Panel Discussions – Infinity #5, X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2, Superior Spider-Man #21 and Zombie War #1

Anghus Houvouras kicks off a new weekly column ‘Panel Discussions’ with reviews of Infinity #5, X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2, The Superior Spider-Man #21 and Zombie War #1…

I’m drowning in event comics!  Between Infinity, Forever Evil, Battle of the Atom, Hunger, Cataclysm, Villains Month, and a hundred other epic stories unfolding across every publisher, there’s enough major happenings to make any comic fan feel beleaguered.  I miss the days when the universe ending was an annual event.  Now it seems to be happening every other week across every major title.

Maybe it’s why I’m gravitating towards the indies and smaller mainstream titles more and more.  Marvel and DC seem to have entered a kind of 24 hour news cycle mentality of keeping everybody agitated all the time with major events.  Smaller comics like The Crow from IDW, Daredevil, Hawkeye, Zero and my personal favorite, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man feel so much more entertaining.  Not all of these event comics are bad, mind you.  Battle of the Atom and Forever Evil have been a lot of fun recalling some of the great runs of the Silver Age, but I find myself seeking out books with lower stakes where the universe isn’t one moment away from imploding every month.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Infinity #5

The fifth issue of Marvel’s latest event comic is something of a red herring.  For the first time in this six issue limited series, I found myself engaged.  Jonathan Hickman’s intergalactic epic has been so disjointed and disconnected.  The entire series reads like a flashback with wild jumps between story lines that seem to have no connection to one another.  The fourth issue gave us the first ‘Holy Shit’ moment of the series, when Thor finally punched a hole in the woefully underwritten villains of the series.  The fifth issue gives us a handful of really fun moments when the tide has finally turned and the entire galaxy unites under the Avengers banner.

Hickman has been building up the idea of ‘An Avengers World’ since his first arc of the Marvel NOW! reboot, back when I was enjoying what he was engineering.  But Infinity was supposed to be the payoff.  Five issues in, it’s finally starting to deliver, but man has it been a slog.  The penultimate issue sets up a big conclusion for a series that has been sorely lacking gravitas.  It’s a shame it finally picked up the pace after I lost almost all interest.

Score: 5/10

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2

Meanwhile, Brian Michael Bendis’ Battle of the Atom has delivered on its promise of wacky time travelling misadventures and insane battles between warring factions of X-Men from three different timelines.  I originally thought Battle of the Atom was going to streamline the insanity that has been working its way through a half dozen X-Titles.  Instead, Bendis has double downed on the craziness introducing new future X-Men and a future Brotherhood of Evil Mutants who are hanging around the present to continue their reckless assault on the timestream.

Back when Age of Ultron was launched and the concept of a fractured timeline was introduced, I thought Infinity would be like Crisis on Infinite Earths or Flashpoint in an attempt to streamline an almost unsustainable level of divergent stories and timelines and bring them into a more singular focus.  Nope!  Instead, things are getting messier and crazier.  For now, it’s working.  Battle of the Atom has been extremely entertaining story.  The X-Titles are getting weirder and weirder.

Score: 8/10

Superior Spider-Man #21

My love for Dan Slott’s radical departure from the traditional Spider-Man story has been well documented.  The goal of any comic is to tell a good story, and for mainstream comics we should be applauding anybody that isn’t just repeating the same recycled plot points and themes.  Superior Spider-Man has been ridiculously fun.  Watching Doctor Octopus living out Peter Parker’s life has been entertaining and amusing.  Fortunately things are taking a wonderfully dark turn as Octavius is starting to slip up and finding himself cornered.  He’s been building a life for himself.  A new business venture, his misguided but beroic pursuits at becoming Spider-Man, and even a personal life.  The foundation for his future is now threatened by an old colleague of Octavius who accuses Parker of intellectual thievery.    The series has been a lot of fun, but i’ve been waiting for the situation that forces him back into his old behavior.  In order to save his new life and identity, will Doctor Octopus revert to his murderous ways?

Score: 8/10

Zombie War #1 (IDW)

The zombie thing started to feel played out awhile back.  This dead horse has not only been beaten but re-animated, cloned, and brutally murdered again and again.  So when Kevin Eastman’s Zombie War hit my desk, I let out an undead-like groan before flipping through the issue.  To my surprise, Zombie War was an enjoyable read.  Much of that I attribute to the gonzo style storytelling and the art which has a throwback Heavy Metal/Horror Comic from the 1980s vibe.  While the story isn’t anything horribly original, there’s a low-fi feel to Zombie War which made it stand out from the four hudnred thousand other zombie related titles filling the shelves.

Score: 7/10

What have you been reading this week? Let us know in the comments below… 

Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.

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