The Weekly Round-Up #274 With The Woods #11, All-New Hawkeye #1, Descender #1, Star Wars: Princess Leia #1, Project Superpowers: Blackcross #1, X-O Manowar #34 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Woods #11 – The excitement has been building in this series for a while now, but this issue really stands out as one of the best of the entire run.  As a couple of students fly off to rescue their schoolmates from the army that wants to incorporate (read enslave) them, Adrian amasses forces outside of New London, and then slips into the city to nab Isaac.  James Tynion IV did a terrific job of building up these characters so that issues like this one would feel as momentous as they do, while still always finding a few moments for humour.  It was good to see how things are managing at the school.

Quick Takes:

All-New Hawkeye #1 – My expectations for this book were pretty high, as the most recent (and not-yet completed) Hawkeye series set the bar pretty high, with regards to both characterization and layout (if not for punctuality).  Jeff Lemire, who is writing this (his first Marvel work?) is known for experimenting with layout and style in books like Sweet Tooth and Trillium, and artist Ramon Perez is terrific – bold and a little mercurial.  This issue builds on the work of Fraction and Aja, in that it features the two Hawkeyes – Clint Barton and Kate Bishop – doing their Odd Couple routine while fighting their way through a Hydra base on a mission for SHIELD.  Throughout the story, we get flashbacks to young Clint and Barney’s youth in a foster home.  Those pages look like a combination of watercolours and sketches (reminding me of Perez’s A Tale of Sand, which was lovely), while the rest of the book is more straight-forward pencil work, in a Steve Lieber/David Aja style.  There are a couple of beautiful pages that incorporate both styles, suggesting that Clint is thinking about his past while fighting Hydra.  This is a very strong first issue, and has me looking forward to the future of this series, which I imagine will be much more reliable than the last one (whenever it actually finishes).

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #4 Well, after reading this, I really want to see Kieron Gillen take over the Guardians of the Galaxy comic.  He has a good handle on these characters that doesn’t just pander to fans of the movie, and makes Angela’s inclusion with the group actually work.  This is yet another issue of this series that surprises me by how good it is.  Angela has sought refuge with the Guardians while Thor Odinson sends the Disir, one of Gillen’s best contributions to the Marvel Universe, after her.  We learn just what’s up with the baby that Angela has stolen from Asgard, and get yet another glimpse into her past with Sera (in a sequence that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the book, because the art made it feel like it was a flashback, while the dialogue could only be happening in the present).  I’m definitely sticking with this book for as long as Gillen is writing it; my fear is that co-writer Marguerite Bennett is being groomed to take it over after the first arc, at which point, I’m out.

Avengers #42 – Jonathan Hickman just keeps increasing the level of tension in this series, as, at a time when the various teams are already dealing with the end of the multiverse, the Shi’ar Imperium and its various allies show up to destroy the Earth as a way of stopping any further excursions.  At this point, this story would make no sense to anyone who hasn’t been reading it for months, but for those of us who have been there long-term, it’s great to see so many plot threads hurtling towards their conclusions.

Avengers World #18 – I really don’t think we need these issues of Avengers World that are working to fill in the ‘eight-month gap’ that Jonathan Hickman worked into his Avengers titles.  We know that Sunspot bought out AIM and took it over.  Do we need to see him do it?  We know that Namor is not like the rest of the Cabal.  Do we need to see him feel bad about destroying worlds?  Hickman is a master at planning large stories, and I feel like, if he felt he could leave something out, it can afford to be left out.  Marco Checchetto’s art is very nice, and there have not been enough stories that spotlight Sunspot in the last couple of decades, but this is the equivalent to reading a multi-issue footnote.

Black Science #12I think it was in his FEAR Agent series that I first noticed Rick Remender’s ability to constantly dump his characters into worse and worse situations.  Grant has finally found his family in the Multiverse, and we learn how that’s happened, but it’s at a moment where they are threatened by another version of him and his wife.  Now, the group is stuck in yet another alternate Earth, and this could be one of the worst ones they’ve seen yet.  I love the energy and pace of this series (artist Matteo Scalera keeps this book moving at lightspeed; even his conversation pages are exciting), but I am starting to wonder when Pia is going to learn to not run off from the group…  The text page promises big things in store for this arc, and I can see that this book is about to shift gears a little, just as FEAR Agent did a few times.

Cluster #2 – While I liked the first issue of Cluster, I was worried that Ed Brisson’s latest science fiction had too simple a set-up to maintain my interest over four issues.  The series is about a group of prisoners that have chosen to fight aliens on a planet that is being terraformed in exchange for a lighter sentence.  The soldiers are implanted with a device that will kill them if they are outside the prison facility for too long.  Our hero, a Senator’s daughter, found herself stranded with a few others a great distance from the prison at the end of the last issue.  This issue introduces us to some of the other beings living on the planet, and suggests that there is a lot more going on, while the four main characters do their best to make it home before dying.  Brisson is unveiling more of his plot at a good pace, and artist Damian Couceiro makes this world look pretty interesting.  This is a strong new series, which is increasingly not a surprise from Boom!

Crossed Plus One Hundred #3 – For this issue, Alan Moore takes us to the town of Chooga, and spends the comic quietly familiarizing the reader with the way society has structured itself.  After Future’s archival run has ended poorly, the community decides that it might be time to do another sweep for infecteds.  There is some concern that the diseased are becoming more organized and intelligent, and so secrecy is important.  This leads to a river journey, which is used to show us just what a mess the world is in.  Alan Moore sprinkles great ideas throughout this issue (I love the way the balloonman from Grapple – presumably New York – speaks).  I found having Future narrate events that just happened in her journal a little tiresome, but otherwise, this was another solid issue.  I had thought that this was only going to be a mini-series, but since reading last week’s Previews, have learned that it is an on-going series, which makes me very happy.

Descender #1Once again, Jeff Lemire satisfies with the beginning of a new series.  In this science fiction series, gigantic robots that look a little like the Celestials have shown up on all the planets that make up the United Galactic Council, and wiped out large amounts of the population, an action that then caused the remaining humans to wipe out all robots.  Ten years later, a child robot wakes up on a remote mining installation, to discover that all the humans there are dead.  As the comic unfolds, we learn of a potential connection between the child and the giant robots, as the creator of the child sets out to find him.  Dustin Nguyen’s art is quite lovely, and I like the way he and Lemire blend aspects of 70s Marvel cosmic comics with Astro Boy.  I think we need to get to know the characters a little better, but I’m intrigued by this book, and am already looking forward to the next issue.

Grayson #8 – This is a pretty big issue of Grayson, as Minos, the man ostensibly in charge of Spyral turns on his organization, shooting Matron, and going after Agent 1 and Dick.  Since this series began, there has been a fair amount of mystery surrounding Spyral’s mission, and the man in charge, and this issue doesn’t do a lot to dispel any of that, while setting up a change in the status quo that should make the post-Convergence issues just as interesting.  The best thing about this issue, though, is the Bill Sienkiewicz movie homage variant cover – it’s awesome.

Hellboy and the BPRD #4 – This is mostly an action issue, as we learn what’s been going on in the creepy castle, and as Mike Mignola and John Arcudi realize that, with a story set in 1952, it’s possible to feature Nazis and have it feel credible, unlike in 2015.  It’s weird that none of the supporting cast appear in this issue at all.

Hinterkind #16There are only two more issues of Hinterkind being published after this one, which is a shame (while not really a surprise considering the reality of Vertigo these days) because Ian Edginton has set up a large number of plotlines, and I’m not sure they can all be resolved in just forty pages.  A lot happens in this issue though, as Prosper discovers that all remaining humans have Sidhe blood, and heads out with her group to find a dragon to help fight off the Skinlings, who have a meeting with the Prince Regent.  Most of these storylines are converging right now, except for the one about the vampires, who we haven’t seen in a little while.  I’ve enjoyed this book, and will be sticking with it until the end.

Imperium #2 – Joshua Dysart is making it very clear that this new series, while being about a major character from Harbinger, is nothing like that earlier comic.  Toyo Harada, the most powerful psiot on the planet (with the possible exception of Peter Stanchek), is making his move on taking over the world, but Dysart wisely does not even have him appear in the comic.  Instead, we spend most of the issue with Project Rising Spirit, which is working with some factions in Syria to deploy psiot-jamming technology to keep Harada’s forces out of the region.  PRS’s HARD Corps is not staffed by mercenaries, with the unit leader, Gravedog, being a particularly ruthless and interesting individual.  He’s a Chechen Muslim who is working his own angles, and I love that a character like this is in this comic.  I’m not surprised – Dysart showed with his brilliant Unknown Soldier series that he can weave current events into some pretty compelling material, but it’s especially cool to see the way he pulls together a number of different issues affecting the world today as backdrop to this story.  This is not really a superhero comic, but it is one of the most intelligent books about people with powers out there.  All that, and art by Doug Braithwaite.

Nameless #2 – The first issue of Nameless felt a little too ambitious, and lacked clarity, while this issue does a great job of clarifying just what this book is all about.  In fact, one of the astronauts sums it up quite nicely as, “the goddamn Exorcist meets Apollo 13.”  Basically, a gigantic asteroid is going to collide with the Earth, but this hunk of rock has an arcane sigil carved into it, and is broadcasting a signal in the language of angels.  Nameless, our main character, arrives at Serenity Base on the moon, where he is partnered with some very sceptical scientists, before they all leave to scout the asteroid.  Grant Morrison reins in the weirdness for most of the issue, which helps to cement the plot, and Chris Burnham also keeps things under tight control, except for a few pages where he’s able to go completely nuts.  These creators definitely have me interested in this story, and I like the way they are blending science fiction with the supernatural.

Princess Leia #1Marvel has been pretty much three for three with their Star Wars titles, although surprisingly, I felt that this might have been the weakest offering so far.  Mark Waid picks up right after the last scene of the first Star Wars movie, as the Rebels prepare to abandon their Yavin base, and everyone is giving Leia space to grieve her family and world.  The thing is, that’s not really how she operates, and would rather be put to work.  She hatches a reckless plot to head out and gather the survivors of Alderaan to protect them from the Empire, and we meet a new pilot who is made to help her.  Waid’s characterizations are strong, but I wasn’t all that impressed with Terry Dodson’s art.  His faces are just a little off – they don’t really look like the actors from the film, but they look like they’re trying too hard to look like them.  I’m tempted to blame the issue on the digital colouring, but I don’t think Jordie Bellaire makes mistakes…

Project Superpowers: Blackcross #1 – I guess that Warren Ellis just really likes writing comics about superbeings restructuring reality, or showing up in restructured realities, or something like that, as he has two very similar comics out this week (see below).  With this Dynamite Entertainment book, Ellis revisits (or will, he hasn’t gotten there yet) the various public domain superheroes that Alex Ross gathered for the first Project Superpowers series a few years back.  We don’t actually see those characters in the flesh, but instead we meet a few regular people who don’t seem all that normal.  A guy sets himself on fire and then walks into a lake.  An alcoholic medium is visited by a spirit in her mirror.  A guy in the witness protection program has a lot of nightmares, and is getting weird e-mails.  The only thing they all have in common is that they live in Blackcross, a small town in upstate Washington.  Colton Worley’s art is very nice, in a slightly Avatar house style sort of way, and the story runs much more smoothly than Ellis’s Supreme.  I don’t know much about these heroes, nor do I care about them, but I’m always up for some Ellisian revisionism.

Revival #28 – Things just keep getting stranger in this book, as Martha finds her ex-boyfriend (who is not a Reviver, but he’s neither dead nor alive, either), and we learn a tiny little bit about what might have caused Revival Day, maybe.  A few other plotlines work themselves forward a little too, most interesting the thread that has Dana prisoner of Holt.  This is a great, very involved series, which is going to need to resolve something soon, because there’s just too much going on right now.

Saga #26I find Saga to be one of the hardest books to write about every month for this column.  Summarizing the issue is pretty pointless, as if you’re not a reader, you won’t know who these characters are, and I don’t want to take the time to summarize things enough for them to be meaningful.  If you are reading it, you already know that every issue is very good, that Brian K. Vaughan writes killer dialogue, and that Fiona Staples is an art god.  So – friendly dragons, the Revolution, drugs, and maybe The Stalk’s brother?  It’s good stuff.

Spider-Woman #5 – I think it’s safe to treat this like the first issue of Spider-Woman, since it’s not part of the Spider-Verse storyline, and it features the beginning of this book’s actual direction, and Jessica’s new costume.  Basically, Jess has quit the Avengers, and is looking to live a more regular life, while still patrolling the city on a motorcycle helping people.  We learn almost from the start that she’s not so good at being a solo superhero anymore, although when Ben Urich shows up with what looks like an actual case involving the disappearance of supervillains’ families, she’s dismissive.  Dennis Hopeless is writing this series in the light-hearted style of Daredevil, She-Hulk, and Superior Foes of Spider-Man, and that makes the book enjoyable, if perhaps not the best fit with every other way Jessica Drew has ever been portrayed.  Javier Rodriguez’s art is a good reason to pick up this series.  He’s done the odd issue of Daredevil over the last couple of years, and his work fits nicely on the Chris Samnee to Javier Pulido spectrum.  This is a fresh take on this character, and while it doesn’t necessarily jive with how she’s been shown in the Avengers lately (and causes some continuity problems with respect to the Time Runs Out storyline), it’s a fun read that I will probably be returning to next month.

Supreme Blue Rose #7 – Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay wrap up their strange look at revising, once again, Supreme, a character who has gone through a lot of iterations over the years.  That is basically Ellis’s point, I suppose, with all of his talk of versioning that underpins this story.  I’m not really sure that this project has worked as well as it was intended.  If there’s one thing the comics industry doesn’t really need, it’s a treatise on the constant revising and retconning that goes on, especially at the Big Two, but it doesn’t say anything particularly new about it.  Lotay’s art has been very nice, though, and I’m glad I stuck with this title for that if nothing else.

Swamp Thing #40Now this is how you finish a book.  Swamp Thing was the last of the first wave New 52 titles I was still reading, and I’m very sad to see it go, especially since it means the end of yet another Charles Soule-written title that I’ve been enjoying (She-Hulk ended recently too).  Soule’s run has been the most interesting and novel Swamp Thing since Alan Moore wrote it.  He moved away from endlessly orbiting ideas from Moore’s time, and found logical ways to build on what has come before.  This final issue has Swamp Thing, Abigail, and the past avatars of the Green going to war with the Machine Queen, Anton Arcane, and the fungus avatar.  The scope of this issue is pretty big, yet Soule still finds opportunities to visit various important characters for the last time, and to introduce one more new idea, as ST finds himself in one more kingdom – the land of ideas and art.  This section of the book gets a little Morrisonian, in the best way.  As I said, I’m going to miss this series, but I’m glad that DC allowed Soule to end up his run in a proper manner.  I hope Jesus Saiz lands on another DC title I want to read, as I’ve always enjoyed his art.

X-Men #25 – I’m a little surprised by how awkward G. Willow Wilson’s arc as writer of this series has been.  She has the all-female X-Men squad basically fighting a weird hole in the ground, for like three issues now.  Jubilee spend the issue flying an experimental jet, and annoying the Inhumans for no apparent reason, while Monet, who is basically indestructible, gets knocked around by some falling stalactites.  Or is it stalagmites?  I don’t remember which is which, and can’t be bothered to look it up, as I feel that would require more thought than this plot got in its inception.  I’m disappointed, because Wilson is usually an excellent writer.  I do like that she spends some time this month working with Monet’s character, and acknowledging her Muslim heritage, but that might be the only scene in this issue that I liked.

X-O Manowar #34The Dead Hand arc begins, and it has Aric travelling to Loam to protect the Vine from a new threat.  The Dead Hand is a combination of the Borg, Brainiac, Gah Lak Tus, and the Death Star.  It appears to be a robotic gestalt that is travelling around the universe looking to wipe out the armor virus, much as the Armor Hunters did, but with even more extreme counter-measures.  As always, this series is at its best when in the middle of a high-stakes story arc, so I think we can be assured that X-O Manowar won’t be getting boring anytime soon.

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

‘68: Jungle Jim Guts and Glory One-Shot

Batman Eternal #48

Detective Comics #40

EGOs #6

Guardians Team-Up #1

Miracleman #16

Rat God #2

Über #23

Wolf Moon #4

Wolverines #9

Bargain Comics:

Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2&3There’s not much to say about the last two-thirds of this event tie-in.  The story doesn’t add much texture to the Armor Hunters event, nor does it do anything with Bloodshot’s character to make him more interesting.  Very missable.

The Auteur #4&5 – This was a highly amusing mini-series, which is apparently getting a second volume soon.  Rick Spears is known for going pretty crazy with his storytelling, but I don’t know where else you’d go to see a hotel room full of people bleeding through their skin because of a poorly-mixed hallucinogenic.  This was fun.

Batwing: Futures End #1 – Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray give Batwing a decent send-off with this story that shows him organizing a large-scale sting for Batman Incorporated.  It’s got to be weird doing a five-year-later story for a title you know to be canceled, because you aren’t setting up any new plotlines, and you have to suggest that this character, who is going into limbo, is going to spend the next five years being active in the DC Universe, but not in a visible way.

Bloodshot #24&25 – It kind of feels like Valiant just decided to run out this series with a couple of fill-in issues.  Number 24 tells a story set at the turn of the century set in Ukraine, while issue 25 has a number of short stories set at different points in Bloodshot’s career.  Like the Armor Hunters stories, none of them add much to the character.  I think it’s going to be a challenge for Jeff Lemire in his upcoming Bloodshot Reborn series to actually make this character interesting, as he’s an almost complete cipher by his nature.  If anyone can do it, though, it’s Lemire…

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature BurialI love these Richard Corben one-shots, because of how great Corben’s art is, but the stories are usually too short to really catch my imagination.  That said, I loved his retelling of the Cask of Amontillado, a story I remember first reading as a kid (and, weirdly, watching a film strip dramatisation of – what were my teachers thinking?).

Turok Dinosaur Hunter #2-9 – You can’t fault Greg Pak for coming up with a new approach to this classic Gold Key character.  It’s the 1200s, and Europeans have shown up on the shores of North America, bringing dinosaurs with them.  Turok helps the tribe that hates him to fight off the invaders, and then he heads into the interior, where he meets his parents’ people, who are under attack by Genghis Khan.  Later, he returns to the people from the first arc, and accompanies them to Europe, for reasons that aren’t clear.  This series makes no sense, but at the same time, it’s kind of cool.  I especially liked Takeshi Miyazawa’s art on the second arc.



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