The Weekly Round-Up #474 With Low #20, The Walking Dead #187, Heroes In Crisis #4, Uncanny X-Men #8 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Low #20 – Low might be Rick Remender’s most complex series.  In this book, which is basically about hope, and the idea of maintaining an optimistic outlook even as the world looks like it’s going to end, and everyone in your life tries to convince you that your way of seeing things is wrong, Remender has been stacking disappointment after disappointment on his main character, Stel.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen this comic, but there’s a helpful recap page that brought it all back to me. Stel, suffering from radiation sickness, is in a position where she can perhaps finally help the remaining members to humanity to find a new world, but a new character is opposed to that, and so once again, Stel’s hopes are crushed.  Greg Tocchini’s art is always a little difficult to follow, but also incredibly beautiful. The long gap between issues has paid off, visually, as this is another stunning issue.

Quick Takes:

Heroes in Crisis #4 – It’s taken this series a little while to draw me in, and I’m not sure if I’m completely there yet.  I usually like the disjointed way in which Tom King tells a story, but when he’s working on a big tentpole event series, requiring a pretty broad understanding of the DC Universe, I’m not sure it works.  Maybe it’s because I’ve become a very casual DC reader (Blue Beetle exists as I remember him in the post-Rebirth era?), but I find it hard to keep track of all that’s happening here. I do like the scenes featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and appreciate the way that the relationship between a reporter and a source is central to this month’s issue, though, and I still think that there is a lot of potential in this series.  The thing is, we’re almost half-way through it, and it still feels like the train is just starting to leave the station.

Killmonger #3 – N’Jadaka survives a battle with Bullseye in this issue, as Bryan Hill continues to flesh out Killmonger’s backstory, and show us how he became such a talented killer.  This is a decent comic, with some very nice Juan Ferreyra artwork. I’m glad I decided to go with this series, as it’s exceeded my expectations.

Namor: The Best Defense #1 – I picked this up at regular price because I saw that it’s made by the creative team of the upcoming Invaders series (Chip Zdarsky and Carlos Magno, both people whose work I admire), and I wanted to know what’s going on with Namor before that series starts.  I’ve just about finished rereading my Namor comics for my occasional Retro Review column, so I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. Recently, in Avengers, Jason Aaron has decided to pit him at war with the surface world again (despite his having just worked nicely alongside the X-Men in X-Men Red).  I thought this issue might provide more insight into that, but instead it has Namor seeking out an Atlantean off-shoot that his people banished generations before. It’s not all that clear why Namor is so determined to gain these allies who his own people fear, and his one-man mission of diplomacy doesn’t go well.  I don’t know how this connects to what is happening in the other Best Defense titles yet, as this is very much a stand-alone comic, outside of just a few pages. Zdarsky took a serious approach to writing Namor, which I appreciate, and Magno’s art reminds me a lot of Gabriel Hardman throughout, which is a good thing.  I am looking forward to the Invaders comic.

Uncanny X-Men #8 – Now it’s all starting to come together, as the adult X-Men realize that the kids have gone to the Age of Apocalypse, and debate on whether or not they should rescue them, seeing as they’ve managed to keep X-Man contained there.  This issue raises some interesting questions about the AoA world, because if it’s all housed in Legion’s head, what does that mean for other comics that have interacted with the place in the past? Anyway, I like the more cohesive feel of this issue, which also brings back Kitty Pryde, has the team having to work with Apocalypse, and addresses some of the smaller plot threads that have been ignored in the last couple of issues.  This issue gives me hope, a little, that this title is improving.

The Walking Dead #187 – The cracks have really started to show in the Commonwealth, as different factions, emboldened by Rick’s appearance in town, are starting to think about how things could be different.  At the same time, a number of characters embark on new relationships, and Carl hits a bumpy patch with his girlfriend. I continue to enjoy this book as much as I ever did, although it doesn’t startle me the way it used to.  If this becomes a more political thriller, I’m fine with that.

Winter Soldier #2 – Bucky is under attack by a young kid who has just slaughtered everyone in a bar.  We see a little of how this kid was raised, and now it looks like the rest of this miniseries will be about Bucky trying to rehabilitate the kid.  It works well, and Rod Reis’s art is right for this title. It’s nice to see that Kyle Higgins is doing something a little different with the Winter Soldier, without going as weird as Ales Kot and Marco Rudy did with their crack at him.

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

Champions #1

Detective Comics #995

Immortal Hulk #11

Infinity Wars Infinity #1

Iron Fist Phantom Limb GN

Justice League Odyssey #4

Man Without Fear #1

Mr. & Mrs. X #7

Shatterstar #4

Star Wars: Han Solo – Imperial Cadet #3

Sword Daughter #5

Tony Stark Iron Man #7

Wonder Woman #61

Bargain Comics:

Asgardians of the Galaxy #1-4 – I’m a sucker for an oddball team book, so while I was originally going to ignore this title, I ended up deciding I needed to give it a shot.  The first couple issues are a little stiff, but by the fourth, Cullen Bunn has this book ramping up nicely. It’s not really an Infinity Wars tie-in, as Angela and a surprise character gather a team of Asgardian-adjacent characters to fight Nebula and her army of undead gods.  I originally thought this was a miniseries, but apparently it’s an ongoing (which means that it will last eight to ten issues).

Batman #52-58 – I did not drop Batman out of anger over his canceled marriage to Catwoman, like so many people claim to have done online, but instead dropped the book when DC raised the price a dollar an issue and did away with their digital codes.  It’s nice to get caught back up, but I don’t feel like I missed all that much. As has been typical with Tom King’s run on this title, the quality of these books varies wildly. The issues that had Bruce Wayne serving on a jury and working against a conviction for Mister Freeze were very good, as was Lee Weeks’s art on them.  The one-off featuring art by Matt Wagner was decent, but a bit of a placeholder. The three issues that saw Nightwing hurt by the KGBeast, and Batman tracking the Beast down were among the worst of the run (which is something that always happens when Tony Daniel shows up on art). With issue fifty-eight, which features the Penguin and art by Mikel Janín, we get some forward movement on the larger story.  It annoys me that King doesn’t address Dick’s injuries here at all, and since I don’t read Nightwing, I don’t really know what’s going on with him. Anyway, sometimes I miss this book, but I’m good with catching up on it every few months when I can find the comics for cheap. This title is not worth $8 a month…

Batman Secret Files #1 – I’m not entirely sure why this book exists, except perhaps to pad out a five-Wednesday month, but it does have some decent short stories in it by up-and-coming creators.  The part of this book that works the least effectively is the opener, by Tom King and Mikel Janín, where Batman ponders gaining powers for himself, and asks Alfred if he’s enough as he is. I think the rest of the stories were designed to prove that he is, but that question is never returned to, and it feels like an oversight.

Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 – One thing I hate about Marvel’s future stories is that characters way off even at the end of time are always somehow connected to what’s going on in the contemporary Marvel Universe.  It is always just too easy, and a little too conceited. Anyway, I think that Cosmic Ghost Rider is a silly character, but I’m curious about Donny Cates’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, and figured it was time to catch up (see below for a lot of Thanos).  This is fine, and I like the art by new X-Force artist Dylan Burnett.

Doctor Strange #5-9 – Mark Waid’s Doctor Strange is pretty enjoyable.  I liked the story that had the doctor travelling space to pick up new forms of magic, and enjoyed his new alien companion, although the story involving Baron Mordo and a forgotten young woman dragged a little.  Issue nine has Strange fighting gentrification in Brooklyn, and it was by far my favourite of the series so far. I like that Waid has kept Bats, the ghost dog, around, and I’m very impressed by the way that Jesús Saiz has leveled up in his art – it’s very beautiful.  I’m tempted to add this book to my pullfile, it’s that good when Saiz is on it.

Doctor Strange: The Best Defense #1 – Greg Smallwood is such a great artist.  Gerry Dugan gives us his best “Old Man Strange” here, in a future where Dormammu has taken over our realm, and it looks like he’s killed just about everyone.  Stephen has a plan to finally stop him, and it helps inform some of what happens in the Hulk one-shot (see below). These Best Defense comics are decent character studies.

Immortal Hulk #4-6 – I keep hearing good buzz around this title, and I think it’s well earned.  Al Ewing has been one of the best and most underrated writers working at Marvel, and this has been a place for him to shine.  I like his new horror-driven take on the Hulk, and am happy to see Sasquatch getting some love (although I worry for the character’s long-term viability after this story).  The Hulk is a very difficult character to make interesting, but Ewing has succeeded, and artist Joe Bennett is delivering some of the best work he’s done in years.

Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 – I didn’t know what to expect from this weird miniseries of one-shots that feature original members of the Defenders.  This one is written by Al Ewing, so it’s good, of course, as the Hulk leads Banner to the burnt body of Doctor Strange, and he realizes that the Eye of Agamotto has gone missing.  His search leads him to a small town held in the grip of a vagrant using the Eye for personal revenge. Tonally, this fits well with the main Hulk series.

Infinity Wars #4&5 – I am amazed that this event was allowed to sprawl to the extent that it did, seeing as it effectively does almost nothing from start to almost finish.  Gamora having the Infinity Gems/Stones is very anticlimactic, as she doesn’t appear to use them much. Loki is the main character of this series, but I don’t feel like Gerry Duggan writes him very well.  I am cool with Mike Deodato’s art though, so there is that.

Star Wars: Beckett #1 – When I saw the Solo movie, which I think is due to come to Netflix this week or next, I didn’t hate Woody Harrelson’s character Beckett.  I think it was a mistake to cram his entire relationship with Solo into one film, as way too much of Han’s key life moments got wrapped into a pretty short story, but I was a bit curious to learn more about Beckett.  This one-shot with a few different artists does flesh him and his crew out a little more, but as with many of Gerry Duggan’s comics, also kind of missed the mark.

Thanos #16-18 – Did anyone in comics have a better year than Donny Cates?  He became a household name in 2018, largely off of his very different take on Thanos.  These three issues end his run, but they also cement the Cosmic Ghost Rider as a thing in the Marvel universe.  This was a decent comic, and while it took me a while to get into this run, I appreciate what Cates was doing with this story, although it wasn’t until the last issue that I found I was really behind it.

Thanos Annual #1 – This collection of stories showing how bad a badass Thanos really is is interesting.  I feel like Kieron Gillen’s story, the one I was most looking forward to, crumbled under its own ambition, but Al Ewing and Frazer Irving’s story is worth the price of the comic alone.  

Thanos Legacy #1 – This ended up being worth a pass.  The main story has Starfox setting up a storyline around Thanos’s will, but I’m not sure where or how that is supposed to be playing out.  The backup is yet another story about Thanos being tough on Gamora as a kid. I do love seeing Starfox, especially when he’s played seriously, but I could have lived just fine without ever reading this.

Tony Stark Iron Man #4-6 – I still can’t help but read this series as a continuation of what Dan Slott did with the last couple years of his Spider-Man run.  We have the Wasp standing in for Mockingbird, the Stark eScape standing in for WebWare, and any number of other quirky characters filling in for the rest of the Parker Industries folk.  So, my question is, did Slott always want to write Iron Man, so he made Amazing into the Iron Man book he wanted to write, or is it more that he can’t really let go of the approach he was using before.  These aren’t terrible comics, except for the issue that has Arno Stark managing an issue with headless cattle (that was all pretty awful). I feel like no one’s really known what to do with Tony since the end of Matt Fraction’s excellent run, so they just keep circling around the same ideas.  

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Aquaman Vol. 3: Crown of Atlantis – Dan Abnett’s Aquaman continues to be pretty enjoyable in this volume, as Arthur deals with a telepathic cyborg, participates in an Aliens like story involving alien water, and then has his leadership challenged by his people.  That last bit happens a little too quickly for my liking, but overall this is all solid underwater superhero comics.

Best Wishes

Written by Mike Richardson
Art by Paul Chadwick

I consider Paul Chadwick to be one of the best straight-up comics artists in the business, so of course I wanted to read Best Wishes, his collaboration with Dark Horse president Mike Richardson.This is a slightly odd magical realist series about work and relationships in New York City.  An old and ornate fountain is moved from Italy to New York’s Central Park, but no one is aware of the fact that it might have some magical properties to it.  Cal is a struggling graphic designer who can’t seem to break into the industry.  Mary is a struggling young woman who can’t shake the feeling that her boyfriend, Josh, a famous quarterback, doesn’t really love her.  When Cal and Mary make wishes in the fountain at the same time, their desires get mixed up.

In no time, Mary’s random napkin doodle gets chosen as the new symbol of New York City, propelling her to the recognition and job that Cal wanted for himself.  When Cal meets Josh in an elevator while on his way to a job interview with Mary, Josh is not sure how to deal with the feelings that he starts to develop for the young man.  In no time, these three characters find themselves in a weird triangle of envy and desire.

I like the way that this book portrays the difficulty of simply living in New York City, as the characters struggle to make ends meet, and even acts of generosity don’t extend further than the closest Ikea.  These characters, and the people that surround them, are very well-realized, and the implausible aspects of this story don’t get in the way of enjoying their travails.

Of course, this book is so capably drawn that I’m sure it inspired the kind of envy that Cal shows throughout the book.  Chadwick is a treasure – he makes emotionally complex scenes clear and easy to understand.  I’m glad that Richardson is able to make sure that stories like this get told.  This was a quiet book that didn’t make much of a splash, but is really worth taking a look at.

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