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Jason Schachat is still alive in 2099.
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
October 1, 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.

Weekly Breakdown? I have to put my marathon read of Mark Waid’s run on Flash (issues 62 through 163 - if the lord wanted us to have lives, he wouldn’t’ve given us eBay…) on hold for a breakdown?

Man, next thing you know, they’ll be telling me Marvel flooded the racks with worthless—

Aw, hell…

Okay, so, here’s the deal: I went into Black Panther 2099 #1 thinking it was kicking off a new attempt at the 2099 line. Yeah, yeah, I shoulda known better, but I’d like to think I don’t have to research EVERY damn thing I read. Sad thing is I kinda liked it as an opening to a new series, but it falls flat as a oneshot.

The future finds us in a Wakanda where there is no Black Panther and no hope that one will arise. Then the new Dr. Doom decides to invade the nation and forces a councilman to realize his potential and rise up to save his people.

Yup, that’s pretty much it.

While I like the way the story tries to tie-in to Doom 2099, this one just doesn’t stand alone well. It’s a lot of stuff we’ve seen before that would be acceptable as a starting point but ultimately amounts to a waste of time. Robert Kirkman’s K’Shamba doesn’t demonstrate enough intellect, ability, or personality to endear him to us in the 22 pages allotted, and the ending, while chilling at first, will prompt a loud “Wha?!?!” five seconds later. I read it over again to be sure I hadn’t missed an important plot point. I hadn’t.

The art, while reminiscent of what we suffered during the 90s boom, isn’t up to snuff. I suppose some blame could go to the coloring and simplified shading, but, again, I have to wonder if that wasn’t an intentional ploy to harken back to the look of the 2099 books. If this were a series, that style might be appreciated. As a oneshot, it’ll just turn readers off. Pass on this.

Coincidentally, this exact same scene happened last week at the FBP offices.
Ah, but never forget the brightly flaming glory that has been Caper. It comes to a close at issue #12, where Lou’s strapped into a torture device to have his innermost recesses dredged while Richie maintains the secret location of the missing severed hand. Of course, the men in black learn that Richie’s stubbornness is ironclad, but they also figure out that his dependence on Lou is even greater. They nearly break him, too, but Lou points out a structural flaw in Richie’s chair and the great chase begins anew!

Man, does it make me sad to see Caper go. The earlier chapters gave us great historical fiction and statements about twisted human nature and society, but this final one has been goddamn hilarious. I don’t think Judd Winick’s been this funny outside of Barry Ween, and that leads me to one conclusion: the man needs to cuss. It’s not a crutch; it’s his muse. These big DC titles he’s writing for are fine and all, but there’s nothing special about them. No nuance. No Winick magic. Aside from smart plotting and occasional humor, very little of his mainstream work approaches the level of his indie titles. Caper has broken that hex.

My advice to you? Pick up this book. My advice to DC? Put out the Caper TPB. NOW. This is one we all need to read. Even if they have to be strapped into a torture device to make it happen.

I can’t really say what compelled me to pick up Captain Canuck: Unholy War #1. Really, I can’t. I’m trying hard, here, and I’ll be damned if I can find a reason… Well, let’s say it’s to bolster Amero-Canadian ties in the face of a tumultuous economy upset by the trade of cheap prescription drugs. Yeah, that sounds important.

Ah, but the comic! Yes, the comic stars Canada’s own masked crime fighter in a biker gang caper. Well, actually, it’s not the original Captain Canuck. It’s not the early 90s revamp, either. It’s West Coast Captain Canuck (yes, there’s a West Coast Captain Canuck) fighting crime in Vancouver and freeing loggers from bear traps. Well, except for the bear trap part…

Anyway, the first issue introduces us to what may be the first niceguy superhero of the 21st century. He’s a Mountie, doesn’t have weapons, doesn’t belong to any covert organization, his parents weren’t killed during his childhood, his partner wasn’t gunned down, and even the local police chief believes him when he says the deadly Mr. Gold may be hiding out in Vancouver. Inspired by the comics he read as a kid, this guy just wants to do more.

The endearing nature of this bold old approach combined with the smart dialogue and non-gritty, realistic portrayal of cops and criminals make for a strong read. However, the plot may be a bit too simple and straightforward for its own good, and the art doesn’t feature enough rippling musculature or high caliber weaponry to appeal to the vast majority of fandom. It’s a great change of pace and a great deal at $2.50 for 30-some odd pages, but I can’t say that it’s the must-buy hit of the summer. Mildly recommended.

DC: The New Frontier #6 wraps the series with the biggest damn Silver Age hero team-up you ever done seen, brother. Following the apparent death of Superman last issue [insert derisive snort here], the adventure heroes of the 50s join with the new breed of superheroes to take out The Centre, a living island on course to destroy all life. The mystics and heroes of the last generation wait on the sidelines, putting their faith in Earth’s woefully underpowered champions who battle both inside and outside the monstrous entity.

We get some nice moments with Adam Strange, newly released from Arkham, and Ray Palmer arrives on the scene with a device that can turn the tables, but this issue is really more about Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern. J’onn finally breaks out of his haze and embraces the mantle of heroism (which comes with free cape, ring strap, blue BVDs, and a bottle of chest grease), knocking evil reptiles out of the sly and tearing them limb from limb. Darwyn Cooke’s design for the Barry Allen Flash is so divinely retro, I’d kill for him and Dave Stewart to repeat the magic in a Flash mini-series. No one important, mind you. Maybe a hobo or a mime. But I’d kill, nonetheless.

Of course, it all comes down to the man who’s been the quiet protagonist for most of the series: Hal Jordan. Yes, Hal has his moment. And, yes, it is glorious. Sadly, it also demonstrates the trouble with bringing Hal back to the DCU: It’s kinda the same thing we’ve seen him do for the last forty years, give or take a mental breakdown or fanboy-angering death. The military man turned hero angle has been played out, tragic hero was an ill fit, and being a spirit of vengeance sat as well as a Jack in the Box chili relleno after a long day of boogie-boarding at a rather polluted beach (ah, memories…).

Cooke smartly ends the story with a return to the message of hope and progress that characterized so much of this series, but I have to admit this last issue is marred by the seemingly endless battle against The Centre. By the time I got around to the epilogue, I found both myself and the comic’s cover exhausted from the long read. There’s no denying this is a good book, but, man, will it beat you down. Recommended.

And, while I’d like to continue ranting about the ills suffered by Green Lantern, I have to give Ron Marz credit: he ended series with class.

Next...Daffy Duck gets the ring...
…which is not to say that Green Lantern #181 hits it out of the park (though a certain something does get whacked into the far reaches of space), but far worse things could’ve happened. Unfortunately, Marz deflates the delicious rage we all felt when Kyle found Major Force had murdered his mother with a rather convenient revelation. A few hits are exchanged, there’re lots of glowy fists and *gasp* even a few cool constructs, but this story ends with a crisis of faith and a hero’s ultimate decision.

Truth be told, it isn’t really much of an ending. I guess we’ll have to wait for Green Lantern: Rebirth #1 to show us where this franchise and its sizable cast are going. And what’s gonna happen to Kilowog. And why the Guardians tried to kill Kyle. And how a reformed genocidal maniac known throughout the galaxy as “The Great Betrayer” and “Destroyer of Worlds” will be allowed to once again wield the most powerful weapon in existence. But that’s next month.

Guardians #4 finds our new heroes rocketing through space on their quest to fend off the evil Alliance when, wouldn’t you know it, an Alliance patrol ship pulls alongside and boards them. There’s a nice tie-in to the rest of the Marvel Universe when we see a Shi'ar among the Alliance crew, but it kinda makes you wonder why everyone thought these kids were crazy when they said they’d met an alien. Aren’t aliens pretty commonplace in that universe?

The book is still pulling from the strong “dreamer” foundation that made Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Explorers, and The Last Starfighter such accessible adventures, but it’s starting to run into the troubled territory that comes when said dreamers’ dreams come true. Explorers fumbled through its attempt at first contact, and Spielberg’s films were content to remain on Earth, but few movie entrees in this subgenre ever go far into space. Of course, with a comic, this opening arc is usually prelude to a cosmic adventure, but I always felt the appeal of Guardians was the real-world aspect.

This being the first “space” issue of Guardians, it’s too soon to say the cosmos isn’t where they should be heading, but I’m hoping it won’t wander too far from the elements that made prior issues such great reads. Mildly recommended.

One title leapt off the shelf at me, this week. …well, not literally… shelves seemed pretty secure— Anyway, I found it hard to resist Harry Johnson #1, and not just because of the name or the boobs on the cover or the boobs on the interior or the boobs on the back cover. This two part mini sets out to create a pulp adventure that will titillate you with well-developed characters bouncing through booby traps, voluptuous scenery, and one curvaceous plotline.

‘k, that’s a lie. Except for the booby traps.

The story pieces together scenes from the last two Indiana Jones movies (which, of course, were largely lifted from serials and pulp fiction) to form a plot about a missing scientist and the private investigator hired to find him.

Plot, schmot; this is a book of puns, innuendos, witty repartee, jibes, and the subtlely restrained RAMPANT SEXUALITY that cartoonists like Tex Avery secreted into mainstream media. Charles Fulp’s story serves as a simple skeleton for his delightfully sarcastic dialogue and send-ups of well known adventure story clichés.

What really brings this book together is the line the creators draw for themselves. There’s no nudity, no swearing, and no blood. The Disney-esque look of Craig Rousseau’s art (which actually resembles The Curse of Monkey Island more) makes the whole thing feel rather innocent. Well, until the stripper Harry hires to be his assistant lets her dildo fall out of her purse. But when did a dildo hurt anybody?

On second thought, don’t answer that.

The long and the short of it— In the end— No matter how you take it— [Insert opening phrase that could not in ANY way be construed as a dick joke], Harry Johnson satisfies (Dammit!). It’s a laugh-out-loud adventure that knowingly jabs a finger in the fleshy eye of cartoon prudery. Definitely recommended.

Comic critics have been championing Invincible for more than a year now, but you guys just ain’t buying it. So, I think it’s time to come clean: it’s a big conspiracy. No, really. All us online critics, quotable comic creators, bloggers, and forum trolls got together one night in an abandoned wherehouse with overhead lighting and a big table we could roll secret plans out on and made a pact to force Invincible on an unsuspecting public. And we got away with it, too! Muwaha--!

Seriously, though, this is a title you should check out *hides blinking communicator watch behind back*. Spawn may still be the best-selling book Image has, but Invincible is undeniably their best superhero comic and easily one of the top ten being made today. Robert Kirkman keeps making the old new again, keeping the story accessible to newbies and comic historians alike.

Issue #16 finds us in an alternate reality where Invincible joined his father’s conquest of Earth, subjugating the populace and hunting down the Guardians of the Globe. Just as certain doom seems inevitable, the Angstrom Levy from the reality we know and love snags the other Angstrom Levy from the icy fingers of death and brings him to our reality where, wouldn’t you know it, an alien invasion fleet is decimating the planet.

Invincible has been loaded with jumping-on points, but this one really stands out. New mysteries concerning the Guardians of the Globe, Robot, and the deaths of the former Guardians are popping up left and right. New threads are starting up and old ones we thought tied up have come unraveled again. The glut of bonus pages and pinups make this easily worth your money. Have no doubts. Buy it now. You have no choice. The Legion of Doom commands it!

That just doesn't look comfortable.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Chuck Austen’s finished his run with the Justice League… but not before he finally solves the big mystery of “The Pain of the Gods” for us in JLA #106. Not that there’s really any mystery. Sure, the son of the new hero Superman let die in the first issue has powers. Sure, we find out that his sister and mother have powers, too. Sure, Batman does most of the thinking in this issue. We still don’t really know how they got their powers or what’s going to happen to them in the future.

Austen manages to break the format of the other issues (probably because it’d take one insanely bad day for Batman to be mired by self doubt), but we don’t get any nice psychological insights or attempts at characterization, even though Bats is more verbose here than Impulse on a sugar rush (well, for Batman, that is). Chuckles also refrains from using an internal monologue to show off Batman’s big fat brain, so most of the wording amounts to “I’ll investigate blah blah” and “I know pain”.

Thankfully, Kurt Busiek takes over the writing for JLA next month, but Ron Garney’s still penciling, so my enthusiasm’s been curbed. Pass on this one, even if you’ve been following the arc in other issues. Calling it generic would be generous.

Taking another look at Marvel’s 2099 bonanza, we again find disappointment in Punisher 2099 #1. But, unlike some of the other titles, this one works better as a oneshot. The story, though not particularly interesting, maintains its focus on the descendants of the Punisher and their attempt to continue his legacy.

But the devil’s in the details: 1) The first page of each 2099 book tells us there’s a Sentinel on every street corner. So why’s there a mafia? How can you have organized crime without crime? 2) The idea that the Punisher ever took a break from his killing sprees to have a kid is suspect. Him re-marrying is pushing it too far. His wife being Elektra Natchios is frikkin’ ludicrous. 3) Apparently, Punisher’s daughter was born in 2038. Considering current Marvel continuity still places him in the Vietnam War… Well, even if Franky was hittin’ some futuristic mega-viagra, the notion of a 90 year old raising his child to be a killer is laughable.

While this issue has better standalone value than Black Panther 2099, it’s simply too ill-constructed to be worth buying. Take a look at it, if you want. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. This is a future we can do without.

Star Wars: Republic #69 kicks off a new arc this month that’s as much about the past as the present. So much so, it takes forever to read the issue due to unending exposition and references to prior events. In a way, it helped me play catch up to a series I haven’t followed in a long time. It also gave me a headache for trying to make sense of it all.

“The Dreadnaughts of Rendili” begins, innocently enough, with Anakin and Plo Koon trying to prevent a fleet from joining the Separatists. Then things veer across the galaxy, where Obi Wan finds a derelict space craft with Quinlan Vos (former friend and Jedi gone to the dark side) aboard. Obi saves him from a group of attack droids on the condition that he come clean about his recent actions. Quin agrees, but the old friends barely have time to catch up before Dark Jedi Skorr and Ventress appear.

There are numerous reasons why I tend to stay away from Star Wars comics. Far and away the greatest one is continuity. This is vast universe that had no one to regulate it during the first ten years of films, books, and comics, and, for that, most of the early stories have been wholly ignored by current continuity. Then we had the 90s Star Wars renaissance, where Timothy Zahn’s books and some addictive video games kicked off the new wave, this time with a more unified vision and greater attempt at continuity. Except for the comics. In fact, the events of the comics were SO bizarre and haphazard, they nearly destroyed the new continuity in Kevin J. Anderson’s noble (if misguided) effort to unify them with the novels.

But then ol’ Georgey trotted out his new Star Wars films and declared everything not written by him to be an “alternate universe” story, and continuity went out the window once again. So why does this comic need to breakdown events in the movies, books, comics, kids’ books, tv mini-series, video games, CCG, RPG, etc. just so we can follow the storyline? It doesn’t, really.

Unfortunately, the result is too confusing for new readers and too boring for completists. There are nice elements to the story, but they’re so thoroughly buried in exposition, it’ll take you a while to find them.

Frankly, I don’t think it matters what I say about Superman #209. I mean, honestly, is it gonna stop anyone from buying it? Matter of fact, is there anyone who hasn’t bought it? Face it kids; there may be nothing going on in this issue, but slap Jim Lee’s name on the cover and you all come running like lemmings. Pssh!

And I mean it when I say there’s nothing going on storywise. Artwise… eh… But it looks like Brian Azzarello fell asleep at the keyboard. We continue the long, long, long, long discussion with the priest (6 months and counting!) and flashback to a battle between Supes and a gang of giant elementals. Why? Who knows! Looks pretty, tho.

The current runs on the Superman books have gone through some interesting changes, lately. Ones that started out with a clear story that was going somewhere (Action Comics, Superman) have kinda drifted off into muddled territory, while the dragging plot of Adventures of Superman got a much needed jolt this month.

What happened to “The Vanishing” and Equus and all the other weird crap we’ve been slogging through? Does the way timelines are matching up mean Lois Lane will be dead for a while? Has the Plot Device Funnycar finally run out of rocket fuel?

A friend of mine recently lectured me on the Azzarello/Lee Superman run. He pointed out that Azzarello was right on the money setting up Supes as a Christ allegory, but it wasn’t the Superman we all know and love. I had to agree with him. Look at the movie and The Dark Knight Returns if you have any doubts. Powerful archetypes, but not quite the smart golden boy we’re all used to. Still, I go for it.

This issue, however, plays more to Lee’s strengths. I’m not a huge Lee fan, and, sorry to say, Batman: Hush never did anything for me, but the hyper-pretty artwork is right at home here. In fact, it excels simply because of the confrontation with the damn elementals; flames, dust, water, and vapor flying everywhere. Lee makes Supes look a bit too similar to Cable for me to be entirely at ease, but the fun this art team has with the big fight carries the issue without a stutter.

I wouldn’t say “buy it”, but most of you probably already bought it, so… well, sucks to be you. Sure, it’s pretty, but you honestly think you’re ever going to read it again? BWAHAHAHA!

Okay, okay. I’ll be nice. I’ll do another best-selling Superman book to show you I’m a weak-minded fanboy, too…

Superman/Batman #12 finally graces us with its presence, this week, giving us the Kryptonian Thrilla-calypse on Apokolips! (note to self: Never try to channel Don King again.) Yes, it’s the house of Jor-El against the house of Zor-El in a slam bang, two-fisted, pulse-pounding— Well, actually the fight isn’t that great. Supes and Kara knock each other around for a few pages, but he somehow manages to use a kryptonite ring to sucker punch her into submission. Then Wonder Woman also pulls off a rather convenient win against Granny Goodness and her girls. The sound of your own snoring will be deafening!

So, why am I recommending this issue? Batman, baby. First, the bastard claws his way out of the digestive tract of the frikkin’ Demon Hound that ate him last time around, then he has the stones to take on Darkseid one-on-one as a NEGOTIATION TACTIC. Great Dark Knight moment. Ah, but that’s nothing compared to what happens to the newly christened Supergirl when she returns to Earth. Your jaw will drop, your eyes will bug out, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn a little something… about yourself.

Nah, probably not. Good issue, though.

Hot Predictions for Next Week: Beast Trilogy Chapters 1&2, Queen & Country #27, Ultimate Spider-man #66, Wolverine #20, and Y: The Last Man #27.


Jason Schachat

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