Avengers: The Children's Crusade #8: OMG, finally, we get a new issue. Unfortunately -- and I hate to say it -- I'm not entirely sure it was worth the wait. Heinberg throws some curve balls in this issue that he doesn't totally explain, and I'm not entirely sure he's going to have time to do so with just one issue left.
First, I'm not entirely sure what the portal Billy and Wanda were trying to open was supposed to do. It seems that it would somehow siphon off the power Doom stole from Wanda, but I'm not entirely sure how it was going to do that. Also, Ant-Man is the only person who can distract Doom? I mean, Ant-Man himself notes that he's already got the Avengers and the X-Men attacking him. Why would Ant-Man need to dive into the battle by himself to distract him? (The obvious answer is that Heinberg needed a plot device to get Scott to appear dead so that he could get Cassie to attack Doom, but I like to give Heinberg more credit than that.)
Second, when Billy and Wanda do open the portal, it somehow gives Doom MORE power, not less. How'd that happen? In fact, all along, Doom seemed to have more power than Wanda did, even before they opened the portal. Why would that be? Is it because Doom was more audacious than Wanda? Again, Heinberg doesn't really explain.
Third, at almost the last minute, Doom seems to imply that he manipulated Wanda into destroying the Avengers and ridding the world of mutants, though we (again) don't get an explanation of how he did so. Is that why he was "marrying" Wanda, so he could keep her close and continue using her powers by proxy? Is that going to be the big reveal? It would get Wanda off the hook for the murders (if Billy's impassioned speech in her defense wasn't enough), but I'm not sure how I feel about it. One one hand, it's a pretty clever ret-con, because it's totally something Doom would do. But, for it to work, we'd need to know why Doom didn't really act on the possibilities it brought. I mean, we didn't really see him DO anything after "Avengers Disassembled" or "House of M." You'd think, if Doom arranged the destruction of the Avengers and the end of mutants, he'd take advantage of the opening and try to seize power. Given that he didn't, I'd like to know why, then, he wanted to destory the Avengers and rid the world of mutants. Again, Heinberg doesn't really answer that question.
In other words, we have a lot of questions we need answered next issue, and I'm thinking one issue isn't going to be enough to answer them.
(I don't mention Cassie here, because I'm pretty sure she doesn't die. I can't say for sure, because her death could be some sort of cosmic balance to Ant-Man's resurrection. I will say, though, that the last scene showing the circle of heroes around her was really nicely crafted by Cheung. I particularly liked Strong Guy putting his hand on Hulkling's shoulder while he hugged Wiccan. It's a small moment, but it really made the seen all the more touching to me. Well done, Jim.)
X-Factor #229: Holy *%&^ing crap, you guys, this issue is amazing. I mean, David packs SO MUCH into this issue. First, let's start small. He uses several minor moments in this issue to remind us that several ongoing sub-plots remain unresolved. He addresses the ongoing questions about Longshot and Shatterstar's relationship by having Shatterstar refer to Longshot as his "brother," throwing a wrench into the theory that 'Shot was 'Star's father. He also brings in a version of Rahne's child (a daughter, in this reality) to remind us that Rahne's son is still an unknown variable in "our" reality. (I really have to give "X-Factor" #214 a re-read.) Even though these incidents occur in an althernate Universe, so can't be considered canon in "our" reality, David uses them to remind us just how intimate long-time readers of the title are with the characters. He really makes it a joy to be a fan of this title, because he makes it so exciting to be able to say, "OMG, I know what he's doing here."
Similarly, moving up the scale of importance, he also returns Madrox to his time-traveling shenanigans, bringing in Mr. Tryp and introducing the idea that Madrox is moving between Universes every time a Madrox dies. It's an interesting device, because it raises all sorts of questions. Is someone going from reality to reality killing Madroxes? If not, why are so many Madroxes dying around the same time? Is Layla involved, given that she arranged for the death of Madrox in the reality we see in this title? If someone is killing Madroxes (as it seems), why?
Moving up another level, David doesn't just use this issue as a mirror to the normal setting of this title, but uses it to hint at things to come. He introduces the idea that each of Madrox's dupes has its own power. Um, wow. I don't know if David necessarily plans on introducing that when Madrox eventually returns to "our" reality, but just the possibility of it happening is enough to keep the reader hooked. Moreover, he really sets the stage for Havok to take over the team in a really spectacular way. David is too great of a writer to simply kill off Madrox. By hurling him into the multiverse at the same time as Havok needing something to do, David creates a more elegant solution, opening the door to future storylines in much the same way he did in sending off Darwin in a similar fashion.
For all these reasons, David gives us an excellent issue. But, as usual, David goes beyond just impressing with a carefully constructed plot, delivering his usual combination of humor, suspense, and wit. I honestly spent most of this issue not knowing where it was going, but enjoying the ride while we got there. Best...series...in...comics.