The Weekly Round-Up #449 With Farmhand #1, Bloodshot Salvation #11, Die! Die! Die! #1, Relay #1, Star Wars: Darth Vader #18 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Farmhand #1 – I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard it was coming out.  I’ve missed Rob Guillory’s art in the months since Chew ended, so it’s great to be able to get regular doses of it again, and I was curious to see how his writing is.  This is a masterful first issue, setting up a story that has to be singularly unique in comics. Ezekiel and his family have decided to move back to the small town where he grew up so he can reconcile with his father, a farmer.  When the family heads to the farm, they are surprised to learn that Grampaw has developed a seed that can grow transplant-ready human organs, and that he operates a high security farm that is confoundingly still open to school tours.  There’s a lot to learn in this issue, as we get to know Ezekiel, his wife, kids, father, and sister, as well as watching the farm has to deal with an attempt by a young thief to secure some samples. Guillory has left me full of questions, such as who Thorne, a mayoral candidate who has some kind of connection to Ezekiel is, what other secrets Jedidiah (the farmer) has, and what’s up with the last couple of pages, which I don’t want to discuss here.  Guillory continues his Chew habit of peppering each page with little sight gags and funny signs, which helps distract from just how serious and dark the tone of this comic is. It’s going to be a interesting run.

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Dust to Dust #2 – I’m not sure why this book has fallen so far behind schedule, but it was well worth the wait.  Gabriel Hardman is giving us a story of a colony that’s been infested with Aliens, and it follows one young boy as he attempts to escape with his mother, who, on the second page of this issue, has her chest ripped open by an alien while they are on a shuttle.  So many Aliens stories have dealt with the creatures hunting people down on spaceships; this series is different, in that Maxon and his fellow survivors are now stranded on a planet during a storm, and the creatures are hunting. Hardman excels at suspense; I sincerely hope the next issue comes out soon, as this is a great miniseries.

Black Science #37 – There are so many alternate versions of Grant and Sara running around that I’m starting to have a hard time following this comic.  Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera are taking our favourite dysfunctional couple into the centre of the Onion in the hopes that they can find their children before all of existence is destroyed.  I guess the stakes are high? This book remains entertaining.

Bloodshot Salvation #11 – Bloodshot finds his ancestor, of sorts, far in the future, while in the present, Rampage finds Magic and Jessie.  This series is getting close to its end, and to be honest, I’ve gotten a little tired of it (and the fact that Punk Mambo is showing up in so many Valiant series right now).  Nothing against Jeff Lemire – he’s done fine work with the character – it’s just that I feel this storyline has dragged on a little too long, and as it reaches its conclusion, it’s just not that interesting anymore.

Daredevil #605 – New York’s fight with the Hand comes to its conclusion just as Wilson Fisk finds himself ready to return to the Mayor’s office.  Charles Soule has brought Matt Murdock through some pretty exciting changes, and I like how even with this arc ending, the seeds of the next story are beginning to germinate.  There aren’t that many Big Two comics that get written like this anymore, with an eye to a larger storyline, so it’s been great that Soule has been given the time, space, and presumably, the commitment to allow him to operate in this way.  

Darth Vader #18 – Governor Tarkin is hunting Darth Vader, with a small army of mercenaries, and it’s not going well for him.  Charles Soule has figured out that a series that centres on Vader can get really boring really quickly, so I like that he gives Tarkin the spotlight, and allows Vader to do what he does best – act menacingly, and then back it up with brutal action.  This is another solid issue in this very strong series, which explores the period where Vader was still establishing himself in the Empire.

Detective Comics #984 – I came back for Hill’s second issue, since the price hasn’t jumped yet, and I like what he’s doing, having Batman put the younger members of his extended family under Jefferson Pierce’s tutelage, since he’s beginning to believe that Karma, the villain hunting him, is right that they make him weaker.  Hill is doing a good job of building this story, and I like it. I can’t shake the feeling that he’s largely rewriting or redoing the beginning of Tynion’s run, but it’s unique enough to keep my interests (at least until the price goes up).

Die! Die! Die! #1 – This stealth launch from Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, and Chris Burnham came as a nice surprise this week, as Kirkman decided to surprise comics readers (and, presumably, comics shop owners as well) with a series they didn’t know was coming.  As far as first issues go, I found this one to be a little confusing, as we are introduced to a government system of assassinations or other complicated dirty work designed to control outcomes (in the example, a UK pedophilic politican had to go, so a US Senator arranged for the live-in companion to the mother of an activist protesting a new train line to win big at the races).  The Senator’s favourite operative is captured though, and rather bloodily. I’m not used to a parody series coming from Kirkman, so it took me a little while to get into the groove of this book. Burnham is a wonderful artist, and his action scenes are detailed and exciting. In many ways, this read like a Garth Ennis comic, which is not what I was expecting to find, but am not complaining either.  I’ll definitely be checking out the next issue, which is set to come out in August, despite having never been solicited. I’m curious to see how this business approach works for this title, and if it means we’ll be seeing more surprise books in the years ahead.

Oblivion Song #5 – Nathan finds the colony of people he’s been looking for, and more importantly, finds his brother who has been leading them.  It’s an issue that starts to turn some of the assumptions we have about the series, and life in the Oblivion dimension, on its head, as it looks like Ed doesn’t want to return to Earth.  At the same time, the military is looking into what Nathan has been up to on Earth, and it seems likely that he’s going to have some problems soon. Robert Kirkman’s series can never be trusted in terms of their status quo, as he happily switches things up all the time.  For that reason, I can’t really predict where this story is headed, and that’s probably one of the most exciting things about it. It’s very good.

Port of Earth #7 – Considering that this series revolves around an alien port that’s been constructed off San Francisco, it must have taken a lot of restraint for Zack Kaplan to wait until the seventh issue of the series to take us inside this strange place.  The two ESA agents continue to pursue the alien who has tried to assassinate representatives of the Consortium, the powerful organization that is responsible for both the construction of the port and keeping humans subservient in their relationship, and their pursuit leads them to the one place they are forbidden to go.  Kaplan is writing a very exciting science fiction series that has a very realized feel to it. Andrea Mutti, who is one of the busiest people in comics, does a fine job of keeping it visually interesting (although I do hate the design of the assassin aliens).

Punisher #227 – Matthew Rosenberg’s Punisher is pretty wonderful.  He has Frank working with Black Widow and the Winter Soldier to stop Baron Zemo from doing some Hydra stuff, as this is one of the only books still acknowledging what happened during Secret Empire and working to resolve some of its dangle plotlines.  It’s also funnier than a Punisher comic probably should be from time to time.

Relay #1 – I didn’t love the FCBD zero issue of this series, but I’ve become enough of a Zac Thompson fan to want to give it a second chance, and I’m intrigued and optimistic about where this book might be going.  It’s a very Arthur C. Clarke style story, set on a future Earth where a man brought a gigantic monolith, called a Relay, which has now become the centre of belief for the planet, although it looks like many, including people involved in the military force that protects it, don’t believe in this religion, and its insistence on discovering the homeworld of Hank Donaldson, the man who brought the Relay to Earth.  There’s a lot to still figure out, but Thompson’s ideologue main character is interesting, and Andy Clarke is a terrific artist, so all of this works in its favour. I want to read this issue again, but I can see myself picking up the second issue next month.

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #4 – Harry reveals what happened to Goliath, an alien that came to Earth before he did, and who made a name for himself in the New York art world, while hiding his provenance.  As always, this series is impressive in its humanity, and unique in its pacing and goals. Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse apparently have one more miniseries to tell, and this will finally have Harry, the alien small town doctor who solves mysteries, having to deal with the government that has been hunting him for years.  I’m sad to see that this very sporadic series will be ending, but I’m excited to see where it all ends up.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #1 (I was excited to try this series, but with the first issue being $6, and the next one coming out in two weeks, I’ll pass)

Champions #22

Domino #4

Exiles #5

Hunt for Wolverine Adamantium Agenda #3

Ms. Marvel #32

New Mutants Dead Souls #5

Old Man Logan #43

Quicksilver No Surrender #3

Star Wars Thrawn #6

Wildstorm Michael Cray #9

X-23 #1

X-Men Blue #31

Bargain Comics:

Black Crown Quarterly #1 – I was curious about Shelley Bond’s new imprint at IDW, but haven’t yet checked out any of the titles.  This anthology does make me interested in some of them (Punks Not Dead is the standout), and I enjoyed Rob Davis’s introductory story about the Black Crown Pub, but too much of the material here belongs in a free preview, not a $7 comic.  I’m glad I didn’t pick this up at full price.

Moon Knight #190-194 – Max Bemis is doing some weird things with Moon Knight, and they mostly work.  He’s given him a daughter that was kept secret from him (which means he and Marlene are probably getting back together), and has to face down the avatar of the god Ra.  As well, Bemis retcons a very disturbing incident from Mark’s childhood that both hinges on his being Jewish, and helps explain just why his dissociative personality disorder emerged in the first place.  I’d thought that after Jeff Lemire’s run, there was no real reason to give Moon Knight a title again for a good long while, but Bemis has a fresh take on the character that works. Jacen Burrows’s art is very nice, as is the single issue drawn by Ty Templeton.  

X-Men Gold #18-20 – My least favourite type of X-Men story is one set in space or on other planets.  This Negative Zone arc really didn’t work for me, as it’s weird to see the team get involved in another place’s religious conflicts.  Also, I’m having a hard time with the way in which Marc Guggenheim keeps giving Ink, a very powerful character that no one but him remembers, such a prominent place in the series.  It’s like X-nepotism…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Private Eye

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Marcos Martin

When Brian Vaughan and Marcos Martin started serializing The Private Eye on their website, panelsyndicate.com, I started to read it there, and loved it, but my deep aversion to reading books online left me downloading chapters but never actually getting around to reading them.  Luckily, the series was eventually printed as this lovely landscaped hardcover, and I finally got the time to sit and pore over Martin’s art the way I prefer to – on paper.

The Private Eye is a pretty cool science fiction detective story.  At some point in the future, the cloud will burst, and everyone’s secrets, photos, and search histories will come pouring out, ruining a whole lot of lives.  A while after that, all of American society will become obsessed with privacy, to the point where people adopt ‘nyms’ and walk around wearing masks all the time.  There will no longer be an Internet, and most interestingly, policing and journalism will meld, with the 4th Estate investigating and prosecuting crime as well as reporting it.

The series is centred around P.I., a paparazzo (independent private investigator) who, when a former client is killed, ends up getting swept up in a conspiracy involving teevee.

The mechanics of the plot are fine, but not that important in a lot of ways.  Vaughan’s idea of the future is bizarre but always believable, and his characterizations are spot on, as always.  P.I. is an interesting character, with great t-shirts, and his Internet loving, tattoo sleeved grandfather is a wonderful addition.

Martin is the big hero here though, as he gets to design some incredible looks for people, and is given plenty of opportunity to do some wide-screen action sequences.

This is a very good series, and if you aren’t looking for the book, I strongly suggest you hunt down the comics online.

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