The Weekly Round-Up #647 With Saga #58, The Scumbag #13, Newburn #6, Draculina #3, Ghost Cage #2 & More With A Tribute To Neal Adams! Plus The Week In Music!

Columns, News, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Saga #58 – My favourite thing about Saga is the way that Brian K. Vaughan keeps his characters so grounded in the everyday.  Alanna is on an alien planet delivering drugs to a humanoid dog, yet their conversation sounds like it could be between two people who run into each other in a coffee shop.  We get a lot of plot progression in this issue, as Skipper reveals that he knows the truth about Bombazine’s past, which looks pretty dark, and as Landfall sends an agent to try to track down and kill Hazel.  This book is so addictive.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics #1042 – I am loving this run!  Superman and his allies move to save his fellow prisoners on Warworld, drawing attention to Midnighter’s growing army, but also providing them with a great opportunity.  At the same time, Lois and Jon work to help the Phaelosian woman who came to Earth at the start of Philip Kennedy Johnson’s run.  Riccardo Federici’s art gives this a real European sword and sorcery feel.  I’m also happy to see that the Martian Manhunter backup has run its course – I wish this book didn’t have a backup, as they’ve not really added any value since I started reading it.

Alien #11 – Jane and what’s left of her flock make their way to the third terraforming station on their planet, which has been overrun by xenomorphs sent by Welyand-Yutani as a controlled experiment, and we discover that help has been sent, in a way.  I like this book a great deal.  Philip Kennedy Johnson and Salvador Larroca have figured out the correct balance of horror and science fiction for this series, and once again, we learn to never trust synthetics.

Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target #7 – I’m not sure what the point of this miniseries was.  Brandon Thomas did such a great job on his recent Jackson Hyde-focused Aquaman series (The Becoming), and it led to a strong start for the Aquamen series he is co-writing (see below), but this altered timeline adventure with Ollie Queen never really clicked.  It’s fine as a straight-forward story, but it didn’t really add anything to either character.  I expected more.

Aquamen #3 – I missed artist Sami Basri on this issue (Max Raynor does a fine job, but it’s not the same).  Jackson heads to Gotham to try to stop the person behind the sleeper agents, while Mera realizes that Arthur has been deceiving her.  This book is building nicely, and I’m enjoying it.

Deathstroke Inc. #8 – In Chapter Three of the Shadow War, Slade and Respawn get to spend some quality time together while Talia’s people hunt for them.  Batman tries to reason with Talia, but that obviously isn’t going to work out.  This is a solid chapter in this exciting crossover.  Joshua Williamson is handling the story very well, and it’s nice to see a single-writer event, as it makes coordination between the books very easy.  The art by Paolo Pantalena is not to my liking, as it is like a blend of Howard Porter’s new style with that of Gerardo Sandoval. 

Draculina #3 – Priest’s recursive, mobius-strip plotting is really working in this book (in a way that it isn’t so much in Dracula/Vampire: Unholy).  Katie continues her journey with Imogen, a detective, while we learn about her meeting with Belial, and see a little more of what Draculina is up to.  Priest makes some comments on the dumbing-down of America that seem pretty accurate, and Michael Sta. Maria’s art is very nice, in a Dynamite Comics kind of way.  I’m glad I’m getting this book.

Ghost Cage #2 – Nick Dragotta’s oversized black and white adventure is definitely strange, but also pretty effective.  Doyle, a customer service tech, and Sam, an AI of some sort, are fighting their way up a gigantic tower that provides power to the city (or country) outside.  The power company’s president is clearly up to no good, as he has plans to use death energy to replace conventional and green power.  I don’t think I get all of it, but Dragotta’s art is so dynamic and exciting that the fact that I’m not following the story doesn’t matter much to me.

Justice League #75 – Okay, I picked this up because I’ve been very impressed with most of Joshua Williamson’s writing lately (especially with the titles tied in to the Shadow War).  This is a prelude to the Dark Crisis series he’s writing, and it bridges the gap between his Justice League Incarnate series that I read last week and that larger event.  The League is teleported to meet their counterparts, and then they all get in a fight with Pariah and the villainous types he has control of (which all seem to have come from the mainstream Earth-0).  I guess it’s not a spoiler, given the cover, to reveal that the entire League is killed in this issue, which should probably have continuity ramifications for every other title, but probably won’t.  I’m starting to fear that preordering Dark Crisis was a mistake…

Newburn #6 – For the first time, Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips give us a two-part story, and it’s mostly focused on Emily, Newburn’s new assistant.  We learn that she once was in the police academy, and see how that connection might lead to problems for Newburn.  This issue jumps around a little in time, and it’s cool to see Zdarsky move away from the done-in-one format that has been part of this series’s appeal.  He took the time to build up the situation, and now we’re going to go deeper.  I’m also really liking the backup story by Casey Gilly and Soo Lee.

Robin #13 – Okay, I’m officially enjoying this Shadow War mini-event a lot.  This issue brings the central characters – Batman, Robin, Deathstroke, Ravager, and Respawn together briefly, as Damian learns that he has a brother of sorts, and it becomes clear that someone is playing everyone.  I thought I’d never be excited to see Roger Cruz art again, associating the artist with the 90s as strongly as I do, but his work on Robin has been very good.

The Scumbag #13 – This title started to lose its way in the middle for a bit, but this issue, which has Ernie attempting to stop the facist ray that has turned America into the 1950s again with the help of his sexbot that won’t sleep with him, is something that most North Americans need to win.  Ernie, a real terrible person, is caught between two extreme versions of the extreme Right and Left, and makes a number of very good points about the current sense of division on our continent.  It’s clear that Rick Remender has thought a lot about partisanship and the odd position we’ve put ourselves in.  Sometimes the clearest of messages come in the strangest of places.  I’d love to see how the Fox News pundits would react to reading this book, which in addition to being so insightful, is also deliciously dirty and profane.

Star Wars: Crimson Dawn #4 – Qi’ra sends the Knights of Ren on a mission to break into Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar.  It’s cool that the Knights are being brought into the canon some twenty years before they are set to appear in The Force Awakens, giving them a little more history.  This series has been cool, but it’s increasingly obvious that it’s a midpoint in Charles Soule’s larger plans for the Star Wars franchise.

The Swamp Thing #12 – I love that Ram V is including Jack Hawksmoor in this arc.  Hawksmoor is a very cool, and under-utilized, character.  V introduces the idea of an anthropocenic equivalent to the Green, the Red, and the Rot – the Parliament of Gears, representing the way in which industry should be on a similar level to these other aspects of life.  It’s a cool idea, and I’m curious to see how it plays out.  Mike Perkins continues to impress mightily with his art in this series, giving everything an impressive level of detail.  

Teen Titans Academy #14 – I hate the way that this comic is working so hard to line up with the events of the Future State miniseries of a little more than a year ago.  For example. Titan’s Tower fell on Beast Boy and Cyborg, and the only way to save them is to surgically combine them into a single entity?  How does that even work?  Or make sense?  It seems like it could have been easily ignored and written away, but instead, here we are with this very strange plot element.  I’m also never thrilled to see Tom Derenick artwork.  This series started out with so much promise, and I still like the parts of the story focused on some of the students (like the group the Stitch accidentally takes to Apokalips).  I did think it’s kind of cool that Chupacabra, one of the best new characters in this book, went to visit his Uncle Jorge, who is clearly Geroge Pérez.  It’s a cool little tribute scene.

Thor #24 – I feel a few ways about this comic.  Odin has passed on, and despite the fact that the last issue commented on how there was no body for a funeral because of how he died, and the fact that it’s now many months after that death, Thor holds a funeral and stands over his father’s body.  To commemorate Odin’s passing, he reads from the Book of Kings, which allows for various guest writers and artists to provide short stories that hearken back to their runs on the book.  I was really happy to see Walter Simonson write and draw the first story – it was his run in the 80s that first got me interested in Thor – even if it doesn’t feature Odin at all, and contradicts some of the continuity we saw recently in the Beta Ray Bill miniseries.  Some of the stories just don’t work, and I had trouble understanding if the JMS/Olivier Coipel story was set in current day or during their run.  I like how Al Ewing and Lee Garbett used their pages to revisit their Loki run, and set up the next Defenders miniseries, even if it also didn’t really fit that well with the rest of the issue.  As to the framing stuff, this is where I remain torn.  I’ve liked aspects of Donny Cates’s run, but with the revelation about Thor’s hammer, and the promised continuation of a character dynamic I’ve grown very tired of (which, this issue should have been the final page on, at least for a while), and the upcoming crossover with Cates’s Hulk book, I’m jumping ship with this issue.  Nic Klein’s art is amazing, but I think I’m just tired of this book.

Vampirella/Dracula: Unholy #5 – So I didn’t realize that this is really a miniseries, and that it’s ending with the next issue.  We figure out who is carrying the Dracula virus, and how it was transmitted.  It’s time for Matty to take a stand and try to protect his wife, so Vampirella is really just a minor character in this one.  I saw in the latest Previews that Priest has a Year One series on the way, so I’m glad to learn that his time with Vampirella is not done.

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

Hulk Grand Design: Madness #1

Knights of X #1

Punisher #2

Rogues #2

In Memorium:

Neal Adams – We lost a a very important creator this week. I’d probably seen Adams’s artwork on a ton of licensed products long before I knew his name, but I remember when I first became aware of his art, and it was from a baxter-paper reprint of some of his and Roy Thomas’s X-Men work that was recoloured and published in 1983.  I know that I was already reading X-Men by this point, but I was still shocked by how stylish and unique this book looked, especially given that it was reprinting comics that were old.  I remember being particularly struck by Havok and Polaris, and how cool they looked, and it caused Adams’s name to stick in my head.  Of course, after that, I realized that he was responsible for how I viewed Batman until Norm Breyfogle came along.  Adams is one of the most influential artists for people of my generation – he defined the parameters of superhero comics for much of my childhood, and it was his proteges (especially Bill Sienkiewicz) who led the charge to redefine what comics were capable of.  Since his passing this week, I learned just how influential he was in promoting creators’ rights, and was instrumental in getting their original artwork returned to them.  Adams’s more recent output has often been disappointing (Batman Odyssey?), but he’s left us with such an immense and impressive body of work.  I’ve never really read his Continuity Comics output, but appreciate what he brought to independent comics as well.  I never met Adams, but did see him at numerous shows over the years.  I know that he had some strange beliefs (like the Hollow Earth theory), but there is no denying that he left a massive footprint on both the industry and the imaginations of generations.  My condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, many proteges, and legions of fans.  

The Week In Music:

Agosta – Agosta – This debut album from an Italian DJ and beatmaker has a lot of range.  Some of it feels like a movie soundtrack, while other parts feel like they would have fit in nicely at Low End Theory.  This is a lovely, very chill album that I’m happy I took a chance on.  Good music for reading to.

Elzhi – Zhigeist – I have a lot of respect for Elzhi (formerly of Slum Village) and his ability to just spit.  He’s one of those classic rappers who you can always rely on for some thoughtful lines and a nice flow.  What really makes this album work, though, is that he collaborated with Georgia Anne Muldrow, who made all the beats and music, and who sings on a number of tracks.  Muldrow is one of the most criminally underrated artists working today.  Her beats are fire, but she also is an incredible singer and rapper, and I love the massive body of work she’s created (especially her Jyoti stuff).  It’s cool that she’s blessing other rappers with these beats now (she has the best tracks on Wildchild’s new album too), and she’s very good at giving Elzhi just the right kind of beats.  I do think she should be receiving equal billing on this album though.

What would you like to know?