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Jason Schachat prefers the Uruguayan Wax.

Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
July 12, 2004

Each week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction feeds you.

Another Free Comic Book Day come and gone, another holiday causing everything to ship late… Still, not a bad week in comics, if I do say so myself.

A year ago, Detective Comics was being handled by Ed Brubaker with back-up story by Judd Winick -- a formidable team. In this month’s issue (#796! So close to the big ocho…), the whole thing is once again penned by Andersen Gabrych, and it’s still a damn fine read. His handling of the new female Robin (Tim Drake’s girlfriend Stephanie) pushes all the right buttons with tomboyish flair substituting for boyish bravado. But the story also gains a bit from the “red-shirted Ensign” feeling looming around Stephanie. The development of Bats’ tendency to always lose maturing male protégés while retaining female ones also makes you feel there’s some primal logic at work, here; like the balance kept in a pride of lions. Eerie, but pretty cool.

Unfortunately, the eerie changes we’ve seen in Fantastic Four’s creative team aren’t so cool. Co-written by Mark Waid and Karl Kesel, the return of a new and improved Frightful Four in issue #515 just seems like a watered-down take on Waid’s usual adventures (all the more painful since the last arc, “Spider Sense," was a hilarious instant classic). Paco Medina’s art is passable, but his character designs just don’t suit the book. Of course, I’m a bit biased since I thought Mike Wieringo’s style complemented Waid’s writing perfectly - but, dammit, that doesn’t mean I’m not right!

Firestorm #3 continues another “taking up the mantle” story with the slow but enjoyable rise of the new nuclear man. I’m liking the way Dan Jolley and Chris Cross are handling this, but the plot is moving along so gradually it can be a bit nerve-wracking at times. That said, fans of books like Ultimate Spider-Man should feel right at home watching the origin of the latest Firestorm unfold. If nothing else, you have to love the way these guys redefine “fusion power”.

Loki #1 left me with far more questions than answers; like why Marvel chose to make it. If the whole thing is just an excuse to showcase (and tell me this doesn’t sound like an anagram) Esad Ribic’s painting, more power to ‘em. But there really isn’t much story going on here. Robert Rodi’s a competent scribe, but this tale falls flat and doesn’t really go anywhere. Thor fans and anyone who loves painted comics should give it a look, but the rest of us can pass.

The New Invaders #0? Unless you want a load of boring, witless Chuck Austen dialogue and not a lot of action (furthering my new theory that Chuckles just doesn’t like taking an action sequence more than two panels), pass and pass quickly.

I have to admit I’m still confused over the intent behind the Marvel Age comics. If Marvel Age Spider-Man #7 is supposed to be aimed at kids, why’s it such a wordy adaptation (and are nerds in school these days really getting beat up by clean-cut jocks in letterman jackets?)? As a book for teens, it’s weak compared to Ultimate Spider-Man. As a nostalgia trip for old-schoolers, it’s a downright painful. What once was dubious science fiction has become ridiculous in the attempt to modernize, but it’s still not out there enough to have the bizarre appeal of something like Dragonball Z.

500 years late, but still awesome as ever, Powers returns with a new #1 and a new publisher: Marvel’s new creator-owned Icon line. The story picks up where we left off more than a year ago but immediately heads off in the bold new direction Bendis promised. It makes for both a good jumping-on point and continuation, refreshing loyalists’ memories while allowing newbies to catch up. Most of the issue establishes the new world of Powers for us, yet the end leaves us with more than enough intrigue to come back next month. I can definitely recommend it.

Can’t say the same for Starjammers #1. The plot is the same “ship transporting precious cargo and emissaries; swashbucklers attack” story we’ve seen copied out of Ye Olde Booke O’ Tired Pirate Tales a thousand times before. Kevin J. Anderson sets the stage with the court intrigue and political wheedling he put in his Dune prequels, and the humans vs. aliens conflict comes straight out of the Star Wars Universe. In fact, there are a few highly recognizable Star Wars ripoffs here. Still, the issue manages to achieve a certain level of mediocrity, so I can’t firmly say it’s something to avoid.

But Supreme Power #11 is a must-buy, this week. Great art, as always, but the story behind Power Princess and Hyperion grows dramatically, Nighthawk comes back in a big way, and (joy) a creepy new threat arises. The kind of electricity felt in both Alan Moore’s Miracleman and Watchmen runs through the entire issue. Straczynski, however, has moved beyond the mere de-construction of superheroes; this sh*t is exciting! Are they superheroes? Arguable. Are they a super team? Good god, no! Is this a JLA ripoff? Friends, JLA only wishes it were this good.

Swamp Thing #5 answers a lot of the questions it’s brought up over the last five months, but the result is a bit less than stellar, and the money-shot here comes off a bit goofy. Enrique Breccia’s art is odd and disturbing, which should work for a horror comic, but the strangeness of his human characters makes Swampy seem mundane in comparison (even with all his wacky elemental forms).

Andy Diggle was right to take the franchise back to its horror roots, dragging John Constantine back into the mix, at least for the time being. Sometimes the feel of the book is a bit off, though. Constantine is undeniably the most interesting character in here, and it’s hard to imagine the series being so entertaining without him. Maybe Vertigo could have him do double duty like Marvel does with Wolverine.

Speaking of which, Uncanny X-Men #446 keeps on keeping on this week with an old-school Claremont “intruder” story, showing just what we were missing when Austen turned the series into dull soap opera. Alan Davis’ pencilling is icing on the cake, but some of the paneling might feel a bit dated, even if the art is timeless. I’m also having trouble with all these characters being in multiple titles at the exact same (Wolverine in every X-book and then some, Bishop in this and District X, etc.), but, if Marvel can stay clear of any X-crossovers for a good long time, it won’t be a hard adjustment to make.

Then there’s Witches. What the hell were they thinking when they pitched this book? “It’s like a mystic Charlie’s Angels with Dr. Strange as Bosley!” More like expensive birdcage lining. What does it say about a four part mini when the whole thing’s spent forming a team of characters we JUST DON’T CARE ABOUT while Doc Strange bumbles around and STILL seems like a more appropriate star hero? Best guess is someone in the real world signed a deal with the Devil, ‘cause issue #3 takes us nowhere in a hurry.

Art duties are given to Will Conrad this time around (not necessarily a good sign when you can’t keep the artist for a four-parter), and he gives new meaning to the term “low-riding jeans." Does the same for skirts and leather pants, too. And I know the eye candy’s supposed to be something they’re pushing here, but, for god’s sake man, when you can tell every woman in this book has a Brazilian wax-job, you’re going too far.

The last arc of Y: The Last Man ended perfectly, and you got the feeling we were in for some exciting new developments, but issue #24 gives us a cold start and takes a while to warm up. After the possibilities that came swarming into my head a month ago, it’s a little disappointing to not see Hero leap out of the bushes or something. Still, it presents us with an interesting and important quandary, hilarious dialogue, promises a swift two-issue arc, AND gives us the return of penciller Pia Guerra. What’s not to love?

Hot Predictions for Next Week: Captain America #29, District X #3, Fables #27, Love Fights #11, and She-Hulk #5.


Jason Schachat

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