I’m back.  As I mentioned in part one, I had a huge stack of comic books waiting for me at my local shop as the comic book companies tried to get everything published before the end of the year.  I had so many new comics, in fact, that I didn’t have room to review all of them in a single column.  So here we go with part two of my last of the year reviews. 

 

All-New X-Men 20: There’s not a whole lot to this issue.  The All-New X-Men found X-23 at the end of last issue.  She wakes up in this issue, freaks out, and flees the Weapon X facility.  They talk it out and then they go and fight the new Church of Humanity together.  That’s it.  The conversation between Cyclops and X-23 seemed a little understated, especially for Bendis and particularly in comparison to the kiss on the cover (which doesn’t happen in the story).  On the bright side, it was nice to have at least one character comment that taking over the former Weapon X facility is a little super-villainy. 

 

Daredevil 34: Daredevil continues to cruise along as one of the best comics on the stands today.  Mark Waid is witty and clever.  His Matt Murdock is a free spirit and bit of a, dare we say it, daredevil.  This was mostly a transitional story as Waid sets up a big confrontation with the Jester and his mysterious employer for the upcoming issues but it’s excellently done.  There’s a fun consultation with Dr. Strange and an even better encounter with Matt’s ex-girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie.  Matt finally admits that he’s Daredevil because he needs her help and is done playing around- at least about this one thing. 

 

East of West 8: Jonathan Hickman has built one of the most complex and captivating alternate worlds I’ve ever encountered.  And Nick Dragotta surpasses himself every issue with inventive scenes and characters.  For this issue, we follow two main stories.  The first is the elevation of Madame President as a disciple of the Three Horsemen.  She’s coldly brutal, though I can’t escape the feeling that she’ll face her Lady MacBeth moment one day.  The second is Death’s exploration of an eternal prison in order to find the Oracle.  Death is a surprisingly engrossing hero- or protagonist at least- and Dragotta’s Oracle is creepy in the best way. 

 

FF 15: I guess I’m in the minority here as FF shuffles towards cancellation but I’ve loved the adventures of the quirky substitute team.  This issue is as brilliantly chaotic as any to date.  Ant-Man devises a plan to attack Dr. Doom that involves maximum damage and distraction.  He enlists the kids as remote control robot operators and they fight and fight and fight.  It’s a big story with big villains but it’s the little moments- like the kids squabbling over their robot squads- that make it such a treat to read. 

 

Harley Quinn 1: This was a surprisingly strong first issue.  Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti set up a new status quo for their star.  Harley has inherited a big building close to the Coney Island boardwalk.  She has a caucus of interesting tenants, most of who work for the circus.  However, she also has to pay the bills so she gets two jobs: she’s a polished psychiatrist by day and a rough roller derby queen by night.  Amazingly, Conner and company squeeze all of that set-up into one fast-paced issue.  I loved the breakneck speed and the sense of humor.  It’s entirely appropriate for Harley Quinn.  I just wish Conner doubled as the artist.  Chad Hardin is decent, but he doesn’t have Conner’s sparkle. 

 

Saga 17: This was the hardest review to write because I know that my words will inevitably be inadequate to the task.  Saga represents the best in comics, the pinnacle of the art form.  Brian K. Vaughan gets everything right, from the flashback narration by a future Hazel to the climactic fight between several converging parties.  And Fiona Staples draws the kind of thing you can only do in comics- not just characters with horns or wings, but races with TVs for heads.  Prince Robot IV and Gwendolyn and the Lying Cat descend on Heist’s home in their separate searches for the star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana.  The dramatic confrontation tests the couple’s commitment to pacifism and Heist’s relationship with Marko’s mother.  It’s epic.  It’s emotional.  It’s everything great comics should be. 

 

Star Wars Dark Times: A Spark Remains 5: I was a little disappointed in this issue.  It should have been the big climax but the biggest moment happened at the end of issue four, making this feel more like an epilogue.  At the end of last issue, the fallen Jedi Hudorra knocked the underground Jedi Dass Jennir unconscious and sent him away so that he wouldn’t have to face- and be killed by- Darth Vader.  There’s still a big fight between Vader and Hudorra but, as a reader, we’re emotionally invested in Jennir not Hudorra.  Jennir’s removal removes most of the tension from this issue.  Hudorra’s redemption is dramatic but, again, it mostly happened in the previous issue.  This is the inevitable result, not the pivotal turning point. 

 

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Force War 2: On the other hand, Dawn of the Jedi keeps getting better and better.  The cast was a little too big and scattered early on but more recently, John Ostrander has focused on Xesh, the emancipated hound, and his quest for acceptance.  It’s an interesting story of redemption and Ostrander makes us simultaneously sympathetic toward and suspicious of Xesh.  I also appreciate the increased focus on the Rakatan Empire as the villains.  It seems like very Star Wars story features Jedi vs. Sith so it’s nice to get a story with a different central conflict.  Jan Duursema’s art is, as always, lush and beautiful.   

 

Superior Spider-Man 24: I know that, as someone who came of age in the ‘90s, I’m supposed to like Venom, but I just don’t.  I liked Spidey’s black costume but I’m not enthralled by the mindless alien symbiote.  Slott at least tries to make it interesting by tackling some big issues.  He demonstrates Otto Octavius’ arrogance in his assumption that he can control the symbiote.  And he raises the theme of evil’s corrupting effect on evil.  It’s a solid attempt but I was much more interested in the Goblin subplot that’s ready to boil over in the next issue.   

 

Thor, God of Thunder 16: I love oddball alternate teams (see FF above) so I’ve been delighted by Thor’s League of Realms.  I love the conflicting personalities and I looked forward to the inevitable falling apart, which finally happened in this issue.  Jason Aaron does a great job of alternately fulfilling our expectations and exceeding them by surprising us.  Aaron’s Malekith isn’t as engrossing as the movie version but the ancillary incidents more than make up for it.  Aaron has managed to introduce the nine realms with a story that’s more action than exposition. 

 

Uncanny Avengers 15: Uncanny Avengers reminds me of the old Astonishing X-Men- top-flight creators telling epic stories that aren’t constrained by tight continuity with other titles.  I’m sure the events of this arc will eventually ripple out to the other X-Men and Avengers titles but for now it’s a self-contained cataclysmic showdown between the united members of two teams and the toughest villains.  There are some great fight scenes, especially one between Thor and the Sentry (it’s wonderful to see the Sentry get his head punched off), and there is some witty banter, especially between Captain America and Havok.  The new Apocalypse twins aren’t as well developed as some of their minions but, other than that, Remender has crafted a compelling threat.    

 

X-Men 8: Monet joins Brian Wood’s all-female X-team and she’s a great addition.  Her arrogance is a nice contrast to the more altruistic team members.  Plus, she adds a physical component whereas the rest of the team has mostly mental powers.  Wood is also doing a decent job of setting up the new Deathstrike and an all-female team of villains.  The appearance of the Enchantress was a particularly pleasant surprise (sorry to spoil it for you).  However, I find John Sublime to be a pretty boring character and he isn’t made more interesting by having the opposing teams fight over him.  Over all, it was a decent issue but not a great one. 


X-O Manowar 20: Manowar, on the other hand, is a great comic.  Robert Venditti is deftly filling in the margins around the Unity crossover without having it feel like he’s merely playing for time.  Aric, aka X-O Manowar, and Toyo Harada’s Unity team engage in an ongoing battle inside the alien ship.  Aric has a few surprises, such as his ability to remotely control the armor even when someone else is wearing it.  And the fissures start to show in Harada’s team as they have differing views on letting foot soldiers die.  The battle also progresses nicely throughout the issue so that it’s a story as well as a fight.  Altogether, a great issue in a great title.      

And that’s everything.  I wonder what the next year will bring. 

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Chris Fluit said:

The conversation between Cyclops and X-23 seemed a little understated, especially for Bendis and particularly in comparison to the kiss on the cover (which doesn’t happen in the story).

Just as well. If she got too excited he'd be sliced and diced.

Chris Fluit said:

Superior Spider-Man 24: I know that, as someone who came of age in the ‘90s, I’m supposed to like Venom, but I just don’t.  I liked Spidey’s black costume but I’m not enthralled by the mindless alien symbiote.  Slott at least tries to make it interesting by tackling some big issues.  He demonstrates Otto Octavius’ arrogance in his assumption that he can control the symbiote.  And he raises the theme of evil’s corrupting effect on evil.  It’s a solid attempt but I was much more interested in the Goblin subplot that’s ready to boil over in the next issue.   

 

Hey, I've been at this longer than you, but I don't and have never liked Venom, either. I agree the black Spider-Man costume was cool, back when we all thought it was just a costume.

From your descriptions I think I'm going to see two things I've always wanted to see: Venom and Sentry sincerely, genuinely and unapologetically whupped. Ahhhhhh, the satisfaction.

I love the addition of Monet to the X-Men title. I didn't realize she had been a part of X-Factor, as I only remember her from Generation X. Love what she's doing so far in this book. It's like an old friend is visiting.

Superior Spider-Man is definitely coming to some kind of head. There have been so many things recently that you just can't go back on. But still, I feel for Doc Ock, and I almost definitely won't like what comes as the end nears.

The cover of the All-New X-Men issue is a homage to that of Uncanny X-Men #394 from 2001, with Wolverine and Jean.


     Guys ! Soooo pleased to hear this actually spoken!! I've always felt I must have been missing something but just never could like Venom (except...maybe......Flash Thompson as 'Agent Venom' had it's moments...but they were all 'non-Venom-like-moments!)
ClarkKent_DC said:

Chris Fluit said:

Superior Spider-Man 24: I know that, as someone who came of age in the ‘90s, I’m supposed to like Venom, but I just don’t.  I liked Spidey’s black costume but I’m not enthralled by the mindless alien symbiote.  Slott at least tries to make it interesting by tackling some big issues.  He demonstrates Otto Octavius’ arrogance in his assumption that he can control the symbiote.  And he raises the theme of evil’s corrupting effect on evil.  It’s a solid attempt but I was much more interested in the Goblin subplot that’s ready to boil over in the next issue.   

 

Hey, I've been at this longer than you, but I don't and have never liked Venom, either. I agree the black Spider-Man costume was cool, back when we all thought it was just a costume.

As Chris says, liking Venom seems to be a generational thing. Mostly it's younger readers who think he's cool-looking. I've never been able to stand him.

The look is ok, his actions bother me.

I liked the Flash Thompson version quite a bit. I hope that because his title has been canceled, that doesn't mean the character has to be gone too.

I like the first "Dawn of the Jedi" series, but I just couldn't get into the second series. I ended up passing on this one. I'm glad you're enjoying it though.

I never cared for Venom either. I read the first trade of the Flash Thompson series, and it was okay, but nothing special.

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