The Weekly Round-Up #518 With Undiscovered Country #1, Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey #2, Manifest Destiny #38, Berserker Unbound #4 & More!

 Best Comic of the Week:

Undiscovered Country #1 – I’ve given up on Scott Snyder’s DC work, but have always preferred his independent stuff.  The idea of him working with Charles Soule on a new series, with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, had me pretty intrigued, as does the premise of this series.  Some thirty years before the comic starts, the United States of America sealed itself off from the world, behind a hard air forcefield. In the time since, two empires have arisen to embroil the whole world in their conflict with each other, and an epidemic of something called the sky virus, has taken a huge bite out of humanity.  Now as things look dire, the US sends out a message, welcoming a diplomatic party into its territory, promising a cure for the disease. This issue introduces us to the group of diplomats, scientists, and soldiers heading in. Of course, things don’t work as they’re supposed to, and the group finds themselves shot down and in a territory that is way stranger than they could have imagined.  It looks like Snyder and Soule are working on plausible ideas, but then taking things in insane directions. This first issue is a nice chunk of comics, and it has definitely left me wanting more. I think this could be a big winner.

Quick Takes:

Berserker Unbound #4 – I hadn’t really expected that Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s new series would be so contained.  This issue wraps the story up, as the barbarian from another world faces off against his magical enemy in the forests new New York.  Deodato’s art on this miniseries was fantastic, among the best I’ve seen from him in decades, and Lemire’s buddy comedy kept the title from being too dark.  It will make a very decent trade.

Daredevil #13 – Is it weird that I’m finding myself way more invested in the Kingpin’s story than I am Daredevil’s?  Last issue, Fisk lost his cool at a party at an extremely wealthy person’s house, and now has to get his mess cleaned up without being caught.  While this goes on, Matt is trying to reconnect with his inner Daredevil, the Owl makes a bold move, and the police detective Chip Zdarsky introduced into the title gets suspended.  Zdarsky’s DD is pretty serious, and moves with a lot of momentum.

Deadly Class #41 – I’ve loved Deadly Class since the series began, and love it the most when Marcus is centre-stage, as he is this issue, but this issue bothered me some.  My issues have nothing to do with the art or the writing, as they are both terrific, but more with the fact that after so many years, Marcus seems as trapped and lost as ever, but like he’s also losing his strength and ability to fight.  Rick Remender does some terrible things to his characters, and that’s what we keep coming back for, but I know someone who reminds me a little of Marcus, and this issue left me feeling sad. I guess that makes it good art, right? Probably I shouldn’t be reading this book late at night though, as it sticks with me more than anything else I read…

Deathstroke #49 – I hate that Christopher Priest’s run on Deathstroke is coming to an end with the next issue.  It has been the only DC book that I’ve read consistently since Rebirth began, and it has never failed to entertain and impress me.  This issue has Joseph confront the Deathstroke who has shown up from the future, and it’s an emotionally taut comic. Priest has built a fascinating world around Slade, so much so that he was able to write him out of the book for a few issues and I never minded that he wasn’t there.  As much as I wish it wasn’t ending, I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Priest closes things out. I hope he gets another long-running title soon, as I’m going to miss his long-range plotting.

Die #9 – With this issue, Kieron Gillen reveals that the world of Die has some deeper literary roots than we would have expected, with the surprise appearance of a Victorian novelist of great fame.  This is an odd issue, but it does a lot to advance our, and the characters’, understanding of the world they’ve found themselves in. It’s also gorgeous, thanks to Stephanie Hans, who chose to use more traditional methods for flashback scenes instead of painting them.

Doctor Aphra #38 – I think this excellent Star Wars series is ending soon, so Si Spurrier is bringing the whole gang back together in this last arc.  Aphra’s trying to keep Darth Vader from hurting her father when a pair of murderous droids show up. This is another very good issue in the most original of Marvel’s Star Wars titles.  I hope we see more of Aphra after this run ends.

Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey #2 – Grendel-Prime has been tasked with restarting humanity on a new world, and much of this second issue is given over to speculative anthropology, when he comes across a planet populated by primitive three-legged hivemind creatures.  The question is, should Grendel-Prime put their culture at risk by attempting to share the world, or leave them alone? I like this type of book, and it’s interesting to me to see how far Grendel has moved from its roots and even more recent offerings. Matt Wagner looks like he’s having a good time with this series, but is also taking the implications of his story seriously.  I’m just sad that it’s only going to run for eight issues.

The Immortal Hulk #26 – Now that Banner has taken over Shadow Base, a black budget operation, he intends to use it to fix the world, which means to save it from humanity.  This issue is incredibly topical, as Al Ewing works to figure out how a Hulk would approach environmental catastrophe and rampant inequality. Banner has an interesting chat with Amadeus Cho, one of the few gamma-heroes to not yet factor into this series, and reveals a particularly powerful ally.  I think that Ewing is one of the best writers currently working at Marvel, and that with this title (which I’m pretty sure is the longest-lasting he’s worked on), he’s really getting the chance to shine. This book is working with some very big ideas, and it’s great.

KI-6: Killers #5 – I didn’t notice that the title of this series changed with the last issue, adding the KI-6 to the front, and I’m not sure why that was done.  This issue wraps up this series, but in typical Valiant fashion, also sets up the next thing to come. The former Ninjas meet up with the Jonin, who has an offer for them.  I’m a little intrigued, but also thinking that the next series might be better suited to a trade-waiting situation. This title was fine, but isn’t very memorable.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 – The same day that I bought this, I read the issue of Paul Levitz and Greg Laroque’s Legion series where the post-Crisis change in the team’s status quo first got explored, specifically looking at whether or not Superboy was still an influence on the team’s founding.  Now, we have Brian Michael Bendis bringing back the Legion (with Ryan Sook) for the post-Rebirth DC Universe. This first issue follows a couple of appearances of the team in Superman, and the Millennium series, which charts the future history of DC, but does no more than those appearances to formally introduce most of the characters, or how the new 31st century works.  This issue opens with some Legionnaires (I’m not sure if Ultra Boy is a member or not) fighting Mordru, in a very new form, and retrieving an old artifact. Most of the rest of the issue is focused on Jon Kent, Superboy, first arriving in the Legion’s time, and not watching the orientation presentation they prepared for him. There’s a lot of chaos in this issue. There are over twenty Legionnaires, and it appears they tend to talk all at once, which is what I most feared would happen.  Jon is worried that the Earth is bottled like Kandor, and we’re never really given clarity on why the Earth is in the shape that it is. I don’t understand how the entire city of Metropolis is the Legion’s headquarters, unless whoever it was that said this was being metaphoric. The characters come parading by quickly, and while many are instantly recognizable, it’s not clear who some of the others are, or if the Legion really all know one another. I don’t know how long they’ve been working as a team, nor do I understand the UP’s president’s reaction to the knowledge that Superboy is in the future.  Bendis indulges in his worst habits here – there’s too much side dialogue, and the pacing of the issue is off. He’s also done that thing I hate most about comics set in the future, hinging much of the issue on the artifact that Ultra Boy finds, which is from the contemporary DC universe. Sook’s art, and new character designs are all gorgeous, and my love of these characters means that I’m going to give this book plenty of time to grow on me. At the same time, I’m coming away from it as disappointed as I feared I would be; there’s just too much going on here, and hardly any of it feels right or important.

Manifest Destiny #38 – It’s time for another wholesale slaughter, which is what this book does best (it is about the expansion of America, and what’s America without a lot of killing?), but it also allows for some serious growth in Sacagawea’s character.  I’ve been enjoying this book since Day One, but I’m also eager for the adventurers in Lewis and Clark’s party to make their way to the coast soon.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #12 – Miles has found his Uncle Aaron, in a new Prowler suit, about to kill a mob boss, as part of a deal he made to help rescue Miles a couple months back.  Their fight is interruptd when Man Mountain Marko attacks. This is a pretty action-heavy issue, and it really showcases how much Javier Garrón’s art has grown since this title began. It’s another solid issue in a very strong run.

New Mutants #1 – This latest iteration of the New Mutants, written by Ed Brisson and Jonathan Hickman, worked for me, in that it captured the right feel for many of the characters, while still having a few problems.  Most of the team has come together on Krakoa, with the addition of Chamber and Mondo (who I know nothing about), and they miss Sam, so they decide to hitch a ride to Shi’ar space with the Starjammers so they can go visit him.  The Starjammers are a little off here, and don’t show the level of loyalty I would have expected from them towards these X-Men, but that might be a plot mechanics issue as much as a character issue. It’s cool to see these characters back together again, and as I said, the characterizations feel pretty right, but I’m left wondering a few things.  Why not reunite them with some other old friends, like Magma, Rusty, or Skids, or some of the later members of the team? Also, why is everyone still treating them like kids? Kitty, who was about the same age, is old enough to run the X-Men, yet people are still talking down to these adults (Bobby and Xi’an have each run their own companies). I get that millennials can be annoying, but this is kind of extreme.  Rod Reis’s art is nice, and does remind me a little of Bill Sienkiewicz’s, but only in the stiffest of ways. I’d like to see him cut loose a little more, and get weird. Maybe it’s all a nostalgia thing for me, but I’m excited to see how this series plays out. I’d rather it not be a ‘mutants in space’ story that gives it its start, but I’m a big fan of Brisson’s writing, and am curious to see how his partnership with Hickman plays out.

Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated #2 – Patrick Kindlon’s new title at Aftershock gets weird pretty quick, as the loss-prevention specialist at a Walmart like company explores the vast underground land under his store, which appears to be populated by redneck misfits and hedonists living off the bounty of the store above them.  These parts of the book are strange, but I find myself more drawn to the travails of the suicidal company president, and the underlings plotting his downfall. It’s an odd, but interesting, title.

X-Force #1 – This might be the most disjointed of the Dawn of X debuts we’ve seen so far, in that it feels like it’s trying to do too many things and once, and isn’t able to do any of them quite well enough.  There’s a Court of Owls-looking gathering that is planning to act against the mutants of Krakoa. There’s a dangerous creature on the island that Logan is hunting. Black Tom is in charge of the island’s pollen and algae-based security system.  Kitty Pryde is smuggling refugees from Russia, but it’s different from what we saw in Marauders. Charles Xavier is arranging treaties with small nations. Is all of this connected? It doesn’t feel like it, but that’s basically the plotline in this first issue, with some other things, including a deadly attack on the island, tossed in for good measure, including a potentially massive death.  I’ve grown used to the notion of X-Force being the black ops side of the X-Teams, yet this issue doesn’t ever firmly establish a team or squad, and instead feels like it’s just showing some of the stuff going down on Krakoa (much more than we’ve seen in any other Dawn of X launch). I don’t know what makes this an X-Force book as opposed to the second X-Men title, and I have no idea where this series is going.  I also don’t know why Quentin Quire is on the cover, when he’s not in the comic. Benjamin Percy impressed me with his Green Arrow run, but it was also disjointed at times. Joshua Cassara’s art is nice, but pretty house style. I’ve committed to getting this book through January, and I want to like it, but I need a lot more coherence from it.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #33

Batman #82

Fantastic Four #16

Ghost Rider #2

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #9

November Vol. 1

Yondu #1

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer – It looks like this is the last of Dan Abnett’s run that gets to be collected in its own trade, as from here, Aquaman entered into consecutive cross-overs with the Suicide Squad and the Justice League (this is where trade waiting becomes so confusing sometimes).  This volume has Aquaman and his allies gathering to put an end to Corum Rath’s reign over Atlantis. The issues drawn by Riccardo Federici look very nice, but the one done by Kelly Jones is pretty terrible, and casts a pall on the whole book. Abnett’s Aquaman was good, but suffered from a few too many tonal shifts.  I haven’t heard how Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run is – I’m curious about it.

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