Schachat's Independent Breakdown
Schachat got struck by lightning while bathed in
chemicals. All it did was hurt him.
December 17, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
you kids wanna hear something bizarre? Last week, I blasted
Action Comics #822 because I didn’t see how
Chuck Austen could possibly tie up all the loose threads
that had uber-baddies Preus, Gog, and Doomsday running amuck
in Superman’s back yard.
I was right!
leaves the series after #823, and we all get to shake our
heads in painful, painful confusion at yet another botched
hard to be sure whether Adventures of Superman
#635 sinks any lower than the last issue or
not. Last month diverted from the Parasites plotline to
spend some time with Mr. Mxyzptlk as he darted around the
DC offices complaining about the script. It wasn’t
actually funny and provided an annoying distraction from
the current arc, but at least it gave us some creepy development
regarding the Parasites.
time, Supes borrows John Henry Irons’ trusty Steel
suit for a big slugfest. Our sexy MCU lieutenant tries to
confess some sins to our favorite priest from the current
Superman run but is interrupted when word comes
in that the Parasites are tearing up midtown. We get a quick
romp with the terrible teens that reaffirms how Alexandra
has truly gone over to the dark side while Alex still wants
to be human again.
And then Superman
shows up and they fight.
It might seem
unfair to say this issue is worse than a Mxyzptlk outing
that’s completely unfunny, but this is the one point
in the story where we see it all amounts to nothing. The
Parasites were just a distraction, and we’re back
to chasing down Ruin. The problem is Ruin’s a snore
after all this time dealing with Replikon, his kids, Lois
getting shot, and the new Parasites.
Ruin be brought to justice? Probably. No big, if he doesn’t.
There’s nothing in the story to make us strongly dislike
him, and I’ll be damned if I can remember why he’s
doing any of this. Next month promises to focus more on
the ripples caused by Identity Crisis and Lois’
shooting, so I don’t really see Ruin going out with
good news is that Identity Crisis’ Rags Morales
is coming aboard Adventures of Superman next time
around, so we can at least hope for some good character-heavy
storytelling (an area Rucka excels in). As for this issue,
pass unless the novelty of seeing a hero wear another hero’s
armor still makes you giggle like a little schoolgirl.
been watching The
Batman, so I can’t say whether the cartoon
really does deliver a Bat for the kiddies, but The
Batman Strikes #4 does it pretty well. This
interpretation of the Dark Knight finds him acting more
like a rich Spider-Man or a significantly less troubled
Iron Man. And, oddly enough, the Iron Man comparison holds
up when Bruce Wayne must learn whether the suit makes the
man or not.
Who's gonna pay for that?
As usual, everything’s
nice and peaceful until Bane breaks out (most likely from
Arkham, but there’s no convenient sign around to tell
us so) and decides to wreak havoc on Gotham City. Meanwhile,
Bruce toys around with a few new gadgets, listens to loud
music, and gets lectured by Alfred on how both pastimes
are hurting Bruce’s romantic life and general worth.
Bruce then goes
on a short-lived date with the standard pretty girl he doesn’t
really love and runs off into the night at the first sign
of a criminal in need of a pounding. Bane beats on some
cops and endangers innocent bystanders with a runaway bank
vault door, but all that is quickly forgotten the moment
Bats shows up and revenge can be had.
Somehow, I found
myself liking this issue. It’s light on just about
everything and operates on the cynical but true “Superhero
Comic Plot” (two fights, one chase, and one big ol’
villain), yet there IS a joy to be found in a Batman for
kids. It harkens back to the brief time in his earlier years
when Batman was neither very dark nor goofy. He banters
with the villain, has some self doubts, asks some tough
questions, and is generally pretty happy throughout the
is too much of a stock villain here. The concept behind
Bane was that, while The Penguin might be smarter than Batman,
and someone like Killer Croc is stronger, Bane was both.
That’s why he retains the honor of being the only
one to break the Bat. Granted, most takes on the man-who-made-Mexican-wrestling-masks-cool-to-a-whole-generation-of-Americans
are pretty bad, but that doesn’t mean we can’t
is all too often equated with the serum that gives him his
strength, and most writers turn that into his Achilles’
heel. It’s no different in The Batman Strikes,
but I don’t think the kids will mind too much. For
readers who want a new kind of Batman, I can very mildly
recommend this, and kids should definitely get their grubby
little hands on this friendlier characterization. Dark Knight
Returns zealots may want to run for the hills, though.
“Golden Age” plotline tears along in Daredevil
#68 this week, but don’t come to it
hoping for major breakthroughs or plot developments. In
fact, if you haven’t been following this arc, don’t
come at all. The issue’s enjoyable and builds on events
of the last few issues and arcs, but the end is nowhere
Things kick off
with a flashback to the time when young Alexander Bont killed
a superhero and became New York’s first Kingpin. We
then get a quick reminder of the White Tiger trial that
took place when Matt Murdock’s identity was finally
linked to Daredevil, and come back to the present, where
he’s still having the tar beaten out of him by former
friend/enemy The Gladiator.
pleads with Gladiator to come to his senses; that he’s
moved on from the thug he used to be. But Gladiator just
keeps whomping on him while the aged Bont barks orders in
the background. We flashback to an early battle between
Gladiator and Daredevil where much the same conversation
took place, and the end results of that battle eventually
led to Bont’s incarceration.
again to the day before Bont and Gladiator walked back into
Murdock’s life, we find Foggy and Matt prattling outside
Matt’s apartment when they suddenly notice the FBI
agent assigned to the Daredevil case standing across the
street. And, man oh man, what a bombshell she’s about
most chapters of the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil, this
one has depth and intrigue, but is ultimately just a chapter.
The lack of chase scenes and fast-moving plots would outrage
old school comic fans, but it’s just the kind of thing
Daredevil fans have come to love. However, it’s also
a small piece of a much larger story that won’t end
even when this arc does.
art is gorgeous and gritty as ever, and his Golden Age and
Silver Age styles continue to demonstrate some surprising
versatility while pulling from the strengths of his usual
photo-referencing. As per usual, I have to give a big thumbs
up to colorist Dave Stewart for adding just the right amount
of effects to make the eras distinctly different (though
the method for the Golden Age scenes IS just going black
Again, I can
recommend this to anyone who’s been reading “Golden
Age”, but I would advise others to wait for the trade
paperback. It’s a good issue. I like it. I just can’t
see anything special enough to justify diving in blind.
question: How can anyone not like Mark Waid’s run
on Fantastic Four? This book has been stellar since
he took over, and news of his departure in two months feels
like a knife in my heart. Fantastic Four #521
isn’t the beginning of an arc, the death of a beloved
character, or a crisis that forever changes Marvel’s
First Family, but, dammit, this is the kind of stuff I want
to be reading every month.
going to need a bigger street.
Johnny has been
conscripted by Galactus to act as his newest herald due
to a little snafu that swapped the powers of Human Torch
and Invisible Woman. So, now, Johnny has to float down to
planets and announce that they’re about to be eaten
and thanks for not being able to defend yourselves.
Reed, Sue, and
Ben get in touch with Quasar for a lift to the world-devourer’s
ship and cruise along wondering how much trouble the poor
boy can be in. Of course, Johnny’s managing to find
a way to goof around even when hunting down yummy planets
for his hungry master, but he stills puts most of his effort
into preventing the loss of life.
everyone recognizes him as the herald of doom— er,
Galactus, and he gets a nuclear missile in the face for
every attempt to make peace. However, his new powers and
understanding of the universe are growing as he spends more
time working for the all-mighty appetite, and he begins
to see things in a different light.
I love this book.
This should be
a completely throwaway issue. The middle of an arc that
has no permanent effect on the Fantastic Four and is played
for laughs as often as it’s played for meaning. But
it’s just great. Wieringo’s art is gorgeous
and Waid’s story is smart and witty.
Jack Kirby’s best intentions, isn’t a character
we can take completely seriously, and Waid uses that to
simultaneously mock and build upon the intergalactic villain.
It’s intelligent. It’s fun. It’s a damn
shame it’ll be coming to an end soon.
I have high hopes
Waid will be able to resurrect Legion of Superheroes like
he has Fantastic Four, but I have to admit that he and Wieringo
have been a true dream team. I’m sure Barry Kitson
will again complement Waid on Legion, but I hate to see
one of my favorite creative teams split. Again. But, until
that happens, keep reading Fantastic Four. It’s good
the bad stuff, I’m going to institute a policy to
stop giving Marvel Age Spider-Man a chance. Marvel
Age Spider-Man #17 does itself the service
of not shoehorning in lame pop references, screenager internet
lifestyles, or other trendy details, but it still doesn’t
Spidey gets ragged
on by J. Jonah Jameson and considers quitting in the face
of discouraging public opinion. Human Torch tries to cheer
him up, but Peter decides to lay low while Jonah goes on
the airwaves to spread more hatred. Then Spidey bumps into
Sandman and, whaddaya know, it’s time for a fight!
really at a loss for why this book is still going. The story
isn’t an update so much as a paraphrasing. It isn’t
about collectable card games, kids, giant robots, or game-playing
kids riding in giant robots, so why does Marvel think kids
will want to buy it? For the same price, they can get an
issue of Ultimate Spider-Man that’s ALL about
being a teenager AND has decent art.
right; the one huge thing about these “updates”
has been to redraw the stories in a style that will attract
young readers, and the work here is awful. Faces are inconsistent,
expressions are nebulous, details frequently go missing,
and perspectives are ten kinds of wacky. Frankly, it’s
an insult to the fine work of Steve Ditko to say this is
better in any way, shape, or form.
to Marvel: Stop what you’re doing, come up with some
high quality, detailed re-colorings of the original Lee/Ditko
run (face it guys; kids want pretty pictures and current
printing makes the old colors look like crap), pay Stan
Lee some royalties, and get the originals back into the
kids' hands. Maybe even at a lower cover price.
I know for sure is that this experiment has been a dismal
failure, and anyone with half a brain should just read the
originals. The sooner Marvel Age Spider-Man gets
the axe, the better.
You have to wonder
whose brilliant idea it was to reward us for following Robin
through one crossover by immediately throwing us into another.
Plotwise, it makes sense for he and Batgirl to be linked
like this, what with the big move to Bludhaven by the latest
Bat-kids to leave the nest. Still, I would have preferred
a good two-issue arc to let us rest before diving into the
massive changes in Tim Drake’s life.
#133 starts out when the Dad-less Duo come
face to face with Blockbuster. Then Penguin rounds the corner
and points out that it’s just Blockbuster’s
corpse, which he had stuffed for a souvenir. Hordes of Z-list
villains and gangsters then pour into the room, and the
standoff soon turns into a brawl. The baddies, being less
than accomplished fighters, whip out their guns and proceed
to shoot one another to pieces while the kids weave in and
out of the swarm.
brings the madness to an end by having Gas Bag flood the
room with a sleeping agent. Tim falls into a bloody nightmare
where his recently deceased loved ones blame him for their
deaths. When he comes to, sure enough, he and Batgirl are
tied back to back with Penguin ranting about his plans to
unmask them and sell pictures revealing their true identities
to every paper in the world. Gasp!
did I forget Penguin could be so corny… Maybe it’s
wishful thinking, but I’d like to see us go a year
without Penguin droning on about some ridiculous master
plan or sitting in some club with showgirls waiting on him.
I just can’t believe that the Batman: The Animated
Series rendition of the character, despite his mullet,
is the only one I consistently had respect for. Sure, you
can make him colorful, but there IS such a thing as too
And I think this
“Fresh Blood” crossover may indeed be giving
us too much. We’re thrusts into a teenaged team-up
before we’ve really had time to feel out Tim Drake’s
new life. His father and girlfriend are dead, everyone he
knew at school has been kissed off, and, hell, the notion
of school itself has completely disappeared. Robin is flying
without the Bat for real, this time, but it still feels
like more of the same.
Why do I complain
like this? Because the speed at which this is moving doesn’t
give us any feeling of permanence. After Stephanie was rushed
in and out of the mantle of Robin, we need something to
last a while so events can seem important again. Tim’s
dad dying wasn’t something that’ll go away.
New heroes taking
over for a fallen comrade is all well and good, but, if
it were serious, you’d think there would be some settling
in. As is, they could be back in Gotham tomorrow.
And, while Batgirl
has the cleaner art of Ale Garza to draw us in, Robin struggles
under the distraction of Damion Scott’s wild caricatures.
Distorted, over-emphasized art like this has worked on Bat-books
before, but Scott’s style is simply too stretched
out and disproportionate for its own good.
figures and backgrounds are too fluid to give us any sense
of solidity, making it hard for a good understanding of
the scenes, despite good choreography and flow between panels.
On a better story, it’d be an irritance, but here
it’s another nail in the coffin. I’m just barely
going to advise Robin readers to get this. Everyone else:
watch some Teen Titans or something.
be fooled by the cover on Ultimate Spider-Man
#70: this isn’t a team-up with the Ultimates.
America’s superteam last for about two pages when
Spidey clocks the new Ultimate Deathlok (now with more death!),
and then manage to insult him before running off to the
Ultimate New Avengers?
no— like the title of the issue indicates, this is
where Spider-man meets Dr. Strange. Again. See, they met
in Ultimate Marvel Team-up, but Spidey doesn’t
seem to remember that. Or, he thinks he doesn’t remember
it, but it did happen. Of course, he also met the Fantastic
Four in that book, and that continuity didn’t carry
Well, in any
case, it’s the young Dr. Strange, son of the previous
Dr. Strange (officially taking the place of Daredevil as
the second hero of the Ultimate Universe) who, apparently
has become guru to the stars.
Over a swanky
dinner, Peter Parker recounts to Mary Jane his meeting with
the young sorcerer. He remembers how J. Jonah Jameson assigned
him to follow Ben Urich along on a puff piece, how he once
saw an episode of Biography about the Doc, and how his spider
senses went ape when they were turned away at the door.
Unfortunately, there are some very conspicuous things Peter
are probably two general types of Ultimate Spider-Man stories
that Bendis puts out. Some are made for pure style and the
joy of storytelling, and others see just how cleverly he
can re-work Marvel continuity into a more unified, coherent
saga. One might even go futher by arguing some are a mixture
of the two, but I’d say it always leans more one way
than the other.
tries some clever tricks, but most of the effort goes towards
building a solid Dr. Strange origin for those who never
read Ulitmate Marvel Team-up. It reads well the
first time through, but, looking over it again, there’s
more of an “oh, cool! Deathlok!” feel to it
than the charge we get when Bendis and Bagley have done
things like introduce Black Cat with a nearly silent issue.
I do have to recommend this issue for its smart handling
of why Peter keeps putting on his tights when he’s
supposed to be retired and the slow build up to the not-quite-shocking
ending. It’s a lot of bang for your buck and proves,
once again, that Ultimate Spider-Man is the driving
force behind the Ultimate line.
Predictions for Next Week: Authority: Revolution
#3, Astonishing X-Men #7, Conan #11, Sleeper Season Two
#7, and Wolverine #23.