a Canadian, part of me is going to root for the British (and especially their Aboriginal allies) throughout this series, but I intend to keep an open mind.  I think the only complaint I would have about this book is that Seth, with his full beard and moustache, really does not look to be seventeen…

Reyn #5 – Reyn takes an unexpected turn this issue that has me a lot more interested in the series than I was before.  Kel Symons is blending science fiction with fantasy in a really interesting way that I didn’t expect.

RunLoveKill #2 – This series is developing nicely into a solid science fiction action series.  Rain is being pursued by the Origami, the combination police and spy agency that runs things in her city, while she thinks that she is about to leave town for good.  We get a few more glimpses into her backstory, and we get a little closer to being able to start to piece together who she really is.  I like the way Eric Canete and his co-writer Jon Tsuei are pacing this series, and things look great.

Saga #28 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples bring us a noble death in this issue, that would have felt just like the various other movies and comics that have used the exact same plot element (someone has to save the ship, but doing so will kill them), were it not for the very funny last page.  Saga is always a good read, and I’ve liked the way that this latest arc has brought in a lot of new characters.

Secret War #2It’s been obvious for a while now that Game of Thrones has had a big influence on a lot of comics creators, especially at Marvel.  When they launched Inhumans, the story was originally pitched and sold as being like George RR Martin’s epic.  Nick Fury became ‘the man on the wall’, a role now passed on to Bucky Barnes.  In many other ways, this work has been referenced or homaged, but I didn’t expect it to become the driving force behind Marvel’s biggest event series in years, yet here we are.  We are given a look at Battleworld in this issue, a patchwork of small kingdoms all owing fealty to their god, Doom.  There’s even a gigantic wall keeping out threats like the Marvel Zombies, the Annihilation Wave, Ultron, and, presumably, winter.  Basically, Secret Wars has become an Elseworlds-style reimaging of GoT, with many Thors working as Doom’s police force (Dr. Strange is his Sheriff).  The story is amusing and interesting in the way that Elseworlds stories often are, and Esad Ribic’s art is better here than it was in the first issue, but I found myself getting a little bored.  It wasn’t until a group with memories of the way things were before appears that my interest got piqued.  I hope that this series picks up quickly, because right now it risks being bogged down in its own cleverness, and its need to justify eight thousand tie-in mini-series.

The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust #3 – Well this was a pretty depressing comic, as we come to the end of Billjohn Henry’s backstory, and see how his quest to save his daughter’s life end.  I would still prefer to see The Sixth Gun come out more regularly than be supplemented by these prequel mini-series, but I am enjoying getting to poke around in the interesting mystical Western world that Cullen Bunn put together for this series.

Southern Cross #3It was cool that last week at TCAF I got to meet and speak to artist Andy Belanger about how much I have been enjoying this series, especially the design elements he’s put into it, and then less than a week later, I get to read a new issue (which, technically, I could have bought from him on the weekend, but chose not to because I preorder my books and don’t believe in screwing over my favourite comics shop).  Anyway, this is a very good issue that, while not clearing up the secrets on the Southern Cross, a deep space vessel, at least gets them all out in the open.  We find out what happened to the man in Cabin 17 on the last voyage, and see definite proof that the gravity drive is responsible for the problems that are happening on-board.  This is a very cool series, that more people need to check out.

Unity #18 – The last three issues of Unity have spotlighted the individual team members, as they’ve recovered from a difficult mission.  Now we get to see what that mission was, and it involves Malgam, from the Armor Hunters event.  Palmer, the leader of the HARD Corps also makes an appearance, as Matt Kindt and Pere Pérez continue to show why this is one of the better superhero team books on the stands.

Reyn #5  – If you ever needed proof that Negan is a twisted individual, this issue provides it, as he chooses to squander his chance at freedom in favour of messing with Rick.  I like how Negan’s escape opportunity raises the question of how to deal with criminals in the new society just as Maggie is dealing with an insurrection at the Hilltop.  This is another masterful issue of one of the best comics of this century.

X-O Manowar #36The Dead Hand story gets pretty big this month, as Aric goes looking for other armors to help him fight against the gigantic planet-destroying entity.  It seems that the other armors use a communication method similar to that used by the Vine, although I’m not sure why Malgam never used that when he was armor-infected but still loyal to the Armor Hunters.  Anyway, this is an exciting issue, that looks like it will have long-lasting consequences for Aric, as he’s going to have to deal with the other armors at some point.

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

Auteur Sister Bambi #1

Captain Marvel #15

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #20

Guardians 3000 #8

Harrow County #1

Lantern City #1

Legendary Star-Lord #12

Magneto #18

Mantle #1

Silk #4

Spider-Man 2099 #12

Storm #11

Strange Sports Stories #3

Uncanny Avengers #4

Wolverines #18

TCAF Purchases:

Junior Citizens

Written by Ian Herring and Daniel MacIntyre
Art by Ian Herring

One thing I love about TCAF is the way in which it brings exposure to artists and cartoonists I might not hear about, and I’m always willing to take a chance on lower-priced items that look interesting.  One book that jumped out at me is Junior Citizens, by Ian Herring and Daniel MacIntyre.Apparently this is a digital comic that can be read on its tumblr page.  This twenty-page comic is the extent of what is available there right now, but I’ll be sure to check back for more later, as I enjoyed this comic.In the world that Herring and MacIntyre have created, it seems that there is a clear caste system in place, with ‘junior’ citizens having to complete their annual work quota in able to qualify for the benefits of society.  We follow one such junior citizen, sent on her first work assignment, to an agricultural platform which is experiencing an equipment malfunction.We quickly learn, through a helpful and loquacious robot, that the platform should have been decommissioned, but is being kept in operation by its single chief custodian.  The woman’s attempts to fix things do not go well.This is a simple enough story, but it has a certain retro charm to it.  Herring’s art is blocky, but with a deco style to it, and his use of colour and texture is phenomenal.  As a first issue, this sets up the situation nicely, and has me interested enough to come back for more.  It’s worth checking out.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard #1

by Jason Loo

I love my hometown, Toronto, which is a serious comics town.  I am often surprised by the high calibre of local talent in the comics industry, from big-name Big Two stars to quality independent writers, artists, and cartoonists.  For a city that is well-represented behind the scenes in comics, it’s not often a a comic showcases the city itself.

Sure, Alpha Flight comes to mind, but even when John Byrne was drawing it, Toronto was never a character.  It was in Scott Pilgrim, though, but now, Toronto has its own superhero, the Human-Lizard (apparently he’s a little pitiful).  At TCAF, creator Jason Loo compared this hero to the city’s sports teams – lots of good intentions, not very impressive results.

Anyway, this is a very solid debut for this series.  We get to know our hero, who is a Kick-Ass style superhero wannabe with access to his father’s excellent glue and gimmicks from his own hero days.  Lucas Barrett has a boring office job, and generally sucks at jiu-jitsu, but really wants to be a hero.  After signing up for a drug company experiment, he gains the ability to recover from any injury, and realizes that perhaps his time to be a hero has come around.

Loo makes Lucas a likeable character, and does a terrific job of incorporating the city into his story.  You don’t have to be from Toronto to enjoy this book, but there are lots of Easter Eggs and nods to Torontonians that make reading this even more fun.

My biggest TCAF regret of this year (I always have some) was in not buying the other three issues of this series that are available.  I’m going to have to go look for them, because I want more.

Pocket Full of Coffee and There’s No Bath in This Bathroom

by Joe Decie

I didn’t know Joe Decie’s work before this year’s TCAF, but he was kind enough to give copies of his newest book, There’s No Bath in This Bathroom away for free.  Flipping through it, I liked what I saw, and felt compelled (and perhaps a little obligated) to pick up the other book he had on offer, Pocket Full of Coffee.

Both of these books are slice-of-life books, where Decie takes the everyday and turns it into a book.  There may be some greater profundity hidden within the story, but it seems like he’s really just keeping a bit of a journal, and elevating the mundane into art.

Pocket covers a very ordinary Wednesday for Decie.  He worries about marks on his arm, gets his young son ready for the day, hangs out with him for a bit, has dinner with his wife, and paints for a bit before going to bed.

No Bath is a story about last year’s TCAF, and hanging out with comics folks after the show.  Decie and his friends end up at a fictional pizza shop with a dirty bathroom.  That’s about it.

These books reminded me a lot of Nicholson Baker’s writing, with the focus on minutiae becoming the point of the story.  I like stuff like that, so it works very well for me.

Decie’s art is very nice.  It looks like he uses watercolours to shade his black-and-white art, and sticks to a pretty realistic style.

Both of these books are very straight-foward, but deceptively so.

The Potter’s Pet

by Braden D. Lamb and Shelli Paroline

I liked Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline’s work on the excellent Boom series The Midas Flesh, so when I saw that Lamb had this mini-comic on offer at TCAF, I thought it would make a good purchase.

Set in a typical storybook souk, The Potter’s Pet is about what happens when you set out to please everybody.  The titular potter is having a bad month, not selling any of his wares.  One day he discovers some plans on a piece of parchment, and builds himself a little robot that dances to amuse him.

Another merchant sees it, and asks if he can build her one that will sort scrolls for her.  Reluctant, the potter agrees to build this for her (he has to smash his own robot to do it) once she offers a price he can’t refuse.  When he goes to take the finished product to her, another merchant waylays him and offers more money if he instead constructs a device that will fetch juice.  And then we’re off, as each person in succession expects a device that does more, but also pays better.

There is a storybook simplicity to this comic, which is aided by the clean art from Lamb and Paroline.  I can see why the pair’s comfort with historically impossible art made them obvious choices for The Midas Flesh, which is about the science fiction implications of the legend of King Midas, and which features a dinosaur in a space suit.

This was a fun little read.

Bargain Comics:

All-New Captain America: Fear Him #1-4I ignored this series when it came out, because I figured that the regular All-New Cap book would be enough to keep me happy with Sam Wilson Cap stories, but since that title is foolishly being put on hiatus during Secret Wars, I thought I’d check this out, so that Sam could have at least two adventures in his new guise.  The problem is, this is not a very good comic.  The story is by Dennis Hopeless, with Rick Remender being somehow involved, while the art is by Szymon Kudranski, but following ‘storyboards’ by Mast and Geoffo.  I don’t know what half of that means, as really, comics are storyboards themselves, aren’t they?  Anyway, the story involves the Scarecrow being scary, and a bunch of very clean homeless kids living in tunnels under New York (but not Morlock tunnels, apparently).  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Neither do many scenes, as the story cuts around, or the action isn’t all that clear.  I don’t know who Mast or Geoffo are, but everyone else involved in this thing has done much better work elsewhere.

Batman Eternal #44-48 – Reading these later issues of this weekly series, it becomes obvious that the 52-issue length was decided on before the plot, necessitating a story to fill it out, rather than having a length dictated by story reasons.  This is getting way too sprawling and, with a side trip to look for Ras Al Ghul, who has nothing to do with anything, a little boring.  It was nice to see Juan Ferreyra draw an issue though…

Captain Marvel #12&13According to the inside credits, Warren Ellis helped out on the writing of these two issues, even though his name is absent from the cover.  This is one of the better Captain Marvel stories I’ve read, as Carol has to figure out how to rescue her cat from some bad guys, and also has to make her way across some folded up space.  The concepts are interesting, and the plot moves at the right pace.  I wish this series was always this good.

Shutter #1&2 – I’d heard some good things about this title, and it certainly is visually inventive, but after reading two issues, I don’t really know what’s going on, or why I should care.  The main character is the last in a long line of adventurers and explorers, but she’s abandoned that after her father’s death.  That part of the story is interesting, but I don’t know why there are lion people, police in flying saucers, or just what is up with this world.  It’s a bit much to take in.

Superior Iron Man #5 – I find that this is a series that has really been growing on me.  Tom Taylor has wisely introduced the Teen Abomination character as a way of having somebody sympathetic for Tony to play off against, and it’s worked.  We learn the kid’s origin in this issue, and how he’s tied to Stark.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Kill Shakespeare Vol. 3: The Tide of BloodI got some enjoyment out of the first Kill Shakespeare series, and especially appreciated that it introduced me to the work of Andy Belanger (see above), but by the end of the series, I worried that the concept had not justified a full twelve issues.  Basically, writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, took Bill Willingham’s approach to Fables, and applied it to the collected works of William Shakespeare.  It was a cool idea, and I’m sure one that excited many fans of the Bard, but the story dragged a little.  I was surprised to see it come back for two more mini-series, but because I like Belanger’s work so much, I thought I’d give this a try.  Ultimately, this volume was a disappointment.  Romeo is upset that Juliet has hooked up with Hamlet, and when they, and Othello, get roped into travelling to Prospero’s island, Romeo turns on his friends.  Lady MacBeth is manipulating things, Miranda is around, and Shakespeare has to show up to deal with Prospero, who is pretty crazy.  The thing is, I barely found myself getting engaged with this story.  Belanger’s work is nice, but I don’t care about any of these characters, and the novelty of seeing Shakespeare’s characters interact with one another is long-since worn away.  I think killing off Falstaff in the first series was a mistake…