Intro. Happy late Juneteeth. If you don't know, you should.
Avengers 14 - I love the fact that this all started off as "Avengers World" and I love even more that it's building to Infinity (and the madness that I've just heard about with Hunger and the Ultimate Universe, etc. etc.) and that Hickman is in charge of it all. Here's the thing: I'm not sure it's going to be better than his FF run. But FF was a pocket universe. It was Marvel trusting Hickman to do something to make the tired old family cool again. This? This is world-building, quite literally. This is Hickman as Geoff Johns, being given the keys to the entire kingdom. The Avengers and the New Avengers seem to start directly influencing each other in this issue, with Cap front and center as the missing piece. (Those Illuminati are going to regret the terrible things they did.) Bruce Banner serves a great point, and the fact that the team is so tremendously large and that they've got so many different aspects leads to a lot of cool scenes. Hyperion and Thor on a team together, but it's Captain Universe who's got the real power - of course, she's got an advantage, since she's kind of tied in with all this madness. Eden as the new Gateway totally works, and he even got a few funny lines about Oz. We're learning more and more about the Origin Bombs and we see that they're communicating with each other and that communication is finally starting to be more than just one way. This is troubling for so many reasons. I also loved the subtle nod to the Sentry with Captain Marvel tossing the nuclear core into the sun, if that's what that was. The Falcon's play with the birds was also genius. Last note is about Stefano Caselli. I have no idea who he is or what he's done before, (ETA: OMG, he did Secret Warriors! No wonder!) but the art was gorgeous. It worried me when I saw the Yu cover, because I'm not his biggest fan, but I feel like the interior pencils brought the best of Yu (a little cross hatching, maybe? I don't know art well enough to term it, but it reminded me of Lenil in some good way) with some cartoony greatness that I always appreciate. It walked that thin line between rough and beautiful, which I feel is totally appropriate for this book. The ending, of course, just left me fiending for more.
Batwoman 21 - Well, that was a cool, different approach. And before I write any of the rest of this, let me say that I've always really liked Francesco Francavilla. And I think he's a natural fit for a character like Killer Croc. I enjoyed this issue for many reasons. First of all, we get both some progress on the character as well as some additional backstory. The changes that Croc is going through have been accelerated by Medusa, sure, but it's reassuring to see him come to the realization that he has always kind of been a man (beast?) in flux. I also loved the end, with his taking charge in a unique way and without the girl betraying him. Maybe that'll come later, or maybe I'm just so jaded that I expect it has to happen, but I loved that it didn't. I love that things can work out in a semi-logical way, just like he saw happening with Batwoman and her friends and family. All this being said, though, I really didn't like the art. Like I've said, I'm a Francavilla fan, but this one just felt off. It was a bit sloppy, a bit rough? Choppy? Croc seems like he'd be perfect for that, too, but it didn't mesh with the beauty of what's come before on this title, so it was really jarring. Bottom line: I'm sticking with Batwoman and I'm happy that this title is still one of the best that DC is putting out, because I'm not sure how many more of their books I'll be reading in the near future. Also, way more excited for next issue, hope it'll mean the return of JHW III on pencils.
Fables 130 - Meh. The first truly meh issue of Fables in 130 issues, though, and I'm more than OK with that ratio. I get that there were probably some rather large clues in this issue, what with the Rat People and the settling of the castle, but I don't know who Junebug is (nor her parents, nor if we're supposed to know who any of them are) and I don't really care. The adventure itself was kind of cool, but nowhere near the level of even the single-issue goodness that we've come to expect from the Vertigo standout. The Rat People are clever and if they're going to be a serious threat (they've got a master who has commanded them to stay hidden...for now...so that seems like a step in the right direction insofar as baddies) it's cool that we got this innocuous introduction to them, but even better was Junebug's running around the library, soaking in the sights, foisting her expectations upon not only her parents but every other adult she encountered. It was fun, like I said, just not very good.
Invincible 103 - Holy moly. I think that I'm of the mind that only Robert Kirkman could write an issue that's basically just a catch up issue where nothing happens where so much happens. (Yes, on purpose.) It feels so passive all the way through, but there's so much being set up and reminded about and then we'll talk about the ending, too. Man oh man. So we get started with the blase jog through the neighborhood, only to see that Angstrom Levy is back and he's discovering the truth re: Mark's not-death. Rex is upset about Cecil, Monster Girl is looking great, they're back to fighting, Eve wants to wait on telling people about the pregnancy (naturally) and the young parents-to-be get some terrible news from Sherry. Let's keep that terrible news in mind, of course, because it's going to come into play not only later this issue but a whooole lot more over the next couple arcs, I'd imagine. The scene between Nolan and Thragg is frightening because of Nolan's naiveté just as much as Thragg's menace. I can't believe that Nolan actually thinks his plan is going to work. It's wonderful to be optimistic, but it's deadly to be in denial. This is going to play out in a huge manner. William and Rick get the biggest laughs in this issue, not only because I'd kind of forgotten them, not only because of the hilarious dialogue and the genuine fashion in which we get to see Eve relaxing, but because I'd completely forgotten about the fact that Rick Sheridan is a cyborg! Man, that panel! Great stuff, adding to the claim that Kirkman writes wonderfully layered characters. He's not a gay man. He's not a cyborg victim. He's just a guy who happens to be all those things and so much more. And finally, when we get to the conclusion, there are so many troubling aspects. The ease with which Levy dispatches Mark, the situation that Eve finds herself in, powerless, but not really and, most of all, the world that Invincible doesn't seem to have any way off. This is going to be a sad, sad storyline, I fear.
New Avengers 7 - Some more solid work from Deodato. I'm not sure if his style has improved or if I've just come along on it. I remember when he was working on Spider-Man, I would think about skipping the issues he pencilled. Now, I'm good with this. I loved the nod to Reed not being in the MU proper (due to his adventures abroad in FF) and the deftness with which Hickman skipped over it. Reed says, "I don't believe in violence," but if nothing else, this book is clearly about people doing things they do not believe in. We're getting Reed and Strange bullying Doom, Black Bolt working with Maximus, T'Challa and Namor going to war with one another and the fissions amongst the Illuminati haven't even truly started yet. Beast is still the outsider and it's worrying to see how the others are plotting around him. While we didn't see much of the Incursions in this issue (Reed says it's been 28 days since the last one and Tony notes that this is more worrying than anything else. I'd disagree with that, and it's clear that we're meant to. What's most worrying is how off-kilter ALL of these characters have gotten. The things they're willing to do, the things that they've already done, that's what's most worrying.) Black Bolt, as always, in any story he's involved in, is the ultimate wild card. While this issue was mostly just filling in details of the inner turmoil, I'm loving the fact that there's so much going on.
Ultimate Spider-Man 24 - It starts out so well! It's a double page spread with Cloak and Dagger taking on Bombshell! The pencils are so pretty! (<3 U Marquez!) It's got killer narration by Miles. With a mention of Ganke's Twitter habits! It's so great. AND THEN IT GETS BETTER! We get a flashback to the origin story of Cloak and Dagger and - surprise, surprise - they're high school students. Smart ones. At opposite schools. But they're both class presidents. This is so cute. And then...we see some tragedy strike. In a really neat nod to continuity, they present the news in context of things that we know happened in the past, so this issue was really working overall for me. But then, just when we get to (what should be) the coolest part, the part where we see some truly terrifying names from the past (and the regular Marvel U), something happens...the art changes? The dialogue gets a little too hokey? There's...something amiss. When I see the names Layla Miller & Nathaniel Essex (with Dr. Arnim Zola and the FREAKING LEADER!) and read about the Roxxon Labs, I expect this book to get turned up a notch. Instead, it fell a bit flat. Fortunately, it was just that double page spread and the finale to Cloak and Dagger's origin story got a little more mileage. Interestingly, the Leader and Zola are both down in the room with C&D when the dark matter transformation begins, so maybe we'll some mutations in their cases as well? Regardless, I love the fact that Roxxon is the new OsCorp and that we're getting to see history repeat itself in cool, new, different ways. I'm a fan of hewing with character names but radically differentiating from the established storylines. That's why, for me, the moment of this issue recalled Rachel in Batman Begins slapping a young Bruce Wayne: "You don't know what to do? You get up!" Great stuff here, even if the art got a bit sloppy and we had that weird page of dialogue from characters who should know better.
Book of the week goes to Avengers. The amount of love that I have for Hickman is, frankly, too high for anything else to compete. The way this Avengers story is going, too, just makes me all the more excited for the Fantastic Four omnibus that you should all be getting.