by The General
The Amazing Spider-Man #556 - "Don't hate the Spidey, just hate One More Day." That seems to be my mantra these days, as I've become a bit of a booster for Amazing Spider-Man on the message boards I frequent. The truth is that I probably won't be collecting Amazing Spider-Man full time, but I am really enjoying this current arc by Zeb Wells and Chris Bachelo. The actual storyline is a little bit of goofiness involving a mystical snowstorm and Mayan ninjas. But, somehow Wells and Bachelo has turned it into a atmospheric quest with some great character beats in it. It may not be perfect, but its one of the most entertaining Spider-Man stories I've read in a long time. A brilliant B+.
X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 - This is an odd little book. It's titled "Divided We Stand," but really the title should be "The X-Men Are Dicks," since we are presented with four stories of younger mutants left traumatized and in a lurch after the disbanding of the X-Men, and one story of Nightcrawler harassing partially-reformed Scalphunter. Even in terms of storytelling this is a decidedly mixed bag. It starts with a disappointing tale by Mike Carey, involving Cannonball picking a bar fight with the Cabots - the Guthrie's rival hillbilly family from Chuck Austen's painful run. Awkwardly illustrated by Brandon Peterson, and even more awkwardly staged in terms of storytelling, this is just goofy in the worst sense of the word. A dorky D.
The next story features, oddly, Nehzno from New X-Men. Nehzno's always been a bit of an enigma, hanging out on the fringes of the various incarnations of Xavier's school. He's got cool looking silver tattoos, and his powers seem to involve growing and super-strength... but that's apparently a bad thing for reasons I can never quite follow. Anyhow, this story has him returning home to Wakanda after the disbanding of the X-Men. There he is basically shunned by the locals and learns to appreciate his old classmates, and I consider taking a nap. Honestly, I'm not sure what the point of this story is, unless they are planning on moving him over to Black Panther. Wakanda is apparently where black mutants go for there storylines to die. Anyhow, a confounding C.
The third storyline stars Victor (the little dragon guy from New X-Men) and Northstar. After the disbanding, Victor has returned home to "Smalltown USA," but Quicksilver has shown up to check in on him and bring him back into the X-Men fold. Exactly why he's bringing him back, or where he would be bringing him back to is a little unclear but--despite that--this is actually probably the strongest tale of the batch. Scottie Young dishes up some dark and moody artwork, as well as a well-written story that plays on the two characters' histories, and does a great job demonstrating how traumatizing the last couple of years have been for the younger X-characters. Victor has gone from being a background character who represent the "average kid" to something darker and more interesting. A bleak B.
Hellion's story is a brief and forgettable tale of him tracking down Magneto and trying to turn to him for guidance. Honestly, it was such a commonplace C that I've pretty much have already forgotten it. It just felt like it was written and illustrated on autopilot, so I read it on autopilot too.
Finally, we change gears for the final story to a tale about Nightcrawler "checking in" on Scalphunter. Since Messiah Complex, the now-ex-Marauder has apparently thrown in the towel and retired to a life of making miggas at some greasy spoon restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Now, in theory, the idea of a story involving a mercenary killer retiring to be a cook seems doomed to fail, but somehow against the odds this tale did more to establish Scalphunter as a sympathetic and interesting character than anything else starring him since I first read about him over 15 years ago. A slightly baffling B, with Nightcrawler sort of coming off like a dick. But, again, that's the theme of the issue, I guess.
So, let's see... D + C + B + C + B = C, I guess.
Avengers: The Initiative #10 - First off, I think this is actually last month's issue of The Initiative. But, this title has been receiving some raves recently, so I thought it was about time to check it out. And, this issue was the oldest one on the shelf at my comic store, so why not start there?
Second off, why is it that nearly every character who is either a shape-changer or has stretching powers (a la Plastic Man) has to be the "comic relief?" I use quotes there, by the way, because those characters are almost never actually funny, they're just obnoxious distracts (Think: Morph, Madcap, Impossible Man, Plastic Man, Elogated Man, etc, etc). Wacky characters are really hard to do justice... as evidenced by Slapstick in this issue. Ugh. Just... ugh.
But, beyond Slapstick, I can see the appeal of this title. The majority of it sort of plays out like an episode of Dragonball Z starring B- and C-league Marvel characters. Lots of glowing, and punching and laser shooting here. It's nothing to write home to mom about, but it's solid superheroic fight scenes with a mess of characters I largely couldn't keep straight. Based on this issue, I'd say it was a solid, chaotic, C+.
X-Factor #30 - This title has been sort of lost since a little before Messiah Complex, but to be fair this storyline seems to be working toward giving the team a new status quo. Sadly, until that happens, we've just got the cast stumbling around and fighting Arcade. Speaking of Arcade, I have a question to all the comic fans out there: When you hear the phrase "red-headed stepchild" do any of you think of Arcade? Because, honestly, it's his face that jumps into my mind whenever someone says it. To me, Arcade defines Red-Headed Stepchild.
Honestly, I found this issue a bit confusing. I'm not sure if it's Peter David's script or the illustrator that drops the ball here, but I found myself occasionally thinking "wait, where are they?" Or "he's there too? I thought he was in the other scene." Anyhow, it just seemed more confusing than it probably needed to be.
Also, to be honest, there's just an underlying sadistic current to this title that turns me off sometimes. For example, in this issue there are two pages dedicated to some random girl walking into a wall of lasers and burning to death while Arcade watches on through his monitors. Now, it could be argued this sequence shows how dangerous Arcade is and it shows how dangerous that laser wall is... but something in the handling of it just sort of rubs me the wrong way. And, I swear there is a similarly brutal sequence every other issue or so. All which just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This is all doubly odd, since I'm usually not a crusader against violence in comics.
Regardless, the whole issue is just a confusing, yet commonplace C.
Captain America #37 - I think that Brubaker's pretty much mastered the art of making an interesting comic... while having next to nothing actually happen in that comic. This issue of Captain America is a perfect example of that. For the life of me, I don't know if any of the plotlines actually moved forward. But, at the same time, it was filled with well constructed scenes and good character moments and beats. Its the same sort of smoke and mirrors that a soap opera might use. The sort of thing where each scene is solid and seems necessary but which--at the same time--you know you could walk away from, come back in six months, and find all the characters in the exact same place. I'm not sure how he manages, but I'm still enjoying reading it. So, it gets a begrudging B.
by The General