The Weekly Round-Up #297 With Starve #3, Secret Wars #5, Star Wars: Lando #2, Injection #4, Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1, Unity #21 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Starve #3I don’t watch television shows about food, and while I enjoy a good meal, it is not a thing with me.  That said, I would be hooked in a hurry if food shows could carry half the emotional richness of Starve.  In this issue, Gavin is joined by his daughter on television, working as his sous chef, and the focus is very much on their relationship, which should be more contentious seeing as he basically abandoned her for years.  Brian Wood is focusing this comic on the connections that Gavin has to the world, and how being back in the spotlight is changing them, and it’s pretty interesting stuff.  This is a surprisingly rich series, and I have never been disappointed by Danijel Zezelj’s artwork.  Great stuff, although it feels more like a Vertigo than an Image comic.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #25 – This is a very good issue of Abe’s solo title, tying in some threads from the last Witchfinder miniseries of a little while ago, and featuring some guest flashback art by Tyler Crook, in addition to continuing to show Abe’s time in Florida, drawn by the Fiumara brothers.  I had been losing interest in this title, but this arc, which has Abe thinking about his origins while poking around a devastated Florida town, has me solidly back on board.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #7 – Alan Moore has left this title, although he still gets a credit for ‘series outline’, and Simon Spurrier does a good job stepping in.  It’s been a year since the events of the last issue, and Future and Cautious have been staying in Murfreesboro, helping that town get ready in case the Crossed attack.  Things haven’t been going all that well, although the extent of the threat makes itself clear on a mission to rescue a couple of balloonists from Gapple.  Spurrier maintains the unique language Moore developed for this title, and has a good handle on the main characters.  Unfortunately, original series artist Gabriel Andrade has also departed, and his replacement, Fernando Heinz is not as strong an artist.  At the same time that I say that, I’d like to acknowledge that Heinz has a more individual look than Adrade did, who just fit the slightly bland realist house style that Avatar seems to push.  Heinz gives his characters slightly more manga-influenced faces, but I am not sure that is an improvement on a book like this.  We’ll see how it goes, because I’m committed to giving these guys a whole arc.

Descender #6Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen polish off their first arc this month, as we get the secret history behind the development of robots in the galaxy (as Jin Quon narrates from the table where he’s being tortured), although that opens up more questions than it does answers.  The issue ends with a surprising moment that helps to set up the next arc, and gives the reader the sense that there is a lot of story to come in this series.  Nguyen’s brilliant on this book.

Drifter #7 – It’s taken a long time for the narrative of this series to make itself consistently clear, but I feel like Ivan Brandon’s gotten there with this issue.  There’s a group of people who have ventured out into the wilds of this strange planet to look for the remains of a crashed ship, while back in the settlement, the Sheriff has to deal with the loss of her deputy and friend.  Nic Klein has some truly amazing visuals, and the character work seems spot on.  I’m glad this book is becoming more compelling, because I’ve liked Klein’s work on it from the start, and wanted to get a better handle on what was happening.

Gotham Academy #9 – This is a fun issue involving a werewolf on the campus of the school, and while some story elements don’t make sense (mostly involving the plan to stop the creature using objects that the kids probably wouldn’t own), I like the way Olive’s story is being given more central importance.

Howard the Duck #5 – Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones wrap up their first storyline, which has Howard and a whole bunch of Marvel superheroes (mostly ones who have recently switched up their status quo) fighting to stop a little-known Skrull from using the Abundant Glove, which is a lot less powerful than the Infinity Gauntlet.  This is a great issue, mostly because of the way in which Zdarsky uses editor’s boxes to reference Howard’s earlier interactions with the various heroes, and the way in which he chooses to reference Grant Morrison’s greatest contribution to the Marvel Universe of all time.  I also really enjoy the way in which this series’s cancellation and upcoming relaunch, after only five issues, is explained.  Zdarsky’s star is on the rise at Marvel, and it seems he’s allowed to get away with just about whatever he wants.  

Injection #4We are getting close to figuring out just what the Injection is, and how our various protagonists are responsible for its creation, as Warren Ellis gets closer to finally explaining just what this series is about (other than snarky people, sharp dialogue, weird science, and even weirder folklore).  There are not many creative teams who could spend four months introducing nothing but mysteries, but Ellis and artist Declan Shalvey are just the people to pull it off.

Lando #2 – Last issue, Lando and a small squad of thieves stole the Emperor’s private shuttle.  Not surprisingly, he wants it back, and that means that Lando has to figure out how to get away from three Star Destroyers.  It’s a visually exciting sequence, and not anywhere near the end of Lando’s problems.  I like the way Charles Soule has structured this series, and am enjoying it very much.  Alex Maleev’s art is often a little too stiff for this kind of story, but he has a really good handle on Billy Dee Williams’s face.

Letter 44 #19 – Things have not been looking too good for Earth in this series of late.  Most of the world is at war with the United States, Russia has just launched a bunch of nuclear missiles at the only device capable of stopping a gigantic asteroid from destroying the planet, and the crew of the Clarke are helpless to help out.  At least, that’s how things look at the start of this issue, but they are able to begin to put a plan into place at the edge of the solar system, while we discover that President Blades has had a traitor on his team from the beginning.  The best part about this issue though?  The former President’s explanation of how he made sure it was Blades who got elected, much of which hinged on the choice of a Sarah Palin lookalike for Republican running mate.  Charles Soule’s writing on this comic has never not been brilliant.

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1I’ve missed Phonogram, the series that put the team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie on the map, but I’d forgotten just how insular and self-referencing it really is.  In this series, music is magic (it is in our lives, too, just less demonstrably).  This series explores the character of Emily Aster, who once, as Claire, made a Faustian bargain, and became a caustic, difficult member of a coven, and the editor of a music magazine.  This issue shows us various stages of Emily’s life, and helps establish that the parts of Claire that went away, are not gone.  We see a number of characters from earlier iterations of this series (there are two, excellent, collections available), and get a lot of the name-dropping that made this book confuse me when I first read it.  I spend almost as much time thinking about music as I do comics, so this book is right up my alley, but I don’t think there is any overlap between Gillen’s tastes and mine, so I usually don’t know what the characters are talking about.  Luckily, there is a very funny glossary.  It’s always nice to see Gillen and McKelvie work their magic, and it’s interesting to see how different this book is in tone from their current work on The Wicked + The Divine.  I’m very glad they’ve returned to this world.

Providence #3 – And now, I fear, Alan Moore is beginning to lose me completely with this title.  I know nothing about HP Lovecraft beyond what I have gleaned from reading comics, and know that I’m missing references to his work left and right when reading this comic, but so far, I’ve been able to enjoy this series for its story, which is about a closeted gay reporter in the late 1910s investigating the occult for a book he’d like to write.  Robert’s work brings him to Salem, where apparently many people are mixed blood, as a number of South Seas Islanders had intermarried into the community ages ago. Basically, these people are part fish, with their own take on Christianity, and manner of speaking and interacting.  It all seems normal within the context of the story, and we see some images and themes from earlier issues.  Much of the issue is given over to Robert’s very long and strange dream.  As I said, I’m enjoying this series, but am not sure I’m absorbing all that I should be.

Rebels #5 – As much as I’m enjoying Brian Wood’s Rebels, I have a hard time remembering that the main character, Seth Abbott suffers from a speech impediment or disfluency.  In this issue, after giving what is probably the longest speech his character has ever spoken, he refers to his difficulty speaking, which is not evident anywhere else in the issue.  Seth and some of the other Green Mountain Boys are leading a train of stolen artillery through the New York colony to Boston in the dead of winter, and it is not going well.  It provides Wood with a great opportunity to really show Seth’s character, and the quiet strength he carries within him.  This is an ambitious, but excellently carried-out, series.

Reyn #7 – I continue to enjoy this comic which mashes up fantasy and science fiction in an unexpected way.  Our heroes are exploring the massive space vessel that they’ve just discovered their whole world is inside of, and are trying to stay a few steps ahead of the Venn, the alien creatures who have more knowledge about the ship than they do.  This is a very good series, and I’m thankful to Kel Symons, the writer, for sending me digital review copies.  You should really check this out.

Secret Wars #5I expected, after the big events of the last issue, and after the delay between issues, that this one would have a lot more going on than it actually does.  Doom has a chat with Valeria about the major death of the last issue, and then goes away somewhere to have a longer chat with Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, which largely recaps the last bunch of issues of New Avengers.  Then Valeria gets the Future Foundation to look for the missing surviving characters from the 616 and the Ultimate Universes.  It’s a solid issue in terms of exploring Doom’s character, but it’s not the blockbuster that should be the halfway point of Marvel’s biggest event in ages.

Stumptown #7– Dex’s latest case involves coffee, and the ridiculously rich men who want to control a very rare breed, but is also about the difficulty of accommodating visiting siblings.  Over the last twenty years, we’ve seen a wide variety of female private investigators in comics, but Greg Rucka makes Dex stand out in that crowd, often by having her say very little.  The cases she solves are always interesting, but with this series, I find that the character is what keeps me looking forward to a new issue.

Unity #21 – I haven’t really been enjoying the War-Monger arc of this series, which has had a foul-mouthed female stand-in for Vandal Savage attacking and defeating each member of the Unity team in succession, while going on and on about her conflicts with previous versions of the team.  This issue, though, has her narrating her version of the Vietnam War, and her fight with the 70s version of Unity.  It also reveals what’s really been going on here, and things are looking up for this title again.  I think I should have known better than to doubt Matt Kindt…

Velvet #11 It’s been a while, but the new arc of Velvet starts very well.  It’s been a few months, and Velvet has been quietly digging into some of the things she’s discovered, but now she needs help, and turns to Maximillion Dark, an American secret agent she has history with.  As always, this is a very good series.

The Walking Dead #145 – Last issue had some very bad stuff happen, and this issue is all about the beginning of the reaction to that (which is going to likely take a few issues).  There’s something really special about a book that makes me feel the deaths of its characters, and does so successfully year after year.  I’m keeping things very vague for the benefit of people who read this series in trade, but I really like the way Michonne challenges Rick in this issue, not in terms of his leadership, but in terms of his strength of character and hypocrisy.  Solid stuff.

X-O Manowar #39 – The thing I like best about Valiant’s approach to comics is that the things that happen in their books matter.  Unlike the Marvel and DC universes, where cities get trashed on a monthly basis, never to be discussed again, in the Valiant U, actions have lasting consequences.  That’s basically the theme for this new arc, Exodus.  A group of Vine, who had their world destroyed in the Dead Hand story appear on Earth, looking to live with Aric and their former slaves (who aren’t too happy about it), but an American fighter pilot, who developed some hitherto unnoticed PTSD during the Armor Hunters story, reacts poorly to this news.  This is a great set-up to a new story, because it effectively traps the homeless former slave-masters with their prospering former slaves.  Robert Venditti should be commended for keeping this series fresh after such a long run.  That kind of thing is unheard of in today’s industry, which is another reason why Valiant should be praised.

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

A-Force #3

Batman #43

Crossed Badlands #83

Harrow County #4

Inhumans Attilan Rising #4

Justice League United #12

Master of Kung Fu #4

Mercury Heat #2

Secret Wars Battlefield #4

Secret Wars 2099 #4

String Divers #1

Über #27

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #18It’s sad that Peter was only given eighteen issues (I’m not counting the various .1s) of being back in his own body before the series was shut down for Secret Wars.  Dan Slott and Christos Gage wrap up their Ghost and Black Cat stories here, but leave plot threads dangling which I assume will be picked up again when Secret Wars is over (and Spidey starts wearing that awful looking costume I’ve seen in Previews).

Deathlok #8&9 – It took way too long for this series to get into gear, but now, as New Deathlok is fighting against his corporate masters, and Old Deathlok shows up to bring him into SHIELD, the comic is much more interesting.  Mike Perkins is good at this kind of comic.

Silver Surfer #9-13 – I have not been hearing enough about the wonderful things that Dan Slott and Michael Allred have been doing with the Silver Surfer.  Among these issues is a comic where the Surfer, his girlfriend, and billions of aliens he’s pledged to lead to a new home get caught in an infinite Möbius loop (this happens in the Giraud Nebula, of course).  There is a sense of adventure and fun to this book that takes what is usually a morose and boring character, and makes him enjoyable.  Plus, the book is gorgeous.

Superior Iron Man #7-9 – I guess writer Tom Taylor was given a difficult task with this book.  He had to accept that Tony Stark, while not quite evil, was going to be a jerk, and that by the end of his run, he’d have to still be a jerk, so Jonathan Hickman can do the important stuff with the character in his Avengers titles.  These issues wrap up this series, and my prediction is that post-Secret Wars, Tony will be more or less back to normal.  That makes all of this stuff unnecessary, although Taylor made good use of Pepper Potts, and Teen Abomination is a pretty cool character.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Disappearance of Charley Butters

by Zach Worton

Zach Worton’s The Klondike was an excellent collection of stories and vignettes about the famous gold rush that impressed me a great deal.  When I saw that he had a new book out at TCAF this year, I couldn’t resist grabbing it, although at the time, I did not know that it was the beginning of a series of graphic novels, and not a self-contained story.

The Disappearance of Charley Butters starts with a death metal trio heading into some remote woods with a camera man to film a video.  We quickly see that the band doesn’t really get along with one another, mostly because the band’s leader, Mike, and his contrary nature.

While filming, the band stumbles across a long-abandoned cabin, filled with hundreds of paintings all showing the same image, and a collection of diaries.  All of this belongs to Charley Butters, an artist who ran away from the world to this cabin back in the late 50s, and was apparently never heard from again.

As the book progresses, Travis, the main character, can’t stop thinking about Butters.  He returns to the cabin to pick up the journals, and begins obsessing over the artist, who was clearly mentally ill (he claimed to hear voices).

Travis ends up quitting the band over Mike’s behaviour, and he and Stuart, the filmmaker, decide to collaborate on a documentary about Butters’s life and disappearance.

This book was really gathering steam when it ended kind of abruptly, with notification that ‘The Search For Charley Butters’ will be coming along soon.  This was a disappointment, as I was enjoying the story, especially the way that Butters’s influence was changing Travis, who cuts his hair and begins to behave more like an adult.

Worton does a great job of developing these characters in a short amount of space, and he provides just enough information to make Butters’s story intriguing.  His art is nice and clear, and he’s guaranteed himself a sale whenever the next book comes out.  I hope it doesn’t take too long…

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