The Weekly Round-Up #614 With Mazebook #1, Defenders #2, Daredevil #34, Two Issues Of Star Wars & Suicide Squad & More! Plus Music & Movie Of The Week With A Memoriam!
Best Comic of the Week:
Mazebook #1 – Jeff Lemire returns as a writer and artist in this first oversized issue to his latest miniseries. Will is a building site inspector who lost his young daughter a decade before now, and lives trapped in memories of her while going about his monotonous routine. Lemire really makes it easy to feel how lifeless and trapped Will is, his sadness suffusing each page. When coworkers and neighbours try to talk to him, he avoids them, and seems very trapped in his unhappiness, at least until a late night phone call changes things. This book is languorous in its pacing, but really draws you in. I love when Lemire draws a book like this, with labyrinth paths connecting panels, and I love that it’s set in Toronto.
Daredevil #34 – I was surprised to learn in the last Marvel Previews that Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil is ending soon (I thought that there was still a whole story to come about Elektra and the Hand; isn’t that why she’s trying to prove herself as Daredevil now? And what about Izzy Libris and Murdock’s brother?). This issue takes a few big steps towards getting us to that ending, as Matt reveals to Cole what he learned about the prison warden’s operation, and then learns about Bullseye’s moves, just as Elektra positions herself to fight him for what she assumes will be the last time. This run has been great, and I’m left worrying that they are rushing the ending for some reason.
Deadly Class #48 – We see the last days of our favourite characters at King’s Dominion, as Marcus and the others attack the faculty. This is an exciting issue that provides some closure, and reveals how deep the rift between Marcus and Saya ran at the end. Wes Craig has done such incredible work in this series, and really packs a lot into each issue. I miss the more humorous and optimistic early days of this series, but really love watching Rick Remender wrap the story up.
Defenders #2 – This whole series is an oddball, but it’s entertaining. Al Ewing has this odd gathering of heroes back in the multiverse that existed before the current one, on Taa, the birthplace of Galactus. Ewing has been working on ideas like this since at least his Ultimates runs, but I’m not yet sure why he’s included characters like Cloud or Harpy in this story, as they aren’t really doing anything. Javier Rodríguez is the real star of this book, as he has a lot of fun with the art.
Excellence #11 – I’m so happy to see a new issue of Excellence, which is one of my favourite Image books. Spencer has learned his father has a sibling, so he tracks them down in his effort to learn more about his father’s choices and role in the world of the Aegis. Revelations abound, while the Aegis continues to hunt for Spencer. Ever since we’ve learned who is really in power in this world, this book has been hitting a little differently, leaving me to keep questioning what’s really happening behind the scenes. Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph have created a very unique and special book here, and I’m so pleased to see it continue.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #14 – Aphra and Sana link up with Lucky and Ariole in the Crimson Dawn brig, and decide to work together to get free, and to mess up the organization’s plans. Things have been picking up with this book, and the War of the Bounty Hunters has been a nice shot in the arm for it.
Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #4 – This event is moving pretty quickly. Vader sends Han’s carbonite slab to his ship, and heads off to confront Luke in space. This gives everyone (Leia and friends, Boba Fett, and the Hutts) the chance to try to regain what they believe should be their property. We also finally get Dengar and Valance in this series, which means more actual bounty hunters. I’m liking this event, but it was with this issue I realized it’s mis-named.
Suicide Squad 2021 Annual #1 – This issue holds some surprises as we learn the truth behind Superboy’s identity, and Amanda Waller and the whole Squad end up going on the run. We also see what Rick Flag has been up to since escaping Belle Reve. This issue moves at a quick pace, but it also reveals a lot of the weaknesses of this series. I don’t think Robbie Thompson has done a good enough job of making it clear just who Waller is in this Infinite Frontiers iteration. Is she really trying to take over the world? How has she accrued the ability to do all this work? Who are her people? There’s a doctor and a guard that seem to be recurring characters, but there’s been nowhere near enough done to develop them into recognizable supporting characters. There’s a lot of potential in this book, which is why I’ve stayed with it, but it really lacks context. I’ve just finished rereading John Ostrander’s classic Squad series, and this doesn’t hold a candle to it.
Suicide Squad #7 – It’s weird to get two issues of Suicide Squad in the same week (should be three, but my store was sold out of Swamp Thing). Ambush Bug has been recruited for the team, which Waller is now keeping in a shared simulation between missions. Ambush Bug is an annoying character that reminds me of Deadpool (I know he came first, but he’s not often interacted with the DCU, and has the same impact on books he guest stars in), and the comic relief angle feels a little out of place. At the same time, his fourth wall breaking commentary does provide a few reminders of just what it is that Waller is up to. The why is still lacking. It also looks like this book is fixing to tie-in to the Shazam! miniseries, as the Squad goes after the Rock of Eternity. I do like the coordination between DC’s books at the moment.
The Unbelievable Unteens #2 – It’s time to get to know the Unteens a little better, as Jack and Strobe start to track down the others to try to help them remember their former life. We also get some older-style comics pages, showing us what life was like for the Unteens when they were heroes (there’s a real New Mutants vibe going on here). Tyler Crooks’s art is great, although I prefer the modern day painted pages. This might not be the most impressive book in the Black Hammer stable, but it’s enjoyable.
X-Force #23 – It’s interesting how much Hank McCoy has changed since the start of the Krakoan era. This issue acknowledges that a little, when Hank once again puts himself at great risk by making a stupid decision while investigating one of the nesting doll Russian soldiers. At the same time, Mikhail Rasputin gets ready to make his next move. This book remains very unfocused and all over the place, and it gets annoying.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Batman Catwoman #7
Infinite Frontier #6
Ka-Zar Lord of the Savage Land #1
Last Flight Out #1
Movie of the Week:
Neptune Frost – I was fortunate enough to attend the North American premier of the film Neptune Frost at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I was blown away. This movie was written and directed by Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, and is one of the most visually and narratively inventive things I’ve seen in years. Roughly, this is a story about a Rwandan miner, Matalusa, who flees violence, connects with a group of activists who live in a village in another dimension, and meets Neptune, an intersex hacker. Together, maybe with the help of a bird named Frost, they are able to take over the internet. More or less. It’s a little hard to follow the story in parts, but that doesn’t much matter, because the aesthetics and filmmaking are out of this world. The movie is mostly in Kinyarwandan, and is a musical. The music is mostly from Saul Williams’s last two albums – MartyrLoserKing (an absolute favourite of mine) and Encrypted & Vulnerable, but the songs are translated into Kinyarwandan, making them feel very different and fresh. There is an intended graphic novel (Ronald Wimberly’s name was attached to it a few years ago), and room for more stories in this fascinating Afrofuturist universe. This is the first I’ve been in a theatre in probably two years, and I’m so happy I got the chance to see this movie on a big screen. It is all I’ve thought about since seeing it.
Michael K. Williams – The Wire ruined television for me. Since that show finished, I’ve held every TV show I’ve watched to its standard, and I’ve been consistently let down ever since. It was a brilliantly complex portrait of a living city that started as a cops vs. drug dealers police procedural that quickly made it clear that the people on either side of that conflict are complicated, nuanced beings, and that the status quo is deeply entrenched (maybe systemic is the better word). Watching The Wire (always on DVD, because I never had HBO) opened my mind to concepts that are now common in the discourse – harm reduction, decriminalization, prison abolition, education reform, and reasons to distrust and defund the police. This series showed how wealth, property, power, and the systems of oppression are connected, and how oppression in poor American cities, especially in the Black community, is intentional.
It also opened my eyes to new methods of telling stories and proved that characters on TV can be incredibly rich. In addition to its incredible writing, the show was blessed with a stable of amazing actors who embedded so much humanity into their characters. There are so many memorable performances, and so many careers were launched or amplified because of this show, but three have always stuck with me. Michael B. Jordan’s Wallace is someone I still can’t think about without choking up. Andre Royo’s Bubbles forever changed my opinion about people with substance abuse issues, and Michael K. Williams’s Omar blew my mind.
Omar was a guy who ripped off drug dealers, lived by a strict code, and over the course of five seasons, became the moral heart of the show. He was brave, bold, funny, unpredictable, and incredibly strong. I don’t know that there’s ever been a portrayal of a queer character on television like him before or since that show, but there was so much more to him.
I haven’t seen Williams in a lot of other shows, so in my mind, he has stayed Omar (I do remember suffering some real cognitive dissonance when he appeared on Community for a few episodes). Williams’s death this week hit me, and inspired me to start rewatching The Wire, which has been a gift.
My condolences to his family, friends, and fans. This one hurt.
The Week in Music:
Cochemea – Vol. 2: Baca Sewa – A Daptone Records album of Latin-indigenous music with a touch of African rhythms? Cochemea, who has played in various Daptones bands, gave us a wonderful first album a couple of years ago, and now follows up with this lovely piece of work. It’s a great late summer vibe.
Darktime Sunshine – Lore – It’s taken me forever to get a copy of this album. Onry Ozzborn has a very unique voice and flow, and it rides Zavala’s beats very nicely. There are some great features on here, most notably RAP Ferreira and Aesop Rock, and some thoughtful, introspective rap songs. I’m glad I finally own this.
LowDown Brass Band – The Reel Sessions – When brass bands play hip hop, it’s always a lot of fun. This Chicago band throws down on this album, which collects the songs they made, at the pace of one every two weeks, during lockdown. It’s a vibe that I’ve been missing.