The Weekly Round-Up #495 With Dead Kings #5, Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions #4, Heroes in Crisis #9, X-Men Grand Design: X-Tinction #1 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Dead Kings #5 – I find Steve Orlando to be a very interesting writer, with the exception of the more mainstream work he’s done at DC (which is more or less acceptable still).  Dead Kings, his Aftershock miniseries that ends this week, is pretty great stuff. In a post-collapse Russia, now known as the Thricenine, thuggish Oprichniki runs things, and have locked up sexual minorities in concentration camps.  Sasha has decided to free his twin brother, who is gay, from one of these camps. At the end of the last issue, Sasha and Stone Mary, who operates one of the last working war habits (think of a boxier first gen Iron Man), arrived at the camp where Gena has been held, just as Gena starts a prison break.  This issue wraps up the series very nicely, working to make sure that the narrative of the gay man as victim is upended. Orlando has a fascinating vision for this future Russian territory, one I’d like to read more about, although that’s probably unlikely. Matthew Dow Smith, the artist, does a great job with both the action and emotional sequences in this issue.  This title has me wanting to reread The Winter Men, one of the best Wildstorm comics ever published. I’m more than ready to read Orlando’s next indie book.

Quick Takes:

Ascender #2 – Now that Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have established what life in the galaxy looks like with magic taking over from technology, it’s time to get the story in gear.  Bandit arrives, which puts his former owner in danger. This is an exciting issue, and has me looking forward to the rest of this series, which has a very different feel from the Descender title.

Black Panther #12 – We finally get some clarity on how T’Challa has ended up in this other galaxy, although most of that information was shared in the first issue of Shuri’s title.  Jen Bartel drew this issue, and it’s lovely. I like what Ta-Nehisi Coates has done with this series since relaunching it, but it looks like we’re moving into the last act of that story now.

Black Science #40 – It’s time to save the universe one more time, and Grant is in a pretty good place, except for the fact that his plans always seem to fall apart or be the wrong thing that needs to happen.  Is Kadir going to end up being the hero of this series? That would be different…

Daredevil #6 – Chip Zdarsky has had Daredevil quit the game, and now Matt Murdock is working as a parole officer, trying to slowly fix the system, while the Kingpin starts to chafe in his job as mayor, and as the cop that tried to arrest DD finds himself without friends on the force (in that threatening cop way).  This is a very solid issue, drawn by the very interesting Lalit Kumar Sharma. Zdarsky and Sharma introduce us to a number of people in the neighbourhood, and therefore provide us with a much more grounded Matt Murdock. I like where this arc is going, and hope that it actually takes a little while before Matt puts the costume back on (which is, of course, inevitable).

Heroes in Crisis #9 – I appreciate that Tom King wanted to write a story that helps to highlight the mental health issues that heroes face, and I think it’s about time someone did that kind of work with these characters.  At the same time, I’m not sure that this was the story that should have been told. I’m used to being a little confused or needing to think through a King story, but truthfully, I got lost with the time travel shenanigans, and am not sure, at the end of the day, that this was at all a satisfying story.  This concluding issue leaves a lot unsaid, with Wally West being left in an unclear situation, and some of the characters deaths that happened left in an unsatisfactory, and likely to be retconned, place. Had this whole story just focused on Wally, and never included Harley Quinn, it probably would have been a lot better.  I think it’s strange that the DC Trinity were key to the earlier issues of this book, but don’t even appear in this one. I did like the nod to King’s excellent Vision series in Red Tornado’s one panel, but beyond that, I was left cold. I think, with all the news and speculation about King’s star starting to fall at DC, that it’s time for King to return to obscure characters or, even better, creator-owned work.

Immortal Hulk #18 – I’ve added this title to my pullfile, as I’ve been pretty impressed with what Al Ewing has been doing with Banner and the various Hulks that live in his head.  The new Abomination comes after Banner, and it is a truly horrifying new design that Joe Bennett has given him. I really like where this series is going, as the Hulk is examined in completely new ways.

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #5 – Kieron Gillen’s new take on Thunderbolt has had a lot to say about the comics industry, and the structure of comics.  I feel like a fair amount of it has gone over my head, but as he faces his other self, which is clearly a stand-in for Ozymandias from Watchmen, he comments on how it’s been thirty years and time to move on.  We also see what deconstructionist story approaches can lead to, and it’s all pretty amusing. Gillen and artist Caspar Wijngaard have done a great job with this, and paced it out perfectly.

Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions #4 – The excellent Stephen Mooney drew this issue, that focuses on a young, arrogant Rebel who believes that his piloting skills should be enough to ensure victory in a raid on a TIE fighter factory.  The pilot didn’t know Vader would be there, though, and things go bad in a hurry. This series, which explores how various sentients in the Star Wars galaxy view Vader, has been interesting.

X-Men Grand Design: X-Tinction #1 – Ed Piskor returns to chronicle the era of X-Men that I probably remember best, looking at the events of the Mutant Massacre through to the end of Inferno.  He makes some odd decisions (like showing Rogue and Jean Grey in later costumes throughout), and can’t seem to decide if the character I know as The Adversary should be called The Trickster. Other than these little quibbles, I love looking back at this classic era through the lens of his independent comics aesthetics.  

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

Amazing Spider-Man #22

Death Orb Vol. 1

Detective Comics Annual #2

Fantastic Four #10

Grand Abyss Hotel

Killer Groove #1

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #3

Superior Spider-Man #6

Thor #13

The Wild Storm #23

X-23 #12

TCAF Offerings:

Walk

by Paul Tucker

When you grow up in a place, and stay there for any length of time, you begin to have all sorts of associations and random memories of it.In Walk, a comic self-published by Paul Tucker, who is currently killing it on Black Mask’s Nobody Is In Control, he goes for a 4.4 kilometre walk from his house in St. John’s Newfoundland to the comic story and back.

Each page shows a different memory or small story set on a different street.  Along the way, we get a sense of how St. John’s has changed over the years (an old hockey arena is now a grocery store, something that has happened here in Toronto too), but also how it stays grounded in its sense of place.

I love work like this, which is both accessible and incredibly personal.  Tucker’s art conveys a deep love for the city.

Bargain Comics:

Doctor Strange #12&13 – It’s kind of interesting to see someone like Doctor Strange go up against Galactus, as these types of characters are usually kept in different silos.  The arc starts off way too familiarly (some alien mage wipes the magic out of Strange’s collection, for like the third time this decade), but it picks up after that. I like seeing Mark Waid and Barry Kitson working together.

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