The Weekly Round-Up #364 With A.D. After Death Book One, Bloodshot USA #2, Chew #60, Dept. H #8, Star Wars #25 & More

For a relatively small pile, this was a very expensive week.  I bought twenty-one comics, and here is how the prices broke down:

$2.99 – 7 (thank you DC and Image)

$3.99  – 7

$4.99  – 4

$5.99  – 3 (!!!!)

Best Comic of the Week:

A.D. After Death Book One – You would expect that a new series written by Scott Snyder and drawn/painted by Jeff Lemire would be impressive, but I was not ready for this book to be this impressive.  To begin with, it’s oversized, and very thick, with a lovely textured paperback cover stock.  The story is divided into a few different sections.  Most of the book is given over to Snyder’s prose, as the main character, Jonah, narrates some early childhood memories that centre around his mother’s illness, and how his uncertainty about the future sparked him to obsessively record details and observations about the family’s daily life.  The rest of the book is told in comics (of course), featuring Jonah’s current life, some hundreds of years into the future, when humanity has perched itself on top of a mountain, and everyone cycles into different jobs every fifty years or so (I guess everyone becomes immortal, giving the book’s title a different meaning that what I initially assumed).  We know that the area surrounding the town where everyone lives is pretty ominous looking, but aren’t given a whole lot of clues as to what has made things work this way.  There is one more section that leaves me puzzled, featuring Jonah fighting off some odd-looking alien stalk-legged things.  There are two more issues in this series, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how everything here connects, especially since Jonah believes that humanity’s current state is completely his fault, and I’d like to know how that came about.  This book is intriguing, and, in the typed narrative, incredibly sad but beautiful.  I don’t often care for Snyder’s work-for-hire writing, but I think this might be better than Wytches.  Lemire is, as always, brilliant.

Quick Takes:

Batgirl #5 – The first story arc concludes here, and while I’ve enjoyed it, by having Barbara travel throughout Asia in it, writer Hope Larson hasn’t given readers enough of a sense of what her run is going to be about long-term.  There’s yet another weird thing going on with Barbara’s memory (I find that stuff boring, to be honest), and I hope that doesn’t become a focus.  I’m also not sure who is taking over the art after Rafael Albuquerque, so while I know I’ll be getting the next issue, I’m still not sure about the one after that.

The Black Monday Murders #4 – In yet another very dense issue, Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker show us the history of the Rothschild twins, and give us a lot of insight into the dealings and goings-on of this family and their associates in Caina over the years.  I like the way that Hickman is combining high finance, magic, and a Game of Thrones kind of social order in this book that is steeped in the hidden history of the United States.  It’s a really great read.

Bloodshot USA #2 – Much of New York has been transformed into Bloodshot-zombies, and GATE is not able to stop them, which causes the military to get involved and make things a lot worse.  At the same time, Bloodshot and the other Bloodshots are working their way towards the city, with the hopes that they can fix everything.  With just about everyone in the book named or called Bloodshot, this could be more confusing than it is.

Captain Marvel #10 – I had high hopes for this, the third (I think) Captain Marvel series in the last bunch of years, but because of Civil War II, it really just fizzled out.  It turns out that the Canadian board member of Alpha Flight is really one of the team’s most persistent nemeses, and Carol has to fight him.  Later, I guess after CWII is over (?), Carol and Gyrich, and then Carol and Puck, have some soul-searching conversations that have to stay pretty nonspecific so they don’t spoil the end of the big event.  I’m done with this book.  I’m not that interested in the in-coming writers, and I feel like my interest in this character has waned to an all-time low.  Marvel is making it easy to control my pull-file list these days…

Chew #60 – John Layman and Rob Guillory bring their long-running title to a close with this oversized issue, and I’m left very satisfied.  I missed the first issue of Chew, but heard all the hype about the series and joined it with the second, and have never regretted that purchase.  This book about a USDA cop with the ability to absorb memories from the food he eats has sprawled into a lot of different places, becoming both a story about family connections and loyalty, and about cibopathic vampires, chicken-fearing religious cults, and space aliens.  Also hallucinogenic chogs.  With this final issue, set many years after the last, the beings behind the writing in the atmosphere finally arrive on an Earth that has changed a great deal in preparation for their coming.  This book has been consistently funny and frequently heartbreaking, and I think it will stand as one of the most noteworthy creator-owned books of all time.

Civil War II #7 – Really, this series has been an absolute mess.  In this issue, Ulysses gets a vision of the future wherein he interacts with Old Man Logan (with art by Andrea Sorrentino), while Miles Morales/Spider-Man and Steve Rogers/Captain America decide to have a chat in Washington in the very place where Miles is expected to kill Steve, because of course they would.  This in turn pushes Carol and Tony to fight once again, while all the other characters that have been populating this event are conspicuously absent (maybe because that will make it easier for David Marquez to get the book out quicker?).  I feel like, once again, Brian Michael Bendis started this event without a clear idea of how he wanted to end it, and so the story is sprawling and going nowhere at the same time.  Is the last issue the last one?  I don’t even know anymore.  Or much care.

Deathstroke #7 – Priest shifts things up some in this issue, as we see what Slade’s ex-wife has been up to, and learn that she’s been intimately involved in just about everything that’s happened in this title so far.  We also see more of what Slade’s kids are doing, and get a cameo by Superman.  My favourite DC book continues to be a challenging read, but I don’t mind that at all.

Dept. H #8 – I find that this title just keeps improving, as Matt Kindt delves deeper into the characters with each issue.  This time, as Mia is still stuck in a slowly flooding compartment, she hears the backstory of another character, one with a military past whose life was changed by a National Geographic article.  This series just keeps getting more and more dense, and more and more rewarding.

Detective Comics #945 – I love the way that John Tynion IV is exploring, through the character of Spoiler, the way in which Batman uses his younger associates.  This Victim Syndicate arc has been great, as has this whole book since Tynion took over (save the awful Monster Men arc).  There is a jarring combination of artists on this issue though, showing that maybe the biweekly schedule is going to be too hard to maintain, even with rotating artists on each arc.  

Empress #7 – The oversized conclusion to Mark Millar and Stuart Immonen’s space adventure hits all the right notes, and even leaves things open for a second volume somewhere down the road.  I really liked this title – it captured the same feeling of excitement (and dysfunctional family drama) of the first Star Wars trilogy, and introduced a few interesting new concepts.  I would definitely return for more of this.

The Goddamned #5 – Once again, a very good Jason Aaron book has been hurt by long delays between issues.  I think this title is very cool, but it’s been spread out too long to keep me all that interested.  I see that it’s going to return in 2017, and I hope that Aaron and RM Guera get enough issues in the can that it comes out more regularly.

Han Solo #5 – Things get a little mystical in the conclusion to this very good miniseries.  The Dragon Void Race nears its conclusion, with the Empire aggressively interfering, and Han having to make a choice between completing his mission and winning the race.  Mark Brooks’s art on this series is incredible, and the writing is consistently decent (even if I got a little lost as to the purpose of things towards the end here).  Non-Force based mysticism feels weird in a Star Wars comic.

Nightwing #9 – This is a strange interlude of an issue, with a guest appearance by Superman and a journey into Dick’s dreams that doesn’t do much more than try to shoehorn a connection between the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Nightwing that I don’t really remember existing.  It also sets up the upcoming Blüdhaven arc, but kind of weakly.  Is this book not going to work as well without Raptor in it?  

Ninjak #21 – We finally get to the end of this strange arc that has had Future Ninjak fighting alongside the Eternal Warrior to rescue his present self from a Deadside parasite.  I’m not too sure I like where Matt Kindt has been taking this title lately; I’ll give him one more arc to convince me that there’s a bigger picture I’m just not seeing.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #23 – This title just keeps moving along, as Kyle finally finds himself in a position to act against the possessed, and to make a rash decision.  We are promised a lot of revelations in the upcoming 25th issue, and I’m looking forward to getting an appreciation of the big picture.  This book stays exciting, and has been built up masterfully.

Rom #5 – Now that Revolution is over, the writers give Rom a quieter issue to figure out how he’s going to proceed with his mission, what he’s going to do about his friend who has been infected with a Wraith virus (or something – she’s turning into a Wraith), and to give us a few more glimpses of the two Spaceknights who have arrived on the Earth.  I am enjoying this title, and it’s making want to dig out my collection of classic Marvel Rom for one of my future retro-review columns.

Star Wars #25 – I’ve really liked this latest arc, which has been operating on a scale more similar to the movies, as the Rebels have stolen a Star Destroyer and are trying to use it to break the blockade of a planet.  This oversized conclusion (excepting the cartoonish backup story that I didn’t need to pay an extra dollar for) has a lot of exciting moments, and works on the growing relationship between Han and Leia.  It also makes clear that we have not seen the last of Scar Squadron, the elite group of Stormtroopers.

Thief of Thieves #37 – Andy Diggle finishes his run with this issue, and leaves Conrad in one hell of a bad place.  This latest arc, which has focused on Conrad and two other thieves breaking into a converted nuclear missile silo, has been one of the most exciting of the series, and one that has jettisoned all of Conrad’s earlier familial baggage, making it more of an adventure film style story.  I don’t know what the plan is for this book from here, but after this last page, I’m not even sure that Conrad will be in it anymore.  I’ll miss Diggle on this, and hope he’s going on to something cool that I will want to read.

Ultimates^2 #1 – Al Ewing gets yet another relaunch, and uses it to try to return this team to its original concept; that huge cosmic problems need fixing before they become huge cosmic problems.  There is a lot of animosity between teammates though in the wake of Civil War II, and while the team was defunct, it seems that Galactus has different plans for everyone involved.  I’m not usually a huge fan of Travel Foreman’s art, but this issue looks much more burnished and polished than his usual work, and I think it works very well with the large scale ideas being presented here.  I hope that this is the series that finally gets the chance to spread its wings a little, and to avoid being drawn into every event Marvel publishes.

Wonder Woman #11 – Diana has returned home to Themyscira, but once again, we see that her memories are not to be trusted, and that there’s a lot of weirdness going on.  I still feel like my interest in this title is waning, but this is the most intriguing of odd-numbered issues so far, mostly because of the stuff going on with Etta Candy.  I still think this might be the first Rebirth title I end up dropping…

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

All-New X-Men Annual #1

Cage #2

Death of X #4

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #2

Harrow County #18

Hellboy and the BPRD 1954 – Unreasoning Beast #1

Mighty Thor #13

Snotgirl #4

Violent Love #1

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Noble Causes Vol. 6: Hidden Agendas – This volume of this terrific superhero family drama introduces the Noble’s opposite number, the Blackthorne family, who have been holding a massive grudge against our heroes ever since Race was responsible for their son’s death.  Now they’ve decided to gain their revenge by going after Race’s wife, but no one knows that Rusty’s ex-wife is sleeping with one of Blackthorne’s daughters.  I am glad that I’ve decided to go back and explore this series, as it’s very good.

Think Tank Vol. 1

Written by Matt Hawkins
Art by Rahsan Ekedal

I tend to stay away from Top Cow comics because of some bad experiences in the past, but had heard some good things about Think Tank and thought I should check it out.  This first volume of the series is pretty delightful.

David Loren is a scientist working for the US military.  He was recruited as a child prodigy, alongside his closest friend, and has basically spent his adolescence and early adulthood in a hidden lab, where he has worked to develop some serious next generation weapons.  As he’s gotten older, David has begun to feel the guilt of his complicity in mass death, and as such, has begun to rebel a little against the system.

After sneaking out to party, he meets a woman, and then decides that it’s time to retire from this job forever.  The problem is that the military doesn’t let people with his type of knowledge leave, nor are they too happy to learn that he shared some secrets with this young woman.  David has to use all of his skills to escape, and that leads to a pretty exciting sequence of events.

The tagline on the cover of this book says that reading it will “make you smarter”, and while I don’t know about that, I can say that Matt Hawkins displays a great deal of intelligence and thoughtful planning in writing this.  David is both a likeable and scorn-worthy character, and it’s a little hard to decide to what degree the reader should be on his side.  Rahsan Ekedal is a very skilled artist.  I loved his Echoes with Joshua Hale Fialkov, and am pleased to enjoy this stuff here.

I do have the second volume of this book in my to-read pile, and am looking forward to it, but at the same time, I feel like this volume closes things off perfectly, and that Hawkins could have easily finished the story here and it would all be fine.


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