This upcoming Wednesday proves why I do this.

For the last several weeks, my main man Jim at ACME Comics has been allowing me to jack the finest in First Look literature from his establishment every New Comic Book Day, but it appears that last week I went a little overboard. Six titles from the very near future traveled home, and ever the opportunist, I decided to write a column about them. Quickly recognizing the undeniable presence of the New Hotness, the task became even more imperative. The following product aches to be purchased, and though I’m not egotistical enough to believe that anyone will follow this list to the very letter, if you could wrap your hands around just a couple of these, your bag will be a lot happier. No clever money back guarantees. Just trust me.

These are the books that should be coming home with you.

Avengers #66 (Geoff Johns/Olivier Coipel/Andy Lanning)

I wish Geoff Johns hadn’t signed that DC-exclusive contract, because he and Coipel are delivering a bold progressive take of the Avengers that many people are going to find difficult to ignore. Red Zone is the story that Johns wanted to tell since inheriting this title and it shows in every scene as his appreciation and understanding of the dynamics between the Avengers plays center stage, and provides more than enough reason to make a purchase. The tension between Iron Man and the Black Panther is excellently crafted, as is the reluctance of the U.S. government to provide the now U.N.-sanctioned Avengers free reign over its facilities. And what more can I say about Coipel’s artwork? People were speculating that his style was going to be an inappropriate fit with “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” It’s been nice to see them proved wrong in just two months.

Daredevil #46 (Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev)

How does Bendis write a comic filled with nothing but interesting conversation, and still manage to bury the majority of his competition? Beats me, but once again, Daredevil is the poster child for fascinating characterization that doesn’t begin and end with the title character, and proof that nonsensical action scenes aren’t the only way to engage an audience. Everything has its place in DD, even the synopsis page that Bendis is prone to shifting for maximum serial effect.

It doesn’t hurt matters that Alex Maleev is one of the best in the business, and is backed up by Matt Hollingsworth, who’s colors have become one of the strongest aspects of the series. Old enemies are gathering, new relationships are forming, and Hardcore prepares to increase the stakes. You’ve heard this speech before, and you’ll hear it again until the creators involved fall off, which I’m doubtful will happen anytime soon, so please bear with me. I’m only hyping one of the best comics on the stands.

Mystique #1 (Brian K. Vaughan/Jorge Lucas)

Vaughan’s doing that thing again. With one Tsunami hit in the making (Runaways), this first issue of Mystique lays the foundation for his second. Though the shape-changing mutant doesn’t make her grand appearance until the latter half of the tale, where the scribe really shines is with his characterization of Professor X. The idea that the X-Men’s founder is employing covert agents to handle “sensitive” operations around the world, without the knowledge of even his most trusted students, is one that makes the telepath even more dangerous to the status quo. For too long, the Prof. has seemed content with sitting around the mansion, delivering the occasional rousing speech, and embarking on a periodic road trip to recruit new students. This latest development provides him with another more proactive dimension, and I’m anxious to hear the “offer she can’t refuse” that he intends to hit Mystique with. Impressive start that will likely make for interesting things down the road.

Global Frequency #7 (Warren Ellis/Simon Bisley/David Baron)

Another successful run on the Frequency. Brian Wood’s covers have been a tremendous selling point thus far, and I think many people are going to find it difficult to deny this issue of GF its rightful second glance on the stands. Contained within is another compressed action movie with the same wild visuals and cool characters we’ve come to expect from Ellis’ latest. A terrorist has decided to assassinate the head of MI6 and explode a nuclear device over London, but he’s not aware that Miranda Zero has Mr. Grushko and Ms. Lau onsite. Ellis crafts an excellent standoff scene that can only end violently, and Bisley doesn’t shy away from delivering the graphic touch that makes the violence appropriately shocking. Once the credits roll, it’s obvious that this rescue organization deserves your continued support.

Fantastic Four #68 (Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo/Karl Kesel)

Waid made us all a promise. First, he promised to distinguish the FF from other similar team fare by writing the adventures of a family, very strange in their activities no doubt, but a family nonetheless. That goal is struck with some particularly humorous scenes between Johnny and Ben having a disagreement over money, while Sue and Reed discuss the particulars of magic while on expedition in a strange dimension. With all the sibling rivalry, practical jokes, and otherworldly babysitters, you may think that Waid forgot about another promise…that Doom would do the “unthinkable.” I admit to being a bit skeptical about the proposed attack that Doom would launch against his intellectual adversary Reed Richards, but what the bad doctor does is pretty dirty, and by all indications, Doom may not be the only one to do something “unthinkable” before this arc concludes.

Y-The Last Man #10 (Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan Jr.)

Cycles concludes with an absolute bang. Those that remember the cliffhanger from last issue (and seriously…how could you forget) will be pleased to find that Vaughan milks the confrontation for all its emotional worth, and drops an important ‘reveal’ into the process.
For months, we’ve been strung along by the mystery of why everything on Earth with a Y chromosome suddenly and unceremoniously dropped dead, but not everyone is clueless. Someone knows why. Combine this with the final fate of the Amazons that attacked Marrisville, a group of resourceful Israelis, a secret phone call, and a haircut, and the Eisner-nominated series rounds the corner for its next adventure. More strong characterization and more strong artwork prove that the phenomenon is no fluke. Y is an undeniable hit, another soon-to-be classic, installing another feather in Vertigo’s cap.

And there actually were a few clever releases that hit last week too…

Sleeper #4 (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips)

I’m a sucker for an impassioned conspiracy thriller, and though Sleeper began as a sophisticated crime drama, in recent months, Brubaker has presented an additional ripple that makes this title even more exciting than it was at its inception. Secret societies are a familiar staple of the conspiracy genre, as what conspiracy is worth its weight without a secret band of puppet masters pulling the world’s strings, but the writer presents his version with a subtlety and intelligence that makes the events that more believable. Holden Carver is still trapped within an impossible situation with a group of incredibly dangerous people that he’s appearing to become strangely comfortable with, and perhaps too comfortable in the case of Ms. Misery. Sean Phillips turns in another impressive showing, complimenting the tight scripting that Brubaker brings to the table.

Once again, Eye of the Storm publishes another truly “mature” comic that pushes the boundaries of what can be accomplished within the “superhero” genre. Brubaker knew the odds were hopelessly stacked in his favor when he offered a money back guarantee on this book. Don’t let him tell you any different.

Powers #30 (Brian Michael Bendis/Michael Avon Oeming)

Oh my God. I’ve seen the cover to this issue on several occasions, but it wasn’t until it was resting comfortably in my weekly stash that I understood just what the image was depicting. Figuring it out didn’t make the experience of reading this issue any easier because I was honestly concerned that Bendis was going to do what I thought he was going to do. They didn’t put “super-sized shocker” on the cover as a joke you know. Deena Pilgrim is the only thing standing between an insane superhero and the tiny world he’s recently decided belongs to him. What results is that at the conclusion of a sequence of incredible character scenes, the writer completely overturns the premise of this title, and turns it into something else that will undoubtedly make the next ‘version’ of Powers as fascinating and unpredictable as this one.

A Special Message to the Ambidextrous Faithful (all three of you):

Some of you may have noticed (and it’s completely my fault) that some of the pieces that I’ve been hitting you with the last several weeks have, from a word count standpoint anyway, have been striking a bit below the bar so to speak. What happens with this weekly column thing is that for weeks at a time, I’ll have Blueprints on the brain, or something posted regarding Loyalty, or talk of Destiny, or some other largely elaborate piece that cracks two thousand words with the easiest of strides and attempts to drop a bit of knowledge in the process. The downside to this of course appears when I deal with a topic that ultimately doesn’t deserve as much space, settles in at around an even thousand and vanishes into cyberspace for the week. This doesn’t always result in a bad column of course, but it’s noticeable to me (because I’m writing these) and I fear it’s slightly noticeable to you. (If it isn’t forget I said anything and return next week.)

Now, it’s completely neurotic to believe that every last one of these will appear on the screen fully formed and due to the nature of the beast, there will be the occasional dud. But, and this is no bullshit, I take Ambidextrous and what it signifies very seriously and am completely hesitant in signing my name to things that I’m not at the very least 75% happy with (because I have proven to be notoriously difficult to please).

The last few weeks I’ve been toiling away within “the lab” and haven’t been able to devote the same attention to Ambidextrous that it normally requires and deserves. I’m not really interested in taking a hiatus, because my brain has been generating material for nearly two years, and even if I made a concentrated effort to stop, it would probably be a waste of time.

So if you bless me with a gracious click and the diatribe is slightly shorter than usual, I’m not losing steam, falling off, or becoming progressively lazy. My brain is just stretched in a frightening number of directions, and it’s only so much writing I can do at work 😉

Despite that, we are closing in on the 100th column mark, as well as the two-year anniversary, and I’d be remiss in not performing some manner of celebratory trick to reward those that keep coming back, and draw in those still on the fence.

You want to know what’s next don’t you?

Okay, my man Jim from ACME Comics is stopping by for an interview to discuss the art of comic book retailing and making the most of Free Comic Book Day. Sanford Greene, who’s bringing his new project Galactic to DH’s Rocket Comics line will stop by. And what’s that bastard’s name…shit, writes Ultimates and something with mutants in it? Millar? Yeah, that’s it. Mark Millar will stop by and dissect his run on Ultimate X-Men, which is rapidly coming to a close.

And Bendis is coming.

Big things in the next several weeks, and possibly even the identity of the woman that’s been taking up all my time recently…

Hang with me, it may get much more interesting from here on out…(By the way, word count’s at around two thousand right now, so I think it’s officially confirmed that I’m crazy. Ah well.)


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