SWORD #1 – I’ve been looking forward to this series since I first heard it was launching. Al Ewing brings Abigail Brand back in charge of SWORD, only now it’s Krakoa’s space agency. Ewing has a lot of qualities that remind me of Jonathan Hickman, and he embraces Hickman’s tendency to over-organize and think of things in terms of systems. The Peak, the space station where this series takes place, is run by ‘The Six’, a group of mutants whose abilities complement one another the way the Five’s do in the resurrection chambers on Krakoa, giving the mutants a serious presence in space. Magneto is our POV character here, giving us the lay of the land, but it is the rest of the cast that has me excited. We’ve got (young) Cable, Manifold, and Frenzy in key positions, supported by mutants like Lila Cheney, Armor, and Random. For people who love deep cuts, we’ve also got Peeper, formerly of the Mutant Force. This book acknowledges the work Ewing is doing on both Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy, restoring the sense of casually shared universe that is lacking whenever there isn’t an event taking place these days. I’m not sure I figured out what the object Manifold’s team was searching for, but I’m very interested in watching this book unfold, and hope that Valerio Schiti is sticking around to draw it for a while.
Crossover #2 – Donny Cates sets a lot of things in motion with this issue, as we learn that he’s happily killing off many rival writers from the comic world, and perhaps using this odd story idea to comment on Trump’s immigration policies, especially that of family separation. In the first issue we learned that various fictional comics universes crossed into the real world, although all the fictional characters are being kept in the Denver area by a large forcefield. When a girl from that world turned up in a comics store, it led to a lot of chaos. Now the store owner, and his young employee, have to figure out what to do with the girl, while the young man who burned the store down to appease his religious fanatic father, is given a strange job by the government. Cates is writing this from a very self-aware place, and the effect of that is cool, as he references story structure, making predictable events look less predictable. Geoff Shaw does his usual fine work on the art, and I’m definitely invested in this series.
The Devil’s Red Bride #3 – This historic Japanese story (made by non-Japanese creators, it’s probably worth noting) continues to entertain. We learn more about the nature of Ketsuko’s apparent connection to a demon, as a haunted monastery doesn’t provide much refuge for the travelling ronin. This is a decent horror story, and I like it.
Giga #2 – I’m really liking this latest Vault series, and have been saying for a while now that writer Alex Paknadel is going places. This series is about a society that lives inside the husks of dead giant robots, which they worship as gods. Our hero, a wheelchair-bound disgraced acolyte is hiding a rogue AI, and it brings him into conflict with some of his former colleagues. There’s a lot going on in this book, which is pretty dense, but never dull. John Lê’s art is very nice, and I’m left intrigued to learn more.
Guardians of the Galaxy #9 – Brian Michael Bendis and the Guardians movie more or less ruined Peter Quill for me, but it looks like Al Ewing, the guy who appears to care the most about Marvel continuity, is working to make some fixes in the character now. We discover that Quill did not die at the end of the first story arc of this latest series, but instead was transported to another world, where he becomes a hero and part of a throuple over many years, before the Greek gods come looking for him. This issue acknowledges the two origins that Peter has in the Marvel universe, and it looks like Ewing might reconcile many of the issues with the character, and work out just how his element gun operates at some point. This is another solid issue, with excellent Juan Cabal art. I’m not all that excited to see the book tying into the King in Black stuff next issue, but I can live with it because I trust Ewing to still tell a good story.
Lonely Receiver #4 – Zac Thompson and Jen Hickman’s story of romantic obsession and the dangers of becoming too entwined with technology continues to impress and disturb in equal measures. There are things I’ve never really understood about this series, but it definitely leaves me not wanting to reach for my phone when I finish an issue. Thompson’s writing is sharp here, and Hickman manages to make the orgy scenes look both appealing and sad at the same time. I’m not sure how this is all going to end next issue, and I look forward to seeing what’s going to happen.
Marauders #16 – Now that we’re through all the X of Swords stuff, it’s time to deal with the fact that Sebastian Shaw killed Kate Pryde in an attempt to take over her role in Hellfire. Kate and Emma Frost go looking for revenge, and they are a lot tougher than I’d have expected. This is a fun, yet dark, issue, and it’s nice to see it getting back on track.
Resident Alien: Your Ride’s Here #2 – Harry goes about his life, while the government agent that’s tracked him down starts digging into him, going so far as to break into his office at night. This series is ending after this miniseries, I believe, and it’s a shame, as Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse have put together a charming cast of characters who are almost as interesting as the alien who has been posing as a doctor and solving their town’s crimes for years.
Star Wars #9 – I’d expected to see more of Poe Dameron’s parents in this run, and now they get most of this issue to themselves, as they head out with Lando and Lobot (and their fellow Pathfinder, Needle) to attempt a heist as part of a plan to develop a new code for the Rebel Alliance. This is a good adventure issue that manages to pack in a fair amount of story. It’s decent.
Sweet Tooth: The Return #2 – More answers just lead to more questions, as we follow Gus on his escape from captivity, only to get caught again. I’m still not sure what Jeff Lemire has planned for this series, which is now one-third over, but it’s great to see these familiar characters in such a strange and new setting. I also, by the end of the book, got a strong urge to reread Elephantmen, or revisit the world of Hip Flask.
Year Zero Vol. 2 #2 – We continue four new stories about life around the world after a zombie plague hits. A family survives at sea in Northern Europe, even with another boat of raiders chasing them. The servants of a drug lord in Central America tries to adjust to living with a psychopath, while a pregnant teen in an American Costco tries to figure out her next steps, and a man in Rwanda has to make a decision. Whereas the first set of Year Zero stories mostly focused on people wanting revenge, this one seems to be more focused on dealing with unexpected guests. It’s a cool take on zombie stories, and I’m enjoying it.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Batman Black & White Vol. 3 #1
The Week in Music:
Matthew Halsall – Salute to the Sun – Trumpet player Matthew Halsall can always be counted on for meditative, relaxing jazz that achieves levels of true beauty. This holds true for this latest album, with seven lovely tracks. Gondwana Records have had a good, if understated, year.
Ana Roxanne – Because of a Flower – Ana Roxanne’s newest album is a warm ambient bath of sound that is more structured than her last release. She intersperses her soundscapes with fragments of poetry and warm samples. This is a nice antidote to quarantine and holiday stress.
Yussef Dayes Trio – Welcome to the Hills – Yussef Dayes had a great album with Tom Misch earlier this year (although not as great as his classic Yussef Kamaal album), and now returns with his trio – Rocco Palladino and Charles Stacey accompany him – for a nice long blast of his intricate drum patterns. This album blends jazz and hiphop, and is great to vibe out to.