Astonishing X-Men #14 (Joss Whedon/John Cassaday, Marvel)
The cover, which has been making the rounds for what seems like months, turns out to be an annoying bit of misdirection, as Emma and Logan never actually lock lips in this issue. With no action, most of the story is given over to Emma's psychological deconstruction of Cyclops, which is disturbingly and effectively cruel, but I remain disappointed that Whedon is turning Emma back into a villain; I hope that by the end of this arc she's redeemed at least a little. We get some comic relief in the form of Kitty and Peter's first tryst, and while I think it was kind of a cheat to bring Colossus back, Whedon clearly writes this relationship very well. A few cliffhangers set up some big things to come, but overall this is one of the quietest issues in the book's entire run.
Runaways #15 (Brian K. Vaughan/Adrian Alphona, Marvel)
I like how Vaughan shows the team essentially getting their asses handed to them by the new Pride in this issue, easily pitted against each other and divided. It emphasizes that they're still immature and untrained, and they can usually only beat villains who are unorganized and slightly inept. We know that a team member will die by the end of this arc, but even if we didn't, this issue would be excellent at creating genuine tension and dread.
Savage Dragon #125 (Erik Larsen, Image)
Larsen loves his giant-sized issues, and his formal experimentation, and this issue brings both. The lead story is a fairly straightforward Dragon tale, although Larsen's efforts at lettering are still a bit distracting. He ends up with the hero in the worst state he's ever been in (except for, y'know, that time he was dead), in a coma and with his healing factor on the decline. I like that Larsen is taking this whole depowering thing seriously, and dealing his main characters some tough blows. There are also a bunch of reprinted short stories in this issue, which I appreciated because I hadn't read them before. The Mr. Glum Sin City pastiche is especially clever. But the centerpiece is a bizarre experiment in panel repetition, 23 pages of the same drawing repeated over and over, six panels per page, with only minor variations in color and other small details. Larsen notes in the letters page that fans would probably have killed him if it was a whole issue in its own right, and he's right. I think the problem is that the dialogue, by a D-list villain who was turned into a fly, gets old and not very funny after a few pages, and that's all the story has going for it. Even if I didn't think it quite worked, I admire Larsen for constantly pushing the boundaries on modes of sequential storytelling and how it applies to superheroes, and I have no doubt that he'll come up with some innovative (and more effective) experiments in the future.
X-Factor #6 (Peter David/Dennis Calero, Marvel)
David sort of explains Layla Miller's background, but it honestly doesn't make her much more interesting. I don't find her as annoying as some do, but I still find her presence in this book rather superfluous, taking attention away from the more interesting characters that make up the rest of the cast. Still, this is better than last issue's one-note torture story, since David takes the time to develop subplots (which is always his forte). Once again, Calero's art doesn't really work for me, and I'm looking forward to the point when someone else takes over on a permanent basis.