The Weekly Round-Up #310 With The Goddamned #1, Star Wars: Darth Vader #12, Imperium #10, Unity #24, The Walking Dead #148 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Goddamned #1Scalped, by Jason Aaron and RM Guéra, is one of my all-time favourite comics.  I was really pleased to see that the creative team was getting back together for a new series, although The Goddamned has little in common with that earlier book aside from the names on the cover.  This series is set in pre-flood Old Testament Land.  It looks to be about Cain, who at this point is 1600 years old, having been cursed to never die as punishment for murdering his brother.  It is also about Noah, who is gathering wood and animals, and whose sons expect a flood any time now.  The world is a dirty, devastated place, populated by crude and animalistic people.  Cain spends the first half of the issue taking apart a village, and it serves as a good introduction to just how depraved the world is.  Guéra’s art looks great.  He sticks close to his European roots, with a bit of Richard Corben tossed in, and Aaron gives him a lot of room to build the world.  I’m sure that some people are going to end up offended by this book, but that kind of likes me make it even more.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #28I like this series best when it features members of the BPRD.  I’m a little worried that, after over two years, not enough has been said or learned about Abe on his own, but when this title is situated within the orbit of the parent title, it comes more alive.  If it weren’t for the incredible art of the Fiumara brothers (Max handles this issue), I’m not sure I’d have stuck with this title.

Airboy #4 – James Robinson brings this excellent postmodern adventure story to a very satisfying close.  He and his artist, Greg Hinkle, are trapped in Airboy’s world, and are needed to go on an important mission to blow up a bridge.  This really just means that Robinson has to take a good hard look at himself, while trying still to figure out if he’s really experiencing all of this stuff or just imagining it.  I’ve really liked the way this series plays on the way writers like Grant Morrison include themselves in their comics, yet takes it to a completely different level, giving us a very honest and depressing look at the creator, and giving me cause to regain some respect for him after a few projects that didn’t really work for me.  Hinkle’s art is great, and this comic is frequently very funny.  

All-New All Different Avengers #1It looks like Mark Waid is going to take an entire arc to put the latest iteration of the Avengers together, and I’m not all that excited to learn this.  This issue is split between two stories, the first featuring Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) in a very random fight with a Chitauri, and the second featuring Ms. Marvel and Nova dealing with a random creature.  This comic raises a lot of questions (Why is Tony Stark broke?  Why is Tony Stark not broke in his own comic?  Who is the guy who bought Avengers Tower from Tony Stark?  Why would Tony Stark not empty his belongings out of Avengers Tower before selling it?  Why does Marvel think that the Chitauri are an interesting threat?  Why is Miles in the regular Marvel Universe, and why is he just wandering around?) and did not do enough to grab me.  I don’t care about either the Chitauri threat, or the random monster threat.  I hope that a lot more happens in the next issue to make a compelling argument for sticking with this title, because this is really not what I’d expected from Waid.  Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar’s art is nice, but since we all already know that neither of them are very speedy artists, I don’t expect to see them on this book after the first few issues.  As one of the flagship Marvel titles, and the one that most embraces the “All-New All-Different” branding, this was a disappointment.  It’s not a bad comic, but it’s not close to live up to its hype or the expectations that surround it.

All-New Hawkeye #1Leaving aside the fact that this is the second title to be called ‘All-New’ and feature Hawkeye in the last year, and that this new series picks up from where the last one left off, making this not ‘All-New’ at all, there are a few things about this comic that are bothering me.  To begin with, I hate series that are partially set far into the future.  Jason Aaron did this recently with Wolverine and the X-Men, as did Bendis with his X-titles, and they irritate me because they attempt to lock in a future version of current characters that we know we will never see.  The next thing that’s bothered me is that this series seems to be focusing on the fact that the two Hawkeyes abandoned dangerously weaponized children to Hydra after rescuing them from SHIELD.  That plot point was very dumb, and I don’t like that it’s looking to be foundational to this series.  Finally, it bugs me that on a couple of occasions, this comic references the older Hawkeye as being on a current Avengers team, but I don’t know which team that’s supposed to be.  Beyond that, I love Ramon Perez’s art, and the way he differentiates between the current story and the future one.  I just wish this book was heading in a more interesting direction; I expect a lot more from a writer like Jeff Lemire.

Autumnlands #7 – The first arc of Autumanlands, Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s excellent talking animal fantasy series, was a big favourite of mine, so I was happy to see the book return from its hiatus, with the promise of sticking to a monthly schedule too.  This issue continues where the last left off.  The citizens of the collapsed city have been rescued, and now it’s time for the infighting among the survivors to boil over, even though clearly something bad has happened elsewhere.  Learoyd and Dusty have also survived, as has Seven Scars, and they are on the move, hoping to escape him.  Busiek has Dusty explain how magic works, which owes a fair amount to the Force, as Learoyd tries to figure out how he’s going to live up to his role as Great Champion, when he doesn’t even fully believe in the world he’s been brought to.  This is a very good series.

Crossed Plus One Hundred #11 I continue to get a lot out of Simon Spurrier’s continuation of Alan Moore’s story.  He’s done a great job of building on the threat of the intelligent Crossed, as a flood of refugees stream into Murfreesboro, and Future has to try to convince the Ima’am that there could be infiltrators in the city.  And then the Crossed show up.  Good stuff, as much for the character work done as for the building sense of suspense.

Darth Vader #12 – It feels a little like Kieron Gillen had to rush to wrap up his latest arc in order to be ready for the Vader Down event that begins next week, but this is still a nicely balanced comic, with a couple of cool action sequences, and a nice conversation between Vader and Aphra.  I continue to find this the most enjoyable of the Star Wars titles.

Descender #7 – Descender returns, and we are introduced to a new character, a sort of bounty hunter for robots.  We also return to Tim-21 and his companions, as the little robot is being rescued by The Hardwire, a group of robot freedom fighters who have another Tim robot fighting with them.  Jeff Lemire does a good job with this issue, but the star of the comic is Dustin Nguyen, whose art is becoming increasingly abstract and beautiful at the same time.  This is a very good series, and I’m pleased it’s back.

Drifter #9Drifter is a very strange series.  In a lot of ways, this science fiction comic is more Impressionistic than novelistic, as the story is never entirely clear, but is suffused with a forbidding, alien atmosphere that makes it a very compelling read, while I’m not always entirely sure what’s going on.  That can be frustrating sometimes, but then I look at Nic Klein’s incredible artwork, and I’m happy to support this title.  It looks like the book is going on hiatus until the spring; I should probably try to reread the whole series before it comes back, to have a better handle on the plot.

8House #5: Yorris Part 2 – Last issue Yorris was taken to an institution, and in this issue, we see her fight off the sedative she’s been given, and start to gain an understanding of her new surroundings, and to meet some of her fellow inmates.  Along the way, Fil Barlow and Helen Maier give us a lot of interesting images and ideas about Yorris’s world, but we really don’t get a lot of plot.  This is a difficult, yet rewarding series, as we’ve now been introduced to three separate storylines (four if you count From Under Mountains, which is apparently a part of the same shared universe), but have yet to get a lot of direction as to where this book is headed.  I’m personally quite interested in seeing where all of this will lead, but can imagine that more than a few readers have become frustrated with the pacing and oddity of this series.  I wonder how it will be collected one day; if each separate storyline will get its own trade, or if it will be preserved in this scattershot approach.  Either way, these have been some beautiful comics.

Hellbreak #8This month, Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla show us a different side to the Kerberos operation, as we focus on Father Lloyd, who was recently tangentially involved in the murder of a man that the Orpheus team had rescued from Hell.  Lloyd finds himself in a place of self-doubt, and that makes him less effective in his job.  Bunn has laid the groundwork for a very interesting series, and is now spending time exploring it.  Churilla’s art looks a little more rushed and less clean than usual, but still works very well here.

Imperium #10 – This month, we get to look at the history between Toyo Harada and the Vine Plantings on Earth.  It seems that Harada first found out about this alien fifth column at the end of the Vietnam War, and we see how one planting, whose daughter is currently hidden on Harada’s aircraft character, led the fight against him, which is tied to LV99, the Vine warrior that Harada is keeping prisoner and using as a weapon.  Joshua Dysart, through his work on this book and Harbinger, is largely responsible for shaping a good portion of the Valiant Universe, and it’s interesting to see him retroactively work on fine tuning that world.  This is a very interesting series, and this issue was worth buying just for the conversation between Ingrid and Sunlight on Snow.  

Letter 44 #21The last issue of Letter 44 left us with quite a surprise, so of course this issue has to be one of the flashback issues that provides backstory on important cast members.  This time around, we get to meet Gomez and Dr. Pritchard before they embarked on the Clarke mission.  These issues are always good, and this one is drawn by Ryan Kelly, so that makes it extra special, but sometimes I wish we’d gotten the backstory on some of the characters earlier in the series.  Still, Charles Soule is killing it on this book.

Limbo #1 – I thought I’d give this new title a chance.  It’s written by Dan Watters and drawn by Caspar Wijngaard, neither of whom are familiar to me.  I liked this issue, which reminded me in equal parts of The Green Wake and San Hannibal, but still felt fresh and entertaining.  Clay is an amnesiac private investigator in Dedande City, which the title of the series and its general atmosphere suggest might be a form of Purgatory (which would explain the lizards, the focus on the heat, and some of the weirdness).  A case has Clay investigating the main drug lord, who also is involved in some weird voodoo stuff.  I like the art and the general feel of this book, so I will probably be back for more.

Rebels #8 – Brian Wood gives us two stories this month that begin to explore the role played in the American Revolution by people of colour.  The first story introduces us to Silence Bright, a mixed-race woman who has been blanketing Boston in anti-British posters.  The second story features Seth Green, the main character of the first arc of this book, and his interaction with Clayton Freeman, a black double agent.  Wood is always very good at encapsulating a complex time period in short stories, and he continues that here.  

Secret Wars #7I couldn’t help but feel like I’d missed an issue or two of Secret Wars, since this one opens with a huge army ready to fight against Doom, and various other groups getting involved, either on Doom’s side, that of the rebels, or on their own.  Things like the new Thor having gotten the other Thors on her side, or just why Captain Marvel is friends with Mr. Sinister, are missing from this book.  I’m not reading many of the tie-in miniseries, and I know that can account for some of the sense of disconnect, but at the same time, I doubt those stories are going to be included in the trade, where this will read like a chopped up mess.  I think it’s safe to say, at this point, that Jonathan Hickman is just part of a committee of writers (most of whom are editors) and no longer has much control over his story.  I’m ready for this whole thing to be over…

Southern Bastards #12 – This was a strange issue of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Southern gothic crime series, as the focus is split between Tad, the kid that got beaten up in the first arc, and Mater, one of Coach Boss’s football goons.  I like this series a lot, especially the way in which it’s been branching out and exploring secondary and tertiary characters lately, but this issue’s hallucination scene, and suggestion of supernatural dogs, left me with a strange feeling.  I think I like this title best when it’s being down to Earth, and that’s not really where this feels like it’s heading right now.  Time will tell.

Thors #4And one of the scenes that I felt was missing in this week’s Secret Wars shows up in this week’s Thors, as we learn the secrets behind Runey’s murder spree, just as the New Thor shows up to rally her brothers and sisters.  This has been a good miniseries, but the last half of this issue does not stand on its own at all, which is disappointing.

Thought Bubble Anthology 2015 – I always enjoy this fold-out newspaper anthology.  This year, there are contributions from Richard Starkings, Tim Sale (!!!!), Rick Remender, Farel Dalrymple, Ray Fawkes, and a number of creators that I’m not all that familiar with.  All of the offerings are short, but they do a great job of embracing a variety of comics styles, and are well worth the low $4 price tag.

The Twilight Children #2 – As this story hits its half-way mark, Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke embrace the magical realist aspects of their tale, and deepen the mystery of what’s going on in this Mexican or South American fishing village.  Amid all the strangeness of glowing orbs of light, new visitors to town, and the sudden disappearances of some of the characters, Hernandez has written in a strange love triangle that adds a lot to the story.  Also, this book is gorgeous.

The Ultimates #1I really liked Al Ewing’s work on The Mighty Avengers, and while this new title is about as far away from street-level superheroics you can get, it does feature a few characters (Blue Marvel, Spectrum) from that series, with some interesting additions (Black Panther, Ms. America Chavez, and Captain Marvel).  The idea of co-opting the name Ultimates in the new ANAD Marvel Universe is an interesting one, especially considering the way other comics using that team name were affected by the law of diminishing returns.  Anyway, this is an interesting book, which has the team take a very proactive approach to solving cosmic issues (starting with Galactus).  Kenneth Rocafort is a welcome addition to the Marvel stable.  I’ve often wanted to read his work, but he’s too often been working with Scott Lobdell at DC, which was a deal-breaker for me.  I love the way he draws these characters, especially T’Challa and Monica Rambeau, two of my ultimate (see what I did there?) favourite characters.  I hope this comic gets a good solid run, and appreciate the way that it, out of everything that’s been published so far, helps explain how the Marvel Universe was reshaped after Secret Wars.

Unity #24 – The end of this Armor Hunters story works, but Karl Moline’s art is very rough throughout, and sometimes very hard to follow.  Also, one thing that has always bothered me about Gin-GR (aside from her stupid name) is the way in which different artists draw her to different scales.  She’s supposed to be big enough to house people comfortably, but we often see her being portrayed as being too small to hold all we’ve seen inside her.  I remember having the same issue with Biotron in Micronauts back in the day.

The Walking Dead #148The build-up to issue 150 (where, if past experience bears out, something really bad is going to happen) continues, as the people of Alexandria are pushing Rick to take action against the Whisperers, and he is forced to turn to someone truly terrible for advice.  As is always the case with this title, this is a very good issue that advances a number of plotlines, which means we don’t spend a whole lot of time with any one character, but do get to see a few people we haven’t seen much of lately.  It’s good stuff.

The Wicked + The Divine #16 – It’s time to learn a lot more about the Morrigan, and her relationship with Baphomet, as Leila Del Duca draws this issue.  I enjoy this series, but I’m looking forward to seeing Jamie McKelvie return to it, as this arc has felt like it’s been a little decompressed.

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

68 Last Rites #3

All-New Wolverine #1

Batman #46

Batman and Robin Eternal #6

Chewbacca #3

Crossed Badlands #89

Harrow County #7

Justice League United #15

Last Sons of America #1

Spider-Man 2099 #3

Squadron Sinister #4

String Divers #4

Superman: American Alien #1

Uncanny Avengers #2

War Stories #14

Bargain Comics:

Alien Legion: One Planet at a Time #1-3With this, I’ve read all of the original Alien Legion comics, aside from the OGN.  This three part, prestige format series is not very good, as Chuck Dixon follows a pretty predictable plot, and artist Hoang Nguyen does nothing to make his art stand out at all.

Convergence: Suicide Squad #1&2 – So here is a very sad missed opportunity.  With the Suicide Squad movie already generating a ton of hype, even though it’s not being released for a long time, the opportunity to return to the classic Squad should have been capitalized upon.  Instead, we get this mess of two issues, which features characters who were never part of the Squad before (Cyborg Superman?  Really?), and the most boring use of Amanda Waller ever.  She’s not even manipulative.  I’m increasingly glad I waited for these Convergence minis to wind up in the $0.50 bins…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Crossed Vol. 6There are three stories in this trade.  The first is an excellent one written by Garth Ennis, featuring what is probably the last unit of British military operating after the Crossed event.  They have a plan to release all sorts of biological weapons, and are working their way across the country to make that happen, although a chance encounter with a cowardly priest affects them deeply.  The second story is written by David Lapham, returning to a character from a story I haven’t read yet.  This is a ridiculously strange story, featuring a trio of men who, after surviving an encounter with the Crossed, take on ridiculous alter egos.  The woman, who has decided that she herself is insane, manipulates these guys.  The last story, written by Si Spurrier, looks at a relationship between a cop and a mafia tough guy, that appears to have survived the Crossed event.  This one ends very well.  The whole Crossed universe is such a mixed bag, and is frequently just so trashy, but I can’t keep myself from returning to it time and again.

Meteor Men

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Sandy Jarrell

I assumed that it was very likely that I would enjoy a graphic novel written by Jeff Parker, but I still came away from Meteor Men pleasantly surprised.This OGN, beautifully illlustrated by Sandy Jarrell and coloured by Kevin Volo, is mostly set on a farm outside of a fair-sized town.  Alden Baylor is the teenage owner of the farm, inheriting it after his parents died.  He lives there with his uncle, and sometimes his uncle’s friend (I like how Parker never quite nailed down the specifics of the relationship there), who is also an astronomer.The book opens on the night that a comet is set to pass over the town, and Alden has invited anyone who wants to to sit out on his property to watch the show.  Everyone is a little surprised to see larger meteors crossing the night sky, and are even more surprised when one lands on the property.  It looks like a hollow shell that has split open.

Soon, Alden starts to see a strange-looking humanoid figure on his property, at the same time that we learn that hundreds of these meteors made it to Earth.  Eventually, as things get weirder, Alden, the adults around him, and the entire world realize that they have been visited by creatures from another world, although Alden sees their intent differently from the military or world leaders.

Parker has created an interesting character in Alden.  He’s wise beyond his years, and a very capable teenager, but also very much a regular kid.  As things get stranger around him, his vision might be the only thing that can save people.

I liked this book a lot.  Jarrell’s art, mixed with Volo’s colours, looks terrific.  This book feels very much like a collaboration between people who have been working together for a long time, and much like Parker’s series Underground, the story keeps you enchanted throughout.  This book didn’t get a lot of press when it came out, but it deserves more recognition.

The Royals: Masters of WarIt is very obvious from reading this that it began life as a Wildstorm property, but when that imprint was folded, it got moved to Vertigo, despite not really being a good fit for that imprint.  The Royals is an alternate history that posits royal bloodlines who have vast superhuman powers, while the rest of humanity is normal.  As the Second World War begins, the powered royals have all vowed to stay out of it, but then a British prince involves himself, drawing the others into the war, making much bloodier.  I found it curious that writer Rob Williams used the correct historical political leaders, but used different royal families.  It’s possible that he extrapolated backwards to create an alternate timeline, and my general ignorance of royal families just didn’t recognize that, but part of me wanted to see young Queen Elizabeth kicking ass.  Anyway, this is a decent trade, with some very nice art by Simon Coleby.


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