The Weekly Round-Up #333 With Criminal 10th Anniversary Special, Aloha Hawaiian Dick #1, Bloodshot Reborn #12, Chew: Demon Chicken Poyo, Dept. H #1 & More

  • Best Comic of the Week:

Criminal 10th Anniversary SpecialI have loved everything that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have done together, but hold a special place in my heart for Criminal, their first creator-owned work (although not their first collaboration).  I find it hard to believe that it was ten years ago that they started working in this world, which they now return to for this substantial and complete story.  Young Tracey Lawless has been taken on a long road trip by his father Teeg, but he has no idea why.  Teeg has him helping knock off gas stations, break into spots, and help him track down a woman in a small town before abandoning him in a motel room for a few days.  On his own, Tracey meets an odd girl, and alternates his time between reading a kung fu werewolf comic and hanging out with her.  Like with the last Criminal special, the comic is folded into the pages of the story throughout, and gives Phillips the opportunity to draw a black and white 70s comic magazine.  This homage to an earlier era adds a lot of reality to the story, and works well as a device to show the passage of time.  This is a finely nuanced example of how comics can tell unique stories that won’t work in any other genre, and is a great introduction for a new reader looking for an intelligent and rewarding crime comic to dive into.

Quick Takes:

All-New Hawkeye #6Is there any better example of just how messed up Marvel’s publishing plan is, that Jeff Lemire and Ramon Pérez got only five issues of this title their first time around, before it was cancelled for Secret Wars, and then when it was brought back with new numbering, it only lasted six issues again?  This doesn’t seem to be a sales thing, but more based on the fact that Lemire only had eleven issues in him in the first place.  This was a pointless relaunch, and the type of thing that is having a negative effect on consumers’ confidence in their plans.  This series, like the one before it, was quite pretty thanks to Pérez’s art, but Lemire’s story never really did all that much for me.  I was more interested in seeing Kate’s childhood than Clint’s, so I prefered this arc, but at the end of the day, there was little to no point to this series.

Aloha, Hawaiian Dick #1 – I strongly believe that writer B. Clay Moore is one of the most slept-on writers in the comics business.  I’ve liked everything of his that I’ve read, especially Battle Hymn and his Hawaiian Dick miniseries.  I’d kind of given up hopes of ever seeing a new issue of this series, but I guess a TV deal will make things happen.  For this new series, Moore is joined by Jacob Wyatt, an artist who is new to me, but who has immediately impressed me.  His art makes me think a little of a cross between Rick Geary and Simon Gane, especially in the framing sequence set some twenty years after the main story.  This issue, aside from a backup story drawn by Jason Armstrong, does not even feature the series’s main character, Byrd, but instead his younger brother, who is also a private eye in 1950s Kansas.  Young Byrd has been sent to photograph a man’s wife with a local mobster, but gets caught and is instead given a different job, tracking down a jazz artist who is in Hawaii.  This issue is mostly setup, but it has a great atmosphere to it, and I look forward to seeing where it leads.

Astonishing Ant-Man #7 Nick Spencer’s story just keeps chugging along, as Scott finds out that his daughter has gone missing, and that the Power Broker’s start-up Hench is somehow involved.  I like the way Spencer blends humour into this title, making it one of the more entertaining (and blissfully self-contained) books in the Marvel line.

Bloodshot Reborn #12 – Jeff Lemire and Lewis Larosa continue to impress with this arc that takes place in Bloodshot’s future.  He and Old Ninjak go to war with the Shadowmen, the cult that just killed everyone in Bloodshot’s village, including his wife.  What I like best about this issue are the scenes set in the current day; I’m more interested in seeing how Lemire builds this character than I am in seeing a future that’s likely never going to happen.  At the same time, I’m happy reading anything with art this good; Larosa is incredible.

BPRD Hell on Earth #140 – This title is going through some big transitions lately, the biggest of which is the departure of cowriter John Arcudi.  Cameron Stewart was supposed to be filling his shoes, but now Chris Roberson has stepped in for a few issues, and he and Mike Norton give us a story of a single BPRD agent who has been going around conducting exorcisms while the rest of the Bureau focuses on the bigger stuff.  It’s a good issue, but between this, Outcast, and Hellbreak, I’m starting to wonder if exorcism is the new zombie.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #8I guess I was right that the only issues of Standoff that have been necessary to getting the story were the ones written by Nick Spencer, as the newly rejuvenated Steve Rogers works with Captain America and Bucky to figure out what’s going on in Pleasant Hill, and to put a stop to Zemo’s plans.  This issue, and this series in general, continues to feel like a throwback to the Mark Gruenwald Captain America heyday, with a nice dense story, lots of cameos and guest appearances, and A- and B-plots.  I was a little surprised by some of the villains included, especially Kraven and Cutthroat, as I thought they were both dead, and I also felt that the inclusion of Mach VII felt shoe-horned in to the story in an effort to set up the new Thunderbolts series, but otherwise, I enjoyed this chapter.  That said, I’m really ready for Standoff to end.

Captain Marvel #4 – This is another enjoyable issue of Captain Marvel that has Carol and her Alpha Flight forces facing down a superior alien vessel that is looking to destroy them, while they also deal with the likelihood that they have a saboteur aboard.  This title works, but it still feels like it’s more TV oriented, like an episode of Stargate Atlantis say, than a Captain Marvel comic.  I’m hoping that the writers, Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas will get that out of their system by the time the Civil War nonsense ends (assuming I’m still with the book by then – Carol’s centrality to that event makes me want to drop this book).

Chew: Demon Chicken PoyoNow that Poyo is running Hell, it looks like he’s using his position to right some wrongs.  This is an odd issue, featuring a Christmas themed story, as Poyo has to deal with a Grinch-like character.  It’s amusing, but not anywhere near as effective as a regular issue of Chew.

Cry Havoc #4 – We see Lou’s first interactions with Inhand Org, the group that she ends up travelling to Afghanistan with; while there, we see her and her group come across a lithium mine that has some strange and sinister purposes.  This series, by Simon Spurrier and Ryan Kelly, continues to impress with its three tiered storytelling, and general atmosphere that’s reminiscent of the good years at Vertigo.

Dept. H #1 – I’m very happy to see Matt Kindt (joined by his wife Sharlene on watercolours) returning to writing and drawing a monthly comic; I’ve missed his unique style since Mind MGMT finished a little while ago.  Dept. H is a murder mystery comic set in an undersea research station on the ocean floor.  Our main character, Mia, is the daughter of the man who created the program, and while her expertise are more outer space-oriented, she’s been chosen to investigate the murder.  There’s an interesting cast of characters living on this station, including her brother and her estranged childhood friend, and Kindt is setting us up for an interesting story, made more so by his decision to have each issue depict exactly one day in Mia’s life.  The book looks great, and is printed on incredibly nice paper that helps Sharlene’s watercolours really live.  I’m sure that this is going to be one of my favourite ongoing books in no time.

Divinity II #1Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine return to their Divinity work at Valiant, which I believe is the first completely new project at the revived Valiant.  This new story focuses on Valentina Volkov, the female cosmonaut who accompanied Abram Adams on his mission to the edge of the cosmos.  She also became imbued with great cosmic power, but unlike Adams, she continued to be a true believer in the Soviet dream.  Now she’s on her way back to our present day, with plans to use her abilities to revive her country.  This is a very narrator-driven issue, but it works to establish Valentina quickly, and promises an interesting miniseries.

East of West #25 – Jonathan Hickman is really just moving chess pieces around in this issue, as he continues to build towards something.  This was not as impressive an issue of East of West as I’m used to, but I assume that much of its content is necessary.

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #1 – I’ve been enjoying much of what Black Mask Comics have been publishing lately, especially Matthew Rosenberg’s You Can Never Go Home Again, so grabbing his newest series was not ever in question, but it was not what I expected.  This book is about a four friends (well, three friends and the one kid they can’t seem to shake) who like to hang out, playing games together, and chatting over CB Radio at night (I think the title must be set before instant messaging).  One day, while at the sole girl’s house, four tough guys show up looking for the girl’s father, and the kids get into a bit of a fight with them.  Later, they show up at the kids’ school, trying to show them kindness.  It’s clear that these criminals are somehow connected to her father, but no one knows how yet.  The story is interesting and frequently funny, with some terrific art by Tyler Boss, who has an excellent sense of layout and design.  I didn’t expect a book that would be this absurd and funny, but I’m really enjoying the characterizations and the dialogue.  This one’s a keeper.

From Under Mountains #6I have no idea if this is the end of this series or not, as I don’t think any more issues have been solicited, and there is no text page indicating if the book is going to return or not.  I’ve been enjoying this series, mostly for Sloane Leong’s beautiful artwork, but feel like there is a very large story at work, and that this does nothing to satisfy most of the plotlines that Marian Churchland and Clare Gibson have started.  I’m hoping we’ll see more of this book.

Huck #6 – As we’ve come to expect, Mark Millar delivers a sentimental ending to this story (he’s obviously always thinking about giving Hollywood what they want), but that doesn’t make it unsatisfying, as Huck and his mom finish their confrontation with the former Soviet scientist who has plagued their lives.  This was a nice little take on a Superman story, and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is always welcome in my home.

Invincible #127 – Invincible returns to the stands, Mark Grayson returns to his family after being away for five years, and original artist Cory Walker returns to the book for a six-issue arc.  Writer Robert Kirkman gives us a mostly quiet story after the craziness of the last arc, as Mark gets to know his family again, and gets caught up on all that he’s missed.  This comic is always a good read, although I realize that I prefer Ryan Ottley’s art over Walker’s, as good as he is.

Karnak #3I find myself quickly losing interest in much of what Karnak has to offer.  Roland Boschi steps in to handle art after Gerardo Zaffino had to exit the title, and I think the shift in looks helps reveal that Warren Ellis is just kind of doing his usual schtick on this title, without investing a lot of soul in it.  Really, Karnak is just a more obtuse version of what he’s doing with his character Headland, but is not as entertaining.  Maybe it’s just his use of Phil Coulson that’s bugging me…

Mighty Thor #6 – I feel like Jason Aaron is squandering what could be a great comic.  This issue starts with a framing sequence drawn by Russell Dauterman and featuring Loki and Dario Agger, before launching into yet another flashback story from the Viking days, where Thor (male, original Thor) fights alongside a guy who prays to him, and then switches sides when that guy stops praying.  This sends the guy to Loki for some power.  This stuff looks nice, thanks to some very dark art by Rafa Garres, but it’s the same old flashback stuff I tired of years ago.  I’m really considering calling it quits with this title; I like the new Thor a lot, but she’s basically a secondary character in her own book, and I’m tired of it.

Mirror #3Emma Rios and Hwei Lim continue to flesh out their story and world, as we gain some more insight into how these characters have historically related to each other, and see the two animals through on their quest.  This is an interesting book, detailing life on a semi-sentient asteroid where some animals have gained language.  It’s very lovely, if a little confusing at times.

Obi-Wan & Anakin #4 – It’s taken Charles Soule too long to pull this miniseries together, but this issue works much better than the previous three.  Anakin is separated from Obi-Wan, who discovers the truth behind the signal that has brought the Jedi to this devastated world.  I’m not feeling like this mini is adding much to the larger Star Wars world, but that could just be the curse of the prequels working against it.  At least Marco Checchetto’s art is great.

Pitiful Human-Lizard #7 – This time around, Toronto’s own superhero has to face a truly terrible threat:  getting lost in the suburbs!  The H-L gets dumped in Mississauga by a strange monster, and has to figure out how to get home without money and with his phone about to die.  As with every issue of this series by Jason Loo, this is a fun book, filled with local in-jokes, but still accessible to anyone to read.

Power Man and Iron Fist #3I’ll admit to originally being somewhat on the fence about the new PM&IF series, but not any more.  I’m now loving what David Walker and Sanford Greene are doing with these characters, even if I liked Danny Rand better when he was more serious (like in the classic Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run).  This issue has the duo looking for the Supersoul Stone, an artifact that Dr. Strange has never heard of but that Señor Mágico knows all about, while the new owners of that gem are going about dismantling Tombstone’s criminal empire.  The humour in this book is great, and Walker writes an excellent Jessica Jones.  This one is a keeper.

The Sixth Gun #48 – It’s been a good long time since there was a new issue of Sixth Gun, the excellent fantasy Western series by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt.  Now, with three issues left, we join our principal characters in an afterworld, after the Grey Witch has used the Six Guns to destroy the world.  This is a hero’s quest kind of issue, and that’s good, as it gives the reader a chance to get reacquainted with everyone.  Most interestingly, we get to see some of the mysteries around Drake Sinclair revealed to us.  I am really looking forward to seeing this title through to the end, as it’s been a favourite of mine.

Tokyo Ghost #6This title returns after a brief hiatus, and Rick Remender and Sean Murphy have used that time to figure out ways to better reflect the modern American political climate in their corporate-run, technology-addicted blighted future.  Flak, a ruthless businessman who spends his time nude and accepting fellatio from sycophants has claimed Tokyo as his own, and has brought Ned Dent back to LA to work as his private enforcer.  Most of this issue is given over to Ned taking down a cell of terrorists who model themselves after fairy tale figures.  It’s a weird affect, but it gives Murphy space to do some very cool things.  So far, I’m not as into this arc as I was the last one, but I’ll give it time to develop.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #5 – With this new arc, Greg Pak slows things down a little bit, as Amadeus and his sister begin to question how good Amadeus’s control over himself when he’s the Hulk really is.  What really puts that to question is the Enchantress, who has designs for the Hulk.  Mike Choi draws this arc, and I think he’s a much better choice for this book than Frank Cho.  He’s less controversial, that’s for sure, but he’s also more focused on storytelling.

Turncoat #2This dark and complex science fiction series has become a new favourite of mine.  Alex Paknadel is telling a very intriguing story set in a world that is recovering from years of alien occupation.  Now it seems that something is going on with human/Management hybrids, all of whom were thought to have been killed five years before.  Marta, an ex-cop who is hated by former resistance and collaborators alike is on the trail, using her wits and her connections, but not all of her former friends can be trusted.  While the story is great, what really makes this book work is Artyom Trakhanov’s art, which blends the alien organic technology with New York City in ways that are truly unique.  This Boom! series is very impressive.

X-O Manowar #46 – As Commander Trill exerts control over the Vine who have come to Earth, war breaks out in Aric’s kingdom.  This is an action-filled issue as Aric and the Armorines strive to protect the Dacians and the refugees who don’t want to fight.  I’ve heard that this title is going to be ending with issue fifty, and I’m going to miss it.  Robert Venditti has been writing one of the best ongoing series out there for the last four years, and I hate seeing long, consistently good runs come to an end.  They’re such a rarity these days.

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

Astro City #34

Astro City Lovers Quarrel TP

Dark Horse Presents #21

Deadpool #10

Doctor Fate #11

Extraordinary X-Men #9

Howard the Duck #6

James Bond #6

Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis #4

New Avengers #10

Nova #6

Silk #7

Snowfall #3

Superman American Alien #6

Uncanny Inhumans #7