Best Comic of the Week:
All Against All #1 – I’ve been a pretty big fan of writer Alex Paknadel for a few years now, finding his voice and approach to science fiction comics to be very fresh, while also telling complicated stories. In this new Image miniseries, he’s joined by artist Caspar Wijngaard. Far into the future, a race of sentient parasites that have developed designer bodies has been orbiting a dead Earth for years, having discovered the store of seeds and genetic material that humans left behind. The Director of this facility has been searching for useful traits they can incorporate into their bodies, but he’s also been maintaining some secrets. As the military comes to take over the facility, these secrets are going to be exposed. Paknadel always assumes a lot of his readers, giving them complex stories. Wijngaard’s art is wildly inventive, with strange alien designs and disturbing animals on every page. I’m pretty excited about this book, and wish we’d see more from Paknadel.
Batman #130 – Chip Zdarsky closes off the Failsafe storyline with an unexpected ending. I like the idea that Batman’s unconscious mind built a robot that he cannot defeat, and that the solution involves relying on other people. Zdarsky’s Batman is so different from his Daredevil – in that book, he’s returning to all of the best elements of the character’s history, and in this one, he’s embracing the more superheroic aspects of the character, and it reads like an extension of Grant Morrison’s JLA run. And I love both books. I’m very curious to see what the last page of this issue means for the next arc.
Behold, Behemoth #2 – I picked up the first issue of this Boom! series because the writer was signing at my LCS, and I’m glad I did. With this issue, writer Tate Brombal opens the story up a great deal. Where the first issue was about a Children’s Aid worker going through some strange mental health spells, this issue has him, and one of the children in his caseload, traveling across a post-Apocalyptic landscape that’s plagued by Behemoths, massive monsters that trash everything. Wren, the girl he’s traveling with, turns into one at times, and it’s clear that he’s working to protect her and do something to fix things, but nothing is explained at this point. Nick Robles’s art is gorgeous, and this series has me invested. Boom! does these excellent little series that don’t get enough attention. More people should be reading this.
Captain America: Soldier of Liberty #7 – I’m still not loving this run, but this issue, which has Steve pulling together a small team to take on the Outer Circle, works better than any one before it. I like how there are small nods to what’s happening in Sam’s title, and how Sharon Carter helps Steve get his mind right.
Daredevil #6 – Matt and Elektra have gathered a small army of villains to their cause, and are now doing the hard work of acclimating them to their new reality. While Matt tries to bring Bullet around, Elektra goes to Paris to investigate the theory that the world’s leaders have all been replaced by Hand puppets. Chip Zdarsky’s work on this book is excellent, and feels like the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of DD stories. I’m not reading Jason Aaron’s current Punisher run, though, and am getting worried that I might need to know what’s happening there to understand where this book is going (seeing as Frank runs the Hand now). Maybe I’ll get caught up if I hit a good Boxing Day sale.
Fantastic Four #2 – I liked the first issue of Ryan North and Iban Coello’s new run that I came back for the second. This time the focus is on Reed and Sue, who stumble across a town of Doombots that are not acting like typical Doombots. It’s a good issue to help us see how North is going to write these characters, although it did nothing to add to the mysteries of what happened in New York, why the team split up, and now why the Richards have gone somewhere without their children. North’s writing is unconventional for this title, and that is what is drawing me to it. Coello’s art is pretty nice too, and fits these types of stories. I think this is getting added to the pullfile list.
Gotham City: Year One #3 – Tom King reveals something pretty significant about Slam Bradley in this issue, and does it in such a way that it’s easy to overlook, which I guess is part of Slam’s whole thing. This series, which has the PI working to recover the Wayne family’s infant daughter from kidnappers in the 1930s. It’s a Lindbergh baby story, with elements of race and class that make it also very modern. Phil Hester’s art is so good in this book, and it’s nice to see a deeper investigation of Slam, who has always been one of those ancillary characters to me.
Immortal X-Men #9 – Of all the things that I expected from the Krakoan era of X-Books, forcing me to like Mister Sinister was never on my list. In this issue, Sinister tries to take out Hope, and continually fails (he uses clones of Moira to allow himself multiple attempts, having adapted video game save points to his reality. It’s an amusing and bloody issue, and gives Kieron Gillen the chance to strengthen his command of these characters. Lucas Werneck’s art keeps getting better, and it’s clear he’s having some fun with this book.
Kaya #3 – I am absolutely loving this series by Wes Craig. In this issue, Kaya and her traveling companions face the Magron, the giant two-headed spider monster they’ve been hunting, and things don’t go so well. Craig’s art is so inventive and fresh in this series, and I’m really growing to like these characters. This book is such a departure from what he was doing on Deadly Class, but it’s still a fantastic read.
Little Monsters #8 – The family of child vampires has been split in two after some of them have tasted humans for the first time in centuries, while the others fight to keep the young girl that found them safe. Jeff Lemire is slowly peeling back some of the layers around the mystery of what’s happened to the world, and what’s caused these kids to be stuck in the city the way they are. It’s a very good series, with great art from Dustin Nguyen. I like how we get to see how one character became a vampire each month.
Marauders #9 – Steve Orlando’s run on this title just keeps getting more complicated. The team is billions of years in the past trying to save the first mutant society from the sentient bacteria they created (one of which is also turning up in New Mutants, which makes me wonder how coordinated these books still are). There’s a lot going on, and the characters are all wearing suits that make it hard to identify them (aside from their names being emblazoned on their legs). I’m finding this story very hard to follow, not just because it’s complicated, but because I find I don’t really care about the characters as Orlando is writing them. There aren’t any real character arcs happening in here, and the last page revelation of who else is knocking around the distant past just makes things even harder to wrap my head around. I had higher hopes for this title, which I think still has a lot of potential.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 – Miles gets a relaunch, with new creative team Cody Ziglar and Federico Vicentini. They are building off Saladin Ahmed’s excellent run, except with an unmentioned return to Miles’s most familiar suit (just when the weird hoodie and facemask version was growing on me). Miles fights the Scorpion, saves a pretty girl, gets in trouble for being late to class, and admits to his parents that he’s kind of struggling right now. This first issue feels like a proof of concept kind of thing, with Ziglar laying claim to the character but not really giving us anything new yet. I like Miles a lot, and like that he’s keeping his teenage vulnerability going into this run. Vicentini’s art is nice, in that new Marvel house style, and it works for this book. I’m going to give this a full arc, but hope to see something new soon. Did anyone else’s copy come with the cover and first three or four pages on a heavier cardstock paper than the rest of the book, or do I have the equivalent of the old double-cover books that used to happen?
Nature’s Labyrinth #1 – This series started a few weeks ago, but it took me a while to secure my copy. I’ve never read any Mad Cave comics before this, but was drawn in by the solicitation to this series, and the fact that it’s written by Zac Thompson, a favourite of mine. A group of people have accepted a free cruise, and don’t pick up on any warning signs that things are a little odd, until they are brought to a breakfast with the captain, drugged, and dumped on an island with a giant labyrinth in it, outfitted in some kind of reality TV camera gear. Thompson is very good at uncomfortable horror writing, and this fits nicely in his lane. The art, by Bayleigh Underwood, works well for this project, toeing the line between cartoonish and realistic. The character emerging as the main one is a woman named Jane, who is hiding something from everyone else, and is looking to be pretty interesting. The cover, by Filya Bratukhin, is gorgeous and reminds me of Geof Darrow or James Stokoe. I’m looking forward to the next issue of this.
New Mutants #32 – The focus continues to be on a new character, Shela, as new writer Charlie Jane Anders comes on with a new approach to this title. Shela is interesting, but I don’t understand how her powers work, and I am not really seeing a ton of long-term potential in her character. I do like how Anders writes Martha though, as she faces her greatest fears, in the form of John Sublime. I’m happy to see Alberto Alburquerque’s art again, although his Rahne looks a little odd. This title really needs a mission statement, but I do often enjoy the stories. I wish I knew why Shela has a winged turtle though…
Nightwing 2022 Annual #1 – There’s a trio of stories in this annual, starting with the origin story of Heartless, a villain who has been moving around the margins of Tom Taylor’s run for a while now. He’s a unique character, whose story reminds me a little of Hush’s in some ways. The next story focuses on Dick’s dog, and it’s cute. The last story is about Dick training Jon Kent to be Superman. These last two stories are fine, but they don’t really add much to Taylor’s run (he didn’t write either of them), and could have been skipped.
Predator #5 – I’ve really been enjoying Ed Brisson and Kev Walker’s take on Predator. This issue has big Aliens vibes, as Theta has been captured by Astar, the corporation that owns the vessel she’s been living on for the last fifteen years. Just like with Ripley, Theta’s warnings that the Predators are more dangerous than they think are being ignored, with predictable outcomes. This series has been an exciting read, and I’m hoping that after next issue’s conclusion, it will return with the same creative team.
Star Wars: Hidden Empire #2 – The Empire is coming after Qi’ra and what’s left of Crimson Dawn, but she planned for that. This series is the culmination of a lot of what Charles Soule has been building in his Star Wars run, and I’m a little worried that when it’s over, he’s going to be leaving. I’ve enjoyed his take on things a lot, and want him to stick around. Parts of this issue felt a little disjointed, as it wasn’t immediately clear to me that the Archivist was moving sites between attempts to turn on the Fermata Cage, an ancient Sith artifact that has the Emperor in a tizzy. I like how connected this is to what’s been happening in Aphra’s book.
That Texas Blood #20 – It’s time for another Christmas issue, although this one is pretty different from last year’s. Joe Bob’s son tells a story to his parents about an Old West sheriff who is also an Egyptian Mummy, fighting to save the townsfolk from a vampire with broken teeth, who is using a space rock to bring back the town’s dead as zombies. It’s silly, but it’s also nice to see a time when Joe Bob’s life was full of domestic bliss. I love this series, and the way that Chris Condon jumps around in time for each new arc or one-off. It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, and I hope that the Condon and Jacob Phillips come back energized and ready.
X-Force #35 – Last issue we discovered that Beast is running a black ops prison in outer space, so he can experiment on prisoners. Solemn leads a breakout, while some of X-Force discover and investigate the place. Beast’s heel turn has been pretty prominent lately, but hasn’t bled over into any other X-Titles. It’s kind of weird that he’s like this now, and it’s just not being discussed. I do hope that someone rehabilitates Hank in some way – it has been a slow build, which I like, but it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Chris Allen, who has been doing such good work on Miles Morales’s book, is a good fit here.
X-Men Red #9 – I think it’s fair to admit that I hate Vulcan. As much as I enjoy Ed Brubaker’s writing, I thought his addition of the third Summers brother to the X-Mythos was a mistake, and I still feel that way. Vulcan is determined to restore himself to the Shi’ar throne, something that he’s being encouraged in by Abigail Brand, who is working towards her own goals. This leads to a big confrontation in the Diplomatic Zone (I’m happy to see Nova turning up in this title so often), while Cable’s team continues their fight elsewhere. Al Ewing is doing great things with this book, but it seems even he can’t make me like Gabriel.
Comics I Would Have Bought If Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Dark Crisis: War Zone #1
Dark Web #1
Earthdivers: Kill Columbus #3
The Week in Music:
billy woods & Messiah Musik – Church – woods has been a top five rapper for me for a couple of decades now, and it’s been so exciting to see him get more shine and recognition. This year he gifted us with two albums (his Aethiopes came out earlier), and for this one, collaborated with producer Messiah Musik, whom he’s worked with before. Church has all of the signature woods moments on it – devastating situations, complex lyrics that make you think and allow you to visualize what he’s talking about, and some very compelling storytelling. He’s an abstract rapper with a gift for painting vivid images – if I were to compare him to another writer, I’d say maybe Cormac McCarthy for the way he uses scarcity to embody big ideas. The beats on this album are fantastic, as are the features by people like E L U C I D (woods’s second half as Armand Hammer), Akai Solo, and Fielded. This has been an incredible year for rap music.
Ólafur Arnalds – Some Kind of Peace (Piano Reworks) – The first version of this album of piano music by the fantastic Icelandic composer and musician was a favourite of mine, and this reworked approach, featuring remixes from a variety of artists in that solo piano world, is just as good. People like Hania Rani, Dustin O’Halloran, Sophie Hutchings, Lambert, and JFDR, as well as other artists I’m not that familiar with, put their own spin on Arnalds’s work. I think I need to sit down and listen to the original and the reworked versions back to back, to really understand how it’s changed. Either way, this is a fantastic album to put on if you’re looking to unwind at the end of a hard day, or are just searching for a little inner peace. It’s beautiful.
Tom Skinner – Voices of Bishara – Tom Skinner is one of the drummers in the excellent band Sons of Kemet. For this debut solo album, he worked with Kemet bandmate Shabaka Hutchings, as well as Nubya Garcia and some other impressive musicians, creating a stunning collection of drum-heavy jazz. This is a lovely album.
ShrapKnel – Metal Lung – Sometimes you just want to hear super talented rappers trade bars back and forth for a while. On Metal Lung, Curly Castro and PremRock do just that, and it’s pretty great. This album was mostly produced by Steel Tipped Dove, with another couple of joints made by Child Actor and a couple more by Olof Melander (whom I’m not as familiar with). As a big fan of Backwoodz Studioz and their aesthetic, this album makes me happy.