Northlanders #9-10

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Dean Ormston
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

I don’t think there’s any way about it—Brian Wood’s ongoing series Northlanders is a bit of a gamble. At a glance, it doesn’t seem like too much of a reach; a series about Vikings told as realistically as possible seems like a sure-fire hook for readers, right? What makes seem a little less so, though, is that each new story arc stars a completely different set of characters, and often in a different setting entirely. In many ways, it’s really a series of mini-series about different Vikings, all under a single umbrella header. With the first Northlanders story having come to a close, it seemed like a good a time as any to check out the comic and see how the switch would be handled—especially after jumping from an 8-issue story to a much shorter 2-parter. And the end result? Well, I’m still not sure how the market in general will treat Northlanders, but my mind is certainly made up.

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Uncanny X-Men #502

Written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker
Penciled by Greg Land
Inked by Jay Leisten
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

One of the very first superhero comics I ever read was Uncanny X-Men, so I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the comic. That’s not to say that I’m willing to give it a free pass, of course; I’ve had quite a few years in which I’ve given the book a shot, decided it wasn’t for me, and left it aside. Happily, right now makes me feel for the first time since Grant Morrison stopped writing the X-Men that there is a book that is aimed squarely at me, and for that I have Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker to thank. Now if only Terry Dodson would come on board sooner rather than later, I think I’d be set.

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Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

Written by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, and Mario Hernandez
Art by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez
104 pages, black and white
Published by Fantagraphics

In late 1991, a good friend of mine handed me a stack of Love and Rockets comics with the comment, "You have to read these." I’ve been a fan of the Hernandez Brothers’s comics ever since then, with the only real constant being that I never would know what to expect next. Now they’ve finally left the single-issue comic format behind, releasing Love and Rockets: New Stories as a thick annual format, giving each of the brothers more room in a single release. And the end result? Well, let’s just say that once again, they’ve shown that I really had no idea what to expect.

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Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire Vol. 2: PSmIth

Written and penciled by Phil Foglio
Inked by Julie Sczesny
80 pages, color
Published by Airship Entertainment

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius; there’s no other way to describe how I feel about a comic where I not only read the online updates three times a week, but then buy the special hardcover collections as well. But there are times when what really makes me the happiest about Girl Genius is not so much that it exists, but rather that that it seems to be financing the reprinting of Phil Foglio’s earlier comics. And having somehow missed out on the second Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire book in the past, trust me when I say that I was particularly excited about finally getting to read it. As it turns out, it really was worth the wait.

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Flight Vol. 5

Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
368 pages, color
Published by Villard Books

With each new volume of the Flight anthology, it’s a reason to celebrate. If I had to try and sum up the basic thrust of each book, it’s stories that instill a sense of wonder and excitement in the reader. Almost every single story does that in any volume of Flight, which is why I think it’s one of those books that I simply cannot get enough of.

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B.P.R.D. Vol. 8: Killing Ground

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis
144 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

We’re all familiar with the hyperbole. "In this issue, everything changes!" It’s a promise that decades upon decades of comics have promised, with some huge status quo shattering event teased on the cover. More often than not, though, it’s a company-owned comic that for the purposes of trademark (or just a general unwillingness), things are back to normal within a year or two. All of that ran through my head when reading B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground, because despite the lack of a promise on the cover, this is a book where I’m willing to believe that everything does, indeed, change.

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Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever

Written by Jay Lynch
Art by Dean Haspiel
40 pages, color
Published by Toon Books

If there’s one thing that kids are good at, it’s fighting with siblings. No matter how much or little they may like each other, I’m willing to wager that at some point they’ve ended up bickering with each other—it’s probably some sort of genetic imperative. Jay Lynch and Dean Haspiel certainly had that very much in mind when they created Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever for the Toon Books line; what better conflict can you have with superheroes when it’s a duo that are also brother and sister?

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X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1

Written by James Asmus, Mike Carey, C.B. Cebulski
Penciled by Chris Burham, Michael Ryan, David Yardin
Inked by Chris Burham, Victor Olazaba, David Yardin
40 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Is it just me or the X-Men trapped in a never-ending cycle of subtitled stories and eras? Since October of last year, we’ve had Messiah Complex, Divided We Stand, and now Manifest Destiny. And, not content to just slap the logo on all of the mutant books, there’s also X-Men: Manifest Destiny, a four-issue anthology about some of the mutant characters and how they travel or deal with the move to San Francisco. So far, that’s proved to be just about as variable in quality as you can imagine it would be.

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Twilight Zone: The After Hours

Original story by Rod Serling
Adapted by Mark Kneece
Art by Rebekah Isaacs
72 pages, color
Published by Walker Books

I’ll admit that my initial reaction upon seeing upcoming adaptations of The Twilight Zone episodes into comics was, "Why?" Surely we had enough good comics out there that we didn’t need to jump back into the 1960s to find ideas? The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. By aiming these books at younger readers, it’s an audience who has certainly never encountered the source material. And if they keep picking stories like The After Hours to turn into comics? Well, I hate to admit it, but it’s the kind of story that I think a lot of writers today wish they could write.

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Swallow Me Whole

By Nate Powell
216 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Looking at the cover of Swallow Me Whole, I’ll admit that my first reaction was one of unease. There’s something creepy about it, with the character of Ruth levitating around the treetops, with insects all around her body even as Ruth looks back over her shoulder. It took me a few minutes to realize what had struck me so much about it; Ruth doesn’t look so much like she’s flying, here, but rather as if she’s being carried away by someone or something beyond her control. It’s that lack of control that I think punctuates all of Swallow Me Whole, making Nate Powell’s graphic novel a journey to somewhere very uncomfortable.

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