Not a blistering start to the New Year on the comic front. Only six books in the first three weeks. Let's start with a couple that came out two weeks ago, each of which has been riding mostly on my affection for the art. Can the writers start carrying their half of the water?
Descender #9, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer and designer) - Jeez Quon, try not to be so mopey. Enjoy your space voyage. It may be the last one you ever make.
And the machine resistance even hooked Quon up with a new robotic limb, for which he is extremely ungrateful. TIM-21 is extremely upset they left Bandit and Driller behind, and Telsa is no help. TIM-22, on the other hand, is a good listener, and shares some of his experiences, though I can't help wondering if he's trying to manipulate TIM-21. I feel the pleasant pink lighting that suffuses the room during their conversation is meant to make us as the audience find it touching, and take it at face value. While Telsa plots to escape with either of the TIMs, they reach the machine homeworld, hidden within an asteroid. Which I find pretty cool in theory. Strange worlds hiding beneath the surface are something I guess I like. Probably because I wonder what's beneath my feet.
Back on Gnish, the deceased king's son takes the throne (and the hairpiece, and it's color makes me suspect it's a Trump reference). The new king immediately declares he's doubling all bounties on robots. So Andy and Blugger better pick up the pace if they're going to find TIM first. To that end they find Driller and Bandit (as well as that UGC lieutenant), and Andy mentions there's a chip in bandit that could be used so TIM could always find him they can probably reverse to find TIM. Or, rather, Andy's ex-wife can probably do that.
It's interesting to track the changes in TIM-21's speech patterns. When he's yelling about their having left Bandit behind, and him not being able to reduce his emotion settings, because that's not how he was designed, he still seems like a young, frightened kid. But when he's talking to TIM-22, and he starts discussing Telsa as lacing in certain social graces, that sounds like someone very different. I don't if that's strictly a matter of his emotions being under control by then, like a person's, or if it's meant to imply something about artificial life in this universe. Do they think in a more orderly fashion when around other artificial life forms, but humans throw them off somehow? This is a similar train of thought to the one I had a few issues back about Driller's speech patterns seeming to expand the longer he was around TIM. Of course, he's around plenty of robots now, and seems to have regressed, but he's also spending all his time killing those robots. That not quite double-page splash of him taking out five robots at once was very nice. The splash of yellow and red at their throats was a nice contrast to the general grey tone of their bodies, and it reminds the reader of blood, makes us remember this is gladiatorial combat, whether the contestants are organic or not.
Overall, one of the stronger issues of the series for me, which is encouraging.
Illuminati #3, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Shawn Crystal (artist), John Rauch (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Is the Frog-Man on the cover? He's not a villain! I'm going to blame this on Reed Richards and Franklin, since they created this new version of the Marvel U. Great work guys, between that and the whole thing with the Terrigen Mists being actively harmful to mutants now, you're doing a bang up job.
The crew escape the Fenris club with relatively little trouble. Not surprising since only loser super-villains would go to a club run by those creepy siblings. But now there's strife among the roster, so the Hood gives everyone 24 hours to decide whether they're in or not. So we see what most of them get up as they decide whether to stick with this. Thunderball wants to use the rewards to form his own technology-producing company, Enchantress is out for more power and revenge, the Mad Thinker wants access to new science to expand his boundaries, and Titania doesn't seem to have anything else. So they all come back, the heist is just getting started, and here's new Thor. Let's take odds that the Hood tipped her off to be that distraction he's telling the team they need.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the writing. Enchantress seems off - she says she hates running from a fight, but Amora's struck as the sort to avoid direct conflict when she can just seek revenge from the shadows or through proxies - and I'm not sure about the Mad Thinker. The search for more knowledge fits, but his ragged, disordered appearance not so much. And I would expect an LMD based on Eric O'Grady to spend more time making excuses for stupid crap he does.
The Hood's line of bull seems right, though. For all my feelings that he's never been the big wheel he thought he was, Parker did always show a knack for being able to read people, and use that to manipulate them. That came in handy for getting him out of the trouble he landed himself in by doing stuff without knowing who he was dealing with first, but it's still a skill he seems to have. Titania and Thunderball seem about right. Both seem like the type to recognize that at some point, they aren't getting what they want out of being costumed crooks, and it's time for a change. So it's 50-50 on the cast.
I still like most of the work Crystal is doing with the art. Making the rubble from Titania hitting the ground form the "SMASH!" sound effect was a good touch, and the scowl he gives Amora, combined with the green Rauch has her eyes emitting when she describes what she'll do with her full powers, that was good. The Hood's face remaining mostly in shadow during his conversation with Titania, even when the hood was pulled back, feels significant, but I'm not sure what it represents. He's talking about knowing he'll get busted someday, but he wants to grab as much as he can and enjoy it before then. It could be a load of crap, meant to convince her she'll never get that happy home with the Absorbing Man she was hoping for, but it sounds pretty legit for him.