Astro City: Samaritan (Kurt Busiek/Brent Anderson, DC/Wildstorm)
This isn't really about Samaritan, Busiek's square-jawed Superman analogue, but more about his archrival Infidel, and an interestingly unconventional solution to the endless battle between the two. Taking a break from the bleak Dark Age storyline currently running through a series of mini-series, Busiek goes back to his more optimistic, wonder-infused style that has typified this series, while also finding yet another inventive but strangely practical angle on superheroics. A nice palate cleanser in between chapters of The Dark Age, and a reminder of what this franchise's strengths really are.
Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #1 (Zeb Wells/Stefano Caselli, Marvel)
Although I'm not reading the main Civil War series or any other spin-offs, I certainly couldn't pass up a series with two of my favorite Marvel teams, while one of their series is on hiatus, written by a guy who did such nice work on the recent New Warriors mini. If Runaways creator Brian K. Vaughan and Young Avengers creator Allan Heinberg weren't available to write this, then Wells is an ideal next choice, although this issue is rather disappointingly conventional. It's got the whole "heroes meet, have a misunderstanding, and then fight" device, which could not be more tired, and Wells' dialogue isn't quite as sharp as what Vaughan and Heinberg write in the main books. But the set-up at the end with Vision and Victor, thanks to their shared relation to Ultron, is interesting, and overall I'm interested enough in the characters and have enough faith in Wells that I'll check out at least one more issue.
Jack of Fables #1 (Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges/Tony Akins, DC/Vertigo)
This Fables spin-off book has been in the works for a long time, and while it's a perfectly decent little issue, this doesn't exactly break enough new ground to convince me that a separate title was essential. Instead of a solo adventure book with Jack on the road, which is what I thought we'd be getting, this is looking like another ensemble book about a different group of fables, with Jack captured and imprisoned in a village much like the one from The Prisoner. If that's the whole set-up, it's a little disappointing, but maybe as an opening arc it could work. The writing remains sharp and fun, and there are some new characters with potential. If this were simply a storyline in the main book, I'd have no complaints, but I'm not yet convinced it can support a whole series of its own.
Powers #19 (Brian Michael Bendis/Michael Avon Oeming, Marvel/Icon)
Finally, a new storyline! After dragging out the last one way too long, Bendis and Oeming give us three pages of Walker having sex, naked breasts, lesbian fantasies, a hot chick superhero masturbating, and the requisite dead body, covered in blood. It's good to have the book back on track, and of course also the subplots about Pilgrim's and Walker's respective acquisitions of powers continue, and I imagine they will get resolved during this arc. I hope so, because especially with how long the last one went on, it seems like the murder mysteries have taken a back seat, and this looks like a good one so I'd like to see it given the attention it deserves.
Savage Dragon #0 (Erik Larsen, Image)
She-Dragon (Erik Larsen/Franchecso!, Image)
Two Savage Dragon-related specials from Larsen in one week illustrate the massive, unwieldy continuity he's built in the main book. The zero issue reprints Dragon's origin from the Image anniversary hardcover, which I never bought so it was nice to have. It's a surprising angle, having Dragon as an evil megalomaniac who loses his memories, but ultimately since Larsen has no plans to follow up on it and had always planned to keep it a secret, it's a strangely inconsequential story for something that would seem so important. The She-Dragon special relies on so much convoluted continuity from various issues of the regular book that Larsen spends two pages explaining it all in the back of the issue - and that's even with a long flashback to recap She-Dragon's origin. Some of it's fun, but a lot more is just confusing, with multiple versions of various characters running around. Franchesco!'s cheesecake art is great when he's just doing poses, reminding me a little of the Dodsons, but his action and storytelling leave a little to be desired. Not exactly worth the hefty ($5.99) price tag, either.
Spike vs. Dracula #4 (Peter David/Joe Corroney & Mike Ratera, IDW)
I guess Corroney's rushed-looking art on the last issue wasn't a fluke, because he only had time to pencil four pages of this issue. Which is too bad, because Ratera's art is amateurish and sloppy, and doesn't capture the way the characters are supposed to look at all. I hope Corroney will be back to finish up the series next issue. The story isn't the series' best either, with the title characters never even coming face to face. Although I've enjoyed this series for the most part, I think the rather thin premise is getting pretty old, and it'll be nice to see it wrapped up soon.