Alpha Flight #6: We are getting dangerously close to issue #8, and the end to the current Alpha Flight volume. At least Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are going out in style.
Pak and Ven Lente use #6 as the transition in the series. The last of the plot pieces are being put into place. The tone of the book really feels like these two know what they are doing and giving the reader a breath of fresh air before the big two issue climactic finale. They give the issue their patented sense of humor, without it ever feeling forced. The highlight of the issue has to be the retelling of Master of the World's back story. As someone who had never read an Alpha Flight book before this, it worked without bogging down the book. The best part of this guy though is that he is actually trying to make the world better. And these are the best type of villains. He isn't as fleshed out as someone like Magneto, but it overall makes the conflict that much more interesting. Having Wolverine appear this late in the series works more as it seems natural. If he had appeared during the Fear Itself crossover, I would have cried foul, but this is much better.
Dale Eaglesham pencils one of his best issues since his days on Fantastic Four. The characters all look different are expressive to the point that makes me wonder "how the hell did Eaglesham get that facial expression?" But what I have loved most about his work on Alpha Flight is that he hasn't missed a deadline. I remember he needed lots of fill in work while on Fantastic Four, but he has been great month in and month out here.
Alpha Flight #6 gets 4/5.
Astonishing X-Men #44: I picked this up on a whim, and I'm very happy I did. I haven't actually read Astonishing X-Men since Joss Whedon left the title.
With his run on Incredible Hulks over, and Herc and Alpha Flight ending in a matter of months (or weeks in Herc's case), it's great to see Greg Pak continue to write. #44 is a great example of what Pak can do; a great plot without sacrificing characterization. He picks up readers who didn't read Schism fast, and it never bogs down the plot. In fact, he uses the recap panels as a jumping off point for some perfect dialogue for Emma. It's incredible talent. The plot is very interesting, and like Astonishing has always prided itself on doing, is very continuity light. Pak dangles the carrot in front of us hard and makes us want to come back for next month. Not sure if the Storm angle was a great one, as she is already appearing in Avengers and doesn't look anything like this. It's a small grip in a great issue.
Mike McKone keeps up his fantastic work here. The characters are expressive and the action looks great. The reader is really sold on the idea of Cyclops using his optical blasts for balance from the way McKone pencils them. Muck like on his time on Amazing Spider-Man, his characters can lose body shape when the action hits. Emma looks sickly thin, but again, it's a small gripe.
Astonishing X-Men #44 gets 4/5.
Aquaman #3: Geoff Johns continues his fantastic run on Aquaman, and slows down the plot to give the reader some info.
I have never read Aquaman before this volume. I started picking up the series when the reboot hit because of Johns great work during Blackest Night and Brightest Day. Johns keeps up the tone of Arthur being a certified bad ass, and the same with Mera, while giving the Trench monsters a motive. The reader had the idea that all they wanted was food, but finding where they came from and how they work works well. Johns gives us a quick background of Mr. Shin, and to an inexperienced Aquaman reader like myself, it's welcomed. In the space of a few sentences we get who he is, what he is like, and why Arthur doesn't like him. That's it, and I could tell you everything about the guy. That's how amazing of a writer Johns is.
Ivan Reis' art is his usual phenomenal stuff. The painted like scenes work well in the beginning, and look great when juxtaposed to the harsh pencils of the fight. A complaint I had about Blackest Night was that it was hard to tell who was who in a fight some times. Not a problem here. I could pick out every character in the big fight scene without a second of hesitation. Much like Johns and his great recap of Mr. Shin, Reis does a great job as well. The few panels where we see his house work well to give us a great feel of who the character is and what he is about.
Aquaman #3 gets 4.5/5.
Fantastic Four #600: With any anniversary issue, it's always a chore. It takes hours to read and every story needs to do something to keep me from putting the issue down after the main story line. Thankfully Fantastic Four #600 does this for the most part. SPOILER WARNING.
Seriously, you have been warned.
Jonathan Hickman writes every story in this issue, and every story actually affects the overall plot of FF and Fantastic Four. But much like FF, the main story has the problem of not characterizing anything that well. It's quick scene to quick scene. Granted Hickman brings together a lot of plots that have been boiling for a while, and in a way that makes long time readers very very happy. I thinks it good that we have two Fantastic Four books now, as it will calm down the books and give more panels to certain characters. Johnny Storm's story is easily the best. Hickman has a great handle on why Johnny his a great hero and how he can do great things when put into the right situation. His story will also satisfy many Cosmic Marvel fans. It was only a matter of time before Annihilus' story came to fruition in some way. Black Bolt finally get some time to talk since his resurrection. Not much happens, but more is teased. The Galactus storyline is very ominous, and teases more that 2012 is going to be a massive year for Marvel. I liked that Hickman tied the short story into Matt Fraction's The Mighty Thor. The quick story about Franklin was nice and light hearted, even though it will no doubt be an emotionally charged story in later issues.
Art on each story works rather well. Steve Epting's pencils look great, but the real star of this issue is Carmine Di Giandomenico. His pencils look great and suit the Cosmic Marvel setting really well. Maybe he should pencil a new volume of Nova? Leinel Francis Yu's pencils are more refunded than usual, as some points of Superior were a little untamed for my tastes. It reminds me of his Secret Invasion work.
As much as I'm glad there are going to be two Fantastic Four books, I'm not sure if this is a great idea. I was only reading FF because I wanted to see more of Reed, Susan, and Ben. I'll only be following FF because I have a Marvel subscription to it (which I shall rant about soon in a blog post, as they treat their loyal fans like utter shit) that still has around six issues left. It will be interesting to see if FF stays around after Hickman leaves the series.
I reread the book, and the main story didn't click with me as well as the first time. Reread it again to make sure. The book loses a .5 on the score.
Fantastic Four #600 gets 3.5/5.
The Flash #3: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato continue their perfect characterization of the Flash while giving both new and old readers something new.
It always amazes me when writers jump onto a book and think up some way to use an old heroes powers. It's usually something so simple that no one every thought of it in the first place. That's what Manapul and Buccellato do here in The Flash #3. Using Barry's ability to vibrate in an insane way with the plane.....how did no one think of this before? These two first time writers are doing amazing work characterizing everyone, having a few plot lines going, and not missing a step. It's fantastic work. The cliffhanger isn't anything special, as I know nothing happened to Barry. It's his comic and we are three issues in, of course he's fine. The two are giving readers a great amount of reasons to like Patty as Barry's new girlfriend. I love Iris and all, but it's nice to see someone else be Barry's squeeze.
The art is the real shining light of The Flash. Making Barry slow down time really gives the small panels a bullet time affect. The opening double page with a film reel type layout looks fantastic. Really, every layout on every page looks fantastic. Even pages with just people talking look great. I could stare at any issue of this series forever. Oooooooooooo preeeeeeeeatty.
The Flash #3 gets 4.5/5.
Secret Avengers #19: Warren Ellis' run on Secret Avengers is almost over, and I'm sad to see it start to be winding down. But #19 doesn't wind down and keeps up the high action espionage.
Ellis' idea about having "super soldiers by possession" is a great idea, but doesn't work 100% here. I would have liked the idea more if the end of the issue wasn't a big exposition dump to explain everything. The best ideas in comics are simple ones, and Ellis is a great writer. We didn't need this big convoluted thing near the end. I was kind of hoping we didn't find out how this stuff worked so that I could make my own assumptions about where the stuff came from. Everything up to the ending is a lot of fun though. The plot is very simple, but this work well in Ellis' favor. Moon Knight works well as a business spy, and his dialogue with the prostitute is great. Sharon Carter and Black Widow even get a few great lines in there before the end of the issue. This still feels like an issue of Planetary, but set in the Marvel Universe.
Michael lark's pencils have really been refined since his days on Daredevil. The action works better, and the possession scenes look fantastic. His business version of Moon Knight's costume looks great, and I hope that Alex Maleev (the artist on Moon Knight) uses this costume more in Moonie's book. The big city views are very detailed and don't look as photo referenced as his work can some times.
Secret Avengers #19 gets 3.5/5.
Wolverine and the X-Men #2: Jason Aaron delivers another fun issue that really feels like something the X-Men franchise hasn't seen in a while.
Aaron's big thing for this issue is showing that Bobby Drake isn't the pushover that he can seem like sometimes. It works well, and also shows us that really anything can happen in this book going forward. Aaron makes this issue one massive fight, but he peppers in some great characterization, more than just Bobby. Lockheed even gets a little moment. The new pint size Hellfire Club are a dastardly bunch, and they are portrayed as villains we want to see more. Just for the fact that they are so much fun to read. They want to kill penguins with a hammer....of course they are great villains. The kiss between Bobby and Kitty is an interesting story line that I didn't see coming, and I'm looking forward to greatly. Kudos to Aaron for bringing readers up to speed on who Krakoa is. I had no clue before this issue.
Chris Bachalo's art is all over the place. And that's a compliment. The panels are hectic, much like the fight. But for some reason the panels never feel cramped. The talking head panels between characters like Idie and Brood are quiet, even though there is so much chaos going on around them. It reminds me of a big action movie sometimes.
In the wake of Schism, Wolverine and the X-Men is going to be the X-book to watch.
Wolverine and the X-Men #2 gets 5/5.
FF #11 gets 3.5/5.
That's it folks! See you next week when we have books like T.H.U.N.D.R. Agents starting back up again. Hopefully there will be lots of TPB deals on Amazing this Black Friday.
That's it folks.