The Weekly Round-Up #483 & #484 With Black Hammer ’45 #1, Outer Darkness #5, Deadly Class #37, Oblivion Song #13, Star Wars #62, The Walking Dead #189 & More!

Sorry about the double column.  I was out of town last week.

Best Comics of the Fortnight:

Black Hammer ‘45 #1 – Jeff Lemire continues to build on his Black Hammer universe, and this time he brings his friends and frequent collaborators, Ray Fawkes (who writes this) and Matt Kindt (who draws it) along with him.  The series focuses on the Black Hammers, a Blackhawk-like squadron of pilots during the Second World War, who stand out for all being visible minorities. The creators had fun creating air-based villains and gigantic Soviet robots for the characters to fight, and have framed everything as flashbacks as two of the surviving heroes gather to commemorate their last mission.  I don’t always love Fawkes’s writing, but this is all very effective, and looks great. Sharlene Kindt handles the colours/paints, and letterer Marie Enger recreates Matt Kindt’s penmanship perfectly. This is a cool comic.

Outer Darkness #5 – My favourite new series continues to surprise, as the Charon is forced to put down on a bleak world, and when the Captain has to divide the crew to both find the demon loose inside the ship, and to find a safe place for the injured crew, things get even worse.  John Layman has spent the first four issues introducing us to some of this book’s massive cast, and now we get to watch them get taken apart. This series is full of new and unique ideas and approaches to science fiction, and it’s great fun watching Layman and artist Afu Chan unveil them.  

Quick Takes:

Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #2 – Aside from needing to clear the majority of X-Men off the table for Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny series, I can’t really see the point of these Age of X-Man books.  The more-or-less familiar team is now in a world where nobody has romantic entanglements, although they still remember that that used to exist, and the only person protesting it is Apocalypse, and his son, Genesis.  The hardest thing about this series is caring about what is happening. Alternate world stories like this work best when we get to see characters from a new perspective, but the writers, Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson, are more or less shoe-horning this world overtop of the characters we know and love, with the result being a lot of apathy on my part.  Because I like those two writers, this was the only Age of X-Man title I was going to get, but now I think I’m going to stop preordering the last two issues. I can live without this, especially since I doubt any of these characters are going to be changed when they return to the main Marvel Universe.

Cemetery Beach #7 – Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s exciting science fiction chase series comes to an end, and like the rest of the run, stays light and quick-moving.  I don’t imagine Ellis is going to revisit this book, and that’s fine, as I’d rather see him take Howard back to the world of Trees and move that story along. This was a fun comic, and I’m sure it would make a terrific movie.  I also don’t see myself remembering much about it in a few year’s time.

Deadly Class #37 – It’s time to check in with Quan, who has been tortured by Saya’s brother and his men.  He decides to free Saya as a way of making things even, and because this is Deadly Class, that leads to some pretty crazy scenes.  I love this book, and wish it wasn’t so far behind on its printing schedule. I haven’t watched the TV show yet, but figure if it’s half as good as the comic, it’s probably worth the time, except for the fact that it won’t have any lovely Wes Craig art propelling it.

Deathstroke #41 – Slade is out of Arkham, but he’s a wanted man (again).  When he tries to complete a hit, he ends up in a fight with an electricity-themed villain, and has to question just what is going on.  As usual, Priest takes what could be a straight-forward story and makes it pretty complicated, while also setting up the upcoming Teen Titans crossover.  I know that sales aren’t great on this book, but it’s felt, for a while now, like DC is just going to keep tossing Batman and Titans-themed storylines at this title.  Still, Priest can make ridiculous story ideas work, and with Dave Johnson providing awesome covers, things are all good.

Die #4 – As we get further into this new series by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, we get a good understanding of these characters and how complex they are.  Gillen plays with role playing game tropes, like the travellers telling stories in a bar technique, to help expand the story, and flesh things out, although some revelations are just hinted at.  This book definitely has caught my interest (despite the fact that I never cared for RPGs).

Killmonger #5 – I’m not entirely sure why Marvel waited so long to put out a Killmonger miniseries that covers some of N’Jadaka’s time in America.  It’s a good story, thanks to Bryan Hill and the phenomenal Juan Ferreyra, but it doesn’t really do a whole lot to build on Killmonger’s character. It seems that a lot of the stuff that made me like him so much during Christopher Priest’s classic Black Panther run has been retconned away, or is just being ignored now, which is a shame.  He’s an interesting character, but I fear that Marvel just wants him to be Michael B. Jordan now…

Little Bird #1 – This is a very strong first issue by writer Darcy Van Poelgeest and artist Ian Bertram.  The story is set in a future where the United States has become a theocracy that is expanding into the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  A young girl, Little Bird, has been tasked with freeing a man who can perhaps save the land. This comic is very atmospheric and cool looking, and has definitely caught my eye.  I’ll be back for the rest of it, even though I’m not sure where this is heading. It’s interesting that this series isn’t going to get collected as a trade, so if it’s of interest, you should consider checking it out now.

Livewire #4 – Amanda continues her fight against an old friend from her Harada days, and that makes her confront her actions during Harbinger Wars 2, finally leaving this series is a position for writer Vita Ayala to do their own thing with the character.  I’ve been a little disappointed so far with this book, but now I’m hoping that things are going to go somewhere. I’ve liked Raúl Allén’s art a lot though, or I might have dropped this title.

Oblivion Song #13 – As the newest story arc begins, Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici jump their story forward three years.  Continued research into Oblivion has led to a number of important medical discoveries, and closer working relations between the government and Duncan and Bridget, while Nathan serves out his time.  It looks like a new era for everyone, so of course that’s the right time for the Faceless Men to make their move, promising that this book is headed into new directions shortly. I’m really impressed by this series, which has stayed very compelling and unpredictable, and which has become strongly grounded in great character work.

Paper Girls #26 – The Girls are back, but they are spread across a few different eras, all on their own.  This gives the issue a pretty fractured feel, as Brian K. Vaughan has to check in with everyone. I like this title, but I think it might be reaching that point where I’m getting a little tired of it, as the story machinations take on a life of their own.  At least Cliff Chiang’s art stays charming.

Punisher #9 – Frank’s Bagalian prison break brings him into conflict with Taskmaster, while Baron Zemo continues to prove that he is not the most stable of world leaders.  I like what Matthew Rosenberg has been doing with this character, and how he’s been exploring an overlooked corner of the Marvel Universe. Szymon Kudranski’s art has been terrific since the title relaunched.

Star Wars #62 – Kieron Gillen has a new arc underway, as Leia puts her plan to destroy Shu-Torun into effect.  This means that most of this issue is spent gathering up some recent associates, like Benthic from Rogue One, and getting ready to make moves.  Gillen also returns to the Central Isopter death cult, which is a little annoying (I’m not a huge fan of the Force, if I’m being honest). This is another solid issue in what’s been a very good run.

Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions #1 – I always liked comics that showed us how someone like a citizen of Gotham really felt about Batman swinging around the city.  Marvel is doing that kind of thing with this miniseries, as we see various visions of Vader. This issue is narrated by a young boy on an alien world where the residents spend most of the year hiding in underground tunnels from a massive creature they call the Ender.  When Vader crashlands on their planet, he faces the beast, leaving the boy to marvel at the hero in front of him. This was the series that was originally solicited as being written by Chuck Wendig, before his Twitter account got him fired. I know that the covers were already drawn, so I do wonder if writer Dennis Hopeless (I mean Hallum – that’s going to take some getting used to) just basically wrote off of those.  Either way, this is a capable comic, and scratches the Vader itch.

Uncanny X-Men #13 – So now the X-Men have put together a small squad, and Cyclops has decided that they need to spend their time going after some of their biggest foes, despite the fact that they have no base, logistical support, money, or updated costumes.  I guess it makes sense, except for the fact that they also want to take their foes prisoner. Matthew Rosenberg is working hard to overcome some of the messes that previous writers (Bendis, I’m looking at you) left some of these characters in, while also continuing to do some weird things to the former New Mutants and to Jamie Madrox.  I’m liking this approach, but I feel like it could be a little tighter. Also, I was thinking, since the X-Men are opposed to the anti-mutant vaccine, does that make them anti-mutant anti-vaxxers? It’s a strange time we live in…

Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End #1 – Really, this is an Iceman Annual, as Sina Grace and Nathan Stockman revisit their recently-ended run to give us a story of Bobby’s birthday, which involves a fight with his future self, a reconciling with Jean Grey, and a final wrapping up of some dangling plotlines from the earlier series.  Grace writes Bobby exceptionally well, so this issue works, even if the cover has nothing to do with what’s in the issue, and the whole thing has been essentially negated by X-Men Disassembled.

Vindication #2 – I think this series is interesting, and has a lot of potential, but is kind of flawed.  MD Marie is writing a very involved story about LAPD detectives with some issues, a wrongfully accused man, his private investigator girlfriend, and more broadly, racial animosity.  I feel like Marie is going for a The Wire level approach, but is either lacking the space or the familiarity with comics writing to give the story space to breathe. I find it hard to follow things from scene to scene, which is made more difficult by Carlos Miko’s Top Cow house style art.  Things are stiff and a little awkward, but I also think there’s enough interesting stuff going on to keep me sticking with it anyway.

The Walking Dead #189 – I think we all knew that once Rick got a look at life in the Commonwealth, it wouldn’t be long before it all fell apart.  We are reaching that point now, as the guard/army force free Mercer and start a little revolution, which Rick of course finds himself at the centre of.  This book never gets boring, and I like the way that Robert Kirkman is setting Eugene up to be a hero. Charlie Adlard took a difficult scene involving a herd, a fire extinguisher, and some duct tape, and made it all work.  He’s a treasure.

Winter Soldier #4 – RJ, the teen Hydra killer that Bucky’s been working to reach and help, has had his father turn up out of nowhere, wanting to reconnect with him.  Dad’s been in prison most of RJ’s life, and while he seems sincere in his efforts to turn his life around, Bucky can tell that something’s off about the whole situation.  Kyle Higgins has been doing a good job writing this series, as I like Rod Reis’s art, but I think it’s odd how little of this series really focuses on Bucky himself.

X-Force #4 – I’m pretty sure that X-Force has become my new favourite Marvel comic, as Ed Brisson fills each issue with some great action sequences, while also working on both old and new characters to make them interesting and worth reading about.  This issue has the team dealing with the Transian President and his mutant-hating ways, while also revealing just what is behind Kid Cable’s mission in this country. We also see a big fight against Ahab, one of those characters from the 90s I hate with great passion.  Dylan Burnett continues to make this the most unique looking Marvel comic on the stands, and I love that his Warpath looks like he was drawn by either Bá or Moon. There is a death that feels pretty forced in this issue, and that I hope gets reversed soon, as it seems unnecessary (and is of one of my favourite characters in the book).

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

Amazing Spider-Man #16HU

Amazing Spider-Man #17

Asgardians of the Galaxy #7

Avengers #16

Avengers No Road Home #4

Avengers No Road Home #5

Batman #66

Black Order #5

Catwoman #9

Champions #3

Cover #6

Curse Words Vol. 4 Queen Margaret TP

Dead Man Logan #5

Domino Hotshots #1

Immortal Hulk #14

Last Siege TP

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

Meet the Skrulls #1

Tony Stark Iron Man #9

Wonder Woman #66

X-23 #10

Bargain Comics:

Elephantmen #77-80 – When Elephantmen started, I thought it was a real treasure of a series – strange, original, and also very perceptive about the human condition.  As it continued, and was plagued by massive delays between issues, I found that it kept circling around the same few themes in an increasingly repetitive way. Eventually, I ended up dropping it, and then a few issues later, the series ended.  Reading these last few issues, I’m reminded of both the potential of the series, and the lack of forward movement in it. I understand that Hip Flask and the other Elephantment quite rightly would be suffering from PTSD, but it often felt like the plotting did too, as it returned to the same scenes time and again.  Maybe reading it all in one sitting, with the Hip Flask books alongside, I might feel differently. I will say that I’ve missed Axel Medellin’s beautiful art, and wonder what he’s working on now.

Exiles #3-10 – While I enjoy Saladin Ahmed’s writing on this title, I can’t really see the point of the whole thing.  Blink has a new crew, and they’re bouncing around the multiverse doing stuff, but it all feels very slapped together and lacking in any real premise, especially after the first threat is taken out.  Ahmed is a good character writer, but these are basically just redoes of established characters, and it doesn’t give him the space to really explore them with any nuance.

SHIELD #5&6 – It took so long for the last two issues of Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s series to come out, I honestly could barely remember anything about it.  As such, I found these two issues confusing (if lovely), and ultimately kind of pointless, because if Hickman had plans for incorporating this stuff into his Marvel work, it obviously never actually happened.

The Fortnight in Graphic Novels:

Britannia Vol. 1 – I don’t understand how this book is a Valiant title.  It’s set in Ancient Rome (at least at the beginning), and features the first Roman detective, called a Detectioner.  He’s been manipulated and trained by the Vestal Virgins, whose chief has him sent to Britannia to investigate a possible demon sighting, and a lot of strange things happen.  This book is written by Peter Milligan, a writer who usually vacillates between being very, very good (Shade, for example), and terrible (his X-Men run is almost as bad as Chuck Austen’s).  Here, he’s kind of just mediocre. The artist is Juan José Ryp, who is decent, but therein lies the problem with this book. It felt, on almost every level, more like an Avatar comic than a Valiant one.  I think had it had more nudity and depravity, instead of just hinting at it (the book is rated Teen+), it might have worked a little better. I suspect that Milligan, who hasn’t really worked with Valiant before this, had another publisher in mind when he started writing this comic.  I also can’t believe that Valiant didn’t work in an awkward cameo by Aric, the star of X-O Manowar.

The Ghost Fleet: The Whole Goddamned Thing – Donny Cates has become one of the biggest names in comics right now, and his collaborator on this book, Daniel Warren Johnson has been getting a lot of attention for his Image work.  This book collects their Ghost Fleet, an odd series about conspiracies, secretive trucking agencies, assassins, and ultimately, the end of the world. So much of this makes very little sense, but it’s a wild ride of craziness, that does not bore at all.  It’s worth checking out.

It Will All Hurt – I keep picking up new books or series by Farel Dalrymple, because I love his art, but I keep being disappointed by his writing.  This book, collecting a self-published and webcomic venture, takes forever to coalesce as a story, and when it does, it’s some pretty typical stuff about a group of kids and animals banding together to fight an evil wizard for reasons that are never made clear.  Dalrymple has a very surrealistic approach to storytelling, and while it leads to lovely art, it damages the story a great deal. Like with his recent Proxima Centauri, I find I just don’t care that much about what’s going on.

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