The Weekly Round-Up #452 With The Seeds #1, Paper Girls #23, Star Wars #52, The Walking Dead #182 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Seeds #1 – I have long been a fan of Ann Nocenti’s writing, although I often find that she is not a very accessible writer.  Her Daredevil run, which gave us Typhoid Mary, is criminally underrated, and her Kid Eternity was very cool, to say nothing of the work she did with Longshot.  I was happy to see that she had a new title, with the incredible David Aja, coming from Berger Books, Karen Berger’s imprint at Dark Horse, but also didn’t expect to really understand it.  This twenty-eight page first issue introduces us to a pretty ruined world, where the environment is trashed, and where people go to a bar to find out what it feels like to die for entertainment.  There is a huge border wall which separates the characters we see from others who have chosen to give up technology and live better lives, presumably. There’s a lot to absorb here – fake news, possible alien visitors, the functions of bees, and I know that I’m going to have to read this again before the next issue comes out.  While I know I’ve probably missed a lot on the first reading, I am still really impressed with this book, which feels like a worthy inheritor of the early Vertigo ethos. Aja’s art is gorgeous – dark and a little claustrophobic, eschewing the acrobatic layouts that made his Hawkeye run so enjoyable. This is a dark story for a dark time, and it is very welcome.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #14 – Alex continues to put together his team, as we see how Colossus has been faring after breaking up with Kitty, and as we check in on Dazzler’s first album’s anniversary tour, which could be going better.  Matthew Rosenberg is going for a much lighter approach on this book than is typical for the X-Men, and for the most part, it works. I don’t love Greg Land’s art, but I am surprising myself by continuing to buy this comic with him drawing it – I usually have a rule about this.

Captain America #2 – I liked the first issue of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu’s Captain America, but found that the second issue, for the most part, just repeated a lot of what we saw there.  Cap fights against a bunch of Nukes again, and reflects on how things have changed for him since Secret Empire. General Ross dismisses him again. I can already tell that Coates has bigger plans for this book, as we see on the last pages, but am not sure why this issue had to be so repetitive.  I’d like to know a little more how Selene connects to what’s going on, but am happy to see the character that Coates brought into the story at the end. I feel like this is going to be a good run, once the story gets fully underway, which I hope is soon.

Deathstroke #34 – Batman and Slade are still at war with one another.  Slade’s gotten into Wayne Manor, pushing a confrontation with Batman, while his ex-wife investigates Wayne and freezes his accounts.  The fight between the two men gets very personal, as they psychoanalyze one another and Christopher Priest proves, once again, why he’s one of the best superhero writers in the business.  My only complaint with this arc is that it’s set a ways back in the current continuity, so we already know that however the next issue ends, it won’t have a lasting effect on either character.

Mister Miracle #10 – So the war between Apokalips and New Genesis can end, if Scott and Barda give Darkseid their child.  It’s interesting to me that Scott is even considering this, as he and Barda finally begin to address some of the root causes of Scott’s suicide attempt back before this series even launched.  Ton King and Mitch Gerads continue to do terrific work in this comic, as they portray mental health in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a comic before, and tell a serious story about the difficulty of being a new parent, while also trying to rule a planet of gods and win a war.  There has never been a comic like this, and that’s getting harder and harder to say.

Paper Girls #23 – I find that I have less and less to say about this book lately, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it.  Brian K. Vaughan has made these characters very likeable, and it’s interesting to see how they react to being far in the future.  Cliff Chiang, as always, is amazing.

Seven to Eternity #10 – Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña return to Zhal with another installment of their very complicated fantasy epic.  This is a series that needs to be read closely, as there really is no sense of status quo or stability to the story. Remender is constantly forcing these characters to examine their motives and responses to things, and no character seems safe from being killed off or written out.  Adam has chosen to continue the journey alone with the Garils, the Mud King, after betraying his companions. Now, though, they have been attacked and taken by sky bandits from Volmer, an incredible city held aloft by balloons. After such a long wait between issues, it did take me a little while to get back into this world, but once I was reminded of what was going on, I was pretty impressed with the work that Remender and Opeña continue to do here, especially with regards to Opeña’s sense of design.  I really look forward to reading this whole series in one sitting some day.

Star Wars #52 – It’s an all-space battle issue, as Han has to evade Darth Vader in order to help the Rebel fleet, which is still getting pummelled by the Imperials.  There are lots of cool moments in this issue, as Kieron Gillen finally leads to the culmination of the multiple references to the Rogue One movie he’s worked into his run.  It’s good stuff.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #37 – It’s been a while since we’ve seen Orson, Beth, and Nina, but we’re back to form in this oversized issue.  Since Beth broke up with Orson, things have gone bad for her and Nina, but luckily Orson returns just in time to rescue them once again. I’m not sure that I would ever get tired of this title – David Lapham makes these three characters in particular work so well together, and the book is often completely unpredictable.

Survival Fetish #3 – Saheer needs money to get himself and his girl out of Honolulu, and to get it, he decides to take a job for a local gangster.  Of course, things don’t go well, and we get to see some new aspects of the world Patrick Kindlon has put together for this series. His Honolulu is a warren of towers that have banded together and go war with each other over barely understood ideologies, in a fight that doesn’t even make sense to most of the people involved in it.  I like this series a lot, although I do wish it came out more frequently (but that’s a typical complaint about Black Mask, isn’t it?).

The Walking Dead #182 – Rick is taking Governor Milton on a tour of the various communities aligned with Alexandria, and it’s nice to get the lay of the land.  The Saviors are doing better than ever before, and it’s nice to see what progress is being made at the Hilltop. Robert Kirkman has spent years building up this series, and it’s very cool to see how much it has changed, as the characters have become more safe (at least from the dead).  There is no action in this issue, but it’s still very compelling.

The Wilds #4 – Vita Ayala is really a writer to watch, garnering a lot of attention since this series started.  Ayala has taken the typical trappings of a zombie book and reworked it to be more about the types of societies built in the aftermath.  In this issue, we learn the extent of what the people who run Medical Central have been up to, experimenting on people and learning to control the abominations, which in turn sparks a bit of a revolt back at the community the story is mostly set in.  Ayala has filled this book with strong character work, while Emily Pearson continues to find loveliness in this ruined world. This is a really strong Black Mask series, which I’m afraid is going to be ending soon (soon being as relative as the Black Mask shipping schedule).  I’d like to read more stories set here.

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

Adventures of the Super Sons #1

Batman #52 (I want to make it clear – I’ve dropped this book because of the price increase, not because of the wedding situation)

Death of the Inhumans #2

Hunt for Wolverine Weapon Lost #4

Immortal Hulk #4

Infinity Wars #1

Quantum Age #2

Thief of Thieves #39

Über Invasion #15

Weapon X #21

X-Men Gold #33

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #793&794 – How many crossovers was Venom involved in this year?  The Venom Inc. issue of these two made next to no sense to me – I think that the symbiotes have become way too complicated.  Issue 794, which wraps up some threads from the Zodiac stuff is decent, but I do feel like it really was time for Dan Slott to leave this title.  Things just feel very retreaded.

Avengers #676-690 – The No Surrender weekly storyline is going to be remembered as a classic Avengers run.  The three writers – Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub – did a terrific job in putting together a suitably epic Avengers story that allowed just about every character on the three combined squads the opportunity to shine.  I felt like the storyline got off to a bit of a weak start, as the Gamesmaster and his Challenger put the Earth in danger to settle a petty grudge, but as things got going, I became really impressed with the tight plotting, and the excellent ways in which they used characters like Quicksilver and Lightning.  I even found that the return of the Hulk, which I felt was used too soon, was done in a manner that makes the character feel fresh again, and has me wanting to check out Ewings’s new Hulk book. I also like the way that this story allowed for the various teams to coalesce, and then break apart, leaving us with a much more manageable solo Avengers title on the stand – things had gotten a little ridiculous.  I expected to hate the character of Voyager, but by the end, the writers had me liking her too. Artwise, the work by Pepe Larraz and Kim Jacinto is really impressive. I think Paco Medina might have been the wrong artist for this type of story (generally, he’s too light-hearted), but think that this is among his best stuff. In all, a very impressive stack of comics, with some gorgeous Mark Brooks covers.

Champions #18 – Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos leave this book in a good place, having turned a group of heroes who were put together because of their age into a real team.  I think Champions got off to a bit of a rough start, but by the end of his run, Waid really had a good handle on the various characters. What’s this book like since Jim Zub took over?  I need to get caught up…

Doctor Strange: Damnation #3&4, Doctor Strange #389 – The Damnation event ended up being pretty enjoyable.  I think that Donny Cates and Nick Spencer worked well together on this story, and made good use of the changes that have been imposed on Stephen Strange since Jason Aaron began his run.  I doubt this event needed so many tie-ins, but that’s Marvel for you.

Incredible Hulk #711-714 – The Return to Planet Hulk was disappointing.  When Greg Pak first wrote about this planet, he really took his time to build the society of Sakaar, and to make clear the intricacies of its caste system.  This time around, it looks like he was working under an editorial mandate to recreate scenes from the latest Thor movie – to have the Hulk fight against Odinson as a gladiator.  Pak did still manage to work in some interesting stuff to do with the monster that Amadeus Cho has been suppressing, but between the predictability and the Greg Land artwork, this was not a great storyline.

Invincible Iron Man #598-600 – As Brian Michael Bendis wrapped up his last Marvel title, he also decided to deal with a bunch of dangling plot threads from his time at Marvel, and some that belonged to other writers too.  And so, in the middle of “finding” Tony Stark, we see the return of James Rhodes (using a technique that makes no sense whatsoever), the revelation that Leonardo Da Vinci is the guy who has been trying to recruit Miles Morales, and is also working with Cable and Blade, the disfiguration of Doctor Doom (which has already been ignored in Marvel 2-In-One), and finally, another appearance by Parker Robbins, the Hood.  Also we see the supposed resolution of all the plots around Tony’s parentage, although he ignores his brother’s presence in a big fight scene. I don’t know – these issues are a mess, and make me glad that Bendis is gone from Marvel, and only writing titles at DC that I really don’t want to read. I’d be down to pick up his creator-owned stuff again one day, but only in trade because I’m tired of starting series that never end.  His Iron Man, while giving us the delightful Riri Williams, is also a low point in his career – this book never really clicked.

Tony Stark Iron Man #1 – Dan Slott makes a lot of sense as a new writer for Iron Man, although in a lot of ways, this feels like a continuation of his Spider-Man writing, which in the big picture, involved the Tony Starkization of Peter Parker.  Slott had Parker running a gigantic tech company that could do all sorts of cool things, just like Stark. Parker changed up his Spider-Man suit a hundred times during Slott’s run, just like Stark does with his Iron Man armor, adapting it to every new threat.  Slott makes it clear that this title is going to have an ensemble cast, although he wisely leaves Stark’s mother out of the picture, at least at first. This was an enjoyable first issue, but all I did was focus on the similarity to Slott’s recent Spidey work. I guess I have to give this a few more issues to see if Slott is going to something new here, or just rework what he’s been doing for the last decade.  Either way, it’s entertaining…

X-Men Blue #23-29 – I’m a big fan of Cullen Bunn, but I feel like this book is an absolute mess.  While the original team are off in space, Miss Sinister makes her move with her pack of Ultimate X-Men and her various allies.  Magneto is forced to fight them off with a group he’s able to assemble, but none of it ever slows down enough to make anyone care.  I think there have just been too many characters in this book, or that Bunn is passing over character work in favour of propelling his plot.  This is my frequent problem with biweekly books – the writer feels like there is always more time and space to tell his story, but the quickened pace leads to some serious sloppiness.  While the whole Mothervine thing is going on, the kids are off in space believing that Jean was killed by the poisons. I’m going to assume that they played a role in that Venomized event, because suddenly in #29, they’re back home, Jean is with them, and it’s Jimmy Hudson who is having problems, with barely any explanation.  Bunn is usually great, and the various artists he’s working with are also good, but this book needs a lot more editorial oversight, and maybe a slower publishing schedule for it to be really memorable and good.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Displaced Persons

Written by Derek McCulloch
Art by Anthony Peruzzo

There are just so many good graphic novels out there that it’s almost impossible for them to make enough of a splash.  I don’t remember ever seeing this 2014 album-sized book being solicited by Image, but did see it on a sale table a while back and figured, because of writer Derek McCulloch’s Gone to Amerikay OGN, I’d give this a chance.  It’s really pretty good, so I’m glad I did.Displaced Persons is a multi-generational family drama set in San Francisco.  It tells the story of the Price/Abramowicz family, focusing on three eras, with a few forays into other times and places.

The first third of the book is more or less a straight-forward private eye story, as Garland Price is hired to look for a missing heiress, and discovers some weird goings on in the 1930s.  After that, we move into the late 1960s, as Garland’s two grandsons, one a cop and the other a little shady, find themselves in conflict with one another.  Later still, in the 1990s, we check in on one of Garland’s great grandchildren as she deals with an abusive relationship.

There are some constants to this story – the family has remained in the same house throughout the century, and there is a recurring theme of people disappearing.  Much of this book is about examining the way the people left behind cope with those losses.

McCulloch very lightly uses a magical realist touch in this story that helps link the various strands together, and provide it with its odder moments.  The plot fits together nicely by the end, explaining the slightly confusing opening, and the characters stand out as being distinct.

The art, by Anthony Peruzzo, is fine, but not terribly memorable.  I like the way the book is coloured monochromatically, with each era being given a different tint.  Beyond that, Peruzzo’s work is a little unfinished looking, but still manages to tell the story well.

This book worked very well overall, and I’m saddened that I didn’t hear more about it when it was first published.

Harrow County Vol. 3 – Snake Doctor – I really hate trades that only collect four issues – there’s not enough space to really dig into the series.  With this volume, Cullen Bunn expands on the Harrow County world a little, and welcomes two guest artists – the fantastic Carla Speed McNeil for a story about the Skinless Boy, and Hannah Christenson for a tale about a haunted house.  The central two chapters, which feature Tyler Crook’s art and revolve around Bernice looking into a local legend about a woman who charms snakes are the best of the lot. Bunn is taking a pretty slow approach to building this series, but is doing a great job with it.

Violent Love Vol. 1: Stay Dangerous

Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Victor Santos

I will admit that I hadn’t been very impressed with the work of Frank J. Barbiere up to this point.  It’s not that I thought he was a bad writer, it’s just that nothing that I’d read by him had really clicked for me, and I was pretty indifferent to seeing his name on a project.  I do like Victor Santos’s art though, so when I saw that their Violent Love began with a $10 trade, I felt that it would be a good idea to get it.The book begins with a framing sequence that has a retired US marshal watching a young girl for her mother.  The girl shows interest in one particular case of the marshal’s, that of Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley, a kind of Mickey and Mallory of the early 1970s.  The girl gets the man to tell the story, and it’s at this point that Barbiere started to play with my expectations.

I think I expected a pretty straightforward romance and crime story, and found it interesting when the male part of this pairing barely appears in the first half of this trade, and doesn’t really show much character until the very end of it.  Daisy is the real star of this book, and we learn what has led her to a life of using crime to fund a mission of vengeance.  She is with another man when she first meets Rock, while she hunts for the guy who ruined her life.

This mission leads to a bloody conflict with La Jauria, a cartel that employs some very colourful assassins.  Santos is great at both character work and at portraying some pretty mayhem-filled violent scenes.  I never really grew to like Daisy all that much, and found the revelation that closed off the book to be a little predictable (if probably difficult to explain), but I was completely drawn in by the plot, and now want to get the rest of this series so I can see how it all ends.