The Weekly Round-Up #717 With Batman / Catwoman: The Gotham War – Battle Lines #1, Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1, Black Hammer: The End #1, Kaptara: Universal Truths #1, The Plot Holes #1, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #37 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Battle Lines #1 – Besides a super long title, co-writers Tini Howard and Chip Zdarsky bring something new to Gotham in this book, which launches a crossover between their two titles.  Batman’s been asleep for a few weeks after the Knight Terrors stuff, as his body heals from all that’s happened to it lately, and in that time, Catwoman has made some big changes in Gotham.  She’s started training all of the goons that usually work for Gotham’s crazies, and giving them rules about violence and targeting only the wealthy.  The result has been a sort of peace in Gotham, but when Batman wakes up and returns to the scene, Selina knows she has to tell him what she’s up to.  It’s interesting that much of the Bat-Family sees merit in her program, but Batman is portrayed as being more dogmatic and rigid than usual (although we see why, as he starts to question his ongoing value in this changing world).  In Zdarsky’s Daredevil run, which just ended, he had some pointed things to say about mass incarceration and whether or not it has any kind of positive impact on society. That thinking continues here, as the very value of Batman is brought into question, and Bruce doesn’t like it.  Zdarsky (and Howard) is modernizing superhero comics with lines of thinking like this, but is also writing a straight-forward crossover at the same time, that has lots of action and things to keep the masses happy.  I like how he approaches these tentpole characters.  I haven’t been reading Howard’s Catwoman, but this approach has me intrigued, and I’m wondering if I should be seeking out recent back issues or sticking around after the crossover ends.  Mike Hawthorne also does a fine job of showing what’s happening in this story, that has him drawing a lot of characters.

Quick Takes:

Black Hammer: The End #1 – Jeff Lemire returns to the Black Hammer multiverse for what I assume will be the last story.  Lucy turns up on the farm, reuniting with her family, while Colonel Weird and his multiversal crew go around recruiting beings that can help in the fight against Anti-God.  Malachi Ward’s art has always been nice, but there are pages that he is giving even more attention to that are gorgeous.  It’s amazing how many comics Lemire has written with these characters, and I’ve enjoyed almost all of them, but I do think it might be time to bring it to a close.  I look forward to seeing how that happens.

Draculina: Blood Simple #5 – It’s funny to me that Priest gave this book a subtitle with the word ‘simple’ in it, because this story is not that.  We’ve reached the stage in this story where all of his threads are starting to come together, but we’re not quite there yet, so all of the pieces of this story seem the furthest apart they’ve been, and the story is getting pretty confusing.  I have complete faith in Priest’s writing, but I’m going to confess I’m kind of lost.  We learn some interesting things about Draculina’s father, though.

Incredible Hulk #3 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Nic Klein have made some curious choices for this Hulk run, leaning into the horror side of the character (but it’s not the body horror of Ewing’s Immortal run).  This issue gives us Hulk beating on a church of dead people and the thing that lives beneath it, while slowly building a relationship with the young girl who’s been following him around.  I like how Klein draws Hulk like a thicker version of how Mike Deodato drew him ages ago, and am curious to see where Johnson is taking things.  I see the next issue has a Man-Thing appearance, which is always welcome.

Kaptara: Universal Truths #1 – I feel like books that have been on hiatus for years should come with a little synopsis of what happened before, because I don’t really remember a lot about the first volume of Kaptara, the comedy take on a fantasy series by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod.  The characters came back to me as I read this first issue, but I was a little lost for a while.  There’s a guy from Earth who found himself on this planet/in this reality, and he’s put together an odd party of travelling companions as he searches for his fellow astronauts.  In this return, the group visits one member’s parents, deal with feelings of inadequacy, and then go hunting for the wolfbots that have been stealing cat-tanks from the local farms.  Zdarsky is good at playing with genre and group dynamics, and McLeod’s art is perfect for this type of story.  It was an enjoyable comic, but I might try to refresh my memory of the finer points of the first series before I read the next issue.

Maple Terrace #2 – Noah Van Sciver’s autobiographical series continues, as we see the consequences of Noah grabbing another kid’s comics stash last issue has unexpected repercussions.  Van Sciver excels at capturing this awkward moment in his history, where his family’s poverty and strangeness marked him as an outcast among his peers, just as he was starting to develop his skill as an artist.  You can really feel young Noah’s confusion in this comic, which is gently drawn in a cartoonish style.  Noah’s more famous (and infamous) brother is not a part of this issue, but getting this glimpse into how his family lived does give you some understanding why he’s the way he is.  I’m glad that Uncivilized is publishing this series, as it’s really very good.

Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 – I miss the G. Willow Wilson days when her Ms. Marvel was such a breath of fresh air in the comics scene.  I was kind of hoping that this book would captured some of that (and I guess it does in its portrayal of Kamala’s friendship with Bruno), but as Kamala’s wrapped up in the Fall of X stuff, there’s a lot of bleakness to this too.  Kamala is spending the summer at a program at NYU on behalf of the X-Men, investigating an Orchis front operation that doesn’t seem all that important.  She’s not ready to be a mutant, and is trying to benefit from the fact that she doesn’t ‘read’ as one to mutant scanners, but then she goes around wearing a few Xs on her new costume.  It’s cool that Iman Vellani, the actress who plays Kamala on the screen cowrites this book, but I’m not sure there was enough here to get me to come back for another go.  It’s not tied in enough to Fall of X to feel essential.

The Plot Holes #1 – Sean Murphy has launched a new series with Massive, one of these new companies that seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately with access to top-level talent.  This series is complex, in that it’s about a team of people who enter fictional worlds in the hopes of editing and improving new books before they are published, knowing that if they don’t, an entire receptacle of imaginary worlds might be destroyed.  The main characters are all based on tropes from different genres (one character is named Johnny Manga, and another is a Dennis the Menace type, while a third is a shape-changing tiger/human hybrid).  A threat, in the form of alien bookworms with electrical abilities (maybe?) has emerged, and Ed, the leader of the Plot Holes, recruits a comics guy from a clichéd novel to join the team.  Murphy’s art is always amazing, and his writing continues to grow.  This reminds me a lot of Joe the Barbarian, the series he did with Grant Morrison about a kid whose toys came to life, and I do like how Murphy explores familiar worlds that appeal to comics readers.  The concept that fictional characters’ worlds are real is an appealing one, but this issue had a lot to absorb.  I’ll be curious to see where this all leads.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #37 – Beilert’s crew take him to the place Boba Fett suggested could help save his memory, and now this book is embroiled in the Dark Droids event.  I have some questions about how this is all playing out, but am glad to see that the question of droid sentience is finally being addressed, as the place of droids in Star Wars doesn’t always make sense to me.

Ultimate Invasion #3 – I’m still not sure what Jonathan Hickman is going for with this series, as we see events through Howard Stark’s perspective.  We learn how the Maker’s Earth works, with one region of the planet always playing the role of the ‘villain’ to keep the population docile and to create some distraction.  In this way, it feels like a familiar Earth, as Hickman is kind of pointing out how people on both sides of the aisle seem increasingly concerned with their own enrichment and consolidation of power than ideological differences.  I don’t see how this is going to launch a whole new line, or whatever the intent is; right now, this reads as an interesting Elseworlds style book that I wouldn’t want to commit to as an ongoing series.  I think that the next issue, which is the last, is going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting.

Wolverine #36 – Logan and Johnny Blaze continue with their shared mission, which is now including the demonic wing of Weapon X.  I’m enjoying this story, and am pleased that Geof Shaw is drawing every chapter of it, but it’s strange that this is happening during the rest of the Fall of X stuff; I would think Logan would be more focused on that.

W0rldtr33 #5 – James Tynion IV has a history of predicting the direction of the zeitgeist in many of his series (I’m especially thinking of Department of Truth, which got out in front of the misinformation wave and giving it a back story), and I am really afraid that some of what we see in W0rldtr33 might have more basis in reality than people are willing to accept.  As we learn the story behind the mysterious naked killer, and her relationship with the only person equipped to stop the Undernet from taking over, change is sparked around the world.  We’re also given a view of what things will look like in twenty years, and it’s bleak.  I’m not sure if this series is wrapping up with the next issue or going on hiatus, but I’m really enjoying the work Tynion and Fernando Blanco are doing on this book, and want to see more.

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

Devil’s Cut #1

Bargain Comics:

The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides #1-5 – I’d always meant to read this Biblical horror comic by Jason Aaron and RM Guéra, who worked so well together on Scalped.  This is a strange book.  Set in the days of the Old Testament, this story is set on a mountain where an order of nuns gather up virgin girls from the world below, raise them, and when they start to menstruate, “marry” them to angels so they can give birth to some monstrous babies.  Two girls figure out that they don’t want this life and escape, but that brings them into contact with a certain serpent.  The book works, and Guéra’s art is beautiful, but also often hard to follow.  The more chaotic scenes didn’t do a great job of storytelling, I found.  Still, this is a solid read, if you like your Bible stories to be mean-spirited and bleak.  Oh, wait…

The Week in Music:

Atmosphere – Sad Clown Bad Dub II – I love Atmosphere, and am happy to see that they’ve remastered and rereleased this collection of songs that was originally sold on tour in 2000.  It’s a trip to hear Slug sounding so clean, but also so young, and to remember what Ant’s beats sounded like back in their early days.  This is a historical artifact for me, but it also really works well, reminding me what drew me to this group when I first heard them a little after this was originally made.

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