What a hell of a damn week. First of all, let's focus on the positive. Phil Noto is ending this epic X-Force run, and it's really making me regret not picking up the book from the get go. I mean, it's been amazing the whole time (aside from that wackass Otherworld arc, with its terrible art) and this has been the greatest ending. I've never given it its own review, because I haven't bought it, but it gets its own below. Plus, There are so many great indie books out this week (although, at this point, it's hard to classify Whedeonverse via Dark Horse or Terry Moore or BKV as truly indie, but the fact of the matter is they don't have the massive marketing push behind them that Marvel and DC do. And that brings us to the worst news of the week: Amazing Spider-Man 700. I'm not going to pile on too hard, because I'm sure that other people are tripping just as hard as I did when I read it, but I'm just going to leave it at this: I will remain grateful forever that I jumped off this book with Brand New Day. No matter how good some of my friends told me some of the stories were, if I had continued to invest myself in Peter Parker and Spider-Man, I'm pretty sure this issue would have broken my spirit. I know that sounds ridiculously drastic, but when we're talking about Spidey, we're talking about me as a kid. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the reactions we have to to the things we love as children come across as more than a touch juvenile.
Angel and Faith 17 – Hahaha. What a great start. To see Giles introduce himself as Ripper? Shit, we knew right off the bat that this was going to be something special. And it was...but mainly just the old Giles parts. The current story, while finally giving some answers, is just about par. The return of Eyghon is predictable if not exciting, and the pseudo-appearance of Ethan Rayne is another good ingredient. The sisters are characters who are still developing, so I'm willing to let them kind of just muddle along. But Faith? She's supposed to be better than this ridiculous pendulum swing from super committed to super upset. She didn't realize this was going to be the end result if her gang of ex-Slayers found out who she was working with? Please. She's come so much farther than that. She's not that stupid, definitely not now, and she might never have even been. Angel's final battle is going to be something to see, though, with the power that Eyghon seems to have accrued.
Batwoman 15 – JH is progressing as a (words-only) storyteller, but it's still a disappointment when he's not on art, whether it's planned or not. This one turns out better than the others from the past, though, because Maggie is our sole focus here. Great way to break up the chapters, and good to get inside her head, too. She's a great character. It's interesting to see the ways that the different characters of different gay persuasions have been raised, the ways their families responded, etc. The all-consuming nature of Maggie in regards to her job really makes it clear why she's attracted to Kate. Their relationship, while amazing, doesn't seem like it's going to blossom, though, with their mutual obsessions. That's a shame, but it's not something that's going to derail the book, either. Next issue: the end of this arc? Let's finish with a bang!
Fables 124 – Just what the Bufkin saga needed: a bit more length. I know it was still divided into those short chapters (which makes me think it was supposed to run as a backup more than a couple more times) but to have that continuity was great. Shawn McManus' art was great, as usual. Maybe it even benefitted from the continuity too? Bufkin's story is told, even the Happily Ever After. It ends exactly as you'd both expect and hope. Nothing wrong with that, quite enjoyable.
Green Lantern 15 – Well, it's still plugging away, but if Johns' writing is going to continue slipping at this rate, Doug Mahnke's art is really going to have to improve. This is as bad as I can remember it ever looking. The story with Baz has taken enough (justifiable) heat, so I'm thrilled that we got a whole one page on the Hal/Sinestro storyline. The ending, of course, promises that we'll get a bit more next issue, but who knows if that's really gonna be the case. For now, the federal agent is on Baz's side, the Third Army is near, the First Lantern is definitely going to be making a move soon and none of it is compelling.
Locke and Key: Omega 2 – Jesus. This book is something else. The single page splash of Kinsey in her dress was beautiful, the bifurcated pages of Rufus' imagination versus the real world was brilliant, the ghost of Bode was something I wasn't anticipating, and the overall tone of the book was soooo happy. I mean, everyone's got what they want! The bad guy's gonna win, he's so confident. The good guys have no idea, they're blissfully content. And apparently, as Bode tells Rufus, this whole arc is going to take place over the course of one day; Dodge's plan is set for the night of the Prom! (A cliché turned on its head. Another sign of Joe Hill's being raised in a bright literary family. I love it.) The part in the mental hospital and getting to see the old characters all coming back around is part of what's going to make this a true epic. There are no mistakes here.
Rachel Rising 13 – Yep. This book. It's truly strange. I don't know how to react to the small chunks that we get anymore. I've always loved Terry Moore, but I might be starting to think about getting my doses of him in trade paperback form. I want to support the indie books, but it's just so dissatisfying to see so little of the actual story. Here we get the three witches working together against the town and Rachel. Rachel is finding out more about herself. The freak goes to see Jet's body and he talks about the origin of the story of Sleeping Beauty. Last but not least, Harold (is that his name?) takes Jet's body to Rachel. He's gonna try keeping her out of cold storage and see what effect that'll have on her body. I'm not sure what it will, seeing as she should, honestly, be dead. I love this book and I love how genuinely creepy it is. I might not buy singles anymore (we'll see about that, though) but I'll stay with this story through its end.
Saga 8 – Alana's back story gets a little focus and Hazel's narration is still spot-on. The disparity between Marko's parents gets cleared up a little bit, but the focus here is on his dying father. The simultaneous nature of backstory, current story and future narration (via the aforementioned grown-up Hazel) is a neat trick. BKV is a genius. Has this been done before? The layering that's happening puts him above most of the so-called adult novels that people rush to fawn over. The last page cliffhanger? Just another example. Gwendolyn isn't just some abstract concept, she's a character who's important. There's a reason she's been mentioned. (This is going to come back into play with The Will [cool concept with all the freelancers being called The Something, too] and his...personal issues, obviously.) This book is just getting its wings, but it's already showing the heights it's going to soar to.
Uncanny X-Force 35 – Remender called his last page “self-indulgent yakking” but if anyone deserves it, it's him, for this series. He took Wolverine and a series of progressively pathetic characters and turned them into one of the most compelling teams in the last decade or so. The moral ambiguity never left the series. There were some fortuitous drops (AOA Nightcrawler is a get, no matter how you slice it) and some missteps (I'm not going to defend the Otherworld storyline) but overall, he took a character that Grant Morrison created and made him into something completely new. That's talent right there. He also revitalized one of the oldest characters in the X-Universe, Warren Worthington, and provided a cap for the relationship between he and Psylocke. Wolverine was the rock, but Deadpool was the draw. Always a shitty character, Remender made him hilarious in the best way. The cloned child Apocalypse angle could have gone as poorly as the kiddie Hellfire Club has, but it was always genuine. Ditto for the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Sabertooth is an asshole. Daken is dead. (For now.) This book gave us the best possible ending for a book that was so dark in tone the whole time. Fade out to a snowy, happy Merry Christmas.
The Unwritten 44 – The title of this issue is “Halfway Through the Journey” - is this a not-so-subtle clue to the length of the overall story? Or is it merely referring to the current arc? Or is it both? When the War of the Words concluded, I really thought The Unwritten was going to be over sooner rather than later. At this point? I have no idea. Danny Armitage is clearly the coolest new character in this book and I can't really figure out the role he's going to play. But if Danny is the coolest new one, Mr. Bun is the coolest older character. There is a lot going on here, and it's consistently one of the greatest books that comes out monthly. It's going to read so much better as a whole, too, but it's got a LOT to offer people who go the monthly route, too. Tom is navigating the land of the dead, he's got some harpies to deal with, the Unicorn meets its ultimate end and the land of lost stories is still clearly in a bad spot. It's always darkest before the dawn? We'll see if this signals a turn for the better. I have a feeling that's not quite here just yet.
Ultimate Spider-Man 18 – This issue was great. I still haven't looked up Ultimate Spider-Woman, so I have no idea if I'm supposed to know her back story or not, but I'm glad to be in the dark, even if I'm not supposed to be. It's kind of more fun that way. The art, by Marquez, was great again, and the tone of the book just feels so right. Miles is a fun Spider-Man, a new one that's really learning the right way to be a good hero. His dad's dilemma seems like it's going to play out in a very strange way, so I'm not looking forward to that dynamic. But Ganke is awesome, Spider-Woman's place in the book is awesome, the fact that Bendis is making such a big deal out of Miles saving Cap is awesome, and last, but certainly not least, this is the best book in the Ultimate Universe right now. With X-Force going out, and the Marvel NOW! Initiative not doing anything for me (at all), this might be one of the last Marvel books that I stay as a regular on. I grew up as a Marvel kid, and it's sad to see that they're losing the battle so intensely. But if there were more books like this and Wolverine & the X-Men, maybe I'd have a reason to stay. Bottom line: I'm really riding for Miles Morales now, not just because of 616 Spidey, but also because Ultimate X-Men and the Ultimates fucking blow.
Wolverine and the X-Men 22 – Well, yeah, OK, this was cute. The book is still great, and I can see the progress that's already being made. We've always clamored for new mutants (even after they gave us a book called that) and Jason Aaron sure is bringing the heat in creating and maintaining some for the X Universe. But I'm just not interested in this Frankenstein evil carnival story. It feels like a cheap imitation of Something Wicked This Way Comes. (Will anyone ever be able to use an evil carnival again? Bradbury pretty much has that on lockdown, right?) But, I am interested in the story of William, as he appears to be the only real character in the new baby Hellfire Club, so here's to hoping that we get more of him, more Storm and Wolvie remembering who they are, and more of the kids standing up for themselves. Next month should finish this arc (right?) and then we can get back to the school dynamic that made this book such old school fun when it began.
Book of the week goes to Locke and Key. The feeling of dread that we get with every new issue, where it seems certain that the bad guy is going to win is so impressive for a book that comes out monthly at best. I mean, who can maintain mood like that?