The Weekly Round-Up #397, 398 & 399 With Calexit #1, Letter 44 #34, Black Hammer #11, Beautiful Canvas #1 BPRD #1, Last Song #1, Saga #45, Lots Of Star Wars & More!

It’s been a few weeks since my last column, because I was out of the country for a while.  Therefore, this is a really long column, covering the last three weeks’ of comics.  I apologize for the length.

Best Comics of the Last Three Weeks:

Calexit #1 – Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan first came on my radar with their excellent book Young Terrorists, which is, in many ways, a strong test run for their superior Calexit.  In the early days of Donald Trump’s second term, we check in on the situation in California, the coastal cities of which have seceded from the United States, triggering an occupation by the National Guard.  In this issue, we meet Jamil, a courier who gets along with everyone, and Zora, a resistance leader being targeted by a sadistic Homeland Security operative.  Steve Bannon also makes a cameo, although under a different name.  Pizzolo’s speculation of how secession would play out feels very realistic, as much of California is extremely conservative, and wouldn’t want to ally themselves with the more liberal urban spaces.  The reasoning behind the secession, punitive measures taken by Trump after California declares itself a ‘sanctuary state’ also feels very believable.  Since Young Terrorists and Nahuelpan’s Clandestino, a similar title, both creators have grown in their ability to develop characters and clearly tell a large story.  This book reminds me of Brian Wood’s DMZ, and fits nicely in the comics pile this week alongside titles like Briggs Land and Grass Kings.  It definitely feels like something is in the air this year…

Letter 44 #34 – From its very beginning, Letter 44 has been an impressive read.  Charles Soule has been telling a riveting story about aliens coming to our solar system, and the changes that brings to the Earth, politically, philosophically, and how it directly affects the small team of humans sent to intercept them.  For a while now, it’s been clear to us that this series is likely to end with the world ending alongside it, and that’s what Soule gives us with this issue.  He takes a different approach with it, putting himself into the comic, as he chooses to spend his last minutes on the planet writing about the end of it all.  It’s a very personal issue, telling a story about Soule’s father as he faced his own mortality, and it adds an emotional layer to the end of this series that only magnifies my esteem of this series.  Soule doesn’t leave much to happen in the next issue, unless of course some of the crew of the Clarke has survived.  I look forward to finding that out, but also feel like this issue could serve as a fitting ending.  This is a great, great series.

Black Hammer #11 – Barbalien gets most of the spotlight this issue, as he confronts the town priest about their feelings for one another, as Lucy continues her exploration of the town, and Gail sinks further into despair.  This impressive book by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston keeps surprising me with its depth, as before it seemed like it was more of a comedy title at times.  I’m not sure how I feel about the recent news that when it goes on hiatus soon it will be replaced by a related title, but I trust Lemire to keep things interesting.

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Dead Orbit #3 – James Stokoe continues to just rip through a poor satellite outpost, as aliens do their thing, and one of the rescued scavenger crew makes a desperate move to escape, making everything worse.  Stokoe’s typically detailed art is wonderful here, and his writing has really grown.  This is one of the best Aliens comics I’ve ever read.

Astonishing X-Men #1 – I’ve really missed reading a regular X-Men comic, and so I’ve been excited to get my hands on this one, especially since I have a ton of respect for Charles Soule as a writer.  If I’m being honest, I think I was a little disappointed with this debut issue, which has a team of randomly assembled X-Men, who all just happen to be spread throughout Europe, gather to help Psylocke fight off the Shadow King.  I hate that character, who I think hasn’t been used effectively since he possessed Karma in the 1980s.  This is an interesting grouping of X-people (although I found it odd that Mystique is on the cover, but not in the book, but Beast is the opposite of that, unless of course, he’s really Raven…).  The plan to have a different artist draw each issue (Sean Chen does a great job with this one) is going to make this book feel very inconsistent, although I do hope that Soule is going to be writing to each artist’s strengths.  I am going to give him a complete arc on this book, as I really want to like it.  Maybe I just expected too much…

Bankshot #2 – Alex DeCampi takes more time to explain what’s going on in this series in this second issue, as we learn how Marcus King survived his ordeal in Northern Africa, and how he got set up being a general thorn in the side of the CIA and any other Americans looking to profit off the intelligence business.  This is a good title that would work very well as an action movie.  DeCampi is a very impressive writer, and Chriscross doesn’t miss a step.

Batman #27 – since he began his run, Tom King has kept slipping Kite Man into the series, mostly as a joke character.  This issue, though, an interlude for the War of Jokes and Riddles, focuses on Kite Man’s role in that event, as a sort of triple agent, bouncing between Batman, Joker, and the Riddler, which is actually what started him out as a costumed criminal.  It’s a strange issue, and it reminds me yet again of how good a writer Tom King can be.  This is maybe the fourth or fifth time that he’s delivered a very impressive issue of Batman, but those are never part of the main story.  I wish that he wrote like this for every issue.

Batwoman #5 – I continue to be undewhelmed with Batwoman.  Sure, Stephanie Hans’s art, and Michael Cho’s cover, are beautiful, but I just don’t really care all that much about Kate’s retconned past as the lover of a pirate queen on a Malta-like island.  This whole issue is spent in that era of her life, and it’s a little boring, especially given that we all know Kate will leave.  Also, all this focus on her past has not yet given this title a true purpose, making me wonder if the plan is simply to keep pitting Kate against her ex-lover’s ex-lover.  Maybe it’s time to take this off my pull-file list…

Beautiful Canvas #1 – I know this came out a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn’t able to get a copy until now.  This new Black Mask book confused me a lot when I started to read it, and that was before the hybrid animal/men hit people showed up.  I thought this was going to be a psychological crime book, but it has some superhuman aspects to it as well.  I’m not sure I understood everything that was going on – a woman named Lon was hired to kill a Hollywood actress for a powerful woman who likes to get crime scenes photographed, and she takes off with the woman’s son.  The framing sequences really threw me – I think I’ll need to read this again before I decide whether or not I want to get the second issue.

Beautiful Canvas #2 – Okay, so I didn’t get a chance to reread the first issue and bought the second anyway, and I still feel very confused and lost by the story, but am impressed enough with Sami Kivela’s art to want to stick with it.  I do need to read these first two issues together though to figure just what’s going on out.

Bitch Planet: Triple Feature #2 – While I’d still rather be reading the regular Bitch Planet series, this anthology that explores the world that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro have created is entertaining and interesting.

Black Panther #16 – With this arc, I feel like Ta-Nehisi Coates is making this book more what people had originally expected from him.  T’Challa is still involved in the larger story involving the gods of Wakanda, but he takes a break to search for Queen Divine Justice (I hate that they call her Asira now) and that involves the return of Vibraxas.  It also leads to the beginning of redemption for Thunderball, from the Wrecking Crew, as T’Challa addresses him not as a joke of a character, but as an intelligent scientist and as a man.  It’s a very cool scene.  I’ve liked this book since it started, but I’m starting to feel like it’s achieving greater balance as Coates becomes more experienced as a comics writer.

Black Panther & The Crew #4 – What a shame that this book has already been canceled, but I assume that was always the plan, as it feels like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey are writing a single story here, I’m just not sure if they’ve been given the time and space it requires, seeing as the book is still putting together its cast, four issues in.  Luke Cage gets the spotlight this issue, as his home is attacked by Hydra, and he and Misty Knight start putting together puzzle pieces that connect the death of a prominent Harlem activist to the recent appearance of a corporate police force in Harlem, and some aggressive gentrification. The themes in this book are much more along the lines of what I’d expect from a Coates comic; I just wish that the book was continuing.

BPRD: The Devil You Know #1 – It hasn’t been that long since BPRD finished its last run, and while I missed the characters, I feel like this return is bringing us back to too much of the same old thing.  After the massive storyline the closed out the Hell on Earth volume, and decimated the BPRD and its cast, there should be a stronger sense of a new direction in this return.  Instead, we have squads cleaning up the mess, while people feel some kinda way about Liz, and as the Russian girl starts up some mischief.  I’ve stopped reading all of Mike Mignola’s other comics for this same reason, but have always had a warm place in my heart for the BPRD.  Without John Arcudi as co-writer (Scott Allie has taken that role now), I fear that this book won’t keep my attention.  I’ll give them this miniseries to change my mind.

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #2 – Brian Wood’s title about an off-the-grid community gets pretty interesting this issue, as Isaac’s decision to kidnap a pair of Canadian hikers he found on the northern end of his family’s property brings all sorts of attention to the Land, including exchanging gunfire with federal agents.  The first arc of this series established how the Land works, but it looks like this one is going to be testing the family’s resolve a lot more.  It’s good stuff, and feels very topical.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #24 – This issue takes us through the decision making process that results in the last page of this week’s issue of Secret Empire.  I like the way Nick Spencer has been writing Sam’s character, even if I often think he’s really just working through some of his own political and internet-related issues through the character.  I usually love Joe Bennett’s art, but this issue feels a little boxy and rushed.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #19 – Nick Spencer and co-writer Donny Cates (whose name has been really big this year) explore Steve’s state of mind between the scenes of Secret Empire #7, and while it’s interesting, it’s getting a little old.  How much Secret Empire is left?

Daredevil #24 – When Matt Murdock is up against a difficult legal battle, it is time to mend things with Foggy Nelson, who has become a lot more like his Netflix character.  I’m enjoying this recent law-focused storyline, although I wonder why Matt is not digging into who is paying for Legal to oppose him.  Still, Charles Soule (whose name is in this column a lot) is doing very good work with this book, and I like artist Alec Morgan’s work a lot (even though every time I see his name, I first think of Tom Morgan, and I cringe).

Darth Vader #3 – Charles Soule has made some interesting choices with this book, focusing on Vader’s early days as Vader.  He is still very much Anakin Skywalker, impetuous, quick-tempered, and a little irritating.  This issue has Vader facing a powerful Jedi who had removed himself from the world, and therefore escaped the purge that the Emperor carried out.  Now he feels renewed purpose, and focuses his anger on Vader.  Giuseppe Camuncoli does a good job of making Vader appear vulnerable, and shows that he hasn’t really perfected his armor.  This is an interesting book, in that it’s set in an era of the Star Wars universe that I generally don’t like that much.  I’m curious to see if Soule is going to address the birth of the Rebellion as well…

Deadly Class #29 – Once again, Rick Remender blows me away with this book.  Much of it is given over to a long discussion about how corporations destroy scenes, as Gunther warns Petra of what might happen to goth and punk music once MTV discovers it, but then one of the funniest scenes to ever happen in this comic (and there have been a few) takes place, and I ended up having to pause in my reading because I was laughing too hard.  That’s what makes this book so special – Remender and Wes Craig really capture the instability of adolescence, where you can go from wanting to killing yourself to laughing so hard you almost pee, just because of a trip to the 7-11 and an episode of Cheers.  I really love this book.

Dept. H #16 – Matt Kindt continues to dig into Mia’s memories of her father, and her mother’s journals, as in the present, Mia and a few others continue to seek safety after their undersea base collapsed.  This series is slowing down a little as Kindt carefully examines his backstory, but I don’t mind at all.

Descender #22 – Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen bring their science fiction series back, and really crank up the action.  Plotlines are converging as the Hardwire launch a major attack, and as Dr. Quon finally takes some action on his own.  This is a very good series, and I think that the “Rise of the Robots” arc is going to be a big turning point in the ongoing story.

Detective Comics #960 – James Tynion has Batmon given the opportunity to answer all of his questions, although Zatanna feels like he shouldn’t head down this path at all.  I like the way their relationship has been updated for the Rebirth era – that they were teenagers infatuated with one another is an interesting approach to explore now.  The Azrael stuff works better in this issue than it did the last one, as Jean-Paul looks like he’s succumbing to his programming just as this AI version of him is making trouble for the team.  This book is consistently one of the best Rebirth titles.

Detective Comics #961 – You know, I don’t think I’m ever going to understand the appeal of Azrael.  Sure, when he first debuted, I thought his Joe Quesada-designed costume was amazing, but all the Order of St. Dumas stuff has always bored me to tears.  It still does.  The Batman and Zatanna scenes rescue this storyline.

Doctor Aphra #9 – Aphra’s back to her basics, looking to sell the Rur crystal and assembling quite a collection of rogues to sell it to, while Triple Zero begins plotting against her, and original series artist Kev Walker returns.  I like how Kieron Gillen has been carving out his own corner of the Star Wars universe, and making it a much more interesting place.

Doctor Aphra #10 – The auction for the Immortal Rur gives Gillen a chance to have a bit of fun populating the Star Wars universe with a variety of amusing wannabe despots and other nefarious types.  This book is very different from Gillen’s Darth Vader, but a lot more fun.

Doctor Strange #23 – Strange’s time in the Darkforce Dimension keeps getting stranger, as the Kingpin and Ben Urich upgrade themselves using some questionable magic items, and Baron Mordo moves against some of the other heroes he has trapped in Manhattan.  Once again, Nico Henrichon’s art is stunning.

Eternal Empire #3 – Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna have their main characters, Tair and Rion, spend most of this issue figure out what’s going on with the fact that when they are close to each other, fire comes from their hands and their eyes turn colour.  This fantasy series has a lot of worldbuilding behind it, and that is only starting to be made clear as the story progresses.  I like the fact that this issue was so focused on character building and some much-needed exposition, as our heroes decide to try to travel to the only nation in the world not ruled by the eternal empress, just as she decides to make her move on that land.  This is a very solid series that is gaining more and more of my interest with each new issue.

Grass Kings #5 – The Grass Kingdom, an off-the-grid community, and its fight with the local police force gets really violent quickly this issue, as the Sheriff leads his men into the Kingdom looking for his wife and missing assistant.  I like the way that Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins use the fight with the police as a way to show us some of the mythologizing that has gone on in the community’s leader’s head, as he envisions himself as a knight protecting his people.  It’s the type of thing that only works in comics…

Iceman #3 – Bobby tries to have a nice awkward and passive aggressive dinner with his parents, but that is ruined when the Purifiers come busting in.  Sina Grace has a real good handle on Iceman, as he deals with a number of different challenges in his life, including a serious fear of what his powers may develop into.  This book is being handled well, and I’m glad it’s being published.

Invincible #138 – With only six more issues remaining in this series, Robert Kirkman is pulling out all the stops, and Ryan Ottley has drawn one of his bloodiest comics yet (and that is saying a lot for this series!).  It’s a lot of Viltrumite on Viltrumite action in this issue, as Robot makes plans to help defend the Earth if Mark and his allies fail.  This book has been great lately.

Justice League of America #10 – Steve Orlando shines the spotlight on the Ray for this issue, as we return to his city, where a strange force is granting people’s wishes in their dreams, and an agent of the Lords of Order is coming around to take those wishes away.  I’m happy to see the concept of Order and Chaos being revived in the DCU – I always found it worked well as a structure for stories, and like that Ray is getting more screen time.  This was a solid issue in a series that really needed one, as I’ve been starting to lose interest in it of late.

Justice League of America #11 – Another solid issue, as the Kingbutcher (stupid name) gets dispatched, and Ray continues to buck against Batman a little adolescently.  It now seems clear that Steve Orlando has a big story in the works here, but he is still keeping a lot of it close to the vest at this point.  I am enjoying this book more, so will stick with it I think.

Kill or Be Killed #10 – Ed Brubaker really is an incredible writer.  This issue weaves together issues around mental health, trust, police incompetence, guilt, and the disaster that is the US healthcare system into a very tightly plotted and believable story.  Dylan is definitely falling apart after the events of the last issue, as the guilt from his actions eats away at him, just as he also has to confront the fact that maybe he’s not really made a pact with the devil in the first place.  I really can’t tell where this book is going, and that’s what makes it so amazing.  Well, that and Sean Phillips’s art, of course…

Last Song #1 – I really enjoyed the sixty page debut issue of this new quarterly book from Black Mask.  Holly Interlandi is telling us a moving story about a young man and the rock band he formed around him in the eighties.  It’s a very thoughtful and moving look at ambition, anxiety, and fear of being forgotten.  The story really examines Nicky’s relationship with his best friend Drey, who chose to follow him to LA to pursue music, and without whom Nicky wouldn’t have been able to survive growing up, especially after his father’s suicide.  Sally Cantirino’s art really enhances Interlandi’s story, giving these characters a lot of personality.  This is a very personal project for Interlandi, and it works terrifically well.  I wish I didn’t have to wait three months for the next issue, but I am once again very impressed with a new Black Mask series.  No surprise there…

Lazarus X+66 #1 – Michael Lark decided to take some time to recharge after drawing Lazarus for so long, and that’s a good thing, as it gives Greg Rucka space to explore his world a little better with a miniseries of one-off stories.  This issue focuses on Casey Solomon, the soldier that Forever chose to attend Dagger training.  We see her go through this very punishing training to become one of the elite among Carlyle forces, and while Rucka and co-writer Eric Trautmann fall back on a few too many training montage tropes, it’s still a very effective issue.  It’s nice to see artist Steve Lieber working with Rucka again – they go well together.

Mage: The Hero Denied #0 – It’s great to see that Matt Wagner is back with Kevin Matchstick, and that he’s allowed Kevin to age just as we all have since we last saw the reincarnation of King Arthur.  Wagner decides to use this slim $2 comic to reintroduce us to the general lighthearted tone of the series, and its gentle ribbing of the comics industry, instead of fully explaining who Kevin is.  It’s been so long, I was hoping for a bit of a recap to help me get back into this book, but I trust Wagner’s skills as a storyteller, so expect that it will all work once the book gets fully underway next month.  I’ve missed Wagner’s artwork.

New Super-Man #13 – Superman Zero makes his play to become the new emperor of China, and Kenan has to rally the troops, and deal with the revelations he’s just learned about his family.  Gene Luen Yang has been building to this storyline for a year now, and it’s great to see so many subplots coming together (including the unexpected debut of Anathema, the Bane of China).  I hope this title will still be around at the end of this arc though; it kind of feels like it’s building towards a big conclusion.

Occupy Avengers #9 – It looks like Marvel has stealth-cancelled another title (there are no more issues of this solicited through October).  Occupy Avengers never came close to living up to its potential, as it brushed up against some real world issues in its first arc, introducing the wonderful cousins Frank and Silas, but it didn’t stay in that zone at all.  Still, a comic starring Red Wolf and Nightshade?  I’d be down for something like that almost any time.  This issue brings us up to Secret Empire, as Hawkeye abandons his team, who end up working with a resistance cell in the midwest, to what looks like ruinous results.  I know that both David Walker and Gabriel Hernandez Walta have other books they are going to, but I wish this title had been given more of a chance to grow into itself.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #29 – Kyle and his father are pushing their advantage against the possessed, however an attempt to rescue another Outcast doesn’t go all that well.  This title is always a very quick read, but there’s still a lot going on in it at any given time.  I still haven’t watched the TV show – I wonder if it’s any good…

Paklis #3 – Dustin Weaver keeps adding more elements to his Amnia Cycle storyline, which takes up most of this now regular-sized issue, and it does make me wonder just how much of a plan he has for things.  At the same time, I’m enjoying the story, and loving his art, so that’s not really a complaint.  This is a unique title, even for Image, and I love the old-school science fiction feel to it.

Pitiful Human-Lizard #14 – Jason Loo gives more time in this series to his supporting characters than he does his main one, but I’m not complaining about that.  This time around, the focus is on Bodyrocks, the villain from the first issue.  He’s shrunk a little, and has regained his mental faculties, as well as a clear understanding of what a jerk he’d been.  This book always entertains me, as Johnny Peepers continues his string of gentrification-related violent acts, and Lady Accident decides to put a stop to him.

Poe Dameron #17 – Charles Soule gives Black Squadron a couple of different missions this month, allowing for some character development for the secondary characters at last, and the opportunity to make clear just how bad the First Order is.  It’s time to engage in a propaganda war against them, so that the Resistance may gain greater support in the galaxy, while Poe goes looking for the traitor Oddy.  It’s a decent issue.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #5 – The story of John Abbott comes to a close (even though there are three more issues left in this series) as we find him a prisoner for his treason onboard the Constitution, with his sole benefactor pushing for his release, and the girl who spent years writing him trying to support him.  Brian Wood makes an interesting excuse as to why we’ve never heard of Abbott before, while still allowing him credit for building the American navy.  This has been a good story, that bookends nicely the work in the original Rebels run.

Regression #3 – Cullen Bunn and Danny Luckert’s new series about past lives and mental illness is a truly creepy affair.  In this issue, Adrian is questioned about the death of the man who hypnotized him, and then spends a ton of time in yet another fugue state.  Things are very odd in this comic – we see figures peeking through windows, and bugs crawl around everything, but we are never sure what’s happening in Adrian’s mind and what is actually real.  It makes for a very effective and disturbing story.  I don’t know where Bunn finds the time to write so many titles, and make ones like this and The Unsound so damn good.

Royal City #5 – Royal City continues to be one of the most emotionally resonant books Jeff Lemire’s ever done.  In this issue, Mr. Pike, the patriarch of the family, slips away in the hospital, and has a conversation with Tommy, his dead son, as they check in on all of the other members of the family, and their secrets are laid bare to him.  As well, there’s a surprise at the end about the identity of the girl that’s been following Pat around.  This quiet family drama, with magical realist sensibilities, is really working for me.  Perhaps it’s because Lemire and I are about the same age, but I feel like this book speaks to me on a level that many others couldn’t.  I’m sad to see it’s going on a short hiatus, but look forward to its return.

Saga #45 – Saga just keeps on being heartbreaking lately, as a recently deceased character (in many states, this character has been a character since conception, while in others, not at all) makes a visit to his family, and a group of locals attack the ship.  As always, this is a very well-executed book.

Secret Empire #6 – Hydra attacks the resistance base this issue, pulling out a big weapon who really didn’t get to stay dead for very long.  This is a pretty action-filled issue, with a slightly confusing ending.  Luckily, I already have the next issue, so I won’t have to wait too long to figure out what happened.  The release pacing of this series is really nuts.

Secret Empire #7 – This issue really makes this event seem like a big deal, as the Black Widow makes her move to assassinate Steve Rogers, and is slowed down by the Punisher, which gives Miles Morales the chance to follow what he believes is his destiny, with disastrous results.  Andrea Sorrentino’s art (he drew most of this issue) is fantastic, and Nick Spencer gives Carol Danvers, Natasha, and Sharon Carter some great moments.  I do think the fact that the resistance seems just fine after last issue needs some explanation, but otherwise, this is one of the strongest issues in this run, even if I’m not too happy with the big character death that happens here.

Secret Weapons #2 – This rather oddball Harbinger miniseries, focusing on some oddball characters that Livewire is trying to save from a creature that is hunting them down, is very well written and gorgeously drawn.  I wish this wasn’t just a four-issue miniseries, as I like these characters and Eric Heisserer’s approach to them very much.  I’m also thinking that Raúl Allén is a buy-on-sight artist now.

Spider-Men II #1 – Brian Michael Bendis launches us right into the story, with Miles and Peter tied up and the bad guy getting away, before backing up and launching the story properly.  I liked the first Spider-Men series, but since then, the 616 and Ultimate universes have merged, and now it’s a little awkward to have these characters discussing it, so Bendis does his usual thing, and just kind of ignores it while also directly mentioning it.  Only he can make that work.  Sara Pichelli is always the right artist for a book like this, and I do like the way Bendis makes this more about Miles than many issues of his own book have been.  It’s good stuff, although I don’t know how I feel about the new Taskmaster design.

Super Sons #6 – As Jon and Damian begin working together, Jon gets ditched for the Teen Titans in this issue which, while still maintaining the regular charm of the series, does feel a little off in terms of its pacing.  Still, Peter Tomasi has such a nice handle on these characters (even if he can’t make it believable that Damin leads a Titans team that includes Starfire, who I’m pretty sure is an adult).

Ultimates^2 #9 – Al Ewing really has been given the keys to the strangest corners of the Marvel Universe, as he gives us a story about multiversal shenanigans that are more than a little hard to follow, yet also set up what should be an interesting fight next issue between our Ultimates and Mark Millar’s original team.  I like this book a lot, especially the way in which it appears to understand how bizarre it can get.  It’s a fun book, and I like that Galactus is a superhero now.

X-O Manowar #5 – Aric continues to get more and more involved in the politics of his new home, being granted an audience with the Azure Emperor, and then being tasked to deal with a problem with the Burnt.  As he learns how things really work on this world, he is really given no choice but to turn to his armor for help, as much as he doesn’t want to.  Matt Kindt has really shifted the way this book works compared to the last X-O series, and while I liked it a lot, I find I like this one even more.  

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #6

All-Star Batman #12

Amazing Spider-Man #30

Britannia: We Who Are About to Die #4

Bug: The Adventures of Forager #3

Cable #3

Cinema Purgatorio #11

Curse Words Vol. 1

Defenders #3

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #10

Generation Gone #1

Generation X #4

Green Arrow #27

Infamous Iron Man #10

Invincible Iron Man #9

Jean Grey #4

Joe Golem Occult Detective: Outer Dark #3

Luke Cage #3

Micronauts: Wrath of Karza #3

Mighty Thor #21

Ms. Marvel #20

Namwolf #4

Old Man Logan #26

Rapture #3

Royals #5

Shadows on the Grave #6

Shaolin Cowboy Who’ll Stop The Reign #4

Shirtless Bear-Fighter #2

Sombra TP

Star Wars: Darth Maul #5

Thanos #9

Totally Awesome Hulk #21

Uncanny Avengers #25

USAvengers #8

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #3

War Stories #24

Weapon X #5

Weapon X #6

Wild Storm #6

World Reader #4

X-Men Blue #7

X-Men Blue #8

X-Men Gold #8

Bargain Comics:

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1-4 – I came away from the first four issues of this latest Guardians revamp with some mixed feelings.  First, this is very much the movie version of these characters, with no regard for or acknowledgement of their past.  Comic Drax would understand sarcasm, because he’s from Earth.  Comic Star-Lord wouldn’t be so obsessed with his older music.  As well, the plot has them facing off against the Collector, as they try to steal from him, something they did successfully not that long ago in Howard the Duck’s book, but which doesn’t get mentioned.  I also hate that the Infinity Gems are now being called stones – that seems unnecessary.  At the same time, Gerry Duggan gets a lot more story packed into these issues than almost a year’s worth of Bendis’s run, and artist Aaron Kuder is fantastic.  The third issue has Frazier Irving on it, which I would never complain about, but it being mostly a flashback issue, it doesn’t fit with the others at all.  Perhaps the bi-weekly push is not a good idea?  After reading the first issue, I was prepared to give up on this book, but by the fourth, I was intrigued enough to want to read more.  I just wish it had more of the previous Guardian cast members in it.

All-Star Batman #9 – Why build to a conflict with Ras Al-Ghul if you’re going to be done with it in one issue?  I love seeing Jock work with Scott Snyder on this book, but I continue to be disappointed in how strangely plotted and paced this story remains.  I also don’t understand why I’m so much in the minority when it comes to Snyder and Batman…

Cage! #1-4 – I’m not sure why I expected more from this Genndy Tartakovsky miniseries.  When it came out with barely any buzz around it, I should have known to avoid it, but still, I expected something highly stylized and amusing, that would respectfully homage Luke Cage’s blaxploitation roots, but instead, Tartakovsky relied on easy stereotypes, childish plotting, and massive decompression to tell a pretty silly story about Luke being kidnapped and made to fight animalmen on an island while characters like Dazzler and Brother Voodoo watch.

Inhumans Vs. X-Men #0-6 – I found much of this to be a very welcome return to the large scale, coordinated X-team that I enjoyed when the X-Men were written by Morrison, Fraction, and Gillen.  It makes sense that in this day and age, with so many characters involved, that the X-Men operate more like a militia than just a team of misfits sharing a goal.  To that end, I enjoyed seeing them work against the Inhumans, but I also enjoyed seeing some of the new Inhuman characters being put to good use.  I don’t know how I feel about the ending, and the changes made to a character who has been a big part of the team for the last almost twenty years though.  Still, this was a move in the right direction, and made me realize how much I’ve missed the X-Men.

All-New X-Men #17-18, Extraordinary X-Men #17-19, Uncanny Inhumans #18-20, Uncanny X-Men #16-18 – You can’t be a modern Marvel event without having a ton of tie-in books, and so we are given a lot of between the scenes moments of the parent story in these titles.  Many of them work surprisingly well, as we get a sense of kid Bobby’s split loyalties (since his boyfriend is an Inhuman), Forge’s struggle to find his place in the organization, and the weirdness going on with M and Sabretooth.  We also, unfortunately, get a permanent ghost for Magik to hang out with, and a long digression about whether or not Maximus can reconstruct Terrigen.  This was a mixed bag.

All-New X-Men #19 – Dennis Hopeless finally addresses the issue of whether or not the past X-Men can return to their time, and when they can’t, gives them a dance party.  For the most part, I’ve felt that Hopeless didn’t have a great feel for these characters, especially Idie and Genesis, so I’m curious to see what Bunn is going to do with them in X-Men Blue.

Extraordinary X-Men #20 – Jeff Lemire’s run on this title was incredibly disappointing and out of character for him.  I don’t know what he’d hoped to accomplish with this run, but I don’t think he did it.  This last issue has a squad looking for Cerebra, which is one character I could never understand on any level.  Was it the mutant detector, with sentience and housed in a Sentinel?  If they wanted a robot character, why not just bring back Danger?  Anyway, it’s done, and Lemire’s working at Image and Valiant, which suits him so much better.

Silver Surfer #6-9 – Dan Slott and Michael Allred continue to have Silver Age-style fun with this book, although I find that its setup and execution are becoming a little too predictable and similar.  This book is charming and fun, but feels like it’s stuck in a cycle where some threat brings Norrin and Dawn closer together, teaching him something about humanity in the process.  

Thanos #2&3 – Jeff Lemire has found a good balance with this series, doing the difficult task of keeping Thanos interesting as a character while also making use of some Marvel characters that I like a lot but hardly ever get to see (Starfox, Imperial Guard).  This book has really flown under the radar but it’s quite good.

Uncanny X-Men #19 – Cullen Bunn’s work on this book also hasn’t been all that memorable.  I like the idea of having a darker X-book, but I’m not sure I ever came to an understanding of just what it is that Magneto was hoping to accomplish with his team, or why Psylocke would feel the need to kill him because of it.  There’s just a lot of drama here with no real emotional investment.  Also, it’s weird that the issue with Monet having absorbed her brother’s vampirism is just left unresolved.

The Weeks in Graphic Novels:

Charley’s War Vol. 1: 2 June 1916 – 1 August 1916

Written by Pat Mills
Art by Joe Colquhoun

I have been wanting to dive into Charley’s War, which ran in four-page instalments in British weeklies starting in 1979, for a while now.  I’ve always been interested in the First World War, and had always heard good things about this comic.  I’ve had a number of the hardcovers for a while now, but didn’t have the first one, and wanted to wait and read them in order.Charley Bourne is a sixteen year old boy who lies about his age to be able to go off and fight in the Great War, arriving at the Western Front in June 1916.  He’s not the brightest of lads, which he knows, but he makes up for it in heart and courage.

He is stationed near the Somme, and his unit becomes involved in that great slaughter.  Pat Mills researched this title meticulously, and has Charley exposed to many of the depravities of war, including chemical gas attacks.  He does not spare any time in making the war feel patriotic or justified – it’s a terrible thing, and while Charley knows it, he does his best to make it through with the help of his friend Ginger and various other soldiers we get to know through the course of the book.

Mills uses Charley’s letters home, and his family’s letters to him, to help provide a lot of the exposition, which is a very effective way to get to know the characters better.  He also shows the effects that the war has on the morale and mental well being of the soldiers.  As well, we see the last cavalry charge, probably of all time, and recognize how slow the people in charge of the war were to adapt to new technology and circumstances.

Joe Colquhoun’s art in this book is frequently stunning, while remaining rather cramped.  He conveys a lot of information on each page, and gives a realistic portrayal of life in the trenches.

This is a very good book, although owing to the episodic nature of the original strip, it leaves the reader hanging, which is a problem as I don’t own the next volume yet.  It’s time to start hunting that down…

Colville

by Steven Gilbert

Colville is a surprisingly dark graphic novel by local cartoonist Steven Gilbert.  It’s set in a fictional bedroom community where kids get themselves into trouble early, and chafe at their mundane surroundings.

David is a kid in his last year of high school, who already has a criminal record for some breaking and entering.  He’s basically become persona non grata in his school and community, except in the eyes of his girlfriend Tracy, who he’s a little dismissive of.  Van, the guy that got him in trouble in the first place, wants his help for a theft, and although David is reluctant, the thought of a thousand dollars (in early 1990s money) is too tempting.

The job?  Stealing a BMX bike from the son of a local drug dealer with biker affiliations.  David doesn’t really know how this is going to turn out, but can’t help fighting the bad feeling he has and going ahead with it anyway.

Oh, and famous serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka are running around in this community doing their thing – kidnapping and drugging teens.  That was the part that kind of threw me, as they represent a level of evil I didn’t expect to come across here.

Gilbert lets the story play out in a manner that has it circling back on itself in a few places, revealing more information about the characters as it goes.  It’s an interesting book, and I especially enjoy the large establishing shots that show us what the town looks like and provides a lot of atmosphere to the book.

I picked up the rest of Gilbert’s work at TCAF this year, and am looking forward to reading it even more now.

Dynamo 5 Vol. 3: Fresh Blood – With the team having broken up, and Maddie in a coma, Scrap puts together a new team to try to keep her city from falling apart under a crime wave.  Once again, this is solid Jay Faerber Image stuff, and it’s enjoyable, but there are a lot of underdeveloped characters here, and the revelation about one’s real identity doesn’t get enough space to play out the way it should (unless that’s in the next volume).

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