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!
yes, I suck. The past two weeks I simply got
too busy to review comics, but I'm back on track. Please, come back.
I won't let it happen again. Herein, too, are last week's reviews from
Charlie Wentling, who unfortunately won't be able to review CrossGen
books this week. Is it too glib to say you should probably buy them
#789 Man & Beast
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Duncan Rouleau and Marlo Alquiza
If I were a kid
looking for a cool comic at the local drugstore, the cover of this issue
would completely suck me in. But of course, there are no kids looking
for comics (are there even local drugstores anymore?) and Action
Comics #789 is indicative of the problem.
Despite a whimsical
cover that promises thrills and a scary/funny monster story, what lies
inside is an almost incomprehensible mess. If you're not a long-time
follower of Superman, you would have no idea who the villains are or
what their beef is with The Man of Steel. And I'll cop to it: I did
not read the book for several months, and am trying desperately to play
catch up with everything about Pokolistan, and Kelly is not helping.
Part of it is purposeful.
Kelly wants to keep General Zod a mysterious figure. But already a lot
of continuity has built up around Zod and his followers, almost none
of which gets an explanation here. Superman birthed Kancer from his
body? Rather disgusting, and is it true?
All the Superman
books suffer from this to some extent, but somehow writers like Mark
Schultze and Jeph Loeb have managed to tell straightforward stories
and catch new readers up to what's going on. Kelly assumes everybody
knows, and worse, devotes too much time to fight scenes that really
don't move the story along.
resemblance to the American Godzilla hurts, too. Exactly how big is
he? As big as any given panel needs him to be. It doesn't reflect well
on Rouleau and Alquiza's storytelling skills. Nor does the odd resemblance
between Kancer, a battered Superman, and this issue's surprising mystery
villain. (Sorry, Jeph, they resurrected another one.)
Rumor has it that
a big creative shake-up may be coming down the pike for the Superman
books. It can't come soon enough. The most accessible hero in comics
should not be in a title this inaccessible.
Birds of Prey
#41 Felony Matters
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Rick Leonardi and Jesse Delperdang
Batman no longer wants to have anything to do with his Bruce Wayne identity.
Still, a murder has been committed in his name. So why is he leaving
it completely in the hands of Oracle (begrudgingly, at best) to find
out who really did it?
At least this book
is worth carrying that thread of the plotline. Dixon moves it along
at a quick pace. Even though it's part of an ongoing cross-over, the
story stands well enough on its own, with each subplot coming to a minor
close while leading to more action to come.
Gordon has become the real detective of the group, and Dixon lays out
her investigation clearly. With a story like this, it could be easy
to just blink over technobabble, but since Barbara has Dinah, she has
to keep things on a simpler level. It helps both Black Canary and us.
a great choice for this book, though the letters page mentions that
a bunch of artists will be rotating through in the months ahead. Delperdang
still inks just a bit too heavily; maybe on his next assignment someone
can tell him this isn't Kirby.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Steve Epting and Rick Magyar
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Mark Waid's final
issue turns out to be his best one. It's good to go out on a high note.
Capricia has finally
learned that the stranger who awakened her group is actually her old
friend Danik. They have a conversation that hints at things to come
and brings them to an understanding. Though she still doesn't know Danik's
motives, Capricia seems willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
tries to extract some information from the captured Negation bounty
hunter. Even though Tug is a peaceful man, the urgency of the situation
leads him to torture. The scary thing is how ineffective that torture
is to The Negation. Things take a sudden turn, leading to a stunning
and somewhat gruesome ending.
It's too bad that
Waid is leaving. He has finally laid out most of the groundwork for
the characters and their situation. The Negation have a real sense of
danger and gravity about them. Hopefully this will continue in Chuck
Chuck Austen has
really grown over the course of this series. Each month, the characters
look less and less like they could guest on King of the Hill.
His fight scenes strike just the right balance between exciting and
awkward, making them some of the most realistic (as opposed to just
bloody) violence in comics.
He also has a good
way with emotion, though tending to rely almost too heavily on shadow
to achieve it. Still, it comes in handy as Elektra tracks down the four
men who allegedly raped her client. Of the four, two clearly would again,
but one does seem to have repented, and Austen carries that through
in the power of his drawing.
There's also an
uneasy element of irony as one of the four is a software magnate, creating
rendering engines seemingly just so videogame women can have firmer,
bigger breasts. While Austen does not seem quite so obsessed, it's no
secret that Marvel promotes Elektra has a hot fantasy woman. One can
only wonder what will happen in her own upcoming videogame.
This story seems
quieter than Bendis' arc, but Rucka has made it no less intriguing.
Actually, without the real-world politics blending with the Marvel Universe,
this one may even be easier to follow. Already a pattern is developing,
though, in that we're splitting focus once again with an unwilling single
male agent. While Chris Olson probably won't turn out to be an LMD,
it might have made more sense to leave men out of this gynocentric tale.
After all, if any
sister can do it for herself, it's Elektra.
The Flash #184 Run: Program
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Scott Kolins and Doug Hazlewood
After a few months
of teasing, we finally get the new Rogues' Gallery making its move.
And a big one it is, too. Just as Wally starts figuring out that there
might be some conspiracy against him, the Mirror Master delivers the
coup de grace of kidnapping the entire police force.
the Rogues, someone they didn't draft into their number also
has a plan against Keystone City and its most famous son. Neither they
nor we could have seen it coming.
Leave it to Johns
to throw a monkey wrench into his own proceedings. Even when he gives
us the expected, it comes about with an unexpected twist. And clearly,
the big action is yet to come.
For some of this
issue, though, Johns has to fudge things a little. This marks the first
issue under his writing that seemed like The Flash was incapable of
a couple of speed stunts only because a plot point might not work otherwise.
It may seem nitpicky, but when The Weather Wizard challenges, "can you
outrun lighting, Flash?" isn't the answer, "well, yeah?"
Kolins and Hazlewood
probably don't get enough attention for the fine work they do here,
though in an interview this morning with Comic
Book Resources, Kolins did let slip that DC will start letting him
do the covers. As good as Bolland has been, it's better to see this
unique art team get a little more upfront coverage.
and Taxes #3
writers: Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, artist: Sergio Aragones
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Groo has taken
an oath to stop killing people, and the surprising thing is that he
is sticking to it. This is a four-issue mini-series, so maybe the vow
will only last through next month's conclusion. I'm not convinced, though;
it could be a permanent change. When Groo finally learned to read back
in his Marvel days, the series only got better.
Even without Groo
killing people, the story is still exciting and amusing. The Sage guest
stars, and even with all of his wisdom he is perplexed by the change
in Groo. The surrounding kingdoms are preparing for war. This war is
one with no cause; the king sees how the economy does better when there
is conflict, so he manufactures an enemy.
all come in search of Groo to kill him. The barbarian manages to unwittingly
outsmart them without even drawing his sword. My favorite parts of the
issue are the double-page spreads. Sergio draws enough detail into them
to put the Where's Waldo books to shame.
Howard The Duck
#3 Bad Girls Don't Cry
writer: Steve Gerber, artists: Glenn Fabry and Garry Leach
Is it passé yet
to mock the bad girl craze? Though such characters are still around
(including this issue's direct target), it seems like it's all been
When a homeless
Howard and Beverly encounter Bev's high school rival and now Cleveland
cop Suzi Pazuzu (perhaps you can already pick up who is being parodied),
the whole storyline seems to stop so Gerber can make a few stabs at
the industry that may be a couple of years too late.
Instead of really
forwarding Dr. Bong's plans for the duo, we get character after character
ripped from the pages of a Top Cow book (though, in a nice nod to Howard's
past, one cop did help the Duck face down the Hellcow many years before).
Yes, the best of this title always had great digressions, but this is
more and less than that. Gerber just takes obvious shot after obvious
shot, mocking what he obviously considers lazy writing with …more lazy
Sure, I sound like
a cranky old man. Howard The Duck was better in my day, the first
time around. And though this revival still has some laughs, it feels
hollow. Worse, juvenile. And that's something that this book never was
before in the hands of its creator.
JLA #64 Golden Perfect, part 3
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
It's hard to believe
that this is the same guy who writes Action. With ostensibly
more characters here, Kelly manages to subtly recap what has
gone before while never slowing down. He has even worked in a pretty
heady concept, dealing with the subjectivity of truth.
Luckily for the
League, these pockets of mass belief have been only temporary. Therefore
not too many people fell to their deaths from the flat earth. Kelly
has fun with comic book conceptions, too, though. The Riddler's riddles
temporarily become as obtuse as any on the old TV show (too big a leap
in logic even for The Riddler himself to solve), and Kyle Rayner transforms
into the one, true Green Lantern. Take that, fanboys.
All of it gets
carried through by the dynamic work of Mahnke, though Nguyen may not
be the best inker for him. Mahnke already has a complicated penciling
style, which needs a lighter touch. Nguyen makes this look a bit like
Soviet propaganda. Just lighten up a bit, okay? This stuff is still
supposed to be fun.
writer: Joss Whedon, artists: Karl Moline and Andy Owens
It seems like months
since this book last came out. Granted, Dark Horse has been having some
financial trouble, but we could wish to get this out a little more regularly.
convinces her fellow downtrodden that the Lurks aren't just twisted
mutants, but only after losing her best friend. While her brother gathers
the vampire masses, her sister contemplates turning her back on the
police force to join in the coming battle that no one else believes.
Oh, and for reasons of their own, a cabal of demons does not
want to unleash hell on earth. Not yet, anyway.
With typical Whedon
style, it comes to a head nicely, and Moline and Owens keep it moving.
Though it's still puzzling why vampires have a different coloring in
the comics, the artists have managed to stake their claim on some unique
to Buffy, this series has carved a nice corner of its own, and
taken as a whole (eventually) should attract a lot of fans who don't
normally read comics. But is it helping when they're only reading reprint
#1 Enter The Brothers Grace
writer: John Figueroa, artist: Alberto Ponticelli
promised something different from the previous series bearing its name.
But it still deals with a bunch of loner street vigilantes uncomfortably
teaming up to fight some menace too complex for any one of them to handle
alone. The only real difference seems to be that the "dinosaurs" let
go from the book, Chuck Dixon and Eduardo Barreto, knew how to actually
write and draw, respectively.
to be trying a riff on Garth Ennis. The pieces are there, with suitable
bits of ultra-violence and villains with the right touch of the grotesque
(in theory, anyway). But he doesn't have the sardonic humor, nor the
subtle morality, of Ennis. The Brothers Grace are evil, but it's not
particularly clever to have them also have made an art film. And though
their predilection for plastic surgery could be a good character bit,
it's devoid of context or sense. "No one knows what they really look
like," Sergeant Helen Kim offers. Duh. They really look like whatever
their plastic surgeon has made them look like.
And the writer
gets no help from his artist. Ponticelli has a decent sense of layout,
but all of his figures and faces are somewhat grotesque. It's hard to
be horrified by The Brothers Grace when they never look the same way
twice even without plastic surgery; worse, no character ever
looks the same way twice.
He's not particularly
imaginative, either. Henchman Mr. Tune considers himself an artist in
mangling people, considering them living works of art. But as Ponticelli
draws it, every victim ends up in the same position.
about this book feels like Marvel was giving a couple of kids a chance,
but they're not ready for the big time. They both settle for something
less in a book that is tricky enough in conception to make work. You
have to have a really good reason for Daredevil to work alongside The
Punisher, and this just isn't it.
Out There Twisting Roads
writer: Brian Augustyn, artists: Humberto Ramos and Sandra Hope
This is a whole
lot bigger than we thought.
moves forward a plotline of cosmological significance, he quietly pauses
to remember that small stories of the supernatural can be creepy, too.
The survivors of El Dorado have stopped in Sterling City, Arizona. Ostensibly
it's to take a break from their troubles, as they sightsee in this wild
But it also turns
out that Reverend Becky knows more than she has let on, and that several
religious orders have banded together to combat Draedalus and his ilk.
(One character who we knew was more than he seemed turns out to be that
What makes this
issue stand out, though, is Adam, a grieving father literally haunted
by his late wife. Unfortunately for Mark, he's a dead ringer for Adam's
son Denny, and becomes the target of a supernatural obsession.
Is it related to
the overall arc? Maybe, maybe not. It might be cooler if it isn't. Ramos
and company lay the groundwork for there being a lot of different powers
that be, both good and evil, and it's almost more frightening to think
that not everything serves one grand plan.
I'll admit that
as much as I have enjoyed this series, I thought it would be pretty
much one note throughout. Thankfully, I was wrong.
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Karl Moline and John Dell
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Kai, Elena and
the Heron army are ambushed by the Ravens. The majority of this issue
shows the fighting between the two armies. Kai also goes one-on-one
with Bron. The combat is well done, and we learn that Bron is just as
hard to kill as Ethan was. Mortal wounds can be healed.
This is the first
art by Karl Moline that I have seen. He does a solid job in his CrossGen
debut; not as good as Jim Cheung, but that may not be a fair comparison.
Moline's interpretation of Ashleigh seems off, but the other characters
The issue ends
with Ethan's return to the surface world after last month's visit to
the undersea city of Haven. He was unsuccessful in Haven, but he has
come up with an alternative sanctuary for the lesser races that seems
so perfect that it was obviously Ron Marz's plan from the beginning.
Tangled Web #12 I Was A Teenage Frogman
writer: Zeb Wells, artist: Duncan Fegredo
Suddenly the infamous
Beach Fun Spider-Man action figure makes sense. The wallcrawler takes
a cab out to the suburbs to check up on the paroled Frogman, and, wishing
to go incognito, throws jeans, leather jacket and baseball cap over
his costume. Actually, it's kind of stupid, and yet so in character
for Peter to do.
But as in the best
of this title, his appearance is brief in addition to ridiculous. Instead
the story focuses on the hell of high school, specifically for Eugene
Colorito, son of the "infamous" Frogman. With his father a paroled and
pathetic super-villain, the chubby Eugene suffers as a compound target
If memory serves,
Eugene spent some time as Frogman himself, trying to be a sidekick to
Spider-Man. Wells' take on it here makes more sense, and leaves things
open enough that (if you must) you can fit it into continuity.
What sets this
apart from previous Frogman appearances is that it really does ring
true in its depiction of the embarrassed son/father relationship. And
Wells provides one of the best answers to the question: why be a super-villain?
All of it gets
beautiful work from Duncan Fegredo, who even does his own coloring.
He has a solid, recognizable style that doesn't appear often enough.
Team-Up #14 Spider-Man and Black Widow
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Terry Moore and Walden Wong
Okay, when the
worst thing you can say about a book is that there's a coloring error
on the cover (Natasha's hair is black instead of red), you know that
something terribly right is going on here.
about this book is the glimpse of the wider Ultimate universe that Bendis
provides. Dr. Doom has yet to actually appear in any of these titles,
but already we know a lot about him. Also unexpectedly, this title has
its own continuity, with a seemingly throwaway character from the Iron
Man team-up playing a crucial role here.
As for the Black
Widow herself, she's younger, a little sexier, and a lot sassier than
the Natasha we know. But then, that Natasha is too much a character
out of time; no wonder Marvel tends to focus on her successor. This
version is just as good at what she does, and will definitely be appearing
Bendis also writes
the most realistic teen-aged Peter Parker ever. Granted, in Lee and
Ditko's time the image of teenagers was much more pristine, even if
teens themselves weren't. It's still good to see someone write him as
a guy who hasn't quite learned all the lessons he should, driven by
morality without being consumed by it.
And as Spider-Man
confronts the Black Widow, it's also a nice touch to remember that as
a young man, it won't just be Peter's spider-sense that tingles.
The Ultimates #3 21st Century Boy
writer: Mark Millar, artists: Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie
For whoever whined
to Bill Jemas in his column a couple of weeks ago: still no Thor, though
once again he gets mentioned. No, though the name of this book is The
Ultimates, the real focus is Captain America. And even though much
of his story remains familiar, Millar has put a fresh spin on the human
side of it all.
In this issue,
in fact, no crime gets fought. No battles are waged. Instead, Steve
Rogers has to face just what it means to have been on ice for 57 years.
His fiancée married Bucky, and the two went on with their lives. The
only relatives Rogers has have never met him, and likely have never
even heard of him. It's like the Mel Gibson movie Forever Young,
only without the butt shot and annoying child subplot.
must find a reason to go on, and though the answer is obvious, it seems
somewhat surprising coming from Millar. If you feared this was going
to be a Marvel version of The Authority, don't. At least one
character in this book will be fighting for what's right for all the
right reasons. And it's not necessarily the president.
Giant-Man and The
Wasp appear here, too, and already Millar has thrown in more realistic
consequences to their powers than I've ever read in the pages of The
Avengers. Once again, Marvel has done it right.