Best Comic of the Week:
The Twilight Children #1 – Vertigo’s fallen on some hard times, and while they are currently trying to resuscitate their line with a bunch of new debuts, very few of them appeal to me. That’s not the case for The Twilight Children, a new series written by Gilbert Hernandez, and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. Despite the high price tag ($5 an issue), I was very happy to dive into this comic. It’s set in a coastal Central or South American village. We meet a number of characters – three curious children, the town drunk whose family died in a fire he accidentally caused, the town sexpot, and the man she cheats on her husband with. We quickly learn that this town is regularly visited by glowing orbs that give off a very bright white light. One appears just off-shore, but as these things always do, disappears by morning. And then more start to appear – in the cuckold’s bedroom, and in a cave. Hernandez does not reveal anything about them this issue, but leaves us with a new mystery on the last page. I like the way he builds these various characters, waiting for a while to introduce a scientist who is likely to become the series’s main protagonist. Cooke does a terrific job of building this small society, making it look like a warm and inviting place. This is the type of project I’ve missed from Vertigo.
Abe Sapien #27 – I’m getting really bored with the way this series has been written of late, and this issue doesn’t do much, storywise, to make me change my mind. We get to see Abe’s human self, prior to his transformation, go about the business of exploring on behalf of the secret society he had joined (which made its leaders wear fish headdresses and look stupid), while arguing with another secret society. As I read Alan Moore’s Providence series, I see just how much Mike Mignola’s lifted from HP Lovecraft, and it’s making me a little bored. On the plus side, this issue marks the North American debut of Latvian artist Alise Gluskova, whose stuff is pretty incredible, and worth buying the book for.
Blood Feud #1 – This is a new Oni Press series by Cullen Bunn and Drew Moss. Bunn is a very prolific, very good writer who has impressed me since he started writing his series The Sixth Gun (which I really wish he’d get back to). This title is about a small out of the way town in the American South which is pretty normal, except for two families who have been feuding for a very long time. The story is narrated by a good old boy who lives in the town, who is a little surprised to learn that there is a supernatural aspect to these two clans, and when their feud heats up, our narrator and his friend find themselves sucked into it. Moss is a great artist, and Bunn does a very good job of building suspense over the course of this issue.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 – I found this to be a very impressive start to this new series. Nick Spencer has chosen to take Sam’s story in a different direction than the one that Rick Remender had laid out for him, although we see that Sam has been working at resolving all of the Hydra issues that SHIELD were going to have to deal with had Remender stayed working for Marvel. He just does it really, really quickly. We see that Sam has chosen to use his role as Cap to speak out about injustice and inequality in the United States, as well as the shady dealings of the government, and that has landed him in hot water with about half of the country (the mostly red half). Now, he’s not working with SHIELD nor the government (but he is still an Avenger, and I wonder how that works), and he’s taken to answering calls for help over social media, and flying around the country in coach. This issue has him fighting the Sons of the Serpent, who are going after undocumented migrants in Arizona, and it’s a little weird to learn that this putting him at odds with Steve Rogers. I like the way that Spencer has Sam working with characters like Misty Knight and D-Man, but his organization seems to borrow a great deal from what Al Ewing was trying to do (although never getting around to doing) in Mighty Avengers. I feel like Luke Cage and some of those other characters should be involved in this. I also got the feeling that Spencer is stalling a little on some aspects of the story, which could spoil some of Secret Wars. For example, no mention is made of Nomad, who was his partner in All-New Captain America. I’m not always the biggest fan of Daniel Acuña’s art, but it works nicely here. I’m curious to see where this title is headed.
Clandestino #1 – I liked the first issue of Young Terrorists (where is the second, by the way?) which had art by Amancay Nahuelpan, so I thought it made sense to take a chance on the first issue of Clandestino, a book that he has been working on for many years, and which he has done everything for. It’s set in a fictional South or Central American country where a violent coup took place in 1973. One young boy survived the arrest of his family, and was taken in by a rebel group working against the ruling general. Fast forward to the present day (at least in the story – I think it’s still the mid-90s), and the Koyam, the rebel group, is ready to make a move against the General. In the midst of all of this is Clandestino, our survivor. Nahuelpan spends most of the issue setting things up, incorporating newspaper articles to help provide enough background, and he definitely has my interest. His use of layouts is exciting, and his art looks great. In the back pages, he writes about how this first issue was drawn about six or seven years ago, so I imagine that things are going to look even better by the time we get to the end of this series. Recommended.
Crossed Plus One Hundred #10 – This issue is probably the quickest moving of this title yet, as Future and her companions find themselves in a very strange position – talking to some odd people, who have command over some of the infected (including Cautious’s mother). Beau Salt’s plan, which is what led to a group of the Crossed becoming more intelligent and able to plan, is more complicated than Alan Moore’s time on this title led us to believe, and things don’t look all that good for Future’s, ahem, future. This book continues to impress with the thoughtfulness that supports its story.
East of West #21 – It’s always nice to get a new issue of this series, which backs up to explain a pivotal scene from earlier, before launching us into a few related plotlines. We learn more about the relationship between the two Widowmakers, although all of their communication is made through a secretive sign language. We also get a glimpse into how the Endless Nation goes about its business. This series is very impressive, but often leaves me with the feeling that Jonathan Hickman is never going to share half of what he knows about the world he’s writing about. Nick Dragotta is just incredible on this book.
The Fuse #15 – As much as I’ve enjoyed this series, this current arc is far and away my favourite since this series began. As the entire Fuse station celebrates Perihelion (their Mardi Gras), the police force has to deal with a ridiculous number of problems. A bomb threat is made during the Mayor’s well-attended speech, and the cops have to deal with all of that chaos, while our two heroes, Ristoyvich and Dietrich, continue their hunt for the Haircut Killer, and while a man starts shooting up the hospital that a local mob boss has been taken to. This is a very fast-moving and impressive comic.
Hellbreak #7 – Hellbreak is a very good series about an organization that rescues possessed souls from Hell. Over the course of the last story arc, we began to get the feeling that not all is right in the organization, but instead of continuing with that plot, Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla give us a very good one-off story focusing on Nadia, the sole female member of Team Orpheus. The team finds themselves in a fragment of Hell where the Battle of Normandy, hell-style, carries on endlessly, complete with airplanes made out of meat, and battle tanks with giant mouths. Churilla is one of the best monster artists in the game, and he makes this stuff look terrific. This is a good jump-on point for new readers; you may want to check this series out.
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire #3 – I guess this has become a weekly book. Han Solo and his team attack an Imperial base, where they find information about what the remnants of the Empire are up to, while Princess Leia has to try to muster a defense for the planet Naboo, which is about to be destroyed by other Imperial forces. This issue captures some of the best moments of excitement that we were given in the classic movies, as the action cuts from space battles to fighting on a planet. Marco Checchetto does a remarkable job with the action and technology-based scenes, and I like the way Greg Rucka has focused this series on a married pair of Rebels whose jobs keep separating them.
Low #10 – The end of the second arc has me looking forward to winter, as that’s when the next issue of this very unpredictable series is due to arrive. Stel is trapped in an abandoned undersea city, where she is being preyed upon by a vampiric creature that knows how to psychically influence her sense of guilt. This is a very psychological issue, as Remender once again tries to understand the optimism that fuels his main character, and that she is able to inspire in others. I’ve really become a fan of this title.
Ms. Marvel #19 – G. Willow Wilson makes this last issue of Ms. Marvel (before it immediately gets relaunched) a very touching one, as Kamala confronts a number of her fears, knowing that the world is about to end. She discovers that her mother knows that she is Ms. Marvel, makes up with her best friend, and her best frenemy, and then has a very awkward conversation with Bruno. I don’t like the way that Secret Wars is disrupting this book, but at the same time, Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona made very good use of the opportunity to squeeze in some real drama. Kamala’s character really shines through in this issue.
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #3 – Emily’s fight to regain control of her body from the half of herself that she sacrificed years ago takes some interesting turns this issue, as this series hits its halfway mark. Jamie McKelvie does some layout tricks we’ve seen before, as Emily journeys through her scrapbook, and interacts with some of the images she’s glued in there, and the issue culminates when both her and her other half end up visiting their teenage self in an attempt to sway the course of history. This book is never boring, although I think I might be enjoying The Wicked + The Divine, by the same creative team, more.
Rebels #7 – Brian Wood and artist Matthew Woodson give us a one-off issue this month, which focuses on a ‘camp follower’, a woman who assisted the Revolutionary Army in an unofficial capacity during the American Revolution. Sarah Hull, as described by her husband in a letter that forms the narration of this comic, is in all ways, a remarkable woman. She followed him throughout the war, providing food for him and his friends, and during battle, working with other women to provide water to help maintain the cannons that her husband worked with. During one battle, when her husband was gravely injured, she even took over his post. This comic deals with the treatment of the women who served, and calls into question the practise of paying out pensions to widows. Wood often explores a historical setting from a modern perspective, and this is one of the most impressive examples of that in his work. Woodson makes the Sarah we see later in life a chilling character, and this issue is very effective. I enjoyed the first arc on this series, but it is stories like this that I most wanted to see from it.
Sex Criminals #13 – We move away from our regular cast of characters this month to meet Alix, another individual with sex-based powers. Alix is different from everyone else in this series so far, in that she is asexual, and perfectly okay with not engaging in ‘sweaty wrestling’ with other people. One of the things that I love about this comic is the way in which Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky present such a wide variety of people, while keeping things funny, bizarre, and always surprising. Another very strong issue of a comic that, I think, is going to be remembered as a groundbreaking part of this golden age of independent comics.
Strange Fruit #2 – I don’t think I like this comic very much. Part of the problem is that I find JG Jones’s painting very sterile, and his layouts a bit confusing (is the engineer in the Senator’s office, or is he in the library?). Mark Waid’s writing jumps around a lot too, as we follow three plot-threads – the impending flood; the tribulations of a black man who has been tossed in jail and is being pursued by the Klan; and the main character, who spends the issue reading a bunch of math books in English, despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to speak or understand English. I love the idea behind this comic (that Superman is black, and landed full-grown in Louisiana during Jim Crow days), but am not so sure that the execution is working.
Unity #23 – It would seem that Matt Kindt has left this comic, and that James Asmus is now going to be writing it, although I don’t know if that’s the case for just one arc, or if it’s going to be a permanent situation. This story revisits some story elements not seen since the Armor Hunters event, as first some GATE jets attack the facility where Quartz and the bodies of the dead Hunters are being kept, and then Gin-Gr, the giant robot that serves as the team’s mobile base, stops talking to the team and appears to be working against them. This is a solid issue, although I’m still bothered by Gin-Gr’s ridiculous name, and the way in which various artists have depicted her size and scale comparable to a normal-sized human. It also bugs me that this book takes place before Book of Death, as that series shows the robot back working with her friends.
The Walking Dead #147 – Rick continues to have to deal with the fallout from Alpha’s attack on his people, and at the moment, that looks like he has to protect Lydia, Alpha’s daughter and Carl’s girlfriend. Andrea takes the two teenagers away, giving Rick the chance to have a long and emotional talk with Michonne. This is another effective issue, as Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard begin to build up towards issue 150.
The Wicked + The Divine #15 – Stephanie Hans illustrates this issue, which means it’s very lovely yet goth-y. The various gods are still reacting to the number of recent deaths in their ranks, and this leads to Amaterasu and Urdr having a spat in the air over Hiroshima. This book is always a good read, although I find it just keeps sprawling since its central character left the title.
X-O Manowar #41 – One of the things I like about Valiant in general, and X-O Manowar in particular, is the way in which stories build organically off of stories that came before. The surviving members of the Vine race have arrived on Earth, hoping to settle alongside Aric’s people. Their arrival sparked off a bit of a conflict, and Vine died, but with the arrival of Colonel Capshaw, there is actual talk of peace. At least, until a Vine sleeper agent controlled by Commander Trill acts, and things look very bleak. The seeds of this story (to use a Vine metaphor) were planted in Robert Venditti’s very first arc with this character, forty issues ago, and that’s a very cool thing to see in today’s comics industry, where keeping a writer for close to twenty issues is considered impressive.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Batman and Robin Eternal #2
Civil War #5
Crossed Badlands #87
Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Harrow County #6
Justice League United #14
New Avengers #1
Rat God HC
Secret Identities Vol. 1
Spider-Man 2099 #1
Uncanny Avengers #1
War Stories #13
Alien Legion: Grimrod – This is a really entertaining bookshelf-format one-shot, featuring the most popular Legionnaire, Jugger Grimrod. Our hero is swindled into accepting a dangerous posting on a terrible world, where all of his enemies have also ended up. He ends up taking charge of the locals and helping them organize a resistance to a horde of nomads that are about to attack them. What makes this book such a delight is Mike McMahon’s strange artwork. This is worth hunting the $0.50 bins for.
Alien Legion: Binary Deep – I like the way these AL one-shots from the early 90s don’t have art by Larry Stroman. This one is by Enrique Alcatena, who never drew enough North American comics. Torie Montroc, Jugger Grimrod, and the spy Nhakira Doomhar have to return to a planet they basically wrecked in the second volume of the series, to find proof to exonerate Torie’s father of a number of crimes. Like the Grimrod one-shot, it’s entertaining, but not all that memorable.
Convergence: Aquaman #1&2 – I’ve always been a fan of hook-handed, badass Aquaman, as well as of Tony Bedard and Cliff Richards, so I enjoyed this, despite the nonsense that came with Convergence. Arthur is hanging out in San Diego, and cut off from the ocean, which makes him grumpy, when Telos arranges for him to fight Deathblow. This is all very standard stuff, but if that’s all you expect, it’s not disappointing. Plus, Becky Cloonan’s covers are wonderful.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Nailbiter Vol. 1 – I’d heard good things about this series, so I thought I would check out this first volume. This title explores a town, Buckaroo Oregon, which sixteen of the world’s deadliest serial killers all call home, including the Nailbiter, a particularly awful figure who managed to escape prison. The book stars an army intelligence officer (who has his own secrets) who is called to Buckaroo by an old friend, an FBI agent, who is obsessed with the town’s history. When he gets there, his friend has gone missing, but when a teenager turns up dead at the same time that the agent’s hotel room is torched, it becomes clear that there is some crazy stuff going on. It took me a while to get into the book (had I picked up the first issue on the stands, I probably wouldn’t have returned for more), but by the end of this volume, I found myself getting pretty invested in the story. I think I’m going to have to pick up volume two…
Tags: The Weekly Round-Up