Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 10/12/16

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Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss Star Wars Han Solo 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 63, The Fix 6, Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 4, Lazarus 25. Also, we discussed Darth Vader 25 on Thursday and will be discussing Reborn 1 on Tuesday and Kill or Be Killed 3 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Star Wars Han Solo 4

star-wars-han-solo-4Michael: Han Solo 4 is a book that has got me thinking about Yoda; which is strange because he’s a character who is nowhere to be found in this book. Yoda was a great character because he was eccentric, wise and lovable – all without stealing the focus from our protagonist Luke Skywalker. Marjorie Liu has introduced a kindred spirit to Yoda in the pages of Han Solo with the character of Loo Re Anno.

It is stated once again in Han Solo 4 that Loo Re Anno is the last of her kind – which makes her even more unique of a snowflake. Throughout every issue of this series she has been this guardian angel who has been looking out for our smuggler and providing us all with a little bit of wisdom. Basically I really enjoy this character and hope that she doesn’t turn out to be a fraud in next month’s finale.

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A whole lot happens in this issue before the Millennium Falcon takes off for the final leg of the Dragon Void Race: we get our second and third Rebel informants, Imperial entanglements and a dead Rebel informant that we didn’t even really get to know all that well. Han is instructed by Leia’s informants to drop out of the race and transport them back to the Rebellion; luckily for us Han doesn’t do that. Loo Re Anno just jazzed Han up about this race, he’s gonna pull out every excuse he can to finish it. We’ve got one issue left to solve a murder mystery, see if Han wins the race and find out if U’il is Prince Xizor’s cousin. Ya feel me Shadows of the Empire fans?

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 63

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-63Taylor: Once you boil away all the of the intrigue about the foot clan and cut away the fat about immortal spirits dueling for the fate of the humanity, the recipe that has sustained TMNT through 63 issues is family. When Raphael was once again the wayward son, his family was there. When Leo was brainwashed and became Shredder’s apprentice it was his family who saved him. And when Donatello was virtually murdered it was his family that helped bring him back to life. Family is important to these guys and it’s hard to imagine what would happen if the bond between the turtles and Splinter were to ever break down, so issue 63 supplied us with the narrative just to calm my roving mind.

Hell bent on trying to stamp out the Street Phantoms, Splinter has launched an all out war on his adversaries. In doing so he has allowed Harold to be kidnapped because he is a distracting “asset.” While Harold isn’t totally helpless at the hands of his captors, he still needs the turtles to help him. The only problem is that they also have their hands full with another of Dun’s gangs.

The issue the turtles face at the end of this issue with Dun’s gang seems almost pointless compared to more dangerous developing between Splinter and his sons in this issue. Donatello in particular takes issue with Splinter effectively using Harold as bait, which leads Leonardo to question his father about his methods. A terse exchange ensues that should be troubling to any reader of this series.

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This exchange between father and son is different from almost every other conversation they’ve had before. Normally Splinter is sagacious mentor who calmly explains things in a way that leads the turtles to understanding and wisdom. Here, on the other hand, he’s almost like an attorney arguing in court. He is immediately on the defensive when Leonardo begins to speak with him and instead of using a parable to illustrate his actions like he normally does, he uses cold hard logic to justify his actions. While it can be understood where Splinter is coming from and even why he is taking such draconian actions now, the manner in which he interacts with Leo shows that something fundamental has changed in his relationship with his children. The question is, are these just the actions of a rat under duress or are they a sign of absolute power doing what it always does?

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The Fix 6

fix-6Spencer: I’d love to see Nick Spencer’s internet search history some day; in each issue of The Fix, he and Steve Lieber manage to find another scheme or scandal to introduce that’s so obscene it almost has to be ripped from one headline or another. This month it’s the idea of stealing a celebrity’s belongings — especially sexually-related items — and selling them for big cash.

I fully believe that this is a scheme that not only exists in real life in some form, but that Roy would obviously get involved with it — the only real problem is that there’s not much to say about it. Unlike most of the other schemes he’s introduced, Spencer’s handling of this concept never really aims for any sort of commentary or satire; instead, he packs the issue with twice as many dick and masturbation jokes as usual to make up for the deficit. The Fix‘s humor has always been a little over-the-top, but without that satire grounding it, a lot of this issue’s humor feels broader than usual. I suppose that “Meth Fight Club,” masturbating while sliding down a grand staircase, and Donovan’s school-bus-burning rampage are all just about par for the course when it comes to The Fix, but all of those bits together in an issue with less substance than usual may be too out-there even for this book. It definitely took me out of the story once or twice.

In the grand scheme of things, though, that’s a rather minor complaint; despite some of its jokes not fully landing, The Fix 6 is still absolutely riotous. Spencer’s dialogue is perhaps sharper than ever, and Lieber sells the hell out of every moment. The conversation between Roy and Meth-Head Matty, for example, progresses beautifully; Roy just gets angrier and angrier with each panel, and Lieber portrays that escalation perfectly. By the end, it looks like Roy is about to explode at any moment!

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And Spencer still manages to sneak some savvy political satire into the issue, even if they’re passed off as quick jokes instead of dominating the primary storyline; I got a good laugh at the meth-heads assuming Roy is racist solely because he’s a cop, for example. Overall, The Fix is still a strong, highly entertaining book even when it’s not operating at its absolute peak, and that’s a promising sign for the series moving forward.

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Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 4

jupiters-legacy-2-4Drew: How often are you completely unsure how a story will end? Aside from the rare well-executed twist ending, most stories follow relatively rote forms. Good triumphs over evil, the romantic leads end up together, the hero returns home after a triumphant journey. There are obviously times when those endings are subverted, but that’s usually heralded by the groundwork necessary to make such an ending palatable. Jupiter’s Legacy (and its prequel series, Jupiter’s Circle) has by turns subverted and gleefully embraced the tropes of the superhero genre, such that I no longer have any idea what might happen. Will Chloe et al triumph over Walter, as we might expect of a superhero story, or will it double-down on the bleak message of what happens when someone who considers themselves better than everyone rises to power, leaving Walter in charge indefinitely? If Chloe triumphs, will her group be able to restore order, or will they fall into the same pitfalls Walter did? Even if I thought I had answers to these questions, this month’s issue has made it clear that anything could happen.

Just when it seems like things might work out for George and Hutch, having a nice father/son moment while they plan their attack on the Supermax, Walter and Brandon track them down, laying waste to their hidden base and forcing them to scramble. Hutch is still able to fire off a strike team to the Supermax, but by the end of the issue, George is apparently dead, and both Hutch and Chloe are in mortal peril. That’s a big, unexpected flip to the showdown we thought was going to happen, but writer Mark Millar manages to also cram in some real superhero action, giving Hutch a chance to flex the capabilities of his power wand. More importantly, it gives artist Frank Quitely a chance to flex his greatest power: drawing bodies in motion.

Bodies in Motion

A dogpile of superhumans might be considered a visual motif, it’s used so often in this series, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t excite me every time I see it. I think it comes down to the detail — every one of these characters is wearing a different costume, in a different pose, seen from a slightly different angle. All of these suggest different power-sets and backstories (I love that you can see some of the characters are carrying others), which gives their numbers a real weight — Chloe isn’t being subsumed by a cloud of people, but a mass of individuals.

Of course, anything can still happen. While the last we see of Jason, things look dire, it’s not hard to imagine him arriving in the nick of time with the entire population of the Supermax. It’s also not hard to imagine some kind of mind-control afoot when it looks like George has really died. I wouldn’t put it past Millar to build up the showdown between Walter and George only to unceremoniously cut it short, but I also wouldn’t put it past him to fake us out only to deliver on that showdown hardcore in the final issue. So: anything could happen. I can’t wait to see what actually does.

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Lazarus 25

lazarus-25Patrick: Artist Michael Lark is a damn wizard when it comes to clearly conveying action sequences. His work is meticulous, tracing every swing, every blow, every lined-up shot, every explosion so precisely as to leave no question in the reader’s mind what has actually transpired. In previous story arcs, he and writer Greg Rucka would build up to these virtuosic set-pieces, but “Cull” started there – launching with an air-infiltration of a Rausling compound and an epic duel between Sonja Bitner and a hulking enemy Lazarus. But as the intensity of Forever’s story increases, the dynamism of the action sequences dims and instead of seeing the violence beat-for-beat, we only see flashes.

Instead of patiently detailing a sword fight or car chase, Lark turns his focus to a much different battle – that battle of wits and emotion between Forever and Johanna. Despite her father’s assertion that he would let her serve as Head of Family, Jo hasn’t found any success convincing her family that telling Forever the truth is the best course of action, so she takes that responsibility on herself. Eve is not easily convinced that she should trust her sister, rightly calling this just another form of control, but interestingly, Jo is only able to elicit Eve’s empathy because they are both put in danger by these revelations. If Papa Carlyle finds out, then no temporary H.O.F. status is going to protect Jo. It’s a complicated scene, but strictly from an emotional stand-point – logistically, it’s just two women standing in a room, having a conversation. The room itself is important, a fact which Lark emphasizes by drawing it over and over again. There are no shortcuts, just panel after panel of tubes of spare body parts. Forever also thinks the room is important, insisting that there can be no lies in this space.

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This is the important stuff – everything else is just noise.

At least, for this month. We get to spend some time with war reporter Lit Livestream in the body of the comic for the first time, but her view of what’s happening on the ground is necessarily abbreviated. She introduces Joacquim, Sonja and Thomas in cool action-movie-poster stills but then utterly fails to get the inside scoop on what combat is actually like for them. Then at the end of the issue, LL misses the carnage leveled by this frightening new Lazarus. She — and by extension, we — only see the results of The Dragon’s work: a pile of organs and viscera. Gross stuff!

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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One comment on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 10/12/16

  1. I’ve been busy lately, and haven’t had time to read Order of the Stick. Which is a shame, as the arc I’m about to start is full of really interesting stuff. I have, however, read the penultimate issue of Sheriff of Babylon. Wow.

    A key idea of Tom King’s trilogy is lies. The setting is an essential character – the Vision’s suburban life, the Vega System and Baghdad are the important in a way that few other settings are in comics. The heroes fall because of the dark settings they exist in. But the true tragedy is that the darkness of the setting is a lie, hiding something darker still. The corpses in the closet of the Vision’s ‘perfect’ family. The complicity of everyone on the Vega System’s oppression, and the cruel calculus that makes it a necessity. And with Sheriff of Babylon, we learn that Baghdad is a world where fake enemies hide in every shadow while the real villains walk unnoticed.

    The key to this issue is Sofia’s attack, an attack which cost her an impossible cost. Her actions have been driven by this need to get justice for that. And yet, it was all lies. Abu Rahim is not even a proper bad guy, just an idiot pretending to be one. He is meaningless, and everything that has gone wrong ultimately comes down to chasing a guy who never was a threat in the first place. Every death has come from mistakes and over reactions, all done under the idea that this would get them one step closer to the monster.

    But there is no monster. Instead, Sofia cries on her knees, saying ‘It’s not real’. Because it isn’t. The horrors are ultimately meaningless. And that is the fundamental truth of this trilogy. The Vision’s fatal flaw was this idea that being human had meaning, leading him to despair when he found himself faced with the meaningless death of his son. Kyle Rayner’s heroic fight for the Vega System was a meaningless act, where every instance of heroism is undercut by both sides of the conflict immediately. That is the scary heart of Tom King’s trilogy. That under the darkness, the lies, under everything, there is nothing.

    It is going to be fascinating to see how the Vision and Sheriff of Babylon will end. It is tempting to see the Vision has having a redemptive ending, but that isn’t what happened to Kyle Rayner. Kyle was broken. The ending of Omega Men was not a heroic refutation, but a tragic double down. The heroes of the books face the great evil, and cannot win.

    And with that in mind, it is going to be fascinating to see what is going to happen in the Vision and Sheriff of Babylon. Once again, it bears repeating. Omega Men, the Vision and Sheriff of Babylon; TOm King’s self described ‘trilogy’, is a masterpiece. It is hard to think of anything coming along soon that will match these books. Especially when TOm King’s current output is being described as disappointing

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