The Weekly Round-Up #300 With 8House #3: Kiem Part One, The Dying & The Dead #3, Dark Corridor #2, Plutona #1, We Stand on Guard #3, X-O Manowar #40 & More

Editor’s Note:

This column is James Fulton’s 300th offering. That’s a lot of editions for a weekly column. 300 represents almost 6 years of comics analysis and overall goodness.

James has a unique voice and literary (and music) taste at Comics Nexus and across the internet I’d argue. When most columnists and reviewers tend to exclusively cover the Big 2 or Big 5 (DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse and Valiant), James Fulton covers that too, but with a lot more non Big 2 publishers and even beyond the Big 5 than anywhere else I’ve seen.

He’s brought attention to gems that you may not have been aware had even come out simply because he has an intellectual and litrary curiousity second to none.

Having met him in person as well, most recently at this past weekend’s Fan Expo 2015, I can attest to how down to earth and humble he is despite his important role in the comics press.

Please join me in congratulating James Fulton on The Weekly Round-up #300. His column has lasted longer than many marriages! Well, we at Comic Nexus are happy with our continued civil union with James and his Weekly Round-up!

Congrats, buddy!

John Babos
Senior Editor

Best Comic of the Week:

8House #3: Kiem Part OneI liked the first two issues of 8House, which started the Arclight story, but this one blew me away.  This issue is co-written (with Brandon Graham) and drawn by Xurxo G. Penalta, who is an incredible artist.  Kiem is a female soldier of some sort, who transmits her consciousness into the dead body of her twin brother, which is somewhere in space.  When she is in her own body, she is confined to a high-tech creche with others in her unit.  All of this takes place in the city of Eurthum, which looks like a combination of the carved churches of Lalibela and the Montreal Habitat 67.  The establishing double splash pages that start the issue are worth the price of the comic alone.  Kiem is sent on a different mission, which involves her physically taking something somewhere, and this leads to even more visually compelling locations.  The feel of this issue is very much like a story from the middle of Graham’s Prophet, with strange settings that the reader is expected to just accept as normal.  I know that the next couple of issues are not going to be featuring Kiem, and I’m cool with that as I’m learning to trust that this series will always impress, but I hope we get back to her, and more Penalta artwork, very soon.

Quick Takes:

Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #5 – And with this issue, I’m done with Lord Baltimore.  I haven’t enjoyed this latest miniseries much at all.  The cast of this book has swelled, but the new characters were (I believe) mostly introduced in a novel I haven’t read, and I’ve found it very hard to follow this latest story, since I can’t keep these people straight.  This book has always had nice art, but that’s not enough for me any more.  I think, when Baltimore did away with his vampire nemesis, the title should have ended.

Casanova: Acedia #4 For a change, this entire issue is drawn by Gabriel Bá (his brother, Fábio Moon only provides some sketch pages and a one-page strip), and is an exploration of the life of Akim Athabadze, one of the earliest members of EMPIRE.  I will never get tired of looking at Bá’s art, and am enjoying this Casanova series, even if it lacks the manic energy of the earliest volume.  

Cluster #7 – Ed Brisson has reached that point in his story where things are constantly building towards the final climax.  The resistance base has been found, and so our heroes have only one chance to save themselves – a direct attack on Tranent, the company that brings prisoners to this remote planet to basically work them to death.  This have been an exciting series, and as we move towards the conclusion, my enthusiasm for it is only growing.

Daredevil #18 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee finish off their run, and wrap up a whole lot of plotlines.  Matt has to face the music for his numerous lies and deceptions, after stopping the Kingpin, dealing with Shroud, Owl, and Ikari.  This is a very full issue, and it leaves the characters in a good spot for Charles Soule’s upcoming relaunch.  I enjoyed Waid’s work on this book, although there were times when I felt it started to get a little tedious.  Chris Samnee’s work has been consistently excellent, and I’m hoping that he’ll be working on a new title I want to read soon.  I find it interesting that Waid claims to have the longest uninterrupted run on DD; I would have thought that would have been Bendis.  It’s hard to tell, since Waid’s tenure was spread over two different DD series.  He is probably the only comics writer to ever write two different Daredevil #1’s.

Dark Corridor #2 – The second issue of this new series by Rich Tommaso goes a long way towards demonstrating the structure of this series.  There are two short stories, both connected to the events of the last issue.  In the lead, a disgraced policeman who has just gotten out of prison spends the windfall he got last month on a crappy car, a crappy apartment, and a big night out at a strip club.  In the second story, we revisit the murder from the first issue, and begin to wonder about the group of women who are going around killing people from the organized crime world.  I like Tommaso’s art, and continue to be curious about this series.

The Dying & The Dead #3It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen this book, and it sounds like it might be a few more months before we see it again, but like with other collaborations between Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim, it’s well worth the wait.  This issue is very good, and doesn’t require the reader to have read the first two.  We are given the backstory of interactions between the human race and the Baduri, the immortals who live in the City under the Earth.  Basically, they’ve been guiding our race for a very long time, although at a secret meeting in Germany in 1944, three world leaders discuss using a very powerful weapon to take them out.  What happens next is pretty shocking and unexpected, as well as difficult to talk about without spoiling the surprise.  Needless to say, Hickman breaks from established history at this point.  This book is gorgeous, and uses the limited colour palette that used to be a mainstay of Hickman’s books.  I am hoping that the lead time that Hickman and Bodenheim have given themselves to get this book back on track isn’t going to be too long, as I’m pretty excited to see where this story goes next.

Hail Hydra #2 – Ian finds a pocket of resistance to Hydra, and Rick Remender gives us some very strange takes on Marvel heroes in this Secret Wars tie-in.  This is a solid issue, and I like the way Remender writes Ian, but I’m wondering how many of his plans for this character are going to be abandoned once he leaves Marvel.

Imperium #8 – The inclusion of Divinity into this series has caused things to get a little more complicated than they were before, but it also gives writer Joshua Dysart the chance to really start digging into Toyo Harada’s character, and to help us as readers understand what motivates him.  I like the way everyone that Harada surrounds himself with seems to be working their own personal angles, and it’s hard to pick out any one character as noble, or ‘good’.  This is a pretty complex book, and I’m glad Dysart’s being given so much freedom to tell it the way he is.

Jupiter’s Circle #6I continue to be impressed with this series, which tells stories about the heroes of Jupiter’s Legacy during their earlier days.  This issue finishes a two-parter involving Skyfox’s ex-girlfriend choosing Walter over him.  I like the way Mark Millar has structured these stories into concise two-parters, although weirdly, it looks like he’s going to relaunch the title with a new number one to round out the last six issues of the title.  That’s kind of dumb.  It’s nice to see original series artist Wilfredo Torres return for this issue.

Lazarus #19 – Greg Rucka really messes with readers’ expectations this issue, after having Forever run into a pretty big problem last issue.  I love watching this series unfold, as Rucka blends science fiction, war, and family drama elements together wonderfully.  Michael Lark strikes the right balance in this series as well.  This issue surprised me by having the story finish halfway into the comic, but that’s because we’re given a preview of Rucka’s upcoming comic with the incredible Nicola Scott, Black Magick, which looks very good.  As I’ve already preordered that title, I didn’t read the preview; I prefer to experience it in full when it comes out.

Material #4 – I’m a little surprised to see that there is a fifth issue of Material solicited, since Ales Kot leaves this issue in a good place to finish a series that is about stories that don’t really come to an end.  Most of the characters we’ve been following in this series reach a point of change, or of becoming more themselves, and it makes this a very powerful issue.  Kot’s taken an Altmanesque approach to this series, showing us four plotlines that don’t overlap or affect one another, but which show people struggling with the confines of their identities.  This series addresses race, police oppression, celebrity, ageing, the effects of imprisonment, and feminism as it manifests itself in other cultures, and while that’s a lot of stuff for a writer to keep track of, Kot does it very well.  I’ve been down on his work lately, and I can see how people might view this title as pretentious, but I found myself cheering for a couple of the characters as I read this issue.  I’m glad there’s more to come, and am now wondering what the shape of this series is going to be; I’d always assumed it was a miniseries, but I see that a trade is due to be released later this month collecting the first four issues, while a fifth is scheduled to come out in October, more or less guaranteeing that three more issues are in the pipeline.

Midnighter #4It’s been hard to escape the news this week that DC Comics has not met their expectations with their DC You branding and launching of a raft of new titles.  For the most part, I don’t really care, but there have been some nice surprises that came out of the company, and this week two books that may not be long for the world, but which deserve more attention, were shipped.  Midnighter has been surprisingly good, and this issue is one of the best of the run so far.  Midnighter has abducted Dick Grayson to help him with a case involving a genetically engineered vampire who arranges for Russian men to kill other vampires for money.  The two heroes work well together, and the scene in the steam room made me laugh, as writer Steve Orlando delights in playing with Midnighter’s sexuality in a fun way, without being too exploitative of it.  Stephen Mooney drew this issue, and while I really like the regular artist, ACO, Mooney is a great replacement.  His Half Past Danger was a great read, and so is this book.  If you are reading and enjoying Grayson, you will like this, so give it a try, and let’s try to stave off DC handing full creative control back to Dan Didio for a while longer.

The Omega Men #4 – Like Midnighter, this is a title that I’m worried about the long-term prospects of, mostly because I’m enjoying it way more than I expected to.  Writer Tom King is structuring this book in such a way that the reader is only given small pieces at a time, and is left to work out much him- or herself.  This issue was a surprise, because regular artist Barnaby Bagenda (whose work I’m really enjoying) was absent, replaced by Toby Cypress, an artist I admire, although not one you’d expect to see on a mainstream DC comic.  The entire issue is given over to two characters, Kyle Rayner, the captured Green Lantern, and Princess Kalista, who is playing the role of captive but is secretly an Omega Man.  A lot of stuff gets explained this month, as we learn about the different planets in the Vega system, and how they each deal with Citadel control.  I really hope that King is given the time and space he needs to tell this story, because it’s easily the most interesting of the DC You comics, and one I’d like to keep reading for quite some time.

Plutona #1Largely because of the style of artist Emi Lenox, this new Image series feels at first like an all-ages comic, but she and co-writer/scripter Jeff Lemire have hidden some real darkness in this title.  We are introduced to a group of middle school students who live in a sleepy suburb of Metro City, the home of a number of superheroes, including Plutona.  The kids we meet get fleshed out very effectively.  One is a dreamer who likes to capespot (keep an eye out for metahuman activity), another is a self-absorbed girl who resents looking after her brother.  Her friend is very much under her control, while a fourth kid comes from a broken home and has difficulty getting along with people.  All four of them are together when they discover Plutona’s dead body in the woods.  There is also a backup story, drawn by Lemire, that shows us a little of who Plutona is, and how she has to juggle superheroing with her waitressing job, and looking after her daughter as a single mother.  I found myself liking these characters pretty quickly, and I’m curious to see where Lemire and Lenox take a story like this.  I didn’t get a “Who Killed Retro Girl?” vibe from the first issue, but am not sure where this story would naturally lead to next.  It’s good stuff.

Providence #4 – I find it interesting how little happens in any given issue of Alan Moore’s Providence, and yet the book continues to keep my interest.  In this issue, Robert visits a remote farm owned by an old man who has some information about a book he’s interested in, and along the way, meets his mentally damaged daughter and monstrous grandson.  Once again, Moore repeats much of what happened in the comic in the journal text pages, from Robert’s point of view, which brings forward some things that are easy to miss.  I’m still not too clear on what the ultimate point of this book is, and I think that the early marketing stating this will be the “Watchmen of horror comics” was way off the mark, but I do find this a compelling project.

Thors #3Jason Aaron clearly enjoys himself with this issue, which feels a lot like an old episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.  Ultimate Thor has Loki in the box, trying to figure out his involvement in a string of murders, and we learn who is really behind everything that’s happened so far.  Thors has been one of the best of the Secret Wars tie-in series; it embraces the weirdness of Battleworld, and unlike most of the other comics, tells a story that can only take place on that planet, and that is not constrained by the bounds of nostalgia.  It’s a very good read.

We Stand on Guard #3 – I’ve been enjoying this series by Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce for a few reasons.  As always with a Vaughan story, the character work is strong, as is the internal story logic (aside from the giant robots; no military would use something like that).  Skroce’s art is great, and very nice to see after such a long break from comics.  This issue has the leader of the Two-Four captured, and subject to the latest in American torture, while the rest of the resistance work to figure out a plan to either hold on to their base, or to escape the coming Ameican forces.  Vaughan suggests that America already has a plan to take over Canada right now, and that is a chilling thought.

The Woods #16 – There are a few surprises this month, as we learn a little about the Japanese army that apparently has been around on the planet for ages.  James Tynion has a lot goign on in this book right now, which makes it even more exciting than it was before.  Michael Dialynas is killing the art on this title.

X-O Manowar #40Aric finds himself standing between the Vine and GATE, trying to keep a war from starting.  What no one knows is that one of the Vine commanders survived the original invasion of the planet, and stands ready to manipulate these events to his own ends.  This series has been working really well lately.

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

Crossed Badlands #84

Empty #6

Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #1

Rachel Rising #36

Silver Surfer #14

Squadron Sinister #3

This Damned Band #2

War Stories #12

Bargain Comics:

Convergence: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #1&2I skipped the entire Convergence event, rightly deciding that the few books I was interested in would be available for a couple of dollars within a few months’ time.  Having not even attempted the weekly main series, I have to admit that I had very little idea what was going on in this book.  Superboy and the Legion were stuck in some sort of force bubble around Metropolis, without powers, for a good amount of time.  Then, one day, the bubble went away, their powers came back, and a voice in the sky told them to fight the people living in other cities.  Then the Atomic Knights show up to kill everyone in Metropolis, because their city of Durvale had only 209 people living in it, and that is somehow justification.  I think it’s worth pointing out that a city like Metropolis in the 30th Century could probably have just found nice clean housing for all of those people, and the problems would have been over.  Anyway, it’s always nice to see the Legion, and I thought it was cool that Stuart Moore and Gus Storms, whose Image book EGOs is basically just a LSH comic, got to do it.  Of course, this is a DC event that was planned for at least a year, so there’s no way the same artist could draw both issues.  Peter Gross is an artist I admire a lot though, and I thought it was cool that he made young Clark Kent look like Tim Hunter.  Based on this first dip of the toe into Convergence, it was a mess.  I picked up a few more miniseries, so let’s see if my opinions changed…

Convergence: Justice Society of America #1&2 I’m surprised by how much this series is like the Legion one.  We spend the first issue with four members of the JSA who have lost their powers (what powers did Hawkman have again?) and have found aging to be difficult.  They then get into a fight with some robot thing from Qward, and Doctor Fate restores everyone’s youth for one last fight.  That’s it.  We see that Infinity Inc. is active in this version of Metropolis, but they don’t join in at all, and things feel very anti-climactic.  I miss the JSA as much as I do the LSH, but this did nothing for me.  I will say that Tom Derenick’s art has gotten a lot better these last few years.  This looked pretty nice.

Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #1&2 – Now here’s one of the Convergence titles I was very tempted to pick up, mostly because it’s Gail Simone writing the real Barbara Gordon.  It was a disappointment though, as the series is really about sadistic versions of Hawkman and Hawkwoman looking to recreate Thanagar.  This whole thing didn’t really click, and the tension between Dick and Barbara over whether or not they should get married is resolved way too quickly.

Fire Team #1 – I found this very random Don Lomax comic from 1990 in an antique store, and because I like what I’ve read of Vietnam Journal, I thought I’d give it a shot.  This is a pretty interesting book.  It’s about a mixed race Vietnamese-American teenager who is living with his uncle, when skinheads, tired of not being able to extort protection money, burn his shop down.  The kid goes looking for revenge, gets in over his head, and is mysteriously saved by the ghost of an American soldier who was present when the kid’s mother died.  There is a very good flashback to the Vietnam War, and we learn about the uncle’s relationship with the Americans.  This is the start of a six-issue miniseries, and contains more story than two of today’s comics.  Lomax is a very talented storyteller, and now I’m stuck trying to hunt down the rest of this series, which I don’t think will be easy.

Inhuman #13&14, Inhuman Annual #1, and Uncanny Inhumans #0I’ve decided I like what Charles Soule has been doing with the Inhumans.  The blend of new characters with old has made the comic more interesting (because, let’s face it, the original royal family can’t sustain a whole lot of variety in their stories), and the book has had some very good artists working on it.  I don’t fully understand the push Marvel is giving the book, and I doubt it can sustain as many titles as it is getting, but Soule is making good use of his chance to own a corner of the Marvel Universe.  I do find it hard to separate my enjoyment of the individual comics from my knowledge that Marvel is pushing too hard here…

Justice League United #11 – I like the approach that Jeff Parker is taking for this title, having new members recruited for specific missions, although the mission is not terribly clear.  I’m glad to see that the characters Jeff Lemire had intended to build up, Alana Strange and Equinox, are still being used, and Travel Foreman’s art is interesting.  This is just not a $4 book though.

Miracleman #14-16 – These are probably the issues that people think of the most when they think about Alan Moore’s work on Miracleman, and while they remain classics, they do come off as pretty wordy.  While the events of 14 and 15 are massive, it is issue 16’s lengthy epilogue and look towards the future that I found most interesting.  It’s easy to see how Neil Gaiman was able to find a rich vein of story ideas to mine in this.  John Totleben’s art on this book is incredible, and looks great with the recolouring.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Force War #3-5 – The completist in me insisted that I finish John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s last Dark Horse Star Wars comic, but as with my earlier exposures to this longer longer ago, and farther, farther away version, there are way too many concepts crammed into this book to make it work properly.  Given forty issues, I’m sure Ostrander could have done amazing stuff with this, but he did not have the time or space.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Troop 142

by Mike Dawson

Troop 142, Mike Dawson’s graphic novel about a week at Scout camp in 1995, brought back some serious memories.

This book, which was originally published as a webcomic I believe, takes us through the entire week at camp, and while it is narrated by one of the fathers accompanying the boys, we get inside many of their heads and see the experience in a multi-faceted way.

I had my own experiences with the Boy Scouts through the 80s and early 90s, and while there are some differences, there was a lot of stuff in this book that I could relate to, and memories came flooding back as I read it.  The terrible campfire songs, and the endlessly corny skits; the smell of the canvas-covered wooden platforms that we slept in, and the senior leader (in this case, an old white man who goes by Big Bear) whose sense of privilege and morality gives him permission to drone on about character at every opportunity.

More at the heart of this book is the casual cruelty of the boys towards one another.  They jockey endlessly for position, turning on friends, and making life miserable for the boys that they have decided they don’t like, such as Chuck, the son of one of the leaders and the camp pariah.  Dawson also captures the weird line between homoeroticism and homophobia that is rampant at these gatherings.  Some of these scenes get pretty awkward, especially when Dawson hints at a relationship growing between two of the youngest boys, but never makes it clear what happened between them.  And, of course, at the end of the week, Big Bear turns one of his morality speeches into a rant against gay Scoutmasters, but no one sees a problem with the troop playing with a carved wooden dildo the next morning.

Even more subtle is the way that Dawson manages to show that no one is enjoying themselves at camp.  This matches a lot of my memories, where the fun is only to be had in retrospect; too much of the time, you are focused on feeling dirty, uncomfortable, exhausted, and frequently unsafe.

The whole Boy Scout thing is a unique experience for boys (and now girls, although that would necessitate some big changes in terms of the shared latrines and showers) and one which I think is on the wane, at least where I live.  Dawson manages to tell a good story and preserve a unique North American experience.  This is a very good book.

Rachel Rising Vol. 4 – Winter Graves Terry Moore throws us for a few more curves in this volume of his excellent horror series, as Rachel has to deal with the (hopefully temporary) death of her aunt, while having her memories of her first life resurface.  We learn that Jet’s body is inhabited by a boy from the witch trial times, just as Aunt Johnnie is now hanging out inside her dog.  There are a lot of strange things happening in this series, but Moore holds it all together very well, making this a very exciting and unpredictable read.