The Weekly Round-Up #431 With Prism Stalker #1, Gideon Falls #1, Oblivion Song #1, The Ballad Of Sang #1, Star Wars #44, The Walking Dead #177 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Prism Stalker #1 – Sloane Leong’s name has turned up in a few places over the last few years (Prophet, Glory, From Under Mountains), and I’ve liked everything I’ve seen of her work so far, so I figured it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to give the first issue of her own series a try.  She’s clearly been heavily influenced by Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland, as this comic could easily have been a part of either Island or the 8House anthology series. Vep is either a refugee or a slave, part of a group of humans who now work for the Sverans, a race that require their help to produce eggs, which are in turn delicacies to other races in the Chorus.  Vep stands out, both for her bravery and willingness to challenge the status quo, which earns her the attention of her hosts or masters (it’s not really clear yet to what extent the humans in this story have any actual agency). Leong takes her time making what’s going on clear, and I like that a lot about this book. Her art and colour choices are gorgeous, as she designs a truly strange world, and gives us only glimpses of its complexity.  This book feels very different from just about everything else on the stands these days, and I wish it great success.

Quick Takes:

The Ballad of Sang #1 – I’ve become a pretty big fan of writer Ed Brisson over the last few years, so I was immediately on board for this new Oni Press series.  Sang is a very young mute assassin who lives with an older man who has been training him. The series opens with Sang enthusiastically frightening a Yakuza boss who owes a mafia boss a lot of money.  The mission goes wrong though, and the mob guy comes after him, resulting in a bloodbath. Now Sang is on his own, with every gang in town after him. This is kind of typical Tarantino territory, and lacks the subtlety and development of some of Brisson’s other books, like Sheltered, The Last Contract, or The Field, but it does tell a good story.  The artist, Alessandro Micelli, walks the line between cartoonish and realism, and gives the book a real sense of urgency.

Batman #42 – This whole Poison Ivy takes over the world thing is interesting, but logistically doesn’t really make sense to me.  Still, it is interesting to see how Tom King has Batman work through the problem and try to plan around it. Mikel Janin is definitely the right artist for this arc, and things look gorgeous.

Bloodshot Salvation #7 – Almost every panel in this comic is solid black, with some creative use of panel borders giving a sense of what’s going on.  It’s an interesting gimmick, but really, is just that, as the entire story of this issue is that Bloodshot is blind in the Deadside, and walking around there with a baby in your arms is dangerous.  It doesn’t really do a lot to advance the plot of this series, which is starting to feel very bogged down. At the same time, I hate the Deadside, and wish Valiant would stop using it (this is why I’m not going to bother with the new Shadowman series, despite being a fan of Andy Diggle’s writing).

Calexit #2 – I got a proper copy after the one I bought last week turned out to be a mess of duplicated pages, and finally got to enjoy this comic that I’ve been waiting months for.  Matteo Pizzolo’s writing is sharp, as he shows us a California that is ripped apart by a secessionist movement, and at the mercy of the Homeland Security goons trying to reclaim it for the United States.  Jamil, the smuggler protagonist continues to be an interesting character, and Zora, the revolutionary at the centre of everything, is impressively complex. Amancay Nahuelpan’s art is great here – he’s come far from his early Young Terrorists work.  This was worth the wait.

Captain America #699 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee continue to show Cap’s adventures in a mutated and weird future, as he comes across two old friends, and works to depose the unfortunately-shaped King Baby.  I’m tired of arcs set in the future, and while at least this one shows the current Cap, instead of jumping ahead in time, it still feels like it’s been done to death. Also, knowing that Waid and Samnee are not long for this title does suck some of the excitement out of the story.

Deathstroke #29 – Christopher Priest continues to make this one of the densest and most rewarding corporate comic book on the stands.  Slade’s various friends and enemies (it’s really hard to tell them apart) come together to deal with him once and for all, landing him in custody after a pretty impressive battle that also has him facing the consequences of the ways in which he’s treated a lot of the people who have been closest to him.  Rose also gains some resolution regarding her whole Willow situation. Priest does a terrific job of using a very confusing structure to make this comic one you need to read carefully. I can see where that might turn some readers off, but it is what attracts me to this project.

East of West #36 – With all the talk lately about the Black Panther film’s portrayal of Wakanda as an uncolonized oasis on the African continent, and how it’s been popularizing the concept of Afro-Futurism, I started thinking about what a North American indigenous equivalent would look like, and immediately thought of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s Endless Nation.  Then, this issue comes out, and it focuses almost entirely on that same nation, and its war with the Union. The longer this series runs, the more complex it becomes, and that’s great (although it would be easier to follow some of the more subtle stuff if the series came out more often). I’m not sure how much longer Hickman intends to have this series run, but lately each issue feels like it’s building towards a big finish.

The Fix #11 – I love The Fix, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s ridiculously funny and oddly affecting bad cop comedy series, even though it hardly ever comes out.  This issue is a shocker through and through, as we lose a major member of the cast, and spend the rest of the issue watching everyone deal with it. To say anything else would be to spoil it, which I don’t want to do.  Needless to say, this is a great series.

Gideon Falls #1 – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino did great work together on Green Arrow, and pretty decent work on Old Man Logan (it wasn’t really to my liking though), and are now working together on their own Image book.  The first issue is mostly used to set up the two main characters – a man with mental illness who believes he is receiving messages from random things he finds in the garbage and a priest who has recently been assigned, against his wishes, to Gideon Falls to replace a priest who died recently, of causes that are so far hidden from us.  What connects these two stories is a vision of a black barn. This is a very atmospheric comic, and it definitely has me intrigued and excited to see where it goes next. It’s a strong debut, and it’s nice to see these two working together in such an unfettered way. Lemire’s backmatter reveals that the character of Norton, the obsessive compulsive, has been with him for more than twenty years, and it’s cool to see him finally appear in print.

Iceman #11 – I’m quite sad to see that Iceman is ending with this issue.  Sina Grace has done a wonderful job of giving Bobby a space of his own, to grow as a superhero and to explore his newly-realized sexuality in a way that was both affecting and very realistic.  More than that, Grace also explored what it means to live as a modern-day mutant, which is much more the focus of this final issue, as Bobby and Rictor are called in to help out Bobby’s parents’ neighbour, who is suffering from a vague powers-related crisis.  It’s a solid issue. I didn’t really expect this series to last a year in the current market, but I also feel like Grace did what he came to do with this book, and I’m okay with saying goodbye to it. Solo X-Titles don’t really work unless you’re Wolverine, so it’s all good.

Justice League #40 – Priest once again is giving us an issue that involves survival in space, only this time, it’s the entire JL space station that is falling towards the Earth, and the titular League, along with Batman’s JLA, has to figure out how to survive.  It’s an interesting problem, and the proposed solution involves a lot of confusing comics science. I like the way Priest writes the second team more than I do the way they are portrayed in their own book, and think it’s interesting that all of the teams’ problems are being caused by a huge fan.  It’s been an interesting arc.

Oblivion Song #1 – Robert Kirkman’s new series starts off very well with this debut issue.  New York City has been moved to another dimension or something, and has been taken over by monsters that look like they were rejected by Mike Mignola for BPRD.  One person, Nathan Cole, has teleportation technology that allows him to travel back and forth, searching for and rescuing anyone that he finds still alive. When this issue opens, he locates and brings back a couple that has now been in Oblivion for a decade.  As the issue progresses, we learn that Cole is working without funding, and that there is a fear that his work weakens the boundaries between worlds, potentially risking another dimensional event. I’m not sure that makes sense – you’d think there’d be more than a few wealthy donors and would-be treasure hunters that would be more than happy to be involved in Cole’s project, but maybe that’s something we’ll see later on.  We also learn that Cole might not be operating from strictly selfless principles, as he has an ulterior motive driving everything he does. Kirkman is working with Lorenzo De Felici on this book. His work is new to me, and I like it a lot. It reminds me a little of David Rubín, but is a little more realistic. The colours, by Annalisa Leoni, are warm and inviting, even while the stuff they depict is ugly and unforgiving.  Kirkman mentions in his backmatter that this book is going to move beyond what the first couple of issues suggest, and one thing I’ve learned from reading his work over the years is that he can turn the tables on his readers quickly. I’m curious to see where this is all headed, and am on board for the long run.

Rise of the Black Panther #3 – T’Challa’s decision to open Wakanda to the world, and to host a number of representatives from the UN Security Council leads to a visit from the Winter Soldier.  Evan Narcisse continues to do a great job of clarifying the Panther’s backstory with this story, set shortly after T’Challa first met the Fantastic Four. I like that this series is not focusing on events that have been portrayed before, but is instead giving us the moments between the Black Panther’s bigger appearances in the Marvel Universe.  It’s a good title.

Spider-Man #238 – Uncle Aaron and his gang make their move on stealing a SHIELD Helicarrier, and while Miles tries to stop them, things don’t go well.  This is a pretty slight issue, considering that Brian Michael Bendis isn’t on the book for much longer, but it does get the plot moving a little quicker than it has been lately.  I’m still not too sure I like the fact that Cable is getting involved in things – it’s the wrong book for him, and there’s no way Bendis has left himself enough space to resolve that properly.

Star Wars #44 – Kieron Gillen sets Leia and her friends to the task of building the Rebellion, and to that, they travel to Mon Cala to try to get the ocean-dwellers to agree to bolster the Rebels’ fleet.  It’s an interesting issue that does some heavy lifting, setting up this arc. I always like stories that deal more with mechanics than action scenes, so this was up my ally.

The Walking Dead #177 – Michonne has a very touching reunion with someone special to her, as Maggie acts on her urges, and we learn a little more about what life is like in the Commonwealth.  This is the second time this series has had a character referred to as “The Governor”, so it makes sense that Robert Kirkman is being a little cautious in making sure they are nothing alike (although it’s a strange move to let the original Governor be the subject of Bill Sienkiewicz’s variant cover at this time).  As always, this is a good issue.

The Wicked + The Divine #34 – This series is moving into its final twelve issues, and as it gets ready to end, takes us back to the very beginning, as we meet Ananke some six thousand years ago as she is just setting out on her immortal existence.  Truthfully, lately this book has left me feeling a little stupid, as I’m sure there are some things that I’m missing the significance of. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are masters of this kind of story, and I fear that I haven’t been reading closely enough, or have forgotten some important details over the years, leaving me to just enjoy each issue as it is.  It’s still good, so that’s not really a problem.

X-Men Red #2 – Oaky, I’m all in on this series now.  Tom Taylor is finally giving me the kind of post-Morrison X-Men book I’ve been missing since Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen ended their celebrated (by me at least) runs.  Jean is still putting together her team and doing damage control after what happened at the UN, when she receives a distress message from Trinary, a new (I’m pretty sure) character from India.  The rescue op runs smoothly, and the book just has a good feel to it. I also am really digging the Travis Charest covers.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #797

Avengers #683

Batman White Knight #6

Black Bolt #11

Doctor Strange Damnation #2

Firebug TP

Green Arrow #38

Hawkeye #16

Highest House #1

Infinity Countdown #1

Superman #42

Über Invasion #12

The Wild Storm #12

X-Men Gold #23

The Week in Graphic Novels:

King – I was intrigued by this trade paperback of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Bernard Chang’s series for Jet City Comics.  In a weird post-apocalyptic future, King is the last human male living among all sorts of strange beings. He’s been hunting something called a Life Seed for his boss, and when he finds it, it’s not what he expected at all.  Fialkov is a great writer, so even when the concept behind this book is not clear, he manages to weave in some political commentary, and give Bernard Chang some great scenes to draw. It was entertaining, but not all that memorable.