Sunday, July 31, 2011

Aaron and Ahmed: A Love Story

Written by Jay Cantor
Art by James Romberger

I went into this original graphic novel from Vertigo without being too sure of what to expect or how I felt about reading it.  I've become pretty sensitive to outward expressions of Islamophobia of late, especially in light of the events in Norway that happened last week, and the ridiculous anti-Islamic furor in my city regarding the topic of whether or not students should be able to perform their Friday prayers in school instead of having to excuse themselves for a large chunk of the afternoon.  I mean, none of this stuff is new (anyone remember the 'Ground Zero Mosque'?), but I find that it's building in momentum, and I didn't really want to read more of it in a comic.

And the thing is, I'm not sure where I stand on this book now that it's finished.  I will say that I liked the way this book was written, and think that Romberger's art is incredible.  I'm just not sure I am all that impressed with the premise.

Aaron Goodman (I know) is a psychiatrist who enlisted after his fiancee died on 9/11.  He always believed that the best way to help his patients is to build a bond, and to get them to love him so he can help them.  He wants to apply this same theory to the interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, and so is assigned Ahmed, a detained 'enemy combatant'.  Aaron starts pumping him full of estrogen, and treating him kindly so that Ahmed will fall for him and be open to further manipulation.

Aaron's superior at Gitmo has some strange ideas about how suicide bombers are carriers for a meme - an idea virus - and wants to learn more about how to activate them.  Aaron decides to bust Ahmed out of Guantanamo, so the two of them can travel to Pakistan, and Aaron can learn about how the 'magic power words' work.  This is where I felt things starting to fall apart, as we learn that Ahmed, who seems to have been chosen randomly, and whose reason for being in US custody is never explained, is way more hooked up than anyone would have believed.  Aaron and Ahmed meet with the Old Man in the Mountain (who is not Bin Laden, but actually the character Ozymandias from old Uncanny X-Men comics), and Aaron gets infected with one of these infectious memes.

In other words, this book gets bloody bizarre pretty quickly.  And I think that is it's problem.  First, the discussion of memetics feels like it's coming out of old 90s issues of Wired magazine - I didn't know anyone still went on about this stuff.  Secondly, G. Willow Wilson (an actual member of Islam!) addressed the notion of fundamentalism being viral much better, and with more sensitivity, in her much-missed comic Air

This book isn't bad, but I would have preferred a more grounded examination of the relationship between interrogator and detainee, than the over-extended commentary on the origins of suicide bombing that it became.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century#2 - 1969

Written by Alan Moore
Art by Kevin O'Neill

It's hard to believe that it's been over two years since the last issue of LOEG: Century came out (I reviewed it in May 2009), but there you have it.  Any time there's a new comic by Alan Moore, there's a cause for some celebration, and this was easily the best and most impressive thing I picked up this week, but at the same time, I will admit to being a little disappointed.

First a recap:  Mina Murray, Alan Quartermain, and Orlando have returned to London after an absence of many years, because they believe that their nemesis for this series, Olive Haddo, has returned and is at work preparing for the birth of an anti-Christ or some such.  The trio are tasked with hunting down Haddo, who has been jumping bodies for a while now.

The twist is that our trio is not particularly prepared for life in 1969 London..  Mina's been around recently (apparently with a team of super heroes), but the others are not prepared for the free love and copious amounts of readily available drugs.  Nor are they prepared for Mina's desperate need to fit in, and not appear as 'square' as her companions.

That's what I found most interesting about this book.  Sure, it's fun to hunt Easter eggs (more on this soon), but what interested me was watching a trio of immortals (two of whom are relatively new to that status) adjust to the tempo and social revolutions of the twentieth century.  Quartermain and Orlando aren't particularly interested in staying relevant, while for Mina, it seems to be a necessity.

The rest of the book was secondary to me, as I find the relationship between these three characters most interesting.  Not being British, and not having lived through the '60s, many of Moore's clever plays on names and literary allusions were completely lost on me.  Having skimmed Jess Nevin's annotations, I am both awed and humbled by how much is in here that has escaped me.

Thus, I'm happy that Moore and O'Neill manage to keep things so interesting and fresh while still playing their own little reference games.  I think this book succeeds much better than The Black Dossier did because the focus is on the people, whereas that book got too caught up in the construction of its story.  With this book, it's not necessary to know that Oliver Haddo is supposed to be Aleister Crowley, or that the Purple Orchestra is a stand-in for the Rolling Stones to enjoy things; it does take things another level if you know that though.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nigeria 70 Sweet Times

Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos

While, it's yet another compilation of 70s music from Nigeria.  I've been listening to a lot of these over the last two years, and I have to say that they don't really change a whole lot from one to the next.  There's a part of me that suggests to myself that I would probably be just as happy simply playing the same three over and over, but I'm one of those people who feels that a constant stream of new examples of the same thing is better.

This compilation, fifteen tracks deep, has been put together by the fine people at Strut, and it has a different vibe to it than some of the other discs I've bought.  This one is cheerful from end to end, as it conveys a sense of the positive possibilities of this music.  Gone are the more political tracks (at least, that's how it feels), and instead we get tracks like Tunde Mabadu's 'Viva Disco (Instrumental)'.

The crowning moment of this disc is Admiral Dele Abiodun & His Top Hitters International, who perform 'It's Time for Juju Music', a fifteen minute number that goes off on many tangents before always coming back to it's upbeat chorus.

There's a lot to like on this album.

The Vault #1

Written by Sam Sarkar
Art by Garrie Gastonny

These days, I'm willing to give just about any new Image book a shot, as they've had such a great track record lately, and I thought this book looked intriguing when I leafed through it in the store.

It's about a group of treasure hunters and archaeologists who are convinced that there is some valuable treasure in a water-filled pit on Sable Island in Nova Scotia.  They have a lot of high-tech equipment, although not enough to retrieve it, and have to bring in some other dude, who has a robotic diving dog thing, although they don't want to pay his price.

It's sort of established that they are working against the clock, because of an impending hurricane (how often does that happen in Nova Scotia?), and there is a strange supernatural element to this story, as hinted at in the first few pages, and then mysteriously revealed at the very end.

I feel like this comic has a lot of problems.  To begin with, it took me a while at the beginning to get a grasp of what's going on.  It's hard to understand what makes this particular dive so different, and why it requires such amazing technology.  The biggest problem with this book is the hurricane though.  In a classic example of tell, don't show, we know there's a hurricane coming because the characters keep talking about how worried they are about it, and how it's going to wreck their communications with the mainland, but it doesn't seem to materialize in any way that matches the amount of concern on display.  It seems they have to abandon their boat, but have plenty of time to bring up treasure chests.  There is also the concern that other people may come and take their treasure, but they don't explain how these other people would have the needed tech...

There's some stuff to like here - especially Gastonny's clear pencils, but I don't think there's enough.  Even though that last page really caught my interest, I'm not sure if I'll be back for more.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #2

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

One approach to crime writing that I always find interesting is when the main character knows that he's going to commit some sort of heinous crime, and has to go about his usual existence as the only person with that knowledge.  In this case, Riley, our protagonist, has a plan to kill his wife, Felix, and we are left watching him go about the motions before he does the deed.

Brubaker excels at this kind of thing, of course, and so it is fascinating to watch Riley line up his alibis, corrupt his former best friend, and put everything in motion.  The cover tells us how it turns out, but that image would probably be more fitting as the first panel of the next issue.

That we find ourselves so engrossed in the actions of a character that is so unlikeable is a hard thing for a writer to pull off effectively, but it's worked great here.

Another thing that's been working exceptionally well in this arc is the way that Phillips portrays Riley's youth as a series of one-page strips in the Archie comics style (if Archie smoked weed, swore, and had sex that is).  It's a cool visual trick that helps to differentiate this arc of Criminal from all the previous ones.  This is a pretty brilliant book.

Undying Love #4

Written by Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman
Art by Tomm Coker

Like with The Mission this week, I'm not sure if or when this series is going to be continued, as this issue ends with the words "End: Part 1" and I don't believe anything else has been solicited.  Unlike The Mission, the ending here is not terribly satisfying, as very little has been resolved, and if anything, there is more confusion than there was before.

John, the American soldier, and Mei, the vampire he is protecting, have come under attack from a group of vampires who can shape shift into crows.  They are rescued by an unlikely set of allies, and it becomes ever more clear that there is much more to Mei than we previously thought (although we are given no information as to what that might actually be).

This is a comic that I originally picked up for the art, and Tomm Coker once again does not disappoint.  He has a terrific style - a little Paul Gulacy-ish, and a clear love for the darker parts of Hong Kong.  This book looks great, and I hope that the story continues soon.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Sixth Gun #13

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

Train heists are a lot of fun. It's easy to see the appeal of train robbery movies - the speed, the constant danger of falling, the cluelessness of conductors who don't slow down or simply uncouple wrecked cars...  Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt bring all the excitement of a train heist - with zombies and a mummy, no less - to comics in a way that makes it just as thrilling as any film.

Our two heroes, Drake Sinclair and Becky Moncrief, traveling with the Sword or Abraham group, came under attack from the zombies last issue.  Drake is trying to take the body of General Hume someplace safe, while his widow is trying to retrieve it, hence the zombies.  This entire issue is taken up with the fight (the mummy shows up right at the beginning), and it's all very cool.

I especially like that Drake, who has a pretty shady past and is relatively new to the hero game, knew the mummy in his former life.  The issue ends with a couple of surprises, and leaves us in a place where it's hard to tell what's going to happen next.

Cullen Bunn is beginning to get a fair amount of attention from Marvel.  I've found his Fear Itself: The Deep to be a disappointment, but it appears that he's going to be involved in the post-Fear Itself book.  Like Jonathan Hickman and Jason Aaron before him, his independent work is better than his pay for hire work.  Jump on this now, and if he becomes really popular, you can always say you've been following him for ages.  Comics fans love doing that, right?  You won't be sorry.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spontaneous #2

Written by Joe Harris
Art by Brett Weldele

It's been a while since Free Comic Book Day, so I sort of forgot about this title, but was very pleased to see it scheduled for release this week.  The way this issue was structured made it very easy to slide right back in to the story, which is pretty interesting.

Melvin's father died of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) when Melvin was a small child.  Since then, he's made a study of the phenomenon, and has become very good at predicting who may be a candidate (for reasons which start to become clear over the course of this issue).  He's partnered up with a freelance (read unemployed) journalist, who is questioning whether he should simply predict SHCs, or try to help people.

Harris is setting up a very compelling little story, with hints of cover-up and collusion at some level, and lots of great character work.  Melvin is a pretty complicated guy, which Harris suggests very well.  There are a couple of bizarre elements in here, such as the police chief who brings her young daughter to work with her without explanation, but I am definitely engrossed by this story.  I love the Erin Brokovich references.

Brett Weldele deserves a lot of credit for this book working so well.  Like he did with electric light in The Light, he makes excellent use of colour to convey the harshness and danger of the fires.  It's surprising to me just how much Weldele has grown on me as an artist - I pretty much hated his work on Julius back in the day.

Fables #107

Written by Billl Willingham
Art by Terry Moore

It's been a while since we've checked in on Briar Rose, the Sleeping Beauty, who is still doing her duty to Fabletown, and you know, sleeping in the Imperial City.  Since we last visited that city, a variety of new pretenders to the throne have been setting up camp outside of it.

One, Mirant, has been consolidating power, and has been elevating many men to the position of king of as-yet unconquered realms, so that their handsome sons can become princes.  He then marches them past Briar Rose and they each get one kiss, in the hopes that he can manufacture the true love needed to break the spell.

Of course, other factions have other ideas, and it quickly becomes clear that we will have to come back to Briar Rose's story another day.  And therein lies the strength of Fables after such a long run - even when major plot lines get resolved, there is always something else to look in on.

This issue is drawn by Terry Moore, and he's a very nice addition to the list of artists who have worked on this book.  He draws in a very clean style, and it's nice to see his work in colour for a change.

Skullkickers #9

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats

The solicitation text for this issue read:  "This issue: More of the SAME!", and that's exactly what it delivers.  Skullkickers has been remarkably consistent, meaning that it is a very dependable book, if you are looking for a level of hilarity and unpredictability that we don't often see in independent comics these days.

When last we saw our heroes, they were being tossed into a pit to fight a giant horned ape in order to prove their mettle to a gang of thieves.  This issue opens with the poor ape, named Ape Wit' Horns, having received the worse of the situation.  The 'Kickers are sent to buy new clothes, and retrieve a map for their new associate.  Strangely, all of this stuff works out perfectly for them, as they retrieve their own clothes and weapons (did anyone else think the woman in the market looked like Gran'ma Ben, from Bone?), and they later run in to just the person they are looking for.

Zubkavich is playing around with themes of fate and destiny, and so none of these things are really coincidences.  As always, there's a lot to love about this comic.  My favourite part of this issue is that the tall bald 'Kicker doesn't understand Thieves' Cant, the argot of the underworld, but he is able to communicate with squirrels.  I look forward to having that explained at some point.

As always, Skullkickers is one of the more unique titles on my pull-list, and I appreciate it for that.

American Vampire #17

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

Scott Snyder is a master of pacing.  This issue, which is the penultimate in the 'Ghost War' arc, is packed with action, but also manages to bring us back to the beginning of the arc, which started with Henry writing a letter to his wife.

In this issue, we learn what the Japanese have planned for the vampires they have captured on the island of Taipan, and see the fruits of the uneasy alliance between Henry's Vassals of the Morningstar unit and Skinner Sweet.

This is a very cool issue, as Albuquerque pulls out all the stops to give us an impressive and exciting visual experience, enhanced by Dave McCaig's great colours.  I'm not sure why this is, but I find that the colours in this week's comics are really standing out (see Butcher Baker below).  As always, great stuff.

The Mission #6

Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Art by Werner Dell'Edera

For the last six months, I've been wondering if this comic is an on-going series or just a limited one.  Now, with this sixth issue, we reach a point which is a good conclusion to an introductory arc, but also a cliff-hanger that should lead into a second.  The problem is that no further issues of The Mission have been solicited so far, and the writers have been silent in terms of a text-piece in the comic.  I suppose I should hunt around on the internet for news, but that feels like too much work.

I would, however, gladly buy a seventh issue of this title.  This one has Paul track down the man who stole an artifact from him, thereby keeping him from finishing his latest mission.  When he finds the guy, he employs a level of brutality that I wouldn't have thought him capable of (the cover image says it all - he's not soldering).

What I've enjoyed about this series (in addition to Dell'Edera's art) is that Paul has been trying to hold on to his morals and values, wehile being thrust into a conflict he does not understand the rules of.  He's been a good everyman for the readers to latch on to, and while this issue's twist wasn't coming out of the blue, it still holds a lot of potential for some future stories.  I hope this isn't the last we see of this comic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Xombi #5

Written by John Rozum
Art by Frazer Irving

I love this comic.  After this, there is only one issue left before the DC Relaunch, which looks to have canceled this title very prematurely.  But instead of complaining, I will instead try to focus on how lucky we were as readers to get a six issue run of a book that is so unique in today's market.

In this issue, David Kim and his crew pursue Roland Finch, with the goal of reclaiming the Skull Stronghold that he has taken over.  Most of this issue is interlude and preparation for the final battle, and Rozum has filled it with fascinating character work and back story.  To give you a hint of how well-written this book is, here are a few descriptions of the Skull Stronghold, a floating city of immortals:

"Over centuries the skull was trained into a glorious city by experts in architectural bone topiary."  "The chamber of tangible music, the sand children, the alphabetical flower garden, the lake of knives, the ivy lamp posts, Mr. Salt and Pepper, the hall of wishes."  Rozum is tossing out ideas like Grant Morrison, and that's what the series has been like from the beginning.

We also get a better sense of David Kim, our Xombi, in this issue.  Having never read a Milestone comic, I still don't know much about this character, so I appreciate learning about his relationship and how he has adjusted to the change that gave him his abilities.

Of course, the writing, as good as it is, pales in comparison to Frazer Irving's stunning artwork.  His designs for the Skull and other Strongholds are amazing, and he manages to create believable people, and then have them fly on pterodactyls.  I love the palette he has chosen for the different Strongholds.

I can't recommend this comic enough (for at least another month).

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #5

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Mike Huddleston

There's a lot to like about the newest issue of Joe Casey's patriotic superhero grindhouse extravaganza, but I want to talk about the thing that stood out the most in this issue first.

Mike Huddleston's been doing a great job on this comic from the beginning, but in this issue, his colours really stood out as the best thing about the comic.  I don't normally notice the colouring first, but the fight scene is New York is made so lovely because of the way he makes everything look like it's happening at sunset.

The rest of the comic is great too.  Butcher finishes off the three villains that have attacked him, but not without gaining the enmity of the United States army.  This causes Butcher to have to go into hiding at a retirement resort for the powered set.  Poor Arnie, the highway patrol guy that's hunting him just misses him.

The comic is really very good, but Joe Casey's essays in the back are almost worth the purchase price alone.  This month he talks about the trailer to the Michael Keaton Batman movie (I must only be a couple of years younger than Casey, and remember the excitement of that summer very well), how a crazy non-fan reacted to Butcher Baker, and the info scroll technique he used in The Intimates.  Has it really been six years since that comic was published?  Man, I loved that title.  It hasn't even been collected I see - look for it in the quarter bins, it was great.  Stupid Wildstorm....

Wholphin No. 4

Edited by Brent Hoff

There are so many various pleasures contained in an issue of Wholphin.  One could paraphrase Forrest Gump, and compare it to a box of chocolates, but it's going to be a box that doesn't have one of those weird, unrecognizably flavoured, oddly shaped confections that you mean to avoid, but always end up eating first, and the taste lingers, tainted subsequent chocolates.

This fourth issue had some films I saw before, when I watched the 'Best Of' disc, but still found much to enjoy.

It won't matter how many times I'll see Taika Waititi's 'Two Cars, One Night'; I will be happy to watch this short film over and over, as it's brilliant.  Three Maori kids are hanging out outside a bar in New Zealand.  It's great.

There are two short films on this disc that manage to pack in all the emotion and content of an entire feature-length movie in their short spans.  'High Falls', directed by Andrew Zuckerman and starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard is a wonderful film about a couple that keeps secrets.  'La Chatte Andalouse', directed by Gérald Hustace-Mathieu, is about a young nun who fulfills the wishes of a dying artist by trying to finish her installation, which involves casting in plaster the penises of two men.  This film is incredible, and soars above the potential crassness of its plot.

'Schastlivy Vmeste (Happy Together)' is a Russian sitcom based on the American show Married... With Children.  The original show is kind of funny, more for the picture of life in Russia that we get.  The redubbed versions, done by comedians, were actually just annoying.

'Cheeta' is a cute short chronicling Jane Goodall's birthday message to the famous Hollywood chimp.  'site specific_Las Vegas 05' is a very cool series of aerial views of LV that make the town, the desert, and the Hoover Dam look like a model train set.  Very cool.

This issue of Wholphin addresses America's war on terror, and Western perceptions of the Middle East, in a number of different pieces.  'Tom's War on Terror' is a two minute short that shows how pervasive Islamophobia is in the US.  'Heavy Metal Drummer' is a very sweet, Napoleon Dynamite-esque short about a teenage boy in Morocco who wants to play drums like his metal heroes.

Then there are the documentaries.  'Strange Culture' is about an artist, Steve Kurtz, whose wife died suddenly one night of heart failure.  The authorities that responded to his call were alarmed by some lab equipment he had in his house for an art installation, and he was charged as a terrorist.  It seems that the largest piece of evidence against him was an invitation to a gallery opening that had Arabic script on it.

There is also a bonus disc that shows the third part of 'The Power of Nightmares', a BBC series that was serialized over the two previous Wholphins.  It's premise is that the American neoconservatives and Osama bin Laden basically socially constructed the War on Terror for their own purposes.  It doesn't go so far as to accuse them of collusion, merely that they both took advantage of events to create the problems that have crippled the world for the last ten years.  It's fascinating stuff, and I suppose only time will tell how much of it is baseless, and to what degree it is correct.

Good chocolates, all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ibérico Jazz

Las producciones de Antoliano Toldos 1967/1972

Having been looking for the perfect summer jazz disc, I could not have possibly come up with something better than this compilation of jazz pieces produced by Antoliano Toldos at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s.

I don't know a lot about jazz, and prefer to just stumble upon things rather than take the time to make a study of the art, and so I don't feel very comfortable discussing the artistry that is so evident on this disc.  What I can say instead is that it's pure gold.

Vampisoul, the label, has made a name for itself by curating excellent collections of international music from the late 60s/early 70s era.  On this disc, they collect thirteen tracks produced by Toldos in Spain, by groups such as Quinteto Montelirio, Conjunto Estif, Conjunto Segali, Quinteto Diamont, and ABV.  There are a number of tracks accredited to Toldos y su Grupo as well.

This disc makes me want to sit out on a sun-dappled patio drinking fruity drinks all day.  Get it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Quitter

Written by Harvey Pekar
Art by Dean Haspiel

I don't know how many times I considered buying this autobiographical novel (autobiographic novel?  what do we call graphic novels that aren't novels?), but kept leaving it behind.  After recently reading one of the Vertigo American Splendor books, I didn't have a particularly strong desire to read more of Pekar's work, but I figured that since this was a more focused project, it may be interesting.  Plus, I've been enjoying Haspiel's other Vertigo books of late, so I thought it was time to give it a try.

The Quitter is designed to be more of a straight autobiography, and so I'm sure it covers a lot of ground that Pekar has explored before.  For that reason, I can understand how he chose to keep the focus so tightly on his own aspirations (and his propensity to abandon them at the first sign of adversity), and therefore gloss over his marriage, and barely even mention his child.

When we meet young Harvey, he's the target of some pretty intense bullying, as one of the few Jewish kids left in a burgeoning black neighbourhood.  Harvey learns to fight, and when he moves to a safer school district, he becomes the bully.  From there, we watch two Harvey's develop, and the two are kind of incongruous.

There is the loud, brash Harvey, who has a habit of goofing off at his jobs, and gets reprimanded or fired frequently.  This Harvey is the one that would fight you in the street as soon as look at you.  The other Harvey is a nervous wreck, who will drop courses after one bad test, and who is so frozen by anxiety that he gets discharged from the Navy after only being in it for a matter of days.  It's interesting to see how Harvey operates in the world, knowing that he's always in such conflict with himself (and suffering the shame and negative self-image these problems entail).

Pekar does a good job of presenting his issues in this comic, and he uses a strangely casual, conversational tone to tell his tale.  It's odd to see his older self narrating this tale, and frequently braking the fourth wall to directly address the reader.  Haspiel deserves a lot of credit for holding this book together, and for subtly aging Harvey as he passes through the different phases of life.  This graphic novel is not as mundane as Pekar's other work, and therefore works as a solid introduction to his vast body of work.

Ikebe Shakedown

by Ikebe Shakedown

I picked this album up based on the recommendation of the guy at the music store I'm mostly frequenting these days, and it did not disappoint. 

The disc starts off with 'Tujunga', a high energy funk piece that brings to mind Fela and Ubiquity label-mates Orgone.  Actually, most of this album can be described that way, although it does feel a little more jazzy in places, and lacks vocals.

In a lot of ways, this was just the album I was looking for as a nice summer thing.  It has fourteen tracks, and clocks in at around fifty minutes.  While the tempo of the tracks shift quite a bit, it never creates dissatisfaction.  Ubiquity impresses once again.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Written by Szymon Kudranski with Jeff Mariotte
Art by Szymon Kudranski

There have been a number of these prestige format one-shot graphic novels coming out of Image lately, and many of them have been very good.  Repulse definitely falls in that category.

Repulse is a noir-ish science fiction police drama, centred on Detective Sam Hagen, who works in the After Crime unit.  What this means is that, when a crime is committed, Sam injects some of the victim's dead brain cells into his own head, and is able to see the last few seconds of that person's life.  This is not without it's own risks to his health and sanity, but ever since his son disappeared, he hasn't felt much like his own life matters.

Sam is called in when a retired cop is found murdered, and he comes to believe that the perpetrator is a robot, which is still strange in this future world.  Slowly, we learn that there is a connection between the cops that are getting murdered, and a case that Sam worked on when he was assigned to Internal Affairs.

The story questions the nature of the human soul, and whether or not robots are able to develop one.  It covers some very similar ground to the Image series Chew, but plays it straight instead of for laughs.  Kudranski's art is dark and evocative, and a perfect match to his story.  Recommended.

Witch Doctor #2

Written by Brandon Seifert
Art by Lukas Ketner

I like this book, and was pleased to learn that it will be returning in another series next year, after this four-issue run is completed.  The premise behind Witch Doctor is that our intrepid Dr. Morrow confronts and treats supernatural issues with a medical approach (although really, nothing in medicine is so bizarre as what we see here).

In this issue, he and his team are called in to investigate a case of a cuckoo fairy, who is eating human babies and replacing them with her own demonic offspring.  This case takes up less of the issue than the ones that occupied the doctor in the two previous issues (don't forget there was a zero issue published in The Walking Dead), but that is because Siefert has started introducing a larger supporting cast; we meet Absinthe O'Riley this month, who is the curator of  museum, and is hunting some kind of sea creature.

This comic is frequently amusing, as Seifert has cooked up a number of interesting twists on supernatural standards, and Ketner is having a blast designing all sorts of strange devices and creatures.  This is a pretty unique comic, and it deserves some attention.

The Walking Dead #87

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

I've noticed that, after something big happens in this title, Kirkman usually takes a few issues to examine how that event has affected his characters.  It's been a few issues since the community was overrun by zombies, and the residents are still picking up the pieces.

Crews have started working on Rick's plan to improve their defenses, Abraham is continuing to work out how he feels now that he's spit with Rosita, and there is concern about food stores with winter looming.

Central to the comic is the condition of Carl, Rick's son, who was severely wounded during the attack.  The Walking Dead often excels at showing the resilience of these people during difficult situations, and I like that Kirkman is taking the time to let the usual emotions and feelings of people who have been through trauma play out across his cast.

As always, this comic is impressive, and the last few pages really made me smile.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

DMZ #67

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

DMZ is entering its final story arc, 'The Five Nations of New York', and it seems that peace may actually be coming to the DMZ.  Most of the issue is narrated by our mysterious pirate radio broadcaster (I'm still hoping it's going to be Jennie One), who checks in on a number of the peace initiatives, such as Zee coordinating with the Red Cross, massive gun amnesties, and housing lotteries.  If ever there is proof that Manhattan is recovering, it's that the real estate market is back...

Brian Wood tries to cover a lot of ground in this issue, although at the heart, we still have Matty Roth wrestling with his actions over the last few years, and trying to avoid being the pawn of the government.  That aspect of the comic has become a little tired, to be perfectly honest, but I'm still curious to see just how Matty is going to land when this all ends.

Curiously, the cover posted on Vertigo's website (shown here) is missing the foreground of the published comic.  It's not a spoiler - like all of John Paul Leon's images for this book, it's quite nice - and so I wonder why they removed it.

All Nighter #2

by David Hahn

Hahn's little mini-series about late teen/early twentysomethings is moving along at a slow but enjoyable pace.  This issue explains how main character Kit knows her roommates new boyfriend, and introduces Martha, their mousey new housemate.  The crew goes to a party, and that's about it.  Except, of course, for the introduction of a strange little story element right at the end.

There's nothing too new about All Nighter, but that doesn't take away from my enjoyment of it.  Sure, anyone who's read New York Four, Wet Moon, Scott Pilgrim, the second series of Demo, and Pounded might find themselves on familiar territory.  Actually, what this most reminds me of right now is Ethan Rilley's Pope Hat, which needs to continue, but I digress.

I am starting to like the characters in this series, and am still very curious to learn about just how Kit caused her mother's death.  It's been mentioned in each issue so far, but nothing has been explained.  I do like these kinds of comics, and am happy to see that Hahn is working on his own book, especially since Murderland was so disappointing.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #6

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Shawn McManus

After five issues of beating around the bush, and building up suspense through the use of flashbacks that established their enmity, Cinderella and Dorothy finally have a go at each other (differently from how they did last issue, of course).  It's a pretty good fight too, as Cinderella's ingenuity is tested against Dorothy's stronger position and greater ruthlessness.

While I enjoyed the fight scenes, what I found most interesting in this issue is the way in which Dorothy reconciled her portrayal in this series with the way she was shown at the Golden Boughs during the earlier issues of Jack of Fables.  I'd wondered how those two things matched up, and it was presented in a manner that was logical and consistent.

I've enjoyed this series (especially McManus's art in it), but have thought that it felt a little stretched out and expanded for the sake of the trade.  A solid four-issue series probably would have worked better.  These Cinderella titles are nice additions to the Fables-verse, but I think they should wait a while before starting another one; she's kind of a limited character and shouldn't be over-used.

Reaper Vol. 2

by Cliff Rathburn

I read the first volume of Reaper last week, having discovered it at my comic store, and knowing that I had this volume pre-ordered.  I don't know.  I want to like this comic, because I have long admired Rathburn's work on The Walking Dead, but there's a lot missing from this comic.

This volume is set some 400 years after the end of the last, and is more or less a repeat of the first book, yet with roles reversed.  Reaper is now a warlord possessing a province, where he apparently just likes to hang out with whores (and likes calling them 'whore' over and over it seems).  Death has finally reconstituted himself, and sends two people to go and retrieve the gem that has kept Reaper alive and indestructible for so long.  These two people are named Creeping Oni, who can control the minds of others, and Kali, who of course has four arms.

A lot of meaningless and bloody fighting ensues, and then the issue ends on a cliffhanger.  There is no character development, and I don't ever feel like I should be rooting for either side in the fight - they're all pretty horrible people.  Without any sense of investment in the characters, I don't feel much desire to return to this title when the third volume is published.  The art is nice, but I'm not down with the sheer numbers of severed limbs and decapitations that take the place of pacing, and plot and character development.