Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Comics! (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #707:  OK, to be honest, I'm still not entirely sure what happened in this arc.  So, Peacock had to save her brother, Loki, from Sensei, who kidnapped him in order to find the location of the Beholder, despite the fact that Peacock actually wanted Sensei to find the Beholder so she could destroy him and it.  As such, why didn't Loki just tell Sensei where the Beholder was?  Maybe him being kidnapped wasn't part of her plan?  Maybe he didn't know of her plan?  To make matters worse, she was introduced to us when she tried to buy from Bruce Wayne the strip of buildings that included (presumably) the archives where the Beholder was located.  Why was it necessary for her to buy the buildings if she was just going to let the Sensei find the mask anyway?  I'm also still not sure where I. Ching falls in the story.  She mentioned him hiring her in issue #705, but, based on the denouement of the story, she was the one most directly involved with the Beholder, not him.  Did he not know her connection to the Beholder and really just thought he was hiring someone to protect the mask?  Doubtful.  Plus, why didn't he just defeat Sensei before he threw Batman, Loki, Lucius, and Tam in the water?  Why hide in the shadows?  (I've decided to give a pass on Sensei just not killing the four of them in cold blood because I'd never read a Batman book again if I held the ridiculous, convoluted death traps against them.)  Also, how the hell did the Riddler and Enigma fit into this story?  Why does the female Two-Face care about the Jade whatever Society?  I was looking forward to this issue, because the first three were at least fun and I was figuring that all the loose plot points would get resolved.  But, I wound up just more confused than I was after the first issue.  It shouldn't be left to us, the reader, to infer the answers to as many of the questions as I lay out above.  Daniel needs to tighten up his plots, particularly given his weak dialogue, if he wants me to keep reading.

Chaos War #5:  OK, the whole "Chaos War" series, frankly, has been a hot mess.  I mean, I'm more or less used to these sorts of cross-overs being hot messes, but this series really took the cake.  (I'm not sure what the "hot mess" equivalent of "took the cake" is, so forgive the mixed metaphor.)  For example, I read "Blackest Night" without reading any of the tie-ins and I never really felt like I didn't know what was happening.  With "Chaos War," on the other hand, I read the main book and every tie-in and STILL had no idea what was happening.  (OK, I had an idea, but you get the point.)  I think part of the problem was the ordering of the releases.  The first three issues of the prime series were released in quick succession, but then you had one issue released in the middle of 14 (!) tie-in issues.  By the time you got to issue #5, you more or less forgot where you had left the characters in the prime series.  Of the tie-ins, the "Chaos War:  Dead Avengers" series was far and away the best.  I hope Yellowjacket stays resurrected, since she was the character I was most excited to see return and stay returned.  "Chaos War:  X-Men" had potential, but probably needed another issue to develop it.  I was really intrigued by the first issue of the Thor tie-in, but felt like the second issue squandered some of the potential.  Finally, given that Alpha Flight seems to be the only ones definitely resurrected as a result of the Chaos War, I'm surprised they only merited a one-shot.  Anyway, it's another Marvel cross-over that I find myself happier to see over than happy I read.

New Mutants #21:  Wow.  I've loved Zeb Wells' contributions to "Brand New Day" as I make my way through 100+ issues of "Amazing Spider-Man," and he really delivers here.  The New Mutants are near and dear to my heart; they're one of the touchstone comics of my youth.  Although I was overjoyed when I heard they were (finally) getting their own series again, I was worried about how they'd be handled.  I was worried the writers would ignore what happened in the first series, since it happened 20 years ago, and present the characters as stripped-down versions of their old young selves.  This six-issue arc ("Fall of the New Mutants" and "Rise of the New Mutants") proves that I was very, very wrong.  Almost every conversation and scene and event that occurs in this arc draws from the past 30 years or so of the New Mutants' history.  In doing so, Wells makes the New Mutants maybe the most real characters in the Marvel Universe.  As opposed to the X-Men and the Avengers -- who've been invented and re-invented so many times I've lost count and who have to stay somewhat caricaturized to keep a broad appeal to old and new readers -- the New Mutants carry with them the real scars and guilt of previous battles and losses.  It's a dark but emotional book and this arc clearly established a new status quo for the gang.  Sam has seemingly killed a lot of people, Illyana has put her teammates in danger just for revenge, Doug continues to be creepy.  I have no idea where we're going, but I'm excited to see what happens.

Uncanny X-Men #532:  "Uncanny" continues to be the best of the three core X-Men books.  I actually like Scott in this book.  I've pretty much never liked Scott, so I applaud Matt Fraction for that feat.  Fraction continues to juggle the three storylines running through the "Quarantine" arc without dropping a ball; I feel like any number of writers out there could learn a thing or two from him.  I'm a little bored of the Emma storyline, but the "New X-Men" one has serious potential and the Collective Man battle was good fun.  It's also great to see Dazzler in the mix.  She's always been one of my favorite X-Men; I hope we get to see some more of her, and not just as aging hipster comic relief.

X-Men #7:  OK, so, the whole "Curse of the Mutants" arc was interesting, but, God, it seemed to drag on and on forever.  (It didn't help that I pretty much wanted to smack Scott 90 percent of the time.)  This issue?  MUCH better.  It was clever and funny.  Plus, anything that adds Chris Bachalo AND Spider-Man to the mix makes me a happy camper.  I also almost liked Emma in this issue.  (Almost.)  If we could find a way to introduce Iceman, I'd have to take back almost all the bad things I've said about the X-books lately.  (Almost.)

Avengers (Vol. 3) #77-#82: “Lionheart of Avalon”

(zero of five stars)

Summary
(The story is a mess, but I'll try.)

The Avengers are in England to battle the Wrecking Crew.  In the battle, Cap is knocked unconscious and an "ordinary" woman named Kelsey picks up his shield to defend him against an unusually-verbose Thunderball.  She dies.  Hawkeye tries to avenge her death, but gets his ass handed to him by the now-escaped Wrecking Crew.  Kelsey is transported to Avalon where Brian Braddock makes her the new Captain Britain.  She returns to Earth and defeats Thunderball, only to be whisked -- along with Thunderball and the Scarlet Witch -- to a mysterious place by Morgan Le Fay.  Le Fay is trying to kill Brian Braddock, since any injury to Captain Britain is an injury to Britain, and realizes that she needs to be wounding Kelsey instead.  Captain America arrives and helps Kelsey defeat Le Fay.  The new Captain Britain and her family (who she cannot see, for reasons clear only to the writer) relocate to Avengers Mansion.

The Review
And...here we go.  The Austen era.  Ugh.  I had forgotten that this story arc was the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in me giving up comics for a few years.  The story had potential, but it had a lot of problems in its execution.  It has so many gaps in logic that I’m going to refrain from trying to detail them all.  A quick note on the review:  the first issue of the next arc, 'Once an Invader..." has an epilogue of this arc, the discussion of which I've included here.

The Good (Such As It Is)
1) In the hands of a better writer, the sacrifice of Kelsey -- an “ordinary” woman grabbing Captain America’s shield to defend him against a villain who (as several characters comment) has gone toe-to-toe with Thor -- could be a great metaphor for the quiet heroism of everyday people.  Instead, Captain America essentially calls her an idiot.  No, really.  Then, we sort of move onto other plots, with no idea that this sacrifice is actually the main point of the series.  Anyway, I’m supposed to be saying nice things in this part.  As such, I’ll say that I was, actually, moved by the scene where she defends Captain America, in no small part, I think, thanks to the way Olivier Coipel drew the determination on her face.

2) Speaking of the art, Coipel is really amazing in this arc.  I thoroughly enjoyed Captain America and Hawkeye changing clothes in the alley.  Thank you, Olivier!

The Bad
1) Captain America -- who spent most of the 20th century motivating America’s troops, including consoling those who lost friends on the battlefield -- is really incapable of summoning a few words to comfort a small boy who lost his mother?  Really?  After all, Steve Rogers losing his mother at a young age has been a major theme (though not quite on the Uncle Ben scale) of his story for decades.

2) The pacing of the story arc was just weird.  We actually don’t get to the “Lionheart of Avalon” bit until issue #80, four issues into the arc.  My guess is that maybe this arc was supposed to be six issues but got condensed to five.  Austen spends three issues setting up the new Captain Britain’s introduction, uses part of an issue to make it happen, and then crams the battle royale into the last issue.

3) Pet Peeve #1Ant-Man is on the cover of "Avengers" #79, but he appears nowhere in the book (or the story arc, I think).  Did they mean Yellowjacket?  Ditto Vision on the cover of #80.

4) Pet Peeve #2:  I hate when the intro in the beginning of the book mentions something that hasn’t yet been established.  In this case, the intro for issue #81 mentions that Morgan Le Fey is the villain, despite the fact that her identity was never actually identified in issue #80.

The Ugly
1) The misogyny “sub-plot,” if you will, was just bizarre and kind of offensive   I really have no idea where they were going with it.  First, you had Hawkeye’s weird conversation with Captain America in issue #77 about how he needs to hit female super-villains if he wants to get a girlfriend.  (Really.  I'm not kidding.  Buy the book.  Actually, don't.  Just take my word for it.)  Having Captain America acknowledge how weird the conversation was doesn’t automatically make it make any sense.  I still don’t see the connection at all.  But, a few issues later, Hawkeye is warning Yellowjacket not to lay a hand on Janet.*  I mean, beating up a super-villain and hitting your wife are clearly not the same thing, so Hawkeye is, I guess, allowed to have two different views on these subjects.  But, the fact that we even have to try to differentiate the two subjects just shows how weird it all was.

* Also, let’s talk about the Hank/Janet problem.  To be honest, I tried to avoid it, because I don’t even know how to address it without sounding like I’m trying to differentiate between different types of violence against women.  But, here we go.  If I’m not mistaken, Hank hit Janet once during his nervous breakdown.  As such, she divorced him.  Let me make it clear, right now, that a man hitting his wife is wrong.  Again, I feel awkward even having to note that.  In this series, however, it is implied that Hank frequently hit Janet and was so violent that the other Avengers had (and still have) to keep an eye on him.  It’s just so odd.  Again, I feel uncomfortable even talking about it, given that it makes it sound like I’m minimizing the one time Hank hit Janet.  I’m not.  But, in Austen’s world, Hank is an out-of-control abusive misogynist (see his comments about his mother) who needs to be watched at all times so he doesn't hit his wife again.  I mean, if that were true, why the hell is he still an Avenger?  Why would Jan be dating him again?  Why?  WHY?  It just goes to my whole problem of this era where new creative teams dump 30 or 40 years of history to just make up personalities for established characters.

2) Why (again), exactly, could Kelsey not see her children?  Brian Braddock announces it as if it makes total sense.  In fact, later, Scarlet Witch even tells Kelsey she understands.  Maybe I’m just slow, but, I have no idea why her accepting the Sword of Might and becoming Captain Britain means that, ipso facto, were she to see her children, their lives would end, "painfully and horribly.”  I was going to try to develop a logical reason (by virtue of the danger inherent in being Captain Britain, she would expose them to danger by being around them?), but Brian Braddock doesn't say that.  He makes it fairly clear that, if she sees them, I don’t know, they’ll spontaneously combust or something.  Weird, weird, weird.

3) In the follow-up issue to this story arc, Kelsey is totally insane.  She began the arc as an “ordinary” woman with a terrible scar on her face who tried valiantly to go through her day dealing with the stares of other people.  She ends it telling off Captain America, advocating murdering super-villains, and destroying her memorial in front of her children.  Yeah, excellent character work there, Austen.  I mean, I think you could probably have made those connections, but Austen didn’t do that here.  Instead, it feels completely disjointed.

4) We’re not talking about Janet and Hawkeye.  We’re not.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Comics! (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, so, my shipment came, and I'm making my way through the backlog.  More to come soon!

Batman and Robin #19:  I don't know how I feel about this arc.  This issue is the best of the lot, but it substantially alters the motivation of the Absence.  The first two issues led us to believe that the Absence's principal motivation was a revenge scheme, trying to get to Bruce Wayne through Batman (since it's now been publicly revealed that he's funding the Bat).  But, in this issue, we learn that her actions have all been an elaborate ruse to distract Batman while her men finished off the gang that killed her.  In the hands of another writer, I might have been able to buy the twin motives, but Cornell doesn't really sell the dramatic twist well.  In the end, it seems a lot to ask us to believe that the Absence was interacting with Batman and Robin just to ensure they wouldn't discover her men killing off the guys who shot her.  I mean, would Dick and Damian really have noticed that three seemingly random thugs were killed in prison, then taken enough of an interest into their killings to make the connection between them and Bruce Wayne's former girlfriend, AND THEN tried to find her?  I'm pretty sure she could've just had three guys whacked in jail without this much effort.  So, if her real motivation was getting to Batman and Robin, why not kill them or maim them or expose them, instead of just playing with them?  It just doesn't make sense, and not in a "she's a crazy psycho" way but in a "he's a bad writer" way.  Based on this issue, I think the Absence really does have potential, since she does move beyond the homicidal-maniac archetype that categorizes most of Batman's rogues' gallery to become something interesting.  But, someone else needs to write her.

Flash #9:  I don't have much to say about this one, since it's the first issue of the series' second arc and not much happens.  In the previous arc, we were told that Barry would be haunted by what he saw in Mirror Master's mirror, and we see it here with Barry distancing himself from his family as a result of his guilt over the (indirect) role he played in his mother's death.  As I might've mentioned before, I never really read "Flash" before, but I'm a little surprised that we're entering another time-travel storyline.  I'm not sure if it's de rigueur for "Flash" or if it's just a coincidence.  But, I'm not a huge fan of such storylines, since they're often more confusing than interesting.  I'll reserve judgment until we see how it develops.  In the meantime, Geoff Johns does characterization better than almost anyone out there and Manapul's art alone continues to justify picking up the book.

New Avengers #8:  This issue was really a Bendis showcase, giving us everything he does well (excellent characterization, character development) without everything he does poorly (complicated plots).  It could've been really clich├ęd, but I thought Bendis did a great job presenting us with Jessica's struggle over trying to figure out how she fits in the world as a mom, a superhero, and a person.  I also loved Luke Cage and Ms. Marvel's mid-fight conversation about Jessica.  Overall, it was a great issue.  One little nitpick?  Spidey asks Luke Cage how he knows he's white, given that he's in a full body suit.  But, Spidey often rolls up his mask to reveal his mouth so he can eat...as he's doing in the scene that we see on the first page.  So, Luke Cage has seen Spider-Man's skin and knows he's white.  I mean, I know it's supposed to be  joke, because Spidey's all mad-white, so he couldn't possibly be anything other than white, but it annoyed me.  (I annoy easily.)

New Avengers #9:  Really?  First, am I really supposed to believe that they're going to kill Mockingbird again, only two years or so (in real time) after returning her to life?  If so, I don't.  As such, it makes Surprise Ending #1 kind of anti-climatic.  Oh, no.  Mockingbird was shot.  Help.  Help. All that good female characterization from last issue goes out the window when we suddenly go all "Women in Refrigerators" here.  Second, the Nick Fury sub-plot, for the most part, was totally random, something I would've preferred it stay rather than morphing into Surprise Ending #2, the revelation that Marvel is going to ret-con the Avengers' and Nick Fury's history to match the plot of the upcoming movie.  In other words, this issue was nothing more than seemingly-forced plot devices.  Boo, Bendis, boo.

Red Robin #19:  I've been impressed, throughout this series' run so far, with the extent to which the writers have managed to really make Tim his own man.  Even in the first few issues, which were part of the storyline involving the eventual return of Bruce Wayne, the writers gave Tim his own group of villains, one that we see grows in this arc.  The cyberspace angle in this issue was done really well; like time travel (see the "Flash" entry above), I find that these sorts of stories can often be more confusing than interesting.  But, it's interesting here, particularly since it opens up some really cool doors for Lonnie.  If you haven't been reading "Red Robin," this arc is a pretty good one with which to start.

X-Factor #215: This solo issue was pretty solid.  Despite the ickiness I feel when I think too much about it, I enjoy the Madrox/Layla relationship.  I also thought the dupes were used to advance the plot more cleverly than they often are.  Serious, Peter David just leaves so little to discuss because he's just so good.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Avengers (Vol. 3) #76: “Full House”

** (two of five stars)

Summary
Given the fact that Jack of Hearts can't touch She-Hulk without absorbing her energy, it becomes clear both Avengers can't be on the team at the same time.  Jack leaves the discussion in a huff after a lovers' quarrel  squabble with Ant-Man and Cap orders Ant-Man to work out his differences with Jack.  During the discussion, it's revealed that Scott's daughter has been kidnapped.  Ant-Man and Jack hunt down the kidnapper.  With his time outside the Zero-Room ending, Jack flies the kidnapper into space to ensure he can't harm anyone again.  Jack's apparently lifeless corpse is seen floating in space.

The Meh
“An Avenger, Cassie.  An Avenger.”  OMG, barf.  Also, Jack suddenly cares about people?  I mean, what the hell?

This issue is kind of a weird one to end the Johns era, and I can't really point to anything really good or really bad.  It's all kind of meh.  I mean, Johns continues to do the best job of any writer I’ve ever read in terms of every member of the team having a distinct and separate personality and having that personality be in tune with previous characterizations of the character.  Sometimes with the "Avengers," you can tell writers are just phoning in the portrayals of the minor characters, using a standard hero archetype.  So, kudos to him for avoiding that.  However, it doesn't hide the fact that a lot of these characters are annoying.  Ant-Man still irrationally hates Jack of Hearts, Jack of Hearts is still bitter for reasons other than the main one (him having to be in the Zero-Room for 14 hours a day), etc.  But, the child abduction storyline serving as a deus ex machina both in terms of Ant-Man and Jack’s relationship AND the removal of Jack from the team seemed a little too forced, particularly from someone of Johns' talents.

The art wasn’t anything special...except for the last page.  I think I missed the jack of hearts symbols in the corners the first time I read it, which shows how subtle of a nod it is.

The cover is a little deceptive.  It shows Iron Man, Black Panther, Cap, Vision, and Scarlet Witch...despite the issue being predominantly about Ant-Man and Jack of Hearts.  I'm not going to raise it to a pet-peeve level, since it's making the point that the team's deciding on its membership.  But, it's close.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Comics! (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

My shipments were off this week, so only one new comic to review:

Superboy #4:  I'm going all dark here just in case someone ignores the "HERE BE SPOILERS!" warning, because I'm guessing about something.  For the uninitiated, highlight with your cursor to read:  so, Simon is the Prime Hunter, right?  In "Adventure Comics" #1/#504, Tellus notes that Simon will be "his greatest friend -- and his greatest enemy."  I've wondered what the reveal on that comment would be, but, when the Science Hunters flee at Simon's presence, I had my answer.  It makes sense that science-geek Simon would become the leader of something called the "Science Hunters."  We're clearly supposed to think that Psion is referring to Conner when he's talking about infiltrating his inner circle to kill him, but I think it's more than likely he's referring to Simon, who becomes the despot that enslaves Psion and his friends.  I kind of hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I am.  I really hope they don't wait until, like, issue #100 to reveal it, because that'd get old quick.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Avengers (Vol. 3) #72-#75: "Search for She-Hulk"

*** (three of five stars)

Summary
After bolting from the Avengers during the "Red Zone" story arc, Jennifer Walters is on the lam in Idaho, coincidentally near where the Hulk has recently been spotted.  The arrival of Cap, Iron Man, and the Scarlet Witch triggers her transformation (since it's caused by fear, not rage) to a now-mindless She-Hulk.  Hawkeye appears (yay!) and successfully leads her from the city.  Bruce Banner arrives on the scene, but the arrival of the U.S. military at his heels results in his transformation into the Hulk.  (Actually, Hawkeye shoots him, but let's just go with the U.S. military doing it to keep it short.)  Ant-Man frees Jack of Hearts early from the Zero-Room, and Jack flies to Idaho to unleash his energy.  She-Hulk regains control over her transformed persona.  Banner leaves town quickly, and She-Hulk feels guilt over the fact that he will be blamed for the destruction and ponders how he handles it.

The Good
1) The art was pretty great.

2) I always felt like She-Hulk’s dislike of her “Jennifer Walters” self was a lot more compelling narrative than Hank Pym's self-esteem issues (see previous post).

3) Despite my whole annoyance with his fighting with the Jack of Hearts (again, see previous post), I always liked Ant-Man’s struggle with trying to fit into the Avengers.  It’s been a trope we’ve seen frequently used in the “Avengers” over the years, but I always thought his struggle was one of the more believable iterations of it.

4) Oh, Clint Barton.  You are sex on an arrow.  The She-Hulk/”Arrow Man” flirting has always been great, and it’s even better here with Jen as the mindless version of She-Hulk.

5) This series is actually kind of funny.  I mean, Hawkeye always provides a certain level of comic relief, but other parts are funny, too.  The scene where Hawkeye and Cap look at each other blankly after the Hulk catches Cap’s shield is pretty hilarious.  Iron Man asking Hawkeye, “What did you do, Clint?”  Pretty funny.

6) The meditation on Bruce Banner and him dealing alone with the nature of the Hulk and the devastation he leaves in his wake is pretty powerful.  I've never been a huge Hulk fan, but even I was moved.

The Bad
1) Again with the Ant Man and Jack of Hearts fighting.  Boring!  If it hadn’t been the mid-'90s, I would’ve assumed they were using the fighting to build sexual tension and we’d eventually see the two of them in bed together, mussing each other’s hair.  Maybe we’d have some antics in rushing to get Jack back in his containment unit because they...um...lost track of time.  Without that explanation, though, it still makes no sense to me why so much ink was spilled detailing their mutual dislike.

2) I'm not 100% sure why, when Jack of Hearts releases his energy (boy, that sounds dirty), Jennifer is now able to control She-Hulk again.  Shouldn't it just suck the radiation from her, turning her into Jennifer?  Actually, more specifically, why did Jack initially draining her radiation cause her to lose control over She-Hulk?  I kind of just accepted it the first time I read it, but now I'm somewhat confused.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Avengers (Vol. 3) #71: "Whirlwinds"

** (two of five stars)

Summary
Janet and Hank go to Vegas for sex.  Hank, always the master of reading a situation, proposes.  Jan declines.  Whirlwind attacks because he's apparently in love with Janet.  No, really.


The Good
The story itself isn’t terrible.  I will say, though, in all the years I’ve read the “Avengers,” I’ve never really been a fan of the amount of pages dedicated to the tortured Yellowjacket/Wasp relationship.  I mean, I’ve always been taken aback by the “She looked just like my first wife!”/”He was like my dad!” comments that we’ve read several times over the years.  In particular, though, this series of story arcs in the later part of volume 3 (also see “Lionheart of Avalon” and "Avengers:  Disassembled") focus a lot on how terrible of a husband Hank was.  It all allegedly stemmed from his low self-esteem, which has been a frequent theme in the “Avengers” over the years.  I’ve always found it a little forced, like they had to give him a flaw and couldn’t invent something better.  Since I don’t really remember that many battles being decided by Yellowjacket’s involvement, it’s also made me wonder why he’s been kept as an Avenger in the first place if he's so awful.  But, within the context of the long-established trend of his character, the story actually adds some depth to him that makes him seem less whiny than he usually does.  So, well done, Geoff Johns, I guess.

The Bad
1) OK, call me a prude, but, um, seriously, a shrunken Hank Pym walking between Jan’s breasts was kind of creepy.

2) Whirlwind was in love with Jan.  Really?  When did that happen?  It's just so totally contrived.

3) The way Hank Pym is drawn here is really a little too...Fabio.  I mean, in one scene, where he’s holding Jan’s hands, he not only towers over her, but he looks like a professional wrestler to boot.  I mean, I get that he’s a superhero, but I don’t remember Hank Pym ever being drawn so...hulking.  The emphasis has always been on him as a man of science not a man of brawn.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Comics! (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers:  The Children's Crusade #4:  Ok, I love the Young Avengers.  I do.  I'd love them even if they didn't have the most functional gay couple depicted, like, anywhere in fiction.  The first few issues of this arc were great, because the Young Avengers are at their best when they're doing what adults tell them not to do.  But, here's the thing.  This series feels more like a companion series to what should be a much larger series, one detailing the return of the Scarlet Witch.  I mean, at the end of the day, we don't know that Billy and Tommy are the Witch's "spiritual" children, so it's still a little weird every time they're presented as such, no questions asked.  Plus, the bi-monthly format is really starting to get to me.  Is it really going to be a year before it's resolved?  At this point, given that the story is spinning its wheels a bit, I feel we probably could've had a six-issue monthly series and felt satisfied.  Hopefully Heinberg's got some great stuff in store.

Batman #706:  The latest installment in the "Hear No Evil/See No Evil/Speak No Evil" story arc is great.  I've really enjoyed this arc, because it's fleshing out Dick's cast of characters.  Catwoman, Catgirl, Robin, Peacock, I Ching, Sensei:  some old, some new, all awesome.  I loved Dick noting Damian's sudden interest in girls and Damian denying it in a perfectly adolescent way.  Their dynamic is the best part of "Batman and Robin" and I'm really glad to see Daniel keep it going in "Batman."  (Plus, can you imagine how much trouble a horny Damian could find?  The mind boggles.)  I liked how Dick defied Bruce by asking for Catgirl's help.  It shows that he's still running the show in Gotham and he'll do what he needs to do, even if it's not exactly what Bruce told him to do.  Like most Batman stories, I'm still a little lost with the plot mid-way through the arc, though I'm sure all will be revealed in the end.  I'm still not sure who actually walked into the antiques shop in issue #704 (I thought it was Sensei, but, based on his comments in this issue, I think he had already killed the proprietor before the shadowy figure arrived) and I'm still not sure how Dick knew to go to Prof. Sinnot's home in #705.  The Riddler connection is intriguing, and I hope we get to see some great Riddler/Robin banter in the next issue.  In other words, it's vintage Batman.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #19:  The "House of Hush" story arc continues here.  It's kind of been on a slow burn, and it doesn't get faster here.  The bulk of the story is a recollection by one of Judson Pierce's henchmen of his teenage encounter with the Joker.  It's a pretty good story, but I have to say that I'm ready for something to happen in this arc.  Despite being billed last issue as the primary feature, the "House of Hush" story actually took a back seat, page-wise, to the Ragman second feature (which doesn't appear in this issue at all), so it's been a while since something, you know, happened.

Dungeons and Dragons #3:  This series is seriously well written.  The characters are really well defined, despite the series only being three (well, four, including #0) issues into the run.  Rogers does an excellent job, for example, making Bree Three-Hands into a really fun character while, at the same time, setting up the possibility that she's going to sell the entire team down the river at some point.  The running jokes about Adric's poorly-laid plans haven't gotten old, and I'm always surprised how, at the end of the issue, Fell's Five find themselves in a worse position than they were at the end of the previous issue.  It's occasionally a little hard to follow what's happening, given how fast the action moves, but I'll forgive that just because the action is so well depicted.

Legion of Super-Heroes #9:  Um, I think I'm kind of done with the Legion.  I subscribed to the stand-alone comic based on the Legion back-up features during Superboy's run in "Adventure Comics."  But, I just ended "Adventure Comics" because I have no interest in the Legion Academy and I can't say the Durlan assassination plot is really all that interesting.  This storyline clearly could've been handled in one or two issues, rather than four or five.  Watching everyone just stand around the United Planets hall waiting for poorly-executed assassination attempts isn't exactly worth $2.99 a month, to my mind (nor, apparently, to Timber Wolf's).