Captain America: Sam Wilson #20: I repeatedly put off reading this issue because I knew something bad was coming. It's a sign of how compelling of a story Spencer is writing, but it doesn't mean that story is always pleasant. In the end, I was right to be concerned. It was one of the most moving issues I've ever read. Elvin is sent to Z Block, New York's version of the Raft. It was built by the lowest bidder, and it's insecure at best. Elvin knows what Sam refuses to accept: he's going to die there. And, he does. He's beaten to death by other super-powered prisoners, some of them villains he helped incarcerate; at the end of the issue, he's brain dead and on life support. I remember Rage's debut in the "Avengers" in 1990. I remember the shock of discovering he was around my age, and I remember his time with the "New Warriors" feeling like he got a second change at life. He died as he lived in this issue, fighting a system stacked against him. I feel sick over it, and Spencer uses that shock to drive home his point. If I feel this way over a fictional character, it's easy to see how emotionally damaging these events are in real life. It drives home the point Spencer has been making since this issue started. Spencer implies Sam gives up the shield next issue, and I honestly don't know how he couldn't. How could he still believe in a system that resulted in Rage dying this way? It seems too much to ask.
Mighty Thor #17: OK, I was initially annoyed the Asgard-Shi'ar War was distracting us from the War of the Realms, but Dauterman is so over-the-top amazing in presenting the grandeur of this war that I honestly don't mind right now. That super-nova scene? Spectacular. Plus, Aaron makes sure to show us it's meant to be distraction: Loki set this ball in motion to buy him and Malekith some time to plot and scheme. Will Cul actually find himself grudgingly admiring Thor after they kick Sharra and K'ythri's asses? We'll see.
Nightwing #17: Professor Pyg! I really was worried where Seeley was going with the arc, but I have to say I'm much relieved now. First, going to Fontevraud Abbey was one of the coolest trips I've ever made so it was amazing to watch Dick's fight with Deathwing happen there. Over the course of this battle, we come to learn Deathwing is a Dolltron after a Dolltron Robin appears and attacks him. We also learn Professor Pyg has come to admire -- in his way -- Shawn's art. That said, Seeley doesn't answer all our questions by the end of this issue. For example, it's unclear how the "blood" Deathwing administered to Dick caused him to see alternate versions of himself. Also, I'm not sure how Pyg came to know Dick so intimately that he knew to use Robin Hood themes to taunt him. Also, is he obsessed with Shawn, or is it more about Dick? But, Seeley has plenty of time to answer these questions. In the meantime, the visions Dick has here are helpful in digging around his consciousness. We learn he viewed his time as Batman as allowing him to be an idealized version of himself where he was in control of who left a situation hurt. (Notably, he's not proud of that.) Plus, it helps him realize Damian's anger is driven in part by his fear Dick is replacing him with his new life in Blüdhaven. This revelation comes after Dick telling Damian earlier in the issue that he thinks he (Damian) suffers the most from Bruce's distraction. Pulling these threads together, Damian sees Dick as his father, and it makes sense he's worried Dick is leaving him behind (particularly if he becomes a new father). In other words, Seeley is giving us a really insightful coda to Dick's time as Batman, something we didn't really get given the abrupt shift to the DCnU. If it means Dick resolves his issues with Damian and we see Damian more, I'm all for it.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #12: The good news is this arc get a lot more interesting here. Oddy is revealed to be the traitor, but he did it because Terex captured his wife, using her not only as a slave but leverage to get Oddy to give over secrets. I have to admit it makes sense, and it's nice Oddy doesn't turn out being a two-faced liar. Meanwhile, Poe finds him trapped in a cave and loses BB-8 and C-3PO in short order as they sacrifice themselves (allegedly) to prevent Terex's advance to find him. He's left with the frankly hilarious Nunzix as Black Squadron makes its way to Poe's location. (I'm assuming Oddy gave them the information after the guy he was holding hostage told him Terex had departed the ship.) All in all, the story flows much better than it has, and Soule injects it with some actual excitement, as we all wait to see how Poe and Black Squadron -- now pursued by Terex's fleet -- are going to survive long enough to save each other.
Uncanny Avengers #21: Perhaps the most interesting part of this issue is what doesn't happen. Based on the cover (in a great example of pet peeve #1), Cable and the Red Skull should be fighting here. If you recall, Cable erased his consciousness in issue #19, asking Belle to implement the "Lifeboat Protocol." I assume it means his consciousness is somewhere else, and the cover to this issue implied he would be fighting the Skull on the astral plane. It doesn't happen, though. Instead, in a moment of brilliance, Deadpool slams Magneto's helmet on Rogue; he apparently found it in the ruins of the Westchester school, where he went to seek help from the X-Men. Freed from the Skull's influence, Rogue is able to defeat the Skull and takes his body to the Beast at New Attilan to perform brain surgery. (We appear to be pre-"IvX" here.) This story apparently concludes next issue, and I wonder if the Avengers are going to go find Nate in the astral plane after they (presumably) get back Xavier's brain next issue. I guess we'll see. Despite the cover problem, though, this issue is another bang-up one, with some really great characterization, particularly when it comes to Deadpool and Rogue. Duggan shows how Rogue has come to respect Wade and the sacrifices he's made to save the team, and I look forward to see how the team treats Wade after the story ends.
The Wild Storm #2: OMG, if you're not getting this series, get it now before it's too late! (Seriously!) This issue might as well have been titled, "The Hunt for Angela, or Revelations." We learn a lot about the current state of play in the Wildstorm universe as the various intelligence agencies scramble to get their hands on Angela. First, Miles huddles with his team at IO to review the situation. We learn Angela was a low-level researcher who shouldn't have had access to the technology she used to create her flight suit. IO only had that technology because they stole it from Skywatch, who didn't know they had it. But, now Skywatch does, so Miles thinks the only hope for maintaining their non-aggression pact is to get Angela, strip the technology from her, and return it to Skywatch. Meanwhile, Marlowe has tasked Cole Cash's son to take his C.A.T. team to find Angela, presumably to keep IO from getting her. (He refers to them as a "tumor that started out as an intelligence service" who's secretly running the world.) Cole, Jr.'s colleague Kenesha (who I don't recognize from the previous iteration of Wildstorm) tracks Angela to an abandoned IO base in Montauk around the same time an alarm from that installation alerts IO to her presence. Adrianna teleports Cole, Jr. and Kenesha to Montauk as Miles dispatches a team as well. Dun-dun-DUN! In other revelations, Cray tells his therapist he has an inoperable brain tumor, the Division is the investigative arm of Skywatch (run by Henry Bendix), and Zealot is tasked with finding Angela (though they don't know she's Angela). Basically, at this point, we're in an arms race. We don't know why Angela built the suit or why everyone is doing what they're doing, but I'm guessing we'll get more information when everyone fights each other next issue. Beyond the amazing script from Ellis, Davis-Hunt continues to be brilliant. The drama and tension that sings throughout this issue is because of his ability to keep the "camera" squarely on the characters; the silent sequence where Angela makes her way through the base in Montauk to her living quarters and cries after becoming human is spectacular. Seriously, people -- get this series.
Also Read: Batman #19; Ms. Marvel #16; Spider-Man #14; U.S.Avengers #4