This Week’s Haul

Quite a week:

  • Ex Machina #41, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Jack of Fables #33, by Bill Willingham, Matt Sturges, Russ Braun & José Marzan Jr. (DC/Vertigo)
  • Astonishing X-Men #29, by Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi (Marvel)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #13, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker & Victor Olazaba (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hercules #128, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Dietrich Smith & Terry Pallot (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #25, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman, Tom Palmer & Juan Doe (Marvel)
  • Marvels: Eye of the Camera #5 of 6, by Kurt Busiek & Jay Anacleto (Marvel)
  • Ignition City #2 of 5, by Warren Ellis & Gianluca Pagliarani (Avatar)
  • Freakangels TPBs vol 1 and vol 2, by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield (Avatar)
  • Mister X: Condemned #4 of 4, by Dean Motter (Dark Horse)
  • Invincible #61, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
FreakAngels vol 1

FreakAngels vol 2
Ignition City may not have been very good (and this week’s issue is only a little better than the first one), but to my surprise Ellis already has a publication from Avatar which is pretty good: The collections of the FreakAngels web comic. The second collection came out this week, and I picked up both and gave them a read.

The premise is that 12 powerful telepaths/telekinetics were born at the same time, and as teenagers they managed to bring about the end of the world – or at least of civilization. Six years later, 11 of these “Freakangels” live in the Whitechapel district of London – which itself is flooded by 15 feet of water – and safeguard a few hundred survivors with their powers from outsiders who try to steal what they have. The 12th angel, Mark, had been exiled some years earlier, and at the beginning of the first book he programs a young woman, Alice, to come to Whitechapel and start killing. She’s stopped, her brain is purged of Mark’s programming and she’s recruited to help the angels with their lookouts, as she knows who they are now, and most of the people they’re guarding don’t. The first volume concerns Alice’s arrival and an open assault on Whitechapel by an enemy group, while the second involves a more covert attack.

The first two volumes of FreakAngels cover their ground slowly (each volume covers about a day’s worth of story time), I think because Ellis wants to introduce the cast and setting gradually. Despite the paranormal abilities, the series reads more like a character drama than an action/adventure series. But Ellis is mostly working in archetypes when it comes to the FreakAngels themselves: The caring doctor, the badass cop, the clever engineers, the dedicated guard, the free spirit, the bad seed, etc. So the series focuses more on how things work in WhiteChapel, and setting up the tensions among the characters, but there’s certainly the potential for a lot of drama.

Paul Duffield is certainly the best artist I’ve yet seen work with Ellis on an Avatar-published project. Although his figures seem a little stiff at times, he does have a casual, easy way with faces. His biggest strength is in drawing the backgrounds of the city of London (see, for instance, this page), and the broken or rebuilt buildings and constructs that pepper the setting. Overall he’s quite good, and the schedule he must be putting in to draw 6 pages weekly makes me all the more impressed.

FreakAngels also has Ellis’ best qualities on display: Sure he’s got a mean streak and can be quite the smartass, but ultimately his best work is about balancing freedoms and responsibilities, and setting up situations where these two aspects of life come into conflict. The FreakAngels have a sense of these qualities to varying degrees, especially given their role in shaping their world, and this is what sets the story in motion, and sets them with or against each other. While the revealing of their world is interesting in and of itself, it’s the extent to which the characters grow and come to understand these qualities which will determine high high FreakAngels sits in Ellis’ oeuvre.

Mister X: Condemned #4 The Mister X: Condemned mini-series wraps up this week. Dean Motter’s work is always stylish, interesting to look at, and evocative, but in both the original series and this one I don’t think there’s more to it than that. The plot and character are both pretty thin, and no one’s particularly sympathetic for the reader to follow.

For my money, Motter at his best can be found in Terminal City, with great artwork by Michael Lark.

Invincible #61 “The Invincible War” aftermath occurs in Invincible #61, in which last month’s devastation leaves the survivors picking up the pieces, and Invincible trying not to feel like the whole mess is his fault (though when a couple dozen parallel-world duplicates of yourself try to destroy the Earth, what how would you feel?). And then the story launches right into “Conquest”, which looks like the next go-round between Invincible and his conquering Viltrumite relatives.

This comic never seems to rest, and that’s a good thing. And Ottley’s art seems to get better every month.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold #20, by David Hine, Doug Braithwaite & Bill Reinhold (DC)
  • Top 10: Season Two #3, by Zander Cannon & Gene Ha (DC/America’s Best)
  • Hulk #9, by Jeph Loeb, Arthur Adams & Frank Cho (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #21, by Duane Swierczynski & Timothy Green (Marvel)
  • Thor #12, by J. Michael Straczynski, Oliver Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
  • Gigantic #2 of 5, by Rick Remender & Eric Nguyen (Dark Horse)
  • Mister X: Condemned #1 of 4, by Dean Motter (Dark Horse)
  • The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #2 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
  • Invincible #57, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
  • The Astounding Wolf-Man #11, by Robert Kirman, Jason Howard & Cliff Rathburn (Image)
  • Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #5, of 5, by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener & James Nguyen (Red 5)
Hulk #9 I think this is the end for me for this run of Hulk: Three issues to tell two trivial stories of the green Hulk and the red Hulk is a lot of time wasted, and I’m not sticking around to see if Loeb gets on with it anytime soon. The series started out with a bang, but quickly ran out of gas. It’s doubly disappointing since Greg Pak did such a great job with the Planet Hulk/World War Hulk stories in the previous Hulk series.

Anyway, the two stories wrapping up here are the green Hulk fighting a horde of Wendigo in Las Vegas, and the She-Hulk and a group of female super-heroes fighting the Red Hulk, and getting pwned by him. The Art Adams art on the first story is fun, but the story doesn’t give him any great panels to draw. The Frank Cho artwork on the second is pretty much Frank Cho drawing a whole slew of buxom women in tights, which is pretty much what you’d expect.

At this point I don’t understand why I moved to this book rather than sticking with Greg Pak when the previous series became The Incredible Hercules. Don’t I know that I should stick with creators, not characters? Oh well.

The Immortal Iron Fist #21 The Immortal Iron Fist continues its trend of punctuating its major stories with one-shots about Iron Fists from different eras. This one features the Iron Fist of 3099, who’s sent to save the dying world of Yaochi from its oppressive tyrant. The story’s pretty good, and Timothy Green’s artwork is fantastic: Elegant layouts with lines for shading rather than use of blacks, giving it a little bit of a European look. The final panel, a 2/3-page spread, is terrific. Even if you’re not reading Iron Fist regularly, you might want to check this issue out.
Mister X: Condemned #1 The original Mister X series came out back when I was still pretty much only reading superhero comics, and it was so not a superhero comic. Although it’s been collected, it doesn’t hold up terribly well: The story arc is sketchy and the artwork is erratic.

So what is Mister X? Well, creator/writer/designer Dean Motter has done a trio of comic book series about three cities which all have a retro-futuristic architecture, a mash-up of styles from the 20s to the 50s and what those decades thought the future might look like stylistically. Mister X was the first, Terminal City the second (and the best), and Electropolis the third. Mister X takes place in Radiant City, a dark place whose architecture drives its citizens mad, earning it the nickname Somnopolis. Mister X himself was the designer of the city, now a lone renegade who’s driven to try to fix the city, although he has mixed results.

This second series opens with Radiant City’s leadership hiring demolition companies to take out the more rotten parts of the city, but they’re not entirely in control of what’s happening, and things start going awry, and people get killed. Then, Mister X reappears in the apartment of his old girlfriend, Mercedes, asking for the plans.

Motter isn’t the most versatile artist, but his esthetic and layouts are enough to carry the story, and this issue is a good place to get acquainted with the character. Time will tell if the advances in storytelling that Motter displayed in his later projects carries over to Mister X, but it’s off to a good start.

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #5 The second Atomic Robo wraps up this week, and the last issue is a bit of a letdown after the first four, with a single-issue adventure to stop the Nazi scientist Skorzeny in 1944. He gets captured and is rescued by a Scotsman with a very heavy accent, who steals the show from Robo in his own comic. It feels so disjointed from the rest of the series that it feels like a throwaway issue, just when the series seemed to be hitting its stride. Oh, well.

It features an epilogue with a later meeting between Robo and Skorzeny, which is better than the main story.

As I said when I reviewed #4, I think better character development is the key to this series taking off. Robo is not much of a character, and the supporting cast is mostly too sketchy. They need to develop a few more characters and make them memorable. Until that happens, the series is just going to feel like a set of vignettes, ultimately not going anywhere.

(For a dissenting opinion, see this review at Major Spoilers.)