Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
Schachat loves The Walking Dead so much,
he should marry it.
November 12, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
haven’t seen The
Incredibles because some friends of mine insist
I need to “wait for them.”
My life is agony…
of agony, how do you write for Aquaman? Honestly. You can’t
go dark; we just did that. Do you make him campy? Do you
make him an environmentalist? Do you make him a king? Do
you try to play it straight like John Ostrander’s
been doing? Is that what’s kept the character in the
low numbers alongside Alpha Flight and Venom?
Or is this just a nigh impossible character to write these
#24 plunges us back into battle with the new
Marauder as Arthur tries to keep him away from Sub Diego’s
sunken nuclear arsenal. With the aid of some fish and the
new Sea Devils, he manages to cool down the U.S. military
long enough to figure out a plan that’ll both secure
the SPAWAR system and capture Marauder. But will they survive?
month, John Arcudi takes over the series, and I feel as
sorry for him as I did for Ostrander. What can you say about
a character who was such a hard sell they had to cut off
his hand to toughen him up? The sinking of San Diego was
a risky move that’s at least opened up more possibilities
for underwater conflict, but how appealing is high tech
underwater war when Finding
Nemo and Shark
Tale are the closest we’ve gotten to a submarine
movie in a decade and Sealab 2021 has run out of
underwater clichés to parody?
desperately in need of a solid new direction, but I’ll
be damned if I can say what that would be. The character’s
a DC mainstay. Has been since the ‘40s. But do we
really need more stories about masked villains who are UNDERWATER?
Doesn’t it seem like the property needs to have more
to do with the sea and less to do with cackling criminals?
Hey, I may be wrong, but it worked for Swamp Thing.
want an Avengers book that firmly announces “it’s
over," Avengers Finale is
the book for you. The mansion is destroyed, Tony Stark can
no longer afford to fund the team, members are dead and
lives are ruined. She-Hulk, Falcon, Wasp, Yellowjacket,
and Captain Britain plan to retire. Thor has disappeared.
The team reminisces on their greatest moments, have a last
drink and say goodbye.
fans who burrowed underground to avoid the carnage of “Disassembled”
should pop their heads out and breathe a sigh of…
Not a sigh of relief, perhaps, but a sigh of acceptance.
I’m not sure whether Avengers Finale was
intended to run before fans went apesh*t over the traumas
of the team’s end days, but Bendis makes it clear
that he loved the Avengers and their adventures, even if
he didn’t write the team quite the way readers hoped.
had one complaint about this book, it would be the way it
affects how characters operate in their own series. Jen
Walters saying she no longer wants to risk helping the Avengers
as She-Hulk completely changes the dynamic of her own book.
Falcon stepping out of the spotlight doesn’t bode
well for Captain America and The Falcon, and I’m
still a little puzzled at the changes in Tony Stark’s
life. It seems a little chaos magic worked its way into
his origins, as well (more on that in Iron Man #1).
is a fitting tribute to the Avengers and, along with Avengers
#503, makes the end of this team a little less painful.
It’s touching, and I think we all need that after
all that’s occurred. Recommended.
with the common wisdom of reading a series from a jumping
on point, I took a peak at B1N4RY #3
and was relatively pleased. Pretty confused, but pleased.
It’s about a guy who does a Tron and gets turned into
the world’s first digital superhero against his will.
Well, maybe he does more of a Freakazoid… anyway,
he’s turned all computery and now has to fight against
the evil Hackers who are out to destroy the program that
created him as well as various other things.
After reeling from the shock of his transformation,
our hero rushes to the friend who tricked him into doing
it so he can beat the tar out of him. When he learns there
was a purpose to his “accident”, he still doesn’t
settle down, but the sudden appearance of the Hackers convinces
him to fight. That, and the nuclear missile that mysteriously
Jim Sutherns opts for a graffiti-influenced
cartoon style and, when combined with Len O’Grady’s
colors, I have to admit that the simple, blocky images do
gain some appeal. But I don’t know if they fit Richard
Emms’ somber writing style. The art is an example
of extremes, but the words aim more for drama than comedy
or big action. I’ll have to give this one another
look when I have a better idea of what’s going on,
but I can say it’s worth a good flip.
something missing from B.P.R.D.: The Dead #1.
It’s not Hellboy. We’ve learned to live without
Hellboy. If anything, I’d say it’s Mignola’s
art, which is why I’m a bit torn by this new series,
because Guy Davis’ art is great. The lines are creepy,
the characters are true to his prior work, and Dave Stewart’s
coloring makes the book look like it was painted. But it’s
just not the dark Mignola style that drew me to the franchise
in the first place.
soldiers. Really, who could ask for anything more?
Our story opens with another infestation
of “frogs” being found out in the Midwest, signifying
the creatures’ migration further and further away
from the B.P.R.D.’s east coast base of operations.
The solution? We’re moving the team out to a shiny
new base in Colorado (which is actually an old base left
over from the Cold War). Of course, now that Abe Sapien
and Dr. Corrigan are running around the country trying to
learn about Abe’s past, the team also needs a new
leader. A strong leader. A military man. A zombie. Enter
undead former marine, former green beret Captain Benjamin
It’s cute, and you gotta love some
of the little jokes at work, but it’s a slow start
that isn’t creepy beyond the opening scene. As a chapter
in the continuing chronicles of the B.P.R.D., it serves
its purpose, but the plot is just a touch too light up front.
I can recommend it for franchise loyalists, but this isn’t
the place for newbies or anyone looking for good chills
been a long time since I reviewed Emma Frost, so I thought
I’d look at Emma Frost #17
to see how things have developed. Well, Emma’s gotten
reacquainted with the old high school professor she had
a crush on, made friends with and alienated a roommate,
discovered another mutant telepath running around campus,
and had yet another tragic altercation with a guy she’s
dating. So, aside from finally meeting another mutant, nothing’s
really happened. And I don’t say that because it’s
so easy to summarize the events of the last few months.
I say it knowing that the storytelling here is mediocre
we get this month is Emma’s big move on the former
high school teacher that her roommate Christie’s been
dating. She convinces him to break up with her and feel
a bit “Frosty," then runs off to brag to her
telepath pal. But the boasting leads her friend to question
whether Emma got back together with her true love through
subconscious mind-tweaking or not. Emma has no answer to
that, and goes into her standard montage of self reflection
and gets in a big fight with her jilted roomie.
this thing’s like watching that lame sitcom that comes
between your two favorites: it sounds like a decent idea,
at first, and it’s easy to just hop onto, but there’s
nothing to keep you coming back. No fire, no passion, no
wit. I don’t expect every X-spinoff to have huge explosions,
guys with claws ripping each other apart, or mandatory cleavage.
Plot always comes first, and books like District X,
New X-men: Academy X and Madrox have proven
that you CAN start with third tier mutants and, through
clever storytelling, make them interesting again.
when you’re handed a major character like Emma Frost
and have so little development a year and a half into the
series… I mean, she’s grown, and there have
been some defining moments, but it’s as if the character
goes back to square one the second a crisis ends. And, until
a crisis DOES happen, the plot drags on with little or nothing
to show for it. What pains me the most is that this book
keeps going while Mary Jane got the axe. Granted,
it was a hard sell, but it was a far superior girl’s
comic (and I can’t imagine why any guy would want
to read this one). Skip Emma Frost, and keep skipping
it until it sinks to the bottom.
kids at Vertigo were nice enough to give us a couple months
of light plotting after a truly massive arc of Fables,
but the mad developments of the last issue bear fruit in
Fables #31. Snow White has given
birth to Bigby’s “litter” and must take
the children to the Farm (the one place in the world Bigby
is not allowed to go). Prince Charming has won the Fabletown
election, ousting King Cole, Snow, and Bigby from their
seats of power. Bigby, meanwhile, has decided to go off
into the Mundy world, leaving the rest of the Fables behind.
Interrogating one of the Wooden Soldiers,
Bigby and company learn that The Adversary keeps our world
locked off from the others he’s taken because we possess
something which could turn the tide: technology. He fears
the way our guns and advanced weapons distribute power among
the common folk, while his magic can only be wielded by
the powerful. Potentially, a Mundy could someday face The
much of this issue could still be seen as cleaning house
from the events of the last few arcs, it’s weaved
so deftly that new threads sneak up on readers without breaking
the flow of the overall story. The ending kicks off a new
subplot that could easily justify more spinoffs like Fables:
The Last Castle and may in fact have to, what with
all the doors Bill Willingham has suddenly opened. Fables
has long been one of the jewels of the Vertigo imprint,
and this new arc reaffirms that not only are they not going
to reveal The Adversary or solidify Snow and Bigby’s
relationship any time soon but things are still only just
beginning. Strongly recommended.
weathered “War Games” without devoting a single
issue to it, Gotham Central #25
catches us up to the catastrophic events of the Bat-crossover.
Due to the actions of Batman, many police died in the gang
war, including one of our friends in the MCU. The Dark Knight
took over the police radio band and ordered cops on suicide
missions. When the police had Black Mask surrounded, Batman
stepped in and Black Mask escaped, only to become the undisputed
kingpin of the Gotham underworld.
of the moron...
So, yeah, Bats screwed up bigtime.
aftermath, the MCU argue amongst themselves whether Batman
is a hero or a madman, but Commissioner Akins takes it upon
himself to once and for all remove the Bat-signal from the
roof of the Central Police Department. Arguments continue
to break out, especially between Cris, who, as an outsider,
believes Batman is just another one of the “freaks,"
and Montoya, who, having grown up in Gotham, sees Batman
as what inspired her to make a difference. Reporters grill
the Captain, the Mayor chews out the Commissioner, and only
one thing remains clear: the GCPD no longer trust Batman.
is the kind of issue that makes Gotham Central
stand out. The “freaks” are what make the series
more than a graphic novelization of TV cop dramas. The “freaks”
are what set Gotham City apart from any other place in the
world of fiction, and the fact that Batman is once again
considered a true enemy to the police promises to charge
this series with even more tension than before. Kinda funny
how the best Bat-book technically isn’t about Batman,
Winick throws us another curveball with Green
Arrow #44 and the further development of Mia’s
H.I.V. Rather than interweave the plot with the continuing
rise of Brick, the new crimelord of Star City, the storytellers
play it simple, examining how Mia and Ollie generally slip
into denial while Connor pushes them to face the facts.
Luckily, they seem to have discovered the virus at a very
early stage, and Mia’s prognosis is “excellent”
(whatever that can mean when dealing with an incurable ailment),
but it’s not the drug treatments, side effects, or
fear of death that are bothering Mia.
I have to admit that I was worried when
I got roughly halfway through this issue and so little had
happened. Most of the story’s a laundry list of H.I.V.
facts and how even the advanced treatments available today
have nightmarish offshoots. That, and Ollie’s fight
to repress his rage while Connor, enlightened soul that
he is, reminds Ollie that Mia hasn’t received a death
sentence. She’s merely living with H.I.V.
the last seven or eight pages were what hit it home, for
me. To see the closely guarded Mia open up in such an honest
and believable way was touching and transformed the frustratingly
placid issue into a cathartic experience. Phil Hester isn’t
the best at drawing talking heads, but he gives just enough
subtlety to his often unreadable Mia that none of the story’s
emotion is lost. Connor, however, is limited to “stoic”
and “furrowed," which doesn’t help draw
the reader into earlier parts of the story. Much as I’ve
enjoyed his work on this series, I can’t wait to see
what happens when Tom Fowler (Winick’s partner in
crime from the last chapter of Caper) gets to take
a crack at this material. Recommended.
Crisis #6 is going to be the one that makes
or breaks the series for you. There’ve been ups and
downs, revelations and betrayals, ret-cons and bold steps
forward; but this is where a lot of fans will draw the line.
After the attack on Tim Drake’s dad last issue, we
find yet another Robin has been orphaned. Captain Boomerang
is dead, too, but his own super-powered son readily grasps
the mantle. And the whole mind-wiping debacle? Well, it
turns out another person’s brain was fiddled with.
A hero’s brain. Possibly the most important hero’s
right; just as we start to get some closure and the series
seems like it’ll quietly fade out, a shocker comes
through. And THEN we find out who the real villain is! (To
any who thought Captain Boomerang was the mastermind behind
it all: the short bus is waiting to take you home.) But
it’s not so much the horrifying logic behind why all
this has happened or the “humanizing” of superheroes
or even the notion that they’d turn on their own that
makes Identity Crisis such a twisted tale. It’s
that they HAVE turned on their own, believe their own have
turned on THEM, and would willingly turn on their own again.
wouldn’t be a surprise in an original superhero universe
like Watchmen. We’ve seen it before in the
Marvel Universe, and it’s run of the mill in Image
and Wildstorm stories. But this is the DC Universe. This
is the place where heroes act like heroes. Things actually
CAN be perfect in this world. And while we’ve had
our betrayals, traitors, and megalomaniacs rise from the
ranks of humanity’s defenders, this new feeling that
the heroes can’t trust each other is staggering.
And, frankly, it’s too damaging to
actually last. The aftershocks of this series would make
every team and partnership in the DCU fall apart in an instant.
Wally West, who JUST learned to open up to his buddies at
the JLA, would probably go into a coma trying to process
all that he’s learned. If not for the fact that Tim
Drake JUST came back to being Robin, I’d say there’s
enough here for him to retire permanently. Batman…
well, Batman can survive knowing he can’t trust anybody,
but I’ll be damned if he’ll ever team-up with
someone out of anything other than a survival instinct.
Brad Meltzer may have destroyed the one thing that makes
DC superheroes DC superheroes. On the other hand, he may
have pushed them into a totally new frontier. The one thing
I know for sure is a lot of fanboys will be appalled, and
I can’t blame them. If you’re already reading
this series, you’ll be picking this up whether I say
so or not. If you’ve avoided Identity Crisis,
keep doing so. This is dangerous territory and some of us
may not make it out alive.
things happened in the past year that make Iron
Man #1 a pleasant surprise. First, Warren
Ellis said he didn’t plan on doing many American comics
for a while. He’s now signed up for a two year exclusive
contract with Marvel. Second, the “X-men Reload”
made it appear Marvel had no concept what the word “reload”
meant. Unless they were referring to firing more shells
into the bloated corpse of a long-bastardized franchise.
Which they did.
anybody miss the days when he looked like a can
of New Coke?
But Iron Man well and truly reloads with
Warren Ellis’ new arc, reworking the origins of Tony
Stark and his powered armor into a story that’ll resonate
more with modern readers. The action begins with some young
guys injecting one of their buddies with some kind of experimental
biological agent that begins to change him into God-knows-what.
Then we meet Tony Stark, bickering with his snooty secretary
and deriding himself in the mirror. He slaps on his armor,
goes flying around, and gets a call from an old friend about
a certain biological agent that’s gone missing.
ways, it’s just another day on the farm. The main
plot and much of the characterization of Tony Stark isn’t
all that different from what we could’ve been reading
a few months ago. But Ellis ups the ante by connecting development
of the Iron Man armor with Tony’s mistakes building
weapons for the military. A documentarian interviews him
for a film called “Ghosts of the Twentieth Century."
As it turns out, Tony is one of these ghosts because the
landmines and bomblets he designed during the first Iraqi
War are still being found by children. Of course, it was
those same devices that wounded him and gave rise to the
Iron Man armor.
Marvel’s new fondness for painters
pays off with some truly gorgeous work by Adi Granov that
oscillates between powerful, beautiful, and terrifying.
It’s a great match up for the range of emotions Ellis’
writing covers, and promises an exciting new beginning for
a struggling book. Definitely recommended.
Knights Spider-Man #8 wraps up the “Venomous”
arc in a bizarrely trite brawl between Spidey and the new
Venom. Having been sold to a mobster’s wimpy son,
the Venom symbiote hunts down the wallcrawler at a high
school reunion, kills a bunch of Peter Parker’s former
classmates, and then… well, they fight. The Bugle’s
“hunt for Spider-man” and “Vulture’s
sick grandchild” subplots exit the story as the mystery
of Spidey’s new nemesis grows. Oh, and god only knows
what they’re gonna do with Venom now.
Frank Cho once again takes over for Terry
Dodson on art duties, and the result is beautiful (thanks
in no small part to uber-colorist Laura Martin), but it’s
also a pretty confusing read. Cho’s characters look
far better than Dodson’s exaggerated caricatures,
but the flow of the panels is choppy and some almost seem
redundant. It’s hard to know who’s to blame,
but I have to fault Cho for oddly choreographed fighting
and a pivotal fake-out sequence that makes no sense whatsoever
(and I still can’t figure out why Cho HAD to draw
Oscar the wiener dog when Spidey has to save a “yapping
Pekinese”). Still, it is pretty.
had to classify the Spidey books on the shelves today, I’d
say Marvel Knights Spider-Man is the book that’s
making the loudest attempt to move the character into new
territory. Unfortunately, the journey to that new territory
inevitably takes us back to places we’ve been before.
Amazing Spider-Man is doing a more interesting
job reworking the franchise, even if it’s
pissing a lot of people off. As it stands, I have hope
that Mark Millar can push the material with his continued
destruction of Spidey’s rogues gallery, but that isn’t
enough for me to recommend this issue.
Team-Up #1 launches a new era in— Aw,
who am I kidding? This is the third damn volume of this
book, not including Ultimate Marvel Team-Up or Super-Villain
Team-Up. And you know what? It feels about the same; a couple
of Marvel characters thrown together in a book that’s
not quite their own to fight a foe neither would face alone.
Writer Robert Kirkman updates the format by throwing in
a heavy dose of his brand of drama, but the basic formula
is still there.
The story begins in flashback, showing us
that Wolverine ends up being webbed-up in an alley, fists
against his face, silently cursing Spider-man and the events
that led to this sticky situation. We then witness the start
of the day, where Spidey saves an armored car while Wolvie
tracks someone down for Cyclops. Peter Parker manages to
swing into his school late and gets a good chewing out from
the principal before getting hit on by one of his fellow
teachers (yes, it’s an unrealistically hot female
one). So, things seem pretty normal… until one of
the kids in the lunchroom manifests glowy mutant powers.
is a hard book to pin down. Not bad, but not great. It maintains
the status quo, gives us some chuckles and nice art, but
doesn’t make you get up and holler. I still think
Kirkman does far better with his own Image books than any
of his Marvel outings, but who am I to deny the man a book
starring Spidey and Wolverine? He does a better job with
both characters than the majority of books featuring them.
That I must admit. But it still doesn’t sing like
Walking Dead or Invincible. Recommended
if you need a light Kirkman fix or didn’t get enough
Spidey/Wolvie action from Ultimate Spider-Man.
and if you missed it the first time, Walking Dead
rocks. You know this. I try to say it every week. Even when
the title gets delayed. I will admit that issue #12 is a
quiet, transitional entree (though that is pretty necessary
after the carnage last time around) and definitely not the
place for newbs to jump on, but it already has me aching
for issue #13. So, I guess it’s a damn good thing
issue #13 comes out next week! And, with another six issues
completed, that means another Walking Dead TPB
is coming our way soon. Get ready to fork out some dough!
Predictions for Next Week: Captain America #1,
Conan #10, Ex Machina #6, She-Hulk #9, and Walking Dead