Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Jacen Burrows

I've become very skeptical about Garth Ennis's writing, having become pretty bored with his gross-out humour, but I'm still more than willing to dive in to one of his war comics.

If there's one character that Ennis excels at writing, it's that of the hardened soldier, surrounded by incompetents and/or newbies.  In 303, he introduces us to an unnamed Russian Colonel who fits the mould perfectly.  He is stuck leading a pretty useless group of Russians on a mission in Afghanistan.

It seems that an American plane has gone down in a remote, mountainous region, and it clearly holds some secrets that someone in the American government needs kept that way.  In advance of the American recovery effort, both Britain and Russia have sent men in to take a look around.  Our Colonel and his crew are trailing behind the Brits, but he's determined to catch up.  This leads to some of the usual Ennis-style messed up situations, as the three groups demonstrate the lengths to which they will go for this mission.

The second half of the book is much stranger (I presume this trade is collecting a couple of mini-series or something, as there are three separate stories featuring the same character), in that it features our Colonel embroiled in the plight of migrant workers from Latin America working in an American slaughterhouse.

Still, Ennis writes this book very well, and Jacen Burrows capably illustrates in the usual Avatar house style.  What I like best about this book is the way in which it can be read as a tribute to the Enfield 303 rifle.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Zanta the Living Legend

by Jason Kieffer

Toronto has a proud history of being home to many a street-corner eccentric, and it appears that cartoonist Jason Kieffer has taken on the task of chronicling them through his cartoons.  Kieffer is best known in the city for his controversial book The Rabble of Downtown Toronto, a field guide to the downtown's homeless, drug addicts, and harmless weirdos.  Now, he's turned his gaze on one of our most storied folk, Zanta.

For people not from the city, Zanta is a muscle-bound man who, from 2003 at least until 2008, would pop up around the city, yelling at people, and performing very theatrical push-ups.  I distinctly remember eating lunch at Maison du Croissant (man I miss that place) watching him block traffic while yelling at cars and doing push-ups in the middle of the intersection at Yonge and Gerard.

Zanta was immediately recognizable - he was always wearing just a pair of shorts, a pair of boots, and a Santa hat, no matter the weather.  He often performed his calisthenics on top of newspaper boxes, or upside down in the subway, while making a hydraulic noise, or wishing everyone a "Merry Christmess".

Kieffer's book consists of a few sections.  It begins with a graphic novel transcription of a long interview Kieffer conducted with the man in 2006.  They discuss Zanta's love for this 'character', and he chronicles his many issues with Toronto Police Services and the Toronto Transit Commission's Constabulary.  As time went by, Zanta became banned from an increasingly large section of the downtown core, and TTC property excluding bus routes.  Much of the interview is made up of Zanta defending his actions.

The second section is more straight-forward transcription of a radio interview Zanta gave while locked up in the Don Jail.  In this part of the book, Zanta seems much more mentally ill than he does in the first; gone is the harmless eccentric, replaced by the ravings of a man who seems pretty deluded.

Later, we check in with Zanta when he is free once again, and see that the constant police harassment has broken the man.  That there is no indication that he ever received any kind of useful support or assistance can be seen as an indictment on our whole city.

Still, Kieffer paints Zanta as the type of person who makes the city exciting and unique.  He suggests that we need these types of characters in our lives, and is sympathetic to the man throughout.  This is a fun read, and a nice reminder of an aspect of our city that I haven't seen in many years, and that I miss.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Revival #4

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Revival just keeps getting stranger, but that is by no means a bad thing.  Tim Seeley and Mike Norton's 'rural noir' story is moving in directions that I didn't really expect when I read the first issue, but I'm enjoying the ride quite a bit.

In this small area of rural Wisconsin, the recent dead have come back to life.  What started off as a positive miracle has taken a turn for the negative as some of these 'revivalists' have begun killing people or otherwise acting very strangely.  The police are only beginning to put this together, while the quarantine on the area is causing tempers to fly out of control (the odd handful of poop too).

Seeley is playing with a lot of different characters here, as it's becoming increasingly apparent that characters that originally seemed pretty minor in fact have large roles to play in the story, such as the television reporter we see featured on the cover.  It also seems that the creature we've seen lurking in the woods is possibly a demon; I was thinking alien myself.

While this issue didn't have any references to Doomtree (the main reason why I loved the last issue), it does have a compelling story and terrific artwork.

The Unwritten #42

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

I've felt that The Unwritten has been floundering a little of late, and while this issue looks backwards more than it does forward, I find that my enjoyment of the series has not diminished because of this lack of momentum.

I think what's making this book work so well right now is the addition to the cast of Didge, the Australian police detective whose dyslexia saved her from Pullman's wooden hand, and consequently caused it to short out.

In this issue, Didge tells Tom that she met Lizzie Hexam when she was sent to the Leviathan, and that in turn sets Tom off on a quest to enter the story-world Hades and find her.  Doing this involves an old Australian novel about missing school-children, and a legend about whales (it always comes back to legends about whales with this comic).

Carey and Gross continue, month after month, to impress me with this series, although after Tom's latest foray into the world of fiction, I'm hoping that something is going to happen to move this series towards a final conclusion; I don't want it to become like Fables, and keep creaking along well past it's day.

Prophet #30

Written by Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy
Art by Giannis Milonogiannis and Brandon Graham

Two Brandon Graham books in the same week?  What a great time to enjoy great comics!

This issue of Prophet is one of Graham's best (and that's saying a lot) as he starts to tie together some of the different threads of his story by having characters begin to meet and work together.

This issue opens with a focus on Rein-East, an assassin sent to kill one of a ruling clan on a world we haven't seen before.  She is successful, but also captured.  This part of the comic is very cool, as once again, Graham throws a large number of strange concepts and ideas at us, which all seem perfectly normal within the world he's created.

After that, we check in with Old Man Prophet and his traveling companions.  They've come to the same planet, where Prophet once lived with his greatest love.  Their arrival reminds me of a key scene in The Empire Strikes Back, and they are soon fighting for their lives, joined by Rein-East, and Jaxson, the robotic creature we were introduced to a few months back.

Giannis Milonogiannis handles most of the art in this issue, and his work has really grown on me to where I think he is equal to Simon Roy, the artist who first worked on this book when Graham relaunched it.  Graham himself finishes off the issue with his own art, something I didn't expect and was very happy to see.

Prophet remains one of the best comics being published today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1

by Brandon Graham

It has been years since I read Brandon Graham's Multiple Warheads one-shot from Oni Press, and I never really expected to see its main characters, Sexica and Nikoli, again.  I was very pleased to hear that Graham was returning to this title for what he promises the first of many yearly mini-series.

Multiple Warheads began its life as a porn comic, which explains the main character's name, and why Sexica, the organ smuggler, sewed a wolf's penis to Nikoli, causing him to have 'wolf dreams'.  In the Oni Press issue, which abandoned the porn angle, a spaceship crashed on their neighbourhood, spurring the couple to hit the road.

This series is set in the type of weird future world that has become Graham's stock in trade.  King City, his wonderful comic, is set in a similar world, where familiar things exist alongside weird, wonderful, and pun-based items of amusement.  Our two heroes in this book are driving across the country (world?) to travel to the Impossible City.  We see what their journey is like, as they come across strange beings (Otto Barons are people who are somehow physically attached to their cars), listen to their singing cigarettes, and bemoan the lack of high-quality pastries.

Running parallel to this story, Graham introduces another organ smuggler, Nura.  Her story feels like a bridge between this book and Graham's hugely successful run on Prophet, as this character heads out to track down a Shov Puppet, a person who is able to grow magic organs, and has to kidnap him from a castle perched atop a large walking city.

Graham is one of the most inventive and funny creators working in comics today (I love the Misogyny Parlour - where men declare their hatred of women while getting deep tissue massages by other men with porn star moustaches).  His art is terrific, and also very funny, and the best thing about this comic is that it's a solid 48 pages, with no ads, for $3.99.  This has been a wonderful year for new comics, and Graham has just made it even better!

Mind MGMT #6

by Matt Kindt

The first volume of Mind MGMT ends in a way that makes a lot of sense, as Meru's meeting with Henry Lyme continues to reveal some of the secrets of the Mind MGMT organization, and Meru's place in the world.

Matt Kindt is an incredible comics creator.  He's woven together a rich and dense story, and infused it with situations that are logical, if you accept that people with mind control powers really do run the world.  Meru is an interesting character, as much a puppet of this organization as are the Immortals, even though we are no longer really sure if it still exists or not.

Kindt is clearly having a lot of fun with this book.  He has built up a rich mythology, and has given himself a place to play with some of his wildest ideas.  The blue text running along the left side of each page discusses the existence of the Mind MGMT Field Guide this month; a collection of rules and tips for agents that exists in a virtual environment in their own minds, and which defies description, explanation, or transcription.

As always, Kindt's art is a bit of an acquired taste, but I don't think any other artist would be able to pull this book off the way he does.  Next month, we're being given a 'zero issue', a concept I usually don't like, but I look forward to seeing where Kindt takes this story next, as he transitions into his next big arc.

If you are not reading this comic, you really should be.

Dark Horse Presents #17

Written by Carla Speed McNeil, Phil Stanford, David Chelsea, John Layman, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Corben, Michael Avon Oeming, Tony Puryear, Erika Alexander, Robert Alexander, Colin Lorimer, and Michael T. Gilbert
Art by Carla Speed McNeil, Patric Reynolds, David Chelsea, Sam Kieth, Tony Akins, Richard Corben, Victor Santos, Tony Puryear, Colin Lorimer, and Michael T. Gilbert

I don't know if it's just my mood when I read this anthology this month, but I came away from it feeling a little less than impressed.  There are still some great comics in this book, but somehow, it became much less than the sum of its parts this time around.  Let's review:

  • I love 'Finder', Carla Speed McNeil's epic comics series.  The DHP stories are usually excellent, as they are beautiful.  This month's could have benefitted from the annotations that McNeil has filled her trades with; I kind of had no clue what was going on here, as Jaegar runs with some Laeske females, before being captured by some young people with horns, who appear to be poaching Laeske eggs.  I think.  Like I said, footnotes.
  • For the second month in a row, Phil Stanford's 'City of Roses' feels like a lot of set-up with no pay-off.  Something solid needs to happen here soon.
  • David Chelsea's 'The Girl With the Keyhole Eyes' finally finishes.  It's a cool idea - a free-form poem or stream-of-consciousness comic, but that kind of thing doesn't work in a serial format, and it got kind of repetitive.
  • John Layman and Sam Kieth's Aliens story ends as most Aliens stories do; there's never a surprise there.  This story had some potential, but it never quite reached it.
  • I think that 'Deep Sea', Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Tony Akins's ocean adventure series is very interesting, and one of the most effective pieces here, while still being a standard B-movie genre piece.
  • Richard Corben adapts another Edgar Allan Poe poem, 'The Sleeper'.  It's creepy and atmospheric, and less gender-ambiguously creepy as last month's.  Good stuff.
  • There is a story here by Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos, called 'The Sacrifice', which I guess is a one-off.  It's fine, if you're okay with stories about elves and magic swords in trees.  It's pretty.
  • I've been loving Concrete Park, by Tony Puryear, and I'm excited to see that the two storylines have finally collided (more or less literally), in this, the last chapter of the first 'book'.  Puryear told me that there is going to be more of this story coming soon, and I look forward to that.
  • I vaguely remember the first chapter of Colin Lorimer's UXB from six months back or so, and I remember that I liked it, but I found this new chapter very ambiguous (at the end), and totally lacking in context.  
  • I'm not very enthusiastic about Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster.  Actually, I never bothered to finish this story.
Here's hoping that next month's DHP is a little more impressive.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


by Antibalas

Fela Kuti is alive and well, and curiously, living in Brooklyn.  That's what you might think, were you to listen to Antibalas's latest, self-titled album, without knowing what you were listening to.

The band, having made the move to Daptone Records, continue to channel the Black President in all that they do, while also modernizing his sound, and singing about contemporary issues which Fela would probably be tackling himself, were he still with us.

The album starts with 'Dirty Money', a horn-drenched commentary on our wealth-obsessed culture.  'Rat Catcher' tells a story that also sounds like one Fela would have told.  While the band is excellent and swinging, it is the presence of vocalist Abraham Amayo, who was raised in Nigeria, that elevates this music to a new level.  His lyrics and vocal mannerisms really bring all of these tracks together.  I love waiting for that point in each song (sometimes quite a ways in) where he joins the music.

I saw these guys play about a month ago, and I have to say, if you ever get the opportunity, make sure you don't miss them.  They put on an incredibly high-energy show.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


by Ryat

Ryat's album Totem is hard to describe without invoking the names of other projects, even though it is a very individual project.  Basically, this beautiful forty-minute disc could be pitched as "female Flying Lotus by way of Portishead and Mezzanine-era Massive Attack without the heavy bass lines".  Does that make sense?

Ryat both produces and provides vocals for this breath-taking album.  The Brainfeeder influence is clear on every track - she's clearly hanging out with FlyLo, Thundercat, and the rest, and she holds her own in their company.

Her lyrics and vocals are spacey and rather out there, but the entire album comes across as a very solid package.  This is worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Building Stories

by Chris Ware

Does a book have to be a book to be considered your favourite book of the year?  Chris Ware's new graphic novel Building Stories is a large cardboard box filled with fourteen separate pieces of comics art.  Some of the pieces are hard-bound graphic novels, others large tabloid newspaper shaped stories (think Wednesday Comics), others mini-comics, and still others just long folded strips of paper.

The subject matter is typical Ware.  People live lives of isolation and displeasure in strips meticulously designed with an obsession for architectural and design detail.

The pieces of this box can be read in any order, but I found going in ascending size order more or less progresses through the larger story in a linear fashion.  The earlier pieces I read are all centred around a single three-story apartment building in Chicago.  The later stories are narrated by the woman on the top floor, after she left the building.  This nameless protagonist is the main character, although some of the other residents (including a bee from the hive outside) get a sizeable chunk of story for themselves, as does the building itself.

The old woman on the main floor is the building owner.  She was raised in the building, and looked after both it and her infirm mother until her death, and the time when she settled into an unhappy old age of her own.  The second floor is occupied by a couple who don't seem to get along anymore, yet don't know how to live apart from each other.

The woman on the top floor is the real centre of this box, however.  We slowly piece together her entire life, from the accident (never shown) that takes her leg as a small child, her first serious relationship, her unhappy period of isolation, and eventually her marriage and entrance into motherhood.  Branford (the best bee in the world) also gets some screen time.

I remember having read parts of some of this work in the New Yorker and/or in McSweeney's, but when placed in the context of the rest of the material, everything is much more meaningful and impressive.  Ware is an excellent observer of the human condition, and is capable of casually tossing in moments that can just blow you away with the honesty they portray in the fallibility of his characters.  I found much of this work depressing, but even as it bummed me out, it blew me away.

It's hard to explain the visual wizardry that Ware creates on the page.  His pages set up their own rhythm and flow that is unique among working cartoonists.  He doesn't use a traditional grid, but manages to craft his work in such a way that it's instinctive to follow.  I cannot recommend this book/box enough.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Zaucer of Zilk #1

Written by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing
Art by Brendan McCarthy

When I heard that IDW was publishing a two-issue mini-series by Brendan McCarthy, I immediately knew a few things about it - that it was going to be visually stunning and psychedelic, and that I probably wouldn't understand much of it.

Surprisingly, this comic was pretty straight-forward in terms of its story and plotting, even if it was completely ridiculous from the beginning.  Basically, the role of Zaucer is a hereditary one, and the current Zaucer was the bastard child of his predecessor.  The Zultan of Zilk wants his powerful wand for himself, and so he has been obstructing his cousin's heroic duties.

Enter into all of this Errol Raine, a drippy fellow who also wants the wand's powers.  He abducts Tutu, a groupie who communicates through texting, and the Zaucer has to go rescue her.  The problem is that the Zultan has forbidden interdimensional travel, leaving the Zaucer no choice but to capture himself a pair of wild fancypants, which will let him travel to other worlds.

Like I said, this book is utterly ridiculous.  I love how McCarthy and his co-writer Al Ewing make use of many of the standard features of a hero's journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell, to tell a story that is pretty much all LSD-induced nonsense so wild that it makes Brandon Graham look like Marv Wolfman.

In terms of a comic delivering exactly what it promises, you can't find a better example than The Zaucer of Zilk.  This book is a lot of fun, and is more inventive than any five books from the Big Two put together.

Glory #29

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell

Having never read even a single issue of Rob Liefeld's original Glory series, I don't know if the recent addition to the cast of Glory's sister, Nanaja, involves resurrecting an older character, or if this is someone new to the title.  What I do know is that, despite being about seven feet tall and having a tail, Nanaja is basically Trilby, the character from Ross Campbell's excellent series Wet Moon.  She has Trilby's face, and her mouth, and her inclusion in this book has added a new layer of enjoyment for me.

After having fought off an incursion by her father's people, Glory and her friends pack up their weapons and head to Paris, with the idea that they will recruit Nanaja to aid in their cause.  First though, Glory has to stop off in a small town to visit her old friend Jim, who she fought with in the war.

This leads to a couple of discussions about the dangerous path Glory seems to be taking, and the threat she poses to her human friends Gloria and Riley.  Jim is clearly in love with Glory, but is also more aware of her dangerous nature than anyone else.  It also looks like her reunion with her sister won't be all that pleasant.

I've liked how Joe Keatinge has taken his time explaining all of the problems in this book, but I also feel like it may be time to pick up the pace a little.  Still, this is a refreshingly good comic, and I love Campbell's art.  No one draws women like him, especially gigantic, muscle-bound alien women.

The Sixth Gun #26

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

It's often difficult to find much to say about issues that take place in the middle of an arc.  The Sixth Gun is a terrific book, that does not get as much attention and accolades as it deserves.  It's set in the late 19th Century, in an America that is not unfamiliar with magic and the supernatural.

The book centres on Drake Sinclair, a former gun for hire, and Becky Montcrief, a former simple farm girl.  These two, between them, possess five of a group of six mystical pistols that each have a separate magical ability (one rots its victims, another shoots fire, and so on).  They are being pursued by any number of foes and opportunists, although at the moment, they are trapped in a wintry land by a Wendigo spirit.  In this issue, Drake reveals a story about the time he last encountered a Wendigo, and we learn the truth about the creature's nature, and how to kill it.

While they are hunting for the creature, their friend Gord Cantrell is looking to find them.  He's joined up with the lying gunman Kirby Hale, and the nine-foot tall mummy Asher Cobb.  They are being pursued by the Sword of Abraham, another group who want control over the guns.

This series is fast-paced, exciting, and excellently drawn.  I love how Bunn weaves a variety of traditional beliefs about the supernatural into the narrative, and I always look forward to the next issue.

Saucer Country #8

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ryan Kelly

After two issues of data dumping concerning the existence of aliens and their technology, Paul Cornell returns to his main plotline, as Governor Alvarado prepares herself for a debate during the Democratic primaries.  Her opponent is a pretty smooth player, and Alvarado is still readjusting to life after her abduction.

Cornell gives most of the main characters some space of their own this issue.  The Governor's ex-husband was abducted with her, and he's also having a hard time, missing time, and having some difficulty managing reality (as we see in a beautifully executed, if complicated, scene).

Professor Kidd is using the campaign as cover to investigate other instances of abduction, including that of a woman who may have been on the alien craft the same evening as the Governor.  This is putting him on the trail, and quite probably the radar, of the 'Men in Black', who have a very peculiar way of keeping their existence out of the media, and paying homage to one of my all-time favourite TV shows at the same time.

Cornell is doing some very cool work with this series, and Ryan Kelly is one of the best artists for this book.  He excels at drawing real people, and putting them in real situations.  Few artists can pull off books that involve a lot of scenes of people sitting around talking as well as Kelly can.  This is a great title, and it proves that Vertigo still has some life in it.


by Carlos Niño & Friends

I'm not sure that I entirely understand the love given in hip-hop circles to Carlos Niño.  Sure, his music is hauntingly beautiful, and he was instrumental in the whole Suite for Ma Dukes symphonic interpretation of J Dilla's music (god I love that disc), and he was featured on Exile's brilliant Radio album (he's the guy who keeps saying, "Love, let's say it again" on one track), but it's impossible to listen to Aquariusssssss, his lovely new recording, and think of hip-hop.

This is a collection of pretty ambient music, which some would easily file into a New Age section of a record store.  It's better than that entire genre, but it does have the crashing waves, the bird song, and the random spoken word poetry (all on one track - 'Listening to the conversations of the Birds...').  It also has some terrific music, and the strings of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.  It also has some ridiculous track names, such as 'Bath of Breath Crystal Crescendo', 'Tears Of Transcendence', and 'Trance Elation of Transformance'.  One would expect to find pictures of fractals circa '94 in the liner notes, but instead we get a picture of Niño swimming in the ocean.

As easy as this project is to poke fun at, I find that I love leaving this playing while I'm reading at the end of a long day.  It's not for everyone, but it's lovely.

The Walking Dead #103

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

It's hard to imagine how the events of this issue must have felt for Rick.  Over the years, we've seen him swallow many a bitter pill, as his decisions and mistakes have led to the deaths of many characters that have been important to him.  Still, this issue must have been a rough one.

Negan shows up at the gates with a large force of his Saviors.  He's there to pick the gated community where Rick and his people live clean, as per his new agreement with Rick.  His forces help themselves to mattresses, medicines (just the good stuff), and who knows what else, while Negan basically struts around like he's cock of the walk.

Most of the issue is given over to this debasement, but thankfully, Kirkman does give us two scenes towards the beginning of the issue that tell us what is really going on.

As always, this comic is an excellent read.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #3

by James Stokoe

It's hard to describe how wonderful this comic is.  James Stokoe, an artist like few others, is telling a long story about the people who have worked for half a century to stop Godzilla, and the other monsters like him.

This issue is set in Accra, Ghana, in 1975.  All of the various monsters - Mothra, Hedorah (MF Doom taught me the name was Geedorah, but whatver), Rodan, and all the others, have been summoned to this massive example of 70s urban African sprawl, along with Godzilla.  They haven't come there by chance - there is a clear reason for their behaviour, and it involves an American scientist who has betrayed the AMF (I don't remember what that stands for) and set out for personal gain.

Stokoe quickly introduces a number of new characters, who make up the specialist teams tasked with stopping each of the monsters.  My favourite is the pair who are assigned to Mothra, an afro'ed Black Power type and his bearded hippie companion, who drive around in a tricked out VW van.

Stokoe's work is always visually inventive and almost overpoweringly detailed, and that continues here.  This book is a lot of fun, and is absolutely gorgeous.

Chew #29

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

It's time for another great issue of Chew.  What I'm finding very cool about this book lately is the way in which Tony Chu, the main and title character, has been relegated to a supporting role while he recovers from his injuries.

This month, Tony's sister, his ex-partner, and his other ex-partner's ex-(and still-)partner team up to foil a plan by the powerful cibopath known as the Vampire and the Collector, from adding a new power-set to his collection.

A victuspeciosian has set up a beauty parlour, and the FDA, NASA, and the USDA have decided that they need an inter-agency task force to bring her down.  What's a victuspeciosian you ask?  Well, a victuspeciosian is a person who has the rare ability to use a combination of food products to temporarily alter the appearance of another person into whatever they wish.  I'm sure, for a gifted etymologist, that would be obvious.  The rest of us must continue to rely on John Layman's helpful notes.

As always, this is a fun issue of Chew, with excellent writing and art, a novel situation, and more than a few terrific sight gags.  Oh, and Poyo the cybernetic rooster fights a giant Mecha-Turducken in Japan.  Great stuff.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Activity #9

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Mitch Gerads

Every month, I feel the need to comment on the fact that I like this book, mostly because with every issue, some if the title's flaws get in the way of my full enjoyment of the comic.  I wish this series could fix its problems, because I believe that a terrific comic is hidden in here.

This issue, the team is sent to Somalia to help a British SAS group rescue a British national who is being held by a warlord.  We meet the British team, and one of them shares some awkward flirting with Fiddler.  The mission is put into jeopardy when American missile support moves up their timeline.  Meanwhile, Stateside, plans are made to test the team to make sure that no one has compromised themselves, in the light of some recent mistakes.

The writing is taut, and the pacing very good.  The problem is that, nine issues in, it's still hard to care about these characters, because they haven't been very developed.  I know that's part of this book's shtick - that these people are so dedicated to their job and servicing their country that they don't have personal lives - but it leads to a lack of emotional investment on my part.

The other big problem with this issue is the art.  Mitch Gerads, the usual series artist, switches up his style this issue, giving us a sketchier, more messy style.  It works with the subject matter, but it makes it even more difficult to tell who is who, especially when the action switches from the usual team to the British one.  I'm all for artists experimenting with their style, but storytelling should still come first.

The Activity is a good comic, and Edmondson is writing it intelligently, by allowing the on-going story of what's happening at command levels to build with each issue, while still spotlighting the mission.  There are things that need to be fixed though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Y'Anbessaw Tezeta

by Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Friends

While looking for music I'd never come across before in New York this summer, at the excellent store Other Music, I was told to check out Y'anbessaw Tezeta, a two-disc collection of work by Ethiopian jazz artist Getatchew Mekuria and the Ex, an underground punk band from the Netherlands.

It sounds unlikely, but this is an amazing album.  Mekuria sets the tone, as most of the tracks are clear and triumphant ethio-jazz of the style one would expect from a Mulatu Astatke album, although there is a rawness to the album that comes across as a bit of a surprise.

Many of the songs on the first disc are traditional Ethiopian pieces that have been re-imagined for a jazz audience.  The second disc is a little more diverse, as it has some free jazz pieces, and more influence from The Ex.

I cannot recommend this album enough.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Point of Impact #1

Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Koray Kuranel

I haven't really read any of Jay Faerber's comics (I do own the first trade of Near Death, but haven't gotten to it yet), but was so drawn to this new mini-series by its cover, that I thought it was time to check him out.

In fact, the cover is really the first panel of the comic (a trick that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons first used in Watchmen), which opens with a woman being tossed off a roof, and landing on a parked car.  From this event, the wheels of a pretty good crime comic start turning.

We learn that this woman, Nicole, has a journalist husband, and that she attended yoga classes with the detective who is now the primary in her case.  We also learn that she has a secret boyfriend, and that he is most likely the reason for her being killed, but we don't have a clue as to what that reason is.

When the husband returns home, he startles a burglar, who is there to steal a laptop.  Why he's looking for a laptop in a chest of drawers escapes me, since it's clearly on a table, but other than that, this is a taut and exciting first issue, that does a good job of introducing all of the major characters.

I'm definitely coming back next month for more.

Stumptown Vol. 2 #2

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

Reading the first issue of the new volume of Stumptown last month, I did kind of wonder how finding a missing guitar could be a meaty enough case to keep bumbling private investigator Dex Parios busy for an entire mini-series.  Of course, there is a lot more going on than Dex realized when she took on the job.

In a very short time, it became apparent that this case was going to be a lot more complicated than Dex originally thought.  In short order, she's had to deal with skinheads, the DEA, and now a somewhat reluctant client.

Much of this issue is given over to a conversation between Dex and Click, the drummer in the band that Dex's client plays guitar for.  There is some clear chemistry between Dex and Click, who artist Matthew Southworth must be basing on a real person, because he has such a distinctive face.

Rucka excels at these types of stories, where the main character is stuck in the middle of events she has no clear understanding of.  Dex's natural defensiveness and ingenuity plays out nicely against her occasional physical awkwardness.  I love the scene where she ends up literally falling into her client's basement.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Punk Rock Jesus #4

by Sean Murphy

When starting to read Sean Murphy's series Punk Rock Jesus, I hoped to see the scenes that are in this issue.  This series has followed the birth and early childhood of Chris, the clone of Jesus Christ, who has spent his entire life as the star of J2, a reality TV show.

In the last issue, Chris's mother was fired from the show, and at the beginning of this one, she returns to the J2 complex with armed men supplied by the New American Christians.  This attack ends in Gwen's death, the firing or Thomas the chief of security, and Chris's utter disenchantment with his upbringing.  He begins a secret tutelage in history, philosophy, and punk music, which leads to his ultimate act of rebellion at a public appearance.

It's rare that I find myself actively rooting for a character while I read a comic, while smiling throughout an issue.  Chris echoes many of my own thoughts and beliefs, as he moves from being a meek and shy child into a raging, aggressive teenager who fronts a punk band.  Thomas, meanwhile, reconnects with his own roots in Ireland.

This has been a great series, and with two issues left to go, I can't wait to see where Sean Murphy takes us.  I can see how some people (really, mostly Americans that are thinking about voting for Romney), will be upset by this comic, and I kind of wish Fox News would run a story or two about how awful it is, because I want Murphy to experience some of the amazing sales that religious notoriety can bring.

Murphy has always impressed me as an artist, but this series is making clear that the man can write with the best of them.  He took his time setting up the storyline and characters, and is casually working in references to what the near-future offers, such as a large, abandoned flood zone in lower Manhattan.  This is a great series.

The Walking Dead: Michonne Special #1

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

I haven't gone back and read any issues of The Walking Dead since I started reading the series around issue 7.  It's one of those books that I would love to, one day, go back and read from the beginning, but seeing as I can't keep up with things I want to read for the first time, it's not likely to happen.

That's why this Walking Dead Michonne Special is a treat in a few ways.  It reprints the Michonne story that was published in Playboy Magazine back in the spring, and weaves it into The Walking Dead #19, which is Michonne's first appearance.

For people who don't know, Michonne has had one of the more memorable introductions in the series, showing up in the middle of chaos carrying a sword and dragging two jawless and armless zombies behind her on chains.  She oozed menace in her first few appearances, although she has since grown into a complex and valuable member of the book's cast.  She is also going to be appearing as a regular character in Season Three of the television show, which returns this week to AMC.

The Playboy story gives us Michonne's 'origin', in so far as it shows us how she survived the early zombie days, and how she got her sword and silent companions.  It's a good story, and helps remind us of the type of person Michonne was before the world ended, and what a total badass she was when she first showed up in this comic.  I can't believe that was some eighty issues ago - I still think of her as one of the newer characters.

It was reading issue 19 again that really got me excited though.  This story is set at the prison that Rick and his crew moved into, right at the point that they have a big conflict with one of its inhabitants.  Their argument leads to a large swarm of roamers attacking, and all hell breaks loose.  As crazy as The Walking Dead has been lately, it was a bit of a trip to look back at those early days, when the stakes seemed even higher.  It was also nice to see a large number of characters that are not in the comic any more.

Usually, I don't appreciate reprint comics, and I don't like spending money on something that I already own, but this was an enjoyable package.  Bring on Season Three!

Conan the Barbarian #9

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Vasilis Lolos

Pretty much, every month I marvel at just how much I am enjoying this take on Robert E. Howard's classic character Conan.  I'm going to try not to focus on the fact that Brian Wood and his collaborators have made me like a barbarian character that I always found boring before, and instead just talk about the quality of the art in this series.

This title opened with (and later featured again) Becky Cloonan.  Since then, we've seen art by James Harren, and now Vasilis Lolos.  These are some pretty street-cred indie artists drawing a series set in a medieval world where people solve their problems with swords.  These artists bring a pretty different sensibility to a character who most people still associate with Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema, and that is a big part of why this series is so awesome.

Lolos draws the hell out of this issue, including an incredible scene with wolves attacking Belit the pirate queen.  Conan finally finds the man who has stolen his identity and has been devastating the Cimmerian countryside.  We learn that there is a connection between the two men going back to their shared childhood, in what ends up being a little bit of a morality play on the dangers of bullying, but I can forgive that, as the rest of the book is terrific.

It's been great to see Lolos drawing again, and I look forward to reading the second volume of his OGN series Last Call, which has just been solicited for December in this month's Previews.  It's always great when someone you respect artistically gets back in the game.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Creep #2

Written by John Arcudi
Art by Jonathan Case

On the surface, this comic seems pretty strange.  It's about a private investigator with a growth disorder that causes him to suffer all sorts of physical problems, who is investigating the suicide of a former girlfriend's teenage son.  It's not your typical noir plot, but John Arcudi and Jonathan Case are doing some very cool things with it.

The investigator, Oxel, is a very interesting character.  He's terrified of seeing his client because she knew him before his disease set in, and he's not comfortable with her seeing what he became.  Because of that, he's focusing too much of his time on the mother of the teenager's best friend, who also committed suicide a few months beforehand.

Arcudi gives us plenty of opportunities to see how other people respond to Oxel, from the tough guys who hang out on the street corner, to the average person he comes across in his investigations.  He is aware of how his looks ease his job, but he is reluctant to discuss them with anyone, as that causes the effect to disappear.

The grandfather of the dead boy is another interesting figure.  He's homeless, and very mentally ill, having suffered a break after the boy's death.  Jonathan Case does some cool things with him, drawing his fugue states in a completely different style, that looks a lot like Toby Cypress's (I was sure that's who had drawn the first page of this issue).

In this issue, Oxel moves closer to what he is looking for, but it's still not clear just what that is.  It's becoming increasingly obvious that the boys both killed themselves over something that happened with the grandfather.  My first inclination is to see this as a comic about abuse, as if it were written by Andrew Vachss, but I suspect that Arcudi has something more subtle in mind.

The Massive #5

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

I've been enjoying The Massive a great deal since it began, but this is easily my favourite issue so far.  I felt that Brian Wood finally slowed down a little, and focused his story perfectly on a done-in-one story that introduced a new character, developed a major one a little better, perfectly used a cool new idea, and helped illustrate the realities of the world, post-Crash.

In this issue, Mary, one of the central command staff on The Kapital, accompanied by Ryan, the Ninth Wave's sole American recruit, journeys inland in Antarctica to search for a source of clean drinking water with which to resupply their ship.  She has knowledge of a facility that uses geothermic energy to melt the cleanest water on the Earth.  The problem is that she and Ryan are met by people who have been squatting in the facility.

Mary has been an interesting figure since this book started.  She's very capable, although we know nothing about her, and her strange connection to the world's oceans.  While we don't learn anything about her past, we do get to know her a little better, especially through her interactions with Ryan, who has always had difficulty fitting into the larger group because of her American-ness.  I hope that Mary's (and Mag's) connections to the ocean don't turn out to be mystical or fantastical in nature, as I feel that this book is very grounded in reality right now.

This issue was very well plotted, and had a real sense of immediacy to it.  With the cast of the comic not being very set yet, it's easy to imagine Wood killing people off.  Garry Brown's art has grown on me really quickly, and now I think I prefer him to Kristian Donaldson on this title.

If you aren't reading The Massive, you're missing one of the best new comics of this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Morning Glories #22

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

Things take a turn or two to the even weirder in the latest issue of Morning Glories.  Almost since this excellent title began, I've been comparing it to the TV show Lost, in its themes, structure, and execution.

If you accept that comparison as being valid, then we are at the point where people showed up at the base of the three-toed statue.  Irina and the group of students who we met over the last few issues (Jun's former classmates at Abraham's school in the desert) reveal that everyone has moved through time to some point after ancient Sumeria fell to ruins, and that their mission is to rescue Abraham from some sort of threat that is never really made clear.  Hunter continues to be our point-of-view character through this arc, and he's confused as hell, despite having spent his entire life steeped in movies that have similar plots.

Things get very strange in the ruins of a Sumerian temple, as the students all suddenly speak different languages, and it becomes clear that Irina is working her own plan, that has nothing to do with Abraham's original intention for these kids.

This issue is shot through with flashbacks to two years previous, when this new group of students arrived at the Morning Glory Academy.  Their experiences closely mirror what the students we know went through in the early issues of this book, with some differences.  Instead of almost being drowned in a classroom, they were almost burned alive.

This continues to be a very compelling read, although I'm getting a little confused as to just where everything and everyone stands.  The latest solicitation in Previews (for issue 25) claims that it will be the end of the 'first season' of the series.  That means that either a lot has to get resolved in a short space of time, or that Spencer is building towards one hell of a cliffhanger.  I hope there isn't a long hiatus between 'seasons', as I really enjoy reading this book semi-monthly.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Distant Star

by Roberto Bolaño

Sometimes, reading Bolaño, I begin to suspect that he really only ever wrote one book, but published all of its chapters separately.

Distant Star takes its start from Nazi Literature in the Americas, wherein Bolaño profiles a variety of invented fascist and right-wing writers, who interact with the real literary world of North and South America.  It's an interesting book, but it's ultimately a fictionalized encyclopedia.  That book's shining moment is the entry on Carlos Ramírez Hoffman, a poet/pilot who wrote his poems in the sky and who was also a vicious killer.

It would seem that these twenty-five pages resonated with Bolaño, because he revisits the story, expanding it into a complete, if somewhat disjointed novel.

In this book, the character of Hoffman is given a different name - Alberto Ruiz-Tagle.  He, the narrator, and a third young poet, Bibiano O'Ryan are the only poets to attend two weekly workshops, run by two of Chile's better poets, who, while being friends, were ideological and stylistic opposites.  Ruiz-Tagle, the self-professed autodidact, is a bit of a mystery to the two young poets, and they make a point of following his non-existant career.

After the military coup, Ruiz-Tagle becomes involved with people in the Pinochet regime, and uses his new position to exact a gruesome revenge on the beautiful Garmendia sisters.  After that, he is never heard from again under that name, but does resurface as Carlos Wieder, the skywriting poet.  Wieder becomes an object of fixation in Chilean literary society, both for his page-defying poetic practice, and his disturbing art exhibition.

This book splinters and fragments all over the place, much as Chile's exiled literati did, as Wieder becomes an object of fascination for the narrator and O'Ryan.  As is typical in a Bolaño book, however, many chapters are not about Wieder at all, as we get short biographies of some of the other writers in the book.  Later, an ex-police officer goes looking for Wieder, and presses the narrator into his service.

This book presents many of Bolaño's usual themes - the search for a missing writer, and the invention of an entire literary scene.  As is usual, the narrator is living in the moments when these things happen, but they never really affect him, even on the rare occasions when he becomes personally involved.

Bolaño is always a fascinating writer, and I found this novel to be among his more accessible.

Rebirth of Detroit

by J Dilla

There is a real law of diminishing returns in action with posthumous musical releases.  Basically, the best stuff either came out while the artist was still alive, or was in the pipeline at the time of his death.  Once you move a few years down the road, people trying to keep an artist's legacy alive are left searching long-forgotten thumb drives for beats the artist dashed off in an afternoon, and then abandoned for a reason.

There are some great tracks on Rebirth of Detroit, the latest in a long line of posthumous Dilla releases, but they are few and far between.  For the most part, this album features a lot of lesser-known Detroit rappers spitting over Dilla's C-game.

I appreciate the effort made by Ma Dukes and whoever worked on this with her (although there has been some controversy about how the album really got made) to include the next generation of Detroit MCs, but not everyone on here deserves a Dilla track, even if its not his best.  We also get a lot of tracks featuring the usual Detroit artists, like Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, Fat Ray, Frank Nitt, and of course, Illa J.  It would have been nice to see some of Dilla's other friends, like Common or Madlib grace a track or two.

Because I want to spend my time being positive, let's look at the brightest notes here.  There are two tracks which feature the musician Allan Barnes, from the Blackbyrds.  These are easily the best on the album - on 'Requiem', he's playing a wind instrument over a nice mellow Dilla beat, and on 'The Best That Ever Did It', which features the rapper Jon C., he plays his sax.  That track uses a beat Dilla released before (I want to say it's on Jay Love Japan, but I could be wrong), but it sounds amazing with the saxophone added on.

I also really like the track 'Let's Pray Together' with Amp Fiddler.  There are some decent bangers elsewhere on this disc, but I think I'll stick to playing Donuts and Ruff Draft if I need my Dilla fix.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What the World Needs Now

by The Sugarman 3

There is a certain sound that the listener has come to expect from a Daptone Records album, but the Sugarman 3 don't always fit into that exact style.

They are a funk band that mostly consists of three men (only the sax player has the last name Sugarman), although they are supported here by six other musicians, and from time to time, two vocalists.  Their music is funky, but also a little gimmicky, like it's being written for a cartoon or a commercial.  Reading that back, it sounds a little harsh - I mean that in the best way.

This new album, What the World Needs Now is much stronger than their earlier releases, such as the overly-gimmicky Soul Donkey.

The sillier outings on this record are the ones written by Mr. Sugarman, such as 'Your Friendly Neighbourhood Sugarman', and 'Witch's Boogaloo'.  The covers, such as their take on Burt Bacharach's title track, come off stupendously.

The Marquis Vol. 1 Inferno

by Guy Davis

I have been a fan of Guy Davis's work since I first came across it in the pages of Sandman Mystery Theatre, the excellent Vertigo series that followed the early career of the Golden Age Sandman.  I've also found a great deal of enjoyment from Davis's work with B.P.R.D., but I had never read his solo work, The Marquis.

To be completely honest, I was disappointed.  I had pretty high hopes for this book, because the concept sounded terrific.  Set in an alternate history in a fictional city in 18th Century France, the Church has taken over most aspects of society.  There is an almost fetishistic obsession with confession, and Inquisitors run the show.  This city, Venisalle, has been overrun with demons who are inhabiting the bodies of the citizens.

One elderly man has the ability to see these demons for what they really are, and the ability to dispatch them back to hell.  He takes on the guise of The Marquis, a masked and cloaked figure armed with very special firearms and a sword, and he tracks them down, gaining the attention of the Inquisition at the same time.

It should be really cool, right?  Especially given Davis's incredible artistic skills, and penchant for creating incredibly bizarre creatures.  The problem is that the first story, Danse Macabre, which takes up most of this book, is in fact pretty dull.  The two subsequent stories, 'Hell's Courtesan' and 'A Sin of One' are much better though, and by the time I finished this volume, I was wishing there was more to read.

Davis worked on these comics over many years, and it's clear that over that time, he learned much about the craft of writing comics.  I would not hesitate to pick up a new Guy Davis-written comic (especially if he drew it), but I can't really recommend this book.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Westward #1

By Ken Krekeler

I gave this a serious look through at the comics shop last week, but decided not to give it a try.  Then, I read at the Comics Should Be Good blog about how this is an excellent comic, so I added it to my haul for this week.

It is a very good comic.  Ken Krekeler is telling a pretty different storie in this series.  We open with a few establishing scenes that let us know that we are a little ways into the future, and that not everyone is happy with corporate dominance.  We don't know much more than that though, when we are introduced to Victor, who has just woken up from a ten-year long coma.  He has no real memories, although his personality seems intact.

As the comic progresses, we learn that Victor is the son of the owner of Westward Enterprises, a very powerful corporation with a wide variety of holdings.  His sister, Annabelle, more or less runs the company now.  We also learn, through flashback, that Victor was a high-priced model and complete and total moron.

What we don't know, but can start to figure out, is just what kind of accident Victor was in, why so many people are so interested in just how his recovery is going, and why the 'manifold' project, which seems to involve him, has been so expensive.  There are a couple revelations handed to us in quick succession at the end of the book that make me look forward to the next one.

Krekeler is a fine writer, and his art is serviceable, in a way that reminds me a little of when Brian Michael Bendis used to draw his own comics (if he had a steampunk aesthetic).  This is a nice thick comic, that only cost $2.99.  There is definitely more than enough going on here to bring me back for the next issue.  You should ask your store to start carrying this, or order a copy online from Krekeler; it's very good.

Sweet Tooth #38

by Jeff Lemire

As a long-running series like this gets closer and closer to its big finish, it becomes ever more difficult to say anything new about the final few issues.

Abbot, the main villain of this series, is approaching the small Alaskan town where Jeppard, Gus, and the rest of the cast have holed up.  Jeppard and Jimmy, his old hockey buddy, plan on holding off the attackers so that Becky can escape with the hybrid children.

As usual, plans don't work out the way they are supposed to, and this is probably the bloodiest and most violent issue of this series to date.

Lemire continues to play around with the layout of his pages, and continues to do some very cool things with this book.  I love the two facing pages where Jimmy lights some dynamite as a way of slowing down Abbot's men.  The lit fuse travels around one page before blowing up the explosives on the opposite one.  It's little tricks like that that have kept this series so entertaining from the beginning.


Written by Curt Pires
Art by Ramon Villalobos

I'm always up for an interesting, attractive self-published comic, so when I saw and flipped through this one-shot at the store I shop at this week, I figured it was worth bringing home.

LP is a comic about F, a rock star who owns a particular record.  It's not clear just what the record does for him, but when it gets stolen backstage during one of his shows, he feels the need to track it down and slaughter the people who have it.  He finds it at the right time too, because the drug dealers he owes money to want it for themselves.

This is not a particularly long comic, but it's pretty enjoyable.  Curt Pires develops F's character and world just enough to give the story a more textured feel than we would get in a shorter piece, but it's Ramon Villalobos who is the star of this show.  His art reminds me of Geof Darrow and Rafael Grampá, in that it's highly detailed and pretty crazy at the same time.

Apparently this book was available at Fan Expo this summer, but I missed it.  I'm glad I got a chance to catch up with it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Non-Humans #1

Written by Glen Brunswick
Art by Whilce Portacio

Often in comics, great ideas lack the execution or follow through that would allow them to become great comics.  I was unsure about picking up Non-Humans, the new series (mini-series?) by Glen Brunswick and Whilce Portacio.  I'm disappointed to say that this is an example of that type of idea.

Brunswick caught my eye with his series Killing Girl, which also didn't live up to its potential (but the blame for that lies in the shift in artists half-way into the project).  Portacio is an artist that I've both liked and disliked over the years.  He was a cool alternative to artists like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld back in the pre-Image days, but at other times, I've found his storytelling difficult to follow, and his art very unclear.

I think Portacio is the biggest problem with Non-Humans.  The central idea is very interesting.  NASA space probes have brought a strange disease back to Earth that causes inanimate objects to come to life.  Somehow, this birthing is caused by a person who is carrying the disease, which is most active in adolescents.  That means that it is most frequently toys that gain life.

The implications of this are wide-spread.  Everyone between the ages of 13 and 18 are forced to take medication to deaden their creative impulses, leaving the world full of addicts who have to continue buying the pills on the black market once they hit the age of 19.  It also means that toys and other things that spark imagination, such as the Internet and television, have been banned.

The living Non-Humans are conferred some basic rights, assuming they have the appropriate paperwork, but they are discriminated against, and live in ghettos.  One Non-Human, Humphrey, a former ventriloquist's doll, has made a name for himself as a serial killer and assassin for hire.

Our hero in this series is Detective Aimes, your typical overworked brilliant detective, who comes complete with a failed marriage and a difficult relationship with his son Todd.  Todd has been dating a Victoria Secrets mannequin, and they want to start a family, so he's stopped taking his medication.  Aimes has to manage this issue, hunt for Humphrey, answer to his bosses, and break in a new partner.

That part of the story is pretty standard stuff, but Brunswick makes the characters interesting.  The problem for me is mostly visual.  Many of these Non-Humans are impossible to understand.  Action figures, mannequins, stuffed animals all make sense, but there are some truly horrific, human-sized things wandering around in this future world, and I don't understand what they are supposed to be, or why anyone would have made them.  There is a Non-Human detective, named Medic, and he looks like a robot.  Were he a crash-test dummy, it would make sense, but this doesn't.

And, as is usual with a Whilce Portacio comic, there are sequences I just can't decipher.  I wish this comic had a stronger artist, and had been workshopped a little further, because it's an interesting read.  At this point, I'm not sure if I'll be getting the next issue or not.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thief of Thieves #9

Written by Robert Kirkman and James Asmus
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

How much literature is built around the theme of sons trying to claw their way out of the shadow of their fathers?  It's not hard to think of many examples, but I am having a harder time thinking about stories about fathers being disappointed by their children.  We tend to root for the underdogs, so therefore it is the children of the powerful, domineering, or wildly successful that we have more sympathy for, than for the men who have perfected their craft, and have to deal with the awkwardness of having their offspring attempt to follow, and fail utterly.

This, however, is what the second arc of Thief of Thieves is most focused on.  Conrad has gone to great lengths to get his son Augustus out of jail, and make it so that the FBI had to drop their charges against him.  Now though, Augustus is owing money to some very dangerous people, and is just not smart or skilled enough to keep himself out of trouble.  He's spent too many years trading on his father's reputation, and is now expected to produce the master thief, if he wants to protect his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Conrad has discovered, through his own sense of hubris, that the FBI agent that has pursued him so vigorously over the years, has decided instead to target Augustus, since he's easily the weakest link.

This arc is very well plotted, and nicely scripted by James Asmus, who is a positive addition to the team.  Shawn Martinbrough is always brilliant.  I can't think of many other noir family dramas - this is an original and very cool book.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fatale #8

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Fatale is such a great series.  This second arc has jumped in time into the seventies, although the series central figure, in flashbacks at least, Jo, has not aged or changed.  This issue ties the first and second arcs together in a number of ways.

The book opens with another present day 'interlude', featuring Nick, who is still trying to figure out the mystery surrounding his godfather, Dominick Raines, Jo, and the creepy men who are following him around.  Nick has gone into hiding while trying to figure out his next move, although he can't stay away from misfortune.  He suddenly remembers that he met Jo in his past, in an interesting scene which is later shown from a different perspective in the flashback.

Back in the 70s, Jo is rather freaking out, knowing that the cult she has been hiding from has discovered that she is alive and in LA.  She is wracked with uncertainty, and is more than happy to find comfort in the arms of the failed actor who has been our POV character in this arc.

We also learn a lot more about Hansel, the leader of the Method Church, and what his goals really are.

This is an incredibly well-scripted and drawn comic.