The Weekly Round-Up #413 With Deathstroke #25, Captain America #695, Star Wars: Darth Vader #7, The Walking Dead #173 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Deathstroke #25 – In typical Christopher Priest fashion, a number of plotlines converge in this issue, as Slade, apprehended by the Society is put on trial, not so much for hurting Deadline months ago, but for turning his back on evil.  Along the way, Priest gives us a deeper look into Slade’s character than we’ve seen before, and also makes some comments on the way in which a number of DC villains are going good.  It’s a very tightly plotted issue, and I have to give DC major props for adding eight pages of story without raising the price.  That’s classy (or, perhaps, an error?).

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #5 – I’m still struggling to get into this title.  I like the lineup, but find I couldn’t care less about the battle between Xavier and the Shadow King.  Also, this already feels like one of those stories where Xavier lies to and betrays his beloved students, which we’ve already seen a hundred times before.  I expect so much more from Charles Soule, who is better on every other book he’s written.

Batman #34 – I’m happy that Joelle Jones is drawing this book, even though I’m still having some issues with her very inconsistent portrayals of Damian, who looks a variety of ages over the course of the issue.  Batman and Catwoman are up against a number of Talia Al Ghul’s people, as their reason for invading a desolate and off-limits region of the world is made clear.  Tom King has been working towards this story for a while, and if you ignore some of the obvious strange choices (such as not using a Bat-plane to get there), the story is exciting.  Is this really the first time that Talia and Selena have met?  That seems unlikely to me, but I have no idea what continuity is canon and what has been jettisoned at DC now.

Captain America #695 – I was looking forward to seeing what the spectacular team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee might do with Captain America, coming off their very strong runs on Black Widow and Daredevil.  The character is in need of rehabilitation after Secret Empire ran his name into the ground (in the Marvel Universe, I mean), yet Waid and Samnee start their run in a town that has named itself after Cap.  In light of his recent takeover of the nation, that seems worse than erecting a statue of General Lee in a townsquare in 2017.  I’m a little worried that after the more nuanced politics of Nick Spencer’s Captain America, Waid is going to over-simplify things, and I don’t know that pitting Cap against a Hydra-like organization right out the gate is a good idea.  Still, Samnee’s art is beautiful, so I’ll give this a full arc.

Darth Vader #7 – Vader has been put in charge of the Inquisitors, and is starting his next mission – to hunt down any remaining Jedi.  The focus is on Jocasta Nu, the former archivist in the Jedi Temple, as she has some secrets that could bring the Emperor down.  I like how this title is building in terms of purpose and direction, and look forward to seeing where Charles Soule takes these characters.

Iceman #7 – Bobby hangs out in LA with his friends, has his first date with another man, and contemplates a big life change.  Oh, and fights some Sentinels too.  Sina Grace continues to impress me with his writing on this book, which feels personal, independent, and at place in the world of the X-Books.  That’s not an easy trick to pull off.  I’m really enjoying this title.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #4 – Two Priest comics in one week?  It’s like Christmas came early.  Black Bolt attacks Spider-Man this issue, thinking he’s an Inhuman, while Maximus enters a weird mindmeld with the arachnid hero, and as Karnak finds Triton.  This book is getting closer to wrapping up, and while I still have a few continuity issues, since I feel that this story should be set before the Marvel Age of heroes kicked off if the royals are going to be portrayed as being so young, I am liking the Inhumans here more than I ever have before.

Iron Fist #74 – The pairing of Iron Fist with Sabretooth is a strange one, but it works here, as Ed Brisson finally finds the right tone and feel for this book.  I’m not sure why Sabretooth would care that someone is posing as the Constrictor – I don’t remember those two characters ever being close – but any comic that features an iteration of the Serpent Society is okay in my books.  Mike Perkins’s art is very nice here.

Lazarus X+66 #4 – The focus for this issue shifts to the East, as two Lazari work together to learn the secrets of the Zmey, the Lazarus that gave Forever such a hard time a little while ago.  I like how Greg Rucka is using this interstitial series to explore some of the minor characters in this world, and to expand the reader’s’ knowledge of the extensive worldbuilding he’s put into this series.

Paper Girls #17 – The girls just keep moving their way through the year 2000, as they meet someone who can finally explain some of what’s going on, using a tangerine iMac, at that.  This is always a good read, but sometimes it does feel like it’s over in a hurry.

Spider-Man #234 – The Legacy numbering takes over (which is weird, considering it encompasses any Ultimate Spider-Man title), as a character from Miles’s past returns, taking the guise of the Iron Spider, and sets about putting together a crew of villains to basically repeat the plot of one of Joe Casey’s oddball Marvel titles from years ago (Vengeance, maybe?).  Goldballs is back, as is Bombshell’s mother, as Brian Michael Bendis gets ready for what is presumably going to be a major storyline.  As usual, Miles’s general likeability wins out over Bendis’s questionable use of continuity.  Here’s an interesting question – what’s up with Spider-Men II?  That book is hella late.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #29 – We finally get to meet Vic, Kretch’s little brother, who is trying to rebuild his life after spending a few years on heroin.  He’s finally in a good place, having met a nice girl and holding down a good job, but it’s hard to escape your past, especially since Kretch and Annie have come looking for him.  David Lapham excels at ripping people’s lives apart in his work, and this issue is another good example of that.  

The Walking Dead #173 – It feels like Robert Kirkman is in a bit of a rush to sweep the remaining Whisperers off the stage, as the return of Beta doesn’t last very long.  The most interesting thing about this title now is Eugene and Michonne’s journey to meet some new people, and it looks like that’s going to lead to some big shifts in the status quo of the title.  This book is always so good.

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

Avengers #673

Black Bolt #7

Elsewhere #4

Gravediggers Union #1

Green Arrow #34

Grandville Force Majeure HC

Guardians of the Galaxy #146

Namwolf Vol. 1 TP

No. 1 With a Bullet #1

Old Man Logan #30

Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #6

Superman #34

Über Invasion #9

Bargain Comics:

Superman #20-25 – I have always found Superman to be a boring character, but by making him a father, they’ve done a lot to revitalize the character and make his story a lot more interesting.  In this arc, the secrets of the town of Hamilton are revealed, and we learn why Jonathan’s powers haven’t been developing as expected.  Having not read a lot of Superman books over the last few decades, the big villain of the story didn’t do much for me, and I felt like his character wasn’t explained very well, but I did like the appearances by Batman, Robin, and the Frankensteins.  Also, any arc consisting solely of art by Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke has to be good.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Codename Baboushka Vol. 1: The Conclave of Death – I am a big fan of writer Antony Johnston (especially of his series Wasteland), but I’d decided not to pick up this miniseries when it first came out.  I think it was the right decision, as this reads well in trade, but is a quick read.  In this book, Johnston and artist Shari Chankhamma introduce, Baboushka, a retired Russian countess with ties to organized crime.  She is blackmailed by an American spy agency into returning to her old life to retrieve the treasure trove of data being auctioned by a retiring spymaster.  This leads her to a meeting on a cruise ship that ends up being hijacked by pirates, although not all is as it seems.  Basically, Johnston and Chankhamma have given us a solid Black Widow story.  It reads well, and much of the art is lovely, if a little stiff in numerous places.  I know there’s a second miniseries being published right now; I’ll be looking for that trade.