X-Men Red #1 – I’ve been looking forward to this series since learning that SWORD ended. Al Ewing is centring this book, which is set on Arakko (fka Mars), around Storm, Magneto, and Sunspot. Magneto is hoping to live a quiet life there, while Storm struggles to figure out how to best execute her role as Regent of the planet, and to manage the impulses of the Arakkan people. Sunspot, for his part, wants to engineer a space-based rebirth of disco, but also reveals that he’s not the airhead we think he is. Abigail Brand, whom we know is up to no good, wants an X-Men team on the planet, and idea that gains some traction after a run-in between Vulcan and Thunderbird makes it clear that things on the red planet aren’t the same as on Krakoa. Ewing is a terrific writer who balances big ideas with character-driven plots. Aside from his Hulk run, I feel like his books don’t last long enough, but I’m hoping he’s being given a lot of space and time with this one, as I’d like to see how it all develops. Stefano Caselli is a capable artist, in the current Marvel approach, and leaves me looking forward to future issues.
Apache Delivery Service #4 – The previous issue of this Vietnam War series by Matt Kindt and Tylyer and Hilary Jenkins felt a little off to me, but this concluding issue works really well. Our hero, a Navajo soldier who has gone AWOL in Vietnam to help a Frenchman recover a hidden supply of Japanese gold, makes some big decisions in this issue, and the storytelling is much more clear. The Kindt/Jenkins team has produced some interesting comics, mostly at Boom!, and it’s nice to see them continue to work together.
Batman #122 – The Shadow War continues, with Talia’s people going after Deathstroke, while Robin connects with Ravager, and Batman goes to check in with Talia. It’s clear that Joshua Williamson is mixing and matching his three regular titles for this event, bringing regular Deathstroke Inc. artist, Howard Porter, over to Batman. I’m not loving Porter’s new art style, but it does work better here than it did in recent Deathstroke issues, giving the story an added sense of momentum. I’m liking this event so far, although I would have thought that Batman would have easily been able to tell that it wasn’t really Slade he was fighting before…
Devil’s Reign #6 – Chip Zdarsky and Marco Chechetto wrap up (except for the epilogue one-shot that’s still to come) their year’s long Wilson Fisk story that started in their Daredevil run with the end of this event. Fisk has killed Matt Murdock (in a way – it’s complicated), but is shocked when both Daredevils (Matt and Elektra) come after him looking for blood. I’ve really enjoyed the way Zdarsky has written Fisk for these last years, as he was manipulated by a pair of rich siblings into becoming Mayor of New York, and then setting off on his own path. Things come full circle in a few ways, and the next step for DD and Elektra is established. I’m looking forward to the DD relaunch, and the formation of the Fist. I’m glad that Zdarsky is sticking around, as his Daredevil is as good as Bendis and Brubaker’s runs have been.
Fire Power #19 – I’m so happy to see that Fire Power is back from its hiatus. Things look bad when this issue opens – the dragon is real, awake, and ready to start trashing the world. Owen and his family are tired and battered, and not ready to face their enemies, although they have no choice. And we are introduced to a mysterious kung fu master who is on hand in Hong Kong when the dragon shows up. This issue felt a little disjointed, but also had the strong character work and amazing art that we’ve come to expect from this book.
Little Monsters #2 – Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are still introducing us to the world of these child vampires. We learn that one, Romie, has been around for a long time, as we see their first introduction to the world of vampires. We also see what happens when another meets the first human he’s seen in a long time. I like Nguyen’s art and limited colour palette in this book a great deal, as we find out who is narrating this book. I’m very interested in what’s happened so far, and want to see a lot more of this series.
Marauders #1 – I was looking forward to seeing what Steve Orlando would bring to the revised, new edition of Kate Pryde’s team. I like the new team lineup, with characters like Aurora, Tempest, and Psylocke added to the mix, and was curious to learn who Somnus is. I’m a little unsure of the book though, as Orlando has chosen to make Cassandra Nova a key member of the team, and I generally don’t like her. I’m also not sure about Kate taking the team to Shi’ar space to solve a millennia-old mystery. At the same time, Orlando has proven himself as a good writer, so I’ll see where things go. I like Eleornora Carlini’s art, but it might be a little too cute in places for me. We’ll see how I feel about this book after this first story arc.
Moon Knight #10 – Marc continues his struggle against Zodiac, as an escaped serial killer comes after him, and he realizes something about his inner circle. Jed MacKay has made me very interested in this series, even though we don’t get to spend very much time with Marc on his own. Alessandro Cappuccio’s art works well with this series.
New Masters #3 – This continues to be a very intricate and rewarding book. Ola’s family has no choice but to take on a heist mission for a crime lord, but see it as their best chance to earn themselves independence. The heist coincides with a big social event involving the Jovian royal family, and the Governor of the city uses it to deliver a message of decolonization. Shobo, the writer of the book, is keeping a lot of balls in the air here, but the fast pace and abundance of plot and information keeps things very interesting. Shof, the artist, has a unique style that makes this book stand out (and sometimes a little hard to follow). I’m very invested in the world they have built, and am enjoying this comic, which feels different given the African perspective of its creators. I’m ready to see them move onto Black Panther after this series ends (which I hope is not for a good long time, as there’s a lot to dig into here).
One-Star Squadron #5 – Now that the Heroes4U office has been burnt down, Red Tornado and his employees find themselves at a crossroads. Red feels the need to solve the mystery of who torched their company, which leads him to question the role of heroes in the modern day. Mark Russell and Steve Lieber started this series off as an amusing humour book focusing on C- and D-list characters, but the humour largely drops away with this issue, and it becomes more poignant and thoughtful. The quality of this book is very high.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #22 – I’m not sure why we’re getting a new issue of this just one week after the last one, or just what is going on with so much of Marvel’s publishing schedule, but it’s all good I guess. The crew tries to make their escape with the unconscious head of the Unbroken Clan, and it’s a pretty standard Star Wars escape scene. I don’t feel much connection with any of these characters, and so I find I don’t get too excited by this book.
Suicide Squad #14 – In the wake of the War on Earth-3, Rick Flag takes over the remnants of the Squad, directing them to engage in various questionable (and not well-explained) missions. Dennis Hopeless takes over as writer for the remainder of this title, which is being canceled shortly (although he doesn’t get cover billing), but he’s not able to make things any more coherent. This has been a big failure of a title, having started out kind of interestingly a year ago. It’s a shame, and I really wish we could have a Suicide Squad series that captures something of what made John Ostrander’s title so great, while still being original and new. This is lacking both the tight plotting and strong characterizations that made that series so good.
X-Force Annual #1 – This story, that has the core team heading into an Orchis trap which Beast might have known about, is interesting, and a little odd. It has a creative team that is new to me – Nadia Shammas is the writer, and Rafael Pimentel is the artist. Shammas has a good handle on these characters, although I’m not entirely sure what Emma Frost was looking for in her conversation with Beast. Pimentel’s art is nice, but very much in the current Marvel house style, so it didn’t really stand out. I thought it interesting that this issue is focused on Orchis as the main threat, and not the usual person/organization that X-Force has been focused on.
X-Force #27 – I guess one of the first things that will be a casualty of Jonathan Hickman’s departure from the Krakoan line of books is the careful sense of continuity built between titles and their release dates. This issue has Beast and Sage speaking to the Quiet Council, but the Council doesn’t reflect the changes we’ve seen at the end of Inferno or the beginning of Immortal X-Men. The question of what to do about Omega Red following the end of the X Lives of Wolverine series comes up, and at the same time, one of the Cerebro devices goes rogue. I didn’t actually expect to see Ben Percy return to this title after it went on hiatus, and I’m hoping that he starts wrapping up some of the plot lines that he’s had running for a long time. I do like the growing sense of divide in the cast of this book, and am wondering if Beast is perhaps working for Orchis or another of the mutants’ enemies, given the choices he’s been making lately.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Batman: Killing Time #2
Ka-Zar Lord of the Savage Land TP
Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom HC
The Week in Music:
Greg Spero – The Chicago Experiment – Greg Spero is one of the artists I discovered during lockdown, as he kept releasing singles with a variety of jazz musicians I like. For this album, he gathered up a number of important contemporary jazz players from Chicago, including favourites of mine like Makaya McCraven, Joel Ross, and Jeff Parker, and had them improvise with him. The result is a very lovely album that, apparently, captures the subtleties of the Chicago sound. I like it a lot.
Rex Orange County – Who Cares? – The new Rex Orange County sounds a lot like the last one – upbeat pop music that makes great use of strings, while he sings about some sad boy stuff. ROC seems to be struggling with his life and his constant feelings of inadequacy, but he’s also excellent at making some very good pop music. This is nice.