Deathblow #1 (DC/Wildstorm): Interesting choice to open from the POV of the title's protagonist being tortured. I know it's the ultra-elite IO and all, but since when did The Pentagon have suites with sunken bathtubs? The Ivana bits are a little confusing. D'anda displays an awesome shot of the inbound helos and nails the military action sequences. Brian Azzarello has some fun (Az' Aralo Prison Camp), but then wonky editing kicks in with "We're here to bring back him back to the United States." At the end of the day though, we have a very nice re-introduction of Michael Cray, Codename: Deathblow, which explains his assumed "death" six years ago in the original run of his book. Surprisingly enough, what we might have here is the best of the Wildstorm relaunches to date. Grade B.
New Avengers #24 (Marvel): Let's see... The Sentry internal monologuing about The Void. Really? Again? Borrrrring. And it really should have been called "New Inhumans," because there really aren't any Avengers in here to speak of, aside from Sentry (which is a stretch) and a brief, out-of-character-as-portrayed-in-other-Civil-War-books Iron Man. Quick "neat-o!" moment as The Sentry picks up on Black Bolt of the Inhumans not fully divulging what he knows and being rather foreboding about the war, assumably from his Illuminati connections. And Pasqual Ferry's art is very nice, particularly his rendition of Crystal, but for the most part? Felt like inconsequential filler typically associated with a padded crossover book. Grade B-.
Civil War: Choosing Sides #1 (Marvel): So obviously this is just an overpriced advertisement for some other books, but let's move on. Venom Story: Overall, snappy and engaging dialogue from Marc Guggenheim, with fun references to himself, Meltzer, Firestorm, The Atom, and picking on Songbird's name. A couple minor screw-ups, most notably the term "five-by-five" being used inappropriately. It really doesn't work in the context he uses it in. This is a military term referring to a radio transmission's signal strength and signal clarity, both of which are plotted on an ascending scale of 1 to 5. While I understand it's been largely co-opted, due in large part to Joss Whedon's character Faith (Eliza Dushku) from Buffy/Angel fame, to generally mean "things are cool," it technically cannot refer to a situation, but must be used in reference to communication to hold real meaning. What a stickler I am, sheesh! I really like Leinil Yu's art, he's come a long way. His pencils boast a weird kineticism reminiscent of Olivier Coipel, which I really dig. Grade B-. Ant-Man Story: Not that funny, and terribly inconsequential overall. It was kind of neat to see Hank Pym discover that the suit is missing and connect with Fury, but I only like that since I already read the first issue. And hey, I like the Pontiac Solstice (nee: the Saturn Sky platform) a lot, but I'm already sick of seeing it in every comic now. It's practically the main star of DC's The Rush and seems to be the new "cool" car to portray with your art style. However, it's incredibly small, wouldn't fit Fury's frame, and would be a terribly impractical choice to house the tech needed to make it a SHIELD hovercraft/floating arsenal. How nitpicky I am, sheesh! Grade C. Iron Fist Story: Beautiful art choices from David Aja; mark my words, this guy is going to be a fucking superstar one day. Check out how the strike points in the fight sequence are highlighted with yellow/orange circles. *That* is incredibly simple, clean, stylish, and cool. Fraction & Brubaker actually make a brilliant choice for a "prequel" to the ongoing Iron Fist book to start with his stint as Daredevil being the transition point. The scripting captures the tone of what I want from this book perfectly and it doesn't feel like a teaser for another book, but a complete little story, unlike the first two installments of this "anthology" book. Grade A+. US Agent Story: Kollins' art isn't very... crisp, I guess is the best word. While the script captures the personality of US Agent fairly effectively, the overall look and sound of this book is way too cartoony to share the same continuity with the supposed gravitas of the whole Civil War melodrama. Interesting Alpha Flight bits, but overall... Grade C+. Howard the Duck Story: Nice Cleveland jokes (Superman being the "big" property from rival company DC coming into register in the hometown of his original creators felt just sinfully delicious), giving up cigars played all the right meta-commentary buttons, and overall this was a quite funny commentary on the illogical and bureaucratic morass that most of us are all too familiar with. Grade B+. Guiding Light Story: The Guiding Light? Umm... what? Grade: Who Cares. Overall Grade Point Average: B-.
Seven Soldiers of Victory #1 (DC): It sure feels weighty and important, and like the common thread that had been lacking to tie all of the Seven Soliders mini-series together is to be found here. And if any of those titles had come out in the last six months, I might actually care. This is really hurt by shipping late. It touches on many different pieces of DC continuity, insinuates fun things, uses inventive faux newspaper pages, and has just different enough terminology like "Caliburn Ex Calibur" to make you go "ahh!" in delight. However, all of this richly detailed information doesn't hold up well as a single issue without the benefit of other issues being in my short term memory or the whole thing being collected. Did JH Williams really do all of the pages? You mean he does his own strong thing, then successfully apes the art styles of Simone Bianchi, Jack Kirby, Frazer Irving, etc? That's fucking impressive as hell if he did. All in all, it's a fascinating read, but I don't know if it's a *good* read. I feel like I should be eating this up, but can't seem to connect anywhere. I like the weird narrator, but don't know who he is. I like all of the characters, but whatever gravitas is implied with the resolution of their arcs doesn't resonate with me because I don't understand the impact it carries. I remember Sir Justin, his Steed, Castle Revolving, and The Sheeda all being interesting bits, but when did the last Arthurian Knight become a girl? This also has a series of multiple endings that reminded me of the criticism of The Return of the King. A very I'm-not-sure-what-the-heck-grade-to-give-this, Grade B-.
Godland #13 (Image): Hrmm, just felt a little flat. The jokes are few and flat. It suddenly feels expository, and not in a kitschy retro throwback homage sort of way. I was kind of (gasp!) bored. Grade C.
52: Week Twenty-Five (DC): This issue is another mixed bag. For every small detail that I enjoyed, there's something horribly wrong to counteract it. We have Mannheim soliloquizing fabulous lines like "Crime is the natural successor to free market consumer capitalism," then go straight to a random scene of Neron rampaging through a city for no apparent reason. We have some very fun kid's halloween costumes, like the little Black Lightning, cute lines like "MMMmm. Nature's toothbrush! Chomp!" But then, that's followed by the Black Marvel Family pulling a rather deus ex machina move, coming and going without anyone really noticing or it being followed up on. In the Doctor Fate/Ralph Dibny sequence, there are some neat references to Klarion the Witch Boy, and some demons way back from Neil Gaiman's Sandman, but then we're treated to the losers from the new Infinity, Inc. That's all topped off by a very representative example of the problem with rotating artists. These guys are so comparatively inconsistent, that when I see a guy in street clothes with an eye patch lurking about in the crowd, I have no idea that it's supposed to be Alan Scott. And that lack of clarity ruins what would have otherwise been a nice character moment between him and Michael Holt. Grade C.
I also picked up the following, most of which will likely be better than what I just reviewed. Part of the problem with having very little time on my hands and my habit of saving the best for last;
Nextwave: Agents of HATE #9 (Marvel): Ellis recently announced that this series will end with #12 and then progress in a series of mini-series. Ah well, it's still hilarious!
Planetary #26 (DC/Wildstorm): Not sure why I'm still buying the single issues and not just waiting for the second oversized hardcover Absolute Edition. Oh yeah, cuz' I need my fix of Cassaday art and Ellis' masterpiece.
Supermarket TPB (IDW): One of the coolest mini-series from Brian Wood, and that's high praise considering the strength of his writing (DMZ, Local, etc.) these days.
American Virgin: Volume 1 (DC/Vertigo): I'm still having trouble with the basic conceit of this book based on the stray issues I've sampled, but my fondness for Becky Cloonan's art is strong enough to cause cash to leave pocket.
Let Us Be Perfectly Clear (Fantagraphics): I'll always pick up anything by Paul Hornschemeier, and this harcover book is *beautifully* designed.
Runaways: Volume 6 (Marvel): This digest size TPB will go nicely with the first 5 volumes on my shelf!
12 Reasons Why I Love Her (Oni Press): I have some issues with Jamie Rich's writing style, but Joelle Jones' art is too purdy to pass up, and I'm kinda' a sucker for these Oni romance books.
Meathaus: Volume 8: Headgames (Alternative Comics): Yes! The return of Meathaus, which is really the underground anthology that all self-publishing underground anthology folks aspire to be. This one is packed with talent including Farel Dalrymple, Dash Shaw, Becky Cloonan, Jim Rugg, Troy Nixey, Nate Powell, and many others!
Star Wars Omnibus: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Volume 1 (Dark Horse): Ok, so I'm a sucker for some of the now-hard-to-find early Star Wars spin off series.
Star Wars Omnibus: X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Volume 2 (Dark Hose): Really! These small size books are so purdy and have some nice talent.
Speaking of Omnibuses... Omnibi? Umm... Omnibus Editions. There we go. I caught in the latest copy of Previews that Marvel will be publishing an Omnibus Edition of Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and others' New X-Men. How cool will that be to have a hardcover book containing 40+ issues of Morrison's "re-imaging" of the X-Men? Sign me up!