The Weekly Round-Up #444 With Prism Walker #4, Black Science #36, Doctor Star & The Kingdom Of Lost Tomorrows #4, Star Wars #49, The Walking Dead #180 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Prism Stalker #4 – Sloane Leong’s wildly inventive science fiction series continues to impress me.  Vep is not doing well in her training, and after a visit to a city that gets interrupted by a hostile attack, she feels ever more out of place.  Now it looks like she might be ejected from the school and made a laborer, unless she proves she can tap into the planet’s psychic energies that have been so elusive.  Each issue of this series is a real treat, as more of Leong’s vision is revealed, and as her art keeps getting better. This is one of my favourite series this year.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #12 – The team that spent a whole arc fighting the Shadow King before manages to wrap him up in an issue, as Gerardo Sandoval’s heavily 90s-influenced artwork makes it easier to poke holes in this story than more subtle artists did.  I had high hopes for Charles Soule on an X-Men book, but his run really didn’t do much for me in the long run. I’m going to stick around for Matthew Rosenberg’s upcoming arc (I’m hoping Greg Land is only on the book for one issue) and again have high hopes that will perhaps not get dashed.  I don’t know, complaining about the X-Men is pretty much expected, isn’t it? At least there’s Red to make me happy…

Batman #48 – Straight up, I’ve reached the point in my life where I don’t really want to read another Joker story again, even if it is one of Tom King’s highly structured stories.  Joker is killing people in a church as a way to lure Batman to come to him, and the whole time, he monologues about religion and the need for a living hostage. There are multiple moments where Batman shows restraint that works against him, and I’m not sure why.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a good issue, with some wonderful Mikel Janin art; I’m just exceptionally bored of the Joker as a character and as a villain. I’m not sure that after The Killing Joke, there was any point in ever using the character again; I definitely can’t think of anything (with the possible exception of Arkham Asylum) that has been added to the character since then that seems worth keeping.  This is something I keep coming back to with King’s Batman run – he can sometimes do exceptional and creative work, and then go straight into some stuff that, even when technically good, feels like it was editorially mandated and is somewhat going through the motions. Batman’s going to get married? That story needs the Joker!

Black Science #36 – Sara and Grant get a bit of a pause before the series pushes on to its end, as they live through a dream together, and start to reconnect for the first time since the book started.  This issue works only because of the amount of time Rick Remender has spent refining these characters over the course of the series. It’s a nice issue.

Captain America #703 – Mark Waid’s unnecessary far future storyline limps along, as Cap’s descendant has to face both the Red Skull and a Kree invasion, all while being interrupted by random flashbacks to Cap’s past (which, this time around, has admittedly nice art by Alan Davis).  This story arc makes me think I should be more careful about reading solicitations on titles I regularly buy…

Death or Glory #2 – Rick Remender’s latest series, with the excellent artist Bengal, gets fleshed out a little more in this second issue, as Glory, who tried to steal money from her ex-husband only to secure an organ transplant for her father, and ended up instead with a truck full of trafficked people, gets an ally in her quest.  We learn a little more about the over the top awfulness of the ex (and the weird anal fixations of the sheriff he keeps in his pocket), and I’m not sure how I feel about the cartoonishness of much of this. It’s good (and beautifully drawn), but I’d expected this to be Remender’s most realistic series, and instead find it a little easier to relate to characters in books like Black Science and Low, who are much more fantastical in nature.  Still, it’s early days, and this is shaping up to be a good read.

Deathstroke #32 – The Deathstroke/Batman fight continues, and continues to be a very layered and entertaining piece of work from the inimitable Christopher Priest.  I am irritated that this story seems to be happening outside of continuity, but leaving that aside, I’m thrilled with how complicated Priest makes Slade’s relationship with Batman, as their feud over the suggestion that Slade is actually Damian’s father gets more and more personal, but also manages to loop in a forgotten hero from back in the day.  This is a very complex story, and that’s what I love about it. I would love to see Priest get a year or two on a Batman book one day – he has an interesting approach to the character that is very different from what we’ve seen from Scott Snyder and Tom King. This is a great run.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #4 – Jeff Lemire’s side Black Hammer series, which is more than anything a tribute to James Robinson’s Starman, comes to its predictably sad conclusion.  Max Fiumara is a really versatile artist who does not get enough recognition for his work, I feel. This was a nice little series, but I’m tired of Lemire expanding on Black Hammer, especially when those expansions don’t add to it.  It is interesting to see just how good Lemire can be with his own superheroes, seeing as his Marvel and DC stuff has not held a candle to what he’s done with his own universe.

Eternal Empire #9 – This fantastic fantasy series by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn is almost over.  In this penultimate issue, our two heroes are captives of the Empress, but discover that they have more support in her kingdom than they could have expected.  I like the way Luna and Vaughn have woven a religious discussion into this series, as it helps develop the characters and make them more interesting. I’m excited to see how this ends.

Paper Girls #21 – Libraries get some love in the latest issue of this always-charming series.  It’s good to see the girls back from their hiatus; this series is always welcome.

Rise of the Black Panther #6 – Evan Narcisse wraps up his Panther origin series, with the inevitable confrontation between T’Challa and Killmonger.  It’s a solid issue, like the rest of this series. It packs a lot of story into the issue, in a way that’s reminiscent of the era that it’s portraying, while helping to solidify Panther’s origin, smoothing out the gaps that came through its various retcons (like, for example, weaving Shuri into the royal family from almost the beginning).  I liked this mini.

Star Wars #49 – I’m not sure what I like more in this issue – Kieron Gillen’s exciting story of the Mon Cala fleet rebelling against the Empire, or the exciting and suspenseful battle drawn by Salvador Larroca.  It’s rare in Star Wars comics for an artist to get the fighters and other vehicles down right, and not only does Larroca achieve that, but he gives them a dynamism that makes the large space battle truly exciting.  Ever since Gillen took over, this title has been massively re-energized, and I see no signs of that letting up. I also like how this issue makes reference to coaxium, a material I don’t think I’d come across in the Star Wars universe until I saw Solo last week.  

Sword Daughter #1 – Brian Wood is returning to Northern Europe and the time of the vikings with a new series at Dark Horse.  It is very familiar territory – bleak flat landscapes, this time drawn by the excellent Mack Chater, and a story of revenge. Our titular Sword Daughter is about twelve years old.  Ten years prior, her mother and brother were slaughtered by The Forty Swords, a group of local marauders, and her father fell into a decade-long fugue, leaving her to raise herself in a rough settlement.  Now, he’s snapped out of it (after she smashed a rock into his head) and wants revenge. His daughter appears to want the same, although she’s a bit of a mystery. Wood has her speaking through pictograph, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to interpret that, but it’s an interesting effect.  This looks to be an interesting successor to Northlanders and Black Road, although I’m not yet sure that Wood has something new to say about this time period. Still, his work is always interesting, and Chater is a very expressive artist. This should be an interesting series…

The Walking Dead #180 – Rick and the Governor of the Commonwealth meet face to face, and for what I think might be the first time in this title, we get a tense discussion of the relative merits of class-based capitalism over small-scale socialism.  And, because this is the Walking Dead, it’s actually pretty tense. I’m always happiest with this book when Robert Kirkman is taking it in new directions, and that’s definitely what’s happening with this arc. This is another solid issue in what has been a long run of them.

X-Men Red #5 – This series is really coming together, as Jean’s squad, picking up Gambit along the way, moves to protect a group of Polish mutants from the extremes of Cassandra Nova’s political manipulations.  Tom Taylor manages to give every character a moment or two to shine, while giving us one of the better portrayals of Jean Grey I can remember. With so much negativity in the world, it’s nice to see Jean structuring a mission around actual principles, and being positively proactive.  I’m very happy with this book.

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

Dazzler X Song #1

Doctor Strange #1

Hunt for Wolverine Weapon Lost #2

Immortal Hulk #1

Infinity Countdown #4

No 1 With a Bullet TP

Ringside Vol. 3 Shoot TP

Weapon X #19

X-Men Gold #29

Bargain Comics:

The Mighty Thor #702-705 – I’ve loved Jane Foster’s time as Thor, although I’ve often been frustrated by how much of the series has not been about her.  These three issues, which build to her making a fateful (and, we already know, fatal) decision regarding her cancer treatment and health, are thoughtful, character driven, and lovely, while also featuring Mangog tearing the Hel out of Asgardia.  These are among the best that Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman have done together, and they already have me missing them (even though I haven’t picked up the end of their run together yet).

Old Man Logan #35-38 – I really like the way Ed Brisson has moved this series into new directions that aren’t always obsessed with Logan’s past.  He gets involved in some drama involving the Kingpin, the reporter from Matthew Rosenberg’s Kingpin miniseries, and Bullseye, and it’s all pretty cool.  I especially liked the fight in a Whole Foods where Bullseye uses essential oils to confuse Logan’s senses. Brisson is a creative and inventive writer. He was joined for this arc by the excellent Dalibor Talajic, whose more realistic approach to Bullseye’s outfit appealed to me.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Limbo Vol. 1 – This image book, by Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard, is interesting, but suffers from an abundance of ideas that aren’t given enough space to be fully explored or to play themselves out properly.  This series is set in a magical version of New Orleans called Dedande City, where an amnesiac private investigator who is friends with a woman who contacts the Loa through mixtapes gets hired to go up against a masked mob boss who employs a shaman who travels through television sets.  That’s only some of the concepts at use in this book, and really, I got lost pretty quickly, mostly because I never really developed any interest in Clay, the main character. I don’t usually argue for more decompression in comics, but there was just a little too much going on here. Did I mention the He-Man figure?  See, that’s what I’m talking about.