Sorry it's late this week, but I was so underwhelmed by Siege, and so busy with school, and got such a bigger stack than I was used to, that comic book reading somehow fell by the wayside in the march of this week. Regardless, here's some thoughts on some of the books that dropped this week.
Batgirl 10 - The Flood continues, and it's getting wacky. The Calculator has unleashed a techno-organic virus that infects people through their text messages or the Internet, or some combination thereof, and he's targeting Oracle. Of course, Batgirl has a few things to say about it, and meanwhile, we're continuing to track Wendy (formerly of Wendy and Marvin, the Wonder Twins, of the Teen Titans) on her journey to figure out what everyone's connections are. We have a cute scene between Cassie and the detective boy (not that I'm excusing myself for forgetting his name, but he's totally nameless at this point, insofar as he's just the new guy, the token love interest, etc. He's cute, but not compelling.) and a disturbing scene between Calculator and his dead son, and the book continues to entertain. Not top shelf, but a solid addition. At this point, it might be the best Bat title, but that's not saying a lot.
Batman 699 - On the other hand, this book is terrible. I'm counting down the days until 700 drops and my OCD collector self can stop buying it. Here, we have the story of the Riddler continuing with the magician Sebastian Blackspell. There's something going on with a retcon, and Firefly is involved but none of it is good enough to make me interested, much less to care. The Joker may or may not turn up next issue? I don't know and I don't care. This book is bad, and it's a shame that Dick is being misused as Batman here (much less everywhere) as the powers that be at DC mercilessly pave the way for the return of Bruce Wayne, but, to be fair, it's not like Bruce's Batman didn't have some horridly shitty storylines and books to sift through in the 80s and 90s.
Booster Gold 32 - The Giffen/DeMatteis era begins and I, for one, am unenthused. I like the quirky way they write, but I can't help but feel that this issue had more words than the last three issues of Booster combined. Not that wordiness is necessarily a bad thing, but it just feels so over the top here. Booster begins in the future, where he's jumped to the wrong date and is thus having a lot more trouble than he should with a mission that was supposed to be a walk in the park. Later, when he gets back, he has a scene with Rip Hunter that I think was supposed to come off as funny (look, Rip's got bad hand-writing) but just came off as flat. The addition of a little girl feels like something Rip already knew about (for various, obvious reasons) but I don't care about her and don't see why I should, so I'm pretty sure that I'll be dropping this title.
Fables 95 - The story of young Rose Red and Snow White begins! We get lots of insights into how magical some of the old Fables worlds were, but we've seen that before. The real oomph of this issue is supposed to come from seeing Red and Snow together as kids, promising each other that they'll never leave one another's sides, and the emotional heft of knowing what's going to happen. Honestly, I didn't feel that much. We know that they split, we know it's probably for a reason that lies more in the domain of miscommunication and misunderstanding than any genuine conflict, but, more importantly, we already know that they talk it out and come back to friendly terms. This would have been a more powerful story if it had been told before they'd had a reconciliation. Not that I'm disliking it, it's good, but, not great.
Flash 2 - Manapul's are continues to be the single best thing about a really good book. I don't care at all about Barry Allen, as I've noted before, but Johns has got a voice, and Manapul's got such a talent, that I find myself enthralled by this book. The issue of the Rogues from the future is cool, but confusing. (The Reverse Flash Task Force? Something like that? All the future bad guys dedicated to continuing Flash's work? And we've never heard of them before?) I love Barry in a tie and hope they abandon the silly idea of returning him to a bow tie. I like Iris and her place in the book, and I like the recurring visual theme of using text messages. The forensics group still seems a little weak, but I'm hoping that Johns will build up the supporting cast, as he's done with Green Lantern and as I've heard that he did with Superman. This book is really, really good, but hasn't reached the great level yet.
The New Avengers Finale One-Shot - A good-ish book, here we see the New Avengers group wrapping up the last thread of their storyline before the Heroic Age changes everything. The last thing Luke Cage says they need to do is hunt down the Hood and make sure that all of their loose ends are tied up. They do so pretty easily, even though he's camped out with Count Nefaria, who should be (theoretically) a tougher out. The Hood, the Count, Madam Masque and even the Hood's cousin all get taken out (after a tragicomically misplaced gay comment from one of the members of the Wrecking Crew [?] makes Bendis come across as way more homophobic than his man crush on Luke Cage reveals him to actually be) and deposited with the Shield gang. Then, at the end, we get some cheesy narration from Luke Cage that comes across way better than it could have, accompanied by some great two page splashes from various artists, as we bring this era of the New Avengers to a close. The last page, of course, is the best, and actually sounds like something that Luke has been saying for most of this run, wrapping things up in a nice manner. (My only beef with this ending is that we have a new beginning right away, it looks like it's going to be essentially the same, Wolverine and Spidey are on both the New and the Regular Avengers [?] and Marvel is just screwing me out of more money. No surprises.)
Siege 4 - And, finally, a book that I was genuinely excited for, that left such a poor taste in my mouth that it derailed my whole comic book reading for the week. Siege started out as one story, transformed into another one issue in, and then became yet another story in this issue. All of those stories were poorly told, rushed through in regards to pace, and, actually, didn't change anything, with one huge caveat. The art on Siege was preeeeeetty, but that's about all that I can say that was good about it. If the story was actually going to be about fighting the Sentry, I think there are better ways that it could have been done, but that's a discussion for another time. The big discussion on this issue has GOT to center around the fact that, while Bendis and Co. spent all of the last two issues convincing us how deadly and unbeatable the Sentry was, when the heroes finally get to the task of taking him out, it happens almost instantaneously, and with little to no fanfare. The Sentry goes out like a chump and, thanks to the wonderful scheduling of Marvel, there was 100% no doubt that this was going to be the outcome, because, sitting right next to Siege 4 was the epilogue to the story, The Sentry - Fallen Sun. Poor writing, poor scheduling, but most of all, poor storytelling. Siege ends up pulling in so many different directions that it winds up as less than the sum of its parts when it had the opportunity to be a magnificent capstone.
The Sentry Fallen Sun - This book, as I mentioned in the review above, was essentially worthless. Other than spoiling Siege 4 with its cover (although this is what almost literally everyone was guessing, regardless) it really did very little to enhance the mythos of the Sentry. Instead, we had a generic tribute to a hero that had started in this universe as a great idea, but quickly became the undoing of many of a good writer, because no one in the Marvel stable had any idea how to successfully incorporate such a character. I'm glad the Sentry is gone, because it was clear that he was misplaced in the Marvel universe, but I'm sad that Siege had to turn in such a weak performance in getting rid of him, and I'm disappointed that Jenkins (the guy who wrote the original, amazing mini that got the Sentry started) had to deliver this as the ending point for such a cool concept of a character.
The Sword 24 - Last but not least, this is how you end a book! The Sword has been going for two years now, and the Luna brothers have delivered another great product. In fact, I think their books are getting better. Ultra was kind of a neat twist on a generic concept, Girls was freakishly weird, and the Sword, now that it's wrapped up, is clearly the top of all three books. The story of Dara Brighton wraps up in pretty much the only way it could, but, at least in this case, with these guys, that doesn't mean that it's predictable or bad. After the revelation at the end of the last issue, we get Justin's account of how he actually came into Dara's life, starting at what he thought was the end of Phaistos' life. After a lot of exposition, none of it boring, we get a shock that's not terribly shocking, but seems very appropriate, and then we get a heart-wrenching conclusion. Great, great work from some promising young men, and I look forward to their next book.
Book of the week has got to be the Sword 24 for knowing how to go out with the absolute right mix of a bang, a tug at the heart strings, and a promise of better things to come. What'd I miss?