Criminal #4 (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips, Marvel/Icon)
Brubaker complains in the text piece at the back about people criticizing the book for being cliched, or too familiar, saying that in crime fiction or noir, it's all about cliches and how you use them. I agree up to a point, and I find this an entertaining enough crime story, but I think to just brush off the notion of trying something new is perhaps a little cocky, thinking that your generic crime story will be worth reading just because you can tell it really well. I mean, Brubaker does tell the story well, just not as well as so many of the fawning online critics seem to think, or as well as he himself might want to believe. That said, this was a good issue with a nice cliffhanger, and I look forward to next month's resolution. But a year from now, will I remember much about this other than that it was a solid but familiar crime story? I doubt it.
Crossing Midnight #3 (Mike Carey/Jim Fern, DC/Vertigo)
When this book first started, I expressed dismay that I wasn't sure what it was about, or what its tone was meant to be, which are problems I've had with many recent Vertigo launches, but this issue makes it undeniably clear: This is a horror book, and a damn good one. The scene in this issue of the mom getting cut into many pieces (and then being stitched up again) is supremely creepy, and the whole tone is full of mounting dread, leading up to the heroine making the wrong, deadly decision. I don't know if that decision is meant for a status quo, or merely to set up the next arc, but even if I'm not sure where things are headed, I definitely want to follow them.
Fables #57 (Bill Willingham/Michael Allred, DC/Vertigo)
It's nice to see Bigby and Snow front and center here, and to mostly get away from the slowly building war with the Adversary. The story of Snow and Bigby's visit to the North Wind has some nice character development, and fleshes out the cubs a little, who've all been pretty interchangeable up to this point. The interlude with Pinocchio and Gepetto is a little jarring, although I guess in line with the father/son theme of this arc. The biggest problem is that Allred's depiction of Pinocchio is so different from the one we're used to that it's very distracting. Regular artist Mark Buckingham draws him like a pint-sized gangster, but Allred's Pinocchio looks like an actual little boy, and the disconnect between the dialogue and the image is disconcerting. Other than that, the art is very nice, and this is another strong issue.
Fallen Angel #12 (Peter David/J.K. Woodward, IDW)
More solid creepiness, with the Angel as only one of many characters with interesting stuff going on in this issue. Actually, she's more of a facilitator here, with Asia Minor and Jude getting the meat of the story. No theological pondering here, just good storytelling.
Noble Causes #26 (Jay Faerber/Tim Kane, Image)
Last issue's epic was sort of incoherent, and had me considering dropping the book, but this issue is a vast improvement. First, Kane's art is much better than the awful stuff Jon Bosco had been doing, and I'm glad that Bosco is off the title for good (it looks like Kane is only on for one issue, though, with Yildiray Cinar taking over next month). I guess I didn't realize how much Bosco's art bugged me, because the change made this a much more enjoyable read. I also liked the continuing rom-com-esque subplot of Slate and Zephyr being neighbors who don't know about each other's secret identities, and Liz's amnesia after last issue's confusing story was a good use of a soap opera staple. There are still too many subplots to keep track of, but otherwise this looks to be back on the right track for now.
X-Factor #15 (Peter David/Pablo Raimondi, Marvel)
I'm not sure what David is doing with all the psychology of Multiple Man stuff, but this was still a good issue with an innovative technique from Jamie for beating the bad guys, and a sort of oddly paced but interesting bonding story between Monet and Siryn that nicely illustrated their different approaches to problem-solving (and showed Monet for the cold, amoral person I've heard she was in other books). The Hydra stuff seems like it was wrapped up rather quickly, but I assume it'll play a role in a future storyline at some point.
Also out this week: The fourth issue of Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's Doctor Strange mini-series, which remains entertaining but unspectacular, and not quite up to Vaughan's usual standards.