Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 25 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

For some reason, I didn't really have a lot to say about the October 25 releases.  It's not necessarily a bad thing; they were all really solid issues.  "Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider" #9, "Bloodshot Salvation" #2, "Detective Comics" #967, and "Nightwing:  The New Order" #3 all significantly advanced their plots, and I thoroughly enjoyed "Quantum and Woody! #0.0001½.  But, I guess not much seemed particularly noteworthy.

Dark Nights:  Gotham Resistance (Teen Titans #12, Nightwing #29, Suicide Squad #26, and Green Arrow #32):  I finally had to admit I was enjoying “Dark Nights” so much I decided to go back and buy these issues.  (I read "Nightwing" #29 when it was released on September 20.)  The authors do a great job in keeping the story connected issues to issue as some members of the Suicide Squad and Teen Titans get possessed by the Batman Who Laugh’s Damian while the other members join with Green Arrow, Mister Terrific, and Nightwing to get to the heart of Challengers' Mountain in the middle of Gotham.  It actually helped reading these issues after reading "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3, since it's clear the music and voices Dick is hearing is Bruce telling him not to come rescue him.  Dick doesn't exactly hit the nail on the head in interpreting that message, deciding instead Bruce is dead or lost.  (That said, he was a helluva lot closer to interpreting the message correctly than Clark was.)  The main outcome of this cross-over event in terms of the larger story was Damian seemingly mortally wounding his counterpart with Nth metal.  Mister Terrific arrives to whisk the remaining team members — Damian, Dick, Green Arrow, and Mister Terrific — to the Oblivion Bar, as we saw in "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3.  Here, Green Arrow reveals what they've learned about the Nth metal, setting the ball rolling for the rest of the series.  Beyond just advancing the larger plot, the authors really show the despair the characters are beginning to feel, particularly Dick and Harley; you understand why Dick is such a mess in “Dark Nights:  Metal” #3.  The only criticism I have of this mini-event is I didn’t really buy Harley and Killer Croc feeling some sort of patriotism for Gotham, but it’s a minor complaint.  All in all, it's a solid event that anyone reading "Dark Nights:  Metal" would benefit from reading.

Flash #33 ("Dark Nights:  Bats Out of Hell" #1):  This issue starts immediately after Superman enters the Dark Dimension, as Murder Machine and Devastator arrive to steal the tuning fork (as seen in “Batman:  The Devastator” #1).  Interestingly, Devastator destroys the fork, saying he’ll bring it to Barbatos only after he rebuilds it.  Why would he need to rebuild it?  Is that going to provide the loophole the League needs to defeat Barbatos?  Meanwhile, Barbatos kidnaps the various League members from their missions to lock down more Nth metal, separating Arthur, Barry, Diana, and Hal from their partners and sending them against their Dark Dimension counterparts.  This entire event has been building to this moment, and I can see why these issues were sold as essential to the overall story.

Amazing Spider-Man #790:  OK, first, I have to say, I could overlook a lot here just given how beautiful the art is.  Honestly, in 35 years of reading Spider-Man comics, I can't remember them ever looking as good.  (Yes, I'm not a McFarlane fan.)  As mentioned in the letters column, Immonen really has an amazing (heh) ability to convey motion; at certain points during Peter's fight with Johnny and later Clash, it really felt like I was watching a movie.  But, the good news is I don't have to overlook anything.  Slott is telling a really bang-up story.  I love the idea of Peter committing to going on an apology tour, showing how solid of a guy he is; as Harry says, most companies would've just sent some lawyers to sign the settlements on their behalf.  I'm also glad Slott is continuing to keep the Robin Hood version of Clash here.  I even liked Peter continuing to somewhat uncharacteristically look the other way when it comes to Clash, as he does here when Clash steals back the tech he developed for Parker Industries.  It was a little questionable previously, but something about it now feels like it reflects Peter's new worldview after the fall of PI.  Is he really going to sweat Clash stealing back the technology he himself created?  He has bigger fish to fry.  Meanwhile, I wonder if the developments in "Uncanny Avengers" means Johnny is going to buy back the Baxter Building.  (Are the Avengers going to live there?)  It seems too perfectly timed for it not to be true.  In other words, Slott and the art team have really hit a home run when it comes to a Legacy story that feels and looks like the Spider-Man stories of my youth, and I hope it lasts as long as possible.

Also Read:  Batman:  The Merciless #1; Detective Comics #967; Nightwing:  The New Order #3; Bloodshot Salvation #2; Quantum and Woody  #0.00011/2; Rebels:  These Free and Independent Starts #8; Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #9; U.S.Avengers #11; X-Men Blue #14

Monday, December 11, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 18 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #33:  As Jason says, when Damian cries, you know it’s bad.  King does a really lovely job with this issue.  My only real complaint is Jones uses lines like Liefeld does.  Although it works when depicting Bruce and Selena in their rugged Bat and Cat of Arabia outfits, it doesn’t work at all for faces:  Dick looks like he’s suffering from some sort of wasting disease, Jason looks like his skull has been broken so often his face no longer holds together, and Damian looks like Tim.  But, King’s script is the winner here.  Alfred is forced to break the news to the boys that Bruce proposed to Selena, and they’re suitably surprised/appalled.  (Damian refers to her as “that woman,” implying he’s not exactly excited about his new step-mother.  I look forward to King exploring that relationship.)  Jason is the funniest (not surprisingly), accusing Duke of falling down on the job as Robin for not brightening Bruce’s dark side “and all that crap” so he doesn’t marry a villain.  But, Duke points out Damian is Robin, and Damian starts to cry.  Everyone is again suitably surprised/concerned.  Jason worries they’re all going to die, and Dick goes to comfort him.  Damian reveals why Bruce and Selena have broken into Khadym, as a call from Superman to Alfred has implied:  they’re going after Talia.  In Khadym, Bruce and Selena are essentially on their honeymoon, and King really plays it for all its worth.  A suicide mission is essentially their foreplay.  I’m not sure why Talia is locked past a gate no one can legally pass, but I’m sure King will let us know soon.  At any rate, I’m just thrilled by the focus on the family in this issue and hope King maintains it throughout the arc.

Generation X #7:  There's enough teen angst in this issue to power Tokyo.  Benjamin likes Nathaniel, Nathaniel likes Benjamin but worries Quentin does as well, and Quentin maybe likes Nathaniel but maybe doesn't.  Its all...amazing.  This issue is all about Benji learning how not to be passive in using his powers.  Nathaniel encourages him to trust himself, and Benji almost single-handedly saves the day by snatching the nano-Sentinels.  (It turns out they're not actually non-Sentinels; it was all a trick Kade put together to confirm Quentin was working with the X-Men again.  But, details.)  Quentin encourages him to take it to the next level and tell Nathaniel how he feels.  But, when Nathaniel retracts from his touch for fear of using his powers, Benji falters.  Quentin teases him for it later, telling him he goes after what he wants.  Nathaniel?  I guess we'll see.

Mighty Thor #700:  The weird thing about this issue is, despite it running 55 pages, nothing significant really happens.  Than A story involves Odinson trying to save Karnilla and the Norns from Malekith's forces, as Malekith and his allies seek to free themselves from the destiny the Norns weave.  These pages are just breathtakingly beautiful work from Dauterman, as he displays his usual genius when it comes to panel layouts.  Karnilla eventually falls, and she foretells the death of a god, begging Odinson to ensure Jane doesn't die.  On the very last page, Mangog arrives (freed by K'ythri and Sharra as part of the Ultimate Judgment), and he confronts a re-hammered War Thor.  That's pretty much it.  Jane fights a pretty uninspired fight with She-Hulk in a nod to the long history of Hulk and Thor fights, and Throg makes an appearance.  But, for $5.99, I can't say it's all that impressive.

Nightwing #31:  In a great example of pet peeve #2, this issue has nothing to do with Orca, despite the title on the cover promising it does.  In fact, one of the Whale Enders gang members Dick and Helena confronts specifically mentions Orca isn’t in the game.  Other than that, though, this issue is mostly solid.  We get a fun comment about Dick being good at what he does (between the sheets) from Helena, but it all ends predictably when she realizes Blockbuster - a mafioso - was the one to give Dick the tip on where the Whale Enders were going to pull a heist.  In retrospect, I probably should’ve realized Dick and Helena weren’t long for this world as a couple.  Meanwhile, Shawn goes to Pigeon’s place to warn her about the impending metahuman war in Blüdhaven, but discovers Raptor’s mask, realizing they’re working together.  Raptor goes after Blockbuster in full view of a group of kids from the future business-leaders club, and he’s forced to become Blockbuster in front of them.  Dick later eavesdrops on him refusing to allow his henchmen to kill them (he pays for college instead), and he’s assured Blockbuster does have a moral code, as he swore to Helena.  Higgins is making it pretty clear, though, Dick is playing with fire, and Raptor really does seem the perfect guy to call him on it.

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #5:  This issue is fun, but exists in an entirely different continuity from "Amazing Spider-Man:"  Peter has his own apartment (and isn't living with Mockingbird), Flash is hiding from everyone (and not having Betty throw him a surprise party), and Peter is trying to date a stand-up comedian (and not Mockingbird).  I get it's supposed to be the "fun" series, and it is, but, seriously, someone has to exert some sort of editorial control here.

The Realm #2:  We have a lot going on here.  Will and his party start on their journey, and we learn Dr. Burke, one of the two scientists in the party, has a secret cargo.  Molly tries to convince him to tell Will what the cargo is and what his plans are, but Burke says the fewer people who know about them the better.  Will continues to be his charming self; as I said last issue, it's a refreshing break from the taciturn ranger we've gotten ever since Stryder made his first appearance in "The Fellowship of the Ring."  Molly is also fun, and their banter is a highlight of the issue, especially when it comes to teasing Rook about being exactly the taciturn ranger Will isn't.  We also get some additional information about the setting.  Molly's associate Laszlo gives David, the other scientist in the party, a gun, and David expresses his discomfort with it.  We learn Burke outright refused one, and Laszlo finds this pacifism ridiculous; as he says, it's been ten years since the "weird shit" started and it's unlikely to stop.  Other characters and stories appear in short sequences:  the bearded sharpshooter we saw last issue takes out some goblin and orcs attacking his town; Eldritch tries to convince his master's council he's not hiding anything from them; and a boy awakens inside a ring of fire on a farm.  It's all a reminder of Haun and Peck's grand plans.  The issue ends with the party under fire from goblins and forced to flee into a the basement of a collapsed building.  They're under pursuit, and a teenager offers to help the party escape.  I'm sure he has no ulterior movies or anything.

The Wild Storm #8:  Ellis has Marlowe do something unprecedented here:  he tells Angie the truth (more or less).  Marlowe walks her through the history of his people, or, at least, the parts of that history he's OK with her knowing.  The races on his planet were a "cooperative clade;" in the Earth context, it would mean Neanderthals and all other forms of humans evolved with us.  (As Angie observes, it's why he's distinct biologically from John and Kenesha.)  Eventually, an expedition was sent to find other intelligent life, but our Universe doesn't have much of it because of the Gaia Bottleneck, where life develops too slowly to survive.  (Davis-Hunt does an amazing job here, showing us abandoned or nearly abandoned planets that make the imagination swell, each panel a story untold.)  Eventually, they found Earth, but they had problems with their ship; since interstellar travel and communication is expensive and difficult, they were presumed lost.  I thought this entire description was fascinating.  Most science-fiction stories portray alien civilizations with an almost unlimited amount of resources, but Ellis' story is all about restraint:  few planets host intelligent life, it's hard to communicate and travel interstellarly, etc.  In the present, Jacob says the Halo Project's goal is to help humanity move past the Bottleneck by combining his people's materials with our technology's cutting edge.  Good stuff, right?  Of course, it's not that simple, as we learn when Kenesha asks Jacob whether he told Angie why they came to Earth and he confirms he didn't.  But, he's given her access to his lab to fix her suit, on the condition she gives him a data dump on it now and later when she's finished.  His goal is to find out how advanced IO really is (mostly so he can figure out whether they know how to kill him).

Meanwhile, at IO, one of the teams going through the Razor C.A.T.s' camera managed to get a shot of Cole before he put on his mask; Jackie (who we learned last issue is IO's chief of analysis) tells Craven that Cole was an IO operative they thought was dead.  She and Craven then focus on Adriana's spacesuit and come to the conclusion the wild C.A.T. might actually be a Skywatch C.A.T. operating outside "the Treaty" on Earth.  To Jackie's mind, it explains why they can't ID Adriana or Kenesha, because they're not technically on Earth.  I thought this entire sequence was fascinating, because it's really, really hard as an author to have characters believe something the reader knows isn't true.  It usually robs the storyline of suspense, since you know the characters will inevitably know what you know.  But, it's the opposite here, because you wonder what havoc IO is going to wreck before they discover the truth, that they've got an entirely different player on the board.  Separately, in an amazing sequence showing just how talented the art team is, we're introduced to the Doctor in this issue, a woman from a long line of such doctors who psychically heals people.  One of her patients doesn't awaken from one of her sessions, and she has to go into her subconscious to find her.  It turns out she was hiding from the Doctor in order to evaluate her.  In her hunt, the Doctor encounters an odd-looking creature with a beak who I assume is like the Daemon Zealot encountered in issue #6.  This experience confuses her, so she goes to the Doctors' private heaven (called the Hospital) for a consultation.  It turns out the woman is the one we saw in issue #3 who can hop through technology.  Her name is Jenny Mei Sparks (aha!), and she's a techne, "a spirit of the mechanical arts and sciences" the Doctors say is usually a planetary defense mechanism for times when the Earth is threatened.

It's clear from this recap Ellis is telling an incredibly detailed story; sometimes I just don't know what to say.  It's amazing to me that he and Davis-Hunt managed to get all that information in this issue, while Davis-Hunt still had the space for long sequences of wordless panels, from Jacob's interstellar exploration to the Doctor's guided trip.  One thing that intrigues me, flipping through the last eight issues, is we have all sorts of stories they've barely even touched upon yet, like Voodoo's and Zealot's.  Moreover, Ellis is doing a great job of making it clear - to us and the characters - that the discrete developments over the past few days - Angie activating the suit, Michael Cray leaving IO, etc. - were unexpected and troublesome.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Also Read:  Batman: The Drowned #1; Champions #13; Journey to Star Wars:  The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma #4; Spider-Gwen #25; Titans #16; X-Men Gold #14

Friday, December 8, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 11 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Dark Nights:  Metal #3:  Snyder tries to do too much here, but I understand why he does so.  He clearly has big plans -- even bigger than the ones we've already seen -- and he needs to move us quickly to where we are at the end the issue.  As a result, this issue is a little rushed, but I think ultimately it'll be worth it to see where Snyder takes us.

It starts really, really well:  we get an adorable scene where Damian and Jon are playing guitars in a field in Smallville as Bruce, Clark, Diana, and Lois watch.  It's the most warmth I've ever scene displayed in a DC Comic, to be honest.  Bruce tries to thank the group for all their support after he was forced to confront his darkest fears during the recently concluded war, and they all make fun of him for how bad he is at expressing emotions.  But, then it turns out it's just another nightmare:  Barbatos evolves from Bruce's form to attack Superman, and we learn Clark has been fighting these nightmares for lifetimes.  But, Diana saves him by putting her Lasso of Truth around him to get him to see the "real" world.  He awakens to a scene that combines "The Matrix" with Scientology:  Clark and Diana are attached to the outside of a skyscraper along with thousands of other people.  (Capullo goes for broke with these scenes, as the people are basically Day of the Dead skeletons.)  Clark leaves Diana to take on Barbatos, but gets his ass handed to him.  Flash saves him just in time, taking him to the Oblivion Bar, a safe space in a pocket dimension where all the other heroes are located.

Everyone is significantly worse for the wear as we learn they've all failed in their attempts to displace the Dark Batmen from their cities.  (Dick is particularly shaken, and I may need to read "Gotham Resistance" now.)  The towers are really generators, and Superman realizes Barbatos wants to pull our world into the Dark Dimension.  At this point, Green Arrow reveals the Nth metal can hurt them.  Dr. Fate and Mr. Terrific are able to locate three stashes of Nth metal through its connection to the other reactive metals in Steel's hammer, Fate's mask, Plastic Man's egg, and Deathstroke's armor.  Diana starts splitting up everyone in teams to go mine the metal, but Superman dissents when Mr. Terrific reveals the last signal is coming from the Dark Dimension.  Clark says Bruce used a code word in his last dream that he and Superman developed to signify trouble, and Dick confirms he can also feel Bruce trying to reach him.  Superman realizes Bruce is sending the signal from the Dark Dimension, but Dick says they shouldn't go after him.  Dick argues they should fight Barbatos as Bruce would've wanted them to do.  However, Dick is also shaken by how dark Bruce's soul is, something they've all seen through these perverted forms of him.  Damian is outraged, attacking Dick.  One of the most crushing scenes is Damian clinging to Superman after he informs the group he'll save Bruce.  Dick and Damian's sense of hopelessness conveys just how overpowering Barbatos' ability to kill hope is.

At any rate, the teams are forced to flee the bar as Batman Who Laughs and his Robins find them.  (Kendra made it clear she was against saving Superman exactly for this reason.)  As the other teams arrive at their destinations and start hunting for the Nth metal, Flash and Steel accompany Superman to the Fortress of Solitude.  Superman reveals the coordinates for the Dark Dimension were close to the ones for the Phantom Zone, and he thinks the Phantom Zone might be, as Flash says, a "permeable membrane" between our dimensions.  Steel attaches himself to the Antenna and Flash supercharges it, creating an energy link to the Dark Dimension.  (Just go with it.)  Superman travels there, only to realize he was wrong.  Bruce was sending songs in the dreams, not words:  the two chords of the song the kids were playing were D then C:  "don't come."  Superman is the battery, and with his arrival in the Dark Dimension the circuit is complete.  Shit is going down, y'all.

Amazing Spider-Man #789:  Brand.  New.  Day!  Slott has Bobbi toss off that comment as a wink to us, and, man, it worked.  I'm loath to trust Slott here, because I've been disappointed so many times before.  But, this issue feels exactly like the issue I've been waiting for him to write every since the excellent "Big Time!"  Peter's interactions with Bobbi are amazing, the scene with Robbie at the "Daily Bugle" was great, and I cheered when Harry and Liz kissed.  Even Betty and Flash return!  (No, no, no, don't get your hopes up too high, JW.  It's all a trick!  Peter is going to make a deal with Mephisto to get Mjolnir and become Spider-Thor.  You know it.)

Slott does an excellent job of immediately establishing Peter's current status quo.  After one date, he's living on Bobbi's couch.  She notes it's been weeks and she's managed to find an apartment and a job, but he's sitting on her couch wearing her shirt.  He's avoiding Harry's calls and the media, as they report constantly about the implosion of PI.  However, he's incensed when the "Bugle" runs a critical story about him, and he confronts Joe in the newsroom.  But, Joe's not having it:  he notes Peter's incompetence resulted in working-class people like his Uncle Ben losing they jobs, and Peter accepts he's right.  He also notices the science writer has gotten something wrong in his article about Pym micro-processors, and Slott seems to be setting up Robbie hiring Peter as the "Bugle's" new science writer.  Meanwhile, Betty invites Peter to Flash's birthday party.  He's accosted by an angry mob on the way, and he bails on the party after hearing everyone (including MJ) talking about how royally he screwed up everything.  (This scene is important, too.  Slott fanwanks us by having someone refer to the time they bought Petey furniture when he was down and out the last time, but MJ says he's way too old for that now.  It's part of the tone Slott is striking, that it's time for Peter to act like an adult.  It's a little harsh and not entirely fair, but also maybe a little true.)  Everything looks up later when Bobbi tosses Peter his Spider-Man costume and they go patrolling.  They save a food truck from the Griffin, and Spidey wins over the previously hostile crowd in so doing.  Slott seems to be setting up "Peter Parker No More!" redux, as Spidey kisses Mockingbird and realizes life as Spider-Man is going well.

Immonen, von Grawbadger, and Gracia make this book (and Peter) look better than literally ever.  (Peter can lie on the couch in sweatpants for all future issues and I'd buy them.)  That said, my only complaint is they occasionally make him look too young.  As fetching as he looks in a tight t-shirt staring into the refrigerator, he looks about a decade younger than his friends.  It's not just a nitpick:  it undermines the story Slott is trying to tell.  Peter should look like an adult if we're going to expect him to act like one.  But, it's a minor complaint.  Slott has me (even me!) hopeful we're returning to form here.  Fingers crossed.

Detective Comics #966:  This series has dragged lately, but it isn't now!  This issue is one of the most gripping I've ever read, particularly when you consider it's also a time-travel story.  Tim and Future Tim talk while occasionally fending off Doomsday, though Future Tim doesn't reveal anything too specific about how he got this way.  In fact, our only real hint before the issue wraps is a flashforward to his timeline, where Anarky comments to Spoiler about an event involving Clayface setting everything in motion.  Instead, Future Tim lays out his road to Batman and strikes a theme in doing so, saying certain patterns are set.  For example, Dick's reality is as a circus kid, so he eventually leaves Gotham and starts a family.  Jason's reality is as a tragic story, so he winds up losing an eye and a leg and living as a homeless drunk.  Damian's reality is a violent arrogance, so it's heavily implied Future Tim has to kill him after his "Batman" #666 iteration practically burns Gotham to the ground. Tim refuses to accept he's going to become Future Tim, but Future Tim agrees to use his technology to travel to Tim's present.  As he departs, Future Tim encourages Tim to make peace with Conner, but Tim doesn't know who Conner is.  Future Tim is shocked, and he reviews the present timeline thanks to his Batcomputer (who he creepily calls "Brother").  He realizes this timeline has been tweaked (heavily implying he's from the DCU timeline), and he cuts Tim's arm.  When he realizes he, too, has a scar, he realizes he can save Tim from his future by killing the person responsible for it:  Batwoman.  Although this issue is super-talky, you get the sense Tynion has laid the groundwork he needed to lay and we're about to see some honest-to-God fireworks as Future Tim goes after Batwoman.

Falcon #1: This issue is a mixed bag.  Like Slott in "Amazing Spider-Man," Barnes has Sam return to being a street-level hero as he decides to solve the gang problem in Chicago.  It's exactly what you'd expect Falcon to do.  Barnes also does a great job with Patriot here.  I was never really a fan of the "new" Falcon, whose presence on Sam's team always felt forced.  Conversely, Rayshaun is a great character that Marvel slowly developed over time.  He has the same urgency to be in the field as Joaquin did, but his character also has more depth as a result of him seeing the devastation of Las Vegas firsthand.  Spencer didn't really do much to develop Joaquin as a character; he woke up one day as a falcon-human hybrid and basically saw no downside to that.  Rayshaun is an improvement.  That said, both Sam and Rayshaun seem to be heading for a rude awakening.  Listening to Sam, gang violence is basically just a reflection of poor public-policy choices; John Gotti would've become a florist had he been given the right incentives.  It's here where Barnes makes the odd decision of revealing the gang violence is happening because Blackheart is the mayor and one of the gang's leaders is beholden to him.  It removes all agency from everyone, from the people making those bad public-policy choices to the gang members themselves.  I'm hoping Barnes uses Blackheart as a metaphor for evil, a reflection of the fact some people really do embrace violence as the preferred way to solve their problems.  If he doesn't, it's going to undermine the story I think he's trying to tell.

Ms. Marvel #22-#23:  I somehow missed issue #22 when it was released, but it wraps up the Josh arc pretty well.  Josh is unapologetic for the decisions he's made, but Willow doesn't turn him into a total villain:  he believes in his cause (whatever it actually is, because I can't exactly say I understand it for sure), but he doesn't believe in the extreme measures Basic Becky is willing to take to further it.  Kamala makes the insightful point that she didn't believe Josh is this person, but sometimes you have to believe people when they tell you who they are.  It's...dark.  But, issue #23 is a breath of fresh air as handsome Kareem arrives from Pakistan.  This sequence is amazing for a number of reasons. First, Kamala's homeroom teacher wants her to show around the new Pakistani exchange student, and she and Nakia are outraged the teacher thinks somehow she knows him despite Pakistan having 200 million people.  But, of course, she does.  (Her parents didn't tell her because they were too busy helping Amir and Tyesha prepare to move to their new apartment before the baby comes.)  Second, Mike hilariously pretty much throws herself at him, and it lightens the mood a bit.  I have to admit it's good to see Kamala's supporting cast.  Willow also does a great job with the Red Dagger and Ms. Marvel's interactions, with Kamala furious he's already got a legion of Instagram fans (thanks to his surfer's hair) as they try to stop a runaway train.  (Also, I think they included a "Station Agent" shoutout in here, and, if so, mind blown.)

Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #13:  The thing that's always so fun about this series is you're never really sure what Aphra's plan is.  For example, in this issue, you're left wondering if she arranged the auction of Rur specifically to steal the artifacts she returns for cash at the end of this issue, or if she really did intend to auction Rur and just had to steal the artifacts to make the best of a bad situation.  With Aphra, you just never know.  The ending is even better (and I'm not just talking about the Beetee-narrated letters page, which should continue now and forever).  After re-reading the entire arc, it's pretty clear Gillen is writing for the trade.  Aphra mentions not expecting to get a happy ending in issue #11, a theme that comes up again in this issue.  Initially, I couldn't figure out the connection to the Museum of Bar'leth, one of the two places where she returns the aforementioned artifacts.  I had to re-read issue #12 to realize Aphra returned some of the artifacts to the Shadow University and then clearly sold the rest of them to the Museum.  That's our Aphra.  I'm also not sure if I'm supposed to recognize this "Dukan," a name mentioned by a group of figures who accosts Aphra on the beach at the end of the issue.  (See her aforementioned inability to have a happy ending.)  I don't remember Aphra killing alone named Dukan before, but I guess we'll see.

Uncanny Avengers #28:  First, I have to thank Izaakse for finding an excuse to keep Johnny Storm in his underwear.  He's in them so often I was almost surprised to see him wearing honest-to-goodness clothes later in the issue.  Izaakse isn't just great when it comes to delivering Mr. Easy-on-the-Eyes Storm.  His panel work is really spectacular, and he uses a number of layouts that evoke the 1960s, just what a Legacy issue demands.  It's not just the artwork that invokes the Legacy idea.  Beast and Wonder Man meet at a Midtown bar to marvel at how they find themselves in such poor shape.  Beast is finally coming to terms with how he's let his uncontrolled ego push him into a series of bad decisions -- from bringing the original X-Men to the present to doing nothing to stop a fascist dictator from taking over America.  For his part, Wonder Man recounts his "dead/alive/angry/dead again/alive again/angry again" history, and it's a wonder he's not totally insane.  The duo find themselves stopping Whirlwind from escaping the police and decide (again, in keeping with the Legacy theme) to return to basics.  Zub is taking two great characters who Marvel has criminally misused, drawing a line under their past, and relaunching them into the present.  But, he doesn't stop there.  I was wondering a few issues ago why Jan wasn't leading this team, and she actually answers that question here. It's not because she isn't a leader; she just isn't the leader of this team.  She notes everyone looks to Rogue for leadership; in fact, they're all still on this officially disbanded team because of her.  It's 100% true, and I have to really applaud Zub for this insight into the characters.  As I've said before, this series to me is the Avengers series.  With Johnny suddenly coming into Reed's money and Dr. Voodoo summoning mini-Juggernauts to rebuild the Mansion, it's pretty clear we're on solid footing here for the foreseeable future.  Avengers assemble!

The Wild Storm:  Michael Cray #1:  Right off the bat, I’ll say the quality of this issue is notably different from “The Wild Storm.”  Not that the issue is bad, but everything about it — the writing, the art, etc. — feels like a copy of the original.  Michael gets his first assignment from Trelane:  he’s to infiltrate Oliver Queen’s “Sanctuary” and steal his technology.  Wait, The Wild Storm has its own Green Arrow, you ask?  Apparently.  He seems to be a variant of the television version, as all the details don’t exactly match:  for example, both his parents (not just his father) died in the shipwreck that left him stranded.  What’s the Sanctuary, you ask?  Well, I’m glad you did.  It’s a version of the island where he was stranded, where he plays “The Most Dangerous Game” to keep his skill sharp.  It’s not the only sign he’s insane.  His font is notably different:  rather than the regular font everyone else uses in The Wild Storm, he speaks in all-caps, italics, and quotations.  Trelane stresses she wants him for the technology, but notes Michael is a better person than she is, so he’ll probably want to stop Queen from killing veterans.  Along the way, we get a hint of Cray’s supernatural powers; whereas he destroyed Marlowe’s spur in “The Wild Storm’ #1, here he blows up a mouse living in his new house.  He's as sad as we are.

Youngblood #6:  Bowers advances the plot significantly here, though we don't really have any more answers than we did at the start of the issue.  The kids battle the Byrne gestalt while Badrock and Shaft (well, mostly Badrock, since Shaft is missing his arm) take on Diehard.  The kids realize they're in trouble when the gestalt eats one of the Chapel twins (though I'm not really sure if they're twins now, because the one getting eaten refers to the other one as "Chapel").  Badrock winds up throwing Diehard into the room where the gestalt is, and he's appalled when he sees the seemingly dead kids.  Badrock sacrifices himself to the gestalt, claiming he knows how to beat it after it connects to him and he's able to see its thinking.  The gestalt explodes, and Badrock emerges as a normal teenage boy.  Nine days later, we discover Man-Up is slave labor for some paramilitary leader in Morocco, and the team - comprising of Dolante, Supreme, Vogue, and the speedster whose name I can't remember -- arrives to rescue him.  I'm really enjoying this series, and I'm intrigued to see what happens with Badrock.  Is he now a cyborg like the Byrnes?  But, I also feel like I'm struggling to get a grip on everyone, because Bowers is more or less writing for the trade here.  I complained in a previous review that the extensive use of flashbacks in the first five issues made it difficult to follow the team coming together, and it's a problem I still can't remember one of the team members' names after six issues.  But, I was also excited by the advertisement announcing "Bloodstrike" coming in January 2018, so it's a limited complaint.

Also Read:  X-Men Blue #13

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 4 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Astonishing X-Men #4:  Detrimental to the story Soule is trying to tell, I’m not really sure what the criteria are for someone falling under the sway of Shadow King vice someone getting “saved” by Professor X.  Here, Fantomex, Gambit, Mystique, and Rogue all seem to embrace their hearts’ fondest desires, but it's Gambit who the Shadow King winds up possessing; Professor X is able to whisk away the other three.  It might seem nitpicky, but the whole point of this arc is Professor X and the Shadow King are playing chess for the X-Men's lives:  it would help if we understood the rules.  (It all feels more like checkers to me.)  But, we get a shirtless Angel with some chest hair here, so I’m not complaining all that much.

Avengers #672:  I stopped reading Waid’s run on this title because everyone was acting like assholes, and I have to say it’s unfortunately still true.  For a guy who just inspired Earth's mightiest heroes to unite against HYDRA, Falcon is a full-on jerk here, overruling Kamala like she’s a cadet Avenger.  Presumably at the end of this cross-over story everyone is going to learn something about respecting each other’s differences and seeing them as strengths, but it just makes me roll my eyes.  I'm intrigued a new satellite orbiting the Sun proved Counter-Earth doesn’t exist but also revealed a rift that belches a meteorite filled with an angry-looking bull dude at Earth.  You don’t see that every day.

Batman #32:  I really didn't like this story.  I mean, it says something when said story involves an artist as capable as Janín drawing Bruce in his tiny, tiny underwear all the damn time.  But, putting aside all the baggage, King delivers as close to a decent resolution as I could've imagined here.  First, Riddler reveals he engineered the entire war with Joker to get him to laugh.  It was the only interesting riddle left for him:  how do you make a Joker who doesn't laugh anymore laugh?  The answer was to create a foil like Kite Man and have him be the reason Riddler lost their war.  But, Joker doesn't laugh at this revelation, to Riddler's fury.  I loved the moment where Batman tries to interrupt Riddler's tirade and Riddler rebuffs him, telling him every story isn't about him.  (He also says they all don't kill him because he's fun, and it's probably as good of an answer to that existential question as I've heard.)  We now finally learn Bruce's deep dark secret:  he tried to kill Riddler in that moment.  He was so appalled Riddler callously killed Kite Man's son, whose last words to his father Bruce overheard, he couldn't take it anymore.  However, Joker stops the blade with his hand and finally laughs again.  Bruce is obsessed over this moment:  he tells Selena Joker "made" him because he "allowed" him (Batman) to be the guy on the right side of the line.  He asks Joker about it in Arkham and Joker tells him he'll understand why he did what he did when he understands the difference between a riddle and a joke (a confounding theme of this arc).  It's here where Selena shines and reminds us why Bruce loves her in the first place.  She tells him the answer:  who cares?  It's also her answer to Bruce's question if she can love him even though he tried to kill Riddler:  who cares?  Selena quite rightfully states that we're all the sum of our baggage.  If Joker made Batman, does it matter?  Is that all he really is?  This moment produces the single best page of the series since the two of them had sex under a starry night:  Selena has Bruce ask her to marry him again, but as a question and not a demand.  He asks.  She says yes.  I admit, I felt like a crowbar would immediately go through her, but hopefully the writers all do the unexpected and have them live happily ever after.  That would be something novel.

Batman:  White Knight #1:  Murphy does a solid job of selling us on a reformed Joker ready to take on Batman.  He has to use some sleights of hand to get there, but they mostly work.  He’s successful in doing so because everyone here is easily recognized.  Sure, Batman’s a little more violent than he is in “our” Universe, but we’ve seen him behave that way before.  As such, you can reasonably believe the set-up that starts the issue, of a careless and distant Batman single-mindedly pursuing Joker while Batgirl and Nightwing try to limit his impact on civilians.  The hand-waving part comes in the form of the pills Joker has Batman administer to him to “cure” him.  Here, Murphy is playing both sides.  On one hand, Joker seems pretty sane before he takes the pills.  He rails against Batman’s claim he doesn’t matter by stressing he only ever gave Bruce what he could handle.  In other words, he could’ve razed Gotham to the ground if he had wanted to do so, but he didn’t because he was really in it for the game.  The “cured” Jack Napier also echoes that sentiment.  He said he turned to crime from comedy because Gotham was a city so traumatized it couldn’t laugh; he had to start killing people to get a rise from it.  This continuity of thinking raises the question what exactly the pills cured.  The Joker we get here doesn’t seem like he’s suffering from a mental illness; he just seems like a guy whose moral code is different from everyone else’s.  Murphy might still reveal exactly that, so I’m not rushing to judgment.  After all, Napier’s first action is to sue Batman and Gotham for the disproportionate attack on him:  he stole a scooter, and, in chasing him, Batman drove a tank over rooftops, injured three construction workers as he blew past them, and knocked down the guard standing outside the factory where the pills were manufactured.  He then beat Joker senseless and administered the pills until Joker couldn’t breathe.  This lawsuit leaves the impression everything happening here is happening as part of a larger scheme; Joker might not be “cured” so much as playing a long game.  I’m definitely intrigued.

Darth Vader #6:  The Jedi at the end of this issue is so peaceful looking that I find myself wanting to cancel this series immediately.  After all, we’re about to watch Darth Vader and the Emperor’s Inquisitors stomp across the galaxy killing any Jedi who escaped their purge.  Soule and Camuncoli use this final image - of a Jedi petting her pet while sipping tea - as not only a sign of things to come but as a reminder of how completely Vader has embraced the Dark Side if he's willing to ruin this peace.

Hawkeye #11:  It’s rare for me to be 11 issues into a mystery and not feel confused.  Usually, I’m re-reading half the issues to try to remember all the breadcrumbs the writer left along the way.  But, Thompson has done a bang-up job of weaving enough clues into each issue that you remember where we’ve been and where we’re going.  As a result, Kate’s maturing in this issue feels hard won.  Thompson has revealed her father and Masque’s plans slowly but surely, even making sure to highlight areas where we’re not sure what the truth is, like whether Aggregate self-destructed or Masque detonated him lest he reveal his connection to her.  When Kate tears down her bulletin board and only tapes up the word, “Mom,” it isn’t cleaning the slate; it’s a sign we’ve moved onto the next chapter.

Iceman #6:  Grace almost went too far here with Judah, Bobby's love interest.  First, they meet cute.  Bobby and the Champions have assembled in Los Angeles to mourn Natasha, and this trip down memory lane leads Bobby to worry he's always just "trying stuff on to see what fits."  He returns to the college where Professor X sent him to get his accounting degree, and he buys some self-help books.  This part is fine.  In fact, Bobby's text conversation with Kitty revealing these concerns is really well scripted; it's a clever way to drag this information from Bobby "I don't talk about my feelings" Drake.  (This characteristic is a theme of the issue, with Bobby realizing a woman was building a Sentinel in her backyard just as Warren was trying to have a heart-to-heart conversation with him.)  At any rate, Bobby is reading his "Born to Gay" book on line to buy a new pair of sneakers, where he meets Judah.  (Bobby is into sneakers, apparently.  He also apparently wears size 12s.)  As Bobby said, Judah spouts the sort of cheesy lines Bobby would, and it pushes the boundaries of believability:  it's like watching a poorly written "Will and Grace" episode.  (He tells Bobby he can teach him more about being gay than a book (sigh) and invites Bobby to a WeHo bar that night.  Here, we go from poorly written "Will and Grace" to even worse written "Queer as Folk.")  But, Grace pulls out a win when he has Judah kiss Bobby on a dance floor and then admit he's tired of the teacher/student shtick.  He tells Bobby he only goes to a bar twice a year, and he invites him to his place to talk.  But, as usual, Bobby has to X-Man as the aforementioned Sentinels attack.  (The woman building the Sentinels is trying to go from building weapons for super-villains to running her own prop company.  Bobby and Warren's appearance in her backyard earlier that day inspired her to have the Sentinels attack the X-Men to drum up business.)  Initially, I felt like Grace was moving Bobby too fast here.  Most of us don't have a remarkably handsome guy pluck us off the streets of Los Angeles and usher us into gay life in a West Hollywood club.  But, as Judah himself says, most of us don't have Bobby's arms.  That said, the more I thought about it, the more similar it was to my own story.  You just have a moment where you throw on your light and get out there, making stuff happen.  See, I was all cynical until I realized Grace really knew what he was doing here.  Grace and Thompson on "Hawkeye" are really working on making Bobby and Kate Peter Parker's heirs, focusing as much, if not more, on their personal lives as their superheroing.  I'd really be quite happy for Bobby to stay in Los Angeles, and I can't wait to see where we go from here.

Nightwing #30:  I get why Raptor decided to announce his presence in Blüdhaven by attacking a Paul Ryan analogue.  After all, Dick would quickly put two and two together when someone attacked a blue-blood politician making a name for himself by cutting health-care benefits for the poor.  (That said, Higgins should leave the politics to Spencer.)  I don’t get why (or even if) Raptor involved the Kobra Lanceheads, since they’re apparently a chaos cult seeking to sow discord.  Blüdhaven politics seems a little...specific for them.  Dick is confused, too, though, so I get the sense Higgins will get there.  But, I don’t understand what the point of Raptor revealing himself to Dick is or why, as Dick himself wonders, he’s suddenly willing to risk the lives of blue-collar workers.  (Sure, he knew Dick would save the waitress he slung over the balcony to buy him time to escape, but, as Dick says, the Raptor we've previously seen wouldn’t risk it.  He’s usually so confident he wouldn’t need an escape; he’d just beat Dick silly and leave.  Why the ruse?)  I also don’t understand why the Run-Offs are wearing their super-villain costumes for their group meeting about not being super-villains.  I really don’t understand why Dick tells himself he can’t endanger his friends in trying to find Raptor when, in reality, his friends (including Detective Svoboda) rejected him.  Whatever.  Hopefully we'll just wrap up this arc soon.

Spider-Man #21:  Huh.  It turns out Cable, not Jefferson, gave Miles the suit.  Apparently Cable is a spy now?  He seems to be starting his own agency to fill the hole S.H.I.E.L.D. left.  I guess it's cool, but it feels forced to me. In fact, it feels like Bendis had an extended stay in Japan planned for Miles, but he was forced to cut it short because of the Legacy re-launch.  Tomoe was an interesting character, and she seemed to have a vision for her relationship with Miles.  Bendis made it clear Miles was also intrigued as he uses flashbacks to show how Miles' Uncle Aaron taught him not to lie to girls.  But, Miles somehow knows Tomoe is queen of the Japanese underworld, despite the fact I'm not entirely sure how he knows that.  OK, the underground casino is probably a solid hint, but a lot of people who aren't queens of the Japanese underworld run underground casinos.  Miles eventually calls his father and discovers Jefferson didn't give him a tuxedo.  Somehow, he winds up finding himself in conflict with Tomoe, who declares he can't leave the building alive.  It's all very...sudden.

Star Wars #37:  Based on Gillen's name appearing on the cover for next issue, this issue appears to be the last one for Jason Aaron, and he doesn't waste it.  He somehow manages to tour his greatest hits, reminding us just how brutal this galaxy far, far away really was.  It's one of the few times I'm sad we don't get a valedictory letter from a departing author, because I'd love to get Aaron's thoughts on his run.  But, I guess his work speaks for itself, really.  He reminds us how dedicated both sides are as Kreel and his men seek to redeem themselves in Vader's eyes by destroying a Rebel outpost on Horox III.  Kreel is fanatical in his devotion to the cause, a fanaticism stoked not only by enjoying the faith Vader shows in him by allowing him to keep his lightsaber but also by finding himself in the Emperor's presence when he comes to speak with Vader.  We get an amazing sequence where he's basically the Empire's own action hero as he and his colleagues take out the Rebel base.  Aaron also keeps his face hidden from us, even as he sits on his victims without his helmet.  Kreel believes the Empire brings protection, and SCAR Squadron's victory here hopefully means he'll continue to be a presence in this series.  But, Aaron reminds us the other side is just as dedicated as our crew (with Sana) arrives at the remains of the Rebel base, appalled by the brutality.  Kreel and Sana are probably Aaron's greatest contributions to the Star Wars mythos.  Given we don't see them in the movies (yet), it's clear their fates lie somewhere else, and I honestly find those stories enthralling.  Aaron concludes with a final entry from the "Journals of old Ben Kenobi."  Sorrentino's indistinct lines are the perfect choice for this dark story of an orphaned Tusken Raider trying to survive on Tatooine.  Ben provides a helping hand, and Aaron reminds us one last time just how difficult the lives of every day people in this galaxy are.  Although I didn't really like Chuck Wendig's "Aftermath" novel, this story reminds me how many opportunities we're getting to see these sorts of stories.   Thanks, Jason Aaron, for your amazing contribution to that effort, bringing life to Star Wars that I didn't think possible.  You come back now, ya hear?

Also Read:  Batman:  The Dawnbreaker #1; Journey to Star Wars:  The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma #3; X-Men Gold #13

Friday, November 24, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The September 27 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman:  The Murder Machine #1:  So far these "Dark Nights: Metal" tie-in issues haven't been too bad, despite my initial skepticism.  In this issue, Tieri contemplates a pretty compelling "What if..." scenario, as Bruce is desperate to resurrect Alfred after Bane and a bunch of criminals kill him looking for Batman.  Cyborg helps Bruce complete and launch an artificial-intelligence version of Alfred, but they quickly lose control as Alfred starts eliminating everyone "he" deems a threat to Bruce.  (It's a long list.)  Cyborg begs Bruce to destroy "Alfred," but he can't bring himself to do it.  He's quickly overrun, joining with "Alfred" to become the titular murder machine.  He comes to our world for the same reason every other Dark Batman did, furious his Earth was condemned to die when the Light Universe's Earths gets to live.  He makes short work of Cyborg in the Watchtower, allowing him access to S.T.A.R. Lab's computer system and thus Detroit.  (The Dark Batmen seem intent on destroying the Justice League members' home cities, for reasons I don't entirely understand.)  Not only is the plot solid, but Tieri really makes you feel like you're reading a story that could happen on "our" Earth.  The story is really anchored in the characters themselves, and this accurate characterization make the story intuitively believable.

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #8:  Hornet and Ricochet represent one of the darker times for me in collecting comics, when you had to collect all four ongoing Spider-Man series to have any idea what the story was.  I was only collecting "Amazing Spider-Man" at the time, so Wikipedia tells me I only have a quarter of the "Identity Crisis" cross-over story.  In that story, Peter Parker -- for reasons I'll guess didn't make any more sense then than they do now -- had to adopt the identities of Hornet and Ricochet as well as two other characters.  I was dimly aware other people later took up these identities at some point, though I have no idea how it happened.  The good news is it doesn't really matter.  Peter David works his magic, making these characters his own.  Moreover, he does it in a setting I can't remember happening before:  the ruins of a city destroyed in a cross-over event.  The Hornet appears here because a rival casino owner claims Cassandra Nova is hoarding food for her guests; he hires the Hornet to intercept a shipment destined for her.  Marvel has destroyed many cities in its day.  Remember when the Winter Solider detonated a bomb in Philadelphia?  Or when Kang killed everyone in Washington, DC?  These developments are generally ignored after the event ends because those cities are generally ignored; presumably, if someone leveled New York, we'd have a problem.  But, here, we're seeing a devastated Las Vegas through Ben's eyes.  He still has to figure out a way to save Cassandra's daughter, but he also seems to have ample opportunities here, in a city full of desperate need, to win back some Soul Points (TM).  When you add in Kaine, furious Ben got a second chance (and handsome face) he doesn't deserve, David has a lot of potential stories to cover.  In that way, his soft reboot of this series last issue is already paying dividends, and I'd encourage anyone avoiding this series because of its lingering connection to "The Clone Conspiracy" to jump on board.

Detective Comics #965:  OK, we have a lot going on here.  We open with Tim going over his origin story with his jailer, and Tynion outright ignores "Teen Titans" #0 in so doing.  Hurrah!  If you recall, that issue ret-conned Tim's origin so that Bruce wound up telling Tim he was Batman (as opposed to Tim deducing Bruce and Dick were Batman and Robin).  To underscore the point, Barrows essentially redraws parts of "A Lonely Place of Dying," making it clear the past is once again the past.  But, Tynion isn't just fanwanking us.  Tim has this discussion with Mr. Oz because Oz reminds him he believe Bruce needs people, the core tenet of "A Lonely Place of Dying."  Then, he tried to get Dick to return to Bruce's side to keep him from going over the edge; now, he created the Nest to achieve this goal.  But, Mr. Oz is skeptical Tim can leave it to someone else to play this role; he believes Tim needs to be actively involved and questions whether his decision to leave the team would stick.  But, we barely have time to process this discussion as Tynion reveals Mr. Oz is Jor-El.  However, Jor-El implies he wasn't really Tim's jailer as he, too, had been a prisoner in the place where Tim is held.  If I'm reading between the lines, he's telling us Dr. Manhattan imprisoned him.  Jor-El leaves to plot against (presumably) Dr. Manhattan (thus more or less confirming he wasn't really there to jail Tim, since he leaves him free).  Tim sends a distress signal to Gotham, and Batman answers it; Tim is surprised when he tells him to free him, since he's a prisoner, too.  Tim does so, but he encounters a Batman he didn't expect:  it's a future version of himself.  Before he left, Jor-El told Tim his future was dark and encouraged him to give up his costumed life, no matter how much it called to him.  It's easy to see why he felt that way, as this Tim is d-a-r-k:  he's even packing the gun that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne.  But, Tim may not have to worry about his destiny much longer, since they might both be dead soon:  Tim apparently not only freed his future self from his prison cell, but also Doomsday.  Dun-dun-DUN!  This series has been a little rocky lately, but I have to say Tynion reminds me why it's generally been my favorite Batman series on this stands for the past few years.  We have a plot working on multiple levels, enough action to balance out the talky bits, and insightful characterization that advances the story.  Great stuff from start to finish.

Generations:  Miles Morales and Peter Parker #1:  I didn't expect this issue to be good.  Miles and Peter interact so frequently it was hard to see how Bendis had anything new to say about their relationship.  But, he really nails it.  Miles is sent to the day "Amazing Spider-Man" #33 happened, when Peter pushes the building off himself to save Aunt May.  Bendis does a number of great things here.  First, he gives us insight into Peter Lee and Ditko, because of the way comics were written then, didn't have a chance to convey.  Peter confesses to Miles it was the first time he really thought he'd die, and Bendis infuses this emotion throughout the issue.  Peter is jittery, not only because he's waiting to hear if the serum he swiped from Dr. Octopus cured Aunt May, but because he's barely had a moment to consider his brush with death.  Second, Bendis really nails the Peter of this era:  he's angry, overwhelmed, whiny.  It's one of the things that really leaps off the page at you when you read the first few "Amazing Spider-Man" issues; Bendis perfectly captures that tone here.  Finally, perhaps the best part is Miles' realization how personal Spider-Man is to Peter.  He's seen how much Peter struggled in those early days to keep everything together, and he realizes how much he sacrificed to be where he is today.  Bendis has seemed on track to have Miles decide not to be Spider-Man anymore.  Before this issue, it felt artificial, like an editorial mandate.  But, here, he really gives this movement the emotional heft it needed.  I highly recommend it (and I can't believe I'm saying that).

Generations:  Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers #1:  Nick Spencer says his good-bye to Captain America here, and it's exactly what you'd hope it would be.  Unlike everyone else, Sam lives a full life at the Vanishing Point, from serving alongside Steve as the "Man in the Air" during the War to becoming a pastor in North Carolina with a family of his own.  Spencer essentially answers the question that has often plagued Sam during his costumed career, namely the path untaken.  With that path lived, Sam stands as a new man, one ready, as he says, to forge his own legacy.  "Generations" started rockily for me, with the lackluster Jean Grey entry, but it's really rebounded since then.  This issue in particular works as a way for Sam to take stock of his life and focus on the legacy he wants to leave, the reason (to his mind) why Kobik sent them all to the Vanishing Point in the first place.  Marvel seems to have its head in the game for this Legacy relaunch, and my fears that it's just going to lead to a whitewashing -- literally -- of the progress we've seen over the last few years have been more or less allayed.

Marvel Legacy #1:  This issue isn't as bad as some of its analogues have been in previous years.  That might sound like faint praise, but it's not.  It's hard to pull off these sort of kitchen-sink issues:  the author not only has to juggle multiple characters, but he has to do so in a way that hints at their future without really revealing anything.  It's not a recipe for a satisfying read.  But, Aaron does his best here, and he helps himself by keeping us focused on two major threats:  the Final Host and an Infinity Gem.  The A story involves a group of Paleolithic Avengers led by Odin beating down a Celestial; said Celestial is now awakening to call for the Final Host to scour Earth.  It's a threat that's been looming over the Marvel Universe ever since I've started reading it, and I honestly can't quite believe we might see it come to fruition.  The B story involves not only Logan's resurrection [yawn] but also his recovery of the Mind Gem.  Speaking of resurrections, Marvel has been hinting on the margins about Jean Grey's return, and Phoenix's involvement in the Paleolithic Avengers certainly adds fuel to that fire.  [Heh.]  However, Aaron is obligated to throw in a lot more here, so we also have Starbrand fighting the new Ghost Rider and Cap, Ironheart, and Thor fighting the Frost Giants Loki sent to retrieve the Mind Gem.  Overall, though, it's all about the Celestials, and we'll see if Marvel rushes that story or if it's going to loom over us for a good long while, like Hope Summers loomed over the X-Men after "Messiah Complex."

Nightwing:  The New Order #2:  This issue is similar to "Detective Comics" #965, as Higgins uses an excellent sense of the characters to advance the plot.  Jake has been hiding his powers from his father for close to three years, afraid his father would think he was "bad" since Jake understood his father saw superpowers as "bad."  Dick is devastated to learn from Mr. Terrific that inhibitors won't work, and Dick swears to Alfred he won't allow Jake to go into stasis.  He hopes to use his connections to get Jake an exemption and waved onto "the League," but it's too late:  Jake has clearly tripped the scanners, and the Crusaders appear at their door.  In the best moment, Alfred stands in front of Jake with a bat, refusing to let the Crusaders get to him (something his father didn't have the courage to do).  Dick pleads with Alfred to stand down, but Alfred refuses, saying they're in this mess because too many people have stood down.  Damn straight, Alfred.  One of the Crusaders kills Alfred and Dick is escorted from his home as his son is removed in chains.  Maybe siding with the Man wasn't such a great idea, huh, Dick?

Spider-Gwen #24:  Latour makes us wait (impatiently) for Gwenom to debut as the symbiote (logically) bonds with Logan first.  But, when Logan activates the sonic-wave device he usually uses to prevent Kitty from phasing, everyone learns an important lesson about the symbiote's weakness.  Gwen and Kitty work together to phase Logan from the symbiote, and Gwen is left as the only suitable host after Kitty high-tails it from the scene with Logan in tow.  Of course, Matt Murdoch arrives just in time to show Gwen her comatose father, and the symbiote helps stoke her rage, leading her to attack the cops meant to guard George.  I don't think it's going to be a smooth ride for Gwen for the next few issues.

Also Read:  Batman Day Special Edition #1; Mighty Thor #23; Pathfinder:  Runescars #5; Rebels:  These Free and Independent States #7; X-Men Blue #12

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The September 20 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #31:  OMG, I'm just over this "event."  Kite-Man helps Batman fly Riddler and his army into the skyscraper where Joker is hiding.  But, Kite-Man is working with Batman!  Surprise!  [Yawn.]  He immediately activates a secret parachute system that whisks away everyone but Batman and Riddler.  (If you're wondering why Batman agreed to this scheme in the first place, given he whisked away the army right after delivering them, it's because Riddler insisted on bringing them with him.  I'm not sure why, but it is what it is.)  At any rate, it's Batman versus Joker versus Riddler.  Sure, whatever.  Apparently we're finally going to learn what Bruce did that's so awful Catwoman won't marry him.  [Sigh.]

Batman:  The Red Death #1:  As I feared, this tie-in issue feels very tie-in issue-y.  The premise of this event appears to be that an agent of Barbatos has brought the seven most dangerous Batmen of the Dark Multiverse to the Light Multiverse to save them.  If I understand correctly, the Dark Multiverse mirrors the Light Multiverse (no surprise there), with 52 versions of Earth.  But, something about the Dark Multiverse makes these Earths less stable:  they're destined to die.  The doorway Barbatos opened through Batman in "Dark Nights:  Metal" #2 allows these seven Batmen to enter the Light Multiverse before their Earths die.  At this point, it's unclear if he has a plan for them beyond just allowing them to survive, but we'll see.  In this issue, the Batman of Earth -52 has stolen the Rogues' powers in order to steal the Speed Force from the Flash.  Jason, Tim, Dick, and Damian have all been killed, and it's clearly driven this Batman over the edge.  He's seeking more power to save not only Gotham but the world.  Batman eventually captures Flash and connects him to the Batmobile, using it like the Cosmic Treadmill.  Despite Flash's warning, he tries to enter the Speed Force.  He partially succeeds:  he's now the dominant partner in a shared body with Flash, like Firestorm.  He then goes on a killing spree and happily takes up Barbatos' agent's offer to travel to Earth Zero.  Again, I'm not really sure what Barbatos' plan is.  Is it chaos just for chaos' sake?  I guess we'll see.

Generations:  Ms. Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1:  This issue is even better than the “Hawkeye and Hawkeye” one.  It proves the concept:  a way to get fresh eyes on our heroes.  Kamala beautifully summarizes her fight with Carol in the present as Carol wanting peace and order but Kamala wanting to know who takes the peace and who gets the orders.  Somehow, she realizes she can reconcile those two positions when she writes make-up tips for protesters, saving “Woman” magazine from getting sold to the Shi’ar.  (It’s less crazy than it sounds.)  I’m not quite sure how it shows Kamala has reconciled Carol’s black-and-white view of peace and order with her own view, but I’m not going to let it get in the way of my enjoyment of the story.  Willow is supported by an excellent Villanelli who delivers an appearance by a divinely handsome Peter Parker.  I wouldn’t recommend many “Generations” issues, but I’d recommend this one.  (I'd also like to get Villanelli on a Spider-Man title, stat!)

Nightwing #29 ("Dark Nights:  Gotham Resistance" #2):  I'm not going to buy three other issues just to complete this mini-series within a mini-series, but I have to admit this issue is solid.  Leading a hodgepodge team of Suicide Squad and Teen Titans members, Nightwing tries to liberate a frozen Gotham from Mr. Freeze.  Freeze himself has been installed by the Batman who Laughs, who I believe is Barbatos' agent from "Batman:  The Red Death" #1.  Along the way, the wound Deathwing delivered to him in "Nightwing Must Die!" reopens.  Dick thinks about the electrum the Court of Owls infused in him as it prepared him to be a Talon, and he wonders if he is Barbatos' weapon to Bruce's doorway.  Seeley does a solid job of focusing on characterization throughout this issue despite being saddled with delivering a tie-in issue.  Dick's sotto voce assurances to Damian that they'll find Bruce are a great reminder of who they are as a duo, and Seeley conveys the gravity of the situation by making even Dick question whether he's really capable of filling Batman's shoes this time.

Spider-Men II #3:  Despite pet peeve #2 rearing its ugly head here, Miles Morales doesn’t fight his Prime Earth doppelganger in this issue.  Instead, we see how “our” Miles Morales (if you will) becomes friends with Wilson Fisk in prison, earning the respect of the mob family for whom Fisk is an enforcer by serving time for his own cousin.  When Fisk eventually takes over said family, Morales is right at his side.  Eventually, he falls in love, and Wilson offers to grant his greatest wish; Miles says he wants to “disappear” from this world with his girlfriend.  It implies somehow “our” Miles Morales actually did go to another world, but it doesn’t explain what Peter found when he Googled Miles’ name at the end of the original “Spider-Men."  I can’t say I really care about the answer, but in for a penny in for a pound.

U.S.Avengers #10:  I quit this book once, but I returned mostly because it plays a fairly significant role in cross-over events.  With “Secret Empire” behind us, Ewing tries to justify the team’s existence yet again.  This time, Toni’s speech to herself in her cell during "Secret Empire" has inspired A.I.M.’s scientists to embrace their core mission of pushing science to its limits.  Ewing strikes a political tone in doing so, as one of the scientists observes that science is on the outs right now in American political discourse; underscoring that point, the new A.I.M. liaison is a combination of Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions.  I can’t say I’m all that enthralled.  But, the next few issues seem to focus on Cannonball, as Smasher finds Roberto to tell him Sam is alive and needs help.  I’m really only here for Cannonball, so I guess I’ll keep going for at least a few more issues.

The Wild Storm #7:  This issue is talky, but it’s talky because Ellis takes the chance to recap what we know.  It’s not a terrible idea; we have a lot happening, after all.  I remember mostly everything except the fact Cray set off the “xenobiological alarm” when he attacked Marlowe and partially dissolved Marlowe's “spur,” seemingly confirming he’s also an alien.  The biggest new development involves a player called John Colt.  He’s a Wild C.A.T. spy in IO, and he sets off alarms when the device Kenesha developed for him finally breaks through IO's digital firewalls.  In a really spectacular sequence, he fights through waves of IO guards to find a broom closet where Adriana can evack him without revealing her presence (and the team’s means of transportation).  At the Wild C.A.T.s' HQ, Colt is explaining how IO is working on machine telepathy when a bleeding Angie walks into the room.  She scans him, revealing to herself he’s also an alien.  Later, when Marlowe talks to Angie to calm her down a bit, she reveals Colt, Kenesha, and Marlowe are not only all aliens, but they’re all different from each other.  The other new development is the team admitting they don't understand why IO went after Marlowe.  Clay was using polonium, which they agree would’ve sent Marlowe to the hospital for “medical intervention and an autopsy.”  Colt doesn’t think IO normally would risk that, since it would reveal to the world at large that aliens walk among us.  Why didn't they kill him immediately?  But, Clay doesn’t have another theory on what IO was actually doing.  He’s more concerned Marlowe revealed his spur.  Curiouser and curiouser.  As I said, Ellis uses a lot of narration in this issue, but he pulls it off well, mostly due to Davis-Hunt’s staging.  The conversation between the team about Marlowe happens in a living room, and Davis-Hunt has carefully put them in conversational positions that switch organically as the conversation progresses.  It makes you forget you’re reading a comic and not just watching a group of people talk.  It’s why the narration doesn’t feel heavy and why Ellis and Davis-Hunt are possibly the best team in comics right now.

Also Read:  Bloodshot:  Salvation #1; Journey to Star Wars:  The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma #2; Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #4; Star Wars Annual #3; X-Men Gold #12

Friday, November 17, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The September 13 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Dark Nights:  Metal #2:  Snyder takes us on a tour of Batman’s recent history, and he's largely successful in making connections between stories we haven't previously seen.  It's not perfect, but it's still impressive.

Barbatos first took notice of Bruce when Darkseid’s Omega Sanction sent him into the past (see "The Return of Bruce Wayne"), and Barbatos decided Bruce would be the perfect doorway to the Light Universe.  (I'm not sure why he thought that, since it seems sort of inevitable Bruce would fight against Barbatos using him that way.  But, let's just take it as a fact.)  The Court of Owls is revealed to be the Judas Tribe, or the Tribe that betrayed the Bird Tribe.  (Again, I'm not sure we learn why they betrayed the Bird Tribe, but I feel like it's pretty clear we're supposed to believe Barbatos himself corrupted them.)  As devoted Bat Tribe members, the Court helped Barbatos prepare Bruce for serving as the doorway by treating him with four of the five metals necessary to open the portal.  First, they exposed him to electrum in "Court of Owls" ("Batman" #5, I believe) and then dionesium in "Endgame" ("Batman" #40).  Then, Bruce exposed himself to promethium in "Batman" #49, when he returned his memories, and the Nth metal in "Dark Days:  The Casting" #1, when he activated the device Krona built to see into the Universe's origin.  (When Krona did so, he apparently saw a black hand reaching toward him.  Creepy.)  I’ll admit, I don’t really remember any mention of Bruce using promethium to bring back his memories, but I’m willing to let it go, given everything else here is pretty tight (and gets tighter).

As Bruce frantically relates to Superman when he and Wonder Woman finally locate him, he realized he only needed coating with one more metal before Barbatos could enter our world.  (Again, I'm not really sure how Bruce got all this information about the metals, but I'm assuming it has something to do with Carter's diary.)  To prevent this possibility, Bruce heads to the Temple of Khufu where he intends to use baby Darkseid (really) to Omega Sanction himself into the past and take on Barbatos with Hawkman’s mace, which defeated him once.  (I don't really remember us learning Hawkman defeated Barbatos, and I'm pretty sure he's trapped in the Dark Universe.  But, bygones.)  However, Bruce's plan goes awry when the Court reveals they knew Carter’s journal was in Wayne Manor (...though somehow don't know Bruce is Batman).  As such, the Court altered the text to show the location not of the Temple of Khufu, but the Temple of Hath Set.  Dun-dun-DUN!  Barbatos’ minions seize Bruce, and they coat him with the fifth metal:  Geri Powers' batmanium. (Like I said, the story got tighter.)  The doorway opens and dark versions of Batman pour into our Universe.

In other words, so far, so good.  Although Snyder might not connect all the dots for us, he leaves us enough dots for us to be able to draw our own conclusions.  Where he does connect them, the picture makes perfect sense.  Also, it's just sort of fun.  I don't know how he manages that, given how grim of a topic it is, but I think it's mostly due to the art, as Glapion infuses everything with enough cartoon color to encourage you not to take it all too seriously.  For a cross-over event, they're doing pretty well so far.

Secret Empire Omega #1:  SO.  MUCH.  TALKING.

I didn’t really clock that Captain Nazi was still alive at the end of “Secret Empire.”  It’s right there, but I had other things on my mind at the time.  Here, Steve makes his way to the hole where they’re keeping Captain Nazi to confront the man who damaged his reputation so.  If Spencer falters at all here, it’s in his portrayal of Captain Nazi as a more dedicated fascist than the one we saw over the course of the series.  Captain Nazi has always been portrayed as having doubts about his path, though the man we see here is unrepentant.  Maybe his failure and the death of Elisa have steeled his resolve and finally made him a firm believer in the darker side of the cause, but it's a notable shift in his attitude Spencer doesn't really explain.

At any rate, Steve half-heartedly calls Captain Nazi on his bullshit:  Captain Nazi asserts he didn’t do anything the U.S. government didn't authorize him to do as part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Act, but Steve dismisses this legalistic argument as hardly acceptable given his destruction of Las Vegas and murder of Jack Flag and Rick Jones.  Captain Nazi more or less asks why Steve is there, and Steve tells the story of a young boy who hesitated in fear when Steve tried to help him from the rubble of Washington, DC.  But, it’s not really that compelling of a reason, and Captain Nazi concludes Steve’s simply fascinated with the path untaken.  Captain Nazi is at his most persuasive when he tells Steve he underestimates the millions of people who whole-heartedly embraced HYDRA.  Spencer is at his best here, reminding us we can’t dismiss torch-bearing racists as easily as we’d like. Spencer wraps up the issue with a guard whispering “Hail HYDRA” in Captain Nazi’s ear, a promise to the reader we’ll hear from him again.

The problem is I'm not sure I care.  This part of the story more or less mirrors "Captain America" #350, where the Red Skull embedded his consciousness in a cloned version of Steve’s body.  I wouldn't be surprised if we see some accident burning away Captain Nazi's face, turning him into the new Skull.  But, I hope Marvel doesn't go that route.  Captain Nazi isn't wrong when he says HYDRA has changed:  as he says, it will no longer see conquering the world as getting the chance to rule it, but regaining a rule HYDRA once had.  Marvel has the opportunity to stop using HYDRA as just another incompetent terrorist organization, but a legitimate threat to the established political order.  If Marvel does that, "Secret Empire" will have really changed the game, Captain Nazi's continued existence aside.  That story would be a lot scary if we didn't have a warmed-over Red Skull redux leading the charge, but instead a new character (preferably a Millennial)  who speaks to those people who embraced HYDRA.

Overall, is this issue necessary?  No, not really.  But, it does remind us Marvel has allowed "Secret Empire" to legitimately change the game (with the possibility of changing it even more).  It's a rare cross-over event that does that, so I'll let Marvel have its victory lap.

Amazing Spider-Man #32:  Every once in a while, Slott turns in an issue that reminds us what he can do when he focuses on the story in front of him and not whatever overarching drama he’s trying to sell us.  In this one-and-done issue, we tour Norman Osborn’s soul.  The nanites Peter injected into him are successfully preventing the Goblin Serum from bonding with Norman's DNA, and he’s desperate to solve that problem.  An acupuncturist sends him to the Temple of No Name, and, in his first test, he’s revealed to possess great potential for the mystic arts.  (His comment that he always tests well made me LOL.)  Slott is uncharacteristically good at the details here.  Rather than let the similarity to other characters’ journeys go unmentioned, Norman makes exactly this observation to one of his three masters.  The master in turn observes certain patterns repeat themselves, but the details are specific to the person:  Norman’s struggle might be similar to Dr. Strange’s or Baron Mordo’s, but how it manifests and resolves itself is uniquely his path.  In the end, Norma rejects his totem animal (a tiger) and chooses the goblin instead.  He summons Spider-Man and defeats him.  But, when he kills him, he reveals himself to be a monster, appalling the three masters.  It’s here where Slott unveils his cleverest trick:  this entire sequence has actually been that first test, one that Norman failed.  The masters expel him, noting they’ll warn all the other orders about him. But, Norman, in typical Norman fashion, is undeterred, since the test revealed the Goblin is still somewhere inside him.  As I said, the copious details and thoughtful storybuilding are rare for Slott:  no loose ends, no deus ex machina, no miracle save.  If only we saw this Dan Slott more often...

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #7:  I’m not usually a fan of cosmic interference in storylines, but David’s literal deus ex machina here really works.  Marlo is revealed to be Death, and she’s visiting Ben because he’s special:  he’s died the most times of anyone in the Universe, and his soul is blackened and cracked.  Death is interested in him since he seems to be on a path to redemption, and she’s intrigued by his journey to fix his soul.  She assures him he can, but it will take time.  (I really hope we get some sort of soul meter at the end of every issue.)  Ben tries to convince her to bring back Abigail and Kaine, but she wants him to pick one.  He chooses himself (to even the scales), but she refuses.  He attacks her, and it’s clear he only wants her to kill him because he just can’t live with himself anymore.  It’s an emotional moment, but it ends with Death laughing, something (as you can imagine) she had assured us she didn’t really do.  Refreshed after this interaction with a mortal, she grants Ben’s wish.  (It’s interesting to note here not even his seemingly altruistic push for Kaine to be resurrected is totally heroic:  after all, he’s also somewhat suicidal.  It’s a reminder that David may have put Ben on the path to repairing his soul, but the asshole he was as the Jackal is still in there somewhere.)  Death even does him one better:  his face is fully healed.  This part is probably the most controversial one.  In terms of the larger story David is telling, neither Abigail nor Kaine needed to die, so returning them to life doesn’t really affect it.  But, I think most of us probably expected the degenerative disease Ben had to be more of a focus, a sort of race against time as Ben tried to cure it.  But, whatever.  I’m on board with David taking it off the board.  It’s really the last hangover of “The Clone Conspiracy,” and I feel like we’re on secure footing now.  Ben is Ben (if still a little damaged), and he’s on a quest to save his soul, with Kaine nipping at his heels.  That’s a story I’m interested in reading.

Detective Comics #964:  This issue feels like Tynion was told he had to wrap up the story three issues early.  In fact, it’s even worse than that.  On several occasions, developments just happen for no apparent reason:  Batman suddenly (like, literally, he appears from nowhere) confronts Anarky, Anarky reveals he built his Utopia with the First Victim from the Victim’s Syndicate, Anarky kisses Spoiler, etc.  It all just doesn’t make any sense.  At one point, Spoiler complains Anarky is always mansplaining everything to her, but I’m pretty sure they’ve only known each other, like, an hour.  I mean, sure, I’m totally on board with her kicking his ass for being an asshole, but I don’t understand the sense of familiarity she allegedly feels for him.  Also, I don’t get why he’s such a threat to Batman.  OK, the First Victim was sort of a terrorist.  But, the only thing of which Anarky seems to be guilty is wanting his Utopia to conform with his vision.  Um, isn’t that kind of OK?  Like, yes, it makes him an egomaniac, but does it make him a terrorist?  Batman arrests him and incarcerates him here, but I have absolutely no idea what the charges are.  Monologuing?  It's all just weird.

Generations:  Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1:  Why do I keep falling for Marvel’s tricks and buying these issues when I know they won’t be good?  WHY?

The Realm #1:  Holy shit, I can't remember being more excited about a comic after a first issue in ages!  As one of the pull quotes says, it's like "Dungeons and Dragons" meeting "The Road."  But, it's more than that.  Peck and Haun manage to give us a raft of great characters, most notably Will Nolan, our protagonist.  But, we'll get to that.

Starting first with the setting, we're witness to two new realities on Earth:  some sort of apocalyptic event has largely destroyed it, and said event apparently involved dragons, orc, and sorcerers.  We're given a peek at those forces when we see a sorcerer in a floating citadel engage in human sacrifice to commune with his dark god.  But, it's a brief interlude.  Mostly, our focus is on Nolan, who guides people through dangerous territory in the broken United States.  Nolan's client, King, is killed by Sasha, the woman King hired Nolan to bring to him.  King told Nolan that Sasha was his daughter, but it turns out she was really someone King traded for antibiotics that proved to be fake.  It's unclear to me if Nolan knew Sasha was going to kill King or if she just took advantage of the situation when King had his men try to kill Nolan instead of paying him.  If it's the former, I'm intrigued, since it implies Nolan is more than just a guide.   In the end, Sasha says they're even, but I'm not sure if it's because she saved Nolan's life or if she paid off a debt to Nolan by killing King for him.  Either way, she tells him he'll have to pay the toll like everyone else the next time he crosses her domain, and you get a good sense of the sort of place the Realm is.

Nolan returns to what seems to be home, where he meets with Marcus, his agent, if you will.  They're close (maybe very close), and it's good to see.  Often, in these sort of stories, the protagonist is a hardened loaner, but Peck and Haun make Nolan an even more interesting character by avoiding that trope.  (On a side note, I can't wait to learn more about the toothbrushes that seem to be the Realm's currency.)  At any rate, Marcus sends Nolan to meet with Molly and her colleague:  they want to hire Nolan to escort them and two scientists to Kansas City.  Here, we're introduced to Rook, a gimp-looking spy Nolan uses to make sure his clients are on the up and up.  Finally, we're privy to a dream Nolan has, where the blackness that covers his arm starts spreading across his body, turning him into a demon.  He awakens, shaken.

In other words, damn, this issue has a lot happening.  But, it's all so well paced and scripted, it leaves you wanting more.  I can't remember a series more clearly creating such fully realized characters in just one issue, not even "Reborn."  Peck and Haun pay extra close attention to detail throughout the issue:  the uneven lines Haun uses to create panels conveys how chaotic this world is.  It conveys how carefully they've constructed this world and story, and I can't wait for the next issue.

Titans #15:  I'm just not sure where Abnett is going here.  Does he really think we're going to believe he's killing off Wally so soon after Wally returned?  He must, because he keeps putting him in situations where he appears to die.  But, since it's hard to believe it's going to stick, it doesn't have the impact he seems to want it to have.  (Plus, he keeps doing it over and over again.)  Then, you've got the fact that pretty much everyone on the team has been "the traitor" at one point.  The tagline for next issue is yet again, "The traitor revealed!"  It might as well add, "No, really, seriously, we mean it this time."  At this stage, I'm not even sure what the traitor is allegedly doing.  I mean, we have some sort of force taking control of Psimon, but it's apparently Lilith who'll ultimately be the threat?  Does that mean the "force" will eventually take over her?  Also, what does any of that have to do with H.I.V.E.?  I can't even remember why H.I.V.E. is holding Psimon prisoner.  Weren't they the ones who hired him?  I just feel like we're seriously spinning our wheels here.

Uncanny Avengers #27:  I don't know why Zub and Izaakse keep insisting on putting Johnny Storm in nothing but tight shorts, but I am not complaining.  Talk about an incentive to keep reading!  It helps that the story isn't half-bad either.  The Avengers engage in some honest-to-goodness teamwork here:  Voodoo provides Scarlet Witch an air elemental to help her survive in space, Rogue distracts Graviton so Wanda can return and wallop him, Rogue delivers the coup de grâce by stealing his powers, and Synapse helps her shake off the insanity that comes with said powers.  It's solid teamwork from start to finish and fun to read to boot.

Youngblood #5:  Man, Bowers is really just keeping up the heat.  My only real complaint with this series at this point is his extensive use of flashbacks.  I'm having problems remembering how the team came together, and I'm not sure if we would've lost anything in terms of suspense if Bowers had just assembled this story sequentially.  For example, Rachel is thrilled to discover Badrock in her apartment, as if she hadn't seen him before that moment.  I guess it could be true, but I was pretty sure she was with the team when it originally debuted and he and Shaft went after them.  Maybe?  Did this scene happen before they assembled the first time?  I don't think so, but my confusion over it reveals why it's a problem.  At any rate, I get the sense we'll be seeing less use of flashbacks as the story really kicks into gear here.  All sorts of crazy stuff is happening with the Byrne brothers.  They're not only revealed to be cyborgs, but cyborgs who can merge with one another to create a huge robot.  Moreover, one of the "brothers" seems more dominant than the other.  But, it's Diehard ripping off Shaft's arm that really reminds me why this series feels so fresh.  Whereas Abnett unbelievably keeps threatening to kill off Wally in "Titans," I'm pretty sure Shaft's arm isn't going to miraculously grow back next issue.  By giving us realistic stakes, the entire story feels more organic.

Also Read:  Dragon Age:  Knight Errant #5; Star Wars #36; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #12; X-Men Blue #11