The American Way #1 (John Ridley/Georges Jeanty, DC/Wildstorm)
The first two thirds of this book read so much like an Astro City story that I would almost have expected Kurt Busiek to sue Ridley for plagiarism if they weren't working for the same publisher. But then Ridley piles on a dark and intriguing twist that turns this into a tale of government conspiracy, and ends the issue with another twist that changes the carefully controlled illusion back into something real. For that first part, I thought it was a well-told but derivative story, with deliberately traditional artwork by Jeanty, but by the end it looked like Ridley actually might have something original to say, so I'm intrigued to see where he takes it.
Astonishing X-Men #13 (Joss Whedon/John Cassaday, Marvel)
After the disappointment of the last arc before the break, I came into this issue with diminished expectations, and they were mostly met. This is a more character-focused arc, as promised, and Whedon does some nice stuff with Peter and Kitty, even if he still can't convince me that the resurrection of Colossus was justified. I was troubled by the seeming regression of Emma Frost in the cliffhanger ending of the last issue, and here Whedon allays those concerns to a degree, setting up Emma as a sort of double agent who's gone native. It still does negate her reformation a bit, but the way that Whedon uses elements from Morrison's New X-Men makes me optimistic that he'll make everything tie together in a way that doesn't undermine such a rich character. Of course, it goes without saying that the art is as gorgeous as ever.
I (Heart) Marvel: Outlaw Love (Fabian Nicieza/Jon Proctor, Marvel)
I picked this up primarily thanks to Nicieza's presence, although I'm much more looking forward to his New Warriors-centric I (Heart) Marvel special next month. This is a tale of love amongst supervillains, and some of the cynical hard-boiled tone matches the underrated work that Nicieza did on his short-lived Hawkeye ongoing. But the art is completely wrong for the story, all distorted and ugly in what's supposed to be a love story, and washed in red for no apparent reason. Maybe Proctor's work is suitable for something a little more abstract, but it's completely wrong for Nicieza's straightforward style. The story itself is okay but inconsequential, basically hinging on the final twist. Overall a completely forgettable comic.
The Middleman Vol. 2 #1 (Javier Grillo-Marxuach/Les McClaine, Viper)
This actually came out a few weeks ago, but my local shop didn't get a copy until this week. After the odd pacing of the first mini-series, it's good that Grillo-Marxuach has the set-up out of the way and can just focus on telling the goofy stories of ninjas and Mexican wrestlers that he clearly has in mind. This has all the clever dialogue and ridiculous set pieces that marked the best moments of the first series, and McClaine's clean, fun art just gets better and better.
Savage Dragon #123 (Erik Larsen, Image)
Larsen wasn't kidding when he said he'd have this book back on a regular schedule, and I hope he can keep it up. He's really pounding on his lead character, having him gradually lose his powers and get attacked from all angles, and it's an interesting direction for the story to take. It does sometimes seem like it's too easy for Dragon to just come in and beat up the bad guy of the month. I'm less thrilled about the way that Mr. Glum is being turned into a serious villain; I sort of liked him better as hilariously ineffectual comic relief. This new direction seems to be making him less distinctive from any of the other villains who've appeared in the book. Also, the back-up strip by Larsen and Frank Fosco was great, somehow marrying the style of angsty indie comix to the story of a supervillain with a chicken's head. Classic.