The Weekly Round-Up #299 With They’re Not Like Us #7, Ninjak #6, Dead Drop #4, Star Wars: Lando #3, New MGMT #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

They’re Not Like Us #7It’s been a month since the end of the last arc, and Tabitha (it’s not Syd anymore) and her friends have established a new life for themselves away from the Voice and his control.  They’ve managed to find themselves a house to squat in (which, in San Francisco is less believable than the fact that they have super powers), and have brought Blurgirl, just released from the hospital, to live with them.  None of these characters feel safe yet, but they do feel like there is a chance for them all to lead happier lives.  What really makes this book work is the depth of the characterization that Eric Stephenson has established, making an issue where ultimately very little happens, into one of the best reads of the week.  Simon Gane’s clean artwork works well here, and I love exploring his images of buildings.

Quick Takes:

Ant-Man: Last Days #1 – Leave it to Marvel to cancel a title, then give it an annual, and then squeeze in a one-shot that wraps up loose plotlines from the regular series, ties, ever so tangentially, into its big summer event, and sets up the relaunch that is coming in a couple of months.  With all that to do within these twenty pages, I’m not surprised that Nick Spencer didn’t manage to make this a compelling story.  To be honest, were it not for the inclusion of the new Beetle, and, one would hope, a return to the tone he used in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, I would not be returning to this title when it comes back.

Batgirl #43 Tigers keep attacking workers in the tech sector, so Batgirl has herself a case that is less tied-in with Gotham continuity (even though Luke Fox appears).  This is a solid issue that works at building Barbara’s relationships with other characters.  Artist Babs Tarr is getting looser and looser with her pencils, and borrowing more from manga and anime (I’ve never understood the teardrop thing).  Good work here.

Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak #1 – Interestingly, Matt Kindt uses this comic to set up the status quo that has existed for a very long time in his Rai.  We watch as Livewire launches Japan into space, and as Ninjak tries to stop her, at some point about a hundred years from now.  I don’t like when comics continuities try to map out their entire future, because it minimizes risk for major characters (you know they’ll be around in a hundred years, so they aren’t going to die this month), and diminishes the flexibility of the line, while also hinting at too many events to come.  This is definitely in that zone, but I found it effective because of the way Kindt focuses on future events we already know will come to pass.  Plus, unlike a lot of the other main characters of the Valiant Universe, we know that Colin is biologically a normal human, and therefore not likely to live forever.

Dead Drop #4 – This enjoyable Valiant miniseries ends very well.  This title was a bit of an odd duck, with different main characters each month, including two that are incredibly minor, although it was easily the most accessible thing that Ales Kot has ever written.  I enjoyed it, and I like that Valiant takes chances on books like this.  This will make a very good trade.

East of West #20This time around, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta share a lesson in realpolitik, and we get our first glimpses into the Endless Nation.  This series continues to build, slowly and methodically, much as we learn the House of Mao works at sowing its future.  I love this title, which is one of the most politically intriguing comics on the market.  I wish it came out more frequently, but I have hopes in that regard once Secret Wars ends.

Gotham by Midnight #8 – The Midnight Shift is facing some pretty serious charges, and while Rook questions how easily things are falling into place, Corrigan and Tarr are investigating some weird goings-on at a television studio.  This remains a solid series, although this issue doesn’t really stand out much.

Grayson #11 – Dick ends up fighting himself in the catacombs of Paris, as we learn who is behind the murder of a number of agents from different spy agencies.  This issue contains a nice assessment of Dick’s character, as seen from the perspective of his foe, and some very cool moments.  I continue to be impressed by this title.

Lando #3 – Lando’s problems continue to stack up as he has to deal with a pair of Imperial Guards, and a bounty hunter that is coming after him.  I guess stealing the private yacht of the Emperor brings a bunch of problems your way.  Charles Soule is having fun writing this.

Low #9This issue of Low contained a number of surprises.  First, I thought we’d be following up on the dire predicament that Stel found herself in at the end of the last issue, but instead, we return to the city where Della lives, and where her actions of a few issues ago have left her exposed as a traitor.  The second surprise came in the art.  Up until recently, artist Greg Tocchini has been providing his own colours.  Now, that’s being handled by Dave McCaig, and the change is a positive one.  I like Tocchini’s work a lot, but sometimes find his storytelling hard to follow; McCaig is levelling off some of the excesses of Tocchini’s style, making it clearer and easier to follow, without affecting its beauty.  The third surprise is impossible to discuss without spoiling the story, but it was nice to see a character we haven’t seen for a while again.  This title has been getting better and better, and now that Remender is focusing on his creator-owned work exclusively, I imagine it’s going to get even better.

New MGMT #1 – Mind MGMT was one of the most impressive series to be published over the last few years.  Matt Kindt uses this one-shot to wrap up that title, giving us a look at how things are under Meru’s new vision for things.  We check in on a number of characters, and in general get left with a strong sense of closure.  This has been an amazing series, where Kindt has pushed the boundaries of narrative, perception, and use of the comics page in a multi-media fashion to tell a large, sweeping story.  Now that it’s completed, I would love to go back and reread the whole series from the beginning, and I envy anyone who will crack it open and be able to experience the complete story in a concentrated dose.  I’m going to miss this comic.

Ninjak #6Ninjak has gone deep undercover, running an illegal weapons firm, and trying to track down the other people who control it.  This leads him to the south of France, and a strange confrontation, while in the flashback, we start to see how he is connected with some of the other members of Weaponeer.  Matt Kindt keeps this title moving at the right pace, and keeps tossing in interesting and new ideas.  I really like the work of artist Raul Allen on this comic, and hope that he’s going to stick around for the whole arc.

Pastaways #6 – It’s crazy that this is the fourth comic I read this week that was written by Matt Kindt, each quite different from the other, and all enjoyable.  Phil has been working his own angles since we met him, and he has been looking for revenge against Art, the team leader.  To that end, he’s had an agent infiltrate the team’s base, and in this issue, he comes face to face with Art.  We learn that the chronal protection that the team enjoys is not fool-proof.  Kindt and artist Scott Kolins are having fun with this book, but this issue shows that Kindt has darker plans in place.

Rasputin #8 – As much as I enjoy this series, I am continually frustrated by how decompressed it is.  We finally get a full accounting of the night of Rasputin’s murder (at least the first half), and the beginning of an explanation of how his body was found in 1916, yet he’s alive and well in America today.  This is a very unconventional and interesting book; it’s just way too quick a read.

Rumble #6 Rumble is not a typical fantasy comic, in that its main human characters are incredibly typical people.  John Arcudi and Tyler Crook start their second arc off with a recap that makes this a good jumping on point for new readers, and by spending most of the issue checking in with the main characters.  We learn a little more about Rathraq’s past, and see that Bobby’s killing of a monster has not sat well with him.  Arcudi is always good, and Crook is phenomenal.

The Sixth Gun: The Valley of Death #3 – This concludes this latest (and perhaps last?) of the Sixth Gun spin-off minis, and while I liked the art, I found this one just didn’t grip me very much.  I think it’s because there have just been too many prequels, and not enough focus of late on the actual main book.

Spider-Woman #10 – Here’s another Marvel comic that wraps up a series just to relaunch it again with the same creative team in a couple of months.  This was an alright issue, as it forces the growing friendship between Jessica and Porcupine, and contradicts much of the Time Runs Out arc in Avengers.  I’m probably going to keep buying Spider-Woman when it relaunches, but I also kind of feel like switching to trade-waiting on it.  I’ll see how I feel when it comes back…

Thief of Thieves #30This comic would be a lot more exciting if it came out more frequently, as it’s hard to remember where we are in the story.  Celia’s looking at a lot of time, since she is being forced to take the heat for all of Redmond’s crimes, although it looks like she has an angle, and like Conrad is finally helping her out.  This is a good book, but complex sting operations require a lot of attention from the reader, and that can be hard to maintain after a long hiatus between issues.

We Are Robin #3 – There is still a lot of mystery surrounding this title, although this month we finally learn who the mysterious benefactor of all these Robins really is, see that there are a lot more of them than we’ve seen so far, and see home of them run across the new Batman, who still looks ridiculous.  Duke is just a supporting character in this issue, and I think it might have been a little too soon to relegate him to that role, since we still don’t know much about the other characters.  This title remains interesting, but I’m starting to hold the $4 DC books to a higher standard, and for that reason, might not be continuing with it for long.

Another Notable Comic:

Young Terrorists #1

Written by Matt Pizzolo
Art by Amancay Nahuelpan
Black Mask Comics have been getting a lot of attention in the last year, as they’ve seen a number of their new series become very desirable, and enjoy sustained attention on the after-market.  I feel like I’ve been sleeping on their stuff for too long, having missed a few titles that I would have been interested in, had I been paying more attention to their solicitations in Previews.
I don’t know how Young Terrorists slipped past me, as it looked very much like the type of book I’d be interested in reading.  I guess a lot of people felt the same way, because the store where I shop was sold out of a decent number of orders in a couple of hours.  Luckily, I was travelling this week, and found a copy.
I think the thing I like most about the amount of attention that Black Mask is getting is the way in which it pushed this series (which is, I think, an on-going) and this issue (which will be released in second print soon) into the hands of a lot of people who would otherwise not buy something with this kind of material.  I do hope that most of these people decide to read it though, and not just keep it as an investment, as this is a very good comic.
This first issue is 80 pages long, which is always welcome, and it takes it time to introduce the main characters.  We meet Serah, the daughter of an extremely wealthy businessman, who controls one of three groups that more or less control the world, or at least its finances.  He is killed in a suicide bombing at the beginning of the book, and his daughter is framed as a terrorist.  She ends up escaping the CIA black site where she’s been interrogated, and has been the star of an illegal fight scene.

She continues that work, broadcasting her fights on the Internet, and gathering an interesting group of misfits around her.  The comic is split between Serah’s story and that of Cesar, a young man who is on the run after an act of resistance against industrial farming goes wrong.  Cesar is brutally abused throughout this book, beaten and left naked in a truckstop parking lot, before he is found by Baby, one of Serah’s people.As much as writer Matt Pizzolo takes this issue to set up his world, he also leaves a lot to be explained later.  We know that there is some intrigue surrounding Serah’s brother, and we see that she has effectively taken over a section of Detroit that had been abandoned, and is now providing the residents with food and electricity.

Artist Amancay Nahuelpan is new to me, and I’m impressed by what I see.  He has a way with the characters that sometimes reminds me of Tony Harris, and which works well with a book that is so tied into the motives of the people that populate it.

This book is rough and unapologetic, and very open about its political and economic beliefs.  I see antecedents in Jonathan Hickman’s phenomenal The Nightly News, and wonder if this is perhaps the book that Gail Simone set out to write when she started The Movement at DC.  It makes sense that Black Mask is publishing this book, since they launched their business with Occupy Comics.

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

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #4

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #8

Hellboy in Hell #7

Magneto #21

Old Man Logan #4

SHIELD #9

Stringers #1

Where Monsters Dwell #4

Bargain Comics:

All-New Miracleman Annual #1Much was made of how this comic contained the first new Miracleman stories in ages, and that it had such big names attached to it as Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Michael Allred, and Joe Quesada.  What wasn’t mentioned was the extreme fill-in quality of these stories, especially the Morrison/Quesada one.  At least Milligan’s story, set in the 50s, was kind of fun.

Aquaman #41 – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to like Aquaman since Peter David left the character a long time ago.  This new arc, featuring work by Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy is not bad, as Arthur has to figure out what’s going on with the sudden appearance of ancient artifacts and cities, but it didn’t really draw me in too much either. Also, how often does this guy lose his throne?  It happens to both him and Namor way too much to be considered an interesting story element anymore.

Batman and Robin Annual #3 – I’ve always liked when Peter Tomasi writes Bruce and Damian, but this story, which has them investigating abandoned Apollo spacecraft on the Moon, is pretty out there.  I hate when Batman is in space.

Batwoman #40 & Batwoman Annual #2 – Really, by the end of Marc Andreyko’s run, cancelling this book was a form of mercy killing.  His final storyline, involving Kate believing she was a vampire, Nocturna using her, and Morgaine Le Fay doing some stuff on the moon, was just unsalvageable.  Even with cool characters like Ragman added to the supporting cast, this is nothing like the highpoint of JH Williams’s run.

Crossed Badlands #10-13David Lapham gives us a good story about a cowardly teenager who is the only survivor of a Crossed outbreak at a circus, and how he tries to stay alive in this new world.  This is the mean Lapham, so we have the kid do some pretty awful stuff while continuing to believe that he’s a good guy.  I really didn’t understand the necrophilic scene though…

The Empty #3 – Jimmie Robinson really packs a lot of story into this series, as his motley crew of characters try to find the source of the gas that is poisoning the world, and instead find an insect hive-mind colony.  This book is completely unpredictable.

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #3&4 – Blood Lagoon brings back the main character from the first Grinhouse story, who is now a cyborg as well as a badass.  This story involves gigantic tics, gay marriage, a Black Power monster truck, booze, and copious amounts of alcohol.  Alex De Campi must have a ball coming up with these stories.

Ody-C #4&5 – I’ve tried to get into this book, and as much as I like Christian Ward’s art, the story is just not doing it for me at all.  I don’t know if it’s because Matt Fraction has taken this science fiction, gender-bending version of the Odyssey to levels that are beyond me, or if it’s because he’s so focused on the concept that he hasn’t invested the story with any heart.  I just find it very hard to care, and so I’m done for good.

Squadron Sinister #2This comic is, in a lot of ways, pretty bland, but if you are a fan of the New Universe, or if you like Carlos Pacheco’s art, there’s enough here to keep you happy.  I just don’t understand how people who live in a place called Europix, and who worship ‘God Doom’ can also refer to themselves as Americans.  There are a lot of things about Battleworld that do not stand up to any scrutiny.

Ultimate End #2&3 – I wonder if anyone told Brian Michael Bendis what’s going on in the other Secret Wars books, or even in the main event itself, or if he just generally remembers the plot, and is off doing his own thing again.  I honestly can’t follow what’s going on in this book.  It seems that versions of the Ultimate and 616 characters have ended up in a New York that has been mashed up from both universes.  The characters are sometimes contemporaneous with the beginning of Secret Wars (like Cyclops), but also wear older outfits (White Queen, 616 non-Superior Iron Man), and in the case of the Hulk, are all over the place, appearing as Doc Green on one page, and being old purple pants on another.  I don’t know where the blame lies; I only know that I don’t get it and am unimpressed.

Uncanny Avengers #4&5 – It really makes no sense that this series was relaunched for only five issues, and that it was then so incredibly lacklustre.  Comparing this to Rick Remender’s current creator-owned books (Black Science, Low, and the sublime Deadly Class), I think he’s made the right decision to step away from working for Marvel for the time being.  These are not good comics.

Where Monsters Dwell #1 – This is a pretty paint-by-numbers book from Garth Ennis.  A Han Solo type in a WWI fighter takes a lying woman somewhere, only to end up in the land of dinosaurs.  It’s exactly the type of thing that Ennis can do well without really thinking about it.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Suicide Risk Vol. 1 Boom! has been on fire lately, and Mike Carey is usually a very good writer, but this series is not really clicking for me.  We are following a cop in a world where a few people have superpowers, but they tend to make them become bad people.  Our cop also has powers now, and he’s driven by a need for revenge on the people who hurt his partners.  Carey takes too long setting up the premise, leaves too much unclear, and doesn’t quite make anyone compelling enough to care about what happens to them.  I’d expected better from this…

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