Monday, January 30, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The November 16 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #11:  The only real question here is why Bruce would've thought Catwoman would've stuck to the plan in the first place.  She's on death row for killing 237 people, so her decision to cut a deal with Bane in exchange for Bruce makes an abundant amount of sense.  After all, Bruce hadn't exactly made it clear how he was going to help Selena.  In all likelihood, the best he probably could've gotten her would be a commuted sentence, and I don't really think he should be surprised Selena didn't want to spend the rest of her life in prison.  The only remaining question is what role the Ventriloquist will play, since Bruce insists he is the only key component of his plan.  I guess we'll see. 

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #15:  This issue did my 13-year-old heart glad and not just because of D-Man being gay or the joke about Hostess Fruit Pies.  I love that Spencer is not only bringing back characters from Gruenwald's run, as he does with Battlestar here, but also making them relevant.  I wonder what Battlestar would think about John's crusade to wrest the shield from Sam, and I hope we get to see him discussing exactly that with John and/or Sam.  It goes to the point Spencer has Sam make here, about how it's nice to remember what it's like to be heroes.  Sam has allies, and it's probably time for him to lean on them more than he has.

Nightwing #9:  This issue works as a stand-alone issue as a nice exploration of Dick's relationship not just with Clark but also the rest of the DCnU.  But, it's mostly important because it re-introduces Blüdhaven.  Clark told Dick that he moved there in the DCU to be its protector, and Dick heads there at the end of this issue.  With the Parliament of Owls behind him, Dick is in search of a raison d'être, and it look like he might've just found one.  I regret never having read the original "Nightwing" series, and I'm stoken to get a chance to see Dick active in Blüdhaven.

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #31; Black Panther #8; Justice League #8-#9; Pathfinder:  Worldscape #2

Friday, January 27, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The November 9 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing Spider-Man:  Renew Your Vows #1:  I had high hopes for this issue, but I'm not sure if Conway actually delivers.  Part of the joy of the first iteration of this series was the close relationships the Parkers had with each other.  However, those relationships seem frayed here.  Peter and Mary Jane spend most of the issue fighting with Annie as she's eager to use her powers, he feels emasculated now that Mary Jane is helping him fight crime (apparently using a suit based on Regent's technology to do so), and Mary Jane might have an eating disorder she's hiding from her family.  Conway makes it worse in trying to lighten the mood by pushing a gag where Peter tries to remember his grocery list.  (This list appears so often it boggles the mind that Peter could ever forget it.)  In other words, it's a rough start for a series many of us saw as correcting the original sin of the current "Amazing Spider-Man" run.

Captain America:. Steve Rogers #7:  As I think I said last issue, it's getting old watching Steve march to the inevitable conclusion of this story.  We all know he's not going to be a HYDRA agent until the end of time, and I'm losing my patience waiting for that moment.  But, the good news is that Spencer seems to be starting us down that road.  Steve steps up his plans for HYDRA at the same time as the Red Skull has stepped up his own plans.  The Skull invades Sokovia as a way to draw S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attention, planning to spring an as-yet-unrevealed trap on them.  Meanwhile, Steve is going to use Baron Zemo in his as-yet-unrevealed plan to take down the Skull, with Spencer revealing they went to HYDRA Academy (or whatever we're calling it) together.  It's all a little spy novel-y at this point, but at least it seems like we're making progress.

Clone Conspiracy #2:  The only good part of this issue is the return of Kaine, though his return raises more questions than it answers.  How is he alive?  Is it through New U technology?  How did he become a dimension-hopping superhero?  Aren't there fewer dimensions now?  How did he meet Spider-Gwen?  Unfortunately, these questions don't distract from the fact this issue is dreadful.  Slott reduces everyone to sounding like a Golden Age villain:  Otto spends a full two-page splash page explaining how he's alive to Peter.  I get Otto falls into the category of villains who psychologically need to explain their actions, but Otto doesn't even really brag about his superiority until the end of his spiel.  I half expected him to refer Peter to certain issues.  Then, Peter devolves into a similar stereotype, randomly threatening the Jackal with either clichés or uncharacteristic threats to rip off his head.  In the hands of someone like Jason Aaron, we'd be seeing a script more emotionally connected to the plot.  Peter would be close to a nervous breakdown, faced not only with resurrected allies and loved ones but with deceased villain he's previously defeated.  Instead, he just seems mildly confused.  Moreover, I mentioned in my previous review that Slott has a tendency to recycle his own plots.  Well, here, Slott has decided to add the (already confusing) "Spider-Verse" to the (notoriously incoherent) "Clone Saga."  This sort of event may have worked in the 1990s, but it doesn't work now, where people like Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, and Nick Spencer are telling very emotionally grounded stories.  God, if only one of them could write Spider-Man...

Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #8:  This series hasn't reached the heights of "Star Wars" or "Darth Vader," but I've been happy to read it, since it gives us insights into the current state of play in that galaxy far, far away.  However, I'm now worried it's actually starting to drop in quality precipitously.  This issue focuses on Poe's attempt to find the spy in Black Squadron, and Soule does a good job of showing Poe's distress at just the thought of such a betrayal.  But, he conveniently renders Poe unable to see that it's the tech, Oddy, that's the spy.  It seems someone looking for a leak would've talked to the other members of the Squadron to see who they told about the plans to free Grakkus; Oddy would've obviously been on that list.  Instead, Dameron not only considers Oddy beyond suspicion for no reason (he tells Threepio he's actually the only person he trusts), but he brings Oddy on a dangerous and sensitive mission with him.  I get that he can't fully trust the other members of Black Squadron, but taking a newbie on the Resistance's most sensitive mission to a planet where scores of other agents have died is beyond reckless.  It's all obviously meant to conveniently strand Poe without an ally when Oddy eventually reveals he's the mole, but it's just too convenient to believe.

Uncanny Avengers #16:  This issue is as fun as you'd expect it to be, with the team fighting a zombie Hulk.  But, it's worth the price of admission just for Deadpool's lament about Siri.  I mean, totally, Wade.  Totally.

Also Read:  All-New X-Men #14-#15; All-Star Batman #4; Avengers #1.1; Detective Comics #944; Solo #2

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The November 2 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers #1:  All Kang stories are confusing, but this story is the Kangiest.  Let's start with the part I understand.  Kang and the Scarlet Centurion (his former self, not his estranged son) attack Vision in this issue, trying to discover where he stashed baby Kang.  In the exposition that follows, we learn that something is preventing Kang from traveling to the future.  (I'm not clear if it's the stolen baby Kang or something else at this point.)  However, Kang does seem able to travel into the past, because he goes there to steal the crystal where Vision off-loaded the information about baby Kang's whereabouts.  (Whenabouts?  Effing time-travel stories.)  Once he gathers this information, he can't (apparently) travel into the future to get revenge on the Avengers, so he continues further into the past to destroy them as babies.  I get all that (more or less).  However, whatever firewall is preventing him from traveling to the future also somehow created a time paradox allowing multiple versions of him to exist at the same time (hence why he's with the Scarlet Centurion here).  That part just doesn't make sense to me.  Isn't him getting stuck in the past only creating one alternate timeline (i.e., him stuck in the past)?  Or, is it creating a new timeline every time he journeys further into the past?  If so, how does him traveling into our present somehow create the Scarlet Centurion?  Did it somehow call him from the past?  After all, he was active much earlier than our present day.  Moreover, the firewall has apparently given him a new power, the ability to decay an item by (presumably) reversing time to when it wasn't built.  Maybe?  It's very unclear.  Also unclear?  Why the remaining Avengers -- Captain America, Thor, and Vision plus Hercules and the new Wasp -- hate Spider-Man.  Aside from Nadia (who hates him because wasps hate spiders, which makes no sense unless Nadia somehow thinks she's a wasp), I'm assuming it's because Spidey sided against them in the Civil War.  Peter has offered to fund the Avengers to replace Tony's funding (since he's apparently broke again), and he explicitly views it as a way to make amends.  But, I honestly have no idea which side any of these characters chose, because, as my review of "Civil War II" #6 probably made clear, that entire scene is a disaster.  Basically, the only highlight of this issue is Nadia riding Redwing.

Batman #10:  First, Janín is an excellent match for this title, giving off a similar vibe as Capullo.  However, we have moments here where his visual storytelling tells a story I don't quite believe.  It's not his fault, because he's working with the script King gave him.  But, we have a number of sequences that just don't make sense.  For example, we start with Batman fighting the dozens (if not hundreds) of troops who meet him on the beach when he arrives at Santa Prisca.  As he leaps into the melee, a number of troops open fire.  In theory, they might not be able to hit the great and powerful Batman, but it's likely they'd at least wing one of their compatriots.  That doesn't seem to happen, though.   Everyone just keeps on fighting Batman even though their colleagues have opened fire on them.  Then, we have Batman having his back broken not once, but twice -- the first time by Bane and the second time when Bruce inelegantly falls into the hole where Bane spent his childhood.  (Bane conveniently throws him into  said hole with his gauntlets and their razor-sharps fins, meaning Batman spends about 17 minutes there instead of 17 years, as Bane did.)  Through all these moments, Bruce is undaunted.  In fact, throughout the issue, he repeats the same phrases, making me think he was the Ventriloquist's dummy.  That would've at least explained his seeming immortality in this issue.  But, given the concluding scenes, I don't think he was a dummy.  He just now seems completely immortal, able to withstand dozens of troops firing on him and broken backs as if they were gnats or splinters.  It doesn't exactly make for great drama.

Champions #2:  If "Avengers" #1 was disappointing, it's probably because Waid put all his energy into this issue.  It's perfect in almost every way.  Unlike Bendis' interchangeable characters in "Civil War II," everyone has an incredibly clear and nuanced voice here.  For example, Kamala is bossy throughout this issue, but Waid has her specifically refuse to be the "mom," forcing other team members to do things they don't want to do.  Kamala's vision is one of adventure and justice, and the other team members are all on board.  The most touching moments involve Viv, from the name of her WiFi password ("evenanandro1dcancry") to admitting to Nova she's hasn't kissed anyone (in response to his question) to vouching for Scott because he tried to save them from the Hulk without even knowing them.  Kamala's refusal to be the authority figure and Viv's intuitive grasp of Scott's motives are just two examples of the unexpected insights that pour from Waid's keyboard.  The fact that it all happens over the course of a camping trip designed to help them get to know each other makes it teen-rific.  I honestly can't wait to see where we go from here.

Justice League #7:  It's hard to put my finger on what exactly is going so wrong here, but, if I had to guess, it's that Hitch doesn't seem to be trying too hard.  His Rao story in "Justice League of America" was legitimately breaking new ground.  The idea of a Kryptonian god returned to "save" Earth (and prolong his life in the process) put the characters in new situations, and it was fun to watch how they reacted.  This two-issue arc was the opposite of that.  It's based on the overused trope of the heroes having to overcome their greatest fears to defeat whatever monster it is that attacked them (Hitch never really gives us any details about it).  As such, we get a tour of the League's greatest fears in the process, and they're either too obvious (Batman worrying his guilt will overcome him) or too unclear (I'm not exactly sure what Wonder Woman feared).  Just as Aquaman and Wonder Woman are going to go all "Squadron Supreme" and conquer the world (for reasons somehow connected to their fears), Jessica dispels the monster because...she conquered her fear?  In other words, it's just a mess.  Hitch leaves out too much information to be able to understand what we're seeing, and it's over before we have a chance to get that information.  I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to be getting this title...

Moon Knight #8:  I realized at the end of this issue that I was holding my breath.  This issue is really one of the issues of the year for me.  Holy crap.  The use of separate artists for each of Marc's personas pays off amazingly in the last panel, when we return to the series' original style and tone.  This abrupt change makes it clear that Marc is trying to assert control over his separate personas but that it's still unclear if he's going to be successful.  Exciting times, folks.

Nightwing #8:  Nope, I totally didn't tear up a bit when Bruce told Nightwing he didn't fall, but jumped since he knew Dick would catch him.  Nope.  Seeley really sticks a better landing than I thought he would in this issue.  I initially rolled my eyes at the idea of Raptor knowing Mary Lloyd, Nightwing's mother, because it seemed Seeley was going for the unseemly reveal that Raptor was really Dick's father (or something equally ridiculous).  But, thankfully, he didn't go that way.  Raptor was just a circus kid with leprosy who Mary treated well, and he loved her for it.  Facing discrimination as a Roma in France, Raptor's hatred of the one percent is real, and it drives his fury at Bruce Wayne giving Dick a future he feels Mary would've rejected.  If this issue has one failing -- and it's a slight one -- it's that I wish Seeley had more time to give us insight into Mary.  If I follow correctly, we learn she was French here, but after breaking into the home of the Mayor of Paris with Raptor -- payback for not distributing the leprosy medication to the circus earlier -- she goes on the run.  It's a pretty dramatic re-telling of her origin story (to the extent she had one), and Dick's vague memory of seeing Raptor at the circus as a child appears to confirm Raptor wasn't inventing it.  But, we never really revisit it one way or another as Seeley rightfully shifts his focus onto Bruce and Dick.  At any rate, this issue caps off this first arc in a solid way, putting the Parliament of Owls behind us and setting up Dick's move to Bludhaven.

Spider-Man 2099 #17:  I have to say, this series is really fun.  Miguel's world is often a dark one, but David always manages to inject a liveliness into it that few other authors can match.  Here, he finds it by pairing up Miguel with the Captain America of 2099.  They make for an excellent pair as they compete to see who has a drier sense of humor.  The plot is also getting more and more interesting.  We learn from Elektra that the Fist is an off-shoot of the Hand not satisfied with assassinations; it also wants to overthrow the United States.  (It's good to be clear on your corporate strategy.)  As powerful as the Fist may be, these three clearly intend to give it some trouble.

Unworthy Thor #1:  There is possibly no man sexier in the Marvel Universe than Coipel's Odinson.  Seriously.  Every time he draws him, you have to just take a moment and acknowledge why an unending legion of women has taken numbers to go to bed with him.  When you add in the brooding that his current state inspires, well, it's about all my gay, former French major heart can take.  As Aaron says in his note at the end of this issue, he's been planning this story for a long time.  This effort paid off clearly when I didn't roll my eyes at the revelation that another hammer exists.  Aaron clearly knew where this story was going when he originally took away Thor's hammer during "Original Sin," and it's Ultimate Thor's hammer from "Secret Wars" that opens the door to Odinson's return as Thor.  Given Jane's popularity, it was never going to feel right for Odinson to reclaim the hammer from her, but Aaron always knew it wasn't going to have to go that way.  Ultimate Thor's hammer gives us the opening, but Aaron makes it clear that Odinson still has to get through the door.  Doing so is made all the more difficult by the fact that someone stole Asgard, but we didn't expect it to be easy, did we?  One question I had here (beyond, obviously, what Nick Fury told Thor) is where Asgard supposedly was.  I thought Asgardia was Asgard, for all intents and purposes.  When Thor went looking for Asgard, are we talking about the planetoid on which the city of Asgard used to sit?  It would nice for that part to be a little clearer.

Also Read:  All-Star Batman #4; Detective Comics #944; Midnighter & Apollo #2

Monday, January 23, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The October 26 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New, All-Different Avengers #15:  In all seriousness (really), the best part of this excellent issue may be the letters page!  Roman's letter explaining No-Prize rules and Alanna's responses are LOL funny, and, as an oldster like Roman, it makes my FOM heart glad.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #6:  The problem with this series at this point is that the shtick at its core -- Steve Rogers as a HYDRA agent -- is starting to get old.  I'm not saying it isn't well executed. In fact, Spencer has probably given us the best "Civil War II" tie-in issues, showing how Steve is manipulating the civil war between the superheroes to advance his own agenda.  But, at some point, we know this story is going to end.  The only suspense is how it ends.  Will Steve publicly be revealed as a HYDRA agent, destroying decades of credibility?  It would fit with the post-"Civil War II" theme we saw in the "Champions" debut, of a world that has entirely lost faith in its "heroes."  But, can Marvel really do that to the brand?  It feels more likely Kobik will just will away the entire experience.  It's that possibility that's starting to make this series feel tedious.  Marvel seems to have grand plans for the Red Skull ever since he took Xavier's brain in "Uncanny Avengers."  But, it's been over four years since that happened.  Are we ever going to see a reckoning?  Until then -- when presumably he'll lose control over Kobik and said wiping will occur-- we're just spinning our wheels here, waiting for the inevitable psychic plane battle between Johann and Steve that we already saw at the end of "Captain America:  Reborn."

Champions #1:  I don't have too much to say about this issue, since Waid hits most of the marks well. It's not the most exciting way to get the team together, but it works, so I'm not complaining.  Waid's decision to separate the younger Avengers from the team feels right, disgusted as they are in the way the adults spend more time fighting each other than injustice.  It's the sort of optimism the young can have despite all odds, so it makes sense that Kamala, Miles, and Sam hit the road.  The challenge for Waid is going to be to test them, but not leave them completely disillusioned.  "New Warriors" collapsed in part because everything was so grim all the time.  Waid probably needs to have Kamala's promise of a better way -- where people with powers aren't just pounding people who don't have powers -- persist in despite of adversity.  Otherwise, it's going to be just another team book, and these characters are too good for that.

Civil War II #6:  I officially have no idea what's happening anymore.  We've got a burning Triskellion that I don't remember ever being attacked.  We've got the fact that I'm not really clear on which side most of the characters have taken, a confusion exacerbated when a number of them switch sides this issue.  (When did Jean and Storm start worshiping Queen Carol?  Why is T'Challa an asshole simply for disagreeing with Carol based on pretty sound evidence that Ulysses' predictions can be wrong?)  We've got the false equivalency of Cap and Miles standing at the Capitol next issue proving Miles doesn't kill him, even though it only prove Miles doesn't kill him in that exact moment.  We've got the junior Avengers praising someone named RiRi for her actions on the field, but I don't remember even seeing her last issue, let alone seeing her do anything.  I could re-read issue #5 and then this issue and try to make sense of it all, but I don't really care enough to do so.  If Marvel doesn't care enough to put out these issues on anything approaching a regular schedule, why should I put in the work trying to understand the story?

Detective Comics #943:  Since Snyder's run six years ago, "Detective Comics" has consistently been the best DC series on the shelves.  Whereas "Batman" is often mired in myth-building (and said myth-building often goes awry), "Detective Comics" has focused on the characters and their relationships with each other.  This issue is one of the best examples of that.  Kate is pressing Bruce to take Stephanie's absences seriously, and it seems clear she's doing so at least in part to get him to come to terms with Tim's "death."  (Her line about not accepting Bruce's therapist without checking his credentials elicited not only a laugh from Alfred, but also me.)  In so doing, she's serving the role Dick used to serve, pushing Bruce to face issues he doesn't want to face.  It is incredibly fun to watch, but it also adds a depth to both their characters that I haven't seen in ages.  Moreover, Tynion spends some quality time with the JV squad.  We learn Harper has given up her role as Bluebird to focus her talents on other areas, like building a secondary electricity grid for low-income households in Gotham.  I'm not sure it'll stick, but it seems clear it's what Harper needs right now.  Seeing her friendship with Stephanie is also really satisfying, since it's probably the first new friendship in "Batman" comics since Dick and Damian.  But, it's Clayface's scenes with Orphan that left me the most intrigued.  Matt asks the Batcomputer to send the worst villain after him in the Mud Room, and it's Clayface.  Orphan immediately stops the program, but Matt is shaken, wondering if he'll always be a monster.  Orphan responds in a way that shows she's also making progress with "emotions," bringing him to the police gala Luke Fox is hosting to show him he's not alone.  Harper and Stephanie easily accept him in their ranks, and I just have to hope it sticks, that Clayface gets to be a hero in the end.  Finally, Bruce wants to bring in Luke Fox to replace Tim in running the team's technical operations, but Kate opposes, viewing him as a rich dilettante who hasn't faced any real adversity in his life.  Truthfully Kate?  Given your observation in the car that no one in the team is unaffected by tragedy, maybe you could use a guy who isn't.  At any rate, we're likely going to see all of them in action in the next issue, as a group calling itself the Victim Syndicate attacks the gala.  In sum, Tynion has quietly built Batman's first team book since possibly the "Outsiders" and I can't believe our luck.

New Avengers #17:  We learn three important things in this issue.  First, the Maker is trying to reconstruct the original multiverse and make it stronger so we're ready for some sort of coming war.  (Isn't there always some sort of coming war?)  Second, 'Berto didn't lose his powers, but doesn't use them because it costs him several years of his life every time he does.  Third, Dum Dum Dugan's prime body is alive.  Taken together, it clears up some of the mystery hanging over this series.  "Berto seems to be preparing to finish off A.I.M next issue and it seems like H.A.M.M.E.R is in his sights after that...if he survives the experience, as the cover to next issue implies.

Prowler #1I was excited about this series, since Prowler has been one of my favorite B-Listers ever since I first encountered him in "Amazing Spider-Man" #304.  These types of characters don't get a lot of chances to shine.  For every surprisingly successful "Hawkeye" run, there's a dozen or so "Black Knight"s or "Red Wolf"s, where the creative team isn't able to convince anyone beyond long-time fans to return for issue #2.  I'm worried Hobie is going to fall into that category.  Marvel is giving a number of B-Listers and C-Listers their own series this month, and I've read a few of the first issues.  The "Solo" debut was solid, giving new readers a good idea of his modus operandi but focusing enough on action to keep the casual reader engaged.  Unfortunately, Ryan fails to do that here.  He not only spends too much time narrating Hobie's past, but the casual reader has to be following all the twists and turns of the "Clone Conspiracy" event to have a hope of understanding what happens in this issue.  It's that sort of in-universe focus in a first issue that can kill a series before it gets off the ground.  My opinion is obviously colored by the fact that I'm not buying what Slott is selling in "Clone Conspiracy," but I feel like we don't even have a chance of Hobie getting to stand on his own two feet before the axe drops on this series.

Also Read:  Batgirl #4; Bloodshot U.S.A. #1; Extraordinary X-Men #15; Ms. Marvel #12; Star Wars #24; Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #7; Titans #4

Friday, January 20, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The October 19 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #9:  Batman assembles his own Suicide Squad in this issue with the goal of breaking into Santa Prisca, and I have to admit I'm excited.  King does the right thing by starting off things slowly.  Some authors would've leaped into the action, showing Bruce punching his way through Santa Prisca while assembling the team in flashbacks.  But, jumping into the action would've failed to build the tension that King so deftly creates here.  As the issue progresses, Dr. Arkham objects to the criminals Bruce wants to release and Bruce ignores his complaints.  It all builds to the revelation at the end of issue of the worst offender:  Selena Kyle.  She's shown at first with a mask, and we're clearly supposed to believe her to be the Joker (even though he currently doesn't exist) because she's apparently in jail for 200+ counts of murder.  I assume those charges are related to her mob-boss days, though King doesn't make that clear.  Hopefully at some point he'll flesh out those details.  But, for the time being, I'm happy to live with the mystery and see where we go from here.

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #14:  I don't really have much to say here, mostly because Steve has executed his plan perfectly.  He stage-manages an attack on the Senator orchestrating the #takebacktheshield movement so Sam is unable to save him.  As Steve says, it not only removes a loose end (since the Senator can't tell anyone Steve asked John to go after Sam), but it also throws more logs onto the fire when it comes to Sam's continued possession of the shield dividing the country.  Spencer reminds us here why Steve is such a formidable enemy.

Death of X #2:  This issue is marginally better than the first one, but it still relies on you believing:  a) Emma and the Cuckoos can reach every mind on the planet, and b) Scott is desperate enough (or dumb enough) to incite a city-wide riot by informing the world that the Terrigen Mists approaching Madrid are deadly to mutants.  I don't really believe either proposition, so I still found myself rolling my eyes at times.  I get Lemire and Soule are trying to show that Cyclops is erratic at this point, but we're not given any reason why he's been pushed to this point.  After all, he's faced the destruction of Earth and mutantkind on numerous occasions; it seems unreasonable to think he'd lose his shit over the Terrigen Mists in the way he does here.

Nightwing #7:  Seeley hopefully isn't setting up the revelation that Raptor is Dick's father.  But, Raptor does seem to think of himself that way, and (again, so long as Seeley doesn't actually go there) it's what gives this issue the tension that keeps you turning the page.  Raptor was clearly in love with Nightwing's mother, though it's unclear if the feeling was reciprocated.  We learn he's been following Nightwing for years, and his comment the first time we met him about being a better mentor than Batman now make sense.  He views himself as a more appropriate father for Dick, one in tune with the circus way of life the Graysons lived.  (I wouldn't be surprised if we learn that Raptor filed for custody at some point.)  Raptor kidnaps Bruce from a public event in this issue, and suddenly we're looking at a battle royale between Dick's father figures.  Earlier, Bruce noted how tense things have been between him and Dick, and Seeley seems to be setting up a chance for Bruce to make it right.  Are they actually going to hug at the end of this issue?  The mind boggles.

Pathfinder:  Worldscape #1:  Mona throws us right into the action in this issue, and it's as disorienting for us as it is for the characters.  First, we begin with Kyra, Merisiel, Seoni, and Valeros fighting Thulgroon, their "old enemy."  This part is disorienting not only because Ezren and Harsk are nowhere to be found, but because I don't remember Thulrgroon at all, making me raise an eye at the description of him as an "old enemy."  Given Kyra is a recent addition to the band (and thus unlikely to share an "old enemy" with it), it raises the possibility the action that opens the issue happens somewhere in the significant future.  But, before we can explore that, the band is whisked to the "Worldscape," where Valeros awakens alone.  He's eventually imprisoned by an evil empress and forced to fight in her arena, where he confronts a similarly displaced Red Sonja.  Sonja confirms what another prisoner told Valeros earlier, that they need to win the games to become the Queen's Champion, getting close enough to assassinate her.  By then, we've also learned the characters have been plucked from their homes seemingly at random, and the queen appears to have something to do with that.  Before we can explore how she benefits from these kidnappings (beyond amusement in the arena), Merisiel is revealed to be one of the queen's advisers, shocking Valeros during his fight with Sonja and allowing her to stab him through the chest.  It's not exactly the ending I was expecting.

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #20; Black Panther #7

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Not-Very Deep Thoughts: The October 12 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Clone Conspiracy #1At this point, I feel like Marvel is begging us to ignore the fact that Slott is just rehashing his own stories every few years.  Six years ago we had "Big Time," where Peter got the job at Horizon and upped his Spidey game, and now we have "Worldwide," where he took over Parker Industries and really upped his Spidey game.  Five years ago we had "Spider-Island," where the Jackal was turning everyone into spiders, and now we have "Clone Conspiracy," where the Jackal is doing...something.  Four years ago we had Otto Octavius taking over a new body, and now we have him getting a new body...again.  In other words, it's getting old.  This event holds promise only because Slott may be setting up the possibility that a number of characters -- so far, Marla Jameson, Dr. Octopus, Captain Stacy, and, most importantly, Gwen Stacy -- could be permanently resurrected.  After all, if the Prowler is going to exist as a resurrected character, as his new series implies, it means Peter has found some way to keep the resurrected people alive.  (I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if Uncle Ben is added to that list, much to my horror.)  Slott makes it clear in the back-up story that the new people aren't clones created from a drop of blood, but reanimated from their remains.  If Slott uses this arc as a way to reboot Peter's continuity in a way that corrects some of the worse stories of the last few years ("Sins Past," anyone?), I could be OK with it.  But, it would require a very deft touch lest it feel like a cheap ret-con.  In truth, I feel like only Ed Brubaker has really pulled off something of this scale with his resurrection of Bucky.  I'm willing to give Slott a chance, but I'll admit I'm not overly optimistic.

Darth Vader #25:  I wasn't aware of the fact "Darth Vader" was ending with this issue, and I'll admit I feel bereft.  (Maybe it's because Carrie Fisher died the day before I read this issue.)  Gillen and Larocca use all the tricks of the trade to maximum effect here, from the wordless sequence of panels building tension to the early use of a credits page to let us think Aphra was really dead.  It's a spectacular issue, from start to finish.  With Aphra spilling the beans about Vader's treachery to the Emperor (though keeping quiet about Luke), Vader raises in his esteem.  He has Vader replace Tagge, and Vader kills him for his failure to see Cylo's treachery.  Vader had also killed Cylo himself earlier in the issue, meaning he stands here with all his enemies vanquished...or, at least, so he thinks.  It isn't surprising that Aphra isn't on that list.  Gillen had me totally buy her panic when Vader throws her in an airlock and expels her from the ship; her tears as she cried about not wanting to die in the vacuum of space felt real.  But, Aphra is Aphra:  she expected Vader to do that, knowing he'd never be "kind" enough to give her the saber as she had asked.  As such, she stashed the droids nearby, and they rescue her.  With Vader now convinced of her death, Aphra is ready to fight another day.  This 25-issue series is absolutely a must-read for any "Star Wars" fan, and it just reminds me how lucky we all are to be here, reading monthly "Star Wars" comics.

Detective Comics #942:  I haven't reviewed any of the "Night of the Monster Men" issues, mainly because they've been pretty well constructed but not particularly notable stories.  It's mostly true of this issue as well, though I'll admit I got a little lost in the pop psychology at the end.  But, I felt the need to comment on the fact that the team Bruce assembled for Kate has started to feel like one.  Unfortunately, in modern comics, we'd now abandon this premise altogether.  How often has a "bold new direction!" lasted six issues?  How often does the "new roster!" get also immediately replaced to start yet another new series?  I hope DC doesn't do that here.  It wasn't until this issue that I realized it's essentially the B Team of the Bat-family, and it's a great way to see them all in action, particularly when they interact with the A Team, as they do here.  It provides a continuity to the Bat-books that we've rarely seen.  For example, this arc nicely sets up Bruce's upcoming war with Bane as he tries to figure out why Bane wanted Psycho-Pirate.  It's rare to see the loose ends from a previous arc (namely the "I am Gotham" arc in "Batman") actually get addressed.  I feel like the Bat-titles may finally have a solid editorial team.  I just hope they don't throw away this success in favor of the next new thing.

Star Wars:  Han Solo #4:  Maybe it's because I just saw "Rogue One," but I teared up a bit when Loo Re Anno commented that we're all the last of something.  She had just explained how her race had found itself (and each other) in creating the Dragon Void, realizing the joy of racing through the stars with someone.  Han laments that she's the last of her kind -- and hence forced to fly on her own -- but Loo Re Anno turns that comment into an analysis of Han himself.  She had earlier noted he belonged to the stars, and it made me realize how much this series is setting up the solo film due in 2018.  We know nothing about Han, just that he's a man with "Solo" as a last name.  He came from somewhere, and the moment that passes between him and Loo Re Anno conveys the sense that he understands the isolation she's feeling.  It really gets you thinking about his past and how he fits into the larger "Star Wars" story.  It also helps you see him as a person and not just a caricature.

Uncanny Avengers #15:  I continue to like this title in spite of myself, or, more to the point, in spite of Duggan's somewhat uneven scripts.  Although he's not surprisingly adept at writing Deadpool, the other characters fare less well at his hand.  Rogue spends the issue simply shouting out demands for the Hand's agents to tell them where Bruce Banner's body is, forcing Elektra to speak for all of us when she exasperatedly tells her it's not helping.  Duggan does manage some moments of humor as the team members slowly realize, despite Deadpool and Rogue's best attempts, that Steve has disbanded the team.  But, the characters all still seem interchangeable at this point, with Johnny not sounding all that distinct from Synapse.  The good news is that Duggan is still telling a fun story; the team fighting a Hand-controlled zombie Hulk is as cool of a premise as I can imagine.  Moreover, the art is top-notch.  Curiel's colors are so well considered and executed that the characters really do seem to leap off the page.  It helps remind you you're reading a comic book and maybe expecting a little too much from it.  Just look at the art and relax.

Also Read:  All-Star Batman #2-#3;. Moon Knight #7; Reborn #1; Solo #1

Monday, January 16, 2017

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

Amazing Spider-Man #19Honestly?  I flipped through this issue until I got to the end.  Slott has made it clear since Jay fell ill that he was going to die, sacrificed to amp up Peter's personal investment in the story.  It makes sense, since the Jackal always strikes at the heart of Peter's personal life.  But, the execution (so to speak) is terrible.  First, as a reminder, Jay is only in this situation because of his previously undisclosed genetic condition.  Based on his Spider-Sense, Peter insists that Jay should receive the conventional treatment available for the condition, rather than going with New U's experimental technology.  But, it raises the obvious question of why Jay didn't get the conventional treatment years ago.  Why is he only getting it now that he may die?  (The answer is that Slott needed a hook, but in theory we're supposed to be shooting higher.)  Moreover, Peter is in a difficult position because he can't simply tell Jay and May his Spider-Sense is the "data" telling him the technology isn't reliable.  But, it also stretches belief that Peter would risk Jay's life over his hunch.  We know why the deal is bad, but Peter has no reason beyond his Spider-Sense to know that.  In normal circumstances, I get going with his gut, but we're actually talking about life and death here.  What's worse than death?  In fact, knowing what the deal actually is, I'd say better should've taken it, since it would've at least bought him time.  To make matters worse, Peter recants at the very last minute, urging Jay to get the experimental treatment.  We have all that angst only for him to decide to just go with it at the end.  In other words, I continue to wait for the day when we're free from Dan Slott.

Death of X #1:  First, I have to comment on the "death" of Madrox here.  Peter David's "X-Factor" always seemed to exist more or less outside the other X-books' continuity.  They rarely got involved in the drama occurring elsewhere.  It was one of the reasons why the book was so special.  Madrox's presence on Muir Island -- where Scott and his team find him dying -- feels almost like Marvel forgot how "X-Factor" ended, with an exhausted Jamie retiring and deciding to settle on his family's farm with Layla.  Adding fuel to the fire, Madrox is not only without Layla here, but he's also in his union suit without his trench coat.  It's almost like Marvel went even further, turning back the clock to 1993, when Jamie was dying of the Legacy Virus in Genosha.  However, Lemire and Soule don't even allude to the fact that Jamie was in a similar situation 20+ years ago, dying of the mutant disease du jour.  This total neglect of Jamie's history makes it hard to accept his "death," because it makes his character unrecognizable.  I understand the need to sacrifice a mutant so the X-Men can learn the Mists are poisonous to mutants.  (Actually, Marvel would just be doing it to make the "event" mean something, but you get my point.)  But, this sequence is so disrespectful of Jamie's character that I basically don't accept it.  I hope we'll see Jamie somewhere else, and it'll all be ret-conned.  Of course, starting an event hoping against hope it immediately gets ret-conned probably isn't exactly what Marvel was hoping would be my reaction to this first issue.  But, there you have it.

Dungeons & Dragons:  Shadows of the Vampire #5:  In the end, we don't really get a satisfying resolution to the mystery at the heart of this miniseries.  Strahd gets his hands on the amulet, and he learn he has some hope the amulet will free him from Ravenloft.  Before we can explore that interesting idea, the ghost of Sergei, Strahd's brother, appears, preventing Strahd from using the amulet.  He wants to ensure Strahd is punished for him crimes by being forced to stay in Ravenloft.  However, Delina is able to use the amulet to transport the team somewhere else, though that somewhere else doesn't exactly look all that safer.  The good news is the lack of resolution isn't really too disappointing.  Zub does a great job showing how awesome Strahd is as he easily dismisses the team, even when they seem to have him cornered.  The fact we never learn what Strahd intended to do with the amulet fits with the idea of Strahd as the unquestioned master of Ravenloft, the only all-knowing one among us.  Not surprisingly, Zub also uses darker tones here than we've seen with Delina's team.  Although no one dies, Strahd tells the team the darkness of Ravenloft will follow them, a threat that doesn't feel hollow as they find themselves battered and alone in a range of snow-covered mountains.

Justice League #6:  After this yet-again-rebooted series' disastrous first arc, I admit Hitch has a ways to go to convince me to hang in there.  Despite some uneven art, this issue is an improvement, though not the home run we needed.  Hitch focuses on the League's interpersonal relationships, but it isn't simply to work on characterization.  The threat in this arc has something to do with fear, and Hitch uses the team members' relationships to provide a vehicle for that fear to spread.  For example, Jessica attacks Barry on their first date, and Superman decides to travel to Gotham to kill Bruce for not trusting him. Presumably, Aquaman and Wonder Woman and Cyborg and Green Lantern will come to blows next issue.  Beyond our lack of understand of why the characters are feeling this fear in the first place, their responses to it all feel formulaic; only Jessica's predicament provoked any real emotional response in me.  But, it's better than the last arc, so I'm willing to give it a whirl for the time being.  In the meantime, I keep wondering if we're ever going to see the Rao arc in "Justice League of America" come to a conclusion.

Midnighter and Apollo #1:  As much as I enjoyed Orlando's "Midnighter" series, my consistent complaint was he didn't do a great job explaining why Midnighter was fighting the people he was fighting.  For example, we never learned why Prometheus chose him as a victim in his war against superheroes.  Here, Orlando also doesn't do a great job of explaining Henry Bendix and his beef with Midnighter.  He appeared several times in the first series, and I don't know if we ever really learned more about him beyond having a hand in creating Midnighter.  He's now decided to take out Midnighter, though we're not told why he chose to act at this moment.  (It's possibly because Midnighter has decided to go after him, though, again, we don't know why Midnight would be doing so now.)  But, just like in the original series, these questions aren't as important to my enjoyment as Midnighter's relationships, and Orlando continues to deliver on this front.  I was always surprised in the last series that people embraced Midnighter's violence so readily, but we see Apollo broach that subject here, wondering if Midnighter has to be as brutal as he is.  I'm excited to get insight into the two of them as a couple, something hopefully not ruined by the fact Bendix has hired some demons to bring Apollo to Hell.

Spider-Man 2099 #16:  The revelation that Jameson and Power Pack were deep-undercover Skrulls engineering the superhero-registration debacle to hide an invasion is so brilliant I don't even know what I can say.  David is essentially using the premise of "Secret Invasion" to send up "Civil War II."  It's almost something you'd see in one of the satirical back-up stories Marvel ran in their Annuals in the 1980s.  Moreover, it leaves behind yet another possible future.  All in all, it's a great conclusion to this arc and an inspired use of an event.  Looking ahead, I wonder what Roberta is going to do with the knowledge that her husband, Harry, experimented on her.  Of course, we still have the First out there, which probably poses a more immediate threat to Miguel.

Also Read:  Batman #8; Bloodshot Reborn #18; Nightwing #6

Friday, January 13, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 28 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #5:  This issue is unexpectedly very relevant to the plot of "Civil War II," though I'm not sure where it leaves us.  Although I'm sure a similar theme has been covered in the "Iron Man" series, it's actually the first time I've seen a real exploration into the nature of Ulysses' powers.  First, Cap and Dr. Selvig realize the danger Ulysses' visions pose to their plans, since he could obviously discover Steve's allegiance to HYDRA.  However, they also recognize Ulysses seems to prioritize global-level threats and seem to assume Steve's duplicity would be low on that list.  (It's again why I'm not buying the events of the "Ms. Marvel" tie-in issues, because I don't really think Ulysses is spending all his time trying to identify who plans on robbing a liquor store in Jersey City before the prom.)  Selvig sends some "research" to Bruce Banner, and it provokes the vision that kicks off "Civil War II."  Moreover, Cap's membership in HYDRA means he knows Ulysses' prediction that the woman Captain Marvel arrested for trying to take down the global financial system was wrong:  she wasn't working for HYDRA.  (This part is a little unclear, though.  Steve asks the Skull if she could've been working for an independent cell, but the Skull refuses to recognize that such a cell could escape his notice.  But, of course, Steve's cell exists, so it sort of casts some doubt on the certainty of the Skull's conclusion.)  If you accept the events of this issue are true, then it's impossible to believe Carol's side of the argument, since Steve has proven Ulysses' visions can be manipulated and also incorrect.  It reminds me of "Death of the Family," where the tie-in issues made it clear the Joker knew the Bat-family's identities, but the main issues supported Bruce's insistence that he didn't.  It casts an even greater shadow over an event that I already find to be poorly plotted.

Extraordinary X-Men #14:  It's pretty clear Lemire knows where he's going, though I'll admit it feels like the falcon is getting too far from the falconer.  It stands to reason the two stories he's been telling over the last few issues will converge, but it's hard to see how Sapna and her mysterious benefactor will combine with Apocalypse and a Horseman-ed Colossus.  Lemire ups the ante here even further by introducing concepts like the World Eater (presumably Sapna's benefactor) and the Lattice (presumably the system of portals Sapna manipulates).  As I said, I'm confident Lemire is in charge of the narrative, so I'm not overly worried.  But, hopefully he won't drag out this story too much longer.

Ms. Marvel #11:  The best tie-in issues are the ones where the main event provokes changes in the character's life.  Willow delivers that in spades here, as a paralyzed Bruno tells Kamala he never wants to speak to her again (and announces he's moving to Wakanda) and Ms. Marvel ruptures her relationship with Carol over "predictive justice."  (Willow also gets in an amazing shot at the premise of "Civil War II," as one of the minor characters tells Ms. Marvel she should watch "Minority Report.")  Nothing here is easily fixable.  Under normal comic rules, Bruno would get some sort of neural implant that magically heals him, and we're never talk about his paralysis again.  The entire incident would just be forgotten, part of the group's usual shenanigans.  But, Bruno has finally decided the consequences outweigh the benefits, not only because his accident lost him scholarships but because Kamala doesn't seem to care.  Kamala doesn't really argue with him, and she ends the issue with no one standing by her side (not Bruno, not Carol).  The image on the cover for next issues shows her on a journey of self-discovery, and it doesn't feel like a random "NEW DIRECTION!" arc like Babs' does in "Batgirl."  Willow makes it clear why such a journey is necessary at this point, and I'm intrigued to see where Kamala goes, physically and mentally.

Star Wars #23:  Han and Leia as a couple are obviously an icon of the Star Wars universe, even more so after "Star Wars:  The Force Awakens."  However, Aaron tweaks that status here, giving us an insight into the experiences of everyone surrounding the couple during the time period where they aren't actually a couple.  Han and Leia's race to the bridge to see who gets to be captain is childish in many ways, from leaving such an important role to chance to forcing Luke and Sana to deal with a threat that presents itself during their race.  But, Aaron uses it brilliantly, showing us the awkward period where Han and Leia haven't admitted their feelings to each other while also allowing other characters -- such as Luke and Sana -- to shine.  Although it might elicit some raised eyebrows on the ship (and from the readers), it's a reminder these characters are human and not just icons.

Titans #3:  I don't have too much to say here other than noting Abnett seemed to confirm here that Kadabra is from the future but also a victim of Dr. Manhattan's machinations.  He knows Wally and Linda should know one another but don't and that Dr. Manhattan is behind it.  Abnett has Kadabra claim he threw Wally into the timestream, but Dick isn't buying it, a sign it's probably not true.  I have to wonder though how much truth we're going to get since DC doesn't seem to be in a hurry to address the Dr. Manhattan situation.

Also Read:  Batgirl #3; Bloodshot Reborn #17; Captain America:  Sam Wilson #13; Captain Marvel #9; Detective Comics #941; New Avengers #16; Spider-Gwen #12

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 21 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Civil War II #5:  Given how ridiculously delayed this issue (and entire series) is, it's absurd that the only significant event in this issue is Ulysses' vision of Miles holding an impaled Captain America in front of the Capitol.  I have no idea how many issues we have left, since Marvel has a habit of adding issues when a story is already going badly.  But, it's getting harder and harder to stay engaged here as the schedule slips and the story doesn't progress.  It feels like we're heading to a big revelation about the true nature of Ulysses' power, but it's getting harder and harder to see how that's going to lead us to a resolution.  If Tony is proven correct and Ulysses' biases impact his predictions, does Captain Marvel just shrug and apologize?  Does Clint then produce a still-alive Bruce Banner and say, "Hey, the other guy was a LMD, I was hiding Banner in a cave, gotcha!"?  If Carol is proven correct, do we have predictive justice forever in the Marvel Universe?  That's always seemed unlikely, which partly explains why this series has lacked any drama, since it's been pretty clear what the conclusion was going to be from the start. Beyond just the unwieldy plot, we have a huge characterization problem here.  I subscribe to a lot of series with tie-in issues, and the events in those issues don't seem to be well represented in this main title.  For example, Kamala and Miles have made up their minds here to join the anti-Carol forces, despite the fact they haven't come to those conclusions yet in their own series.  Peter very explicitly made the decision to support Carol at all costs at the end of "Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man," but he's shown (I think) emerging from the shower while the fight occurs as if he's just a bystander.  The original X-Men are shown in the title page as siding with Tony, but we don't see them (as far as I can see) in this issue, despite the obvious draw of a fight between "old" Iceman and young Iceman.  In fact, in their own series, they're not even in the same place -- Hank is hiding in his lab, Scott is still recovering from his beating at Toad's hands, and Evan and Idie are helping Bobby score some peen in Miami.  In other words?  It's a mess.  It's hard to believe Bendis and the editors planned for us to be where we are now, but it doesn't matter, because here we are.

Civil War II:  X-Men #4:  Just like the main title, this series seemed to have been going in one direction but veers significantly as a result of a vision Ulysses has.  Here, Magneto finally makes his way to Ulysses.  However, Ulysses shows Magneto a vision of Storm's team and his team essentially killing each other, so Magneto leaves New Attilan before it gets to that point.  The problem is that said vision doesn't really make much sense.  If Magneto did kill Ulysses, it seems much more likely his team would be facing the Inhumans and Carol's side.  Sure, Storm and her team would be part of that larger squad, but it seems unlikely they'd be the only ones coming after Magneto and his team.  But, nothing about this event has made a lick of sense, so I don't know why it'd start now.

Justice League #5:  Honestly, I have no effing idea what happened here, just like the last issue.  I get Hitch is setting up some other story -- one focused on whatever the Kindred was trying to achieve here.  But, you have to make sure the actual story you're telling makes sense, and this one didn't at all.  Magic singing crystals in Atlantis?  An alien race called the Purge that looked like Cyborg?  Three hidden bombs in the Earth's core?  It just made not a damn lick of sense.  I don't understand how an editor could've read this story and thought, "Oh, I totally see where Hitch is going with this one, how clever!"?  I'll give it one more arc, but "Justice League" just went to the top of my "cancel" list after this one. 

Mighty Thor #11:  There was a period there a few issues ago where I felt like this series was dragging, but, man, it is not any longer.  Aaron and Dauterman are just on fire here.  Both of them do such an amazing job crafting characters.  I want Exterminatrix and Silver Samurai to battle Dario and Thor every issue.  Aaron does such an excellent job of giving everyone a distinct voice.  I loved Jane's conversation with Roz at the end, as Roz babbles after Jane shares her secret.  But, it's not all about characterization.  The plot is also getting more interesting by the moment.  Aaron totally plays up the likelihood a shape-shifting Loki helped Jane keep her secret identity, but instead we learn it was an apparently sentient Mjolnir.  It speaks to the point Aaron has frequently made, about how Mjolnir speaks to Jane -- now literally -- in a way it didn't to Thor.  Meanwhile, in the background, we've still got the war in the Ten Realms and now the war between Dario, Exterminatrix, and the Silver Samurai.  When you add in Dauterman's rendering of Jane holding up a gold-clad Roxxon Island before it crashes into New York, you realize it's a golden age of Thor indeed.  (Sorry, I couldn't help myself on that one.)

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #18; Batman #7; Nightwing #5