The Weekly Round-Up #559 With No One’s Rose #4, Decorum #4, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #4 & More Plus The Week In Music!

 Best Comic of the Week:

No One’s Rose #4 – I’ve been very impressed by this series since the first issue.  Zac Thompson and Emily Horn are telling a story about a collapsing society that believes it is the only one that made it through the end of mankind’s dominance on the planet.  The very structured society inside the dome doesn’t know how to make things right, and is facing threats of subversion and sabotage.  Seren is part of that scene, although he questions the plans of the group he’s joined.  Most of this issue focuses on Tenn, who has joined a group exploring the wasteland.  They discover that a community has been thriving in the wasteland, and while Tenn is interested in sharing knowledge, her companions have other plans.  There are a lot of cool ideas in this book, and after four issues, I feel like I’ve read a lot more.  The series is ending with the next one, and it looks like the writers have a lot to do to close things down.  Vault Comics is turning into a publisher to watch, with intelligent and thoughtful books like this one.

Quick Takes:

Cable #3 – I’m starting to think this might be the most unconventional of all the X-books on the stands right now.  Cable is trying to find a kidnapped mutant baby, but has been sidetracked into dealing with the three Galadorian spaceknights who want his sword, and who want to destroy the Earth, which then turns into a hunt for Old Cable’s body.  This in turn means a visit to Deadpool, who is now a king on Staten Island?  I have no idea what’s happening in Wade’s book these days, so that was a bit odd.  Gerry Duggan is making this book a fun read, and Phil Noto is killing the art.  I’m also really just happy to see spaceknights again…

Captain America #22 – I find it curious that most of this series is more focused on Sharon Carter and her allies than it is on Cap.  That’s the case here, as Sharon talks to someone we all thought was dead, and then recruits a new helper to her team.  I’m liking Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run, but it’s not getting anywhere very quickly.

Decorum #4 – I found the first two issues of this series a little difficult to follow, but the third one, which focused on the young courier who the assassin took to the assassin school, was clear and straight-forward.  This issue has nothing to do with that, as Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston focus on the more cosmic aspects of this series, as one group of people try to do something with some eggs, and another group destroys a planet to stop them.  Hickman always works with really large ideas, but one of his strengths is that he usually develops strong connections between the different aspects of his story.  Huddleston’s multi-faceted approach to the story, employing a wide variety of styles, does make this difficult title way more appetizing though.  I wonder if maybe I’m just not bright enough to understand this (has months of lockdown affected me cognitively?  This title makes me think it might have…).

Die! Die! Die! #12 – Man, I love this title.  This issue upends most expectations, as the promised battle with lizard-eyed ninjas doesn’t exactly happen, but we do get to see Barnaby confront the consequences of his choices again, and maybe decide that Russia is not for him.  Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, and Chris Burnham are just having so much fun with this book that each page is a revelation.  I was also thinking about how they’ve found a new way to be offensive that lets everyone in on the joke (except, perhaps, for Russians who are sensitive to how their country gets portrayed in American pop culture).  There is some very cool stuff in this issue.

Empyre: X-Men #4 – This has been such a strange little event side story.  Each issue before this one has had two or three different writers, but they’ve been telling one story, which got complicated in that it featured mutants, an alien plant army, a bunch of mutant zombies, and a septuagenarian group of aggressive gardeners.  The second and third issues felt pretty disjointed and inconsistent, but then X-show runner Jonathan Hickman handled this last issue on his own, wrapping up the Scarlet Witch’s involvement, and giving the throw-away exploding boy character a really nice scene.  I’m glad I stuck through this for this issue, as I figure it has a couple of threads that will connect with the main X-Men story at some point.

Gideon Falls #24 – I stay frustrated with how slight each issue of this series is, but Andrea Sorrentino’s art more than makes up for the paucity of story.  

Hillbilly: The Lizard of Rusty Creek Cave #1 – I never really get Eric Powell’s comics, but this was an amusing story about a village that has been feeding its young to a dragon in a cave for decades, and the young girl that decides she wants the Hillbilly to help her put a stop to it.  Powell’s art is lovely, but his writing still just doesn’t click with me.  This is like some hillbilly version of Hellboy, and while I can see the appeal, it’s not for me.

Last Song #3 – I was very happy to see the return of this very sporadic series about a 90s independent band and the travails of Nicky, its lead singer and main songwriter.  Nicky has a complicated relationship with his band, especially his best friend Drey, who he has very deep feelings for.  This issue opens right after Nicky finally told him how he felt, and follows through the release of their third album and their next big tour, where things finally start falling apart.  One of my favourite things about this series is the way that writer Holly Interlandi has interludes that show us how the band’s fans react to their music in ways that are often touching, and very relatable.  I hope it’s not a long wait until we get the conclusion of this excellent series.

Low #24 – The surviving members of the cast all make their way to the surface in this issue, and once again, the members of the Caine family are at each other’s throats, and betrayal lurks once again.  Rick Remender focuses time and again on the power of hope and optimism in this series, while putting his characters through the wringer time and again.  It’s maybe a little sadistic on his part.  Still, this is a very good series, and I’m excited to see how it ends in a couple of months.

Once & Future #10 – This is a series that continues to grow on me the longer I read it.  It still doesn’t hold up against Kieron Gillen’s other books, but it’s fun.  The scenes of Grendel (the villain from the Beowulf poem, not Matt Wagner’s creation) running amok in an old folks home are an entertaining switch on similar scenes in things like Terminator 2.

Rai #6 – I don’t know why it took Valiant so long to get this book back on the stands, but I was happy to see it again.  Rai and Raijin find a community of Roman-themed refugees, but Rai is not prepared to help them, as focused as he is on his ongoing mission.  I like the fact that Dan Abnett has made Rai an unlikeable character.  It’s good to see this return.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #4 – This series has never really clicked, as there are a few too many moving parts featuring characters we don’t really know very well or care about.  The end of this issue does have me excited for the next one though.

Thor #6 – Donny Cates continues to do his thing, where whatever book he’s working on is really part of his own continuing story.  Thor faces off against both Galactus and the Black Winter, and the issue culminates in a couple of big changes for the Marvel Universe, and a glimpse of a possible future that has people talking.  I like Cates’s writing, but I would like to see him work on b-plots while also writing this larger story.  Nic Klein continues to impress on this book.

Valkyrie: Jane Foster #10 – I thought that Marvel had decided to make this issue online-only, so it was nice to see it return.  I guess this is the last issue of the series though, although there had been more issues solicited before the coronavirus shutdown.  I was more interested in this series when Al Ewing was cowriting it; after he left, I found my attention went with him.  Still, I’m glad that Marvel let the creators have a final issue.

Wolverine #4 – I’m not sure I agree with the way that Ben Percy portrays Logan in this issue.  He seems to be going out of his way to annoy Xavier and Magneto, but in a juvenile way.  Then he slips away to a cabin in the Canadian north to have some drinks, but that turns into something of a trap, in a way that has definitely been done before.  Viktor Bogdanovic’s art is very nice, and perhaps preferable to the Kubert art that started this series.

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

Avengers #35

Batman #97

Excalibur #11

Frogcatchers TP

Lords of Empyre Swordsman #1

Teen Titans #44

Bargain Comics:

Gotham City Monsters #1-6 – A series featuring oddball characters by Steve Orlando and Amancay Nahuelpan should be a no-brainer, but it actually fell a little flat.  Maybe it’s because I got stuck on the idea of Martian mandrills, but I never really connected with any of the characters here, and I found that the story felt a little too formulaic.  Nahuelpan’s art was not as interesting as his work on Clandestino, and it looked like he was trying too hard to fit with DC’s house style.  I wasn’t bored reading this book, but I was never invested either.  I’ll stick to Orlando’s creator-owned work, which is never disappointing.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Abbott – I’ve been impressed with both writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Sami Kivelä in their various ventures, so I was happy to dig into one of their earlier comics, published through Boom!  Elena Abbott is a Black journalist working in Detroit in the early 1970s, as the city starts to tip towards its long decline.  Abbott works for a “white” newspaper, where her exposes on police brutality are earning her some negative attention.  She’s a very hard woman, who has a number of highly structured routines to help her get through her day (such as having two brandies every evening).  The story begins appearing to be about some strange killings (a police horse is found mutilated, as is a man whose upper half has gone missing) but it quickly veers into the supernatural, as we learn that Elena’s lover (not to be confused with her ex-husband or the woman she seems very close to) was killed by an evil force he called the Umbra.  I really like the way Ahmed structured this story, letting information play out slowly until the whole thing came into focus.  Kivelä, whose work is turning up more and more (I loved Undone by Blood, which wrapped up last week) is equally impressive here.  This title is part of the growing wave of books coming from Boom! that are truly impressive.

The Walking Dead: The Alien – This story, by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin, came out on Panel Syndicate years ago, but as much as I love these creators’ work, and The Walking Dead, my lack of interest in digital comics kept me from reading it.  Now it’s been published in a nice oversized hardcover edition, and I was happy to finally immerse myself in this in-continuity story of the early days of the zombie apocalypse, in Barcelona.  A young American tourist is rescued by a woman wearing Medieval armor, who wants his help in enacting her escape plan.  This book is gorgeous, with Martin working in (mostly) black and white, and bringing his own aesthetics and the architecture of Barcelona to the party.  There is a cool connection to Kirkman’s work, and I guess this also answers some questions of how the rest of the world managed the outbreak, which I was always curious about as I read The Walking Dead.  I miss the main title a great deal (I just got caught up with the show on Netflix, which has had me feeling nostalgic), and this helped satisfy that gap for a little while.  It’s very good, if maybe a little too short.

The Week in Music:

The Gaslamp Killer – Heart Math – The Gaslamp Killer got cancelled a while back, due to some awful behaviour, but I guess he’s back, as this new album was quietly released (I didn’t even know about it) a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t know where I stand on TGK as a person, but as a musician, he’s as good as ever.  This instrumental album runs through a few genres, from hiphop to the LA beat scene sound, and dips a toe into psych rock and jazz, and incorporates lots of live instruments with appearances from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Amir Yaghmai, and The Heliocentrics.  It is a great groove, and I hate the fact that it’s not being released (as far as I can tell) on CD.

Greg Foat – Symphonie Pacifique – Greg Foat is a British jazz pianist and bandleader I’ve been following for some time, but who has never sounded as good as he does on this beautiful album.  Foat has a lot of talented musicians working with him on this outing, including brilliant drummer Moses Boyd, and the music here sounds big.  I found this to be an emotional record to listen to, the perfect soundtrack to a night of quiet reading.

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