Comic Picks By The Glick
Comic Picks #314:  Harleen

Comic Picks #314: Harleen

April 29, 2020

Stjepan Sejic offers a gorgeous, if arguably incomplete, look at the origin of Harley Quinn.

Gigant vol. 1

Gigant vol. 1

April 27, 2020

If there’s one thing that mangaka Hiroya Oku does well, it’s that he’s got a real knack for conveying action on the page.  Even when it felt like “Gantz” was going off the rails, the action scenes were still compelling.  His follow-up series “Inuyashiki” did have some decent moments of android-on-human and android-on-android fighting, but it wasn’t the focus of the series.  Oku was too busy telling the kids to get off his damn lawn during the rest of it.  Now we’ve got his newest title, “Gigant,” which is relatively action-free for its first volume.  While this should give the mangaka a chance to show off the character and storytelling parts of his skillset, vol. 1 doesn’t really do that.

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The Weather Man vol. 2

The Weather Man vol. 2

April 26, 2020

It still sucks to be Nathan Bright.  After escaping the pay-per-view VR murder marathon from the previous volume, he now finds himself heading back to Earth with (former?) government operative Amanda Cross and her mercenary pals.  Why are they doing this after Earth was hit with a virus that has killed 18 billion of its inhabitants (so far)?  Because Nathan used to be a member of the Sword of God mercenary outfit that started the outbreak, only he wiped his mind after he couldn’t deal with the guilt.  The drive containing Ian’s memories is on Earth, sooooooo… that’s where everyone has to go.

 

The bad news is that after the virus has killed someone, it turns them into a gaseous form that can reconstitute itself into a near-unkillable mockery of human life.  The good news is that the sheer amount of victims has led to helpful mutations, like the big blue fuzzy bear named Pickles that helps out disabled kid sniper Pace.  Which is cool because Nathan and his comrades are going to need all the help they can get to track down this memory drive.  Even if they do, can Nathan really commit to effectively killing himself in order to bring back a stone-cold psycho murderer?

 

This may all sound kinda bleak, but writer Jody Lehup and artist Nathan Fox are committed to making vol. 2 of “The Weather Man” as much of a romp as the first one was.  They don’t quite get there, on account of the fact that this volume doesn’t feel quite as focused as the first one and the cliffhanger presented here is a real love it or hate it proposition.  Still, I think the creators get close enough to call it a win, what with Lehup’s clever dialogue and Fox’s go-for-broke intensity whether he’s illustrating a tense conversation between cast members or having a giant robot fight off a flesh-beast-monstrosity.  The forthcoming third volume is advertised here as the concluding one, which is something that I’ll definitely be sticking around for.

 

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Snowpiercer:  The Prequel, Part 1 — Extinction

Snowpiercer: The Prequel, Part 1 — Extinction

April 25, 2020

“Snowpiercer” didn’t actually need to be a trilogy of graphic novels.  The first one told a good self-contained story, the second expanded on it to diminishing returns and a hauntingly nihilistic ending, while the third actually managed to deliver a satisfying wrap-up to it all.  So when I heard that there was going to be a prequel to the series, you’d be right to assume that I was skeptical regarding its necessity to the saga.  Then I heard that series artist Jean-Marc Rochette would be working with a writer that I’ve got plenty of time for:  “The Killer” and “Bullet to the Head” writer Matz.  So now I had reason for optimism.

 

Optimism that feels misplaced at this current juncture.  In a first for the series, Rochette is credited as a co-writer on this volume.  I don’t know if it’s his presence that has diluted Matz’s, but “Extinction” is missing one of the things I love to see in his works:  Awful people that you ultimately wind up liking in spite of themselves.  As a matter of fact, this first prequel volume is short on memorable characters as we’re thrown into a world on the brink of ecological disaster.  Looking to give humanity a push over the edge is a group called the Apocalypsters (yes, really).  Based in the Amazon, they’ve got plans to wipe out humanity, but they need more manpower.  That’s why their leader is reaching out to the leader of Wrath, an ecoterrorist group, to see if their interests can properly align.

 

Where’s the Snowpiercer in all this?  Being built by a Chinese philanthropist named Zheng.  He’s seen the end of the world coming as well, and it’s his belief that his perpetually-moving train will be able to survive the forthcoming cataclysm.  While there are still questions about who will get on board and how the Apocalypsters will bring about the end of the world, the story hasn’t offered up anything that has surprised me.  Matz’s ideological dialogues are fine (assuming you agree with him), and so is Rochette’s art.  That’s all this volume has going for it, and it’s not enough to convince me that this “Snowpiercer” prequel needed to exist at all.

 

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Trees vol. 3:  Three Fates

Trees vol. 3: Three Fates

April 24, 2020

Warren Ellis has said in his newsletter that this will be the last volume of “Trees” for a while, if ever.  That’s because he’s got a number of other projects (mostly TV) in the offing and artist Jason Howard has his own thing that he’s been working on.  Unlike Ellis’ other ongoing series at Image, “Injection” (which is on hold because its artist, Declan Shalvey, is very much in demand as a writer and artist of comic books), I’m actually fine if this is the final volume of “Trees.”  That’s because it’s a series that never lived up to its potential.

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Batman:  Universe

Batman: Universe

April 22, 2020

We all expected Bendis was going to write a “Batman” story when he moved over to DC.  I just don’t think this was the story any of us expected him to write.  Originally serialized in twelve parts over the course of twelve of the Walmart-exclusive “Batman Giant” issues, before being repackaged as a standard six-part miniseries, “Batman:  Universe” is an extended romp through the DC Universe.  It starts off simply enough with the Riddler stealing a Faberge egg worth $15 million and then careens off in ways both expected and not.  Under “expected,” you can file a team-up with Green Arrow in Amsterdam, and fighting off a horde of hired ninja thugs with Nightwing on a sci-fi sub.  “Not” involves trips to Gorilla City, Dinosaur Island, a jaunt over to Thanagar, time traveling to the Old West, and even being erased out of existence only to come back as… someone who looks like a specific attempt to flatter Keanu Reeves.

 

Bendis’ writing has never felt so frivolous as it does here.  Even when he was doing some of his more comedy-themed issues of “Ultimate Spider-Man.”  This is less a cohesive story than an attempt by the writer to string a bunch of scenes together with a hunt-the-Mac Guffin plot.  I mean that as a criticism and a compliment as while the story itself just kind of hangs together, it’s never dull.  Or rather, the constantly shifting settings, which frequently take Batman out of his element, never allow it to become dull.  Ditto for Bendis’ writing, which gives us sublimely ridiculous scenes like the one which has the title character having a dead serious negotiation with the leaders of Gorilla City.

 

Then there’s the art of Nick Derington, last seen waiting on “Doom Patrol” scripts from Gerard Way that never came.  Derington has a lively, almost cartoonish aesthetic that you wouldn’t think would work for a solo “Batman” story.  It proves to be a perfect fit with the craziness that Bendis is dealing with here, while also giving it a feel that sets it apart from the usual dark and brooding solo “Batman” story.  “Batman:  Universe” is certainly different, but I feel that it’s a good kind of different that I’d like to see more of in the future.  With a more cohesive, coherent story and paperback binding next time (because this really didn’t need to be issued in hardcover).

 

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Gigant vol. 1

Gigant vol. 1

April 20, 2020

If there’s one thing that mangaka Hiroya Oku does well, it’s that he’s got a real knack for conveying action on the page.  Even when it felt like “Gantz” was going off the rails, the action scenes were still compelling.  His follow-up series “Inuyashiki” did have some decent moments of android-on-human and android-on-android fighting, but it wasn’t the focus of the series.  Oku was too busy telling the kids to get off his damn lawn during the rest of it. Now we’ve got his newest title, “Gigant,” which is relatively action-free for its first volume.  While this should give the mangaka a chance to show off the character and storytelling parts of his skillset, vol. 1 doesn’t really do that.

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The Immortal Hulk vol. 6:  We Believe in Bruce Banner

The Immortal Hulk vol. 6: We Believe in Bruce Banner

April 19, 2020

…which is a good thing because after the events of the previous volume Dr. Banner and his friends/comrades/willing accomplices have found themselves in command of Shadow Base and all its resources.  Resources which will now be turned to furthering his and the Hulk’s ultimate goal: The destruction of the human world. Now, they’re not looking to blow the planet up.  They just think that the current way that society is being run on this planet is completely wrong. What with governments and societies being stuck in a loop of “Disaster Capitalism” where crises are being manufactured for profit and power.  Someone who knows exactly what that means is Roxxon CEO Dario Agger, a.k.a. The Minotaur, who now feels no need to hide his namesake form from the world. That’s because after Roxxon’s actions in the “War of the Realms” didn’t put the company out of business or get Agger charged with treason, he sees no need to hide who he really is.  So if the Hulk wants to fight him for the fate of this world, he’s prepared to meet that charge head-on.

 

I’m fully onboard with writer Al Ewing’s feelings about the state of the world as they’re being expressed in this volume.  The problem is that I feel this is all being framed as the start of a tragedy, since it’s impossible to effect the kind of change that Banner and the Hulk are aiming for here in a corporate-owned comic book that’s part of a shared universe.  Still, even if this volume takes a closer look at the “world outside your window” that the Marvel Universe claims to represent, the writer does a good job of making these issues relatable and even entertaining to read about. Okay, that’s also because it gives main artist Joe Bennett the chance to draw some pretty impressive fights between the Hulk and Roxxon’s enhanced goons, and to show us what “Hulk vs. Pacific Rim” would look like as the volume’s supercharged climax dumps four giant monsters into Phoenix, Arizona, for Hulk and his friends to take out.  Banner knows that this is a trap, though, and that sense of self-awareness and the genuine feeling of struggle between both sides is enough to keep me interested here. Even if I feel that I can see how this storyline is going to turn out in the end.

 

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Star Wars vol. 13:  Rogues & Rebels

Star Wars vol. 13: Rogues & Rebels

April 18, 2020

It’s the end of an era.  This is the final volume of “Star Wars”... in the post-”A New Hope” era.  The next series will transition to the post-”Empire Strikes Back” period as Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz take over from the time-marking team of Greg Pak and Phil Noto.  As I mentioned last time, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the three separate-yet-related stories they were telling.  Each had their own twist as Han and Leia wound up running into Leia’s ex, Luke fell in with a conwoman who claimed to know something about the Force, and C-3P0 and Chewbacca found that their supposedly uninhabited planet was home to a race of sentient rock people.  As a further twist on that last thread, none other than Darth Vader shows up on that planet looking to secure an alliance with said rock people.

 

While the charms of Pak and Noto’s storytelling are still present in these concluding issues, their attempt at going big for the storyline’s finish isn’t wholly satisfying.  Though the way in which all of these storylines come together feels organic enough, the actual climax is kind of a mess. There’s an awkwardly heroic charge against Vader, the Sith Lord tries to reverse the effects of an EMP, we find out that the planet has an… er, crunchy center to it.  Pak and Noto clearly had ambitions with their finale, but they wound up in “reach exceeds grasp” territory instead. It even lacks the simple dumb pleasure of the full-page shot of Chewbacca hitting Vader over the head with a big rock from earlier in the volume.

 

This isn’t the actual end of the volume, however.  Vol. 13 also includes the “Empire Ascendant” one-shot that offers three glimpses of the next “Star Wars” era and one epilogue.  They’re all generally fine as Soule and Luke Ross give us some Dameron family fanservice, Pak and Roland Boschi show us what Vader looks for in a droid striketeam, and Ethan Sacks and Paolo Villanelli do their best to make Beilert Valance seem like less of a try-hard.  That Sacks and Villanelli manage to make that happen is certainly an achievement in itself.  Still, the best of these one-shots is Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard’s epilogue to “Doctor Aphra,” though I’ll certainly confess to being a little biased in that regard.

 

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Batman:  Detective Comics vol. 7 — Batmen Eternal

Batman: Detective Comics vol. 7 — Batmen Eternal

April 17, 2020

Guess what?  I did sell my copies of James Tynion IV’s run on “Detective Comics” and picked up this volume on a digital sale.  I’m only reviewing it now because morbid curiosity and $4 will only get you a place in my digital library.  If you want me to actually read the concluding volume of a run I had followed up to its penultimate chapter, that requires a special set of circumstances.  Such as, I dunno… having a global pandemic cause the majority of the comics industry to cease publication and then get me to look through my Kindle to see what new thing I can write about.  On Monday, “Batmen Eternal’s” number finally came up.

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