All-New X-Men #19: For possibly the first time in the 30+ years I've read comics, a time-travel story ends in a way that makes sense. Hank uses his mystic powers to return the original X-Men to their timeline...and reveals they're actually still there. As Hank says, the only way for the present to make sense is if they never left the past; or, to put it another way, the present only has one past. As such, they can't go home again; they're essentially an unresolved paradox in time (though "X-Men Prime" #1 casts some doubt on that). Hopeless wisely doesn't delve too much further into the exact mechanics of the paradox. (Physically, if I had to guess, old Hank taking them from the "past" actually happened in old Hank's present, which means the "past" itself never changed. It assumes in a way the past and the present happen simultaneously. You see why it was smart not to go into the details?) Instead, Hopeless focuses on the kids' reactions. Bobby is obviously thrilled, as his present is going pretty well, with his handsome Inhuman boyfriend. Scott is less thrilled, as he's now condemned to a present where he's a villain (if not quite the villain Emma Frost made everyone believe he was). However, Jean makes a convincing argument to Scott it's as close to a happy ending as they're going to get. Looking forward, I hope the new series delves further into the kids' emotional responses to this development, the reality they're definitively stuck in the present. After all, they are just kids. Doesn't Bobby want to see his parents in the present day? Shouldn't Jean feel some sense of loss over the fact her parents are killed because of her destiny to become the Phoenix? It's a lot to process, and neither Bendis on the previous series or Hopeless in this one have really explored these questions as much as I think they could have. It seems a good place for the new series to start.
Black Widow #12: Samnee and Waid deliver a solid ending here, as Nat convinces the girls to abandon Recluse because she only sees them as a means to an end. That said, it is a deviation from the previous 11 issues, when it comes to Nat's characterization. Nat has been coldly calculating throughout this series, from pushing away Bucky lest he interfere with her mission to forcing the Lion to join her pursuit of the Headmistress and Recluse. She was never more cruel than her dismissal of Recluse as weak in issue #7. In fact, it's this harsh treatment that drove Recluse to use the girls as a way to get her revenge. As such, it's odd for Nat to suddenly go all soft here. If she had offered a hand to Recluse in issue #7, these girls might not have been in the situation we see here in the first place. Samnee and Waid never really explore Nat's culpability in the drama that unfolds or explains why her heart suddenly grew three sizes that day; even her role in the death of the Lions' father/uncle was never really held against her. I think this series would've ended on a stronger note if we had seen Nat consider how her inability to trust anyone brought her to this point. Instead, S.H.I.E.L.D. simply embraces her as the conquering hero, and we return to her status quo.
Mighty Captain Marvel #3: I'll be honest that I'm a little lost. I think I get the broad strokes of the story Stohl is telling. If I had to guess, the energy released at the end of "Secret Wars" created a genetic marker in a subset of folks across the Universe, and this marker seems to portend some sort of evolutionary jump. Carol doesn't have the marker, but "Bean" does and for some reason it interferes with Carol's powers. Carol and one of Tony's employees jump to the conclusion that the ten blue Kree kids the bounty hunter is trying to collect all have this marker. The bounty hunter later conveniently confirms that they do when he fights Carol to get his hands on Bean. That said, all we know at this point is someone is using them (and presumably their markers) to build some sort of monster. I think? The problem isn't so much that I'm still not sure if that's the plot, but more that I only know what I know because the villain exposited it. I get he's a bounty hunter but he should have enough professional ethics not to give up his client's plans. Carol accepts his version of events as true, though I'm not sure why she would. After all, we're assuming he even knows the real plans. Hopefully Stohl does a little less telling and more showing next issue.
Thunderbolts #11: Now we're getting somewhere! Bucky learns the truth in this issue as Kobik tries to include him in the Red Skull's "secret club" by working him into her "secret history." An appalled Bucky demands she change history to the way it was, stressing to her HYDRA is evil. Upset, she seems to erase Bucky from history. It's pretty clear it won't stick, but Zub significantly advances us toward the denouement. If Kobik lets Bucky retain his memories of their conversation, the jig is up for Steve.
Titans Annual #1: This issue isn't just solid on its own merits; it also introduces some intriguing new plot threads for the upcoming year. A character called "The Key" kidnaps the four Justice League and Titan members with mentor/protégé relationships. He hopes to cause enough conflict between them to create super-powered anguish and then use this emotional energy to open the door for someone in an unknown space (Dr. Manhattan?) to enter our Universe. He almost succeeds when Wonder Woman is forced to reveal Donna Troy isn't an organic human; she was made from magical clay as a weapon to be used against Diana, though the Amazonians were able to implant her with false memories and prevent her from becoming said weapon. Her anguish is real, but her friends are, too: the guys not only rush to console her (denying the Key access to her energy), but her anguish also breaks through the Key's telepathic shield and allows Omen to locate her. Abnett contrasts this warm friendship the Titans enjoy with the cold respect the League has for each other. In so doing, he helps you feel the warm fuzzies when it comes to the Titans and why their stories have always been more compelling. Abnett concludes by having the Key try to justify his failure to the aforementioned "someone," and it doesn't end well for him. It also doesn't bode well for the Titans.
X-Men Prime #1: Back in the day, an issue labeled "Prime" signified a new start for the X-Men. It usually showed a series of unexpected developments that flowed from whatever catastrophe the X-Men had just managed to avoid. It also usually involved the arrival or departure of Kitty Pryde. The authors check that box here, as Kitty returns to lead the X-Men. But, despite the title, nothing else really changes. For all her protestations to the contrary, Storm stays with the team, even if she's not leading it. Sure, the Mansion is moved to Central Park, but it's not exactly all that Earth-shattering as developments go. (Moving it to Limbo was actually the unexpected development.) The original X-Men "leave" the team, but they've never been "on" the team in the first place. In fact, the X-Men have pretty much neglected them from the start. As such, it's hard to embrace this launch as "all-different" or "all-new." We're pretty much exactly where we were before Kitty left the X-Men to join the Guardians. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I can't say it merits the splashy launch we're getting here.
Also Read: Avengers #5.1; Batgirl Annual #1; Occupy Avengers #5