The Weekly Round-Up #415 With East Of West #35, Invincible #142 , Star Wars: Darth Vader #8, Ninja-K #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

East of West #35 – Most of this issue is given over to Death and Babylon, as we watch father and son begin to bond, and as the Horseman begins to realize that there is something very wrong with his son.  At the same time, the other Horsemen are looking for the child that is destined to lead them all.  This series is great – every issue examines and reveals new facets of the larger story, and I admire the way that Jonathan Hickman doesn’t appear to care about the pacing of his story.  This is a strong issue, and Nick Dragotta’s art is wonderful – especially his rendition of an abandoned and ruined city.  I just wish this comic came out more often…

Quick Takes:

Batman #35 – Selina and Talia spend most of this issue fighting, while Damian and Dick try to figure out why Batman would want to marry Catwoman.  It’s a pretty interesting character study, made all the better by Joelle Jones’s beautiful art.  As keeps happening with Tom King’s Batman, after some poorly executed issues, we get a very good one, although the resolution to Holly’s story appears to be pretty vague.  My wish for this book is that it would just settle down and tell a good, consistent story.  When you see the mastery that King displays in his Mister Miracle, you have to wonder why things keep going wrong in this book (oh wait, I already know the answer, and it’s DC’s editorial meddling).

Black Science #33 – We move ever closer to the expected end of this series, as Grant confronts Kadir, and as characters, enemies, and dimensions converge.  This is a pretty exciting issue.

Bloodshot Salvation #3 – Ray fights with Daddy (the cult leader who may or may not be Magic’s actual father) while Magic looks for help.  In the future, Punk Mambo shows up, and we communicate with an even deeper future.  Really, I’m tired of stories that jump around in time these days, but I am enjoying the way Jeff Lemire is structuring this one.

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #6 – The latest challenge to Grace Briggs’s control of her husband’s land is dealt with in this issue, as once again, Brian Wood shows the closeness of this family against external problems.  I always like this book, but feel like Werther Dell’Edera might not be the right artist for it.

Darth Vader #8 – I’m really starting to enjoy Charles Soule’s look at the early days of Darth Vader’s career.  In this issue, as the former Jedi archivist Jocasta Nu works to gather information from the Temple, Vader begins to make his presence known among Imperial forces on Coruscant.  There are some very good scenes here, evenly split between Vader and Nu, who cannot resist being true to herself, even when it puts her mission in jeopardy.  It’s good stuff.

Descender #26 – Jeff Lemire moves this book into new territory with this, the last chapter of the latest arc.  The robots around the universe are in open revolt, while Tim-21 and Telsa find their way into the secret city on Mata, and the UGC goes to war with the Hardwire.  Lots of action in this issue, and some great Dustin Nguyen art.

Doctor Aphra #14 – Si Spurrier and Kieron Gillen are now co-writing this series (I guess something had to give with Gillen taking over the parent Star Wars title now), and Aphra finds herself in new circumstances.  She’s not the focus on this issue though, Tolvan, the Imperial captain who got demoted after her first run in with our hero is.  It’s not long before she runs into Aphra again, and they have a kind of sweet chat at gunpoint that is sure to not help Tolvan’s career any further.  The ending of this issue was a nice surprise; I feel like this book is in good hands.

Invincible #142 – As we move even closer to the end of this long-running title, Mark turns his eyes to Earth and decides that it’s the right time to put a stop to Robot’s covert rule of the planet.  This is a double-sized issue featuring yet another huge battle, as a storyline a few years in the making comes to a pretty quick conclusion.  As I keep saying lately, I’m really going to miss this book when it’s gone…

Maestros #2 – I think I’m going to be sticking with Steve Skroce’s new series about the guy who has just inherited control over a massive magical kingdom, and is going about his new duties by implementing a number of changes that would make Bernie Sanders happy.  Skroce fills this with great characters, and his beautifully detailed artwork.  It’s pretty impressive and interesting.

Mage: The Hero Denied #4 – Kevin Matchstick faces one of his toughest opponents ever, and it takes him pretty much the entire issue to deal with her.  It’s a good issue with some great Matt Wagner action scenes.  

Ninja-K #1 – Christos Gage has taken over Ninjak’s story, and has chosen to situate him in the tradition of British Secret Service ninjas, of which he is the eleventh.  We are treated to a history of the Ninja program, which started during the First World War, and then are brought to the present, as Gage has Colin face his inability to make a relationship with Livewire work, and is put on the trail of someone who is murdering former agents.  This is a nice chunky forty-page issue with excellent art by Tomás Giorello, and which helps restore the character after Matt Kindt’s tenure ran a little too long.  I’m looking forward to seeing what this creative team does with him.

Punisher #218 – I’ve really enjoyed a lot of Matthew Rosenberg’s writing at Black Mask (such as We Can Never Go Home and 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank), so I thought I’d see what his first issue of The Punisher is like.  It starts off pretty typically, but then we move into a situation where Nick Fury Jr., lacking resources in the post-SHIELD world, needs Frank’s help to stop a coup in another country.  This necessitates getting Frank the War Machine armor, and there we have the hook for Rosenberg’s story.  The Punisher can often be interesting when intersecting with the Marvel Universe, although that can also often be badly mishandled.  I’m intrigued enough to give this another issue, but I don’t really want to commit to anything yet.

Spider-Men II #4 – We finally get to know just what has been motivating the Miles Morales of the 616 in this issue, as we catch up with where the story was in the first issue.  This sequel series has not been as impressive or momentous as the first Spider-Men series – instead, it feels very much like an arc of Miles’s regular series.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen to this character without Brian Michael Bendis charting his course, but when I read things like this, I do think maybe we’re past time for a new writer to try his hand.  I could use some more Sara Pichelli art though…

Super Sons #10 – Batman and Superman decide to give Robin and Superboy a secret headquarters all their own, and put them into school together.  I guess this book really does need to find a good reason to have these characters keep coming into contact with one another in order for it to continue to function, and it’s always fun to see Damian and Jonathan interact.  As usual, this is a solid, not not particularly memorable issue.

The Wicked + The Divine #33 – Kieron Gillen always has a few more surprises up his sleeve, as we learn the truth about Woden, and then get a pair of huge revelations right at the very end of the issue, which we now will have to sit on for a while, while the monthly title goes on hiatus for a bit.  This series must be approaching its conclusion, but maintains its ability to shock the reader.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #791

Bug: The Adventures of Forager #5

Champions #14

Defenders #7

Generation Gone #5

Guardians of the Galaxy #147

Hawkeye #12

Mighty Thor #701

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #297

Secret Warriors #8

Superman #35

Weapon X #11

Wild Storm #9

X-Men Blue #15

Bargain Comics:

Champions #5-12 – I think Mark Waid has a good approach to this book, which is mostly made up of characters who have their own solo books already.  He doesn’t worry much about character development, except for Viv Vision, and instead focuses on team dynamics, and the optimism of the young.  It makes for a fun read, although I’d hoped to see the team expand some in the wake of Secret Empire.  Humberto Ramos has always been best at working with young characters.

Infamous Iron Man #8-11 – There are some interesting elements to Brian Michael Bendis’s look at Doctor Doom in the post-Tony Stark world.  The use of the Builder (a.k.a Ultimate Reed Richards) kind of annoyed me, but the revelation about who he really is made me a lot more interested.  I’m tired of Bendis’s Iron Man books being about long lost mothers (Tony’s real mom showed up in International Iron Man), and of the slow pace.  I guess that’s not going to be an issue for long now, is it?

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Killer Vol. 4: Unfair Competition

Written by Matz
Art by Luc Jacamon

I remember being very impressed with the first Killer mini-series, when Archaia first started published translated versions of the French series.  It had a tight plot and I loved Jacamon’s art.  I was also intrigued by the title character, who floated through the world as an expert assassin, and who doesn’t think much of people, or connect to them.I followed The Killer through his next two miniseries, but when Archaia was bought by Boom!, either they never published this fourth volume as a mini, or I somehow missed it.

It was good to return to these characters, but the storyline in this volume is pretty unfocused and a little unbelievable.  The Killer’s drug connected friend decides to diversify, what with the drug cartels becoming too murderous, and decides to start an oil exploration company in Cuban territory that really irks the United States.

The business stuff, even when the wheels are greased with drug money, seems just too easy and quick in the context of the story, and there is a definite lack of suspense or danger to this story.  There are places where things wake up, but in the final analysis, this series became a case of diminishing returns.

Jacamon’s art remains a real high point, but this volume incorporates a lot more photography than the previous one.  There is one more volume in this series, which was published last winter, but I’m not sure that I’m all that interested in reading it.

Valentine Volume One: The Ice Death – I am a huge fan of writer Alex DeCampi, but I’m not sure that I am all that impressed with this book, which is the print version of her acclaimed webcomic.  It tells the story of a French soldier tasked with protecting a sword in 1812 that gives him access to the fairy kingdoms, and leads him to the present.  The story is written to show off the advancements that DeCampi and artist Christine Larsen were making with webcomics at that time, but that doesn’t always translate that well into print.  Also, this book is hella decompressed.