The Weekly Round-Up #503 With House Of X #1, Aliens: Rescue #1, Psi-Lords #2, Star Wars #69 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

House of X #1 – I vividly remember the feeling of excitement that came with Grant Morrison’s first issue of New X-Men.  There was the dissonance of the book taking place some time after the issue before it, with huge changes having taken place for the X-Men in the interim.  There was the excitement of new costumes, structures, and team members. There was also the reassurance that came with the recognition that, perhaps for the first time in a long time, there was a plan in place for the X-Men, and that plan looked good.  I had similar feelings multiple times while reading the first of Jonathan Hickman’s new era. We have a time jump. We have a drastically different status quo, as Charles Xavier (I guess he’s no longer calling himself X) has founded a mutant nation on Krakoa, and is using teleportation technology and new pharmaceuticals provided by the mutant island to enter negotiations with the rest of the world from a place of strength.  It’s fitting that when some ambassadors from other nations meet at the Jerusalem habitat (think embassy), it is Magneto that meets them there. There is no doubt that this is a Hickman book – there are glyphs, explanatory pages, and a sense of formalism that precludes any true character moments, but it’s also a book that, so far, feels grounded in what we’ve seen from these characters in the past, while moving in completely new directions.  I say that, but I’m also reminded a little of some of the notions that Hickman began to play with when he wrote the Ultimate books, and I feel some similarity between this and the floating city of Xorn, as well as the previous attempt at sovereignty on Utopia. Anyway, I was very happy to see the return of some characters that have been underutilized lately, and I loved that the X-Men are immediately interacting with the mainstream Marvel Universe, as represented by the Fantastic Four, in this first issue.  Pepe Larraz is a good choice of artist for this issue, providing the visual aspects of Krakoan technology. Any issues I have with this book (Jean’s use of her old uniform, the lack of explanation as to how characters like Banshee and Cyclops are alive and/or back to normal) are outweighed by all the positives of this debut issue. I do want to know more about what is happening on the first pages though…

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Rescue #1 – Brian Wood returns to his ongoing Aliens story, spread over a variety of series.  With Rescue, we see Alec, the kid that Zula and Amanda rescued in the last series, has grown up and become a soldier.  We get a recap of his life story, and then watch as he works his way into the Colonial Marines. The brass know that he knew Hendricks and Ripley, and eventually tap him to participate in a mission back to the moon where he met them.  It’s interesting stuff. New artist Kieran McKeown does fine work, although the previous artists Wood worked with had a darker approach to the material.

Ascender #4 – We learn a little more about Mother, and the resistance to her this issue, as Andy tries to get Mila and Bandit to freedom.  This new magical world gives artist Dustin Nguyen more license to be creative and wild. I really liked the flying sea turtles in this issue.  

Guardians of the Galaxy #7 – Donny Cates and new artist Cory Smith start off the second arc with the return of the Universal Truth of Light.  They wipe out pretty much the entire Nova Corps in the first few pages, and it’s not long before the Guardians learn about this and go to check things out.  It’s a dark issue, that manages to find a few spaces for strong character moments. Smith’s art is great, and we finally get to lay eyes on Rocket again, although he doesn’t look like he’s in good shape.  I’m very pleased with Cates’s work on this book, which is beginning to feel more like the classic Abnett and Lanning run.

Invisible Kingdom #5 – The first arc of this excellent series by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward ends with some exciting space battles, and a few big decisions by the crew of the Sundog.  This series is terrific. Wilson has created a universe pulled between commerce and spirituality, and then reveals that the two poles are connected to one another. Like the best science fiction, this feels like it has something to say about our current time, but also tells an exciting story with truly unique art.  I’m already looking forward to the title returning in October for the next arc.

Lazarus Risen #2 – With the new quarterly format, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark have a lot more space to tell their story, hence the very long fight in this issue between Forever, Joaquim, and another Lazarus.  Things are brutal, but never feel drawn out. We check in with all the other main plotlines as well, and get some interesting backmatter. I miss getting to read this title more frequently, but see a renewed excitement on the part of the creators that is more than worth the trade in frequency.

Livewire #8 – The second story arc ends, and while I’m still not completely happy with the writing in this book, it’s growing on me.  Amanda pushes things with the school that claims to be looking after the Psiot children, revealing some truths about it along the way, but without the outcomes she was hoping for.  Kano’s art is very nice, but I think it’s time for Amanda to really pick a direction for herself and work towards getting there. She hasn’t been all that sympathetic a character in this run so far, and that makes it hard to care about her.

Psi-Lords #2 – This title is starting to grow on me, as the four humans who have been enhanced begin to figure out where they are, and how the society that has formed around a “vampire star” works.  Fred Van Lente includes some humour, even when things look pretty dark for our heroes. Renato Guedes’s new art style has not won me over yet, and while individual panels are often lovely, I find the work kind of stiff.

Star Wars #69 – Greg Pak and Phil Noto continue their inaugural arc, which has the usual squad split into three teams, on three separate missions.  It’s a good issue, but dividing things up like this does make the issue go pretty quickly. I’m really glad to see Noto on this book.

Valkyrie: Jane Foster #1 – I recently binge-read the War of the Realms (see below), and as when she was Thor, was impressed by how well Jason Aaron wrote Jane Foster’s character.  I liked her as Thor a lot more than I like Thor as Thor. There was a freshness to those issues that I felt being recaptured in War of the Realms, and so it seemed like it made sense to check out the first issue of Jane’s new series, in her new role as the sole Valkyrie.  Then I saw that Al Ewing was co-writing the book, and figured that I could safely add it to my pull-file list. This is a very solid first issue, showing Jane trying to balance her busy life as a doctor with her new duties as both superhero and guardian of the dead. A surprise villain gets ahold of the former Valkyrie’s sword when some rollerblade themed villains manage to hijack an Asgardian weapons cache.  It’s definitely not the kind of villain I expected in this book, and that has my interest for sure. Cafu is the artist for this series, and his work looks great. I’m definitely on board for this series.

The Wicked + The Divine #44 – Although there’s one issue left in this series, this one effectively finishes the story, as the characters, especially Lucifer, have to decide how they are going to live in the new world they face, now that their time as gods have come to their end.  It’s an impressive issue, with a couple very strong and surprising moments. I got a little tired of this title in the last year, but I feel that these last couple of issues really reminded me of my earlier enthusiasm for it. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are such a strong team, and I’m going to miss regular work from them (unless they have a surprise for us), as well as some of these characters.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #26

Detective Comics #1008

Doctor Strange #16

Freedom Fighters #7

Killer Groove #3

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #5

Martian Manhunter #7

Self Made TP

Tony Stark Iron Man #14

Wonder Woman #75

Bargain Comics:

Avengers: No Road Home #4-10 – I think, in the end, this weekly series was a little disappointing.  I never really cared that much about Nyx, the big bad, but I did like the way the various writers collaborated to move some of the less-used Avengers forward.  They did good work with Hercules and the Vision here. Personally, I’m not all that interested in Conan being in the Marvel Universe – there are enough other characters who fall into his same niche.  Sean Izaakse’s issues looked the best – I want to see where he turns up next.

Dead Man Logan #1-8 – I originally hated it when the OML version of Wolverine crossed into the 616 to replace the Logan I’d grown up during the period where he was “dead”.  And then Ed Brisson took the book from Jeff Lemire, and started making it about more than Logan’s guilt. Now, with the original Logan back, it’s time to get rid of this one, so he has one last adventure trying to keep his dark future from happening, and then he’s back to the Wasteland.  Because this is written by Brisson, it’s actually been quite good, and Mike Henderson’s art is great. I love the consistent design to the covers, giving this the feeling that it’s an event. I look forward to seeing how all of this wraps up, presumably with the actual and permanent death of this character.

Savage Avengers #1&2 – I’m not too fond of Gerry Duggan’s writing, although it’s taken me a while to figure that out.  I wasn’t particularly enthused about this series, but I like Mike Deodato’s art, and was curious to see how Conan would interact with a team like this.  It’s all kind of standard gathering the team kinda stuff, only in the Savage Land where the Hand is apparently working for Kulan Gath. I don’t know, things like the fight between Wolverine and Conan are cool, but it didn’t exactly leave me excited to see where it’s all headed.  It’s very strange to see Wolverine back in the Marvel Universe, and right away joining different teams, and being right back to normal. I wish someone was doing something new with the character.

Shuri #3-5 – I didn’t love the first two issues of Shuri, but I thought I’d give the book a second chance, seeing as I’m a big Black Panther fan.  There’s some good stuff here, but there’s a lot that Nnedi Okorafor is doing that I don’t really agree with. My biggest issue is that I feel like there’s a push to align Shuri’s character with how she was portrayed in the Black Panther film, and that means that she is losing her Griot powers, which I find make her much more interesting than she was during the Reginald Hudlin days.  Missing from that is the sense of humor that made her such a delight in the BP movie. I’m also not sure how I feel about the various secret groupings that Ramonda, her mother, has involved herself in since T’Challa disappeared. I like the idea of Wakanda being part of a pan-African movement, but Ta-Nehisi Coates was moving the country towards more of a democracy, and Ramonda’s insistence that Shuri take up the Panther habit works counter to that.  I might give this a couple more issues, because Leonardo Romero’s art is very nice, but I’m hoping that Shuri ends up dealing with things more complicated than a music-eating space insect called a Space-Lubber. That didn’t work for me one bit.

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Boba Fett #1 – I was not that excited to see that Marvel chose to toss a ton of one-shot comics featuring various Star Wars characters out into the world without any real connection or overarching theme.  At the same time, there is no one cooler than Boba Fett, so I was always going to be interested in this issue (unlike a bunch of others that I just grabbed because of how cheap they were). Greg Pak is wise in that he doesn’t have Fett say much in this issue; the story is built more around how people react to him and his presence.  Marc Laming is a strong artist, and makes Fett look as cool as he did in the original films. This one is worth getting.

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Grand Moff Tarkin #1 – I’m not sure who would have been responsible for deciding to give Tarkin his own one-shot, but it does help reinforce the distant coolness with which he was shown in the first Star Wars movie.  As with most Tarkin stories, this one revolves around the Death Star, and his insistence that everyone involved with firing it be as ruthless as he is. Again, Mark Laming’s art makes the issue.

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Princess Leia #1 – So far, almost all of Marvel’s Star Wars comics set during the “Age of Rebellion” have been set after A New Hope, but this one-off, by Greg Pak, Chris Sprouse, Will Sliney, and some others, is set just prior to Return of the Jedi, as Leia and Chewbacca prepare to infiltrate Jabba’s palace and free Han Solo.  On their way, they are diverted to rescue Lando Calrissian from some bounty hunters, which gives Leia the chance to practice her disguise. It’s a very solid issue, that shows there are other moments between the movies worth mining.

Star Wars: Age of Republic – Anakin Skywalker #1 – I have conflicting feelings about Anakin Skywalker, mostly because the Clone Wars did a lot to redeem him and make him bearable (I hated him in the prequel trilogy).  This issue is used to show how Anakin will follow his heart instead of leadership or accepted practice, and how in the earlier days, that worked for him. It’s fine I guess, but these Age Of one-shots don’t allow enough space for real character growth.

Star Wars: Age of Republic – Jango Fett #1 – This is some pretty standard stuff.  Jango takes a pretty easy bounty hunting job so he can use it to help train young Boba, and some stuff happens.  We don’t really learn anything new about either character, but the Fetts always look cool.

Star Wars: Age of Republic Special #1 – I don’t like the prequel movies.  I do like the Clone Wars though, and thought I’d see what this had to offer.  Aside from some very nice art by Caspar Wijngaard in one of the three short stories, there’s not much happening here, and not a lot of reason to read this.

United States Vs. Murder Inc. #2-6 – Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming do good work together.  Their mob series, wherein the mafia has carved out big important chunks of the United States for their own rule, has an interesting premise behind it.  In this arc, the first published at DC under the Jinxworld imprint, tensions grow between the US and the mob, eventually reaching the point of drone strikes and assassinations.  Bendis keeps things grounded in the experiences of one young mobster, and it works. Oeming has leveled up on his art for this series, and his work looks better than ever.

War of the Realms #1-6 – Jason Aaron has spent years building up to this major event, and he manages to hit all the right notes with it.  As Malekith and his forces invade Earth, various factions of heroes fight to stop them, while Thor faces all of his own failings in order to become ready to deal with the character that has become his greatest foe.  Jane Foster gets some of the best moments in this miniseries, and the sense of excitement and momentum is maintained throughout the whole thing. Russell Dauterman is incredible at creating interesting new looks for many characters, and holding together this whole thing, which features hundreds of characters.  It’s rare that Marvel hits on their events these days, but this was a resounding success. I skipped most of the tie-ins, and it seems clear that they didn’t really matter. The ones I did read while reading this series are below:

The Avengers #18 – How many different versions of the Squadron Supreme have knocked around the 616?  Since the most recent series, written by James Robinson, which brought together members of various Squadrons, I can’t keep track of who came from where.  And now it appears that Phil Coulson, agent of what exactly, has his own team? It’s become a bit much. Jason Aaron introduces these guys against the backdrop of War of the Realms, and another issue of the Avengers doesn’t feature that team at all.

Thor #12&13 – Like with the Avengers, while Thor is front and centre in the War of the Realms, his book is used to spotlight side characters and moments.  Loki gets a good sending off in one issue, as does Cul in another. Jason Aaron has made everyone who isn’t Thor more interesting during his run, so these are good issues.  

War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1-3 – This tie-in, written by Matthew Rosenberg and nestling into the middle of his run on the main Uncanny title, works for most of its length before needlessly killing off a few more characters (that’s what Rosenberg does).  I like the way Dani is treated here, and I like Pere Peréz’s artwork. Rosenberg’s been really rough on Jamie Madrox though…

Weapon H #11&12 – Once again, Marvel tries something new, and within a year, it’s over and done with.  Weapon H, derivative as he is, has some potential for new stories, and Greg Pak built an interesting supporting cast around him, but it all came to nought.  I haven’t read the Hulkverines miniseries yet, but did spot H in War of the Realms. Presumably he’ll be around. I find it interesting that Al Ewing hasn’t included him in his round-up of gamma based characters in Immortal Hulk.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Deadpool Classic Vol. 6 – I’ve never been a Deadpool fan, and often find the character very annoying, especially in his earlier appearances.  A while ago, when I was writing my Retro Review column on Christopher Priest’s Black Panther, I was surprised to learn that Priest had written a short run on Deadpool.  This trade collects that run, but it was a disappointment. I was amused by the beginning, which had Deadpool in a trailer park full of the other characters Priest had written and led to cancellation.  Beyond that, this run was a mess. Loki turns Deadpool into a dead ringer for Tom Cruise (I mean Thom Cruz), he ends up living with Constrictor and Titania, gets involved in an intergalactic prison break featuring a parody of Lobo who is basically Lobo, and then gets involved in the Panther’s situation, which necessitates a change in tone and quality.  One of the things that I don’t like about Priest’s writing is when he makes endless pop culture references as running jokes. Here, Regis Philbin is the target, and in 2019, that doesn’t read well at all. Anyway, I’m never upset with J. Calafiore artwork, so his issues at least look really nice. Overall though, this might be the part of Priest’s oeuvre that I like the least.