The Weekly Round-Up #504 With Powers Of X #1, Killers #1, Farmhand #10, Justice League Odyssey & More!

The Best Comic of the Week:

Powers of X #1 – I’m not sure that I was as impressed with the beginning of Powers of X (read as Powers of Ten) as I was with House of X (Not read House of Ten) last week.  Jonathan Hickman’s ambitious retooling of the X-Men franchise continues to excite me, but I’ve grown tired of comics stories that are set in the past or far future, and that’s what this series is.  We start off in Year One, where Charles Xavier has what might be his first meeting with Moira MacTaggert (although I’m not sure if it is her – her name is never given in the comic, and RB Silva’s art, while pleasant, doesn’t make it clear either).  Next, we are in the present (Year 10 – man, these mutants squeezed a lot into ten years, didn’t they?), with a scene that builds on one from HoX. After that, we are in Year 100, where things are bleak, and we meet a few of the characters seen in the preview images.  Next, it’s Year 1000, and things are stranger than expected. Last week, I compared HoX to the feeling I got reading Morrison’s New X-Men, and that continues here, although I was reminded a little more of his JLA One Million. There doesn’t appear to be so much a single plot for this series as much as we are exploring themes throughout human and mutant history.  I’m intrigued, but find Silva’s art a little too house style bland to really make this work. It’s too soon to judge though – this is just the first, or second, piece of a large puzzle. I can safely say that I haven’t been this interested in an X-Men book since Kieron Gillen left.

Quick Takes:

Black Panther #14 – It’s basically the assault on the Death Star this month, as N’Jadaka’s fleet attack the Maroons and their allies, just as T’Challa finally makes contact with home.  This whole space opera storyline has been a breath of fresh air for this title, and has given Ta-Nehisi Coates space to develop the action aspect of his story, but I’m still a little stuck on the fact that T’Challa’s space adventures are happening in the here and now, not far off in the future.  That aspect really invalidates so much of this story for me, but I don’t really want to get into all that, as it would be very spoiler-heavy. I will say that Daniel Acuña can draw some exciting space battle scenes.

Captain America #12 – Cap’s been sprung, but it doesn’t look like he can do much with the authorities looking for him, and Sharon thinking that the costumed persona needs to die.  I like how Ta-Nehisi Coates is using the Daughters of Liberty in this series, and was surprised at the identity of the Dryad. At the same time, I don’t really see how this book can coexist with the rest of the Marvel Universe right now.

Farmhand #10 – I was a week late getting this, thanks to Diamond, but it was worth it.  Rob Guillory is telling a deeply strange story in Farmhand, and this issue, which finishes the second arc, helps to explain some of the mystery that has accrued so far.  Zeke is working at his father’s farm while Jedidiah is in the hospital, and a concerted effort is made to try to understand just what is going on with the people who have received transplants from Jed, and are now growing plants from their bodies.  It’s very good stuff, this series, if a little hard to describe.

Killers #1 – The recent Ninja-K series established that there have been a variety of MI6 operatives through the decades who have preceded Ninjak.  This new series, by B. Clay Moore and Fernando Dagnino, features two of those former agents, Ninja-G and Ninja-J, who are both attacked by masked me, and also approached by a strange young girl.  Are they going to be teaming up to deal with the legacy of their program, or are they going to end up at each other’s throats? Moore is very good at these kinds of espionage-based stories, and this should end up being an interesting miniseries.

Paper Girls #30 – It’s hard to pull off a good ending, and lately, it seems like a lot of long-running Image series are closing up, and I wonder how many are going to land it as well as Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang do with this last issue of Paper Girls.  The whole issue, which is extra-long, is an epilogue really, as the girls wake up back in Stoney Stream, before dawn after Hallowe’en, just as they did at the start of this series four years ago. The tension in this issue comes from wondering if the girls are going to still feel the bond that they built throughout the series, or if that was done.  It’s a calm, introspective issue, that I really enjoyed. This series has felt a little like a parallel to Stranger Things, which came out towards the end of its first year, in its reliance on 80s nostalgia and walkie-talkies, but unlike that series, Vaughan knew when the story was done and it was time to move on. I’ll miss these characters, but I like how this book ended.  What I’m most bothered by is the prospect of not getting regular doses of Cliff Chiang’s artwork, although I hope we’ll hear about him being on something new soon. I’m also still waiting for Vaughan to bring Saga back, but I’ll settle for whatever his next thing will be…

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

Avengers #22

Fantastic Four #12

Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #9

Prodigy Book 1 TP

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #4

Bargain Comics:

Champions #20-27 – There’s something weird about the fact that I start getting caught up on the Champions in the same week that I learn that the book is getting canceled.  Jim Zub has a good handle on these characters, and keeps the feel-goodness of Mark Waid’s run, while also making an effort to build on some of the lesser-known characters. He adds a new hero, Snowguard, who reminds me a lot of Equinox, from Jeff Lemire’s Justice League United run.  He also features the Master of the World as the main villain in his initial run, which as a Canadian Alpha Flight fan, I can appreciate, but not as much as I do the fleeting appearance of Talisman (I guess she’s too old for the team now). These were decent issues, and the school-shooting focused #24 is exceptionally good without feeling preachy.

Champions Annual #1 – This Annual, which Jim Zub co-wrote with Nyla Innuksuk, who Google tells me is an Inuit writer and director, puts the focus squarely on Snowguard, building up her character, and addressing issues such as language extinction in remote communities.  It’s touching, and makes Snowguard a more likeable and relatable character. Marcus To’s art is nice, and I appreciate that the writers used traditional stories to develop the threats, instead of leaning on the Great Beasts as antagonists.

Champions #1-3 – With the relaunch, Jim Zub takes the team to new places.  First, he more than doubles the roster, adding a number of teen characters that we don’t see enough of (Power Man, Patriot, Bombshell are some) and creating a couple new ones.  Next, he has Ms. Marvel take over leadership of the team. And then, he has Miles enter into a bit of an arrangement with Mephisto, which is the most interesting aspect of this title now.  Zub has a solid handle on all of these characters, and I like the way the focus is on how they interact. It’s a shame this book is getting canceled, and I regret not reading it before now.  I guess I’m part of the problem here…

Doctor Strange #14 – Galactus is turning up a lot lately (see below), and is often being used in new ways.  In this issue, Strange and Clea are working to save the terror after he’s been dumped into a magical dimension crossroads, while someone else has other plans for him.  It’s kind of typical Waid/Kitson work, meaning that it’s good, without being spectacular.

Electric Warriors #1-4 – I’m not sure why DC would feel the need to revive the Electric Warrior title from the eighties, but they’ve kind of done that.  In a future a few hundred years before the Legion of Super-Heroes’ time, each planet sends a champion to become an Electric Warrior, and fight in an arena as a way of staving off interplanetary warfare.  Earth, split as it is between the humanoid animals that run the planet and the regular old humans who live as second class citizens, ends up sending two representatives, for the first time. They start to work together, and with a few other Warriors, when they realize that there is something rotten behind all of this.  Steve Orlando is great with books that don’t feature established characters, and it’s cool to see him use various races in this series. I especially like the Dominator character. Travel Foreman’s art is pretty nice here, and I want to see how this ends.  

Fantastic Four #7-10 – Dan Slott seems to have found a working formula for his FF, but I really wish he hadn’t completely reverted Doctor Doom to a villain again.  In these issues, Doom tries to capture Galactus so he can mine him for energy, and along the way falls right back into creating death traps for the FF, and behaving his worst.  It’s a little boring, and feels too retro, especially after the mediocre work Bendis did with him, and the great run Chip Zdarsky had with Ben, Johnny, and Doom in Marvel 2-In-One.  I like the way Slott is portraying Franklin as an unhappy adolescent though; there’s a lot of potential there.

Firefly #1-5 – I loved the Firefly TV show, but didn’t really love the Serenity movie.  Some of the Dark Horse comics have been decent, but I think I’m a lot happier with the work that Greg Pak and Dan McDaid are doing with this new Boom! series.  Pak has a good handle on all of these characters, and tosses them into a situation that grew from Mal and Zoe’s actions during the war, something we still don’t know a whole lot about.  This is a worthy successor of the show, and I’m glad that it’s set before the film.

Freedom Fighters #1-5 – DC does just toss out some random books sometimes, such as this twelve-part series set on yet another iteration of Earth X.  Once again, America has fallen to German forces during the Second World War, and after running a resistance campaign for a while, the original Freedom Fighters, and runner Jesse Owens, were caught and executed.  Now, a generation later, there’s a new team, equipped with some pretty impressive gear, working to bring back Uncle Sam, and free the country. Rob Venditti writes an exciting series, but I’m not sure I can fully understand how, after decades, American society is still being managed by Germans, and it doesn’t appear that a lot of integration has taken place.  Also, I wonder if there is a DC or Warner Brothers embargo on using the swastika or actually saying the word “Nazi”, as they are consistently referred to as Ratzis, which gets annoying pretty quickly, and are sporting a more curved, stylized approximation of a swastika. We are in a strange time, where neo-Nazism is on the increase, and while it’s always nice to see people punching Nazis, I feel like this series is an awkward and ill-fitting response to recent events, without really digging into them at all.

Justice League Odyssey #1-5 – I was attracted to this book by the unique line-up of heroes (Azrael, Starfire, Cyborg, and GL Jessica Cruz), and Stjepan Sejic’s art (although he was only there for two issues), plus the fact that I like cosmic comics.  Joshua Williamson is building off the Justice League No Justice story in his first (and only) arc. A bunch of planets were released from Coluan bottle-prisons, and now they all inhabit the same sector of space, called the Ghost Sector, which doesn’t make much sense from a gravimetric perspective.  Our heroes are called there, by Darkseid it turns out, who has some nefarious intent towards these planets. Also, somehow, three of the heroes are worshipped as gods there, which also doesn’t make much sense. It’s a fun ride, but whenever you stop to question anything, the whole series starts to fall apart.  Maybe that’s why they gave it over to Dan Abnett to write…

The Quantum Age #5 – I hadn’t realized that Jeff Lemire’s love letter to the Legion of Super-Heroes would end up being so connected to the main Black Hammer book, so it’s probably good that I’m slowly tracking these down.  One Legion trope I’ve always hated is that it so often connects to the present; it’s too bad that Lemire felt he needed to continue with that instead of just telling a solid story. That said, I like the revelation of who the Time Trapper character is.

Spider-Force #3 – There was nothing essential about this Spider-Geddon tie-in series, but it was written by Priest, so I had to get it.  I found the secondary characters way more interesting in this series, but I doubt we’ll see them again.

Star Wars: Han Solo – Imperial Cadet #3&4 – Robbie Thompson does a fine job of filling in some of the gaps between when Han enlisted in the Academy and got bumped down to infantry with this series.  I especially like the way the character of Valence is now showing up in the Target Vader mini. This is a fun read.

Superior Spider-Man #4&5 – I’m quite enjoying this series, which has Otto Octavius trying to make it as a “superior” Spider-Man in San Francisco.  His former girlfriend, Anna Maria, is working to teach him to be a decent person, and he is showing signs of leaving his megalomania behind. It’s a slow process though, and that makes this comic entertaining.  Also, as an old school West Coast Avengers fan, it’s cool to see Master Pandemonium back.

Tony Stark Iron Man #7-13 – I think there are some big problems with Dan Slott’s Iron Man.  It’s taken me forever to feel at all interested or invested in his take on the character, and that really came about when Gail Simone took over for two issues during the War of the Realms.  Stark’s approach is a little too focused on Stark’s feelings about his parents (it’s like an echo of Snyder’s Batman), whether or not he is the same person he was before he rebooted himself, and attempts to build a supporting cast that resembles the one Slott built around Spider-Man at Horizon Labs.  There’s a talking cat. Rhodey now pilots a Transformer that appears frozen mid-change. It’s a bit too much at once, and then Slott falls back on the old Stark trope of having Tony drink again. Simone would probably be better on this book, as she managed to keep things lighter in a more natural way.  I am happy to see regular appearances of Jocasta though; she’s an underused character.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Sara

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Steve Epting
Colour by Elizabeth Breitweiser

TKO Studios is two for two with me now, as I found Sara to be as impressive as Goodnight Paradise.In Sara, Garth Ennis returns to the Second World War, looking this time at the female Russian snipers deployed to slow the Nazi advance into Russian territory in 1942.  The group of women, all of whom have distinguished themselves at their task, form a kind of family, inhabiting a building left unstable from a tank collision, and going out during the day to hunt, well past the protection of the Russian Army.

Among the group, Sara stands out as the most accomplished, but also the least patriotic, something that her squad leader has noticed, and is working hard to hide from Raisa, the political operative assigned to the girls.

Ennis’s best war stories tend to feature female protagonists (I’m thinking of the first wave of Battlefields books here), and this one is no different.  Sara is a layered and complex character, fighting for her own motives, and holding on to most of her opinions.  She’s not blind to the use of propaganda, and the corruption and evil on her side of the war.  Still, she’s made a vow to kill every German she sees.

TKO’s books are published on very nice paper, and that helps Steve Epting’s pencils and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s gorgeous colours really stand out.  This book is beautiful, and the characters begin to feel very real.

At this point, you start to wonder if Ennis could possibly have more to say about war, but he always manages to surprise with a solid, meticulously researched story that leaves you thinking and caring about a perspective you might not have considered before.  I recommend this book, and am starting to think it’s worth checking out everything TKO Studios is publishing.

She Wolf Vol. 1 – Rich Tommaso’s work is pretty unpredictable.  You might get his Tintin-esque Spy Seal, or you might get She Wolf, a surrealistic story about a suburban girl who discovers she’s a werewolf, which kind of goes with her whole goth, occult aesthetic.  Tommaso fills this book with vampires, demons, and gossip. He uses a very light pencil and approach to colour that makes this book look like almost nothing else on the scene. I wish this volume was a little thicker, but do have the second volume on deck.

Trip – Trip is a slim graphic novel by Djibril Morissette-Phan, who is beginning to become better known through his work at Image and Marvel.  He tells the story of a man, Fred, who is in the middle of an argument with his girlfriend, Thuong, when they are in a car crash. He wakes up later in the hospital, and learns that she didn’t make it.  The book works through his memories of Thuong, especially his distrust of her and their relationship, and his belief that she wasn’t prepared to fully commit to him, preferring her world of art. Morissette, who is a very strong character artist, moves from past to present fluidly, with only panel borders providing a clue as to when each scene is taking place.  This is a claustrophobic and close story, and it works pretty well.

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