The Weekly Round-Up #652 With What’s The Furthest Place From Here? #6, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters & Darth Vader #23’s, The Phalanx #1, Vampirella / Dracula: Unholy #6, Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1 & More! Plus Walter Simonson & The Week In Music!

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Best Comic of the Week:

What’s The Furthest Place From Here? #6 – I love this endlessly bizarre book by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss.  This book is so creative and strange, and is also a great value, as every issue is at least forty pages, while costing $4.  This issue has the kids from the Academy facing their punishment at the Carnival, but once again, Prufrock takes things into his own hands and maybe makes things worse.  This series reminds me a lot of the early seasons of Lost (and not just because there’s a hatch on the cover of this issue).  It’s always impossible to predict what’s going to happen next, and the weirdest events fit in the logic of the story in such a way that they don’t seem so strange.  It’s a really entertaining, and beautifully designed, book.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues to make this Action Comics run memorable.  For this annual, he’s joined by co-writer Simon Spurrier and artists Dale Eaglesham and Ian Churchill (I haven’t seen his name in a long time) to tell two parallel stories.  One is focused on young Clark Kent’s issues with a bully when he was a child, and the other shows us the difficult early days of the current Mongul.  Both stories are handled really well, with sensitivity and character.  The art is incredible throughout this comic.  It could be skipped if you were just reading the Warworld Saga, but it does add some nuance to it and is a solid read.

Alien #12 – We reach the end of this second arc, as Jane works desperately to save the remaining members of her flock from the aliens and from Weyland-Yutani.  This series has been impressive and enjoyable, and I like how each arc tells a different story.  It does look like Marvel is relaunching the book already, which is kind of annoying, but so long as Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Salvador Larroca work on it, I’ll keep buying.

Batman 2022 Annual #1 – I’ve been wanting to know more about Ghost-Maker since I started reading Batman comics again, and Ed Brisson was kind enough to write this annual which features him taking control of Batman Incorporated as a favour to Batman.  He’s an interesting character – arrogant and mysterious, but also caring and supportive.  He takes his new international squad (after relegating a number of team members back to their own cities to work independently) on a mission to Chechnya to clean up one of Lex Luthor’s mistakes.  It’s hard to tell where this fits with the Shadow War crossover, because this shows us the first time the team met Ghost-Maker, but doesn’t include the character who died in the crossover.  Leaving that aside, this is a good issue with solid John Timms artwork.  I’m curious about the upcoming Batman Inc. series teased at the end of this comic; I hope that Brisson is writing it.

Black Panther #6 – T’Challa is on the run, pursued by the Hatut Zeraze, and has to fight back without any of his usual tools.  John Ridley has put together an exciting story, but I feel like his dialogue rings a little wrong.  I don’t see Wakandans as very vernacular people, and Ridley’s T’Challa lacks the bearing that Priest’s run made so central to the character.  I’m liking this book, but it just feels a little off to me.  Stefano Landini came in to draw this issue, and while I miss Juann Cabal’s art, Landini’s fits the style of the book perfectly.

The Closet #1 – James Tynion IV is a really versatile writer.  His indie series like The Woods and Department of Truth couldn’t be more different, aside from their high level of quality.  The Closet is a new three-parter with artist Gavin Fullerton.  Thom is leaving California with his wife and son to move to Portland, but the move is putting strains on a marriage that already seems to be having trouble.  Complicating things even further is Jamie, their son, and his total fear of his bedroom closet.  Slowly, we start to see that there might be reasons to be concerned.  This book has a good grounding in the real world, which is why the closet stuff actually starts to feel creepy and weird.  Tynion is very good at constructing complicated and interesting characters in a hurry, and Fullerton’s art is very good.  I’m into this, and it has me thinking I should be checking out some of Tynion’s Substack stuff.

Fire Power #21 – Owen is off searching for more of this old masters to join the fight against the dragon while the rest of the family processes things in their own way, and the world’s governments start to respond to the threat.  Like with many Robert Kirkman series, the scope and scale of this title have shifted a lot, as we get ready to see more crazy fights.  Chris Samnee is doing the work of his career here.

Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1 – I always seem to get sucked into these events, whether I want to or not.  This is an anthology of short stories checking in on various newer legacy characters and how they react to the death of the Justice League.  The quality is all over the place (it feels weird seeing Dan Jurgens draw the Nightwing/Superman story, as his art looks like a rushed job from the early nineties, and works counter to what I assume is a big push by DC to focus on their more youthful characters.  The Flash story, with art by Rosi Kämpe, works better but is a little cartoonish.  In another story, Chuck Brown and Fico Ossio have Jackson Hyde filling Hal Jordan in on what happened.  Phillip Kennedy Johnson, who has been incredible lately, works with Leila Del Duca to help explain why Pariah has turned into a villainous character in Dark Crisis.  Finally, the Batgirl (Stephanie version) story has her confronting Nocturna, who is portrayed very differently from how she was just shown in Suicide Squad.  Anyway, it was probably helpful to pick this up as it helps set up Dark Crisis, but I doubt anything in here will be relevant in the larger event.

Little Monsters #4 – I’m enjoying this new series by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, but am confused by one thing.  We’ve established that the child vampires who are our main characters have been alone in a ruined city for a very long time, but we are also seeing that many of them became vampires a long time before our modern day.  So, why is it that none of them have ever tasted people before?  As we learn more about them, and as they realize how good drinking human blood makes them feel, I’m sure this will be addressed.  This issue is pretty brutal, as the kids track down the first humans they’ve seen in ages, and the end really surprised me.  This is a good book, and very different from the Descender/Ascender work that Lemire and Nguyen last worked together on.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #38 – Miles and Shift are having their Days of Future Past moment.  They’ve found themselves in an alternate reality where Selim has taken over Brooklyn, and two of the people Miles is closest to run the resistance against him.  This story moves a little too quickly – we don’t get enough of an understanding why Selim is bad, and Miles’s friends move too quickly into the position of accepting his help and launching a big mission.  At the same time, most of the emotional beats in this story work well, and the art, which is shared between Christopher Allen and Alberto Foche, is pretty nice.  This storyline has a lot of potential.

Once & Future #26 – It feels like Kieron Gillen is rushing this story a little, as we jump ahead a few months, missing what looks like a good story at the Glastonbury Festival, as Bridgette organizes a complicated plan involving Robin Hood, the Merry Men, King Lear, and the River Lethe, to put the world back to rights.  At the same time, her daughter is making her move for the Grail.  This series took me forever to get into, but now I’m really invested in it and am enjoying it a lot.

The Phalanx #1 – In tribute to Image Comic’s 30th anniversary, Jonathan Luna gives us this one-shot based on character ideas he came up with as a young teen.  It’s basically an oddball take on a WildCATS type book.  A gun for hire type is tracking down a mystical crystal, but the man she’s chasing to get it brings her back to the 90s, where she meets the Phalanx, a pretty typical 90s team.  This is entertaining, and I always like Luna’s art, but I’m glad this was just a one-off.

A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance #8 – This is a brutal issue.  Sonny has found the boy he’s adopted, kidnapped and tied up, and sees that his attacker has already taken out Jimbo the survivalist.  It’s not long before this guy, who likes to torture people, has Sonny tied up in a chair too, and is coming at him with pieces of broken lightbulb.  Rick Remender and André Lima Araújo never slow down for long with this title, as things just keep getting more violent and disturbing.  It’s a very exciting book that I find sticks with me more than I’d expect.

Shadow War Omega #1 – Joshua Williamson wraps up his Shadow War event, which crossed between Robin, Deathstroke Inc., and Batman for the last two months.  This issue is a satisfying chunk of comics, with some very nice art by Stephan Segovia and Mike Henderson, and some overly complicated art by Howard Porter.  I like how Williamson has used this story to try to bring some reconciliation between Bruce and Damian, while also providing a chance at redemption for Talia.  It feels like the DC Universe is becoming more intertwined again, with this story connecting to Brian Michael Bendis’s Checkmate and the upcoming Dark Crisis.  I’m pleased that Williamson is sticking with Robin’s title, as it’s a favourite of mine.  He’s one of the better writers to tackle Damian lately.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #23 – This book is starting to drift again, as this is largely a Dengar-focused issue.  Ethan Sacks writes Dengar like he’s the Star Wars version of Rodney Dangerfield, always complaining about how he doesn’t get respect.  He bumbles his way through a Crimson Dawn mission, before crossing paths with the bounty hunters who have become the main characters of this title since Valance got moved over to Vader’s book.  On its own, this title doesn’t make a lot of sense, and needs to be read in the context of the entire line.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #23 – Sabé has revealed to Vader that she knows who he really is, and then uses that knowledge to get him to come help her rescue a group of formerly enslaved people from Tatooine she and the other handmaidens helped rescue as a tribute to Padmé.  This book is getting pretty complicated, and the sequence at the end was kind of confusing, but Rafaelle Ienco’s art is just so good.  He makes Vader as menacing as we’ve ever seen him in the comics.

Vampirella/Dracula: Unholy #6 – I don’t really understand why Dynamite chose to relaunch Priest’s Vampirella, when this six-part story could have just been the next arc in her series, but that’s modern comics for you.  Vampirella’s confrontation with Dracula didn’t go so well, so it looks like it’s up to Matty, in the end, to try to defeat the undead being that transmits through a virus.  I am a huge Priest fan, so I’ve enjoyed the quirky structure of this series.  I haven’t really loved artist Donny Hadiwidjaja’s work on this book – it often looks rushed – but did like the way this series expanded, however briefly, the cast that Priest works with.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming Year One series, as I still don’t know a lot about Vampirella’s back story.

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

Avengers Forever #6

Rick Grimes 2000 HC

The Flowers Department:

Walter Simonson – When I was in the early days of my comics collecting life, I only had a few Thor comics, and I always found them a tough slog. The tiresome dialogue drained my interest pretty quickly. I didn’t mind Thor in other books, and was a fan of the Avengers. Then, an issue of Avengers tied in to a Thor storyline, when Ancient Winter was released in Manhattan, and I decided to give Thor a try to see what this story was all about. I was blown away. Walter Simonson somehow modernized the character in a way that blew me away, and his story and art fit together so well. I liked the angular and boxy approach to the character, and the way that the Surtur story was building. Simonson’s art (with John Workman’s lettering) changed my whole way of thinking about Thor, and I started tracking down the back issues. This is the era that gave us Beta Ray Bill and Throg, and redeemed the Executioner for all time, in one of the most thrilling character deaths I’ve ever seen. Simonson’s Thor worked on such a grand scale, and I’d argue that no one has accomplished anything near as good with the character since. After Simonson stopped drawing the book, I stayed interested, but with Sal Buscema drawing, it just wasn’t the same. Later, Simonson became the artist on X-Factor (his wife, Louise was the writer of this excellent run), and I was again thrilled. He designed the look for Archangel, and turned Apocalypse into a truly memorable villain. These two runs are enough to cement his position as being among my favourite creators of all time. His run on Fantastic Four was also impressive and more than a little experimental (I remember an issue that was completely out of sequence). I should also discuss his early Star Wars books, his Manhunter work for DC, or the Orion series he did after leaving Marvel (although I’ll admit I never read all of that – I’m not a fan of the New Gods). He’s still working – he had a Beta Ray Bill origin story in a recent issue of Thor – but it is these two runs I will always remember best.

The Week in Music:

Illuvia – Iridescence of Clouds (Sea of Vapor) – I’ve listened to this a lot when it was just a digital release at the end of last year, but then Illuvia revisited it, creating a second disc, the (Sea of Vapor) tracks, and then releasing it physically into the world.  This album is beautiful, and weirdly relaxing and anxiety inducing in equal measures.  On the one hand, this is an ambient album, but it’s also a drum and bass album.  We get nice sound structures, that get interrupted by swells of rapid drum patterns.  The effect is really interesting, and quite lovely.  Listening to this takes me back to a lot of music I liked in the 90s, but in a weird mashup kind of way.  It really works for me.

Vega Trails – Tremors in the Static – This is another transcendent and beautiful release on Gondwana Records, which has one of the most consistent sounds of any record label I can think of.  This duo works with bass, keys, and saxophones, for the most part, to create interesting sonic landscapes.  I like it.

Monophonics – Sage Motel – This is a very cool post-Daptone sounding soul record from the Monophonics.  It’s pretty short, but that works in its favour.  I feel like this band is moving away from their larger funk sound of their older records and leaning into their soul side, and it works.  

Samora Pinderhughes – Grief – I’ve been looking forward to this album since Samora Pinderhughes blessed so much of the August Greene record (a terrific collaboration between Robert Glasper, Common, Karriem Riggins, and some others) a few years ago.  His hooks really stood out to me on that disc, so I was more than ready for him to release his debut solo album.  Pinderhughes works with other artists I admire, like Marcus Gilmore, Immanuel Wilkins, and his sister Elena, among many others, to give us a collection of songs that touch on jazz, r’n’b, and pop.  He addresses issues like toxic masculinity and other problems that people are dealing with.  His lyrics are insightful, and the music is beautiful.  I’m curious about the film and art installation that is connected to this album.  There’s a delicacy to his voice and this music that really sticks with me.

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