The Weekly Round-Up #505 With House Of X #2, Berserker Unbound #1, Deathstroke #46, Star Wars #70 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

House of X #2 – I wasn’t sure where Jonathan Hickman was going to take this title for his second issue (or third, if you see this and Powers of X as one series, which I’m more inclined to do this week than last), but this is not what I expected.  It’s almost impossible to talk about this without spoiling the surprises of this issue, so I’m going to say very little about the details, except to share that Hickman retcons in an idea I never would have expected, involving a long-standing character.  In typical Hickman fashion, this idea is so complicated that it needs its own detailed infographic, although it is most telling for what it chooses to leave out. The ramifications of this story are huge, and have already given me a headache. It’s a solid issue, and Pepe Larraz makes good use of the story to create some new designs and alternate takes on familiar looks.  I’m very happy with Hickman’s work here so far.

Quick Takes:

Berserker Unbound #1 – Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato are kind of a surprising pairing to me, especially outside of working for Marvel.  They’ve come together to tell this story about a barbarian transported from a Hyborean-like world to our modern one. Most of this first issue features the Berserker ripping through some horde of guys who have destroyed his village.  There’s potential here, but also, everything about this comic has been done before, so I’m hoping to see something new from these creators.

Daredevil #9 – Matt Murdock is wrestling with big concerns, prompting lengthy discussions about faith with Reed Richards and a nun, but at the end of the day, it seems there are always two things that Matt is going to return to – violence, and hooking up with women that aren’t right for him.  Chip Zdarsky gets Matt, and so this issue has him falling back into old patterns, but in ways we haven’t really seen before. This has been an impressive run.

Deathstroke #46 – Jericho accepts Lex Luthor’s offer, leading to a big powers upgrade he is hoping can be used to stop Rose from killing Red Arrow.  As with almost every part of this series, there are some twists and turns, as Priest leads us down a very unclear path. I love this title, which is the only DC book I’m buying these days.  I don’t really know about the Legion of Doom (although I am starting to catch up on the Justice League, see below), but like that Priest is able to make editorial mandates work with what he has going on here.  I don’t even mind that Slade is still dead (although I don’t think that will be the case for long).

Die #6 – I’m so happy to see Die return.  Three of the main characters are trapped in the ruins of Glass Town, avoiding patrols of occupying Eternal Prussian forces.  The only chance they have to leave would come from Angela’s Neo abilities, but she needs to find enough fair gold to pull it off, and that’s not easy.  Angela is the focus of this issue, and we get to know a lot about her, as she’s forced to make a difficult choice. It’s a very solid issue as Kieron Gillen builds this character, and Stephanie Hans adds a ton of emotion to the page.  With so many long-running Image series ending these days, I can see this title growing in prominence.

Fallen World #4 – I’ve become so programmed to Valiant’s miniseries being four issues in length, that as I got towards the end of this issue, I was trying to figure out how Dan Abnett was going to wrap everything up.  Then I found out there is another issue coming, which is good. Father (Bloodfather?) and his group attack the most developed sector, while Rai rallies some local support in the fight. Gilad and the Geomancer, meanwhile, are having their ideals and traditions questioned by the War Mother.  This has been a very decent series, although I still don’t recognize Adam Pollina’s artwork compared to what I’ve seen from him before. It’s not a criticism, his stuff looks good, but I did prefer his earlier style.

Immortal Hulk #22 – Plotlines begin to converge, as Joe Fixit has a chat with Jackie the reporter, and the remaining members of Gamma Flight decide to go looking for Fortean for some payback.  Al Ewing has been building to the next issue for a while, so it should be interesting.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #42 – This is an intense issue, as it looks like the Merge might be happening.  Everyone staying at the camp becomes possessed, and Kyle and his crew are in the fight of their life against them.  Even Kyle’s daughter turns up in the battle, and that’s when things start to get kind of weird. It’s a shame that we have to wait until December for the next issue, and the start of the last arc, as this series has been getting more and more exciting.

Punisher #14 – Matthew Rosenberg has made this book a delight in Marvel’s schedule.  The Kingpin has allowed Baron Zemo to revitalize the Thunderbolts, and to bring Hydra forces disguised as UN soldiers into Manhattan (although it doesn’t make sense why it wouldn’t be American soldiers), while Frank receives unwanted help from Black Widow and the small team of heroes she puts together.  There are a lot of characters we don’t see enough of in this book now, and Rosenberg writes them all well. I’ve also been happy with how dark Szymon Kudranski has kept the visual tone of the book. It’s one of Marvel’s better titles right now, and I don’t hear much about it.

Sea of Stars #2 – I still can’t make up my mind about this new sci-fi series by Jason Aaron, Dennis Hallum, and Stephen Green.  This issue focuses more on the space trucker father, who has become separated from his son after a giant shark ate their spaceship.  His backstory and determination give this issue a lot of narrative force, whereas the scenes with the son, who has absorbed space powers and hangs out with alien creatures, feels juvenile and silly.  I haven’t been able to figure out who the audience for this book is yet, and it makes me wary. I’ve preordered the next issue already, and will decide on the fate of this title after I read it.

Star Wars #70 – Greg Pak and Phil Noto’s inaugural Star Wars story continues, but with the usual squad split into three, no one gets a lot of screen time.  This is kind of standard, fun Star Wars so far. I’m okay with that.

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

Agents of Atlas #1

Batman #76

Champions #8

Dead Man Logan #10

Thief of Thieves Vol. 7 TP

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #16 – The Hunted arc looks like it has a lot of potential to it.  Nick Spencer doing Spider-Man was a good choice (although, I’d rather see him do more of The Fix).  The transition from Ryan Ottley’s art to Alberto Alburquerque’s in this issue was a little jarring.

Domino #9&10 – Domino, Diamondback, and Longshot?  These are two very good issues, even if they effectively take Longshot off the board for the foreseeable future.  Gail Simone portrays Domino in a way that is pretty different from what we’re used to, and I hope to see some of this preserved in upcoming series.  

Justice League Odyssey #6-10 – Last week I read the first five issues of this series, written by Joshua Williamson.  These five issues are by Dan Abnett, who is usually so good at this type of series. Truthfully, I’m at a loss to understand what DC is all about these days.  The Source Wall is broken, which means that the multiverse is dying, but there are a bunch of planets that had been stolen by Brainiac (and not the other Coluans who were housing them?) that each hold a key to building something called Sepulkore, a New Apokalips that could protect the cultures of this Ghost Sector (which mostly seems populated by dead worlds).  Oh, and to do this, Darkseid went back through time to plant the idea that Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael are gods. I’m ten issues in, and I just don’t really understand what’s going on here enough to care. I like most of these characters, and find it interesting to see Azrael in such a novel environment, but I don’t think this is working (see below to find my views on the parent Justice League comic).

Martian Manhunter #1-4 – I’m very impressed with the first third of this series, by Joe Orlando and Riley Rossmo.  It explores the years before and after J’onn found himself on Earth. He has adopted the guise of Detective John Jones, but ends up revealing himself to his partner, who doesn’t take it too well.  Orlando and Rossmo have reimagined Martian society, in ways that are novel but also make a lot of sense, and have really embraced the weirdness and potential of this character. Rossmo’s designs and unconventional art are great here; this is the type of book he was meant to draw.  Orlando shows a level of creativity rarely seen in his work for hire. I regret that I haven’t been getting this series all along.

Meet the Skrulls #5 – I really enjoyed this miniseries by Robbie Thompson and the incredible Niko Henrichon.  It’s beautifully drawn, and makes good use of the sleeper agent scenario. There’s a lot of space in the Marvel universe for tightly written stories like this.

Pearl #5&6 – It took me a while to get into this series, as I didn’t find the earliest issues all that clear, but now I’m enjoying the work that Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos are doing here.  I just don’t have much to say about it…

Shatterstar #3-5 – This miniseries, that sees Shatterstar fighting to protect his tenants, kind of fizzled out quickly.  I feel like, had it stayed focused on him running an apartment building largely populated by aliens and other interesting characters, it would have worked a lot better.  Once we were back in the land of Mojoworld shenanigans, I quickly got bored.

Snotgirl #12&13 – I wish this book came out more regularly, as it’s very entertaining, but depends on some character nuance that is hard to remember.  Did you know it’s been fifteen years since Scott Pilgrim came out? That’s insane to me; it’s nice to see Bryan Lee O’Malley doing some semi-regular comics work.  I do miss his art, although I believe that Leslie Hung is perfect for this book.

Spider-Man: Life Story #1 – The idea of Chip Zdarsky writing a Spider-Man comic that takes place in real time, and has Spidey grappling with some of the issues of the day, is a fantastic one.  In this issue, Peter wonders if he shouldn’t be fighting in Vietnam, where his powers can do the most good, while also trying to manage school, freelance photography, relationships, looking after his aunt, and being a hero.  The usual mix of Spidey stuff, but distilled very well. Except for one problem – for whatever reason, this book was given to Mark Bagley to draw, and so, the whole thing looks like it’s taking place in 1996. I’ve never been a big fan of Bagley’s art, but I can understand why people like him and why he’s given work. What I don’t get is why the art in this period piece doesn’t do more to reflect the period.  Sure, the cars are accurate (to the extent I know about these things), but how cool would it have been to see this drawn by someone channelling Steranko, or just generally having a better sense of what the era (or the comics stylings of the era) looked like. Each issue in this series should have a different artist, with Bagley doing the 90s. It feels like a missed opportunity, because the story is quite good.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #1 – Okay, I don’t really understand this comic.  This series is supposed to be tying in to the new ride, or immersive environment, or something, at DisneyLand.  Okay, that seems like a weird premise, but they’ve managed to turn Pirates of the Caribbean into a thing. The problem is, this issue opens in the Episode VII era, and then flashes back to a Han and Chewie story from an indeterminate time (before Episode IV or after?).  The story involves Han stealing a baby Sarlacc, which we then see in the later time, exactly the same size, or really, maybe a little smaller. Clearly, this thing is on display at this ride, but that does not a story make. I like Will Sliney’s art though.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter #1&2 – I like it when books look at the other side of things, so a book featuring a squadron of TIE Interceptor pilots (not Fighters, giving this series an incorrect title) was always going to appeal.  The problems come with the fact that Imperials don’t really have a lot of personality, so author Jody Houser has to find a credible reason for these five to have more going on. Also, I’m guessing a series about them killing Rebels wouldn’t go over well, so there has to be another threat for them.  This series is being called a companion to the Alphabet Squadron novel; that holds no appeal to me. The covers are great, though.

Superior Octopus #1 – I should have read this before I started into the new Superior Spider-Man series, but that’s how it goes sometimes.  This one-shot, set before Spider-Geddon, explains Otto’s alliance with the Night Shift, and a few other things about the character and his new life in San Francisco.  It also calls out gentrification, which is appropriate. Christos Gage does not get enough recognition for his talent.

The Wild Storm #21 & 22 – These two issues focus most on getting the Authority together, in their new iterations.  Part of my problem with this series all along is that there are way too many moving parts to keep track of, especially in the sporadic manner in which I’ve been reading this.  I like this stuff, but I never found myself getting invested in it. I saw the news this week that Warren Ellis’s new Wildcats series has been cancelled before it was published – I just wonder if that’s because of low preorder sales; I don’t think The Wild Storm was the force it was expected to be.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Justice League Vol. 1 – The Totality – Maybe I am just not very smart, but I had an incredibly hard time following the first volume of Scott Snyder’s (and occasionally, it seems, James Tynion IV’s) Justice League.  Lex Luthor, who last I saw was a hero, uses a magic doorknob to get revenge on his dead father by blowing up the Legion hall he used to hang out in, only to discover the secrets of the universe that leads him to gather an impossible team of villains (no one can work with the Joker) to take control of an extradimensional ball of energy that is also a giant head that has within it the secrets of the universe.  Only to get to it, he has to shrink and hide in Superman’s bloodstream in a vehicle, while John Stewart gets a different coloured ring powered by hidden emotions and while the Flash has to learn to meditate and get still? There are so many ideas being tossed around in this book, but none of them are explained very well, and lack the formal planning that came with wild and fast ideas during Grant Morrison’s days.  I’m used to comic book science, and comic book fantasy, but so much of this is pinned on comic book nonsense (the doorknob being the hardest thing for me to get my brain around). There’s some nice art, thanks to Jim Cheung and Jorge Jimenez, and it’s cool to see the Martian Manhunter being used well, and to see Hawkgirl in a prominent place again. But, I didn’t understand this book, nor care about what was happening.  The structure, based on finding seven something or others, is too much like Justice League Odyssey, where heroes are looking for little artifact things. It’s also too reminiscent of the No Justice story, which also didn’t make a lot of sense. I feel like Snyder, who seems to be calling the shots at DC now, is trying to outdo Geoff Johns (he of the rainbow spectrum of Lanterns) and Morrison, but is basing his story ideas on too many hours spent playing video games.  A stronger editor could have helped shaped this story better. Is this a good place to talk about how good Priest’s Justice League run was before the title got relaunched? It was really good…

 

I’m not going to have a column for you next week, due to a vacation, so see you all in a couple weeks!

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