The Weekly Round-Up #564 With Immortal She-Hulk #1, Gideon Falls #25, Low #25, Rai #7, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #5 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

Immortal She-Hulk #1 – I love Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk, and the way he’s been linking the various gamma-powered people of the Marvel Universe to immortality.  Recently, he revealed the villain behind everything that’s been happening, and a few other surprises too.  The one thing that the regular Hulk title has been missing has been She-Hulk, who has been working with the Avengers, and I’ve felt, off-limits to Ewing.  But then Ewing got the chance to kill her off in Empyre, and bring her back again, and that led to this excellent one-shot that has Jen examining her possible immortality and what it might mean for her.  Ewing hints at other events in the main title, and generally gets right the sense of displacement that Jen is feeling.  It’s interesting that she opens up to Wolverine, and the scene of her chatting with Thor rings very true.  Ewing is maybe Marvel’s best writer right now, and pairing him with an artist like Jon Davis-Hunt guarantees a very good read.  I’m very happy I picked this up.

Quick Takes:

Daredevil #22 – As DD prepares for the possibility of prison time, he rushes around trying to set things to rights for Hell’s Kitchen and the people that the Stromwyns are trying to put out of their homes, and that, oddly, leads him to chat with Tony Stark.  At the same time, the Kingpin goes to see Typhoid Mary, a character I am so happy to see back in this title.  Chip Zdarsky is subtly exploring the value of a superhero in modern society, as Matt stands up against corporate greed in a way that is rarely seen in comics.  He also has been juggling a lot of threads in this storyline that have been working nicely together to weave a pretty big DD story.  He’s joined for this issue by artist Francesco Mobili, whose work closely resembles regular artist Marco Checchetto.  

Doctor Doom #7 – With Doom finally hitting the stands, I think the only Marvel title I buy that hasn’t come back yet is Black Panther, and I really wish it would.  I’m happy to see Doom again, as Christopher Cantwell and Salvador Larocca are doing some very interesting things with him.  Doom returns to his inner circle (riding a bear!) and works to decide which of them betrayed him, before going to visit the man that has taken the throne of Latveria.  That scene is brutal.  At the same time, Adam Brashear works to fix the black hole that is threatening the Earth.  Cantwell has done a spectacular job of plotting out this book, and I really like his take on Doom.  I’m not sure how I feel about his “tribunal mask” though – it’s a very strange look for him.  I think it’s very odd that the ads, and even the expiry date for the digital code in this comic suggest that it was printed back in March (this is confirmed in the publisher’s indicia).  Why did Marvel warehouse this book for so long?

Gideon Falls #25 – When Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino started this series, I never thought that the odd collection of characters in it – an unhappy priest, an obsessive compulsive, his psychiatrist, and a small town cop – would end up revisiting the lead up to Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars, or the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but that’s where we are.  This issue helps to explain many of the things that readers will have figured out by now, as the various other dimensions that link through Gideon’s Falls start to collapse on themselves, and the cast has to get back together.  As always Sorrentino does amazing work.

Low #25 – After this, there is only one issue of Low left, although Rick Remender has a lot to do in that issue.  This entire issue is focused on Stel Caine running from the Burnt and the Voldin army as they fight the people of Salus.  Things look very bleak – there is death everywhere, her daughter tries to kill her, and Salus, the great domed city, is not in any shape to fly off to a better world.  Remender can be pretty brutal to his characters, and that’s especially true in this series.  Greg Tocchini really helps bring the mayhem in this issue, as he shows us utterly chaotic battle scenes.  I’m going to miss this series when it’s gone.

Rai #7 – I feel like this series has lost a few steps after its long hiatus.  Rai is trying to be a better person, as he helps a woman who helps him, but it appears they are up against more threats than they previously thought.  At the same time, Ray Garrison shows up in future cyberspace, and tries to get Lula to help him.  This is the only Valiant book I’m getting right now, and I’m fine with sticking with it for a while, but I think I expected more from Dan Abnett’s writing.

Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy #4 – I’m so happy to see this back on the stands.  I’m not sure if this was drawn before the lockdown or not, but it seems like artist Tonci Zonjic has gotten even better than he was before.  Jeff Lemire is writing a dark take on Batman and Robin, more like what things would have been like had the Punisher taken in a sidekick, and it’s all very good.  I like that Lemire is expanding on the Black Hammer universe, and am really enjoying the Renee Montoya character (I don’t remember her actual name, but that’s basically who she is).

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #5 – I would think that a big fight (or two) between Beilert Valance and Boba Fett would be pretty exciting, but this series continues to operate on a slow burn, and continues to not draw me in like it should.  In many ways, it feels like Ethan Sacks is going through the motions with this series, especially after Valance was written so well in the Target Vader miniseries.  I’m still not sure if this is a miniseries or an ongoing, but I’m losing interest…

20XX #6 – Jonathan Luna and co-writer Lauren Keely wrap up their futuristic story about telekinetic gangs in Alaska.  They really packed a lot of content into this series (this issue is oversized, but regular-priced, which I always appreciate), building a very well-realized world, and complex characters.  At the core of this book is a love story, and while it’s not exactly resolved, I imagine that we won’t be returning to this world.  Luna has had a string of high-quality series over the years, and his work continues to impress me.  It’s amusing to me that when this series started, the fact that the non-powered characters walk around with facemasks looked exotic still.  Now, it doesn’t stand out at all.

Undiscovered Country #8 – This book just keeps getting stranger, as the group of protagonists begin to explore Unity, the second section of the United States they’ve been able to access.  It’s a world of networked flora and fauna, and a much more rational approach to living than we first saw.  I still find this book hard to follow, but also find enough good characterization and interesting ideas to keep me around.

X of Swords: Creation #1 – Wow, this is a lot.  A lot of money, a lot of concepts, and a lot of comics.  Jonathan Hickman’s massive crossover launches here, chapter one of twenty-two (!!), and with a $7 price tag.  Hickman (and co-writer Tini Howard) fill this issue with armies of ancient lands, as the offspring of Apocalypse wage war on Otherworld, and the people of Krakoa find themselves involved.  I am surprised to see that Hickman has gone to the crossover so early in his run, after he spent so much time introducing other ideas that haven’t had the space they need to grow.  Still, I found myself enjoying this book. I thought it was cheap that the Free Comic Book Day stuff was included, and didn’t find some of the heel turns as shocking as they were maybe expected to be.  At the same time, Hickman and Howard left enough character moments in to keep things interesting.  I am usually skeptical about books that involve quests, or themed objects of those quests (like the ten swords discussed here), but I’m willing to go along for this ride.  I’m curious to see how the various chapters, spread throughout the various X-books, will fit together, and whether or not Hickman and his editors are able to maintain control over the whole storyline.  This is quite an investment, and one I hope pays off.  I just realized I didn’t say anything about Pepe Larraz’s art.  While he may be a superstar these days, I find his work a little unspectacular.  It looks very nice, but I don’t think I’d be able to identify a page as being his work.

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

Blackhand & Ironhead Vol. 1 HC

Suicide Squad #9

Witchfinder Vol. 6: Rein of Darkness TP

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Showa 1953-1989: A History of Japan – I’ve had the final volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s massive history maga series for a while, but was waiting to see if I could get the second and third volumes before I read it.  I realized that wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon, so I dove in recently, and got a lot out of it.  Mizuki took an odd approach to this series, which is both memoir and historical overview.  He alternates between chapters that explain the changes Japan went through as it transitioned from post-war hardships to becoming an economic and technological wonder and chapters that recount his own life and experiences.  The blend can get confusing at times, especially since he is not completely married to a linear progression, but it is always interesting to see how the larger events taking place in Japan and the world impacted his own life.  As a manga-ka, it makes sense that much of his life was given over to meeting deadlines and hustling for work, but Mizuki didn’t focus much on his own achievements.  What’s notable is that he transitioned from a life of poverty (at the beginning of the book, most of his possessions were in hock) to one of increased comfort, and was able to take many trips to New Guinea, where he had friends from the war (although these chapters read as pretty racist and are uncomfortable).  I learned a lot from this book, and do want to still get those middle volumes some day.

The Week in Music:

Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper – Glassforms – I’ve been a fan of Philip Glass’s music for decades, especially his solo piano work.  On this album, Bruce Brubaker and Max Cooper play some of my favourite pieces, but they distort and alter them in such a way as to make them sound fresh, alive, and kind of alien.  Mad Rush, one of those pieces I return to again and again, is shockingly different, and wonderful.  This is a very cool, very serious project that I know I’m going to return to as much as I do the originals.

Zara McFarlane – Songs of an Unknown Tongue – Zara McFarlane was my gateway into the London jazz scene, with her first, beautiful album.  Interestingly, she’s moving away from the more traditional jazz vocalist roots that she started with, for this more pop-inflected album that experiments with Jamaican folk rhythms in ways that needed to be pointed out to someone like me.  She sings about colonialism and the difficulty of the present moment, and the album is really quite lush and beautiful.  It’s so cool to see how she has progressed as an artist, and continues to grow.

Run The Jewels – RTJ 4 – Not living in America, but being part of a culture that is dependent on it, there’s a lot that I don’t understand.  I count Killer Mike and El-P among my tour guides, and I love how political their work is, and how it never pulls any punches.  This fourth RTJ album is a very consistent, coherent piece of work that, I feel, captures so much of this moment.  And, it bangs.

Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, & Marcos Valle – Jazz is Dead 3 – This incredible series continues, with Brazilian legend Marcos Valle collaborating with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.  Like the other entry in the run (the first is a compilation/teaser), the collaboration is total, and largely driven by Valle’s sound.  Most of the tracks are incredibly smooth.

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