I haven't done one of these for a while, so let's kick it OLD SCHOOL CRITIC style, with a quick look at ten titles out this week...

ASTONISHING X-MEN #29: I find Bianchi's art to have some beautiful, ethereal qualities, and I enjoy looking at it. On the other hand, I don't think he's much of a storyteller, and in reading the comic, I find that I'm just racing from balloon to balloon, letting that tell the story rather than the art. Overall, I'm digging the story, but the delays between issues are just killing the momentum. We're down by just over 50% from the first issue of the arc (and the 16 pages for $4 of GHOST BOXES didn't help matters one bit). This is certainly high concept stuff, and reasonably smart, but it doesn't really feel like it is happening to "our" X-Men. Overall, though: GOOD.

BATMAN BATTLE FOR THE COWL ARKHAM #1: The plus here is that THREE new characters are introduced, which is what you'd hope that nearly any comic would give you. The downside is that it really isn't that interesting. Lots of blah blah blah and lots of covering things that have been in other comics already. I'm more favorably inclined towards this book simply because of the new characters, even if none of them really feel like proper Bat-villains, but everything about "Battle For The Cowl" seems like such a cash grab to me. EH.

DETECTIVE COMICS #853: A gajillion years late, but y'know what?, I liked it anyway. This is a good capper to Bruce Wayne as Batman...though he'll be back sooner or later, and maybe that's the point. Though I can't imagine much of the audience for this wanting to move on to "Battle for the Cowl #1" as the "next issue" box suggests. That's pretty discordant. Also: I never would have guessed, in a million years, that that guy in the Bar towards the end was meant to be Joe Chill, if the backmatter hadn't spelled it out... Anyway: VERY GOOD.

FANTASTIC FORCE #1: Christ, that fucking sucked. Here's your entire argument against throwing shit at the wall to see if it sticks... now you have shit covered walls! Clearly someone at Marvel realized either how shitty this was (or the numbers can in REALLY low) because this was solicited as an ongoing monthly book, and it is suddenly a 5 issue mini-series. That's going to be four issues too many. Boring characters, set in the stupid nu-earth idea from Millar's run. I can only hope that this puts a stake in the idea that the FF can support spin-off titles. It can't. Fuck, I think this was even worse than the 1994 version of the title. And that was really awful. If Marvel keeps up production of shit like this that there isn't any audience for, things are going to start looking like the late 90s again there... I think I ordered five times the number of copies as I'll actually need... and I ordered less than 10 copies. CRAP.

HULK #11: Big bat-shit crazy is fine, but for $4? Ugh, can't do it. Neither can my customers, it seems, as HULK sales have dropped by more than half since the price increase. So, naturally, they're going to go "back to" the "old" numbering on INCREDIBLE HULK, yet again, with the July issue coming in as #600. *sigh* This is solidly OK, but needs to be a lot better for $4...

IGNITION CITY #2: Ellis writes so many books that it is really hard keeping track of what is what and which is which. Hell, he had four new releases this week alone. This one is the real deal, though -- I like world setting, I think the underlying ideas are terrifically strong, and, while I don't LIKE the characters (who does in a Warren Ellis comic?), I found them all compelling. No, this is no PLANETARY, but it's damn damn close. (I didn't like the lettering, however) Pick this puppy up! VERY GOOD.

KICK ASS #6: I think Millar lost the thread here. Yes "ha ha" to the idea of the Punisher as an 11 year old girl, but this seems pointlessly digressive in a series that is wicked late already. Hey, but it already has a movie deal, so it must be good! Meh. There's a good line or two in here, and the heel turn at the end works adequately, but I can't even imagine ANYone wanting to see this as a movie. Good for Millar and all, but I'm calling it extremely EH.

SKRULL KILL KREW #1: Speaking of things from the mid-90s that Marvel really really shouldn't be going back to again, I present Exhibit B. Now all we need is a new NIGHT THRASHER monthly. Not QUITE as bad as FANTASTIC FORCE, but only by inches. There's no audience for this, especially at $4, and it repeats the mistake of the original by having unlikeable protagonists acting through a single, uninteresting note. Completely AWFUL.

THOR #601: Also in the $4 club, yet I find this pretty appealing. JMS really has infused a lot of new life into THOR, a character (and milieu, in Asgard) that I've NEVER found appealing. I'm now actually reasonably eager to check into this book each month (well, kinda each month). If I have a complaint, it is that there might be TOO much going on -- the subplot with the diner guy and whoever that chick is slowed things down a bit for me. But, at the end of the day, if you're going to charge $4 for a funny book, this is the level of density that I'm going to want. A sold GOOD.

X-FORCE #14: I think the art in this is nearly unreadable: too dark, too gory, and pretty bad at panel-to-panel storytelling (just what IS happening towards the end of the issue in the fight scenes?); I also just think "Ugh" with anything ever involving Stryfe or Apocalypse or any of that (again!) mid-to-late 90s bullshit... and yet... and yet... and yet I'm pretty much enjoying this storyline. I must be slipping. Solidly OK.

In terms of what I personally bought this week, I had more things this week than I have had in the rest of the month combined. I took home: BPRD TP VOL 10 THE WARNING, KODT BUNDLE OF TROUBLE TP VOL 24, and QUESTION TP VOL 04 WELCOME TO OZ. OK, that last one is sort of a mercy fuck because the series had lost its way by the time we get to these issues, but I like having the spines on my bookshelf.

As always: What did YOU think?