Astonishing X-Men #7 (Joss Whedon/John Cassaday, Marvel)
Damn. Just...damn. This is quite possibly the best mainstream superhero comic being published today. Whedon totally captures the personalities of all the X-Men individually, writes sharp dialogue that fits each character perfectly, moves plotlines along from previous issues, and creates a truly creepy ending that's reminiscent of some of the stuff Grant Morrison did in New X-Men. I'm still sort of bugged by the return of Colossus, because I'd rather characters stay dead even if the story they died in wasn't stellar. But if Colossus had to come back, I can't think of anyone better to write him than Whedon. This is really the only thing keeping my faith in the X-Men franchise and reminding me why I got so attached to these characters in the first place. As much praise as I'm heaping on Whedon, Cassaday deserves the same amount, as does colorist Laura Martin - no other book looks as nice as this one does. The fight scenes, the costumes, the facial expressions, it's all perfect. It pains me to think that there are only 5 more issues from this team, and then I might no longer have any reason to care about the X-Men. The only thing that would make up for Whedon and Cassaday leaving is if they really sign Whedon to write and direct the next X-Men movie.
Ojo #4 (Sam Kieth with Chris Wisnia, Oni)
I picked up the first three issues of this one kind of haphazardly, but now I'm caught up to this week's new issue. I've been a fan of Kieth's since The Maxx, but his last two projects have sort of disappointed me. Scratch, the werewolf mini that came out from DC a few months ago, was disjointed and boring, and with Ojo Kieth again seems to be retreading his familiar themes, with an outcast girl bonding with a strange creature who's a metaphor for her emotional trauma (in this case, the death of her mother). Plus, I'm not sure which parts of the art Kieth is handling and which parts Wisnia is handling, but some pages look really rushed and sketchy. I know the beginning of this and the end of Scratch overlapped, so I'm not sure if Kieth might have over-extended himself. Still, I loved Four Women and the Zero Girl sequel that both came out fairly recently, so I'm willing to give Kieth the benefit of the doubt, and I like that he just does mini-series these days; it seems like the kind of storytelling he's best at. I know he's supposed to be writing and directing a Four Women movie, which should be very interesting, so this might be his last comics project for a while, and the time off might be a good thing.
X-Men #165 (Chris Claremont/Salvador Larroca, Marvel)
All that great stuff I said about Astonishing X-Men? Reverse it, and that's pretty much how I felt about this. Claremont does a fill-in holiday story to bridge the gap between Chuck Austen and Peter Milligan, and it's just awful. To be fair, it's a fill-in, so it doesn't have to be ground-breaking, but Claremont tries to do about 45,375,578 things with this one issue, including curing Gambit's blindness in about four panels (which is a slap in the face to Austen if I've ever seen one), bringing in a bunch of characters from the New X-Men: Academy X book, having X-23 join the team, telling a heartwarming holiday tale, and including nearly every X-Man currently on the team. It's a little strained, to say the least. Larroca's art is still the one saving grace of the book, although he turns in a particularly ugly cover that looks like he was going for "whimsy" and just missed the mark big time. This may not be as bad as the stuff Claremont's doing on Uncanny right now, but that's only because his awfulness is combined to a single issue. Peter Milligan, can you save this book?