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Jason Schachat laughs through the tears.
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdowns
February 17, 2005

We have equal reason to cry and rejoice this week, kiddies. First, She-Hulk comes to an end, as does any hope that Marvel can keep a moderately creative book running. But then we get the news they’re putting out the Mary Jane: Homecoming miniseries is coming out to complete the story started in the recently canned Mary Jane series.

Gotta hand it to the folks at Marvel: they really are trying.

For example, unlike so many X-books, Astonishing X-Men #8 treats you right. The last issue might be what you’d call a one-shot, but writer Joss Whedon flows right from the events of a month ago into a new story arc that tingles with all the magic of “Gifted”.

A student has died in the Danger Room, but no one seems to know about it. Worse yet, all the psychics in the Mansion are suddenly taken out of commission by an unknown force. The Danger Room starts humming wildly, S.H.I.E.L.D. finds all their bugs and transmitters inside Xavier’s have gone dead, and a half-demolished Sentinel has come to life and started dragging itself through the woods.

Ah, life is good…

Whedon pushes the humor of the last issue (which should’ve been titled “X-Men vs. Godzilla”) to one side and pulls us into the drama of the situation. But, for the most part, he sits back and lets artist John Cassaday flood the page with stunning artwork. As with the last arc, he leaves a few more empty backgrounds than I’d like to see, but, damn, what an amazing foreground.

If you’re an X-fan and haven’t been following Astonishing X-Men, you’re doing yourself and your collection a tremendous disservice. This may very well be the best balance of masterful art and smart storytelling to ever grace the franchise. Definitely recommended.

Welcome back to the hard-travelin' heroes...
In what’s quickly shaped-up to be one of the most important Green Lantern stories ever told, Green Lantern: Rebirth #4 gives us the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Hal Jordan’s return to grace. The last issue explained the nature of Parallax and how Jordan’s fall began long before the destruction of Coast City, but this issue explains who was behind it all—Sinestro!

Yeah, kinda had to be him, didn’t it?

Ol’ Sinny shows up in the demolished JLA Watchtower and further trashes the place as he fights Green Arrow and Kyle Rayner (current Green Lantern of Earth). Meanwhile, Parallax and Spectre rage on in their battle for Hal Jordan’s soul. Parallax gets the upper hand, but Ganthet (last of the Guardians) arrives with former Lanterns John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kilowog in tow.

Naturally, Parallax laughs in their faces, but doesn’t seem so happy when the JLA, JSA, Teen Titans, and Outsiders show up behind him. Back in the Watchtower, Kyle continues getting mashed into a fine pulp by Sinestro. Then Green Arrow puts on Hal Jordan’s old Lantern ring and powers it up. You can probably guess what follows.

When the first issue of Rebirth came out, I slammed it into the ground as hard as I could. It was the worst of both worlds: Hal was still weak and Kyle’s head was on the chopping block. But the last two issues made amazing strides, forever changing the Green Lantern saga and forcing us to rethink its continuity going as far back as the seventies.

This outing proves rather satisfying, but hauling Sinestro out of mothballs may be pushing it too far. We’re still loaded with unanswered questions (How’s Sinestro back? Why did Parallax come back now? Why did the Guardians try to kill Kyle?), and, even though this issue gives us some of those great superheroic moments, it doesn’t blow me away like last month’s did.

Ethan Van Sciver’s art isn’t as intricate and eye-popping as it was in the last few issues, and Geoff John’s story… well, I think we got the best of it already. What’s left to us are huge power battles and the fate of Kyle Rayner. It’s both exciting and terrifying. Recommended.

Livewires #1 kicks off a new Marvel Next! miniseries (whatever the hell that means) that will confuse the hell out of you, spend lots of time trying to look cute/cool, and play to the weaknesses of fanboys everywhere (cleavage, reference humor, big explosions, etc.). Not bad material for a first issue, if the story weren’t so limited…

Writer Adam Warren tosses us right into the middle of the action. The situation: a young girl wakes up in the back of a humvee where an android driver named Cornfed is eating another android in the passenger seat. He reassures her that it’s just a dream, and this explanation seems like enough to justify the people milling around outside a burning building in the middle of nowhere as their humvee roars by.

Then we see the zonked-out people getting mesmerized by Social Butterfly, another android, and things start making too much sense for a dream. Cornfed dumps the girl on Social, and they charge into the burning building for some reason. Or it’s a dream. Hard to say. It’s even harder to figure out when they find themselves in the hands of a giant flaming mecha.

This is a book that’s hindered by its extreme efforts to be witty. It almost feels like what you’d get if you threw Warren Ellis, Brian Vaughan, and a quart of nitroglycerin into a blender: Sure, some cool ideas went in there, but the damn thing blew itself to hell now, didn’t it?

This issue does provide a creative introduction to the team, their personalities, and overall purpose, but it’s so confusing in the early pages that you don’t really catch up until the end. And then it’s over. The next issue may pull things together and start us on an actual story arc, but this one doesn’t do more than set the stage.

I’d almost wager this was an attempt on Marvel’s part to tempt Runaways readers into picking up another title. Almost. Rick Mays’ pencils seem geared more toward the pseudo-manga crowd. And the script is more about androids than teenage androids. Though it may be fun next month, Livewires is pretty hit-or-miss on this first outing.

Nothing's funnier than a subpoena.
There are few comics out there that keep up the pace from issue to issue. Fewer still that never let you down. And it’s almost unheard of for a title to get cancelled before completing a one year run and, nevertheless, coming up with a satisfying conclusion. She-Hulk has been one of those books, and She-Hulk #12 is that final issue.

Last time around, Titania appeared wielding an Infinity Gem and a gnawing hatred for She-Hulk, but something interesting happened: Shulkie turned back into Jen Walters and Titania could no longer see her. Now, Jen remembers that Scarlet Witch cast a spell on her that prevented anyone looking to harm She-Hulk from seeing her in human form.

Unfortunately, this means she still can’t face Titania, who happens to be tearing New York apart looking for her nemesis. Thinking outside of the box, Jen looks to her law firm’s comic book enyclopedist Stu to help her come up with a strategy for taking down someone wielding an Infinity Gem.

In the meantime, Jen gets every hero in town to dogpile her psychotic foe. When Amazing Andy shows up, everyone figures his ability to match any opponent’s power will be enough—until Titania knocks his head clean off and leaves him dying in the street. Things do not bode well…

She-Hulk has been one of those rare joys in superhero comics; a title that pushes every button. Pushes ‘em real damn hard. It’s consistently been one of the smartest, funniest, most exciting, and most satisfying reads in all of comicdom, and, even if it’s just a short break, seeing it end is extremely depressing.

But, wow, what a great way to end it. This issue ties up so many of the themes introduced in the first issue, yet it still leaves enough threads dangling for Dan Slott to start weaving his tale again. The sooner, the better. Very highly recommended.

Jason Schachat

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