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, December 4, 2013 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

inhumanity1_c01Inhumanity #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Comic Round-Up, November 20, 2013 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check it out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, this issue should have fallen flat for me.

It didn’t.

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

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

Weekly Comic Round-Up, November 13, 2013 Edition

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

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

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

This issue? Was on.

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

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

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

Done?

Ok.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 18, 2013 Edition

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

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

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

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

infinity3_c01Infinity #3
Hickman, Hickman, Hickman…

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

And yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even writing that sentence makes my head hurt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Venom Returns to Challenge Otto Octavius in Superior Spider-Man #22

SUPERIORSPIDERMAN_22_COVERby Aaron Einhorn
Marvel just sent out a press announcement telling us that November’s issue of Superior Spider-Man (specifically, issue #22) will bring Venom back into the pages of Spider-Man as the Otto-possessed Peter Parker clashes with the infamous symbiote.

I can only find myself wondering how we’re supposed to react to this. Dan Slott says “Venom always brings out Spider-Man’s dark side, and we’re taking that 10 steps further in this latest arc. You should probably read this in a sunny, well-populated area,” which sounds good, but I have to ask how true it is.

First off, the history between Peter Parker and Venom really shouldn’t apply with Otto in the driver’s seat. Otto doesn’t care about Venom. He’s pushed Mary Jane away, and Aunt May is out of the city, so why would Venom have any particular significance for him? Heck, if anything, Venom should be the one who finds the encounter troubling.

And of course, that doesn’t even touch the question of which Venom? Mac Gargan is back as the Scorpion, and was just recently seen in the pages of Superior. Eddie Brock, last we saw, was powerless and hunting symbiotes down, having successfully eliminated (at least for now) Hybrid and Scream, and having been briefly bonded with Toxin. As far as I can tell, fans are still enjoying seeing Flash Thompson as Venom, and in addition to his own title, Flash has been quite active in Thunderbolts. So, if it’s Flash, why would he be fighting Spidey (even the Otto Octavius version), and if it’s Brock, well, then that sucks for fans of Flash-as-Venom.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of symbiotes. I enjoyed Venom when he first appeared, as a dark mirror to Spider-Man, but hated it when he became a sort of anti-hero and they were forced to use Carnage to actually be darker than Venom. And I won’t even get started on the proliferation of symbiotes that came out of the various Venom miniseries. That said, I am a fan of Flash and seeing what they’ve done with both the character of Flash Thompson and the use of the symbiote suit itself. I’m not really eager to see that come to an end, especially not just to restore the status quo of Brock-as-Venom, and especially not right now with Otto already serving as a dark reflection of the Spider-Man we know and love.

Of course, I’m a regular reader of Superior Spider-Man, and a big fan of the creative team of Slott and Humberto Ramos, so it’s not like I’m going to suddenly stop reading the title because of this announcement. But I am very skeptical of where this storyline could end up going.

Superior Spider-Man #22 comes out in November, 2013, written by Dan Slott, with interior art and cover by Humberto Ramos.