The Weekly Round-Up #509 With The Wicked + The Divine #45, Alpha Flight: True North #1,Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1, Fallen World #5 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

The Wicked + The Divine #45 – There’s something about a long-running series ending with an epilogue issue that shows beloved characters years later that always gets me.  The last issue of The Walking Dead, which was such a surprise, got to me, as I thought about all the stories that passed between the penultimate and the ultimate issue, that I will never get to read.  The same holds true here, as some of the surviving cast of this series gathers forty-five years later, for the funeral of a prominent character. Having reached the age where I’ve had to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, this issue got to me, especially as I reflected on how much the early issues of this series spoke on topics of youth, godhood, mortality, and how much those three states of being can intertwine when you’re in your twenties.  Kieron Gillen is a great writer, but is always at his best when collaborating with Jamie McKelvie. I didn’t always love this series, but I always admired it and what they were able to accomplish with it. This last issue serves as a touching elegy for all of it. I look forward to seeing what they do when they pair up together again, whenever that may be.

Quick Takes:

Alpha Flight: True North #1 – I’m a huge Alpha Flight fan (you can check out my recent retro review columns about the team starting here), so I was happy to see them return to their own title, even if it’s only for a single one-shot.  That said, I ended up coming away disappointed with the whole thing. It was great to see characters like Talisman, Snowbird, and Marrina again, but the first two stories in this book were pure filler, and the third decided to portray James MacDonald Hudson in the worst possible light.  I guess it’s going to be another few years before we see someone do something new and interesting with these characters. At least Puck is kicking butt in Immortal Hulk lately…

Berserker Unbound #2 – I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s version of Conan in New York, but this issue was pretty nice.  The Berserker and his new homeless friend miscommunicate and visit a food bank. It’s not a buddy comedy though, it’s actually being handled as seriously as something like this can be.

Deathstroke #47 – Slade is back, but is it the same Slade we’ve all come to know and love?  Hosun is stuck trying to figure out what’s going on while Jericho tries to use the powers Luthor gave him to do some good, and while Rose has her final confrontation with Red Arrow.  As always, this is a very complex and interesting issue that looks like it’s going to have major consequences for this series.

Die #7 – At the end of the first arc, the party, the group of main characters who have been brought to the world of Die, split up, sharing differences of opinion.  This issue looks in on the two who left – Isabelle and Chuck, who were teleported clear across the world into a wasteland. That might have been fine, but they have a large group of refugees travelling with them, and Isabelle at least, is determined to help them.  As with each issue of this book, Kieron Gillen’s strong sense of these characters, and this world, work hand in hand to provide us with a very interesting story. Chuck is given a little more depth than we’ve seen to this point, and Stephanie Hans’s art is great. I’m not sure if this comic has the same kind of devoted following that The Wicked + The Divine had (see below), but I am definitely thankful that there is at least one ongoing Gillen project happening right now.

Fallen World #5 – The announcement of the upcoming Rai series made it pretty clear that the story of Rai’s fight with Bloodfather wouldn’t conclude with this issue, and it didn’t.  I like how Dan Abnett has used this miniseries to explore the Valiant futurescape, and to set up various factions of characters that Rai can interact with in his series. I’ll be back for it.

House of X #4 – Well, this issue was kind of unexpected (which, at this point, says more about my lack of imagination, as almost every issue of this and Powers of X has had an unexpected moment or two in it).  The assault on the Mother Mold in space goes very poorly, and some characters (no spoilers) pay with their lives, often between panels. This, and the fact that some of these characters are already being promoted as being in some of the Dawn of X relaunched titles, makes me think that we are not dealing with the primary Marvel timeline in this book.  Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz do a fantastic job of capturing the sense of importance of this issue, and the finality of where it leaves us. I like how Hickman is connecting these events to previous stories, referencing Grant Morrison’s run and the House of M Decimation era. I am not usually a fan of weekly books, but this HoX/Pox run has me really excited about going to the comic store each week.

Immortal Hulk #23 – The Hulk and his group of gamma-powered companions converge on Fortean’s base at the same time as Gamma Flight, so this issue is mostly one big fight scene after another.  It’s pretty great, especially seeing as Rick Jones is getting in on the action. Al Ewing has broken just about all the rules for the Hulk, and it’s been glorious.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1 – I’ve written before that I’m rather nervous about the return, after many years in limbo, of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  I firmly believe that this has often, in its history, been the gold standard of team comics, and have a deep and enduring love for the Legion. I also have, over the last ten years, developed a distrust of writer Brian Michael Bendis, especially when it comes to him writing team books.  I am not a Bendis hater, and often love his work (his most recent hits have been Cover, Pearl, and before that, Miles Morales’s various titles). Bendis is just a very inconsistent writer, and his stints with the Avengers and the X-Men have proven that when given a mid-sized cast, he struggles to create different character voices, and to keep plots moving forward.  There are usually twenty-five active Legionnaires, so you can see why I might be concerned. Anyway, all of this is immaterial, as the Legion doesn’t actually appear in this comic. Instead, we follow a tertiary DC character (who I think I may never have read about before today), who turns out to be immortal. We see her through many different eras of DC future history, including those associated with Kamandi and Batman Beyond, as she struggles to make sense of her extended life, and her precarious mental health situation.  This is designed to lead us to the 31st century, the time of the Legion. This being a high-profile DC book, it has its requisite opening pages drawn by Jim Lee. The good news is that after his pages, things improve a lot, with art contributed by greats like Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino, and André Lima Araújo, all of whom have put some thought into how they are portraying their respective eras (in contrast, Lee gives us some dull pin-ups and kinda ages Supergirl a bit). I enjoyed this comic (although I don’t know a thing about Tommy Tomorrow and his time), and while it’s done nothing to calm my fears and concerns, it is building my anticipation of the upcoming Legion book.  (By way of a plug, I’m currently working my way through the Legion for my Retro Review column, and should have my analysis of the legendary Levitz/Giffen run up around the time this column hits).

Punisher #15 – We are getting close to the end of Frank’s long fight with Baron Zemo and Hydra.  Hydra soldiers are combing New York for Frank, while his new squad of hero companions (including Moon Knight, Night Thrasher, Black Widow, and a Ghost Rider) fight against them and Zemo’s reinstated Thunderbolts.  This has been a very enjoyable story, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

Sea of Stars #3 – I can’t really make up my mind about this series, which vacillates between childish simplicity and more mature themes.  Kadyn, the boy who somehow picked up the ability to breathe in space and communicate with the creatures that live there has been recognized as a god by a tribal people mostly thought to be extinct, and that angle has me much more interested than the first issue did.  I’ve stopped preordering this book because I wasn’t sure what I should do with it, but I think I’m going to pick up the next issue either way, because this book is growing on me.  

Star Wars #71 – Greg Pak’s first arc is incredibly episodic, what with the usual crew being split into three groups, having separate adventures.  Each story is interesting, but there’s not enough space given to any of them for the issue to be truly satisfying. I am very glad that Phil Noto is on this book though. 

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

Agents of Atlas #2

Champions #9

Fantastic Four #14

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #5

Savage Avengers #5

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order – Dark Temple #1

Bargain Comics:

Batman #74&75 – So now it looks like Bane, Batman’s alternate reality dad, and a bunch of criminals have taken over Gotham to the point where Riddler and the Joker are cops?  The “go big or go home” era that started with Scott Snyder’s New 52 run really stretches credibility, and I find it really hard to relate to most DC books now. I love Tom King’s writing on everything except Batman, and yet I keep coming back to it.  Being a comics junkie is heartbreaking sometimes.

Doctor Strange #15&16 – This is a pretty high stakes arc, with Galactus taking on aspects of magic and threatening all of reality.  There’s not much space for character though, and Barry Kitson’s art isn’t as recognizable as his work usually is. I get the sense that this book is being rushed out the door a little.

Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #7&8 – I’m really enjoying Tom Taylor’s Spider-Man.  I was a little surprised to see that he didn’t dig too deeply into Aunt May’s illness, but instead chose to structure this arc around an evil crowdfunding company (which provides space to discuss the inadequacies of a system that requires people to have friends to help save their lives or make sure they can make rent).  Ken Lashley’s art is cleaner and more consistent than I’m used to seeing from him, although I’d have prepared to see more Juan Cabal art. I’m really enjoying Peter’s neighbour, whose name I don’t remember.

Martian Manhunter #5-7 – This series, by Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo, is almost as good as King and Gerads’s Mister Miracle.  They’ve reconsidered the Martian Manhunter from the ground up, giving us a much more complex view of life on Mars, and the role that J’onn played there.  In the story’s present, J’onn’s alien status has been discovered by his partner on the police force, and she is understandably confused, frightened, and feels betrayed, but because of the case they are working on, has no choice but to continue working with J’onn.  This is the best thing Orlando has written at DC, on par with his independent books, and is also the most creative and original I’ve seen Rossmo’s art. Everything about this book just clicks, and it’s wonderful.

The Superannuated Man #1-6 – I have long had a difficult relationship with Ted McKeever’s work.  I love his art, but often feel like I’m missing something in his stories. This weird take on the Omega Man is like that.  There’s one human left in town, who all the mutated animal-people that have taken over call He, and he lives on a boat with a mannequin he’s named after his long-missing dog Captain.  There’s some Leviathan thing, and questions around where all the people went, but He likes to watch movies and keep to himself. It’s McKeever, so it’s dark, scratchy, and pretty weird, but lacking in the magic that made his Metropol one of my all-time favourite titles.

Tony Stark Iron Man #14 – It’s taken a while, and maybe it’s because Jim Zub is assisting Dan Slott on writing this title now, but I feel like this Iron Man run clicks into place with this issue, and starts to work.  Tony is dealing with some poor decisions he’s made, while his brother works to exploit those same decisions. Captain Marvel guest stars, the Spymaster shows up, and Jocasta continues to be the most interesting character in this book.  Slott struggled to capture the correct tone for this book, often making it feel like a continuation of his Spider-Man run, but Zub is much more balanced; it’s a good partnership that I hope continues.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Extremity Vol. 1 & 2 – When this series first began, I had a friend tell me that I needed to get on it, but I foolishly ignored him, as it came at a time when I was trying to cut back on my purchasing of books by creators I wasn’t all that familiar with.  Daniel Warren Johnson did an absolutely incredible job of both writing and drawing this series. It’s set on a ruined Earth, where most of the fertile land has been lifted and floats on large islands above the blighted surface, which has become the territory of monstrous creatures.  Humanity has split into a few warring tribes, recognized by facial markings, and has become quite savage in its dealings with one another. Our main character is Thea, the daughter of the leader of the Roto, who had a gift for drawing beautiful pictures. In an attack from the Paznina, Thea had her hand removed, tossing her into a spiral of anger and darkness.  When the series begins, her father has been leading the surviving Roto on a string of retaliatory strikes on the Paznina, hoping to get revenge for the death of his wife, and the mutilation of his daughter. Theo is just as angry, but her brother Rollo does not share their warlike spirit and wants to find another way to do things. When he finds an ancient robot that feels the same, he creates some division among his people.  This series is sweeping and very well-realized, with complex social structures providing the story with some depth. Johnson’s art is wonderfully detailed and full of unique designs. In just twelve issues, he created characters that I began to really care about, and a world I want to return to some day. I highly recommend this series.

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