Wednesday, May 29, 2013

robbie rogers breaks more ground.

When Jason Collins came out, there were signs that his announcement might have been the drop that precipitated the flood. And on Sunday evening, the rumors regarding Robbie Rogers, who had in fact already came out of the closet, but wasn't actively playing in the MLS, became reality.

Robbie Rogers became the first openly out male athlete to compete in a major league sporting event.

This is a big deal and it's a cause for celebration for those who have fought for equal rights for all. However, there are two rather important caveats that should be noted. Firstly, after the heap of press that Collins received for his announcement, there were many stories about Glenn Burke - a man whom I knew nothing about but seemed to break open the gendered orientation barrier much earlier than it was ready to fall. As a result of his bold, out stance, Burke was rewarded with...silence. The piece in the Atlantic details how people on his team and in the media went out of their way to collectively ignore a perspective that it seems the world was not ready for.

Secondly, the LGBT community may be united in fighting for equal rights regardless of gender or sexual identity, but it's crystal clear that the American public is nowhere near that level. This is illuminated by looking at the list of openly out female athletes who have already competed. The WNBA is replete with shining examples such as Seimone Augustus, Sue Wicks, Michelle Van Gorp, Sheryl Swoopes, Amber Harris, Jessica Adair, Chamique Holdsclaw and, most recently, number one draft pick, Brittney Griner. The women's national team, successful on the pitch, has also notched more than its fair share of barrier-breakers: Lori Lindsey, Megan Rapinoe and Natasha Kai, amongst others.

The current crop of women who are openly out and playing in major league sports also ignores such ground-breakers as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. All of which serves to set up the question: If we as a society are so far ahead, so well-enlightened, as Collins and Rogers' bold moves make it seem, why are we ignoring at least half of the equation?

Part of that answer has to do less with sexuality and more with our gender biases in general. It's hard to imagine that more people know Hillary Clinton served a vital role in President Obama's previous Cabinet as Secretary of State than are aware of her based on the Texts From Hillary meme.

The line of thinking here, of course, is not to diminish Rogers or Collins' bravery, nor their important place in advancing the cause of equality in sports. It is, however, worthwhile to acknowledge that others have been fighting the same fight for much, much longer. Undoubtedly, everyone engaged with this struggle welcomes all the support they receive.

Monday, May 27, 2013

comics for the week of 05/22/13.

Well, the ties between comic books and movies aren't quite as high as the last time I wrote with such enthusiasm. Between Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Great Gatsby, I honestly think the last was the best. That's not really a knock on either of the nerdy movies, but just a compliment to Gatsby. It was really, really good. If you haven't seen it, do so.

Avengers 12 - "Scarcity, need, desire - ugly as these things can be, they're the fundamental building blocks of most any societal structure. With nothing to lose, there's no sacrifice. When you need for nothing, do you dream of anything? From struggle comes virtue. It's part of our virtue." I made the case, with the last issue of Avengers, that Hickman is the King of all comics currently being made. My nerd friends convinced me that BKV might top him, but reading this issue is exactly the thing to sway me back to my original position. It feels like an animated philosophy textbook, with some in-jokes for the cool kids. The Spider-Man bit was hilarious, given what we know about Otto being under the suit as opposed to Peter. (Quick sidenote: How much longer is this charade going to be allowed to continue? I've come to my own personal terms with Doc Ock being there and I'm all for the changing of the character, but are you seriously telling me that Iron Man & Captain America haven't noticed something seriously amiss with this guy? That they have noticed and they're just letting it lie for now? Come on! Neither of those is believable or acceptable.) The reference to Tony being in two places at once was deftly handled, in the best way of the best writers; it's not a serious issue, here's a tricky explanation made simple, be happy. And yeah, it totally works. But the bet bit of the issue is the juxtaposition between Clint and Jessica's 'class' and Thor and Hyperion's. But even more than that, we have the simultaneously contrasting and complementing manners of Thor and Hyperion themselves. Seriously, the way Thor talks about Tony and Steve is so amazing and the narration from Hyperion proves that these two are operating on a different level. I love what's happening in this book even if I don't totally understand it. But the fact remains that there are some serious threads being pulled consistently tighter and tighter, as the appearance of the High Evolutionary proves at the end of this issue. There's going to be some fantastic, galaxy-level stuff happening in this book's near future and there's not much that I look forward to more.

Daredevil 26 - The double-size fo this issue was a little bit tricky for me. When I finished the first story, I felt a little cheated, because the storyline has been so good and the reveal was amazing and I wanted more of Ikari. But then, as the Foggy story started to get really rolling, I remembered that this is truly the best part of this book. The Foggy solo issue was one of the best in this run, as well as one of the best single-issues of the year. And while we got to see some interaction between Matt and Foggy this issue, it wasn't the focus and it didn't really hit home. (Which sounds like a criticism, but shouldn't be taken as too much of one. This issue was awesome, and the action was really what drove it.) So here we get the big reveal, we get to see Matt track down the big bad to his hiding place and we see Ikari ready for (perhaps?) the final showdown - next issue, cuz that's the cliffhanger. But getting there was amazing. We can feel the paranoia in Matt when his appointment arrives, but then we understand his doubt. Sure, we've seen him take worse beatings, and that bit felt a little forced, but there's nothing wrong with getting into the action. But after the cliffhanger, the Foggy story, as I've already said, really affirms the fact that Mark Waid has got a solid handle on this book. A truly great book will always have the most amazing and compelling supporting characters and Waid has done that here in Daredevil in a way that hasn't been done in this title in a long, long time.

Mind MGMT 11 - Again, I wasn't able to find this title in time for this review this week. Looks like I'll be starting a pull list at a store some time soon in the future. A return to form could only be dictated by not finding a book this good multiple times. It's a gotta have.

Powers Bureau 4 - I guess it's cool that it ends with Deena shooting Walker. And the part with the psychic was cool. Did he see the truth about what Walker's doing and give him a pass? Does he work with these bad guys but not respect them? I don't know, because, ironically for a Bendis comic, we don't have any kind of wording or explanation. Oh well. The overall point is that those were really the only two great parts in a mediocre comic. We're re-using the mob family that we've already dealt with. Walker's undercover and there's more powers-based illnesses that are being invented, this time via babies. It's interesting enough, but it's not GOOD. It's just more of the same, certainly not bad, but it's treading water. Powers used to be a MUST-READ, now it's a I've-kind-of-already-read-this.

Unwritten 49 - Well, it's a hell of a start to a story that was already insanely good. Pullman gets to play the role of Morpheus in the story of Orpheus to Tommy's Neo, as the journey into Hell becomes the Matrix revelation. Tommy essentially stops the bullets in mid-air and also gets the joy of converting one of his long-time nemeses into a quasi-ally. (Nope, not Pullman. That dude's in the battle for the lonnnngterm.) I'm not really clear on whether Pauly did his duty and turned around to look at Tommy, in order to fulfill the Orpheus plotline, to be honest. I know he was going to. But we never actually see the movement. What is clear, though, is that Tommy falls, and he winds up in a space that I was not expecting but am delighted to see. This is going to be amazing. I'm curious to see what happens with the side characters during this upcoming arc, because it's clear to me that it should focus on Tommy in the Fablesverse. But with Wilson getting back up above-ground and Lizzie (presumably) reuniting with Savoy, the kids getting returned to life and the effect that'll have not only on their dad but the religious nature of the world, it's about time that Tommy cleared up the distinction between Leviathan and God. When Tommy and Lizzie are discussing the repercussions of his plan, he says, "I've got God on my side." This is about to elevate this story to a whole new level because, while we're going to be dallying with stories in the next arc, clearly, Pullman's role as Cain and the disparity between Leviathan and the non-story (or maybe it'll turn out to be another one, I'm genuinely excited to see what's going to happen, regardless) God is coming up. Fantastic.

Young Avengers 5 - Hah, well, yeah, that was great. It may or may not have spoiled some of Journey Into Mystery for me, seeing as I'm not finished with it yet, but that just provides impetus to get through it. Great book, more great feels. Love the Tumblr intro to the book, as always and love even more that Yahoo's now bought them so the Yamblr is even more meta. Love the circumstances dictating that this group must stay together when it seems as though most of them don't REALLY want to, despite the fact that they like each other and they play well together. Most of all, though, love the fact that we've got genuine voices for young characters. Growth in characters is something that I really crave from the superhero genre and it's few and far between when I can actually get it. YA/Runaways has usually done a good job of it and this book continues that tradition. Plus, the art is beautiful.

Book of the week goes to Avengers. I love super hero comics and I love finite storytelling and I love huge themes. This combines all of them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

nba conference finals begin.

In the National Basketball Association, the country may not get quite as mad as the NCAA Tournament, but we are down to the final four. The NBA Playoffs have delivered their fair share of surprises - the Bulls taking game one against the Heat - as well as caveats and disappointments - Russell Westbrook's injury in the series against the Houston Rockets - but they've wound down by this point to the Conference Finals.

On Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies got smacked around in their first game at San Antonio against the Spurs. The Grizz had a tough path in making their very first Conference Finals, taking down the Los Angeles Clippers in round 1 and the Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder in round 2. Their defense, touted all season, has looked strong and will give the Spurs a serious test. The Spurs, meanwhile, defeated the disappointing Los Angeles Lakers in a round 1 romp and the upset-minded, young star-studded Golden State Warriors in round 2.

In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat have rolled through the Playoffs as most suspected they would. After blanking the Milwaukee Bucks in round 1, they were surprised by the Chicago Bulls for a game, but ended up sweeping the series after losing that first game. They'll start the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday against a team that is the Eastern Conference mirror of the Grizz, the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers haven't made the Conference Finals since 2004 and many did not figure them to be back here this year, with the absent Danny Granger and his uncertain status during various points of the season. However, the Pacers have clearly found their way forward without their star player, recommitting to defense and grinding games out that may not be beautiful but give them the win. They defeated the Atlanta Hawks in round 1 in 6 games and then did the same to the New York Knicks, winning in 6 games. In each series for the Pacers, home-court advantage has seemed to matter. They will not have it against the Heat, and the vast majority of sports pundits are picking LeBron James and company to beat the Pacers.

So the probably match-up is the Spurs and the Heat. This would be a callback for James, as the first Finals he made, while he still played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, was in 2007, against the Spurs. Those Spurs destroyed that Cavs team, sweeping them out of the Finals in an unceremonious manner. James certainly remembers that and may use it as motivation if the two teams do meet. However, a player of his caliber is certainly not over-looking his current series and it's worth thinking about the possibility of the Grizzlies and the Pacers meeting. Memphis and Indiana are first and second in defense respectively and they'll both give their opponents more than a cursory spat in their Conference Finals games. San Antonio, known for its defense for seemingly decades, sits at a mortal 11th place in that category this year, but is balanced by the fourth-ranked offense. Again, the Spurs are the favorite in their Conference Final. But sitting above all other teams, in both esteem and odds, reign the Miami Heat. With both the fifth-best defense and offense they look, at times, unstoppable.

We'll find out about the Heat and the Pacers on Wednesday. The Grizzlies and the Spurs, meanwhile, are off to a terrific start. All of the remaining Western Conference games can be seen on ESPN, while the Eastern Conference games will be broadcast on TNT.

Monday, May 20, 2013

comics for the week of 05/15/13.

My friend Nicky B and I were talking about the New 52 the other night, and I've had a couple conversations on Twitter about it, and I think what it boils down to at this point is not anger, but disappointment. I'm just bummed that there are so many good characters that aren't being used in a great fashion right now. I posted a jokey rant about it on our comics site, and yeah, it's a joke, but it's not really: I just want all these good things to be great all the time. Fortunately, I had some good stuff to work with this week.

Batwoman 21 - Trevor McCarthy doesn't kill this one like he did the last issue, but it's still good enough to get me through until JH Williams come back on the pencils. (There are two particularly poorly drawn scenes, one where Batwoman flips over the table [God, it looks like shit] and the other of Maggie holding her wine glass [grade school pathetic], but it's more than made up for by the double page splash of the sisters' reunion.) The story moves along, although the flashback to the ROC mission is kind of weak, and it's genuinely touching the way Kate wants to save her sister. That being said, it's a suicide mission that she chooses to take on and Bones knows it. Kate should know it, too. Most troubling? I know that Kate can't see the speech bubbles like we can, but it still should be super clear to her that Beth is NOT a changed woman. There are some serious problems with that lady, and while I can respect her effort for her father, there's some times where you've got to realize that family is worth sacrificing. Especially when the issue ends with your poorly thought-out so-called plan for grabbing Batman's secret ID. Maybe this is all part of the poorly-written Snyder issues of Batman, and it's going to be extremely easy for Kate and Co. to do this, and maybe it's all leading up to some sort of new, overall arc for the Bat family of titles, but if so, I'm still not a fan. Batwoman is best when she's working on the fringes. I'm not really sure that I want her to be part of whatever's happening in DC Editorial where they feel the need to smash things into one another as much as possible. All that being said, I'm still on board, for now.

Fables 129 - Ambrose as narrator continues to pay off in stellar ways for Bill Willingham. "My life in a nutshell: insignificant bits and pieces of other stories." Wow, wow, wow. The narration is incredible, the speaking patterns of Snow White are pitch perfect and the climax is unbelievable. The only thing that could have possibly trumped that tragedy is the excellent cliffhanger on the last page. This book continues to excel! Snow White has her final battle with Brandish and the glass statue of Bigby Wolf hangs over the whole picture. Snow White should be really grateful for her training in swordplay as it pays off in the best way possible, with that one little caveat for poor Bigby. The cubs take the news pretty well, except for Ambrose, which is interesting, given his dual nature in this issue. I love the interactions between Rose Red and her sister, too. And the tiny bit given to the negotiations of the wedding are interesting, too. Just another ho-hum great issue from a series that has consistently knocked it out of the park. When you're this good this often it kind of seems unfair to judge you with anything else.

Ultimate Spider-Man 23 - I'll be honest and say the cover pissed me off just as much if not more than it did last month. And the first page? I just laughed out loud. I thought it was a cheap trick, a ploy to pretend that things were actually different when they weren't. But they were. They are. My beef with the lost year at DC (God, remember that?) was never the lost time itself. I like the idea of radically changing everything by skipping over a year, and it means even more in this title where it's clear that Miles has actually followed through on his threat/promise: he hasn't been Spider-Man for a year. In that year, a couple things have happened: he dropped out of Gwen's life, he got a girlfriend, Ganke's bugged him about getting back in the game, so have some other superheroes, and his father is working on a case against NYPD for a settlement over Mom's death. All of these are awesome developments, they make sense, they can be explained, but they don't have to be. It's a perfectly open-ended story. So, let's tackle them a little bit more. The revelation of Gwen at Crazy Shang's (something like that?) was great. Makes sense for her to be there, makes sense that's how Miles would react at this time. I love the conversation Jefferson was having with his son before that interruption, too. Also, if Gwen's alone in her little club, that means that maybe we'll see a bit less of Aunt May and MJ. I love those characters, but the book needs to move on from them. Secondly, his girlfriend is Kate Bishop. I love the Ultimate Universe because we get little chuckles like that. Thirdly, Ganke is still perfect. Fourth, Jessica Drew's place in this book also feels perfect. I love that she's there, I love the way she talks to him, I love the new costume with the SHIELD web slingers that he gets and I love the look on her face when she sees how much pain he's still in. The ending with Cloak and Dagger was nice. I'm back on board with this book, as long as it stays intriguing like this.

Wolverine and the X-Men 29 - Yup, this is everything I want in a time travel story and an X-Men story and the combination of the two. I really don't know if I can actually explain what I loved so much, so these are just some of my notes: The way Perez has done the flashbacks to Origin. The shot of him with white hair and the BAMFs surrounding him. THe telepathic announcements from Professor Xorn. The Sentinel student. The portrait of Bobby with an ice beard. Carmen Drake, Mr. Langkowski, Warren Worthington IV, Kubrick Quire, Charlene Xavier, Rose Logan, Summer Grey, Eyeboy, Thunderbird, Phoenix, the Krakoa Corps, Shark Woman's X-Force Squad, and "No more days of future nothing." The samurai outfit and swords in Logan's office. I think it's just the open-ended nature of how things work in superhero comics mixed with an ideal open-endedness to a time travel story. I love how great things can get when you don't feel the constant compulsion to nail them down. Does this alternate time line mess everything in the universe up because there are fifteen million different contrasting versions of what happens in the Marvel Universe's future? Hell no! Just let it play out. Let's have fun with some of the things that are happening, because that's what it's supposed to be: fun. It's a great time when you relax and let it be and the X-Men proved that in the 70s, 80s, 90s and they're still doing so today.

Book of the week goes to Fables. I was tempted to reward Ultimate Spider-Man for getting back on its feet, but it needs to sustain some of that goodness for more than just a single issue. For inspiration, look to Fables, which has sustained its level for more than 10 years. Seriously. Just ponder that for a while.

Monday, May 13, 2013

comics for the week of 05/08/13.

Iron Man 3 smashed records, Gatsby is out. Star Trek is coming. While movies are overloading my brain (Man of Steel!!!!) the comic book industry is in good shape. Also, SHIELD is coming to TV, right? It's a damn good time to be a nerd.

Avengers 11 – I've been firmly on record as hating Mike Deodato's art for a long while now, but damn if this isn't some fine work! His Shang Chi looks just perfectly like Bruce Lee and his Chimera opening is beautifully authentic. But no matter how good (well, that might be giving him too much credit. Let's just say that it's less bad than it has been in the past) the art gets, it's still Hickman's show. When he has Natasha deliver the lines she gets to, when he plays around with the mythical backgrounds of Shang Chi, etc. that's when he proves that he's doing something better than anyone else in mainstream comics right now. Yep, crown him, if you have't already done so. It's the most obvious succession in a long, long time: Jonathan Hickman is the best writer in the Big Two Universe(s). Period. He's got the best long-term plans, he's got the best grip on a variety of voices and he's got the best subtle touch on how to make things more than the sum of all their parts. Sam and Bobby getting drunk with AIM agents was fun, but Carol gambling was even better. The relationship between Jessica and Natasha is one that can be explored in way more detail and, while he got the short end of the stick in this issue, Shang Chi gets to revel in his victory in the end, proving that not every single little detail needs to be shown in explicit breakdowns in order for an intelligent reader to understand the story. Way to go.

Batman 20 – Well, Clayface stories stay shitty. Even with Snyder trying his new act of evolution to make the bad guy more scary, they still all have to boil down to the same 1960s trickery, which makes the story feel less authentic. However, the authentic bits did shine through at the end when Clayface started talking about Damian. And the bit with Alfred asking if he could watch, after Bruce claimed he wasn't losing it (I'm still not convinced...) came off as hokey, but I didn't mind seeing those tears (or just that single one, to be fair) roll down his face. The back-up's best feature was still the art by Alex Maleev, which is always stunning. The magical angle wasn't up my alley, but I don't really care; it's always nice to see Clark and Bruce getting to be friends, especially with the new focus on Damian. The art made it worthwhile.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 21 - I still love this story. Let's get that straight right off the bat. I love the Buffy storyline and almost all of the stuff that goes with it. That being said, this issue, and this title in particular, have been awful. While Angel and Faith have carried the baton for the Buffy line overall, this book has failed. The art is terrible. The faces look smushed and everything looks condensed. (It's funny that Willow aks Xander what happened to his face, but it's not an in-joke, it's supposed to be a reference to his bruises. Unfortunately, I think most people will take it the other way.) It's cute that Xander wears a BPRD jacket and that there are Ghostbusters, Hellboy and Akira posters hanging on the walls (and Batman and Spider-Man models, and Death Stars and TIE fighters, and Indian Jones posters...Jesus, we get it, you're making Buffy out to be a nerd, some kind of self-reflection of the culture that consumes her...), but the backgrounds don't make up for the fact that the characters look bad. Bad. The dialogue is also curiously off-kilter. It might be the transition from TV to comics, but that doesn't account for the season and (more than) a half that we've already gone through. This issue was egregiously bad with the Xander and Buffy talk, though, when he gets back from his beating at the hands of Severin and Simone. Also, the fact that there was so much foreshadowing to the lack of a surprise ending... I'm severely disappointed in this book. The plan of the guardians to the entrance of the Deeper Well literally makes no sense unless you think of it as a necessity for this bit of so-called duplicity in the plot. There's no way anyone would ever conceive of a defense like that, unless it was specifically designed to be beat by this sort of plan. (It's like the old comic about Bowser and Mario.) And Willow and Buffy (and a token human) are “more assailants than expected!”??? That's just sloppy writing, poor planning, and worse execution. I'm hopeful that after this season is concluded, characters will have a new arc they'll be settled on, but this puppy needs to be put to bed. I'm in shock over the amount of complaining that I heard over Season 8 and the little chatter I hear over this one. Maybe every one else has already jumped off the ship? I'm sticking with it, maybe out of misguided loyalty, but I've still got faith in the overall story of Buffy and the Scoobies.

The Private Eye 2 – This book is fucking incredible and I don't think that I have the words to either describe it or recap it to any adequate degree, but I'm going to try. First of all, though, you need to be buying this. Then, you need to buy it in trade when it comes out. But you have to get it now, too, digitally, because it is MADE for this era. Damn, it's beautiful looking and it's not just the art. The layouts, the panels, the colors, everything about it screams 21st century digital comic. OK, on to the story. With Taj dead, the press comes in asking questions. Big sis pretends like she doesn't know what's going on, but she runs into Patrick Immelman pretty quickly. She's convinced that it's his job to find out who killer her sister just like his chauffeur is and was and they re-connect in a way that says there's a lot of backstory to be told. The eyeshadow effect is a nice one, and I'm curious about what it means. The ending, of course, was not a surprise, if you speak French and could decipher the meaning of the call to the killer, whom we find out is named DeGuerre (which has some scary meanings in French itself). He's putting together some kind of plan, it sounds nefarious and we're going to get the opportunity to see our heroes try to stop him. It's a great story, and it might sound like I'm kind of skimming it, but that's not the point. The point is that this is a one-of-a-kind thing that's unfolding in front of our eyes, and you're a fool if you're not consuming it. Also, in the afterword, BKV says there's no plans for a print edition (which I believe will change) but you're always taking the risk, if you don't get it digitally that you will never be abel to get it another way. (The silver lining to that black cloud, however, is that digital is for [nearly] ever.)

Thor God of Thunder 8 – Modern Thor talking to old Thor (the Thor-force still kills me!) has got to be one of the greatest things in recent comic history. He (our Thor) starts this issue by saying he's battle-starved! I mean, come on! (Plus, “Polish thine hammer,” has got to be a euphemism, right? Good one Aaron!) I'm glad we got an explanation on who the ladies were, too, since I don't mess with the AR-stuff, no matter how good people say it is. Looking forward to seeing more of them in the future. (Pun!) Beyond the rudimentary recap, which is coming, no doubt, let me say that I'm finding this storyline, two arcs in now, to be fascinatingly theological. The idea of a god of bombs helping to make this bomb, of Gorr's origin story, his son, his own nickname (the Redeemer?! Shit!) and his idea of a joke, wherein he lets the gods rest on the seventh day? These are all tremendously weighty concepts. I know you can get the story and enjoy it just fine without all the religious backstory, but it sure is better for me, having studied the various belief systems to the degree that I have. All right, so, the story itself in this one: Great, great stuff where we see that the Godbomb's been worked on for 900 years, that the builders have a plan to set it off before it's done and we get to see young Thor do his heroic thing. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Fortunately, it means we're going to have a hell of an exciting issue next time. This book is fantastic.

The Walking Dead – Fun times in the Kingdom. But honestly, this felt like a pretty light issue, the Micchone and Ezekiel stuff aside. Sure, it was a big step forward and yeah, it took up a lot of space, but I'm not convinced that it's that big of a deal. I'm ready for the fight. Let's see it.

Book of the week goes to The Private Eye. Brian K Vaughan is an inspirational force, but there's a lot of credit that should go towards Marcos Martin as well. Superb work on a fundamental seismic shift in the landscape of comics.

Monday, May 6, 2013

comics for the week of 05/01/13.

Happy May Day! I hope everyone made it in to their local comic stores for Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, which is weird to write, since I'm doing so before it's happened, but this will post after it's passed. Also, go see Iron Man 3!

All New X-Men 11 - Delighted to have been proved wrong. It wasn't Jean Grey joining Slim's team. Really glad it was dealt with in the first two pages, too, and not in the oh-so over-hated Bendis-style of decompressed storytelling. Get it out of the way and move on. And move on they did. We get lots of great dialogue between Kitty and young Jean, which is turning out to be one of the great hallmarks of this book (another dialogue-driven one: Bobby's conversations with himself. Unfortunately, we didn't get any of that this time). We also get to see how shape-shifting really would be the best mutant gift ever, since everyone in the world is so stupid, they fall for Mystique every time, no matter how out of character it would be for Pepper Potts to just walk in, out of nowhere, and make a demand like that. And then...of course...the good guys show up to accuse the poor young kids of things they would never do. Here's to hoping we won't have to go through the tired old trope of superheroes fighting each other, because they avoided it so well at the end of last issue and the beginning of this one. I just don't think that Cap, Havok and Thor wouldn't listen respectfully to Wolvie as he explains that they were nowhere near there and that they all know about Mystique. Let's move on.

Animal Man 20 - A disclaimer: I didn't like the last movie issue. So I'm not going to pretend that I liked this one. I get that he's trying to continue the proud meta-tradition of Animal Man, but I'm just not into it. This book has been teetering on the edge for a while with me and if next issue doesn't truly blow me away, I'm going to have to drop it. Sad to see yet another one of the highlights of the New 52 fall so hard.

BPRD: Vampire 2 - Another lush issue, full of gorgeous pencils and, as requested, quite a bit of progress insofar as the story itself. We have a brutal leader who may or may not have become a vampire, returning throughout history and his evil bride. We have a town that's totally devoid of men and we have a tour guide who is probably a bit more than she seems. The standouts, though, are the ways that the artists play with the figures of the characters and the interaction of light & shadow and present & past. The scenes showing the past, the memories, if you will, are subtle enough that they stand out in just the right way. More than anything, I'm just delighted to have more work from Ba & Moon again.

Hawkeye 10 - All right, so I've got to admit: I'm not sure that I totally understood this issue. I mean, I get that Kate met the clown from hell at the party and she came home (after an awesome flirty interaction) and talked to Clint and the clown followed her and he was at the window...But when did the scene with Grills happen? Before all that? After all that? Who was he there for? What's going to happen with Kate? What's going to happen with Clint? How awesome was this issue, even though I didn't fully understand the timeline? God, Francavilla has been killing for so long and he's such a great fit on this issue. Hawkeye really is a gem amongst Marvel's generally pisspoor output these days. I love the relationship dynamic between Clint and Kate, but the scene of the issue isn't her calling him a clown, but rather flipping the tables on the clown himself. You don't get to do the cool guy walk away. I do! "Hawkeye out!" She's amazing. Poor Grills. Still.

Swamp Thing 20 - Yep, another one down the drain. Maybe some people will enjoy following Alec Holland on his latest quest where he eventually realizes he's not a monster, despite giving up his body to the Parliament of the Green. Maybe some people thought it was cool to have this young, new Superman advise him on how to do so. I'm not one of those people, and I'm not even going to give this book another issue. I don't care about the character and he's stopped being captivating. There's no reason to spend any more time on him.

Winter Soldier 18 - While the book overall is fantastic and the origin of the Electric Ghost is fascinating, I can't help but admit that two things overshadowed it, for me: First of all, was that Colonel Sanders in the background with Nick Fury? Secondly, why don't I keep up with comic book news so that I would have known this book has already been canceled? It's a damn shame, because this is a good one. One of only a few that Marvel's putting out right now. I've little doubt that it'll be back (and it'll probably be pretty good) before the movie, but... Anyway, I digress. The girl gets her revenge. The line of the book goes to the question of 'if' and the center of life and the recurring theme of nothingness that plagues her throughout her life. Her revenge obtained, the Ghost is fully in control of her newfound power and she's going to do some serious damage. I'm interested to see how they wrap everything up in just one more issue. It's not like there's that much already happening, but there's the potential for so much that it'll kind of seem like a cheat if something major doesn't happen.

Book of the week goes to Hawkeye. The rotating artists don't hurt on this book, proof that it can be done in a great manner.