The Weekly Round-Up #556 With That Texas Blood #2, Cable #2, Ascender #11, Lost Soldiers #1, X-Factor #1 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

That Texas Blood #2 – Okay, I love this series for sure now.  This second issue focuses on a guy named Randy, who returns to Ambrose County upon learning that his brother has died.  It’s clear that Randy is carrying some secrets that he doesn’t feel he can share with his girlfriend, but once he gets to town, it’s clear that everyone in the place knows who he is, and holds a grudge against him.  I was hoping we’d learn more before the issue ended, and am left with a lot of questions.  Chris Condon builds the suspense well throughout the issue, and Jacob Phillips’s art is a revelation.  His style is reminiscent of his father Sean’s, but stands well on its own.  I feel like this is going to be one of the standout series of this year.

Quick Takes:

Ascender #11 – I’ve missed this book, and it’s nice to see it return.  Captain Telsa and her crew are trying to get off of Samson before Mother’s army catches them, but before they can leave, they come across the frog-like guy and Driller.  We get some backstory, check in with Mother, and watch as our heroes try to get off planet.  It’s an exciting issue that moves the story forward a good amount.  Dustin Nguyen’s art is great, as always.

Cable #2 – I think I’m going to like this series, which is a rarity with me and Cable.  I find young Nate more interesting and appealing than the original, so that helps.  It seems that Nate is dating all of the Cuckoos, although Emma Frost isn’t happy about that.  He and one of his dates are investigating a kidnapped mutant child in Philadelphia, but also have a run-in with some Space Knights, which is maybe my favourite aspect of this book right now.  Well, that and Phil Noto’s art…

Empyre #3 – This was a more talkative issue, as various groupings work to figure out how to proceed against the Cotati, Mantis arrives in Wakanda, and we learn a surprising thing about Tanalth that will definitely have implications for everyone.  I’m not hating this event, but this was the weakest issue we’ve seen yet, in terms of exciting moments.  I did like the debates around how to best manage the Cotati problem.

Free Comic Book Day 2020 (Spider-Man/Venom) #1 – The Spider-Man and Black Cat story, by Jed McKay and Patrick Gleason was entertaining but forgettable.  The Venom story, by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman did a great job of building some anticipation for the upcoming Knull storyline, to the point where it had me considering picking up some Venom comics.  I like Cates’s writing, but hate the whole symbiote corner of the Marvel Universe, and so have been ignoring this title.  Is that a mistake?

Legion of Super-Heroes #7 – This issue focuses on some of the fall-out of the first arc, as the Legion tries to address the UP (without being invited) and ends up ruffling even more feathers.  There is general displeasure with Cosmic Boy’s leadership, and his challenger comes as a surprise.  Brian Michael Bendis finally spends some more time on character development and differentiating this Legion from earlier iterations.  Stephanie Byrne provides the art for this issue (I’d have thought that the pandemic would have given Ryan Sook time to get ahead of himself, but maybe this issue was already done before the shutdown), and it looks lovely. There are still a number of characters we haven’t met yet, and I’m most curious about why Mon-El is so cagey around Superboy; I look forward to getting to the bottom of that.

Lost Soldiers #1 – I’m always a sucker for a good war comic, and while I didn’t know for sure that’s what this was going to be going into it, the title gave me that impression (when I know I want to buy a comic based on its creative team, I try to not read any solicitation text or press before I get it).  Aleš Kot is a sometimes inconsistent, but always interesting writer, and I’ll basically grab anything with his name on it.  For this book he’s joined by Luca Casalanguida, whose art is quite nice.  The story is set partly in Vietnam during the war, and partly along the US’s southern border, where the survivors of the Vietnam sequence are still completing missions for the government, despite their advancing age.  It’s still early, so I’m not entirely clear what the plot of this series is going to be, but we do see why these two men are close, and I found myself caring about them pretty quickly.  This book is a good companion to Spike Lee’s new Netflix film, Da Five Bloods, in that it touches on very similar themes.  I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

Rogue Planet #3 – I’m enjoying this science fiction horror series.  This issue has the crew of the salvage ship that arrived on the titular planet starting to realize how bad their situation is, as the local aliens sacrifice one of their number.  This book has a lot of Aliens influence, but Cullen Bunn and Andy MacDonald have made it unique.

Shadow Roads #9 – This book is more than a year late, and I’m happy to see it back on the stands.  Shadow Roads is Cullen Bunn’s follow up to The Sixth Gun, which was a terrific series.  This one perhaps struggled a little to find its own voice, but this is a very good issue.  It has Henry finally meeting his mother, and starting to learn some of the secrets of his birth and background, while his friends work to find and protect him.  Bunn and Brian Hurtt have built an interesting world, and a new approach to Westerns (although when this whole issue takes place in India, it’s not exactly a Western).  I’m looking forward to the next issue.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 – I’ve been liking this book a lot, and found this to be another great issue.  Vader is trying to learn just how Luke was hidden from him, and to do that, he’s partnered with one of Padmé Amidala’s old bodyguards, and has now travelled to Naboo.  Writer Greg Pak ends up relying on a familiar Star Wars trope, with a giant sea creature causing problems, but the rest of the issue moves at a very good pace and shows a strong understanding of Vader.  Rafaelle Ienco is killing it with the art on this book; I like the way he draws Vader, and the attention he pays to lots of little details.  This is shaping up to be a good run.

X-Factor #1 – I don’t know that I ever would have there’d be a time again where I was reading X-Men, X-Factor, Wolverine, Cable, and X-Force all at the same time, along with New Mutants, Marauders, and probably something else I’m forgetting.  I wasn’t going to bother with this series, but as time went on, I started to get more intrigued with the lineup and concept behind this book.  Northstar discovers that his sister, Aurora, has died, but without proof, The Five are not prepared to begin her resurrection.  For that reason, Jean-Paul puts together a team featuring Polaris, Rachel Summers, Prodigy, Eye-Boy, and strangely, Daken, to figure out what happened.  That leads to the return of X-Factor, tasked with investigating the missing and murdered of Krakoa.  It’s an interesting concept, and I like the story potential of this team (even if I’m not a fan of Daken at all).  David Baldeon’s art is occasionally confusing, and this first issue is not exactly new-reader friendly (you’d have to have a lot of X-Men and X-Men adjacent knowledge to follow this), but Leah Williams does a great job of building on what Jonathan Hickman and the others have started.  I like that this could become a mystery of the month book, and has space to feature a lot of lower-profile X-people.  I’m not sure if they are going to continue investigating why Aurora died in the next issue, but I know I’m going to return to find out.

X-Men #10 – I wondered how the Summers House (after watching Top Boy during lockdown, I can’t help but smile every time I see this) being on the moon would involve it in the events of Empyre.  Well, this issue, Vulcan goes for a walk and discovers the Cotati forest in the Blue Area.  I’ve not been too pleased to see Vulcan back in the X-Men books, and couldn’t understand why he had been turned into a comic relief character, but Jonathan Hickman explains that here.  It’s a solid issue, but I’ll admit that I had to use the internet to figure out who Petra and Sway are – I’d forgotten most of what happened in Deadly Genesis, so long ago…

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

Amazing Spider-Man #45

Firefly #18

Pulp

Suicide Squad #7

Walking Dead: The Alien

Bargain Comics:

Assassinistas #1-6 – I loved this miniseries by Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez.  The Assassinistas were a trio of killers who were known for their effectiveness.  When the series opens, they’ve been split for years, and Red October, one of the three, is struggling to make enough money to pay for her son’s college tuition.  Scarlet’s child is kidnapped right after Red October sold her kidnapping insurance, so she has to bring her son, Dominic, back from school to help her get the kid back.  Dom brings his boyfriend Taylor with him, and a new, less effective team is formed.  This book is about maintaining relationships in the face of stress, and learning to trust the people in your life, while also being about disgruntled assassins.  Howard’s writing is tight and very character focused.  Hernandez’s art has always been an acquired taste for me, revolving from being stiff and simple to being easily evocative.  I’m glad I picked this set up a long time ago; it was great.

Far Sector #2-6 – I should have been reading this series from the beginning, but got caught up this week, and decided to add the title to my pullfile starting with next week’s issue.  NK Jemisin has created a fascinating world where three alien races have developed a complicated shared culture, but one full of distrust that is predicated on most of the billions of beings that share space using something called an emotion exploit to tamp down their predatory urges.  Green Lantern Jo Mullein has been assigned to this place, the City Enduring, and is now having to investigate its first murder in centuries.  That leads to riots and scenes that could easily be about events taking place today (these issues predate the start of the pandemic in North America), especially when we see how the local law enforcement chooses to respond to the problems they see.  Jemisin is still unveiling aspects of these societies, and is mixing in an interesting bit about Jo having a different kind of Green Lantern ring from the standard, although why isn’t clear yet.  Jo’s character is really growing on me, as she gets to know this society better, and we get to see her backstory, which is very relevant right now.  Jamal Campbell’s art is terrific, and he’s given lots of opportunities to showcase unique designs.  This is a thoughtful and intelligent series, and one that I can’t recommend enough.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Fire Power Vol. 1: Prelude – I don’t know what it is about me that I don’t have more faith.  I saw that this new series is by Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee, two creators I have tremendous amounts of respect for, yet I didn’t plan on picking this up.  Then I got the Free Comic Book Day first issue, and was impressed and immediately drawn into the story, so I got my hands on the prelude trade, which at $10, is a worthy purchase.  This gives us the backstory to Fire Power, as we meet Own as a young man, when he finds his way to a temple in the remote mountains of China.  Once there, he begins training, and learns that the people who study here learn some control over fire and heat, although no one has been able to do anything too impressive with it.  Owen is an orphan, and is convinced that he can learn the truth about his parents from the temple’s master, who does hold some secrets.  This book is a bit of a mashup of Immortal Iron Fist, the 36th Chamber of Shaolin, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, with Wei Lun modeled a little after Frank Miller’s Stick, but it avoids feeling too derivative.  Kirkman has a proven track record for surprising his readers, and while this book doesn’t hold any big revelations, I’m sure he’s got something planned for down the road.  Samnee is a wonderful character artist, and excels at filling his pages with movement and grace.  The big fight scene at the end of the book is exciting, but the fluidity of the monks playing basketball is what is likely going to stick with me.  This is a great read.

Rusty Brown – I’d bought this dense and large graphic novel during the early days of the lockdown, thinking this might be the book that got me through, but it ended up being a little too depressing for me in that time of heightened anxiety.  I decided this week that it was time to finish it.  There is no denying that Chris Ware is a genius in multiple areas. His approach to layout and comics design is unparalleled, and his ability to portray unlikeable characters (like Jordan Lint) in sympathetic ways is remarkable. This book is a collection of years worth of interrelated stories portraying the teachers and students of an Oklahoma school where no one is exactly happy or even content (with a tangent into post-war pulp science fiction). The stories build to a pretty bleak worldview, contrasted with the bright solid colours Ware so often uses. One aspect of this book that was uncomfortable was the way in which it forced me to come to grips with my own middle age, not so much because I identified with Ware’s characters and situations as that I had an incredibly hard time reading his tiny typeface, and found the book unwieldy when I had to hold it close to my face to see some of the panels that are smaller than a dime.  Still, Ware’s work is incredible, and worth experiencing.

Album of the Week:

Lane 8 – Brightest Lights – I was drawn to this EDM artist’s newest album because three songs feature vocals by Channy Leneagh from the incredible band Poliça.  In addition to her lovely tracks, the whole album is that kind of floaty dance music that I’ve always been drawn to.  I’m happy to have found a new artist in that genre.

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