The Weekly Round-Up #405 With 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #5, Star Wars: Darth Vader #5, Journey To Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma #1, The Walking Dead #171 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #5 – Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss have created a truly unique miniseries here, and while parts of its conclusion are not as satisfying as I might have hoped, the freshness of their approach still makes this a recent favourite.  The kids finally rob the bank in this issue, and we get to ride along as they unleash all sorts of oddball mayhem.  Boss’s layouts and designs are just so good, as is Rosenberg’s script.  The end does leave me with a few questions, and feels a little rushed, but this oversized issue is still a great read.  I highly recommend checking out the trade for this title, and can understand why Marvel has snapped Rosenberg up.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #3 – Charles Soule puts the focus on Old Man Logan this month, as he fights the Shadow King’s illusions, and then has a conversation with Charles Xavier, although it’s still not really clear if this is actually Charles.  Ed McGuinness is the artist for this issue, and I have to say that he’s really not a favourite of mine.  His cartoonish style works with some titles, but coming off of an issue by Mike Deodato, the difference is jarring.  I don’t believe this storyline will look very good once it’s in trade.  This title continues to disappoint – I really want a solid monthly X-Men title, and had hoped this would be it.

Batman #30 – I’m more than done with this War of the Jokes and Riddles storyline, but this being another interlude issue focusing on Kite Man makes it much better than every chapter that hasn’t been an interlude issue focusing on Kite Man.  I really feel like Tom King is doing the best he can with an editorially mandated storyline, and like the way that he uses Kite Man’s experiences to skip over much of the actual war.  I’ve always liked Batman stories where Batman doesn’t much figure into it except as a background character (this is probably why Gotham Central remains one of my all-time favourite Bat-books), and that is what happens here.  I just hope this storyline finishes soon.

Daredevil #26 – DD’s back in the red suit, as he goes to China to see if he can help Blindspot with something.  This was a solid issue, with art by Ron Garney again, that has the Hand creeping back into Matt’s life.  I’ve been really happy with Charles Soule’s work here – as Marvel struggles to find balance in its upcoming Legacy initiative, they should take a close look at this title, which works with some of the best elements of DD’s career, but approaches them in a new and fresh way.  This deserves to be one of the best-selling Marvel titles, but I don’t see it getting a lot of attention.

Darth Vader #5 – Man, Charles Soule has a lot of comics on the stand this week.  In this one, he has Vader work at altering a kiber crystal so that he can have a red lightsaber, the point of this entire arc.  I feel like the scenes where Vader is shown to weigh his options falls a little short, but that’s largely because Vader by himself is such a difficult character to make interesting; he needs to be playing off of a Luke Skywalker or a Dr. Aphra to truly be menacing.  Still, this is good enough, and it looks like the next issue is going to feature at least one of the Inquisitors from the Rebels TV show, which might be interesting.

Deathstroke #23 – Once again, Priest gives us an excellent issue of Deathstroke that advances a number of plotlines, most notable the one involving Rose’s relationship with her father, and has the Defiance team confront some familiar pirates off the coast of East Africa.  I love the way Priest keeps so many balls in the air in this series, and continues to make this book compelling, off-beat, and very character driven.  This is easily DC’s best title.

Generations: Iron Man & Ironheart #1 – This is the first of the Generations one-shots I’ve read so far, and it was a big disappointment.  I don’t usually read Iron Man, but when I saw that the incredible Marco Rudy was solicited as being the artist, I immediately preordered it, because Rudy is one of my absolute favourite artists.  Somewhere between solicitation and publication, two other artists (Szymon Kudranski and Nico Leon) were added into the mix, and Rudy ended up creating very little of the art here.  The story, which has Riri Williams suddenly appearing in a far-flung future is a typical Brian Michael Bendis mess.  Tony Stark is still alive at 106, but the other Avengers’ children are teens or in their early twenties, and Franklin Richards appears to be younger than forty, suggesting that Tony must be in his seventies in the current day.  The story is very typical “I can’t believe the future is so cool but I also can’t learn anything about it” stuff, without any action.  I have preordered two more of these one-shots (Captain America and Spider-Man), and now I am having second thoughts about that.

Iceman #5 – I think that Sina Grace was a really good choice for this title.  In this issue, Bobby comes out to his parents, and then goes off to fight the Juggernaut, mostly because that’s easier and safer than continuing to speak with them.  Grace, who bases the parental scenes on his and his friends’ experiences, is doing a lot with Bobby’s character, while still tossing in enough action and X-Men related cameos to keep the book feeling light.  It’s a good run.

Inhumans: Once & Future Kings #2 – After Black Bolt, Medusa, and Maximus have fled Attilan for New York, where they meet with the Wizard to get some technology to help them protect them from the king, we begin to meet other members of the royal family.  Priest is doing a great job of building up this updated interpretation of these characters, and artist Phil Noto does his usual stellar work.  I’m enjoying this title, and hope that it heralds more writing by Priest at Marvel in the future (not that I’m unhappy with his DC work – I just like to see him writing a lot).

Iron Fist #7 – The two-parter guest starring Shang-Chi comes to an end, after providing us with a few wonderful pages of fighting between our two heroes courtesy of the excellent Mike Perkins.  I’ve been enjoying this series, but I’m still not sure I know where Ed Brisson wants to take Danny.  Maybe things will be clearer starting with the Legacy number-jump next month.

Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma #1 – Watching The Force Awakens, I had no idea who Captain Phasma was supposed to be.  Perhaps there were scenes that explained her that got left on the cutting room floor, but to my eyes, she was just this Stormtrooper/Cylon disco hybrid who showed up for a couple of scenes, and maybe had something to do with Finn’s inexplicable change of heart.  I had hopes that this new miniseries, which bridges the space between that film and the upcoming The Last Jedi might provide some answers, but they aren’t in this issue at all.  Instead, we follow Phasma through the ten minutes it takes her to escape the exploding Starkiller Base, during which time she tries to expunge the evidence that she had anything to do with the base’s destruction (I don’t even remember the scene in the movie where she lowers the planetary shield), and pursues the only person who might have evidence of her culpability.  The art in this book is very nice (thanks to Marco Checchetto), and Kelly Thompson keeps the story moving, but I would like a little more character development in the next issue.

Motor Crush #6 – I’m glad to see this title return, as Brendan Fletcher and Cameron Stewart take us back a few years, and show us some scenes establishing Domino’s backstory.  We meet the woman who has been supplying her with Crush for her inhaler, and how it went from being her medicine to a weird reality-bending engine accelerant (none of which makes sense to me yet, but that’s okay).  Babs Tarr’s art is what keeps me returning to this book, as I have a few issues with inconsistencies in the writing.  Tarr is a very exciting talent!

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #30 – As Kyle and his extended family debate whether or not they should add a new outcast to their circle, a new leader arrives in town to take command of the possessed, and he looks to be a lot more dangerous for our heroes.  Robert Kirkman is upping the stakes again, as this title seems to be moving into a new phase.  It continues to be very entertaining.

Seven to Eternity #9 – Jerome Opeña returns to the book, and it is stunning.  Adam and Garils continue their journey, travelling to the Skylands, a collection of floating cities that look amazing.  Along the way, we learn a lot more about the Mud King, and his story makes the reader question a lot of what we’ve been told in this series so far, as well as question just who might be right and who wrong in this story.  Rick Remender is weaving a very complicated story with this book, and it is very hard to predict where it will go (or, at the rate they are killing them, if there will be any characters left after a while).  The book is going on hiatus until February, which is a shame, but I look forward to see where it’s headed next.

Spider-Man #20 – You know you are reading a Brian Michael Bendis comic when the cover has Spider-Man being held down by some police officers, but the comic is about Miles deciding (randomly?) to go to Tokyo even though he has school and his parents to deal with, where he ends up coming across Tomoe, a villain Bendis introduced in his Iron Man run and I guess isn’t finished playing with.  This is a pretty disjointed issue, but seeing as I just came back from Tokyo, I did enjoy looking at the backgrounds in Nico Leon’s artwork.

The Walking Dead #171 – Pittsburgh appears to be empty, which is a surprise to Michonne and her travelling party this issue, although as they are about to leave, they meet Princess, a new character who might or might not be on her own.  I feel like Robert Kirkman is angling to replace Negan as the most garrulous and irritating character in the book, as Princess talks about as much as he does, albeit more cleanly.  This issue is completely focused on these characters, and that’s an interesting change, as I don’t remember the last time Rick didn’t show up in this comic.  The thought of being able to explore an almost completely abandoned city is an exciting one, and I’m curious to see where this leads.

The Wicked + The Divine #31 – A lot happens in this issue as an attempt is made to apprehend Sakhmet, and the gig at Valhalla goes ahead, providing one character the opportunity to enact some betrayal.  As always, this is an incredibly well-put-together comic, but that’s nothing less than expected.

The Woods #35 – This is the penultimate issue of this truly excellent series, and so it is a very momentous one.  The issue opens with some flashbacks, as Ben talks to Sander’s dad about his time on the planet, and over those pages we really get a sense of just how much the kids have grown and changed, both in appearance and in character, over the course of the story.  From there, we move to the big stuff, as Karen and Sander make their way into the planet, hoping to end things, and the remaining humans gather to defend themselves against Isaac’s attack.  James Tynion IV has taken an odd concept and crafted one of the best science fiction sagas I’ve read out of it, while Michael Dialynas has breathed life into these characters.  I am excited to read the conclusion, but am going to miss this book.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #9

Astro City #47

Beautiful Canvas #3

Black Bolt #5

Champions #12

Elsewhere #2

Extremity Vol. 1

Generation X #6

Green Arrow #30

Hawkeye #10

Jessica Jones #12

Lazaretto #1

Royals #7

Savage Things #7

Superman #30

Throwaways Vol. 2

Über Invasion #8

World Reader #6

X-Men Gold #11

Bargain Comics:

Doctor Fate #7-18 – This was one strange comic.  It straddled the New 52 and Rebirth, without ever interacting with the main DC Universe (although Kent Nelson, the classic Dr. Fate shows up and even references the Justice Society at one point).  I feel like DC were trying to position this book as their answer to Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, but never quite got there.  I like Khalid as a character, and like the idea of him struggling to embrace the legacy of Fate, while also reconciling ancient Egyptian theology with his practise of Islam.  I loved the art, primarily by Sonny Liew, and thought that Paul Levitz did a good job of building the central characters.  I did, however, get very bored with Khalid being dropped in the same kind of situations again and again, and never really having interesting antagonists.  Had this book intersected with some known DC characters, it probably would have been a lot more interesting.  I know that Nelson’s Fate has shown up in Blue Beetle some, but wonder if Khalid still exists in the Rebirth universe.  I hope he does – he’d be an interesting addition to Steve Orlando’s JLA.

Hawkeye #4-6 – This book is fun, but I sometimes get irritated at how Kelly Thompson portrays Kate as less mature than she was in the Matt Fraction Hawkeye book, or in Young Avengers.  Still, the Jessica Jones guest appearance works well, helping to provide some perspective on things, and I’ll never turn down art by Michael Walsh.

Silver Surfer #12 – This was a very touching issue of this series, as Dawn suffers a loss, and then retreats to the healing planet of Euphoria, leaving Norrin to wonder if she is healing or becoming stunted.  Dan Slott breaks his usual formula for this title, and shows that there really is more to this series than the slightly goofy homage to the Silver Age that it often seems to be.  Michael Allred is the most consistent thing about this title – he’s always great.

Weapon X #2&3 – I think that Greg Pak chose to launch this title very strangely, as three issues in, the team is not fully assembled, and at that point it moves into a cross-over with Totally Awesome Hulk.  I like the characters in this book, for the most part (Sabretooth needs to go away for a decade or so), but as always, have a hard time dealing with Greg Land’s artwork.  

We Are Robin #8-12 – The concept behind this series, that a group of teenagers inspired by Robin (more as a concept than Damian in particular) become a network of vigilantes, is a very strong one, making me think of the Guardian Angels or other citizen-led crime reduction activism.  The end result could have used a little more work, but I think had this title continued under Lee Bermejo’s direction, it could have really been something.  Of course Duke is still around in the Bat-books, but I’d like to see some of these other characters show up again.

X-Men Gold #5-7 – I’m still on the fence with this book, although the seventh issue is easily the best of the run so far.  I’ve long maintained that the biggest problem with biweekly publishing schedules is that it leaves writers in a place where they don’t have to make each individual issue all that special or distinct.  It also allows them to get lazy in their storytelling, decompressing the plot to a point that doesn’t work in a monthly title.  That’s what’s happening here.  The threat of nano sentinels is introduced solely as a means of increasing Rachel’s power levels, and/or to get her to start making out with Nightcrawler, which feels pretty wrong after so many years of them being friends and colleagues.  The Secret Empire tie-in is of the Red Skies variety (okay, dark skies), but I was interested in seeing so many of the students in the school again, like Dust, even if it was only briefly.  I think Guggenheim needs to tighten up his writing, and work at finding his own voice on this title.  Right now, it feels like he’s trying to update the melodrama of the Claremont days, without having the strong grounding in their personalities.  Also, if Kitty is now the leader of the team, isn’t it pretty demeaning of Old Man Logan to keep calling her ‘punkin’ like she’s still a kid?  He wouldn’t do that if Iceman was the leader.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Nailbiter Vol. 3: Blood in the Water – The first two trades of this series were decent, but I feel like it’s with this one, as we begin to learn the secrets of the town where a disproportionate number of serial killers comes from.  Joshua Williamson has really taken his time building suspense, but I’m not officially hooked.

 

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