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, September 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.

astrocity4_c01Astro City #4 “On the Sidelines”
There are a few things that you can safely skip mentioning when talking about comics. You hardly need to say that “The Hulk is strong,” or that “Reed Richards is smart,” or that “Bruce Wayne is rich.”

In that vein? It’s almost beside the point to say that any particular issue of Astro City is good. It’s not that the series has been perfect (as it has evolved from publisher to publisher), but overall, Busiek, Anderson and Ross have managed to create an extraordinary world of supers by focusing on the human inside the superhuman. This latest issue focuses on a middle-aged telekinetic, but she isn’t a superhero, nor is she a supervillain. She mainly works in film, providing special effects work. She’s not alone – there are any number of superpowered individuals who just aren’t wired for hero work, but who also aren’t dishonest enough to become villains. These “sideliners” have an informal network, keeping in touch with one another and helping each other out.

Of course, this wouldn’t be much of a superhero comic if all it ever dealt with was their personal lives, so sure enough, an idiotic supervillain-wannabe tries to coerced the sideliners to work for him. With predictable results.

As always, this gets my strongest endorsement. There aren’t many books out there that are more worth your purchasing dollar than Astro City.

mongul_c01Earth-2-15-2-Solomon-Grundy-0Earth 2: Solomon Grundy #15.2 and Green Lantern: Mongul #23.2
You may recall that last week, I had some kind things to say about Forever Evil, the “cornerstone” book of DC’s entire Villains Month. I stand by that statement.

That said? Don’t waste your money on the individual titles. At $3.99 (thanks to their 3-D covers), these books are already overpriced. They insult the creative teams by not including their names on the covers. And the biggest offender? They’re almost entirely pointless.

I tried Desaad and Relic last week, and in both cases, was underwhelmed but not offended. They filled in some back story elements for the characters, and it was story that for the most part, we hadn’t seen yet.

To be fair, that’s true here as well. But by the time I had finished reading them, I realized that while it may have been new, it was entirely pointless. Did I need to see Solomon Grundy’s first incarnation, complete with “let’s rape the main character’s wife and have her commit suicide to give him pathos”? No. I knew everything I needed to about the New 52 Solomon Grundy from reading Earth 2. Similarly, watching Mongul destroy a civilization and kill a hapless admiral established him and Warworld as a threat – but that had long been established in the pages of Green Lantern.

I was expecting these titles to advance the ongoing story of their parent titles. I wasn’t expecting the Villains Month books to just rehash a backstory. I’m disgusted that DC has gotten as much money out of me for these books as they have, and really don’t intend to give them any more.

mightyavengers1_c01Mighty Avengers #1
I was a big fan of the original run of Mighty Avengers, and I’ve always been a fan of Luke Cage and his team of heroes. The down-to-Earth nature of Cage, compared to the more “big picture” views of many of the other Avengers, has always been a nice contrast. So, I was really excited for this book.

Sadly, what I got was fairly disappointing. Doctor Spider-Octopus has been entertaining to read in his own book, but in a crossover title, he’s just an ass. Cage was uncharacteristically slow to respond to Spidey’s accusation about being “mercenary,” and the actions of White Tiger and Power Man were just abrupt and cold.

It was great to see Monica Rambeau/Spectrum again – I enjoyed her brief appearance in Captain Marvel, and I have long been eager to see Marvel do more with her, but I also thought she was acting out of character. And I neither know nor care who the new Ronin is, which is a major failing for the primary mystery in the first issue of a series.

Perhaps I’ll enjoy the comic more once it moves away from Infinity, but I don’t know if my desire to send Marvel the message that, yes, books with heroes who are of color can sell, can win out against my “But it’s not very good right now, why spend the money?” desire.

XMen_BattleOfTheAtom_XMen_5_CoverX-Men #5
The third chapter of “Battle of the Atom” is here, and I’m happy to report that Brian Wood and company deliver. This meshes seamlessly with the last two installments, and I am loving seeing where this story goes. Young Scott and Jean are on the run, hijacking a Blackbird and fleeing from both the future X-Men (including a very scary vision of Xavier’s grandson and an older Jean), and the current team.

The X-Men being who they are, of course there is dissent among the team about what should happen to Scott, Jean, Hank, Bobby and Warren, and we see that as Kitty and Rachel express their… displeasure with seeing how their teammates are treating the kids.

Ultimately, Jean realizes that they will need allies to protect them from their fellow mutants, and she reaches out to a rather unlikely group of mutants to assist. The final panel wasn’t completely unexpected, but it still left me eager to see what will happen next. And that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with a story that can take you down a familiar road if you’re enjoying the trip.

“Battle of the Atom” rages on next week, and I’ll be happy to pick it up. I hope that this gets collected as a single trade, instead of having the issues appear in the trades of their respective titles. Because if it does? This could sit proudly next to “Days of Future Past” or “The Phoenix Saga” as being among my favorite X-Men arcs.

Meanwhile, Avengers #19 shows us a little bit more about what is happening to Carol Danvers and company among the Builders, and also sets the alliance up for betrayal, Avengers Arena #15 has the teens take down Bloodstone, while one (possibly two) of the youngsters join the ranks of the dead, Indestructible Hulk #13 takes the time-traveling Hulk into Camelot to defeat the next chrono-thief, Infinity: The Hunt #1 ties in to Avengers Arena as the Avengers Academy, Jean Grey School, Braddock School and other schools for superpowered teens come together for a contest, while Atlantis is devastated by Thanos’ forces, and Ultimate Comics Ultimates #30 brings an end to Reed Richards, the Hulk and “Kang”’s reign of terror in a rather unsatisfying whimper that sets us up for Hunger.

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 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!