Lazarus vol. 5: Cull

June 25, 2017

This latest volume takes the story in two different directions and timelines, which ultimately converge in the end.  With the present-day scenes the focus is on the Carlyle-aligned families assault on Western Europe.  In the past, we see what happened to Forever after she was brought back from her successful but costly battle in Duluth.  The present-day scenes do a nice job of flipping the script on the battle as seen in the previous volume.  Where vol. 4 showed Carlyle and co. facing near defeat, this time we see them pressing their advantage to the fullest extent.  Until the end of the volume that is, leaving us with not quite a cliffhanger but some nasty unfinished business that’s not going to sit well with me until vol. 6 arrives.

 

While the present-day stuff is good, the flashbacks are better as there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes drama playing out in Family Carlyle’s compound.  Forever not only has to contend with her physical rehabilitation but her growing feeling that she’s not really a member of the family she has been raised to be a part of.  As a reader, it’s hard not to be sympathetic to her plight since we know that her replacement clone is being trained at the same time.  This is something that Johanna Carlyle, acting head of the family, has to deal with herself in addition to her current business of trying to win a war and dealing with her father, Malcolm, who has finally regained consciousness.

 

I’ve enjoyed seeing Johanna work her way to the top of Family Carlyle and there’s more fun to be had as she matches wits with Malcolm as he tries to gauge her worth himself.  What’s different here is that I think I can actually start rooting for Johanna to succeed in her agenda as she makes it clear that she’s not happy with the way things are right now.  How do we find this out?  Well, that’s another reason I’m pulling for her as she takes a decidedly unorthodox, for the story and the genre, approach to addressing Forever’s trust issues with the family.  It’s that kind of clever plotting which I’m hoping to see more of in the interim miniseries “Lazarus:  X+66” as Greg Rucka and Michael Lark get things together to deliver the issues of vol. 6 on a *crosses fingers* monthly basis next year.

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

No Mercy vol. 3

June 24, 2017

I’m going to start things off with a plea for you, the reader (and, say, 3,000 of your closest friends) to go pick up this volume if you haven’t already.  Why?  Well it turns out that it’s been selling just well enough for its writer, Alex De Campi, to make exactly nothing from its publication.  So it’s not clear if there’s going to be a vol. 4 because while a lot of the character arcs in this volume are winding down, it’s going to take at least one more volume for things to be properly resolved.

 

As for the volume itself, you’ll be entertained so long as you’re not expecting any more of the blistering social commentary that closed out vol. 2.  The narrative for vol. 3 is also more fragmented than the previous two since most of the cast has splintered off into their own individual directions and some have even made it back to the states.  Focusing on the kids who have returned doesn’t turn out to be as novel a direction as I was expecting as they’re all lacking in the crazy drama that I’ve come to expect from this series.  Though I will say that the final issue, focusing on Anthony and his friends on their last day together in town, makes a decent enough series finale if that’s what this winds up being.

 

I hope not, because that would leave the drama of the kids who are still in Mataguey frustratingly unresolved.  While Sebastian’s story is surprisingly calm compared to what he endured in the previous two volumes (when he was Charlene), the arcs of Travis, and Tiffany/Deshawn make up for it.  The former makes the best mistake of his life by chasing a high of mushrooms while the kids who picked him up continue to party.  Without giving too much away, what Travis sees in the double-page spread when he wakes up and runs out to the beach is one of the biggest shocks I’ve seen in comics all year.  Tiffany and Deshawn, on the other hand endure an a stint as a negotiator in an arms deal and an emergency surgery, respectively.  Their story ends with the promise of Black Liam Neeson being called in to get them back.  So if that sounds like something you want to see, start spreading the good word about this series to everyone you know.  De Campi deserves to get paid for delivering this kind of stuff!

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes

June 24, 2017

I was looking forward to this in a “just so crazy it might work” kind of way.  I mean, it was pitched in Dark Horse’s solicitations as the story of two brothers -- Tarzan and Caesar -- raised together and then torn apart by the war between man and ape.  It sounded ridiculous, but kind of endearing in its own way.  That it was coming from two respectable writers, Tim Seeley and David Walker, also gave me hope that it would be something I could recommend to fans of both franchises.  So imagine my disappointment when what could have been a gripping story of tolerance and brotherhood torn apart winds up being a confusing mess of time-travel jibber-jabber and additional concepts from Burroughs and the “Apes” franchise cluttering it all up.

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Briggs Land vol. 1: State of Grace

June 21, 2017

Brian Wood and Mack Chater get their new series about an uncompromising woman in a tough situation off to a great start.  Grace Briggs is the matriarch of Briggs Land, the largest secessionist movement in the country, while her husband is incarcerated.  Now that he’s negotiating a deal with the feds to give up his land in exchange for an early release she now has to divorce him and take over the operation herself.  In order to do that she’s going to need assurances from her three sons Isaac (the soldier), Noah (the wild one), and Caleb (the white supremacist) that they’re all on board with her.  Then comes the difficult work of turning what has been a hotbed for racism and military extremism into something its members can be proud to live in again.

 

Some people might find the idea that the Briggs Family, as led by Grace, aren’t meant to be the bad guys here a little difficult to swallow.  After all, anti-government militia groups have made for some of the most reliable bad guys in fiction over the years and whenever they make the news in real life it’s usually because they’ve taken over some place and are in a standoff with law enforcement.  With “Briggs Land” Wood is subverting conventional expectations and asking us to entertain the idea that something good can be wrought from a group that wants nothing to do with our government.  The tension, and entertainment comes from seeing how its protagonist is going to de-toxify the more noxious elements of the group to get to that point.

 

In that regard, Grace makes for a pretty great protagonist.  We’re introduced to Grace as she gives her husband a verbal severance in prison and soon see the woman take up a rifle to protect her home from some of his thugs.  She’s also shown to be pretty resourceful when it comes to dealing with her sons, members of Briggs Land, and the Keystone Cops that pass for FBI agents that are investigating her.  Whether or not Grace is as ruthless as she’ll undoubtedly need to be in order to deal with the threats coming her way, from without and within, remains to be seen.  In that regard, I can say that in regards to my initial thoughts on the solicitation of the first issue of the next miniseries “Lone Wolves,” it’s very much something to look forward to.

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Delicious in Dungeon vol. 1

June 19, 2017

This is a title that I’ve been wanting to write about for longer than Yen Press’ announcement that they had licensed it for release out here.  That’s because I’ve been reading it for quite a while in scanlated form.  Regardless of their legality, the main thing everyone needs to consider is that manga creators get no money when you read these online.  So I’ve limited myself to talking about scanlations on this site only in cases where it’s clear that the series in question will NEVER be license-rescued or will NEVER see a legal release in the U.S.  (I realize NEVER is an absolute term here… but if you think something like “Onani Master Kurosawa” is going to see a legitimate release in the States then I have a bridge in San Francisco I’d like to sell you.)  While I thought that “Delicious in Dungeon” wouldn’t make it out here without an anime to raise its profile, I was glad to be proven wrong.  Even though I’ve already read the stories in this volume once before, the entire package still ranks as one of the best things I’ve encountered all year.

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Conan the Slayer vol. 1: Blood in His Wake

June 18, 2017

Dark Horse is apparently committed to making this latest “Conan” series a fresh start for the character’s ongoing adventures at the publisher.  I say this because in addition to a new subtitle, “The Slayer,” they’ve abandoned the standard trade dress and numbering the series has had since its very first volume.  While that’s a little disappointing when I think about how it’s going to look next to all of the other volumes on my shelf, “Blood in His Wake” is a bit of a return to form for the series under new writer Cullen Bunn and artist Sergio Davila.

 

It’s not that Bunn does much new with the character here than in previous volumes.  What’s unique is that he manages to string together a lot of familiar “Conan” situations in this one without the narrative feeling overstuffed or rushed.  So you’ve got the character stumbling out of the desert half-dead into a camp of Kozaki raiders only to become their latest member and involved in a feud between the chief’s two sons.  This feud leads to Conan fighting a sea hag and her sons on the coast while the older of the sons works with a sorcerer to secure his leadership of the tribe.  Meanwhile, the rulers of the neighboring kingdom are trying to figure out how to deal with the Kozakis and a bloodthirsty ghoul who followed Conan out of the desert now stalks the barbarian from the shadows.

 

All in all, this boils down to being a particularly busy weekend by the title character’s standards.  While I enjoyed “Blood in His Wake” overall, I was wondering about the reason for that because while Bunn’s scripting is efficient and demonstrates a solid grasp of Conan’s character a lot of it feels overly familiar like the scenarios described above.  I think the real reason for my enjoyment of this volume is Davila’s art.  He offers up some detailed work that comes across as big and bold on the page, making the old feel new again to a certain extent.  Davila can really sell Conan leaping into battle or rendering some monsters, ghouls, and ghosts.  While Dark Horse’s “Conan” comics have generally had consistently good artwork over the years, Davila is easily one of the better artists to grace these pages.  I hope he sticks around with Bunn on the long haul for “The Slayer’s” run.

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Black Hammer vol. 1: Secret Origins

June 17, 2017

Abraham Slam!  Golden Gail!  Barbalien, Warlord From Mars!  Col. Weird and Talky-Walky!  Madame Dragonfly!  They were some of the greatest heroes that Spiral City had ever known and they gave their lives in its defense from the overwhelming multiversal threat of the Anti-God.  At least, that’s what everyone believes.  What actually happened was that these heroes were wiped out of that universe and sent to a new one where they reside on a farm in a small town.  That was ten years ago, and while at least one of them has acclimated to this new life quite well, others haven’t given up the hope of finding a way out of this place.  They don’t know it yet, but that hope may lie in the hands of Lucy Weber -- a reporter and the daughter of Spiral City’s greatest champion, the Black Hammer.

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Rise of the Black Flame

June 16, 2017

Mike Mignola and (usually) John Arcudi have done their best over the years to build up the Black Flame as one of the key “big bads” of the Mignolaverse.  Unfortunately their best hasn’t been good enough in this case.  Sure, the Black Flame was big, fearsome, and had those all-important Nazi connections, but he was virtually a blank slate personality-wise whenever he showed up.  Even if he did represent a formidable mystical threat for the B.P.R.D. I honestly found it hard to get excited whenever his next major appearance was teased.  So I was hoping that this origin miniseries, co-written by Chris Roberson and Mignola would finally give me a reason to care about this character.

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Comic Picks #239: Wonder Woman

June 14, 2017

The movie's good and there's plenty of other comics about Diana of Themyscira that are worth checking out too.

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Happiness vol. 4

June 12, 2017

This is the volume where everything hits the fan.  Makoto’s plan to get Nora to help him and the newly-turned Yuuki hits a big snag when she tries to kill him.  She smells “a deep black scent” on him and tells Makoto that he’ll be doomed if he continues to hang around with this guy.  Yuuki doesn’t take this news well at all and bites off a chunk of Nora’s leg before escaping to find Nao.  Meanwhile, Gosho keeps looking for Makoto, spurred on by the still-painful memory of her deceased brother.  This leads her to meeting a beyond-sketchy individual who also has some knowledge and experience with vampires in this world.

 

There’s even more than this to take in as well.  Yet there was one small moment about a minor character introduced in this volume that really got me.  It really came from out of nowhere and also drove home how much mangaka Shuzo Oshimi’s art has come along since her previous series.

 

(Spoilers for the parts involving Nao’s family follow after the break.)

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