The Weekly Round-Up #650 With X-Men Red #2, Black Hammer Reborn #12, Shadow War Zone #1, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #20 & More! Plus FCBD 2022, Frank Miller & The Week In Music!

Columns, News, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

X-Men Red #2 – It looks like Al Ewing is making this book a worthy successor to his excellent SWORD series.  Abigail Brand is working her agenda, and sets up her own X-Men team to watch over Arakko, consisting of some questionable characters, and Cable.  They aren’t together long before the Progenitors show up and force them into action.  The thing is, Storm is putting together her own Brotherhood, and they might be more capable.  I like how Ewing is picking up some of the threads that Jonathan Hickman started with Vulcan, and can see this book becoming a favourite among the X-books.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer Reborn #12 – I wondered how Jeff Lemire was going to wrap up the story with this being the last issue, but of course the series is going to be continued in Black Hammer: The End (which hasn’t been solicited yet).  Lucy is given a choice, to join her family or to return to her world and work to save it from Anti-God and the Crisis that he brings.  I like how Lemire has focused this book on Lucy, and her decision makes perfect sense in the context of this story.  Caitlin Yarsky’s art is lovely in this book, and I’m going to miss it until it returns in its next form.

Eternals #12 – I hadn’t realized that this was the last issue of Eternals (at least until after the Judgment Day event).  It feels like Kieron Gillen had to rush his story a little, after taking so much time to set up Thanos’s rule and its consequences for the Eternals.  We learn some of the secrets of the Celestials’ plans for the Deviants, and the role the Eternals really play.  This issue does set up the Avengers/X-Men/Eternals event, and leaves a new Prime Eternal in charge.  I was really starting to like this book, and Gillen’s fresh take on this property that I often found kind of dull.  I’m also always down for more Esad Ribic art.

The Flash #782 – I’m glad that the terrible War for Earth-3 crossover got me to sample The Flash, because this book is really good.  I like the dynamic between Wally and Wallace, and the way Kid Flash has been incorporated/retconned into Wally’s life.  The two are investigating a mystery at Iron Heights, and I get a sense that writer Jeremy Adams has a lot planned for this book.  He’s got actual subplots (so rare these days), and takes the time to check in on Wally’s family.  I need to get caught up on the beginning of this run, but I’ve decided to add this book to my pullfile, and I’m happy about it.  This reminds me a lot of what I loved about Mark Waid’s Flash, while still feeling pretty fresh.

Immortal X-Men #2 – I’d forgotten that Kieron Gillen was the writer who made Hope into an interesting character in his Uncanny run, and in Generation Hope, so I’m not surprised that he’s making her the focal point of this issue.  The Quiet Council has to deal with the results of Selene’s temper tantrum, and it’s interesting to see these characters start to work together.  This book has a lot of potential, and it seems like Gillen is determined to give a lot of screen time to the characters who are a little more under-used than others.  We’re off to a good start here.

New Masters #4 – I am loving this science fiction adventure series set in a futuristic vision of Africa.  Ola and her family have been attacked by people looking to steal the artifact they just stole, but Ola and her uncle manage to escape, which doesn’t make them safe.  Creators Shobo and Shof have put so much thought and planning into this series, and it’s fun to see how it plays out and unfolds.  I find the colouring makes this book a little hard to read at times, but I do love the creativeness of Shof’s art.  

New Mutants #25 – The delays between issues often make me forget that this book is still being published.  In this issue, Vita Ayala has Illyana preparing to transfer ownership of Limbo to Madelyne Pryor, so she can finally be free of it and the trauma it brought her when she was little.  Dani and Rahne don’t think this is a good idea, and travel to Limbo with them to serve as witnesses.  This is an interesting issue, and while I hate the Goblyn Queen, I do like the idea of her being given power as a means of redeeming herself.  Of course, things go wrong.  Rod Reis’s art is looking better and better, and I like that Jan Duursema drew the flashback to Illyana’s childhood.  We don’t see enough from Duursema these days.

Nightwing #92 – Dick opens Haven, his park for young people in Blüdhaven, which of course draws the attention and ire of Blockbuster.  Once again, Tom Taylor shows that he really gets Dick Grayson, and makes him stand out as a true hero.  Bruno Redondo’s art has been fantastic on this book, and he really shines here once again.  There’s also a nice little tribute to George Pérez in this issue that would have been planned and drawn before his passing.  It’s a bit of an Easter egg, but I thought it was touching and very appropriate.  This is one of my favourite ongoing titles right now.

Shadow War Zone #1 – I decided to grab this anthology story, because I’ve been enjoying the Shadow War event.  Joshua Williamson and Otto Schmidt have a Black Canary story that works well, building on the rather mysterious aspects we sometimes see of Dinah.  I don’t really know her past in the Infinite Frontiers DCU, but it’s clear she has history with R’as Al Ghul’s people, and has trained one of his assassins.  I also liked the story Ed Brisson wrote about Ghost-Maker and Clownhunter.  I don’t really know who these characters are, but Brisson makes me interested in learning more about them.  There’s also a story that retcons some information about Talia Al Ghul’s childhood that fits with this event, and a Harley Quinn story that really doesn’t (but sets up something else featuring Batwing and Lashina that has me mildly intrigued.  In all, this was worth the purchase.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #20 – Aphra and Sana confront Kho in the heart of the Ascendants’ temple, and learn that they might all be pawns in their old Sava’s games.  This issue moves pretty quickly, and cold have a lasting impact on our Aphra.  This arc has been a good read.

Star Wars: Han Solo & Chewbacca #2 – This series is revealing itself to be a fun read.  Han has perhaps discovered his father after all these years, but also thinks the man might be playing him.  At the same time, he needs his help so he and Greedo can pull off the job that Jabba has sent them on.  There’s someone else hunting Han in the background, so things just look like they’re going to get more and more complex.  Marc Guggenheim has a good handle on Han’s voice, and David Messina’s art is very nice.  I’m liking this series so far.

Wolverine #21 – Logan’s attempt to track down his stolen arm has revealed that Danger, the sentient former Danger Room, is running some sort of scheme involving fake Wolverine bodies.  I’m not sure really what’s going on, largely because the inclusion of Deadpool in this story makes things kind of distracting.  I think it’s odd that we’re in an era where there is no ongoing Deadpool book, and it makes me think this storyline is being floated as a test to see if there is enough fan interest to warrant that.  I have no interest in reading more Deadpool stories…

The X-Cellent #3 – This series is growing on me, although I’m still not all that sure what Peter Milligan is going for with his and Michael Allred’s return to the X-Statix.  I thought this book would somehow integrate these characters with the Krakoan status quo, but that so far hasn’t happened.  Given the tendency for characters to die in these books, I would assume that mutant resurrection will have to play a role at some point.

X-Force #28 – There’s a ravenous sentient Cerebro unit loose on the island, and it’s X-Force’s job to hunt it down and stop it.  They aren’t doing so well though.  This book is really inconsistent in its quality – there’s nothing wrong with this issue, but I wonder what this title really adds to the Krakoan narrative.

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

Batman The Knight #5

Free Comic Book Day Comics:

Barbaric #1 – So many of Vault’s series have been good, and I regret not checking them out more often.  This book, by Michael Morecie and Nathan Gooden is a lot of fun.  Owen is a barbarian suffering under a curse to always do good and help people.  He’s commanded by his axe, which only he can hear.  I’m going to want to get this trade and read the rest of this story.

The Incal Universe – I feel almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never read The Incal, or any of the Metabarons graphic novels, despite having always wanted to.  Now it appears that Humanoids is going to be publishing new stories set in that universe, and they look like they might be pretty good.  This sampler has caught my interest, and I think the reading order at the end will come in handy as I start to track these books down.

Stranger Things – I’ve enjoyed the Stranger Things TV show (although it’s a case of diminishing returns with each new season), but have never had any interest in reading the comics.  I picked this up for the Resident Alien short story.  I’d thought that Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse were done with Harry and his supporting cast, so this odd little story about an old lady who perhaps has a ghost in her attic, was a nice little treat.  I hope this means we’ll see more RA some time soon…

Flowers Department:

Frank Miller – I can remember being about nine or ten years old when a friend showed me Daredevil #181, which he’d bought as a back issue, because we were maybe seven when it came out.  The scene where Elektra was killed blew me away, for its graphic qualities, and also because I my mind almost short circuited with empathy for Matt Murdock.  I didn’t know who Elektra was, but that issue made it clear that she was important in Matt’s life.  That’s probably the first time I saw a Frank Miller comic, and it stuck with me.  I started hunting down DD back issues, and was introduced to the world of Stick, the Hand, and Bullseye.  Nothing was more bad-ass.  Then, when I was not yet eleven, Miller returned to write Daredevil, with art by the incredible David Mazzuchelli, and the Born Again saga blew me away again. I’d never read a comic that felt so immediate and realistic, and also so bleak.  Not long after that, Miller’s Dark Knight Returns hit the stands, and I had to justify buying such a mature and expensive comic to my parents.  That was also a revelation as to what comics could be, and I read it over and over again, eagerly awaiting each new issue.  After that, we got Batman: Year One, another Mazzuchelli collaboration that again had me electrified with the possibilities that comics could deliver.  During this time, I continued to hunt for Miller’s work in back issue bins, and followed his career very closely.  I distinctly remember reading the first issue of Give Me Liberty on an airplane, and immediately starting it again once I’d finished.  From there, I loved books like Sin City (at least at first, before it got kind of formulaic), and enjoyed Miller’s career through the first 300 series.  After that point, things started to go off the rails, and to be honest, I’m not really checking for his stuff anymore, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a huge influence on my life, and on so many of the comics I’ve read since those glorious days of my youth.  Today, I’m able to see a throughline starting with his Wolverine miniseries (with Chris Claremont) through his groundbreaking Ronin, to the other books I’ve mentioned.  Like with John Byrne last week, I don’t think I’d agree much with what Miller has to say today, but I am eternally thankful for the great comics he gave me.

The Week in Music:

High Pulp – Pursuit of Ends – I picked this up on the strength of the features by Brandee Younger and Theo Croker.  This is a jazz record on Anti, that makes generous use of synths and keyboards.  The beginning tracks are a little more traditional, but as the album continues, and picks up the feature artists, it becomes much more groove oriented, and lovely.  I think I should take the time to find out more about High Pulp, as they’re new to me.

Joel Ross – The Parable of the Poet – I love the vibraphone, and since the lead track of this album, Prayer, dropped a while ago, I’ve been looking forward to this.  Ross’s work is always lovely, and this album is no different.  It falls comfortably in the Blue Note vein, and features label mates Immanuel Wilkins on saxophone and Marquis Hill on trumpet.  I can see returning to this album time and again this summer.

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