The Weekly Round-Up #287 With Airboy #1, Dead Drop #2, Jupiter’s Circle #3, Plunder #4, Imperium #5, Star Wars Darth Vader #6 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Airboy #1 I have never read an Airboy comic, but have been familiar with the character’s existence over the years.  He never seemed interesting to me, at least until I heard that James Robinson was taking a stab at him, but doing the book from a very different place than is usual.  This comic opens with James Robinson himself sitting on the can, while talking on the phone with Eric Stephenson, Image Comics’s publisher, who is in his office, which looks like it could be taken straight out of Stephenson’s own series, Nowhere Men.  He’s trying to get Robinson to reboot Airboy, a public domain character, but Robinson’s not particularly interested.  Acting on the advice of his (then) wife, he gets artist Greg Hinkle to come to San Francisco to help him put together a pitch.  Instead, they start partying pretty heavily, trying a variety of drugs at a variety of bars, and even going home with a lady they pick up.  This book is very funny and a little shocking in its portrayal of a well-known comics writer.  Hinkle’s art is very sharp (Robinson describes it as something Matt Wagner would have used in the earlier years of Grendel, and he’s not wrong), and also a little disturbing.  This book could not have existed before Sex Criminals came along, and is wonderfully self-referential and transgressive.  It’s probably not for everyone, but I can’t imagine there are Airboy fans who will be offended.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #41Brian Michael Bendis has been promoting the new mutant team, the Utopians for a while, and now they meet the Past X-Men, and fight them for a little while.  What is never explained, and what does not make any sense, is how there could be a grouping of Karma, Boom Boom, Madison Jeffries, Elixer, Random, and Masque.  Masque is a jerk who never gets along with others.  I would think that both Boom Boom and Karma know this.  Last I remember, Karma was teaching at the Jean Grey School and looking after her brother and sister, who are nowhere in evidence here.  And Random must be the most random inclusion of all.  In typical Bendis fashion, new ideas are thrown on the wall, and then ultimately abandoned, as he’s leaving these characters after only two more issues of his Uncanny X-Men.  I believe this is the last issue of this series, which is really not handled well.  I know there are a lot of transitions taking place in the Marvel X-Office right now, and the rumour of all mutants going off-world after Secret Wars sounds stupid to me.  If this is one of the last three X-Men comics I buy, I’ll feel sad that it wasn’t better than this.

The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #6 – The first arc ends with a very exciting issue, as the Champion meets with the bisons who have been trying to kill the survivors of the fallen city, and puts a pretty vicious plan in place.  Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey have been absolutely killing with this series, which is a great blend of fantasy and science fiction.  There is so much character in Dewey’s art, and Busiek keeps the story moving at a perfect pace.  I love this series, and hope it’s not too long before the next arc gets solicited.

Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #2 – Like many Mike Mignola books, this comic does a very good job of creating a certain sense of atmosphere, but with so many characters having been introduced outside the series, I’m not all that sure what’s going on now.  That leaves me a little turned off.

The Bunker #11I think that the lateness of this book, combined with the last issue being an interlude comic, has affected my enjoyment of things, as I felt a little lost in a few places. The story has jumped three months, and Grady is on the way to running his election campaign, while receiving advice from his future self, who is clearly running his own agenda.  This is an intelligent and compelling series, and I’m wondering if I should try to find the time to reread it before the next issue, so I can feel more on track with it.

Darth Vader #6 – I’m surprised by how closely the last few pages of this issue echo those of the latest issue of Star Wars, yet Kieron Gillen puts his own spin on what was going on, and manages to give us some insight into what’s going through Vader’s head, which is not easily done.  This series has been consistently enjoyable, and as usual, Gillen proves he can run with just about any concept that can be thrown at him.

Dead Drop #2 – This Valiant mashup series is featuring a different established character as the star of each issue, as they chase down a deadly virus that is supposedly in the hands of terrorists.  It’s a good concept, but I’m not sure that writer Ales Kot has a good handle on Archer, the hero of this issue.  He never uses any of his abilities, and is portrayed as being a little more naive than we’ve seen him since about the fourth issue of his own title.  The story and concept work very well though, and I am enjoying this book.

The Humans #5 – This anthropomorphic series about a gang of motorcycle-riding chimps called the Humans returns with its most exciting issue yet.  Basically, Mad Max is the order of the day, as the gang makes its protection run to LA and gets attacked by a large number of apes on bikes, dune buggies, and a VW bus with a gatling gun.  Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely run me over with the first few issues of the series, but this one threatens to turn this into one of my favourite new Image titles.

Imperium #5 Imperium is the least conventional book that Valiant publishes, and for that reason, I love it.  I’d expected that this series would make Toyo Harada its star, but he’s still very much cast as a villainous character, with people like Kozol, the director of Project Rising Spirit, who is perhaps less moral than Harada, falling into hero roles.  In fact, there are probably no good people in this book at all, except possibly Mech Major, the robot.  This month, Harada attacks PRS’s Leviathan submarine base, and the way in which he does it is pretty unexpected.  Joshua Dysart is one of my favourite comic book writers, and this series works as a good example as to why that is.

Jupiter’s Circle #3 – Mark Millar is basically treating this series like his own version of Before Watchmen, showing us what life was like for the older characters in his Jupiter’s Legacy series.  This month, The Flare ends up hooking up with a nineteen year old fangirl after a battle, a decision that doesn’t go over well with the rest of his teammates.  I’m enjoying this book for the way it gives a modern look at the way people probably really lived in the 1950s, and how superhumans likely would have acted, but none of these characters matter much to me.  They weren’t particularly well developed in Legacy, and I’m not sure how this series relates to that one yet, beyond the stuff on the surface.  Still, Millar knows how to write a good comic, and I’m enjoying the shorter story arcs of this title.

Midnighter #1I wasn’t too sure what to expect going into this new Midnighter book.  I’ve enjoyed the character’s appearances in Grayson, although the God Garden stuff seemed a little dumb to me, and also have enjoyed recent work by writer Steve Orlando (Undertow) and artist ACO (the Batman Futures End one-shot).  The creative team works hard to differentiate Midnighter from characters like Batman, establishing his abilities (it’s so tiresome to hear him spout his “I’ve already fought this fight in my head a million different ways before you even…” line) and his access to teleportation doors, but also establishing his personality and how he’s different from the average hero.  ACO makes interesting use of layout to help illustrate the way Midnighter uses his computer brain, and that looks cool.  The fact that some unknown assailant has stolen the secret crazy science weapons of the God Garden doesn’t exactly thrill me, but I definitely think I’m going to be back for the next issue, which is not something I’d originally expected.  I think putting all those free previews up on Comixology was a good idea, because it helped this book catch my eye.

Morning Glories #46 – I saw in Previews last week that the ‘second season’ of Morning Glories is ending at issue 50, and I hope that means that Nick Spencer is going to start tightening up his story again.  This issue focuses on Irina, who we learn has the ability to teleport (going from Ukraine to Egypt in the blink of an eye as a child).  We also learn a little more about her private teacher at the Academy, and see a student I didn’t expect to see again.  This issue didn’t have a lot of heart to it, and that’s important in a series that is so fractured and kaleidoscopic.

No Mercy #3 – Like The Humans above, No Mercy is quickly becoming one of my favourite new Image titles (which basically makes it one of my favourite new titles all around).  In this issue, the American kids who have survived a bus crash in the middle of nowhere in a small Latin American country continue to fend off the coyotes that have come sniffing out their dead, and have managed to kill at least one more of their number.  To stop them, the kids know they need to blow up their bus, but the brother and sister members of the group are still inside.  Alex De Campi is pacing this comic out wonderfully, keeping it moving quickly and giving each character a moment or two of their own, while Carla Speed McNeil, who I already have tremendous respect for, keeps blowing me away with the art.  This comic really has me on edge.

Nonplayer #2It’s been four years since the first issue of Nonplayer came out, and while I barely remember anything about the story in that comic, within two pages of reading this one, I didn’t care at all.  This is easily one of the most beautiful comics I’ve seen in ages.  Writer/artist Nate Simpson is incredible.  Each page of this book is lush and full of tiny details that reward long amounts of time spent studying it.  The story is almost overflowing with ideas and high concepts.  Plot barely matters.  Whereas the first issue was mostly concerned with Dana, a delivery girl who immerses herself in an online gaming world, this issue was more about a robot that was either hacked or taken over by a rogue AI, which was holding a woman hostage in a fish market.  Simpson is working on a large plot here, although at the pace he’s working, I’m not sure I’ll be around to ever read the end of it (it makes Age of Bronze feel like a double-shipped Marvel comic).  I don’t even care, because of how good this comic is.  If you’ve ever liked work by Geof Darrow you owe it to yourself to read this book.  Here’s hoping the next issue is only a year or two away.

The Omega Men #1 – Of all the new DC offerings, this is the one that I saw as having the most potential, mainly because I felt that there wouldn’t be a lot of editorial control on a book like this.  Having read the first issue, I’m not too sure what Tom King is aiming for with this book.  We see a group of Citadel soldiers attack a compound, trying to kill the Omega Men, who of course turn things to their favour.  Almost all of the Citadel dialogue is untranslated from an alien language, although easy enough to understand through the art.  We know the Omega Men have a bomb, which is actually not a bomb, but beyond that, I don’t really know what’s going on.  I’m interested just enough to give this a couple more issues, but this was not a great debut.  Barnaby Bagenda’s art is pretty nice, and I like the Giffen-esque nine-panel grid that is used throughout.

Plunder #4I had high hopes for this series, which reworks the standard Alien story to place it on a science vessel invaded by Somali pirates, but in the end, genre tropes won out, and the book didn’t do enough to make itself stand out.  I think there’s definitely a place for portraying stories like this in very different locations and featuring different types of people, but it’s going to need stronger art and more consistent and original writing.

Princess Leia #4 – I still feel like this is the least of the Star Wars books so far, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.  Leia continues to look for pockets of Alderaanians, and ferrets out the misguided spy in her midst.  The problem with Leia’s portrayal here is that she seems just a little too nice, and lacks the steel that she showed in the earlier movies.  Mark Waid spends time building up characters that we are not likely to see again, and the art by the Dodsons feels very rushed in many places, especially around the characters’ faces.

Secret Wars #3 – Jonathan Hickman explains a lot more stuff with this issue, and it makes this event work a lot better for me.  We get the history of Battleworld (strange choice of name for God Doom to make), and an explanation of how there can be duplicates of familiar characters knocking about.  Most importantly, we get a rough timeline of events (which raises questions about Valeria and Franklins’ parentage), and a connection to the former 616 and Ultimate Universes.  For the first time, I’m beginning to feel more involved and invested in this event, although nothing here is giving me reason to pick up more of the tie-in series.

The Sixth Gun: Valley of Death #1 – This is the third Sixth Gun prequel series to launch in the last year, and I think maybe it’s time to stop, and focus instead on the main book, which was building up a lot of momentum, but now seems to have lost it.  Anyway, this title is notable because it is written by regular series artist Brian Hurtt, and because it focuses more on the First Nations characters in the series.  The containment of a god has left the door to death wide open, and all manner of creatures are spilling out.  A coalition of four tribes has sent some champions to stop it, while Screaming Crow, a character in the main series, is working with Kalfu, the keeper of the Crossroads, to do the same.  I like the art, by AC Zamudio, and Hurtt has got the tone of the book down just right.

Spider-Woman #8The first arc of Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez’s soft-relaunched take on Jessica Drew ends very well, as Jess tries to figure out what to do with a small town full of women who have fled their relationships with C- or lower-list supervillains.  The book is light in tone, while still addressing some serious issues, and, at the end of the day, making this one of the best-looking Spider-Woman comics of all time.  I hope that Secret Wars doesn’t completely derail this title (nothing here fits with how Jonathan Hickman used the character in Time Runs Out).  In some ways, this feels like Marvel’s answer to Batgirl, as Jess and Ben Urich come across a new mission statement for themselves.

Star Wars #6 – I’m pretty sad that John Cassaday is leaving this series, because his art has been pretty much perfect.  He has a real good handle on these characters and the way the original actors portrayed them.  Jason Aaron has wisely given him a lot of space to show emotion and humour through the characters’ faces.  Plot-wise, this is an excellent comic, as Luke throws down with Boba Fett on Tatooine, and Leia gets to meet someone from Han’s secretive past.  This series has been much better than I’d hoped.

The Wicked + The Divine #11 – We were promised a surprise ending to this issue of The Wicked + The Divine, but I really didn’t expect Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie to take this book where they did.  I can’t really discuss this without spoiling the comic, except to say that this is one of the most original books on the stands, and that I can’t wait for the next issue, because I now have no idea what to expect from it.  I wonder if we’re going to get to visit an afterlife for the Pantheon…

The Woods #13James Tynion IV moves the story forward a year from where the last issue left off, and in that time, the kids who have found their school transported to an alien world have come a long way.  They’ve fortified the high school and have begun building houses, and have pulled together in a number of ways to make their lives better.  Some of their number are doing better than others though.  Karen is still torn up over the choice she had to make last issue, and has moved towards a life of solitude, while other characters are showing stress in a variety of ways.  A new threat is introduced in this issue, and it doesn’t look like anyone is any closer to finding their way home.  This is a remarkable series that continues to make me very happy that I took a chance on its first issue.

Zero #17 – Ever since this series became about William S. Burroughs, I feel like it’s lost me.  I’ve been more than willing to give Ales Kot a lot of rope on this series, because it started out very strongly, but now it’s about Burroughs writing this series in an alternate universe, while Edward Zero has a conversation with an alien mushroom spore that has been helping to shape human history for millennia.  This used to be a series about a black ops agent.  There are still some cool aspects to it, but I can’t escape the suspicion that it’s gone right off the rails.

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

Brides of Helheim #6

Broken World #1

Crossed Badlands #78

Guardians Team-Up #6

Master of Kung-Fu #2

Oven TP

Superior Iron Man #9

War Stories #9

Wolverines #20

Bargain Comics:

Avengers World #19While I don’t see much point in having Frank J. Barbiere recap things that were inferred in Jonathan Hickman’s Time Runs Out storyline, I do like the idea of reading what is, in essence, a Sunspot comic.  One interesting thought I had while reading this was that the character’s skin tone, when not powered up, has lightened a lot since he was in New Mutants.  What’s up with that?  I would like to see more Sunspot in comics…

Sundowners #1&2 – This is a very intriguing and strange new series from writer Tim Seeley and artist Jim Terry.  It’s about a group of superheroes who are in a support group together, but it’s never very clear yet whether or not they are superheroes, or just crazy people who think they are.  There’s definitely something strange going on, but it’s hard to trust what you are shown in this book.  Seeley’s work is getting more and more interesting to me.