The Weekly Round-Up #291 With We Stand On Guard #1, Airboy #2, Jupiter’s Circle #4, X-O Manowar #38, Chew #50 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

We Stand On Guard #1Telling me that Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce are making a comic together is enough to get me to buy it.  Set that comic in a Canada that has been invaded by the United States, and you’re really going to get me excited.  This new series is taking place in the year 2124, some twelve years after America started bombing Canada in retaliation for the destruction of the White House (although, at this time, we don’t know who caused that).  The main character looks to be Amber, a young woman who has lived almost her entire life on the run.  Now she’s up in the Yukon, by herself, when she comes across the 2-4, a small resistance group.  There is a fight with a gigantic mechanized war machine thing, and we get introduced to Amber’s new comrades.  This is very much an introductory issue, but more than enough happens to have me wanting more soon.  It’s been a long time since Skroce has drawn a monthly comic book, but his skills have not gotten rusty at all.  He brings the same detailed look he brought to Doc Frankenstein and some of his earlier work.  It’s inevitable that this series is going to be compared to Saga, Vaughan’s other current hit, but I feel like this has a very different tone to it.  I look forward to seeing where this leads.

Quick Takes:

Airboy #2The first issue of Airboy was a riot, as James Robinson and Greg Hinkle made the comic be about their trying to make a comic about Airboy, a character neither of them were all that interested in working with.  What followed was a lot of drugs, drinking, sex, and confession, leading to a meeting with the character himself.  Now, in this second issue, the two creators hang out with the character, who is not all that impressed with the modern world that he fought Nazis to help create.  Things get even worse after a pot brownie and an interlude in the washroom with a transexual.  This book continues to be shockingly funny and unpredictable, and is easily one of the best reads of the year.  I can’t recommend this comic enough (unless you’re under 18, in which case I don’t recommend it at all!).

Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #3 – This issue was better than the last one, but I am really having a hard time keeping track of the extended cast in this series now.  I think this might be the last Baltimore series I read…

BPRD Hell on Earth #132 – This ended up getting to my hands a couple of weeks late, which is a shame, because this is a very good ending to an excellent arc.  While I find myself getting bored with the rest of the Mignolaverse lately, I never tire of BPRD.  This issue is mostly a Johann solo story, as he goes and has a chat (of sorts) with the spirit of the Agent whose death he caused, and then has to deal with rednecks and the creatures they are hiding.  Peter Snejbjerg does a great job with this issue, and I love that Johann is back in his old costume; Snejbjerg draws him just as floppily as Guy Davis did back in the day.

The Bunker #12 – It’s an all-Billy issue, as we see how life is for Billy, since Future Grady set him up to take the fall for an attempted bombing, and then tried to suggest that he also killed his own uncle.  Billy’s in a bad place, but he’s also loyal to his friends, and any truthful telling of his story would entail explaining how people have come from the future to change it, which probably wouldn’t go over so well.  This is a quiet issue, and writer Joshua Hale Fialkov has left much of the work to artist Joe Infurnari, who does a fine job of letting us see just how messed up Billy is.

Chew #50 Now this is a big issue.  For a few years now, we’ve been building up to a final showdown between Tony and the Collector, but with ten issues remaining in the series, I didn’t think we’d see it so soon.  The fight scene is pretty brutal, and all sorts of badass, as John Layman and Rob Guillory work in a few things that will make long-time readers feel satisfied.  I love Chew.  There’s really not much more to say than that.

Cluster #5 – The second arc of this science fiction series starts off very well.  Cluster is set on a world where human prisoners are put to work as corporate shock troops, trying to protect installations that will affect a terraforming of a distant planet, making it suitable for human habitation.  What the company is lying about is that there are already indigenous civilizations living there, and that all of the prisoners will die of cancer before their fifteen year service is finished.  Samara, our POV character, has fallen in with some fighters who are trying to stop this situation.  Samara survived the detonation of the device that is supposed to keep her under control, but she’s had some pretty major surgery and gotten a new arm.  Now that she’s awake again, she wants to take the fight to the prison, which is an upsetting idea for her new comrades.  We get to know a wider group of prisoners, and see where this arc is leading.  Writer Ed Brisson has become a favourite of mine, and he continues to do good work here.  Artist Damian Couceiro’s art, which looked good in the first arc, looks even better in this issue.  It’s always a treat to watch a talented artist improve in his craft.

Darth Vader #7 – Writer Kieron Gillen is doing some interesting work with Vader in this series.  This issue has him travelling to Tatooine to try to learn what he can about Luke Skywalker, who he now knows is his son.  This part of the comic fits nicely with what happened in the last issue of the main Star Wars series, but is not all that happens.  After that, Vader returns to his Imperial duties, putting an end to a Rodian underground, while still finding ways to work his own angles.  Vader can’t be an easy character to write, seeing as he doesn’t narrate and his helmet shows no emotion, but Gillen’s done a great job of populating this book with characters that react off of him, and help us understand what’s going on in his head.  Salvador Larroca continues to do fine work on this book too.

Deadly Class #14Writer Rick Remender has said before that he is channelling some of his own teenage experiences in writing Deadly Class, and I have to say that this issue really nails the pain of high school perfectly.  Maria has run off from school, leaving Marcus all alone, and between his anger, his loneliness, and his excessive use of drugs, he’s making a mess of himself and his life.  He professes his love to Saya, only to be following in the footsteps of his best friend, who told her the same thing.  He starts going to random parties and engaging in casual sex, and generally gets more and more paranoid.  In other words, he’s a regular teenager, except that he’s enrolled in a school for assassins.  This is the most real issue of this series so far, and artist Wes Craig’s subtlety in portraying Marcus and his peers is remarkable.  This is such a good series…

18 Days #1 – There’s no better way to launch a new series than with a $1 first issue, because a lot more people are going to give it a chance.  This is the beginning of Grant Morrison’s reinterpretation of The Mahabharata, a foundational story in Hinduism.  He’s gone for a timeless feel, with the story taking place in a fantasy world with some science fiction aspects.  The artist for the series, Jeevan J. Kang reminds me of artists like Becky Cloonan and Paul Maybury, and the book is generally gorgeous.  It lacks heart though, and having read the whole issue, I did not find myself interested in the characters or the situation in the slightest.  I am going to give this a second read before the next issue comes out, but I don’t see myself adding this to my pull-file list anytime soon.  I think that giving Morrison an opening to write unfettered about the kind of mysticism he’s been sneaking into almost everything else he’s written for years could be a mistake, as there’s no character development in this book at all.

8House: Arclight #1 I’d been looking forward to this series since I first heard it announced over a year ago.  From what I remember, this is going to be a series of one-offs or short arcs, led by Brandon Graham in a show-runner capacity.  I don’t know if all of the stories will be set in a shared universe, and really, don’t much care, because I trust Graham to find excellent creators to work on the book.  Case in point, this issue, which he wrote, has art by the incredible Marian Churchland.  The story is not particularly clear, as like in many of Graham’s comics, the world where this is set is strange and very involved, with nothing explained for the reader.  Arclight is a slightly androgynous man who has accompanied his Lady to the borders of the land where they live.  Arclight is a creature of the city, but the Lady (who is not human and can best be described to comics lover as a mix between Groot and 80s era hooded Durlans) does not like city living.  They are searching for something that is using powerful magic, and save the life of a ‘border creature’ by sacrificing a goose for it to inhabit.  When they return to the city, there is some court intrigue.  That’s about it for the first issue.  I don’t know where the story is headed, but I don’t much care, because Churchland’s art is so beautiful.  I will need to become more invested in the story moving forward (especially if this story is to have recurring characters), but for now, I’m happy to just sit back and luxuriate in the richness of the art.

The Humans #6 – I continue to be very happy that I chose to stick with this comic, as every issue since the first one has been terrific.  This month, Johnny tells Crispin what he really thinks of him (always a bad idea in a gang looking to take over someone else’s racket, as it makes for traitors), and then goes off to look for his ex-girlfriend.  That basically means he spends a day in a strip club getting drunker and meaner by the minute.  For a pretty standard biker comic which happens to be about talking apes, this series still manages to pack in some surprises or some strong character moments.  This comic is entertaining as hell, but has some depth backing it up too.

Imperium #6Sometimes when reading this comic, it’s hard to know which character or even which groups of characters to root for.  Writer Joshua Dysart has done a great job of building up all of the players, from Toyo Harada’s people to their opposites in Project Rising Spirit, while making almost none of them likeable or sympathetic.  It says a lot about the cast of a comic when the easiest character to relate to is a robot.  Harada’s infiltration of PRS’s underwater base continues, as he makes a deal with the entity that has possessed PRS’s chief science officer.  I really like watching this series unfold.

Jupiter’s Circle #4 – I’m really enjoying the quiet approach that Mark Millar is taking to this series, which is serving as a prequel to his Jupiter’s Legacy.  This issue follows one of the members of the Union, the Flare, who has left his family to take up with a teenage groupie with designs on becoming a hero herself (despite her not having any abilities).  This is a good examination of the morality of the era, and how the members of the Union fit into it.  This issue also explains why I didn’t remember the Flare from the first Jupiter’s series.  Davide Gianfelice fills in on the art (or is the new artist? I don’t know) and does a fine job.

Midnighter #2 – Should we take it as a bad sign that, on the second issue of this new series, we already have a different artist drawing things?  ACO drew the first issue, and was a big part of why I both picked that one up, and came back for this one.  I see in Previews that Stephen Mooney (whose work I adore) is drawing this fourth issue.  This one is drawn by Alec Morgan, and he does a fine job, but there are more than a few pages that feel rushed.  I’d have expected DC to have more issues of this book in the can before they launched, but if there’s anything we’ve learned since the New 52 relaunch, it’s the DC sees artists as movable, infinitely replaceable, pieces.  Storywise, this is a good issue, if not as gripping as the first issue.  Whoever it was that stole all the weapons from the God Garden, is now selling or giving them away.  A young woman whose husband died in a tainted food case is using one of these weapons to get revenge on the food company executives, and it’s up to Midnighter to stop her.  He does this in his usual style, which is a little brutal.  I like the way writer Steve Orlando is working on Midnighter’s character, while emphasising that he doesn’t really have one.  I’m intrigued by this book, and want to stick with it.  I just wish DC would figure out who is going to draw it.

No Mercy #4If you’re going to make a comic be about American teenagers lost and injured in a desert after a bus crash, there are two things that are going to have to happen pretty quickly.  First, they are going to have to turn on each other, perhaps along racial and/or gender identity lines.  Also, the outside world is going to have to creep back into the story before they all end up dead.  Both things happen in this issue of No Mercy, as the kids, lacking adult supervision, are at each others’ throats, and as we find out that, while people may not care about missing American teenagers, the absence of a briefcase full of cocaine will be noticed.  There are pretty much no heroes in this comic, as Alex De Campi lets us know what she really thinks of American kids.  Carla Speed McNeil’s art continues to be wonderful on this book, conveying tons of emotion in each panel.

The Omega Men #2 – The first issue of this series caught my attention, while giving away very little information about what to expect from this new comic.  This issue doesn’t really provide a lot more in terms of information.  We know that the Citadel is a pretty oppressive regime, and that, because of the last issue, now thousands of people on a minor planet are going to be executed.  We also see that Kyle Rayner is very much alive and in the custody of the Omega Men, a mysterious resistance group who are not always honest.  These characters are basically being kept as ciphers at this point, and we take it on faith that their actions are justifiable, even though Kyle’s clearly having a hard time accepting that.  I like the way Tom King is weaving religion into this book, and I think that Barnaby Bagenda’s art is very cool.  If I were to compare this book to anything, it would probably be the Micronauts.  The characters are not heroes, they are freedom fighters, and their cause (and their religion) is much bigger than them.  There is some serious potential here (assuming the book doesn’t get cancelled).

Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta #10 – Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta have impressed me with this series, which keeps ramping up in terms of tension and drama.  Last issue, Kyle and the Reverend confronted a possessed person in the basement of an abandoned house, and this issue, they have to face the consequences of how that confrontation went down.  Kyle also pays a visit to his ex-wife and daughter, which is something that is not supposed to happen.  Kirkman and Azaceta suffuse this scene with emotion, making a very effective.  Outcast just keeps getting better, and with the announcement that a TV series based on it is coming soon, you’re going to want to get caught up on the comic.

Princess Leia #5Leia’s first miniseries ends well, but too much of the issue hinges on some very questionable timing.  I would assume that hyperspace works at the same speed for all crafts, and therefore don’t understand how Leia could have had such a head-start on a Star Destroyer that she is able to take a few minutes to rest, and make a good speech, but not arrange for her armada of Alderaanians to flee.  This hits all the right notes, but thinking about it too much reveals too many holes in the plot.  I enjoyed this mini, but not enough to commit to a sequel, if done by the same creative team of Mark Waid and the Dodsons.

Satellite Sam #15 – This series ends this month, and Matt Fraction wraps things up very well.  This has been a comic about the terrible people at an early TV network, doing terrible things to one another.  We’ve had sex scandals, racism, homophobia, extortion, alcohol abuse, and even a little murder, and while there are no heroes in this comic, there are a few people who are slightly more sympathetic than others.  Almost all of them have their character arcs resolved with this issue, and the door is left open for a possible follow-up (I’m hearing something about a TV Western).  I’ve never been a fan of Howard Chaykin’s art, but this is easily the best thing he’s ever worked on, and this has been one of Fraction’s most consistently good titles.  I’m very surprised that this hasn’t been optioned for television, as I think it would make a great show.

Secret Wars #4 – After a slightly rocky start, I find that I’m really settling into Secret Wars, and am beginning to enjoy the main series (if not the tie-ins) much more.  This issue has the heroes that have survived the old world come into conflict with the Cabal, which in turn brings Doom into the mix.  The last page was an actual surprise, and half-way through things, I feel like this book will keep my attention (before putting most things back where they were, and shifting a couple of characters around).

The Wicked + The Divine #12The last issue ended in a pretty shocking way (although I have my theories on the permanence of the death of a major character), and now a new story arc begins, which is going to have a look at the ramifications of that last issue.  Jamie McKelvie, the superb artist on this title is stepping away for an arc (to work on Phonogram, so I’m not going to complain in the least), and is being replaced by a new artist every issue.  This one is drawn by Kate Brown, who has a much softer touch than McKelvie.  The focus is on Beth, the filmmaker that Cassandra fired.  She’s trying to put together a tribute to the god who died, and to do so, she ends up recruiting Baal, who is himself out for revenge.  This series is getting a lot darker, but I love that, as Kieron Gillen has managed, over the first eleven issues, to get me to really care about some of these characters.

The Woods #14 – This issue offers us a good look at how things have changed over the year of story time we weren’t shown.  We learn that a powerful drug is responsible for some suicides at Bay Point, and that Casey is pushing the stuff on some students.  We also get a deeper look at how messed up Karen is, as a new threat for everyone begins to feel more real.  This is a very good series, and I like seeing how writer James Tynion IV is expanding the story.

X-O Manowar #38 – Marriage gets a lot of flack in comics.  We’ve heard what Dan Didio thinks of married couples (hence the reason why Batwoman didn’t get to tie the knot), and we saw what Marvel did to Spider-Man’s marriage.  What people aren’t talking about, though, is that wedding comics are the worse evil, with their parade of cameos, and often, invented threats that disrupt the ceremony.  That part didn’t happen here, but Aric weds Saana this month, and the comic is sweet and sentimental, while ultimately forgettable.  I have nothing of interest to say about it.

Zero #18I’m sad to say that the ending of Zero really fizzled out for me.  when this series began, I thought it was a fresh, nonlinear take on the usual secret ops genre, a variation of a book like Casanova, but as it progressed, it got a lot weirder than that, especially during this final arc, to reveal that this is really a series about fathers and sons.  Sure, there have been some cool things along the way, but I really feel like Ales Kot did not stick the landing on this one, not so much because I have unanswered questions, but more because in the end, I just didn’t really care anymore.

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

A-Force #2

American Vampire Second Cycle #8

Detective Comics #42

FBP #22

Guardians Team-Up #7

Über #26

Ultimate End #3

Vertigo Quarterly SFX #2

War Stories #10

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #34.2 I suppose it’s a good thing that someone decided to take some time to work on building up some of the new characters that Jonathan Hickman debuted in his Avengers run, such as Starbrand and Nightmask, and it’s especially good to see some more of Bengal’s art in a North American comic, but there was not a lot to this comic.  I’m disappointed in the work that Sam Humphries has done at Marvel.  His creator-owned stuff, like Sacrifice and the insane Our Love is Real gave the impression that he’s a wildly creative writer, but I haven’t seen that in any of his Marvel work.

Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 – There’s no real reason for this miniseries of one-shots, but for the fact that there’s always a reason for some Alan Davis artwork.  A smattering of Avengers from different eras (Vision and Black Widow from now, Hulk from his earliest green days, Jim Rhodes as Iron Man, brittle bones Thor, new Thor from a few years in the future, and a grown up Danielle Cage as Captain America) are brought to the far future by Doctor Doom (it’s not really him, but we don’t know who it is yet) to fight Ultron.  As a bit of an Elseworlds story, this is fine, but nothing new or overly exciting.

Batman Eternal #49-52 – This year-long series ends well, if very predictably.  The revelation of who has been behind all of Bruce Wayne and Gotham’s woes is not much of a surprise, simply because it was only a matter of time before Scott Snyder would return to this plot element (even though he boxes it away pretty easily).  There are some very good character moments around the Bat-family, once you get past all the noise.  I think, had this series been only twenty-six more focused issues, it could have been incredible.

Deathlok #7I continue to find this series interesting, but a little too decompressed for my liking.  There’s a lot of potential here, but I don’t know what the point of the series is.  Mike Perkins’s art is very nice, though.

Fantastic Four #642-644 – For a storyline that is supposed to culminate in the end of the Fantastic Four series, and wrap up over a year’s worth of plotlines, these three issues are incredibly slow-moving and unexciting.  The biggest plot point is that we need to get Sleepwalker back into comics, and it’s hard for anyone to care about that.  I will hand it to James Robinson that he’s still very good at addressing father/son relationships, and his work with Bentley and the Wizard makes the rest of these issues worth reading.

Resurrectionists #1 – I know that this series has gone all-digital or something, so reading the rest of it is not likely for me unless I find a printed trade, but this is a strong opening for an unusual book.  Fred Van Lente has people waking up to their past life experiences, and it looks like there is an organization of them.  Most of the issue is given over to a thief, who finds out that he was once an Egyptian architect.  This might be worth tracking down…

Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow #1-5 – Over the last few years, I’ve tracked down and read all of Strikeforce Morituri, a very left-field Marvel comic from the 80s that existed in its own continuity.  The series was a science fiction Suicide Squad, at least at first, but when writer James Hudnall took over, he changed the focus to that of a book about government conspiracy.  This five-part bookshelf format (remember them) miniseries worked to finish off his original plan.  We jump about ten years into the future, and the remaining Morituri are living more or less normal lives, at least until one of them starts being visited by the ghost of their dead comrade.  He leads them to reunite and work to stop yet another conspiracy, involving aliens.  The first few issues of this series are really quite good, even with Mark Bagley’s art (apparently I like his 80s work a lot better than I do his more recent stuff), but the conclusion is not very satisfying, as it ends inside a gigantic living alien ship, and the conclusion is equally anti-climactic and confusing.  It’s not hard to see why there isn’t a Morituri kingdom on Battleworld…

Superior Iron Man #6 – I’ve heard a lot of good things about Tom Taylor’s writing, but have yet to be blown away by his work.  In this issue, Tony tries to buy a media company, but is beaten to the punch by Pepper, who has her own plans for him.  The story is decompressed, and more than a little bland.

Wolverines #11 – I am still completely at a loss as to what Marvel was hoping to achieve with this series.  Charles Soule is usually such a good writer, but you can tell that he’s struggling to find relevance in this comic.