The Weekly Round-Up #407 With Secret Weapons #4, Bitch Planet Triple Feature #4, Journey To Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma #2, Bloodshot Salvation #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Secret Weapons #4 – Secret Weapons has been my favourite Valiant book of the last year, so I’m unhappy to see it come to an end, but also excited to see that a return is planned for 2018.  The group, under Livewire’s direction, face the creature that has been chasing them and killed their friends, and as always, Raúl Allén knocks it out of the park, art-wise.

Quick Takes:

Batman #31 – I continue to pretty much hate the War of Jokes and Riddles, but I’m getting closer to figuring out why that is.  First off, it’s obvious that none of the dozen or more villains involved in this ‘war’ ever die in it, as they all go on to long careers after this retconned story is over.  Batman, working with the Riddler’s army, invade Joker’s last hiding place, as we move to a conclusion I care nothing about.  The intimation that at the end of it all Batman does something terrible that he is ashamed of doesn’t excite me in the least.  I feel awkward about the fact that I have so much respect for everything else Tom King has written, but find his Batman so flat.  At the same time, I keep buying it…

Batwoman #7 – This is the best issue of Batwoman we’ve seen in a while, but not good enough to keep me coming back for more.  I really like Fernando Blanco’s artwork in this issue, but did not get much out of the story.  Kate has continued to pursue the weapons dealers she was after back in issue one, and we’ve missed her taking out a number of colourful opponents around the globe.  Her attempt to capture another one has her lost in the Sahara, attacked by Colony soldiers, and running across an old Batman foe, all while continuing to flashback to her year on a pirate island.  Why?  All of the island stuff has worked against Kate’s character, as it’s made her more of a passenger in her story.  This title had some real potential, but I’m not sure Marguerite Bennett has anything she really wants to say about the character.

Bitch Planet Triple Feature #4 – Once again, we get some solid short stories that help to flesh out the world of Bitch Planet, without really adding anything of substance.  We have stories that involve the hero worship of star athletes, even when they behave badly, to allure of extreme body modification, and a high-risk theft.  It’s cool, but I’d rather read the real thing.

Black Hammer #13 – Jeff Lemire makes some big jumps in his plot with this issue.  We see the moments before the heroes entered into their last battle with Anti-God in flashback, and Lucy takes a big step towards having the series’s title make a lot more sense.  Now that this issue, and this arc, are over, we are getting a four-month spin-off miniseries.  I hope that this book returns right after that, because I want to know more about what’s really going on, but I also want Dean Ormston to be the one drawing it all.

Bloodshot Salvation #1 – I’m very sick of writer relying on flashforwards to propel their stories.  Jeff Lemire, who writes this series, does this a lot, it having been the central conceit of one of his Hawkeye runs, to say nothing of his Old Man Logan, and now he does this too much in the beginning of this new chapter of Bloodshot’s life.  In the present, he is living quietly with Magic and their infant daughter, when he discovers some unfortunate things about Magic’s past and family that spur him to action.  In the future, Magic is on the run with her nanite-fueled daughter.  The art on this book, by Lewis LaRosa (present day) and Mico Suayan (future), is very nice, but the story already feels a little tired.

Dept. H #18 – I’m beginning to think that none of these characters are going to make it to the ocean’s surface.  One makes his own last ditch effort, while the rest of the survivors run into some tentacled trouble in their sub.  Based on the water gauge the runs up the side of each page, we are getting closer to the end of this title, but still aren’t any closer to knowing who killed Hari.  Matt Kindt’s latest series is a masterpiece of slow build.

Descender #24 – Digger is the star of this issue, as he and his new friend make their way towards a city on Wochworld, and have to deal with a few dangers along the way.  I like the way that Digger, who is supposed to be a pretty single-minded robot, is fueled by guilt.  This story has really sprawled of late, but I love the work that Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are doing on it.

Doctor Strange #25 – I was excited to see that Kevin Nowlan was drawing this comic, although in typical Marvel fashion, he ended up only drawing some of the issue, with about seventeen different inkers or finishers, and Juan Frigeri drew the rest.  John Barber wrote the issue, which has Strange in the present fighting to contain a threat that he dealt with ages ago, although he’s having trouble remembering what happened.  It’s pretty much just a fill-in issue, as Marvel hold off on making their jump to Legacy numbering, allowing for a $5 oversized issue, just because this title lasted twenty-five issues.  I’m going to get the next issue of this title because Nico Henrichon is supposed to be drawing it (watch – it will end up being only three pages), but I’m not going to stick around for the Legacy issues.

Horizon #14 – The team makes a play to attack a space station, and to get there they have to pull off a train job, and then fight some strange looking weaponized octopus robots.  Brandon Thomas and Juan Gedeon are getting rid of all restraint in presenting this story, and it makes this a very exciting comic.  I don’t feel like this series gets anywhere near enough attention; it’s very good.

Invincible #140 – Mark and Thragg fight on the surface of the sun, as Ryan Ottley is given one more opportunity to really trash a couple of major characters in this series.  Mark’s narration, focusing on the differences between what motivates the two men, is lovely.  It looks like Robert Kirkman is going to be closing this series out in great style.

Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma #2 – Phasma is after a First Order officer who holds proof that she helped the Resistance, and her pursuit takes her to a hostile planet of sea monsters.  Kelly Thompson takes this title in a strange direction, as she has Phasma disguise herself, but does not reveal her face.  I’m not sure that we are really learning very much about her character here, which is what is required, as she came off as such a cipher in The Force Awakens.  

Poe Dameron #19 – At the start of the issue, all of Alpha Squadron has been captured by the First Order, but of course things don’t stay that way for long.  Oddy gets the chance to redeem himself, and we get some decent action scenes.  This is not the best Star Wars title, but it’s not bad either.

Spider-Men II #3 – Is there anything more Brian Michael Bendis than giving over an entire issue of this miniseries to the history of the original 616 Miles Morales, who is of course the retconned silent partner of the Kingpin?  We see how 616 Miles met Wilson Fisk, became his friend, and eventually left his lifestyle for other things.  What we don’t see is either Spider-Man.

Star Wars Annual #3 – Jason Latour gives us a story about Han and Leia being chased by someone with a grudge against Han on a remote and hostile planet.  It’s kind of a paint-by-numbers story, but Michael Walsh’s art is very nice and full of character.

Super Sons #8 – Damian and Jonathan find themselves in a strange dimension where the few super powered humans are being hunted by a living planet.  This gives the characters the chance to further strengthen their bond, while also putting each other down, and like every issue of this book so far, it’s both charming and kind of slight.

Thought Bubble 2017 – This annual anthology always has some nice surprises in it, and this year it’s a one page Southern Bastards story that has the book’s original protagonist travelling to England.  There are some very sweet comic strips in this book.

The Unsound #4 – Cullen Bunn and Jack T. Cole’s strange mental asylum horror mini gets even weirder, as the survivors are forced into a group therapy session, and we get a little closer to learning the secrets of our main character.  This book is very different, and very attractive.

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

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #10

Angelic #1

Avengers #11

Bug: The Adventures of Forager #4

Dark Ark #1

Gasolina #1

Generation Gone #3

Generations Ms. Marvel & Ms. Marvel #1

Glitterbomb Fame Game #1

Green Arrow #31

Head Lopper #7

Invincible Iron Man #11

Jean Grey #7

Luke Cage #5

Micronauts Wrath of Karza #5

Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #4

Savage Town GN

Shirtless Bear-Fighter #4

Son of Shaolin

Sons of the Devil Volume 3

Superman #31

Totally Awesome Hulk #23

Unholy Grail #3

USAvengers #10

Wild Storm #7

X-Men Gold #12

Bargain Comics:

Jean Grey #2-4 – Unlike a lot of the recent launches at Marvel, in this series, Dennis Hopeless has found a solid reason for this book to exist.  Young Jean, afraid that the Phoenix Force is coming for her, is determined to train herself to fight it off.  To that end, she contacts previous hosts to the Phoenix, including Namor, and hunts down Thor Odinson to help prepare her.  It works, and is a concept that can last.  I particularly like Harvey Tolibao’s art on issue four.  

Poe Dameron Annual #1 – There are a lot of these solo Star Wars stories piling up.  Poe and BB8 are floating in space after Poe’s X-Wing is destroyed.  It’s a decent character study, and an exciting read, but it hinges on something I’ve noticed in the more recent Star Wars films – hyperspace seems to work like teleportation now, with vast distances being covered in impossibly short periods of time, mostly to help effect near-instantaneous rescues.  It’s become sloppy storytelling.

Totally Awesome Hulk #18-19 – Greg Pak is making better and better use of Amadeus Cho, now that he’s moved away from his constant arguing with his sister.  The lead-in to the Weapons of Mutant Destruction crossover with X-Force is a little unfortunate, as it picks up off events in that title without any explanation, an issue that extends into…

Weapons of Mutant Destruction Alpha #1 – Had I not read the first few issues of X-Force (although, unfortunately, not the issue where Warpath and Deathstrike get freed) and the last few of TA Hulk, I would have had no idea what was going on here.  Leaving that aside, I enjoyed the banter and setup of this crossover.  Mahmud Asrar just keeps getting better.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Astro City Vol. 10: Victory – This volume collects a four-part story from the Vertigo run, focusing on Winged Victory and her efforts to protect women.  She is placed under suspicion as a phoney, and she has to work with Astro City’s version of the Trinity to clear her name.  The rest of the book is rounded out by a Visitor’s Guide.  I like Astro City, but I often feel that Kurt Busiek’s earnestness makes it a little too dutiful.  Maybe if these characters had a richer history, it would be easier to care, but I find that I’m never too invested in these stories.  It’s weird, because Busiek and Brent Anderson basically deliver a masters class with each issue on how to craft a very strong Bronze Age style comic.  I guess this is why newer characters don’t catch on?

Dynamo 5 Vol. 5: Sins of the Father – It’s a shame that Jay Faerber’s excellent superhero family dynasty didn’t continue, as he clearly had a lot more stories to tell with these characters, as hinted in the various epilogues for this volume.  Appearances by Invincible and Malcolm Dragon weren’t enough to turn sales around by this point in the title’s history, and so this is the last we got to see these characters.  This was a very solid character-driven superhero title, and I’m glad I got around to enjoying it now in collection.