The Weekly Round-Up #406 With Mister Miracle #2, Mage: The Hero Denied #2, Ninjak #0, The Realm #1, Star Wars #36 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Mister Miracle #2 – It’s really hard to know, at this stage in this series, what’s real and what is in Scott Free’s mind with this second issue.  Scott and Barda are fighting for the new Highfather, Orion, in the war against Darkseid, and while they’ve been very helpful towards New Genesis, Granny Goodness has made strong inroads.  Orion sends the couple on a mission, but there is some subterfuge and betrayal happening, at the same time that we already know not to trust Scott’s perceptions of things.  And that’s before Metron starts making visits in the night.  Tom King and Mitch Gerads continue to build on the excellent first issue, taking a thoughtful look at Jack Kirby’s groundwork, and using it as a foundation for a very modern series.  I’m very excited by this book.

Quick Takes:

Black Science #31 – Most of the McKay family is back together again after years apart, but so are just about every one of their enemies and antagonists, as things get even crazier in this comic.  Matteo Scalera is just so good on this book.  His action scenes have always been exciting and impressive, but what I like most here are the framing pages, which have Grant and a hermit hanging out together in the woods.  It’s pretty beautiful.

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #4 – In this issue, Abbie Briggs takes a young girl from the Land into town, with the intention of helping her arrange an abortion.  It gives us a good look at the place of women in the secessionist community, but in a very balanced and nuanced way.  Brian Wood avoids the easy anti-fascist agenda by trying to portray these characters and their choices as complicated (if flawed), and I thought it was handled very well.  This is a thoughtful book.

Detective Comics #964 – A few plotlines reach resolution with this issue, as James Tynion and new co-writer/scripter Christopher Sebela have Stephanie learn some truths about Anarky’s backers and motivations, and as Clayface is forced to confront his personal monstrousness.  It’s an alright issue, but the ending feels a little forced and rushed, as the decks are cleared for this upcoming Red Robin storyline.  I like this book best when it is written by Tynion alone, and isn’t working to serve whatever the larger DCU storyline is.

Doctor Aphra #12 – Thanks to the actions of her droids, all of Aphra’s plans have gone to hell, and she’s stuck trying to escape any number of deadly adversaries, although she is still determined to make it out with some sort of reward for her troubles.  Kieron Gillen is having a lot of fun with this book.  It’s interesting that Darth Vader is in the mix now, but he and his former employee have yet to cross paths.

Grass Kings #7 – I have some reservations about the second arc of this excellent series, as it seems to be about characters investigating a possible murder in the Kingdom from years before.  I always hate it when characters begin to piece together things from the past that everyone knows a little bit about, but which never felt the need to come up before.  It stretches credibility a little too much for me.  Leaving that aside, I continue to be very happy to support this gorgeous comic.  I saw some of the pages of original art for the previous issue at Fan Expo, and was able to compare them with the final printed version.  It looks like Boom! is sparing no expense to reproduce Tyler Jenkins’s painted art the best way possible.  This is cool stuff.

Justice League of America #14 – Since the JLA was formed, they’ve engineered regime change in an Eastern European nation, and are now travelling through Microverse.  There’s really not a lot of A in this JLA…  This Microverse stuff is wearying, as it’s a little hard to care about, but the scene where Ryan Choi appeals to a god on a level playing field is kind of cool.  I want this storyline to be done with, and quickly, before I just give up on this book.

Kill or Be Killed #12 – Dylan is right back in the thick of things, as he feels the need to look into the Russian mafia that is hunting for him, and starts to get back with Kira at the same time.  As always, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips give us a very solid, detailed, and compelling issue of this, their best series yet.

Mage: The Hero Denied #2 – Matt Wagner draws us into this story with this issue, as Kevin and his wife try to figure out what they should do, now that they’ve been found by their enemies again.  I still struggle to remember the secondary characters from the 90s Mage series, but also feel like Wagner is doing a fine job of reintroducing whatever is relevant well, and I’m enjoying watching Matchstick interact with his family.  

New Super-Man #15 – I don’t think anything’s been announced yet, but I can’t escape the suspicion that this book is about to be cancelled, and because of that, Gene Luen Yang is accelerating his storytelling and trying to squeeze his full story in before the axe drops.  This issue has Kenan reuniting with his family, fighting the Suicide Squad, and dealing with a Doomsday-ized Emperor Super-Man.  It’s all moving too quickly to resonate much, and that’s a shame, as the ten issues or so of this book were way more character-driven.  Also, the new (or guest?) artist, Brent Peeples, left me a little cold with his house-style ways.

Ninjak #0 – I had a lot of respect and admiration for Matt Kindt’s writing, but I’ve often found his Ninjak to be a little too simplistic and self-absorbed.  This zero issue recaps much of what Kindt has done with Ninjak, and I find that the same complaints are surfacing again.  I’m curious to see what Christos Gage does with the character in the upcoming Ninja-K series (making use of one of Kindt’s innovations that didn’t get played with enough), but the preview pages didn’t really grab me.

The Realm #1 – I’m not too sure about this new series by Seth Peck and Jeremy Haun.  The preview pages in Image+ caught my eye, but based on those, this series seemed like a post-Apocalyptic story.  It is, but there are a lot of fantasy elements to it that aren’t all that well explained, and after reading the first issue, I don’t really know what’s going on.  There’s this guy who gets hired to escort people places.  We see one of his jobs end in violence, and later he meets with a woman we know can handle herself (we watched her and her party kill some orc-things), who wants him to guide her group of scientists somewhere.  There’s also some gothy villain type doing villainy things.  I’m not sure if I’ll return for more; this already feels like it will work a lot better in trade.

Secret Empire Omega #1 – Well, the big event is finally over, and Nick Spencer uses most of this issue to have the good Steve Rogers chat with the Hydra Steve Rogers in his prison cell.  It’s impossible to read this story without thinking about recent events in America, such as the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, and so when Hydra Cap talks about how important it became for Americans (by which we can assume he means white male Americans) to be a part of something bigger than themselves, it’s not hard to know what Spencer is really talking about.  Andrea Sorrentino does a great job of illustrating this conversation and keeping it visually interesting.  The rest of the issue is used to help resolve or set up some new storylines, featuring the Punisher, the X-Men, and possibly the Black Widow.  It’s a decent ending to what I felt was a decent event.  I really hope Marvel puts the brakes on cross-overs for a while though, as I’m pretty sick of them.  I am going to miss having Spencer write the Captain Americas – Rogers and Wilson – as I thought he has some interesting things to say about the characters.

Star Wars #36 – Continuing the recent run of one-off issues looking at smaller groups of characters, this issue is given over to R2D2, who is working to rescue C3PO from the Imperials who captured him some months ago.  It’s a fun issue, as Jason Aaron juxtaposes some information about R2 units with scenes of our little hero defying all expectations of his model.  Salvador Larroca is experimenting with a more photorealistic style in places, and it’s interesting, but I’m undecided as to how much I like it.

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

All-New Wolverine #24

Amazing Spider-Man #32

Defenders #5

Harrow County #25

Ms. Marvel #22

Old Man Logan #28

Redlands #2

Retcon #1

Secret Warriors #6

Shadows on the Grave #8

Uncanny Avengers #27

Weapon X #8

X-Men Blue #11

Bargain Comics:

All-New Wolverine #20-23 – It’s a little strange to see Laura interacting with so many different members of the greater Marvel Universe in this book, as she’s always been such a loner.  Across these four issues, we see appearances by Ironheart, Peter Parker, Beast, Wasp, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and some others.  I’m not a fan of mutants in space in general, and find it even more strange that Laura is the solution to a virus decimating other planets.  Still, I like the way Tom Taylor has worked with her character, and love Gabby.  Leonard Kirk’s work is the least polished I’ve ever seen from him.  I don’t know what kind of deadlines he’s been up against, but I don’t like it.

All-Star Batman #10-12 – I’ve said this over and over again, but I also keep returning for more (especially when Rafael Albuquerque is drawing), but I really don’t like Scott Snyder’s Batman.  This overly complicated plot about a special engine, Hush, and Alfred’s past is indicative of a lot of Snyder’s work with the character.  The narration is all about fathers and sons (Alfred and Bruce, this time around), Batman has to step outside his usual milieu (Captain Batman of a secret high tech sinking submarine anyone?), and the story hinges on some pretty unbelievable plotting.  It’s tiresome.  I don’t understand why his Batman is so popular.

Cable #2 – I don’t really see what this book has going for it.  This issue is almost all action, and while that’s fine, I don’t see a lot of characterization to make me care at all about what Cable’s up to.  I might check out Ed Brisson’s issues of this title, but I don’t really care for what James Robinson is doing, or not doing, with this book.  Cable on his own is not a very interesting character, which is why we usually see him paired with someone like Deadpool or Hope.

Doctor Strange #20 – Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo bring their run to a satisfying close with this issue, as Strange and Zelma tour Weirdworld for a bit, and Strange has to save Zelma’s life by making a monumental decision on her behalf.  I thought that Marvel had basically forgotten about or given up on Weirdworld, which I was okay with, but Bachalo is the right kind of artist for that place.

Luke Cage #1 – I fear that Luke Cage is being drastically overused these days, between his membership in the Defenders and the Crew, his frequent appearances in Jessica Jones, and the regularity with which he’s been showing up in titles like Daredevil of late.  This debut has Luke heading to New Orleans for the funeral of the man who gave him his abilities, and while it’s an interesting story, it’s not a strong basis for an ongoing monthly.  David Walker gets Cage, but also is trying a little too hard to make him into an ideal citizen.  Nelson Blake II’s art is lovely but a little stiff.  

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Judge Dredd: Mega-City Zero Vol. 1 – I have never really gotten into Judge Dredd comics, but I saw that this recent-ish IDW series was being written by Ulises Farinas (with Erick Freitas), whose work I enjoy (especially his Motro, which is brilliant).  Dredd finds himself in a strange world, where one of the Mega-Blocks from his home city has been transported, although it seems like things have been odd for a very long time.  Society has changed, his authority is not recognized, and a group of semi-feral children expect him to help them.  The writers don’t really explain very much, and I found it hard to care a whole lot for these characters, but at the same time, the randomness of Farinas’s mind kept me intrigued.  Why do people kick puppies?  What did happen to change things so drastically?  Dan McDaid’s art is a very nice marriage of Kirby and abstract Keith Giffen, and Farinas’s cover shots are gorgeous.  I hate the four-issue trade that doesn’t come to any real resolution though – this is a staple of IDW’s publishing plan it seems.

RAID.ONE

edited by Rob Coughler and Ramón Pérez

RAID, the Royal Academy of Illustration and Design, is a Toronto comics studio, and home to Francis Manapul, Ramón Pérez, Gibson Quarter, Ian Herring, Irma Kniivilia, Nimit Malavia, Taran Chadha, Anthony Falcone, Scott Hepburn, Gabe Sapienza, Marcus To, Eric Vedder, Joe Vriens, Tri Vuong, and Tonci Zonjic.

The studio got its start fifteen years ago, when it consisted of Cameron Stewart, Kagan McLeod, Ben Shannon, and Chip Zdarsky, and when, if we believe Chip’s introduction, its acronym stood for Racists Against Impaired Driving.  They all left over the years, making way for the talented list above, who have now put together this very handsome and well-designed anthology, which debuted at Fan Expo this year.

RAID has been bubbling away in the Toronto scene for some time, with many of its members being regular attendees at local comics shows.  They released an anthology comic for Free Comic Book Day this last year, but it is with this book that their diversity, versatility, and collective talent really shines through.

As with any anthology of this size, there is something for everyone, and some stuff that doesn’t resonate with every reader.  I was pleased to see another chapter in Ian Herring and Daniel McIntyre’s Junior Citizens, a series I’ve liked since I picked up an issue at TCAF a few years back.  Marcus To’s story, Peaceful, shows artistic depth not usually seen in his Marvel and DC work.  Likewise for Francis Manapul’s story, which has his usual close eye for layout and design, but more heart than I find in his DC writing.

Pérez closes out the book in fine style, with a mostly silent story about a clown that reminds me of his wonderful work adapting Jim Henson’s A Tale of Sand.

The best story in this book though, is Tonci Zonjic’s ‘Not Dead’, which has a pair of scavengers working their way through a debris field in space.  Zonjic told a similar story in the FCBD book, as he explores themes of isolation in the future.  This story stuck with me more than the others.

In all, this is a gorgeous book filled with top and emerging talent.  I would love to see more collaboration between these creators, and more showcases for their work like this.  I highly recommend picking this book up, even if you don’t live in the Toronto area (here’s the link again).

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