The Weekly Round-Up #401 With Mister Miracle #1, Captain America #25, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #11, Kill or Be Killed #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Mister Miracle #1 – I was very excited when I heard that Tom King was going to be writing a twelve issue Mister Miracle comic.  His runs on Vision and on the Omega Men, with similar lengths, were groundbreaking and revitalized those characters.  News that he’d be working with his Sheriff of Babylon collaborator, Mitch Gerads, only made me more excited.  This is a terrific start to what I hope will be one of the best comics series of this year.  Scott Free is clearly suffering from depression – the issue opens after he’s tried to commit suicide – and his perception of reality is not to be trusted.  Still, duty calls in the form of an emergency on New Genesis – Highfather is believed dead, and Apokolips has the anti-life equation.  Or is any of that real?  I love the use of the nine-panel grid in King’s best work – it always takes me back to the best of Keith Giffen’s comics, and enjoy the fact that I barely know what’s real at the end of this issue.  King (his Batman work being the exception, unfortunately) is one of the smartest and most original writers working in mainstream comics today, and I think we are fortunate to get to see him work with one of my favourite Jack Kirby characters.

Quick Takes:

Captain America #25 – Really, this is Secret Empire #7½, as the plotlines of that event continue along just as if everyone is reading both titles.  Captain Steve and Hydra go to war with the mutant nation of New Tian, and with Wakanda, while Captain Sam gathers the troops to fight back against Hydra and free the incarcerated Inhumans.  This in turn leads to a magical plot point that is going to be needed if this event is ever going to end.  While I enjoyed this comic, my event fatigue is getting to be pretty real, and I would rather see this come to a close than spread out and take over other titles.  Are there more issues of either Captain America series solicited after this?  I really don’t even know what Marvel series are continuing and what’s getting cancelled or postponed between SE and Legacy.  It’s confusing.

Detective Comics #962 – The Knightquest armor is back, but hopefully only temporarily, as the Azrael storyline comes to an end.  I’ve not loved this arc, but still have faith that this title will continue to be one of DC’s best.

Doctor Aphra #11 – In this delightful issue, Triple Zero makes moves against Aphra, with chaotic and funny results, as Kieron Gillen sets up a the possibility that Aphra might be having to explain her continued existence to Darth Vader very soon.  This book can be a lot of fun.

Grass Kings #6 – The first arc of this excellent Boom! series comes to a close with this issue, which has the conflict between the community and the local police come to a head, and has Robert face some hard truths about how he’s been living his life.  Matt Kindt sets up the second arc nicely, with the possibility that a killer has been living in the Kingdom for years becoming too sure to ignore.  This is a very different book, even at a time when titles about secessionist communities are becoming common (Calexit, Briggs Land), and a lot of that is due to Tyler Jenkins’s beautiful watercolours.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 – I would not normally go anywhere near an Inhumans origin miniseries, especially not one set to coincide with a new TV show I’m not very interested in watching, but then Marvel went and got Christopher Priest, who is basically my favourite superhero comics writer, to write the thing, and I felt like I had no choice but to get it.  Priest, and excellent artist Phil Noto, show us what things were like under the rule of the Unspoken, the king who took power after the death of Black Bolt and Maximus’s parents.  We see that he uses the Alpha Primitives, the slave class of devolved humans, brutally, and when they revolt and the king is rescued by Black Bolt and Maximus, his ego is bruised.  Priest writes the Unspoken a little like Donald Trump, with a need to keep his ego stroked, and after he makes a play for Medusa simply because Maximus talked about her, the trio have no choice but to flee Attilan.  I’m curious about where this story is headed, and like Noto’s art a lot.  I guess the two-page Lockjaw story is cute, but I don’t really care for stuff like this.  I just wish Marvel had put Noto on the covers as well – Nick Bradshaw’s art does not fit the tone or feel of this book at all, and would have kept me from picking it up for sure were it not for Priest’s name also being on the cover.  There is one thing that bugs me about this comic though – if Black Bolt and company are teenagers, and by the time they interact with the Marvel universe in the past, they are adult rulers, it doesn’t seem likely that someone standing around Times Square is going to be snapping pictures of them on a smartphone.  Little detail, but it annoys me.

Justice League of America #12 – I’m not sure how I feel about DC having it’s own Microverse, but since Marvel hasn’t made good use of theirs in ages, I guess it’s all good.  The Atom leads a small team into this tiny place to rescue Ray Palmer, and perhaps save all of reality as they do it.  It’s a decent issue, but it once again brings up a problem I always had with the old Micronauts series as well.  If there is a tiny universe called the Microverse, and it’s really, really small, why is it possible to access it from just about anywhere?  Wouldn’t it be balanced on the tip of a pin, or at the end of a fish’s hair follicle or something?  Shouldn’t you have to go to it?  There’s a lot of comic science in this issue, yet this is the thing that bugs me.

Kill or Be Killed #11 – Just when it looks like this title might be an endorsement for staying on your medication and looking after yourself, Russians enter the mix again (as they will), and poor Dylan is sucked back into all sorts of madness.  Ed Brubaker’s writing on this series is among the best work of his career, and Sean Phillips is always brilliant.  I think that this new story arc is going to be a big deal.

Low #19 – It looks like this book is undergoing yet another big shift, as Tajo and her companions effectively take over the doomed city of Salus in a desperate attempt to save its people from suffocation at the bottom of the ocean.  This title, by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini remains completely impossible to predict, as it continues to explore the place of hope in a bleak future.

Manifest Destiny #30 – Sacagawea’s baby is born amid the tumult of the fog that is forcing everyone to hallucinate their worst fears.  This is a typically good issue, and we get a few good character moments from some of the more minor cast members, while also getting a few more hints as to the real, secret, nature of Lewis and Clark’s mission.  This is always a good series.

New Super-Man #14 – Kenan is really pulling things together as a hero in this issue, leading the Justice League of China into the lair of Emperor Super-Man, and untapping new powers.  It actually makes me worried that this title might be coming to an end soon, since it looks like most plotlines, including Kenan’s parentage, are starting to wrap up.  I know that sales aren’t great on this book, but I’ve really enjoyed Gene Luen Yang’s writing here, and want to see more of these characters (and the Great Ten, who get a cameo).

Secret Empire #8 – And here, I guess, is why we keep buying into big comics events, and blockbuster movies.  Captain Sam makes his big move, attempting to take down the shield ringing the Earth, and the Darkforce barrier keeping Manhattan in a different dimension, as a last desperate move to gain allies in the fight against Hydra.  It’s a rousing, exciting issue, and leads me to think that this might all get wrapped up soon.  Nick Spencer is good at writing speeches, I’ll give him that.

Unholy Grail #2 – I wasn’t that impressed with the first issue of this book, but liked this second one a lot better.  We see how the demon posing as Merlin set about consolidating his control over the young Arthur, and influenced the construction of Camelot.  This book is pretty decompressed though, and I think I might stick with my earlier assessment and give up on it now, and pick up the issues in a year or so when they’re cheaper.  I don’t have a lot of luck with Aftershock comics it seems.

The Unsound #3 – This deeply hallucinogenic and disturbing comic about a mental asylum where patients have rioted, and a few patients and staff are attempting to escape gets even weirder and more wonderful with this issue.  Xerxes leads our main characters through an Eschian world where only the masks he’s given them can keep them safe, but Ashli keeps taking hers off, and it is becoming clear that there’s something very special about her.  I’m really enjoying this very weird book, and am increasingly impressed with Jack T. Cole’s art.  Cullen Bunn is tossing a lot of comics into the world these days, and this is one of his best ones.

The Wicked + The Divine #30 – Much of this issue is given over to Dionysus waiting stubbornly to meet with Baphomet, but that allows for some more insight into their, and the Morrigan’s, characters, while most of the rest of the cast prepares for a big concert.  I always enjoy this book, but lately don’t have a lot to say about it.

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

All-New Wolverine #23

Amazing Spider-Man #31

Defenders #4

Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1

Jean Grey #5

Ms. Marvel #21

Old Man Logan #27

Redlands #1

Shadows on the Grave #7

Bargain Comics:

Avengers #8 – Things felt really disjointed with this issue, as Mark Waid and co-writer Jeremy Whitley bring in an enemy from the recent .1 miniseries (which I have but haven’t read yet) who can steal the Avengers’ powers; it’s left to the Wasp to try to stop her.  It’s a quick done-in-one story that didn’t really connect with me.

Kingpin #1&2 – I wasn’t too impressed with the Kingpin miniseries that came out during Civil War II, but chalked that up to the crossover nature of it, since writer Matthew Rosenberg’s work at Black Mask has been excellent.  This series (which was recently stealth-canceled but was probably meant to be a miniseries all along anyway) is a lot better, as Wilson tries to recruit a recovering alcoholic broke journalist to tell his life story, and then sets out to convince her that she should take the job.  The build is slow and well-thought out, and the character work is strong.  I also really like artist Ben Torres’s work.  I want to read the rest of this now.

Power Man and Iron Fist #14&15 – It’s weird that Marvel would decide to end this series with the heroes pledging to rebuild Heroes For Hire at a time when they then split into two separate solo books, and reunite with a couple of other characters to form the Defenders.  You would almost think that Marvel doesn’t have a plan, and are just reacting to things…  That couldn’t be the case, could it?

Scarlet Witch #7-15 – James Robinson did a real good job with this series, taking a very damaged character and reworking her to be functional again in the Marvel Universe (at least until whatever happened with her in Secret Empire took place).  This Wanda is determined to set herself to rights, and at the same time, to fix whatever is wrong with witchcraft in the Marvel Universe.  Along the way, we learn (yet again) the truth of her parentage, and do away with the ridiculousness of Rick Remender’s having made her and Pietro the products of the High Evolutionary, while also not giving them back to Magneto.  Each issue has a different artist, and it’s great to see such an array of strong female artists (Wu, Lotay, Jones, Del Duca, and Del Rey to name a few) on most issues.  I enjoyed this.

Shade the Changing Girl #7&8 – I gave up on this book as a first run thing, but enjoyed it enough to check back in.  I still find this book to be a little slow moving, plot-wise, and am bored during every scene set on Meta.  Young Animal has really not worked for me.

Silver Surfer #10 & 11 – It’s more of the same with these charming issues.  In issue eleven, Dan Slott and Michael Allred address an older plot point, when a vanquished foe comes looking for revenge while Dawn needs to return home for the birth of her sister’s baby.  These were entertaining.

Squadron Supreme #13-15 – Part of the great glut of Marvel titles of the last few years, this one really didn’t have much of a chance, did it?  None of the characters were very established, and the tone of the book was often hard to read.  These last issues are basically James Robinson trying to fix things, as Namor is resurrected, the team breaks up, and the Hyperion and Nighthawk series, which lasted one arc each, are set up.  This could and should have been better.

Star Lord #4 – Chip Zdarsky’s writing on this book is fun, but I find it really weird that this is really a book about an old villain who gave Daredevil the slip years ago, while Star Lord works in a villains’ bar.  You could swap Peter Quill with just about any character, and the story still works.

Totally Awesome Hulk #17 – I dropped this title when Marvel got rid of their digital codes, largely because I’d become disappointed in it (the Jeremy Lin issues were not good), but then it started getting good again.  Reading this issue, I regret dropping the book, but knowing that it’s currently involved in a crossover with Weapon X, I think I made the right decision.  Still, this is a good issue that has Amadeus and a few other Asian superheroes helping protect a group of kidnapped humans from aliens that want to eat them.  Mahmud Asrar’s art is very nice.

The Wildstorm #1-3 – I originally passed on the recent relaunch/rebirth of the Wildstorm line, because I suspected that it would be more of the same old thing.  Instead, Warren Ellis has reconceived the imprint in a new and fresh way, pitting three organizations, IO, Skywatch, and Jacob Marlowe’s Halo Corp against one another, but in a covert, cold war sort of way.  When IO tries to take out a hit on Marlowe, he is rescued by Angie Spica, who has a technosuit that no one, including her IO bosses, thought possible.  This event becomes a good reason to introduce a number of familiar characters in new ways, and to basically avoid so much of the nonsense that hampered WildCATs from its beginning.  Jon Davis-Hunt’s art is very nice and understated, and it really feels like Ellis has a solid plan for this book (unlike his recent look at the Supreme universe, which felt kind of phoned-in).

X-Men Gold #1-4 – I can appreciate that Marc Guggenheim was probably under instructions to return the X-Men to a more nostalgia-drive, recognizable format, and I like the way this book focuses on a single squad that pulls from the X-talent pool when needed, but I think it’s too bad that Guggenheim doesn’t appear to have anything new to say here.  The X-Men fight a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, investigate mutant murders, and help Gambit when he steals some nanotech which bonds with Sentinel technology.  There’s nothing here that we haven’t seen a thousand times before, and the end result, especially with house style artists like Ardian Syaf and RB Silva, is that this is all a touch dull.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Harrow County Vol. 2: Twice Told – I didn’t love the first trade of this Dark Horse series by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, and that surprised me, as they are both incredibly talented creators whose work I usually love.  This second trade, however, did a much better job of grabbing my interest and making me a fan of the title.  Emmy, the witch girl, has become accepted by her community, using her powers to help people, while also trying her best to be helpful to the haints, the spirits that reside in the county.  Things are going well until Kammi, her twin sister that she never knew about, shows up and has her own agenda.  This book is gorgeous.

The Journal of the Main Street Secret Lodge Vol. 2

by Steven Gilbert

I read the first Journal of the Main Street Secret Lodge about three years ago, and enjoyed it, so was happy to pick up Steven Gilbert’s return to this title when I saw it at TCAF this year.  Like the first book, it depicts the town of Newmarket Ontario at the end of the nineteenth century, and involves a group of American robbers looking to take advantage of the small town.

They have heard that there is no real police presence in the town, and a lot of money, but they are not aware of the fact that the retired Captain Woodrow looks after things.  Once they arrive, and burn down the town’s main hotel, the Captain goes after them, Rambo style.

Gilbert is a gifted artist, who takes a languorous amount of time getting to his actual story.  Along the way, we get a highly repetitive newspaper column on the methods employed by pickpockets, we see some kid take a voyage on a boat along the Mississippi, and learn about how the land that became Newmarket was taken by force from some Haudenosaunee.  None of these things are essential to the story, but I guess they provide atmosphere, as do the pages and pages of establishing shots that show up throughout the book.

Now, I like those establishing shots a lot, as I feel that Gilbert is at his strongest when depicting such scenes.

This is a good book, but a very unfocused one.  I would still return to the Main Street Secret Lodge (whatever that might actually be) for a third volume some day.