Amazing Spider-Man #19: Honestly? 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