Schachat's Weekly Breakdowns
Schachat's first appearance is worth $4 when slabbed
in mint condition.
February 15, 2005
words from the “House of Ideas” that prove they
need a new nickname:
OFFICIAL HANDBOOK MARVEL UNIVERSE MARVEL
…‘cause there HAVE to be better
ways to separate a sucker from his four bucks.
the damage Chuck Austen did in his short time on Action
Comics. True, all the Superman books seem to be meandering
through gargantuan stories that have accomplished very little
in the year since they started, but, damn, did Chuckles
pile on a lot of ingredients without bothering to check
if the oven was working. J.D. Finn comes onboard to try
to work out the mess with Action Comics #824,
but his approach, while satisfying, tends to highlight why
this arc is such a mess.
We open with Repo Man (lord, are we gonna
have to keep calling him that?) shackled into place inside
the JLA Watchtower while Aquaman pulls monitor duty and
gives Supes a peptalk (much needed since the Man of Steel
has aged 30+ years in a span of days). Choosing to face
his problems one at a time, Superman flies out to help Jimmy
Olsen, leaving the rest of the League to battle Doomsday
(as if that ever worked in the past).
Unfortunately, Jimmy neglected to mention
he’s being held captive by Kryptonian madman Preus
and the army of gun-toting cultists he’s amassed to
throw themselves at Superman. Oh, yeah; and then there’s
the little problem with Gog…
title for this past year’s arc of Action Comics
would probably be “How To Write Yourself into a Corner.”
You trot out Gog? That’s a big battle heating up.
Throw Doomsday into the mix, you have a bigass team-up on
your hands. Add Preus… well, you’re probably
going too far.... Spend two issues on Repo Man? You lost
a hybrid car, the Preus looks pretty dangerous.
Austen spent a long time building up these
confrontations and simply couldn’t bring it all back
together. Finn’s attempt to wrap it up is economic
and kinda exciting, but, ultimately, devalues the villains
by forcing a hasty ending. Preus is still a newbie, so seeing
him get taken down fast won’t be much of a surprise,
but Doomsday and Gog have the rare honor of being the only
villains to soundly defeat Superman and deserve more than
a single issue battle royale.
With one issue left and a cliffhanger ending
on this outing, my biggest worry is that Supes will need
Batman to save the day. A lot of Finn’s narration
hints at that, and, while I always enjoy the notion of Batman
The Mastermind, Superman should be the hero in his own comic.
Still, we’ll have to wait and see. If nothing else,
it should have some big action, which is why I can recommend
this issue, despite my qualms.
Arrow #47 starts off like a jumping-on point,
but quickly backs up into the continuing war between Danny
Brickwell and Ollie Queen’s family of archers. All
in all, the issue’s pretty simple, not building up
an epic plotline, but giving us one longass fight after
readers have spent months dealing with Mia’s HIV.
learns that “Team Arrow” is bringing Star City’s
crime to a screeching halt, so he regales us with a tale
of his youth and how he solved a similar problem back then
by keeping an “enemy” too tired to fight him.
This time around, he calls in some extra help from the villain-for-hire
community in the form of an eight-foot Texan calling himself
the Duke of Oil (an old Batman and the Outsiders villain).
Meanwhile, Roy argues with Ollie about the
wisdom of letting an inexperienced kid like Mia become Speedy
and join the Titans. Ollie simply lets him know that Mia
has HIV and is going to make the most of her life. Roy reflects
on his own mistakes (*cough* junkie *cough*), but the teary
moment ends before it starts when a certain giant cowboy
robs a certain bank.
Arrow has lost a good amount of the momentum it picked
it before Mia’s situation came to light, so this issue
feels like a cold start. Yes, we recently had a major confrontation
with Danny Brickwell, Mia’s just become Speedy, and
Ollie may be struggling with denial, but overall plot movement
slowed down in recent months.
element putting some strain on the story is new artist Tom
Fowler. He and writer Judd Winick were a perfect matchup
on the last arc of Caper, but Fowler may be struggling
to find the right style for this book. It’s certainly
not as humorous as what he did on Caper, but it’s
still far from the normal superhero style.
the expansion of Green Arrow from the story of
a lone archer to a group of crime fighters smacks of the
same chemistry that made Mark Waid’s Flash
and James Robinson’s Starman such addictive
reads in their time, this book still has yet to keep the
momentum going beyond a couple arcs. It’s good, but
not the magic we’re hoping for. Mildly recommended.
in the recent trend of putting awful cover art on beautifully
drawn comics, Outsiders #20’s
wrapping belies the clean lines of underappreciated guest
artist Karl Kershl. It’s too bad, really; following
last arc’s horrible art by Carlos D’Anda and
the embarrassing guest appearance by John Walsh of America’s
Most Wanted fame, this issue’s a godsend.
Lifeforms in Love...
The team relaxes and recuperates after their
defeat of a child smuggling ring last time around, but Jade
and Starfire insist on patrolling the Outsiders’ HQ
and accidentally walk in on Shift and Indigo making the
beast with… well, many backs, in this case. Following
some barely restrained nausea on the part of the two ladies
at the sight of an elemental man and an android making love,
we get a tender moment with these two youngest members of
the team before they decide to go out and paint the town
Ah, but this wouldn’t be a standalone
issue if things went smoothly, and, sure enough, a villain
pops up to ruin their fun. Only this villain has been lurking
around inside the HQ’s computers for a while, and
his presence alerts the team to some interesting facts about
their corporate sponsor Optitron.
Plot-wise, this is a rather quiet little
tale. No shifts in team leadership, kidnapped daughters,
traumatizing near death experiences, or reappearances of
old nemeses. But it’s also the best issue of Outsiders
we’ve had in a long time. By themselves, Judd Winick
and Karl Kerschl are accomplished comic professionals. Together,
they made this issue sing.
our big throwdown with a baddie, tastey hints about the
nature of Indigo, an answer to the mystery of the team’s
benefactor, and what must be the best moments in Shift and
Indy’s scenes (though the conjugal scene wasn’t
necessarily one of them). Outsiders has been struggling
to find the right artist for a long time now, and I’d
like to think they’ve finally got their man.
honestly, the fact that Kerschl hasn’t had regular
series work is a crime. I don’t know how well he works
on a schedule, but this guy’s putting out some of
the most distinctive, crisp artwork in superhero comics.
He delivers on character, background, action, and emotion.
The last arc of Outsiders featured probably the
worst artwork of Carlos D’Anda’s career. This
issue of Kerschl’s more than makes up for it.
and the book’s editors can keep Kerschl onboard, we
may finally have a reason to keep reading Outsiders.
As things stand, this is one of the best issues so far and
should give readers hope for the future. Recommended.
first volume of Ultimates was the rebirth of Marvel’s
long-running team, the second volume can probably be called
the re-death. It began with the loss of Thor to his own
international ideals. Then Hank Pym (Giant Man/Antman) was
being given the official boot from the team. Now, Bruce
Banner’s trial for his crimes as the Hulk comes to
a conclusion in The Ultimates v.2 #3.
Though Bruce isn’t allowed to appear
in court, cameras broadcast back and forth the dog and pony
show using him as a scapegoat for the failures of the Ultimates.
Matt Murdock tries to defend Banner as someone clearly not
in his right mind as the Hulk, but the prosecution portrays
him as an uncontrollable drug addict who could repeat the
incident at any time. Naturally, the kangaroo court prefers
the latter explanation.
saved Hulk's brain...
The other Ultimates gather in Tony’s
mansion and feel pity if not sympathy for their soon-to-be-executed
comrade. Despite her usual methods, Betty Ross goes even
further, visiting Bruce and demanding to be allowed into
his cell; demanding to be forgiven for the mind games she
played on him. But Bruce knows what he’s done is unforgivable
AND entirely his fault.
He’s pleasantly surprised when Nick
Fury marches through the door to tell him the judge threw
the case out. That the Ultimates marched into the courtroom
and stood up for the man who almost single-handedly stopped
the Skrulls. That all is forgiven and Bruce will be released
from his cell so they can show the whole world the real
man. That they’ll toast to their success and move
Too bad the champagne they toast with knocks
Bruce out cold so they can take him to his execution.
review of the first issue of this new Ultimates volume,
I said the decompressed storytelling was inappropriate for
a quarterly book. So, Marvel made me eat my words by releasing
the damn thing monthly. And, hey, I love getting a new issue
of the Ultimates every month, but it demonstrates
some other flaws.
First off, speeding up issue releases doesn’t
change the fact that the story still lacks momentum. Second,
the production quality has gone down, meaning it’s
still good, but every panel isn’t going to make you
wet your pants. Third, there hasn’t been an action
sequence since the first few pages of issue #1.
All these faults are easily forgivable,
and I must admit that Millar is doing a nice job putting
pieces in place for the chaos to come while setting up the
solo books to be spawned from Ultimates, but this story
just isn’t that exciting, right now. Hitch’s
art is still very good, but it won’t wow you like
the first volume. More to the point, Laura Martin’s
colors seem less nuanced than they used to be.
the must-buy it used to be? No. Is it a bad book? Not at
all. Should you get it? Yes, but don’t expect the
earth to move when you read it. The story isn’t any
better than the other Ultimate Universe monthlies, but it’s
still a nice tale with some solid art.
only one issue left, “The Most Dangerous Game”
arc of Ultimate X-Men looks to have beaten the
odds and seamlessly turned some of Chris Claremont’s
most embarrassing creations into pure gold. The Ulimate
Universe versions of Mojo, Longshot, Arcade, and Spiral
have come about free and clear of the inherent goofiness
and nonsensical nature of their Marvel Universe counterparts.
(Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus).
X-Men #56 pits Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman,
and Shadowcat against the six very capable hands of Spiral,
who quickly reveals that she was behind the political assassination
Longshot was framed for. Mojo continues to whine about his
reality TV manhunt being off the air, but tempers his tantrum
with just enough murderous intent to keep us from laughing.
Meanwhile, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Dazzler
escort Longshot out of the Genoshan jungles after making
sure thrillseeking power-gamer Arcade won’t be following
them. Yessir, it’d be “Mission Accomplished”
if Angel hadn’t wandered away from the X-Wing and
gotten himself captured.
We’ve seen a lot of characters get
a new lease on life (or at least a better origin story)
through the magic of the Ultimate Universe, but Brian K
Vaughan has turned the practice into a personal mission
and, in just over half a year, reinvented more characters
than any other Ultimate series has done in twice that amount
of time. And it works!
Immonen’s pencils were giving me a headache back on
Ultimate Fantastic Four, but they’ve been
great on this entire arc. While I can definitely give him
credit for delivering a cleaner product, this is a case
of having a truly great crew working on the book. Wade Von
Grawbadger’s inks, Justin Ponsor’s colors, and
other contributions on these issues has given Immonen’s
work far more depth and dimension than I would’ve
X-Men may be confusing as hell and unsatisfying at
the moment, but Vaughan and company’s Ultimate
X-Men gives all you pay for and then some. In fact,
it may be the only X-book worth buying, right now. Definitely
Walking Dead #15 offers us a big clue that
the quiet times are about to end with this month’s
cover (featuring Rick roaring down a lonely road on a motorbike).
No sooner can we ponder its meaning than it plunges us right
back into the story: Tyreese’s daughter has come back
from the dead immediately following an unsuccessful suicide
pact with her boyfriend.
Tyreese pleads to give her a chance; that
maybe he can communicate with her. But the boyfriend gets
skittery and blows her head off, throwing Tyreese into a
murderous rage and prompting the third human-inflicted death
in the entire series. Rick lies to the others about Tyreese’s
actions and finds himself regretting it the next morning
when Tyreese is cheerfully burning the bodies of his daughter
and her lover.
However, this new understanding of the undead
unsettles Rick. If the dead can come back without being
bitten, it means everyone has already been infected with
whatever makes the zombies come to life. In that case, even
those that they buried may have returned to life. And, in
that case, Rick has some business to take care of.
While the first pages of this issue are
chilling and continue the slow build of the series, it’s
the last pages that will take your breath away. Robert Kirkman
has adopted an extremely useful storytelling/character development
device that few writers ever appropriately hone: kill off
your cast. The more often a significant character dies,
the more concerned we are when one gets in trouble.
of a villain? That’s nothing. Kill off the retiring
cop? Bah! But if you take out a significant character totally
out of the blue (meaning they don’t suddenly get an
issue full of exposition to make us care about them), the
reader will be hooked. With a massive cast like that in
Walking Dead, Kirkman can spend a few years keeping
us trembling in mortal peril. Very strongly recommended.
So, what’d I expect when I picked up Young
Avengers #1? Crap. I expected complete crap
that would at its very best be Avengers seen through a New
X-Men: Academy X lens and, at worst, be the team version
of Arana: Heart of the Spider. Let’s just
say it’s far better than I expected.
The Avengers have disbanded. We all know
this. But some new teen heroes who seem ready to take up
the mantle have appeared on the scene: Patriot, Asgardian,
Hulkling, and Iron Lad. J. Jonah Jameson immediately takes
notice and assigns Jessica Jones to get to the bottom of
the story, learning who these young punks are and just what
they think they’re doing.
Of course, the Young Avengers don’t
seem to have much of a clue themselves. Heck, they didn’t
even choose to name themselves after the Avengers, but events
have been set in motion, pushing the team to fight crime
until they’re ready to face a villain who’ll
soon come to threaten the entire world. At least, that’s
what they’ve been told…
enjoyed Jim Cheung’s art in the past, but the name
of Allan Heinberg was unfamiliar to me. Still, even if I’d
known he was a big Hollywood writer who’d done Party
of Five, Sex and the City, and The OC, I don’t
think my expectations for this book would’ve been
much higher (Especially since I live in Orange County and
know for a fact that it’s less exciting than dryer
again, we’re given a book with a familiar subject:
new youth team forms to fight evil. The way it’s handled
is quite interesting, however. The first half of the issue
plays out like The Pulse (before that title became
a Secret Wars sidestory, that is), while the second
part is more like Teen Titans or The Legion.
Unlike the X-books, these kids are operating without adult
supervision, yet they also seem to be moving towards a specific
spell out a short lifespan for this new Marvel book (all
the more tragic when Arana keeps on trucking and
sucking), but this approach is bold and exciting for a Marvel
title. It avoids the X-book and Ultimate formulas and actually
gives the reader teenage heroes who *gasp* act like teenage
heroes: Selfless, seemingly godlike, clumsy, unsure, manic,
and worshipful of the heroes who came before them.
it feels more like a DC book than a Marvel book, but that’s
what makes it different. We don’t need Jim Henson’s
Avenger Babies or Academy Avengers, but a Marvel spin on
the Teen Titans formula… well, that might just work.
I don’t know how far this puppy’s going, but
I’m along for the ride. Recommended.
Predictions for This Week:
Astonishing X-Men #8, Authority: Revolution #5, Ex Machina
#8, Green Lantern: Rebirth #4, Runaways #1, and She-Hulk