The NBA Finals have begun so, despite this being an amazing week for comics, at least insofar as my stack, my attention is wholly focused in another direction.
All New X-Men 14 - This continues to be a fun book. The best parts of this issue are modern-day Havok getting to have a reunion with his younger (older) brother and the joy that we can see on both of their faces at seeing the better versions of each other. Also, the revisiting of the House of M via Jean Grey's sneaky little new powers. This is a new wrinkle to me, but I'm sure smarter people have thought of it already: we're basically going to get to see everything that's already happened through the eyes of people who haven't seen it yet. So that presents this awesome scenario where Jean learns what Wanda did and reacts like we'd expect any sane person to and then the current crew all have to justify something that's honestly pretty mystifying: why is Wanda allowed to be an Avenger and everyone the world over is chasing after modern Cyclops? Pretty interesting double standard, huh? The rest of the issue is filled with Mystique still going after money and framing the young X-Kids and the growing realization on the part of Mastermind that there's got to be more behind this than just money. Smart one, that lady.
Avengers 13 - There were no single words or lines that stuck out of Hickman's masterful work here like there were last issue, but that doesn't change the fact that this was incredible. The High Evolutionary has the kids that Hyperion and Thor (and the others) were teaching and he's used them to resurrect a Terminus. This is a big deal, obviously, but it's dealt with by the big guns of these new Avengers. Hyperion and Thor prove to be way more than a match for the Terminus, and Hyperion snags the batteries that are powering the monster just in time to save them from Thor's lightning powers. More importantly, though, is the conversation between the High Evolutionary and Hyperion and then Hyperion and Thor. The narration carries over from last issue and proves to be a great touch as we finally have some kind of human grounding to a character that never had it before. I love the fact that we're getting this so early, because it shows that Hickman learned from the lesson of Sentry; you can't just have a totally unrelateable, all-powerful character. He needs this grounding and it benefits the future potential of this story. The only bad thing here is the poor art of Deodato, which hits a low point on the very page where it should be overwhelming in the best way: the resurrection of the Terminus. However, there is a small redemption in the closing conversation, with the way that Hyperion looks - so fragile, matching his inner thoughts. Solid.
Daredevil: End of Days 8 - Well. That was...cute. And kind of touching. I guess. It was mainly just a summarization of why and how this mini series could have been just four issues, or even just three, or even just two. So, last issue we found out that Ben Urich's kid is the new Daredevil. And this issue we get to see some flashbacks, not to Matt training him, but rather to their last conversation. They're gorgeously illustrated by David Mack. But other than those pages, the whole thing is a mishmash. We have the funeral of Ben Urich, where his last piece on Daredevil is read by JJJ and it's a great piece. Probably some of the most solid, sentimental writing that Bendis has done in a long, long time. But then he has to ruin it with his Bendis touches. A card from Foggy seems about right, but Peter ending up with Kitty is a delusion. Peter having that conversation with Lil' Urich at the funeral, much less at the bar, is crazy out of place. The Punisher showing this much sentimentality for any of the involved parties, whether that's Matt or his successor, is incomprehensible. And then, yeah, we get to the Rosebud. I'm not going to spoil it here, but let me just say that I'll have to go back and read some of the interactions between Urich and the people he interviews to see how this possibly could have escaped everyone's notice. They have a PICTURE together? And her last name is straight up? I mean... Ugh. It's cool that the legend of Stick carries on. But it really took us 8 issues to get to the most logical conclusion point? Decompressed (and shitty) storytelling at its finest. Interesting take on the end, not my fave.
East of West 3 - Hickman's other big work going on right now is something equally as ambitious and nearly as incomprehensible. It's a mashup of Stephen King's The Dark Tower and a post-apocalyptic story set on actual Earth with an alternate history. It's so weird that, thus far, I definitely have no idea what's happening other than the Four Horsemen are minus Death, who was married, the USA is divided into 7 (but actually 8) nations and there are some crazy people wandering around who are actively trying to bring about the end of the world. Some of these people are on the same side, some are opposites, but they're all pretty generally bad people. There are many references to cults and/or religion and there appears to be some sort of emphasis on keeping people in their corner, both stereotypically ethnically speaking as well as geographically. The art is great, the story is intriguing.
Locke And Key: Omega 5 - Holy poop. Locke and Key, you break my heart. And you do it every issue and you do it so exquisitely and I love you so much for making me so miserable. Oh my God. I don't really know how to react. There are only two more issues left (and it looks like next issue is going to be a flashback issue that will frustrate me because I don't get the ending, but, in retrospect [probably even almost-immediate retrospect] will be incredibly important) and I have no idea what exactly is going to happen. Do I expect the good guys to triumph? Absolutely. Do I think that's actually going to happen? I have no clue. Tyler gets to have a conversation with an unexpected guest that nearly brought me to tears, Nina appears to be sobering up, Kinsey, Jordan and Jamal are trapped on the catwalk and Bode is nowhere to be seen. But Erin Voss does come back in a neat way, too, and it seems very likely that these components of her are going to play an important part. The bad aspect of people coming back is doubled up on, though, as the Giant Key and the Flying Key play important parts, too. Plus, we get to see Detective Mutuku start to believe in magic and Dunk's full commitment to doing so, although his scenes are ambiguous in the worst way possible. While Dodge is marching the teenagers downstairs toward their deaths and the only mention we see of Rufus is in the intro, this issue hits all the marks that we could ever hope for. Those who have the guts to stand up to Dodge (we get some great whispered-to-herself monologue from a nerd) pay the price and Jordan appears to make a sacrifice that I expected from Kinsey. This book will, undoubtedly, go down as one of the best comics of all time.
Rachel Rising 14 - This book just keeps getting kookier and kookier. I like the connections that Terry Moore is making, but even more than that, I love that he's finally directly addressing his own personal science versus religion feelings. "That pure science thing...it's just like another religion, isn't it? They use the word believe a lot. And if you don't agree with them, you're an idiot." After his relationship with God via David in SiP and his relationship with science via the entirety of Echo, this seems like the perfect book to look at the reconciliation of the two. There are a lot of other noteworthy things, too, including the connectivity of the universe that my friend Dave described as "plotz-worthy," which I thought was a cute way of doing something that I just figured had to be done. I was more shocked at the revelation in Echo and when it happened here, it generated a smile. But more importantly, we have the firm establishing of bad guys and the slow coming around of the good guys. Aunt Johnny and her partner have a unique take on the science/religion dichotomy, but even more tellingly, Aunt Johnny is slowly coming around to the possibility of non-scientific explanations. I have a feeling this will be especially important as she seems like a key ally in the battle that is inevitably coming. The art, as always, is great, but I was a little disappointed that the last panel didn't get a page to itself, even flipping the pages back and forth a few times just to make sure that I wasn't missing the last page.
The Wake 1 - That was interesting and I like Snyder well enough (I'm back and forth on Murphy) but I don't know if it was compelling enough for me to feel like I have to stick around. I might come back and check it out in trade if I hear great things. For now, we've got a contemporary story, a future quest and the briefest of ancient preludes. It all involves some sort of shadowy government conspiracy and whale noises and a poor female protagonist whose family is in disarray. She's suffered some sort of trauma in the past and she's being given a chance to make it all right - of course she takes it. However, from our look into the future, it seems as though it's not going to turn out very well. Cool if you love the ocean. For me, just OK.
Winter Soldier 19 - I've got to be honest: With all the time-jumping and body-swapping, I'm not really convinced I got all the little details of this issue. But I'm confident enough to say that I got the overall picture and it was a good one. Bucky, riding off into the sunset for now at least, gets a somewhat happy ending. The dude whose wife he killed kinda sorta forgives him. The girl he's been chasing saves both herself and him, after transforming the Cosmic Cube into the Tesseract, so that we have the much-vaunted movie connection. And, most importantly, we get that last image of Widow and Soldier. That was nice. The parallels between the first page and Bucky falling with Cap to the penultimate pages with Bucky falling with Tesla were nice, too, and I love the fact that we finally saw Bucky without his metal arm in a non-combat setting. It really hammers home the idea that he's an ex-soldier (although I don't know how far I'll go in calling him ex-anything, since he's still working harder than a lot of full time heroes) when he's sitting for his dinner (or breakfast, as we don't know if it's sunrise or sunset) and joined by the HYDRA-SHIELD agent. If this is the end, which it isn't really, then this was good enough. But I'm still bummed that they'd put this on the back burner just to bring it back later. It was a hell of a ride, though.
Book of the week goes to Locke and Key. This is a time that we would all do well to remember in the future, when so many good comics are coming out, not only from the indie guys (who produce pretty consistently) but also from the mainstreams. But even amongst the cream of the crop, Locke and Key stands head and shoulders above the rest and will for a long, long time.