The Weekly Round-Up #451 With The New World #1, Harbinger Wars 2 #3, Saga #54, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #22 & More,

Best Comic of the Week:

The New World #1 – Ales Kot disappeared for a while there, and has been on fire since he came back.  This debut issue is incredibly involved and well-executed. It’s a very thick comic, clocking it at sixty story pages (plus an unrelated backup that is another seven pages) – Marvel would charge you a lot more than $5 for something like this.  The story is set in the middle of the 21st century, after America was hit by nuclear explosions and splintered into a few different, struggling, nationstates. Things seem good in The New California though, where our story takes place. We are introduced, through an interesting use of parallel structure, to our two main characters.  Stella is a police officer and the star of The Guardians, a hugely popular gladiatorial style reality TV show, where the audience gets to vote on whether or not Stella and her comrades kill their prisoners (although Stella refuses to kill anyone). We also meet Kirby, a straight-edge hacker who manages to infiltrate the station’s control room and hack into Stella’s broadcast.  We get to know these two characters, who happen to later run into each other at a rave. It looks like Kot and artist Tradd Moore are going to give us yet another take on the Romeo and Juliet story, with a heavy political satire streak. All of this is great, as we get nods to the current world political situation (and I guess we get to see Trump’s wall). Moore is kind of a hit-or-miss artist, depending on what he’s working on, but the large page count really gives him space to explore this world and portray it, and the characters, expansively.  Kot’s always been more of a plot than a character writer, but I feel like Stella and Kirby are his best realized yet, and I’m more genuinely interested in what is going to happen to them. The backup, by relative newcomers Aaron Stewart-Ahn and Sunando C, is a creepy story about a haunted TV in an old LA hotel; it’s also very good. There is no better value on the stands this week than this comic.

Quick Takes:

Descender #32 – Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s excellent science fiction series comes to an end with this issue, more or less.  The Descenders have come to judge humanity, and find it sorely lacking, and so intend to take all the remaining robots in the system with them, and to cull humanity rather severely.  Tim-21 objects, but is it going to be enough? This book has been beautifully painted from the start, and my biggest objection to it ending was that I wouldn’t be seeing Nguyen’s art on a regular basis anymore.  Luckily, Lemire has decided to stretch the story into a new shape with the upcoming title Ascender, which is going to be set ten years after this one, and deal with the place of magic in the universe. I look forward to that, because it sounds a little more hopeful, and the end of this book was kind of a downer…

Detective Comics #985 – I’m actually really enjoying Bryan Hill’s time on this title (which isn’t going to last too long, unless there’s an unannounced Outsiders book waiting in the wings somewhere, as this issue’s referencing Markovia might suggest).  He has Black Lightning question Batman’s motives and methods in a way that feels as new as anything can in a Batman comic, and he makes Karma, this new villain, pretty interesting. I am happy to hear that Peter Tomasi is going to be getting this title soon (I wasn’t that excited to see James Robinson’s name in the solicitations for upcoming issues), but with the price increase hitting soon, I don’t think I’m going to be here for it.

Doctor Aphra #22 – It’s always weird when an ex meets the current significant other, but even more so when it’s happening on a space prison that has been infected with some sort of virulent biotoxin.  Aphra’s life is never easy, but it is often very entertaining.

Harbinger Wars 2 #3 – I’m still having a hard time believing that the fight between Livewire and the world, personified through the military organization GATE, would get this bad without a lot more buildup.  Bloodshot is in full-on Punisher on Nuke pills mode, while Ninjak becomes the voice of moral clarity. It really feels like someone at Valiant decided that they needed a summer event to prop up sales, and this is what they came up with over dinner and drinks.  I expected a lot better.

Marvel 2-In-One #8 – Johnny and Ben are trapped, powerless, on a world where Spider-Man is looking for them, and they have very few options left but to try to live a normal life.  The biggest event of this issue is that Johnny finally figures out that Ben’s been lying to him, and they have to work through this. Ramón Pérez provides the art for this emotionally fraught issue, and things look terrific.  He and Chip Zdarsky work very well together (which is not a surprise, as they’ve been studio mates). I’m still not sure what’s going to happen to this book after the Fantastic Four title relaunches, but I’m hoping it sticks around; Zdarsky is really good with these characters.

Moonshine #12 – The second volume ends here, and once again, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso give us a really bloody comic.  I like Moonshine, but I’m thinking about switching over to trade-waiting with it, like I have with a few other Image books. Each individual issue feels so slight that I’m sure I can comfortably wait to read five or six chapters at once.

Multiple Man #2 – I’m not sure I have any clearer understanding of what’s going on in this book than Jamie Madrox himself does, as he goes to the future that he (or, one of his dupes, really) rules with an iron fist, and joins the Resistance against him.  Matthew Rosenberg is having a great time with this book, and while I’m sick of time travel in comics, this is a good use of the genre.

The Punisher #228 – I both really enjoyed and became very frustrated with this issue of The Punisher, for a variety of reasons.  It more or less brings Matthew Rosenberg’s War Machine storyline to a close, as Frank faces off against Zemo and the Ghost, with the evil Steve Rogers closeby, just as Iron Man and some other heroes catch up to Frank.  This stuff is all good, but there’s a certain character who shows up that I don’t really agree with. I can’t say more than that without spoiling the story, but I think it’s way too soon for this character to be popping up, especially without any kind of explanation.  The other thing I don’t like about this issue is that it’s the last one in the series, before it relaunches again, for something like the 30th time, next month with the same writer. Rosenberg got press and praise for convincing Marvel to not relaunch Astonishing X-Men when he took that title over, switching up its lineup and general feel, yet this book gets a relaunch?  Marvel has no actual plan, do they?

Royal City #13 – It looks like it’s time for everyone’s secrets to come out, as the various members of this family start to get together and talk through some of their problems.  Jeff Lemire has made a family drama comic that feels very believable and real, as well as incredibly sad. I always liked his Gus in Sweet Tooth, but I’m pretty sure Lemire has made me love Tommy, who reminds me a little too much of a couple of people I’ve known.  I’m going to be very sad to see this book finish with the next issue.

Saga #54 – I really did not expect the end to this issue.  In fact, I don’t think any of this issue can be discussed with any detail, except to report the sad news that the book is going on hiatus for about a year.  I can understand why, after such a long run, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples might need a break from Saga, so while I’ll miss it, especially in light of the last page of this issue, I am not the least bit upset about this news.  There’s more than enough other stuff in the last two issues to be upset about…

Shanghai Red #2 – I took a chance on the first issue of this Image series, and was very impressed.  With this second issue, this title is verging on favourite new series status. Red/Jack/Molly has made her way home to Portland after being kidnapped and sold onto a boat three years prior.  Her plan is to find her family and get revenge on her captors, but no one is home when she goes there – she’s alone again, and her rage is boiling over. Christopher Sebela is telling a very strong story here, and Joshua Hixson is drawing the hell out of it.  This book is dark and bleak, but full of rich historical detail and strong character work. I am very happy that I picked this book up, and look forward to reading the rest of the series, which I’ve added to my pullfile.

X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1 – Ed Piskor’s exhaustive retelling of the history of the X-Men returns, this time turning the focus on the All-New, All-Different era, from Giant-Size X-Men through to the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga.  During this era, I read my first X-Men comic (#128), although it wasn’t until they were all reprinted in Classic X-Men that I really got to know these characters. It’s pretty cool to revisit these old stories, and I love the way that Piskor works retconned facts (such as the Hellfire Club’s bugging of the Xavier Mansion) into the timeline to make them feel more seamless.  Piskor covers a lot of ground in a hurry, so people learning these stories for the first time might not find them too enthralling, but as a nostalgia trip, this book is wonderful.

X-O Manowar #17 – Aric’s adventures as a young man continue, as he meets up with Sabbas, the prophetic escaped slave who has been providing structure to this arc through his bookend appearances.  I am tired of Young Man Aric stories, but this one has been better than most. I just don’t have anything more to say about it than that.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #2

Britannia Lost Eagles of Rome #1

Champions #21

Hunt for Wolverine Mystery in Madripoor #3

Infinity Wars Prime #1

Justice League Dark #1

Moon Knight #197

Old Man Logan #44

Rasputin: Voice of the Dragon TP

Star Wars Lando Double or Nothing #3

Wonder Woman #51

X-Men Blue #32

Bargain Comics:

All-New Wolverine #31-34 – I guess Tom Taylor knew that his time with Laura, at least in her own book, was growing short, so he falls back on the time-honoured tradition of writing one last story featuring a character, set in the future.  And by time-honoured, I mean it’s a go to for just about everyone these days, cheapening the effect. At the same time, it’s the only way we ever get a story where stakes feel real for these characters – when Laura is an Old Woman, she can, potentially, die, not like in her monthly comic.  Anyway, these are decent issues; I just hate the time jump trope a whole lot. Taylor has such a good handle on Laura and Gabby that I’m glad they are going to continue to be a part of his X-Men Red.

Hunt for Wolverine #1 – I really don’t believe we need Wolverine to come back yet – it still seems pretty soon to me – but I do like most of this comic which deals with the disappearance of his body.  I did not understand at all why Firestar is so prominent in this book though – I didn’t even know she was hanging out with the X-Men, let alone is someone they would trust with one of their biggest secrets.  The backup story deals with setting up the four miniseries that are running now, and that feels forced and a bit like overkill. You can pick up where Charles Soule’s original plans were derailed by someone at Marvel needing to make this into a bigger event.

Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost #1 – The most perplexing of the four miniseries that comprise the hunt for Wolverine is the Daredevil one.  It really only makes sense in the context that Charles Soule writes Daredevil’s regular title, and is showrunner for Wolverine now. DD is asked to look into Logan’s whereabouts, so he gets Inhuman Frank McGee (another Soule character) and Misty Knight to start looking with him.  Cypher also shows up, which is kind of out of left field. There’s potential here, but the entire first issue of this four issue series is just about getting the team together, so I’m guessing there’s not a whole lot of actual story to come.

Jessica Jones #17&18 – There can be no doubting that Brian Michael Bendis holds a special love for Jessica Jones, and so for his last two issues with her (for the foreseeable future – we all know that in five to ten years, BMB will be orchestrating a big return to Marvel) he decides to give her as close to a happy ending as Jessica could ever have.  It’s all slightly touching, but it’s also a reminder of how tired I am of Bendis’s very static issues…

The Mighty Thor #705 – This is a spectacular issue, where Thor has to make a decision between ending her own life or allowing Mangog to destroy Asgard.  Russell Dauterman is just an incredible artist, mixing high action with beautiful and expressive character shots. I really don’t like that the Jane-Thor adventures are over; she is so much more interesting that regular old Thor.

Thanos #14&15 – I feel like I’ve been complaining a lot about the time-jump story, as it happens just about everywhere you look. Thanos has been brought far into the future by himself, and at the very end of the universe, when just about everyone and everything is dead, the only characters still bouncing around are ones from the current Marvel Universe?  I feel like readers would accept some new characters millions of years into the future. It just feels lazy. At the same time, the story is enjoyable.

X-Men Blue #18-20 – So you have a group of time lost mutants, supplemented by some more mutants from other dimensions.  What’s the best thing to do with them? Why, it’s send them through time to various moments that people might feel nostalgic for, before having them fight other time lost mutants in a different time.  It’s all kind of confusing, except that I didn’t really want to put the time and effort into thinking about it, so I just kind of watched the action unfold.

X-Men Blue Annual #1, X-Men Blue #21&22, Venom #162&163 – The Poison-X crossover event didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because I don’t really know much about Venom and what he’s been up to.  I liked it when Flash Thompson had the symbiote, but wasn’t too interested upon learning that Eddie Brock was back in black, even with Cullen Bunn writing. This crossover starts off well, with the X-Men needing Venom’s help to rescue the Starjammers from a group of pirates with symbiotes, but it quickly falls apart as it is used to bring in something called Poisons, and to set up another event – in other words, the classic Marvel bait-and-switch.  There are some good moments, but the art is really inconsistent (Hepzibah’s outfit keeps changing, for one example), and I found it hard to care a whole lot about what was happening by the end.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Revenger Vol. 1: Children of the Damned – I left Charles Forsman’s Revenger wishing there was a little more to it.  I get that Forsman is revelling in being able to tell B-movie type action stories and doesn’t feel constrained by regular storytelling boundaries and rules, but that doesn’t necessarily make the book gripping enough for me.  

Sally Heathcote Suffragette

Written by Mary M. Talbot
Art by Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot

I’ll be the first to admit that I knew almost nothing about the struggle to gain women the vote in Great Britain.  I’m a little more familiar with the Canadian struggle, which to my knowledge, was neither so protracted, nor so bloody.In Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, Mary M. Talbot uses a fictional character to explain and explore the various and fractious groups that fought for decades to get the vote, and the beginnings of some respect as equals, for women.  We meet the upper class women who threw themselves into the movement, as well as some of the lower class women, like Sally, who joined them and sacrificed much to gain enfranchisement.

Beyond demonstrating and publishing newsletters, the women used violence to further their cause.  I was surprised to see campaigns of window smashing and even the firebombing of the Prime Minister’s unoccupied home.  As well, I was surprised to learn about how these women entered into a revolving system of imprisonment, hunger strikes, torturous force feedings, and eventual release, only to start all over again at the next possible demonstration.

Talbot’s Sally has a strong narrative voice, and reports as much on the internecine rifts within the movement as on the advancement towards their goals.  Of course, it is the coming of war that led to increased opportunities for women, as men were either away or killed in such numbers that women needed to take on many of their social roles.

The art team of Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot works great.  The washes of colour on high quality paper make this book really stand out, and the artists (I’m not that clear on who did what) imbue each character with a great deal of personality.  No one radiates displeasure like Mrs. Pankhurst.

This was a great book shining a light on a topic rarely seen in comics.

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