Comic book review: Avengers #22

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A22INFINITY TIE-IN – “AVENGERS UNIVERSE: V” The Avengers return to our Solar System. The battle for Earth starts in the heavens. The Black Order makes their move. From writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Leinil Francis Yu.

After being made aware of Thanos’ plot in Infinity #5, the Avengers shift gears from the Builders to address the threat at home. With the coalition preparing to defend Earth, the tone of the book changes as the effects of the war settle over the team, from blooming romantic entanglements to questions of fate and faith. The differences in personality and leadership play out here in a well-deserved break from the space-farring battle of this event, making for an interesting change of pace and focus. Meanwhile, from The Peak, Black Dwarf mounts a defense against the coalition as they secure strategic advantage on Titan.

A welcomed shift from conflict and warfare, this issue serves as a solid connecting story in the transition from the Builder threat to the defense of Earth. On its own it is a little awkward to read, as it needs to be held against the larger storyline for context, but Hickman gets the job done with some solid scripting. I enjoyed seeing the fallout of the Builder war and its effects on the team, such as the exchanges between Eden and Captains America and Marvel, and later with Thor. It’s nice to get these glimpses of team dynamics peppered throughout the event, which have been largely seen in tie-ins. I can see the argument that it comes off as a bit jarring, especially the Cannonball/Smasher romantic interlude in the beginning. Given the stressful nature of the superhero business, however, spontaneous hook-ups are bound to be pretty frequent.

As always, Yu’s artwork really sells the book. His pencils, with the color palettes of Gho and Curiel and Alanguilan’s inks, carry the story through dynamism and strength of design. The full-page splash of the coalition ships arriving on Titan, which is paralleled with the closing scene of the ships making their way to Earth, are some of the visual highlights of the issue. They make great use of scale and motion, developed by lovely coloring and the implied glow of engine thrusters to create really striking imagery. It’s the little things like this, from the innate sense of power in these scenes of space-travel, to the movement and vitality of battle, that really pop out issue after issue.

Like Infinity #5, this issue serves as a connective piece, a transition into the last leg of the event. It has a strong script from Hickman with some nice character-driven scenes, well-executed by Yu and the rest of the creative team. A solid read all around.

Comic book review: Infinity #5

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I5The Avengers Universe. The Heroes of Earth rally to defeat Thanos. The war for Earth begins. From writer Jonathan Hickman and artists Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

Buoyed by their recent victories, this issue opens with dramatic scenes of conquest as coalition forces defeat the Builders on all occupied worlds. Here we see Hickman’s commitment to the symbolism he established in the early issues of Avengers, as on every liberated world they erect an A to stand as a symbol of their triumph. An obvious parallel to the allied victories in Iwo Jima during World War II, the coalition mark these planets as Avengers Worlds and get down to celebrating, in a brief but humorous break from the action. However, the merriment is short-lived as the Avengers are told that Earth has fallen in their absence and Thanos is in Wakanda, searching for his son.

Meanwhile, as Thanos tortures Black Bolt for access to the Illuminati’s planet-destroying weapons, Ebony Maw captures Thane. He places the newly-minted Inhuman in a suit to dampen his powers, gifting him to Thanos for execution. With the Avengers on their way home to save Earth, the Illuminati returns to Wakanda with the help of Maximus to strike back against Thanos and retake the Necropolis. Everything is about to come to a head, as all the major players find themselves on Earth again, and it doesn’t look pretty for Thanos.

In an overall satisfying end to the Builder conflict, Hickman delivers a solid and well-paced script. As this event winds down, I’m glad that Thanos has finally made it on the Avengers’ radar and both of these storylines are coming together. Still, I would have liked to see a little more about what’s going to happen with the Builders. Did Captain Universe kill all of them? Where there no survivors, except for the one that limped away in the recent issue of New Avengers? It just feels a little anti-climactic for this vast and unrelenting army to just disappear from the story with no apparent corollaries, given that she did wipe out an entire species. I haven’t yet read all the tie-ins this week, so perhaps there’s something to do with this issue there, but it felt like a bit of a misstep. I also would have liked to see more of Thane, who is a little underdeveloped at this point, but what we’re given of his scenes with Ebony Maw gets the job done.

As always, the respective artworks of Opena and Weaver are dynamic and engaging. Their styles complement one another, meshing well from segment to segment to carry the book to a visually satisfying conclusion. The opening tableau of battle scenes was especially lovely, with great panel compositions and a beautiful sense of motion. As ham-fisted as the flag-raising scene could have been, it reads as composed and meaningful through the strength of page design and scale. To boot, Ponsor’s color palettes help to successfully unify the pencils in a strong and consistent reading experience.

Infinity #5 is another solid issue in this enjoyable event. Not the best chapter overall, but a good transition issue as the series comes to a close. Strong scripting and great artwork all around.

Horror, Video Games, and You

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371171_8805With it being close to Halloween, and with me being a horror writer and all that, it’s pretty safe to assume that I’m thinking about horror. The aesthetics of horror, the nature of the genre, the evolution of the genre across different mediums and platforms — the usual creepy business. Right now I’m taking a bit of a step back from my own horror projects to work on my superhero fiction novel series, but that doesn’t mean the genre isn’t on my mind when I’m looking to future books. With that said, some of my recent research and internet travelings have led me to a better appreciation of horror in video games.

So, as you can imagine, as a kid I grew up playing a lot of horror games of all different stripes. Doom? Yup. Doom II? Absolutely. Galerians? Yes. The Silent Hill series? Sure. The Fatal Frame series? Alone in the Dark? A bunch of others I’m probably forgetting? You get the idea. Unfortunately, a few years back I developed a really bad case of motion sickness and equilibrium problems that kept me from playing any of my favorite games. The threat of puking every time I loaded Doom just didn’t  sit well with me, so I abandoned these titles for safer, less nauseating alternatives like The Sims series. But over the years I really missed horror games and wanted to get back into things, relegated to the sidelines watching developer conferences and trade expos instead of playing.

Recently I discovered the world of Youtube Let’s Plays, recorded play-throughs of games across various genres and platforms by gamers of all skill levels and backgrounds. It’s a fun way to experience games without playing them yourself, which, if you’re like me and they make you puke, is kind of a blessing. Getting into Let’s Plays, I’m now reacquainted with the genre I missed so much through various Youtube personalities and video gaming bloggers who cover every square inch of horror gaming. From the history and controversy of certain games, to full play-throughs of unknown indie horror titles, it’s been a good way to expose myself to horror in the video game medium, as well as get a look at some of the innovations coming out of indie developers.

So, if you’re like me and you like your video games with a side of creepy, here’s a list of my favorite Youtube channels.

SomeOrdinaryGamers

Offering extensive play-throughs of cool little indie horror games, creepypasta reviews, and entertaining commentary on various other games and genres, this channel is one of my favorites. There’s a little bit of everything on this one, and it’s definitely worth checking out. If nothing else, just watch the above play-through of Imscared, which is one of the most deceptively simple, inventive and unsettling games I’ve ever encountered. You can find their videos here.

Harshly Critical

Local to me here in Texas, Harshly Critical posts new videos almost every day of Let’s Plays covering a wide variety of games. From big well-known franchise titles to intriguing indie games I would’ve never otherwise heard of, I really look forward to his posts. He’s a pretty bright guy with an English/writing background and a lot of his commentary is spot-on. That and watching him freak out is hilarious, so don’t judge me. You can find his videos on his channel.

Creepy Gaming with Mullet Mike

Hands down my favorite channel, Mullet Mike covers the history of creepy controversies, Easter Eggs, and other weirdness through video game history. He also covers creepypastas and internet urban legends, and posts thoughtful reviews of horror games like Slender: The Eight Pages. He does his research and really cares about what he’s putting out there, balancing humor and due diligence to come up with great videos. He also has the best Arkansas accent on Youtube, which doesn’t hurt either. So if you’re interested in the creepiness of your favorite video games, Mullet Mike is your man. You can watch his videos here.

Comic book review: New Avengers #11

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na11INFINITY TIE-IN – “BUILDING WORLDS.” The Illuminati travel to another Earth during an incursion. Thanos in Necropolis. The Builders on Earth. From Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato.

With another incursion breaking the horizon in Australia, the Illuminati races to deal with the next threat as Thanos wages war on Wakanda. In an unexpected about-face from what we’ve seen of the Builders in the spacefaring battles of Infinity and Avengers, an Aleph appears in Australia and proposes a conference with the team. The Illuminati soon finds themselves whisked away to a Builder ship in another universe, meeting with a group of Builders and Gardeners offering help. We learn that this group is part of a survey mission of sorts, moving through the Superflow to follow the breakdown of the multiverse and track the incursion as it rippled between their dimension and 616. After one of the Gardeners rids Doctor Strange of the psychic leftovers of his recent possession by Ebony Maw, the team comes around, accepting the offer. The Builder explains that his race isn’t wrong about destroying Earth, the nexus of the incursion, but that war isn’t the answer. If the Illuminati hopes to stop the incursions and save what’s left of the universe, they have to destroy all Earths across the multiverse, including their own.

With Thanos marching on the Necropolis and this alternate group of Builders guiding the team to destroy the world, the stakes of this event are reaching staggering heights. Even for it, Hickman steers this issue to an intriguing conclusion with his strong scripting and a good balance of narrative scope. The arrival of these kinder, gentler Builders makes for an interesting twist, and plays well into the events of Avengers #21. This meeting successfully sheds some light on the mentality of their kind, which has been seen as merciless and hostile up until this point, and provides a little diversity for this otherwise antagonistic species. How all of this shakes out, however, including the effects of Black Bolt’s Terrigenesis Bomb, is still pretty up in the air. It raises a lot of questions on just how the heroes of the story (or perhaps anti-heroes, given some recent events) can still save their world, especially when the only way to save the universe at large is to destroy Earth. If nothing else, it certainly makes for an engaging read.

As always, Deodato’s pencils really sell this story with a consistent strength of page design and panel composition. There’s really nothing I can say that I haven’t already before about earlier issues, but I’ll say it again anyway. His sense of scope and framing in action sequences really makes the narrative pop, with his use of dynamic panel transitions and smart layout choices. Still he nicely tempers this energy with the tension of his character interactions, evoking a great deal of emotional subtly and quiet dignity with his treatment of the principal cast. Well-complemented by Martin’s great color palettes, it’s just really lovely work all the way around.

Swinging for the fences with its cosmic ramifications, New Avengers #11 is pretty successful in raising the stakes for Earth’s last defense while the Avengers battle the enemy abroad. Both Hickman and Deodato deliver a strong read with this one, posing some interesting questions for the Illuminati as this event draws to its conclusion. Good stuff, definitely worth picking up.

Comic book review: Avengers #21

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a21INFINITY TIE-IN – “AVENGERS UNIVERSE: IV.” The final battle for the Marvel universe begins. The fall of a Galactic empire. The rise of a new one. From Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu.

Despite Thor’s defeat of the Builder occupiers on Hala in Infinity #4, the war to save the universe is still taking a turn for the worse in this issue from Hickman and Yu. The Kree Supremor foresees the failure of the coalition despite their renewed optimism, even as the Galactic Council plans another strike in the face of mounting opposition. Losing worlds and manpower at an alarming rate, the coalition makes the unthinkable decision to open the Negative Zone. Annihilus, now freed, turns his ravenous horde onto the Builders, only to see the enemy swat his forces away like flies. With no other options remaining, the coalition prepares to take their last stand, ready to die on their feet in one last frontal assault on the Builders.

Meanwhile, Abyss and the Gardeners gather to wake Captain Universe, who remains comatose as the universe dies around her. Ignored by Captain America and the rest of the coalition in favor of another tactical strike, the combined life-giving power of Abyss and her siblings wakes their mother, sending her to face her wayward children. As she kills the Builders for their warmongering and defiance, one of them teleports away to the safety of another universe, calling out for all the Alephs scattered across conquered worlds to self-destruct. Even with the Universe awake, the Builders are prepared to take their victory by any means necessary, closing the issue in a dire cliffhanger ending.

Once again, Hickman delivers a solid script, carried to fruition by Yu’s artwork. Hickman’s handling of pace and scope is great here, covering every angle of the war with appropriate tension and composure. The stakes, even with the enormity of the situation, still feel high, the threat of the Builders still imposing. Yu’s pencils, with Gho’s color palettes and Alanguilan’s inks, drive the book with dynamism and strength of framing and design. There’s just such a wealth of talent on this book and it shows in every page, from tense conversations in darkened rooms to the intricacies and scope of explosive battle scenes. Overall, I have no real complaints about the writing or the artwork, which live up to the consistently high standards this creative team has been living up to issue after issue.

Avengers #21 is another strong issue in a great event. With its solid scripting and gorgeous artwork, there’s little bad about this one. Definitely worth picking up.

Comic book review: Hawkeye #13

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h13After a lifetime of decisions both good and bad, Clint and Barney Barton have to realize they are brothers and ultimately, they’re the only ones who can save one another. I mean if they don’t kill each other first. Good luck with that, Barton brothers. From Matt Fraction and David Aja.

We finally get Clint’s side of the story following Grills’ death, Kate’s departure, and the arrival of his brother Barney. Still reeling from the one-two punch delivered by his messy love life, Jessica’s not speaking to him, and Natasha and Bobbi aren’t his biggest fans either. Unfortunately, Clint doesn’t have any time to deal with that as he finds out about Grills’ murder, and heads to tell Grills’ father the news himself. Guilt-ridden and reclusive, Clint shuts Kate out until she finally leaves for California, taking Pizzadog with her and setting up Barney’s arrival. With his life in total upheaval as the tracksuit mob looms in the margins, Clint finds himself lost and unsure of what he can do to solve any of the trouble he’s gotten himself into.

After a production hiatus, Fraction and Aja are finally back with another slick and emotionally resonate chapter in the life of the greatest sharpshooter known to man. Even for the interruption, the book doesn’t suffer for it in the least, not even missing a beat in filling in the blanks of recent events from Clint’s point of view. Told entirely in dense nine-panel grids, this issue quietly unfolds as Clint struggles (and fails) to catch up with the events threatening to swallow him, shying away from nothing in a poignant scene-by-scene dissection of his life. Dialogue fades into silence as he draws away from those around him, haunted by dreams of those he’s failed, punctuating the loneliness of Fraction’s air-tight scripting and perfect tempo.

As always, Aja’s artwork expertly carries this book in subtle yet affecting ways. The dream sequence in the middle of the book is an especially striking scene, as Clint finds himself haunted by Grills’ death in a series of exquisitely framed panels that follows him into a flooded house during Hurricane Sandy. The scene lasts only a single page, abandoning the book’s trademark cool purple color scheme to dive into the red world of Clint’s well-intentioned failings, but makes the most of it in its evocative illustration of guilt and memory. Hollingsworth and Aja make a formidable pair in delivering another issue that is gorgeous from start to finish.

Another great issue from Fraction and Aja, with its flawless pacing and fantastic artwork. No matter the delay, Hawkeye #13 is definitely worth the wait. I’m so glad it’s back and eagerly await the next issue, whenever that happens to be.

Comic book review: Captain America #12

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Captain America #12LOOSE NUKE PART 2 Nuke on a rampage! The Weapon Minus program revealed! Meet Dr. Mindbubble, the unbelievable Super Soldier created in the 1960s! Written by Rick Remender with artwork by Carlos Pacheco.

The second arc of Marvel NOW’s Captain America is in full-swing in this issue, with some solid scripting from Remender and compelling art from Pacheco. Shifting gears for a moment, Remender pulls back the focus on Steve’s struggle to resume his old life for some exposition. The story opens in China in 1968 to tease some background information on the Weapon Minus program, setting the stage for Nuke’s psychotic, politically-fueled rampage in Nrosvekistan. This apparently plays into a larger arc surrounding Dr. Mindbubble that Remender’s working on for another book, but, at the moment, it’s all a bit vague. Back in 2013, Steve is still reeling from the deaths of Ian and Sharon, trying to reconcile his twelve years in Dimension Z. A friendly visit from Falcon ends in a confrontation with Jet, who’s staying with Steve until she adapts to life in his dimension, as Sam tries to reach out to Steve. After a sparring session, Steve finally breaks down and tells Sam the truth about his experiences in Dimension Z, talking about his son for the first time.

A definite break in tone from the last arc, this latest story is unfolding nicely so far, balancing the mystery of Nuke and Weapon Minus with Steve’s personal story. Remender manages to strike an interesting equilibrium with this issue, moving the plot along and still giving Steve some space to grieve. I imagine some readers might find the slow pace of the issue a bit trying, but I’m enjoying watching this story play out as Steve comes to terms with everything that happened in Dimension Z. It’s heavy on exposition, from the Mindbubble monologues book-ending the issue to Nuke’s ranting, but for me the pacing works. If I had to find fault with this one, it’s the usual soft spots in Remender’s dialogue, which aims for a more dramatic execution and fall shorts as hokey and long-winded at times. Otherwise, it’s a good script.

Pacheco’s artwork has become a nice addition to this book since beginning this storyline, helping to really establish the tone shift from Romita and Dimension Z. The aerial sequences across New York City during Falcon and Cap’s sparring session are particularly visually pleasing, making the most of some dynamic framing and panel transitions. While the action is quite well-executed, Pacheco’s pencils, with the complement of White and Rosenberg’s color palettes, do the script a service by enveloping Steve’s storyline in an appropriate sense of melancholy. For me, this makes Steve’s emotional journey all the more immediate, and I enjoy this visual exploration of his internal state.

Overall, this is another strong issue in an otherwise interesting storyline. Despite the usual pitfalls, this arc is coming along nicely. Remender seems to be gearing up to something much bigger with his peculiar choice in antagonists, and Pacheco continues to please. Solid stuff all around with this one.

Comic book review: Infinity #4

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Infinity #4Negotiating the fall of worlds. The Illuminati versus Thanos. Thor, God of War. Written by Jonathan Hickman with artwork by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

As the Builders prepare for their victory in the fight for Earth, the resistance mounts their final stand and Thanos’ lost son discovers his true nature in this latest chapter of the Infinity event. With the Galactic Council shocked by Captain America’s decision to surrender, he gets his parlay with the Builders, assuring the coalition that his strategy will work. Sending Thor to Builder-occupied Hala as their diplomatic representative, he tries to negotiate a truce. The Builder representative has no interest in negotiations and, after ordering Thor to cast Mjolnir out, forces him to bend a knee in submission to their conquest of Earth. The Builder doesn’t realize that Thor isn’t human, however, nor does he realize that he’s just been had. Mjolnir, tossed out of Hala’s atmosphere, slingshots around the planet to gain speed before returning to Thor’s hand, bursting through the Builder’s torso in a splatter of green gore. Thor then beats the Builder to death, proving Captain America’s belief that not only can the Builders be hurt, but they can be killed. With Hala now freed from occupation after this very public defiance, the Kree pledge their allegiance to the resistance once again, and the Galactic Council prepares a new strike against the Builder fleet.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Attilan crashes into New York City. Thanos staggers from the debris of the Inhuman throne room, only to realize Black Bolt’s voice had unleashed a Terrigen Bomb. Converted from sound to light by Maximus’ machine, the ensuing Terrigen cloud caused a chain reaction all over the world, instigating Terrigensis in any human with Inhuman DNA. Hidden away in a lost Inhuman city, Thane, Thanos’ son, is also changed by the bomb. His birthright revealed, Thane is instantly transformed from the healer he once was into a purely destructive being, killing everyone in his tiny city. While we don’t get very well-acquainted with Thane from his brief appearances here and in New Avengers so far, his transformation is quite compelling and tragic. Thanos beats Black Bolt and sets out to find his son, not yet realizing what awaits him as hegoes to dispose of his bastard heir.

Hickman offers another tightly-scripted chapter in this unfolding event, taking what could otherwise be a fairly slow issue and keeping the momentum building instead. The length and scale of this event continues to work well in these segmented chunks, dividing each part of the story into smaller, digestible pieces. This strikes a great balance of perspective, affording the reader all the necessary points of view without bogging down the story in exposition or window-dressing. Hickman also raises the stakes with the Terrigen Bomb and Thane’s transformation, an increasingly risky move on Black Bolt’s part with some very dire consequences. I’m not sure about forcing Terrigenesis on hundreds of unsuspecting people in the midst of an already ongoing global catastrophe, so we’ll see how that plays out. It will be interesting to see how these issues are addressed moving forward, especially as Thanos has no idea of his son’s true potential. With so many regions on Earth still reeling from Ex Nihilo’s forced evolution, however, I hope Hickman has a plan to reconcile all of this mounting cataclysm, without sweeping anything under the rug.

As far as the art is concerned, Opena and Weaver knock it out of the park once again. Their styles complement one another, meshing well from segment to segment to provide a stunning reading experience. While Weaver’s pages possess a great sense of movement and energy, the scope and stoicism of Opena’s work is just as lovely in its own right, as each artist brings something engaging and visually pleasing to the table. I can’t stop raving about this team, especially when unified by Ponsor’s dramatic color choices, developing the lush alien backgrounds and brooding settings of the book. Ponsor’s palettes really do help to make this such a cohesive read, reinforcing the keen technical execution and production value of the title issue to issue.

Infinity #4 does its best to raise the stakes for human and alien alike, and is pretty successful on all accounts. The strength of Hickman’s scripting is the backbone of this title, and is again wonderfully executed by the efforts of Opena and Weaver. As the event reaches its inevitably dramatic climax, I look forward to seeing where this story goes, and how far its affects will span across the Marvel Universe at large.

Agents of SHIELD, podcasts, articles, oh my

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shielNope, sadly, there will no comic book reviews this week. None of my books came out this Wednesday, so I’m taking a bit of a break from review business. Next week I get back to my regularly scheduled pull list, snarky commentary and Instagram hijinks included. But until then, here’s some of what I’ve been up to in the meantime:

A face for radio: Chaos Theater

I was invited by Chris and Pedro of MAHQ to sit-in on their latest podcast of Chaos Theater to talk about ABC’s new Agents of SHIELD. Despite all my vaguely intoxicated stumbling and stammering, it was pretty fun, and I’d love to come back and do it again sometime. You can listen to it here. Revel in my smokey baritone!

Secret: A Fascinating Title, If You Don’t Mind the Wait

This week on eCharta.com’s blog I posted a little write-up of Image Comics’ Secret by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim. A peculiar title, this is one of my favorites that I don’t get to talk about very much, due to its inconsistent publishing schedule. The recent release of issue #3 gave me a chance to do a little write-up and review:

Beginning in April 2012, this peculiar mix of espionage fiction and corporate intrigue saw just two issues. By the end of the summer it went on a year-long hiatus due to a series of production snags. The book, which had gained quite a bit of buzz and critical interest, was considered abandoned by readers. In the meantime, Bodenheim seemed to vanish from comics, and Hickman continued with other projects, such as Manhattan Projects, East of West, God is Dead, and championing Thanos’ return to the main stage in Marvel Comics’ timeline-shattering Infinity event. In August, the long-awaited third issue of Secret finally hit the shelves, as Miller dealt with the fall-out of the London murders. While an intriguing issue that explores Miller’s complex web of professional and personal relationships, I can’t help but keep my expectations low, even as I hope for more from this strange little world Hickman has cooked up.

You can read my article and review of Secret at eCharta.

Comic Book Reviews: 9/25/2013

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ua12Uncanny Avengers #12

The dark origin of the Apocalypse Twins! Kang’s true motives revealed. A secret of pact between Ahab and The Red Skull that will bring horror to all mutants. Bring on the bad guys! From Rick Remender and Salvador Larroca.

After the surprising events of the last issue, we find the team racing to stop Uriel and Eimen as Scarlet Witch struggles to sway Wonder Man to the twins’ cause. The twins’ plans come to fruition here as the climax of this arc closes in, offering some intriguing character insight along the way. This issue has some really good moments going for it, such as the twins’ origins and their ties to Red Skull, and Captain America’s run-in with the recently resurrected Banshee. Remender offers a solid script and Larocca’s pencils are quite dynamic and affective.

My only real complaint, as it has been from the start, has been Remender’s handling of Scarlet Witch, who feels a bit stagnant in this issue. To be honest, she spends much of the issue simply justifying her decision to work with the twins, to herself and the audience, and clinging to Wonder Man. I appreciate that she’s in a fragile state given recent events, but Remender has been pretty determined to push Wanda into some kind of relationship with somebody in this book. Having her ask Simon’s protection, and how his actions “win her heart forever,” just ring a bit cheesy to me. So far, she’s spent most of this series being kidnapped, fighting with Rogue, or being drawn into romantic entanglements of some kind. For someone whose romantic and family life has been manipulated by so many people, I just want to see Wanda stand on her own two feet for a while, you know?

Other than that, this is a solid issue and an interesting read.

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INFINITY TIE-IN – “AVENGERS UNIVERSE: III” Unexpected overtures from the Builders. A meeting of Ex Nihilos. Total, unconditional surrender. By Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu.

The war takes a surprising turn as the coalition, outnumbered and outgunned, seeks parley with the Builders. Meanwhile, Ex Nihila reaches out to Abyss and Ex Nihilo to reveal some surprising truths, and the Builders prepare for victory on Hala. We learn that the Abyssi have all died off, leaving their siblings the Gardeners, banned from creating new life, to serve as slaves to their creators. As Captain America surrenders, Ex Nihilo and Abyss swear to put an end to the subjugation of their kind.

A lot of drama, a lot of intrigue, with some solid scripting from Hickman and amazing artwork by Yu. It’s an enjoyable read, with a few interesting twists and turns along the way. Overall another strong chapter in the Infinity event.

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HULK VS THING — and it’s one for the ages! As the kids in the FF start growing apart, their adult supervision seems to be having some issues of their own…Written by Matt Fraction, Lee and Mike Allred, and pencils by Mike Allred.

Tensions in the team rear their ugly head as the kids drift apart over Adolf Impossible’s arrival. While the team works with Maximus the Mad and Caesar to bring the Fantastic Four back home, Doom moves his plans forward and Ant-Man continues his downward spiral. The relationship between Scott and Darla reaches it inevitable romantic  crossroad and, of course, nothing quite goes according to plan. An issue with growing pains from every end of the spectrum, this is another engaging chapter in a fun and offbeat series.

Fraction takes a step back from writing in this issue, focusing on other projects to let Lee Allred step in as script writer. The narrative shift is minimal, and overall Allred keeps with the tone that Fraction established in the last eleven issues. The heart of the book is still very much present, in scenes such as Adolf and Luna bonding over anime, or Darla and Scott’s abortive romantic interludes, and still feels really cohesive. As I said, it’s a slight departure from what we’re used to, but it’s certainly not enough to cast a shadow on such a fiercely enjoyable title.

ya10Young Avengers #10

It’s Mother’s Day. Don’t worry. You won’t forget. She won’t let you.Who’s bringing Mother presents? From Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Shifting narrative gears to focus on Mother, this issue sheds light on the back stories and motivations of numerous intriguing players. We get our first real insight into Mother and all her horror, as well as the mysterious reality-warping Patriot, who raises more questions than he answers. Teddy, separated from Billy and the team as he becomes embroiled Leah’s schemes, inadvertently falls victim to Mother’s trap in a compelling cliffhanger of an ending.

A really intriguing issue, Gillen and McKelvie achieve some great visuals through clever narrative convention. All the fun and witty interplay we’ve seen the last few issues is gone, in lieu of furthering the magical, dimension-hopping  aspects of the plot through some well-executed horror elements. This is just smart writing, buoyed by great artwork and the fantastic partnership between Gillen and McKelvie.