Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The August 23 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Secret Empire #9:  Spencer does a solid job of keeping up the suspense here.  It's hard to get us on the edge of our seats the way he did in early issues, given it's pretty clear how the story is going to end:  the heroes will take on a Cube-powered Captain Nazi while Dream Steve convinces Kobik to restore him to reality.  But, the story unfolds well; I only had two nitpicks.  First, I would've loved some sort of chart showing which side possessed which shards.  I initially thought the heroes had two shards -- one from Ultron and one from the Savage Land -- but last issue they only seemed to have the Ultron one.  That said, I don't care that much; it's why a chart would've been helpful, since it would've been simple to understand the status quo.  (Instead, we get the weird "cast of characters" page that adds nothing to the story.)  Second, it's hard to believe Sam managed to free New York from the Darkforce Dimension and bring down the Shield with only one shard (assuming his use of the shard allowed those events to happen).  If true, you'd have to imagine Steve doesn't need some Cube-powered suit to take out the heroes.  He might not be able to rewrite history without the final shard, but it seems like he could easily just wish away his opponents.  At any rate, we are where we are.  Spencer includes some grace notes here, like Carol and Sam taking a moment to reflect on how fun it is to kick the HYDRA troops' asses.  But, for the most part, it's really about following the silver ball through the Rube Goldberg machine while we wait for Kobik to right her wrongs.

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #6:  I love Peter David, and I'm willing to ride this one until the end with him.  However, I'm surprised I don't really have a great read on Ben Reilly as a character after six issues.  (Conversely, Miguel O'Hara was a fully formed character after just the first three-issue arc of the original "Spider-Man 2099" series.)  David portrays Ben as desperate:  he's trying to save Diva's daughter simply because he doesn't have a lot of great options when it comes to employment.  But, honestly, it's sort of hard to believe.  He could pretty easily just use his Spider-Powers to rob enough banks to set himself up nicely and then decide what he wants to do.  Instead, he just seems to be hanging around Vegas in search of a larger plan.  In other words, after six issues, I still don't get the core conceit of this series.  He's not wandering the country like an outlaw like he used to do or serving as a city's reluctant hero like Kaine did in Houston.  He's just...there.

Detective Comics #963:  I've mentioned previously it's sometimes hard to remember what changed from the DCU to the DCnU, particularly when it comes to Batman's continuity.  For the most part, everything stayed the same, except for some outrageous changes that DC wisely promptly ignored (like Joker manipulating Jason's life essentially from birth to Tim not figuring out Batman's identity).  However, sometimes the change feels more abrupt, as is the case here with Anarky.  Anarky was playing a key role in Fabian Nicieza's run on "Red Robin" when the DCU came to an end, and I think that version of the character is fresh in most of our minds.  Moreover, Buccellato and Manapul introduced a completely different character using that moniker in their own run on this title.  As such, it's hard to tell what character we're getting here.  I acknowledge I don't get all the Bat-family titles.  Maybe he's already debuted in "Red Hood and the Outlaws" or "Teen Titans" (or "Batgirl" since I stopped reading it).  But, it's this uncertainty that detracts from the story Tynion is trying to tell here.  I get why Spoiler would be attracted to Anarky in the abstract.  But, since it's impossible to know what this Anarky feels, it's also hard not to feel at least partially confused.

Iceman #4:  I really, really, really wanted Bobby to make out with Daken.  [Fan sigh.]  That said, something still isn't clicking for me and this series.  At times in this issue, it was an effort to make my way through the dialogue, something I don't think I should've felt given the sexually charged banter the fight between Bobby and Daken brought to the table.  But, I'm hoping Sina finds his groove in the same way I hope Bobby does.  Each issue feels like an improvement, and I'm hoping we'll really be cooking with gas (or, I don't know, freezing the lake?) in a few issues if it keeps improving.

Nightwing:  The New Order #2:  To use the cliché, Higgins leaves us with more questions than answers here, but so far it's a good thing.  First and foremost, Higgins doesn't tell us why Dick decided to turn against the metahuman community.  All we know is he activated a device that stripped 90 percent of metahumans of their powers; the remaining metahumans either were forced to take inhibiting drugs or, if they didn't work, imprisoned until a "cure" could be found.  It's a pretty serious shift to the fascist, and Higgins certainly has to explain how it happened at some point.  It appears Dick had a child with Starfire, so my original guess -- that a metahuman killed Barbara -- might not wind up being true.  Moreover, Alfred himself opposes Dick's approach -- particularly the indefinite detention of metahumans who don't respond to treatment -- making it even more unclear why Dick himself would take this position.  But, we also have the larger question:  why give us this series now?  Did Higgins just decide to launch this miniseries because he had the idea, or will we see either the themes or the outcomes of this miniseries impact the "real world?"  I'm intrigued.

Also Read:  Generations:  The Unworthy Thor and the Mighty Thor #1; Pathfinder:  Runescars #4; Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #3; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra Annual #1; X-Men Gold #10

Monday, October 16, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The August 16 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

X-Men Blue #9:  This series just gets more and more confusing.  On the plus side, I buy the idea Magneto sent Briar (whoever the fuck she is), Danger, and Polaris to watch over the X-Men during their assault on Emma's mutant nation.  I also buy them acting as the X-Men's teachers now that they survived said assault.  (Is Briar qualified enough to be a teacher?)  But, other parts of this issue make no sense.  Alex is now fully “evil:”  Polaris declares he’s too far gone for her to save.  But, she also says she’s not giving up hope in saving him.  Which one is it?  Is he too far gone, or is he still savable?  Also, we learn the White Queen and Alex are working with Miss Sinister and Bastion on some sort of project called “Mothervine,” which just seems totally unbelievable.  The Goblin Queen?  Sure, I get Alex going down that (sexy, sexy) road again.  But, Miss Sinister and Bastion?  Not so much.  Also, do we have any idea who Xorn really is?  I feel like Bunn just continues to throw these  non sequiturs at us, from Briar to Mothervine to Xorn.  I just dont' get it.

Dark Nights:  Metal #1:  As far as I can piece together, Carter Hall and his Challengers of the Unknown realized the Nth metal (presumably the "ninth" metal) came from outside our Multiverse, specifically the Dark Multiverse.  However, Hall didn’t believe this universe was "evil" before he and the Challengers entered it via a portal.  Hawkwoman provides us this information after whisking the Justice League to her secret base (if I remember correctly).  She then reveals she later got a message from the Red Tornado (one of the Challengers) saying a great beast lies in the Dark Multiverse and she shouldn't open the portal to it.  She tells the League she believes this creature to be one mentioned in numerous tales of the metal:  Barbatos, literally "foreign metal."  The dark tribe (i.e., the Bat Tribe) worshiped him, and someone treated with the five divine metals could open the portal for him.  (Five divine metals?  I guess it explains the weird exchange between Bruce and Talia about the "eight" versus "ninth" metals in "Dark Days:  The Casting" #1.)  Hawkwoman reveals the name of the person who opens the portal is "Wayne."  Dun-dun-DUN!  The League covers Bruce's escape (because I think Hawkwoman wants to imprison him before he can open the portal fully), and he manages to flee with a piece of the Nth Metal Hawkwoman had at her base.  While he studies it at the Batcave, we learn Carter hid his journal in Wayne Manor for Bruce to find.  (Presumably Carter had the same information about a Wayne opening the portal as Hawkwoman; the presence of the Nth metal also presumably awakens the journal.)  We learn the Waynes used to be members of the Bat Tribe but switched to the Bird Tribe so now they’re trustworthy.  (Sure, whatever.)  Carter also reveals in his journal that he was wrong, presumably (again) about the evilness of the Dark Multiverse.  (This journal must be from the Dark Multiverse if Carter now knows he was wrong about it being evil.  However, how exactly did he hide it in Wayne Manor if he's on another plane of existence?)  As you can probably tell by all the "presumably-s," I wasn't thrilled with this issue.  We’re clearly supposed to be wowed by it, as if Snyder has been carefully building this plot over years and years and hiding Easter eggs along the way.  But, everything is only "amazing" because Snyder tells us it is.  It’s like putting an addition on the house in a different style and trying to pretend it was there all along.  Right now, at least for me, I can tell it's an addition.

Astonishing X-Men #2:  Soule is playing a long game here, so I'm definitely happy to give him time to tell his story.  But, I wold say I'm not buying the stakes of the "game" Professor X is playing with the Shadow King, where he gets to kill the X-Men if he wins (rather than the Shadow King getting to possess them).  Soule clearly has something up his sleeve but, at this point, it's hard not to roll your eyes at any plot that threatens the X-Men's death.

Batman #29:  I can’t tell if this issue is brilliant or terrible.  The last few issues have felt like retrospective issues of a story we haven’t yet read, with King focusing more on fringe developments in the War of Jokes and Riddles than on the war itself.  But, he finally engages in the war directly here as Bruce Wayne invites Joker and Riddler to dinner.  Janín is spectacular here, with the top panel of each page depicting the course Alfred is serving as part of a proper French nine-course meal.  Bruce reveals he’s offering a prize:  one billion dollars to the one who convinces him he’s most worthy of killing the Bat.  It makes a certain amount of sense:  Bruce wants to bring the war to conclusion, and he needs one of them to defeat the other soundly.  One billion dollars would obviously get them there.  (We'll put aside the legality of Bruce moving that amount of cash to one of them.)  But, once again, it's hard to buy Bruce's desperation bringing him to this point because we haven't really seen the violence allegedly tearing apart Gotham.  Proving that point, this issue only delivers such examples through grayed-out flashback panels.  Moreover, Bruce is...weird, even in his interaction with Alfred.  He fixates on the fact his mother would've disapproved of his "guests" leaving before the final coffee and sherry course.  Sure, Bruce:  Martha would've been most disappointed in the bad manners your guests exhibited rather than you offering one billion dollars to Gotham's most dangerous psychopath to help him kill the second most dangerous one.  I get the act for Joker and Riddler, but it doesn't make any sense with Alfred.  It’s almost like King wants us to believe Bruce has suffered some sort of psychotic break as a result of the war.  In other words, it’s par for the course of this story:  moments of brilliant inspiration lost in muddled narrative.

Dungeons and Dragons:  Frost Giant’s Fury #4:  This issue is legitimately exciting.  The team has to regroup and then track down the frost giants as their leader, Gryttmort, uses the Dragon Orb (I mean, “Orb of Dragonkind”) to start building an army of dragons and giants.  They discover Nilanthe’s eggs, but they’re going to have to get through a whole squadron of frost giants to escape with them.  Thankfully, one of the magicians back in town gave Minsc a potion that allows him to grow to the size of a giant, and I can’t wait to see that deployed.  Along the way, Zub gives us some really great moments of characterization, from the latest installment of Krydle’s ongoing crisis of motivation to Minsc’s attempt to make friends with a winter wolf because all animals love him.  If you’re a fantasy person, you should pick up this series.  I’d love to see Wizards of the Coast actually give us some novels based on this cast.  It’s not just the Dragon Orb that makes me feel like I was reading "Dragons of Winter Night."

Spider-Men II #2:  Man, this issue is terrible.  First, Bendis portrays Peter as some sort of brain-injury victim incapable of speaking without quipping.  You get used to a fair amount of inappropriately timed quipping when you read Spider-Man comics, but Bendis takes it too far here.  Second, we have all sorts of weird assertions about timing that make no sense.  At one point, Peter says he’s “sort of” three years older than Miles.  If you’re going to say, “But, Miles is in high school!,” Bendis apparently disagrees with you:  Peter makes fun of him for carrying a backpack because he’s too old to do so, and a girl he likes asks him if the person calling him is his wife, as if you normally ask high-school students that.  Notably, this later conversation happens on the Brooklyn Visions Academy campus, making it make even less sense.  I just don’t get it at all.  Bad script + unrealistic plot = terrible issue.

Also Read:  Dragon Age:  Knight Errant #4; Generation X #5; Mighty Thor #22; Nightwing #27; Star Wars #34; U.S.Avengers #9

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 9 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Captain America #25 and Secret Empire #8:  OK, here we go.  In “Captain America” #25, Tony reveals he’s figured out each Cosmic Cube fragment has its own juice.  I’ll be honest I’m not quite sure I understand his explanation of the discovery.  He apparently realized Ulysses’ vision of Miles killing Cap didn’t come true because Cap was holding a Cosmic Cube fragment when Miles had a chance to kill him in "Secret Empire" #7.  In other words, Steve wished Miles didn’t kill him, and it worked.  This development results in the usual cascade of problems I've come to expect when confronted with prophecy-based stories, as you have to wonder why Ulysses’ prediction didn’t factor in the Cube fragment’s presence.  But, if I know anything after 30+ years of reading comics, it’s not to expect prophecy-based or time-travel stories to make sense.  In other words, fine:  the Cube changed the history Ulysses predicted because, I don't know, it exists outside reality.  Whatever.  At any rate, Tony's realization sets up the plan we see unfolding at the start of “Secret Empire” #8:  Sam and Tony use the fragment they have to free New York from the Darkforce Dimension and destroy the Shield, freeing the heroes trapped on the other side.  To be honest, this issue is the first one to feel like filler, even though a lot happens.  Spencer builds some suspense by showing the heroes fail yet again to deliver:  Sam gets shot in his attempt to triangulate himself between the Darkforce Dimension and the Shield, failing to give the heroes the juice they need to free themselves.  As such, Dr. Strange’s spell and Rocket’s bomb fail.  But, Spencer reminds us the Cube works in mysterious ways.  Instead, Hawkeye’s jail break allows Maria Hill to kill “Bob,” a.k.a. Blackout, and Quasar’s coma comes to an end.  With the heroes reunited, Namor reveals the ace up his sleeve we saw at the end of “Captain America” #25:  Bucky is alive.  As I said, though, this issue is missing something, given the conclusion seems more and more inevitable.  It's not like the first few issues where I legitimately had no idea where Spencer was going.  It seems pretty clear the team is going to somehow use the Cube to "save" Steve.  That said, it might not have been the most exciting installment of this event, but I also have to admit we do have some momentum carrying us into the finale.

Amazing Spider-Man #31:  Something about Doc Ock makes Dan Slott just completely lose the plot, and I use that expression almost literally here.  Peter orders everyone in Parker Industries to active worms that destroy everything the company has created; he does so to prevent Otto from breaking into PI's systems and using its technology to advance HYDRA.  I get that, but, as usual, Slott takes it too far.  At one point, Phillip Chang physically burns his written notes.  Really?  How exactly was Otto going to access them remotely when he hacked into Parker Industries?  Couldn't Phillip just have left the building with them?  Also, does he really remember nothing of his research?  He basically says he'll never be able to introduce his clean fuel.  It's like he's Drew Barrymore in "50 First Dates" and forgets what he did the previous day until he reads his notes.  It's just one  of several examples showing why this development makes no sense.  In addition, Peter seems to deny Otto’s (entirely accurate) claim he, not Peter, started Parker Industries.  WTF, Peter?  On some level, the story supports this bias, since Peter didn't bother to make sure to scrub Otto from the system.  But, does Peter really not believe Otto started PI?  If he does, wouldn’t scrubbing Otto from the system be the first thing you'd do after discovering Otto had been in charge of your body for months?  OK, first, I’d take a shower at the idea of the dirty things he did with my penis.  Then, I’d make sure I eliminated any back-door programs.  Peter's inability to do so -- and, by extension, inability to acknowledge Otto's role in the creation of PI -- really challenges my ability to suspend disbelief.  It's part of Slott's approach to Peter as a bumbling idiot that I've never bought and just supports my hope we'll one day be freed from his control.

Detective Comics #962:  I mostly like what Tynion did here, though I'll admit I'm still left a bit confused.  Luke successfully introduces the Batman A.I. into Azrael, allowing him to join the good fight against Ascalon.  The big development is Nomoz sacrificing his life to tell Jean-Paul Ascalon is his brother, though this part seemed odd to me.  After all, didn't we just learn Jean-Paul was grown in a lab?  OK, maybe Ascalon was grown from the same genetic material as Jean-Paul, but Tynion seems to be supposing an emotional connection there I'm not sure Jean-Paul would feel.  After all, Jean-Paul didn't even know if he had biological parents, as far as I can recall.  Is Tynion saying Jean-Paul Valley, Sr. is the biological father of Azrael and Ascalon?  Is Azrael going to go hunt for his biological mother?  This part remains unclear.  That said, the resolution of the story mostly works.  Ascalon has uploaded the personalities of all Gotham, giving him some sort of power I don't quite understand.  But, Zatanna uses the Gnosis Sphere to give him all the answers to all life's questions.  She knows human life is about the questions, not the answers; as a result, Ascalon comes to understand humanity and, inexplicably, summons his human form.  (This part seemingly supports the idea Jean-Paul and Ascalon are biologically, and not just genetically, brothers, but I still don't understand the mechanics of it, if you will.)  Jean-Paul is left paralyzed after Ascalon broke him over his knee, a parallel to the "Knightfall" story I guess now never happened.  But, the big development is a thankful Ascalon informing Bruce Tim is still alive (the reason Bruce was chasing the Gnosis Sphere in the first place).  Moreover, Ra's al Ghul is seemingly impressed by Jean-Paul Valley, Sr.'s manipulation of the events from behind the scenes and invites him to meet their mutual "benefactor."  Again, this issue could've been stronger.  You got the sense Tynion was rushing through the details to advance the larger plot on an expedited timeframe.  But, the plot still at least makes sense and I do feel like that larger plot is progressing nicely.
  
Generations:  Phoenix and Jean Grey #1:  If all "Generations" titles are as meaningless and poorly scripted as this one, I need to admit right now Marvel has yet again figured out a way to swindle me.

Ms. Marvel #21:  I've always been impressed with Wilson's ability to convey complicated social themes in an emotional yet somehow still neutral way, and she really tops herself here.  The revelation Basic Becky's creepy henchman is Josh isn't all that surprising.  It's more surprising Wilson is able to handle him with such care, showing a broken young man who wanted to be seen as more than a dumb white jock.  These sorts of messages can get lost in everyone shouting at each other today ("Poor little white boy!") but Wilson really manages to sell it.  As Kamala says, at some point, it's just Josh and Kamala sitting on the floor of the mosque talking about their hurt.  We probably need a lot more of that.

Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #11 and Star Wars - Rogue One:  Cassian and K2SO Special #1:  I lumped these two issues together because they basically tell the same story:  both Aphra and Cassian have to deal with droids trying to kill them.  In so doing, the Story Group reminds us just how dangerous this far, far away galaxy is, as you not only have to contend with all sorts of humanoids trying to kill you but droids, too.  Triple-Zero is really the star of the show, though, as he not only manipulates Rur to get in the kills Aphra has denied him but also backs her into a corner as Vader boards the ship.  In so doing, Gillen is setting up a stark reminder about the limits of Aphra's occasional "good" impulses.  Would she allow Triple-Zero to kill more indiscriminately just to keep his talents on her side?  It feels like a safe bet to take.

Youngblood #4:  Other than the physics-defying moment when Bowers has Shaft fire his sword from his bow without the use of a string, this issue is pretty solid.  The Byrne brothers are revealed to be fulfilling their father’s mission by using Help! to identify methumans to traffic to interested buyers.  But, Help! seems to be simply a means to an end, raising funds for whatever their eventual plans are.  Dolante and Petra break into ByrneTec to get more information about Man-Up’s disappearance and stumble upon the truth just in time for the Byrne brothers to send the Chapel brothers (I think) after them.  Shaft almost gets eliminated as he goes after Cybernet himself, but he’s saved by the rest of the team, with Margot revealing Dolante and Petra went rogue.  (The woman who actually saves him is the white-haired woman with a “Y” on her t-shirt, and I’m not sure if she’s Supreme, who we see Dolante and Petra meeting a few days earlier.)  My several-weeks break in reading comics was most obvious here, as I couldn't remember how the team discovered Help! would know about Man-Up's disappearance or how they identified Cybernet as an enemy.  But, I'm back in the saddle, and I'm looking forward to learning more.

Also Read:  Titans #14

Friday, October 13, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 2 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Champions #11:  Waid does a great job here showing us why the Champions decide to join Black Widow in taking down Cap, as they come up empty in their attempt to find anyone alive after Steve's destruction of Las Vegas.  (They eventually find a newborn, and it gives them some hope for the future.)  It's hard to see what they see and not conclude they have to do something.

Batman #28:  Although I still think the story King is telling has potential, we've gotten to the point where the framing device -- Bruce recounting the War of Jokes and Riddles to Selina -- is starting to weigh down the story itself.  Moreover, King's focus on vignettes from the fringes of the war makes these issues read like they're from one of those cross-over event anthology series.  Last issue, it was the origin of Kite Man; this issue, it's the fight between Deadshot and Deathstroke. (The latter is definitely the more interesting one.)  But, the actual war between Joker and Riddler essentially happens off-panel.  They've already split up the Upper East and West Sides and assembled their armies when this issue starts, even though we haven't really seen how they convince each villain to join their side.  (I think we've only seen Riddler's pitch to Ivy.)  We're shown how Bruce and Gordon are at their wits' end, but we're not really told why they haven't been able to get a handle on the situation.  Gordon tells Batman Joker has wired the entire city with explosives and Riddler has guards hidden throughout the city to unleash terror, but isn't that basically any given Tuesday in Gotham?  I think it's probably time for King to do a little more showing and a little less telling.

Nightwing #26:  It turns out Giz is really dead, and I have to admit I'm impressed:  it's rare we actually kill off good guys anymore.  Dick feels guilty since Giz died looking into the Second Hand, the organization smuggling superhero-killing weapons into Blüdhaven.  Helena appears at Dick's apartment to tell him she and Barbara are worried about him and offers to help him track down someone named Draculi.  (Did I mention Dick is naked in the shower when she arrives?  Well timed, Helena.)  Dick realizes she's only offering to help because Draculi is connected to organized crime and it advances the anti-Mafia crusade she's adopted since leaving Spyral.  (The mob killed her family, and I'm pretty sure it means DC is more closely aligning Huntress with her original DCU incarnation.  I'm guessing it's all happening in "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.")  The duo track down a fixer in Rome who tells them Draculi has gotten erratic.  He sends them onto Draculi's home, but he's already dead.  However, he leaves a clue:  a flash drive explaining he's Agent 19 of Spyral and someone is messing with his mind.  Dick realizes the Second Hand is Spyral as we see Agent 1 with a group of other agents watching Dick and Helena from the rooftops; one of the agents remarks that they took the bait.  Although it's overall a solid issue, I don't get what we're supposed to believe when it comes to the clue.  It seems like Agent 1 wanted Dick and Helena to find it, but why would he want them to know Spyral was after them?  Isn't it better to surprise them?  Also, how orchestrated was it?  How did Agent 1 know Agent 19 would leave the flash drive connecting himself with Spyral?  Meanwhile, in Gotham, Shawn has decided to embrace Pigeon's war against capitalism.  Bad call, Shawn.  Bad call.

Spider-Man #19:  Bendis makes an admirable attempt to sell Ganke's argument Miles is off his rocker because he resents being a "Spider-Man cover band," but I'm not sure I really buy it.  It seems much more likely he's breaking under the pressure of juggling his secret identity while also dealing with the fact his parents are, at least for now, separated.  I get teenage boys aren't exactly in touch with their emotions, but I don't feel like you have to get inventive when it comes to pinning Miles' stress on a cause.  At the very least, you'd figure someone would mention it as a possibility.

X-Men Gold #9:  I've enjoyed Spencer's deft if obvious political and social commentary in "Captain America:  Sam Wilson," but Guggenheim forgets the "deft" part of that equation in this issue.  Kitty is called to Washington to testify before a Congressional sub-committee against a mutant-deportation bill.  If he had focused less on the soap-opera elements of this issue, Guggenheim could've delivered a clever metaphor for the current immigration debate instead of the anti-Trump screed we get here.  However, he's juggling too many balls to manage it; instead, he winds up dropping them all.  In terms of the soap opera, Logan convinces Kitty to take Peter to DC with her as her bodyguard.  Instead of slowly rekindling their romance over a few issues to the point where Kitty can't ignore her attraction to Peter anymore, Peter essentially proposes marriage and Kitty essentially accepts.  (No, really.)  Moreover, Rachel announces she wants to date Kurt because she discovered he was attracted to her when she read his mind a few issues ago and because it'll somehow ensure she doesn't become her mother.  (She's concerned about that because of these amped-up powers I don't really remember her getting.)  I thought Kurt had more self-respect than to dive into a relationship with someone who states the only thing she finds attractive about him is his attraction to her, but I guess Guggenheim doesn't.  When you throw in there the revelation Stevie Hunter is now a Congresswoman but somehow still wearing '90s era jumpsuits, well, it's just a mess from start to finish.

Also Read:  Archangel #5; Darth Vader #4; Hawkeye #9

Friday, October 6, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 26 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Secret Empire #7:  This issue is possibly the single best issue of an event -- possibly any comic -- ever.  I was holding my breath as we moved step by step to the end.  (I know I said that last issue, but who knew Spencer would top himself so quickly!)

Let's start at the beginning.  First, I would really love Spencer to write "Captain Marvel," because he gets her better than anyone since Kelly Sue.  Her monologue begging Quasar to awaken so she can redeem herself was a brilliant piece of characterization, as Carol realizes "Civil War II" put them on the path to this moment.  She realizes she's exactly like Tony, desperately seeking for someone to tell her she's the hero she hopes she is.  (It's clearly a bitter pill to swallow, and it really matches nicely what A.I. Tony said to Steve in issue #6).  Spencer's gift here is making everything seem like it's the logical conclusion of past events:  Carol's guilt from "Civil War II," Miles' destiny to kill Captain America from "IvX," Hank merging with Ultron in "Avengers:  Rage of Ultron."  They're important components of the tension Spencer builds throughout the issue.  In fact, Spencer has made it clear from the start the events of this series are not only grounded in the past but are unlikely to be simply ret-conned at the end.  It's really what has made it so enjoyable, to my mind.

Spencer also addresses the generational issues at hand as well.  Natasha locks up Miles so he can't realize his destiny to kill Captain America:  it's like she's saying she wants one more chance for her generation to clean up the mess it's made before the innocent get blood on their hands.  But, she can't.  Punisher stops her before she can pull the trigger, giving Miles time to escape.  She defeats Frank (of course she does), and Sorrentino does an amazing job showing her panicked dash to the scene of the battle between Miles and Steve.  He's equally adept at showing her death, as she leaps between them and Steve's shield shatters her skull.  Natasha Romanova has always, always deserved to be the hero, and she gets to be here, at the cost of her life.  (Sure, she's probably going to return.  But, in the moment, I believed the story Spencer was telling here, unlike most times a character dies.)  An enraged Miles attacks Steve with new vigor, but, picking up the theme of generation change, Wasp gets to him before he strikes the final blow.  She tells him he's not a killer, and she begs him to respect Natasha's sacrifice:  she died because she knew he wasn't a killer.  Miles agrees, and the kids are arrested by HYDRA's security forces.

Later, Steve has his troops bring him to Sharon, where he laments the losses surrounding him.  He whines it wasn't supposed to go this way; he was going to save everyone, not send Bucky, Rick, Elisa, and now Natasha to their deaths.  Sharon then tries to kill him, and I cheered.  Sharon fucking Carter, man.  She never doesn't come to play.  But, he stops her, and it's the last straw:  totally alone, he promises war.  The remaining members of the Underground are broken as they watch Natasha die, and Giant Man asks if it's over.  A voice says it's not, and I teared up a bit as I saw Sam Wilson stand in that last panel wearing his Captain America costume and holding the shield.  White nationalists paraded through Charlottesville the day before I wrote this review, and damn if I didn't feel better seeing Sam Wilson tell me to believe in America still.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #19 and Captain America:  Sam Wilson #24:  I'm reviewing these issues jointly because they're flipsides of the same coin, with Steve finally putting on his HYDRA Supreme Leader gear and Sam putting on the Captain America uniform (as seen at the end of "Secret Empire" #7).  Steve's issue doesn't have that much emotional impact; Spencer is really just drawing a line under the sense at the end of "Secret Empire" #7 that Steve is putting away childish things.  He's lost everyone -- Tony, Bucky, Rick, Elisa, Natasha, and Sharon -- and he seems to finally accept he doesn't get to be the hero anymore.  I'd recommend reading that issue first, because Sam's issue is much more inspiring.  Misty tries to convince him to put on his uniform, revealing she defied his request to return it to Steve.  (She's right about how she made the right call.)  In a fit of anger, Sam tells Misty he doesn't believe America deserves Captain America anymore, and it's Patriot who convinces him otherwise.  He asks if you really just give up a war because you're outgunned and outnumbered, reminding Sam that giving up the uniform just gave his enemies what they wanted and left the vulnerable without a champion.  It's hard work, Sam, but someone has to do it.

Detective Comics #961:  The novelty of the DCnU has generally waned after six years, but every once in a while someone surprises you.  Here, Tynion has Luke working to create a new suit to replace Azarel's Suit of Shadows.  He's been trying to figure out a way to replace the Order of St. Dumas' dogma as the artificial intelligence powering the suit.  After all, he can't just create a new moral code for the suit:  it would be like creating a new religion.  But, he realizes he actually has a moral code on hand when he realizes Ascalon wasn't able to take over Rookie like he was Luke's Batwing suits:  after all, it was programmed with Batman's moral code.  Enter the Batsuit Azrael wore when he took over the mantle of the Bat during "Knightfall."  Honestly, I got shivers.  Well played, James.  Moreover, Tynion does a stellar job with the characterization throughout the issue, from Kate's wry commentary as she and Cassandra take on Azrael to Zatanna's heartfelt recounting of her heartbreak when her teenage self realized Bruce would never stay with her.  It's a really stellar issue in a really stellar series.

Iceman #3:  I really, really want to like this series, but, OMG, the art is so bad.  It's hard to get past it.  Grace does a great job of showing Bobby trying to be real with his parents in anticipation of telling them he's gay.  He even gives us insight into why Bobby uses humor to deflect emotions, as his parents do the same thing during their ill-fated dinner.  Actually, it's less "humor" and more "bitchiness."  In that way, we get a good sense why Bobby is apprehensive about telling them the truth.  But, Grace opens a door here as his mother admits they're not giving him a fair shot.  In fact, I thought Grace does a great job of using mutants as a parallel for gays when he has Bobby's mother mention that society might be totally fine with mutants (gays) now, but it wasn't for a long time.  They're having a hard time making that switch, and, frankly, I am, too (but from the other side, obviously).  But, the art distracts from the story Grace is telling.  It's almost like Vitti has been possessed by Rob Liefeld, with random lines populating all his figures.  These sort of solo X-Men series don't typically last long, and I just hope they smooth out the art problems to give Grace some space to tell the story he wants to tell.

Rebels:  These Free and Independent States #5:  Wood gives John a happy ending I'm not entirely sure he deserves, but it's not an unrestricted one.  His mentor gets James Madison to agree to release John from prison (where he lost an arm to an infection while serving his sentence for mutiny), but it has a catch:  he can work in a shipyard building the Navy he loves, but he must be anonymous lest Madison be seen as supporting a mutineer.  His mentor correctly assumes John doesn't care about fame, so the arrangement will suit him well.  That part, I like.  But, Wood gives John his love interest here, the woman he met in New York while playing in the rigging years earlier.  She claims she didn't wait for him, but she was still unmarried at 40 years old so Wood isn't all that convincing.  It's pretty hard to believe she fell for taciturn John so hard after just one night she waited for him for two decades (I think).  But, it is what it is.  Wood is on firmer ground when he has John return to his childhood home.  Members of his mother's family are going to buy it, and he stands by his parents' graves with a real sense of loss.  He also shows uncharacteristic emotions when he refuses to enter the house, so it's left to his wife to say good-bye to it, finding some of his childhood etchings.  She tells him his parents would be proud of him, as he surpasses his father (an American yearning, Wood reminds us).  It's probably true, since Seth Abbot wasn't really one for formality; mutiny probably wouldn't have bothered him too much, and he'd indeed be proud if he learned John took command to save lives.  Wood also draws a parallel to today, as John leaves behind the woods his father so loved for the city.  It's a wistful ending to this story, and I'm excited to see what else Wood has planned.

Spider-Gwen #22:  After convincing Kitty to stop Logan from killing Harry, Gwen calls Reed to get a second opinion on whether the Lizard/Venom switcheroo will work.  But, she's really calling for moral support, and Reed does her a solid by not giving it to her.  She's convinced she's saving Harry, but Reed asks her what she really expects to happen here.  It's not like Harry can just live a normal life once he's divested of his Lizard persona; he's made mistakes for which he'll have to pay.  Moreover, he reminds Gwen she had numerous other options -- hiring a lawyer, calling in Captain America -- other than aligning aligning herself with the Kingpin.  Left unsaid, Reed is basically saying Gwen is doing what suits her interests, getting back her powers and freeing her father.  She's not really saving Harry for his sake; as we said, Harry is unlikely to walk into the sunset when he's cured.  But, Gwen does it anyway, essentially proving Reed's point.  I really have to give Latour credit here for allowing Gwen to be so morally ambiguous.  It's a difficult road to hoe, but he really nails the landing (to mix metaphors) here.

Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #10:  Gillen continues to remind us that somewhere under that tough exterior Aphra still seeks a certain level of approval.  We saw her disappointment when Luke made it clear at the end of the "Screaming Citadel" arc that he couldn't forgive her for using him to get answers about Rur, and here Aphra selects a lower offer for Rur because the Shadow University promises to keep evidence of her cheating buried (allowing her to keep her doctorate) and even allow her access to Rur.  Now she just has to survive Rur itself!

Also Read:  Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #5; Occupy Avengers #9; Pathfinder:  Runescars #3

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 19 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I'm back!  It's been a hectic few weeks, so sorry for the delay.  I've got a few reviews in the can, so hopefully I'll be current soon!

Secret Empire #6:  I know some people aren't reading this event because they object to Captain Nazi, and I understand that, but, OMG, it's so good and I feel bad for them.  This issue starts off fairly staid but Spencer just keeps building and building the tension until I realized I was holding my breath.  The issue begins with the Champions arguing with Nadia because she refuses to be part of Natasha's new Red Room.  (Natasha is training them for their assault on HYDRA.)  Miles later encourages Natasha to be more forthcoming with the team to address Nadia's concerns.  I thought the rest of the issue would be filled with similar sorts of character vignettes, serving as a stock-taking of the characters' emotional states before the push to the finale.  But, um, no.  First, Spencer reveals Mockingbird wasn't communicating with Cap; she's in cahoots with Maria Hill.  (Hurrah!  Spidey is going to get some!)  Hill has several plans she wants to put into action, but Mockingbird convinced her to delay while they waited to see if Hawkeye could pull off the win.  It turns out Scott betrayed the team because HYDRA got to Cassie.  Spencer does an outstanding job in this sequence, perfectly capturing Quicksilver's outrage at Mockingbird's accusation he was the spy as well as Scott's devastation over once again falling short of being a hero.  On HYDRA's ship, Bruce is speaking in lower-case lettering, making me wonder if he's not the Ultimate Universe version of Bruce Banner.  He refuses Cap's offer to get vengeance on the people Cap claims hated him for never submitting to their will, so Cap activates the Hulk instead.  Cap leads an attack on the Mount, and Giant-Man helps turn the tide when he reveals he's replicated Egghead's robot Avengers.  It gives the team enough time to evacuate the refugees after Thor turns a blind eye.  But, it's the last few pages of this issue that take the cake.  In possibly his most real moment ever, Tony admits to Steve he keeps trying to be him, but he keeps failing because he's not made of the same stuff.  He was trying to save him this time because he wanted to be to Steve what Steve has always been to him:  his hero.  But, he acknowledges he failed, and he activates a nuclear bomb.  However, Elisa sacrifices her life to save Steve, teleporting him from the blast zone.  Devastated upon hearing the news, Natasha assumes everyone is dead and tells the Champions it's time to kill Steve.  It's a gripping ride, from start to finish.  It's one of the best comics I've ever read, and it's probably the best issue of any event ever.  I can't wait to see where we go from here.

Astonishing X-Men #1:  Marvel has marketed this series as an ambitious one, in the mode of Whedon's run on this title.  So far Soule and Cheung don't disappoint.  They really summon the energy of the 1990s X-Men as they assemble an all-star 1990s lineup:  Archangel, Beast, Bishop, Fantomex, Gambit, Psylocke, Rogue, and Wolverine.  The premise is also pretty solid:  the Shadow King is scheming, seemingly killing lesser psychics in his attempt to enter our world.  He then tries to possess Psylocke since she's stronger, but she manages to call for help, hence the all-star lineup.  Archangel and Bishop agree to stay with Psylocke to protect her while she sends the rest of the team onto the Astral Plane to take on the Shadow King.  I'm perfectly content with this start, though I did have some questions about the status quo of several of the characters.  For example, I initially thought Angel and Archangel were still two separate entities, but I was reminded after reading the Marvel Database of the events of "Apocalypse Wars," where they were united.  However, I thought this new Angel still wasn't the same person as the old Angel; he didn't have old Angel's memories or personality.  Soule necessarily deny that, but he does depict enough chemistry between Betsy and Warren that you have to wonder.  I also hadn't realized Bishop had returned from the desolate Earth where Cable stranded him at the end of "Homecoming."  But, again, the Internet tells me otherwise.  This confusion means it probably is time some of these characters returned to the mainstream, so I already feel like Soule has achieved what he intended here.  ResurrXion indeed.

Batman #27:  Um, OK.  I mean, I'm not saying Kite Man's story isn't suitably tragic.  His genuine panic over not knowing the difference between a joke and a riddle shows us how outclassed the street-level criminals feel in the expanding war between Joker and Riddler.  It displays how the nuance they see in their war go over the heads of everyone else.  But, Kite Man?  Seriously?  He doesn't really convey the gravitas King wants us to feel about this war.  Plus, he's weirdly flip at the end when he reveals himself to Joker, as if he's just a thug looking to set up an enemy  and not a guy looking for revenge against the man (Riddler) who killed his son.  I don't really understand King's decision to take us on this detour.  So far he hasn't really shown us a street-level view of the war; most issues have been long narrative sequences accompanied by images that hint at the details of the war.  As such, it's weird that our first real look at the war occurs in such a remote corner of it.

Mighty Thor #21:  Aaron seems to imply both War Thor's hammer and Jane Foster's hammer are scheming against them, pushing Volstagg to kill when he doesn't want to do so and encouraging Thor to sacrifice her health by appealing to her decency.  I'm intrigued to see where he goes with this idea.

Nightwing #25:  I admit I don't totally understand how Clock King's time vest works, but I guess I should just let it go.  Suffice it to say, Dick wins the battle by using said vest to save the criminals from the bomb Blockbuster planted on Tiger Shark's ship, but loses the war as Blockbuster takes control of Tiger Shark's criminal empire after all those aforementioned criminals flee Blüdhaven.  It's clear Tiger Shark has a solid plan, but Dick's response is equally solid:  he finally finds a job, as a croupier at the casino Blockbuster "inherited" from Tiger Shark.  But, he loses Shawn in the process; he finds the job only after she leaves him for not putting his feet on the ground.  That said, Seeley implies it might only be a short-term break, as Pigeon seems to be influencing this decision.  After all, it seems hard to believe she'd break off the relationship after one fight, so hopefully we'll see them reunited soon.

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #2:  I can't say Zdarsky hits a home run here.  Some aspects of the plot are completely ridiculous.  For example, I still don't buy Peter going on a date as Spider-Man.  He may have tried to do that as a 16-year-old, but he's a grown-ass man now.  It's irresponsible, as his date herself notes when she observes it's more dangerous for her to be on a date with Spider-Man than it would be his alter ego.  (Peter argued he stayed in costume because people who know his identity get hurt.)  Also, Riri apparently can't trace the phone Peter gave her but she can trace the "environmentals."  She "scanned" every component of the phone and the "lowest layer of particulates" tells her the phone came from somewhere in a specific square block in Lower East Manhattan.  Tha fuck?  Can she also bend space and time?  I mean, seriously.  Why not just have her find a way to trace the supposedly untraceable phone?  As the writer, you don't have to create such a fakakta method for her tracking down the Kingpin (the owner of the phone).  But, all that said, Zdarsky does a marvelous job of getting down Peter's voice.  He's a little too adolescent at times, but, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm actually reading about Peter Parker and not whoever that guy in "Amazing Spider-Man" is.  We get a focus on him as a person, from his friendship with Johnny to his relationship with his "sister."  It's comforting and something we've been missing for a long time.  Moreover, Kubert makes it all look great. If Zdarsky could tone down the sophomoric behavior a bit, I think this title could easily become the Spider-Man title for me.

Spider-Man 2099 #25:  Only Peter David could wrap up the loose ends of this series (and the preceding ones) so well.  As expected, Miguel survives his foretold "death" because Strange teleports him from the moment he dies to the "present" -- brilliantly, New Year's Eve 2100 -- removing any possibility of a time paradox.  But, how we get there is equally brilliant.  Miguel learns he dies saving Tempest in 2017, and Gabri and he (though, notably, not Tempest) agree he has to return to the past to make sure it happens exactly that way.  He does, and we learn Tempest kills him:  Tyler programmed a post-hypnotic suggestion for her to kill him the minute he kisses her.  She also immediately forgets it was her, and Miguel fades to his death hiding that from her.  But, before he saved Tempest, he had sent Roberta to 2099 after confirming it had returned to the way it was.  Gabri apparently traveled to the future to tell Roberta about Miguel's fate, and she had Strange pull him to 2099 the minute he "died."  (I'm not sure how Gabri knew who Roberta was, but I'll ignore that part.)  All's well that ends well!  Including the initial 12-issue run of this series and "Secret Wars" 2099, this issue brings to a close a 42-issue series that introduced Miguel to a new group of fans.  I sincerely hope Marvel pulls the trigger on "Defenders 2100" so we can see what David didn't show us, namely, what the 2099 (now 2100) world looks like.  David also didn't wrap up all the loose ends.  Although we know Tempest and Gabri traveled to 2019 to prevent Tyler Stone from destroying New York (and creating the timeline Miguel was trying to prevent from coming into reality), we don't know why they became time travelers in the first place.  After all, in 2019, Gabri would be no more than two years old.  When's their "real" time?  It may explain why Gabri knew about Roberta, but we don't know for sure.  I'm also not entirely sure why Miguel's presence in the past opened the door to Tyler trying to destroy 2019, something he allegedly wouldn't have done if Miguel hadn't traveled to the past.  But, I'm willing just to concede it did somehow.  David lays the foundation for future shenanigans as well, as Miguel ends the series doubting his ability not to contact Tempest and Gabri.  Fingers crossed Marvel lets him.

The Wild Storm #6:  Marlowe gives Angie a fairly skewed version of the rivalry between IO and Skywatch here, noting IO would love to have the transportation technology on Earth Skywatch has in space and Skywatch would love for Earth to serve as its supply station if IO would let it.  But, Skywatch owns the sky and IO runs Earth, so they can't accomplish what they want to accomplish.  Angie reveals she knows Kendra isn't human, and Jacob reveals he isn't one either.  He tells her their safehouse is the place where people who don't belong live, and he asks her to join his effort to stop IO and Skywatch.  Angie is hopefully smart enough to realize Halo likely isn't an altruistic organization, even if we're not entirely sure what Marlowe's angle is yet.  Separately, Mike agrees to Trelane's offer for him to join Skywatch after successfully defeating the Wetworks team Miles sent to kill him.  (He also wisely negotiates for a new apartment with security as well as medical treatment and a new team.)  Meanwhile, Bendix's assistant points out Angie's suit has a "Breslau II counter-detection system," making him realize her drysuit has technology stolen from him.  I'll admit I was a little confused here, because I thought the entire premise of Miles' anger at Angie was the fact she revealed IO stole the drysuit from Skywatch.  But, Bendix and his assistant make a distinction between "unauthorized" and "stolen" technology, implying some parts of the drysuit contain technology Angie wasn't authorized to have (though maybe IO was) and other parts contain technology no one is authorized to have (presumably the Breslau II system).  I doubt we're going to get a better insight into this distinction given Bendix's response:  to rain fire from heaven.

X-Men Blue #7-#8:  First, who the fuck is Briar Raleigh?  Also, when the fuck did she start paying for the Mansion?  I don't recall seeing her at all in "X-Men Gold," and you'd figure Kitty would be dancing a jig over someone paying for the Mansion.  Also, when the fuck did Havok become Magneto?  I mean, he's not physically Magneto.  But, you could replace him with 1980s Magneto here and his dialogue would perfectly match.  In addition to these mysteries weighing down the issue, Bunn falls into the unfortunate pitfall of most event tie-ins, not having time to explain why everyone chose the side she or he chose.  Firestar is suddenly part of the New Tian strike force?  Has she ever really associated with the mutants?  For that matter, Marrow is totally OK with New Tian?  Shouldn't she view it as one more example of mutants failing other mutants by allowing humans to live there?  As a result, all the fights feel random.  I like the sexual tension between Jean and Jimmy, but everything else just feels poorly aligned.

Also Read:  Ms. Marvel #20; U.S.Avengers #8

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 12 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Dark Days:  The Casting:  Despite the cute naming system, this issue is really "Dark Days" #2, a direct sequel to "Dark Days:  Metal."

Bruce makes his way to Hephaestus' forge in the hopes of asking him about the metal, and he meets Diana there.  (He presumably arrived here through the portal he used in "Dark Days:  The Forge.")  Diana explains Hephaestus made each member of the Pantheon of Greek gods a weapon from the "eighth metal."  She says she came to the forge because she had a vision she would give Bruce Apollo's Sunblade.  She does so, explaining the gods have left Earth in advance of the coming war.

The Immortals tell Hawkman the metal came from a rift in reality that also produced a terrible devil intent on bringing darkness to the world.  It's the inspiration behind the Bat symbol representing the four tribes of humanity we saw in "Dark Days:  The Forge."  A member of the Hawk Tribe apparently betrayed humanity by siding with the Bat, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman were the ones to contain him, closing the door between his world and our world.  However, Hath-Set (or maybe Dr. Manhattan) made them forget.

Batman eventually trades the Sunblade to Talia al Ghul in exchange for the item she carries:  the dagger of Shazam (the wizard, not the teenager).  (After he left the forge, the Sunblade led him to the dagger.)  It turns out al Ghul was part of the group of Immortals who met with Hawkman in the early 20th century, and he spent decades trying to get his hands on the dagger.  She agrees to the trade only because he promises her the "ninth" metal if she gives him the eighth one.  (I know, I know.  After all, isn't his Sunblade made of the eighth metal?  Also, if Thundarr makes an appearance, I'll totally not complain about anything in this series again.)

In the Secretcave, Joker briefly gives Duke and Hal his side of the story of how he survived the fall at the end of "Death of the Family," explaining the dionesium not only healed his body but reattached his severed face.  (Well done on tying up that loose end, Snyder.)  Joker also explains Luke and his mother have the metal in their blood, possibly because they're descendants of the Bat Tribe.  (I'm assuming the devil also had the metal in his blood.)  Luke will serve as some sort of signal for Batman, and Joker wants to kill him (and destroy a machine Bruce has hidden in the Secretcave) so Bruce can focus on him.

Bruce returns to the cave, revealing to Duke and Hal he started investigating the metal when he used it to resurrect himself and saw visions of his future in that moment.  Bruce reveals he knows the frequency of the energy (presumably from the tower we saw in "Dark Days:  The Forge") and Shazam's dagger gives him the power to reveal the "truth."  (It's not clear why it does or why the Sunblade didn't.)  Duke's powers let him see how the machine Bruce was building should be finished, and he uses a copy of Hal's ring to finish it.  (Seriously, I know.  Just hang in there.)  Bruce activates the machine (maybe with the dagger), but only sees darkness.  Three-thousand feet below Gotham, a group of hooded figures says Bruce has broken the seal.  Apparently, he would've seen their army of dark knights had they not "prepared" him correctly.  These knights appear to be dark analogues to the DCnU heroes.

Overall, despite the deus ex machina (almost literally in several cases), Snyder picks up pretty much all the threads from "Dark Days:  The Forge."  (The only real exception is the identity of the creature or person Bruce released from imprisonment on the Mooncave, unless I'm missing something.)  It's clear Snyder has a vision for this story, so the nagging questions are acceptable, since he seems likely to resolve them.  But, we should probably have a clearer sense of what all these metals mean by the end of next issue.  At some point, even for someone used to suspending disbelief for the past 30 years, it gets hard not to roll your eyes, and Snyder probably doesn't want us doing that much longer.

Amazing Spider-Man #30:  Spider-Man has been suspiciously absent from "Secret Empire" so far, and Slott seems on the verge of explaining why.  He left his battle with Otto last issue to join the Battle of Washington, and this issue picks up the story shortly after "FCBD:  Secret Empire" #1.  After Cap lifts Thor's hammer, Peter realizes they're doomed, and he rallies the troops to escape.  He explains to Mockingbird he can't join the Resistance because he has to stop Otto -- and, by extension, HYDRA -- from gaining control of Parker Industries.  Mockingbird promises him that date if they save the world, and Immonen makes the moment cinematically perfect, the sun highlighting both of them as they kiss.  As Otto raids PI's San Francisco HQ, Peter rallies the troops in Shanghai.  Slott takes some shortcuts in getting Dr. Wu and Lien Tang to pledge their loyalty to Peter, Wu because Peter put the value of his cancer research above profit and Tang because Peter gave her a second chance after she betrayed him.  (I still have no idea why Peter gave her that second chance or would ever remotely trust her, but I at least buy Wu feeling some sort of inclination to help him.)  Otto confronts Peter and reveals he remains completely in control of PI, using the back door he built into its systems to turn Tang's Spider-Racers against Peter.  I've been dreading each issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" lately, but Slott is surprisingly on his game here.  You can see into the future after this arc pretty clearly:  Peter seems likely to lose PI and Mockingbird (if she really is Steve's mole in the Resistance).  We'll see how that goes when we get there.  For now, I'm just happy to be happy with an issue.

Uncanny Avengers #25:  Although Zub's characterization of Rogue still feels like it's coming from 2008, this issue is pretty damn awesome.  Rogue berates herself for abandoning the team while trying to stop Scorpia and Shocker from robbing a bank (something I admit I don't quite remember happening last issue).  But, she rallies the two of them into a make-shift team to fight off the demons pouring into Manhattan under the orders of the spirit who took over Voodoo's body.  She's reminded of the importance of teamwork, and we're treated to some pretty hilarious exchanges between Scorpia and Shocker as they grapple with their newfound hero-dom.  (At one point, Shocker explains to Scorpia his gloves don't shoot electricity but vibrate the air, leading to her starting to say he should've called himself the Vibrator.  He stops her before she can finish the word, and I think it's probably the funniest moment in comics.)  Meanwhile, the rest of the team is trying to free Voodoo from possession, and they succeed when Rogue answers Synapse's call for help and provides much-needed muscle.  As the demons disappear, the team shares a nice moment as it ponders this new reality.  For how many artists worked on this issue, it's a pretty great showing, and it helps make this issue one of the best "Secret Empire" tie-in issues I've read.  I really do love this title.

X-Men Gold #8:  This issue is notable for a few reasons.  First, it has Piotr admitting he was trying to impress Kitty when he leapt in front of the bullet the serial killer shot, meaning we're going in exactly the direction I'd hope we'd go.  (Guggenheim is an X-Man fan!)  Second, it has Kurt admitting to Logan and Storm he did, in fact, die when the mob attacked him ("mistaking" him for a devil), but he can't return to Heaven as a result of the loss of his soul.  I thought this issue might've been resolved in Kurt's solo series, but it looks like it wasn't.  I assume we'll be addressing that at some point.  Third, it has Kitty deliver one of the best rebuttals to a distraught family-member-turned-killer.  She admits the X-Men might be negligent when they ignore the consequences of solving the crisis at hand and move right onto the next one.  However, she points out this guy is a premeditated murderer, as sympathetic as we might be to his plight.  Guggenheim isn't really buying this guy's insistence he's committing justifiable homicide, particularly with Kitty showing she's fully aware of the compromises she has to make to keep saving the world.  Finally, we see the first hint of the post-"Secret Empire" era, as the bubble is lowered around New York and everything -- including the NYPD and Congress -- appears to be fine.  For all he crams in there, the issue really flows well.  This "Secret Empire" tie-in arc might not have been essential to the larger plot, but it was pretty enjoyable, always a good bar to clear in these events.

Generation X #4:  Strain does a solid job of showing the team coming together as they unexpectedly face an Emplate-possessed Monet in searching for the perpetrator of the attack on Face.  Benjamin and Trevor in particular take on the roles of the responsible adults, and it suits them well.  That said, Strain reverses some of the character development we saw in Quentin under Jason Aaron's "Wolverine and the X-Men," and the story is weaker for it:  Quentin is basically reduced to a caricature of the person we know he can be.  But, Strain does a great job when it comes to Roxy, showing her drive to be an X-Man coming from her panic that it's her only remaining option, since her physical mutation means she can never really fit into human society.  The moment she has with Chamber as she confesses these feelings is touching, and it reminds us these kids really are just kids, in need of the mentorship he and Jubilee can provide.  Strain also does well with Jubilee, as she realizes the kids have fled the Mansion because it's what she would've done.  All in all, it caps a solid start to this series.  Jubilee's pledge to go after Monet also incorporates the original team's dynamic into this series, and it helps convince me to hang in here to see where we go.

Spider-Men II #1:  I didn't read the original "Spider-Men" event in 2012, primarily because I wasn't reading Miles' book at the time and I felt like it probably involved too much knowledge of his character to enjoy.  But, I feel like I'm well versed in Miles' reality now, and I'm ready to take a deeper dive.  Bendis confirms something I don't think we've seen confirmed anywhere, that Miles remembers his old dimension.  This revelation raises all sorts of questions, not just about Miles' memories but also his family and friends' memories.  We know Molecule Man resurrected Miles' mother and moved his supporting cast into the combined Marvel Universe to thank him for giving him a cheeseburger (in "Secret Wars" #7).  But, if Miles remembers the Ultimate Universe, what does everyone else remember?  Did the Molecule Man give them false memories?  Otherwise, you'd assume Ganke and Miles' parents would wonder why the Marvel Universe's Peter Parker isn't a dead teenager.  Ganke and Jefferson should probably wonder why Miles' mother is alive.  Marvel avoided answering a lot of the questions "Secret Wars" raised, and we've mostly just continued as we were, realizing it wasn't as analogous to "Flashpoint" as it originally seemed.  But, Bendis has opened a can of worms here he's going to have to close at some point.  Moreover, we've got the matter of the original Marvel Universe's Miles Morales, who seems responsible for the inter-dimensional rupture that results in a robot's head crashing onto the grounds of Miles' school.  Bendis has a mixed track record when it comes to his performance in events, and I'm just hoping he can navigate these waters in a way that ties up some loose ends from "Secret Wars" and doesn't make matters worse.  It's a low bar, but I'm still not sure we're going to clear it.

Titans #13:  I'll admit I'm not sure why Abnett decided to so quickly launch into an arc that involves betrayal within the team.  We're just getting a sense of the bonds the team shares in the present, and already he's making us question said bonds.  Abnett seems to want us to believe Dick is the betrayer by throwing suspicion on Lilith.  But, we saw her premonition so we know it wasn't her (unless Psimon really did turn her and we saw thoughts he implanted in her mind).  Part of the difficulty in following this story is Abnett has the characters all acting somewhat oddly.  Garth is suddenly hopelessly devoted to Lilith after sharing a kiss, and Wally is committed to keeping secret his ability to freeze time even though we're not really told why he would.  I think it's because his friends are worried about his heart, but it actually seems like it might give some insight into how he can use his powers without hurting his heart.  I wouldn't be surprised in the end if we learn that they're all being manipulated psionically.

Youngblood #3:  OK, I have to say, this series just keeps getting better and better.  As Bowers says in the letters page, it's pretty clear the rules are different here, showing a willingness to permanently change a character's status quo. Badrock is actually working for Diehard, though it's unclear if Diehard wanted him to put together the team for good or for ill.  It could be just setting up Shaft.  After all, he decides to investigate the Byrne Twins after Badrock has the kids tell them about the disappearances of Man-Up and other heroes.  The new Sentinel (even if we're not calling him that) tells him he couldn't find any information about them when he was part of the Stream, and Shaft obviously isn't thrilled to learn he was part of the group that ruined his life.  Meanwhile, we learn Doc Rocket was only part of the team briefly, and Petra recruited her because she still has high favorability ratings, meaning she could help make sure the team has a real claim to the Youngblood name.  Finally, we have some business with an alien bounty hunter that I didn't quite follow, but Bowers pretty clearly has a plan for that.  All in all, it's another exciting issue that really raises the bar on this endeavor.

Also Read:  Detective Comics #960; Dragon Age:  Knight Errant #3; Star Wars:  Darth Vader #3; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #9


Monday, August 7, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 5 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

X-Men Gold #7:  Guggenheim cleverly plays with the premise of "Secret Empire" by doing it one better.  The X-Men aren't just trapped, along with the rest of New York, in the Darkforce Dimension; they're also trapped in the Mansion with a serial killer.  Guggenheim lets us know from the start the killer is motivated by Magneto killing his wife and son years earlier, and it's hard to argue with his hatred of mutants as a result.  It also reminds us of the special treatment Magneto has gotten over the years, a seemingly never-ending series of second chances that fly in the face of the crimes he's committed.  I'm not sure if it was Guggenheim's intention to highlight that, but there it is.

Batman #26:  I don't really have much to say about this issue, because King doesn't really do all that much here.  We really only see confirmation, though their actions, that Joker and Riddler are at war, though it's still not clear what the stakes are, exactly.  I'm not sure it matters.  King spends most of this issue introducing us to Joker and Riddler.  If that sounds ridiculous, given how familiar even my mother is with those characters, King reminds us we need to know who they are in this particular moment.  Joker is morose and Riddler is angsty.  It's not their usual modi operandi, and it's why King takes time to stress it.  The only real development is Joker killing Carmine Falcone's mother after he fails to kill Riddler in an hour, as Joker requested.  King doesn't tell us why Joker wanted to use a surrogate to get rid of Riddler, but it seems to have been a bad call:  I doubt Falcone is going to sit out this war, given Joker's actions.  Janín uses a series of splash pages to remind us the War of Jokes and Riddles is at its heart a gang war and Bruce is just becoming aware of how deep into the Gotham underground it spreads.  It's a slow issue, but it was probably wise for King to take the time to make sure we understand the environment in which the story is occurring.  But, he should probably have Joker blow up Wayne Tower or something next issue.

Hawkeye #8:  OK, now we're getting somewhere.  We learn Kate's father has switched into a clone of his original body because he was "ill."  Moreover, this new body has taken a latent ability -- the power of suggestion -- and expanded it into an actionable power.  He explains to Kate Madame Masque's quest to obtain superpowers repeatedly fails because her DNA doesn't have any hint of such a latent ability.  Kate observes she may also have powers (given her share of her father's DNA), and her father agrees.  Kate surmises Aggregate was one of Madame Masque's clones, but she also notes his powers caused him to explode so she recommends her father plays his cards carefully.  Despite all this information, Thompson still doesn't answer all our questions.  First, we don't learn how Kate figured out Aggregate was a clone; I think she just assumes Aggregate's connection to her father meant he underwent a similar procedure.  But, it's possible Kate has information we don't have.  Second, Kate jumps to the conclusion her father was trying to use Aggregate to trash Venice to drive down property values, allowing him to obtain land cheaply.  Again, Kate may have information to which we're not yet privy, but, if she doesn't, it's a serious leap of logic for her to get from Point A to Point B.  Finally, Thompson implies Masque sent Kate on this wild-goose chase in order to overhear the conversation she ultimately has with her father about how he got his powers.  But, it seems a stretch Masque would have to go to all that trouble just to obtain this information.  She doesn't have any other sources?  I'm hoping Thompson fills in some of these gaps, so it doesn't feel as deus ex machina-y as it does now.  All that being said, she does a great job of showing the emotional toll Kate's confrontation with her father has on her.  Their conversation is remarkably tense, something Romero accomplishes even with the limited line work he employs.  Even in such a plot-heavy issue, the creative team helps amplify the characterization, and it's why this series is just so good right now.

Spider-Man #18:  Bendis does a really solid job here with Miles' mom.  She came to his room to apologize, and she's there as Fabio and Ganke return with his wounded self after his battle with Hammerhead.  She takes him to the hospital to get his broken ribs wrapped, and she tells him she's upset with him but still loves him.  But, Bendis distinguishes himself by not turning her into Aunt May or something.  Miles pushes her to forgive his father because they told the same lie, and she essentially tells him to mind his own business.  He presses, and she tells him it's a different relationship.  This nuance is often lost in comics, and I really take off my hat to Bendis for making that distinction.  Moreover, we get some great Goldballs action here, as Ganke encourages Fabio to revel in his powers and he's able to summon a larger ball than he's previously managed to take down Hammerhead.  When you add in Bombshell realizing she's in love with Miles, you've got an all-around solid story.


Star Wars #33:  They could use this issue in comic-writing school to show how to do a one-and-done issue.  Leia and Luke wind up crash-landing their disabled ship on an ocean-covered planet after they have to flee Imperial troops who interrupted their supply run.  With few options, they're forced to go full "Cast Away."  In putting them in this situation, Aaron achieves one of the main goals of this series:  showing us the bonds that developed between the characters off-screen.  This issue helps explain why Leia comments in "Return of the Jedi" that she always knew Luke was her brother.  It didn't make sense if you just saw their oft-discussed kiss in "Star Wars;" after all, they hardly spent any time together in "Empire Strikes Back."  But, it does when you realize they spent three weeks stranded on a desert island together.  They had time to get to know one another and to realize they weren't really interested in knowing each other *that* way.  (Blech.) Moreover, Aaron gives us great insight into Leia as we learn the week she hid in the woods as a nine-year-old (convinced her parents were going to marry her to a prince) was the best week of her life.  Aaron seems to plan on doing something similar for Lando and Sana next issue, and I can't wait for that.  These issues that focus on the characters in discrete moments have tended to be the best ones of this series, and I'd encourage Aaron (and soon Gillen) to keep his focus on them, at least for a while.  "Screaming Castle" was OK; this issue was better.

Also Read:  Bloodshots Day Off #1; Champions #10; Nightwing #24; Spider-Man:  Master Plan #1

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The June 28 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I had all sorts of thoughts about these issues.  Unfortunately, an attempt to cut-and-paste combined with the auto-save functions means I lost this post.  [Sigh.]

Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #29; Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #4; Detective Comics #959; Occupy Avengers #8; Pathfinder:  Runescars #2; Rebels:  These Free and Independent States #4; Secret Empire #5; Spider-Gwen #21; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #8; X-Men Blue #6

Friday, August 4, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The June 21 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #18:  Some tie-in issues provide important off-panel insights to the event unfolding in the main series; if I remember correctly, a lot of important stuff happened in the tie-in issues related to "Avengers vs. X-Men."  However, the same isn't true of this issue.  Steve gives an uncharacteristically unhinged speech to the rump United Nations meeting in Brussels (as a result of their New York colleagues being trapped in the Darkforce Dimension), threatening governments that don't embrace HYDRA cells in their own countries.  T'Challa ruins the fun by hijacking the meeting via video link and daring Steve to come to Wakanda himself; it's not an idle threat, as he informs the meeting he's killed three previous groups Steve sent to infiltrate Wakanda.  This revelation undermines Steve's "stop spying on us" demand he made at the top of the speech, and he leaves in a huff.  Based on the cover, you'd be forgiven if you thought this issue was going to be about Namor (pet peeve #2), but Namor only sulks at the start and end of the issue.  In fact, I'm not sure why Spencer included him at all, since T'Challa's entry into the fray is a much more interesting development.  After all, we've already seen HYDRA defeat Namor in "Secret Empire" #5.  It makes for a confused narrative and a pretty easily skipable issue if you were only coming here because it's connected to "Secret Empire."

Batman #25:  The "knock knock"/"who's there" exchange between Riddler and Joker is the best panel arrangement I've seen since Capullo's upside-down maze in "Batman" #5.  Something about the segue from Riddler on one side of the room on one page to Joker on the other side of the room in the next one is chilling.  Both characters command their respective page, making you viscerally aware they're at war for the same space.  The War of Jokes and Riddles, indeed.  King and Janín work so well together throughout this issue to convey this message, to a chilling effect.

To start, King's Riddler is completely unhinged, but in a sane way.  This dichotomy is most obvious in the way he escapes Arkham, methodically learning the names of the guards' daughters so they're too scared to stop him.  If he hadn't just stabbed a detective 26 times to get his escape started, it might've otherwise seemed like an empty threat.  When it comes to Joker, the art again supplements the script:  Janín's Joker appears similar to his "Killing Joke" incarnation, a reminder of how dangerous he is (as if you needed one).  In other words, before the two characters even meet, King and Janín make it clear we're dealing with the characters at their most lethal.

But, come together they do, as Riddler solves the puzzle Joker is leaving for Batman.  He tells Joker he knows he can't laugh anymore, because punchlines require a lack of predictability and Batman has made Gotham all predictability.  Similarly, Riddler doesn't enjoy his riddles anymore, because Batman is the riddle he can't solve.  Riddler suggests they kill Batman together, because it's the only way they'll know satisfaction; otherwise, they'll burn Gotham to the ground as they try to stop the other one from killing him first.  Joker agrees...and then shoots Riddler, hoping maybe it will make him laugh.  (It's a shocking moment and another reminder he's not a more patient incarnation of his character.)  Unfortunately, it doesn't make him laugh, and he leaves Riddler bleeding on the floor.

Batman arrive seconds later, and Riddler tells him Joker stole his bomb.  Bruce leaves Edward to chase down Joker because, given the wound, he assumes Riddle will die shortly.  He doesn't, for a reason King doesn't explain.  It perhaps has something to do with his riddle at that moment:  "The smartest man alive will always overlook one thing:  his own nose."  I'm not sure how it's connected to him surviving a point-blank gunshot, but it isn't just a random line:  Joker had been drawing the image of a clown nose on the map of Gotham with his crimes.

Speaking of unsolved riddles, the joke Joker used to lead Batman to the office building where Riddler finds him was:  "Why did six fear seven?  Because seven ate nine."  Joker is on the 78th floor, so I get that part.  But, we're not told how Joker brought this joke to Bruce's attention.  (Did it have something to do with the clown nose?)  Plus, I'm not sure how six and nine play into it.  I believe it has something to do with another riddle Riddler told:  the password to a club isn't half the number the bouncer gives (in other words, five if the number is ten) but the number of letters in the word (three if the number is ten).  I make note of these unsolved riddles (at least unsolved for me) because I feel like they might be relevant later.

As the story ends, we learn Bruce is telling this story to Selena as they lie in bed, confessing to her what he had to do during the War of Jokes and Riddles so that she'll truly know him before they get married.  He implies it'll explain him even better than Alfred, Gordon, and the boys understand him.  He tells her they misunderstand him as a guy with pain saving who he can; allegedly something about his behavior during the war shows this interpretation is wrong.

King is swinging for the fences here, and he makes you believe he can hit the home run.  Something about this arc already seems epic, a character-defining story you'd think we couldn't see anymore in Batman.  But, King has hinted throughout his run he's willing to do something no one else -- not Morrison, not Snyder -- has allowed Bruce to do:  he's going to let him become a real boy.  Bruce's confession about his past to Selena is part of his commitment to Selena, and it's what grounds this story.  I can't wait to see where we go.

Iceman #2:  Grace accomplishes what he intended to do here, using Kitty and her anger over learning from Fabio Bobby was gay to press him to actually connect with people.  She makes a solid point, stressing his family and friends want more from him than just jokes at inopportune moments.  Bobby defends himself accurately, noting he didn't have a say in his coming out:  he only did so because his younger self is running around town with a model boyfriend.  But, something feels rushed here, and I hope Grace slows down.  Grace only alludes to the fact Bobby's alone in the world, but I think it's worth exploring it more.  After all, Jean, Scott, and Warren (at least the Warren he knew) are all dead, and he's estranged from Hank.  He really doesn't have anyone in his corner except an ex-girlfriend.  Moreover, Kitty may raise Bobby's hopes too high here that his parents are going to be in his corner, though the preview of next issue's cover implies we'll find out one way or another.  But, at some point, Bobby needs someone, and it's probably hinting at the fact he could use a supporting case unique to this series.  Finally, the art has some decent moments here, though it's hard to tell what penciler/inker combination is responsible, given four sets of hands are at play here.  You get the feeling Marvel is doing this one on the cheap given the unsteady art situation, and it makes me unfortunately wonder how long this series has.

Mighty Thor #20:  It seems clear the War of the Realms is going to kick into high gear.  After all, at this point, we have three different Thors.  The story of Volstagg becoming War Thor is devastating, though I'll admit I don't exactly understand how he survived the Muspelhiem fire that killed the elven children he was trying to protect.  (Apparently fire-goblin blood is immune to the fire.  If I had to guess, those creatures that appeared with the maggot bombs were fire goblins, and Volstagg coated himself with their blood when he murdered them in a rage.  But, Aaron doesn't really make that part entirely clear.)  At any rate, Odinson is pissed at Jane for becoming Thor, Jane is dying so she might not be Thor that much longer (or she might stay Thor forever, giving up Jane), and Volstagg is ready to kill everyone.  It seems like something is going to happen, given that confluence of events.  But, it's the death of the children that gives this issue its emotional weight.  We obviously don't see that in comics often, but Aaron makes sure it's not gratuitous.  Volstagg is someone different than he's always been, and it ups the ante here, making you wonder what other unexpected developments are in store for us.

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #1:  Teresa Parker!  I can't say this issue is perfect:  Peter recounting his origin story to Johnny Storm made absolutely no sense.  Moreover, we're in pet peeve #3 territory here, where Peter acknowledging it makes no sense doesn't make it better.  But, it's not the only problem.  It makes even less sense Peter would agree to go on a date as Spider-Man.  I get Zsardsky is going for an easy and fun vibe here, and, sure, hilarity may ensue.  But, seriously, disbelief can be suspended only so much.  But, I'm willing to put aside all that for the great art from Kubert (he can draw Johnny Storm whenever he wants) and the return of Teresa Parker from "Spider-Man:  Family Business."  Waid managed to make Teresa feel like an honest-to-goodness character (and not just a convenient plot device) in that graphic novel, and I've been waiting for her to return.  A light-hearted series about Spidey's downtime doesn't necessarily seem the right place, but we'll see where Zsardsky goes.

Spider-Man 2099 #24:  Honestly, only Peter David comes close to telling a time-travel story that remotely makes sense.  Miguel, the other Spider-Man 2099 and Tempest manage to grab one of the members of the mob trying to attack them before fleeing somewhere safe to interrogate him.  The other Spider-Man 2099 is able to control "arachnonauts" that force the man to tell the truth:  his phone told him to attack them.  They learn Aisa was using a popular app to control people's minds, and Lyla eventually figures out Aisa is the Fate Atropos.  She's trying to kill off humanity because she's sick of humanity fucking up everything on its way to eventually annihilating itself.  Honestly?  It's a pretty solid motive.  Miguel tries to defeat her, but she decides to off him, even though she usually likes to give her opponent a sporting chance.  However, Miguel doesn't have a thread in this reality because...he's already dead.  Aisa escapes, and Tempest later confirms Miguel did die.  Miguel refuses to learn how he dies before May 15, 2019, because he's afraid that information will again screw up 2099.  After all, at this point, he's got the hope he's managed to restore the 2099 he knew (even if, as I've mentioned ad nauseum, it's not necessarily the one we knew).  Peter ends with the surprise that the mysterious Spider-Man 2099 is Gabriel...Miguel's son with Tempest.  Dun-dun-DUN!  It's hard to believe David wrapped up this story so well, but it is really solid.  Aisa's motivation makes sense, her plan would've realized said motivation, and the team stops her in a believable way.  All win!  At this point, we have two loose ends.  First, we have Miguel himself.  It seems to me Miguel doesn't really have to die to recreate his 2099 timeline:  he just has to leave the past timeline at exactly the point he would've died, returning to his present timeline at exactly the point he left.  In so doing, you wouldn't encounter any paradoxes:  he's where he's supposed to be at the time he's supposed to be.  Second, we have Gabriel.  Gabriel is a grown man here, something he wouldn't be on May 15, 2019.  As such, two things clearly happen:  1) Gabriel is raised outside our timeline, possibly by Miguel and Tempest in the future, and 2) Tempest at some point becomes a superhero, possibly after Miguel dies.  I have full faith Peter David will answer that question since, after all, it's Peter David.

Star Wars:  Darth Vader #2:  I've never been the biggest fan of Camuncoli's work (I know, I know), namely because his faces in "Amazing Spider-Man" always seemed...off to me.  But, he's on fire here, capturing just how lethal Vader is, be it as a pilot or as a combatant.  Soule is no slouch either.  Vader invades an outpost cataloging Jedi effects to try to track down a living Jedi.  The only one he finds is a warrior who took the "Barash vow," a sort of penance requiring isolation (meaning he survived implementation of Order 66).  Soule reminds us this Vader isn't the Vader we know by allowing him to get winged by one of the Stormtroopers defending the outpost.  I hope it means we'll see the internal emotional conflict I mentioned in my review of last issue.  All told, we've got a good start here.

The Wild Storm #5:  Zealot investigates Angela's base, discovering the remains of the IO Razor 3 team.  She also encounters a "daemon" who looks like an extra from "Alien."  It claims to be acting in a Watcher-type role and encourages her not to get involved with the important events unfolding.  She doesn't believe it.  It asks how she can have lived so long and understand so little before it disappears.  (It seemingly puts her in the long-life club with Jacob Marlowe.)  Meanwhile, Michael accepts Craven's offer to track down Angela to distract himself from his brain tumor.  However, when he reads the hastily assembled file and watches the video recording of the Razor 3 team's engagement, he realizes she's a scared researcher in need of someone to listen.  He asks Craven to rescind the order, but Craven refuses.  Mike quits for fear he's suddenly discovered at the end of his life Craven has been playing him for years, and Craven essentially tells him he's not going to fund his treatment.  Meanwhile, Void gets to Angela first, explaining her story in the hope Angela will trust her.  She explains Skywatch controls everything that happens off Earth (as opposed to IO, which controls everything that happens on it) and tried to achieve interstellar travel by cutting into "underspace."  (They called it "the Bleed," as if they were cutting below the surface of skin, where they hoped different physics would be at play.)  All the crew died, including Adriana, but something that looks decidedly similar to a daemon saved her and returned her with her powers.  Meanwhile, Christine Trelane arrives at Mike's apartment and offers him a job with "Executive Protection Services" as Craven's men knock on his door announcing they have his "effects."

X-Men Gold #6:  OK, I'm not buying what Guggenheim is selling here when it comes to Rachel.  I can think of any number of instances from the past where Rachel used power on the scale she uses here.  I mean, she took on the Beyonder during "Secret Wars II," if I remember correctly.  It's not like what we've seen with other characters, where they evolve over time, like Bobby eventually coming to realize his full potential or Spider-Man learning "Spider-Fu" when he temporarily lost his Spider-Sense.  She suddenly just has a headache, talks to some folks in her mind, and then decides she's powerful enough to disable the A.I. Sentinel.  It's not just overly convenient, but it doesn't do justice to a 36-year-old character.  Guggenheim also includes smaller odd moments, like Ororo kissing Remy.  All told, it makes for a bizarre ending to this once promising arc.

Also Read:  Nightwing #23; Secret Empire:  Underground #1; U.S.Avengers #7