11th Jul2013

Panel Discussion #013 with Jack and Mark

by Mark Allen


3rd July

Just a short(ish) installment this week, as this really should have gone out last week but circumstances conspired against us (i.e. someone gave me a copy of The Last of Us which exacerbated my natural procrastinatory tendencies). So prepare for a haphazard but mercifully brief rundown of what last week in comics looked like.


I bought six comics last week, but I’m writing this on Wednesday night so if this column has any hope of being live before the weekend I’ll just talk about them in roundup fashion:

Entering the mission statement/giant pseudo-science exposition portion of its tale, Gillen and White’s Uber #3 is mostly set-up for the rest of the series – strange, one might think, for the third issue, but Gillen’s been tactical in drawing us in with excitement and intrigue and leaving the science bit until we’re properly invested in the story. So it’s mostly people talking in offices, but when those offices belong to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill the tension is automatically ramped up a fair bit. A bit of Nazi face-melting doesn’t go amiss either.
BlackAcre #8 and Ten Grand #3 were pretty underwhelming despite some interesting developments with ancillary characters in the former and grimy, nauseatingly atmospheric art in the latter, but both are let down by weaknesses in the writing. Duffy Boudreau has his hands on some great elements in BlackAcre but often falls short of realising their potential and misjudges tone to the extent that when the main character makes a “joke” about someone dying of an illness it just seems like a dick move and I want him to die for, as Dan Harmon would put it, telling everyone their shoelaces are untied. Stracyznski makes no such tonal errors in his book, but the plotting is predictable to the point of boredom and the lack of character definition Dead Wife is given is getting pretty tiresome, frankly. If Ben Templesmith wasn’t on this book and doing great things I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t still be buying it.

As much as they’re mostly enjoyable romps, the Howard Stark flashback sequences in the current arc of Iron Man feel a hell of a lot like filler, and #12’s certainly could have been reduced to a page or two instead of taking up the bulk of the issue. Nothing revelatory occurs until the present day section at the end and the book reads very much like a rehash of the Ocean’s Eleven riff from an earlier issue, which is disappointing and borderline irritating for $3.99 a pop.

X-Men Legacy #13 is set in a pub in London and features a bunch of British mutants hanging out and trying to fight their personal stereotypes. There’s a joke about Welsh people and cheese toasties and frankly I’m delighted that that kind of thing can be printed in an American comic because I’m not entirely sure that most Yanks don’t think that Wales only exists in stories about faeries and songs about valleys. There’s also some artfully done exposition in the first couple of pages and a nice perspective shift from Legion to MI13 agent Pete Wisdom, who I’m sure Londoner Si Spurrier got a big kick out of writing.

Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin. That’s all you need to say to sell a whole lot of people on Satellite Sam, the first issue of which sets up the black and white comic about a 1950s science fiction show’s recently deceased star and his son’s discovery of the secrets he was keeping. I loved it; Chaykin’s playful, super-detailed linework and Fraction’s colloquial yet deceptively precise dialogue are a match made in heaven and both set Satellite Sam to be the best kind of offbeat crime thriller.


Five Weapons #5, Jimmie Robinson, Image Comics

The Five Weapons mini-series sort of concluded this month – I say sort of: the back page announces that the series will return in January 2014. I had mixed feelings about this. I guess every comic writer with a limited series hopes that their work becomes an ongoing book and as I generally enjoyed Five Weapons, I’m glad that sales were clearly strong enough for this to happen to Robinson. I liked the world he created well enough to warrant a revisit too, but I was also looking forward to a definitive conclusion. That’s not to say Five Weapons ends on a cliffhanger or anything – it seems to me that the book ends more or less as it would have done if the series weren’t being continued – but there’s a difference between a ‘season’ finishing and knowing that the characters will be back at some. I guess I just didn’t get quite the closure I was seeking.

The book itself is a decent if not stellar finale to this first run. Things get tied up a little too simply and easily, mostly through a big exposition dump. I was kind of expecting something a little more impressive to be honest. There’s good stuff in here too – the mysterious assassin that’s been stalking the Shainline’s takes on the entire Five Weapons school in a wonderfully realised fight scene. And it’s also nice to see where some character’s loyalties lie when the chips are down.

Because of the slightly flat ending and a mid-series wobble, I can’t say Five Weapons as a whole has been a must-read. It’s been a fun, light-hearted ride, with a pleasing amount of cleverness about it and I guess I’m curious enough to see where it’ll go next year. There’ll surely be a trade paperback released imminently so if you’re looking for a not too heavy slice of action adventure with a side order of wry humour, you could do much worse.


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