The Weekly Round-Up #309 With Midnighter #6, We Stand On Guard #5, Dark Corridor #4, Invincible Iron Man #3, Paper Girls #2, Citizen Jack #1, Ninjak #9 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Midnighter #6I think this might be the best issue of Midnighter yet, as he is targeted by the people who have stolen the God Garden tech.  He and his new boyfriend go on a vacation together, fighting their way around the world, until the boyfriend’s father is attacked, and a trip to a small town leaves M without his fight computer.  Midnighter has always been a difficult character to care about, because he’s always outmatched his opponents, and is never really in danger in his comics.  This issue shows him at an unfamiliar level of vulnerability, and has a nice little twist at the end.  Also, ACO’s layouts on this book have been terrific.  I know it’s sales haven’t been stellar, but I’m glad that DC is allowing this book to continue for now.

Quick Takes:

Black Science #17 – I’m happy to see Black Science return from its hiatus, although I was a little surprised by the extent to which Rick Remender has made changes in this comic.  The story has jumped three years, and we find Grant on a very strange planet, with his memory failing him, searching for a way to track down his children.  Remender really ups the weird factor with this issue, especially at the end of the book, but I’m not complaining, since one of my favourite things about this comic is the way in which he’s never let a status quo last more than a couple of issues before upending everything.  My other favourite thing about this comic is Matteo Scalera’s crazy design work, and this issue does not disappoint in that department.

Citizen Jack #1I haven’t enjoyed Sam Humphries’s work at Marvel, but I have liked his creator-owned comics from before he started working there, so I thought I’d see what Citizen Jack was like.  This comic is about a failed snowblower dealer in Minnesota who, with the encouragement of a demon, decides to run for President of the United States, and decides that the best way to announce his candidacy is to be filmed naked after doing a polar bear dip.  There’s some funny stuff here, but I’m not sure if there’s enough to keep me coming back to this series, not at $4 an issue at least.

Dark Corridor #4 – Rich Tommaso takes a more wide-screen approach to things with this issue, with one story that is basically a car chase, and a second that starts to explain the background behind the Seven Deadly Daughters, the women who have been going around the city of Red Circle killing off mob folk.  I don’t know if I like the more decompressed storytelling here, compared to the richer and more character driven earlier issues, but as part of a larger story, I can handle the odd issue like this one.

Doctor Strange #2 – If the first two issues are any indication, I think I’m going to really enjoy this series.  Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo are just embracing and rolling with the weirdness that is at the core of Strange’s character, making this a fun title to read.  We get an extended tour of the Doctor’s home this month, as he and his new friend Zelma chase mind maggots around the house.

Elephantmen #67 This title has been very big on the action lately, and this issue is no exception.  After a flashback establishing that Trench met Agathe early in her life, we spend the rest of the issue with Hip and his friends, who are being hunted by Hyena Elephantmen.  It’s nice to see this book pick up its pace, as really big things are happening in Richard Starkings’s story.

Exodus: The Life After #1 – This is not an easy read for a reader new to The Life After, but as someone who has been with Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo from the beginning, I really enjoyed this comic.  This series, of which this is the beginning of the second volume, posits a highly bureaucratic afterlife, in the midst of a coup by a couple of mid-level managers working for Heaven and Hell, while a young girl leads an army of dead children and a Mayan rabbit god in an attempt to overthrow everything.  She is assisted by Ernest Hemingway, but for her plans to work, Jude, the son of God, must be rescued from Purgatory.  This is a very bizarre comic, but it runs smoothly along the tracks of its own internal logic, and it makes me smile.

Hercules #1 I really enjoyed Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak’s take on a Hercules a few years back, when he took over the Hulk’s title, and thought I’d give this a chance because I like the work of both Dan Abnett and Luke Ross.  They are giving us a more modern Hercules.  He’s embraced technology, and is trying to be a more responsible, and less drunkenly oafish, hero, who has made himself available to people with problems in his community.  He helps a couple of boys who are worried that one boy’s sister is dating an actual monster (which, of course, he is), and that leads to a big fight.  I liked the light humour of this issue, although I find I’m almost immediately bored with the idea that the story is leading into a big plot involving the Greek gods.  I did like seeing Gilgamesh as a layabout house guest though.  I’ll probably pick up the next issue of this series, to see where it’s all headed.

Howard the Duck #1 – Before I talk about the actual contents of this comic, let’s take a moment to break down just how Marvel’s policies and procedures can kill a title for me.  A little while back, Marvel launched a new Howard the Duck series, written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Joe Quinones.  I took a chance on it, because I think Zdarsky, both as artist of Sex Criminals, and as an agent provocateur for comics in my city (Google Zdarscon) is hilarious.  And, as it turned out, so was the comic, so I added it to my pull-file.  After five issues, Secret Wars came along, and the book was canceled.  Now, Secret Wars isn’t over yet, but the comic has been relaunched, and is set eight months after the last series ended.  I was happy to hear about this, and put the title back on my pull-file list.  Then, after the second issue was solicited on-line, Marvel decided to saddle the title with a backup strip featuring Gwenpool (whatever that is), and increase the cover price retroactively to $5, causing me to pull it off my pullfile once again.  It was too late to cancel this issue, so I still picked it up.  Anyway, this issue’s main story is very funny, and very good.  Howard has decided to return to his home dimension, and tricks his friend to drive him to the Nexus of All Realities, where they discover the Wizard and Titania, up to no good.  The Gwenpool backup story was not so good.  It was the same dumb Deadpool-style humour that bores me.  The result?  I’m not going to be buying a comic that I would like to read $4 worth of.  Good job Marvel.  (Also, have all of Marvel’s characters been de-aged after Secret Wars?  Aunt May looks like a very youthful 60 in this issue.)

The Humans #9The penultimate issue of this volume is pretty nuts, as the remaining Humans take the fight straight to their enemies, who outnumber them considerably.  Rising above all the biker honour stuff is some very strong character writing by Keenan Marshall Keller, and Tom Neely’s anthropomorphized apes are terrific.  I’m going to miss this series when it goes on hiatus.

Invincible Iron Man #3 – Almost against my best wishes, Brian Michael Bendis is beginning to really win me over with his Iron Man.  Tony is trying to figure out what Madame Masque is up to, which necessitates visits to the woman he is currently courting, and to Doctor Strange, before he learns a bit more about what Whitney’s all about.  I’m not sure Tony Stark is really the kind of person who would try to high-five Stephen Strange, but putting that aside, this book is holding my interest.  We’ll have to see what all this Mary Jane Watson stuff is; that could be a deal breaker.  Also, it’s worth pointing out that I don’t think anyone remembers Secret Wars.  That’s kind of interesting, since it means it never has to actually end.

Lazarus #20 – I’ve been finding Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s series pretty exciting lately, and while this issue slows the tempo down a little to focus on various levels of intrigue in the Carlyle family, it still keeps my attention fully.  We’re in the middle of an arc, so there’s not a whole lot to say about this right now, except that it’s very good.

Ninjak #8 – This is the first of three comics that, because of the usual fine work by the people at Diamond Distributors, I only acquired this week, even though they came out before now.  This is a solid part of The Shadow Wars, the arc that has had Ninjak tracking down a secretive group of arms dealers.  His opponent this issue, Fitzy, has an interesting backstory that fits well within the Valiant Universe, and his story provides some more insight into Colin’s.  I’ve been liking this arc.

Ninjak #9And the conclusion of The Shadow Wars has Colin facing the last of the Weaponeer Shadow Seven, and we learn the fate of the Undying Monk (who is not to be confused with the Bleeding Monk, which is what I’ve been doing basically since this series began).  This has been a solid arc, and while I’m not sure how I feel about Valiant trying again with Shadowman next month in this title, I trust Matt Kindt to keep this character interesting.

The Omega Men #5 – I know that this came out a couple of weeks ago, but I only got a copy this week.  I’m really happy that DC decided to give Tom King his full twelve issues (this book was going to be cancelled, and then got a temporary reprieve) as I find this the most interesting book that DC is publishing.  In this issue, the Omega Men are attempting to ransom off their hostages (one of whom is Kyle Rayner, and the other is secretly their leader), while also giving Broot the opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his people, who view him as a traitor.  As with every issue of this series so far, King’s real purpose for the comic is not made immediately clear, as he likes to make his readers work to figure out everything that’s going on.  This is one comic that never disappoints.

Paper Girls #2 – Brian K. Vaughan takes what started as a nice nostalgia-driven dark fantasy series, and turns it down a very dark path with this issue, which is more riveting than the first one was.  I’m still not very sure where he’s headed with this series, but I’m very curious to see where it’s going.  I love Cliff Chiang’s art on this book – he really nails the time period, and makes the characters feel real.

Rai #11 – This is another book that I feel behind on because of Diamond.  This is another good issue, as assets move around New Japan trying to gather new allies, and as Rai works his way across Earth looking for allies there, which leads him to a familiar character.  Matt Kindt’s done a good job of mixing elements of the original Rai series, as I remember it, with new ideas, making this a fresh title.

Rasputin #10I guess this is the end of Rasputin, the interesting alternate history comic by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo.  The story ends a little abruptly; I’d expected that there would be a longer, more involved plot taking place in modern days, but I guess that’s not the case.  I don’t know if that’s because sales weren’t there to support a longer series, or if this is the tale that Grecian always planned on telling.  He’s not been the most consistent of writers in the past (his excellent Proof really fizzled out in the end), so there’s no telling.  Still, there are some pretty cool things that happened in this series, and this issue does wrap up Rasputin’s time in Russia nicely, showing the Revolution in its earliest stages, as people stormed the Tsar’s residence.  I’d be tempted to pick up whatever Grecian and Rossmo do next together.

Saints #2 – This very strange series about the reincarnation of Catholic saints in unlikely people has definitely caught my interest.  I like how writer Sean Lewis is gently poking fun at the religious beliefs that underpin this comic, and am curious to learn more about these characters, and just what all the saints are being gathered for.  There’s some pretty funny stuff here involving a painting of Jesus.

Sex #25 – I feel like this was a particularly productive issue of Sex, as Joe Casey checks in with almost all of the main characters in the title, and finally lets us read Quinn’s diary, which explains Simon Cooke’s backstory at last.  I keep referring to this comic as the best Batman book on the stands right now, and I stand by that, but I also feel like Casey is moving beyond the confines of that analogue, instead giving us a more nuanced and multi-faceted look at Saturn City, closer in comparison to something like the TV show The Wire (and if you know me, that’s just about the highest praise I will give a work of fiction).  

Star Wars #11We’re in the middle of a story arc, so things just progress at a quick speed, as Luke has to fight in the Hutt’s arena, Chewbacca has to fight a bounty hunter, and Han has to fight with his wife and with Leia.  This arc is fun, but lacks focus.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #9 – We’re getting closer and closer to Beth and Orson’s heist at the strip club, and the stress is starting to show on our heroes.  Orson’s drinking heavily, Beth is popping pills, and Spanish Scott is getting suspicious.  David Lapham has been building to this point for a while now, and it’s really fascinating to see how his characters are managing the consequences of their own choices.  He is an absolute master at last pages of comic books; I doubt people reading this comic in trades can really appreciate just how good he is at twisting the knife at the last moment.

UFOlogy #6 – James Tynion IV and Noah Yuenkel bring their unorthodox alien comic to a strange ending, with some mysteries resolved, but also leaving the door open for a return to this world in the future.  The emotional notes are handled best, and Matthew Fox’s art is very nice.  I’m really enjoying Tynion’s work at Boom!

Uncanny X-Men #600You know, reading Bendis’s last issue of X-Men reminded me of just how much I’ve missed the X-Men over the last few months.  I have no idea why this issue was so late, since it didn’t spoil or even relate to anything happening in Secret Wars.  The comic is decent – we see the collective X-Men put Henry McCoy on ‘trial’, which is really more of a public scolding that isn’t really resolved; we see Peter and Illyana reconcile; we see Young Bobby confront Now Bobby about his closeted homosexuality; and, weirdly, Scott Summers gathers all the mutants in DC (it’s the Million Mutant March, only there aren’t a million of them and they aren’t marching) in a scene that is a complete letdown.  Bendis’s run has been frustrating – it’s often been good, and has very often had the potential to be great, but it also easily breaks down into standard Bendisian conversations and lack of momentum.  The art, by a variety of great artists, is terrific on this issue.  It’s too bad that I’m not really all that excited about where the X-Men are headed next, as this issue does make me want to read more X-Men comics, which leads me to…

Extraordinary X-Men #1This is the only X-Book I intend to buy out of the All-New, All-Different offerings, and that’s because I want to believe that Jeff Lemire can breathe new life into the franchise.  The problem is, I don’t think this is a very good first issue.  We learn, through some very forced exposition that Storm gives to Jean Grey, that the Terrigen Mists have been killing and sterilising mutants.  That means that the ‘no more mutants’ stuff that just got overturned has effectively been restored, which makes me wonder why Marvel made those changes in the first place.  We learn that the X-Men have established X-Haven, somewhere where there are mountains (my guess it’s on another planet or in another dimension), although some of the X-Men still travel around interacting with mutants in trouble and with each other.  Jean is in university and somehow doesn’t know any of this, which seems unlikely.  We learn that Beast, who we just saw leave the team in anger and distrust, is working with the Inhumans to fix this problem.  We learn that Cyclops has done something to make everyone hate mutants again, and it seems that whatever Cyclops did, he did it after Old Man Logan came to the main Marvel Universe, suggesting it happened after Secret Wars (where we saw Cyclops get killed).  So, continuity is a mess in this comic.  Further to that, I don’t know what the value of any of these changes are, as of yet.  Nothing feels new (or different) here, except for the addition of chain mail to Nightcrawler’s sleeves, and that also feels like a misstep.  Humberto Ramos has drawn the X-Men before, and he’s a capable artist, although not one that gets me excited any more.  I’ve preordered a bunch of issues of this comic, and am willing to give Lemire an arc before I decide to drop it or stay, but I’m disappointed.  I don’t feel like that’s Lemire’s fault though.  Everything in this issue feels like it was decided upon via editorial committee, and that Lemire was left to just type up the notes.  I’m hoping he can make this better, and soon.

Velvet #12 – Velvet’s working her mission, and it’s becoming more and more complicated, as it involves manipulating other trained spies.  This makes for a pretty interesting comic, especially with the excellent atmospheric work by Steve Epting.  I hope this book gets itself on track, schedule-wise, because I enjoy it a lot.

The Vision #1Vision has long been one of my favourite Avengers, but writers have been steadily messing up the character for a while now.  Still, I thought it was worth giving this new series a chance, because it is written by Tom King, whose Grayson and Omega Men have been so enjoyable.  This series has Vision, with a new wife and twin teenage children, settling in a Virginia suburb of DC, attempting to lead a normal human life.  King’s narration is pretty wordy, and the story moves pretty slowly, but there are some interesting aspects to this book.  I’m just not all that sure how motivated I am to stick with it.  The next issue is going to be a make it or break it kind of thing.

We Stand On Guard #5 – The penultimate issue of this series has the remaining Canadian resistance fighters taking the fight to the Americans in a last ditch effort to prevent them stealing the water in the Yukon.  At one point, I had to remind myself that this is a Brian K. Vaughan comic, and not one written by Mark Millar, as it feels more like his usual big-screen sort of thing, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great ride.

The Woods #17 – It’s time for a new story arc, as Casey is set to win the election, promising an alliance with the Horde, and as Isaac is taken on a tour of his life, and offered a choice.  James Tynion IV has a lot of characters bouncing around this comic, but he manages to give almost all of them their own moment, as stakes continue to rise.  This is a very good series that is unfolding at just the right pace.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #3

Batman and Robin Eternal #5

Crossed Vol. 14 TP

Deadpool #1

Detective Comics #46

Joe Golem Occult Detective #1

Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #4

Nova #1

This Damned Band #4

Bargain Comics:

Convergence: The Atom #1&2 I only picked this up because I usually like writer Tom Peyer’s work, and I’d really enjoyed the Ryan Choi Atom comics a few years back, and I saw that he was going to be in them.  This is a mess though.  Ray Palmer is powerless (despite having a tech-based power), aside from his ability to make his one hand grow really really large and swat bad people with it.  Seriously.  And that hand is actually Ryan Choi, who is not dead, but is living in Ray’s hand.  Or something.  Really, these comics are not good.  Buying them, even though together they only cost me $1, was a mistake.

Old Man Logan #1&2 – Since it seems like Secret Wars is never going to actually get around to ending, the tie-in series are beginning to show up in the bargain bins, giving me a chance to sample this series before its relaunch as part of the post-SW Marvel Universe.  Andrea Sorrentino’s art is terrific, as I’d always expect, but I also find myself liking Brian Michael Bendis’s writing, as he has Mark Millar’s Future Logan head out into Battleworld, not knowing what the other domains hold.  This somewhat works against SW continuity which shows other characters being fully aware of how Battleworld operates, but it wouldn’t be a Bendis book if it didn’t contradict something.

 

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