The Weekly Round-Up #385 With Black Panther: World of Wakanda #6, Ninjak #26, Deathstroke #17, Invincible #125, Star Wars: Poe Dameron #13 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Black Panther: World of Wakanda #6 – It is not news to anyone who has read this column (or my retro-review column) that I am a big fan of the Black Panther and the writing of Christopher Priest (see Deathstroke below).  I’ve been very happy with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s work with the character, and was pleased as can be to see that his book was getting two spin-offs – the revival of the Crew, and this one, World of Wakanda, which was to be used to flesh out the Panther’s supporting cast.  The first five-issue arc, featuring the Midnight Angels, was very good, but it was the news that this issue would feature the return of Kasper Cole, the White Tiger, drawn by Joe Bennett, that really got me excited.  Kasper is still broke, and trying to make detective to please his girlfriend and infant child, even though he’s no longer living with them.  He’s drawn back into the life by the Panther, who needs him to stop the Vanisher and Cardiac, and we’re given a Priest-worthy issue, as written by Rembert Browne, a writer I don’t know.  It’s a good comic, and it sets up a situation whereby we will be seeing more of Kasper in the future.  Sadly, that’s the end of this book, which is a real shame.  I’d be very happy were this title to continue, and explore some of the other members of the Panther’s extended cast, especially if it kept tapping new (to comics) creators of colour like Roxanne Gay and Browne.  Still, this was a very good comic, that hit all the right nostalgia notes for me, without being unnecessarily repetitive.

Quick Takes:

Batman #21 – I was seriously considering dropping Batman over this Button crossover thing, because I don’t care a whole lot for the larger Watchmen/Rebirth stuff, and care even less when I discover that the Reverse-Flash is involved.  And then, because I’m a sucker, I still pick the issue up, and for the second in a row, get to see Batman beaten into a pulp.  It seems like this is what Tom King likes to write in this book.  Anyway, I’m still not terribly interested, although perhaps intrigued enough to sample the first Flash chapter (I haven’t read any of that book since Rebirth began).  What I did like here, a lot, was another glimpse of the character we’re being led to believe is Saturn Girl from the Legion of Super-Heroes.  I’m ready for another (well-planned and interesting) shot with my favourite DC team (technically tied with the JSA).  I hope that comes soon.

Batwoman #2 – I’m not sure I enjoyed this issue of Batwoman.  James Tynion and Marguerite Bennett are shoehorning some stuff into Kate’s life, concerning the time she spent on a Malta-like island living with the woman who kept the local crime factions at peace.  That’s all good, but when she ends up fighting someone she knew at that time, the others all show up a little too easily, and I find it hard to connect that point of her life with what’s going on now.  I’m hoping that the disjointedness of the book will get ironed out soon, as I love Tynion’s other work, and find Steve Epting’s art very enjoyable.

Black #5 – I feel like some of the elements in this penultimate issue of Black should have been a little more present in the series (or more explicitly present, as I think they were around, only kept under the surface) from the beginning.  I like the central concept behind this book – that only black people are able to develop powers, and that this secret is what has been behind centuries of oppression, but that’s not been made completely clear until this issue.  Kareem has been captured by an organization that has been collecting and studying the powered for centuries, and while in their private prison, meets someone who might offer salvation for all.  My biggest complaint about this book is how so many new characters and concepts get tossed into each issue, making them all whirlwinds of new names and faces.  I think this book would have benefited from some more breathing space.  I also think it has some of the best covers being published right now, even if they are only reflective of the contents on a thematic level.

Black Hammer #8 – Black Hammer continues to be one of the richest and most textured character-driven comics on the stands.  Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston advance the plot quite a bit with this issue, as we learn a lot about Gail’s life as a Captain Marvel-style hero, learn the secrets of the town library’s local history section, and get a couple more clues as to why the characters are unable to leave the local area.  This is a very smart, often very funny, comic.

Black Science #29 – Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera do a great job of recreating a typical Sean Spicer press conference, as Kabir tries to take credit for Grant’s scientific creations while blaming him for the extra-dimensional invasion taking place, even going so far as blaming reporters for reporting the story incorrectly.  It’s a great start, before the invaders go after Grant, and he and his brother star in a terrific chase scene.  It’s another great issue in this very strong series.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #14&15 – With the recent news that Marvel is returning to offering digital codes, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and pick up Secret Empire against my better judgement (i.e. trust of Nick Spencer winning over extreme event fatigue).  These two issues of SR continue the build-up, as we learn what Elsa has been up to throughout Cap’s life, and see a surprising confrontation between Steve and the Red Skull.  I was tired of this title, but now find myself enjoying it again.  I wonder, though, how Steve was put on ice in this new reality, since we see him lasting past his encounter with Baron Zemo back in the day.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #16 – The last issue of this title before Secret Empire gets completely underway is a little confusing, as I don’t follow the Thunderbolts title, but it does do a good job of making it clear just how in control of things Steve has become, and also helps explain a little about just how Cap has been Hydra throughout his entire career.  I still have trepidations about just what this event is going to be like, but I’m curious to see if Nick Spencer is able to pull it off convincingly.

Daredevil #19 – Daredevil’s fight with the Purple Man takes an odd turn as Killgrave gains enough power to influence the entire world.  This is a good issue, but I feel like guest artist Marc Laming plays the art a little too straight, especially the scenes in DD’s head, as previous versions of the character appear.  I love when the 90s Scott McDaniel Daredevil suggests that things become extreme…

Deathstroke #17 – All sorts of secrets get revealed in this issue, as Power Girl figures out who Slade really is, and Joseph and Etienne learn who the other has been sleeping with days before their wedding.  I know I say this every couple of weeks, but I feel like Christopher Priest is writing the best book DC is publishing right now, and it’s great seeing him partnered up with artist Joe Bennett again.  I love this book.

Dept. H #13 – Things are getting a little stranger in this title, as the cast has to figure out a way out of their crumbling undersea station, despite being quarantined, and Mia begins to really put together everything that might have happened.  Also, there’s a giant squid, and some electrocommunication happening, which tilts this book in slightly new directions.  I enjoy Matt Kindt’s work on this title, but sometimes it leaves me thinking I’m not smart enough to figure something out.

Descender #21 – It’s the end of the story arc, and it looks like Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are trying to trim the cast a little.  I feel like the next arc will be a big one, as various armies are ready to go to war, and Andy is in a position to rescue Tim from the robotic terrorists the Hardwire.  This is a very nicely paced series, and Nguyen’s art continues to blow me away.

Generation Zero #9 – It looks like this is the last issue of Generation Zero, which is a real shame, as it was one of the better books that Valiant is publishing right now, and has writing from the great Fred Van Lente.  It does leave the door open for a return some day, and I hope that does take place.

Horizon #10 – I like this title a lot, but often find that I have to slow down and reread some pages, as I’m not always clear on what’s going on.  The idea of another planet feeling so threatened by an expansionist Earth as to send agents to derail it is an interesting one.

Injection #12 – This current arc concerns itself with a remote stone circle that has secrets that look like they are tying into some of the themes from the first arc.  Warren Ellis uses this as a good chance to further develop Brigid’s character, which might be the most interesting one in this series.  I like the way Ellis shapes and tells these stories, as he leaves a lot for the reader to figure out on his/her own.

Invincible #125 – The latest war with the Viltrumites is picking up in pace, and Robert Kirkman avoids repeating himself with too many scenes of Mark and friends fighting with them.  This issue is much more focused on moving chess pieces around the board than the last couple were, but it effectively carries the weight of this arc, and gives us some nice splash pages that will help us remember this title once it’s gone.

Letter 44 #32 – Letter 44 has been on fire lately, although I found this issue, which gives us a look at the Builders’ backstory, to be an interruption in the recent flow.  I suppose it’s necessary to share just what led to the threat that the Earth is currently facing, and I get that regular series artist Alberto Jimenez probably needed a break, but I’m just really excited to see what happens next in this comic.

Low #17 – I guess it’s not a surprise (or a spoiler) that Tajo is still alive, and back in Salus with Mertali, her mother’s last surviving companion, where she has to stop the woman that posed as her sister-in-law from bombing the place and killing just about all that is left of humanity.  Things look dark in this issue, but since this entire series is about the power of optimism in hopeless situations, that’s not really a surprise either.  Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini continue to impress me with this book.

Moon Knight #13 – As we get close to the end of Jeff Lemire’s run with this character, we get a retelling of MK’s origin, as in the present, Mr. Knight journeys to a final confrontation with Khonshu.  This run, with its focus on Mark’s mental health issues, has been pretty interesting.

Ninjak #26 – The Seven Blades of Master Darque arc comes to a close, although it doesn’t really resolve a whole lot.  I’ve gotten pretty bored of Matt Kindt’s Ninjak, which is a shame, as Kindt is usually a much more interesting writer.  I wonder if Ninjak is the problem?  Perhaps he’s just not a character that can maintain a solo book for very long; he’s a lot better in books like Unity, where he can play a bit of a Batman role.

Poe Dameron #13 – I decided to return to this title, which was picking up quite a bit just as Marvel dumped their digital codes.  This issue ends the latest arc, and makes it look like we won’t be seeing a lot more of Terex in the future.  One of the things I’ve liked best about this book lately is the various ship designs by Phil Noto, which is often a source of broad appeal for me in the Star Wars universe (and one of the things I liked least about The Force Awakens).

Royal City #2 – Man, there are a lot of Jeff Lemire-written books out this week.  In this, his latest series, he continues to develop some of the members of the central family, as we learn that Pat is having marriage problems, and that Richie is in to some local tough guys for two grand.  I like how Lemire is taking his time in building this series, and continues to use the loss of a brother during adolescence as an interesting narrative device, and way to get into each character’s head.  I feel like this might be one of Lemire’s best works, already.

Secret Empire #0 – Nick Spencer does a terrific job of capturing the big-screen feel of a major Marvel event in this issue, which has Cap putting his Hydra takeover plan into play, with the Chitauri invasion closing on Earth just as Zemo’s forces attack New York City, and Hydra makes its move on SHIELD.  I liked this issue a lot, and it gives me hope for this event (although, Marvel events tend to start a lot better than they end).  Daniel Acuña’s art is nice here, and I was pleased to see that Tony Stark is back already (I don’t read either Iron Man book anymore).

Sex Criminals #18 – It’s very nice to see that Sex Criminals is coming out more regularly again, as Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky push their plotlines forward a little.  This is always a solid, and often very funny, read.

Super Sons #3 – Damian and Jonathan’s fight with Kid Amazo robot versions of themselves leads to a fun comic, but I can see getting tired of the constant bickering between the two characters if it doesn’t lessen or somehow minimize itself soon.  Still, Peter Tomasi has such a great handle on these two characters, and I like Jorge Jimenez’s art.  I am looking forward to seeing how this book grows after it gets its first arc out of the way.

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

All-Star Batman #9

Astro City #43

Cage TP

Curse Words #4

Dark Horse Presents #33

Doctor Strange #19

Few #4

God Country #4

Green Arrow #21

Invincible Iron Man #6

Mirror #7

Ms. Marvel #17

Nick Fury #1

Nightwing #19

Royals #2

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign #1

Silk #19

Star-Lord #6

Superman #21

Totally Awesome Hulk #18

USAvengers #5

Wild Storm #3

Witchfinder Vol. 4: City of the Dead TP

World Reader #1

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #2&3 – I feel like it’s time for a moratorium on Kang stories, as they are just getting more and more confusing.  That said, I do like Mike Del Mundo’s art on this series (I didn’t ever expect to see a Tiki-Kang).  Mark Waid is definitely writing to his strengths, but that doesn’t always lead to coherent storytelling.

Nova #8-11 – I liked Sean Ryan’s take on Nova, as he had Sam more directly confront some of the issues he faced being a superhero and a high school student with responsibilities to his friends and family.  The last couple of issues felt like they were being used to set up the newer, relaunched version of this title, which means that Sam needed to be given an excuse to go looking for Richard Rider.  In that way, this is one of the most Marvel of recent comics – it exists almost entirely to prepare for a relaunch and to tie in to events like Civil War II.

Nova #1-3 – Okay, I’m pretty excited about this version, which is in the capable hands of Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez.  Richard Rider is back, although there’s a lot of mystery around how he came back and how he’s doing (some of which seems to not directly contradict, but ignore the events of the end of the last series).  He and Sam are working together, and the new writers/artist have brought some terrific elements to the series, namely Cosmo the dog, Death’s Head, and a good dose of humour, not to mention incredible artwork.  This is a title to keep an eye on.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

High Crimes

Written by Christopher Sebela
Art by Ibrahim Moustafa

I really didn’t know what to expect when I started reading High Crimes, the Dark Horse edition of which collects the original online Monkeybrain series by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa.  My only other exposure to Sebela’s work wasn’t all that memorable (Welcome Back?  something like that), and I had not heard a whole lot about this book going in.Well, that’s hard to understand, because this was one of the best-written, most suspenseful comics I’ve read in a long time.  The story is centred around Zan, a former Olympic snowboarder who basically chose to throw her life away, and is now working with a shady associate, Haskell, in the Himalayas, where they recover and repatriate mountain climbers’ bodies for money.  When not working at this (or often while), Zan keeps a pretty steady stream of drugs and alcohol, not to mention self-loathing, flowing into her body.

Haskell returns from a trip up Mount Everest with the severed hand (it’s too hard to bring the bodies down on spec) of a man Sullivan Mars, who died right beneath the summit of that storied mountain.  When his prints are run, it alerts a secretive US agency, and the plot of the book gets underway.  Zan discovers his journal and some hidden microfilm in Haskell’s things, and takes it with her.

When this agency arrives, they force Haskell to take them up the mountain to find the body, while Zan decides that she needs to rescue her friend.

From there, Sebela and Moustafa give us a dense and layered story that explores Zan’s character deeply, while making sure that tons of cautious readers will never attempt an expedition up the mountain.  They do an amazing job of capturing the majesty of the setting, and contrasting it with the constraints and difficulties of making a planned climb, let alone the drug-fuelled desperate attempt initiated by Zan.  There is a depth of research on display here that really impressed me, and the images of frozen corpses littering the trail to the summit will stick with me.

I really enjoyed this book, and wish that it had a higher profile.  It’s fitting that the foreword to the book is written by Greg Rucka, because the writing here frequently reminded me of his style and intelligence.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

String Divers – I really didn’t know much about this IDW trade when I decided to grab it, aside from the fact that I like the general design of the divers.  I actually thought that this book was a Sea Devils sort of thing, so I was a little surprised when I realized that it’s about a group of shrinkable androids who are tasked with exploring the universe at the quantum level.  There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense, from the physics behind the series to the fact that one of the robot’s shadow appears to be sentient, but it’s a fun ride.  Nelson Dániel, the series artist, does a great job illustrating some weird concepts.  This was a decent read.

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