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Published on January 10th, 2014 | by The Prodigy

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What’s In My Bag Issue #13

By Mike Seibert

This issue: Picks for the Geek Nation Podcast team!

In each issue of What’s In My Bag, I recap and review three individual single issues from my bag of recently read comic books. The order listed is not necessarily by preference. Also, be advised that minor spoilers may abound, but are generally in reference to previous issues only or other happenings that may relate to the issue being reviewed.

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The next few issues of What’s In My Bag are inspired by a conversation I had with Vicky B. during the recent BJ Shea Anniversary Party (14 years on the radio in Seattle!). When I told her that I write comic book reviews for this site, the first thing she asked me was “what should I be reading?” A great question, and we talked for a few minutes and I gave her a few suggestions. This got me thinking about what books I would recommend for the other members of the BJ Geek Nation Podcast if I was asked. Always looking to be proactive, I’ve decided to answer that question here. Below are my picks of recent comics for the members of the show:

For Vicky B:

Avengers Arena #17 (Marvel NOW!)

I’ve written about this series before in issue #4 of What’s In My Bag, indicating how surprisingly good it was and how much I liked it; but here’s a quick recap: 16 teenage heroes are kidnapped and thrown into X-Men villain Arcade’s Murder World. Isolated and alone, they must battle the elements and each other until one winner remains standing; Hunger Games style!

I’m recommending this book for Vicky because of the inclusion of not only some of the characters from Runaways, but also features her favorite character, X-23. The cool thing about this book is its accessibility to new readers. Sure, it helps and certainly raises the stakes if you are familiar and invested with these characters, but it’s not required to enjoy this comic. The narrative does a great job of giving you enough of what you need to understand where these characters are coming from. Every character is given time to develop and grow within the confines of this series. I think this book is built to be a great, self-contained read. I’ll be interested to see who survives and how these events carry over into the rest of the Marvel Universe. Fortunately or unfortunately, issue #18 is this comic’s last issue. I say unfortunately because I’ve grown to really like this book and am disappointed to see it end. However, fortunately, at only 18 issues, this makes for a nice series that can be enjoyed on its own merits. There aren’t any cross-over elements from other books to muddy the waters here.

I not only recommend this book to Vicky B., but also to anyone who is a fan of Hunger Games and or Battle Royale. This is also a great book for folks that enjoy comics about well-written teenage characters. Fans of the classic Teen Titans comics would like Avengers Arena. At this point though, since the series is almost over, I would wait for the collected edition to come out and then just read the whole story in one shot!

For The Rev:

Afterlife with Archie #1 (Archie Comics)

 Wondering why I would recommend an Archie comic to Rev? One word: Zombies!

Evidently, we’re still knee deep in the “zombie craze”, and everyone is looking to capitalize. I mean, look at the ratings for AMC’s The Walking Dead as well as the box office for the World War Z movie for proof that zombies have indeed infected the mainstream. Zombies are  everywhere, and seemingly here to stay. Comic books has been on the zombie train for a long, long time. Even the big two, Marvel and     DC have jumped on the bandwagon with the wildly successful Marvel Zombies and Blackest Night series respectively. It’s not even worth mentioning that The Walking Dead is first, and foremost a successful comic book! This series answers a question that nobody was asking: How would the Riverdale gang survive during the zombie apocalypse? If you’re thinking that this sounds like the dumbest idea ever, then you would be mistaken and would miss out on a really great comic book.

The first and most important thing to note about this series it that it is NOT a parody of any kind. When I first heard rumors about this comic, I was imagining something closer to the Archie Meets The Punisher book that Marvel/Archie produced in the mid-90’s (a surprisingly fun read, by the way if you can find a copy; the Marvel version even has the requisite 90;s die-cut cover).  Afterlife with Archie plays it straight, and lets the reader know how deathly serious the stakes are within a few pages of the book. That’s not to say that this comic is joyless; there’s actually quite a bit of humor that’s a great counterbalance to the horror and gore. Also, they find a way to work      Sabrina, The Teenage Witch into the story without it coming across as silly or corny. She’s actually the catalyst for the horror that’s been unleashed on Riverdale.

Afterlife with Archie is written by Harvey Award-winning writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who      also wrote the screenplay for the Carrie reboot as well as several Marvel projects, including Marvel Knight’s Fantastic Four series, 4. He’s also apparently written a handful of stuff for Archie Comics in the past, including Archie Meets Glee. This dude’s all over the place, but he does an awesome job here.

The thing that put this series on my radar though was the artist, Eisner Award winner, Francesco  Francavilla (Batman: The Black Mirror, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear). I adore his work. His art has a grimy, pulp vibe and feel to it. The art is even further enhanced by the comic being printed on non-glossy paper. It feels much more like a 1950’s horror comic than an Archie book.

My only concern about this comic is that it’s being billed as an ongoing series. I’m not really sure how much material there is to mine from this concept. While it works great as a fun novelty, I’m not so sure that this allows for the depth of, say, The Walking Dead. It’s just not as good so far. I hope that this doesn’t travel the same ground as BOOM! Studios Fanboys Vs. Zombies comic. I really liked that book when it came out (which features an outbreak of a zombie virus during San Diego ComiCon), but only for about a dozen or so issues. Once I realized that the story was more of a long form tale (like The Walking Dead), I dropped it because there’s only so far a story can go before it becomes a pale imitation of a better book. I’m really hoping that Afterlife with Archie doesn’t end up the same way…

For Mark Rahner:

Velvet #1 (Image)

 Knowing that Mark is such a huge fan of Classic James Bond and old spy movies, this book is right up his alley.

Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting redefined Captain America for Marvel years ago with their Winter Soldier storyline (which largely serves as the basis for the upcoming movie sequel,   much like Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s EXTREMIS was the core of Iron Man 3), and that tone carries over into Velvet, their creator-owned book from Image.

Velvet Templeton is the personal assistant to the Director of The Agency, essentially a  Ms. Moneypenny archetype. What’s intriguing is that over the course of the issue, it’s gradually revealed that she is a former field agent with a prolific past. I really enjoyed the setup of her character. In fact for half of the issue, she’s relegated to the background, almost as a supporting character in her own book. It was really cool how Brubaker starts the story from the prospective   of the suave Bond-esque super spy, as if this was the lead character, only to pull the rug out from under the reader and hands the story off to Velvet and really gets into the main plot.

This book takes place in the 1970’s, and Steve Epting’s art really captures that gritty Cold War era perfectly. For me at least, this comic reads like a beat up Ian Fleming or John le Carre paperback. I’m intrigued by the “Ms. Moneypenny with a secret history as a badass” concept, but that’s just  really the hook to get you into this book. I also like that not only is Velvet a strong female lead, but also that she’s not a typical “comic book” female lead. She’s not overly sexualized, and is presented as age appropriate. Her face shows all of the mileage that would be expected from a comparable male lead, and she has a shock of Rogue-like grey hair that makes her look distinctive. None of that is to say that her character is prudish at all. There is plenty of mature content and filth to keep Mark interested. The action sequences are illustrated beautifully and it’s a great payoff when Velvet finally breaks out and kicks some serious ass towards the end of the issue.

This is a darkly twisted espionage comic, that’s sexy and provocative. And there’s nothing like it currently on the stands. Highest recommendation!

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Like what you’ve read? Be sure to let us know using the comments below. Didn’t like it or disagree? Even better! Just please be sure to leave a comment and start a conversation.

Any and all feedback is appreciated!

You can Follow Mike Seibert on Twitter @Seibert_Mike and use the #whatsinmybag


About the Author

BJ Shea's Geek Nation is always looking for contributors. If you have watched, read, or played something that you think Geek Nation would like to read about, send your review to BJgeeknation@gmail.com and your review might get published!



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