Captain America #34 Nine issues after Captain America was gunned down by the Red Skull, the replacement (who could be intended as another Wally West or another John Walker, who can say?) arrives, and it's Bucky, who was the prime suspect from day one (although Marvel vainly tried to drum up some mystery that no one actually reading the book would fall for). Brubaker is nothing if not a deliberate writer, and the buildup to this has been all but perfect, so it seems quite natural. So Bucky takes on his former mentors mantle, although with a new costume he designed with Tony Stark, since he says he couldnt stand to wear Steves costume (he and Tony designing it would explain the shiny/black duality, although it turns out that the costume is all-cloth, not cloth and metal as Ross cover would have you believe). What's interesting about this issue is that, for all intents and purposes, he's recreated the core hero dynamic of the first fourteen issues of this series, before Secret War and Civil War intervened: you've got Captain America (Steve/Bucky), his ex-lover/partner in the field (Sharon Carter/Black Widow), and the determined SHIELD director overseeing things from the helicarrier (Nick Fury/Iron Man). Of course, Sharon and the Falcon remain in play, although they're elsewhere for this issue (Brubaker likes to keep the number of characters fairly small). Brubaker continues to deserve all the credit in the world for his handling of Iron Man, unlike hacks like JMS. In the handling of the villains, were still not getting a whole lot from them; they remain ephemeral presences, lurking somewhere in the background; it works extremely well. The ending is really excellent; its shocking, but in the sort of low-key way that makes it all the more disturbing. Green Lantern #27 The second part of "Alpha Lanterns" arrives, and it feels more like an issue of Green Lantern Corps than did the last issue of Green Lantern Corps (which was the Guy and Kyle Show); while Hal and John are the main characters (and they get about equal time), theres also emphasis on the Lost Lanterns, the Guardians, and several others, including GLC castmember Green Man, who becomes one of the titular Alpha Lanterns, crosses between Green Lanterns and Manhunters. The main focus of the issue is the fallout of Lairas killing of Amon Sur, which all the other Lost Lanterns consider to be murder, as do the Guardians; however, some of the other Lanterns from different cultures dont have a problem with it, making for an interesting scene. The Guardians, however, declare that she will be tried for her actions, and imprisoned in a Sciencell (near a gloating Sinestro) in the meantime. Laira is extremely uncooperative throughout. Im enjoying this emphasis on the GLC as a whole, since Ive always believed that the Green Lantern property works best when it focusses on space adventures and the uniqueness of the GLC as an organization, rather than having Hal fly around stopping bank robbers, which anyone can do. McKone provides strong fill-in art in lieu of Ivan Reis; I certainly prefer him to Daniel Acunas fill-in work last time. The next time Reis needs a break, they should definitely get McKone back. House of M: Avengers #4 This is kind of a difficult story to review; its quite competently done, both in writing and art, but it feels extraneous, because it is (as Marvel admits, the main impetus for commissioning it was retailer requests for more "House of M"-related material; so, if "Civil War" trades sell, will we be getting more "Civil War" stories in a few years?). The story charts the history of Cages Avengers over a period of years, and the alliance between Thunderbirds FBI team and the Kingpin in order to bring them down; by the end of this issue, reminiscent of Daredevils arc under Bendis, Cage has declared himself the new Kingpin of New York. Like I said, its a decent superhero yarn, but the irrelevancy of the whole thing counts against it. One thing it has definitely done is make me hotly anticipate Mike Perkins next project, because he does a fantastic job with all these characters. The Mighty Avengers #8 After the "Ultron Initiative" arc, which was plagued by delays, and was overlong anyway (Id have cut it down by maybe two issues, if I had been writing; the beginning and end were strong, but the middle was flabby), and the first part of this new story, which was composed largely of the sort of quiet scenes that would be a relief between really fast arcs, but following a really slow story just seems fatuous, this is the strongest issue of Mighty Avengers that Ive yet read. The pace really picks up, and Bendis proves again that he is at his best when he keeps things tight (ironic, for one of the main creators of trade-length storytelling). Last issue ended with a "symbiote bomb" detonating in New York, infecting civilians and members of the New Avengers (as detailed in their book, which came out months ago, thus spoiling much of this story); the Mighty Avengers arrive on the scene, assess the situation, and have three of their less-powerful members (Black Widow, Wasp, Spider-Woman) get taken over as well (everybody else is immune, either through suits or their superhuman anatomy). While everybody else tries to contain the situation, Iron Man flies to the Baxter Building to create an antidote, saves the day, and then everybody goes off to confront Doctor Doom, who seemingly sent the blast. Along the way, Iron Man has a long monologue about the Skrull situation, which has made him extremely paranoid, but resolute that the "green [bleeps]" will not get his planet. Im quite looking forward to seeing the Avengers and SHIELD vs. Doom next issue; this is the kind of big action the Avengers should be about. On a minor note, Bendis has Wasp grow into a giant, and acts like this is a big deal, but she could already do that in Austens run (ooh, are we pretending that never happened now? Awesome!); and, despite his alleged hatred of Hank Pym, I continually find his Hank to be perfectly nice and helpful, and Jan comes off like a complete ***** in her conversations with him. X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #5 The solicitation promises that we will be surprised with how this ends, and I have to say I was: it doesnt. Yes, the story that started in X-Men: Deadly Genesis, a six-issue miniseries, then continued through twelve issues of Uncanny X-Men, and then got another five-issue miniseries (this) is still not over. The focus of the miniseries has been on Havok, Polaris, Marvel Girl, the Starjammers, and Lilandras forces waging a civil war with Vulcan, Deathbird, and the Shiar Secret Order for control of the empire, which battle was interrupted by the invasion of the Scyar Tal, a race driven from their homeworld by the Shiar; the displaced aliens want the MKraan Crystal (all these damn apostrophes), and theyve got some pretty imaginative weapons (dropping suns on planets) to do it with. Havok and Vulcan team up to stop them, and they succeed; however, Vulcan uses the planet-dropper to destroy the Scyar Tal, and then his armies overwhelm Havoks team, and Lilandras forces, led by her uncle, decide that Vulcans ruthlessness is quite appealing, and join him. At storys end, Havok, Polaris, and the Starjammers are in Vulcans custody, the Shiar people adore their savior and emperor, and Lilandra, Marvel Girl, and Korvus are the only heroes still at large. Vulcan, meanwhile, plans for some revenge on Professor Xavier. Yep, thats where the story leaves off. So, I assume well be hearing more from this in the near-future, although Im not clear on where. Apart from the cliffhanger ending, which could potentially lead to a good story, this mini has been quite good, with strong writing (Yost writes the best Chod ever) and very good art from Diaz.