The Weekly Round-Up #290 With Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #2, Kaptara #3, Ninjak #4, Suiciders #5, Rasputin #6 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #2One of the many things I like about this series is the way in which writer Peter Hogan does away with conventional story arc structure.  Last issue had our favourite alien from another planet posing as a small-town doctor discover a briefcase that belonged to his predecessor (in doctoring, not aliening).  This issue, he reads the contents, and discovers that old Doc Hodges may have once had an affair, helped murder the woman’s abusive ex-husband, and covered it up.  By the end of the issue, our hero has figured out who the woman is, and has figured out the identity of the pulp writer he was curious about.  What’s left for next issue?  While unconventional, this series works remarkably well.  I like these character, and get wrapped up in each issue I read.  I only wish it came out more frequently than a three issue mini every year or so.

Quick Takes:

Annihilator #6 – Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving closed off this series much as it lived, crazily.  The delay between issues hurt this, but I was able to get back into the story pretty quickly.  Morrison gets a little too Morrison with this, but Irving’s work is pretty incredible throughout the whole book.  As with most titles like this, it will probably read better in trade, but I’m too impatient for that.

Batgirl #41We return to the new take on Batgirl, which in turn was the inspiration for many of the new DC titles debuting this month, and I can’t help but feel that something is missing.  Shoehorning in the new Batman (I’m not reading that book, but come on, there can be no good reason for such a ridiculous new take) makes this more continuity-dependent than it’s been in ages, while also bleeding away a lot of the fun of this title.  Artist Babs Tarr is embracing her more cartoonish nature, and while it looks good, I feel like it maybe goes a little too far towards cutesy.  I still feel that this is one of the better books that DC is publishing, but I’m not sure where this new trend is taking it.

Daredevil #16 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee start their endgame with this character, as Matt goes to the Kingpin for help, making him a very interesting offer, while the Shroud finds Julia Carpenter.  There is a lot of stuff going on in this book all of a sudden, and it all works very well.  I’m curious to see where Waid and Samnee plan on leaving this character when they depart from the book, as they’ve made a number of changes that are going to be hard to reverse (unless, of course, Secret Wars just retcons their whole run).

Effigy #6 – The first story arc comes to a very good ending with this issue, as writer Tim Seeley starts to play even more with the narrative structure of this series, suggesting that not everything we’ve seen so far is accurate.  This is an excellent series about characters who are not always who they seem to be.  The book is sliding more into a state of magical realism, as adherents to a Scientology-like religion are able to take control of other believers’ bodies, and as a special forces made of followers of established religions arrive to help fight against ‘insurgent faiths’.  I’m a little concern that there hasn’t been an issue of this comic solicited in this month’s or last month’s Previews, but I’m hoping that this is just because Vertigo is adopting the Image model of taking brief hiatuses between arcs, even though Seeley has main character Chondra suggest that the book could be cancelled.

The Fade Out #7It’s not easy to find new ways to praise The Fade Out, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s amazing noir series set in 1950s Hollywood.  In this issue, Charlie and Maya slip away for a weekend together, but are barely back in town before Charlie gets into a drunken fistfight at a bar, which in turn leads to him meeting a character who has had an air of mystery about him for a few issues now.  Not that any of that mystery is resolved here.  This is a meticulously plotted book that is just about ideal in every way.

Frankenstein Underground #4 – After so many years, I think I’m getting very bored with the standard tropes of a Mike Mignola story.  This issue, Frankenstein learns about Vril energy and Hyperboreans, and blah blah blah.  Skulls are in jars.  The dead are talking.  There are connections made to things that happened millennia ago.  At least no one fell through the floor.

Gotham by Midnight #6 – I’m very happy to see that this series is back, as it is one of the odder, and most interesting, books that DC is producing.  After the first arc, Corrigan and Drake’s secrets are out in the open, yet the squad has to continue to work, having been called to the Power Corporation (are these the people behind the new Batman suit?) to deal with a haunting.  Meanwhile, the IA investigation into the squad’s doings spark a need for a lawyer, and that becomes cause for a character I liked a lot to show up (perhaps making her first New 52 debut?).  Toss in a funeral for a former squad member, and we get a very full issue, beautifully illustrated by the incredible Juan Ferreyra.  His ghost reminded me a lot of Steve Pugh’s work on the excellent series Hot Wire.

Grayson #9 – We’re back from the Convergence hiatus, and Dick can’t figure out what to do next, now that Batman’s gone silent.  He continues working undercover in Spyral, where Matron (Helena Bertinelli) is now in charge, and is investigating the fact that agents from other agencies have been turning up dead on Dick’s missions.  There is an excellent dance sequence, as Dick employs his sleight of hand skills to steal a Kryptonian gem, and a ton of innuendo, moving beyond the ‘Dick’ jokes that we’ve come to expect.  As always, an amusing and impressive read.

Green Lantern: Lost Army #1Okay, confession time.  I haven’t read an issue of any Green Lantern series since just after Blackest Night, because I was exceptionally bored with the way the concept was being used at DC.  There is a lot of potential in the GLC, and there are a lot of very likeable characters in that corner of the universe, but under Geoff Johns, the series just kept recycling the same few ideas, none of which interested me.  After the New 52 relaunch, I was tempted to read Green Lantern Corps, but all the GL books kept tying into each other, and that didn’t interest me one bit.  Now, with DC embracing characterization over continuity, and this series featuring a small group of Lanterns lost in a distant galaxy (making it hard for them to tie in to other series), I thought it was time to check it out again.  Needless to say, this was disappointing.  John Stewart, Kilowog, Arisia, and a couple other Lanterns I don’t know are stuck somewhere where some white blood cell-like creatures are trying to erase them.  They have Krona, the renegade non-dwarf Guardian, with them, but he’s either amnesiac or time travelling and hasn’t met them yet.  We get a lot of the same old tropes – Stewart remembers being a soldier, we focus too much on power batteries (seriously, a ring holds a charge for less time than my iPhone), the emotional spectrum, and then, worst of all, Guy Gardner shows up.  He’s wearing two rings, one green, one red.  And with that, I find we’re right back where the Lantern books have been for years.  I think I’m not going to be sticking with this series, and once again, it feels like some potential has been wasted.

Hellbreak #4 – Cullen Bunn is still laying out a lot of the substance of this series, as he begins to suggest in this issue that working for the Kronos corporation is not all that it seems to be.  Our heroes, separated from one another in a version of Hell, are starting to come to a few understandings about the nature of the place, and their missions in it, but as readers, there is still a lot for us to learn.  This is an interesting new series, and I love any excuse to get my hands on some new work by Brian Churilla.

Howard the Duck #4 – In another fun issue, Howard goes looking for Doctor Strange to help him figure out the story behind the gem he helped a defective Skrull get his hands on last issue.  It turns out that there is a second set of gems like the Infinity Gems, only much less powerful, but still powerful enough to destroy the Earth, and this Skrull almost has them all.  The final one once belonged to Johnny Storm, so he gets roped into things, and we even get a timely flashback to the first Secret Wars series.  This book continues to be amusing and enjoyable, without crossing too far into the realm of stupidity (although the backup was not to my liking this time around).

Invisible Republic #4This series is really cementing its place as one of my favourite science fiction series of the moment.  With each new issue, we see that there is greater and greater depth to the story that Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are telling.  This issue follows Maia through life as a homeless fugitive to her time beekeeping, while in the present, Babb finds himself partnered up with another journalist, as they begin to work on authenticating Maia’s journal, while the situation on Avalon continues to worsen.  This is a very smart political series, with an excellent sense of atmosphere and mood.  I recommend this book.

Kaptara #3 – It’s a treat to get two Chip Zdarsky-penned comics in one week (Howard the Duck is the other one), and it’s amusing to see just how much Marvel is constraining this guy, when you see him go all in.  Gloms are foul-mouthed yellow Smurf-like trolls who hate everyone, and they’ve captured our heroes.  They will let them go, but first they have to kill an aged wizard.  The plots aren’t complicated here, but the book is a lot of fun, and frequently very funny.

Loki Agent of Asgard #15 – I’ve enjoyed Al Ewing’s take on Loki over the course of this series, but didn’t really buy this book to read about yet another gigantic war between Asgard and the legions of Hel.  I get it that the series needs to keep itself busy while running out the Secret Wars clock, but I would have been much happier if all of the book was focused on Verity and Female Loki.  Those pages were great.

Material #2 – I didn’t love the first issue of Material, as I was too busy looking for some kind of connection between the different characters and situations that Ales Kot introduced, but with this issue, I found it easier to get absorbed into each individual story that is being presented in this book.  Kot has a lot to say about America in this series, and I think that everything being presented here is valid and important.  This book is definitely winning me over.

Ninjak #4This issue was a bit of a departure from the rest of the series, as it focused on Roku and Kannon more than it did the main character.  The main story gives us Roku’s origin, as drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, and the back-up looked at Kannon.  This is a good series, but I feel like this issue slowed the momentum of the main story a little too much.  I guess next month will be the test of that.

Pastaways #4 – Now that the characters and situation have been introduced, writer Matt Kindt is spending more time delving into the group and their dynamic.  Our time-lost travellers don’t particularly like each other, and now we get to find out just why that is.  Ursula’s religious, which I suppose is an oddity in the far future, and when team leader Art goes to see a contemporary psychiatrist, just to have the chance to freely express himself, we start to see the root of his relationship with Phil, the artificial being that wants him dead.  To that end, Phil makes a big move this issue, potentially botching the team’s only chance at getting home.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and it’s definitely caught my interest.

The Punisher #19 – Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads catch up with Frank Castle eight months after the end of the last issue, just as the world is ending in Secret Wars #1.  After putting in his cameo in that book, the Howling Commandos appear to give Frank one last mission – taking on an ISIS-like group in Tikrit.  What follows is a very badass issue of Frank dismantling a compound full of terrorists, which, but for the skull mask, could also be a solid issue of The Activity.  This is a good issue.

Rasputin #6 – This very unique series has returned from hiatus, and has made some pretty big changes to itself.  The bulk of this issue takes place in the present, where Rasputin has made himself into something between a political consultant and a body guard, working to protect (and revive) a politician running for President in Texas.  The flashback takes us to the events that closed out the first story arc, during the First World War.  I like the way writer Alex Grecian has kept Rasputin alive for so long, and am very curious to see where this story arc takes the character.  I also want to know what he was up to since the Great War, and how his life has changed history, if it has.  This book always reads way too fast (Grecian and artist Riley Rossmo are very decompressed when telling stories), but at least that has me anticipating the next issue.

Sex #22At this stage, there are so many subplots running through Sex that each individual issue doesn’t move forward very far, but are still good reads.  I like the way Joe Casey’s organized this series, and am grateful that he’s had the sales success to keep it running at this kind of pace.

Southern Cross #4 – As has been the case, this series is excellent.  This month, we see a little of the intrigue on the Southern Cross, as we learn that the first mate has been working with a criminal organization, and we see that the gravity drive is beginning to cause even more problems.  Becky Cloonan’s writing on this book is pretty sharp, and Andy Belanger has been doing an amazing job on art and designs.

Suiciders #5 – Lee Bermejo’s work on this title has been impressive.  He’s been working a dual narrative which, for a while, I thought might be a present and flashback thing, but it increasingly doesn’t look that way.  Our nameless fighter is working his way up in the world, having been contacted by the Saint’s manager, while the Saint himself is in trouble with his own people.  This is a dark vision of the future, but one that has been carefully considered and put together.

Thief of Thieves #29 – Celia is in jail, and the authorities have figured out who she is, and are looking to pin all of Redmond’s crimes on her.  That means it’s time for Conrad to figure out just how retired he really is.  This issue has a really nice surprise on the last page.  I’d been feeling a little ambivalent about this series lately, and was wondering if maybe it should have ended a while ago, but this arc is picking up nicely.

UFOlogy #3Things keep getting weirder in this excellent series, as it hits its halfway mark.  The government operative makes his way to town, but things are not right with this guy, while we learn a little about Mukawgee’s relationship with odd events.  A body is missing from the morgue, and now Becky is back at school, and having visions just about everywhere she goes.  James Tynion IV is doing a great job of pacing this series, and I love Noah J. Yuenkel’s art on this book.  I’m still very glad that I gave this Boom! series a chance.

The Walking Dead #143 – Carl has gone off after his girlfriend, who is one of the Whisperers, a new, and very creepy, group that live just beyond the borders of Rick’s community.  Rick has gone after him, and they all find each other, which makes Alpha, the leader of the Whisperers pretty unhappy.  Things end on a very ominous note this month, as this series looks like it’s ramping up to winnowing its list of characters again.  Good stuff.

We Are Robin #1 – I was impressed with the first issue of this new series.  Lee Bermejo gives the whole issue over to Duke, the kid who has shown up a few times in Scott Snyder’s Batman series.  His parents went missing during the Endgame thing, and since then he’s been living in the foster home system, and getting into lots of fights at school.  When heading out to look for his parents, he ends up in a tough spot involving a bunch of homeless people under the city, but is given backup by a bunch of kids in homemade Robin cosplay.  The concept for this series is interesting, and I like the way Bermejo writes Duke.  I didn’t know that Dr. Leslie Tompkins is a social worker in the DCnU (a doctor of social work?), but other than that, this is an interesting way of actually using the consequences of a tentpole storyline in a shared universe, when so many of them just immediately sweep things under the rug.  The art team of Jorge Corono drawing over Rob Haynes’s breakdowns works, although I don’t think that was the solicited team for this book.  I’m not sure a series like this one can last for very long in today’s market, but my attention has been caught enough to guarantee that I’ll stick out the first arc.

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

Auteur Sister Bambi #2

Black Widow #19

Crossed Badlands #79

E is For Extinction #1

Grindhouse Drive In Bleed Out #6

Infinity Gauntlet #2

SHIELD #7

Where Monsters Dwell #2

 

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