Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
Schachat even now plots his revenge...
September 10, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
turned this one in on time, but due to the effects of a
surprise staff meeting at Derek's day job, it didn't get
posted until Monday. Ever so slowly, Jason advances closer
and closer to an unsuspecting Derek with piano wire held
taut between his meaty hands...
me just start off by saying that Image or Diamond or somebody
really needs to get their act together, ‘cause, wouldn’t
ya know it, Wanted #5 DIDN’T come out this
week, but Walking Dead #10 DID.
Oh, and, if you didn’t buy it, God
will smite you with holy fire and send you to the festering
pits to rot for all eternity blah blah blah…
let me ask you a question: How did comicdom manage to go
so long without Fallen Angel?
How did we get away with calling Gotham spooky and atmospheric?
How did we trick ourselves into thinking our superhero books
had intrigue and mystique? How did— Well, okay, that’s
more than one question. But you have to admit it’s
surprising to see a totally new book from DC’s main
line distinguish itself so by issue #15. Even Gotham
Central had the benefit of the entire Batman history
to help it along. What Peter David’s managed to pull
off so far is two steps away from miraculous.
anyone who doesn’t know, Fallen Angel tweaks
the superhero genre into a gray area known as Bete Noire,
a city that’s not so much a New Orleans clone as what
you’d get if you blended the most interesting parts
of 1940’s New Orleans and San Francisco and used it
as the setting for a slightly mystical Casablanca.
Confused yet? Good.
The cast of characters is colorful, diverse,
multicultural, and absolutely teeming with villainy. Even
the Angel, a woman named Lee, finds herself in the bed of
Bete Noire’s manipulating magistrate, Dr. Juris. But
then, he only seems to be keeping peace in the city; so
does her reckless vigilante crusading make HER the real
villain? Better yet, if she’s teaching phys ed at
a local junior college and seems normal in most ways, what’s
the deal with her super strength, lightning aura, inability
to set her bare feet on the ground, and the twin scars on
her back. Is she an angel? Is she a hero? Is she dead?
This month’s mystery opens with a
flashback to the troubled childhood of Shadow Boxer, Dr.
Juris’ chief enforcer and the Fallen Angel’s
most dedicated foe. After some hints to what twisted the
young English boy into an enraged brawler, we float out
to see Lee spying on the city below her; two lonely, brightly
lit streets converging in the distance. Pulling back, we
see the two are part of a larger pattern forming a pentagram
centered on Bete Noire, lightning flashing until a bolt
crashes down and leaves a non-descript man standing where
it struck. A man named Mr. Kind. A man who works for The
Hierarchy: the group that directs Bete Noire (which, in
turn, directs the whole of the world) to be more “interesting”.
And, following Lee’s almost single handed destruction
of the city’s drug trade, the man who very softly
orders her immediate death.
best book you're not reading...
David’s opening to the “Hurlyburly” arc
has me captivated. This may very well be the best beginning
of any Fallen Angel storyline to date, and the addition
of The Hierarchy throws some delicious spice into the mix.
David Lopez, always coming through, outdoes himself, here.
The silent opening sequence and sly “camera movements”
entice you throughout the whole issue until the incendiary
last page. If there was one book I’d get this week,
it’d be Fallen Angel #15. Best comic of the
week, no question.
much as I praise a series so strong from the start as Fallen
Angel, you have to appreciate the work Judd Winick’s
done to flesh out Green Arrow.
True, Kevin Smith’s “Quiver” gave us a
great resurrection and the filmmaker’s best foray
into comics (sadly, it’s also his only decent one),
but Winick used the last arc’s consequences to finally
create some forward momentum.
Following the demonic conquest of Star City
that left both criminal organizations and the police undermanned
and fragile, Danny Brickwell, a consummate second tier super-thug,
has taken control of the underworld and now moves to take
the city itself. Green Arrow manages to get cornered by
Brick’s goons and finds himself desperate for some
of those trick arrows he threw away years ago when a not-so
mysterious masked Mia bounces down from the rafters and
pulls his butt out of the fire. Naturally, Ollie immediately
tries to dissuade her from the hero’s life, but how
do you tell a former child prostitute who grew up on the
streets that she isn’t grown up enough to make her
funny how powerful threading can be. We take it for granted,
but the constant flow of a story is what keeps us coming
back to these damn things month after month. Green Arrow
lacked that continuity, and, after Winick’s first
arc, I was pretty damn sure I’d be dropping the title.
Now, I look forward to it. As of issue #42, the story has
evolved beyond Mia being Ollie’s annoying adoptee
while he and Connor build their father/son relationship.
Conflicts are dovetailing between arcs, the drama is building,
and, just maybe, we’ll see more character growth.
Unfortunately, we still lack regular background characters
or villains, but the book finally feels more like an old
school Batman instead of another meandering revival.
Hester’s artwork can be both glorious and unimpressive,
but he’s got his footing on this issue and milks both
of Winick’s shocker sequences for all they’re
worth. Still, I can’t help but feel like Star City
needs more personality. Green Arrow’s old school crimefighting
here can, at times, feel like Frank Miller’s original
Daredevil run, but the town just seems too generic.
Hell’s Kitchen stood out. Gotham always stands out.
Bete Noire has enough personality to make New Orleans look
like Fargo. Star City? Skip that goofy star on the bridge,
and it could be anywhere. That said, it’s a place
I’ll be visiting again next month, and I definitely
recommend going there.
you say you wanna go to JLA #105?
the inside, she's a little girl...
me start off by stating that Chuck Austen’s DC work,
while superior to his bungles in the Marvel Universe, has
been following a pattern. For about half the issue, I’m
recoiling in disgust at odd dialogue and gross mischaracterization.
For the other half, I’m cheering at battles and pulse-pounding
sequences like a sycophantic little boy who just downed
a bag of pixie stix. I’m generally a forgiving soul,
which is why I’ve given Chuckles the benefit of the
doubt, going so far as to dive into the bottomless abyss
that is WorldWatch. But I think the time has finally
come for me to just say no.
This issue is fifth in a row to showcase
a hero dealing with a crisis, messing up somehow, and then
needing a shoulder to cry on. However, we now find ourselves
alongside Wonder Woman, in a deathmatch with some unknown
female villain. After much struggling and grunting, she
wins, then starts bawling like a little girl and falls to
her knees. She goes up to the JLA satellite where almost
everyone’s oblivious to the fact that something’s
I’ll just say SPOILER NOW, in case
you don’t wanna know what’s wrong with her…
She’s all upset and weepy because
she’s scared of dying. Yeah, you heard me. All the
heroes get to show weakness in this run, but it’s
the WOMAN who feels helpless and alone because she’s
scared. Superman wasn’t thinking enough, Flash wasn’t
fast enough, Green Lantern couldn’t be everywhere
at once, Martian Manhunter was just too alien… but
Wonder Woman is the one consumed by fear. I’m sorry,
maybe this is supposed to continue the irony because she’s
supposedly fearless, but it feels like Austen’s turned
one of the strongest heroes in comics into some kind of
wilting flower. When you consider what crybabies Wally and
John have been in recent years, it’s all the more
maddening that Diana was the one to crack.
writing, though it has some strong moments, is just too
weak for me to give a thumbs up. Ron Garney’s art
is nice if not 100% consistent (Diana’s shorts seemed
to be re-tailoring themselves between a few panels), but
there are some powerful, iconic images that more than make
up for it. All in all, not as painful as WorldWatch,
but, still, JLA #105 is not recommended.
#65, on the other hand, gives us a justice-filled
outing that you can’t pass up, and justice and balance
are truly the name of the game as Rex Tyler, the original
Hourman sacrifices himself to save his dying son. To summarize,
RICK Tyler, the second Hourman, was granted a special device
by the Hourman android from the future (hey, it’s
a popular superhero name, alright?) that granted him a total
of one hour of time in a stasis vault with his dead father,
snatched from time just before his fatal battle with Extant.
Unfortunately, Rick was fatally wounded during the “Black
Reign” crossover, and he swapped places with pops
in mid-battle, leaving Rex stranded in our world with no
way to rescue Rick.
Now, the Hourman from the future has finally
received word of their plight and whisks Rex, Flash, and
Doc Midnite off to save Rick. If there’s time, that
I have to confess time-travel is a pet peeve
of mine. It’s a cute device, but its total impossibility
makes use in most stories frustrating as all hell. By the
end of this issue, Geoff Johns has wandered back into that
zone of time paradoxes and alternate timelines guaranteed
to have you reaching for some aspirin. However, this is
a captivating story that’ll pull at your heart strings
in true JSA fashion. Don Kramer’s pencils are gorgeous,
Ketih Champagne’s inks are surgically clean, and John
Kalisz’s colors are quite simply perfect for the style.
Definitely one to check out.
exactly been advising people to pick up Marvel Age books
(with the notable exception of Mary Jane), but Marvel
Age Hulk #1 actually has a few things going
for it. First, it isn’t a ripoff of an old Stan Lee
script. Second, it doesn’t attempt to sound “street”
in a hopeless attempt to make kids think comics are the
shizz-nit. Third, it isn’t a ripoff of an old Stan
Lee script. Fourth, it gives kids a quick and dirty introduction
to the Hulk that communicates the basic concept and doesn’t
get mired in Marvel history. Fifth… well, you know.
The series kicks off with a wandering Bruce
Banner entering a small town where a young scientist comes
up with a pesticide formula that will make crops grow as
it kills off crop-damaging insects. He recognizes the incognito
Banner from lectures at college and Bruce later agrees to
guide him. Unfortunately, our wacky little scientist decides
to try the stuff out before Bruce can tell him its insect-killing
powers are negligible, even though its ability to mutate
living things to gigantic proportions is-- Long story short:
“Hulk SMASH giant bugs!”
I have to be frank and admit this book isn’t
all that different from the other Marvel Age entrees, but
the differences are what make it tolerable. Not great, mind
you, but good enough for me to recommend it to kids. Adults
should look to the regular Incredible Hulk for more mature
and nuanced stories, but there’s a strange childlike
wonder and complete incomprehension of science that makes
this a charming if light read (menacing cover image aside).
a cover featuring the Astonishing X-Men on Marvel
Knights Spider-Man #6, they’re not in
it. Well, that’s not entirely true; after Peter escapes
a mob of cops out to collect the reward for his secret identity,
he meets Mary Jane at a café and the four less conspicuous
members of the team pass by the window in the background of
one panel. Oh, and the Fantastic Four also pass incognito
through the foreground in that scene. So, now that I’ve
ruined that surprise for you, what’s this issue about?
Well, a lot of talking. We see MJ show what a fighter she
is, J. Jonah Jameson demonstrates amorality while being generous,
the imprisoned Green Goblin proves he’s still a monster
without the mask, and Venom has a change of heart that could
ultimately lead to lots of people getting killed.
in eighteen books this week + Spider-Man
I smell a Clone Saga coming on!.
The Dodsons’ art has me pining for
Frank Cho, but I honestly can’t complain. A few repeatedly
female face templates aside, things look spiffy. The plot
still doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry,
but, when it comes to getting your money’s worth,
this issue delivers. Recommended.
once wrote that fight scenes were a way to cover for sloppy
writing. I find that a rather harsh assessment of what’s
really a visual medium, but, reading Outsiders
#15, you can really see his point. Sure, Psi-Mon
gets a long-winded speech and there’s some wrap-up;
yet the bulk of the issue is just a huge fight between the
Outsiders and the Fearsome Five (well, Four since the death
of Gizmo). Nightwing has to out-coordinate Psi-Mon, Grace
has to out-pummel Mammoth, Arsenal has to outshoot Jinx,
Shift has to out-whatever Shimmer… It’s a standard
choice to have the villains fire a nuke at Vancouver isn’t
as cute as he’d hoped, and the argument that the target
is neither political nor economic nor close enough to where
they sleep to matter doesn’t really hold water. (Personally,
I think Mexico City is ripe for a nuking. You wanna mercilessly
slaughter millions of people without making an overt political
statement? Tenochtitlan it is!)
Raney’s art is a welcome sight. Not enough to keep
this book from falling into mediocrity, though. I can’t
say what DC’s doing on this that they’re not
doing on Caper, but maybe it’s time to take
the muzzle off Winick. The man has proven time and again
that his best work comes with a certain degree of freedom,
and I refuse to believe that a mature reader label is the
only difference between Caper and Outsiders. Then again,
maybe the guy just needs to cuss. In any case, that’s
not what we’re seeing in this comic.
The freedom, that is. Though cussing might
for the first time in a long while, a typically great book
FILLED with swearing has a less than stellar outing. Sadly,
I’m talking about Powers.
I suppose it was inevitable, what with the
repeated reliance on cliffhangers and last month’s
big reveal. Issue #4 does make for a tasty little snack,
answering our lingering questions of where all the heroes
went when superpowers were deemed illegal (an idealized
version of Scottsdale, Arizona, by the looks of it) and
giving Walker a chance to do some detective work, but most
of it’s pretty slow and tired.
still holding out hope Deena’s recent behavior and
subsequent kidnapping will lead to a revelation that her
brush with Super Shock “changed” her. Or maybe
Bendis will be able to do something interesting with The
Bug. If he doesn’t, well, the driving plotline ended
last issue, and we’re riding on fumes. Recommended
only if you’re already following Powers or
just can’t turn a Bendis book down.
the better Bendis book this week is The Pulse
#5. Yes, folks, after nine grueling months,
the “Thin Air” storyline comes to a close, almost
meshing with the events of Marvel Knights Spider-Man
while setting us up for a convergence with Secret War.
The Green Goblin attack from last issue culminates with
Jessica going into a berserker rage at the thought that
her unborn child has been killed during the battle. However,
an ultrasound reveals Jess is as tough inside as she is
outside, and the little tyke is fine. Of course, that doesn’t
really matter much to Luke Cage; you don’t mess with
Bendis may be breaking his own “no
fight scene” rule yet again with this issue, but it
feels damn good, and splitting the art duties between Mark
Bagley on breakdowns and Scott Hanna on finishes delivers
the best art we’ve seen on this series. Again, it
hurts something awful to think we have to wait two months
until the next issue, but the pains of last issue’s
wait are dulled by a satisfying conclusion. One to pick
up, for sure.
#11 delivers a solid firefight and beard-strokingly
intelligent ponderings on the Irish fight for independence.
Of course, it’s Garth Ennis, so what do you expect?
We can certainly recognize the Machiavellian female characters
and nigh-unstoppable madmen from his prior works, and setting
the blazing battle on an aircraft carrier deck was so lovably
Ennis I got a bit misty, for a moment...
Most of this outing focuses on bringing
the villains together as their various armies are cut to
ribbons and the playing field is leveled. However, the heaping
pile of dialogue exchanged between British soldier Yorkie
and IRA rookie Michael Cooley accounts for most of the reading
time and, thus, the thoughts dancing around your head afterwards.
Which is a really good thing, since this
arc initially felt like another attempt by Ennis to force
an Irish story down our throats. That’s not to say
Ennis doesn’t do them well, but mixing Punisher with
the IRA could easily be a recipe for disaster. The tone
of this story gels nicely with Leandro Fernandez’s
art, and, for the first time in a while, I’m really
looking forward to the next issue.
choice to move the skull-emblazoned vigilante to the Max
line seemed smart, in the beginning, but completely separating
him from the Marvel Universe (for the time being) may have
done more damage than anyone would’ve imagined. I
mean, this guy is a freakin’ Spider-Man villain. Who
knew the kids would identify so easily with a remorseless
mass-murderer? After adding Micro to the hitlist, he moved
so far away from the concept of “hero”, I was
worried Ennis had nowhere to go (especially without Steve
Dillon to bring out his sly humor). Now, it seems like he
might have somewhere to go.
the equal of Punisher volumes 3 and 4? At times,
but, let’s face it: nothing will ever top The Russian.
However, though the laughs are missing, Ennis still makes
Marvel’s dullest star twinkle a bit. Recommended,
if you can spare the change.
but you damn well better have enough cash for She-Hulk
#7, which gives us Adam Warlock a second time
this week as the Our Lady of Ultimate Greenness moves from
earthly concerns to a Universal court of law. Continuing
to babysit Southpaw after last month’s prison break,
Jen is visited by the Magistrati, a race of adjudicators
who control the highest courts in all existence. Learning
of the extreme honor of such a position, she gladly accepts
their offer and is whisked away to decide cases of intergalactic
child custody, temporally-charged disagreements, and claims
that the Watchers are peeping toms. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock
sends warrior after warrior to face Champion, the greatest
fighter EVER, in the ring. The price of failure? The death
of a world. But, if Beta-Ray Bill and Gladiator can’t
stand up to the tyrant, who can?
other best book you're not reading...
Nothing like giving the regular artist a
break to realize how much you miss him. I know some people
out there may have a problem with Juan Bobillo’s soft,
curving style (note: from what I’ve seen, these are
often the same people who find bulging neck-veins and 50-pack
abs realistic), but the most important aspect of a comic’s
art style is how it fits the script, and Bobillo’s
work gives Dan Slott’s story even more humor and character.
is now seven for seven, delivering a strong issue every
time, which is more than I can say for all but one or two
other comics on the market. If Marvel could only figure
out a way to use this book’s critical raves and die-hard
following as fodder for a decent ad campaign… Until
then, you’ll just have to listen to a grumpy bastard
like me when I tell you it’s a must buy.
Titans #15 concludes “Beast Boys and
Beast Girls” in style. Sorry to say, but I’m
not going to spoil the cool moments in this issue for you,
and the story follows along the lines you’d expect,
Beast Boy at the mercy of the evil Dr. Register after being
stripped of his morphing powers while children throughout
San Francisco transform.
So, what CAN I tell you about?
SHAPESHIFTER BATTLE SPECTACULAR! It’s not every day
you get to see a T-Rex fight another T-Rex before they fall
into the water and continue the fight as a shark and dolphin,
and I’d just like to thank the Teen Titans
creative team for re-creating the one scene from The
Sword and the Stone I would annoy my parents with by
incessantly watching as a child. A fun issue, indeed.
five pages into Victory: Series 2 #1,
I came down with a splitting headache. So I put it down,
rested for a bit, and started from the beginning again.
Then I had to read every page twice to figure out what was
going on. Then the headache got worse. And, you know what?
I still don’t know what’s going on.
The story seems to be about some hottie
warrior elf (with perfectly spherical breasts wider than
her shoulders) who’s been transported to our dimension
after the events of the last series. Now, she hangs out
with a bunch of wannabe Yu-Gi-Ohs who play every type of
RPG in existence, bicker a little, and get depressed. To
fill in for the lack of plot, the creative team whips out
every bizarre anime/manga convention in the book, from “action”
lines, to the over-sized sweat-drop, to super-deformed midgets
and disembodied heads.
from shamelessly setting up a “believe in your friends”
moral and an internal conflict for our elf chick, nothing
happens in this entire issue. It’s like reading one
of those old complementary comics where every page diverges
from the plot to advertise a Mattel product, but they alter
the name of every video game, CCG, and RPG they mention,
so it just serves as something to make baby otaku giggle
(yeah, you heard me, you damn baby otaku).
gonna like this? I honestly can’t say. The short attention
span required to avoid brain tumors fits the child-preteen
demographic, but the occasional blood and boobs will earn
the scorn of many a soccer mom. There’s some nice
production, here, but it’s too off the wall for the
old guard. Real manga fans will want real manga, hentai
looking for globular boobs will be disappointed, and the
college kids will tune out after reading the first few pages
of loud proclamations and smug asides. I guess this book
might appeal to Yu-Gi-Oh wannabes, but only after some good
hard whacks to the head.
Predictions for Next Week: Identity Crisis #4,
Mary Jane #4, Strange #1, Ultimate Nightmare #2, and Wanted