The Weekly Round-Up #554 With Undone By Blood Or The Shadow Of A Wanted Man #4, Gideon Falls #23, Free Comic Book Day 2020 (Marvel, Boom, Chapterhouse), The Old Guard: Force Multiplied #5 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

Undone by Blood or The Shadow of a Wanted Man #4 – This 70s revenge comic, which also shows scenes from an old Western novel, has grown into one of my favourite books on the stands right now.  The girl (I don’t remember her name) continues to investigate the murder of her family a year before, and starts to piece together just how corrupt the town of Sweetheart really is.  Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson are my favourite writing duo of the last few years, and I only just today realized that the artist, Sami Kivelä, is the same person who drew the Beautiful Canvas series at Black Mask, which was lovely.  His work is a lot grittier here, and it really works.

Quick Takes:

Chapterhouse Free Comic Book Day Featuring Canuck Beyond and Captain Battle #1 – I was surprised to see that Chapterhouse put out a FCBD book this year, as they seemed to be having a lot of problems even before the pandemic hit.  I don’t want to be negative, but nothing about this book made me want to check out either of the series they previewed.  Canuck Beyond has Captain Canuck in some kind of fantasy world, still working to be a hero.  The Captain Battle story was kind of slow, so I skimmed it.

Die! Die! Die! #11 – This series is nonstop wild fun, as Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple constantly work to top themselves.  Artist Chris Burnham, though, is what makes this book stand out so completely.  I’ve gotten used to him drawing insanely violent scenes, but this issue has an establishing shot of a Russian village that is completely crazy.  It’s a melding of Where’s Waldo with a Bosch painting, and it’s worth buying this comic for on its own.  I love that this comic is being made.

Empyre #1 – Well, I decided to fall into another big Marvel event series, and add Empyre to my pull-file list (although not all the crossovers – it’s crazy how much traction they are trying to get from this title).  The Avengers and Fantastic Four approach the news that Hulkling has unified the Kree and Skrull peoples around his leadership, although by the end of the issue, they, and we as readers, get a better idea of the nature of the threat in this comic.  There’s some cosmic stuff happening, and the story is steeped in Marvel history.  Cowriters Al Ewing and Dan Slott seem to be handling different scenes (as the Avengers pages do a better job of keeping my interest), although that might just be for the beginning of the story.  Valerio Schiti proves that his art has reached event tentpole heights.  I’m cautious, because I’m not a big fan of summer blockbusters, but I think this is off to a good start.  The Ghost Rider-ified quinjet is pretty cool…

Family Tree #7 – Every once in a while in this title, we get a glimpse of a future where the whole world has changed, before returning to the early 90s, when the bulk of this series is set.  Jeff Lemire and Phil Hester do that again in this issue, reminding us that there is a larger story going on than is immediately apparent.  I like this comic, but it is always too quick of a read.  

Free Comic Book Day 2020 (X-Men/Dark Ages) #1 – Has Marvel ever put out an enjoyable FCBD book?  This opens with an X-Men thing, sort of.  Saturnyne, a classic Captain Britain character I’ve always disliked (and have gotten confused with Emma Frost at times) reads her cards, and that’s supposed to get us excited about the upcoming Swords of X event.  I’m less interested than I was before, especially if it’s going to be heavily involved with Otherworld.  The second half of this book is better, as Iron Man responds to an earthquake, and ends up losing power while in the air, just as everything else loses power too.  It builds slowly, and ends with Tony colliding with an airplane, and perhaps getting his foot blown off.  This is by Tom Taylor and Iban Coello, and leads into another big event called Dark Ages, that I’ve heard nothing about.  It’s weird that the same week that Empyre launches, Marvel is promoting two more big events.  Imagine if they just wrote a solid done-in-one story spotlighting one or two characters, as a way to get readers interested in some of their better series?  That might be more effective, as I don’t see any new readers getting caught up in either of these stories, which don’t continue for a while (when is Dark Ages happening?).

Giant-Size X-Men: Magneto #1 – These Giant-Size one-shots have been largely disappointing.  In this one, Magneto goes to one of the Faroe Islands with the intention of purchasing it on behalf of the White Queen, and has to help its current owner with a problem that is solved very easily.  This one-off doesn’t do anything to advance or explore Magneto’s character, and it remains unclear to what extent it helps set up a future storyline (Emma must want this place for a reason, right?).  There are so many characters knocking around Krakoa that I would love it if these issues were being used to dig a little deeper, but that has yet to be the case.  I swear that this comic was solicited as having art by Ben Oliver, and it ended up switching places with the Nightcrawler issue on the pre-pandemic schedule, so I was a little confused to see that the whole book is drawn by Ramon Pérez, who in fairness, I’ll take over Oliver any day.  I have hopes that the upcoming Fantomex issue will be more satisfactory…

Gideon Falls #23 – Like Family Tree (see above), each issue of Gideon Falls is over way too quickly.  Father Fred gets himself some credits, and treats a sex worker to dinner in the dystopian future Gideon Falls, and also has a run in with the Smiling Man (or whatever they are calling him).  It’s good, but just like that, it’s done.

Guardians of the Galaxy #4 – The Guardians have split into two teams, and now it looks like they are on opposite sides of a mission.  Al Ewing writes the best Marvel Boy we’ve seen since his debut in Grant Morrison’s hands, and he’s put together a pair of elaborate mission plans that are in direct conflict with one another.  Juann Cabal’s art is very nice here – I liked his All-New Wolverine, but he’s gotten even better with this series.  I’m very happy with this comic since Ewing took over, and am glad to see it back.

Immortal Hulk #35 – This feels like a bit of a maintenance issue.  Banner tries to figure out why the Devil Hulk is locked away in their shared mental space, while Betty decides to leave Shadow Base, and the Savage Hulk gets some accolades for dealing with Xemnu.  Most importantly, the Leader is ready to make his move, and it looks like that will cause a lot more problems for the Hulk.  This issue was drawn by Mike Hawthorne, and he takes a very conventional approach to drawing the Hulk; many parts of this book look like they could have come from the 1980s.  That’s not bad, but it’s a little strange.

The Old Guard: Force Multiplied #5 – This is a nice chunky conclusion to this latest Old Guard arc, as the group confronts the member they haven’t seen in centuries, and Andy has to decide what she wants out of her massively long life.  I haven’t checked out the Old Guard movie on Netflix yet, but I think this is a concept with a lot of potential to it, and hope it’s captured the characters as well as Greg Rucka has developed them.  Apparently there’s going to be a third miniseries in the future; I’ll be back for it.

Once & Future #9 – Duncan and Brigitte have to fight off Beowulf, without fully knowing how he fits into Merlin’s plans.  This book is fine, but I can’t help comparing it to Kieron Gillen’s other books, which contain a lot more depth.

Power Rangers: The Road to Ranger Slayer Free Comic Book Day Special #1 – I don’t know anything about the Power Rangers, realy, but found that this story, set on a world where one of the Rangers has gone evil, and taken the coins of the others (is that how they get their powers?).  I always like a good underground resistance story, so this had some appeal, and appeared to be taking a nuanced approach to these characters.  I imagine fans of the TV show would be happy with this.

Road to Empyre #1 – The kind people at the store I shop at tucked this into my bag today, and I’m thankful for that, as the two prequel issues to Empyre that I’ve read so far haven’t gone out of their way to make things very clear.  In this, Robbie Thompson returns to the family that was at the centre of his Meet the Skrulls miniseries, as they frame a few millennia of Kree/Skrull history, and work to establish the role the Cotati played in all their problems (which I still don’t really buy as a true threat).  It probably has some important information in it…

Sacred Six #1 – It wouldn’t be a Christopher Priest comic if it wasn’t wildly ambitious.  This spin-off from Priest’s current Vampirella series (see below) starts off very strong, but I’m thankful for the text box on the inside cover that explains the situation in the neighbouring towns of Ashthorne (full of pacifistic vampires, led by Drago, but also home to The Six, a secret society of vampires who want to bring back the old easy) and Sacred (full of religious nuts).  Priest introduces a number of characters (bringing Victory, aka Draculina, over from Vampi’s title) in rapid succession, and establishes the situation well, without giving us much time to like or care about anyone in particular.  The art on this book is shared, with Jae Lee providing a framing sequence that introduces one of the characters, while the rest of the book is drawn by Gabriel Ibarra, who has a very different style.  It works, although I was a little surprised by that, as it was a pretty complicated book, and the shifting styles should have thrown things off.  Anyway, it’s hard to believe that this is going to be a six-issue series with so much setup from the beginning, but I have endless faith in Priest’s ability to plot stories meticulously.   

Strange Adventures #3 – As Mr. Terrific starts to investigate Adam Strange, Adam and Alanna take to the media to act as if they’re being mistreated.  It’s odd, seeing as Adam is the one who went to Batman looking to be cleared of the murder that happened in the first issue.  I feel like Tom King is using this series to explore the world of “alternate facts” that we now live in, and the place of truth in a world of heroes.  It’s interesting, but this issue didn’t hold my attention the way the first two did.  I find myself becoming very suspicious of Alanna in this book.

20XX #5 – Consequences continue to pile up around Mer, as she learns the truth about her girlfriend, and as the men who want to avenge the man she killed kidnap the child of another gang member.  Jonathan Luna and Lauren Keely are pacing this series very well, paving the way for the big conclusion (I assume) next issue.  It’s a much less wordy issue than the previous ones too, which is nice.

Vampirella #11 – Priest always jumps around with time and does everything he can to make his stories non-linear and complicated.  That has definitely been the case with his Vampirella run, which is finally reaching the place where the series began, with last year’s Free Comic Book Day special.  This issue also does some work to set up the Sacred Six series (see above), and while it’s not that special an issue, it fits nicely in the series.

Year Zero #3 – Benjamin Percy and Ramon Rosanas continue to impress with this zombie series that follows five different storylines, all set against the backdrop of the end of the world.  It’s an interesting approach, and I say it works well.  I like the global aspect to this, with stories happening in Mexico, Japan, Afghanistan, and Antarctica as well as the US.  I always wondered about other parts of the world in the Walking Dead universe, for example.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #44

Avengers #34

Teen Titans #43

Bargain Comics:

Gamma #1 – I hadn’t realized, when I picked up this 2013 one-shot by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas that I’d already read the stories in it when they were published in Dark Horse Presents, but I like the weird goofiness of their work.  A notorious coward spends his days getting paid to be punched in the face in a bar, but when a damsel in distress comes looking for help, he’s the only man brave enough to confront his past, and step up.  It’s a post-Pokemon kind of thing, and it’s cute.

‘Namwolf #1-4 – I’ve never read anything from Albatross Comics before, and I’ve never understood the appeal of Eric Powell’s work, but this series about a werewolf in the Vietnam War caught my eye when it first came out, largely because of its excellent covers.  Truthfully though, I was a little disappointed by this book though.  The concept is cool, and the design is nice, but writer Fabian Rangel Jr. tosses us into the story quickly, without any space for character development.  The result of that is that I never became invested in the characters.  I was also annoyed with how quickly the story relied on Vietnam War tropes, without having any insight or commentary on that setting.  Logan Faerber’s art is very nice, but occasionally a little hard to follow.  

Sub-Mariner: The Depths #1-5 – This is an odd one.  It’s a Marvel Knights miniseries from 2008 by Peter Milligan and Esad Ribic.  In it, an adventurer/myth-buster goes searching for a scientist who has claimed to have discovered Atlantis.  His journey to the deepest place on Earth has him trying to manage the superstitions of the crew he’s working with, who have developed a legend of Namor.  Milligan plays with Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now tropes pretty obviously, but also effectively, mixing in a little bit of Alien along the way.  Ribic’s art is often lovely, but I found it hard to tell a few of the characters apart, and his work reminded me of Ariel Olivetti’s work a little too often.  Still, I thought this was an enjoyable comic.

The Week in Music:

Khruangbin – Mordechai – Khruangbin is a difficult band to pin down with a short description.  They make globally-influenced psychedelic music, and with this album, really embrace vocals and songwriting, I think for the first time.  I haven’t listened to this enough times yet to really feel like I understand it and what they are going for with it, but it’s a journey I’m enjoying.

Lena Raine – Oneknowing – It has taken me forever to get my hands on a copy of this beautiful album by video game composer Lena Raine.  This is ambient electronic music at its best, but that description shortchanges this album somewhat, as it moves through various styles and approaches.  It’s lovely.

Oddisee – Odd Cure – Oddisee is one of my favourite and most admired rappers, and I’m so happy to see him return this week with new music.  He is a Sudanese-American who keeps one foot in each of his cultures, and who has used his music to promote positivity and awareness of a number of issues.  This too-short EP addresses the pandemic, and the ways in which people have had to relate and adapt because of it.  Oddisee is a very wise, perceptive man, and his voice is always needed.