Short Cuts 27: Black Science Vol. 5 – True Atonement ; The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 5 – Imperial Phase Part 1; Morning Glories Vol.10 – Expulsion; Bitch Planet Vol. 2 – President Bitch 

Black Science Vol. 5: True Atonement
Rick Remender, writer; Matteo Scalera, artist; Moreno Dinisio, colors
Image Comics, 2016

Scientist Grant McKay spent the previous volume getting himself back together, finally resolving to reunite his scattered family from all over the Multiverse. His first stop is his estranged daughter Pia, who has become a world leader, having brokered a peace between three races that have been at war for eons. In typical fashion Grant comes crashing in (literally) destroying the three ancient artifacts that were being reunited for the first time in a thousand years. Oops. Pia is not happy to see him. But Grant persists in trying to make things right, finally seeking out an artifact held by the dread Doxa the Witch. He gains the artifact, but must give his intellect in trade. His new mental status (and Doxa possessing the secret of Black Science) will likely both have future implications. Pia decides to come with him after all, so he opts to return her to their home dimension before going after her brother Nate. They are in for a shock. Former teammate Kadir (who Grant had stabbed as a traitor) is married to Grant’s wife Sara, and has become the scientific face of Block Industries. Block holds Grant to learn the secrets of inter-dimensional travel–which Grant no longer remembers–and sends out teams to plunder the Multiverse. There’s more, and this is in only four issues. The series has seemed slow at times, but not here.

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 5: Imperial Phase Part 1
Kieron Gillen, writer; Jamie McKelvie, artist; Matthew Wilson, colorist; Clayton Cowles, letterer
Image Comics, 2017

Ananke is dead. With their den mother gone, the gods have to decide how to go forward. And is “The Great Darkness” she warned about a real thing? The first issue in the collection is the magazine issue, a mock version of Pantheon Monthly featuring interviews with five of the gods (including a posthumous one with Lucifer) and an article about Ananke’s death. It’s a wonderfully creative concept: Gillen recruited several real journalists to conduct the interviews, playing the part of the gods himself. While there are some interesting insights into the individual gods and the dynamics of the Pantheon, it got tedious for me after awhile. I found I just wanted to get on with the story. Though they have agreed to cover up the truth about the murder, they still want to know what she was planning, especially the purpose of the huge machine she had Woden build for her. Baal is the nominal leader now, but he is unable to achieve consensus. So we’re left with willful gods, mostly behaving badly. The Great Darkness appears (in the form of a great shadowy form) and it’s all the gods can do to fight it off–but they are still not convinced they need to unite against it. And no one is really sure if they will all die in two years. As usual the collection contains a lot of bonus material: alternate covers, plus a raw transcript of the Lucifer “interview.”

Morning Glories Vol.10 : Expulsion
Nick Spencer, words; Joe Eisma, art; Rodin Esquejo, covers
Image Comics, 2016

My hat is off to anyone who can follow this series without annotations: between the time travel and the non-linear storytelling, it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything. That said, I actually found this Season 2 ending arc reasonably easy to follow–if only because I’ve given up on completely following the threads. I’m not sure why the collection is titled “Expulsion,” since its central event is the Student Council election,  and most of the individual issues were apparently given “Election” titles. Anyway, Casey challenges longtime incumbent Isabel for the Student Council presidency–and wins, probably through Ian’s intervention. Guillaume challenges the Headmaster by arranging for the Blue team to win the Towerball finals; and Vanessa and Ian face off in the science fair. When Casey is taken to meet the Headmaster (only the Student Council president is allowed to meet him) she is shocked to discover that she doesn’t recognize him! He is a character previously known as the Scientist, and it’s not clear if he is someone we have seen before, or someone with a relationship to one (e.g. Abraham’s son). There are also several character deaths, but given the flexible nature of life and death in this series, it’s hard to know how much they mean. There are a couple of sequences that make the historical cycle of events explicit, showing characters in the past presumably involved in the same struggles as the current cast of characters (some adult dialog reinforces this). At the end the Headmaster sends Casey to the tropical beach that has recurred in the series, for a “summer vacation.” The series is on hiatus, and “Summer Vacation” has been mentioned as a possible title for Season 3 of the series. It seems clear that there won’t be the fifty more issues originally projected. If it does return, I’d be happy to have a faster pace and more answers.

Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch
Kelly Sue DeConnick, script/co-creator; Valentine De Landro, art & covers/co-creator; Taki Soma, art (Issue #6); Kelly Fitzpatrick, colors; Clayton Cowles, letters
Image Comics, 2017

The first collection was a stunner, but it could be accused of a lack of focus. There was so much groundwork to be laid in establishing the society (especially the rules for women) and a large cast of characters. The second volume is laser-focused. It begins with an issue devoted to Meiko Maki’s back story (ably illustrated by guest artist Soma in a more manga style), and the “President Bitch” arc largely revolves around her, even in her absence. Meiko’s architect father has been brought to the prison planet to construct a playing field for the Megation game, in record time. The prison wardens badly need his cooperation, so they go out of their way to keep her death in a prison riot a secret. One result of that riot is the demotion of former warden Whitney to prisoner in the general population. When a virtual visit with his daughter is arranged, the penny drops for Mr. Makoto (he was probably becoming suspicious already). He takes over the power station and cuts the power, which leads to many unexpected revelations. The facility is much larger than we knew. There’s a whole area with transgender prisoners, and one very secret prisoner: ex-president Eleanor Doane (of the title) who was thought to be dead. She’s ready to lead, and in addition to the prison planet there is a secret society back on Earth that is ready to follow her. The collection concludes with interesting conversations between the co-creators which shed considerable light on the collaborative process in this arc.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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