Northlanders #5 (DC/Vertigo): Major pieces of Sven’s psychological drive are revealed in this issue, as Brian Wood provides a nice historical background for the character. There are many sociological themes at play here, including the way youth considers its place in the world, having the courage to take alternate paths, and a nice religious paradox is also presented. What I’m beginning to like most about Northlanders is the mature and complex ways that the characters interact with their lives and their realities, in a very unapologetic way: “She had other men. I had other women. But there was love.” I can say that I love DMZ. I love Local. But Northlanders is quickly becoming the book I look forward to reading the most in the Brian Wood stable. It’s full of surprises, charm, introspection, and ruminations on the human experience. With this issue, I feel like Northlanders has stopped being Wood’s new book with great potential, and has simply become one of his greatest works. Grade A+.
Bonus: The House of Mystery sneak preview looks really fun! Constantine, Wesley Dodds, Shade, Bigby Wolf, and Kid Eternity! Luca Rossi’s intricate, fine lines and forced perspective shots really make me want to check this out.
Checkmate #25 (DC): The introduction suffers a bit from the GI Joe style profiles, complete with codenames. I don’t quite understand how The Rooks are supposedly so bad ass and intimidating, yet I’ve never heard of Cinnamon, Sykes, or J.A.K.E. Why not bring in Arsenal or someone who would be a surprise known face that could kick some serious ass? That aside, the script hums and there are no wonky qualities in the art. There are big concepts like utilizing Starro DNA, and Rucka’s verbal aesthetic is all over this. Throw away lines about the mission clock running and the international station reports are definitively making this the Queen & Country of the DCU. I also really enjoy how firmly entrenched in the DCU the book strives to be. There’s the appearance of Batman, the mentions of “Honor Alpha,” arcane Crowley references, and even some respect from the Trinity. This issue asks the basic philosophical question: if you could kill someone like Hitler at birth, would it be justifiable? We’re teased with one answer, and twisted into an approach that suggests if you know that will be the baby’s ultimate destiny, you simply teach the baby otherwise. Grade A-.
X-Force #3 (Marvel): The diversity of the quickly alternating sets makes it a little tough to figure out how they all connect. Seeing a recently deceased character’s grave, suggesting he’ll come back to life, is a bit groan-inducing. But… just when I think I’m ready to throw in the towel, I start enjoying this title. The CG art is impressive, I like the commentary on religious extremism, and Proudstar’s internal monologue about what it means to be a member of this incarnation of X-Force, and whether or not he’s comfortable with that, are all really engaging. There’s a charming urgency to lines like “Does she look okay, Worthington?!” Grade B+.
Amazing Spider-Man #557 (Marvel): There’s a bit of exposition up front, and the Mayan hoo-ha is not all that interesting or unique, but the overall tone of the book is still welcome to me. I like this portrayal of a Peter who is responsible and mature, while being fun. Bachalo’s dark visuals and beautiful layouts remain very inventive. Not the most interesting high concept, but excellent execution of it. Grade B.
I also picked up;
Queen & Country: Definitive Edition: Volume 2 (Oni Press): This superb and reasonably priced edition collects the 4th, 5th, and 6th trade paperback arcs.