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 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, July 17, 2013 Edition

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

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

all_new_xmen_14_c01All-New X-Men #14
Brian Michael Bendis has done something really remarkable here. In a world where Jean Grey is dead, Hank McCoy is dour and depressed, Ice Man is a grotesque monstrosity and Cyclops is Magneto, he’s given us a world with the original X-Men.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have no such assurances here.

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

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

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