The Weekly Round-Up #396 With Redline #5, Jupiter’s Legacy 2 #5, Unholy Grail #1, Star Wars #33, The Walking Dead #169 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Redline #5 – Redline has been one nice surprise after another.  I almost didn’t take a chance on this Oni Press title, as I wasn’t clear if it was a comedy book or more serious science fiction.  What it ended up being is a pretty cynical and original police procedural set on Mars that is also sometimes quite funny.  This last issue explains a lot of what’s been going on, and then ends in a very unexpected manner.  I am definitely down to read whatever Neal Holman writes next – he has a unique voice.  I’m just sad that this book is over.

Quick Takes:

Batman #26 – I remain sceptical of the whole War of Jokes and Riddles storyline, especially since it establishes that just about every notable and memorable Batman villain you can think of was active during his first year on the job, and that they all, including people like Deathstroke and Deadshot, got involved in the conflict between these two idiots.  As is often the case, Tom King’s approach to the story elevates the material some – I always get the feeling that he’s really just scripting from plots made at some high level DC office where decisions aren’t expected to be good.

Daredevil #23 – Charles Soule has wrapped Matt Murdock up in an interesting legal matter – basically getting court approval for secret identity-using vigilantes to gather evidence and testify in court confidentially.  Soule is a lawyer, so it’s safe to assume he’s thought this out at a level that other comics writers wouldn’t, but he also works in a good supervillain angle, with the Kingpin acting behind the scenes to try to stop Murdock, and weaves in threads from his incredible She-Hulk series of a year or two back.  Legal, Tony Stark’s former lawyer, makes an appearance, as does Jennifer, who is clearly going through some stuff in her title.  This is a solid issue, with nice art by Alex Morgan.  I’m not sure why DD is on such a rapid schedule these days (double-shipping a lot lately), but at least this is a good story to be getting extra doses of.

Deathstroke #21 – Things are very different with the beginning of this new arc.  To begin with, Slade’s undergone a religious awakening, and has put together a team (or, really, taken it from his ex-wife), Defiance, committed to doing good in the world.  The biggest change, though, is that this time, writer Christopher Priest has decided to show us his cards from the start.  Slade manipulates world events so his team has something to do, while Adeline plans on betraying him as soon as possible.  This is my favourite DC title by far, and is one of the best superhero comics being published today.

Iron Fist #5 – I’m glad that Marvel is shifting more towards five-issue story arcs, because this first Iron Fist one was a little slow.  Ed Brisson has everything firmly established by the end of this issue though, and the title is on track to being very good as the next arc will feature Shang-Chi.  I hope that Mike Perkins will still be drawing it, as his work is the best part of this comic.

Jupiter’s Legacy 2 #5 – This title finally comes to its much-delayed close.  Reading this, it’s weird to think that this story, about the child of a great hero taking over the United States, and the other children of great heroes and villains who stand against him, was started before Donald Trump even declared an interest in running for election, yet this book gives us a pretty good idea of what our world would look like if Trump had powers.  Anyway, this is pretty standard Mark Millar fare, story-wise, but with lovely art by Frank Quitely, it’s a very good read.  Apparently they plan to return to these characters in 2019, which means the story should end by 2021?

Seven to Eternity #7 – I was surprised to see that James Harren has taken over the art chores on this book for at least a couple of issues.  I’m a big fan of Harren’s work, but his style doesn’t blend well with regular series artist Jerome Opeña, and that makes it a bit jarring.  At the same time, this issue focuses on the dying Jevalia and the other Mosak who take her back to her hometown in an attempt to heal her, not knowing that her town has lost its magic and has given its soul to the Mud King.  The King himself, and Adam Osidis, don’t make an appearance in this issue; instead, Adam’s daughter is left to puzzle out her father’s bizarre actions.  I like seeing the other characters in this book getting more screen time.

Spider-Man #18 – Miles’s run down a dark path continues, although it’s somewhat mitigated by his mother’s support, and his strengthening bond with his friends.  Goldballs gets a big moment here, and I’ve grown to really enjoy new artist Oscar Bazaldua’s work on this title.

Star Wars #33 – Luke and Leia get to have their Blue Lagoon moment this month, as they are stranded on an oceanic planet, completely alone, at least until the Imperials they ran from track them down.  This is a nice character-driven issue after the goth madness of the Screaming Citadel arc, and it has some truly beautiful pages by Salvador Larroca.  It looks like the next issue will feature Lando Calrissian, so that’s exciting!

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #25 – This is a flashback issue that focuses on Kretchmeyer and his early relationship with Beth and Spanish Scott, as he works hard to get them together.  This helps explain why there are so many hurt feelings between these characters in the main story, and helps us see just how brutal Kretch really can be.  It’s good, but I’m always happier with the issues that propel the story.

There’s Nothing There #3 – This book was unexpected in a couple of ways.  First, it came out shortly after the last issue, something that is very rare for a Black Mask comic.  In this issue, we finally learn just what’s up with all of the ghosts that have been haunting Reno, and what they’ve been trying to war her against.  This title continues to skewer celebrity culture in a fun way, and is very entertaining.  I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Unholy Grail #1 – Cullen Bunn and Mirko Colak do for King Arthur what Jason Aaron and RM Guera were recently doing for the Old Testament.  We have a revisionist look at these old legends, wherein a demon takes over the guise of an aged Merlin on his way to visit the dying Uther Pendragon.  We see the consequences of “Merlin’s” actions right from the start, although I came away from this first issue without any real interest in the premise or the series.  I really did expect more from this book, and am now rethinking the upcoming Dark Ark, also by Bunn.  I often find myself underwhelmed by Aftershock offerings…

The Unsound #2 – The first issue of this new series about a very odd mental institute caught my attention, and definitely left me feeling curious about where things were headed.  This issue is a little unexpected, in that the patients begin to riot and rip through the employees, apparently working for a ‘prince’.  Ashli, our main character, is safe with the hospital’s administrator when things pop off, explaining how she was rescued from a strange event by Xerxes, the mysterious patient who keeps his face covered with a paper plate face.  Jack T. Cole’s art is great on this book, and he and Bunn have made the environment creepy and unpredictable.  This is a very good horror comic.

The Walking Dead #169 – It’s time for this book to move on, as Rick finds his leadership being challenged by Dwight, just as the people from the Hilltop decide to head back home and rebuild.  Now that Rick knows about the woman that Eugene has been talking to on the radio, he wants a crew to travel to Ohio to meet that community, which is likely to be the focus of the book’s next big conflict.  As always, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard keep this book moving along, even when they have a mostly housecleaning issue.  It’s always good stuff.

The Wicked + The Divine #29 – Sakhmet has gone insane, and has slaughtered a bunch of people.  Now some of the other gods feel the need to track her down, and once again, we are in a place where the conflicting personalities and agendas of these powerful individuals drives the plot.  One thing I’ve noticed as this title has progressed is how much my feelings about Laura, the main character, have changed since she became Persephone.  She’s really not very likeable anymore.

The Woods #33 – The Woods is one amazing comic.  It’s been consistently impressive in terms of its character work and the large scale audacity of its plot.  This issue focuses on Karen and Sander as they prepare to merge two enemy armies and to attempt to finally rescue everyone who has been stuck on this alien planet, some of them for generations.  I like the way that James Tynion IV focuses on the relationship between these two characters, even while New London comes under attack.  Michael Dialynas, as always, is brilliant in this issue.  The manner in which Sander’s character, and his transformation from being Cassandra, is addressed is particularly impressive.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #5

All-New Wolverine #22

Angel Catbird Vol. 3

Avengers #9

Black Bolt #3

Champions #10

Green Arrow #26

Hawkeye #8

Jessica Jones #10

Larry Marder’s Beanworld Vol. 4

Monstress Vol. 2

Nick Fury #4

Savage Things #5

Superman #26

Uber Invasion #7

Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #5

X-Men Gold #7

Bargain Comics:

Mighty Captain Marvel #0&1 – I’m not sure that Carol needed yet another relaunch.  This new title, written by Margaret Stohl now, is fine, but I feel like it tries a little too hard to be lighthearted and funny while also showing that Carol is going through some things post-CWII.  I don’t really see any reason to stick with this book.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984

by Riad Sattouf

The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf’s memoir of growing up a mixed-race French-Syrian child in late 70s and early 80s Lebanon and Syria, with interludes in France, has been a huge sensation in the French comics world.  This English translation is engaging and insightful, but I’m not all that sure I understand the extent of the hype surrounding it.

Sattouf’s father, Abdul-Razak, was a Syrian studying in France when he met Sattouf’s mother, Clementine.  He pursued and married her, and then Riad came along.  He was a beautiful child, with long blonde hair.  His father secured a professorship in Khadafi’s Libya, and so the family moved there at a point when the government had outlawed personal property, and so families couldn’t leave their home for fear that someone else would move in.

After a while, the family moved back to France, and then to Syria, where Abdul-Rezak got another professorship that allowed him to live in his family’s village.  Sattouf either has incredible recall of his early childhood or has done a great job of reconstructing things, as this book shows a lot of detail, although many of them make sense as coming through a child’s understanding of the world, hence his focus on how much everyone smelled of sweat.

Sattouf’s father is a huge presence in this book.  He’s portrayed as naive, vindictive, and loving, although quick to anger.  He’s not an abusive character, but it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t give a lot of thought to how his career choices put his family in bad situations.  Clementine bothers me in this book.  She seems to just drift along in her husband’s wake, appearing okay to be relegated to a secondary role, and being left in rooms with women she can’t communicate with.

Sattouf shows us both the dysfunction of life under these dictatorships, and the realities of growing up under-supervised in rural villages where his appearance and lack of Arabic make him a target for bullying cousins.

In the final analysis, I enjoyed this book, and see it working alongside most of Guy Delisle’s memoirs, but still don’t see why this book, and its subsequent volumes, are such a sensation.

Rachel Rising Vol. 7: Dust to Dust – I enjoy Terry Moore’s work a great deal, but am a little puzzled as to the abruptness of the ending of this series.  Most of the supporting characters, who made this book so enjoyable, just kind of disappear, and the final confrontation with Malus, who is basically the devil, seems to happen a little too quickly, considering that Moore had forty issues to set it up.  I wonder if this book, which Moore self-publishes, just became economically unviable, necessitating an early exit.  It’s a shame, as this is good work otherwise.