|Tommy's Pick of the Pull|
Warning...there may be spoilers.
WINTER SOLDIER #2 (Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: After the events of Fear Itself, it was revealed that Bucky had faked his death and has assumed the Winter Soldier identity once more. Now, with Black Widow at his side, the two are on the pursuit of other agents that worked alongside the Winter Soldier. In this issue, Winter Soldier and Black Widow battle a Soviet Super-Ape (seriously) and witness an assassination attempt on one of Marvel's most notorious figures. (It fails).
WHAT WORKS: Well, I wasn't a fan of the first issue at all (despite generally being a huge fan of Brubaker's and Bucky's) but this issue has at least hooked me to see where the assassination attempt angle goes, as even the characters point out that you can't take out Dr. Doom with a car bombing...so I wanna know just what Doom's rival has up their sleeve.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I'm still not feeling the return of the Winter Soldier. I really enjoyed Bucky Cap, alongside Steve Rogers Super Soldier and I didn't feel that story had a chance to really run its course. Still, issue 2 gives me more hope than issue 1 did.
UNCANNY X-MEN #7 by Kieron Gillen, Greg Land and Jay Leisten.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: In the aftermath of X-Men: Schism, Cyclops leads his "X-Tinction" team out of Utopia. Cyclops' team have traveled to Tabula Rasa (a stretch of land in Montana where time has been sped up) and are stuck between two members of The Apex: The Savage and The Tomorrow Man.
WHAT WORKS: Well, the characters sound like themselves, at least.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I hate Greg Land's inappropriate, light-boxed art. With a passion. I also hate that the entirety of the last two issues has been about showing us that the most powerful X-Men team is completely insignificant compared to The Savage and The Tomorrow Man, in every definable way. I don't want to read comics in which characters I care about are made to look like complete tools at the expense of another race of "advanced beings" that will be forgotten about as soon as the writer leaves the book.
SECRET AVENGERS #23 by Rick Remender, Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Captain America's team of covert Avengers (consisting of Hawkeye, Black Widow, Beast, Ant-Man, Valkyrie, Hank Pym and Captain Britain) encounter a group of Adaptoids in Pakistan who have kidnapped a woman for reasons unknown...but Ant-Man has hitched a ride on the Adaptoids as they return to home base. In this issue, the original Human Torch pitches in while Captain America and Hawkeye have a HUGE blow-up over Cap's decision to add Agent Venom (Flash Thompson) to the team. Meanwhile, Ant-Man continues wrestling with his desire to redeem himself versus his scumbag nature.
WHAT WORKS: Fantastic action, and Rick Remender writes a GREAT Beast who is serving as the conscience of the team. His interplay with Hank Pym (in which he REFUSES to allow Pym to make a new Artificial Intelligence - in the middle of what seemed like light-hearted banter - is a wonderful scene). I also love the addition of Agent Venom, who is one of Marvel's best ideas in some time. Hardman did a nice job of making Hank Pym, Jim Hammond, Clint Barton and Flash Thompson all look at least mostly distinct without masks on. Good thing Captain America and Captain Britain left theirs on.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Secret Avengers has the same "muddy" art as Winter Soldier (Bettie Breitweiser's doing), and while it SHOULD work thematically, it really doesn't when your team is full of guys in bright costumes like Captain Britain and Ant Man. My biggest gripe with the issue is Hawkeye blowing up at Cap over Venom being placed on the team. First off, the Flash Thompson version of Venom isn't a villain and never has been. Second of all, even if he was an ex-villain, since when has HAWKEYE of all people had an issue with villains trying to redeem themselves? He WENT TO JAIL for the Thunderbolts! Also, the "we're the REAL next step in blahblahblah" schtick has been beaten to death (this is what the Adaptoids are doing, see). Still, great book for the most part.
THE NEW AVENGERS #21 by Brian Bendis, Mike Deodato and Paul Mounts.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Luke Cage's Avengers squad has been doing battle with Norman Osborn's new Dark Avengers squad since Norman escaped from confinement. This is part of a larger (though stand-alone) tie-in throughout both of Bendis' Avengers books in which the Osborn story is coming to its ultimate head. Last issue, Osborn unleashed Ragnarok (the Clone Thor from Civil War that killed Goliath). What ensues is basically a big ol' fight scene with Wolverine, Iron Fist, Spider-Man and Luke Cage versus Ragnarok while Norman Osborn sits in the background outsmarting everybody.
WHAT WORKS: Just some amazing action sequences, especially the Wolverine-Ragnarok fight. Don't worry haters, Wolverine isn't portrayed as being in the same league as the clone of Thor, but he does show an absolute refusal to give up, no matter what. Spider-Man is fantastic in a support role, trying to keep the team from dying. The interplay with the Dark Avengers at the end is also great, as Osborn tries to keep his team on a leash so that they don't ruin his plans.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I still don't like how Deodato draws Osborn looking like Tommy Lee Jones, but at least he's consistent about it. I've been a Bendis critic in the past, but I'm very intrigued to see how he wraps up his run on Avengers, and he's been doing a fantastic job recently, I thought.
THE AVENGERS #22 by Brian Bendis, Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes and Jason Keith.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: An ex-SHIELD agent has joined HAMMER and given Norman Osborn "all the secrets of the super hero community". The Avengers split forces to bring HAMMER down on multiple fronts, only to find that Osborn was prepared for them at every turn. This issue is a series of standalone scenes in which HAMMER tries to break the Avengers individually while The President deals with the fallout of Osborn's accusations that he has been unfairly attacked and imprisoned.
WHAT WORKS: The writing is good, but not great. I did particularly enjoy the scene with SHIELD traitor Dr. Washington and Iron Man.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I don't mind when cover artists differ from interior artists, but I hate when covers have nothing to do with the interior...and Gorgon isn't even in the issue, much less fighting Captain America.
WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #6 by Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw, and a whole bunch of inkers and colorists.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Since Schism, Wolverine and his group of X-Men have reopened the school and are attempting to train the next generation of mutants...which trying to keep the school from going under. Wolverine and Quentin Quire have headed off into space seeking funding to keep the school open while Kid Gladiator has entered Kitty Pryde's body to battle off hordes of microscopic Brood. In this issue, Wolverine and Quentin Quire try to rip off an intergalactic casino while The X-Men enter Kitty's body to save her and find out what happened to Kid Gladiator...while the mansion is attacked by more, larger brood.
WHAT WORKS: Wolverine and the X-Men is the funnest the X-Men books have been in YEARS. Wolverine always gets paired up with "kid sidekicks" but it's usually "spunky teen girl with a crush on Wolverine", this time it's smarmy teen boy that Wolverine wants to punch in the face. Nice change of pace. Good action, good writing, good art. Hope it holds up through the Avengers vs X-Men crossover.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I've never been a fan of the space stuff tied in with the X-Men, but at least Jason Aaron's having fun with it.