The Weekly Round-Up #294 With Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #6, Hellbreak #5, RunLoveKill #4, Ivar Timewalker #7 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #6Monster has been a pretty imposing character in this series for a long time, but I don’t remember David Lapham sharing much about him before now.  He kind of gets the spotlight this month, as he starts to figure out that Beth is up to something, starts beefing with Dez Fingers, and makes a mistake that costs Harry a shipment of something.  Unlike just about every other character in this comic, Lapham doesn’t invest a lot in making Monster sympathetic or likeable; he stays a pretty dark and menacing figure.  As is often the case, Lapham switches things up on the last page, and the issue ends terrifically.

Quick Takes:

All-New Hawkeye #4 – I am really enjoying Ramon Pérez’s work on this title.  The story is a little straight-forward.  Most of the issue (the top ¾ of each page) show a retelling of Clint and Barney’s childhoods, while the bottom box shows Hydra attacking Clint’s building in the present, to get back the creepy mutant kids that Clint and Kate rescued.  There’s really nothing new here, but Pérez does such a great job with two different art styles, that the book stays compelling throughout.  I’ve been a little disappointed with Jeff Lemire’s choice of story for this comic, although I guess it makes sense to put together a pretty self-contained story arc, since the title is getting relaunched after Secret Wars.

Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot #1I really don’t like those comics that show up every once in a while to show you how a character is going to die one day.  This is comics, and corporate comics at that, so we know that the character is going to die a few times, and come back, before this far-off death one day.  When the story features a character from Marvel or DC, we also know that that particular character will never actually reach the age he or (rarely) she is being portrayed at.  I mean, Dark Knight Returns falls into this category, and it was excellent, as was the recent Daredevil miniseries that did this, but usually, this stuff is pointless.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with Valiant’s Book of the Dead tie-ins, and it turns out, they are going to be exactly what I feared.  The difference is, Valiant has maintained pretty tight control over their shared universe, so I feel some comfort in the idea that these stories, which show the last days of key characters, aren’t just slapped together.  I guess it’s not a spoiler to learn that Bloodshot will end up with all the nanites that he’s currently lacking in his regular series, and I found it cool the way that writer Jeff Lemire homaged (is that a verb now?) some of the characters that Valiant has lost the rights to, having him fight in the Robot Wars, and then hunt dinosaurs for a while.  There were a couple of things that yanked me out of the story, such as the notion that not all that far into our future, there would be Aboriginal groups living in the Arctic who do not use modern technology (to say nothing of the notion that the Arctic is going to be cold in a few decades).  All in all, this story worked to make this character a little more likeable, and it had Waterworld-style pirates.  Also, it had Doug Braithwaite, which is never a bad thing.

Effigy #7 – I’m not sure if this is the last issue of Effigy or not (none have been solicited past this one yet), and if it is, that will be a real shame, as this is the most interesting Vertigo comic put out in the last bunch of years.  This issue is a one-off featuring guest artist Mike Norton, who works on Revival with writer Tim Seeley, and it features on Lawrence Lauritz, a character who has been more or less in the background of this series since it began.  He’s a character modeled on L. Ron Hubbard; a fantasy and science fiction writer who used his work to promote his own world view, which eventually became a bit of a cult (just like Scientology).  This issue shows us how he got his start, and also features that organization of assassins who represent different world religions.  This issue left me wanting more, and so I remain hopeful that more is coming…

Frankenstein Underground #5I’ve been disappointed in this series.  Increasingly, I find that Mike Mignola is just recycling the same ideas in all of his series that aren’t co-written by John Arcudi (and sometimes Scott Allie), and I’m getting bored of it.  If you love his Hellboy work, and aren’t finding it monotonous, I’m sure there’s a lot here you’d like.  Thanks to Ben Stenbeck, the comic does look nice at least.

Gotham by Midnight #7 – As if this title wasn’t already cool enough, it now is featuring Kate Spencer as a recurring character.  Ray Fawkes spends much of this issue building up the main cast of the title, while Internal Affairs builds their case against our heroes.  This is among the absolute best that DC is publishing right now, and that was before Juan Ferreyra joined the book as artist.  Now, it’s even better!

Grayson #10 – This title is always a lot of fun, but as writers Tim Seeley and Tom King focus on a longer arc, I felt that the intense focus of the first eight issues is missing.  Dick and Helena are trying to figure out why agents of other spy agencies are turning up dead on Dick’s missions, and they suspect Agent 1 of being responsible.  That part of the story works, but I wasn’t happy to see Lex Luthor show up as Dick’s contact to retrieve a Kryptonian crystal that he stole last year.  I don’t follow most of the DC Universe these days, so when this book starts to rub against the status quo in other ones (I really don’t understand how or why Lex is on the Justice League), it starts to lose my interest.

Hellbreak #5 – Cullen Bunn has built this series nicely, as we are now at the point where we have a good understanding of the work done by Project Kerberos (which involves rescuing the souls of the possessed from Hell while priests exorcise the demon from their bodies), and are put in the position where we have to question if all is as it seems.  This is a good adventure series, with some terrificly monstrous art from Brian Churilla.

Ivar, Timewalker #7This issue is in the middle of an arc, and doesn’t do much more than just move the plot forward.  This has been a fun series, but this is not an issue that’s going to stand out, although there is nothing wrong with it.  Sometimes monthly series are just like that.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #16 – I have to admire the way Al Ewing has been able to spin out the end of the multiverse that happened in the first issue of Secret Wars into this rather lengthy story about how the Asgardians have met their end.  At the same time, I’m getting a little tired of all of this.  This is a solid issue, as Loki finally deals with King Loki, his future self, by deciding once and for all to simply not play the game anymore.  Of course, this just means that there is a bigger game to play, but that is for the next issue.

Mind MGMT #35 – This is the last issue of this series, although there is going to be a one-off called New MGMT next month that will wrap things up, and as such, there is a lot of big stuff happening in this comic.  Now, I’m the type of person who usually prefers the first two-thirds of a good book, movie, TV serial, or long-running comic, so the big pay-offs don’t excite me as much as the set-up.  That said, Matt Kindt does some pretty cool things in this issue, bringing back a character we haven’t seen in a long time, and exploring the idea of faith-based architecture (not like a church, but a building that requires faith in it to keep standing).  I am really going to miss this title…

Punisher #20 – Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads bring this latest Punisher series to a fitting close, as Frank works his way through a fortress full of fighters in Afghanistan (or somewhere like it), hoping to kill a few more people before the world ends.  Gerads really impresses on this issue, both in terms of art and colour, and has been the main reason why I continued to buy this book.  Now that it’s finished, I hope to see this creative team return to The Activity or another creator-owned book that will better showcase their strengths.

RunLoveKill #4Eric Canete’s art on this series is very exciting.  This is an all-action issue, as Rain’s friends try to free her from the Origami (the secret police in this futuristic city).  We also see a flashback to the first time that Origami came for Rain, but otherwise, this issue doesn’t do much to explain why they want her so badly.  It mostly just looks very cool, and I’m okay with that.  Apparently this book is going to be going on a hiatus before the next four issues are released, which is a shame, as this book has some nice momentum behind it.

Spider-Woman #9 – Jessica, Ben Urich, and the Porcupine head out on the road to solve strange crimes, and for half the issue, this book is a lot of fun.  Then they end up in an Old West town with a creepy sheriff who seems to be in control of everyone else in town, and things got a little too conventional.

Uncanny X-Men #35 – We all knew that Brian Michael Bendis has a special love for Goldballs, but once a video of him fighting a mutant run amok goes viral, the whole world develops a special love for Goldballs.  This allows his friends, who are unfortunately calling themselves Hero Squad, the chance to get their new team up and running.  At least until people figure out that he’s a mutant, and then we’re back into the hate.  It all kind of rings false to me – I don’t know how people would have assumed he got his powers, and I find it hard to believe that in the Marvel Universe, at a time when young people everywhere are showing more and more acceptance of diversity of race, religion, and orientation (even in America), discovering that someone was born a mutant, with powers, would lead to bottle throwing.  Now, if it were cops trying to kill him, I would believe that…  Anyway, Bendis is definitely leaving the X-Books on a whimper, and now we just have to wait a few months for his final issue.  Whatever.

We Are Robin #2I am enjoying the way Lee Bermejo is structuring this book, which is about a group of teenagers who are ‘playing Robin’, dressing up and working as a group of vigilantes.  What we learn this month is that they’ve been recruited by a mysterious figure that they all believe to be Batman (although Duke knows that this is not the case), and that this individual is feeding them missions.  What we don’t know is who this guy is, or what his ultimate goal is, although it seems clear that it’s not all positive.  Bermejo writes Duke well, and is beginning to make it possible to differentiate the other characters a little by their personality, but really this group needs more development.  The art team of Rob Haynes and Jorge Corono is working for me, and at times this book has a bit of an Eduardo Risso feel to it, which is very cool.

Weirdworld #2 – I’m pretty much just picking this series up because of Mike Del Mundo’s excellent artwork, and he does not disappoint here.  This issue features Warbow, a character from the Crystar, Crystal Warrior series from the 80s which I never read, but remember because of Bill Sienkiewicz’s gorgeous cover to the first issue.  I always assumed that title was a toy license thing, like Micronauts or Rom, but I guess Marvel owns the rights after all.  Anyway, a crystal man fights apes underwater.  This is a fun book, and as much as I hate Morgan Le Fay usually, I can’t bring myself to hate this.

Wolf #1I never know what to expect with a new Ales Kot comic, and while I’m often disappointed by the end of his series, I can’t fault the guy for coming up with new and interesting ideas and approaches to his comics.  Wolf is a new ongoing, and in a lot of ways, it reminds me of Joss Whedon’s Angel TV show.  Antoine Wolfe is an immortal, who works in Los Angeles as a sort of private investigator, helping fix issues between the normal and paranormal communities.  One of Wolfe’s closest friends is an elder god (Johnny Chthonic is an awesome name) who is having issues with his vampire landlord, for example.  Kot could play this for humour, but he doesn’t.  We see that Wolfe has been hired by a very rich man to do something distasteful, and he expects to be killed afterwards, but from the first few pages, we know that Wolfe can’t be killed by burning him, since he spends those pages walking around on fire.  This first issue is double-sized, and Kot crams a lot of stuff into it.  It’s interesting, but I found that my attention wandered a little while reading it, as most of the scenes were pretty slow and felt a little disconnected.  I do want to learn more about this world, and who the girl with the famous last name whose family was murdered is.  Matt Taylor’s art gives this book an Ales Kot feel – it looks very much like a pre-fungal issue of Zero, which is when that series was at its best.  I’m definitely going to give this book the first arc.

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

68 Last Rights #1

Egos #8

E is for Extinction #2

Fables Vol. 22 (#150)

Magneto #20

Old Man Logan #3

Bargain Comics:

Aliens: Fire and Stone #1-4This is the first in a series of miniseries featuring the various properties in the Aliens/Prometheus/Predator shared universe, and starring a group of survivors from the original Aliens planet, escaping that initial outbreak, and arriving at the moon where Prometheus was set.  It’s a good miniseries, but it doesn’t really work as its own entity; it is very much just an opening chapter of something.  Patric Reynolds’s art on this book is very nice.

Crossed Special 2014 – I haven’t read a lot of Justin Jordan’s work, but I always imagine him as working in Jason Aaron’s territory.  This Crossed special works pretty well, showing what happens in a prison when people begin to turn.  There’s not a lot you can do in this confined space, but the story moves quickly, and there is just enough characterization done to get the reader invested.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Morella and the Murders in the Rue Morgue – The Rue Morgue story is a favourite of mine, so it’s nice to see Richard Corben go to work on it, making the orangutan particularly monstrous.

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #2 – When she wants to be, Alex De Campi can be very good at writing dark, mean spirited comics.  RM Guéra is always good at drawing them, so this works very well.

Quantum and Woody #1-12, Quantum and Woody: Goat #0, and Quantum and Woody Valiant-Sized #1 – I’d originally dismissed Quantum and Woody as something that didn’t really interest me, as I’d expected it was kind of dumb.  Then I read the Delinquents series, which teamed this duo up with Archer and Armstrong, and decided that the characters were kind of dumb, but gloriously so.  And so, I’ve now gotten myself caught up on the title, and I enjoyed it immensely.  The characterization in this book is pretty sharp, and the book is frequently very funny.  In a lot of ways, this book would fit better with Robert Kirkman’s Invincible universe, or with Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, as the villains remind me a lot of the ones in those comics, instead of the more stable Valiant line.  I recommend these books, and hope that Valiant brings them back soon.  A Book of the Dead one-shot might be a lot of fun…