Cream of the Crop
Avengers: The Initiative #17
This is probably my favorite title to come out of Civil War. It’s fun, it’s action packed, it has character development, it moves and flows well…it’s just some great reading. This issue sees the Shadow Initiative attempting to assassinate the Queen/Spider-Woman at Camp Hammond, while the Skrull Kill Krew slashes it’s way through as many Initiative teams it can. I heard a lot of good things about the recent Ant-Man series, but I don’t know if I’d enjoy reading the back issues. I like my heroes to be somewhat heroic rather than fully selfish. Does he do anything besides trying to save his own ass? I’m very intrigued as to who Mutant X is. My money is on Madelyne Pryor. I’m pretty sure she’s supposed to be dead, but when did that ever stop anyone?
Blue Beetle #31
Not the best issue of the series, but definitely a solid one. The Dr. Mid-Nite team-up seemed extremely random, but it did fit in with the story. And I guess it goes along with Jamie, a new hero in the biz, getting all sorts of advice from already-established characters. I think any fan of Ultimate Spider-Man would really enjoy this book. You’re looking at basically the same type of story, a high-school kid who falls into some powers and does his best to use them for good. One of the main differences, though, is not just how this affects Jamie as a teenager, but also as a Latino. His family and heritage play a big role in the series, as do topical situations such as illegal immigration. Since emerging from Infinite Crisis, this title has kept up solid storytelling with good art.
Captain America #42
I didn’t start reading this book until the Civil War event, and I ended up going back and reading the trades from when Brubaker started. Brubaker did for Cap what Bendis did for Daredevil, made me care about a group of characters that I had no thoughts or opinions on one way or the other. By the time it happened, Steve’s death really hit me, as did his “betrayal.” I’ve been loving the rise and rebirth of the Red Skull, and the development on the last page was just crazy and mind-bending. Bucky is a great replacement, and I’m glad to see that Brubaker didn’t just comfortably put him in the costume and give us a new Cap same as the old Cap. I hope Bucky stays around for the long haul. I know death is never permanent in comics (which could always be followed by “except for Bucky and Uncle Ben, que sera sera), but sometimes it’s good to pass the torch. This issue was an excellent end to a long debut for the new Cap, and it leaves me looking forward to the future.
From one Brubaker book to another. The transition from Bendis to Brubaker on this book was seamless. Sometimes when a new writer takes over, he’ll do something drastic to make the title or at least the title character “his.” Not Brubaker. I’m not reading this as “Brubaker’s Daredevil,” but just as Daredevil. This issue introduces us to Lady Bullseye, a villain who has ties to the original’s name in the most peripheral of ways. She interests me, though. Where Bullseye relishes the kill and the kill alone, Lady Bullseye looks deeper into the effects that the kill will have. She’s a thinking man’s assassin. And as telegraphed as it was, I steeled myself for Matt’s inevitable betrayel of of Milla. Ninety percent of the time, cheating doesn’t sit well with me. His and Dakota’s actions this issue felt natural, as does Matt’s waking reaction. I’m looking forward to seeing how this F’s up his world.
A good little epilogue to last month’s end to the war. Gepetto is taken on a tour of Fabletown by Pinocchio and a couple of bodyguards. From the hatred he spews at anyone they come in contact with, I would imagine this is what Hitler would have run into if human law circa the late ‘40s were that of Fabletown law (and, y’know, Hitler was captured before he could kill himself). I’m not the biggest Mike Allred fan, but I thought his style worked well for this issue, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the book more often.
Okay, did anyone actually think Deadpool had gone over to the Skrulls? No, probably not. We all figured he had…well, maybe not a plan, but a general direction, a specific outcome he was heading toward. And it was getting to that outcome, that’s where the funny was. Oh…my…goodness. This guy is insane and brilliant, at least when it comes to killing people…or aliens. And there was even a “Holy crap!” moment on the last page. Good, good stuff.
Fantastic Four #560
Mark Millar is really hit-or-miss for me, but when he hits, he hits BIG. The first two Ultimates series were spectacular. Wanted was awesome. Chosen was powerful. This book is smart. I think Millar has a good handle on all of the characters. This issue finally reveals the mastermind behind Johnny and Doom’s kidnapping and why they were kidnapped. The reason was monumental, and the scope of the story is so big that it’s perfect for this quartet of adventurers. And y’know, Hitch’s art is simply great.
The switch from Warren Ellis to Christos Gage was pretty much seamless. Gage took all the ideas that Ellis laid down and ran with them. And it’s funny, because in books about villains, the writer will usually try to make the main character or characters appear sympathetic so the reader can identify with him/them in some way. Not Ellis or Gage, and not this team. Okay, maybe Songbird, Radioactive Man and Penance, everyone is a vicious and violent psychopath. And they’re looked at as the good guys who are saving Washington D.C. from the Skrulls. Osborn is delightfully insane and devious, and he’s great. It’s sometimes fun to root for the good guys and still despise them.
Ultimate X-Men/Fantastic Four Annual #1
The first thing I’ve gotta say is that I’ve disliked Dan Panosian’s art since, well, the earliest I can remember seeing it is post-Liefeld X-Force. Granted, it’s about 15 years late, but whoa, this guy has really evolved as an artist. It was really good. And after a couple of (in my opinion) lackluster storylines in both the Ultimate X-Men and Fantastic Four books, this really stood out. It gave me a Days of Future Present vibe, which is a good thing. That crossover was my first big introduction to both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and it had some great Art Adams art. This issue has a future team of X-Men traveling to the present to kill Reed Richards. Fighting and deaths ensue.
Ultimate Spider-Man #126
This is by far my favorite comic each month. This issue, a Venom-controlled Peter does a good job of getting rid of the Beetle and goes through Silver Sable and her Wild Pack until the Ultimates show up…then he starts going through them. A couple of elements from Ultimate Origin comes into play regarding Peter’s father and the Venom suit. The great thing about a line of comics this small is that it’s easy to keep a pretty tight continuity going. Stuart Immonen had a tough job after taking on the penciling chores for this title. Mark Bagley made this title his own, but Immonen has kept up the high quality of art while keeping the same youthful energy of the book. My only problem here was Nick Fury. Isn’t he in the Squadron Supreme universe at the moment?
I’m really enjoying this book. It’s surprised me by using a LOT of X-history. This issue, well, it wasn’t a breather after the first storyline, but it was a good transition into the next storyline. The mystery of Archangel is still here, as is Wolfsbane’s brainwashing. Pierce was brought back in the last storyline, but concurrently he was manipulating the Young X-Men. We find out this issue that that story takes places after this issue. Graydon Creed is back to his anti-mutant campaigning, and Hodge apparently had some of his killer robots in storage, robots I haven’t seen since they killed Cypher in the original New Mutants series. The book is full of history, and it’s history that I’m familiar with, so I’m a fan…except for the art. I find it to be too dark. I understand that this is a very serious book that doesn’t need to be seen as light-hearted in any way, but sometimes it’s a little difficult to make out everything on the page.
Back to Brooklyn #1
I usually expect a lot more from Garth Ennis. This was average at best, and the only reason I’m putting it here and not in the Compost pile is because I have faith that Mr. Ennis will deliver something spectacular. Preacher, Punisher, Hitman, The Boys…well, I guess everyone is due for a miss at some point. This just seemed like a standard mob story where some wise-guy is flipping for some reason, and it ends up being him against The Family. Most of the book read like it was written by Brian Michael Bendis, especially the dialogue of the FBI agent when he was speaking with the Deputy Commissioner. And I’m not a fan of the washed-out looking art. Hmm, just a very lackluster book, but I’ve got faith that Ennis can still grab my attention.
I’m torn with this book. On the one hand, the art alone is enough to push it into Cream of the Crop territory, but I’m just not moved by the story. Stupid Hulk has never been my cup of tea. I read the Hulk regularly during the Peter David/Dale Keown era, where David merged all three aspects of Banner’s personality (green Hulk, grey Hulk, and Banner), to give us Professor Hulk. I liked him. I started reading the book again with Planet Hulk, and I enjoyed that. He wasn’t Professor Hulk, but he wasn’t stupid. He was more than just “Hulk smash!” So that’s one aspect of the book I’m not enjoying. Also, I’m not the biggest Jeph Loeb fan. I’ve enjoyed a bit of his work (I really enjoyed his Superman/Batman run), but this storyline is looking like his and Jim Lee’s Batman run. Our hero is running into all sorts of heroes and supporting villains a new nemesis from his past, whose identity is a mystery, is stirring up all sorts of trouble. We’re given all sorts of red herrings as to the true identity of the foe, even going so far as to be told it is definitely a certain person…then this issue that’s taken from us. Personally, I never believed it was Samson anyways. Assuming he’s still alive (I’m not up on my classic Hulk), my money is on Glen Talbot. But dislikes about the storytelling aside, it’s a beautiful book to look at, as were the Loeb/Lee Batman issues. I just can’t justify bumping into Cream of the Crop territory on art alone, though.
First off, it looks like we’re eventually going to see Death’s Head show up. I remember Dr. Necker from the Death’s Head II mini series in the early ‘90s…which I think may have been written by Abnett and Lanning. She was a scientist in the future who created Minion, an assassin who assimilated the abilities of a number of beings, the last one being the original Death’s Head. A glitch had the Death’s Head programming/personality surfacing, and Minion ended up becoming Death’s Head II. It was part of the Marvel UK line, something I read very little of, so I don’t know what ended up happing to the character or the line in general. But that’s apparently a story for another time. This issues find Nova back on Earth and fight against the Skrulls with Darkhawk inside Project Pegasus, where his brother now works. Very standard team-up, with a possible fix for the Worldmind, a possible start-up for Minion, and the return of a dead character with ties to Project Pegasus. Not a bad issue at all, just not Cream of the Crop good.
New Avengers #45
Hey! This book actually had some Avengers in it…for a bit. This issue showed us what happened with the Skrull infiltration during the House of M and Annihilation events (moreso House of M). It was just…interesting. Good storytelling, but only really important if you’re a stickler for continuity. I don’t think this was a story that needed to be told. I would have been happier if there had been more attention paid to Annihilation, because that affected the Skrull race and those on Earth more I think than the House of M, but this is what we got. I’ll be happy once we get some Avengers shenanigans back into the book.
New Warriors #16
I started picking this book up because it spun out of Civil War and I was a big fan of the original series. Well, at least up to issue #50. Anyways, this is a good book with a great concept. You’ve got the kids from New X-Men who lost their powers after M-Day who were given a new chance to be heroes by a mysterious Night Thrasher. Since I didn’t read the latest New X-Men series, I’m only familiar with Jubilee, Beak, and Angel. And since the last two, who had very distinctive looks in Morrison’s New X-Men, look normal now, I have a hard time telling them apart from the rest of the cast. So while I’m constantly confused about who is who, I still enjoy the stories. This issue’s story is particularly interesting, because it looks like it’ll be taking cues from one of the great stories from the original series, where reality had been changed by the Sphynx. Night Thrasher’s plan this whole time has been to build a time machine and travel back into the past, saving the previous team of New Warriors and preventing the Samford disaster, thus preventing the death of his brother and the Civil War. But of course there are problems, and things don’t work out quite as planned. I’m interested in seeing where this will go.
Skaar: Son of Hulk Presents Savage World of Sakaar #1
I thoroughly enjoyed Planet Hulk, and I would have been okay if it had lasted longer. I only mildly enjoyed World War Hulk. But I’m enjoying the Son of Hulk mini. This special issue focused on Skaar’s heritage and the history of some of the characters from the mini. All this really did was to reinforce what a badass Skaar is, and we’re pretty much getting that from the main mini. It was well told, though, with decent art, so it wasn’t a waste.
Teen Titans #63
This issue is mostly about Bombshell and expands on her origin a bit. She’s cast as a sympathetic character, although there’s still a brawl with a few of the Titans. And what’s up with Wonder Girl? Wendy survived last issue’s attack, and a funeral was held for Marvin between the issues. I think we can assume who the culprit for sending the dog was, but it wasn’t implicitly stated. Overall it was just an okay issue. I really haven’t been all that blown away with it since Johns left.
Not much really happens in the main story. The trio of villains sees their plan succeed, and that’s about it. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next issue to see what they’ve become (merged into Cronus?). The back-up story has more meat to it, showing us the story of Konvict.
Ultimate Fantastic Four/X-Men Annual #1
I’m not saying that this second part of the crossover dropped the ball, but the muddy art at the end kinda killed it for me. Brandon Peterson’s work was great, but Eric Nguyen, while his work in the front of the book was decent, seemed to quickly run out of steam by the end. Future time travel stories are somewhat odd. They usually always only give glimpses of what might be while giving an ominous warning or two. And of course the ominous warning was about Ultimatum. I love the Ultimate universe, so I’m really looking forward to what this might be.
Ultimates 3 #5
Well, this made up for a very disappointing 4 issues, pretty much just by explaining everything. And y’know what? Even with everything being explained, Loeb still pulls out a random mastermind behind the whole thing. I don’t like Joe Madureira’s art nowadays. I enjoyed it when he was on Uncanny X-Men, and while I didn’t read Battlechasers, I still liked the art. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the way it’s colored, but I’m just not a fan anymore.
My Name is Bruce #1
Wow. Only die-hard fans of Bruce Campbell need to read this. All others stay away. It’s apparently based on a screenplay, so I’m assuming it’s greatly compressed in order to tell the whole story in one issue, but wow, you can’t get much more far-fetched than this, and that’s saying a LOT for a comic book.
Walking Dead #52
This used to be such a good book. Now it’s a bad soap opera. And a quick one at that. I can usually get through an issue in a minute or two. There’s just no substance to it. Each month I hope that something new and exciting will happen, and every month I’m disappointed. I don’t know how much longer I’ll give it a chance.