It's time for that weekend round-up where we arbitrarily decide what was a comic book win or a loss for the week of April 4th, 2018. I'm struggling to come up with more of a build-up to the list, so let's just get to it!
Win: Yes, Maybe I Will Just Marry Christopher Priest's Justice League
Christopher Priest and Pete Woods brought out another incredible issue of Justice League this past week. This is a gritty and harsh issue showing what happens when these characters take on problems they don't understand and hesitate at pivotal moments. Oddly enough, Deathstroke is the hero of this issue. This is required reading for the DC fan. Pick it up.
Loss: Xerxes #1 is Somehow Boring High Action
Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #1 — damn, that name is a pain to write out — really is just more 300. Whether or not 300 is a beloved story for you, just more of it with unmemorable and dull characters is not the way to provide a follow-up after all this time. Sure, there is a lot of gore and action that could interest a little, but if you can't care about what happens, it's not cathartic or enjoyable.
Win: Deathstroke vs. Batman Kicks Absolute Ass
Sometimes that's all there is to say about it; the beginning to this Deathstroke story arc just kicked so much ass. From the interesting setup about Damian Wayne's parentage, to the encounter between Batman and Deathstroke, to Slade dressing down the Bat in a speech that left me agape, this was a triumph of superhero comics. Plus, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Jeromy Cox killed it on the art side of things. This comic was just awesome.
Loss: Cyborg #21 is Disappointingly Milquetoast
With Marv Wolfman returning to his creation, Cyborg, for another arc on the solo title, one would hope this would be a fresh start for DC's most famous half-machine. Unfortunately, while not technically bad, Cyborg #21 retreads many of the story themes presented by previous Cyborg writers David F. Walker and John Semper Jr. without adding a unique spin. The art is solid, but the overall comic fails to impress.
Win: Green Arrow #39 Goes to War with the White Savior Trope
Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing have taken up Green Arrow for a few issues. It puts Oliver Queen in a Middle-Eastern war zone torn apart by a conflict between Green Arrow and Deathstroke a while back. Naturally, it immediately kicks Ollie's ass, the situation is incredibly complex, and GA may not be able to magically fix it. In other words, Green Arrow is tearing apart the White Savior idea. Hopefully, this will stick the landing. Marcio Takara and Marcelo Maiolo rock it in the art too.
Loss: Iron Fist #79 Wanders in Circles Before Finding its Plot
Iron Fist #79 wasn't necessarily a bad read either, but the plot was wandered around a lot before deciding what it wanted to do. Iron Fist himself has very little to do except stand around while Orson Randall waited to fight and the villain explains the obvious to us. Sometimes a "loss" isn't a bad book; it's a book that made glaring mistakes that prevented the comic from being genuinely good.
Win: Marvel Two-in-One #5 is Downright Amazing
Chip Zdarsky, Valerio Schiti, and Frank Martin continue to kill it on this half-FF-now-sorta-full-FF title by bringing together two broken Fantastic Four teams from disparate worlds to reform the family, even if it's strained. Plus, a Doctor Doom/Galactus hybrid is a genius concept for an antagonist on any world.
Loss: Sonic the Hedgehog is a Really Annoying Lead
Sonic the Hedgehog #1 by Ian Flynn and Tracy Yardley was an overall fun read, but it did highlight how obnoxious Sonic the Hedgehog is as a character. Again, this was, on the whole, a good book. I just couldn't let the little blue bastard get away with being the worst.
Win: Black Bolt #12 Brings the Series to a Photo-Finish
Marvel had another series end this week, and it was the last Inhuman ongoing outside of Ms. Marvel. Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward's Black Bolt impressed many, myself included, with its focus on interpersonal relationships and existentialism. The book was a hidden gem, and Black Bolt #12 brought it all together for the finale the series deserved.
Loss: Betrothed #2 Doesn't Improve on its Mediocre Story
Betrothed #1 wasn't a great introduction to a series, hammering the Romeo and Juliet comparisons home, giving a convoluted plot, and having uninteresting leads. The second issue does nothing to improve, and the bland leads weigh down the comic all the more.
Win: Venom #164 Reminds Me Why I Love this Series (Two Issues from the Relaunch)
Yes, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman's Venom is dancing appealingly on the horizon, but Mike Costa and Mark Bagley are still here to give some inky black treats in the interim. Now free from Poison X and Venom Inc, 'Nativity' is here to give us an interesting mystery that leads to a plot point not unfamiliar with Eddie Brock, but I'm curious to see what modern Venom does with said plot. Plus, Bagley's art is, as always, incredible.
Loss: Brilliant Trash #5 Strives for Meaning but Doesn't Reach It
Another technically good book that drops the ball with a large misstep, Brilliant Trash #5 gives a brutal and gory plot that abruptly decides its time to wax poetics about humanism and the inherent good of humanity. This badly clashes with the nihilistic gene-altering cyberpunk themes of the book. The meaning it attempts to derive doesn't quite work, even if it makes curious where the story could go from here.
Win: Backways #4 Grabs and Doesn't Let Go
Justin Jordan, Eleonora Carlini, and Silvia Tidei's Backways continues to impress with its mystic mystery tale with vague yet intriguing lead characters. This week's issue really stood out with the deepening of the plot and how long Jordan can avoid fleshing out his lead while simultaneously making me want to know so much more about her. This one is rising to be one of AfterShock's best, and I'm hooked.
Loss: No Valiant Issues this Week
This isn't technically a failure, but I wasn't able to give Valiant Entertainment their weekly praise for having a tight yet consistenly good stable of books, so I'm going to complain about it.
I am now done complaining about it.
Win: Analog and Isola Kick Off Two Impressive Series
Image Comics rocked it with two new series launched this past week: Analog by Gerry Duggan, David O'Sullivan, and Jordie Bellaire, and Isola by Karl Kerschl and MSASSYK. Both series had impressive starts, with Analog being my personal preference between the two. Hopefully these two series will keep up the good work in issues to come.
Win: Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #2 Breaks My Heart Constantly and I Love it
Jeff Lemire, Max Fiamura, and Dave Stewart bring you this next deconstruction of the superhero genre. Doctor Star focuses on what that kind of escapism can cause you to miss, as the titular Doctor Star faces his aged son now dying of cancer. It's a heartfelt and contemplative read, and it is one of those things that reminds you why you love comic books and even superheroes — warts and all.
Win: Incognegro: Renaissance #3 Adds a Highly Compelling New Character to the Mix
Incognegro: Renaissance #3 brings a new character to the mix. Bette is an actress who has been passing for white her entire career, and she is a defiant and strong counterpart to Zane's more passive inquisitiveness. She completely changes the balance of this story, and she will hopefully stick around until the end of this miniseries.
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And that concludes another week in the world of comic books. Look out later for some more reviews from yours truly as well as a retrospective on Marvel's Infinity Gauntlet as we countdown to the release of Avengers: Infinity War at the end of the month. See you then.