Also playing catch up on New Avengers, but not there yet.
All New X-Men 7 - Since getting over my feeling about this story as though it's a one-note deal that Bendis is just going to strike over and over and over again, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And this issue, it got even better, because David Marquez is on the pencils. Mystique guest-starring always means subterfuge and this issue really showcased that, with the pseudo-Wolverine at first and with her mysterious conversation at the end. The bit with the human at the bank loving Cyclops was interesting, too, but the best part was (and probably should be, going forward) the relationship between Scott and Jean as they learn more and more about each other in the future and the way they've essentially influenced every single mutant ever. This book feels fun in a lot of the same ways that Wolverine & the X-Men does, which is refreshing in the ever-darkening world of comic books.
Animal Man 17 - The first part of the conclusion to Rotworld brings Animal Man and Swamp Thing together. It's nice that we're getting toward the end of this story because it's already stretched on too long. It's nice to see the teams all getting together and working on winning, although it's strange to see the Flash and Superman vanquished so relatively easily. I know it wasn't easy, but...it feels odd. There's more at stake here than maintaining the top tier's reputation, I know, but it sets a bad precedent. Regardless, this is less than half the tale, the rest should be continued in Swamp Thing, where we'll get to the actual cliffhanger that we were presented with on the last page. There are no spoilers at all to say that it's the loved ones, having been turned by the Rot.
Avengers 5 - It's an interesting thing to say, but I preferred this issue to 4. The art was still atrocious, but I think it might have been the fact that this Smasher is a totally original (maybe?) creation, as opposed to a character ripped from an alternate universe that's being forced into the mold of the Avengers. (Plus, I'll reiterate my claim about Hyperion being another version of the Sentry, whom Marvel have already proved they don't know how to operate with.) The inclusion of the Shi'ar and the Imperial Guard make for some of the wide scope that we know Hickman is planning, and while the story stands on its own, it's also got hallmarks of something we'll come back to later and see things we can't see yet. Smasher's got some good development here, including origins, power and rank increases, and familiarity with more than one team. We also got a few glimpses of Manifold (terrible name, BTW) and the ways in which the team is dividing and conquering. They don't need to be all together all the time, that's one of the benefits of getting bigger, as Steve and Tony have discussed.
Daredevil: End of Days 5 - This book has been total horse shit. But in the first few pages here, with Ben Urich getting some real talk from Punisher (locked away, rotting in a prison cell) it seems like it's going to turn. But, as the pages continue to turn, it doesn't get a lot better. This story has been essentially the same every issue: Ben goes to investigate, gets nothing, goes on, finds the same word has a chilling effect on people who don't know much to begin with and pretends like he's moving on. The end result is going to be an unfitting capstone to one of the best Daredevil runs of all time, and it's unbecoming of Bendis to unspool his tale in this manner. I'll read the rest, I'll continue to write them up, but I'm disappointed to see it happening like this. Here we have Melvin Potter, Peter Parker, Foggy Nelson and a web that's continuing to convolute upon itself. The last page seems to promise some actual development next issue but I won't be holding my breath.
Green Arrow 17 - Jeff Lemire took over the writing duties on Green Arrow and my buddy @MyGalactus thought I'd like the new artist, whom I don't think I've seen before, Andrea Sorrentino. While it was cool, reminiscent of the art from Travel Foreman that I didn't initially care for in Animal Man, the main draw here, surprisingly, was the story. I believe in Jeff Lemire, sure, but I just can't bring myself to care even a little bit about Oliver Queen, Green Arrow. However, the story here was an interesting one. It's a Daredevil-style approach, where everything is taken away from a character and it's a damn good base to draw from. When the issue starts, we see Ollie wandering the desert, seemingly near death, and then we flash back to see how he got there. I don't care for the ins and outs of Queen's fortunes nor his company, but it's always interesting to see another archer, Komodo, kill a dude Ollie's talking to and then come for Ollie himself and easily best him. The deus ex machina, Magus, was worrying to me until I knew that he wasn't supposed to be explained already. I'll give this one a few more issues, it's definitely entertaining. The Magus and the island and Komodo all make for a good draw.
Scarlet 6 - OK. It's nice to have Bendis back in his creator-owned universe (even if it is Icon, which is a subsidy, etc. etc. etc.) but...I still have complaints about Scarlet. I mean, I'm a fan of the concept. Obviously. But...it's supposed to be rooted in reality, right? I mean...there's just no way this is reality. And I know that's a silly complaint to make of a comic book, but...it's supposed to be rooted in reality. And it's so clearly not. I mean, this could never happen. And there's so little being said. It's a lot of naivete, youthful exuberence and meandering wishful attitudes, which is all well and good, but there's the jaded adult side of me that just doesn't see it as compelling. All that negativity being expressed, there's something to be said for Maleev's art. He's one of my all-time favorites and it's a shame that he's not working on something more regular.
Swamp Thing 17 - Wow. What a crappy conclusion. What terrible art. Honestly, there wasn't much about this issue that I can say good things about, so I'm just going to leave it at this: there's not a lot of impetus for me to keep reading this book if it continues like this. I'm giving it one more issue and then, if it's not better, DC will have lost one of their three premier books of the New 52. Horrible.
Ultimate Spider-Man 20 - Yes! Still a fun book! I'm sure Dave Jordan will complain that Jefferson, Miles' dad, getting hurt is derivative of Uncle Ben or Captain Stacy, but it's so good! Venom comes back and, honestly, we have no idea what he wants. I've still not looked up his old appearances, because I love the mystery of not hearing from him. Who knows? It might not be anywhere near as bad as it looks. I'm a huge fan of what's happening here. Ganke making web fluid for Miles, the return of the symbiote, the beautiful art by Pichelli, and the family dynamic are all winners. Plus, Jefferson clocks that camera man, so even when (if?) he does survive, there are going to be unpleasant ripples in his civilian life. The scenes with the EMTs talking about Spider-Man and the cops firing at him, but not firing at the apartment building are also gold. The scenes that are spliced with YouTube footage of Peter Parker fighting Venom look like authentic Bagley panels, too, which is an awesome tough. Fun book.
Willow 4 - Great, great stuff here. Willow is getting her hippie-witch vibe back on, and it's not annoying at all. Maybe it's the lack of overtly agenda-driven writing, maybe it's the outside-of-Earth storylines, maybe it's the reveal about her companion Marrack, but it feels so organic. This book feels like a true reflection of the David Mack covers: layers upon layers. I'm a fan of the fact that the side books aren't just distractions, they feel like they're going to be important subplots that are going to come into play in the mainline book, even if the mainline Buffy book is the weakest of all four titles. I'm bummed that this book is running so late, but I have confidence that they'll wrap things up in time for the conclusions that we're racing towards in both Buffy and Angel & Faith. In the borderlands, Willow's found something that some of her old, dark magic friends would never be able to recognize. It's up to her to make sure she stays there and receives the full message. We'll find out next month.
Book of the week goes to All New X-Men. I'm glad I got over my initial qualms and stuck around for this one. It's a fun book and I'm enjoying the ride.