The Best Comic of the Week:
Immortal X-Men #1 – I figured that Kieron Gillen would be the right person to take on the central X-Men book, and the first issue of this series leaves me thinking I’m right. Magneto decides to leave the Quiet Council in the wake of the events of the Inferno miniseries, and that results in some maneuvering and realpolitik, as Emma Frost and Mister Sinister use the open seat to try to advance their own agendas. It’s curious that Gillen chose to have Sinister narrate this issue, revealing a longer history with Destiny than we knew they had (in a clever scene that plays with the start of House of X). Gillen is the writer that made Sinister likeable back in the Utopian era, and again makes very good use of him here. Lucas Werneck is really growing as an artist, and has reached the top tier with his work this issue. I’m excited about the X-Men again, as I think that Gillen has laid the groundwork for an exciting year or two. I also like the notion that this book will be clearly very character driven. I have no idea if Jonathan Hickman shared his original plans with Gillen or not, but I have the feeling that there is a plan again.
Aquamen #2 – I continue to be intrigued by this series, as Jackson doesn’t react well to learning that Arthur is working with Black Manta. We see the way in which the rest of the Aqua-family doesn’t fully trust Jackson yet when he calls a ‘family meeting’. The mystery of who has been commanding some Atlantean sleeper agents is interesting, and I like the way writers Brandon Thomas and Chuck Brown appear to be elevating the supporting cast of Aquaman into an underwater take on Batman’s extended family. This book shows a lot of promise, and I’m loving Sami Basri’s art.
Astro City: That Was Then #1 – I didn’t read the Vertigo Astro City series, but thought I’d dip my toe back in with this one-shot. A group of teen heroes are processing the loss of the Jayhawks, a team of teen heroes that were lost in a fight with a magical villain. These kids are enjoying a road trip, camping in the desert and talking their way through the changes they feel at the edge of adulthood. It’s a solid comic that reminds me of the old Teen Titans camping trips in the Wolfman/Perez era. It also reminds me that it’s time to get the rest of the Astro City trades I need…
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #36 – Hunting his Uncle Aaron, Miles and Shift are diving through multiple dimensions. We get to check in on some characters last seen in Exiles, and Spider-Ham makes an appearance too. This is a solid issue, however I like Miles best when he’s surrounded by his supporting cast and family, so I’m hoping this story doesn’t run too long.
Newburn #5 – Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips just keep getting better and better on this book, and are now crafting near-perfect done-in-one stories, which is such a lost art. In this issue, Newburn, the private investigator who exclusively works for mob families has found his luck has run out. He’s in prison for murder, and suddenly faced with the fact that many of the people who are now his neighbours have reason to hate him. Zdarsky portions out the knowledge and suspense in equal helpings, and Phillips, whose work is looking more and more like his father’s, matches with just the right tone and atmosphere. It’s a very good issue. I’m also pleased with the new backup strip, by Casey Gilly and Soo Lee. It’s about a young woman who found her best friend’s body at Coney Island, where they both work, and is convinced she knows who killed her. This story is also very good, and Lee’s black and white art is great. I do wish that there was some kind of separation between these stories, as we are always tossed right into the backup strip kind of suddenly. Still, Newburn is climbing to be one of my favourite series.
A Righteous Thirst for Vengeance #6 – Every issue of this series to this point has been full of violence, but this is the first quiet issue, and the first chance for us to get to know our main character. Sonny and Xavier, the child of the woman he tried to save, have been living for the last six months off the grid in a survivalist camp. Sonny has been learning to shoot, while Xavier has yet to speak a single word. We get a sense of Sonny’s backstory, and why he got involved in trying to rescue people from assassination attempts, but also see how he’s beginning to get restless in the camp. It’s another very masterful issue by Rick Remender and André Lima Araújo, but completely different in tone and atmosphere from what we’ve seen so far. I really like this series.
Shadow War Alpha #1 – Joshua Williamson has been building up this crossover event between his DC titles – Batman, Robin, and Deathstroke Inc. Ra’s Al Ghul decides it’s time to turn himself in and work to actually save the planet, but when he arranges his surrender, something shocking happens that quickly has Talia’s forces, Deathstroke, Batman, and Robin all working separately against one another. There’s a lot of emotional moments in this book, which is largely focused on exploring the relationship between Bruce and Damian, and Gleb Melnikov’s art is really very good. I’m excited about this event, as Williamson’s Robin has been a favourite of mine lately.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #21 – Now that Valance is being used in the Darth Vader title, he’s not in this one anymore, leaving all of the action focused on characters that haven’t really been developed enough. I feel like this book is suffering from the Crimson Dawn-driven coordination that is helping the other Star Wars books right now.
The Swamp Thing #11 – Ram V. and Mike Perkins return with another arc in their excellent Swamp Thing run. Tefé Holland is brought into things, as Levi’s friend tries to find him, and the evil businessman character tries to become a conduit into the Green through surgery. Perkins’s art is luminous in this issue, and is a big part of the appeal of this book.
Vampirella/Dracula: Unholy #4 – It’s becoming clear that Dracula has been out-maneuvering Vampirella for a little while, as we get a number of confusing scenes involving switched identities. As with any comic written by Priest, you need to pay close attention to what’s going on, and even then can miss some stuff. This book stays rewarding.
War for Earth-3 #2 – The War for Earth-3 event wraps up in this oversized comic, and I feel I have to say that the whole thing has been a disappointment. It’s still not clear just why Waller needed to put together a multiversal army to take over an entire planet. The forces that oppose her are not really explained well either, and many of them switch sides on a whim. The issue has five different artists, and some characters’ appearances (especially Rick Flag and his boy band hair) change over the course of the book. I also found it annoying that characters were just killed off, while the Suicide Squad series, in its first half, made it seem like these characters had interesting stories. It feels like someone at DC editorial had a little too much influence and interference on what could have been an interesting story, and that no one has really read up on Amanda Waller’s history and what makes the character great. I’m also concerned that, now that DC has a clearly-defined multiverse again, they are going right back to the kind of stories that messed that all up in the first place.
The X-Cellent #2 – I’m still a little wary about returning to the world of X-Statix and their new rivals, the X-Cellent. Peter Milligan and Michael Allred made the original (when it was still in X-Force) a wildly original book, but so far, I feel like they are just revisiting classic themes and not quite saying anything new. I also wonder how this book fits with the rest of the Krakoan status quo, as there has been no mention of it yet (even though we’ve seen Doop on the island in other titles). I’m going to give this an arc, but am not sure I can see sticking with it long-term.
X-Men Unlimited: Latitude #1 – I don’t bother with Marvel’s digital comics, and I guess I’ve been missing out on some good stuff. This oversized issue collects the first half of a Wolverine story by Jonathan Hickman and Declan Shalvey, and it’s pretty good stuff. AIM invades The Peak and manages to abduct three mutants. Wolverine goes after them and works to recover them. Hickman uses some dark humour in this story, and Shalvey is, of course, phenomenal. I was frustrated to see that this didn’t end, but it appears that Shalvey will be wrapping up the story on his own and it will see publication eventually. I enjoyed this story, but wondered at Logan’s apparent ability to survive in space for a little while – it wouldn’t have been much to add in some kind of breathing apparatus.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Batman: One Dark Knight #2
Hulk Grand Design #1
Step by Bloody Step #2
The Week in Graphic Novels:
Firebug – I was interested in Johnnie Christmas’s fantasy story when it first appeared in the anthology Island, but I kind of forgot about it when that series was canceled, at least until I saw this graphic novel that contained the whole story. It’s set in a world where belief in a fire goddess has structured, and then splintered, society. Now, in more or less modern times (although there are forest creatures and other fantasy elements), a protest group storms the temple where the goddess lives, with fatal results, while her runaway daughter befriends the members of the group. I liked this story, and think that Christmas’s art is great, but the pacing of the story feels a little off. I had trouble understanding how much time was passing, as the main story and a subplot felt like they couldn’t be happening concurrently. I think that Christmas has a ways to go as a writer, but he has some very cool ideas, and I’d be interested in seeing more from him.
The Week in Music:
Eamon – No Matter The Season – To make this soul album, Eamon went through the vaults at Now-Again records with Likeminds, his producers, and crafted some truly excellent songs from the things they sampled. I recognized bits of Nigerian, Zambian, and Ethiopian songs I’ve loved, but this album recontextualizes them in interesting ways. This could be a fifty or sixty year old album, but it’s also very contemporary. It’s really pretty great.
Jembaa Groove – Susuma – Because sometimes you just want to vibe out to some lovely African grooves, and in those times, this new album is perfect. I don’t know anything about Jembaa Groove, except that they’re out of Germany, and that this is a very nice distillation of a very 60s and 70s African sound.