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!
Action Comics #788 Jikei Keitsuki
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Pascual Ferry, Scott Hanna, Mark Morales,
and Keith Champagne
Last issue Superman
acknowledged having encountered a meta he called Tokai. The villain
returned recognition with destructive force, knocking the man of steel
for a loop and announcing that he's changed his name to Sakki. Oh, and
yes, the former Tokai is now a homicidal maniac.
Whatever his powers
actually are, it seems that they are either fed by anger or Sakki just
really, really gets off on corrupting his opponents. As he himself must
once have been corrupted - the issue opens with the implication that
he and Clark were once friends. If only Clark had stopped him when he
first went rogue, the current destruction in Tokyo would not have happened.
That includes the bloody anti-crime rampage of Superman's current "allies,"
Gunshin and Byakko.
Ah, that pesky
code of honor. It's an issue usually debated in the pages of Batman;
how much more tragedy happens because our heroes won't take life? It
makes for an exciting read. Even though we don't get much information
on this new Japanese past for Clark Kent, it promises more to come.
this with Clark's unknowing troubles with Lois, who subconsciously blames
her husband for her father's death. Though the subplot still seemed
to have come out of nowhere, it now makes a little sense, and their
conflict gets handled realistically. Or at least as realistically as
can be done between a globe-trotting reporter and an alien.
Beating up super-villains?
Easy. Being married? Very, very hard.
Batman #600 The Scene of the Crime
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens, and various
in the back-ups
Yes, the mystery
of who killed Vesper remains open. Instead, Brubaker opens up a whole
new can of worms, raising more questions than he answers. He also skillfully
recaps how a lifetime of playing games with his own identity has almost
inevitably brought Bruce Wayne to this point. And the result is the
most satisfying Batman comic in a long, long time.
Without my giving
away too much, Brubaker sends the character on a new exploration that
will undoubtedly raise a lot of ire in fandom, just as it does in Batman's
supporting cast. There are a few mis-steps, such as Batman counting
on Alfred's loyalty above all (this being the character that, arbitrarily
or not, abandoned Batman a few months ago). But by acknowledging the
coldness in the character that Brubaker did not have to retcon,
even if you hate what's happening, you'll understand it.
And that's just
the lead story.
Because this is
a big anniversary issue, Brubaker tries to put a modern spin on Silver
Age practices, and provides two "reprint" stories from different eras
of the Bat-books. Though they purport to be old unpublished inventory
stories, there are tell-tale details that give them away as new. (One
would be the prominence of a black hero in a story supposedly from the
fifties - sadly, that marks it as a phony.)
The third back-up
comes from stand-up comedian/actor/writer Patton Oswalt, drawn by Sergio
Aragones. Telling a disco-era tale of Batman, the story (purposely?)
whets the appetite for a PLOP! revival.
If you haven't
guessed by now, the complete package makes this the best buy of the
week, if not the month.
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Alex Maleev
Reports of The
Kingpin's death have been exaggerated. But not by much. The overeager
Silke makes his move to take over crime in the city, aided by the man
once known as The Rose. And Daredevil tries to figure out if every mobster
in town knows his secret.
The answer might
surprise you, as Bendis makes it so offhand. Even though it seems like
he's running the same events over and over, flashing back and forth
in time, new pieces of the puzzle show up. So believable, so convincing
is this, that it wouldn't be shocking if at the end of this run, Daredevil
were to get rid of his costume altogether. Bendis has made so good a
case for planting The Kingpin and his men in reality, that the actual
star of this book seems out of place.
once again provides the right gritty touch. Every character has the
look of someone who has seen just a little too much to be truly happy,
and his layouts provide a strong anchor for the asynchronous story.
It's probably too late to affect things, but if Fox borrowed heavily
from this for the Daredevil film, they would be making a smart move.
The Flash #183 Tricked!
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Scott Kolins and Doug Hazlewood
Last month in the
pages of Wizard, Johns offered tips on how to update a villain.
Proving that he practices what he preaches, he offers us a new take
on The Trickster. If your old villain has reformed his evil ways, have
a new guy take on the mantle. And if he happens to have even less morality
than the previous guy, well, that just fits right in with the new, improved
(and far more dangerous) Rogues' Gallery.
The new guy has
the same sense of fun, but not the sense of consequence. And through
him we get to see just how dangerously networked the more formal Gallery
actually is. As has been building for many issues, it's clear that Wally
is in for a hell of a lot of trouble, sooner than later.
More and more of
his supporting cast is being neutralized, too. Though he may be the
fastest man alive, Wally is not exactly the swiftest runner in the race,
and Johns uses this to advantage. For such an impatient character, Wally
figures things out maddeningly slow.
As usual, Kolins
and Hazlewood deliver excellent work. It's not the prettiest stuff out
there, but it fits this book well, and deserves more attention that
it gets on a monthly basis.
In a weird bit
of synchronicity, the cover of this issue also works as tribute to Chuck
Jones. Though obviously unintentional, it serves as a reminder that
comics should be fun. And even at its darkest, The Flash is fun.
Green Arrow #12 Feast And Fowl
writer: Kevin Smith, artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks
Despite the antagonistic
cover, Green Arrow and Hawkman reunite quite easily. Political affiliations
may die hard, but not so much after you've actually died. Too bad that
promised conflict disappears after a few pages.
In his remaining
issues, Smith seems determined to redefine all of Ollie's old relationships.
Even though Black Canary has been dating Doctor Mid-Nite in JSA,
she still has a connection to Green Arrow that has to be explored. Maybe,
but it seems like it's more due to a pairing in fanboy minds than actual
To be fair, Smith
acknowledges that. That doesn't make it any better or less awkward.
(Ollie had, after all, abandoned Dinah long before he actually died.
Actually admitting it to her face really shouldn't be the thing that
melts her heart.) And the conclusion Smith writes feels like he took
the easy way out. One might think that a guy having just returned from
heaven and remembering what it was like there just might have
more on his mind than nookie. But then it's the rare Smith book that
doesn't have a Jay stand-in, no matter how suave the disguise.
And pity the poor
Riddler. Never that imposing a character anyway, he has become the Peter
Brady of the DC Universe, only showing up in a book to be quickly dispatched.
(And, come to think of it, Black Canary kicked his butt last
week, too.) Leave it to Brad Meltzer to actually deal with the mess,
I guess. But after the strong start of this revival, it seems a shame
to just go back to the way things were twenty years ago. These characters
aren't the same, so let them be different, no matter how much
Howard The Duck
#2 Endangered Species
writer: Steve Gerber, artist: Phil Winslade
This is kind of
like The Dark Knight Strikes Again. A revered creator comes back
to a title that made him famous, and after a strong start (based largely
on fanticipation), falters in his second at-bat.
Not much happens
with this issue, other than Howard's DNA proves to be unstable. As he
and Bev take a shower, he undergoes a variety of transformations, perhaps
linked to his emotional state.
If you're looking
for social commentary, it's not here. There's none of the satirical
touch that made the series infamous. Instead, we get a lot of reminders
that "hey, this is a MAX series!" And as great a writer as he truly
is, Steve Gerber has problems when he's allowed to run free like this.
that the "adult" black and white magazine version of Howard completely
missed the point by giving Bev and Howard a sexual relationship, Gerber
gives us the aforementioned shower scene. Oh, it may be innocent, but
by the way, each shot of Bev in the shower is unobscured from the front.
And Howard becomes an anteater, with his nose going…oh, you get the
point. I can hear Bill Jemas giggling.
A few cheap transformation
gags later, all someone reading Howard for the first time would think
is that he and Bev sure swear a lot, and neither one of them are very
likeable characters. With that going for it, few would want to read
it a second time.
As a die-hard Howard
fan, I'm in it for the long haul, but it had best stop being so clever,
and start being smart.
JLA #63 Golden Perfect, part two
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
A judge lets Killer
Croc go on his own recognizance. The Atom can't stop trying to make
two plus two equal three. Perry White has become J. Jonah Jameson. And,
as we've all known for decades, the Earth is the center of the DC Universe.
It gets worse from
there, in a mind-twisting tale from the new creative team. Because Wonder
Woman's golden lasso broke last issue, she herself, the Goddess of Truth,
no longer really understands what the truth is. And if she doesn't…
The concept is
worthy of original writer Grant Morrison. But unlike a Morrison story,
Kelly doesn't just tell you to hang on and enjoy the ride. He takes
the time to explain how the ride works. Your head will still spin, but
it probably won't hurt as much.
Even with a monumental
story, the creative team doesn't skimp on characterization. How this
situation affects Plastic Man, for example, is nothing short of brilliant.
If they wanted to take some time for a Plastic Man mini-series, it would
As it is, if we're
lucky, Kelly, Mahnke and Nguyen should stay on this book for
a long, long time.
writer: Barbara Kesel, artists: Steve McNiven and Tom Simmons
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
After the last few
issues, this month's story takes a step backwards. Sephie and her friends
are attacked by Rho Rhustane and his new super-ship. Unfortunately,
the ship looks more like a metal blimp, which is disappointing after
being built up like it has been. Jad serves as a distraction for Sephie,
and it seems like the two of them are being artificially kept apart,
just to keep the tension level high.
Nothing gets resolved
here. If you skipped from #20 to #22 you wouldn't miss much at all.
Just repeated scenes of ships getting shot by a cannon, Sephie healing
people, and background characters chatting among themselves. The knowledge
that Sephie gained from Samandahl Rey last month is put to good use,
but is already being used too often. The art is quite good, except that
the coloring is a bit too dark.
writer: J. Michael Stracyzynski, artists: Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal
As good as this
story has been, it feels like it's been taking forever to get to the
point. Finally, David understands the secret of the men with no souls,
finally we learn something about Laurel, and finally we get a glimpse
into the heart of the adversary.
Except we got that
last issue, too.
JMS has such skill with words, you hardly notice the repetition. Each
character reveals a little more, and in lesser hands this would be maddening.
But his take on the devil (or is it?) has a nobility and reasonability
that is almost persuasive. Laurel's sad and endless fate has achieved
a circularity (even though we knew it would).
Part of what makes
this so compelling comes from Frank's pencils. Every shot of The Men
struggles with dynamic tension, and the war within David is beautifully
And it's still
not over. Maybe that's the annoying dichotomy of this book. Not only
does it feel stretched out (and makes us forget that fact as we read
it), but now we have to wait another month. Or two. Or three. Or four,
depending on how tightly Top Cow keeps it on schedule.
Damn JMS for making
it worth it.
New X-Men #123 Testament
writer: Grant Morrison, artists: Ethan Van Sciver, Tom Derenick, Townsend,
Miki, Hanna, Florea
Bad times are coming
for the X-Men, which makes this a perfect time to stop and take a breath.
Cassandra Nova looms somewhere in the solar system, ready to spring
on the Earth and take her revenge. In the guise of her genetic twin,
Charles Xavier, she revealed the existence of the academy to the world.
Couple that with their rather public battle with the so-called "Third
Species," and our favorite mutants have an uncomfortably high profile.
So what else to
do in this day and age but hold a press conference?
Bringing the press
onto the campus also provides a good opportunity to recap just who all
the players are right now. (And in some cases, simply explain.) Morrison
has really made the school into a school, peopling it with so many mutants
that he can't possibly know them all. Okay, it's Morrison, he knows
exactly who they are.
The whole book
has an inviting feel, even with a deadly cliff-hanger, that should win
over the last holdouts against this book and even bring in people who
just glaze over when you mention The X-Men. Sciver and Derenick provide
dynamic pencils, and the team of inkers meld together smoothly.
In short, the whole
creative team remembered that every comic book is somebody's first,
and when was the last time you could say that about an X-book?
The Path Prequel
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Bart Sears and Mark Pennington
Reviewed by Charlie Wentling
This prequel issue
tells the origin of the monk Obo-San, though these same events were
seen by readers of The First more than a year ago. The Warlord
Todosi is given a sigil. He leads the armies of Nayado (an analog of
Japan) against the much larger country of Shinacea (an analog of China).
Even with his sigil, Todosi's men are so badly outnumbered that they
are on the brink of defeat.
Todosi calls out
to the gods, and his prayers are answered. But instead of receiving
aid, Todosi is killed. His sigil transfers to his brother Obo-San, who
swears an oath of vengeance against The First.
The twist this
time is that the story is told from the perspective of the Emperor of
Shinacea. This helps prevent redundancy for people who already know
what happens. Much of the art is done using splash pages, and the narration
gives events an epic flavor. Bart Sears uses a more realistic style
than he did on The First, and it works.
Shinacea will be
the setting for the upcoming CrossGen book The Way of the Rat,
so people looking forward to that series might want to pick this issue
up. It's a bargain with 32 pages for the price of 22. And for the really
tightly budgeted people out there, this issue is available for free
in CrossGen's new comics on the
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Butch Guice and Mike Perkins
This is the best
issue of Ruse to date. For everyone who was disappointed that
the book was not strictly a mystery series, here is the issue for you.
All of the magic and gargoyles and sigils are gone, leaving a nice self-contained
Simon Archard is
gone as well, and Emma is trying to find him while keeping up the appearance
that he is still around. Whenever the criminal element of Partington
knows that Simon is gone, the crime rate goes up. With the assistance
of many of Simon's agents, Emma tries to solve the murders of four prostitutes.
She also hits it off with Detective David Kingsley, who is assigned
to the case.
The reader does
not have enough information to solve the case before Emma does, but
Waid provides a few clues which make it fun to try to figure things
out. Lots of information about the setting and the characters is cleverly
inserted into the story. Simon's disappearance is really just a device
to let Waid focus on Emma.
The dialogue is
excellent and the art beautiful. You really should be reading this.
Tangled Web #11 Open All Night
writer: Darwyn Cooke, artists: Cooke and Jay Bone
Cooke's work isn't
to everyone's taste. Here he uses an even more cartoony style than usual,
which may turn some readers off. But it's only fitting because for this
Valentine's Day tale, Peter Parker might as well be Archie in a spider-suit.
While once again
finding himself in battle with The Vulture (The Riddler of the Marvel
Universe, methinks, only he keeps beating Spider-Man), Peter is blissfully
unaware that he has plans for Valentine's Day. Quickly knocking Spider-Man
unconscious, Cooke focuses on the relationships at the Daily Bugle.
An intern finds
the awkward beginnings of a romance with a bold barrista, while two
intrepid girl reporters both prepare for dates with Peter. By cartoon
standards, these two are smokin'.
It all makes sense,
and works out well in the end for a fairly charming change of pace.
So charming, in fact, that for 20 pages I almost forgot that I'm still
irritated about Mary Jane leaving. It's been a good month for Spider-Man
to be fun again.
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Ted McKeever
For whatever reason,
I missed reviewing the first part of this story last month, so let me
begin by saying that the Ultimate Dr. Strange may have the key ingredient
to making the character work. He legitimately doesn't know everything
there is to know about being Sorcerer Supreme; he simply inherited the
anything that has happened to "our" Dr. Strange, this one could be dropped
in to the regular MU and maybe hold onto a series. Or at least our interest.
That said, Bendis
also manages to introduce a Dr. Strange without once mentioning Baron
Mordo. And a Wong who isn't inscrutable, or any more knowledgeable than
the new Doctor. All of it also stays true to the young kid in the red
and blue suit, utterly freaked out that they took off his mask, even
though he really has nothing to fear.
fits the story perfectly, as almost all of these Team-Up stories have.
It will be a shame to see the book disappear outright, but maybe Marvel
can coax an occasional special out of Bendis and whichever creators
he deems fit; it will be one book worth waiting for.
Ultimate X-Men It Doesn't Have To Be This Way
writer: Mark Millar, artists: Andy Kubert, ? Miki
into the next major storyline, Millar and company take an issue to pause,
reflect, catch new readers up to speed, and remind us just how different
these Ultimate guys are from the ones we used to know.
It's a worthy effort,
and this issue could nicely ease a fan of the movie into reading the
book. Framed as an article by Charles Xavier, we see his "dream" forced
into curriculum in a way that somebody should have thought of before.
Of course if you want to prove mutants can be useful members of society,
you don't dress them up in spandex; you have them volunteer.
Sometimes we get
so bogged down in the action forest we lose sight of the character trees.
There's also a
disturbing ease with which The Brotherhood and The X-Men interact. If
you see them as being like political parties rather than good and evil
(or is that an oxymoron?), it makes a weird sense. And though we really
haven't seen much of this version's past, it still gives a chill to
hear Pietro and Wanda call Charles "Uncle."
Yes, as more than
hinted before, something very machiavellian is going down with this
Xavier, and watching it unfold is far more interesting than it has a
right to be. For some, this might be heresy, but it's intriguing to
see Charles be a little gray without becoming Onslaught or even Cassandra
are bastards with the best of intentions, and nobody writes those guys
like Mark Millar.
writer: Mark Millar, artists: Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie
If you missed the
first issue, don't worry. Any and all important information gets recapped
on the first page. Even though it was a good Captain America story,
the only part that affects this issue is that whole attacking the missile
thing, and we all know that one.
Now we see General
Nick Fury, cleverly disguised by Hitch as Samuel L. Jackson, gathering
scientists around him to create new super-soldiers. Appropriately
enough, he means by any means necessary, which explains why Bruce Banner
hulked out for a while, and why Henry Pym has the okay to experiment
With the world
situation being what it is, Millar's explanation for this group forming
is not only reasonable, it almost makes one wish it could really happen.
to start from scratch with these characters, Millar does not invalidate
what Bendis established with The Hulk and Iron Man. Instead, he makes
these logical next steps in their lives. If he can actually maintain
the sense of morality that they seem to have, The Ultimates will
be able to side-step comparisons to The Authority. 'Tis a steep
slope, though, that they walk on with Millar.
As much as it keeps
drawing the comparisons to The Authority, Hitch's work is so
welcome. He has really moved away from being another Alan Davis, into
a style with scope of its own.
Once again, Marvel
has knocked one out of the park. For the sake of our budget, they've
got to stop doing that.