Monday, January 21, 2013

EXTRA! EXTRA! (JAN 16-22, 2013)

All-New X-Men #6
(Bendis, Immonen)

After a five-issue opening salvo, Brian Michael Bendis begins his second arc with All-New X-Men #6 by focusing on Jean Grey and Cyclops as they each start to adapt to the modern day through trials by fire. For Jean, those trials involve dealing with her newfound powers, while Scott discovers a completely new world once he drives off the school grounds with Wolverine's motorcycle. Bendis does an excellent job playing Jean and Scott off of Kitty Pryde and Logan respectively -- Kitty teaches Jean a psychic cool-down technique Jean taught Kitty years ago, while Logan begrudgingly tries to be civil toward a young Scott Summers fearing for his safety because of something he hasn't done yet. I was worried, early on, that Bendis wouldn't be able to sustain All-New X-Men beyond the shock value of the original five X-Men being in the present, but he's proved that there's a lot that comes with being time-displaced amongst your future self, and that's what's going to keep this series alive for a long time.

GRADE: 9/10

Batgirl #16
(Simone, Benes)

I mentioned in my review of Batman #16 that "Death in the Family" is getting a bit long in the tooth, and that fact is quite evident in Batgirl #16, an issue that not only grasps at Joker straws for plot advancement, but also calls into question the entirety of Joker's actions in general. Joker explains to Barbara (after saying it to basically everyone else in one form or another) that Batman's allies are his weaknesses and the only way to make him stronger is to eliminate those weaknesses -- so Joker decides to kill the others and...marry Batgirl? The whole idea is cool from a theoretical standpoint, but the concept of Joker wanting to maim and wed Batgirl is just kind of silly; there's no real reason for Joker not wanting to simply kill Batgirl, and the inclusion of James Gordon Jr. is the only thing that kept me reading, as he was obviously the wild card that was injected to make a rather mediocre "DotF" tie-in worthwhile. I like Gail Simone, but her event crossover issues have just not been that good, and it all comes to a rather uninspired conclusion here in in Batgirl #16.

GRADE: 5/10

Demon Knights #16
(Vendetti, Chang)

Demon Knights #16 moves forward 30 years to reconnect the Demon Knights with each other once again to take on an impossible task: defeat the monster Cain before he can reach the island of Themyscira and turn the Amazonian population into his unstoppable army. Every member of the original team is imbued with some sort of agelessness, except for Al-Jabr, who has built a grand city of innovation in Spain, though has grown old as well. Robert Vendetti does an exceptional job catching up readers to the current status quo without giving too much away (what's up with Ystin and Exoristos' relationship going all sour?), as well as making the issue accessible enough for new readers to be able to understand who these characters are and why they're together. I've heard rumor that Demon Knights is next in line to be cancelled, and if that's true it would be a real shame because Paul Cornell -- and now Vendetti, as well -- has built up such an amazing a focused vision of DC's history.

GRADE: 8/10

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #16
(Kindt, Ponticelli)

It's the final issue of Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., which is sad because it's such a great series, but it's good because it means Matt Kindt and Alberto Ponticelli poured their all into issue to send the series off in good fashion. "The Monster Bomb" really doesn't differ much from the Creature Commandos' normal missions -- they're tasked with stopping a dirty viral bomb from being dropped on Central City by a terrorist cell known as The Plague -- so it's Karl Martin's parallel story that makes the issue more interesting. Martin's testimony to his superiors as to the legitimacy of monsters running around a major city land him a forced leave of absence to help deal with his delusions of a shadow organization employing cliche monsters to do in hours what federal organizations do in years. Matt Kindt decides to play it up for this series finale, giving us two sides of the same story and offering a more relatable situation that also acts as a way to bow out with dignity.

GRADE: 8/10

Indestructible Hulk #3
(Waid, Yu)

Slow-burn is the name of Mark Waid's game with Indestructible Hulk -- he has been taking deliberate steps to frame Bruce Banner's new designation as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., allowing the idea of the Hulk being an employee of an international peacekeeping/espionage organization to sink in a bit. That being said, Indestructible Hulk is moving a little too slow at times, and the action sequences are few and far between; case in point, this month's issue only really has one big fight scene, and it's over in a matter of panels. I'm predisposed to like Waid's Indestructible Hulk purely based on what I've seen the man do with other characters, but I'm worried there might be a lot of self-fulfilling prophecies and writing to expectations instead of what's good.

GRADE: 7.5/10

New Avengers #2
(Hickman, Epting)

If high-concept, science-saturated, ethically-complex storytelling isn't your cup of tea, New Avengers is going to be your least favorite series of the year -- Jonathan Hickman packs so much into New Avengers #2 that it might take you more than a fair share of rereads to understand what's really going on. Because Earth seems to be the constant incursion point in a chain reaction of imploding universes, the Illuminati gathers to discuss how to deal with the rapidly approaching end of all existence without resorting to killing other worlds to save our own. Mister Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, Captain America, Black Panther, and Iron Man all have their work cut out for them as they must keep the multidimensional apocalypse a secret, and also because one of the flash-forwards might possibly have revealed the origins of the coming Age of Ultron! Hickman and Epting have developed a stunning series with this new volume of New Avengers, and it's only going to get bigger and better.

GRADE: 9/10

Superboy #16
(DeFalco, Coello, Pinna)

There are really not adequate words to describe how bad Superboy #16 really is; aside from the lazy art and completely nonsensical plot points, Kon-El's personality goes through wildly changing iterations, Flash's internal monologue is some of the stupidest I've read in months, and "H'el on Earth" has become more confusing as opposed to more clear, which is what a story is supposed to do the farther along it gets. Throwing the Justice League into this issue is a blatant play for sales of a book that's simply bad -- Kon is basically just the League's pawn this issue, and their overall plan to use his telekinesis to overpower H'el's forcefield around the Fortress of Solitude is so dumb it's laughable (and Batman admitting he doesn't know what to do?!?! WHY TOM DEFALCO? WHY!?!?) There's really not a whole lot to like about Superboy #16, whether you're coming in as a new reader intrigued by "H'el on Earth", or you're a regular buyer who keeps up with the book. It boggles my mind as to why DC is so flippant with how they're handling their flagship teen hero and making him a cardboard cutout of a protagonist in order to pump up a severely fractured and uninteresting story.

GRADE: 2/10

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