The Weekly Round-Up #432 With Deadly Class #32, Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story #0, Star Wars: Darth Vader #13, Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story #0 & More

 Best Comic of the Week:

Deadly Class #32 – Man, I love Deadly Class.  The book finally returns, with Marcus and his friends being attacked by Victor and Brandy, just as a large group of very punked out yakuza types attack everyone.  There is a ton of mayhem – Marcus compares it to a Frank Miller comic (remember, this title takes place in 1988, when Miller was the man), and then takes his narrative cues from the way Miller wrote – staccato bursts.  Wes Craig gets to go nuts on the art with this issue, as things get more and more crazy, and Rick Remender manages to give, amid all the chaos, a moment to each character that lets their depth shine through. At the heart of this issue is Marcus and Victor’s mutual hate for each other.  I already can’t wait for the next issue to come out.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #9 – Proteus starts to take over a small town in Scotland while the X-Men regroup a bit.  I find my interest in this book is dropping quickly – I had much higher hopes for it than what we’ve actually gotten.  That could be the motto for this column some weeks, it seems…

Come Into Me #1 – I really liked The Dregs, by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, so I was down to give their new Black Mask title a shot.  It’s a strange science comic about a new technology that allows a person’s consciousness to be transferred to a host body, where the two people would then cohabitate.  The company working on this procedure, which requires a lot of phallic fleshy tubes, is struggling with funding (and, really, for making the case why this is a breakthrough for medical purposes beyond proof of concept), and so agrees to host a woman who is simply looking to try out the experience.  The concept is cool, but I feel like it could have used a little more workshopping, as I don’t really understand the benefits of it. Piotr Kowalski provides the art, and I realize how much I’ve missed his understated European approach since his book with Joe Casey, Sex, went on permanent hiatus. I’m interested enough to get the rest of the series, especially after what happens on the last page, but I do feel like something isn’t adding up right at the moment.

Darth Vader #13 – Charles Soule jumps the action forward to a point three years into Palpatine’s rule, as he wants to increase the force of his grip on the galaxy.  The Empire is negotiating with Mon Cala, and Palpatine suspects some sort of Jedi involvement in things. He sends Vader and the Inquisitors to investigate, and we get to meet a younger Ackbar.  I think it’s really interesting that this book involves this planet at the same time that the parent Star Wars title, set some fifteen years after this, is also featuring an arc set on this planet.  It’s kind of a cool non-crossover, and the type of thing I love about a well-calibrated shared universe.

Detective Comics #976 – In the aftermath of everything that’s been happening in this title, Batwoman, Azrael, and Batwing are considering working for the Colony, while Batman wants to shut down his whole Knights program.  This doesn’t sit well with Tim though. We know that writer James Tynion IV is going to be leaving this title soon, and while I’m not happy to hear that, I do like seeing him work towards the endgame he had in mind since he saw this book through its Rebirth.  Tynion has kept this one of the best and most consistent books DC publishes.

Falcon #6 – Rodney Barnes begins his second arc, with a new artist (the very adequate Sebastián Cabrol), and the same muddy colouring that makes the book a little dull.  Sam is trying to fix things with Misty, while vampires are targeting him after Mephisto outsourced his revenge to them. Again, it feels weird to have Sam dealing with magical characters.  I’m not saying that he needs to stay at the street level forever, but it just creates a strange tone to the book for me. I know this title isn’t doing great sales-wise, and I wonder if that is partly to blame.  

Grass Kings #13 – The Grass Kingdom is facing its Waco moment, as the Feds move in on the place.  Tyler Jenkins’s art on this title has been incredible, and his action scenes here are great. I saw that this title is set to end in May, which is a shame, as it’s been pretty different from everything else on the stands.  Matt Kindt really does write a very diverse line of books.

Justice League of America #26 – We finally reach the end of all the Angor and Lord Havok stuff, that dates back to the beginning of the series, and I’m glad to see the end of it.  As Steve Orlando winds down his time on this title, I continue to think it could have been better, but for some of the stranger choices that Orlando made (like this issue having Batman deal with DC’s answer to the Living Tribunal – it just doesn’t really work).

Mage: The Hero Denied #7 – Kevin and his family have been in hiding, but that’s all over now.  Matt Wagner kicks things into a higher degree, as Kevin realizes that his family has been discovered.  This series is entertaining.

Marvel 2-In-One #4 – Ben and Johnny finally head into the multiverse to look for Reed and Sue, and so we fall into pretty typical multiversal tropes, with only slightly alternate versions of familiar characters, but that kind of thing is always fun.  Chip Zdarsky has the tone for these characters down perfectly.

Mister Miracle #7 – This series jumped forward in time during its skip month, and now we have an entire issue set in the delivery room as Barda prepares to give birth, and Scott, now in a new position on New Genesis, has to manage his anxiety and her family.  As always, this is an excellent issue, and a nice break in the darkness that has mostly consumed this series. Tom King and Mitch Gerads are doing some really cool things with this title.

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #21 – One of my favourite things about this title has been the way in which it’s worked to show a very different country’s approach to superheroes and their role in society.  Now, with this current arc, writer Gene Luen Yang has introduced us to a North Korean superbeing who has fled to China, where he has to grapple with the changes happening in his body and the realization that he, as a North Korean, has been lied to by people in authority his entire life.  This is a good, and very timely, arc of this excellent series.

Punisher #222 – Frank has finally found the President of Chernaya, and spends most of this issue plowing through his military and his armored American mercenary guards.  It’s almost entirely an action issue, and Matthew Rosenberg and Gus Vilanova choreograph the action very well. Regular Iron Man or War Machine comics aren’t ever this brutal, so it’s cool to see the WM suit go all out.

Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story #0 – We return once again to the world of Valiant’s Secret Weapons, with a one-off story focusing on Owen, the guy who can conjure items out of thin air, but never the items he wants or needs.  The story, by Eric Heisserer employs a cool vignette style with each focused on an item that Owen is trying to sell at a garage sale, while also telling us about his time with the Harbinger Foundation, and the attack that happened, setting up the Secret Weapons miniseries from last year.  I was more or less done with the Harbinger stuff at Valiant, but knowing that the upcoming Harbinger Wars 2 is by Matt Kindt, with Heisserer providing support, I’m more interested.

Vs. #2 – I’m still a little on the fence about this book.  Esad Ribic’s art, with Nic Klein’s colours, is incredible throughout, as are the action sequences.  The problem is, I’m not sure I’m feeling the set-up and the characters. This book is set in a future where wars are fought as reality television – the book is basically happening on Mojoworld, without any X-Babies or yellow guys in chairs – and is focusing on one grizzled soldier who keeps getting injured.  We just don’t know very much about him two issues in, and I had a hard time even keeping track of who he was fighting for and who against. As spectacle, this book has it all, but so far Ivan Brandon hasn’t really managed to supply the heart.

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

All-New Wolverine #32

Avengers #684

Doctor Strange #387

New Mutants Dead Souls #1

Old Man Logan #36

Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #301

Weapon X #15

Wildstorm Michael Cray #6

X-Men Blue #23

Bargain Comics:

Black Bolt #2-8 – I realize that I’d been mistaken in not following this title since it launched.  Saladin Ahmed’s story about Black Bolt being imprisoned in some weird ancient prison in deep space is really compelling, and made the best use of the Absorbing Man I’ve seen in years.  The art, mostly by Christian Ward, is gorgeous, and much more coherent than his work on Ody-C. Frazier Irving’s fill-in issue is also a delight. This is a really strong title by a new Marvel writer, who I hope to see a lot more from in the years ahead.

Doctor Strange #381-383 – I’ve basically slept on Donny Cates’s rise in the last two years.  I haven’t read my copy of God Country yet, and haven’t been all that interested in his other Image titles.  I was turned off by the concept of putting Loki in the position of Sorcerer Supreme, so didn’t check this book out until now.  It’s actually pretty good, as Stephen was forced to give up his traditional role, and decided instead to work as a veterinarian.  I like that magic is still a scarce resource in this title, after the events of Jason Aaron’s run, but hate the fact that Cates has brought the Sentry back to the Marvel Universe (along with a lot of whining about the Void, the aspect of the character that I hate the most).  Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art is nice, as are the occasional few pages by Nico Henrichon.

Moon Knight #188&189 – I really didn’t feel like we needed any more Moon Knight after Jeff Lemire’s excellent run addressed MK’s mental health situation so well, but here we are with Max Bemis and Jacen Burrows trying their hand.  Bemis, wisely, barely has MK show up in these first two issues, instead focusing on a mental patient with a different connection to the Egyptian pantheon. It’s an interesting take on things, and has me intrigued.

Superman #26 – I recently picked up a pile of Superman comics, looking to get caught up, and was disappointed to see that many of them were not by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.  This fill-in issue, by Michael Moreci and Scott Godlewski (whose art looks a lot more rushed than it did when he was on Copperhead) has Clark trying to teach Jonathan a lesson, but through the whole story, Jon’s character just feels very off from how he’s usually portrayed when Tomasi is writing him.  It was not a great issue because of that, but I guess it can be seen as a warmup for when Bendis takes over and changes all the characters into Peter Parker.

Superman #27&28 – Tomasi and Gleason returned for a two-parter celebrating American history that is so preachy and wordy, I had a hard time getting through it.  The Kent family travels to various sites where important things have happened in American history, and they talk about it a lot. Godlewski drew these issues too, and they are overall pretty bland.

Superman #29&30 – Next we get Keith Champagne writing a two-parter that has Superman fighting Parallax and running across Sinestro.  It is pretty typical Superman stuff, so it didn’t really interest me. The draw to the character and this title has been the focus on his family, and when that’s missing, so is my enthusiasm.

Superman #31&32 – And then someone named James Bonny, who I’ve never heard of, gets his two issues, and has Supes square off against Deathstroke.  I’m a big Deathstroke fan these days, and this storyline works, but it also really proves just how good Christopher Priest is at writing Slade’s character.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Charley’s War: Return to the Front – The fifth volume of Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s excellent First World War strip seems a little less focused than earlier volumes, as Charley returns from his leave, and finds himself in a quiet section of the front lines near Ypres.  This gives Mills plenty of opportunity to explore relationships between enlisted and conscripted soldiers, the infantry and their boorish, brutal officers, and to examine the role of horses in the war. As a chronicle of the day-to-day life of soldiers, this book stands with some of the best war novels I’ve read, and it always entertains.  

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