Review – Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire

Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire updates Valiant’s cyborg soldier for a new era of comics storytelling with a surprisingly smart, thoroughly engaging action book. B+

Bloodshot Vol 01 Setting the World on Fire SC

I admit it, Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire was the book I was looking least forward to reading. The cover, though strikingly designed by Arturo Lozzi (he, David Aja and Esad Ribic have done fantastic cover work for Valiant, and he also contributes interiors to this book) with a great use of color and an evocative image, just set my “Ugh, the 90s” alarm off. And while Bloodshot, a book about a seemingly invincible renegade soldier betrayed by his country, is very much a child of the 90s, it is (like the other Valiant books I’ve read) at least an uncommonly smart child. Bloodshot writer Duane Swiercyznski knows exactly what you expect from a book like this… and he knows how to use the tropes and imagery of such stories in fresh, sometimes even exciting ways.

Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire follows the titular hero as he… well, he pretty definitively doesn’t set the world on fire, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s quite possible we’re seeing our hero at his lowest point in this volume, as he finds out the tragic secret behind his past and makes enemies of his creators, all without knowing precisely who they are or what he’s done for them. Bloodshot is a very passive character through much of this, and, refreshingly, what few choices he makes – rather than actions he’s forced into, which drive much of the plot – are more passive. Sure, he kills a lot of people, but that’s mostly when he’s forced to fight; when he has time to think and make his own decisions, he goes looking for people he remembers and tries, by and large, not to hold grudges. It’s a refreshing twist in a genre that rarely prizes introspection, and I’m glad Swiercyznski found time to work it into a story that is otherwise incredibly propulsive.

Click through to read on

Mini-Reviews

Immortal Weapons #4

ImmWep4

Four issues in and Immortal Weapons continues to be woefully inconsistent.  Given the nature of the book’s shifting creative teams, that comes as no surprise, but I am beginning to see the flaws in the strategy as I begin to imagine a collected edition.  Is it worth buying the ill-conceived stories for the heartbreaking ones?  This issue is by no means as bad as “Bride of Nine Spiders” was – it is at the very least a coherent martial arts story featuring the titular character, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter.  It is exciting and fun, and has a few big action sequences that are well-illustrated.

It is also remarkably slight and about as cheesecake-y as a book can be.  Artist Khari Evans does a fine job illustrating a culture of bikini’d warrior women with all the requisite bounce and heft – and also a strikingly consistent sense of tone and design, surprisingly – but the story is beyond slight, almost to the point of nonsense.  Fun nonsense, granted, but where Evans brings consistency, the best Swierczynski offers is chaos.

The back-up feature continues to move quickly forward as a quick bit of ‘intuitive deduction’ – read: plot crunch – reveals the true fate of Jada’s younger brother.  With Foreman off art, the back-up continues to suffer as Hatuey Diaz’s shaggy, cartoonish style doesn’t fit any of the tones Swierczynski seems to be going for.

Grade: B

Secret Six #15

S615

John Ostrander comes onto Secret Six, the first writer other than Simone to deal with the book since its revival in Villains United.  Some readers may balk at the fact that he has largely shied away from Simone’s familiar offbeat humor without abandoning any of the book’s signature darkness, but Ostrander knows his strengths – and knows his character – and instead turns the book into an introspective character study of Deadshot, in many ways the team’s most heartless member.

With Calafiore doing a stellar job on art, Ostrander takes us deep into Deadshot’s damaged mind.  The pair work well together, especially in the one-panel shots of Deadshot-Vision we occasionally get, a cold reality in which we see the deaths of everyone in the room at his hands.  The issue has its flaws, including some seemingly trite pop psychology and a so-so origin story retelling, but its core is rock solid… and, to be quite frank, more than a little chilling.

Grade: B+

Stumptown #1

Stumptown1

The recent, excellent resurgence of the crime comic comes largely at the hands of three writers: Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, and, finally, Greg Rucka.  With Stumptown, Rucka returns to ONI Press, who published his stellar Whiteout and Queen and Country, for another crime comic with an earthy female protagonist in over her head.  While Rucka is in some ways becoming predictable, Stumptown #1 displays the benefits of such predictability: it’s polished and experienced, a rock solid introduction to a new title.

Matthew Southworth and Lee Loughridge, Rucka’s partners here, do a great job on art.  The panel layouts are simple but extremely effective, while the art is expressive without losing the darkness we expect of a crime comic.  Dex, the P.I. in charge of Stumptown Investigations, is a well-realized heroine with an already-growing supporting cast, all excellently illustrated.  An excellent, traditional entry into the ever-growing pile of great modern crime comics.

Grade: A-

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #2

Voodoo

After a remarkably solid opening issue, Remender and Palo drop the ball quickly with this second issue.  Picking up after his confrontation with Dr. Doom last issue, Voodoo is stranded in another dimension, one in which his powers are severely hampered… and in which resides a powerful foe for the new Sorcerer Supreme.  It’s a remarkable coincidence that leaves Voodoo stranded here, unless Doom was working for/with the issue’s surprise villain, but its one that’s never visited.  The action is brief but effective, but the book’s twist is ineffective at best, and the backround we get on Jericho this issue feels fairly out of place here.

Palo (joined by Gabriel Hardman on art) seems to have lost some of last month’s visceral energy, but he remains the book’s star player.  His illustrations of a nightmare New Orleans are memorable,  as are the monstrous designs of Nightmare’s horde, but the art feels more rushed here, despite a momentum-killing origin-story in the middle of the issue.  Hopefully, the team can regain some of the momentum of their opening issue soon.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

Secret Six #13

Immortal Weapons #3

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

Double-Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #5 & Immortal Weapons #3

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #5

FCADance

Dance continues to be a pleasant surprise, though one that is running a bit too long.  The first three issues did little besides establish a status quo – one that was reinforced time and time again throughout.  #4 picked it up again, however, and #5 continues to show some signs of improvement as we race towards the finish line, including the book’s most well-constructed fight-scene as the team confronts Rising Sun and a great teaser for the next issue.  A fun read from start to finish, the issue was also helped by yet another replacement artist – Eduardo Pansica.  Pansica manages to keep the energetic cartoonishness of ChrisCross without sacrificing his own style, which is a bit more crisp than ChrisCross’.  One of the book’s strongest issues.

Grade: B+

Immortal Weapons #3

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Last month’s Immortal Weapons one-shot focusing on the Bride of Nine Spiders was disappointing enough to have me rethinking my commitment to the series.  After all, with a revolving team of creators and no linking idea or theme beyond the back-up feature, not only was there no guarantee of quality, there was no way to know at all what you’d be getting.  This issue proved that point, though for the better: though Aaron’s “Fat Cobra” story was slightly stronger, Spears brings an unpredictable, emotional issue that manages to flesh out the mysterious Dog Brother #1 amidst the ravages of the Opium Wars.  The story is quick and tragic, expertly illustrated and quite memorable.

Faring less well is Foreman’s replacement on the Immortal Iron Fist back-up feature, Hatuey Diaz.  Diaz’s style is extremely exaggerated and cartoonish, which is a rather sudden break from not only Foreman’s crisper style, but also any of the other artists working on the mini.  There may be many books to which Diaz is suited, but his action scenes – one of the things that Immortal Iron Fist has rightfully become recognized for – are static and a bit sloppy.  The Immortal Iron Fist back-up is hardly the strongest thing about the mini, at least when placed against this month’s “Urban Legend” or the stellar “The Book of the Cobra”, but, as brief as it is, it should at least be consistent.  Swierczynski’s story, potentially gripping though it may be, moves along slowly, and Diaz slows the book’s momentum down significantly.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4

Immortal Weapons #2: Bride of Nine Spiders

Review: Immortal Weapons #1

Weapons

I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja.  I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.

Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up.  And I have to say, I’m glad I did.  Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.

Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all.  To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book.  And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.

It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either.  Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself.  Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.

On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty.  The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.

Overall, this is an excellent first issue.  As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers.  Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend.  With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Desiato’s Top Ten Single Issues of 2008

I did this last year (obviously before the blog existed), and even though I’ve got a pretty durned big DCBS box coming next week (25 books. Yay!), I don’t necessarily expect them to crack this top ten, so I’m just going to jump the gun and publish my list now. Ha ha! It begins…

Going to skip putting the cover images on here because I am lazy and it takes up too much space.

10. Fables #75
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciller: Mark Buckingham
DC’s Vertigo Imprint

Ah, Fables. If there’s one thing you do well (and believe me, it’s a lot more than one thing), it’s big milestone anniversary issues. You could argue that this book had a lot to live up to considering the quality of issue 50 and its positioning as the climax of the War and Pieces arc. I love the way Willingham and Buckingham depict war (the March of the Wooden Soldiers trade pretty much assured that I’d be reading this book until it ends), and this issue caps off the arc while giving us a window into what else we get to look forward to.

9. Kick-Ass #3
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Marvel’s Icon Imprint

Is it late as hell? Yup. Is Millar more interested in the movie than the comic? Probably. Doesn’t change my opinion of this issue. This book revels in being over the top, and does not pull any punches in the violence and blood department. There’s more to it than that crazy final battle sequence, but we shouldn’t exactly be looking for a lot of depth in a book like this. Review is here.

8. Thunderbolts #121
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Marvel Comics

Ah, watching the Green Goblin go nuts. Who hasn’t seen that before? Well, me, honestly. Never really read much Spider-Man, mostly due to lack of time. This issue is the last of Ellis’ run, and it delivers on what we’ve been wanting to see since he started writing the book post Civil War. And that’s not all of course. You’ve got Bullseye with one of the best lines of the year, and the rest of the inmates attempting to run the asylum while Norman flies all over the place and just throws pumpkin bombs indiscriminately. Fantastic stuff.

7. Terry Moore’s Echo #3
Writer: Terry Moore
Artist: Terry Moore
Abstract Studio

Most of the awesome in this issue came from the last page reveal, which is that kind of true holy crap moment that gives you a little glimpse of what could be coming over the months as this series continued. We have a new character introduced out of the blue, all kinds of craziness and over the top dialogue. It forces you to pause and try to cope with what you just read, and the only words you can think of are “Damn. Didn’t see that coming.” Contrast that with a crushing interaction between the main character and her sister, and you have a wonderful issue of a wonderful book. Review is here.

6. Nova #15
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Penciller: Wellington Alves

Yes, I love Galactus. Yes, this was one of the better Galactus stories I’ve read in recent history. Any of the three issues of the story arc could have been on this list, but I think the way that the Harrow B plot was resolved was a great moment. Wellington Alves did a great job with the big G, and the way he was used as this disinterested party hovering in the background of panels was excellent. Review is here.

5. Superman/Batman #51
Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
DC Comics

You can only read so many depressing ass comics (and considering my top four could all easily fit in that category except Iron Fist) before you need a break. And what works better as a break than the madcap fun of the two issue “Little Leaguers” arc from Superman/Batman? Not much at all, really. Super fun silliness that just makes you feel good inside. Sure, either issue could have been put here, but I went for the first because I flipped a coin. These things need to happen sometimes. Review can be found here.

4. The Twelve #6
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Artist: Chris Weston
Marvel Comics

This is probably the best issue of this series so far (and this is pound for pound the best mini series that has come out this year, despite delays), mostly because JMS really poured on the despair in a way we hadn’t seen yet or since. That’s really what this series is about: despair. It’s another very quiet book similar in style and scope to Thor (and really, this is where JMS seems to be most at home). This issue features the actual fate of Rockman, and dear lord is it heart-wrenching. Check out my previous review for some more insight.

3. Thor #11
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Olivier Coipel
Marvel Comics

More JMS love here. This is a recent one (and oddly enough, takes the same place on the list as Thor #3 last year), and I might be high on this one because it’s fresh in my mind, but the quality is there nonetheless. I LOVE what JMS is doing with this book. It is nothing like what someone would necessarily expect from a character like Thor, but it perfectly fits into his world. Gods with flaws as an interesting literary device dates back to the tragic plays of Ancient Greece to me, and that’s the same kind of feel that I get from this Thor run. It’s such a quiet, slow burn. This issue is similar to that third chapter that I loved so much, in this case we’ve got Thor getting some closure concerning the death of Steve Rogers. He wasn’t around when it happened, so in this book he manages to contact Steve’s spirit and just talk to him for a bit. Coipel’s art in these pages is gorgeous, and he really makes such a simple story device sing. You’ve also got the continuation of Loki’s manipulation of Balder, as well as a callback to the fate of Lady Sif. Fantastic storytelling in every way.

2. The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (One-Shot)
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Marvel Comics

This to me was just a beautiful throwback to the 1920’s noir style starring a character I’ve enjoyed quite immensely since his creation by Fraction and Brubaker. Swierczynski had written some Iron Fist work prior to this, but I think this issue is what really made me believe that he would be a worthy replacement for the original creative team. I think this ended up being better than Fraction’s Green Mist of Death one shot simply due to the layered references to Pygmalion and Metropolis, as well as the general feel of the book being more akin to what I look for in an Orson Randall tale. Here’s the review.

1. Casanova #14
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Fabio Moon
Image Comics

If anyone read my ridiculously over the top review gushing like crazy about this book back when it came out, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is my top choice of the year. I’ve gone back and read it probably 15 to 20 times, and it never ceases being absolutely and totally incredible in every possible way. It’s the perfect ending to a story arc. It’s the perfect twist that completely changes (without being cheap) everything that came before it. I think I wrote enough in my review to justify my feelings, so I’ll just point you there. This book is covered in the combined souls of Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Transcendent.

Desiato’s Rainy Sunday Catch Up Reviews, Part 1

Crappy weather all over the Northeastern seaboard this weekend. It’s time to do some MAJOR catching up.

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (*****)

This is the best story to come out of the new Iron Fist mythos. It should be noted that I’m including the main Iron Fist series in that statement, which means that this book actually manages to outshine Fraction and Brubaker’s work on the character and the title. I never thought I’d find myself in a position to make a statement like that. But that’s how good this one shot is. Swierczynski takes the Orson Randall character and puts him exactly where he should be; a hot blooded noir tinged Hollywood at the end of the 1920’s. He proceeds to spin a yarn that effortlessly combines the Eastern sensibilities of the Iron Fist with the American culture of the early twentieth century. It’s a detective story in the good noir tradition, complete with everything kicked off by the voluptuous and mysterious woman coming out of nowhere to present her problems to the protagonist, who in turn can’t keep her our of his mind while he tries to focus on the task at hand. Of course, she’s not who she originally claims to be, and thus the mystery unfolds. Sure, it’s procedure, but things become procedure because they work. Which is not to say Swierczynski simply follows a script here and plays by the rules. Something as simple as naming the female lead Galatea (who is of course the name of the woman statue from the Greek Pygmallion myth) starts to pique the interest of the mind.

The most important part of any noirish book is the narration. It’s the only entrance you have into the story and the main character. The window into his thoughts. Duane is more than capable here, and his narrative captions move the story along swimmingly. The story itself twists and turns upon itself over and over as new details come to light and more characters enter the picture. You’ve also got that inevitable moment where the detective proves he’s a badass, which in this story is represented by Orson having a meeting with a film executive and using some pistachio shells to his advantage. Did we need to know Orson Randall is a badass? Not really; he is an Iron Fist after all, and the work done in the first arc of Immortal Iron Fist as well as the Fraction penned Green Mist of Death one shot certainly established the level of badassery at play when Orson Randall is around. In this case, however, Duane is specifically making sure that this book is perfectly accessible to anyone that might deign to pick it up. Truly, there’s not a whole lot of actual Iron Fist talk until later in the book, and Orson very rarely appears with his cowl early on. This is simply an awesome noir story that anyone can read. I gave it to one of my roommates that is a big noir fan, and while he may not have gotten as much out of it as those of us with a larger information base about the Iron Fist mythology, he still loved it.

The art is also excellent here, and the work of Giuseppe Camuncoli is very different than what we’ve become used to in the various and sundry Iron Fist books since the relaunch. It also follows the standard approach of using different art for different eras. With this being a standalone one shot, things work despite the different art style than what your average Iron Fist fan would be expecting. It more than gets the job done, and there are some beautiful sequences that show a strong grasp of sequential art. It enhances the story without being garish or jarring, and both halves of the book work in a wonderfully symbiotic fashion, which is exactly what you want from a comic.

This is a gorgeous book, and probably the best Marvel one shot I’ve ever read. If not for the mad power of Casanova #14, this book would be a strong candidate for my favorite single issue of the year. It’s super accessible, wonderfully written and wonderfully drawn. It is completely worth the four dollar cover price (which I did pay in full, as I managed to forget to order it from DCBS). EVERYONE should pick this book up, if not only to enjoy the story but to see a taste of what Duane Swierczynski is doing with Iron Fist post Fraction and Brubaker

Fables #76 (***)

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE FABLES SERIES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Still with me? Cool.

This kind of issue was probably necessary after the conclusion of War & Pieces. You had to have the moments that deal with Gepetto and his attempts to reacclimate himself with polite society after signing the Fabletown charter at the end of issue 75. And considering the art demands that faced Mark Buckingham during War & Pieces, it was as good of a time as any to spell him with pinch hitter Mike Allred. It’s also always been the case that the non-Buckingham issues have never been heavy on story progression. So we have a breath catching interlude to take care of things. This issue does not answer the question of “where is this series headed?” after the huge shake up of the Adversary being captured and brought into Fabletown, but that’s not something that had to be answered immediately. You have what is pretty much expected. Pinocchio and Beast take Gepetto out for a tour of the town, and the inhabitants of Fabletown aren’t exactly pleased with their newest resident. He is spit on, denied food, and generally reviled. No shock there. The only problem with this is the fact that it’s basically an auto pilot issue. Willingham doesn’t do anyhting big or spectacular, nor does he do a lot of character building that we haven’t seen before. The art is capable enough; this isn’t Mike Allred’s first go around in the Fables universe. It’s certainly a different style from Buckingham, and the only part of it that’s really jarring is Allred’s rendition of Pinocchio, which is completely different from Buckingham, even down to hair color. Even still, that’s not the kind of thing that’s going to ruin a book. All told, it’s an adequate installment of Fables. It’s not reaching for the stars and it’s not slumming. It’s just there.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #47 – A Thick Batch O’Marvel!

The Amazing Spider-Man #567 (***1/2)

I’m probably giving this book a higher rating than it deserves, since it did something I liked, but I’m pretty sure it was unintentional. You see, in order to explain away why it was that Peter’s friend Vin was mistaken for Spider-Man by the new Kraven, Peter (as Spidey) tells him, “To protect my identity, I’ve pegged some people as, well, decoys. Y’know, in case anybody gets too close to figuring out who I really am, I put them on the trail of, well… somebody else.” Now, this is a lie. Obviously, Peter Parker would never do something this foul or selfish. I mean, hell, this is the type of thing to get innocent people hurt or worse, horribly tortured and murdered by some super villain. I assume most fans hated this and called shenanigans. I would too, if I didn’t like how douchey it makes Peter. I like a little dark side with my web-slinging. Ah, but, this was probably one of those ill-conceived ideas… so, I guess maybe this really is just bad writing? Regardless, the rest of the issue was fun and resolved satisfactorily, and the art continues to impress.

Cable #6 (****)

This was definitely the best issue of Cable yet, and Cable was barely in the damn thing. Swierczynski tackles a bunch of continuity issues and manages to make it less of the mess that it is. For instance: do the X-Men kill now? Does Emma know about X-Force? If not, how can she not, she reads minds, y/y? Is Forge still pissed about what happened to his lab? Is sex the only true remedy to insomnia? And, my favorite, just how shark jumpingly smart is Beast? We spend the entire issue in Cyclops’ head, one of the most boring X-heads of all-time, and yet… by the end I was sad to get kicked out. If only Swierczynski could bring this type of depth to the titular character.

Halo: Uprising #3 (***1/2)

OMG, there’s an actual story here? Thought that needed to be pointed out. I like it. I don’t like Halo, but I like this. I like the Bendis/Maleev team. Anyone else reading this? Is the brother of the main character civilian dude, is he Master Chief?

King-Size Spider-Man #1 (*****)

What a surprisingly fun book! Unlike Spider-Man Family (SEE below), every story in this collection was neat and entertaining. I especially liked the very first page, the one with the warning—that I would show you but, SCANNER NO WORK!!! All the stories were exactly what out-of-continuity stories should be. Namely, fun. OH! And then there’s a preview of the new Mini Marvels Digest in the back and I liked it so much I pre-ordered it on Amazon. YAY!

Punisher: War Journal #22 (**)

More action packed—well, cooler action at least—than last ish, but it’s still shit. Like, it’s just bullshit. The content is crap. Reading this, after reading Ennis’ final issue (or any Ennis Punisher comic) where you see that the writer has a grasp on the character and his motivations, and a delicate handling that no other writer will ever match, and then you read the Fraction/Remender penned GW Bridge speech and it makes you want to vomit. Amazing Spider-Man Family style vomit. I’m losing words. Words are fail work describing hate this the Punisher. UGH.

Quick Hits:
• The Amazing Spider-Man Family #1 (**): Vomit. Which, of the many forgettable stories did I like… oh, the reprint of issue 300 was awesome!
• Astonishing X-Men #26 (**1/2): Still bad, but not terrible. In terms of quality, this is the exact opposite of his run on Thunderbolts.
• Avengers/Invaders #4 (****): This issue was tons of good with limited engagements of suck, the suckiest being the panel where Cap winks at Bucky. That was just creepy. Like child molester creepy. CHILLS! Down my spine!
• The Last Defenders #6 (***1/2): I don’t think this book ever reached its full potential, and I’m confident it is a story that could have been told in three less issues. Will I pick up a monthly Defenders book by Joe Casey based on the strength of this mini? Probably not.
• Fantastic Four #559 (***1/2): More of the same, but it definitely feels like a midpoint. So, that’s cool. Like everyone else, I found the two-page splash exciting… and that was about it.
The Invincible Iron Man #4 (****): Tony Stark does not beat Mr. Fantastic at chess. No. Wrong. Fail. Other than that, another solid read. I especially love Fraction’s take on Pepper Potts. She’s becoming a very strong female lead under his guidance, but Mr. Fraction, please, please, PLEASE do NOT make her a superhero. Please?
• The Punisher #60 (*****): The perfect end to a perfect run. Gosh, I hope Marvel puts out that last Punisher MAX hardcover (volume 5). I don’t want to start all over again with the stupid omnibuses. Don’t screw me, Marvel!
• Ultimate Origins #3 (**1/2): Know what? Whatever. I don’t even care anymore. This is a story that needed to be told three years ago. Whatever. Like, is Ultimatum just some Celestial story? Maybe that would be cool, if we didn’t already have an Eternals ongoing over in the 616. Whatever!