Best Comic of the Week:
Paper Girls #1 – When you hear that Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang are doing a comic together, you just buy it. This debut issue has forty pages of story (at just $3, which is a great value in a week where Marvel dumps a ton of way overprice product) that gives these two masters of the form lots of space to introduce their characters and get the ball rolling on this series. Paper Girls is about a group of paper girls who deliver together in the early hours of the morning after Halloween in suburban Cleveland in 1988. This is a time when newspapers still mattered. They have to deal with creepy teenagers, and then one member of the group gets her walkie talkie stolen by some odd-looking guys that are dressed sort of like ninjas. The group gets together to try to follow them, and we learn that this is a bit of a science fiction series. I don’t want to spoil anything from the end of the book, so I won’t say anything more about the plot. Vaughan is always a good writer, and he makes these girls likeable and pretty realized in a short space. The book also has a very nostalgic feel to it, as Chiang effortlessly recreates this familiar time and place. I’m not sure how long this series is expected to run, but I’m definitely on board for the duration. I’ve missed Chiang’s art since his Wonder Woman run ended, and while his work here is a lot looser, it’s very nice to see again.
All-New All-Different Marvel Point One #1 – I think, if you’re going to rebrand your entire line of comics as “All-New, All-Different”, then they really shouldn’t just be further examples of the “Same-Old Same-Old.” This overpriced ($6!) anthology is designed to introduce some new titles that are coming from Marvel, but newness is sadly absent from just about everything. The framing sequence sets up the Contest of the Champions series (the third time that name has been used), as Maestro and the Collector talk about who they should select for their team. They consider Carnage (and we get a confusing story that jumps from the US to Aghanistan with little explanation), and Groot and Rocket Racoon, with a story that is nowhere near as cute nor funny as it seems to think it is. There is an Agents of SHIELD story that did very little for me. The All-New Inhumans story features Crystal, who has at least All-New’ed her appearance a little. This story does a good job of explaining the premise of her upcoming series, where she travels around meeting NuHumans after they emerge from Terrigenesis. The Daredevil story is also decent, as we are introduced to a new character, an undocumented Chinese migrant who wants to become a superhero and seeks out Daredevil to train him. That story works because of the interesting, minimalist approach Ron Garney is taking to drawing this upcoming series. It didn’t escape my notice that the only two stories I liked in this comic were both written by Charles Soule. I was disappointed that Al Ewing’s framing sequence didn’t work for me, but at the same time, since I didn’t preorder Contest of the Champions, that ended up making me happy. I feel more and more like there’s going to be a lot to pass on in the A-N A-D Marvel world. Let’s see how the Avengers fare…
Avengers #0 – Like the anthology above, this equally overpriced comic provides glimpses of where the wide spectrum of Avengers-related titles are headed. The framing sequence is provided by the members of the new Squadron Supreme, as they assess the different Avengers teams as potential threats. The Vision and Scarlet Witch story is the best in the book, as Mark Waid shows us how he’s changing the Vision (yet again) for the A-N A-D Avengers title. Al Ewing’s use of Ms. America Chavez to launch his take on Ultimates (featuring mostly characters from his Mighty Avengers title) is great, as is Kenneth Rocafort’s art. I also liked G. Willow Wilson on Captain Marvel, but since she’s not going to be the writer of either A-Force or the upcoming relaunched Captain Marvel comic, this is an unfortunate tease. As is name-dropping Alpha Flight a few times without having them appear… I’d love to read Ewing’s New Avengers, which is going to feature Sunspot’s AIM team (Avengers Idea Mechanics), but I just can’t handle Gerardo Sandoval’s artwork. Likewise, the Deadpool story that is supposed to introduce Uncanny Avengers, by Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman, left me cold. I think this anthology worked better than the one above it, but at the end of the day, this left me unsatisfied too. We do learn that the Avengers have to sell their Tower (not sure about the Mansion), and learn that at least one character who was shown to die before Secret Wars even started will be returning in full health. Also, a particular Ultimate bad guy will be making his way to the 616, or whatever the main Marvel U will be called.
Bloodshot Reborn #7 – Ray continues to hunt his missing nanites, but there’s someone else hunting them down for his own use, and that complicates things. The FBI agents continue their case at the same time, as Jeff Lemire moves everyone along paths that are going to intersect soon. This is a very good read, and Butch Guice’s artwork is very nice. I like how this book more or less exists in its own corner of the Valiant Universe right now.
CBLDF Liberty Annual 2015 – I like supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and believe strongly in the work that they do, so once a year, that means I buy an anthology that doesn’t really impress me all that much. Some years have been better than others, but this one is a bit of a let-down. As expected, there are comics that explore the post-Charlie Hebdo state of cartooning, and a few strips, such as Art Spiegelman’s and Bob Fingerman’s stand out as being particularly good or incisive, but the overall effect was not all that impressive. I still encourage you to pick it up though, or to make a donation to the organization’s site, as the work they do is important.
Cluster #8 – Ed Brisson is a very good comics writer. He’s been slowly building up an impressive body of work, including Murder Book and Sheltered, and now has finished off Cluster, his Boom! series about a corporate prison on an alien planet. Samara and her friends invade the prison this issue, looking to get home. It’s a very exciting issue, and the series ends well. This comic would make a very good movie. I’m looking forward to seeing what Brisson’s next series, Violent, is going to be like.
Copperhead #10 – Copperhead is one of my favourite Image comics, and is definitely among my top two favourite sci-fi Westerns being published right now (East of West being the other one). The second arc ends with this issue, as the Sheriff infiltrates a Thunderdome-style settlement for criminals to rescue her deputy, and gets involved in a bit of a stand-off. The third arc is set up at the end of the issue, and it looks to be a very good one. Jay Faerber has been building a bigger story in the background of the last ten issues, and it looks like we’re going to start seeing some payoff for that. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend grabbing the first trade, and then getting the second one next month. These are some very good comics, and I predict that artist Scott Godlewski is going to be big.
Dark Corridor #3 – This crime series by Rich Tommaso continues to be entertaining. This month an assassin plans out a hit perfectly, only to have it stolen from her by another assassin. Not knowing what she should do, she goes to a friend for help, but soon finds herself under fire. This series is interesting, as Tommaso is laying out a large web, and is still very much setting up the series. This is the first issue that isn’t mostly self-contained, so I believe we’re going to see the storylines start to collide soon.
Darth Vader #10 – Vader’s machinations continue, as he tries to obstruct a criminal investigation that he is both responsible for solving and the guilty party in, as Aphra continues to try to hunt down Luke Skywalker on Vader’s behalf. That takes her to Naboo, which is kind of a theme in this week’s comics. Vader’s book continues to be one of the best of the Star Wars line.
Doctor Strange #1 – Of all the Marvel launches of this week, this one is easily my favourite. Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo work very well together, giving us a slightly younger Stephen Strange who spends his days dealing with the mystical weirdness of New York. The concept of the bar with no doors, a hangout for mystics, has been done to death elsewhere, but I liked the way that Aaron starts to build up a large threat for Strange to confront down the road. I also enjoyed the lighthearted tone of the writing in this book, because too often Dr. Strange comics are way too serious about themselves, which is largely why I’ve always found the character boring. Bachalo’s art is fantastic – he fills each page with lots of interesting visuals (and cameos of the newer members of his Uncanny X-Men book). The best part of all, though, was the backup drawn by Kevin Nowlan, whose art was a very nice surprise. Of all these new Marvel #1s and 0s this week, this is the only one that felt all-new and all-different, mainly because it was entertaining and fresh. I’m going to be sticking with this title for as long as Aaron does (I imagine that Bachalo won’t last more than four issues before needing a fill-in artist).
8house #4 – Yorris Part 1 – Yet another 8house story launches, this one by Fil Barlow and his co-writer Helen Maier. Yorris is a young girl who is one of the Bound, a group of people defined by their opposition to their enemies, the Untied. Her family, which is one of great power in their society, gathers to initiate their monthly curse ceremony, wherein the people send curses to their enemies through a large crossbow-like device. Yorris is the only one who can see into the spirit world, and knows what’s really going on. There is a mindform creature that lives in the Curse Stone that powers the weapon, but she sees it killed by a creature of light. When she tries to explain what she’s seen, she is sedated and sent to an asylum. This comic is always interesting; we’ve now seen three very different stories begin (four if you count From Under Mountains, a separate series that debuted last week), and I’m still not sure if they are ever going to be connected or not. I don’t really care, as all of the stories have been interesting so far, and all have had terrific, unconventional art.
The Humans #8 – I was a little surprised by the ferocity of this issue, although it makes a lot of sense, considering the fact that in the last issue, the Humans motorcycle gang kind of got wiped out. Now Johnny is in charge, and is looking for revenge for his brother’s death. This is a very good comic, and much better than the Sons of Anarchy TV show which has a lot of similarities. The fact that all of the characters are talking apes doesn’t even play into it much at this point.
Imperium #9 – Joshua Dysart is doing some pretty amazing, and provocative, things with this series. In this issue, which starts a new arc, The Vine Imperative, he has Toyo Harada launch three simultaneous attacks while he sits in the African Union’s General Assembly. His forces destroy American weapons and war materiel that has been sold to Saudi Arabia, a factory for nuclear submarines that Russia is selling to China, and a genocidal rebel army in DR Congo. I love the way Dysart brings current news events into his comics, and the way he keeps the reader conflicted about Harada. On the one hand, he is dismantling structures and systems of power that have caused oppression, but on the other, he’s happy to hand over a pregnant Syrian refugee to Angela Peace Bangana for experimentation. The Vine stuff, which involves the Vine plantings left on Earth, and their opposition to Harada, is almost secondary, despite being the main focus of the arc. Great stuff is happening in this unconventional title.
Invincible Iron Man #1 – There are a couple of levels of approaching this new series. First off, it’s the first of the post-Secret Wars Marvel relaunches, so even though Secret Wars is nowhere near being finished, this is our first glimpse at what’s going to happen afterwards. We learn a few things, like that Tony Stark is no longer the jerk he was post-Axis. We also learn a little about one of the main characters in Secret Wars (but I don’t want to talk about it here). Most importantly, we learn that things more or less go back to normal in the Marvel Universe, although I doubt that surprises anyone. Beyond that, one has to approach this title wondering if writer Brian Michael Bendis will have anything new or interesting to say about Tony Stark. Bendis is a pretty one-note writer these days, and while I don’t enjoy him on team books, he can be quite good on solo titles (see: Miles Morales). His Iron Man, however, is pretty dull. Tony builds himself a new suit of armor (which is not all that visually unique), has a date with a smart woman where he acts smarmy, and then flies off to investigate the return of Madame Masque (whose new mask is nowhere near as nice looking as her classic look). Nothing about this comic is All-New or All-Different. In fact, it kind of feels like, for research, Bendis just watched the first half of the first Iron Man movie again, and set out to rewrite it. I found this pretty boring (if, because of David Marquez, pretty), and only of interest because of what it suggests is coming in Secret Wars. I’ve preordered a bunch of issues of this comic (because of double-shipping), but can’t imagine this title staying on my pull-list when I place my next order.
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire #2 – Like the main Star Wars title (see below), this series that bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and the upcoming movie is pretty sprawling. The remnants of the Empire carry out some of Palpatine’s last demands, while Leia travels to Naboo to try to negotiate the beginnings of a new Galactic Senate. Greg Rucka must have a huge to-do list for this comic, but he continues to make it interesting, giving us a nice action sequence at the start, and artist Marco Chechetto does a fine job both with character work and technology-based scenes.
Lando #5 – I enjoyed Charles Soule’s series about Lando Calrissian. He’s an excellent character in the movies, although never a very fleshed-out one, so it was cool to get a little more information about him and his companion Lobot. Soule wraps things up very well, and leaves Lando in a position where he’s ready to take over the Cloud City. Alex Maleev’s art isn’t as hard to follow as it has been in previous issues, so that is good too.
Midnighter #5 – The two-part Grayson story wraps up very well, as the two heroes end up handcuffed together and riding a Russian subway together through station after station of God Garden-weapon infused folklore monsters. I’m really enjoying this title, so of course, DC is canceling it. It’s a shame.
Plutona #2 – The first issue of this series introduced us to a group of middle school students who, on the last page of the comic, found the dead body of Plutona, the world’s greatest superhero. Now, with this issue, they need to figure out what to do about it. One wants to sell photos of her, while another points out that alerting the world to her death could be dangerous, as her enemies would take advantage of her absence. This is a smart, character-driven exploration of this situation. Emi Lenox, the artist for this series, does a great job of showing the various reactions of the children, while also giving us subtle clues as to their personalities (I hadn’t noticed that the one girl who gets teased for her weight is pigeon-toed in the first issue). This is a very solid series.
Powers #5 – It’s funny how I can be so worn out on Brian Michael Bendis’s Marvel writing (see Invincible Iron Man above), and yet so happy to see that he has a new issue of Powers coming out. This title is always a good read, and as Walker reunites with his two former partners to help them solve their latest mystery, things get a bit of that old school feeling back. I really wish that this title came out more regularly.
Saints #1 – I picked this up as an impulse buy (as if the week wasn’t already big enough), and I’m glad I did, as it’s another interesting new Image comic. Saints is written by Sean Lewis and drawn by Benjamin Mackey, neither of whom are familiar to me, and appears to be about people who have picked up the ability of Catholic saints. The main character is Monster Blaise, a guy in a death metal band who has been having strange and prophetic dreams. After a show he is contacted by a guy who has ghostly arrows sticking out of his torso, and who takes him to meet yet another person who has been in his dreams lately. I like the irreverence in Lewis’s writing, and really enjoy Mackey’s layouts (the dream sequences are modeled after stain glass windows, and remind me a lot of Tony Harris’s layouts). I think I’ll probably come back for the next issue.
Secret Wars #6 – It’s been so long, I didn’t really remember what was happening in this series. Basically, it looks like Thanos has been gathering forces to move against Doom, while the two Reeds have been working to figure out how Doom is so powerful. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that they would send the two Spider-Men to investigate, except for editorially-mandated pressure to give Miles a more prominent place in things. I like this main title (if not the whole event), but it’s time for it to end. While Marvel is adding issues, they’d be better served by condensing the comic a little, so it feels less sprawling. I’m not sure this is the time or place for a history of the Fantastic Four.
Siege #4 – As it turns out, this miniseries, which has been generally unsatisfying, did have a point. Thanos (the one from the 616) approaches Brand from the other side of the Shield. He then uses his time in prison to chat with Ben Grimm, and let him know the secrets of Battleworld. After being hit by Leonardo’s Enlightenment cannon (an awesome concept), Ben knows this all to be true, and heads off to fight Doom. This supports some of what happens in this week’s Secret Wars. In all, this series was a letdown, but it’s over now.
Southern Bastards #11 – One of the things I like best about Southern Bastards is the way in which Jason Aaron has structured the series to allow a lot of flexibility in terms of the characters depicted in the book. It’s a comic about bastards, plural, and so it is very easy to introduce a new character (who has been glimpsed before) in issue eleven, and to give him an entire comic to flesh him out. This month we meet Boone, a Deacon in a small, old-school evangelical church who lives out in the woods, in the cabin his father built, living off the land. As it turns out, Boone is somehow involved in Coach Boss’s criminal enterprises, but he’s just about had his fill of that lifestyle. Aaron and artist Jason Latour take such a matter of fact approach to this comic that it’s almost not weird that the people at Boone’s church like to handle poisonous snakes as a part of their regular Sunday routine. I saw something on Vice about this not that long ago, but I otherwise didn’t know that was a thing. This comic, as compelling as it is, continues to be a very good reason to never visit the South.
Starve #5 – The first ‘season’ of Starve wraps up with Gavin having a surprising confrontation with his ex-wife on the set of his reality cooking show, and it also has him reevaluating his life, deciding to put his daughter first. Brian Wood has done a great job with Starve, taking our celebrity and food obsessions to a logical place, and also making Chef Cruikshank into a very complex individual. I love any comic drawn by Danijel Zezelj, though, so I’m probably not a very impartial judge when it comes to this title.
Star Wars #10 – This current arc of Star Wars is pretty sprawling, as different characters are going about different activities, but it looks like everyone is set to converge on a smuggler’s moon where Luke has gotten himself in a bit of a predicament. Stuart Immonen has settled in nicely as the artist on this series, but I find this arc less exciting than the first one. We still don’t really know who Han’s wife is, or if she’s really married to him, and I feel like that subplot might be dragging on a little too long. This is still a very good read, but it could stand to be a little more focused. Also, it’s disappointing that Jason Aaron has chosen to acknowledge the Gungans as actually existing.
The Surface #4 – Like a few of Ales Kot’s other series, this mini has descended to the level of self-obsessed, masturbatory pretension, but in this book, he’s taken it farther than any other. I’ve found Kot an interesting writer since I read his series Change, but he’s disappointed me way more times than he’s impressed. I loved the first two-thirds of Zero, but it became ridiculous. Likewise his stories at Marvel in Bucky Barnes and in Secret Avengers. I am currently enjoying his book Material a lot, and am cool with Wolf. Surface, however, really falls apart. In this issue, Kot basically decides that he doesn’t have an ending for the comic, and would rather spend the comic talking to the reader, and himself (I guess?) in a style that Grant Morrison did better over twenty years ago. Kot has some bold ideas, but his execution is lacking. Even in this comic, he talks about his need to connect with readers being more important than his need to impress, but in my case, he does neither here.
We Stand On Guard #4 – It’s time for some big action as the Americans find our heroes’ base and attack it. The issue goes by really quickly, but works well.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Amazing Spider-Man #1
Batman and Robin Eternal #1
Codename Baboushka: Conclave of Death #1
Contest of Champions #1
Detective Comics #45
Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #3
Old Man Logan #5
String Divers #3
This Damned Band #3
A-Force #2 – A-Force is not bad, but reading it, I feel like writers Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson are expecting a lot of their readers – that they are able to use their familiarity with these characters to fill in the blanks as to how such a group of heroes would be working together, and it leaves too many things unexplained, chiefly why She-Hulk, who has always been happy as a secondary character, is in charge of things. For the most part, this book seems to exist to introduce the new character Singularity, who doesn’t talk. It’s not bad, but there’s nothing memorable going on here.
Civil War #1&2 – It’s a little hard to swallow that the Civil War (the superhero one, not the American one) never ended in one corner of Battleworld, and that Steve Rogers and Tony Stark dug their heels in so effectively as to sever the country into two nations – the Blue and the Iron. Accepting that weirdness, this is a decent story (Charles Soule is becoming the new Kieron Gillen in his ability to turn dumb editorially mandated ideas into good comics), with nice art by Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan (who I wish would start pencilling at Marvel). I can see myself reading the rest of this.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Scout Vol. 1 – I’ve never read any of Tim Truman’s classic 1980s series about an Apache warrior who takes on the ‘monsters’ running the US government and economy in a dystopian 90s. There’s a lot to like here, but it’s clear that young Truman was not as careful or masterful as he became a decade later when he worked on Hawkworld. Truman plays with some pretty interesting themes though, and as the book progressed, it took a clearer shape and became more interesting. The last issue in this collection (drawn by Tom Yeates) is easily the best, and makes me glad I picked up volume 2 at the same time.
Tags: The Weekly Round-Up