The Weekly Round-Up #390 With Letter 44 #33, Dept. H #14, East Of West #33, Saucer State #1, X-O Manowar #3 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Letter 44 #33 – We get closer and close to the end of this truly excellent science fiction and political thriller.  The Clarke crew thinks they may have a way to save at least some people from Earth from the coming destruction, but their plan is desperate.  President Blades is just as desperate, and that leads to his making some interesting decisions.  I absolutely love this comic, and while I’m getting excited to see how it all ends, I know I’m going to miss it a great deal.  Charles Soule should be commended on keeping the writing on this book so taut over such a long stretch of time.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer #9 – David Rubín handles the art on this issue that reveals the beginnings of Colonel Weird’s relationship with Talky-Walky, his robotic companion.  I like Rubín’s art, and it looks great for the flashback scenes, which feature Weird running from killer robots on another planet, but would have preferred that regular artist Dean Ormston drew the contemporary pages, as his style is better suited to the darker moments in this issue.  This one felt a lot less substantial than a typical issue of this usually excellent series.  This month is was really just very good, which still makes it better than so many comics being published.

Black Panther #14 – I’m surprised to see that Ta-Nehisi Coates is using Dr. Faustus as a villain in this series, seeing as he’s kind of prominent in Secret Empire right now as well.  T’Challa consults with his ancestors, and looks for help with this god stuff from a character I don’t remember from Hudlin’s run.  Most importantly, Queen Divine Justice is back, although not under that name.  I feel like this second ‘season’ is very different from the first, and I’m reserving judgement still; it’s not gripping me immediately, but there’s a lot of potential, I think.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #17 – The first issue of this book to come out after the start of Secret Empire is an interesting one.  In it, Nick Spencer digs up Sally Floyd, the journalist who only ever appears during big Marvel events, and has her sit down with Steve for an interview.  I feel like this is not the same Steve we are used to seeing – even in Secret Empire he shows more doubt about what’s going on, although I can understand his need to demonstrate his conviction during a media interview.  Spencer uses this issue to explain a lot of the mechanics of Hydra’s takeover of the US (although Steve would dispute my use of that word), and fills in some of the gaps around the mutants and Inhumans, and how they got to where they are now.  I also see that Spencer couldn’t resist making a few jabs at the people he upsets on a daily basis on Twitter, which was kind of funny.  As a stand-alone comic, like almost all of this run, it’s really just a lot of talking heads and set-up for what’s coming, kind of like an extended DVD extra scene for Secret Empire, but I also think it was kind of necessary.  The next issue is going to need a little action though.

Deadly Class #28 – For the first time in ages, we check in with all of the main characters of this series, as it looks like Rick Remender and Wes Craig are planning on bringing them back together again.  I really love the characters in this book, and have missed some of them while others have been in the spotlight.  

Deathstroke #19 – Slade now has some sort of access to the Speedforce, and is still determined to use it to rescue his son from his untimely death.  The combined members of the Teen and Adult Titans work to figure out what is going on, but really just play supporting roles in the story.  We do learn what the Lazarus contract is all about, and it’s a little hard to argue that Nightwing betrayed anyone by making it, thereby rendering some of the central storyline obsolete.  That said, this was a solid issue, and I look forward to seeing how it all concludes next week.

Dept. H #14 – We finally learn Jerome’s story, as the last four people left in the undersea station have to decide who is to be left behind for the other three to escape in an under-powered submarine.  Matt Kindt also gives us a little look at what got humanity to the place we find them in this series, after a war fought using germs has run its course.  This series gets more fleshed out with each issue, although I feel like we are still no closer to solving the murder mystery that is at its centre.

Detective Comics #957 – Spoiler gets the solo spotlight this issue, as we get a look at her approach to protecting the city in such a way that she doesn’t receive any credit or recognition for it.  Things are a little convoluted (James Tynion is joined by Christopher Sebela in the writing), but the story still works, as Stephanie has to stop a new villain from following the usual villain in Gotham script.  I’m most excited about the appearance of a favourite character of mine from the Norm Breyfogle days at the end of the issue.

The Dying & The Dead #4 – Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s long-missing title returns, and instead of giving us any kind of recap, it instead spends most of the issue on a long flashback to the group of heroes’ original mission in WWII.  I’m always happy to see some of Bodenheim’s artwork, and remember enjoying the beginning of the series, so my hope is that things will come together better if the book comes out more frequently.

East of West #33 – War has come to the world, as the Endless Nation, after mourning its dead leader, and joining with Wolf’s new army, advances on the White Tower, where they find local rebels have it under siege.  This issue feels like a turning point in many ways, and as always with this title, is very well-orchestrated and visually stunning.  Jonathan Hickman is at the top of his game in this book.

Justice League of America #7 – Steve Orlando is treating this comic like a serious team book, with various b-plots featuring the different characters going about various bits of their business.  The focus is on Frost and Atom as they work to cure Frost’s heat sickness, and that leads them to a weird run-in with a decidedly D-list villain.  Artist Jamal Campbell’s work is very nice looking, but his storytelling during the monster sequences didn’t really work for me.

The Old Guard #4 – I’m really enjoying Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández’s work on this new title.  Andy, Nile, and Booker are working to track down their two friends, who were kidnapped by a billionaire with an interest in prolonging his life like they have.  Along the way, we learn a lot more about Andy’s past and character, although with her having lived for thousands of years, I doubt we’ll ever learn anything.  There’s a nice twist at the end of this issue, and lots of great art.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #3 – Brian Wood’s story is drawing me in deeper and deeper, as John Abbott travels to the Bahamas to help refit some merchant vessels to help them fight off the French, all the while obsessing over the Constitution, the navy ship he designed and built.  I like the way Wood portrays Abbott as likely on the autism spectrum, but also makes his actions and decisions logical within the confines of the time period, as America begins to gear up for war with England again.  This is a very good title, and I’m glad that it was given a second chance with this miniseries.

Saucer State #1 – Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly have returned to the world of Saucer Country, their Vertigo series from 2012 and 2013.  I remember that I really enjoyed this series, which is about America’s first latina Presidential candidate who has had an experience of alien abduction.  It dove into conspiracy theories and all sorts of weirdness, and was very entertaining.  Now it’s back, and while I struggled a little to catch back up to the characters, I am very happy about that.  Of course, since 2013, being the victim of an alien abduction makes you a more suitable candidate for President than what America has running things, and Cornell leans into that in his script.  There’s even a clear stand-in for Trump making a pretty funny appearance.  This is a good comic, but I don’t know that someone picking it up cold would have the first idea of what’s going on, even with the one-page synopsis provided.

Seven to Eternity #6 – I really like this comic, especially Jerome Opeña’s art in it, but often find the story a little confounding.  Rick Remender keeps whittling down the cast, as the group try to take the Mud King through a malevolent swamp.  The group is very much at the Mud King’s mercy – in a couple of issues they’ve gone from keeping him immobile in a wagon to practically following him, and Remender keeps it almost impossible to see how the characters are going to react in any given situation.  This series has a real European feel to it, and that is both what attracts me to this title, and sometimes frustrates me.  

X-O Manowar #3 – Matt Kindt and Tomás Giorello were very good choices for this relaunch.  They’ve plunged Aric into a visually stunning war on a distant planet, and are keeping Aric from using his armor.  This issue concludes the first arc (I hope this doesn’t mark the beginning of the three-issue trade paperback) and has Aric’s battle savvy placing him at odds with his commanding officer.  Considering that Aric was conscripted, it’s strange to see him embrace this battle so fully, but I think that is the ground that Kindt plans to mine in this series.  David Mack provides the art for the first few pages, which was a huge surprise.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #2

All-New Wolverine #19

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #8

Harrow County Vol. 5 TP

Infamous Iron Man #8

Jean Grey #2

Mosaic #8

Rapture #1

Secret Warriors #2

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign #2

Star-Lord Annual #1

Totally Awesome Hulk #19

X-Men Blue #4

Bargain Comics:

Doom Patrol #3&4 – I gave up pretty quickly on Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol, and going back to it for two more issues, I have to say that I still don’t understand why it’s received such a warm welcome.  Sure, Nick Derington’s artwork is incredible, but the story is just taking too long to coalesce, and feels way too much like it’s an exercise in stream-of-consciousness plotting.  I’m still not all that impressed, but I am beginning to like it a little bit more than I did originally.  I just wish that Way could focus his writing a little better.

Jessica Jones #6&7 – I get so frustrated with Brian Michael Bendis’s decompression (two pages of Jessica looking at, but not even buying, booze in a liquor store) that I don’t regret having dropped this title, although I also still enjoy it.  I do think that Jessica having her own book which deals with her current issues with Luke Cage, while he has his own book, and they both are in the Defenders, is probably a mistake.  These are great characters, but they are not Wolverine in the 90s.

New Avengers #18 – Has Al Ewing ever had a title that’s lasted more than eighteen issues before being relaunched?  His New Avengers took a long time to hit its stride, and then it became USAvengers.  Sadly, along the way, he had to jettison some of the characters that had me most interested in this title – Power Man, White Tiger, Songbird, Hulkling, and Wiccan.  It’s too bad, but I have a small stack of the new title to get to next.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Glitterbomb Vol. 1: Red Carpet – I picked up the first volume of this series by Jim Zub and Djibril Morissette-Phan at TCAF, and found it pretty enjoyable.  Farrah is an aging actress who appeared on a Star Trek-like TV show when she was younger, but now has difficulty finding new jobs.  She’s desperate, and after losing a part to a girl half her age who is terrible to her, she decides to end it all.  Walking into the ocean, she gets contacted by a creature or elder god, or something, and heads back to her life, only with the ability to split her face open and kill people with her tentacles.  This is a pretty dark book, and really, it’s not until the fourth chapter that I really felt that things fell into place.  By that point, though, I found I wanted to read the next chapter, so I guess I’m on the hunt for that now.