Sunday, May 24, 2015

Batman #40 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)


I want to be more upbeat about this issue than that word implies, but it's hard to be.  This issue is supposed to be remarkable because it's (allegedly) Bruce and the Joker's final confrontation.  Snyder certainly tries his best, but, for me, the inevitability of both of them returning makes it hard to accept it on its merits.

For the most part, Snyder does an OK (though not great) job of taking us through the paces here.  Bruce learns from the Court of Owls that a pool of diluted dionesium exists somewhere in the cave structure under Gotham and that the Joker gained access to it after Bruce dropped him off the cliff at the end of "Death of the Family."  (At least, I think that it was "Death of the Family."  It's possible that it could also have been when he dropped him into that vat at Ace Chemicals.  I'm not entirely sure.)  Bruce tells Julia that he knew that the Talon was lying when he told Bruce that the Joker was active during his era because Talons were trained to tell the truth.  He realizes that the Joker is going to try to destroy this pool, presumably so that he can be the only one with access to dionesium (the amount already in his spine).  (Honestly, though, I'm not 100 percent sure why he was going to destroy the pool.  I'm more or less guessing here.)  As such, Bruce sends Dick in his costume to confront the Joker to buy him time to go into the caves and get the dionesium so he can manufacture a cure for the Jokerized mobs.

However, the Joker discovers the ploy in time to magically race to the cave and fight Bruce.  The best part of their confrontation is the Joker's explanation for why he decided to end their dance.  Originally, he wanted to prove to Batman that the world was meaningless, but then he realized that his struggle with Batman actually gave the world meaning.  ("Fighting for meaningless but giving meaning by virtue of the fight!")  Now, it's time to end it.  In their struggle, Batman is mortally wounded, and a falling stalactite paralyzes the Joker.

It's here where it gets odd.  Early, Bruce had injected a serum (of course he did) into the Joker that blocked his access to the dionesium in his spine.  With his back broken, the Joker crawls to get to the pool, on some level confirming Bruce's hunch that he wasn't really exposed to the pure form centuries ago (since the serum wouldn't have limited the pure form of dionesium).  But, Bruce tells the Joker that he finally believes that he's the Pale Man, and asks him to stay with him while he dies but the Joker heals (presumably from the pure dionesium).  Snyder plays Bruce's motivations here close to the chest.  It's clear that he's not delusional in a conversation that he has later with Julia about drawing up the sample of dionesium that he took to manufacture the cure.  As such, is he just screwing with the Joker here?  It's really unclear.

The epilogue is also odd.  Julia gives Alfred a letter that Bruce left, and it only says, "HA!"  Alfred gives a long speech about how it means that Batman could only end in tragedy, because, at the end of the day, he had to be mortal for people to believe in him.  (A theme of the issue is that Bruce never sampled all these miracle chemicals that he encountered to make himself more powerful.)  But, I honestly don't understand how Alfred drew that conclusion from that note.  It has something to do with greeting danger with a smile, but I'm unsure.

In other words, the issue itself is a mixed bag.  Snyder mostly sells the conclusion, even if we have some bumps on the way.  But, does anyone even remotely believe that Bruce and the Joker won't return?  I mean, we just killed Bruce five years ago.  No one at this point just rolls their eyes and says, "He'll be back in time for Labor Day?"  Also, we just resurrected a dead Damian in "Batman and Robin."  I know that it's not Snyder's fault that other writers have gone to this well so often and recently, but he had to know that a significant number of us are going to roll our eyes at this one.  It also seems like terrible timing, given that "Batman Eternal" just ended.  We never really got a sense of Bruce's status quo, operating from an apartment, losing all his money.  Now, suddenly, he's dead, and we're going right onto the next guy.

In other words?  "Meh."

** (two of five stars)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Amazing X-Men #18 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I really enjoyed the Juggernaut arc, but, man, this "epilogue" is just not good.

First, Cain apparently views Charles as some sort of saint that saved him, and he's decided that he's using his new souped-up powers to kill Cyclops to avenge Charles.  Didn't Cain spend most of his life trying to kill Charles?  I mean, yes, he had that brief period when he was an X-Man, but, seriously, "brief" is the operative word in that phrase.

Then, Colossus challenges Cain, and Yost plays up the fight for yucks, with Colossus realizing that his friend were right that he tried to play martyr too often.  Sure, it was funny, but Yost portrays it like Colossus was suicidal as opposed to him two or three times making sacrifices that any self-respecting hero would have made.

Then, we have the ending.  Colossus destroys the cliff where he and Juggernaut are fighting, and Cain falls into the water.  That's it.  Apparently, all you have to do to defeat Cain is throw him in the water. Honestly, he has the most power that Cyttorak has ever given anyone, but he can't manage to emerge from the water in time to go after Colossus again?  Plus, the X-Men are so confident that he's helpless that they just leave him there, despite the fact that he's pretty much threatened to kill all the X-Men and now arguably has the power to do it?

You should probably skip this issue.

* (one of five stars)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Amazing Spider-Man #17.1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Conway continues to tell a quintessential gang-land story here, full of oversized egos and shifting alliances.  It really does make you nostalgic for the '80s.

First, he makes it clear that Yuri has gone completely off the deep end.  When the judge that she busted last issue for taking drugs from Tombstone confesses that he did so to help his sick wife alleviate her chronic pain, she doesn't care.  When Peter lets her know that Mr. Negative used an inside man to get the photos of the judge and Tombstone, she doesn't care (even though Mr. Negative was clearly using her to set up Tombstone).  When her boss tells her that she came close to firing her for going straight to the DA with evidence before getting the CSI results, she doesn't care.  It's like watching a rebellious teenager date the wrong guy.

As such, it seems unlikely that Yuri will still be a police officer at the end of this story.  In fact, Conway makes it clear that Yuri's disillusionment with the system is so great that I'm actually not sure that she'll still be a good guy...

*** (three of five stars)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Convergence #3 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

In this issue, we hit the problem that I knew we were going to face:  we encounter a group that I don't recognize, but that seems to be extremely important to the story.

Thomas and Grayson use the "Batmobile" that they borrowed from Bruce to re-join the team just in time for them to take out Telos' drones (this world's version of the para-demons, I guess).  Thomas lets the heroes know that no reinforcements are coming, since every city is fighting for its life.  The Deimos guy that the team encountered last issue says that he knows how to defeat Telos if they just follow him, and, despite their misgivings, the Earth 2 heroes decide that they have no choice.  (I buy that.  I mean, sure, he's totally the witch leading them to the gingerbread house with candy, but they really don't have another choice here.)  Thomas decides to stay, and Grayson stays with him.  Thomas reveals that he didn't go with the team to the center of Telos because he's got no more Miraclo and he knows that someone followed them from Gotham; he wants to make sure that they don't go after the team.  On cue, the pre-DCnU crowd of Morrison villains appear, and Thomas detonates himself to kill all of them.  Grayson is spared (since Man-Bat was carrying him above the explosion at the time), but he's shot in the gut by the Joker.  Somehow, getting shot in the gut results in Dick not feeling his legs, but Telos snaps the Joker's neck before he kills Dick, because he wants Dick to tell him where his friends are.

Meanwhile, Deimos (who we're clearly supposed to recognize) leads the Earth 2 heroes to Skataris, a city in the center of Telos.  (I think that we're supposed to recognize it, too, but I'm not 100-percent sure.)  Deimos says that he was dethroned, but I'm no sure who dethroned him.  Someone named Monarch (the person that I first thought to be the usurper) tells someone named Degaton that he would kill him and their jailer if he had access to his chronal powers.  Degaton says something equally combative, noting that he can't fight Monarch because of their "jailer's pet."  Said pet seems to be a woman named Shakira, but she places them -- with the other "Masters of Time" -- in some sort of stasis because Deimos needs them.  So, is she the jailer or the pet?  If she's the jailer, who's the pet?  Again, I feel like we're supposed to recognize the characters, and it would all make more sense if we did.  But, I don't, so, as usual in this series, I'm lost.

** (two of five stars)

All-New X-Men #40 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I had read about the fact that Bendis was revealing that Bobby was gay in this issue, but I honestly forgot about it until the moment arrived in the book.  I have many thoughts.

First, I think that it's important to acknowledge that Jean stepped over a line here.  Thankfully, Bendis doesn't really let her off the hook for that.  Bobby does, to a certain extent, though it doesn't necessarily mean that he will in the future.  But, forcing Bobby to admit that he's gay because she's read his mind isn't cool.  I think that a myth exists out there that all gay people are just waiting for someone to drag them from the closet in a flood of rainbows.  Yes, it's definitely helpful to know that people love you regardless of your sexuality, sure.  But, Jean didn't do that here.  She could've.  Instead, she presented him with irrefutable proof that he was gay and demanded that he accept it on her time frame.  Everyone has their own journey from the closet, and, for some people, it involves getting over some deeply held denial.  In the real world, you're allow to hold onto that denial until you're ready to drop it.  Jean essentially stole that right from Bobby.  I'm assuming that she doesn't plan on spending her life simply pulling aside people and confronting them with their deepest fears or secrets.  ("Hey, your wife is cheating on you with your brother.  Nice weather we're having, isn't it?"  "Your husband has a second family in Vermont.  Are you going to finish those fries?")  Then, why does she do it to Bobby?  As much as she thought that she was helping him, she's really significantly stripping him of certain rights that he has, as a person, to approach his sexuality the way that he wants to do so, even if it (for the time being) involves a certain amount of denial.  (It's particularly true since he's not dating a woman right now, so the only person that he could be hurting is himself.)

On the larger issue of Bobby being gay, I definitely don't have a problem with that.  In fact, I feel like most X-Men fans have been waiting for this moment for a long time, given Bobby's frequently awkward interactions with the women that he's dated (at least for the last 20 years or so).  In fact, it's probably the only thing that Chuck Austen did on his run on "Uncanny X-Men" that felt organic, hinting that Bobby was gay through Northstar's attraction to him.  (That said, for the love of God, please don't put Bobby and Northstar together.)  It'll be interesting to see how Bendis or Yost handle it in the main series.  I'd probably cry fan-boy tears of joy if younger Bobby spent an issue talking to older Bobby about it.

Speaking about having all the feels, I totally bought Angel's logic for keeping his cosmic powers.  He saw the dark future that he's destined to have, and he committed to himself to do the first thing that he could to prevent it.  Sure.  The problem is that I'm still not sure what this cosmic power means.  Both Kitty and Warren seem little affected by it in terms of their ability to feel emotions, despite Gara essentially warning them that it would strip them of their humanity.  Plus, other than the physical change, I'm not sure what powers Angel has now that he didn't have before he submitted to the Black Vortex.  At some point, Bendis really needs to make that clear.

On the Utopians, color me intrigued.  I recognize Boomer, Madison Jeffries, Karma, and Random; I'm not 100 percent sure who the other two guys are.  But, I'm intrigued to see what their modus operandi is, particularly since they suddenly seem willing to murder people from such a minor offense as trespassing.  Something else seems afoot here.

Overall, I have to give Bendis credit for the fact that we definitely seem to be going in a new direction, one influenced by the "Black Vortex" event (particularly since Kitty has apparently decided to stay in space).  Even though I'm still questioning the repercussions of the "Black Vortex" event (as I mention in my recent review of the Omega issue), it's nice to see that it actually had some repercussions that may last longer than a month or two.  (I'm looking at you, "Infinity."

*** (three of five stars)

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Omega #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I guess that I have to give Bendis and Humphries credit for the fact that everyone doesn't end this event exactly the same way that they started it.  Beast, Cyclops, Groot, and Iceman surrender their cosmic powers, but still find themselves changed.  Groot and Iceman are physically transformed, and Jean confirms to Storm that Cyclops' "heart" has been changed.  (We don't learn if anything happened to Beast.)  Moreover, the authors really shake up the cosmic landscape.  Although I didn't really notice it in "Captain Marvel" #14, Thane froze J'Son in amber (since Carol used the Vortex to deflect Thane's blast onto J'Son); the Collector takes possession of him here, presumably removing him as a threat for a while.  However, Thane is still promising to get his hands on the Vortex again, and Ronan returns to the remains of Hala swearing to rebuild and get revenge.  (I'm not entirely sure how Thane is going to use the Vortex, since we see Gara flying it into a star here, but I guess that we'll see.)  At the very least, then I'm happy that the authors didn't go the ret-con route that pretty much every event takes lately (particularly an event that Bendis writes), since the landscape is definitely different now.

That said, I can't say that I'm totally happy.  First, the revelation that Gara could use the Vortex to strip the cosmically powered characters of their powers was certainly a little too convenient.  Sure, they were changed on some level, but, seriously, we all saw that coming.  I also wasn't surprised that Angel and Gamora kept their powers, since they're exactly the kind of characters that you would expect to retain their powers; in fact, it seems unlikely that we'll even notice that they're cosmically powered (except maybe for Warren's appearance), since they're pretty aloof anyway.  But, we're never given a reason for why Kitty retains her powers.  Given that she was the one that wanted them the least, you'd figure that she'd be the one first in line to jettison them.  However, she makes no move to do so here; we seem to have to accept that she's stuck with them, but we're not given a reason why she's different from Beast, Cyclops, Groot, or Iceman.  Moreover, despite Gara's warning that these powers basically steal your humanity, Kitty exhibits the entire range of emotions that she usually did, given that she accepts Peter's proposal.

Yup, Peter proposed.  They've known each other for only a few weeks, maybe months, and almost their entire relationship has been spent on different sides of the galaxy, but romance!  Hurrah!  This entire sequence is honestly terrible.  It's forced and awkward, with Humphries portraying all these characters as having close relationships that they don't really have.  (Rocket and Storm as buddies?  Really?)  Without this development, I'd be more or less satisfied with this event, even while acknowledging that it was a pretty lackluster one.  But, this ending just made me roll my eyes and wonder how much longer I'm going to be getting "Guardians of the Galaxy."

** (two of five stars)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Uncanny X-Men #33 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Honestly, after all these issues, I still can't believe how well Bendis does in capturing these characters, particularly in these character-focused issues.  For the first time in a long time, Illyana is starting to feel like an actual person, not just a scary transportation device.  She brings Kitty to Monster Island to save a mutant abandoned there by her family because she missed their friendship and felt like saving a mutant would remind them of why they do what they do.  It totally makes sense.  Plus, she wants to reconcile with Peter, and I would love nothing more than the three of them being "them" again.

In fact, I find myself hoping that issue #600, as advertised, focuses on healing the divisions between the teams.  Kitty's defection to Scott's side was the worst (and most incomprehensible) part of "X-Men:  Battle for the Atom."  But, now, we essentially have everyone other than Alex, Emma, and Scott under one roof.  We could actually have a revival of the team along the lines of the '80s or '90s, and just the prospect of that thrills me.  Fingers crossed Bendis actually does it.

*** (three of five stars)


Aaron continues to do a great job of building up the tension before next issue's big reveal, where we learn Thor's identity.  So far, he's moved us along this story at a steady pace that hasn't felt like he was just stalling to keep Thor's identity a mystery for as long as he could.  It's all unfolded organically.

As we saw last issue, a frustrated Odin has sent a Cul-possessed Destroyer after Thor because he's furious that she's managed what she's managed in these previous issues.  The battle with the Destroyer probably her toughest battle yet.  I loved her telling herself that she refused to be the woman that wielded the hammer for five days and then died.  But, thankfully, she doesn't have to do it alone, since Odinson uses his list of potential Thors to assemble an army at the request of his mother. (Freya is pretty rightfully furious that Odin has sent Cul and the Destroyer after Thor.)

Aaron is also leading us to believe that Roz really is Thor, seeing the hammer as a way to further her environmentalist crusade against Roxxon.  But, Aaron's a tricky guy, so I'm not sure if it's just not misdirection.  Just one more issue until we see.

(Also?  The art just continues to be amazing.  'Nuff said.)

**** (four of five stars)

Loki: Agent of Asgard #13 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

After reading so many terrible comics lately, it was nice to read a solid one.

King Loki tries to burn away our Loki's innocence so that he can be his pawn in his attempt to take over the Ten Realms while Asgard is weakened.  Our Loki is sent to some form of purgatory, where he's confronted by Old Loki and Kid Loki.  Old Loki tells him to accept what he's learned -- that he'll always be seen as the God of Lies, regardless of his deeds -- and return as Loki.  Kid Loki tells him instead to end the story of Loki by embracing the void like he did.  Thankfully, Verity calls him (thanks to his phone with magical cellular coverage) and tells him that she's confused but that she wants him to know that it's not too late to change.  She reminds him that King Loki didn't know her, so they might be past a point where their stories diverge.  Our Loki tells her that he'll always be the God of Lies; she tells him that she doesn't even know what the "God of Lies" means, but that he can't even tell a lie correctly, so he's already something else.  Elsewhere, Odin urges him to be worthy of his own power and remember what a lie is.  Then, Loki choses neither Old Loki or Kid Loki's path.  He reminds himself that he has a friend that believes in him and a brother that he loves, that he's his own man, and that he will never sit long in a box built for him.  Deciding that he'll keep these traits but that it's time to tell a different story, he fully immolates himself, to King Loki's fury.  He hurls them eight months in the future, with a red sky and another Earth looming over them, and appears at Verity's apartment.  He doesn't recognize her, but he tells her that he understands that she's a friend.  He then announces that he's the God of Stories.

This ending is as close to perfect as I can imagine it.  Since I've been reading about Loki, starting with the "Young Avengers," he's suffered under an increasing amount of baggage:  first, the spirt of Kid Loki, then the presence of King Loki, and now the appearance of Old Loki.  Deciding to burn away that history to become his own man seemed the most logical thing to do.  Emerging as the God of Stories?  Even better.  Because, honestly, sometimes you just have to burn away the bad to start with the good.  The open question, of course, is whether Asgard will accept this change.  King Loki burnt Earth to a crisp in his war with King Thor because no one accepted his efforts to change.  But, this new Loki isn't a reformed God of Lies; he's the God of Stories.  Will that change be sufficient?  I guess we'll see.

(By the way, I didn't fully realize that King Thor's golden age of Asgard was concurrent with King Loki's total destruction of Earth.  Originally, I thought of Asgard and Earth's fates as linked; in other words, a destroyed Earth couldn't exist at the same time as a golden Asgard.  I also thought that Loki was somehow tricking the All Mother to bring about Thor's golden age of Asgard, because it's that age that Loki destroys to usher in Thor's destruction.  But, I now understand that they exist at the same time.  Plus, King Loki was in the past to change ruling over a destroyed planet, not bring about it.  In the end, it all comes together.)

**** (four of five stars)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Legendary Star-Lord #11 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Once you put the Black Vortex into some sort of emotional context, it's actually not a terrible device.  It's just a shame that it took us eleven chapters to get there.

The best moment of this issue is obviously Peter preventing Jean from submitting to the Vortex, saving her from ever knowing the type of cosmic power that eventually destroyed her future self.  It's chivalrous and heroic, and it's exactly what we'd expect from Peter.  But, the next best moment is the one that we don't expect, when Peter realizes that he also can't embrace that cosmic power, lest he become a super-bro that leaves Kitty heart-broken.  Now, I have to say at this point that I still don't totally buy the Chris Pratt Star-Lord.  I still long for the tactician that fought by Richard Rider's side during the fight against the Annihilation Wave.  But, in the context of the character that Marvel has made him become, this altered vision of himself is probably an accurate one.  In fact, his rejection of that vision gives me some hope that the old Peter may one day return.

In the meantime, Kitty is full of adoration and love for Peter, both for saving Jean and rejecting the Vortex.  It's why she has to embrace it, since she's the only person there that doesn't want that sort of power.  That part also made total sense to me, and, for the first time since this event began, I'm actually excited to see how it unfolds.

*** (three of five stars)

Bloodshot Reborn #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Jesus effing Christmas, talk about a way to start a series!

First, Mico Suayan is a find, man.  This issue practically vibrates thanks to him.  He brings graphic detail to the scenes of Bloodshot murdering a wide variety of people during his days under the thumb of Project: Rising Spirit.  But, this gore is necessary if you're going to really appreciate the horror that Ray feels as he's forced to come to terms with his past.  You understand why he hits the bottle and snorts some pills to make it through the night.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  Suayan also doesn't flinch from showing Ray chop up some pills and snort the dust.  It's not Marvel Comics around here!)

Meanwhile, Lemire is driving this train of despair.  Ray isn't just sitting in bed trying to find a way to come to grips with his actions.  He's also trying to decide whether he's going to open the dossier on his real past.  Lemire leaves you with the sense that Ray doesn't want to open it because, if he does, he has to admit that he really did the things that Bloodshot did, even if it was under someone else's control.  He's that good, Lemire, that he can hint that and not have to say it.  Most authors would find a way to scream that from the mountaintops, but Lemire just somehow conveys it.

Of course, it gets worse for Ray.  He's not just tormented by his memories of his past; no, his memories start to take form.  Kay appears to prod him into becoming a hero, because it's better than a stint as a handyman at a crappy motel to get a free room.  Then, a cartoonish version of him called Bloodsquirt tells him that he needs to fight again.  Ray fights these impulses...until some guy dressed like Bloodshot shoots up a theater, and Kay and Squirt's exhortations for him to pick up his guns again find a target.  So, he paints a red circle on a shirt and suddenly we have a Punisher with a heart.  

I honestly can't wait for next issue.

***** (five of five stars)

Convergence: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Honestly, I almost can't do these reviews any more.  But, I'll give it a go.

Azrael and Batman both try to infiltrate the same gang run by someone named Whale, because he's trying to hijack the food-supply trucks that keep Metropolis fed.  (Yes, I have no idea really why we're in Metropolis and not Gotham.)  Bruce has decided to do it the hard way so that he can make sure that Whale is caught in the act and brought to justice.  However, we're never given the reason why Jean-Paul doesn't just kill Whale.  He just announces that he "thought an inside job was the way to go."  It honestly doesn't seem like his style.

Then, blah blah blah, Whale orders them to get someone to give them the secret route that the trucks take, blah blah blah.  (To be fair, the best moment in this issue is when Bruce sympathetically watches the daughter of the city councilman that gave them the route cry on the news, since Whale had him killed once he divulged the secret.  Of course, he gave up the information because Jean-Paul recognized him as a Ponzi schemer from Gotham and threatened to expose him, so you shouldn't feel bad for him.  Just his daughter.)  Whale and his gang take out the drivers of the trucks so that they can nab them with tow trucks, and Azrael and Bruce try to stop them.  Fighting ensues.

Then, everything gets weird.  We're once again given Telos' speech, but Wetworks appears just before then, revealing that they're there to check out the competition.  But, how do they know that Azrael and Bruce are the competition?  Again, we've got really differing ways that champions are chosen and informed.  After all, how do they know that they're their city's champions and Azrael and Bruce are Metropolis' champions before Telos makes his announcement?  (For that matter, where's Superman?)  Then, Bruce somehow magically senses a "time-slip," but we learn that it's not Wetworks doing it.  

Honestly, I just have no idea what happened here at the end.  The first part of the issue was one of the better explorations of how a group of heroes was making it work under the dome, but we just lose the plot here at the end, literally.

** (two of five stars)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Convergence #2 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Maybe I've just become inured to how bad "Convergence" is, but this issue didn't feel as terrible as the rest of them.

I think this issue is marginally more readable because we at least have something like a plot developing.  Alan taps into the planet's power to try to take down Telos.  He fails (since, after all, Telos is the planet), but he catches a glimpse of Telos' thinking in the process.  He learns that Telos fears some sort of underground city, so they wisely head there.  Meanwhile, Thomas realizes that he can head to a nearby Gotham to get some support from its version of Bruce.  King oddly decides not to allow us to be party to their conversation when they meet, so it's left to Pagulayan to (successfully) convey the gravity of the moment.  King's only real contribution to these scenes is the foreshadowing that he weaves throughout them, using Dick's narration to make it clear that something terrible happens as a result of this meeting.  ("But if I knew then what I know now...I'd never have let him open that door.")  Meanwhile, the heroes encounter someone named Deimos, and he claims that he can lead them off the planet.

That said, this issue is far from perfect.  It begins with a re-telling of Grayson leaving his son to board the evacuating ships, this time showing a mysterious woman taking possession of him.  I honestly don't remember that from "Earth 2:  World's End," but, given how I felt about that series at that point, it's possible that I missed it.  Then, we've got the fact that Telos is allowing the Earth 2 heroes to live.  We've already established that he doesn't think that they should be there, since they are without a city.  But, we don't learn why he's just keeping them captured in liquid metal, other than the obvious reason, so that they can escape and eventually defeat him.  King seems to make a nod to a reason, with Telos wanting them to chose which cities fight each other.  But, they refuse to do so, so Telos is making the decisions anyway.  That means we're right back at the original problem, of what use they are alive to Telos.

Then, we've got smaller problems, like characterization.  Last I checked, Val was a pacifist, but he wails on Telos like he means it here.  I'm all fine with Val surrendering his pacifism in the face of the horrors that he's seen, but somebody probably needs to mention that at some point, since a lot of people died as a result of him refusing to lift a finger as Earth 2 was dying.

In other words, it may be better, but the bar was so low that it doesn't mean that it's good.

** (two of five stars)

Spider-Man 2099 #11 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

*** (three of five stars)

Tempest is on the phone with her mother, agreeing to go to her doctor's appointment the next day but assuring her that her diagnosis is going to be the same.  Tempest's mom tells her that miracles happen, but Tempest retorts that they don't happen to her.  She wishes her mother a goodnight and then wonders why her mother can't accept that she's dying.  She falls to sleep observing that her mother never cared about her growing up and wondering if she was now trying to make up for it.  Creepily, Spidey is poised over Tempest's bed, and thinks to himself that her mother is probably trying to do exactly that.  He contemplates that he's spent the last few years trying to make amends for how poorly he treated people for most of his life, even though he constantly wonders where it's worth it.  Turning to the matter at hand, he wishes that he could tell Tempest that he has a cure for her cancer, but knows that she wouldn't believe him, since she assumes the worst.  He lowers himself on his Web-Line and then sprays her with the concoction that those Alchemax technicians created when he in 2099 autopsying Daemos.  He manages to finish spraying her just as she awakens, startled.  She asks if he's stalking her and then pulls out the gun in her nightstand.  Spidey webs up the barrel, telling her that he's in the wrong apartment.  She screams for him to leave, and he does, but not before remarking that it's why she doesn't have any friends.  On his way to his apartment, he contemplates that the experience was a wash:  he saved her life, but terrified her at the same time.  (I'd actually argue saving her life probably outweighs some momentary fear, but I digress.)

Later, he heads to work, contemplating that he has to figure out the program that Alchemax develops in the first half of the 21st century that creates the Maestro's version of 2099.  But, he realizes how hard that task is, since it's not like he's going to know what it's going to be when he sees it.  He thinks that he should keep a low profile, since the big difference between his 2099 and the Maestro's 2099 is that he's in 2015.  But, just then, Liz Allan opens a door and grabs him, showing him the designs for the prison that Miguel suggested that they create.  We learn that some guy named Jason "Rudy" Rubinstein created it, and Liz has Mac Gargan on hand to evaluate it since, in Mac's words, "if you want a good prison, you need advice from a guy who's been in one."  Mac tells Miguel that there's "something" about him, and Miguel remarks that it must be his clean living.  (Oh, Miguel.  Ever the kidder.)  Liz tells Miguel that they plan on building it on an abandoned area along the East River; it'll be smaller than Rykers, but with a "specialized" population.  Rudy then tells him that a power dampener will make sure that no one can escape.  Miguel is impressed, and asks if the city is going to buy it.  Liz says that they have some competition from Peter Parker.

Meanwhile, Peter is fighting a really fucked up looking Spot (seriously, he has arms growing from his eyes and mouth) at a museum.  Spidey observes that the Spot doesn't normally steal valuable fossils and that he made the trail to find him pretty obvious; he asks if the Spot was hunting him.  However, Miguel manages to grab the Spot with some Webbing, and Peter delivers the coup de grĂ¢ce.  Peter expresses surprise that he's there, since he thought that he returned to 2099.  After they put the Spot on ice, they retire to the Chrysler Building, where Miguel fills in Peter on his problem.  Peter asks if Miguel thinks that the prison is the problem, and Miguel says that he doesn't know for sure.  He notes that Alchemax didn't originally have him in the mix, so he wonders if he develops the program that changes the future.  But, Peter observes that it could be a time paradox, where he had been there all along.  Miguel encourages Peter to win the competition and, somewhat uncharacteristically, Peter says that he's not worried about Liz as a competitor.  As Peter leaves, Miguel tells himself that he's worried exactly for that reason, since he should be.

At home, Miguel checks to see how Tempest is doing, finding her drunk.  Tempest is drunk on red wine, saying that she just returned from dinner with her mother.  She falls, and Miguel catches her; she observes that he's strong, he says that he works out.  He gets her to the couch, and she tells him that she's celebrating.  She makes him ask why, and she asks if he believes in God.  He says that he doesn't, and she says that she doesn't either.  But, she says that she just had a miracle, that she's healed.  ("I am healed!  Say Hallelujah!")  Miguel asks if she means of the cancer, and she confirms it, saying that her doctor also couldn't believe it.  She asks why he always wears his sunglasses, and he says that he already told her that he's light-sensitive.  She insists on seeing his eyes and pulls off his glasses, discovering that they're red.  She tells him that they're beautiful, "like staring into a sunset at the end of the best day of your life and realizing all the possibilities waiting for you."  She says that Spider-Man cured her after he told him about her, and then she drinks some more.  She tells him that Spidey was in her room and then the next day she was healed.  She notes that he saved her even after she yelled at him when they first met, and Miguel tells her that superheroes are funny that way.  She tells Miguel that he's funny, and he tells her that he needs to get her to bed.  She says that it's a great idea and kisses him.  He returns the kiss, telling himself that it's been "sooo long," but then decided to stop it.  But, she then bites him.  She apologizes, telling him that she feels weird, and he tells her that he's felt that way a lot, and that she should go to bed.  Then, she grabs her stomach and her head and screams.  Miguel tries to help, but she throws him across the room.  She mutters that she's so hungry and needs to eat, and Miguel orders Lyla to drop the clothing hologram.  Lyla asks if he's going to be in a fight, and then sees that he will be, as a moth-looking Tempest looms over him, muttering, "Hungry..for you..."

The Review
Well, I didn't see that coming!  I'm still disappointed that Miguel isn't in 2099, but this issue was pretty solid, so it's hard to complain.  Let's get to it.

The Good
1) Leave it to Peter David to be possibly the only author in comic books to get the problems inherent with time travel.  Miguel tells Peter about his experiences in 2099 with the Maestro and (reasonably) concludes that he's the different variable in the past that changes the previous future; in other words, it's his presence in 2015 that didn't previously exist, so it's likely something that he does in 2015 that creates the 2099 where the Maestro is in charge.  He thinks that it may be Alchemax's prison, since it was his idea.  But, he's of course not sure, since he just knows that it's something that Alchemax does in the first half of the century.  I mean, it's not exactly a specific time-frame.  But, Peter notes that Miguel's 2099 might already have accounted for the paradox of Miguel returning to the past, so it could be something else entirely.  In other words, it's a mess.  But, David acknowledges that it's a mess, so I'm a happy camper.

2) I love the consequence of Miguel trying to heal Tempest.  After he did it, my first thought was that it actually seemed unfair.  Most people in 2015 don't have a tights-wearing fairy godfather appear in their bedroom and spray them with a concoction from the future to cure their cancer.  David seemed to be going down a dangerous road where Miguel got to use his superior technological knowledge to play god whenever he wanted to do so.  But, David provides Miguel with a stark reminder about the danger of unexpected consequences here.  I totally didn't see it coming, and it was exciting when it happened.  Plus, it's not like he can just pop into his 2099 and ask the Alchemax technicians why the cure turned Tempest into a moth (or whatever she is).  They're not there anymore.  He's really going to have to live with these consequences.  New arch-enemy?  One can only hope.

The Unknown
1) At some point I'll stop commenting on how this new series meshes with Miguel's past, but I'll note here that he refers to his costumed career as something that happened over a period of years, whereas the original series probably only took place over a year or so.

2) Jesus, what the hell happened to the Spot?  We never get an answer to Peter's question, but it seems like he tried to get him to the museum to ask for help, not because he was hunting Spidey.  I would, if I had an arm emerging from my eye.

All-New Hawkeye #2 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

First, I'm glad to see the frogs escaped.

But, now, I realize that Lemire was using the trapped frogs as metaphors.  They weren't just the pets that Clint had to leave in his wake as he and Barney fled their abusive foster father.  They represented Clint and Barney getting saved from him by the Swordsman and the three kids that HYDRA was holding hostage getting saved by Kate.  But, unlike the Barton boys and the HYDRA kids, the frogs aren't dangerous.

We all know Clint and Barney's history of shenanigans, but these kids seem to be something else entirely.  When a HYDRA technician warns Kate how dangerous the kids are and then orders the soldiers to kill them, the kids use some sort of telepathic power to murder everyone in the room but Kate.  If that's not enough, the concluding narration tells us that freeing the kids was "the start of the end of everything."  Talk about leaving us wanting more.

Lemire is still pulling at our heat strings here, since we all know that the Swordsman isn't exactly the night in shining armor that he appears to be here.  It's hard to see a scared Clint thinking that he's finally been saved.  But, as the concluding narration implies, it feels fated by this point.  It seems the only road that Clint and Barney were going to have.  At least now they have a dog.

*** (three of five stars)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Captain Marvel #14 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

The only thing that the Black Vortex seems capable of doing is turning good writers into mediocre ones and bad ones into terrible ones.

(Sorry.  Between "Convergence" and this event, I'm just tired of DC and Marvel churning out shitty comics and making me pay for them.)

Overall, this story is fine.  Carol grabbed the Vortex at the end of "Cyclops" #12 and she's en route to Spartax so that Kitty can use the Vortex (somehow) to de-amberize it.  Fine.  But, DeConnick is clearly phoning in this issue, because we've got a number of internally inconsistent moments.  The best example is Carol declaring that Thane can no longer amberize anyone simply by pointing at them; he has to actually touch them.  First, it makes no sense that the Vortex would somehow make Thane less powerful.  It's supposed to remove inhibitions, not impose them.  But, Carol also knows better.  Does she really think that Thane touched everyone on Spartax to turn them into amber?  Carol eventually realizes her "mistake," but, to me, it's all just DeConnick thinking, "Blah blah blah, another cross-over event that they're making me do, blah blah blah."

I could point out other problems, but, honestly, I'd really just as soon forget this issue happened so that we can happily return to our regularly scheduled programming next issue.  I'm giving it two stars because DeConnick does what Layman failed to do in "Cyclops" #12, namely use the Vortex as a way for Carol to contemplate her past sins (as Binary) and realize that she's moved past the point that she needs that much power to do good and win fights.  If we had more of those moments in this event, maybe I wouldn't be waiting so impatiently for it to end.

** (two of five stars)

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I pretty much don't have to review these tie-in series anymore, because they're all the same.  Story interrupted at emotional climax due to arrival of opponents?  Check.  Said opponents arriving in circumstances different from other tie-in series?  Check.

Here, the abandoned emotional climax is Babs refusing Dick's proposal because she feels emotionally disengaged from life due to the dome.  In terms of the circumstances that lead to the selection of champions, it's a mess.  First, Hawkman and Hawkwoman know that they're champions, but Babs and Dick don't know.  Apparently, Telos never appeared over their dome, but I have no idea how that could be true.  It was pretty clear that all cities could see him when he spoke to them in "Convergence" #1.

Moreover, despite Telos warning in "Convergence" #1 that side deals would be punished, the Hawks offer one to Babs and Dick here.  If they take a dive and let Babs and Dick win so that their weak Gotham will die, they (the Hawks) will let their Gotham live...but also rule it.  I have no idea why they would make that offer, because they have no proof that Telos would let them survive if Babs and Dick won.  But, at this point, I think I've stopped caring.

* (one of five stars)

Convergence: Batman and Robin #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue is moderately better than "Convergence:  Batgirl," but it still suffers from problems that make me wonder whether anyone is really at the helm of this effort.

On the plus side, the story at least flows a little more smoothly than "Convergence:  Batgirl."  Batman and Robin help protect Poison Ivy from a group of super-villains so that she can continue to grow food to feed Gotham.  (The super-villains, led by the Penguin, not unreasonably saw the opportunity to profit from Ivy's endeavors.)  Just as Croc seems to get the upper hand on Batman, Red Hood arrives with Scarlet and saves him.

Jason's presence in Gotham seems to be a surprise to Bruce, because he hadn't appeared in the year since Telos had domed the city.  But, it fits with the idea that all these cities were plucked from their realities the moment before their timeline ended; this version of Gotham was taken right before "Flashpoint" began.  We never really saw Bruce return from the dead and resume his role as Batman in the DCU.  He pretty much arrived in time for the DCnU to be born.  Similarly, Scarlet didn't follow Jason into the DCnU (at least as a sidekick).  As such, these characters are essentially ones that we never got to see interact.

That said, this issue still has issues.  Marz is forced to dedicate two of his 20 pages to Telos' speech from "Convergence" #1, making you wonder how the editorial staff hadn't developed a way for these authors to get across that information in just a panel or two.  Similar to "Convergence:  Batgirl" #1, it happens at the emotional climax of the story, as Damian asks whether Bruce came to save him or Jason since Damian had decided to go after Jason to...I don't know...prove his worth?  If every issue is going to take this approach, where we just have enough time to get a hint of the character's emotions but no more, then this entire endeavor is going to feel like little more than an extended "Street Fighter" game.

Finally, we also have a disconnect here with how said battles happen.  In "Convergence:  Batgirl" #1, Stephanie's name was provided to the media as one of Gotham's champions and, after a few hours or days, Telos teleported her to neutral ground for her fight.  Here, "the Extremists" appear immediately upon the conclusion of Telos' speech.  The fight happens in Gotham, and Batman, Red Hood, Robin, and Scarlet are its champions without anyone telling them that they are.

Looking at the big picture, it's hard to feel the warm fuzzies that DC wants me to feel about seeing old characters if we only get to spend ten pages with them before they have to fight some nobodies that appeared in an annual 30 years ago.

** (two of five stars)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Convergence: Batgirl #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue is beyond bad.  I don't even know where to begin.

First, the only good thing about this issue is that we get confirmation that Telos is going the gladiator route when it comes to setting the cities against each other; each city has a list of champions that are supposed to fight other cities' champions.  Here, the Stephanie Brown version of Batgirl is chosen, but Black Bat and Red Robin have accidentally been transported with her to the site of her fight.  When Catman attacks, it seems like he's her opponent.  Then, everything gets weird.  Red Robin sees them fighting and approaches...and then forgets why he came?  Seriously, he just stands there.  Did Telos interfere with him to make sure that Stephanie wasn't getting help?  Unknown.  Batgirl continues to fight Catman, who exposits that he should really be fighting General Grodd to save his people.  Stephanie asks why he's fighting her then, and he admits that it's delaying tactics.  But, he never says what he's trying to delay.

Then, Catman observes that Tim is just standing there smiling, and Stephanie hypothesizes that he was "spored by a flower."  (She apparently had been "spored" by one at some point.)  She figures that Cass wasn't so dumb to get "spored," but, when she goes to find her, she discovers her battling Grodd.  Did Catman delay Stephanie so that Grodd could fight Cass?  That makes no sense, though, because Cass doesn't count in terms of the tournament; she's there by accident.  In other words, if Grodd is his and Catman's city's champion, Grodd would have to fight Stephanie to win.  If anything, Catman should've been distracting Cass and Tim.  But, it's still not really clear what Catman was doing there in the first place, so I'm not even sure that he was working with Grodd.

Then, we flashback a year where we learn that Stephanie gave up being Batgirl the minute the dome appeared around Gotham, though, again, we don't learn why she did so.  She spent the year as a nurse, until Telos chose her name as Gotham's champion.  Cass and Tim then helped her remember how to fight, except not really because they didn't have enough time.  Then, we finish where we started, with no hint what fight was actually supposed to happen in this issue.

Why, why, why do I keep reading events?

zero of five stars

Convergence #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Any hope that this issue would make issue #0 more comprehensible was, unfortunately, misplaced.

The basic premise of this event stays the same.  We learn that the Keeper from issue #0 is named Telos and, as he announced last issue, he sets his collections of various cities against each other.  However, we don't really learn the rules of the game.  Does he simply remove the domes surrounding the cities and let everyone fight each other?  Maybe?  It looks like he may also be gathering each city's greatest hero to fight each other like gladiators, since we see a number of Supermen flying towards him on the last page.  But, King and Lobdell (ugh) don't provide further explanation.

The rules of the game aren't the only things that aren't clear at this point.  The issue starts with Telos destroying a city that he dubs a failed experiment.  It alludes to comments that Cosmic Brainiac made last issue about some sort of mysterious experiments that he was running, but I'm still not sure how they worked.  It seems like some cities were left essentially to their own devices, while other ones saw Cosmic Brainiac (and, presumably, Telos) engaged in them somewhat actively.  We don't really learn the criteria for that involvement, just like we don't learn why Telos found this city (a Metropolis that chose Batman over Superman, provoking the latter's fury) lacking.

We also unexpectedly get the arrival of the Earth-2 superheroes that we thought died at the end of "Earth 2:  World's End" #26.  Although it's nice to see them, their presence here is incredibly awkward, with several of them forced to monologue to introduce themselves.  For example, Batman declares that he has some "thoughts" on where they are, but he merely states the obvious, that they were teleported from Earth 2 before Apokolips destroyed it completely.  In other words, they're not exactly deep thoughts.  Moreover, King and Lobdell seem to know little about the characters' personalities.  Dick Grayson is suddenly an enraged asshole, punching Batman (who saved his life moments earlier by grabbing him mid-fall from the portal that delivered them on Telos) for implying that they should be happy to be alive, and the Flash is little better.  Plus, we don't learn why they're here.  Telos apparently meant to save their city, but he acted too late.  But, how then did he just magically save them?  Even odder, he seems to see that as some sort of sign, deciding to kick off the tournament because of it.

In short:  it's all still a confusing mess, and not in a good way.  

* (one of five stars)

Uncanny Avengers #3 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Honestly, I just have zero interest in the story that Remender is telling here.  The High Evolutionary created Pietro and Wanda?  Why?  If the goal was to trial run their powers to create Luminous, why he did he chose such divergent powers like chaos magic and super-speed?  Does Luminous need those specific powers to further some sort of plan?  Also, are we really supposed to believe that someone so inexperienced could use those powers better than Pietro and Wanda can?  I don't care how brutish Counter-Earth is, she can't possible be a veteran of as many battles as they are.  Also, I just don't get the Low Evolutionary business?  How is he "unperfect?"  (This joke flew way over my head, by the way.  If anyone understood it, let me know.)  I just don't know what I'm supposed to think about any of it.  

* (one of five stars)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spider-Gwen #3 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing.  I just love this series.

Latour continues to make Gwen's origin story recognizable as a version of Peter's origin story, but tweaks it in key ways so that it feels fresh and unique.  First, Gwen has an advantage that Peter didn't have, namely the fact that her police-officer father raised her with a certain set of crime-fighting skills; as she reminds him here, he taught her how to spot a tail when she was eight-years-old.  But, Gwen's first outings as Spider-Woman are proving to be more disastrous than even Peter's first adventures were.  By the end of this issue, Peter's death weighs on her like Uncle Ben's death did on Peter, plus the Kingpin still wants her dead and the Punisher and the Vulture likely know her identity.  It's not good.  I have to wonder how Latour is going to handle the secret-identity issue, since it seems unlikely that he's going to strip her of her ability to be "Gwen" so soon.

But, one constant seems like it's going to remain:  Aunt May.  The Parkers apparently live on the same block as the Stacys, and Uncle Ben comes to rescue Captain Stacy after the Vulture doused their house with fumes when he was trying to shake down George over his connection to Spider-Woman.  (The Kingpin is using the Vulture to get to Gwen, as we learned last issue.)  He tells George that May Parker is the woman to get a man on his feet, and we see Gwen sitting in Peter's room at the same time.  I like the idea of May as Gwen's confidante, if we're going that way.  Of course, she's going to have to explain that she didn't kill her nephew first.

Looking at the issue itself, I have to say, Latour and Rodriguez deliver possibly the best fight scenes in the business.  Latour gives Gwen such a distinct voice when she's fighting, full of bravado and slang.  We've all gotten used to Peter's wise-cracking that it's hard to see it as separate from his normal personality, but Latour makes it clear that Spider-Woman has a different voice than Gwen does.  Moreover, Rodriguez is just a marvel of infusing a fight scene with kinetic energy.  From Gwen's screaming Spider-Sense signaling the start of the fight to her swinging her father's bowling trophies like they're bola whips, you feel the movement as you're reading it.

They also don't neglect reminding us that Gwen is struggling here.  Rodriguez makes her borrowed clothing from last issue prominent, reminding us that she's barely had time to rest since this series started.  (It reminds me of the opening arc of the first volume of "Spider-Man 2099" in that sense.)  Plus, Latour has her rant against the adults coming after her:  the "jack-booted fascists," "loudmouth newspaper jerks," and "bald-headed old creeps with wrinkly yellow bathtub toes."  It probably makes her miss just dealing with Mary Jane.

Again, everything here is great, and I hope that it stays that way for a long time.

***** (five of five stars)

Amazing Spider-Man #17 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

On some level, this issue has less to do with Peter or the plot and more to do with Anna Maria and Sajani.

I love Anna Maria.  Seriously, if I had to endure "Superior Spider-Man" to get Anna Maria, it was worth it.  Sure, we get a great example of pet peeve #3 here, when Slott uses her to skewer the idea that anyone was ever going to believe that Peter had stopped designing tech for Spidey.  But, I don't care.  In fact, it's part of the reason why I think that she's a great character.  Slott generally uses her to disabuse Peter of the ridiculous fables that he tells himself.  We've all gotten used to him doing so, but Anna Maria suggests that he might actually be able to stop overcomplicating his life if he just listened to her.  I mean, I don't expect him to become Johnny Storm overnight, but it would be nice if he relaxed a bit.  If she occasionally uses this insight to skewer a ridiculous plot point that shouldn't have existed in the first place, so be it.

Moreover, Anna Maria often uses her sharp mind not just to help Peter as Peter, but also to help Peter as Spider-Man.  Several times in this issue, she provides cover to Peter so that he can use his Spider-Powers to save the staff from their experiment when the Ghost turns it against them.  She's exactly the sort of character that Peter has always needed.  Mary Jane used to play this role to some extent, but it was complicated by her relationship (and concern) for Peter when he acted as Spider-Man.  Anna Maria respects Peter's role as Spider-Man, and she doesn't come at it with the same baggage as Mary Jane did.  If Parker Industries is going to work, it's because Anna Maria essentially allows Peter to be in two places at once.

Turning to Sajani, I'm still not sure what Slott wants us to think about her.  She tries to make a deal with the Ghost here to destroy Peter's prison project, so she definitely continues to tip-toe a line between good and evil (or, at least, truthful and devious).  But, as the Ghost says, maybe she's just smart and ruthless.  So far, she's never really done anything that isn't necessarily in Peter's interest.  Her opposition to his project comes from the fact that she thinks that it's bad for business.  In other words, everything she does, she does for the company; if the company succeeds because of her actions, then Peter also succeeds.

The problem is that she goes about it in such underhanded ways.  If she and Anna Maria have time to work on their "secret project," then it stands to reason that she could convince Peter that they should be allowed to do so without the secrecy.  (Also, Anna Maria hates secrets, but only secrets that Peter keeps?)  In other words, I don't entirely understand why Slott has her in this back-stabbing deputy role, forcing her to work with super-villains to position Parker Industries where she wants it.  She's Peter's partner, after all.  She should be able to green light her own project without resorting to the level of subterfuge that we often see her embracing here.

Speaking of Parker Industries, I'm still not sure if it's working.  Tony Stark manages to run Stark Industries and be Iron Man, but he had Pepper Potts doing all the work.  In these early days, it makes sense that Peter wants to make PI work and feels a responsibility to manage it directly.  But, at some point, the stories of him trying to juggle his role as CEO and Spider-Man are going to get old.  Hopefully, we're on a trajectory here where Anna Maria and/or Sajani will run the company and Peter occasionally contributes a brilliant idea, like he did at Horizon Labs.  Otherwise, it's just feel like a little too much responsibility, even for Peter.  As Anna Maria once said, he doesn't have to have all the responsibility.

*** (three of five stars)

Cyclops #12 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I...just don't know where to start.

First, I have serious doubts that anyone could possibly recreate a fingerprint so exactly that it could fool a fingerprint scanner.  Second, even if someone could manage to do it on paper (or some similar material), it seems impossible that a teenage boy could do it, particularly when it involved freestyling it under duress with his fairly new mutant power of shooting concussive beams from his eyes.  But, it seems particularly difficult to believe that the concussive beams would be readable to the scanner or that said beams wouldn't have actually broken the scanner.  As such, it makes me wonder WHEN CYCLOPS SUDDENLY GOT HEAT VISION.  Grrrr.

Then, I have no idea why we're supposed to think that the whole insane discussion that Scott has with Corsair in his head is a good thing.  First, Corsair's comments to him are almost verbatim what Emma told Jean in "All-New X-Men" #37.  Moreover, this entire sequence cheapens the story that I thought that Layman was telling.  I totally bought the idea that Scott, of everyone involved, understanding exactly what he says here, that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  He's already panicked about the fact that his older self murders Xavier under the influence of the Phoenix; he's also aware that future Jean fell under the sway of Dark Phoenix.  I figured that he'd prove to Bobby that they didn't need the Black Vortex to win.  (As a side note, does J'Son really just keep the Black Vortex lying around his fortress without a guard?  If so, it was really thoughtful of him to keep it near the prison cells so that Scott and company could swipe it so easily.)  But, instead, he creates some voice in his head to convince himself to ignore himself?  Really?  Again, I initially thought that it was the Black Vortex manipulating him, and I would've been totally OK with that.  But, no, he does it to rally courage?  Also, he chooses Corsair to do that?  I mean, I know that this Scott has a different relationship with his father than "our" Scott, but, after reading issues with Corsair for the last 30 years, I honestly didn't recognize this version of him.  We're talking about the guy that never bothered to check to see how his sons were doing on Earth because he was having so much fun being a space pirate, right?  Again, I get that it's an idealized version of Corsair, since it's from young Scott's perspective, but, come on now.  Also, doesn't this entire sequence show that Scott is maybe in need of some serious therapy?

But, nevermind, we just blast our way outta the Fortress, bro!  We stumble upon the Guardians and Cosmic Angel and Beast fighting the Slaughter Lords outside the fortress, and pitch the Vortex to Captain Marvel so that we can join the fun.  Woot!  Space pirates!  Adolescence!  Party time!  Excellent!

zero of five stars

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Convergence #0 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I legitimately didn't understand anything about this issue.

I guess that's not technically true.  I understood what I already knew about this event:  Brainiac has kidnapped cities from planets throughout the multiverse.  Beyond that, I've got nothing.

I'll start at the beginning.  Superman narrates that Brainiac has infected him with the Doomsday virus and, for reasons that we never learn, he pulled Brainiac into a black hole to save Metropolis.  (I'm assuming that he's describing the events of "Superman:  Doomed.")  He's then confronted by a cosmic-sized version of Brainiac announcing that all other versions of Brainiac are (unknowingly) part of him.  He announces that he sent the version of Brainiac that Superman had been fighting to break his resolve or die trying (though, we don't learn why Cosmic Brainiac wanted to break Superman's resolve).  Superman asks Cosmic Brainiac if he killed this other Brainiac, but Cosmic Brainiac announces that Superman did.  (Despite Superman's shock, we also never confirm this assertion or learn how it happened.)

At this point, it seems like we're missing a page or two.  Suddenly, we skip from Cosmic Brainiac and Superman having this conversation while floating in space to Superman chained to some sort of machine that might actually be inside Cosmic Brainiac.  We learn that Cosmic Brainiac is experimenting on him because, despite his cosmic insignificance, he's a threat to Cosmic Brainiac.  (Can you be a threat if you're insignificant?)  He allegedly will serve a "larger purpose," but, again, we don't learn what that purpose is.  (Notice a theme?  Also, can you serve a larger purpose if you're insignificant?)  Cosmic Brainiac then shows us a collection of moments in time that he's made, specifically of Superman's deaths from doomed timelines.  (Superman is also somehow floating in space and watching these deaths during this conversation.)  Cosmic Brainiac notes that "our" Superman wasn't the only one to face the Doomsday monster; we again seem to be referring to the events of "Superman:  Doomed" here, but I'm not sure.  At any rate, Superman accuses Cosmic Brainiac of killing this other Superman that faced Doomsday (again, seemingly from the "Superman:  Doomed" story and not the initial "Death of Superman" story).  Then, we're suddenly back at the machine, and Cosmic Brainiac denied that he killed this Superman, though this Superman's death informed him infecting "our" Superman with the Doomsday virus.  But, again, we get no further information.  Superman tries to escape, and Cosmic Brainiac says that he's already tried to escape that 32 times.

Cosmic Brainiac then announces that he has what he wants from Superman:  information about his city.  Superman says that he won't let him destroy Metropolis, but Cosmic Brainiac says that he's not talking about destroying Metropolis; in fact, he's not even talking about Metropolis.  Suddenly, we've returned to the machine, and Cosmic Brainiac has gone quiet.  Superman finally breaks the machine, and then busts his way from the room where he's been imprisoned.  He finds himself in a barren wasteland, and he stumbles upon another (less cosmic) Brainiac.  This Brainiac confirms that Cosmic Brainiac has left and expresses shock that Superman has escaped; he says that his Master was right to be worried about him, because it's always him.  (We don't know what Superman "always" does, but presumably we will at some point.)  This Brainiac turns into several different versions of Brainiac as he tells Superman that he has several versions of Metropolis, but can't return him to Earth (but, again, we're not given any reason why he can't).  This Brainiac (in all his different forms) announces that he's the Keeper of the cities and suggests that Superman pick a Metropolis that makes him happy.

Eventually, the Keeper tells Superman that Cosmic Brainiac was always impressed with Kal-El's father, because he helped him escape death.  (Cosmic Brainiac earlier had announced that he was impressed by people that escaped death.  Aren't we all?)  Then, the Keeper becomes enraged because Cosmic Brainiac has not returned after going to Earth to fetch its timeline.  (I know.  I'm just going to keep writing here.)  He accuses Superman of doing something to him, saying (again) that the Master was right to see him as a threat.  But, then, suddenly, he starts exposition-ing.  We learn that the Keeper is actually the embodiment of a planet that Brainiac moved outside space and time so that he could place cities on it that he plucked from doomed timelines to judge them.  (Um, OK.)  We learn that the trapped cities can't escape until they've proved that they're worthy.  Superman is outraged, though the Keeper notes that Cosmic Brainiac actually saved them for certain destruction.

Then, just as suddenly, the Keeper expels Superman; since Cosmic Brainiac never returned with a city from Earth, it means that Superman doesn't belong there.  (He also conveniently won't remember this experience.)  In the absence of the Master, the Keeper decides to undo his "mistake" and set in motion judgement, allowing the strongest city to survive.

In other words, we have Cosmic Brainiac collecting cities from doomed timelines to judge them, though we never learn how he selects the cities, how he judges them, or why he would want to judge them.  Presumably, since it's Brainiac, he would be trying to learn something in the process, but we're not told what lesson that he'd be trying to learn.  Moreover, for reasons that will hopefully become clear soon, he never returns from his excursion to Earth, forcing the Keeper to take matters into his own hands by setting in motion judgement.  (Again, we're never told why Cosmic Brainiac never actually set that process into motion in the first place.)  Also, Superman is there because Cosmic Brainiac sees him as a threat, but we don't know why he's one.  It's implied that we're in some sort of timeloop (we are outside of time), so Cosmic Brainiac might have observed him defeating him several time.  But, again, I'm just guessing here.  Also, it's not clear why the Keeper had to act the minute that Cosmic Brainiac was gone for an extended period of time.  Did he just go sort of crazy?

In other words?  For a zero issue, this issue fails to do its job of introducing the concept in the way that a new reader could understand.  I pretty much stick to the Batman part of the DC Universe, and it's clear that I need to be really steeped in the Superman corner of it to understand this issue.  If I hadn't already bought the first few issues, I probably wouldn't be continuing with this event.

* (one of five stars)

Uncanny X-Men #32 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

First, I still don't understand how Eva's shenanigans in the past only seemed to have changed Charles' Last Will & Testament.  Really?  It had no other consequences?  But, I guess that we're just supposed to pretend that the entire arc never happened, like we're usually supposed to do with time-travel stories.  [Sigh.]

Second?  The cover is amazing.  Scott looking at defeated iterations of his previous (and alternate) selves really puts you in the right frame of mind for this issue.

In the present, we learn that Scott plans to surrender to authorities because, at some point, he actually now sees everyone's point that he maybe -- just maybe -- has teensy bit of responsible in Charles' murder.  This epiphany comes from the revelation that Charles left everything to him, seemingly finally making the guilt that he feels come to the fore.  His students are outraged that he's abandoning them to the Jean Grey School, and Alex and Emma ask him, literally, "What was the revolution?"  How you feel about this issue will depend on how you feel about his answer.

Scott claims that the revolution was the desperate gambit of a man that realized that mutants had become an endangered species.  He lists the long list of moments when the mutants have been hunted, even when they retreated to their island fortresses in Genosha and Utopia.  He felt that humanity had to be scared, so he declared the revolution.

Emma doesn't buy it, revealing that she's regained her telepathy and knows that he doesn't feel this way either.  (She doesn't actually reveal how he feels.)  Bendis hints that Scott is giving up his role as revolutionary because he's essentially backed himself into a corner.  Alex says at one point that he figured that Scott would crash a Helicarrier into the U.N. building, and you see his point.  Unless Scott was going to start killing humans, the revolution amounted to little more than a showy cold war where he was hoping to buy some time.  The good news is that Alex apparently has an idea on how they could give direction to the revolution, so maybe Scott did actually buy himself just enough time.

Overall, I bought the emotions that Scott expresses throughout this issue.  I totally buy the idea that Scott finally snapped over his guilt for killing Xavier when he left everything to him, like he was his son.  Moreover, Bendis seems to be taking this series in the direction of a Summers Brothers team-up, and I'm totally fine with that.  He doesn't directly remind us that Alex's current state of mind is a result of his inversion during "Avengers & X-Men:  Axis," so it's unclear how long this partnership can last.  But, to be fair, Scott himself seems to be lukewarm on rekindling the revolution, so maybe they'll meet in the middle (assuming Alex eventually gets reverted).

Now, let's talk about Emma. To my mind, Bendis has really done the most with Emma as a character.  She's not exactly a good guy, not exactly a bad guy.  Most authors have had trouble striking that tone, but Bendis has really excelled at it.  In fact, he does so again here.  Emma declares that she's rejoining the Hellfire Club rather than staying at the Jean Grey School to teach Scott's former pupils, and it feels exactly like the type of decision that Emma would make.  She's never really been a fan of the X-Men's goody two shoes, and, as a result, it's hard to see her gelling with the School's current administration.  (Can you imagine Storm delivering her performance evaluation.  "Be less evil."  "No.")

But, her speech to Scott reminds of her good side and why she joined the revolution in the first place.  She really believed in Scott's vision, of a fist used to protect the mutants in its palm, and she really believed in his ability to make it a reality.  Bendis reminds us that it's not just idle belief either:  her ability to read Scott's mind augmented her belief in him because she could truly see his intentions.  Now, she finds that the vision is valid (perhaps even more so, given S.H.I.E.L.D.'s recent actions), but Scott no longer can make it happen.  She's disillusioned, and it's time to go focus on Emma for a while.

For me, the only off-note of this issue was her romantic overture to Scott.  I sort of get where Bendis was going here.  Emma recognizes that Scott is at his lowest moment, and she offers that they need to start from basics again, them together, fighting for the vision.  But, Bendis never tells us why Emma feels like them as a couple was a necessary part of that.  It just feels like an impulsive offer, and Emma's not really that sort of character.  Moreover, Scott's rejection of her is almost too violent.  He blames her for "ruining" them, though Bendis gives us no explanation for how Scott could possibly think that Emma was to blame.  Does Scott really think that he had no role in that, after he physically stole the Phoenix Force from her?  Bendis is forced to rush through the personal aspects of this conversation to stay focused on the revolution aspect, and it's a shame. 

But, overall, it's a solid issue, and I really like the direction that Bendis is taking her.  Summers Brothers 4 ever.

*** (three of five stars)