Batman Annual #1: This issue is mostly fine, with stories of varying levels of quality about Christmas. (The origin story of Ace is probably the best of the bunch.) But, the last story is bizarre. Someone named Haunter escapes from Arkham, but it's never totally clear how her powers work. We just learn she uses your D.N.A. to kill you. Scarecrow has created a diversion for Batman to help her escape, but we're never really told what their plan is. Bruce eventually paralyzes them temporarily with a nerve gas. However, he not only threatens to leave them to freeze to death, but also to break their jaws while they're paralyzed. I have no idea how this one slipped through the cracks, but it felt like someone took grimdark Batman a little too far.
Extraordinary X-Men #16: It wasn't until after I finished this issue that I found myself scratching my head. During it, I was totally sucked into the excitement Lemire created as the two separate storylines we've been following over the last few issues merge. Nightcrawler decides to free Apocalypse in exchange for de-Horseman-ing Colossus as Magik tries to free Sapna from the World Eater's control. In the end, Nightcrawler hurls a freed Apocalypse into the void the World Eater created and Magik is forced to kill Sapna to sever her link with the World Eater. Lemire and Ibañez do an amazing job of capturing the chaos happening in X-Haven as we approach those conclusions; it's definitely a page-turner. But, upon reflection, I find myself wondering what actually happened. The World Eater brags about destroying dozens of worlds and leaving a lot of dead wizards in his wake. But, Illyana easily severs his link with Sapna without any explanation why the Soul Sword is able to do what all those wizards weren't able to do. Also, what exactly did Nightcrawler do to Apocalypse? Did he kill him? Don't the X-Men not kill? Did he hurl him into space and time? Isn't that a bit...reckless? I mean, it was pretty reckless of Storm to bring Apocalypse to the present, so I'm not saying it's all Nightcrawler's fault. But, it's clearly a loose end that the X-Men are going to have to resolve at a future point. Overall, though, I'm still mostly happy with the way this series is going, even though Lemire seemed to wave his hands in front of the chalkboard a bit here.
IvX #0: I can't remember being less excited about an event than this one. After the disastrous "Death of X," I'm reading this series under duress. Soule does what he can, but it's impossible to shake the feeling he's working under orders, forced to sell a conflict that stems simply from an editorial mandate. In terms of the actual story (and not my continued whining), Hank discovers the Terrigen Mists affect each mutant differently. That's problematic because it means he's not looking for a cure, but an individual cure for every mutant. As if that challenge wasn't difficult enough, he then discovers the Mists are becoming absorbed into the environment. To complicate matters, Hank overhears a conversation Medusa has with the other Inhuman leaders, implying she accepts the inevitability of war with the mutants. Hank asks Ororo to convene all the mutant leaders on Muir Island, seemingly a prelude to war. Meanwhile, Emma has developed her own plan of attack over the course of these past eight months. If you can get past the editorial fiat making this fight necessary, Soule does a solid job of setting up the conflict. My only gripe is the truly bizarre behavior of the Beast at the start. Iso expresses her surprise at how chipper he is as they begin to research the Mists' impact on mutants, and he explain that he's just excited to engage in S-C-I-E-N-C-E. I mean, sure, you had all that death and horror, but S-C-I-E-N-C-E! I have to invoke pet peeve #3 here, since having a character concede to his bizarre behavior doesn't excuse the author from having him behave this way in the first place.
Justice League of America #9-#10: Hitch seems to rush the end of this story, which seems weird, given the ample amount of time he had to conclude it. In the end, we never really get an answer about the true nature of the Infinity Corporation: who they are, what they want, how they have powers. Moreover, the Justice League itself doesn't really win; the Stones turn to Justin (from the Infinity Corporation) over Rao, allowing the younger Rao to kill the older one. Again, it would've been nice to understand why Justin wound up having more influence over the Stones than Rao, particularly given my suspicion that they're the same set of stones. But, compared to the stories he's currently telling in "Justice League," Hitch still delivers a solid performance here. I felt the awe we're supposed to feel when Rao pulls ancient Krypton into Earth's orbit, and young Rao inspiring Green Lantern to act, even though he's only one man standing against hundreds of thousands of Kryptonian warriors, feels particularly relevant these days. It's just a shame that this arc -- probably the most creative "Justice League" story since the DCnU started -- got short-changed in the end.
Star Wars Annual #2: This issue would've felt meaningful when it was published before Carrie Fisher died, but it takes on all new meaning now. Leia inspires a young woman, Pash, to join the Rebellion after she impulsively saves Leia's life. But, the real highlight is Leia's meditation on Alderaan. Pash tells Leia she doesn't like her because of Alderaan, because she allowed all those people to sacrifice themselves in her name. Leia says it's always why people don't like her and then talks about how it's worse than Pash thinks: she not only knows those people died for her and her dream, but she also knows she'd do it all over again if she had the chance. That's some powerful stuff right there. Pash comes to view Leia as the embodiment of hope, and I can't say, with the loss of Carrie Fisher and some of that hope, she's wrong.
Also Read: Ms. Marvel #13; New Avengers #18