Meow Meow Woof Woof Woof: Graeme looks back at last week's books

Thank God for that holiday weekend, which allowed me to… what’s the word? Oh, yeah, breathe. Perhaps it’s the ancient curse of May that’s been making myself and everyone I know so busy over the last couple of weeks, or maybe it’s that downturn in the economy making everyone work harder so that they keep their jobs. All I know is, there’re reviews once you hit that “More” button.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #560: Marcos Martin may be the ideal Spider-Man artist around these days whose name isn’t John Romita, judging from his work on this and the last issue, but that doesn’t really help this book break out of its only-Okay rut. I feel guilty for not liking this as much as I could; Dan Slott’s script is fine and built off of some fun concepts (I like Peter Parker as paparazzi, and find his holier-than-thou friends kind of amusing, if confusing, in their response to his new job), but it still feels like a solid but unremarkable issue from the mid-70s, you know? Having a cliff-hanger that won’t be resolved until after the skip week is a new, and somewhat unwelcome, twist; it just emphasizes how random the “three times a month” schedule actually is – Why not just do it weekly, if you’re going to all that effort anyway?

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #13: As Mark Waid’s run starts winding down, we get the first truly done-in-one issue without running subplots, and it’s… Okay. The problem isn’t the interplay between the heroes (which is well done, and I like seeing the less-dickish Batman), but the threat, which is – perhaps necessarily, considering the fact that it has to be introduced and resolved in one issue? – cardboard and unconvincing. I’d be happier if Waid just got to do 22 pages of Jay and Batman sitting around, having a chat, I think.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #38: After spending the weekend reading Essential Captain America volumes 3 and 4, I felt properly ready to read the return of (spoiler!) the crazy 1950s Cap. That said, reading those books also made it much clearer how well Ed Brubaker is updating the book and concept while remaining true to its history; you can see the Steve Englehart influence all through the current issue when you know where to look, and I mean that as a compliment. I’m still not sure entirely where he’s going with this storyline – partially because, the more we see of him, the more I like Bucky as Cap – but if he keeps up the Very Good quality, I’ll stick around to find out.

FANTASTIC FOUR #557: It’s like listening to someone trying to sing a song that they’ve never heard, but have read the Wikipedia entry of, isn’t it? You kind of know what Millar and Hitch are aiming for, but they’re just…not getting it right. I can’t even really put my finger on why, either… It just reads too… I don’t know, calculated? Cynical? There’s a lack of genuine joy in it, for some reason, and lack of momentum, as well. Awful, then.

THE FLASH #240: Meanwhile, this book seems to be getting back on track after a shaky last few issues. Freddie Williams’ art takes a turn for the Art Adams (It’s got to be the appearance of the giant ape that does it), and Tom Peyer seems to be getting more of a grip on the characters (and why they may have been out of character earlier on)… I’m not convinced about the new Darkseid appearing out of nowhere and snatching the Flashkids, but I guess we have to have our Final Crisis tie-in somewhere… Okay.

IRON MAN, DIRECTOR OF SHIELD #29: Stuart Moore takes over the book for a guest-stint and it’s weirdly familiar after reading Matt Fraction’s new Iron Man a couple of weeks ago – Again, we have a villain who’s as smart as Tony that he’s responsible in some way for creating. Nonetheless, it works; Moore’s take on Stark is less hero-worshipping than regular writers the Knaufs, and regular artist Roberto De La Torres’ art is, as ever, beautiful to look at. Dean White’s colors are worth pointing out, as well; he matches the line art’s look wonderfully (He also does a great job in Mighty Avengers this week). Another Good tie-in to the enjoyable movie? Who knew?

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #21: Ahhh, so that whole “Sightings” banner is going to be used on pointless filler issues that set up other storylines in uninspiring ways? Good to know. Don’t get me wrong, Carlos Pacheco’s art is nice to look at and Dwayne McDuffie’s dialogue is snappy enough, but still – Was there some point here beyond “Hey! These guys are going to be important in Final Crisis #1!” that I missed? A low Okay for the craft alone.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #15: The pluses: That last page teaser, returning from the first issue. The minuses: Are we still doing this long, seemingly aimless, Gog storyline? Eh, I guess, but I wish this had some sense of heading in any direction whatsoever.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #14: Secret Invasion is turning out to be a very strange thing, much more enjoyable in theory than in practice. Take the Avengers tie-ins, for example; the idea of using the books to fill in backstory not necessary but useful for the core title is a good one, but everything we’ve seen so far has had an air of indulgent uselessness – Does it really take an entire issue to have the Skrulls realize that the Sentry is mentally unstable and easy to trick? There feels like there’s much more interesting backstory out there to be mined (When exactly did the Invasion start, for example? Who were the first to be replaced? What has happened to those who have been replaced? Why did the Skrulls not act during Civil War or World War Hulk?), but that’s probably all going to be handled in the main book, leaving these issues to be filled with stories like this one, or the slow “Nick Fury gathers together another team of Teenage Superheroes” of the last issue of New Avengers, that are just… Eh.

(And because I wasn’t around to talk about it at the time, Secret Invasion #2? Was there some kind of “Well, things happened in the first issue, so I’ll make sure nothing happens in this second one so that I don’t exhaust the fans” thing happening there?)

STAR TREK: ASSIGNMENT EARTH #1: IDW, I don’t know if it’s you or John Byrne or whoever, but someone needs to take more care scanning that art in so that it’s not as pixilated and jaggy as it is here. Also, if someone could take some time and maybe get a colorist who’d be willing to add some kind of complexity to Byrne’s mostly-backgroundless art, then everything would be much better. Also also, if you could rewrite the book so that it wasn’t so generic and Awful, that’d be great as well. Kthanxbai.

Coming this week: Final Crisis! Marvel 1985! And the potential disappointment that is Joss Whedon’s last X-Men issue!