THIS WEEK’S STAFF PICKS

Congress of the Animals Congress of the Animals
By Jim Woodring
Fantagraphics

Camila says: Jim Woodring’s much anticipated second full length graphic novel Congress of the Animals is Frank’s first adventure outside the Unifactor.  It is, of course, full of Woodring’s usual nightmarish scenarios, dream-like sequences, not so obvious symbolism and all the stuff you’d expect from a new Frank book.  It does, however, end in a way I didn’t expect at all. It’s either really sweet or incredibly cynical, depending on how you look at it and on what will happen next.  Either way, it’s a pretty good ending, and another excellent book by one of the best artists working on alternative comics.

Fables #106 Fables #106
By Bill Willingham [w], Mark Buckingham [a] and Steve Leialoha [i]
Vertigo

Karl says: The final battle with Mr. Dark!  Concluding with an unexpected twist hinted at in the previous issue, the first half of this comic consists entirely of glorious Mark Buckingam splash pages!  The outcome is just the sort of many-headed unhappy ending that keeps Fables readers coming back to Willingham’s epic saga.

Sandman Presents: Petrefax Sandman Presents: Petrefax
by Mike Carey [w] and Steve Leialoha [a]
Vertigo

Bobby says: Calcinia has wanted to be apprenticed in magic for as long as she can remember.  When her father arranges for her to be married to the suspicious Lord Bulgus, she sets off to seek the help of Drabengi, the gypsy witch, so she can collect the evidence needed against him.  All does not go to plan though, and she crosses paths with Petrefax in a most unusual way.  Petrefax, a journeyman and an undertaker by trade, finds work on arrival in the town of Sortfiri, he soon realises all is not as it seems when the corpse he has been hired to prepare awakens.   He finds himself compelled to help on the quest for justice and a wonderful mystery of deceit and greed unravels as the pieces fall into place.   The story relives this twisting tale as narrated by Petrefax through a letter to his old teacher and friend.   Originally released as a four-part miniseries in 2000, Petrefax is available again as a 100 page spectacular from Vertigo Resurrected, so grab it while you can!

Captain America #619 Captain America #619
By Ed Brubaker [w], Butch Guice and Chris Samnee [a]
Marvel

Simon says: This last issue before the book splits into Captain America #1 and Captain America & Bucky #620 is a great end-cap to a great storyline.   “Gulag” has been a thorough return to form for Brubaker on the title, and has benefited from great art from Chris Samnee and Butch Guice, with Bettie Breitweiser’s muted colours tying the two styles together nicely.   Alternating two excellent but potentially slow artists has been a great way to keep up the consistency of the artwork, and I very much look forward to following Samnee onto Cap & Bucky in July.   This issue sets up the pre-Fear Itself #1 status quo for Steve and Bucky (Steve tempted to get back in the suit and Bucky out of prison and back in the US) and makes the events of Fear Itself #3 a little more poignant, though it does little to remedy that series’ faults (e.g. it’s rubbish).  After this issue I have faith that the two upcoming new Cap books will showcase Brubaker at his best.

Venom #1 (3rd Printing) Venom #1 (3rd Printing)
By Rick Remender [w] and Tony Moore [a]
Marvel

Robin says: If you somehow managed to miss out on Venom the first, or even the second time around hopefully the third will be the charm.  Don’t let the cover fool you; this is Venom as you’ve never seen him before!  Basic set up: Flash Thompson, former classmate (and tormentor) of Peter Parker and recent war veteran is given a second chance to serve his country by being bonded with the Venom symbiote and carrying out black-ops missions.  This is the best execution of a number one issue I’ve seen in a long time: expostion is delivered while simultaneously moving the story forward in the action scenes, beautifully illustrated by Tony Moore (The Walking Dead, Franken-Castle, Fear Agent) and everything we need to know about the character, and the basic set up of the series is told in this first issue. While further story is set up, we’re not left with a cliff-hanger ending, or a “to be continued…”  At the end of the issue, you’ll know whether this is something you want to continue reading.  An approach I would love to see DC attempt with their relaunch in September.

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for the Swamp Thing #1 Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for the Swamp Thing #1
By Jonahtan Vankin [w] and Marco Castiello [a]
DC Comics

Liz says: So here we are, for good or for ill, John Constantine is back in the DC universe, hot on the leafy trail of his old associate, Swamp Thing.  You’d be forgiven for not knowing that John Constantine: Hellblazer started out a supporting character in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, back before it belonged to the Vertigo imprint and was a regular DC title.  Constantine has become so established as a Vertigo character that when he appeared at the end of Brightest Day, it was a stomach-dropping jolt to the system.  Whether or not it’s a good thing is a matter of debate, but with the Vertigo series still ongoing and a new Swamp Thing book in the offing, it certainly isn’t a bad thing.  As a massive Hellblazer fan and equally massive Batman fan, I can’t help but geek out seeing both of them in the same panel. So while it will be interesting to see what it means for the future, for now I’m just going to enjoy seeing one of my favourite characters get thrown into the same sandbox as a bunch of my other favourite characters, and watch how it plays out.

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