The Weekly Round-Up #442 With Days Of Hate #5, Deadly Class #34,Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #20 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Days of Hate #5 – This series has been a real treat from the beginning.  Ales Kot sets up this issue as three parallel scenes, each getting a third of the page.  The top third has the main character (I don’t remember names of the characters in this series, and none of them are named in the comic), who is wanted as a terrorist, doing something in a storage shed.  The middle panels focus on the government agent who is tracking her, as he calls in a team to arrest her, while the bottom third focuses on her ex-wife, who has given her up to the government. With Danijel Zezelj’s typically atmospheric art, the entire issue is a study in how to build suspense in comics form.  This series feels so timely, and also feels like it has a strong handle on human nature. Kot has been a pretty inconsistent writer in the past, but this is among his best work to date. Really, really good stuff.

Quick Takes:

Barrier #4 – Last issue was completely silent, but this one isn’t, as Liddy and Oscar regain the ability to hear while still making their way around the alien ship that abducted them.  Things are weird in this issue – Liddy thinks that suicide is the only way out of this situation, but Oscar is a more hopeful person, and they begin to figure out ways to work together.  I love the fact that Oscar’s speech is all in Spanish, which I cannot read, as it really forces me to pay a lot more attention to Marcos Martin’s excellent storytelling, and also helps underscore the depth of the difficulty these two characters have in understanding each other.  Political and national differences don’t look so important on the other side of the galaxy…

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #2 – Lucy is lost in a stream of different realities, while back at the farm, things continue as usual.  It feels a little like Jeff Lemire is recreating the classic Vertigo universe in this series, as Lucy meets versions of John Constantine, Lucifer, and Dream in this issue.  What really stands out in this series, as usual, is the strength of Lemire’s character work, which really stands out when you read this issue right after reading this week’s issue of The Terrifics, where Lemire’s character interactions feel so forced.  In this book, everything feels natural. Is the difference creator ownership? Dean Ormston is so good on art for this book.

Black Panther #1 – It’s time for another pointless relaunch, as Ta-Nehisi Coates makes some bold moves in his plans for this title.  Apparently there is (or will be – I’m pretty sure this takes place some two thousand years into the future) an intergalactic Wakandan Empire, built around the mining of vibranium on other planets.  T’Challa, or someone who looks a lot like him, is a mind-wiped mule who turns against his oppressors, hooking up with a group of Maroons who all have familiar names (M’Baku, Nakia). I’m not really sure what’s going on, and as much as I hate when comics do stories like this, I’m willing to give Coates a chance.  You can really see him trying out new things, as much of this issue is wordless, a huge difference compared to his earlier issues. Daniel Acuña is an interesting art choice for this story – he does otherworldly very well, and it looks like he’s had a good time designing the look of this book. I’d rather that T’Challa be on Earth doing his usual thing, but am willing to give this a chance.

Deadly Class #34 – This arc, which has the kids reuniting and fighting a Yakuza army in Mexico, has been pretty crazy.  Quan gets the chance to prove who he really is, while Marcus, in the middle of a fight for his life with Viktor, has to confront who he probably really is as well.  As always, Rick Remender and Wes Craig do an incredible job with this comic – every page feels important and full of kinetic energy.

Detective Comics #981– With this issue, James Tynion IV’s long run with Batman and the team he assembled comes to a close.  It’s a shame, as that involves the dismantling of the team, which has been a source of great stories since the beginning of the Rebirth era.  I haven’t been as fond of this last story, because it (like 80% of superhero comics at the Big Two in the last five years) revolves around a potential future threat, but I’ve still admired the amount of heart that Tynion threw into this series.  He’s written Tim Drake, Batwoman, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface better than anyone has in a decade in this book, and made characters like Batwing and Azrael marginally interesting again. I liked how this series has always been as much about Tim’s ideas and relationship as it’s been about Batman – a character with such a large extended family needs to give them space at times, and that’s what happened here.  Eddy Barrows was one of the most frequent artists on this title, and he closes it out nicely, although there’s a weird sequence with Tim and Kate that I could not figure out. After a fill-in next issue, Bryan Hill is taking over the book, and putting Black Lightning into it, as I presume Batman starts to assemble a new squad. I’m curious, but DC’s recent changes to their pricing structure and the discontinuation of providing digital codes is a huge turn-off, especially for a bi-weekly book.  I’m probably going to thumb through Hill’s first issue, but can’t see myself continuing with this title, which is a real shame, as it, alongside Deathstroke, was a real jewel in DC’s lineup.

Doctor Aphra #20 – Simon Spurrier is riding solo as writer, and he has Aphra sentenced to Accresker Jail, a collection of ruined ships barely held together and used to aggressively salvage Rebel ships.  Aphra, being Aphra, already has plans in place to help her escape, but they don’t work as expected. It’s nice to see Kev Walker back drawing this book, and he does much better job portraying DEK-NIL, her probability droid, than the last artist on the book did.  I find this character a continuous delight, and am glad to see that the comic is in good hands without Gillen steering the ship.

Falcon #8 – It’s a real shame that the Falcon’s own series couldn’t last more than eight issues.  I was really enjoying the way that Nick Spencer wrote Sam while he was running around as Captain America, and when he gave up the shield, I figured it was finally time for him to move on to being a major Marvel hero in his own right.  Unfortunately, we got eight issues of Sam fighting Mephisto and vampires, with exceptionally muddy colouring, making everything dark, moody, and hard to follow. I had such hopes for this title, especially when it started with Sam trying to broker peace between gangs in Chicago, but instead of this being the woke book that we need right now, it felt very generic.  I like the way writer Rodney Barnes worked to develop Shaun, the new Patriot’s, character, but this title needed a lot more going for it. And now, it’s probably going to be decades before we see Sam get his own book again. I don’t think he’s even an Avenger anymore. It’s a shame…

Manifest Destiny #35 – Sergeant Pryor was successful in his mutiny, deposing and banishing Lewis and Clark, which means that he’s now the narrator of this title.  That’s a smart move, as it gives us a way to see what’s happening inside the fort, and to freshen up the general feel of the comic. Of course, things aren’t going all that well for Pryor – his people are beginning to grumble, Jensen is acting like Jensen, and one of the neighbouring indigenous tribes has come looking for Lewis and Clark.  This alternative history series never disappoints in its ingenuity and ability to surprise.

Regression #10 – I feel like Regression might be losing me.  Cullen Bunn introduces a new plotline involving a pregnant woman running from the cult, and really, very little happens in this issue.  I really liked the first arc of this comic, but as the story has sprawled a little, I’ve been finding it a little hard to follow, and haven’t been all that motivated to figure it all out.

Skyward #2 – The first issue of this oddball speculative fiction series caught my eye (thanks to Lee Garbett’s great art), but I had some problems with it that continue into the second issue.  Twenty years ago, gravity stopped working properly, and a ton of people and stuff floated off into space. Now, Willa, who was just a baby when things changed, is determined to see more of the world than her father is willing to allow.  Her dad knew what was going to happen, and now thinks he can fix everything, although Willa doesn’t believe him. The problem I have with this comic is that it continuously feels like the characters are figuring out the reality they’ve been living in for two decades.  It’s new to us as readers, but it should be familiar to the characters. We learn that in an area called “The Streets”, which is Chicago’s ground level, people wear gravity boots to live like they used to. I can see how that would develop, but it’s weird to me that the inhabitants would have no knowledge of how the people live above them.  Likewise, it’s strange that Willa is only now learning that her father and the woman who helped raise her used to work with one of the most famous people in Chicago. I’m still intrigued by Joe Henderson’s story, but it feels a little creaky in places.

Star Wars #48 – I love the balance of humour and action that Kieron Gillen has brought to this title, as well as his strong sense of character.  The gang is working to free the king of the Mon Calamari, but that’s not possible as he is dying. Instead, they try to record a message from the king to his people, all while their ruse, orchestrated by C3PO and a shapeshifting actor, starts to fall apart back on Mon Cala.  this is a really strong issue, that ends on a cliffhanger. This series is pretty much at the best it’s been since it launched at Marvel.

Star Wars Annual #4 – It’s a strange choice to set this annual back in the first year of Marvel’s Star Wars comic.  Sana has acquired a pair of Sith lightsabers, and has broken up the set to double her profit, although that means that she’s in trouble with her criminal buyers, and has Darth Vader hunting her.  She almost runs into Luke, who is on the same planet as her, and we get a fun chase story that even has Luke pod-racing. The comic has three artists, and whoever does the Vader pages (I suspect it’s Ario Anindito) is incredible, although the transition between three styles is often jarring.  This was enjoyable, but didn’t add anything to the bigger story.

Super Sons #16 – What I now understand to be the first volume of Super Sons (as very pointedly illustrated in the story’s otherwise pointless framing sequence) comes to a close, as the kids have to figure out how to defeat the Kid Amazo armor and free the Justice League.  This book has always been charming, although sadly, because of DC’s getting rid of their digital codes, I doubt I’ll be back when the comic returns.

The Terrifics #4 – I had intended to drop this title, as I was very unimpressed with the first three issues, but I guess I’d preordered this issue and forgot.  This is the best issue of this series to date, with Doc Shaner coming on as artist (the third artist in four issues of this supposedly artist-driven series). Shaner is great, but the story, about a trip to Bgztl to reunite Phantom Girl with her parents, is silly and pointless.  Flying through space in a big T-Sphere, the team is captured by scrappers who have a giant squid living in their scrap heap. Jeff Lemire keeps the banter going, and attempts to give the teammates reasons to start bonding with one another, but it still feels vapid and very forced.  This book has been a disappointment, and I’m definitely done with it (but, I would love to see Lemire and Shaner work together on a creator-owned book).

X-O Manowar #15 – I have gotten very tired of how often writers return to Aric’s pre-Vine days, growing up in Dacia and fighting Romans.  That’s where we are again though, for at least two issues, as we see Aric take things into his own hands to rescue a cousin and journeying to Rome, where he comes across some Huns.  It’s fine, but I’m tired of stories like this. It’s nice to see Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine working together again, but I kept expecting Divinity to show up…

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

Champions #20

Doctor Strange #390

Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor #1

Incredible Hulk #717

Invincible Iron Man #600

Kid Lobotomy: A Lad Insane TP

Legion #5

Moon Knight #195

Old Man Logan #40

SHIELD #5

Weapon X #18

Witchfinder: Gates of Heaven #1

X-Men Gold #28

Bargain Comics:

Green Arrow #37&38 – Ben Percy brought his very decent run with Green Arrow to a satisfying end with these two issues, wrapping up just about every plotline he introduced, and leaving the character in a good place for the subsequent writers (whose stuff I’m not actually interested in reading).  I’ve liked the way Percy tried to explore Ollie’s social consciousness in a time where that is not always seen as a virtue, although I did get tired of the way in which too many plotlines or characters seem to echo the events of the early years of the Arrow TV show. These last two issues were drawn by Juan Ferreyra, which is always going to be a draw for me.  This was a memorable run, and now I think I’m done with this character for a good long time.

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #299 – Chip Zdarsky’s Spidey continues to be fun, with a cool twist at the end of this issue.  I like how he uses Black Panther in this issue, and how he makes the Tinkerer a credible villain for a change.

Royals #3-12, Inhumans: Judgment Day #1 – Al Ewing is one of the best writers working at Marvel, and he really never receives the kind of respect or profile he so richly deserves.  His work with the Inhumans is pretty awesome, because over the course of a year, he was able to actually redeem these characters who had gone through too many unnecessary and silly changes.  He manages to reconcile the events of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four (with the Intergalactic Inhumans), their rule over the Kree (War of Kings, and the terrible Black Vortex event in X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy), the existence of the Sky-Spears (All-New Inhumans), and the destruction of Terrigen in the regrettable Inhumans Vs. X-Men.  Marvel tried so hard to make the Inhumans cool, but it was Ewing that was able to pull it off, as they gathered Marvel Boy into their ranks, and headed off to look for the Progenitors, the alien race that gave the Kree the same kind of jump-start that the Kree gave mankind, creating the Inhumans in the first place. Along the way, they had to manage with one of those annoying future connections that seem to be contractually obliged at Marvel and DC these days (I’m so sick of every story hinging on something that is supposed to happen some day), but it still held my interest.  Also, as is often the case for Ewing, he had to manage with a very inconsistent stable of artists. This book really came into its own when Javier Rodríguez became the sort-of regular artist, and while his work didn’t jibe all that well with what Kevin Libranda, who was around a fair amount after Jonboy Meyers left, it did make me like the book a lot more. Of course, now we have Donny Cates getting ready to kill the Inhumans, which seems unfortunate now that they’ve been fixed, but that’s Marvel for you. They weren’t able to make these characters a big deal, in comics or on TV, so it’s best to get rid of them.

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