The Weekly Round-Up #358 With Star Wars: Darth Vader #25, Black Science #25, Lazarus #25, Reborn #1, Sheriff of Babylon #11, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #12 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Darth Vader #25 – From the beginning, I’ve enjoyed Darth Vader’s solo series more than I have any of the other Star Wars books since Marvel started publishing them.  The character of Vader himself does not really warrant having his own book – he’s not one given to internal monologue, and is much more effective as an unknowable villain.  That said, by taking the usual Star Wars tropes (ballsy adventurer, funny droids) and twisting them into the supporting cast of Dr. Aphra, Triple-Zero, and BeeTee, Kieron Gillen made this a memorable and enjoyable comic.  He situated the title well, showing the natural consequences for Vader of his failure to protect the Death Star in the first movie, but also worked to reestablish him in the Emperor’s favour before the events of the second movie.  Salvador Larroca is always remarkable in his speed and consistency, and this title was no different.  Like his work or not, you have to respect the professionalism of Larroca, which is almost completely unmatched in this day and age.  This last issue wraps up all of the plotlines that Gillen started, as Aphra meets the Emperor, and has to face the consequences of that, and Vader has his final showdown with his rival Cylo.  There’s also a backup with art by the phenomenal Max Fiumara which explores the aftermath of Vader’s visit to a village of Tusken raiders a ways back.  I’d thought that this issue would announce Gillen’s next Star Wars series in it, and remain hopeful that we’ll be seeing Dr. Aphra again, as she is a great character.

Quick Takes:

The Black Monday Murders #3 – Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker continue to give us a very oversized (and, at $5, one could argue overpriced) look at the dark, mystical side of big finance.  This issue skips a historical vignette, which is how the previous two issues began, and instead spends much of the book in a police interrogation room, while our detective works to get into the head of the banker he’s had arrested.  To save Coker drawing pages of talking heads, there are more than a few pages which are simply typed transcripts of conversations, which in a shorter comic would drive me nuts, but which is completely acceptable in a denser title like this one.  Hickman definitely has me entertained with this book, but I hope that he doesn’t fall into some of the easy clichés I see appearing down the road.

Black Science #25 – Once again, Grant’s in trouble, but now he’s home and locked in an asylum while his former boss messes around with the Pillar, and his rival lives with his wife.  This book takes a lot of turns, and that’s something that I always enjoy about it.  

Brigg’s Land #3 – As Grace Briggs continues to consolidate her hold on her family’s secessionist compound, she has to find the man who has tried to kill her.  Her plan gets mucked up by the unexpected arrival of the two undercover agents investigating her family.  I like the way Brian Wood is taking his time building up Grace’s character, using flashbacks to earlier days in the community to help explain how her character thinks and operates.  This is a solid title.

Daredevil #12 – Charles Soule writes both Daredevil and Uncanny Inhumans, so it makes sense that these two books would end up interacting with each other (although thankfully not in a cross-over).  I like Soule’s Inhumans work, but not enough to buy the title regularly.  Daredevil is much more to my liking, and while those two worlds don’t easily overlap, Soule works some of his usual magic here as New Attilan takes an interest in The Muse’s latest artwork, one that involves a tableau of murdered Inhumans.  DD takes a visit to New Attilan to ask for Medusa’s help, but is rebuffed, which leads to an excellent fight with Karnak.  My favourite of the new Inhumans so far is McGee, the former NYPD detective, who is used to very good effect here.  

Deathstroke #4 – Slade and Rose head to Gotham, and we get to sit back and really enjoy the meticulous attention to planning and detail that comes with a Christopher Priest comic.  Slade wants to meet with Batman, however briefly, and his way of making that happen is incredibly complex but also logical.  We also get a lot more insight into Slade’s character through the eyes of his daughter, and that makes this book even more interesting.  I love seeing Priest reunited with Joe Bennett on this title, as it looks as good as it reads.  This is my favourite Rebirth title by a mile.

Detective Comics #942 – I’m happy to see the end of the Night of the Monster Men, as this crossover event has made me think about dropping the three series that it ran across.  The event was showrun by Steve Orlando, in the first book of his that I didn’t enjoy.  This makes me wonder what to do about the Justice League of America series that has just been announced, as I would like to think it will be better than this storyline was.  Anyway, this is the best issue in the event, but also the weakest issue of Detective since Rebirth started.  I look forward to the focus of this book going back on the regular characters of this series.

Doom Patrol #2 – Okay, I didn’t like the first issue of the flagship Young Animal book.  I liked this issue better, as we got to see some of the actual Doom Patrol interact with one another, but I still come away from this issue thinking that Gerard Way’s writing is just a little too precious, with a desire to be ‘weird for weird’s sake’, and I continue to not really care about any of the characters or their situation.  Cliff gets put back together, and then some random name- and motivation-less bad guys come to get him.  Casey gets suspended, and then meets Flex Mentallo (I do give points to Way for including him), but it’s all whatever.  There’s nothing that binds many of the scenes together.  If this were a $3 book, like the DC Rebirth titles, I might have given it an arc to impress me, but I think I’m done here.  It’s too bad, because I love Nick Derrington’s art.  This might get better later on, and I might check out the trades one day, but for now, I’m just not interested.

The Fix #6 – Nick Spencer’s dirty cop comedy title continues chugging along, as we learn that Roy has another side business, selling celebrity belongings purloined from crime scenes, for which he employs a meth-head.  This book really enjoys wallowing in its own filth, and that’s just what we get some more of this month.  It doesn’t get boring.

The Fuse #22 – Dietrich has been caught consorting with a terrorist, as the latest murder case on The Fuse gets steadily more complicated.  Antony Johnston’s excellent science fiction police procedural becomes ever more impressive, and we get closer to learning the secrets that underpin this whole series.

Han Solo #4 – Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks have really captured much of what makes Star Wars work with this miniseries.  Han learns about the history of the Dragon Void Race, and comes close to completing his mission for the Rebellion, except that it seems the Empire has figured out what’s going on, and are looking to stop him.  Brooks’s art is incredible here, and the story stays exciting from the first page.

Jupiter’s Legacy 2 #4 – The penultimate issue of this series turns things on its head, as our heroes (who are mostly villains) are discovered by the villains (who used to be heroes) just before they are able to get their plan in motion.  There’s lots of glorious Frank Quitely action here, and some pretty big scenes taking place.

Kill or Be Killed #3 – We reach the point where Dylan, instead of being completely freaked out about his new life, wherein he has to kill someone each month on behalf of the demon that saved his life, begins to embrace things, although still reluctantly.  Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips give most of this issue over to Dylan finally getting some time with his best friend Kira, although they don’t really resolve the fact that she keeps making out with him despite dating his roommate.  This book is, like all Brubaker/Phillips titles, impressive and very very good.

Lazarus #25 – In this issue, Forever discovers the truth about every aspect of her life, and while she recognizes that her ‘sister’ Johanna is working her own angle here, it’s not clear yet just what that is, and how Forever is going to handle it.  This all takes place as Carlyle’s allies continue to rout their enemies.  I love the work that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark have done with this book, and love seeing how seeds planted two years ago are now beginning to bear fruit.  This is consistently one of my favourite books.

Letter 44 #28 – After the big cliffhanger ending of the last issue, of course Charles Soule is going to back things up, and show us how Manesh and Kyoko came to join the crew of the Clarke, and just how manipulative the government was in order to get what they wanted.  It’s felt lately like Letter 44 is building up to its big finish, but I appreciate that Soule is continuing to fill in backstory and develop these characters in new ways, making me think that there might be more life left in the series.

Moon Knight #7 – The art in this issue is shared between James Stokoe and Francesco Francavilla, with them often alternating panels on the same page.  That’s enough, isn’t it?  Who really cares what happens in a book with these two powerhouses attached to it.  Still, Jeff Lemire’s very odd storyline is gripping, as Stokoe shows us a gigantic battle in space against Space Wolves who are out to destroy the last living humans who are living on the moon, while Francavilla gives us a look at the perils of driving a cab in dirty New York.  I really love the eclecticism of this series.

New Super-Man #4 – Gene Luen Yang’s writing in this series makes it one of the best of the Rebirth titles.  In this issue, after stopping the Freedom Fighters, the Justice League of China is surprised to participate in their first interview with the media, while Kenan finally learns how there could be major consequences to his being so open about his identity.  I feel like this is one of the least decompressed comics on the stands these days, and am really beginning to like this slightly unlikeable character.  Making Kenan a bully and a bit of a moron, instead of a more traditional upstanding citizen is just one of the ways in which Luen is subverting decades of superhero comics with this title.

Old Man Logan #12 – As beautiful as this title is, thanks to the artwork of Andrea Sorrentino, it’s beginning to drag, as each issue has very little happening in it.  Logan is at the mercy of the Silent Monk, who likes to telekinetically lift and drop him for the whole issue, and it looks like the only help he has is Lady Deathstrike.  I’d like more from this book.

Power Man & Iron Fist #9 – We’re moving towards the end of the CWII tie-ins, thankfully, and David Walker has some fun with the idea of Captain Marvel causing the prison break she had come to stop, as Luke gets tossed through the prison walls.  I’m glad to see the end of this arc, although we still need to find out what’s been going on with the guys who are hunting retired and/or reformed villains.  I like this title, but my interest has waned during the tie-in storyline.  Will it get rekindled next issue?  If not, I’m gone.

Reborn #1 – Mark Millar’s work always feels like it’s ready for the movie adaptation, and that continues to hold true for his newest series, Reborn.  An old lady passes away, and finds herself ‘reborn’ in a completely different fantasy world.  What Millar excels at is introducing and quickly getting us to care about a character, and that’s the case here.  I’m not a huge Greg Capullo fan (except for his classic run on Quasar), but I think his cartoonish style works with an over-the-top story like this.

Resident Alien: The Man With No Name #2 – A fire in town turns out to have happened in an illegal drug lab, and now Doc Harry, the titular alien, is involved in yet another mystery when a drifter dies.  Peter Hogan takes his time with this story, as various townsfolk react to events, and as Harry meets Asta’s father, who knows more about him than he would have suspected.  As always, Resident Alien is a great read, and a particularly unique comic.

Sex #32 – Things continue to pick up speed as Cooke meets with the representatives of the secret organization that has invited him to join, the Breaks get ready to ‘get political’ as Keenan puts it, and the Ras Al Ghul character steps into the spotlight.  Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s excellent Batman-esque series has lasted longer than I’d expected it to, and has never bored me.  This is a very good title.

Sheriff of Babylon #11 – With one issue left to go, Tom King starts to pull a lot of things together.  We learn what happened to Ali, the police trainee whose death started this whole plotline, while Sofiya’s meeting with Abu Rahim takes a dark turn, and we begin to question if the terrorist threat we’ve been worrying about was fully manufactured by someone.  This is a very brilliant comic – it’s thoughtful and fully realized.  The next month will feature the conclusion of both this title and King’s incredible Vision series, and his Batman has not been enough of a replacement for me.

Southern Cross #8 – Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger have turned this series on its ear with this new arc, now setting the book on Titan.  Last issue focused on the guy running the Romulus mining rig, but that issue ended with his murder, and we discovered that it was his older assistant who was really narrating things.  Now, she’s trying to figure out what happened to the Southern Cross, why there’s a Russian mafia guy on her station, and is dealing with a demotion as the head of security takes over.  This is a pretty complicated story, and that’s before I even mention the ghostly naked woman who keeps showing up.  Belanger’s art and design in this book is amazing.  I’m really enjoying it.

Wonder Woman #8 – I’m going to assume that Nicola Scott needed some time to catch up on this title, because I don’t really otherwise understand why this whole issue would be given over to Barbara Ann Minerva’s earlier career, not including the time when she became the Cheetah.  Bilquis Evely did a great job as a guest artist; I’d be more than happy to see her take over for Scott so that she and Greg Rucka can get back to their excellent Black Magick series.

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #12 – Gilad is searching for his son in the hellscape he has to escape every time he returns from the dead, and this results in his being captured by Humongus, the demon he has always gotten the better of before.  The thing is, Humongous doesn’t have Kalam, but is willing to work with Gilad.  This whole afterlife aspect is an interesting addition to the character, but really, it looks like Robert Venditti and Robert Gill are most interested in using it to set up some chaos.  I’m sad to see that this title is ending soon, but I figure that the remaining issues will stay interesting.

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

All-Star Batman #3

American Vampire Anthology #2

Black Eyed Kids Vol. 1

Britannia #2

Cinema Purgatorio #6

Civil War II Ulysses #3

Clone Conspiracy #1

Howard the Duck #11

Sons of the Devil Vol. 2

Uncanny Avengers #15

Bargain Comics:

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1 – I feel like this might be one of the more solid CWII tie-ins, as Spidey, wanting to figure out where he stands on the whole Ulysses issue, spends a night hanging out with him, and stopping a murder.  Christos Gage is, like Kieron Gillen and Charles Soule, one of those rare writers who can make any stupid editorial mandate actually work.

Civil War II: Choosing Sides #1&2 – I know better than to fall for these anthology event books, but with names like Declan Shalvey, Marco Rudy, and Marguerite Sauvage, how could I say no?  It’s exactly what you’d expect, only with Nick Fury Jr. posing as Moon Knight, so worth picking up cheaply.

Guardians of the Galaxy #9&10 – So the whole long Badoon prison planet arc, which has had the team split into pairs for entire issues, was about rescuing Angela?  Like the Inhumans, I don’t know why Marvel doesn’t understand that people don’t care all that much about Angela.  I would think that two failed ongoing series would have sent that message by now.  Anyway, I actually think I enjoyed these two issues more than any others from this run, but I do think that the Guardians book would be a lot better were it not being written by Brian Michael Bendis.  His Kitty Pryde, who happily murders alien heads of state in these issues, is not the Kitty Pryde I know and love.  I was also disappointed to see that the cosmic powers granted by the Black Vortex in that awful mini-event fade away.  Gamora gets back to normal, and I suppose that explains why Kitty’s not cosmic anymore, but it doesn’t account for Groot still looking stupid (or the same for Angel in All-New X-Men).

Uncanny Avengers #7-11 – This series is picking up, aside from the Standoff stuff, but still feels like a very mashed-up team book.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense to put some of these characters together, and many of the lineup are given next to no space in the limelight.  It’s also strange to think of a team where Captain America, Cable, and Rogue seem to be deferring to Deadpool frequently.  Anyway, I think that Hank Pym and/or Ultron have been brought back too quickly, but am curious enough to read more issues.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Battlepug Vol. 2 – These Battlepug stories are cute and entertaining, but I can’t imagine spending $15 for a book that is read this quickly.  I don’t actually have anything more to say about this.

HenshinHenshin is a collection of thirteen short stories by the very talented cartoonist Ken Niimura, who first came to my attention with the heartbreakingly excellent I Kill Giants.  This book, presented in a traditional (if oversized) manga format, shows a variety of aspects of Niimura’s interests.  He tells capable monster stories, but excels at stories about himself, pining for a cat.  There are a couple of stories that feature recurring characters, such as the bookend tales about a girl who has come to live with her aunt and uncle to avoid bullying at high school, without realizing that her uncle is a criminal.  I liked this book a lot, and recommend it.