All-New Weekly Pull: December 18

The final Weekly Pull of 2013! Not that that’s really a big deal, but there it is. And since the next two Wednesdays are Christmas and New Years, this week kind of looks like the industry’s big year-end dump. In other words, one of the most expensive purchase days of the year. Here’s what I bought (and what I have to say).

Pretty Deadly #3

Hyperbolic as I tend to be, I truly mean it when I say this is the book that stands out to me from everything I’ve read all year. Not this issue, per se, but the starling series. Not only is this an absolute blockbuster creative team, but it’s a team with a story worthy of their talents. If the last two issues were about atmosphere and slow burn, this issue was the exploding powder keg at the end of the fuse. Action and exposition (but the good kind) led to a final few pages that literally made my jaw drop in surprise. I never would have guessed that a “mythic western” would be my pick of the week (heck, maybe even of the year), but there you have it: Pretty Deadly is the book you should be reading. 5/5 [Loved It]

Harley Quinn #1

After the joy that was the Harley Quinn zero issue, I came into this series with high hopes and expectations. The team had demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt their ability to craft a lovable Harley story, and the utter morbidity of New 52 Harleen Quinzel was almost forgotten. Almost. And then I started reading the first official issue of her series, and she was back to murdering, back to violent insanity, back to the realm far removed from the fun-loving, misguided, but ultimately good-at-heart character I so desperately wanted this series to be about. The night before reading this, I (finally) caught up on Injustice, an else-worlds story from the creators of Mortal Kombat, and thus the place you’d most expect Harley to be violent and over-the-top. Yet somehow, Tom Taylor’s non-canon version rings true as the “real” Harley, and we’re stuck reading an official version who belongs in an elseworlds tale. I’ll be picking up Injustice when it resumes in 2014. Harley Quinn? Not so much. 2/5 [Unimpressed]

Locke & Key: Alpha #2 (of 2)

I suppose it’s unfair for me to have grown impatient with Locke & Key‘s constant delays, seeing as I didn’t have to put up with them over the years the way most readers of the series did. And the thing about long waits for something good is that once you get it, you almost miss the anticipation. So it is here, with the final nail in the coffin (so to speak) and this series, at long last, put to rest. There’s nothing much to be said about the specifics of the issue that wouldn’t qualify as a spoiler. Some things were inevitable. Others I honestly wasn’t expecting, and while I embrace the decisions I can see why others might not (of course, there’s a wonderful picture of Joe Hill flipping you off if you have a bone to pick with him). Locke & Key is a kind of hidden treasure. Not enough people seem to know about it, but I guess that makes introducing new folks to it all the more enjoyable. It was something refreshingly different, a horror story that was also an amazing chronicle of family strength and legacy; a coming-of-age tale that took none of the tropes for granted. It will be missed. 5/5 [Loved It]

All-New X-Men #20

Ever since the initial excitement over Laura’s survival of Avengers Arena, my enthusiasm for her role in this title has been waning. Bendis has a reputation for mishandling characters, but my newness to the comics scene precluded me really understanding what was so “off” about his characterization since I’d never read a non-Bendis version of most of these characters. Now that Laura’s in the book, I’ve had my eyes opened, so to speak.

It’s not…terrible. Honestly. The infuriating decision to have Laura’s first post-Arena appearance transpire in a book with her locking lips with someone (because, you know, that’s how PTSD works, right?) happily doesn’t pan out anywhere near that way within the actual story (one might say the opposite occurs). But just because she hasn’t suddenly swapped personalities with Jubilee doesn’t mean she’s being written properly. Bendis’ Laura has a bit too much emotion, with exclamations that feel out of place and certain phrasings that just aren’t proper X-23. It’s surreal, in a way: Bendis understands that Laura is different, but the way he goes about showing it leaves something to be desired.

That said, the art here is top-notch, and the Purifiers are the perfect foe to legitimize Laura’s return to the field alongside the mutants she (until recently) had walked away from. The Purifiers themselves (are they neo-Purifiers now?) have intrigued me from the start (as a Christian, I have a vested interest in seeing how religious fanatics are depicted in the media) and I quite like the direction Bendis has chosen for them. My chief concern is the kind of dramatic irony you’re not supposed to have: knowledge that a big crossover event with Jean Grey in space is just around the corner has me seriously doubtful that the potentially good story this issue and the last have set up will actually be executed well. I’m hoping that Bendis leaves it open for exploration later in the year instead of trying for some quick (and inevitably sloppy) conclusion, but in the meantime I’m just content that Laura remains in salvageable condition. 4/5 [Liked It]

X-Men #8

I guess “more than meets the eye” would be a good way of summarizing the many things that happened in this issue. The Bling debacle that made last month’s issue such a talking point has, as predicted, proven less straightforward than some people thought. The situation with Arkea isn’t as “over” as the X-Men hoped. And what Lady Deathstrike truly wants is anyone’s guess.

The one bone I have to pick isn’t really with anyone directly involved with this book, and more with the way Marvel does things. Rogue was a major part of this team, and now she is suddenly gone, replaced (the bruiser role, in any case) by M. Monet is a cool addition to the team, but her addition was barely explained, and Rogue’s disappearance not explained at all. Of course, those paying attention to comics news know why Rogue’s not here: Remender killed her in Uncanny Avengers a couple weeks ago. But the fact that she was a major selling point on this book, and a major friend/teammate within its pages, and no one is acknowledging her disappearance (nevermind death), is fairly insulting. 4/5 [Liked It]

Avengers Assemble #22.INH

I don’t really know when it happened, but Kelly Sue has suddenly become my favorite Marvel writer, and Avengers Assemble is quickly becoming my favorite Marvel book. The decision to toss Anya Corazón (Spider-Girl) into the mix was a brilliant one, and the interplay between her, Jessica, and Natasha has been complete gold. Add June Covington, one of the more enjoyable villains I’ve ever seen (you almost want her to succeed…almost), and this arc has proven to be an absolute blast for jumping in on.

It’s worth noting, as well, that this particular approach to incorporating the events of Inhumanity has been one of the most organic infusions of an event into a title I’ve  yet read. While the emergence of Inhuman cocoons could have felt tacked on, it is instead sewn intimately into an entire story arc, and I for one am excited to see how the arc plays out. [5/5] Loved It

Scarlet Spider #25

In hindsight, Scarlet Spider is sort of my comics badge of shame. It’s a book written by one of my favorite writers in comics (and the creator of my favorite character). A book, the first issue of which I read and loved. A book I wasn’t reading. That changed a few issues back, when a preview page featuring Kaine’s adorable sidekick Aracely convinced me it was about time I got around to reading it. Shortly thereafter, I found out the book was coming to an end.

Today, that end arrived. And while it was nothing spectacular — and was, in fact, not even really an end, what with Kaine & Aracely continuing in New Warriors in a few months — it still felt good. It felt like the right kind of closure, coming back around to ideas I recall being introduced in that very first issue. This is a book with a front cover jokingly declaring “all of the power, none of the responsibility,” but in truth Kaine has never embodied that kind of flippancy. For all the misery and arrogance Otto Octavius has been wreaking in Peter Parker’s body this year, Scarlet Spider has been the place to find the true superior Spider-Man. [4/5] Liked It

Amazing Spider-Man #700.4

…Of course, there’s not really any such thing as a superior Spider-Man, not really. Peter Parker will always be Spider-Man in my heart, and despite how angry I am at Marvel for so many things (not least of which this whole SSM fiasco), I am overjoyed at their decision to run these brief Parker-centric snapshots on the one-year anniversary of his “death.”

This issue concluded what the previous issue began: a fun, suspenseful take on the question “What would happen if there were a hospital for all the villains who get wrecked in their encounters with superheroes? And what if a hero accidentally ended up there?” I know that these stories are more or less self-contained, but I’d actually really love to see The Black Lodge revisited in the future, when (if?) Peter returns.

Amazing Spider-Man #700.5

It’s fitting that the last (new, at least) issue I will read this year was this one. It’s two stories, providing two sides of the coin that is Spider-Man: light-hearted and heartfelt. The first story is an amusing encounter involving Pete, MJ, and the Fantastic Four. The second is another reminder of power, responsibility, and inspiration. The final pages of this comic were a reminder for Peter of why the world needs him. I hope, in 2014, Marvel remembers why the rest of us need Peter. [5+/5] Instant Favorite