A long, long time ago...

I can still remember, how the comics used to make me smile... These days it's mostly just yawns or facepalms (or, in the case of FINAL CRISIS #6, both at the same time). I promised Brian I'd step up my contributions to the Savage Critics, which, given that I've had the consistency of Damon Lindelof lately, that's totally fair. Except I then spent two weeks scouring the new releases, looking for anything interesting enough to talk about; hell, I'd settle for some controversial news items, but all I've got is JEFF PARKER'S ON EXILES:



And I seriously doubt anyone cares about that except me.

It may just be that January's a slow month, and the only noteworthy new launches tie into either DARK REIGN or FINAL CRISIS, and I'm pretty much just waiting for them to be over at this point. So rather than analyze a specific issue in depth, I'm going to run some old-school bullet points this week. UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #2: You know, ever since Matt Fraction went solo on UNCANNY X-MEN, the book's felt a bit... flat to me. It's basically turned into a string of unrelated subplots that don't seem to go anywhere: Magneto teams up with the High Evolutionary, then they disappear for six months while Madelyne Pryor resurfaces and starts putting her own team together, only no one seems to care about that because Colossus has gone AWOL and Emma's having a Moment of Angsty Introspection (tm Tom Welling). It all amounts to a rather disjointed Big Picture, which is pretty much the same problem with this Annual - the story's a sloppy mess even by X-Men standards, constantly jumping back and forth to retcon a link between Namor and Emma Frost (ostensibly because of the whole PURPLE REIGN thing), and it's just... I have no idea what Fraction's trying to do here. Maybe it's an attempt to make White Queen-era Emma more sympathetic, but I've had enough frou-frou apologia from the nice folks over at HEROES. And the dialogue... "You're not my prince. Do you always smell like that?" "Yes. Do you?" I say thee EH.

X-FACTOR #39: Peter David gets a cookie for thinking up a rather inventive way out of the whole parenthood storyline. Unfortunately, the end result takes us to a rather conventional place, a place that's become such a tired cliche in the superhero genre that I can't help thinking it would've been a gutsier, more creative move to see things through, so to speak. Even the sharpest character moments, like Siryn's reaction immediately after the Big Twist, are muted because they're so familiar, bordering on tedious. So that cookie has to be, I don't know, bran or something like that. Not as much fun as chocolate chip, but it's OKAY to chew on for a while.

WAR MACHINE #2: Wow. This... really hasn't gotten any better, has it? I mean, I was willing to write the first issue off as a fluke, because I still think of Greg Pak as the guy who wrote PHOENIX: ENDSONG and that cute WARLOCK miniseries with the surprise ending. But this is just... page 7, that splash of War Machine with half of North America's arsenal strapped to his back? That's straight out of the Dark Ages, people. We're talking Rob Liefeld pecs-out-to-there guns-guns-guns Dark Ages. And then on page 17, War Machine... turns into a tank? I have no idea. Though that makes it a nice tie-in to the TRANSFORMERS movie, which was also about stuff getting blown up and not much else. AWFUL, because I can understand Golden Age retro and I can understand Silver Age retro, but why anyone would want to go back to the days of tin-foil radioactive sub-atomic tri-fold variant covers is beyond me.

STARSLIP: Technically not a new release (or, you know, a comic) but I'd like to point out that Kris Straub has just one-upped DC with his latest storyline by: A) destroying the universe, B) permanently displacing his cast into an alternate timeline two years in the past, which means everything you know is not wrong because it did happen and the characters are now scrambling to rewrite history, and C) blowing up the universe actually had a purpose, as it gave Straub an in-story reason to go from this to this. (Okay, that's technically a three-up.) And to top it all off, he's kept me laughing the whole damn way. EXCELLENT.