The Weekly Round-Up #480 With Outer Darkness #4, Dead Kings #3, Criminal #2, Oblivion Song #12 & More

 Best Comic of the Week:

Outer Darkness #4 – I can’t see myself ever getting bored of this amazing series by John Layman and Afu Chan.  This issue focuses on Elox, the navigator of the Charon, who we learn, used to be a god, and is now stuck working for a captain who can’t be bothered to learn his name.  Layman is continuing to lay the groundwork for this series, which subverts all the norms of something like Star Trek, and mixes in black magic and the spirit world. It’s deliciously complex, and very layered.  The way things are going on the Charon, I’m not sure they’ll ever achieve their mission, but so long as the book stays this entertaining, I’m good with that.

Quick Takes:

Criminal #2 – Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips swerve away from the story they started in the first issue, and instead give us a story set in the comics world of the late 90s, as legendary artist Hal Crane comes to San Diego, and instead of attending the panels he’s scheduled for, takes his driver (and our narrator) around town looking to deal with a problem, which involves pistol whipping other comics artists in bathrooms.  Brubaker is just so good at developing characters in a hurry, and steeps this story in so much insider comics knowledge, that it left me wondering if Crane was a real person. As always, Criminal is a masters class in crime comics, and a truly exceptional comics experience.

Dead Kings #3 – Sasha continues his quest to rescue his brother, and that has led him and Stone Mary to the one person that can help her get back her War Habit (an Iron Man like suit).  This series is full of teleporting trains and Russian despair, in just about equal measures. Steve Orlando is giving us a very dark book that is rich in backstory and guilt. I really like it.

Friendo #4 – This very weird series about AI, targeted advertising, and road trip crime sprees just keeps getting weirder, but in all the best ways.  Alex Paknadel had been building a name for himself for complex storytelling, and while this series is moving in very different directions from his previous work, his depth shows through.  

Gideon Falls #11 – Father Cramer (I think that’s his name) and Norton meet inside the Black Barn, in what feels like a pivotal issue of this series.  Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino have been building to this since the first issue, and I have no idea where this story is going to go from here.

Livewire #3 – Amanda is attacked by a former friend and fellow trainee at the Harbinger Foundation, in an issue that helps to bring new readers more up to speed with Livewire’s story.  It’s interesting, but a little slow moving. Thankfully, Raúl Allén can make just about anything look exciting.

Oblivion Song #12 – As the first year of this incredible series comes to its close, it’s time for the principal characters to come to terms with the choices they’ve made, and what the consequences of those choices have been, and what they might lead to.  And then, in typical Robert Kirkman fashion, the story takes a swerve towards something that has been hinted at, but still comes as a surprise. This is a great series.

Punisher #8 – Frank organizes and leads an intricate plot to take over the Bagalian prison where Baron Zemo has hidden him in this issue.  If you could condense all of that crappy Prison Break show into one twenty-page comic, that’s pretty much what we’ve got here. It’s completely unbelievable, but fun to watch play out.

Survival Fetish #5 – It’s taken a while, but Patrick Kindlon and Antonio Fuso’s post-governmental love story has finally come to its close.  This was a very good series, marred by its incredibly slow release schedule (it is a Black Mask book). It should read very well in trade…

The Warning #4 – Edward Laroche is taking an unconventional approach to telling his story of alien invasion.  Four issues in, and the closest thing to a main character is a soldier whose name I don’t remember, and who doesn’t even show up in this issue.  Instead, we see the beginning of the alien incursion, and then see the immediate aftermath of Earth’s attack on the structure they implanted into our world.  It’s an interesting approach, and while each invididual issue is a very quick read, I do like the way in which it slowly builds the full story. As well, Laroche’s art is very nice.

Winter Soldier #3 – I like the way Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis are telling this story.  Bucky has taken in young RJ, a trained Hydra teen assassin, and is helping to deprogram/rehabilitate him.  In a lot of ways, this is a bit like a standard Black Widow “ledger” story, but with a little more depth to it than those stories often have.  Reis’s art is great, although the colours are often a little too dark. This issue features Spot, one of my favourite Marvel villains, so that made me extra happy.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #15

Avengers No Road Home #1

Dead Man Logan #4

Detective Comics #998

Electric Warriors #4

Justice League Dark #8

Mr. & Mrs. X #8

Ms. Marvel #38

Rumble Vol. 5 Things Remote TP

Shatterstar #5

Star Wars Han Solo Imperial Cadet #4

Thor #10

Wonder Woman #64

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #3-11 – Nick Spencer has settled nicely into his run, but to be honest, it’s just kind of okay in terms of Spidey comics.  He has a nice feel for the character, but he’s not doing anything much new with him. My favourite issues out of this stack are the ones in which Peter hangs out with Boomerang, and we even get a few pages drawn by Steve Lieber, following up on the excellent Superior Foes of Spider-Man series.  Beyond that, I feel like I’ve been here before (which is largely the point of the run, I think, as Marvel tries to restore long-term readers’ desire for nostalgia-driven programming). I can’t get used to Ryan Ottley drawing something that isn’t Invincible – I keep expecting Mark to show up. These are not bad comics by any means, I just expected something a little more unique.

Death of the Inhumans #1-5 – So after spending the last bunch of years trying to build the Inhumans into a tentpole property, Marvel decides to get rid of them, getting Donny Cates to clear the decks of many of the new characters.  Some were likeable, while others, like Flagman, really needed to go. The story works very well, even if Beta Ray Bill’s appearance is kind of random, and runs counter to his portrayal in Asgardians of the Galaxy. The plot really grabbed me, and I like the way Cates worked with Black Bolt.  The biggest surprise to me was the way in which Ariel Olivetti has changed up his style. Previously, he was an artist I’d work hard to avoid, but with this mini, his art is much cleaner and very cool. There’s a lot left kind of ambiguous at the end of this series, like what happened to Triton, but it worked as a decent end to Marvel’s ambitions for these characters.  I feel like we won’t see much of them for a while now…

Edge of Spider-Geddon #4 – I like Aaron Kuder’s art, but this one-off about a world where Norman Osborn is an evil, eight-armed Spider-Man, and his son Norman uses a specialized Goblin suit to go after him is kind of standard.

Poe Dameron Annual #2 – I enjoyed this story, by Jody Houser, about Poe and Black Squadron being sent in to steal an artifact from a smuggler before the First Order can purchase it.  The only thing is, the people trying to buy it are actually Han Solo and Chewbacca. Things could have gotten silly quickly, as Poe can’t meet Han (this story takes place before Episode VII), but Houser pulls it off.

Sentry #1-5 – I hate the Sentry, but was curious about this latest miniseries, because of Jeff Lemire’s involvement.  One of my problems with the Sentry is how every story about him focuses on his mental illness and relationship with The Void, but Lemire did such a great job of addressing Moon Knight’s mental health problems, that I thought he might have a good take on this character too.  The truth is, he kind of nailed it, as Bob works to contain his problems, but his former sidekick, in a fit of jealousy, creates issues. Personally, I hope we don’t see the character again any time soon, but I did enjoy this story.

Spider-Geddon #0-3 – The first Spider-Verse event was a lot of fun, showing many alternate takes on Spider-Man, and having them work together to stop a bunch of ridiculous villains.  Now, those villains are back, and this event, based on an idea by Dan Slott by written by Christos Gage, is creaking under its own weight. By the third issue (which comes after the zero issue, and four Edge of Spider-Geddon issues, and an Superior Octopus one-off, not all of which I’ve read), the teams are still forming, and the Inheritors are not yet much of a threat.  The last event, with it’s weird totemic positions, felt like much more was at stake. This just feels like a typical movie sequel, trying to be bigger, but missing the heart.

X-23 #3-6 – Tom Taylor got me liking Laura more than I ever did before (the secret is Gabby), but I’m pleased to say that I’m still liking this book, now that it’s reverted to its original name, and is being written by Mariko Tamaki.  The storyline with the Stepford Cuckoos is unfortunate in some ways (I don’t like that they’ve become villainous), but also pretty enjoyable, as was the one-off story about infiltrating a school on an undercover mission. The art, most by Juan Cabal, is great.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Switchblade Honey – This 2003 AIT/Planet Lar OGN by Warren Ellis and Brandon McKinney turned up as I was going through some bins recently, and I’m always up for some new Ellis.  Basically, he conceived this story as a decorumless take on Star Trek. He has a Captain of a new ship, part of a last ditch effort to help protect Earth from an alien race about to overrun the human race, who drinks and swears.  That’s the extent of the high concept, but it’s all executed very well, like a pilot to a series in the vein of Farscape more than Discovery. I enjoyed it.