Each week we take a critical look at some of the best books on the stands, courtesy of Big Guy's Comics (the unofficial comic book store of FanboyPlanet.com). If you publish a book that you want us to be covering, contact us. Or contact Derek. He doesn't have enough to do.

This week, I got my hands on a copy of Beautiful Killer a little early. Only a power outage kept me from posting it before its actual release date.

Beautiful Killer #1

Despite having high-profile creators, most of Black Bull's offerings have appealed to the basest of fanboy tastes. Teen-aged boy turns out to have cosmic destiny and hang out with a tough chick with big boobs? Why, yes, sir, I'll buy Gatecrashers. And really, Shadow Reavers sounds as much like a D&D club as a story title. Though Just A Pilgrim was a fun book, it was still little more than an excuse for Garth Ennis to amp up his basest tendencies as a writer, and when you've got Marvel MAX, who needs Black Bull for that?

Beautiful Killer still carries the residue of that attitude, but has signs of turning into a book that's more than its hype. Don't let the Adam Hughes cover fool you (though we forgive you for getting stuck there), and don't ignore it even though it sounds like bad manga. Inside, Jimmy Palmiotti and Phil Noto have taken the kind of fun spy film American studios think we're too dense to follow and run it straight into modern fears, with its implication of heroine Brigit Cole having suffered genetic modification.

Even though Palmiotti's narrative tells us that Brigit's story starts only twenty years before the events of this issue, it must be taking place in a universe where the sixties never died. Kingsley Cole, spy supreme, looks and dresses like the love-child of Sean Connery and George Lazenby, sleek, stylish and charmingly rakish. His soon-to-be-wife Anna is an amalgamation of every female partner John Steed ever had.

Sometime after the Coles' adventure depicted here, they retreated to an island where they raised Brigit in a loving environment, but still teaching her to be perhaps the greatest spy ever. There's definitely a darkness contrasting Brigit's story with her parents', and that parallel makes a light comment on how times have changed, even when wrapped up in a pretty typical "best friend betrayed them" plot.

Palmiotti has all the banter down just fine, and despite some hoary story points, Beautiful Killer still draws the reader in. It's just not particularly surprising, though Brigit is much wordier in her narration than one might expect of a girl raised in relative isolation. What Palmiotti has done best is provide Noto with a perfect match for his art.

Like Mike Kunkel (creator of Herobear and the Kid), Noto definitely reveals his animation background with his artwork. Even though Noto worked at Disney, his style hearkens back more to the first adventure shows by Hanna-Barbera, a mixture of the best of Doug Wildey and Alex Toth. The covers he has provided for Birds of Prey obviously have the sixties vibe, and his interiors for Batgirl have seemed strangely out of place because of that same vibe. Batgirl is too much a twenty-first century character; Beautiful Killer lets him cut loose in a comfortable milieu. This is exactly the book Noto needs to break out into a high industry profile.

It's also the kind of property Black Bull needs to establish itself as a player without the shadow of its parent, Wizard Magazine. Though publisher Gareb Shamus did make an initial splash and optioned Gatecrasher as an animated series on MTV (so far, it hasn't happened), Hollywood needs to see something worth adapting right now. As a high concept, Beautiful Killer is simple, streamlined, and catchy. It's just too bad that Courtney Cox-Arquette is likely too old to actually play Brigit, though Noto obviously modeled the character after the actress.

If Black Bull could put out a little more substance like this, the excessive hype in the pages of Wizard becomes almost forgivable. If they can keep up this level of quality, I might even buy into it.


Derek McCaw




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