Spider-Man # 504
writers: Fiona Avery and J. Michael Straczynski
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna
past few issues, JMS has been lightening his workload by bringing
in protégé Avery. After all, the guy is terribly busy plotting
a Dr. Strange mini-series. When the hand-off first happened,
the book was still fun, but just not as arresting as it had
been. Finally with this two-parter, "Chasing A Dark Shadow,"
Avery has come into her own as a scripter of Marvel's flagship
it's a little off-putting to come into this issue and see
Spider-Man bantering so easily with Thor's brother Loki. But
remember that for a supposed outsider, the webslinger has
actually been around for a long time, and pretty much run
into everybody. Besides, the two have more in common than
they'd like to admit, at least thematically. Avery makes that
point pretty explicitly, and with it comes a vague shape to
this entire revamp that began over three years ago.
comments that he doesn't really fit with the supernatural
types, but he sure has been fighting a lot of them. It's not
just that JMS clearly has an affinity for the Sorcerer Supreme;
there's something more at stake. He and Avery moving Spider-Man
into the more iconic role in the Marvel Universe that he plays
for Marvel the company, making him at ease with how we've
always seen him: a major player.
been done before. But never in a way that really made Peter
aware of his status.
not just about the wallcrawler; Avery does an interesting
job with Loki, too. The cover makes the two seem like adversaries,
but JMS and Avery bring out a poignant side to the Asgardian.
Though he diffidently comments to Spider-Man that he has fathered
many human children over the years ("I'm a Norse god. It's
what we do."), he obviously keeps track of them and, if you
look closely, cares for them. It's not necessarily out of
character, just a facet we haven't seen before.
the art team does terrific work, Romita being a penciler capable
of making even the gods seem human. Equally comfortable with
the supernatural and the city, this continues to be a great
writer: Brian Azzarello
artist: Eduardo Risso
arc, the one that got everybody so excited about Batman again,
appealed to the fanboy that loved the colorful cast of characters,
the gruesome villains, and just the idea that a man could
dress up as a bat and scare the living crap out of evildoers.
a bad idea to shake things up after that. Azzarello and Risso
have delivered exactly what they promised. "Broken City" is
dark, gritty and not in any way pretty. Lightly kissed in
noir, it has shown us the ugly side of Gotham's underworld.
Not that we didn't know it was there, but Risso's artwork
makes the few villains that have shown up look somehow plausible,
tortured freaks whose scarred shells do nothing to mask the
it even bears resemblance to Frank Miller's Sin City.
If that's your cup of tea, you should be reading this arc.
But for the rest of us, as good as it is, it isn't Batman.
a guy running around Gotham City wearing a pointy-eared cowl
and cape, but he's brutish, likelier to beat information out
of a suspect than ask a simple question. Such nastiness may
get the job done, but it lacks the elegance that the Dark
Knight usually possesses. The costume seems more affectation
than necessary uniform, or maybe Azzarello is echoing the
point Tim Burton awkwardly made in Batman Returns --
Bruce Wayne is no different from those he fights, jealous,
in fact, that he has to wear an outfit to reveal his freakishness.
Risso's Penguin even bears a strong resemblance to a Burton
naked hours as Bruce Wayne, this guy also has habits we've
never seen before, nor likely will again. To relax, he grills.
It's like a detail out of a Jerry Bruckheimer film, thrown
in to substitute for real characterization.
book has been hijacked for a little while by a guy who only
looks like our hero. The covers by Dave Johnson have been
great. The story is still interesting, though Killer Croc
sure has changed without explanation. And at least the team
created an interesting new pair of villains in Fat Man and
Little Boy. Maybe next issue's confrontation with The Joker
will be really cool. Maybe.
want Batman back.
writer: Kurt Busiek
artist: Cary Nord
Busiek has jokingly called this book Ultimate Conan, since
even though Dark Horse has been reprinting the early Marvel
work on the character, this new book feels no influence from
that. Instead, Busiek has gone back to the basics, and yes,
it does feel like Ultimate Conan.
knew this was going to be good, just from the zero issue produced
a few months back, Conan
The Legend. And clearly, fans are eating it up, as
this issue officially sold out on its first day of release.
If you missed it, Dark Horse will be releasing a second printing
on March 24th, with a new cover by J. Scott Campbell. An odd
choice, to be sure, and almost unnecessary. Nord's art on
this book should be enough to sell it. (Though the cover at
right is by Joseph-Michael Linsner.)
makes this the best book of the week?
simply a great combination of a writer stretching himself
with a perfectly chosen artist. In advance, neither one seemed
right for this book, which makes it such a welcome surprise.
have no knowledge of the character other than dim memories
of the California Governor (who allegedly proudly displays
his sword in his office), you're only a step or two behind
me. When the movie came out, I ran through a couple of creator
Robert E. Howard's novels, but now they might as well have
been Tarzan books. It's okay, because Busiek is out to school
issue seems relatively quiet compared to what's to come, as
the young Cimmerian stumbles across a village raid, led by
ruddy Norsemen slaughtering innocent women and children. Conan
runs the raiders off, and after a brief misunderstanding with
the returning men of the village, bonds with them. It's a
simple story, but it holds the interest, as it leads into
an event from Howard's original tales, "The Frost Giant's
Daughter." Maybe this issue is directly adapted from Howard,
too. It doesn't matter. What does matter is a forward-moving
narrative that eases us into the Hyperborean Age.
nice touch, though, all the caption boxes have been lettered
in a messy typewriter font. It's not hard to imagine Conan's
creator sweating out his adventures over a tiny black Corona.
Nord, well, he proved himself with the previous zero issue.
But here, he continues to excel. Aside from drawing bloody
action scenes well, Nord has the nuances of character down.
Conan has barely seen sixteen summers, and though he already
bears scars and has a brutish physique, the near-constant
smirk on his face is that of a teenager who has not really
yet come to grips with his own mortality. That may change
sooner than he thinks.
Horse also includes a serialized biography of Howard, until
a letters page can be assembled. Since many readers may know
the man's most famous creation, but not how groundbreaking
it actually was, this information is welcome. If you don't
want to read the text, at least check out the short comic
strip illustrating a moment from the author's life.
is poised for a major multimedia comeback, and Dark Horse
well deserves to lead the charge.