The Weekly Round-Up #360 With The Vision #12, Bloodshot USA #1, Chew #59, Deathstroke #5, Star Wars #24, Saga #39 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Vision #12 – And now my favourite Marvel title is finished.  Tom King’s year-long dysfunctional family drama comes to its close, as Virginia decides to take responsibility for her actions, and the Vision has to face the consequences of them.  King’s approach to this series has been amazing – the issues have been dense and carefully considered, and the characters have always felt very real, which is a feat considering that aside from Vision, they were all brand new artificial beings.  Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s work on this title has been as impressive, if not more so.  I am really going to miss this title, and hope that King starts working on a quiet side title to his work on Batman again soon.

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Defiance #6 – This title has really gelled, as Zula, Hendricks, and their new friend work to stop a group of Colonial Marines from taking a sample of one of the Aliens back to Earth.  What really makes this book work is the way in which writer Brian Wood is exploring the flaws of the main characters.  Zula has debilitating back pain and risks her mobility by continuing her mission, cut off from treatment.  Hendricks is an artificial being, but is working on creating a proper personality for himself.  This book is working on a level that few Aliens comics, and to be real, most of the movies, were never able to get to.  I like it.

American Monster #5 – It’s taken a long time to get here, what with this book’s terribly erratic scheduling, but we get to the end of the first volume, and a lot of things click into place in Brian Azzarello and Juan Doe’s small town crime drama.  We finally get to find out what connection the burned man has with the rest of the cast, as new business plans are made, the seesaw man becomes more bold in his desire for teenage girls, and various other plotlines moves forward a little.  This book reminds me a little of Scalped, looks great, and has my attention.  I just wish it came out more reliably.

Batgirl #4 – I feel like this title, which I’ve resisted putting on my pull-file list, is really beginning to click now, as Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque have Babs figure out what is going on with the Teacher and her various students.  Babs works to rescue her friend Kai, while also recognizing him for who he really is in a very effective scene.  I’m curious to see where this title is going to go after Batgirl returns from her Asian vacation.

Bloodshot USA #1 – Jeff Lemire continues his Bloodshot series with this miniseries, as Kozol and Project Rising Spirit turn a number of New Yorkers into Bloodshots and let them run wild as part of a weird plan to gain corporate dominance (and to use Donald Trump as a puppet president).  It’s a good issue, featuring appearances by the Unity team, but I think it would have worked just as well as part of the Rebirth series.  Anyway, I’m never upset with a comic drawn by Doug Braithwaite.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #6 – In a lot of ways, you could skip CWII this week, just read this book, and not miss a whole lot, as we see things from Rogers’s perspective.  I feel like all this Hydra stuff is not really clear enough yet – since we are seeing Steve’s childhood in this post-Kobik reality, are we to assume that he’s always worked some kind of angle while an Avenger?  And to what end?  I feel like CWII has just muddled up what would have been a perfectly interesting story from Nick Spencer.

Chew #59 – John Layman and Rob Guillory are not sparing anyone or anything as they get ready to close the doors on their excellent long-running title about food-based superpowers, chicken, aliens, and family.  This is the penultimate issue, and Tony is faced with a terrible decision – murder potentially millions, or let the world end?  In typical Chew fashion, this book is both heart-breaking and funny at the same time.  I am really going to miss this title after the next issue comes out.

Civil War II #6 – I feel like we’ve finally reached what this series had the potential to become, as Ulysses’s shared vision of Miles Spider-Man killing Steve Captain America gets all the heroes to stop and re-think their position on this manufactured sense of division.  I think Brian Michael Bendis does a good job of showing the conflict in Carol Danvers, while also playing with the fact that the audience all knows that Steve Rogers is Hydra while no one else does.  There are still plenty of problems with this book (not the least of which being Thor’s ability to be in two places at once, and the awkward shoehorning in of Riri Williams), but finally, the whole thing is starting to feel a little more momentous.

Deathstroke #5 – Priest is writing Slade Wilson very similarly to how he did T’Challa in his classic Black Panther run – four or five steps ahead of everyone, and utterly inscrutable.  Ravager tries to work with Batman, while he tries to figure out what Slade is up to, while Robin, captured by our anti-hero, sets about trying to take him apart psychologically.  My favourite thing about reading a Priest comic is the sense that I’m missing something, which has me constantly cycling back to the beginning of the issue to look for clues.  The man writes every issue of every arc like a puzzle box, and it’s impressive, although sometimes I can’t help but think that the plot might be a house of cards; when that happens, I just try to not look too closely.

Descender #16 – Driller gets the spotlight this issue, and the reader gains a better understanding of this grumpy old robot, while getting to feast on some beautiful pages by Dustin Nguyen.  Now that all of the characters have had some time to get developed, I’m looking forward to moving back to the main plotline of the series.  These issues have been great, but maybe interspersing them with more of the main story might have worked better, because now I don’t really remember much about what’s been going on in the story-present.  It’s all good though, as Jeff Lemire and Nguyen are doing great work on this book.

Detective Comics #943 – There are a lot of things that James Tynion IV is doing right with this book, but chief among them is the way in which he’s allowing the various characters that have become associated with Batman over the last couple of decades (including relative newcomers Harper Row and Luke Fox) to be more than just panel-filler during big events.  This series is firmly committed to making the Bat-Family, and by extension, Gotham, work as individual characters.  I really like the slower pace of this issue, as the team pauses to gather strength after their recent ordeals, and to reevaluate their paths.  Great stuff, from the best book DC is publishing.

Elephantmen #73 – Again, Richard Starkings goes for gimmick over story, as Hip meets his future self as a temporal anomaly rains fish (and a whale) on downtown Los Angeles.  I know that this lines things up somewhat with the Hip Flask: Ouroboros one-shot of a few years ago, but not in a way that still holds my attention.  I’m beginning to wonder if Starkings has a real plan for this series anymore, of if he’s just kind of playing around.  Either way, I’m rapidly losing interest, which is a shame because this was, for a long time, a book I really looked forward to.

Exodus: The Life After #8 – Our characters start to come together again, as we see what eight years in the new Florida does to Ernest Hemingway, and as Esmeralda’s army converges on a certain theme park.  This series is still a lot of fun, but is a lot less blasphemous since it left Heaven and Hell behind.

Generation Zero #3 – A big part of why I love Fred Van Lente’s Valiant work is his willingness to experiment and play around with things.  Most of this issue takes place within the ‘heroscape’ (think of it like an idealized part of someone’s mind) of the Zeros’ captive, and to show that, the comic takes on the appearance of an Archie Comics strip.  It’s a fun issue that gives us a better look at the Zeroes as characters, and advances the plot.  This is my favourite Valiant title right now.

Invisible Republic #12 – This series has been so dense and carefully considered, that I’m a little surprised to remember that it’s only been running for twelve issues.  I think Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman have accomplished about as much as most writers and artists take twenty or more issues to do these days.  In the present, Babb finds that he’s being kept away from Avalon, while in the past, Maia’s quiet life in exile looks to be ending after she has a confrontation with some locals.  Also, this issue shows us a little glimpse of life on the colony ship that brought humans to Asan in the first place, as the writers remind us that human culture formed on a multi-generational voyage is not likely to stay similar to Earth culture (for another look at the same concept, check out Simon Roy’s brilliant Habitat).  This is such a good series, yet I don’t see it getting discussed anywhere.  More people should be checking this comic out, especially with Hardman’s art being so wonderful.  The forest scenes in this issue are beautiful.

Ms. Marvel #12 – There are two things to talk about here.  The first is the actual Ms. Marvel story, which has Kamala going to Pakistan to try to gain some perspective on the events of CWII, and the loss of her friend Bruno from her life.  This stuff works great; G. Willow Wilson has Kamala recognize her outsider status in her family’s homeland, and when she tries to intervene in an ongoing problem caused by a water mafia, she begins to appreciate the complexity of a foreign place.  It’s a very good issue.  After that, there’s a Red Widow backup story, that necessitated Marvel charging an extra dollar for this comic, and that did absolutely nothing to interest or impress me.  I’m not sure why they feel the need to retcon yet another character into the Black Widow’s past, or why Marvel feels that this is the title to debut her in, instead of Natasha’s own book, but I don’t appreciate it.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #22 – Our two heroes purse another possessed man, the chief of police, in the aftermath of last issue’s fire, and Robert Kirkman gives Paul Azaceta a lot of opportunities to draw some cool scenes.  I enjoy this title, but often find I don’t have a lot to say about it.  That’s weird.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard #10 – Jason Loo continues to expand his Human-Lizardverse.  When the H-L leaves his gear on the subway one night by mistake, it’s picked up by a university student who becomes Lizard Skater Girl, also patrolling the Toronto streets.  Loo takes such a casual approach to plotting these comics that every issue becomes a delight.  There are no other superhero comics on the stands like this one, and as he moves beyond simply showcasing cool Toronto-centric stuff, Loo is building an interesting network of acquaintances.  Sometimes I think this book needs some sort of central, unifying plotline (there was something about a Lex Luthor style villain, but it’s not really going anywhere), but for the most part I just enjoy seeing what he does with this stuff.

Poe Dameron #7 – For the second time this week, Marvel randomly ups the page count and price of a comic (although, unlike with Ms. Marvel, at least all of this one is about Poe).  Poe goes to meet an old friend, who is an investigative journalist who wants to sell information to the Resistance.  This was an enjoyable read, but the reverse that happens at the end of the issue feels too based on coincidence and not enough on hard facts to be believable.  It’s like writer Charles Soule is following the edict of the Force Awakens movie – things are bad because we say they are; Poe is cool because we say he is; stop looking for proof or storytelling to support that.  I’m quickly losing interest…

Renato Jones: The One% #5 – The first season of this series ends as Kaare Andrews has Renato turn his sights on Apple and Steve Jobs, calling them out for having a corporate message that does not match the actuality of their labour practices.  Great stuff, but I’m also a little frustrated at the slowness of the main plotline, involving Renato’s relationship with Bliss, his childhood friend, and her father, who plays a Donald Trump role here.  Still, this is my favourite thing that Andrews has ever done.

Saga #39 – I can’t see myself ever getting bored of Saga, even when an issue isn’t particularly monumental, and is mostly focused on the aftermath of the previous issue.  It’s always good, this book.

Seven to Eternity #2 – Where the first issue of this new fantasy epic by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña was big on spectacle, this one goes about the business of establishing just what’s going on.  We learn about who the Mud King is, and why he had such hatred of Adam’s father.  We also meet some other potential heroes.  This book looks fantastic, but I can’t stop thinking that the Mud King is Xorn every time I see him.

The Skeptics #1 – I picked this up working under the assumption that any new Black Mask series is worth checking out (even though it will likely be years before it finishes), but am not really sure I understand the premise.  A doctor, in the late fifties or early sixties, gets a couple of young people to pretend they have telepathic and telekinetic abilities in order to prove that reports of similarly powered Soviet operatives are fake.  Strangely, though, the American President (Rockefeller – I’m not sure what’s up with that) has arranged for the top secret Soviet supersoldiers to come to America, which makes no real sense.  The concept behind this book is interesting, but I’m not sure that writer Tini Howard really pulls it off.  I like artist Devaki Neogi’s art, but don’t feel that it really captures the period well, which also led to some confusion when reading the book.  Truly, this could have been better.

Star Wars #24 – As the Rebels nurse their captured Star Destroyer towards its intended mission, the elite Stormtroopers that snuck onboard make their move.  This is a pretty exciting issue, getting us closer to the end of what has probably been the most enjoyable arc of this series so far.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #19 – Since Annie, Beth’s mother, turned up in this story, what was already the best Stray Bullets story ever, has become even better.  Annie is a mastermind, as we watch her try to manipulate everyone around her, and actually succeed for once, as she starts to build a relationship with Beth, but perhaps only to steal her stolen money and coke.  Nina, the cokehead, is the only one who can see it, but who trusts the cokehead?  I didn’t expect that David Lapham could keep improving the way he has been with this book lately.  I love it.

Thief of Thieves #36 – It’s heist time, as Redmond and the others make their move on a converted missile silo.  This book is very cool.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #11 – This title is really starting to drag, as the story feels needlessly padded to accommodate CWII, while not adding enough to Cho’s character.  In this issue he finishes his fight with the Black Panther, then goes off to rescue his sister from an empath monster, only to learn some humility.  The constant focus on Amadeus’s emotional state, and the constant inclusion of random monsters is starting to wear on me.  Mahmud Asrar’s art is very nice though, so I’ll give this a few more issues.  I’m thinking it might be the next Marvel comic I drop though…

The Ultimates #12 – And once again, an excellent comic by writer Al Ewing is getting canceled after a big line-wide event.  This is disappointing, because I think that with this title, and with artist Kenneth Rocafort, Ewing finally really nailed his formula.  That said, the book is returning next month as Ultimates2, with artist Travel Forman.  This issue deals with the aftermath of CWII (which hasn’t ended yet), as the US government pulls its support of the team, and the various core members go their separate ways.  Carol Danvers gets the focus of the issue, as she goes around trying to mend bridges with her teammates (except for the Black Panther), while Galactus, who the team had turned into a force for life, picks his first new herald.  Christian Ward draws this issue, but it is the most restrained version of Ward I’ve ever seen, lacking much of the psychedelia he’s known for.  It works very well, and sets up the next iteration of this book, which I hope will be as good, but will last longer.

Wonder Woman #9 – Now that the story about the plant god is finished, we are able to get a bigger sense of what Greg Rucka is planning on doing with this title, as a corporate type makes moves against Diana, while her friends in the military, with the now Cheetah-less Barbara Anne Minerva, work to help get Diana back to Themyscira.  I’m not sure that the setup is working for me.  I’ve been enjoying this book, but am starting to lose interest, even though Liam Sharp’s art is very nice.  I’ll give it a couple more issues, but once Nicola Scott leaves the even-numbered issues, I might go with her.

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

Agents of SHIELD #10

All-New All-Different Avengers #15

Doctor Fate #17

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1

Extraordinary X-Men #15

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

New Avengers #17

Silver Surfer #7

Witchfinder City of the Dead #3

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Kinski

by Gabriel Hardman

I’ve been a fan of Gabriel Hardman’s work for some time now (I think he first came to my attention when he was drawing Hulk for Greg Pak), and have especially been enjoying his work with his wife Corinna Bechko on Invisible Republic, not to mention their excellent Planet of the Apes and Star Wars: Legacy work.

Kinski is a recent solo outing for Hardman, and it is a hard book to get a read on.  Joe is a guy in town on business when he finds a lost dog, names him Kinski after the actor in a favourite movie of his, and decides to keep him.  When he finds out that Kinski already has a family (and another name), that doesn’t stop him from kidnapping the dog, and embarking on a journey that is a very unfunny comedy of errors, costing him his job, friendships, and really, sense of reality.

What’s strange about this book, and is the thing that kept bothering me about it, is that Hardman never really explains Joe’s motivations.  His friend and co-worker suggests that he has some kind of unresolved childhood issues towards a family pet, but Hardman never makes that clear.  This makes the book a little more unsettling, but also much more effective in its role as a portrait of insanity.

Hardman’s art is always nice, but feels a little cleaner and simpler in this book, as if he were using it as a way of escaping the more intricate and planned work of Invisible Republic.  Hardman shows us a part of the US where giant RV tent cities are unremarkable, and where relationships are as precarious as the employment.  I guess it makes sense that Joe wants to have some kind of connection to something loyal, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else that he would risk his well-being for someone else’s perfectly content pet.

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