The Weekly Round-Up #395 With The Dregs #4, Black Magick #6, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #8 & Poe Dameron #16, Saga #44, Secret Weapons #1 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

The Dregs #4 – The Dregs was a terrific psychological thriller about gentrification, cannibalism, homelessness, pulp fiction, and the secret language of cities.  Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler put together a truly compelling story about a homeless man investigating the disappearance of his friend at a time when the Vancouver neighbourhood that had been more or less abandoned to the homeless begins to gentrify.  This is a very complex tale, the way it’s told, and the writers really manage to stick the landing well.  Eric Zawadzki’s art is pretty incredible, conveying the confusion and dread that Arnold feels throughout.  I highly recommend this Black Mask book.

Quick Takes:

Bankshot #1 – Alex DeCampi is quickly becoming my favourite writer in comics, so I was happy to see that she has a new series at Dark Horse with Chriscross at Dark Horse.  It’s pretty clear that she’s writing this for the trade, as the issue ends a little oddly, but it’s still a strong debut.  There’s a terrorist named Marcus King, who was recently the target of a group of FBI agents who were unable to capture him.  We start to see a little about his history, and his time in the US Army, and his rivalry with a thief he calls the Dutchman.  There’s still a lot to learn about where this series is headed, but it’s off to a good start.

Black Magick #6 – The best part of Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott leaving Wonder Woman and DC is that they are back at Image making new issues of Black Magick, their infinitely superior title.  This issue reintroduces us to Rowan as a thirteen year old, undergoing a ritual that gives her access to her family’s history, and has consequences for her peace of mind.  This is a gorgeous book – Scott’s black and white art is beautiful, and a surprise transition to colour is very effective.  I hope this title sticks around for a long time now, as it has a lot of mystery behind it that I want to learn about.

Black Panther #15 – Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest arc keep chugging along, and I’m happy to see the Midnight Angels return to a prominent role in the story.  This issue has the fight against the creatures invading Wakanda from some other dimension or godly plain continue their assault, while T’Challa’s latest solution doesn’t work as well as he’d have hoped.  This issue has art by both Wilfredo Torres and Adam Gorham, and while they are both great artists, their art doesn’t go that well together.  At least next month we get the return of Chris Sprouse!

Detective Comics #959 – It looks like some of Bruce and Zatanna’s pasts have been retconned away, as now they knew each other as teenagers, but there is no suggestion that they were childhood friends before that.  That was always an aspect that Paul Dini added to the Bat-mythos that I enjoyed, but oh well.  This is a decent issue, as the robot that killed the Order of Dumas faces off against Azrael, and as Batman asks Zatanna for help with something that I guess is going to be a big deal, as it ties this book deeper into the bigger DCU story.  This continues to be one of the best Rebirth titles, and I like how it checked in on so many different characters.

Doctor Aphra #8 – The Screaming Citadel storyline draws to a close, as Luke asserts himself against the Queen and her symbiotes, and surprisingly no one wants to kill Aphra by the end.  This was an acceptable crossover, but it lacked the immediacy of the Vader Down event.  I feel like Marvel’s Star Wars line is dealing with some serious diminishing returns issues, and they need to address that soon if they are going to survive.

Justice League of America #9 – I continue to be disappointed by this title, and I can’t really understand why.  Steve Orlando, who has proven himself to be an excellent writer with his work at Image and Boom!, has assembled an excellent lineup of characters, but has yet to put them in a situation I’ve cared about.  It’s frustrating. This whole thing with Makson, who is basically the DCU Ka-Zar, has been silly and kind of pointless.  It’s definitely lacked drama, and many plot points, such as the origin of the blood found all over Makson’s apartment, are left incomplete.  I might be dropping this book soon, I’m afraid.

Occupy Avengers #8 – This has been an enjoyable title, although I’ve been frustrated by the fact that David Walker quickly strayed from the original intent of Hawkeye’s team – to travel the country and address regional problems.  Instead, we’ve had LMDs and Skrulls.  Now, Hydra has taken over the nation, and the team has become a locus of resistance, helping rural communities to get reliable access to food.  This is much more what I expected from the comic, and it’s a shame, as I think the next issue is the final one.  It really is not the right time to be launching another comic with Avengers in the title though, so none of this surprises me.

Paklis #2 – I was surprised to see that each issue of Paklis, Dustin Weaver’s beautiful new anthology series, is going to be $6 and all drawn by him.  How long can he keep this up?  Or, perhaps, how many issues does he have in the can is the better question to ask.  Anyway, it looks like there’s going to be a pattern to this series.  Both the first one and this one open with a gorgeous but confusing, surrealistic story, before giving us another brief (one page this month) chapter from the Sagittarius A* story, and a long chapter of the Amnia Cycle, the science fiction storyline that makes this book worth the purchase.  I’m really enjoying that story, and seeing as Weaver has begun to fill in backstory for the main characters, I imagine it’s going to last for a while.  The visuals in this book are stunning, and I feel that Weaver is growing as a writer (the first story is actually written by DJ Bryant, a friend of his).

Poe Dameron #16 – Charles Soule does a tribute to Speed here, as Poe and his squadron race around in a fuel tanker rigged to explode, and work to retrieve the fuel that the First Order stole from them.  This is a very good thriller issue, with some great art by Angel Unzueta.  I’m not sure that Soule is adding much to Dameron’s character, or the Force Awakens timeline, but he has a good feel for Star Wars style excitement, and sometimes that’s enough.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #4 – John Abbott finally gets his greatest wish – he is an officer on the ship he designed, the Constitution, as the War of 1812 breaks out.  He is, as always, completely obsessed and beyond personal interactions, which leads to some problems for him when he takes over during its first battle.  This is an interesting issue for me, as a Canadian who knows a fair amount about the War of 1812.  I hope, when this miniseries ends after the next issue, Brian Wood returns to this title again soon.

Renato Jones: Freelancer #2 – It is a little disheartening to see that Renato’s response to seeing his enemy become President of the United States is to just kind of give up, at a time when so many people need to become more energized to resist the actual US President.  The catharsis that people picking up this comic are likely looking for is not here, and that’s a little sad.  

Saga #44 – Saga is always good.  It’s hard to come up with forty-four different ways to say that over the last four years.  The family has to deal with Alana’s stillborn baby quickly, as it is beginning to give her magical powers, and that’s weird.  At the same time, the locals on the abortion planet have found Petrichor, who is not supposed to be there.  It’s always an interesting read, Saga.

Saucer State #2 – Aliens are definitely on their way towards the Earth, which means that President Alvarado has to both manage this potential threat, and decide if it’s time to reveal to the world that she herself has been abducted by aliens.  Paul Cornell is taking this story in different directions than what has been happening in Letter 44, a series that deals with similar material.  Ryan Kelly’s art is always wonderful.  I especially enjoy the ways in which this series, which felt pretty far-fetched, has begun to paint a pretty believable portrait of how things work in Washington DC, not because the comic became more realistic, but because things have just gotten crazy.

Secret Empire #5 – I think we’re at the halfway point now, and this title is starting to feel like it’s falling apart some, or at the least, losing momentum.  We check in on Black Widow and her team, as they achieve some success, while Tony’s team has to admit defeat in its efforts to retrieve the Cosmic Cube fragments.  There’s just a little too much going on in this book that I find it hard to care about, and that’s unfortunate.  As Marvel and Nick Spencer keep adding issues to the length of the run, they seem to be admitting that they hadn’t really worked out what the endgame was going to be.  That kind of shows.

Secret Weapons #1 – The Valiant Universe has been undergoing some big changes of late, as new writers have switched up their approach to the place.  This new four-issue series is written by Eric Heisserer, and focuses on the Psiots that were activated by Toyo Harada, but that lack any real useful powers.  There is now some sort of creature hunting them down to absorb their abilities, and Livewire, who I haven’t seen much of since Unity ended, is trying to find and help them.  It’s a good set up, and Raúl Allén’s and Patricia Martín’s art is terrific.  I think I’d be happy with this being an ongoing, although knowing the new Valiant, it’s probably a series of miniseries, and that’s okay too.

X-O Manowar #4 – Doug Braithwaite comes onboard as the new artist, as Aric continues to chase the leader of his enemies through some shakily allied land, and finds that once again, his own army is working against him.  This leads to his armor taking actions of its own, which are going to make things difficult for Aric to stick to his new principles.  Matt Kindt’s approach to this book remains interesting and novel.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1

Amazing Spider-Man #29

Astro City #45

Beautiful Canvas #1

Cable #2

Defenders #2

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #9

Elephantmen #77

Infamous Iron Man #9

Jean Grey #3

Joe Golem Occult Detective Outer Dark #2

Namwolf #3

Totally Awesome Hulk #20

X-Men Blue #6

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Sons of the Devil Vol. 2 – The problem with trade-waiting, especially when creators include only a short recap, is that it takes me two or three issues to get back into a series, and then it’s pretty much over.  Brian Buccellato’s story about the children of a cult leader from the 80s is interesting, but a little hard to follow in this format.  Toni Infante’s art is nice, but I find the way the art focuses so much on characters’ eyes can be a little off-putting at times.