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Jason Schachat thinks the pouty lip thing is an effective way to defeat criminals --
forgetting he's not a woman.
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdowns
January 12, 2005

*sniff* Wh… why are they canceling Fallen Angel? They re-hash Captain Atom as Breach, Alpha Flight has been running for nearly a year, and Amazing Fantasy, despite sucking for its entire run, is merely getting a retitle before continuing—but they’re CANCELING Fallen Angel?

*lip trembles*

Why can’t they just cancel Firestorm? I mean, nobody LIKES Firestorm. You know what makes it so hard to like Firestorm #9? It’s Firestorm himself, really.

We’ve given him a chance, but Jason Rusch has proven a fine candidate for most pathetic hero to ever receive a JLA communicator. (Strangely enough, Jason Todd may have been the former front runner... Yes, the name is cursed. Trust me.)

This issue continues the misadventures of the Little Hero Who Can’t with the full return of Killer Frost, one of Firestorm’s greatest foes. Naturally, Jason is responsible for giving her a power boost and unleashing her on the world, but it really isn’t much worse than the other disastrous situations he’s responsible for. At least he’s lucky enough to have the recently retired Firehawk to provide covering fire. But maybe they’d be more effective as something other than the sum of their parts…

Please! Please! Don't thaw him out!
Firestorm is in big trouble, and it’s getting to the point where there isn’t much to keep the flame going. Production on the book is very nice, but the story has been taking forever to tell hardly anything at all. The first few issues gave us a decent setup and an interesting spin on the character. Then it meandered for a while, repeating over and over that Jason just isn’t suited to his new role in life.

Yet, while this issue ends with a welcome change in direction, the story is too slow and decompressed to keep readers hooked. It’s really running on hope rather than any form of plot, hope that SOME kind of momentum will magically build up. Hasn’t happened yet, though, so I just can’t recommend it.

Giving a kickstart to another lumbering hero, Peter David’s back on Hulk with Incredible Hulk #77. Ever since a friend pointed out Hulk: Future Imperfect to me, I’ve had no luck finding a better Hulk writer. As if David hadn’t shown us some great chops with Fallen Angel (*sobs*) and the Madrox miniseries, this new Hulk run is already well on its way to remind us of the power a great writer and a major character can find together.

The story opens simply enough with a view of the ocean floor; a shark merrily swimming off into the distance. Then Jaws explodes to reveal Hulk holding the severed tail while its blood clouds around him. He then flashes back to the years when he was merely a voice in Bruce Banner’s head, held in check by ego and superego.

But, just as the setup of the conflict between personalities gets going, Hulk is attacked by a giant squid (one which obeys no known theories of evolution). He mercilessly destroys the stupid beast for even imagining itself worthy of eating Gamma-enhanced long pig such as his Hulkness. The squid flees into a cloud of ink and Hulk bursts through the surface of the water to find himself washed onto an island. Monster Island.

This run is already off to a great start, balancing the more psychological elements of the franchise with a big, steaming pile of “HULK SMASH!” Lee Weeks and the rest of the art team fill the pages with gorgeous and terrifying images that admittedly go over the line a few times but merge flawlessly with the smartly fun story. Wanna see destruction on that epic level Hulk fans hold so dear? Pick this one up. It’s looking damn good.

Steve Niles' Secret Skull #4 wraps up the superhero-horror-mystery this week in a blaze of glory that closes the coffin on the Skull--- or DOES it? After learning last issue that she may indeed have become a zombie, Samantha stalks off into the night to defeat the one man whose murderous ways keep her alive.

According to her dreams, Sam is destined to fail and let her father die by an assassin’s bullet, but she arrives at the scene just in time to wring the crimelord’s name out of the would-be killer. She races to his mansion, hoping to ambush him and end her undead torment, but arrives to a house filled with hired guns; all aiming for her.

Inevitably, Secret Skull ends in a hurry to cover the way it rushed through characterization and brought up questions it never really answered. But, from the second issue on, this has been a pulp adventure. The finale works quite well, and you can tell it will be even better in a collected edition.

Steve Niles demonstrates some great pacing and finds the right points to place his emotional and humorous moments, but I expected a little more from him. As I said after reading the first issue, the star of this series is artist Chuck BB. His style strikes just the right balance between soft and grotesque without cloning the work of other horror artists or going too far off into the night. I can definitely smell a sequel series on the backburner. Recommended.

Hey, it looks like an X-Men collectors' plate!
There are times when Ultimate X-Men scares the crap out of me. The recent announcement that Longshot and Mojo would be appearing was one of those. Then there are times when I realize there are some truly intelligent people at Marvel who want to tweak everything that doesn’t work into delicious new shapes. Ultimate X-Men #54 is one of those.

To catch up: Rogue and Gambit ran off to be on their own, Wolvie’s gone a little nuts (again) and is doing the same (again), and Storm, having fallen for Wolverine, has taken off to find him. Iceman still resents Kitty Pryde for getting between him and Rogue, Colossus resents the Professor’s passive methods, and Cyclops and Jean don’t resent anyone at all because they’re too busy committing psychic sodomy.

Then “The Most Dangerous Game” thrusts us into a wholly different setting where a young mutant is being hunted down through tangled jungles for the entertainment of the people of Genosha. It’s happened before, of course, but this boy is different: he has the mutant ability to make even the unlikeliest of situations turn out in his favor. Such talent can’t be wasted, so Mojo Adams, Genoshan broadcaster and internet entrepreneur, uses the controversial event to draw all eyes to his entertainment network.

Who ya gonna call?

Brian K. Vaughan scores the miracle he needed to make a Longshot/Mojo story not only palatable, but entertaining. The Mojoverse, once thought inventive in its assessment of reality TV, has almost become reality, and there really isn’t anything inherently exciting about the concept any more. But cementing it in our reality, where such things could very easily happen, gives the concept some teeth.

Making Mojo a normal (if pale and morbidly obese) human being pushes the notions of prejudice and irony that raise certain chapters of the X-franchise above the rest, and, though I’m not too big on most soap opera, the constant bickering of this teen team is just what was missing from prior runs. Stuart Immonen’s art is somewhat inconsistent, but the work of the colorist and inkers fleshes it out well. It sounded like a long shot, but Ultimate X-Men is still working it. Recommended.

Requested Review of the Week
Since our old forums bit the dust last month, the comic review requests have pretty much ground to a halt, even though there were a couple recent ones we never got around to (where went the forums, so went our requests -- but we do have new forums). But the news marches on, and I got an absolutely ludicrous request from a friend that was too good to pass up.

Any one of them would make a better Firestorm.
If you’ve been paying any attention to major news outlets lately, you’ve more likely than not seen a certain comic making big headlines. A Mexican comic called Guia Del Migrante Mexicano. However, this new book has gained notoriety not for its art but rather its intent. You see, the title means “Guide for the Mexican Immigrant” and instructs Mexicans on how to illegally cross our borders. The publisher? Why, no less than the Mexican government themselves!

The Mexican Department of Foreign Relations really puts their foot in it with this pocket-sized pamphlet that advises migrant workers on safe ways to pass into the United States, pointing out the dangers of crossing our desert regions without water or attempting to ford our major rivers (which, of course, have too much water).

It uses elementary Spanish and simple illustrations to communicate with the illiterate masses, warning of the danger of trusting “Coyotes” who ferry immigrants into the U.S., arguing against the use of fake identification papers, and pointing out that, if caught by U.S. officials, “Tienes Derechos!” (You have rights!). It then goes on to list the numerous Mexican consulates they can go to for aid.

Calling this pamphlet a comic is both an insult and an empowerment of the medium. In all honesty, this is a picture book, hardly any different from a DMV Driver’s Handbook. There is no flow between drawings, and, by definition, it is not sequential art. However, it points out the sheer vitality of visual instruction. Millions of Americans are shaking in their boots right now because such a simple and clear piece of literature will help people sneak across the border.

However, to be fair, the extreme reactions to this pamphlet have been hardline kneejerks. Any fool can figure out that crossing the Rio Grande isn’t the greatest idea. The purpose of this book is simply to advise the miserable wretches willing to do so what is safe and what is not. Much of the text warns not to attempt entering the U.S. illegally, and the final page sports a disclaimer that crossing the border is no way being promoted by the Mexican government.

But let’s be honest, kids; this is fanning the fire. Sure, it’s supposed to be a safety pamphlet rather than an instructional one, but its very existence thumbs its nose at the American Border Patrol and demands harsh reactions from the U.S. government (especially in the wake of recent border-crossing terrorist paranoia). As an American, you can’t help but feel the Mexican government just doesn’t respect pleas to reign in their wandering populace, and it’ll be a shock if we aren’t already drawing up contracts to erect a wall along our southern border.

Yet, as a comic fan, I’m thrilled. This is as crappy as a “comic” can get, and the subject matter alone is enough to get everyone talking. It’s been theorized that Superheroes aren’t what’s killing comics, since their movies have been doing so well lately. Invariably, the blame comes to rest on the medium itself. Then news like this shows how powerful and alive graphic narrative still is… Arriba, my friends. Arriba, indeed.

Got a comic you want to see reviewed? Drop a line in the forums, and we’ll hunt it down!

Hot Predictions for Next Week: Madrox #5, Powers #8, Wanted #6, Wolverine #24, and Wonder Woman #212.

Jason Schachat

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