Cable & Deadpool #21 (Fabian Nicieza/Patrick Zircher, Marvel)
When the "next issue" blurb promises that the plot will start to make sense soon, you know you've got a problem. Nicieza's always had a weakness for these convoluted plot devices that end up being so far beside the point of the story he's trying to tell that they're almost irrelevant, and just because he makes tongue-in-cheek commentary about how confusing it all is doesn't excuse the fact that sometimes his plotting is incomprehensible. The dialogue is still fun, and it's nice to see Luke Cage and Iron Fist back in action together as they also acknowledge what Cage has been up to in New Avengers, but my patience is growing thin with the seriously impenetrable plotting.
Ex Machina #15 (Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris, DC/Wildstorm)
A nice switching of gears with this new storyline, which takes Mitchell out of New York and on the road, and deals with some issues from his past. This is low on political content for once, but that's fine since it ends with a nice surprise and looks like it's going to explore some new avenues in Mitchell's life and history.
Fables #42 (Bill Willingham/Mark Buckingham, DC/Vertigo)
Willingham starts a new arc dealing with Middle Eastern fables coming to Fabletown, and he treads some interesting waters, politically speaking, laying it all on the line with regards to his portrayal of the Middle Eastern characters as barbaric, intolerant and xenophobic. Now, I know from interviewing him that Willingham is a political conservative, but I don't necessarily see this as an effort to push an agenda. I think it's obvious that the European fables and the Middle Eastern fables would have very different world views, and to pretend that they'd all just get along would be sort of disingenuous. The differing viewpoints of the sets of characters set up an interesting conflict that is miles away from the focus of the last few issues, and makes for a refreshing change. And Willingham doesn't skimp on developing ongoing subplots with characters we've already come to know and love, including a surprise at the end of the issue with Beauty and Prince Charming. At the same time, I think that some people may see this story as Willingham's effort to show how the culture of Islam is inherently hostile to the West, and that may come off as reactionary or racist. I don't have a problem with Willingham advancing his political views in the pages of this book, nor do I think he'll throw his storytelling skills out the window to make his points, but I do find it interesting that he's just jumped right into this quagmire with both feet.
Gravity #5 (Sean McKeever/Mike Norton, Marvel)
Although I got a little bored around the middle of this series, overall it turned out to be a very well-executed superhero story, and McKeever wraps things up nicely in a way that doesn't just trot out familiar cliches but still feels like a very archetypal superhero origin story. He tackles not only the idea of what it takes to be a hero, but also the idea of what it takes to be a hero in a world where there are already so many other heroes, something that only now with all its years of history is the Marvel universe able to address. I think sales on this series have been pretty weak, but I'd love to see more of Gravity's adventures, or even a team-up with some other young heroes in the pages of a new New Warriors series (either by McKeever or Zeb Wells, who's been handling the Warriors well lately). That doesn't seem too likely, though.
House of M #7 (Brian Michael Bendis/Olivier Coipel, Marvel)
Holy shit! Something happens! And it's sort of unexpected! Or maybe I just hadn't been paying enough attention, but I thought the revelation that Quicksilver was behind the Scarlet Witch's reality-warping was a bit of a surprise and a nice thematic touch. Somewhere in here is an interesting story about the dysfunctional dynamics of Magneto's family, but it's all just being used to further an editorial agenda and not tell a story, and it's not even an agenda that interests me. This issue has the Scarlet Witch declaring "No more mutants!" and the result of this storyline (as has been predicted for months) will be drastically reducing the number of mutants in the Marvel universe. I'm not sure I needed to buy eight overpriced issues of this incredibly padded story to get to that simple result, but whatever. What bothers me more is this mentality that Joe Quesada has explained that this is necessary to "fix" the Marvel universe, that having all these mutants around is a bad thing and what's really needed is to go back to the way things were 30 years ago. His logic is specious (as Paul O'Brien helpfully elucidates), and I hate this current trend of reversing any evolution that has come along in the past decade or two with regards to superhero universes (DC is doing the same thing with Infinite Crisis, which I will not be buying). Grant Morrison did a lot of really interesting stuff with the idea that mutants were a widespread minority, and books like District X and Muties and Madrox explored, to varying degrees of success, the evolution of mutant culture. The idea of this superpowered minority that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced 40 years ago has grown and changed in the way a real minority group might, and to hit a big reset button to send it back to the start just seems to me reactionary, misguided and, frankly, desperate, like an admission that they don't know how to handle these new ideas and thus have to go back to the status quo from when the characters were first introduced. It's just another example of how superhero comics are resistant to change, so it shouldn't really surprise me, but nevertheless, I am annoyed. Plus the story sucks.
The Middle Man #3 (Javier Grillo-Marxuach/Les McClaine, Viper)
It's still odd to me that this is a four-issue mini-series, since there's no overarching story. As an ongoing, this makes a fine third issue, but I have no idea how things are going to wrap up satisfactorily next issue. Still, fun dialogue, eye-catching, kinetic art, and if it were an ongoing, I'd keep picking it up.
Y the Last Man #38 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra, DC/Vertigo)
Nothing quite compares to last issue's top-notch cliffhanger, but one thing that Vaughan always does best is takes those shock moments and really deals with their consequences, so that's what this issue is all about. I love how this book is continually evolving, and it looks like this storyline will be opening up all sorts of new avenues for future issues.