What Are You Reading? | X-Factor, Jughead, Suicide Squad and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately — including comics from past centuries and some from the past week.

Let us know what you read this week in the comments or on social media.

Carla Hoffman

X-Factor is DELIGHTFUL.  It’s a very basic premise (detectives for mutants!) with what feels like an impractical assortment of characters, but this book first and foremost brings the interpersonal relationships that are the glue that holds our “fantastic mutant powers” and “world that hates and fears us” together.  I wouldn’t say it’s a break from the HoXPoX of it all, the politics and metaphysics of the new mutant era, but it is a good place to start to learn about it. Already Leah Williams is laying down some ground rules for the process that you know are going to be exploited for the greater dramatic good and take our heroes to task, but that’s not really why you should come back for issue #2. No, it’s mutants she chose and how they are bound to relate to one another that’s going to make a very unlikely team that will no doubt grow together into a merry band of mutants and unlikely family. Until then, there’s going to be a lot of drama and clash of personality that you could only get from former students Eye-Boy and Prodigy to Logan’s wayward son, Daken, and known arrogant speedster Northstar. (Also, small note: glad to see Kyle Jinadu, Northstar’s husband, has survived all of this to be seen for two panels, but still.) This feels like a fun book and my hopes are high for the future of X-Men spinoff titles.

Empyre #3 is a HUGE step up from #2, finally getting to the meat and potatoes of our summer space conflict as characters can finally deal with the actions they’ve taken, for good or ill.  The best parts of the issue are in Emperor Hulkling’s chambers as they really mean to tackle the hard choices of war through his entire council.  Every time anyone calls him a “figurehead,” what I think they mean is “reader surrogate,” as they passionately debate tactics and continue to turn to him for almost mocking guidance. This is the first event in a long time that’s felt like a thinking man’s chess game, where one action begets another and you have to take the time to think two moves ahead to stay in the game. It’s a volley of struggle this issue and taking the time to talk about those struggles and what they mean for the rest of the Marvel Universe makes me anticipate #4 even more.

If you want to read a tie-in to Empyre this week, there’s only one that has Conan going to watch lucha libre wrestling in Mexico, fighting a bunch of plant aliens with a combine harvester and then sitting down to eat tacos with Venom.  The choice is clear with Empyre: Savage Avengers #1.

Tom Bondurant

This week I read a big chunk of the Detroit Era of Justice League of America, but you will have to wait to hear about that. I will say that the Detroit League did start to improve once they left Detroit; and JLA did some things in that period that foreshadowed future franchise developments.

Anyway, this week I also read the Justice Society story from February-March 1942’s All-Star Comics #9, reprinted in All-Star Comics Archives Volume 2. In it, the JSA goes south of the border to fight Nazis in various Central and South American lands. I am sure that everyone involved, including writer Gardner Fox and his artistic collaborators, had only the best, most patriotic intentions in producing this story; and it was definitely entertaining, just like the other JSA tales I have been reading. Still, you’re not going to get an accurate read on wartime politics in Latin America from All-Star Comics. I did enjoy seeing Johnny Thunder get punked by a Cuban intelligence operative, though. Johnny is turning into the Jimmy Olsen of the JSA.

Returning to this century, I read Jughead Volume 2, collecting issues #7-8 (written by Chip Zdarsky) and #9-11 (written by Ryan North), with the whole thing drawn by Derek Charm. Zdarsky’s issues involve Jughead and Archie going camping and stumbling into a Mantle family reunion, which is kind of like Kirk and Bones running into Klingons while on shore leave. They’re saved by Mr. Weatherbee and his surprisingly useful outdoor skills, and the fact that Weatherbee has his own history with the Mantle family is just icing on the cake. And speaking of food, North has Jughead be strangely attracted to the mysterious new burger mascot at Pop’s Chok’lit Shoppe. They end up going on a date; but when Jug sees her without the burger covering her head and torso, it turns out she’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina can’t fathom Jughead’s hierarchy of lust (for lack of a better phrase), so the story turns quickly into a farce as Sabrina tries spell after spell to make the date go better. The ending is very sweet and true to both characters, and I’m sorry I only have one more Jughead collection to go.

JK Parkin

I agree with Carla that X-Factor is a fun book. I haven’t been a huge fan of the latest era of X-Men comics, as they seem more about showing us every aspect of this new mutant society rather than in focusing on characters, which is why this one — plus Marauders — stand out to me. I think it’s perfectly valid take on the X-Men, it feels very novel and I’m glad that people enjoy these books. They’re just not my personal favorite take on the X-Men.

Over the last few weeks my son and I have revisited Bone. I tried to read it to him before but he wasn’t that interested, but this time it seems to have caught his interest. And now every night I get to pull down the tomb that is the Bone One Volume book, which weighs more than I do, and we read one or two “chapters” (issues). It’s been fun; it’s been so long since I’ve read this story that I feel like I’m reading it for the first time, even if I generally know where it’s going.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In Suicide Squad #7, we get to see what happens when Deadshot’s served his sentence, gets his pardon and returns to the real world. Is it a happy ending for the longest-serving member of the team? Not quite, but you probably knew that going in. There’s a lot going on with the Squad these days, including their new revolutionary teammates and the surprise appearance of Ted Kord, but Tom Taylor and Daniel Sampere manage to slow things down enough for a look at Floyd Lawton out of his costume and away from the team.

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