Agents of Atlas #1 ~ I never read the miniseries (though I keep meaning to hunt down the trade paperback of it), so my only exposure to this team was their segment of the Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? one-shot, which was obviously effective at getting me to sit up and take notice of them, since here I am. The structure of this issue is interesting - there's no real introduction to the team, but instead what we get is a piece-by-piece approach, so that by the end of the issue everything makes sense. I like that - provided the writer has the talent to keep the reader entertained, and thus not annoyed by not really understanding everything yet, I appreciate a comic that's willing to tell its story in its own way, rather than spelling everything out up front. That aside, the team's got a couple of characters I'm interested in following: Venus is immediately interesting, and I've been hoping Namora would show up in a title I was reading ever since she turned up in World War Hulk; admittedly her role in this issue isn't very character-heavy, being basically just flying about in her stunning swimsuit, but I can wait. The others (the guys) are written entertainingly, and since there's an ape, a killer robot, and a guy in a space helmet, there's a certain goofy B-movie charm to the whole thing - although by the end of the issue, it's met by a very modern spy thriller aesthetic that I like the look of. It's a US$3.99 issue, with 23 story pages, plus an additional 12 page backup story featuring (yet again) Wolverine. I'm very much over Wolverine (I was never 'under' him, in fact), but the writing is decent, although the art - possibly trying for a less modern feel, since the story is a flashback - comes off as less dynamic than the main story. Still, I'd call this issue value for money - if subsequent ones continue with the backups (which presumably won't all feature Wolverine), I won't mind if the price stays at $3.99.
Dynamo 5 #19 ~ This is a bit weird - I've been reading this in trade paperbacks, and loving it, but since volume three isn't out yet I haven't read the six issues before this one. Luckily there's a Previously paragraph which gives enough of a summary to get into this issue's story, but I think I may be missing some of the subtleties of the F.L.A.G. agents and so on. Still, I'll get the trade when it arrived, and all will be well - for now, this issue is very entertaining, and while characterisation takes a back seat to action - the storyline's got to one of those points where that'll happen - there's still a lot of good writing going on. And Scrap is incredibly hot - I really can't explain what it is about her (and I'm taking nothing away from Slingshot, or Maddie for that matter), it's some combination of her attitude and her looks and her costume, she's just the perfect package. The inclusion of the mother/daughter Firebirds team is a welcome one too, and one that I look forward to seeing more of earlier when I get the TPB, if you follow me. The main story is 20 pages, with a five-page backup featuring Slingshot, following up on an earlier story - the backup's art by Alexander Serra is quite good, in a slightly superhero-cartoon kind of way, but Mahmud A. Asrar's work on the main story remains the definitive Dynamo 5 art - so long as he and writer Jay Faerber are still working on this book, I'll still be buying it, and if you like superheroes, so should you.
Secret Six #6 ~ The storyline looks to be heading towards its finale, and I'm still thinking I'll stop reading at that point - not because this isn't good, but just because it's not really my kind of thing; the heroines (or villainesses, or whatever) aren't doing anything special for me. Scandal's a bit generic this issue - she doesn't seem to be very defined as a character, but perhaps that's a matter of being the fairly sane one among more eccentric people - and whatshername with the Marie Antoinette wig, who gets her origin story here, is an interesting idea intellectually but not the kind of person I really feel like I want to read about. Also, I can't help but feel there was an opportunity lost with Junior, the villain - did we have to have the big reveal? I wondered that at the end of the previous issue, and here it seems like it didn't really achieve anything; Junior was scarier before I knew what was underneath the hood. Gail Simone is as talented as ever on script, but she's just not writing a story that I want to read much - as well-written as they are, I don't like any of the characters, in the personal sense, and that keeps me from being really interested in what happens to them.
Farscape #2 ~ It's tricky adapating a TV show to a comic - you've got text instead of voices, art instead of actors, 22 pages instead of 42 minutes which imposes a whole different act structure, and an annoying tendency by writers to go nuts since the artist can draw anything and do stuff that the TV show could never have afforded, and which therefore seems out of place. Luckily, this continues to be a pretty good adaptation. There are a couple of minor issues: Tommy Patterson (penciller) doesn't seem to quite get Hynerian bodies to look the way they did on the show (mind you, tricky, since mostly it was just Rygel and he was sitting down all the time), and John's face is a bit off in some panels, with a weird reluctance to move his eyes away from looking straight ahead, and some of the dialogue is written to suggest a very American tone of voice, which feels odd since by necessity almost all the minor characters in the TV show (as these would be, they're a couple of bit players) spoke with Australian accents of various kinds. But those are overshadowed by the good points - the art captures the other characters (particularly Aeryn this issue) quite well, the grandiose scope isn't too bothersome since Farscape used CG to get some pretty bit landscapes and cityscapes now and then, and the transition to 22-page mini-episodes seems to be going well enough. The big news this issue is Scorpius, and it's too early to tell if he's really going to work - he went through some fascinating changes during the show, and it'll be interesting to see if he continues forward, or reverts a bit to 'villain' just to satisfy a need in the story. Still, overall the signs are still very good.
Secret Warriors #1 ~ Spinning out of the Secret Invasion tie-ins in New Avengers (or was it Mighty Avengers? They were the same thing for a bit), this title is all about Nick Fury and his team of under-the-radar 'caterpillars' - superpowered people, mostly young or young-ish, who haven't been on any teams, haven't been employed by any agencies, haven't really done anything, in fact, and thus aren't on anyone's files. It's a neat idea, and one that in a couple of instances plays off the 'legacy' idea used so much by DC, especially Justice Society of America, which I enjoy (although that in itself raises a question or two about the 'under the radar' notion - surely having a notable superhero relation counts as a personal connection to known activities that an enemy could track down? Anyway). I wasn't enthusiastic about this title - cool idea, but Nick Fury isn't high on my list of must-read characters, since he's basically a deus ex jerk (and he shot Ms. Marvel, boo hiss) - but there were a couple of reasons I picked up this issue. One: Yo-Yo, who's not in it much (although the 'bonus material' has a page from her journal, which is interesting). Two: Daisy, who's in it a whole lot - she basically shares the spotlight with Nick Fury, and thankfully he treats her with some respect, which helps me get along with him. The writing is good - Jonathan Hickman, in addition to co-plotting this title with Bendis, handles the script, and shows a flair for interesting and entertaining dialogue without undercutting the seriousness of the situation - and the art, pencils by Stefano Caselli (formerly of Avengers: The Initiative is easy to like as well. Also, there's a really fun scene where Nick invites himself into the Oval Office for a chat with the new President (his identity obscured by being in silhouette, but clearly intended to be Obama), which strikes just the right note of intelligence and dignity from both characters so as not to seem like a cheap stunt. On the down side, this issue is US$3.99, for 23 story pages - there's an additional 15 pages of mostly database stuff relating to what's going on in the book (plus some sketches), which helps make the price tag seem more valid, but it's not really what I'm looking for. I'm glad I picked this issue up, to get a basic idea of this slice of the Dark Reign landscape, but at present I'm thinking if I continue reading this it'll be in trade paperbacks rather than issues.
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #3 ~ More made-for-kids fun, and as with previous issues, the cool thing is that the comic doesn't treat its audience like morons just because they're (mostly) young. A mysterious red meteor crashes near the school, resulting in almost everyone suddenly gaining superpowers - but a children's story that doesn't take itsely particularly seriously, this is played in a warped bizarro-world kind of fashion, resulting (in the space of about 24 hours, it seems) in society (or the school, at least) being divided into the powered elite, who carry on like imbeciles causing mayhem for their amusement, and the handful of people who missed out on powers (including Kara, since she's hiding her natural superpowers), who are stuck in the basement and taught that their lives are meaningless and that the best they can hope for is to be cannon fodder in some superhero's battle against some villain. It's kind of like a cheerful children's story version of the nastiest bits of Kingdom Come and Marvels and things like that, and rather endearing in its willingness to just kick back and be audacious in mining superhero dysfunctionality for laughs. Of course, everything's back to normal in the end, although since we're at the half-way mark, we get the first solid indication of the series's final destination here.
Black Panther #1 ~ I knew going in I was going to be conflicted here. On the one hand, the cover features a well-built woman in a skintight black costume looking all dangerous and sexy - good. Oh the other, I know from past experience that the whole concept of Wakanda is one of those gloriously inept ideas that sounds good, but flies in the face of reason - look, I'm not denying colonialism resulted in some pretty horrible things happening, but to suggest that Wakanda's a utopian paradise just because Europe never took it over? Sorry, no - Africa's no different to the rest of the world, which has basically been a long succession of screw-ups regardless of whether it was being conquered, or just left to its own demented devices. There are whole areas of Africa that did avoid becoming anyone's colony - you know what happened to them? Civil war and genocide, mostly. Admittedly the potted history of Black Panther that forms half of the issue's bonus material does mention that tribal warfare played its part in screwing up half the continent to its present state, rather than just laying it all on Europe like the intro spiel does - but then you get the problem of Wakanda having avoided that because of the Black Panther itself. Riiiiight, because putting total political, religious, and military authority in the hands of a hereditary dynasty works out so well normally - it's not like power corrupts, right?
So that's my problem with Black Panther - it's an intelligent comic, no doubt, but its core premise, which I can't really not be reminded of constantly, is fundamentally flawed to the point where the only possible explatation is "It works because the Panther God says it works." Still, a new Black Panther is a chance to get interested in a character without having to necessarily saddle her with the baggage that made the previous incumbent irritating to me - through no fault of his own, I admit - so here we are. And unfortunately, here the new Black Panther isn't. This issue seems to be the start of an arc which will end with the new Panther, but so far no sign of her - except, of course, if it's going to be Storm. Let's face it, it's probably going to be Storm, who I don't much like either - different reason, she's an X-Man (X-Woman?), and I don't care for Marvel's mutants much. I bought this issue knowing that Ororo would probably be the main character, but willing to give her a shot as Panther to see what I thought - and it's just not in the issue. Ororo is, but she's not the Panther yet, and fully half the issue is a flashback of her husband doing his stuff - and from the dialogue-less preview pages of issue #2 which form the other half of the bonus material, he'll still be at it then, fighting Doctor Doom. Well, it ain't a superheroine book if there's no superheroine, and what with my initial reservations, I'm not inclined to give this one more chances when it's not yet delivering what I hoped for.
Oh, I also picked up Amazing Spider-Man #583, since I spotted the Obama cover on the shelf, and thought why not? It's a well-chosen issue for such a special, with the 22-page main story a one-off that, while fitting into the current running storylines, has its own overall theme and a nice sense of individual closure. The five-page backup with Obama in it is pretty much what you'd expect - a shape-shifting villain turns up as Obama on Inauguration Day, but Spidey jumps in and webs him up, gets a handshake from the man, and everyone's happy. Nothing out of the ordinary (maybe even a little too stunt-like, although the general good feeling surrounding the start of the Obama presidency does kind of make it feel okay to do this kind of feel-good stuff), but it feels like classic old school Spider-Man.