Holiday greetings to you all. The question for today is, will the spirit of the season cause me to be charitable in my feelings towards these comics? Eh, could be.
Descender #8, Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer/designer) - Maybe they'll make an '80s style buddy sitcom about Andy and Blugger. The Robot Killin' Pals! It could have a catchy opening theme and everything.
As to the actual content of the issue, the Robot Killin' Pals try to reach Gnish, only to be blocked by the UGC, because everything's gone to hell in light of last issue's assassination. Andy doesn't care and tries to get past them, only to end up with a lot of pursuing spacecraft, which makes him try to hide on a planet of gaseous beings, which is a little freaky, but effective in dissuading pursuit. And there's a lot of flashbacks to Andy's childhood before and after TIM showed up interspersed through the issue. And that's pretty much it.
It's still a very pretty but, but also pretty slight. Not in any real hurry to get anywhere. Maybe the brief jaunt to Phages will end up being relevant, but otherwise, there wasn't much to it. It's kind of a neat concept, but the story doesn't linger long enough to do anything with it, so it's almost like a stall. Nguyen going to black and white for the flashback pages made for an abrupt shift, in a good way. Suggesting Andy keeps losing himself in memories, then having to snap himself back to present problems. Blugger could prove to be a good addition to the cast. He seems like he'd provide a certain amount of that Ben Grimm-style gruff sarcasm, albeit in a much more amoral package overall. But overall, my interest in the book is starting to wane.
Illuminati #2, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Shawn Crystal (artist), John Rauch (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I almost missed the Black Ant there at the bottom of the cover. To be fair, I've generally done a good job forgetting Remender's Secret Avengers.
So the rest of the team has not entirely bought into the Hood's bull, but they do have things they want he's helping them get, so they're in for this "rob Asgardia" plan. And there just so happens to be a scientist who built an artificial Bifrost Bridge to get them in, if they can convince him to let them use it. He's at some club run by those creepy Fenris twins, where there's a rule against killing. A rule Black Ant promptly breaks by shrinking inside the good doctor, then growing until he bursts the guy wide open. Yeesh. At least they got the location of the doohickey, and the passcode, but now everyone in the club is going to try and kill them for breaking the rules.
There are certain things about this I can't track. Whether the Hood is just playing at being irritated by Black Ant's actions, or if this is a team-building exercise in disguise. Why Enchantress seems to be an alcoholic now. She's drinking in every single scene she's in. Sure, Asgardian, high tolerance for Earth booze, but still, kind of strange. The whole thing with Trapster trying to stick up Titania kind of came out of nowhere, although the last time I saw him, Deadpool seemed to have convinced Pete to perhaps rethink his life choices. Maybe Pete found out the straight and narrow pays like crap, but again, there's the presence of the gun meant to resemble a repulsor ray he somehow acquired. So I can't tell if these are mysteries to be answered later, or just weak writing. Which is a feeling I had when I tried Brian Wood's X-Men run, and I didn't like it then, either.
But I do like Shawn Crystal's art, even if a lot of his male characters have this pointy-nosed, sunken eyes, slightly fang-toothed look. Could be deliberate, making them seem a bit feral and dangerous, but I'd expect a Strucker to keep themselves up a little better. That one panel with the close-up on the Mad Thinker in his underwear was as unpleasant as I imagine it was supposed to be. Especially with Titania's 'I've seen much worse.' And the page of the Hood detailing his plan, for all the little flourishes. The entire crew wearing cool, black sunglasses in the first panel, because they're a crew on a heist. The actual use of wheelbarrows to carry the loot in panel 2. The Hood's grandkids all in their own cloaks in panel 5. I do wish he made the Hood look a bit younger, but that's me still thinking of the characters as a mostly dumb punk, swimming in waters much too deep for him.
Basically, both books are a case of the artist currently buying my goodwill, and we'll see if the writer's can up their game enough to keep me around (though Illuminati may not stave off cancellation long enough for that to matter).