Before we get tomorrow's comics, Dr Manolis Vamvounis looks back on last week;
In ANGEL & FAITH #8, Faith goes mad ape-shit crazy slayer all over visiting Pa Lehane when his true motives for turning up in the UK are revealed: getting his Slayer daughter to do in the irish mobsters who were on his tail. In one powder keg of a scene, Christos Gage pulls in every disparate bit of characterization from Faith's controversial (some would say contradicting) runs on the Buffy and Angel shows into one giant pile of daddy issues. Bit over-the-top and loud in its execution, but he totally makes it work here.
In X-MEN LEGACY #263, Chamber receives that one awkward question that most often comes up in late night drunken geek conversations. Between this shared moment between a classroom of mutant 'freaks' and the short exchange between Rogue and Rachel later in the issue that in half a page gives Calvin Rankin (a.k.a. the Mimic) more depth and personality than he's enjoyed in 50 years of continuity, Christos Gage proves he has that special knack for finding that tiny unnoticed spark that instantly turns even the most flat character into someone incredibly human and real.
In AQUAMAN #7, we get our first glimpse of the 6 Golden Relics of Atlantis and their keepers, as well as the DCNu Black Manta (hint: he's bad-ass) and his devious plan to "catch 'em all". Hey, it wouldn't have been a real Geoff Johns series without some collection of artifacts revealing a larger lineage/family behind the lead. In this case, Aquaman's golden trident, being linked to a strange group of "Others" (formerly known as the JusticeLeagueofAtlantis?). Why do I get the feeling Mera's golden tiara will also come to figure into this somehow? Geoff does love things that come in sevens.
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #7 is the best book of the week, and the issue of the book that finally realizes Zeb Wells' talent and the potential of this title to be something more than a copyright cash cow. Wells draws from Captain America's past continuity as a fine arts major and a comic book artist (working for Marvel no less!) to write a bonding exercise between Cap and Spidey, as Peter tries to awkwardly (and hilariously) warm up to the Avengers' "star jock" by appealing to his inner geek, building up to a very real and endearing moment between the two heroes when Peter finally shines through his annoying Avengers class-clown facade.
Sidebar: the dubious patching up in the dialogue above, trying to cover the mix-up in the art where Leinil Yu drew Hawkeye in his non-movie costume. As if anyone would really care. As opposed to this panel below:
In ASTONISHING X-MEN #48 new writer Marjorie Liu starts off her run on the book with a big no-no, forgetting the name of her lead character! Northstar has been around for almost thirty years now, and he's grown into quite the fan-favourite character and a great symbol for Marvel's liberalness and such. I, however, have NO idea who this "Jean-Claude" character is in the book, why he looks so much like Jean-PAUL Beaubier, or why he is hanging out with his team-mates and dating his boyfriend. The powers that be at Marvel have finally given up trying to figure out what to do with this book post-Whedon and post-Ellis, and have decided to just give up and turn it into yet another X-Men team book. Liu's line-up is a fan-fiction geek's dream come true, including Cecilia Reyes, Gambit, Northstar and Karma, but she (and the editors) should start getting their facts (and their characters' names) straight #pun.
In AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN #0, Vision is being a bit of a – – in the one scene that manages to tarnish Scarlet Witch's character even worse than the entire Avengers Disassembled fiasco. Vision explains that he doesn't mind all her mass-murdering and her forcing She-Hulk to tear his body in half, but it really stung that she chose HIM in particular to use as a weapon against the Avengers. Well, him, and the Skrulls, and She-Hulk, and Jack of Hearts, and… sigh. Considering how she was only two or so weeks ago retconned out of having any responsibility for her actions in that horrid event, seeing her collapse into a snivelling pathetic mess at her ex husband's accusations, with the Avengers just standing around watching it happen, sends me into a nerd rage.
He's even more of a – – if you consider how, this same week and by Bendis' hand again, in AVENGERS #24.1 Vision gets told off by Captain America (with real finger-waving-in-the-face action) for being a total – – and picking up a fight with Magneto for… not raising the Scarlet Witch right, leading to her being manipulated against her will by Dr Doom into making She-Hulk kill him. Brilliant.
In DAREDEVIL #10, Mark Waid finally exonerates the Mole Man from decades of bad-writing and flat characterization by portraying him as 1. a somewhat loveable if misguided freak and 2. an actually formidable physical opponent. Plus, relentless blind man on blind man bo-staff action!
In SECRET AVENGERS #24, the Earth's Mightiest Android Forms assemble into a secret alliance. The Machinatti? Doombots, LMDs, Reavers, an entire new race of beings evolved from the Super-Adaptoid and even a few deceased Avengers transformed into Deathlok zombies.
I think I ought to devote a new special weekly column just for face-skinning in mainstream super-hero comics. Creators seem to have taken to it like denim jackets in the 90s. In UNCANNY X-FORCE #23 the villain The Skinless Man (appropriately) cuts off Phantomex's face and proceeds to flap it about, before he is defeated and Jean-Phillipe (if Marjorie is reading, please don't get confused, girl) simply puts his face back on under his mask. Eww. Look kids, comics!
In the climax of the storyline, Remender offers us another one of his now trademark dramatic shock-twists. The identity of the multiverse-threatening Goat Monk is revealed as -shock/not- a possessed Jamie Braddock from the future. The only way to save the worlds is for Captain Britain to kill his (recently resurrected, sane, innocent and heroic) brother before he turns evil. When he hesitates, Psylocke takes over his body telepathically and kills their brother with Captain Britain's hands while he's sobbing uncontrollably, unable to stop her. One of the most potent and powerful scenes in this year's X-books, with an even more staggering aftermath for the two siblings, but one that is indeed absolutely forced and hurried. Resurrecting a villainous mad character and turning him into a hero inside three issues only to tragically kill him off again just seems a bit emotionally manipulative and a bit like cheating, storytelling-wise.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #7 and I, VAMPIRE #7 cross over into "RIIIIIIISE OF THE VAAAAAMPIIIIIIIRES" (my own emphasis) as the Vampire army or whatever invades Gotham City. Lots of silly fun being poked into the superhero genre, along with some stakes. As far as crossover action goes though, nothing much happens in these first two parts, apart from your run of the mill exposition and head-chopping.
And the gore never stops. In VOODOO #7, we see the heroine (or her clone — never mind) tear off another super-hero's head and then hold it triumphantly over his dead body,with blood spurting and/or dripping all over the place, rather graphically. Don't you miss the good old carefree pole-dancing days?
In SAVAGE HAWKMAN #7, Carter Hall has the most pointless team-up since Wolverine in the 90s, as Static drops by to introduce himself and then go off to shoot at some zombies BEHIND-THE-SCENES and return for a congratulatory pat in the back after Hawkman single-handedly saves the day. And this was still the high-point of the series so far #flop.
Speaking of flops this week, SUPERMAN #7 is the hero's lowest point since the reboot. When an alien/cyborg/whatever monster TELEPORTS inside the Daily Planet offices, Clark Kent quietly changes into Superman, slips outside the building, and then CRASHES inside through the window and CRASHES again outside blowing a huge hole through the WALL of the building and letting a ton of glass and debris fall down on the unsuspecting civilians below. Way to go, hero. He later gets to meet Hellspont in his base, where he calmly stands around listening to him explain his master evil plan to destroy the world, before getting knocked out unconscious by one puny blast when he (and I quote) dares "disrespect" the Daemonite lord.
To end on a positive note, over in MORNING GLORIES #17, the entire main narrative of the issue is spent watching the events of the last two issues from the perspective of Jade and Ike, just sitting around in front of a big-ass fire, watching their shadows dance on the cavern wall and WAITING FOR HOURS for something to happen – and yet it's one of the book's most exciting and fulfilling issues yet. Nick Spencer continues doing LOST the way LOST should have been, by examining how the characters in his Boarding School of the Blessed cope with the absurdity of the events in their lives, and by methodically making new startling revelations about them through flashbacks (and flashforwards?) that serve to actually illuminate some of their more confusing behaviours from earlier stories. Whoduthunk that something like this could work better than just serving up mystery after unexplained mystery with no answers in mind.