Agents of Atlas #3 (Jeff Parker/Leonard Kirk, Marvel)
Given that Parker spends five pages explaining and revising the convoluted obscure continuity of Marvel Boy, this issue could be a bore for all except the most hardcore of Marvel geeks. And yet he's consistently able to turn all this dense continuity explication into the basis for fun and exciting storytelling. I didn't know a single thing about these characters before picking up this series, so I couldn't care less if their appearances jibe with how they were in some issue of Fantastic Four 30 years ago, but I appreciate Parker's thorough attention to detail, and the way he harnesses all these disparate threads of various stories (up to and including Civil War, briefly) and uses them to build his own. He does basically undo a lot of the Marvel Boy stuff, but there's a nice fake-out at the end where it seems like he's going to resurrect another old character, only to turn our expectations of such things being reversed against us.
The All-New Atom #4 (Gail Simone/Eddy Barrows, DC)
This remains a solid but rarely exceptional superhero book, and I kind of wonder why I'm still reading it. It's always pleasant and mildly interesting, but a little underwhelming, and it's probably not really worth the money I'm paying for it. Barrows replaces John Byrne after a very short run, and delivers some solid superhero art, a little less murky than Byrne's work, but nothing outstanding. After four issues of mild interest, I'm thinking it's time to call it a day.
Criminal #1 (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips, Marvel/Icon)
I've never been as crazy about Ed Brubaker's writing as most people seem to be - I liked his Vertigo mini-series Scene of the Crime well enough, back before he was a superstar, but Gotham Central bored me enough to drop it after a few issues, and although I read the first two collections of Sleeper and thought they were decent, I wasn't blown away. I haven't bothered with any of his superhero work, but this creator-owned crime book seemed promising. And it's not bad, a perfectly serviceable piece of crime fiction that does nothing particularly original but tells a solid story. It's enough to get me reading the next issue, but I still don't see the brilliance in Brubaker's work that so many others seem to.
Doctor Strange: The Oath #1 (Brian K. Vaughan/Marcos Martin, Marvel)
Brian Vaughan, however, I would follow anywhere, even to a mini-series starring a character I have absolutely no interest in. Honestly, my favorite part of this issue was the throwaway scene at the beginning between Arana and Iron Fist, which really makes me wish Vaughan would create a book solely populated with C-list Marvel characters (which he sort of did with the Excelsior team in Runaways). I also like his use of the reimagined Night Nurse character created by Brian Bendis. As for the actual Doctor Strange story, it's a good but not great tale that successfully combines the character's mystical background with his medical training, and the issue ends with a very Vaughan-esque shocker that certainly gives the story some high stakes. Martin's art is also fantastic and otherworldly, so even if this isn't Vaughan's best work, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Fallen Angel #9 (Peter David/J.K. Woodward, IDW)
The Angel finally shows up toward the end of this issue after being gone for all of issue eight, and it's good to have her back. It's also good to have a story focused on Bete Noire and its supporting cast, including the increasingly important Sachs and Violens. David brings elements of the Angel's origin story into the present with the ending cliffhanger, proving that he's always weaving one big story, no matter how things are divided up.
The Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 (Robert Kirkman/Phil Hester, Marvel)
All the stuff I said above about Ed Brubaker applies to Kirkman as well, whose work has never much impressed me as it has so many others. I read the first Walking Dead collection, which sounds like something I'd really enjoy, and it didn't do anything for me, and I randomly picked up the first three issues of Tales of the Realm at a 10-cent sale and found them completely lame. But this concept, about a superhero who's a self-centered asshole, sounded fun, and I figured Kirkman deserved another shot. Like Criminal, this first issue is okay, but doesn't really grab me. The opening scene, in which Ant-Man saves a woman from being robbed and then demands that she go out with him as a reward, was funny and refreshing, but the flashback to the long origin story was a boring slog. I don't really care about the whole "Which character really is Ant-Man?" shtick, but I'll keep reading if the focus can stay on the main character and his cynical cashing in on being a superhero.
X-Men: Pheonix - Warsong #2 (Greg Pak/Tyler Kirkham, Marvel)
I wonder if Pak is packing too much into the origin of the Stepford Cuckoos, making them too complicated when their appeal was always how mysteriously creepy they were. But I like that he's building on Grant Morrison's ideas from New X-Men, when most other writers seem to be ignoring them. This is ending up to be not really a story about the Phoenix, which is fine, since there doesn't seem to be much point to that without Jean Grey around. But it's a good X-Men story that moves things forward, which I like, even if Kirkham's art is still painfully cheesy and stiff.
Y the Last Man #50 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra, DC/Vertigo)
As we learn more and more about the reasons behind the plague, it sadly becomes less and less interesting. The truth is that pretty much any explanation, after all this build-up, would be a disappointment, and at least tying things into the main characters gives the whole epic a nice sort of closure. But I would almost have preferred no explanation, and for the story to wrap up in a more ambiguous way. Other than that, the typical sharp character moments and clear, effective art anchor the issue even when the plot is a little wobbly.