The Weekly Round-Up #302 With Island #3, Bloodshot Reborn #6, Star Wars #9, Invincible #123 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Island #3My favourite new comics anthology has its first issue without stories by the book’s creators, Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, but there is no dip in quality at all.  Everything about this issue is brand new, as two new serials debut, and we get a few one-off stories.

  • Ancestor is a new story by Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean, who contributed backup stories to Prophet.  This is a cool story set in a time where people are permanently connected to the Internet through a Service which is visualised as yellow clouds around people’s heads.  The Service doesn’t just provide you constant connection, it also monitors stress levels, and can take over motor skills to perform tasks like making a cocktail.  When a group of friends are invited to a party at a rich businessman’s estate, however, their Service is shut off, and they struggle with that adjustment.  There is something darker going on as well, which I guess will be explored in the next installment.  This is a very good story, and lines up nicely with this week’s issue of Tokyo Ghost (see below).
  • Dilraj Mann gives us a story about a girl and her social network, which all collides at a club one night.  Mann has an interesting, blocky style, and at first I did not like his stylized faces, but they grew on me, and by the end of the story, I was into it.
  • Amy Clare launches the other serial in this book.  It’s about a young woman who works in a betting parlour, and the story is set in a slightly dystopian setting.  Clare has a very unique way of laying out the page, and her style drew me in.
  • Kate Craig’s story about a pair of climbers who have suffered a mishap was perhaps the most gripping in the book.  The man is injured, and the woman has to decide between looking after him and going for help when she learns that her GPS beacon is broken.  What adds to the story is that this pair is not a couple, but the man clearly has a woman in his life.  That leaves a lot to the imagination, as the reader tries to figure out all that is being left unsaid.
  • The book also has a couple of short strips by José Domingo (which is very trippy) and Tessa Black, as well as an essay about arranging the legal partnership between comics collaborators.

Next month Farel Dalrymple (who did this month’s covers) is contributing something to this book, just when I thought it couldn’t get better.  I love Island!

Quick Takes:

All-New Hawkeye #5 I’m not sure if this is the last issue of this series or not.  The issue wraps up the flashback storyline, but leaves the present-day one in a pretty unbelievable way.  This arc has involved our two Hawkeyes rescuing a group of deformed by powerful children from Hydra, then rescuing them from SHIELD, only to give them back to Hydra because they’re dangerous?  None of this fits with either character.  On top of that, the annoying way in which Marvel feels the need to stop and relaunch new series after only five issues, really breaks things up here.  I have a massive amount of admiration for Jeff Lemire as a writer, but this is really not working for me.  I’ve already preordered the first issue of the next series, but I don’t think I will do so for the rest, despite Ramon Perez’s gorgeous art in this comic.  I’m really surprised that this isn’t working better.

Black Canary #4 – While on the one hand, I love seeing Pia Guerra’s art in this issue, I’m not too sure I like where this series is going.  This comic mostly focuses on Maeve, the singer Dinah replaced, who has taken Ditto, the mysterious and silent girl who plays in the band, and who is wanted by a bunch of government agencies, as part of a plot to gain herself abilities similar to Dinah’s.  It’s way too convoluted, and a little hard to care about.  I am curious to learn who the woman in white is, that shows up part-way through the book.  Here’s a question for people who have paid more attention to the New 52 than I – did all the stuff involving Dinah and that girl Sin still happen?

Bloodshot Reborn #6 – Jeff Lemire chooses to change things up this issue, rewriting some of the rules of Ray’s hunt for his missing nanites, as he also goes it alone, without Bloodsquirt and Kay.  At the same time, he begins to get closer to his new friend Magic, just as the FBI agents also take their working relationship to a new level.  I really like the way Lemire is writing this book, and think that the addition of artist Butch Guice was a brilliant choice.  I’ve loved his work for years, and I think his approach is a good fit for this title.

BPRD Hell on Earth #135This is another one of those slightly in-between issues of BPRD, as we check in on a number of characters, learn of a new potential threat, and see Kate consolidate her core team.  I know that this series is building to a very big conclusion, and I’m excited to see that happen, as much as I’ve loved this title since it picked up the ‘Hell on Earth’ part of its title.  I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about this comic once co-writer John Arcudi moves on.  I suspect he’s a big part of the reason why I still feel so invested in this book at a time when I’m giving up on most of the rest of the Mignola-verse.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #11 – Ales Kot’s confusing and kind of pointless story wraps up, and while I’d lost interest in his portrayal of Bucky a while back, I’m really going to miss this book.  Why?  Because I was more or less guaranteed regular doses of Marco Rudy’s art (although half of this issue was drawn by Langdon Foss), and that made this one of my favourite Marvel comics of the last year.  Rudy’s grown as an artist as he worked on this book, pushing himself to ever greater levels of psychedelia and beauty, and I hope to see him on another book soon.  I know from overhearing him talking at Fan Expo that he’s got a real love for Marvel’s cosmic characters, and I hope he gets something like that soon.  One thing that stood out as interesting in this issue is the way that Kot and Rudy portray Daisy Johnson, which completely contradicts her appearances in the SHIELD comic, unless ‘Skye’ is going to lose her interest in being with men in that title too…

Doctor Fate #4 – I’d told myself I was done with this book, since it’s really going nowhere, but Sonny Liew’s artwork pulled me back in when I flipped through it at the store.  Liew’s doing some pretty cool things with the visuals on this book, which is especially impressive considering that Paul Levitz is giving him very little to work with.  This book has massive potential, but Levitz’s story is so decompressed and slow moving that I can barely tell you what happened in this issue, or what makes it different from the one before it.  I’m surprised that this book survived the axe that so many better books (Omega Men) got this last week.  I suspect that’s because Levitz knows where every skeleton is buried…

The Fade Out #9 I loved this issue of The Fade Out, as we finally got the full backstory on Charlie’s relationship with Gil, and got confirmation of some of the nastier secrets at the studio where Charlie works.  I mean, those weren’t a surprise, as Ed Brubaker’s dropped some pretty obvious hints, but now Charlie knows for sure what’s been going on, and has to commit himself to action.  This is a very good series, but then everything that Brubaker and Sean Phillips do together is very good, so that’s also not a surprise.

Infinity Gauntlet #4 – The first two issues of this Secret Wars series were among my favourites of that event, so I thought I’d upgrade the title from my bargain hunting list and buy it fresh off the stands.  Turns out, I made the wrong move.  Where the first issues were full of excellent character development and a tight family trying to survive a ruined world, this issue was all manga-influenced chaos, which could barely keep my interest.  Dustin Weaver’s art is gorgeous, but very busy, as the Nova family, the Guardians, and Thanos get into it with Adam Warlock and his various supporters.  It’s a bit of a mess of an issue, and too hard to care about.  I think the last issue goes back on the cheap list.

Invincible #123 – I’ve been a little apprehensive about the news that Robert Kirkman was going to be rebooting this series, as I’m really very tired of the constant cycle of relaunch that has become the modern comics industry.  This issue put those concerns to rest though, as Mark gets ready to leave his new adopted planet to hunt down Thragg, and ends up somewhere very different instead.  Kirkman’s earned my trust, and I think the next three issues are going to be a lot of fun, which is one thing this comic has always done well (alongside being brutally violent and unpredictable).

Lando #4I’m enjoying this book, but a huge plot point hinges on something that happens with a piece of Sith sculpture, but because of the way Alex Maleev has chosen to portray this, it looks like a helmet on a box, and I can’t really understand what’s going on with it.  The writing, by Charles Soule, is sharp and sounds like Billy Dee Williams, but the Sith stuff confuses me.  To be fair though, that stuff always confuses me.  I just wish Maleev made those scenes clearer…

Manifest Destiny #17 – One of the things that I like most about this series is the way writer Chris Dingess has taken the time to work on the characters that populate the book.  Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea are major historical figures, but Dingess has made them into pretty well-realized characters, while still throwing them into some pretty crazy situations.  This issue does this for Collins, the youngest member of the expedition, who has been tasked with climbing into a gigantic archway to hunt down and kill a vampire-like creature.  We also learn a lot more about Sacagawea’s upbringing.  This series is often a lot of fun, and is more than capable of delivering a good old-school horror turn from time to time.

Rai #10 – I feel like things are really starting click with this third Rai arc.  Our hero is stuck on Earth, and goes about recruiting allies to help him take his fight back up to New Japan.  Rumors of an immortal, eternal warrior lead to a character’s return, while Rai’s allies in New Japan set out to rescue Spylocke from a very public death.  Clayton Crain’s art continues to be clearer and easier to follow, and Matt Kindt works some pretty cool ideas into this series.  The plan for a successor to Spylocke is straight out of Mind MGMT, which is pretty cool.

Secret Six #6The first story arc mostly comes to a close, and I’m left wondering if this book wasn’t repurposed at some point.  The events of the first two issues really don’t fit with where this title has ended up, and I don’t really believe that this was always going to be a story about the Riddler wanting a diamond.  It doesn’t add up.  Still, Gail Simone works well with these characters, and aside from the annoying fact that Big Shot is really Ralph Dibney, but everyone keeps calling him by his assumed name Mr. Wells, I’d like to see this team stick together for a while.  Tom Derenick drew this issue, which is disappointing because I thought that Dale Eaglesham was going to be the regular artist from now on.  I hope DC can get it together with this book soon, or I’m going to give up on it.

Sex Criminals #12 – It’s so nice to see this book coming out more frequently again, and I have to say that this is perhaps the strangest issue of this series yet, mostly because of a new character, whose ejaculate forms a manga-esque angel with tentacle lady-parts.  That’s the cleanest way I can describe this on this site.  Words kind of escape me, really.  I love this series, but this issue is an odd one, as we spend a lot of time checking in with a lot of different characters, and attend a lecture in women’s studies.  The letters column, which is usually as good as the comic itself, is a little light on poignancy this month as well.  Oh well, it’s all good.

Southern Cross #5 – Things get pretty crazy this issue, as we learn a lot more about what happened to Braith’s sister, and get a better idea of how the gravity drive is affecting things on the ship, as well as where different characters’ loyalties lie.  Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger have really impressed me with this series, and it’s cool to see it moving into new directions as it builds towards its conclusion with the next issue.

Star Wars #9As the characters scatter, I’m starting to feel the lack of cohesion in this title.  There are too many sequences that remind me of the prequel films, as Luke engages in some parkour on a smuggler’s moon, and as Han and Leia fight with, and then team up with Han’s wife, and we as readers are no closer to learning who she is.  I think I like this book best when the core members are working together and on missions for the Rebellion, instead of pursuing personal interests all over the place.  Also, having Luke end up in a Hutt’s collection of Jedi artifacts the same week that Lando is dealing with a treasure trove of Sith artifacts feels a little lazy.

Tokyo Ghost #1 – I was excited about this comic, as Rick Remender writes good debuts, and Sean Murphy is always excellent, but I think I got a little overwhelmed by just how much is visually crammed onto every page.  Of course, that’s intentional, but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting.  We are in a future where everybody uses nanotechnology to improve or control their bodies and lives, except for our main character, Debbie Decay.  She, and her partner, Led Dent, are police, tasked with stopping Davey Trauma from wrecking stuff.  Trauma can remotely control anyone with nanotech in their systems, which is everyone except Debbie.  Led is her boyfriend, but he’s so far gone into the world of entertainment, that he barely knows what’s going on around him (although that doesn’t stop him from driving a crazy motorcycle and stopping criminals).  At the heart of the story is Debbie’s desire to free Led from his addictions, as much for herself as for him (the word codependent gets used a lot here).  It’s an interesting, and timely, concept, and my hope is that once the book slows down a little from its mayhem-filled chase scenes and the general insanity on display here, we’ll begin to care a bit more about Debbie.  As a trailer, this is effective, but I’m going to want a little more from subsequent issues.

UFOlogy #5The penultimate issue of this excellent science fiction series reveals some pretty big secrets, such as what happened to Malcolm’s mother and what’s up with the melting soldier.  This has been a peculiar title since it began, and I’m impressed with the way James Tynion and Noah Yuenkel have structured their story.  Matthew Fox’s art is very nice; he has some very interesting extraterrestrial designs here.

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

‘68 Last Rites #2

Dark Horse Presents #14

Guardians of Knowhere #4

Heart in a Box TP

Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #2

Robin Son of Batman #4

String Divers #2

2 Sisters – A Super Spy Graphic Novel

Bargain Comics:

A-Force #1I thought this would be worth checking out, and it’s all good, except that nowhere are we explained why the team of superheroes that work for She-Hulk are all women, especially when we see Luke Cage walking down the street at one point.  I realize that if this were an all-male team, no one would be asking that question, as it would just be taken on principle, and perhaps that’s the reason?  Anyway, like most Secret Wars tie-ins I’ve read, there’s really nothing special here.  Why is Dazzler flying?  And in roller skates?

Black Widow #20 – Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto wrap up their Black Widow series by focusing on the type of thing that this book needed more of from the very beginning – Natasha’s interior life.  Through this flashback to her first mission for the Soviet Union, we get a slightly better sense of the woman than we did from all the previous issues.  

Magneto #16&17 – Cullen Bunn continues to do some interesting, if dark and slow-moving, work with Magneto.  I’m not sure how I feel about Genosha being the setting of yet another attempt at a mutant homeland, and I’m getting very bored of Nazis, but Bunn makes this all work.

X-Tinction Agenda #2 – I liked the first issue of this Secret Wars series, but with the second one, too many plot holes became problematic, and that threw me out of the book entirely.  To begin with, I’m not sure if, when the Genoshan heroes attack the X-Men’s city, they are crossing boundaries on Battleworld, or if both places are neighbours.  Both scenarios are strange, in the context of the rules that Jonathan Hickman and others have established for this world.  Furthermore, Beast has brought a few dead X-Men – Wolverine, Banshee, and Thunderbird – forward in time from points before they died, which is also in contradiction to the established rules of Battleworld, where even Kang cannot move around in time.  Also, why?  What possible story element hinges on Banshee and Thunderbird?  Like, ever?  I know that this is the kind of minor continuity quibbling that often annoys me, but in a large, supposedly carefully managed event, this stuff drives me nuts, because it completely invalidates the point of the series.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Doomsday.1

by John Byrne

Like any comics reader about my age, I have been a big fan of John Bryne’s work over the years, although that has not always translated into my enjoying his more current work.

Doomsday.1 was a four-issue miniseries published by IDW a few years ago.  It stars a group who were on the International Space Station when a massive solar flare erupted, sending a ball of plasma larger than the Earth crashing into our home, burning and destroying much of the planet.  Our main characters managed to avoid the destruction, and make their way to the planet, where they spend the rest of the series trying to put together a new life.

The concept is a good one, and Byrne has taken some pains to try to keep his story within the confines of what would have most likely happened, but he’s chosen to structure the story rather strangely.  Each issue after the first one features the dwindling group of survivors through some episodic adventures.

In Texas, they come across some prisoners who have taken over a penitentiary.  In New York, they find rats and badly burned people.  In Brazil, they find a wild tribe of indigenous people, who are being led by an English-speaking Dutchman.  This issue is pretty unfortunate on a whole lot of levels, the most egregious being the overly stereotypical portrayal of the tribe.

I wonder if Byrne had perhaps intended for this to be a much longer-running series, and then just decided to focus on a few chapters, but the jumping forward in time, and the way in which characters are introduced and then abandoned (like the Cuban kid the group rescued in Miami and took with them to New York, who was never seen again).  There is little in the way of sustained character development, although I did like the fact that Richard Branson was used as a model for one character.

This is not Byrne at his best.  His Cold War series at IDW was a better read, but there is something that I will always find comforting about reading pages of his art.  He still draws the most recognizable rubble in comics.

‘68 Vol. 2: ScarsI really liked the central concept behind ‘68 – that a zombie apocalypse happened in that busy year, with the outbreak starting in Vietnam and spreading to America (and elsewhere).  The central character was a Chinese-American soldier named Yam, to the extent that the title had a central character (it’s pretty sprawling), and the book just had a different feel to it.  This second volume, though, was a bit of a disappointment.  The sprawl continued, as we met various characters who were left in ‘Nam while the Americans pulled out, and as we follow Yam to one of the last outposts under American control.  We also check in on his parents, who are in New York, and trying to get evacuated somewhere safe.  The story moves along nicely, but the art, by Nat Jones, is nowhere near as clean as it was in the earlier issues.  I often found it difficult to tell characters apart, and some of the subplots, such as the one involving a group of SEALs and the green officer sent by patrol boat to retrieve them, went nowhere.  This series is released as a series of miniseries, with random one-shots between them, but is structured as an ongoing series, which means reading it in this format is unsatisfying.  I have the next two miniseries in my to-read pile; here’s hoping they improve.

 

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