Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
Schachat most closely identifies with Blossom.
August 20, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
what a disappointing week for comics. Crossovers keep going,
mediocre new minis keep starting up, and, dammit, the store
sold out of Powerpuff Girls #53 before I got there.
Not that I…
I was born too late. A time when cosmic comics were few,
watered down, and on the way out. Maybe it’s because
I’m constantly pissed off at how the Green Lantern
and Fourth World franchises keep getting devalued; but Jim
Starlin’s Cosmic Guard #1 really gets
me. The story of a hopeless young boy getting powers from
the last hero of a fallen world is nothing that new. Swarms
of marauding ships, aliens and robots running around, insanely
huge beams of energy leveling whole cities -- we’ve
seen it all before. It doesn’t feel tired, here, though.
It just feels outstandingly old school.
dialogue and certain character designs may look dated to
some eyes, but the art is Starlin in top form with enough
decadent splash pages to give you a toothache. THIS is the
kind of cosmic story I was hoping for on the last few arcs
of Green Lantern and just about every Star
Wars comic I snore through. The kind rarely attempted
and even more rarely successful (the only recent triumph
I can recall being Robert Kirkman’s Tech Jacket).
Why is that? I mean, it’s not like all the good artists
have something against drawing spaceships and aliens…
I guess you just need the magic touch. Starlin has it. We
all know it. Give it a read.
latest attempt at a magically unholy union, IDW teams with
Konami to give us CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations
– Human Touch #1, a new comic about
an American black ops group that incorporates vampire agents,
and, as you may guess, the result is less than spectacular.
The first half follows an attempt by the team to take out
a North Korean nuclear missile plant in Mongolia. Frankly,
I don’t see what’s so covert about these goons.
They just walk right up to the electrified front gate, rip
it off its hinges, and march on in through the gunfire.
female vampires are alluring...
only three members of the team are vamps, so everyone else
is gunned down in five seconds. None of the agents have
the intelligence or finesse required in a covert ops story,
and the climax is painfully dull. Alex Garner’s follow-up
story presents some flashier art with a silent story that’s
truer to the nature of how a covert ops vamp might operate,
but it still doesn’t go beyond a simple action scene
(and, when that’s all you’re drawing, you really
need to understand what an exit wound is and how it looks).
Hellsing was more than ample proof this concept
has legs, but CVO is certainly not off to a running
start. (Or a running continuation -- this is the third
mini-series or one shot featuring the concept.)
is Doctor Spectrum, the first
spin-off series from Supreme Power; a surprisingly
good read mired by the summary nature of this first issue.
For any who don’t know, Doc Spectrum (essentially
a Green Lantern knockoff) is a highly specialized soldier
brought in to test a weapon: a crystal from a crashed alien
ship that responds to the will of whoever’s near it.
Only problem is it needs a handler of exceptionally strong
will, or their subconscious takes over and uses it for more…
primal reasons. That, and it can kill them. Enter Doc, who
takes to the crystal right away and has a ball using it
until it bonds with his hand and puts him in a coma.
we already saw all this in the pages of Supreme Power.
What Sara Barnes brings to this series is the untold story
of Doc’s battle against his inner demons and the crystal
itself while in the coma. I know; it doesn’t sound
like anything special. But it works well enough, and I can
mildly recommend it to Supreme Power junkies and
newcomers alike. The art, on the other hand, is high caliber
work that can stand toe to toe with Gary Frank’s masterful
work on the main series. Travel Foreman rises to the task
with a deft light pencil touch that flows into Studio F’s
colors and solidifies with John Dell’s inks. Oh, fine,
give it a look. You know you wanna.
in case you haven’t seen that Brian K. Vaughan is
ON FIRE, Ex Machina #3 came out
this week to drive the point home. The story of Mitchell
Hundred, a superhero turned Mayor of New York, picks up
from last month’s new conflicts (a sanitation worker-murdering
gunman to challenge the superhero; a controversial painting
in a public museum to plague the mayor) with examinations
of racism, politicking, a bit of sociology, and a peek inside
the jumbled mind of the man-machine himself. Like Vaughan’s
best writing, Ex Machina has so much going on,
it’s sheer torture to have to wait between issues.
flashback nature of the early plotting has been left behind
as we settle into Hundred’s tenure as mayor, but payoffs
are already on the horizon (including a possible Unbreakable-style
subplot that could actually WORK, this time). Tony Harris’
art is simply gorgeous, complementing Vaughan’s character
oriented writing much like Pia Guerra’s clean work
on Y: The Last Man, but in a far more realistic
and nuanced way. The facial expressions on some of his characters
edge close to photo-realism while beautifully maintaining
that signature clean line. It almost makes you want to cry.
Almost. Just buy it, damn you.
#1 pretty much cements the sad theory that
the nineties are back, giving us hugely muscled monstrosities,
more hatching than the average Leifeld drawing of Cable
screaming (which is nearly all Leifeld drawings of Cable,
come to think of it…), and enough bold experiments
in female butt-cleavage and barely hidden nipples to justify
its own swimsuit issue. I’m not too sure, but I THINK
the main story follows a duo of human detectives on an alien
world where mankind has been cultivated and enslaved following
nuclear and biological holocaust on Earth. Either that,
or they’re the side story to a Russian astronaut’s
Planet of the Apes adventure after he’s been mutated
into some kind of war-beast by a mad scientist on the aforementioned
kinda hard to tell since Tony Daniels’ story tosses
us into this interesting alien world with no idea of what’s
going on. Not a bad M.O., actually, when you consider the
number of boring plots that suddenly become mystery-thrillers
if you cut out the prologue, but it could also mean the
series doesn’t have as much going on under the surface
as Daniels wants us to believe. My worry is that Humankind
will turn into another “gumshoes on an alien world”
story and then run out of gas. This first issue has life,
but anyone looking for a new series to get into might be
in for a letdown.
we fail to appreciate the careful balance that makes Geoff
Johns’ JSA the treasure it is, so DC has
decided to remind us by letting Kevin J. Anderson helm the
new JSA: Strange Adventures six
part mini. Okay, maybe that’s being a little harsh,
but Anderson hasn’t exactly been batting a thousand,
and this story of the JSA defending America from foreign
baddies (with a parallel plot about Johnny Thunder writing
stories for pulp magazines) during World War II strikes
Barry Kitson’s art works every now
and again, but his cyborgs appear too modern by half and
the zeppelin he gives us owes more to Goodyear than rigid
airships of the time. Johnny Thunder looks like a creepy
middle-aged man who still lives in his mom’s basement,
and the big JSA conference scene is a great example of what
not to do when seating your characters at a round table.
Anderson drops as many ‘40s pop culture references
as he can manage, but strikes out with certain oddballs
like Jay Garrick comparing Johnny to Robert Heinlein and
Isaac Asimov (both were little-known rookie short story
writers, at the time). But what’s most telling is
how desperately this series is trying to give us that Golden
Age charm and how far they are from the mark. If the JSA
can do no wrong for you, give this a look; otherwise, run.
don’t run before you get Plastic Man #9;
quite simply one of the best and funniest time travel comics
of all-- ever! I… words just escape me. I’m
not sure how anyone can describe the wicked joy you feel
reading this. Plas, Woozy, and Morgan punch a few more holes
in DC continuity before embarking on their crucial mission
to assassinate Lincoln. Borrowing Superboy’s time
machine (No, the other Superboy; It’s a time paradox
thing), they accidentally drag innumerable innocents and
historical figures around the timeline before finding John
Wilkes Booth and convincing him to shoot the President.
Then he gets run over by a horse and buggy. Yeah, I think
you see where this is heading. Kyle Baker goes so far beyond
the absurd, I can’t even think of a name for it. Whatever.
Plastic Man should be a regular on everyone’s
shopping list. So get it. You hear me? Every time you don’t
read it, God kills a kitten. There. I said it, and I’m
crossovers are always a pain for those of us not loyal to
ALL the Bat-books, but Bill Willingham and company manage
to pull off a decent story in Robin #129,
bringing the Gotham gang war to Tim Drake’s school
when Darla Aquista, daughter of a “normal, innocent
union representative," finds herself the target of
Scarface and the Odessa Mob. Tim struggles for a moment,
but gives in to his hero’s instinct and rushes to
save Darla as carloads of gangsters empty out on the school
lawn, forcing him to marshal the students to safety inside
the school. This entree works largely because it brings
together so many series threads, rather than giving us an
issue-long fight scene or shifting the focus away from the
main characters (a standard operation for far too many crossover
stories). Tim finally has a reason to reclaim the mantle
of Robin (even if just for a brief time), and Darla makes
for a great tie in to the gang war powering this crossover.
I still want to see more of Stephanie, but Robin seems to
be faring well during “War Games."
is also doing better, but it’s still just an adequate
read. Issue #3 finds our young cadet prisoner and slave
to the Starjammers as they crab and moan about equality
and other stuff, yadda yadda yadda, standard High Sci-Fi
pirate story. This just isn’t a good week for Kevin
J. Anderson. True, this issue is far better than the last
one and Jorge Lucas (*snicker*) redeems himself with much
more consistent art that demonstrates an imaginative flair
for architecture (almost making up for his failures drawing
humans). By now, I’d say it’s safe to write
this series off, so only browse this issue if you’re
desperate for quasi sci-fi (if you want a cosmic story,
Cosmic Guard all the way).
while Doctor Spectrum may just be worth “checking
out”, Supreme Power #12
is a must buy. The issue, told in four simultaneous plots
(titled “Ominous Tidings Expressed as Four-Part Harmony”),
finally sees Nighthawk, The Blur, and Hyperion band together
after agreeing the serial killer Nighthawk’s been
tracking recently must be super-powered. Doc Spectrum and
Dr. Steadman meet to discuss Hyperion’s disappearance
and the crystal’s odd powers (linking nicely with
Doctor Spectrum #1), but Spectrum senses through
the crystal that something’s amiss at the government
labs, and Steadman learns of a strange experiment involving
the DNA retrovirus which was found in the crashed alien
ship along with the crystal and the infant Hyperion. Meanwhile,
Zarda (who we may or may not end up calling Power Princess)
persists in her attempts to convince Hyperion of his godhood
before agreeing that he should tend to his unfinished business
while she acclimates to the 21st century.
Batman look well-adjusted...
Power has been accused of going too slow and taking
too long to get to the point. Bull. Issue #12 left me exhausted
and drained. This is the best superhero book since the original
twelve issues of The Authority and is on the road
to being the best one, period. Straczynski has built from
the archetypes a pantheon with more depth and complexity
than anything else out there. You want to have some fun?
Try splitting the group into nearly pure good vs. possibly
evil. It comes out to half and half (Hyperion, Blur, and
Amphibian being good; Zarda, Nighthawk and Spectrum being
You could do the same test with innocence,
humaneness, and simple humanity. Each time, it splits evenly.
The point? Each split makes for two teams who could stand-up
to each other. In a series where good guys could still be
bad guys, that’s an intriguing prospect. Hell, we
can almost COUNT on there being a fight with Zarda: her
godlike view of herself and Hyperion combined with the way
she cheerfully slaughters anyone who gets in her way makes
her Grade-A villain material (and, man, is her pre-bronze
age matriarchal perspective scary!). At long last, Marvel
has me incurably anxious. Best book of the week.
ends in Ultimate Spider-Man #64
with less of the all-out showdown fans might have been expecting
and more of the gut-wrenching trauma that made issue #62
so resonating. Admittedly, the issue has a pretty slow start
from the splash page at the end of the last issue and Brian
Michael Bendis trips along some standard redundant narration
for two pages, but, roughly halfway through, the full impact
Carnage will leave on Peter Parker is felt and Bendis wisely
lets Bagley handle the finale with mostly silent panels.
We can only imagine how Spidey can recover from this arc’s
collateral damage and Bendis could be getting dangerously
close to repeating sins of the past (i.e. further clone
stories and more reasons for Peter to retire). However,
“Carnage” has made for one of the most exciting
and memorable Ultimate Spider-Man stories to date. In Bendis
seems to be filling the gap left when Powers went
over to Marvel with Ultra, a new
superhero book which, in issue #1, focuses entirely on three
girlfriends having a night out. In fact, the cover and some
scattered hints are all we have to suspect this is a superhero
story at all, since the ladies mostly yammer on about their
love lives before visiting an extremely phoney looking fortune
teller who doesn’t recognize they’re famous
but seems to know an awful lot about them. I like the uber-subtle
approach the Luna Brothers are taking with this story. The
market’s pretty glutted with stories that end with
an “oh, by the way; he/she’s a superhero,"
and Ultra manages to break away from the pack. The art and
production are eye-catching and distinctive, and the plot
draws us in and leaves us thirsting for more.
what’s wrong with it? Well, the dialogue and characterization
feel like a pretty desperate attempt by male writers to
create a VERY female cast. It just doesn’t ring true.
Also, the art style, while very nice and clean, may be just
a touch too subtle for this story. When everything’s
so mysterious, we need the artist to create a connection
between audience and character a lot faster than this. I
can almost see this being a re-written fill-in issue for
Birds of Prey, but, without an prior story for
this to follow, it’s hard to tell where things are
going. I’m definitely going to pick up the next issue,
but, for now, this first one’s just okay.
gonna be hard for people to pick up The Watch:
Casus Belli #2 for a number of reasons. First,
it’s small press, so your shop may not even have it.
Second, it’s the third volume of The Watch,
so you’ll probably be completely unfamiliar with the
characters and setting. Third, this issue lacks the summary
page the last issue had, so, unless you can find that first
issue, you’re out of luck. Me? I read the first issue,
and I’m still puzzled. From the looks of things, Phosphorescent
Comics is hoping to lure you to their website so you can
buy the back issues. It’s a smart plan, but I don’t
think it’ll work too well.
We’ve basically got a massive superhero
fight going on when a Magneto-type villain gathers the hordes
from his island to attack China. The Watch go in to stop
him and his cronies, and yet other villains pop-up. And
then former Watch teammates pop-up. And another team of
heroes is supposed to pop-up any minute now. Unfortunately,
it’s all a big jumble. The fights are fun enough and
the demonstrations of powers enjoyable, but it doesn’t
play to any of the strengths of the mini-series format.
I can appreciate that this crew has a limited operation
going and would probably prefer doing an ongoing series
to these minis, but the story is weak for the format and
makes what could be a very enjoyable read a mediocre indie
Predictions for Next Week: Conan #7, Guardians
#3, Love Fights #12, Ultimate Fantastic Four #10, and WE3