The Weekly Round-Up #338 With Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, Batgirl #52, Bloodshot Reborn #13, Divinity II #2, Star Wars #19 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Omega Men #12I’m sad to see this excellent series come to its end, but at the same time, I’m very pleased that DC listened to fans and did not cancel the title around issue seven like they’d planned.  Giving Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda time and space to finish their story meant that DC has at least one thing on the DCYou bookshelf that they can point to as a critical, if not sales, success.  This series has followed Kyle Rayner through a very difficult time, as he is forcibly recruited, and then becomes committed to, the cause of the Omega Men, insurgents who are trying to free the Vega System from the iron rule of the Citadel.  This issue takes their war to its inevitable conclusion, but more than that, it echoes real world examples of what happens at the end of a lengthy and bloody uprising.  King has emerged in the last year as my favourite new comics writer, and while everyone is gushing over his Vision, and chomping at the bit for his Batman, we don’t hear enough about this series (or his even more impressive Sheriff of Babylon).  This was a great series.

Quick Takes:

Afterlife With Archie #9It’s time for the annual issue of Afterlife With Archie!  This one focuses on Reggie, who may or may not be a sociopath (he probably is), but whose guilt is giving him a lot of trouble.  I’m always very happy to see more Francesco Francavilla artwork, especially since interiors by him are so rare, but I wish this book came out more often.  It’s hard to maintain interest in it this way.

Aliens: Defiance #2 – The first issue of this series was decent, but didn’t grab me.  This issue, which falls into what I assume is going to be the rhythm of this series, provides Brian Wood more opportunity to develop Hendricks’s character, while also giving us some good action sequences.  I like the concept of this series, that has a single AWOL colonial marine and a detachment of artificial soldiers hunting down places where the aliens have infested human outposts, so that they can keep them out of the hands of their corporate masters.  It gives Wood more space to dig into the reality of the Aliens world, which really hasn’t been questioned a whole lot yet (like, why are things so militarized?).  Tristan Jones’s art is terrific on this book, giving things the right level of dread.

Aloha, Hawaiian Dick #2To begin with, I love the design and look of this book.  New artist Jacob Wyatt is incredible.  It’s been so many years since I’ve read an issue of Hawaiian Dick (other than last month’s issue, obviously), that I’m having a hard time finding my way back into the story.  B. Clay Moore has a lot of characters in this issue, and while the recap page is helpful, it didn’t quite do enough to clarify everything.  Still, if you’re in the mood for a private eye store set in 1950s Hawaii that may have some supernatural elements, you don’t have to look very far.

Batgirl #52 – If this title weren’t being cancelled as a part of Rebirth, I’m pretty sure the last two issues would have convinced me to drop it.  When Batgirl first arrived in Burnside, things felt fresh and new, but the storylines just kept circling back on themselves, and the constant churn of new stati quo (Barbara’s working on her PhD!  Barbara’s running a business!) got tiresome.  Peace out Batgirl of Burnside.  

Bloodshot Reborn #13 – In a week full of surprise twists at the end of corporate comics, it’s Jeff Lemire who really caught me with the swerve this story takes, as in the future, Bloodshot and Ninjak infiltrate Los Angeles to confront the ‘man in the tower’.  I really didn’t see this coming, especially considering what Lemire’s been doing with visions of the future in All-New Hawkeye, Old Man Logan, and Extraordinary X-Men.  Lewis Larosa’s art on this arc has been incredible, and things fit together very nicely here.  

Captain America: Steve Rogers #1I have to hand it to Marvel, they really timed this comic perfectly.  In a week where the newscycle should be all about DC’s Rebirth, they managed to get their book talked about on inane morning news shows.  I’ve liked the work that Nick Spencer has been doing in the Cap corner of the Marvel Universe, and enjoyed much of this comic, but had some problems.  First off, I’ve loved Spencer’s love for the classic Mark Gruenwald run, but I’m not sure that anyone wanted to see Jack Flag and Free Spirit back in the mix.  I also hate the way that, since Rick Remender’s run, we’ve retconned an abusive father into Cap’s life.  I’ve been recently rereading every Cap comic I have starting in 1982, so I feel a little more like an expert on this topic than I normally would.  From what I remember, we didn’t know about Cap’s dad until Rick Remender’s run, and I’m not sure it adds much to the character.  In fact, I feel like it makes his patriotism and moral code more questionable.  Anyway, this issue’s big ending couldn’t exist without it.  I don’t want to talk about that last page here, because there has been too much said about it all over the Internet this week.  I don’t agree with the idea, but at the same time, we are looking at a character who has recently been recreated by Franklin Richards in the aftermath of Secret Wars, to just be deaged and recreated by a childlike Cosmic Cube in Avengers Standoff.  Who’s to say who Steve Rogers is at this point?  I just don’t think that the changes made to the character are going to last one story arc anyway, so it doesn’t much matter.  Another issue I had with this comic is that I hate Cap’s new outfit.  It looks very strange when Jesus Saiz draws it, and I feel that the only artist who can make it look good is going to be Daniel Acuña, who I can guess probably designed it.  What I did like about this comic is the way in which the Red Skull is basically just Donald Trump.  I’m surprised that this portrayal didn’t excite more or as much anger among the right wing crazies who are Trump’s supporters (assuming, of course, that any of them can read).

Cry Havoc #5This story has always been told across three separate strands, each separated by the other by a few months or weeks.  We are getting closer to the point where all of the stories converge though, and that’s giving this comic a quicker pace, and makes every scene feel more fraught with emotion and importance.  It’s an interesting approach, as we see the direct consequences of earlier actions, and get a real good idea of everything that’s going on.  This is a very carefully plotted and deliberately drawn book, that manages to never get lost in the weight of its conceit.  It’s a really good read, and it’s gorgeous (when it’s not being really ugly).

Daredevil #7 – It’s got to be hard to come up with reasons for Daredevil and Elektra to interact with each other these days; most of the best ideas have been used already, and getting these two on the same page is not something that should ever be done lightly.  Charles Soule came up with an interesting approach this time around, as Elektra needs DD’s help to find the child he never knew she had.  The resolution of this issue is also kind of surprising, and maddeningly opaque, as we may, by the end of the issue, know what’s going on, but not all of the people involved.  I continue to find a lot to like about this series, which is drastically different from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s approach, but just as good.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1I’m not really sure how to talk about this comic.  On the one hand, I think that there can’t be people out there who care enough about comics to read a site like this who would have either not read this yet, or who know they don’t want to buy it and don’t really care about the spoilers that any frank discussion of it will necessarily reveal.  At the same time, I don’t want to spoil this for someone.  I don’t think I’ve read a single Geoff Johns comic since Flashpoint, so for me, this book felt like a logical continuation of that even for much of the time.  My issues with this comic, which features a long-lost character working to return to reality, had a lot to do with the way that Johns felt the need to touch on so many of the new titles coming out of Rebirth, but which have little to nothing to do with the main story.  Why do we see Ted Kord, Jaime Reyes, and Doctor Fate?  Why do we need a single panel introducing Gotham?  Are these tiny teases enough to interest someone in a book they weren’t already going to buy?  It’s clear to me that Johns has been left to do a lot of the heavy lifting needed to get the DCU back in order, but I’m left more confused than I was before.  We see glimpses of characters from the Second World War and from the far future, but are left with no idea as to where their stories might pick up again.  There’s a huge chunk of the middle of this (very large) comic where I just got completely lost in character appearance that meant little to me.  You might argue that’s because I’m a lapsed DC reader, who has not put in the time to keep up with these characters for the last few years, but I would argue back that you’ve just described a huge portion of the comics-buying population.  Anyway, the big reveal at the end that I’m not going to talk about here?  I’m not impressed or excited.  I am, however, a little curious to check out some of the Rebirth titles I wasn’t that interested in before, but I’ll have to wait and see if that interest still exists when some of them launch in a few months.  This does feel like a move in the right direction, and I hope to see DC claw its way back to being a coherent and important line again.  I think the comics industry is in a much better place with a strong DC.

Divinity II #2Matt Kindt takes things up another notch in this issue, giving us our first look at Ninja-L, a reunited Unity, and the return of Divinity, who goes to stop the new Divinity (I’m uncomfortable calling her Lady Divinity, as colourist Mike Baron does in the commentary, but also think that calling her Divinity II is stupid).  There are a lot of very strong moments throughout this comic, and great artwork by Trevor Hairsine.  So far, I think I like this miniseries more than I did the first one.

Doctor Strange #8 – The Last Days of Magic arc continues, as Stephen and some allies (including Talisman!) work to collect whatever magic is left in the world, and find that things are not going as easily as they had hoped.  Jason Aaron has introduced a new idea into the Strange playbook, that magic always has a price, and watching him explore this is pretty interesting.  Chris Bachalo continues to amaze on this one.

East of West #26 – This is easily my favourite issue of this series in quite some time.  The Chosen are gathering for a meeting, and that means that a lot of characters who have reason to hate one another are sitting around the same table, as we’ve seen before, but now there is a lot of blood between them.  Jonathan Hickman has spent a very long time building up this series, and we are clearly seeing a lot of the payoff for all of that now.  When these characters meet, we as readers have a very good handle of the reasons for the tension we can feel, and have a strong sense of how they are going to respond to any provocation.  As has been the case since the beginning of this series, Nick Dragotta is amazing in this issue.

Imperium #16This issue gives us a big confrontation between Livewire and Toyo Harada, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t like it as much as earlier issues which focused on the mechanics of Harada’s organization.  I don’t think any further issues of this series have been solicited, and that has me worried, because it’s my favourite Valiant book.  I do know that there is going to be a new series featuring the Generation Zero kids, but it’s not being written by Joshua Dysart, who has driven the Harada bus since the company relaunched.  I want to know what’s going on…

Ms. Marvel #7 – This is a fun issue that has Kamala and her friends competing in a science fair against Miles Morales’s team.  I like the way G. Willow Wilson continues to build on Kamala’s character, and the short speech from Ganke about the unfairness of making kids compete so much for limited scholarship opportunities, but a lot of this issue felt kind of forced, especially the tenuous reason for slapping a “Road to Civil War II” banner on the cover.

Nighthawk #1 – I’m getting a little worn out on the Squadron Supreme title, but thought I’d give Nighthawk a chance because of a few reasons.  David Walker is becoming quite the new name around comics circles, and I’ve been enjoying his Power Man and Iron Fist.  Ramon Villalobos is a great artist, working in the same vein as Frank Quitely, but in a looser, more kinetic way.  The book is looking at the racial tensions in American cities, but from the perspective of a black anti-hero who is a cross between Batman and the Punisher.  This should work, but something about this first issue felt a little lacking.  I don’t know that I ended up caring a lot about what was happening in this comic, and couldn’t help but just check off the list of influences it was wearing on its sleeves.  I might give it a second issue, because I want to like this book.

Obi-Wan & Anakin #5This has been my least favourite Star Wars series yet, and I don’t know if that’s the curse of the prequels in action, or if it’s just that there’s very little to say about Anakin Skywalker that’s going to be interesting.  I’m doubly surprised that I didn’t like this, because I think this might be the first comic by Charles Soule that I didn’t like.  My problem with the story is that the conflict between the Closed and the Open, the two societies that comprise what passes for culture on an isolated planet where our two Jedis have gone to respond to a distress call, feels very forced and pointless, as does the use of flashbacks to suggest that Anakin was going to leave the Jedi order.  I don’t feel that either Anakin nor Obi-Wan are fleshed out well here, and it made it hard to care about this series in a way that I haven’t felt for the other Star Wars books.  I hope that Marvel sticks to the post-Episode IV era, or the Force Awakens era in their future offerings.

Sex #28 – Lots happens in this issue of Sex, as Simon Cooke has to work to protect his employees and future business partner from a mob of skinheads, marking this the first issue where he actually returns to something like his former costumed identity.  At the same time, the criminal gang war heats up, and Keinan has an interesting conversation with Annabelle.  I’m always impressed with the work that Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski do in this comic.

Starve #9Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj spend most of this issue on network television contract negotiations, but make it much more interesting than it seems.  In some ways, it feels like Starve is running out of steam a little, but I expect that the next issue, which is going to be the conclusion to the series, is going to contain some surprises.  

Star Wars #19 – The Rebel Jail arc comes to its close as we learn the identity of the man who has attacked Leia, and we learn the fate of Dr. Aphra, or at least, free her up to appear in Darth Vader’s book again.  I’ve liked this arc, but am ready for the next one.  I really enjoy Leinil Francis Yu’s artwork, but don’t think he’s the right artist for Star Wars, which is usually pretty shiny.

Tokyo Ghost #7 – We are well in the middle of Rick Remender’s storyline, and while this issue is gorgeous (thanks to Sean Murphy), it feels like more of the same as the last issue.  I enjoy this title, but am looking forward to the big revelations that Remender promises as coming over the next three issues.

The Totally Awesome Hulk #6The conclusion to the short storyline involving the Enchantress gives Amadeus the opportunity to be awesome, to work alongside the new Thor, and to begin to mend his relationship with his sister.  Mike Choi gives this issue a very light look that matches well with Greg Pak’s script.

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

Art Ops #8

Crossed Vol. 16

Deadpool #12

Death Follows TP

Dreaming Eagle #5

Extraordinary X-Men #10

Grayson #20

Lobster Johnson: Metal Monsters of Midtown #1

Mighty Thor #7

Mockingbird #3

Rachel Rising #42

Secret Six #14

Suiciders King of HelLA #3

Uncanny Inhumans #9

We Are Robin #12

Weirdworld #6

X-Men Worst X-Man Ever #4

The Week in Graphic Novels:

A Mad Tea-Party

by Jonathan Dalton

This is the second graphic novel I’ve read by Jonathan Dalton, a Vancouver-based cartoonist.  A Mad Tea-Party is a complex example of well-planned and executed science fiction comics, and I found that there was a lot more depth to the story than I originally suspected while reading the first chapter.

This story swirls around Connie and Matilda, two ‘Genies’, or gene-altered humans, among the first naturally born to the first generation Genies, who were used as soldiers in a war against an alien enemy.  The Genies now live in seclusion, untrusted and disliked by the rest of Japanese society.

Connie, like her parents, has an eidetic memory and is incredibly smart.  Teenage Matilda is pretty much a normal human, and therefore feels alienated from her family.  She ends up dating Jackson, a member of the New Youth Movement, a group of fascists who believe that Earth should remove all aliens living on it (Earth had been conquered by a different alien race, but was now independent again, if slightly more diverse than it was before).

When Matilda sneaks out to meet her boyfriend, Connie tags along secretly.  We learn that Jackson was actually under orders to kidnap Matilda, and the sisters escape in his flying car.  They meet an alien (who is actually from Brooklyn) who attempts to help them, but soon becomes a prisoner of the NYM himself, along with Connie.  While their parents mobilize their old friends to find their daughter, it’s actually Matilda who needs to figure out how to save the day.

Dalton’s put a lot of thought into this world, which is very rich.  In addition to the NYM, there is also the Maldivians, a group determined to wipe out national distinctions on the Earth, and to unite the human race.  Into this charged political atmosphere, Dalton includes frequent flashbacks to show just what the girls’ parents were up to during the war.

Dalton’s art is very nice.  He is very good at facial expressions, and has a nice consistent look to his world that is highly influenced by manga and anime.  I particularly like the whimsical touches he adds to this book, like the hates that are worn by all members of the New Youth Movement, including a pilgram-style buckled hat.

Dalton is an interesting cartoonist, and it’s well worth checking out his stuff.

Terror Assaulter: OMWOT (One Man War on Terror)

by Benjamin Marra

I think this might be one of the most pure comics I’ve ever read, at least in terms of what the artform has been for much of its existence.

Terror Assaulter: OMWOT follows our hero, the product of a secret US government organization (involving lizard men and ceremonial aprons) who have set him loose to stop terror in all of its forms.  Each of the first three chapters feature OMWOT coming across terrorists, fighting them, and then having sex with someone (not necessarily in that order).  The fourth chapter is different, but not terribly so – there’s just a lot more sex, and a lot less killing.

The set up and execution is kept very simple.  All of the characters speak in simple declarative sentences, which often explain what is happening in the panel.  “You grabbed my arm!”  “My c*** is in your mouth now.”  “We’re hijacking the airplane!” are all good examples of Marra’s dialogue.

In a lot of ways, this feels like the kind of comic a particularly horny twelve-year-old might write.  Terrorists attack because that’s what terrorists do.  People have sex after an action scene because that’s what action movies have taught up happens after action scenes.  Top-secret Terror Assaulters get to smoke on airplanes or in court because of course they can.

What sets this apart is Marra’s art.  It’s stiff and a little ugly, but he has a very complex understanding of the acrobatics of fight scenes that it is pretty amazing.  Marra only uses primary colours to shade this comic, and like every other thing that seems simple on the surface, it really shows a greater depth to the work.

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