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New X-Men #138
writer: Grant Morrison
artists: Frank Quitely with Avalon Studios

It's not widely trumpeted, but after an initial sales bump when Morrison took over, New X-Men has returned to pretty much the same circulation it had before. Perhaps the newness has worn off, but though Morrison has had a few ups and downs, the overall quality of this book is just as high now as it was when he started.

And it's definitely better than the previous decade's worth of mutant adventures.

This month, Morrison packs pretty much every tone he can into the book. Opening with a dynamic chase scene, surprisingly (to me) incredibly laid out by Quitely, we shift to the cleaning up of the previous issue's school riot.

Through a series of vignettes, just about everybody gets accounted for this issue, and the consequences of recent events are fully brought home (and better yet, brought home in one issue).

The Omega Gang will be getting community service. Except for their leader, Quentin Quire, whose secondary mutation may very well be taking him into a higher level of existence. For a couple of issues, Quentin has been a jerk, but Morrison exposes him as just a kid trying to be noticed. Though devastating in his abilities, Quentin feels real.

Cleverly, Quitely sets up a visual joke with the empathetic Xavier that reminds us of a hallmark of this run: just because he's noble doesn't mean he's to be trusted. It's done far more subtly here than in the Ultimate line.

Also thrown in for good measure are the things that really matter: hormones. Scott and Emma commit a little bit of mental adultery - how Catholic. But in the process, Morrison finally illuminates just why Scott has become so distant.

The only complaint I can muster is the purely aesthetic problem with Logan becoming his "Ultimate" self, when even the film version tries to maintain the classic look. Logan only appears to be young; somebody ought to remember he probably wouldn't care too much about being trendy.


The Punisher #23
writer: Garth Ennis
artist: Steve Dillon

A few giant squid facts:

  • Their eyes are the size of a human head.
  • The largest recorded carcass was 18 meters long and weighed a ton.
  • They are sharp-beaked eating machines.
  • Allegedly, their flavor is ruined by high ammonia content in their skin, which helps them float.

    Not that you're likely to want to eat giant squid, anyway. Especially since no one has actually seen one living. So when one becomes the subject of an issue of The Punisher, you can write it off as a purely fantastic story.

    Or, better, welcome it as a change of pace from the previous heavy arcs that Ennis has been weaving in this book. Why, it's almost whimsical. As whimsical as The Punisher is ever going to get.

    Aside from featuring a mobster obsessed with finding a giant squid off of Brighton Beach, Ennis throws a few ghosts into the mix. After a particularly successful execution by Castle, a lone survivor sees the friends he allowed to die, and they're not happy.

    Whether or not they're real, we can leave to the imagination, at least up until the end. But there's a slight clue in the opening caption: "True story. I'm in it, and I don't believe it."

    Mixing the more fantastic elements of the Marvel Universe with The Punisher always seems a dicey proposition. (With the possible exception of Wolverine - for some reason, that one works.) But then, the idea that The Punisher can work so publicly and get away with it for so long is in itself unbelievable enough that it leaves room for ghosts and giant squid.

    Is it wrong to be looking forward to such an over-the-top violent book month after month? Of all Ennis' work, this has been the most consistent, with so far not a single mis-step. This issue may be simple piffle, but it's entertaining and simply good.


    Supergirl #80
    writer: Peter David
    artists: Ed Benes and Alex Lei

    That's it. Will the last person out of Leesburg turn out the lights?

    We knew there was no saving this book. Despite an upturn in readership and fan interest, DC pulled the plug on Supergirl months ago. Already they've reassigned the super-hot (in many ways) art team of Benes and Lei to Birds of Prey, starting in June. Go ahead, take your drool to Gotham City.

    And yet, the publisher had the decency to give the girl a great send-off, starting with a classic cover image by the original John Romita. Good girl art has characterized the series, so why not get one of the best for your last shot?

    Rather than get into a low-level flame war with DC over the farewell, writer Peter David did what he does best: tell a damned good story. So good, in fact, that DC is already preparing the trade paperback edition of this arc, which features all the Supergirls you could ever want.

    After completely throwing us for a loop in #79, severely changing the destiny of what we thought was the pre-Crisis Superman, the veteran writer packs in action, poignance, and a completely non-irritating appearance of the Hal Jordan Spectre. For some of us, that's quite an achievement.

    In the process, he brings the book back full circle, and really makes me regret selling my copies of the early issues. Though sometimes shaky in sales (obviously), this has been one quality run.

    Occasionally, David's penchant for jokes on the cheaper side of the spectrum ran strong, but never enough to overwhelm the series. And indeed, in this arc, though the other-worldly Xenon tends to be a little too hip for the savagery of his appearance, he's still clearly deadly. I just long for the days when villains weren't so full of their daily allowance of irony.

    In the end, we're left with a few questions. Xenon leaves these pages almost as much a mystery as he entered them. And like any good scribe forced to end his tale too soon, David cracks open a couple of doors.

    Linda Danvers is not gone for good. From clues dropped by David on his own website, it's quite possible not even for long. My money is on an upcoming DC book called Fallen Angel. And I mean that literally. It's a book I will be buying.


    Derek McCaw


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