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, 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!

Marvel Promises More Excitement From Month Two of X-Men: Battle of the Atom

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 Variant Cover

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 Variant Cover

X-Men #5 Second Printing Cover

X-Men #5 Second Printing Cover

by Aaron Einhorn
If you’ve been reading my Weekly Comic Round-Ups, you know that I’m an absolute convert to the X-Men with “Battle of the Atom.” I was one of those fans who had burned by too many “event” crossovers, too many time-traveling Messiah figures, and far too many pouches and trench coats. Despite being an avid reader of the X-Men through the eighties and the first part of the nineties, by the time I graduated High School in 1995, I was done with the X-Men.

I occasionally dipped my toe back in, of course. X-characters would show up in other titles I read. I purchased the issue where Scott and Jean finally got married, and when Joss Whedon took over Astonishing, I stuck with that title as long as Joss did – even while being confused at the relationship between Scott and Emma. And of course, then there were the Ultimate titles.

But I still stayed away from the X-Men as much as I could. Because each time I had dipped my toe in, I felt like the battered half of an abusive relationship. “Come back, baby, it’ll be better this time.” And it would be for a few months. Then the pain would start again.

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37 Variant Cover

Wolverine and the X-Men #37 Variant Cover

(And my sincerest apologies to anyone who has actually endured an abusive relationship for this metaphor.)

Still, after reading A vs. X, I was kind of hooked again. And the aftermath made me determined to pick up at least the all new Uncanny X-Men title, just to see what happened with Scott and Emma and Magneto. Then it was an easy sell to buy All-New X-Men with the original team back. And being a strong advocate for seeing more titles with women and minority leads, how could I refuse Brian Wood’s X-Men?

(But I’m still not buying X-Force, X-Men Legacy or Wolverine and the X-Men. Not yet, anyhow.)

And “Battle of the Atom” has exceeded all of my expectations. I’ve loved it.

So, when Marvel sent me the following press release, I was overjoyed. More twists and turns with the X-Men of the future? A possible return of the Phoenix Force? (Personally, I’m betting on seeing some version of Jean get taken once more, complete with her fresh-from-the-Marvel-Avengers-Alliance-Facebook-game Phoenix Five armor.)

All-New X-Men #17 Variant Cover

All-New X-Men #17 Variant Cover

All New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant

All New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant

Sign. Me. Up.

The press release follows.

EXCITING TWISTS AND TURNS AS MONTH TWO OF X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM BEGINS!

If you thought the first month was exciting – you ain’t seen nothing yet! They’ve come from the past. They’ve come from the future. They’ve come from….the future again? Who are the REAL Future X-Men?! Find out this October as X-Men: Battle of the Atom heads into its second exciting month full of even more twists and turns!

“We have been waiting to reveal these images since the day we planned this event,” says Senior Editor Nick Lowe. “Who are these characters who claim to the be the X-Men of the future? And if they’re not lying, WHO ARE THE OTHER GUYS?!?!?!”

Chaos at the Jean Grey School! The return of the Phoenix Force! And more! Plus a game-changing conclusion that will shake the X-Men to their very core! Don’t miss out on the exciting second half of the blockbuster X-Men event of the year, X-Men: Battle of the Atom!

Marvel is also proud to announce that due to overwhelming demand, All-New X-Men #16 and X-Men #5 will be returning for second printings! That’s right, chapters 2 and 3 of X-Men: Battle of the Atom have sold out at the distributor level, and will be going back to press immediately. Retailers are strongly encouraged to increase orders of the final chapters, Wolverine & The X-Men #37 and X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 in anticipation of future demand.

All-New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen
Cover by David Lopez
On-Sale October 23, 2013

X-Men #5 2nd Printing Variant
Written by Brian Wood
Art by David Lopez
Cover by Phil Noto
On-Sale October 23, 2013

Wolverine and the X-Men #37
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Kris Anka
On-Sale October 23, 2013

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Esad Ribic
On-Sale October 30, 2013

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 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.

battleofatom1_c01X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1
All-New X-Men #16
We’re going to handle these as a Two-For-One deal here, especially since both were written (at least in part) by Brian Michael Bendis. Even while the majority of the Marvel Universe (including several members of the X-Men) are dealing with the effect of Infinity, the X-Men find themselves in the middle of yet-another time-travelling story crossover. Time-travel has been a staple of the X-Men’s comics ever since “Days of Future Past”, so the idea of a time-travel story on its own merits doesn’t bother me. After all, one of the X-Men books I regularly read is all about the original X-Men brought into modern times.

What we have here is a team of X-Men from the future, including the Beast, Charles Xavier’s grandson, Deadpool and Iceman, arriving in the present and demanding that the original X-Men return to their proper time, have their memories of their jaunt into the modern day erased from their heads, and live out their fates. Considering that this demand comes on the heels of young Cyclops almost dying, and the teams then seeing present-day-Cyclops almost get erased from reality, it’s not an unreasonable demand.

All-New_X-Men_Vol_1_16Except of course for the fact that Jean knows that this is a death sentence to her, so when the future X-Men are found to be blocking her telepathy, she creates a stunt and flees, getting Scott to join her. And so a manhunt for Jean and Cyclops begins.
It’s a crazy little jaunt of time travel, and I’m sure it will only get crazier over the upcoming parts, and sure, it’s a blatant money grab since it’s going to cause me to buy two issues of Wolverine and the X-Men, a title I don’t normally buy, but it’s a pretty fun story so far.

fevil_cv1_var_aForever Evil #1
If you’re reading the other articles on this site, you know exactly how disenchanted I have become with DC’s New 52 universe. Still, for all that, I went ahead and picked up this issue and I’m glad I did. I don’t know that I’ll read anything else from “Villains Month,” but this issue from Geoff Johns reminded me why this man revitalized Green Lantern and Flash. I don’t know a lot of the various backstories for the villains we’re seeing here – I have no idea how the Rogues got outright super-abilities of their own, how Lex Luthor was “framed” and then had his name cleared, why Ted Kord is a schlub and not the Blue Beetle, or who half the villains in the center spread are.
I also don’t care. Because this is still a tightly enough told story that I was able to follow along. The characters were close enough to being the versions of themselves I recognized. And most importantly? It featured the Crime Syndicate.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ultraman, Owlman and Superwoman, along with whichever alternate versions they have with them this time around (in this case, it’s Johnny Quick, Power Ring, Deathstorm and Atomica). So, seeing them back in the New 52? Well, it makes me happy. Almost happy enough to be considering adding Ultraman to my costuming line-up.
Like I said, will I add more of this story to my collection? I dunno. But this issue was worth grabbing, for me at least.

superiorspiderman17_c01Superior Spider-Man #17
Sadly, after what has generally been an excellent run of issues, in this issue Dan Slott and company have stumbled. It’s not that there’s anything bad in here, exactly. The main story focusing on Otto Parker, I mean Peter Octavius, I mean Otto-Octavius-in-Peter-Parker’s-body and his ongoing issues with Tiberius Stone and what’s happening at Horizon is fine, the continuation of the Goblin subplot with Phil Urich in his role as the Green Goblin’s Goblin Knight remains intriguing, and the story of how Miguel O’Hare/Spider-Man 2099 end up being sent to the present works just fine.

But that’s just it. It’s all just “fine.” The entire issue feels like the opening moves of a chess game. It’s putting pieces into place, but they aren’t actually doing much of anything. It’s a very unexciting issue, for all that there is plenty of costumed character sightings (although there aren’t any super battles to speak of).

I’m interested to see next issue, and to see what the fall-out between Spider-Ock and Spider-Man 2099 ends up being, but this issue on its own? Very “meh.”

Meanwhile, Earth-2: Desaad #15.1 gives us a bit about how Darkseid’s chief torturer ended up on Earth, Green Lantern: Relic #23.1 explains that the enemy of all of the ring-slingers originates from another reality which also harnessed the emotional spectrum, only to ultimately drain it completely, and in Infinity #2, Thanos sends his forces to do battle with the Earth as he hunts for the Infinity Gems, and reveals a special gambit designed to force the Inhumans to give up the most important prize…

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, July 17, 2013 Edition

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_xmen_14_c01All-New X-Men #14
Brian Michael Bendis has done something really remarkable here. In a world where Jean Grey is dead, Hank McCoy is dour and depressed, Ice Man is a grotesque monstrosity and Cyclops is Magneto, he’s given us a world with the original X-Men.

This week’s chapter has the newly-discovering-she’s-a-telepath Jean Grey scaring the beejezus out of her team by pretending to go all Dark Phoenix on them, in an attempt to scare off Mystique, Lady Mastermind and Sabretooth who are busy trying to buy Madripoor.

This is the X-Men the way we like ’em. Serious stories, but light-hearted and fun. Bendis has really caught what made these characters enjoyable, and if you’re only reading one X-Men book, make it this one.

batman_66_c01Batman ’66 #1
Something that will quickly become apparent if you stick around here – I am not a fan of The New 52. I’m not a fan of dark, gritty stories. I want heroes to be heroic and inspire me to want to be a better person. The 1966 Batman television show was, perhaps, a little too light-hearted and camp, but it was still fun. So, if nothing else, I wanted to send DC Comics that fans of their older stuff are still around, so I picked this up. And I’m glad I did. It’s an utterly light and silly Riddler tale with a guest appearance by Catwoman. Will it change your life? Absolutely not. It’s entirely as easy to consume as an episode of the television show.

But then, that’s what we paid for. The cover tells us what we’re getting, and Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case delivered.

batwoman_22_c01Batwoman #22
One of the few books I’ve been completely happy with since the New 52 has been Batwoman. I wasn’t sure about seeing JH Williams III move from artist to writer, but the book has seemlessly picked up from where the Detective Comics run with Williams and Greg Rucka left off.

This issue gave us a whole lot of Bette/Flamebird, preparing to attack the DEO with help from the Colonel, all in an effort to “free” Kate. Meanwhile, Kate is hitting up villains to figure out how best to defeat Batman.

I don’t really want to see Batman enter Kate’s title. It can’t go well for her, and that weakens her character in my opinion. But if it’s going to happen, this seems to be the best way to manage it.

thunderbolts_13_c01Thunderbolts #13
I’ve picked up Thunderbolts ever since the very beginning, regardless of what Marvel has done with the title. This current team of ‘bolts, led by Red Hulk/General Ross and featuring Venom (Flash Thompson), the Punisher, Deadpool and Elektra, with the Red Leader and now Mercy has little relationship to the original concept, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been fun.

That said, I’m kind of glad to see a change of the artistic team on the title.

This issue wasn’t really about the team – it was really the origin of Mercy and how she ended up on the team. But that story was creepy enough, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what the team’s next mission ends up being.

ultimate_comics_spiderman_25_c01Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #25
There’s a lot of controversy over whether or not Miles needed an “Uncle Ben” moment, but in any case he had one. Two issues ago, Miles lost his mother, and New York lost their Spider-Man. Again.

It’s taken three issues and a lot of badgering by the people in Miles’ life, but finally we get him moving and agreeing to be the hero he was born to be. And from the looks of things, this is where we will begin seeing a lot more of Gwen Stacy, Aunt May and Jessica Drew.

We’ve also got a Miles who is growing a little bit older, and that’s not a bad thing either.

This is another Brian Michael Bendis book, and it also has me hook, line and sinker. But then, I’m a sucker for Miles.

what-if-avx-2_c01What If… A vs. X #2
What If… has always been Marvel’s escape valve. The real secret about major comics events is that, at the end of the day, the status will remain quo. It kind of has to. But in What If…? All bets are off.

We know that the world won’t be destroyed in A vs. X.

We have no such assurances here.

That’s not to say this is perfect. Much like the original A vs. X, the pacing flies by too fast, and some characters are too broadly painted. Magneto, for instance, is just this side of growing a long mustache to twirl. There are also some weird continuity issues. I’m pretty sure that the modern Nova wasn’t a part of A vs. X. Still, it’s worth checking this out.

Meanwhile, in A + X #10, Fantomex and Black Widow almost team up to steal a McGuffin while Scarlet Witch and Domino team up their probability powers to stop a Celestial Roomba from destroying the planet, Avengers #16 continues to be an incomprehensible mess with lots of powerful superhumans coming together to stop something, Batman Beyond Unlimited #18 introduces us to Batgirl Beyond while Terry and the Metal Men save Gotham, and Green Lantern New Guardians #22 has Kyle get abducted by Relic who uses Kyle’s ring power to learn all he needs to about this universe he wants to destroy.

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