The Weekly Round-Up #629 With Nightwing #87, Black Hammer Reborn #7, X-Men: Trial Of Magneto #5, Odinn’s Eye #2, Star Wars: Darth Vader #19 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

Nightwing #87 – Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo have really rejuvenated Nightwing for me, with their main story being about how Dick wants to use the inheritance he received from Alfred to change and improve the city of Blüdhaven for everyone.  With this issue, though, they go all out and provide a real visual treat.  The entire issue is designed like a side scrolling video game, with Dick moving from left to right across each two-page spread.  There’s a fluidity to the story, which is kind of simple (some hired guns want to kill Dick, and end up kidnapping his dog and getting chased by Nightwing), that is remarkable, and I love the details that Redondo scattered all around the main action.  It’s a really fun, really creative issue, and I wish that more creators would take chances like this.  I’m really happy with the vibe coming off of so many DC books right now, but never expected that Nightwing would be one of my current favourites.  I kind of want to get a second issue so I can take them apart and lay them out as one big continuous story.  It must have been a lot of fun to plan and draw this issue.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer Reborn #7 – The focus shifts to Colonel Weird this month, so that means more psychedelic page spreads and a faster than normal pace.  I lowkey hate this character, but can also see why he’s necessary for the larger stories that Jeff Lemire is telling in his Black Hammer books.  It looks like Malachi Ward and Matthew Sheean are the new regular artists on this book, and I’m pretty happy about that.

Black Panther #2 – I think I’m really getting into this latest Black Panther run.  John Ridley’s story, about some mysterious assassins targeting secret sleeper agents T’Challa’s hidden across the developed world, is something we haven’t really seen before, and Ridley has a good handle on both T’Challa and Shuri.  Juann Cabal’s art is fantastic here too.  I like his lithe and minimalist approach to T’Challa, and the assassins look incredibly cool.  I don’t see Ridley laying the kind of groundwork that made Priest’s run so legendary, but after the more cerebral approach Ta-Nehisi Coates took to the character, I’m happy to see a story that moves quicker (remember, I liked Coates’s work, especially the second series).

Iron Man #15 – Tony is now a cosmic powered being with god-like abilities, and his fight with Korvac wreaks havoc with a solar system, before he comes up with a solution and draws the attention of even more powerful beings than him.  The thought of an almost omnipotent Tony Stark is a frightening one, and it looks like that’s where Christopher Cantwell is going to be taking this book.  I like that he works in a reference to his Doctor Doom book here, which I have to admit, I enjoyed more than I’m enjoying Iron Man.  Still, it looks like things might be getting more interesting soon.

Moon Knight #6 – So it’s been revealed that Zodiac is the big bad of this series, and that’s pretty cool.  Zodiac gets the best of Spector, and he has no choice but to accept help from Badr, the “other” Moon Knight.  We get his origin, and Jed MacKay uses this issue to do a lot of character work.  I’m enjoying this series much more than I expected to, and hope it sticks around for a while.

Odinn’s Eye #2 – Things are really picking up in this weekly series.  Selveig is venturing north on her own, trying to complete her quest and put an end to the winter that just keeps going.  She’s alone, and a child, so she has some troubles, not the least of which is running across a group of raiders who take her prisoner.  This book is brutal and bloody, but that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from the post-Northlanders genre.  Thomas Giorelllo’s art is terrific, and I feel lucky to have been able to secure the last set of these comics at my LCS.

A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance #3 – With this third issue, some things I’ve been wondering about this new series snap into focus, and we learn just what our nameless protagonist is up to.  Rick Remender is not writing a lot of dialogue for this series, and leaves things up to André Lima Araújo to do the bulk of the storytelling, and that is working phenomenally well here.  The main character is sweaty and inept, and when he discovers that he has a partner for the assassination he’s been hired for, things go off the rails pretty quickly.  This is an interesting title that leaves me with a ton of questions.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #19 – I’ll admit that I’m a little lost as to the levels of deceit and betrayal going on in this book right now.  Greg Pak introduced a ton of new characters last month, and now they’re all just here, helping Vader and Ochi track down some Crimson Dawn operatives, but it’s not clear who is motivated by what.  It feels a little at drift, but I trust Greg Pak to make things work soon.

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #6 – With the way DC is now, I never know what’s in continuity and what isn’t, so I was a little surprised to see Kara suddenly has her super-horse with her (especially given that she’s been traveling all over the galaxy for the length of this book so far).  Her adventures this month give time and space over to sharing Kara’s origin story, as Tom King puts his spin on it.  It’s a good issue, with beautiful art by Bilquis Evely.  This book is not very conventional, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

SWORD #11 – I’m sad to see that this is the last issue of SWORD.  It’s been a pretty bizarre comic, focusing on various characters and getting tied in to events that didn’t affect the other X-books, but it’s also been consistently great.  Al Ewing plays with concepts that other comics writers don’t often touch, and with this issue, we see how he laid the groundwork for SWORD to be used and subverted by a prominent character in the book.  Apparently the upcoming X-Men Red series is a sequel of sorts to this series, and my only hope is that Al Ewing is the writer for it.  He’s set up too much for Marvel to not follow up on it.  

That Texas Blood #13 – One thing I really like about this series (and there are a lot of things I like) is how often Chris Condon has characters telling stories about things that happened before.  This issue is set in the early 80s, and has Joe Bob’s Sheriff gathering his officers, staff, and their families for a Christmas party.  He tells them a story about the first Chief he worked for, who was not a very good person, and ended up being haunted by the ghost of his wife, whom he killed.  It’s a cool little story, and Jacob Phillips shows it very well.  I like the monochromatic orange colouring for the 1950s scenes, and I love the way Condon and Phillips are willing to ditch typical story structures and will drop these odd little one-off issues that help to flesh out the town and characters.  This is a really intelligent series, and it’s very well made.

Wolverine #19 – I hadn’t realized that Wolverine’s title is also ending, but apparently this is the last issue of this.  Logan heads out to sea alone on some Captain Ahab stuff to try to track down the massive leviathan that turned up in a recent issue of X-Force.  I never really felt like Ben Percy had anything to say about Logan, and while this is a cool issue, with some neat visuals, it didn’t convince me otherwise.  I am committed to getting the X Lives/X Deaths miniseries, which Percy is writing, but I’m going to think about reupping with the coming relaunch.  I don’t know who is writing it yet (I figure that whoever they announce as the artist never lasts past four issues, so it doesn’t matter these days).

X-Men: Trial of Magneto #5 – I really hope that Leah Williams is getting another X-book as the whole line prepares to relaunch.  She’s done a great job with X-Factor, and I ended up enjoying this series too.  This issue maybe kind of redeems the Scarlet Witch and makes her a workable character again, while also making some important changes to Krakoa that are sure to have repercussions in the months ahead.  I appreciate the smaller character moments here, and the way that Northstar has managed to stay relevant throughout a story that is not really about him.  There are some things that lost me though, such as Toad’s part in everything, but overall, this was a good story.  I see that Lucas Werneck is going to draw the Immortal X-Men series, written by Kieron Gillen, and I’m down for that.

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

Avengers #51

Batman: One Dark Knight #1

Catwoman: Lonely City #2

Kang the Conqueror #5

Bargain Comics:

Superman #29 & Action Comics #1029 – The Golden Age story was the first that Phillip Kennedy Johnson wrote in current continuity.  It has Superman and his son, Jon, dealing with a dimensional rift that appears to have a deleterious effect on Clark’s powers.  Johnson focuses on Jon’s fears that this is the moment when his father dies, informed by his future knowledge, and shines a light on their relationship.  These are decent comics, with some nice Phil Hester art.

Superman #30-32 – Philip Kennedy Johnson and Scott Godlewski took Superman and Jon to an alien planet for this story, as Clark tries to help some old allies who might not have appreciated him that much in the first place, or might have already fallen victim to an unseen enemy.  This is another story designed to help Jon figure out how to do things on his own, and it was pretty decent.  I loved Godlewski’s art on Copperhead, and thought it was cool that the aliens he’s designed here would have fit in perfectly in that book.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Joker – I’ve never read Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker story from 2008, but recently came across a pretty inexpensive copy and figured it was time to check it out.  I’ll be honest – I hate the Joker, and have since maybe the early 90s.  I feel like the character is overused and because of that, he’s become pretty boring.  I feel like the last truly interesting takes on him were by Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, and that ever since, writers have been aping them.  But, I like Azzarello, so I figured it was time to get over my hesitancy.  This was a decent story, and Bermejo’s art is great, if kind of disturbing.  The Joker’s managed to get himself released from Arkham Asylum, but finds that his crime kingdom has been carved up between his allies and adversaries, and sets out to fix that in the most chaotic way possible.  The story is narrated by a henchman, Jonny Frost, who isn’t a die-hard supporter of his boss.  It feels like Azzarello and Bermejo were going for a Quentin Tarantino thing in places, and this book has a lot of flash to it, but I also feel like it is slightly lacking in terms of motivation.  I don’t know what the Joker wants.  It’s clear he doesn’t either, but that makes for a disconnected read at times.  I did like Bermejo’s take on various other Gotham-based villains, but I never understood why Joker kept calling the Penguin ‘Abner’ instead of by his name, Oswald.  I’m glad I picked this up, as it was an entertaining read. 

RDW: A Tale of Lost Fantasy Vol. 1 – I’m a huge fan of artist Marco Rudy’s work, so I didn’t hesitate to sign up for the Kickstarter that funded this European sized volume.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  Rudy’s page and panel designs have an organic feel to them, as he uses layout and colour palettes to help convey the emotion and pace of the story.  In terms of story, I was very interested, but a little disappointed with how slim the volume turned out to be.  I guess because I’d been getting the Kickstarter updates, and following Rudy’s progress on this fully-painted book for a while, I thought it would be a little longer, or maybe be self-contained.  This is a fantasy series about recovery and PTSD, and we meet two groups of characters.  Astrid is a former military commander who is searching for her lost men (it’s suggested that they might have all died a long time ago), and comes across a trio of deserters who have turned into knives for hire in a haunted woods.  Looking back over this book again, I’m very impressed with the amount of care Rudy put into the art and storytelling.  While I’m left with a lot of questions and desire to read more, I have to recognize that it might be a year or two before the next volume sees the light of day.  I’ll be here for it, though.  This book is so beautiful.

The Week in Music:

Curtis Harding – If Words Were Flowers – I’m really digging this big, soulful album.  It feels like a Daptone release, even though it isn’t.  It looks back to the louder soul music of the 70s, but also feels very modern and current.  I need to spend more time with it, because I find I listen to the horns more than I do the lyrics.

Jamire Williams – But Only After You Have Suffered – The International Anthem has had another amazing year, dropping gem after gem.  This album is not easy to explain.  Its Bandcamp page refers to it as being an autobiographical soundtrack, and I guess that works, as drummer and composer Williams moves through a variety of sounds, making this a long collage of sorts.  It’s another album that I need to spend more time with to fully unlock.

Portico Quartet – Monument – A lot of the releases on Gondwana Records all sort of sound the same to me, but this latest from Portico Quartet is, in fact, monumental.  These instrumental tracks recede and swell like the ocean, and consistently reach new heights.  It’s a relaxing album that makes you want to stand and sway in a crowded dark room.  This group has always been good, but where I previously saw them as second to GoGo Penguin, a very similar sounding group, now I see them as equals, or, on this one, maybe even superior.

Jon Hopkins – Music For Psychedelic Therapy – The best ambient music always takes itself a little too seriously, kind of like pretension needs to be baked into the process for it to have any meaning.  Jon Hopkins, usually known for dancier stuff, enters the mediation space with this lovely and contemplative full-length release.  It’s great music to nap to, or to help you focus on getting work done.  The last track, which features a guided meditation by Ram Dass is good to listen to once, but I can’t imagine spending much time with it.  The rest of the album is quite nice though.

Sam Wilkes – One Theme & Subsequent Improvisation – I think my New Year’s resolution should be to improve my vocabulary when it comes to being able to discuss music.  This is hella vibey and cool.  I like it, but then I like pretty much everything that comes out on Leaving Records.  I just don’t know how to talk about it.

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