The Weekly Round-Up #441 With Crude #2, Gideon Falls #3, Ninja-K #7, Star Wars: Poe Dameron #27 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Crude #2 – Piotr, a retired Russian assassin, has come to Blackstone, the oil rig colony in the Far East, looking for information about how his son died there.  We get a sense of this place this issue, and learn that it’s very much a wild west type environment, fought over by three opposing forces – the company that owns the land, a mafia group the tries to exploit everyone that lives there, and Conan, the guy who is trying to take it all from both groups.  Piotr wades right into things, getting involved in two fights to help protect a poor vendor. Steve Orlando is filling this comic with a real sense of place, and Garry Brown’s art is very well suited to the whole thing (although I do, at times, have to remind myself that I’m not reading an issue of The Massive, which could have been a companion title).

Quick Takes:

Ballad of Sang #3 – This month it’s a gang of roller derby girls who are after the silent pre-teen assassin.  The woman helping Sang has a history with the leader of this gang, but it’s not going to be enough to save him, even when a rival gang of hipster dudes shows up.  Ed Brisson is having fun with this book as he satirizes some popular subcultures, while also delivering an action-filled story. It’s enjoyable.

Barrier #3 – Marcos Martin’s art and storytelling is just so good in this silent issue.  The two humans have been abducted by aliens, and are trying to figure out how to survive and perhaps get themselves out of their predicament.  We learn that the aliens react poorly to fire, and we learn why the man is so protective of his notebook. This is a very impressive title, and I love getting the chapters on a weekly basis.

Batman #47 – Tom King and Tony Daniel wrap up their bizarre and mean-spirited Booster Gold-starring story arc.  In finishing it, they do reveal the reason why the Wayne family walked through a dark alley in the first place, but more than that, they confirmed the often heard complaint that DC comics go out of their way to be dark and gritty to be true.  This is a very dark issue, and I’m not sure why they felt it was needed, except that it helped fill some space so Batman’s wedding can take place in issue fifty. I’m not sure that I’m going to stick with this series for long. I’ve heard that the price is going up by a dollar an issue, without the digital codes, and while I think that Tom King is one of the most exciting writers to emerge this decade, and I’m a big fan of his work, Batman has remained the weakest title in his stable, and the most inconsistent.  I was fine with that for $3 an issue, but not for $4, especially with a biweekly schedule.

Bloodshot Salvation #9 – For reasons I really don’t understand, the story pauses this issue, as we are instead given a look at the World War One history of Bloodshot’s dog, which was the first to undergo some kind of process that turned it into an unkillable soldier.  Renato Guedes’s art is fantastic throughout this issue, but it’s all kind of unnecessary. Still, I’ve always been a sucker for stories set during the First World War…

Cable #157 – Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler have been travelling back through different eras of Cable’s history.  This time around, we head to 1998, when Joe Casey and Ladronn were in charge of Cable’s book, and get an adventure where he, Nate Grey, and a few other alternate Cables get into another fight with Metus.  I’ve liked the way these writers have been retconning this adversary into Cable’s history, and it’s cool to return to times when I wasn’t really following the character; I imagine bigger Cable fans would be a lot more excited about this arc.  What makes it work for me is that while it’s another appeal to the nostalgia that seems to be driving so much of the comics industry at the moment, it’s doing it in a new way that actually adds something to the character (instead of just endlessly retreading cool events from the past).  German Peralta’s art works well here, and I remain surprised to be excited to get a new issue of Cable each month.

Captain America #702 – Mark Waid’s exploration of the future continues, and he tells us an entertaining story about one of Cap’s descendants, who is now working alone to free the world from a secret Kree invasion.  It all feels pretty routine, but is fine. The flashback art by Rod Reis is nice, but I need to be better prepared before reading anything by Howard Chaykin. I still think Waid’s run should have ended with issue 700; we don’t really need this story.

Daredevil #602 – The Hand are ripping up New York, and Matt Murdock can’t easily suit up to fight them and be mayor at the same time.  Time to call in Foggy, and to try to get out ahead of all of this, in another exciting issue that looks at things from a unique, mayoral, angle.  Charles Soule’s Daredevil has been great, and I’m very happy to see Blindspot continue to hold an important place in this comic.

Gideon Falls #3 – Jeff Lemire lets the mysteries of the Black Barn, and what might be going on in the town of Gideon Falls get deeper with this third issue.  The priest starts to meet some of the townsfolk, including the strange Doc Sutton, while Norton rigs his place with booby traps, and his doctor admits that she’s seen the Barn.  A few years back, Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s series Revival coined the phrase “rural noir”, but that description feels like it fits this book even better. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is gorgeous, and he does some cool things with parallel layouts in places.  I’m still not too sure what to expect out of this series, but I love how it’s started, and want to know more.

Moonshine #10 – Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso continue their Prohibition era werewolf story.  The series is really split between two storylines at this point, and they both are moving forward pretty slowly.  At the same time, Risso is having a great time showing this world, and the book does keep my interests. I do wish it was moving at a quicker pace though.

Ninja-K #7 – Ninjak is going up against a large force of enemies, and that means it’s time to put together a form of Unity, including Livewire, Dr. Mirage, Punk Mambo, and Gin-Gr.  Most of this issue is devoted to planning the operation, and Christos Gage crams a lot of story and character development into it. I’m enjoying this series, but my deep aversion to anything having to do with the Deadside did deaden some of my pleasure this month.  I hate that place.

Poe Dameron #27 – This is the second issue of this series that is focusing on filling in some of the gaps in and around the Episode Seven and Eight movies.  Poe, Finn, and Rey are hanging out on the Millennium Falcon after the fight on Crait, telling stories to each other. Most of this issue is given over to two of the Black Squadron members and the work they did to scan the First Order’s Starkiller Base (thereby explaining why these characters aren’t in the movies).  There are a ton of unnecessary scenes in this issue, and a real sense of Charles Soule being forced to try to make all of this stuff work. Like the last two movies, though, I’m finding it real hard to care. I wonder what the future of this title is going to be once it’s caught up to this point; I doubt Disney is going to allow the story to show events between Episodes 8 and 9, so I suspect that this title is ending soon.

Punisher #224 – Frank’s brought the War Machine armor back to the US, and is using it to go after costumed criminals again.  The thing is, after he worked for Hydra and then tried to overthrow a nation, New York’s heroes, especially Captain Marvel, are after Frank.  This is a fun issue, with lots of guest stars. Matthew Rosenberg has made this a good run, and it’s always cool to see large numbers of heroes go after the Punisher.  I’m enjoying this, although we all know that when the title gets relaunched soon (still under Rosenberg, which makes the renumbering unnecessary) Frank won’t have the armor with him, making it easy to guess how this story arc is going to end.

The Wicked + The Divine #36 – Now that we’ve learned a lot of the hidden truths behind this story, it’s time to see how the patterns of resurrection and death have played out over the centuries.  To that end, half of this issue depicts slight variations of a few outcomes over the centuries, in a way that is equally effective and a little deadening. I admire the way Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie constantly look for ways to experiment with structure and form, even when it doesn’t feel all that needed.  We also learn the secrets that Baal has been hiding, as we creep slowly towards the big finish for this title.

X-Men Red #4 – I find that X-Men Red is my favourite X-book right now, but I am getting a little frustrated at the pace of it.  Four issues in, we learn about the Sentinites (nanite Sentinels that turn regular people against mutants), although Jean and her crew don’t yet know who is behind everything happening.  The team is solidifying around Jean, now with many of the characters getting new costumes and plans are made to stop this threat. I feel like some of this should have happened by now, but at the same time, I enjoy the way that Tom Taylor writes these characters, and ties the nanite tech into current events, comparing their effect to that of the intended goals of companies like Cambridge Analytica.  This is a good title.

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

All-New Wolverine #35

Avengers #2

Cinema Purgatorio #14

Ether Copper Golems #1

Hunt for Wolverine: Claws of a Killer #1

Mighty Thor at the Gates of Valhalla #1

Quicksilver No Surrender #1

Superman Special #1

Weapon H #3

The Wild Storm #13

Bargain Comics:

Invincible Iron Man #595-597 – Brian Michael Bendis seems determined to leave Marvel revisiting some of his most common storytelling twitches – The Hood is leading a huge assemblage of villains once again (both here and in the Defenders), this time as they go after Doom.  Tony, who is missing, lies around having lengthy Bendisian conversations with people who aren’t there. Riri does one thing, and then immediately does the opposite, over and over. Oh, and after three issues, the plot barely advances. I’m not really going to miss Bendis (except, of course, on Miles’s book).

Old Man Logan #32-34 – Ed Brisson’s run with OML has been a pretty good one, although I’m not sure I’m happy to see a particular character, who has had one of the more affecting and lasting deaths in the modern Marvel Universe, back alive, and all trained up to be a ninja-fighting, lightsaber wielding force of destruction.  It cheapens her original death, and doesn’t do enough to add to Logan’s present. Brisson also raises an interesting question when Logan gets a hand chopped off, and the one his healing factor regrows lacks adamantium claws. How many times has Logan lost body parts, but the adamantium issue has been ignored? Grant Morrison had him burned down to a few cells, but I never thought of this until now.  Granted (no pun intended), I’m not always an observant reader…

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Brass Sun Vol. 1: The Wheel of Worlds

Written by Ian Edginton

Art by INJ Culbard

I became a fan of INJ Culbard’s work when he drew The New Deadwardians, one of the last good Vertigo series, and I’ve always been aware of Ian Edginton’s writing, enjoying things like his Hinterkind series, also at Vertigo.  When Titan started publishing Brass Sun as a miniseries, it looked interesting, and then I came across this beautiful oversized hardcover at a good price, and was happy to grab it.

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds is a very interesting piece of work.  It’s set in a clockwork universe designed and set in motion by a very powerful being, populated with humans.  The various planets circle the titular brass sun, which has been slowly losing power, threatening all life.

The problem is that a great war broke out between the various planets generations ago, and since it ended, they’ve been left to develop in isolation, denying even the existence of life in other places.  There is a way to fix the sun, using a “key” that has been divided among the different spheres, but the knowledge of it is more or less lost.

On one planet, Hind Leg, a young girl named Wren is given the knowledge that her grandfather has been compiling in secret, and when he is arrested and killed, she has to set out to try to save everyone.  Along the way, she meets one of the priests who live and toil in the spars between the planets, and he assists her.  Together, they begin to travel to the different strange worlds, gaining allies and enemies as they go.

INJ Culbard’s minimalist art works well here, as he creates strange and interesting cultures, all sharing the clockwork, steampunk aesthetic that the universe was designed with.  There’s obviously a lot that doesn’t make sense here, because the mechanics behind this world are impossible, but it’s still a very enjoyable read.  The different worlds that Wren passes through feel like they could sustain a number of different stories, and the character work is impressive.

I’m always a sucker for an overly developed fictional world, and Edginton has done a wonderful job of building this universe.  I was a little disappointed to realize that this is just the beginning of a longer story, but I do see that Volume 2 is supposed to be published this month, although I can’t find any actual proof of that having happened yet.

The Grave Diggers Union Vol. 1

Written by Wes Craig
Art by Toby Cypress

I love Wes Craig’s artwork, especially on Deadly Class, but when I saw that this new series was being published by Image with him writing, and the consistently interesting Toby Cypress drawing, I was intrigued, but also decided to tradewait the book, as I’ve been trying to cut down on my pullfile list.  Last week, Craig was at TCAF, so I was happy to buy the book directly from him, and get it signed.

The Gravediggers Union is kind of a poor man’s BPRD.  In this world, the men (because they are pretty much always men) who dig graves in cemeteries are also the people who guard the living from zombies, vampires, and other forms of undead malfeasance.  The thing is, lately, things have been getting a lot worse than anyone can remember, with attacks happening with greater frequency and intensity, and with deadly ghost storms showing up all over the place.

This has something to do with an ancient cult called the Black Temple, some elder gods, and a storyline that digs back to mankind’s earliest days.  Things don’t look good, but the Union itself is more concerned with following protocol, which frustrates Cole, a veteran grave digger who has a family connection to what’s going on – his estranged daughter is possibly the prophet that the Black Temple has been waiting for.

I enjoyed the story, and the way that Craig built up some of the characters in the GDU, and established the animosity between Cole and his superior in the union.  I particularly enjoyed Morphea, the witch who Cole turns to for help, despite the fact that it is forbidden for the Union to communicate with witches.

Cypress’s art is always a bit of an acquired taste, but I’ve always liked it.  The colourist, Niko Guardia uses digital washes to denote movement or atmosphere, and that’s something that annoys me.  Like the paint splatters in Wytches or the weird lines all over Supreme: Blue Rose, I find it detracts from the story more than it adds, but maybe that’s just me being old and traditionalist.  It does seem to be catching on lately, so I’m going to have to deal with it.

This was a good book, and I look forward to checking out the second volume some time.  That’s the problem with trade-waiting – it’s going to be forever before I get back into this series…