The Weekly Round-Up #344 With The Walking Dead #156, Empress #4, Star Wars: Han Solo #2 & Poe Dameron #4, Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #16 & More!

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Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #156I did not see the end of this comic coming, although I think I can say that about a lot of key issues of this series.  The focus is entirely on Negan this month, which is really rare in this series, as he starts to acclimate himself to life among the Whisperers, and as he ingratiates himself with Alpha.  I feel like Robert Kirkman is doing some very interesting things with Negan in this story arc; he’s not being portrayed as the callous sociopath we’ve come to hate, but instead appears to have his own moral code that he lives under.  This was another solid issue of this wonderful series, even if we didn’t get a chance to see any of our regular cast.

Quick Takes:

Batman #2 – This issue seemed to be over pretty quickly.  Tom King is still setting things up for his run, and he’s playing a lot of things close to the vest.  After a scene with Solomon Grundy (is this proof that the Justice Society is on its way back?), Batman decides to introduce Gotham and Gotham Girl to Commissioner Gordon, who makes quips that suggest he didn’t just spend most of a year being Batman.  Hugo Strange is back.  Something to do with monsters is coming (I think that’s the gist of the upcoming crossover), and here we are three issues into King’s tenure, and nothing like a story arc is shaping up yet, but he’s also not exactly working with the done-in-one style of storytelling either.  I trust King a lot (see below), but am feeling increasingly underwhelmed with his Batman so far.  Maybe once David Finch cycles off the title, things will improve?

Black Science #22Grant is off to rescue his companions, but didn’t really plan on the fact that perhaps his daughter doesn’t want to be saved.  It seems that Pia has done well for herself on a world where she is practically worshipped, but of course, within minutes of arriving there, her father pretty much wrecks everything.  This is a more comedic issue of Black Science than we’ve seen before, but it still packs a bite.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #11 – My biggest issue with Civil War II so far is that I don’t really understand the root of Tony Stark’s objections to Ulysses’s powers.  He tries to explain it in this issue as basically being a version of profiling, but like, if you are profiling Thanos, I don’t see the problem with that.  I like how Nick Spencer is trying to tie it to the issue with the Americops, which in turn connects with an actual real-world issue (RIP Alton Sterling and Philando Castile), but I’m still not convinced.  Were the story taking things more into the Minority Report territory, where Ulysses or Captain Marvel were advocating locking people up before they committed a crime, I think it would be more clear.  Beyond that, I like the way Spencer continues to make use of the strong supporting cast in this series, and keeps it separate from what’s going on in the Steve Rogers series.  Bringing back characters like Rage (and making good use of him for once) and USAgent makes me happy.  I’d just like to know if this is John Walker, or someone else in the uniform, since the last we saw Walker, he was pretty crippled.

Empress #4I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to see that this title owes a great deal to Black Science, as well as its more obvious points of reference.  In this issue, our heroes believe themselves to be trapped on a dead planet, but they are set upon by scavengers who wish to sell the children as slaves.  The adults are split, and the action never lets up for a second.  If you told me that Rick Remender was writing this book instead of Mark Millar, I would believe you.

The Fix #4 – I almost referred to this book as a guilty pleasure, but really, there’s nothing to feel guilty about, since everyone in this comic is guilty of something, which absolves me of the need.  The focus this month is on Mac, who is struggling to bond with his new (canine) partner, at least until a rather funny scene with a smuggler in the airport.  Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber keep this book moving pretty quickly, and are infusing some pretty dark stuff with the last page.

The Fuse #19It’s time for a new arc of The Fuse, which means it’s time for yet another complicated mystery, this time around a body is discovered in a zero-g baseball stadium, by Klem and her friends while they are out celebrating her retirement.  Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood have crafted a very compelling science fiction police procedural series with this comic, which, while focusing on a single case each arc, is also telling a much larger story about separatist terrorists on the space station, which looks like it will involve new detective Dietrich.  I absolutely love how involved and realistic this series is; I think it’s one of the smartest comics on the stands.

Han Solo #2 – The Dragon Void race turns out to be a lot more than Han bargained for, with a fair amount of chaos launching this issue, before the inevitable appearance of some Imperials.  Mark Brooks’s work on this comic is phenomenal.  He has a great sense of the established characters, but also does Star Wars tech and space scenes justice, which is not always the case.  I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of this series.

Invincible Iron Man #11Brian Michael Bendis more or less wraps up the undercover storyline, but not well.  It’s a little like he didn’t know how much time and space he’d have before Civil War II necessitated a bunch of crossover issues, and I can understand that happening, except he’s writing both titles, and so should be better able to pace himself.  It’s nice to see Tony and Rhodey hang out a little, and to see that there was at least some point to bringing Mary Jane Watson into the book.

Moon Knight #4 – Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood take Moon Knight into more familiar territory, as his friends begin to regain their memories, and our hero’s journey takes him to a gigantic pyramid in Manhattan.  I’ve been enjoying this rather curious take on the character’s mental illness, but I’m ready for the conclusion next issue.

Paper Girls #7 – As much as I enjoyed the first arc of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls, I am much more enamored of this arc, which has the girls from 1988 in our time, trying to find a missing friend, while weird time stuff happens around them.  The central character and her older self go searching together, and it leads to a really affecting conversation, which makes me wonder what my younger self would think about choices I’ve made.  Vaughan taps into some pretty primal emotions here, and Chiang (and colourist Matt Wilson) make them work beautifully.

Poe Dameron #4Just like in the Force Awakens movie, we know that Poe Dameron is the greatest because he tells us this, not because it’s actually shown.  I like what Charles Soule is trying to do with this comic – using the quest for some dude with knowledge of Luke Skywalker to slowly flesh out the TFW universe, but I’m consistently stymied by the fact that Poe seems like the least interesting character in this comic.  This issue takes him and his squad to a prison modeled on the ones in Central America, to meet with a Hutt, but he discovers he’s not the only person on this trail.  Phil Noto’s work keeps this comic very nice looking, and that keeps it safely on my pull-file list.

Renato Jones: The One% #3 – After having used the first two issues to establish the mood and backstory to this series, Kaare Andrews slows down a little and begins working out a longer plotline this month, as Renato continues his mission, but draws the attention of some opposition.  Andrews opens this issue with a sequence that reminds me a lot of Sin City, and continues to use this book to showcase his ambitious approach to art.  I’m enjoying this title a great deal.

Revival #41 – General Cale is not having a good day, as Rhodey’s break-out of the Revivers, coinciding with a failed attempt to assassinate Dana and Martha, as well as a massacre at a protest sight.  Apparently there aren’t many issues left in this ‘rural noir’ series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Tim Seeley and Mike Norton are going to wrap things up, while also sad that I won’t be getting regular doses of this comic.

Sheriff of Babylon #8As expected, this is another very strong issue of this very good series.  Tom King finally brings all of the main characters closer together, as Sofia arranges for Nassir to be freed, but is using him as a gambit in a bigger game.  We learn how Sofia and Nassir are connected (and it runs a lot deeper than expected), and are shown once again just how precarious life in Baghdad was (is, if you watch the news this week).  Tom King’s work on this book is stupendous, and I really like Mitch Gerads’s art here.  There are four pages of nine panel grids showing Sofia on her cellphone, and it’s incredibly effective.

Spider-Woman #9 – If you can look past the requisite Civil War II stuff, there’s a story in here about Jessica and Roger fighting Wendigos in Canada, which makes me very happy.  I like how Dennis Hopeless finds a reasonable reason for Jessica to get involved in the CWII morass, as Carol wants her to investigate Ulysses’s predictions, to figure out if he really is the real deal.  I hope there is some coordination going on with this event though, because I imagine all of this is going to be overlooked in the main event series.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #16For a number of issues now, David Lapham has had his main characters prepare for and carry out a heist at a strip club which doubles as the base of a small drug kingpin.  The time leading up to the heist, and the heist itself, was basically a string of errors and screw-ups.  Now, Orson, Beth, Nina, and Kretchmeyer are on the run, and things just keep getting worse, from finding Joey in the trunk, to hiding out in a run down motel where a nosey guy works.  This is a very funny comic, but at the same time a very dark one.  I actually think that Lapham has gotten more twisted the older he gets.  It’s brilliant.

Tokyo Ghost #8 – Ned and Debbie face off in this very dark issue.  I think there are only two issues of this series left, which makes sense, because Rick Remender is running through main characters pretty quickly.  Sean Murphy continues to do some great work on this comic, but it’s not really connecting with me the same way that Black Science, Low, and especially Deadly Class have.

Totally Awesome Hulk #8 – Reading this, I can’t help but think that Greg Pak is giving Bruce Banner one last quiet, happy moment, before something terrible happens to him in Civil War II next week.  This is a solid issue, with Rick Jones and She-Hulk hanging out with the Chos and Banner.  Now we’ll have to see what happens next…

The Woods #24Every issue up until this one has had a similar look to it, with the top fifth of the cover, where the logo lives, made up of a band of white.  When I saw that this issue had an almost completely black cover, I took it to be a very bad omen, and sure enough, writer James Tynion IV does away with a major character, as our main characters attempt to rescue their fellow students from the Horde.  This series has become a favourite of mine, and this issue really stands out, both in terms of story and art (Michael Dialynas is amazing!) as the second year of the title comes to a close.  I’m glad this book isn’t taking a long Image-style hiatus, because I’m excited to see what happens next.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #15

Baltimore: Empty Graves #4

Cinema Purgatorio #3

Civil War II: Kingpin #1

Civil War II: X-Men #2

Daredevil Punisher #3

Faith Vol. 1 TP

Punisher #3

Scarlet Witch #8

Silver Surfer #5

Throwaways #1

Bargain Comics:

A-Force #3This series is starting to come together better with this issue.  I don’t know how Captain Marvel has become the new Wolverine (being on two teams, and running a space station in her own book), but the central concept here is interesting.  The Singularity/Anti-Matter stuff is a little bit boring, but I guess is important to set up the storyline.

All-New Wolverine #3&4 – I wasn’t all that impressed with the first two issues of this series, but feel that with these two, it really started to find its groove.  Laura is desperately trying to save her clones from the company that made them and certain death, and that takes her to Dr. Strange for help.  David Lopez’s art, especially where the characters are concerned, is terrific throughout, and this title is making me start to like Laura more than I have before.

Amazing Spider-Man #10 – I’m liking this Zodiac storyline.  These are some cool villains that haven’t been used enough in their long history.  Dan Slott’s really hitting us across the face with proof that Doc Ock is living in the big robot.

Red Wolf #1-3I know that many in the comics industry are largely boycotting Nathan Edmondson for some pretty unacceptable, although as yet unnamed, behaviour, and I purposely didn’t buy these comics when they came out, instead picking them up at a store that was blowing out overstock, so my purchase did not affect Marvel’s bottom line.  All that said, these are decent comics.  Red Wolf is sent from 1872 to our time, where he ends up working with some small-town cops.  There are some funny fish out of water moments, and some incredible art by Dalibor Talajic.

Silk #1-4 – I don’t know why I don’t hear more about this comic; it’s really very good.  Robbie Thompson has made Cindy Moon a very likeable and sympathetic character, and keeps things moving in surprising directions.  The art is great, and I’m wondering why this book isn’t actually on my pull-file list.

Silver Surfer #1 – Here’s a completely unnecessary relaunch, as Dan Slott and Mike Allred just keep doing the exact same thing with the Surfer and his girlfriend Dawn.  This stuff is always good, largely because of Allred’s art, but at the same time, it blends into itself and feels overly familiar.

Weirdworld #2-5 – I don’t know why Mike Del Mundo is not considered one of the hottest artists out there yet; his work on this series is stupendous.  Storywise, there’s a lot lacking here, as I continue to be disappointed by anything Sam Humphries writes at Marvel (while still appreciating his earlier, self-published ventures as being of much better qualities).  The lack of higher-profile characters (Jennifer Kale is probably the most established Marvel property here) does not exactly hurt this book, my issues lie more with poor pacing and decompression.  Del Mundo, though, makes it all worth reading.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Noble Causes Vol. 2: Family SecretsI’m now finding myself fairly hooked on the problems of the Noble family, which this time around seem to focus on the identity of the father of the youngest member’s unborn child, as well as the identity of Frost’s father.  There are a couple of surprises here, in this entertaining, celebrity-fueled look at superheroing.  

Rachel Rising Vol. 5: Night Cometh – Terry Moore is really not writing this series in arcs at all, so when I pick up another trade, there is no expectation that it will tell anything like a complete story.  Still, once I’ve reminded myself what’s being going on, this title is always pretty entertaining.  Moore has a lot happening in this volume, but none of it is easy to explain or recap.  Instead, I’ll just mention how well he writes dialogue and interactions between his characters…

In Search of Charley Butters

by Zach Worton

I really enjoyed The Disappearance of Charley Butters a year ago, so I was looking forward to getting The Search for Charley Butters. Charley Butters was an obscure and unknown artist who went off to live alone in a shack in the woods in the 1960s and was never seen again.  Travis and his friends (I use that word loosely) discovered the cabin in the first book, and Travis became a little obsessed with Butters’s journals.

This book opens a year later, and Travis is not in a good place.  He was squeezed out of the documentary about Butters that his friend Stuart made, his girl left him, and he started spending way too much time drinking and venting to strangers.  Travis gets tossed out of a theatre screening the documentary, and his boss forces him to take a short vacation to pull himself together.

Travis creates a scene on Stuart’s doorstep, and then heads back to Butters’s cabin, where he discovers a few other things about the artist, and finds himself a little refreshed.

This is very much a middle book.  It advances the plot without introducing much in the way of new story elements, instead focusing on Travis’s general disintegration.  Travis is not a likeable character, but Worton’s storytelling is compelling, and you find yourself rooting for him a little.  Most interesting is the mystery of what happened to Butters, and who is still living in those woods.

Here’s hoping that the next volume will be out at next year’s TCAF.

What would you like to know?