The Weekly Round-Up #359 With Black Hammer #4, BPRD Hell On Earth #146, Horizon #4, Manifest Destiny #24 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Black Hammer #4 – This issue of Black Hammer is an unexpected delight.  This series, about a group of superheroes who have become trapped in a very normal rural town where they have to hide their identities, has been interesting, but this issue was quite funny.  Slam, the paterfamilias of the group has his new lady friend over for dinner, and many of his fears come to pass, as Gail, an older woman trapped in the body of a young girl, decides to do everything she can to ruin the evening.  This issue actually had me laughing out loud, as Jeff Lemire provides some really memorable scenes, and Dean Ormston absolutely nails the characters’ expressions.  This is some very funny stuff.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing Ant-Man #13 – Nick Spencer’s second run of Ant-Man stories has been very tightly plotted, and this last issue does a terrific job of tying together all of the threads, while finding space for some new surprises.  I’m going to miss this title, and hope that we will see more Marvel work from Spencer soon (or, perhaps even better, a more committed return to his Morning Glories, wherein he finally explains what the hell is going on in that book).

Batman #9 – And now, ten issues into his run (counting the Rebirth one-off), Tom King finally delivers the type of issue I had been hoping for since hearing that he would be writing this title.  Batman wants to go after the Psycho-Pirate, who is currently on Santa Prisca, the island nation run by Bane.  To do this, Batman is putting together his own version of the Suicide Squad, recruiting a few inmates from Arkham to help him do his bidding, including a few alumni from the classic Ostrander Squad days.  King’s Batman finally feels like the Batman I expected him to write, a ruthless operator.  Mikel Janin’s layouts and artwork are terrific, and such an improvement over the work that David Finch and Riley Rossmo have been doing on this title.  There’s even a cameo suggesting that DC has not forgotten about the Legion of Super-Heroes (although, under no circumstances, do I think their return should happen in a Batman book).  This issue was deeply satisfying, and my hope is that, as he deals with less editorial interference, King on this title will reach the heights he has on Vision, Omega Men, and Sheriff of Babylon.

Black Panther #7 – Ta-Nehisi Coates is bringing back the Crew, featuring Storm, Luke Cage, and Misty Knight (all of whom worked together in an old Claremont/Byrne X-Men issue), as well as Manifold, but this very busy issue, which also checks in on the revolutionaries and on Shuri, has too many elements squeezed into too short a space to let any of them breathe properly.  This book is both dense and kind of decompressed at the same time, if that makes any sense.  I love what Coates is doing, and the way in which he is exploring themes of monarchy, but I’m not sure his pacing is right here.

Black Widow #7 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee continue to impress with this rather dark look at Natasha’s world.  She uses her new partnership with the Weeping Lion to track down the woman who trained her in the Red Room, and while she may show mercy in that encounter, we know that the Lion is not on her side, and we know why.  This is a pretty interesting series, and quite different from the creators’ recent work on Daredevil.

BPRD Hell on Earth #146 – Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are determined to wipe the slate clean when this storyline finishes.  More than a few key characters have met their fate recently, leaving the book with a very diminished cast, while the extent of the threat to humanity has barely budged.  Liz and Johan are basically the only characters left now, and it does not look good for them.  It’s crazy to think about how different this title is from when it began.

The Bunker #19 – Now that Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari’s very complicated time travel story is over, I’d like to go back and reread it from the beginning, because I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a few things along the way.  This comic, about a group of friends who discover a secret bunker that contains all sorts of information about their futures, and how they basically destroy the world, is a complex but wonderful thing.  Many of the characters feel very realistic, and the twists and turns of the plot always kept my interest.  I’ll miss this book.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #14 – Another excellent issue of this undersung series.  The Flag-Smasher shows up, taking a room of powerful people hostage and calling both Captain Americas to him.  My favourite thing about this title, and there are many, is that Nick Spencer is making this comic very topical, with the Smasher railing against the resurgent fascism we are seeing in America and Europe.  I also like the way Spencer ties this in to what he’s got going on in Steve Rogers’s title, without it completely taking the comic over.  Paul Renaud’s art looks wonderful here, too.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1 – The Young Animal line has been pretty inconsistent so far, in my opinion, and I wasn’t all that interested in this title, until I flipped through it and saw that it was connected to some of the stranger sides of the DC Universe, and decided to give it a shot.  Cave is a retired adventurer whose wife just passed away, and he seems rather lost.  He has a cybernetic eye (hence the title of the book) but no one, and that includes Dr. Magnus) knows where it came from or how it works.  There’s some sort of intrigue involving his former company, and his relationship with his daughter is a touch strained.  Gerard Way’s writing here is much clearer than his work on Doom Patrol (I assume that’s because of co-writer Jonathan Rivera), and while Michael Avon Oeming is not a favourite artist of mine, he does do a decent job here.  I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to come back for the next issue though.

Doctor Strange #13 – Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo (and ten thousand inkers) have Strange face off against Nightmare in a single issue, and do it with style.  I like the quicker pace of this arc, which looks to have a number of classic Strange nemeses coming out of the woodwork.

Horizon #4 – I’m a little surprised that I’m sticking with this science fiction book by Brandon Thomas and Juan Gedeon, mostly because of how decompressed it is, but I keep finding enough reason to come back for each new issue.  The group of aliens finish rescuing their friend, in a very exciting chase sequence, before being able to return to their true mission, which is to protect their home planet from the Earth.

Manifest Destiny #24 – The Sasquatch arc ends, and we learn why the Teton people are so unwelcoming to the Lewis and Clark expedition as they prepare to spend the winter near their land, and we see how Captain Helm acts after finally returning home to Washington, connecting his story with Lewis and Clark’s.  This title always impresses me, with its weaving of history and fantasy, and I look forward to its return.

Nightwing #7 – With the Monster Men out of the way, Tim Seeley is back to telling his actual story, as Dick finds out that Raptor betrayed him, sharing information about the Parliament of Owls with Kobra, and goes to confront him about this.  Raptor is an interesting character, and I’d like to learn just what his connection to Dick’s mother is, but am a touch worried that, much as he has been with Batman, Nightwing will be completely defined by his relationship with this roguish character.

Ninjak #20 – I’m getting a little bored of this Eternal Warrior-guesting future arc, and having a scene appear twice, once from Ninjak’s perspective, and the other from Punk Mambo’s, doesn’t do much to keep me engaged.  I’m not sure I like where Matt Kindt has been taking this book lately.

Rumble #15 – The latest arc ends, sending this series back to hiatus, after wrapping up a very chaotic battle scene over the last two issues.  I really enjoy John Arcudi and James Harren’s work on this very unique fantasy comic.  I’m not sure if the next arc will deal at all with the fact that, after the big fight between rival factions of hidden races, the regular day-to-day world now knows such being live among them.  Either way, this was a solid issue, with an ending that is going to have repercussions for Rathraq.

Spider-Woman #12 – Civil War II is finally over, but like Jess says in this issue, “Who cares?” before taking her baby to the beach.  Trying to stick to a more strict schedule these days, when Sandman shows up on a rampage in Long Island, it is Roger who has to don his Porcupine suit and deal with him.  This title, under Dennis Hopeless’s pen, is always entertaining.  Tigh Walker steps in as a very capable guest artist (at least that’s what I hope he is, because as much as I liked his work here, I’d rather see Javier Rodriguez stick around).

Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:

A-Force #10

All-New X-Men #14

Amazing Spider-Man #20

Astro City #40

Civil War II Kingpin #4

Dark Horse Presents #27

Death of X #2

Green Arrow #9

Harrow County #17

Hellboy and the BPRD 1954: Black Sun #2

Infamous Iron Man #1

Mighty Thor #12

Mockingbird #8

Powers #7

Silk #13

Superman #9

Uncanny Inhumans #14

War Stories #20

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Noble Causes Vol. 5: Betrayals – At this point, Jay Faerber wasn’t writing this series in neat little, trade-ready arcs anymore.  Rusty, Frost, and other heroes are still off on another world, fighting each other as much as their gigantic enemies, while the rest of the Noble family has to deal with the guy impersonating Doc.  Also, android versions of everyone keep popping up, and Zephyr goes into labour, which triggers a response from Krennick’s people.  This is a solid trade, and the inclusion of an issue of The Pact really has me missing Phil Hester’s Firebreather.