The Weekly Round-Up #313 With Midnighter #7, X-O Manowar: Commander Trill #0, The Sheriff of Babylon #1, Star Wars #13 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Midnighter #7I’ve been enjoying this title since it launched, but this is easily the best issue of the series so far, both in terms of excitement and artwork.  ACO absolutely kills on this issue, which has M fighting Prometheus, a character that very few writers have used well.  Sales on this comic are pretty dreadful, and that’s ridiculous, because it’s really very good.  Please go check it out; the number of DC comics I’m buying is dwindling down to nothing again, and I’d like this one to stick around a while longer.

Quick Takes:

All-New All-Different Avengers #2 – The first issue of this book was a big disappointment, but things have improved a little bit here, as the team comes together to fight the Chitauri Warbringer. I still find it hard to care about this character, and am not all that interested in the subplot about yet another evil industrialist operating in plain sight (I mean, isn’t this what Jason Aaron’s been doing with Thor for the last couple of years?), but the character interactions are starting to get my interest.  I hope that Mark Waid establishes the team and the tone of this book moving forward quickly, as right now, I’m not sure there’s enough here to keep me coming back for much longer.

Black Science #18We learn a lot more about Grant’s childhood this month, and about his relationship with his brother.  This arc has really switched up the feel of this title, as we are moving away from the more action-oriented plotting of the earlier arcs, and are instead spending a lot more time in Grant’s head.  I like it, and it gives Matteo Scalero the chance to do some cool things visually, which is what he’s been up to since this series began.

Carver: A Paris Story #1 – I thought I’d take a chance on this new series published by Z2 Comics mostly because Paul Pope’s name showed up in the solicitations (he provided a three page backup story), and after reading this first issue, I’m glad I got it, but I’m not all that sure I’m ready to return for more.  The story, written and drawn by Chris Hunt, revolves around a man named Carver, who has arrived in Paris for some kind of reason, somehow involving a woman that he knew a long time ago.  There is a man, Stacker, who wears a hood as a mask and launches into long, cliche-ridden monologues, who wants to speak to him, although things go badly when he sends some of his goons to deliver a message.  There is a cool noir feel to this story, and I am interested in seeing where Hunt is taking this, especially after reading his afterword about what the story means to him personally.  I’m just not sure that it worked well enough for me to keep buying it.  I’m going to give this a second read before the next issue comes out, to see how I feel about it then.

Daredevil #1I’ve not previously been a fan of Ron Garney’s artwork, but I love the approach he’s taking to this latest Daredevil relaunch.  Matt Milla, the colour artist, is keeping this book very muted, with monochromatic pages, and Garney’s taking a very minimalist approach.  Charles Soule has really upended everything from Mark Waid’s recent, acclaimed, run, returning DD to Manhattan, and giving Murdock a job in the DA’s office as a prosecutor.  Daredevil has a new partner, Blindspot, who he is training, and there’s a weird cultlike gang running Chinatown, that centres on this guy Tenfingers, who is pretty creepy.  The one thing that I didn’t really understand about this comic are Foggy’s comments about Matt having made everyone forget he’s Daredevil.  It feels like Secret Wars hit a One More Day style reset button on everything that’s happened to the character since Bendis started writing him over a decade ago.  That’s a weird choice.

Dark Corridor #5 – Rich Tommaso is getting close to finishing the first season of his crime series, and that means that different plotlines are converging nicely.  This is a cool series, although I’m not sure if I’m going to return for the next season.  It’s good, but hasn’t reached the highs of the first two issues again.

Doctor Strange #3 – The first two issues of this comic were used to establish a new approach to Dr. Strange stories, and to build up a threat to magic across many realities.  Now, Strange is aware of what’s been going on, and the book is going to start feeling more directed, which is not to say that there isn’t still time for a multi-page sequence that has a naked Strange fighting giant magic-eating slugs.  Chris Bachalo is having a lot of fun with this book, and that makes all the difference on a title like this.

East of West #22Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta switch things up this issue, giving us a completely silent comic, at least until the last page.  A group of high-tech ninjafied assassins infiltrate the House of Mao, looking to take out the leader (I am blanking on her name).  Dragotta does some pretty incredible work, and what I thought was particularly cool about this issue is that it’s not until the last page that we learn who is behind this attack.  I really enjoy this book, even though it’s often hard to keep track of all the different plotlines running through it.

Extraordinary X-Men #3 – It’s usually around the three issue mark where I have enough of a sense of a book to be able to predict whether or not I want to stick with it.  I feel like I’m going to be cutting the new flagship X-Book loose.  It’s really just not working for me.  This issue has the X-Men fighting off demons from Limbo that are attacking their school/refugee camp, while Jean Grey convinces Old Man Logan that he’s needed.  We learn a little more about what happened to Cyclops, but it’s kind of hard to care about.  I usually really respect Jeff Lemire as a writer, and often like Humberto Ramos’s art, but the two things are not coming together well here at all.

Gotham Academy #12 – When one of the faculty of the Academy is a former Batman villain, are we to be surprised when it turns out he’s up to no good.  More and more, I find I like the idea of this comic more than I like the actual comic, and so I think I’m done here.  There’s a charm to this title that I really enjoy, but the story arcs are moving a little too slowly, and I’m just buying too many comics again.

Gotham by Midnight #11 With one issue left to go, Ray Fawkes and Juan Ferreyra pull out all the stops, and give us a pretty exciting issue that has the spirits of every person killed unjustly in Gotham over its history returning for vengeance, just as a gigantic creature appears to trash the place.  This is a very good read, with great art.  I’m sad that this series isn’t going to last past the next issue, but I do like that Fawkes has been able to tell what feels like a complete story so far.  

The Humans #10 – This ends the first season of this excellent anthropomorphic ape/biker series, and it ends very well.  There’s a lot of violence to this issue, and a fitting closing scene.  I didn’t like the first issue of this comic, but it improved steadily starting with the second, and I’m glad that I bought it.  I look forward to seeing it return in a few months.

Invincible Iron Man #4 – I’m still buying this comic, somewhat despite myself.  I’m trying to figure out a lot of things in this series, and can’t tell if changes to Tony Stark and his world are to be chalked up to a soft post-Secret Wars reboot, of to Brian Michael Bendis’s usual poor grasp of Marvel continuity and history.  I feel like Tony has been de-aged, and am confused about how in other Marvel books, particularly ANAD Avengers, is not as rich as he usually is, while here, he seems to be balling as much as ever.  Leaving this stuff aside, this is an enjoyable book, as Tony fights bio-armored ninjas, and then visits a children’s hospital, where he has another run-in with Doctor Doom.  Bendis is still writing the character more like Peter Parker than Tony Stark, something that is compounded by the appearance of Mary Jane Watson, but whatever.  If you don’t think about it much, you can enjoy this.

Paper Girls #3Quite a lot happens in this issue, from the main character being shot to everyone meeting two different groups that have shown up in the town, both from the future we assume.  Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have done a great job in building up the plotline for this series, moving from a general sense of nostalgia to a compelling and mysterious time travel story (that does not have the main characters being the ones who move through time).  Chiang is brilliant on this book.

Plutona #3 – I’m a little surprised by how slowly this book is moving, without annoying me in the slightest.  This series follows a group of middle school students who have found the body of Plutona, the greatest superhero, in the woods.  One of the kids, Plutona’s fan, has some weird ideas about what to do with the body, and that has him deceiving the other kids, who are not exactly friends.  What makes this work so well is the depth of the character work that Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox are doing with these kids, making them much more complex than most we would meet in comics.  I’m not sure how long this is set to run, but it’s solid work.

Revival #35 – Tim Seeley is hurtling this story forward these days, as the burned reviver tries to kill Martha, although Dana is determined to rescue her sister, risking her career and her family.  This story has been building to this point for a long time now (A three-year plus run is pretty impressive for a book like this in today’s market), and as someone who’s been with the book since the start, that payoff is really appreciated.  This book does not get the attention it deserves.

The Sheriff of Babylon #1I’ve been looking forward to this new Vertigo series, which is set in the Green Zone of Baghdad during the American occupation in 2003.  Tom King is writing this, which is a definite plus in my eyes, but he’s taking a slightly oblique approach to establishing this title, introducing what I assume are the three main characters of this series in this issue.  I think that King is writing for the trade, and I’m curious to see what this book will be like in an issue or two when the plot reveals itself a little more.  Mitch Gerads is drawing this comic, and while his panels can be a little static, he’s the best war comics artist working today.

Star Wars #13 – The Vader Down event reaches its halfway mark, and there is a little too much of a droid focus for me, as Triple-Zero and BT face off against R2D2 and Chewbacca.  There are some good moments here, although the slapstick-fueled confrontation between Han and Aphra irritated me.  Mike Deodato does a great job on this book; I don’t always love his art, but here it works well.  This has been a good story, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter, which is going to have a confrontation between Leia and Vader.  

They’re Not Like Us #10 – Syd and her friends confront the people who attacked them in the nightclub, and Eric Stephenson does some cool stuff around telepathic control and perception.  I really enjoy this series, which is moving away from its earlier X-Men parallels to become its own thing.  Simon Gane just keeps getting better with each issue.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #1I’m happy to see Amadeus Cho return to the spotlight at Marvel, and to see him being written by Greg Pak again, although I have no clue how he became a Hulk, where his sister came from, or why he has a flying bathroom-sized garbage can for a companion that reminds me of the robot from the Black Hole.  Also, how likely is it that Cho is nineteen now?  Anyway, this is a good first issue, in that it got me interested in the character again, and I do like the change of status quo for the Hulk.  We don’t know where Banner is, and I, personally, don’t much care at the moment.  I do like the way Cho interacts with the rest of the Marvel universe, and enjoyed Frank Cho’s artwork, although I can’t imagine he’ll be on the book for long (or it will quickly become hella late).

The Vision #2 – The first issue of this comic, by the excellent Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, didn’t grab me the way I thought it would.  This issue, however, has made me happier, as we’ve begun to see the coming shape of the series a little better, and have gotten to know the Vision’s new wife better.  King is doing some interesting work, aiming for a very domestic approach to superheroic synthetic life, and I’m curious to see where he’s going to be taking it.  This guy’s star is really on the rise.

Where is Jake Ellis? #5 – I’m not sure how late this comic is.  I don’t even remember the last time this comic came out, and I had thought the story was over.  Either way, it’s been worth the wait for Tonci Zonjic’s wonderful art and innovative layouts.  I liked the first Jake Ellis series, which began before writer Nathan Edmondson made a name for himself.  Since then, he’s become at the centre of a controversy around his own behaviour.  Ignoring that, he is a capable writer, but due to the lateness of this comic, I’m not in a rush to trust him on another creator-owned title.

The Woods #18Calder is trying to figure out what his brother Casey, who has become the leader of the high school, and is an ally to the Horde, is up to.  This leads to a whole lot of flashback scenes, fleshing out the relationship between the two difficult brothers, while the Horde enact a pretty awful plan to winnow out anyone who might oppose them.

X’ed #1 – Black Mask Comics have been doing some interesting things lately, so I thought I’d check out the first issue of their latest series, by Tony Patrick and Ayhan Hayrula.  The premise is interesting – a company has figured out a way to send a person into another person’s head, to edit their memories, but things don’t go right when an older rich woman wants her brother edited out of her mind just as a group of guys armed with mind control apps on their phones infiltrate the facility.  A lot of stuff is left kind of unclear, but the concept is interesting.  I like Hayrula’s art, but it’s a little stiff.  I’m not sure if I’m going to get the next issue of this title.

X-O Manowar: Commander Trill #0 – This comic provides the backstory on Commander Trill, the Vine who has recently tried to sabotage his own peoples’ peaceful arrival on Earth out of spite, because he has always believed that the X-O armor should belong to him.  This story is well-written, but I foud the way that Francis Portela drew the Vine to be pretty distracting.  Here, they look like regular people, only with six eyes and mandible jaws, whereas in their other appearances, they’ve been shown as much more alien.  It’s an odd decision, and it kept pulling me out of the story.

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

All-New Inhumans #1

All-New X-Men #1

Batman and Robin Eternal #9

Guardians of Infinity #1

Harrow County Vol. 1

Hip Hop Family Tree #4

Howard the Duck #2

Joe Golem: Occult Detective #2

Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #5

Nova #2

Red Wolf #2

Robin War #1

Stray Bullets Vol. 4

Tet #4

This Damned Band #5

Bargain Comics:

Juice Squeezers #1-4This is a strange little series from David Lapham.  It’s YA focused, and stars a group of middle school students who work as ‘squeezers’, their town’s best defense against the gigantic insects that live beneath it.  The Squeezers work in secret, and when a father and son buy a local farm that is the epicentre of bug activity, they have to risk their status in order to save a kid their age.  Lapham fills this short series with almost as much character development as he does Stray Bullets, while keeping things very PG.  It feels like this story is intended as a beginning, especially since some story elements are not resolved, but I’m not sure if he intends to return to the concept or not.  It’s a good comic.

New Avengers #2&3 – I’ve really liked Al Ewing’s writing on Mighty Avengers, and enjoyed the first issue of the Ultimates, but this series is not really working for me.  I think the lion’s share of the blame has to fall on artist Gerardo Sandoval, whose 90s Madueira stylings are just not for me.  Ewing is writing to his strengths, but in my eye, those are weaknesses.  I really like the lineup of this team, and am a little interested in the way Ewing is using it to explore the changes made to the Marvel Universe, but have little interest in the Maker as a villain.  I do like the way the newest story revolves around Hulkling though – he’s an underutilized character.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Crossed Vol. 7 – This volume has two stories.  The first, by Christos Gage, is narrated by an anthropologist who has fallen in with a group of Crossed led by a very intelligent specimen he calls Smokey.  There are a lot of things about this story that prefigure some of the work that Alan Moore did in launching Crossed Plus One Hundred, and that makes it a little more interesting than the usual splatterfest.  The second story, written by David Lapham, features Amanda again, the crazy victim of a true psycho who abused her during the initial outbreak.  This story left me a little cold.

Space Riders Vol. 1

Written by Fabian Rangel Jr.
Art by Alexis Ziritt

Basically, Space Riders is everything I’d hoped that the recent Dynamite version of Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers was going to be.  Fabian Rangel Jr. and Alexis Ziritt have channelled Kirby during a particularly productive ayahuasca session, and have come up with this wonderful comic.The Space Riders are a strange trio who fly around the galaxy in their skull-shaped space ship, looking to dispense justice as it’s needed.  The leader of the trio, Capitan Peligro has just returned to the service, and has to prove himself after a disgrace a year before.  He’s joined by Mono, an alien mandrill, and Yara, a robot.As they go about their psychedelic adventures, they rescue a space whale, fight a large group of robots, and end up squaring off against Hammerhead, the Capitan’s former best friend who betrayed him and plucked out his eye.

On one level, this is pretty standard space comics stuff, with more than a little flavouring from Joe Casey’s Gødland, but Ziritt’s fantastically crazy art really elevates the material.  Many of these cosmic style books get boring quickly, but that’s not an issue here at all.  This is another example of how Black Mask Comics are sometimes hitting it out of the park with their more unconventional titles.

Sullivan’s Sluggers

Written by Mark Andrew Smith
Art by James Stokoe

Sullivan’s Sluggers is a very enjoyable oversized graphic novel, with amazing artwork by James Stokoe.  I’d like to focus on that in writing about it, but it’s important to point out that this book became the poster child for caution when dealing with Kickstarter, and that writer and owner Mark Andrew Smith really did not make himself a lot of friends while preparing this book.  I don’t want to go into it here – you can google it and learn the whole thing, I’m sure.The book, read outside of the context of its production woes, is very good.  The Sluggers are a team of washed-up baseball players (and one plucky rookie) who travel from town to town to play in exhibition games.  They are  a rough bunch.  Their coach has rage issues, and most of them drink or do drugs.

They accept a job in the town of Malice, and all is going well until the sun sets, and we learn that everyone in town turns into gigantic monsters that like to eat people.  From there, we fall pretty quickly into Walking Dead territory, only with massive monsters.  There is a backstory to the town, and that keeps the story interesting.

What makes this book so great is Stokoe’s art.  That would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work, but there are still many pages that impressed me (to say nothing of the fold-out page).  He’s the reason why I wanted to read this book, although I did like the story, and really enjoyed the high-quality production values.