The Weekly Round-Up #619 With Immortal Hulk #50, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #15, Strange Adventures #12, Mazebook #2 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

Immortal Hulk #50 – Al Ewing and Joe Bennett wrapped up their incredible run on this series with an 80-page issue that doesn’t have any backup stories or fillers.  The Ewing/Bennett approach to Hulk has been incredibly original, as they’ve given us an entirely different take on the character, the system of Hulks that inhabit Banner’s head, and other Gamma-characters.  They gave us Charlene McGowan and Jacke McGee, two excellent new supporting characters, reinvented Rick Jones and Betty Ross Banner, General Fortean, and the Abomination, and have one of the best takes on The Leader I’ve ever seen.  This series was not always an easy read, as Ewing grappled with big themes, but it was always pretty fascinating.  Bennett’s work has never been more expressive or impressive, as he twisted Hulk’s body and facial expressions in new and disturbing ways.  Ewing based much of this run on Peter David’s seminal Hulk work, both the Joe Fixit days, and the era of Banner’s intensive psycho-analysis and confrontation with his father’s memory.  I was a little late to the party on this book, picking it up in back issues before realizing I needed to add it to my pull-file, and I’m so glad I started buying it regularly.  I’ve been saying for a while that I think Ewing is the best and most exciting writer working at Marvel today, and believe that this book helped cement that reputation.  This final, massive issue has the Hulks confronting Sterns in Hell, and reveals a lot about that character, and his intergenerational connection to Banner.  It wraps up the series very nicely (alongside this week’s Gamma Flight), and clears the deck for Donny Cates to take over the book in a few weeks.  Personally, I think Marvel should let the property rest for a little while, as there’s a lot for Hulk fans to digest here.  I highly recommend that people who haven’t been reading this series check it out; it is a truly memorable take on an old character, and is like nothing else you’ve been reading.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer Reborn #4 – You know that when you depend on Colonel Weird to give you answers, the whole situation must be a mess.  Lucy is visited by the old Colonel, and we learn why she gave up being Black Hammer twenty years before.  He also does something to get her to take up the mantle again, and it’s pretty extreme.  I’ve been enjoying this series, and the fresh way in which Jeff Lemire is expanding on this world he’s created.  

Gamma Flight #5 – I was pretty happy with this series, which gave characters I love, like Puck, Absorbing Man, and Titania, more screen time than they’ve gotten in years.  I’m curious to know where Al Ewing is heading now that most of his Marvel books have wrapped up, and he’s not actually the writer on Venom past the first issue.

Iron Man #13 – Tony and Korvac have their big fight on Galactus’s ship, which is oddly proportioned for regular-sized humans.  Chris Cantwell has some interesting ideas in this series, but I don’t think the execution has worked properly.  I’ve never really felt all that invested in this story.

Mazebook #2 – This new series by Jeff Lemire is an emotional punch to the stomach.  Will knows that his daughter is dead, but also believes that she called him in the middle of the night.  He goes to his ex-wife for potential answers, and is starting to crack up a little.  Lemire has us walking slowly alongside the man, and leaves us wondering what is real and what is imagined.  This book is gorgeous, in that Lemire style, and makes excellent use of monochromatic pages.  I also love that it’s so clearly set in my city, and captures the sense of rapid change taking place here, as Will tries desperately to hold on to the past.  

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #31 – I’m not sure if Christopher Allen is the new ongoing artist on this series, or if his work on this issue is a one-off, but I enjoyed his work on this book, bringing it a real Neal Adams vibe.  Miles is out on a date with Starling when Taskmaster, one of my favourite villains, appears to attack them.  I’m still having a hard time figuring out Miles’s new outfit – it must be brutal to draw.  I don’t think I like it.

Monster Kill Squad #2 – Christos Gage continues to dig into his series about a military unit that specializes in killing the monsters that have been appearing across Earth over the last few years.  The Squad is trying to stop the creatures from reforming Pandora’s Box, but a mission in Ontario leads to the revelation that one of the Squad has been lying about his background.  Gage does good character work in this issue, and Tomas Giorello makes this book very attractive.  This is a good series from Bad Idea.

Ninjak #4 – So I guess this series is on hiatus for a while, after not exactly even wrapping up this first arc.  I don’t know what’s going on with Valiant these days.  This newest Ninjak series, by Jeff Parker and Javier Pulido, shows a ton of promise (even if there’s been a lot of discussion around how hard some of Pulido’s pages are to follow), and I think pausing until the new year will disrupt any momentum the book is building.  It also looks like Mike Norton is set to take over the art, which I’m not upset about, but I feel like that will be a big tonal shift for this series, from Pulido’s playful and bright art.  And as always, don’t judge this book by its covers, because they look nothing like the interior.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #15 – Aphra, Sana, Lucky, and Ariole fight to escape Crimson Dawn’s ship, with Aphra discovering a few things.  I enjoyed how Alyssa Wong wove this book into the event, and am curious to see what she has planned next for Aphra.

Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #5 – Charles Soule wraps up this Star Wars event, which is actually the first part of a trilogy.  I really enjoyed this book, and most of the tie-ins that I read, although I feel the need to complain one more time that there is never actually a war between any bounty hunters.  At best, we get a battle between a Hutt fleet and a Star Destroyer.  Luke Ross killed on this book, and I appreciate how it sets up a future for the Star Wars series, given that we all knew that Han was going to end up in Jabba’s palace no matter what happened here.  There are some threads left over, but I know they’ll be addressed in the remaining tie-in issues.

Strange Adventures #12 – Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Evan Shaner wrap this series up with a solid ending, but I’m left wondering, once again, what is considered continuity in DC’s Black Label books, and what isn’t.  Given the ending of last month’s issue, I suspect that this book is not canon, and that always grates a little, especially given how well it’s developed Adam Strange, Alanna, and Mister Terrific, but it also doesn’t take away from the strength of King’s writing here.  I enjoyed this series more than I expected to, given that I’m not a big Strange fan, and really liked the split narrative approach that was taken throughout.  This was a cool take on an old character that badly needed some rehabilitation.  It will probably read really well in trade form.

Superman and the Authority #4 – Okay, so now this series is in continuity, but Superman is just older and greyer than he has been in his own books?  DC does not make things simple sometimes.  I regret getting this series.  There is no real threat that requires bringing the Authority together, and it kind of feels like Grant Morrison only realized that partway through the third issue, and then tossed the Ultra-Humanite and Brainiac into the mix to make it all work.  I’ve been enjoying a lot of DC titles lately, but I’m wondering if Morrison is past their prime when it comes to making a book like this cool.

The Unbelievable Unteens #3 – We learn just what happened to the Unteens that made them forget their powers and lives for so long, but Jack learns it’s not enough to get everyone back together to try to rescue Snapdragon.  It seems like Jeff Lemire and Tyler Crook are having fun with this book.  Crook’s art, which flips from his modern style to a more 80s look, is great.

X-Force #24 – Black Tom helps Beast with his problems, while Mikhail Rasputin makes more trouble for Colossus.  This is an alright issue, but this series never really feels like it’s going anywhere.

X-Men #4 – This issue has Nightmare paying a call on the X-Men while they sleep, and it really didn’t do it for me.  I mean, we don’t learn anything new about Scott or Jean when the demon enters their dreams, and most of the team doesn’t even show up.  After last issue, I felt like this book had a direction, but with this one, it seems to be meandering some.  This has been my complaint about Gerry Duggan’s writing in the past – he’s trying to do the Jonathan Hickman gestalt thing, where individual pieces add up to a much richer whole, but he isn’t as successful.  Javier Pina’s art is nice though.

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

Avengers #49

Ka-Zar Lord of the Savage Land #2

Kang the Conqueror #3

The Week in Music:

L’Orange – the world is still chaos, but i feel better – Hiphop producer L’Orange is known for his noir movie dialogue samples and for crafting his albums to tell a story.  He takes a different approach with this latest solo album, which doesn’t have as long interludes.  His dusty grooves and lo-fi sensibilities are intact, but this album feels more like an exercise in optimism during difficult times.  It’s pretty and thoughtful, and I appreciate that he is trying out some new things.

James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart – You know what you’re getting when you put on a new James Blake album.  All of the usual lush production and vocal effects are here, but things feel a little more open and raw than on his previous albums.  This is a lovely thing to play on a drab day when you’re a little into your feelings.  I appreciate it.

Jaimie Branch – Fly or Die Live – I was lucky enough to see Jaimie Branch and their band play in a small park clubhouse in an east-end park as part of an unconventional music festival a couple of years ago.  This two-disc live album takes me right back to that night, as Branch performs the songs from their two Fly or Die albums, giving them an improvisational spin.  The band is great, and Branch’s horn rides over them beautifully.  As live music returns to the city, kind of slowly, I still treasure some of the great live releases that came out over the course of the pandemic.

The Halluci Nation – One More Saturday Night – I feel like I have a strange relationship with A Tribe Called Red, now called The Halluci Nation.  I really appreciate them as a group, and am so thankful for the way they’ve married traditional Indigenous music with techno, dubstep, and other forms of dance music.  Academically, and as heroes of the Canadian scene, they are giants in my eyes, but the reality is, I don’t always like their music from a listening standpoint.  Some of their live shows have really moved me, but that’s when they fill the stage with dancers and bring out their friends and guests to perform alongside them.  Now, they’ve given up their original name, and are calling themselves The Halluci Nation, a term they used on their last album.  I’m down for that, but was then surprised when the album looked back to the DJ nights that one of their members, Bear Witness, used to hold in Ottawa.  The first couple of times I listened to the album, while doing other things, it didn’t speak to me.  Then I gave it a proper listen, and caught on to the ways in which they are exploring their pasts, and laying the groundwork for their future.  The early tracks bang, but the later ones seem a little more thoughtful.  I was hoping for a more collaborative album, something more like a show they gave in Mississauga where they performed with Jeremy Dutcher on piano and respectfulchild on violin, but I do like that they constantly upend expectations and try new things.  I’m always going to be down for a trip to the Halluci Nation.

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