The Weekly Round-Up #345 With The Violent #5, Heavy Metal #281, Horizon #1, Millarworld Annual 2016, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #9 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Violent #5It’s a real shame that this series, which was designed to be a rotating series of crime story arcs, won’t be continuing at Image, as it is incredible.  Thankfully, Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham have plans to Kickstart and self-publish the second arc this fall (and, since they live in Canada, hopefully the shipping costs won’t be as prohibitive as they are with every other Kickstarter I’ve ever looked at and wanted to support).  This series has followed Mason, an ex-junkie ex-convict who lives in Vancouver with his wife and daughter.  A series of bad things have happened, and by the time this issue opens, Mason is dealing with dead friends, Childrens’ Aid, and the likelihood of more incarceration in his future.  Here’s a hint: he doesn’t deal with it well.  Brisson has crafted a really compelling story of a very everyday person being ground up by the economic reality of Vancouver, and his life in general.  It’s a very brutal comic, with an equally rough ending, and I’ve loved every page of it.  Brisson is one of my favourite writers in comics right now (check out Sheltered), and I’m pleased to see that he’s getting a crack at Bullseye in the Marvel Now! push this fall.  I just hope his writing is half as authentic as it has been on this series.  I really urge everyone to check out the upcoming trade of this series, and to support it when the Kickstarter campaign gets underway.

Quick Takes:

Bloodshot Reborn #15I’m enjoying the Bloodshot Island arc, which has Ray and some of the earlier iterations of Bloodshot waking up every day on a tropical island, where they are hunted by a more powerful being, Deathmate, who is also property of Rising Spirit.  Agent Festival makes a return this month as well, as Lemire advances a couple of his longer-running subplots.  Mico Suayan’s art on this book is phenomenal – I especially like the way he draws the island scenes differently from Ray’s dream sequence.

The Bunker #18 – I didn’t realize that the next issue of this series is going to be the last one, but as the cast is shrinking and/or all ending up in jail, I guess it makes sense.  This is a big issue, as we learn that time has been changed, maybe, and that a couple of supporting characters who I assumed were just that, were more involved in what’s been going on from the beginning.  Joshua Hale Fialkov has written a real puzzle of a series with this comic, and I am excited to see how it all wraps up.

Civil War II #3I managed to read this comic without having any of its big moments spoiled beforehand, which is always something of an accomplishment in this day and age, although I do think that one title I read last week really telegraphed what happened in this issue (you can go back and read the column, as I’m trying to keep this spoiler-free).  I am impressed that Brian Michael Bendis took this approach to this issue, moving the story in an unexpected direction, although I’m really wondering just when we are going to be getting around to the actual civil war mentioned in the title.  So far, five issues in (if you count the FCBD and zero issues), the promised in-fighting has not really begun.  Sure, I like that Bendis is providing some clear motivation for at least the two central characters (Tony and Carol), but I’m worried that in his usual Bendis way, he’s going to wait until issue five to start ramping up the actual conflict, and then resolve it all way too quickly.  It’s not like that hasn’t happened before.

Daredevil #9 – DD and Spider-Man are in Macau trying to get their hands on a briefcase, and Charles Soule and Goran Sudzuka have a good time with things.  While there is a lightness to this issue (complete with some parasailing), Spider-Man is very aware that Daredevil is going through a dark costume phase, and that leads to some interesting insight into the character.  This run has been great, and I’m pleased to see that it’s not slowing down, although I am left questioning if DD was truthful with Spidey at the end there.

Descender #13It looks like every issue in this run is going to be examining the past of one of the main characters of the book.  This makes a lot of sense, now that Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have established the world of the UGC so clearly, to explore the people that populate it.  Captain Telsa gets the treatment this time around, as we see how she became a soldier against her general father’s wishes.  Sadly, we don’t get to see what’s happening with Tim this issue, but we learn, once again, that Dr. Quon is not to be trusted.  This is a very impressive series.

Detective Comics #936 – A lot is revealed in this issue, as The Colony gets ahold of Batman, and Batwoman brings the team together to figure out how to mount a response.  We learn who is behind all of this, and it’s a bit of a big deal.  I kind of worry that we’ve gotten to this point too soon – if the whole rationale behind forming this team is revealed in the first three issues, and presumably dealt with in the next two or three, what keeps the group together?  The pacing feels a little off here, which is too bad because I was ready to add this title to my pullfile list (for the first time since Scott Snyder and Jock were making it, before the New 52).

Heavy Metal #281 – I find myself disappointed with Grant Morrison’s takeover of Heavy Metal.  This is the second issue, and there are only two serials left over from before he became editor-in-chief, so I feel like I can hold this as indicative of where he wants to take the venerable magazine.  This issue has a ‘sex’ theme, but the sex stories are for the most part pretty juvenile (I’m not saying that Heavy Metal wasn’t juvenile before Morrison came along).  I was hoping for some stuff that was more interesting and exploratory, but really, much of this just left me cold or a little bored.  Dean Haspiel has some nice work here, but there’s not a lot else I’d like to read again.

Horizon #1I thought that this series, which has been getting a pretty good push from Image, was worth checking out.  The first issue doesn’t fully establish everything, but we know that the main character is an alien who has been sent to the Earth of the near future to do something.  The text pages at the back of the book tell us that Earth is planning on invading her homeworld in its quest for new resources.  I like the premise of the book, and Juan Gedeon’s art is very nice.  I’m not sure if I’ve read anything by Brandon Thomas before or not, but this has intrigued me enough to convince me to pick up the next issue.

Millarworld Annual 2016 – I know that there was some kind of minor controversy around the way that Mark Millar went about gathering the new writers and artists showcased in this short collection of short stories, but I don’t remember the details, and decided that I liked the idea of seeing a whole pile of new talent tell stories in the loosely shared universe that Millar has created.  Most of these stories take place between the pages of the existing work, and don’t add a whole lot, but are still cool.  The best is the American Jesus story; it’s been so long since I read the original Chosen, I’d forgotten how much I liked that title.

Mirror #5This miniseries by Emma Rios and Hwei Lim has stayed very beautiful, but storywise, has gone through some shifts that make me wonder if it was always intended to turn out this way, or if it has undergone some rewriting and reworking.  I’m pretty sure this is the final issue, although things are left open to return to the characters.  The inhabitants of the asteroid realize that they all need to leave, and quickly, and so a lot of the big issues of this book are kind of swept aside.  I liked this title, but found it a challenging read.  I just can’t decide if that is because Rios’s writing is deeper than I thought it is, and I wasn’t quite quick enough to pick up on all of it, or if it’s because this story needed some more time in the oven.

Morning Glories #50 – This is a huge issue of this series, both in terms of length and story.  This very thick issue is long overdue, and has a ton of big moments, as multiple characters meet their fates, and as Casey meets the Headmaster at last.  I don’t feel that this issue delivered much on answers, and after fifty issues, it’s past time for that to happen.  I wasn’t sure if this was going to be the final issue of the series, and as it turns out, it isn’t.  I don’t know when Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma intend to bring this book back; I just hope that when they do, they do a better job of sticking to a regular schedule, because way too much happens in this title to be able to keep track of everything over lengthy delays.

New Super-Man #1One of the things that I have to give DC props for is their continued willingness to experiment with off-the-beaten path characters and series set-ups.  The best of these series don’t always last all that long, but I admire them for consistently being willing to shake up the status quo a little.  Many of the Rebirth books feel more like they are taking a ‘playing it safe approach’, especially in comparison to the DC You era, but there are still some new ideas in here.  New Super-Man is that book.  It takes the general setup of Superman and flips it with Kong Kenan, the New Super-Man.  Kenan is a bully who likes to rob his rich classmate.  He is brash and impulsive, although there is still something likeable about his character.  After he scares off China’s main supervillain (by throwing a pop can at his head), Kenan embraces the fleeting internet fame he is offered, which disappoints his conspiracy-minded father.  Later, Kenan is offered the chance to take part in an experiment which gives him super powers.  This character couldn’t get further from Clark Kent, except for a few base similarities, and I think that is what is going to make this title interesting.  I applaud the fact that DC is setting a comic in China, and has him written by a Chinese-American (Gene Luen Yang is as good here as he has been on his creator-owned work), but am happy to see that there is a lot more depth to everything than just that.  I’m curious to know about the shadowy government organization that has powered Kenan.  I’m very curious to learn about the other Chinese analogues of big-name American heroes that show up at the end of the book.  More than any of that, I’m curious to learn how Kenan’s character changes over the course of this series, and whether or not he learns about the connection between great power and great responsibility.  Viktor Bogdanovic, the artist, is new to me, but I was impressed with the way he transforms Kenan over the course of the issue.  This one looks like a winner.

Nightwing: Rebirth #1This issue more or less clears the decks for the new Nightwing series.  We get a plausible explanation of why Dick is back in the familiar costume, and see him wrap up his business with Spyral and Midnighter.  I stopped reading the Grayson series when Tom King and Tim Seeley left it, and so don’t know if the reverse on the world knowing his secret identity was done there or is as yet unexplained (like in Daredevil).  I am curious to see Dick head after the Court of Owls, although I hope that storyline doesn’t drag on too long, as I feel many Owls story do.  I am very happy that Seeley is going to continue chronicling Dick’s adventures; I doubt I would have picked up this comic without his name being on it.  This was a solid read, but I’m sure new readers would have been confused by the depths of continuity at play here.

Ninjak #17 – The current arc ends here, and we learn the connection between Ninjak and Roku, the architect of his recent downfall.  This take on a Born Again style story was fine, but I feel like it could have gone a little deeper into Colin’s personality.  He’s too often just shown as a rock, and really isn’t the most interesting character because of that.  Stripping away his wealth and technology should make him more interesting, but I don’t feel like that’s happened yet.

Old Man Logan #8I really hope that this issue’s tour through Logan’s anxiety and guilt surrounding the villain uprising in his timeline marks Jeff Lemire’s putting to bed of that whole thing.  Yes, it’s what makes Old Man Logan unique, but it’s also gotten a little old.  I think it’s time for some new things to happen to our hero.  The real hero of this book, of course, is Andrea Sorrentino, who is phenomenal once again.

Power Man & Iron Fist #6 – Civil War II comes to the newly reborn Heroes for Hire in a couple of ways.  First, David Walker does a great job of charting the characters’ reactions to War Machine’s death and She-Hulk’s injury, as well as gives them an interesting perspective on the growing tension in the superhero community.  There is also a plotline about a group of vigilantes tracking down former D-list villains.  The ending of this issue got a little strange, but I was pleased to see Walker take a more serious tone with this book, while still keeping the humour that has made it work so well in its first arc.  Flaviano’s art is fine, but I am looking forward to Sanford Greene’s return.

Stumptown #10 – Greg Rucka is really very good at this kind of thing, as Dex goes out on a typical surveillance job, and we watch her watch someone for a whole issue.  Rucka leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to Greg Smallwood, as most of the book is silent.  In all, this is a very effective issue of a great series, that does not come out often enough.

Vision #9Once again, Tom King knocks it out of the park with this issue, that reveals something very interesting about Victor Mancha, and which, we learn through the narration, leads to the thing the Avengers were afraid of, happening.  There is an emotional strength in King’s writing that really sets this title apart from everything else that Marvel is putting out right now, and which makes me love it.  

The Wicked + The Divine #21 – Things are getting a lot more superhero in this series, as Persephone’s people come after Ananke, who is looking to sacrifice Minerva so that she can gain more power.  There are a lot of very impressive fight scenes in this issue, and Jamie McKelvie outdoes himself by throwing in some very impressive spectacles.  I recently listened to McKelvie and Kieron Gillen interviewed on a podcast, and between that and the analysis of the results of their readers’ poll, I find these guys about as interesting as their comic book.

Wonder Woman #2 – This is the first of the ‘Year One’ alternate issues, featuring art by Nicola Scott and revisiting Diana’s origin and early days.  It uses a parallel structure, showing her idyllic (and amorous) life on Themyscira, while comparing it to that of Steve Trevor, as he trains and moves up in the military.  Scott does a great job of depicting this beautiful world, while also showing us Diana’s restlessness within it.  I found that the stories set in the present grabbed me a bit more, but perhaps that’s just because I often find mythology-heavy comics dull.  I did find it interesting that there is no trace of Brian Azzarello’s work on this character, and no reference made to her being formed out of clay, nor her true parentage.  That’s too bad, because Azzarello made this character more interesting than anyone ever has before, at least from my perspective.

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #9Once again, Raúl Allén does an incredible job of drawing this comic.  Gilad has moved outside of the Labyrinth, although he is still trapped inside the mountain, and is now working to make things happen at his command.  This arc has been very effective, and makes very good use of patterns in the writing and the layouts to enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the story.  I don’t hear much about this series, but it’s one of Valiant’s best right now.

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

Abe Sapien #35

Agents of SHIELD #7

All-New X-Men #11

Civil War II Amazing Spider-Man #2

Civil War II Choosing Sides #2

Guardians of the Galaxy #10

Harrow County #14

House of Penance #4

Monstress Vol. 1 Awakening

New Avengers #13

Silk #10

Bargain Comics:

Howard the Duck #3-5I felt bad when I dropped this title (because I didn’t want to buy the extra-sized issues with the Gwenpool backups) because I was enjoying Chip Zdarsky’s writing, but reading a few issues back to back was probably more pleasurable.  This is a fun series.

Mockingbird #1&2 – I feel like I may have missed the boat on this series.  The first issue is a wonderful mess of a comic, jumping all over the place but suggesting that there’s something very wrong with Bobbi’s health, while the second issue starts to unravel and connect all the different things shown in the first issue, while delivering a decent story about Bobbi rescuing her new man from the Hellfire Club.  The writer, Chelsea Cain, refers to the story as a puzzle box, and that’s pretty intriguing to me.  I wish Marvel had done a better job of publicizing how unique this title would be; I feel like it kind of got lost amid the various ANAD launches.  My only complaint is that I kept thinking I was reading a Black Canary comic; I think making Bobbi’s new boyfriend’s name Lance had something to do with that…

New Avengers #4-6 – Man, I really don’t like Gerardo Sandoval’s artwork.  I think his exaggerated 90s stylings are just wrong for this title, which should be one of my favourite Marvel titles, with Al Ewing writing and with a character line up like this.  These three issues have the team fighting a Lovecraftian squid-demon dude, with help from the Avengers of 20XX.  There are too many characters for anyone other than Billy Kaplan to have space to shine, and half the time, because of the art, I can’t tell what’s going on.

Scarlet Witch #3-5 – This is a very strange series.  I find that the shifting artistic lineup is inspired (especially when you have people like Christopher Visions and Javier Pulido working on it), but the story is almost doing nothing for me.  The Scarlet Witch’s character is such a mess now; no one seems to know if she’s a mutant or a creation of the High Evolutionary.  She’s more witch-like than ever before, and her mother is now showing up, just to make her more complicated.  The Pulido issue, however, is a beautiful example of the done-in-one.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Hit: 1955I picked this up because of my interest in Vanessa Del Rey’s artwork, but I found that Bryce Carlson’s story about corrupt murderous police in 1955 to be a little too complicated, with too many similar-looking characters, to fully follow.  It has a nice period feel to it in parts, but everything, including Del Rey’s storytelling, could be smoother and easier to follow.

Nemo: River of Ghosts – Of the three Nemo hardcovers by Alan Moore and Kev O’Neill I probably enjoyed this one the most, largely because more of the literary and cultural references were from an era I know more about, and because the story was clearer than it was in the earlier volumes.  I feel like Moore has reached the end of his rope on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen stuff, but would gladly look for new work by O’Neill.