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I've dropped Uncanny X-Men.

Sure, I know to many of you this doesn't sound like much, but it is a decently big deal to me. I've been collecting the book since 1991 which is almost from the beginning of my comic collecting life. While Uncanny X-Men has been restarted a couple of times, and had a couple month hiatus at one point, unlike every other series I've been collecting since that time it's the only one that hasn't been outright canceled at any point.

More than that, over the years I've collected the back issues as well. Between reprint series like Classic X-Men and X-Men the Early Years, Marvel Masterworks hardcover collections, and a whole lot of originals I have every issue of the series going back to the beginning in 1963. So, yeah, until last week I had read every single Uncanny X-Men issue in existence.

Let's take a step back. In December 2012 Marvel ended the second volume of Uncanny X-Men and Brian Michael Bendis, fresh off an eight year stint writing the Avengers family of titles, launched (the ironically titled) All-New X-Men. This series stars the original five X-Men from the early years brought to the present by the Beast in an effort to get the Cyclops of the present to see how far from the original ideals he has fallen. When this was first announced I kind of wondered how it could operate as an ongoing title but I still picked it up anyway. A couple of months later Uncanny X-Men was restarted, also written by Bendis, which stars the Cyclops of the present who is currently wanted worldwide for crimes against humanity. Of course I picked it up too.

A couple weeks ago I heard a rumor that Bendis was going to be writing a third X-Men title and I started to examine how I felt about the ones I was reading. It turns out the rumor was without merit, but the damage had already been done.

As an aside I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed his run on Daredevil, which was for around 60 issues. And his Ultimate Spider-Man, which has been going since 2000, has been pretty consistently well regarded, though I haven't read the entire run. I've probably only read less than half at this point. Since I'm not that dedicated a fan of Spider-Man I didn't have much trouble picking up selected story-lines and skipping others. My feelings have been similar for Avengers, I've started and dropped the books numerous times over the course of Bendis's run and I've been fine with that. But now...

These X-Men books are directionless. The direction in most ongoing superhero comics is typically defined by the villain. Most heroes are reactionary figures, responding to a crisis as it happens or afterwards. Punisher, Batman, and other obsessive characters are the exception. If you read a Punisher book and didn't get that his entire life's drive is to go and kill “the bad guys” then that is an exceptionally poorly written Punisher book.

Unfortunately with All-New X-Men the villain, Mystique, is the C-line plot. We're ten issues in and the heroes don't even know the villainy that she is out there committing. The other main villain of the book could be considered present-day Cyclops and his team, who, let me remind you, have their own book in Uncanny X-Men. And there's the rub, because they are equally directionless insomuch as their direction has been so very poorly defined.

The deal with Cyclops and most of his team is that during the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover event they gained some of the power of the Phoenix Force, and they used it to enslave humanity in an effort to make things better. Humanity and its heroes, including the rest of the X-Men, didn't take that so well. Cyclops was arrested and in the Avengers vs. X-Men follow-up miniseries called Consequences, written by Kieron Gillen, the impression given was that Cyclops had accepted his new outsider status. He told Wolverine to continue running his school for young mutants and to be the public, presentable face for mutants. (Yeah, Wolverine is the presentable one now. The irony is actually intentional.) It seemed that Cyclops intended to protect the school from the outside, he'd be a moving target that would keep attention off the school and he would proactively attack mutantkind's enemies before they could threaten the school and the children. But that hasn't been seen in the five issues of Bendis' Uncanny X-Men. Yes, Cyclops has displayed a pontificating attitude as he plays the role of “mutant terrorist,” but he's also been recruiting kids to his own makeshift school in the bowels of the old Weapon X facility, the same house of horrors that experimented on Wolverine. Cyclops has even gone to the point of trying to get kids from Wolverine's school to come to his. And there's been no explanation. None. Bendis appears to have simply ignored Gillen's attempt to show humility and growth in the character of Cyclops and is instead returning to the pathetically petty rivalry that was on display between Cyc and Wolvie for the last couple of years.

To sum up, in All-New X-Men the team's purpose is to make the present, their future, better than it is, but they have no plan, or even an inkling of a plan, as to how to do that. Meanwhile the team's purpose in Uncanny X-Men seems to be feared and hated by the world while actively recruiting kids into that life because, well, I don't know, I guess that's “just what the X-Men do.” Maybe Bendis has put some more thought into it than that, but if he has I haven't seen evidence of it yet.

I'm not saying that the books are bad. Hell, they've been much worse. I genuinely can understand if other people are still enjoying them so I don't want anyone to get the impression that I'm looking down on people that do like them. (If you think the Peter Milligan run was good then, yes, I will judge you harshly.) I just myself am not enjoying these books or connecting with any of the characters, and with how many other X-Men titles are available it doesn't make sense to continue buying something at four dollars a pop. I'm still picking up other X-Men books, and having dropped these two titles I've started up Daredevil and Hawkeye, two critically acclaimed series that I've been missing.

I wanted to say something snarky like “Bendis has accomplished what Magneto, Apocalypse, Sinister and the rest never could: he's killed the X-Men.” But saying that would be a lie, and also just rude. I do imagine I now know how longtime Avengers fans felt when he took over their franchise, like someone took away my orange, replaced it with a lemon, and wondered why I complained since it was still a citrus fruit and, after all, other people were enjoying theirs.
Avenging Spider-Man #1 – Zeb Wells + Joe Madureira. I've missed Joe Mad's art, though I have to admit that it did look better in the preview pages I saw of the art before it was colored. Anyway, lots of high octane fun and Wells' writing is as witty as usual.

Fear Itself #7.2: Thor – Matt Fraction + Adam Kubert. Thor's funeral gets more detailed here, and some of it is more than a little heavy handed. Fraction won me over with the first things I read by him, Immortal Iron Fist co-written with Ed Brubaker and then The Order written on his own, but since then I have not been very impressed. It's frustrating because every time he's announced on a project I get all excited, and then I'm let down. That's what Fear Itself as well as his run on Thor have been, letdowns.

Journey Into Mystery #631 – Kieron Gillen + Whilce Portacio. Loki is in a special position as seemingly the only one that remembers Thor and knows that Tanarus, The Thunder God, is an usurper.

Magneto: Not a Hero #1 of 4 – Skottie Young + Clay Man. Someone is killing anti-mutant racists and claiming to be Magneto. Considering his history, no one believes Magneto when he says he didn't do it. Impressively written so far, deftly moving from dark and menacing to humorous. As for artistic choices, I'm really impressed that Cyclops and Magneto were drawn in street clothes when they went to speak with Captain America and Iron Man. That's unusual, but perfect for the story.

Point One one-shot – This anthology one-shot is meant to tease a bunch of upcoming projects. Nova by Jeph Loeb + Ed McGuinness features the return of Phoenix. The Age of Apocalypse by David Lapham + Roberto De La Torre offers a preview to the preview of their series. Seriously. Scarlet Spider by Chris Yost + Ryan Stegman was, well, I just don't really care. Sorry, I liked Ben Reilly, but don't care about this new Scarlet Spider at all. Coldmoon & Dragonfire by Fred Van Lente + Salvador Larroca had, I believe, the first appearance of the characters and since it is Van Lente I'm looking forward to wherever and whenever they show up. The Doctor Strange prelude to Defenders by Matt Fraction + Terry Dodson is making me more confident in the new series so hopefully it won't be another Fraction letdown. Lastly, the Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis + Bryan Hitch was, well, have you ever seen a teaser trailer for a movie that leaves you clueless as to what is going on and why you should care? That was this. The framing sequence by Ed Brubaker + Javier Pulido had art that mixed the styles of Kirby and Ditko, and quite honestly had me the most interested out of the entire mix.

Uncanny X-Force #17 – Rick Remender + Jerome Opena. The Dark Angel saga approaches its end, finally. Seriously, eight parts for this thing? Sure, there have been some neat moments, but this just seems unnecessarily long.

Wolverine #18 – Jason Aaron + Ron Garney. Wolverine + Gorilla Man + Fat Cobra make for some of the most enjoyable reading I've ever had from Jason Aaron. Maybe instead of so much drama he needs to do more comedic stuff like this.

X-Men Legacy #258 – Mike Carey + Steve Kurth. Big loud action that just barely keeps me interested and art that is decidedly inconsistent and we have another typical issue of the series that is just barely staying on my pull list. I was extremely relieved to hear that there will be a new writer in the very near future.

Green Lantern #3 – Geoff Johns + Doug Mahnke. Sinestro and Hal got along as well as is to be expected from two bitter enemies. The quality since the DC New 52 has been fairly good, comparable to the better non-crossover issues of the previous series. Too bad I don't care about Hal all that much.

Grifter #3 – Nathan Edmondson + CAFU. Grifter is the story of an ex-special forces operative turned con-man who then becomes the only person able to hear the mental communications of an alien race that is infiltrating humanity by replacing key individuals. Now that's some science fiction intrigue I can get behind. I wasn't originally going to pick this series up, despite having almost everything he was in under Image and Wildstorm, but the praise brought me to it. The fact that the continuity starts entirely from scratch doesn't bug me in the slightest. I will concede that there were some issues with the timing of events in the first issue, but it's still a good read and has been the biggest surprise of the DC New 52.

Resurrection Man #3 – Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning + Fernando Dagnino. I'm digging this, it's a follow-up to the series Abnett and Lanning wrote in the 90s which was a cult favorite of mine. It's not horribly friendly to new readers as I think some things could have been better explained by this point, but it's not impenetrable either.

Mangaman graphic novel – Barry Lyga+ Colleen Doran. If you're tired of meta commentaries upon storytelling forms and genres, then don't even consider this. If you are still interested in them, though, this is an excellent one. This is the story of a young man from a manga-style universe that has been transported to the “real” world. The scientist acting as guardian to Ryoko suggests that he attend high school to interact with others. There he meets Marissa, and drama ensues. Oh, and some hijinks, too. Colleen's art is gorgeous and she manages to deftly mix the styles. Barry's writing did at times border on cloying, but considering the meta commentary going on I just went and enjoyed it. It was well worth the $19.99.
What I'm hearing: Kenneth Branagh's commentarty on Thor
Been a seriously long time since I've done this. Here we go.

Annihilators: Earthfall #2 of 4 - Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning + Tan Eng Huat. Clever writing, gorgeous art, and brutal action. This issue, like most of the Abnett & Lanning Marvel Cosmic books, is like a heavy flogging. It gives you a series of intense and surprising hits, and it leaves you jazzed. It beats life into you.
The back-up Rocket Raccoon and Groot tale by Abnett/Lanning + Timothy Green II is a hilarious meta-delight as they find themselves at the mercy of entertainment demagogue Mojo.

Astonishing X-Men #43 - James Asmus + David Yardin/Norman Lee/Rachelle Rosenberg. This is just a one-off tale focused on Emma Frost and Danger. We get a little more development for Danger, a character that was abandoned to plot-point status immediately after being created. Oh, wait, she was created solely for a plot point. Nevermind. It's nice that there has been something done with her, but it will probably be a couple more years before it happens again. Overall, though, it could have been skipped and we could have just gotten into the upcoming run by writer Greg Pak.

Deadpool #45 - Daniel Way + Salva Espin. We're introduced to Evil Deadpool (surprised they didn't go with Dark Deadpool), an even crazier version of the character that is made up of various parts that have been cut off Deadpool over the years. Salva's art is fantastic and really helps to sell the over-the-top absurdity on display here.

FF #11 - Jonathan Hickman + Barry Kitson. The super hero community has been gathered. Ronan the Accuser has resurrected the Supreme Intelligence and called in the Kree fleet to attack the Citadel of the Inhumans. And the Cult of the Negative Zone are making final preparations for the coming of Annihilus. Hopefully with the super-duper-sized relaunch of Fantastic Four next month with issue #600 Hickman will finally fucking resolve one of his goddamn plotlines. Damn it, man, commit to a story and finish it, for fuck's sake. Getting so damn annoying. It's like Lost all over again.

Incredible Hulk #1 - Jason Aaron + Marc Silvestri. I'm not sure how long I'll keep up with this. First off, Aaron always has a big black mark against him for me with any new project based upon the massively frustratingly stupid ending to the first storyline I read by him, Wolverine: Get Mystique. (So, after six issues or so of hunting her down Wolverine finally catches up to her and then does what? Stabs her and leaves her to die in the desert. Look, she's been left for dead countless times and has always come back. Why? Because she's a shape-changer. I don't see something like a stabbing, even a gut wound, actually being the thing to take her out. Having a master killing machine like Wolverine fucking overlook this is, to me, simply the height of moronically bad writing. Aaron may not ever be able to live this down for me.) Secondly, the idea of having Hulk and Banner split is not as original as Marvel is touting it to be, and every time I hear that it is I lose more interest in the tale. Lastly, the whole "Banner has gone evil and now the world needs the Hulk to fight him" idea may be a new twist on the Hulk story, but it's certainly not original. Without a good damn explanation for Banner's turn this will be total crap. And the longer they drag out that explanation, the less patience I'll have.

Journey Into Mystery #630 - Kieron Gillen + Richard Elson. This series is consistently the better of the two Thor titles, this with the fact that it doesn't have the editorial darling writer. Here we get a Volstagg focused issue that has laughs aplenty with his versions of the the original fall of the Serpent as well as of the events of the just-completed Fear Itself crossover. But there's more than laughs, there's heart too as Volstagg puts on a brave and confident face to his friends and children despite the guilt he feels for having helped ensure the prophecy that led to Thor's death.

Mighty Thor #7 - Matt Fraction + Pasqual Ferry. As an epilogue to Fear Itself we get a flashback issue detailing the rise and original fall of Cul, now known as the Serpent, the Asgardian God of Fear. Nothing worth mentioning beyond that. I told you that the other series is better.

New Mutants #32 - Abnett/Lanning + David Lafuente/Robbi Rodriguez. Another Fear Itself tie-in. Still a fantastic series. And some people may complain that the ending was a little too convenient, but it works for me.

Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger #3 of 3 - Nick Spencer + Emma Rios. Not a lot of story, but has undeniably gorgeous art. I'm not really sure why I'm a fan of Cloak & Dagger, it's not something I've ever been able to put into words, but this miniseries did satisfy me.

Venom #8 - Rick Remender + Tom Fowler. Spider-Island tie-in. Venom takes on the Spider Queen, but even an assist from Steve Rogers may not be enough. Remender does a good job of layering the different issues that Venom has in his life. The final letter from his deceased father overlaid over the fight, a narrative device that can easily fail, was done very well.

Wolverine & the X-Men #1 - Jason Aaron + Chris Bachalo. Another new Jason Aaron project, though this one is off to a better start and I am less apprehensive about it. Wolverine has restarted the school. That's right, it's Headmaster Logan. That itself is an interesting idea. Then we have Bachalo on board for art. If you don't recall, he was the artist and co-creator of one of the previous outings of the school for young mutants, Generation X.

DC Comics Presents: Jack Kirby Omnibus Sampler one-shot - Almost 100 pages of Jack Kirby stories from 1957 and 1958? Yes, please. I'm finding his pre-super hero art very interesting, and could swear that some of this looks like it was inked by Steve Ditko. They don't even know who the writers of the tales were, let alone the inkers, so there's no sure way to know. Still, it's fun for us stuffy old timers.

Justice League Dark #2 - Peter Milligan + Mikel Janin. As one of the series I was most excited about in the New 52 (Shade the Changing Man and John Constantine in the regular DC Universe!) it's been a significant letdown so far. Owing to just how goddamn decompressed the storytelling has been I can't tell yet how most of the characters are going to be portrayed. Only got a few pages of Shade last issue and none this issue, so I still don't know how similar or different he is to any previous versions. Constantine and Zatanna get some spotlight this issue, but the book is trying so hard to be creepy that it doesn't bother taking any time for character development. If this doesn't start pulling itself together quickly I'm not sure how long I can put up with it.

Cobra #6 - Mike Costa + Werther Dell'Edera. With the Cobra Civil War storyline running through it this series isn't as fantastic as the previous volumes, but it is still has that claustrophobically intimate view of the espionage/terrorist world that made the others so damn good.
I may end up hitting the size limit here because I've got a lot of Hauls here. Since this is primarily a list, a very, very, VERY long one, I'm putting it behind a cut. I have additional notes on some things, but I'm going to do separate larger entries on some of the most significant things.

And away we go...Collapse )
What I'm hearing: Ru Paul's Drag Race
So the big news in comics last week was that DC is rebooting their line of superhero books. Come August, a lot of things are ending, and come September, there will be 52 #1 comics hitting stores as DC starts fresh. Some stuff will carry over, but it's not clear how much. But even series that have continuously run since the 30s are not safe. Detective Comics, the series from which DC got its name (Yes, DC Comics is technically Detective Comics Comics), a series which will be hitting issue number #881 come August, will get the reboot treatment. No word yet on the premier super hero comic series, Action Comics, which just celebrated issue #900 last month.

(In an aside, the venerable Detective Comics will be illustrated by Greg Capullo, a guy who has been doing Spawn for over a decade and has become a Todd McFarlane clone. Batman will be both written and illustrated by Tony Daniel. Yeah, he's been doing some Batman comics for a little while now, but he's still best known The Tenth, a very 90s-tastic Image title. As an amusing bit of trivia, both guys worked on X-Force in the 90s. Don't people make fun of 90s Marvel and Image comics? Yes, they do.)

But bigger than that is that fact that DC will be releasing digital copies of all of these titles at the exact same time that the hard copies hit the shops. Not a couple weeks or even months, if at all, as things stand now. Nope, same date. Shops are fretting, it's difficult enough to figure out how much to order of a brand new series, and it appears that quite a few things are going to be new, but now they have to figure in the digital cut as well. Order too many and they are stuck with overstock that they can't move. Order too few and customers could be driven to the digital or even another shop. Neither outcome is a good one.

Now, I don't see shops closing overnight, we didn't see record stores, book stores, and video stores close overnight as those things moved to digital. But we did see them cut back. And we did see more than a few wither and die. So, yeah, when shops look at other things that have gone digital they don't get encouraged.

On a personal level, all this talk of digital comics has caused me to really show my comic snobbery. It got me thinking about how I prefer the physical books and the sense of timeliness they provide. With reading old comics I find it interesting to read the letters pages and editorials, and to see what else came out around the same time without, say, having to go and hunt around on the internet. Those things give a book context which is an important piece of the experience for me. There is an entire tapestry of comics as a whole which gets lost not only in digital copies but also with collected editions.

Hell, show me an ad from a comic book that was done after, say, 1975, and I can probably guess when it is from within 3 years.

I'm serious.

So if I bought a copy of the original Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 1963, a rather valuable comic, (I just spotted a copy on Ebay for almost $16,000), and one that I have read in reprints, I would still page through it to get the real experience.


Anyway, the big DC reboot. I'm sick of DC rebooting things. It's lazy writing. They do soft reboots, you see, instead of a hard reboot. A hard reboot says that everything that came before has been wiped away and they're starting new. Is that the height of laziness? Not in comparison to a soft reboot, and at least a hard one shows some real guts. A soft reboot says that everything that came before may or may not have happened as depicted, it's too complicated to get into right now, and we'll just deal with that later.

I repeat, "we'll just deal with that later." So what typically happens is that the writers are as confused as the readers, different writers have different opinions about what does and does not carry over, contradictions abound, and they end up feeling the need for another reboot "to clear things up" a couple years down the line. Rinse and repeat.

That's not just lazy writing, that's downright bad writing paired with a distinct lack of planning and foresight.

So, overall I saw the DC reboot as a good way to dump a couple of series.

Then they announced that Justice League International will be one of the new series. It is written by Dan Jurgens, who has done a wonderfully brilliant job on Booster Gold. And the series features both Booster Gold and... wait for it... Guy Gardner. I can't pass that up, I love Guy. But this announcement wasn't really a surprise, the finale of Justice League Generation Lost said that this was coming. The announcement was more a relief. I was strongly thinking about getting it, but to find out that it is written by a great writer and stars a couple of my favorite characters just makes me feel good about it.

No, the surprises came today. First off, Resurrection Man by original series writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning. Yes, the very same Abnett & Lanning that I have consistently been raving about. And they are back to writing a series that I loved a great deal and that ended well before its time. Holy crap!


Holy unbelievable fucking crap!

Justice League Dark... featuring Shade the Changing Man and John Constantine. It's going to be written by Peter Milligan, who wrote all 70 issues of the Shade series under the Vertigo imprint and is also the current writer on the Vertigo Hellblazer series (he's written about 30 issues at this point). John fucking Constantine is on the mother fucking Justice League. The original hard smoking occult bastard, a manipulative son of a bitch with more dead friends than live ones, should make the DCU an interesting place.

I was going to talk about the X-Men First Class film, but that will just have to wait until later.
I've spoken before about how much I like the New Mutants. I didn't actually start collecting the series until right after the original one ended (issue 100), but they are the X-Men nearest to my heart. Sure, I got the series out of order, but I was the right age and I grew up with them, and vice versa.

See, the New Mutants, owing to the fact that they don't have movies, cartoons, or even much in the way of merchandise, got to do something that most mainstream ongoing characters rarely ever get to do – they got to mature and grow beyond what they were like in their first appearances.

The growth of many characters is dependent upon the writer, and the next writer will often take them back to a previous state. The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four is a great example. One writer will be there for a little while and have him grow beyond the simple flighty hothead persona, and then the next writer will just flip him back without any explanation. On the other hand we've got Wolverine who is so popular that there are often a number of writers doing stories about him at the same time, and they still can't agree on where he is in his life.

Other characters get a big boot from editorial back to a previous state, a la Spider-Man's One More Day regression from a guy that had matured and gotten his shit together back into a “hard-luck hero” that couldn't keep any part of his life in order.

Still others end up with a cyclic progression of maturation, such as Thor. He has to get too big for his britches and then go through some ordeals to learn humility and patience. Rinse and repeat. Thankfully a couple of writers have been able to write extended runs, epics, if you will, that are simply brilliant and demonstrate what can be done with a character if you let them evolve. I speak, of course, of the runs done by Walter Simonson and Dan Jurgens. At least with Thor a cyclic nature makes sense considering the cyclic deaths and rebirths the Asgardians go through, but many other characters end up going through the same thing.

But, like I was saying, most of the New Mutants have changed throughout the years. And that makes them much more interesting than most other superhero characters. And since I read about it as I myself was growing up, they feel nearer and dearer to me than any others.

So it was with a great deal of excitement that I heard Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, a pair of writers that are probably in my top five favorites right now, were taking over the series. I was sad to see Zeb Wells leave since he seemed to love these characters as much as I do. Hell, I even feel bad for him considering how excited he was when he began it and how he had declared that he had years of ideas for it. But, dude, it's Abnett & Lanning! And having read the first issue of their run, issue 25, my excitement was not unwarranted. To say the issue was fantastic is to put it mildly.

And remember, I'm someone that is fairly restrained with my enthusiasm. I just don't let it out very often. So when I'm actually acting enthusiastic about something it means that I am at such a level that, well, an average person would be peeing their pants with excitement.

With that said, NEW MUTANTS #25 BY ABNETT & LANNING WAS FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woot, squee, and assorted other noises of delight!

Sure, someone unfamiliar with the characters will just think it's good, not TEH BESTEST THING EVAH!!1!!!1!! but it showed me that they totally understand these characters and their histories, and that this will be another run well worth getting excited over.
Carnage #1 of 5 – Zeb Wells + Clayton Crain. The 90s return as Spider-Man and Iron Man become involved in a "Maximum Carnage" revival. Crain's art is still annoyingly dark, even in scenes of full daylight.

Chaos War #2 of 5 – Greg Pak/Fred Van Lente + Khoi Pham. The human heroes have all been immobilized, so Hercules has to recruit some more divine help to take on the Chaos King. It's the God Squad.

Deadpool #28 – Daniel Way + Carlo Barberi. Of course the idea of Deadpool joining the Secret Avengers was too incredible to believe. Featuring the return of Doctor Bong.

Halo: Fall of Reach – Boot Camp #2
of 4 – Brian Reed + Felix Ruiz. The children begin their military training, and John, the future Master Chief, quickly distinguishes himself as a skilled improvisor and natural leader.

Hulk #26 – Jeff Parker + Gabriel Hardman. Thor gets a measure of revenge upon the Red Hulk, and the big galoot just has to take it. With Parker taking over as writer, this series has quickly jumped to the top of my list.
A-Bomb back-up by Parker + Mark Robinson.

Loki #1 of 4 – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa + Sebastian Fiumara. Which is the true history, the one told in Marvel comics or the one told in Norse myths? Loki is confusing the two, and is left feeling even more the outsider than usual. The first issue has already impressed the hell out of me, and I'm very interested to see where it goes. Loki is rarely handled in a fashion that is so engagingly complex.

New Mutants #18 – Zeb Wells + Leonard Kirk. And the New Mutants are down. They aren't calling the story “Fall of the New Mutants” for nothing.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: A-Z Update #4 of 5 – More files on folk.

Thor: First Thunder #2 of 5 – Bryan J. L. Glass + Tan Eng Huat. Thor's earliest Marvel stories retold. Pretty well written, very well illustrated, but poorly reproduced.

Ultimate New Ultimates #4 of 5 – Jeph Loeb + Frank Cho. There's nothing like a mad Thor. Gorgeous art.

X-Factor #210 – Peter David + Valentine De Landro. The Rahne and Rictor subplot continues, and unravels while something else, completely different, is introduced. I kind of hope it ends up going somewhere.

Muppet Show Comic Book #11 – Roger Langridge. How can you go wrong with a Bunsen and Beaker focused issue?

Green Lantern Corps #53 – Tony Bedard + Tyler Kirkham. Dammit, Kirkham is doing the art. His stuff looks like a 12 year old trying to mimic Marc Silvestri and Frank Turner. I give folks slack when they are amateur, but he's been at this a few years now and isn't getting any better. His work is as technically deficient now as it was the first time I saw it a couple of years ago. How he still gets work is beyond me.

Hellblazer #272 – Peter Milligan + Simon Bisley/Giuseppe Camuncoli. As if his fiance being in the past and getting to know his younger self wasn't bad enough, a group of demons have taken it upon themselves to try and ruin John's upcoming wedding. Pretty good stuff here.

Power Girl #17 – Judd Winick + Sami Basri. Batman!

Vertigo Resurrected one-shot
– Features a Warren Ellis + Phil Jimenez Hellblazer story about a school shooting that was shelved because it was too close to the Columbine shootings. Now it's been brought out, probably somewhat due to the just-completed run on Astonishing X-Men of Ellis+Jimenez. The rest of the stories are from various anthologies and include work by Brian Bolland, Brian Azzarello + Essad Ribic, Grant Morrison + Frank Quitely, Garth Ennis + Jim Lee, Steven T. Seagle + Tim Sale, Peter Milligan + Eduardo Risso, Bill Willingham, and Bruce Jones + Bernie Wrightson with Tim Bradstreet.

G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero #159 – Larry Hama + Agustin Padilla. Wall-to-wall action as the Joes take the fight straight to the heart of Cobra. Hama's taken four issue to tell a tale that probably would have lasted t least twelve in the regular series. Sometimes a lack of decompression can be refreshing.

Transformers: Drift #4 of 4 – Shane McCarthy + Alex Milne. Drift fully gives up his identity as a Decepticon... but he never seemed all that dedicated to it in the first place, making the gesture, and climax of the story, rather hollow.

X-Files/30 Days of Night #4 of 6 – Steve Niles/Adam Jones + Tom Mandrake. More X-Files style storytelling with vampires in Alaska.

½ trade paperbacks!
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2: War of Kings book 1 – Collects GotG #7-12 by Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning + Paul Pelletier/Brad Walker/Carlos Magno/Wesley Craig. Awesome!

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3: War of Kings book 2 – Collects GotG #13-19 by Abnett/Lanning + Walker/Craig. Also awesome!

Marvel 1602: New World/Fantastick Four – Collects Marvel 1602: New World #1-5 by Greg Pak + Greg Tocchini, and Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four #1-5 by Peter David + Pascal Alixe/Khoi Pham. The second and third of the Marvel 1602 miniseries are collected in a single volume. Pretty good, but neither captures the same grandeur that the original series held.

Sub-Mariner: Revolution – Collects the 6 issue Sub-Mariner miniseries by Matt Cherniss/Peter Johnson + Phil Briones. The fall of Atlantis and, because of it, a lead-in to his alliance with the X-Men.

Wisdom: Rudiments of Wisdom
– Collects the 6 issue Wisdom miniseries by Paul Cornell + Trevor Hairsine/Manuel Garcia. A fantastic series that gives Pete Wisdom more depth, adds some interesting characters to the Marvel Universe, and leads into the wonderful Captain Britain and MI:13.
Chaos War #1 of 5 – Greg Pak/Fred Van Lente + Khoi Pham/Reilly Brown. Hercules must lead the heroes against the most unrelenting threat the universe has seen since, well, ever. Yes, Hercules. It's fantastic, and quickly takes unexpected turns.

Deadpool MAX #1 – David Lapham + Kyle Baker. An idea long past due. Baker is drawing again instead of doing the CG art, which was simply atrocious. The jokes are a bit hit or miss, but that's typically the case with something intentionally trying to be funny. I'm glad that so far (I'm up to #3 now) the issues have been fairly self-contained. That does cause a bit of a problem with issue 3, but here it works well. Any longer and the primary joke would have gotten old.

Deadpool Pulp #2 of 4 – Mike Benson/Adam Glass + Laurence Campbell. This Cold War-era tale features the most realistic take on Deadpool that I've scene anywhere. His crazy is bubbling under the surface, creating the tension of wondering when it will burst out. And there's a complete lack of superpowers making this a Deadpool that can be injured or even killed.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West give-away - ? + ?. No, I don't know who wrote or who illustrated it. That's really annoying since I swear that I recognize the artists' styles here and there. Anyway, it's a promo for the new game, a game that really looked interested right up until they revealed that the entire thing would be an escort mission. I despise few things more than escort missions...
Anyway, the book is a nice intro, and worth the read. Grab one if your shop still has a copy.

Fantastic Four in... Ataque del M.O.D.O.K.! one-shot
– Tom Beland + Juan Doe. Like all the other Beland and Doe special, this is a pure joy to read. The team is on vacation in Puerto Rico, but of course things go awry. Monkey soldiers! Led by MODOK!

Official Index to the Marvel Universe: Avengers, Thor, and Captain America #6
Avengers #182-218, Captain America Comics #22-26, Captain America #248-273, and Thor #278-313.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 – Jonathan Hickman + Dustin Weaver. Still mostly disappointed with this series. The concepts are interesting, and keep from dropping it, but the execution as a bi-monthly leaves much to be desired. There just isn't enough actual plot progress to make up for waiting two months between issues.

Spider-Man: Back In Quack one-shot – Stuart Moore + Mark Brooks/Ray Height. Howard the Duck rocks. But first, Spidey has to break the brainwashing that has turned him into a clichéd catchphrase spewing spokesperson for a disturbingly controlling philanthropic organization. Satire ahoy!
Man-Thing back-up by Moore + Joe Suitor. Hmmm.... Appropriate for a Man-Thing tale, but really shockingly freakin' dark in comparison to the first story.

Taskmaster #2 of 4 – Fred Van Lente + Jefte Palo. It's Van Lente, it's fantastic.

Thor: For Asgard #3 of 6 – Robert Rodi + Simone Bianchi. Thor continues to have nightmares as his authority crumbles.

Ultimate Thor #1 of ? - Jonathan Hickman + Carlos Pacheco. The origin of Thor in the Ultimate universe sees Asgard assaulted by a combined force of Frost Giants and Nazis.

Uncanny X-Force #1
– Rick Remender + Jerome Opena. The man behind Fear Agents and Franken-Castle brings his sci-fi horror slant to the X-universe as Wolverine's secret team tracks down one of the X-Men's most powerful foes. The inclusion of both Deadpool and Fantomex leads to a lot of witty banter that plays well against the grim determination of Wolverine and Archangel. And then there's Psylocke. She doesn't exactly mesh into the team yet, but I trust Remender to make it work.

Wolverine #2 – Jason Aaron + Renato Guedes/Steven Sanders. Wolverine is in hell. No, really. And his body has been possessed by a demon that's hunting down his friends. Yes, the “hunting down his friends” thing does sound like a cheap rip-off of Millar's Enemy of the State storyline...

Lady Machanika #0 – Joe Benitez. So the creator of the series said to himself, “Gee, based on the cosplayers at conventions, there's a big untapped market for steampunk comics.” From that slim thought comes a decent series. It's probably a little too serious for its own good with the prerequisite mysterious past and unequaled skill at fisticuffs, but it looks good. And I am kind of intrigued to see how it plays out. To be fair, I can only think of two other steampunk comics. There's Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio, which is stupendous, or at least is for as far as I've gotten. I'm a little behind right now. On the other side is the short-lived Steampunk from Cliffhanger, by Joe Casey and Chris Bachalo, which quickly collapsed under its labyrinthian writing and art.

Marry Me – Bobby Crosby + Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar. A pop star has a bit of a panic attack and accepts a “Marry Me” sign at her accept. The guy was holding the sign for his friend that had just gone to the bathroom, and that's only the smallest part of the drama. The book is actually very funny, with characters that have a surprisingly unexpected amount of depth. The story follows a fairy tale sense of logic half the time, and the other half follows well from the revelations of the characters' backgrounds, so that could throw some people off. My only complaint is really with the production, the printing is very inconsistent, ranging from kind of good in some sections to rather poor in others. It's not the artist, it's the printer. But I was able to enjoy it despite that problem. To be honest, this was a bit of a spur of the moment buy without seeing the book or being familiar with the people that worked on it, but if there was a sequel I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

28 Days Later #15 – Michael Alan Nelson + Alejandro Aragon. And here's another fine mess they've gotten themselves into.

Batman: Hidden Treasures one-shot – Ron Marz + Bernie Wrightson (inked by Kevin Nowlan). Batman confronts Solomon Grundy in a tale told in full page pieces of art with accompanying prose. Wrightson's art inked by Nowlan is beautiful to behold, and I wish that we'd see more of it. The story itself is pretty darn week, which is probably why this had gotten shelved for a number of years.
Also reprints Swamp Thing #7 by Len Wein + Wrightson, which guest-starred Batman.

Batman: Odyssey #4 of 13 – Neal Adams. More and more it's becoming obvious that Neal needed a writer on this project to help him with the story structure. The characterization of Batman is a lot more hot-blooded than I'm used to seeing him, but that's nothing compared to the confusing time-jumps and flashbacks within stories being told to people. Ouch.

DC Comics Presents: Green Lantern one-shot – Reprints Green Lantern #137-140 by Judd Winick + Darryl Banks/Dale Eaglesham. Though it's four consecutive issues, they are a bit of a mixed bag. The first is character driven, Kyle proposes to Jade, and then subsequently finds out that his male coworker has a crush on him. After that is a two-parter featuring Kyle and Jade dealing with a no-win interplanetary diplomatic situation from which they eventually just have to walk away, or fly away more accurately. Then Kyle has some bonding time with Jade's father, the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott.

Doom Patrol #15 – Keith Giffen + Matthew Clark/Ron Randall. Seriously, Chief is such a ball-biting asshole! The team is better off without him. Again.

G.I.Joe #23 – Chuck Dixon + Robert Atkins. It's nice to finally see the Joes actually fighting Cobra. This IS supposed to be an action comic.

Transformers: Drift #3 of 4 – Shane McCarthy + Alex Milne. For the first time in his life, Drift stands up to fight for the lives of others. I'm still having trouble following his character arc in this, and understanding why he's making that decisions that he's making. I'll have to give the entire series a re-read as a single piece.
Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet #2 of 4 – Brian Clevinger/Lee Black + Brian Churilla. It's a fun ride that bears little resemblance to the original outside. And while some may hold this up as how things aren't taken seriously when made all-ages, I dig it.

Deadpool #27
– Daniel Way + Carlo Barberi. Deadpool teams up with the Secret Avengers? That can't be right...

Halo: Fall of Reach – Boot Camp #1 of 4 – Brian Reed + Felix Ruiz. I've got to admit to feelings of trepidation when I heard Brian Reed was writing this. I have yet to be impressed by anything he's done. He's not bad, merely adequate. And only adequate. At least he's going off a good story, the origin of the Spartan II program, from the novel by Eric Nylund. This is actually only a small portion of the novel, and it's such a dense novel I'm glad they've chosen to sectionalize it into a couple of different miniseries. Anyway, so far, so good. The art screams Moon Knight era Bill Sienkiewicz, and that's not a bad thing by far.

Incredible Hulks #613 – Greg Pak/Scott Reed + Tom Raney/Brian Ching. Hulk learns he had a second son... and that the little bastard is on his way to Earth to destroy it.

Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force #1 of 3 – Scott Reed + Miguel Munera. The saga of the former Micronauts continues.

Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher #4 of 4 – Jonathan Maberry + Goran Parlov. How they got away without admitting it's I Am Legend is beyond me. The Punisher at his worst, which is also his best.

New Mutants #17 – Zeb Wells + Leonard Kirk. The New Mutants get their asses kicked. They aren't calling the story “The Fall of the New Mutants” for nothing.

Oz: The Marvelous Land of Oz hardcover – collects the 8 issue miniseries by Eric Shanower + Skottie Young. The adaptation of the second novel is very good. Not all the characters are as good as the ones from the first, but that's more the original novel's fault and not due to anything Shanower or Young have done.

Shadowland: Ghost Rider one-shot
– Rob Williams + Clayton Crain. Ghost Rider takes on the core of the Hand to break the hold that the Kingpin has over him. Thankfully stands on its own from the Shadowland crossover while adding to it.

Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #3 of 4 – Christos Gage + Mario Alberti. An untold tale of the New Fantastic Four taking place directly after their first adventure. Some very nice moments between Spidey and the Invisible Woman.

Spider-Woman #5-7 of 7 by Brian Michael Bendis + Alex Maleev. Finishes up the miniseries I started at the Champion City Comic Con.

Thor: First Thunder #1 of 5 – Bryan J. L. Glass + Tan Eng Huat. Marvel prepping for the Thor film continues with another miniseries that will be ready to be collected by the time the movie hits. This series is an expansion on his earliest tales from Journey Into Mystery, including Don Blake finding the walking stick and being transformed into Thor. Also includes a reprint of that issue. I'm a big fan of the artist's work, but the reproduction here leaves much to be desired. The lines are blurry and the coloring just slightly off, looks like a crappy photocopy.

Thor: For Asgard #2 of 6 – Robert Rodi + Simone Bianchi. Bloody, violent, sometimes confusing, but mostly damn good to look at.

Thunderbolts #148 – Jeff Parker + Declan Shalvey (previously on 28 Days Later). Shadowland tie-in. T-bolts versus ninja. Lots of ninja.

X-Factor #209 – Peter David + Emanuela Lupacchino. Having a couple of different simultaneous storylines going at the same time doesn't make up for the fact that they all feel like they are dragging. I'd prefer just concentrating on a single story or two and getting through them more quickly.

Muppet Sherlock Holmes #1 of 4 – Patrick Storck + Amy Mebberson. Gonzo as Sherlock Holmes!

Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War #6 of 6 – Randy Stradley + Rick Leonardi. I'm going to have to read this series all together, because reading it monthly has been a confusing experience with too many conflicting agendas to track.

Dr. Horrible, and Other Horrible Stories
– Zack Whedon with Eric Canete, Farel Dalrymple, Jim Rugg, Joelle Jones, Scott Hepburn. Awesomely good stuff. Worthwhile for any fan of Dr. Horrible.

Empowered volume 6 – Adam Warren. Always brilliantly fantastic.

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #2 – Peter J Tomasi + Fernando Pasarin. Guy Gardner's solo excursion into the unknown sectors gains some additional members, Arisa and Killowog. Continues the great work Tomasi did on Green Lantern Corps.

Hellblazer #271 – Peter Milligan + Giuseppe Camuncoli/Simon Bisley. Shade the Changing Man has kidnapped Epiphany, and John wants her back. She hasn't responded to his marriage proposal yet.

Transformers #11 – Mike Costa + Guido Guidi. The international incident, with robots, escalates.

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac #1-4 of 4 – Tim Seely + Daniel Leister. Yep, I'm kinda hooked. This miniseries actually goes back to the beginning and deals with Cassie's origin in more detail.

Science Dog one-shot
– Robert Kirkman + Cory Walker. Come on, how can you not love Science Dog?

X-Files/30 Days of Night #3 of 6 – Steve Niles/Adam Jones + Tom Mandrake. It works.
Avengers Prime #2 of 5 – Brian Michael Bendis + Alan Davis. Gorgeous but, with having separated the three main players, the point of this series is eluding me. I thought it was to reconcile them, but they are spending a fair amount of time apart. We'll have to see how it works out in the end. In the meantime, the open Asgardian plot threads were better handled in Thor by Gillen than they are here.

Daredevil Black & White one-shot – Peter Milligan + Jason Latour give us a fight with Bullseye where Dd i handicapped with a returned ability to see. Rick Spears + Mick Bertilorenzi follow the manipulations of one of the Kingpin's men. Lastly there is a text piece by classic DD writer Ann Nocenti with accompanying illustrations by David Aja.

Deadpool #1000 - Another super-sized collections of short stories. “Luck Be a Lady” by Adam Glass + Paco Medina. “The Maltese Bunny” by David Lapham was the longest piece, surprised me at how much enjoyed it, and got me excited about the upcoming Deadpool MAX series written by Lapham. “Appetite for Destruction” by Rick Remender + Jerome Opena. “Silentest Night” by Fred Van Lente + Denys Cowan pokes some well-deserved fun at Blackest Night. “A Day in the Life” by Peter Bagge. Yes, Peter Bagge. “Today I am da Man” by Howard Chaykin was probably the weakest in the book, but I've never been too impressed by Chaykin. “No Longer in a Relationship” by Tim Hamilton was a fun short Facebook inspired piece. “Canada, Man!” by Rob Williams + Phil Bond is probably the greatest bit of parodic fun. “Mouth of the Border” by Cullen Bunn + Matteao Scalera. “Too Many Deadpools” by Michael Kuppermann. And lastly “Nightmare on Elm-Tree” by Dean Haspiel. The whole thing is topped off by a collection of the Deadpool variant covers that graced a lot of the books earlier in the year. Unfortunately the joke of some is lost without the comparison to the original cover.

Deadpool: Wade Wilson's War #3 of 4 – Duane Swierczynski + Jason Pearson. Hilariously twisted and manically unpredictable.

Doomwar #6 of 6 – Jonathan Maberry + Scot Eaton. A great finale based upon depth of character and hard decisions, leaving a lasting change in Black Panther and the nation of Wakanda. It's unfortunate that this series was overshadowed by the other events going on, I'm hoping it won't completely disappear.

Gorilla-Man #2 of 3 – Jeff Parker + Giancarlo Caracuzzo. More details on Gorilla-Man back from before he was a gorilla, as well as some Agents of Atlas related action. Good stuff.

Hercules: Twilight of a God #3 of 4 – Bob Layton + Ron Lim. I can't tell if this is more irreverently campy than the old series because, even though I only read them last year I immediately contextualized them to when they were written. That said, there are serious, dramatic moments in this series, but it's also a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Marvelman Family's Finest #2 of 6 – Mick Anglo + Norman Light/George Parlett/Don Lawrence/Mick Anglo. Dropped. Somehow it's easier to take than Silver Age DC comics, but it just doesn't hold me. I just don't care. Give me the Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman stories.

Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher #1 of 4 – Jonathan Maberry + Goran Parlov. It's The Omega Man starring the Punisher. I went with Omega Man instead of I Am Legend or The Last Man on Earth because, well, Charlton Heston is more like the Punisher than either Will Smith or Vincent Price are. Despite the lack of originality, and despite some story telling failings, it's a nice creepy tale of violence that I enjoyed.

Shadowland: Bullseye one-shot – John Layman + Sean Chen. This special is the funeral for Bullseye, and it's pretty weak. Would have much preferred if Daniel Way and Stve Dillon could have done it owing to the strength of the pair of Bullseye miniseries done a few years back. Anyway, a bunch of personality free thugs will vague motivation gather a bunch of innocent people to throw a funeral for Bullseye. One of those gathered happens to be hallucinating Bullseye's ghost throughout the affair. And, of course, since he has to get dragged into every DD related thing, Ben Urich was also grabbed so that he could write up the funeral for the paper.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 – Jonathan Hickman + Dustin Weaver. Just because you've got Galileo saving the world from Galactus doesn't mean you've got the awesomest comic ever. You still need a narrative. Narrative, dammit!

Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #2 of 4 – Christos Gage + Mario Alberti. Spidey's alien costume has escaped and taken over Mr. Fantastic. That's just the start. The story could easily be slid between issues of John Byrne's FF run, but it also stands on its own.

Spitfire one-shot – Paul Cornell + Elena Casagrande. Follows up on some open elements from Captain Britain & MI:13, so that made me happy. The story sees Spitfire exploring her vampirism a little bit as she hunts other vampires alongside Blade. It's a complex relationship between the characters, and I hope it doesn't get lost.

Thor: The Rage of Thor one-shot
– Peter Milligan + Mico Suayan. A tale from olden times highlighting Thor's feelings of alienation from his brethren. Also, dude's a Viking god, don't you forget it.

Batman: Odyssey #2 of 12 – Neal Adams. Too many narratives with the narrative. Geez, some books have too little, and some have too much.

Doom Patrol #13 – Keith Giffen + Matthew Clark/Ron Randall. The truth about Rita! Sort of. I'm still confused. Doom Patrol's history is a little... convoluted.

G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero #157 – Larry Hama + Agustin Padilla. Cobra has the US government thinking that they are the good guys, so that leaves the Joe's out in the cold. Or the fire, as the case may be. Exciting stuff that moves about 400 times faster than the regular series. I just wish they had a better artist doing this. It's most obvious when you compare the artist's version of the cover against the writer's sketch, Agustin has missed a lot of the dynamic energy that is inherent in Larry's original. If I was Larry I'd be seriously frustrated.

Transformers: Ironhide #4 of 4 – Mike Costa + Casey Coller. Delivers some loud, super-sized action that is totally freakin' awesome, but keeps in focus the heart that makes Ironhide such an endearing character.

Creature Tech graphic novel, new edition – Doug TenNapel. Probably one of the best graphic novels that I've read. Funny, creepy, quirky, and touching. We've got the Shroud of Turin, a mad scientist's ghost, cat demons, giant space eels, and an alien Jesus. That just barely scratches the surface. The main character is a scientist charged with examining the US's collection of mysterious artifacts. He's unfortunately based in the same small town he grew up with, leading to tension with both his ex-scientist, now preacher father as well as the redneck townsfolk. Then there's the burgeoning feelings that he's developing with the daughter of the local freaks and oddities show. But first he's got to stop that mad scientist's ghost's fiendish plans.

discounted back-issue buys
Black Panther: Secret Invasion trade paperback – Collects issues 39-41 by Jason Aaron + Jefte Palo. 40% off the cover price. A perfect example of why Wakanda has never been successfully invaded. Don't F with the Black Panther.

Namor: The Sub-Mariner #26 (May 1992) through 40 (July 1993). John Byrne (26-32)/Bob Harras(33-40) + Jae Lee(26-30)/Jimmy Palmiotti & Howard Rourke (39)/Scott Kolins(40). The whole pack for $7.95, a real bargain since I've been wanting to get Jae Lee's arc for years and, lo and behold, it's all here plus the conclusion of the storyline. It was really interesting watching Lee develop his style, sometimes with dramatic changes between issues as he experimented. It was also interesting seeing the dramatic story switch when the writer changed, Byrne had an amnesiac Namor battling ecoterrorists (he disagreed with their methods not their philosophies) while Harras quickly returned his memories but had him dealing with a coup led by a long exiled dark magic sect of Atlanteans.
What I'm hearing: Psych