The Weekly Round-Up #439 With Barrier #1, Come Into Me #2, DC Nation #0, Harbinger War 2 Prelude, Star Wars #47, The Walking Dead #179 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Barrier #1 – I think I actually downloaded most or all of Barrier a while back when it came out of Brian K. Vaughan’s digital platform, but the truth is I hate reading comics on my computer, so I’m happy that this is being printed as regular comics now.  This FCBD issue is the first of the five issues that are going to be coming out weekly starting next week. Barrier is plotted and drawn by the incredible Marcos Martin, and it’s about the US/Mexican border, the ways in which people see each other along that border, and, of course, aliens.  This first issue does a great job of introducing the characters and getting the story underway. The fact that a good chunk of this comic is in Spanish (a language that I can’t speak or read) doesn’t really bother me, as I was able to figure out what was going on perfectly well through the art.  Martin is an incredible storyteller, and this story, even though it’s a couple of years old, is just as relevant today as when it was written. It’s very good stuff.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #11 – I had such hopes for this book, but it’s really turned into a pretty forgetful third-tier X-book.  This issue has the fight with Proteus conclude, only to lead into a surprise revelation that was made obvious for months. Charles Soule is usually so much better than this.  I hope that when Matthew Rosenberg takes over, things get a lot better (I mean, aside from the fact that he’s working with Greg Land).

Batman #46 – Tom King’s Booster Gold-driven Elseworlds story is really not doing it for me.  Sure, he manages to work in the odd visceral shock as he tells this story of an altered reality where Bruce Wayne got to keep his parents, and the entire world is worse for it, but I’m really getting sick of stories like this.  I’ve never been a big Booster Gold fan, but this arc seems a little disrespectful to the character, as he’s portrayed as a bigger idiot than he was when Giffen and DeMatteis wrote him in the JLI. Tony Daniel is a pretty boring storyteller, artwise, but he does give us a nice throwback to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman days…

Black Science #35 – It’s great to see this back on the stands, with a quiet issue that looks at the relationship between Grant and Sara, and how it’s played out in different realities.  There has been a time jump of about a year between this arc and the last, with these two desperately searching the Eververse for their missing children. When they stumble across a place where they are known and understood, it looks like they might finally get some help.  Of course, this is a Rick Remender comic, and he does terrible things to his characters… There aren’t all that many issues of Black Science left, so it’s interesting to see just what Remender has had planned for all these years.

Captain America #701 – With Chris Samnee having left Marvel, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s relaunch already announced, Mark Waid is left with a lame duck series where he just needs to run out the clock.  What does that lead to? A story set far into the future, featuring descendants of Steve Rogers (who, we all know, has no children). I guess it’s a perfectly serviceable comic about a world where the super soldier serum is used to improve everyone’s lives (or so it seems), but is this really something we need right now?  It’s nice seeing little flashback sequences by Adam Hughes and JG Jones, and Leandro Fernandez is a good substitute for Samnee, but there’s really nothing very special here. It all feels tacked on and rushed, and leaves me wishing I’d dropped this book instead of preordering the rest of Waid’s run.

Come Into Me #2 – Setting aside the salacious and Cronenberg-esque cover, this series about the possibilities of hosting another person’s consciousness in your mind through a new technology is pretty cerebral (sorry).  A woman has convinced the CEO of the company developing this process to host her, and then her body died, trapping her in his mind. What starts out being a tech problem turns into a lot more, as she learns to take control of his body and speak for him, and as she begins to dig through some of his more painful memories.  Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler are making names for themselves as exciting new writers (their excellent Dregs also tackled big themes), and I’m really enjoying the ride. Piotr Kowalski was a great choice for the art on this book, which has a very grounded, realistic look to it. This series is highly recommended.

DC Nation #0 – I really don’t know what’s going on with DC right now.  My list of DC purchases has taken a huge hit recently, with New Super-Man and Super Sons set to end, the two Justice League titles ending, and James Tynion IV leaving Detective Comics.  Basically, I’m down to Batman and Deathstroke, and now with DC scrapping digital codes on their more expensive titles as of this week, and Batman set to increase in price this summer, I can easily see a future where I only buy Deathstroke (truthfully, I’d pay extra for a Priest-written book) and Mister Miracle.  They seem to want to go in new directions, but they really are managing to alienate me as a reader while they do this. So, to promote their new directions, we get this $0.25 book, spotlighting three titles. Let’s look at it:

  1. Batman – I mostly have enjoyed Tom King’s Batman, although I frequently find it frustrating.  The idea of the Joker showing up at Batman’s wedding is an incredibly obvious and boring one for me, so this prelude to that taking place, so soon after the Jokes and Riddles storyline, did not get me excited about this upcoming story.  King can be wildly inventive (see Mister Miracle), but his Batman often feels like it’s being squeezed under the weight of being DC’s tentpole book. When the price goes up, I may just bail on it…
  2. Superman – The notion of Brian Michael Bendis taking over Superman does nothing for me, and this short story about Perry White being unhappy about things at the Daily Planet in the wake of Lois Lane’s departure, did even less for me.  I can’t tell what the status quo is for Clark here – are he and Lois still together? Do they still have a son? Why is Clark back into bumbling Christopher Reeves mode? And why should I care? This story, which has some new threat joining the paper’s cast, feels like it could have come from the 70s or early 80s, and was really pretty dull.  Bendis’s dialogue didn’t feel very Bendis, like he’s trying to change his standard approach, but it didn’t feel fresh either. It’s cool to see art by a master like José Luis García-López, but it’s too bad he didn’t get to draw anything more exciting than people standing around in office spaces.
  3. Justice League – So I’m pretty annoyed that DC has pulled Christopher Priest off of the main JL title at a time when it was making me as happy as Grant Morrison’s run did (and no one since), so I was already inclined to dislike the title turning into yet another big deal Scott Snyder-driven event.  The concept here feels silly. Four big Galactuses (Galacti?) have come through the broken Source Wall, and now the Justice League has to recruit a bunch of people that wouldn’t normally be in the team, and they have to divide up into groupings based on “cosmic energies” like mystery. What the hell does that mean?  Honestly, this is sillier than when every colour in the rainbow got tied to an emotional state. I went through this a couple of times, and can’t really understand what’s going on in it at all. I don’t see myself grabbing this next week, despite the often-excellent James Tynion’s involvement.

So, in the final analysis, I’m thankful for this $0.25 comic (which, really, should just have been given out on FCBD) for making sure I don’t sample two-thirds of the properties featured here when they come out and cost $4 (without a digital code to help soften the financial blow).

Death or Glory #1 – Rick Remender and Bengal gave us a nice chunky first issue to start their new Image series, and it was pretty satisfactory.  We get a quick overview of the main character, Glory, who is hoping to save Red, the father who raised her off the grid among a trucking community.  The problem with life off the grid is that you really don’t have much in the way of medical coverage, especially when you don’t really even exist, so Glory has to go to extreme measures to find the money and the liver Red needs.  This is a fun, kinetic road movie comic, with some great action scenes, and some creepy murders by liquid nitrogen. I’ve enjoyed every piece of Bengal’s work I’ve seen so far (which is, sadly, not all that much) so I’m looking forward to getting regular doses of his art in this title.  I’m always up for a new Remender comic…

Deathstroke #31 – Christopher Priest writing a big confusing storyline about Batman and Deathstroke going after each other is bound to be a highlight of any week.  I’m not sure why this story doesn’t fit in the continuity established by Priest so far (I’m fearful that the series is going to end with this arc), but I’m still enjoying every part of this so far.  I am pretty annoyed with DC though, for not including digital codes in their $3.99 titles as of this week, and for not telling us that this was going to happen. It really makes me less likely to sample future titles from the publisher, and guarantees that when the prices go up on their currently $2.99 books, this might be the only title I keep buying.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrow #3 – This Black Hammer adjacent series is really picking up.  Robinson figures he can save his dying son by returning to the alien world that took him away from his family, only to discover that he was the inspiration for something very much like the Green Lantern Corps.  Jeff Lemire’s been having fun building his own superhero universe, and while I like that, I’d still rather see this line not continue to expand (I think I’m going to skip the newly-solicited title that’s set far into the future of this reality).  It’s not the 90s, we don’t need new publishing lines…

East of West #37 – I don’t remember the name of the character who gets the spotlight this month – he was a Texas Ranger or something?  Anyway, he was left for dead, but has restored his health and is now on the hunt and plans to kill as many of the Chosen as he can. This is a good issue that allows us to check in on some other minor characters, as Jonathan Hickman’s plot ticks slowly forward.

Harbinger War 2 Prelude – I was going to pass on Harbinger Wars 2 completely, but then realized that it involved Eric Heisserer, the writer of the excellent Secret Weapons miniseries, and the even better prelude issues to that same series.  He writes an excellent Livewire, which is why I decided to preorder this book. Amanda is brought in by the government to talk about her recent activities, but that’s all a ruse so that they can acquire the psiots that she’s been mentoring of late, which leads to her acting in a way that is going to bring them all trouble when the event kicks off properly.  It’s a very well-written and drawn issue, and it definitely has me interested in what this event is going to be about. I do hope that it picks up some of the threads Joshua Dysart left lying around when his Imperium got canceled. Valiant has been frustrating of late as a lot of their best properties have been left to lay fallow.

Rise of the Black Panther #5 – You would think I’d be ecstatic to read a comic that features Hunter, the White Wolf in such a prominent role (really, a lot more needs to be done to recognize the characters that Priest created in his Panther run), but I actually found myself getting a little bored with this issue, and downright confused in the scene where Killmonger starts to get all kill-mongery (I’m pretty sure some of the dialogue balloons were pointing the wrong way).  Evan Narcisse has written a fine and very dense series, but it gets a little too slow in parts.

Sex Criminals #24 – Lately I’ve felt like Sex Criminals has been creaking under its own weight, as it is so full of storylines and characters now.  Well, it looks like some of those main character arcs are getting ready to converge, and at a roller rink of all places! This book remains enjoyable, so even when I’m not sure of the direction it’s going, I know that each page is going to bring something funny or surprising.

Spider-Man #240 – Brian Michael Bendis says farewell to Miles Morales by leaving him in a hospital room for almost the entire issue, and having his friends and family come to check up on him.  I’ve really loved Bendis’s work with this character, even at times when it was the only Bendis book I could bear to read. There’s something very special about the character of Miles, and the way Bendis constructed him into one of the more loveable people in the Marvel Universe.  I’m sure other writers will do fine with him (they still haven’t announced any plans for the character moving forward, which is suspect), but there’s something special about the way in which Bendis writes him that I’m really going to miss. If I had to complain, it would be about the fact that Bendis leaves hanging Miles’s relationship status, and that the subplot built around Cable wanting to recruit Miles is probably not going to go anywhere now.  Still, this was a good ending to a very memorable run.

Star Wars #47 – Kieron Gillen has really nailed the right formula for his Star Wars run.  As C3PO is playing aide to an actor impersonating a Moff, the rest of our heroes are running an elaborate rescue mission that doesn’t appear to be going as well as it first appeared.  This arc has been a lot of fun, and shows a good handle on these characters. Star Wars was getting a little dull towards the end of Aaron’s run, but this is much more what I’m looking for from this book.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #34 – Annie and Kretchmeyer’s brother decide to go after him, which means they head to Baltimore to look up Rose, the only person Annie knows there.  Things get pretty crazy pretty quickly, although that’s never a bad thing in David Lapham’s world. This is another solid issue of an amazing run.

The Walking Dead #179 – Eugene, Michonne, and the other continue to explore the Commonwealth, and we learn about their strictly observed class system, which only causes a problem for one person in the group.  The Governor and a large military force set out to Alexandria, which is bound to be interesting when they get to meet Rick next issue. This has been an interesting arc, as it expands the cast and geography of the Walking Dead world.  I’m curious to see just how these relationships are going to go all wrong (because they always do).

Free Comic Book Day Offerings:

Amazing Spider-Man/Guardians of the Galaxy – I know that a lot of people have been upset with Nick Spencer for Secret Empire, and perhaps his politics on Twitter, but when I heard he was going to be taking over Amazing Spider-Man, I thought that he was a perfect choice.  His Superior Foes of Spider-Man was hilarious (as is his Image book The Fix, although that’s a bit more mature than Marvel would ever allow). Peter seems to be returning to basics, looking for a crappy apartment with a friend, and facing off against his foes, including Boomerang, who at this point is becoming one of Spencer’s signature characters.  Ryan Ottley, fresh off a decade or so on Invincible, is a great choice for art as well. I’m actually tempted to pick up their first issue soon, so that makes this book a success. At least until you get to the weird recap of the last year or two of Guardians of the Galaxy, which is supposed to set up Infinity Countdown (because I guess a prelude and a Prime one-shot weren’t enough).  It’s totally skippable (do I mean the comic, or the entire event, though?).

Avengers/Captain America #1 – Once again, we get a Marvel FCBD book that doesn’t really do more than introduce the tone of two new series, relaunched for the ten thousandth time.  Avengers looks like it’s way too mired in something that happened one million years ago featuring characters too much like the current ones for me to buy. Captain America feels more polished, but I feel like seeing Cap face an army of Nukes would be more impressive had the same thing not just happened in Weapon X.  I do have high hopes for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Cap, and this doesn’t turn me away from that. The Avengers story, on the other hand, make me glad I skipped that book this week (even with Sara Pichelli’s art, which is a huge draw compared to Ed McGuinness on the main title).

Invasion – I really want to like Captain Canuck and the Chapterhouse Universe, but it never quite works for me (aside from the brilliant Pitiful Human-Lizard, which I love).  There is an alien race coming to destroy the Earth, and while Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump posture, it seems like only Captain Canuck is prepared to handle the fight properly.  It’s a big event, but I’m probably going to pass.

James Bond: Vargr – I was just talking to someone the other day about how it used to be a really big deal when Warren Ellis wrote a comic.  I had forgotten that he was doing James Bond stuff at Dynamite. This comic is the first chapter or so of one of Ellis’s trades. He has a good feel for Bond, and so if you like that kind of thing, you’d probably like this.  Jason Masters’s art is wonderful.

The Mall – I’ve been seeing Scout Comics showing up more and more in Previews, but don’t know any of the talent involved in the company.  This is a good start to a suitably improbable story about a kid who inherits a small front company in a mall, and tries to turn it into a shot at getting the girl he likes, and at increasing his business.  It’s pretty typical 80s nostalgia stuff, but in the post-Stranger Things world, I can see it catching on.

Overwatch/Black Hammer – Is Overwatch a video game?  I had no interest in that story. The Black Hammer story, on the other hand, annoyed me because I was planning on skipping the upcoming new Black Hammer series set in the future, which this comic introduces.  The thing is, Jeff Lemire and Wilfredo Torres are approaching it like a retro Legion of Super-Heroes team, with roots in the events taking place in the current Black Hammer main book. I miss the Legion so much, I’ll admit that I’m intrigued.  Damn it.

Relay #0 – I’ll admit to being a little confused by this issue that works to set up a new series by Zac Thompson (who is turning up all over the place lately, usually with his partner Lonnie Nadler).  A man travels to a primitive world, and helps them “civilize”, but that involves them accepting a monolith like the one in 2001AD. I’m not all that clear on where this is headed, but it does seem like Thompson is playing with some pretty big ideas.  I might pick this up when it starts in the summer.

Shadow Roads – I was a big fan of Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s The Sixth Gun, so I was pretty pleased to see them return (more or less) to that world with a new series.  This preview introduces the main characters, has most of them meet one another, and definitely sets the tone for another epic adventure that mixes magic with the Old West.  This should be very good. It’s worth pointing out that AC Zamudio did the art here, not Hurtt – I’m not sure if that will hold true on the regular series (isn’t Hurtt drawing The Damned? – I’m skipping it).

Star Wars Adventures – I think my younger self might not have been too excited about these All-Ages Star Wars stories.  This issue gives us half of the next issue of the monthly, which seems a little cheap. Are people expected to now go and buy the next issue, paying $4 for what amounts to half of the comic?

Street Angel’s Dog – I like every bit of Jim Rugg’s Street Angel comics that I’ve read so far, and found this story about the homeless ninja warrior teen girl finding and taking in a lost dog to be pretty charming.  I wish the Street Angel graphic novels weren’t so expensive – they are priced in a way that I can’t really justify buying. This did a good job of reminding me that I do want them, though.

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

Avengers #1

Extremity Vol. 2 Warrior

Gravediggers Union Vol. 1

Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost #1

Infinity Countdown #3

Street Angel Goes to Juvie HC

Über Invasion #13

Weapon X #17

X-Men Gold #27

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Hellblazer: Good Intentions – Brian Azzarello was joined on Hellblazer by artist Marcelo Frusin, and together they took Constantine into a dark and scary place – West Virginia – where an attempt to make amends for the death of an old friend turns into John hanging out with the guy’s family, who are into some dark, dark stuff.  It’s a pretty disturbing story arc (even more so if you allow yourself to speculate on just what happened between John and the dog), but I did enjoy it. It feels like some classic Vertigo, of the type we haven’t seen for a very long time.