This Week in Comics: Avengers Academy, Spider-Men, Ultimates and more

Quick reviews of the comics on my weekly pull list.

Avengers Academy #37
Final Exam Part 4
Writer: Christos Gage | Pencils: Tom Grummett

This arc of Avengers Academy has been on where you know how it ends -- obviously Marvel isn't letting a soon-to-be-canceled second-level book have a world changing impact on its universe -- but you still want to see HOW it ends. Gage does a great job getting there, filling a mostly action-heavy issue with the kind of character moments that have defined this series. The characters have grown up, and reached the point where they probably no longer need to be "academy" students, but it's too bad Marvel couldn't find a way to keep them in their own book going forward.

Jennifer Blood #17
Writer: Al Ewing | Pencils: Kewber Baal

This series started out as a "normal housewife with a secret dark side" kind of tale, and has spun entirely over to that dark side, with this being the darkest tale yet. Even the offset of the darkness with the flashbacks to happier times aren't enough to mask the reality of just how far gone the main character is. It's clear by the ending that consequences are coming for Jen Fellows/Jennifer Blood, but I'm not sure it's enough to keep me going with this series. On top of the story frustration, this issue pushed the limits of how many two-page spreads should be in a book, with everything but the first and last page taking that format. It was a bold storytelling risk, one I don't think the book quite pulled off.

Spider-Men #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Pencils: Sara Pichelli

This was as perfect a conclusion to this five-issue experiment as anyone could have asked for. Both Spider-Men -- 616's Peter Parker and Ultimate's Miles Morales -- had a direct hand in saving the day, Miles got the A-OK from Peter to carry on the Spider-Man legacy and Miles finally got to (briefly) see the 616 universe. It was everything I wanted it to be. And then there was that last page. The book ends on a cliffhanger that is confusing, infuriating, unnecessary and totally tantalizing all at once. The cliffhanger itself really isn't a bad thing, but if resolved it messes with the self-contained-ness of this series and if unresolved it leaves this story unfinished. Still, a great finish to this mini-series, and I'm going to miss Pichelli's art.

Spike #2

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #15
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Pencils: David Marquez

Ever since the first Miles Morales issue of this series, we've had hints of him fitting into the larger Ultimate Comics universe, but this is the first time the rest of the universe really spills into his book. And it's about time. While Miles is still a young character -- both in fictional and real life terms -- Spider-Man is archetypal, and has a larger role to play no matter who is behind the mask. Miles' major conflicts as Spider-Man so far have been incredibly tight in scope and now Bendis is letting him into the bigger sandbox. It's a move whose time has come, and this issue does a great job of getting the pieces into place for the next big arc. It's also full of incredible visuals, from the way Marquez positions Miles' body when he's being questioned by Hill to the first time he web swings through the rain.

Ultimate Comics The Ultimates #15
Writer: Sam Humphries | Pencils: Billy Tan

Is the world ready for President America? That's what we're left with at the end of this remarkable issue of The Ultimates. Obviously the freedom granted Marvel by having this separate universe to play in is not going to waste, as Humphries gets to make a drastic change to the Steve Rogers status quo. This is also a major step in the ongoing re-creation of the Ultimates version of Rogers, who hasn't always been the paragon his 616 counterpart is made out to be. To put it simply, it was pretty awesome to see Cap in action like this, after he'd been gone from the series for so long. Tan really brings something special to the action sequences of the book, though the talking head scenes are lacking (and, to be blunt, I'm not a huge fan of the way he draws faces).

One quick note though on these last two books: what the hell is the timeline supposed to be? In USM, Miles meets Cap on the deck of the Helicarrier, outside of New York. But in Ultimates, Cap is in California? Are we to believe that the USM arc (which has had Cap in NYC for 3 issues now) is taking place AFTER the Ultimates arc (which saw Cap in Alaska before his public appearance in the Southwest)? Even if it's the other way around, there are some serious inconsistencies here, ones that wouldn't matter quite as much if the issues hadn't come out on the same date.