Four books this week, spoiler warnings as usual.
Spider-Girl #95 - So we find out what's up with the caped guy (who Spider-Girl has always called Fred), who keeps screaming that Tony Stark killed Jim Rhodes. We find out what actually happened to Jim Rhodes. We watch as "Normie Osborn wearing the Venom symbiote" Man sprouts extra arms to try (which I guess are just made of the symbiote) and stop the rampaging Fred. We see Tony Stark being a jerk, and telling Spider-Girl she needs to learn to obey orders. The only problem is, Stark ordered her to do something that might have killed Fred. And we all know how the Spider-people feel about killing.
Oh yeah, we see Kaine pummeling some Scriers because he believes they're going to kill Spider-Girl. DeFalco goes with the classic "We didn't even know about her until now, but maybe we can use her against you" joke, as it appears that Kaine attempting to help has actually made things worse. Yep, he's got Parker's genetics alright. This wasn't a bad issue. There was some teamwork between the old Avengers and the new ones, some action, with a bit of human interest. In fact, I think the single biggest thing that bothered me was Fred saying "oops" on the cover. That just seemed dorky. Other than that, there's just this feeling that this was sort of a setup for the big finale. 3.5 "Here Comes Something Big, I Hope" out of 5.
With the news this book is being cancelled at #100 I wonder whether DeFalco had enough warning to put together a nice ending to the run, or whether he's continuing at the pace he had set, banking on the book being saved again by the fans. Honestly, I don't know why they seem so deadset on cancelling this book. I know it's been sitting at about #125 on IcV2's Top 300 List for the last two months, but you'd think they were making enough money off idiots like me who buy the vastly inferior Spider-Man books to let this one keep going along, selling 17 to 18 thousand books a month.
X-Factor #3 - This book had two legitimately cool moments, one is Layla Miller dealing with the agent from Singularity that's inside their offices. It wasn't a David Campbell "F--- Yeah" moment, but I did get a good laugh out of it. The other was Madrox commenting that it's very hard for him to tell which memories are his, and which are from stuff his duplicates did. It's the sort of thing I've thought about before, starting with the time paradox from Stephen King's Dark Tower series. If there was more than one of you running around, and then you merge back together, how do you keep straight which one did what, and do memories that occured simultaneously clash with each, causing insanity?
Meanwhile, Madrox and Siryn run into problems trying to get evidence to clear their client, Guido and Rahne try to break up a bunch of people - who might as well be wielding torches and pitchforks - who want to attack mutants, especially those without powers. Losers. And Rictor is still having problems adjusting to being human, which makes sense. With the connection he implied he had with the earth, losing that would be jarring. Again though, I think this book is setting up something large, especially with the revelation Layla had near the end of the issue. 4 out of 5.
Two other things. I've seen a lot of comments that Peter David often hamstrings himself by trying to be too clever. He puts in all sorts of little homages to his friends. As someone who can say he knows nothing about Peter David the person, other than the fact Todd MacFarlane hates his guts, I've been oblivious to this. I mean, Layla constantly saying "I know stuff" seemed silly, but not overly bothersome. Maybe I'm just taking adavntage of being uninformed. I do think I might have caught one. Was "Mr. Vaughn" a tip o' the cap to Brian K. Vaughn, who wrote Ultimate X-Men there for awhile (I think?) Damn. Now I'm going to be looking for these all the time. Crap. Also, while Ryan Sook's fights don't resonate like say, a Bagley's, I LOVE his Wolfsbane. This is how I picture werewolves, as opposed to that srawny rat thing Oz used to turn into on Buffy. And I like that David recognizes that a woman who seems deeply religious, and concerned with Hell, would be a bit bothered that she transformed into a werewolf and proceeded to claw people up.
The Punisher #30 - And so "The Slavers" wraps up. I haven't enjoyed this as much as the previous two arcs. It seems like Ennis threw that whole "the cops are really sore at the Punisher this time" thing in there, but I haven't really believed it. Still, when Frank Castle is holding a gas can on the cover, you know it will end badly for somebody. Anyway, Frank gets after that old man, blows shit up, shoots people, and rescues the girls. Oh yeah, he beats the beejeezus out of the old man, after calling him "coward" to get him to quit hiding behind girls and fight. Nice. By the end, the people behind the whole slavery/prostitution thing have improved their methods, and hidden their locations better. Frank can't finish them, but he knew that already. I liked the panel where Frank says "I knew from the start I'd never put an end to it. No more than I could stop the trade in heroin. or the tide from coming in.The most I could do, I figured, was give them pause for thought." I think it's nice to show Frank is somewhat realistic about this. He can't stop it, but he can do things on a small scale to impede it, and help people. Of course, some of the girls he helped didn't do well. Actually, none of them really do well. 4 out of 5.
To be honest, I'd kind of like to see what Ragnell and Kalinara would say about this. Given there has been a lot of discussion of the use of rape in comics the last couple of weeks, and that was pretty much what this story dealt with. What does it say that a social worker, who is supposedly against killing, gave Frank information so he could kill these traders, because she knew her methods couldn't help the girls that were being used? Me, I'd call it recognizing your limitations, but I'm probably biased. Does the whole issue even apply in a book as absurdly violent as this one?
New Excalibur #4 - I think I've figured out what works for me with team books. Either give me characters I like, or give me characters I haven't really seen enough to know about, but what I do know makes them interesting. Do not give me a team full of characters I hate, because I'll just ignore the book (Grant Morrison's X-Men). That's what's going on here. What little I know about Dazzler, such as her powers, the fact she's a musician, I like. I know less about Nocturne - besides her parentage and that she was with the Exiles - but I'm digging her so far. And I actually liked the Juggernaut as a good guy in Uncanny X-Men. Still, I picked this up because of Kelsey Leigh, aka Lionheart, aka "The one thing Chuck Austen did on Avengers I liked".
I still don't get exactly why choosing the sword instead of the amulet means she can't be with her children ever again, but I can see why she chose the sword. I mean, what's going to do a better job of protecting children, a sword, or costume jewelry? I don't know about you, but I'll take the sharp, pointy thing. Of course some would say I'm a man siding with the phallic symbol, but then what would that mean about Brian Braddock choosing the amulet, and, oh never mind.
So the team still hasn't come together, though Pete Wisdom (again, know nothing about him, but I'm at least intrigued so far) seems to be trying to recruit Sage, Dazzler, Nocturne, Juggernaut. Meanwhile, Captain Britain is apparently very bothered by the fact Meggan is gone (I'm not), and this Courtney person is trying to woo him, I think. And Kelsey feels she got tricked by Captain Britain. I think she's got a point. I mean would it really have mattered which she chose? Why not tell her which one will let her be with her kids? Ah well. And we have a threat attacking pretty much all the people Wisdom wants to recruit. I can't really see why the Warwolves are attacking them, but then I couldn't figure out what was up with the "Dark" X-Men from the first three issues. Still, I'm interested, and will be picking up the next issue, though I doubt that my hopes for Kelsey to be a regular character will be fulfilled. 3 "Where Does Claremont Find These Bad Guys" out of 5.