The Weekly Round-Up #561 With We Only See Them When They’re Dead #1, Grendel Kentucky #1, Lonely Receiver #1, Sex Criminals: Sexual Gary #1, Spy Island #1 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

We Only See Them When They’re Dead #1 – Boom! has another hit on their hands, with this new science fiction series from Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo.  Ewing has shown that he has a real skill for big cosmic stories in his work at Marvel (Ultimates, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Immortal Hulk), but it’s great to see him making his own characters in this book.  In the 24th century, mankind is mining the bodies of dead gods that turn up in space.  This is a lucrative venture, but comes with governmental oversight, overzealous guards, and squabbles between different crews.  The crew of the Vihaan II, a four-person autopsy ship, have bigger plans in mind, and are just about ready to put them into action.  Di Meo’s art is futuristic and a bit manga-influenced, and the colours, by Di Meo and Mariasara Miotti, are pretty cool.  I came away from this first issue with a lot of questions, and with an eagerness to find the answers.  This is a title worth keeping an eye on.

Quick Takes:

Ascender #12 – Characters return from the dead this month, as Andy finds he’s not alone as he runs from Mother’s army, and as Mother discovers who is behind the resistance to her (former) rule.  I’m very pleased with the way this series continues to build on the end of Descender, and showcases fantastic Dustin Nguyen artwork.

Bang #3 – It’s really nice to see Dark Horse books back on the stands (I think this was the first week I’ve gotten any since the lockdown began).  It took me a little bit to get back in the groove of Bang, Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres’s love letter to 80s pulp characters.  This issue focuses on a woman who has an AI car that has gained sentience, and that helps her in spy-type things.  It’s just as cool as it sounds, and looks great.  I like the way Kindt is assembling his characters for the big showdown with Goldmaze.

Cable #4 – Cable takes care of his Spaceknight problem in an interesting and new way, and then wraps up his date with Esme.  This book is growing on me – it’s pretty offbeat and odd, and isn’t doing a whole lot to develop Cable as a character, but it’s enjoyable and quirky.  Also, I’m never upset about buying a book with Phil Noto art in it.

Die #13 – Lots of big revelations this month, as Ash has a conversation about HG Wells, who was instrumental in the structure of Die (and, apparently, RPGs in general), and as the other party chats with some fair folk, who reveal the grand intent of Die, and the threat it holds for the rest of the world.  Kieron Gillen is a very structured writer, and you can almost hear the pieces fitting together with this issue.  I wonder, if I was a gamer, if I wouldn’t be picking up on a lot of references, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in my ignorant state.  This is a very compelling book.

Empyre #6 – I guess it’s a good thing that I read some of the Fantastic Four tie-ins to Empyre this last week, or I would have been very confused by the sequence featuring Valeria, Franklin, the two kids from the casino, and FF-branded Spider-Man and Wolverine.  The rest of the issue has a lot in it, as writers Al Ewing and Dan Slott reach culminations in all the storylines in this event.  I’m left with some questions about Hulkling and his doppelganger, but I figure that’s what the Aftermath issue is going to be for.  This event suffered from the current Marvel approach to events – had the story stayed more focused, and had fewer tie-ins, it would have been more effective.  So far as big summer stories go, it was enjoyable enough I guess.  I’m most interested in the consequences of this issue for She-Hulk.

Fire Power #3 – I’m glad I stuck with this title, as I find myself getting drawn further and further into the story that Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee are crafting.  While Owen’s family starts to quietly prepare for trouble, we start to see the extent to which the two martial arts factions that want him are already involved in his life and family.  I’m very glad I picked up the prequel OGN for this title, as I think I’d be lost right now had I not read it.  This book is highly recommended if you like martial arts action.

Grendel, Kentucky #1 – I don’t know anything about the writer of this new AWA series, Jeff McComsey, but when I saw that this series is illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards, I hoped for a The Winter Men effect, and that I might be stumbling on a new favourite series (that hopefully, unlike The Winter Men, doesn’t take years to finish).  Grendel, Kentucky is a small mining town where just about everyone is in the weed business.  The pater familia of the town has just died in a bear attack, so the town gathers for his funeral, including Marnie, a young woman he raised, but who has had to leave the town.  Marnie runs a biker gang, the Harlots, that seems to be suffering some hard times, but perhaps in the wake of her “father’s” death, she may have found a path forward.  This issue gives the impression that the series is shaping up to be a decent 70s crime series, but then the last page reminds you that the first two are kind of odd, and the reader realizes that the name Grendel is not an accident (as has nothing to do with Matt Wagner’s work).  So, once again, Tommy Lee Edwards’s name has drawn me into something very intriguing, and I need to add the rest of this book to my pullfile.  His work is as good as it’s ever been, and McComsey has an interesting approach to revisiting the oldest piece of literature in the English canon.  I’m down.

Guardians of the Galaxy #6 – This issue focuses on Nova, as he attends therapy for the first time.  It’s an excellent issue, tying together so many threads of Richard’s life (including his relationship with his father), and exploring his relationship with Gamora.  I like how Al Ewing is keeping the Guardians split into two teams for now, and balancing their screen time.  From the time that Brian Michael Bendis started writing the Guardians, I found that they always felt a little off, even with subsequent writers (except for Donny Cates).  It’s only now, with Ewing in charge, that I feel this title has the potential to be as good as it was when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were writing it.  

Lonely Receiver #1 – Zac Thompson and Jen Hickman have a new series at Aftershock that’s about a lonely woman who has purchased a smartphone that provides an AI to love and look after her.  Sadly, that doesn’t go so well, as the Rhion, the AI, begins to develop her own life, and eventually leave her purchaser (not her owner).  This is a familiar theme, reminding me of Thompson and Nadler’s Come Into Me, with it’s weirdly fleshy technology.  It took a few pages for me to get into this, but then I was quickly hooked, especially once it becomes clear that there may be more than one AI living in the woman’s house.  Thompson is a great writer, and Jen Hickman’s art is very nice; this is a promising debut for an oddball niche series.

Lost Soldiers #2 – I’m very interested in Aleš Kot’s new series with Luca Casalanguda.  It’s about old soldiers working as security contractors, and the events they shared in Vietnam that brought them together.  I do question the timelines, as I would assume that there’s not a lot of demand for ex-military in their sixties.  Kot is exploring PTSD, but keeps things vague and hinted at a lot of the time.  He’s an inconsistent writer, but he always has interesting ideas.  Casalanguda’s art is nice, and I like Heather Marie Lawrence Moore’s colouring, especially in the Vietnam scenes.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #18 – This title has been MIA for a while now, and I’d kind of forgotten about the whole Outlawed event that this ties into.  I wish it didn’t, as Saladin Ahmed has done a fine job of telling his own story with Miles.  Our hero finds a doppelganger in his home, and has a hard time fighting him.  This book has lost some of its momentum since the lockdown, but I hope it gets back on track soon.

New Mutants #12 – Illyana, Dani, and Glob decide to go after the people behind the website that keeps doxxing mutants (it’s called Dox, in case you wanted things to be subtle), and for the first time, we see a more serious side to Glob.  Ed Brisson has chosen an interesting character to try to elevate; Glob has always been used as a bit of a joke, and it’s curious to see him becoming such a prominent member of the cast of this book, and to see that there’s more to him than we’d seen before (that’s a bit of a joke).

Sacred Six #2 – I’m very intrigued by this new book written by Christopher Priest, that combines a number of characters from the Vampirella universe.  There’s a city run by vampires, and another run by an evangelical college, and they are moving towards conflict with one another, as Lilith furthers her agenda.  I’ll admit that I was a little lost at places here, it having been a while since issue one came out, but like any good Priest comic, it needs to be read carefully and at least twice to pick up on everything.  I really like the opening pages by Jae Lee, but am also impressed with Gabriel Ibarra’s art for the main story.  

Sex Criminals: Sexual Gary #1 – Sexual Gary was a bit character in Sex Criminals, but now has his own one-shot by Matt Fraction and Rachael Stott.  Gary is a poly-sexual with an undying enthusiasm for sex.  Gary was with Ana for a long time, and in this book we learn about how he screwed that up, and where his desire took him.  It’s amusing, a little sad, and perhaps very affirming for some people, and also makes me wonder if we are going to see more one-offs set in the SexCrim universe in coming years.  

Shadow Roads #10 – The arc wraps up with the real truth of Henry’s parentage, and a big fight with Faeries in India.  I like what Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and AC Zamudio are doing with this series, but it was hurt by the long delay between issues 8 and 9.  This issue suggests that another arc is coming, but nothing has been solicited yet.  I would like to continue to support this book, even if it’s never clicked as well as The Sixth Gun, which it kind of follows up on, did.

Spy Island #1 – I’ve liked Chelsea Cain’s comics so far, and was interested in the idea behind this series – that there is an island in the Bermuda Triangle chock full of spies.  Our narrator is one such spy, and the book opens with her killing a man, before going to a fundraiser to help save the mermaids.  Cain is not afraid of wild ideas (check out Man-Eater), and enjoys playing around with elements of design and multi-media (with co-creator Lia Miternique taking on that role).  Artist Elise McCall takes a hip approach to the art, and in all, this book is a lot of fun.  I’m curious to see where Cain takes it.

Strange Adventures #5 – The Pykkt, the alien race that Adam and Alana Strange defeated on Rann, are now on their way towards Earth, and despite the superhero community’s current distrust of Adam, the President wants him in charge of the task force responsible for protecting the planet.  We also see how the Ranns recruited the rock people of Rann to their side.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and it’s not yet clear just what is being kept hidden from us.  Tom King is so good at plotting stories like this, and I enjoy the two different art styles by Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner.  This is a high quality book.

Vampirella #13 – I realized, too late, that I should have read this book before reading Sacred Six this week, as it would have flowed a lot better.  This is Priest at his most Priestly, as Doctor Chary tells Ella about his run-in with her mother, and why he doesn’t believe it to have happened.  We get a lot of the setup for Sacred Six covered here, as the connections between Tulsa (Black Wall Street) and Ashtorne (Chocolate Mayberry) are made clear.  I love how Priest has made me care about Vampirella and her world, and I love sitting back and watching his complicated plotting slowly reveal itself.  I never thought this would be one of my favourite titles.

Wolverine #5 – Logan’s up against some vampires in the north, but gets some help from some rebellious vampire teens.  I like the feel of this issue, which is not like any of the other X-books at this point (although with Sword of X starting, that individuality is about to be wiped away).

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

Fantastic Four #23

Hellblazer Rise and Fall #1

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Off Season – James Sturm’s latest graphic novel was published last year, and is a solid example of the sad dad school of comics.  Mark is recently separated from his wife, and is trying to make ends meet by working for a contractor that seems pretty unreliable.  Mark is struggling – he has a hard time managing his children and putting his life back together.  His wife, Lisa, is struggling too, especially since she was a big Hilary Clinton supporter, and doesn’t quite know what to do now that Donald Trump is in the White House.  Mark keeps messing up, and giving in to his anger, and can’t really see how that is making his situation so much worse.  This is an interesting book, told in short chapters on pages that only show two panels at a time.  The storytelling feels very restrained, and while it’s easy to feel sorry for Mark, it’s a little hard to identify with him. 

The Week in Music:

Lowell Brams & Sufjan Stevens – Aporia – Sufjan Stevens is an artist that only occasionally shows up on my radar, when he does something more unconventional.  This album, a collaboration with his stepfather, is definitely that.  These instrumental tracks are lovely and strange, as the two artists explore New Age meditative music, as well as ambient electronic music.  The project holds together as an album, but does undergo some shifts in genre and tone.  It’s peaceful, but not always.  I imagine that subsequent plays of this album will always reveal something new and interesting.

Naeem – Startisha – Naeem used to go by the name Spankrock, but I’m not actually familiar with his output under that name.  What drew me to this album, which is a mix of alternative r’n’b and rap, is that it’s on the 37d03d (pronounced ‘people’) label, and features collaboration with Justin Vernon, Swamp Dogg, Ryan Olson, Psymun, and Velvet Negroni.  It’s got some great songs and lots of weird beats, and it makes me happy.

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