Astonishing X-Men #15 (Joss Whedon/John Cassaday, Marvel)
I'm glad to see that Whedon is hinting that Emma hasn't gone completely evil, and I remain hopeful that this storyline will enrich rather than regress her character. It was a little hard to swallow that the Hellfire Club so easily and quickly dispatched the rest of the team in this issue, and Kitty was the only one able to fight back, but Whedon clearly loves Kitty and this is going to be her chance to shine, so I guess that's okay. Paul O'Brien points out that this is very similar to some of the stuff that Chris Claremont did in the '80s, which I don't remember clearly enough to comment on, but if anything this to me seems much in the spirit of Grant Morrison's stuff, with the team in shambles at the hands of Cassandra Nova, who plays on all of their innermost weaknesses.
Casanova #1 (Matt Fraction/Gabriel Ba, Image)
I don't think I've read any of Fraction's work before, but any time I've seen interviews with him, he always comes off as a desperate Warren Ellis wannabe, and that's exactly how this book reads; it's even done in the same format as Ellis' Fell, with 16 story pages for only $1.99 (although this debut issue has more story pages for the same price, which is nice). Not that emulating Ellis is necessarily bad - he's a great writer - but some of what Fraction does here comes off as too frantic and forced, and while Fell elegantly packs a satisfying story into its page count, this issue, even with more pages, feels way too dense and cluttered, with far too much happening too quickly. I'm still not quite sure what the final result is at the end of the issue, and after a while I sort of stopped caring about the plot. But there was some fun dialogue and cool characters, and I like Ba's pop art-influenced style, so I'll pick up another issue to see if it makes any more sense (it is, after all, pretty cheap).
Ex Machina #21 (Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris, DC/Wildstorm)
Vaughan starts the new arc off with a bang, and even though I'm not quite sure how the decriminalization of pot relates to a women immolating herself and a fake fireman invading an apartment, there's a lot of tension and suspense in this issue, and a great jarring last page. I was worried at first that the character of January, Journal's sister, was just a carbon copy to replace a killed cast member, but clearly she's got something different up her sleeve. There's a lot going on in this issue, all of it very intriguing.
Fallen Angel #6 (Peter David/J.K. Woodward, IDW)
Woodward uses a normal pencil-and-ink style in this issue, although he still does the coloring himself, and it's a little more accessible than his painted style; at least every character doesn't look like they're glowing. We're spending more time in the past here - at least the last arc told a contemporary story while also recounting the Angel's origin, but now we're in pure flashback mode, seeing what happened to Lee after she fell to earth. It's an interesting enough story, and shows her ruthlessness mixed with naivete before she came to Bete Noire, but I'm glad it's only a two-issue diversion.
My Inner Bimbo #1 (Sam Kieth, Oni)
This actually came out a few weeks ago, but my local store just got it this week. Although it's a sort of sequel to Ojo, the Oni series that Kieth did last year, it's only very tenuously related, and so far it's starting out more strongly. Once again, Kieth's got a strange creature (in this case the titular "bimbo") as a manifestation of his main character's subconscious, but at least that main character isn't an insecure young girl for once; it's an insecure 60-year-old man, who's got entirely new and interesting hang-ups. There's a ton of weird ideas in this book, and it's really dense reading (lots and lots of captions and speech bubbles), but not too tough to follow. The relationship between Lo and his wife is fascinating, and as always with Kieth's best work, the metaphysical stuff ties closely in to the real emotional stuff. Also, between this and Batman: Secrets, Kieth is turning in some of his best art in years. If only Oni could afford a proofreader (this issue is riddled with typos and grammatical errors).
Noble Causes #21 (Jay Faerber/Jon Bosco, Image)
Faerber has so many balls in the air at this point that it's a little tough to keep track of them, and inevitably some are going to get lost in the shuffle. The Rusty-Rae smackdown from last issue is completely ignored, and I have no idea how long it's been since the Celeste-Dawn relationship was addressed (or since we've seen Celeste for more than a panel or two). We do get some follow-up on Slate Blackthorne's continued efforts to reform, and a return to some stuff we haven't seen in a while (Detective O'Mega, Frost's potential villainy), but there are so many subplots going on that it'd be nice to see one or two of them resolved some time soon. Bosco's art continues to be a little awkward in places (especially his facial expressions), but I think he'll probably grow into the book as Fran Bueno did.
Shadowpact #2 (Bill Willingham, DC)
I wanted to give this book a chance because I like Willingham's work on Fables so much, but after two issues it's just not grabbing me at all. It's not even the continuity from Infinite Crisis that's bugging me, although I do feel like I have no idea who these characters are beyond really basic elements. The story is just uninteresting and completely nondescript, and compared with the way Fables grabbed me immediately, a real disappointment. I like Willingham, but I don't have enough faith in this book to wait for it to become interesting.