The Weekly Round-Up #400 With The Walking Dead #170, Black #6, Star Wars: Darth Vader #4, Sex Criminals #20, Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #26 & More

Editor’s Note:

Congratulations to James for reaching another milestone with his The Weekly Round-Up column. He hits edition #400 representing over 7.5 years of omnibus comic book reviews in the column that anchors the Comics Nexus every Monday.

Congrats, props and thank you, my friend.

A fun diversion, check-out what were the hot books in his previous milestone editions:

Ah, that memory lane. I wonder what the next 7.5 years will bring. 😉 I do know that 2019 will give us #500. I can’t wait.

Anyhow, onto James’ milestone edition of The Weekly Round-Up #400!

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #170 – One thing that I really like about this issue is that Michonne, Eugene, and a few others are travelling to meet with the group that Eugene met through his shortwave radio.  It’s been a long time since this title has been on the road, with all of the dangers and uncertainty that brings with it, and it’s nice to return to the basics for part of the issue.  I also love the fact that Charlie Adlard gets to show us what a city looks like years after the world ended – I’m always a sucker for that kind of thing, and Adlard’s really good at it.  There’s a lot happening in this title right now, including a minor bombshell dropped by Siddiq at the end of this issue that should have interesting repercussions for Eugene.  As always, very good stuff.

Quick Takes:

Batman #28 – I still think that the War of Jokes and Riddles is ridiculous, but can’t deny that it’s pretty cool to see Deathstroke and Deadshot try to kill each other for a few pages.  These are the two characters that I find least likely to get involved in a war between the Joker and the Riddler, and I’m still having a hard time understanding why Tom King would feel the need to tell a story for twelve issues or more that is set in Batman’s past, and that involves yet another civic disaster in Gotham.  It annoys me that King is such a good writer that he can pull this nonsense off.

Black #6 – Black had a ton of potential, but never quite lived up to it.  I love the concept – that only black people are able to develop superpowers, and because of this, governments and people in power have been working to keep them oppressed for centuries.  The storyline, about a kid who has more power than anyone seen before and who gets stuck in the crossfire between three different groups, would have better fit twelve issues than six.  The writer, Kwanza Osajyefo, has so many ideas and characters crammed into this comic, that it’s hard to keep track of who is on which side, or to care about any of them.  I understand that the likelihood of this series, from an emerging writer and a small press (Black Mask), even with a name artist (Jamal Igle) attached, being given the space it needs is unlikely, but unfortunate.  In many ways, this comic has reminded me of some of the early Extreme Image team titles, where every second page introduces a new character.  I think I would come back for a second arc, but I hope that Osajyefo slows down his storytelling a little, now that he’s established his main concept and main characters.

Darth Vader #4 – Even knowing that this initial story arc is going to be about Vader gaining his lightsaber by killing a Jedi, the viciousness with which Charles Soule has him go about that mission in this issue still came off as surprising.  It’s really not hard to imagine young Hayden Christiansen over emoting inside Vader’s armor throughout this issue, and that makes it a bit disturbing.

Deathstroke #22 – Slade has his new team, Defiance, out in the field rescuing some American hostages, but isn’t himself all that involved, preferring to take the opportunity to catch up with an old colleague, Dr. Light.  Once again, writer Priest defies expectations and takes the story in different directions at once, suggesting that Slade is in trouble with the Society.  Terra shows up to help the team, but I’m a little unclear as to just who she is in the Rebirth world, and how Rose knows her.  I hope that will get explained soon, but I know that explaining things is not really Priest’s style.

East of West #34 – The violence factor gets raised again in this title, as the House of Mao makes a retaliatory move against the Confederacy, with unexpected results.  After so many years of laying groundwork, it’s exciting to see where Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta are taking this title now.  One day it’s going to be very rewarding to read this book from the beginning to the end in just a couple of sittings.

Injection #14 – This current story arc ties back into the whole Injection problem with this issue, as we learn what interest this entity living in the internet has in the Other World that we keep hearing about.  Warren Ellis excels at writing cranky characters, and Declan Shalvey is such a strong storyteller.  This is an odd, but very good, series.

Iron Fist #6 – Danny returns from his time in Asia just to be immediately thrown back into madness as a bunch of mind controlled robed guys attack his plane as it lands.  He gets some help from Shang-Chi, who is always welcome in comics I read, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to be enough to save him.  Mike Perkins draws the hell out of this issue, and things look terrific.

Seven to Eternity #8 – James Harren completes his two issue run, as the Mosak who are trying to save Jevalia have to deal with all sorts of madness in her village.  This title is always a good read, although as much as I appreciate Harren’s art (especially in his series Rumble, which is either on a long hiatus or is not coming back, it would appear), I do like Jerome Opeña’s art better on this book.

Sex Criminals #20 – Big changes happen in this issue as our central characters break up or take a break or something, and Jon doesn’t really deal with it all that well.  As always, this issue is incredibly thoughtful, funny, and more than a little unpredictable.  It really is one of the best series on the stands, although I got irritated by the number of epilogues interspersed throughout the typically excellent letters page.

Spider-Man #19 – Brian Michael Bendis annoys me a lot (see below where I talk about his Iron Man) but he does keep a much more consistent voice when writing about Miles Morales.  This is an odd issue in that Fabio up and disappears on his friends, while Miles and Ganke have a long conversation about Miles’s future as a superhero, Miles’s parents finally talk to each other again, and Hammerhead decides that he needs to be younger to humiliate Miles (that part is kind of dumb).  This issue was oddly structured, but it was very nice to just be able to spend some time with Miles again, and not have the book moving in too many directions.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #26 – I thought we’d seen the last of Annie, Beth’s mother, but instead she gets to be the star of this issue, as she sneaks Kretchmeyer out of the hospital and somehow convinces him to become partners with her in her next big attempt to get rich.  Annie’s fallen on hard times now, especially as she’s recovering from a stroke, and so David Lapham once again gives us a funny and disturbing issue of this perennially excellent title.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #7

Avengers #10

Black Bolt #4

Champions #11

Elsewhere #1

God Country TP

Green Arrow #28

Hawkeye #9

Jessica Jones #11

Nick Fury #5

Savage Things #6

Superman #28

World Reader #5

X-Men Gold #9

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #4-7 – While these issues have fantastic art by Mike Del Mundo and Phil Noto, the Avengers under Mark Waid are far from their glory days.  I’m not sure how I would fix this title – there are attempts at building camaraderie among the cast members, but somehow everything, from the threats through the inclusion of Iron Doom Man feels forced.  The use of past Avengers teams doesn’t add much, as aside from some funny stuff with the Hulk, they are personality-less stand-ins.  I would love for Marvel to have a strong Avengers title again – their only successful team book right now is Ultimates^2, and even it is getting too caught up in the size of its plot currently.

Green Arrow #18-23 – I am really enjoying this book now, more with each arc I read.  Roy Harper returns and his rocky relationship with Ollie is explored while they get involved in a Standing Rock-like situation that Queen Industries is responsible for.  After that, the shadowy organization that’s been causing problems since the series started really begin to destroy Seattle, and things get very chaotic and difficult.  Ben Percy is doing a great job writing this book, and I love the issues drawn by Juan Ferreyra.

Infamous Iron Man #1-7 – I’ve been a big Doctor Doom fan for years, and I like the idea of him trying to repent for his decades of bad actions by taking on the mantle of Iron Man.  What I don’t like is that Brian Michael Bendis took seven months to make it clear that that’s what Doom is doing, and to have him reach out to apologize to Ben Grimm.  So little happens in the first few issues of this book that I already don’t remember them, and that’s frustrating.  Properly done, this might have been a concept that could help Marvel turn things around.  I sometimes wonder if they have editors at all anymore, especially where Bendis is concerned.  Also, I hate the Maker.

Rai: The History of the Valiant Universe #1 – I feel like Valiant is in a rough place, artistically speaking.  They have some great titles (X-O Manowar, Secret Weapons, Divinity), but the rest of the line feels kind of moribund to me.  The Rai/4001 AD stuff was good, yet aside from introducing War Mother, who is getting a series soon, they haven’t followed up at all.  Now we get this random one-shot, where characters in the future talk about thousands of years of heroic history, and of course, spend much of that time talking about the last couple years, as if that is more important than anything that has gone before or came after.  It’s a trope that I hate in comics, when the current day is always of special importance to the future.  As a primer to the Valiant universe, I guess this works alright, but it wasn’t marketed that way, which is weird.

Rapture #1&2 – I think perhaps Valiant figured that taking Matt Kindt’s next Ninjak story arc, and giving it its own miniseries would goose sales a little, but like the last year of Kindt’s Ninjak, there’s really nothing too special about this.  The little Geomancer from the future convinces Ninjak, Shadowman, and Punk Mambo (who doesn’t rate having her name on the cover) to go back to the Deadside for some kind of mission that involves the mythical tower of Babel.  As with much of Kindt’s Ninjak, the ideas behind this are solid, but he is too stuck in approaching them like a traditional superhero comic to make them really exciting.  I’m glad I held off on getting this.

X-Men Blue #1-4 – This was a present surprise, especially in the first two issues.  I like the way Cullen Bunn writes these characters, and am interested in the friction they feel in working with/for Magneto, and secretly training to stop him should they need to.  I’m even willing to put up with the silliness of Hank McCoy experimenting with magic.  What I don’t like is that Jimmy Hudson and other characters from the defunct Ultimate universe (or, perhaps even worse, an alternate Ultimate universe) is being shoehorned into the title before it’s had time to develop on its own.  As I was reading these books, I started to think about adding this title to my pullfile list (although the double-shipping is a big negative working against that), but Jimmy Hudson pretty much made sure that’s not going to happen.

X-Men Prime #1 – It seems that Marvel basically gave Marc Guggenheim a whole issue to set up his X-Men Gold title without having to do a traditional #1, while also allowing space for writers of other books, such as Cullen Bunn and Weapon X, a few pages to set up their series, whether that fit into the story or not.  So yes, there’s some nice nostalgia tripping as Kitty returns to the X-Men, and it’s nice to see Colossus ditch his weird Portland ax-throwing, craft brewing look, but at the end of the day, this was skippable.  

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Coyote Vol. 2 – It’s a little hard to imagine the comics public of 1983 fully embracing this deeply weird comic.  This trade collects the first four issues of the Epic Coyote series, featuring art by Steve Leialoha, Butch Guice, and Chaz Truog, so the art is great, but Steve Englehart’s writing is really pretty confusing.  Coyote is trying to infiltrate a group of mystically-backed criminals known as the Shadow Cabinet, but somewhere along the way, draws the attention of Djinn, the leader of a group of Middle Eastern assassins, for reasons I couldn’t really figure out.  There’s a lot of great potential here, but things are kind of a confused mess.  

Dark Night: A True Batman Story

Written by Paul Dini
Art by Eduardo Risso

A number of years ago, Paul Dini, who at the time was a writer on the Batman animated series (where he created Harley Quinn), was attacked one night, mugged, and beaten viciously.  Dark Night: A True Batman Story tells the story of what happened that night, and how Dini came back from the depression and self-loathing that event plunged him into.

The book starts with a quick biography, showing us how Dini always related to fictional, cartoon, and comic book characters, with Batman and his rogues gallery playing a very special role in his life.  As a boy, the shy and reserved Dini liked to imagine his favourite characters interacting with him, and this continued into adulthood.

When the beating happened, Dini was not in the happiest of places.  His career was going great, and he was very happy with the outer trappings of his life, but he was lonely.  The girl he thought he was dating let him know that she didn’t see him as more than a friend, and he was constantly living in denial of how unhappy he was (even though, we learn later, he had engaged in a strange episode of self-harm not that long before).

After he was beaten, Dini’s face was a mess.  He required surgery to repair his skull, and as he recovered, he spiralled into depression and drinking, skipping work, and frequently arguing with the fictional characters in his mind.

This is a stunningly honest book, told from the perspective of years of reflection and a better mental state.  Dini lays himself bare,  and along the way, questions the value of the superhero genre as role models.

Eduardo Risso is surprisingly reserved in his illustrations, reining in his usual penchant for experimentation in layout and perspective.  I’ve never seen him portray a story this way, and it works exceptionally well with the type of story he is telling.  His work here is gorgeous.

This is a good book to give someone who might be recovering from a similar situation, or who suffers a more general anxiety.  Dini makes it clear that people can recover from any number of bad events in their life, but that it takes a positive support network and a little clarity about a person’s situation and feelings.  It’s a very good, very unique book.