The Weekly Round-Up #437 With Survival Fetish #1, Skyward #1, Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1, Her Infernal Descent #1, Star Wars: Poe Dameron #26 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Survival Fetish #1 – The latest Black Mask series is off to a very good start.  Honolulu has become like Sarajevo – one long sniper alley as various factions vie for control of the city.  Saheer is a runner who helps transport things through the city, and because he is one of the most successful yet, he has become a bit of a celebrity.  We see him take some medicine to a community that has occupied a tower, and get a good sense of just how that community works. We also get a good idea of who Saheer is, but then writer Patrick Kindlon gives everything a pretty interesting twist at the end of the issue that has me much more interested in where this is all headed.  Kindlon is a good writer (I liked his last series, There’s Nothing There, a whole lot), and artist Antonio Fuso is a good choice for this title. I couldn’t help think that someone like Brian Wood would have devoted more time and space to explaining just why Honolulu is in this state, and what it implies for the rest of the nation or world, but maybe that kind of backstory is still to come.  Either way, I’m definitely on board for this series.

Quick Takes:

The Ballad of Sang #2 – Ed Brisson and Alessandro Micelli are giving us a very gritty look at a mute teen assassin who is being hunted by just about everyone in San Francisco.  Everything here feels very familiar from tons of other projects just like this one, but it also feels fresh and exciting.

Batman #45 – Oh good, another alternate reality story caused by time travel.  I haven’t read one of those this week yet. So, clearly, Tom King is spinning his wheels so Batman’s wedding can take place in issue fifty, and that leads to yet another story like this one.  Sometimes I just get so bored with corporate comics. Maybe when I was a kid, I’d have found this world where things are all different and dark more entertaining than I do now that I’ve read some variation on it a hundred times.  Also, maybe I’d be more excited by it if it weren’t drawn by Tony Daniel, whose stuff is just kind of dull and never up to the task of illustrating a more complicated story (I thought we knew that after he worked with Morrison on Batman RIP).

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 – I’m not sure what the point of relaunching this series is, as this first issue is not new reader friendly at all.  Lucy has become the new Black Hammer, and she tells everyone that she’s figured out what’s been going on, before promptly disappearing and ending up somewhere else.  I’m very happy to see that this book is back, with Jeff Lemire being joined by regular artist Dean Ormston, who has been absent on the two spin-off miniseries. This is usually one of my favourite books, but it’s felt diluted lately.  I hope that, the House of Secrets-like plotline aside, things get back to form quickly.

Black Panther #172 – I hate that Marvel is relaunching this book next month, especially after they just renumbered it to match the “Legacy” numbering.  Ta-Nehisi Coates has spent months building up this storyline, finally revealing the threat behind it all, and now that threat gets dispatched in a hurry in this issue.  This might be one of the most action-oriented issues in Coates’s run, and it found me missing some of the more introspective stuff he’s been doing with the comic. I’m still committed to buying this book, but I’m really not very enthused about the galactic Wakanda stuff that has been teased; I like the Black Panther best when he’s firmly grounded in his rule on Earth.

Cable #156 – I was a little surprised to see that this whole issue of Cable takes place back during the period where our hero was running around the future trying to keep Hope safe from Bishop, and that while it features the same threat from the last issue (the unfortunately named Metus), it doesn’t really reference the events of that issue.  I like that new writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson are weaving together a retconned narrative that touches every aspect of Cable’s history, but at the same time, it’s a touch confusing. I’m not a Cable fan, and I’m more wary of than excited about nostalgia these days, but I am liking this run so far, and feel like Nadler and Thompson were good choices for this series.

Daredevil #601 – The Hand has attacked the city, Mayor Fisk is in surgery, and it looks like Matt Murdock really is the mayor now.  This is an exciting and nicely paced issue, as Charles Soule takes the book into some unexpected territory. I was hoping we’d check in with Blindspot again, but it looks like he’s in the next issue.

Descender #29 – We’ve reached what looks like the culmination of this series, as the UGC and the Hardwire go to war, Andy has to decide where he really stands, and as Tim-21 meets the Descenders, only to learn that they might be as helpful as he has hoped.  Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have done a great job of building to this point, as just about everyone (no sign of Driller, except for on the Wild Things homage variant cover) has a role to play. This has been a very capable science fiction series.

Her Infernal Descent #1 – I wasn’t going to pick this up, but I’ve been impressed with writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson before (everyone should read The Dregs), and figured that despite my reservations, I should give this new Aftershock comic a chance.  It tells the story of a mother who has lost her family (presumably in an accident), and who decides, when given the opportunity by the ghost of William Blake, to go to Hell to retrieve them. As I feared, this first issue relies on too many of the tropes that I hate about books involving the afterlife – namely that immediately upon arriving there, a ton of famous people seem to be standing around waiting to be noticed.  The ancient Greek philosophers aren’t all that happy to be irrelevant, and it all feels a little predictable (although, I do give a lot of props for the cameo by Leonard Cohen). I feel like it’s too soon after Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo’s excellent The Life After (which was relaunched as Exodus as well) to return to these types of afterlife themes, especially since that book was, on first impressions, much wilder and more original.  I do like the art by Kyle Charles, and found the few instances where he played with layout and panel order to be intriguing, but I don’t think there’s enough going on here to get me back for the rest of the series.

Iron Fist #80 – And another Marvel title bites the dust after a too-brief existence.  Ed Brisson’s time with Danny Rand never really clicked – his first storyline took a little too long to develop, the Sabretooth story was decent, and then the book limped its way to a finish tying into the Damnation event.  The return of Danny’s half sister Miranda didn’t seem to matter too much (personally, I never knew she existed, and I’ve been reading IF since Ed Brubaker’s run), and this issue really felt like it rushed its ending. I don’t think I’m too likely to take many chances on new Marvel books now, knowing that they almost always fizzle out like this within a year of starting.

Justice League #43 – I feel like DC is actively trying to get rid of me as a reader.  This marks the end of Christopher Priest’s all-too-short tenure as writer of this series, as they clear the decks for this No Justice thing that Scott Snyder is writing.  Priest has given us the best Justice League I’ve read since Grant Morrison was on the book. He used the ensemble cast to explore some really different threads, from interpersonal relationships on the team to the place of a team of titans in a world where complicated geopolitical forces make it impossible to determine who is “good” or “bad”.  It’s been a complex and fascinating run, and this issue feels a little rushed as it all shuts down. I’m going to give No Justice a look through, but I’m not all that interested in it; I’d rather read Priest over Snyder every day of the week.

Lazarus #27 – I’m so happy to see Lazarus back on the shelves, although apparently after the next issue, the series is going to be going quarterly, which is a bit of a shame.  At the same time, when the level of quality in the comic is this good, I don’t mind waiting. This is the start of a two-part story that shows us what happened to Jonah Carlyle after Forever dumped him in the ocean a while back.  He’s found by some Danish fishermen, and begins a new, hidden life, in Bittner territory. Greg Rucka and Michael Lark have made this into one of the best series I read, and it’s cool to explore some other areas of their larger story.

Mage: The Hero Denied #8 – His enemies have his wife and son, and Kevin’s home has just been destroyed by a massive ogre.  The pace is definitely picking up as Matt Wagner hits the halfway mark on this story. It’s good stuff.

Mister Miracle #8 – It must be difficult to be Highfather of a world of gods that is in the middle of a massive war against its long-standing enemies, while also struggling with the demands of being a new father.  Scott and Barda trade off responsibilities, and endeavor to fight a war and the fatigue of sleepless nights at the same time. Tom King and Mitch Gerads have made this series an absolute delight – it’s amusing and poignant, as well as artistically and structurally gorgeous.  Also, Batman kills babies.

Moonshine #9 – I feel like with this issue, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are finally finding their groove for this Prohibition era werewolf story.  There’s a lot of potential here, but so far Azzarello has been typically opaque, and it’s been putting me off. Risso is always brilliant, which is what I’ve been buying it for, but it’s about time I found myself starting to care a little about the story.  I have no idea what the cover has to do with anything though…

Poe Dameron #26 – After a couple of years of giving us stories set before The Force Awakens, this issue jumps right up to the end of The Last Jedi, and has Poe hanging out with Rey and Finn, as Charles Soule is charged with using this story arc to fill in some of the innumerable plot holes or omissions from the last two episodes of Star Wars.  Basically, this is the first time DVD cut scenes were adapted into comics form, and I’m not sure I care at all. We learn how Poe survived the Tie Fighter crash on Jakku, as Rey and Finn continue to be pretty irritating characters who ask overly obvious questions. I liked the supporting cast that Soule had woven into this title, and now I guess they were probably all killed in the Last Jedi, as there are only a handful of Resistance folk left.  I’m not sure where this series is going to be headed after this arc is over. It probably makes sense for Marvel to cancel it soon, as I can’t imagine they will be allowed to tell stories set between Episodes 8 and 9…

Rumble #5 – The first arc of the relaunched title comes to its close, and really, almost this entire issue felt like it was filler.  There’s a long sequence set in Rathraq’s past that is used to illustrate a point about friendship, and then just a few pages set in the current story, that only seem to exist to help reconcile Rathraq and Del.  I really enjoyed the first volume of this series, and was happy to see it return, although I missed original artist James Harren’s work. David Rubín’s art, especially on this issue, is beautiful, but I feel like writer John Arcudi has lost the plot a little, and that the book is not as special as it once was.  I might not come back when this returns from hiatus in the summer.

Skyward #1 – I am trying to limit just how many new Image series I pick up, but the preview pages in Image+ convinced me to give this new book, by Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett, a shot.  Something happens to gravity, and a whole bunch of people float away from the Earth. Twenty years later, we meet our main character, who has grown up in a Chicago criss-crossed with guidewires to keep people from disappearing.  She works as a courier, and dreams of travelling more of the world. Her father, who we know predicted things, does not allow that though, and has been keeping her under close watch her entire life. I enjoyed this book, and especially Garbett’s art, but have a few questions as to just how much gravity is left.  We often see people standing on the ground as if they are still attracted to it, and so I’m left wondering if gravity fluctuates, or if there is just a generally weakened force behind it. More needs to be explained. The revelation at the end seems like the type of thing that should have happened twenty years prior, so I’m not really sure what Henderson has planned for this story.  I’m not sure if I’m going to come back for more of this – it’s interesting, but I’m worried that it hasn’t been thought through enough.

Super Sons #15 – As part of DC’s continued plan to get rid of me, this title is getting shut down next month, but before that can happen, we need to have another run in with Kid Amazo, that somehow involves the whole Justice League.  It’s a good issue, but I’m going to miss this book, and that makes it a bit bittersweet.

Tales of Suspense #104 – Matthew Rosenberg is one of Marvel’s rising star writers, and I have to give him credit for closing out this Hawkeye/Winter Soldier/Black Widow miniseries quite well.  Natasha is handled best of all these characters (except, perhaps, for Ursa Major), and I like the approach he has her taking to her two former lovers. This was an entertaining series, and I’d be down for it becoming the core of a team book.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #799

Avengers #689

Batman Creature of the Night #3

Incredible Hulk #715

Infinity Countdown #2

Ms. Marvel #29

Punisher Platoon TP

Superman #45

X-Men Gold #26

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #675 – The beginning of the No Surrender weekly event is pretty effective, in that it brings together a huge number of Avengers, takes others off the board, and creates a big Event atmosphere, without really explaining anything.  The whole Voyager thing is completely uninteresting to me (at least this far in), but I like everything else about this. Had Marvel dropped the price on the weekly issues, I probably would have bought into it.

Champions #15-17 – The Champions undergo a big growth in membership after the Avengers crossover ends, adding Patriot, Falcon, Red Locust, Wasp, and Ironheart to the team, while also dealing with the fact that there are, strangely, now two Viv Visions.  It’s a fun book. I know that Mark Waid is not on this title anymore, and I’m curious to see what it’s like under Jim Zub.

Defenders #8-10 – I really feel like Brian Michael Bendis’s Defenders has been a big failure.  Truthfully, I found these three issues hard to follow, as the Hood makes a big power play, and is met by a lot of resistance.  This is not the good Bendis, and I’d be surprised if this series (which I didn’t even know had ended) doesn’t return as part of Fresh Start or whatever is coming down the pipe next.  Trying to mold the publishing line to fit what’s on Netflix is a bad idea.

Green Arrow #30-36, Green Arrow Annual #1 – I was really feeling Ben Percy’s Green Arrow for a while, and was thinking about picking it up regularly once it became a monthly book, but then I learned that Percy was leaving, so I never bothered.  Catching up now, these later issues became a little disappointing. Bringing Moira Queen into the mix just made it feel like the book was trying to line up with the Arrow TV show, which I pretty much despise, and caused the Star City storyline to just begin to drag on forever.  There’s some terrific art here, but the story is just going through the motions. The Metal tie-in issue (the first Metal tie-in I’ve read) was basically unreadable. I’m glad I stayed far away from that event.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Charley’s War Vol. 6: Underground and Over the Top – It’s time for more of Charley’s War, with this volume covering the lad’s involvement in the tunneling that helped advance the front lines in Ypres, followed by some time in a brutal training camp in France that becomes the sight of a massive mutiny by the soldiers (which, sadly, is in the next volume).  As always, this book is a pretty fascinating look at the First World War, and must have been groundbreaking when it was first being published. It’s always a treat to read.

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