Thursday Round Up
The Amazing Spider-Man #678
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Humberto Ramos

Spider-Man faces a unique challenge this month, one well out of his usual wheel house. A co-worker at Horizon Labs invents a doorway that allows the user to see or travel 24 hours into the future, a future in which New York City has been completely destroyed. Peter has only hours to figure out the cause of the attack and prevent the tragedy from occurring.

Dan Slott displays his trademark knack for characterization and humor, and while some of the dialogue comes off as hokey (as has been a problem that has plagued Slott's writing on the title since the beginning) for the most part Slott has crafted a tense yet fun, utterly unique Spider-Man story.

Humberto Ramos' exaggerated character work really embodies the litheness and agility of Spider-Man making him a perfect fit for this title, especially when he has the lag time between stories to really take his time with the art. This issue reaffirmed my faith in Slott's handling of the title.

Grade: B+

Morning Glories #15
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciler: Joe Eisma

I can't remember when the last issue of Morning Glories shipped. It was probably about two months ago. Wait time between issues that supposed to ship monthly drives most fans crazy. But you know what? When it comes to this title, I don't care. Because each month Spencer, Eisma, and company deliver 30 pages of story, free of ads, for $2.99.

And what a story it is. This issue continues the the P.E. storyline as the students participate in Woodrun, a sort of scavenger hunt, that of course because it takes place at the Morning Glories Academy, involves unscheduled eclipses and abandoned labs filled with laser beams. Using flashbacks, Spencer gives us more information about the seemingly heartless Zoe, suggesting to readers just how dark her past really is, and how lucky the rest of the cast is to have her on their side, at least for now. Playing her off the endearingly nerdy and innocent Hunter creates a really fun dynamic as these two could not be more opposite. Weirdly enough, I do believe that Zoe is trying to both comfort and help Hunter even in her cruel, borderline sociopathic way.

Joe Eisma has really grown by leaps and bounds month in and month out on this title, improving both his figure work and the emotiveness of his characters. Additionally I couldn't help but smile at the "cameo" by Deena Pilgrim he includes toward issue's end.

Another stellar issue from Spencer and Eisma. And while more answers about the nature of the school need to be forthcoming soon in order to retain my enthusiasm, it's hard not to love a book that delivers so much greatness for such a reasonable price.

Grade: A-

Batman #5
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciler: Greg Capullo

While a bit light on story this month, Batman #5 offers the familiar scene of a hero descending into madness in a way that is so fun and unique that you have to sit up and take notice. Batman has been targeted by the mysterious Court of Owls, a secret cabal that appears to have been entrenched in the history of Gotham since it's very beginnings. Bruce's refusal to accept that his foe might have eluded him for so long has landed him in their clutches, trapped for over a week now, wandering through what appears to be an inescapable labyrinth.

Never before have I had to turn a comic book 360 degrees in order to finish reading it, but that's exactly what Batman #5 call upon the reader to do, as the layouts of the pages shift from normal, to sideways, to upside down as Batman delves deeper into the labrynthe and falls further into madness. Capullo's layouts are experimental and varied. He really takes a lot of chances here, underscoring the idea of just how lost and unsure of reality Bruce is right now.

Snyder continues to brilliantly weave together crime and horror into this super hero psychological thriller. While not much new actually happens in this issue, Snyder and Capullo deftly set a tone of fear, hopelessness and anger. A great issue made even better by a willingness to experiment with the predefined conceptions and restrictions of the medium.

Grade: A-

Uncanny X-Force #20
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Rick Remender
Penciler: Greg Tocchini

I hate to say it, but I think Uncanny X-Force, touted by this site and several others as one of, if not the, best book of last year, is off to a rocky start in 2012. This issue features Fantomex being brought before the Omniversal Captain Britain Corps to stand trial for his execution of the young Apocalypse back in the first arc of the series. Psylocke experiences a less than pleasant family reunion, and AOA Nightcrawler becomes acclimated to X-Force's reality.

This issue suffers from several things, not the least of which is Remender's eagerness to throw a lot of big ideas into the first issue of a storyline that by all accounts should be making itself as accessible as possible given the buzz this book has been receiving lately. This is even a problem for longtime readers as there is just so much going on it's hard for any single element of the plot to carry any significant amount of emotional impact. And that really is a shame as Fantomex having to answer for and defend the morality of his actions, as well as a confrontation between Elizabeth and Brian Braddock are moments fans of these characters have been salivating for.

The sensory overload problem is compounded by the pencils of Greg Tocchini, someone I must admit I have never been a fan of. His pencils border on charicature or in some cases surrealist. His style is so loose that he either can not or will not give any of his characters much of a face to speak of. And while this sort of style might be well suited to a story that takes place in an extra-dimensional nexus of magic, his work comes off as muddled rather than fantastical, and adds confusion to a story that already did not abide for straggling readers.

I have full faith that Remender can recover from this, but this team needs to get it together soon.

Grade: C+
Tags: Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Force, Morning Glories, Batman
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