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, 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.

Marvel Promises More Excitement From Month Two of X-Men: Battle of the Atom

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 Variant Cover

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 Variant Cover

X-Men #5 Second Printing Cover

X-Men #5 Second Printing Cover

by Aaron Einhorn
If you’ve been reading my Weekly Comic Round-Ups, you know that I’m an absolute convert to the X-Men with “Battle of the Atom.” I was one of those fans who had burned by too many “event” crossovers, too many time-traveling Messiah figures, and far too many pouches and trench coats. Despite being an avid reader of the X-Men through the eighties and the first part of the nineties, by the time I graduated High School in 1995, I was done with the X-Men.

I occasionally dipped my toe back in, of course. X-characters would show up in other titles I read. I purchased the issue where Scott and Jean finally got married, and when Joss Whedon took over Astonishing, I stuck with that title as long as Joss did – even while being confused at the relationship between Scott and Emma. And of course, then there were the Ultimate titles.

But I still stayed away from the X-Men as much as I could. Because each time I had dipped my toe in, I felt like the battered half of an abusive relationship. “Come back, baby, it’ll be better this time.” And it would be for a few months. Then the pain would start again.

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37 Variant Cover

Wolverine and the X-Men #37 Variant Cover

(And my sincerest apologies to anyone who has actually endured an abusive relationship for this metaphor.)

Still, after reading A vs. X, I was kind of hooked again. And the aftermath made me determined to pick up at least the all new Uncanny X-Men title, just to see what happened with Scott and Emma and Magneto. Then it was an easy sell to buy All-New X-Men with the original team back. And being a strong advocate for seeing more titles with women and minority leads, how could I refuse Brian Wood’s X-Men?

(But I’m still not buying X-Force, X-Men Legacy or Wolverine and the X-Men. Not yet, anyhow.)

And “Battle of the Atom” has exceeded all of my expectations. I’ve loved it.

So, when Marvel sent me the following press release, I was overjoyed. More twists and turns with the X-Men of the future? A possible return of the Phoenix Force? (Personally, I’m betting on seeing some version of Jean get taken once more, complete with her fresh-from-the-Marvel-Avengers-Alliance-Facebook-game Phoenix Five armor.)

All-New X-Men #17 Variant Cover

All-New X-Men #17 Variant Cover

All New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant

All New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant

Sign. Me. Up.

The press release follows.

EXCITING TWISTS AND TURNS AS MONTH TWO OF X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM BEGINS!

If you thought the first month was exciting – you ain’t seen nothing yet! They’ve come from the past. They’ve come from the future. They’ve come from….the future again? Who are the REAL Future X-Men?! Find out this October as X-Men: Battle of the Atom heads into its second exciting month full of even more twists and turns!

“We have been waiting to reveal these images since the day we planned this event,” says Senior Editor Nick Lowe. “Who are these characters who claim to the be the X-Men of the future? And if they’re not lying, WHO ARE THE OTHER GUYS?!?!?!”

Chaos at the Jean Grey School! The return of the Phoenix Force! And more! Plus a game-changing conclusion that will shake the X-Men to their very core! Don’t miss out on the exciting second half of the blockbuster X-Men event of the year, X-Men: Battle of the Atom!

Marvel is also proud to announce that due to overwhelming demand, All-New X-Men #16 and X-Men #5 will be returning for second printings! That’s right, chapters 2 and 3 of X-Men: Battle of the Atom have sold out at the distributor level, and will be going back to press immediately. Retailers are strongly encouraged to increase orders of the final chapters, Wolverine & The X-Men #37 and X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 in anticipation of future demand.

All-New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen
Cover by David Lopez
On-Sale October 23, 2013

X-Men #5 2nd Printing Variant
Written by Brian Wood
Art by David Lopez
Cover by Phil Noto
On-Sale October 23, 2013

Wolverine and the X-Men #37
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Kris Anka
On-Sale October 23, 2013

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Esad Ribic
On-Sale October 30, 2013

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!

Want a Sneak Peek at Uncanny X-Men #13?

by Aaron Einhorn
So, it seems like almost on a daily basis (actually, several times a day), my inbox gets hit with a preview from an upcoming comic issue from Marvel, DC, Image or Valiant. When I was running Comic Hero News, I would dutifully post each and every one of these as soon as it arrived, along with the full text of the press release. Now? I’m a bit more choosy.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally post them. See, as someone who has spent most of the past two decades studiously avoiding the X-Men titles, I am a serious convert back since Marvel Now, and the “Battle of the Atom” storyline has been really pulling me in. So, given a preview look at Uncanny X-Men #13, I am all too eager to share it.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot to the preview – just two covers and one interior page without dialogue. But the teaser (which follows) is pretty cool. So, check them out below!

BATTLE OF THE ATOM CONTINUES IN YOUR FIRST LOOK AT UNCANNY X-MEN 13!
This October, the X-Men event of the year heats up as Battle of the Atom rages on in Uncanny X-Men #13! Wolverine is down and bleeding out with no healing factor and the Jean Grey School is under attack from mysterious foes! Is that a Phoenix Quentin Quire and who is the blue man on the cover?! From blockbuster writer Brian Michael Bendis and critically acclaimed artist Chris Bachalo, comes the next can’t miss chapter of the X-Men event of the year!

UNCANNY X-MEN #13
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Chris Bachalo

UNCX013 UNCX013COVER_var UNCX2012013005_colCLASSIFIED

Weekly Comic Round-Up, August 14, 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.

astrocity_3Astro City #3: “Mistakes”
Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have been doing something remarkable with Astro City ever since the very first issue. To this day, the first story in Astro City tugs my heartstrings and has made the Samaritan one of my favorite Superman pastiches. So, was I worried to see the book moving to the Vertigo imprint? No, not really, but I did wonder where it was going to go. This issue is the second issue focusing on Marella Cowper, a customer service representative for the Honor Guard. The first issue showed how she inadvertently caused a massive war and battle in a small South American village, and this issue shows us how she tries to fix it.

As always, Astro City is about the human element to the superhuman tales, and as is not uncommon, our POV character is not one of the heroes, but an ordinary person caught up in the extraordinary. It should go without saying that this is an issue you would be well served by picking up.

avengersarena_13Avengers Arena #13
I was a huge fan of Avengers Academy, and so despite being unthrilled with the premise behind Avengers Arena, as the “spiritual successor” to that comic, I was committed to giving Arena a chance. I’m glad I did.

In this issue, Hank Pym and Tigra, the headmaster and headmistress of Avengers Academy, start trying to track down the missing students, based on a hunch provided by Molly of the runaways. We don’t actually get to see anything involving the Arena, but we do get a really strong investigative story as Pym consults with Captain Britain, Wolverine, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the parents of several of the “missing” kids, and we get to see just how well Arcade has covered his tracks.

It’s still a question what Arcade’s master plan is, but from this issue it’s clear that he does have one. Very solid read from Christos Gage and Karl Moline.

infinity_1Infinity #1
Marvel kicks off their latest “big event” with the return of Thanos, mysterious forces threatening the galaxy, and a cast that dwarfs most of the “event” crossovers.

I have to say that, as event comics go, this one is both grander and smaller in scope than many. Anytime Thanos appears it is something to take note of, but this book seems to be mostly contained to the Avengers titles. Considering that Jonathan Hickman is writing this title as well as Avengers, that makes sense – but it also makes me feel like this could have been restricted to an inter-title crossover.

Nonetheless, we actually get something kind of interesting here, and it helps justify some of the weirder character choices (Starbrand, Smasher, Hyperion) that we’ve been seeing in Avengers start to get used in the pages of Infinity.

Word has it that Infinity will also cover some of the ways that the timeline and continuity have been “broken” by some of the previous cross-title events, so I’ll stick around for that if nothing else.

In other words, the first issue of Infinity didn’t leave me overwhelmed, but it also didn’t leave me annoyed about spending $4.99 for the title.

thunderagents1T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
I was just a young lad the first time I came across Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. At the time, the license was owned by First Comics, and in the intervening years, it’s moved around quite a bit, including a recent stint at DC Comics where Nick Spencer brought a new version of the agents to the modern era.

Somehow (I’ve missed the drama surrounding how), the license has moved to IDW, and Phil Hester and Andrea Di Vito have brought us a new version of the team. The comic seems to be taking place in contemporary times, but starting with a relatively young team of agents. Thunder and NoMan are a part of the team, facing off against Iron Maiden, and the issue begins with the Maiden having defeated Lightning, destroying NoMan’s body, and taking the Invisibility Cloak (again) and THUNDER (they aren’t bothering with the acronym’s periods within the pages of the book, so while should I?) forced to come to a new solution. That solution is the Thunderbelt, which will end up being worn by Len Brown. In this story, Brown is an ex-hockey player who has been serving as an oddly scrupulous leg-breaker for the local mob. Brown isn’t very smart, but he seems to be loyal and brave, and all but immune to pain, so he’s the perfect candidate for the belt.

We don’t get a chance to see the new Dynamo in action, much less see his initial encounter with Iron Maiden (which will, no doubt, turn romantic), so this very much feels like a “Part One” instead of a stand alone comic. I kind of miss the era when most issues of a comic told a complete story, but hey, I’m so happy to see T.H.U.N.D.E.R. back that I can’t possibly be an unbiased critic here. This isn’t the best version of the Agents I’ve seen, but hopefully it’ll be a more long-lived one than DC’s recent offerings. I know I’ll be buying the next issue.

uncannyxmen10Uncanny X-Men #10
Scott Summers and his team of X-Men (currently consisting of himself, Emma Frost, Magneto, Magik, the Stepford Cuckoos, a very young Warren Worthington III and several brand new mutants) are having an interesting time of it. While Summers himself is still wanted for the murder of Charles Xavier, he and his team are doing their best to find new mutants, save them from persecution, teach them how to use their abilities, and occasionally save the world.

Against this backdrop, Magneto may or may not be collaborating with Maria Hill and the new Mutant Liaison for S.H.I.E.L.D., Alison Blair, and the other heroes of the world, especially the Avengers, may still be trying to stop them.

I don’t know if I know who this version of Cyclops is. He isn’t the idealist I grew up with, he isn’t the militant I found myself puzzled by, but he’s an interesting guy.

Not a lot of action occurs in this issue, it’s more of a set-up issue for the return of the Sentinels next issue, prompted by Scott and team appearing at a pro-mutant rally in Ann Arbor, but it’s still a good character read. For people looking to jump in on Uncanny X-Men, this issue might not be a bad starting point.

Meanwhile, Green Lantern Corps #23 reveals the mysterious reason that the rings have been failing as we discover a threat to all of the major entities, Secret Avengers #7 has the attempt to assassinate the Supreme Scientist fail, Daisy get fired from S.H.I.E.L.D., and Mockingbird get abandoned, Ultimate Comics: X-Men #30 has an all-out war begin between Kitty Pryde’s Utopia and Jean Grey’s Tian, and in World’s Finest #15, Power Girl and Huntress face off against the New 52’s version of Desaad.

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