The Weekly Round-Up #292 With The Walking Dead #144, Star Wars: Lando #1, Strange Fruit #1, Unity #20 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #144Man, but Robert Kirkman is good at his job.  Over the last bunch of issues, he’s been setting up a bit of a conflict with the Whisperers, a group of people who live among the walking dead, and who embrace their animal nature.  Carl has fallen for the daughter of the Whisperer’s leader, and has gone after her, leading to Rick going after him.  In his conversation with Alpha, the group’s leader, Rick has learned just how much of a threat they pose, but because he’s such a principled person, he’s not willing to back down when he realizes that Alpha has allowed her daughter to be raped repeatedly due to her own set of (twisted) principles).  I spent most of this issue expecting one kind of terrible thing to happen (because we are past due for terrible things to happen in this series), and then Kirkman swerves, and gives us a completely different terrible thing, that is likely to have lasting consequences in this series.  The last few pages left me in a state of dread and anticipation, as the horror of Alpha’s actions sink in, and as I found myself worrying about some beloved characters.  No other comic gets to me like this one does.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #24 – I’ve been thinking about cutting back on the number of Mignola-verse books that I buy, but if this series is returning to the form that it is in this month, I think it might be safe for a while.  Abe has left the crowd in Texas, and has shown up in a small town in Florida, where an Ogdru Hem has been sitting mostly dormant for about three years.  He’s determined to learn the secrets of his connection to the frogs, and it looks like we may finally get some answers.  I was getting bored of this title when it was set in Texas, but have higher hopes for this new arc.

Black Science #16This was the last issue of this arc, and the last issue we’re going to see until the fall, and Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera have decided to leave things in a very memorable place.  We’ve seen the death of one of the characters added to the group since the series began, but now, as it looks like the pillar is fixed and can take everyone home, one character who has been manipulating events behind the scenes since the beginning has to make her move.  There are deaths and betrayals throughout this issue, as well as a very ambiguous ending.  This series has been great from the jump.  Remender is often criticized for not being able to maintain the excitement with which he starts his series, but I don’t see that happening here, or with Deadly Class or Low, his other two creator-owned books.

Bloodshot Reborn #4 – Ray finds another person with some of his nanites in his system, but while stopping him, he also finds himself a new companion, who Ray’s narration tells us is going to be trouble.  This issue also gives us a little more information about Agent Festival, who is hunting Ray.  This is a good, if rather low-key, series.

Descender #5 – Tim and his companions have been captured by the Gnishians, who are more or less the enemies of the UGC, and they are looking to learn the secrets Tim’s programming holds, no matter what.  This series continues to be entertaining and beautifully drawn, but I’m coming up against some plot points I can’t get my head around.  The robots in Jeff Lemire’s world all follow very closely to their programming.  Tim is unable to dial down his empathy, even when he sees his builder getting tortured, because that’s how he’s been programmed.  If that’s the case, why would anyone program Driller, the mining robot, to hate humans and always pronounce himself ‘a real killer’?  There is a revelation at the end of this issue that also throws a scene from the last issue into question.  Like I said, this is an entertaining book, but right now, it’s not standing up to scrutiny very well.  Usually Lemire’s stuff is better thought-out, so I’m just going to assume that there’s a plan in place here.

Gotham Academy #8 If you leave aside the unlikelihood that the Academy would hire Kurt Lanstrom to work in their science department, this issue gave me hope that this series is finally ready to start embracing its potential.  Olive’s mother has died, and her mostly ex-boyfriend Kyle is a little beside himself wanting to help her but not knowing how.  He’s mostly concerned that she is more interested in Tristan, who is a Man-Bat.  Writers Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher devlve into the teen angst, but never have anyone come out and say that it’s wrong to listen in on people through secret passages.  This book has often frustrated me, because I’ve thought it could be better than it is, but this new storyline is a move in the right direction.  More importantly, Karl Kerschl’s lovely art isn’t being turned into mud by the overly-dark colouring anymore; in fact, the colours on this issue feel almost washed out in places.

Injection #3 – Now a lot more is made clear about Injection and what the series is about, as it seems that Warren Ellis is taking a folkloric and conceptual twist on Planetary.  There are some hints as to what the Injection really is, and a lot of discussion of Pixies.  This book is very much on a slow burn, but it’s Ellis writing clearly and well, and Declan Shalvey’s work is fantastic.  I especially like the way he transforms one character’s hotel room into a deep woods over the course of a phone conversation.

Lando #1 – I’m going to assume that just about everyone who is reviewing and talking about this new miniseries are going to be starting by saying how much the character of Lando Calrissian exemplified cool for them at one point in their life, so I’m going to skip right past that, and just talk about how well writer Charles Soule capture’s Lando’s roguish charm and ability to glide from one bad situation to the next.  This series is set before Lando ended up running the Cloud City (although, probably after he lost the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo).  Lando finishes one job to try to pay back his debts to a crime lord, but that is quickly parlayed into a new mission, with minimal risk, and massive reward.  Lando and his friend, Lobot (the bald guy with the computers on his head in Empire Strikes Back) put together a crew, and go to steal a ship belonging to an Imperial bigwig.  Just which Imperial bigwig can be left as a surprise.  This is a very well-written comic, and Alex Maleev does a great job of capturing the confidence of Billy Dee Williams.

Providence #2Was the first issue of this series also $5, and I just didn’t notice?  I’m a little surprised to see how much this book is costing, and it’s making me wonder why I didn’t trade-wait it, but I’m not very patient when it comes to comics, and I am happy to be supporting this book.  In this second issue, Alan Moore’s protagonist decides to leave his newspaper job and begin researching his own book about mystics in America.  He follows up on a lead he was given in the first issue, and we get our first glimpse of the true horror elements in this series, which is about HP Lovecraft.  I know, and care, very little about Lovecraft, and so am bound to be missing many references to his work.  This story can be enjoyed on multiple levels, though, and I am intrigued by Moore’s portrayal of someone a little naive coming up against a dark side of the world.  This is a very interesting book, although I’ll admit that I glossed over some of the text pages in the back, as Moore writing in the voice of an early 20th century mystic scholar is pretty dry.

Rebels #4 – Seth and the Green Mountain Boys have joined up with the Colonial Army, but it’s not exactly a good fit.  Brian Wood uses this issue to explore and underscore the differences between the way in which the commanders of the Colonials, mostly defectors from the British Army, chose to fight their wars, compared to the freer militias.  Also, when Seth is chosen for an important mission, his silent mannerisms disappoint General Washington, who wants him replaced.  I like the way Wood is working at getting into the heads of these historical figures, and seeing as I know very little about the Revolutionary War (being Canadian, these stories were not foundational to my education), I’m just going to trust his interpretation of events.

Saga #30 – This issue is all about reunions and partings, as some characters get to see each other again after a lengthy departure, while others are separated (in some cases forever).  Most importantly, Ghüs and Friendo are reunited, but that pivotal scene is left to the background, which I find upsetting.  This series is very much a saga, as we prepare for the next phase of these characters’ lives.  As usual, it’s very readable and attractive.

Starve #2I’m always happiest with Brian Wood’s work when he’s using it to comment on society.  He has a habit of putting together series that extrapolate on where we are right now, and showing the negative effects of where we’re headed.  In that sense, this book works as a companion to DMV and the Massive.  Chef Gavin Cruikshank, dragged back into the increasingly divided United States, is being forced to compete in a celebrity chef show that helps to underscore the excesses of the rich.  His challenge is to find and prepare some bluefin tuna, an animal so endangered as to be believed extinct.  Wood gets into Cruikshank’s character with this issue, providing him with some options, and then showing us how he rejects them for the more difficult path.  Danijel Zezelj is a terrific choice of artist for this book, as he’s always managed to make society look dystopian and kind of terrible.  I’m really enjoying this series.

Strange Fruit #1 – This comic was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be.  I would have liked a surprise or two, but at the same time, Mark Waid and JG Jones have done a terrific job of putting together what is basically (at this point at least) an Elseworlds Superman comic at Boom!  The story is set in Mississippi in 1927, at a time when the area around the Mississippi River is in danger of flooding.  We get a sense of the racial situation at the time, as armed white men pressgang local blacks into building levees, while they stand around.  One of the white men is a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and he goes looking for a black man who is wanted for theft.  We learn that a local Senator is opposing the Klan, not because he believes in equal rights, but because he wants access to a cheap labour force.  A spacecraft crashes, breaching a levee, and a large, superhumanly strong black man appears in the area.  So basically, Red Son in the American south.  This is not a bad thing, as it hopefully provides Waid and Jones the opportunity to comment on the current state of affairs, beyond having the ‘Superman’ figure cover his nakedness with the Confederate flag.  Jones’s art is lovely, in that fully painted way, and Waid’s decision to stick with the speech patterns of the time period, complete with generous use of the n-word, makes me uncomfortable while reading, but I’m sure that’s the intent.

Unity #20I’m not really feeling this War-Monger storyline.  The character is a foul-mouthed version of Vandal Savage, and we are learning about her adventures through time, which always seems to involve an earlier iteration of Unity.  This does give us a chance to see the World War I Unit Y, which was introduced in an earlier issue again, but beyond that, I’m just not enjoying the structure, especially since the Monger is going after each member of the team individually, which is too much like the structure of the last story arc.  Matt Kindt creates interesting heroes, because they tend to have more in common with the characters in his Mind MGMT series, but I’d rather this book focus more on this team.

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

1872 #1

Batman #42

Crossed Vol. 13

Justice League of America #2

Justice League United #11

Master of Kung Fu #3

Secret Wars 2099 #3

Squadron Sinister #2

Bargain Comics:

Crossed Badlands #14-18 Here’s a fun Crossed story, to the extent that these things are ever fun, about a group of people attending an author’s retreat when the Crossed event takes place.  The author is a controlling creep who likes to push the buttons of the people who attend his retreats, creating elaborate situations to humiliate and degrade them.  His victim is the only person at the isolated mansion to know what’s going on in the rest of the world.  David Hine writes this well, leaving me to wonder if the author’s character is based on someone in particular.  I’m enjoying wading through the muck that is Crossed.  The stories are silly and transgressive, but also a little refreshing, which is what horror is supposed to be as a genre.

Dark Horse Presents #5 – This series is such a mixed bag.  I’d love to support it more, but not every story in it is for me.  I do like Declan Shalvey working with Ed Brisson for Murder Book, but because I read this book so infrequently, I have a hard time keeping up with the various serials.  It’s cool to see The Mighty back, though.  That was a great series.

Detective Comics #38-40 – My feelings towards Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s run on Detective are very similar to my feeling about their Flash run.  The books are visually stunning, but the stories are a little dull and hard to follow.  This arc introduces Anarky to the New 52, but not well.  Anarky was one of my favourite Bat-villains when I was younger.  I remember when he was created, and what a great look Norm Breyfogle gave him.  Here, he’s neither a motivated anarchist, or all that cool looking.  I think that Manapul has it in him to be a better writer, and because I’ve read Foster, I know that Buccellato can do better, and so I’m going to put a lot of the blame on lazy editing at DC.

Detective Comics: Endgame #1This one-shot introduces a bunch of teens who play at being vigilantes.  I’m not sure, but I wonder if these are some of the characters in the new We Are Robin series, even though none of the creators of that title are involved in this comic.  This was fine, for this sort of thing.

Intersect #3 – Intersect is pretty, in a rushed David Mack sort of way, but I don’t have the first clue what’s going on in it.  I’m officially giving up on it forever.

Superman/Wonder Woman #13-15 – I don’t care much for either of these characters (well, at least since Brian Azzarello stopped writing Wonder Woman), but I thought that a series by Paul Tomasi and Doug Mahnke is always worth checking out.  I was, sadly, disappointed.  I especially don’t like the way Tomasi is writing Diana.  She’s bossy, cavalier, and in no way the character that was shown so brilliantly in Azzarello’s run.  Beyond that, this is pretty standard superhero stuff, with Magog showing up to take down the duo.  I don’t see any reason to get any more of this run.

Wild Blue Yonder #1-6

Written by Mike Raicht, Zach Howard, and Austin Harrison
Art by Zach HowardI’d heard some good things about Wild Blue Yonder, a science fiction series from IDW, and jumped at the chance to pick up a full set recently.This is a very good sci-fi adventure comic for fans ofMad Max.  In the future, most of the Earth is uninhabitable, due to radiation and other environmental factors, and the luckiest people are the ones who live in the sky, on flying fortresses.  Cola and her people live on the Dawn, which apparently is able to keep flying without fuel (this is never explained), which makes them a target for pirates and others who want to break themselves of dependency on fossil fuels (which are squeezed out of the Earth by a frequently mis-treated servant class).Because of the violence inherent in this world, mixed with the lack of resources, especially ammunition, the fortresses have developed an interesting method of defence.  Pilots like Cola fly their planes, and transport ‘bullets’, jetpack-wearing warriors who often go into battle with axes.When the series opens, Cola is looking to recruit a new bullet after her previous one died on a mission.  She finds Tug, the son of a miner, and we see the Dawn and its systems through his eyes.  We quickly learn that things are not good between Cola and her mother, who runs the place, and that Cola’s independence and flying skills are a problem between them.  Worst of all, they both blame Cola for the previous bullet’s death.As the series progresses, we learn that the Judge, the commander of a large fleet, has his hopes set on taking the Dawn, and he has a variety of plans in place to make that happen.

This series is gorgeous.  Zach Howard’s art reminds me a lot of Sean Murphy’s (in fact, comparisons to The Wake wouldn’t be inaccurate), and his air battles are pretty incredible.  Nelson Daniel’s colours work very well; you can almost feel the heat off the various fires that fill the last two issues.

There’s a fair amount of sticking to genre tropes in this story, but at the same time, in just six issues the writers had me caring about the characters and their world, and the art really made this book stand out.  Recommended.

The Week in Manga:

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 14I was very happy to see a new volume of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service get solicited, as it’s the only manga series I read, and I love it.  This volume starts with a very good story about a group acting as imposters, stealing the whole corpse delivery schtick in a tale that involves corrupt politicians.  Another story shows what the KCDS would look like if they were on American television, while the final one returns to political corruption (what’s going on, Japan?) and a medieval torture museum.  This particular volume didn’t do much to advance some of the individual character arcs, but it’s still a fun mix of horror, comedy, and absurdity.  Apparently sales on the series haven’t been great of late, but I urge everyone who has never read it to pick up the first omnibus volume that is being published soon, collecting the first three volumes.  This is a very unique comics experience.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Lunarbaboon Vol. 1

I picked up the first volume of Lunarbaboon as a bit of an impulse buy at TCAF this year.  It’s a collection of webcomics that focus on the joys and tribulations of fatherhood.

The father has a young son, Moishe, and, one presumes, a very patient wife.  Many of the strips, which never run more than two pages, fall into the standard structure for this type of thing, showcasing the funny things that kids say, or describing humorous observations that occur to the cartoonist.  These are often pretty amusing.

Even better, though, are the strips that really make use of the freedom comics allow.  The cartoonist often shows great imagination in layout or in portraying the world through either the child’s, or the very creative dad’s, eyes.

There is a poignancy to this book, and it is often very sweet, while also often very truthful, and occasionally, even harsh.  Not knowing if the payoff for each strip is going to be a punch to the gut or a laugh is a big part of the fun of reading this book.

Once again, proof that just about anything you buy at TCAF is going to be good…

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