Vigilante 10-12: This is the final story arc of the series, and it explains who the new Vigilante is and his relationship to Adrian Chase. It’s an exciting story that gives a good insight into his personality and motivation, and if the book had started with this story it might not have been cancelled. Not that I fault DC: It certainly seemed like a good marketing strategy to start with a mystery and a Nightwing/Titans crossover, but based on results it backfired. Maybe people wouldn’t have bought it no matter what, but in the end it turned out to be great work from Marv Wolfman and Rick Leonardi.
Dark Reign: The List – Spider-Man: If for some reason you can only get one of “The List” specials, this is the one to pick. The seeds of the end of Norman Osborn’s “Reign” are planted here, and Dan Slott does it in an unexpectedly subtle way that I really enjoyed. I’m not sure if this is Adam Kubert’s first Marvel work since his DC exclusive ended, but it’s certainly the highest profile and it’s (as always) terrific. (There’s also a reprint of a relevant issue of “The Pulse” that made me wish for a collection of that series.)
Dark Reign: The List – Secret Warriors: I know this was hard to find, so I won’t go into too much detail because this really needs to be experienced rather than summarized. Mainly this is a Nick Fury solo story with lots of great scenes between Nick and Norman – Nick’s own version of “the list” is especially great – and Ed McGuinness’ art shows uncharacteristic restraint, which works well here. It’s not necessarily a vital “Dark Reign” chapter, but it is vital for “Secret Warriors” readers because it has s0me of Hickman’s patented “infodump” graphics at the end showing more secrets about the conspiracy.
Invincible Iron Man 17-19: I know Matt Fraction’s “Iron Man” run is controversial among our circle, but I have to say that I’ve found “World’s Most Wanted” – which ends in these issues – to be my favorite Iron Man solo story arc in a long time. It’s non-traditional, but the character was left in a non-traditional place and I love the way that Fraction has shown Tony doing penance for the events of “Civil War” and “Secret Invasion” without making him out to be the bad guy. And arguably he wins at the end, even though he definitively loses. Even the elements that seem silly out of context – like Pepper in armor – are well thought out, organic parts of the story. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, for which the covers look amazing. There’s a relatively cheap ($40 list) collection of issues #1-19 coming in March, which may be the best way to read this material if you haven’t sampled it already.
SWORD 1: This reminds me a lot of “Captain Britain and MI-13”, which I mean as a compliment. It’s not as epic as “MI-13” – it has more of a “West Wing” feel – but it’s got that light adventure touch that I love when it’s done well. The heart of the book is the relationship between Beast and Agent Brand, which is wonderfully written (“I haven’t time for acts of affectionate sweetness now, Hank.”) and Kieron Gillen brings in classic Marvel ass Henry Peter Gyrich for conflict. Not to mention Brand’s brother, and Lockheed, and the rest of an ensemble that we’re just starting to meet – this is a really packed first issue. Apparently some people are complaining about how Steven Sanders (whose work I’m not familiar with) draws Beast, but for me this is the first time I’ve liked the way that Beast looked since Grant Morrison changed him to be more cat-like. I also loved the backup story by Gillen and his “Phonogram” partner Jamie McKelvie showing all the efforts being made to rescue Kitty Pryde after “Astonishing X-Men.” It gives me high hopes for the second “Phonogram” trade, which I preordered from Amazon last week.
Fantastic Four 572: OK, my prediction from last month was wrong, but interestingly Hickman gets to a similar place in a much better way than I was thinking. (Which is why I’m not writing the book, I suppose.) I’ve heard some complaints that this arc was too Reed-centric, but my opinion is that Reed is the hardest character in this book to write. Hickman has proved that he gets Reed and I think the end of the story shows that he’s planning on telling stories of the whole family. (He certainly gets the kids, who he uses really well.) And of course I can never think of enough good things to say about Dale Eaglesham’s art – the last couple of pages of this issue are especially wonderful.