The Weekly Round-Up #422 With Secret Weapons #0, Star Wars #41, The Walking Dead #175 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Secret Weapons #0 – Secret Weapons was one of the best things Valiant published this year, and I’m pleased to see that writer Eric Heisserer has brought it back for a zero issue, and that he brought Adam Pollina with him to draw it!  The entire issue tells the story of Nikki, from when she first started to be looked at by the Harada Foundation through her psiot activation, and her time at the Willows, leading more or less up to the beginning of the series.  The entire issue is told with four horizontal panels on each page, and the passage of time is marked clearly.  I like books that adopt a formal structure like this, and was more than happy to see Pollina’s art again.  I take heart in the fact that Nikki was given this issue, and that Owen is getting one in a couple of months, because it tells me that Valiant is not done with this title or these characters.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #7 – This was very much a breath-catching issue, as ‘X’ makes his appearance to the team, and goes about trying to correct the problems caused by the Shadow King.  Charles Soule works in some good character moments, and Phil Noto is the right artist for this kind of quieter issue.  It’s hard to see where this story fits in relation to Phoenix Resurrection – it can’t be concurrent, but also doesn’t fit well before or after it.  That’s kind of weird.

Batman #38 – I’m always happy to see a Batman story that focuses on Batman’s detective skills.  This is an interesting done-in-one that has Batman looking into the murder of a couple Bruce Wayne was close to, as Bruce takes an interest in looking out for their young son.  There’s a bit of a bait-and-switch to this book if you got the regular cover (which I didn’t do, because I really don’t know what’s up with Tim Sale these days), but I’m just happy to see King writing his take on a traditional Batman story.  It’s nice that this issue is not overly concerned with Catwoman…

Captain America #697 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have a familiar approach to stories like this.  They put their main character, be it Cap, Black Widow, or Daredevil, in a cool situation, and spend the whole issue following them as they run, jump, or fight their way out of it.  It’s a very visual approach, and because of how brilliant Samnee is, it works well.  Cap’s been kidnapped by Kraven the Hunter, and is now on the run from him on a jungle island, and to complicate things, he doesn’t have his shield, and has to protect a civilian.  It’s an effective issue.  The “Where is Wolverine?” one-pager?  Silly, and a naked attempt to give sales a bump.

Deathstroke #27 – It’s time to figure out just what Slade’s relationship with Terra is, as we see various scenes from their shared past, which has become a little more complicated in the Rebirth era.  Priest has been running a number of plotlines in this series since it began, and while none of them seem to be close to resolving, they are combining and intertwining in unexpected ways.  This continues to be my favourite DC book, and a real pleasure to read.

Iceman #9 – The X-Men throw a going away party for Bobby, but Daken decides to crash it, mostly it seems, to just cause some trouble and be a jerk.  I’ve really enjoyed this series, which we recently learned is ending soon.  It’s a shame, but as writer Sina Grace has focused this series on Bobby’s exploration of his sexuality, and how the people in his life react to it, it does feel like it might be reaching a good spot to shut it down.  I feel like this has been an important series, and it’s good to see a character like Bobby, who usually gets ignored, being given the spotlight.

Iron Fist #76 – I’m very tired of how every Iron Fist story has to end up in K’un-Lun, with the city in danger.  That said, Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins give us a nice quick moving story, as Danny and Sabretooth fight their way through Choshin’s men.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how, if this story had come out a few years ago, it would be featuring Wolverine instead of Sabretooth.  Would that have been better?

Justice League #36 – Priest’s run on this book is pretty much everything I was hoping for.  As he often does, he applies a very realistic outlook on superheroics, and so when the Justice League tries to help the crew of a stranded US sub in Chinese waters, things get tense.  That this comes after the murder of a Congresswoman who was looking into the League’s way of operating, apparently by Batman, makes things a lot worse.  I’m so glad that Priest was given this title, and that he is clearly being allowed to be himself with it.  This is quickly becoming a favourite read of mine.

Paper Girls #19 – Events just keep getting wilder in this book, as the girls are reunited again, Tiffany meets her future self (as of January 1st, 2000), and the town of Stoney Stream takes a beating.  Brian K. Vaughan keeps this story propelling forward at a good clip, and Cliff Chiang continues to make these characters likeable and the craziness believable.  This is a very good series.

Phoenix Resurrection #2 – Things are getting a little weirder in this miniseries, as teams of X-Men run around looking for the Phoenix Force, and maybe all of their missing psychics, although that seems to be on the back-burner.  I’m starting to wonder if more than just Jean is going to be returning at the end of this series, as we are seeing more than a few dead characters in this book.  I’m still not all that sure I know what’s going on here…

Rise of the Black Panther #1 – It’s not a secret that the Black Panther is one of my all-time favourite Marvel characters, and while I am cautiously optimistic about his upcoming movie, I am excited to see that Ta-Nehisi Coates has collaborated with new writer Evan Narcisse on this retelling of the Panther’s history.  T’Challa has undergone a number of retcons over the years, from Christopher Priest adding the Dora Milaje, the Hatut Zeraze, and the White Wolf to the mythos, to Reginald Hudlin adding Shuri.  It’s been hard to know what, from the original Kirby/Lee days, through Don McGregor’s, to Coates’s own additions, actually has stuck, and how it all fits together.  This issue starts with T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father’s, meeting with Captain America, and follows through his first interaction with Ulysses Klaw.  We meet T’Challa’s mother, and see how Ramonda came into the picture.  We also, most happily, get to see Hunter again, if only briefly.  This is a character I’ve always liked, and who I’ve been hoping would return.  The issue is very narrative-heavy, as is often the case with new writers, but covers a lot of ground and kept my interest.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads, and how all the different pieces of T’Challa’s history fit together.  Paul Renaud was a good choice of artist for this book, making it an even more attractive purchase.

Spider-Man #236 – As we get closer to the end of Brian Michael Bendis’s run with this character he created, I find myself getting a little nostalgic.  This issue has Miles confront Bombshell Sr., and learn the identity of the Iron Spider (is that what we’re calling him?), while Ganke reveals his identity to his girlfriend, and Sandman schemes a little.  It’s a solid issue, with a lot of well choreographed action scenes from Oscar Bazaldua.  I’m concerned about the future of this book, as Miles has become one of those few characters I want to continue to follow, irregardless of creative team.  That’s not how I usually buy my comics, and I hope Marvel doesn’t make me regret that.

Star Wars #41 – Things are getting pretty bleak now that Kieron Gillen is writing this title.  Luke is on a Jedi-related mission that makes a little less sense than most Jedi-related stuff.  The rest of the crew is up against a massive machine that is going to destroy what’s left of Jedha.  Gillen has a good handle on these characters, but they are not being given a lot of time to be themselves.  I want this title to slow down a little.

Superman #38 – As The Super Sons of Tomorrow crossover continues, another group of Titans meet the Rebirth team, and something confusing happens to Tim Drake.  This was another good issue, but the end threw me a little – I guess it’s a good thing there’s one more chapter to help clarify things.  I also don’t really understand Superman’s solar flare powers – I really did not pay any attention to New 52 Superman, so this could have used more explanation.  Still, it’s cool that Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are writing every chapter of this crossover.  It makes it feel very consistent.

The Walking Dead #175 – 2018 marks the fifteenth year of The Walking Dead, and also a good time to switch things up a bit.  Michonne, Eugene, and some others have travelled to meet the woman that Eugene has been speaking to over the radio, but no one expected the welcome they get this issue, as the New World Order arc begins.  It looks like Robert Kirkman has some big plans for this arc, and I expect that a lot is going to change. The last issue features a surprise I really did not see coming, and that I’m excited to see the ramifications of.

X-Men: Grand Design #2 – Ed Piskor’s continuing look at the history of the X-Men brings us up to the end of the original era, when the title was cancelled for a while, before returning All-New and All-Different.  I really like the way that Piskor has chosen to weave knowledge of the Phoenix into so many of the team’s early adventures.  It makes sense when they were always getting involved with cosmic and alien threats, although I’m curious to see if Piskor has Xavier keep knowledge of the Phoenix away from Jean.  It seems like something he would do.  I love that Piskor is putting together this series, and am already sad that I have to wait months before his next installment comes out.  This is a very cool project.

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

Batman and the Signal #1

Batman White Knights #4

Black Bolt #9

Elsewhere Vol. 1 TP

Generation Gone Vol. 1 TP

Green Arrow #36

Guardians of the Galaxy #150

Hawkeye #14

X-Men Gold #19

Bargain Comics:

Generation X #2-9 – I haven’t really heard anyone talk about this series, which is a surprise because it’s actually very good.  There are so many younger X-characters out there who don’t get much screen time, and I think it is important to have a title that makes use of them more often.  Christina Strain blends some characters from older series with the more recent ones developed by Jason Aaron and Brian Michael Bendis quite well, while also making use of some of the characters from the original Generation X book.  I don’t like that M-Plate (the combination of Monet and Emplate) is the main villain here, because I’ve alway hated that storyline, but Strain makes good use of a loose structure to tell other stories at the same time.  The art, by Amilcar Pinna or Eric Koda for the most part, is lovely.  It’s a shame that this series is getting the can; having almost completely caught up on it, I’m tempted to start buying it.

Hawkeye #7-13 – Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye series, which has recently been cancelled of course, is a lot of fun.  I like how Thompson has built on Kate’s personality, and embraced her flakier side, while still putting her into some serious situations.  Leonardo Romero’s art is great, and book moves along at a good pace.  It’s too bad it couldn’t make a go of it, but that’s the 2010s for comics…

Jean Grey #5&6 – I like the structure of this series, having Jean visit various Marvel characters (Psylocke and Dr. Strange here) to help prepare for an inevitable fight with the Phoenix.  I’m not sure how much of this is lead-in to Phoenix Resurrection, or just a story that is going to be immediately retconned away…

Mighty Thor #700&701 – Great art abounds, as the anniversary issue is packed with terrific artists, and one of them, James Harren, sticks around to draw issue 701.  My problem with this title continues though – the Jane Foster Thor is barely the main character, not even showing up for one panel in 701.  Jason Aaron has been building this huge war story forever, and it’s good, but sometimes it feels like it is spinning its wheels, showing us stuff that feels very familiar.

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #1-6, 297 – I question why Marvel needs a second Spider-Man title, but at the same time, I’ve liked it whenever Chip Zdarsky’s written the wall-crawler, and I was curious to see what he’d do when given his own book with Spidey.  This is a pretty entertaining and funny book, that turns serious on a dime in places.  Zdarsky integrates Peter into the Marvel Universe, pulling in guest characters as needed (although I’m not sure where the Torch went).  The big plot is actually pretty complicated, and I was genuinely surprised by Peter’s decision to share some pretty big information with J. Jonah Jameson.  This is the best Adam Kubert art I’ve seen in a while too – it feels like this book has energized him.  It’s a good start to a book I’m going to want to keep checking out.

Totally Awesome Hulk #20-22 & Weapon X #4-6 – This is the bulk of the Weapons of Mutant Destruction crossover, which brings the new Weapon H character – a chimera of Hulk, Wolverine, and a bit of Doomsday or Marrow (think unnecessary bone spurs) to the Marvel Universe.  I did like the tension of Amadeus having to work with people like Lady Deathstrike, and the consistency that came from Greg Pak writing all of these comics, but I just couldn’t find myself getting too excited about Weapon H.  The character is just too derivative.

Totally Awesome Hulk #23 – I’m not sure about the rationale for sending Amadeus off to Planet Hulk, other than tying in to the latest Thor movie (because that’s the proven way to not increase sales), but I do like the way Greg Pak has Amadeus confronting his inner fears this issue.  I am also glad to see that at least one writer remembers that Silk is still out there.  Is this storyline going to affect Champions, or is Amadeus going to keep showing up in that book?

Weapon X #7-12 – Marvel is really going all out to try to build up interest in Weapon H, dedicating an entire arc to his character, before sending the team to San Marco (which is featured in Grand Design this week) to fight a whole platoon of Nukes.  I like this series, which is not a surprise given that regular writer Greg Pak was joined by Fred Van Lente for a while, and think that with more time, it could grow into something.  Two observations though – it’s still not X-Force under Yost, Kyle, or Remender, and while so much time is spent on exploring Sabretooth’s reasons for working with the team, no one is questioning Lady Deathstrike’s continued presence.  That’s weird to me.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Black Dynamite – I’ve never seen the Black Dynamite movie or cartoon, and really just picked this up because it was cheap and had an issue drawn by Ronald Wimberly.  This is a pretty typical blaxploitation book – it’s part parody of that genre, and part a knowing look back at a different era through the lens of today.  BD goes to a Southern immersive history theme park called Slave Island, where black people are still being enslaved, and puts an end to it.  He runs up against the Illuminati, and also a conspiracy involving sneakers marketed to blacks.  The book is often funny, and with art by Wimberly, Jun Lafonia, and Marcello Ferreira, looks very nice.  

Illegal Alien – This is a very early comic by James Robinson and Phil Elliott, that tells the tale of a gaseous alien that inhabits the body of a recently murdered American mobster.  The mobster goes to England, stays with non-mobster family, and begins making inventions and guiding his nephew (who is a mod, because it’s the 60s).  There’s some charm to this book, but I don’t think Robinson took the time to fully develop his plot, and the inclusion of Russians threw me a little.