Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

Uncanny Avengers #22:  Whoa.  Duggan throws a lot at us in this issue.  To start, Beast successfully removes Xavier's brain from the Skull and, in so doing, brings the team's crusade to an end.  Before Captain Nazi can get his mitts on the brain, Rogue has Johnny follow her above New York City and incinerate it.  Larraz has been on fire throughout this series, and he hits nova at several points in this issue.  But, his best panel so far comes here:  Johnny gives Rogue a moment to herself, and she contemplates this final nail in Charles' coffin while looking at the clouds above New York City.  It's really a touching moment.  Marvel has dragged out Charles' death, from the Red Skull stealing his brain in this series to his appearance in heaven in the opening arc of "Extraordinary X-Men."  But, Duggan gives us as close to a sense of finality as a comic-book death can have; it's hard not to feel like he's gone (at least for a while).  With their mission accomplished, the Avengers assemble for a "team breakup" party, where Deadpool opens up a bottle of whiskey he was saving for when Logan returned.  (Heh.)  However, Duggan takes us to an unexpected place as Wade sneaks from the party and Rogue follows him.  She asks if he hates her for breaking him (he's still walking with a cane), and Wade casually tells her that he's used to being hurt.  Rogue grabs him and flies above New York City again, kissing him and absorbing his "hurt."  Similar to Larraz, Duggan has been at the height of his game in this series when it comes to injecting humor at unexpected moments, and he did a great job doing so throughout this issue, like when Johnny told Synapse he was the Ringo of the Fantastic Four.  But, he saves the best moment for Wade:  when Rogue tells Wade his mind is like a palate cleanser after the Red Skull, he tells her it's the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to him.  However, we go to an even more unexpected place:  instead of Cable returning in this issue, it's Simon!  Somehow, absorbing Wade's powers and psyche has brought out Simon but left Rogue comatose.  (By the way, I had no idea Wade was hot.)  Man, I hope this series doesn't end.  Duggan has really been the only person in recent memory to write a superhero comic that genuinely surprises me, and I'd love for him to keep this team together.  After all, someone's going to have to take down Captain Nazi.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #15:  Speaking of the Devil, the Skull's loss of Xavier's brain has a very immediate impact here, as Steve is now able to confront the Skull directly without fear of him seeing through his facade.  The most interesting part of this action-packed issue is that Spencer strongly implies Steve is aware of the Skull's meddling in his past.  As Steve beats on him -- with the tacit support of Crossbones and Sin, who fail to intervene -- the Skull shouts out the truth.  Steve remains undeterred, saying he's only ever been loyal to the dream as he throws the Skull's broken body on the rocks below, killing him.  Throughout the confrontation, Steve refers to HYDRA as a mythic organization that prizes strength (something the Skull undermined during his tenure as leader), and Steve seems to view HYDRA as a way to make America stronger.  In the past, Steve is disillusioned as the Skull completes his take-over:  Baron Zemo père is dead, and Kraken is missing.  (We get confirmation Skull set up Zemo père, but I admit I don't totally remember that part being clear.  Did the Skull tip off the Allies to Zemo père's location in whatever issue it was where Bucky sent him to his death?)  Moreover, Spencer doesn't just play with Steve's history.  In this new history, HYDRA threw in its lot with the Nazis only because it saw them as a way to seize power.  But, it miscalculated, and Elisa's disapproval of the selection of the Nazis as partner appears to be why she was seen as a traitor to HYDRA.  But, Elisa approaches Steve after the Skull's coup d'état to tell him HYDRA still needs him, as the Americans are working on a weapon of mass destruction, the Cosmic Cube.  At this point, it's getting difficult to keep straight the ever-changing past.  Elisa is presumably a creation of Kobik, but she's sending Steve to get his hands on the Cosmic Cube (i.e., Kobik) before it's created.  Does Elisa use the Cube to create herself?  Talk about a paradox.  Moreover, if Baron Zemo père is the one who died on the experimental rocket, then how did Bucky lose his arm and become the Winter Soldier?  The longer Spencer draws out the story, the more questions like these we have.  It still seems like this new past is just affecting Steve (assuming Baron Zemo is lying about "remembering" their shared past), but I'm not sure how that's possible.  Anyway, in the present, Elisa's new High Council arrives to meet with Steve as he's now the undisputed head of HYDRA.  Meanwhile, in Steve's absence, Sharon defies the World Security Council's orders as she has S.H.I.E.L.D. strike against a HYDRA-controlled Sokovia.  (Sokovia fell to the Skull's forces in this issue, and he threatened the Council with a nuclear weapon if it didn't recognize his sovereignty.)  Spencer is really bringing everything to a head, even though it's hard to tell exactly what the denouement will be.  I guess we'll see.

Avengers #6:  I love Mark Waid most of the time, and I was thrilled when he launched "Avengers."  We were finally getting an old-school team again.  But, I've understood virtually nothing of this arc.  In the end, it seems the Avengers simply stole Kang's future using the same deus ex machina from last issue, the Sacniaa time-eating machine.  The only consequence of this arc appears to be the displacement of Avenger X's tomb from where we saw it in issue #5.1 to a sub-basement of Parker Industries, even though we're not told why anything we saw happen here would cause that to happen.  In other words, I'm done.  I'm thrilled other people are totally digging this run, but I'm not one of them.

Batman #20:  King takes us down memory lane here, as Bruce's mother (yes) narrates the developments of the last 19 issues for us and him.  According to Martha, Gotham and Gotham Girl offered him hope, opening the door to the possibility they could take over his role as defender of Gotham after he inevitably fell.  In other words, it all wouldn't end in flames when someone eventually defeated him.  But, Gotham (the city) got to them first, and now he's just trying to hang in there long enough to save Claire; she'll be the one to save him.  This "conversation" happens in Bruce's head as he starts to die from the beating he receives from Bane.  But, Bruce doesn't get a happy ending, living with his parents in a painless existence in the afterworld.  Bruce tells his mother he simply saved Claire because she needed saving; he's essentially beyond hoping for things like a secured legacy.  I buy that, but I have to say the dead-mother narration was a weird way of getting us there.  Moreover, Bruce delivers this position by way of a typical comic-book save:  he leaves his mother in the afterworld as he magically summons enough energy to defeat Bane, despite Bane having clearly overpowered him for most of the fight.  Combined, these two choice make the issue feel off-kilter, like it can't decide if it's an exploration of Bruce's motivations or a slugfest with his greatest opponent.  It unfortunately doesn't work as both.

Nightwing #18:  Seeley initially seems to give us a happy ending here, as Dollotron Robin inspires Dick and Damian to (wordlessly) accept how important the other one is to him and go after Shawn.  They travel to Pyg's studio in Paris, where they confront him as he's ready to cut out Shawn's supposed baby.  Seeley thankfully allows Shawn to escape from her fate as another victim of "Women in Refrigerators" syndrome as Damian frees her and she engages in ass-kicking of her own.  After defeating Pyg, Damian chases down Dollotron Robin, who he believes stole the Batmobile; instead, he finds himself enraged when he discovers Deathwing did it and killed Dollotron Robin.  Before we can reflect on Damian actually feeling something akin to grief for a child poorly treated at the hands of adults, Seeley kicks the story up a notch.  Actually, it's like 12 notches:  Pyg is revealed to be working for Dr. Simon Hurt, who engineered this entire ordeal so that Robin can die at dawn and Dick can realize his "true potential."  Color me impressed.  I thought our biggest concern in this arc was whether Shawn would lose the baby she was carrying.  But, Seeley has put a lot more on the table by resurrecting Hurt, possibly the Devil himself, in the DCnU.  Who knows where we go from here?

Nova #5:  Wow.  At first, I thought we were going to lose Rich briefly.  He returned, and the Cancerverse returned with him.  He realized he had been selfish when it threatened Sam's family, and he returned to the Cancerverse, closing the portal behind him.  I figured Sam and maybe the Guardians would go after him to save him, since Sam would now be able to locate the portal to the Cancerverse.  But, it gets even crazier.  It seems the Worldmind has become the Cancerverse in Rich's absence.  I don't understand either, but you bet your ass I'm coming back next issue to see what happens!

Pathfinder:  Worldscape #6:  I admit Mona lost me a little at the end here.  We learn that Fantomah has been planning for decades to lure Kulan Gath into the jungle and that she held the real Scepter all along.  (The one Gath took from Camilla's dead body at the end of last issue was a dupe, though we're not told exactly how or when Fantomah made the switch.)  But, Mona never really tells us why Fantomah was plotting against Gath.  If he and Camilla never actually had the Scepter, why would she care?  Allegedly Gath severed portions of the jungle from Fantomah and turned it against itself and her, but we never really saw that.  As a result, it feels like a ex post justification.  I only really remember Gath in Shareen or at the Pillars.  Why would he use the jungle to make an enemy of Fantomah?  Mona makes matters worse by using her as the deus ex machina to bring this series to a close.  With her controlling the Crown and the Scepter, most people opt to simply go home, and the Worldscape is left to deal with itself.  With Fantomah in charge of the Crown and Scepter, it seems like she could send home most people, leaving behind only a willing contingent to guard the indigenous fauna and flora from new invaders.  But, again, Mona doesn't get into that.  Everyone just has some mead (and, in Sonja and Valeros' case, some sexin') and goes home.  For an arc that spent so much time carefully spelling out everyone's history and relationships, it's a surprisingly abrupt send-off.

Spider-Man #15:  This issue isn't as emotional as you'd expect it to be, given Miles' mother learns both his and Jefferson's secrets.  But, Bendis make it clear Rio doesn't know how to process her fury right now and we'll return to it at a later point.  In the meantime, Bendis doesn't let off Miles easy.  A mysterious figure is furious after Miles stopped "Frogboy" from robbing a woman.  (He did so with a off-handed shot of Web-Line from the rooftop where he was talking to his dad.)  "Frogboy" apparently had more ambitious plans for the night to pay off said figure, and the figure decides he has to think about how he wants to handle the plethora of superheroes (and Spider-Men) that plague New York.  Separately, Bendis may be laying the groundwork for Miles' identity to be revealed:  Ganke says hi to the girl who runs the YouTube channel that supports Spider-Man, and Jefferson is concerned Rio is going to tell her mother Miles' secret.  Given what we've seen of Miles' grandmother, she's not going to keep that quiet.  Poor Miles.  He's already trying to make it work with an inter-dimensional love interest and now his grandmother is going to ruin his life and probably get herself killed in the process.

Star Wars #30:  I've tried really hard with this arc, re-reading previous issues with each new issue to understand the complicated story Aaron has been telling.  But, I admit he loses me here.  In the present, Luke learns Garro lives alone on the world Yoda visited all those years ago.  In the past, Yoda ended the feud between the Muckwhackers and Rockhawkers by resurrecting the giants they thought they had lost.  With giants and humans now peacefully co-existing, Yoda departs, thinking he saved the day.  But, Garro reveals the children of this world eventually left it, as Yoda's arrival showed them the galaxy had more to offer.  All these developments make sense to me.  But, the problem is Aaron pretty much stops explaining there.  Garro claims the departure of the children robbed the world of Stonepower, so the giants were eventually reduced to much smaller versions of themselves.  Garro wants to use Luke's connection with the Force to destroy them once and for all, though he doesn't really explain why he feels this way.  Why fear them if they're so small?  Why destroy them if they pose no threat?  Then, he suddenly has a change of heart (seemingly inspired by Yoda's teachings, but we're not told why) and merges with the stone.  The "giants" hustle Luke to the heart of the mountain to get it pumping again, but I don't understand why it would do any good.  How long can Garro's powers really sustain this world?  Even if him merging with the stone somehow gave the stone enough power for its heart to beat again, how will it sustain itself if the children are a key part of maintaining this energy?  After all, it stopped beating because the children left.  Seriously, for all the work I put into this arc, it's frustrating it could've ended two or three issues ago -- when Yoda first awakened the heart of the mountain -- with the same outcome.  It's a disappointment, to say the least.

Also Read:  Champions #7; Hawkeye #5

Monday, April 17, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The March 29 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New X-Men #19:  For possibly the first time in the 30+ years I've read comics, a time-travel story ends in a way that makes sense.  Hank uses his mystic powers to return the original X-Men to their timeline...and reveals they're actually still there.  As Hank says, the only way for the present to make sense is if they never left the past; or, to put it another way, the present only has one past.  As such, they can't go home again; they're essentially an unresolved paradox in time (though "X-Men Prime" #1 casts some doubt on that).  Hopeless wisely doesn't delve too much further into the exact mechanics of the paradox.  (Physically, if I had to guess, old Hank taking them from the "past" actually happened in old Hank's present, which means the "past" itself never changed.  It assumes in a way the past and the present happen simultaneously.  You see why it was smart not to go into the details?)  Instead, Hopeless focuses on the kids' reactions.  Bobby is obviously thrilled, as his present is going pretty well, with his handsome Inhuman boyfriend.  Scott is less thrilled, as he's now condemned to a present where he's a villain (if not quite the villain Emma Frost made everyone believe he was).  However, Jean makes a convincing argument to Scott it's as close to a happy ending as they're going to get.  Looking forward, I hope the new series delves further into the kids' emotional responses to this development, the reality they're definitively stuck in the present.  After all, they are just kids.  Doesn't Bobby want to see his parents in the present day?  Shouldn't Jean feel some sense of loss over the fact her parents are killed because of her destiny to become the Phoenix?  It's a lot to process, and neither Bendis on the previous series or Hopeless in this one have really explored these questions as much as I think they could have.  It seems a good place for the new series to start.

Black Widow #12:  Samnee and Waid deliver a solid ending here, as Nat convinces the girls to abandon Recluse because she only sees them as a means to an end.  That said, it is a deviation from the previous 11 issues, when it comes to Nat's characterization.  Nat has been coldly calculating throughout this series, from pushing away Bucky lest he interfere with her mission to forcing the Lion to join her pursuit of the Headmistress and Recluse.  She was never more cruel than her dismissal of Recluse as weak in issue #7.  In fact, it's this harsh treatment that drove Recluse to use the girls as a way to get her revenge.  As such, it's odd for Nat to suddenly go all soft here.  If she had offered a hand to Recluse in issue #7, these girls might not have been in the situation we see here in the first place.  Samnee and Waid never really explore Nat's culpability in the drama that unfolds or explains why her heart suddenly grew three sizes that day; even her role in the death of the Lions' father/uncle was never really held against her.  I think this series would've ended on a stronger note if we had seen Nat consider how her inability to trust anyone brought her to this point.  Instead, S.H.I.E.L.D. simply embraces her as the conquering hero, and we return to her status quo.

Mighty Captain Marvel #3:  I'll be honest that I'm a little lost.  I think I get the broad strokes of the story Stohl is telling.  If I had to guess, the energy released at the end of "Secret Wars" created a genetic marker in a subset of folks across the Universe, and this marker seems to portend some sort of evolutionary jump.  Carol doesn't have the marker, but "Bean" does and for some reason it interferes with Carol's powers.  Carol and one of Tony's employees jump to the conclusion that the ten blue Kree kids the bounty hunter is trying to collect all have this marker.  The bounty hunter later conveniently confirms that they do when he fights Carol to get his hands on Bean.  That said, all we know at this point is someone is using them (and presumably their markers) to build some sort of monster.  I think?  The problem isn't so much that I'm still not sure if that's the plot, but more that I only know what I know because the villain exposited it.  I get he's a bounty hunter but he should have enough professional ethics not to give up his client's plans.  Carol accepts his version of events as true, though I'm not sure why she would.  After all, we're assuming he even knows the real plans.  Hopefully Stohl does a little less telling and more showing next issue.

Thunderbolts #11:  Now we're getting somewhere!  Bucky learns the truth in this issue as Kobik tries to include him in the Red Skull's "secret club" by working him into her "secret history."  An appalled Bucky demands she change history to the way it was, stressing to her HYDRA is evil.  Upset, she seems to erase Bucky from history.  It's pretty clear it won't stick, but Zub significantly advances us toward the denouement.  If Kobik lets Bucky retain his memories of their conversation, the jig is up for Steve.

Titans Annual #1:  This issue isn't just solid on its own merits; it also introduces some intriguing new plot threads for the upcoming year.  A character called "The Key" kidnaps the four Justice League and Titan members with mentor/protégé relationships.  He hopes to cause enough conflict between them to create super-powered anguish and then use this emotional energy to open the door for someone in an unknown space (Dr. Manhattan?) to enter our Universe.  He almost succeeds when Wonder Woman is forced to reveal Donna Troy isn't an organic human; she was made from magical clay as a weapon to be used against Diana, though the Amazonians were able to implant her with false memories and prevent her from becoming said weapon.  Her anguish is real, but her friends are, too:  the guys not only rush to console her (denying the Key access to her energy), but her anguish also breaks through the Key's telepathic shield and allows Omen to locate her.  Abnett contrasts this warm friendship the Titans enjoy with the cold respect the League has for each other.  In so doing, he helps you feel the warm fuzzies when it comes to the Titans and why their stories have always been more compelling.  Abnett concludes by having the Key try to justify his failure to the aforementioned "someone," and it doesn't end well for him.  It also doesn't bode well for the Titans.

X-Men Prime #1:  Back in the day, an issue labeled "Prime" signified a new start for the X-Men.  It usually showed a series of unexpected developments that flowed from whatever catastrophe the X-Men had just managed to avoid.  It also usually involved the arrival or departure of Kitty Pryde.  The authors check that box here, as Kitty returns to lead the X-Men.  But, despite the title, nothing else really changes.  For all her protestations to the contrary, Storm stays with the team, even if she's not leading it.  Sure, the Mansion is moved to Central Park, but it's not exactly all that Earth-shattering as developments go.  (Moving it to Limbo was actually the unexpected development.)  The original X-Men "leave" the team, but they've never been "on" the team in the first place.  In fact, the X-Men have pretty much neglected them from the start.  As such, it's hard to embrace this launch as "all-different" or "all-new."  We're pretty much exactly where we were before Kitty left the X-Men to join the Guardians.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I can't say it merits the splashy launch we're getting here.

Also Read:  Avengers #5.1; Batgirl Annual #1; Occupy Avengers #5

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The March 22 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Black Panther #12:  T'Challa makes the only decision he could here to keep Wakanda together:  he will turn it into a constitutional democracy.  This decision comes after Changamire leads a Council attempting to reconcile the positions of T'Challa and Shuri on one side and the Midnight Angels on the other one.  But, T'Challa isn't the only one forced to make concessionsChangamire chides Aneka for her continued use of the term "Orphan King" to describe T'Challa.  He does so partly because his wife is an orphan, but also because he believes Wakandans' prejudice against orphans is a relic of their Golden Age, where few existed.  Changamire observes Wakanda is now full of orphans in the wake of its recent battles and exhorts Aneka to consider how isolated T'Challa has been throughout his life.  When T'Challa calls Aneka to offer the deal (one that essentially ends his isolation), she's in a place to hear it.  Freed from the burdens of absolute power, T'Challa can now do two things:  pursue the enemies of Wakanda (such as the escaped Zenzi) and, apparently, Storm.  Coates engaged in a successful high-wire act in bringing this story to a close, particularly given T'Challa's previously heavy-handed attempts to resolve the conflict.  Coates does the rare thing in showing his character learn a lesson consistent with his characterization:  his decision to turn over power to his people feels right.  Some of his people's criticism of T'Challa has been that he was more hero than king, and this decision essentially allows him to be exactly that:  the Black Panther.  Someone else will have to deal with grain yields and mining challenges.  Coates has Shuri play her cards closer to her chest.  When the woman the Midnight Angels saved asks whether T'Challa would've preferred she and her daughter were raped and killed by the marauders, Shuri shocks the room by saying, yes, she should've done exactly that.  To Shuri, their lives exist solely to advance Wakanda, and sacrifice is thus necessary.  It's a hard-line position to be sure, and it's unclear where she goes from here as a character.  Although she's understanding of T'Challa's decision, it seems unlikely she truly accepts it.  She feels like someone who really believes in the divine right of the kings (and queens), and it's hard to see her moderating that stance.  Of the many problems T'Challa's decision may create, Shuri could be one of the more significant ones.  

Bloodshot Reborn #0As I mentioned at the end of last issue, I was nervous about continuing Ray's story, because Lemire left him in such a great place.  But, it felt like punishing Lemire for creating a character about whom I cared so much, so I decided to stay the course.  I'm glad I did.  In fact, Lemire makes the ending even happier, as we learn Magic is pregnant.  Both Magic and Ray have concerns, but they decide that, in Bloodshot's words, "if it's gonna be a monster, at least it'll be [their] monster."  In fact, everyone gets a happy ending here.  G.A.T.E. is able to upgrade the nanites in the rest of the Bloodshot Gang, allowing them to pass as human and resume regular lives.  Festival tells Kate she's done with the F.B.I., and they leave G.A.T.E. together.  Even PRS gets its happy ending, as it morphs into Project Omen.  (I'm sure long-time Bloodshot readers recognize the guy with the scar who convenes the remaining PRS members just as I'm sure the rest of us are going to learn more about him soon.)  The issue ends with the cover for next issue, showing Bloodshot standing hand-in-hand with his red-eyed child.  I'm eager to see that story unfold.  Onwards and upwards!

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #14:  Curiouser and curiouser.  In the present, Elisa assembles a new HYDRA High Council from the usual suspects:  Dr. Faustus, Gorgon, Viper, Dr. Zola, etc.  The most interesting addition is the mysterious new Kraken:  all we know of him is Steve believes him to be dead and he's "family," according to Elisa.  I have to assume he's the missing Ian Rogers, since he fits those bills nicely.  (Elisa also mentions the previous Kraken "meant a great deal" to her, though I don't think we've seen that connection yet.)  Meanwhile, Carol's Shield performs better than expected, as even Quasar can't break it.  Steve again tries to convince Carol not to build it, though we're not privy to his argument, which Carol dismisses as "idealistic."  (I have no idea what it could be.  Freedom?  Freedom to what?  Fly into space?  No idea.)  In the past, Elisa displays her powers for the first time as Steve arrives to assassinate her, showing herself to be some sort of dark-arts sorceress.  She tells Steve it was the Red Skull who betrayed the Zemos (not her), though, at this stage, we're not told why he (allegedly) did so.  Elisa has been in the background ever since Steve left for HYDRAwarts but Spencer makes it clear she's going to resume her place at the center of this story.

Detective Comics #953:  Shiva lowers the boom here as her League of Shadows takes out the remaining members of the team, Batwoman and Clayface.  (I'm not entirely sure how they took out Clayface with swords, but presumably we'll learn that at some point.)  Shiva also shows her sadistic side in making sure Batwoman is stabbed right in front of her father.  But, it's Cass who suffers the most at Shiva's hands, distraught over the fact someone as brutal as Shiva is her mother.  Shiva compounds this hurt by being as cold as you'd expect.  She promises Cass answers only if she fights to kill her, but Cass can't bring herself to do it.  Shiva beats her into unconsciousness and leaves.  As if matters couldn't get worse for Bruce, R'as al Ghul appears in the Cave at the end of the issue.  It seems likely he'll propose an alliance, though I'm not entirely sure.  After all, wouldn't he love the idea of Gotham burning?  But, his hatred of Shiva probably trumps that, so I'm assuming we'll get a team-up.  All in all, Tynion is doing a solid job of showing everything going to hell organically.  Gordon is allowed to return to Gotham (though I'm not entirely sure why the Deputy Mayor no longer thinks he's a target), and Bruce and Kate explain in the helicopter that the chaos is just a distraction from Shiva's actual (unknown) goal.  Gordon is suitably awed by the fact the chaos he's seeing -- people rioting, Joker gas, buildings burning -- is a "distraction."  It gets across the scope of the events of the last few issues without having to take us on a deep dive into the chaos itself.  It allows us to maintain our focus on the now dwindling team and how serious of a threat Shiva seems.  It's still unclear what her motivation is or why Batman defeating the Colony's attempt to strike in Gotham set her plan in motion, but I'm assuming we'll get there soon.

Extraordinary X-Men #20:  In all honesty, I don't have much to say here; the X-Men find Cerebra after she sacrificed herself in the fight with Emma at the end of "IvX" and finish transporting everyone in X-Haven back to Earth now that it's safe for mutants.  The team then enjoys a softball game before they close down shop in Limbo and end this chapter.  I have to say, I'm excited about where we go from here.  I've always dreamed Marvel would give us an X-Men team formed of the second-wave X-Men, and they do exactly that with the upcoming "X-Men Gold" series.  If Rachel is the sixth member of the team on the teaser cover, as I think she is, it's basically everyone still alive from the second wave except Havok and Polaris.  As a requiem, I've always liked this title, as it captured some of the fun and energy of the Australia period in the 1980s.  The X-Men really needed that, given the tumultuous (though still enjoyable) Marvel NOW! period.  I'm hoping that energy carries into this next era, which feels similar to the "Revolution" relaunch in the 2000s.  We'll see.

Reborn #5I'm intrigued that Lord Golgotha is the Minneapolis shooter, particularly since it means we still don't know where Bonnie's mother is.  In the meantime, Millar seems to glide past Bonnie's devastation at learning her husband has remarried, given she's willing to go on a suicide mission to save him.  On the other hand, he could really just be setting up the meaning of title of this series:  will Bonnie truly be "reborn?"  Will she embrace who she is here as opposed to who she was?  Millar seems to be reminding us how new she is to this world, whose physics we still don't fully understand.  But, hopefully, we'll get more answers next issue.

Unworthy Thor #5:  We learn what Nick Fury whispered to Thor in this issue, and I have to admit it's pretty solid.  It isn't that he isn't really Odin's son or that he has some previously unknown older brother originally meant to hold the hammer.  It's simply that the God Butcher was right:  no god is worthy.  Odinson believes him, because he's seen the damage gods inflict on mortals.  It's as simple and profound as that.  Odinson essentially doesn't believe in gods anymore, despite being one.  This embrace of sincerity isn't just limited to his inability to lift Mjolnir:  it extends to Ultimate Thor's hammer as well.  It's not his hammer, and he leaves it be.  Instead, he rescues Asgard from the Collector and calls it a day.  I can't think of a nobler ending.  Moreover, as Beta Ray Bill says, it reminds us Odinson doesn't need a hammer to be worthy; he's that on his own.  In wrapping up this mini-series this way, Aaron makes it clear he has no intention of rushing the hammer from Jane's hand, and I'm glad for that.  As the editor says, it's hard to find new things to do with a 55-year-old character.  Given that history, though, it's also clear that you don't have to tell a story quickly.  Odinson has plenty of time to be Odinson and find the truths he's missing.  Meanwhile, the larger story continues to unfurl here.  A mysterious figure emerges to take up Ultimate Thor's hammer because s/he, like the hammer, believes it's time for a "War Thor" to be born.  It seems clear it's not the Ultimate Thor (R.I.P.); in fact, Aaron hints we already know the person.  Apparently we'll learn who it is in "Mighty Thor" #20.  I honestly can't wait.  My only hope is that Odinson isn't a stranger.  After all, a triumvirate of Thors?  Malekith better watch his back.  (P.S.  More goats.)

Also Read:  Batgirl #9; Rebels:  These Free & Independent States #1; Spider-Gwen #18

Monday, March 27, 2017

Amazing Spider-Man #25: Because Apparently the "Clone Conspiracy" Wasn't Terrible Enough

For reasons that are unclear to me, Marvel decided to follow the bloated "Clone Conspiracy" with a 70+ page installment of "Amazing Spider-Man."  It cost $9.99.  Needless to say, I didn't see it as a "treat."

In the main story, Slott makes the odd decision to ignore the aftermath of the "Clone Conspiracy" almost entirely.  We learn from the introduction page that the public at large views Webware as wonky as a result of Peter using it to destroy the Carrion virus.  It seems Parker Industries hasn't explained why the devices "malfunctioned," and Slott doesn't make clear why it hasn't.  Won't people be happy Parker Industries saved them from becoming a zombie?  I know some people will be upset, like when Apple gave away that U2 album for free, but it seems better than pretending to be incompetent.  At any rate, Peter doesn't seem all that worried about it, though Slott hints in one of the back-up stories that Parker Industries isn't long for this world.  In this story, Peter is attending the test of a new piece of equipment at the Shanghai HQ of Parker Industries.  However, he leaves during the test when he learns some villains have taken hostages nearby; they plan on killing the hostages unless people on social media contribute a certain amount of money.  (I'll admit this part is clever, and I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet.)  After defeating them, Peter returns to the lab and discovers the test went haywire, causing millions of dollars in damage.  One of the scientists tells Peter that Spider-Man could've stopped the damage from being as bad as it was and warns him that Parker Industries can't afford to keep underwriting Spider-Man's "no one dies" philosophy.  (Peter justified his actions because he saved one woman's life.)

Anywho, in the main story, Peter visits Aunt May, who seems not to mind at all that Jay is dead.  Seriously.  In fact, she seems to be having a great time.  If anything, she seems younger.  After "Brand New Day," Marvel de-aged her from her 80s to her 70s, but she now appears to be in her 60s.  Peter asked Harry and Betty to watch over her in the wake of Jay's death (and while he was battlin' clones), and they're on hand during the visit.  Harry warns Peter that Betty is acting weirdly, and, on cue, she tells Peter she wants May to see the "spiritual advisor" who's been helping her; she has all the sads because the Ned clone called her.  However, instead of telling Betty that it wasn't Ned, Peter again stays mum on the clones.  Really, is there a reason we're keeping it secret?  After all, everyone in the world experienced the onset of the Carrion virus.  Do we really have to keep it a secret?  I just don't get it.  At any rate, Peter decides to attend an Uncle Ben Foundation event in Hong Kong in Aunt May's place, because, as we learned on an earlier mission in this story, he believes Norman Osborn is there.  He invites Mockingbird to go with him, and they have to fly commercial because apparently -- no, seriously, I'm not kidding with this next part -- the plane is tired from all the flying it's been doing.  (Is it like the Secretary of State?  Maybe they can take naps together.)  [Sigh.]  Of course, the real reason why Slott needs the plane not to be available is so Aunt May and Harry can surprise Peter and Mockingbird by sitting right fucking behind them in First Class.  (No, for reals.)  Moreover, they announce their presence as Peter is asking out Bobbi.  To make matters worse, May does so by criticizing the way Peter hits on women and declaring his shitty game to be the reason she doesn't have grandchildren.  No, you old biddy, you don't have grandchildren because you don't give your nephew the space he needs to actually have sex with a woman.

Continuing our run of amazing coinkydinks, Norman does just so happen to be in Hong Kong.  He also just so happens to decide to have the city's criminal gangs meet him at the Uncle Ben Foundation event, for reasons I don't think Slott ever makes clear.  (No, I'm not fucking reading this terrible issue again to see if he does.)  Bobbi and Peter learn about Norman's invitation from one of the gang leaders, and they head to the event with Peter bemoaning his luck.  (I can't remember how they found the gang leader in the first place, but, again, I'm not re-reading the issue to learn.)  I'm also going to invoke pet peeve #3 here:  Slott doesn't get to blame the "Parker luck" for creating this ridiculous series of "coincidences."  It would be better if we didn't have them in the first place.  Anyway, a sniper in stealth gear tries to take out Harry (not Norman) Osborn (as far as i can tell), but Peter stops her, only to discover it's Silver Sable.  OMG, ISN'T SHE DEAD?  Yes, yes, she is.  Except she's not.  Just like the Rhino.  And, you know, pretty much everyone else now.  End terrible story.

OK, here, I'll say something nice:  Immonen's art is amazing and he can draw Peter whenever he wants.  There.  OK, I can say something else nice:  I liked the Clash back-up story.  Gage has turned him into Robin Hood, and it's a great development.  First, he lets Peter off the hook; Clash tells Spidey he's no longer mad at Peter or Spider-Man for allegedly pushing him into becoming a criminal again, because it feels right.  But, he's using his crime for good.  Here, he steals a bunch of diamonds from Roxxon, who's using them to turn shelter animals into laser-wielding cyborgs.  (Just go with it.)  Clash has one of his henchmen fence the gems and, after paying his henchmen, turns over the proceeds and animals to a no-kill shelter.  Peter watches the scene and decides to leave Clash to his own devices, hoping he doesn't screw up this chance.  Clash is one of the best things Slott has created, and I think this version of him really levels up the character.  The Otto back-up story is also interesting, even if it feels a little forced.  After fleeing New U, Otto goes to one of his previous bases and discovers HYDRA has seized it.  Arnim Zola is there and offers to provide Otto with a squad of henchmen, because HYDRA also wants to destroy Parker Industries, for reasons Slott never gives us.  (Seriously, don't they have enough on their hands?)  But, Otto's new costume is great, fitting his sexier figure now that he's basically a modified version of Peter.  There, three nice things!  

All in all, though, this issue is terrible.  Someone needs to pry Spider-Man from Slott's hands.  He 100% improved Peter's game over the course of his run, defining the post-"Brand New Day" character.  He's a better, more modern character for it.  But, it's time for new ideas.  And, Marvel:  if you ever charge me $9.99 for a comic again, we're done.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The March 15 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #20:  I repeatedly put off reading this issue because I knew something bad was coming.  It's a sign of how compelling of a story Spencer is writing, but it doesn't mean that story is always pleasant.  In the end, I was right to be concerned.  It was one of the most moving issues I've ever read.  Elvin is sent to Z Block, New York's version of the Raft.  It was built by the lowest bidder, and it's insecure at best.  Elvin knows what Sam refuses to accept:  he's going to die there.  And, he does.  He's beaten to death by other super-powered prisoners, some of them villains he helped incarcerate; at the end of the issue, he's brain dead and on life support.  I remember Rage's debut in the "Avengers" in 1990.  I remember the shock of discovering he was around my age, and I remember his time with the "New Warriors" feeling like he got a second change at life.  He died as he lived in this issue, fighting a system stacked against him.  I feel sick over it, and Spencer uses that shock to drive home his point.  If I feel this way over a fictional character, it's easy to see how emotionally damaging these events are in real life.  It drives home the point Spencer has been making since this issue started.  Spencer implies Sam gives up the shield next issue, and I honestly don't know how he couldn't.  How could he still believe in a system that resulted in Rage dying this way?  It seems too much to ask.

Mighty Thor #15:  OK, I was initially annoyed the Asgard-Shi'ar War was distracting us from the War of the Realms, but Dauterman is so over-the-top amazing in presenting the grandeur of this war that I honestly don't mind right now.  That super-nova scene?  Spectacular.  Plus, Aaron makes sure to show us it's meant to be distraction:  Loki set this ball in motion to buy him and Malekith some time to plot and scheme.  Will Cul actually find himself grudgingly admiring Thor after they kick Sharra and K'ythri's asses?  We'll see.

Nightwing #17:  Professor Pyg!  I really was worried where Seeley was going with the arc, but I have to say I'm much relieved now.  First, going to Fontevraud Abbey was one of the coolest trips I've ever made so it was amazing to watch Dick's fight with Deathwing happen there.  Over the course of this battle, we come to learn Deathwing is a Dolltron after a Dolltron Robin appears and attacks him.  We also learn Professor Pyg has come to admire -- in his way -- Shawn's art.  That said, Seeley doesn't answer all our questions by the end of this issue.  For example, it's unclear how the "blood" Deathwing administered to Dick caused him to see alternate versions of himself.  Also, I'm not sure how Pyg came to know Dick so intimately that he knew to use Robin Hood themes to taunt him.  Also, is he obsessed with Shawn, or is it more about Dick?  But, Seeley has plenty of time to answer these questions.  In the meantime, the visions Dick has here are helpful in digging around his consciousness.  We learn he viewed his time as Batman as allowing him to be an idealized version of himself where he was in control of who left a situation hurt.  (Notably, he's not proud of that.)  Plus, it helps him realize Damian's anger is driven in part by his fear Dick is replacing him with his new life in Blüdhaven.  This revelation comes after Dick telling Damian earlier in the issue that he thinks he (Damian) suffers the most from Bruce's distraction.  Pulling these threads together, Damian sees Dick as his father, and it makes sense he's worried Dick is leaving him behind (particularly if he becomes a new father).  In other words, Seeley is giving us a really insightful coda to Dick's time as Batman, something we didn't really get given the abrupt shift to the DCnU.  If it means Dick resolves his issues with Damian and we see Damian more, I'm all for it.

Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #12:  The good news is this arc get a lot more interesting here.  Oddy is revealed to be the traitor, but he did it because Terex captured his wife, using her not only as a slave but leverage to get Oddy to give over secrets.  I have to admit it makes sense, and it's nice Oddy doesn't turn out being a two-faced liar.  Meanwhile, Poe finds him trapped in a cave and loses BB-8 and C-3PO in short order as they sacrifice themselves (allegedly) to prevent Terex's advance to find him.  He's left with the frankly hilarious Nunzix as Black Squadron makes its way to Poe's location.  (I'm assuming Oddy gave them the information after the guy he was holding hostage told him Terex had departed the ship.)  All in all, the story flows much better than it has, and Soule injects it with some actual excitement, as we all wait to see how Poe and Black Squadron -- now pursued by Terex's fleet -- are going to survive long enough to save each other.

Uncanny Avengers #21:  Perhaps the most interesting part of this issue is what doesn't happen.  Based on the cover (in a great example of pet peeve #1), Cable and the Red Skull should be fighting here.  If you recall, Cable erased his consciousness in issue #19, asking Belle to implement the "Lifeboat Protocol."  I assume it means his consciousness is somewhere else, and the cover to this issue implied he would be fighting the Skull on the astral plane.  It doesn't happen, though.  Instead, in a moment of brilliance, Deadpool slams Magneto's helmet on Rogue; he apparently found it in the ruins of the Westchester school, where he went to seek help from the X-Men.  Freed from the Skull's influence, Rogue is able to defeat the Skull and takes his body to the Beast at New Attilan to perform brain surgery.  (We appear to be pre-"IvX" here.)  This story apparently concludes next issue, and I wonder if the Avengers are going to go find Nate in the astral plane after they (presumably) get back Xavier's brain next issue.  I guess we'll see.  Despite the cover problem, though, this issue is another bang-up one, with some really great characterization, particularly when it comes to Deadpool and Rogue.  Duggan shows how Rogue has come to respect Wade and the sacrifices he's made to save the team, and I look forward to see how the team treats Wade after the story ends.

The Wild Storm #2:  OMG, if you're not getting this series, get it now before it's too late!  (Seriously!)  This issue might as well have been titled, "The Hunt for Angela, or Revelations."  We learn a lot about the current state of play in the Wildstorm universe as the various intelligence agencies scramble to get their hands on Angela.  First, Miles huddles with his team at IO to review the situation.  We learn Angela was a low-level researcher who shouldn't have had access to the technology she used to create her flight suit.  IO only had that technology because they stole it from Skywatch, who didn't know they had it.  But, now Skywatch does, so Miles thinks the only hope for maintaining their non-aggression pact is to get Angela, strip the technology from her, and return it to Skywatch.  Meanwhile, Marlowe has tasked Cole Cash's son to take his C.A.T. team to find Angela, presumably to keep IO from getting her.  (He refers to them as a "tumor that started out as an intelligence service" who's secretly running the world.)  Cole, Jr.'s colleague Kenesha (who I don't recognize from the previous iteration of Wildstorm) tracks Angela to an abandoned IO base in Montauk around the same time an alarm from that installation alerts IO to her presence.  Adrianna teleports Cole, Jr. and Kenesha to Montauk as Miles dispatches a team as well.  Dun-dun-DUN!  In other revelations, Cray tells his therapist he has an inoperable brain tumor, the Division is the investigative arm of Skywatch (run by Henry Bendix), and Zealot is tasked with finding Angela (though they don't know she's Angela).  Basically, at this point, we're in an arms race.  We don't know why Angela built the suit or why everyone is doing what they're doing, but I'm guessing we'll get more information when everyone fights each other next issue.  Beyond the amazing script from Ellis, Davis-Hunt continues to be brilliant.  The drama and tension that sings throughout this issue is because of his ability to keep the "camera" squarely on the characters; the silent sequence where Angela makes her way through the base in Montauk to her living quarters and cries after becoming human is spectacular.  Seriously, people -- get this series.

Also Read:  Batman #19; Ms. Marvel #16; Spider-Man #14; U.S.Avengers #4

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The March 8 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Detective Comics #952:  Tynion answers all our questions virtually at once in this issue.  First, he confirms Shiva is running the League of Shadows, though implies she is so deadly she herself might be the entire League.  Ra's al Ghul tries to reason with her after she eliminates his League of Assassins (apparently all of them), but fails.  However, she learns from him that Cass is her daughter, and her visit to Gotham is about seeing if she's worth her time.  When Cass refuses to kill her, Shiva decides she's not.  Meanwhile, Gotham descends into chaos as Batman is wanted for the murder of Mayor Hady.  Colonel Kane warns Kate that Shiva's only goal is destruction; Batman won't be able to reason with her, and he begs Kate to run.  Perhaps the most important conversation is the one Shiva has with Batman, telling him his ability to defeat her in the past came solely because she allowed him to do so.  After this issue, you believe her.

IvX #6:  I've read a lot of bad events in my day, but this one is possibly the worst.  (I know.  I don't know if I even said that about "Fear Itself," and my review of the last issue was basically a screed about Matt Fraction and his personal responsibility for the series being so terrible.)  The resolution comes when the NuHumans simply explain to Medusa that the Terrigen Mists will kill all the mutants, something the X-Men apparently didn't think they had time to tell her.  (I know.  "Hey, Medusa, it's Storm.  Look, sorry to bother you, but it looks like the Mists are going to exterminate know, never mind, I'm just going to invade.  See you soon!  Kisses.")  Then, Emma goes crazy and displays Inhuman-killing Sentinels she secretly had Forge make.  (Apparently she wasn't over Scott, despite the fact, if I'm not mistaken, they haven't been together since "Avengers vs. X-Men."  I guess bitches be crazy, yo.)  She destroys Ennilux, and Havok uses a transporter to escape with her, paying off his debt to Scott.  In the aftermath, Medusa abdicates her throne but doesn't explain why, and she ditches Johnny Storm for Black Bolt because she loves the latter and the former was simply her duty.  (I would've guessed it was the other way around, but whatevs.)  The main problem with this resolution is neither Medusa's nor Emma's actions make any sense whatsoever.  Medusa claims she would've gladly destroyed the cloud had she known it was killing mutants...even though she totally 100 percent knew thatSure, she might not have known it was going to kill all of them in two weeks, but she was definitely aware the cloud was lethal to mutants.  The whole point of Crystal's team, as I understand it, was to help NuHumans cope with their abilities and save mutants from the clouds.  Along those lines, she had Black Bolt murder "Scott" for destroying the other cloud.  It seems reasonable for the X-Men to conclude she wouldn't just hit a button to destroy the remaining cloud, as she does here.  Moreover, Emma justifies her actions in part because she's furious Black Bolt killed "Scott," even though she knows full well he didn't.  Even if you take the resolution at face value and ignore these problems, Lemire and Soule are telling us this entire "war" could've been avoided with a simple phone call.  I just don't know what to say.

Nova #4:  I know I'm supposed to be upset about the Cancerverse eating Sam's little sister, but I've waited for years to see Richard Rider and Gamora go on a date and kiss and I will not be denied my happiness.  I will not!  Pérez does a great job in particular with the wordless panel showing Sam's and Richard's dates in parallel.  At this stage, these characters really have nothing in common other than their helmets, but something about this sequence in particularly does a great job of having them occupy the same space.

Also Read:  Captain America:  Steve Rogers #13; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #5; Titans #9

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not-Very Deep Thoughts: The March 1 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

The Clone Conspiracy Omega #1:  First, unless you're really, really invested in Rita Clarkson, the doctor who helped Ben at New U, you can skip this issue entirely.  In the aftermath of last issue, Ben tips off some angry family members to Rita's location so he can be on hand to save her life when they attack her.  In return, Rita goes all damsel-in-distress and hands Ben her IRA since he doesn't have any cash.  (Rita doesn't believe him when he admits he arranged for the guys to attack herApparently doctors can be idiots.)  Shouldn't she be in jail?  Everyone is pretty clear as they're cleaning up the scene of the crime that she's in trouble.  Shouldn't they prevent her from going to her "favorite watering hole?"  At the very least, wouldn't you want to be able to prevent her from withdrawing her life savings, given she's likely a flight risk?  I guess not.  Beyond Rita's story, Slott uses the same shtick he did in the "Amazing Spider-Man" tie-in issues, filling in moments between the scenes in the main series.  The problem is these scenes still make no sense.  Peter is irate with Kaine for not telling him sooner that everyone was going to become Carrion zombies...even though I'm fairly certain he did tell him.  (Is he mad Kaine didn't tell him the clones would dissolve?  Isn't that what clones do?)  Moreover, Ben still suffers from a lack of consistent characterization, even under Peter David.  As you can see in his manipulation of Rita, he's still in full Bond-villain mode here, and I struggle to see why any of us would want to read his new title.  He isn't a nuanced villain, like Dr. Doom or Magneto.  He's as crazy as the original Jackal, and I can only tolerate him every fifty issues or so.  [Sigh.]  Meanwhile, the Rhino has all the sads, the Lizard's family turns into lizards like him, Jerry's wife is suing Peter, the Kingpin gives Peter Norman Osborn's whereabouts, yadda yadda yadda.  Who the fuck cares at this point?

Avengers #5:  I still have no idea what Waid is doing here, but it's fun to look at del Mundo's art so I guess I'll have to live with that.  People seem to love what Waid is doing.  I admit it's super-cool to see the present Avengers interact with the former teams, chosen for how they can help implement Sam's plan to take down Kang.  But, the story still makes no sense to me.  At one point, future Vision claims Sam inspired the Avengers' rallying cry when he said it in front of the original members.  If that's true, why wouldn't they themselves remember that?  Present Wasp never said to Sam, "Hey, did I ever tell you you're the guy who coined 'Avengers Assemble?'  By the way, you become Captain America at some point."  I could also talk about how it makes no sense Kang's minions can "mine" time or how it's unclear how the Avengers identified which links in Kang's billion-year long supply chain were the most essential.  But, I guess I'm just supposed to go with it.  It's like Xena said in that episode of "The Simpsons:"  if something happens that doesn't make sense, a wizard did it!  (Only, this time, the wizard is a synthezoid named Vision, at least in the latter case.)

Hawkeye #4:  OMG, Jessica Jones!  Mentor in awesomeness and private-eyeing!  Twist I did not see coming!  First things first:  frat-boy Greg was the looming figure at the end of last issueAs suspected, he's been using the TBC stickers to prime hate, allowing him to absorb it and become, in Kate's words, a third-rate Hulk.  In possibly the best denouement of the year, Kate is able to lure him to an outdoor sing-along "Sound of Music" performance, and the positivity that comes with that causes him to de-Hulk.  (Seriously, that's just effing brilliant.  I've never seen that in comics before.  I love the idea of Thompson sitting around thinking, "OK, what's the most positive thing I can imagine?  Positive, positive, positive...")  You'd almost think everything worked out well, as Kate ends the issue happy and with her new crew in place.  Rivera even agrees she's getting a nickname!  But, then we go dark.  Greg asks to see Kate, and he mentions he should've recognized "the resemblance."  Kate believes this comment connects him to her father, and we learn she's in Los Angeles (and stalking surfer Brad) to find her father.  But, Greg blows up before he can say anything else.  (Suspicious.)  Thankfully, when Kate arrives at her apartment, Jessica is there with Brad.  Dun-dun-DUN!

Midnighter and Apollo #6:  I often struggle with violence in comic books.  Modern authors are aware of the challenge this violence presents in a way that, say, Stan Lee wasn't.  But, at some point probably every month, I have a moment where I think, "Why am I reading stories about super-powered beings beating on each other?"  But, Midnighter bottom lines it here rather nicely (and in his boxer-briefs to boot).  He tells Apollo he's going to keep on killing bad guys so people don't have to live without someone they love.  He can't imagine anything worse, after coming close to it in this adventure.  Honestly?  That's a pretty solid reason.  Moreover, we learn Apollo chose his name not because he thought of himself as a sun god, but because Apollo turned his lover Hyacinth into something better when he thought he was going to lose him.  Midnighter doesn't ask for redemption, and Apollo doesn't ask permission to give it to him.  They are who they are, and thank God they are the type of people to play sexy, half-naked chess in their apartment.  In other words?  I fucking love these two.  

Moon Knight #12:  This issue couldn't be more exciting.  Lemire and Smallwood's pacing is really spectacular.  First, we have Marc unexpectedly being joined by his alter egos in the Overvoid, who help him rescue Anput and escape with Crawley.  This entire sequence is amazing, from the smugly bemused look on handsome Steve's face to spaceman Marc facilitating their escape with his spaceship.  (Spaceship!)  It's like a great pulp film come to life.
  But, it's Marc's adventures in Saudi Arabia as a mercenary that really leap off the page for their realism.  Lemire is giving us a ring-side seat to Marc's descent into darkness.  Frenchie advises him not to meet the crime lord giving them jobs, but Marc chases the money, wanting more.  When we meet the Bushman, it's clear why Frenchie was nervous.  I've always known Marc was a mercenary when he became Moon Knight, but it was always sort of a throw-away piece of information, like how Peter Parker won a science fair as a kid or something.  It was just part of the background.  But, Lemire is walking us through this period, and it's amazing to watch.  It's really a chance to get to know this character, and I feel like, in the end, I'll be able to call myself a legitimate Moon Knight fan.  That's exciting stuff right there.

Nightwing #17:  The good news is we don't get confirmation Shawn is dead here.  The bad news is the guy who seems to have kidnapped her calls himself Deathwing so her survival isn't looking so good.  The issue starts with Dick taking down a hilariously ridiculous group of criminals called the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Lest you think they're all cool like the X-Men's version, they're a bunch of small-time hoods wearing horse-head masks.  (Seriously.)  Dick makes short work of them.  Then, Damian appears suddenly; he's traveled from San Francisco because he's bothered by people on Twitter claiming Dick is the true heir.  He tries to challenge Dick to some sort of duel, but Shawn calls at that moment to tell Dick she may be pregnant.  Dick doesn't have patience for Damian's antics and tackles him, dismissing him as a hormonal teenager.  He picks up a pregnancy test on his way to Shawn's apartment (I'd love to know how exactly he swung that in his costume) and discovers Shawn is missing.  He's distraught just as Damian arrives, having followed him.  This next part is amazing as Damian apologizes in his way:  he tells Dick he's sorry they fought and urges Dick to apologize for being terse.  Seeley gets Damian, y'all.  At any rate, Dick leaves Damian again, but Damian finds the pregnancy test and realizes Dick is in trouble.  He meets Dick with their old Batmobile, and Dick realizes he needs help:  as Damian said, he's emotional and he's going to get himself killed without Damian.  It's touching in the way it's always touching with these guys:  it's not like they ever hug, but the love is there.  Moreover, Seeley makes it clear why Dick is going to need Damian.  As I mentioned, the perpetrator of the kidnapping is a guy named Deathwing.  We meet him at the scene of the crime Dick stopped at the start of this issue.  He's now  killed the Horsemen and the cops Dick had someone call to arrest them.  This guy is definitely playing for keeps.

Spider-Man 2099 #21:  I'll admit we have a lot going on here.  Electro 2099 is after Sonny, probably on behalf of the Fist and probably because Sonny knows something he shouldn't know.  However, he has amnesia, though it's not clear to me the Fist knows that.  Miguel manages to save Sonny and capture Electro.  He plans on interrogating Electro into telling him when the Fist attacks Times Square, and we learn it's this attack that destroys New York and allows Nueva York to be built.  However, I'm still a little confused by this revelation.  First, if Miguel knows the Fist attack creates Nueva York, then it can't be the event that altered his future; it's the event that essentially created his future.  After all, the reason he's stuck in the present is because his 2099 was eliminated.  Maybe this attack creates Roberta's 2099 not Miguel's 2099?  If so, it makes sense she knows the Fist attack that created Nueva York in her 2099.  But, again, if Miguel knows about it, it doesn't seem to be relevant to his goal of re-engineering his 2099.  In fact, he has to let it happen.  If it is the event to create the alternate future (possibly Roberta's), then we still don't know how Miguel created the Fist in the past.  Since they already exist, it implies this action-forcing event has already taken place, but it's unclear what it is.  As I said, it's a lot.

Star Wars #29:  This story has been on a slow burn, but Aaron throws some kerosene on the fire in this issue.  The concept of "stonepower" as the syncretic version of the Force has been intriguing, mostly because its practitioners could obviously learn a thing or two from Yoda.  They do so here, but it's not the lesson Yoda wanted them to learn.  After he discovers the stone the Rockhawkers prize is part of a living mountain, he re-awakens the mountain.  We learn he's the last remaining giant who used to live on this world, before the power-hungry humans reduced them to rubble.  Yoda and Garro leave the mountain as its lava (i.e., blood) starts flowing, and Garro reveals its secret to his fellow Rockhawkers as a way of getting in good with them again.  A disappointed Yoda returns to the Muckwhackers to prepare them for war, correctly predicting the Rockhawkers will send the revived mountain after the Muckwhackers .  But, Aaron kicks up the story a notch when Luke arrives on the planet in the present to learn the fate of the mountain.  (No, he didn't finish the story first.  Is that a convenient device?  Yes, yes, it is.  But, is Luke also enough of an impatient idiot to make it believable?  Yes, yes,  he is.)  An older Garro -- the man we likely saw last issue talking to Ben on Tatooine -- greets him, telling Luke he's the last of the Rockhawkers and he's going to help him end the war.  Given the body of the giant is buried in the sand next to where they're standing, I'm intrigued to see exactly how Luke is going to do that.

Also Read:  Batman #18; Champions #6