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Jason Schachat was once known as Ultimate Moonboy, but for different reasons.
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdowns
January 24, 2005

Is anyone else upset that they haven’t made Ultimate Devil Dinosaur yet?


Just me?

Dammit, people, that’s a goldmine just waiting to be… mined… and stuff…


Ed Brubaker’s probably best known for the realism and exciting storytelling he’s brought to the Batman franchise, but, when no one was looking, he became one of the best authors to grace the Wildstorm Universe (a group that includes Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Kurt Busiek, and Alan Moore). Yet, while most authors have tried to push Wildstorm’s struggling properties in new directions, Brubaker used The Authority: Revolution to show us how to take the evermore ill-defined team in all their mad glory and tell a good tale.

The Authority: Revolution #4 brings Swift back into the action after she was nearly killed a few months ago. The Engineer catches her up on the current situation (patriotic superheroes from the past have returned to the scene with significant boosts to their abilities and are starting a new American “revolution”) just before we see Paul Revere and his Sons of Liberty gathering a hypnotized army of thousands on the White House lawn.

The Doctor gets a nice moment to reflect on how his attempt to use religion to spread his shamanistic message made targets of his followers-- then we’re plunged into the action. Both teams go into the fight at full force, but The Authority soon gain the upper hand. It looks like the day is saved… until five year old Jenny Quantum gets a message from her future self that she has to stop it all. If only she’d gotten that message soon enough to prevent the disaster that comes.

Brubaker’s pacing and threading here are fast and intricate, making The Authority: Revolution a great read with those breathtaking surprises so many Authority stories are missing. I think what I find most interesting, however, is that he didn’t have to go back to Warren Ellis’ model to do so. He’s kept in all the history and characterization of the last few years, leaving us with a very vocally gay Midnighter and Apollo, a brash Swift, and a Doctor constantly struggling NOT to score a fix.

But it works. Despite all the broken and clunky elements that have pushed the franchise away from Ellis’ ultimate archetypical vision, Brubaker’s able to make us feel like we’re back home without turning the car around. Dustin Nguyen’s pencils may remind us of the sad filler arcs that portended the death of the first series, but he keeps the panels flowing, despite some bizzarely stylized characters. The Authority still may not have returned to their former glory (more on that later), but this maxiseries is looking to be their best 12-issue run since the beginning. Definitely recommended.

Why do you keep hitting yourself, huh?
Why do you keep hitting yourself?
Sadly, Madrox #5 marks the end of the one X-mini in the last year that’s been more than merely passable and, surprisingly, far from downright awful. The story keeps up the pace and gives us a pretty rapid fire ending that solves our big mystery but in no way ends the story of Jamie Madrox and his mutant buddies.

Jamie finds himself still trapped in the burning printshop with Clay (pretty-boy mob henchman at large) holding a gun to his head, but he happens upon the clever idea of proposing to his would-be executioner it’s the part of the story where the villain reveals his mad plan. Clay agrees and reveals that femme fatale Sheila was the real villain all along, leaving Jamie nearly choking on his own incompetence.

But what would this be without a sudden rescue by one of Madrox’s wayward duplicates? Yessir, two against one are mighty fine odds—until you find out Clay can also create multiples of himself. And he also seems to know more about being a Multiple Man than Jamie does…

Writers go through all sorts of phases, and, if this is Peter David’s Noir phase, I’m on for the long haul. The recently cancelled Fallen Angel demonstrated he knew how to play with the genre, but Madrox has shown he can take even the least loved remnants of X-Factor and make them new by passing them through the Noir filter. Loving homages to and parodies of Noir standards combined with the clever examination of what one can do, being a regular joe who can create and absorb copies of himself, made this series well worth the money.

Much as I appreciate editor Andy Schmidt sticking to his guns and not extending the mini into a full blown series, I also hope it’s only so they can apply the appropriate tweaks to make this a strong ongoing series. From the implications in his letter to the readers, it looks like we’ll be getting some more multiple lovin’ in the near future. (Rumored to be known as X-Factor Investigations. - ed.)

Spider-Man India #3 continues to remind us why it’s a bad idea to ship this re-imagining to America: we’ve seen it before. Even if you haven’t read the comics, watched the cartoons, bought the trading cards, or seen re-runs of the old TV series, most people who would pick up this book have seen the movies and, mystical origin aside, the conflict is just too similar.

First we get a fight between Spidey and the newly demonized Doctor Octopus that lasts for about half the issue and accomplishes nothing. Doc Ock then runs off to his master Rakshasa (think Green Goblin), licking his wounds, while Pavitr Prabahakr (think Hindi for Peter Parker) gets chewed out by Aunt Maya. So, essentially nothing happens. This issue is all about the fight, and the fight sucks.

Jeevan J. Kang and his scribes hit some interesting notes with the unwilling Doc Ock and a new Spidey that can actually banter, but the art is still unbalanced, cluttered, and lacking in flow. Again, it could be something an Indian audience would go for, but, when you give Americans a Doc Ock/Spidey power battle, you damn well better hit it out of the park. Spider-Man India’s still playing T-ball.

Now we know what was in the box...
But, if you’ve been waiting for a good point to jump onto Teen Titans, issue #20 is it. Readers familiar with recent events may have a better footing, but all the references and little factoids you’d want to know come from the pages of Outsiders, Green Arrow, Identity Crisis and Superman/Batman rather than previous issues. The amazing thing: it still makes sense!

This single-issue story gives us some much needed catharsis as Robin shows us around Titans Tower, trying to escape from the recent death of his father. He slinks around and ponders how he’s slipping into the cold solitude Batman himself has embraced, cursing himself for stepping away from the light. Starfire leaves the team to aid Nightwing and the Outsiders while Raven attempts to craft a secret identity and become a regular kid during her off-hours. But Superboy has heard of Tim’s loss and knows it’s eating at him.

Too bad they have more immediate concern. Namely, Lex Luthor’s Kryptonite-powered battle suit and the supervillains fighting over it.

I don’t know why it had to be Geoff Johns rather than Bill Willingham or any of the other Bat-writers that got to pen Robin’s big release, but man-oh-man did he get it right. Teen Titans has done well in his hands, but this issue is a must for all DC fanboys. Epilogues aside, it’s standalone and does a fantastic job of drawing the reader into the Titans’ world. On the other hand, it also pulls from the events of Identity Crisis in a way that BEGS fans of last year’s uber-miniseries to hop onboard.

If there’s one disappointment I have with this issue, it’s that Mike McKone didn’t pencil it. Exclusive contracts be damned, he was a vital part of the creative team and new penciller Tom Grummett will be quite busy filling his shoes. That said, Grummett does a damn fine job of it this month and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him. (except Marvel snatchd him away, too...) Strongly recommended.

Say what I might about Mark Millar’s writing ability, the man has a great grasp of what it means to be thoroughly immoral, and that’s why Wanted #6 works. Following last issue’s all-out battle, Wesley finally gets the Big Exposition from his dad (a supervillain whose “death” kicked off this entire series).

He explains to sonny-boy that it all goes back to the big Crisis that gave supervillains control of the world. How he broke up with Wesley’s mother and they went their separate ways, but he was always looking out for his boy. How all existence changed when the villains took over, and how, after all he’d done, pops knew he’d failed to give his son his birthright.

What I find most compelling about this issue is the way it relates the story to our own world, bringing the plot full circle. The Killer tells us that the universe of Wanted used to be the near-perfection of the DC Universe—until the bad guys’ reality-altering machine turned it into our own filthy existence. Millar also gives us nice details like the Supervillain ‘70s nightclub and the key party that led to Wesley’s conception.

Jones’ pencils are an exciting interpretation of photo-realism that put this book into the honored halls of widescreen comics, but his character designs are just a bit distracting. Casting Eminem and Halle Berry as your comic’s reference material is one thing, but looking EXACTLY like them has a tendency to pull you out of the story. The Ultimate Universe’s Nick Fury may be modeled on Samuel L. Jackson, but he looks dissimilar enough for us not to go “Damn, that’s Samuel L. Jackson!” every two minutes.

All in all, I’d say Wanted got it right. Will it change your world? Probably not as much as the ending suggests it should (and it’s a good thing Millar went through Image for this one; it’d easily get censored in these paranoid times), but this will surely go down as one of the best supervillain minis ever done. Recommended.

Come on, Batman, you can take her!
Contrary to what Derek wrote in last week’s Spotlight, I found Wonder Woman #212’s guest art to be quite good. James Raiz (best known for the Warren Ellis kaiju mini Tokyo Storm Warning) puts in a fine showing that, unfortunately, brings to light some of the flaws in the rest of the creative team.

Diana, still blind from her battle with Medusa, refuses to resign from the Justice League and is put to a test by Batman and the rest of the gang. She pretty much passes with flying colors, but they’re unsure of whether she should be putting herself in such danger after all she’s been through. Meanwhile, on Mount Olympus, Athena and her fellow goddesses launch their coup against Zeus, asking that he listen to reason and step down. It might’ve worked, too, if the old man didn’t choose a titan to champion him in a battle no immortal can enter.

So, yeah, Diana’s getting drafted.

I still like what Rucka’s doing with many of the mythological aspects of this book, but we’re starting to see some repetition. Veronica Cale’s schemes have been failing so much, it’s getting hard to see her as a real threat. Wonder Woman’s JLA test seems just too close to Speedy’s recent Teen Titans initiation in Green Arrow. Diana being used as a pawn in the games of the gods AGAIN... well, didn’t we just do this?

I suppose you could call it a continuation or a build, but it’s starting to feel like we’re swimming in circles. And, while James Raiz’s art rises above certain bad habits (odd notions of perspective, overuse of architectural backgrounds/gridlines, some strange character designs) it nearly falls apart under Ray Snyder’s heavy inks.

Don’t get me wrong: I loved the way Snyder inked Drew Johnson’s work on the series, but Raiz’s extremely busy style becomes cluttered and claustrophobic with all those heavy lines. The good news is this mismatch is only scheduled for another month, but the bad news is you may go cross-eyed from all the unnecessary detail. This issue manages to come together, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone not following the series.

Requested Review of the Week

Deciding to post a whole new forum topic just to get my attention, Goodson rather loudly requested my own ridiculously vocal opinion of The Authority for The Authority: Human on the Inside, a hardcover graphic novel that hit the shelves a few months back. This time around, writing duties are handed off to novelist and part-time screenwriter John Ridley, while the art comes from talented 2000AD alum Ben Oliver.

Our story opens with the once original but now trite destruction of all existence followed by the destruction of all existence the day before that and so on and so forth (I still blame Marv Wolfman). In the present, things are still relatively peachy, except for the U.S. government trying to start trouble and getting a slap on the wrist from The Authority.

Just shoot it.
Naturally, the President isn’t too happy about getting bullied by a bunch of yahoos in tights, so he has a friend of some friends in high places start a series of events that will lead to The Authority’s downfall. What’s surprising about this is that it comes in the form of a supernatural trio that start tearing up Milwaukee. They also tear through The Authority with relative ease, but some random hero who combines the overboard martial arts skills of Bruce Lee with the last name of Jackie Chan shows up and saves them all.

However, the seeds of doubt have been planted in the members of the team, and we see hope begin to fade around the globe as people start to give in to depression. Why? Because they start to realize that the future no longer exists (remember that whole “destruction of all existence” thingy?). With Jack Hawksmoor and The Doctor out of commission, Apollo and Midnighter bickering like the old married couple they are, and Swift presumed dead (yet again), it looks like The Authority will need to call in some help if they’re going to save the world, this time.

So, how to rate this one… Does it fit the Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch standard that revolutionized the way we look at superheroes? No. Can it live up to the Mark Millar/Frank Quitely run that veered the franchise into the grotesque shockfest it is today? Nope, not that good, either. Is it the pathetic snorefest that the current Robbie Morrison/Dwayne Turner run is? Eh… maybe not that bad, but close.

One thing I can say in this book’s defense: it has good moments. There are points where the creators connect with the characters and get past the murk of the last few years continuity. Swift was always a quiet character, but I never imagined putting a gag in her mouth would provide scenes that allow us to connect with her more than anything since her days in Stormwatch.

Apollo and Midnighter share in that beyond brotherly love that makes them the most powerful re-creation of the World’s Finest we’ve seen in decades, but it doesn’t slip into too much of the “mushy stuff” that put the book on awkward ground. Jack Hawksmoor is still too much of a jerk, but I doubt anyone except Warren Ellis himself really has any idea what to do with him.

And, while it’s nice to have The Engineer pull aside her aluminum siding in a touching struggle to maintain her humanity, it gives away a rather cookie cutter bad guy’s motives and sets up a very clumsy love triangle. I will give it credit for actually making us sympathize with the characters, though.

But there are just too many things going wrong for me to recommend The Authority: Human on the Inside. Broad threads weave wildly in and out, abandoning logic and making The Authority look more like a bunch of rank amateurs than a group that’s saved and ruled the world for years. Despite some nice messages that aim to bring the team back to the more heroic grounds they used to stand on, nothing really changes the status quo, and the villains are completely lacking in purpose.

I think one of the problems here is, despite the attempt to return The Authority to a state of grace, examining their human flaws goes against the entire concept of the book. This franchise was once rightly billed as THE superhero book. Ever since Ellis left, that hasn’t been true. This graphic novel heavily references the team’s post-Ellis debacles, once again points out they’re not gods, and ultimately delivers a story with little subtext and no consequence.

I think it’s safe to say this franchise needs a complete reboot, either starting from the beginning again or taking bold strides forward. No one except Ed Brubaker has been able to make the current incarnation work, and, let’s face it, he’s one RARE exception. Everyone else? When taking over the world and saving the present by rebuilding the future count as “treading water”, you KNOW you’re doing something wrong.

Have a comic you want us to review? Drop us a line in the forums, and we’ll hunt it down!

Hot Predictions for This Week: Conan #12, Legion of Super Heroes #2, Planetary #22, Sleeper Season Two #8, and Ultimate Fantastic Four #15.

Jason Schachat

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