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!
The Adventures of
Barry Ween, Boy Genius #6 Monkey Tales
story and art: Judd Winick
As Winick admits
in his letters column this month, this particular arc has been far more
personal and in some ways more serious than we expect from Barry Ween.
The results may be a little bit unsettling, as we see the consequences
to what would normally be comedy.
Best friend Jeremy
pulls his usual spanner in the works act, with devastating results as
Barry fights to free an alien people and rescue his now-adult "girlfriend"
Sara. The balance between super-genius and super-idiot has always had
its charm, and the reason for their friendship makes sense. But it may
be hard, in future Ween adventures (if there are any), for Barry to
forget the events of this issue, even though it all works out all right
in the end.
So it has a darker
flavor. Winick never forgets that this is comedy, and even though he
ventures into new waters for these characters, he never lets the reader
down. The future of Barry Ween is uncertain due to schedule though
Winick intends to do a Ween/Frumpy The Clown cross-over. Maybe the idea
has played itself out, but it has also matured. A little. Jeremy still
does his best to keep things puerile.
But that's okay.
Winick dedicates this issue to the comics writers he admired, and with
it he begins staking his claim to being influential on those to follow.
Knights #26 Innocent Until
writer: Devin Grayson, artists: Roger Robinson and John Floyd
While it seems
pretty clear to fans that Bruce Wayne could not be a murderer,
Devin Grayson explores the idea that it's not so clear to those around
That seed of doubt
drives little wedges in the Bat-family, and Bruce's silence on the issue
doesn't help things. Nightwing will not tolerate it, and chews out Robin
for even wondering. But as Jason points out, Dick has not been around
to see the scope of Batman's anger growing and growing over the last
few months. When even Dr. Leslie Thompkins has doubts, you have to wonder.
Maybe Devin Grayson's point of view has merit.
Because of Grayson's
grasp on Nightwing's character, this issue makes one of the most compelling
chapters of Bruce Wayne: Murderer? Nobody really gets to fight;
instead, they have to talk. They have to think. They have to reach conclusions
without reaching for a batarang.
The artists match
the sobriety of the plot with clean and spare art. Though Floyd inks
a little darkly, that seems to have become the editorial style for Bat-books.
Robinson gives Alfred an eerie resemblance to Christopher Walken, an
idea that we could only wish Hollywood would come up with for the next
There's a weird
little back-up contributed by Chris Bachalo and Cy Voris, set in Arkham
Asylum. It has a nice Twilight Zone twist which would be better if it
also hadn't happened in Batman Forever. But the art alone is
worth your attention.
Birds of Prey
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Rick Leonardi and Jesse Delperdang
sweeping Batman crossover ends here, in a title you might not expect.
But then, the intention of having crossovers in the first place has
worked, because I'm hooked.
In this, the last
title Dixon will be writing for DC for quite some time, he has managed
to perfectly balance the needs of the cross-over with the needs of the
book. While Black Canary and The Spoiler confront Cluemaster and The
Riddler, Oracle and Robin try to piece together who framed Bruce Wayne.
(Well, Barbara at least has to believe it was a frame-up.)
Even with all that,
Dixon manages to throw some attention on the forcibly retired Blue Beetle,
skillfully moving all the plotlines forward without skimping on any.
Where was this talent during Joker: The Last Laugh?
with a lighter touch than the previous issue, allowing Leonardi's fluid
style to come through. A good thing, too, because Leonardi excels at
drawing teen heroes. Both The Spoiler and Robin look their best.
Under another great
Phil Noto cover, this book suddenly vaulted to the top of my must-read
list. Hopefully, DC won't let the quality slip when Dixon leaves for
writer: Barbara Kesel, artist: Esteban Maroto
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
This is a strange issue. What little story there is focuses on The First
at the time just after Elysia was split into two sections by Altwaal.
Unfortunately, many of these events have been covered before in the
pages of their own title. Granted, new details have been added, and
scattered bits of background information have been laid out in chronological
We are shown how
Pyrem and Orium came to lead House Dexter and House Sinister. I think
this is also the first time that Altwaal has been shown interacting
with the other First after he "retired". We also see the birth of Persha.
One of the things I was expecting was that the parentage of Seahn would
be explicitly revealed, but no such luck.
In some ways this
would be a good starting point for people not familiar with The First.
But the large number of characters can get confusing, and there isn't
much of a story.
This issue may
be worth buying for Esteban Maroto's art alone. He has a distinctive
flowing style. Sometimes Maroto quits using panels for several pages,
and the images all run together, but it is never confusing. I haven't
seen anything from him since DC's Atlantis Chronicles so this
was a nice treat.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Andy Smith and Mark Farmer
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
Here we have the
classic time travel conundrum. Suppose you could travel into the past
to the time of a great tragedy. Should you try to change history? What
would the repercussions be? Mark Waid isn't exactly treading new ground
here, but this is a solid story.
Danik and Verityn
have traveled back 100,000 years into the past, to the time just before
Atlantis sank. One faction of Atlanteans is attempting a Transition
to a higher plane of existence, as seen in Crux #1. Verityn wants
to try to stop the Transition, which was responsible for the destruction
of the city. Danik disagrees, saying they would be foolish to try to
change things, and it may not even be possible to do so.
This issue is really
more about the characters than the plot. Danik shows as much personality
here as he has in the past year combined. It is always nice to see the
arrogant brought down a notch or two.
The artwork is
by Andy Smith, who normally works as an inker, but will be penciling
his own series later this year. His pencils are so good that Steve Epting
is not missed.
Exiles #10 A World Apart, part three
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Mike McKone, Holdredge, McKenna & Wong
While this book
has given us a lot of alternate versions of favorite heroes before,
this issue pulls out all the stops to give us just about everybody.
Anytime an artist has an excuse to draw Woodgod, you know you've stepped
into ultimate geek territory.
The Exiles, teamed
with the best the Skrull Arena had to offer, finally have their big
showdown with Galactus. In the process, we get quick glimpses of this
world's Peter Parker and the Banner Beast, who seems a lot like Peter
David's classic take on the character. On top of throwing practically
everybody on Earth against Galactus (which likely would have happened
back in the 'sixties if Fantastic Four weren't "The World's Greatest
Comics Magazine!"), Winick manages to not use the Ultimate Nullifier.
(Where is this Earth's Watcher, anyway?)
It's an original
take on a classic story, and even with all this Winick keeps the title
characters in the fore-front, reminding us of the dark underpinnings
of the concept. If it has any faults, it's that as fun as it may be,
these characterizations are almost too much like the heroes we
already know. Without Ben Parker to raise him, why would Peter be the
same minus a costume?
McKone and company
once again deliver great art, maybe one of the best underpraised teams
in the industry right now. They don't get a lot of attention, but it's
only a matter of time before that changes.
JSA #33 Wish Fulfillment
writers: David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns, artists: Giffen, Milgrom, Kirk
How can Goyer and
Johns have a classic DC villain take over the world without it being
a company-wide crossover? Perhaps it's disrespect for the writing team,
but it's definitely a blessing. These two great writers are free to
play with everybody else's toys without anybody's permission.
Keith Giffen and
Al Milgrom provide a prologue that could easily have been drawn by Kubert
or Infantino in the '40's, a nice nod to the JSA's past. Whether or
not the sequence holds a key to the overall resolution seems unclear,
but it's also good to acknowledge that Sand misses his mentor. As cool
as the character may be, his modern incarnation has been pretty much
just dumped on readers; how he got from being The Creature In The
Velvet Cage to being Sand has been largely off-camera.
So this arc holds
promise. Sand must team with The Icicle to take down the Ultra-Humanite
and dismantle the villain's dystopia built by the Thunderbolt. Thankfully,
the 5th Dimensional genie also spared Jakeem Thunder, allowing Johns
to continue giving long overdue focus to the character.
these unlikely underground freedom fighters? Some of the world's most
powerful heroes (and villains). At least Captain Marvel remains free
of the Ultra-Humanite's mind-control, and another Johns favorite can
be snuck in.
It's a fun read,
though by the nature of the story's scope, we get too many maddeningly
brief glimpses of heroes. A new Hourman pops up as promised, likely
to be Rick Tyler, but reduced to just sitting on the last page looking
pensive. With him comes a new and unexpected legacy, and it would have
been nice to have an extra page or two of them, if only for their attitude.
Spider-Man #40 or #136 Codename: John Hancock
writer: Paul Jenkins, artists: Mark Buckingham and Wayne Faucher
"You know the problem
with super-villains? They multiply."
So true. And with
that opening quote Jenkins once again gives us a great take on the title
character, able to find dark humor in hopeless moments. Pinned by Doctor
Octopus while taunted by Fusion, Spider-Man has accidentally tumbled
into the solution to the mystery he had been tracking.
And while it may
not seem very heroic to have it happen that way, it's very, very Spider-Man.
A scientific genius? Yes. A great detective? Not necessarily. He works
as a photographer, after all, not a reporter.
For those wondering
about Doctor Octopus' strange behavior (a pet squid?), all will be revealed.
It's clear that Fusion reads too many comic books (though, oddly, Peter
seems to have forgotten how Fusion's power works). And Jenkins fills
his plot with some blackly funny moments that still fit.
What seems out
of place, though, is J. Jonah Jameson's continued resistance to actually
breaking a real story in his newspaper. Hopefully, Jenkins will play
with this further, developing this subplot into something pointed about
American mainstream media. Or maybe it's just jumping on the bandwagon.
Robin #99 Where The Road Ends
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Pete Woods and Andrew Pepoy
Last issue left
me feeling suckered by the cross-over, but Dixon makes up for it by
tying this in closely with Birds of Prey. We get a nice chunk
of the investigation into clearing Bruce Wayne's name, while Tim uses
Oracle's computers to solve a mystery of his own.
Along the way,
he reunites with The Spoiler, at least in a crime-fighting capacity.
From this sample, it seems like this is a fun book, though (sensibly)
aimed at younger readers than some of the other titles in the Bat-stable.
Pete Woods swings
over from Nightwing, and though he still draws a little too loosely
for my taste, it fits better over here.
Overall, if you
miss this book you will not be left with a gaping hole in the Bruce
Wayne: Murderer? arc, but unlike last month, you won't kick yourself
if you end up buying it.
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Jim Cheung, Brandon Peterson, Don Hillsman
II, and others
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
up for nearly a year and a half, the relationship between Ethan and
Ashleigh finally turns a corner. They have journeyed to the underwater
city of Haven in search of a refuge for the lesser races. They plead
their case before the ruling council of the city, who are a sort of
cross between jellyfish and butterflies. Though the council is sympathetic,
Ethan doesn't get the answer he was hoping for.
involve Exeter rallying support from the lesser races, and the Heron
army being lead into a Raven trap. But the focus of the issue is Ethan
and Ashleigh finally admitting their feelings for one another.
The art is rather
mixed. Jim Cheung fractured his collarbone and wasn't able to draw the
entire issue. Luckily for CrossGen, when all of your artists are there
in the same building, this isn't such a problem. Brandon Peterson penciled
eight pages of the story, and six different inkers contributed. So the
art is solid even though not so consistent, and the issue shipped on
Supergirl #67 Rhyme and Reason
writer: Peter David, artists: Diego Barreto and Robin Riggs
What happens when
a demon possesses a demon? The world may never know for sure, but Peter
David characterizes it as an uneasy balance between the two personalities.
Guest-demon Etrigan has always been more fun-loving than most in the
DCU, but it's still jarring to see him sit down at a craps table, a
victim of Buzz' more earthly sense of fun.
That's not to say
that things are all light-hearted. With this book David has managed
to tame his worst humor impulses, turning them into believable sources
of danger. Buzztrigan fries the leader of the Leesburg Coven before
going off to sample Vegas, and back in Leesburg itself, Bizarro Supergirl
threatens Linda's friends.
As a result of
all the demon stuff, we continue seeing Buzz' sad ambivalence toward
the new Supergirl. Sad because she seems so oblivious to it. In the
beginning of this series Linda was a bad girl, but now her experiences
seem to have made her more na´ve. For someone drawn to be attractive,
she seems utterly unaware of it. Actually, she seems more and more like
the Earth Angel with every issue.
Man of Steel Everyone Wants The Aegis
writer: Mark Schultz, artists: Yvel Guichet and Dexter Vines
Buildings in Metropolis
have begun mutating, growing weapons and pseudo-pods out of their sides.
All of it is the result of the B13 technology, and aside from the concern
that the buildings are alive, it seems the most pressing issue is who
will ultimately control this tech.
On the side of
the bad guys, we have new player The Overmind and its cybermoths, and
on the side of the, er, other bad guys we have Lexcorp. Thankfully for
the writers of these books, the average citizen of Metropolis are either
blissfully unaware of these huge tentacles waving around at random,
or just have that much faith in Superman to figure it out.
The police are
aware, and in an unprecedented show of unity, have allied with both
John Henry Irons and Superman. Unbeknownst to them, John Henry is getting
cyber-psychic messages from Talia concerning the cybermoths, who have
This is becoming
like a bad violent soap opera.
involving The Aegis (which is also a goal of The Overmind) has
been handled poorly. Despite its obviously evil nature (it even looks
evil), it has been kept around just to be a plot complication. And its
very presence has made Steel act like an idiot, to the point that he
can't seem to remember that his friend Superman is a reporter in his
secret identity (even though he calls him Clark), never putting it together
that the environmental protest group he thinks he's secretly working
with are also feeding information to Kent the reporter.
It's just a mess,
made more so by Guichet's too constipated artwork.
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Mark Bagley and Art Thibert
we get two Doctor Octopi in the same week. The Ultimate version seems
just a little bit smarter, or at least savvier, but no less homicidal.
It's the one thing that Peter seems not to really have dealt with emotionally;
he's up against killers.
And that includes
Kraven The Hunter, who tapes a segment of his show at Peter's high school,
since many Spider-Man sightings happened there. Bendis takes this opportunity
to bring in Betty Brant, but in a role that seems even more surprising
than the revamped Gwen Stacy.
As for that troublesome
blonde, she clearly sees something in Peter, and the attraction is mutual,
even if he doesn't know it yet. Where does that leave Mary Jane? Believably,
understandably ticked off.
It may seem like
soap opera, but in the hands of Bendis it plays out with an honesty
and insight to just how stupid a 15-year-old male can be, even with
the best of intentions. Both as Spider-Man and himself, he's stepping
into worlds without any sense of where he's really headed. And breaking
Mary Jane's heart may be worse than getting the crap kicked out of him