The Weekly Round-Up #410 With The Woods #36, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #13, The Wicked + The Divine #32 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Woods #36 – This has been a favourite series of mine for a while now, and I’m really very sad to see it come to its end.  James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas have created one of the best long-running independent books on the stands, with their story of an entire high school that is transported to a hostile alien world that contains other settlements of humans.  The focus has always been on the strong characters, and over the course of these thirty-six issues, we really got to see them grow and become real.  When this series began, I couldn’t escape the similarities it had to Lost (and apparently a manga title called The Drifting Classroom), but where that TV show failed utterly, Tynion pulled off his bigger story while also making the characters some of the most compelling on the stands.  This book never shied away from some of the issues that the teens were facing outside of their struggle to survive (this is a very LGBT-friendly title), and for a story that had alien monkey creatures and carnivorous trees, it always felt very real.  Dialynas imbued his drawings with so much character, and subtly aged and changed those characters as their experiences honed them into young adults.  After Letter 44 ended a couple of months ago, this was the only ongoing title on my pull-list that wasn’t from the Big Five, and I think that’s a shame.  I would love to see Tynion focus on his creator-owned work more than write for DC, but am not sure if it’s going to happen.  This was a satisfying ending to a great series, and while I would have liked to see some of the reunions the ending hinted at, it still left off in a very good place.

Quick Takes:

Black Science #32 – Rick Remender is known for dropping a lot of bombs and surprise turns into his work, but I really didn’t see the one that Kadir drops in this issue coming.  Chaos still reigns in the world, as Kadir moves on his plan to save himself and Grant’s wife, and we learn some unexpected things about him and Chandra.  It’s a very solid issue, and while I’m enjoying it all, I do think it might be time to start wrapping this series up.

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #5 – Jim Briggs makes his move to push back against his wife’s takeover of the community he built, and he’s not afraid to hurt his people along the way.  Brian Wood is joined by Werther Dell’Edera on art, and while I normally like his stuff, this issue looks a little rushed and rough.  I enjoy this series, but compared to the more nuanced last issue, this one was a bit of a letdown.

Daredevil #27 – It’s time to learn Blindspot’s full backstory this time around, as Charles Soule fleshes out his character.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like Blindspot is going to make it as a hero for long, as it looks like he’s switched sides.  This is a good issue, although it felt a little slight.

Detective Comics #966 – I’ve really come to hate comics where characters meet grim’n’gritty future versions of themselves.  It was cool a couple of decades ago, but it’s become a wildly overused trope in the last ten years, as have storylines that are randomly set in the future, like a recent issue of Batwoman that served as a bit of a prelude to this issue.  Imagine my surprise then, as I read this comic, to find that I was just loving the way that James Tynion IV chose to tell the story of Tim Drake meeting his future self in Mr. Oz’s prison.  There is so much that I want to hate about this issue – Mr. Oz himself, Doomsday, and the version of Tim who runs Gotham like a fascist, yet Tynion’s writing really drew me into the story, and Eddy Barrows’s art, with its strong double-page spreads, kept me riveted.  Tynion is a major talent (go read The Woods!) and is doing some very cool stuff in this comic, especially considering that some of the main beats are probably being dictated from some editorial authority.  This continues to be one of the strongest DC titles being published.

Doctor Aphra #13 – Kieron Gillen wraps up his run on this title (at least as solo writer – he’s co-writing the next issue or two with incoming writer Si Spurrier) by having Darth Vader deal with the Immortal Rur, while Aphra works to escape the mess she got herself into.  This is a fun series, but as Gillen has shuffled Triple-Zero and BeeTee out of the book, as well as Black Krrsantan, he’s making it difficult for Spurrier to keep things as interesting.

The Dying & The Dead #6 – Just as Jonathan Hickman is rewriting financial history in the Black Monday Murders, in this book, he’s rewriting the events of the Second World War.  Some threads from earlier in the title come together, as we learn that the bombing of Hiroshima was done at the behest of the Baduri, the ancient race that lives under the surface of the Earth.  They used the bomb to send a clear message to Hirohito around his plans for the only weapon that can harm them, while they also employ our usual heroes, a group of American soldiers, to ensure their success through other means.  It’s a very taut issue, with great Ryan Bodenheim art.  I like that there were a few recap pages at the beginning of the issue (I’d forgotten what was going on with Hitler in this title), and felt that this issue had a lot more story than the previous one.

Eternal Empire #5 – Our heroes confront some truths about the nature of people, especially a conquered people, when their offers of freedom are rejected by the people they hoped to save.  This is an interesting insight, as are the subsequent ones they talk through as they continue to try to make their way outside the Eternal Empire, a move that results in a surprise meeting with a pair of creatures who I imagine are going to factor largely in this book when it returns from hiatus next year.  

Falcon #1 – I’m not really sure how I feel about this first issue.  I have been a big fan of Nick Spencer’s work with Sam Wilson, and liked having him be Captain America.  Now he’s gone back to the being the Falcon, and is working with the young Patriot, helping to train him, but I’m not sure where the other characters he spent time with are.  Misty Knight gets name-dropped at least, but what about the new Falcon and D-Man?  And is Redwing still a vampire bird (which, I’ll admit, I thought was stupid)?  Now, Sam has decided that he should address the gang issue in Chicago, and so he flies in and, with Patriot’s help, sets up a meeting with the two main gang leaders in a park, so he can get them to make a truce.  Of course it goes wrong, and a Marvel villain that I’ve always liked is involved.  I wish there were more comics discussing social issues on a street level, and so I enjoyed seeing Sam call out systemic causes of gang violence, but felt that a lot of this book got a little wordy and preachy in places, while also over-simplifying things.  The writer, Rodney Barnes, is new to comics I believe, and kind of like when Ta-Nehisi Coates began his Black Panther run, might need some time to get used to the genre.  His heart appears to be in the right place, but things are a little stiff right now.  Similarly, I feel that the art team of Joshua Cassara and colourist Rachelle Rosenberg are making this book a little too dark and muddy in places – it became a little hard to follow the action in places.  I think I’m going to give this book an arc or so to prove itself – I see potential in the writing, and have a deep love for the character.  I also like Rayshaun’s character, as I did the previous Patriot.  I hope that some of the snags can be worked out, because I think a book like this can be exciting and important at the same time.

Grass Kings #8 – With this new story arc, which as the principal characters investigating a suspicious death in the Grass Kingdom from years before, Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins are giving us a better look at the secondary characters who live in the Kingdom.  Pike gets the spotlight this month, as we learn his sad and lonely backstory, and what his connection to the dead teacher is.  It’s a very good issue, beautifully drawn and painted by Jenkins.  This is a great series – at first I thought it didn’t have enough in it to make it an ongoing title, but I see I was wrong.

Inhumans: Once and Future King #3 – Priest is making this Inhumans prelude series a delight to read.  He is giving a lot of these characters more character than we’ve seen before, beautifully integrating Warren Ellis’s new take on Karnak, and giving Phil Noto lots of terrific scenes to portray.  I have a continuity quibble though, which is that at this point in the life of the Royal Family, they are all still teenagers or in their early twenties at the oldest, and not yet in charge of things in Attilan.  When we first met the Inhumans in 1965, it had seemed like they were all adults and had been running their city for a while.  That’s all good, but this issue, which has Maximus and Black Bolt being trained by the Wizard, establishes that the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man are already operating as heroes.  I can understand the desire to bring in some major Marvel characters, but this really doesn’t work so well with what we know of the main characters.  I know, everything’s been rebooted somewhat since Secret Wars, but as an older reader, changes like this bother me, especially since I don’t see them as all that necessary to the story.  Whatever, I always trust Priest.

Justice League of America #16 – The Microverse storyline just drags on and on as we finish filling in the story of what’s happened to Ray Palmer since he left our Earth, and just how his friendship with Aron Aut fell apart.  I’m still very underwhelmed by this series, and would like to drop it, but also keep expecting that it will get better.  I guess I have a lot of faith in Steve Orlando’s writing, even if it is starting to feel misplaced.  I’ll give him to the end of the next arc…

Mister Miracle #3 – I continue to really love the work that Tom King and Mitch Gerads are doing on this book.  Scott is taking a break from the war with Apokalips to do a couple of escapes, and to try to get his head together, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to him that he is in a bad place mentally.  The sudden appearance of Forager in his living room only makes him more convinced that something is wrong.  This is a sharp comic, where everything happens for a reason, which makes me wonder how long Scott is going to be wearing his bandages for.  How long would it take his wrists to heal?  Terrific stuff here, as King gets deeper into his story.

New Super-Man #16 – A lot gets cleared up in this issue, as Kenan is taken to the past by Master I-Ching’s double, and given a new mission for him, which he rejects.  From there, it’s a slightly repetitive build-up to next issue’s fight with the American Justice League (not the JLA).  I still feel like Gene Luen Yang has sped up his storyline, perhaps because this book is hovering near cancellation, with the effect that many scenes feel shorter than they should be.

Royal City #6 – The second arc of Royal City, Jeff Lemire’s wonderful family drama series, is set in 1993, and focuses on Tommy, the youngest member of the Pike family, and the one who is more or less the central character of the series.  Tommy is suffering headaches and depression, and trying to figure out how to deal with it.  The issue checks in with all of the main characters of the series, and we can see the roots of who they become later on in life.  It’s poignant, and as someone who was a little younger than Tommy in 1993, deeply nostalgic.  Lemire is such an incredible talent, and this very personal series is among his best work yet.  

The Wicked + The Divine #32 – It’s a lot more gods fighting each other, as Baal finds Sakhmet, and as Woden’s plans fall apart on the dance floor.  The Wicked + The Divine is a wonderful series, but lately I find I don’t have a lot of new things to say about it.

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

All-New Wolverine #25

Amazing Spider-Man #789

Defenders #6

Harrow County #26

Harrow County Vol. 6: Hedge Magic

Ms. Marvel #23

Ragman #1

Uncanny Avengers #28

Weapon X #9

Wildstorm: Michael Cray #1

X-Men Blue #13

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #27-31 – These issues cover the end of Spidey and Silver Sable’s battle for control of Symkaria, and move right into the Secret Empire tie-ins, which have Otto Octavius making a play for control of Parker Industries.  In a lot of ways, I think that Secret Empire is going to have a bigger impact on this title than just about any other, as it’s left Peter without his company and most of his technology, sending him back to his classic costume.  As always, Dan Slott (with sometimes co-writer Christos Gage) does a great job of managing this character in the larger Marvel Universe, and keeping a number of long-running plotlines active and relevant.  I really like Stuart Immonen’s contributions to this title; he’s just such a good artist for stories like this one.

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 – Reading this after learning that the adult Jean Grey is going to be returning to the Marvel universe makes it a little strange, like the powers that be decided to take what would be the logical emotional payoff of that miniseries (especially now that Cyclops is dead) and moved it to an inconsequential one-shot that also has appearances by Galactus and the Watcher.  I don’t think I understand the point of the Generations books at all…

Invincible Iron Man #5-10 – I think I can safely call myself a fan of Riri Williams now.  It’s weird how Brian Michael Bendis is so good at developing new characters, while slowly wrecking the established ones for me.  Riri and her title are both a lot of fun, and I like the way Bendis is taking a slow approach towards building her as a character.  Of course, it’s been a relaunch cycle, so I’m sure that the Legacy stuff is going to move her out of the spotlight, although I hope she gets a title of her own, or at least shows up a lot in a team book.

Uncanny Avengers #21-23 – Gerry Duggan wraps up his run on this title with these issues, and over the course of the three of them, he resolves the storyline about the Red Skull having Charles Xavier’s brain (I’ve never understood how that would work), puts Wonder Man back in his real body, and more or less breaks the team up, with both Deadpool and Wonder Man being declared broke.  I never really got this run – often Duggan was trying for a humourous JLI feel, but also wanted the book to be taken seriously.  I guess this is what happens when you put Deadpool on a team, and you aren’t Rick Remender.

Uncanny Avengers #24&25 – After Duggan left, Jim Zub took over the title for the Secret Empire tie-ins.  I find it amusing that I read that entire event and never once knew that most of the Unity Squad was stuck in Manhattan, trapped in the Darkforce bubble.  Anyway, these are good issues, that have Rogue questioning her leadership skills.  Zub might be a good person to handle this book, except that I think it’s been cancelled?

U.S.Avengers #6&7 – I feel like this title is still just not clicking for me.  Al Ewing removed most of the most interesting members of the New Avengers team when rebooting this book, making it a lot harder for me to care about the team anymore.  These are Secret Empire issues, and while Ewing uses that event as a way to launch into an upcoming Cannonball story, it all barely registers with me.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Arcadia – I loved Alex Paknadel’s series Turncoat, so I thought I should check out his first title, Arcadia.  This is a very ambitious graphic novel, set in a near future where, when humanity was faced with widespread death from a papillomavirus, billions of people uploaded their consciousness into Arcadia, an artificial world, leaving behind a small number of healthy people to keep the computer systems intact.  At the point where the story starts, the energy demands of the Arcadia system are becoming problematic for the people who still live in “the Meat”, although any attempt to minimize energy use are met with strong opposition from the virtual world.  It’s a very cool concept, although as things progress, and the secrets of Arcadia are laid bare, things get really kind of confusing.  Still, I like the degree to which Paknadel commits to his world building (also seen in Turncoat), and I think he’s a huge emerging talent, and someone to keep an eye on.  Likewise, I enjoyed artist Eric Scott Pfeiffer’s work on this book.  There are some places where I’d swear I was looking at a page by Danijel Zezelj, who is a favourite artist of mine.  

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2 – First Blood – I really enjoyed this look at the early days of Kanan Jarus, one of the main characters of the Star Wars Rebels TV series.  This second volume shows how Kanan (then called Caleb) became a Padawan, and follows him through his first battles in the Clone Wars.  At the end of the book, we are brought into the TV show’s continuity for a final mission that ties up some threads from the first volume.  Pepe Larraz’s art on the first five chapters of this trade is excellent – I can see why his star is beginning to rise at Marvel right now.

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