The Weekly Round-Up #375 With Deathstroke #12, Black Science #28, Namesake #4, Ninjak #24, Rom Annual #1, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #4 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Deathstroke #12 – Two of the most interesting new characters to emerge in the Rebirth era have been Ja Zaki, a Black Panther like figure who is a dictator and practices genocide, and Raptor, a romantic thief, who appeared in Nightwing.  Priest puts both of them in this issue, making me even more interested in this title than I was before.  There are a lot of story elements that Priest has been sprinkling around throughout this series since it started, and they are starting to come together with a new level of clarity.  This is an incredibly well-written series, and I feel that it, more than any other biweekly book I’m reading, really benefits from the increased pace of publication, as it allows Priest to be more challenging in his storytelling.

Quick Takes:

Black #4 – I like the concept behind this Black Mask series, which has only people of African descent exhibiting super powers, but in a lot of ways, felt that the execution was lacking in a few things.  The sheer number of characters that I know nothing about reminds me of an early Image comic, and the lack of resolution at the end of the first arc was a little disappointing.  I wish this title well, but it’s never been as pointed as its covers, and I don’t think I’ll pick it up if/when it returns from hiatus (there is no news in the issue, and no more issues have been solicited).

Black Science #28 – Rick Remender has taken what started as a dimensional-travelling/family drama series, and with this issue turned it into a superhero vs. a witch story, with some twists that were once again unpredictable.  It’s good, and Matteo Scalera’s art is great, but part of me liked this book more when it was a little less magical and super.

Black Widow #11 – Once again, Chris Samnee shows us Natasha fighting against some young Russian girls who have received the same training that she has, and once again, the balletic beauty of the scene blew me away.  I think that the next issue is the last one of this title, which is a real shame, as it’s been pretty amazing.  This is one of the Marvel books I wasn’t going to drop, so it’s too bad to see it end.

Detective Comics #950 – In an interesting choice for a milestone issue, James Tynion IV decides to give this over-sized issue over to shorter chapters focusing on Orphan and Azrael, as well as teasing something coming up in Batman’s world, which explains why he’s made so many of the decisions he has lately, to work with so many people.  This is a very text-heavy issue, and while it works to develop these lesser-known characters, I got a little bogged down in places.

Doctor Aphra #4 – It’s time for Aphra and her crew to escape the Imperials on Yavin in another very well-executed issue of this series.  I’m only going to be keeping it and the main Star Wars book starting next month, so that says a lot about how well written this title is.

East of West #31 – Amid the large-scale settings of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s epic end of days story, we often get a lot of exciting action sequences, but this issue’s flying train robbery sequence stands out as being particularly effective.  The Union is in real trouble, but it’s not clear if the help that the Confederacy is providing is going to be any actual help, even before the train heist.  I love this title, which continues to impress and find ways to keep the readers engaged with a plot that kind of resembles a marathon game of Risk at times.

Jessica Jones #5 – I’m not sure why Marvel, or maybe just Brian Michael Bendis, would have decided that the best place to address some of the aftermath of Secret Wars would be in a street-level private detective comic, but here we are.  I actually am beginning to like this book more with each issue, and I’m amazed that it’s been coming out on time, but as I’m looking to trim down my Marvel reading to only the essentials, I’m going to be letting this comic go.  

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 – I am of two minds about this comic and series.  This issue is a pretty basic setup issue, as Batman and Killer Frost go around recruiting the different members of this team, and as such, it more or less works (although I can’t for the life of me figure out why Batman would want Lobo on this team).  My problems with it, other than Lobo being there, lie in the similarity between this and what Batman is doing in Detective Comics, where he and Batwoman share a team.  Here, it looks like he and Vixen are in the driver’s seat, although I would have thought that Black Canary, who he recruited earlier, would get that leadership position.  The younger heroes, Ray and the new Atom, work well, but I don’t yet see why Batman needs a third team (if you count the Robins as another one).  He keeps referencing “what’s coming” but gives us no idea as to what that would be.  Is Batman still in the regular Justice League?  He seems very critical of that team here, and expresses a desire to be more visible, but that really doesn’t work with his usual schtick.  Not to keep harping on this, but I think that having Lobo here is a mistake.  The only time I’ve liked the character was back in the early days of LEGION’89, when Vril Dox had him under his control.  I don’t get why he listens to Bats at all.  I’m definitely interested enough in this lineup to want to stick around for a while.  I presume Ivan Reis isn’t going to be the regular artist on this book (I don’t remember who it’s actually going to be), which is fine with me, because his art is a little too DC House Style and bland for my liking.  Steve Orlando is a writer to watch, and I look forward to seeing him build up his name at DC before hopefully jumping ship to Image to do something truly spectacular (his Namesake, below, is a much better comic than this).

Moonshine #5 – Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are just so good together.  Each individual issue of this werewolf/Prohibition gangster story moves the plot along slowly, but very effectively.

Motor Crush #3 – Now that all the characters and relationships have been established, it’s time to start digging into the mystery of just who Domino really is, and why an accelerant designed for motorcycles helps her keep her asthma in check.  There are a few story elements that have struck me as very obvious about this title since it started, but at the same time, I love the way Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr are telling this story, so I don’t mind.

Ms. Marvel #15 – This title has been picking up again lately, although unfortunately, not enough to save it as I trim back my Marvel purchases.  I love Kamala, and the work that G. Willow Wilson has done in building her into one of the most recognizable new Marvel characters, but too many issues have been too decompressed for my liking lately, in the post-digital code era.  I’m going to miss this book, which does a great job of wearing its politics on its sleeve, while still constructing stories that people can care about.  The fight with the Troll is good, but the scenes set in the high school this issue are much better.

Namesake #4 – While Steve Orlando has been getting so much attention for his DC work, I’ve barely seen any discussion of this excellent title from Boom! that concludes this week.  Jordan confronts his father, a powerful crime lord in another dimension that only connects to ours every seven years.  It’s a very good ending to a very good series, with interesting art by Jakub Rebelka.  If you’re interested in seeing what else Orlando has been up to, this is worth checking out.

New Super-Man #8 – Kenan continues to learn about his abilities while Bat-Man faces a former rival.  This series continues to interest me as the characters become better fleshed-out, and the groundwork is set for something to do with another Superman from the last days of the New 52 which I know nothing about.  I hope Gene Luen Yang manages to navigate readers of this series who don’t bother with any other Super-books through whatever crossover nonsense is coming.

Ninjak #24 – We finally learn everything that’s going on with this Master Darque arc in this issue, as Ninjak and the Shadow Seven meet his sister, and we are given a recap of just about everything Matt Kindt has spent two years building in this title.  I feel like I’m really losing interest in this book, which is odd, as I have so much admiration for Kindt’s other work.  It’s just not working for me here.

Power Man and Iron Fist #13 – The tone of this issue feels very different from the previous ones, as Like and danny both get a lot more serious about things.  It’s kind of interesting to see this shift happen in the same week that we learn that David Walker, who wrote this comic, is writing the new Cage series, which is tonally expected to be more like the Luke Cage Netflix TV show.  I’d already decided to drop this title, which is actually a little too slow moving for my liking.  I am going to give Ed Brisson’s upcoming Iron Fist a shot, but in the post digital codes era, I don’t think I’m going to check out the new Cage series.

Rom Annual #1 – One of the things that I always liked about the original Rom series was the fact that the spaceknight had willingly chosen to have his body permanently bonded with his armor.  In this new take on his origin, we learn that this bonding was not intentional, and involved contact with a strange alien ore (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, even within the confines of comic book science).  It does a lot to make the character less noble in my eyes, especially as we start to meet other members of the Solstar Order who underwent similar bonding.  I’ve been lukewarm on IDW’s Rom; it’s often good, but never spectacular, and I think it’s time to step away from it (aside from the fact that I’ve preordered the next three issues).  It’s just not working well enough for me, especially when this annual was so ridiculously expensive.

Shade the Changing Girl #5 – I can’t escape the feeling that this title is spinning its wheels a little too much, and with a large number of splash pages, this issue feels pretty decompressed.  I fear that the shine is coming off this book for me.

Southern Cross #11 – Becky Cloonan starts to move this series in yet another direction, as the people who have taken over the Romulus rig decide to destroy it before giving it back to their boss, and as a mysterious new character, with connections to Alex and Amber, shows up.  This is an exciting issue that starts to pull all of the threads of the first two arcs together in unexpected ways.  Andy Belanger’s art just keeps improving, and this issue looks absolutely amazing.

Totally Awesome Hulk #16 – The new all-Asian squad of superheroes fight off a squad of aliens, and end up, along with a large group of New Yorkers, teleported to alien space, where they are to become a food source for their foes.  This is another very good issue, making me sad that it’s my last one.

The Wicked + The Divine #26 – The Great Darkness attacks Baal’s family, and that leads to a schism within the Pantheon, as they have to decide just what to do about it.  It’s an interesting issue that really questions Persephone’s role within the group. 

Wonder Woman #16 – It’s taken me a long time to reach this decision, but as the second big story set in WW’s past begins, which is being used to explain the backstory of the villains in the story set in the present (which is told in the odd-numbered issues), I am fully coming to grips with the fact that I don’t much care about what’s happening in this book.  Bilquis Eveley’s art is very nice, and she’s a great replacement for Nicola Scott, but I think it’s time to abandon this title, or at least demote it to my bargain purchasing.

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

All-New Wolverine #17

All-Star Batman #7

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #5

Guardians of the Galaxy #17

Inhumans Vs. X-Men #4

Kingpin #1

Unworthy Thor #4

War Stories #22

World of Tanks #5

Bargain Comics:

Guardians of the Galaxy #11-13 – Civil War II has been a huge drag on the momentum of the Marvel Universe, but Brian Michael Bendis, the architect of that event, manages to make it work for his own book, as the Guardian’s involvement on Captain Marvel’s side leads to Gamora flipping out when she learns that Thanos is on Earth and that this was kept from her.  It’s perhaps among the best issues of this latest relaunched run, but like all recent Bendis books, could still be tighter and more focused.

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