The Weekly Round-Up #467 With The Terrible Elizabeth Dumn Against The Devils In Suits, Bloodshot: Rising Spirit #1, Bitter Root #1, Star Wars: Darth Vader #23 & Doctor Aphra #26, Uncanny X-Men #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Terrible Elizabeth Dumn Against the Devils in Suits

by Arabson, adapted by James Robinson

One of my favourite things about Image Comics is the way in which they will seemingly randomly put out a comic with little fanfare that has the ability to completely brighten one’s day.  I’m not familiar with the work of the Brazilian cartoonist Arabson (except to notice that his name is starting to pop up on the variant cover circuit), but the Paul Pope-esque cover of this oversized one-shot magazine formatted comic, The Terrible Elizabeth Dumn Against The Devils In Suits, really jumped out at me on the stands this week, and when I saw it was only $6, I had to have it.

Arabson’s story begins in a smallish city in Brazil, when an old man knocks on the door, very late at night, of a person he hasn’t seen in over twenty years.  We quickly learn that the younger man owes the older a debt, and that the older man is the devil.  The price, made on a promise decades before, is the man’s first-born son, but he quickly makes the offer of his daughter instead, claiming that she is so wild, even the devil couldn’t tame her.

Elizabeth, we then learn, is in a boarding school, where she has been a near-constant source of trouble for the beefy nuns who run the place.  Warned by her mother, Elizabeth hits the road, trying to stay away from her father’s debt, and ends up travelling with a musician who once made a similar deal.  Elizabeth, being who she is though, is not so much the type to run from her problems as face them head-on.

Arabson’s art is terrific in this book.  He keeps the Paul Pope influence throughout, but there are also elements of Frank Quitely and Rafael Grampá here too.  I like how his characters show emotion, and found the backgrounds often worth studying.  This is a very solid book, and I’d like to see Image publishing more foreign comics like this, in this exact, affordable, format.  Highly recommended.

Quick Takes:

Bitter Root #1 – I like David Walker’s work, and Sanford Greene’s, so I was eager to check out their new Image series.  I love the concept behind this book – that the rage of racial oppression manifests itself in actual monsters, that one family (which adheres to strict gender expectations) know the secrets of stopping.  The execution didn’t always work for me though, as I found my attention wandering a little as I was reading. Greene’s art is great, but Walker, who is working with a co-writer, Chuck Brown, didn’t give me enough space to understand the characters beyond the initial categories they fall into.  I’m not sure if I’ll be back for the second issue or not…

Bloodshot: Rising Spirit #1 – I’ve gotten bored with Bloodshot lately, but I saw that this newest relaunch was being written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson, two writers I’ve really come to admire and get excited about, so I grabbed it.  What I didn’t know was that the book was only being plotted by them, and that Kevin Grevioux was scripting. I’d also not noticed that Ken Lashley was drawing this, with the effect that the opening issue was kind of bland an unimpressive. It appears that there might be a new person injected with the Bloodshot nanites, but that also might not be the case, as the story swerves a little at the end, turning what started out as a predictable and standard first issue, into something a little different.  But was it different enough? The second issue is going to have to work to keep me interested, as I still find this character kind of boring…

Captain America #5 – Ta-Nehisi Coates is not prepared to give Captain America any kind of break here – even when he is doing the right thing and saving his girl, the media portrays it as problematic, further giving space for the Power Elite to consolidate their power behind the scenes.  I’m not sure how I feel about the revelation that closes this issue – it’s a well we’ve been to too many times lately – but Coates and artist Leinil Francis Yu are making me happy with this book.

Cemetery Beach #3 – We’re beginning to learn more about the strange planet that Earth secretly colonized in the 30s, as our advance scout hero continues to try to make his escape, and is chased by the authorities.  We get our first look at a second colony ring, and learn about how the place powers itself, and why the president is over one hundred years old. Warren Ellis is clearly writing this for the trade – the chapters start and stop without much thought to rhythm, but the extended chase sequence is entertaining, and I always like it when Ellis just tosses new ideas out there.  He and Jason Howard are a good team, and I love the Akira-influenced cover.

Daredevil #611 – This “The Death of Daredevil” stuff is getting weird, as DD ends up facing off against an army of his old foes, including Gladiator, who I thought long-retired, and Electro, who I thought was dead and replaced by a woman.  He manages to dispatch too many threats too quickly for it to be credible, and for the first time in his long run, I find that I’m just not feeling Charles Soule’s work on this book at the moment. I really can’t figure out what’s going on with this series, as it looks to be gearing up for yet another relaunch, and I’m not sure what the motivation for that is.  It really doesn’t appear to be related to anything that Soule’s done with the character up to this point.

Darth Vader #23 – This Mustafar arc has been kind of strange, as Vader works with a sentient mask named Momin (I keep thinking of the Finnish cartoon Moomin) to tap the Dark Side on the lava planet.  I don’t feel like Charles Soule does a good enough job of selling why this is happening, or why Vader would trust such a creature. I think this series is ending soon, and it feels a little like it’s going to be limping across that finish line.

Doctor Aphra #26 – Aphra and Triple Zero are now stuck staying close to one another, and in the process, are providing a twisted scientist with his very own reality TV series to watch.  It’s kind of typical Aphra hijinks, but those are always entertaining.

Friendo #2 – This is a very strange series about corporate AIs, greed, and the importance of having a digital “friend” who mines your Internet footprint to be able to fully understand your psychology.  I got the feeling this wasn’t going to end well, even before “Jerry”, the AI, got zapped by an electrical current that took out its ethical controls. Alex Paknadel is an interesting writer, giving us a story that is just all too believable in this current age.

Gideon Falls #8 – The connections between the two strands of this story are getting stronger, as the priest and the sheriff in the town of Gideon Falls begin to become aware of Norton Sinclair, who we see has been committed and is being kept under heavy sedation.  There are still a lot of unknowns in this story, but Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino keep revealing new elements at a pace that keeps my interest piqued. This is a masterful series.

Infinite Dark #2 – This new Top Cow book is intriguing me, partly because I’m having a hard time understanding some of the premise (not to mention how, if a section of a space station designed to hold many thousands more people than reside there, seals off a section it ends up looking post-Apocalyptic), but also because the writer, Ryan Cady, is doing a fine job of building suspense and interest.  I think I’m going to be sticking around with this one for a while.

Mage: The Hero Denied #13 – A lot more happens in this issue than in the last few, as Mirth, the wizard, returns to help Kevin find his family, and as Magda and Hugo run into one of their captors.  This series is getting close to its conclusion, and I assume that the action is only going to increase.

Mister Miracle #12 – The conclusion to Tom King and Mitch Gerads’s fantastic series is a little anticlimactic, but also very fitting.  This has been a very unique series, exploring mental illness, the bounds of domesticity, and ultimately, the confines that love places on a life.  We return to some of the earliest scenes of this book, as we finally get some clarity on what’s been going on in Scott’s head, and King leaves the family in a good place, which is kind of a rarity in his comics.  I look forward to seeing what this partnership does next, as they are so much better together than any of their work with other collaborators has been.

Ninja-K #13 – The news that this series is ending with the next issue comes as a bit of a surprise, and an excuse for the storyline to accelerate a little too quickly this issue, as we move from Colin trying to rescue Gilad to him having to question everything about his life and identity.  It feels a little forced, if I’m being honest.

Oblivion Song #9 – I am really loving this title.  Nathan knows he has to get his device back from the government before they can start weaponizing it, and using its dimensional transference abilities to dispatch enemies to certain death in the Oblivion world.  The only way he can get it is if his brother helps him, but he and his brother have different views of Oblivion, and that is going to be a problem. Like most Robert Kirkman series, this one is full of action and suspense, and artist Lorenzo De Felici’s ability to create bizarre creatures continues to amaze.  It’s rising towards the top of my essentials list.

Proxima Centauri #6 – Farel Dalrymple’s latest miniseries never really achieved cohesion, in so far as telling a straight story is concerned, but it did give a pretty complete portrait of early teen narcissism in a giant spaceship.  I love Dalrymple’s art in this series, but would have liked more story to sink my teeth into.

Shadow Roads #5 – The first arc of this great new series by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and AC Zamudio wraps up with a ton of action, creatures, and exotic locations.  I like how this book continues from the remnants of The Sixth Gun, but is also working to become its own thing. I hope it sticks around for a while.

Uncanny X-Men #1 – I just don’t know.  I’ve been looking forward to this Uncanny X-Men relaunch since I heard about it, because it’s definitely time for the X-Men to take the spotlight again, and to gain some cohesion across its line.  I figured a weekly book, co-written by Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, and Ed Brisson might be the way to do it. The thing is, this actually double-sized (and double-priced) first issue is maybe a little boring.  Kitty takes a group of novices (who have now been around for like twenty years or more) to fight the MLF, but then disappears, leaving the kids to get their butts handed to them, while waves of Jamie Madroxes pop up everywhere trying to complete some sort of strange mission.  We have a politician working to push forward a mutant gene vaccination, and some other odd things happening, like the appearance of a lake in the Kalahari Desert. There are some pacing problems here (Beast is in Africa, and then back in New York, although it doesn’t look like he’s with a teleporter), and the decision to put prelude stories at the end of the book left me more than a little confused.  I really want to like this title, and because of the weekly nature of it, have preordered the whole storyline, so I guess I’m sticking with it. I just hope that it finds a groove, and very quickly. (I just realized that I didn’t say anything about the art – that’s because I found it pretty unremarkable, aside from the terrible Mark Bagley pages that ended the issue).

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

Amazing Spider-Man #9

Avengers #10

Black Order #1

Catwoman #5

Domino #8

Electric Warriors #1

Exiles #8

Fantastic Four #3

Firefly #1

Ms. Marvel #36

Quantum Age From the World of Black Hammer #4

Thor #7

Wonder Woman #58

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #2-8 – Reading seven issues of this latest Avengers reboot in quick succession kind of wore me out.  Jason Aaron’s approach to this doesn’t start working until the eighth issue, in my opinion. Through issue six, the team is caught up in this ridiculously complicated story involving Celestials, the reason for life on Earth, and a lot of cosmic retconning that mostly seems to justify the existence of the Avengers One Million parts of the Legacy one-shot that lay dormant for like a year.  There’s way too much Odin and Loki (in ways that don’t even fit with what’s going on in Thor’s own book, also written by Aaron), and the Eternals are all killed off off-panel, which should have warranted a little more attention. The biggest problem is Ed McGuinness and his typically confusing artwork. He swaps issue bits with Paco Medina, an artist I’ve also never liked. Once David Marquez takes over in issue eight (after Sara Pichelli draws a Ghost Rider retcon story in issue seven), things become a lot clearer and more stable, although also the book starts to read as Marvel’s take on the Justice League, with so much focus on big remote fortresses and teleporters and such.  I don’t know – I think that writing an Avengers title after what Jonathan Hickman did would be very difficult, as there’s not a whole lot left to say about the team. Filling it with high-recognition characters might ensure sales, but it also makes it hard for anything of note to happen to 5/7 of the team. It’s also weird to me that no one is thinking of moving Jarvis to the Arctic…

Doctor Strange #390 – The end of Donny Cates’s run does a great job of tying up some remaining plot threads, while also digging into Stephen’s character for the first time in a while.  Frazier Irving’s art is gorgeous throughout, and there’s an excellent little interlude where Spider-Man talks to a spider that made me laugh.

Doctor Strange #1-4 – This latest relaunch, by Mark Waid and Jesús Saiz, is off to a good start.  It puts Strange in a position he’s never been in before – searching the galaxy for magical objects in a spaceship with an alien – but is also working to uncover new things about his personality.  At times, it doesn’t feel one bit like a Strange series, and that is strange, but I like the novelty of it. Saiz is putting out some of the nicest art of his career, and there were a few times when I flipped back to make sure it was really him drawing this.  I’m curious to see where Waid takes this.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Aquaman Vol. 2: Black Manta Rising – I think I really missed out by not following Aquaman from the start of the Rebirth era.  Dan Abnett has put together a consistently interesting story, as the secret organization, NEMO, under control of Black Manta, manipulates America into going to war with Atlantis, and Arthur left scurrying to try to end things.  There’s so much to like in this book, with great character work, wonderful art by Scot Eaton, Brad Walker, and Philippe Briones, and some strong Justice League guest appearances.