The Weekly Round-Up #487 With Die #5, Dead Kings #4, Vindication #3, Black Hammer ‘45 #2, Star Wars #64, The Walking Dead #190 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Die #5 – One thing I always love about Kieron Gillen’s writing is the ways in which he can upend expectations, and restructure stories with apparent ease.  I kind of assumed the heroes of this series would spend the next couple of years chasing after the Grandmaster, their former friend who has now trapped them in a fantasy world, but really, this series is going to be about something else instead.  And I’m good with that, as this title has me very intrigued. Stephanie Hans has given this book a unique look that works well with Gillen’s character-driven story.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer ‘45 #2 – I am really enjoying this series that shows some aspects of the Second World War in the Black Hammer universe.  Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes flesh out the characters, and the situation they are commemorating in the present, with a lot more detail, and some very cool Matt Kindt-drawn aerial battle scenes.  I’ve never been into the Blackhawks, but if it was like this, I’d probably be much more interested.

Captain America #9 – I’m not sure if I’m supposed to know who the Dryad is, but I do like the idea that Sharon Carter is running an all-female squad of heroes working to clear Captain America’s name and to free him from the prison run by Von Strucker.  Ta-Nehisi Coates has a big story for this series, and it’s got some good momentum building. My only real problem with it is that at the same time that Cap’s in jail and suffering from a terrible reputation, he’s also a hero in Avengers and Invaders. It’s a bit much.

Dead Kings #4 – Steve Orlando’s post-Russian revenge fantasy comic is pretty impressive.  He’s developed a lot of cool concepts, and is using them in a casual way that suggests there are a lot more stories about this world than we will ever get to read tucked away in his head.  Sasha and Stone Mary are ready to try to rescue Sasha’s brother from the gulag, but it seems he’s prepared to take care of things on his own. This is a cool comic, and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Deathstroke #42 – Okay, now I want Priest to write a Robin series.  He has a good handle on Damian, as his attempts to hold Slade prisoner go a little sideways, and Slade gets into his head.  This feels like a solid crossover event, even though I have no idea who most of these Teen Titans are.

Lodger #4 – This David and Maria Lapham series has been running late (as has Stray Bullets – it’s like two monthly comics are more than they can handle – would would have thought?), so it took me a bit to get back into the story, but once I was, I was surprised by how the Laphams are jumping around in time, making what was a confusing book even more confusing, but also more suspenseful and immediate feeling.  This is a very good series, but I can already tell I’ll need to reread it all in one sitting to get all the nuance.

Paper Girls #27 – The girls are split up across eras, but the story is bringing them back together in an issue that is a lot more coherent than the last one.  I love the covers on this series lately, and am always in awe of Cliff Chiang’s art.

Punisher #10 – Frank continues to work his way through Bagalia, killing just about everyone he finds, while Zemo prefers to pretend that things are fine.  This series continues to be enjoyable, and I particularly like Szymon Kudranski’s very dark artwork.

Star Wars #64 – Leia’s plan to ruin the planet Shu-Toran’s mining industry, and its political structure at the same time, is going great.  It looks like our heroes might get an easy, enjoyable win for a change, but then there’s the fact that they brought some Partisans with them, and Benthic has other plans.  Kieron Gillen really understands the right mix for an effective Star Wars story, and doesn’t overplay it.

Uncanny X-Men #15 – So now it seems that Matthew Rosenberg’s time on the X-Men is shorter than I’d imagined, what with the announced Jonathan Hickman series coming in the summer.  That doesn’t mean he’s a lame duck though – he makes some pretty big changes to Cyclops this issue, addresses the techmode virus in the New Mutants, and brings back Hope. There’s a lot happening in this series right now, and what’s cool is that it’s all really hard to predict.

Vindication #3 – This series frustrates me, because I see so much potential in it, but it consistently falls short.  The story, about a cop everyone believes is crooked and racist, who is obsessed with a convicted murderer who has always claimed to be innocent and has just been released, right before the jurors from his trial start turning up dead, is very complicated.  Unfortunately, it’s also a bit rushed, and the art a bit stiff, so it’s the type of thing that readers have to pay very close attention to. More editing, or more room, would have really helped it. Still, it’s an interesting book.

The Walking Dead #190 – Meeting Rick is just not good luck.  The Commonwealth is in open rebellion against its unfeeling Governor, and now a herd is heading towards the place.  Rick might be able to save things, because that’s what he does, but there’s a good chance that will only make things worse.  I love watching Robert Kirkman find new situations to crank up the suspense, and it looks like the next issue is going to be a big one.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #18 HU

Avengers No Road Home #8

Champions #4

Domino Hotshots #2

Immortal Hulk #16

Marvel Team-Up #1

War of the Realms #1

Bargain Comics:

Fantastic Four #3&4 – Dan Slott finally has the Fantastic Four back to their standard form, and on Earth.  These are decent issues (#3 has great Sara Pichelli art), but I don’t think he’s doing anything new with the book at all.  Weddings don’t count.

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #309&310 – Chip Zdarsky’s run on this book was a lot of fun, but also got at the heart of Spider-Man, his sense of responsibility, and his eternal optimism.  The last of these issues is also drawn by Zdarsky, and centres around showing us how everyday people view the hero. It’s a very touching issue, with a “special episode” quality to it that really worked.  I’d have like to see Zdarsky stick with this book, but I’m also just as happy to see him on Invaders and Daredevil.

Superman #45 – Tomasi and Gleason’s last issue of Superman is much like their entire run – a little too sentimental, but also very lovely and heartfelt.  I really liked their Superman, and I’m not really inclined to enjoy this character. They made me love Jonathan though, and that was the strength of this series (which, I guess, is why Bendis had to mess with him, from what I understand).

Superman Special #1 – After finishing their run, it appears that Tomasi and Gleason had one last story in them, featuring a return to Dinosaur Island.  This story, which centres on the last of the Losers, works well enough, but then just ends without any real resolution. There are other fill-in stories rounding out the comic, one of which was drawn by Kaare Andrews, which was kind of cool.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

A Body Beneath – I’ve read some of Michael Deforge’s comics after he caught my eye with his contribution to Brandon Graham’s Island anthology.  This collection contains the comics he first made for Koyama Press, and while some of it is kind of rough, it does a great job of showcasing the promise and enthusiasm of a young creator.  There are some very good, and some very weird, stories in this book.