The Weekly Round-Up #524 With Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #1, Vampirella #6, Star Wars: Rise Of Kyle Ren & More!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Best Comic of the Week:

Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #1 – I loved Daniel Warren Johnson’s Extremity when I read it not that long ago, so getting this new Black Label miniseries was a slam dunk.  In a future where humanity is barely hanging after some bombs made a mess of things, a small group of scavengers fall into a familiar cavern, and end up waking up Diana, who has lost some of her powers, and is having trouble adjusting to the new, almost medieval society that has taken over.  Johnson gets us interested in this world in a hurry, as the society goes from distrusting Diana to recognizing her worth. The Cheetah makes a powerful appearance here (one of her hands is now a cheetah head!), and Johnson grounds the story in Diana’s origins. His art is incredible, giving this book a real indie feel.  This is the first of the Black Label books I’ve bought (man, they’re kind of pricey), and I love the size and the production quality here. It’s good stuff.

Bargain Comics:

Black Panther #19 – It’s time for T’Challa to take the fight to N’Jadaka, the symbiote emperor, who has taken over the body of Killmonger, the former N’Jadaka.  First, T’Challa has to clear things up with his sister, and we see the aftermath of his last fight with the emperor’s new allies. Ryan Bodenheim draws this issue (and hopefully this arc), and it looks great.  This is a bit of a too-wordy issue, but I have faith that Ta-Nehisi Coates is going to take this in the same interesting direction the rest of this latest series has been going. It’s nice to see the Midnight Angels again, too.

Black Stars Above #2 – Eulalie is tasked with delivering a strange box to a village north of, basically, the known world.  She spends this issue alone in the woods with her charge, as the world seems to switch and change around her. This title, by Lonnie Nadler and Jenna Cha is dark, mysterious, and thoroughly captivating.  The historical context of Eulalie being a mixed-race child in 19th century Canada falls away, as the story becomes more about basic winter survival. This Vault book is one of the most interesting to debut in the last few months.

Daredevil #15 – Both Matt and the Kingpin have to face the fact that it’s not as easy to leave their old selves behind as they’d hoped.  Matt and Elektra go after the governor of New York, while Fisk gets attacked in what is supposed to be a business meeting. I still think that the Kingpin parts of this comic are better than the actual Daredevil parts, under Chip Zdarsky’s direction, and I like how much their experiences parallel one another in this issue.

Fallen Angels #4 – I’m quickly losing interest in this series, which I first thought would be so promising.  I think a big part of the problem is that I don’t much like the new Psylocke, who used to be known as Kwannon.  Writer Bryan Hill is not making much of a case for her to be viewed as a tentpole character, and it’s odd how she keeps trying to school X-23, who has more experience than she does, on the ways of being a warrior and hero.  It might be that, knowing the book is about to be cancelled, I’m just more critical, and can’t stop thinking that it’s moving a little slowly for a story that doesn’t have all that many pages remaining in it.

Family Tree #2 – Jeff Lemire and Phil Hester allow the mystery and weirdness at the heart of this story (about a single mother whose little girl seems to be sprouting plant growth on her back and arm) to grow this issue.  We learn that the kids’ grandfather was with their father when he turned into a sentient tree, but we still don’t know how that happened, who is after them, or much else. It’s fast moving and interesting, and the last page genuinely surprised me.  I think this new series is a hit.

Farmhand #12 – Things keep getting work at the Jenkins Farm, as some infected crawfish attack a man, signifying another leak of the seed.  At the same time, Ezekiel’s infection appears to be getting worse, and Jedidiah is finding it harder to keep his secrets from his family. I really like this series, which seems to be getting more complex with each issue.  It’s interesting to see where Rob Guillory is taking this series (and it’s very weird to read it in the same week as Family Tree and Guardians of the Galaxy – there’s really some kind of plant people movement happening here).

Guardians of the Galaxy #12 – I wonder if there’s a story behind Donny Cates’s run on the Guardians being cut short so quickly, after only a year’s worth of stories.  I felt like he had a lot more than that planned, and that the Church gets dispatched a little too easily. Still, this has been a decent run, and Cates is being replaced by Al Ewing, which has me more excited.  I hope the lineup stays as expansive as it has been in this run.

Invaders #12 – Chip Zdarsky wraps up his Invaders series with this issue, that has Namor clear-headed at last, and looking to repair some of the damage his actions have caused.  I’ve liked this book, although it has not fit very well with the rest of Marvel’s continuity. I am hoping that we can return to a more normal Namor after this, as I haven’t really liked him being used as a villain again.  The art in this series, by Carlos Magno and Butch Guice, was very nice, and it was great to see characters like the Jim Hammond Human Torch and Spitfire get used again.

Invisible Kingdom #8 – Grix is doing her best to get her people away from the scavengers that have captured them, and hopes that she can work with a captured Lux vessel to make that happen.  You can’t really trust people who work for corporations though, as G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward show us in this issue of this very exciting and impressive science fiction series. I’ve become a huge fan of this title, and see it as one of the best debuts of the last year.

Legion of Super-Heroes #2 – I remain cautiously optimistic about where this title is headed.  We get introduced to some more Legionnaires this issue (although really, unless you can read tiny backwards print, it’s hard to get most of their names), and start to get the lay of the land in the title, as the team fights off a lot of Horraz, whatever they are, and then try to figure out the secrets of Aquaman’s trident.  We see where the Legion stands with regards to the United Planets and its leadership, and we see just what role Rose Thorn is going to play in the series. My biggest complaint is how much this title, which is set in the 31st century, is focused on characters and events from the 21st. I like having Superboy there as a POV character, but the fact that the plot revolves around Aquaman, and that we already have Jon returning to his own time to get someone else, is kind of irritating.  I’m glad that the Legion is already a going concern when we meet them, so we don’t have to spend months or years reliving origin stories, but I think that we need things to slow down a little so we can get to know some of these characters (I am still wondering who the one that looks like Doctor Fate is). Without some character building, everyone is going to sound like more variations of Brian Michael Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man. The true strength of the Legion lies in its diverse cast, and they can’t just be used as window dressing.  I also wanted to say how much I am loving Ryan Sook’s art, and how he is doing more to build these characters through their appearance and body language than Bendis is through their dialogue.

Marauders #4 – I do think that the nautical aspect of this comic is kind of silly (why do they need to transport Krakoan drugs by sea when they can do it through the gateways?), and wasn’t too happy to see some villains from Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men run turn up at the end, but aside from that, I think I made the right decision in choosing to stick with this book.  As Gerry Duggan gets deeper into it, he also feels more comfortable and balanced. I like the chemistry between Kate and Bishop, as she tries to recruit him to the Hellfire Club. The art this issue is by Lucas Werneck, who is new to me, and who does a fine job of things.  

New Mutants #4 – We stay with Armor and her friends, as they deal with men from a Central American country holding them, and Beak’s family, hostage in return for Krakoan medicine, while Boom-Boom, who maybe needs to look into her drinking, decides to go looking for them.  Once again, Ed Brisson tells a good story that also comments on the modern pharmaceutical industry’s greed. I’m not sure what the plan here is – if the book is going to keep alternating back and forth between Brisson’s story and the classic New Mutants, as written by Hickman, or if this is a filler story or what, but I do hope to continue to see other mutants in this title (although it does make for a pretty disrupted reading experience).

The Old Guard: Force Multiplied #1 – Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández return to the world of their immortal soldiers for a new miniseries before the Netflix film debuts.  This is a solid title, exploring a small group of eternal warriors who have to manage their immortality, while also continuously putting themselves in danger. The first run of this book was great, in a classic second gen Vertigo kind of way, and I’m glad to see it back.  This issue is pretty introductory, but I trust that Rucka is going to do something interesting with it.

Once & Future #5 – Secrets are revealed, as Duncan steps up in a big way, going after the Grail and trying to save his grandmother.  This series by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora is entertaining, but I still feel like it’s not among Gillen’s more subtle works.

SFSX #4 – We see just what is being done to George in the Pleasure Centre while Avory and the others plan to break him out.  This series has quickly become a favourite of mine, as it mixes terrific character work and a suspenseful plot with a fascinating world of sexual liberation being actively repressed by a conservative government.  It’s wonderfully dystopian and alluring at the same time.

Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy #1 – One thing that has been missing from Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe so far is a dark, Punisher-like anti-hero.  Well, now we have one in Skulldigger, a mysterious hero who bludgeons criminals to death with a solid metal skull on the end of a long chain. He comes across a murder scene wherein a mugger has just killed a young boy’s parents, and deals with the mugger brutally, while the child watches.  Later, impressed by the fact that the kid, who has been practically catatonic ever since, didn’t turn away, he goes to retrieve him from the psychiatric hospital where he’s being treated. Tonci Zonjic joins Lemire for this series, and it’s lovely, in a minimalist way. I’m pleased to see that Lemire is sticking around the Black Hammer world, and expanding it.

Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1 – Just before the Star Wars line reboots and begins to exist between Episodes V and VI, we get this one-off special that previews each new series.  We see how the construction of the Rebel base on Hoth is going, and get to check in with Vader as he recruits some Death Troopers to do his bidding. From there, it’s time for Valance to take another job, and for Aphra to say goodbye to the characters she cares about the most.  I like how this comic is trying to build excitement for these new launches, and seeing as the SW line has gotten a little moribund of late, it’s probably a good time to try some new things. I’m interested in all of these titles, but am a little wary of the upcoming Aphra relaunch, since I don’t know any of the creators involved, and we don’t get to see their work here.

Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 – One complaint I’ve had about the new Star Wars films (and trust me, I have many complaints) is that we are just left to take on faith that some characters are evil.  This series takes what little we learn about Ben Solo’s past in The Last Jedi and expands it, introducing the Knights of Ren, and some of Ben’s fellow students. I’m still left with a lot of questions after this first issue, but I’m also curious to see where this is going.  I think Ren is a very cool looking character, but haven’t enjoyed his portrayal in the films. I’m wondering if Charles Soule and Will Sliney will be able to make me like him a little more.

Vampirella #6 – This title jumps around a fair amount, but we start to see how things begin to go south between Vampirella and Victory, largely because of the machinations of Vampirella’s mother.  This is happening as her enemies start to converge on her as well. Priest is doing a great job of making me interested in these characters, and now that Deathstroke is done, this is the only place I can go to get new writing from him.  I’ve been very impressed with this title, and hope it continues to be this engaging.

X-Force #4 – X-Force is making its way up the ranks of the best of the Dawn of X titles, as the mutants of Krakoa become aware of new attacks on Professor Xavier’s corporate holdings, and solidify the role that X-Force plays in defending the island.  Writer Ben Percy is juggling a fair number of characters here, and his Forge feels a little bit off to me, but I like the innovation that he brings to the table. I’m curious to see the weapon that Wolverine wants built for him. As X-Men slips in the schedule, this is starting to feel like it might be the flagship book for this whole line.

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

Agents of Atlas #5

Amazing Spider-Man #36

Aquaman Vol. 1: Unspoken Water TP

Avengers #28

Batman #85

Excalibur #4

Female Furies TP

Firefly #12

King Thor #4

Suicide Squad #1

Teen Titans #37

Tony Stark Iron Man #19

Wonder Woman #83

Bargain Comics:

Champions #6-8 – Jim Zub’s Champions continues to be pretty enjoyable, as the team wraps up its involvement in the War of the Realms, and Nova works to recover his helmet and with it, his powers.  There’s a lot of characters in this book now, and Zub does a good job of balancing between the remaining original members and some of the newer ones. It’s a shame that this series was cancelled – I feel like there should be space at Marvel for a Teen Titans-like book, and that this one is pretty refreshing.

Doctor Strange #17&18 – Mark Waid’s Strange is kind of neither here not there.  The end of his Galactus saga has Strange performing surgery on the entire multiverse, with a pretty big personal cost to him, which is then not explored at all in the following issue, which is the better of the two, as it focuses on how others perceive Strange while he goes about his work.  None of this is all that memorable though, if I’m being honest.

Star Wars: Age of Resistance – General Hux #1 – This examination of General Hux, the cowardly and craven General who somehow seems more powerful than some admirals in the First Order’s odd organizational flow chart, raises some questions about just how the First Order got so big so quickly.  It also shows him to be very manipulative, as he finds himself stranded on a remote planet with Kylo Ren. It was alright, but I still care nothing for this character.

Star Wars: Age of Resistance – Rose Tico #1 – Rose’s character was not exactly developed in The Last Jedi – she played a minor role, and most of her scenes could have been excised from the film without having much impact.  I figure that gave writer Tom Taylor a little more space to play with her here, with the end result being a decent look at why someone might choose to join the Resistance. It’s fine. There’s not much more to say than that.


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