Thursday, November 27, 2014

Edge of Spider-Verse #5 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue reminds me of the Spider-Gwen issue, though Way doesn't exactly reach the same heights.

Like Latour, Way hints at the fully formed world where Peni Parker resides.  For example, we learn that Peni had been segregated from her family before becoming SP//dr, evidenced by her questions to "D" about her father (and predecessor as SP//dr) and the fact that she'd never met her Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  But, we're not given all the information, leaving us only with some sense that she lived at some school for potential meta-teens that reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go."  D himself opens up the possibility of a world of superheroes with whom SP//dr interacts.  Does this world have an Avengers?  It remains to be seen.  Moreover, Peni's aunt and uncle are working for some sort of organization, but we don't have a sense if the government or a company (like Oscorp) runs it.

But, Latour managed to get us excited about these unknowns while still giving us what we needed to know about Gwen to appreciate her.  Conversely, we have a pretty basic lack of understanding about SP//dr.  Rather than just a radioactive spider that bit Peni once, this radioactive spider is the one in charge, choosing its host.  But, it's unclear why SP//dr seeks out a specific genetic structure or if Peni's family is the only one with that structure.  We also don't understand what motivates Peni.  It feels like she's just doing her duty, without any real sense of agency or responsibilities.  She might be trying to honor her father, but we're only left to infer that; Way doesn't do anything to make that clear.  

In other words, I enjoyed the sense of mystery that came with Spider-Gwen, but we at least had the basic facts that we needed to understand her.  We don't really have that with Peni.  She feels like a cog in a wheel that we don't really see.  If this issue was the first of a three-issue mini-series dedicated to her, we'd have plenty of time.  But, Way had to recognize the limitations of a one-shot a little more than he did here.

** (two of five stars)

Justice League #35 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue is OK, but I still don't quite understand how we've gotten here.

I get that Bruce is taking the adage to "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" to the extreme by forging a partnership between Lexcorp and Wayne Enterprises, but I'm not entirely sure what the partnership is supposed to be.  Based on their speeches at the announcement ceremony, it sounds like it's mostly focused on charitable works, but such an agreement wouldn't require Lex to show Bruce his labs.

Regardless of the nature of the partnership, are we really supposed to believe that Bruce believes that Lex would show him everything?  Johns seems to be going that way, but it just doesn't pass the laugh test.  Would Lex have shown Bruce the Amazo virus or is that supposed to be the sign that he wasn't being totally forthcoming?  Also, Bruce not only expects Luthor to reveal to him criminal activity, but he expects him to do so so quickly that the Justice League is assembled outside the building waiting.  Isn't that a bit optimistic?  (I'm not going to touch the fact that Neutron just happens to attack Luthor while the Justice League is assembled close enough to save him.)

I guess we'll see where we go from here.

** (two of five stars)

Earth 2: World's End #2 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Although this issue flows well, I'll admit that I'm confused on the overall plot, particularly as it relates to "Earth 2."  I've got two basic areas of problems.

First, OK, I admit, zombie para-demons are pretty awesome.  We first saw them in "Earth 2" #27 when the heroes save C.E.R.N. from them.  Here, though, they're under the direct control of K'li.  It's another example of the events in "Earth 2" and this title mirroring one another without actually telling the same story.  I'm going to need to see a better job of integrating the stories, otherwise this dissonance is going to get really annoying.  (Also, I'll note that we're not told why the virus conveniently doesn't actually turn the Huntress, Power Girl, and Red Tornado into parademons; instead, it just brings them under K'li's control.)

More importantly, I'm seriously confused when it comes to the Apokolips plot, so I read my back issues to try to piece together the story.  I'm a little less confused, but confused nonetheless.  The original plan, as Bedlam stated in "Earth 2" #19, was for Mr. Terrific and Terry Sloan to build a Boom Tube sufficiently large to push Earth into Apokolips' space.  (I'm not entirely sure if we learn why Apokolips needs Earth, but I'm going to let that one pass for now.)  The heroes manage to stop Bedlam from accomplishing this goal in issue #26, though Bedlam escapes with Sloan and Terrific.  He brings them to Puerto Rico, where he announces that he's going to try again.  In "Earth 2:  World's End" #1, Bedlam asks Sloan and Terrific if they can hear the drums of Apokolips, telling them that it's their work that made it possible.  However, we're not told how they did so.  We're more or less led to believe that they successfully re-created the Tube in Puerto Rico that the heroes destroyed in Geneva, but, if so, it happened off-panel.  However, in this issue, Apokolips is moving to Earth-2.  One of the residents of Apokolips complains that "the teleportation to this universe" destroyed his henchmen, seemingly confirming that Bedlam reversed the plan this time:  instead of bringing Earth to Apokolips, he brought Apokolips to Earth.  However, Sloan and Terrific apparently couldn't open the Tube next to Earth (as they did last time), since Apokolips is 24 days from arriving.  It would be nice for someone to explain confirm this information, because I feel like I'm seriously stretching to piece it together.

It's early days, so I'm willing to allow for some vagueness.  But, as I said, I'd like to tighten up the coordination between these two series before it forces me to choose one over the other.  I really enjoy reading about these characters, and Taylor and his co-authors have really done a great job of building the suspense, since it seems that Earth-2 really might not survive.  I'm just hoping they don't let basic things (like coordination) trip up the imaginative story that they're telling.

** (two of five stars)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Batman Eternal #28 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Finally!  Some decent art!  Thanks, Meghan Hetrick!  I hope you stay a while.

Even if it was a bit clichéd, I thought that the rat-nest story was clever.  Bats tells Penny-two the story of the time that Alfred tied a bell around the neck of a rat so that it would lead him to its nest.  Bruce does the same with the Flamingo to find Hush.  It doesn't exactly go to plan, but it at least makes the appearance of the Flamingo last issue serve some sort of purpose.  Moreover, it sets up probably the most important development of the last few issues.  Bruce follows Flamingo and discovers a broken Catwoman.  Bruce immediately blames Selina for the scene that he confronts -- of a devastated Croc craddling a dead Jade, killed accidently as her uncle was trying to kill Catwoman.  Although he eventually realizes that she's not responsible, it makes you understand why she concludes that she's alone at the end of the issue.  It also sets up her decision to accept her father's offer to take over Gotham's crime families, deciding to impose order to the chaos so innocents like Jade are saved.  This series rarely shows us events that flow organically from the character's emotions, but Seeley really delivers here.

"I'll never be Dick Grayson."  Ugh.  That line hurt in my heart.  But, it's true.  I never fully bought Barbara and Jason as a couple, but I bought it enough -- dark and light, ying and yang -- to find myself hoping for it to happen, at least for a while.  It would give Barbara someone with whom she could discuss the dark events of her recent past and it would give Jason someone to show him that it's possibly to go through life without waiting to be hurt.  But, Jason knew that he would be hurt, at some point, because he'll never be Dick Grayson.  So many people want him to be, but he finally knows that he can't.  It's a big moment for Jason, but it can't feel good.  (Though, under Hetrick, he may be prettier than Dick, so he can at least console himself with that.)

My only real complaint about this issue is that I'm still not sure what we're supposed to believe Babs was doing with Bard.  I had assume that she was trying to scare him into confessing that he set up her father, but we never really discover that.  In the end, she and Jason just let him free.  Isn't that a pretty big loose end?  It's also weird that Bard apologizes to Gotham as he plummets to his supposed death, given that he's actively trying to destroy it.

But, given how terrible this series is, those complaints are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

*** (three of five stars)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Original Sin Annual #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

After the horribleness of "Original Sin," I was on the fence about getting this issue.  In the end, I got it mostly to see if it could somehow redeem the series.  It was probably an unrealistic expectation, but Latour at least puts in a good effort.

We get the story of Woodrow McCord, the Man on the Wall who passed the title to Nick Fury.  Latour wisely goes for a pulp-fiction approach to the story, given that he's writing about alien invasions taking place in the 1930s.  It's still a little hard to believe that no one noticed the Men on the Wall saving Calcutta from an alien invasion in 1913, but Latour successfully encourages you not to think too critically about it.  It would've also been nice to learn why it was OK for us to have multiple Men on the Wall in 1913, but McCord and Fury were forced to do the job on their own.  But, Latour doesn't really have time to try to explain a concept that the main series failed to flesh out fully.  His real goal is giving us some more information about McCord.  He does just that and closes the book on the whole sorry episode that was "Original Sin."

In the end, this issue doesn't really accomplish much, since McCord is dead and Fury is gone.  It definitely wasn't worth $4.99.  But, I give Latour credit for trying.  If anything, my main problem with the issue was Cisic's difficulty in distinguishing between Fury and Stark, but, after all the water under the bridge on this event, it's a minor complaint.

** (two of five stars)

Magneto #11 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

If we would've gotten through this issue without someone mentioning "Acts of Vengeance," I would've asked for a refund.  It only makes sense that it was Deadpool who got us there.

Bunn partially answers the question that I had from "Axis" #2, namely why the villains that join Magneto's little band of bad guys actually do so.  Some of the recruits I get.  Doom and young Loki don't want to see the world destroyed; Deadpool, Mystique, and Sabretooth have skin in the game when it comes to making sure the Red Skull doesn't imprison mutants in concentration camps; and Carnage will just enjoy the violence.  I'm a little more sketchy when it comes to Absorbing Man, the Enchantress, and Hobgoblin.  The Hobgoblin tie-in series might make it a bit clearer when it comes to him, but it would've been nice to get an answer about Absorbing Man and the Enchantress.  But, given that Bunn does a better job here explaining how the villains get to the battle field than Remender has done with the heroes, I can't really complain too much.

Bunn doesn't just make this issue about Magneto setting up the team.  I'm not a regular reader of this series, so I'm not sure who this Ms. Raleigh is.  But, she does what she needs to do here, reminding Magneto that he's the type of man that, in the words of a woman that he saved, "can do the bad things so that we [the mutants] can survive."  It's obviously a curated reflection on his history, since you could argue that mutants have suffered because of the reputation that Magneto has given them.  But, it does the trick.  (Plus, it's not the Skull is acting because he fears mutants given Magneto's history.  He's just a racist asshole.)

So far, the tie-in issues in this series have been better than the actual main series, so I've got no complaints.  It's all you can ask of a tie-in issue.

*** (three of five stars)


OK, I'm glad to say that this issue is better than the last one.  First, Remender cuts the cute and focuses mainly on Tony, avoiding the cacophony of phony voices that weighed down last issue.  Second, he actually tells a story here, rather than just showing us a random string of moments.  Even better, the story is a decent one.

The use of Tony as narrator gives this issue a focus that helps us sort through the chaos portrayed in it.  The Red Skull and his Sentinel minions make short work of the heroes, in a believable way.  One problem that I often have with these events is that the villain suddenly becomes more imposing than he was in previous appearances.  It would've been difficult to believe that the Avengers and the X-Men suddenly found themselves outmatched by the Red Skull and...the S-Men.  But, Remender does a good job of showing how formidable Tony made the Sentinels, so the strain that the heroes feel in facing them feels real.  The heroes start falling one by one, but we're encouraged to keep our focus on Tony rather than trying to follow each hero as s/he faces the Sentinels.  It brings us step-by-step to the end, when only Tony is left standing.  By that point in time, you feel as exhausted as he does, a testament to the energy that Remender infused into this issue.

This issue isn't flawless, however.  Marvel is still pushing the Inhumans in a way that makes absolutely no sense.  In Alex's narration, he talks about the Avengers, Inhumans, and X-Men coming together to realize Charles' dream of unity, even though I'm pretty sure Xavier spent probably no more than ten minutes in his whole life worrying about the Inhumans.  Also, certain parts of the story still feel random.  We have no idea why the Invisible Woman (on her own) and Medusa have pitched in their support, and certain characters that we had assemble at the end of last issue -- to wit, Beast, Cannonball, Hawkeye, Hyperion, Iceman, Iron Fist, Jean Grey, Kitty, Luke Cage, Psylocke, and Sunspot -- are nowhere to be seen.  Given the sheer number of characters suddenly missing, someone has to explain their absence at some point, since it probably would've been a different battle had they been there.  Along those lines, someone has to explain why the super-villains that we see on the last page have thrown their support behind Magneto.  I get Deadpool, Mystique, and Sabretooth caring, since their mutants, but why the rest?

But, we've at least righted the ship a little.  I can't say that it's the most enthralling event that I've read, but at least it's not terrible.  (Man, my bar for these things has fallen.)  Given Alex's narration about seeing some of the good left in Scott, I'm hoping it also means that we're building to his redemption and a unified X-Men.  Fingers crossed.

*** (three of five stars)

Loki: Agent of Asgard #7 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I've read several issues this week where the plot flowed logically from each event and I'm glad to say that the streak continues.

I wasn't entirely sure why Loki would be involved in World War Hate.  I mean, old Loki, sure, he'd totally be on the front lines.  But, young Loki is trying to make amends.  Why would he be involved?  But, Ewing has a great answer:  Gram, the Sword of Truth.  Valeria hooks up Gram to an orb that broadcasts its power throughout Latveria, saving the Latverians from themselves by showing them their actual emotions.  Consequently, Doom faces the truth about himself; whatever it is, it horrifies him.  In showing us this scene, Ewing reminds us just how self-deluded Doom is.  It's not like we don't know that, but it's interesting to see it so clearly.

Moreover, Loki finding himself in Latveria just in time to save the day doesn't feel like an overly convenient plot device.  It builds off the revelation that old Loki is lying to Freya, because the world of the future that he's trying to ensure comes to pass is only a golden age for him, with Earth ruined.  Doom obviously wanted to avoid that happening, setting up the kidnapping of Loki.  In other words, it's a logical sequence of events.  By revealing old Loki's lies, Ewing also becomes one of the few authors to use a tie-in issue to forward the series' ongoing plot.  It's solid work from start to finish.

**** (four of five stars)

Captain Marvel #8 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue is ridiculous in the best possible way.  Recapping it almost seems like spoiling the fun.  Let's just say hamster cheeks are used as a metaphor for dimensional pockets.

DeConnick continues to show that she really understands how to write characters on several levels, particularly through her ability to give them distinct voices and make clear their motivations.  For example, I loved Rocket getting cranky because he was creeped out when the aliens cut the lights to Harrison, just as I totally bought that he would rally to protect Chewie when he learned she is (like he is) the last of her kind.  In other words, everything he does here intuitively feels like something Rocket would do.

DeConnick also really excels when it comes to writing emotions.  Tic's speech at the end of the issue -- about Carol needing to be brave enough to love Chewie enough to risk losing him -- could be a real turning point for Carol.  She's spent most of these two series fleeing people for fear of hurting them, so it's a big deal for her to decide to open herself to the possibility of letting the people around her make their own decisions when it comes to whether they want to stand by her or not.  It's pretty deep for an issue about cats (ahem, flerken).

My only complaint -- something that I feel required to note if I'm writing an honest review -- is that ditching the kitties at the T.D. Polyviv Refugee Rehab and Relocation Center felt a little like a cop-out.  If Carol was worried about not being able to keep all the kittens safe, shouldn't she have stayed there to help protect them?  Does the Center really have enough guards to protect them from the aliens that attacked her?

But, whatever.  It's a small complaint.  DeConnick is still the best in the business when it comes to combining humor with emotions, and I really hope they let her write the X-Men one day, because those folks could really use that.  (But, it would have to be in addition to Carol.  No leaving Carol, Kelly Sue.)  Her characters feel real, and I can't think of higher praise than that.

**** (four of five stars)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man #7 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue was pretty solid.  We're still inching slowly to "Spider-Verse," but I found myself enjoying one last story before we dive head first into that event (as much as I'm actually excited about it).  My thoughts are scattered, because it's late on a Friday and it wasn't exactly a banner week at work.  So, I thought that I'd just list them, in no particular order:

- I love Ana Maria making the point that someone should've made to Peter years ago, that "great responsibility" doesn't mean "all the responsibility."  Word.  It's hard to believe that Peter just now realizes that the fire and police services can actually handle routine problems, like ringing alarms, attempted robberies, and small fires.  But, better late than never.

- I love Spidey and Ms. Marvel together.  I'm glad that Gage has Spidey take on board Kamala, telling her that "this sort of super smash-up" is his specialty.  As the original teen superhero, he'd be an asshole if he told her to sit on the sidelines while the adults fought.  Plus, their interaction is just adorable.  Her barrage of questions about Carol is hilarious, but Peter's response is even better:  "Yes, there was a date.  Let's leave it there, okay?  That's what she did."  Amazing.

- Minerva's plan makes total sense.  Seriously.  Usually, super-villains have totally hare-brained schemes, but stealing an Inhuman still undergoing terrigenesis to use his/her "still-maleable genes" to undo the Kree's evolutionary dead-end totally works for me.

- Spidey has a history with the masked henchman?  I can't wait to discover who it is.  Hopefully it's not Hydro-Man, but someone obscure, like Ox.

- The most interesting part of the Captain Spider-Britain back-up story -- besides Morlun killing Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends -- is the connection to the ongoing plot of "New Avengers."  By connecting the stories, we're definitely given some evidence that the rumors that Marvel is building to a major collapse of the space/time continuum next summer isn't too far off base.

- Speaking of Spidey and his Amazing Friends:  ouch, Dan Slott.  Don't mess with the '80s, bro.

*** (three of five stars)


Oy.  All right, let's just do this thing.

The plot of this issue is pretty solid.  Remender does a good job establishing the Red Skull as an overwhelming villain, showing the Avengers and Magneto on Genosha really struggling to land a hit against him.  Moreover, Remender uses characters at their best and worst to advance the plot.  Inspired by Xavier, Rogue manages to overcome the Skull's stoking of her mistrust of Wanda and, as a result, manages to save Wanda from him.  Given what the Skull could've done with Wanda by his side, Rogue pretty much saves the day right then and there.  But, the tension driving this sub-plot is our lack of certainty that Rogue will overcome her darker impulses, something that she failed to do for most of "Uncanny Avengers."  Moreover, Tony Stark displays why he's the Marvel Universe's resident genius when he reveals that he found a way to block telepathic frequencies, freeing the Avengers from the sway of the Skull.  But, the Skull reveals that he's been manipulating Tony's unchecked ego, using him to create two "Stark Sentinels:"  they're crafted of adamantium and loaded with Tony's knowledge of the heroes' weaknesses, gleaned from his time running the world during "Civil War."  By using Rogue and Tony's highs and lows to fuel the plot, Remender shows a great understanding of both characters.  By using characterization and not convenience to get us from Point A to Point B, he also makes it all the easier for us all the more engage.

But, our ability to engage is overwhelmed by moments of just terrible writing.  As he did in "Captain America" #25, Remender has inexplicably decided to emulate Bendis in the worst possibly way, randomly having characters spout one-liners without regard to the likelihood of the characters saying what s/he said.  Storm in particular engages in banter that I don't for a minute believe would happen the way that Remender writes it.  Moreover, the heroes that appear in Genosha do so with no explanation.  I have no idea how the Skull got his hands on Cyclops, Genesis, or Quentin, and I've even read all the "March to Axis" issues.  We're not given any hint how Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Storm discover that Alex and Scott are on Genosha.  Don't even get me started on the random heroes that appear at the end in a two-page splash.  Susan Storm without the rest of the Fantastic Four?  Young Jean Grey by herself, despite the fact that she's currently lost in the Ultimate dimension?  Beast, but not Rachel Summers, someone that seemingly would be helpful against Red Onslaught?  Ditto Kitty, but not Emma Frost or the Stepford Cuckoos?  It all makes not a lick of sense.

This issue started off so strong; Remender went straight for the heart strings.  We see the Skull torture Alex by making him feel the comfort that he felt in bed with Jan and their daughter, only to take it from him.  We watch Jan tell Tony about Katie, wondering why they all keep making the sacrifices that they make.  We watch Rogue be reminded of the woman that she wants to be thanks to the fading image of her mentor.  It really built up the sense that this series was going to be all about the characters and how this fight might be the one to break them.  But, it all just goes off the rails, descending into the worst examples of cross-over excesses.  It's disappointing, to say the least.  If it was just one-liners, I could look past it, but it's just the shocking lack of attention to detail that sinks this issue.  Maybe I'd be less mad if I hadn't read "March to Axis."  I'd just figure that I missed something.  But, I did read "March to Axis," so I shouldn't be this confused.  I certainly shouldn't be this confused this early.  It's usually not until halfway through the mini-series that the wheels come off the bus.

I really wonder what I should do at this point.  I'm tempted to bail now, something that I normally won't dream of doing (hence why I have all "Original Sin" issues).  Decisions, decisions.

** (two of five stars)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Earth 2 #27 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Bennett and Taylor at least try to make this issue match the events of "Earth 2:  World's End" #1, in the sense that Helena, Kara, Lois, Thomas, and Val all find themselves at CERN outside Geneva.  I appreciate the effort, since "Batman Eternal" doesn't seem to have anything to do with any of the ongoing Bat-family books.

The problem is that the two issues have entirely different endings.  At the end of "Earth 2:  World's End" #1, the five heroes plus Green Lantern face K'Li, Fury of Apocalypse.  At the end of this issue, the characters had just defeated a zombie scourge infecting CERN (more on that in a minute).  This issue specifically says that it happens after "Earth 2:  World's End #1," but that makes no sense, unless we learn that they defeated K'Li between issues #1 and #2 and then the events of this issue happen.  In fact, it makes more sense the opposite way, that the fought off the zombie scourge in this issue and then found themselves facing K'Li.  If this series isn't going to descend into "Batman Eternal" levels of chaos, they're going to need to keep the continuity a lot tighter.

Beyond that problem, this issue is silly and not in a good way.  Zombies have essentially overrun CERN; I assume that Bedlam released them in part to cover his escape with Mister Miracle, Mr. Terrific, and Terry Sloan.  It's the resolution of this problem that's ridiculous, with Kara and Val flying around the collider to themselves collide, so that the energy released by said collision could somehow burn off the virus infecting the zombies.  That doesn't seem to make sense on a basic level, but whatever.  I guess that I'll go with it.

The main point of this issue is to throw together Kara and Val and Helena and Thomas.  We learn that Kara and Val knew each other on Krypton, sharing a bond because they were both orphans, and Helena and Thomas' reunion is as tense as you'd expect it to be.  If you can look past the fact that they all already met in "Earth 2:  World's End" #1, then this issue does a decent job of exploring those relationships more than we saw in that issue.  (I'm not sure that I buy Helena so quickly warming to her grandfather, though, particularly, as she said, since she already has family in the form of Kara.)

Anyway,  I'm willing to give everyone a few issues to find their footing in this new publishing situation.  I really enjoyed "Earth 2:  World's End" #1, and I'm hoping that it doesn't somehow overshadow this series.  I wouldn't want to see a scenario like we saw with "Batman R.I.P."/"Final Crisis," where the main title actually wound up not telling the real story, but a facsimile of it.  Fingers crossed.

** (two of five stars)

Earth 2: World's End #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

On some level, I can't believe that DC has managed to lure me into buying another weekly comic, after the disaster that "Batman Eternal" has become.  However, "Earth 2" has been one of the rare bright spots of "The New 52!" for me.  I'm not saying that it's been perfect, but every issue leaves me wanting to know more about the characters and the setting, something that I've really not been able to say about other "The New 52!" titles.  As such, I'm willing to roll the dice on this one.

The good news is that Wilson immediately delivers on the promise of giving us a deeper dive into the setting.  Although this issue largely serves as a review for new readers of where we've been in the main title, Wilson adds some new characters and sub-plots to the mix to keep us ongoing folks interested.

First, I found the revelation that Alan was responsible for the creation of the Boom Tubes, by funding Terry Sloan, to be fascinating.  I'm not entirely sure that I buy his reasoning, though; he claims that he did it to broadcast into other dimensions.  I don't see any advantage of that.  Is he going to charge people on New Earth for Earth-2 transmissions?  Will Comcast make it part of its standard bundle?  The good news is that Wilson doesn't buy it either; he makes it clear that it's really Alan's ego (and desire to be in the history books) that motivates him.

Moreover, this revelation brought with it another one:  Alan's fiancé Sam leaked the creation of the Boom Tubes to Jimmy Olson's Hacking Syndicate.  I was excited about this revelation because it delivered on the promise to flesh out some of the characters that played minor parts in the main title.  Moreover, it really amped up the intrigue; it appears that Sloan killed Sam for leaking the information, since it helped Batman find a way to destroy the Boom Tubes.

We just don't get a better sense of Alan's personal life here.  We also learn that Earth-2 Wonder Woman is Fury's mother and, more intriguing, that Steppenwolf is her father.  I can't wait to hear that story.  Even more excitingly, Wilson introduces the Graysons here.  We're not really given much information about them, other than the fact that Dick is a journalist and Barbara is police commissioner in Chicago.  It's unclear if they were ever Robin/Nightwing or Batgirl on Earth-2, though something about the way that Dick says that he's willing to do anything to protect his family leads me to believe that he may have been.  Unfortunately, it also seems to imply that it's unlikely that Dick and Barbara are going to get to have a happy ending their son.

One thing that still confuses me is Terry Sloan.  In "Earth 2" #0, we learned that Sloan created the Fire Pits because the act would ultimately help the World Army defeat Apokolips, an insight that he gleaned after his Boom Tubes allowed him glimpses of the future.  I don't remember if we've ever learned why this act would help the World Army; when the Four Horsemen of Apokolips appear in the Fire Pits at the end of this issue, it's hard to imagine it doing so.  In this issue, we learn that Sloan might have been actively negotiating with Apokolips before he opened the Fire Pits, since Steppenwolf refers to him as saving his world by giving them access to a world int he Ninth Dimension.  But, Bedlam tells Sloan in a flashback that he fed them "this world" (presumably Earth-2) to save his own.  Is his "own" world New Earth?  If so, was he referring to Earth-2 or New Earth when he activated the Fire Pits?  Why save Earth-2 by opening the Fire Pits only to later give it to New Earth?  At some point, Taylor or Wilson is really going to have to go back over this history, particularly if Sloan is from New Earth.

Despite the Sloan confusion, this issue was remarkably solid.  Beyond the plotting, the art was also great, something that I certainly can't say about "Batman Eternal."  Fingers crossed it all continues.

**** (four of five stars)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Batman Eternal #27 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

At some point, I'm going to have to really assess whether I want to give DC money for this series.

I'll try to summarize the issue just to try to make sense of it.  Bruce and Catwoman are shaking down some thugs connected to a gang that Bruce believes may be working with Hush, though it's unclear why he brought Catwoman with him on this job.  He learns that none of the gangs left standing in Gotham is working with Hush, raising the question of how he's getting his materiel and support.  We learn that Killer Croc is looking for Jade (the girl that he, Bard, and Batman saved a few issues ago) and that she's the scion of two Gotham crime families, the Ibanescus and the McKillens.  The leader of the Ibanescu family (her uncle, Dragos), essentially sells her to some dude named Mr. Bone; Jade knows Catwoman (though we don't learn how) and Bone has a vendetta against her.  Jade is forced to lead him to Catwoman, and we see him poised to strike as this issue ends.  Also, the Flamingo appears briefly, because he's trying to get the bounty on Spoiler, and Batgirl drops Bard from a roof-top.

My main problem here is that we seem to randomly be veering from event to event.  I get the fact that Snyder and Tynion are telling a long story, but, honestly, they have to put some sort of effort into keeping the narrative coherent from issue to issue.  Although, in reality, Batman's life may be the chaotic jumble of events that this series has been so far, it's still draining as a reader to try to follow it.  I can barely remember if we know that Batgirl knows that Bard was behind keeping her father imprisoned or whether Catwoman has previously appeared in the series.  I just keep wondering why I'm still reading this series, particularly since, as we just saw in the most recent "Batman" issue, it seems like it's going to have little impact on the Bat-verse once it's done.

** (two of five stars)

Batman #35 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue is fine, though I feel like I've read it a hundred times already.  The only unique twist on Batman fighting the Justice League that appears in this issue is that Joker is responsible for it happening this time.  But, the fight itself goes pretty much the same way that it always does, with Bruce revealing that he's spent years (and more than the military budgets of most small countries) putting together a suit of armor that can fend off the League.

My only real complaint is that it was somewhat hard to follow Bruce's fight with Flash.  Capullo focuses in the camera, if you will, on a tumbling batarang struck by a lightning bolt.  However, it's unclear what the point of focusing on the batarang is, since Flash is actually defeated when Bruce uses the suit to cover the street with a frictionless surface.  But, otherwise, the fights are pretty easy to follow, if boring.

The big reveal of this issue should be related to the fact that it happens after "Batman Eternal," but, honestly, we don't learn much.  Alfred survives, as expected, and Bruce moves into an apartment in the heart of Gotham.  It appears to have some connection to the Court of Owls, so it seems possible that the Court or Owlman might yet make an appearance in "Batman Eternal."  I guess that's supposed to keep us going.

** (two of five stars)

Batgirl #35 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, here we go.

I wasn't going to get this issue.  Although I loved the beginning of Simone's run on this series, the end of her run descended into almost revenge porn, with an angry and grim Barbara Gordon fighting a succession of forgettable villains.  In the end, Barbara was almost unrecognizable, giving Jason Todd a run for his money in terms of seeing the world as a dark and hopeless place.  However, the relaunch promised to jettison exactly these aspects of the latter part of this series, returning Barbara to her roots as the optimistic member of the Bat-family.  As such, I was willing to give it a try.

I will say that Stewart and Fletcher do manage to lighten the mood.  The characters surrounding Barbara -- from her new roommates to the small-time hoods that she collars over the course of the issue -- are definitely lighter.   They successfully conjure up a world of carefree twenty-somethings living the dream in Gotham's version of Brooklyn (even when some of them are committing crimes).  From Barbara's roommates singing out her thanks to Barbara after volunteering her to go on a coffee run to the issue's main villain speaking in hashtag as he fights Babs in a bathroom, Barbara definitely isn't surrounded by car thieves and murderous sociopaths anymore.

However, it's not like Babs herself is carefree.  She's apparently had a major row with Black Canary, a situation that isn't made better when it's revealed that she not only stored her equipment in Canary's dojo after telling Dinah never to speak to her again, but that storing said equipment inadvertently led to a fire that destroyed all of Canary's earthly possessions.  Moreover, it's pretty clear that she's going to encounter a Peter Parker-esque difficulty in balancing her school work and her crime fighting.  But, it can't all be roses.

Overall, I like the new direction, but I'd warn Stewart and Fletcher that they come on a little too strong here.  In trying to make Barbara's world hip, they begin to sound like someone's mom trying to use the lingo that the kids are using these days.  Just to use one example of where I thought the authors went too far, Burnside (the name of the neighborhood) seems to be populated by no straight people whatsover.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  I'm a gay comic-book fan.  I'm thrilled to have gay characters not only in Barbara's life but in comics generally.  But, it's a little too much here.  Barbara's bisexual roommate, the lesbian couple that Barbara initially thinks stole her laptop, the gay guy that sends her to the actual thief, and said thief mentioning his two moms:  we get it.  Burnside is hip because it has gay people.  Hopefully, it'll also have straight people so that Babs can date someone.  Add in there the "coder" roommate working for a customized online-dating app and you start to feel like you're watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."

In terms of the story, I'm not entirely sure that the authors have a great grip on Barbara.  They sort of elevate her photographic memory to the level of a super-power, implying that she is actually almost able to physically recreate a scene.  (It gets a little "C.S.I.")  Moreover, although her technological prowess helps her save the day, she's somehow unable to retrieve her notes from her wiped laptop.  Does Barbara Gordon really only have one laptop?  She has no, like, back-up servers or anything?  Also, I'm not sure that I buy that she got as drunk as she's depicted as having gotten here.  Sure, the authors use Alysia as a way to note how unusual of behavior it is for her, but that doesn't explain her doing it in the first place.

But, the guys do have talent.  I was really impressed by them stringing together the two conversations that Barbara has with witnesses, making them flow seamlessly into one another.  I've just got to hope that, as they settle into writing this series, some of the weirder aspects of this issue -- like the trying too hard or Babs' slightly off characterization -- resolve themselves.  Fingers crossed.  I'll try to be hopeful like I'm supposed to believe Barbara is again.

*** (three of five stars)


Wow.  I have a lot to say.

I rarely talk about the art first when I write a review, but Dauterman and Wilson deliver one of the most beautiful comics that I've ever read.  It's not just because Thor is prettier than he's possibly ever been.  (I have a thing for brooding.  Sue me.)  They really master small and large moments alike.  The splash page where the Frost Giants attack the Roxxon base is beautiful; the Giants seem to walk off the page into reality.  But, the grief conveyed by Thor's barely open eyes as he begs Mjolnir to move is equally beautiful.  I hope they stay on this title for a long time, imbuing it with the grandeur of the Norse gods but also showing the gods' humanity and thus making them identifiable characters.

In terms of the story, Aaron does an amazing job breathing life into each character.  From Odin's bombast to Freya's wryness to Thor's despair, the characters feel as real as the guy sitting next to you.  They are not simply archetypes, representing a certain type of character.  They feel like honest-to-goodness people.  You can laugh at Odin's haughty cluelessness just as easily as you can identify with Freya's maternal concern.

But, it's not just the dialogue that pops.  Aaron leaves us with a number of questions that will clearly the guide the first few issues of this series.  Most obviously, how will Thor respond to Malekith cutting off his arm and setting him adrift in the Norwegian Sea?  I'll admit that it took me a second read to notice his lonely figuring falling into the depths.  In fact, if I had one criticism of this issue, it's that we seemed to rush to the arm-cutting moment.  It's pretty unexpected for someone to cut off Thor's arm.  As a result, my mind didn't exactly process the moment as it happened, particularly since it's essentially confined to half a page.  Dauterman at least confirms that Malekith cut off Thor's arm by having it lie on the floor next to him, but, in some ways, I felt like we skipped over the brutality of the scene, letting it happen in passing.  If Thor (presumably) survives, how far off the deep end will losing his arm (at least for a while) send him, given that he was already pretty close to the edge?

But, Aaron doesn't just leave us for questions for Thor; other characters' paths are equally unclear.  Has Freya taken up the mantle of Thor?  What artifact did Roxxon find that the Frost Giants want?  What's Malekith planning?

It's a lot of questions for just one issue, particularly one that felt as well plotted and executed as this one.  We weren't lost in long expository sequences trying to get across enough information as possible.  (I'm looking at you, "Bucky Barnes:  Winter Soldier" #1.)  The revelations were organic and one built off the next.

I have to say, as a new "Thor" reader, Aaron makes me wonder why I haven't been collecting this series since I was a kid.  I can't wait to see the stories unfold (and track down some back issues).

***** (five of five stars)

Spider-Man 2099 #4 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

**** (four of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Tiberius...I can't believe I'm saying this, but..." "If the next words out of your mouth are that you're proud of me, you're fired."  -- Miguel and Tiberius, having a moment

In mid-battle, Miguel tries to convince the Scorpion to stop attacking him, since they're both trying to accomplish the same thing, namely, save Tiberius Stone.  The Scorpion, not surprisingly, announces that he doesn't care if Spidey is right, because he just wants to kill him.  Miguel asks why Alchemax hired the Scorpion to run the Spider-Slayer program, and Gargan notes that he knows both spiders and robots, so he was the ideal candidate.  Miguel realizes that the Scorpion isn't going to acknowledge that Miguel isn't Spider-Man, and Gargan uses his tail to knock him out the window.  Miguel lands right in front of the Spider-Slayers, but Gargan declares that he only wants them to keep Miguel contained so he can be the one to defeat him.  Miguel leaps into the air to escape, but one of the Slayers grabs him with a rope and pulls him to the ground.  Gargan then resumes attacking him, and Miguel marvels at the fact that history dismisses the Scorpion as a "minor annoyance for Spider-Man at best."  While Miguel wonders how he's going to beat someone so quick and vicious, Tiberius awakens in time for the building where he's being held to start crumbling around him.  Mussaret leaps on top of him to protect him, and the rubble kills her.  A disturbed Tiberius silently leaves the building.

Outside, the Scorpion shows off his new costume, deploying a laser canon embedded in his tail.  Miguel evades the lasers, but the Spider-Slayers give him chase.  The Scorpion reminds Miguel that Slayers will open fire on anything "spidery," prompting Miguel to hide in an alley and get Lyla to cloak him in his street clothes.  Frustrated that he can't find Miguel, the Scorpion takes several civilians hostage (with the help of the Slayers), threatening to kill them if he doesn't emerge from hiding.  (The Scorpion does note that Spidey has been different lately, so he's not 100 percent sure that the plan will work.)  Miguel realizes that he needs to turn to the Slayers to his side, so he webs up his watch and throws it onto the Scorpion's back.  Once attached, he has Lyla project his costume onto the Scorpion, just as he's going to kill a young boy with his tail cannon.  However, acquiring their target, the Spider-Slayers open fire on the Scorpion.  He's initially confused, but he eventually sees the costume on himself and understands that he's there target.  (He's still clueless how he wound up wearing Spidey's costume).  As Gargan fends off the Slayers, Miguel rescues the young boy, who hugs him before running for safety.  Miguel goes to find Tiberius, but doesn't have to go far as Tiberius stumbles upon Gargan's battle with the Slayers.  He utters a deactivation phrase, and finds a nearly unconscious Gargan on the bottom of a pile of Slayers.  Miguel shoots a Web-Line to grab his watch from Gargan's back and orders Lyla to call Jalafa Dahn to send a pick-up crew to get him and Tiberius.

At dinner with Dahn, Tiberius tells him that he doesn't have to get revenge on the people responsible for his kidnapping because they're "already been dealt with."  Dahn asks when he'll get replacements for the Slayers that the Scorpion destroyed, and Tiberius, after a moment of silence, informs Dahn that he won't be giving him armaments against his people.  He tells Dahn that he'll refund his money, but a furious Dahn threatens him.  However, Tiberius reveals the army of Spider-Slayers waiting outside Dahn's palace and informs Dahn that he has an hour to leave before the Slayers will activate and find him.  Miguel and Tiberius get into their limo, where Gargan is waiting, and they all head home.

The Review
Although I do have a Bad in this post, I have to say that this arc wrapped up a lot better than I thought that it would.  The only questionable part was the oddly close relationship that Tiberius and Mussaret developed so quickly.  However, Miguel's fight with the Scorpion more than compensates for it.  David not only infuses it with hilarity, but he also makes you wonder how Miguel is going to win.  It's nice to see the Scorpion have a moment, even if he finishes the fight on the bottom of a pile of Spider-Slayers.

The Really Good
Man, I did not see the resolution of the fight coming.  As I said, I really had no idea how Spidey was going to survive a full-on assault from a souped-up Scorpion and his Spider-Slayer horde.  But, David really just outdoes himself by having Miguel use Lyla to make the Slayers think than Gargan was Spider-Man.  It's always much more fun when superheroes uses their brains and not their fists to solve a problem, even if outwitting the Scorpion isn't the hardest thing to do.

The Good
1) I liked that Tiberius actually had some growth here.  In both this title and "Amazing/Superior Spider-Man," he been a pretty one-note villain.  If he's going to continue having a presence in this series, David is going to have to flesh him out a bit.  I mean, I don't want him to be a good guy or anything, but it does help get a sense of where he draws his lines.

2) I loved Mac and Miguel's interaction in the car.  Sure, it was pretty clichéd, but I still laughed.  Similarly, I thought it was a nice touch to include the little boy hugging Miguel after he saved him from the Scorpion.  Miguel has always been a harder touch than Peter, at least on the outside, so I liked him getting all awkward over the kid's display of affection exactly because he was touched by it.

The Unknown
David appears to answer a question that I've had throughout this series by revealing (I think) that Miguel is always in his costume.  When he throws his watch onto the Scorpion, Miguel reverts from his street clothes to his costume.  It confirms that Lyla is usually just flashing the hologram of his street clothes on top of the costume (something she couldn't be doing then, since she was on the Scorpion).  He apparently just has to hide his mask.  It's good to know, because it'll stop annoying me.

The Bad
I don't really understand why Mussaret sacrificed herself to save Tiberius.  OK, sure, she's wasn't sure that she would die if she hurled herself on top of him, but she had to have some inkling that getting between him and the collapsing ceiling wasn't exactly increasing her lifespan.  She seemed genuinely concerned for him in that moment, just as he seemed to be mournful over her after he realizes that she's dead.  However, I don't feel like they had spent enough time together for that relationship to develop.  I would've more easily bought the idea that she did it merely because she knew that she needed him alive to end the sale of the Spider-Slayers.  But, it seems to be more than that, given Tiberius' equally emotional response.  I'm not sure what David would've had to have done to convince me that they felt emotionally connected to one another, but it would've helped sell this story.  I mention it because it's an important component of the story, with Tiberius' emotional growth depending from it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Legendary Star-Lord #4 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

For all the build-up to Peter's confrontation with Thanos, it's fairly anti-climatic when it actually happens.  Just as Peter unexpectedly has him on the ropes, Thanos reveals that Peter can't kill him lest the resulting release of cosmic energy destroy the Moon (and, subsequently, Earth).  I sort of get that, since, after all, I don't think any of us really thought that Star-Lord was going to kill Thanos in the fourth issue of his solo series.

However, it's Humphries job to try to convince us that it could happen.  Unfortunately, he doesn't try that hard.  Peter resigns himself to the situation, rather than, I don't know, hurling Thanos off the Moon and killing him at a safe distance.  Humphries doesn't even have Peter consider alternatives to defeating Thanos.  He just sort of shrugs.  It's this part and the bad spelling in his message to Kitty that really raised my hackles.  We've suddenly turned one of the generals of the galaxy's war with Annihilus into a lazy, quasi-illiterate slacker.  I've given Marvel a pass on making Peter look like Chris Pratt, but I draw the line at turning Star-Lord into a galactic version of Andy from "Parks and Recreation."

The most interesting part of this issue is the revelation that Star-Lord and Thanos reached some sort of truce when they left the Cancerverse, though we're still going to have to wait for Bendis to tell that story in "Guardians of the Galaxy."  As a result, I have to wonder why Humphries had Peter confront Thanos now.  If he had waited until Bendis finished telling his story, Peter's anger at himself and Thanos at least would've been clearer.  Instead, this whole issue reads as a way to build anticipation for the eventual revelation in "Guardians of the Galaxy" of how the pair escaped the Cancerverse, but it relies on Peter's unbelievable lack of interest in killing Thanos to avoid revealing the truth.  If this series is just going to be a hand-maiden to "Guardians of the Galaxy," I'm not sure how much longer I'll be getting it.

** (two of five stars)

Edge of Spider-Verse #4 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

To quote Will Ferrell, "boy, that escalated quickly."

Chapman gives us the most off-beat and unexpected installment of this mini-series, delivering a cannibalistic and sadistic version of Peter Parker.  I can't say that it's fun to watch "Uncle Ted" abuse "Patton Parnell" or Patton later using a mouse as his gateway drug to cannibalism.  But, I definitely found myself surprised that no one's ever previously done this story, given how much it makes sense that Peter had a pretty good shot of becoming a cannibal thanks to the spider that turned him into Spider-Man.  (Chapman lets us know that Patton had the sadism in him well before the spider bit him.)

Chapman keeps the reader guessing throughout the issue by adroitly playing off his/her expectation that Patton is going to be like Peter.  With each unexpected development, I found myself fighting against the pull of the story, figuring that Patton would somehow overcome these urges to become a hero.  It's only when Morlun appears at the end to stop him that you find yourself really accepting that Patton wasn't our Peter.

Speaking of Morlun, we do get confirmation here that it was Morlun that's appeared in previous versions of this series.  He's apparently not as dead as he seemed to be the last time that we saw him, though Slott is going to have to explain how he's now managed to cheat death twice.  But, we still have plenty of time for him to do that.  Now, it's time to enjoy the fifth and final Spider-Man.  After Patton, I feel like everything's on the table with this one.

*** (three of five stars)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Captain America #25 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

At some point in this issue, you start to wonder if the diarrhea and flatulence jokes are going to end.  No, really.  It really starts to sound like Bendis had returned to write the Avengers.  I know Remender meant to use these jokes to convey a sense of celebration, but they just keep going and going well beyond the time when anyone over the age of eight would find them funny.  Moreover (and unforgivably), he slights Jarvis by implying that he failed to make enough food, a charge that, among all the unbelievable parts of this issue, is the most difficult to believe.  

Speaking of the unbelievable parts of this issue, I don't really get why Jet flies off the handlebars at Sharon's accusations.  I mean, sure, I get why she would be upset.  But, would she really throw in her lot with her father so quickly?  She didn't really see a middle ground?  She evaded capture easily here.  She could've instead hidden somewhere for a while, approached Sam, and negotiated her return.  Or, if she really was innocent, she could've just surrendered.  After all, she knows that Zola used her to spy, so it stands to reason that Tony could've found the device that he used.  Again, I get why she's upset, but I don't know if I buy that she was so upset to return to Zola.  I mean, she even rebuffs her long-lost brother's efforts to stop her, claiming that he had a moment to have her back.  However, it wasn't like they had some huge meeting and he remained silent throughout it.  Was he supposed to punch Cap or Sharon at some point during the one- or two-minute window when Sharon accused Jet of treachery and Steve tried to arrest her?  Him trying to stop her from returning to Zola before they could get to the truth is him having her back.

The problem is that Remender doesn't really have time to do everything that he wanted to do.  It's like he wrote a 44-page issue and Marvel cut 22 pages.  He should've taken the full 22 pages to end the Zola saga and then addressed Sam taking over the shield.  Instead, we're forced to summarily dismiss Jet and hurriedly introduce Sam as Captain America, and neither character deserved such a fate.  To make matters worse, we get a four-page epilogue that establishes one of the long-serving Avengers as a traitor colluding with HYDRA and re-introduces the Drain.  I know that it's supposed to set up the re-launch of the series as "All-New Captain America," but, honestly, I would've preferred that we at least sent off Jet in a way that made me understand why she felt the need to return to her father.  Then, we could've set up Sam's debut.  Sure, it might've meant that this series didn't end on the nice odd number of 25, but it would've been the ending that this amazing series deserved.

** (two of five stars)

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

As anyone reading this blog for a while knows, I have a sidekick fetish.  Characters like Dick Grayson and Bucky Barnes tend to be much more interesting to me than Steve Rogers or Bruce Wayne.  Moreover, Bucky near the top of my list of sidekicks, so, needless to say, I was excited to see him return to a monthly series.

Unfortunately, I won't be getting this one.  I've stuck with Ales Kot on "Secret Avengers," since I have some sort of sense of where he's going, even if the non-linear narrative occasionally frustrates me.  I really have no idea here, though.  This issue is just a jumble of images and words, fueled by Kot's obfuscatory dialogue and Rudy's indistinct art.  Kot never explains what threat the alien king or the drug smugglers posed to Earth.  If anything, it seems highly unlikely that a pacifist king or Atlantean stoners could pose any real threat.   Instead, they do little more than set up terrible one-liners like "Imperius Sex."  (I could really go my entire life without seeing that phrase in a comic again.)  Onto this confusion, Kot adds mysterious phrases, odd alien interludes, and Nick Fury.  I just can't.

This type of story might be someone's cup of tea, but it's not mine.  I can tell that it's not going to get "better," in the sense that I would like it more than I do now.  As such, I'm getting off the train here and I'll board again when Bucky inevitably returns to Earth.

* (one of five stars)

Magneto #10 and Uncanny Avengers #25 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I'm including "Magneto" #10 with this review since it essentially takes places within the confines of "Uncanny Avengers" #24.  We watch the Skull use Xavier's telepathic powers to torture Magneto with the memory of his concentration-camp jailer, until Alex, Rogue, and Wanda free him at the end of both issues.  It's not essential to understand the events of "Uncanny Avengers" #25, so you can skip it if you're looking for tie-in issues that you can safely avoid.  However, it does give the reader better insight into why Magneto ends issue #25 the way that he does, submitting to his rage and killing the Red Skull. 

Notably, Magneto does so without using his mutant power, beating the Skull to a pulp with his own hands (and, later, a concrete block).  One thing that "Magneto" #10 does give us that "Uncanny Avengers" #25 doesn't is the scene where Magneto bites on a capsule of mutant-growth hormone (MGH) once the Avengers free him, giving him the powers that we see on display in parts of issue #25.  I'm not really sure why Remender didn't include that part in issue #24, to be honest.  In fact, if I had one complaint, it's that the rescue scenes in both issues play out differently.  Beyond the MGH discrepancy, the dialogue is also entirely different.  It's not a fatal flaw, but it seems a weird oversight for two books where the authors are theoretically telling the same story.

Magneto's murder of the Skull actually allows for the release of Onslaught, clearly setting up the start of "Axis."  Thankfully, Remender doesn't just use it to segue into the main event.  He also shows how Magneto has returned to his roots.  Despite his efforts to change, the Magneto that we see here is exactly the same guy that we saw when he appeared in Cape Citadel.  He's not only fueled by his rage (a rage that we understand a little better after the trip down bad-memory lane in "Magneto" #10), but he's also confident that he, and only he, can save humanity.  We're beyond him helping Scott Summers implement his vision for mutantkind.  In other words, Magneto is back...just in time for the Skull to become Onslaught.

One interesting question left hanging out there is the future of Charles Xavier.  Alex himself starts to raise the possibility that Charles' brain could be used to resurrect him, and Remender seemed to be leading us in that direction last issue as well, with Charles speaking to Rogue in her memories.  Remender now appears to have taken that possibility off the table, with Xavier's brain clearly crushed in this issue, making me wonder what outcome this event is going to deliver.  Also, I don't think we ever got an explanation of why the Skull kidnapped Alex, Rogue, and Wanda in the first place.  Are we going to see him similarly start attacking the X-Men to fill his concentration camp?  Or, were they just there to set the plot in motion?

On the eve of "Axis," I can't say that I have a firm grip on the Skull's plans.  Sure, he's got his concentration camp, but it seems unlikely that he would think that he'd really manage to get every mutant on Earth into it.  It's clearly just a stepping stone.  The question is whether it's setting up something that we'll see in "Axis" or if it's going to be like "X-Men:  Prelude to Schism," where it has no impact on the actual story.  I guess we'll see.

*** (three of five stars)

Justice League #34 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Johns hasn't really sold me on the idea that Lex joining the Justice League is even remotely interesting.  It seems extremely unlikely that we won't, at some point, learn that he's putting into effect some nefarious plan.  I mean, if Captain Cold has a scheme in play (against Luthor himself, it seems), then Lex Luthor certainly does.  Seriously, even Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are plotting to trap Luthor.  (Unfortunately, we're still subjected to the three of them teaching him the virtues of being a hero.)  Since the conclusion of this arc seems so foregone, it just makes you wonder why you're bothering with the details.

** (two of five stars)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Grayson #3 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Seeley does a solid job here showing the strain that Dick is feeling in his new role as super-spy.  But, he also reminds us why Dick has to stay in Spyral, regardless of the cost.

When Seeley revealed that Agent 8 knew Bruce's identity, I wondered where he was going with her and how many other agents knew.  After all, the list of people that know Batman's identity isn't a long one, and it doesn't really have a lot of people on it that aren't there because Batman wants them to be.  It immediately raised her standing in the DC Universe, making it clear that she wasn't just a throw-away character.  Or, at least, she wouldn't have been, had she survived the issue.  Seeley answers my first question with a bullet to Agent 8's head, though the second one is left unresolved.  In fact, Seeley reminds us that it's the entire reason that Dick's in Spyral in the first place, to get an answer to this question.

However, regardless of the importance and urgency of the mission, Seeley makes it clear that it's not easy on Dick.  He's surrounding by guns, a weapon that he eschewed as Batman's partner, and he's definitely around people who aren't trying to save people.  Spyral foils his attempt to save its target in this issue.  In fact, his attempt ends so disastrously that it's clear that Dick made matters worse for the target, not better.  Dick knows that, as he also seems to know that the road ahead of him isn't going to get any less grim.

*** (three of five stars)

Detective Comics #35 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

After the convoluted journey that was "Icarus," I have to say that I enjoyed the straight-forward plot that Percy introduces in this issue.  The Bat-titles lately seem to have reduced Batman to a role as a passive observer; in "Icarus," he didn't really do much more than watch as the action unfolded around him.  However, Percy puts him in his comfortable role as the Detective, trying to figure out a way to save everyone (including himself) affected by an eco-terrorist's biological attack at an airport.  I have no idea how Percy is going to wrap up this story in just one more issue, but hopefully it's as a solid as this issue.

*** (three of five stars)

Batman Eternal #26 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

We're halfway through the series and we finally seem to be getting somewhere.  The problem is that I'm not actually sure if it's anywhere good.

First, I'm still not 100% convinced that we're dealing with Hush, at least when it comes to his role in coordinating everything happening in Gotham.  But, I'm willing to accept that he's at least the front-man for the person actually doing it.  Moreover, Snyder and Tynion are doing a better job of showing how the various stories are related.  Putting aside the ridiculousness of the charges against Jim Gordon, we now understand that Hush had to remove him to put Bard in place to declare martial law.  (Of course, we don't yet know why the imposition of matrial law is key to Hush's plans, but I assume that we're getting there.)  The authors have also done a pretty solid job of showing why the city would be ripe for martial law being imposed.  Cluemaster and his gang clearly filled the keg with powder through the disruptions to daily life that we previously saw them manufacture, and the keg was lit by the major events that we've already seen happen, like the train accident that Gordon "caused," the ongoing gang war, and the destruction of Beacon Tower.  (Snyder and Tynion conveniently have Bard review these events to remind us.)  At this point, the only two plots that still don't seem to have a home in the story are the nano-virus that Tim is researching and the super-natural activity under Arkham, though, again, I'll assume that we'll get there.

Though we now have a better sense of why we're where we are and where we're going, as I said in the opening, I'm not sure that I like it.  First, it's not clear whether everything is connected to Hush striking against Batman.  The attack on Alfred, for example, is clearly a strike against him, but the strike against Gordon has a larger purpose (in terms of putting Bard in charge).  If someone else is in charge, it seems that Hush is just taking care of the parts that incapacitate Batman, even if they have a dual purpose (like Gordon or even the destruction of Wayne Enterprises' Beacon Tower).  Meanwhile, the mastermind might be playing the bigger game.  If Hush is in charge, then I'm confused why he's even bothering with the larger plan.  If he's really only motivated by striking against Bruce, why not just hit Alfred and be done with it?  Why the elaborate plan?  If we're going to reveal that Hush is in charge, we're going to need a better sense of why he's going for the TPK here.

Perhaps more importantly, Snyder and Tynion haven't really done anything to show us why Bruce is falling apart so completely.  As I've said throughout this series, Bruce has barely lifted a finger, letting his surrogates do most of the work.  Beside the fight with the Architect on Beacon Tower (one that he essentially loses), I'm actually hard pressed to think of anything that he's directly done in this series.  He's a mess in this issue, totally unraveling as a result of the revelation that it's Hush behind the attack and the fact that Alfred is injured.  He doesn't even remove Alfred from the hospital, knowing that Hush is looking to strike against him; it allows Hush to steal him and give him to Joker's Daughter in the hellish Arkham.  It's almost impossible to believe that Bruce would be so easily played, and it's starting to be the major problem with this series.  If Snyder were telling this story as "Zero Year," I might be able to believe it, seeing it as the errors of a new superhero.  But, Bruce is the experienced crime-fighter and detective that we've always known him to be.  How is he getting so pwned?  Unless Snyder and Tynion reveal that Hush managed to inject Bruce with the same fear toxin, I just think that it's going to be hard to believe wherever we find ourselves at the end, 26 issues from now, since it's going to be hard to believe that Bruce would've let us get there in the first place.

** (two of five stars)

Friday, November 7, 2014

New Warriors #10 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

If I'm being honest, I can't say that I'm devastated that this series is being canceled.  It's been a solid outing, but it's definitely missing something.  I want to say that I'm really engaged with the New Warriors' fight with the High Evolutionary, the Evolutionnaries, and the sub-Celestial squad that appears at the end of this issue, but it'd be a lie.  "Atlantis Attacks" was really the High Evolutionary's moment in the sun, and every story in which he's appeared since then just feels like a re-hashed version of that.  This one is different only because we get the addition of the always-confusing Evolutionnaries, whose motives seem to change with every author that uses them.  I'm not sure if Yost made the best call starting this series with this arc, particularly since the Warriors that I remember were a lot more street level than this team has been.  But, again, it's not bad so much as it's just average, and average doesn't really cut it for series in this this market place that don't involve Wolverine.

*** (three of five stars)

Edge of Spider-Verse #3 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Aaron Aikman is no Spider-Gwen, but Weaver is definitely onto something.

First, Aikman is interesting because he turned himself into Spider-Man; it wasn't an accident, as it's been for the other Spider-Men that we've seen so far.  Unfortunately, characterization isn't Weaver's strongest suit.  Aikman and his love interest Kaori feel hollow throughout the issue.  In terms of dialogue, Aikman utters bromides to himself such as, "Alone, I stand against the rising tide, and as I live, all evil shall fall."  (I totally say that to myself every morning in the mirror; it really helps motivate me for the day of evil-smiting before me.)  In terms of motivations, Kaori is little more than a plot device.  Weaver takes her beyond even the clichéd role of a grieving mother willing to do anything to help her child and turns her into a monster who abets her obviously possessed daughter's plans to turn dozens of kidnap victims into cyborgs.  In other words, Weaver doesn't really do anything here to make either character all that likable.

Moreover, the plot is still a little unclear.  Kaori's daughter Hannah met some sort of extra-dimensional terror named Naamurah during her years in a coma, and Naamurah traveled into our dimension when Kaori successfully awakened Hannah.  We never learn why Naamurah wants to use the cyborgs to conquer the world, and Weaver doesn't do anything to explain her connection with Morlun (if it's him that appears at the end of the issue).

However, Weaver does create a rather interesting setting, infusing the book with a certain manga sensibility.  Although Aikman is Caucasian and the city where he lives appears to be New York, this corner of the Spider-Verse definitely seems to produce high-tech marvels beyond those that we see even in "our" universe.  You get a sense that more is possible there than in our universe, since this Spider-Man has technology on par with our Iron Man.  (Imagine what "their" Iron Man has.)  Moreover, Weaver does a great job using the secondary aspects of the design to pull you into this world.  The use of the Marvel Comics trading cards to introduce the villains was genius, and their allusions to issues of comics detailing the stories of this universe were definitely successful in making you wish that you knew more about it.

Ultimately, Aikman would have staying power if someone else was writing the character, though Weaver should definitely be left in charge of design.  We'll see how Aikman fares in "Spider-Verse."

** (two of five stars)

Amazing X-Men #11 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, Yost and Kyle definitely lost me here.  For the first three issues of this story, I thought that we had a pretty simple plot on our hands:  some dude accidentally turned a significant portion of Canada into cannibals, activating the Wendigo curse on a wide scale.  It was pretty straight-forward.  The main tension driving the story was how the X-Men were going to cure the infected people without killing them.

However, we take a serious turn for the bizarre in this issue.  Suddenly, some "great beast" named Tanaraq is using the spread of the Wendigo curse to make a play for power in the spirit realm that he and other beasts like him inhabit.  He seems to be mad at "higher beings" and humans (though he may actually conflate the two) and uses his new-found power to break the geographic limit of the curse so the Wendigo can spread around the world.  Although it took me two readings of Tanaraq's conversation with Snowbird to get that, it makes sense (more or less).

My real question is why it was necessary at all.  This veer into the supernatural doesn't really have that much to do with the original plot.  Presumably, the X-Men are still going to have to cure the Wendigo, thereby denying Tanaraq his power source, but it seems hard to see how Yost and Kyle are going to wrap up both stories in just one issue.  In other words, it's really late in the game to be introducing plot twists.  I would've preferred that the focus be on Alpha Flight and the X-Men working together to cure the Wendigo, without this third group getting sent into the spirit realm to muddy up the waters.

** (two of five stars)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man #1.5 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Slott brings "Learning to Crawl" to an end in this issue, despite the fact that I felt like he was telling a much bigger story than the one that we ultimately get.  Overall, I thought this look (even if shorter than expected) at Peter's early days was great, though this issue itself is a mixed bag.

On the plus side, I thought Slott did a great job of bringing us full circle.  For a while, it looked like Peter was going to develop lasting friendships with the A.V. club, raising the obvious question of why those people aren't in his life now.  But, the revelation that he stole from the A.V. club (to fight Clash) and consequently ruined those friendships turns them into a brief interlude of happiness in Peter's otherwise miserable high-school experience.  Similarly, Dr. Cobbwell refuses to allow him to return to work for him; although they end of friendlier terms than Peter does with the A.V. club, it explains why Peter was never seen working for him after issue #2.  In other words, Slott doesn't change canon here.  The Peter than ends this mini-series is the Peter that we recognize, just one living in a more modern world than he did.

Although Slott manages to tie up these loose ends in a way that feels organic, other aspects of the story in this issue feel forced.  For example, I thought Jonah fired Peter last issue?  I mean, I get that Jonah is mercurial, so he could've easily changed his mind once Peter produced some decent photos, but it would've been nice for Slott to show us that.  Moreover, I find it hard to believe that Peter's guidance counselor -- a man allegedly dedicated to troubled kids -- would so easily dismiss him as "untrustworthy," a "chronic liar," and a "lost cause."  Judgmental much?  It's clear that Slott needed him to be this dismissive to explain why we never saw him again but also to set up Aunt May's joke.

In terms of the joke -- where Aunt May sneezes and sends a set of wind-up chattering teeth flying onto Peter's lap --  I have to say that I appreciate what Slott was trying to do.  I've liked everything that he's done with May throughout this mini-series.  In the original stories, she hardly gives a thought to the impact that Ben's death had on Peter.  I've loved Slott showing her as much more engaged; in addition to updating the time period of the story, it's the best thing about this mini-series.  However, just like with the guidance counselor, the problem is that it's forced.  It would be OK if it felt organic, but it doesn't.  May isn't just funny to be funny; she's funny to get Peter to realize the importance of having fun while being Spider-Man.  She claims that a sense of humor is Ben's other gift, besides his heart.  I'll buy that, but I don't ultimately buy where it leads us, namely Peter deciding to use quips to honor Uncle Ben.  He's always been described as using them as a result of his nerves, and he eventually realizes (as he does here) how they successfully distract his opponent.  I totally don't buy that he does it as some sort of homage.  I just don't get why Slott felt the need to go down this road, since it really the only part that feels negatively ret-con-y.

My biggest grip, though, is one that I often have with Slott, namely that he tries to do too much and winds up failing to deliver on certain components of the story.  We're really supposed to believe that  Peter just rips off Clash's mask in front of everyone?  I'm assuming that we don't hear from Clash again because he goes to prison, and, I have to say, it just seems remarkably callous on Peter's part to set up that.  He's also a guy wearing a mask, and it's not like Clash has been using his power to rob liquor stores.  He's mostly been just a nuisance, if a dangerous one.  Peter doesn't try to have some sort of heart-to-heart talk to him?  He just rips off his mask and ruins his life?  Moreover, he then crows about it, as if it's some great honor to Uncle Ben?  It feels uncharacteristically tone-deaf on Slott's part to have Peter be this vindictive.

But, as I said, overall, I really enjoyed this mini-series.  I'd recommend it to anyone trying to get a quick insight into Peter's origins, rater than having to track down the TPBs of his early adventures.  You get a more modern story that improves upon the original in ways that surprises you.  I just wish Slott had stuck the landing a little better.

** (two of five stars)