BEST OF WEEK: STAR WARS #004 — The pacing on this series has been a really cool thing where every single issue after the first one has ended on a beat that felt like a solid resolution to any sort of arc that the reader might feel like arbitrarily imposing, but the story just continues unfolding, the plot ever thickening. Aaron mines some good fun out of Vader hanging out at Jabba’s palace for a few pages before we check in on our banged-up heroes in the aftermath of all that action on Cymoon 1. Luke bitches out Leia in a pitch-perfect young Mark Hamill whine before a gang of set-up for next issue. Not only are Vader and Jabba chilling on Tatooine, but there’s a mysterious new bounty hunter with a really cool voice-actuated scattergun crashing the party, in addition to an old favorite, and oh look, now Luke & R2 are headed in that direction, as well. I foresee a shootout at the old Kenobi homestead! Cassaday/Martin continue to absolutely burn it down to the ground. Be sure to blast this cut starting at 2:40 as soon as you start reading this issue. The effect is powerful.
ALL-NEW X-MEN #040 — It’s funny. Well, actually, it’s really frustrating. But every time there’s some chance for a plot-twist to grab some mainstream hype, the Big Two will always announce it ahead of time and ruin it for anyone who actually shows up every Wednesday to help keep the book in print. And I didn’t hear any official announcement on this one, but every-damn-body, pros, friends of mine, so many people felt fine talking about it on Facebook 48 hours before the damn thing came out (pun intended, oh no). And not just talking about it, debating the pros and cons and implications of it, and I’m just like, “Could we please read it first before forming an opinion?” At any rate, Iceman is gay now. Or has always been, according to Bendis. It’s actually an interesting little wrinkle in your standard coming-out situation because the individual in this case is a time-displaced character whose modern-day version hasn’t ever really seemed demonstratively gay. But 39 issues of hanging out in the present seem to have unlocked something inside of young Robert Drake. The reveal is, of course, completely damaged by the advance hype, so it’s hard to judge it on its own merits. It definitely hit me as pretty arbitrary and out-of-nowhere. But at least it’s only Page 6, so there’s two-thirds of issue left. The subsequent conversation is definitely an idealized best-case scenario of being outed by your telepathic friend. It’s a pretty on-the-nose move to double-down on Bobby being a persecuted minority, given the whole metaphorical “feared and hunted” set-up with this book from the get-go, but it will be interesting to see what happens next. I’m pretty sure that Bendis is almost done with these crazy mutants, though, no? This run doesn’t really seem like it’s about to wind up. Is he just going to leave the kids in the present? That would be an odd play for the Trade Federation. I dug Maria Hill banging her head on her screen at even the thought of more mutant madness. And Mahmud Asrar, man, what a monster that guy is. I really loved that bucolic shot of the team just lying in a circle in the grassy meadow just the way young mutants do.
CONVERGENCE: THE NEW TEEN TITANS #1 —Now, this did my heart good. I grew up with the original Wolfman/Perez run, and from this first page, the tone is just right there where it’s always been. There’s no doubt in your mind who Donna is talking to from the very first bubble. Man, it’s just good to see Donna in the old red one-piece again. The interaction between Vic and Gar. Dick telling Donna he’s sorry. Kori’s bloodlust, bless her. I really didn’t care about the other team at all, would have been just happy with an issue of these folks having down-time. Nicola Scott joins Mr. Wolfman and does Mr. Perez proud with dynamic and detailed sequential work throughout. Admittedly, the nostalgia factor might be clouding my usual absolutely unbiased critical acumen, but that’s kind of the point of this whole deal anyway, it kind of seems? A welcome stroll down memory lane.
CONVERGENCE: THE FLASH #1 — I was glad to check in on Wally and the kids but certainly couldn’t say no to this gorgeous Allred cover. The inside’s working, as well. Abnett scripts a relatable unpowered Barry who remains interesting even when he can’t run fast (it probably doesn’t hurt that he meets Bruce Wayne for coffee, admittedly). Our hero regaining his power is a great moment that Dallocchio completely sells. The one problem is that I don’t really care in any way about this version of Superman from maybe the Tangent Universe? We’ll see how it all shakes down next issue.
EMPIRE: UPRISING #1 — Well, what a surprise and delight this was. I had no idea that Waid/Kitson even had this in the hopper until the Wednesday it came out, truly a wonderful thing to stumble upon. It’s been ten years for us but only one for Golgoth, and our evil protagonist is as inscrutable and fearsome as ever. The rebels have some cajones this issue but are, of course, as doomed as ever. Like the first volume, the real tension looks like it’s going to reside in the form of Golgoth’s lieutenants and the moves they make against or alongside their dread master. A welcome return, to be sure.
CHEW #48 — The capricious heart of Layman knows no bounds, not only resurrecting the vile Mike Applebee but straight-up assuring us that he will totally be around many years later in #60 to still be hating on poor Tony Chu, who it looks like might have lost everybody else except for Caesar. That’s all to come, though. Olive has plenty of agency here, proving that a little thing like The Collector slicing up her face so apparently fatally a few months back isn’t going to slow her down one bit, now that she’s up and at ’em. Guillory continues to absolutely put it down. Four-fifths of the way through its run, and this title remains one of the very best and most consistently entertaining books on the rack.
SATELLITE SAM #13 — Roaring into the serious endgame as Mike, at least, thinks he’s solved his father’s murder and is on the way to dispense justice with a full can of gasoline. And there’s certainly a grim development for poor Gene. I hope Libby comes running up toting a sawed-off shotgun to resolve that particular issue. Hey, it would be in character for her at this point. Chaykin is still an animal. Fraction continues to stretch out a bit here. It will definitely be interesting to see how they wind up these last couple of issues.
VELVET #10 — More solid spycraft from the Brubaker/Epting/Breitweiser machine. There’s nothing flashy about this, and most of the pages are darker than a Zach Snyder Superman movie, but the milieu is a perfect fit for the story, and we can’t help but root for our heroine as she makes moves and countermoves against her faceless, potentially legion, opponents. But in the letters column, Brubaker says that she’s going back home to America next issue? Is this the first that we’ve heard that she’s not a Brit? I’ve been reading her accent wrong in my head for over a year now!