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Jason Schachat chose the side with the most cake.

Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

Conundrum of the week: why should you buy Civil War: Frontline #1? Because you are a slave to Marvel? So you can add it to the Civil War mini-comic box you’re putting right next to your House of M box? Maybe you feel like lining your birdcage with something more colorful?

All good reasons. Certainly much better than wanting to read the blasted thing.

It starts with a funeral for one of the newsmen who was following the New Warriors around when they accidentally nuked suburbia. Ben Urich and Sally Floyd mope around, Spider-Man considers maybe attempting to try to get interviewed, and Iron Man unmasks himself at a press conference.

The whole thing’s stale as month-old rye. If you’ve been reading Amazing Spider-Man, you know all this. If you’ve been reading Civil War, you know all this. If you’ve visited the Marvel website, you know all this.

So, the writers added a couple back-up stories: one where we learn that Speedball is alive and powerless, and another about Japanese-Americans being interned during World War II.
Still not worth buying. I mean, sure, there have to be some desperate souls out there crying themselves stupid because they didn’t know if Speedball was really dead, but I’m positive they’re all kept highly medicated in secure facilities. Doesn’t mean we need to be reading it.

This book not only fails to flesh-out the perspectives not shown in Civil War but also completely botches characterizations. Do we really think J. Jonah Jameson would be “supporting the Reigstration Act they’re putting through Congress”? No, he’d write the damn thing and be pushing it 24/7 on radio, TV, and the internet.

Would the first words out of Tony Stark’s mouth after publicly removing the helmet be “Hello. My name is Tony Stark and I’m an alcoholic.”?! Seriously, how is THAT supposed to be inspiring confidence?

Marvel may want to copy DC’s recent success of flooding the market with books centered around a major event, but at least DC had the good sense to make those books a bit less redundant and a lot more entertaining. Definitely skip this one.

Damn those kids and their pellet guns...

DC 52: Week Five is here, and I’ll still be damned if I know what the hell’s going on in the DCU, but I sure enjoy seeing DC’s top writers scramble around to patch up all the plot holes. Like the Iraq War, Infinite Crisis was loud, brash, and ultimately a lot less worthwhile than we’d hoped, but it’s also led us into one helluva long aftermath with countless unanswered questions.

Though I don’t think “where is Animal Man?” has been tickling anyone’s tongue.

Still, this issue catches us up with the events following the catastrophic zeta wave that hit the heroes repairing Alexander Luthor’s space-rift during the Crisis. Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange are still missing in space; Alan Scott (aka The Original Green Lantern) lost his eyes in the accident and somehow gained one of someone else’s; Hawkgirl has become the 50ft. woman, Cyborg and Firestorm melted into each other and are on ice; and Herald has somehow fused with the remaining parts of the deceased Red Tornado, echoing his dying words, “Fifty Two!”

We have no idea what’s going on, but it sure is captivating. Steel still seems to be evolving into some new kind of machine-man, Renee Montoya is now wielding some freaky-weird firearms, Booster Gold continues milking his history lessons from the future for all he can get, and, most amazing of all, IT’S FUN TO READ.

The threading of all these different characters and events keep you coming back for more, and it’s certainly proving far more interesting to read this than delve into the new backstories of the One Year Later books. With the sluggish pace of these new DC comics, you might as well drop most of them and save your hard earned cash for DC 52. It may be the only big DC book worth it.

Detective Comics #820 yet again falls further into the ‘defective’ category. James Robinson subjects us to a spat with Scarecrow where Batman and Robin face their worst fear: crappy new costumes. They pummel alternate world versions of themselves who’re about as terrifying as marshmallow fluff and then mock Scarecrow until we’ve either completely forgotten about the raging evil Scarecrow gave us last year both in Batman and Batman Begins or thrown this stupid comic in the fire.

Robinson then tries to pull a rabbit out of his hat by focusing on the new rookie cop whose father’s uncle was the first Guardian– but she swears she only wants to be a cop.

Yeah, like that’ll last.

The second half of the book is another Jason Bard story, but you don’t care about that. You just want to know what’s up with Batman.

Nothing much.

Do yourself a favor and pass on this book. Or buy a copy just to chuck it in the fire, if that floats your boat. Just don’t read it.

That explains the cajones...

I didn’t find In My Lifetime #1 at my usual Diamond-Distro-whore comic shop. It was given to me by a friend of a friend who saw the Warren Ellis quote on the back cover and thought I’d like it (For the record, Warren Ellis also had a quote on an NYC Mech cover, and I burned effigies of that book’s creators after giving it a few months worth of negative reviews).

But, when I gave this one a flip and saw a cross section of the male reproductive system in one story and a moist-eyed baby bird straight out of an early Warner Bros. cartoon in the next, I somehow knew In My Lifetime was different from the usual self-centered “slice of life” comic.

Told as autobiographical vignettes, this issue opens with the writer/artist/creator going to the doctor’s office because something in his joy department that shouldn’t be swelling IS. The whole time, he worries that the doctor will tell him he has to quit smoking.

The next story places him and his co-workers on a smoke break behind the office where they find a baby bird that’s fallen out of its nest. He tries to feed it by chewing up his Wheat Thins and spitting them to it before realizing how unbelievably dumb of an idea it is.

His girlfriend asks him if she can go to the comic store with him. He denies her because she doesn’t read comics, and he doesn’t want to embarrass his fellow geeks. He goes on to tell her about the behaviors of the comic store world and how the “perfect comic store girl”, the beautiful girl who actually reads comics, is the dream of every comic geek.

And you know what? It feels real. Creator Tony Fleecs has cracked open the door to his own neuroses and taken a good steamy look at the what really goes on in his head, and THAT’S what makes the “slice of life” genre so endearing. When you can get all the feelings and those little details (like wondering why someone dumped an Easter basket near your cubicle) onto the page and still keep us turning the pages and laughing along, you’ve got it right.

Again, this is not an easy book to find, since Silent Devil Productions doesn’t seem to belong to Diamond’s consortium, but I highly recommend it. Probably the best slice of life comic since Box Office Poison, In My Lifetime is a breath of fresh air at a time when damn near everything else is stagnant. Hell, order it from SilentDevil.com if your store won’t carry it.

You know what struck me in The Walking Dead #28? This is a book that avoids all the standard devices. It refuses to give us thought bubbles, flashbacks, repeating dream sequences, or retcons to cover up sloppy writing.

So I was damn near horrified when we were presented with a zombie-laden cage match. Not that that doesn’t have a place... somewhere. But we’ve seen it in movies good and bad. The statements about our decadent society’s lust for entertainment have registered loud and clear. What more is there to do?

Trust Robert Kirkman to give the gladiator battle only four panels, then devote nearly the entire issue to explaining why they need to happen. Why the idyllic life of reading, farming, feeding, and building a community can only happen as long as there’s something exciting to take our minds off the horror of everyday life (and zombies).

Just when we thought our desperate survivors had settled into a mundane yet relatively safe life at the penitentiary, they learn that a bloodthirsty shadow of the old America is living just down the road from them. Living, and planning to keep it up by taking whatever they want.

Oh, and they cripple one of our heroes! How friggin cool is that?! Nothing like the loss of an appendage to make us feel the doom (especially when we know it won’t be re-grown or replaced with cybernetic implants or ‘solid water’).

Sure, The Walking Dead is a better book,
but I'd still rather look at Wonder Woman.

While this isn’t the greatest issue for new readers to hop on, the new story arc hasn’t moved along far enough to prove confusing. As ever, The Walking Dead remains one of the scariest, most thoughtful, and most entertaining comics on the market. With the developments of the last two issues, Kirkman and crew will finally be moving past the territory where other zombie stories end. Get into it.

Reading the new Wonder Woman #1 is like getting hit in the face with a cinder block wrapped in lingerie; although there’s something nearly appealing about it, the experience is painful, stupefying, and just plain wrong.

This new volume opens with a new Wonder Woman. No, not Diana in a different costume (that’s next issue), but instead Donna Troy in a new costume. Of course, street hoods these days are smarter than they used to be, and they’re not going to settle for just any superbabe in a golden bra, so when the newly humanized Cheetah (i.e. no fur or tail), Giganta, and Dr. Psycho kidnap Steve Trevor, they want the real Wonder Woman and not some cheap replacement.

One nice thing I can say about this book: it’s good to see the Dodsons actually draw a woman who couldn’t wear a D-cup. Not a selling point for the male audience, but female readers might appreciate the restraint.

Unfortunately, everything else about this book is a mess. It reads like Allan Heinberg was trying to recapture the spirit of early Wonder Woman comics; the spirit being light bondage, mind-numbing exposition, and an emphasis on character introductions. Really, do we need that paragraph telling us Giganta’s origin? She’s a chick that gets bigger. Delve into her psyche or have her play croquet with skyscrapers, but don’t use origin story blurbs to fill out the script (especially when your main character’s origin story is such a mess).

As one might expect, they try to pique our interest with a stunning revelation at the end of the book, but I think any Wonder Woman fan will cringe at the prospects “to be continued." This is just about the complete opposite of Greg Rucka’s run on the last volume and so far from Perez it may be time to give up ever reaching those heights again.

Jason Schachat

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