With so many good comics out, my friends and I constantly argue, it's a waste of time to focus on the bad ones. But the truth is, with Carrie Kelly being announced as the new Robin and with the mess that is the Marvel Universe, it's a bad time for the Big Two. Luckily, there's always Image and the indies as well as the handful of titles from both universes that stand out.
All New X-Men 10 - The only thing wrong with this issue is that Immonen makes Logan's face look fat in the solo panels. Seriously. That's the only thing. Well, OK, and the weak cliffhanger of an ending. Like, we're all clear that it's Jean, right? She's clearly the only choice. And she's volunteering because she thinks she's a strong enough telepath (already, with her newly discovered powers) to block out Emma Frost. And she shouldn't be. But she will be. I love Jean Grey. But this seems like too much, so I'm hoping I'm wrong, even though I don't think I will be. For now, though, let's just deal with this issue alone. Old Cyclops shows up and gives the kids at the school a choice: they can come and train at his new school. Named the Xavier School. Diss! Wolverine wants to kill him, but doesn't. (Why? I don't really know. He should. It would solve a few things.) Quire's looking on as an agitator, but doesn't have too much to say, honestly. Bobby Drake sure does give old Slim an earful, though. But it's too late, because old Cyke gives young Cyke the news that he kind of had the Phoenix force thrust upon him. Young Slim doesn't take too kindly to that news and wanders the grounds, getting into a discussion with the old man later. (Which is a confusing scene, because it's just him and him talking, with Magneto, Magik and Emma in tow, and then, all of a sudden, the whole school is there? I didn't get it.) While the two Cyclopses are talking, though, the faculty gets a call from Maria Hill at SHIELD, who tells them of the activities of the latest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who got this issue started by robbing 18 million dollars via a Lady Mastermind scheme to make them look like Wolverine and the kids. Bummer. Things are about to get worse next issue as one of the students (it's so clearly Jean) has decided to take up the offer from the Xavier school. This was a fantastic issue.
Animal Man 19 - Steve Pugh brought a nice new visual tone to the book and I'm glad that this issue (at least) felt a little more like some genuine emotion was coursing through it, as opposed to the previous one. The conflict between Elle and Buddy was real, as we've seen in so many movies. But the conflict between Buddy and the Red was intense and one-sided in a way that the confrontation at the funeral could never approach. The potential is there for this book. but it's just so odd that it's been so bad for so long after starting so hotly. I'm interested to see how Maxine's relationship with the cat (and, of course, her mom and her grandma) progresses, as well as this new angle on a (seemingly) depowered Animal Man who now simultaneously has so much more and so much less to fight for.
Locke and Key: Omega 4 - Damn. That was messed up. There's so much to process in this issue that I honestly don't even know where to start. The real Bode helping his mother, but still denying that he helped her? Jesus, that nearly put a tear in my eye. He's mature enough to know that she needs it? Or he honestly doesn't think that he did? Either way, that kid deserves his body back. And at this point, I'm in serious doubt as to whether any of the Locke children are going to escape this tale alive. Mom's up off the floor, but the crazy thing about this point of the story is that it's all happening on one night, so this issue only takes us through the paces of about an hour, max. Last issue was a bit more, maybe, but next issue might be even less? We get to see Tyler tell Uncle Duncan about the shadows and Dunk accepts it pretty rapidly. We see the return of Detective Mutuku and we see a confrontation quickly brew and be snuffed out between Kinsey and Jordan. The sacrifices of the title are multiple and the ending came far too abruptly. Incredible stuff, especially how it's all coming back together: Kavanaugh, Dunk, Jordan, Rufus; anyone who's still alive is going to play a part. God, this book is good.
Swamp Thing 19 - All right! Charles Soule and Kano come in and change the direction of this book in a way that's abrupt but feels just right. The reference back to Superman and the beginning of this book feels right. It's still got the history. The mentions of Abby feel right. The almost-morose narration feels right. But it's not the same. And I mean that in the best way possible. Swamp Thing had become a stale title, something that just plodded along. And while I'm not sure what's going to be happening here exactly, I will say that it was clearly time for a change and this is clearly a change. That's the best thing I can tell. I love the fact that Holland has a discussion with the Scarecrow and that Superman's initial reaction upon seeing all the plants in Metropolis is that ominous way he just says the Big Green's name. This feels good, I'll be sticking it out to see if the new creative team can keep up the momentum they've built here, even if it's just the first chapter of an in-progress story.
Winter Soldier 17 - God, what writing. "I find myself thinking of what our chaplain once told me back in the war. The body is temporary. A vessel for the soul, he'd say. It's the soul that is eternal. Immortal. Claimed we are bound to this mortal coil in order that we take note of the pain and hardship here. So that we might carry that knowledge with us into our next life. I've lived longer than any man was intended to. In my time I've more than witnessed the fragility of humanity. I've felt it a thousand times over." The Summer Protocols involve Nick Fury and Bucky Barnes making things right that they've both had a hand in making wrong sometime in the past. And in this issue, Bucky finally makes direct contact with one of the biggest ghosts from his past. It's a heartbreaking scene, and the cliffhanger is just right. We've seen some fantastic stuff in this book practically the whole time it's been on, but this one stands out for the art in the flashbacks, the dialogue bubbles of the USSR cronies and their liberal usage of stereotypically backwards Rs as well as the overall atmosphere of Nick Fury-ness invading the whole book. He's in charge, just like he always has been. The Winter Soldier is just the latest piece in his long game.
Book of the week goes to Locke and Key. There's no way that anything put out by either of the Big Two can compete with this behemoth.