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Jason Schachat hopes to be played by Simon Pegg.
Interpret that any way you want.

Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

The big premiere issue this week is The Boys #1 because... well, mostly because it’s a slow week and nobody thinks a Deadman series will last (more on that later). All bitterness aside, it is nice to see Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson team up on something not pinned under the weight of a major franchise.

Our story kicks off when Hughie, a nice young Scottish bloke, has his girlfriend ripped from his arms and pulverized out of existence. Literally. By a superpowered “hero”.

Across the pond, a psychopath known as Butcher meets with the CIA Director for an intel discussion– but only after he has his way with her. What does she get out of it? He can get to every superpowered being on the planet.

The issue ends before Butcher can really form his team, but we know Hughie will be on it and they’ll be taking down heroes and villains alike. And we know it’s going to be bloody, messy, and hopelessly offensive.

That’s really the big problem with The Boys. Does it go too far? Looking over Ennis’ Punisher run, it really isn’t much worse than what he’s been doing in recent years. However, Robinson brings his own vices into the mix, so the gore factor is a bit less cheerful than it might be if, say, Steve Dillon were on art duties. If Vertigo were handling the title, we’d have a bit more faith, but Wildstorm isn’t exactly as well known for tasteful tastelessness.

In the end, it comes down to a question of who’s our hero. Are we reading this book because we relate to Hughie and want to see how things play out through his eyes, or are we doomed to follow the irreverent yet utterly detestable Butcher? That’s what next month’s issue needs to get busy answering. Until then... well, it’s nicely drawn gore, but it’s not Preacher.

...and then she popped the balloons in Logan's pants...

You know you’re asking for trouble when you pick up a comic with “Wolverine and The Black Cat” printed over the title Claws #1. Hell, I have no way of defending my choice to read it. Sure, you could say you came for the Joe Linsner art. Yes, it’s always possible a fun concept could be squeezed out of such disparate characters. You know it ain’t gonna happen, though.

The story opens with a tediously long chase sequence in which Spider-Man tries to smooch Black Cat. She spurns him. Hilarity does not ensue. Meanwhile, Logan has to get on a plane. His skeleton sets off the alarm. No, the laughter is not deafening; you’re just not hearing any.

Then, just when it seems like these two will never come together, they get hijacked through unnecessarily elaborate means so a thought-to-be-dead character can host his own take on “The Most Dangerous Game."

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have written their share of books, and some have even started off quite well (Remember Monolith? You don’t? Oh...). This is not one of them. The characterizations are bizarre, the situation is ludicrous, and, sadly, it’s close enough to Marvel’s status quo to be completely unfunny.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Linsner’s art has a great buoyancy to it, even if the expressions don’t always match the dialogue. If Black Cat can ditch the mask and ears, her new look may even last past this miniseries.

That said, this story should’ve been a single issue and nothing more. Why they had to make an event of it, I cannot guess. The thought of profit was there somewhere, but I just ain’t seeing it.

Deadman #1 reminds me of a Warren Ellis anecdote from years back where an editor very seriously asked him if he wanted to relaunch Deadman. Yes, it would be Boston Brand. Yes, he was still a dead albino in red tights. No, he couldn’t make fun of the character. As you might guess, that project died right there.

Years later, Deadman is reborn in a more contemporary style befitting the Vertigo imprint.

Through a lovably non-linear opening, we learn that Brandon Cayce was drugged by his brother while they were piloting a 747, forcing them to crash in the midst of London. When given the choice to cross over into death or remain in his body, Brandon stays firmly lodged in his corpse.

A series of flashbacks (presented as Brandon coming unstuck in time as life fades from him) provide information about the strange relationship between him and his brother, the early loss of their father, and how that same perfect brother later slept with Brandon’s fiancé. Still, he can’t help but love her...

Truth be told, I’ve never been a big Bruce Jones fan, so I’m not sure how well this book will hold up in the next issues. What gives it life is the format. Hopping back and forth in time plays to the strengths of the medium, and that’s where Deadman succeeds. John Watkiss and colorist Jeremy Cox’s gorgeously simple art make those transitions smooth and clear, but the story loses its edge when it becomes more linear.

If the series can retain the creative plotting that made the first half of the issue such a treat, I’d say it’ll work out. If they take comfort in merely using that as a gimmick and de-emphasize time-shifting, it’s hard to say where this book is going. Seems like it’s on the right track for now.

I miss Elastica.

Sometimes you start reading a comic and it makes your eyes do the equivalent of a dog’s ears perking up... possibly rapid pulsing of the cornea, but that sounds painful, dirty, or both – whatever it was, that’s what Phonogram #1 did to me.

It approaches the simple concept of “magic in music” as applied to the club scene. Pretty frequently used as background in Morrison, Ellis, Ennis, and Gaiman comics, it's been rarely delved into beyond a few pages (though Morrison’s work on The Invisibles might imply more).

The plot of this issue stays simple: a Phonomancer/music critic goes to a club to meet another powerful Phonomancer he’s heard of. However, being a randy male lurking around a female-dominated club, he soon incites the wrath of the local temple goddess. And, no, that doesn’t mean some unwashed chick in Birkenstocks; this is a real goddess who’s perfectly willing to rend him into a bloody pile for defiling her worshippers.

The adventure runs a bit long and loose (to the point where the author adds a glossary and mission statement to explain the madness), but it may be onto something. Writers have often explored the way pop music was wrangled from art into business and somehow mutates back into art just when no one is watching. There is a strange magic there. Something simple that makes the temple worshippers fall to their knees. This idea has legs.

And the first issue of Phonogram certainly plants the seeds for that larger examination. Kieron Gillen’s prattling anti-hero may be just a bit too pretentious to last, but Jamie McKelvie’s slick art makes this a great entree onto the indie scene. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if it can wrestle a more straightforward plot out of the mysticism and pop music encyclopedism, but this book has promise.

The most encouraging thing about Runaways #19 may be that the words “The End”never tarnish its pages. We may have lost yet another member of our original crew, and The Pride have been foiled again... even though they were already dead... time travel... something...

It just looks so much like SLG's Haunted Mansion book...

But this issue respectfully mourns the loss of Gert, then alllows the kids to fall apart in their own unique ways. Nico sleeps with Victor and hates herself for it, Molly asks the Leapfrog if Gert is in Heaven (and Froggy’s headlights get pupils and eyelids for the occasion), Karolina tries to explain to Xavin how the loss of one friend can outweigh the deaths of millions of countrymen, and Chase goes all lone avenger on us.

Details aside, that’s basically what one would expect to happen, but writer Brian K.Vaughan plants the seeds for more posthumous destruction courtesy of The Pride. Though Mike Norton’s pencils are pretty different from Adrian Alphona’s, he keeps to the perspectives we associate with Runaways, and Christina Strain’s colors make us feel right at home.

Readers will fear what’s to come, however. Trading Alex and Gert, our brainy yet powerless characters, for Victor and Xavin has given the team a huge boost in power, but we’re going to need major character development to fill in the “who do we identify with” void. In the first series, it was clearly Alex. With the introduction of Future Gert, Gert stepped into more of a leadership role and became more endearing.

Unfortunately, Nico’s still all screwed up inside, Molly’s a little kid, nobody trusts Victor, nobody likes Xavin, and Karolina’s... Karolina. That puts the weight on Chase, and it seems like he could become the next leader of the crew – or the next betrayer.

This issue’s a cold start, and it suffers for it. Not a bad place for new readers, but not an exciting one, either. Since it’s Vaughan, we know it won’t end badly. We also know it could take us on vacation from larger conflicts for a couple months, if we’re not careful. Still, with no teenage vampires in sight and a giant Gibborim beast rampaging in L.A., things seem hunky dory.

Jason Schachat

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