Astonishing X-Men #17 (Joss Whedon/John Cassaday, Marvel)
There's been a slowly building backlash against this title, and I would agree to a sort of general disappointment, but I still think it's very good, and I'm enjoying this arc more than the "Danger" story. Sure, there's more decompression than necessary, but things have built up methodically, and this will certainly read better in collected form. Whedon's also crafting a master narrative that started in issue one, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the tangents and side stories that will hopefully all add up to one satisfying result. As always, Cassaday's art is wonderful, and there is a nice cliffhanger at the end that promises an exciting conclusion next issue.
Nextwave #8 (Warren Ellis/Stuart Immonen, Marvel)
Hey, character development! Even though a narrative caption sarcastically asserts that such things will never happen again, I think this book does need some sort of genuine emotional core to balance the humor and avoid repetition. This wasn't the greatest storyline, but it had its funny parts (the Mindless One with the "Livestrong" bracelet was hilarious), and I'm finally able to detect some interesting personality traits in the team members, which is important. Hopefully there'll be a stronger villain in the next issue, and more hints about the characters' emotional lives, as long as it doesn't distract from the absurdity.
Runaways #20 (Brian K. Vaughan/Mike Norton, Marvel)
With the news that Vaughan will be leaving this book (to be replaced by Joss Whedon), I'm now treasuring each issue a little more. I hope that Whedon will be able to keep up the standard of quality; I know he loves the characters, but as some have pointed out, his reverence for the X-Men seems to be holding him back from doing anything truly daring on Astonishing. One of the great things about Vaughan's work on this book is that he loves the characters but he's not afraid of messing with them, and in this issue it looks like Chase is really getting more and more evil. I'm more interested in where that's going than I am in the main story about the giant monster (although Norton draws a great giant monster), but I imagine both will come together in an unexpected way in the finale.
X-Factor #11 (Peter David/Renato Arlem & Roy Allen Martinez, Marvel)
David is slowly starting to convince me that Damian Tryp is a real menacing villain and not just a distraction from other storylines, and I like that he doesn't drag out the cliffhanger from last issue, instead resolving it quickly and moving on. Arlem's art is still sort of sketchy (there's one panel where Guido's face looks curiously flat), and I prefer Martinez's detailed work in the flashbacks, but Jose Villarrubia's colors tie it all together nicely, and provide a uniform look for a book that's gone through so many artists. (Also, not that it makes much of a difference, but someone at Marvel screwed up and repeated last month's letters page verbatim in this issue.)