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.

Hey Kids! Comics!

Detective Comics #767
writer: Greg Rucka, artists: Steve Lieber and Mick Gray

Stuck in Blackgate for far too long, Sasha has begun to ask the question that DC wants you to ask: is Bruce Wayne a murderer? Though she comes to the conclusion that we as loyal bat-fans must, the journey makes for another great look into her character.

Interestingly, though, the character who ends up assassinated is Vesper. For obvious romantic reasons (still irking me), Sasha didn't like her, but the bodyguard's assessment of Vesper runs completely contrary to her characterization before No Man's Land. This was a woman who managed to attract Bruce Wayne enough that he started dropping the act. Alfred encouraged the relationship. And yet Sasha saw Vesper as "…vain and selfish and it seemed like she only wanted Bruce for the spotlight he'd bring her."

Simple jealousy, or do we have another schizophrenic suspect? After all, you can't live in Gotham City without developing some sort of mental problem. Maybe dressing up as a grayish fox isn't enough for Sasha.

New penciller (to Detective, anyway) Steve Lieber has a nice touch, and obviously works well with Rucka. Though it's only a brief glimpse, he draws one heck of an imposing Batman.


Elektra #7
writer: Greg Rucka, artist: Chuck Austen

So Rucka still hasn't had his long-promised shot at Wonder Woman. Instead, he takes a skewed shot at her background here, in his first issue taking over the reins of Elektra. It's not Diana, it's not Hippolyta, but this whole living on an island without men sure looks familiar. And Austen's character designs have an odd familiarity, too. Or maybe that's just an ability to actually draw Greek ethnicity.

In this first tale without Bendis, you can hardly notice the change. Oddly enough, it seems a little more fanciful than Rucka's work at DC, but it still has his trademark grit. Rucka establishes how people other than SHIELD contact Elektra, and puts her in a situation that may reveal a lot about her attitude towards her heritage.

The book still has the flavor of international espionage that it needs. Unlike The Punisher, Marvel has managed to keep up the book's quality after its initial writer has left.

Stay with this one. Rucka promises great things.


Harley Quinn #17
#1 Am The Loneliest Number
writer: Karl Kesel, artists: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

Does anybody else's head hurt trying to follow Bizarro's dialogue? Somehow it seemed so simple in those sixties reprints. Modern writers tend to take on an inconsistent tack with it, and it gets worse when Harley and Ivy try to translate their own speech into his.

That said, it's still a fun book. Having Bizarro develop a crush on Harley makes (im)perfect sense, and hey, she has a thing for chalk-white skin.

Kesel continues reminding us that Harley has a psychiatric background, an easy thing to forget when enjoying her lunacy. This may have grave impact on Rose and The Thorn, but that's a good thing, as the characters are pretty much blank slates for the 21st Century.

And poor, poor Jimmy Olsen. Here and in the super-books, he remains pretty much just a dork with an overinflated ego. At his age, it might be time for him to become a little more like his pre-Crisis Mister Action self, and less of George Reeves' sidekick. At least he doesn't say "jeepers."


New X-Men #122
writer: Grant Morrison, artists: Frank Quitely, Tim Townsend with Perrotta & Florea

As we knew it must, the Shi'ar Empire has quickly fallen under the sway of Cassandra Nova. All that's left is a handful of the Imperial Guard and Lilandra herself, desperate to reach Earth and warn the X-Men. And it doesn't look good for the Guard.

Back on Earth, Morrison offers up some odd (but patented) explanation for how Xavier is still alive, and Cyclops gets the bright idea to bring in a big gun: Xorn. With a star for a head, though, he had better beware of Jean Grey's renewed Phoenix abilities getting hungry.

Once again Morrison gives us a story that requires reading a couple of times, which for $2.25 is a good thing. Though fans seem sharply divided over Quitely's attractiveness as an artist, for a tale this horrific no one can doubt that he is the man for the job. Nova's new "body" (again, let's re-read this thing) is sad, grotesque, and very, very imposing. Some plot points seem contradictory from earlier issues, but overall, Morrison has made The X-Men into a group worth reading about again and again. In less than a year, he has taken everything that made the group classic and made it all seem brand-new.

No mean feat, that.


The Power Company #1
Executive Search
writer: Kurt Busiek, artists: Tom Grummett and Wade Von Grawbadger

It does not bode well for The Power Company when its contents slip from the mind after a couple of days. But after so many "introductory" comics for The Power Company's members, the actual title feels non-descript and anti-climactic.

All in all, it's hard to get a handle on a book that has jumped around its chronology so much in just seven weeks without really letting us care about any of the characters. And if memory serves correctly, we've already seen the team's arch-enemy, Dr. Cyber, die in the preview story last month, which means we can't even take her seriously as a threat.

Still, the core concept holds promise, and this is Kurt Busiek, so everyone wants this to be good. But already things are leaking. Manhunter has gone too abruptly from being unsure about his destiny to being determined to outshine Paul Kirk. And why would anyone in the superhero community (again, besides Batman) know anything about Paul Kirk, whose public career as a hero was brief and sixty years ago? The whole Manhunter Saga was a covert private war, not something that a character like Skyrocket would know.

Thankfully, Grummett and Von Grawbadger provide solid artwork. And despite the painted cover pictured here, their own regular pencil and ink work most likely graces your copy just as well.


Ultimate X-Men #14
writer: Chuck Austen, artist: ?
Ultimate Gambit continues his quest for justice against Hammerhead in the seedy underbelly of New York. And it works pretty well. Without as much "charm," leather, or stupid headgear, Austen has created a believable character. He still has a reluctant nobility, but also still commits some questionable deeds. (Of course, in this universe, so do most of the X-Men, without a lot of angst about it, either.)

This Gambit also seems in better control of his powers, with a couple of usages for them that I've never seen before. It makes for an interesting idea to pursue - how many characters have overtly destructive abilities that could be used to create instead?

Austen leaves it open for Millar to use Gambit or not. While it would be cool to see him in the future, it does seem more logical that he would not join the team. Unexpectedly, this version of Gambit seems at heart too gentle a soul.

The artwork, by the way, is great, compelling, and beautifully laid out. And I wish I could give proper due. For some reason, Marvel omitted credits for this book, an oversight that should stop. If you want to get kids interested in comics through these titles, they're bound to want to know who creates them.


For last Friday's reviews, featuring Adventures of Superman through Deadman with a smattering of CrossGen, click here.

For alternate views and more books, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique Frequencies.

Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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