Agents of Atlas #4 (Jeff Parker/Leonard Kirk, Marvel)
The pacing in this issue is a little odd, with a lot of plot development and time passing indicated via narration, but otherwise it's another entertaining little adventure, and I like that Parker isn't just blithely resurrecting old characters (in this case, Namora) without having something behind it. It lessens the sense that he's negating old stories rather than building on them.
Criminal #2 (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips, Marvel/Icon)
I wasn't really sold on the first issue, despite the relentless hype and gushing reviews, and at first this issue was sort of underwhelming as well. But once Brubaker gets to the heist (and I like that it shows up already in part two of a five-part story), he pulls out some neat twists that made me pay attention (it also helped that by that time I had figured out who the characters were again). Phillips also draws some nice, brisk action sequences. It's still not much more than your standard crime story, but it's a good crime story that I'm interested to read to its conclusion.
Ex Machina #24 (Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris, DC/Wildstorm)
The storyline wraps up with a sort of anticlimactic end to the fake firefighter plotline, but some interesting set-ups with Mitchell's powers acting up and some of his supposed allies conspiring against him. All of the elements didn't come together as gracefully as I hoped after reading the first part, but overall this was still a very strong arc.
The Exterminators #11 (Simon Oliver/Mike Hawthorne, DC/Vertigo)
Once again, this book is at its strongest when focused on interpersonal drama rather than sci-fi mumbo jumbo. This issue puts the focus on the enigmatic Cambodian scientist who works for Bug Bee Gone, and his creepy but sort of touching date with another researcher. It has ominous overtones that relate to the overarching mythology plot, but it works best simply as a story of two weirdos sharing a connection. I kind of wish Oliver would just do an all-out relationship-drama series, because he's very good at it.
Fallen Angel #10 (Peter David/J.K. Woodward, IDW)
A satisfying done-in-one story, contrasting the Angel's conflicting blase exterior with her deep-seated resentment of "the boss" (aka God). This volume has been a lot heavier on the religious stuff than the original series ever was, which isn't necessarily bad, but it does sometimes seem like David is belaboring obvious points that distract a little too much from the more interesting ongoing plot, which doesn't exactly move forward in this issue.
The Irredeemable Ant-Man #2 (Robert Kirkman/Phil Hester, Marvel)
I realize that it's right there in the title that the main character is meant to be, y'know, irredeemable, but it's still hard to enjoy the book when the protagonist is such a complete dick. Since this issue kills off the best friend who was more sympathetic (and appeared in issue one to be getting set up as a possible alternate Ant-Man), there's really no one to care about or have any interest in. The vengeance-filled former colleague chasing after Ant-Man isn't any better as a sympathetic character, so I'm at a loss as to what about this book is meant to be engaging. At least if Ant-Man's assholery were amusing, I could be entertained, but he's really just a humorless jerk, and I don't think I'll be reading any more of his adventures.
She-Hulk #13 (Dan Slott/Rick Burchett, Marvel)
Well, Slott proves many of his critics wrong by scaling back on his retcons of Starfox and especially Thanos, or rather revealing the real story behind the goings-on that fits much better with established character traits. I'm not implying that this is a response to criticism - it's just that the full story is finally out there, and clearly Slott knew what he was doing all along. It still carries consequences for Starfox and explores some interesting aspects of his character, but it also makes more sense with what we know from older stories. This turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding storyline, and Slott still leaves the interesting relationship problems between She-Hulk and Man-Wolf unresolved for now, to carry over into future issues.
X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong #3 (Greg Pak/Tyler Kirkham, Marvel)
It disappoints me to say that this issue is unabashedly bad. I was a little wary at the start of Pak's delving into the origins of the Stepford Cuckoos and of Kirkham's dead-eyed, stiff, Top Cow house-style art, but the first two issues seemed to hold together reasonably well. Not so much anymore. Kirkham's art is just terrible - flat, lifeless and distractingly repetitive, and the story that Pak has concocted for the Cuckoos (positioning them as three of hundreds of clones of Emma Frost) is cliched and robs them of their uniqueness. The Phoenix feels more tacked-on than ever in this issue, and the story is generally just a mess. I don't know if I'll even bother with the last two issues to see how things wrap up.
Also out this week: The All-New Atom #5 and American Virgin #8, but with the large number of books I was already picking up and my general lack of interest in what's been going on in these series lately, I decided this was an opportune time to give up on both. Atom was just too generic a superhero comic, and Virgin suffered the same problem as Steven Seagle's last Vertigo series, The Crusades: intriguing premise, promising set-up, and then meandering aimlessly through more and more set-up for issue after issue until losing all my interest.