The Weekly Round-Up #418 With Batman #36, Star Wars: Darth Vader #9, Spider-Man #235, The Walking Dead #174 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Batman #36 – I think whoever or whatever it was holding Tom King back for the first year and a half of his Batman run is out of the picture now.  This was another excellent issue, playing with parallel structure, as Catwoman and Lois Lane give Batman and Superman, respectively, a hard time about not calling one another to discuss Batman’s engagement to Catwoman.  It’s a well-sculpted issue, providing interesting insights into how Bruce and Clark really see one another, and ultimately, themselves, proving that their friendship is real and deep.  King is the best superhero writer working right now, and this issue helps show why.  Clay Mann provides some nice artwork that helps support the call-and-response nature of many of the scenes.  Great stuff.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #6 – Charles Soule brings the fight with the Shadow King to an end, with a few interesting twists along the way.  I think that artist Mike Del Mundo might have been the right person to draw this book from the beginning – at least all of the scenes set in the telepathic astral realm, as his style fits that nicely.  The end of this issue leaves me interested to see where this book is going.  With the recent news of the X-Men Red series launching, I’m wondering if Marvel in 2018 is going to be able to maintain four X-Men branded titles, in addition to whatever else comes out of the X-Office.  It seems unlikely…

Captain America #696 – This is pretty much what I was hoping for from a Mark Waid/Chris Samnee Captain America series.  Steve is riding around America on his motorcycle, exploring small towns where he can get a free meal in exchange for doing some work, until the new Swordsman causes some trouble and gets dealt with.  There’s a nostalgic feel to Waid’s Cap in this run, and it works, while also acknowledging the modern world and its speed.  I do think that a trip across America in 2017 will have to face some sort of ugliness (worse than Swordsman’s outfit I mean), but I don’t know what kind of freedom Waid has to get political.

Darth Vader #9 – I’m really starting to like Jocasta Nu, the aged Jedi archivist, who mixes it up with the Grand Inquisitor in this issue, and ends up facing Vader himself.  It’s a solid issue, which serves to show just how the transition into the Empire actually happened.  

Deathstroke #26 – In the first of three Christopher Priest books this week (see, there are some bright spots in 2017!), Slade catches up with his old friend Isherwood, who has abducted him and is determined to save his soul, while the Defiance team goes on the hunt.  More and more of the people in Slade’s life are having their secrets exposed, as Priest continues to build and build on the complexity of this title.  It continues to be my absolute favourite DC book, although it is a very difficult book to describe.

The Fix #10 – It’s great to see that The Fix, the wickedly funny series from Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber is back.  I assume it got completely derailed by Spencer’s time at Marvel on Captain America and Secret Empire, which was unfortunate, because this is way better comics.  Things move ahead, with Mac looking to avenge his wounded police dog, while his partner keeps looking for ways to cash in on the dead actress he was supposed to be protecting.  It took me a little to get back into the groove of this book, but now I’m primed for it to continue.

Iceman #8 – I am really enjoying this title.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like an X-comic has really explored a character to the extent that Sina Grace is digging into Bobby in this series.  This issue has Bobby and his younger X-Men Blue self meeting with their parents for dinner.  This is the first that the Drakes have spoken to little Bobby since he came forward in time, and things really don’t turn out the way that anyone expects.  Grace’s writing is humorous, insightful, and touching all at once, and he manages to make good use of Pyro in the opening sequence too!  This title has been a very pleasant surprise from the beginning, and it keeps getting better.

Inhumans: The Once and Future Kings #5 – It appears like Marvel is pulling back from its insistence on promoting the Inhumans to an indifferent public, so the request to let them know if readers want to see more of the future kings at the end of this issue feels a little disingenuous.  Also, I’m not sure how much Inhumans prequel-era stuff there could possibly be without making a huge mess of Marvel continuity.  Leaving all of that aside, this has been a good miniseries by Priest and Phil Noto, that actually made me like the Inhumans a lot more than I usually do.  Of course, if you want me to like a book or set of characters, the easiest way to ensure that happens is to put Christopher Priest on the job…

Iron Fist #75 – Iron Fist and Sabretooth continue to work together to try to find the book that Choshin has stolen from Danny, and that leads (as all of these stories always will) to K’un-Lun.  We also learn the identity of the new Constrictor, which leads to Sabretooth acting a little uncharacteristically.  This is a good issue, and it feels like Ed Brisson is really settling into this book.

Justice League #34 – If you put Christopher Priest on the Justice League, of course I’m going to buy it.  Priest starts his run (arc?) with a story showing what happens when Batman overextends himself, and makes a simple mistake while demanding total control of the League’s tactics and operations.  It’s an interesting start to what I hope is a long run.  Priest’s strength lies in writing for the long game, so I I’m more curious to see what this innocuous-seeming issue is going to lead to.

Paper Girls #18 – I think that one of the most terrifying things that could happen to a young girl who travels from the late 1980s to 2000 would be to discover that you’ve married a Goth.  Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang continue to entertain with their time jumping series, although I do feel like this latest arc is a lot less focused than what I’ve grown accustomed to.

Spider-Man #235 – I wonder what’s going to happen to this book and to Miles Morales after Brian Michael Bendis leaves the book soon.  I’m not a big Bendis fan anymore, but I have always liked his Miles, and hope that Marvel gets a new writer who will keep what makes him special as a character.  This issue has Uncle Aaron continue to make his plans, while Miles tries being Spider-Man out of his costume in a fight with the Armadillo.  It’s another solid issue.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #30 – It’s time for another Lil B/Amy Racecar story, which are my least favourite issues of this series.  I can see how David Lapham has a good time exploring the themes from the latest arc in this crazy world, but they don’t really do it for me.  I still want to know what’s up with Orson and his bananas…

The Walking Dead #174 – Negan is easily my least favourite Walking Dead character, so the knowledge that he would be the focus of this issue did little to build enthusiasm in me to read it.  At the same time, Robert Kirkman always does a great job with this comic, and the confrontation between Maggie and Negan felt pretty real.  I’m not sure that Kirkman’s done spotlight issues like this before, without checking in on the main cast at all, so that gave this issue a different feel to it.  I’m still more excited to learn about what was happening with Michonne’s group, and now have to wait until 2018 to find out!

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

Avengers #674

Black Bolt #8

Doctor Strange #382

Green Arrow #35

Guardians of the Galaxy #148

Hawkeye #13

Superman #36

Über Invasion #10

X-Men Gold #17

Bargain Comics:

Über Invasion #5&6 – I increasingly regret not having stayed caught up with this title, as Kieron Gillen’s concepts and lengthy groundwork-laying are really paying off.  The German invasion of America continues, as they rush to create superhumans that can withstand the superior German (and Japanese) forces.  It’s a very rich and interesting title, which got off to a rough start in its first volume, but is now pretty brilliant.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Boy Maximortal Part One – Rick Veitch is one of the greats of the maturing of the comics world.  I remember being deeply disturbed and thrilled by his Brat Pack, where he started what he calls his King Hell Heroica.  The second series, Maximortal, came out in the 90s, and was interesting but didn’t always hold my interest.  Now he’s returned to that title with a print-on-demand book at Amazon, which is an interesting method of producing creator-owned books.  The book is well-bound and handsome, with decent paper, allowing for a cheap price point.  The content is pretty Veitchian – it’s as much about the changes in the comics industry at the start of the Silver Age as it is about the boy who will grow to become Maximortal, Veitch’s answer to Superman.  He has some interesting things to say here, but I was disappointed at the length of the story (which takes up only 53 of the book’s 100 pages).  Still, I hope that Veitch finds success with this approach, and publishes more.

Charley’s War Vol. 3: 17 October 1916 – 21 February 2917 – As the scope of Charley’s experiences in the Great War grows, so does the list of places where this story takes place.  After being injured in the attack of the Judgement Troops, Charley ends up back home in London for a while, which allows Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun opportunities to examine just how the home front suffered, especially when bomber dirigibles came into the mix.  This series continues to blow me away with the depth of its research, and its unflinching look at the horrors of the war, including poison gas.  Great, classic comics.

The Coldest Winter – I don’t really actually remember much about The Coldest City, the Cold War in Berlin graphic novel that this book is a prequel to.  The first book has been made into a movie called Atomic Blonde (terrible title), and so writer Antony Johnston returned to this fictional world (bringing new artist Steven Perkins with him) to share a story about a spy who has been struggling to do his job well, and therefore gets set up by his superior to fail.  This book makes me really miss the superior Queen and Country, but is still a nice complete story.  Johnston is a great writer, whose independent work has always made me happy (I didn’t love his short stint at Marvel).  This was a good book, and makes me wonder if maybe I shouldn’t revisit The Coldest City too.