The Weekly Round-Up #285 With Wytches #6, Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #1, Bloodshot Reborn #2, Ninjak #3, Ei8ht #4, Star Wars #5 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Wytches #6This series has grabbed me from the very first issue, and the conclusion of the first arc is an amazing read from the first page to the last.  Charlie has made it to his daughter in the Wytches’ nest under the Earth, but getting her home is just the beginning of his problems, as we learn a lot about his family and what’s been going on just under the surface since the first issue.  It’s rare for a horror comic to actually creep me out or make me feel apprehensive about what I’m reading, but Scott Snyder and Jock have managed to do this a number of times.  Snyder’s writing is often heavy on father issues (it’s kind of the point of his Batman, isn’t it?), but in this comic, he finally nails it.  Jock is just about the perfect artist for this type of story; sure his Wytches are creepy, but so are his everyday people when they are doing evil.  Apparently this is just the first arc of a longer series, and while I’m curious to learn more about the Irons (the people who fight the Wytches), I also feel like leaving this series here brings it to a very complete and fitting ending.

Quick Takes:

Bloodshot Reborn #2 – The second issue of this series is a little more conventional than the first, as we get a good sense of the shape of this title, and where Jeff Lemire is taking it.  Knowing that someone is out there killing people while dressed to imitate him, Ray, who used to be Bloodshot, goes hunting.  We learn that the guy who shot up a theatre had Blooshot’s nanites in him, but it looks like he’s not the only person with this problem.  Lemire is not wasting much time getting Ray back to his previous self, and I think I’d have preferred it take a little longer before we got to this point, but I’m still enjoying what I’m reading.  I like the Special Agent put in charge of this case, and of course, appreciate the way Lemire’s drawings of Bloodsquirt mix with the more realistic art of Mico Suayan.

BPRD Hell on Earth #131This issue we find out just what Johann did on a mission that has all of the men who went with him so angry, and what triggered his apparent suicide (to the extent that a could of sentient spirit-gas can commit suicide).  Peter Snejbjerg’s art on this story arc is a real treat, and I’m always happiest with this book when it focuses on the characters that make it such a good read.

Ei8ht #4 – A lot of things are made clear in the penultimate chapter of Mike Johnson and Rafael Albuquerque’s time travel extra-dimensional adventure.  This has been a good read, supported by Albuquerque’s excellent artwork.  I like the way we learn that The Spear, the enforcer in the Meld, has a connection to Nazi Germany.

The Fade Out #6 – It’s so nice to be able to immerse myself in a solid period piece by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  This issue moves the general plot forward some, adding to the layers of mystery that already surround a film studio, and having Gil, the blacklisted drunk screenwriter who is ghosting all of Charlie’s scripts, strike out on his own in a bold move.  Also, for fans of the era and the genre, there is a sizable cameo by Dashiell Hammett, which is pretty cool.

Kaptara #2 – This very strange science fiction/fantasy mash-up series by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod is a lot of fun to read.  We learn a little more about what life is like on the planet Kaptara, as Keith, our rather unlikeable hero, decides that maybe he should be helping the people heading off to rescue the Earth, but gets waylaid by one thing or another.  Zdarsky and McLeod are having a lot of fun with this book, upending one trope after another, and throwing in some very crazy design elements along the way.

The Kitchen #7We are moving closer and closer to the end of this excellent 70s gangster series.  There’s not going to be much left to wrap up next issue, as this one has the ladies deal with the remnants of their husbands’ organization, and start to see the real costs of their decision to go into the family business.  Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle have impressed me with this series.

Letter 44 #16 – Things are getting worse on Earth, as the war continues to spread, and one of President Blades’s Secret Service men work towards his own agenda.  In space, the crew of the Clarke continues to be mistrustful of the Builders, and a new discovery makes things look even more bleak for everyone.  This series never disappoints, as it blends insightful political intrigue with science fiction action and great character work.  This is Charles Soule’s best book.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #14 – Al Ewing is using this book to help explain why at least some of the Marvel Universe’s heaviest hitters, the Asgardians, are just sitting out the battle for Earth which ended in Secret Wars #1.  Basically, once again, they’re fighting amongst themselves, and Loki’s at the centre of it all again.  This is a good issue, but I’m getting very tired of Odin and Freya, as they’ve been so central to this book, Thor, and Angela.  Also, it’s a little futile to give over a multi-part story to show us what happened between scenes in another comic we’ve already read.  Oh well, it’s Big Event season, so we should just expect that kind of thing.

Mind MGMT #33 – Meru and her people make their move on the Eraser’s base, which means we get another cool issue of Mind MGMT, as Meru follows a plan laid out in fortune cookies.  Matt Kindt has never failed to deliver an exciting and thoughtful comic that does things differently from anything else you have read.  There are only two issues left in this series, and that makes me sad.

Moon Knight #15Cullen Bunn continues his string of stories having Moon Knight take on atypical adversaries.  This month, it’s an actual Boogey Man, who has been attacking children.  Strangely, Khonshu does not support MK in this venture.  German Peralta drew this issue, and while I’m unfamiliar with his work, I hope to see more of it, as this issue looks great.  The surprise at the end of the issue suggests that Bunn might be abandoning the done-in-one format in favour of putting together a larger story.

Ninjak #3 – I really like the way that Matt Kindt is writing Ninjak.  From the short peeks into his childhood to the calm, detached way in which he narrates his crazier adventures, Kindt is building this character into someone very interesting.  In this issue, Ninjak has completed a mission, but his target’s bodyguard is delaying his ability to wrap things up neatly.  There is also a very good backup story that continues to chronicle his earliest days as a spy.  This is another very good Valiant comic.

Powers #3 – The slow pace of this series is frustrating me.  No movement is made on Deena Pilgrim’s case this issue, but we do see that Diamond (although, I’m pretty sure it’s not Walker in the costume) is back on the streets.  I more or less buy this book out of habit these days, but when it’s good, it can still be very good.  That just doesn’t happen often enough anymore.

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #1I’m really happy to see Resident Alien return for another three-part mini-series.  This is a very unique, genre-defying comic.  It’s about an alien who crashed on Earth years ago, and who is in hiding, while posing as a small-town doctor, who also solves mysteries.  The comic has a strong sense of place to it, and is very character driven.  In this series, Harry is surprised to learn that Rex Monday, one his favourite authors (of sixties pulp James Bond-style novels) perhaps lives in the area, and he decides to look into it.  That’s really it so far as plot goes, until he discovers a hidden ataché case left by his predecessor, containing another of the Rex Monday novels.  This series, by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, could really work as a Murder She Wrote style TV series, I feel.

Satellite Sam #14 – This series has been pretty focused on some pretty terrible people from the beginning, but now that we are getting close to the conclusion (next issue), it’s time for the book to start racking up a body count, as a few people get shot, fires get set, and beatings get delivered (after a very funny scene in a YMCA shower).  This has been one of the most consistently good titles Matt Fraction has written, and one of the only times where I’ve enjoyed Howard Chaykin’s art.  I’m going to miss this book when it’s done.

Star Wars #5 – I’ve been enjoying Star Wars a lot, but with this issue, the series really hits its stride.  Luke has gone to Tattooine hoping that he can learn a few things about himself and his Jedi abilities in Ben Kenobi’s old home, but he doesn’t know that Boba Fett is after him.  Leia gets Han to accompany her on a scouting mission, but his brashness puts them in danger.  Jason Aaron has a good handle on these characters, and John Cassaday’s art is constantly getting better.  He really captures the facial expressions of the various key cast members.  Other great things I loved about this issue include generous use of an Imperial shuttle (one of my favourite designs) and a complete lack of CP30.  It can’t get better.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #5 – Since this latest arc launched, we’ve been hearing about the falling out between Beth and her best friend Nina, but now we get to see things from Nina’s perspective.  She’s basically a prisoner of the mysterious gangster Harry, but she’s managed to get herself out from under his thumb for one afternoon, and she’s out looking for Beth to try to clear things up.  She enlists the help of Sonny, the pothead who provided Beth with weed before, but Sonny has his own issues, especially since it was his best friend’s murder that put Nina in her present predicament.  David Lapham always manages to squeeze a great deal of plot and character in each issue of this series, and the confrontation in the alley outside Nina’s apartment is pretty exciting and surprising.  Another very strong issue of this excellent series.

Trees #9 – Trees is another series I was very happy to see return this week.  Warren Ellis has put together a very compelling science fiction series with this book, which shows the global effect of gigantic alien structures, called trees, landing across the Earth.  It’s been a number of months since the first arc ended, and in the wake of the Svalbard event (where one of the trees fired off a large electro-magnetic pulse), political unrest has been growing in Britain.  The only survivor of the Svalbard incident is Joanne Creasy, the person who figured out what was going on with the black poppies up there, and now the British government wants her to assess the area around the only tree on British soil.  We also check in very briefly with New York City, to learn that the man who was previously running for mayor has won.  This book is being written a little like a Jonathan Hickman title, with a large scope and glacial pace, and that’s fine with me, since Ellis has populated the comic with interesting characters.  Jason Howard’s art continues to impress and please as well.  I’m not sure if this is a great jumping-on point, but I would encourage people to pick up the first trade and give this series a chance.

Ultimate End #1 I wasn’t going to pick up this Secret Wars tie-in series, mostly because I try to avoid books drawn by Mark Bagley, but my esteem for Miles Morales and my general curiosity about how the Ultimate Universe was going to be closed out, got the better of me.  Needless to say, getting this was a big mistake, as it was a huge mess of a comic that left me equally confused and uninterested.  The biggest problem with this comic was that it was very hard to tell which version, 616 or Ultimate, of each character we were getting.  This is completely down to Bagley’s limited ability to portray characters, and in a couple of instances, his getting costumes and designs wrong.  The book opens with the Punisher setting up to shoot a whole bunch of major heroes.  We don’t know if he does this or not though, because he’s never seen again.  Then we 616 Spider-Man fighting the Serpent Squad, and getting an assist from the All-New Ultimates (sans Miles), who he trades quips with, showing us that he knows them all, but I only ever remember him meeting Black Widow during Spider-Verse.  Next, Peter goes to a meeting at the Triskelion between Ultimate Nick Fury, two Tony Starks, two Hawkeyes, a glowing purple guy who never talks, 616 Black Widow in an outdated costume, goatee Hulk, Storm, Cyclops, and wrong-costumed versions of Scarlet Witch and Emma Frost, who I eventually figured out were from the 616.  This scene, which makes up most of the book, is very confusing.  First, Brian Michael Bendis has each character’s voice sound the same.  Secondly, I could not figure out which Tony Stark was which.  In the lead-up to Secret Wars, 616 Tony was wearing his white, ‘Superior’ armor, but in this scene, one Tony is in everyday clothes, and the other in a version of the gold and red armor.  Eventually I figured out that this Tony, who is shown as being more noble, is the 616 version, but this is not how he looked or acted leading up to Secret Wars.  I also don’t know why anyone would bring the Scarlet Witch to a meeting like this.  Furthermore, Emma Frost has been out of the picture throughout Time Runs Out, but she’s definitely not with Cyclops anymore, so I don’t know why she’s there.  It seems that Manhattan has become an amalgam of the 616 and Ultimate versions of that city, but it also seems that the blame for this is being placed on one of the Tony’s, and his use of the dimensional rift that allowed the Spider-Men series to take place.  There’s a lot of talk about how Dr. Doom, who we know from Secret Wars is the ruler of Battleworld (stupid name), but there is no explanation as to how these heroes came to be in Manhattan, or much of anything else.  This book was confusing, poorly written, and very poorly drawn.  Worst of all, it didn’t even have Miles Morales in it.  I think I’m done here.

UFOlogy #2This new Boom! series caught my eye on the stands last month, and I feel like it’s done a very good job of hooking me into it.  James Tynion IV and co-writer Noah J. Yuenkel have put together an interesting story about alien abductions in a small town, throwing in some interesting teenagers, an almost-forgotten government program, and a mystery for good measure.  Matthew Fox’s art is great, and the story is moving at a very good, rather unpredictable pace.  More and more I’m impressed with what I’m seeing coming out of Boom!.

Uncanny X-Men #34 – So we learned this week that the conclusion to Brian Michael Bendis’s run on the X-Men, Uncanny #600, is being delayed until some time after Secret Wars, which is a little annoying, seeing as it was already scheduled to be out by now.  I haven’t loved Bendis’s X-Men, but his run has had its moments, such as the way he’s worked to bring Dazzler back to some level of relevance.  This issue has Dazzler finally confront Mystique, who had kidnapped and impersonated her for months, and the way she goes about it is pretty cool.  Kris Anka’s art on this book is always appreciated, and I’m hoping that post-Bendis and post-Secret Wars, we will see a few of the newer cast members of this book again.

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

A-Force #1

Avengers World #21

Convergence: Hawkman #2

Convergence: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #2

Daredevil #15.1

Dark Horse Presents #10

Deadpool’s Secret Wars #1

Deathlok #8

Guardians of the Galaxy #27

Master of Kung Fu #1

Wolverines #19

Bargain Comics:

Batman #37&38Is it fair to say that Endgame is a mess?  Scott Snyder is mashing up ideas from Crossed with some second-rate attempt to play on an Alan Moore-style notion of iconography, only applying it to the Joker, who is now an immortal like Vandal Savage, who has been haunting Gotham since it was founded, but is only now feeling the need to share that fact.  Toss in some weird science, a naked guy hanging out a window by a patchwork quilt, and some truly confusing plot points (where did Duke come from?  Why was there a movie set in a hospital isolation ward?).  I don’t really know what’s going on, and have to wonder how often Scott Snyder can trash Gotham in the same year (Zero Year, Eternal, and now Endgame).  It’s become the new equivalent of crashing a helicarrier – so commonplace as to be completely unremarkable.

Batman Annual #3 – The one good thing to come out of Endgame though, is this Annual, which focuses on a reporter who, at the beginning of the New 52 era, called Joker out on not having any friends (of all things), and therefore became a secondary fixation for the clown.  We follow him through years of Joker break-outs, which always result in a visit, and get to see how this attention wears on the reporter over time.  James Tynion IV does a very good job with this story of showing the impact of living in the DC Universe for an ordinary person, and it’s pretty cool.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 – I was curious about the other Archie horror comic that comes out whenever it feels like it.  This is a decent first issue, but I don’t think there’s enough of interest here to keep me coming back.

Crossed Badlands #1-3Due to Alan Moore’s excellent work on Crossed Plus 100, I’ve recently found myself thinking about diving into the particularly disturbing world of Crossed a little more.  I like the set-up of the series – that most people on the planet have been turned into depraved killers through a mysterious virus – and I’ve always liked series like The Walking Dead, where humanity has to try to come back from the brink.  I’ve recently picked up a smattering of single issues of this series, and some trades, and I’m going to start working my way through it.  This three-part story, by original series creators Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows, has some good things going for it, most especially the possible inclusion of a member of the British royal family.  It’s what I already think of as the typical Crossed story; some people walk somewhere to get away from the Crossed, but most of them die in the process.  The thing is, I’m not sure where these people are walking to, especially after acknowledging that they’d stayed in one place for about four years.  Anyway, this was an engaging read.

Crossed Badlands #4 – Jamie Delano wrote one of my all-time favourite comics runs (in Animal Man with Steve Pugh), but we don’t see him doing a whole lot these days.  This first issue of his Crossed arc introduces us to how things look in Florida, a place that was already pretty messed up and depraved before the virus was released.  He introduces some interesting characters, although the Avatar house-style art by Leandro Rizzo holds things back.

Punks: The Comic #1-3 – I like pretty much everything I’ve read by Joshua Hale Fialkov, and I enjoyed Kody Chamberlain’s series Sweet a few years back, but I really don’t like this comic.  It’s a collage-based series about Abe Lincoln, a skull, a fist, and a dog living in a house together.  In some ways, it reminds me of Chris Onstad’s brilliant series Achewood, except this isn’t funny or endearing.  It’s punk, but whatever.  I’m sure someone likes it.

Rocket Girl #1-5I wasn’t all that impressed with Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare’s first comic, Hallowe’en Eve, and so I originally passed on this Image series.  That was a mistake, because this is a very exciting and enjoyable science fiction title with incredible art.  Dayoung is a seventeen year old police officer in 2013 New York, a futuristic city more or less controlled by a single corporation – Quintum Mechanics.  Dayoung discovers something shady about the company, and decides to travel back in time, to 1986, to wreck the company before it can take over, even though that means she will erase her own future.  Reeder does some awesome work on this book; her action sequence in the New York Subway system is one of the best of its kind that I’ve ever seen, and I love the little details that help make the era believable.  I’m going to have to hunt down the second arc and get caught up on this book…

Secret Origins #6 – I knew I’d end up regretting reading this, because it reminds me of just how good Wonder Woman was under Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, and Goran Sudzuku, all of whom collaborate on the lead story in this comic.  We get a retelling of the true story of Diana’s birth, her longing for ‘Man’s World’, and her first meeting with Steve Trevor, with a lot of clever wordplay along the way.  Good stuff.  The rest of the book, with origins for Deadman and Sinestro, is pretty forgettable.

Ten Grand #9-11I haven’t bothered with much of J. Michael Straczynski’s work over the last few years, because between his online persona (i.e. his comments about Before Watchmen) and his unreliability (anyone remember how Supreme Power ended?  Oh that’s right, it didn’t), I haven’t felt the need to support the man.  However, this series launched with art by Ben Templesmith, and then he was replaced by CP Smith, who does not do enough comics, so I thought it was worth checking things out.  These books are pretty, but way too wordy and too impressed with their own cleverness.

Tomorrowland #1-4 – Paul Jenkins has written some very impressive comics over his career, but lately, I haven’t been all that interested in the work he’s been doing.  This series is a good example of how he’s fallen off.  The series stars two DJs, brothers, who have been chosen to be the protectors of Tomorrowland for a year (previous protectors include William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Merlin, who inexplicably, is now the dance music impresario Steve Aoki).  There is a guy without a name who tries to stop the protector from protecting things.  Oh, there’s also an electronic music festival called Tomorrowland where these battles take place.  Nothing is ever really explained very well, and the characters are not developed, and so it became very hard to figure out what’s going on.  The brothers fight, one becomes evil, and then two pages later, that’s all resolved.  This is the first book I’ve bought from Titan Comics, and I’m not impressed.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Russian Olive to Red King

by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen

Of all the books I bought at TCAF this year, I think that this is the one that I will treasure the most, mostly because Kathryn and Stuart Immonen really take their time when signing a book.  Kathryn copied a number of words out of a Chekov novel to run perpendicular to the book’s title on the title page, beneath which Stuart drew a lovely sketch of Olive, one of the book’s protagonists.  It took a little while, but made this a unique purchase.

Russian Olive to Red King is a lovely, lovely book.  It’s about a couple, Olive and Red, who live in a large city.  Red is an art writer, while Olive is a researcher.  We are given very few details of their life together, beyond meeting their dog, and learning that Red is not the most communicative of people outside of their relationship.

Olive leaves town for a while, to do some field work, but when flying into (I assume) Northern Ontario, the two-engine plane she is in goes down, and the pilot is killed.  While she is all alone in a wintry environment, Red is left all alone in their apartment, and the rest of the book charts the emotional journeys they take separately, but together.

This is a very poetic book (it was reminding me of The English Patient long before the scene with the cave), and Stuart reveals the story slowly through large, open panels showing landscape and sunset.  Towards the end of the book, the story switches into a section of prose, or prose poetry, more accurately, with sequences of abstracted drawings below them.  The connection between image and words, and how this whole section relates to the rest of the book, is not revealed until the very end.

I feel like I might have appreciated a little more clear resolution at the end, but by saying that, I also think I’m just being a little simple-minded.  This is a powerful and beautiful book.