Jack of Fables #5 (Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges/Tony Akins, DC/Vertigo)
I do like this book more and more with each issue, even as it continues to feel a little superfluous. This is the conclusion of the first arc, and Jack does indeed escape the prison camp, which is a good sign (in fact, Willingham and/or Sturges must have been paying attention to online complainers, because the issue closes with a caption telling off readers who thought the whole series would be a Prisoner rip-off). Although I'm happy to see Jack on the road to new adventures, I do hope that some of the interesting supporting characters from this arc show up again down the road, since our protagonist himself remains a bit of a one-dimensional cipher. I hope that he can carry a whole series, and now with a new arc coming up, it looks like I'll get to find out.
Noble Causes #25 (Jay Faerber/various, Image)
With this extra-sized 25th issue, Faerber brings in a whole gaggle of artists to draw various sections, including regular penciler Jon Bosco, former artist Fran Bueno and occasional cover artist Gabe Bridwell. I know that Faerber is a big advocate of giving new talent a chance, but honestly some of the art in this issue is atrocious, and only Bridwell and Bueno do work that I'd be interested in seeing again. Even when the work is relatively competent, the changes in style can be jarring. The story, with Liz accidentally traveling through the timestream to different eras of the Nobles, does lend itself well to multiple artists, but it's got so much information to take in that it's overwhelming. The issue ends with a good old-fashioned soap opera cliffhanger that I like, but it unfortunately also ends on Bosco's art, which I still can't get into. I wonder if it might be time to just drop this book.
Runaways #22 (Brian K. Vaughan/Adrian Alphona, Marvel)
Vaughan and Alphona start their final arc strongly, taking Chase further to the dark side (which I like) and balancing that with some sweet, fun banter featuring the team just sitting around. Since Vaughan has a habit of constantly shaking up the team roster, I wonder if we will see Chase become completely villainous and get written out before Joss Whedon takes over, or if he'll have to get rehabilitated, or even if another character will die. No matter what, I expect a lot of exciting stuff to be packed into the next two issues.
X-Factor #13 (Peter David/Pablo Raimondi, Marvel)
David revisits the infamous "X-aminations" story from his original X-Factor run, in issue 87 of the old series. (Which I remember reading, 13 years ago when it was first released. I feel old.) This means that the team gets therapy from Doc Samson, and it's fun and revealing and even cleans up some of Monet's apparently very complicated continuity. There's some taking stock of what's happened in recent issues, and setting up of things for the future, and overall it's a nice palate cleanser and shows that David has a very good handle on the characters. It's also great to see Pablo Raimondi, who drew the Madrox mini-series, back on art, after the revolving cast of fill-ins of varying quality. Raimondi's art is clean but noir-ish, perfect for the book's tone, and his storytelling is very good.