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 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, 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.