The Weekly Round-Up #500 With The Walking Dead #193, Black Hammer: Age Of Doom #11, Star Wars: Target Vader #1 & More!

Another Milestone Crushed!

Congratulations to James on reaching another milestone with his 500th edition of the Weekly Round-Up! That works out to over 9.5 years of his fan fave columns. The first The Weekly Round-up dropped on December 12, 2009. The James’ best comic of the week then was DayTripper #1 By Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon from Vertigo. Wow. Here are his other milestone columns for a trip down memory lane: 2011’s 100, 2013’s 200, 2015’s 300 and 2017’s 400.

A dedicated professional who has done 52 weeks worth of columns every year; yes sometimes 2-in-1 when he takes a week off here and there, but all weeks covered. I’m glad to call James a friend. Congrats James and thank you on behalf of your Nexus colleagues and of your regular readers and fans.

Ok onto this week’s column straight from James!

Congrats, buddy. – John

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #193 – It came as quite a shock to learn that The Walking Dead ended this week, with a beautifully oversized, squarebound issue at its regular cover price.  Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard jumped forward in time again, showing us the world that Rick Grimes built. Carl is at the centre of this issue, fully grown with a six year old daughter, and living on a remote farm.  He’s become a bit of a celebrity, owing to who his father is, and has a reputation for being one of the best messengers in the now massive collection of communities that make up the world. Things are so safe that Carl’s daughter has never seen a walker in her whole life, although that almost changes when one wanders onto the farm, having escaped from Herschel’s travelling carnival show.  In a relatively short space, Kirkman brings us up to speed on most of the main characters, many of whom have now managed to grow gracefully into old age. I don’t want to spoil much, because there are so many cool moments in this issue, but it’s nice to see where everyone ends up. I’ve been reading The Walking Dead since I picked up issue seven or eight off the stands because I heard some buzz. That was fifteen years ago.  Since then, this title has consistently been near the top of my favourites list, and has shocked, surprised, and saddened me countless times. I have grown to love some of these characters, and can remember a variety of times that this book shook me. I applaud Kirkman and Adlard for finishing before the comic got stale, although I am really going to miss it. In the early days, the delays between issues used to drive me insane, but then they really got their act together and this became one of the most reliable books on the schedule.  Leaving aside the way the TV show and video games made this a big cultural thing, this comic has been a beacon for the argument for creator owned comics, and fair publishing deals. I can’t imagine the amount of work that Kirkman, Adlard, and their collaborators have put into this title, or the hole it’s going to leave for them now that it’s gone. I really feel like this last issue closed off the series beautifully, and where it might be a touch sappy in places, I could never begrudge the creators for wanting to send off the few characters they let live gracefully and with their dignity.  

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #11 – Lucy gets the reunion she’s been looking for, but it comes with the news that for Anti-God to be defeated again, the heroes from the farm are going to have to die.  Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston have fallen way behind with this book (even the textpiece references Free Comic Book Day as an upcoming thing), but I think next week the Black Hammer/Justice League series is starting, and I imagine it will come out more regularly, keeping us entertained until this story is ready to be finished.

Deathstroke #45 – You would think that the death of the main character would have a negative impact on a series, but it just allows Priest more room to play.  We have Rose trying to honour her father’s memory by completing his last contract, even though that puts her in conflict with Shado. Joseph tries to save his sister, even though that might cost him all that’s good in his life.  And then there’s this whole Year of the Villain event, which seems to slide in quite smoothly. This is another dense, complex issue of DC’s best comic. I never get tired of it.

Immortal Hulk #20 – I’m glad that I’m on board for this title now, but man, it’s kind of weird at times.  Al Ewing is giving us the darkest, most disturbing Hulk I’ve ever seen, as he continues to keep a lot of what’s going on couched in mystery.  In this issue, Hulk and Betty fight off more of General Fortean’s people, and maybe work to free Rick Jones from the Abomination. There’s a lot of great stuff happening in this series.

Man-Eaters #10 – The girls’ plan goes into effect, as girls around the country begin to fight back against how they are being treated by the patriarchy.  At the same time, writer Chelsea Cain decides to address one of the most persistent complaints about this book on social media, that it only represents cis-gendered characters.  I like this title, and the fun irreverent approach Cain and new artist Elise McCall are taking to it. There’s still a lot that doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m just rolling with that.

Punisher #13 – I like how Matthew Rosenberg approaches this comic.  Frank is back in New York, and so is Zemo, who keeps getting in Mayor Fisk’s way about his Punisher problem.  This is a very dark issue with a few surprising moments of humour, and the return of an old 90s team whose name has not been used for a few years.  It’s a good run.

Sea of Stars #1 – This new series, co-written by Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum, and drawn by Stephen Green, is off to a solid start.  Kadyn is a young boy stuck accompanying his dad on a week-long delivery job in space. He’s completely bored, and a little resentful. When a never-before seen creature attacks the ship, which is carrying a bunch of space artifacts from a ruined museum, Kadyn and his dad become separated, with Kadyn believing that his father is dead.  The encounter with an artifact changes Kadyn though, allowing him to breathe in space and talk to other creatures that can do the same. It’s an interesting start, although this book has more of a YA feel to it than would usually interest me. I’ll give it a couple more issues to decide if it’s meant for me.

Star Wars: Target Vader #1 – I’m always going to be down for a Star Wars comic that deals with the seedier, darker side of the galaxy far, far away.  A syndicate called The Hidden Hand is being hunted by Darth Vader, so they decide to hunt him in turn, hiring a group of bounty hunters to go after the dark lord.  Most of these characters are new, but one is familiar from the original movies. The main character, Beilert Valance, comes to us from the Imperial Cadet miniseries, which shares writer Robbie Thompson with this book, although now he bears a close resemblance to the Cyborg Superman (I haven’t finished reading Imperial Cadet – maybe he gets the cyborg treatment there).  It’s a solid first issue, with very detailed art by Marc Laming. I’m in for it.

Uncanny X-Men #21 – There’s only one more issue in Rosenberg’s run, so that means he has to kill off a few more minor characters, and change the status quo one last time.  This run has become exhausting, as Rosenberg keeps making huge changes to the characters. I expect that all of this will be wiped out by Jonathan Hickman when he takes over later this month, and for that reason, I’m not letting any of Rosenberg’s choices bother me.  I so prefer his Punisher.

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

Dead Man Logan #9

The Wild Storm #24

Bargain Comics:

Batman #59-63 – I feel like Tom King’s Batman run has become controversial as he’s leaned into his stranger impulses.  These issues do a good job of illustrating both what works and what is so frustrating about this series. The first few issues here deal with Batman learning from the Penguin that Bane has taken over Arkham Asylum, although his confrontation with him doesn’t look that way.  Things get intense, and then we swerve into three issues of Batman having weird dreams that kill all momentum. At the same time, the art, with people like Mikel Janín, Mitch Gerads, and Jorge Fornes contributing, is pretty stunning. I like King’s commitment to structure, so this mostly works for me, but it can be frustrating to not have the first clue what’s going on in the comic, or how it connects to the previous issue.

Batman #64&65, Flash #64&65 – These four comics make up the The Price crossover, which deals with some of the fallout of the Heroes In Crisis series, at the point where everyone believes that Wally West, and some other characters that don’t get mentioned, are dead.  Joshua Williamson writes all four comics, which is a little odd considering that Tom King was writing HIC. Anyway, so much of this storyline depends on us believing that there is a tight friendship between Batman and Flash (Barry Allen). I don’t remember that really ever being the case before, but, in the post-Flashpoint world (see below), I don’t know what of the comics I remember from growing up still holds true.  I also didn’t start reading DC comics until after Barry was killed. Anyway, Williamson drags out Gotham Girl, as a good example of how Batman doesn’t always think through his decisions, allowing more people to be hurt. It was decent, but it really upset the flow of King’s run.

Ms. Marvel #37&38 – G. Willow Wilson’s run with Kamala is pretty amazing, in that she built not just Kamala’s character, but her entire neighbourhood and friend network in such a way that we haven’t seen since Peter Parker was in high school.  But this had more charm. These last two issues of Wilson’s are kind of overly self-referential, but I think she earned the right. I haven’t checked out Saladin Ahmed’s take on the character yet, but I imagine it’s as least as good.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Justice League: No Justice – I haven’t been reading a lot of DC books the last couple years, but I am always interested in seeing what’s going on.  Metal did not catch my interests, as I generally hate dark alternate reality stuff, but this looked like it could be fun. Instead, it’s pretty much a total mess, as Brainiac gathers a group of heroes and villains to help protect Colu from being eaten by big Galactus Celestials that focus on the fundamental forces of the universe – Mystery, Wonder, Wisdom, and Entropy.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think entropy is the only thing on that last that qualifies. There’s something about cosmic trees, seeds, and some other stuff that went right past me. On the plus side, Vril Dox is in the book, but post-Flashpoint, I don’t even know if LEGION exists (he is wearing their logo), or what the relationship between him and the other characters, especially Lobo, is.  Maybe part of the problem is that there were just too many cooks in the kitchen, with the writing shared between Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Wiliamson. The collection of artists works better, with Francis Manapul and Marcus To complementing one another nicely. Riley Rossmo’s pages felt out of place though. I don’t know – I really don’t understand the enduring popularity of Snyder’s DC work.  I have the first of his Justice League trades, but now I’m feeling trepidation around reading it.

Rise of the Black Flame – I decided a little while ago that I was done with the Mignola-verse (although I am tempted to read BPRD through to the end).  There were just too many similar stories at this point, and I was kind of bored of the general aesthetic. That said, when I saw this trade, which is set in 1920s Siam, and shows the story of the Black Flame, I was intrigued.  Then I saw that Christopher Mitten was the artist, and I felt it was time to return to this world, if only briefly. I’ve missed Mitten’s work the last few years, and feel that he was the right artist for this story. The whole thing is adventurers traipsing through a jungle to fight some cultists, and it has a real Indiana Jones vibe to it.  I like how Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson revisit some minor characters from the Witchfinder books, and set up this major antagonist in an unexpected way. It’s good stuff, and makes me wonder if I’m missing out on other comics I’d enjoy.