The Weekly Round-Up #286 With Providence #1, Material #1, Hellbreak #3, Divinity #4, Ivar Timewalker #5 & More

This week I only bought one Marvel comic, and no DC Universe comics.  Aside from Wednesdays that have fallen over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, I don’t think I’ve had a new comics week like this since the mid-90s.  It says a lot about the current state of the comics industry that while event fatigue has set in at the Big Two, I still bought a rich and rewarding pile of new comics, the bulk of which were creator owned.  This truly is a new Golden Age.

Best Comic of the Week:

Providence #1I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Providence, but an Alan Moore comic is going to almost always get a check from me.  This first issue is mostly used to set things up and place the story into motion.  Robert Black is a New York reporter with an interest in the bizarre.  A need to fill some space in the next edition has Black going to a brownstone to interview a man who wrote a critique of a book that purportedly caused some readers to go insane and others to commit suicide.  He has a lengthy conversation with this writer, whose peculiar illness requires he remain in a cold environment, and then Black returns to the office to learn that an acquaintance of his has committed suicide.  Throughout the issue, we are given single-panel scenes from Black’s life, all shown from the perspective of the person talking to him, making it hard to know who is speaking.  Moore leaves a lot for the reader to piece together, and artist Jacen Burrows uses very crisp pencils, while also still managing to obscure a great deal.  After the comic pages, we are shown some pages from Black’s notebook which shed a different light on everything that happened in the comic so far, especially Black’s relationship which has just ended.  We learn a lot about Black from these pages, which made me want to immediately return to the first page and read the comic again.  The promotion for this book has likened it to ‘the Watchmen of horror comics’, but that sounds ridiculous.  I do know that, knowing very little about HP Lovecraft, I’m sure that much in this comic went right past me.  People love to annotate and explain Moore’s comics, so perhaps I should just dig around on the web and find someone to clarify everything for me.  More likely though, I’ll just read the next issue and let this work stand on its own merits.  I will definitely be getting the next issue, either way, as Moore has intrigued me with this.

Quick Takes:

All-New Hawkeye #3I’ve been enjoying this series, but this issue felt a little flat this month.  Clint and Kate have rescued some weird and powerful children from Hydra, but now are learning that SHIELD has them, and is also treating them more like lab rats than human beings.  Clint is more or less given permission to rescue them by Maria Hill, and that’s what they do.  They then take the children home to his place.  While this is going on, we get some truly lovely images of the circus where Clint grew up.  Ramon Perez’s work on this book is incredible, but I think that writer Jeff Lemire needs to give us more plot, and quickly.

Chew #49 – As Chew moves into its final twelve issues, John Layman and Rob Guillory do a great job of lining up the coming confrontation between Tony and the Collector, and we learn just why a certain fan-favourite character had to be killed off a few months back.  This series is gold.

Deadly Class #13 – Things have been pretty crazy for Marcus and his friends lately, as they’ve resolved their white trash problem and immediately had to deal with Chico’s family wanting to kill them.  The bulk of this issue focuses on Maria as she has to take care of the people who raised her, and then figure out how to protect herself and her friends from Master Lin, their headmaster at assassin school.  This issue has some incredible art by Wes Craig – especially Maria’s fight scenes – and a surprising ending.  This series is on fire.

Divinity #4 – This Valiant series comes to an end (although apparently there will be a sequel in the winter) with the Unity being able to break Abrams’s hold on them.  This has been an interesting book, and I remain curious to see where Matt Kindt is planning on taking this character.  I was hoping for a little more resolution with this issue, but it’s all good.

Effigy #5I find myself increasingly enamored with the town of Effigy Mound and its inhabitants, as Chondra has an argument with her mother, and Edie decides to investigate the murder of Sheila Harmon despite the fact that she is not a cop, nor actually a part of the investigation.  We get a bit more information about the cult aspect of this story, and get some terrific art by Marley Zarcone.  Tim Seeley’s writing on this book is very sharp, as he gives us another deeply strange situation in a small-town (although this is less rural noir than Revival).  I continue to be very happy that Vertigo took a chance on such a different book.

Frankenstein Underground #3 – This is a very Mike Mignola comic.  A lot of space is given over to the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, the Hollow Earth theory, and dead characters that walk around and talk.  Like with much of his stuff, it makes for fine reading while you’re reading it, but after I finish, I have a hard time recalling the plot.  Ben Stenbeck is drawing the hell out of this comic though.

Hellbreak #3 – I am enjoying this new series by Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla, but I thought that this issue felt a little decompressed.  The concept is interesting – that to exorcise a demon from a possessed person, their soul must first be retrieved from Hell, which is itself a sort of strange multiverse.  The team is having difficulty with their latest mission, which gives us a little more opportunity to get to know the characters, but I feel like this arc (especially after the excellent done-in-one first issue) should have been a two-parter.

Invincible #120 – The epic fight between Thragg and Battle Beast comes to its end in this issue, and it’s not pretty.  At the same time, life on another planet seems to be agreeing with Mark and Eve, who are just enjoying their daughter.  This is a nice quiet issue bookended by some awful stuff, and it works very well.

Invisible Republic #3 I continue to be very impressed and wrapped up in Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s excellent political science fiction saga.  In the present day, our reporter protagonist has verified that the journals he’s found must be authentic, because someone is looking to kill him to get them.  The flashback story, told from the journals, has Maia abandoned by her cousin, who she believes killed by the police, although we all know that he will go on to become the dictatorial leader of this world.  This is a smart comic, which has been very nicely plotted out and paced.  It’s not one of Image’s flashier titles, but it is one of their best right now.

Ivar, Timewalker #5 – Well, here was another delightful issue of my favourite Valiant book.  Neela is hanging out with herself at the end of time, getting convinced to complete the experiments that will allow her future self to exist, while Ivar is popping around time looking for ways to stop this from happening, and recruiting his two brothers to help, although both of them insist that they will only assist if the other is kept out of it.  Ivar really is a manipulative person.  Fred Van Lente is having a great time with this book, and it makes each issue a treat to read.

The Life After #10 – The end of the second volume of this series has a surprise ending.  This is a deeply bizarre comic, about the bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell, an Aztec rabbit god, Ernest Hemingway, and the son of God.  Foreman agrees to work with the representative of Hell to remake everything, and they reach a compromise with Jude, but old angers run deep.  This is a very fun series, and as this issue shows, a very unpredictable one.

Material #1Yet another new Ales Kot series drops from Image, and once again, I find myself a little at a loss for words when it comes to explaining and reviewing this book.  Generally speaking, this book is about modern culture.  A professor struggles to express his ideas about the increasing speed of our lives, and gets into a conversation with a sentient artificial intelligence (or, perhaps, a hacker).  A detainee from Guantanamo Bay finds he can’t relate to his family and can only be himself in the company of a professional dominatrix.  An actress finds herself at the centre of a new film that is about her, but in a very unclear way.  A black teen protests the violence of American police.  Each of these stories (with the exception of the actress/screenwriter plot) are interesting, and could perhaps blossom into something on their own, but the kaleidoscopic approach that Kot is taking to this series makes me worry that there may never be any real or clear pay-off (kind of like his book Change).  Anyone who reads Kot’s work can tell that he’s very well-read and cultured (if you can’t tell this, you need only read the footnotes on each page), but I continually find his references to be more pretentious than illuminating.  I had hopes that this might be the series where he crosses over the line to less self-conscious art.

Mister X: Razed Expectations #4 – I often find, when I read this very occasional series, that I pay almost no attention to the plot, and instead mostly focus on the aesthetics of the book, and the interactions between the characters.  In a way, I feel like Dean Motter does the same thing, as the plot of this miniseries is all over the place.  Still, I appreciate the way he works.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #9 – Nine issues in, and it’s time for Robert Kirkman to start explaining some of what’s been going on in this very good series.  The guy who has been posing as Kyle’s neighbour’s brother pays a visit to the old possessed lady, and through their dialogue we begin to get a sense of what these possessed folk are after.  Later, Kyle and the Reverend go looking for a girl they believe to be possessed, and when Kyle and her get into a confrontation, we learn a lot more.  This series has been building very nicely since it started, and now that so much groundwork has been laid, I’m more invested in the story than ever before.  There is also a terrifically funny letter in the letters page wherein a French reader proclaims the book religious propaganda, which makes me wonder what comic he’s been reading.  Maybe this title just doesn’t translate well into French…

Pastaways #3I wasn’t sure that I could see myself reading a Scott Kolins comic, but Matt Kindt’s concept and excellent writing have won me over to Pastaways, a new Dark Horse series.  A group of explorers from the future are trapped in our present, unable to get home or die, and they all kind of hate each other for it.  This issue has them dealing with the gigantic robot that has come through the time tear that left them here, and gives Kindt the opportunity to continue to introduce and explore these main characters.  There is a lot of potential in this book.

Sex #21 – It feels like it’s been awhile since the regular artist Piotr Kowalski drew an entire issue of Sex, and while that puts most things to rights, the sheer number of plotlines that Joe Casey has running in this book is beginning to slow it down a great deal (and that’s before a new woman at a bar takes some guy home with her).  Still, this is a very good comic, and it feels like it’s getting itself back on track with this issue.

Suiciders #4 – There’s not a whole lot to say about this issue, as Lee Bermejo runs with his three main plotlines, and the body count continues to grow.  The paparazzi who has the Saint’s passport is on the run from corporate goons, while the Saint has to fend off a challenger who has the support of his own manager.  The nameless guy (who I assume is the Saint, in flashback) has his first fight.  This book is working very well; it’s just deep in the middle of its story, and there’s not much new to say right now.

They’re Not Like Us #6Big changes are happening in The Voice’s house, as Syd rebels in the wake of Blurgirl’s suicide attempt, and then has to decide what to do about her parents.  This series, by Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane, has reminded me of the X-Men in many ways, but is much darker.  If the analogy were to hold, this would be the issue with Kitty Pryde walking away on the cover.  There’s a lot more going on in this book than just that though, and people should really be checking it out.

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

Black Widow #18

Grindhouse Drive In Bleed Out #5

Infinity Gauntlet #1

Inhumans Attilan Rising #1

Nova #31

Old Man Logan #1

Sandman Overture #5

SHIELD #6

Secret Wars 2099 #1

Sons of the Devil #1

Über #25

Uncanny Avengers Ultron Forever #1

Where Monsters Dwell #1

Bargain Comics:

Hawken: Melee #1, 3-4 I kind of love these one-off stories set in some science fiction world where big robot suit things fight each other for their corporate masters.  Each story fits nicely into the war comics milieu, telling a complete story about life during wartime, just in an improbable futuristic video game environment.  I should just know by now to buy anything that Archaia puts out, because it’s always good.

War Stories #1-3 – Garth Ennis has returned to writing war comics, with an ongoing series at Avatar.  The first arc features a gunner on a B-17 during the Second World War, and it follows the usual pattern of such stories.  The young, naive American arrives in England eager to do his part, but is not fully prepared for the horrors of war, as he sees planes explode on the runway, and sees his crewmates get hosed out of stations.  The first issue is drawn by Matt Martin, who was the announced regular artist on this book, but after that, Keith Burns takes over.  Martin has a good eye for the technical details of the planes he’s drawing; Burns less-so.  This was a decent story, but not as memorable as the Night Witch stories Ennis wrote in Battlefields.

War Stories #4&5 – The second arc of Ennis’s series focuses on tank fighting in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria in the 70s.  Ennis avoids any possible controversy inherent in a discussion of Israeli expansionism, instead focusing on the crew of a single tank, led by a Holocaust survivor.  In many ways, this is also the typical Ennis war story – there is a long history of him writing about tank crews – and again, nothing really stands out.

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