Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #57 -- The undersea voyage is over. Not even two years and 18 issues since the debut of "Artie Joe" (or as I call him, AJ), the journey for Aquaman has ended once again. I'm very bummed out by this, but taken on it's own merits, this issue was quite enjoyable -- Tad and Shawn were really firing on all cylinders. We learn AJ's true origin, we find out a little bit more about Issitoq, possibly see the birth of a new Aqua-baddie (Clowfish? Too cute!), and the first steps towards the creation of a hero. Sure, there's a lot of threads left hanging -- what the heck happened to Tempest, what was the Deep Church's plot, what is the secret of the Hatches -- but all those things are out there waiting to be explored. It's unclear if AJ (well, maybe I should just call him Joseph now?) will be showing up anywhere any time soon with the creative shakeup over on Outsiders, but I sincerely hope this is not the last swim for this classic hero, whatever form he is in. Unfortunately, this would become a trend this week...
New Excalibur #24 -- ... in this title right here. The final showdown between Albion and his Shadow Captains against Excalibur and the surviving members of Shadow-X delivers, albeit in slightly abbreviated form. But then things transition, with Juggernaut having some personal business to take care of (namely, going back to being a villain over in the mainline X-books), Sage being wanted by the feds and MI-13, and things generally concluding. That's right -- according to the last page thank you's, New Excalibur has also come to a close. Now, whether the title is going to be relaunched in a few months, I don't know. But this is just another in a line of Marvel books I have supported only to go belly-up within 2 years of inception, and ironically reminds me exactly of how both Alpha Flight V.2 and New Invaders were handled. All three series were updates on old concepts that made them viable for the present, all three were never advertised or supported, and all three suffered premature deaths. And it looks like next month you can throw Heroes For Hire V.2 on that pile as well. Is it any wonder that Marvel's non-cosmic titles are holding so little interest for me at the moment? Ah well, it's not all doom and gloom, though, because of the next title...
X-Men: Die By The Sword #1 -- ... which is hyped on the last page of New Excalibur, and picks up exactly where that issue left off. Betsy Braddock shows up alive and well on Earth-616, and Brian couldn't be happier to see his sister again. But Bad Stuff (TM) is brewing in the Omniverse, and it looks like Roma and her Corps are going to be in for a fight... and so is the combined might of Exaclibur and the Exlies! Is this continuity-heavy? Oh yes. Non-Claremont fans need not apply. But it's more than that, really, because you need to know at least some of your old school "Alan & Alan" Captain Britain as well (Mad Jim Jaspers! The Fury!). But damn if I didn't like it. The art is more pleasing to me than the cool-but-stilted look over in New Excalibur. These teams mesh up well together and have a lot of history (Longshot and Dazzler, Nocturne and Thunderbird, Cap and Psylocke), and it's obvious that Claremont has something big in mind for the "second teir" X-Books while the others are involved in "Messiah Complex." Exiles and Excal fans should definitely check this out. (I still want Claremont to explain just who the heck the Courtney Ross on Earth is at this point, especially since Saturnyne just showed up. My money is on it being a HoM thing, since she first popped up when Claremont did the tie in over in Uncanny, but you know he'd bust out Sat-Yr-9 just to screw with us.)
Wonder Woman Annual #1 -- Finally got around to reading this one (still have not had a chance to read #13), but considering how long we had to wait to read this final part of the initial storyarc, what's a few more weeks? Anyway, Wonder Woman does battle with her entire rogues gallery, then takes care of Circe and Hercules before heading back to Man's World to proclaim herself their defender once more, even if she's not entirely trusted yet. The showdown with Circe is inconclusive, but we know that, yes? The main draw of this feature story is the first half, wherein Heiberg (re-)introduces Diana's line of baddies, including some characters who haven't seen print in decades, such as Minister Blizzard (which is the most awesome cold-related villain name ever), and revamps of old characters, such as The Mask (who seems to fit in very well with some of the themes of this new volume). There's a large depth of villains here, with different origins and motivations, and it doesn't take a super-nerd to see the potentials for a lot of conflict with Wonder Woman and these foes. Hopefully, Gail Simone will pick up on that and we can see some of those. Failing that, I may have to pitch a story to DC about Minister Blizzard trying to freze Washington DC. Still not thrilled with how cheesecakey Diana looks, all boobs and butt, but the villains all looked quite cool, plus Donna is back in her classic costume so I cannot complain too loudly. We also get a backup which serves primarily to flesh out everyone's origins for new readers (seriously, it's called "Backstories"), so we get some history on Sarge Steel, Diana, Donna, Cassie, and Nemesis. If not for the wait, this issue would have been somewhat enjoyable to me, as a new WW reader, but my enthusiasm for it has declined from the delays and the forced tie-in. I am hoping that the series really hits its stride when Simone takes over, and builds on the ideas of this initial arc (plus the plot of #5, which is still my favorite issue of this series) and utilizes Diana's history to really make a solid run.
Terror, Inc. #3 -- As if to demonstrate that, yes, this is a MAX title, this issue features enough unsavory elements to impress even the most jaded Tarantino fan. We get discussions about sex rings and torture, a panel containing randomly exposed boobs (the best kind of boobs!), a guy getting drugged and then ripped apart by mechanical tentacles, a movie theater showing Dr. Strangelove exploding, more four-letter-words than the previous two issues combined, and Terror himself literally tearing a man to pieces and then stomping his head into mush. It's fun for the whole family! The over-the-top aspect of this has to be intentional at this point, and I'm cool with that -- Terror is an over the top character. He doesn't work in a normal, main-line title (his power involves him having to eviscerate his enemies), so why not embrace the absurdity and go all out? The story here (the parts which are not blood-soaked) are primarily expositionary, as we learn a bit about just who had it in for Terror and why they seek his mystical arm. The ending is somewhat predictable, but it's not too much of a problem. I liked it, but if you don't like grue and naughtiness then pass on it; Terror is nowhere near the level of a guy like The Punisher, so I expect that this series is all we're going to see of him for the forseeable future.
Transformers: Beast Wars: The Ascension #1-2 -- Transformers is hot right now -- unsurprisingly -- so for guys like me who actually got back into TF back when it wasn't fashionable to do so (in like, oh, 1992 or so), it's a mixed blessing. Yeah the exposure is way up, but now it's also extremely mainstream -- everyone seems to have some memory of how much they loved Jazz as a kid. But at least I still have BEAST WARS!!!, that awesome phase of the line which not only produced the best series in the history of the property (Count it!), but also a lot of really cool, creative toys as well. Plus, most "norms" know absolutely nothing about, so it remains safely ensconced inside my inpregnable nerd-hold. This series, a followup to IDW's Beast Wars: The Gathering mini from a while back, is in spots little more than an excuse to cram as many toy-only characters into 22 pages while giving Furman an excuse to play with time travel and paint personalities. It's not exactly top of the heap quality, but it's fun in an action-oriented sort of way, especially if you are already a BW-era fan like me. Speaking of which, if you don't know your extended BW stuff -- namely, BWII and BWNeo -- you're in truhhhh-ble. Still, playing name-the-character and trying to figure out where this is going is worth the money to this TF fanboy. My only real complaint is the complete lack of Sky Shadow! He should be a star, dammit!
So what did YOU read this week?