The Weekly Round-Up #392 With Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #24, Batman #24, Star Wars: Darth Vader #1, Reborn #6, The Walking Dead #168 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #24 – Once again, David Lapham exceeds expectations, with an unpredictable issue that has Beth, Nina, and Orson blowing into New Orleans for one night.  The girls want to have a good time, but Orson is convinced that Spanish Scott and the others is after them, and wants to lie low.  His attempt at being responsible leads to more mayhem than what the girls get up to, but what I like most about this issue is how Lapham has both Beth and Orson exploring their feelings about their relationship in their own way.  This comic just keeps getting more brilliant all the time.

Quick Takes:

Batman #24 – Okay, Tom King is taking Batman into some strange places.  This issue, which is almost half-filled with full page splashes by David Finch and Clay Mann, features a long conversation between Batman and Gotham Girl about her future, Batman’s motivations, and what keeps him from being happy.  It’s a good conversation, and it’s intercut with scenes of Batman chasing Catwoman across rooftops.  I don’t want to spoil what happens when he catches her, but I think it, more than anything else that’s happened in Rebirth, demonstrates how concerted DC’s effort has been to go in a 180 degree change of direction from the New 52.  I just don’t think I like this particular change, and really don’t think it will be able to work.  Still, this is a strongly written story, and for once King has made good use of Finch’s limited artistic range.

Daredevil #21 – DD has a new plan to end crime in New York City, and with permission of the AG’s office, and the assistance of Luke Cage and Echo, he sets about starting it.  It looks like it’s going to lead to DD having to testify in court, which has been done before, but I’m still interested to see how Charles Soule, who is an actual lawyer, is going to play this out.  I’m always happy to see Goran Sudzuka’s name on a comic…

Darth Vader #1 – Charles Soule has a tough job with this series – he must bridge the knee-drop yelling emo Hayden Christiansen in a suit Darth Vader with the imposing figure of A New Hope.  To that end, he has the Emperor send Vader in pursuit of a new lightsaber.  I’m curious to see how this title works, as Vader is a very difficult character to make work.  Giuseppe Camuncoli is a good choice for artist, as he kind of reminds me of Salvador Larocca, who did such a good job on the last Vader title.  I enjoyed this issue, but could have done without the Chris Eliopoulos backup that necessitated adding a dollar to the cover price.  I really wish Marvel would stop doing that.

Drifter #19 – This series, by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein, has been confounding, confusing, and always very beautiful.  I never would have expected, when this story about a group of humans eking out a difficult life on a distant planet, that it would take the turns that it has, or that Abram Pollux’s true purpose in life was what it ended up being.  With all the revelations out of the way, all that was left for this issue to do was allow Pollux to finally be the hero we’d thought he would be, and for the characters to say goodbye to the readers.  It’s a very lovely issue, aided by Klein’s incredible artwork.  Now that this book is finished, I’m very tempted to read it again from the beginning to see just how much stuff I missed in the earlier issues, and to enjoy Klein’s art another time.  This will make a terrific read in a large collected edition.

Eternal Empire #2 – This issue is very much like the first, as it focuses on a character who is basically a slave until he starts to receive visions, escapes from bondage, and travels until he meets the girl who did all the same stuff in the first issue.  I’m very curious to learn more about where Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn are taking this book.  I was quite impressed with the level of detail in this book – when the slaves are working to erect a statue via a complex pulley system, it looks like it was meticulously researched and depicted.  

Iceman #1 – I’ve always liked Iceman, who has often been a secondary character in the X-books, so I was curious to see what new things indie writer Sina Grace might do with him.  This issue is all pretty standard – we get confirmation that Bobby is exploring his newly-revealed (to him as much as to us) homosexuality, and we revisit his difficult relationship with his parents, all while he has to fight a Purifier in a hospital.  Grace definitely has a handle on Bobby’s voice, although his reliance on Spider-man style quips might get annoying.  Alessandro Vitti’s art is nice, but a little scratchier than I’d expected on a light-hearted book.  This issue could be a oneshot as much as the beginning of an ongoing series, leaving me wondering where Grace is headed with things.  He has interested me enough to get me to pick up the next issue though, so that makes this a success.

Injection #13 – More strange things happen at the stone circle, as Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey continue to explore old British beliefs in the modern context.  This was a solid issue that does a lot to advance the plot, without really standing out much from the preceding issues.

Iron Fist #4 – Aside from the art, I haven’t been all that impressed with Ed Brisson’s Iron Fist series (Mike Perkins is perfect for this book), but this issue, which digs a little deeper into the history of the island where Danny is fighting various champions, has finally caught my attention.  I would actually love an Iron Fist series that wasn’t just about K’un-Lun, but I guess that’s never going to happen, is it?

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #28 – This series starts to dig deeper into the existence of the Christian God as Reverend Anderson starts to make his own contribution to the fight, via a new flock.  At the same time, Kyle and his father continue to train, and the coming war with the possessed looks like it’s going to happen sooner than later.  This series is really picking up the pace lately, and it’s great.

Paper Girls #5 – The third story arc ends with yet more time jumps, as Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang give us another excellent issue.  These characters keep growing on me, and I’m a little sad that I won’t get to see them again until October.  This is one of Image’s best series.

Planetoid: Praxis #5 – Ken Garing takes us further into the settlement’s problems with their new landlord, Heliocorp, who have taken to charging them for sunlight.  A group decides to make a terrorist strike against their neighbours, but that doesn’t go as planned.  As usual, Ken Garing is delivering a very well-thought out and planned book that blends plot with great character work.  I really love this title, and that was before he used this issue’s flipside to introduce us to John Le, a very talented new artist whose work reminds me of Moebius.

Reborn #6 – Mark Millar and Greg Capullo’s delayed Reborn reaches its big conclusion, and as it’s a Millarworld book, that conclusion is all kinds of Hollywood satisfying.  This has been an entertaining story about a woman who discovers a very different afterlife than the one she’s expected – one where she is prophesied to be a fantasy world queen and hero.  This is some of the best Capullo artwork I’ve seen in a long time.

Redline #4 – This Mars based police procedural just gets more and more interesting as it now looks like the Superintendant, our POV character, has committed murder and is trying to cover it up.  Writer Neal Holman leaves a lot for the reader to figure out as we go along, making this a comic that needs to be read closely.  I do enjoy the world building that has gone into this title – I’m not sure if it’s a limited series or an ongoing, but I intend to keep supporting it.

Spider-Man #17 – Once again, Brian Michael Bendis gives half of an issue of Miles’s comic to someone other than Miles, as Bombshell’s attempt to stop Hammerhead goes very badly for her.  Hearing about this, Miles, who is already entering into a dark-costume kind of funk after beating up a bunch of lowlifes in the last issue, goes looking for revenge.  I always like the way Bendis writes this character, but I really appreciate the way he’s showing him mature and question his role, although I’m not sure I like where his choices are taking him.  I wish this title were a little more compressed though, as each issue is such a fast read.

The Unsound #1 – Cullen Bunn has been doing a lot of great work lately, in a number of genres, and while I’m not always a big horror fan, seeing Jack T. Cole’s art in a preview made me want to buy this comic.  Ashli starts a new job at the Saint Cascia Psychiatric Hospital, an old institution that has recently reopened after being closed for decades.  The place has a very creepy vibe to it, and right away strange things start to happen.  Cole’s art, which reminds me a lot of Simon Ganes’s, gives the place a sense of being sterile and atmospheric at the same time.  I have no idea what the problems with this place might be, but the characters we are introduced to in this issue are interesting, as is Cole’s New York, which is full of hoarders and people talking to strange jars on the subway.  I definitely want to read more of this.

The Walking Dead #168 – In the aftermath of the Whisperers’ attack, and the death of a very important character, there’s still the matter of the rebelling Saviors to deal with.  Unexpectedly, it’s Negan who steps up to defend Rick and the rest of Alexandria from his former followers, in a very interesting issue.  I liked this issue a lot, although I wish Robert Kirkman would get Negan to tone down his language, not because it offends me, but because this character is just so annoying.  I appreciated Kirkman’s essay in the backmatter singing the praises of Charlie Adlard, one of the greatest artists in the game.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #3

Amazing Spider-Man #28

Avengers #8

Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #5

Black Bolt #2

Bulletproof Coffin: Thousand Yard Stare

Bullseye #5

Champions #9

Divided States of Hysteria #1

Doctor Strange #20

Green Arrow #24

Hawkeye #7

Jessica Jones #9

Nothing Lasts Forever GN

Nova #7

Rom #11

Savage Things #4

Superman #24

X-Men Gold #5

Bargain Comics:

Bullseye #1 – I was pretty excited to see what Ed Brisson was going to do with Bullseye, but then Marvel ditched their digital codes and raised the price of the first issue, so I didn’t bother.  Reading it now, it’s good, but falls a little too easily into line with what you would expect it to be.  I do like the art by Guillermo Sanna, who reminds me a little of Eduardo Risso.  The backup story by Marv Wolfman was completely unnecessary.  

Clone Conspiracy #3-5/Amazing Spider-Man #22-24 – A lot of the potential of this mini-event was wasted around the time that the true identity of the Jackal was revealed, as what was supposed (I believe) to be an event about Peter Parker’s near-constant sense of guilt, became just too overstuffed with other elements, such as setting up the new Ben Reilly series, and reestablishing Doctor Octopus as a viable threat.  It was decent, but the issues of Amazing repeated too much stuff from the main book, and while it was good that they fleshed things out a little more, reading them all together became repetitive.

Amazing Spider-Man #25&26 – So after the Clone Conspiracy comes the much-maligned $10 issue, which has a great main story, and a lot of filler afterwards.  I like this new storyline pitting Spidey against the Goblin Nation and Norman Osborn, but the machinations required to put Aunt May and Harry in danger, yet again, felt tired.  The return of Silver Sable is welcome, as is the art by Stuart Immonen.  I don’t really like the way Dan Slott looks to be heading towards a reset of things with regards to Parker Industries though.

Superman #12-15; Annual #1 – These issues feature confrontations with Frankenstein, Swamp Thing, and the first half of the Multiplicity arc.  I’ve been enjoying Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s work on Superman, although I wish that the art in Multiplicity (which is basically a Superman version of Spider-Verse) was better.  I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m not sure that DC needs a vibrant and active Multiverse.