Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
Schachat just can't choose between Betty and Veronica.
August 27, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
I think there’s some kinda trend going
on. Two weeks ago, I said it was “a wonderful time
to be alive”. Then the next week’s comics sucked.
So, I said “Wow, what a disappointing week for comics”
and, lo and behold, this week’s rock.
So, yes, check out the Diamond Distributors
webpage, and you’ll see that next week’s comics
this week, Amazing Spider-Man #511
finally reveals to us the identities of the assassin-types
who’ve been threatening to kill Peter Parker and his
family for the last few months. The issue divides its time
between Peter’s test on a loved one’s DNA and
Mary Jane’s day (where she largely talks about how
Peter never tells her anything, in order to protect her,
and how her snooping manages to save him more often than
you’d expect). This issue lacks some of the punch
we had last month, and the scene at Mary Jane’s play
rehearsal makes for pretty bland subtext.
Straczynski’s main conflict has been the big draw
of this arc, but, if you remember enough from last month’s
issue, you could see where this story was going a ways back.
It’s not bad. It just lags for something that’s
going to ret-con the history of Spider-Man. Mike Deodato
Jr.’s art is a total 180 from Romita Jr.’s,
and, though I welcomed the change, at first, I find I’m
starting to miss the connection to the characters I get
from the latter’s style. This is undeniably a cool
looking Spider-man, yet it lacks the warmth and humor it
needs to balance the grimmer elements of Straczynski’s
story. Recommended, but not a must-read.
#11 is such a must-read, it hurts. Following
the destruction of Lou’s apartment complex by the
villainous Men in Black, Lou, Richie, and the slightly singed
Ray Ray run for cover while the MiBs raid Cleopatrick Stewart
(“The Angriest Drag Queen in the World”) in
their quest for the severed hand that started this whole
mess. Unfortunately, laying low doesn’t exactly work
out for the boys, and they’re swept away by a stampede
of gun-toting pornstars on motorcycles to the home of Jimmy
Buck Esterhaus: porn king, metaphor-mixing hick, and man
interested in a certain infamous appendage.
sight that causes mixed emotions...
this issue didn’t have me rolling on the floor in
quite as many tears as last month’s Caper,
but, MY GOD, is this stuff hilarious. Again, Judd Winick’s
humor is set to fire off all the rockets that make a geek’s
joy fly, and the dialogue is probably the best he’s
ever written. Of course, the entire meeting with Jimmy Buck
is insane male fantasy, but Winick KNOWS it and revels in
the humor, building off natural reactions to the extreme
situations (I mention this now because the last title we
look at this week fails to make similar situations either
realistic or humorous).
Tom Fowler is officially on my list of artists
to look for, now, having delivered three hilarious issues
that never letdown on artistic quality or consistency. With
only one issue left, my initial fears that this arc wouldn’t
live up to earlier ones has been completely dispelled. This
is a must-buy for geeks, fanboys, horndogs, and all the
rest of you who read these articles.
may also enjoy Excalibur #4, as
it completes its first arc with an action-packed battle
between the mutants of Genosha and the returned Magistrates.
Xavier and Magneto rush out to sea to face the Omega Sentinel
dropped from the Magistrates’ cargo plane while Callisto
leads Freakshow and Wicked toward the other capsule which
holds a mutant telekinetic who may or may not be on their
Forgetting the plot contrivance of the Magistrates
just happening to carry this precious cargo right over hostile
airspace, the issue makes for a fast-paced and enjoyable
conclusion to a slow arc. Maybe things would’ve worked
better if issues #2 and #3 had been merged… Nevertheless,
the end result and inevitable formation of a team prove
better than anyone had a right to hope. Will they be able
to keep it going? Doubtful, but I can recommend it this
You know how you can tell a superhero’s
going down? They forget to shave. Seriously; Batman got
all sloppy before Bane snapped his spine, Hal Jordan conveniently
forgot to pack a razor for his years as a moping drifter…
Betcha Jean Grey swapped her Marvel Girl mini-skirt for
those tights to cover up the acres of leg-stubble…
the point is Kyle Rayner STILL seems to be working on a
beard in Green Lantern #180, second
to last issue of this volume and possibly the missing clue
for how they’ll axe the young GL. Most of the outing
is spent with Kyle and his mom in one of the dullest conversations
I’ve read lately (yes, that includes our Fanboy Forums
(please, Derek… not the face)) as our hero dwells
on not wanting to be a hero, the loves he’s lost,
and his place in the universe.
last...the confrontation you waited for...
five years ago...
Man, what exciting fodder. Let me get out
my party hat.
However, Ron Marz makes this up to us by
lulling into such a feeling of “same crap, different
story arc” that the abundantly foreshadowed surprise
actually does the trick. The upcoming battle with Major
Force (yeah, despite the cover, the real fight is next month)
actually has me interested in the next issue. For once,
situations are starting to feel justified, and I see a possible
way out of the muddled confusion that Green Lantern has
looks like a crap ending to Kyle’s tenure (A universe
full of Green Lanterns, and DC has to get rid of the most
selfless and heroic one of all - remember The Ion? - who
also happens to be the only one making them money.), and
Luke Ross’s art all too rarely satisfies, but this
is the best issue they’ve given us in a long time.
Almost recommended. Not quite.
What’s going on in Love Fights #12?!
Is this the end? It feels like an end. But this series isn’t
supposed to end? How could it end? Is this the end? Villain’s
presumed dead, superhero’s in the same boat, mystery
has been solved, young lovers are together… what the
hell’s going on? After last month’s powerhouse
climax, Andi Watson slows things down and gives us the pacing
and characterization he’s a master of, and, yes, the
result is spectacular, but the sheer number of threads he’s
tied up have me dancing around like a child who can’t
find the bathroom after downing a Double Gulp.
Where can we go from here? Will Jack and
Nora’s troubles continue and multiply? Is the next
issue going to be a cold start with a different couple?
Is Watson going to move the story away from its superhero
elements and focus even more on Jack and Nora? Is that possible?
Have I become a crack addict for this series? Did I mention
it’s one of the best books this week? Can’t
I stop asking these stupid questions? Gah!
down, Sam Keith delivers the first issue of his latest mini-series,
Ojo (to all the gringos and gringas,
that’s Spanish for “eye”), and I find
myself at a lack of words for the summary... Well, it’s
about Annie, a nine year old girl who lives with her grandfather
and older sister after the death of her mother. She tries
to adopt various pets, but winds up accidentally killing
them and begins to believe death follows her wherever she
goes. Then she finds a strange creature under their mobile
I know that may sound like a reasonable pitch for a story,
but this is Sam Keith, and, as any fans of The Maxx
know all too well, he can lace even the most mundane subject
with enough introspection and creepy yet endearing characterization
to make it an epic. You get a warm feeling reading Annie’s
childish take on the world around her, and then the underlying
themes come swirling out of the darkness and wrap you even
tighter in the story. Sadly, this pleasant feeling eventually
gives way to a frightening reveal at the end. Still, I can
definitely recommend this odd little tale, though I’m
guessing it may start appealing more to horror fans next
Speaking of fans, I’m not a Savage
Dragon fan (weak segue, I know. I’ll do better, next
time). Never have been. I think I watched the cartoon when
I was younger, but, even without Erik Larsen’s sloppy
style to bog it down, I just couldn’t get into the
story of a big green cop with a fin on his head.
Dragon: God War does a few things to sidestep
this. First, it starts out with a story that has nothing
to do with anything, seating us with the poor schmoes stuck
on a commercial jetliner. Second, it rams said plane into
the invisible forcefield surrounding God Town (not quite
best described as a combination of Valhalla and New Genesis,
but let’s not dwell on better ways to explain it).
God Town crashes to Earth, only slightly cushioned from
its fall by Denver, which provokes a hyper-reactionary president
(Gee, wonder who that’s supposed to be…) to
immediately declare war on them.
Oh, and the Cask of Ancient Evil has been
opened, freeing the Forever Serpent, so that doesn’t
Kirkman takes humorous jabs in all directions, but I have
to confess the plotting isn’t quite up to snuff. By
the end, I found myself a bit tired and not really interested
in what came next. The bigger problem was Mark Englert’s
art. Sorry to say, but it just ain’t happening for
me. Kirkman’s stories are always very character oriented,
and Englert’s people look almost as odd and unnatural
here as they did in Capes. I guess if it’s
not supposed to look human, he seems to do well enough…
Not much of a comfort, is that? Mildly recommended for the
humor, but not the powerhouse Invincible and The
Walking Dead are. …man, I wanted to REALLY enjoy
a Kirkman book this week…
Oh, hell, let’s just break alphabetical
order and do another Kirkman book--
War on Terror #1 reunites Kirkman with E.J.
Su, his artist from last year’s phenomenal Tech
Jacket, on a mini-series that’s both similar
to and totally unlike Kirkman’s run on Captain
America. Things kick off when SuperPatriot is ambushed
by agents of Hydro and the former head of G.U.A.R.D. (See?)
while trying to rent some videos (again; see?). SP dispatches
them quickly enough, and the story splits off to follow
a quiet, shriveled, little old man the world has conspired
to crap on.
we go back to SP watching movies with the wife until he’s
called upon to battle the disembodied, telepathic brain
of Adolph Hitler (whose body was destroyed when the nuclear
reactor that powered his battle armor exploded, leaving
his intact brain to be pumped full of chemicals so it could
be fitted into the jar-encased head of a gorilla which took
so well to the chemicals it forgot it was Hitler for forty
years until a flying saucer crashed into the gorilla body,
forcing him to acquire a robot gorilla body…).
of SuperPatriot: America’s Fighting Force
should love the ties between the two series and newcomers
will find their ignorance only increases the joyous absurdity
of the story. Kirkman’s deliriously ludicrous approach,
while going too far for Captain America, fits SuperPatriot
like a glove. Cap, despite all his years of poor treatment,
dopey villains, and constant references to fallen sidekick
Bucky, still has fans who take him seriously. SuperPatriot?
People, the man has frikkin’ arms that turn into guns,
pile drivers, grappling hooks, can openers, or whatever
the hell else he wants. The less serious you are about him,
Su’s linework is just as brilliant as it was on
Tech Jacket, but the overall production is even higher
quality, making it all the more painful that Tech Jacket
is on indefinite hold while Su’s talents are only
glimpsed by the nostalgia crowd picking up Voltron,
Masters of the Universe, and G.I. Joe vs. Transformers
(especially sad when, unlike the artist on this week’s
Transformers #7, Su can draw both a picture-perfect
Optimus Prime AND a proportionate human being). Definitely
one to buy. If nothing else, pick this up to show Image
they need more books like this and less like NYC Mech.
Niles may have all but cornered the horror comic market
in the last couple of years, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t
guarantee every drop that dribbles from his pen is pure
gold. In this case, I’m talking about Secret
Skull #1, a new horror/hero book with some
intrigue, a touch of wit, and plenty of viscera.
the grown daughter of the local precinct’s detective
captain, has disturbing nightmares about murders that have
yet to happen. Or maybe it’s Secret Skull that has
the nightmares. I’m not too sure, since the narration
has a strange flow. Regardless, Secret Skull can see murders
ahead of time and uses this knowledge to fight crime. Samantha’s
father has been hunting him for two and a half years with
little yield, but one of his detectives (who also dates
Samantha) may have a link to the Skull.
And that’s about all that happens.
The ending gives us a solid hint at who the Skull is and
what challenges face him, yet the story lacks a strong conflict
and the only antagonists are standard thugs who’ll
most likely get their asses handed to them. Niles’
writing may have flown straight by “subtle”
and into the realm of “huh?” on this outing,
though I’d like to think it’ll redeem itself
BB’s chunky, scratchy lines aren’t quite the
perfect counterpart that Ben Templesmith’s (30
Days of Night) are, but this is a case where the style
proves more interesting than the substance. BB’s coloring
gives Secret Skull a chalky texture with a strong Mexican
feel. Though I can’t recommend the issue, I’m
still planning on running to the shop for it next month.
Every Ultimate Marvel book has to get past
two hurdles: a) How does it relate to the regular Marvel
book? B) How does it relate to the other Ultimate Universe
books? Ultimate Elektra seemed to be a carbon copy of her
regular incarnation in Ultimate Spider-man and Ultimate
Marvel Team-Up (sorry, gang, still haven’t gotten
around to reading Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra), doing
her standard badass assassin schtick.
that’s why it’s so nice to see Ultimate
Elektra #1 reinvent the character, setting
her up as the daughter of a simple Greek immigrant with
a dirty-dealing cousin who drags his clothes laundering
business into a money laundering scheme. Meanwhile, young
Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson get their first summer internships
at the law firm who’s new client just happens to have
the books to ruin Elektra’s cousin.
that black leather looks just like the movie...
Carey established himself as a smart writer a long time
ago with Lucifer and Hellblazer (his current
run on the latter being the fourth longest to date; only
a year and a half off from tying Garth Ennis’ 43 issue
run), but who knew he could bring his plot-threading and
complicated story arcs to the Ultimate Universe intact?!
I was amazed to flip back through the book and realize it
was, indeed, just a 22 page comic like any other, yet there’s
more going on here than in any three issues of Ultimate
a few characters and settings, Carey subtly lets us know
this story takes place before anything we’ve seen
in any other Ultimate books, thus working around the odd
situation of Daredevil being the oldest hero in the Ultimate
Universe (not counting Captain America’s decades as
an ice cube) while Elektra often appears almost girlish.
Larroca pulls off an artistic offering that almost makes
me forgive his recent sins on X-Men, rendering the first
GREEK Elektra I’ve seen in years and generally fitting
into the book’s non-superpowered world better than
the spandex-laden settings he usually gives us. However,
I think a lot of credit has to go to the coloring team from
Liquid, who give Larroca’s work a lot more weight
and tone than we usually get from Udon’s “shine
and glow” contributions to his pencils on Uncanny
X-Men and X-Men. A recommended book that will
hopefully influence other Ultimate books to follow in its
fine, I’ll admit that Ultimate Fantastic
Four #10 has some plotting. It kinda has to,
after last issue’s extended fight scene, though. This
month, we get a lot more story to make up for it with Reed
figuring out Victor Van Damme’s been hiding out in
Denmark since the accident that created the Fantastic Four.
Of course, the army plans to take on Van Damme without the
“kids’” help, but Reed figures out a way
around that, if only he can convince the others to come
think I need to praise Warren Ellis any more (at least not
THIS week), so I’ll just say that Stuart Immonen makes
up for his lazy pencils last month with work much closer
to the beauty of his first issues on this arc. The characters
are much more solid and, damn, do I love this robotic/alien/satanic
Dr. Doom. While this issue mostly serves as a build up to
the upcoming showdown, it easily qualifies as one of the
stronger Ultimate Fantastic Four outings and whets
the appetite for “Doom: Part 5." Get it.
are times where I, as a critic, fully realize that I like
something only because of my personal biases and not the
true quality of the work. I was completely prepared to say
just this about WE3 #1, since
I’m an animal lover (strictly platonic, I assure you)
who distrusts most governments and almost always goes for
Grant Morrison’s comics. But, dammit, I can’t.
This is just too damn good. The new three-part mini stays
completely silent for its first twelve pages as we witness
the assassination of a foreign dictator by a mysterious
trio of robots--- but they’re not robots. They’re
cybernetically enhanced housepets.
I know, I know; it sounds like Morrison
is playing with us. Think about it, though. The idea is
brilliant. In comics, we’ve repeatedly seen it proven
that turning a man into a killing machine is a bad idea,
but, on the other hand, real life has shown us that creating
robot brains and bodies for combat situations just isn’t
feasible. What HAS been shown are the amazing things you
can get animals to do when you implant enough electrodes
in them. Morrison’s approach here is about as Hard
Sci-Fi as he gets, exploring territory we might associate
more with Warren Ellis, but infusing it with the tension
and socio-political relevance that’s all his own.
This is powerful stuff.
Quitely’s art is something people either love or hate,
and I haven’t exactly been a fan of late, but his
work on this issue is easily as exciting as his team-up
with Grant Morrison on New X-Men. He avoids most
of the pitfalls he usually encounters (extreme redesigns
of well-known characters, an over-abundance of people with
saggy skin, a tendency to give everyone round, stubby noses,
etc.) and steps right up when Morrison throws down the gauntlet.
The first two-page splash will knock you down, and, just
when you’re getting up, Morrison has him hit you with
six pages of nearly silent 15-panel layouts that’ll
have your teeth chattering. Like I said, WE3 is
powerful stuff, a great deal, and the best comic of the
why did I read WorldWatch #1?
it's titillating...but is it any good?
I fooled by Chuck Austen’s recent work for DC that
he was an author worth following? Did I long for yet another
JLA re-imagining along the lines of Stormwatch?
Was I just looking for a book I knew I’d be able to
trash? The answer could quite possibly be all of the above.
This… thing is offensive on so many levels, I know
I’ll only be able to cover a couple.
up front that it’s a graphic novelization of a tell-all
book written by War Woman, a boob-tacular Wonder Woman clone
who leads a team of heroes stationed on a spaceship that
orbits the Earth. She narrates the story with all the maturity
of a fourteen year old boy (Can you say “key demographic”,"
Billy?), telling us how she and her team bicker all the
time as they defeat the super-villain Pharaoh, only to have
him slip through their fingers.
They head back to the satellite, bicker
some more, and then all the female heroes gradually strip
down and have sex with various male heroes. No, I’m
not kidding. There isn’t one woman in the main cast
we don’t see topless and in a compromising situation
in this first issue. In every case, the woman is the one
who strips down and gets busy.
I hate the word “slut." I don’t believe
we should rag on sexually aggressive women while single
men can hit it whenever they want. However, there’s
a point where overt sexuality just gets ridiculous. To portray
every woman in this book as raving and wanton while men
are allowed a broader range of dispositions oversteps the
boundaries of “empowered” and “assertive”
into downright sexist male fantasy.
were idiotic porn, I wouldn’t be so bothered by that
(and, yes, Chuckles has been involved in softcore comics
before), but Austen is honestly trying to make a scintillating
superhero story. Frankly, I’ve seen many FAR more
sexy and interesting erotic comics floating around (Howard
Chaykin’s Black Kiss, for one, and Juan Bobillo
of She-Hulk has some hardcore credits to his name).
Derenick’s women are pretty and voluptuous, but his
ideas of perspective can be laughable and some of the characters
are hideously disproportionate (and not in sexy ways, either).
Superhero books don’t seem to be his strong suit (he’s
done better on Smallville), but these mistakes
are fundamental problems and he needs to get past them.
Final verdict? If you want a superhero book, look elsewhere.
If you want porn, look elsewhere. If you want superhero
porn… well, you should probably just look for it online
and save yourself the $2.95.
Predictions for Next Week: Avengers #501, Majestic
#2, Milkman Murders #3, and Y: The Last Man #26.