Graeme fights a Dragon!: Reviews of the 1/31 books.

Apparently, my mother-in-law was the least of my worries last weekend, as I instead ended up sick and sneezing and coughing for more or less the rest of the week, feeling sorry for myself only when I realized that being too sick to work also, occasionally, means that I was too sick to really concentrate enough to do that much else as well. So that long review I'd wanted to do about all of the Essential Fantastic Four books? Covered in mental snot. Attempting to read the crayon-laden pornography that was Lost Girls? Lost to the much-easier task of watching Top Chef reruns (Ilan won? What?). It seemed that my apathy was matched by this week's releases, though, which is something. Maybe not a good something, mind you, but something nonetheless.

52 WEEK THIRTY-NINE: Firstly, as Jeff pointed out in the store, look at the ticker along the bottom of the cover: "Montoya fights a Dragon!" it says, twice... but Montoya doesn't even show up in this issue. Victim of last minute rewrites, or is the ticker now just giving us updates on what the characters are doing off-panel? It'll be interesting to see next issue, when either Richard Dragon will be punching Montoya, or the cover will tell us "Booster Gold has a sandwich!" Storywise, it looks as if they're trying to bring the relatively-deadend Lex Luthor plot to a close, and it's not entirely happening smoothly - the "Yeah, remember that whole 'Lex can't have superpowers' thing? Only joking!" of this issue's events doesn't feel as if it's a cleverly-planned reveal as much as an about-face to try and give the thread some dramatic oomph. Nonetheless, hopefully this'll be over next issue and we can get back to the much more interesting other storylines; we already know how the Black Adam plot is going to go, thanks to the DC Nation page this issue, but I want to find out what's going to happen to Ralph, goshdarnit. Eh.

DAREDEVIL #93: And talking of surprisingly obvious writerly touches, I was convinced that I'd missed an issue along the way, for the majority of this book. Everything from the past few months, even reaching back to Bendis's run, suddenly gets tied up so quickly as to feel rushed and unsatisfying - you feel like this issue should've been subtitled "The Reboot Button gets pushed" - and I'm left conflicted. I like where everything is left, but I wanted more from Murdock's return to public life, more from the latest showdown with the Kingpin, and much more from Murdock learning that Foggy wasn't dead after all. Seriously, what happened? This should've been excellent, but ended up just Okay.

EX MACHINA #26: Wait, is this a plot? An actual, real plot that has something to do with the characters' present, as opposed to some random Law And Order plot that loosely ties into flashbacks while the main characters talk about political theory? Yes, it's much more of a generic superhero story, but that turns out to be better fitted for the title that what we've been getting recently, if this Good issue is anything to go by.

MS. MARVEL SPECIAL #1: Strange Marvel publishing decision number one; I have no idea why this story got its own one-shot, because everything about it says "standard fill-in issue" through and through. There's nothing special about the issue at all, from idea to execution, and it also doesn't work as an introduction to the character due to its unwillingness (or inability, who knows?) to actually introduce anything about the character or her status quo to those who are unfamiliar with her, instead throwing back to part of her part that, in retrospect, is best forgotten, and still managing to say nothing about even that. If it had been a filler issue of the regular book - and there's no obvious reason why it couldn't have been - then it would've just been pretty Eh, but as its own special issue? Crap. I'd love to find out how it managed to end up as a one-shot; between this and last week's Civil War oneshot, it's almost as if Marvel editorial is on a mission to devalue the idea of a one-off special.

ULTIMATE CIVIL WAR SPIDER-HAM FEATURING WOLVERHAM #1: And this doesn't help matters, either. You can almost imagine what happened - J. Michael Straczynski manages to convince Joe Quesada to do a comedy issue to lighten Marvel's output in the midst of Civil War, only to discover that he has nothing whatsoever to say, and has to resort to full-page pictures of Marvel characters as - get this - pigs! There's nothing to this; you can't even say that it's not funny, because there's nothing to be funny. There's nothing to this comic at all beyond the idea that it's inherently funny and fulfilling to make a familiar character into a pig and add "Ham" somewhere to their name, and... well, it's not. It's embarrassing, instead; an injoke stretched beyond interest and even more proof that so much of Marvel's output these days has become preoccupied with self-indulgence instead of entertainment. Ass, and worryingly, probably not the height - or depths, maybe? - of Marvel's current love of naval-gazing.

Another short week means that it's surprisingly easy to pick both the PICK OF THE WEEK (Ex Machina) and the PICK OF THE WEAK (Spider-Ham). In the midst of my own preoccupation this week, what with being sick and all, I've been entertaining myself with my TRADEs OF THE WEEK: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 2 (Gardner Fox's stories mix the simplicity of good children's stories with a trickiness of imagination and novelty, and Mike Sekowsky's art is an ugly little joy), and the absolutely insane (in the best way) Showcase Presents The Brave And The Bold: Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 that I picked up last night but can't stop reading - Bob Haney's writing must've seemed as strange and offkilter back in the day as it does now, what with his concentrated attempts to make Batman swinging and out-Stan Lee Stan Lee. Why this man didn't become an often-ripped-off genius worshipped by all, I have no idea.

What did the rest of you read this week, you healthy bastards?