The Weekly Round-Up #331 With Black Panther #1, Batgirl #50, Empress #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Black Panther #1I have been looking forward to this comic for quite a while; long before Ta-Nehisi Coates or Brian Stelfreeze were attached to the project, and long before it was even announced.  When Jonathan Hickman started to repair the damage done to T’Challa by Reginald Hudlin, and that weird period where he was hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen, running a restaurant, and replacing Daredevil, I thought it might not be long before they revived the character in his own book, and was hopeful.  Christopher Priest’s Black Panther remains one of my favourite Marvel comics of all times (even though I still haven’t read the first third of it – something that will be fixed in a future retro review column).  Then I heard that Coates, whose work I know from the Atlantic and his excellent book Between the World and Me, would be writing, and I got very hopeful that this relaunch could transcend most of the Marvel line.  One issue in, it’s too early to make a statement like that, but we are off to a very good start.  Coates has kept the events leading up to Secret Wars; Wakanda is a bit of a mess, as is T’Challa and his grasp on his country.  Dissent is spreading, and others are resorting, as one does in a time of flux, to rigid interpretations of tradition.  Most of this issue is used to establish setting and mood, but I’m very intrigued.  Stelfreeze’s art looks as good as it always does, but with an added sense of import, as Stelfreeze clearly knows that this title can be significant.  I know that there are going to be a lot of eyes on this comic, as people will expect Coates to use it to make some political statements, while also telling a good story.  I believe that is going to be completely possible here, and already can’t wait for the next issue.  (Side note:  I could have done without paying an extra dollar for filler backmatter Marvel!).

Quick Takes:

Batgirl #50Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher wrap up their entire run (although, is this their last issue?  I have no idea what’s going on at DC now that they are retroactively changing so many of their solicited books) with an oversized issue which has some nice moments, but also drags in a number of places.  Knowing that this team, including the fifty-odd artists that contribute to this issue, is leaving makes me not care that much that the issue sets up Babs for a status quo that is going to be overturned immediately.  I did enjoy this book, and the new approach they took to the character, but it feels like it ran out of steam, as most good concepts at DC seem to do.

Black Widow #2 – Mark Waid and Chris Samnee spend this issue on a recent flashback, helping set up why Natasha stole from SHIELD in the first issue, also showing us how some of the rank and file SHIELD agents feel about the Avengers who get to run missions for the organization.  Two issues in, very little has been done with Natasha’s character, but the book is exciting and looks great.  The tone is very different from this duo’s recent stint on Daredevil, but that makes sense to me, since that approach would not work with this character.

The Bunker #16Lots of surprises this issue, as one character gets ready to perform unwanted invasive surgery on her future self, and the cops start to get involved in more of the weirdness that circles around this group of friends.  Joshua Hale Fialkov occasionally loses me in the intracacy of this series, largely because of my inability to keep all the facts clear between issues, not because of any fault on his part, but this series never fails to impress or surprise.

Dark Corridor #7 – Rich Tommasso’s series comes to an early end with this action-filled issue that has the last of the Seven Deadly Daughters carrying out her group’s revenge mission by herself.  Tommaso has a different style that I liked, but I felt this title never really lived up to the promise of the first issue.  I’m not sure if I’ll give his She Wolf a shot in June…

Empress #1 – Mark Millar is very good at launching a new series.  Empress, which is drawn by Stuart Immonen, is about the wife of a barbaric intergalactic ruler who decides to escape with her children.  This feels like Millar and Immonen’s love letter to Star Wars, and gets off to a very good start.  I love Immonen’s design work here.

Exodus: The Life After #5 – I guess Ernest Hemingway would not make a very good God, because after just a short time in the job, it looks like everything is falling apart.  Joshua Hale Fialkov has made this a very fun series, as Jude finally gets to meet his father.  The next issue looks like it will be a big one, as Jude is on Earth now, and building his own religion.

The Fix #1I really enjoyed The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, a very funny series centred on Boomerang and the group of C-list villains he assembled, which was by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber.  Now, these two have paired up again for The Fix, an Image comic that shows that Superior Foes could have been even funnier had it not been constrained by Marvel’s lack of a mature-readers line.  The Fix is about two thieves and lowlifes who happen to be LAPD.  They rob an infirm old man in his seniors’ home, and then return to investigate the crime.  The narration is wildly funny, while also making a pretty cogent point about American society today (that the only people who are able to indulge freely in mayhem are the police).  We meet the Internal Affairs officer who is looking into their deeds, and their other boss, a hipster new father who they owe a ton of money to.  I’m not sure how long this series is set to run, but I’m on board for the duration.

Invincible Iron Man #8 – So we have Tony Stark and James Rhodes, armorless, and Spider-Man, web-shooterless, fighting techno ninjas and someone in the War Machine armor.  I have no idea who this woman they are fighting is, and with the way Mike Deodato’s drawn this issue, I often can’t really tell what’s going on.  I also don’t know how this issue is “The Road to Civil War II”.  I’m quickly losing interest in Brian Michael Bendis’s Iron Man; it’s entertaining, but there is very little substance to it.

Midnighter #11Apollo makes an appearance as Midnighter gets ready to take down Henry Bendix, the Suicide Squad, and the new threat of the Unified, the engineered person who is to be his replacement.  I’ve liked this book, and Steve Orlando’s writing on it, and I think it’s a shame it won’t be continuing through the DC Rebirth era.  I think it’s a also a shame that Orlando is being moved to Supergirl, as that’s not a comic I’m particularly interested in, although I may be tempted to check it out because of his involvement.

New Suicide Squad #19 – I’ve really been digging this arc, by Tim Seeley and Juan Ferreyra.  Of course, that means that DC has to relaunch the book with creators I’m less interested in, but I intend to continue to enjoy this book until Rebirth takes it back off my radar.  The Squad is stuck in a castle being chased by the followers of Cain, who are determined to kill them.  Ferreyra’s art is very nice here – he’s always been a great artist, but it’s rare that he gets to play with such a dynamic and exciting storyline.

Ninjak #14 – Matt Kindt borrows a page from Frank Miller’s classic Born Again Daredevil arc, and takes everything away from Colin in the first few pages of this new arc.  Cut off from all of his technology, Colin has to rely on his wits and his martial skills, but not knowing what the threat is, is that going to be enough?  After the Deadside storyline, this feels a lot more true to the character.

Old Man Logan #4 – This issue catches us up to Logan’s appearances in Extraordinary X-Men as he meets, and fights, Steve Rogers, and finally gets it clear that he is not in the same past he remembers.  Andrea Sorrentino absolutely kills on this issue.  His layouts and pencils are incredible, as he channels JH Williams III a little.  I have not been too happy with Jeff Lemire’s Marvel work, but this title is the exception, and I think a lot of that has to do with the quality of his collaborator.

Poe Dameron #1I had a lot of problems with The Force Awakens, chiefly in the way in which it more or less negated the original trilogy by plunging the galaxy into the same kind of narrative set-up and threat it had to face the first time around, without providing any explanation as to how things got so bad again.  I have been a Star Wars fan my whole life, but I’m not about to research online or read licensed novels to figure things out.  I believe that everything important should be explained by the story, right from the jump.  That said, I’m a comics fan, and am likely to buy anything by Charles Soule and Phil Noto, so I had some hopes that the new Poe Dameron comic would help fill in some of the gaps, and make the movie make more sense to me.  In some ways, this accomplished that, as it explained just who the old guy that Poe went looking for at the start of the movie is.  Leia gives Poe the mission to track down this old scholar of all things Jedi, in the hopes that he knows where Luke Skywalker might be.  I guess this all takes place in a short period before the film (which is odd, as I thought this was an ongoing series; perhaps after the first arc, we’ll jump to the time between Episodes 7 and 8).  Poe gets a new squadron of pilots, and heads off to a weirdly protected cavern where a bunch of people from different races worship a glowing blue egg.  Somehow, he’s being tracked by the First Order though.  This was a decent first issue, although it was lacking in a few places.  I found Poe the least developed of the film characters, and was surprised to see that people gravitated towards him.  We don’t know much about him beyond the fact that he’s the “best pilot in the galaxy”, and we only know that because people keep telling us this.  I have yet to see much in the way of a personality; in both the film and the comic, he feels very generic.  Furthermore, I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the Resistance.  If the First Order is still relatively small, and the Republic is a going concern, why do we need a Resistance in non-First Order space?  Wouldn’t fighting it be a matter for the Republic’s military?  Were the regions that the Resistance was operating in conquered territory, it would make a lot more sense.  I don’t expect this series to provide a lot of political history, but I feel like today’s readers have moved beyond a simple outline of who is good and who is bad as sufficient backstory, especially in a universe as rich and storied as the Star Wars one.

Prophet: Earth War #3I’d expected that the Earth War miniseries, which is wrapping up Brandon Graham and friend’s long run with this world, would have a more traditional miniseries structure, but instead, we are still getting done-in-one stories that detail one aspect of the much larger story.  I’m okay with this though, because even though there are certain repeated patterns in these stories, they are always interesting and feel novel.  This issue looks great, thanks to artist Grim Wilkins, who I’m unfamiliar with, but would very like to see more from.  Fans of the classic Youngblood character Diehard would enjoy this issue, as he is featured prominently.

Providence #8 – As this series progresses, I find that it holds my interest less and less, being what feels like an excuse for Alan Moore to pen lengthy conversations about topics of interest to him, but which don’t fuel any actual plot.  This issue actually has HP Lovecraft show up, making me hope that there is going to be something of significance take place in the next issue.

Saints #7 – While Saints is lacking much of the transgressive fun of its first few issues, it is making up for it in mayhem, as our group of resurrected saints go to war with the rest of their kind.

The Sheriff of Babylon #5Good lord by Tom King is a good writer.  This issue has Christopher sharing vodka with Fatima, the wife of the Iraqi policeman Christopher is sheltering in the Green Zone.  They sit beside a wrecked swimming pool that used to belong to Saddam for the whole issue, and talk about a variety of things, and every page is brilliant.  King has impressed me with everything he’s written so far, and I really hope that he’ll be writing a lot more than just Batman soon.  Mitch Gerads is usually best known for his eye to military detail, but with this series, I feel he’s really stretching himself into more emotional territory.

Spider-Man #3 – This is, for the most part, an all-Miles issue of Spider-Man, as he has to deal with his very forceful grandmother, gets a visit from Ms. Marvel, and has to deal with being grounded.  As much as I get irritated by Brian Michael Bendis’s writing on other titles, there’s something about the way he approaches Miles that makes the character so likeable to me.  I don’t need much in the way of superhero action out of this book; I’m happy just seeing this character interact with his family and friends (although not all the time – a good action sequence is always welcome).  Sara Pichelli makes an issue like this go down smoothly.

The Vision #6The second Tom King book of the week is as good as the first.  Vision finally finds out about the Grim Reaper, and then has to decide how to deal with all that’s happened in this series since it began.  I feel like Vision is easily one of Marvel’s best books, and am saddened by the fact that it’s reached its halfway mark.

The Walking Dead #153 – In a rare bit of synchronicity with the TV show, Negan is back in the spotlight, as he makes his escape from Alexandria, and Rick and the others have to figure out how to get him back without sparking a panic.  As always, a very good issue, although one I don’t have a lot to say about.  I will say that I’m glad that, when writing TV Negan, the powers that be decided to clean up his speech some.  I love some good profanity-laced writing (in fact, it’s the main reason why I loved the HBO show Deadwood), but comic Negan always felt a little forced to me.

The Wicked + The Divine #18 – It’s great to see this book return from hiatus, and it seems that with this arc, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are really going to tear into things.  Laura returns as the goddess Persephone, and immediately attracts the attention of Ananke and some of her more devoted followers, while Baphomet makes a play to free the Morrigan.  I’m not sure how many arcs are left in this series, but it feels like the creators are really building towards some pretty monumental things.  I liked the use of guest artists for each issue of the last arc, but it’s really good to see McKelvie drawing these characters again.

The Woods #21The last story arc was pretty devastating, as the Horde caused a massacre at the Bay Point school.  This issue picks up some of the pieces, as the survivors try to figure out some of their next steps, and through flashback, we get a better idea of the complexity of Karen’s relationships with Calder and Sander.  James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas have never disappointed with this book, which is a much more complicated thing than its original concept would suggest.

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

Amazing Forest #4

Baltimore: Empty Graves #1

Deadpool #9

Dreaming Eagles #4

Lobster Johnson: Forgotten Man

New Avengers #9

Rachel Rising #41

Scarlet Witch #5

Spider-Women Alpha #1

Uncanny Avengers #8

Uncanny X-Men #6

Wonder Woman Earth One HC

You know it’s been a busy week when I haven’t read a single graphic novel or comic off my ‘bargain’ pile.