The Weekly Round-Up #429 With Twisted Romance #3, Maestros #5, Dept H #23, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #17 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Twisted Romance #3 – No Mercy, Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil’s so far unfinished series about teenagers lost on a trip to Central America is a favourite of mine, so I already figured that McNeil’s issue of Twisted Romance was likely to be a favourite.  This story focuses on the Captain of a government dreadnought that has captured a notorious pirate who has been attacking freighters.  The thing is, this is all happening so far out on the rim that no one is really even sure that the central government still exists, and there is an undeniable connection between these two enemies.  De Campi starts to put together a science fiction world that I would like to see explored in an ongoing series, although I know that we’ll never return here.  McNeil keeps the whole story in pencilled black and white, giving it a real indie vibe while also evoking her best Finder work.  This was a very well-plotted story.  The backup was cute, but didn’t do as much for me as last week’s.  I’m glad that there’s another issue of this series coming up next week – I hope this weekly anthology format was successful enough that De Campi tries something like it again.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #8 – I’m quickly losing interest in this book, mostly because I think I hate this “new” character, X (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here).  Proteus was the villain in the first X-Men comic I ever read as a kid, so I’ve always had a soft spot for him, and do like the way Charles Soule writes him as the victim of the X-Men, but I’m really just not feeling this title.  Maybe it’s the rotating artists that turns me off, I don’t know…

Batman #41 – I guess Poison Ivy has had a massive powers upgrade, because she’s taken over just about all of the world, except for Batman and Catwoman.  This is the kind of arc I like the least for this title, but Tom King does keep things a little interesting, and Mikel Janin’s art is lovely.

Black Panther Annual #1 – It’s all things Black Panther right now, and understandably so, because the film really was all I hoped it would be, and perhaps more.  Not one to let a movie come out without way too many new comics on the stands, Marvel gives us this Annual featuring stories by three writers most closely associated with the Panther’s history.  The book opens with it’s best story – a Christopher Priest written, Everett K. Ross narrated, nested narrative tale about the mysterious death of a Wakandan diplomat carrying secrets to technology that could be used as a weapon.  Some of Priest’s best characters – Hunter, Malice, and Ross himself – fill this story, which is beautifully drawn by Mike Perkins (although I’d have loved it to have been Sal Velluto).  This is the only story that fits with the current continuity, and really makes me miss how well Priest did in this world.  The second story is by Don McGregor, whose Panther’s Rage I’ve still not read.  It’s a good story, but like what I’ve read of his work, is kind of wordy and introspective, without giving us a lot of new stuff to chew on.  The final story is by Reginald Hudlin, and like his whole run, is more about throwing in new ideas (it’s set in the future) than in making them logically consistent with what’s been shown of the Panther in the past.  I liked this book, but Hudlin’s story reminds me why I try to ignore his run completely.

Daredevil #599 – The Mayor Fisk storyline continues, with Fisk using Muse’s graffiti and murder spree for his own political ends, while Daredevil tries to maneuver around him, and Blindspot decides to finish things on his own.  It’s an exciting issue with a lot of moving parts that work very well.  This has been a good arc.

Dept. H #23 – This penultimate issue of this excellent series finally reveals who killed Hari, as Mia makes a desperate attempt to reach the surface of the ocean before she runs out of air.  Matt Kindt’s work on this title has been among the best of his career, and I can’t wait to see how it all ends next month.

Descender #27 – Descender returns with a look back in history, to the first interplanetary flight, and humanity’s first meeting with the Harvesters.  I presume we are going to learn a lot about some ancient history in this arc, and I’m hoping it provides some answers.  As always, Dustin Nguyen’s art is gorgeous.

Doctor Aphra #17 – It was very cool to see Hera from the Star Wars Rebels cartoon in this issue, as Aphra launches into yet another overly complicated plan that involves betraying some folks along the way.  Making things even more complicated is the fact that Tolvan has pursued her (and sadly, not in the way she wants her to).  This was a solid issue that very much felt like Kieron Gillen was writing it on his own again.  That is meant as praise.

Eternal Empire #7 – Tair and Rion go through a long training montage to get them ready to face the Empress, although she comes to the last bit of land she hasn’t conquered yet a little early, moving up their plans.  I’m not sure how long this series is intended to run – it feels like Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna are moving the story forward much quicker than they did with their previous title, Alex + Ada.

Horizon #18 – I’m very bummed out to learn that this was the last issue of Horizon, barring some big change in the future.  I took a chance on this series because the premise was interesting – that a small squad of aliens had come to Earth to prevent it from invading their world, and as I read more, the story became more and more involved, and contained some of the more genuine surprises that I’ve come across in comics in recent years.  Brandon Thomas grew an incredible amount as a writer, and stayed unpredictable and very much in control.  This is a plot-heavy comic that always felt pretty character driven, especially as we learned more about some of the secondary characters.  Lincoln, who began as an antagonist, is one of the more complex characters I’ve seen lately.  I would have liked to see where his arc led him.  The artist, Juan Gedeon, impressed me from the beginning, and gave the book a very unique look.  This issue ends with a couple more new revelations, as back on planet Valius, an attempt to expose an Earth agent ends badly, and young Batten has no choice but to flee his home.  It’s interesting that the main characters don’t even appear in this issue.  I really hope that Thomas and Gedeon are able to complete this story some day – this is what I hate about getting hooked on independent comics that might never finish, but at the same time, I have no regrets about having supported this title for the last year and a half.  I’ll be eagerly looking at these creators’ next projects.  I strongly suggest you check out the three trades of this series – if enough people do that, maybe they’ll be able to finish the story (and trust me, even knowing you’ll be missing the ending, you’ll be satisfied with what you read).

Justice League #39 – Christopher Priest’s work on this book gets even more complex, as the Fan continues to make life difficult for the team, and as Cyborg tries to settle into his new role as League chairman just as he has to testify about why the team should be able to protect their identities.  A focus on public perception of the League, and their perceived racial biases, help push this book to be more relevant in the real world, which is something that Priest excels at.  Also, appearances from the JLA and the Martian Manhunter get crammed in somewhere along the line too.  The biggest surprise of this issue though?  I didn’t hate Ian Churchill’s art, which is not something I would have been able to say a decade ago.

Maestros #5 – Willy engages in diplomacy in the Underworld while his mother and girlfriend are pursued by his enemies in Costco.  Steve Skorce is having a lot of fun with this comic, and the results are frequently very funny.  I’m glad I decided to stick with this series.

Moonshine #7 – So there’s this thing with any series by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, where I find it equally exciting and frustrating.  It’s been a while since the first arc ended, so I don’t really remember what’s going on here, and no one helps bring me back up to speed.  Also, there are a lot of moving parts in this issue, so there’s not a lot of story to hold onto.  At the same time, Risso’s art is incredibly atmospheric, and I know that with time things are only going to get better.

Multiple Warheads: Ghost Throne – I’ve been a fan of Brandon Graham’s work for a while now, but (with the exception of Prophet) have found that as has career has progressed, he’s become more and more abstract in his storytelling.  This Golden Age-sized conclusion to his years-long Multiple Warheads story is pretty sprawling and bizarre, as he tries to wrap up a number of plotlines that I suspect were meant to run for a lot longer than this.  It’s still a lovely comic, with lots of amusing sight gags and puns, but it kind of lacks the heart of the earlier episodes.  That this issue concludes the storyline that ran in the Island anthology a while ago doesn’t make it easier – I didn’t really remember who the secondary characters were, or what was going on with them.

Regression #7 – A lot gets cleared up in this issue of Regression, as we learn about the Valgeroti, a cult that has existed over many lives and incarnations, and that have plans for Adrian, no matter what he wants.  Cullen Bunn has really caught my interest with this unusual horror story, and I love Danny Luckert’s nice clean art.

Sex Criminals #22 – I feel like this might be the most episodic issue of this series yet, as it feels like it does little more than check in on most of its plotlines, but in a way that is more slight and on the surface than the last couple of issues.  Also, after one long and emotional letter and even longer and more emotional response, the rest of the letters column is blank.  I would never accuse Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky of phoning an issue of this book in, but it does feel like it’s lacking in heart this month.

Super Sons #13 – I feel like there should be a moratorium on using Talia Al Ghul, as she’s just recently shown up in Batman doing some very different stuff than what she’s doing here in this comic.  She wants Damian’s help, but as she approaches him while at his new school, that means that Jonathan gets involved too.  Peter Tomasi is the best at writing these two kids, but I hear that’s all coming to an end soon and that this title is getting canceled, which is a shame.  It’s been a bright spot in the DC line, and I thought it was selling better than a number of their other titles.

Tales of Suspense #102 – The mystery deepens as more former Soviet agents turn up dead, and Bucky and Hawkeye do their best (as bumbling as that sometimes is) to get ahead of it all.  Matthew Rosenberg has paced this story remarkably well, and woven humor into the story in all the right places.  It’s a good read.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #796

Avengers #681

Defenders #10

Doctor Strange Damnation #1

Generation X #87

Incredible Hulk #713

Infinity Countdown Prime #1

Mighty Thor #704

Punisher Platoon #6

X-Men Gold #22

Bargain Comics:

Generations: Ms. Marvel & Ms. Marvel #1 – It’s hard to resist anything written by G. Willow Wilson, and I’ve always liked Carol Danvers’s classic look.  This is a cute one-off that has Kamala meeting her idol back in the days when her biggest concern was publishing a women’s magazine.  It’s good stuff, but does raise some timeline issues if you think about it too closely.

Invincible Iron Man #11, 593 & 594 – I’m not even all that sure that Brian Michael Bendis has an outline for this series anymore.  The Legacy renumbering has Riri’s book combined with the Infamous Iron Man stories featuring Dr. Doom, as Riri, MJ, and their squad look for Stark and Doom does some stuff.  I like Riri as a character, but whatever magic Bendis used to make Miles Morales such an endearing legacy character has not worked as well here, probably because the focus of this book is all over the place.  I’m not going to miss Bendis on this one.

U.S.Avengers #8-12 – I’m a fan of Al Ewing’s writing at Marvel, but his series never last for long.  This ended up being probably my least favourite of his books, but that’s not unexpected when Squirrel Girl is the best known character in the book (I don’t count Sunspot since he’s essentially powerless, and Cannonball’s barely around).  There was a lot of potential here, but Secret Empire killed all momentum the comic had, and left it limping towards its conclusion with an ill-advised Archie comics parody set in space.  I haven’t been reading the weekly Avengers run that this title and Uncanny Avengers got sucked into, but I have heard good things.  I’d be down to support whatever Ewing does next, but I’m hoping he’s not partnered with Paco Diaz or Paco Medina again; their cartoonish style doesn’t match well with his more serious writing.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Genius

Written by Steven T. Seagle
Art by Teddy Kristiansen

Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen are a favourite comics pairing of mine, almost on the same level as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, if not as prolific.  They’ve worked on some incredible comics together, such as House of SecretsIt’s a Bird…, and The Red Diary, but I somehow never learned about Genius, this slim graphic novel that came out in 2013.Genius is the story of Ted, a theoretical physicist who has gone years without an idea worthy of publication, a prerequisite for him continuing in his job.  At the same time that Ted worries about his employment, things are starting to get out of control at home.  His wife is getting sick, and needs to be able to access his health care.  His teenage son is becoming ever more interested in girls, and his daughter feels more and more out of place.

Ted’s father in law, who suffers from dementia, has been holding onto a secret of Albert Einstein’s ever since he worked as a guard for the great man after the Second World War.  Ted becomes obsessed with the notion that this knowledge could put his life back on track, but is unsure how he can extract it from the bitter and confused old man.

Seagle and Kristiansen tell a quiet and muted story in this book, aided by Kristiansen’s muted colour palette, and his minimalist art.  These characters come alive, and much of the story stuck with me after reading it.  Middle age is portrayed as a reckoning, a coming to terms with the extent of personal limitations, and the story feels very timely in an era where even middle class employment feels as precarious as everyone’s health.  It’s not a cheerful book, but it is kind of affirming.

Last Gang in Town – Sadly, I did not enjoy this Vertigo trade at all.  It’s a political satire set in 2018 and 1977 London, and involves a rather convoluted plot that has a group of punk kids taking on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Rufus Dayglo’s art was part of the draw for me, but then even it got on my nerves after a while.  I just never connected with this story or the characters.  Vertigo is having a very rough few years, isn’t it?

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