The Weekly Round-Up #457 With The Walking Dead #183, Deathstroke #35, Star Wars #53, Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #38, Paper Girls #24 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #183 – It goes without saying that we live in an era where just about everything has become politicized to an insane degree, and people find themselves identifying on either end of the right-left spectrum in just about everything they do.  This polarization has become pronounced in the online comics space lately, as the Comicsgate movement has been going around making noise and bullying certain creators, and as other creators have started making their politics clear. I’ve never doubted that Robert Kirkman was an enlightened, modern person, and that’s been made obvious in his inclusion of characters of diverse racial and sexual backgrounds in The Walking Dead.  This issue feels like a stronger declaration of where he stands though, as Michonne spends time getting familiar with life in the Commonwealth. She sees the economic inequality that the Commonwealth has chosen to carry over from the American experiment, and later gets involved when security officers choose to give a man a beatdown in a public space. Michonne, being a lawyer, is tasked with defending the officers, which doesn’t sit well with her or the community.  Things escalate quickly, and it seems that our characters have some challenges that they they probably didn’t expect to have to deal with again in the post-Apocalyptic landscape. I like where Kirkman is going with this, as it’s seemed certain that Rick is going to introduce some changes into the way this large population lives their lives; what remains to be seen is if this will be done at the end of a gun, as are most of Rick’s interventions in people’s lives. This book is feeling pretty fresh again, and it’s nice to see Charlie Adlard drawing situations like this.

Quick Takes:

Astonishing X-Men #15 – Matthew Rosenberg’s arc on this book is a little all over the place, tone wise.  Sometimes it’s a lighthearted story, but in others, it tries to be very serious, and the balance just feels off.  Likewise, this issue features art by Greg Land and Neil Edwards, and the shift from one to the other is very jarring.  Since we got word of the upcoming Uncanny X-Men relaunch, I expect that this title isn’t long for the world, and that is quickly sapping my interest.  At first, I thought that Havok’s squad might be an on-going concern, but now it feels like a one arc wonder.

Black Science #38 – Things get pretty philosophical this issue, as Grant and Sara find themselves at the centre of everything, the prime universe from which all other layers of the onion originate.  Rick Remender kind of makes my head hurt with this issue, and leaves me vaguely missing the more exciting early issues of this series, but as he heads towards the series conclusion, which begins with the next issue, I am starting to see how years of planning and incredible comics work by him and Matteo Scalera are about to pay off.  

Captain America #3 – Ta-Nehisi Coates makes more clear the type of threat that Cap and America are facing as we start to peel away layers of the Power Elite, and learn who is behind the mass-production of Nukes (the man, not the bomb).  What I find most interesting about Coates’s run so far is the way in which he is portraying the complexity of the post-Hydra situation – some small towns benefitted from Hydra’s takeover, and now they are willing to turn a blind eye to some things just to try to maintain that new status quo.  Where Nick Spencer made his comments about Trump’s America pretty clear in Secret Empire, Coates is taking a more nuanced approach, and is exploring some of the grey areas. He’s finding a good balance between politics and story here, and is showing great growth as a comics writer.

Come Into Me #3 – I’d practically forgotten about this very good Black Mask miniseries by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, and Piotr Kowalski.  It’s about a scientist who has discovered a means of putting one person’s consciousness into another’s body, although he was not prepared to host a woman who has died during the procedure.  Now, with his body breaking down, she is trying to take over and move herself into another body. This issue is very much like watching an uncomfortable David Cronenberg movie, complete with phallic or intestine-like medical equipment.  I enjoy the strong characters in this book – it’s a very plot driven story that feels like it’s character driven, which is hard to pull off. The long wait between issues did do a lot to kill my enthusiasm though.

Deathstroke #35 – The long fight between Batman and Deathstroke comes to its conclusion with this issue, as the secrets behind the questions of Damian’s parentage are revealed.  I cannot praise Christopher Priest’s writing enough, as he comes to a rare conclusion and shows how little details laid throughout this arc have mattered, and also, in my opinion, makes a very strong case for being given a Bat-book of his own to write.  As much as I enjoyed this arc, the fact that it was untethered from current continuity kind of bothered me, although I understand that this storyline might have been used as an attempt to increase readership for the title. I sincerely hope that some new readers stick around, as Deathstroke has been DC’s best ongoing title since the beginning of Rebirth, and Priest has made Slade into DC’s most complex and rich character.  I look forward to the next issue, that returns to Slade’s present; when we last saw him, he was being locked up at Arkham Asylum, so you know things are going to stay interesting.

Doctor Aphra Annual #2 – Si Spurrier is joined by his Angelic co-creator Caspar Wijngaard for this story about two monster hunters being led into an ancient temple by Doctor Aphra to hunt down a monster for her mobster boss.  Of course, when Aphra is involved, you can expect that at least one person is going to be betrayed or screwed over, and the fun comes from trying to predict how and when it’s going to happen. Spurrier has a good handle on this character, and was the right person to take her over from Kieron Gillen.  This was an enjoyable comic that is as much Indiana Jones as it is Star Wars.

Paper Girls #24 – The adventures continue, as one of the girls learns the truth about her expected future illness, and we learn how two characters from prehistory have risen to such prominence in the future.  Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang continue to pump out an original and highly entertaining comic.

Relay #3 – I’m not sure what it is that keeps forcing me to give this book another chance, but four issues in (including the Free Comic Book Day zero issue), I’m still completely lost as to what is going on here.  There was a time when I was fine with being lost in a book, but I don’t think that Zac Thompson and story consultant Donny Cates are working on some Grant Morrison level. Instead, I think this is just a story that needed more time to be made clear.  I like Andy Clarke’s art, but I’m just way too lost in the story. The main character, who was more of a zealot than his associates, is now being framed for a crime, and ends up inside the Relay, which is organic and maybe moving around on the inside, and I don’t know.  There’s a sound gun that helps you fall?

Shadow Roads #3 – This issue makes clear that nature of the threat that our two groups of protagonists face, and the series starts to take a clearer shape.  Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt are giving us a story that is comfortably comparable to The Sixth Gun, if perhaps lacking in the same degree of scope. I’m glad to be able to return to this world, and like what they are doing here.

Star Wars #53 – I continue to be impressed with this arc, as Kieron Gillen places the newly confident and equipped Rebel fleet in an impossible situation.  Last issue Han had to fight Darth Vader off in space; now it looks like it’s Leia’s turn to face the Dark Lord, as she makes a last-ditch effort to rescue the quickly shrinking Rebel armada.  This arc has been exciting and full of strong character moments. Salvador Larroca does not get enough praise for his art; I’m very happy with his ability to make space battles seem dynamic.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #38 – It’s another Lil’ B issue, but unlike the ones before, Lil’ B starts flashing between her strange fantasy world and Beth’s real world.  David Lapham has always used these oddball issues to give us a peek into Beth’s subconscious, which is sometimes interesting or informative, but they are not my favourite issues by a long shot.  Still, it’s an interesting way to show us that Beth is in big trouble at the moment…

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

Adventures of the Super Sons #2

Avengers #7

Batman #54

Death of the Inhumans #3

Immortal Hulk #5

Monstress Vol. 3

Old Man Logan Annual #1

Perdy Vol. 1

Quicksilver No Surrender #5

Snotgirl #11

Thanos Legacy #1

Thief of Thieves #40

Weapon X #23

X-Men Gold #35

Bargain Comics:

All-New Wolverine #35 – It’s a shame that Tom Taylor’s run with Laura as Wolverine has come to a close.  He’s really made me like this character, who I’ve often had a problem with before, and has forever improved her by adding Honey Badger to her family.  Either Marvel or Taylor decided to take the easy way out, ending this run with a story set in the future, which we see just a little too much of these days.  Still, this was a very memorable run.

Amazing Spider-Man #795&796 – The closing days of Dan Slott’s Spider-Man run feel a little forced, although the idea of pairing Carnage with Norman Osborn is an awesome one.  I’m usually a fan of Mike Hawthorne’s art, but it looks rushed and a little sloppy in these issues.

Domino #1 – It’s good to see Gail Simone back on a series with some profile to it, and back at Marvel.  This first issue does an alright job of setting the tone for the title, as Domino, Outlaw, and Diamondback appear to be working together, although that and a party full of people don’t seem to be enough to protect Domino from a contract put on her by the mysterious Topaz.  This feels a lot like a Deadpool comic at this point, and I’m not sure yet if Simone is going to stay lighthearted all the time (she’s really good at emotionally devastating stories, when she chooses to be).

Mercury Heat #3-10 – I think back issues of this series have become hard to find, as I am apparently still missing the last two issues.  Kieron Gillen has put together a pretty interesting science fiction series that posits a future where people use technology to enhance and control their bodily and emotional reactions, and where everyone works in the gig economy, based on their personality profiles and a powerful algorithm.  Luisa wants to be a police officer, but isn’t suited for the job. It doesn’t stop her, and we get to follow her through a couple of strange adventures. The first arc is great sci-fi stuff, while the second gets a little bogged down in its own cleverness, as Luisa has to deal with what looks like a Crossed outbreak, although in her world, Crossed is just a comic book.  As is often the case with Avatar comics, the art is a bit of a letdown and distraction, but it’s still a decent project.

Star Wars: Lando – Double or Nothing #3 – Rodney Barnes has a good ear for Lando Calrissian’s Donald Glover-inflected dialogue in this story, but hasn’t done enough to come up with a plot that is distinct enough from what we saw Lando doing during the recent Han Solo movie.  This isn’t really exploring the character much, or adding much of anything to him, which feels like a missed opportunity.

X-Men Gold #28-33 – Marc Guggenheim’s X-Men always feels like it’s falling short to me.  A lot has been said about the wedding storyline, which has felt forced from the beginning.  It does have some nice moments in it (especially the throwbacks to classic X-Men moments, and David Marquez’s bang-on interpretation of early John Romita Jr. Kitty Pryde), but is ultimately pointless, as is the relationship between Kurt and Rachel.  It’s like Guggenheim needed to hook everyone up (including Bobby and the new Pyro?), but didn’t put any real thought into how that would work. The X-Men deserve better than this, and I’m hoping that the upcoming Uncanny X-Men is going to be all it could be.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Birthright Vol. 1: Homecoming – Joshua Williamson and Andre Bressan’s Birthright didn’t really start to grab me until the end of this volume, when some of the plot twists made themselves clear.  A young boy went missing a little over a year ago, which devastated his family. Now, he’s returned a full-grown man talking about magical adventures and claiming he’s there to track down five war criminals who have arrived on Earth.  His mother doesn’t believe him, his father does, and his brother’s reactions are a little more complicated. The family stuff is interesting, but it took a little too long for some of the magical stuff to move beyond cliché. There’s some potential here, but I’m not sure that this is a series I need to follow.

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