The Weekly Round-Up #381 With No Mercy #14, Bloodshot Reborn #0, Dept. H #12, Reborn #5, X-O Manowar #1 & More

Best Comic of the Month:

No Mercy #14 – I find every issue of No Mercy to be absolutely riveting.  Alex De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil devote this one to Anthony, the deaf student who was one of the first of the group from Princeton to make it home from Mataguey safely.  We follow Anthony on his and his friend’s last night in town before he heads back to Princeton, and his friend heads into the army.  It captures the restlessness of small town living, and constructs new characters quickly and believably.  I love when an entire issue is given over to one character, because even when not all that much is done to advance the larger plot, I know I’m going to learn a lot about that one person.  I do regret that there was not a textpage in the back of this issue, as De Campi’s essays about her travels are often as good as the comic itself.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer #7 – This terrific title returns from hiatus, and Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston finally share the origin of the Black Hammer, the dead character the comic is named after.  His daughter has somehow arrived at the farm where her father’s former companions have been mystically trapped for a decade, and although she has no memory of how she got there (check the last issue for a surprise about that), she becomes a good opportunity to fill in a lot of backstory, as we see that the foundation of this series is actually a bit of a Jack Kirby Fourth World tribute (with a version of Lockjaw tossed in for good measure).  This issue is lacking some of the character dynamics that have made other issues so enjoyable, but it is a good jumping on place for anyone looking for an intelligent and satisfying read.

Black Panther #12 – Ta-Nehisi Coates’s first “season” concludes with this issue, which has T’Challa, Shuri, the Midnight Angels, and other influential Wakandans meeting to discuss how the nation will rebuild itself after the events of the last eleven comics.  As always, it’s a very well-thought out and wordy issue.  I’ve seen increased criticism of Coates’s work on this book, and I understand why a lot of mainstream Marvel readers might not be happy with it, but I find his deconstruction of issues of sovereignty, the burdens of leadership, and the responsibilities that citizens have towards one another refreshing and interesting.  I do find that having both Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse contribute to the same issue can be a bit jarring in places.

Black Road #8 – After months of build up to this point, Magnus the Black is finally in direct confrontation with Bishop Oakenfort, the man attempting to create a new Papacy in Northern Europe.  The fight is a little one-sided and brutal, as Brian Wood and Garry Brown build up a very tense scene for almost the entire issue.  This is a good series.

Bloodshot Reborn #0 – It feels like a misuse of the zero issue to use it to wrap up a number of dangling plot threads from Bloodshot’s Reborn and USA series.  I’ve been enjoying Jeff Lemire’s time with this character, but am also glad that the book is going on hiatus until the fall.  It needs some breathing space.

Clandestino #6 – Amancay Nahuelpan’s series about a revolution in a fictional South American country comes to its conclusion, and it ends very well.  I feel like Nahuelpan, who has drawn some great stuff at Black Mask (Young Terrorists and the upcoming Calexit) is going to be a huge star some time soon.  This was a strong series.

Deathstroke #15 – I was pleased to learn this week that Deathstroke is moving to a monthly schedule in July 2017, because while it is my favourite DC title, I’m finding the bi-weekly schedule is wearing me out.  Priest continues to layer on new story elements, as Slade’s blindness looks to be permanent, and his new partnership with the new Power Girl looks like it might last as well.  As usual, this is a dense and rewarding read.

Dept. H #12 – Matt Kindt continues to make things difficult for Mia, as everyone decides it’s time to abandon base, only to find out that they can’t.  I often find that the main story, about the death of Mia’s father and the devastation of the environment and mankind, takes a backseat to the excellent group dynamics and character development that really drives this series.

Descender #20 – One thing that I really like about this series (and there are a lot) is the expansiveness achieved in the art by leaving large sections of the page completely white.  I feel like Dustin Nguyen is doing the best work of his career on this title, and that it is one of the most unique-looking comics on the stands.  This issue has various groups of characters moving towards one another, as we learn that Driller is still functioning on an obscure world, and as Telsa approaches the world where the ancient alien that became the model for all AIs is hidden.

Detective Comics #953 – Shiva continues to take down Batman’s team, while Orphan tries to deal with her history and parentage.  This is another good issue, but it’s in the middle of the arc, and doesn’t give a lot of space for the rest of the cast.

The Dregs #2 – This was late getting to me (thanks Diamond), but it was worth it.  I’m enjoying this dark and strange look at homeless life in Vancouver, as a man’s search for his missing friend looks to uncover a cannibalistic hipster hotspot.  I love Eric Zawadzki’s thick artwork that really conveys the grime on this story.

Exodus: The Life After #10 – Thanks to Diamond, it’s taken forever for me to get my hands on the last issue of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo’s excellent book about God and the afterlife.  I really enjoyed this title (which began life as The Life After), and feel satisfied with the rather happy ending, especially after all the madness Fialkov put his characters, including Ernest Hemingway, through.

Iron Fist #1 – Iron Fist is a difficult title for a creative team to approach.  Brubaker and Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist was so good that it has to be intimidating to follow it, and since that run ended, Danny Rand has been portrayed very light-heartedly (Mighty Avengers and in Walker’s Power Man and Iron Fist), or in a way that sticks too close to previous work (Kaare Andrews’s work, which this follows up on, despite the fact that Andrews’s follow-up has also been announced).  Ed Brisson, with his proven record of writing tough street-level comics, is a good choice for this comic, as is Mike Perkins, whose work updates a more classical Marvel style.  In this book, Danny has lost his powers (I guess no one told Walker) and is travelling the world getting into fights, getting drunk, and searching for something.  We are on familiar ground, especially after he is invited to a mystical island, but I’m definitely intrigued by where Brisson is taking this.  I’d decided to stop buying new Marvel titles after they ditched their digital codes, but this is something that I can’t pass, at least for an arc.  I’ve only seen the first episode of the Netflix series so far, but I can report that this title is much more dynamic and interesting.

Letter 44 #31 – The end of the world is getting closer and closer, but there’s still time for a reunion of sorts for the crew of the Clarke, and for their fight with the Builders to take another turn.  Also of interest is the notion that former President Carroll might be able to help President Blades out.  This series is one of the best things being published right now, and as it hurtles towards its conclusion, I find that Charles Soule has me at the edge of my seat.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1 – Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti have returned to their earlier series Rebels, and this is very good news.  This new series is set some years after America gained independence, at a time when American merchant vessels were being attacked in the Mediterranean by the Barbary States (such as Algeria).  As politicians, including Alexander Hamilton, debate the value of building a national navy, we check in with Seth Abbott, the hero of the earlier series.  His son is firmly on the autism spectrum (not that this was understood in the late eighteenth century), and is very fixated on boats and ship-building.  It’s clear that, as America gears up to perhaps go to war, the Abbott family is going to be called upon to serve again.  This is an interesting title to read, story-wise, but also interesting in that it is showing us a very different time period for America just as the country is shattering into distrust and general dissatisfaction.  Wood has always had his finger on the pulse of the country, usually anticipating the direction of the zeitgeist in books like Channel Zero, DMZ, Starve, and Briggs Land, so I find it curious that he is looking backwards now, and I look forward to seeing what it is he wants to say about this time or, through it, the modern day.

Reborn #5 – Mark Millar continues to be the most TV of all writers, as he sets up Bonnie’s meeting with her husband, and then snatches it away from her in a predictable yet still surprising way.  One issue left…

Spider-Gwen #18 – So I ended up sticking through the whole “Sitting in a Tree” crossover with Spider-Man, and what I learned is that I’m still not really a fan of Jason Latour’s writing.  I can’t really express what it is that doesn’t work for me, but the Bendis-written chapters, as frustrating as they can be, were much clearer and better-paced.  This issues tosses a number of new story points in at the last second, and doesn’t explore them much, while also clearing up the plot that has built for five issues in no time.  I felt the framing of this story, with the Spider-Man chapters being made up of Miles narrating what happened to his friends, while the Spider-Gwen chapters were told straight as they happened.  That and the vastly different art styles are going to make this a weird read in trade.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #22 – David Lapham’s heist story keeps getting odder and odder, and a lot more convoluted, as Joey, the weird kid that Orson and Beth have been dragging around for a while, finally remembers his telephone number, setting up the return of Monster and Rose to this storyline.  We’ve entered farce territory now, but that hasn’t diminished my enjoyment of this book one bit.  This is Lapham’s finest work.

Ultimates^2 #5 – Sometimes I worry that the amount of heavy lifting that’s been left for Al Ewing to do with this title, in terms of establishing the state of the Marvel multiverse post-Secret Wars, is dragging this book down a little too much.  When this comic focuses on the cast of the Ultimates, and their conflict with the Troubleshooters, it’s fantastic, but the cosmic stuff is starting to lose me.

Wonder Woman #19 – I continue to be more and more disappointed with this run.  It really doesn’t feel like a Greg Rucka comic; here we are, almost a year into the storyline, and only now does Diana, who has miraculously regained her sanity, understand who she has been up against, really for five or six years.  I’d expected a lot better from Rucka’s return to this character.

X-O Manowar #1 – Matt Kindt has decided to go in a completely new direction with Aric’s adventures in this relaunch.  He’s been living on an alien world for some time, and has decided to reject the benefits of his armor, including the artificial hand it had provided him with.  Instead, he’s trying to live a simple agrarian life with a local woman, but local race-based conflict on the planet soon has him conscripted to fight in a war he wants nothing to do with.  Artist Tomás Giorello does a fantastic job of making this world, and especially the battle, visually unique and exciting.  I’m curious to know what has happened to cause Aric to change so much since we last saw him, and look forward to seeing where Kindt and Giorello go with this.

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

Captain America Steve Rogers #14

Darth Maul #2

Doom Patrol #6

Extraordinary X-Men #20

Invincible Iron Man #5

Uncanny Inhumans #20

Unworthy Thor #5

Bargain Comics:

Hawkeye #1&2 – Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye series, which focuses on Kate Bishop, is a good read.  Kate investigates a case of stalking that has a lot more going on in it, and Thompson maintains the light tone of Matt Fraction’s run, while also using the character to explore issues around consent and women’s rights in a manner that is not heavy handed.  Leonardo Romero’s art is very nice as well.

Justice League of America Rebirth – Vixen #1 – I’d missed this one-shot when it first came out, but found it at a con last week.  It does a good job of introducing Mari’s backstory, although I still don’t understand how an African would have the last name McCabe.  It sets her up as a hero in Green Arrow’s camp, with an interest in social justice, and also shows that she is a formidable hero.  I always loved Vixen when she worked with Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, and I hope she is put to good use in the JLA series.

Prowler #1&2 – The Prowler is one of those interesting looking characters who doesn’t get used nearly enough.  That said, having his solo series be so closely tied to the Clone Conspiracy event is disappointing, as he deserves more than this.  Jamaal Campbell’s art is lovely though, and Julia Carpenter is in this!

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Noble Causes Vol. 10: Ever After –  And with this volume, the series came to its end.  Jay Faerber is a very good writer, and his soap opera/celebrity superhero family series is a great read.  This volume wraps up just about every plotline I could think of, and works in a few good character moments.  I was more than a decade late, but I’m glad I checked this series out.