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, 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, 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!

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!