I’m going to be missing next week’s column, so I’ll be seeing you for a double-dose in two weeks. Take care!
Best Comic of the Week:
Kill or Be Killed #1 – No one debuts a new series as well as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The now legendary duo’s latest offering is a series about a guy named Dylan who is in his late 20s, and who has suffered from some mental health issues, having attempted suicide a couple of times. When he learns that his best friend (who is dating his roommate) feels sorry for him, he decides to end things. His suicide attempt fails, and he recognizes the error of his thinking. After that, though, he is visited by a demon that insists that, in order to stay alive, he now has to kill one person each month. This issue is used to set up the series, and to showcase Dylan’s feelings about killing, and it is very compelling. Brubaker and Phillips excel at creating complex characters, and while this series moves into territory they haven’t explored before, they bring the reader along with them every step of the way. I immediately like Dylan and want to know more about how he handles this situation. If you haven’t been reading anything by this team before now, it’s time to check them out.
Batman #4 – Perhaps it’s the biweekly nature of this book, but I feel like Tom King’s story is moving a little too quickly for me. After spending one issue introducing Gotham and Gotham Girl, and another exploring their backstory, King rips them apart in this issue, as the Psycho-Pirate makes Gotham kill a bunch of soldiers and the sole survivor of this massacre gets revenge on Gotham’s family. Are these characters even going to be around by the second arc? I’d hoped that a Tom King Batman book would return the character to his roots a little more, but instead we get a Batman who is heavily dependent on technology and gimmicks, much as we saw in Scott Snyder’s run. I’m still getting some enjoyment out of this book, but I’m disappointed that King has not yet lived up to the expectations I had of him on this title. At the same time, I’m sure this arc, and the upcoming crossover event, are heavily watched and meddled with by DC editorial, so perhaps there is still better stuff to come…
Black Science #23 – Rick Remender (man he has a lot of books out this week) has moved this series into some strange places with this arc, as Grant ends up in an old woman’s house in the woods, while on a quest to win back his daughter’s love. The tonal shift from science fiction to fairy tale fantasy (even if Grant keeps his laser gun) is pretty jarring.
Chew #56 – The last story arc is underway, as Tony has to access Savoy’s memories (which means he has to nibble on his body) only to discover that Savoy had taken steps to block him. Things are really reaching a head now (as distant planets that also had fire writing in their skies begin to explode), and John Layman and Rob Guillory work to wrap up their long story plans.
Daredevil Annual #1 – Apparently Echo has come back to life, and no one needs to explain that, because she’s spending her evenings attending concerts with a friend. She is the only person not to get turned into a sound creature by a strange attack from Klaw (because she’s deaf, of course), and she tracks down Daredevil to help her stop him. Some very nice art by Vanessa Del Rey lifts this above the silly comic book science and story gaps (like what happened to Echo’s friend, or why Daredevil wasn’t more surprised to see her, since she’s supposed to be dead).
Doctor Strange #10 – The big fight against the Empirikul comes to an end here, but Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo clearly have a lot more planned for the good Doctor, as they leave us in a very good place to explore the new status quo of magic in the Marvel Universe. I’ve been liking this title a lot, although I think starting a second monthly in the fall is probably a mistake. Marvel needs to stop overreaching so much; it drives people away.
4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 – I’m not sure why Valiant kept this project under wraps for so long, keeping the one-shot’s name secret for so long. I picked it up because Fred Van Lente wrote it, but didn’t know what to expect. The War Mother, Ana, lives in a self-sufficient community on Earth which occasionally needs her to scavenge for electronics parts, the only thing they are not able to provide themselves. As bits of New Japan fall from the sky, she heads out to see what she can find, and discovers something that later puts her in opposition to the rules of her community. It’s a good comic, and I assume that this new character will be seen again somewhere else after 4001AD is over. I’d check out a new series, if Van Lente is going to be writing it.
The Fuse #20 – This newest arc is getting pretty complicated, as what looks like a simple murder turns out to involve the FLF, the Fuse Liberation Front, a terrorist group that has unexpected or unexplained connections to our main characters. I am always happy with this title, and feel like this arc is going to clear up a lot of the mystery that Antony Johnston has been sprinkling through the series since it began.
Invincible Iron Man #12 – The events of Civil War II finally get reflected in this title, with the knowledge that the event is going to have big personal repercussions for Tony Stark beyond the loss of a best friend or two. Really though, Brian Michael Bendis is more interested in setting up the upcoming series featuring Riri Williams and Dr. Doom, so they get a bit of space. In all, this entire run to date has felt like a placeholder before we can get to what Bendis really wants to do. In a bit of a meta scene, he has characters admit that the techno-ninjas were kind of lame. I don’t know what it is about me that I always come back to the Bendis books I don’t even particularly like…
Letter 44 #26 – The Chandelier is operational, which might or might not be a good thing for the people back on Earth. Former President Carroll makes a move to protect his people from the coming destruction, while we learn Drum’s secret. I absolutely love this series, and would really like to know how much longer Charles Soule has planned for it to run.
Low #15 – This issue focuses on Stel and Zem, who have finally found the probe on the surface of the Earth (where people have not been for thousands of years), but it’s in the possession of some insect creatures, and Stel is suffering from a fatal dose of radiation. As usual with this book, which is at its core, about the power of hope, things get pretty bleak. I think Rick Remender must really hate these characters – he’s not even so hard on the characters in Deadly Class!
Moon Knight #5 – I’ve been enjoying Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s work on this latest MK relaunch, but with this issue, they added Francesco Francavilla and James Stokoe (and Wilfredo Torres, but that’s not quite as thrilling) to the art lineup, each new artist portraying a separate facet of MK’s splintered personality. It’s a cool look, as we learn a little more about what’s been going on since this title began, and Spector has to make a choice. We’ve seen the whole ‘descent into madness’ routine with this character a few times too many, but at least Lemire’s doing something new with it, and the book looks terrific.
Nightwing #2 – I came away from this issue much happier than I did the first, which I don’t think I liked all that much (I especially didn’t like that it only came out last week). Now that we’ve seen a little more of this Raptor character, I think I’m a little more interested in him (am I the only one who thinks his mask is a bit reminiscent of Hawk and Dove’s?), and in figuring out what his game is. Really, he’s kind of playing the role that was split by Midnighter and Agent One in the Grayson series; is Dick always going to need to play sidekick, reluctant or not, to someone? I’m going to give this another issue for sure.
Paper Girls #8 – It’s impossible not to like this series, as the girls continue to try to figure out what’s going on in our present, and we learn a little about the other (third) version of Erin that showed up last issue. Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang are making one hell of an entertaining comic.
Sex #30 – Joe Casey’s excellent Batman series continues to impress me, as Simon finally meets with the guy who has been shadowing him from almost the beginning, and learns who this guy really represents. Also, the slow build towards a character like Ras al Ghul continues, as do most of the other subplots in this complicated but compelling serial.
The Sheriff of Babylon #9 – After a long setup, this issue has Sofia meeting with Abu Rahim, the terrorist ringleader who tried to kill her earlier, while the American military listens in and prepares to arrest him. As always, Tom King ratchets up the tension throughout the issue, and even solves the mystery of who killed the Iraqi soldier at the beginning of the series, while working to underscore the lack of regards the Americans showed the people of Iraq during the time after the invasion. This series continues to blow me away month after month.
Squadron Supreme #10 – The team (finally acting as a team again) square off against Adam Brashear, before the team (without Nighthawk) meet the good Zarda introduced last issue, who seems to know everything that is going on in the Marvel Universe. I want to like this title much more than I actually do. I don’t really know if James Robinson has a big plan for this comic, or if he’s just improvising. Stuff changes at a minute’s notice without any real set up, and he’s now working backwards, wanting to reverse Namor’s death. It’s not like Starman…
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #17 – The Sunshine and Roses storyline has been one of the best Stray Bullets stories I’ve ever read, and I was excited to see what would happen this issue, but then David Lapham went and threw us back to 1979 (the rest of the series takes place in the mid-80s) and to Palm Springs, where we meet Annie Chesswick, a woman approaching cougardom who lies to everyone about her age and financial status. She is a neglective mother, drinks herself silly in the middle of the day, and after a failed attempt to steal a Chanel purse, becomes involved in a local marijuana ring. Lapham excels at introducing and developing characters like this, making her worthy of sympathy and disdain in equal measures. I’m not sure how she fits into the larger Sunshine and Roses storyline, but it’s all good.
Tokyo Ghost #9 – As we get closer to the end of this series, Debbie goes up against Davey in a final battle that is visually stunning, thanks to Sean Murphy. This title has not connected with me as strongly as Rick Remender’s other current books, but I have enjoyed Murphy’s work here a great deal.
Trees #14 – It’s been eight months since the last issue of Trees came out, but that’s okay, as it’s still one of my favourite Warren Ellis comics. In this issue, it appears that the black flowers are growing at the base of a the Tree in Northern England (the trees are in fact massive alien structures that landed on the Earth one day, and which are the source of great mystery), and that is not good news for anyone. Also, the NYPD makes a move on some gangsters, and the new Mayor uses the situation for political gain (in a scene that echoes some recent tension in NY between police and the mayor’s office). This is a thoughtful, intelligent book, and I was pleased to see the return of some of the main characters from the first arc. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another eight months before another issue comes out (although, at this point, there aren’t any more solicited, so we are waiting until at least November).
The Walking Dead #157 – The first issue of The Whisperer War reads like a bit of a state of the union address, as we check in on a number of different characters, and Rick works to get all of his assets in place before the war begins, while also working to figure out just what to do with Negan. I liked this issue, and found the switch to a sixteen panel approach, instead of just making the arc eight issues, an interesting one. It really punches up the double-page spread when we get to it.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Baltimore Empty Graves #5
Cinema Purgatorio #4
Civil War II Kingpin #2
Green Arrow #4
Uncanny Inhumans #12
Uncanny X-Men #11
American Vampire: Second Cycle #7-11 – It’s sad to see how far this book has fallen, as this whole volume, wherein the remaining heroes from the superior first series are facing great evil in the form of the Grey Trader and his master, get involved in a convoluted plot involving stealing a tape from a Russian satellite filled with Soviet vampires. I really think that writer Scott Snyder should have finished things at the end of the first volume, and that this has just gone on too long. Apparently there’s a third cycle coming, but I doubt I’ll be there for it.
Chewbacca #5 – I do think that this was the least successful of the Star Wars stories that Marvel has published, because it really doesn’t add a single thing to the title character. He, like R2D2, is limited in his narrative usefulness beyond being a supporting character, and so the story is really about a very standard plucky teenage girl. What saved this is the Phil Noto art, which has been known to happen many times before.
Mockingbird #3&4 – I am really impressed by just how good this series is. The first issue described the title as a ‘puzzle-box’, and each subsequent issue has been a done-in-one story that has elements that connect it to the larger tale. It’s interesting, and very, very well constructed. I should probably pick up whatever other issues have come out, so I can find out how this all ends…
X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever #1-5 – I didn’t hear anything good about this strange, out-of-continuity miniseries by Max Bemis and Michael Walsh, but I miss the X-Men these days, and I like Walsh’s art, so I thought this would be worth checking out. I’m very glad I did get this, because it’s a terrific comic. Bailey, the main character, is a mutant who has the ability to explode, but once he uses this power, he’ll be dead. His parents are killed when taking him to the Xavier School, so he ends up a hanger-on for a while, feeling useless, although he ends up working with a number of different X-teams, and is recruited by Mystique and Magneto. The humour in this comic is great, as Bemis pokes fun at the X-Men’s primacy in comics, as well as at comics in general. Walsh’s art is very nice throughout. I really recommend getting this in trade, and suggest that you don’t bother trying to figure out just when in the X-Men’s history this supposed to take place, you’ll just drive yourself nuts. It doesn’t matter.
The Week in Graphic Novels:
by Simon Roy
I’d read the first story in this hardcover when it was serialized in Dark Horse Presents, but didn’t realize that there were two moreTiger Lung stories in the book.
Simon Roy is a very interesting creator, whose work I’ve been following ever since I bought a copy of Jan’s Atomic Heart from him (or maybe it was Ed Brisson) at TCAF in 2009. He stood out as a strong emerging artist, and confirmed that as he went on to work on Prophet with Brandon Graham, and has just completed an excellent story, Habitat in Island, the amazing anthology that Graham edits.
Tiger Lung is set in the Paleolithic era, and centres on a shaman who works to set his father’s spirit to rest, to rescue a girl from hyenas, and to rescue another woman from a malevolent spirit.
Roy’s put a lot of thought into what people and their tools would have looked like, but more than that, he’s worked to recreate the thought patterns and beliefs of these primitive, yet still complicated, people.
This is a very nicely put together volume. The map at the end of the book suggests that there might be more Tiger Lung stories to come (six more, according to the legend), and I hope that’s something we see soon. Actually, I’m equally okay with Roy going on to create yet another world on the scale of Habitat too; whatever this guy does, I’m going to follow him to it.
Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe Vol. 1 – I like Tom Scioli’s work, and thought that the FCBD issue of his Transformers and GI Joe mashup was fun, so I decided to check this out. To begin with, I hate reading trade paperbacks that don’t collect a proper arc; this one contains the FCBD issue and the first four comics of the series, but there is nothing like a proper ending or resolution to things. This is why I don’t tradewait most series. Anyway, Scioli’s art is a lot of fun, but the story by him and John Barber is pretty incoherent, which is made even worse by the fact that the narrative jumps all over the place pretty randomly. Maybe if I knew more than five G.I Joe characters, I’d have better luck understanding some of what’s going on, but whatever. I won’t be getting Volume 2.