The Weekly Round-Up #530 With Protector #1, Star Wars #2, Criminal #12, Sex Criminals #26 & More!

Best Comic of the Week:

Protector #1 – I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it.  The terrific Simon Roy is co-writing this book with Daniel Bensen (who I’ve never heard of), and it’s drawn by Artyom Trakhanov, who I think is one of the most unique and exciting artists working today.  To top it off, the cover for this issue is by James Stokoe! How could it not be good? And it’s very good. The story is set in 3241, in a vastly changed North America. The Arctic coast is a boreal forest, and most of what was the United States is a desert.  The story opens in Shikka-Go, which is a massive archeological dig. A slave tries to escape her masters, and ends up discovering a robot of some sort in some ruins. The rest of the issue is set in Süssem-Ri, a capital for the Hudsoni, the people who live between the Hudson Sea and the Great Lakes.  They either worship or serve as a vassal state to beings called the Devas. They learn that the Devas want to wipe out Shikka-Go because of this discovery, but because of the number of Hudsoni there, First Knife, a local leader, convinces the Deva to give him the chance to take care of this problem. I’m not too sure of all that is happening, even after reading the copious notes on society at the end of the issue, but I’m very intrigued, and enjoying it.  Trakhanov’s art is detailed, lived in, and strange. I’d originally assumed that Roy, who excels at this type of strange future story (check out his work in Island), would be drawing this book, and if the artist were anyone but Trakhanov, I’d be disappointed. Instead, I’m totally on board for this book. 

Quick Takes:

Black Stars Above #3 – Lonnie Nadler and Jenna Cha’s creepy Northern Canadian gothic horror series borrows a few pages from Alan Moore’s Providence this month, as much of the issue is given over to a wordy commonplace book.  This series is very dark and unsettling, but also a little slow moving. I’m impressed that something like this exists, as it feels like a very niche product, and I’m enjoying it a great deal, but I would like to see a little more clarity come with the next issue.

Captain America #18 – Cap leads some of the Daughters of Liberty in the hunt for Scourge, and gets closer to learning what Sharon’s been hiding from him.  This is a decent enough issue, but I think it’s time for Ta-Nehisi Coates to move this story forward at a quicker pace.

Criminal #12 – Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips bring this storyline (and possibly the series again?) to a close with a pretty brutal issue.  I think we’ve always known how Teeg’s story ends (although I’ll admit to having forgotten the details), but it’s still a little painful to see how his relationship with Jane ends, and how completely damaged his son, and his son’s friend, end up from this situation.  Brubaker and Phillips are incredible together, as we know, and this is one of their best storylines. I look forward to their upcoming Western(ish) graphic novel.

Fallen Angels #6 – This is the first of the Dawn of X books to come to its end, and I think that was probably a good decision.  I don’t feel like Bryan Hill made a strong enough case for Psylocke (Kwannon, not Betsy) to be the tentpole for a series. Her conflict with Apoth was interesting, and I like the way Hill used it to establish X-23’s place on Krakoa, but that’s about all there is to say.  I did enjoy Szymon Kudranski’s art, and love the visual effect he used to show Psylocke flying. I know that she’s headed to the Hellions series, but it seems a little too bizarre to last long.

Farmhand #13 – More secrets are being revealed, as Jed’s kids track down Jed and Thorne’s assistant from the early days of developing the seed, and we generally get closer to whatever is coming.  Rob Guillory is doing great work on this series, which manages to balance the horror and weird science with some great character work.

Ginseng Roots #3 – Craig Thompson’s exploration of how Ginseng has shaped his life, and farms of Wisconsin with a look at some of the myths connected to the root in Chinese culture.  This series is strangely structured, but very absorbing. Thompson is a master of the artform, and it’s cool seeing him do something that is so personal, historical, and different.

Immortal Hulk #30 – There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on as Roxxon’s monsters trash Phoenix, and the Hulk spends most of the issue in one of the beast’s stomach.  Gamma Flight returns, and Roxxon’s plans move forward. Al Ewing has been doing some great stuff on this title, but really, this issue is running mid-arc, and is mostly about driving the plot forward.

Invisible Kingdom #9 – After a few months of speculation, we start to figure out what has been going on with Vess, the Roolian none who has bonded with Grix, the captain of the Sundog.  Grix and her crew have been taken prisoner by some pirates, and have a plan to get their ship back, but it involves some deception. Vess is a very interesting character, and one of the rarest genders on her planet.  We learn that she’s approaching her Awakening, which is something she doesn’t want to have happen, although it provides the catalyst for everyone to put their plan into action. G. Willow Wilson has built a fascinating world in this book, and I like how we get to keep exploring it.  Christian Ward is giving us the most clear storytelling of his career, and has coupled that well with his beautiful art. I love this kind of science fiction, which really could probably only ever work in comics. It’s very cool.

New Mutants #6 – We’re back in Nebraska for the end of Ed Brisson’s story featuring Armor, Glob Herman, and Beak and Angel.  Brisson can be a pretty brutal writer at times. I remember finding him with his Murder Book stories, and finding them harsh.  His series The Violent was brilliant, but also pretty hard on its characters. He puts our heroes through the wringer with this issue, as the drug cartel that has kidnapped Beak’s family take some pretty extreme steps when their control over the mutants is lost.  It’s a very solid issue that wrestles with just how mutants should use their powers, and if good intentions mitigate poor outcomes. I wish he was writing this book regularly, or had one of his own.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #44 – The Great Merge is happening, and Kyle and his people receive a couple of unexpected new allies.  Looking back on this series, I’m a little surprised to see that it’s been around for so long. It still feels fresh, but also like maybe not all that much has happened.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this all ends.

Sex Criminals #26 – It’s nice to see Sex Criminals return as it reaches the home stretch, but if I’m being honest, I found this issue a little confusing.  Jon and Suze are together again, and losing interest in getting revenge against the evil bank that brought them together, but at the same time, they are the ones that set things in motion.  Suze is having some kind of weird flashback, or flash forward thing happening, and in places, I found the storytelling to be pretty confusing. Part of the problem is that I’d more or less forgotten what was happening in this comic over the course of its hiatus, and this issue didn’t give a lot of clues.  I am realizing just how much I’m going to miss the letters column when this series ends.

Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated #4 – This series about the world hidden beneath a massive Wal-Mart like store is getting stranger and stranger.  I don’t understand how there could be multiple societies in such close proximity to one another, or how they would be able to survive deep in the Earth.  I’m also not too clear why these different groups would all want possession of the loss-prevention specialist who has ventured into their world. I find the most interesting parts of this story are the two plotlines taking place above ground in the store.  The CEO wants to start selling items to promote suicide, while two of his employees plot to either defraud or dethrone him. Patrick Kindlon has written some complex books at Black Mask, but they seem a little better shaped or clearer than this Aftershock comic.  Does that speak to the editing practices of these two companies? I have no idea.

Star Wars #2 – I’m really feeling Charles Soule’s work on this book, as Lando and Chewbacca go hunting for Han Solo, and Luke continues to process the truth of his parentage.  I like how Soule writes Lando, and how he works him into the established group of heroes. I do wonder how Lando managed to later infiltrate Jabba the Hutt’s palace, when we see that he had earlier interactions with Jabba here.  Jesus Saiz’s art is fantastic on this book.

Thor #2 – I think I’m going to like Donny Cates and Nic Klein on Thor.  Gone is the ponderousness of Thor under Jason Aaron, as he takes on his new role as herald to Galactus, helping him to stave off the destruction of the entire universe.  The problem is that, to power up, Galactus needs to feed from five particular worlds, the first of which is inhabited by a sentient race. Thor doesn’t want to see them killed, but also knows of the importance of his mission.  Cates is great at cosmic stories, and tosses in a fan favourite character at the end of the issue that I was happy to see. Klein is a great artist, and when drawing Galactus, I feel like he’s channeling a bit of Moebius. It’s a good book.

X-Force #6 – This issue has X-Force facing a different threat, as an excuse to explore Hank McCoy’s place with the team.  It’s a decent issue, but I’m not sure it was needed. Also, I’m getting a little tired of just how many plant-based threats there suddenly appear to be in comics (is everyone reading Farmhand?).  Sometimes I worry that this book is lacking in direction.

X-Men #5 – Jonathan Hickman just keeps stacking up new threats for the X-Men to deal with.  Since this series launched, we’ve seen the emergence of a second island like Krakoa, aged anti-mutant horticulturalists, powerful anti-mutant world leaders at Davos, and now, the return of the Children of the Vault, from Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo’s under-appreciated run.  I’m not sure how long he’s planning on staying on X-Men, but he seems to be laying the groundwork for multiple long-running stories. This issue is odd, in that it effectively takes Darwin, Synch, and X-23 off the table, even though Laura is also in Fallen Angels. I found the pacing of this issue to be off, and think that Hickman needs to make it clear to readers that all these different threads are connected in some way.  I loved the last issue, but found this one to be less impressive.

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

Avengers #30

Detective Comics Annual #3

Doctor Strange Surgeon Supreme #2

Hawkeye Freefall #2

Suicide Squad #2

Thumbs Vol. 1 TP

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood – I think it was a mistake to wait eighteen months or so before reading this second volume of Monstress, because the story that Marjorie Liu is telling is incredibly complicated, and too many details slipped from my mind.  This book is unbelievably beautiful, thanks to Sana Takeda, but also hard to follow at times. In this volume, Maika Halfwolf, the series’s hero, is determined to follow her mother’s path to a mysterious island. Her desire to learn secrets puts her and her companions in danger, although it does reveal a little more for us.  This is a series that I probably should have been reading in a monthly format, as trade waiting doesn’t really work for me with a book this complex. I should probably read both volumes again before I get a copy of the third one.