Thursday Round Up
Action Comics #3
-Grant Morrison
-Gene Ha and Rags Morales
Grant Morrison sure knows how to give you your money's worth, packing in more story per page than almost any other comic on the shelves today. Don't balk at the 3.99 price tag, trust me, you'll be getting your money's worth. This issue opens with a flashback to Krypton right before the fall. This is a scene that familiar readers have seen play out in numerous recounting of Superman's origins, and while Morrison's take is not wholly original, it is not quite what you're expecting, and Morrison really succeeds in making Krypton feel like a unique alien civilization. The story rockets along from there at break neck speeds, continuing to make Clark Kent every bit the courageous hero as his caped alter ego. The issue's end sets up what looks to be Superman's first encounter with a major antagonist, a threat given new weight after their full capabilities were displayed in the opening sequence, and given the fact that Superman was taken down by a train just a few issues ago. The monthly pace seems to be wearing on artist Rags Morales. The art isn't bad, it's just not quite up to the level of detail and expressiveness that Morales has portrayed working on past projects like Identity Crisis. I'm hoping that the upcoming fill-in from Andy Kubert gives him that lead time to get back on track.
Grade: A-

Avengers Academy #21
-Christos Gage
-Sean Chen
While this issue suffers a bit from trying just a little too hard to be accessible to new readers, longtime fans will be pleased to know that the series' status quo is only tweaked rather than overhauled. The team has a new base of operations, a few new members, and more opportunities for team ups with other young heroes, but the basic hook remains the same: a group of young meta-humans who have the potential to become the next generation of earth's mightiest heroes or deadliest villains under the tutelage of veteran Avengers. This issue sees one big name Avenger sign on a permanent faculty member, and they are a perfect fit for this series given their early history with the team. Several intriguing sub plots are also set in motion that will ensure that the book will have a lot of material to cover in the months ahead. However I do worry that Gage may be putting a bit too much on his plate, as this issue does seem rather busy, lacking the laser like focus of the excellent Fear Itself Tie In issues. While the book does get a little exposition heavy at times, Gage really shines when focusing on his core group of student protagonists. This series has long benefited from having a stable of talented artists that regularly rotate through every few issues and this issue is once again graced by the very talented Sean Chen. Chen handles the huge influx of characters well, but like Gage, he is at the top of his game in the quieter scenes focusing on the students' interactions more personal interactions with one another. Chen especially succeeds in selling the roller coaster of emotions in the scene between Mettle and Hazmat.
Grade: B

Amazing Spider-Man #673
-Dan Slott
-Stefano Caselli
The Epilogue to Slott's Spider Island checks in with all the main players, showing how the event has affected them, and making a few big alterations to the status quo. Slott's writing can be a little hokey at times and is definitely continuity heavy, but he juggles an enormous cast of characters and numerous sub plots with deft skill. While the citizens of New York were beginning to accept Spidey as a credible hero before the event, it seems like in the wake of the infestation, just about everybody has jumped on the team Spidey bandwagon (including, albeit begrudgingly a certain Mayor). It will be interesting to see how this good will affects Spider-Man going forward, and how long it can last given Peter's infamous luck. I like that Slott introduced themajor wrinkles into Pete's personal life this issue, as things were starting to look just a bit too cushy for him on the civilian front. The other area where both this event and this issue have excelled has been in the characterization of Mary Jane, showcasing her continued chemistry with Peter, and proving to readers that she has a place in the new status quo. Stefano Caselli continues to impress in his role as one of the three major rotating artists on this book. I only hope that he is given the reigns for Slott's next big arc, as so far he has remained in Humberto Ramos' shadow, and I don't think I'm alone in wanting to see him really cut loose on a big story.
Grade: B

Fear Itself #7.1
-Ed Brubaker
-Butch Guice
More epilogue to the previous volume of Captain America and prologue to the next big project by the same creative team than it is an epilogue to Fear Itself as the branding would have you believe, not that that's a bad thing. This issue finally addresses the fallout of Bucky's fall in Fear Itself #3 and shows Steve mourning his friend for a second time. However, true to the espionage epic that has been Brubaker's work with the Captain America franchise, all is not quite as it appears, and this issue peels back the layers revealing the true story hidden between the panels of Fear Itself. The highlight of this issue is a confrontation between Nick Fury and Steve Rogers, where Steve unleashes on Fury for being the manipulative and secretive bastard Steve knows he is. Brubaker knows these characters inside and out, no question, but it's his handling of Fury that really peaked my interest here, as even in his unofficial civilian capacity, Fury still manages to make the world spin the way he wants it to. Guice's pencils really benefit from the artist acting as his own inker, as he strikes the perfect balance between dark grit and classic Cap feel that sometime swung too far to one side of the pendulum or the other when another individual inked his work. This issue closes out one era of Brubaker's epic Cap magnum opus, and begins another, a can't miss for die hard fans of the run.
Grade: B+

Stormwatch #3
-Paul Cornell
-Miguel Sepulveda
Cornell continues to bring his signature knack for team dynamics, dark humor, and action to what is quickly becoming one of my most looked forward to titles of the DC Relaunch. This issue sees the team facing threats on multiple fronts, some yet to make themselves known, reluctant recruits, and a general lack of confidence in their leader. Cornell has really embraced the more open ended nature of super powers in the Vertigo universe, allowing him to play with some very unique and interesting power sets. At this rate he is well on his way to favorable comparisons with Warren Ellis and Mark Millar for the sheer "out there-ness" of the big wild scifi concepts and ideas Cornell tosses out by the handful in this book. Miguel Sepulveda returns to being the sole artist of this book, firmly reestablishing the sleek dark visuals interrupted last issue by a hasty fill in. Stormwatch continues to impress.
Grade: B+
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