It's not all Civility, you know: Graeme reviews other books from 2/21.

So, Kate's sick. I know this because she keeps telling me, just in case I'd forgotten since the last time she told me. In between updates on her condition, she's keeping herself entertained by watching all of the television we have on TiVo from this past week, which we hadn't managed to watch because we had houseguests who - horror of horrors! - weren't fans of shows like The OC (Arune! Please tell me that you were getting all choked up at the end of it as well), Veronica Mars or Kate's current favorite, Spike's reruns of Star Trek: Voyager. Me, I'm getting 'round to reviewing things and fielding Kate's questions as to when I'm going to make her soup or hot chocolate, so I'll be quick for a change. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #538: Ehhhh, Awful. This issue just seems to show that J. Michael Straczynski either isn't getting updates from editorial or doesn't care what's happening in other books - the Kingpin is shown to be a mover and shaker, even though he's already been defanged and disposed of in Daredevil (Yes, I saw the "this takes place before" caption, but even still, it's an odd choice to place the character center stage of this latest "status-quo" changing event, knowing that he's due to be written off entirely soon), and the tie-in to Civil War #7 reads as if he doesn't know what actually happened in the issue itself, especially with the "some who will never get up again" bit," considering that only Clor died in CW. Maybe it's that, or maybe it's the story itself, but the entire book had the feeling of filler, trying to squeeze out as many extra pages as possible before dealing with the cliffhanger from last issue. And when that cliffhanger gets resolved - in the last couple of pages - it's dumb to the point of slapstick: Aunt May gets shot by mistake! Because she just happened to be in the line of fire, which means that Peter, Mary Jane and Aunt May were all standing in an exact line! No fun, and I still don't see why Spidey's going to wearing his black costume next issue. Whoever said that it's because black is slimming and helps hide Peter's comfort-eating may be onto something, though.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1: God, remember when DC superheroes could team up without crying or rape? Mark Waid does, providing a Very Good revival of the old team-up title that captures some of the goofy fun of the classic Bob Haney era: Bruce Wayne and Hal Jordan going undercover in a casino where Hal wins the money and the ladies! Batman versus aliens! High concept murders (64 identical victims killed in identical ways)! This is what I want from my superhero comics, and I'm even willing to forgive unclear action sequences - what exactly happened in the Batcave? How did the penny get involved? - for lines like "Batteries to power... Turbines to speed" and the nerd glee they provide. Here's hoping that they can keep it up in the following issues.

NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #2: Okay, so that was unexpected. We've all heard of Deus Ex Machina conclusions, but never Deus Ex Disappointed In You, Reed ones like we get here. If this issue isn't setting up some kind of conclusion for the Civil War universe, then I really have no idea what the point of it was - The Illuminati have all powerful cosmic gems that allow them to control time and space and stuff and say they're never going to use them and... well, that's it. It seems to contradict recent continuity, as well - If it happens after the end of Dan Slott's first She-Hulk series, did Professor X still have his powers by that point? Wasn't he vanished or something? (Paul O'Brien, where are you with your knowledge of X-Men continuity?) - and all seems very strange in light of what happened after that time: Why didn't the magic gems get used during Civil War (to, I don't know, go back and time and prevent the destruction of Stamford, for example?) or to deal with the Hulk instead of sending him into space? It's a retcon that doesn't make sense at all, in an issue that doesn't seem entirely convinced of it itself. Crap.

LOCAL #8: Brian Wood mentions in the text at the end of the issue that he's realized that this series is really all about Megan's life as opposed to a series of one-off stories that just happen to feature the same character in some way, so it's probably fitting that I ended up reacting to this less as the return of a series as seeing a friend for the first time in too long. I admit it; I'm a soft touch for Wood and Ryan Kelly's tour around America and a life, especially as both creators seem to be getting better with each issue - Kelly in particular puts in a stellar performance here, managing to give Megan the sense of seeming older than she was last issue without it being immediately obvious. Good, and hopefully Wood and Kelly's lives have settled to the point where we'll see this every month again.

SPIDER-MAN FAMILY #1: Worth buying for the reprints alone, as the Len Wein/Ross Andru Amazing issue and "Spider-Man J" both manage to amuse and entertain. The brand new stories less so, with both of them less complete stories and more filler to point towards later events with generic script and art. Okay, even if it's clearly aimed towards the Spider-Man 3 fanbase (Black costume Spidey versus Sandman? I would never have seen that coming).

THE SPIRIT #3: I don't know why I'm surprised, but another Excellent issue, as Darwyn Cooke revisits the Spirit's origin and sets up what looks like an ongoing plotline for future issues with style and speed - Moreso than earlier issues, the star here is the art, with Cooke and colorist Dave Stewart teaming up to give the flashback scenes a look that's both beautifully 1950s retro and contemporarily original. Each month, this book just keeps raising the bar on what you to expect from an ongoing mainstream superhero book. Which, of course, means that Superman will probably show up by #9 to crossover from Countdown to bring the tears. Pessimistic? Me?

PICK OF THE WEEK, despite the awesomeness of Spirit, is actually The Brave and The Bold, because sometimes you want ice cream instead of steak. Or something. PICK OF THE WEAK is Civil War #7 (or New Avengers: Illuminati #2, if you want one from this set of reviews), because, well, you know. TRADE OF THE WEEK, for me, is between a couple of pre-release sneaks that I got sent this week - AiT/PlanetLar's The Homeless Channel and First Second's The Professor's Daughter. Proper reviews for both coming when I finish the next set of book reviews, but for now, pre-order both safe in the knowledge that the houseguests loved The Professor's Daughter, at least.

Next week: Wondercon! Which probably means no reviews, sadly. But is anyone here going?