New Avengers 17: best issue yet! (gush gush)

Bendis' New Avengers has had its ups and downs, but man, was this issue ever an UP. Just entertaining in so many ways. Comedy, action, great story points... I haven't enjoyed many comics this thoroughly lately.

The Avengers staking out a random neighborhood -- brilliant.

The reporter's reaction to running across them in Detroit's Highland Park -- priceless.

The threat coming in from Canada -- scary.

Touching on Sentry -- unavailable because he's got emotional problems -- nice.

Iron Man asking Spidey to help as a scientist rather than a super hero -- cool.

Carol Danvers barging in just when Iron Man's getting somewhere with the flaming guy -- totally in character.

Cap's line "seat belts" -- friggin' hilarious.

The last page -- Ooh, this looks good.

Can the next issue be any better?!

Well done, I guess, but geez...

Having read the first two installments of "The Blood of Apocalypse" (X-MEN 182 & 183), I'm feeling kind of torn. I mean, it's a well-told story, but it's pretty heavy on the "squirm factor."

First of all, we have ol' Poccy painfully turning a character named Gazer into the horseman War. While what we see of the transformation process is not overly graphic, just the fact that he's screaming so much from the pain made me awfully uncomfortable.

Sunfire has been turned into the horseless horseman Famine. Somehow, Sunfire lost his legs --I'm not sure, but it may have happened in the Wolverine "Enemy of the State" storyline. Don't quite recall now. Anyway, that was kind of squirm-inducing, too.

Poccy plans to wipe out most of humanity, and let the remaining ones battle it out with those mutants that remain (following House of M, when many mutants lost their powers) for world dominance. To save some humans from pestilence, he tempts them into drinking an antidote that he refers to has "blood". Not looking forward to finding out where he's getting this stuff.

Then, seemingly without any foreshadowing, Gambit decides to join forces with Poccy and drinks some blood. I just couldn't quite make that fit with Gambit's characterization. There didn't seem to be enough impetus for him to take a step like that.

The gloomy, odd way that Aron Lusen colored Salvador Larroca's art in #183 added to the feeling of overpowering menace. Which I'm sure is the feeling the creative team was going for. But I just didn't feel it was quite necessary to have the characters, especially Gazer, in so much pain. For what purpose? Is this entertaining somehow? To someone?

Playing catchup

Life has been insane lately, and hasn't allowed me to keep up on this blog, although I've kept up on reading comics. A few quick comments on some stuff I've read:

REVELATIONS final issue: Wwwwwhat? This was probably the most unsatisfying end to a murder mystery I've ever seen. Suddenly, the story is supernatural. Not a clever plot twist so much as an abrupt genre change.

SPIDER-MAN & BLACK CAT final issue: Not "The evil that men do" but " the flashbacks that men have." In these last two or three issues, virtually all the important action was taking place at various points in the past! And then another completely unsatisfying ending -- it wasn't an ending at all. Great, another guy will be Mysterio now. I was hoping for an actual, you know, END.

CAPTAIN AMERICA 14: This is more like it. Ed Brubaker's run on Cap has been great so far. Probably the best Marvel I'm currently reading. Although I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone but a Marvel fanboy. Not the kind of thing that would interest the unconvinced that reading comics is worthwhile. For that, maybe I'd break out Alex Robinson's TRICKED.

THING 4: Why, when Dan Slott's SHE-HULK is so much fun, is Dan Slott's THING so cliched and boring? I'd cancel my subscription, but it's probably going to get cancelled soon anyway, so maybe I'll wait it out. The art's great, though.

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN 23: Why, when Marvel has made a habit of "rebooting" comics to #1, did they turn around and change the title of MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN without rebooting?? I'm baffled. Story was OK, but I've never heard Mary Jane swear so much. Seems out of character for her.

The Other

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 4: The Other pt 10. This "event" story is finally becoming mildly interesting. Now that we're done with all the dying and resurrection nonsense and kind of finally getting to the point of the whole storyline.

New Thunderbolts 17: Baron Von Strucker is revealed to be alive, and Swordsman is revealed to be his son, who was being controlled by Baron Zemo via the Purple Man. Got all that?

This was a case where I really wish Marvel would go back to using footnotes. Apparently some people complained that they were just shameless plugs and interrupted the flow of the story, but often I appreciated them, especially in a case like this where they're referencing an event in another title -- in this case, Strucker's apparent death, killed by his wife in an issue of Wolverine during Mark Millar's "Enemy of the State" storyline. Supposedly the man killed in that story turns out to have been some kind of genetic duplicate of Strucker -- go figure. Anyway, I thought it would have been better for them to reference the relevant issue of Wolverine, but all they mentioned (on the review page at the beginning of the issue) was the Wolverine crossover with Thunderbolts during "Enemy of the State", right before Strucker supposedly died.

I've read some other comics lately, too, but don't have anything specific to say about them -- and I've got a lot of other stuff going on right now. Briefly, they were Avengers 44 (Sept 2001), Simpsons 114, and Cable 22 (August 1995).

Please defend me from Defenders

Defenders #4 -- This issue was played less for laughs than for gross-out. Did we really need to see hellish versions of our realities super-heroes? Did we really need to see evil Dr. Strange tell evil Thing to cut out non-evil Clea's tongue? (At least we didn't see it actually happen.) And the intended jokes there were just seem stale and predictable. If this were a regular series, I'd cancel my subscription. But it's only 5 issues, so I guess I'll suffer through the last one, since I already have it!

What got into J.M. DeMatteis, anyway? He's certainly been capable of better than this in the past...

But I've seen one of those before!

X-MEN 180: "What Lorna Saw" -- if you haven't been reading, the X-men (well, one team of them) were out in space a few issues back (just imagine if they were ALL in space -- man, Marvel earth would be noticibly less crowded!) and Lorna (Polaris) saw something out there. But what was it? Well, finally we get to see it on the last page of this issue. And somehow it looked... familiar. But not from Marvel Comics. Reminded me of a character from a Japanese children's show!

CABLE & DEADPOOL 24: "Sticky Situations" -- Deadpool is great.. with the right writer. Fortunately, Fabian Nicieza is one of the best there is at writing 'Pool. He should be, he created the character! A good Deadpool writer has to make the Merc with a Mouth's comments roll-on-the-floor funny, make him murderous, but not try to make death something humorous. Some of the later writers in the old Deadpool series made that mistake, before Gail Simone made the series, if not as awesome as it was under Joe Kelly, at least readable. The name of the offending writer escapes me now...

Anyway, in this issue 'Pool is after a Daily Bugle reporter who just happens to have Peter Parker in tow -- thus, guess who guest stars? Fine, except... I didn't think Pete worked for the Bugle anymore! His job has ostensibly been teaching high school, except what with dying and being reborn, he hasn't had much time to be a teacher. At any rate, J. Jonah Jameson has practically become a non-character in the Spidey books. So it seemed a stretch to have Pete asking him for an advance in this issue -- perhaps 'Pool was meeting an earlier version of Spidey again, like he did in Deadpool 11? (Man, was that a hoot! Deadpool traveled back to the time of Amazing Spider-Man 47 and interacted with the story from that classic issue. See http://www.samruby.com/OtherTitles/Xmen/deadpool11.htm for more.)

Except... Spidey mentions being an Avenger in this issue. Don't think he's worked for JJJ since becoming an Avenger. Nice continuity, guys.

Anyway, that aside, this was another fun issue.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS vol 2: Just starting. Lots of laughs already. Don't know anyone who hates Peanuts!
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League of Extraordinarily Troubled Gentlemen

Yesterday I read "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" vol. 2. If you haven't read it (and you probably have -- it's been out a while!), be prepared for quite a shocker of a story. While Martians attack, our heroes... do nasty things to each other. Some of them consensual.

As my podcast-mate Mulele said, the way this story ends, it's hard to imagine how Alan Moore can do a volume 3, which is supposed to be on the way. Did some Googling on this today, though, and found that Vol. 3 is supposed to take place mainly in the 1950s with a different group of protagonists. Likely to be interesting.

Look for a discussion of "LXG" on a future Deconstructing Comics podcast.

Briefly, I've also read:

DEFENDERS 3: Hey, one of the jokes was funny.

SIMPSONS 113: Since when is an ORPHANAGE funny?! DEFENDERS was funnier than this issue.

THOR 39: Yes, a back issue. The one where Odin splits Thor from Jake Olson. Geesh, another September 2001 Marvel with a pivotal event in it. As if they knew in advance, somehow, that everything would change that month...

WOLVERINE 27: Logan remembers his past. The story we've all waited for, right? Well, it probably would've been better if they'd done it in the '80s or '90s. Now, Wolverine stories consist mostly of our "hero" committing murder after murder, maiming after maiming, and unfortunately this is no exception. I'm pulling the plug on my subscription, but it won't actually run out till this storyline is over (three more issues).

X-FORCE 44: (July 1995) The first post-Apocolypse issue. Sam gets promoted to X-man. Siryn gets carted off by the Men in White Coats. What's up with that?

A very special episode of "Spidey & Black Cat"

Read two comics since last post:

Spider-Man & Black Cat: The Evil Men Do #5: This issue got stamped with a parental advisory (not that the average comics-browser would notice, since it's written in thin, tiny letters in the UPC box) because it deals with rape, including homosexual rape. Sort of. The issues are touched on in such a "wink wink, nudge nudge" way that, if I were a 10-year-old kid, I'm not sure I'd understand what was happening or why it had a parental advisory! Lots of "No, I don't want to do that" coming from the next room, with "that" left undefined in most cases.

This issue was also a bit long on flashback. Not only was Francis telling Black Cat the back story about himself and his brother, but meanwhile special guest sales-grabber Nightcrawler was telling Spidey and Daredevil about Nazi treatment of mutants! So this was a very talky issue, and I have no clear idea how Kevin Smith is intending to wrap up the series next issue. Starting off issue 4 (which came out three years late -- what's the deal there?!) with the death of the villian was certainly an unexpected move and drove this series in, I think, a less promising direction.

Sentry 4: Told from the viewpoint of Sentry's psychiatrist. More flashbacks, and not much story progress. IS there a story here? It's sort of interesting to look into the nature of his mental illness, but I'm really feeling that Sentry gets less interesting the more he's used. I think he would have been better off left alone after the original mini-series, which was wonderfully haunting. Bendis resolved the lingering mystery in New Avengers, and has barely used the character since; Paul Jenkins -- the creator of the character -- seems to be scraping for story in this second mini.
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(I'm feeling) Rundown of the past week

Well, so far blogging daily about my comics reading hasn't turned out the way I'd hoped! Last week turned out to be especially hectic. A quick rundown of the week in my comics reading pile:

* X-FORCE 43: Yeah, that's right, from February 1995. Wanna make somethin' of it?

Here's the story. I'm a Deadpool fan, and I learned some years ago that Deadpool debuted in NEW MUTANTS #98. (By number #98, presumably they weren't so new anymore. I can never understand why comics -- and other things -- have "new" in their titles, when inevitably they will not remain new. "AGING MUTANTS"?) So I got that and then decided to read NEW MUTANTS/X-FORCE up to the point where the DEADPOOL series began (dated December 1996) as a prelude to re-reading those great Joe Kelly issues (not to mention the two mini-series). Turns out, though, that Deadpool didn't appear in X-Force all that much. And it also turns out that (surprise, surprise) Marvel wouldn't be content to let you read only one title -- they had to branch Cable out into his own series, and then have crossovers with NEW WARRIORS (there's that "NEW" again) and, of course, the X books. So I've been buying all these crossovers from back issue retailers, as well.

X-FORCE 43 brings us up to the beginning of the AGE OF APOCALYPSE event, during which they stopped publishing all the regular mutant books for FOUR MONTHS while publishing a scad of different books making up a million-part (give or take) series.

OK, the setup to the event was fairly interesting, but come on, I'm on a budget here. I ain't searching out the back issues or the paperbacks. Instead, I got a synopsis on the Web for free!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_Of_Apocalypse

This Wikipedia link has some other decent links listed at the bottom.

* "Five is the Perfect Number": Italian graphic novel. Soon to be discussed on the Deconstructing Comics podcast (http://www.globalcomics.net/podcast)

* BLACK PANTHER 11: The best issue of this series since it began, basically. I was about ready to give up on it. I kind of liked the comedic angle. Reggie Hudlin is OK, but I still miss Priest.

* NEW AVENGERS 14: (Again with the NEW business!) This was a good issue. Much of Jessica Drew's story revealed -- and much of Jessica revealed as well, as she lies on an operating table. Not the sexiest of tableaus... drawn by Frank Cho, of course.

* DEFENDERS 2: My usual comics supplier couldn't get this issue for me, and it took me a long time to get around to ordering it from someone else. I wouldn't mind the comic tone of this miniseries, if it were actually... funny. The relationship between Dormammu and his sister is getting tiresome fast.

* THUNDERBOLTS 54: Dated Sept '01, a fateful month, this was a fateful issue, with the "return" of Humus Sapien, a character invented for a Marvel contest 25 years before but never used in a comic until this issue. Fun stuff.

* REVELATIONS 4: I picked up this Dark Horse miniseries because it was on the cover of Previews and looked interesting. Written by Paul Jenkins, drawn by Humberto Ramos. But it hasn't quite lived up to expectations... or rather, it's lived up to expectations EXCESSIVELY, because it's so predictable. As soon as the character Lucy appeared (in #2, if memory serves), it was utterly predictable that she and main character Charlie Northern would do the nasty before the series was over, and sure enough, issue 4, there they are, gettin' it on. But with virtually no actual emotion shown by either of them. They just seemed like friends who were discussing the murder case and suddenly, shagtime. There's a dimension that's just somehow missing from this whole series.

* CAPTAIN AMERICA 13: I had pretty much given up on Cap, but Marvel's hype that Ed Brubaker's run would be good sounded convincing, and it was right. This is one of Marvel's best titles at the moment. It's genuinely interesting. Certainly beats the crap out of "Spider-Man: The Other".

Today, I'm in post-Apocalypse X-land with CABLE 21. I'm continuing to slog toward DEADPOOL #1, but I'm now wishing I had just started re-reading DEADPOOL years ago! On the other hand, re-reading those Joe Kelly issues deserves a big buildup.
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