The Weekly Round-Up #443 With Kill Or Be Killed #19, Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #35, Harbinger Wars 2 #1, Saga #52 & More

 Best Comic of the Week:

Kill or Be Killed #19 – I knew that Kill or Be Killed was getting close to its end, but hadn’t realized that this issue was the penultimate one until I got to its very surprising ending.  In this issue, the detective that has been hunting Dylan for a while finally confronts him, but so do some more Russians, leading to a pretty exciting sequence in the mental hospital. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips take this book somewhere pretty unexpected this issue, and leave me very excited to see how this excellent series is going to end.

Quick Takes:

Barrier #5 – Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s aliens and immigration adventure story ends with an excellent twist that I did not see coming.  This issue has the two abducted humans, one American, the other Honduran, confronting their captors and pushing for a way to get home. This series made excellent use of its landscape format, Martin’s incredible artwork, and the use of a variety of untranslated languages to make some real points about the commonality of life, and the importance of understanding one another, while also giving us an exciting story.  I’m glad that Image printed this digital series, as I am terrible at remembering to read comics on my computer, and because the hoarder in me is happy to be able to own this incredible artwork. I like that this book is not supposed to ever be collected in a trade format, and that Vaughan and Martin are constantly pushing against perceived wisdom (and are finding success selling a pay what you can digital comic that is not entirely in English).

Daredevil #603 – DD continues to gather allies in the fight against the Hand, including some very questionable ones, as that organization releases some kind of gas across Manhattan.  This arc is great at building suspense, although the chat between Matt and Elektra does reveal just how often the Hand has been used incorrectly in the last fifteen years.

Descender #30 – A lot of stuff is coming together, as Tim-21 is sent to operate the UGC’s Harvester (giant robot) against his will, and has a reunion with a pair of old friends.  It really feels like Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s series is moving towards its conclusion (even Driller is getting some screen time again), and I’m looking forward to seeing where everything goes.  This has been a very enjoyable series, and I love getting regular doses of Nguyen’s beautiful painted artwork.

Grass Kings #15 – Grass Kings ended up being a very strange beast.  When it started, it was very much about the secluded community of the Grass Kingdom, and the tensions between it and the police of the closest town, Cargill.  As it progressed, it became more about the ongoing mystery surrounding a series of suspected serial killer murders happening over years. The story kind of lost me here – I hate stories that always focus on new evidence in old history that start to feel too neat, and that’s where this ended up.  This issue reveals the Thin Air Killer’s identity and history, and attempts to wrap up all the plot threads, but I feel like it fell short a bit. What made the earlier issues of this series so successful (aside from the art, of course) is the interesting cast of characters that it is all structured around.  This issue gives us a little information about them all, but not in the most satisfying way. I kind of think that Matt Kindt had originally planned this as a twenty-issue series that had to be hastily condensed to fit into three trades. Still, I like the way this book outlasted Brian Wood’s thematically similar Brigg’s Land – I thought that secessionist comics were going to be the thing in the late 2010s, but I guess I was wrong (assuming Calexit ends before the Trump era does).  Tyler Jenkins’s art has been the biggest draw of this series from issue one, and I’m really happy to see that Kindt and Jenkins have another Boom! series coming soon.

Harbinger Wars 2 #1 – I was going to skip this latest Valiant event book, but then I misinterpreted some of the advertising to believe that writer Eric Heisserer was going to be involved, and I preordered it.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with the book – Matt Kindt pits Livewire and her charges against GATE and Ninjak, as everyone gets worried about the looming psiot threat. Kindt is channelling some X-Men vibes here, as everyone worries about the psiots who live next door.  I’m not sure when and why Livewire began working with Peter Stanchek, or how she got in touch with his old crew of Renegades. I’m also not sure why X-O Manowar is with GATE, or where Bloodshot came from. If I ignore stuff like that, I’ll admit that this first issue is still a little slow, but there is potential.  I’m more interested in knowing where Toyo Harada is, and seeing if any of the dangling threads from the excellent Imperium series are going to be tied up here.

Lazarus #28 – The two-part arc focusing on Jonah Carlyle and his new life hiding out in Northern Europe comes to a sad and disturbing close this month.  Jonah has found new purpose in being a fisherman and a father, but the Conclave War won’t leave him alone, and his adopted family is pushed into service of the Bittner family.  This, as always, is a very well-written issue with excellent art. After this, Lazarus is going quarterly, which I’m fine with, as the quality of this comic is always so high, I’d rather that Michael Lark be able to draw it as he wishes, and am willing to wait longer between chapters, especially if they are going to be longer when they do come out.

Marvel 2-In-One #6 – The first arc comes to its conclusion, and I’m left thinking that I’d much rather read a Chip Zdarsky Fantastic Four series (which, really I am) than a Dan Slott one.  I don’t know if both of these titles are going to be coexisting come the fall, but for now, I like the way Zdarsky has sent Ben and Johnny exploring the multiverse based on a lie. I’m not sure what the point of 616 Doom’s posturing towards the end of this issue was, but the rest of the comic reads very well.  It’s nice to see Jim Cheung back on art too, even if it’s only temporary (which is my assumption, based on how slow an artist he is).

The Punisher #225 – I’m pretty happy with Matthew Rosenberg’s Punisher, and actually am thinking it would be cool to see him write Captain Marvel at some point, as he seems to get her military background better than a lot of other writers.  The heroes of New York are after Frank, as he leads them on a bit of a goose chase around Manhattan. It’s a well-paced issue that only left me with some weird continuity questions, like “Is that John Walker as USAgent? I thought he was disabled now” and “Why does Tigra look so weird?”.  Still, this was a solid issue in a solid run.

Royal City #11 – Things are coming together quickly in this issue, as we learn a few more things about the last night that Tommy was alive, and how the consequences of that night still resonate today.  Jeff Lemire talks in his textpiece about how he had originally planned on letting this series run a lot longer, but is now going to wrap things up by issue fourteen. I’ll be sorry to see this book go, as I’ve enjoyed this dark study of a small town family, but at the same time, always respect it when creators decide to not drag out their stories unnecessarily.  

Saga #52 – Last issue’s death goes unremarked upon, which feels a little weird, as the family has to deal with Squire’s decision to run away from his father, Prince Robot, once again putting everyone in jeopardy.  As always, a very solid issue.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #35 – Things are getting weird again, as Annie tries to set Vic up with Rose as a way of finding Kretchmeyer, but Vic’s withdrawal symptoms are taking the form of some convoluted delusions involving aliens and sex.  So, in other words, a very David Lapham issue of Stray Bullets once again. I kind of want to get back to Beth and Orson though; I miss them.

Survival Fetish #2 – The second issue of this Black Mask title steps back a bit from the significance of the last issue’s revelation, but still does a great job of showing us how Saheer, the guy who couriers things through Honolulu’s post-collapse sniper alley, is made to think and feel about his role in the larger society.  Patrick Kindlon is a writer to watch – he demonstrates strength in worldbuilding and character development here that has me thinking of Brian Wood. This is an impressive title.

Vs. #4 – It’s taken me a while to get interested in Vs., even with Esad Ribic’s awesome artwork.  I’ve grown to trust writer Ivan Brandon though, so I’ve given this a chance and feel like it is starting to pay off.  The network’s plan to kill off public hero Satta Flynn during a televised war thing goes all kinds of wrong. This series could stand for a lot more clarity or exposition, as a lot has been left to the reader to figure out along the way, but this title is starting to work better and better.  I am curious to see what life in the rest of the world is like next issue, as it looks like Satta’s striking out on his own.

The Wilds #3 – As this series progresses, writer Vita Ayala continues to build this very particular take on the zombie apocalypse.  One of the Runners (indentured scavengers and couriers) has been kidnapped by a medical facility, and we follow her as she makes an escape attempt, while her girlfriend, the book’s main character, find out what’s going on.  I like the way Ayala digs into the science of population viability, and the likelihood of a caste system developing, while also continuing to build these characters. Emily Pearson’s artwork is lovely, but continues to be a little stiff and unclear during action sequences.  Still, this is a very good book, that is starting to feel like an ongoing more than the miniseries I first assumed it was.

X-Men Red Annual #1 – When Jean Grey was brought back in the Phoenix Resurrection miniseries, I was disappointed to see that very little was done with her actual character, and the shock of returning to the Marvel Universe, having not been there since the Morrison era.  When X-Men Red launched, Jean was already going about her mission, and it really felt like a lot was missing. This annual fills in those scenes, as Tom Taylor shows us how things went immediately after Jean’s resurrection, when she was surrounded by friends, and how she went about connecting with Nightcrawler and Wolverine (Laura Kinney), who form the core of the Red lineup.  This was a very nicely written issue, that has Jean confronting Black Bolt in a scene that felt like a conscious decision to signal to the readership that Marvel is done cramming the Inhumans down our throats all the time. I did think it odd that Jean, who immediately reconnect with Rachel Grey, doesn’t seek out her time lost younger self. It also might have been amusing to see her react to Iceman’s newfound sexuality, because it seems like the opportunity to have her fire off a quip was missed.  Still, Taylor has a good handle on Jean, and this helped create more interest in me for the rest of X-Men Red.

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

Abbott #5

Amazing Spider-Man #800

Ms. Marvel #30

Star Wars: Lando – Double or Nothing #1

X-Men Blue #28

Bargain Comics:

Black Bolt #11 – I think Saladin Ahmed is a writer I should be keeping a closer eye on.  He really makes me like and care about the characters in this comic, who usually were not ones I’d expend much energy on.  It’s too bad I have next to no interest in his current Exiles series…

Doctor Strange #384-388 – I think I like what Donny Cates is doing with Doctor Strange (so, of course, it’s time for him to be replaced with Mark Waid), as he finishes his Loki story and takes us into his Damnation tie-in issues.  I wasn’t impressed with the beginning of Damnation, but in these issues that actually focus on what’s going on with Stephen, Cates manages to portray him as both sympathetic and a little pathetic. The incredible Niko Henrichon is one of the few artists who can make me happy to see Gabriel Hernandez Walta leave a book.  Seriously, the art on these issues is so good, I don’t understand how these gentlemen aren’t talked about more often.

Doctor Strange: Damnation #2 – The second issue of this event works a lot better than the first did, as Wong puts together a team to try to rescue Strange from Mephisto.  Donny Cates and Nick Spencer work well together in telling this story, and Szymon Kudranski’s art is very nice throughout. This book really didn’t create any waves, did it?

Generation X #85 – It’s weird to be reading a book that’s not even six month old, thinking that it’s pretty decent and that perhaps I should be reading it regularly, and then remembering that it’s already been cancelled and is gone.  Ah, Marvel.

The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #1-6 – Bryan Hill and N. Steven Harris’s Michael Cray book is interesting in some ways, and totally derivative in others.  It’s really an Elseworlds version of “The Punisher Vs. The Marvel Universe” as Cray is sent to hunt down slightly twisted versions of Green Arrow, the Flash, and Aquaman.  Hill does a good job of slowly building the character and clarifying his distrust of his bosses, and Harris’s art is very nice. This is not a bad book, for what it is.