The Weekly Round-Up #623 With What’s The Furthest Place From Here? #1, A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance #2, Mazebook #3, The Unbelievable Unteens #4 & More Plus The Week In Movies & Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

What’s The Furthest Place From Here? #1 – This chunky first issue really impressed me.  I always like it when Matt Rosenberg and Tyler Boss work together (such as on the excellent Four Kids Walk Into A Bank), but I feel like they’ve leveled up with this new book.  There are a group of teens living in an old building filled with records.  We learn that once they become adults, they have to leave, and that they are in conflict with the teens that control the next neighbourhood over.  When Slug, a former resident of the building returns, gravely injured, it sparks a series of events that affect everyone, but especially Sid, the young woman pregnant with his baby.  We don’t ever really get to understand why the world is like this, or who the Strangers are (apparently they run things?), but what we do get is a quick introduction to a number of interesting characters, and some very nice art.  This book is very well-designed, as is any book that Boss works on, and is very intriguing.  I like how music plays such an important role in this title (apparently there’s a deluxe version that comes with a flexi-disc record), and can’t wait for the next issue.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics #1036 – I haven’t been reading Action Comics at all, and I’m not really a big Superman fan, but I’ve been enjoying the Son of Kal-El series a lot, and it got me interested (much more than the Superman and the Authority series did, which was disappointing).  Add to that the fact that Phillip Kennedy Johnson has been impressing me a lot on Alien (see below), and I figured I’d check it out.  This issue is the first of Superman’s trip with the Authority to Warworld to depose Mongol.  Along the way, we learn a truth that Superman has been hiding, and it looks like he might have bitten off much more than he can chew.  I was intrigued by this, and am thinking I should go back and read the rest of Johnson’s run.  I’m not fully committed to getting this title though.  If it were a dollar cheaper and didn’t have the sub-par backup story featuring Guardian, I’d be more likely to start buying this.

Alien #8 – I’m really enjoying this second arc, which focuses on a colony planet being run by a religious group.  Last issue, their resupply ship crashed into their garden, and now their leader, who is dying from a degenerative disease, is sure she saw a xenomorph in the wreckage.  The problem is that the others don’t believe her.  Well, they don’t at the beginning of the episode, but by the end, they have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.  Phillip Kennedy Johnson does a great job of building this series around its main characters, and portioning out the suspense perfectly.  Salvador Larroca, as he did in his Darth Vader run, knows how to maximize the fear by never fully showing the aliens.  I’m impressed with this book.  I just wish it shipped more regularly.

Eternals #7 – The “hero unit” Eternals have defected to the Deviants as part of an effort to change, while back home, Druig arranges a coup in order to install Thanos as the Prime Eternal.  This arc is moving a lot quicker than the first one did, and thus is much more interesting and exciting out the gate.  Esad Ribić’s art is lovely, and it looks like he used the series’s hiatus to good effect.  I find myself more interested in Kieron Gillen’s vision for this property than I was before (and it has nothing to do with the movie that I haven’t seen yet).

Hellions #17 – Orphan Maker goes after the Right, which causes the Hellions team to reunite already and go after him.  This is a pretty dark issue, lacking the humour that made this oddball book stand out at the beginning.  I’m curious to see where Zeb Wells is headed with this latest arc, which is already showing us more about Nanny and Orphan Maker than the last three decades of comics have.

Mazebook #3 – There’s a weird visceral thrill that comes with seeing a map of your city make up a two-page spread in a comic.  I mean, I guess New Yorkers wouldn’t care about things like that, but to see Jeff Lemire giving the hometown so much love in this comic (right down to the discussion of Toronto’s voracious appetite for knocking down cool old buildings in order to put up generic soulless condo towers) is pretty exciting.  Will continues the search for his daughter in this surreal and emotionally touching series.  Lemire is always at his best when drawing his own stories, and I think this is one of the best and perhaps most personal books he’s made.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #32 – The two-parter that has Miles and Starling fighting Taskmaster comes to its end, and I’m left hoping we’ll see a lot more of Christopher Allen’s art on this book.  I like the way he approaches his pages, and while I still can’t figure out Miles’s new outfit, I love the way he draws Starling.  This issue leads into an appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, and I don’t know how I feel about that from a completist point of view, but I do appreciate any opportunity to be reminded that the Marvel Universe is still a shared one.

A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance #2 – This second issue gives us a little more to work on, as we follow the mostly-silent assassin around over the course of his day.  We learn his name, Mr. Wen, and see that he accepts jobs through a dark web server, working for someone called Mayor Oak.  We also learn that he’s not the only person accepting such jobs, as he again runs into someone on his way to kill a woman.  Rick Remender and André Lima Araújo are taking their time in building up this book, and I find it works really well.  I’m very interested in learning more about this character and why he’s doing this type of job, because he doesn’t seem like the deadly assassin type we normally see in comics.  This book is gorgeous too.

Robin & Batman #1 – I wouldn’t have thought we’d need another trip to the early days of Batman and Robin’s partnership, but when it’s Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen taking us on this journey, and the book is published on nice glossy, square bound paper, I couldn’t resist.  Lemire sticks to familiar territory – Bruce is hard and inscrutable, while Dick chafes under his controlling ways.  Much of this reminded me of the early days of Bruce’s relationship with Damian.  While I didn’t feel like there was much new here, Nguyen’s painted art, in the style he used for Descender and Ascender, is glorious.  This is an incredibly pretty book, and I’m happy I picked it up.

Stillwater #11 – It’s now been a year since Galen orchestrated his takeover of the town of Stillwater, where no one ages or gets sick, but things aren’t going any better than they were before.  Daniel and the former Sheriff are hoping to make some changes, but they aren’t getting a lot of opportunities.  Chip Zdarsky and Ramón Perez are doing incredible work with this title, which has stayed pretty unpredictable.

The Unbelievable Unteens #4 – I’ve enjoyed this Black Hammer miniseries, mostly for Tyler Crook’s art.  Jeff Lemire has expanded his universe a little more, while revisiting a character from the first series, and it’s good, but not amazing.  I assume there is a greater purpose in having these characters getting their memories back, and expect we’ll see them again soon.

Undiscovered Country #17 – I continue to be confounded by this series.  On the surface, I’m enjoying this adventure book that has a group of people “walking the spiral” of the drastically changed USA, but whenever I try to think about the story logic, it just falls apart completely.  Nothing about this book really makes any sense, and it’s only the strong characters written by Charles Soule and Scott Snyder that keeps me coming back.  To be honest, I’m probably going to drop this book after this arc ends next issue.  It reminds me a little too much like the TV show Lost, and after watching the end of that show, I promised myself I’d never get suckered again…

Vampirella #25 – I don’t think I expected Christopher Priest’s run on this title to last so long, and I’m even more surprised to see that he’s sticking around for the relaunch, Vampirella/Dracula: Unholy.  This final issue of this run has Vampirella and Matty getting married, so she can protect him from the virus that could potentially turn him into Dracula.  Every character we’ve seen in this title makes an appearance, and I like that Dr. Charry comes as a guest to the wedding.  This book is often confusing, but I’ve really appreciated how focused Priest has been on building Vampirella’s character.  I am going to miss seeing artist Ergün Gündüz’s work on a regular basis, but I’m hoping that he’ll turn up elsewhere soon.  His work has done so much to ensure this title’s success.

Movie of the Week:

Dune – This movie ended up being exactly what I expected, and what I wanted it to be.  It moved quickly through the first half of Frank Herbert’s book, skimming over some of the more intricate parts of the story, but establishing Paul and Jessica as strong characters.  The main reason I went to this movie was to be blown away by its visuals, and that’s exactly what I got from it.  Denis Villeneuve and his team did a fantastic job of creating this world, and I enjoyed looking at the clothing and architecture of this film a great deal.  The ornithopters were incredibly cool, as was the personal shield effect.  I have some issues with the extremes of Orientalism in the film, and the White Savior at the heart of the story, but that’s more on the source material than the film.  I thought the choice to make Kynes a woman an interesting one, and was thankful that Villeneuve avoided the faults that made David Lynch’s film such a tough slog.  I’m eagerly looking forward to the second half of this film, and am glad I got the chance to see this in theatres.

The Week in Music:

Moor Mother – Black Encyclopedia of the Air – Moor Mother is one of the most interesting artists working at the intersection of jazz and hiphop these days.  A number of years ago she headlined an evening where I was very interested in seeing the band that went on before her, and then I did not really understand her set, and because I was tired, I left.  I really regret this now, as she’s been increasingly showing up in two musical circles I love – the jazz of Chicago’s International Anthem (she’s part of Irreversible Entanglements), and the New York hiphop scene centred around Backwoodz Studioz.  Her collaboration with Billy Woods, Brass, is one of my favourite albums of this year.  On this solo outing, Moor Mother raps over ambient and often menacing beats.  She is consistently impressive and a little impenetrable, and has crafted an endlessly interesting record.  There are great features from Elucid, Lojii, Pink Siifu, and Nappy Nina.  There are also appearances by a number of artists I don’t know, and want to learn more about.  This album is weird as hell, but that’s the appeal.  I just wish I’d caught on to that sooner, and hung out longer at that show five or so years ago.

Men I Trust – Untourable Album – This Montreal band came on my radar at the start of the pandemic, but I like this new album more than their last one.  They make very chill downtempo pop music, and they do it very well.  

Nubya Garcia – Source + Move – Nubya Garcia’s album Source was a favourite last year (I think), so it’s cool to revisit it with this remix album, featuring new interpretations by the likes of Kaidi Tatham, DJ Harrison (this has been a very Toronto week), Black Spade, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Dengue Dengue Dengue, and Moses Boyd, among others.  Many of Garcia’s beautiful jazz pieces are given the dance music approach, but others are more thoughtful and deep reworkings.  There are some standout tracks (the Moses Boyd one is incredible).

Atmosphere – Word? – I remember the days when a new Atmosphere album was a bit of an event, and cause for celebration.  Lately, Slug and Ant have been pumping albums out at a pretty rapid face, and while I’m always happy to see it, the cycle of diminishing returns has set in, sadly.  There is nothing wrong with Word?, their latest, but like the last two or three, it’s not particularly memorable.  Ant’s beats are classic.  Slug’s rhymes are often funny or self-lacerating.  The features (by Evidence, Muja Messiah, Musab, BlackLiq, Sa-Roc, and Aesop Rock, among others) are decent.  The feature by MF DOOM stands out, but probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t one of his last.  I sound down on this album, and I’m not.  I just want to be blown away again, and I wasn’t.

The Daptone Super Soul Revue Live! At the Apollo – Back in 2014, the entire Daptone Records roster showed up at the Apollo Theater over three nights to perform.  This two-disc set features the highlights of those nights, arranged so that each artist’s set is kept together, giving the whole compilation a documentary feeling.  Pride of place is given to Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, two artists who have passed on and are much-missed.  They sound like they’re at their prime here, and I was thankful that so much of Charles’s live show, with its heartfelt declarations of love, were preserved this way.  There are also appearances by the Menahan Street Band, The Budos Band (including a song featuring Charles), Antibalas, and the Dap-Kings, before the whole roster shows up for a rendition of Family Affair.  One thing I love about Daptone is the way that the same musicians turn up in multiple bands.  It must have been a great time to watch the shuffle on stage between acts.  I’m very thankful for Daptone for putting this out.  It’s a nice tribute to Charles and Sharon, both of whom are very much missed.