The Weekly Round-Up #436 With Crude #1, Bloodshot Salvation #8, Star Wars: Darth Vader #14, Oblivion Song #2, Gideon Falls #2 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Crude #1 – I really liked the first issue of Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s new Image series.  The story is about two Russian men living in Putin’s Russia. Piotr is a retired killer who has always lied to his son about how he made his living.  Kiril, his son, has grown up hiding his true self, and has decided that it’s time to become his own man, on his own terms, and has decided to move to Blackstone, a Siberian refinery town equally known for its high rates of pay and general awfulness.  I don’t want to spoil much of this issue, but it ends with Piotr tracing his son’s footsteps, hell-bent on understanding the younger man. This is a really strong first issue. There is a lot established, but the story moves forward at a good clip, really catching the reader’s attention.  The characters are complex and believable, and their relationship feels legitimately strained. Orlando’s recent DC work (see below) has left me cold, but this book reminds me why I was excited about him in the first place. Brown is probably best known for his work with Brian Wood on The Massive, so the remote Siberian landscape and rugged people living there fit right into his wheelhouse.  I’m not sure how long this series is set to run, but I’m definitely on board for it.

Quick Takes:

Bloodshot Salvation #8 – I hate the Deadside.  I hate comics set in the Deadside. I wish Valiant would just leave it all alone.  Other than that, it’s nice to finally see why Ray is supposedly in the 41st century, and get a better sense of the timelines in this comic since it relaunched.  Still, I find I’m getting bored here, and might not be with this book much longer.

Captain America #700 – While Mark Waid’s run has been getting a lot of praise, more and more, I’ve felt like it’s just been a big filler while Marvel gives Ta-Nehisi Coates enough time to prepare his run (kind of like the last time Waid wrote Cap, before Heroes Reborn).  This future storyline didn’t do it for me, and largely gets negated in this issue, but then we see that the next issue is also set further into the future. Originally, this run was supposed to be about Cap restoring his good name in the wake of Secret Empire, but that’s just been abandoned completely.  This issue is also Chris Samnee’s last, which is unfortunate, as he is the bright spot of this run. It’s weird that the next artist is announced as the new “ongoing” artist, when we all know that the title is being canceled soon to be relaunched with yet a third artist. Don’t believe anything Marvel tells you anymore…

Darth Vader #14 – I love the way this and Gillen’s main Star Wars book are both concerned with Mon Calamari, but at different points in its history.  Vader continues to lead the invasion of the water planet, while a secret group of Jedi convene to try to figure out how they can help their allies. There’s a lot going on in this issue, as Charles Soule provides backstory and various viewpoints, all wonderfully drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli.  This is one of the better Star Wars books being made right now.

Deadly Class #33 – There’s never a bad issue of Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s child assassin high school drama series.  Things have been really really good of late, as a gang of 80s Yakuza punks chase all our favourite characters around Mexico.  We finally learn some of what’s gone on in Zenzele’s past, and watch Marcus and Victor go at it to the fullest. Craig’s art is just incredible – so fluid and dynamic.  I love this series.

Detective Comics #978 – James Tynion IV is starting to wrap up his incredible run on this title, and that means that Batman and Batwoman have to confront one another over their differences.  It looks like the Colony has been killing criminals, but we know that’s because someone has taken over their suits. This is another strong issue, although the art, by Javier Fernandez, is a little darker than I’m used to on this book.

Eternal Empire #8 – Our heroes confront them Empress, and it does not go according to their plans.  Their strange connection to one another is explored further, as it looks like the titular eternal empire might actually gain control of the whole world.  This is a very solid fantasy title, with interesting things to say about the roles of religion and faith in society. Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn have put together another great series, grounded in strong characters.

Falcon #7 – I see a lot of potential in both this series and in Rodney Barnes’s writing, but there have just been too many missteps to fully redeem it, as it closes in on cancellation.  From the beginning, it’s been weird to pit Sam against mystical threats. Barnes uses some of this issue to build on Sam’s relationship with young partner Shaun, but really that’s just to provide emotional weight to Shaun’s being kidnapped by vampires, who are after Sam in the hundreds as a favor to Mephisto.  That’s the stuff that doesn’t work here. Well, that and Rachelle Rosenberg’s incredibly muddy colours. I do like the way Blade, who guest stars, is used as a bit of comic relief, but I do think this title could have been a lot more and a lot better. I think the next issue is the last one.

Gideon Falls #2 – The second issue of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s new book drew me in even more than the first did.  The parallel stories (one about a mentally ill man compelled to dig through garbage, the other about a priest who is now implicated in a murder) are both interesting on their own, and looking for the connecting tissue, which involves a vision of a barn, keeps the reader invested in the stories.  Sorrentino’s art is absolutely gorgeous, and he does some cool things with layout. Lemire is building these characters and the situation nicely, and this looks like a book that is going to chart new ground. If I had any complaints, it’s that I don’t really love Steve Wands’s lettering.

Justice League of America #28 – It’s no Crude, but Steve Orlando does a decent job of playing with his big concept – a god of superheroes who is supposed to leave some kind of lasting influence on the planet, but is waylaid by Chronos.  I think I like this issue more than most in this series because Orlando gives The Ray centre stage for much of the issue, and I’ve been a fan of that character for a long time. I’m still not sure I’m going to miss this title when it gets shut down soon…

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #22 – There are only a few issues remaining in this series (as DC is determined to get me down to only two or three of their titles), and it feels a little like Gene Luen Yang is having to condense his plans for the characters.  The storyline around the North Korean defector is topical and interesting, but I wasn’t expecting yet more changes in Kenan’s behaviour and appearance. I’m not sure where that’s supposed to go. I guess it’s impressive that this title lasted as long as it did, so I am not going to complain too much that it’s ending; I do hope we see these characters again in some capacity.

Ninja-K #6 – The second story arc of this series starts off great, as Colin is tasked with tracking down his backup Ninja agent, K-2, who has turned.  What he finds is a deeper problem, which pulls from different corners of Valiant’s history. I’m pretty excited about this arc, which is going to have Ninjak working with a few different characters, almost like a new Unity I hope.  Christos Gage is doing great work on this book, honoring what Matt Kindt laid out, but also taking it in new, logical directions.

Oblivion Song #2 – This second issue really helps explain a lot of the backstory to Robert Kirkman’s new epic series.  We get a better sense of what’s been happening on Earth and in Oblivion, and learn that it was Philadelphia that got dimensionally displaced.  We also get a better sense of where things stand with the people in Nathan’s life, as his obsessive need to search for his brother has driven wedges into his relationships.  Most interestingly, we learn a little about the people who have been managing to survive in that strange world. This book feels very rich with potential, and Lorenzo De Felici’s art is a pleasure.  I feel like this is going to be a strong and lasting replacement for Invincible in my pull-list.

Prism Stalker #2 – The first issue of Sloane Leong’s new series really blew me away with its inventiveness and depth, and the second issue does not disappoint.  Vep, the protagonist, a refugee and servant, has been chosen to join the Academy, and this issue details her travel there, and shows us many more of the wonders that make up Leong’s very organic and unique universe.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and each page is beautiful. Leong is a real talent, and this would appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the work of Brandon Graham, Marian Churchland, or Simon Roy.

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #1 – It’s so nice to dive back into the languorous, comfortable world of this comic.  Harry is an alien who has been stranded on Earth for years, and he’s adopted a life as a small town Washington doctor who enjoys solving mysteries.  He’s beginning to worry that he’s going to be discovered soon (most people see him as human, but one in a million can perceive him as he really is), and is contemplating taking off.  At the same time, a documentary about a long-vanished artist in New York makes him think he might not be the only one of his kind on the planet. Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse always impress with this series, which mashes up Agatha Christie and the X-Files in unexpected and very effective ways.  It’s always good.

Vs. #3 – I’m still struggling to find an emotional centre to this series.  Writer Ivan Brandon often struggles with providing characters that a reader can connect with (Drifter was his most successful at this, and I still found that I didn’t really like anyone in it).  The setting – a future where people obsess over reality TV warfare – is interesting, and Esad Ribic’s art is fantastic, but three issues in, I’m buying this more for the art than the story. The probable main character, Satta Flynn, is having a terrible run of luck, performing the worst he ever has in his career, yet his ratings are through the roof, while his Major, Devi, is breaking records everywhere except in the peoples’ hearts.  I kind of assumed that misogyny might be the issue here, but it’s not addressed. Instead, the bonsai-hat wearing people in charge are looking for other means to correct the situation, although it’s not really clear why this situation is such a problem. I don’t know – maybe it’s time to admit that this book is just not working for me…

X-Men Red #3 – I was more impressed with the first two issues of this series.  The pacing felt off on this one, which moves from the team fighting a Sentinel in India to Gambit facing intolerance in Louisiana.  I’ve enjoyed Taylor’s work with these characters so far, but not enough of them were given space in this issue. Also, truthfully, adding Gambit into any story is probably going to erode my enthusiasm for it.  I’m hoping we return to the more solid footing this book was on before with the next issue.

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

Avengers #688

Champions #19

Coyotes Vol. 1 TP

Doctor Strange #388

Exiles #1

Old Man Logan #38

Thanos #18

X-Men Blue #25

Bargain Comics:

Guardians of the Galaxy #149&150 – I don’t even know if there’s any kind of plan at Marvel these days.  Just a few months after renumbering this book, and adding Ant-Man to the team, the series is ended so that it can be rebranded as Infinity Countdown, abandoning plotlines that started when the book was called All-New Guardians of the Galaxy.  I don’t think Gerry Duggan is to blame here – it seems like he’d planned some longer stories, but it’s all a big part of why I’m not exactly willing to dive into a lot of Marvel series right now.

Ms. Marvel #22-27 – It’s been a long time since I’ve checked in to this title, and I was a little surprised to see that G. Willow Wilson has pulled Kamala out of it for a few issues, allowing the supporting cast to take over for her in more ways than one.  It’s a very effective device, and I like that the Red Dagger, the hero from Pakistan, has moved to Jersey. This continues to be a very solid read.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi – I read the first Get Jiro OGN a few years ago, and have absolutely no memory of it.  When I try to remember what happened in it, all I can think of are random issues of Johnny Hiro, which is a much better series.  Anyway, this book, also written by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and co-writer Joel Rose, is a prequel to that one. It’s about Jiro, the younger son of a Yakuza boss, who secretly trains to become a sushi chef, and the ways in which his half-brother schemes to gain control of the family business.  It’s a fine and quick read, but I did kind of question the extent to which Bourdain might be exposed to accusations of appropriation. This is a very Japanese story, by a non-Japanese writer, and it left me questioning the authenticity of his approach. Also, I’m not really a fan of prequels in general – I’m not sure that anything here would help inform the book that I can’t remember anything about, and I’m not sure that there’s really enough here to warrant treating this as a solid stand-alone story.