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Jason Schachat faked his own death in order to fight crime in secret, but then started websurfing instead.
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdowns
January 10, 2005

Oh, lord...

I was so busy washing the Constantine trailer out of my eyes by playing hours and hours of City of Heroes, I forgot to pay my respects to the late Will Eisner. He truly was the best, knowing more about visual storytelling than any before him. A genius until the end.

For any who want to understand more about comics and how to do them right, his Comics & Sequential Art is absolutely mandatory reading. For any who just want some good damn comics from the Golden Age on, his Spirit Archives have been released in hardcover by DC. Read them. You won’t be sorry.

Sadly, DC has spent recent months pushing Breach #1 rather than any works of Eisner, but this first issue is neither original or promising. Derek’s Spotlight summed up the book as being lifted from DC’s version of the Captain Atom origin. I never got into that volume (though I have read Ditko’s version from the ‘60s, oddly enough), but I’d go even further and say this is the typical “superhero created by meddling in science” story.

Set with the late Cold War as a backdrop, this book gives us a flashback to the creation of the main character. He lives a happy suburban life and everything is going swell. Then, fitting the usual cliché, his best friend betrays him, marries his widow and becomes father to his son, and our hero metamorphoses into a super-powered being.

Like many angry youth, what ticked Breach off the most is that he wasn't doing anything remotely original.
As with so many comic books these days, Breach seems terrified to approach contemporary subjects, so it looks like our first adventure will be yet another jaunt to an abandoned facility in the Russian wilderness. Of course, if the story decompression continues to follow the standards that have pretty much sunk all other recent superhero debuts, we’re in for an issue where he learns to harness his powers, another where he learns the “truth”, one where he gets assigned the big mission, and another where he learns the REAL truth.

So, no, I’m not exactly dancing with joy over this one.

More to the point, even the production on this book doesn’t bring enough to it for me to recommend it over back issues of damn near anything that told the same story. Unless something boldly original happens next month, I’d say DC has another cancellation on their hands. At the moment, it’s not looking good.

Captain America #2 (yes, if you weren’t paying attention, we’re on the fourth new volume in less than ten years, now) throws some more spy fodder on the fire in the never-ending attempt to make a Captain America that works. If I sound bitter it’s because I am. Seriously, how hard is it to make a guy named Captain-freaking-America appealing in such nationalistic times?!

But I digress.

This month’s issue reassures us that we did, in fact, see the Red Skull take a fatal shot to the chest, last time around. Then Cap spends the entire issue hunting for a bomb and mumbling that it must have been an imposter. Skull’s henchmen are led around by another fascist psycho in a skull mask, but he does us the honor of not making any speeches or filling panels with exposition.

Instead, Ed Brubaker devotes much of his story to making Cap an ass-kicking investigator much like Batman without the whole “I am Winged Death” thing. It’s a decent characterization, but maybe a little too dry. This Cap nicely bounces around the fence between right and left, but the only depth we get is from his flashbacks and nightmares of World War II. It’s better than what we’ve had over the last couple years, yet still not quite there.

Steve Epting brings a fantastic look to the franchise, and Michael Lark’s flashbacks are spot-on, but I’m afraid nothing will ever excite me as much as John Cassaday’s work on the last volume. This new series has some strong creators. No denying that. But what’s so exciting about another Red Skull story with Bucky flashbacks? The overall result is better than mediocre, but we’ll have to see some big developments in the next few issues for it to be much more. As is, I don’t anticipate more than another decent Captain America run that ultimately won’t change the status quo.

Hey, it's an IDW comic --
where's the horror?
When I picked up Desperadoes: Banners of Gold #1, I was expecting an out and out Western. The realistically-styled art painted some beautiful faces and stark backgrounds while the dialogue hinted at a natural attempt to capture the Old West. By the end of this issue, I found even more.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you this book focuses on a group of gunslingers who’ve worn out their welcome in the Arizona territory and are hired by a woman to provide escort through New Mexico, where they’re even LESS welcome. The next morning they learn not only will they be shepherding an entire wagon train, but their charges happen to be a group of mystics. And, of course, things go from bad to worse when they travel through some spiritually active terrain.

However, this issue never shows any ghosts or supernatural activity whatsoever. It’s subtle to a fault, making the opening pages somewhat tedious but building the story toward an ending that would be trite anywhere else but, in this case, leaves the reader wanting more. Smartly, the authors then follow with a listing of previous Desperadoes miniseries, saving us the trouble of playing catch up when this one begins yet also demonstrating storytelling clear enough to suck us right in.

Maybe I’m just finding myself surprised to find a well drawn (thanks to the pencil of Jeremy Haun) cowboy story that works (thanks to the pen of Jeff Mariotte), but Desperadoes: Banners of Gold is one I have to recommend. This issue barely gives us a taste of what’s to come, but I already know I want more. It certainly isn’t the usual disappointing Western.

Fantastic Four: Foes #1, unfortunately, is the typical Robert Kirkman/Marvel experience: There’s some wit, some dredging up of old storylines and characters, and some gut feelings that the miniseries will ultimately go nowhere.

Kirkman starts out his story from the perspective of a normal guy who just happens to work in the Baxter Building, but quickly shifts focus to the Fantastic Four and that dastardly fiend The Puppet Master. Sue Richards takes Franklin to school after Ben plays a trick on Johnny, and other mundane events take place, but then Puppet Master reveals his maniacal plan: to bring all the Four’s nemeses together and take over the world!

Hey, I said he was dastardly, not original.

The great weakness of this story is in the timing. It really isn’t all that different from Kirkman’s recent Super Patriot miniseries, but the few jokes that make it through are weak and lack the proper setup. To take Fantastic Four: Foes seriously is to completely miss the point, but the end result simply isn’t absurd enough to allow anything else. And, unfortunately, the characters appearing in this issue don’t gel with recent events in the Marvel Universe.

Hell, some of these villains are dead.

Maybe Kirkman will be able to make a Marvel book worth sticking with, some day, but this story doesn’t give us any reason to hope. If you want an entertaining adventure with the Fantastic Four, read the last few issues of the soon-to-end Waid/Wieringo run. Pass on this one.

It’s been two years since the last issue of Flaming Carrot, but the character’s still as hilarious, violent, and lovably retarded as ever. Fitting their new… well… image, the newly Berkeley-based Image Comics adds this madcap series to it’s repertoire, re-numbering what would be issue #33 as a shiny new first issue -- another Flaming Carrot #1.

To attempt a summary is an exercise in futility, but the story essentially consists of our hero trying to create a new, politically correct reputation after finally defeating the evil Garbage Mouth with the aid of his trusty baloney gun. The episode lands Flaming Carrot with a new zombie sidekick who communicates only through convenient song lyrics and gets him a date with a sexy reporter looking to dig up dirt on the combustible vegetable.

Oh, and some pygmies are building a giant ear out of french bread near the woods (Though debate continues as to whether it’s an ear or a bellybutton).

Flaming Carrot is, of course, f**king bizarre, and you shouldn’t come to it expecting anything remotely epic or heroic. That said, it’s the funniest damn thing I’ve read in weeks. Bob Burden’s art isn’t as consistent or well-rendered as David Boswell’s work on Flaming Carrot & Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman, but it fits the wacky humor like a glove. Strongly recommended to anyone smart enough to read black and white comics… and even to those who aren’t.

You know, it really has gotten to the point where Flash should be re-titled “Rogues Monthly." The Flash #217 gives Captain Boomerang his last rites (following the events of Identity Crisis), and it makes sense enough, but all the characterization and plot movement comes from the Rogues’ Gallery rather than the book’s supposed hero.

But the big news for Flash is that he and wife Linda Park are back together again and as in love as ever. Wally West’s newly hidden identity has allowed Linda to restart her reporting career and assert herself as the more famous member of the family, thus patching up a few holes in the relationship.

Meanwhile, the Rogues and their allies assemble for Captain Boomerang’s funeral and launch a Boomerang-themed crime spree in honor of their fallen comrade. The new Captain Boomerang is readily welcomed into the fold by his father’s partners, and things are heating up for the big confrontation between the Rogues and their reformed comrades who now work for the government and have one hell of a chilling ace up their sleeves.

So, why is this book still called “Flash”? Seriously. It’s enjoyable, but Geoff Johns doesn’t seem to have much more to say about Wally West. There was no mistaking, even during his first arc, that the Rogues would play a stronger role in the book, but this series has ridiculously little to do with the Speedsters, these days.

What’s more, next month is going to be a profile on Heatwave.

Yes, Heatwave.

Fans who want a more Flash-filled book should probably start looking for back-issues. Rogue-lovers: these days are yours. You don’t want to let them pass you by.

Admit it. She's so hot, you'd risk immolation.
I skipped out on Greg Pak’s Warlock miniseries because Chris Garcia showered the man with so much praise (and it didn't get us a thing, dammit - ed.), I couldn’t imagine myself writing a truly objective review. I felt much the same pangs when I picked up X-Men: Phoenix Endsong #1 but just couldn’t resist the promise of Pak teaming up with artist Greg Land.

This miniseries kicks off in true epic fashion with the re-emergence of the Phoenix Force— this time without the Jean Grey component. Yes, Shi’ar scientists have forced the galactic destroyer back into existence so that they might destroy it forever with… well… some kinda… mumbo jumbo doohickie that sounds like a creative interpretation of a quantum singularity.

Of course, this doesn’t have a prayer of working and the Phoenix Force soon finds itself wandering the Xavier School in a severely weakened state. It bobs around, poetically questioning its purpose and what it needs in life, visiting Wolverine, Beast, and Cyclops before suddenly remembering “Oh, yeah; I like being Jean Grey”.

I still think it’s too soon to bring Jean back (though no one expected her to be dead for long), but Pak takes a nice, lyrical approach fitting to the material. It moves pretty slowly, but the characters behave true to form even if their voices seem relatively indistinct. However, what works best are Pak’s efforts to tie the mini into the events of New X-Men. The Stepford Cuckoos, the Jean-Scott-Emma love triangle, and Quentin Quire are given the first serious attention they’ve gotten since Grant Morrison left the franchise, and it feels good.

And, despite Greg Pak’s somewhat hit-or-miss opening, Greg Land’s art sucks you in from page one. His work has always been gorgeous, but the work he and John Cassaday have put into these recent stories make every other X-book look like finger-paintings. The art alone is worth three bucks. The story may not have the same instant appeal. It has potential, though.

But “Endsong”? Pssh! Yeah, like we’re believing THAT for an instant.

Jason Schachat

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