Batman: Secrets #1 (Sam Kieth, DC)
I really like a lot of Sam Kieth's work, but his last few series have not done that much for me. This is a follow-up of sorts to his DC mini-series Scratch, which had a Batman cameo but was mainly about a kid who turned into a werewolf. In this series, Batman is front and center, but I'm amazed at Kieth's ability to turn Bruce Wayne into one of his typical protagonists, with a weird childhood secret that leads to present-day neuroses. I would imagine that hardcore Batman fans will find this a little too out of character to enjoy, but approaching it as a Kieth fan it has promise. At the same time, it does seem like he's running out of new ways to explore his same old themes.
Daughters of the Dragon #2 (Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray/Khari Evans, Marvel)
I still like this series more in theory than in practice, and I'm not sure it's worth bothering to pick up the rest of the issues. Misty and Colleen fight some more bad guys in this issue, they get a nebbishy assistant who is mildly amusing, and I guess the central mystery advances, although I had to skim the issue again just now to even remember any of that. Come to think of it, given how little of an impression this issue made on me, I think it's probably a waste of money to read the rest of the series.
Ex Machina #18 (Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris, DC/Wildstorm)
I like the way that Vaughan is really engaging with current political issues in this arc and altering them to work with his premise, something that he started with his 9/11 revelation in the first issue. In that way this book is almost like an alternate history sci-fi novel, looking at what would happen if we had a superhero mayor in New York City who lessened the blow of 9/11 and was around when Bush was getting ready to invade Iraq. Vaughan also shows his willingness to take risks by seriously injuring one of the most likable main characters, who I hope will make a recovery soon.
Fallen Angel #3 (Peter David/J.K. Woodward, IDW)
I'm surprised at how satisfying I'm finding the Angel's origin story, considering that things like this shrouded in mystery so long tend to be anticlimactic when finally revealed. But this really does add layers to the character, and combined with the return of her son shows how tragic and lost she really is. In the first series, Lee was a badass in command of everything, and now David is showing her as a washed-up drunk who can barely get it together to throw a punch when the situation calls for it. In many ways this has become an entirely different book, and the radical change in art styles emphasizes that. I do wonder a little if David is writing himself into a corner, but I think it's more likely that he's setting things up for an exciting new status quo at the end of this arc.
I Heart Marvel: Masked Intentions (Fabian Nicieza/Paco Medina & Mike Norton, Marvel)
This was the Nicieza special in this series that I was actually excited about and forgot was coming when I picked up his lame supervillain issue last week. Truthfully, this is about as inconsequential as the supervillain one, but it's got much better art and the added advantage of Nicieza writing the New Warriors, characters he clearly loves and shepherded for many years in their first series. There are two short stories in here, the first a cute little romance between Speedball (who is apparently about to get offed in Marvel's upcoming Civil War mega-crossover) and the GLA's Squirrel Girl, and the second a story that surprisingly breaks up one of the Marvel universe's longstanding couples, Justice and Firestar. Both show Nicieza's flair for character-driven storytelling and strong uses of continuity (especially in the first story, which picks right up from Dan Slott's GLA series and Zeb Wells' recent Warriors mini). Mostly, they make me wish there was a market for a Nicieza-written Warriors ongoing, rather than what looks to be a slaughter of at least some of the team coming up in Civil War.
Nextwave #2 (Warren Ellis/Stuart Immonen, Marvel)
I think the best accomplishment of this issue is that not only is it just as funny as the last issue, but I also actually found Fin Fang Foom's defeat scene (I won't call it a death, since he's too much of a Marvel icon for that) fairly sad and poignant. My only complaint is that the cover promised Elsa Bloodstone battling broccoli men, which did not happen.
X-Factor #4 (Peter David/Ryan Sook & Dennis Calero, Marvel)
I believe that this is Sook's last issue, and the editors are finally aware of this, so at least the artists switch mid-issue, rather than alternating pages, and the whole thing reads much more smoothly. This wraps up the first arc in a sort of anticlimactic fashion, leaving a few plot threads hanging. Knowing David, that probably just means that he's engaging in some long-term planning, which is good, but other than the resolution of the story of the murdered girl in the hotel room, this issue left me a little underwhelmed.
Y the Last Man #43 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra, DC/Vertigo)
It seems like it's been forever since we've had a multi-part story arc in this book, so I was glad to get back to a plot with some forward momentum. Since Vaughan announced that the series will be ending with issue 60, it definitely feels like things are building to a climax, with long-running subplots coming to a boil. It was nice, too, just to have the main characters back and interacting with each other in this issue. Vaughan has built up a really strong cast who feel like old friends at this point, and I was glad for the opportunity to visit with them again.