The Weekly Round-Up #666 & 667 With That Texas Blood #17, A Righteous Thirst for Vengeance #11, Alien #1, Predator #2, Mind MGMT Bootleg #3, AXE: Judgment Day #4, Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths #4, Star Wars #27 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Columns, Top Story

It’s the column of the beast! Things got really busy, so I missed a week. I’m more or less back on track now, though.

Best Comics of the Fortnight:

That Texas Blood #17 – This is one series that just keeps improving!  This issue is roughly divided into thirds.  Lu, the secretary at the Sheriff’s office goes to check on Red, whose daughter was murdered.  Joe Bob talks to his deputy about the day the former Sheriff was killed, something that Joe Bob is kind of being blamed for in the community at the moment.  He’s not one to open up often, so this helps us understand his character a lot better.  While all this is going on, the Red Queen Killer, a masked serial killer, has broken into someone’s home, and spends the day making himself a meal, borrowing their razor, and preparing for them to come home.  We suspect whose home this is, but Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips wait until the last page to confirm our fears.  And all the while, the snow continues to fall on Ambrose County.  This book is a terrific Texan noir.  I really enjoy this book, but I’m wondering if Phillips knows what North American light switches look like, as they look very British in this issue.

A Righteous Thirst for Vengeance #11 – This book, by Rick Remender and André Lima Araújo, launched a little while back very quietly.  The first issue was largely silent, introducing us to a man who seemed equally mysterious and ineffective.  Slowly, we came to understand that he was logging into a forum for assassins on the dark web, and was trying to save people from a powerful rich man who was having them killed for unknown reasons.  Sonny, the man, went to rescue a woman, and ended up being responsible for his son, as they tried to live off the grid and out of the man’s clutches.  This final issue jumps forward ten years, as this rich man, an amalgam of Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, it seems, has been sent to a minimum security prison to live out a long sentence in luxury.  Remender wraps up the story in a pretty satisfactory way (I’m trying to avoid spoiling anything in this arc), and Araújo leaves us with some lasting images of beauty as an antidote to the brutality and blood of this whole run.  I really liked this series, and the way that it featured such non-traditional characters for an action comic.  I can see this making a great movie, but would hope that it would capture the same sense of quiet that the book, and Araújo’s art, were able to convey.

Quick Takes:

Alien #1 – I hate that this book is being relaunched again, but I’m interested in what Phillip Kennedy Johnson is building towards.  The real story of the Alien universe is not even that of the xenomorphs, but of the problems humanity has with the synthetic persons they’ve created.  In this issue, an American military man makes contact with a group of synths that have gone independent, choosing to live on their own on a toxic world.  He wants to recruit them, his former “Steel Team” to complete one more mission – to find a medical advancement that Weyland-Yutani has abandoned on a world overrun with xenomorphs.  There’s a lot of potential in this new arc, and I like the art by Julius Ohta.  Johnson’s stories, which so far have only rarely been related to one another, do seem to be converging a little, and that has me curious.  The Alien universe has not been explored enough.

AXE Death to the Mutants #2 – Kieron Gillen continues to give us a stealth version of his Eternals run in this series, with the focus going to Kor, the leader of the Deviants, and how he feels about being judged by the new Celestial.  We also see the return of Starfox, and check in with a few of the regular Eternals crew.  It’s a solid between-the-scenes tie-in issue, but I was a little confused until I realized that the Celestial appears differently to different people.  I like the way Gillen writes the voice of Earth, and am happy to see that narration continue here.

AXE Judgment Day #4 – So much happens in this issue, as the good Eternals and their allies make their move on Druig, trying to install Starfox as their leader in a bid to convince the Celestial to render a positive judgment on the Earth.  Uranos makes his move too, and a whole lot of people get judged.  I found I kept getting confused reading this, because I kept thinking that the narrator is the world machine, while it’s actually the Celestial.  It’s funny how comics can train us to see things a certain way sometimes.  I’m enjoying this event, but I think that maybe the events of this issue could have been spread out a little more.  There’s a big sacrifice that doesn’t really hit with any emotional punch, because it happens so fast.

Batman #127 – Because of his irreverent online presence, I don’t think I would have pegged Chip Zdarsky to bring an approach to Batman that is steeped in continuity and revolves around some obscure events in stories about a decade old.  We learn more about Failsafe, the robot that is hunting Batman and is seemingly impossible to beat, and about the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, and how they are all connected.  This issue is very tightly constructed and suspenseful.  I also love the backup story, which has Catwoman figuring out some of the secrets behind Penguin’s death.  I don’t mind paying extra for a backup story when it’s by the writer of the main story; I assume that this story will be revisited in the main story in an upcoming issue.

Batman Vs. Robin #1 – I was disappointed to see Robin’s series end recently, clearly to make way for this miniseries that picks up on much of what Joshua Williamson established on Lazarus Island.  Mark Waid has Damian, now either possessed, controlled, or perhaps set free, coming after his father with the aid of a pair of magical allies.  All of the magical weirdness brings the return of one of Batman’s greatest allies, who I thought DC would leave dead for a lot longer than this.  I’m intrigued by this story, and very impressed by Mahmud Asrar’s art, so it looks like I might stick around for the rest of this.  I hope when it’s over, Williamson will get to chart Damian’s course again.

Black Panther #9 – John Ridley starts his new arc with this issue, which has T’Challa returning to the Avengers, but finding that Captain America doesn’t approve of the way he’s been doing things.  Their conversation is cut short with the arrival of the Colonialist, an energy-based alien (I think) who smiles too much, and wants to take over the Earth as grazing land for the carnivorous humanoids we saw in the first issue of this run.  I feel like some of Ridley’s points in using colonial imagery are too on the nose, and I thought it was odd that he chose to set some of this in a part of Texas called My Large Intestine.  Black Panther doesn’t lend itself well to humour, usually, and this storyline is odd.  I’ll see where it goes.

Bone Orchard: Ten Thousand Black Feathers #1 – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are going big with The Bone Orchard, a shared horror universe, of which they’ve shown us very little, despite a FCBD oneshot and an OGN having already been released.  This series is centred on Trish, a young writer who has returned to Hamilton Ontario, where she grew up and spent time with Jackie, her best friend.  An author now, she visits Jack’s mother, who invites her to stay for a while, as Trish seems to be struggling.  There are all sorts of hints that terrible things have happened to Jack, and are happening to Trish, but so far, very little is confirmed or explained.  Sorrentino is an incredible artist, and very good at getting a tone and atmosphere.  I often feel like Lemire/Sorrentino comics are too decompressed and over too quickly, but there’s some meat to this one.  I also think that it’s cool that the comic is set in Hamilton, a town with a reputation for being a rough place, which has recently become the more affordable alternative to living in Toronto for the arts class (I know many people who have moved there).

Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #4 – I’m still not sure where I stand on the pretty major retcon taking place in this series, as writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing reveal a secret cabal whose symbol has always been the image of Captain America’s shield, long before it was created.  Cap takes the opportunity to explore what his symbol means to people, and to dig into topics like the American Dream and socialism, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that this issue was partly designed to anger the far right.  Still, I’m intrigued enough to stick with it, but I don’t like the feeling that I’m just not understanding something.  (Sometimes when I feel that way, it’s because the story is just not good – I’m not sure yet if that’s the case here).

Daredevil #3 – Matt moves around New York, preparing to head out and join Elektra in preparing the Fist to go fight the Hand.  He wants to recruit Cole, the police detective who helped him before, and also wouldn’t mind it if Luke Cage came with him, but he gets a sense of just how committed Luke is to being the Mayor now.  He also runs across Aka, who lets him know that she knows what he’s planning.  Chip Zdarsky is putting a lot of time into building up expectations for this storyline, and while I don’t love the idea that Frank Castle is running the Hand (I haven’t been checking out the new Punisher series at all), I’m curious to see where this is all headed.  

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 – This event underwent a name change with this issue, revealing that the Infinite Earths are back, but so far, there’s no information on that.  Deathstroke and his army attack the Legion of Doom, while the Flash and Green Lantern (Barry and Hal) race around the different Justice League worlds looking for a person who can help them stand against Pariah.  There’s a lot going on in this book now, and it’s not terribly clear yet what the purpose of this Crisis is for the DCU, on a publishing level, but I’m hopeful that we don’t end up with the old Earth-1/Earth-2 dichotomy restored.  This event doesn’t seem as grand as the first Crisis, and I really question why it’s needed.  That said, I am enjoying it, and am really happy to see the Justice Society take a more prominent role (I’m excited about their upcoming return, even if it is going to be written by Geoff Johns again).

E-ratic: Recharged #1 – Kaare Andrews returns to his AWA series that features a modern day take on a Peter Parker like hero.  I love Andrews’s art, and like his characters, but often find the plots of his series a little hard to follow.  That’s how I feel about this book, as dinosaur skeletons come to life during a school field trip, for very unclear reasons.  At the same time, I really like Oliver, the main character who has powers that only work for ten minutes a day, although he’s trying to avoid using them at all.  I’m glad this book is back for another arc.

Immortal X-Men #6 – Sebastian Shaw takes centre stage as the Quiet Council continues to try to figure out how they should address the events surrounding the new Celestial and the ongoing attacks of the Eternals.  Shaw volunteers to enter negotiations with Starfox, who is representing the renegades.  I guess it comes as no big shock to learn that Shaw has a lot of father issues, as writer Kieron Gillen (who had three books out this week!) starts filling in his backstory and fleshing him out more than we’ve seen before.  It’s also interesting to see how Gillen is having the Celestial test and judge members of the Council – many of them are not good people, no matter what they tell themselves.  This series continues to be very interesting, although I look forward to this event ending so it can be its own thing again.

Iron Man #23 – Tony and his two friends have been slowly buying up scientific and cosmic weapons from Source Control, but their bait has been captured, and now it’s up to Tony to try to make his final purchase.  Chris Cantwell writes Tony with numerous flaws, his ability to have normal relationships with other people being the main one.  I like how this storyline is going, and am enjoying Angel Unzueta’s art.

Love Everlasting #2 – Tom King and Elsa Charretier are playing around with the tropes of old romance comics, but are putting a bit of a twist into things, by having recurring characters.  For most of this book, Joan is a maid in a large British estate, and she’s the lifelong love object of the estate’s heir, who was born the same day as her.  It’s natural that they would develop feelings for one another, but things take a turn after he declares his love to his father.  I’m enjoying this book, and the fact that I can’t see where it’s going.  Charretier’s art is perfect for this project.

Marauders #6 – I like the approach Steve Orlando took to this issue, having the various members of the Marauders meet with Birdy, a mutant combat therapist, in order to process their feelings about their recent meetings with the Progenitor (yes, it’s another AXE tie-in).  Since it was relaunched, this book hasn’t done a great job of building this current team, or making it clear to readers why these various characters are here. I feel like this issue shows some insight into that, and helps make the book more cohesive.  At the same time, I’m getting bored of the general judgment theme (which I recognize is central to the concept of the event).

Mind MGMT Bootleg #3 – David Rubín is the artist for this latest issue, which clarifies the mission that our new agents are on, and sees Meru turn up again. I feel like Matt Kindt has a larger story to tell than the one that he’s squeezing into four issues, much as the bubble gum in this issue is used to deliver years of training in a quick chewing experience.  I like revisiting this world, which has come to see the danger in lie-filled memes and seems even more relevant than ever before.

Moon Knight #15 – Marc is finally talking about his DID in therapy, and is enlisting Steven and Jake in his fight against the vampires.  I remain really happy with what Jed MacKay has done with this series; I just don’t have much else to say about it.

New Mutants #29 – This is a bit of a fill-in issue by writer Danny Lore and artist Guillermo Sanna, focusing on Akihiro (I’m glad they don’t really call him Daken anymore), Warpath, and Honey Badger.  Gabby’s gone missing, and Akihiro freaks out, and manages to blame James for it, so they end up outside a remote Orchis facility fighting a bunch of goons.  It’s a decent issue, with some really terrific art (I love the thick lines Sanna uses), but it contributes to my opinion of New Mutants as a book that is really floundering and needs a central identity.  I thought James had worked through all of his feelings around his brother’s resurrection in other books, so it feels kind of forced or out of place here.

Once & Future #29 – This is the second to last issue of Kieron Gillen’s excellent Arthurian influenced series.  There are a few surprises here that I don’t want to spoil by discussing, as stories continue to shape reality, and our principal characters line up for their final showdown.  It’s funny that it took me a year to get into this book, and now I’m going to miss it.

Predator #2 – Theta is stuck on an icey world, having to travel by foot to scrounge the items needed to repair her ship.  While she is worried about being identified, she’s even more worried about losing her ship, which is her only connection to her past before she dedicated her life to hunting down Predators.  Ed Brisson is building both Theta’s character and a strong sense of suspense in this issue.  I’m really happy that Kev Walker is drawing this book – it’s too long since I’ve seen his art somewhere regularly, and he’s a really good choice for this title.  I intend to stick with this book as long as this art team is on it.

The Silver Coin #14 – I remember when the pandemic started, and some TV shows quickly tried to retrofit it into their storylines, and it felt forced and strange.  We’re starting to see works address this global event in a more considered and intentional way, and that’s cool.  Pornsak Pichetshote shows us where the Silver Coin was during the pandemic, as it starts to impact the lives of a couple who are having their relationship torn apart by the year 2020 and all it brought to people.  As often is the case, Michael Walsh gives us some disturbing body horror visuals.  I like that the coin itself didn’t make an appearance until late in the issue – this one felt very different from the other stories we’ve seen in this book so far.

Starhenge Book One: The Dragon and the Boar #3 – Reading this, and this week’s issue of Once & Future, I started thinking about how these very different books touch on similar topics, looking back into British folklore to tell sprawling stories.  Often, when these similar ideas start bubbling up at the same time, there’s a reason.  As Britain descends into Brexit-driven deprivation and political chaos, I feel like British anxiety about the future is starting to manifest through a revisiting of classic stories and characters (whereas similar pressures in the US seem to manifest as disgusting racism and sexism).  Anyway, I found much of this issue to be a bit of a slog, as Liam Sharp continues to outline how his futuristic science fiction story is also a story about King Arthur in his time, and about a young Wiccan girl in the 21st century who has an American boyfriend.  I found this issue’s pacing a bit off, and was thinking about not returning, and then the last pages made me want to read the next issue again.  Sharp is not all that experienced as a writer, and I think that he might need to put more thought into crafting the story.  At the same time, the art is gorgeous, and the current day characters (who barely appeared this month) are likeable.  I’m intrigued enough to give this another issue.

Star Wars #27 – In the last issue, we were introduced to a pair of Crimson Dawn agents who had infiltrated a secret Imperial project, working as double agents.  Now they are trying to make their escape, and think that reaching out to the Rebel Alliance might be their only chance at survival.  Charles Soule and artist Andrés Genolet have quickly been able to make me care about this couple, and because they aren’t part of the established Star Wars timeline, I have no way of predicting what is going to happen next.  This is a tense issue, with great art by Grenolet.  

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #27 – The crew gets hired by the Pikes to protect a big player while he holds a party at a disco on the edge of a black hole, while Beilert starts to, um, connect with a fellow Imperial.  This issue works on some character development, but it still feels like something is lacking.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan #5 – It was always obvious that this miniseries only existed to try to capitalize on the Disney Plus TV show of the same name (but then, shouldn’t there be a Cassein Andor series in the works too?), but it still had some decent moments.  This issue has an older Ben Kenobi providing aid to a Stormtrooper whose attack on a Tusken Raider camp goes pretty wrong.  It doesn’t really wrestle with any big themes or ideas though, and I come away from this miniseries thinking it should have had a little more to it.

Superman: Son of Kal-El #15 – Jon’s fight with Henry Bendix wraps up in this issue, as he works to free the people of Gamora from the dictator.  I’ve really liked the work that Tom Taylor has done on this character and in this book, and hope that its unique flavor isn’t going to change much when the original Superman returns from Earth now that his Warworld storyline has wrapped up.  I liked Jon trying to carry his father’s legacy on his own, and imagine that’s going to be gone, but I feel like Taylor’s laid a strong foundation in this book, and filled it with a great supporting cast, so hopefully I’ll continue to be pleased.

There’s Something Wrong with Patrick Todd #3 – As the Detective gets closer to tracking down Patrick, the man who has been going around cutting people’s heads off meets him, and wants to kill him.  Patrick leads him on a short chase through Halifax, but learns that Zeus knows who and where his mother is, and wants to make saving her a priority.  There are still a lot of questions that need answers here, as Ed Brisson still hasn’t revealed how Patrick got his powers, or what really happened to make Zeus want to kill him (he claims it’s to avenge his family).  This Aftershock series is a pretty entertaining!

Wolverine #24 – Logan is getting wrapped up in the Judgment Day event, as he runs into Solem again, and they decide to try to go up against the Celestial that is threatening the whole Earth.  At the same time, someone else is looking for the Muramasa swords, and finds herself involved too.  This issue is fine, I guess, but it’s not adding to the larger event or to Logan’s story.  This is a common complaint I have with this series.

X-Men Red #6 – I guess I ended up reading some of this week’s AXE books out of order, as this should have been read before the new issue of Judgment Day.  This issue concentrates on the resistance across Arakko to the weapons of war left behind by Uranos in his hour of freedom.  Storm narrates most of the issue, giving us a sense of the planet-wide nature of the fight.  Al Ewing gives Storm, Magneto, and Sunspot some great moments in this issue, and continues to build on the lore of this planet and his people.  Like Red’s previous incarnation as SWORD, this book gets caught up in tie-ins too often, but remains very entertaining.

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

Amazing Spider-Man #9

Dark Spaces: Wildfire #3

Bargain Comics:

Blood Syndicate Season One #1 – I’ve been slowly gathering issues of the original Blood Syndicate run (they’re surprisingly hard to find in $0.50 bins), so I’m not too familiar with the original version of this series yet, but I figured it was time to check out this new iteration by Geoffrey Thorne and Chriscross.  It’s not bad – there’s a couple of characters who return from fighting in an Iraq-like country, only to find that various people in their community have developed super powers.  The community is rife with gang violence, however, so that means that these powers are not all being used for good.  Thorne does a good job of building three central characters, and Chriscross’s art has always been nice.  It might be worth picking up a set of this series, or grabbing the trade.  I liked it.

The Possessed #1&2 – I found these two $8 thick comics in a fifty cent bin, so figured it was well worth taking a chance on it, even though I don’t often love Steve Niles’s writing.  The Possessed, which is beautifully illustrated by Gyula Németh, opens in the Jewish ghetto in Budapest as the Nazis are rounding people up.  A young girl and her grandfather flee, and looking to hide in the home of a rabbi, are introduced to a magic box which contains a Dybbuk, a spirit that inhabits one of them, helping to fuel their quest for vengeance.  Like I said, this book is beautiful, but a really quick read given the original prices of the comics. 

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Group of 7: A Most Secret Tale – This is the last of my TCAF pick-ups.  I’ve been looking at individual issues of this series, which is written by Chris Sanagan and drawn by Jason Lapidus, for a while at my local comic store, but have waited until now to grab the first trade paperback.  The Group of Seven is a legendary name in Canada, referring to a group of artists who were hugely important during the interwar era.  That’s not what this book is about, even though one of those artists is a character here.  Instead, this is a World War One Canadian version of the Dirty Dozen, with celebrated soldier-doctor-poet John McCrae in charge of a black ops team consisting of a group of famous Canadians. The team has two more doctors, a painter, a hockey player, an Indigenous sniper, and a  future Prime Minister.  They are sent to investigate a secret German installation prior to a general advance on Vimy Ridge, and they undercover a plot involving mutated creatures and the Swiss Guard.  There are some very cool scenes involving fighting with pikes, but what really makes this book work for me is the way Sanagan has grounded the story in Canadian history, but also layered on his own interpretation.  There’s a suggestion that he’s building a larger mythology (there’s an all-female group called the Peregrines that has had their own comics since this was published).  This is an unpolished comic in a few ways, but I really enjoyed the clear enthusiasm its creators have for the material, and always love to see Canada represented in comics.  This is a cool idea, and I’m going to be keeping an eye on this property.

The Week in Music:

Szun Waves – Earth Patterns – I love the kind of ambient jazz music put out by Gondwana Records, and listening to this album makes me wonder why it’s not on that label.  Szun Waves is made up of Luke Abbott (synths and pianos), Laurence Pike (drums and percussion) and Jack Wyllie (sax), the last of which is in a number of Gondwana bands like Portico Quartet and Forgiveness.  This is great music to read or zone out to.

Linda Sikhakhane – Isambulo – I’ve been listening to more and more South African jazz lately, and I really like the back half of this new album by saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane.  The beginning of the album is a little more contemporary for my liking – it’s fine but it doesn’t move me.  As the album progresses, though, it becomes more and more entrancing and cool.  Maybe he’s charting his journey into new sounds.

Basicnoise – Greyscale – Sometimes it’s just the right time for some moody downtempo drum and bass music.  This is easily something I would have listened to almost thirty years ago, and I have to accept that as I get older, sometimes I just want to listen to something familiar, while still hearing something new.  

Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes – As a rap fan, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing people you’ve followed and appreciated for years confirming that they are still at the top of their game.  Black Thought is a rapper who has always been on his own level.  I don’t subscribe to the argument that he’s been overshadowed by his bandmates in the Roots – he’s always been pure fire, and I’ve loved the body of work he’s built while treating his career differently than other rappers at his level.  But now, he’s got his first full-length solo album, and Danger Mouse’s beats are perfect.  There are the right number of features, including a great one by the much-missed MF DOOM.  This is easily one of the best albums out this year – Thought and Danger work so well together, and really build on each other’s strengths.  I’m very thankful this exists.

Matthew Halsall – The Temple Within – I love Matthew Halsall’s style of ambient piano jazz, and was excited to see he had a new release, even if it is a short EP.  These four tracks transport me in a contemplative way.  I love the last piece, “A Japanese Garden in Ethiopia” and would love to visit such a place.

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