AGE OF ULTRON #10 — For the most part, this is a well-executed finale. All of the guys who show up on art are talented and turn in dynamite pages. Bendis crafts a solution to the difficult problem that he has given our heroes and executes it in a believable manner that is nonetheless suspenseful. I almost believed they were going to off Tony for a minute there, even. Logan and Sue’s embrace on the rooftop was earned and surprised me by actually eliciting a fair degree of emotion, certainly much more so than I’ve ever felt at the end of any of these other Mighty Marvel Events, lo, these many years, True Believer! What’s really rubbing me the wrong way, though, is the conclusion. Not the thing with Marquez’s pages, that’s terrific and of course nobody should have drawn them but him and I’m glad, thrilled, that he’s on-board and in the mix and hurrah hurrah. I take exception, though, with the way they handled that last scene. This was the top-secret scene, the one that Quesada supposedly drew so that less people knew what happened on these pages. The reason that this issue was released all sealed up and polybagged like it was 1993. I know these are all just marketing moves to build hype, but I can’t help it, I was still intrigued to see what plot twist they were going to contain. And the answer is . . . the exact same thing that they announced to the media months ago. Angela comes to the Marvel Universe. Nothing more. At all. I was annoyed that they released that information but thinking that it was some kind of a trick, the reveal was really going to be Miracle/Marvelman being the best-case scenario, or, I don’t know, something else. Anything. Really, it’s not a spoiler because they spoiled it themselves when like the second issue of this title was on the rack, the last two pages are a splash of Angela swearing revenge on whomever brought her “here against my will” and unless this results in her setting her sights on Da Q, Axel Alonso, and her embattled creator Mr. Neil “Master Storyteller” Gaiman himself in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5, that is like the flattest ending that this otherwise enjoyable time-travel A.I. apocalypse story could have possibly received. They told us how it would end months ago. And then acted like that never happened and that the ending was some mind-blowing secret. The massive amount of idiocy inherent in this maneuver is simply stunning.
ANIMAL MAN #21 — Once again, these guys have topped themselves and produced what, for my money, is the best single issue of this title yet. Buddy and Maxine both respond to the death in their family by expressing their heroic proclivities to a greater extent, though the difference in their power set means that they are operating on vastly different scales. Lemire also makes the intelligent choice to juxtapose Buddy’s on-panel action scenes against various folks’ comments on current events via social media, doing a terribly effective job framing the disconnect between their media-driven perception of reality and what’s actually going down. It is an ugly celebrity-devouring culture in which Buddy has submerged himself, and this couldn’t be driven home more effectively than having commenters posting and arguing over whether or not Buddy’s powers should take him out of contention for Best Actor or that the current Animal Man sightings are just a hoax while he’s getting knocked out by some horrific creature. Only <
WONDER WOMAN #21 — All right, I guess everybody in my New 52 books just decided to hit the gas this week. Chiang returns for all twenty pages and gives us just a hell of a throwdown between Diana and the monster with no name that I guess we’re just supposed to call The Firstborn. And then a whole bunch of crackletastic-type stuff happens that I really don’t want to go into because it was such a grand and glorious surprise to see it just dropped in like it was, but suffice it to say that this is no problem the best issue of this title’s second year and I absolutely can’t wait for the next two issues.
BATWOMAN #21 — Francesco Francavilla is the perfect choice to illutrate this third interlude starring Killer Croc. His layouts are more evocative of Williams’ work than anyone else has thus far managed but his raw and pulpy style suits the material of this particular issue better than any other artist I can think of off the top of my head. Todd Klein’s work also stands out here, the scratchy, crooked font he’s chosen doing a fair bit of heavy lifting in terms of getting us inside Croc’s head. This entire team’s work is so strong, I could just about sign up for an entire series featuring this character and talent. They do a great job conjuring that creepy old EC feel (an equivalent to David Simon’s “The Dickensian Aspect?” Discuss . . .). Of course, our protagonist is doomed the moment he sets his sights upon one of this title’s strong female protagonists in his sights, but it is nonetheless a pleasure to watch the way in which their interaction plays out. The finest kind of fill-in issue, right here.
BATMAN AND BATGIRL #21 — Well, I was of course pretty concerned when I took this one off the stack and noticed for the first time that Misters Gleason and Gray had taken a skip month, but Cliff Richards and his two guest inkers did a fine job filling in. (and bully for Gleason/Gray, it must be said, they took off #9 enabling Capullo’s squad down the alley on BATMAN to take the prize for longest post-reboot unbroken run on art but have turned in an utterly stellar eleven issues since then). But Barbara, though, speaking of issues in a row, when she lays it out like that, the Joker, the cave, the broken trust, Damian, yeah wow, definitely some discussion to be had with old Bruce there. Tomasi is doing fine work depicting how full-throttle close to the edge Bruce is, absolutely freaking out on first Bullock and then Barbara. And, the Bat-Cave monitors, for that matter. It’s rough seeing the grieving process play out like this, month by month. Not that I want him to or think he should get over it right away or anything. It’s just rough.
FABLES #130 — It’s never good news when Buckingham/Leialoha need a break but this book does such a great job of attracting top-shelf fill-in talent. It’s always a pleasure to see Barry Kitson’s pages. This is a one-off adventure starring the child of those two double-agent wooden soldiers who got their own two-parter a long long time ago, like #s 48-49, I want to say. Willingham pulls a bait-and-switch, we all think he’s co-opting the Weeping Angels as gargoyles but it’s really a bunch of illiterate though eloquent rat-men! A charming diversion from the main narrative. This title is so very rich in story potential, you really see how it could just keep going on forever, or at least as long as its creators’ mortal frames last.
FANTASTIC FOUR #009 — An exceptional issue here as Sue, Johnny, and the kids get benched in favor of Reed and Ben traveling back to the day of Doom’s accident or, as his multiple incarnations refer to it, the nativity. It looks great as usual, Bagley/Farmer/Mounts have a serious groove established by now, but Fraction’s characterization on this title has almost never been more pitch-perfect, he performs the dicey task of pulling off a quasi-retcon while never once letting us question that exactly this thing is all that ever happened. I do hope that Ben turns it around pretty soon here, more so than it seems like he’s going to at the end of this issue. A mopey Thing can only go so long without wearing on us.
UNCANNY AVENGERS #009—Man, the moral and philosophical debates in this title aren’t going anywhere, most talky-talk over a Danger Room session ever! This one has got a ton of set-up, the Apocalypse twins are all set to launch their assault spearheaded by their shocking crew of horsemen, what a revolving door is mortality in this Marvel universe. Remender contines to do a fine job delivering threats on a scale large enough to justify the amalgamation of these two franchises, who are all butting up against one another just the way it seems like they should if you stop to think about it. I don’t think old Logan is going to stop killing the bad guys any time soon, though.
AVENGERS #014 — Well, a lot of shit is going really badly all at once all over the world. Hickman does a great job of completely overloading the reader in a way that simulates what our heroes might be going through. I’m getting stressed out even considering trying to recapitulate what happens in this issue. It is cool to see old SECRET WARRIORS cohort Stefano Caselli back in the fold. And Frank Martin is apparently Hickman’s go-to color guy all over the place now, he’s on both Avengers books this week and seems like he’s the EAST OF WEST guy, as well. The four-face cube-men are pretty horrifying.
BEST OF WEEK: NEW AVENGERS #007 — Amidst the considerable amount of Avenging going on this week alone, this continues to be my favorite Marvel title currently published, as glorious as HAWKGUY and DAREDEVIL and all the Bendis and FF Fraction and Remender and Aaron books are. Really, not that much even happens this month, everyone’s just catching their breath after the universe-shattering events of the first arc, but it’s all still completely engaging. Come to think of it, Hickman could almost resort to the clichéd criticism of Bendis’s Avengers run being nothing but everyone sitting around the breakfast table talking and this title would remain terribly riveting. All the red/blue madness with that Swan is on hold for the moment, Terrax is just hanging out refusing to interact while she and Hank teach each other languages, Reed and Dr. Strange break bread with Doom and Kristoff, the tensions between Namor and T’Challa and their respective countries come to a head, and Black Bolt has his mad brother building some kind of insane contraption that will certainly complicate the situation down the line. Oh, and Reed has now built an entire gang of those anti-matter universe-killer bombs. The stakes on this book could not be higher and it is always a wild ride, even when we’re just idling in second gear waiting for everything to go nuclear again.