The Weekly Round-Up #450 With Crude #4, The Ballad Of Sang #5, Ninja-K #9, Mage: The Hero Denied #10, Star Wars #51 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Crude #4 – Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s Russian action series continues to impress me.  Piotr continues to beat his way towards answers about his son’s death, but this issue he learns a lot of things about his son that he never expected, as we get some confirmation about what Prava, an organization we’ve heard about without yet seeing, actually is.  Orlando is writing a very tight story here, and I consider it among his best work yet. This is a very good comic, which ends on a great cliffhanger.

Quick Takes:

The Ballad of Sang #5 – Ed Brisson and Alessandro Micelli’s series has been pretty insane, but in a good way.  Sang, a mute preteen assassin has been waging a war against a crime boss who killed his father figure, and now that he’s mowed his way through the various groups he’s sent to kill him, Sang and his friends, a group of roller derby women, are finally face to face with the bad guy.  It’s all action, and we learn the truth behind Sang’s childhood. This is not among Brisson’s best work (it’s no The Violent), but it’s been enjoyable. I’m glad I supported it.

Batman #51 – You can pretty much always count on Tom King to take a structurally different approach to his stories.  In this issue, Bruce Wayne gets called for jury duty, and the trial, of Mr. Freeze, is deeply Batman-related. It’s an interesting choice, as we begin to see how the events of the last issue are affecting Batman, but from a variety of perspectives.  It’s a little far fetched to believe that any defense lawyer would accept Wayne on a jury, given his public connections to Batman, but it does allow for a new story. Lee Weeks is drawing this arc, which is great news. On the down side, DC has raised the price of the book to $4, which has caused me to stop preordering it as of August.  If there were digital codes included, I’d stick with the title…

Cable #159 – Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler wrap up, in this issue, one of the best Cable stories I’ve ever read.  It makes abundant use of nostalgia for different eras in Cable’s existence to explore a conflict he’s been fighting since his childhood, and it’s only here, at the end, that we learn the truth of Cable’s relationship to Metus, the creature that has been hunting him across time.  It’s a shame that this appears to be the end of Thompson and Nadler’s run, and this title, as there haven’t been any more issues solicited. This particular issue takes us back to that strange time when Cyclops and Jean Grey raised Cable in the future, and thanks to German Peralta, looks wonderful.  I really would like to see more stories like this, and encourage Cable or X-Force fans to check out the story when it’s collected if you haven’t been reading it.

East of West #38 – We spend most of this issue in the Kingdom of New Orleans, where we once again revisit some of the issues involved in a hereditary monarchy.  Jonathan Hickman has a lot of plotlines running right now, although this issue looks to resolve one of them. This book is always entertaining, but I keep thinking about how much cooler it will be to one day read the entire thing from start to finish, as I always worry that I’m missing important details, or forgetting key information in the gaps between issues.

Gideon Falls #5 – We finally get to learn just how the two stories of Gideon Falls are connected in this issue, as Norton’s link to the town where sightings of the Black Barn, and murders, keep happening.  Jeff Lemire’s writing on this series has been great, as he slowly unravels this mystery, and Andrea Sorrentino is the perfect artist for a book that is so connected to how the characters perceive reality. The way he drew the scene where Norton is hypnotized is incredible.  

Mage: The Hero Denied #10 – Kevin goes looking for mystical protection for his daughter, while his wife begins to prepare to get herself and their son out of their enemies clutches.  I like how strongly Matt Wagner has woven family into this book as a key theme.

Ninja-K #9 – This last arc has been more of a Unity story than a Ninjak one, which I was okay with, except that it looks like the way Colin chooses to do things is going to have repercussions for his friendships and professional partnerships.  There’s not much to say about this issue – it was good, especially for a comic that acknowledges the hated Deadside, but probably not as strong as the stuff in this series’s first arc was.

Poe Dameron #29 – As Charles Soule waits out the end of this series, he gives us a look at what ended up happening to the characters he created for the book, helping to explain why they weren’t in The Last Jedi.  Black Squadron is off looking for allies for the Resistance, but it appears that they are just going to be manipulated and jerked around (and we know that, because we’ve seen that no one comes to help in the movie).  It’s fine stuff, I guess, but I’m not sure that Poe’s series ever really lived up to its potential.

Proxima Centauri #2 – Two issues into this title, I think it’s just time to accept that I don’t really have a clue what Farel Dalrymple is going for here, and am instead going to just try to enjoy the great art.  Dalrymple’s stories are never all that linear, and there’s a lot that he leaves to the reader to figure out. My biggest problem is always that I feel like I’ve forgotten something in one of his other books that is essential to understanding this one.  

Royal City #12 – This issue of Royal City doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue, but it does finally explain what happened to Tommy in a sequence that is pretty affecting.  Jeff Lemire’s solo books are always his best work, and I’ve gotten a lot out of his family drama partially set in the 1990s. He’s a powerful writer; I do wish this series had more than just two issues left in it, but I trust him that he’s figured out how he best wants to tell his story.

Star Wars #51 – The Imperials are just picking off the new Rebel fleet, which has been disabled by treachery.  Their only hope lies with Han Solo, who arrives in the middle of the fight. It’s not easy to make a space battle sequence that is exciting in comics – they often appear static and stiff, but Salvador Larocca does a fine job this issue.  This book has really been on fire since Kieron Gillen took over.

Vs. #5 – I kept waiting for Vs. to have everything click into place, and it wasn’t until I read this issue that I realized that it’s the final one.  I kept thinking that Ivan Brandon and Esad Ribic were just throwing all sorts of crazy ideas into this book, and that in the second and third arc, they’d slow down and better examine their concepts and how this science fiction world works.  Instead, it’s just over with this issue, that throws in some more new stuff. I think this would have worked a lot better spread out over eight issues. Brandon is often a confusing writer, but that has often worked in his favour (like in Drifter); here, I often felt left behind a little.  Ribic’s art makes up for it though, so I’m not too mad.

X-Men Red #6 – This is by far my favourite X-Men book right now, as Tom Taylor develops Nezhno into a much more interesting character, and sets up Jean Grey’s mission as somewhat novel, and exactly what the world needs to be reading about in the current political moment.  I’m very happy with the lineup and the way in which this series has been slowly building. I know there’s a lot of uncertainty about where the X-Titles are headed these days, with Gold and Blue set to end, and with a rumoured Black coming our way. Regardless of what happens, I’d like to see this book continue for a good long run, and perhaps even take a place as the marquee X-book; talent wise it already is.

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

Avengers #5

Curse Words Vol. 3 Hole Damn World TP

Darth Vader Annual #2

Ether Copper Golems #3

God Complex Vol. 1 Dogma TP

Hunt For Wolverine: Claws of a Killer #3

Immortal Hulk #3

Infinity Countdown #5

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #307

Rome West TP

Thor #3

Tony Stark Iron Man #2

Weapon H #5

Wild Storm #15

X-Men Gold #32

Bargain Comics:

Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1 – So this Infinity-branded event has been happening for a while, and necessitated the shutting down of the Guardians of the Galaxy title, but for all that, I’ve heard very little about it.  This prelude issue has Adam Warlock returning to life, to find himself hanging out with Kang the Conqueror. There’s stuff about the Infinity Gems (which are now stones, because of the Avengers movies), and a plan that involves Warlock travelling through time the old fashioned way.  It’s kind of dull, except for the awesome Michael Allred artwork.

Infinity Countdown Prime #1 – Here’s another prelude to the Infinity Countdown series (which is itself a prelude to Infinity War), which serves to show us just where all the Gems/Stones are at the start of it all.  Wolverine is featured prominently in this issue, which is kind of weird considering he’s not really back anywhere else in the Marvel Universe yet. Mike Deodato’s art is nice here, but Gerry Duggan’s story jumps around too much and doesn’t really feel like there’s an actual story to it yet.

Infinity Countdown #1&2 – So after a couple of prelude one-shots, the main event really just reads like the next couple of issues of Guardians of the Galaxy, albeit oversized issues.  Someone picking this up who wasn’t reading the Guardians’ title would have no idea what is going on, as they continue their fight against the Gardener, and as Drax and some Novas defend one of the Infinity Stones from the Darkhawks and the Chitauri.  It’s all pretty decent, especially with Aaron Kuder’s art, but as a big tent event, it’s underwhelming.

X-Men Gold #21&22 – The two-part Brotherhood story has the core team facing off against Mesmero and his Brotherhood again, as part of the villain’s plan to land the team in jail.  Most of this story works, but Kitty worrying about who will look after the school while only five X-Men are locked up doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – there are at least twenty other people there who can take care of things.

X-Men Gold Annual #1 – I’m not sure why this comic says it takes place between issues 22 and 23, when it features the team not incarcerated, but whatever.  Marc Guggenheim and co-writer Leah Williams try to recapture the “fun” spirit of the original Excalibur series (which itself, I always felt, was a reaction to the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League book) by having the original team reunite to meet the Braddock’s baby, who is super smart and talkative at three months old.  There’s a silly story about the last of the D’Bari looking for revenge against the Phoenix, and really, the whole thing is pretty inconsequential, reading more like a fill-in issue than an annual. It could have easily been skipped.

X-Men Gold #23-27 – Some X-Men get locked up on some nonsense, Iceman and Rogue put together their own team, Storm gets her Asgardian hammer and look back, and people start getting ready for Kitty and Peter’s wedding.  Marc Guggenheim is working hard to bring back the more soap operatic elements of Chris Claremont’s day, but without making character progression feel natural. So many things come off as forced or rushed, but looking past that, there are some likeable aspects to this book.  I just wish it slowed down a little and didn’t try so hard.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Curse Words Vol. 1 – The Devil’s Devil – I wasn’t sure why I waited to give this a shot.  I am a big fan of Charles Soule’s writing, and while I don’t really like Ryan Browne’s work, this is the best looking stuff he’s done.  The story, about an evil wizard (named, annoyingly, Wizord) who has decided that he likes Earth and wants to defend it from his other-dimensional ilk, feels pretty fresh and new.  The book is full of humour and some eye-popping scenes. I’m going to be looking to get caught up on this one.

Postal Vol. 2 – I love the concept behind this book – that there is a small town full of criminals, killers, and undesirables hidden away in Wyoming.  I’m a little surprised by how episodic this title is – each issue works as a standalone, although a larger story is slowly ramping up. Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill write this well, if sometimes a little too predictably.  Isaac Goodhart’s art is serviceable, like just about every Top Cow book I’ve checked out.