The Weekly Round-Up #498 With Excellence #2, Black Badge #11, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #33, Gideon Falls #14 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Excellence #2 – With the series firmly established in the first issue, it’s time to dig into this new series.  Spencer, newly promoted as a patron, decides that to save his grandmother, he would risk everything and steal a spell to help her.  There are firm rules and established orders that he is breaking and defying here, and he’s still really just an angry fifteen year old, so things don’t go the way he hopes.  Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph are putting their all into this book, which looks terrific, and which works on many levels. I want to know more about this world they’ve created, and know I’ll be sticking around for a while.

Quick Takes:

Black Badge #11 – Just about everything is made clear this issue, and the Black Badges turn on their masters, trying to make things right.  Like every issue so far, it looks great, but in a few places the art seems to be darker than necessary. I’ve liked this series, which only has one issue left.

Captain America #11 – Cap makes his prison break, helped by the various villains he’s been incarcerated with, while Sharon Carter plays Oracle to a bunch of Marvel heroines who have all been given annoying Greek Goddess codenames.  This arc has been very good, with Ta-Nehisi Coates showing a new appreciation of pacing, but the issues have been really late, making it lose momentum. I like Adam Kubert’s work here, but would rather see the book on track.

Daredevil #7 – With Daredevil out of the picture, the Kingpin makes some surprising moves with regards to how he retains control of his criminal empire and manages to be mayor.  Maybe he’s concerned about an emoluments clause? Matt, meanwhile, is awash in guilt, and finds himself examining whether he ever did any real good as Daredevil. Chip Zdarsky’s approach to writing this character is fascinating, but I fear that he’s going to make it difficult for Matt to find a reason to (inevitably) put on the red suit again.

Doctor Aphra #33 – It takes five artists, but Si Spurrier gives us another excellent issue that has Aphra connecting with Rebel Intelligence, who want to use the artifact she discovered to go after the Emperor.  This, of course, is kind of against their principles, so that’s why it makes sense to get Aphra involved; she doesn’t really have any.

Farmhand #9 – Things just keep getting crazier in this title, as we learn a little more about what Monica Thorne is up to, and just what is going on with all the people who received transplants from Jedidiah. This series is turning a lot darker than its first issues indicated, and I’m fine with that.  

Gideon Falls #14 – The last few issues of this series have been more than a little confusing, but this issue clears a lot up, just as the priest we’ve been following finds life more confusing than ever.  Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are a great team.

Guardians of the Galaxy #6 – I’ve been very impressed with the way that Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw have breathed new life into the Guardians.  The story of Thanos’s resurrection comes to an end here, and we get a sense of what the team’s lineup will be moving forward. Shaw’s art just keeps getting better with each issue, although I’m left feeling pretty curious about what happened to a number of the side characters that got roped into this whole thing.  This has become one of the most solid books in Marvel’s lineup.

Invisible Kingdom #4 – I’m very hooked by this series by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward.  The crew of the Sun-Dog is on the run from Lux and the Renunciation, the most powerful corporation and religion (respectively) in the universe.  They are low on options, and are having trouble finding any help, as no one wants to deal with the fallout of the secrets they’ve discovered. It’s a very solid and exciting issue, with lots of great art from Ward.  I thought this series might be ending with the next issue, but apparently it’s just the end of the first season. I’m glad that there’s likely more to come.

Little Bird #4 – This dark book set in a future where the church has taken over North America, is visually stunning thanks to Ian Bertram’s art.  This issue has Little Bird learn the rest of the truth of her history, and confront the Pope. It’s intense.

Livewire #7 – Amanda continues to look into things at a facility that is housing large numbers of psiot children, but when she’s given time to talk freely with the kid she’s gone looking for, things don’t end so well.  I like what Vita Ayala has been doing with this book, but do find it to be moving a little slowly.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #7 – This issue has Miles checking in with his uncle, helping Bombshell, and receiving a bombshell during lunch with his parents, before something kind of confusing happens.  It has four artists, all of whom are excellent, and continues to show why Saladin Ahmed was a good choice to shape Miles’s adventures.

Port of Earth #11 – Conflict between the ESA, its resistors, and the Consortium of aliens running the port continues to grow, as each side makes moves to manipulate the other.  This series has yet to disappoint, with its intelligent and believable examination of inter-galactic business.

Psi-Lords #1 – I was excited to see Fred Van Lente starting a new series at Valiant, but I’m not sure that this first issue did very much for me.  Four people find themselves being held in individual cells in a futuristic environment. They all hear a voice telling them that they are gods, and that they’ve been experimented on.  This voice helps them to escape their cells, asking them to come rescue him, but things quickly get weird. If I’m being honest, none of these characters make an impression on me, and Renato Guedes’s art feels a little too stiff and sterile.  I’ve preordered the next few issues, so I hope things pick up quickly.

Star Wars #67 – I’m going to miss Kieron Gillen’s work on this title.  He has such a strong understanding of the characters, and has done an excellent job of weaving in some of the new information shown in the prequel films.  This issue has Leia and her crew trying to salvage what’s left of their Shu-Torun mission, in the face of heavy Imperial resistance, and the betrayal of Benthic’s partisans.  It’s as good an issue as any in this run, which I’ve much preferred to Jason Aaron’s time on the book. I’m curious to see what Greg Pak is going to bring to the table, but expect things to be a lot more conventional.

Uncanny X-Men #20 – Once again, Matthew Rosenberg culls the Marvel mutant population by a few more characters, and changes the status quo a couple more times.  Increasingly, I’m convinced that this run is going to retconned away or revealed to be as non-canonical as the Age of X-Man miniseries, as there are just too many changes, barely being considered, to be able to stand.  In some ways, this book is beginning to remind of a 90s series, with no real shape to it. I expected better. Now I’m just ready for Hickman…

The Warning #8 – This series is such a quick read, but I enjoy the way that Edward Laroche is combining military structure, supersoldiers, and an alien invasion.  This book has a cool vibe to it.

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

Batman #73

Firefly #7

Low Road West TP

Pearl #10

Star Wars TIE Fighter #3

Teen Titans #31

Tony Stark Iron Man #13

Bargain Comics:

Batman Annual #3 – Tom Taylor shows that he has some Batman chops in this issue that focuses on Alfred’s role in Batman and Bruce Wayne’s lives.  This comic is drawn by Otto Schmidt, who I first saw on Green Arrow. I think he’s going to be big soon; he’s very good. The story touches on some very familiar elements, but is still pretty good.

Marvel Comics Presents #1&2 – I loved the original MCP, which featured a mix of big and unknown talent, and big and obscure characters.  I’m not sure why it needed to return though, especially in a $5 format. The main story, featuring Wolverine fighting the same threat across the decades is alright, but two chapters in is already showing signs of being formulaic.  The backups have not impressed me, and I think it’s weird to see Reed Richards, already with gray temples, in a story set in 1950. It’s clearly not in canon, but also, it’s not saying or doing anything new, so I don’t know what the point is.

Superior Spider-Man #1-3 – I hadn’t been more excited about Spider-Man in decades than during the first Superior run, when Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body and went about trying to live his life.  Now Christos Gage and Mike Hawthorne have brought Otto back, in a clone body, and have him trying to establish himself as a new Spider-Man in San Francisco. The setup works, and it’s very cool having him face off against Terrax for two issues (I’ve loved his design for years).  I can’t escape the feeling that this is a bit too much of a nostalgia-laced retread for an era that isn’t even that far gone, but I did enjoy these issues.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Analog Vol. 1: Death by Algorithm – I’ve pretty much given up on Gerry Duggan’s Marvel work, after having not been impressed since he first started writing Deadpool with Brian Posehn, but decided to give this creator-owned Image book a shot.  It’s a lot more what I was looking for, as Duggan and artist David O’Sullivan introduce us to a world where everyone’s digital footprint has become open to anyone, and as a consequence, most people avoid the Internet.  The main character is a courier for people’s secrets, and over the course of this trade, we meet his assassin girlfriend, see him get roped into a questionable government program, and meet his greatest rival. I liked most of this book, but felt that there were a few too many plotlines introduced, with not enough momentum on most of them for them to be satisfying.  The AI side plot confused me, as it wasn’t clear if we were looking at one or many AIs. I did get a sense that Duggan has a good handle on the mistakes we are currently making, and that this book might end up being pretty prophetic. I also really like O’Sullivan’s art and the colouring by Jordie Bellaire and Spicer (first names aren’t given). I’ll probably check out the second volume.