I missed last week because of the holidays, but, of course, still got the books themselves. What this means, though, is that this could easily be the longest recap entry I've ever written. Enjoy, nerds.
Angel & Faith 5 - A focus on Harmony is always a bad thing and this issue continues the trend. It's not like it was terrible, or hard to read, it's just...well, there's not a lot going on. It's neat to see how they continue to play with the notion of that world being significantly different than ours and they push that angle consistently. But that's pretty much all there is to truly like about it.
Batman 4 - The Court of the Owls storyline continues with some crappy retcon of a child Bruce Wayne investigating his parents' murder. I'll trust Scott Synder, because he's earned that much, but it doesn't feel right. The story that's taking place in the here and now, on the other hand, is superb. Capullo's pencils continue to hit just the right mix of old school Spawn and Bruce Timm B:TAS style. The relationship between Dick and Bruce is near perfect, with Dick giving up and Bruce reeling him back in. This book is almost everything that a superhero comic can and should be.
FF 13 - My buddy Dave Jordan called out that the last page of this book was perfect and he was so right. In this Hickman half of the story, we see the continuing story of Alternate Reed (or, as Val calls him, "Evil Dad," to my eternal amusement) and his voyage home. This seems like it's his story on the surface, but it's got plenty of Doom, the kids, the Future Foundation, the War of the Four Cities and all the other little arcs that have been simmering in FF (both kinds!) over the last year or two. At the bottom, though, it's truly another story about Nathaniel Richards. I feel like he's finally being used to the height of his potential and I have a feeling that he's going to pay a price for that use. Great work, as always, by Hickman. The pencils were a little sketchy, but nothing to truly distract.
Fables 112 - A Christmas tale to distract us from all the seriously messed up stuff that's been happening. It's a takeoff of "A Christmas Carol" and it's well done, but there's no denying it's a filler issue. The best thing about Fables, though? Even when they throw out a filler issue, there's still important elements that are going to come back. Here we see Rose Red journeying to find her station as a paladin of Hope, some developments with Winter, the new North Wind, and, of course, the Fat Lady.
Fantastic Four 601 - Not gonna lie: Totally happy that Johnny's back and not even mad that it lasted exactly as short as we all pessimistically predicted it would. He looks like a badass, he's two years older, Ben's happy, Sue was crying and Spidey and he are already back to joking. Plus, he's got this whole new persona. It's going to be great to work with. The battle that's happening, I'll be real: I don't honestly understand it. I'm not a big cosmic person, which makes me think that, even though this book is GREAT, it's going to be dropped at some point by me. Until then, I'm going to enjoy the ride.
The Flash 4 - This book is close to the chopping block. I never thought I'd say that about a book pencilled by Francis Manapul, but we've got to face facts: the story is boring! I don't care about Mob Rule, I don't care about Barry's shoddily retconned story, nor do I care about the wannabe drama between he and Iris. They're supposed to be together. Am I supposed to be in angst over the fact that they're not? They will be. Everything else is cannon fodder. I'm unhappy with everything about this book other than the art, which is still amazing, as always.
Invincible 86 - Allen (and Oliver!) versus Nolan. This did not go down how I imagined it would. And the ending? Nolan's gonna have some tough calls to make very, very soon. I'm super interested to see the angle Mark takes on this. Kirkman, once again, proving that he knows how to write an ongoing book, keeps the longterm plot threads up in the air while satisfying that urge month to month. This is one of those books that get lumped into the banal-great category: it's hard to expound on what makes it so great, when it's so consistently great from month to month to month.
Justice League 4 - Here's another boring book. Some of the banter is slightly amusing, it's nice to see Aquaman as a badass, but it feels so, so, so weird. I don't like it. I'll definitely finish the first arc, but I can't see myself sticking around longer than that.
Ultimate Spider-Man 5 - Miles gets smacked around by Spider Woman and then gets a talking-to from Nick Fury. But he comes out a winner. The case that he gets from Jessica (via Nick) is a one of a kind present, and the presence of his best friend makes this feel like an authentic Spider-Man book. Sure, maybe it's not Peter, but I won't hold that against this. It's great to have this fresh feeling. They've got a lifelong fan, as long as they stay away from the shit that stripped Amazing of all its fun for me.
The Ultimates 5 - Spider Woman is on the cover, but only gets two pages, but it's still so good. It's the cream of the Ultimate Universe and I love, love, love how different they're going this time. Thor gets smack-talked by his dead relatives and friends. Fury and Barton play some serious politics. And the Falcon signs up for what should, realistically, be a suicide mission. There's no way his shitty science is going to beat Reed, the Maker. This is Hickman is full-on science mode, at his unbridled best, refusing to be constrained by continuity or defined characters. Want to make someone radically different? By my guest! It's fun, entertaining, and it's a compelling read month after month. What more can we ask for?
The Unwritten 32.5 - So, we were all supposed to get that this was Pullman, too, right? I thought each of these issues was going to focus on a different villain, but at this point, I'm so impressed by the concept of Pullman that I don't mind this at all! Make all the issues on him. He's a massively entertaining character already and with all this history, he's only getting more and more enthralling. This issue, in fact, felt even stronger than the main storyline, which dragged a bit just two weeks ago in issue 32. The mere idea of his longevity and the hint that he knows way, way more about the power of stories and words than does the Cabal seems like it's going to give the main storyline a great twist in the upcoming months, forcing me to eat my words, predicting that the series was headed for a quicker-than-anticipated ending. When you switch Big Bads, of course you get to double the life of the series! What a great idea.
Wolverine and the X-Men 3 - OK, I still don't get what those little Nightcrawlers are or where they came from. But Chris Bachelo makes this book. And when he leaves, don't get me wrong, I have faith in Jason Aaron, but I'm not sure the book is going to maintain the same feel. Is he going away for good? Just needs a break? These are important questions in my comic book mind. As for the story itself, we have the old bad guy turns good (ish) idea played out to the Nth degree in this issue. It's a great turn for Beast, as he gets to display some of those vaunted smarts, and I love the interaction that we're starting to see between the various faculty members mirroring the interaction between the students. This is going to be a great read for a long time.
Ultimate X-Men 5 - Although this book is still the weakest of the Ultimate Universe bunch, it's still pretty to look at, and the story seems to be progressing well enough. I love the idea of Rogue as a traitor, and I love that Kitty shows up at the end in that badass new costume, ready to kick some butt. I hate that we had to spend a whole issue getting backstory on Stryker, when I really don't care about him, but I realize that it had to happen. I'm curious to see when and how Jimmy is going to take a larger role, given his prominence on covers and the contrasting reality of his role as, essentially, a guest star in the book thus far. Here's to hoping next issue.
Issue of the (2) week(s) is Ultimates. I had four nominees but when it comes down to it, this is the book that feels the freshest. That counts for a lot with this jaded old fan.