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Exiles #30
writer: Chuck Austen
artists: Clayton Henry and Mark Morales

You really want to know why this arc has been bad? It's not so much that the Exiles meet "our" X-Men, because heck, that makes it more of a twisted Marvel version of the JLA/JSA crossovers from the sixties.

To make sense of the storyline, Austen assumes you've been reading his run on Uncanny X-Men. Though this title usually takes time to establish the status quo that the Exiles have to ruin, Austen never really bothers. There's an apparently non-mutant woman staying at the mansion, one that so far hasn't seemed to show up in New X-Men. She's a major character, and yet it's not important for us to really know who she is.

Maybe that's quibbling, but it's almost a theme to Austen's run. Action overrides plot which overrides characterization. Even if you do care what's happening, the writing doesn't make it easy.

An evil version of Alex tries to kill two young boys? All in a day's work for the X-Men, apparently. (Okay, maybe Austen has a point there.) But Nocturne has spent almost the entire series pining for her lost father, and when she finds an alternate version, it's shunted off to just a couple of panels. Worse, Kurt even considers looking up the Scarlet Witch.

The only character in character is Morph, either because he's too easy to write or because, well, he's so well-established only an idiot could mess it up.

Though the Henry and Morales art team isn't one of my favorites, they do a decent job. If only everybody didn't look like they'd walked off Battle of the Planets


Fables #16
writer: Bill Willingham
artists: Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha

Stuck in the woods, stalked by a psychotic Goldilocks, it's about high time that Snow White and Bigby Wolf sorted out their feelings for each other. Sure, in high concept it sounds silly, but Buckingham and Leialoha keep both characters looking appropriately tense and quite unglamorous. Even before his full transformation into giant wolf, Bigby looks far more feral than usual.

Willingham digs even deeper into the fairy tales, pulling out backgrounds that few outside of literary scholarship would be aware of. It doesn't seem pretentious; it just makes it richer.

And speaking of richer, Prince Charming takes on Bluebeard in an unexpected duel. Fueled by a combination of noble and greedy intentions, the Prince intends for only one fable to walk away.

And then a flying monkey decides that in the absence of anyone else in the Mayor's office, he must be in charge.

That this book can and should be taken seriously is a credit to the imagination and skill of all the creative team. Willingham continually makes these characters seem real, just of unreal origins. It's more than "spot the fairy tale;" Fables is a compelling story in its own right.


Fantastic Four #502 (73)
writer: Mark Waid
artist: Casey Jones

Let us not give Mark Waid a free pass to the end of his run, just because it has been stellar and we know it must end. All things must end.

No, make Waid continue to earn his praise. Luckily, it seems the easiest thing in the world for him to do.

With this issue, Waid continues having Reed Richards do the "unthinkable," but what he's actually trying to accomplish isn't yet clear. It is clear, however, that something deep inside Mister Fantastic has been broken by Doom. The sorcerous mark on his face is the least of it.

Internalizing the changes, too, is Franklin Richards, whom Waid portrays as being smart, but realistically so for a small child. (How old is Franklin supposed to be? Has he moved beyond being four?) Despite his having returned to Earth, Franklin has learned not to trust safety. Really, how are you supposed to calm a child who has literally been in Hell?

The answer may surprise you, and allows Waid to give center stage to The Thing. As has happened issue after issue, the writer manages to focus on a facet of characterization in such a way as to make it seem new. Or rather, old, because all of this was present in Lee and Kirby's original run; we'd just forgotten.

Subbing in for Mike Wieringo, Casey Jones has a similar look, but he's not quite the draftsman Wieringo is. It's not jarring; it's just a little more stiff, and yes, a little more manga. Perhaps Marvel is trying to adopt a house style. If so, it doesn't quite work.


Green Arrow #29
writer: Judd Winick
artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks

After Kevin Smith redefined Green Arrow's place in the DC Universe, Brad Meltzer started reclaiming the character's place in his own life. So what's left for Judd Winick to do? Try to deal with why superheroes should bother dressing up at all, when the real villains won't return the favor.

It's a theme that Mike Grell explored in the eighties with his take on the character, but that quickly became more what you might call "men's adventure" rather than still exist comfortably as a superhero story. So far, though, Winick seems to keeping the balance.

Facing down inhuman monsters (gargantuan beasts and one cold-blooded professional killer), Ollie wishes for something simpler, like Heat Wave or The Monocle - "…at least you could see them coming."

But since his return, things haven't been simple. Even his old behaviors haunt him in ways they never did. For those who wondered how he could sleep with Joanna Pierce when he's supposedly back with Black Canary, it's clear that Ollie wonders, too. He's not comfortable with the answer.

There may be a place for Green Arrow in Oliver Queen's life; it's Oliver who doesn't seem to fit anymore.

Once again, Hester and Parks deftly illustrate Winick's script; something about their art seems to keep the writer from getting too glib. In this team's hands, Green Arrow may not be a high profile book anymore, but it's still good.


Derek McCaw


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