First of all, two of my titles were missing this week from my local shop: Astonishing X-Men #48 & Ultimates #8. So those are getting skipped (for now).
Avengers vs. X-Men #0: This is a pretty solid zero issue. Inasmuch as zero issues have any purpose whatsoever (but that's an argument for another time). But if you are going to do a non-essential opening chapter for your story, AvX #0 is the way to do so. Could I have skipped this entirely? You bet. Was it worth the time and money? Sure.
Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron each deliver a clear, complex, and honest character piece. Bendis begins to reintroduce the Scarlet Witch to active superherosim, and in a small amount of space puts Wanda through physical and emotional triumphs and failures. Aaron's Hope story accomplishes a lot of the same things, although in that case it is mostly Hope's triumphs and Scott's failures. We get to see Hope finally confront the issue of the Phoenix, which feels like it's sort of a long time coming. Obviously Marvel has been building up to it by design, but the girl ain't no fool. It makes sense she would have figured out so much already, and it was nice to have her say so out loud after all this time. Also the Serpent Society! Oh man, I have a soft spot in my heart for those clowns, and watching Hope use all of her tactics (including excessive rage-punching) to defeat such a bizarre and ridiculous group of villains was as entertaining as it was unsettling. Frank Cho's art was also solid and consistent. Fun action scenes that had villains which played to his strengths, and good, clear, expressive emotions in the angry-man-talks-sternly-at-woman scenes.
It loses some points because...nothing all that significant happened. No Avengers fought any X-Men. It was issue zero, and it had zero importance. But a fun prologue nonetheless.
Daredevil #10: Daredevil against Mole Man is a pretty interesting match up. Mole Man's natural dimwittedness means that, except for arguably the first page or two, he never puts Daredevil in any real danger, but he's also smart enough to point out that the whole fight is useless because Daredevil has nothing to gain. And it's true. As the narrative captions so kindly point out to us, everybody loses this time. Mole Man may not be a threat to Daredevil, but he's already done all the damage he could do with his little grave-robbing scheme to Matt Murdock. And it is, appropriately, Murdock whose name is attached to the construction of the replacement headstones, granting him the only real victory for any of the characters. A thoroughly satisfying ending to this two-parter.
Then there's the weird part at the very end where...I guess maybe he's going crazy? Or he's overly paranoid? Something's up. Of course, The Omega Effect is next, as we already know, so his paranoia is probably not misplaced. But it was a sort of jarring ending to what was otherwise another great issue from Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera.
Justice League Dark #7: Blech. If they hadn't already announced Lemire taking over, I'd be dropping this title for good as of this week. I have a theory that Peter Milligan never wanted this job or, at any rate, once he got it he regretted the decision for some reason. Because we know damn well he is capable of writing a John Constantine with actual charm and some sliver of likability, but every month in this book all Constantine does it bitch. Bitch bitch bitch. At Xanadu and, sometimes, Deadman, who isn't even bold enough to bitch back. Instead, all he does is whine (yes, there is a difference, but they are equally obnoxious and wrong for these characters). As if that wasn't enough, Shade's only role this month was to be confused and scared. Xanadu, too, until she abandons everybody. Also Zatanna, basically, although she may not have been so scared. A few vampires did get killed, but mostly Xanadu barked orders and the others begrudgingly obeyed. Like always. I get it, Milligan, you can't think of one damn reason this group would be formed, so you just have a magic lady force them together. Stop pointing it out and just tell me a story.
The art was serviceable, but also felt a little bit rushed or...cramped, like maybe Admira Wijaya and/or Daniel Sampere might have liked an extra page or two. A lot of M-Vest activity happened off-panel, and we jumped around from Bat-people back to the main cast in a rapid, disorienting, unsatisfying way.
Moon Knight #11: I will be so sad to lose this title next month. The craziest hero in the game, that's the angle Marc Spector has chosen for himself, and it is working on every level. Alex Maleev draws the shit out of what is mostly just one great and sometimes humorous fight scene between Moon Knight, Madame Masque, and Agent Buck Lime over control of, you guessed it, the head of Ultron. And Bendis continues to develop the interesting partnership between Moon Knight and Buck, as well as hanging onto the Echo and Nefaria threads, all of which makes for the perfect push to what will be the inevitable final showdown in issue 12. Definitely the best title to get the axe from Marvel all year.
Morning Glories #17: Jade and Ike talk to each other. End of plot summary.
This was not a bad issue. This was not an impressive issue. There was some insight given into the minds of both characters, but I would argue that, for the most part, it's not a lot we didn't already know. Jade has some secret knowledge, and it is connected to her killing herself. Yep, knew that. Ike is a prick, but only sort of, because really he's kind of nice and sad and smart and understanding. Duh. Other than Jade's mom's death, which only raises more questions than it answers, nothing was really to be gained from this issue. And that, I think, is a problem with Morning Glories in general. Nick Spencer loves to throw weird and/or unexpected shit at us (see the last page of this issue) and then just makes us steep in it without any conclusive payoff. Example: Jade finally asks out loud what the school is, vaguely says it might be a test, and then...nothing. End of topic. Not helpful.
My interest shrinks with this title more and more. But Joe Eisma always brings his A-game. His A-game is not necessarily dazzling, but it's always right there, looking the same and therefore creating a real sense of consistency to the world of the book. And that is as true here as always.
Scalped #57: Another title which, when it ends, will be every so dearly missed. I must say, I honestly thought we'd be done with all the Diesel stuff. I guess maybe that was stupid of me, but if so I'm glad to be stupid, because I really enjoyed the surprise of it coming back into play here, at the end of everything, in such an enormous way. Diesel's murder (and the whole story surrounding it) was such a key part of the greater arc of Dash's character, really getting him in with Red Crow in a way he hadn't quite accomplished before that, so it seems fitting it would be the thing that might undo Dash in the end.
Of course, it's all really because of Carol's abortion, which is another plotline I wasn't sure we'd ever hear from again (although I was less surprised by this one). And I really, really hope we get to see Red Crow and Carol talk about it before the title comes to a close, because I just think Jason Aaron is going to write that scene into space.
Trail's End is shaping up to be one hell of a closing arc. And I didn't even talk about how it's probably one of the top ten covers Jock's ever done for the series, or how brutal Catcher gets to be one last time before it all comes to a close, or how R.M. Guera does such a great job decaying Diesel's body you feel like you're watching Bones. Only three to go, so Aaron and Guera better already have their next project locked and loaded.
Secret Avengers #24: I am having a hard time pinning down my feelings about this one. I have been enjoying this story, by-and-large, but under Rick Remender's pen, Secret Avengers has started to feel kind of like Justice League Dark, where the biggest common theme from issue to issue is how much everyone dislikes and fights with each other on the team. Now, there is certainly more of a sense in Secret Avengers that, eventually, some of this griping and sniping will resolve. Hawkeye obviously wishes he was doing better, Beast has been trying to keep the peace, etc. but for now I find it sort of grating. Captain Britain and The Torch bicker, Hawkeye apologizes to Beast for last month's bickering, and Flash Thompson just complains out loud to himself for a page. Enough.
However, Gabriel Hardman could not be a better fit for the title right now, I think in some ways because of all the in-fighting and negativity. His lines are rough but always clear, his characters so expressive even when they're not as detailed, and it fits the somewhat gritty and uneven feeling of the team. And he makes Father quite the imposing villain, while still letting some of the humor of a room full of arguing robots come through.
Still, mostly just more losing to Adaptoids and failing to get along for the Secret Avengers this issue. Same as last issue.
Spaceman #5: Coming right in the middle of this nine-issue series, Spaceman #5 is a bit of a slow burn. Each of the various seeds Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso planted in the previous four issues continues to grow. Orson and Tara get one step closer to getting her home once they are spotted by, and then spot, a camera crew from her show. The story of Orson's past on his space mission takes a fatal and, no doubt, highly significant turn. And by the end of the issue, Orson's past gets incrementally closer to catching up with him in the present. Steady as she goes with this story, as well as Risso's art. What can be said that hasn't been said already? He captures the gloom of the world so perfectly, while both Orson and Tara stand out as more innocent and hopeful figures. Even when compared to the other "spaceman" on the last page (whose name escapes me at the moment), Orson is far less imposing or hard in his appearance. It keeps us on his side, even as we learn that his greed led to another's death, or we wonder whether he's the best guardian for Tara at the moment. He may not be, but it's clear he's doing his personal best, and that's good enough (for me, anyway).
Teen Titans #7: Teen Titans is such an insane romp of a comic book, sometimes it zips by so fast it barely leaves an impression. I mean, what even happens this month? The Titans win and win and win but don't get anywhere, argue with each other a bit (Red Robin is a total dick in this issue), and then get attacked by a scary-looking villain. Not the first scary-looking villain to attack them, mind you. Not even the scariest-looking, which sort of detracts from the ending. And something so weird happens to Kid Flash for like half a page that I am guessing will be important down the line.
It wasn't bad, per se, just a bit fluffy. I will say that I found myself actively cheering on Solstice when she was scolding Red Robin, who, again, was such an ass about it. He's really not that great a leader, or even, in this issue, that great a hero. But the rest of his team are such a lively and interesting-looking group, that even when it's not doing much, Teen Titans continues to entertain from cover to cover.
Uncanny X-Force #23: The Otherworld story finally ends, and not a moment too soon. Man, so much about this was a disappointment. Tocchini's art, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is all wrong here. Uncanny X-Force has, to my mind, always been its best when the art has been as down-to-earth as possible. It is a team of grim characters doing dirty work, even when they are battling goat monks from the future and skinless judges, and they need an artist who can show it. Having such blurred and uneven art is a huge drawback.
The story, alas, was only the tiniest bit better. I did like the very, very end of the issue, where Betsy gets to put each of her brothers in their respective places, because Psylocke is a badass and should get to act like one as much as possible. But Mr. Skinless or Weapon III or whatever he's called just runs off, and the reveal about the goat monk's identity, while semi-interesting, was not all that inventive and made the bulk of the fighting in the last few issues seem like a lot of wasted time.
Also, the whole trial of Fantomex thing hasn't really been resolved, has it? I mean, the plan was to erase the guy from existence, and that did not happen. Is the Captain Britain Corps NOT going to come after him again for murdering kid Apocalypse? And if not, why not? And if they are going to come after him again...lame. I don't want to see those British pricks in Uncanny X-Force ever again!