Dark Avengers Annual 1: This is the culmination of the Noh-Varr/Marvel Boy/Captain Marvel story that Bendis has been building up to for a while (see “Illuminati”, etc.) It’s not terribly surprising, which is kind of a Catch-22: if Bendis took a left turn and didn’t do the story he’s been heading towards, we’d feel cheated but when he does it it feels obvious. That said, it’s very well done – Bendis makes Noh-Varr interesting enough that I’d be willing to read a series about him, and Chris Bachalo’s art is even better than what he recently did in “Amazing Spider-Man”. I’m not in love with the new costume, which is loosely based on the original Captain Marvel uniform, but maybe it’ll grow on me. Warning: the last page gives away a little bit of the ending to Captain America “Reborn” – it’s something that was obvious was going to happen, but if you’re really spoiler-averse you may want to save this issue until “Reborn” #6 comes out. Also, I'm not as aware of individual issue prices now that I'm paying Westfield in advance, but others have pointed out that this is not necessarily a great value at $4.99.
Siege: The Cabal: The beginning of the end, as Norman Osborn – actually, the Green Goblin – decides that Asgard on earthly soil (so to speak) is a threat that needs to be eliminated. This brings him into conflict with Doom, who has the Asgardians under his protection. We get to see Norman’s secret weapon from the original Cabal story again, but aren’t given any new clues to his identity that I could detect. (IGN has a good article about who this character might be here.) As always, Bendis’ dialogue and range of personalities is great, and Doom is more formidable here than he’s been in a long time. (I’m not counting the Millar FF issues.) The real star of the issue is artist Michael Lark, who I usually associate with crime stories (Daredevil, Gotham Central, etc.) but he does a great-looking full-on superhero epic.
Spider-Woman 2-3: It’s a Bendis-palooza today! Anyway, these are basically the same stories, except for some slightly different pacing and coarser language, as the corresponding motion comic episodes. If you haven’t seen those, then these are definitely worth getting if for nothing else than Alex Maleev’s artwork. Even if you prefer the printed reading experience, I recommend checking out the motion comic for the voice acting for Viper. Bendis plays her as manic, which is still funny on the page but hysterical when acted out.
Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural 1-2: The new Sorcerer Supreme goes into the job overconfident, which I thought was a nice way to play it, and scores a decisive victory and then a pretty bad defeat. I like that he’s taking a riskier approach than Stephen Strange (who’s in a few pages of #1) would have. The dialogue is a little wordy, and #2 features the third or fourth different version of Daimon Hellstrom we’ve seen in the last six months, but it’s a good effort from Rick Remender and Jefte Palo that’s worth keeping an eye (of Agamotto, Ha!) on for a while.
Fantastic Four 573: Between Millar’s run here and the “Fantastic Force” mini (which I didn’t finish and don’t plan to), I’m thoroughly confused about the timeline of Nu-World but I’m also too apathetic to care. That said, this is a fun romp with Ben and Johnny, and Hickman always does a great job writing the kids too. Dale Eaglesham apparently has the month off, but Neil Edwards does a good job and I loved the Alan Davis cover.
Mighty Avengers 29-31: This story of the Inhumans leader before Black Bolt started slow, but picked up nicely in the middle and the end. In addition, the Avengers now know they’re being manipulated by the “Scarlet Witch” (though they don’t know who it is yet) and Dan Slott’s plan for highlighting Hank Pym’s heroism come to fruition. Slott has carved out a specific and interesting role for Pym in the Marvel U, and while I think some people may be put off by it, I’m a huge fan of the character so I heartily approve.
Ms. Marvel 45-47: #47 is a fun Spider-Man team-up (and date!) issue, but more importantly #46 is the end of the ongoing story about Carol Danvers’ “death” and return. It did go on too long, and even I don’t completely understand all the technical details, though there’s a good one-page summary in #47. However, overall I did like the story and I loved that Brian Reed used it as a means to explore not only Carol but her “replacement” Karla Sofen. Unfortunately, according to Paul O'Brien this book is cancelled with #50 which would be a shame if true – even at its worst this was a good book, and at its best it has been a very good book indeed.
Blackest Night: Flash 1: This gives away the ending of “Flash: Rebirth” a little bit, though again not anything you probably haven’t already guessed, and we're not getting Rebirth #6 until at least January 27 anyway so who cares. Otherwise, it’s a great return to the Flash by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins presented with enough explanations (but not too heavy with them) that anybody who hasn’t been following the ups and downs of the last few years can read and enjoy it.