Thursday, February 28, 2013

Skullkickers #19 / Uncanny Skullkickers #1

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Kevin Raganit

It's been a little while since we've seen the Skullkickers, so I was pretty happy to be able to pick up a new issue this week.  For this new arc, called 'Eighty Eyes on an Evil Island', writer Jim Zubkavich is having a little fun with the comics industry.  So far, each issue of the arc that's been solicited so far has been listed as a new #1 issue of a title which has simply changed an adjective or two in order to justify a 'relaunch'.  This issue was solicited as Uncanny Skullkickers #1, but it was also possible to pick it up with the cover, title, and numbering shown to the right.  I hope that this little stunt gets Zubkavich the notice he's looking for, because Skullkickers is an excellent series that more people need to be paying attention to.

As this arc opens, Rex and Kusia wake up on a remote beach, having been washed ashore after their sea-faring misadventures of the last story arc.  They have no idea where they are, and are left with a meager amount of supplies.  It's not long before the elfin Kusia has hunted up some meat, while Rex has found himself a small patch of shade in which to enjoy some rum.  Later, there is an attack by vicious horned turtles, and some jungle-slogging, which leads to an unfortunate discovery.

Running along the bottom of each page is another strip, which keeps us current with the Dwarf who is usually the star of this book.  It's one of the more exciting comics sequences I've ever read.

Skullkickers is a lot of fun, and it looks like Zubkavich is having a good time switching up the formula a little by rearranging the players.  Next month, I guess things in this book are going to be a little more canny, but also a lot more savage...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Massive #9

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Garry Brown

When The Massive, Brian Wood's post-environmental collapse series began, I thought I had a pretty clear handle on it, and that the book really would be about the search for The Massive, the missing vessel owned by Ninth Wave, the environmental direct action group.  Along the way, I assumed that the crew of the Kapital would explore the new world that Wood has figured out, and that basically, the series would be like the first half of Wood's other series, DMZ, only set on the ocean.

Then this new arc, 'Subcontinental' started, and it became more and more clear that there is a lot more going on in this series, even if I have no idea what it all is yet.  I feel like Wood has been peppering this book with clues to a whole other story, that only a little of which has been revealed now.

The Kapital has come to call at Moksha Station, a community of commandeered oil platforms in the Indian Ocean.  Ninth Wave's leader, Callum Israel, has been captured by Sumon, the station's director, after his girlfriend Mary destroyed Moksha's communication array.  While this is going on, Mag, the Kapital's third in command, has arranged for some kind of work to be done with a transponder, and his assistant Georg has gone after a nuclear submarine that sits under the station.  Israel knows nothing about any of this, and at the same time, we learn that he is harbouring a pretty big secret of his own.

This series began with a large number of lengthy info dumps, so it's pretty cool to realize that Wood was really playing his cards close to his vest at the same time.  I've been intrigued by this book since it started, but this latest issue has really ramped up my interest.  It's a very good, very nice-looking series.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Conan the Barbarian #13

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Mirko Colak

The last story arc in this title was pretty tough on Conan.  He was alone among the crew of the Tigress in staving off a deadly disease which, while allowing everyone to recover, exacted a terrible price from Conan and his lover, the pirate queen Bêlit.

With this new arc, 'The Woman on the Wall', Bêlit has returned to her homeland of Shem, and has left her ship.  After helping the crew with repairs for a while, Conan decides to go after her, but soon finds himself conscripted into a large army which is laying siege to the fortress city of Ramah En Ram.

What makes this siege stand out for all of the men involved is the nightly appearance of a pale, beautiful woman who walks the ramparts of the fortress.  She is the cause of much speculation among the soldier, but it is only Conan who knows for certainty who she is.

Brian Wood writes this book extremely well.  Reading this story brought to mind the arc in Northlanders, his Viking history series, that dealt with the siege of Paris, but this is handled very differently.  Conan's character shines through in many instances, most especialy when he takes his fellows to task for their attitudes.

Mirko Colak joins the series as artist for this arc, and he gives the book a much more realist vibe than previous artists have.  His characters all carry a great deal of weight to themselves, and it makes this arc feel more grounded.  It's good stuff.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saga #10

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

I often find it hard to discuss each new issue of Saga.  I love the book, and most of the main characters in it, but issue after issue, I find I have little new to say about the comic.

Brian K. Vaughan picked the right title for this comic.  This really is a saga - a story so immense that the forward momentum of any particular issue does little to progress the larger plot.  In this issue, Marko and his mother find Izabel, the ghostly baby-sitter, Hazel loses her umbilical stump, a planetoid-egg hatches, and The Will finds our heroes.

What I found most significant in this issue though, was the flashback that showed us just how Marko and Alana fell in love, and the moment when she decided to free him from her people's captivity.  Time and again since the series started, we've heard reference to Alana's love for a romance novel; now we know that it is this same book that brought her and her enemy prisoner together.  I like how this metaphorical bodice-ripper is examined by the characters, and how it also reveals a few things about Vaughan's plans for this series, or so I imagine.

Fiona Staples's artwork is, as always, gorgeous.  I do want to say that the last page made me very unhappy, and I am hoping that the suggested character death we saw there is going to be resolved happily.

Revival #7

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Since its beginning, I've found that Tim Seeley's Revival has been a difficult comic to peg down.  Story elements have been introduced, and then almost instantly back-burnered or down-played, while new characters and sub-plots appear almost at random.

This issue has Officer Dana Cypress, who is pretty much the book's main character, continue to investigate the reviver-involved murder of a local doctor, who happened to be sleeping with his step-sister.  While this takes place, we check in with her sister Martha, who is herself a Reviver (the premise of this series is that, in this small Wisconsin community, the dead all came back to life, and many of them seem a little off), who runs into a fellow Reviver in a store.

On the periphery of the town, where a quarantine has been set up, Seeley begins to explore some new aspects of this story.  A Fox-News style religious broadcaster has shown up suggesting that people are being kept out of the town because the government does not want good Christians to participate in "the Rapture".  This is an interesting aspect to add to the story, especially after a bus crash reveals some pretty strange things going on.

Nowhere in this book do we learn anything more about the strange ghost-like creatures that are prowling the woods around the town, but we do meet three guys who are cutting people up with a circular saw.  I have no idea who they are, or what their deal is, and I'm not even sure that they will be addressed in the next issue, as Seeley is pacing this book rather strangely.

Still and all though, this is a very well-written comic in terms of characterization and concept, and I have always been a sucker for Mr. Norton's art.

The Sixth Gun #29

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

Two issues of The Sixth Gun, between this one and the beginning of its new spin-off mini-series, is quite a treat for one week.

This issue finishes off the 'Winter Wolves' arc, which really ended last month, as Drake and Becky meet up with their friend Gord Cantrell, who played a large role in rescuing them from their wintry fate.  They are not too happy to see who Gord's traveling companions are, as they both have some bad history with Kirby Hale and Asher Cobb.

Now that the band is all back together, they figure that it's time to go after Missy Hume, the widow of General Hume, and the only other person to possess one of the Six Guns.  Becky decides to pay a visit to Missy herself, using her gun's special abilities.  This in turn leads Missy to visit a potential ally, promising that this series is going to continue to ramp up in intensity.

Bunn and Hurtt have put together a very consistently enjoyable series, and that continues to be true.  It looks like the next story arc, 'Ghost Dance' is going to feature Native American characters, and not simply rely on their mythology, as has been the case numerous times over the course of the series.  I've really been enjoying the way that Bunn has woven mystical aspects into the traditional Western setting, and so the addition of "Indians" is more than welcome.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mind MGMT #8

by Matt Kindt

As we move ever deeper into Matt Kindt's unique and excellent series Mind MGMT, I find that my enjoyment of it only increases.  With this current arc, the once-again amnesiac Meru has begun working with Henry Lyme, the most powerful Mind MGMT agent of all time, to stop a former agent known as The Eraser from putting the agency back together.

In this issue, Meru and Lyme visit Perrier, the surviving member of a pair of sisters who, when working together, had the ability to create novels and graphic texts that could influence peoples' behaviour.  The book starts with an excerpt from their graphic novel/memoir, which helps reestablish the characters, and bring us up to date on their abilities.  As Lyme recruits Perrier, it becomes clear that everyone is going to have to travel back to Zanzibar, which is a location of great significance for all involved.  They are being pursued by other former agents, and things don't go smoothly.

Kindt continues to really impress with this book.  I love the way that he's structured this story, so that despite the fact that reader knows more about the MGMT than Meru, we are still able to discover new things alongside her.  I also love some of the meta touches that Kindt works into the story.  After reading Perrier's bio, Lyme comments that he "never liked the art", which I'm sure is something that Kindt hears, seeing as his style is so unique.

Apparently there has been talk lately that Kindt has sold the movie rights to this title.  I think that means it's a great time for new readers to start checking this out, not just because it's a wonderful book, but so you can feel superior to your friends when the film comes out.

Fatale #12

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Since its inception, Fatale has been following Josephine, a mysterious woman who doesn't age, and who has some control over the actions of men.  The first story was set in the 30s, while the second took place in the 70s.  Last issue, which was a done-in-one story, saw Josephine investigating her own strange situation, and talking to an author who has some insight into condition, based on his own experiences in the 1890s.

This issue is quite different from anything that has gone before, as Brubaker takes us to the Languedoc region of France in the late thirteenth century.  Here, we meet Mathilda, a woman who can not be injured, and who never ages.  She doesn't understand any more about herself than Jo does, and after fleeing a religious group that tried to burn her at the stake, she ends up living in a small cabin in the woods with an older man.

This story doesn't give us a whole lot of insight into Josephine, or the cult that is pursuing her, but it does establish that these 'femmes fatale' have been around for a long time, and that the larger story of Fatale has some very deep roots.

A comic by Brubaker and Phillips is always enjoyable, and I was very pleased to see that Bettie Breitweiser, my current favourite colourist, has joined the team.  She did incredible work on Brubaker's Marvel books (Captain America and Winter Soldier), and I like looking at her work with Sean Phillips. This is a terrific series that just keeps getting better and better.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun #1

Written by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
Art by Brian Churilla

The Sixth Gun is one of my favourite independent titles, which delivers a steady fix of mystical Western adventure.  I was a little surprised to see that the title was spawning a mini-series, Sons of the Gun.

This new title, co-written by regular series writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt, is focussed on the original owners of The Six, a set of magical six-shooters that each have a different ability.  These guns were brought into the world by the Confederate General Hume, who was the main villain in the series's first arc, and were spread between his henchmen.  Eventually, Hume was captured and imprisoned.

This issue is about Bloodthirsty Bill, who has the first gun, which is as strong as a cannon.  When we first meet him, he's close to death in a desert, but is soon saved by a group of thieves led by a man named Pagan Sam, who does some business with the Pinkertons, and is going about collecting mystical artifacts.

I found this issue a little slow in getting started, but it eventually delivered the same general feel of the main series.  Brian Churilla, fresh off the excellent Secret History of D.B. Cooper, provides the art.  Churilla is a great artist, and while this story doesn't give him the same chances to cut loose as Cooper did, he does a fine job of sticking to the look that Hurtt established for this title.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dark Horse Presents #21

Written by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Michael Avon Oeming, Geoffrey Thorne, Neil Gaiman, Shaun Manning, Denis Medri, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Simon Roy, Duane Swierczynski, Shannon Wheeler, and Carla Speed McNeil
Art by Steve Lieber, Michael Avon Oeming, Todd Harris, Paul Chadwick, Andrew Drilon, Denis Medri, Gabriel Hardman, Simon Roy, Eric Nguyen, Shannon Wheeler, and Carla Speed McNeil

I really don't understand the thinking here.  This issue of Dark Horse Presents has a story written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Paul Chadwick, and yet the cover is given over to Caitlin Kiernan's middling Alabaster series, which has been running for a while, and is not all that interesting.  Sure Gaiman and Chadwick get their names on the cover, in rather small print, but I would think that picking any of Chadwick's beautiful splash pages, and putting Gaiman's name in larger print under the comic's title, would have grabbed a lot more new readers at the comics store.  Their story is quite wonderful - a bit of a prose poem about the different ways the world can end, with a last one that is most devastating, and most personal.

Other than that, this is again a pretty mixed-bag issue of DHP.  There's a new chapter of Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil, which is the main reason why I buy this book.  I was disappointed to see that the story ends with the words "The End", and I'm hoping that refers to this 'Third World' storyline, and not the end of McNeil's regular contributions to this book.

Simon Roy, the brilliant semi-regular artist of Image's Prophet, and Jan's Atomic Heart, debuts his new story, Tiger Lung, here.  We don't know a lot from this first chapter, except that the story involves a young man journeying deep into an ice cave or glacier, despite the protestations of his people.  I love Roy's work, and can't wait to see where this leads.

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman's Station to Station ends this issue.  It's been a good story, with a real BPRD feel to it, but I think it didn't really get enough space to breathe in these few chapters.  I just like looking at Hardman's art though.

Denis Medri starts off his Arcade Boy story here, and it's a fun look at teenager-dom and video games, set in a near-future that has hoverboards!  It's kind of derivative, but enjoyable.  I've never read work by Shannon Wheeler before, and I enjoyed the first chapter of Villain House, which has a pair of supervillains breaking out of jail.

Beyond that, there's not much to say.  Journeyman continues, and grabs my attention a little more than the first chapter did.  X is finally over, and Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories continues to do absolutely nothing for me.

Happy #4

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Darick Robertson

Happy has been one of the stranger Grant Morrison comics I've ever read.  I can see how a statement like that may lead many to believe that this book examined drug-fuelled surrealism in a way that books like The Invisibles or Filth couldn't, but that's not the case at all.  What makes this book so strange is that Morrison wrote this like he's Garth Ennis.

There are so many aspects of this book that read like Ennis at his crime-comic best (his war books are very different).  Nick Sax, the ex-police detective, has eczema and is always in a bad mood.  There is a child-porn ring that are planning on featuring a Christmas-themed live event on Christmas Eve.  Toss in the liberal use of the C-word, and you'd swear this was an Ennis book.

Regardless of whose voice Morrison chose to write this in, this has been a decent little mini-series.  Sax is a mess, but through the faith and support of a little girl's blue flying unicorn imaginary friend, he is able to pull his act together.  Robertson is brilliant at this kind of thing, and he juxtaposes the ridiculously cartoony Happy with the dishevelled and scabrous Sax in a way that makes this book really stand out.

It's not very ground breaking, but it's good stuff.

The Last Call Vol. 2

by Vasilis Lolos

The first volume of Vasilis Lolos's Last Call was published in 2007.  I think, taking that into account, I can be forgiven for being utterly lost when I started to read the second volume, which was published last week.

Lolos is an artist who first came on my radar for his excellent work on Rick Spear's Pirates of Coney Island series, which started around the time that I came to realize how great Image Comics were in the last 00s.  I know that Lolos has had his problems over the last few years, so I'm not surprised that it took almost six years for this manga-sized book to be completed, and I'm happy to see that the artist is working again.  (Again, for contrast, Pirates of Coney Island has still not been finished).

In this volume, young Sam is still on the strange extra-dimensional train that he and his friend Alec boarded in the first volume.  Alec had fallen off, and much of this volume follows him through his adventures, which involve him becoming a cop on some planet where there is only one other human - his superior officer.

Now Alec is back on the train, and his old friend Sam is the same age as when Alec last saw him (Alec is now an adult).  There are train-based hijinks involving Sam avoiding the ticket-taking monster of a conductor, and really, the story doesn't make a lot of sense.

What Lolos is going for here is more of a kinetic, fast-paced surrealist adventure, and on those terms it works well.  Lolos is an exciting artist, and has plenty of strange ideas to cram into this book.  It is nowhere near being a very notable book (other than for its scheduling problems), but it's a fun, diverting read.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Change #3

Written by Ales Kot
Art by Morgan Jeske

I'm going to be perfectly honest about the fact that I no longer have a clue what is going on in this book.  The first issue felt more or less straight-forward - the series was about a rapper who wants to be a movie producer, the unhappy screenwriter he can't get along with, and a weird cult that wants to kill or recruit them.  Also, there was an astronaut returning to Earth, and something big that he saw floating in the ocean.

The second issue made things a little more murky, as a great deal of space was given over to flashbacks concerning the astronaut's childhood.  Now though, things have moved into the realm of the utterly incomprehensible.  Any given page of this comic is readable and easy enough to understand, but the gestalt of all of these pages being put together makes this comic incredibly confusing.

All the same, I'm enjoying this book.  Kot is clearly a new and unique voice in comics, with little interest in telling linear stories.  It was announced this week that he is going to be taking over the DC title Suicide Squad, which I think is going to be very bizarre - nothing I've read in Change suggests that Kot is the right kind of writer for a company known for editorial interference and storylines that maintain the status quo.  That said, after reading the first few issues of Casanova, I wouldn't have thought that Matt Fraction would be the right person to write Iron Man, and that turned out quite well...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Walking Dead #107

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

The last issue of The Walking Dead ended with a vague threat to Carl, the almost-teenage son of Rick Grimes, and the easiest way for writer Robert Kirkman to leave me ill at ease for the month between issues.

Thankfully, Kirkman doesn't do anything too terrible in this issue, which leads to an interesting examination of the character Negan, leader of the Saviors, and currently the biggest threat to Rick and his Community.  Negan's been portrayed as a complete psycho, but apparently he has a code that he follows pretty rigorously, and he demonstrates this issue that he is very good at keeping control of his emotions in stressful situations, such as during the beating that Rick puts on him this issue.

In addition to the Saviors stuff, there is a lot more going on in this issue.  Michonne comes on to one of the other members of the Community in a scene that is both well-written and kind of awkward.  Eugene, who has been looking to find equipment to help cast bullets, hits pay-dirt, and Rick and Jesus begin making plans to take Negan down.

This series has moved into some new territory lately (there's not a single walker in this issue), but it continues to be a fascinating read.

Saucer Country #12

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ryan Kelly

It really is unfortunate that Vertigo has pulled the plug on this excellent series as of its fourteenth issue, because Paul Cornell is really hitting his stride here, and the book becomes ever more enjoyable.  He has said in interviews that he intends to continue the series in some way when the rights revert to him and other considerations make it possible.

What this tells us is that Cornell will not be coming close to finishing off the storyline in the next two issues, and I'm okay with that.  As it is, it does feel as if he's condensing the story somewhat, seeing as how two issues ago, Governor Arcadia Alvarado was stuck in the middle of a heated primary fight, and now she's reached the final few days before the Presidential election which could put her in the White House.  That means we missed out on any number of good stories set on the election campaign trail, which is unfortunate.

There's not much sense of time having passed, but some changes have set in for our characters.  Professor Kidd has finally revealed to Arcadia that he is often visited by the tiny figures from the Pioneer space probes, and of course, she's now decided to keep him at more of a distance, a decision he does not take well.  We also learn a great deal about what Arcadia's former rival, Senator Kersey, experienced at the hands of some very different aliens (think of the ones from V).

This has been a very unusual comic, blending modern politics with alien abduction mythology, and I for one, have found it to be an amazing read.  Ryan Kelly returns to the art for this issue, which makes me very happy.

Storm Dogs #3

Written by David Hine
Art by Doug Braithwaite

Among a stream of excellent launches in the last year at Image is Storm Dogs, a series that has not been getting the same level of attention as some of the other books (which sometimes feels very random to me).  This is a book that a lot more people should be reading, as David Hine masterfully combines science fiction, anthropology, and police procedurals into the excellently-written book.

In this issue, the group of Union investigators continue to look into the murders taking place on Amaranth, a distant planet used for mining.  We learn a little about the company that runs the mining's plan for the planet, which is going to require the displacement or disappearance of the indigenous population to go into effect.  We also learn what happened at the scenes of one of the murders.

At the heart of this book is Hine's exploration of the indigenous cultures that live on the planet.  Its two dominant species have evolved a symbiotic relationship, and as such, are even more vulnerable to the actions of the outsiders, who are supposed to be confined to one area.  That's not how things are going, and with the addition of the mysterious gem discovered last issue, and its provenance, revealed this issue, it's clear that things are going to get a lot more interesting.

Doug Braithwaite continues to do excellent work, as he gives this planet and its people a unique look.

It's interesting to read this comic in the light of the growing chorus of protest coming from First Nations people in my country.  The Idle No More movement is growing in strength, and rightfully so.  I thought of the plight of indigenous cultures in our world today numerous times while reading this book, which is in no way preachy.  Instead, it's an excellent example of science fiction reflecting the times that we live in.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Manhattan Projects #9

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra

The staff of the Manhattan Projects, under the leadership of General Leslie Groves, have effected a merger with their Russian counterparts, and have escaped the American government's attempt to stop their machinations towards independence.  What's left to do then, but to figure out who is really calling the shots, and go after them.

In this issue, Groves and his team do just that, acting on information they gain from the artificial intelligence that is all that is left of dead President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They learn that their enemies include the luchadore head of an international banking cartel, a very old Egyptian with mystical powers, an overly corpulent man who controls all emerging markets, and of course, current president and Freemason Harry S. Truman.

It doesn't take long for the Projects crew to deal with all of these guys, and it is a lot of fun watching it happen.  Hickman's taken his time setting up this series, and with each new issue, he's introduced some pretty wild ideas.  Now, he's put the Projects in a new position of power, and has guaranteed that this book, which plays with historical figures with great irreverence, will continue to be a terrific read for a while to come.

Elephantmen #46

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Shaky Kane

For the second time now, Shaky Kane pops into the Elephantmen world to provide a very weird little story that, while building on the series's continuity, doesn't really add much to Richard Starkings's long-term storyline.

Hip Flask has been sent to investigate a building in downtown LA, and is surprised to find it full of strange green mushrooms.  A woman appears, and begins puking up more of the same mushrooms, which freaks out Miki, Hip's on-again, off-again girlfriend.  Hip notices that there is a connection between these mushrooms and the FCN virus, which wiped out most of the population of Europe during the Mappo days.

The story that follows is odd, as we meet a guy named Harry Hazard, who was on the beach when an FCN-laden meteorite struck, many issues ago.  As he was buried up to his neck in sand, and had his head covered by a plastic bucket (don't ask), he was spared the worst effects of the virus, instead becoming blue and transparent, and able to grow mushrooms from his body at will.

As I said, it's a strange story, even for Elephantmen, a book which often serves as an outlet for whatever Starkings wishes to explore (last issue there was a beautifully illustrated Buddhist myth that ran for a number of pages).  Kane is a singular artist, and it's very clear that Starkings and he just wanted to have some fun with this issue, giving us an odd look at the moments after a mushroom-fuelled orgy.

This unpredictability is one of the reasons I enjoy Elephantmen so much, even when I sometimes find Starkings's unconcerned approach to linearity frustrating.  It's never a boring read.  Also, it's reminded me that I need to get my hands on the second Bulletproof Coffin series, as that is another comic where Kane cuts loose.

Morning Glories #24

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

This issue of Morning Glories has forty-four pages of story, and while it is priced at $3.99, that is more than twice what you would get from a similarly-priced Marvel comic, like say Secret Avengers #1, written by the same man.  I enjoyed that book, but I loved this one, even before considering the difference in quantity that my money bought me, because it also bought me the quality that comes with a creator-owned title.  Sure, this book is hella late, but when it's this good, and this fat, I don't mind at all.

In this issue, we finally return to Ike and Jade, who are the only students of Morning Glory Academy who have been left with the faculty when the rest of the school time-jumped away, or whatever that was.  They've been captured by Gribbs, who wants Ike to kill his father (again).

Now, perhaps I'm a little dense, but until this issue, I hadn't realized that Ike's father is the same Abraham that has visited each of the other students at some key point in their past, and who raised Jun's  friends, and trained them to infiltrate the Academy.  Maybe that was obvious before this point, but if it was, I never caught on.  Sometimes I don't notice things...

Anyway, this issue gives us a good amount of insight into Ike's personality.  He's always been portrayed as a hedonistic little creep who is only interested in looking after himself, and while that portrayal is accurate, it is also coloured a little by the experiences he's had, effectively growing up fatherless and ignored.

He's also the one member of the book's cast who always appears to have an exit strategy worked out, and this issue is no different.  Morning Glories is consistently an excellent read, in addition to giving good value for money.  Spencer and artist Joe Eisma have created a very unique book, that I always enjoy.  I'm pleased to see that Spencer is gaining acclaim for his Marvel work, and for his other Image title Bedlam (this really is Nick Spencer week), but I'm more pleased to see that it's not taking his attention away from this title.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Streets of Glory

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Mike Wolfer

I loved the HBO TV show Deadwood, which I suspect Garth Ennis had been watching when he wrote Streets Of Glory, his take on a Western.  He was probably reading Jonah Hex too...

The series opens with a man travelling through Montana with his older brother.  It's his first time going 'out west', and he's there to join his brother in a new business opportunity.  In no time, they are attacked by bandits, and the younger man survives only because of the intervention of Joseph R. Dunn, a legendary veteran of the Civil War, and America's varied conflicts with its indigenous population.

Dunn has history with two people in nearby Gladback; the bar keeper is an old friend of his, and the town doctor a former lover.  He's not there long before learning that his old enemy, an Apache named Red Crow (of course) is attacking settlers in the area.

Things follow their course, in the revisionist vein, as Dunn puts together a posse to hunt Red Crow, although he has to put up with considerable interference from the hired guns of the incredibly rich Charles Morrison (picture the way George Hearst was portrayed on Deadwood).  This being an Ennis book, there's a great deal of gore, a few odd deaths, and a touch of sentimentality to things.

It's not Ennis's greatest work, but it is an engaging enough read.  Mike Wolfer is a solid journeyman artist, who gets to work with some remarkable writers at Avatar.  His art is serviceable, although, like when Gary Erskine draws a comic, none of his characters are attractive.  I'm sure most people in the Old West weren't though, so it's all good.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wasteland #43

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Russel Roehling

One thing that has consistently made Antony Johnston's Wasteland stand out from other post-Apocalyptic comics is the extent to which he has gone to develop and explain the world into which he has dropped his readers.  Social orders are thought through to a high degree, and every town and person has some kind of backstory that has already been worked out before we meet it or them.  I imagine that Johnston has notebooks full of ideas and stories that we are never going to read, and that exist only to inform what does make it into the comic.

In this issue, Michael is continuing on to A-Ree-Yass-I, the mysterious place where he believes that he and Abi were born.  He's on his own, having split from Abi a couple issues back, and is simply following his instincts.  He comes across a grove of trees that have grown alongside a river in the middle of some wasteland.  Michael's never seen trees in such number of or such height, and he becomes especially interested in an old man who lives among them - a former artisian from the town of Wosh-tun.  Michael doesn't know that he's being followed by Thomas, a man we met a few issues back, who has abilities somewhat like Michael's.

This is a quiet issue, but not in the manner of the last issue, where Abi found herself in the town where her former religious leader was born.  This issue is not about Michael overcoming any particular challenge or hardship; it's more of a filler to show his journey and to give Thomas the chance to catch up with him, but it is still very good, as we get to see a little more of Johnston's world.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snapshot #1

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Jock

I have very fond memories of Diggle and Jock's Vertigo series The Losers, which dealt with a group of American operatives who had to go underground after they discovered corruption in their leadership.  It was a taut military black ops thriller, at least until it started getting kind of strange towards the end.

Anyway, I was excited to see that the pair have teamed up again for a new series, which is much more urbane and grounded in a day-to-day existence that would be familiar to many comics readers.

Jake is a comics store clerk who, while biking to work one day, finds a smartphone lying on the ground in Golden Gate Park.  After opening his store, and chatting with his customer/friend Steve, he discovers a number of disturbing pictures on the phone, which suggest that a murder has taken place.  When the phone rings, he answers it, and when told he is speaking to the police, he immediately gives his name and location.  Of course, it's not actually a cop who comes to pick up the phone, but a man with a gun.

Jake finally figures out that things aren't right, and he gets out of there.  When the cops aren't interested in helping him, and in fact return the phone to the man in the pictures (who is very clearly not dead), Jake and Steve end up searching the guy's apartment, where of course, they discover a body.

I like the storytelling in this book, but there are a few things that are just too hard to overlook.  I would think that anyone who has read as many comics as Steve and Jake have would not so quickly put themselves into the kinds of situations that fuel hundreds of horror and thriller stories.  One would expect them to act in a more self-preserving way.

Still, now that things are underway, I expect that this book will get better.  Jock's art is always terrific, but I think I like it better in black and white.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #4

by Brandon Graham

In the middle of the last issue of Multiple Warheads, when Brandon Graham began introducing and developing new characters, the realization dawned on me that he had no intention of wrapping up his storyline when this mini-series ended with this issue.  I don't think I have any right to complain - Multiple Warheads started as a one-shot at Oni Press in 2007, and Sexica and her boyfriend Nikolai were not heard of again until this series began.

Still, I expected to see them in this issue.  Instead, the whole thing is given over to that other organ-hunter (I forget her name, and it doesn't appear once in this comic), who has continued to track the clone bodies that she lost a couple of issues ago.  In typical Brandon Graham fashion, the plot is secondary to the strange, pun-fuelled visuals that Graham has filled his world with.  The hunter is travelling with a pair of strange guys, and they are riding a sentient motorcycle across a series of pipes in the sky.

Eventually they come to a flying whale with a city on its back, which has a tree in the centre of it that gives them information as to where their prey is headed.  There is a pirate attack, a new game is introduced, and there are a few odd conversations along the way.

Story-wise, this issue is pretty simple, but Graham has made this a visually stunning comic, much like he did for the other issues.  It's a shame that it will probably be a year before Graham has the next four issues (subtitled 'Ghost Town') drawn, but it will be well worth the wait.

The Acme Novelty Library No. 19

by Chris Ware

After finishing the brilliant Building Stories a couple of months ago, I felt a powerful need to read more Chris Ware, which is not an easy thing to do.  I'd read Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth years ago, but aside from that, it's very difficult to get ahold of the rest of Ware's work.  His slow-moving and sporadic Acme Novelty Library series is out of print, and often exceptionally expensive to buy on eBay (except that I got lucky with a reasonably-priced #19).

I'd originally avoided this book when it came out because I knew it continued the 'Rusty Brown' story, which I had not read the beginning of, and which I assumed would be collected one day, like Jimmy Corrigan.  It having been five years, with no further movement on this story taking place, I decided it was time to dive in.

This volume is split pretty evenly between two stories.  The first, 'The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars', is a comics adaption of a science fiction story written by Rusty Brown, the protagonist of the second story.  It follows the story of a man (also named Rusty), who is part of a four-person expedition to Mars, in a tale modelled after the pulp sci-fi books of the fifties.  The four people are really two couples, who set up farmsteads on opposite sides of a special atmospheric field that allows them to walk around in a small bubble of atmosphere and warmth.  Their plans to farm and start a colony there are dashed by the lack of a relief ship, and by the bitter jealousy of Rusty.  This story is much more poetic than those it is taking after, as Ware uses the design of the page, and his usual minute attention to detail to create a pretty interesting tale.

After that, we are treated to a story about Rusty Brown, as we follow him through his first love, during his early days in the 'big city', through to his hasty second relationship and marriage.  This is pretty familiar footing for anyone who is used to Ware's work - the hapless protagonist can't relate well to other people, and constantly misreads his lover's cues, moods, and motivations.

Reading this book leaves me craving a little more Ware, because despite how depressing his work can be at times, it really is marvellous.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Nowhere Men #3

Written by Eric Stephenson
Art by Nate Bellegarde

Three issues in, I still have no idea where Eric Stephenson is going with Nowhere Men, his 'scientists are the new rock stars' series at Image.  On the surface, this book is supposed to be about World Corp., a company founded by four rock-star famous scientists in the 60s, but the reality is that they are barely in the book.

Instead, much of the focus is on a group of scientists who were living on a space station funded by World Corp.  They contracted some kind of inexplicable virus, and the company decided to simply wash its hands of them and leave them in orbit.  One of them built a teleporter though, and most of the crew stepped through last issue.

Now, they've appeared in different places on the Earth, and their disease seems to have changed some of them quite a bit.  A couple of them, stranded in the far North, do not feel any effects from the cold, while another, who looked like a giant scabbing pustule when we last saw him, now appears more like a bright red comic book strong man à la The Thing.  That guy somehow gets into a conflict with a group of Mad Max style hippies, which really makes no sense to me, but there it is.

I find that the randomness of this book makes it pretty appealing.  The four central scientists, of whom only two show up this month, are all characters straight out of a Warren Ellis comic, while the other characters feel more grounded, despite being involved in some pretty crazy situations.  I feel like this book could run the risk of never completely gelling in terms of its disparate story elements, but for now, I'm curious enough to keep buying it, especially since Nate Bellegarde's art looks so good.

The Sixth Gun #28

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

This is one of those times where, because a series is in the middle of its arc, it's kind of difficult to find anything new to say about it.  Lately, the cast of The Sixth Gun have been spread all over the place, and it's taken Cullen Bunn a long time to manoeuvre them back together.

Series frontrunners Drake Sinclair and Becky Moncrief have been trapped in another world, like a pocket dimension, where a malevolent Wendigo spirit has decided to hold them until they die, so that it can, it claims, keep The Six out of the world.  Drake has been possessed by this spirit, and now Becky must decide if she can kill him or save him.

Their friend, Gord Cantrell, has gathered up the undead mummy Asher Cobb, and the duplicitous gunfighter Kirby Hale, and they are trying to find the other two.  They are being pursued by the Sword of Abraham, who have their own plans for The Six, the guns that Drake and Becky carry.

This is, as always, a very good issue of The Sixth Gun.  Bunn's increasingly busy writing schedule at Marvel has done nothing to hurt the quality of this title, and Hurtt continues to knock each and every issue out of the park.  My wish is that many of the people who are enjoying his Marvel work will check this comic out, because it is quite remarkable.

The Unwritten #45

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Inked by Dean Ormston

The last issue of The Unwritten ended with the surprise appearance of a character I didn't expect to see again for until issue 48 (which probably gives away the surprise for any long-term fans of this series).  As if to acknowledge that things were happening a little early, Mike Carey and Peter Gross use this issue to start a two-part story that doesn't feature regular series star Tom Taylor at all, but instead focuses on a couple of the supporting characters.

Richie Savoy has settled himself in Australia for the time being, although he doesn't seem to be doing more than hooking up with some of his fans.  The police Detective, Didge Patterson is stuck investigating a horrible crime scene, where an older couple have been ripped to pieces in what looks like an attack by multiple cannibals.  The only clue she finds is a school book filled with a story written by a young boy.

Didge being dyslexic, she turns to Savoy for help with the case, and that leads them to young Jason, who seems to be able to create reality with his writing.  He described perfectly the death of the folks who watch him after school, and later it happened the exact same way.

The Unwritten has always been about the power of story, and now it seems that Carey and Gross are taking us into another aspect of that.  The kid's abilities play out poorly for his father, who probably is beginning to regret feeding his son's enthusiasm for zombies.

This is a solid issue.  I always like it when Carey moves the series away from Taylor for a little while, and I'm also always happy when Dean Ormston pops by to ink an issue or two.  His addition to the proceedings always gives the book a darker look, and makes it feel different enough to feel like the story is special.  It also makes me appreciate Peter Gross's own inks more, as I like seeing how differently some penciller's work appears with different inkers.

Mara #2

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ming Doyle

In one of Brian Wood's earliest comics, Demo, made with the incomparable Becky Cloonan, he explored how strange abilities, or super powers, would affect people who live everyday lives.  Mara, his new mini-series at Image, is exploring the same general territory, although it mixes in the complications of fame.

Mara Prince is the biggest star in the world, in a near-future where athletics have become the singular obsession of most societies.  Mara is a volleyball prodigy with massive endorsement contracts and the entire world's attention.  In the first issue, something strange happened during one of her games - it looked like she stopped time and interfered with how the game was played.  No one, including Mara, can account for what happened, and of course the 24-hour news cycle is abuzz with accusations of her cheating.

In this issue, she tries to pull things back together, although perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is her staff who is trying to fix things.  Mara is clearly confused and at a loss for what happened, and is mostly just going through the motions of trying to get things back to normal.  She attends a residency at a training camp for young girls, and her abilities manifest themselves again, while being filmed.

I like how Wood has extrapolated a future where the Chinese Olympics program has become the global norm, and the story reminds me a little of the story of Caster Semenya, the South African intersex runner who has been accused of having an unfair advantage when she competes in races for women.

Ming Doyle's art is spectacular, in that slightly rough indie style, and I like how Wood is taking his time in letting this story unfold.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Glory #32

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell, Owen Gieni, Emi Lenox, Sloane Leong, Jed Dougherty, and Greg Hinkle

I've always been a sucker for those 'night before the big battle' kind of comics, where the heroes take a few quiet moments to reflect on their lives, and to contact loved ones before entering into the gigantic conflicts that can only be done properly in comics.  They work to add great weight to what comes next, even if, in mainstream comics at least, the big final thing is not all that final for anyone.

In this series, Glory, her sister Nanaja, and their assorted allies, are hanging out at Glory's parents' lovely house in the woods, waiting for a Knight of Thule, a gigantic, destructive creature  to attack.  To say that Glory's family has had it's share of problems is understating things severely, and it is from that that most of the issue's drama unfolds.

With the big battle looming, the characters get some time to themselves, with guest artists drawing two pages each.  Of the group named above, the only one I am familiar with (aside from regular artist Ross Campbell of course) is Emi Lenox, who draws autobiographical cartoons that are worlds away from the style of this series.  Still, her appearance here works well, as she chats with Henry, the big plush-toy looking medic, and he gives her his camera (there is no discussion of his giving away the sandwich press).  The other pages are more conventional, keeping closer to the look of the series (although Sloane Leong's art looks a lot like Giuseppe Camuncoli's, mixed with some Keith Giffen).

I have enjoyed being exposed to new artists, although I do hope that Ross Campbell handles the last two issues of this title on his own, as I love his beefy approach to Glory.