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!

Are We…? Are You… Inhuman?

by Aaron Einhorn
So, for the past few days, Marvel has been teasing us with the following teaser images.

Is he…? Are they…? Is she…? Are We…?
IsHe__ AreThey_ IsShe__ Are We_

Now, finally, they all make sense as they lead up to the final question…

Are you Inhuman?
Are You Inhuman_

And here’s the first teaser or possibly cover image for Marvel’s Inhumanity.

Inhumanity_1_Cover

Considering the major role the Inhumans are playing in Infinity, I should have seen this one coming. Expect something bad to happen to the Blue Area of the Moon by the end of Infinity

We’ll learn more on September 18th.