Astonishing X-Men #6 (Joss Whedon/John Cassaday, Marvel)
This book remains the best thing about the X-Men franchise right now. Whedon wraps things up a little too quickly in this issue, presumably to make for a cohesive TPB, but there is a new wrinkle introduced at the end that points to a more ongoing plot structure, and I really, really hope they find some way to convince Whedon to stay around for more than 12 issues to keep these plot threads going. Also to keep up the wonderful dialogue and characterization, which is miles ahead of what Austen and Claremont are doing on the other core books. Cassaday's art is strong as ever, and this just has to be the best mainstream superhero comic being published right now.
Captain America and the Falcon #9 (Christopher Priest/Joe Bennett, Marvel)
I'm glad that Priest isn't really abiding by the artificial "arc" structure and continuing to build on all the plot elements from early issues, but I'm kind of feeling at this point that the whole "Anti-Cap" saga needs to come to an end. However, as always, Priest's dense plotting is rewarding if you pay attention, and his MODOK is quite creepy despite the character's ridiculous look. Although I haven't been digging this book as much as Black Panther or The Crew, Priest is taking the Falcon in some interesting directions and slowly building up a cool supporting cast. Bennett's art gets the job done, and while it's not spectacular, I'll be sad to see him go in a few issues. I hope they can get someone better than Bart Sears to replace him.
Fallen Angel #17 (Peter David/David Lopez, DC)
A lot of things come to a head this issue, and it makes me want to go back and read the previous issues to really appreciate all the threads coming together. David shows Lee at her most cruel and her most vulnerable, and while I wasn't as shocked at the ending as some, it was a nice twist. Still, as some on-line have remarked, the whole character-getting-pregnant-only-to-lose-the-baby storyline is well-worn in TV shows and other serial media where you can't have a main character saddled with a baby. I'd like to think that David has something more original in mind, whether he gets rid of the baby or not, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
The Intimates #1 (Joe Casey/Giuseppe Camuncoli, DC/Wildstorm)
I wasn't planning to pick this one up, but it came in the DC publicity package, and after reading it I felt compelled to comment. I've always been kind of indifferent to Joe Casey's work - I couldn't stand his run on Cable, but that was probably at least as much thanks to Jose Ladronn's art, which just is not to my taste. His Uncanny X-Men run was mediocre at best, and even he's acknowledged that it wasn't his best work. His most respected stuff, in Wildcats, I've never read, so I can't say I have a strong opinion of him either way. I thought the idea of doing a teenage superhero book in a school for superheroes, and giving it that kind of cynical, Wildstorm twist, could be fun, but this is just an absolutely awful book. I'm sorry, I know it's gotten some critical praise elsewhere, and I respect Casey and Camuncoli for trying something innovative with the storytelling structure, but the whole thing is a complete train wreck. First of all, storytelling gimmicks aside, you need compelling characters at the core, and all we get here are ciphers. All the little info boxes and snarky asides and design tricks just serve to distract from the fact that there's no plot. Furthermore, the dialogue, the character names, the "hip" little tidbits in the info boxes, they all just scream "trying to be cool." I don't know how old Casey is, and I don't think he's a geezer by any stretch of the imagination, but reading this is like reading Chris Claremont's painful attempts at teen-speak. It's hard to get authentic-sounding vernacular in a story about youth culture, which is why the best idea is usually to stay away from it unless you've got a really, really good handle on teenage slang and attitudes. I'm only 24 and I would never try to write something that self-consciously sets itself up as this "edgy." It's really just painful to read, and I can't imagine how an actual teen would take it. It comes off as incredibly condescending and pedantic and cooler-than-thou, and the tone plus all the info boxes and digressions only distract from the story. Very ambitious, sure, but a complete failure.
Sylvia Faust #2 (Jason Henderson/Greg Scott, Image)
I'm still not sure what to think of this one. Some of it is more than a little confusing, but the central character is fun and I love the art, with the lack of panel borders and the simple color palette. A really striking look. Sylvia is some sort of other-dimensional princess or something, and I'm honestly not sure what the point is supposed to be, but mostly this issue is about her going on a date with her new boss and it has plenty of cute moments. I'll stick around for the rest of the mini to see if it makes sense in hindsight.
Uncanny X-Men #452 (Chris Claremont/Andy Park, Marvel)
What can I say? Claremont seems so adrift with this book. There's some really confusing plotting in this issue, as it appears that Emma and Rachel leave the rest of the team in the Hellfire Club's hideout only to jet off to Hong Kong for a party, Bishop either has developed an entirely new power or is an impostor (which Claremont just used like three issues ago!), there's a completely out-of-the-blue and out of character fight between Emma and Rachel, Wolverine's costume magically regenerates, and...it's silly to go on. These are just basic structural issues. At least the invasion of the Hellfire Club has the potential to be more interesting than the last couple of storylines, but it's just written so poorly that it almost doesn't matter. Park does a fine job with art that only sometimes falls into the generic Top Cow studio look that he started with, but it doesn't really have any stand-out moments.
Y The Last Man #28 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra, DC/Vertigo)
After last issue's awesome cliffhanger, this one is invariably a let-down of sorts, as Vaughan is left picking up the pieces and moving the story forward. There are still plenty of suspenseful elements, though, including the mysterious assassin stalking Yorick, the reappearance of Hero and Yorick's strange illness. The best is that Vaughan takes a long-running mystery (from back in one of the first few issues, I believe) and resolves it in a really unexpected way, leaving some of the mystery intact while allowing the story to move forward. After 28 issues, I still have no idea where this is going and it consistently has great "holy shit!" moments, and that's damn impressive.