The Weekly Round-Up #329 With The Ultimates #5, X-O Manowar #45, Cry Havoc #3, Hellboy & The BPRD 1953: Beyond The Fences #2, Bloodshot Reborn Annual 2016 #1 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

The Ultimates #5I think that the Ultimates is one of the coolest comics that Marvel is putting out right now, but I also think that it might be lowkey the most important.  This issue has the team travelling outside the Omniverse to examine its structure in the wake of so many time travel traumas, and are rescued from certain death by Galactus, who is now, because of them, a force for good.  Al Ewing is the only writer really exploring the changes made in the Marvel Universe by Secret Wars, including the whereabouts of a particular notorious character who makes his return here.  Even better than the cosmic stuff, though, is the interesting cast of this comic, and the quiet way in which Ewing is giving them spaces to shine.  This issue gives us a little more insight into Ms. America, who is a great character.  The next issue is going to be drawn by Christian Ward.  As much as I’m enjoying Kenneth Rocafort’s work here, I can’t wait to see what Ewing and Ward can get up to together.

Quick Takes:

All-New All-Different Avengers #7 – I continue to have a lot of problems with this book.  I think it has a lot of potential, and some of its quieter moments, like the one shared between Sam Wilson and Jane Foster at the beginning, help build it into a viable team book, but there is just something lazy about the writing in this comic.  The scene between Vision and Kamala Khan did not need to take up so many pages, and Nova just showed up on the Quinjet without having been in the comic prior to that.  I’m not reading the other Standoff books except for ones written by Nick Spencer, so I recognize that I’m not completely up to speed with what’s going on in this storyline, but the fight between this team and the Unity Squad just peters out and suddenly the teams are working together.  I find it hard to believe that this is Mark Waid writing, and remain thoroughly unimpressed.  I’m pretty sure that the next issue will be my last (which means I will not be reading an Avengers or X-Men comic for the first time since the mid-90s).

All-New Hawkeye #5Ramon Pérez is doing such lovely work on this book that it makes up for the relative lack of content and substance in this series.  I like the Kate Bishop flashback, wherein she discovers her father’s criminal doings, but the present-day story is not now, and has not been, very interesting since Jeff Lemire took over the book.  I’ve noticed that issue seven of this series hasn’t been solicited yet; is Marvel quietly cancelling this book?

Bloodshot Reborn Annual #1 – I liked the first story, which features a tale from Bloodshot’s past and artwork by Kano, but the rest of this book feels a little unnecessary.  The follow-up story by Ray Fawkes is pretty, but the parody of Crisis and Secret Wars was just too easily done.  The Michel Fiffe/Benjamin Marra piece, with it’s post-Gødland silliness, also seemed too easy.  For $6 I’d like something more memorable.

Cry Havoc #3 – I continue to find this a very cool series.  Simon Spurrier has split the story into three streams, past, present, and future, and it works very well, allowing him to tease out aspects of his story across the three platforms at the same time.  This is probably the most “good Vertigo” book at Image right now.

Grayson #18And this, more than anything else, is why I’m not prepared to commit myself to DC’s Rebirth.  The team of Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin have made this title a rare diamond in DC’s current lacklustre line, but now, despite what solicitations have said, a different group of writers and artists are continuing their story.  The comic is not terrible, but it’s obviously changed hands (although I suspect that Lanzing and Kelly, whoever they are, are writing from detailed notes from the previous writers), and that has an effect on the flow and feel of the book.  And this is the company that has us believing they can put out books on a bi-weekly schedule?  Last minute changes like this really sap my confidence in the company, and make me less likely to take the time to preorder their books, which we all know is the ideal way of supporting publishers and comics shoppes.  Disappointing, once again.

Hellboy and the BPRD 1953: Beyond the Fences #2 – I’m reading less and less of the Mignolaverse these days, but when you have Paolo Rivera drawing a book, there’s little chance that I’m going to walk away from it.  Hellboy and his team fight a gigantic dog monster in an abandoned farmer’s field for much of this issue, and it looks great.

Mirror #2This issue does a lot to flesh out the backstory in Emma Rios and Hwei Lim’s interesting new science fiction series.  This is a lovely comic, telling the story of experimented-on animals and their fight against the people who created them.

Nowhere Men #9 – Eric Stephenson wisely peppered this issue with video interviews with some key members of the cast from when they first joined World Corp., and I find that helpful, as this book has always had a lot of characters, and not enough time or space devoted to building them.  I continue to enjoy this book, although I think that, with so many plotlines running, it’s time for something more concrete to happen.

Obi-Wan & Anakin #3 – I still don’t get what the purpose of this miniseries is.  The flashback to Palpatine starting to get his hooks into Anakin takes up most of the issue, but doesn’t seem to have any real bearing on what is happening in the “now” part of the story.  That section, which has our heroes travelling with two rivals on a strange planet, feels padded and drawn out.  This has been the most disappointing of the Star Wars titles so far, which surprises me because I think writer Charles Soule is brilliant.  I wonder if he is working to some sort of Disney/Lucas Arts plan that is really at fault for this.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #17More and more, the main characters and the readers of this book are figuring out everything that’s going on.  Kyle has some new theories about how to help the recently possessed, while Anderson’s come to a few conclusions about God that are probably unorthodox for a reverend to consider.  This is a very good series.

Star Wars #17 – I admire Leinil Francis Yu as an artist, but feel like he’s wrong for Star Wars.  His style doesn’t really fit the aesthetic of the universe very well, and it makes for some hard to follow scenes.  Someone has taken over the Rebellion’s secret prison, and is executing prisoners while Leia and Sana work to protect them, while Han and Luke are ferrying some illegal livestock between worlds.  This is an odd arc.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #13 – I didn’t think it was possible, but this series just keeps getting better.  Orson and Beth rob the strip club this issue, and their carefully planned heist becomes a real comedy of errors, as David Lapham manages to keep the suspense building through the whole issue.  The last page is perfect, and a little surprising.  Great stuff here.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #4Now that the initial arc, and Frank Cho’s time on the book, are over, I’m hoping things will settle down a little and become more character driven.  We do see how Amadeus became the Hulk, and see him in action against a bunch of monsters, but I’d actually enjoy more quiet moments with this character, as I always find him interesting.  

X-O Manowar #45 – I learned this weekend that this series is set to end with issue fifty, which is a real shame, but it feels like Robert Venditti is working up to a pretty big ending right now.  Commander Trill puts his plans in motions, and that involves sacrificing a number of his followers.  It also looks like it could lead to the end of Aric’s people.  This is a remarkably consistent series, in terms of quality.

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

Batman #50

Batman and Robin Eternal #25

Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #4

New Avengers #8

Rattler GN

Secret Six #12

Snowfall #2

Sons of the Devil #6

Spire #7

Uncanny X-Men #5

We Are Robin #10

X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever #2

Bargain Comics:

Angela: Queen of Hel #1When you are going to construct a whole arc around showing how a character becomes the ruler of Hel, and you show that her friend/lover is by her side at that point, you can’t really structure the flashback part of the comic around a possible conflict or betrayal by that friend/lover, and expect people to care a whole lot.  The last Angela series was surprisingly good, but it was mostly written by Kieron Gillen, who has shown time and again an ability to take some of the worst corporate-driven concepts at Marvel Comics, and make them very good.  His co-writer for that book, Marguerite Bennett, is on her own here, and like with other comics I’ve read by her, she falls short.  This book is pretty, but it’s not very compelling.  I knew an Angela series would always be hard sell – the character is not that interesting – but I’d had higher hopes than this…

Astro City (Vol. 2) #21&22 – Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson wrapped up this series (which wasn’t supposed to end at this point) with a pair of stories looking at normal people in Astro City.  The first is about a woman who writes licensed comics featuring some superheroes, and is a fun poke at the shadier aspects of the early comics business.  The second issue focuses on a stuntman who plays a superhero on a TV show, who gains media attention after stopping a holdup.  Both issues are among the best I’ve read from this series so far.

The Disciples #1-4 – I’m not a fan of Steve Niles’s writing, but it’s been a while since I’ve read any that Christopher Mitten has drawn, so I decided to pick up the set of this Black Mask series which does an interesting mash-up of the Jonestown Massacre with Aliens.  Mitten’s work is great, but the story feels a little slight.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Futurians

by Dave Cockrum

I find as I get older, my appreciation for some of the giants of the comics industry changes and becomes more welcoming.  As a kid, I did not like Dave Cockrum’s work.  That said, my X-Men belonged to John Romita Jr, Marc Silvestri, and through back issues, John Byrne.  Cockrum’s work did not stand up in comparison, and I was not aware of how much design work he did for the characters.  Likewise, I loved the Legion of Super-Heroes, but found Keith Giffen and Steve Lightle’s work with them to be infinitely superior to Cockrum’s.

Now, though, I can see how instrumental he was in making both of those franchises (not to mention the Shi’ar Imperial Guard) what they are.  I feel the same way about Jim Aparo – I didn’t like his work on Batman when people like Norm Breyfogle, Todd McFarlane or Alan Davis were also working on the character, but now I can appreciate it.

In that spirit, I thought it might finally be time to read The Futurians, his graphic novel from 1983.  It begins five million years in the future, where two warring groups have destroyed the Earth.  The bad guys, who call themselves The Inheritors, wreck the sun as they us its energy to move their entire city back in time.  The remaining city figures out a way to also send some stuff to the past, and their leader’s consciousness travels to the 1960s.

By the present day, by which I mean 1983, he’s created a huge science company, which has gathered a group of people and turned them into superheroes, so they can stop the Inheritors.  They spend the rest of the issue doing this.

It’s clear that Cockrum was working to set up a team that could sustain an ongoing series, but it fell victim to the comics industry when he published through a little known independent company.  The characters feel very much like the X-Men, and there are plenty of rivalries and conflicts between the characters that could have worked well to sustain a series for a while.

This graphic novel is pretty much exactly what you would expect from Cockrum at this stage in his career.  If you like his art, you will like this, but nothing about it will surprise you.