The Weekly Round-Up #378 With Royal City #1, Star Wars #29, The Walking Dead #165 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Royal City #1 – I feel like this might be the book that I’ve been waiting for Jeff Lemire to make for a few years now, at least since Sweet Tooth ended.  Royal City looks like it’s going to be a sprawling family drama, encompassing loss, gentrification, and a lot of family drama.  The Pike family is made up of two parents and four children (three of whom are adults, and the fourth is a bit of a mystery I’d rather leave for you to discover) who live in Royal City, an industrial town that has seen much better days.  When the father, who is introduced as an unhappy old grouch, suffers a stroke, the family gathers, except for the estranged brother who happens to work for the sister’s husband (in a job that the sister is trying to destroy through a real estate project).  There’s a lot that happens in this oversized debut issue, as we get to know each character, and a little about their relationships with each other.  Lemire uses a very interesting narrative technique, having the final family member tell the story.  I saw half of the end coming, but was still a little surprised when I turned to the last page, between the comics pages and the text piece.  I am a big fan of Lemire’s work, especially the stuff he draws himself, and so was ready to start buying this series sight-unseen.  That said, I feel like it is both a return to the greatness of his early Essex County comics (which is also what he says about this project in his afterword) and the apex of his maturation as a person and as a cartoonist.  This might be the best new title of 2017, if it’s not too early in the year to say that.

Quick Takes:

Batman #18 – I liked Tom King’s use of parallel structure to show us the copious similarities between Batman and Bane.  As has often been the case, though, I do wonder how much more powerful those scenes might have been with a stronger artist than David Finch.  I really feel that Finch is hobbling this title, as I imagine King purposely limiting himself to fit Finch’s smaller range.  Comparing the I Am Bane arc to the two-part Catwoman story that preceded it, featuring art by Mitch Gerads, and all I can see is the degradation in visual quality.  Oh well, this is still DC’s top book, so I guess unique, non-house style art is too much to ask for.

Invisible Republic #15 – This excellent sci-fi political thriller is notable in two ways this month – it hits its halfway mark, and in its depiction of totalitarian rule in the future, has a few things to say about America’s present political climate.  After an attack on the Baroness, her daughter takes control of Avalon and decides to “make it great again” only after a protracted period of shoring up her power.  This involves a bombing run on Maia’s base, even though she and Babb had nothing to do with the attack.  In the past, Maia joins the resistance on Asan, which is a very interesting, matriarchal society.  As always, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman peel away a few more layers of their complex and incredibly rewarding story.  I am constantly impressed by how involved and well-planned this book is, and am sad to see that it’s going on a hiatus for a few months.  This is one of the best reads on the stands, and a truly incredible series.

Midnighter and Apollo #6 – Steve Orlando has really made his name behind his work with Midnighter, which comes to a conclusion in this very good issue.  Our two heroes face Neron, and have to escape from Hell.  That stuff’s good, but what’s most interesting about this issue for me is the confirmation that the Tasmanian Devil still exists in the New 52/Rebirth universe, news that was as welcome as the appearance of Extraño earlier in the series.  It seems like Orlando is laying the groundwork for a gay Justice League, which could be an amusing thing.  Anyway, I’m sad to see this series end, as I thought it was very well done.  

Moon Knight #12 – Jeff Lemire continues to explore Marc Spector’s background, moving to his mercenary days and introducing us to a certain key figure from his past, while also having him continue his journey through the weird mystical realm where he is confronting Egyptian gods and his own fractured psyche.  This is a great run on this character, and Greg Smallwood’s art looks better than it ever has.

Nightwing #16 – I was fixing to drop Nightwing, but between the last issue and this one, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen now.  Damian pays Dick a visit, but finds him distracted by some drama with his girlfriend, who now has gone missing.  Tim Seeley sets up this story well, and definitely has renewed my interest, after the last arc, which ran way too long.  

Paper Girls #12 – I’m going to admit that I’m getting a little lost as to just what is going on in this title, now that the girls are in prehistory, as is the first time traveller, and some very incongruous-looking mud people, but I continue to enjoy the hell out of every page of this great book.  Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang are killing it on every single page, and these characters feel more alive with each issue.  Great stuff.

Shade the Changing Girl #6 – Shade has her final fight with the evil girl whose body she’s inhabited, and while this is a visually interesting comic, I’m getting a little bored of this title.  When Peter Milligan first brought Rac Shade to Earth, he stuck him in the body of a murderer, and then had him hanging out with the daughter of the people he’d killed.  It was pretty reflective of the 90s, but it also had a ton of story potential.  In this Young Animal take on the same concept, Loma Shade is in the body of a school bully, and attending classes with the girls she was mean to.  Is this equally reflective of the 2010s?  I fear it might be, and while there is story potential there too, it just isn’t really speaking to me.  I think I’m done here.

Star Wars #29 – This arc, which is mostly about a flashback to the time that Yoda met a living mountain and warring tribes of Lost Boys, is going on too long.  My interest in this title is much more tied to the Rebellion’s fight with the Empire than it is Jedi mumbo-jumbo.  Salvador Larroca’s art is nice, but it’s being put to poor use, I feel.

The Walking Dead #165 – So the community has been dealing with unprecedented levels of danger, and things get a little worse this month, as the Saviors decide to make their move.  It’s been surprising that Robert Kirkman took us through such a massive storyline without killing anyone off, but the last page of this issue suggests that things aren’t going to stay that way for long.  There’s also an incredible two-page spread of the dead making like lemmings.  In all, a very rewarding issue of this incredible series.

The Woods #30 – Things take a darker turn (again) as Karen’s plan to make peace with Taisho and the Horde doesn’t really go the way she expected.  This title has really been accelerating its pace of late, and this another very good issue.

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

America #1

Avengers #5

Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #2

Bullseye #2

Champions #6

Cinema Purgatorio #8

Clone Conspiracy Omega #1

Doctor Strange #18

Green Arrow #18

Hawkeye #4

Savage Things #1

Silk #18

Superman #18

Bargain Comics:

All-New Inhumans #6-11 – I’m not surprised that this title, which mostly focuses on Crystal, Gorgon, and a slew of newer Inhumans, didn’t make it past eleven issues, but at the same time, think that’s a shame, as James Asmus was doing some good work here.  The problem is, at the end of the day, having a group of characters chase a cloud around the globe is not all that compelling, and new and obscure characters are a tough sell these days.  I did enjoy the storyline that explored Flint’s background and family, but I don’t know that it makes any sense to make Ana Kraven an Inhuman, and a self-loathing one at that.

Uncanny Inhumans #11-16 – Aside from the Civil War II tie-in stuff, I like the ensemble nature of this book.  Charles Soule has put together a vast, sprawling cast, and makes good use of different members of it at different times.  Okay, some of them, like Flag-Man are straight-up stupid, but others, like Frank McGee, the detective, are great.   

Uncanny Inhumans Annual #1 – Charles Soule is a great writer, so it’s not a surprise that he can turn a dispute between two Indian Inhumans into a successful one-off story, but at the same time, a $5 book about some new characters?  Even with the excellent Kev Walker drawing it, I am glad I waited to get this when it was pretty cheap.  I don’t see Marvel’s Inhuman strategy being very sustainable, yet they appear to be doubling down on it with titles like Royals and the upcoming Black Bolt solo book.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Blacksad: Amarillo

Written by Juan Díaz Canales
Art by Juanjo Guarnido
The Spanish Blacksad comics are a real visual treat.  Artist Juanjo Guarnido is absolutely incredible, in the way that he combines a nostalgic eye for mid-twentieth century architecture with incredibly realistic anthropomorphized people.  Each page is a wonder to behold.In this third Blacksad story, our hero finds himself broke in New Orleans, without enough money to get home.  He refuses a loan from Weekly, who is flying back to New York, and instead lucks into a job driving a car to Texas for a wealthy man.

As Blacksad’s story begins to unfold, it crosses paths with that of two beatnik writers, stand-ins for Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who steal the car, setting John on their path.

This story is highly dependent on coincidence, as the FBI agents from the first Blacksad story get in on the chase after Lowell (the Kerouac stand-in) busts up a mailbox, a federal crime.  This tale involves a game of William Tell that leads to actual murder (I love seeing William Burroughs portrayed as a genteel flamingo), another murder at a circus, a laughing hyena lawyer, hidden identities, car chases, and a train scene.

This is a very entertaining read, which is elevated by the power of its art.  I’m not sure if any other Blacksad books have been published in Spain, but if there are more, I hope Dark Horse translates them soon.

Odd note:  I was surprised to see that legendary comics artist Neal Adams is one of the translators for this book.

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