Batman 18 - How incredibly lucky are we to get Alex Maleev on a Batman book? And while the Harper side story has always felt like a bit of a forced issue, I was glad to see it rear back here, even if it feels kind of obvious as to where it's going to go. (And let's just cut through any of the evasion here: if Harper becomes the next Robin, that's cool and all, but the Stephanie Brown diehards are going to shit a brick. And they won't be completely without a point.) The Kubert pencils were less of a gift, but they weren't totally awful, which is always a nice change. And the overall point of the issue? Well, it's nice that I read Batman & Robin first, because that was a far superior issue. But I loved the touch of the word Requiem being echoed by the title of this issue and the touch of the first letter being the last thing we saw, in that great Maleev page. Damian was a character that will grow in legend as time passes, if only because of his brief window and the things that he'll come to mean. These issues are fitting tributes to a character who always felt a little out of place, but who grew as time passed and was taken out at seemingly the exact right time. Whether Harper is being groomed as the next Robin or not, this issue follows Bruce's path of grief in a tragically wonderful manner.
Batman and Robin 18 - Not sure I've ever read a better tribute issue than this one. Honestly, I can't even get into it without getting overly emotional. I didn't read the vast majority of the newly reset Batman and Robin title, but if you can make it through this issue without shedding tears, you're a stronger reader than I am. Huge in all the best ways, it does the best job possible of showing what Bruce is going through right now and I think it'll go down as one of the best single issues of all time. Marvel's Nuff Said campaign was downright put to shame by the pure energy of this issue, which shows how powerful the technique can be when it's used correctly and not just as a marketing ploy. The letter was what put it over the top. Incredible issue.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 6 - While I've truly enjoyed Jae Lee's art on this title and I was excited about Len Wein's writing earlier, I feel like this concluding issue is more than a bit of a let down. As unexpectedly excited as I was by JMS' Dr. Manhattan conclusion, this feels like the opposite. The pencils (Jae Lee was born to draw comics - they are exquisite!) are amazing, but the story feels like the second to worst realization we expected when they announced the Before Watchmen line. While titles like Silk Spectre and Nite Owl were simply bad and totally unnecessary (thus qualifying them as the worst outcomes possible), and this book felt fresh at times, the last issue here feels like a mere retread of things that we already knew. It was neat to go back and compare the dialogue of Comedian's confession to Moloch in this book to the original Watchmen, and I got a great kick out of Veidt's narration about climbing up the mostly-glass facade of the building, there wasn't anything in here that validated the existence. Beautiful art is worth more than thousands of words, but the book fell flat on its face when it came to innovation in terms of story. Disappointing to say the least, but not all that surprising, to be honest.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 19 - Jesus, that was a depressing revelation regarding Dawn's illness. And I'll admit that it took me completely by surprise. I should have thought about her magical nature a little more, but I was just so caught up in all the other changes that I disregarded it completely. I love the way that Xander lashed out at Buffy in this issue and I love the fact that she responded in such a human way. I love the fact that things seem to be coming back together, with Dawn and Xander as central characters in Buffy's life now, as well as Illyria tagging along. It's always been my belief that Joss has been interested in characters first and story second, but the Buffy book has been the sole exception to that rule since Season 9 began. The Angel & Faith book has been superb and the Spike and Willow minis proved that there were plenty of amazingly interesting things happening to these guys and gals. Buffy's still staggering along, trying to find her place in the post-seed world, but it's my belief that Willow's return will aid the quest to revive Dawn. I'm even starting to think that Angel might succeed in his quest to bring back Giles. I don't think it would be a step back, I think it would serve as a reminder that she's only as strong as the people who are around her. Because honestly, on her own? She's been pretty insufferable. If Billy's going to stick around, I hope it's on his own merits and not on some silly retcon of the roomie being an undercover spy the whole time and their bonding over how cool Buffy is. They've got to bring something to the table other than hero worship.
Thor 6 - Well, this book just continues to improve! Honestly, when I saw that Esad Ribic wasn't pencilling this issue, I was a little disappointed. As much as I think that Butch Guice's art works with Winter Soldier, I wasn't sure that it would be right for the tone of Thor. But, I was wrong. This was a great issue and I appreciated the different look when it came time to tell the tale of Gorr's origin. I love the fact that Volstagg made a guest appearance and that he seems like he knows more about the weapon (it reminds me of the symbiote that became Spidey's black costume, insofar as we've seen it as a weapon as well as parts of his 'costume') Gorr uses than Gorr does himself. I also loved the fact that the origin wasn't overblown. It was everything we could have assumed it would have been, but it fit neatly and perfectly into a single issue. We don't need much more. Great work.
Wolverine and the X-Men 26 - Well, I guess Jason Aaron really wants to delve into Wolverine's story in more depth, and the use of the school is going to just be secondary in this arc here. The return of Dog is an interesting concept, but I've got to say that I don't feel like it's panning out. The art, by Ramon Perez, is terribly off-note other than the sweet watercolor-looking segments of the flashbacks. The story, convoluted as it stands, isn't bad, but it seems awfully forced and definitely a non sequitur, abrupt interruption. The theory of Dog taking over as teacher and putting the kids through some more rigorous testing is interesting, but I don't get that that's the focus here. The whole issue feels like a filling in of the gaps of Wolverine: Origin, which is fine and all, but doesn't feel necessary in any way. Plus, this kind of rules out any possibility of Sabertooth being Dog, which is a drag, even if it was a stretch given the developments that we've seen post-Origin. Unfortunately, with this arc coming essentially right on the heels of the atrocious circus story, this book is suffering an all time low. Hope that it picks up next issue.
Book of the week goes to Batman and Robin. Even if you're not reading the title, you should pick up this issue. Wow.