The Weekly Round-Up #420 With X-Men Grand Design #1, Batman #37, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #15, Invincible #143, Ninja-K #2 & More

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Best Comic of the Week:

X-Men: Grand Design #1 – Ed Piskor, the genius behind Hip-Hop Family Tree, has targeted his HHFT approach of unifying a large number of disparate events into a cohesive story, on the long and complicated history of the X-Men.  This substantial first issue tells, in a linear order, the history of Marvel’s mutants, from Namor’s submerging of New York in a fight with the original Human Torch through the beginning of the X-Men as a team.  He weaves in the various retconned events, partnering groups the The Right with Bolivar Trask from the beginning, and giving equal respect to just about everything that’s been written about the X-Men so far.  It’s an impressive work, largely because it reads like an interesting story and not a dry encyclopedia article.  Piskor’s art might not be for everyone, but he does a great job of mimicking the styles of the past while also maintaining his independent identity.  The book itself is utterly gorgeous, imitating the yellowed pages of old newsprint comics, but also using the actual white of the page to provide some fantastic highlights.  I’m very excited to read the next issue, in only two weeks.

Quick Takes:

Batman #37 – Batman, Superman, Catwoman, and Lois Lane go on a double date which, weirdly, involves them switching clothing, and getting to know each other as couples.  It’s an amusing story that, like the last issue, shows that Tom King has some real insight into what makes these characters work.  Having Bruce and Clark dressed in each other’s clothes is a really interesting story choice, as it makes the reader have to be very conscious of who is actually speaking in each panel.  This was a fun issue.

Copperhead #17 – Clara’s secrets stand revealed in this issue, and I’ll admit that Jay Faerber definitely surprised me with what he’s made her go through in her past.  Copperhead is a great series, and I’m hoping that after the arc ends next issue, there will be more to come later.

Doctor Aphra #15 – I got a little bored with this issue, as Aphra pushes a little against her new boss, Triple-Zero, and then got sent on a mission with an odd group of characters.  I’m more interested in the stuff about Lt. Tolvan, who faces execution for her repeated failures.  The transition from Kieron Gillen writing this book on his own to co-writing it with Simon Spurrier might be a little rocky, which is not what I expected.  Still, I have hope for this title, and continue to find Aphra herself to be delightful.

Horizon #17 – When I first started reading Horizon, I thought it sounded like a cool concept for a science fiction series – we follow and root for a squad of aliens who are trying to stop the Earth from taking over their world.  As the story has progressed though, and as Brandon Thomas has gotten deeper into his characters, there is just so much more going on than that.  This is really a very rich and human story about forgiveness and loyalty.  The plotline is pretty complex, as new revelations keep shaking the reader’s assumptions, and rewarding close reading.  Juan Gedeon’s art works great for the material, and as things progress, the surprises just keep coming.  This series really should get a lot more discussion and praise.

Invincible #143 – The penultimate issue of this long-running series didn’t run the way I expected it to.  I thought that Robert Kirkman would make Mark’s first meeting with Marky, the son he didn’t know he had with Viltrumite Anissa, a very emotional affair.  Instead, he’s working to wrap up a number of plotlines, including where the Viltrimutes should stay, now that Mark is their emperor.  It’s still a good comic, but after all the fireworks of the last few, it feels a little too quiet.  I guess shutting down a series like this is a lot of work.  I am looking forward to seeing how it all ends, although I know I’m going to miss this title a lot.

Justice League #35 – Okay, I am really loving Priest’s work on this title.  This issue’s A story features the return of Glenn Gammeron (who I just wrote about in my column about the Justice League Task Force, if you want to dig into this deep cut Priest character), looking for help from the League in stopping a dangerous alien cockroach from infesting the Earth.  The B story, though, is the real story – the League is facing intense public scrutiny after a mistake last issue that led to a nun being killed by a terrorist using Wonder Woman’s sword.  Priest is building up an interesting story, and working in some comments on race – this is why he remains my favourite superhero writer.  

Marvel 2-In-One #1 – It’s weird that this book didn’t pick up on its “legacy” numbering but Tales of Suspense did.  I’m not sure just what Marvel’s decision making process was for things like that.  Anyway, although I’ve never been a huge Fantastic Four fan, I was interested in seeing what a Chip Zdarsky-written book starring the Thing and Human Torch would be like.  He plays things a lot straighter than I’d have expected, but his trademark humour does creep through in a few places.  Really, this is kind of a melancholy comic, as both Ben and Johnny struggle to deal with the loss of their family, with varying degrees of success.  A message from Reed, that had been purloined by Doom for a while, gives the book a concept, while Ben’s end-of-issue decision to give Johnny hope sets up an interesting confrontation somewhere down the road.  I like this book, and think I’m going to be sticking around for at least the first arc.  I think Jim Cheung is already off the title, which is going to hurt my enthusiasm for it.

Ninja-K #2 – Valiant is really laying on the value in this series.  Each issue has been 40 pages, and Christos Gage is spending that space digging into the past of the MI-6 Ninja program, as people associated with it keep turning up dead.  We learn who’s behind it all, and also get a backup story featuring the first Ninja in the program.  Tomás Giorello’s art is great, as is Roberto Dela Torre’s flashback sequence.  The backup is “drawn” by Ariel Olivetti, who I’ve never been a fan of.  He uses a lot of photos in his art, and for that reason, a water tower at a German airbase in 1918 is covered with graffiti.  It really threw me off the page.

Poe Dameron #22 – My thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi are pretty complicated.  I both liked and hated the film, and don’t want to get into that.  What I haven’t been able to escape thinking about, after watching both Episodes 7 and 8, is that I still have no idea who the First Order are, or why they are doing what they do.  This series is set shortly before Episode 7, and hasn’t, in 22 issues, provided much more insight into things.  This issue is a good one, as Leia and her people pull off a vault heist, but are themselves played by their enemies, but it still leaves me with questions.  One thing I wonder is if, now that the new movie is out, this title isn’t set for a relaunch during a different time period.  Probably not, as there is little to no space between 7 and 8 (Rey is still holding out a lightsaber, the poor dear).  Charles Soule should be given more space to flesh things out, if no one else is going to do it.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #3 – Lucy’s journey to find the most dangerous of her father’s villains takes her to the Metal Minotaur, who is not a typical villain.  I’m enjoying this Black Hammer side project, but really wish we could get back to the main title soon.  

Superman #37 – If I ran a comics company, I think I would put a four or five-year moratorium on time travel stories.  That said, from first impressions, this new crossover written by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, has caught my eye.  The Dark Tim Drake Batman returns from wherever he just went back to in Detective Comics, taking Batman off the board quickly before going after Superman.  His purpose?  To kill Superboy.  This story continues in…

Super Sons #11 – where Drake goes after Jonathan just as he chooses to hang out with the Teen Titans, setting up the next chapter of the crossover.  This was another good issue, although my understanding of the post-Flashpoint Titans status quo is such that I didn’t know what the significance of the last page of this issue is.  DC has done an incredible job of simplifying and refocusing their line since Rebirth began, but it’s still awfully complicated at times.

Tales of Suspense #100 – Matthew Rosenberg is really climbing the ranks at Marvel these days.  This book, which has Hawkeye and Bucky looking into their belief that the Black Widow is still alive, ties in a little to Rosenberg’s Punisher, in that it has ties to the nation of Chernaya, and is working to clean up some of the mess left behind by Secret Empire.  Rosenberg writes a good Clint Barton, and the set-up for this book has me interested.  Travel Foreman shows more restraint than he has been lately in his work, and it is a good decision.  This was an enjoyable issue, and I think it’s too bad that the title is going to only be around for five issues (I think).  There’s a lot of potential in this type of team-up book.

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

Champions #15

Doctor Strange #383

Generation X #85

Guardians of the Galaxy #149

Incredible Hulk #711

Mighty Thor #702

Ms. Marvel #25

Night Business HC

Old Man Logan #32

Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #298

Uncanny Avengers #30

Wild Storm #10

X-Men Gold #18

Bargain Comics:

All-New Wolverine #24-27 – I really didn’t like the Guardians of the Galaxy-guesting story, but once Legacy hit, and we got a story that has Laura working to save Daken from the Orphans of X, and possibly meeting with her mother again, things started to get really good again.  I’m impressed by new artist Juann Cabal, and am thinking that I really should start reading this book regularly.  These last few issues also give me a good feeling about Tom Taylor’s upcoming X-Men Red, which features Laura.

Uncanny Avengers #26-29 – Jim Zub inherited a book that is largely without purpose, and a team that feels much the same.  I like that the characters are rallying around Rogue, but at the same time, I’m not sure there’s any real plan here.  Wonder Man and Beast are prominently featured in one issue, and then disappear completely for the next.  Quicksilver is given yet another reason to storm off, and it all just feels like it’s been done before.  I think folding this book into the main Avengers title is the right way to go now.

X-Men Blue #6-12 – Some strange choices have been made in structuring this series.  The inclusion of Jimmy Hudson, from the Ultimate Universe, kind of bothers me, as I don’t think he adds much to the book, especially since he’s just been casually welcomed into the team, as has, later in the run, the vampiric Bloodstorm (from Mutant X?).  I’m also not sure I like the fact that a long-standing character like Wolfsbane would undergo a secondary mutation that allows her to turn into many wolves, Jamie Madrox style, and have it be barely remarked upon.  The Secret Empire tie-in issues also don’t work, as there is no real explanation for Emma Frost’s embracing of such a villainous role, nor an explanation of how such a strange city could be built so quickly and easily.  Beyond that, there is some nice character work on some of the cast.  The art, however, often feels pretty slapped together and rushed.  This title deserves a more consistent look and a higher profile.  

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