Dissecting The All New, Post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe

by Aaron Einhorn
Marvel Comics, via Mashable, have released a new look at what the Marvel Comics landscape will look like, following the end of Secret Wars.

ANADMarvel1_June4-2

So, let’s discuss what we see here, shall we?

First off, the line-up. From left to right, top row to bottom row, we have Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy), Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Vision, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Captain America (Sam Wilson), Steve Rogers in his Super Soldier persona, Iron Man (in new armor), Thor (secret ID redacted for anyone who hasn’t read Thor #8 yet), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Kahn), Red Wolf, Black Panther, and Ant-Man (probably Scott Lang).

Notably missing, of course, are the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four are going to be without their own comic for the first time in decades, while the X-Men are all supposedly ending up off-planet following Secret Wars.

One of the biggest things I noticed is that several changes that were assumed to be temporary and likely to change immediately after Secret Wars are still around. Sam Wilson is still Cap. Steve Rogers is still old. Thor is still a woman. Jessica Drew is still in leather. A lot of fans, myself included, expected to see these things change back to the status quo after Secret Wars, to better match the comics to the MCU (and the expanded presence of Coulson supports that). I’m not at all unhappy about it, mind you, but I find that these changes are sticking around to be very positive.

The other thing I like is the diversity of this group. For the longest time, superhero teams were made up of a bunch of straight, white dudes, with a token woman or minority.

We have fourteen characters on this poster. Of them five are white men. The other nine are either women (four of the fourteen), minorities (five of the fourteen), or non-human.

That’s huge.

The other thing that is important coming out of the article is the fact that the world after Secret Wars will not be a blank-slate reboot, like we’ve seen out of DC following several of their events. This is a relaunch, with new creative teams and new comic titles, but the Marvel Universe will still – mostly – be the Marvel Universe we remember. With some cross-universe transplants (looking at you, Gwen and Miles).

I’m pretty stoked for it. Are you?

Weekly Comic Round-Up, January 22, 2014 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

All-New_X-Men_Vol_1_22.NOWAll New X-Men #22.Now (All-New Marvel Now #1)
Moving past last week’s issue, we’re jumping straight into the Trial of Jean Grey, which will serve as a six-issue arc that crosses back and forth with Guardians of the Galaxy (which is fortunately already on my pull list.) The issue begins with the team spending time in the new Xavier Institute, training, goofing off, eating, or in the case of Jean and Scott, dealing with the monstrous baggage they have between the two of them.

Let’s face it – teenage romance is hard enough for normal people, and is certainly no easier for superheroes. But add into it the pressure of spending time around a whole bunch of people who know exactly how intense and complicated and weird your future relationship will be, especially the relationship of Jean Grey and Scott Summers, and you’d find it weird too.

And then there’s Jean’s telepathy, meaning that this weirdness is always going on. Always.

The irony of course is that this is perfect foreshadowing to see the Sh’iar take Jean Grey to hold her on trial, presumably for Phoenix-related crimes. Yet again, teen Jean is going to be held accountable for things that haven’t happened to her, and because of the nature of time-travel, may never happen to this version of her.

The appearance by the Guardians of the Galaxy at the issues’ end is too brief to count as anything more than a cameo, but it will be interesting to see what role the Guardians play. If I didn’t already read both of these titles, I might be annoyed with the nature of this crossover, and how it will effectively pull three issues “away” from continuity with the rest of the book, but since I do, I’m looking forward to reading the next part of this story.

avengers_25Avengers #25
It worked for the X-Men, so why not pull younger, earlier versions of the core Avengers team out of a parallel timeline (or at least a parallel Earth) and bring them into the current 616 continuity?

That was mostly rhetorical, but someone is listening, because that’s exactly what happens here. While AIM is continuing to do some experiment or another, younger versions of the Avengers appear through a portal, and immediately begin to stake out a claim on our Earth.

The big differences between what’s going on here and what is happening with All-New X-Men are significant, however. First of all, there is no reason to believe this will become an ongoing state of being. The alternate Avengers are temporary visitors, and are no doubt tied to the Incursions that the Avengers have been dealing with since the beginning of Marvel Now! Also, while the original five X-Men are recognizable as the younger versions of themselves we remember from the early days of X-Men (seen through the filter of a different creative team, of course), these Avengers are not the Avengers we remember. Thor is an arrogant jerk, far beyond any “godly mantle” he has ever shown in the regular pages of our comics.

And of course, there’s the mystery over the dead Hank Pym, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement.

This doesn’t feel like a complete issue – it feels like Part One of a story, but it’s still a solid read, and some of the better writing I’ve seen to come from the hand of Hickman.

Disney_Kingdoms_Seekers_of_the_Weird_1_CoverDisney Kingdoms Seekers of the Weird #1
If you look at my film reviews, then the knowledge that I am a Disney fan is quickly apparent. I make no apologies for this – the House of Mouse has always been a source of some incredible entertainment – and as a father, I appreciate anything that I can watch with my daughters that we can all enjoy. We recently made a trip to Walt Disney World resorts, and have another trip planned for this coming year – and the Haunted Mansion is one of my favorite attractions in Magic Kingdom. So, how could I not be interested in the Museum of the Weird?

The first issue is a mixed bag, unfortunately. We’re introduced to Max and Melody, along with the rest of the Keep family, and we get to see the beginnings of the Museum. I love that they’re based on the original designs and notes from the Disney Imagineers, but the pages are so busy that the action of the story is getting lost.

Beyond that, I simply don’t find that I much like either Maxwell or Melody, and even their “adventuring Uncle” is a bit of a jerk, and not in a way I find endearing. It’s hard for me to care about the Coffin Clock, or the Shadow Society, or even that their parents have been taken – because so far, I don’t care about any of these people.

I get that this is a mini-series, and so they probably didn’t want to waste too much time before getting into the adventure, but I feel that a less frantic pace might have given me time to care about the Keep family before their adventure really kicked off, and that might have made me care more. As it is, I’m torn about picking up the next issue.

indestructiblehulk_18_inhIndestructible Hulk #18.Inh
I have to confess that, after the first issue, I found myself largely uncaring about Inhumanity. The Terrigen explosion across the world really isn’t that much different than the return of Mutants at the end of A vs. X, and I’ve never been all that amazed by the Inhumans that I felt like we desperately needed to see more of them. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just didn’t make me care.

So, I probably would have skipped this .INH title, if it wasn’t for the fact that I really adore the Hulk, in just about every incarnation, and seeing this version of Banner trying to out-think and out-perform against Henry Pym, Henry McCoy, Tony Stark and Reed Richards is just fun.

Banner’s plan to use chronal particles to stop the Terrigen, of course, didn’t work. Because there was no way we would see the event undone in the pages of one of the tie-in books, but damn if it wasn’t clever. And it was deeply gratifying to see the other geniuses of the Marvel universe acknowledge Banner as their peer.

One almost wonders if Banner will get a seat on the Illuminati.

I’m also finding myself caring about the largely interchangeable members of Banner’s team. They haven’t captured my attention all that much to date, but this particular arc is actually getting to me. And Maria Hill, in her role as reluctant watchdog over Banner and crew, is more fun than she has any right to be.

This wasn’t the most memorable title I read this week. It wasn’t the best. But it may have been the most fun, so kudos to it for that.

Meanwhile, in Avengers World #2, Smasher is recruited by the Supreme Scientist and the Entropic Man to be their messenger to the world, Batwoman #27 continues the fight against Wolf Spider in an issue that fails to pay anything off or really set up any new action, Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men #3 shows the X-Men escape from the Gah Lak Tus swarm, only to reappear at the feet of Galactus himself, Invaders #1 brings Namor, the Human Torch, Cap and the Winter Soldier together to get the McGuffin that will allow the Kree to control the gods, and X-Men #9 continues the Arkea saga as Monet finds herself thoroughly humbled against the power of Amora, Typhoid Mary, Lady Deathstrike and Arkea.

Weekly Comic Round-Up, January 15, 2014 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

All-New_X-Men_Vol_1_21_TextlessAll-New X-Men #21
Ten years ago, I swore off reading X-Men titles. Five years ago, I found myself missing them. Then A vs. X happened, and I got pulled back in, kicking and screaming, to the point that I now collect five different mutant-centric titles. But of them all, All-New X-Men is easily my favorite – for several reasons.

First off, I love these characters. The original five X-Men, plus Kitty (and now X-23) are just a great mix of characters. They’ve got great banter, and it is so interesting to see how being in a modern world (one shaped by their actions) is changing them. And honestly, if you don’t love the idea of Scott falling for Laura, then there is no poetry in your soul.

What makes this issue all the better is seeing this team pitted against Stryker and his ilk, along with the utter chaos of having AIM involved. This is just a solid, fun read from page one to the last page, and it’s well worth a look.

astro_city_8Astro City #8
I talked last month about how the first part of this story was shaping up to be the best Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman story that didn’t actually involve those three characters. I still stand by that, but I realize that I was also very, very wrong to describe it that way.

Because Samaritan isn’t Superman. The Confessor isn’t Batman. And Winged Victory most certainly isn’t Wonder Woman. And to think of the homages as simply being reflections of their archetype cheapens them.

The basics of this story work with DC’s version of the Trinity, but the specifics are where Busiek shines. Seeing how Victory’s outreach centers are being used against her is heart-breaking and makes this deeply personal. The way she explains to Samaritan that the damage is done cannot help but resonate, and seeing how he understands what it costs her to accept help from him and the Confessor is beautiful.

I also really like seeing the Confessor. We haven’t seen the former “Alter-Boy” much since he took up his mentor’s mantle, and it’s very cool to see how not-Nightwing has become not-Batman. I’m a little saddened to see the runes emblazoned on the Confessor’s torso, or to find out he has a living costume, just because I liked that he was mostly human, but when I step back and remember that the Confessor is not Batman, it works. Seeing the friendship developing between the Confessor and Samaritan is also very cool.

This is just a really solid issue, and I can’t wait until the final part of this story is released.

miracleman_1Miracleman #1
It’s hard to know how best to write about this issue, because this isn’t a new story. Marvelman/Miracleman is looking at thirty years between the time of its original writing and this printing, and I’m one of the lucky folks who has been able to lay his hands on those original issues. So, the tale of Miracleman isn’t new to me – it’s more like coming back to an old friend.

So, for once, I’m not going to discuss the story. Either you’re familiar with the story of Miracleman, in which case you know what will unfold in each page of each issue, or you’re not, in which case the worst disservice I could do to would be to ruin it for you. Alan Moore“The Original Writer” has penned an incredible tale, and whether you’re rediscovering it or reading it for the for the first time, I think it’s one you can enjoy.

Instead, I’ll talk about what this reprint offers you. First off, if you haven’t been lucky enough to read the first prints, it gives you a chance to see this incredible tale. It hasn’t been reprinted in the thirty years since it was first published, so this will be the first opportunity for many people to read the tale. We’ve all managed to read Watchmen, but Miracleman has been out of reach for many.

(You also get the amusement of seeing Moore’s name replaced with “The Original Writer,” but that’s neither here nor there.)

In addition, this book gives us an interview between Marvel EIC Joe Quesada and Mick Anglo, the creator of Miracleman, which is kind of cool, and it reprints several of the original Marvelman tales in black and white.

This is the most expensive title I picked up this month – and it’s the one I was the happiest to spend my money on.

Superior_Spider-Man_Vol_1_25_TextlessSuperior Spider-Man #25
The rubber is really hitting the road now. The central conflict involving Superior Venom fighting the Avengers is a little silly – as big a threat as Octavius-in-Peter’s-body-with-the-symbiote is, he’s just not a match against Thor, Iron Man and Captain America, to say nothing of the other Avengers present. But hey, it’s Spidey’s book, so we’ll ignore that.

I like seeing the story move. Watching how MJ is “tricked” into thinking that things are back to “normal” with Peter was kind of interesting, and although I really liked Carlie, I’ve no serious regrets about seeing her transformation into Monster.

The “war” between Osborn’s crew and Kingsley is shaping up nicely, and should be a lot of fun. And they really let Flash shine as a hero here, which was a nice touch (and makes me wish I was reading Venom).

And it’s great to finally see the Avengers acting like their world’s greatest heroes, instead of being played for patsies by Otto.

So, that’s everything that was right about the issue. And overall, that’s quite a bit. But let’s talk about what was wrong with it. Namely, the return of Peter Parker.

By now, most of us know that Marvel has already announced that Amazing Spider-Man would be returning in April. And honestly, only the most insane among us thought that there was any chance that Marvel would let The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit the theatres without having a comic titled Amazing Spider-Man on the racks, with Peter Parker inside of it. So, the fact that they only have three-to-four issues to bring Peter back. So, I don’t have an issue with that.

But it seems like it hasn’t been that long since Otto “erased” Peter from his mind, and lost access to his memories (which has been one of the most fun elements of the recent issues.) But in any case, if seems like “Whoops, you missed Otto, and I’ve just been biding my time,” is a bit of a lame way to bring him back – and it seems like several of Otto’s actions of late would be just as worthy of bringing Peter “out of hiding” as possible possession by Venom.

Look, I’m going to be as happy as anyone to see Peter back in his own body. But this just didn’t feel like a good way to handle it. Still a good read, and I’m really looking forward to the Goblin War heating up next issue, but I cry “lame” on seeing Peter back like that.

thunderbolts_20_nowThunderbolts #20.Now (All-New Marvel Now #1)
It’s good to see new blood in the Thunderbolts, and Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider is a good fit for the rest of the team. Heck, he even pretty easily sits within the red/black color scheme favored by most of the members.

That said, this is a pretty weak-sauce issue. I’ve already grown tired beyond belief of Deadpool, to the point that for the first time since the title started that I’m ready to drop Thunderbolts. Now that the uncertainty has been lifted about the Leader, he has become solidly one-note to me, and the flirting between Punisher and Elektra has gotten tiresome.

About the only thing I enjoyed about this issue was seeing that they are at least willing to admit that Mercy is an absolute menace and threat, and it’s good to see them being proactive here. That said, seeing the team go to hell because Ghost Rider miscast the spell is just silly.

I’m not entirely done with the title yet, but give it another couple of issues like this and I might be.

Meanwhile, in Amazing X-Men #3, Beast, Storm, Wolverine and Nightcrawler continue to fight against Azazael and the damned pirates, Cataclysm: The Ultimates #3 wraps up the battle against the Gah Lak Tus drones in a largely unsatisfying manner that undid the destruction of both Cassie and the Hulk and which brings us Ultimate Machine Man, Daredevil #35 pits Horn-Head against the Sons of the Serpent as they try to blackmail him, and is fun if not an exceptional read, Secret Avengers #14 manages to be confusing as heck as we look at Bobbi/Barbara/Mockingbird’s history as a double (or triple) agent, and Uncanny X-Men #16 takes Magneto to Madripoor to topple the Free-Mutant Empire established by Mystique.

Weekly Comic Round-Up, January 08, 2014 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

marvel_now_1All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1
So, Marvel is starting a second phase to “Marvel Now,” and this issue basically serves as an introduction to each of the series that are being started, ranging from Ms. Marvel to Black Widow to Silver Surfer to Avengers World to Loki: Agent of Asgard (and a few others), with a loose framing device wrapping the story as we see Loki collecting a series of keys that he can use to obtain a nifty magical sword, all in service to the All-Mothers of Asgard.

This isn’t really a comic. It’s a preview guide of the various series included in the tome, and as such, it’s hard to gauge it as an actual comic.

All of which would be fine, if it weren’t for the $5.99 price tag. This isn’t a comic we should be purchasing, this is one Marvel should be including as a free digital download with the purchase of any of the Marvel titles this month.

That said, it did its job. I picked it up, and it has reinforced for me that I want to buy Ms. Marvel, and it even made me consider picking up Silver Surfer and Invaders, but I still rankle at having purchased this book when the book is mostly an advertisement and not an actual story. But with this review, hopefully you don’t make the same mistake.

Avengers_World_Vol_1_1Avengers World #1
One of the greatest side-effects of Inhumanity was that the Avengers returned to taking responsibility for the world on not just a global scale, but on an interstellar scale. “This is our world,” they told the Universe, “And it is protected.” We see the after-effects of that now, as the Avengers begin a more closely hand-in-hand relationship with SHIELD, and we see Avengers teams heading across the globe, from Madripoor to AIM Island to outer space, all coordinated by Captain America and Maria Hill.

It’s a nice global superhero, but the really notable element can be seen in the writing credits. Jonathan Hickman is no stranger to huge global stories, but often times, his characters feel like props and not people. But the writing credit for this issue isn’t just Hickman, it is Hickman/Spencer. Nick Spencer is one of the more promising newer writers in Marvel’s stable, and one who has a great ear for dialogue and character.

So, what could have been a fairly dull, paint-by-numbers “Epic” is actually a story. I have high hopes for the remainder of this series.

Cataclysm_Ultimate_Spider-Man_Vol_1_3Cataclysm_The_Ultimates'_Last_Stand_Vol_1_3Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #3 and Cataclysm: The Ultimate’s Last Stand #3
I’m going to write about these two in a single entry, because they really go hand-in-hand. Ultimate Spider-Man focuses on the new “team” of heroes that includes Miles, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Bombshell and Cloak and Dagger, as they all collectively work to save lives in a New York City beset upon by Galactus. Along the way, they also deal with personal problems and issues, including Miles revealing his identity to his mutant-hating father, an encounter with J. Jonah Jameson, and seeing Bombshell really stepping up as a hero.

It’s a perfectly serviceable issue, but honestly could have just been another issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. It didn’t really need the Cataclysm masthead – Marvel could simply have published two issues of Ultimate Spider-Man for the past few (and next couple of) months. This doesn’t mean it’s bad – Bendis still has a great turn of phrase, and the characters all feel perfectly in-line with who we know them to be.

Cataclysm: The Ultimate’s Last Stand, on the other hand, brings the whole end-of-the-world thing full circle, as Miles and Ultimate Reed Richards head through the portal to consult with the 616 version of Reed about how to stop Galactus.

This feels like an epic. We have betrayal, we have villains getting redeemed, we have cross-dimensional shenanigans and more than one case of identity confusion by machines (including one where Miles sics a horde of robots on the “Superior” Spider-Man accidentally and inwardly says “Sorry Peter,” which just made me grin.)

And the issue ends on a serious downbeat, as it should for being issue three of five.

Marvel has just announced the three Ultimate Comics lines that will exist following Cataclysm, which gives us some good idea as to how things will play out, but this is a great example of an event that feels like an event. I could have dealt without seeing Newark destroyed – too many instances of massive disasters make them feel less important, and it hasn’t been that long since Magneto flooded New York City – but I have really enjoyed this event as a whole.

Meanwhile, in A+X #16 we see a totally non-canon and pointless story involving Spider-Man (Peter) and Psylocke, along with the next part of the Cyclops/Captain America/Skrull story, Batwoman #26 gives us Kate and Bette teaming up to fight a fairly forgettable thief named The Spider, Earth-2 continues to show us a Darkseid-serving Superman conquering the world while Batman, Lois-as-Red-Tornado and others flee to create a new underground resistance movement, Revolutionary War: Alpha brings a huge cross-dimensional apocalypse to the Marvel UK heroes in a story that might resonate with fans but left a newbie totally lost, and Young Avengers #15 wraps up the series as friendships are reforged, lovers reunite or separate, and the team goes into a portal off for their next great adventure, while teen-Loki goes off to star in his own new series.

Weekly Comic Round-Up, December 11, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

astrocity7_c01Astro City #7
There are a lot of things to like about Astro City, but one of the things I love most about the series is the ability to use it to explore tropes with the Astro City-expies of the characters that I would never want to see done with the “original” versions of the characters. Samaritan and Winged Victory aren’t Superman and Wonder Woman, but their romance allows me to explore the idea of a Clark/Diana relationship in a way I would never want to see with them.

This issue gets to the core of Winged Victory and the idea that she gets her power because of her ability to be a symbol to women everywhere, and to see what happens when she loses the ability to be that kind of symbol. As is typical, the story is told mostly from the point-of-view of an observer – a young man who comes to Winged Victory’s training center in defiance of all tradition.

It’s nice to see some of the tender moments between Samaritan and Winged Victory, and the appearance by the Confessor at the end of the issue sets the tale up to be a beautiful counterpoint to DC’s Trinity of Superman/Wonder Woman/Batman. This is only part one of a three-issue arc, and I cannot wait until the next two issues arrive.

cataclysm_spiderman2_c01Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #2
The longer that Cataclysm goes on, the more certain I am that this may actually spell the death knell for the Ultimate universe, and that ultimately we’ll see a few elements from that universe survive into the 616 world, but that the line has finally wound down. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is anyone’s call, and largely a matter of opinion.

But the good news is that the characters from Ultimate Spider-Man seem to be poised to wrap things up in a fairly satisfying matter. Unlike the other Cataclysm tie-ins, this title really feels like an issue of the core book, and this issue allows us to see how Cloak & Dagger, Bombshell and Spider-Woman all deal with the arrival of Galactus and Gah Lak Tus, as well as giving us a “flashback” to how each member of the cast dealt with the previous destruction of New York.

The individual stories are of varying quality – Cloak and Dagger seem largely ineffective, and their fights remind me of the same futility we saw when Ultraman flew into the Anti-Matter Wave in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Bombshell’s nascent heroism is pretty cool, and if I’m wrong and the Ultimate Universe survives, I’m looking forward to seeing her develop. But the meat of the story is, of course, Miles and his dad, and that looks to be wrapping up in the most human and heartfelt manner. Kudos to Bendis once again for cutting to the heart of the characters.

cataclysm_ultimates_2Cataclysm: The Ultimates #2
There is, of course, a flip side to every coin. And this issue is the other side of “how well crossover/event books” can work. If the Ultimate Spider-Man tie-in manages to show well a crossover/event book can tie into its main title, this one manages to show how they can fall completely flat and feel completely disconnected.

To begin with, for all that it’s in the title, this is not the Ultimates. There’s no Thor, no Captain America, no Iron Man. What we have is Fury, Stature, the Punisher, Hercules, the Hulk and the Falcon, along with a non-Ghost Rider Danny Ketch and… some other characters who haven’t made an impression.

So, Gah Lak Tus has infected the Hulk, and by issue’s end, Hercules has gotten into it with him, while Punisher and Stature have also both been infected, while Falcon is onboard a floating monument to death dedicated to the World Eater, run by a lunatic who wants to become Galactus’ herald.

It’s a mess, and all it does is reinforce my belief that the Ultimate universe may be on the chopping block. I absolutely can’t recommend this title, which is a bummer because I wanted it to be good.

uncannyxmen15_c01Uncanny X-Men #15
Sometimes you have an issue of a comic that doesn’t move the plot very much, but does spend time with characters and exploring who they are, and what their relationship to one another is. Sometimes those are the best issues of a series, and that has often been the case within the X-Men books where the characters can’t really have a personal life outside of their team dynamic.

I am happy to report that this issue is one of the good ones, as the ladies of the team (including Emma, Jean, the Cuckoos and Kitty) head out to go shopping. Of course, being X-Men, this doesn’t go smoothly and they are interrupted during their shopping trip by the arrival of a newly Terrigan-transformed Inhuman. This sets them up for a battle against Hydra, and makes the X-Men confront the question about whether these new Inhumans share a cause with mutants or not.

But before we get to the “plot,” we also get a lot of good moments – particularly between Emma, Jean and the Cuckoos. The whole issue of Jean Grey being alive, representing all of the potential that we know Jean can grow into, yet being a less powerful telepath than the Cuckoos (who are, oddly enough, currently more powerful psychics than Emma) has a lot of depth to mine, and it looks like Bendis is happy to take us there.

I don’t know that I care about “Inhumanity” as a whole, and I don’t know what, if anything, I want to see in terms of X-Men involvement in the Inhumanity issue. But I do know that I love seeing this kind of character development, and I really enjoyed this book this month.

Meanwhile, A+X #15 has a tale involving Beast and Dr. Strange where they are both dismissive of each other’s disciplines in a way that is very cute but disrespects both men’s willingness to acknowledge that others have great minds in the first part, and continues the story of Cyclops and Captain America tracking down Skrulls with a fun tie-in involving Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos, and Thunderbolts #19 is an interesting, though ultimately dismissable story revealing that the Leader is still very much who we remember him being and that he wants to destroy the Thunderbolts and return to his previous ways – but that he won’t actually act on it.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Weekly Comic Round-Up, December 4, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

amazingspiderman700_1_c01Amazing Spider-Man #700.1
So, Otto-as-Spider-Man isn’t for everyone. I entirely understand that. Furthermore, I get that we all know that, eventually, Peter Parker will be returning to his proper body and place. So, in theory, I don’t have a problem with “out-of-continuity” stories that involve Peter Parker.

That said, I have no idea what was going on in this story. We don’t get any clues as to when this is taking place, other than that Peter still seems to be working at the Bugle. We don’t have any idea what’s going on in this story, with absolutely no explanation given about the “cold” Peter is feeling.

The storytelling is just off. The pictures don’t have enough life to them, and the plot is disjointed. I wanted to like this, but there was nothing about it that I enjoyed.

amazingxmen2_c01Amazing X-Men #2
This is another title that I wish worked for me, but sadly isn’t. First off, I’m sorry, but X-Men, you have enough adjectives already. “Amazing” belongs to Spider-Man. You’re going to have to give that one up.

Ok, that one was a joke. The rest of my dissatisfaction is sadly less so.

Part of the problem might be simply that I wasn’t reading any X-Men titles when Azazael was introduced, so I honestly don’t know enough about the backstory there. I don’t know if there is any actual connection with the Infernal beyond Kurt’s appearance; I don’t know where the Bamfs come from; and the truth is that I don’t care.

Anytime you start to cross the Judeo-Christian Heaven or Hell directly with comics, it risks losing a lot of the audience, and in this case, I’m one of the folks who was lost.

I didn’t read X-Men when Nightcrawler died, and right now, I’m having trouble figuring out a good reason to keep reading this title through his resurrection.

cataclysm2_c01Cataclysm: The Ultimate’s Last Stand #2
This is starting to get really interesting. I wasn’t the biggest fan of seeing Galactus go into the Ultimate Universe, and I was really unsure how I felt about the Gah Lak Tus swarm merging with the Cosmic Devourer.

But seeing where we’re headed? This is kind of cool.

Iron Man realizes that the Universal Signature of Galactus matches the 616 universe, so he contacts Mysterio to see what he knows. They discover that Reed Richards (our version, not the omnicidal maniac from the Ultimate Universe) is the only one who has ever stopped Galactus, and despite mistrusting anyone named Reed Richards (because, you know, omnicidal maniac), decide to go get him to help. Miles, being the only one who knows he can safely go to that world, agrees to go, and then the Ultimate Reed shows up to be a part of the team as well.

Of course, I have the feeling that this is all part of the lead-up to possibly eventually destroying the Ultimate Universe but saving Miles Morales in the 616 Universe. And I don’t know that I would have a problem with that.

earth2_18_c01Earth-2 #18
From the beginning, I maintained that if DC was going to do a reboot, then that was what I wanted to see – an actual reboot and a chance to do something new and different with the characters. So far, there have been very few titles that have lived up to that.

Which is why Earth-2 is one of the only books still on my pull list from the publisher.

Here, we say the Darkseid-influenced Superman come back to Earth to terrorize humanity, while a superhumanly powerful Batman works through the headquarters of the Defense Organization, alongside Red Tornado-Lois Lane, and the Flash tries to distract Superman.

It’s different. It’s interesting. And I am totally loving it.

It doesn’t feel “real” to me, in the same way that the Ultimate Universe doesn’t feel as “real” as the 616 Universe, and as such, massive destruction doesn’t get to me in the same way, but it’s still really good and one of the best titles coming from DC Comics today. Check it out.

inhumanity1_c01Inhumanity #1

I didn’t know what to expect after the explosion of Attilan and the mass reveal of Inhumans among mankind, but I’m pretty sure this was it. Hickman does a surprisingly solid job here of letting us inside of Karnak’s head and having him reveal how the Inhumans came to be among us.

What he fails to do, however, is give us a sense of what it means for mankind. Are we now outnumbered by Inhumans? Are Inhumans going to become the next Mutants? Are they effectively Mutants anyhow?

This isn’t a bad comic, as a set-up, but it’s entirely unsatisfying as a stand-alone issue. I need to know more, and the glacial pace that we’re getting information is just not good enough for me.

I’ll be buying the next issue, because I am invested in Marvel in a way that I’m currently not in DC, but I think it may be time for Marvel to take a short break from their event stories – or at a minimum, it may be time for me to take a break from purchasing them.
superiorspiderman23_c01Superior Spider-Man #23

This book is reminding me that I really wish I had been reading the Venom title starring Flash Thompson, because the interplay between Otto/Peter and Flash, in both their costumed and non-costumed identities, is really quite fun. It’s amusing to see Otto struggling without Peter’s memories as he encounters people he should know, and it’s really strange to see a Venom who we can outright state to be heroic and a Spider-Man we know isn’t.

The side and background stories continue to progress well too. MJ dealing with Carlie’s abduction and Peter coming under suspicion shows us how Otto’s house of cards will hopefully collapse. The continuing Goblin saga gives Otto a villain he can’t possibly hope to face on the same even footing that Peter did, and the personal life story of “Peter” dealing with Aunt May and especially with Anna Marie is really awesome.

Incidentally, that’s the one thing I’m not looking forward to seeing when Peter returns – the heartbreak of Anna Marie.

Next week shows us an Otto possessed by the symbiote, and that will certainly be interesting. It’ll be even more interesting to see if Flash is able to get anything from the symbiote about who “Spider-Man” is, when he gets the symbiote back.

All in all, a really good read this time around.

Meanwhile, Avengers Annual #1 has the team off celebrating the holidays while one of Shang Chi’s students causes havoc at the Mansion, Guardians of the Galaxy #8 is the obligatory “Infinity” crossover and brings Angela back to help the team, Indestructible Hulk Annual #1 is a surprisingly cool story that lets Banner and Stark understand each other a little better, Secret Avengers #12 starts the process of bringing Mockingbird back from AIM Island, and Young Avengers #13 completes the story arc of “Mother” although it leaves a lingering question about Loki.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Weekly Comic Round-Up, November 20, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

batwoman_25Batwoman #25
This is the first issue from the new creative team, and I want to find good things to say about it. Marc Andreyko is a heck of a writer, and in another world, I would have been overjoyed to see him writing Batwoman.

Sadly, we don’t live in that other world, and the one we live in had the previous creative team depart under unfortunate circumstances that poisoned me on the idea of the book, and this issue simply wasn’t strong enough to make me decide to stick around.

The problem is that instead of giving us a solid Batwoman tale, we instead get a Year Zero story of Kate Kane engaging in vigilantism during a power outage in Gotham. And we have seen so many retreads of “Gotham before Batman” that this was probably one of the weakest ways to introduce the new creative team to the book – especially for those of us who aren’t big readers of the other Bat-family titles.

The art is good, the storytelling is serviceable, and if I hadn’t been such a big fan of the title from the start, this issue would have been moved to the “Meanwhile” category. But things being how they are, this issue had to convince me to keep the book in my pull list, and it didn’t succeed for me.

dd_33Daredevil #33
Sometimes you can have a book that is almost totally devoid of connections to the greater comic universe and have it absolutely succeed. I am happy to say that Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil is one title that this is normally the case for.

With almost completely ignoring the goings on in Infinity, Daredevil’s story of his battle against the Sons of the Serpent has been consistently entertaining and fun, even while the stakes have been high. And they have been high. Racial violence and tension aren’t “light” topics, nor is having Foggy fighting (and possibly dying of) cancer.

But Waid has kept this book really fun, and the art has been spot-on.

This particular issue brings Matt into contact with Jack Russell (the Werewolf by Night), Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Living Zombie and Satanna. And it is hilarious. But also still high stakes, as anything involving getting pages from the Darkhold should be.

Check it out.

superior_spider_annualSuperior Spider-Man Annual #1
So, much like last week’s issue of Superior, I think I’m missing something because of being unfamiliar with the character of Blackout. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to matter all that much in terms of being able to enjoy the issue.

I’m kind of unsure where Dan Slott and company are headed here, to be honest. They seem to keep going back and forth between having Otto utterly fail in his ability to keep up the charade of being Peter, and then to having him be, as he claims, the Superior Spider-Man.

And ultimately, that may be the case. Otto may be better at being Spider-Man, but far worse at being able to actually take care of the people in Peter’s life.

We see here a case where someone targets May Parker because of Peter’s known affiliation with Spider-Man. But we also see where Otto than utterly decimates that opponent – complete with torturing him to the point that the underworld is warned away from the Parker family. It seems like it’s working (for now), but it seems like it might drive a deeper wedge between Otto and May Parker – at least as long as “Peter” is working with Spider-Man.

On the other hand, we’re still seeing Norman Osborn and the Goblin Empire maneuvering behind the scenes, and from the get-go, Osborn has known the true link behind Parker and Spider-Man. How that dynamic will be changed the first time that Goblin faces the Superior Spider-Man is anyone’s guess, but I’m looking forward to it.

I’m not quite ready for Peter Parker to come back yet, but I’m also ready to see the signs of it coming down the line. And I think that Norman will, in the end, be a big part of that.

uncanny_xmen_14Uncanny X-Men #14
The exact timing of this issue and where it lines up with the end of “Battle of the Atom” is a little unclear. But you know what? Who cares?

What we get this time around is a really nice, fun exploration of New Mutant Benjamin (who has no code name yet), and what his more subtle powerset actually can mean. It’s interesting that, much like Cypher, one of the powers that would be the most useful in the really real world is totally unsuited for combat. And it’s very, very appropriate that Emma would be the one to recognize that.

But what Bendis does so well here is make sure that this is still a really fun issue, with clever, playful banter from Emma, Illyana, Benjamin, and even from Scott. And it comes with a plot element as well, with Emma using the new mutant to send a strong message to S.H.I.E.L.D.

It’s not the best comic on the stands. It’s not even my favorite comic written by Brian Michael Bendis this month. But what it manages is to remind me how much I used to love the X-Men, and it makes me glad that I’ve started reading X-titles once again.

xmen_7X-Men #7
I’ve never considered Lady Deathstrike to be one of the most compelling enemies in the X-Men’s roster. Heck, I’ve never even considered her to be all that exceptional as a member of Wolverine’s solo rogues gallery. When she died, I didn’t care.

Along those same lines, the characters of Monet St. Croix and the Omega Sentinel are both characters who came into the X-Men while I was studiously avoiding anything involving Marvel’s Merry Band of Mutant Misfits.

So, this issue should have fallen flat for me.

It didn’t.

I don’t know if it’s the redesign and new origin for Lady Deathstrike (which has potential), or if it was watching Jubilee realize that she was going to be legally Shogo’s mother, but what I do know is that by the issue’s end, I was super excited to see the team ready to go after Deathstrike and her new partner.

Meanwhile, A+X #14 continues the “Cap & Cyclops vs. the Skrulls” storyline in one half, while giving us an odd story of Magneto and Superior Spider-Man in the other, Avengers #23 continues “Infinity,” mainly focusing on the space battle and watching the alien leaders decimate one of Thanos’ minions, Batman Beyond Universe #4 brings us to the end of the Live Wire story, and sets up the ending for the Superman Beyond in the Phantom Zone storyline, Cataclysm: Ultimates #1 has the B-List Ultimates dealing with a Gah Lak Tus doomsday cult, including a potentially really bad ending involving a gamma-powered behemoth, Indestructible Hulk #15 concludes Hulk in Time, Secret Avengers #11 is part two of our newly-discovered Inhuman agent as she helps the team put down one of her own and finds herself unsuited for the work, Thunderbolts #18 has the Thunderbolts kill a bunch of mobsters in a storyline that might have been interesting in a Punisher comic but left me utterly unsatisfied with a “hero” team book, and Young Avengers #12 manages to use its unconventional format so well that I was unable to follow the issue, other than to see that the team of young heroes was fighting off Mother and her minions and that Mother might be Loki.

Weekly Comic Round-Up, November 13, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

astrocity6_c01Astro City #6
It would be a lie to say that Astro City is a perfect title. There are individual issues, and in fact, sometimes entire storylines that have fallen flat. But when it is on, it is on.

This issue? Was on.

I wasn’t thrilled with the first part of the story last month, but seeing it all brought together in Issue 6 showed us exactly when Busiek and Anderson are at their strongest – when dealing with the fantastic next to the mundane. The set-up story of the hustler and “union manager” didn’t capture me, but seeing him grapple with a device taken from the Ambasador that grants super powers? That was what made it perfect.

And what made it even better was the ultimate conclusion. Real-life, being married and making that work, is as great an adventure as any superpowered hijinks. Well done, once again.

allnewxmen18_c01All-New X-Men #18
This is a hard title to review, but I didn’t want to throw it done into the “Meanwhile” section, because I really, really enjoyed it. I suppose the best thing to say is “Go finish reading Battle of the Atom first.”

Done?

Ok.

Seeing the “First Class” come together at the Charles Xavier school was kind of awesome. The kids are really starting to distinguish themselves from their contemporary counterparts, and it is wonderful seeing Kitty growing into her role as “Professor K.” As we’ve grown used to from Brian Bendis, the story is at its best looking at the personal moments – the discussion between Jean and Hank, the reunion of Kitty and Illyana, the “confrontation” between Beast and Magneto.
And you know what? I really dig the new uniforms for the kids. The classic “First Class” uniforms will always have a special place in my heart, but the new costumes just look awesome.

cataclysm_spiderman_c01Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #1
I have a slight fear that the presence of Galactus in the Ultimate Comics universe may actually be the end. Marvel has made noise about killing the line before, and I believe that sales aren’t as strong as they once were.

Since we already know that there is a Miles Morales in the 616 world, it wouldn’t be that much of a sacrifice to their corporate bottom line to do so, and it would simplify things.

I really hope that they don’t, of course.

That said, these fears didn’t bother me in the slightest while reading Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #1, because it barely felt like a part of Cataclysm, with Galactus not appearing until the final page. What it felt like was another issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, with Miles and Ganke at school, Cloak and Dagger discovering who they were and what they wanted to be, Bombshell walking away from her parole officer, and Jessica Drew telling the Ultimates that she wants to investigate Roxxon.

In other words, it’s a really solid issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, and the tie in to the big “event” is entirely incidental.

superiorspiderman21_c01Superior Spider-Man #21
Yet again, Otto is managing to succeed as Spider-Man, perhaps even surpassing Peter, but not really through any merit of his own.

What we are seeing is that while Otto may have superior technological skills to Peter (debatable, but a point I’m willing to concede), his ruthlessness is ultimately going to be his downfall, which is exactly as it should be. Otto is a genius, but he simply isn’t capable of nurturing any sort of relationship on a long term basis. He isn’t trustworthy.

I’ll confess that Otto’s girlfriend Stunner is a character who made her appearance when I wasn’t reading Spidey books, so I don’t have much of an opinion about how she was handled, but I do think it was interesting to see how Otto deals with both her and Anna-Marie, as was Otto’s handling of his doctoral thesis defense. All in all, a very solid read.

Meanwhile, Avengers Arena #17 brings us closer to the end-game for Arcade, as we see several of the kids cross that final line and kill, including an explosive ending for one hero, and World’s Finest #17 shows us an out-of-control Kara while Helena fights a villain so generic that I can’t even remember her name.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 25, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

ax12_c01A+X #12
Do you remember a time when comics were fun? I mean, really, seriously, fun? If you’re a younger comic reader, the answer may be “No,” but I assure you that it existed. A+X has consistently been a throwback to those days, and this particular issue shows how you can keep comics fun, but at the same time, let serious storylines still matter.

The first part brings The Beast and Wonder Man together. These two were incredible friends in the 80s era of the Avengers, when both were light-hearted, somewhat silly characters. These same two characters have now gone on to become the Mutant Messiah and is responsible for all sorts of time-travelling insanity, and a “pacifist” super-strong character who assembled a team to destroy the Avengers as recently as a year ago.

But they used to be friends, and this story gives them a night together to bring that friendship back to the forefront. And it is glorious.

The second story pairs Captain America with the now-vampirized Jubilee, as they go to find an undersea U-Boat filled with Nazi vampires.

Nazi. Vampires.

There’s a bit of meta story here as Jubilee wonders if Cap brought her along to serve as an example to the former Reich soldiers, or if he brought her along so they could serve as an example to her. But the real truth is that it’s a story about two heroes fighting Nazi Vampires, and what on Earth could be bad about that?

Ultimate_Comics_Spider-Man_Vol_2_27Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #27
So, the Ultimate Comics version of Taskmaster sure seems a lot more like Bishop or Sebastian Shaw, which means that Spider-Woman and Spider-Man are a little bit out of their depth in this battle – at least until Bombshell comes back, and Cloak and Dagger come in to help out.

Ok. That’s the entire comic.

No, seriously. That’s it. And it really disappoints me.

Look, I really like Miles. I like the Ultimate version of Jessica Drew for all of the issues in her head. I even think I like the Ultimate version of Cloak and Dagger. So, this is a team that I find interesting – in theory. But this issue is almost completely devoid of Bendis’ trademark dialogue and wit. It’s a big slugfest, and one that was not terribly compellingly illustrated (despite my overall love for Pichelli’s art.)

So, this one here is really not my favorite issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. It’s far from the worst comic on the market, but considering how much I usually enjoy this title, I’m awfully disappointed.

Wolverine_and_the_X-Men_Vol_1_36Wolverine and the X-Men #36 “Battle of the Atom Chapter 5”
At risk of sounding like a broken record, “Battle of the Atom” remains poised to become one of the three best story arcs in X-Men history.

Ever.

I don’t generally read Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, but I decided I would buy both issues that tied in to this storyline, and I am glad I did (although I still didn’t care for the art in this issue). As things have gone along with my prediction, the future X-Men are now quite as trustworthy as we might have wanted to believe, and the original team kids are finding themselves in over their heads as their older incarnations (both of them) scheme to get them sent back to the past.

There isn’t a lot more I can say without seriously revealing spoilers, but I will say that the psychic battle between Jean/Xorn and Jean, Emma and the Cuckoos is a lot of fun, and seeing the tension between the Jean Grey School X-Men and Scott’s merry band of mutant misfits remains great. The barbs that are traded between Ororo and present-Scott are particularly nice, and the contempt that future-Beast has for present-Beast is awesome.

I would also like to say that I still hate Deadpool.

There’s only one thing that really bothers me about this issue is Wolverine’s line about “wondering why they aren’t still friends.” I’ll confess that I avoided the X-Men for pretty much everything from 1995 until 2012, but was there ever a time that Logan and Scott were friends? Allies? Sure. Family even? Maybe. But friends? Logan, or Scott, would easily take a bullet for the other. (Or death beam. Or whatever.) But I don’t think the two men have ever been something that could be described as friends.

Meanwhile, Avengers #20 continues the “Infinity” storyline with Captain America preparing to surrender and a revelation about Ex Nilho and Void that would have mattered more if I had ever cared about these characters, Green Lantern #23.4: Sinestro #1 provides a totally unneeded rehash of Sinestro’s origin and makes me wish I’d stuck by my promise not to buy any more of the Villains Month titles, Guardians of the Galaxy #6 effectively Mary Sue’s Angela as she fights most of the Guardians to a standstill and the Watcher tells us that we’re screwed, Uncanny Avengers #12 has the Apocalypse Twins outwit Kang and convince Wanda to use Wonder Man’s power to move the mutants off of Earth, and Young Avengers #10 gives us some witty repartee between Mother and Loki and sets Teddy up to be completely decimated.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 18, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

daredevil31_c01Daredevil #31
In an era dominated by big events (Yes, I’m looking at you Infinity, Forever Evil and Battle of the Atom), it’s easy to forget how good a stand-alone title can be, even when it exists within a larger world. Mark Waid has consistently been knocking it out of the park with Daredevil, and this issue is no exception. The Jester’s continuing plan to drive Daredevil to the edge of madness continues here as a racially charged trial (that in no way, shape or form bears a similarity to a recent “Stand your ground case”) comes to a conclusion and a riot erupts thanks to the Jester’s leaking of the names of the jurors involved.

Solid storytelling, spot-on characterizations and honest-to-goodness tension as we actually have to wonder if Matt Murdock will be able to defuse this situation, all with a chessmaster villain who is playing Daredevil like a pawn. This is when Daredevil is at his best. I don’t know that this is my favorite title this week, but it’s probably the one I enjoyed the most.

infinity3_c01Infinity #3
Hickman, Hickman, Hickman…

Infinity continues at a break-neck pace, with the Inhumans dispersing to the four winds (setting up Inhumanity, no doubt), the Illuminati stopping another incursion, Doctor Strange being compromised, Thanos getting personally involved, and the space-faring Avengers taking the battle right to the Builders.

And yet…

Much the way I felt during Fear Itself, this feels like an outline, not a story. Everything going on here is great, and epic, and sets up an awesome new status quo. But it doesn’t feel like the characters are actually a part of the story. Hickman needs a certain set of abilities here, but for the most part, the personalities of the characters just aren’t there. This isn’t completely true of course, Captain America has some good moments, as does Maximus, but for the most part, this story is too big to be about the characters, and I find that to be to the detriment of the story – especially compared to what Marvel is doing in their other big cross-over event right now (more on that later).

thunder2_c01T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2
It takes some impressive storytelling to make a reader feel sorry for the world’s strongest man, and yet that is precisely what is going on inside the pages of this book. Len Brown may be the one man in all the world capable of harnessing the Thunderbelt, but he’s still very much a schmuck and a schmoe and an everyman.

Which is made all the more obvious as he hangs out with NoMan (literally the smartest guy in the room) and not one but two more competent THUNDER Agents. Which would be bad enough, except for the fact that Iron Maiden is brilliant, cunning and competent in her own right.

What feels best about this title is that, as a fan of the old series, I recognize the tropes and ideas, but not so closely that I feel like I know exactly what is going to happen.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is probably the best comic that none of my friends are reading, and it’s probably my favorite superhero comic that doesn’t come from one of the Big Two publishers. You owe it to yourself to check this out.

superiorspiderman18_c01Superior Spider-Man #18
It is with an overpowering sense of shame that I must confess that, while I always found the character to be cool in concept, I never read much of Spider-Man 2099. He has a cool costume design and powers and personality that make him a great “Spider-Man” without just being “Peter Parker in the future.” But it never quite clicked for me.

Which doesn’t change the fact that I am loving watching him school Doctor Octopus on “how to be Spider-Man.”

One of the threads that has been consistently running through the pages of “Superior” has been seeing all the ways that Octavius is able to be a better Spidey than Spidey. Watching him succeed at things that Peter routinely failed at has been fascinating. But at the same time, if we’re ever going to get Peter back (and we all know that, eventually, we will), we need to see it fall apart for Octavius. Fortunately, that has started here.

Between seeing Liz Allen and Normie react with disgust towards Spider-Man, watching Horizon in chaos and “Peter” likely to get fired, and the growing resentment of the Mayor and in many ways, the city, Octavius’ charade is unlikely to last a whole lot longer. But the destruction of his carefully balanced house of cards looks like it will be glorious.

I’m in no rush to see this story end, because as much as I, too, want Peter Parker back, watching Octavius self-destruct has been too much fun. He almost doesn’t even need Norman Osborn to return, riding the glider of the Hobgoblin. (And am I the only one who is expecting to see Roderick Kingsley take a not-so-kind view towards Osborn’s portrayal?)

Finally, I have to give a call out to Octavius’ line when looking at Spidey 2099. “Is this cosplay?” I dunno, is it?

uncannyxmen12_c01Uncanny X-men #12
When last we left Young-Scott and Young-Jean, they had turned to the Uncanny X-Men for help in protecting them from the Future X-Men and the other X-Men who live at the Jean Grey School.

Even writing that sentence makes my head hurt.

Look, I am not the biggest fan of time-travel stories, but this has been done so well that it defies belief. Almost every member of the teams is solidly at odds here, and each and every one is acting perfectly in-character. And it’s not as simple as lines being drawn between the different “teams” either. Present-Scott wants to help the original team stay, but Magneto and Emma disagree (and Emma is not even pretending to hide the fact that her decision is partially based on not wanting Scott to moon over teenaged Jean). Meanwhile, Kitty and Rachel have opposed their team in wanting the kids to have the freedom to make their own choices, while Storm and Logan are the most vocal proponents for “Send them back.”

And the future team? They may be united, but I can’t help but feel like there is plenty they’re not telling the present members of the X-Men. Jean isn’t disguising herself as Xorn just for the sake of keeping her face hidden. There is something sinister going on.

But aside from a really compelling story, we’ve also got all of those little moments that make the characters come to life (and which Jonathan Hickman is sadly missing in Infinity). Look especially to Emma, the Stepford Cuckoos, Jean and Future-Jean and how they have been dealing with one another to see precisely what I mean.

We’re on Chapter Four of Ten, and right now, I am confident in saying that “Battle of the Atom” is one of the great X-Men storylines. It may yet end up replacing “The Dark Phoenix Saga” as my favorite, and that impresses me.

Meanwhile Batman Beyond Universe #2 continues the story of powerless older Clark Kent as he enters the Phantom Zone, Captain Marvel #16 addresses Carol’s memory loss and power fluctuations as Binary in a way that is marginally of interest to Infinity readers, but really pulls away from the story we were developing in this title, New Avengers #10 retells the events of Infinity #3 from the point of view of the Illuminati, Secret Avengers #9 shows us how Daisy was subject to the same mind-wiping technology as the Secret team, Thunderbolts #15 uses Infinity as a backdrop as Elektra, Punisher and Venom hunt down the hidden head of the mob families, and Ultimate Comics X-Men #31 puts James onto Tian as an escaped refuge, shows Kitty step down as head of Utopia to become a soldier, and officially turns Jean Grey into an outright villain.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!