The Weekly Round-Up #373 With Black Panther #10, Aliens: Defiance #9, The Dregs #1, Saga #42, Star Wars #27 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Black Panther #10 – There’s a lot to digest in this issue of Black Panther.  Tetu’s army (which is under mind-control) advances on Wakanda while Shuri goes to the Midnight Angels to try to remove the Jabari Lands from the upcoming battle.  T’Challa, meanwhile, goes to Changamire, the philosopher whose teachings have inspired the revolt.  Their conversation is dense and full of information, as they discuss what it means to be a king, and what role T’Challa plays in the country.  It’s taken a long time (for me at least) to really see just what Ta-Nehisi Coates has set out to do with this comic, as he explores concepts of sovereignty and freedom within a monarchy, and uses it to make some observations about life in the West.  That I was reading this comic while people across the US were protesting at airports definitely affected my sensitivity to some of the aspects of totalitarian rule displayed here.  Chris Sprouse keeps a lot of talking heads moving along, and makes the story visually interesting as well.  Then, turning to the last page, I get a great surprise, as P.O.S, one of my favourite rap artists gets the softball interview of the month.  I’m a huge P.O.S (and Doomtree) fan, and hope that even one tenth of this comic’s readership buy Chill, Dummy, the album he just released on Friday.  I do find it odd that the interview doesn’t mention his new album, or his anarchist leanings.  Doomtree, of which P.O.S is a member, has an album called No Kings, and its name and cover (see my avatar somewhere on this page) has become an ethos for the group, one that fits almost perfectly with the themes of Coates’s story.

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Defiance #9 – This month, the beleaguered crew of the Europa have to deal with a large number of pirates who try to take over the vessel, leaving Zulu no choice but to release the alien they’d been holding captive.  None of these things have seemed like a good idea, although we’ll have to wait to see how bad it all gets.  I like the way Brian Wood has populated this comic with some of the most fallible and damaged characters I’ve seen in a while, and how they are providing some real life into this licensed property that often ends up feeling recycled.

Arclight #4 – Okay, I don’t really know what was going on in this book at all, and now that the story is over, I don’t even think I can explain it.  Maybe it’s the year-plus delay between the second and third issue, which amplified the unconventionality of the story to begin with.  Maybe it’s because I spent more time absorbing Marian Churchland’s beautiful artwork than actually reading the story.  Regardless, even though I didn’t really get it, I loved it.  I’m hoping that one of the other aborted 8House comic, Kiem, gets continued next, as it was equally beautiful, and a lot more linear, story-wise.

Bloodshot USA #4 – I’m pleased to see this miniseries come to its end, as I felt throughout that in its efforts to go big, it kind of left behind a lot of what has made this title work for me before.  That said, this was easily the strongest issue of the four.  I know that there’s still a Bloodshot Reborn zero issue coming (which is a weird number for what is essentially an epilogue) but don’t know what’s next for the character after that.  I like what Jeff Lemire’s done with him, but would rather stick with an ongoing than all these renumberings and miniseries.  

Brigg’s Land #6 – Things get deeper and more complicated, as Grace continues to make moves to shore up her control of her husband’s secessionist colony, and turns to the ATF agent who has been investigating her for help with that.  Brian Wood has put together a rich series that never lets the reader down.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #10 – As part of the long build-up to Secret Empire, Maria Hill is ousted from SHIELD, Steve is berated by the Red Skull, and the issue of what to do with Jack Flag is finally resolved (although I feel like Nick Spencer took the easy way out there).  I like the Spencer is playing the long game with this title, but find that each individual issue is not all that exciting or impressive.  I’m dropping this.

Daredevil #16 – Charles Soule is finally getting ready to tell us just how the world forgot that Matt Murdock is Daredevil, but first we need to see DD’s latest confrontation with Bullseye, and meet a priest who is part of a militant Catholic order.  Soule’s DD has been a delight, and for that reason, I’m going to stick with it even without the digital code.

Deathstroke #11 – I’d heard that this issue of Deathstroke was going to be used to address the rampant gun violence plaguing Chicago, and that had me pretty curious about it.  I’ve long been a fan of the way Christopher Priest incorporates real world problems into his comics, but also always find that he does it from a surprising and unexpected angle.  It’s no different here, as Deathstroke is hired by a group of mothers who have had their children killed in gang-related violence.  What makes this unique?  That Jack Ryder, the Creeper, is a major character here.  Oh, and that Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz are the artists.  This is an excellent comic, with the expected twist or two to makes it clear it’s a Priest book.  Really good stuff.  I definitely don’t think I agree with any of the solutions presented here, but I loved every page of this comic, and hope that this book stays relevant.  If you’ve been curious about this title, this is a good place to sample it, as Priest’s usual complexity is on display.  And because it’s been way too long since I’ve seen Denys Cowan do the kind of work he’s best at.

Dept. H #10 – Matt Kindt continues to explore one character in each issue.  This time around, Roger, Mia’s father’s closest friend and associate, narrates his take on their lives together, but things are not as positive as Mia remembers.  I like the way what started out as an underwater mystery comic has really become a large-scale family drama.  Kindt continues to impress with this book.

Detective Comics #949 – I feel like this second part of the two-part Batwoman Begins lead-in to Batwoman’s upcoming solo book worked a lot better than the last.  Bats Woman and Man continue to fight Colony Prime, who has come to rescue Kate’s father, but instead gives her a better-defined purpose.  The weakest aspect of this issue is Ben Oliver’s artwork, but since the Batwoman series is going to be drawn by Steve Epting, I think I’ll give it a shot (even though I don’t like what that implies for his book with Greg Rucka, Velvet).  

Divinity III #2 – Matt Kindt answers many questions left from last issue’s first look at a Soviet-dominated world, as Ninjak and Toyo Harada work to find a way to put things to rights.  Trevor Hairsine is doing some great work on this title, and it all feels a lot more focused than Divinity II did.

Doctor Strange #16 – Strange engages in a pretty big battle with Dormammu this issue, and things look very impressive, thanks to Chris Bachalo’s art.  I’ve been enjoying this title, but have felt that this last arc was not as strong as the ones that came before it.  I think, now that this is the last issue with a digital code, I’m going to be leaving this title behind.

The Dregs #1 – Once again, Black Mask Studios comes out of nowhere with an interesting and different new miniseries.  This one is focused on an older homeless man who lives in a cordoned off section of Vancouver.  One of his friends have gone missing, so he takes a weird drug, reads Raymond Chandler, and walks around looking to figure out what’s happening.  Of course, we know from the beginning that there is a restaurant serving homeless-men sausages.  This comic definitely grabbed my attention, and I’ll be back for the next issue.  I don’t know the writers, Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, nor do I know the artist, Eric Zawadzki, but I feel like they are talents to watch.

Ether #3 – I like this rather strange series by Matt Kindt and David Rubín about a scientist from Earth who travels to and explores a magical world called the Ether.  Boone thinks there is a scientific reason for everything, and as he works to discover the truth behind the murder of this world’s greatest hero, we are slowly shown things about him that don’t fully add up yet.  The flashback pages are the ones that interest me the most, but overall, I love Rubín’s detailed construction of this world.

Island #14 – Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War storyline is really not the easiest to follow, but it’s gorgeous.  I feel similarly about Troy Nixey’s story in this issue.  The most affecting and effective piece in this issue is The Pervert, the sporadic strip by Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez.  I love Island, but I feel like more and more, the book is missing some of the excitement of its first few months.

Justice League of America – Killer Frost: Rebirth #1 – I remember Killer Frost from the days when she was a Firestorm villain, but don’t know anything about the New 52 version of her.  This one-shot sets her up as a typical villain looking for redemption, but one who has to feed off of people in some way to survive, like a heat vampire.  I don’t understand this though – does she have to drain someone of all body heat, or can she pick up ambient heat (as is suggested but not clarified)?  If so, why is this such a concern?  And if she doesn’t feed, will she die?  This stuff needs to be a little clearer, considering that the entire purpose of these one-offs is to attract new readers to the upcoming JLA rebirth.  Still, this was a decent comic, and I’m increasingly curious to see what Steve Orlando has planned for this book when it launches soon.

Letter 44 #29 – I am consistently amazed by how good this book is.  Charles Soule keeps making things seem darker and more bleak with each new issue.  The Clarke has crashed on Mars, and the crew now have to deal with the remaining Builders, who are not very happy about being betrayed, while on Earth, President Blades learns that the Builders are now not going to save anyone from the planet’s imminent destruction.  This book is never predictable, and so incredibly detailed and well-planned.

Micronauts #9 – I’d felt like this title had established itself well enough that I was going to be with it for the long haul, but this issue, wherein regular writer Cullen Bunn is joined by someone named Jimmy Johnston, kind of lost me early and never really got me back.  It might be on the time to put this book on the chopping block…

Micronauts Annual 2017 – So this week’s issue of the regular title made me want to drop the book, but this annual, which features a fight between the team and a future version of them, stoked my interests in the series again.  I wish comics could be consistent…

No Mercy #13 – Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil spend almost this entire issue showing us a lovely party at a remote beach, as the group of English students continue to have fun, and as Travis sleeps off his hallucinogenic binge from a couple of issues back.  It’s an enjoyable issue, and we start to get to know the characters pretty well, until we reach the point where this story intersects with events from the last issue.  De Campi can be a brutal writer when she wants to, as is clearly shown in this powerful issue.  No Mercy is a very unconventional comic, as it follows a variety of American students who shared a bus accident in a Central American country through their various travails after the crash.  It’s novel, beautiful, and frequently shocking.  It’s also one of my favourite titles on the stands right now.

Reborn #4 – Mark Millar and Greg Capullo do feel-good adventure movie comics very well together.  Bonnie shows why she is a powerful force to be reckoned with as she and her father fight their way through a couple of dangerous situations.  This book is a lot of fun, and looks very good.

Revival #46 – Things are getting crazier and crazier as this title gets close to its big finish.  Factions and characters converge on the source of the Revival day, and not everyone makes it out of this issue alive.  I’ve really enjoyed the way that Tim Seeley and Mike Norton and structured and told this tale, and am so far, very happy with the payoff of four plus years of reading.

Saga #42 – This is kind of a rough issue of Saga, story-wise, as the comet Phang approaches the deadly timesuck, and the family’s desire to save their friends puts everyone in danger.  There are a few significant deaths in this issue, and one of them promises to be very devastating for all of these characters.  I love this book, but sometimes it’s as hard on its readers as it is its characters.

Savage #3 – Savage continues to be a very enjoyable comic, as we learn a little more about how the kid and his family arrived in the Faraway (if that’s really where they are), and who the men that have been around really are.  Lewis LaRosa’s art on this book is incredible.

Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse #4 – Mal’s plans are overly complicated by outside forces, which unfortunately focus a little too much on River once again.  I like this comic, but would have preferred something a lot more original to it all.  I feel like I’ve been here before.

Spider-Woman #15 – Dennis Hopeless gives us just what I was hoping to see in this issue, as Jessica goes looking for revenge against Hobgoblin and his people.  Veronica Fish is a wonderful addition to this comic, as her art fits with the look that Javier Rodriguez gave the title, but is still all her own.

Star Wars #27 – Why, exactly, are we being given a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome/Riddley Walker style story featuring Yoda in the middle of this series?  It feels like it would have been more appropriate (if not as strong a seller) as a miniseries, and I can’t help but thinking that having Luke read Ben’s journal about Yoda, in a story that mentions his size time and again, kind of negates the scene where they first meet in Empire Strikes Back.  At least the kids that Yoda meets, who live on some planet with some kind of Force-infused mountain, speak normally, because otherwise this would be unreadable.  Salvador Larroca does a great job with Yoda, but I’m not really enjoying this arc.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #15 – Greg Pak gives us a really charming comic this time around, as Amadeus joins up with Ms. Marvel, Silk, Shang-Chi, and Jimmy Woo to promote bone marrow transplant, and then hang out together, talking about the importance of representation.  I think this is the kind of Marvel comic that a lot of readers love to complain about on the Internet, but I wish that they’d actually read what Pak has these characters saying, as it sends an important message while still being a fun read.  Sadly, I’m not going to stick with this comic because of the digital codes debacle, and after the Jeremy Lin two-part love letter, I was ready to drop it for content reasons as well.  This issue would have caused me to delay that decision a few more months, were the book still economically supportable for me.

Wonder Woman #15 – I’ve found the shape of the current-day, odd-numbered issues of this series to be pretty strange for a while now.  Diana has apparently lost her mind, and until this issue, we’ve really not understood (or at least I haven’t) the nature of the apparent conspiracy working to get themselves to Themyscira.  This issue answers some of these questions, but I remain a little surprised that Greg Rucka’s story is so unclear and kind of hard to really care about.  I think this title might be hovering near the chopping block…

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

Civil War II: Oath #1

Dead Inside #2

Doom Patrol #4

Extraordinary X-Men #18

Harrow County Vol. 4

Hellboy Winter Special 2017

Infamous Iron Man #4

Inhumans Vs. X-Men #3

Thanos #3

Über Invasion #2

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Noble Causes Vol. 8: Star-Crossed – Yildiray Cinar provided the art to this arc of Noble Causes, my new favourite superhero soap opera drama.  Things are pretty dark in this arc, as Gaia makes some pretty poor decisions in the pursuit of fame for her family, and we see the repercussions play out.  Gaia’s not the only one screwing up though, as other characters kill or rampage.  It’s a good read.

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