The Weekly Round-Up #651 With Saga #59, Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #5, Deathstroke Inc. #9, The Department of Truth #18, Legion of X #1 & More! Plus Chris Claremont & The Week In Music!

Columns, News, Top Story

The Best Comic of the Week:

Saga #59 – Alana completes her smuggling mission, and that leads to some changes in the family dynamic, as one person chooses to leave the treehouse rocketship, but a couple of other people join.  I like that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are introducing so many new characters into this book, as the Landfall agent works to track them down.  This is always a book I look forward to, and I love that it’s back on the stands.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics #1043 – The rebellion on Warworld continues to grow, as Superman and his people fight to retrieve Manchester Black from Mongul’s forces, and plot their next rescue.  We are learning more and more about the history of Warworld, as writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson introduces a new story element that had me thinking about the Infinity Gems of the Marvel Universe.  We also get a relevant backup story, also by Johnson, telling us about the history of Mongul’s line.  This is one of my favourite series right now, and Johnson and his collaborators (Riccardo Federici and Will Conrad this month) make this series a delight.  This is one of the best Superman stories I’ve ever read.

Aquamen #4 – Sami Basri returns to draw this issue, and so the book looks terrific again.  Arthur, Jackson, Black Manta, and Mera are all finally on the same page and rush to deal with the threat of the Atlantean sleeper agents.  This series is interesting, and I like how writers Chuck Brown and Brandon Thomas are taking a Bat-Family approach to Aquaman.  I see a lot of potential in this book.

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #5 – Fletcher and his companion travel to a Trollhome so they can try to locate the princess they are hoping to rescue.  This issue has a lot of exposition, as we learn how magic came to exist in human lands, and what impact it’s having on the other realms.  Carlos Pacheco continues to blow me way with his art in this book, and I’m so happy to see him working with Kurt Busiek again.  I know that the next issue is the last of this half of this story, and I’m hoping that the second half won’t take too long to appear, as this story has gripped me.

Deathstroke Inc. #9 – I continue to be impressed with the Shadow War event.  Deathstroke has reason to be extra angry with Talia Al Ghul, so he sets out to free his Secret Society from Batman Inc.  At the same time, Batman and Robin confront the fake Deathstroke who assassinated R’as, and I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who he is.  Joshua Williamson does a great job of making each chapter (he’s writing the whole event) match with the book it appears in, while still building the larger story in an organic way.  More events should be single-author like this.

The Department of Truth #18 – After a lot of issues that focused mostly on the history of the Department, or strange tangents, it’s nice to get back to the main plot of this series.  Cole is having a hard time adjusting to everything he’s learned, and it’s impacting his relationship, as well as his performance at work.  Lee Harvey Oswald’s answer, of course, is to blow his mind with even more revelations, as it looks like Black Hat is getting ready to make a move.  This was another solid issue.

Devil’s Reign: Omega #1 – Chip Zdarsky and Rafael De LaTorre use the lead issue in this story to wrap up their Devil’s Reign story, and to lay the groundwork for the new Daredevil series (that will have the same creative team as the last one, thankfully).  Matt Murdock is buried, as Daredevil prepares to head off with Elektra to try to stop the Hand.  At the same time, Luke Cage starts his term as mayor of New York City, and begins to articulate his priorities.  There are two backup stories – one has Luke working to reform the Kingpin’s Thunderbolts program, as he reaches out to Monica Rambeau to run things.  This has me more interested in the upcoming Thunderbolts series, by Jim Zub and (I assume) Luciano Vecchio.  There is some potential there.  There’s also a Cage solo story by Rodney Barnes and Guillermo Sanna that kind of suggests they might have a Cage series on the way.  I liked the Devil’s Reign event, and how it played out for some of its key characters.  I think it’s a shame that Ho Che Anderson’s Luke Cage mini wasn’t published, though, as I would have enjoyed reading his take on the character.  I’m also ready for this next Daredevil series, which I think was delayed while this Omega issue was put together.

Legion of X #1 – Simon Spurrier’s Way of X was an intriguing miniseries, and I’m pleased to see that he’s been given the chance to return to the concepts he played with in it.  Legion has set up a space in his brain, called the Altar, that serves as the homebase of Nightcrawler’s legion.  It’s kind of a police force, charged with upholding the three laws of Krakoa, as Kurt interprets them.  Spurrier sets up a number of plotlines – there’s someone possessing Krakoans, Arakkans want help tracking down a rogue god, and Blindfold’s resurrection gives Legion some real joy, even if things are a bit weird.  Spurrier has a great cast for this book – in addition to Kurt and David, he’s working with Juggernaut, Pixie, Dr. Nemesis, Lost, Fabian Cortez, and Forgetmenot, the mutant that no one notices or remembers.  There’s a lot of strange story potential here, and artist Jan Bazaldua seems the perfect choice for capturing the off-kilter feel of this title.  This book should be pretty interesting, and I’m happy it exists.  Krakoa’s strength lies in its diversity, and that should be the same for the breadth and depth of the comics set there.

Moon Knight #11 – Moon Knight, Tigra, and an escaped serial killer rush to rescue MK’s therapist from Zodiac, not realizing that Zodiac planned for this, and is himself laying siege to the Mission.  This series has been great, giving us a new view of MK that seems much more sustainable than we’ve seen before.  This is the first time that an issue has a continued story, as Jed MacKay has finished laying the groundwork for his larger story.  

Newburn #7 – While Newburn investigates the murder of a Yakuza boss, Emily finds herself in the crosshairs of the Albano family, because of something that happened in her past.  After a trade’s worth of done in one stories, Chip Zdarsky is giving us a longer, more involved story, and it feels like a good decision.  This book has an interesting approach to organized crime, and I feel a lot more invested in the story now that we’ve spent time with these characters and this world.  Jacob Phillips’s art is beginning to rival that of his fathers; this book looks terrific.

Robin #14 – The seventh chapter of Shadow War proves I was right with my guess as to the identity of the false Deathstroke who stirred up so much trouble.  The Secret Society has engaged Talia’s forces, and now Batman, Robin, and Batman Inc. are rushing to catch up and get into the fight as well.  Damian has a strong moment, standing up to his father, and Talia and Slade engage in what might be their last fight.  This event has flowed really well.  I don’t know anything about this Ghosthunter character, but I’m interested in learning more about him.

The Rush #6 – Simon Spurrier and Nathan Gooden’s strange horror story set in the Canadian Gold Rush comes to a strange conclusion this month.  I’ve really enjoyed this series, but like with most horror stories of this nature, I’m always left a little unsatisfied with the ending.  I don’t put that on these two creators – I just always find the beginnings of stories a lot more compelling than their conclusions.  I did really like the main character, Nettie, and thought she was very well written.  This book was cool, and another excellent example of why Vault is a publisher to watch.

Stillwater #13 – Things are changing in the town of Stillwater, as a change to the original town map means that the curse of immortality can be extended to more people.  How are the various factions going to react to this news?  Apparently this is the last arc of this series, and Chip Zdarsky and Ramón Perez have really hit their groove.  This book works very well.

The Swamp Thing #13 – I find that Ram V’s story is growing quickly, but with only three more issues in the run, I worry about how he’s going to wrap up what is starting to feel like a big epic.  This book is entertaining, and Mike Perkins’s art is gorgeous.

Teen Titans Academy #15 – It’s a shame to see this title come to its close, as it had so much potential.  Tim Sheridan introduced a really fascinating group of young heroes into this book, and did a great job of juggling the gigantic cast.  There were missteps along the way – the involvement in the War For Earth-3, and the combination of Cyborg and Beast Boy were annoying – but this felt like it could have been a long-running title for sure.  I didn’t love the art these last two issues, but I would have lived with it had the book continued.  This issue wraps up a few plotlines, and has Diego reveal his big secret in a very touching George Pérez tribute scene.  I’m hoping that DC has plans to revamp and relaunch this book soon, or that we’ll see a number of these characters again.

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

Avengers #56

Batman Fortress #1

Flowers Department:

Chris Claremont – I’m not sure there’s been any comics writer that has more shaped my enjoyment of the medium, and probably my world view, than Chris Claremont.  My first X-Men comic was Uncanny #128, featuring Proteus and John Byrne art, and I always thought it was one of the coolest things I owned.  It was years later before I started reading the X-Men regularly (I want to say I started in the late 170s), and it remained my favourite comic into the Shadow King saga.  Claremont’s diverse cast had a huge impression on me, and I think that his strong women and characters of colour had a lot to do with forming many of my core values and beliefs.  I thought his Wolverine was the coolest thing ever, but I also developed a long-lasting appreciation of Storm, triggered by her slow genesis into the powerless, leather-wearing leader of the team.  Claremont was responsible for two of my early comic book crushes – Kitty Pryde really caught my eye for a while, but was then replaced by Dani Moonstar in New Mutants.  Claremont’s willingness to experiment with the status quo and character dynamics kept me interested for years, even when his lengthy text boxes and word balloons started to feel like a chore to get through.  I remember meeting him once or twice at conventions, and finding him kind and patient.  I also vaguely remember reading his novel, First Flight, and being a little surprised by the amount of sex in it.  After Claremont left the X-Men, things were never really the same, but I did also enjoy his Fantastic Four run in the early 2000s, and found some good things in his X-Treme X-Men run.  Claremont is a giant of this medium we all love, and I hope he feels appreciated for his contributions.

The Week in Music:

AJ Suede & Televangel – Metatron’s Cube – Televangel, formerly of the rap production duo Blue Sky Black Death, has gone through a lot of permutations during the course of his career, and with this project with up and coming rapper AJ Suede, he returns to his roots, providing some very nice, atmospheric underground beats.  The Suede God matches them very well, and gives us intelligent and layered rhymes that often reference other eras of hip hop.  This is a very solid album, with appearances from Ceschi, Hemlock Ernst, and PremRock.  I’ve been listening to this for a while, and I’m glad to finally get a physical copy of it.

Okada – Fragility – I’m not even sure how I got turned on to this beautiful ambient album, but I’m glad I discovered it and added it to my collection.  This is ambient music, but with more structure than usual, and even some vocals.  There are only four tracks, but one of them is almost twenty minutes long, and it sets a very nice tone for a relaxing, introspective day.  Great music to read to.

What would you like to know?