The Weekly Round-Up #606 & #607 With Ninjak #1, Black Hammer Reborn #2, Oblivion Song #32, Superman & The Authority #1, Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #2 & More Plus The Week In Music!
James Fulton | July 26, 2021 | Columns, Top Story | No Comments
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I took last week off, and ended up with the two biggest weeks of the year in my pull-file. This was a lot of comics.
Best Comics of the Fortnight:
Ninjak #1 – I got really excited when I saw that Jeff Parker and Javier Pulido would be handling this latest Ninjak relaunch. Parker excels at espionage-tinged stories, and Pulido is a true master of modern comics. As this issue opens, Ninjak has left MI-6 and gone solo, but is still being tracked by Neville, his former boss. A pair of telepaths get their hands on all of MI-6s secrets, which leads to every undercover agent being put in great danger. This series feels very current (Parker has Ninjak interrupt a Jamal Koshoggi-like execution outside the embassy of a certain unnamed Arab country), and Pulido’s art is amazing. He has a lot of fun with the layouts, and his colours are so bright and vibrant. Valiant has been a pretty moribund place lately, but I’m very excited to be reading this new series. (One thing I don’t understand is why the cover is so different from the aesthetics of the interior comic).
Black Hammer Reborn #2 – Where the first Black Hammer series built on the optimism of the Silver Age, even if it subverted it a whole lot, this return to Jeff Lemire’s superhero universe is a lot darker. Lucy’s daughter and her friend decide to sneak into the Para-Zone region that’s opened up in their city, and then to make things even weirder, to drop acid or something while they’re there. At the same time, we look back at one of the events that led to Lucy giving up the Black Hammer identity, after a weird run-in with Skulldigger on a rooftop. Lemire is still just layering on story elements, but his handle of these characters makes this very compelling. I miss Dean Ormston on art, but Caitlin Yarsky is doing an excellent job of making this book her own. I’m really happy with this title.
Alien #5 – I am liking the approach that Marvel is taking to this property. This issue has Gabriel and his companions getting close to saving themselves, but you know, it’s an Alien comic, so things aren’t always going to be smooth. Salvador Larroca is doing great work on this book, and I like how character driven Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s story is.
Aliens Aftermath #1 – It’s cool that, as Marvel takes over the Alien/Aliens license, they decided to return to LV-426, the location of the first two movies. The nephew of Vazquez is part of a group that live streams their missions against the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Our new Vazquez wants to learn what happened to his aunt, and so they work to dig up information about the place. And, this being an Aliens comic, you know it’s a bloodbath. This is a solid done-in-one comic, with great art from Dave Wachter. I enjoyed it, and now I have a craving to rewatch Aliens.
Ascender #17 – There’s only one issue left? Tim faces off against Mother while his friends run from some Scrappers. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have spent a long time getting us to this place, so the big event at the end of this issue feels like a promise of more to come next month. I’m going to miss this book and these characters.
Chu #6 – I’m happy to see Chu back on the schedule. Saffron and her boyfriend are on a cruise, running small scams and pickpocketing the other passengers when a bigger opportunity, involving rare wine comes her way. John Layman is making it clear that Saffron is nothing like the rest of her family, as we see how brutal and heartless she can be. I am always down for a good crime comic told from the criminal’s point of view, and when you toss in weird food powers, this series has to be a winner.
Deadly Class #47 – This arc continues to check in on the cast of this series, and moves forward through time. For this issue, we’re in 2001, and Saya is clearly struggling. She’s an addict who spends her days making enough money for her next fix. This issue made me sad, as she seemed like one of the more together of the old crew. Rick Remender and Wes Craig have breathed so much life into the characters in this book, that it kind of hurts to see them fall so hard. I’m very curious to see where the next issue is going to take this, given the way this one ends.
Die #18 – It’s time to finally learn what happened to Sol after he got left behind in Die when all of his friends left. It goes without saying, this is a pretty dark issue, and once again, it looks like Ash was at the centre of everything going wrong. All of the early work that Kieron Gillen and Stefanie Hans did in building and developing these characters is really paying off now that we are getting closer to the end. I remain astounded by the amount of thought that Gillen has put into writing this series.
Gamma Flight #2 – I love the lineup of characters in this book. Gamma Flight fights off Skaar in this issue (he now has fingers coming out of his head, which is a weird look, but ties in with the character who turns up on the last page), but the whole time, Titania takes Leonard Samson (Samsquatch?) to task for the way he condescends to Charlene, who he obviously has feelings for. The amount of character work being put into this book seems more appropriate for an ongoing series than a mini, but that’s what I like about writer Al Ewing (and, I guess, co-writer Crystal Fraser, who is new to me). This series is a great companion to Immortal Hulk.
Iron Man #10 – We haven’t seen Tony Stark in this book for a couple of issues now. While his ragtag team has been chasing Korvac in space, he’s been sent to a remote world populated by a small village’s worth of people from a few different worlds, including a deep cut character from an old Marvel Fanfare and a Daredevil villain no one’s done anything with for ages. It contains the most work Chris Cantwell has done on Tony Stark since he launched this title, and for that reason, I enjoyed it. This run is picking up.
Guardians of the Galaxy #16 – This “The Last Annihilation” story is shaping up to be a big one, as we see Dormammu make his move, attacking the Guardians that were surrounding Ego, while also sending Mindless Ones to attack key planets, drawing the rest of the team into the conflict. Nova gets some great scenes, and Al Ewing continues to tie this book closely to what’s happening in SWORD and some of the other Krakoan titles. I love the shared universe aspects of this comic, and how Ewing manages to give most of the characters a moment or two.
Jupiter’s Legacy: Requiem #2 – I don’t know exactly what Tommy Lee Edwards is doing with the colours on this book, but it really stands out. Things are getting a little more chaotic as some heroes move to free persecuted Uyghurs in China, while others come after Brandon while he’s on his pilgrimage. I feel a little disconnected from things, as I’m having a hard time remembering who is who in this book, but I am enjoying it and like the new approach that Millar and Edwards are taking to things.
Last Song #4 – It has taken a very long time for this series to finally come to its close, and it ends in a pretty impressive way. This series is about Nicky, who fronts a band, Ecstasy, that got very popular in the 90s before falling apart around the same time that Nicky did. At its core, this is a love story, but it’s also about music, growing up, and learning to respect people’s choices. Holly Interlandi’s writing has been very sharp throughout this series, and with this oversized issue, she avoids some of the tangents she took the story on in earlier installments. There’s a new artist, Natalie Jackson for this last issue, and she does a fine job of keeping the series’s aesthetic intact. This was a very enjoyable series, even if it only came out at the pace of one issue a year (it was published by Black Mask afterall).
The Lot #1 – Every new Bad Idea comic is a bit of a crapshoot, and I knew nothing about this one going in. Marguerite Bennett has written an interesting horror story revolving around a movie exec in a new position who discovers that her studio owns a lot that hasn’t been used in fifty years. She starts restoring it, but that appears to have woken up something sinister. Renato Guedes is trying some new things with the art, and I don’t know how I feel about it. It looks like he’s taking photos of actors and incorporating them into his drawings. It’s a little disconcerting in places, but it does effectively add to the sense of horror he and Bennett are going for. Things are choppy and hard to understand in parts, but this is an impressive book. I also like the backup story by Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite about an art thief.
Marauders #22 – The Hellfire Gala is over, but before everyone’s attention moves to the death of the Scarlet Witch, Emma and the Cuckoos have a few loose ends to tie up. We learn the truth about Lourdes, the woman that Sebastian Shaw has been pining for, and learn just how long Shaw and Emma have been undermining one another’s ambitions. This book is still incredibly loose, when it comes to cast and focus, but it’s enjoyable. I feel like Gerry Duggan is the main X-writer now, even though Jonathan Hickman is calling the shots.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #28 – When Miles learned that Selim, his clone, had taken his baby sister to the Brooklyn Bridge, I was already anticipating the homage to Gwen Stacey that I figured had to come, but then writer Saladin Ahmed didn’t do that, for which I’m thankful. The clone story ends pretty well. Ahmed does really good work on this book.
Moon Knight #1 – I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this latest Moon Knight book, as I am not familiar with the writing of Jed McKay (who seems to be writing a quarter of Marvel’s whole line these days) or the art of Alessandro Cappuccio. It’s not a bad first issue, as it establishes MK’s latest status quo (he’s set up a night mission, and protects the people in his neighbourhood), as well as introducing a new threat from within Khonshu’s followers. There is potential here, and I’m curious to see where it’s headed. This issue didn’t blow me away, but there’s enough to like that I’ll give this a first arc. I was thinking, though, that it would have been interesting to see Mark taking the new Krakoan drugs that help with mental illness. That could have made for a very different type of series.
New Mutants #20 – I’m glad I stuck with this series, as it’s beginning to cohere very nicely. The group of kids decide to manage Gabby’s death on their own, while the adults take some others to the site of a new mutant’s awakening to help do some search and rescue work. Rahne heads deeper down a dark path. The characterizations in this book are pretty strong, but I still object to Anole being portrayed as so young. He’s basically the same age as Elixir, who talks down to him in this issue. Other than that, I feel like Vita Ayala has really found their feet on this book, and things are looking up.
Nightwing #82 – I’ve recently discovered how good this series is right now, with Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo doing some cool things with Dick. I’ve decided to add this to my pullfile (there’s more in the Bonus Comics section below). This issue has Dick getting to know his newly-discovered half-sister, with some retconning flashbacks filling in the backstory. It’s good stuff.
Oblivion Song #32 – The people of Earth are making a few last ditch efforts to turn back the Kuthaal invasion, and that might be an issue for them. Heather makes an attempt to negotiate with the aliens’ ruler, but Nathan’s effort to return the Kuthaal outpost to Oblivion might make Heather’s job harder. This issue has a lot of suspense to it. There are only four issues left in this series, which is a real shame, as it’s excellent.
Rorschach #10 – The basically nameless main character of this series lays out almost everything he’s learned about the assassination attempt that Rorschach and The Kid pulled at the start of the series to his contact in the Turley campaign. Tom King has constructed this series like a big puzzle box, and it’s cool to see how most of the parts fit together in this issue. I also still love that Frank Miller is an important character in this book. I’m not sure how that happened. This book is a real slow burn, but I’ve really enjoyed it.
Shazam! #1 – I wouldn’t normally touch a new Shazam series, but since Billy has been hanging out at the Teen Titans Academy, and I’ve been enjoying that book, I figured I’d check out this miniseries. We know that Billy has been having trouble accessing and controlling his powers, and in this issue, we learn that it’s because the Rock of Eternity has turned up in Hell. While the adults intend to deal with this issue themselves, it’s Billy who makes the decision to travel to Hell with one of his classmates. Tim Sheridan is writing both this and TTA, so it fits very well with that other book. I’m left wondering how Billy is still a kid, but Gar has grown up, but I’m sure the answer has something to do with Infinite Frontiers, and isn’t worth dwelling on. I think I’ll get the rest of this mini.
The Silver Coin #4 – Jeff Lemire writes this issue, set in a dystopian future. The first two issues of this series, which has a different writer collaborating with artist Michael Walsh each issue, were much more compressed and rich than these last two, which have been very quick reads. It will be weird to read this series in trade, and find it speeding up as it goes. Still, Lemire has an interesting vision of the future here, and leaves me wishing the story was longer.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #14 – We get a good understanding of the Administrator who has been trying to make life difficult for Vader lately, as we see her put her plans in action, and try to take advantage of the Crimson Dawn party to achieve her goals. As always, this book is gorgeous thanks to Rafaelle Ienco.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #12 – Aphra and Sana are at the Crimson Dawn party, so Aphra has to balance her desire to steal everything she sees with her need to stay unseen, since most of the people there want to kill her. This is a fun issue.
Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #2 – Various criminal factions gather for the Crimson Dawn party, as the bidding for Han Solo opens. Charles Soule touches on most of the books that this series is tying into, while also giving Boba Fett some cool moments. Luke Ross has leveled up again with his art (which was already pretty impressive), making this a gorgeous comic. I’m enjoying this Star Wars event.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #2 – Tom King and Bilquis Evely have left Supergirl in a strange predicament. Powerless, she’s forced to use an old and slow space ferry to get her and her new companion, Ruthye, across the galaxy, as they hunt the man that killed Ruthye’s father and poisoned Krypto. King has Ruthye narrating this whole series, so everything is seen from the perspective of a poor rock farmer from a primitive world. It’s an interesting approach to studying Supergirl’s character, and it works. Evely’s art is gorgeous, and she seems to be having a lot of fun with the strange locales our heroes are in.
Superman and The Authority #1 – In my renewed interest in DC Comics after the changes of Infinite Frontiers, this miniseries by Grant Morrison and Mikel Janín caught my eye. I’ve lost my inherent trust in Morrison, as they’ve let me down a few times in the last decade with some of their projects, but I’ve always liked the Authority, and I like Janín’s art a lot. I thought this was set in the current DCU, but I guess it’s set on some other Earth. Superman’s been around since before Kennedy was killed, and now he’s losing his abilities as he ages. He wants to make another stab at making the world a “finer place” and decides that the best way to do this is to partner up with the odious Manchester Black. It’s an interesting concept, with a real Elseworlds vibe to it, and it held my interest nicely. I’m down to get the rest of this.
Thor #15 – With this newest arc, it’s time to examine the difficulty Thor has had lifting his hammer, and what it might mean. I like that this has nothing to do with the Original Sin nonsense, but instead is being treated as a reflection of his changed role in Asgard, and how that impacts his perception of his purpose. It’s an intelligent approach, and might lead to some actual character development for Thor. I also like how Cates explores his perceptions of time, compared to that of his friends. Guest artist Michele Brandini is fantastic.
Undiscovered Country #14 – This book is ridiculously over the top, and doesn’t make a lot of sense (I’m still not sure how one of the zones, which is in the continental United States is also an ocean), but it moves at a good pace and stays entertaining. In this issue, one of the people exploring America is confronted with some robotic superheroes that are desperate to help her, since they have no one else to save. Her way of dealing with them was clever. I don’t even know if I like this book, but I keep buying it. Comics…
Way of X #4 – There is just way too much happening in this miniseries for it to have only one issue left (and yes, I know about the Onslaught oneshot that comes out the month after this ends). Si Spurrier is running a few different stories here – we have Nightcrawler wanting to deal with Fabian Cortez, while Legion continues to try to plan to deal with Onslaught, while wanting to keep his father out of it, which doesn’t really work. The loose cast of this book also has to deal with the things that were overlooked when Mars was transformed into Arakko, such as volcanoes and tides. This is an odd, odd book, but it is doing some heavy lifting that is missing in the other Krakoan titles.
X-Corp #3 – I’m still having a hard time caring about this series, but having Valentine De Landro, of the much-missed Bitch Planet, drawing things helps me get a lot more excited. The crew is launching a new internet product at a trade show, but experience difficulties in getting the tech sorted, and in managing a meeting with a competitor. I like that Tini Howard is focusing a little more on Jamie Madrox in this issue, and things look great, but the flow feels wrong. The best part about this issue is the two-page backup story by local legend Jason Loo, of whom I’m a big fan. I wish he had more time and space here, but it’s really cool to see him showing up in a Marvel comic, and I hope that more is on the way.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Black Hammer Visions #6
Infinite Frontier #2
Justice League: Last Ride #3
Raptor: A Sokol Graphic Novel
Avengers #28-46 – I binged on Jason Aaron’s Avengers this last week, and I’m disappointed to find that these comics aren’t all that memorable or impressive. In this stack, the Avengers travelled to outer space to deal with the birth of a new Star Brand, then got caught up in some reality-altering event involving Mephisto and Khonshu, and then had to fight each other and some other heroes in order to decide who would become the new Phoenix. In between, they also dealt with another reality-changing event involving Mephisto, in Heroes Reborn, that I skipped. Aaron is trying for the kind of big screen stories that the Justice League have become known for, forgetting that the Avengers is always strongest when grounded in character-driven arcs. Most of this, I just couldn’t really bring myself to care about, which is too bad. The best issues in this pile are the most recent, which focus on how the team operates, as they have to deal with the fall out of the King In Black event and Blade’s actions against the new Vampire Nation, and the part where the Russian heroes come for Hulk. I’ve never been a fan of Ed McGuinness’s work, but I did like the issues done by Javier Garron. There’s a lot of potential with this quirky lineup, but the execution just doesn’t work for me. I also think it’s too soon to be dealing with the Phoenix Force again, and I really do not like the whole Avengers of 10 000 BC story elements.
Nightwing #78-81 – It wasn’t that long ago that I read Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Suicide Squad run, and I really liked it. I hadn’t realized they were working on Nightwing together, so I figured I should get caught up on that book, and decide if it belongs in my pull file. And, as it turns out, this book is great. Dick is back in Blüdhaven, trying to do well with a new opportunity that has come his way, but this city is not on his side. There’s a big surprise about the identity of one of the villains he’s up against, and I like that Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake are being used as supporting characters. Redondo’s art is very cool, and I like how he plays around with layout. Taylor is a writer I should have been paying attention to from the beginning, but I intend to pick up more of his work now. I’m excited about this run.
The Week in Music:
Carlos Niño & Friends – More Energy Fields, Current – I am in love with this strange album of ambient tracks helmed by Carlos Niño. From what I understand, Niño’s process is to play music with friends, and then chop up their sessions and arrange them into these loose, exploratory pieces. Among the friends showing up on this album are Jamael Dean (I’m a big fan of his work), Sam Gendel, Dntel, Shabaka Hutchings, Laraaji, and Nate Mercereau. It’s cool that this has come out on International Anthem, as did his recent collaboration with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. This is a great album to just vibe out to.
Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band – Tezeta – I love Ethiopian jazz, even if I lack the vocabulary to explain what makes it unique. The label Awesome Tapes From Africa has slowly been rereleasing Hailu Mergia’s back catalogue, and recently dropped this instrumental album that originally came out in 1975. Mergia and the Walias create a lush soundscape on these tracks, and the album is easy to get lost in. Mergia’s Ethio-jazz is different from Mulatu Astatke’s, but equally lovely. HIs organ leads each track, which are mostly rearrangements of traditional songs, interpreted through jazz and funk. From reading the liner notes, I’ve learned that this album was originally released on tape, and has always been almost impossible to find before now; it’s a nice addition to my collection.
Children of Zeus – Balance – Children of Zeus provide another album full of that perfectly balanced soul and hiphop that they’ve become known for. Nothing about this album really stands out, but it’s all incredibly smooth and very nice.
John Carroll Kirby – Septet – John Carroll Kirby is an artist I discovered during the first days of lockdown, and who I’ve grown to admire. His new album, Septet, is a winning combination of jazz and electronic music. It borders a New Age optimism, and leaves the listener feeling uplifted. It’s a pretty beautiful piece of work.
Hania Rani – Music For Film and Theatre – This is a collection of work that Hania Rani has done for film soundtracks and theatrical productions, and as such, it’s not all that cohesive, but it is a nice example of what she does. Most of the pieces here are minimalist piano or synth compositions, and they make great background music for reading to.
Alice Coltrane – Kirtan: Turiya Sings – A few years back, a collection of Alice Coltrane’s devotional music was released, and it blew me away with its beauty. This album is a rerelease of a cassette she made in the 1980s, and it is nine tracks of her singing Hindu prayers while accompanying herself, very slowly, on an electric organ. That doesn’t sound great, does it? And yet, this album is mesmerizingly beautiful, and a complete revelation. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen asleep every time I’ve listened to it, but I snap awake again as soon as it ends. Coltrane’s voice is perfect, and the music is soothing and restorative. I’m so glad they put this out, and it’s something I know I’m going to treasure, even if I never stay awake through the whole thing.
Mello Music Group – Bushido – I miss the days of a record label sampler compilation. Mello Music Group is home to some incredible hiphop artists (Oddisee, Open Mike Eagle, Marlowe, Quelle Chris), and they all bring their a-game for this collection.
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