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Hey Kids! Comics!

It was one heck of a good week last week at the shop. For the first time in a while, I was really excited to read every book in my stack. So if I seem particularly kind, it's because, well, the publishers were kind to me.

JSA #44
writers: David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns
artists: Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne

In classic All-Star Comics tradition, the JSA has gone back in time to face down an enemy in ancient Egypt. But in a move that never happened in the Golden Age, the story actually deepens our understanding of characters, especially Black Adam.

Things are still not what they appear to be with Adam; clearly, something huge happens between his younger self fighting alongside Captain Marvel and the later arrogant member of the JSA. Being accused of criminal behavior isn't enough to explain it. Then again, we know from a past issue that either Adam isn't in complete control of his own mind, or he really is a villain. Something tells me that's going to get wrapped up very quickly as the team hurtles toward a confrontation with Mordru.

Aside from an extremely satisfying story (and odd coincidence that its resolution seems similar to the end of "The Obsidian Age"), Goyer and Johns deliver a pretty strong cliffhanger. Dr. Fate reveals a long-standing fringe character to be not who everyone thought. Oddly enough, the clue lies in the HeroClix set with a character that seems out of place.


Powers #27
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Michael Avon Oeming

Bendis and Oeming earn the biggest laughs of the month with their opening sequence. Strangely pastiching Jack Kirby and Hanna-Barbera simultaneously, the burnt-out Dragonfist explains to Walker and Pilgrim why he tried to quit Unity many years before. The story comes right out of a bad seventies comic (not necessarily a Superfriends episode), but Bendis can't help putting modern twists on it - like the real consequences of making a star octopus do your bidding.

Over cartoony action, Dragonfist reveals himself to be the foul-mouthed jerk many wrote Green Arrow off as years ago. There's a pretty strong split between the ideals he espouses and the man he becomes. Then again, none of Unity really lives up to their public images. And it's pretty funny to see this out of shape has been dodging autograph seekers while trying to grab a hot dog at a convention.

As usual, this book delivers everything you could want: tight plotting, sharp dialogue, and unique art that works perfectly. All it really needs is a quote from us on the cover.


Superman: The Ten Cent Adventure
writer: Steven T. Seagle
artists: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

The good news for us is that for ten cents, you get one heck of a good story. The so-so news for DC is that I don't know who's going to pick up this book that isn't reading Superman already. Other than me, I mean.

So let's get the word out, if it isn't already. Seagle, whose work on Sandman Mystery Theater and Primal Force never thrilled me the way it should have, handles all the burdens of this promotional book with great aplomb. Without slowing down the action, he manages to get readers up to speed as to Superman's current status quo. Along the way, he touches upon many of the character's thematic concerns, and hints that in particular he'll be taking a look at the split between the man and the alien.

Best of all, we've got a pretty good cliffhanger that would make Peter David nervous if the axe hadn't already fallen. My money is on this being a re-introduction of Laurel Kent to the DCU.

For most people, though, it isn't the writing that will catch attention. It's the art. McDaniel and Owens have a keen grasp of action and storytelling, with many panels having a cinematic quality. The only drawback to it lies in what could be a coloring problem: there's a lot of smoke here, and it has a tendency to look more like slime. On the last page, the confusion works, but through the rest of the book, it becomes a little distracting.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.


Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra #4
writer: Greg Rucka

artists: Salvador Larroca and Danny Miki

We knew it could only end in tears, or at least stoic looks of repressed pain. Sure enough, that's what we get here. But Rucka has so skillfully drawn us into the personalities of Murdock and Natchios that the tragedy of their separation feels fresh.

In this Ultimate version, it does feel that Elektra has more of a choice, and her refusal to see Matt's point of view comes across as a bit brash. She has been backed into a corner, and fights against helplessness the only way she knows how. If she refuses to learn another way, it's still hard to blame her.

Every page of this reminds me of why I got caught up in Miller's original run, without feeling like a rehash of the master's work. That's a neat trick. This mini-series is the one that has the best chance at pulling in viewers of the upcoming movie. (Notice that the Ultimate Elektra favors black, just like Jennifer Garner.)

Luckily, Marvel already has that trade paperback ready and out on the stands this week, with the subtitle "Volume 1," so clearly, there will be more to come. If you didn't buy the earlier issues, definitely grab the trade.


Derek McCaw


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