The Weekly Round-Up #368 With 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #3, Bloodshot USA #3, Divinity III #1, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #2 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3 – It’s clichéd to say that a comic made me laugh out loud, but this comic did just that on a number of occasions.  Paige leads her friends into some strange territory, as she decides that the best way to keep her father from having to help his criminal friends rob a bank is to rob the bank herself first.  This leads to a series of odd events, involving a bank tour, truth serum, stolen headgear, and a car chase scene.  This book, by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss is both hilarious and beautifully put together.  I think it’s easily the best title that Black Mask Comics have ever published, and I find that I love all the characters in it.  Great stuff here.

Quick Takes:

Batman #13 – Any questions about why Batman picked the people that he did to form his little version of the Suicide Squad get answered this issue, as he pulls the trigger on his plan to get the Psycho-Pirate back from Bane.  It’s a very good issue, although not as strong as the previous one.  This I Am Suicide arc has given me a lot of hope that Tom King’s run will live up to my expectations, even when the first two arcs were slight disappointments.  

Black Hammer #6 – This excellent series from Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston explores Madame Dragonfly, the final member of the cast to receive much attention.  She’s a different character from the rest, being not as strongly based on a Silver Age character (Madame Xanadu being perhaps the closest analog).  Like always with this series, there some stuff at the end that I didn’t see coming that feels a lot more dark than I’d expected.  There’s an annual coming up next month, and then I think the book might be on a bit of a hiatus (it wasn’t in the latest Previews).  I hope it’s back soon, as it’s one of my favourite new books of 2016.

Black Panther: World of Wakanda #2 – This look at the development of the relationship between Aneka and Ayo continues, as we see a lot more of what happened in Wakanda following AVX and Infinity (when Jonathan Hickman was in charge of things).  I like the way that Roxane Gay is writing this series, building these characters and fitting them seamlessly into Wakanda’s history.  I’m impressed with this book, and most especially with Alitha Martinez’s artwork.

Bloodshot USA #3 – Ray and Kay become children in their shared mindscape as the Deathmate programming chases them around, while the real New York is overrun by Bloodshots created by Project Rising Spirit as part of their long-term plan.  Really, I was enjoying Bloodshot Reborn a lot more than I am this miniseries.  There’s nothing wrong with Jeff Lemire’s writing, nor Doug Braithwaite’s art, but I’m just getting a little bored with this storyline, which is trying too hard to be an event.  I think when it’s over, the Bloodshot property is getting a bit of a rest, and I think that’s a good idea.

Briggs Land #5 – Reading this, I can’t help but think that this comic could also be called Trump’s America, and I can’t help but read it as a primer to the next four years.  Since Caleb Briggs wasn’t able to take over the local hardware store on his own, he calls in a group of neo-Nazis to help, although that might not turn out to have been the smartest decision he could have made.  Brian Wood’s writing here is very sharp, and like I said, incredibly timely.  This is a very good series.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #16 – Misty Knight takes the spotlight this issue (and even takes the shield out for a spin) when she discovers that someone is making sex videos featuring a variety of female villains, although the women are not willing participants.  I love the work that Nick Spencer is doing with this title, and feel like it is a hundred times more vibrant than his work on the Steve Rogers sister-title.  I don’t really get that, or why this title has lower sales, but am happy to support this book for as long as Spencer is on it.

Dad’s Weekend – This one-off comic by Pete Toms caught my eye this week, reminding me a little of Optic Nerve in terms of its design.  The main character, a teenage girl, has to go stay with her father for a weekend.  He has fallen into conspiracy theories and runs his own little club to investigate them, and in now time, has his daughter travelling with him to look for his best friend.  When he decides to toss a cup full of hot tea in the friend’s wife’s face, things start to get weirder and weirder.  Toms is an interesting cartoonist, and he captures the way that the Internet is changing human speech very well.  I enjoyed this book, and am going to be keeping an eye out for more of his work.

Dept. H #9 – As with the last few issues, this one focuses on the back story of one of the supporting characters, Q, as we learn about his issues with one of the other crew members.  All of this is told against the backdrop of the continued multi-system failings of the underwater station.  I continue to get a lot of enjoyment out of Matt Kindt’s latest series.  It’s very good.

Divinity III #1 – Valiant is going back down the Divinity well one more time, as Colin King (aka Ninjak) appears to be the only person who remembers that the Soviet Union didn’t actually control pretty much the entire planet.  This issue is used to introduce Soviet versions of many mainstay Valiant characters, and while it’s pretty, I find myself less interested than I was in the first Divinity mini.

Doctor Aphra #2 – Now that the series has been set up, it’s time for Aphra to get blackmailed into helping her father try to solve an old archeological secret that involves an ancient sect of Jedi or something, and which might put the crew back on course to run into the Empire.  Kieron Gillen is playing this series more for laughs than he did his Darth Vader run (not really a surprise that Vader’s not easily a funny book), and Kev Walker is a good choice to support his efforts.  I like seeing Marvel make new contributions to the Star Wars universe like this.

Doctor Strange #15 – Since Jason Aaron is writing this title, we all knew it was just a matter of time before the Orb would show up.  Aaron might be the only person who remembers the Original Sin event, so this is the Uatu-powered Orb, who wants to drag Strange around while he watches (and sometimes nudges along) some mayhem.  There are a lot of other people after the Doctor though, so a lot happens here.  Regular artist Chris Bachalo is joined by Jorge Fornés, with the end result being a very inconsistent-looking issue, which is too bad.

Ether #2 – Matt Kindt and David Rubín’s new Dark Horse series looks like it’s targeted at younger audiences, but there’s a real darkness to it.  The main character is a scientist from Earth who travels to the strange cartoonish world of the Ether, ostensibly to perform research, but we’ve learned that he’s unemployed and homeless on our world.  As he continues to investigate the murder of the Blaze, the Ether’s greatest hero, things get a little weird.  I really like Rubín’s European-styled artwork, and think it works wonderfully for this title.

The Fix #7 – Mac and his partner, Pretzels the dog, get the spotlight this issue, as they cement their bond with one another, just in time to have it tested by Mac’s criminal ties.  This issue is not quite as wild as other issues, and will probably really anger some dog lovers, but it is pretty enjoyable in the final analysis.  

Horizon #6 – The first arc ends with a big fight scene, and we start to see the depth of the division in the ranks of the four aliens who have come to Earth to stop our planet from taking over or destroying theirs.  I remain very interested in this book, and while I think that Brandon Thomas and Juan Gedeon could often be clearer in their storytelling, they’ve kept me interested enough to finally decide to add this book to my pull-file list.  I’m pleased that they aren’t taking a hiatus before the next arc, as I think it will help this title maintain its momentum.

Nightwing #11 – Tim Seeley is taking an interesting approach to Dick’s time in Blüdhaven, as he comes across a support group full of former D-List villains who are trying to make a new life for themselves (by moving to a crime-filled city, when perhaps a small town would have made more sense).  He comes across a mystery, of course, and it has my attention.  I still wish Raptor was still around, but I think that Seeley is managing to keep my interests without him, since I rarely find Dick to be the most interesting character.  He is likeable though, and I’m very happy with Marcus To’s art on this book.

Occupy Avengers #2 – In light of everything that has been happening at Standing Rock, this issue feels very topical, as Hawkeye and Red Wing face off against people who are tapping resources on an impoverished reservation.  Hydro Man is involved, so David Walker is able to slip some sharp political commentary into a pretty standard-looking issue of superhero stuff.  This is an odd little title for Marvel to publish, but I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Southern Cross #10 – Things are getting a little stranger in this series as Kyril and Hazel get their hands on another alien artifact, and weird stuff (such as a corpse reanimating) starts to happen because of it.  As always, Andy Belanger’s designs and pencils are fantastic in this book.  This is also the best thing that Becky Cloonan has ever written.

The Ultimates^2 #2 – Al Ewing is continuing to explore the ramifications of Secret Wars in this series, as Galactus faces a trial presided over by the Living Tribunal, and the rest of the team deals with the ghost of a powerful being that is haunting Galactus’s massive vessel.  I find Ewing’s approach to this newest series interesting, and am enjoying Travel Foreman’s art (see below).  There’s not quite enough space given over to character development this issue, and what I’d really like to see is a lot more Monica Rambeau, but this is still a good book.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #22

Cage #3

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #3

Dark Horse Presents #29

Dead Inside #1

Harbinger Renegade #2

Invincible Iron Man #2

Lucifer #13 (Marco Rudy?)

Silver Surfer #8

Squadron Supreme #14

Star-Lord #1

Superman #13

Thanos #2

Uncanny X-Men #16

Bargain Comics:

The Accused #1 – Marc Guggenheim weirdly uses this one-shot that follows Matt Murdock through Clint Barton’s expedited trial to reintroduce the idea of the Superhuman Registration Act, which got mentioned nowhere else during Civil War II.  It’s an odd idea, although it is used effectively to explain why Clint’s trial is important.  Still, this is largely an example of just how disorganized and random this whole event (not to mention the killing of Bruce Banner) really was.

All-Star Batman #1-3 – I know that Scott Snyder has been hugely popular on Batman, but I’ve honestly just never really gotten that.  This premium title is alright – Batman is trying to get Two-Face across the country to cure him, but Two-Face has put out the call to every villain in the world, and they are all taking shots.  There are some big problems with this.  Why not just fly up to space and back?  Why not use a JLA teleporter (unless those aren’t used in the New 52/Rebirth continuity – I’ve yet to read an issue of Justice League since the first relaunch)?  Also, Snyder does that thing that he always does that I hate, retconning even more stuff into Bruce Wayne’s childhood.  Now  we know that he attended a separate Arkham Asylum campus for troubled youth where he was referred to only by a number, and befriended a young Harvey Dent.  John Romita Jr.’s art is pretty awful here; it’s been years since I’ve liked his work, and he just seems to be chasing 90s levels of excess that weren’t in his 90s work.  The Duke (is that guy ever getting a codename) backup, with art by Declan Shalvey, largely saves things, although I have to wonder about Batman having had the time to come up with a sidekick-training curriculum that is based on a complicated wheel-shaped graphic organizer.  At the end of the day, though, I’m never going to stay completely mad at a comic that has the KGBeast blowing up the Royal Flush Gang…

Batman #51&52 – Scott Snyder’s final issue with Greg Capullo takes its usual approach, and is a fine enough issue.  Snyder does the quiet issues much better than the big arcs.  James Tynion IV and Riley Rossmo handled the final issue, and it’s good enough too, but nowhere near as good as Tynion’s Detective has been since.

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2-4 – I don’t understand why Christos Gage doesn’t have a high-profile regular title.  He does a very good job here of taking a tenuous connection to the main Civil War event (Ulysses meets with Spider-Man so Captain Marvel can make her case) and spins it into a very good story about Clash, a former Spider-Man villain who has been working at Parker Industries on Spidey’s recommendation, but who still chafes at that.  He’s a loser who can’t see past his sense of privilege, and his story is told very well.  I also like the more polished Travel Foreman art here – it’s much better than his Animal Man run, and gives me hope for his work on Ultimates^2.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Loverboys – I keep sampling work from the various Hernandez brothers, expecting to be more enamoured of it than I actually am, but it never really works out that way.  This slim graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez centres on a small town called Lágrimas, where the young men (and one younger girl, although not in the same way) tend to obsess over an aging school teacher with very large, um, assets.  Various young men try to get with her, while she goes about her day, entertaining most of them in various ways.  The plotting is incredibly loose here, and stuff just seems to happen without any real plan or process to it.  Sure, I found it entertaining, but within fifteen hours of reading it, I struggle to remember more than a few scenes.  I think that when Hernandez wrote Twilight Children for the late Darwyn Cooke to draw, Cooke had a lot to do with that story being a lot tighter and more focused.