The Weekly Round-Up #386 With Aliens: Dead Orbit #1, The Black Monday Murders #5, The Pitiful Human-Lizard #12, X-O Manowar #2 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 – I’m not sure whose idea it was to have James Stokoe tackle the world of Aliens, but that person is an absolute genius, as is Stokoe.  His hyper-detailed, manga-infused art style is perfect for the cluttered and shabby aesthetic of Weyland-Yutani waystations.  This story is set on a remote outpost that is being approached by an old vessel that appears to have suffered some distress.  The crew shuttles over to see what’s going on, and, as we can expect, there might be an Alien involved.  Stokoe paces this first issue beautifully, and of course, illustrates it perfectly.  I cannot wait for the next issue.  

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Defiance #11 – Zula and Hollis have returned to Earth, and nothing is going as Zula had been promised.  She’s arrested and faces court martial, while the residual alien DNA in Hollis has come to Weyland-Yutani’s attention.  This issue feels weirdly paced and off-balance, as the scenes on Earth keep cutting to scenes of Zula fighting aliens, but it’s not clear if that’s in her imagination, or something that is going to happen.  I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as I have the rest of Brian Wood’s work on this book.

Bitch Planet #10 – In another week, this book would have been a year late.  It’s a shame that this title doesn’t come out more often, as it’s one of the most thoughtful and impressive comics being published right now.  I have a few friends who I would love to give this to, but I know that the lack of resolution and unreliable shipping schedule would make it a failed experiment.  Anyway, this was another very strong issue, as the riot continues on the prison planet, and some activists/terrorists make a move against the patriarchy back on Earth.  Every issue of this comic feels important, but reading Kelly Sue DeConnick’s very personal reactions to the American election makes this issue stand out in other ways, and seem more important than ever.

The Black Monday Murders #5 – Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker return with their high finance/dark magic series which has to be the most dense comic on the stands.  This is an interesting issue, as Ria Rothschild returns to the board of Caina-Kankrin and forces move for and against her.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and after its lengthy hiatus, it took me a while to remember what everything meant, but it is pretty enjoyable.  I feel like this book has become a lot more topical since it first debuted.

Black Panther #13 – The new story arc, “Avengers of the New World” starts here, and Ta-Nehisi Coates takes a few steps away from his usual political commentary, and instead investigates the existence of Wakanda’s gods, just as snakemen start coming through portals into the country, causing problems.  Wilfredo Torres takes up the art duties with this issue, and he’s a good choice, as his style fits nicely with the work Chris Sprouse was doing before him.  I’m curious to see where Coates takes this story, as it’s moving in unexpected directions already.

Detective Comics #955 – This is a very strong issue of this series, as James Tynion IV has Cassandra confront her inner demons, while also wading through a ton of her mother’s League of Shadows fighters.  Artist Marcio Takara does a fantastic job of constructing the fight scenes in this issue.

The Flash #21 – I haven’t read any of the Flash since Fancis Manapul’s run with the character, but I thought I’d check out what The Button was all about.  My biggest issue with Barry Allen has always been that he, like Hal Jordan, is a boring character (Wally and Jay are my Flashes forever), and that too many stories about him revolve around the Reverse-Flash or the cosmic treadmill.  Of course, that’s what this is all about.  Still, I feel like the story, which has Barry and Batman investigating the origins of the Watchmen button, is suspenseful and builds logically.  The most exciting thing about this issue though is the cameo by Johnny Thunder that starts it off – I’m so ready for a high quality Justice Society book.

Justice League of America #5 – I think this issue is a lot closer to what I was expecting from this title, as the new JLA announces itself to the world, and then goes to a depressed town that has basically offered itself up as a base to a villain named Aegeus, who sells faith-based weapons.  Andy MacDonald’s art is very nice, and Lobo is given a ton of visually interesting scenes.  I also like the way Steve Orlando is developing the characters as individuals and as a team.

Kill or Be Killed #8 – Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s odd story about a young man in New York who believes he has to kill once a month in a deal he made with a demon just keeps getting deeper and better thought-out with each issue.  Since Dylan’s kill-streak has been noticed, the NYPD has been overreacting in their typical way, making New York a police state, and making it very hard for Dylan to go after his next victim.    I really love this series, and watching Dylan fall apart slowly.

Occupy Avengers #6 – I think that Occupy is starting to lose me.  To begin with, it’s not living up to its concept (or title) at all.  Secondly, this issue felt like it was just spinning its wheels throughout.  The last one introduced a town full of hidden Skrulls, and David Walker took the time to build a few of their characters, but this one just has the various cast members scurrying around town as a new group of people or aliens start killing the Skrulls.  It needed a lot more.

The Old Guard #3 – Greg Rucka continues to build my interest in this book and these characters, as we learn about Booker’s past this issue, while two of the group are kidnapped by their enemies.  I like the way this book blends historic scenes with the current story, and Leandro Fernández’s art reminds me a lot of Eduardo Risso here.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard #12 – Chapterhouse has redesigned its trade dress, and the book looks very good, as Jason Loo provides us with the origin story of the Majestic Rat, H-L’s friend who leads an army of rats and other sewer dwellers.  As always, this is a very charming issue of a series that continues to grow on me more with each issue.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #2 – Brian Wood continues his exploration of the Abbott family, as John, who has now served for almost a decade as an apprentice to a shipbuilder, finds himself getting swept up in the various currents that make up American society at this time.  He falls in with some Abolitionists, and has his incredible gifts for shipbuilding recognized at last.  I like that Wood has made John a character on the autism spectrum, but feel like he makes two missteps – one, John is a little too much of a savant to be believable, and two, I’m not sure that John’s boss would respond to him the way he does here, at that time.  Still, this is an interesting series that is filling in some gaps in my knowledge about American history.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #23 – Annie takes centre stage again, as Beth, Orson, and company leave her behind after retrieving the stuff she stole from them.  Her desire to become a good mother and housewife can’t keep her interested for long, so soon enough, she’s back to minor crime to fund an extravagant lifestyle, and David Lapham shows us her descent into failure.  This is the best mean-spirited comic I can think of, and Lapham is fantastic and slowly devastating characters’ hopes and dreams.  The way Annie’s decline is shown on her face is pretty spectacular, and not something many comics artists can pull off.

There’s Nothing There #1 – At this point, I’m willing to give just about anything from Black Mask a good look.  This new series is by Patrick Kindlon, one of the co-writers of the excellent You Can’t Go Home Again.  The issue opens at a strange orgy at a Long Island estate, where a twenty-something celebrity notices something strange happening in the sky.  After that, she begins to see ghostly figures around New York.  This is an interesting horror series which avoids following standard formulae, and I like Maria Llovet’s sometimes obscure artwork.  I’ll probably come back for the second issue.

The Ultimates^2 #6 – This is my favourite issue of the relaunched series so far, as Al Ewing explains the history of the Marvel multi-verse, and reveals the big threat in the series – the First Firmament, the universe that came first.  There are a lot of interesting concepts tossed around, and the return of a largely forgotten New Universe character.  It’s a solid issue.

X-O Manowar #2 – Matt Kindt’s new run with X-O Manowar has really grabbed my attention.  I like that Aric is on a strange world, without (much) use of his armor, and stuck in the middle of a war he did not choose to participate in.  Tomás Giorello’s art is detailed and splendid, and the more barbarian ethos of the story really works with Aric’s character.  I like that this take on him doesn’t involve the Vine, or anything particularly armor-focused.  I was getting tired of that in Robert Venditti’s run.

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

Britannia: We Who Are About to Die #1

Infamous Iron Man #7

Grave Lillies #2

Judge Dredd: Blessed Earth #1

Lobster Johnson: Pirates Ghost #2

Micronauts: Wrath of Karza #1

Mighty Thor #18

Namwolf #1

Old Man Logan #22

Star Wars Darth Maul #3

Street Angel After School Kung Fu Special HC

Thanos #6

Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #3

Weapon X #2

X-Men Blue #2

X-Men Gold #2

Bargain Comics:

All-Star Batman #4-8 – I have two issues with Scott Snyder’s handling of Batman in the New 52, and both of them are front and centre in his All-Star Batman.  1) I don’t like how focused he is on giving Batman toy-friendly accoutrements like Arctic walking suits, or projectiles that shoot out of his chest.  Batman is at his best when he has fewer, not more gadgets.  2)  I’m tired of seeing writers mine Bruce’s early childhood or pre-Batman days for story content to dredge out of him.  Honestly, John Romita Jr.’s issues of this title are almost unreadable they are so confusing and over the top.  When such incredible artists as Jock and Tula Lotay join the book, the stories slow down and make a lot more sense, but I still don’t really know what the purpose of this book is, other than to try to do something with Duke, and to provide fans with yet another Bat-title.

Champions #3&4 – Mark Waid has hit a nice balance of banter and action in this series, although issue three’s focus on girls’ education in a Pakistan stand-in country feels a little heavy-handed in places (while still being laudable for actually dealing with an important issue).  I like the way Nova and Miles are portrayed as stirring up trouble in this book, as the team struggles to figure out who is really in charge.  It’s a good comic.