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Late one night, a destitute Jason Schachat was led into a mysterious subway tunnel...
Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
November 19, 2004, page 1

Each week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction feeds you.

They made a serious attempt at a Space Ghost comic...

Why’d they make a serious attempt at a Space Ghost comic?

I love Alex Toth designs as much as the next guy, but come on! Does this mean they also have Birdman and Sealab 2020 books in the works? The mind boggles…

Though it may be a bit late in retelling how the Avengers first got together, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #2 continues to reinvent the origin of the now defunct superteam. Having fished Captain America out of the ocean last time around, Tony Stark seizes the opportunity to use Cap’s security clearance as a much needed boost to the team’s power.

Cap, however, is still a little woozy from spending most of the last century in a block of ice and keeps flashing back to World War II. Giant Man and a few others question his sanity, but the ever faithful Jarvis supports Cap wholeheartedly, remembering the great icon from his own youth that inspired a nation to fight the good fight. Thor finds the whole undertaking thoroughly without honor, but then disappears when Tony questions him about his godhood. So the question still remains: will Cap crack?

This series has some good points and some bad points. It serves almost as a bridge between the modern adventures in Ultimates and the classic adventures of the original Avengers, borrowing from the team’s history but telling the story with a darker, more modern slant. In many ways, it relates to the current atmosphere in America and the question we keep asking: Who can you trust? These Avengers are having a hard time relying on one another, but can we really say that doesn’t make sense after dealing with Hulk and each others’ secrets?

Joe Casey’s written this style before, but it manages to stay just fresh enough to keep the reader involved. These aren’t your father’s Avengers. That’s for sure. But it’s not a complete re-imagining, either. Scott Kolins' art, on the other hand, doesn’t do much for me. Maybe it’s the way he inks his own lines. There’s a squiggly quality to it that’s somewhere between Frank Quitely and Corey Walker (Invincible) which, despite rare moments, doesn’t do enough for me to give this more than a mild recommendation.

Remember the DC Focus line? You know? That ill-fated experiment to launch a new imprint? “Superpowers— but not superheroes!”? Yeah, didn’t think you’d remember… even though the line didn’t even start a year ago. All of its titles have gradually died off, and, unfortunately, Kinetic now joins its brethren in cancelled comic hell.

Wait...I think I went to school with this guy...
Kinetic #8 starts Tom off considering a superhero career. Until he tears through his Isotoner gloves when making a fist and gets a load of what he looks like in the mirror. School doesn’t fare much better for him. Then, he spends god knows how long waiting for the girl he likes (the one he accidentally spied on when she was undressing) to show up at her locker. Of course, with Tom’s luck, she immediately punches him in the face, and, wouldn’t you know it, his powers seem to have taken a vacation just as his nose starts gushing blood.

To add a bit of insult to its cancellation, the cover of this book is bereft of the DC Focus logo. I can’t say what sense that makes, since this issue closes the story out and, unlike Hard Time, doesn’t seem destined for a life beyond Focus. However, it may have a better reception when collected for the trade paperback.

If the story had one glaring flaw, it was the extremely quiet storytelling. Warren Pleece’s artwork may have been a little too far from superhero standards, but it never let down, and Kelley Puckett managed to make an unappealing, introverted protagonist fun to watch and easy to relate to. The story, on the other hand, remained simple and slow-moving for the entire run. Not a bad thing, but it was a kiss of death in this fickle market.

This issue closes the tale with charm and the bravery of a book that knows it’s never coming back. It answers our questions about Tom’s powers, resolves his romantic quandary, and finally shows him what was missing in his life. It’s a great story of a shy teenager getting everything he wants, and the sooner DC puts out a collected edition, the better. Kinetic getting cancelled was no surprise; wrapping up the story with such aplomb was.

But the big surprise of the week comes in the form of Eric Adams’ Lackluster World #1, a delightfully dark new mini that would be depressing in its gloomy assessment of the modern world if not for the wicked joy leaking off the pages. Detailing the life of a pissed off albino journalist, this chronicle opens with a typical bad day at work where our hero, Fahrenheit, is teased by workmate Cog (who prefers being called that to his given name of Herman Cogswell) before being shuttled off to his own birthday party by religious fanatic siblings Kelvin and Celcius.

It’s after the raucous celebration of God’s love, scary clowns, and Fahrenheit’s birthday that something finally snaps in our hero (most likely prompted by a combination of bad television and the news that Kelvin just won $20,000, which he plans to give to the church). Our story then loops back to the opening montage where Fahrenheit painted corpse outlines all over an intersection, surrounding the words “You are already dead”; proudly reiterating his theory that everyone in the city is too busy with unimportant crap to be living.

Of course, Fahrenheit manages to slip away from the scene scot-free, but that doesn’t mean his mission is over. Oh, not by a longshot.

We’ve seen a lot of books that tell us “people suck” and then go on to spout diatribes about how the main characters are so much smarter than everyone else, even though they just sit around all day saying “people suck”. Lackluster World cleverly avoids this indie book pitfall by combining the tale of a dark everyman with an expressionist cartooning that doesn’t wallow in self pity but also avoids the goofy bloodspray found in so many post-Johnny the Homicidal Maniac books.

Rather than making the supporting characters a gaggle of drooling morons, Adams instead demonstrates how “going with the flow” destroys your sense of self. Sure, Fahrenheit may not be happy as the only self-aware person in a city of drones, but, upon self examination, he has a lot more going on than his religious zombie siblings or the more outgoing Cog. While forces in this world may conspire to make us unite and conform, it always comes down to what makes YOU happy. Definitely recommended.

Unlike my esteemed editor Mr. McCaw, I was delighted at the prospect of Spider-Man India. JMS has already pushed the franchise further toward mysticism than anyone would’ve imagined, so I couldn’t help but be interested in a fresh start with an eastern origin shrouded in sorcery and Hindi myth. Man, was I wrong.

We did not fake this photo.
That's the Japanese version of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man India #1 introduces us to Pavitr Prabhakar, mild-mannered Indian teenager. He has a wise Uncle Bhim who acts as the voice of reason, an Aunt Maya who shows up for one panel, and possibly a new friend in Meera Jain, the local school hottie. Meanwhile, an evil businessman named Oberoi sneers through steepled fingers about how he’s going to unleash the powers of a mysterious amulet and, lo and behold, turns into a big green monster with horns, tusks, and flames coming out everywhere.

It isn’t much later that young Pavitr is being chased through the streets of Mumbai when a raggedy old man pulls him into an alley and gets all glowy as he declares that a great evil has been unleashed and Pavitr is chosen to fight it using the powers of the spider.

Now, I expected Spider-Man India to copy the original to a certain degree, and I can’t say it’s a slavish ripoff… What I CAN say is that it’s a shallow story borrowing many of the least important elements of the Ultimate Spider-Man revamp to give us a book that’s neither Spidey nor anything we haven’t seen before. The obligatory death of Uncle Bhim is unnecessary and meaningless. If anything, it teaches us it’s better NOT to be a hero, since that tends to get you killed. And why the hell is Green Goblin Spidey’s nemesis in yet another book? Don’t we get enough of that already?

Even allowing that this is a comic for a Hindi audience, it just tries too desperately to be the American Spider-Man. I haven’t seen any pics of Mumbai in quite a while, but I don’t recall it being packed with enough skyscrapers for webslinging to work. And the car chase they attempt in this issue? With the traffic in Indian cities, how’re you gonna have a high speed car chase? In fact, wouldn’t crashing the car on a major street prompt a citywide traffic jam? It’s these leaps in logic that make the translation so poor.

I can see Spidey swapping nations very easily. I can see him swapping cultures and origin stories, as well (Hell, a Japanese Spidey in Tokyo would ROCK! -- it exists in television form, but don't explore any further -- ed.). But there are reasons the original has lasted so long. An emotional core and a strange logic that persists to this day. But Spider-Man India doesn’t have the magic or the intrigue it needs to find an audience. An American audience, at least. Indians may love it… if they can get past the inconsistent and disproportionate art. Somehow, I don’t think they will.

Stargate SG-1: Aris Boch is a oneshot made for an even more select audience. The ties to the TV show it’s based on almost suffocate a newbie reader, yet I find myself very amused by the story and clever dialogue. The tale revolves around Aris Boch, a bounty hunter who previously appeared on an episode of the show but was never heard from again. According to the comic, the SG-1 team ran into him again not much later.

Another shaky alliance is formed between our heroes and the smart-aleck rogue when they find him wounded on a forest world. Apparently, Boch was waiting to make a trade with the Goa’uld (nemeses of humanity in general and SG-1 in particular) when they double-crossed him and left him to die. SG-1 begrudgingly take him in and nurse him back to health in exchange for information vital to their struggle against the Goa’uld, yet the question remains: Can Boch be trusted?

Having seen many episodes of the show, I can relate to this brief little yarn and recognize many of the story elements, but I fear the attempt to make such a quick little romp through the Stargate universe has left the story unfriendly to anyone who isn’t Stargate-literate. I feel sure almost anyone can enjoy the humorous dialogue and witty retorts, but that inaccessibility, in addition to a pretty illogical twist ending, keep me from recommending this to anyone but Stargate SG-1 fans.

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Jason Schachat

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