The Weekly Round-Up #296 With Deadly Class #15, Dark Corridor #1, Airboy #3, Bloodshot Reborn #5, The Humans #7, Skullkickers #100 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Deadly Class #15 This title stays powerful, as Marcus falls further into a cycle of drugs, depression, paranoia, and anger.  Making things worse, he’s been threatened by Victor, and has betrayed a confidence.  Rick Remender’s writing in this series feels so personal, and that is what makes this such a strong title.  Wes Craig’s art is incredible.  He makes excellent use of layout, and in the scene where Marcus eats some mushrooms and hallucinates Ronald Reagan, he really shows that he’s one of the best artists in the business.

Quick Takes:

Airboy #3 – This series, which has writer James Robinson and artist Greg Hinkle, interacting with Airboy, the public domain superhero from the Second World War, while they’ve been on an epic drinking/drug binge.  Now, Airboy has brought them to his world, and they are not prepared to deal with the violence.  They react differently; Robinson starts to become a better person, while Hinkle creates a lot of drama between Airboy and his lady.  This series is hilarious, but also shows a depressing amount of insight from Robinson.  The combination of the two things makes this an excellent read, and a truly unique comic.  The only thing I can think to compare this to is the number of times that Grant Morrison has written himself into his own comics, but he’s never done it with this level of honesty and self-deprecation.

Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #4 – Perhaps cowriters Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are just cramming too much into this miniseries, having two different groups of people fighting supernatural things in two different locations, which makes this all kind of confusing.  Really, I’m done with this.  I am pretty sure that the next issue of Baltimore will be my last.

Bloodshot Reborn #5 – Jeff Lemire makes things a little existential this month, as Ray has a good long conversation with himself (by which I mean Bloodsquirt and Kay) and tries to figure out who he is going to be and how he wants to live after taking back the rest of the nanites that are out in the wild.  This is a solid issue, with very nice art by Raul Allen (who even draws Bloodsquirt; previously that had been Lemire).  Lemire’s taken an opposite approach to this character than his earlier New Valiant appearances; he’s building up the man before giving him the abilities, and that makes him infinitely more interesting.  I’m thankful that Valiant has given so much freedom to Lemire and Matt Kindt to really build up their line as they have been doing.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #10It’s a little awkward to me that I’ve been a huge champion of this book, but as it gets closer to its finish, I find I’m not liking it all that much anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that Marco Rudy’s art in this title is brilliant, beautiful, and shows the future of comics; it’s just that Ales Kot’s story lost me a while ago.  Very little happens in this issue.  Ventolin plays chess with Loki while the two Buckys and Quake argue over who is going to chase down Crossbones.  This book is gorgeous, but Rudy would have done even better with more story to tell.  You can’t just be trippy.

The Bunker #13 – Joshua Hale Fialkov borrows a page from the movie Momento this issue, catching us up with Heidi by running backwards through the last three months of her life.  We see how she’s reacting to her brother being in jail, and discover that she’s having a weird medical issue (as well as see why that is).  This series is always very tightly plotted, and it’s good to see that continue, as Fialkov takes the plot in new directions.

Cluster #6 – Ed Brisson continues to impress with this science fiction title.  The resistance makes a move, while all of Tranent is out hunting for them.  We see that Samara, our point of view character, is starting to lose control of herself, mostly out of guilt, and it feels like things are building towards the conclusion.  This is a solid comic.

Dark Corridor #1 – This ended up being an impulse buy (on such a big week – I really need more self-control), and it’s one that turned out very well.  This issue has two slightly related crime stories written and drawn by Rich Tommaso, who I’ll admit I’m not familiar with.  The first story involves a hitman who finds a dog on his porch, and when he tries to figure out how it got injured, he instead discovers the bodies of two mobsters, and decides to take advantage of his good fortune.  The second story involves a fence who has gotten shot off his motorcycle by someone seeking revenge.  Both of these stories feel like pieces of a much larger puzzle, and with Tommaso’s interesting writing, and visual style that reminds me a little of Darwyn Cooke, I’m intrigued to see where this all goes next.  This is a strong debut.

Darth Vader #8 – Aphra and the bounty hunters she hired rob an Imperial vessel, which leads to some very cool visuals, while Vader finds that once again, the Emperor is stifling his own ambitions.  Kieron Gillen continues to impress with this book.

8House: Arclight #2I often get the feeling, when reading a comic by Brandon Graham, that there is so much more to the story that he understands, but just hasn’t chosen to share with his readers yet.  I really am not all that clear on what’s going on with this series.  I know who the main characters are, and I know that the fantasy world where this comic is set is a very strange one, and that there are threats to the border of a kingdom or country, but beyond that, I’m a little lost.  At the same time, I’m completely lost in the beauty of Marian Churchland’s art, and so I’m perfectly happy reading this series, and trying to puzzle it out.  I know that with the next issue, a new story arc begins, featuring different creators (although I think Graham is still writing).  I imagine that all of these different stories will combine, or at least compliment each other, and I’m very intrigued by the oddness of this whole project, to stick with it.  Between this and Island, I feel like I’m being spoiled by Graham, and I look forward to that continuing.

The Fade Out #8 – I feel like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Hollywood noir story just keeps getting more complicated, as Charlie finds that he’s missed more than he thought while drunk, and that he is no closer to figuring out who killed a starlet.  This is a very rewarding series, and I feel more invested in the characters than ever.  A master class in comics.

The Fuse #13 – I’m very happy to get another arc of The Fuse, my favourite space station police procedural comic.  It’s Perihelion, the once-a-year holiday when the station is closest to the sun, and the police are preparing for all manners of nonsense and weirdness.  Adding to this is a new murder, which looks like it could be the work of a serial killer who has killed twice before.  This is always a smartly-written and engaging series, and I’m very happy to see that this arc is not going to be all about Dietrich’s true reasons for coming to the Fuse, because that means that we are almost guaranteed another arc after this one (you never know with indie comics).

Guardians Team-Up #9When I saw that Javier Pulido was writing and drawing this issue, it went right onto my preorder list, because I think Pulido is a brilliant artist.  That shows in this issue, as he gives us a fun story involving Star-Lord, Spider-Man, Black Cat, and Spydra, which is the spider-oriented version of Hydra.  He does very cool things with page design, silhouettes, and silent storytelling in this issue.  It’s worth checking out.

The Humans #7 – This is a pretty brutal issue, as The Humans’ enemies make their move against them, attacking their bar while they are in party mode.  There’s quite a body count this month, and all of this happens while Johnny is, uh, reconnecting with his old girlfriend.  I continue to be impressed by this comic, which I was ready to dismiss as gimmicky after reading the first issue.

Imperium #7 – Toyo Harada has caught the eye of the Divinity (is that what he’s really being called?), the very powerful character from Matt Kindt’s miniseries.  He runs Harada through a sequence of imaginary scenarios, surprised by the strength of that man’s mind.  The issue is a bit confusing, but I continue to enjoy the way Joshua Dysart structures this series.

Jupiter’s Circle #5 – I think this is turning into one of my favourite Mark Millar comics of all time.  He’s so much better at quiet, introspective stories than the usual bombastic action movie stuff that he’s become known for.  This new storyline focuses on the Sky Fox, a Batman analogue who has a severe drinking habit and a tendency to act immaturely.  He begins to show some changes when he meets a woman, but it might not be enough.  This is a very sharply written start to a two-parter, drawn very well by Davide Gianfelice.

Kaptara #4Keith and his group continue their quest, but get sidetracked a little when they come across another survivor from Keith’s party, who has been staying with some bug-people who perhaps have a way to get back to Earth.  It looks like things could be complicated by the fact that Dartor has been there before, and killed a member of the royal family.  This book is a hilarious reimagining of a Masters of the Universe style property, and writer Chip Zdarsky’s writing is hilarious throughout.  He and Kagan McLeod are well-matched with this title, which just keeps getting better.

Midnighter #3 – This series has been a nice surprise among the other DCYou launches.  I didn’t expect to stick with it for this long, but I’ve been enjoying the way Steve Orlando writes the character.  Original series artist ACO returns this month, which means we get a lot of innovative layout designs, as M continues to hunt down weapons technology stolen from the God Garden, and continues to get closer to the new man he’s met.  There is a lot of potential in this book.

Morning Glories #47 – Casey holds a big party to launch her election campaign, and it gives us a chance to check in on a number of cast members.  This book is building to something big happening in issue 50, and so it finally feels like there is some forward movement with the individual issues.  For too long, this book felt like it was spinning its wheels.  When it’s more focused, like it is in this issue, Morning Glories is a very good read.

Ms. Marvel #17Kamala finally gets to meet Carol Danvers in this issue, as they go looking for Kamala’s brother, who has been kidnapped by Kamran, while the world ends around them.  As a character-driven issue, this is very well written and has lots of good moments, but as a tie-in to Secret Wars, it’s a little hard to buy that Danvers would give over so much time.  Still, this is a nice issue, although I wonder why Adrian Alphona crams so many pigs into the comic.  It’s a little weird.

The Omega Men #3 – After a slightly rocky first issue, I find myself getting deeper and deeper into Tom King’s take on the Omega Men.  This issue the team abducts a Princess who rules a Citadel client world, and the abduction is a pretty violent affair.  There’s a twist that comes a little later in the issue that impressed me, in that I didn’t see it coming.  I like the way artist Barnaby Bagenda is mostly sticking to a nine-panel grid in his art, as it gives the book a lot more meat, and reminds me a little of a Keith Giffen title.  I’m also really enjoying the innovative and distinct covers that this series has been wrapped in.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #11 – This month’s issue seemed to fly by, and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s very decompressed, or if it’s because Robert Kirkman’s writing on this series is just that gripping.  Kyle gets to see his daughter again, although that lands him in more trouble, and looks like it may have long-reaching effects for his foster sister, while the Reverend is visited again by the creepy old guy.  This book has not disappointed since it began, but I feel like over the last few issues, Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta have really nailed things.

Project Superpowers: Blackcross #5 – Warren Ellis writing a book like this is very different from Ellis writing a book like Injection or Trees, where he’s created the characters.  Like he did with his recent Supreme series, Ellis is looking at a group of established characters and reestablishing them in a very different setting.  It’s interesting, but it’s not exactly interesting enough.  We finally get a full explanation of what’s been going on with this issue, but I find that five issues in, I don’t really care about these characters, who are alternate reality analogues of the original superheroes.  It all feels like it’s been done before.

Sex #23The thing I like best about Sex lately is the way in which Joe Casey just lets his plots roll along.  Elliot, the meek corporate lackey, is having a bit of a breakdown in life, while Simon has learned that he is under some form of surveillance, and as the reporter makes a breakthrough in her investigation of him.  This book rewards long-term reading, as the focus shifts all over the place across its large cast of characters.  This is a very good read.

Siege #2 – I’m finding this Secret Wars tie-in to be an odd thing.  On the one hand, it’s giving Kieron Gillen the opportunity to revisit a number of the characters he has worked with during his time at Marvel (Abigail Brand, Leah, Ms. America Chavez, Unit), but on the other, it has to fill in years worth of history on a world that hasn’t really been around all that long, and incorporate a number of story elements from other series (not just the main Secret Wars series, but also the Marvel Zombie stuff).  Still, Gillen manages to have a good time here, even working in a cameo for the Lying Cat from Saga, and that is what keeps me coming back.  I worry that artist Felipe Andrade’s work is a little too dark and abstract for the series, as I sometimes have a hard time following his storytelling.

Skullkickers #100 – When this series (which lasted thirty-four issues; the renumbering is a joke) began, I took a shot on it because the writer, Jim Zub, gets a lot of support from the store I shop at, and they gave me the hard sell.  I liked it a lot more than I expected to, since the swords and sorcery thing is not really my scene, and ended up sticking with it through to the end.  This book has been a lot of irreverent fun, as Zub explored, and poked fun at, a lot of genre tropes, and the industry itself (I loved the arc where the series was renamed and relaunched with each issue).  The series ends very well here, as Zub hits the same reset button we’ve seen in Flashpoint and are likely to see at the end of Secret Wars, only with a lot more humour.  I’m going to miss this title.

UFOlogy #4 – I find myself getting more and more involved in this story, as writer James Tynion IV digs deeper into his characters, and as artist Noah J. Yuenkel grows by leaps and bounds.  This issue has the kids investigating what has happened to Becky (she has a glowing thing on the side of her head, which we suspect was put there by aliens), while they are pursued by all sorts of weirdness.  There is a lot of depth to this book, and it looks terrific.

We Stand on Guard #2In a flashback, we see a group of American soldiers bust into the home of an elderly Canadian couple and take them away.  On their TV?  The Littlest Robo, a sci-fi update to a Canadian television classic (any Canadians of my generation have the song playing in their head right now).  It’s the little details that make this work for me, because otherwise this is a pretty standard comic about ragtag rebels fighting an overwhelming enemy.  Although, we all like books like that too, don’t we?  Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce are very good at what they do, and I’m very happy to see Skroce back producing a comic book again.

The Wicked + The Divine #13 – We finally get to meet Tara, the goddess that everyone seems to love to hate.  She’s a complex character, and she’s somehow become the kind of celebrity that it’s okay to be horrible to and about.  Anyway, the Pantheon are dropping like flies, and the pace of this book is accelerating because of that.  I kind of assume we will be seeing these characters again, perhaps in an afterlife setting.  Tula Lotay draws this issue, and it looks pretty incredible, and more focused than her recent Supreme Blue Rose work.  I’d like to see her work with Kieron Gillen on something again soon.

The Woods #15 – The Woods has been a very cool series, and this issue ranks among the best.  Karen has been taken by the Horde (who are not who you would expect them to be), and Calder is determined to get some people to go help her, except that nobody trusts him anymore.  We get another surprise about Isaac, and check in on a number of the main characters.  This book balances character development and plot beautifully, and artist Michael Dialynas is doing a terrific job.

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

American Barbarian HC

American Vampire Second Cycle #9

FBP Federal Bureau of Physics #23

Guardians of Knowhere #2

Infinity Gauntlet #3

Lion of Rora HC

Spire #2

This Damned Band #1

Ultimate End #4

War Stories #11

Bargain Comics:

Avengers World #20&21With these two issues, Frank Barbiere finishes off his arc which fills in some of the blanks left by Jonathan Hickman in his eight month jump to the Time Runs Out storyline.  Nothing here is all that important or necessary, but after an absence of a few months, I find that these comics made me feel nostalgic for the Marvel Universe.  I’m looking forward to Secret Wars ending and things getting back to normal…  Was Marco Checchetto announced on any of the All-New All-Different titles?  He’s a very good artist.

Captain Marvel #15 – Kelly Sue DeConnick wraps up her second volume of Captain Marvel with the best issue of her run.  Carol returns from space to learn that her friend Tracy has passed away, and the issue is given over to her last words to Carol, and the memories that they conjure.  This issue is heartfelt (echoing a similar event in DeConnick’s life) and lovely, and it really proves that it’s time for DeConnick to leave superhero comics behind and start doing more meaningful work (like her excellent Bitch Planet).

E Is For Extinction #1 – Like with Secret Wars 2099 (see below), I don’t really understand the reason for this series existing, but there are a few things serving in its favour.  To begin with, I was a huge fan of Grant Morrison’s run with the X-Men, and this book basically picks up from the middle of his time there, working from the What If? premise of “What if Professor X had killed himself to stop Cassandra Nova?”.  Secondly, series artist Ramon Villalobos uses an art style that is heavily influenced by and paying homage to Frank Quitely, which makes the book fit the tone of Chris Burnham’s story perfectly.  This series is set years after the Morrison stuff, so we have the aging original X-Men sidelined by the oddball characters that Morrison created.  This issue was fun, and brought me back to a great era.

Fantastic Four #645 It seems like Marvel finishes off the Fantastic Four with great regularity these days, and while James Robinson does a good job of wrapping up his plotlines, there’s not much else to say about this issue or this run.  It was, as has often been the case with the Fantastic Four, solidly mediocre.  I don’t like Marvel’s reason for ripping the team apart, but I do think that the property could do with a lengthy rest before being brought back and given over to someone who has a new vision for it.

Guardians of the Galaxy #26&27 – The last two issues of this series do a good job of reminding me of everything I haven’t liked about Brian Michael Bendis’s time with this group of characters.  The post-Black Vortex changes in Kitty Pryde (especially), Gamora, Groot, and Venom range from bad designs to terrible ideas, the stuff here contradicts what ends up happening in Secret Wars #1, and the plotting is pointless while the writing and continuity are sloppy (does Bendis not remember that Drax was originally from Earth?  I think he knows how elections work).  Everything about this feels slapped together.

Guardians Team-Up #4&6 – Both of these comics feature Gamora teaming up with an Earth hero (She-Hulk and Nightcrawler, respectively) in a pair of stories that are perfectly fine, but read like fill-in issues.  I’d expected better from writers like John Layman and Bill Willingham.

The ‘Nam #31-40It looks like Marvel has stopped reprinting this series in trade, so I’ve been hunting down the single issues.  In this series, Doug Murray does an excellent job of portraying a variety of viewpoints on the Vietnam War.  Among these issues, mostly drawn by the very capable Wayne Vansant, we touch on racial tension among the ranks, the perspective of a teenager living amid the madness of war, and the usual daily slog of fighting an unwinnable war.  There’s some very good stuff in here.

New Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 & Uncanny Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 – This ended up being a pretty enjoyable Avengers story that features great Alan Davis artwork.  As usual with a story like this, it’s hard to figure out why it was made – anyone looking for Ultron stuff because of the new Avengers movie would be put off by the unrecognizability of the characters, pulled from a variety of eras, and the story doesn’t really add anything to any characters, but it’s all good.  I feel like Marvel is testing out Al Ewing by giving him some oddball assignments, and I’ve yet to read anything by him that I haven’t liked.

Nova #29-31 – Gerry Duggan does a great job of wrapping up this Nova series, resolving a lot of the plotlines that helped develop Sam as a character through three different writers.  I don’t remember if a new Nova series has been announced or not, but I know that the character is going to be prominent in the Avengers, so I’m glad I got caught up on his story.

Nova Annual #1 – This was a fun story that has Nova teaming up with Doc Green (the Hulk, having undergone some sort of transformation I’ve never understood) to get his helmet, which the evil Axis version of the Hulk had broken, fixed.  I like this Nova a lot.

Secret Wars 2099 #1&2I’m not sure I understand the point of this series.  We see a version of the 2099 world, where the Avengers work for Alchemax, which is being run by Miguel Stone.  There is some intrigue about someone trying to kill this team’s version of Captain America, and the Defenders show up, but none of it adds up to a compelling series.  Sure, Peter David does a good job of introducing and beginning to establish these characters, but so far, this doesn’t tie into Secret Wars proper, nor does it seem to have another reason to exist.  I guess my instincts to mostly ignore these tie-in series have been right all along…

Semper Fi’ #6-9 – I love a good war comic, but it feels like this series, which explores different eras in the history of the Marines, just never really found itself.  There are some good short stories here, and it’s cool to see art by John Severin and a very young Andy Kubert, but this title was never close to being as good as The ‘Nam.

Squadron Sinister #1 – I’m a big Squadron Supreme fan, and have been since Mark Gruenwald’s groundbreaking miniseries that featured them in the 80s.  I am currently rereading the Busiek/Perez Avengers run where they were prominently featured in the earliest issues.  What all that means is that I was primed for a comic featuring some version of these characters, but this is not it.  The book opens with the squad taking out the JMS versions of the team (that I was actually pretty okay with – I’m still a little bitter that that story was abandoned), and goes on to show us that this team has been invading other Battleworld kingdoms, but their reasons, or what they do with them, is never made clear.  I think it is cool that Saint George and the Epic Shadowline line from the 80s makes a brief comeback, but by the end of this issue, I didn’t care at all about what was going on, and I felt it contradicted a lot of what’s been established elsewhere in Secret Wars.  Disappointing…

Wolverines #12 – The silly Fang storyline gets done away with in this issue, but I’m still kind of shocked by how poorly this series is written.  Ray Fawkes (who wrote this issue) is killing on Gotham By Midnight, and has done lots of cool indie work, while Charles Soule, who writes alternate issues, is one of my favourite writers working in mainstream comics today (and his Letter 44 is one of the best comics on the stands).  I feel like this is really being written by some editors…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Okko: The Cycle of Water

by Hub

I’d read the second andthird Okko miniseries when they were published by Archaia in the 00’s, but never saw the first volume, The Cycle Of Water until recently, and was happy to get the chance to read it.

Okko is a French comic set in an imagined Medieval Japan, where magic, spirits, demons, and combat puppet suits are common.  Okko the character is a ronin and demon-hunter for hire.  He travels with a large, demon-masked man and a drunken monk.  At the beginning of this series, they are hired by the younger brother of a geisha who has been abducted by strange people, in exchange for his service.

Their journey to rescue the young woman is fraught with danger, and when they find the floating fortress to which she has been taken, they discover some very disturbing things.

Hub’s art is fantastically detailed and impressive.  The smaller scale of the North American comics page does not fully do it justice, as it feels a little cramped and hard to read at times.  Still, this is a very good read, and now I need to try to track down the fourth volume,The Cycle of Fire.

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