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Jason Schachat may someday found the Legion of Superheroes..
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
October 8, 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.

So, Superboy was Superman as a kid, and he inspired the Legion of Superheroes to form… but then the Crisis made it so there was no Superboy… er, Superboy died saving the past in 1987… but Superman still exists… then there’s a clone Superboy… then Superboy comes back and joins the Legion… but he’s the clone Superboy…

There’s nothing you can do, Jake… It’s… Hypertime…

Garth Ennis’ new mini 303 kicks off this week with the first of six issues set amidst the hills of Afghanistan. Our hero, a brooding ex-patriot Russian Colonel marches through the beginning of the issue with the namesake of the series, a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle slung over his shoulder; the author narrating with the lifespan of the venerable weapon and the role it’s played in the history of the country as the protagonist walks into the sunset. We flashback to three days earlier when he carried a different weapon and was accompanied by a group of naïve British soldiers in search of a downed aircraft, an aircraft which the Americans are trying to keep secret at all costs.

Like Punisher, Hitman, and, to some extent, Preacher, this is a story of a mean bastard surrounded by a bunch of stupid bastards shooting each other up in tough, bastardly world. Lotta bastard. Jacen Burrows’ character designs are reminiscent enough of Steve Dillon’s to have an instant synergy with Ennis’ words, but his faces are far more varied. Unfortunately, 303 lacks some of the humor Dillon managed to squeeze out of Ennis’ dark, cynical tales in the past, but it has a good hook and promises some tasty developments in the near future. Recommended.

Captain America and the Falcon #8 answers all our questions about what the hell is going on with one simple acronym: M.O.D.O.K. Yessir, the big floating head guy is linked to the conspiracy that’s making guys see “Designed Only for Killing” written everywhere they go, has a hand in the Rivas drug cartel, has something to do with Admiral Westbrook’s shadow ops, and probably made Cap think he and Scarlet Witch had a thing going on. Not a bad day’s work for a guy with such stubby arms.

Andrea DiVito takes over art duties from Joe Bennett, and, although I prefer the latter’s realistic stylings immensely, Divito’s heavier lines and less detailed scenes aren’t a bad fit to the oddball script. And, man, what an oddball script. Modok. Who ever thought we’d see Modok floating around in two different Captain America titles in the same month? Christopher Priest’s take on Cap and Falcon has energy, but the issues are never even as satisfying as Robert Kirkman’s goofy approach to Cap’s solo title. Worse yet, the endings never make me want to buy the next issue. They don’t particularly make me want to recommend the book to my readers, either. So I’m not. Moving along…

A flashback in a flashforward.
To feed our need for more Conan, Dark Horse gives hungry fans Conan and the Daughters of Midora, the first one-shot to grace the new franchise. Done in a style perhaps even more reminiscent of The Savage Sword of Conan than the current series, the tale opens with a thirty-something Conan spending his money on ale and whores, generally making a nuisance of himself and attracting the attention of the royal guard with boasts that he intends to rob the king that very night. A few severed heads later, they subdue the barbarian and lock him away in their sturdiest cell. Of course, that was all part of Conan’s clever plan; you see, he has the key to the cell door.

This, however, is all prelude to a mission much like those we remember from Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer involving a missing princess, evil sorcerer, undead minions— the whole shebang! It makes for a great old school adult fantasy adventure with blood flying everywhere, enemy corpses piled knee-high, and one helluva mean warrior chick in a loincloth. (Though she wears shoulder armor. How cool is that?)

The story doesn’t match Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord’s work on Conan, but Jimmy Palmioti’s formulaic story has the barbarian king’s style written all over it. Mark Texiera’s pencils could be straight out of the 70’s series and Michelle Madsen’s simplified yet nuanced color scheme makes the book feel old school without appearing lazy or dull. A must for drunken Conan diehards and recommended for anyone who wants to be one.

But, oy… I must’ve gotten into some fermented apple juice or something, ‘cause I actually LIKED Jubilee #2. And I hated the first one. Don’t get me wrong; I still don’t like the character, see little potential in the series, can’t understand why a teenager with the body of a supermodel is an outcast at her high school, and despise how Derec Donovan’s solution to making Jubes obviously Asian is to make her look like she’s sleepwalking. Still, this issue squeezed a chuckle out of me and really did bear some resemblance to high school, for a few moments.

Jubes spends this issue settling in to her training as a peer counselor and unwittingly learns her support of Meg is exactly what she needs to do if she’s going to help other students. Resident popular-jock-who-looks-nothing-like-a-teenager Dale continues his flirtation with our heroine while the kids at school torture Meg a bit more, though rather harmlessly when you consider how bad high school can be. So, yes, it does seem like Jubilee’s finally settling into a normal teenage lifestyle. One where her mysterious Aunt who may be an assassin goes off to “business meetings” in the middle of the night.

This book still has some gross flaws that need to be tended to. I realize Jubilee’s huge earings are the one identifiable icon left to her from the 90s, but, geez, do they look awful. Combined with her cat-eared knit hat and wardrobe consisting entirely of green t-shirts and blue jeans, she doesn’t even need to be a mutant to be unpopular with the other girls at school.

The pranks played on Meg still don’t make much sense, Jubilee using taxis as a means of transportation around L.A. is kinda odd, and the lack of open-air hallways, outdoor eating areas, or outdoor gym classes in a California public school is just plain absurd.

Robert Kirkman’s writing pulls through on this excursion, but the book isn’t out of hot water just yet. For now, I can very mildly recommend this issue, though I still wonder how it hopes to win in the “All Ages” market.

Justice League Unlimited #2 delivers big action for the kiddies and sneaks in just a sliver of charm for the longtime fans. The League relaxes in their orbiting satellite headquarters, playing poker through the night. Booster Gold notices Superman seems to win far too much and suspects he’s cheating.

Coincidentally, the Royal Flush Gang pop up in Vegas, and the League springs into action. Definitely one for readers under thirteen, though I appreciated seeing Booster in the spotlight, again. Supes plays the consummate boyscout, Flash is just kinda… there, I’m not really sure if Steel’s entirely human, and Huntress is almost completely useless.

I could poke all sorts of holes in this, but the “all ages” aspect of such a pure superhero story makes me hesitate. The villains mostly bring about their own undoing and all the heroes, with the exception of Superman, seem woefully underpowered (especially against this new, completely super-powered Royal Flush Gang). It’s nice Bruce Timm-influenced art, though, so it’s not entirely unappealing. Buy this one for your kid, not for yourself, unless you feel you need to be punished.

In this week’s attempt at self-flagellation through literature, I picked up Sabretooth #1 with chilled, shaky hands. I guess my expectations were so low I couldn’t help but enjoy it a little. Not enough to recommend it in any way shape or form, mind you, but it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d been punched in the kidneys.

The new miniseries finds everyone’s favorite token nemesis in the frozen wastes along Lake Superior, killing indiscriminately and loving every second of it. Wisely, writer Daniel Way chooses to focus on the U.S. Coast Guard crew who respond to a local town’s distress call, giving Sabretooth little screentime and few chances to be thoroughly distended by Bart Sears’ pencil.

Aside from that, I can’t say there’s much going on storywise. This feels like any number of Marvel minis we’ve read over the years and doesn’t promise any big reveals or feats of daring. Best you can probably hope for is a glimpse into Victor Creed’s past, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

Bart Sears art isn’t as horribly revolting here as his work in the past, but I’m guessing that has more to do with the small number of panels both Sabretooth and a certain familiar Canadian hero show up in. It also helps that most of the characters are swaddled in heavy parkas, rendering their anatomy immune to Sears distortions. Pass on this book, even if the cover does look kinda cool.

Look! Up in the sky! It's SMOG!
Majestic #3 continues the slow crawl toward making a point, but I still can’t really fault it. Karl Kerschl’s art is like an amalgam of Ed McGuiness’ cartoony superheroics and Tony Harris’ photo-realistic drama. I could stare at the stuff all day. Strangely, however, I’m starting to wonder if “Majestic” is the best title for this mini, since it seems to be more about Majaestros learning to NOT be Mr. Majestic. Abnett and Lanning’s reveal that he lost his memory may seem like something straight out of Plot Convenience Playhouse, but then you have to consider that total recall is one of Majaestros’ powers.

As a permanent change in the character, I think this would be a big mistake, since the super-memory is a defining attribute of the many thousand year old hero, but the growth allowed by the momentary amnesia will hopefully open Mr. Majestic up to readers. A major problem some have with Majaestros is the idea that he doesn’t have an alter-ego. Like that’s a bad thing!

You’re gonna tell me Batman REALLY has an alter-ego? When was the last time you saw Bruce Wayne in more than four consecutive panels? Alan Moore was right to re-shape Mr. Majestic to resemble the omnipotent 1960’s Superman, and ditching the secret identity concept becomes necessary when you’re dealing with a deity (Did Morpheus from Sandman need an alter-ego?).

We still have yet to see a Mr. Majestic story reach the heights of Alan Moore’s Wildstorm Spotlight featuring Majestic #1 (easily one of Moore’s best one-shots, it was reprinted in the Mr. Majestic TPB), but this journey into the more compassionate side of one of the most powerful living superheroes has been a worthy outing. Recommended, but more for the art than the story.

Remember NYX? Monthly New York street story about mutants? Started a year ago? Issue #5 just came out.

It really isn’t fair to blame Marvel for much more than poor planning, though. Sure, issues started coming late early on, and they were stupid enough not to nail down artist Joshua Middleton (nabbed by DC in a move much like Marvel did when they stole Frank Quitely off The Authority), but live and learn, no?

Unfortunately, the story suffers from the hiatus. We flashback to the moments when Kiden and Cameron first discovered X-23, but from the perspective of one of Zebra Daddy’s whores. She phones to tell him X-23 killed a john, and Zebra rounds up a posse to take the three women out. Meanwhile, the animal-loving Tatiana rescues a dog who’s been hit by a car, tending to the animal’s wound and getting the blood all over her. Arriving at school, she notices strange scents and sounds all around and doubles over in pain, only to rise up bearing features of the dog she rescued.

Yes; mutant were-dog. I was stupefied, too, but Joe Quesada and company allayed my fears by demonstrating Tatiana’s shape-shifting ability relies on contact with an animal’s blood. Again, this sounds like another goofy comic book idea. Consider, however, the strong characterization of Tatiana as the rare person who gets physically sick when an animal comes to harm. The empathy she has with animals makes her ability so much more of a curse, you can’t help but be touched by the end of the issue.

Robert Teranishi’s pencils bear only a vague resemblance to Middleton’s work, but the rest of the team pulls together to make the overall feel of the art remarkably similar to the earlier issues. It lacks the soft glow that made the series so unique, but the months of waiting will probably make it harder to notice some of the differences.

My only complaint is about X-23. Not about X-23 in this comic, but in Uncanny X-Men. I don’t know just what Marvel’s thinking, but the girl at the club in Uncanny is NOTHING like the quiet, distant girl of this book. So far, I like this one more.

We’ve had enough brash Wolverine-wannabes out there to fill out their own Marvel Encyclopedia and the last thing we need is another costumed badass. Joshua Middleton and Joe Quesada’s X-23 felt new. Chris Claremont and Alan Davis’ X-23 is starting down the same old path. NYX may still be struggling, but at least it’s trying to be different. Recommended.

A few indie comic junkies I know have been blabbering on about Poison Elves for a while, now, so I thought I’d take a look at it. Problem: My store had already sold the three copies it ordered. But, amazingly, the new mini Poison Elves: Hyena premiered this week, so I sorta got a taste of Poison Elves. Sorta. See, Poison Elves is the brainchild of Drew Hayes, but the mini’s written by Keith Davidsen and Scott Lewis, so I guess this isn’t quite the Poison Elves experience I’ve been hearing about.

Yeah, yeah; cry me a river.

Issue #1 wastes no time in bringing us up to speed on Hyena’s life, explaining how the young woman came to study the dark arts, become a powerful sorceress, fall in and out of love with an Elven rogue (Lusiphur, star of the main series), came under the control of an evil wizard, and finally freed herself. Of course, this is all told to us by a trio of sexy, half-naked ghost witches lying in bed with her, so my summary probably doesn’t quite do it justice.

Hyena wakes up not long after, only to have one of her living gargoyle servants hurled through her window by an army of goblin-demon-imp guys who proceed to lob dynamite into her humble castle. She rushes out to fight them clad in what must be the sturdiest lingerie ever to weather a battle, but finds herself seriously outnumbered, despite the numerous spells she manages to weave against her foes. As certain death looms over Hyena in the form of a metal golem, a mysterious elven warrior comes to her aid. But why?

Now, I’m not a particular fan of fantasy comics. Even cartoony ones. Even when they have voluptuous goth chicks running around in their skivvies. But Poison Elves: Hyena works for me in a few ways: 1) The main character has wit and personality. 2) The excessive violence of the fight doesn’t shy away from some wonderfully gruesome humor. 3) Okay, maybe there is SOME benefit to having a busty babe running around in lingerie…

As indie books go, this makes for a fun read that builds up enough of a plot to keep you interested in the second issue. Probably not for everybody, but anyone who can find the humor in suicidally stupid orc guys dying gruesome deaths should give it a look. Maybe even shell out the $2.95. Recommened.

So, why should you fork over $3.50 for the Teen Titans/Legion Special? Well, it’s certainly a must have for Legion fans, but Teen Titans followers might feel they’re just getting jerked around. The long awaited battle between the two teams and 500 members of the Fatal Five sprawls across this issue with some glorious battles, flames and lightning dancing over the pages.

We learn early on that Persuader’s axe was empowered to cleave that fabric of reality, allowing the Five to recruit doppelgangers from other realities. As the conflict continues, the Legion make a point of acting superior to the Titans based on their level of cooperation and teamwork, but it’s pretty clear the Titans are just barely surviving against the army of villains.

We get a nice moment where Kid Flash sees his mother for the first time in many years before the climax revs up. Superboy finally has to choose between the two groups and makes a decision that should satisfy most readers. Robin… frankly, I’m amazed Robin survived the whole ordeal. He was the most underpowered person there and he was taking laser beams to the chest while Braniac 5 did all the thinking.

The ultimate results of this outing leave the Titans in the midst of a new adventure, but fans might not like seeing their heroes getting tossed around while the Legion does the heavy lifting. Like Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, the story hasn’t much standalone value and shouldn’t be read by Teen Titans fans with expectations of more than a continuity bridge.

Legion fans, on the other hand, NEED to buy this issue. The main series having ended two months ago, this story will not only feed your craving for Legiony goodness but restore your faith in mankind. There are some great moments here, and you’ll be bursting with excitement at what the future holds. Definite must buy for Legionnaires and mildly recommended to Titans, but not the best place for newbies to jump on.

The Tomb of Dracula #1 is an odd blend of two different kinds of vampire hunter stories, neither requiring any genre familiarity for you to get involved. One is the neo-classic Van Helsing brand. The other is Blade. So, for the first half of the book, we get a fight-and-meet scene that could come straight out of any number of vampire comics.

It isn’t until roughly fifteen pages in that we get more than “I’m Blade. Not really a vampire” and random swordplay. The pity of it is the rushed second half of the issue paints an interesting picture of a team of vampire hunters. One that hints at history, culture, and mythology. And then Blade comes back into the picture. Snore.

The art is done in an inconsistently scratchy style which may add some tension but does nothing for the characters. Perspective and proportion are fudged on nearly every page and, aside from the image of Dracula with a few dozen women writhing at his feet, nothing will stick with you. My advice to Marvel: ditch Blade. He wasn’t that great of a comic character and movie fans aren’t going to buy the book if his name isn’t on it. Perhaps the book will get better without him, but this Blade-heavy issue plays to none of the character’s strengths and brings out all his weaknesses. Steer clear, kiddies.

I don’t know if it’s really fair to summarize Ultimate Spider-Man #66 for you guys… Lemme check if Derek already ruined the surprise in his Spotlight… damn, can’t even blame McCaw on this one… Hell, fine: Spidey and Wolverine wake up one morning to find they’ve swapped bodies. I know, I know; it doesn’t sound like anything new, but Bendis makes it pure damn gold. The first five pages confuse the hell out of us, offering no clues as to why Peter Parker is wandering around his house in a daze and seems surprised that he’s supposed to go to school.

Then Logan wakes up, eyes sweeping over his decrepit apartment in terror, and runs to look at himself in the mirror. That’s when we’re reminded that Wolvie’s claws can be triggered by fear, and, well, let’s say there’s a new record set for the number of times those adamantium wonders have been used to for unwitting self-inflicted torment and outright hilarity. Meanwhile, Peter gets all surly with Aunt May, but a call from Logan (yes, they’ve now both realized they’ve swapped bodies) convinces him to go to school in his place. Which doesn’t seem so bad when he notices the unreasonably sexy cheerleaders parading around…

Inappropriately dressed schoolgirls aside (‘cause, honestly, if they walked around like that, teenage boys’ hormones would boil over and blow their heads clean off), this was a damn near perfect issue. You could’ve missed the last arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, the entire series, or even the last forty years of Marvel Universe continuity and be perfectly at home jumping into it. The dialogue is smart and witty, the concept never feels as phoney and trite as it is, and, again, I’m dying to see what happens next issue. Probably the best book of the week…

But then Y: The Last Man #27 finally takes us to San Francisco; the long-sought after city where Dr. Mann can complete her studies to see what’s kept Yorick and Ampersand alive while everything else while a Y chromosome died. First, we flashback a couple of years to when Yorick picked up the ring he would propose to Beth with. At a magic shop. Back in the present, Hero continues to hunt her brother, though it’s still unclear whether she’s driven by her love for him or the voices in her head.

Before that can clear up, Brian K. Vaughan re-introduces even more long forgotten threads, bringing back the ninja from the “Comedy & Tragedy” arc just before the burqa-wearing secret agents from the end of “Safeword” ambush Yorick and Agent 355, stealing Beth’s ring from around Yorick’s neck.

If I find any disappointment in this issue, it’s that I feel the ending of the series could be lurking just over the horizon. It isn’t (not to my pitiful knowledge, at least), but bringing together so many threads in one arc… an arc that starts off in the “final destination”… well, they’ve got me scared.

Highlighting the ring, an element practically unseen since the first issue, gives us such a clear tie to the beginning you can’t help but feel that way. Drawing the focus of Y: The Last Man back to the “plague” smacks of finality, and the reappearance of actual magic could be troublesome.

Of course, the shocker ending will set your hair on end, so there really isn’t anything to complain about. Y is still one of the best books on the market and, with any luck, it will be for years to come. Definitely recommended.

Hot Predictions for Next Week: Ex Machina #5, Fallen Angel #16, Hard Time #9, Secret War #3, She-Hulk #8, and Ultimate Nightmare #3.


Jason Schachat

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