Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Sixth Gun #25

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

There's a real sense of things converging in this latest issue of The Sixth Gun.  Drake and Becky are trapped in a vicious snowstorm that has kept them holed up a decrepit fort.  Their friend, Gord Cantrell is looking for them, and he meets up with Kirby Hale on his voyage (and the two do a good re-enactment of the cantina scene from Star Wars), and Asher Cobb, the giant mummy.  The Sword of Abraham are looking for them all as well.

So while all these groups are meeting up, Drake is more at a loss as to what to do next than we've ever seen him.  It's unfortunate that it takes an attack by a gigantic wolf spirit to shake him back into action.

I like the way that Cullen Bunn has woven Aboriginal mythology into this comic.  Earlier, we saw a Thunderbird, and now, we're getting a Wendigo.  I always like when indigenous culture is represented respectfully in comics.

Bunn continues to impress on this book in a way that none of his work at Marvel has, adding weight to the argument that creator-owned comics benefit from being a labour of love in ways that work for hire never does.  Brian Hurtt, as always, is amazing.

Skullkickers #18

Written by Justin Jordan, Blair Butler, Charles Soule, J. Torres, John Layman, and Aubrey Sitterson
Art by Tradd Moore, Enrique Rivera, Michael Mayne, Alberto J. Alburquerque, Rob Guillory, and Ivan Anaya

In some ways, I think I prefer the 'Tavern Tales' issues of Skullkickers that show up between story arcs more than I do the actual comic itself sometimes.  This latest version, 'Son of Tavern Tales', has six short stories that more or less perfectly distill what makes Skullkickers work so well.

The book opens with the Luther Strode team of Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore (who clearly has never seen another picture of a dwarf).  Their story is cute and amusing, as is the one after it by Blair Butler and Enrique Rivera.

Charles Soule and Michael Mayne give us a great story about the world's best beer, and the strange creature that makes it so great.  J. Torres and Alberto J. Alburquerque show what happens with role playing games get out of hand (always zombies).

The Chew team provide the best story in this book, as our favourite mercenaries try to figure out a way to scam themselves free beer for life in a bar where the owner has an interest in collecting mythological    tail.  (I was hoping for a Poyo cameo, but no luck).

The final story, by Aubrey Sitterson and Ivan Anaya show that in medieval fantasy times, guilds operated much like unions do today.

This extra-sized issue was a nice treat.  This series is going on a bit of a hiatus until next year, and I look forward to its return, but I look even more forward to the Tavern Tales issue that comes after the next arc.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Prophet #29

Written by Brandon Graham, Farel Dalrymple, and Andy Ristaino
Art by Farel Dalrymple and Andy Ristaino

It must be a lot of fun to write this comic.  Since Brandon Graham resurrected Rob Liefeld's god-awful comic from the 90s, each new issue has been a bit of an adventure, as Graham has introduced a wide variety of characters, settings, and strange situations.

For this issue, Graham returns to the John Prophet clone we last saw in the other issue illustrated by Farel Dalrymple.  Prophet is with a group of his clone brothers, escorting an Earth Empire Mother through space towards her home.  These Earth Mother's are powerful psychics, who control the clones.

Their route takes them through a centuries-old battlefield, and our tailed Prophet ends up being captured on a ship, where creatures control their prisoners and force them to work as slaves.  Prophet becomes involved with a group of rebels, and fights for his freedom.

Each and every page drips with creativity, as Graham and Dalrymple create a variety of races and strange creatures.  None of these are throw-aways for Graham; there's a sense that a lot of thought went into each and every story element, no matter how briefly they grace the pages of the book.

Dalrymple's work is always lovely, but I particularly like the way that colourist Joseph Bergin III's limited palette on the pages where Prophet is under mind control really accentuate Dalrymple's skills.

The back-up, by Andy Ristaino, features similar themes to the main book.  It's about a man who is the caretaker of a large colonist spaceship filled with people in suspended animation.  The ship is badly damaged, and the man has to decide what to do with his brethren.  It's a powerful little story.

The New Deadwardians #7

Written by Dan Abnett
Art by INJ Culbard

As we reach the penultimate issue of The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett is still piling on the intrigue.  The issue opens with the intrepid Inspector Suttle being attacked by some Bright (human) Londoners.  Suttle being Young (a vampire), is able to easily defend himself, but he has no defence for the surprises that Mr. Salt heaps upon him.

By the time he has finished interviewing his only suspect in the murder of Lord Hinchcliffe, Suttle is not sure of anything anymore, including his own complicity in the murder, and in the Restless (zombie) incursion that killed his own cook.

Abnett has constructed an interesting alternate history with this book, and then populated it with an interesting character.

INJ Culbard's art is the real star of this book though.  He's got a Guy Davis meets Rick Geary quality to his work that I enjoy.  This issue feels looser than the previous ones, at least during the action sequences, and it works very well.

Mind the Gap #5

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo and Adrian Alphona

Do you ever have this happen to you, where you make some comments (okay, maybe they were complaints) about a comic one month, only to have them addressed the next?  After reading the last issue of Mind the Gap, I commented that I found certain aspects of the book - especially the scenes where Elle, the coma victim, just hangs out in her own mind and The Garden, a shared mindscape for coma victims, and the overly self-congratulatory text pages in the back - to be tiring me out, and causing me to lose enthusiasm for the title.

Then this issue comes out, and neither thing is in it!  Instead of keeping the action in the hospital where Elle is staying, Jim McCann decided to use this issue to explore one of the most important people in Elle's life.  Dane is Elle's boyfriend, and he's been shown to be a difficult person.  Now, he is being accused of attacking her, and his own father has shown up with some pretty damning evidence against him.

The thing is, Dane hasn't seen his father in some ten years.  Most of this issue is told through flashback, as we see Dane's teenage years in a trailer park, where he lived with his abusive drunk of a father.  At age 17, Dane set off on his own, eventually finding himself in New York, and dating Elle.  For the first time since the comic began, Dane is shown as a sympathetic character.

We are also given some pretty big clues as to what has been happening in this series.  The whole point of this book is that the reader has no clue as to who attacked Elle, or why.  One fairly prominent character is shown interacting with 'Hoodie', the hooded character who has been present at every point of the series, although whether or not that character is ultimately responsible for what's happened isn't made clear.  I imagine that there are more than one guilty party in this book.

I've been enjoying Rodin Esquejo's art in this series, but was pleased to see that (the uncredited) Adrian Alphona showed up to draw the scenes from Dane's life.  Alphona's art is much looser than Esquejo's, and had a total Adam Pollina vibe to it that I liked a lot.

This is a comic that was in need of a shake-up, and I'm pleased that McCann chose to do that at precisely the time that I was wondering how committed I was to staying with this title.  Now he's got me on board for a few more months.

Happy #1

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Darick Robertson

Grant Morrison - DC's biggest name writer (in terms of critical respect, if not exactly in sales) has taken his latest creator-owned project to Image, and that's a big deal.  For years, Morrison has published his bizarre non-superhero projects through Vertigo, but with their terms having recently been changed, I guess Image was a better option (continuing to prove what I firmly believe - that it is the most exciting company publishing comics these days).

Happy is a strange beast.  It opens reading like a Garth Ennis comic, as a pair of hitman (part of a hitman family, the Fratelli Brothers) go to join their brothers in completing a hit on Nick Sax, an ex-cop.  Sax knew they were coming (for a pretty interesting reason), but he didn't know that the fourth brother had recently returned from Italy, and is therefore not as prepared as he would like to be.

Sax ends up in the hospital with a gunshot wound, although not before he is given the password to a secret bank account which holds the Fratelli fortune.  Now, both the police and the mob are after that password, and Nick is hallucinating fiercely.  He sees a small blue horse named Happy.

That's more or less all that happens in this issue.  We do get a rather random page or two of Nick taking out a serial killer who has been killing prostitutes, and there's something weird going on with a creepy homeless looking Santa Claus, but there you go.  Now, this being a Morrison comic, I was looking for other meanings or interpretations, but couldn't really come up with anything just yet.

It's great to see Darick Robertson's art again.  I never even sampled The Boys (it having come out at a point where I'd had my fill of Garth Ennis - maybe I should start looking for it in trade), so I haven't seen Robertson on a comic in many years.  He's a great character artist, although he draws a mean small blue horse with wings and a horn...

I don't see this being one of Morrison's greatest works, but it is definitely interesting and entertaining.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mind MGMT #5

by Matt Kindt

I really do love this title, and for a variety of reasons.  One of the most striking, and inconsequential, is that this is a comic that actually smells like a comic.  The book is printed on a nice newsprint stock, and it brought back a lot of Proustian memories when I opened it.

The comic itself is excellent.  Kindt has slowly been building up the layers of complexity in this series, which involves a young woman's investigations into the strange world of Mind MGMT, an organization which has so far remained very shadowy, but that we know it is involved in influencing and controlling world events.

Henry Lyme, the central character of the comic (despite his only having really shown up in the last issue), continues to narrate his life story to Meru in this issue.  Previously, we saw how Henry was Mind MGMT's most powerful agent.  At this point in his story, he basically loses his shit, as he begins to question how pervasive his influence has become on the world around him.  Wherever he goes, people give him things for free, and he even questions his own wife and child's love for him, which he suspects is the product of his own abilities, with disastrous results.

Towards the end of the issue, Henry reveals his connection to Meru, which I did not see coming.  That's the thing I like most about this comic; by creating such a unique series, Kindt has made this book hard to predict, something that is rare in comics these days.  Coupled with Kindt's fantastic art, sharp dialogue, and interesting backmatter, this title is terrific.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Elephantmen #43

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin and Dave Sim

I ended up with some pretty mixed feelings when it comes to the forty-third issue of Elephantmen.  First, it's wrapped in a beautiful cover by Brandon Graham, which got me very excited that he may have also done some of the interiors (sadly, he did not).  This is an amazing cover, and it actually depicts a version of an event that happens inside the comic, which is rare these days.

Elephantmen, a series following the travails of some transgenic 'Elephantmen' - former soldiers who are now integrated into human society - who work in law enforcement or organized crime, is often a mixed bag story wise, ranging wildly over a variety of themes and genres.  Right now, it seems that Richard Starkings is mostly interested in giving us an updated form of romance comic, as the series follows the relationships of Hip Flask and Miki (and maybe Vanity Case?), and Obadiah Horn and Sahara (with a dash of Panya tossed in).  The story continues to work on the plot involving the pursuit of the Silencer, a hired killer who has been murdering Elephantmen, but it's the romance angle that gets the most screen time.

Hip gets attacked by the Silencer at the beginning of the book, and spends some time in a Dave Sim-drawn dream, similar to Ebony's from the last issue.  This in itself is fine, but with multiple pages given over to showing details from the same drawing, it kind of felt like filler.  Miki, Hip's new girlfriend finds out that he also has a thing for his fellow officer, Vanity Case, and gets angry.  Meanwhile, Sahara, who is carrying Horn's baby, further imposes on her body-double (and pregnancy-double) Panya to basically become her.

There are other things happening in this book as well, such as a small retcon to establish that Hip, Horn, and Sahara all went to Mars once, and that Mister Purchase, Horn's robotic aide de camp, was originally constructed for that voyage.  I could be wrong, but I don't remember reading about this part of the Elephantmen's history before recently, and I'm not sure why it's being included now.  That's what bothered me with this book; that Starkings will often shoehorn information about the past into a story in a manner that is more distracting than informative.  The reference to Hip being an 'astronaut' made by the Silencer came out of nowhere, and felt out of place.

Artistically, this book is as good as it ever was, with an extended section of pin-ups from various conventions (including art by Becky Cloonan!) given to Starkings taking the place of meatier backmatter.  I think my problem with this issue comes down to the fact that it didn't live up to its wonderful cover.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pope Hats #3

by Ethan Rilly

I was very excited to be able to pick up the latest issue of Ethan Rilly's excellent comics series Pope Hats at Word on the Street last week.  This book festival regularly disappoints, but with this single purchase, it was all worth while, even braving a bit of a downpour.

Pope Hats follows two women, Frances and Vickie, who have both spent years trying to establish themselves in their chosen professions.  Frances is an insomniac law clerk, and Vickie is an aspiring actress.  Last issue, Frances received a promotion, splitting her time between serving the kind and reasonable Seagull, and the imperious senior partner Castonguay.  Now, she finds herself completely snowed under by work and the exhausting oneupmanship, back biting, and careerism that define her workplace.  Vickie, meanwhile, has finally landed herself a part in a TV pilot, and is planning a move to California.

The book follows a slow and meandering path through the two womens' daily lives, although it is clear that Frances is the main character and the heart of the series.  We also get to see much more of her co-workers, including the unfortunate lawyer Nina, who has watched her billable hours decline because of her colleague's active sabotage, and who resorts to having to gamble on the Machiavellian intentions of Castonguay.

Vickie has a sizeable presence in this issue, but she still remains a rather elusive character.  When sober, she is capable of insight and self-reflection, but she is rarely sober.

Rilly's work reads like the best of Adrian Tomine's.  He presents snippets of quotidian existence, making good use of humour and a clean, natural drawing ability.  His plot moves slowly, as life does, and he cuts quickly from scene to scene to maintain momentum.  The more magical realist elements of the first issue (like the ghost that Frances talks to) are gone from the series, as Rilly focuses his story on the contrasts between Frances and Vickie.

Rilly rounds out this issue with a trio of narrated strips.  There are two comics adaptions from Spalding Gray's Morning, Noon and Night, and an interview with the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.  They are odd choices, but they are also good reads.

I look forward to reading the next Pope Hats, whenever it may come out.  If it sounds like something you would like, it is solicited in the latest issue of Previews - let your comic shop know you want it!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Revival #3

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Revival opens with a scene that excited me like few have in comics in the last few years.  The scene has the series's main character, Dana, visiting her sister Martha in her dorm room at university.  On the walls of Martha's room are posters advertising Doomtree's No Kings, and Dessa's Castor, The Twin.  I am a huge Doomtree (the hip-hop collective that is home to the immensely talented Dessa, among others) fan, but usually think of them as 'my band', despite them selling out shows every time they play here in Toronto, and being huge in the Midwest.  It makes sense that they'd be big in a school in Wisconsin, since they are based in Minnesota themselves.  I don't know who among the Revival crew is a fan, if Tim Seeley specified this in his script, or if Mike Norton drew them in of his own accord, but it made my day.

The good news continues, because after that, there was a whole great comic to read and enjoy!  Revival is a very cool 'rural noir' comic, involving a region of Wisconsin where the dead have been coming back to life, and are clearly showing signs of being emotionally disturbed.  It's creepy and strange, as we see people reacting to their loved ones behaving in ways that are radially different from normal.

We're three issues in, and Tim Seeley is still introducing new elements to the story.  We get a plotline involving an older Hmong woman who thinks she understands what has been going on, and wants to give the exclusive to a young Hmong reporter.  We also see young Martha continuing to act bizarrely, as her sister is put back onto the police revivalist task force, newly paired with a doctor from the CDC.

There's a lot going on that Seeley is not explaining yet (such as the appearances by an alien-looking creature in the woods), and that is why I keep coming back.  This is an interesting series with some incredible Mike Norton art, and it's worth checking out.

The Walking Dead #102

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

A lot of times in comics, when a main character in a comic is killed off, within three issues, it's like they never existed.  Not so when Robert Kirkman kills someone important - their presence continues to be felt in the book for quite some time, such as when Rick had phone conversations with Lori long after she was gone.

Kirkman killed off a pretty important character in issue 100, and while I was sad to see that character go, I do like how his loss is being shown as affecting the entire population of the book (I'm going to great lengths to avoid identifying the character, because I'd hate to be the one to spoil it for the trade-waiters).  Now, the entire community is being threatened by Negan and his band of 'Saviors', and Rick is getting cold feet.

Most of this issue is spent with Rick, Michonne, and others suffering through their own version of survivor's guilt, which ultimately leads Rick to accepting Negan's terms.  He's decided that peaceful subservience has more value than risking the remaining members of the community in a battle that he doesn't think he can win against larger numbers.  This is Rick though, so there may be something more going on...

As always, Kirkman delivers a story full of emotion and good, strong characters.  The loss of that particular character is clearly being felt by the entire Community, and the quiet moments that fill this issue carry great emotional weight.  Also as always, Adlard and Rathburn render this emotion perfectly.  I love this series (even when there isn't a single 'walker' around).

The Unwritten #41

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The last arc of The Unwritten was set some time after Tom Taylor's big showdown with The Cabal, and Tom only appeared at the very end of it.  Reading that last issue, there was a sense that many things had happened to Tom in-between appearances, and that is what this issue sets out to explain.

It opens with Richie Savoy, the vampire journalist, bringing an existentially wounded Tom to Villa Diodati, the Taylor estate in Switzerland where the series more or less began.  Tom spends most of the issue in a near-coma state, leaving Richie to look after him and to converse with the various ghosts who suddenly appear all around him.  These are the ghosts of the series - the writers who were slaughtered in the Villa, Tom's ex-girlfriends who were killed by The Cabal, and Miriam Walzer, Wilson Taylor's lover.  Mme. Rausch also makes an appearance, which helps to explain why Richie later went to visit her.

Richie is the focus of this issue, and through his experiences in it, he comes to a few realizations about just how Tom's powers work, and what happens to the people around him.  As always with The Unwritten, it is very well-written and marvellously illustrated.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #2

by James Stokoe

The longevity and popularity is something that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  Ultimately, all Godzilla stories have to be about the people trying to kill the giant monster, and they can never succeed in their mission.  There's not a lot there that makes for sustained runs in comics or movies, unless a stream of new monsters is introduced.

Why then, if I have no real interest in the franchise, am I buying Godzilla comics?  The answer is easy - James Stokoe.  This gifted and unique cartoonist brings his wonderfully detailed and strange art style to the big green monster, and therefore is keeping me captivated.

This series follows a Japanese officer, Ota Murakami, who has devoted his life to following the creature and trying to stop him from destroying cities.  This issue is set thirteen years after the last, as Godzilla wanders his way through the middle of Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.  Ota has been sent by his government to work with the US Army and a very manga-looking professor (you know you know what I mean), who has big experimental masers he wants to use.

The issue follows the standard Godzilla set ups and tropes, including the inevitable appearance of a second creature.  It's a very nice looking comic; Stokoe continues to work his usual magic, and that ensures that I'll be back next issue for more.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dark Horse Presents #16

Written by Phil Stanford, John Layman, David Chelsea, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Carla Speed McNeil, Erika Alexander, Tony Puryear, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Corben, Nate Cosby, Bo Hampton, Robert Tinnell, and Chad Lambert
Art by Patric Reynolds, Sam Kieth, David Chelsea, Tony Akins, Carla Speed McNeil, Tony Puryear, Richard Corben, Evan Shaner, Bo Hampton, and Apri Kusbiantoro

Another month, another collection of short comics of varying topic and quality.  Let's see what was impressive...

Of course, I continue to love Carla Speed McNeil's Finder the best.  This episode has Jaeger wandering the desert looking for water, which is the way to complete the ritual he began last month.  I love the complexity of McNeil's world, although I do really miss the explanatory notes that she has filled her collections with - not because I need them to understand the story, but because they help me appreciate how truly layered and well-realized her fiction is.  The colours this month, done by Jenn Manly Lee and Bill Mudron, look very different from what we've seen before.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, probably the two most prolific writers and idea creators in comics, start Deep Sea this month.  Usually these two work for DC or Image, and it's interesting to see them providing a story for DHP when they could just as easily include it in their own anthology Creator-Owned Heroes (unless, of course, there is no one heroic in their comic).  This is an ocean bottom exploration/love story/potential time travel story, and it looks pretty interesting.  Art by Tony Akins never hurts.

Concrete Park has another good chapter, as the two strands of the story get closer to colliding.  Tony Puryear and his crew have really caught my attention with this series, and I look forward to seeing where this is going.

Richard Corben adapts Edgar Allan Poe's 'Berenice', a strange story about an obsessive young man who marries a woman with alluring teeth.  For some reason Corben adds a gender-bending element to the story that is probably not in the original, and it makes the story extra disturbing and bizarre.

Chad Lambert returns with another comic memoir about his days in the radio industry.  I particularly appreciated the love Lambert shows for my all-time favourite sitcom 'WKRP in Cincinnati', both literally and figuratively.  What is it about Cincinnati and autobiographical comics anyway?

John Layman and Sam Kieth's strange Aliens story takes a turn for the worse again, mostly due to Kieth's rushed-looking art.  Bo Hampton's Riven continues to feel like a big part of the story is missing, and Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner's Buddy Cops continues to be amusing, but not my cup of tea.  David Chelsea's 'The Girl With the Keyhole Eyes' is a cool idea that is being done to death; I think if this free-form thought poem of a comic were shorter, it would be much less exasperating.

The new serial, 'Crime Does Not Pay', by Phil Stanford and Patric Reynolds was pretty underwhelming.  The trick with crime comics is to not make them be something everyone has read multiple times before.  This is not that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Li'l Depressed Boy #13

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

How long can a series survive on charm alone?  Really, were this book able to keep on schedule, I would have dropped it a while ago, but when I was putting in my pre-orders, the series was still enchanting me.  There are two or three more issues left before I'm done, so there's always hope that it will pick up enough to lure me back.

Truthfully, I like this comic, but it's way too decompressed and slow-moving to keep my attention.  In this issue, the LDB has a dream, goes on a date, almost gets promoted at work, and is given news that is mildly annoying about his blossoming relationship with his boss, which appears to completely devastating.

A big part of what is turning me off of this book is the ambiguity of it.  When a popcorn popper mishap causes the LDB to be kicked off the concession stand, I was left with no understanding of what he did wrong.  When Spike tells him that he can't be open about his dating her, we see a full-page picture of him maybe looking sad, but I don't know why.

Also, since I'm complaining so much, I'm totally worn out by the way that ironic, pop-culture referencing is used in the place of conversation between characters.  Joss Whedon can pull that off.  It seems that S. Steven Struble can't.

While I'm complaining a lot about this comic, I do enjoy it.  I think the problem is formatting - if this was a nice, thick (300+ pages) manga-sized book that came out every couple of years, I'd probably love it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ohnomite and Dr. No's Tornado Funk

by Oh No

Oh No does like his gimmicks.  A few years ago he crafted an entire hip-hop album (Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms)using only samples from Galt McDermot's musicals.  It was interesting, but ultimately not all that impressive.

I feel the same way about Ohnomite, his new album on FiveDayWeekend that is crafted solely from sounds taken from the soundtrack to Dolemite, the classic blaxploitation film.  The beats are very nice, but the collection of rappers that Oh No gathered is pretty uninspired, as are their lyrics.

Oh No stuck with many of the same old MCs that fill the less-interesting corners of Stones Throw's catalogue - Guilty Simpson, MED, Roc C, Wildchild, and Frank Nitt.  He added to this mix some perpetual undergrounders on the cusp of popularity, like Evidence, Alchemist, Chino XL, Termanology, Roc Marciano, Phil Da Agony (who I quite like, actually), and LMNO.

There are some impressive names here - MF DOOM holds up his track nicely, and appearances by Rapper Pooh (I guess he dropped the Big in his name), Phife Dawg, and Erick Sermon add some respectability to the affair, but not a lot of excitement.

In contrast to that is Dr. No's Tornado Funk, which is an instrumental project built around many of the same samples.  Oh No's best work is usually his instrumental stuff (I love his Dr. No's Oxperiment), so it comes as no surprise to me that I play this album much more frequently than the other.  It has the energy and excitement that the other project is lacking, and it's nice to hear No's masterful beats without uninteresting lyrics and dull delivery diluting them.

I'm not going to suggest that Oh No stick to staying behind the boards, but he would benefit from working with a more exciting stable of lyricists.

Saucer Country #7

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by David Lapham

The first thing that needs to be pointed out about this comic is that despite the fact that the cover credits regular series artist Ryan Kelly with the art chores, this issue was actually drawn by David Lapham, which was a treat, as he seems to be writing much more than he draws these days.

This issue works as a perfect counterpoint to the last.  That one had Professor Kidd, Governor Alvarado's UFO expert, expound on his theories surrounding the mythology of alien encounters.  This month, we visit with the Bluebirds, the shadowy group of scientists who are gathering information on alien visits from a technological perspective.

Astelle, the newest member of the Bluebirds, has come out to Nevada to meet with the man in charge (I have no idea what his name is), and he gives her a lengthy presentation on the history of their group, which has coalesced around the journals of an American WWII pilot named Joe Bermingen, who after a close encounter during the war, became the foremost expert on alien flying technology at Lockheed.

Bermingen's story is an interesting one, as he bumps up against the American government, NASA, and the original 'men in black'.  This is a very good series, and I like how Paul Cornell got things up and running for five issues before pausing to fill in the necessary back-story.  I am ready to see things move forward again though, as we get an ever-larger view of the world that Cornell is working with.

Stumptown Volume 2 #1

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

What a nice treat it is that Greg Rucka has decided to gift us with a second Stumptown mini-series, this one titled 'The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case'.  Stumptown is a private detective series set in Portland Oregon, starring Dex Pairos, a typically plucky female PI.  The first volume introduced her and her world, and it stood out for its excellent character writing and sense of place.

With this new mini-series, Rucka opens with Dex turning down one client (because of who his boss is), and gaining another.  A famous guitar player comes to see her because her Baby - her favourite guitar - has gone missing after the last night of a long tour.  The guitarist is friends with Dex's contact on the police force, and there is some sort of hinted-at problem there.

When Dex goes to visit the guitar tech who last saw 'Baby', she finds skinheads in the middle of a home invasion, and it is clear to everyone that there is a lot happening with this case.  As Dex is the type of PI who gets roughed up a lot, this is surely going to be an exciting mini-series.

Greg Rucka is one of the best writers in comics.  I permanently associate his style with Ed Brubaker's, and it's great to see him working on a creator-owned book again.  It's been made clear that his divorce from DC is looking permanent, and aside from Punisher, he's not doing much work with Marvel.  So far as I'm concerned, that's a great thing, as writers like him always do better on their own stuff.  Here's hoping the rumours of more Queen & Country are accurate.  Matthew Southworth is an accomplished artist, and it's nice to see his work on this book again.

Punk Rock Jesus #3

by Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy's black and white mini-series, which has now reached the halfway mark, continues to be the best thing that Vertigo is publishing right now.  The series is set in the near future, and it revolves around the cloned Jesus Christ, who is the central person in a reality TV show called J2.

In this issue, Chris, the clone, ages from toddler-hood to being a teenager, as his mother continues to buck against the J2 system, especially the show's chief executive, Slate.  She is able to negotiate so that Chris can enter a regular public school, but after Slate pays off Chris's African-American prom date, and instead sets him up with a cheerleader, and then micro-manages his appearance on Larry King (it's not called that in the comic, but come on), she finally has enough.

Murphy has taken his time setting up the series and building the characters, considering that the title has yet to apply (assuming that Chris ever becomes a punk).  It feels like we're moving towards the pay-off though, as a newly isolated Chris will have to deal with the mess that his life has been, and a surprise ending suggests that the series may move in new, and more supernatural, directions.

Murphy has established himself over the last few years as an artist to watch, but I'm really quite impressed by his writing chops.  This book is excellently paced, and has a strong commitment to character.  The cast feels very well fleshed out, and I look forward to each new issue.

Bad Medicine #5

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Art by Christopher Mitten

I'm not sure what's going on with this series.  It was launched as an on-going, and the second issue ended with a scene in South America that was used to set up an upcoming story, but which has not been addressed yet.  The thing is, there haven't been any new issues solicited past this one, and I'm not sure if the book is taking a hiatus, or if this is the end of it.

Bad Medicine is a good comic.  It chronicles the adventures of a loosely-organized group of scientists, doctors, and a police officer, who are being sent by the CDC to investigate occurrences of 'bad medicine'.  This arc involves a werewolf outbreak in a remote Maine town.

This issue finishes that arc, and does it quite well.  Dr. Horne has been the most interesting character in this series, and he arrives at a new point in his character arc this issue as he addresses some of his personal weaknesses in order to solve the current problem.

DeFilippis and Weir are strong writers of character, and they continue to put those strengths to good use with this series.  I would like to read more Bad Medicine, and so hope that the series is continuing.

The Creep #1

Written by John Arcudi
Art by Jonathan Case

The Creep is an interesting new series at Dark Horse.  Like many of their new comics, this one began as a serial in Dark Horse Presents, and then had those installments reprinted as a zero issue, before this, 'first' issue came out.  Reading those prior chapters are essential to understanding this book, which I think could be problematic for people who like to start a new series by buying the first issue...

Anyway, this comic is very good.  The titular 'creep' is Oxel, a private detective with a medical condition that has caused his body to grow to gigantic proportions, and which causes him to be wracked by headaches, uncontrollable sweating, and other discomforts.  Oxel has been contacted by a former girlfriend, who he knew only before his condition began, who wants him to look into the conditions surrounding her only son's suicide.

Curtis killed himself shortly after his only friend, Mike, killed himself.  Because of this, Curtis's grandfather, who was close with both boys, has fallen apart to the point that he is living on the streets, and Cutis's mother, Stephanie, is convinced that there was something more going on.  She sees suicide as a contagion that Curtis caught from Mike.  She's asked Oxel to look into things, and while he is, he has been avoiding contacting her.

In this issue, Oxel interviews Curtis's father, who he knew back in college, and works with the contagion theory.  Arcudi is setting the story up to suggest that there may have been more to Mike and Curtis's friendship, possibly some secret involving the grandfather as well, but he's playing it close to the vest.

Jonathan Case's art is great.  There's a cool scene towards the end of the book where he switches to a sketchier, watercoloured look when Oxel tries to imagine the boys' lives, which then continues into his own reality.  It's clear that Oxel isn't well, but to what extent his condition affects his judgement, we don't know.  This is a series worth checking out.

Conan the Barbarian #8

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Vasilis Lolos

Yes, that really does say 'art by Vasilis Lolos'.  I was pretty surprised to see his name in the Previews solicitation for this comic, as it's been a few years since Lolos has had any work published, and I'm pleased to say that his work has only improved in the interim.

This issue continues the 'Border Fury' arc, which has Conan and Bêlit traveling across Cimmeria in pursuit of someone who has been killing in Conan's name.  Conan is revelling in the opportunity to romp across the land of his childhood again, but it is difficult going for Bêlit, a Southerner who has never seen snow before now.

This issue is really an examination of the relationship between Conan and his pirate queen.  Previously, while they were together, it was in Bêlit's world, where she held all the power.  Now, in his land, she sees how much of a burden she has become, and so she has him continue his pursuit on his own.  I like the way Wood portrays their time together.

Lolos's art is a good substitute for Becky Cloonan (who, it appears, won't be returning to the book any time soon).  They've always shared similar aesthetics, although Lolos's Conan is a little more of a pretty boy.  Lolos's art has changed since his work on Last Call and Northlanders; some of his faces, especially that of the old man in the village, show the influence of Rafael Grampá and perhaps Dean Ormston.  I hope this means that we will see plenty more work from Lolos in the coming months (like perhaps Last Call Volume 2, or even, dare I say it, the conclusion to the excellent Pirates of Coney Island).

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Massive #4

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

I love The Massive, but Brian Wood's new post-environmental catastrophe epic is not without its flaws.  The series follows the Ninth Wave, a conservancy direct-action group who are now wandering the post-Crash world looking for their missing compatriots, and trying to continue their mission.

This issue starts the second story arc, 'Black Pacific'.  When it opens, the leader of the Ninth Wave, Callum Israel, is in Mogadishu negotiating with a local war lord for resupply of his vessel.  While walking through the city, he runs into Arkady, yet another person he knew from his time working with Blackbell PMC, a mercenary group that he quit in the late 90s.

This man was not exactly ever a friend, although he does have some ideas for how he can use Israel and his ship The Kapital.  This confrontation shows the depth of Israel's commitment to pacifism, and continues to reveal more about the man that Israel used to be.

The writing in this book is sharp, but I feel that what the Ninth Wave actually does has not been made clear.  Last issue, they were in Alaska; in this issue they are in the Arabian Sea.  By the end of the issue, they are setting off for Antarctica to find fresh water.  This is a lot of journeying around, and a lot of diesel fuel being burned, for a group that is supposed to be committed to preserving the environment, for no clear purpose.  This is something that Wood needs to clarify, and quickly.

The art for this issue has been done by Garry Brown, an artist I'm not familiar with.  He does a decent job, but I did prefer Kristian Donaldson's work.  The revelation that Callum is in his fifties is not exactly borne out by how he has appeared in this series.

The Manhattan Projects #6

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra

Considering that The Manhattan Projects is set firmly in the middle of the Cold War, it's a surprise that it is only with this issue that we see behind the Iron Curtain, and learn just what the Soviet equivalent of the Projects is.

Like the Americans, the Soviets tried to snap up as many Nazi scientists as possible, and this issue revolves around one of them - Helmutt Gröttrup.  Gröttrup had led the Nazi science base Oberammergau just prior to the Americans seizing it, as was shown in an earlier issue, and instead ran into a Soviet patrol, which was filled with unexplained squid-headed robots.

This comic follows Gröttrup's career, as he is literally branded a Nazi, and made to work in Star City, a Soviet project that involves rockets.  Gröttrup works steadily for his freedom, although personnel changes in the Soviet system make that seem unlikely.

In relation to this book's usual craziness, things are a little quieter this month.  We do learn that the Tunguska Event was alien-related, although Soviet attempts to reverse engineer the technology they recovered have not been too successful.  The preponderance of squid creatures is never fully explained, but I'm sure we'll get back to that at some point.

This issue is much more human than any of the previous ones, as Hickman shows Gröttrup as the victim of a number of unfortunate coincidences.  Visually, this comic is as good as it ever has been, as colourist Jordie Bellaire mostly sticks to a red and blue palette.

Wet Moon Vol. 6

by Ross Campbell

Having forgotten what reading this book can be like, I stupidly thought that I could read twenty pages or so starting at 12:30 the other night before going to sleep.  Needless to say, it was a late night, and the book was done before sleep took me.

Ross Campbell's Wet Moon is a completely unique comics experience.  It is a long-running series of graphic novels set in a Southern college town.  It revolves around the lives of a group of (mostly) young women (there are a few male characters) who attend school, argue, and fall in love with each other.  Most of the characters embrace punk styles, are bisexual or lesbian, and have bodies shaped like the ones that real women have, not like their comic book brethren.

Prior to volume five, which came out a while ago, Campbell's story mostly stayed in the realm of teen/early 20s soap opera, but that fifth volume had one of the main characters, Trilby, viciously attacked and left for dead in a swamp by a crazed young woman (who is also sort of in a relationship with Trilby's best friend).

This volume follows with the fallout from that attack, as Trilby lies in a medically-induced coma in the hospital, and main character Cleo and her circle of friends have to cope with mortality being thrown into their faces.  That's not to say that this is a group of people that are unused to the curves life can throw us - this book is filled with beautiful young women who are missing an arm, are 'thalidomide babies', and have facial scars (to say nothing of the sudden appearance of a pair of women who are conjoined at the head).  But still, when you live in a safe college town, you don't expect to get stabbed.

This is not the type of thing I would usually enjoy, but I find Wet Moon to be fascinating.  Campbell has such a strong sense of his characters, and also throws them into such strange situations, that I can't put these books down.  His work is kind of trashy, but it also elevates itself beyond the confines of the genre he works in.

Artistically, Campbell's work looks a lot looser in this volume compared to the others.  At times the characters appear less solid than they have in the past; it's a nice progression.  Length-wise, I feel that this book could have had more story in it, especially given the price, but I also understand that with Glory coming out monthly (and being so good), Campbell is a pretty busy guy.

I eagerly await the next volume.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chew #28

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

There's nothing quite so satisfying as a new issue of Chew.  It's been a while since we've checked in with Tony and his crew - there was the Agent Poyo one-shot, and before that the second printing of issue 27, which was first released out of sequence over a year ago, and so issue 26 feels like it was a long time ago.

In this issue, Tony Chu is still in the hospital, although he has regained consciousness, even if he still needs high doses of pain medication to stay awake.  And whatever medication he's on, it causes him to see people as talking animals, which is always fun.

Anyway, Tony is needed by his former partners Colby and Caesar, who have come to him for help with their latest case, despite their each being from a rival agency.  It would seem that a scientist has learned how to weaponize meat, creating cows that spontaneously and explosively combust when they begin to decompose.  The terrorist group EGG have used this meat to bomb a fashion show wherein the models walk the runway in clothing made out of food, so both the FDA and the USDA are determined to put a stop to EGG and the scientist's mad science.

Only in Chew would this be a viable plot, and that is what makes this comic so great.  It revels in its own weirdness, as it feels like Layman and Guillory constantly challenge each other to come up with something wilder each issue.

This issue is as good as this series gets.  We learn why Tony's sister Toni is familiar to Caesar, Poyo gets to be Poyo (he's one of the greatest comics characters of the 21st Century - he's the cyborg rooster on the cover, if you didn't know), and Guillory fills each page with sight gags in addition to telling a great story.

To top it off, there is a preview of the upcoming series Great Pacific, which looks very good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Activity #8

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Mitch Gerads

I frequently find myself flip-flopping on this comic.  I loved the last issue, but found this one to be a little off-putting.  This one picked up from the last, as the team was in Uzbekistan, working a local criminal, or terrorist funder, or something, into coming in to American custody to give up his associates.

The first issue played out very nicely, as the operatives played up his paranoia and fears by terrifying the man into thinking he was being hunted by his enemies.  This continued this issue, as they led him straight to Fiddler, one of the operatives, who was going to 'rescue' him and lead him to the American authorities.  The mission scenes worked well, but the scenes in America felt a little disjointed.

Last month, it was revealed that Bookstore had a relationship with a man named Mark, at least until she was told to end it by her commanding officer, with no reason given.  Now he suddenly shows up as a civilian who is working with the ISA, and the scenes between him and Bookstore are very awkward.  I feel like, if he was always intended to become a plot point, he should have been introduced into the series earlier; their break-up carried no emotional weight, and therefore his appearance in this issue doesn't resonate at all.

Still, I'm enjoying this comic.  I like that there is a place for an espionage comic that is well-written, has good art, and is very grounded in the possible, unlike most war and spy comics.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Myspace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 6

Written by Mac Walters, LeVar Burton, Mark Wolfe, Frank Stockton, Art Baltazar, Scott Morse, Andi Watson, Larry Marder, Stan Sakai, Ron Chan, Jaime Hernandez, Jason Little, Garaham Annable, Matt Kindt, Gabriel Bá, Mark Crilley, Justin Aclin, Simon Spurrier, Jackie Kessler, and Evan Dorkin
Art by Eduardo Francisco, David Hahn, Frank Stockton, Art Baltazar, Scott Morse, Andi Watson, Larry Marder, Stan Sakai, Ron Chan, Jaime Hernandez, Jason Little, Graham Annable, Matt Kindt, Gabriel Bá, Mark Crilley, Ben Bates, Christopher Mitten, Paul Lee, and Hilary Barta

I'll be completely honest - most of the comics collected in this book are completely skippable.  That's probably one of the main reasons why the whole Myspace Dark Horse Presents experiment failed (well, that and the fact that just about the whole world stopped using Myspace).  It was a commendable concept, and I believe it did lead to the resurrection of the monthly Dark Horse Presents, which has been a very good thing, but it's clear that Dark Horse was rarely coming through with their A-game on this thing.

Because I want to stay positive though, I will focus on what is good about this collection.  Scanning the credit list above, one name should immediately stand out to anyone who knows what I like - Gabriel Bá!  He provides a short piece called Fiction that could only work in comics.  A writer appears at a festival, where he grumbles about how his readers think they know him by reading his books, but they don't.  After a few pages though, Bá pulls a switch on the reader, and we find out that that character is a character in someone else's writing.  The whole thing has a very Borgesian feel to it, and is beautiful to boot.  Easily worth picking up this book for, as so far as I know, this story hasn't been collected anywhere else.

Among the other things I liked were the Giant Man story by Matt Kindt, a companion piece to his 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man graphic novel.  I've read this before though - it was recently collected alongside two other stories in a one-shot.  It's still good though.

Likewise the Beanworld story by Larry Marder.  I think it was included in the recent Tales of the Beanworld collection.  Every day needs a little Beanworld in it though, so it's also all good.

I was also pleased to see a Bee story by Jason Little.  I read Motel Art Improvement Service a little while ago, and enjoyed it.  In this story, Bee spends a day in New York with her friend, and goes through some of the existential issues of Bá's story.

Simon Spurrier and Christopher Mitten provide a creepy horror story involving a man whose pregnant wife was killed in a car wreck, and who is visited by the fetus's ghost (in a really disturbing way).  Also of note are the collection of Brody's Ghost stories by Mark Crilley.  These aren't exactly my cup of tea, but I like the fact that Dark Horse gave over a fair amount of space to them, making them stand out a little more through sheer volume.

The rest of the book is a melange of licensed properties (Mass Effect, Buffy), children's comics (which never feels like a good fit), and stuff that just didn't resonate with me.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tecumseh & Brock: The War of 1812

by James Laxer

It's not much of a surprise that this year would see a plethora of new books examining the bicentennial of the beginning of the last war fought on Canadian soil.  The War of 1812 was really a conflict between America and Britain, and between America and a loose confederacy of Aboriginal nations, but Canada became the setting for much of the conflict.

In James Laxer's new book, Tecumseh and Brock, he sets out to examine the two title figures - Tecumseh, the charismatic leader of the Aboriginal confederacy, and General James Brock, defender of Upper Canada.

The problem with the book is that both of these august men did not live too long once they entered into the conflict, and while they are both without doubt among Canada's greatest heroes, their influence on the war did not outlive them for long.

Laxer is at his best in the beginning of the book, when he writes about the world into which Tecumseh was born.  The Shawnee, his people, found themselves embroiled in the Endless War that began with Europeans arriving in North America.  Hounded and displaced, Tecumseh (and his brother) was one of the most influential leaders to unite his people and resist American expansionism.

I enjoyed reading this book, as it served as a good overview of the war, but the title does not match the content.  After Brock died in 1812, and Tecumseh a year later, the war and the book both carried on, through the Treaty of Ghent and the cessation of hostilities in 1815, which resulted in a reversion to original territorial holdings, a set idea of where borders would lie in the then-upopulated West, and a complete abandonment of the Aboriginal people south of the 49th parallel by England.

Laxer's writing is clear, if a little stiff in places.  He doesn't propose any new theories of the war, nor does he indulge himself in creative prose.  This is a straight-up history book, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Sweet Tooth #37

by Jeff Lemire

The pace of this comic keeps increasing as we get closer and closer to the series's finale in a couple of months.

In this issue, Gus has to deal with the accusations made by Dr. Singh about his parentage and the connection between his birth and the coming of the plague that has wiped out most humans, and the emergence of the new race of animal/human hybrids.

Gus and his friends don't have much time to let this information sink in though, as Abbot and his people are not far behind.  Abbot makes sure that Jeppard knows he's coming, and the few adults left in this title set about making plans to hold them off.

The relationship between Gus and Jeppard has been one of the most interesting things about this title, and Lemire finally places Jeppard in a position to admit to the depth of his affection for the boy, adding emotional weight to the coming confrontation.

This is an excellent series, and it's nice to just sit back and watch it get ready to end.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thief of Thieves #8

Written by Robert Kirkman and James Asmus
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

When you watch a heist movie, things usually end with the criminals having pulled off an amazing job, and riding off into the sunset with their ill-gotten gains.  We never see what happens next. What's it like to wake up the morning after?  There would invariably be some loose ends of some kind or another that need to be addressed, some ruffled feathers that would need to be smoothed.

Basically, it looks like that is the premise of the second arc of Thief of Thieves.  When Robert Kirkman started writing The Walking Dead, he described it as what happens after the end of a zombie movie; I feel like Thief of Thieves is now doing the same thing for its own genre.

For this new arc, Kirkman is joined by James Asmus as 'writer' (I'm curious to know how much they collaborate - does Kirkman plot and Asmus script?  Does Kirkman just provide the rough idea, and Asmus the rest?), and we see what happens after Conrad pulled the wool over everyone's eyes (you really should read the first trade, if you haven't been reading the comics - it's great).

Augustus, Conrad's son, may be out of prison, but he now has to deal with the people whose heroin he lost.  Conrad has some pretty big obligations to pay off to Arno and his colleagues, plus, his ex-wife's new boyfriend is getting under his skin.

What makes this book work (aside from Shawn Martinbrough's excellent art) is the complexity of the characters, as developed by Kirkman and Nick Spencer in the first arc.  Conrad is a very interesting guy, and it's nice to try to work through his thought process.

I was a little worried that this book may not continue moving forward as well as it did in the beginning, but I see I have nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mind the Gap #4

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo

I want to be very clear - I enjoy Mind the Gap a great deal, and appreciate what a unique comic it is.  I'm having some problems with it though.  It tells the story of Elle, a young woman who was attacked in a New York subway station, and is now lying in a coma in the hospital.

That doesn't sound like a comic in which much would happen, but Jim McCann is taking Elle's tragedy and weaving a dense and complex mystery around her - we don't know who attacked her, but just about everyone we've met, from her family, her sort-of boyfriend, a psychiatrist who is now in a coma in the bed next to her's, and possibly even the doctor treating her seem like likely suspects, or are perhaps complicit in what happened.  Working to figure things out (so far, independently) are Jo, Elle's best friend, a doctor who works at the same hospital and has been warned away from her case, and Elle herself, who is spending her time in The Garden, a place she shares with her fellow coma victims.

My problem with the book is that it's becoming a little too precious in it's "Everyone's a suspect!  Everything's a clue!" self-boosterism.  I love and appreciate the various clues that McCann is leaving for us, but I don't know that it's so necessary for him to draw our attention to them.  Personally, I would prefer it if, at some moment when a revelation is made, that it's left to me to figure out whether or not it had been foreshadowed.  Or, you know, the Internet could tell me later.  A good point of comparison would be Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Each page is filled with allusions, nods, and easter eggs, but Moore doesn't fill half the book explaining them.  That's left to people like Jess Nevins on-line, and that works for me.

It's a minor quibble.  This book is very interesting, although I find my attention wandered this issue during the lengthy scene that takes place in The Garden (or in Elle's mind).  I prefer reading about her friends, family, and the goings-on at the hospital.

Rodin Esquejo is turning in some very strong work with this book, although I have to wonder what's going on with the art nouveau-homage covers lately - for a moment, I thought that my comic store had put a copy of last month's Elephantmen in my pull-file.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dead Space: Salvage

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Christopher Shy

I usually avoid comics that are video game adaptions, but the first Dead Space mini-series was written by Antony Johnston (Wasteland) and Ben Templesmith (Fell), two creators I have tremendous amounts of respect for.

And that first mini-series was excellent.  From what I can gather, Dead Space the game is a cross between Aliens and The Walking Dead, where the player works their way through a gigantic spaceship killing reanimated corpses.  There's not a lot of story potential there, but then Johnston added a controversial religion (Unitology), and its most holy relic, the Marker, which causes changes in people, and the series took off.

In Dead Space: Salvage, Johnston returns to this story.  This original graphic novel follows a group of illegal miners who have been strip mining an asteroid belt when they discover the Ishimura, the vessel on which all the Dead Space action takes place.  There are government forces looking for it, so the miners have to figure out how to strip the vessel of any value before being caught.  This causes them to board the ship, and the predictable happens, as corpses come back to life, and a lot of people die.

Johnston downplays the religious aspect in this story, which did cause my interest to wane a little, but the problem I had with this comic lay in Christopher Shy's fully-painted art.  I'm not a big fan of painted comics in general, but I found that Shy's art was unnecessarily stiff and murky.  The characters were not easy to differentiate visually, and some of the action scenes were ambiguous.  Compared to the work that Templesmith did on this series, this does not come close.

I don't know that there is anything new to say in this franchise, but that doesn't usually stop companies from producing more work.