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Amazing Spider-Man #633 – Review

By: Zeb Wells (writer), Chris Bachalo & Emma Rios (art), Tim Townsend, Victor Olazaba, Mark Irwin & Bachalo (inks – over Bachalo’s art only), Antonio Fabela (colors) & Joe Caramanga (letters)

The Story: The wrap up of The Lizard story line: The Lizard personality has completely driven Curt Connors from his mind and gained the ability to telepathically cause humans to release their inner lizard.

What’s Good: I’ll miss Chris Bachalo after this issue.  So much so, that I went and dug out a bunch of older issues of Uncanny X-Men that he drew for back-issue reading.  I’ve said it on the last few issues, but I love his art.  It is so nice to see someone just drawing without using all sorts of the bad elements of photo-reference (i.e. tracing).  I don’t need a comic book to look like a photograph and this art just screams “comic books!” at you.  Plus, his artistic design work through this issue is top notch from the panel layouts to the way that Spidey’s mask gets all wrinkly when he pulls it up to drink.  Nice work!

It has been true for every Spidey-rogue who we’ve seen in the Gauntlet, but I like how the Lizard comes out of this arc.  By the end of the story, it seems like the personalities of Lizard and Connors have basically merged and the reptile brain starts to feel some compassion and shame for having killed Billy (Connors’ son).  It will be interesting to see how this creative choice plays out in the future because one of the defining characteristics of Lizard has always been the split personality, but I’ll give the creators credit for doing something bold.  You can only do so much with the Lizard as he was before: Connors loses control, Lizard rampages, Spidey does something to help Connors regain control, The End.  Now I have no idea what will happen the next time Lizard shows up.
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Deadpool: Wade Wilson’s War #1 – Review

By Duane Swierczynski (writer), Jason Pearson (artist), Paul Mounts (colors) VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters and production)

The Story: Deadpool (outside of the normal Marvel Universe continuity) testifies before a Senate hearing about a secret black-ops mission he participated in 25 years ago. This goes about as well as you’d expect.

What’s Good: Well, this is only a four-part mini-series and not a new monthly book, that’s something good (and more on that later.) The actual content itself…none of it is really “good,” but it’s also pretty benign and inoffensive. “Bland” is the operative word to describe this issue. And since that’s more than I can say for a lot of Deadpool chaff on the stands right now, I’ll count that as a positive.

The story is mildly interesting, and might actually get better in the next issue now that the pieces are set up and in place. Swierczynski’s writing is okay; he gets in a couple of fun jokes and moments, but nothing that any casual fan of Deadpool hasn’t seen or heard before. None of it is bad; it’s just that none of it is really good either. The art is very similar: competent, with a couple interesting gags and panels (I really like the smiley face badges on ‘Pool’s class-A uniform) but nothing that will stick in your mind after you finish this book and move on to the next one in your stack.
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Avengers Prime #1- Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alan Davis (artist), Mark Farmer (Inker)

The Story
:  Thor, Iron Man, and the original Captain America try to iron out their differences in the aftermath of Siege when the trio are pulled into the Nine Realms against their will.

What’s Good: Bendis and Davis deliver a first issue that will prove to be a blast for any Avengers fan out there.  While Avengers #1 a few weeks ago proved to be a mixed bag for many readers and felt much like Bendis doing his best impersonation of a traditional Avengers tale, Avengers Prime fires on all cylinders and succeeds where it’s much more hyped sister title faltered.  Much of this is due to Alan Davis’ and Mark Farmer’s amazing artwork.  Davis’ renditions of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ Big Three just feels right.  He brings the perfect amount of grandeur to the proceedings.  One only needs to open this issue to the initial double-page splash that opens the story to see what I’m talking about:  the fallen city of Asgard, burning in the distance, while our three heroes watch in grief.

It’s not only an awe-inspiring image, but appropriately sets the tone for rest of the plot.  Not only does the artist efficiently sell the big set pieces and action scenes, but he does a hell of a job with his character work.  For example, there’s a scene where Tony and Steve get lost in an argument that’s been brewing for years, and Thor solemnly asks them to please leave if they’re only there for his sake.  Davis close-up of the God of Thunder’s eyes as he speaks says everything that Thor isn’t saying with words, and it is a sobering moment.  Another wonderful beat in the story that is all artwork in it’s success is the silent page where Steve, having just defeated a small army of troll-like creatures, spies a shield on the ground, and as he picks it up, there’s a small hint of a grin that crosses his face.  It’s a great capper to a fun little scene that Davis knocks out of the park.
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Gotham City Sirens #12 – Review

By: Tony Bedard (writer), Peter Nguyen (pencils), Jack Purcell (inks) Tony Avina (colors) & Steve Wands (letters)

The Story: Is Selina Kyle possessed by an evil spirit?  Her cuckoo sister sure thinks so!

What’s Good: This is a nice little story that revolves around Catwoman and her nutty sister, Maggie.  Maggie is convinced that Catwoman is nothing but the manifestation of an evil spirit that possesses her sister (Selina) and that Catwoman needs to die so that Selina can be free.  This is going to cause obvious problems for the Gotham City Sirens.  Guest writer Bedard nails the characterization and I especially like what he does with Harley.  I always think regular writer Dini (who is taking another vacation from this title) writes Harley as too much of a ditzy-dingbat.  That characterization of her is so one-note that it gets old really fast, so I really like the way Bedard writes her in this issue: young and naive.  “Young and naive” has some legs (no pun intended) and can be an interesting character to read.  I think Bedard also deserves some kudos for making Maggie so creepy and insane.  Let’s face it, we get to see lots of nutty characters in comics and we all start to become immune to it, so you know a writer is doing something right when he/she is able to make us take notice of insanity.  Hey– bludgeoning a cat and a nun to death with a fire poker will do that!

We also get a new artist with this issue: Peter Nguyen.  I think he is pretty new to comics in general and I like his initial efforts here.  His style is a little manga-inspired and that usually bothers me, but I like this work a lot.  The art is pretty heavily inked and I’d almost like to see a little more of Nguyen’s art peek through because I think it looks strong enough that it could take less ink.
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Madame Xanadu #23 – Review

by Matt Wagner (writer), Amy Reeder (pencils), Richard Friend (inks), Guy Major (colors), and Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

The Story: Madame Xanadu faces off against Morganna in a final bid to save Betty

What’s Good: It’s sort of neat to see Madame Xanadu behave, in many respects, like an honest to goodness superhero.  Her final confrontation with Morganna and the magical battle that ensues is the kind of epic clash between good guy and bad guy that I wouldn’t necessarily expect from this book.  That said, it works, largely because Nimue is so naturally likable and Wagner continues to do an awesome job in writing Morganna.  I could not imagine a more humorously cackling villain.  I mean, how can you not laugh when a villain says “goblin balls!” as a curse?  With wonderfully written narration that always carries that simultaneous air of determination and vulnerability, it’s impossible not to root for Nimue, while with her continued mad arrogance, it’s equally impossible not to root against Morganna.

Then there’s John Jones/J’onn J’onzz who continues to be a joy to read under Wagner’s pen.  The character is continually written with that sly little wink as Wagner makes so much use of our knowing something that the characters do not.  He also makes us desperate to see J’onn in his true form, but he never quite lets us have it.  Instead, Wagner gives us little hints here and there of the Martian beneath the human form, always, delightfully, just on the periphery of Nimue’s awareness.  A blur of green might rush to her rescue and at one point, we even see a distinctly Martian looking hand reaching out to grab her.  Wagner teases us as much as he does Nimue herself.
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Punishermax #7 – Review

by Jason Aaron (writer), Steve Dillon (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Bullseye tries to become the man he’s hunting as he tightens the noose on Frank.

What’s Good: Jason Aaron really dives in head first this month in creating his own unique, MAX version of Bullseye and the character truly sings.   He’s completely manic and gleeful in his sadism.  There’s this childish joy that Bullseye takes in his grisly work that’s a lot of fun to read.  Yet, beneath it all lurks a cold, calculating animal.  Bullseye is a character who is mostly smiles, but that smile can disappear very quickly.  It’s hard to determine which side of Bullseye is more terrifying: the wacky psychopath or the ice cold, brutal murderer beneath.  Either way, he’s delightfully creepy.

One of the problems that I’ve had with this series is Aaron’s occasional fumbling with comedy.   This month, Aaron’s character work with Bullseye proves to be the perfect vehicle for the Punisher’s brand of black comedy without disrupting the books tone.  Instead of overly long gross-out sequences, it’s Bullseye’s dialogue that brings the laughs.  From the absurdity of his interrogation questions to his eccentric methods, Bullseye definitely elicits laughs.  Better still, it’s comedy that feels organic and spontaneous.

Though our time spent with Frank is more limited, Aaron again makes the most out of the character’s time with Dr. William Bayer.  The scene is rife with a sense of heavy tragedy which brings a clear focus on Frank’s deterioration.  Aaron also continues to intrigue with the suggestion that Frank’s original motivation for donning the infamous t-shirt has long since eroded into what is now an existential void.

Steve Dillon does really well with Bullseye.  Dillon makes the character look intimidating, despite his small stature.  Dillon also does a great job on Bullseye’s facial expressions.  Most of the time, Bullseye carries an expression of madcap good humor completely incongruous with his surroundings, but is able to turn on a dime to a more serious expression of violence and menace.  The quick shifts to this latter look make for a scary character.
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Irredeemable #13 – Review

By: Mark Waid (writer), Diego Barreto (art), Andrew Dalhouse (colors) & Ed Dukeshire (letters)

The Story: Bette Noir reconnects with her father and gives us a flashback of the initial rampage of the Plutonian from the heroes’ point of view.

What’s Good: I enjoyed seeing the depiction of the Plutonian’s destruction of Sky City from the heroes’ perspective.  As with any crisis, when the information is coming in real-time, you are going have pretty big gaps in your information, so it was pretty realistic to see them trying to locate Plutonian to come help them with the disaster before they knew he was the cause of the disaster.  Even then, they think he must be some villain with shapeshifting abilities (because haven’t we all seen that situation play out in comics….).

Of course, once they realize that Plutonian is behind the mess, the heroes all ask Bette if she knows of any weaknesses Plutonian has because she “knows him the best.”  Little to they know how well she “knows” him.

One other cool item is that I seem Waid possibly reinventing this series’ story yet again with the ending that shows a comatose Cary (who was abducted by Orian the Demon), flopped next to that weird binary/digital character (who kidnapped Encanta) while the robot Modeus (who snuck off around issue 5 or so) looks on.  WTF?  The neat thing is that I’ve heard people who don’t want to read this series say, “That’s just a ‘What if Superman was evil?” story.  Who needs another one of those?”  That IS how this series started out, but it has successfully changed gears a few times since showing that Waid has a lot of story to tell.
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