Best Comic of the Week:
The Deviant #1 – James Tynion IV is on quite a run, with longer innovative horror series like W0rldtr33 and Department of Truth, and then these random-seeming miniseries like The Closet and now The Deviant. This book concerns some strange killings involving the young men hired to work as elves for department store Santas over thirty years, and touches on a number of themes. There’s the standard serial killer, possibly supernatural stuff, but there’s also a very nuanced depiction of the queer man arrested for the original killings, and the writer who is interviewing him. Joshua Hixson’s art adds so much to the atmosphere of this book, which is pretty unique on the stands. This first issue (maybe all of them, like The Closet?) is extra long, and we are given lots to dwell on. Hixson does some excellent work with closed department stores. As a Toronto kid, it brought me back to the local children’s show Today’s Special, but in a horrifically nightmarish way.
Alien #1 – With yet another relaunch, Declan Shalvey and Andrew Broccardo return to the story they started in the last Alien series, but much later. Weyland-Yutani has returned to the icy moon of the last series, looking to retrieve the ship that fell under the ice. The thing is, there are still xenomorphs around, and it seems the team is not taking proper precautions, aside from Cole, whom we knew under a different name before. This is a good start to this latest series, and I’m interested as always. Broccardo gets the shabby aesthetic of the Aliens property.
Alpha Flight #4 – Nemesis’s secret is out in the open, but she’s badly hurt, and the team has to switch into its two separate components as a way of staying ahead of Department H’s Box Sentinels. At the same time, Argent decides he’s sick of hiding at Krakoa North, and his decisions will have lasting consequences for the people who tried to help him. This is a solid issue, and I love seeing this team together again, but I don’t see any way for Marvel to turn this into an ongoing series, and that makes me sad.
Antarctica #5 – I’m finding this series is getting harder to follow, as having two copies of the same characters can be a bit confusing, and the plot keeps tossing in new people without a lot of space for them to breathe and develop. Still, the parallel universe concept is approached in an interesting way, and now that the book’s run has been extended, I’m curious to see what writer Simon Birks has planned.
Astonishing Iceman #4 – Bobby hangs out with Spider-Man for much of this issue, and we get a bit of solid character work from it, but I’m still not really sure why Iceman got his own series out of the Fall of X event. He’s still kind of a minor character, and I don’t feel like Steve Orlando is really saying or doing anything new with him here.
Batman and Robin #3 – Joshua Williamson and Simone Di Meo continue to have a good time with this series, which has our heroes dealing with the new villain Shush, trying to figure out just what she’s up to. I like Di Meo’s art a lot, but still find it a little confusing at times.
Black Panther #6 – I was surprised to learn that almost this entire issue was set about a century ago, and features King M’Teli as Black Panther. His close friend, and leader of the Hatut Zeraze, is N’Dozi, whose strict adherence to his interpretation of Wakanda’s ways leads to a schism with his king. It’s a good issue, and the art, by Matt Horak, is excellent. Eve Ewing is adding more and more to the busy history of the Black Panther, but these have been some very good additions. I’m liking this book more and more.
Children of the Vault #4 – It seems strange that we’re at the point where some of the Fall of X books are reaching their conclusions, but that’s what happens here as Cable and Bishop continue their assault on the City of Tomorrow, and confront the Children. It’s been great to see writer Denniz Camp on a book like this, although I’d rather see him get an ongoing title soon. There are some neat ideas in this book.
Danger Street #11 – Now that we are getting so close to the end of this series, all of its various threads come together (in Lady Cop’s kitchen, for the most part). We have a few surprise deaths, and see what Tom King’s plans for this title was all along. I’m looking forward to seeing how this is going to end, and am going to miss regular doses of Jorge Fornés’s art.
Daredevil #3 – As we get deeper into Saladin Ahmed’s run, we learn that something has changed with Ben Urich, and we discover who is behind the new gang moving in on Hell’s Kitchen. Ahmed is giving us a very different version of Matt, with his new role in life, but once again, he’s struggling with his ability to balance his two lives. Aaron Kuder’s art is fantastic, and I like the pages drawn by Farid Karami as well. John Romita Jr.’s cover takes me back to one of my favourite eras of Daredevil too.
Dark X-Men #4 – Orchis’s other Goblyn Queen makes a move on the Limbo embassy, pushing us towards a big final confrontation. This title is a little all over the place, as writer Steve Foxe struggles to accomplish everything he wanted to do in such a limited space. I’m glad I stuck with it, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen to most of these characters after he’s done with them – things feel pretty bleak.
Detective Comics #1077 – Catwoman and a pretty random crew continue to plan to rescue Batman from the Orgham’s before they execute him publicly. The backup story shows how Cheshire came to join Selena’s group, which does seem unlikely. This series is really good these days – Ram V’s story is unfolding quite well, and Jason Shawn Alexander’s art is very nice. It’s strange to see a Batman/Catwoman story so soon after the one that Chip Zdarsky and Tini Howard just finished up, but it works because I tend to think of this book as being separate from the other Bat-comics.
Dune: House Harkonnen #11 – This is another series that is one month away from its big finish, and that means that various threads of this story are also finally coming together, and the cast of the title gets winnowed down a great deal. These Dune series aren’t really single stories, but instead try to chart the courses of a number of characters that appeared in the original Dune novel. I like it, but sometimes find it frustrating for that reason. I don’t remember if Michael Shelfer was the artist on this series from the start; the art is looking a lot better than I remember in the beginning.
Fantastic Four #13 – The FF are in a dimension where dinosaurs continued to exist and have become superhumans, but the Thing has returned to his home dimension in an effort to rescue the dino-FF from the human Avengers. This is when a pair of Doctor Dooms, one from each dimension, makes their move. I love how Ryan North is writing this book, and how often his plot constructions rely on Ben’s natural intelligence and intuition to find resolutions to things. It’s the best FF run I’ve read in some time, and I’m really enjoying it.
Fishflies #3 – Jeff Lemire’s oddball rural horror series continues, as the cop looking into the shooting of a teen boy leads him to wonder about the dead flies all over the place. The shooter, who has turned into a giant insect, continues to strengthen his ties to Frannie, the odd young girl who has given him shelter. Lemire is taking his time with this series, giving the story a lot of space to breathe, and it works.
The Forged #6 – Wrapping up the second arc of this excellent series, the members of the Forged team are attacked in an effort to silence them, and this is made extra complicated by the fact that Victory is with the Empress when the attack happens. Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, and Mike Henderson are doing excellent work with this oversized science fiction series that features some impressive world building. I’m sad that I’m going to have to wait until April to see what happens next.
Green Lantern #5 – I think this title is growing on me. Sinestro stages a number of attacks using Ferris drones, and Hal has to figure out how to stop them at the same time, deploying his ring in new ways. Jeremy Adams’s larger story is becoming interesting to me, as is the backup story by Peter Tomasi and David LaFuente about Sinestro’s son, who is on an alien world. There is some potential showing up in this book now.
Hexagon Bridge #3 – Richard Blake’s unusual Image comic continues, with the insertion of the AI robot telepathically connected to a young woman into the other dimension where the girl’s parents have been missing for some time. This book is a high concept one, and it’s a little confusing or unclear at times, but it’s also beautifully drawn and lush. Blake spaces out his scenes, making space for this book to be even more gorgeous.
The Immortal Thor #4 – I’m still struggling with this title, and the revelation that I maybe just really don’t like Thor anymore, but this issue is the best of the run so far. Storm and Beta Ray Bill make appearances as Thor assembles a team to deal with Toranos, an elder storm god. I think I’m tired of Thor constantly having to face older more powerful threats like this (Toranos is a bit too much like Gor, who whoever the Jason Aaron villain was). Martín Cóccolo’s art is lovely, and now that Thor turned his helmet into an axe, I’m not as distracted by the way the helmet wings float off the side of Thor’s face. I am still surprised that an Al Ewing book hasn’t immediately drawn me in, though.
Junior Baker the Righteous Faker #3 – With this third issue, Joe Casey starts to tie this book more closely to his older series, Butcher Baker, as our main character finds proof that the heroes and villains of his father’s world have not disappeared. This issue also touches on layoffs in the media, as Casey and artist Ryan Quackenbush take us on their psychedelic journey. It’s taken me a while to get into this book, but I’m there now.
Outsiders #1 – I was definitely intrigued to see DC bringing back the Outsiders title, with a neo-Planetary approach starring Batwoman and Batwing. It felt like a definite add to my pullfile, and I did really enjoy this first issue. I’ve been often disappointed by the writing team of Lanzing and Kelly, though, so I’m reserving judgment until we are a few more issues into the series. Luke Fox recruits Kate Kane to join his new organization, which is exploring mysterious stuff. There’s a new Drummer, and together, they explore a massive structure tucked under Antarctica that will be familiar to readers of The Authority. There’s a lot of potential here, and artist Robert Carey does fine work. I hope this doesn’t just become a redo of Planetary, but instead moves from that familiar framework into something new and exciting. It is off to a good start, so we’ll see what happens.
Red Goblin #10 – I started buying this in the wake of the Miles Morales/Carnage crossover, when I realized that Alex Paknadel was writing a monthly book at Marvel (two, but I can’t imagine reading Carnage regularly for any writer less than Alan Moore). I’m not surprised that this book wouldn’t make it past two trades in length, and do feel like this book had more potential than it was allowed to show. I don’t understand why Marvel hires writers like Paknadel, who write wildly creative creator-owned books, and then cram them into small and constrained corners of the shared universe. I think if he was given the chance to go wild with this concept, this could have been a great series.
Speed Force #1 – I was curious about this new miniseries featuring Kid Flash (Wallace West) and Flash (Avery Ho), but found this first issue a little confusing. I liked the character interactions and the way Jarrett Williams understands these characters, but the plot left me a little confused. I’m hoping the next issue clarifies things a little better, because these are characters I would like to read about more.
Star Wars: Dark Droids #4 – The Scourge continues to spread around the galaxy, and has split itself into a mockery of the Jedi Council as a way of trying to balance the cognitive demands it feels. I’m enjoying this series, but realize how important the tight coordination across its various tie-in series and miniseries is. I feel like the R2D2 sequence is out of order with his D-Squad title, and that threw me a little.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #38 – Aphra brings Sana back into her life to help her rescue Magna from the Scourge, and in the process we gain some more insight into how the Scourge is operating and what its limitations are. I’ve become very fond of Alyssa Wong’s run with Doctor Aphra, and am glad to see that she’s able to maintain this book’s independent spirit even when it’s getting looped into big events like Dark Droids.
Superman: Lost #8 – I was working under the assumption that this series was out of continuity, especially given that Clark and Lois never mention their son, Jon, or any of their extended family, but then Priest brings Black Adam into this issue, and it is very much the same character we just saw in his own series, also written by Priest. As Superman continues to try to acclimate to his old life, Lois decides to hide what Lex Luthor has done to her. There are only two issues left in this series, and I’m excited to see how Priest ties everything together. I hope that he and Carlos Pagulayan get to do another series together soon, as they are a great team.
Terrorwar #7 – When this series began, I was attracted to the way that Saladin Ahmed was working commentary around inequality into his science fiction story and world. That aspect of the story petered out after a while, but it’s back in this issue as everyone learns the truth of the Terrors they’ve been fighting, and resolve to do something about it. I like this series, but have always felt that it’s one of those comics that reads more as a proof of concept for a movie than as an original comics idea.
Uncanny Avengers #4 – The big reveal of who Captain Krakoa really is was kind of interesting, as Cap’s team continues to go after the Orchis-led (and gaslit) MLF. One thing that stood out to me in this issue is how Ben Urich is portrayed pretty differently than how he’s being shown in Daredevil right now; I hate when supporting characters are used in multiple places at the same time, but inconsistently. Other than that, this book remains pretty enjoyable.
The Vigil #6 – I was pleased to see the last page of this issue announced that the Vigil will return. Ram V has updated and captured the feeling of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad or Greg Rucka’s Checkmate with this series, although as we’ve learned the truth behind The Vigil, it’s moved the team away from the notion of being India’s team of super operatives, which I would have liked to see explored more. V’s done a good job of introducing and developing this team, and has made them pretty interesting. Of the We Are Legends titles, this is the one I most want to read more of.
WildCATS #12 – I stuck with Matthew Rosenberg’s new take on the classic Wildstorm team, as I liked aspects of this incarnation, but should have known that the series wouldn’t last, and wouldn’t end with the team still together. Every few years, DC dusts off these characters and reinterprets them, and I think that’s a mistake, as it’s better to stick with one take and find a spot for them in the shared universe. We already know that Zealot’s moved on to Birds of Prey, but I expect we won’t see the rest of the team again for a while. I enjoyed this series, but it had way too many artists, and I’m never going to get excited to see Tom Derenick’s name on a book.
The Week in Music:
Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah – Luaka Bop has put out a deluxe reissue of this essential recording from 1977 that includes ‘Harvest Time’, the beautiful twenty minute masterpiece. I’ve been wanting a copy of this album for some time, but it’s been incredibly rare (and expensive) for a long time, so I was happy to hear it was being reissued. Included in the box is another disc that features two live recordings from 1977, where ‘Harvest Time’ was played, and in each performance you can hear different choices Pharoah made. The box also contains a thick booklet that tells the story of the original album. ‘Harvest Time’ is a great piece to play when you’re in a meditative mood, and it’s been one of the few Youtube videos I’ll return to. I hadn’t actually heard the other two songs on the original album before, and they are also lovely. This album marked a turn in Sanders’s sound and vision, as he moved more towards spiritual jazz, and I’m so happy to finally own a copy. I don’t think I can claim a record from 1977 as my favourite album of the year, but I just might have to with this one.
Mary Lattimore – Goodbye, Hotel Arkada – There’s a familiar quality to all of Mary Lattimore’s albums that is comforting. She envelopes you with the sound of her harp and some synths, but on this new album, she continues to involve more collaborators with other instruments, but it’s still very much her show. I was lucky enough to see her perform this album live the other week, and it’s so nice to be able to learn the story behind tracks like ‘And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me’, which refers to her meeting Big Bird as a small child. It gives the tracks a deeper resonance to know things like this.
Hailu Mergia – Pioneer Works Swing (Live) – The fine folks at Awesome Tapes From Africa have put out this recording of a 2016 concert Ethio-jazz master Hailu Mergia performed with his trio, and it is fantastic. I’ve never had the chance to see Mergia play yet (I hate that he’s played Montreal but never Toronto, at least since I became aware of him), so this gives me a good idea of how exciting it would be to see him live. The music is energetic, as he cycles through some of his more recognizable tunes. He’s on a variety of instruments – keys, melodica, and the accordion, while his accompanists play drums and bass. It must have been a great show, and I’m glad that it was preserved in this format.
Resavoir – Resavoir – On this self-titled new album, Will Miller and his collaborators construct atmospheric yet jazzy soundscapes, and build upon the strengths of his debut album. It’s a very nice album that unfolds more with each listen.
Bex Burch – There Is Only Love and Fear – Ambient jazz music is having quite a moment right now, especially with the attention coming from Andre 3000’s new album, and International Anthem continues to be one of the leaders in that. Bex Burch plays a number of instruments on this gentle and sometimes off-kilter album, and is joined by a number of people from the Chicago avant-scene. Much of this is very relaxed, but at moments it takes on a bit of a downtempo carnival spirit that always throws me a bit, but in a good way.