The Weekly Round-Up #421 With Star Wars: The Last Jedi – The Storms of Crait #1, Eternity #3, Outcast #32 & More

Happy New Year everyone!

Best Comic of the Week:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – The Storms of Crait #1 – This one-shot, set in the same continuity and timeframe as the regular Star Wars series, has the Rebels checking out the planet Crait as a possible base, and also setting up the second half of the Last Jedi movie, which is set there.  Writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker do a great job of capturing Luke in that transition from whiney farmboy to loyal friend, but spend a little too much time beating us over the head with Leia’s ability to see the good in others.  It’s a solid story, which includes Scar Squadron, and it fits with the film, except for a few minor quibbles.  Mike Mayhew’s art almost makes this look like an Italian photo comic in places, but I actually found myself liking that more than I usually would.  I enjoyed this book.

Quick Takes:

Black Panther #168 – Ta-Nehisi Coates continues to build on the various layers of his storyline with this issue.  Ramonda tries to stop the Dora Milaje from mounting an attack on Azaria, while T’Challa and his allies continue to deal with incursions by the Originators – the original inhabitants of Wakandan territory.  It’s always interesting to see how Coates chooses to explore themes of authority and governmental legitimacy through a superhero adventure epic.  I think it might turn off some of his readers, but it’s what attracts me to this book.  Well, that and Chris Sprouse’s lovely art.

Detective Comics #971 – James Tynion IV has been building to this confrontation with the Victim Syndicate for a long time, and it’s interesting to see it all play out, although at the same time, I don’t think I like these villains at all.  This issue was somehow less compelling than the last one, although I’m not sure why that is.  Maybe the story’s just taking a little too long?

Eternity #3 – We finally get to learn a little more about Abram’s past growing up in the Soviet Union, as he also has a few things to say about big cosmic character battles.  I feel like Matt Kindt is making some comments on the state of the Big Two in this miniseries, while also gifting Valiant with its equivalent of some Jack Kirby cosmic world.  This is an interesting series, but maybe a little too philosophical?

Justice League of America #21 – Steve Orlando brings back a DC character I never thought we’d see again – Aztek!  Of course, this is a different Aztek from Grant Morrison’s short-lived series, but it’s cool to see that helmet again, especially since most of this issue pairs her with the Ray, and they really compliment one another visually.  Stephanie Byrne drew this issue, and it’s lovely.  Ray still feels like he has no place in the League, but isn’t too happy to learn that Aztek has taken over his role of protecting Vanity City.  They fight some cultist types, while Killer Frost undergoes a big change back at HQ.  This was a decent issue, although it feels like Orlando is setting up a couple of big cosmic type antagonists at the same time, now that Ray has to worry about an ancient Aztec god manipulating things at home.

Motor Crush #9 – Things got a little weird with this issue, as Domino finds an old friend, goes to visit another, and runs across the guy in the black helmet, who wants to take her to some place called Ulterion.  I think it’s time for the writers to share some of the secrets behind who Domino really is.  This book is fun to read, but never really holds up to close scrutiny.  Still, Babs Tarr’s art makes it worth getting every time.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #32 – A new story arc kicks off, as more and more people are possessed in town.  It’s interesting how the narrative has been slowly focusing more on the adversaries in this book than the main characters, who barely get a few pages.  Since I’ve always liked books about the villains, I’m more than okay with this, as it makes for an interesting change in perspective.  It really feels like this arc is building towards something big; I’m not sure how much longer Kirkman plans on having this title run for.

Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #1 – I’m always a sucker for a big tentpole X-event, especially when it means various factions of Marvel’s mutants will be working together.  I’m not too clear yet on what all is going on here – there are weird energy spikes that, when investigated, pit some X-Men against old foes, or, in one case, an old friend, while some version of Jean works in a diner.  I trust Matthew Rosenberg to tell a good story (go read 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank), but figure he’ll need another issue before things start to become clear.  Luckily, that’s next week, as this is a weekly event.  This is also the first of Marvel’s lenticular covers that I’ve bought, and I think it’s weird that the back cover, an ad for Marvel 2-In-One makes better use of the 3D effect than the piece of art designed for it.

Spider-Men II #5 – I’m glad to see that this title has finally come to its end, but really, this was a disappointing mini.  I’m glad to see that Brian Michael Bendis has perhaps reached some closure with Miles (even while Peter tells us that there’s no such thing), but unlike the first Spider-Men book, this one felt like an add-on and kind of pointless.  I am a little worried about how Miles is going to get handled at post-Bendis Marvel, but I’m not sad to see that things are going to be getting a bit of a shaking up in that department.

Teen Titans #15 – I am enjoying this Super Sons of Tomorrow crossover, but that’s not a big surprise, as Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are writing all of the chapters of it.  This is the second time that a crossover has caused me to buy an issue of Teen Titans – I like the characters, but never get any sense of what the book is actually like.  Anyway, this is a good issue, as Future Tim Drake, now called Savior, works to convince the Titans that Jonathan Kent really does need to die, while Damian decies to back his friend.  I didn’t hate Ed Benes’s art, and am intrigued, although also confused, by the identities of the Future Titans, who I suspect are pre-Flashpoint characters.  DC’s continuity is a bit of a headache, isn’t it?

X-O Manowar #10 – This issue turned out to be a bit of a surprise.  First, Renato Guedes painted the art, and it feels more Clayton Crain than his usual stuff.  It still worked, but as the issue is about a quartet of alien bounty hunters who have not yet started on their task of killing Aric, at times it was a little hard to follow what was happening.  Kindt excels at creating interesting and unique characters, and I’m already intrigued by the relationship between two of these bounty hunters.  I feel like it would be interesting to let Kindt write a secondary or tertiary Star Wars book at Marvel…

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

Batman: Creature of the Night #2

BPRD Devil You Know #5

Cinema Purgatorio #13

Eugenic #3

Invincible Iron Man #595

Jessica Jones #15

Moon Knight #190

Punisher Platoon #4

Secret Warriors #11

Thanos #14

X-Men Blue #18

Bargain Comics:

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #9-12 & Guardians of the Galaxy #146-148 – Gerry Duggan had a rough start to his run with the Guardians, what with every second issue being a done-in-one flashback story, but once the renumbering kicked in, and the Guardians joined the Nova Corps to root out corruption, things got a lot better.  Marvel’s next move?  Cancelling the book so that it can be replaced by some Infinity Stone event.  I’m really tired of the way Marvel treats these titles – they don’t give any opportunity for a book to gain and build a following before they pull the rug out again.  There are a lot of subplots running through this thing – evil Groots, Raptors (including the identity of Talon-R), Gamora’s obsession with the Soul Stone, and the mystery of where Thanos is.  I’m not sure when or if these are all going to be resolved, seeing as there’s only two more issues left in this series.

Amazing Spider-Man #32 & 789-791 – Dan Slott is busy resetting Peter Parker, taking away his money and fame, and returning him to a job at the Daily Bugle.  It’s a little bit tiresome, the way characters always have to return to their core – I liked Peter as CEO, but it’s whatever.  I’m still having a hard time believing his relationship with Mockingbird though – I know she’s shown questionable taste in men before, but her and Peter don’t make sense to me.

Avengers #9-11 – The Secret Empire issues of this run are a little bit pointless (especially the solo Thor issue), but issue eleven, which has the various members of the team chatting with each other about where they are headed as heroes (Falcon doesn’t think he should lead anymore; Vision is worried about the fact that he’s going to live forever; Spider-Man wants Wasp to like him) works very well.  Mike Del Mundo’s art is always great, although it’s not always the case that Mark Waid sets him up for success.

Avengers #672-674 & Champions #13&14 – The first five chapters of the Worlds Collide crossover work, but have a few too many problems for me to completely enjoy them.  First, the idea behind it, that the High Evolutionary is working to phase his Counter-Earth into the 616 Earth is a little too much like the incursions that led up to Secret Wars.  Also, the Evolutionary just showed up in Ultimates, and I don’t like the fact that he’s missing the handle from his headpiece – I always liked that.  The teams seem to be able to jump around the Earth in a hurry, but none of them are teleporters (aside from perhaps Thor).  Mark Waid writes both of these books, so it’s one of the most coherent crossovers ever written.  He uses it to focus on Viv Vision, putting that character through some pretty big changes that I hope won’t end up being permanent.  I’m curious about the Avengers and what Marvel has planned for them, as they enter into a big weekly run that looks like it’s being written much as 52 was.  I hope it helps put the team back to a place of prominence.

Darth Maul #2-5 – Marvel is in serious danger of completely diluting the force (sorry, couldn’t resist) of their Star Wars line by pumping out these kinds of miniseries, that feature popular characters but don’t add anything to them or the larger narrative.  Maul feels like killing a Jedi so he gets involved in a complicated plan to kidnap a kidnapped Jedi Padawan from what is basically a slave auction, just so he can kill her.  It has nice Luke Ross art throughout, and Cullen Bunn does alright with the story, but at the end of the day, there is no point to this series.

Generations: Unworthy Thor & Mighty Thor #1 – I enjoyed this opportunity for Jason Aaron to yet again visit the young Thor from the days before he wielded his hammer.  While assisting some Vikings on a very questionable attack on Egypt, he meets the current Thor, and they get into it with Apocalypse.  Mahmud Asrar’s art is very nice here, but the central lesson behind this meeting feels a little forced.

Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1 – I’m starting to realize just how much I miss Logan.  Tom Taylor writes a good story that has Laura and Logan fighting the Hand, working to rescue his adopted daughter Akiko.  It’s a very solid done-in-one story that really reminds me of how good, if overexposed, a character Logan really was.

Infamous Iron Man #12 – Once again, Brian Michael Bendis launched a second Iron Man title (this one more or less taking the place of International Iron Man) that didn’t cause much of a stir sales wise or critically, and that didn’t last too long.  This issue wraps up Doom’s arc, as he continues to embrace heroism, and faces the entity that has been behind his issues with his mother and with an other-dimensional Reed Richards.  In typical Bendis fashion, the ending feels pretty slapped together, before leading into something new – in this case the Legacy run of Invincible Iron Man.  This should have felt more significant.

Nova #6&7 – It’s a shame that this take on Nova couldn’t make a better go of it.  Having the two Novas, Rich Ryder and Sam Alexander, sharing the spotlight was a very good idea, and Jeff Loveness and Ramón Pérez wrote the title very well.  Oh well, I’m sure Marvel will take another stab at one or both of these characters again sometime soon.

Venom Inc. Alpha & Amazing Spider-Man #792 – Here’s a confession: I don’t like Venom.  When he first appeared, back in the Todd McFarlane days, I thought that he was a very cool character, but almost immediately after that, he became ridiculously overplayed (not having the strong foundation of a Wolverine to withstand being in 10000 comics) and kind of boring.  This new event, a crossover between Venom’s book and Amazing, did not grab me in its first two chapters.  I never read anything about Anti-Venom, and didn’t remember who Mayhem was.  I think I’m going to pass on the rest of this, and return to Amazing when it’s over.

X-Men Gold #8-12 – I think he got off to a poor start, but Marc Guggenheim has started to do a solid job on what is, I guess, the flagship X-Men title.  He has put the right amount of focus on character development and team dynamics to reignite a bit of the old Claremont feel, and is mining the team’s past to find villains from different eras.  Now, I hate Omega Red, and am not sure why a new alien character gets an entire solo issue (except for the fact that biweekly books allow for a lot of space for filler), but Guggenheim has me intrigued.  Most importantly, I love his portrayal of Kitty Pryde as a strong and capable leader, and that he brought Stevie Hunter back from obscurity.

X-Men Blue #13-14 & X-Men Gold #13-14 – These four comics contain the first installments of the Mojo Worldwide crossover event.  This story really leans into the X-nostalgia that has driven both titles, starting with a big X-Men baseball game, and leading into various teams reenacting key moments from X-Men history, with current characters being put into their classic costumes, by Mojo.  I’m not going to lie, it’s a fun bit of fan service.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Americatown

Written by Bradford Winters and Larry Cohen
Art by Daniel Irizarri

It’s crazy to think that this terrific graphic novel started being published in the summer of 2015, considering how well it seems to be responding to the events of 2017. Americatown, written by a couple of TV writers, is about undocumented immigrants from America eking out a life for themselves in Buenos Aires, having to deal with ruthless smugglers, heartless Immigration officers, and an orange-skinned mayor who is staking his reelection campaign on showing “tough love” to people who are in the country illegally.The story is set in the near future (Bruce Springsteen is a very old man) and, as inequality and climate change have worked hand in hand to erode living standards in the US, many people find they have no choice but to risk their lives to arrive in Argentina, where the lucky ones subsist by working multiple jobs and living in shared apartments.Owen Carpenter is a new arrival, but he’s had some help getting there.  His son has started working for Tonto, an American Native who runs a successful smuggling ring.  While Owen and the people he travelled with are waiting in a safehouse, La Migra raids them, and Owen and his son, Derek, are able to escape, running over an officer in the process.

Derek gets nabbed, and ends up in prison, while Owen tries to figure out how things work in Buenos Aires’s Americatown.  He finds jobs and friends who are willing to help him, and puts a plan into action to try to reunite his family.

This book is a very compelling read.  The inversion of having privileged Americans selling hot dogs on the street and complaining that they can’t celebrate the Fourth of July openly is a novel one.  It draws attention to the plight of migrants, but also raises some much needed warnings about where the world is headed.

Winters and Cohen put together a tight story, although I thought that the ending was a little needlessly ambiguous (maybe I’m just tired though).  Irizarri’s art is very nice, and I especially like the little ways in which he introduces extrapolated versions of modern technology.

Apparently the serialized version of this series got cut short, with half the run only appearing online, but this handsome hardcover is probably the best way to read the story anyway.

Ringside Vol. 1: Kayfabe – This series about an aging wrestler looking to help an old friend is pretty impressive on many levels, but also doesn’t always work as well as it could.  Joe Keatinge has set up a couple of storylines here.  The main one focuses on Dan, a retired wrestler who returns to the US to help an old lover who has fallen on hard times, and ends up taking a beating or two before he can even find his friend.  The plotline that interested me the most is the one about another old friend of Dan’s, who is still hanging on in the wrestling game, and the young wannabe he’s helping train.  The clarity this guy presents about a career he loves but knows he will never succeed in is poignant and heart-breaking.  Nick Barber’s art is mostly pretty nice, but occasionally, I had to work to figure out who a character was.

Solstice

Written by Steven T. Seagle
Art by Moritat

Solstice first entered the world as a three-issue miniseries in 1995 that was never finished because its publisher went bankrupt.  It was completed and published as a trade paperback in 2006, but was then reworked a little, and published again as a hardcover in 2016.I’ve been a fan of Steven T. Seagle for quite a while, but had never noticed or heard of it until I came across it for the first time.  Moritat is a great artist, although the original 2/3 of this book date from when he used to go by his actual name, Justin Norman.

The book is told, in an ever-shifting narrative, by Hugh Waterhouse, who has been dragged into the jungles of Chile to search for the legendary fountain of youth.  Russ Waterhouse is a truly terrible person – he’s a rich bully who has dragged a number of people into his lifelong obsession, which has become more pressing since he has developed terminal (yet symptom-free) cancer.

The story jumps all over the place, as Hugh describes his childhood, and two earlier expeditions to Arctic Canada and to Siberia, both of which came with great risk to his body and mind.  The Chilean expedition is no different, as Russ barrels through, and the group attracts the attention of some (kind of stereotypically rendered) indigenous groups.

Moritat’s art is pretty nice throughout.  His art reminds me a little of Tim Sale’s here, which made me think a few times of his book with Seagle, The Amazon.  The real draw is just how well Seagle builds up the two Waterhouse mens’ characters, adding layers as he goes to make the ending a little more poignant.

I’m glad I picked this up – I really enjoyed it.

X-Men: Phoenix – Warsong – Has this miniseries ever been referenced again?  It reveals that the Stepford Cuckoos are part of the Weapon Plus program, and are only three of a thousand of Emma Frost’s “daughters”, designed to work together to kill all mutants.  The Phoenix comes to destroy the Cuckoos by taking over some of the Cuckoos, and the main X-team from that time, the Joss Whedon Astonishing crew, run around with Jake Oh trying to fix things.  It’s a confusing story by Greg Pak, with pretty bland art by Tyler Kirkham.

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