Batman #15: This entire arc is possibly the most perfect Batman/Catwoman story ever written, and I won't spoil it by even reviewing it. Just read it. She stole the night indeed.
Black Widow #10: Well, I didn't see pretty much any of that coming. OK, I thought Waid might give Natasha back her memories of her relationship with Bucky. After all, the Lion's cousin was pretty much made-to-order for that task, particularly when his powers were combined with access to Nick Fury's secrets. But, Waid doesn't exactly confirm that here. Sure, Nat calls Bucky "James" and awakens from her ever-so-brief coma with a personality much more reminiscent of her previous one. But, Waid is right that Nat also knows she has a job to do, so she can't get entangled with Bucky at this moment. (Her most enigmatic comment is about how Bucky can't keep secrets from her. Their relationship wasn't Bucky's secret, so I'm not sure what she meant by that. It's particularly weird considering it was her answer to his question about whether she remembers their relationship.) We're just left with the hope that she feels something for him again, and I guess I can live with that (for now). All that said, it's the death of both Lions that threw me for a loop. Waid seemed to have greater plans for them, so their sudden exit from the scene is surprising. But, it does re-focus us on Recluse, who gets back her "girls" here, preparing for war with Nat. Moreover, Fury's cryptic message to Nat -- spelling out the word "friendship" in Russian -- remains unclear. Maybe it was that message that activated her memory of Bucky, like a code word. Or, maybe it's something else. But, again, it's a reminder that Nat's right: we've got other fish to fry than romance at this point.
Clone Conspiracy #4: After three issues and several tie-in issues where Slott seemed to be dragging out the story for as long as possible, he slams on the accelerator here. Unfortunately, it means we fly past logic on the way to our destination (wherever that is). Peter decides not to help Ben resurrect Uncle Ben after he sees Ben's "Haven," a Pleasant Hill-esque sub-basement where the resurrected people live with their families. I generally agree with Slott that Peter would come to this conclusion, but I'll say that Slott could've explored his decision-making process a little more. Peter tells Ben he's exercising his power without responsibility, but doesn't really elaborate on why he thinks so: he only seems troubled (as he should be) by Ben engaging in emotional blackmail to create his "web" of supporters, like Jonah. Again, I don't necessarily disagree with the idea Peter would reject Ben's overture, but Slott's has strongly hinted Peter was sympathetic to Ben's plans. In fact, in dozens of alternative universes, Peter apparently winds up helping Ben. As such, it would've been nice to see why this Peter draws a line. Was it just because of the blackmail? But, Ben suddenly orders the residents of Haven to kill Peter without any hesitation, and an answer to that question becomes irrelevant. This action makes it hard to believe we're really dealing with Ben here. First, he continues to refuse to answer Peter's questions about how he could've been resurrected from mere ash. But, more importantly, Slott never really explains how someone who goes to great lengths in this issue to assure Peter he's a good guy could so easily embrace being a bad guy. It even gets worse: Ben offers to give Anna-Maria a "normal" body in exchange for the cure she's developed for the cellular degeneration. It not only reveals Ben is a bigot, but it also shows just how cutting edge Ben's technology apparently is. Previously, he could just miraculously cure ailments like heart disease. Now, Slott is saying he can change a person's entire body structure. But, it's the crack about Anna-Marie's height that pushes Otto over the edge, and he uses his discovery that harmonics are the cause of the cellular degeneration to start destroying the clones. This incident somehow creates the Carrion virus, because Anna-Maria also begins to disintegrate. Before Slott can explain why the clones' affliction jumps to humans, Ben decides to use Jonah's FACT studio to broadcast the signal -- and the virus -- to the entire world. Yeah, I don't get it either. I mean, I get the idea clones might be susceptible to harmonics, but why would humans be? Moreover, why would a radio signal cause it? The whole story -- between the now-numerous instances of sketchy scientific justifications and the character assassination of Ben -- is just a mess.
Amazing Spider-Man #23: Slott and Gage pick up the story we didn't see in "Clone Conspiracy"#4 in this issue but it leaves me with more questions than answers. Something I didn't mention in the review of "Clone Conspiracy" #4 is that Peter was fast and loose with calling out Ben's name while everything goes pear-shaped. At one point, Ben is on the TV monitor announcing he's broadcasting the Carrion virus and Peter is surrounded by his enemies as they succumb to the virus. Peter just starts absolutely bellowing, "Ben!" This carelessness is made all the odder here with the revelation that most people seem to think the Jackal is Warren. Captain Stacy and Gwen know it's Ben Reilly, though it's unclear how Stacy knew; Gwen admits she guessed. Why would he even remotely want to throw out that name, given how easy it would be to connect him to Ben? Other than that, Slott and Gage do a solid job of imaging what a conversation between Peter and a resurrected Gwen Stacy would look like. Peter is particularly fixated on Gwen as a clone, putting her in the same category as Ben and Kaine: he's not negating her right to exist, but he's also not accepting her as "Gwen" anymore than Ben or Kaine are "Peter." But, Gwen rightfully notes both Ben and Kaine had life experiences different from Peter that inform who they are; Gwen herself essentially woke up the minute after dying. At this point, they get to the crux of the matter: Gwen believes Peter can't accept her because he can't accept being happy. After he admits that he and MJ were only happy for "a time," she realizes he's built the walls so high around himself that no one can get over them, not even her. It's a solid argument, to an extent. Peter essentially agrees, saying that she's not Gwen to him largely because he's not the Peter he was when they were together. It's the first time Peter's refusal to accept this new technology feels real and not just a convenient way for Slott to advance the action. That said, part of me still wonders if Peter feels this way about everyone else he knows who's been resurrected. Does he refuse to accept Captain America is Steve Rogers? I mean, how many times has Harry Osborn "died?" But, Slott clearly hasn't thought through this argument fully, so I'm not going to push my luck.
Mighty Captain Marvel #1: The good news is this issue is fun. Stohl really captures the joy of Carol. As a member of the Carol Corps, it's this sense of humor I felt was missing in the woman we saw in "Civil War II," and I'm glad to see it's returned. The only bad news is it's almost too much fun. Stohl has Alpha Flight producing a TV series based on Carol to fund its operations, and I have to admit I found that premise implausible even for a comic book. Is Netflix really paying so much at this point that we could run a fully staffed space station from the proceeds? If so, I need to get into producing. At any rate, Stohl thankfully has a firmer handle on the rest of the plot, diving into current events in the same way Nick Spencer is in "Captain America: Sam Wilson." We learn S.H.I.E.L.D. (if not Maria Hill) is building the Shield to keep out interplanetary refugees fleeing the oncoming Chitauri horde. Carol has apparently regrown her conscience, because she's appalled at the idea we're going to lock out refugees. However, before we can delve too far into that argument, she is called to save a Kree child in one of the camps. Said child was the target of a shape-shifting bounty hunter, who's apparently been tasked with collecting ten such children. Good luck getting his hands on that last kid now that she's under Carol's care! Other than the TV-series weirdness, this issue is a long awaited return to form for Carol.
Nightwing #14: Seeley is stretching some premises a little too far here. For example, the hard-boiled detective who doesn't like "tights" apparently has a photographic memory for the position of the heads of every murder she's worked. Moreover, the perpetrator apparently has an obsession with moving said heads after he kills the person, which just seems...weird. Like, what sort of childhood trauma makes him want to position all the heads in the same way? Did his father only look at his younger brother to his left at the dinner table?
Rebels #7-#10: I felt the same way about these issues as I did the first six: Wood and his collaborators have real moments of brilliance, but they just as often get a strike while swinging for the fences. Wood's approach to this series has been to harness the power of understated quiet. This approach shined when he used it to uncover the various layers of Seth Abbot's soul in the first six issues. But, it doesn't work in all cases, and we see that time and again in these issues. The character of Silence Bright -- a mixed-race printer in British-occupied Boston -- needed much more attention in issue #8; Wood never even attempts to describe how someone like her could survive and thrive in colonial Boston. He does much better in telling the story of Molly Pitcher in issue #7, stoking the reader's outrage as she's denied a veteran's pension because she's not a man. Wood uses her story to bring to life the teams of women and children who supported the Colonial Army, and it works so well because her steely quiet conveys her disapproval so perfectly. He also excels with Stone Hoof, the young Native American featured in issue #9, but he does so because he ditches the silent approach. We are given enough insight into the characters' thinking for the tragedy of the French and Indian War to be made clear. It also embraces the ethos of this series, sending most of us, I'm guessing, to Wikipedia to learn more about it. It's probably the best single issue of the series. But, Wood takes the silent approach to an extreme in the final issue, and it's probably the worst one of the series. We are left knowing virtually nothing about the young British redcoat after we watch his story unfold so tragically. Wood and his collaborators often toy with us through ambiguity, but they go too far here: it seems to be Seth Abbot himself who shot the young man, and it's also unclear whether he's dead or playing possum. But, Wood has given us so little at that point that it's hard to care whether or not he survives; the possibility of it being Seth is the only frisson of energy I felt in the issue. I ended issue #6 saying I wish it had been issue #24, and I feel the same way here. Wood leaves so much on the table that it feels like a promise unfulfilled. I just have to hope he returns to Seth (and not just his son, as he apparently will be doing in the upcoming series) again, so we can see the war through his eyes. That would be a comic I'd be happy to read.
Also Read: Avengers #3.1; Captain America: Sam Wilson #18; Spider-Gwen #16; Star Wars: Dr. Aphra #3; U.S.Avengers #2