The Weekly Round-Up #490 With Ascender #1, The Replacer, Heroes in Crisis #8, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #31 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Ascender #1 – I thought that Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender was excellent.  Now they’ve returned with the sequel series, which is set some years after the Harvesters returned and laid waste to the solar system.  In the time since, the various races have restructured their society around the figure of Mother, and magic has risen in the galaxy. Technology and robots are gone, and Mila, the daughter of Andy, one of the central characters in Descender, is chafing against her father’s isolationist ways.  This book is as lovely as Descender, but feels very different. I’m already hooked.

Quick Takes:

Black Panther #11 – It’s taken a while, but it’s finally time for T’Challa to understand who he really is, when the Maroons and their allies come face to face with the god Bast, who has taken over N’Jadaka’s daughter.  It’s a good consolidation issue, as Ta-Nehisi Coates’s afrofuturist Star Wars series looks to be reaching its final act.

Criminal #4 – This series is jumping around a lot, showing us different moments in the lives of some of the established characters.  This time around, the focus is on Ricky Lawless, who has been on quite the coke binge, and has decided it’s time to start dealing with some old scores.  It’s a pretty bleak issue, but still an excellent one, as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips remain on top of their game.

Doctor Aphra #31 – We finally get to the end of the Aphra/Triple Zero bomb in their necks arc, and it ends pretty well.  Si Spurrier has done a great job taking over these characters, and has given us an even deeper portrait of just who Aphra is.  I’m not sure where this series is headed next, but I’m curious to follow along.

Heroes in Crisis #8 – The mystery of who killed everyone at Sanctuary, and who released all the supposedly deleted data, is revealed, and I think it’s going to be pretty controversial.  The first half of the issue feels like a very credible portrayal of PTSD and what it would do to a superhero, but then things kind of swerve into territory that I can’t help but feel is just completely out of character.  Mitch Gerads drew this issue, but it doesn’t really look like his work. I think, with only one issue left in this series, it’s time to admit that as an event and as a story, this was a failure. I still believe that Tom King is one of the best writers in the game, but he does so much better with his own characters (Sheriff of Babylon) or with tertiary ones (Vision, Mister Miracle, The Omega Men).  His high profile work, including his Batman, doesn’t often live up to expectations.

Invisible Kingdom #2 – This new series by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward is pretty interesting.  It explores religion, interplanetary Amazon, loyalty, and obedience, and looks awesome. It’s great to see Wilson return to the world of independent comics, as she has a unique worldview, and it’s always nice to see Ward’s work.  

The Replacer – Aftershock is calling this a “graphic novella”, but since it’s staplebound, it feels like a really thick comic, with a nice solid cardstock cover, to me.  Rising star Zac Thompson writes this story about a family in the 90s that has to deal with the father suffering an unexpected stroke. The man’s son, Marcus, is the main character of this story, and the only one who doesn’t believe his father has had a stroke, but is instead the victim of a demonic possession.  This book captures nicely the uncertainty of the kid, and the difficulty of caring for a disabled person when you’re not sure they are who everyone says they are. Arjuna Susini provides this book with a creeping sense of dread. I liked it.

Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions #3 – An Imperial nurse on the Death Star has feelings for the dark lord, and that just can’t end well, can it?  This was an amusing story with some very nice art by David Lopez and Javi Pina. It’s interesting to be able to get a look at “regular” people in the Star Wars universe.

The Warning #6 – Not much happens in each issue of The Warning, Edward Laroche’s alien invasion comic, but he does such a great job of building atmosphere and suspense, that I am sticking with this.  In this issue, things that worse.

The Wicked + The Divine #43 – As we get closer to the end of things (only two issues left!), we get to better understand what Ananke has been up to over the millennia, and see how everyone reacts to the new information.  I’m going to miss this book.

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

Adventures of the Super Sons Vol. 1: Action Detective

Amazing Spider-Man #20

Avengers #18

Black Order: Warmasters of Thanos TP

Detective Comics #1002

Doctor Strange #13

Fantastic Four #9

Firefly #5

Freedom Fighters #5

Hulkverines #3

Jessica Jones: Purple Daughter TP

Marvel Comics Presents #4

Mr. & Mrs. X #10

Sex Vol. 6: World Hunger

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge #1

Superior Spider-Man #5

War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1

The Wild Storm #22

Wonder Woman #69

Bargain Comics:

Batman and the Signal #2&3 – I’m way late at getting around to this, but I’ve stayed curious about Duke, and since the Batman and the Outsiders title got delayed, in some ways this is still current.  I’m still confused as to what his powers are, but he’s a likeable character. Also, I’m always down for some Cully Hamner art.

Catwoman #2-6 – I love Joëlle Jones’s art on this series, but found the story a little hard to follow.  Jones does some cool parallel structure scenes that work well, but I was never entirely clear why Catwoman was in conflict with a corrupt political family in the first place.  I’m not sure that I’m interested in reading the next arc, but I do want to be able to page through it.

Doctor Strange #10&11 – Strange faces off against Dormammu for the one hundredth time, and has to once again think about how he treats his friends.  I’m not saying that there’s nothing new here (I do like his outfit), but I’m worried that there might not be much more to say about Strange in this day and age.

Ironheart #1 – I liked Riri Williams in Bendis’s Iron Man comics, and it seems like Eve Ewing is picking up where he left off, examining Riri’s extreme introversion as well as her desire to help people.  This was a good first issue, making me want to check out some more.

Meet the Skrulls #1 – I think that Marvel might be looking for a worthy successor to King and Walta’s excellent Vision series, and are returning to the domestic sphere with this new mini by Robbie Thompson and Niko Henrichon.  A “family” of Skrulls are embedded in American society, working to put a stop to a government project that will have disastrous consequences for their kind, while also trying to raise children. One of the kids is on board with the mission, another is notably absent, and the third is struggling as many an Earth teen struggles.  This issue is charming, and does a great job establishing the characters. Henrichon is an incredible artist, so this book impresses visually.

Mr. & Mrs. X #6 – Rogue and Gambit host a party, and it’s the usual kind of affair – unwelcome guests from the Thieves’ Guild, party banter, and warnings of dark futures.  Kelly Thompson is making me believe that these two are not the boring couple I always thought they were.

Pearl #2-4 – Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos do very good work together, and while I find this story about a tattoo artist who is also a reluctant Yakuza assassin to be a little hard to follow, the art is stunning.  Gaydos uses techniques I’ve not seen him do before to make this book really stand out. I’d gotten over Bendis’s writing, and have avoided his DCU stuff, but I am happy to see him back working on creator-owned titles. That’s where his strength has always been.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Generation Gone Vol. 1 – I skipped on this series when it launched, because I’d been feeling burned by Ales Kot’s series that either didn’t end, or ended poorly, in the recent past.  Then, the allure of their doing Days of Hate with Danijel Zezelj proved too much for me, and I realized I’d made a mistake in skipping this title. Three teen hackers with varying degrees of chip on their shoulders end up being unwitting experiments in a strange superhuman project that is more successful than its creator expected.  Hilarity ensues. And by hilarity, I mean the playing out of angry teen egos. This is a well-written book, that veers a little into Mark Millar territory at times. André Lima Araújo’s art is great, and the characters feel very real, if not all that likeable.

Redneck Vol. 2: The Eyes Upon You – The first volume of this series by Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren really caught my attention, and I enjoyed this second volume just as much.  The vampire family has had to hide out in the woods around Waco Texas, but their newest addition has made some unfortunate decisions that rip the family apart, and lead to the revealing of secrets that were never meant to be shared.  Cates has built up an interesting approach to vampire mythology with this book, and has me wondering how long this series is set to last, and where it’s headed from here.