The Weekly Round-Up #402 With Southern Bastards #17, Divinity #0, Mage: The Hero Denied #1, Invincible #139, Star Wars #34 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Southern Bastards #17 – It’s been a long time between issues (as some of the creative team has taken time off to deal with personal losses), but Southern Bastards comes back as strong as ever.  Coach Boss’s rivalry with a local town has spun out of control, as they retaliate “big league”, and as the local leaders who have had enough of Boss begin to plot against him.  This book continues to rank among Jason Aaron’s best, and I’m happy to see it again.  I hope that it comes out a bit more regularly from here on out.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #2 – I really, really want to like Astonishing X-Men.  We need a solid X-book, and Charles Soule seems like the right person to write it, but a lengthy trip through astral plane as the team is manipulated by the Shadow King is not what I’m after from this title.  It all feels like it’s been done before.  This is a great lineup of characters (Mystique makes her presence known this issue, after being on the cover of the last one), but I don’t believe they are being used well.  I trust Soule, and like the lineup of shifting artists (Mike Deodato drew this issue), so I’ll give Soule two story arcs before I give up on the book, but still, I’m disappointed.

Batman #29 – Tom King is at his best when he sets up some kind of framing conceit for an issue.  In this one, Bruce Wayne has the Joker and the Riddler over for a nine-course meal, to try to negotiate some sort of ending to their war.  I like the formatting of the story, spreading it across the different courses of the meal, but again, the whole thing falls a little flat in my eyes; I just keep feeling like this “War” is being unnecessarily dragged out, and we’re only four chapters into it.

Batwoman #6 – I haven’t been all that impressed with this series, and now, after spending the last issue in a flashback, this issue jumps a number of years into the future, where a new Batman has turned Gotham into a police state, and where Kate is the leader of the Colony.  In the last decade, there has been a huge upswing in the number of times that comics writers just randomly jump into dystopian futures (which, watching the news, is the only kind we can probably expect) to tell stories that we know are never going to be the real continuity.  I like dark future comics, but am getting a little tired of the What If?/Elseworlds nature of them, and am starting to view them as lazy storytelling devices to use when a writer doesn’t have a longer-term plan for a title.  Because, at the end of the day, what is the point of this series?  Why does Kate have a solo title?  I’m not sure that writers James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett actually know…  Truthfully, I feel much the same about Batman during this Jokes and Riddles arc.  I’d really rather read comics set in current continuity, at least in terms of my Big Two purchases.

Bitch Planet: Triple Feature #3 – We get three more decent stories set in the Bitch Planet world, two of which play with recent narratives around police brutality or overreach.  The third story has art by Vanessa Del Rey, which was a nice surprise.

Black Panther & The Crew #5 – Manifest, a great character who came out of Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors and Avengers runs, joins the Crew after we learn that he’s been hanging out in Harlem for a while, and was, of course, influenced by Ezra, the revolutionary and rights worker whose death sparked this comic.  It’s another good issue by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Butch Guice, but since learning that this book is ending with the next issue, a lot of my enthusiasm for the title has died.  I think, if your team book is only six issues long, you don’t spend five of them putting the team together.  I’d hoped for a longer run here.  Also, whatever happened to Yona Harvey co-writing this book?  I don’t think her name was on the last issue either…

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #3 – This issue appears to bring about a lot of resolutions – the hikers that the family have been holding are dealt with, and Grace meets with the FBI to discuss the killing of one of her citizens.  Brian Wood has a good handle on the complexity of this situation, and I do find it weird, this week especially, to be so interested in the fates of a secessionist alt-right community along the Canadian border.  To the Briggs’ credit, they haven’t been portrayed as racists or white supremacists, so that makes it a little easier to not feel bad about having sympathy for them.

Descender #23 – Things have gotten very exciting in this series, as the UGC fall into the Hardwire’s trap for them, Andy gets interrogated, Quon tries to save Telsa, and Tim-21 tries to escape his captors.  As usual, Dustin Nguyen’s watercolour art is beautiful, even when he’s depicting something awful, like the apparent death of a major character this month.  

Divinity #0 – Valiant uses this book to check in on a number of its properties as Abram flies around, visiting the Red Brigade, which survived the Divinity III series, Ninjak, Harada, Bloodshot, and Aric.  I’m not really sure there’s much point to this book other than keeping Abram and Myshka in people’s minds before the upcoming Eternity series, which I assume will be about them.  This was fine, but not really necessary.

Horizon #13 – With some recent revelations, this series is beginning to get a lot more sprawling – our group of alien insurgents don’t even appear in this issue.  Instead, we learn more about the Earth’s involvement with alien races, and the depth of their penetration on Valius.  It’s an interesting issue, showing that Brandon Thomas has a deeper plan for this book than I originally thought.  This is an intelligent and exciting science fiction series that rewards deeper reading, as I find I often miss some of the finer details on my first pass.

Invincible #139 – As we get ever closer to the end of this incredible series, we see the end of the battle between the Allied Planets and Thragg’s Viltrumite army, although the fight between him and Mark is nowhere near finished.  Robert Kirkman has allowed a number of his villains to really grow over the course of this series, and that is just one of the things I’m going to miss when this series is gone.

Mage: The Hero Denied #1 – It’s great to see Matt Wagner back with some new Mage.  I’ll admit that I don’t remember all that much of the last series, and should probably dig those out and read them again, but they aren’t all that necessary to understand this issue.  Kevin Matchstick has been living comfortably and raising a family for years, but while on a walk through the woods with his son, he is discovered by some creatures, and now it looks like he’s being drawn back into the world he’d tried to leave.  I like that Kevin has aged since the last volume, and has changed as a character; Wagner’s always made this character more realistic than a lot of comics characters.  Wagner’s art is terrific as always; I haven’t been reading his Shadow stuff, and I’ve missed his art.

Poe Dameron #18 – It seems that betrayal is the theme this month as Poe and Black Squadron deal with a couple of acts of people turning against them, or at least appearing to.  I’m glad to see some of the supporting characters in this book getting fleshed out a little more – I don’t even remember if any of them were in the Force Awakens or if they were created for this book.  Either way, it can’t just be Poe and BB8, especially since neither of them are particularly interesting characters.

Regression #4 – Cullen Bunn and Danny Luckert’s disturbing horror series continues with an act of friendship that is almost hard to believe.  After killing her coworker and attacking her, Adrian somehow convinces Molly to help him.  It’s probably not going to end well, is it?  This book has really caught my eye, and I especially enjoy Bunn’s stories in the backmatter about his father’s hypnotist career.

Secret Weapons #3 – This very unconventional Valiant comic has quickly become one of my favourites.  Newcomer (to comics) Eric Heisserer has a trio of Legion of Substitute Psiot types working with Livewire to survive a monster that’s been coming after them, but this issue pauses from that larger story for a while (risky in a four-issue miniseries) as one of the group, a Sikh-American, gets attacked by some fellow students at his college, which leads to a big confrontation with the police.  Raúl Allén’s art and layouts are inspired, and I’m already sad to see that this series is going to end next month.  It’s really very good.

Spider-Men II #2 – The Spider-Men trade quips and fight with Taskmaster, before trying to dig deeper into the mystery of whether or not there was another Miles Morales in the 616 before the one we know and love transfered over post-Secret Wars.  I still find some of the inter-dimensional stuff confusing here, and as is typical for Brian Michael Bendis, none of that is really discussed, so we are just to accept that Miles knows he’s from another dimension in this comic, but never mentions it in his own.  

Star Wars #34 – This was an absolutely delightful issue of Star Wars, as Sana recruits Lando Calrissian to help her sell a bunch of stolen Imperial blasters in a complicated series of scams that become more unbelievable and audacious with each new page.  I really like Sana, and think she’s a good addition to the Star Wars universe.  I’m also happy to see pre-Empire Lando showing up in this book.  This is the type of thing that Jason Aaron is very good at, and helps put this book back in the right direction.

Super Sons #7 – The team-up with the Teen Titans continues, as the unnaturally aged Damian has no choice but to get Jon’s help in restoring his proper age.  This is another fun issue, with very nice art.  This is not a particularly thoughtful or envelope-pushing book, but it is very charming.

Ultimates^2 #100 – Once again, a series that I enjoy that’s written by Al Ewing and stars Monica Rambeau and Adam Brashear, comes to its conclusion.  This follows two (or was it three?) versions of Mighty Avengers and the last Ultimates run.  It’s a bit frustrating, because I like the diverse and interesting cast, and the way in which Ewing approaches these characters, the “paramedics of the multiverse”.  Anyway, I guess things end alright, with an unnecessary number jump to issue 100, and the return of the original Ultimates.  Galactus gets to stay interesting, which is nice, but I’m going to miss this book.  It seems like a lot of the Marvel books I buy are getting the chop right now…

The Woods #34 – I’m late getting to this comic, thanks to Diamond, but it was well worth the wait.  After three years, the Woods is getting close to its conclusion, and the way in which James Tynion IV invested so much time developing his characters is really paying off.  Karen is able to get in touch with her mother and Sanami back on Earth, as Adrian helps her craft a plan that could get everyone home.  There are a number of satisfying emotional moments in this issue, as Karen and Sander head out to bring this story to a close.  This is one of the consistently best comics on the stands.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #8

American Way: Those Above and Below #2

Astro City #46

Dead Inside TP

Generation X #5

Generations: All-New Wolverine and Wolverine #1

Green Arrow #29

Invincible Iron Man #10

Luke Cage #4

Micronauts: Wrath of Karza #4

Mighty Thor #22

Rom #12

Royals #6

Silver Surfer #13

Superman #29

Totally Awesome Hulk #22

USAvengers #9

X-Men Blue #9

Bargain Comics:

All-New Wolverine #17-19 – While I can’t think of a character I’d like to see Laura fight less than Kimura, this was handled well, as it looks like the trigger scent plot device might have finally been done away with.  There are a lot of guest stars in this book, and I find that kind of weird.

Ms. Marvel #16&17 – I let this title go when Marvel dropped their digital codes, mostly because I was starting to get a little tired of the book, but these two issues make me think I was a little hasty.  These are solid comics that focus on the role of kindness in society – a lesson that a lot of people need right about now – without getting preachy.

Old Man Logan #19&20 – This was another title I gave up on after the digital codes disappeared, and I feel okay with that.  While I like what Jeff Lemire was doing with Logan, the story is very decompressed, and definitely not worth paying cover price for.

Rock Candy Mountain #1&2 – The first issue of Kyle Starks’s new series about hobos didn’t grab me that much, but the second, which involves an illegal fight club and the larger plot of the series drew me in much more.  Hobos are a rich vein to tap for stories, but then they all seem to go over the same material.  With the second issue, I felt like Starks was branching out a little more.  I’ll be happy to read the rest of this.

Rom #8&9 – Rom continues to be a good read, but also not one that really grabs me.  I still think that connecting this book to Transformers and GI Joe was a mistake, and that killed a lot of my enthusiasm for it.  Still, Christos Gage is very good at what he does, so the comic remains a decent one.

Superman #16-19, Action Comics #975 – I was really enjoying this book, but feel that, with characters like Mr. Mxyzptlk getting involved, it’s turning into the kind of Superman comic I’ve never been interested in.  I’m also getting confused by all this Reborn stuff.  I’ve read the first three chapters of a four chapter story (still need to get Action 976) which is supposed to be about Superman’s weird continuity issues, but that stuff is not really addressed yet.  I don’t know-  I like this book best when it focuses on Clark and his family, the big picture cosmic stuff is kind of dull.

Über Invasion #1-4 – Kieron Gillen brings back his superhuman WWII epic, bringing the war to American soil as the German battleships launch their invasion.  This is a particularly brutal run, as the city of Boston is completely destroyed.  Gillen spends the first two issues messing things up, and it’s really not until 

the fourth issue that some of the regular characters from the first volume return to the book.  It’s a bold way to start a run, but it works very well.  This has always been a very unique title, as it runs away from anything that seems typical about this kind of 


The Week in Graphic Novels:

Caligula Vol. 2: Heart of Rome – There are some dark things going on in David Lapham’s mind, and sometimes that leads to brilliant comics like Stray Bullets and Young Liars, and at other times, it leads to some pretty typical Avatar comics.  I think I’m always going to be interested in comics set in Ancient Rome, but I feel like the first Caligula comic said everything there was to say in this series.  This was fine, but never felt necessary.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Written by Neil Gaiman
Adapted by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

How to Talk to Girls at Parties began its existence as a short story by Neil Gaiman, but last became a graphic novel adapted by the brilliant Brazilian twins, Bá and Moon.

The story is about Enn, a fifteen year old who finds that it’s very difficult to talk to girls, a problem not shared by his best friend, Vic, who is very good at this.  Vic drags Enn to a party he doesn’t really want to go to, and they are both blown away by the beauty of the girls there, especially the one they think is the hostess.

As Vic spends time with her, Enn wanders the house, and has a few increasingly strange conversations with some of the girls who are not busy dancing.  It doesn’t take long for the reader (although it takes a lot longer for Enn) to figure out that there is something very odd about these girls, perhaps even something otherworldly.

Bá and Moon are stunning artists.  I didn’t really buy Enn or Vic as fifteen year olds, but aside from that, I love how they construct these scenes and build character through facial expressions and body language.

This is a good quick read, although I have to say I’m happiest when the twins are writing the stories they draw.  I think it’s time for them to give us a long-form story like their Daytripper, which remains one of my all-time favourite comics.