Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol. 2

If you’ll recall, I wasn’t all that impressed with the first volume of this new “Gundam” series.  It delivered all the familiar “War is Hell” moral musings you’d expect as seen through the Federation and Zeon’s struggle to take control of the strategically important Thunderbolt sector without doing much to distinguish itself.  Some steps are made to correct that in this second volume as the fighting as the fighting gets more intense now that Federation ace Io Fleming’s Gundam is up and running.  While this gives the Feds some much needed momentum in this conflict it isn’t long before Zeon and the members of the Living Dead squadron are forced to pull out their ace in the hole:  The Psycho Zaku.

The first volume wasn’t all that interesting for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest was that its two leads were fairly bland.  Io came off as the kind of cocksure fighting ace we’ve seen in countless other space operas, and Zeon’s top pilot Darryl only had the fact that he was fighting with prosthetic legs to set him apart.  This time out we find out a little more about their backstories as it’s revealed that Io is struggling with witnessing the aftermath of his father’s suicide as a kid.  He also does his best to oversee the new batch of recruits, who wind up being a bunch of kids that volunteered because they thought Newtypes and Gundams were cool, along with the promise of better food than in the refugee camps.  That Io does this even grudgingly shows that he’s less self-centered than I originally thought.  I also thought it was a nice touch that while the kids are shown to go nuts during their photo-session with the Gundam, they could still manage military professionalism when called to attention.


Darryl, on the other hand, gets the most striking sequence in the entire volume.  As we see him remember a winter shopping trip with his father over a few wordless pages, he wakes up to the fresh horror of war in the medical bay and further physical loss.  That’s not the end of his trials as it’s revealed that further sacrifice will be necessary on his part as he’s ordered to pilot the Psycho Zaku.  I can understand that he’d accept these orders because we’ve seen him be a good soldier up to this point, but it feels more than a little inconsistent with the shock we see on his face after he wakes up in the med bay.


With regards to the supporting cast, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  I liked the additional insight we get into Dr. Karla Mitchum, the Zeon doctor who is helping with the preparation of the Psycho Zaku and is forced to effectively mutilate Darryl to make him a suitable pilot for it.  We understand why she’s doing these things, to save her imprisoned pacifist father, but what makes her memorable is how she owns up to her actions by continuing to fight after the point she could have left.  Her actions contrast well with utterly craven, bordering on comical, self-interest displayed by her partner J.J. Sexton.


Then you have Capt. Claudia Peer, Io’s commanding officer, who clearly showed that she wasn’t fit to be a captain back in the first volume and follows that up by reinforcing this idea here. How does she manage that?  By showing us that she’s also a junkie.  While I can understand how someone in the stress of her position would turn to drugs to cope with that, it doesn’t reflect well on her character at all.  She’s the captain and it’s her duty to keep it together for the rest of her crew!  More disappointing is that this development is practically handwaved away later on in what is likely meant to be perceived as a moment of triumph for Claudia that feels completely unearned.


It’s to the point that I wish we had seen what her executive officer was capable of when he tried to assume command.  He’s been portrayed as a kind of scheming antagonist to Claudia during his limited time in these two volumes.  Though you get the feeling that’s supposed to make him a bad guy in this story, the way Claudia is characterized here means that it doesn’t have the intended effect.  When the officer pulls a gun on her late in the volume, I really had no problem with his actions or what happened next.


Mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki also gets more of a chance to show what he’s capable of with the action in this volume as well.  Both the Gundam and Psycho Zaku are showcased in their awesome, destructive glory as they carve wide swaths through Zeon and Federation forces, respectively.  Ohtagaki vividly demonstrates the fear the very appearance of these mechs instill in their opposing forces as we frequently see their perspectives in battle as well.  Balancing things out is the fact that his characters’ expressions frequently become exaggerated enough to tip the action into melodrama.  I also think his action scenes could benefit from some additional clarity, and there appears to be a glaring continuity issue after the scene where Claudia’s executive officer pulls a gun on her.


There’s also a tit-for-tat approach to the balance of power between Federation and Zeon forces in the Thunderbolt sector, which means that while a lot of stuff goes on here neither side has gained an appreciable advantage by the end of the volume.  I wouldn’t say that’s an issue as it speaks to the futility of war as expressed frequently in “Gundam.”  With better action and more interesting characterization than the previous volume, I’m actually interested to seeing how this struggle will play out.  So long as it keeps improving like this.

Abe Sapien vol. 8: The Desolate Shore

So this is it?  After five volumes of Abe’s ongoing series that, while it certainly had its moments, was mostly a dull slog more than anything else this is the ending we get!?  While the series certainly has significant relevance to the Mignolaverse, it’s easily the runt of the litter quality-wise when compared to the likes of “Hellboy,” “B.P.R.D.,” and most of the spin-off miniseries.  Mignola certainly deserves some of the blame for this, though I’d say that the lion’s share of it can be laid at the feet of series co-writer Scott Allie.

That’s because throughout his work, even at its darkest, Mignola never forgot how weird or fun this universe he created was and you could see that in his writing.  His most frequent and reliable co-writer, John Arcudi, arguably helped him improve on that while new co-writer Chris Roberson looks to keep things ticking along in fine form.  Allie looks to favor more a more low-key approach where the action and humor are both muted.  That wouldn’t be a problem if the stories or characters were interesting, but save for “The Merry Adventures of Gustav Strobl and his Undead Friends” that hasn’t been the case.


In fact my biggest issue with this volume is how Strobl’s story is resolved.  He’s been the most consistently interesting and entertaining part of this series, being a satanist sorcerer who has been trying to find out Abe’s purpose and to usurp the power the former B.P.R.D. agent wields for his own ends.  Strobl’s efforts in this regard… have not gone according to plan as his scarred, noseless visage in this volume will attest to.  The interesting thing about how his arc has gone is that it has made it clear to me that he is not meant to handle the power he seeks to have.  Strobl has unknowingly been pursuing his own destruction and I was really looking forward to seeing that play out in this final volume.


That’s kind of what we get by the end of “The Desolate Shore.”  Strobl does achieve his own destruction, but in a very mundane and unsurprising way.  In fact, his fate winds up having a lot more in common with superhero comic conventions than what we’re used to seeing in the Mignolaverse.  Mignola and co. have liked to distance the stories they write from their tights-wearing medium companions at Marvel and DC by talking about how the stories they write have actual progress and consequences.  This is true.  The thing is that when you have a story where the main bad guy turns into the “dark” version of the protagonist and they settle their differences through punching it’s hard not to feel just a little bit disappointed.


While I’m on the subject, that’s not the only big way in which this volume misfires.  Though this collects the final issues of Abe’s ongoing series, it lacks a proper end.  Sure, Strobl is dealt with but while the final page may have “The End” written near the bottom, it should actually have read “To Be Continued in vol. 15 ‘B.D.P.R.D:  Hell on Earth.’”  It’ll be good to see Abe re-connect with his former comrades, even if it does result in a bunch of angry yelling at first.  Yet there’s no actual sense of closure to the story being told here.  I’m actually a little worried now about how Mignola and Arcudi are going to be able to tie up all of the loose ends in “B.P.R.D.” as well as Abe’s story in the five issues collected in vol. 15.  Then again, Mignola provided a satisfying wrap up to the saga of “Hellboy” in the same amount of space with the second volume of “Hellboy in Hell” so I’ll try to put these concerns out of my head for now.


“The Desolate Shore” isn’t without its redeeming features.  There’s lots of interesting callbacks and tie-ins to previous stories in Abe’s series as well as other Mignolaverse titles.  We get to find out what happened to Grace (the woman he saved from the crazy man in the title’s best issue), St. Sebastien from “The Drowning” plays a plot-critical role here, Alice and the Garden Hellboy helped create put in an appearance, and in a really deep dive it’s revealed that Professor Bruttenholm’s hypnotherapy sessions with Abe eventually led him to the Cavendish expedition from “Hellboy:  Seed of Destruction.”  Yes, that’s a lot of continuity to take in and you’ll have to have read all of the previous volumes as well as a good chunk of other Mignolaverse series to get the most out of it.  Which you’ve probably already done if you’re thinking about picking up this volume.


I also have to concede that the art of Max Fiumara has grown on me somewhat over the course of this series.  While his work initially came off as awkwardly creepy to me, he has improved to the point where the awkwardness is pretty much gone at this point.  Max is still the lesser of the two brothers working on “Abe Sapien.”  Sebastian Fiumara has done strong work from the very beginning and he shows further evidence of his skill whether it’s in something as mundane as the fisticuff-centric finale, or more imaginative like the struggle of two Hyperborean priests against demon-worshipping cultists.


Despite its problems, “The Desolate Shore’s” relevance to the Mignolaverse does make it a relatively necessary purchase for people who have been following it all these years.  It fills in little gaps and sets up a future story with quality art even though it fails to deliver a satisfying resolution to either of its main plot threads.  I’ve made worse purchases out of a similar kind of obligation, to be sure.  It’s worth saying at this point that the reason I keep buying titles in the Mignolaverse is that their usual quality is generally a lot higher than what was delivered here.

Aliens: Defiance vol. 1

The quality of “Aliens” comics over the years from Dark Horse has fluctuated wildly.  While the initial miniseries from writer Mark Verheiden and artist Mike Nelson still holds up well today, a quick read through any of the Omnibus volumes will reveal some pretty misguided endeavors as well.  “Defiance” is not only the first ongoing series from Dark Horse set in this universe, but the first “Aliens” comic I’ve bought from them in a good long while.  I decided to pick it up because writer Brian Wood has a pretty good track record for his work on licensed titles at the company. The good news is that continues to be true here as we follow Zula Hendricks, an injured private in the Colonial Marines, and Davis, a synthetic who has been engineered for combat, as they try to prevent the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from getting their hands on xenomorphs they can use for their weapons division.


Okay.  I’ll admit that the core plot for this series doesn’t sound all that inspiring when it’s summed up like that.  After all, isn’t Weyland-Yutani the main antagonist in just about EVERY major “Aliens” story?  At least the ones that don’t involve Predators?  What makes “Defiance” worth reading so far is the strong work Wood puts into characterizing Hendricks as a wounded warrior trying to do the right thing.  The soldier’s recovery from a combat injury to her spine is integral to the narrative as it informs all of her actions while presenting a more intimate threat than the xenomorphs themselves.  As an example, there’s a powerful scene in the fourth issue where Hendricks is laid up in bed after her injury and receives a visit from her commanding officer who laments the fact that after all the effort they put into her training they couldn’t even get one mission out of her.  That she subsequently goes along with Davis’ plan to take out the xenomorphs makes perfect sense as someone who wants to validate their worth against a system that has written them off.


Davis also makes for an interesting companion as he struggles with his own injuries and drive to do right by humanity in his quest.  However, you’re either going to have to make up your own explanation as to how a synth was able to overcome his programming regarding his original mission or hope that Wood provides one down the line.  I do hope Tristan Jones, who illustrates four of the issues collected here sticks around for the long run as his detailed style provides some good drama and action.  Frequent Wood collaborator Riccardo Burchielli and artist Tony  Brescini also provide capable work as well.  Though the plot in “Defiance” is old hat by the standards of the “Alien” franchise, the struggles of its protagonist make for compelling drama and let us experience the familiar from a new, fresh perspective.

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire

It’s a dark and stormy night in this latest adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story from Dark Horse, both in the life of the Writer at the heart of it and in the tale he’s trying to tell.  You see, the Writer is trying to tell a serious literary tale that reflects the truth of the world in his text.  The problem he has is that in his tale — that of an orphaned woman on her way to become a governess to two children of a man whose cruel glances she found both repellent and fascinating at her interview who is turned out into a storm by a mute carriage driver only to wind up at the house without a name on the night of all nights — keeps slipping into self-parody.  As he laments this recurring issue, the Writer is forced to deal with various household issues.  Such as his deformed Aunt Agatha who is acting up again in the attic, the sudden reappearance of his long-lost twin brother who immediately demands a duel to the death, and the various things that skitter in the shadows of his mansion.


If the title of this story wasn’t enough of a clue, then it bears mentioning that you’re not meant to take any of this remotely seriously.  It’s basically Gaiman, and by extension Shane Oakley who adapted the story and provided the art, goofing on the many tropes and conventions of gothic literature.  A little familiarity with these things, as well as some patience, is required to fully appreciate what’s being done here.  Still, the “wink and a nod” approach works with respect to the humor and the sillier bits in this story.  There’s also some cleverness to be had in seeing the Writer realize that the the solution to his woes may lie in that most disrespected and least reputed of genres:  fantasy.  But what form does fantasy take in this kind of gothic world?  Gaiman has an answer that works, and it’s a credit to Oakley and his stylishly pointed art that it’s as satisfying as it is in graphic novel form.

Otherworld Barbara vol. 1

The latest Moto Hagio manga to come from Fantagraphics features a first chapter that is confusing, weird, and likely going to turn off readers unaccustomed to the kind of strangeness this old-school shojo mangaka likes to traffic in.  It takes place on the island of Barbara and focuses on young Aoba and her two friends, Taka and Pine, who can also fly.  There’s also a long-haired oracle who specializes in interpreting dreams (and can fly as well), plant women who live on the roof of Aoba’s house, rumors of cannibalism on the island, and the story of how Aoba was brought to the island by the moon princess.  That’s a lot to dump on the reader in the first chapter and some of the odd ways that the characters interact with each other make it very hard to get a handle on where Hagio is going with any of this.  It’s to the point where Aoba’s encounter with an unknown man with a dark hat and coat hiding in the fields outside of town feels like one of the least strange things there.


If you’re able to get through that first chapter, you’ll find that even if things don’t get any less crazy they do become more comprehensible.  That’s because the focus shifts to a near-future setting and onto Dr. Watarai, a dream pilot who specializes in entering people’s dreams mostly to get information in criminal cases.  However, he’s now being asked to look into the psyche of a girl who has been in a dreamlike state for the past seven years following the brutal murder of her parents.  What he finds there leads him and his estranged son Kiriya down a rabbit hole of craziness involving poltergeist phenomena, pharmaceutical rejuvenation therapy, imaginary islands, life on Mars, cannibalism, and more.  It’s not hard for me to see how people could be put off by this level of craziness, but I was entertained by it more often than not.  “Otherworld Barbara” mainly kept me reading to see how strange things would get, yet there’s also some emotional resonance in how Watarai struggles to untangle this mystery and reconnect with his son.  While the kind of crazy we get here isn’t too dissimilar from the unforgettable train wreck that was “Future Diary,” Hagio shows us how that approach can work when the madness in the story is organic rather than (likely) motivated by impending deadlines.

The Mighty Thor vol. 1: Thunder in her Veins (Thor by Jason Aaron vol. 7)

You know who we haven’t seen much of during Jason Aaron’s run chronicling the adventures of Marvel’s Thunder God?  Loki.  That might have been down to the fact that the character was already being used, quite well I might add, in the pages of “Young Avengers” and “Loki:  Agent of Asgard.”  Still, Aaron has managed just fine without him.  Yet with a brand new Thor on the block it was inevitable that she’d eventually lock horns with her namesake’s greatest nemesis.  It doesn’t start off that way, as Malekith makes it known that the War of the Realms he is backing with the help of Roxxon’s Dario Agger will eventually be coming to Earth.  For now, they both have their sights set on Alfheim, the home of the Light Elves.  Even though Thor is still persona non grata in Asgard, she sees it as her duty to help out with this battle.  While Malekith and Agger may have magic and technology to back up their attack, they didn’t come prepared to fight a thunder god.  So it’s a good thing they’ve convinced Loki to show what he can do against this all-new, all-different Thor.


The good news is that Aaron is clearly caught up on Loki’s old and recent history and his take on the character feels in line with what we’ve seen of him in his previous series.  So not only do we get lots of clever snark from the maestro of mischief, but the idea that he’s playing a longer and deeper game than those around him suspect is a more plausible idea than seeing him make a full-on return to villainy.  Russell Dauterman is also back for all five issues in this volume and his greatness is present on every page.  It’s due to the impressive levels of detail and scale that Dauterman captures here that the ideas in Aaron’s script — Thor taking on tanks in Alfheim!  Thor fighting every Loki ever!  Thor fighting Odin in space while civil war rages in Asgard! — really feel as epic as they do.


As good as this stuff is, the volume overall comes off as kind of a downer.  While Aaron struck a nice balance between giving Jane Foster as Thor a solid win while not really foiling the bad guys’ long-term plans in her first outing, that doesn’t happen here.  The good guys come up short on pretty much every front here with Malekith and company either succeeding overtly or behind the scenes.  That results in this volume, for all its virtues, coming off as one of the tougher reads in Aaron’s run so far.

Kill or be Killed vol. 1

Brubaker and Phillips are at it again.  One of comics’ most reliable writer/artist teams, to the point where even their lesser projects turn out to be pretty readable, is back with a brand new title which tackles an all-new subject for them.  This time around it’s the concept of vigilantism and what makes an average citizen decide to take the law into their own hands.  While this may not be a new concept, the creators grounded, character-driven approach makes for a believable and compelling read.

The volume starts off with a tense action sequence to show us that its protagonist, Dylan, will eventually become really good at killing people before flashing back to show us how he got that way.  We learn that he’s an isolated person who has suffered from depression and has tried to kill himself before.  That attempt didn’t take and only served to get him kicked out of college for a while.  Now he’s a twenty-eight-year-old grad student struggling to complete his classes with a roommate, Mason, who is perpetrating the (unintentional to him at least) dick move of dating Dylan’s childhood friend Kira.


While this situation is awkward, it’s still something Dylan can deal with.  The problems start when he and Kira start getting closer in a way that our protagonist finds out to be nothing more than misguided pity.  That’s when Dylan tries to kill himself again by throwing himself from the roof of his apartment building… only to survive the attempt.  Though this grants him a newfound appreciation of life, he soon finds out that a darker force was at work here.  Dylan is subsequently visited by a demon who states that the student is now living on borrowed time and must now kill one person a month in order to stay alive.


Now, you might be thinking that this is something of a spoiler.  There’s nothing on the back to suggest that there’s a supernatural angle to this series, so the fact that there’s a demon pressing our protagonist into killing other people would normally sound like the kind of surprise that a creator would spring on you in order to reel you in further to the story.  That may have been Brubaker’s intent but to me it reads to me like a double-fakeout.  On a surface read it’s clearly intended to propel the book into horror/fantasy territory, possibly broadening the title’s appeal beyond those would normally be interested in a grounded crime thriller.  However, the demon doesn’t do anything that can be explained in a rational way.  Even the broken arm Dylan gets could’ve come from his suicide attempt while his failure to notice it at first is a result of him coming off of his adrenaline high.  Plus, there’s a very big hint that this demon is all in his head at the end of the volume as well.


This isn’t a problem as far as I’m concerned because it feeds into the unstable loner characterization that Brubaker lays out extremely well here.  Before demonic possession or mental illness come into play, we see Dylan as a very unhappy person, unable to connect with other people, and in the process of being isolated from the one person he feels truly understands him.  Toss in a broken arm, a real nasty case of the flu that includes hallucinations, and a mugging, it’s not surprising to see Dylan give into the demands of this “demon” and decide to start killing bad people.


Ah, but how exactly does one person go about doing that?  That’s part of the fun, such as it is, of this series as it readily acknowledges that finding bad guys to kill is a lot harder than the movies, TV, and comics make it appear.  First comes getting a gun, then comes actually deciding on who to kill.  While it would appear that Dylan’s first victim certainly had it coming, there’s a lot of uncertainty generated from the fact that he’s not the most reliable of narrators.  That first one also turns out to be the easiest as his subsequent kill really makes you wonder how he’s going to keep finding the “right” people to kill, let alone get good at it.


We also get to see the toll it takes on his personal life.  Dylan makes it clear that having a double life is exhausting, particularly when the complications in his relationship with Kira start to pile up.  It’s not entirely unexpected that things play out in the way they do, given what we learn about their history together.  Still, it’s interesting and even a little amusing to see how Dylan notes how exhausting his new double life is and considers doing speed because he clearly needs to experience more bad ideas now.


Regardless of whether or not the demon in Dylan’s life turns out to be real, Phillips makes sure that it doesn’t look out of place in his story.  I’ve talked before about how his off-kilter style is versatile enough to work well with depicting, and mixing, any given genre and that’s true here as well.  Phillips also deserves special mention for how he manages the body language of the characters here — Dylan in particular.  You really get a sense of the character’s awkwardness and isolation just by how he looks on the page.  We also get to see the artist tackle some of Dylan’s dad’s sci-fi/fantasy porn briefly in this volume, and while it may seem like a salacious detail there’s a bit more to it in the end and Phillips’ artistry helps them rise above that.


“Kill or be Killed” is off to a strong start with it’s in-depth look at what makes a vigilante tick.  Phillips’ visuals are as strong as ever, while Brubaker does some careful yet constantly interesting characterization of his protagonist.  It all leaves me wanting more because while we know that Dylan gets better at what he does, there’s no indication as to what’s going to happen with him after that.  If you’re a fan of both creators then you likely already have this volume.  That said, “Kill or be Killed” is good enough so far that I hope it serves to further broaden their audience.

Image Previews Picks: May 2017

Image’s 25th Anniversary celebration rolls on with these solicitations.  So what can we look forward to along those lines in May?  Well, the issue of “Saga” which kicks off its next arc will only set you back 25 cents.  For those of you who are nostalgic for the time when Todd McFarlane actually drew “Spawn,” there’s a “Director’s Cut” edition of that title’s first issue and a “Vault” edition of the first seven issues which will present them in their original artboard form.  That last one will set you back $175, but there’s also a chance you could wind up with a one-of-a-kind sketch from McFarlane as they’re being randomly inserted into these editions.  If that kind of chance interests you but you’re not that big of a McFarlane fan, then maybe the Image Blind Box is for you.  1,992 of these boxes will be produced and they contain 25 copies of the 17 (so far) new Image launches for this year.  Don’t worry about the overlap, as there will be an assortment of variant, B&W, sketch, and blank covers for each of these titles.  Including lots of variants is certainly an appropriate way to celebrate Image’s anniversary, though not really a good one in my opinion.  Better to remind readers about all the good comics being published by the company today than the variant-fueled speculator madness the company spawned *rimshot* back in the 90’s and which almost sank the industry.


Fans of “The Walking Dead” should also be aware that 500 of these boxes will contain “Here’s Negan” #1 which collects the first half of the comics detailing the origin of the character from “Image+”.  This is billed as the ONLY collection of said strips, but I’m going to hold out for some kind of complete edition down the line.  Also, the Blind Box will set you back $125.  With all that said, are there any takers?

Regression #1:  New from writer Cullen Bunn who is apparently following in the footsteps of Brian Wood and Jeff Lemire by maintaining creator-owned presences at Image and Dark Horse.  This new series follows a man who is plagued by waking nightmares and decides to undergo past life regression hypnotherapy to find out what the cause is.  He gets more than he bargained for as the horrors he sees are nothing compared to the fact that something has apparently followed his consciousness back through time to the present day and the waking world.  While Bunn has written a lot of superhero comics over the years, this and “Harrow County” (still need to check it out at some point) show that his real interest is in horror.  Here’s where I’d say he should consider combining these two genres, but what was the last good superhero horror comic?  “Marvel Zombies?”


Paklis #1:  A new anthology series from writer/artist Dustin Weaver.  The three series started here are described as showcasing what happens when you’re faced with the choice to accept the life you’ve been handed or to step boldly into the unknown.  I’m guessing that the protagonists of these science fiction and fantasy stories all head off into the unknown because we wouldn’t have stories about them otherwise.  Still, I’m betting the real draw here will be seeing Weaver cut loose in showing us a world of human insects, a journey to the center of the galaxy, and an intergalactic war.  His work over the years on “Star Wars,” “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” and “Infinity” showed that he has a real gift for demonstrating immense scope and detail in his work and that should make this series a visual feast if nothing else.


Samaritan #1:  New from Matt Hawkins of “Think Tank” and “The Tithe” fame.  This one is about a woman with a score to settle against the largest military contractor in the world.  How does she plan to do that?  By stealing all of their research and giving it away to everyone.  That works for me, and it’s also the way Noh-Varr was able to defeat Hexus the Living Corporation in Grant Morrison’s “Marvel Boy” miniseries.  Expect a more grounded take and plenty of notes and opinions from Hawkins as that’s his stock in trade with his creator-owned work.


The Dying and the Dead #4 & Special Edition:  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea for Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim to launch a new series while the former was busy with finishing his epic “Avengers” run and prepping “Secret Wars.”  Three issues of the series made it out over nine months in 2015 before it was put on hiatus.  The good news is that it’s back with a collected edition of the first three oversized issues.  I’d be all for picking up this “Special Edition” save for the fact that there’s no “vol. 1” attached to it.  This makes me think it’s purpose is to catch new readers up on what has come before so they can pick up issue #4 after reading it.  Which is good from a marketing and promotional perspective, but I’ll keep holding out for vol. 1 or the “complete edition” if this follows the same path as Hickman and Bodenheim’s previous resuscitated-from-hiatus Image series “Secret.”


Elephantmen #77:  After ten years this series begins its final arc.  I was kind of expecting it to run forever at this point, but it looks like writer Richard Starkings has found a good stopping point for his sci-fi/noir series about anthropomorphic animals who were originally bred for war trying to fit in with a suspicious society.  I’ve read the first four volumes and found it to be entertaining enough, but not compelling to make me stay current with it.  Now that it’s coming to an end, I think I’ll start catching up.


Renato Jones:  Season Two #1 (of 5):  The first volume wasn’t nearly as fun as a series about blowing away awful one-percenters should be.  While I think that’s a problem which should be fixed, I doubt that creator Kaare Andrews feels the same way.  Probably going to give this one a pass when it’s collected.


No Mercy vol. 3:  In which the stories about American teens whose hospital-building trip in a third-world country goes so very, very wrong start to take two different paths.  First, there are the teens who are stuck behind in Mataguey because they’ve been captured by the local junta or are trying (and failing) to find a way out on their own.  Then you have the teens that made it back to the States and are now having to deal with the legal fallout from their awful adventure.  Neither of these threads sounds like they’d be a candidate for the feel-good read of the year, but that’s fine with me.  After the first two volumes, “No Mercy” has shown that it can subject its cast to one awful thing after another then throw them a narrative shovel so they can make things worse for themselves, and make for some very entertaining reading in the end.


However, if you find yourself not in the mood for this kind of misery from writer Alex De Campi this month, she has you covered.  Also arriving in may is Mayday, a 70’s-set espionage thriller as a KGB defector threatens to upend the balance of power during the Cold War.  On our end is Jack Hudson who is tasked with making sure this defector and his information make it to California in one piece.  On the other is Codename:  Felix who has to make sure that doesn’t happen by any means.  In the mix as well is a beautiful woman, a fast car, and a whole lot of drugs which leads me to think that this series shouldn’t be taken completely seriously.  Maybe consider it a spiritual follow-up to the “Grindhouse” series De Campi did for Dark Horse.

DC Previews Picks: May 2017

Last year brought a big revamp for DC’s licensed Hanna-Barbera comics and characters and now the Looney Tunes characters are getting the same treatment.  Coming out of ComicsPro is word of four “Vs.” titles that will see familiar DC characters pitted against specific Looney Tunes.  One of them is genuinely inspired:  Lobo vs. the Road Runner.  I think the idea is that Wile E. Coyote is hiring the intergalactic bounty hunter to succeed where he has failed so many times before.  Lobo works best when he’s either pitted against someone more unlikeable than he is, or getting his comeuppance as a bully.  This would seem to fall into the latter category and I can only hope that whoever’s involved will give The Main Man’s regenerative factor a real workout as we (will undoubtedly) get the most violent Road Runner story ever.


As for the rest, Martian Manhunter vs. Marvin the Martian sounds fine if more than a little obvious.  Jonah Hex vs. Yosemite Sam does stand a good chance of working since pitting the gnarled bounty hunter against a short man with a temper and a long red beard certainly wouldn’t be the strangest encounter Hex has had in his long history.  Then you have Batman vs. Elmer Fudd which falls squarely into the “Why!?!?” category as there appears to be no discernable reason for these two to be paired off.  Save for the fact that not involving Batman in any event has DC feeling that they’re leaving money on the table.

Justice League #’s 20-21:  In which the League is stuck in a time loop and has to find a way out of it.  While Bryan Hitch has been writing this series since it relaunched, this will be the first time he has provided the art in the series proper (as he illustrated the “Rebirth” issue).  I’d make a joke about the lead time that would be necessary for him to provide the art for two consecutive issues, but that’s some low-hanging fruit.  Besides, it’s a time-loop story.  I’m sure he didn’t need to draw nearly as many panels if he’s going to be re-using them until the League finally breaks the cycle.


Trinity Annual #1:  I haven’t been reading the main series, or the issues of Geoff Johns’ “Justice League” that it’s likely referring to, but this issue gives me another reason to.  At one point Lex Luthor was working with Ra’s Al Ghul and Circe before he double-crossed them to further his own ends.  Now, making an enemy of a centuries-old sorceress is a bad move on any occasion, but screwing over the Demon’s Head?  I honestly thought Luthor was smarter than that.  Good thing he’s got his old pals from his days in the Justice League — namely, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as the title of this series implies — to help get him out of this mess.  Which they’ll do, because they’re all stand-up individuals, but I imagine the lesson they’ll teach him in the process should be half the fun of the story.


Also this month in “Trinity” news, the Wonder Woman Annual #1 from Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott features the story of the title character’s first meeting with Batman and Superman.  I’m almost certain that it involved them calmly and rationally sitting down to talk about their shared experiences and how they can make the world a better place by working together.  Fisticuffs will certainly not be present here as all three characters are certainly better than that, right?


Bane:  Conquest #1 (of 12):  In which the Man Who Broke the Batman sets his sights on creating a global criminal empire.  I think it’d be hard to bet against him succeeding there, though the real story with this maxi-series is that it’s from “Bane’s” original creators Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan.  Dixon’s involvement in this series is particularly surprising because while he had a very long and successful tenure writing various Bat-books during the 90’s he eventually fell out of favor with the publisher due in part to changing times, but more likely his outspoken conservative political views.  That he’s now back writing for DC does have me wondering if there’s a more interesting story to be told here, or if the publisher just delivered a big enough wheelbarrow of cash to his front door.


Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye vol. 1:  Going Underground:  The long-forgotten spelunker is revived via Gerard Way’s “Young Animal” imprint, with new adventures co-written by Way and Jon Rivera, and art from Michael Avon Oeming.  I’ve heard it’s pretty weird and features the return of less-long-forgotten cult DC vigilante Wild Dog.  The real hurdle this revival needs to overcome for me is that it has to be good enough to distract me from the fact that Oeming is drawing this and not new issues of “Powers.”  Then again, maybe I should just accept the fact that we’re never going to get new issues of that title on a regular basis and move on with my life.  “Cave Carson,” can you please help me out with that?


Justice League vs. Suicide Squad HC:  DC’s latest event and its tie-ins from “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” (natch) get collected.  While the pitch here is that the two teams go at it after the League discovers the Squad’s existence, that’s not the whole story here.  It turns out that there are some very bad guys — led by Maxwell Lord — who not only have plans involving world domination, but also remember the DCU prior to the “New 52” and “Rebirth.”  So where exactly is writer Joshua Williamson (and cohorts Rob Williams and Tim Seeley) going with this?  I’ll have to admit that I’m curious.


Batwoman by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III:  Ugh.  Not only is the title of this collection a misnomer, but it’s ANOTHER case of Rucka’s previous Bat-writing being re-collected in a new edition that gives us more issues than the previous one did.  The first edition (“Elegy”) collected the first seven issues of this run in an oversized hardcover which represented all of Williams’ work.  This new edition gives us the final three issues which were done by Jock.  While Jock’s a formidable talent in his own right, I’m having trouble summoning up the will to pick up this new edition just to get those three issues.  I think I’ll resolve things by getting them on ComiXology instead.


American Way:  The 10th Anniversary Edition:  Why is this mostly-forgotten series from DC getting an anniversary edition?  Well, when the person who wrote it is John Ridley, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for “12 Years A Slave,” and went on to produce the acclaimed anthology series “American Crime,” then that should serve as a good enough answer.  It also makes me think that this miniseries about an alternate-history U.S. where fights between superheroes and supervillains are staged by the government to keep the public distracted may actually be a lost gem.  After all, history appears to have shown that Ridley’s time in comics was only holding him back from achieving his true potential.