Friday, May 22, 2015


BEST OF WEEK: SECRET WARS #2 — Now, forgive the pun, but as good as the first issue was, this was some seriously thunderous next-level business. It seems to me that it would have made a much better first issue of this whole deal, with the previous issue in hindsight serving as a much more effective finale to all that had come before packaged in a single entitled AVENGERS #45. Last issue was the end of all that came before. But this was a new beginning. And what a beginning it was! Even though the Ross cover should have acclimated us to the insanity of what’s essentially a Thor Corps, the opening scene with the young worthy from Higher Avalon serving as our entry-point character into Doomgard, a world (or nation, as it turns out) that houses the thunder knights of Doom, who go forth to wreak justice in his name. Just when we’ve barely got our brains wrapped around that, it’s off to meet a Braddock dynasty headed up by a sane James, and then there’s Mr. Sinister and Hyperion allegedly conspiring against the crown, oh but then they go to Doomstadt and the executive folks that God Doom has crouched around him are almost too much to handle in that first opening shot. And a version of the Future Foundation are still alive and well, as Dragon Man and Alex Powers-with-an-S unearth a crashed ship while giving voice to scientific speculation that borders on treason, and Doom’s ears are everywhere . . .

This is a fantastic conceit for an event. It’s kind of funny to see how CONVERGENCE basically ripped off the old SECRET WARS, but then Hickman comes roaring up doing them one or five better. Of course, I was expecting an insane map at the end and was not disappointed. He’s put that same level of craft and world-building that he did on EAST OF WEST into this monster, and there is a whole lot of ground to cover on this new Battleworld, many potentially very interesting stories to be told. Really, at first blush, given most of the creative teams listed on the solicits, it seems like just a few months isn’t enough. I could do an entire year of this. Ribic/Svorcina continue to excel, giving these pages the gravitas and weight that the massive plot demands. Very impressed with this, and they’re still just really barely getting started.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #008 — Good lord, Marco Rudy! These are probably the most beautiful pages yet, and that is really saying something. You just want to take a bath in all of that celestial brilliance. The innovative layouts, the mixed media, this book really pulls you in and never lets go. Those two sideways double-page splashes, in particular. This issue is a trip in every sense of the word, but it’s over too quickly and at such a tantalizing place to break off, too. Very glad to see the next issue solicited for a mere five weeks from now. Don’t chafe your wrists on the handcuffs keeping you at your board, Marco! This is all worth it! We love you!

DARTH VADER #005 — The creators continue to plunder the depths here and make Vader a workable protagonist, which is no mean feat. The plot thickens as we add an entire new faction to the cast, a welcome development. Larocca/Delgado once again absolutely slay it on the interiors, and Gillen is able to keep a surprise up his sleeve until just the right moment, even though it’s spoiled for you right there on the cover (I thought this was more one of those hypothetical covers that doesn’t necessarily have to come true). And of course, all of this is just set-up to make us really impatient to pick up the next issue. Fine work, all.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #004 — All right, knowing the copyright politics behind it, I (along with most other folks, I’m sure) do indeed find the retcon on Wanda & Pietro’s parentage absolutely stupid as hell. No, they were never mutants! That said, Remender sells it in-story as well as possible, and I was surprised to find my eyebrows involuntarily raising when presented with the alternative. And hell if Sabretooth’s internal monologue re: Logan wasn’t pitch-perfect Claremonty enough to make me interested in where this guy is heading. I haven’t been feeling this second volume too strongly, but this is more than a step in a positive direction. And the fold-out ad insert for all of the SECRET WARS mini-series and their creative teams, man, I wasn’t aware of those until reading this issue. That is quite a presentation, all stacked up one after another like that.

BLACK SCIENCE #14 — These guys appear to have found a way to up their game on this title again. Of COURSE we believe that Remender will kill the teenage daughter, he’s offed everybody else here and over in LOW without remorse, so the stakes are very palpable throughout this one. And but then there’s a great reversal with our hero’s overall attitude that was definitely needed, the disconnect between the principles that got them to where they are and the effect that all of this jumping has been having. Man, is this like Cosmic Time-Jump Wednesday or what? Just about every one of these titles is science fiction as hell and involves some form of time-travel or dimension-hopping. I mean, poor old DARTH VADER is the most boring one, is how we’re doing tonight. Oh well, cue the next round of yahoos.

CHRONONAUTS #3 — The hits just keep on coming. Millar can’t seem to resist having too much fun on nearly every page with laugh-out-loud concepts flying all over the place as all of the hijinx start bleeding innocent civilians together across multiple times. Players in Super Bowl 1969 getting gunned down by future timecops with their bodies flung into London 1895. A Lee Harvey Oswald gag with a punchline beat so perfect, it simply must be experienced to be believed. And the pace is so fast and furious, you can’t help but be dragged along in all of the insanity’s wake. Terrific fun, and Murphy/Hollingsworth continue to display an absolutely intimidating command of craft. Strong work all around.

ODY-C #5 — We zoom in on beautiful, bearded Hera this time out, and Christian Ward continues to deliver absolutely loony-bird eye-popping pages. Interesting tension building throughout, and then what a terrific release on that last page there. Fraction has crafted a really cool situation for himself here, very much out of what I perceive to be his comfort zone, and it’s causing him to dig deep and deliver some really compelling work.

EAST OF WEST #19 — Oh man, Babylon issues are just the best issues. Seriously, nuke everybody else in #25 and make the whole series suddenly now be nothing but him and that balloon wandering across the post-post-apocalyptic landscape of the seven kingdoms or whatever we’re calling them, and it would be one of the best books ever. Something about the tabula rasa innocence with which he views the world while simultaneously being such a hyper-genius about it all, delivered through that youthful naïveté, man, it just really works.

SAGA #28 — Staples really has this straight-digital thing worked into a very distinctive style that I feel like I could spot through a crowd of wannabes. The script was all right and didn’t put me off as much as it usually does, though once again, just opening with that aside about abortion feels like being needlessly transgressive for the sake of just being transgressive, which is happening way too much in this series, I feel like. I miss the guy who walked me down the road with Yorick Brown and 355 and that wonderful damn Capuchin named after the little sign on your keyboard up above the 7.

ASTRO CITY #23 — A talking gorilla drummer. This set-up is so immediately wonderful, it seems nearly impossible that it took twenty years for us to get to this point. I guess Busiek was out of pocket for a little while, but still. Once again, the creators join up in lockstep and do tremendous work getting the reader to not only care about Sticks in general but actually invested in seeing him fulfill his dreams. Of being a rock and roll drummer even though he’s a talking gorilla. There’s nothing in the world like this book, and we are all so lucky.

INJECTION #1 — Oh my goodness, Uncle Warren can just rat-a-tat-tat that dialogue can’t he? He’s talked before about the effect of percussion in general and (I want to say?) his father’s drumming in particular on his writing, and that’s almost never been more evident than when you get to the bottom of Page 3 here. Past that, it’s fairly standard creator-owned Ellis, which is not intended in a pejorative manner. If someone handed Uncle Warren the boilerplate, he would grab your free hand, sear all of the epidermis off of your palm with the boilerplate, and then type out some insane kind of nanite science that grafted new stem cells onto the damaged area while muttering curses about your grandmother’s dental hygiene (the cells doing the muttering, to be clear). There is nothing normal about this man or the way he crafts plot and character. We have a couple of lead protagonists, an interesting high concept that we can barely even see the tip of, and plenty of Englishness (not Britishness) to go around. And Shalvey/Bellaire are as wonderful as ever. The pacing here is the opposite of the MOON KNIGHT deal; this is very much open-ended and not a done-in-one, and I wonder if the folks who complained about devouring the other series inside of four minutes are finding this more to their liking. This is nothing more than an interesting beginning that actually barely gets its hooks into you, but I have so much regard for the creators that I can’t wait to see what happens next. The only blip in the entire affair for me is that I didn’t care for the unboxed block yellow letters in the narration, but there you have it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


SECRET WARS #1—After months of anticipation and a little more than two years of build-up, the 84th issue of Hickman’s Avengers run hits, and it is massive. There is all kinds of payoff here as the last two Earths have their own final incursion, and of course, it’s the good old 616 and the already-quite-often-rebooted 1610, otherwise known as the Ultimate Universe. Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina provide interiors that are seismic enough to equal the huge scale of the proceedings. This issue pretty much delivers everything that we were expecting right here upfront, which is a welcome surprise, the 616 vs. Ultimate Universe, but Hickman is smart enough to burn all the way through that initial conflagration and on to the next thing, which will presumably be Battleworld, only Doom is also maybe already God and Reed has just lost his entire family. All kinds of shit raining down in this one, and we’re just getting going here. This is the only first issue of a Marvel event that I’ve read that is better than SECRET INVASION #1. Really fine work, all around.

SPIDER-GWEN #004 — Wow. This time out, we hit the brakes on the action-packed web-slinging and wall-crawling for the most part and instead just take emotional body blows at the old Parker homestead for the majority of the issue. Of COURSE in any reality, Aunt May knows exactly what to say to turn it all around for the heartsick teenager. Trading Peter “The Lizard” Parker for the 616 Uncle Ben in this iteration of the Spiderverse immediately felt like a masterstroke, but it isn’t until this issue that Latour really plunges us into the depths of what Gwen’s been feeling this entire time. And what a catharsis with the band. I suppose that it would be tough to pull off and make compelling for twenty pages in a row, but just the art alone on an all-The-Mary-Janes-concert issue sounds like the most wonderful thing. This was another beautiful single, the second in a row that not only completely delivers on the promise of that first episode but ups the ante and makes me really grateful that this title is so universally acclaimed and beloved and will hopefully be around for a long time to come. Like years, I mean.

CONVERGENCE: SPEED FORCE #2 — This is nothing but good fun. Meatloaf and macaroni & cheese. Perfectly inoffensive comfort comics. It wasn’t like pump-your-fist-in-the-sky awesome but enjoyable to folks who have missed Wally and would like to see him back in the fold. I was expecting a bit more of a conclusion or cliffhanger with regard to the main narrative, some kind of hook to make me want to dial into the main series, but I guess that’s not how they’re going to do things. The Zircher art on that GREEN ARROW preview is sick.

THE FOX: FOX HUNT #2 — What makes this a quality comic is that Haspiel & Waid have been producing excellent comics for such a long time and are both such masters of their craft that they know exactly what it takes to show up and hit every beat of what makes a superhero comic book enjoyable, regardless of how familiar the reader might be with the characters. Rather than evincing shame or offering in-text disclaimers to offset any awkwardness that they might be feeling by including necessary tropes of the genre, they appear to revel in their work and celebrate it. This positive energy is reflected in the artistic product. All of this pairs up really well with Larsen’s work on SAVAGE DRAGON. The moment when Paul throws up his lobster quesadillas while the bank-robber transforms into the brontosaurus guy is an instant classic. We throw subtlety out the window and revel in the over-the-top nature of the entire medium. There is a time for subtext, but this is not that time! He wants to quit, but life won’t let him, and neither will his son, and the bank robber turned into a monster, and so here is food poisoning vomit! And there is SPROING! It is a high-fiving good time for creator and reader alike. The “heroic ideal,” indeed.

SAVAGE DRAGON #203 — All of that stuff I just said here again. Every damn month, Larsen just cranks out the business. I can’t believe I’ve only been picking this title up for the past year. All love to Brother Matt Doman for his rabid acolyte insistence that I do so. This book does a fantastic job of juggling dramatic heartfelt moments with laugh-out-loud character beats, all with such heart that the characters feel real and completely fleshed out, even and especially sporting super-strength, fins on their heads, and Kirby krackle to spare.

ROCKET GIRL #6 — The time off has served Creative well, as we return with arguably the best-looking issue to date. The art is stunning. I can’t even parse if Reeder’s a better colorist or penciler. It doesn’t matter! Opening on Annie’s hot-dog-stand slap-fight is a charming way to bring us back in, but then you’ve got to love the flashback to Dayoung’s first day on the force. “By the book from now on.” Is that other officer from the future the son of Mr. T or something? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else use the term “jibber-jabber” before. Two slight hitches: I burned right through this issue and wish that there was a little bit more meat and overall narrative plot advancement to the proceedings this time out rather than just checking back in, and that last panel is completely jarring and comes out of nowhere (especially after the break), but these ad-free pages are so beautiful, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.

JUPITER’S CIRCLE #2 — Frank Quitely doesn’t do anyone a favor when he provides the cover for an issue that doesn’t feature his interior art because no matter how good you are, you’re going to come up short. What gravitas, what body language. I was a little bit surprised that this issue was again pretty much ninety percent about Blue Bolt being potentially outed by Hoover, but the resolution of that plot makes me hope that Millar’s going to pass around the spotlight a bit more evenly now. Torres does deliver some fine work, I should say.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #8 — Oh 3-D Cowboy, our old pal, never leave us again and we will certainly afford you the same kindness! And always stay drunk. Very cool of past Star Fighter to use the go-to CCP Comics phrase of disparagement, “Eat a dick.” And the “I have no clue what I am looking at” is the kind of punchline that it takes multiple time-traveling incursions to earn.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #10 — McKelvie/Wilson really outdo themselves here. That long shot of the two kids flying into Hyde Park over hundreds of thousands of fans congregating is some pretty special business. Those black hole masses of supplicants who can never get enough. I think Gillen is making some kind of commentary about the rampant and insatiable consumerism that is raging through Western society, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, London!

ZERO #16 — Taken as a single issue, this is a moderately interesting sequential adaptation of some core concepts of Burroughs with Ginsberg as his co-pilot. It’s too soon to be certain before all is said and done, but at this point though, in terms of the series as a whole, tucking the main narrative into the notion that it’s all being channeled by a drug-takin’ WSB in 1961 Tangiers really seems to cheapen and devalue the titular story and doesn’t add any new weight to the overall affair. It would be interesting to know if this was always the plan or Kot just like drank some ayahuasca tea before it was time to plan out the third arc and then just had The Best Most Important Idea Ever (Or, So It Seemed At The Time).

BEST OF WEEK: DESCENDER #3 — More gorgeous and glorious science fiction beauty. The plot thickens with regard to The Harvesters’ methodology, and our hero-bot is reunited with his creator. Nguyen continues to deliver magnificent work that straddles the line between expressionism and impressionism and that can only come from years of operating at the top of his game. Lemire keeps on imbuing his characters with small quirks and foibles that render them all the more human and fleshed out, even if most of them are robots. And that’s not even counting terrific sub- or meta-textual bits like TIM-21 being pulled out of what is for all intents and purposes a near-death experience only to then literally meet his maker. The deal is, on first blush this series doesn’t scan as like some really dense hardcore work of fiction. The premise is simple enough. But the more you engage with this apparently simple fable of a little robot who thinks and acts just like a real boy, the more you find right there beneath the surface. It is immediately easy to empathize with this character and want to protect him, to want nothing tragic to befall him. These guys make that simple narrative trick seem so easy, so effortless, but I can attest that achieving this level of craft is anything but. I know that art is subjective and suppose that some people’s mileage will always vary, but this is as good as comics gets right here for me, pure raw story seething and surging up from the heart of ideaspace, and they’re still really only just getting started.

Friday, May 8, 2015


BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY #2 — At long last, it comes to this. I had been meaning to go back through the entire deal but never had time so when it got to Wednesday, I made the questionable call to read every single issue from Page One on, meaning that my day at work was more than a little wobbly, but by the time it was time to read the new comics, I still had the GUIDEBOOK and MASTERMEN and ULTRA COMICS left, so before I even cracked this thing open, I had scorched my brain out with 340-something pages of all that had come before since waking up. And the finale is magnificent. It not only delivers incredibly satisfying resolution to the initial plot from #1 but was wonderful enough to veer around through several of the other Earths that we only got glimpses of through Guidebook entries, the rhyming of the SuperDemon of Earth-13 being the most wonderful breakout example. Apparently the Li’l Batman of Earth-42 met an unfortunate fate on Earth-17 after the last time we saw him, which was a very unfortunate Easter egg. Morrison does a great job balancing the ensemble. I still can’t believe not only how much panel-time that Captain Carrot got but how terrific he was throughout. Really almost the breakout character! And Red Racer runs up out of nowhere to steal the show. I was a huge fan of how he not only one-upped me by reading the entire back-catalogue in-between panels and then explicitly referenced Flash’s sacrifice in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. But for all of this sound and fury and dimension-hopping and resolution, this whole massive event turns out only to be the beginning. I could not believe it when Nebuloh, the adult universe of Qwewq, showed up at the end, but of course that’s so obvious in hindsight! And poor lost Multiverse-2! And the over-the-top madness of Operation Justice Incarnate! All so wonderfully counterbalanced by Nix Uotan’s own personal crisis to just make the rent. This was another masterpiece that ranks with Morrison’s finest work such as FLEX MENTALLO, NEW X-MEN, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, SEVEN SOLDIERS, and the brilliant BATMAN/FINAL CRISIS run. It is so inspiring to see such an imagination still firing at maximum capacity and getting wilder all the time.

BATMAN #40 — Way to make the line-wide event nonsense work for you! The last time something like this lined up so well was when Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” was released during the post-FINAL-CRISIS time-zone when Bruce was apparently dead by Omega Effect, which lent the Gaiman/Kubert tale of Batman’s funeral an added resonance of being in-continuity and “counting” more than it certainly would have if it had been released opposite four other titles of Bruce Wayne swinging around and kicking ass that month. So, the deal here is that Snyder/Capullo/Miki/Plascencia bring at least The New 52 portion of their program crashing down around our protagonist’s pointy ears as the Endgame finally comes to a resolution that appears to be every bit as final as the entire arc has been teasing from the get-go. Over the past three and a half years, this team has done a hell of a job carving out a modern-day run that can stand tall with the all-time classics, and this finale, while not necessarily the definitive capstone on the entire endeavor, is definitely a compelling finale to all that has come before and worthy of being in the company of Miller, Morrison, and O’Neill.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #40 — First of all, good on DC for bringing in Kevin Maguire to draw the first nine pages of this book. No one can do Justice League for you like that man. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Lee/Williams and all of those other guys pitching in on the back end, there. Beautiful pages throughout, a hell of an art-jam issue. The story? Well, Johns basically does a cover version of Kirby’s classic “The Pact” from NEW GODS #8 and then borrows some pages from Morrison’s MULTIVERSITY GUIDEBOOK that just came out like three months ago and has Metron narrate the entire history of DC events to us in an attempt to fashion linearity out of corporate grand-unified-narrative insanity, all before introducing Darkseid’s daughter, who appears basically to just be the new Hot Topic version of Raven but is supposed to inspire dread. The art was terrific.

CONVERGENCE: DETECTIVE COMICS #1 — This is more the caliber of creative talent that I feel like they should have brought in across the board on this event. Wein/Cowan/Sienkiewicz lay some interesting groundwork here, juxtaposing the relationship between the Helena Wayne and Dick Grayson of Earth-2 with old Comrade Superman of the Red Son Earth-30. I was, in particular, a fan of the chemistry between Dick & Helena. We didn’t as much see them in action as get vignettes of how they related to one another, which was more compelling than just watching them beat dudes up. It looks like that might be over and done with, but it was nice while it lasted.

CONVERGENCE: SHAZAM #1 — Now, this business right here is exactly what I am talking about. Why couldn’t every CONVERGENCE title just knock it out of the damn park like Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and Jordie Bellaire do here? This issue gives that THUNDERWORLD a run for its money, even! So so good. The characterization is spot-on. The art is intricate and fully realized but still stylized enough to match the cartoonier aspects of its subjects. There is adventure and just the right time to cry magic words. This was a wonderful wonderful Shazam issue, and we didn’t even have time for the Gotham by Gaslight folks. Which is a real shame. I would say, minimum, I would love to see a corresponding Gaslight solo issue before bringing the two together in one final issue, but I know that we’re just one more and done. It’s a shame. I would have devoured six issues of this business. I was certainly a fan of Parker’s AGENTS OF ATLAS a few years back, but he has struck gold again with this art team and these characters. Surely the best CONVERGENCE title of them all, just magical.

MORNING GLORIES #45 — Some pretty dark shit re: Jade, my friends. More rock-solid storytelling from that rascally Eisma. I like how Spencer starts off with Claire’s mother out in the road in 3.12 and then winds up with poor old Locke hanging out there at the end of 5.07. Glorious old MGA really has it in for its students’ parents, seems like!

BITCH PLANET #4 — All right, after getting some set-up out of the way, I found this done-in-one to be a bit more satisfying than the previous three issues. And that is not a reference to the obligatory shower scene(s). But the art is more banging than ever, Megaton seems like a pretty cool sport, and I’m digging the agency of our heroine as she refuses to get gamed by the system. Bring on #5!

SCARLET COUTURE #1 — I have been a fan of Des Taylor’s pin-up art for some time now and was happy to pick this up to support his foray into sequentials. This book is as good-looking as anyone familiar with his work would expect. There is a highly stylized and very bright Fleischer-by-way-of-Timm thing happening here that is very much its own thing. This fashion-meets-espionage gig is a solid thing to explore. It does seem like he might be limiting marketability with the dips into more adult language. While it’s certainly well within acceptability of the genre, the cartoonish style of the art could definitely draw in readers of any age.

PRINCESS LEIA #3 — Another stirring adventure as Leia, Evaan, and R2 blast their way through Stormtroopers, droids, giant monsters, and anything else that gets in between them and any stray Alderaan refugees. This refugee-pickup thing is very solid long-term motivation for our princess, and Waid does us a favor by advancing along the mole/spy plot pretty quickly, and the Dodsons/Bellaire continue to blow it up on every single page.

DAREDEVIL #015 — Another dynamite installment from one of the most consistently excellent creative teams making comics today. Matt’s new look continues to delight, the Owl’s apparently omniscient spyware is freakier and freakier, and an old friend returns just in time to welcome all of the kids tumbling into the situation from Netflix. It’s a testament to the overall strength of this run that I haven’t even missed him until now.

FANTASTIC FOUR #645 — And so we come to another end of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. Robinson/Kirk/Kesel/Aburtov certainly pull out all the stops here. It’s big and loud and guest-starring everybody, but of course, it all comes down to Val to save the day with the brightest intellect of all. Both of the Torches barely making it was also a nice touch. The creators did a fine job all around, but this issue might have suffered from getting billed as THE FINAL END, you know? I’m afraid that anyone who might care enough to get worked up about this title actually coming to a close is too jaded to believe that it could actually ever happen. There will be a new #1 in a few months, and if that volume makes it 54 issues, I guarantee that the next issue will be a milestone #700th issue, and we’ll be right back off to the races once again. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The pages and pages of creators discussing their favorite covers was by far my favorite section. Kirby forever!

SILVER SURFER #011 — I knew that Slott & Allred were hyped about this ahead of time and with good reason. This comic is a damn Mobius strip, twisting and wrapping around itself with the content of the power cosmic and a stray chrono-cannon providing the reason for the form and resulting in a delirious and intoxicating sequential experience that leaves the reader as disoriented as our heroes. It’s almost a shame to resolve the new Battlestar Galactica status quo established last issue so quickly, but this was a hell of a way to do it. All the while, Slott never loses sight of his characters and even manages to make us care about a couple of supporting players’ points of view who I don’t even think we’ll revisit, all the while pushing the narrative forward. And the Allreds outdo themselves, turning in the best-looking stack of pages yet, never even mind the upside-down flip-book trickery. This continues to be an incredible run on a character that almost no one manages to get right.

AVENGERS #044 — This one let me down a bit. That plays into expectations I brought into the situation. I knew going in that this was going to feed into SECRET WARS, but I still expected there to be some sort of solid milestone resolution. This has been a hell of a run that has managed to steadily escalate and raise the stakes across a combined 77 issues pumped out in a little more than two years, just as fast as Mighty Marvel could super-collide them into being, and while I wasn’t expecting a definitive THE END, or certainly not even anything as perfect and beautiful as the two-part finale of Hickman’s FANTASTIC FOUR/FF run, I was hoping for more than a zoom-out and a “See You Next Week for SECRET WARS!” There were several memorable moments. You have to love T’Challa giving it to Obama straight or Ultimate Reed introducing Nick Fury & Hawkeye to 616 Thanos & Maximus (a nice bit of lettering there, keeping the Ultimate guys in lower-case and juxtaposing the 616 villains in all-caps). The long flashback to Steve & Tony in the diner was certainly trying to hearken back to the whole genesis of this thing, but it felt forced. The Kev Walker art didn’t help. While Stefano Caselli brought the usual justice, Walker’s perfectly serviceable efforts did not mesh well nor seem to be of the A-list caliber that a finale like this should merit. It is unfortunate that Hickman’s old S.H.I.E.L.D. collaborator couldn’t have made it in for a few pages instead. I don’t know, maybe with the Civil War now brewing in the Mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe (not to mention the impending horror-show of Snyder & Goyer trying to blow up all of their Superman & Batman toys), I’m just tired of watching my heroes pitted against one another, but it was kind of a drag to have the grand summation of this deal amount to nothing greater than Captain America and Iron Man repulsor-raying and beating the shit out of each other under red Crisis skies, of all things. Maybe all of this will seem more awesome in hindsight, and I am certainly still looking forward to SECRET WARS next week, but as the finale of a truly epic run judged on its own merits, this one came up short for me.

NEW AVENGERS #033 — On the other hand, this one worked. I don’t know if it’s because the first issue lowered my expectations, or if I’m just still such a fan of Hickman carrying over his six-years-and-running mastery of Doom from the FF run, or if it was that last-page twist framing the timeline of all of this, but this one landed for me. Deodato/Martin once again absolutely burned it down on the interiors. It was interesting to get the secret origin of the Black Swans and all of the machinations that have been driving our extra-dimensional antagonists for this entire run. Bring on the carnage. There is only SECRET WARS!