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)
and Heroes (the other unofficial comic book store of FanboyPlanet.com,
in Campbell, California). If you publish a book that you want us to
be covering, contact us. Or contact Derek.
He doesn't have enough to do.
Hey Kids! Comics!
Yes, I shame-facedly
admit it -- this piece is late. Due to holiday food poisoning
and an inability to work from home (fire up the Mac and the 2 year old
wants to play a game), I had to wait until my regular work schedule
resumed. Fanboy Planet regrets the inconvenience, and promises to work
extra hard in January.
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Pascual Ferry and Scott Hanna
Every now and then,
it's cool to see a villain just get thrown away. So it goes with Iconoklash,
a satanic-looking robot likely named by Rob Liefeld. His sole purpose
must be to provide the line, "It's Superman! And he's fighting Satan!"
spouted by a young tourist.
Kelly does shift
gears from those opening pages, telling a story that neatly explores
Superman's character without bogging it down in continuity. In a nutshell,
an exploited and beaten down alien race recruits the man of steel to
free them from their conqueror. The catch? Their world revolves around
a red sun. The longer Supes stays there, the weaker he becomes.
And when it turns
out that the conqueror is an old, old enemy (identity concealed because
it's fun), we get a reminder that Superman is not the big dumb brute
a lot of would-be galactic emperors would like to assume.
This issue also
has a clean art job by Ferry and Hanna. Reminiscent of Ernie Colon,
the whole layout has a strange Harvey Comics feel. It's different, but
Santa Klaus Is Coming To Town
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
Remember when using
child psychopaths as characters seemed outrageous? How times have changed.
Here they serve merely as henchmen, but clearly these "elves" know what
mayhem they're causing.
up an odd Christmas story that explores one of the villains introduced
in Last Laugh. Surprisingly, it's not stupid, and Santa Klaus,
if forgotten for a couple of years, could be an interesting occasional
baddie. Gifted with the ability to see the evil that men do, he spends
the yuletide season meting out fatal punishment.
Some of it may
feel lifted out of Batman Returns, especially in its climax,
but Brubaker writes a fairly taut thriller, contrasted with Sasha's
insistence on bringing holiday spirit to Wayne Manor.
Hopefully, no writer
will succumb to the urge to make Sasha a romantic interest. She has
become an interesting character, but giving her an attraction to Bruce
seems too easy. And too obvious. That leaves only one question: what
does she get Bruce Wayne for Christmas?
Like Life, Only Colder
writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, artists: Michael Lopez and Scott
Once again, this
title provides two extremely guilty pleasures, as a Buffy rip-off and
as an effort to tear to shreds all the great Marvel monster comics of
the '70's that scared the crap out of me as a kid.
may be a shortcoming overall. The major villains on Buffy may
often provide laughs, but when the chips are down, they are a source
of real danger. In the past three issues of Bloodstone, no monster
has provided a credible threat.
This month, Elsa
teams up with the Living Mummy (okay, he is kind of a stupid
concept) to easily best an ancient evil arising out of Egypt. Worse,
she gets the undead hero using a lot of what passes for teen slang.
And if Lopez and
Hanna could stop drawing pin-ups when Elsa demands not to be treated
as eye candy, things would be much better.
As it is, this
book just gets guiltier and guiltier…
Anodyne, part two
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred
trying to solve the mystery of who is killing hookers in Gotham. Or
rather, she comes to accept that she has to be the one to solve it.
For some reason, such crimes do not rate quite high enough on Batman's
agenda (unlikely, but a necessary assumption for the plot to work, I
guess), and the cops aware of it happening either turn a blind eye or
see if the corpse has any money left.
Gotham is a harsh
town, after all. And Brubaker is one of the few writers who really understands
how terrible it can be, without using hideously scarred madmen. Though
Selina references him, the shadow of the Bat is almost non-existent
here, putting Catwoman in a whole new milieu.
She may be struggling
to find her identity, but the book isn't. Brubaker writes crime fiction,
and it's only coincidental that his detective wears a leather catsuit
(which, by the way, as drawn by Cooke and Allred, is not form-fitting).
At last the streets
of Gotham have a protector who may actually be believable. We'll wait
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Chuck Austen
In a quiet cross-over
with last week's Daredevil, Elektra discovers that a bounty has
been placed on Matt Murdock's life. As she goes to place a warning in
his office, for she dare not face him, she confronts some of the life
she might have pursued. Oh, yes, and a younger blonde knock-off of her,
intent on killing Matt.
Bendis has constructed
an appropriately melancholy story here, far more emotion-laden than
the previous five issues combined. And because it's "'nuff said" month,
the burden lies on Chuck Austen to really give it life.
Which he does,
in spades. At no time in this story are the emotions either hidden or
overdone. Every panel strikes just the right tone.
This may be the
best of the silent gimmick issues. But of course, it's coming from one
of the best teams working in comics right now.
The Flash #181
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Scott Kolins and Doug Hazlewood
Iris Allen returns.
In an issue dealing
with sins of the past and the loss of family, Johns rectifies a mistake
made a few years ago when Iris disappeared because she claimed she knew
too much about what was going to happen in Wally's life.
No one told Iris
This may not seem
like a major event, but it is. It helps strengthen the tie between Wally
and the Flash legacy, and gives him back one of the most influential
people in his life. Merry Christmas, Wally.
And Wally needs
the gift, because even though he helps the not really villainous Fallout,
it's clear that Johns, Kolins, and Hazlewood have a terrible time in
store for him with every new member of the Rogues' Gallery that falls
2002 will be one
heck of a Flash-ride.
Groo: Death and
writers: Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, artist: Sergio Aragones
Reviewed by Charlie Wentling.
Hooray, Groo is
back! Too bad this is only another miniseries and not a new monthly
Groo works on two
levels. You can read it for humorous stories of a dimwitted but good-hearted
barbarian. But it also works as a sharp social commentary. Both levels
shine through strongly in this issue.
Groo notices that
everyone he meets is scared of him, and after thinking about it for
quite a while, he realizes that people are afraid that he will end up
killing them. By this time, Groo's reputation has spread far and wide.
In response to this, he vows to stop killing people.
Nothing is ever
so simple with Groo though. How long will he be able to go against his
own nature? And why are some people unhappy with his vow? This is another
classic from Sergio.
Two Minute Warning
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
The new creative
team debuts with a self-contained tale that offers maddening hints about
what they have in store. In the meantime, we also get plenty of the
feats of strength and derring-do that made people like the JLA as a
concept in the first place.
in chronology, the story does make the reader work a little harder than
it had to do. And in some places, it just doesn't add up. (Wally makes
a completely arbitrary visit to Kyle that makes no sense from either
point of view.)
But Kelly clearly
has some solid character relationships worked out. Something new seems
on the horizon between Batman and Wonder Woman. Plastic Man has a private
life that Kelly will have to develop further, please. And he is ably
supported by the art team.
Since the announcement
of Mahnke on this title, I'll admit I've drooled. It was worth the wait.
The guy gets that the Martian Manhunter has an alien thought process,
and in both private and battle, will not make an aesthetically
pleasing choice by human standards. Plus Mahnke draws a pretty cool
And Kurt Busiek's
The Power Company makes its debut in the back of this book. It's
too soon to really tell much about any of the characters; like most
"preview" stories, they appear in a flurry to demonstrate their powers.
But it's Busiek, so that's saying something. On the other hand, do we
really need another superteam we've never seen before?
writer: John Ostrander, artists: Val Semeiks and Prentis Rollins
It feels like a
long time since the previous issue. And with really great work happening
consistently in the regular book, this issue, using the current JLA,
Worse than redundant,
though, is the fact that it isn't much fun. Ostrander returns to the
League's first enemies, the Apellaxians. They've developed a clever
new twist to their ability to take on "battle-forms" - now they can
inhabit existing non-living forms. In addition, their leader has declared
that they must completely destroy Earth in order to quell a revolution
on their homeworld, one inspired by the JLA's initial resistance to
Where this story
could have flown, it plods, weighed down by the deep "meaning" of it
all. Guys, it's superheroes. Even better, it's the best superheroes
DC has to offer. We already know a lot about truth, justice, and the
Let's see some
But it doesn't
happen. Not even a battle against a living Lincoln Memorial (you know,
the one without the ape face) merits much joy. In the good old days,
that would have been worth the cover.
While the entire
series has been a roller coaster of quality, DC could have left this
one out and I would not have felt quite so exploited.
writer: Barbara Kesel, artists: Steve McNiven and Tom Simmons
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
The island of Torbel
plunges from the sky and into the ocean below. Sephie first tries to
prevent the catastrophe, then focuses on saving as many of the people
as she can.
This issue marks
a turning point for Sephie. She finally stops seeing her uncle Ilahn
as a greedy and misguided man, and realizes that he is evil. It will
be interesting if she ever finds out that he was responsible for her
Sephie goes past
the limits of her sigil, and must be rescued by… someone. Just what
happens on page twenty is left intentionally vague and raises questions
about the nature of the sigil. It is nice to know that the sigil does
have some limits though.
Out There #7
writer: Brian Augustyn, artists: Humberto Ramos and Sandra Hope
The kids have beaten
Draedalus, but at the cost of their entire town. Although readers can
suspect that another force interfered, the kids don't know anything
about it. And so with their mentor and her bus driver/handyman, they
leave the ruins of El Dorado for…who knows.
But somehow, Ramos
and company have successfully sucked me into another story arc. It seems
Draedalus has attempted to cross over before, in a little town in Nevada.
That attempt was chronicled in a comic book series (looking, ahem, nothing,
no nothing like a title called Out There) that offers little
clue as to how the town ended up surviving.
the previous arc, writer Augustyn puts a tragic spin on what might have
been, and now the kids can work toward redemption.
Though it obviously
puts on hold any answers to just why they were chosen in the first place,
the book remains compelling enough to keep you from asking that question.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Butch Guice and Mike Perkins
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Simon Archard investigates
the death of Otto Pressmonk, which took place last issue. We learn why
Simon flung a handful of maggots onto Otto's corpse. Miranda Cross makes
things difficult for him by turning most of his associates against him
and having his laboratory boarded up.
This issue improves
on issue #2. The dialogue continues to shine. We learn that Simon has
an open mind towards the supernatural when he consults with a young
psychic girl. He will probably figure out Emma's secret given enough
One thing that
seemed strange, a thug dresses up as the Grim Reaper and attacks Simon.
Why would he do this? Was it just to make a good image for the cover?
The art is good, but Guice continues to use unconventional panel layouts
that disrupt the flow of the story.
Tangled Web #9
Agreement, part three
writer: Bruce Jones, artists: Lee Weeks and Josef Rubinstein
The scheme comes
to a close. Unassuming and fatally ill cabdriver Charlie manages to
set up both Spider-Man and the gang of thieves that caused him to cross
paths with the webslinger in the first place.
How it all comes
together doesn't quite read as cleverly as Jones wants it to, but it
still has a satisfying sting to it, provided you treat these stories
more like legends. In a Marvel Universe in which so many people fear
Spider-Man, it does not quite ring true that an annual convention would
be held in his honor.
As for how Charlie
learned Peter's identity, that, too, rings a little false. To the average
joe, Peter would be just another guy. Nothing in Jones' presentation
would lead a cabdriver to add two and two together.
Still, this arc
ends on a bittersweet and not entirely expected note that makes me really
want to check out Jones' work on The Hulk (which Daryl Tay has recommended
to me; check out his site below).
Marvel Team-Up #11
Peter Parker's Day Off
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Chynna Clugston-Major
It's that time honored
tradition of Senior Skip Day (wait -- wasn't Ultimate Peter Parker supposed
to be only 15?), and Peter and the gang head out to sample all New York
City has to offer them. Naturally, they end up at the mall.
the students of Xavier's Academy have the same experience. And since
one of those students, a troubled older guy who went back to school
after a lot of years of hell-raising, has the ability to smell Spider-powers,
you know that a clash is coming.
Actually, not at
all. Bendis excels at day in the life stories, letting an entire issue
go by without any overt use of superpowers. The closest we get is Cyclops
describing what his powers are. It's refreshing, even if Bendis' version
of the Ultimate X-Men seem a little kinder and gentler than Millar's
take. Overall, his teens act a lot like teens, and the dialogue among
them all rings true.
art gives the whole thing the look of a severely twisted Archie comic,
and it works. We just may have to check out her Blue Monday book.
For alternate views
and more books, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
this and more in the Fanboy forums.