The Weekly Round-Up #427 With Twisted Romance #1, Armstrong & The Vault Of Spirits #1, Star Wars #43, The Walking Dead #176 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Twisted Romance #1 – I’m a big fan of Alex De Campi’s writing, so I was happy to see that she has a four issue weekly anthology series with a variety of artists.  The main story in this first issue, drawn by Katie Skelly, is about a man who is hired to break up relationships, but who is actually something much more (or less) than human.  The story unfolds unexpectedly, as is often the case with a De Campi book, and I found that Skelly’s very simplistic art grew on me quickly.  The other stuff here – a short prose story by Magen Cubed, and short comic by Sarah Horrocks didn’t really grab me, but there was more than enough in the first story to keep me hooked.

Quick Takes:

Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 – It’s nice to see that Valiant occasionally remembers to dredge up some of their best characters (Archer, Armstrong, and Ivar, the Timewalker), even if it is just for a single issue.  This is an amusing issue about Armstrong’s futuristic wine vault, his connection to the myth of Noah and the Ark, and his continued problematic relationship with his brother Ivar.  At the same time, I feel like it’s just frustrating to be reminded of how good Fred Van Lente is when he writes these characters, and that the best I can hope for in the future is another one-shot or two.  I wish Valiant was more consistent in publishing series I want to read.

Batman #40 – Batman and Wonder Woman continue to fight for the Gentle Man in another dimension, while he visits Gotham and is escorted by Catwoman.  I like how Tom King builds Bruce and Diana’s relationship in this issue.  I have not read any of Trinity and very little Justice League, so I don’t know where they usually stand with one another.  I feel like their connection has always been much more subtle than Bruce’s connection with Superman, so it was interesting to see that explored.  I also love Joëlle Jones on stories like this.

Daredevil #598 – I’m really enjoying Charles Soule’s work on the Mayor Fisk arc.  As Matt tries to figure out what Fisk is up to as mayor, Muse paints huge murals of superheroes all over the city.  Soule is setting up a lot of stuff here, and it’s definitely caught my attention.  It’s nice to see Ron Garney (and the black suit) make their return with this issue.

Deathstroke #28 – Priest brings the confusing to the beginning of this issue, as the Chinatown arc begins and Slade returns to his less pacifistic ways.  Defiance, the team he was running, is dead, and he’s being hunted by the New Super-Man from China.  Rose finds out that she’s been operating under the guise of Willow, and really, a whole lot more happens too.  This is an intense issue that would be impenetrable to a new reader, but that I enjoyed a lot.  

Iceman #10 – Bobby’s fight with Daken finishes up, as, sadly, does one of the relationships in Bobby’s life.  This continues to be a good read, but knowing that it only has another issue or two left in it takes some of the energy out of the book.

Iron Fist #77 – The fight against Choshin and his people in K’un-Lun, supported by Sabretooth, comes to an end, and while it has some nice moments, I’m not all that clear on where writer Ed Brisson is going to take this book next (save for into a tie-in with this Damnation thing I don’t really want to read).  I’ve heard rumors that this title might be getting cancelled soon, and while I want to support it, I’m not all that sure what the point of this comic is, or what direction it’s supposed to be taking.

Justice League #38 – Priest continues to write some of the best Justice League I’ve read in forever.  Flash is alone on the satellite when a Lex Corp technician suffers and accident and needs rescuing in space, forcing him to apply all his skills and powers in new ways.  At the same time, the League has to figure out what to do about the Fan, the guy who has put them in a difficult position, and what to do about perceived problems in Batman having stretched himself too thin.  Aside from one scene that questions how this works alongside recent issues of Batman, this is a solidly written comic that restores the League to a level of being interesting I haven’t seen in a very long time.  So, of course, DC has announced that Priest’s run will be ending soon, and he’ll be replaced by writers I’m not as fond of working on new concepts that don’t interest me enough.  Comics, y’all.

Paper Girls #20 – It’s the end of the arc, so that means it’s time for the girls to jump somewhen else.  This series just keeps chugging along, always entertaining, but losing that glow of nostalgia.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard #17 – I’m a couple of weeks late getting this issue (thanks Diamond), but it was worth the wait.  I’ve liked Jason Loo’s two-part outer space story that focuses around Mother Wonder, but at the same time, I much prefer the usual urban setting of this series.  I find Loo’s usual slice-of-life superheroing tales really exemplify his strengths, but don’t mind that he took some time to develop this character and the mythology that supports her.

Rise of the Black Panther #2 – Evan Narcisse takes us to T’Challa’s early days as the Black Panther, as he struggles with his desire to start his country’s road to interacting with the greater world, and discovers that while his uncle worked as regent, many Wakandans were abducted.  His investigation takes him to nearby Niganda, but also puts him into contact with Namor, who is tracking down some rogue Atlanteans.  This is a very good issue that incorporates some of the coolest things about past Panther runs – Hunter, the heart-shaped herb, and the techno-jungle – while clarifying some of the retcons that have happened over the decades.  It’s a solid issue.

Spider-Man #237 – Brian Michael Bendis starts to clear the deck for his departure by returning to the very beginnings of Miles’s story – a chat with his Uncle Aaron.  Things are different though, because Aaron is recently returned from the dead and more mercenary than he was before, while Miles has embraced heroism.  This is a good, emotionally-charged issue that demonstrates Miles’s strengths as a character nicely.  I’m apprehensive about who is going to be taking over this book after Bendis leaves.  It is easily the best Marvel work Bendis has done over the last few years, and I’d hate to see the quality decline.

Star Wars #43 – We get to the end of Kieron Gillen’s first arc without another forced reference to the Rogue One movie.  Instead, Leia secures new aid for the rebellion, and Han begins to explore the joys of leadership.  This was a pretty solid arc, but I’m more interested in seeing where Gillen is going to take this book next.

Vs. #1 – I was a fan of Iván Brandon’s last series, Drifters, even though it took a while for me to fully grasp where the story was headed (and then it all switched up on itself). I was definitely interested to hear that he has a new series with Esad Ribic, who is an incredible artist.  This book is set in a future where war takes on a gladiatorial quality, and is packaged as a livestream/reality TV show.  Like Drifters, it’s going to take some work to fully nail down the plot of this book, but I’m definitely interested.  The look of the book, which supplements Ribic’s art with colours by Nic Klein and design work by Tom Mueller, is pretty interesting, and Brandon’s stories always reward close reading.  I think this might be one of those Image books that grow in renown and audience.

The Walking Dead #176 – Michonne, Eugene, and some others are in a new place – the Commonwealth, and Robert Kirkman uses this issue to reveal very little about the largest settlement we’ve seen in this series.  We do get a few glimmers that things might not all be so great there (I mean, it is civilization, right?), but one beloved character has a very positive thing happen that I can’t wait to read more about next issue.  This book has held my interest for a very long time now.

The Wicked and the Divine: 1923AD – I have a lot of respect for Kieron Gillen’s comics writing, but apparently, I do not enjoy his prose as much.  This one-shot, which leads up to the very first pages of the entire series, is mostly a prose comic, with a few tantalizing pages of Aud Koch’s comics art between chapters.  Gillen excels at character development, but this one-shot introduces all new characters to us, for the most part, as we look at the most recent incarnation of the Pantheon in their final days.  The thing is, we don’t know these characters, but their names are very familiar.  Leaving it to the prose to visualize and understand these new (older) characters doesn’t work, especially when they have different genders than in their more recent forms.  I found the prose very hard to follow for that reason, and because Gillen doesn’t really take the space to build a visual understanding of the house they are exploring.  Koch’s rare pages are lovely, but can’t carry the whole book.  If I’m being honest, by the end of it all, I was mostly skimming, and so have probably missed the essential clues as to Ananke’s true nature and purpose in the grand design of things.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #795

Avengers #679

Batman White Knight #5

Black Bolt #10

Coyotes #4

Extremity #11

Get Naked

Gravediggers Union #4

Green Arrow #37

Hawkeye #15

Incognegro Renaissance #1

Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1

No 1 With A Bullet #4

Snotgirl #9

X-Men Gold #21

Bargain Comics:

All-Star Batman #13&14 – So has it been confirmed that Scott Snyder has big problems with his father?  Too many of his comics, especially his Batman comics, deal with father issues.  He even gives them to Alfred Pennyworth for the last two issues of this series that really never felt like it needed to exist.  I’m glad DC axed this title, as compared to Tom King and James Tynion IV’s work with the character, it feels still very New 52 retrograde.

Star-Lord #5&6, Annual #1 – I enjoy Chip Zdarsky’s writing a lot, but the stories he chose to tell in his Star-Lord series (which is really just two stories – the six issue series and the annual) did not need to be Star-Lord stories.  In fact, they could have just as easily featured almost any hero with little more than minor changes.  I think this is a good example of how Marvel’s been losing its way, although they haven’t been soliciting as many projects like this lately.  At the same time, Kris Anka’s art on the regular series, and Djibril Morissette’s art on the annual, is phenomenal.

X-Men Gold #15 & X-Men Blue #15 – The Mojo Worldwide crossover was pretty enjoyable, which is impressive given how much I hate Mojo.  It’s cool to see that the X-books are working and interacting well with each other (aside from Astonishing, which seems to be doing its own thing).  If these titles weren’t biweekly, I’d be buying them as they come out.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Captain Canuck Vol. 1: Aleph – I’ve talked before about how I have no connection to or love for the character of Captain Canuck.  Despite being a life-long Canadian comics fan, I have little to no knowledge of the character, having only owned one comic as a kid that featured him, which I’ll admit I always found kind of boring.  The various attempts to revitalize the character over the years have fallen flat for me, but I respect a lot of the work that Chapterhouse has been doing, and found myself curious to give the character a chance.  This first trade paperback didn’t really make a fan of me, but the last few pages did lead me to think that perhaps the series has improved from its debut.  Kalman Andrasofszky was a little too ambitious for this first arc, banking on a level of familiarity with the characters that is just not there.  It took forever for me to begin to figure out who was who in this book, and by the time we start to get the backstory on some of the more interesting characters (like Kebec), I found I’d given up on the storyline.  Canuck is not a terribly interesting character himself, and we never get enough of a read on the people or mission surrounding him.  I’d like to see if this book has improved, but I find Chapterhouse’s publishing model very confusing, and am not sure I want to invest the time it would take to even figure out what, among all their Canuck-related titles, comes next.