The Weekly Round-Up #633 With Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1, Excellence #12, X Lives Of Wolverine #1, We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #10 & More Plus The Week In Music!

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Best Comic of the Week:

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 – It’s been nearly twenty years since the first Arrowsmith story was published, and I’m so happy that Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco are finally bringing it back with a new story.  Arrowsmith is set in a fantasy world that maps very closely onto ours, except that there are creatures like dragonettes and rock trolls, and the nations have alternate names.  The Great War is underway, and we follow the adventures of Fletcher Arrowsmith, an American who has joined the Angrian Army as an aerial combat soldier.  This issue brings new readers up to speed, reminds old (and I guess we are old) readers of who everyone is and what the book is about.  The story has Fletcher getting purposely captured in order to carry out a secret mission, and it has all of the magic and wonder I remember from the first run.  Carlos Pacheco has to be one of the best straight-up comics artists currently working, but he does not publish anywhere near enough work.  I’m so happy to see his stuff here, and that he hasn’t skipped a beat.  He and Busiek always work well together, and this book made me very happy.  I’m also pleased to see that the first six issues are complete already, as Busiek does not have the best track record when it comes to putting out books on time at Image (whatever happened to Autumnlands?  I loved that book).

Quick Takes:

Aquaman: The Becoming #5 – How many artists is this six-issue miniseries going to have, anyway?  Paul Pelletier comes in for half of this issue (and it looks better than it has throughout the run), as Jackson learns more about his family, and Delilah learns some truths about the Xebelian resistance that she was not aware of.  I picked this book up because I really admire Brandon Thomas’s writing (see below), and because I wanted to get to know Jackson Hyde better.  Things really click in this issue, and I’m left with the feeling that I was right in adding the upcoming Aquamen series to my pull-file.

Defenders #5 – I didn’t expect that this miniseries would be as bizarre as it was.  Al Ewing assembled an almost random-seeming group of heroes together for this story which addresses leftover plot points from the Marvel Comics #1000 thing that came out before the pandemic, and some old mysteries in his Ultimates runs.  I never really got too into this series, which is odd compared to how I’ve reacted to everything else he’s done for years (see below).  I did love Javier Rodriguez’s art and crazy designs, but this all left me a little cold.  I’m surprised to see that the Defenders will be returning, and don’t know if that means this incarnation of the team, or another one.

Excellence #12 – As much as I liked this week’s Aquaman issue, this is the Brandon Thomas book I’ve been waiting for (for ages).  Excellence is one of my favourite series, and now that all the preliminary stuff is out of the way, Thomas and artist Khary Randolph are really packing each issue with revelations and surprises.  Spencer has his father trapped in a memory spell designed to confront him about the choices he’s made, while at the same time, Spencer learns from the aunt that he didn’t know he had about aspects of his family history, the Aegis, and magic that are astounding him.  The way the story was built in this series has been so impressive, and Randolph’s art is so nice.  I really wish this book came out more frequently, as each issue has a lot to digest, and with the delay between issues, I start to forget, and am probably missing out on a ton of nuance.  More people should be reading this comic.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #34 – Miles and Shift invade the Assessor’s building, looking to confront the cause of their recent trauma.  This is a good action issue, and Michele Bandini’s art in it has me finally starting to accept Miles’s new outfit.  I do so prefer this book when it’s about Miles and his supporting cast though – all action issues are nice, but it’s not what I read this book for.

Nightwing #88 – Because of Fear State, or whatever it was called, it’s felt like Tom Taylor’s story for this series has been on hold for ages, so it’s nice to see Dick return to his task of fixing the problems of Blüdhaven with Alfred Pennyworth’s money.  This has put him in Blockbuster’s crosshairs, so when Dick attends the groundbreaking ceremony for his new shelter for unhoused youth, the Titans have to come to help keep him alive.  Once again, Bruno Redondo’s work here is stunning, and the lighthearted tone of the book really fits it.  I didn’t expect that Nightwing would be one of my favourite DC titles, but here we are.

Primordial #5 – I’m frustrated by how quickly this book goes by (similarly to Gideon Falls, the last comic that Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino worked on together that I bought), but I am enjoying it still.  There is a very touching moment between Laika and Able (the first creatures to travel to space), and I like the way this series has moved forward in time.  I actually thought this issue was the last one, so I was surprised when things didn’t resolve at the end of it.

A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance #4 – The longer this series runs, the more questions I have, but I’m really enjoying it.  André Lima Araújo’s art in this book is so kinetic and good, and writer Rick Remender just hands over long sequences for him to tell with a minimum of dialogue.  The star of this series is trying to rescue people from an assassination service run off the dark web, but now, through his effort to try to rescue a woman, he’s managed to expose himself to danger.  I really want to know more about this book, and look forward to the next issue.

The Rush #3 – Simon Spurrier’s Gold Rush horror story is really entertaining.  I am really liking how strong these characters are, and how Nathan Gooden makes the North look so threatening.  I don’t know why I don’t treat everything Spurrier does as a buy-on-sight now – he’s one of the most unsung writers in the business, and Vault series are usually really good.

The Silver Coin #8 – Matthew Rosenberg writes this issue of this horror series that follows a demonic coin through history.  We get a look at how the coin influences obsession in a caretaker at a Wall Street office tower, and how it fuels the same obsession through the rest of the building.  As always, Michael Walsh does a great job of drawing this comic, but I’m starting to feel like some of these stories are becoming formulaic.  

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #7 – Supergirl and Ruthye have captured Krem, but his group of brigands are fighting to rescue him, and due to their kryptonite weapons, they are doing well against Kara.  At the same time, Ruthye has to decide what to do with Krem, especially after she convinces Comet the horse to go help Kara.  I’ve liked this miniseries, Bilquis Evely’s art in particular, but I’m also ready for it to wrap up.  Tom King has done some very interesting work with these character-focused miniseries, but this one has been wordy.

Superman: Son of Kal-El #7 – Henry Bendix uses the emergence of a sea monster off the coast of Metropolis to further his own agenda, and that leads to another difficult situation for Jon and Jackson Hyde, who guest stars in this issue.  I like how Tom Taylor positions Jon in the middle of the DCU, and makes use of so many other characters.  This was a solid issue that was over pretty quickly.  I’m still liking this series a great deal…

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #10 – Al Ewing has made what started out as an intense and strange family drama, at its core, into a very complex book about espionage, betrayal, and faith, and I love it.  The first arc of this book was about a man, Malik, who wanted to explore deep space and see where the gods – massive dead bodies that mankind has taken to harvesting for food and technology – come from.  Decades later, his body returned as the first ‘god’ that was recognizable, and a religion (not to mention a space station) sprung up around him.  Now, Malik’s body has been stolen by the central planets, but their deep cover operative has had other plans all along, and we learn more about her this month.  I still find Simone De Meo’s art hard to follow, yet pretty, but Ewing’s writing on this book is so sharp and unpredictable.  It’s great.

X Lives of Wolverine #1 – I wasn’t too sure what this Wolverine event was going to be about.  There are two miniseries – X Lives, and X Deaths of Wolverine, running across alternating weeks for a total of ten weeks, written by Ben Percy.  It looks to me like he has been given the greenlight to wrap up every storyline he’s seeded across his Wolverine and X-Force runs, and that has made this book utterly impenetrable for anyone who hasn’t read them.  And for me, who has read them all, I found this to be moderately impenetrable.  Logan is given a mission by Xavier that somehow has him at Charles’s birth, protecting him and his parents from Omega Red, who is possessing people.  At the same time, we see Omega Red learn that X-Force has been tracking him, so he goes to Russia to connect with Mikhail Rasputin.  I assume that the X in the titles is actually a Roman numeral ‘ten’, since that was something that Grant Morrison and Jonathan Hickman have played with.  I feel like Percy is trying to position this as a successor to House of X and Powers of X, but it really falls short.  I’m hoping that things get clarified soon, because if this is just going to be ten issues of Omega Red taking over people in the past in multiple efforts to kill Xavier, I’m going to get pretty bored pretty quickly.  This was definitely not worth the extra-sized price.

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

Avengers #52

Batman: The Knight #1

The Week in Music:

Theon Cross – Intra I – Theon Cross can do some dangerous things with a tuba.  This album showcases the breadth of his musical range, as he shares some dancey jazz (somewhat like his band, Sons of Kemet), dub, grime, afrobeat, and other genres, all unified by his use of the tuba as bass instrument.  It’s a lot more varied than his last album, and I find it really enjoyable. This was a good week for some uplifting music…

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