Sort of a light week, but lots of god villains! I love a good villain...
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #8: I know it was said a lot last month with #7, but I still can't believe the difference having Walden Wong on inking duties makes to Alberto Ponticelli's art. It's not worse, exactly, it's just much more normalized. Closer to a traditional modern comicbook art, rather than Ponticelli's usual frenetic and kinetic style. Wong calms everything, taking away some of the usual energy. I don't mind it, but I do miss the old Ponticelli.
Luckily, this month's Frankenstein tells a calmer story than usual, so Wong's inks feel a bit more appropriate. As Frankenstein and Lady Frankenstein search for and eventually find their escaped son, we get to learn the details of their family's tragic history, and it helps to flesh out not only Frankenstein but also (and especially) his wife. Other than being completely badass and sassy, Lady Frankenstein hasn't had a lot to do in the series so far, but in this issue we see her undergo several major decisions and changes. Jeff Lemire keeps us on our toes and continues to grow the world of S.H.A.D.E., from Father Time's secrets to Ray Palmers character turn to, of course, Lady Frankenstein abandoning the cause. A solid standalone story in a title than continues to be reliable entertainment.
Saga #2: I was admittedly not sold on Saga after its debut issue, but I am a full-fledged fan as of this one. Brian K. Vaughn follows up on all the ideas and character introduced last time, and still uses a bulk of his pages to show us an impressive new villain, The Stalk. And he continues to make Marko and Alana's relationship more complex, compelling, and genuine with each panel they're in together. They show humor and affection in the face of great hardship, and it helps their love ring true.
The real star of this title, however, is Fiona Staples. Somehow she makes everything and everyone we see part of a clearly shared universe even when they are simultaneously so visually different. The prince with the TV head, The Will's freaky giant skinless cat-thing, The Stalk's spider-body, and the Horrors on the final page would most likely seem like they each belong in their own books if you saw the just character sketches. But Staples pulls it off, and makes it an absolute treat for the eyes while doing so. You could press the mute button and still have a whole lot to enjoy in Saga #2. Definitely a triumph all over.
Secret Avengers #25: At last, the Rick Remender I've been waiting for! I only know Remender from his amazing work on Uncanny X-Force, but after seeing Flash Thompson bring some much-needed humor to what has been a grisly title for the last few issues, I'm tempted to catch myself on Venom as well. He stole every scene he was in, and brought some of the best action to the issue, too. Though there was plenty of that to go around. Jim Hammond also had some great lines and moments of daring heroism all his own, and he's another character I'm excited to see more from (assuming he recovers fairly soon). But the best part of Secret Avengers #25, for me anyway, was when the little boy these superheroes have all been struggling to rescue manages to not only save himself, but to defeat one of the seemingly unbeatable opponents. I hope we see more of that kid in future arcs, though I'm sure that's just wishful thinking.
The other big thing I enjoyed about this issue was that we got some actual teamwork and team-building from our heroes rather than a lot of bickering and failure. And Gabriel Hardman was firing on all cylinders as well. The panel where The Swine smacks Venom, the two-page spread of the master mold sentry, and the previously mentioned kid-saves-himself scene were all stand out moments in a marvelously-drawn book. I'm bummed that AvX is interrupting Secret Avengers next issue, because with #25 it finally started to feel like the new creative team was hitting some kind of stride. And don't forget that reveal on the final page! I can't wait to see Father's agenda unfold...
Smoke and Mirrors #2: A big step down from its debut, Smoke and Mirrors #2 really has very little to recommend it. The main character, Ethan, and his new teacher/friend (Mr. Ward? Is that his real name?) are both sort of duds. Ethan's more annoying than he is interesting as a lead, and Ward just keeps saying the same things over and over. Actually, I guess they both kind of do. I really love the interactive elements being incorporated into the series, because people don't do cool shit like that in their comicbooks very often and it's always nice to see the medium expand. But with consistent yet never-impressive art and main characters I couldn't care less about, I'm starting to wonder if I'll even finish reading the rest of this title. I'll give it at least one more issue, but either the plot or at least on member of the cast needs to do something pretty interesting ASAP.
Ultimate Comics X-men #10: An enjoyable if predictable story. The revolution sparked by Storm last issue goes through all the necessary beats: rise up, take the day, lose some people, uncover some secrets, take the power from the bad guys, and then the revolutionaries start to vie for power and argue amongst themselves. Nothing new or particularly unexpected her from Nick Spencer's script, but in a series that can pull the rug out at any moment, it was actually refreshing to have such a classic, straightforward chapter. And Colussus' decision at the end, while not necessarily surprising, was certainly interesting and effective, in no small part due to a few choice panels from Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco, whose artistic storytelling matches the clarity and directness of the narrative. And it was good to see this whole Camp Angel story tie more directly, even if just for a page, to the events we've seen in the earlier issues of this series. Maybe now we can take steady steps forward rather than so often jumping around. Fingers crossed. But this time out, at any rate, a tidy and fun little comic.
Uncanny X-Men #10: Just like Venom made me want to read his title, Unit makes me want to read S.W.O.R.D. Sure he's obnoxious and way overpowered and looks sort of dumb, but...I love him. His whole calm-and-polite-but-still-horrible-and-heartless personality has completely won me over, and I love watching my heroes get handily defeated by a new foe. It can make their ultimate, inevitable victory over that foe all the more delicious if and when it pays off. Sometimes the ball gets dropped and difficult enemies are defeated in improbable or fully unbelievable ways, but Kieron Gillen has been delivering such good stories so far in Uncanny X-Men that I trust him to wrap this one up satisfactorily. And Unit is his character, so chances are there's a plan in place.
It's too bad this issue came out after AvX officially started, because the brief exchange between Cyclops and Captain America about Scott's priorities is a clear set-up for that conflict, and also sums up so perfectly my problems with AvX so far. Scott has put Hope's safety above all else, and while I understand his motives and I appreciate that he is consistent on this, it's pretty damned infuriating, and makes it hard to side with the X-Men. Be a superhero, dude, not a zealot.
While the artwork by Carlos Pacheco, Paco Diaz, and Cam Smith was quite good, I found myself more taken with the coloring of this issue than the drawings themselves for some reason. The amount of white, perhaps, I'm not really sure. No mater the reason, a quick shout out to Guru eFX for that.