I gave the first issue a bit of a pan when it was released, feeling that Warren Ellis had dumbed down the introduction to his story a bit too much. Since then, he has brought it back up to his usual speed, barely waiting for the reader to absorb a new idea, character or plot before moving on to the consequences of a passive alien invasion. Mysterious obelisk-shaped craft have landed on Earth, causing damage to some cities, but otherwise leaving everyone alone (outside of the random dumping of toxic waste). The various governments are treating the "trees" in different ways, leading to different cultures springing up around each, from a segregated artists' colony in China to the scientific research team in Svalbard. Ellis (and artist Jason Howard) has done a great job at presenting a broad cast spread out around the world, giving us interesting views into the possible future interactions of technology and culture. And, of course, there is still the question as to what the "trees" are actually doing, as a new species of flower starts blooming near the arctic circle...
With the racks dominated by Super-Heroes who get together to argue and whine as much as to fight "evil," it's a welcome relief whenever a title comes out that remembers that this is inherently a ridiculous genre. Deadpool and Secret Avengers have both been used recently to parody the Marvel style of storytelling, but without being able to break away themselves from the idea, that even in a absurd universe, fighting is still the best way to solve a problem (although SA did have a fun sub-plot involving a suicidal bomb who had to be talked out of exploding, this is still the exception rather than the norm). Squirrel Girl is only two issues in, but appears to be following a trope that has rarely been used since Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man, that of the hero who would rather disarm the situation than beat up the bad guy. She has the proportionate strength and powers of a squirrel, but still knows that sometimes Kraven the Hunter just needs a new hobby.
Also just launched, Crossed+100 is Alan Moore's turn at the wheel of Garth Ennis' vehicle of moral exploration. This is set a hundred years after the initial outbreak of the possible viral infection that turns human beings into permanent Bacchanals, giving Gabriel Andrade free reign to illustrate a stunning world that mixes the remnants of civilization with the ever-encroaching wilderness. This theme is also reflected in the dialogue as Moore gives us a consistently mangled English spoken by a self-taught generation of Crossed survivors. It's a big "what-if" story, but he's also following up on a question raised toward the end of Ennis' original story; would humanity's being wiped clean from the planet actually be a bad thing? Nature, as it were, goes on regardless. Intriguing, intellectual fun.
Apparently, this is what everyone is reading this month. We've had two issues of Marvel's Star Wars and one issue of Darth Vader, both highly interlocked to the point where panels from the one are reprinted as a flashback in the other. Which illustrates the height of editorial oversight being displayed here, that we can't lose one reader of Darth Vader #1 who may not have read the issues of the main title that are out simultaneously. Both writers involved, Aaron and Gillen, are two of the better voices that Marvel has, but both are buried under the requirements of the franchise. Most of the pages consist of scenes mimicking the movies, with dialogue lifted verbatim from the "original" trilogy. This is the sort of thing that would have made more sense back in the 70s and 80s, when being able to watch a movie was more of a special event, instead of something that anyone could do at home. In our internet age, I'm not really sure what the point of generic movie spin-offs are, other than an exercise in keeping the trademarks active in people's minds. This is just expensive fan-fic, without the sex.