The Weekly Round-Up #335 With Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In, 4001 A.D. #1, Empress #2, The Walking Dead #154 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged InOnce again, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (joined by Sarah Dyer on the writing) deliver an excellent one-of story from the mystical town of Burden.  This time around, the focus is on the three cat characters (and one raccoon) as Dymphna tries to return to the house she once lived in, only to discover that a terrible evil has taken up residence, and she is to blame for it.  This very occasional series never disappoints; Dorkin (and Dyer) writes some truly disturbing horror stories, especially considering that the series stars common animals, and Thompson’s work is beyond incredible.  These animals always look and feel so real.  I hope we get another Beasts of Burden comic soon…

Quick Takes:

Black Widow #3 – What we know so far is that someone called The Weeping Lion is in a position where he can control Natasha, and that she is now doing his bidding, which has caused her to betray and escape from SHIELD.  Now she’s off to Russia, and the remains of the Red Room, the place where she was trained.  There’s always some element like this in just about every Black Widow story told these days, which is a little frustrating, but then you read what Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are doing with it, and you see how they combine and confuse the past and the present, and the story just draws you in.  This is a good series.

The Bunker #17A lot of times, when I watch genre TV shows or read comics set in the ‘real world’, I wonder how the police aren’t all over the characters.  That’s pretty much what’s happening to the protagonists of The Bunker, as more of the group of friends find themselves in police custody or under suspicion, and as it becomes more and more clear that Future Grady wasn’t really working off any kind of real plan when he came back in time to try to save the world.  This book is always a dense, well-planned read.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #9 – This issue is really a big epilogue to the Standoff event, but it works very well within the approach that Nick Spencer has taken to writing Captain America.  We see Sam working through the ramifications of the Pleasant Hill fiasco, and his reactions to Steve Rogers’s return.  So much of what Spencer has been doing with these characters just makes sense in terms of marrying reality to the Marvel Universe, while also finding opportunities to bring back cool old characters (Solo!).  My biggest problem with things now is that I hate Steve’s new costume.  I wish Civil War wasn’t coming along and derailing this book for a while…

Devolution #4Rick Remender and Jonathan Wayshak’s post-Apocalyptic series continues as Raja and the survivors of the escape from Camp Redneck make their way to San Francisco, hoping to fix the world.  We’re squarely in ‘getting close to the end of the series’ land here, so it’s all action, and Remender revisits a story element from the first issue that I’d completely forgotten about.  This is a fun read.

Elephantmen #70 – We get the start of a new story arc that involves Hip being corralled into helping a mysterious woman with a gun who has shown up in Farrell’s offices, and is being shot at by the Silencer (I think that’s his name – it’s been awhile since we last saw this guy).  This issue read very quickly, and I’m finding that, after so many issues of this series, that I’m getting bored with it.  It’s been awhile since Richard Starkings has done something new here, and I feel like we’re just endlessly cycling back to things we’ve read before.

Empress #2 – Mark Millar is doing his best Star Wars with this series, as we follow the Empress and her children along as they run from her husband.  Her companion, Dane, has a plan to use his friend’s teleporter to get them all to safety, only he’s lost it in a game of chance, and so the movie-friendly plot rolls along.  This could be a little corny, except that Stuart Immonen does such a great job with the visuals and the design elements, that the comic stays exciting from the first page to the last, which is a literal cliff-hanger.  Great stuff.

4001 A.D. #1Matt Kindt is showrunning Valiant’s event of this summer, and I’m sure people who haven’t been reading his Rai all along have no idea what’s going on, but for those of us who have, it’s nice to see him finally getting to the point where Rai is openly working to take control of New Japan from Father.  This issue has some beautiful recap pages by David Mack, followed by some very clear art by Clayton Crain, who I often find hard to read.  This is an exciting issue, and it leaves me with high hopes for this event.

Invincible Iron Man #9 – So Tony Stark has been missing for a month, and things aren’t going well at his company without him.  We check in with most of the supporting cast Brian Michael Bendis has put together in this book (including Dr. Doom), and get to see a little more of the fifteen year old student Riri, who has been making her own Iron Man suit at college.  This scene is a little weird for two reasons – the continuity doesn’t fit well with the one-month gap between this issue and the last, and because I don’t know why we need Riri when we’ve already seen Rhodey’s niece is about the same age and also able to make her own Iron Man armor.  Anyway.  This story, Tony’s disappearance, and Rhodey’s working with the Tokyo police force, don’t flow naturally from the events of the last issue.

Midnighter #12I’m sad to see this series come to its end.  Steve Orlando’s writing has been sharp, and he’s done a very good job of making what is usually a boring character interesting.  ACO and Hugo Petrus, as the main artists, have made use of interesting layouts, and a lot of really dynamic drawings.  I don’t get too choked up when series I like don’t make it anymore, and instead decide to celebrate the fact that DC published a year’s worth of a very violent comic about an openly gay, non-stereotypical character who really kicked butt, at a time when the quality of their creative output was at perhaps the lowest it’s ever been in the history of the company.  This is the type of book historians will look back on as either the last hurrah, or the beginning of, hopefully, a stronger line after Rebirth.  Not that any of the Wildstorm characters are going to be featured in their own books after Rebirth…

Moon Knight #2 – What seems like answers really just leads to more questions, as Marc Spector has a chat with Khonshu, and Jeff Lemire gives us a new take on the Egyptian mythology that’s always informed this character, and leads him on another attempt to escape from the old school mental asylum where he’s found himself.  I like how this title is building on Warren Ellis’s work with the character, something I thought was missing from the first issue.  I think Lemire’s won me over with this, as I’m curious to see what’s really going on.

New Suicide Squad #20It’s really unfortunate that this title is going away, as I’m really liking the way Tim Seeley is writing this team, and I love Juan Ferreyra’s art.  As the Squad and a few random mercenaries continue to fight against the Fist of Cain, the spirit of Rose Tattoo, a Warren Ellis Wildstorm gem makes her first appearance in the New 52, and Waller comes to the rescue.  This was a good issue of a run that is sadly too short.

Poe Dameron #2 – I’m still not sure about this book, but it is slowly starting to paint a picture of who the First Order are.  We’re introduced to a member of that organization that has ties to the previous Empire, and who is tasked with tracking down Poe Dameron.  Phil Noto gets to draw some cool starfighter scenes, but Charles Soule has still not convinced me that I should like Poe as much as Star Wars fandom seems to.

The Punisher #1 – I’m a big fan of Becky Cloonan, so this was a definite purchase for me, although I had some concerns going in.  The Punisher, sadly, is often a boring character.  Like many writers before her, Cloonan has decided to portray Frank as a force of nature instead of as a character, at least for the first issue.  Instead of knowing anything about him, we meet a high level drug dealer who has a connection to Frank’s past, and we meet some cops who are going after the drug dealer.  Everything about this feels very familiar, especially given that artist Steve Dillon spent years drawing Frank, and is now associated with him in many fans’ minds.  I’d hoped for a fresher take on the character, but don’t see that here.  Maybe the next couple of issues will show more of an individual direction…

Renato Jones: The One% #1Kaare Andrews has launched what I believe is his first ever creator-owned work, and it’s a very strong debut.  Renato Jones is a member of the one percent, a very wealthy individual, who is also not what he seems at all.  We are introduced to the Freelancer, a mysterious vigilante who has been taking apart the super-rich.  This issue chops and screws the usual superhero tropes – we have a wealthy playboy protagonist, but instead of taking down street crime and costumed crazies, Renato goes after other playboys in all their psychosis and privilege.  Andrews’s art is always amazing, but I’m not always impressed with his writing.  That doesn’t seem to be the case here, as I think the more personal nature of the work, and the philosophical approach that underpins it, has opened up new depths in his writing.  There is a very strong sense of pacing to this issue, and it has me excited to read more.  It’s interesting that this book debuts the same week as a new volume of the Punisher; there are similarities between these two characters, but I feel like this book is so much fresher.

Revival #39 – Behind an absolutely gorgeous Jenny Frison cover, Tim Seeley and Mike Norton give us a very busy issue of Revival, as Dana and Martha go undercover and sneak into a hospital, the General incarcerates some of her own staff, and the police visit Derrick.  This series, about a region in Wisconsin where the dead have come back to life, has really sprawled out into a large and complicated story over the course of its existence, but it’s always felt like it was under tight control, and it’s never been dull.

Saints #8I’m not sure if the creators had to rush their ending of this series, but as we get closer to the end of this book, so much of what I enjoyed about it at the beginning is missing.  It’s all big fights and portents now, without the sacrilegious humour that first attracted me.  

The Sheriff of Babylon #6 – I thought the last issue of Tom King and Mitch Gerad’s Vertigo series set in the aftermath of the Iraq War was powerful, but this one is even more so.  Sofia is frustrated with the Americans’ investigation into the attack on her, while an unnamed group of Americans decide to take Nassir in for questioning.  This scene is incredibly tense, and even though it’s clear how it’s going to end, the inevitable still hit me like a punch to the gut.  It’s hard to discuss this one without spoiling something, but this is a very effective issue of a great series.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #14 – Joey, Rose’s kid, takes centre stage this month, as we back up a few days before the strip club heist, and check in on what this strange child is doing, and most importantly, get a sense of where Kretchmeyer is.  David Lapham has been really taking his time with this storyline, and that makes it work very well.  This issue has all the most important stuff happening off-panel, but that doesn’t make it any less tense, especially when Russian Roulette becomes part of the story.

The Violent #4The vultures are circling for Mason, who has really started to lose it after killing his best friend to keep him quiet about an earlier killing.  Ed Brisson is a master of crime comics, and this issue, by him and Adam Gorham, is full of tension.  I would say this title is as good as Brubaker and Phillips’s Criminal, although sadly, without the audience, as the next issue is going to be the last.  

The Walking Dead #154 – There’s a lot of movement in this issue, as Negan meets the Whisperers, while Michonne and Aaron pursue them.  Maggie returns to the Hilltop, while Andrea makes her way back to Alexandria, and we get the opportunity to check in on a lot of our favourite people.  As always, a very solid issue.

The Wicked + The Divine #19 – Lines are being drawn now, as some of the gods get a better understanding of what Ananke is up to, but unfortunately that involves Minerva, and in this issue, she gets Minerva back from them.  This title is moving towards something big, and it remains a thrilling ride while it gets there.

Wolf #7I decided a while back to stop buying Wolf, but because of how far behind this title is, this issue showed up in my pull-file this week, and it (and the one before it) are good enough to make me think I should keep buying this series.  In this issue, Ales Kot splits the story between the stream of conscious ramblings of one of Wolf’s guards in prison, and Wolf’s own recollections of his history, and how he became immortal.  Kot can be a great writer sometimes, and this issue is a good example of that.  The thing is, at other times, he can be kind of incomprehensible (especially when he features a character with an accent).  I’m going to give the next issue a flip-through before making a decision about it.

The Woods #22 – This month we get a really good look at Karen, both from before the Horde came to Bayside, and after, as she and Sanami figure out what their next steps should be.  This series, about a high school that has been transported to a strange moon, is very strongly grounded in amazing character work by writer James Tynion IV and artist Michael Dialynas.  I continue to be impressed by the quality of both creators’ work, and the way in which this book becomes richer over time.

Free Comic Book Day

Assassin’s CreedThese two stories should be more interesting than they are, especially the one by Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero.  The problem is that both stories focus on the aspects of this property that make it kind of boring at times – futuristic technology that tosses people into their genetic memory or some such nonsense, and the overly complicated history of the Templar.

Avatarex – I find it hard to believe that this is really written by Grant Morrison.  This introduction to a new Indian superhero who lives in a space station above the Earth feels very derivative, and lacks any sort of subtext.  I guess it looks cool, but this is a big guy who talks to himself about how he’s going to be a champion and stuff.  It’s not new, and it’s definitely not Morrison at even half steam.

Boom! 2016 Summer Blast – I am not the audience for this.

Captain America – So Steve Rogers is planning on going to war with Hydra, while Sharon is now his SHIELD liaison, and Rick Jones is working of his sentence by hacking for the organization that he previously worked against.  This was a good story, and I’m sure it didn’t confuse too many people who wouldn’t be able to recognize the costumes worn by Steve, Sam, or the new Falcon, but whatever.  The Spider-Man story was less impressive, as Dan Slott seems to be bringing back all sorts of dead Spider-cast members in preparation for yet another big ‘event’.  This is why I don’t read Spider-Man; it’s a good series, but it’s too focused on its next big thing all the time.

Civil War III think it’s interesting that Marvel is again pushing the Inhumans so hard that they give Medusa a prominent role in a fight against Thanos – trying to entangle him with her hair.  The Marvel Event Machine starts priming itself for another run, as we meet an Inhuman with the ability to predict the future, which everyone is very impressed by (because I guess they never met Destiny or Blindfold before), and they use his vision to put a stop to Thanos’s attack on Project Pegasus.  This was fine, but not more than that, despite some fine Jim Cheung art.  The back-up story features the new Wasp, who has stolen a lot of Hank Pym’s tech, and who is about as inspiring as every issue of ANAD Avengers has been so far.  I appreciate this story, because it’s helped confirm for me that I should skip next week’s new issue of this title.

Comics Lab – This anthology from Z2 wasn’t very impressive, but I did enjoy seeing Chris Hunt’s Carver drawn by Alexis Ziritt, the artist of Space Riders.  Legend looks interesting, but the rest just got skimmed.

Doctor Who – I don’t know that I will ever understand Doctor Who.  I also don’t think that’s ever going to hold me back in any way.

Love and RocketsEvery time I read some excerpts or examples of Love and Rockets, I wonder why I haven’t read more of it, except that I’m intimidated by just how much of it is out there.  It seems Fantagraphics is launching a new regular series; maybe that’s where I should start with it.

March – I haven’t read any of John Lewis’s graphic novel memoirs (drawn by Nate Powell) yet, and the three excerpts from the three volumes have me wondering why not.  I’m going to have to get on that…

Mix Tape 2016 – I’ve never read any Badger comics before, but in this one, he boxes Vladimir Putin, perhaps to become the ruler of Russia?  It’s a weird thing.

Rom #0 – I was a big fan of Rom’s original Marvel comic, scouring fifty cent bins until I had all of them as a kid, and I’ve been looking forward to IDW’s new take on the characters.  This introductory story plays it pretty safe – Rom arrives on Earth, gets attacked by some Dire Wraiths, and shows off his new design elements (I especially like the analyzer).  My hope is that this series will be able to balance a new story and take on the character with all the things that made him work back in the day (obviously, though, without ties to the Marvel Universe).  David Messina has done a good job of updating the character’s look.  The Action Man backup story was completely forgettable, but I know nothing of that character, so it was just not for me.

Serenity/Hellboy/Aliens – Dark Horse’s FCBD offering is a little disappointing.  The Serenity story simply consists of River retelling the crew’s story to Wash and Zoe’s daughter, but recasting them as cartoon sailors.  The Hellboy story has nice Richard Corben art, but it’s been done before.  The Aliens: Defiance story does a good job of showcasing the general concept behind this new title, but confused me a little in that there’s a character here who wasn’t in the first issue that came out the other week.

Valiant 4001 A.D. FCBD SpecialThere’s only a four-page new story here, recapping Rai’s life before he turned on father, and helping to set up the 4001 A.D. event, and I feel it could have been more effective had it been longer.  Matt Kindt never really explored Rai’s earlier days, and I think that is a flaw in his Rai work; the character was never established enough before all the craziness started happening.  The rest of this issue is a collection of four previews, three for books already printed.  I’d rather see new content in FCBD stuff.

We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists – I’m pleased that Black Mask chose to create new short stories for two of their best books for this year’s FCBD.  The We Can Never Go Home story fits between the pages of the first trade, and teases an upcoming second volume, which is great news.  I liked the Young Terrorists short too, which further develops Sera’s character, although I wish it gave some indication of when the second issue is going to come out (seeing as it’s almost been a year since the first issue came out and this was supposed to be a monthly).

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

A-Force #5

All-New Inhumans #7

Amazing Forest #5

Amazing Spider-Man #12

Arcadia TP

Baltimore: Empty Graves #2

Cinema Purgatorio #1

Crossed Badlands #96

Daredevil/Punisher #1

Hellboy in Hell #9

Howard the Duck #7

New Avengers #11

Nova #7

Scarlet Witch #6

Spider-Gwen #8

This Damned Band TP

Uncanny X-Men #7

War Stories #18

Bargain Comics:

Batman #48-50Okay, I’m just going to say that I don’t understand why people love Scott Snyder’s Batman so much.  These are terrible comics.  There’s a person who has a special seed in him that allows him to grow to Godzilla size while also controlling a supercollider so that it makes a black hole thing over Gotham?  And the GCPD has a bunch more Batman robot suits, including some Shogun Warrior sized ones?  And one of them is painted to look like the Joker?  Also Batman has a machine that can implant his memory into clones of himself, but only if he kills them first?  Seriously, none of this made any sense whatsoever.  I have never been a fan of Greg Capullo’s art on this title, and the guest issue by Yannick Paquette really helped underscore that, although it also didn’t make a lot of sense, as it showed a bunch of Elseworld Bat-Scenarios for no apparent reason.  I think that Snyder is a brilliant writer.  I loved the first two years of American Vampire, the Wake, and especially Wytches.  Even his run on pre-52 Detective Comics is solid gold.  This, however, is a complete mess.  I’m looking forward to seeing Tom King set the Bat-Ship to rights.

Hercules #3 – This title really fell off in a hurry.  I liked the idea that Dan Abnett started with, that Herc, tired of being a running joke is focusing on being more of a champion for the people of New York, but too quickly, this story has become too much like the one running in Doctor Strange, as something is hunting down all the old gods and immortals from earlier times.  It just feels like someplace I’ve been before, and recently.

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