The Weekly Round-Up #293 With Island #1, Book of Death #1, Dead Drop #3, Godzilla In Hell #1, Skullkickers #33 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Island #1I don’t remember the last time I was so excited about a new series.  Island is a new anthology magazine series from Image, created and edited by Brandon Graham, Marian Churchland, and Emma Rios, and featuring their friends and chosen colleagues.  This first issue is 110 pages of gorgeous comics, for $8 (or, the price of forty pages of Secret Wars tie-ins), and is roughly the size of an issue of the New Yorker, but a little thinner, and squarebound.

There are three main stories in this issue.  The first is the first chapter of Emma Rios’s I.D., which is about three people who have signed up to have their body changed in an as-yet unspecified way.  These three all have their reasons for wanting to make this change, and they don’t seem to like or trust each other, but they meet for coffee to talk about all of this.  Whenever this is taking place, it’s set behind a backdrop of mass protest and direct action against an off-planet mining structure.  Rios begins to introduce these characters, and throws them together.  Her art is always very nice, and she’s chosen to shade everything in red.

After this is a lovely essay by Kelly Sue DeConnick about sobriety, friendship, writing, and horse racing that serves as a tribute to a friend that recently passed.  Having just gone through the same thing, this essay really spoke to me.

Following that, we get the beginning of a new Multiple Warheads story by Graham.  Graham is a master of non-narrative driven science fiction comics that embrace sight gags and wordplay.  Having read any of the earlier MW stories isn’t a prerequisite to understanding this story, and this works as a good introduction to Graham’s body of work.

The final story (aside from a short Graham piece at the end) is the first chapter of Dagger Proof Mummy, by Ludroe, who is new to me.  This story is about the title character, but also about a girl who is searching for her friend, a very talented skateboarder who disappeared doing a dangerous trick.  This is an odd story, involving talking cat gangs, but it has a level of energy and intensity to it that I enjoyed.

I’m not sure if future issues of Island are going to be as large, but the next one promises the next chapters of Rios and Ludroe’s stories, and another by Simon Roy, so I know it won’t disappoint.  With news of Grant Morrison taking over Heavy Metal breaking last week, it looks like 2015 is going to be the year of the anthology, and I couldn’t be happier, especially if it means that there is a growing market for impressive projects like this one.

Quick Takes:

Ant-Man Annual #1It’s interesting that Marvel had a new movie coming out at a time when the series featuring that character has just been cancelled, and won’t be relaunched until after the film is out of theatres.  Therefore, we get this Annual, which is set after Secret Wars (after Rage of Ultron too), yet which contradicts how Scott Lang left things in the last issue of his series, when he said he was going to leave Florida.  Anyway, most of this issue is a flashback to the last time Hank Pym and Lang teamed up, and fought Egghead.  It’s fine, but not particularly impressive.

Black Canary #2 – I’m not sure that this series is living up to its potential yet, but I am enjoying it.  Dinah feels it necessary to train her band in self-defense, since it seems that a number of people and monsters are after the band’s young guitar player.  This is putting even more pressure on the rest of the band, especially when the group’s original singer shows up.  One thing that I find interesting about this series is the depth of the cynicism it has for the music industry.  Dinah feels no passion for singing, but has to fulfill a contract in order to get paid.  The other band members liked it better when they were doing their own thing, but have to bow to the wishes of their label.  Am I correct in reading this series as a metaphor for working for the Big Two comics companies?  Are the shadow creatures supposed to represent Editorial?  Thinking about it this way gives the book more depth…

Book of Death #1 – Once again, Valiant impresses with their newest event series.  Book of Death refers, actually, to the Book of the Geomancer, which Tama, a young Geomancer who arrived from the future in the pages of The Valiant, their last event series, has brought with her.  She is being hunted by someone who is manipulating a boy with Geomancer-like abilities (most likely, he was to be the successor for Kay Howard), and Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, is trying to protect her, even though this puts him at odds with his colleagues in Unity.  We get a glimpse at the supposed future of the Valiant Universe, but writer Robert Venditti wisely focuses the book on the action taking place right now.  I like the fact that this event is going to be contained across four issues of this series (and, of course, some tie-in one-shots that are probably more focused on the future and how the main characters die one day), so it will inform, but not interfere with, the other Valiant titles.  That’s a nice change in an era where a whole line gets cancelled, replaced for a few months, and then relaunched…

BPRD Hell on Earth #133The tone of this issue of BPRD is different from what we’ve been seeing lately, as Johan contemplates turning the old Sledgehammer 44 suit into a new outfit to contain his energy and help him fight better.  This leads to a retelling of the first Sledgehammer miniseries, before some weird time-crossing stuff goes on.  Julián Totino Tedesco draws this issue, and it looks great.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #6 – I admire the way Alan Moore planned and organized this six-issue arc.  He’s put together an interesting vision of how things would look one hundred years after the Crossed infection began, and then laid out a very plausible take on how the infected might survive and evolve over this same time period.  What makes this an Alan Moore comic instead of just a compelling story is the way in which he’s also played with people’s understanding of and interest in speculative fiction.  The main character is an archivist of the past, with an interest in ‘wishful fiction’, specifically science fiction, as it is viewed from the vantage point of a future that has fallen apart.  He returns to this theme this issue, where we see the meticulous planning of an Isaac Asimov laid out, but from a very different point of view.  This is not an easy issue to discuss without spoiling anything, and so I’m going to avoid talking about the content of the comic almost completely, aside from saying that it gripped me completely.  If you’ve been reluctant to read Crossed because you think it’s the typical Avatar Comics gore-fest, I suggest you at least give this a try, as you won’t be disappointed in it.  I’m pleased that this series is continuing with another writing working from Moore’s notes and plans, and hope that it approaches the quality level of these first six issues.

Dead Drop #3 – Fortunately, I’ve been catching up on back issues of Quantum & Woody this week, or I wouldn’t have known who most of the characters in this issue were.  Each chapter of Dead Drop has shown a Valiant character working for Neville Alcott to stop the transport of a very deadly alien virus by a group of supposed terrorists.  This issue focuses on Beta-Max, the cyborg who was built in the 80s (and who has a fax machine!), and reveals that some of the players in this puzzle of a story are indeed aliens.  This continues to be the most linear thing I think Ales Kot has ever written, and I like the way he’s been working humour into the story.  This title seems to be flying under the radar, but it’s worth checking out.

Doctor Fate #2I’ve been buying this because of Sonny Liew’s art, but I’m beginning to get a little more interested in the story as well.  This issue, Khalid uses his new helmet to rescue his father (who, somehow, might lose his eyesight after being attacked by dogs and having a tree fall on his cab), and tries to make sense of things.  There is something fundamentally dull about having the antagonists of the series be animals and animal gods, but I’m hoping that Paul Levitz gives Liew some more visually interesting conflicts soon.  I do like the way Liew lays this book out, and the fact that we aren’t stuck in the boring old tower, with the voice of Nabu constantly lecturing.  It’s a little awkward how much this title is trying to be the next Ms. Marvel, but there is some potential here for it to break out and be its own thing.

Drifter #6 – The second arc of this science fiction series starts here, and does not provide any more answers than the first five issues did.  This is a book with a lot of atmosphere, and so far, I’ve been buying it on faith that at some point, the story is going to get a lot clearer.  I continue to enjoy the book, but I’d be at a loss to explain it fully to someone who asked.  This arc has Abram, our point-of-view character, signing up with a group heading out across the planet to explore, and look for some of the remnants of his smashed ship.  The people are looking for technology they can use to make life easier in their settlement, while Abram’s motives, despite his being the main character, remain clouded.  Nic Klein is doing great work with the look and design of this strange world, and that is what keeps me coming back each month.

Godzilla in Hell #1 – James Stokoe’s Godzilla: The Half-Century War was a brilliant miniseries.  When I saw he was writing and drawing another one, that puts the giant lizard monster in Hell, I was intrigued.  Then I saw that he was only going to do the first issue, and so this is all I’m going to buying.  I don’t care about Godzilla at all.  I do, however, love James Stokoe art, and in that way, this comic didn’t disappoint.  If you know what Stokoe’s art is like, than this comic is exactly what you picture it to be.  What will the rest of this miniseries be like?  I’ll never know…

Green Lantern: Lost Army #2I didn’t exactly like the first issue of this series, but I like the creative team and most of the characters involved in the title (not that any of them are getting a lot of space yet), so I thought I’d come back and give it another shot.  Things are definitely better this month, as John, Guy, and their crew figure out a way to repower their rings, and get another clue as to where (or when) they are.  We still don’t know why they’re in this mysterious section of space, and I always wonder, when reading books like this, if they are really just flying in a random direction as their way of getting home.  I’m getting more interested in the plot of this series, although I have no idea who the character who shows up at the end of the issue is.  Will I give this a third chance?  It’s looking a little more likely that I will.

Hail Hydra #1 – I took a gamble on this comic, assuming that it would further some of the groundwork that Rick Remender has been laying in All-New Captain America, and I was pleased to learn that the Nomad of this comic is the same one from that series.  Having jumped through the Infinite Elevator, Ian has ended up on Battleworld, in a region that is completely under Hydra’s control.  He meets a young man who is caught tagging a wall, and when he sees the extent of Hydra’s reaction to this minor crime, he recognizes his true father, Arnim Zola’s, handiwork.  This is a decent enough story, with decent enough Roland Boschi artwork.  It’s weird to think of this as Remender’s last Marvel work for the foreseeable future…

Hawkeye #22 – It’s been interesting to watch how people have been reacting to Hawkeye over the years.  When this book was launched, it was lauded as a very fresh take on the character.  It wove together action, humour, and drama in a new way, had a unique series structure, and looked terrific.  Over the run, Matt Fraction and David Aja (as well as some other artists) experimented with genre and layout.  They spotlighted a dog, and told a story using sign language.  At first, people raved about this comic, but as it got later and later (this issue was supposed to come out last October, and that was after a lengthy hiatus), people began to complain more and more about the stylistic approaches.  Anyway, I liked this book, and continued to like it until the end.  At times it was frustrating (story-wise, I’m not going to talk about the scheduling), but at the end of the day, Fraction and Aja did some amazing work.  This issue makes me want to re-read the whole series in a single sitting or two, because there are a lot of little moments that referenced things I’d forgotten.  Other than that, I think that Fraction wraps things up nicely, although I wish more was shown of Lucky the dog, who we’ve since seen in the All-New Hawkeye series.

Invincible #121 – It’s been a while since we’ve seen what’s been happening on Earth, so Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley spend this issue there, where we see Robot (who has taken over) taking the Immortal into custody, which is in fact a ruse so that he can break out Brit and most of the rest of the Guardians of the Globe.  What’s most interesting about this is that, once they are free, the various heroes have to come to grips with the fact that it looks like Robot is doing a good job – Earth is peaceful, the economy is good, and people are happy.  It was nice seeing all of these characters again; this book has actually been just focusing on Invincible and his immediate family for the last little while, so I was starting to miss them.

Letter 44 #18 – This is a comic I never get bored with.  Charles Soule has the US invading Germany and being beaten back, while the crew of the Clarke, desperate to get in touch with the folks back home to warn them of an asteroid hurtling towards Earth, try something very risky to communicate.  Soule has been ramping up the suspense in each issue for a number of months now, and he continues to be very successful in making this comic be about both the big picture and some small character moments at the same time.  I love this title.

Moon Knight #17 – Most of Cullen Bunn’s arc on this title has had MK going up against other avatars or servants of his god, Khonshu.  This issue takes him to a temple to that Egyptian deity that has been disguised as a homeless shelter.  It’s a decent issue, but Ron Ackins’s art gets a little too 90s in places, and the story is starting to feel a little repetitive.

Revival #31 It feels a little funny to say this about a comic set in a town where the dead have come back to life, albeit oddly, but this series is getting really dark.  Everyone is chasing Abel Blaine through the woods, since he’s wanted for the murder of May Tao, but that doesn’t mean just the police and the government agent who has roped Ibrahim into working for him, it also means that Martha is out there, and we know at this point that she’s a little crazy.  Tim Seeley and Mike Norton always deliver with this title, although sometimes it’s still really hard to see where the big picture is taking us.

Reyn #6 – This title has become a lot more interesting since discovering that the fantasy world this is set in is actually on board a gigantic spaceship.  This issue explains a lot, as we learn the history of humanity, and how society has spent thousands of years developing in a closed system.  There is a lot of potential in this title, which kind of fills in the need that was left by the cancellation of Stargate Universe.

Secret Six #4 – Ok, it’s taken a while, but this series is finally winning me over.  It’s been a case study in how not to launch a series, and this issue is a bit of a mess because of that.  To begin with, the contents of this issue were supposed to be in the third, which is set after this one.  This issue has two artist – Ken Lashley who was supposed to be the series artist (and, I suspect, the reason why this book is always late), and Tom Derenick, who I am most emphatically not a fan of.  The story shows the group, who are on the run from Mockingbird, who I don’t know if I’m supposed to recognize (thanks Derenick), decide to hide out at Big Shot’s house, even though they know they’re being followed.  As it turns out, the three people after them are Scandal, Ragdoll, and Jeannette, all beloved characters from Gail Simone’s pre-New 52 Secret Six.  Including them, and showing that they also have issues with Mockingbird, gives me hope that this title will recover some of what made it work so well before it got abandoned in the line-wide relaunch.  I’d taken this book off my pull-list, but this issue, and the knowledge that the art is going to get better, will get me to keep picking it up.

Siege #1 This was the only Secret Wars tie-in that I knew I was going to buy from the time I saw it solicited, because it’s written by Kieron Gillen.  That was enough for me, as he’s taken a lot of bad ideas and made them work well before, but in many ways, this issue was a bit of a disappointment.  From the jump I’ve noticed the Game of Thrones-ishness of Secret Wars, and nowhere is that more apparent than with The Shield, the massive wall that runs around Battleworld, keeping out the bad things to the South.  This series centres around Abigail Brand, who has replaced Nick Fury as the leader of the watchers on the wall, which makes up the interesting cast of this title.  We see Leah (from Journey Into Mystery), Ms. America Chavez, Leonardo (from Hickman’s SHIELD), Kang, and a whole bunch of clones of Scott Summers (referring to them as the Endless Summers feels like a dig at GoT too).  Anyway, this issue is mostly set-up, but it didn’t do a whole lot to grab me.  Felipe Andrade’s art is pretty dark, although the James Stokoe two-page spread is awesome.  I’ve preordered most of this mini already, so I’ll stick with it.  I just hope Gillen gets the chance to work his usual magic.

The Sixth Gun: Valley of Death #2 – This miniseries is just not clicking for me.  I like the way it looks, and feel like I should be interested in the story, but I’m finding myself unable to get invested in it at all.  The same happened with a previous Sixth Gun mini, so I think it’s just time to stop buying any more of the ancillary titles set in this world.  I am still very much interested in reading the rest of the main series, whenever it starts coming out again.

Skullkickers #33 – So, basically, Jim Zub is writing his own version of Secret Wars and/or Convergence as the final arc of this excellent series, and in a lot of ways, he’s doing it a lot better than Marvel and DC are.  For the last couple of issues, we’ve seen various versions of our two heroes end up at a bar that doubles as a nexus of realities, and now, as fictional boundaries begin to blur, we see every version of these two characters show up for the fight.  This issue doesn’t have any depth to it, but it’s a hoot for long-time readers who enjoyed the hiatus issues, which featured alternate versions of the series.  This has always been a fun comic, but I’m increasingly enjoying it for the way that Zub takes shots at the comics industry.  For example, the next issue is #100, because why not?

Trees #11I’ve been enjoying Trees since it began, and I’m especially enjoying the way Warren Ellis is using his big-picture set-up (that alien structures have dropped themselves onto the Earth, but otherwise do not interact with humanity) to zero in on different regions and how they have been affected.  This issue focuses on the scientist who has been sent to survey the area around the tree in Northern Britain, and on the Mayor-Elect of New York, who intends to use his new job to bring some sort of accounting to the NYPD for the way they acted when the Manhattan tree landed.  There is a connection made between these stories at the very end of the issue which is pretty interesting.  This arc is very different from the first one, and I’m wondering if we’re going to check in with some of those missing characters again.

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

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1

Crossed Badlands #80

Dark Horse Presents #12

Guardians of Knowhere #1

Inhumans Attilan Rising #3

Long Walk to Valhalla

Mercury Heat #1

Rachel Rising #35

Robin Son of Batman #2

Silver Surfer #13

Where Monsters Dwell #3

Bargain Comics:

Batwoman #38&39You’d think that a series centred on a team that includes Ragman, the Demon, and Clayface would be cool, but I’m finding this hard to follow.  Really, it’s a mess.

Fairest #29-32 – Mark Buckingham’s writing in this book brings me back to the fun side of the Fables universe, kind of like the Jack of Fables series.  The arc focuses on a lot of the talking animal characters at the Farm, and it’s solid, if not exactly contributing much to Fables as a whole.

Fairest #33 – Bill Willingham finished off this secondary Fables title with a story about Goldilocks, the revolutionary, who spends years travelling around the Homelands, trying to gain power and/or sow discontent.  Apparently this sets up something in the Fairest OGN, which is on my to-read pile.

Memetic #1-3

Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Eryk Donovan

James Tynion IV is probably best known for his Batman work, supporting Scott Snyder since the New 52 relaunch in a number of ways, but he is also building a name and following for himself with his excellent body of work being published by Boom!  His The Woods is one of my favourite ongoing comics, and I’ve been enjoying UFOlogy lately.This is why I decided to giveMemetic a shot.  It’s a three-issue mini-series, but each issue is oversized, and therefore Tynion has a lot of space to play with his themes.In this story, a picture has gone viral on the Internet.  It’s an image of a happy little sloth, with a background of concentric circles.  It looks exactly like the type of thing that people put funny sayings on.  What makes this particular image different, though, is the way it makes people feel.  It induces a sense of elation, and creates in people a form of mania that encourages them to pass it on to others, and to spend hours looking at it.

Our point-of-view character for most of the series is Aaron, a young college student with a number of issues.  To begin with, Aaron is completely colourblind, and wears a hearing aid (which becomes instrumental to the plot later on).  When he looks at the picture, he feels nothing, and is having a hard time understanding why people are so obsessed with it.  He’d rather worry about the fact that his boyfriend is not returning his calls.

Anyway, it doesn’t take long before we realize that there is a lot more going on with this picture, and that it is rewriting the human brain somehow.  Another person who has figured this out is a retired officer in the Army, who used to specialize in information-based attacks.  He suffers from macular degeneration, and is therefore also unable to see the image properly.  He attempts to rally some of his old contacts, but is hard-pressed to find anyone in charge who hasn’t seen the image.

And then things start to change.  The people who have looked at the picture begin to change into ‘screamers’, and things get very weird.

Tynion does a very good job of setting up this plot, and extrapolates nicely from our current obsession with social media.  He lifts some ideas from zombie and Apocalyptic stories, and then gives us a big finish that will leave the reader looking for more information.

Eryk Donovan is not an artist I’m familiar with, but he’s very talented.  His work reminds me a little of Sean Murphy (it’s the noses, which I’ve always thought of as Chris Bachalo noses), but is a freer artist in a lot of ways.

This series is thought-provoking and very effective.  I recommend it, and anything else that Tynion is doing at Boom!

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Rachel Rising Vol. 3: Cemetery SongsAfter a strong beginning, I didn’t love the second volume of Terry Moore’s horror series.  The third volume, however, put things back on track, as the two dead girls who are still walking around further probe their condition, and as we learn a little more about Lilith, who has unleashed a plague of rats on the town of Manson.  Moore is a very talented writer and artist, and it’s cool watching his plans for this title, which is still on-going, take shape.  I also liked the little artistic shout-out to Katchoo, from Strangers In Paradise in this volume.

 

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