Avengers #686: The authors continue to split their (and our) focus on the Hulk and Voyager here as we get more insight into both characters. Simon appeals to the Banner persona he believes to be buried somewhere in the Hulk, but we appear to be dealing with an entirely different Hulk here. This Hulk seems to be intelligent in his own right as opposed to the times he was intelligent because Banner was at least partially controlling him. The Hulk dismisses Simon as an egotistical Hollywood star who's only a pacifist because he's immune to injury. The Hulk threatens to injure him (making him question his pacifism), and Simon seems poised to face a spiritual crisis when Rogue and her team arrive. Simon still believes he can appeal to the Hulk, but Rogue touches the Hulk, trying to drain his power. She somehow sees inside the Hulk to Bruce, who exhaustedly tells her it's a whole new ballgame. Meanwhile, Voyager confesses she's the Gamemaster's daughter, but pledges her support to the Avengers after their heroism inspired her. When Gamemaster pushes her to activate the Pyramoid, she refuses, and she confirms for everyone -- including the Challenger -- her father used her to cheat. But, the Hulk destroys the final Pyramoid, resulting in a negative point for the Challenger (since he was his pawn) and awarding the game to the Gamemaster. Under blistering allegations of cheating from the Challenger, the Gamemaster offers a rematch, but the Challenger appears to kill him instead. That's one way to solve the problem.
Daredevil #600: Ho boy. Matt's hole-filled plan for using New York's street-level heroes to take on the Kingpin proves how off his game he is. Matt reveals the Kingpin has invited a group of Mob bosses -- including Black Cat, Hammerhead, and the Owl -- to a restaurant to discuss mayoral appointments right before his planned rally that night. Matt plans on eavesdropping on the conversation and then using that information to call in the cops. (His plan is based on the Supreme Court case he won, which makes information superheroes obtain legally admissible. I'll admit I'm not sure why Matt would think a jury wouldn't find some reasonable doubt when it came to him testifying against the Kingpin. Like, can we not get a recording, just to be safe?) However, the heroes are skeptical, reminding him he's now Public Enemy #1 so the cops might not be so game to act on his tip. Daredevil swears he has it under control, and they all get in position. Meanwhile, "the Beast" offers Blindspot the power he needs to overcome the Muse, but Blindspot draws the line at killing him. The Muse is irate at this refusal, running into flames on his own. (This part made no sense to me. I get the Muse is cray-cray, but I don't get why him killing himself somehow furthers "art.") The Beast then pledges revenge for Blindspot refusing to take the Muse's life (though, again, I'm not totally clear why). At the restaurant, Matt's plan goes awry when it turns out the Kingpin never appears; as Cat perceptively notes, he instead assumed the bosses would eventually turn on each other in the face of such boredom, which they do. The heroes enter the fracas to stop them from killing each other, meaning they're on hand as the cops, who Fisk sent to the restaurant, arrive. It allows the Kingpin to throw everyone -- mobsters and heroes -- in jail. Daredevil escapes and confronts the Kingpin on the roof of City Hall, and the Kingpin beats him with a hammer after forcing Daredevil to stop him from beating himself (since he could blame the beating on Matt). He then has Daredevil arrested. However, even the Kingpin can't control everything: the Beast sends the Hand to assassinate him. At the rally, he's riddled with arrows as they swarm Central Park, and Daredevil thinks it's because the Beast is seeking revenge on him. (If he isn't and it's because he's seeking revenge on Blindspot for breaking their deal, I'm not sure what his plan is. Why attack the Kingpin to get revenge on Blindspot? Matt thinks he's going after New York because it means everything to Matt, but I'm not sure it means as much to Blindspot. If he is getting revenge on Matt, it does make sense, though presumably we'll see some other form of revenge involving Blindspot, too. So much revenge, so little time.) The plot thickens when the guy who had been reading all the regulations and rules to Matt reveals to Wesley that the Public Advocate used to be next in the line of succession, but the former mayor changed it when he ran for the third time and Kingpin hadn't changed it back yet. The guy tells Wesley Matt had this information, which means Daredevil knows he's become acting Mayor given the Kingpin's incapacitation. However, I'm not sure if that figured into Matt's plan. After all, I'm pretty sure he wasn't expecting the Hand to incapacitate Kingpin while he was locked in a paddy wagon. I guess we'll see. (Also, I teared up a bit during the Foggy back-up story.)
Detective Comics #977: This issue is clever in a number of ways. First, Ulysses shows Tim his future, and we learn it was Kate and the Colony assassinating Bruce in the Batcave -- on the President’s orders -- that sets up Tim’s confrontation with her. It appears the President ordered Bruce's execution because he again activated Brother Eye. (I'm actually not sure when Bruce first activated Brother Eye.) This development isn't just connected to some distant future, as Ulysses also introduces Tim to his creation (presumably Brother Eye) in this issue. Ulysses says he’s helping Tim because he was furious to learn he (Ulysses) wasn’t part of the future at all; he wants to team with Tim so he can be relevant. Tim isn’t sure he wants Ulysses' help, and Tynion does a solid job throughout the issue in showing Tim still reeling psychologically from the events of the last few weeks, including his time in Mr. Oz's prison. Ulysses is disappointed with Tim's response, so he takes matters into his own hands when he hijacks two Colony troops and has them attack a bunch of criminals Batman is staking out. Tim had just come to Bruce to ask for help, and Ulysses seems confident his actions will somehow get Tim to accept his offer. I'm not sure I see the connection yet, but we'll see.
Doomsday Clock #4: Unlike Snyder's race to the finish in "Dark Nights: Metal" #6, Johns leaves you with the sense he has all the time in the world here, as he takes a detailed dive into the new Rorschach's origins. We learn he was a quiet and socially awkward young man who spent most of his time with his parents. Most importantly, his father was the original Rorschach's court-appointed psychiatrist, an outcome of his drive for fame and prestige. (We see a scene from Rorschach's childhood where his mother begs his father to let them move from New York, as the Soviet Union is testing nuclear bombs every day Dr. Manhattan is involved in Vietnam. Rorschach's father refuses to do so until his career gets going, and it's clear the blame Johns is pinning on them given their eventual deaths during Veidt's attack on New York.) Rorschach is institutionalized after Veidt's attack, as he's consumed with rage (a reflection of the psychiatric impact many of the attack's survivors felt). Mothman befriend him there and eventually teaches him how to fight, turning him into a one-man Minuteman. Mothman would break free of prison from time to time to go flying. On one trip, he returned with memorabilia from Rorschach's home, recognizing his longing for a connection to his parents. Rorschach discovers his father's journal about the original Rorschach, but all but the initial chapter is missing. He eventually decides to escape from prison, setting the institution on fire. Mothman initially goes with him, but stops and enters the flames, saying, in a brilliant moment, he's been drawn to them lately. But, he left Rorschach with a note -- including tickets to Antarctica and directions to Ozymandias' base -- saying he was invited there one time. Rorschach arrives to kill Veidt, but Veidt collapses in remorse, realizing he's made a terrible mistake. In the present, Bruce poses as a therapist to try to get Rorschach to tell him more about him, but fails, prompting Alfred to warn Bruce he severely underestimated Rohrschach. Underlining the point, Jane Doe helps Rorschach escape Arkham after being disturbed by what she's seen in his mind.
Generation X #87: I don't have too much to say here, other than the fact Strain does a great job maneuvering everyone into a solid place at the end. Benjamin's love for Nathaniel is pure enough that it can survive (at least for now) his powers, and the X-Mansion seems like it now has two fewer virgins. Quentin's powers are on the fritz, and he uses it as a justification for staying at the school. Benji hugs him after his announcement, and it's a lovely moment, underscoring Jubilee's point that Quentin was more needed than he thought. Quentin has always been a great character, and I'd love for someone to start teasing out his leadership potential, showing him a way to embrace the loneliness of leadership while getting past his ego to accept friendship (and love) when it's presented. At the very least, he's gone a long way from Kid Omega. Jubilee's resurrection doesn't feel forced, and Strain does a great job paying homage to this title by having Chamber, Husk, and Jubilee force Monet to remember who she is. (To do so, they touch her, because Nathaniel purposefully "gave" her his powers, since he knew it meant they could use their links to her to overwhelm Emplate's link.) Chamber gives Roxy a scarf as a sign of remembering who she is, and it's a really touching moment, the sort of non-romantic interaction we saw between Han Solo and Ubin in "Star Wars" #43. In other words, all's well that ends well. Like Grace on "Iceman," Strain clearly had other plans here, particularly when it came to often overlooked characters like Eye-Boy and Nature Girl. I still find it hard to believe Marvel couldn't keep a teenage-focused mutant title running, but it is what it is, I guess. All in all, Strain accomplished a lot in twelve issues, securing this next generation of X-Men in place after their absence since "Wolverine and the X-Men" ended. I just wish it had been longer.
Moon Knight #193: Although I like where Bemis takes us here, I found the fight with the Sun King concludes way too quickly. Marc is pushed to the point where he thinks he’s going to die, and his personalities realize he has the “power of crazy,” i.e., the ability to make the truth irrelevant. Motivated by Diatrice, Marc uses this power to beat the Sun King. I get that part. But, he really only gets in a few licks before he has the Sun King broken and recanting before him, claiming he now worships Marc. At the end of last issue, Bemis seemed to be setting up Marc suffering a real crisis of faith, where he would have to reconcile his troubled relationship with Khonshu in the face of the Sun King's unwavering belief in Ra. But, the personalities just basically have a chat, realize Diatrice is a good motivator for Marc, and send him into the ring to land a few punches. It felt pretty anticlimactic. That said, I like the idea of Marc taking over the Sun King's army as an advisor, teaching them how to "fight back against getting taking advantaged of like this again." Every knight needs a few willing warriors, as he says. We'll see how that plays.
Old Man Hawkeye #3: Hawkeye arrives at Arcade's Murder World theme park at the start of this issue, and it's a pretty grim indictment of this reality (if you needed any more grim to make the point). Hawkeye watches with profound dismay as some customers beat (possibly to death) the actor playing the "evil" Captain America, and it tells us everything we need to know about how Hawkeye feels about this brutal world. But, he's there on a mission, and he achieves it: he kills Atlas for siding with the villains. As he makes his way to Atlas' tent, a seer -- whose identity isn't confirmed but almost seemed to be Rogue -- warns Hawkeye revenge isn't going to make him happy. At the pivotal moment, Eric dares Hawkeye to kill him as memories of their time together as Thunderbolts race across Clint's mind. Clint takes the shot, crying as he does so, proving the seer had a point. Given the cover to next issue, he's going to move onto Beetle next, though Eric warned him Abner spends 18 hours a day making Doombots. It was Eric's way of saying none of them benefited from this world. But, Clint's got Bullseye and Venom-Madrox on his tail, so we'll see how that goes.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #302: The thing I don't get here is that I'm pretty sure Dr. Doom said Peter and his crew can't change the past, so I'm not really sure what the stakes are. Right now, the Peters exposing Norman's identity to the world has led to JJJ, Jr.'s death (possibly) and Norman learning Peter's identity. It's obviously a pretty significant set of developments, so does it create a new reality? Are we now on Earth-x or something? If not, then will it all revert to the "normal" timeline once they depart? I don't really see a third option. As I've frequently said: ugh, time-travel stories. Right now, the biggest development seems to be proof that Mary and Richard Parker "faking" a pregnancy as part of a mission (to steal secrets related to the L.M.D. program) was just a ruse, as she was actually pregnant. We'll see if that sticks.
Star Wars: Dr. Aphra #18: I spent the early part of this issue rolling my eyes as Aphra asserts the Imperials will swap the Rebel general for Triple-Zero's memories. After all, the Imperials I know don't make deals; they'd just take the Rebel general off Aphra's hands and kill her and her team. But, then Aphra disables the general's tracker so the Alliance can try to rescue her, bringing about the distraction she needed to slip on board Hivebase. After all, as she says, "Imps" don't make deals. Well played, Gillen. Well played.
X-Men Blue #24: This issue is great. Bunn and Molina hit all the right notes, with each scene showing their grasp of the characters' histories and personalities. Again, they're telling stories on so many levels here it's hard to remember them all. First, Shaw initially overwhelms Magneto with his new powers, but Magneto's insistence that Mothervine's "gifts" have costs proves true when Shaw's powers start feeding off his own cells' energy. In the Mojave desert, Miss Sinister's Marauders try to recruit Xorn, but he refuses. Xorn is always a difficult character to read, as he's been through so many iterations. I initially thought he was going to be a threat to Bloodstorm and Jimmy, but instead he seems to be more aligned to his iteration as a peaceful teacher. Xorn attacks the Marauders to try to convince them to leave, but they return fire, with Mach II cracking his helmet. Xorn is forced to focus on keeping his energy contained (as he has either a sun or black hole for the brain, depending on which Xorn we have here), and Bloodstorm and Jimmy rescue him. Meanwhile, Malice makes short work of the Raksha (she pretty brutally breaks Norio's neck and wrists), expositing that she's an alternate universe version of Malice and part of Miss Sinister's Marauders. Lorna eventually repels her, as this Malice is a weaker version of our Malice. In perhaps the best sequence, Briar walks through a club in Spain to find a shirtless (and sexy as ever) Daken, handing him adamantine blades Magneto himself carved for him as an invitation to help. Daken seems to bristle at the idea of working for Magneto, but Briar encourages him to think of it as more an excuse to employ his talent for chaos. The issue ends with Magneto meeting Alex and his team at a secret safe house he maintained off the coast of Scotland. He talks about it as a reflective place, though admits that reflection rarely led him to change course. Alex asks Magneto to work with them, but Magneto brings Shaw with him to show how astray they've gone. Alex is dismissive of the costs, and Bunn makes it pretty clear he's going to pay for that.
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