The Weekly Round-Up #314 With The Violent #1, Star Wars Annual #1, The Massive: Ninth Wave #1, Ninjak #10, Reyn #10, Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #10 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Violent #1I first bought one of Ed Brisson’s comics, Murder Book, at TCAF a few years back.  I was immediately impressed by his noir approach.  Since then, he’s gone on to write some great series – Sheltered and Cluster being among my favourites – so of course I was interested in this new title, which is set in his hometown of Vancouver.  He’s working with the very talented Adam Gorham, and this first issue is an impressive thing.  It looks like this comic is going to be about the difficulty of getting by in a city that is rapidly becoming too expensive for all but the rich to live in.  We meet Mason, who is only recently out of jail, and trying to stay on the right path.  His wife, Becky, is always on him about just about everything, but she needs him to help care for his daughter.  Becky is having a rough time too – she’s trying to stay off drugs, and is regularly being screwed out of her pay at work.  Brisson’s working with situations that are too common these days, and he does an excellent job of making these characters relatable.  When Mason goes to help a friend having a rough time, he makes the mistake of leaving his daughter in his car outside the bar, and when he emerges later, the police are waiting for him.  This is a mature and compelling new series.

Quick Takes:

Abe Sapien #29I’m finding that I’m increasingly glazing over while reading the endless prophecies that have been making up this comic of late.  I don’t know what’s happening, but it really feels like Mike Mignola and Scott Allie are losing their way with this series, and much of the Mignola-verse.  This is too many months that I’ve been dissatisfied with this title; I think that it’s reaching the end of the very long rope I’ve been giving it.

All-New Hawkeye #2 – I’m still not really feeling this series, mostly because I hate comics that show heroes in the future (most of this comic takes place in thirty years).  Ramon Perez’s art is phenomenal, but the story is not working.  This first arc is set to finish in the next issue; if it looks like Jeff Lemire’s going to confine it to the present day past that, I’ll stick around.  If not, well…

Grayson #15 – I was originally going to skip this issue, as I didn’t want to have to read the whole Robin War event crossing over various Bat-family books this month, but when the last issue ended on a cliffhanger, I kind of assumed that this issue would carry that plot forward while serving as a tie-in as well.  That’s not the case at all, as this puts us right in the middle of a story that has the various Robins training the group of kids from the We Are Robin series, while Grayson shows that he’s learned a lot about hot to run his own agenda, from both Batman and Spyral.  For having not read the first chapter, I was able to get caught up pretty easily, and enjoyed (once again), the way Tom King and Tim Seeley write Dick.  I’m still not picking up the rest of this event though…

Head Lopper #2 – The first issue of this comic was a lot of fun, so I came back for more, and while I still enjoy this cartoony fantasy series, I’m starting to feel like it could have a little more depth to it.  Still, I love Andrew Maclean’s art.

The Massive: Ninth Wave #1I’ve missed The Massive, Brian Wood’s post-collapse magical realist comic about a group of direct action ecological activists.  I was very pleased to see that Wood and Garry Brown, his most frequent collaborator on this property, were returning with a prequel series that shows some of the things that Ninth Wave used to get up to.  This issue has the group working to expose the chemical dumping practises of an industrialist who is no stranger to readers.  Wood always works best on comics like this, that are done-in-one, and are exploring a theme or idea that is important to him.  You don’t need to have read The Massive to enjoy this comic, so new readers should check it out.

Ninjak #10 – I wasn’t too impressed with Valiant’s relaunch of Shadowman, and clearly not too many other people were either, as the character has all but disappeared.  Now Matt Kindt is taking a shot at him, in this new arc that has Ninjak and Punk Mambo travelling to the Deadside to retrieve one of the Shadow Seven that was taken there.  I like what Kindt has done with this title, and feel like he can be trusted to make this corner of the universe more interesting, but I didn’t like how little the focus was on Colin this month.

No Mercy #5I was very happy to see No Mercy show up in my pull-file this week.  This is an excellent series by Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil about a group of American teenagers that were in a bus crash in a desert.  They’ve survived a brutal coyote attack, and have splintered in their efforts to get help.  This issue picks up where the first trade ends, with some of the kids engaging with the drug cartel that came looking for the drugs that were in their bus, while two others come across some coarse men after climbing a cliff to get to the road they fell off of.  The last page is surprisingly brutal, and reminds me why I like this comic so much, despite the fact that it took me a little while to find my way back into the story.

Rebels #9 – Once again, Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti give us a very good done-in-one story about a young Shawnee boy, Iron Hoof, who develops an odd friendship with a British soldier in the Ohio River Valley in the time before the Seven Years War (which Americans call the French and Indian War).  As allegiances shift and the war expands, the boy grows up to be an enemy to the British, and is involved in an attack on the fort he helped to build.  Wood does a great job of showing how friendships don’t survive political alliances, and puts a human face on a conflict most people have forgotten today.

Reyn #10 – Kel Symons and Nate Stockman bring their fantasy/science fiction mash-up series to a very satisfying close, as we learn all of Reyn’s secrets.  This was a good series; I didn’t love the beginning that much, but around the time that the secrets of the world were revealed, I started to really get into this book.  It’s worth checking out in trade.

Saints #3 I keep coming back to Saints, which has definitely caught my interest.  In this issue, we learn that there are a lot more than the four resurrected saints that we have seen so far, and of course, there is some sort of organization that is trying to use them to its advantage.  I am enjoying the character development in this book, and figure if I were Catholic, I’d be endlessly amused by some of the things happening here.  I’m really liking Benjamin Mackey’s art on this book.

Scarlet Witch #1 – I don’t know what to think about James Robinson these days.  Like many, I loved his Starman back in the 90s, but haven’t been much impressed with anything he’s done since, except for his excellent Airboy which recently ended.  I also don’t much like the Scarlet Witch, and haven’t since Brian Michael Bendis got his hooks into her.  I was going to pass over this comic completely, until I learned that the second issue is going to feature art by Marco Rudy, which makes it a must-buy (I hope someone at Marvel is reading this and gives the guy more work).  That meant that I felt I had to buy this issue, which is drawn by the wonderful Vanessa Del Rey.  Robinson has Wanda living on her own in New York, and talking way too much about witchcraft.  She’s figured out that some sort of malevolent spirit has infected the city, and takes steps to stop it.  It’s not a bad first issue, but without Rudy drawing me in, I doubt I’d be back for a second.  

Secret Wars #8I remember this title.  This was originally going to be the last issue of the series, but I guess Marvel felt the need to have almost a complete issue devoted to mayhem, as various factions square off with each other, and some big names get (temporarily) killed off or squished.  It was probably the right decision, as this issue has some great moments (the last page being my favourite), and it’s nice to see Esad Ribic turning in consistently good art.  Jonathan Hickman has left himself a lot to accomplish in his last issue though, unless Marvel isn’t all that interested in using this series to explain some of the changes we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe in the last two months.  Their events always leave me pretty confused…

Southern Cross #6 – Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger are doing some very cool things with this rather bizarre science fiction series.  Stuff gets really weird with this issue, as Braith and the Captain of the Southern Cross have to put a stop to the strange things that have been happening on the ship, and as Belanger really cuts loose with his page designs.  The end of this arc ends mysteriously, and it looks like the next one is going to be taking a different approach to things, which should be cool.  I’m not sure I understood everything that happened in this issue, but I’m still very happy with it.

Star Wars Annual #1Marvel is putting out so much Star Wars stuff lately that you’d think there’s a movie coming out soon or something.  This is an odd one-off about a character who I think is brand new – Eneb Ray, a Rebel spy who has been working undercover as an Imperial agent on Coruscant.  When the chance comes to get a shot at the Emperor, he jumps at it, even though it could mean blowing the cover of every last Rebel on the planet.  Kieron Gillen writes this, and the story works well, even if it has more than a few similarities to John Ostrander’s excellent Agent of the Empire comics from Dark Horse.  Angel Unzueta drew this, and his work is good, but not all that memorable compared to most of the other artists playing in Marvel’s Star Wars line.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #10 – We’re getting closer and closer to the time where Beth and Orson are going to carry out their crazy plan to steal money and Beth’s friend away from Harry, and more and more, it’s looking like it’s a bad idea.  Everyone in this series, except perhaps Orson, are only looking out for their own needs, and so once again, David Lapham does a wonderful job of showing us awful people hurting one another.  He’s really good at that.

Trees #13 – I’m always happy to see an issue of Trees, especially when it’s fallen off its schedule.  This issue is split between some scientific conjecture on the nature of the trees (gigantic alien structures that have landed around the Earth), and an assault by the NYPD on the mayor’s criminal associates.  This is a very well-constructed series; I just wish it was more regular in its appearance on the stands.

The Twilight Children #3Things are getting a lot stranger in the unnamed South or Central American town where this series is taking place.  People keep disappearing, and the new girl in town is exhibiting some strange powers, freezing the two government agents in place.  The effect that this all is having on the town is not a positive one.  Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke are giving us a lovely and interesting, sun-dappled magical realist comic that I’m enjoying a great deal.

The Ultimates #2 – I feel like I’m really going to enjoy this title, as Al Ewing shows us how well this new team works together, and has them solve the Galactus problem in an interesting and innovative way that pays homage to Kirby’s work on the character.  I’m hoping that he takes time for some character development in and around all the cosmic stuff though, as this is a book that has some real favourite characters of mine (Spectrum, Black Panther, Ms. America Chavez) in it, and I’d like to see more of them.  Kenneth Rocafort is an interesting choice for this book; I like his work in it.

Unity #25 – One thing I like about Valiant is the way in which they haven’t had their series overstay their welcome, frequently canceling and rejigging books in a way that is much more meaningful than the constant string of relaunches that has become Marvel comics.  This last issue is a bit odd though, as it’s a comedy comic poking fun at Valiant’s super team.  Most of this issue is forgettable, but Michael Kupperman does a short story, and it alone is worth buying the book for.  I also really liked Matt Kindt’s farewell to the title that he both wrote and drew.  I’ll miss this title.

The Walking Dead #149Most of this issue is given over to a long discussion between Rick and Negan, about how Rick should respond to this whole situation with the Whisperers.  There is no character in comics whose dialogue I hate reading more than Negan’s so that made me enjoy this issue a little less than I usually do, but the other plotlines kept me interested.  I’m not sure what Robert Kirkman has planned for the next issue, but since it’s a nice round number, I expect something awful to happen.

We Stand on Guard #6 – Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce have done well with this comic, which comes to an end this issue.  As expected, the final confrontation between Amber and the leader of the American invasion forces is a big one, and Skroce makes it look very interesting.  This was a good title, but I still feel like it was a lot more Mark Millar than BKV.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #4

Batman #47

Batman and Robin Eternal #10

Deadpool #3

Detective Comics #47

Gotham Academy #13

Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight Vol. 4 TPB

Guardians of the Galaxy #3

Gwenpool Special #1

Harrow County #8

Hercules #2

Neverboy TPB

Rachel Rising #38

Snow Blind #1

Spider-Man 2099 #4

Uncanny Avengers #3

Bargain Comics:

Magneto #18-21 – Four issues of Magneto trying to stop the incursion that launched Secret Wars was way too many.  I like the way that Cullen Bunn used these issues to look at various stages of Magneto’s life – his relationship with Namor, and his ever-evolving sense of his own mission, but much of this could have been done a lot quicker.  I’m curious to see how Bunn writes Magneto in the upcoming Uncanny X-Men series, although it’s drawn by Greg Land, and so I’m not that curious.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

We Can Never Go Home

Written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlow
Art by Josh Hood and Brian Level

Black Mask has done it again with this excellent collection of We Can Never Go Home, a miniseries that was sold out long before it found its way onto my radar.Madison is a very unique high school student.  In addition to being a straight-A student and the only Asian girl in her community, she has various abilities that kick in when she is stressed out.  Duncan is a typical misfit who likes to play with guns and doesn’t have any friends.  He claims that he also has abilities – he killed his mother with his mind, but has not used these powers since.The two teenagers get to know each other after Duncan interrupts Madison’s boyfriend from getting a little too grabby at a popular makeout spot.  They sort of become friends, and when Madison rescues Duncan from a beat-down by his father, they have no choice but to go on the run together.

As the story unfolds, they attempt to rob a local drug dealer, and end up committing a murder.  Now, they are being pursued by the FBI (who already appear to know about Maddie’s powers) and by the drug lord they robbed, who also has powered individuals in his employ.

The story, as written by Rosenberg and Kindlow, is very strong in terms of character development and their relationship with one another.  Both characters feel real, as do their reactions to things.  It’s interesting to watch them get closer to each other.  The art, by Hood and Level, is pretty good, in a standard indie kind of way.  It definitely told the story well, and sometimes used some very interesting layout designs.  The general design of this book is phenomenal.

I’ve decided that it’s past time to pay a lot more attention to everything that Black Mask puts out; they’ve definitely come out of nowhere to be a major company to keep an eye on.