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!
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Michael Gaydos and Bill Sienkiewicz
Once again, Bendis
has provided a premise that can only lead to a slap on the forehead
and a "but of COURSE!" from fans. Many years ago the Supreme Intelligence
unlocked Rick Jones' dormant mind powers (details are hazy in my memory,
but it may have been all of humanity's power) and ended a galactic war.
And this was after
Jones was at Ground Zero for the origin of The Hulk, and had spent time
as Captain America's sidekick, but before meeting Captain Marvel and
Rom The Space-Knight (though nobody likes to talk about that). So if
you'd gone through all that, it just goes to reason that you might not
be so much well-adjusted and perky as terribly paranoid.
By dipping into
the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, Bendis (and collaborator Gaydos)
have shaken this book nicely. How does the average man on the street
deal with people altered by cosmic rays, or who have hob-nobbed with
alien races? If you want to read the best answer so far, then you have
to pick up this book.
#769 Purity, part 2
writer: Greg Rucka, artists: Steve Lieber and Mark McKenna
An alter ego-less
Batman faces a vicious drug war in Gotham City. Also working to stem
the tide of drugs are two mysterious figures whom the Bat would just
as soon not have around. One is a former ganglord hideously mutated
by R'as al Ghul, the other is, well, just mysterious.
And as Batman struggles
to defeat both the drugdealers and the mutant, he has a little time
to pay lip service to the concept of family, a concept that he has obviously
rejected himself. It doesn't play out quite as bluntly as it sounds,
which stands as a tribute to Rucka's skills.
It also doesn't
play out too interestingly. That's not so much the fault of the creative
team here; at almost any other time this storyline would be interesting
if not compelling. Pay attention to the cover, though. It says that
we're reading a chapter of "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive," and not only does
Bruce Wayne not appear (which we can expect and forgive), but Rucka
reduces the real players in that saga to little more than cameos that
repeat information already delivered in the previous issue.
Yes, Batman is
driven. True, he was initially annoyed to have Sasha forced upon him.
But what drives Batman is a need to protect the innocent. If only to
clear the innocent Sasha, why isn't Batman trying to find out
who killed Vesper? Rucka writes an off-hand comment that Wayne has left
Sasha to rot in prison, and that's the only reference to this recently
Batman fans will
buy this book. But if you really are interested in this series of "crossovers"
foisted upon the readership, it seems that you're best served by buying
Birds of Prey. It's the only title in which characters seem to
be working on the mystery.
#7 O, Captain! My Captain!
writer: John Arcudi, artist: Tan Eng Huat
The most amazing
thing seems to have happened, character-wise. Without Robotman, the
team seems to have pulled together. Even stranger, re-assuming leadership
of the group has made the new Negative Man actually …positive. Annoyingly
enough, though, the personality change has all happened in between issues.
Still, it's good
to see the group dynamics move forward as they try to salvage Robotman.
The only cipher seems to be Changeling/Beast Boy, whom Arcudi treats
as if we all already know all about him. Luckily, Huat's ever more assured
artwork lends character to the jolly green polymorph.
abound, though, as Arcudi teases us more with the slightest of clues
as to who the other surviving Doom Patrol member is. My money would
be on Dorothy, the ape girl with the menstrual holograms (the Morrison
years were weird), because pulling Rita Farr out as the survivor would
mean that every single member of the "dead" superteam actually lived.
That would be too big a cop-out.
Once again, the
book has kept me intrigued enough for another issue.
writers: Garth Ennis and Rob Haynes, artists: Joe Quesada, Danny Miki,
and Rob Haynes
It's an interesting
idea to revive this style of book, which could be used to try out fledgling
talents and takes on characters. On the other hand, it's not much of
a gamble when you launch it with two of Marvel Knights' flagship characters
and a return to penciling by your editor-in-chief. If you have friends
you've wanted to get into Daredevil or The Punisher, but who fear continuity,
this would be the perfect book to hand them.
All it is is a
a great little tale for Quesada to illustrate, all from the point of
view of a mobster's mouth. (It makes sense, really.) You don't need
to know anything about The Punisher except that he's a bad-ass, which
he quickly proves on his own.
The Daredevil story
by Haynes is light-hearted and fast-paced, a far cry from DD's own title
right now. As I've discovered that a surprising amount of people don't
know who Daredevil is (even Ben Affleck, starring in the film, has described
it as "an obscure comic book"), I'll be using this story to get them
hyped up for the movie. We'll explain why the Kingpin is white in the
For future issues,
I hope that Marvel gives us some takes on characters that we haven't
Exiles #12 Another Rooster In The Henhouse
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Mike McKone and Jon Holdredge
Oh, Marvel wants
to throw off the gullible with this month's cover, featuring a completely
different team. It might work, too, if we hadn't already seen them once
before and been thinking sharply.
As always, it's
interesting to see different takes on beloved characters. This inter-dimensional
"Weapon X" features a Spider-Man who bears an uncomfortable resemblance
to Carnage, and yet many of the Exiles are distrustful of their Sabertooth,
because he's evil in all of their realities. They can accept a black
Heather Hudson as Sasquatch, but not a good Creed? (For the record,
we can consider this Sabertooth trustworthy, as he comes from Blink's
Age of Apocalypse reality.)
Don't let the cover
fool you; what's going on here is a mission so big that it requires
two multi-dimensional teams to set it right. But as usual with this
book under Winick, it's the characterization that matters more, well-done
with some, and frustratingly underdone with others, particularly with
If this book has
a major weakness, it is that the cast, as fun as they are, has become
unwieldy. If a character isn't a direct reflection of an already
existing well-known one, it's hard to keep hold on their personalities
and even code-names, which is weird since Winick sacrifices so much
action for reflective quiet times. (Here, the two teams take out Sentinels
in an alternate "Days of Future Past" world, and it only occupies a
couple of panels. In any other X-book, the procedure would be the point
of the story.)
On the art side,
new inker Holdredge meshes nicely with McKone, who, if you haven't noticed,
is providing some of the most consistent, dynamic pencils in the business.
The First #18
writer: Barbara Kesel, artists: Andrea Di Vito and Rob Hunter
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
This may not be
the best starting point for new readers, as several ongoing storylines
are advanced. And strong ties to the series Sojourn are made
At the end of last
issue, we were led to believe that Pyrem had been killed. As expected
though, it was only lesser god Gracos that perished. Pyrem is a bit
beat up but still alive. The five surviving members of House Dexter
are under assault by the forces of House Sinister. Trenin tries to deal
with the traitor Seahn, but he is whisked away to safety. Finally Ingra
tries to put an end to all of the conflict.
to find Altwaal comes to a close, but she only finds an old man who
identifies himself as Ayden. Though not what she was expecting, Ayden
plants the seeds in Persha's head for what she must do next.
More than any other
CrossGen title, The First ties into all of the other series to
one degree or another and rewards people who read the whole line. It
takes time to catch onto all of the plot nuances, but once you do this
is a unique series. Start out with the trade paperback and go from there.
It is worth the effort.
Hawkman #2 Into The Sky
writers: Geoff Johns and James Robinson, artists: Rags Morales and Michael
Johns and Robinson
have tapped into an aspect of Hawkman that's both obvious and long-forgotten:
he's a hero perfectly suited to globe-trotting adventure in a way that
bigger guns just aren't. Without forcing the issue, the writers have
begun tying Hawkman to a museum background (though not necessarily as
curator), and sent him to the Far East with Hawkgirl where they're about
to encounter…well…that would be spoiling it.
It seems almost
a shame that they have already given us the requisite appearance of
The Shadow Thief (and possibly The Gentleman Ghost), but the rest of
the story moves along with such a sense of wonder that it doesn't matter.
There's also a nice touch in that showdown: from Carter's acknowledgment
of The Shadow Thief's origin, the villain probably assumes this is the
Hawkman he knows, and that gives Carter an edge.
What gives this
incarnation of the title an edge is its paradoxical homage to the past
while neatly encouraging us to ignore it. These Hawks have the best
of everything that ever made the concept work, and so far none of the
weaknesses. It even has a great tension going on with Carter still so
clearly trying to make Hawkgirl remember their fated love. Even with
the reincarnation angle, it feels like a very real male thing to do.
And if you think
that globe-trotting with a pair of wings strapped to your back seems
silly, the art team of Morales and Bair make you forget that. The Hawks
fly with a strange grace, even in the jungle.
What was once the
poster-child for continuity headaches is now on track to be one of DC's
writer: Barbara Kesel, artists: Andy Smith and Mark Farmer
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
The main story
this month continues the fight between Sephie and Rho Rhustane of The
First. Sephie draws Rho out of his killer ship, and the two of them
proceed to beat the crap out of each other in typical comic book fashion.
Fortunately, Rho is presented as an intelligent and experienced foe
rather than just a big goon. He uses his power to cloud Sephie's mind
then attacks with a viciousness that surprises.
with Samandahl Rey back in issue #20 comes into play, but not in the
way that I was expecting. Rho has his own reasons for being on Demetria,
and we see a few glimpses of the larger picture at the climax of the
between Sephie and Jad is explored a bit more. Right now it is in a
holding phase that could stretch off into the foreseeable future. Kesel
may be afraid the tension will be gone if the two of them are ever happy
together. Hopefully I'm wrong, and things will move forward soon.
The guest art is
by Andy Smith who does a decent job, if not quite as good as his work
on Crux last month.
writer: Tony Bedard, artists: Fabrizio Fiorentino and Matt Ryan
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
The Eternal Spirits
stuck inside Giselle's head are finding her recent behavior just as
unseemly as her sister does. Even LeCavalier of the Nouveau Guild is
beginning to lose his faith in her. Genevieve and Thierry find Giselle
in a bar drinking, with broken furniture and unconscious men surrounding
her. Unfortunately they aren't able to shake her out of her funk.
Her behavior is
either directly or indirectly the result of her last fight with Animora.
Soon another member of The First arrives to speak with Giselle, but
she doesn't trust him after her experiences with Animora and Darrow.
She starts sucking the energy out of him, and he agrees to take her
to Ingra. Giselle somehow knows who Ingra is even though no one has
ever mentioned her before.
The big conflict
for next month is established as Ingra confronts Giselle. Ingra seems
to know what is going on though, so I expect there will be a peaceful
solution after the requisite fighting ends. This issue is much improved
from the past few months. The sense of danger is back, and events seem
to possess more meaning.
The Path #1
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Bart Sears and Mark Pennington
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
The first issue
opens with a confusing flashback. Todosi is still alive, and he demonstrates
his skill by taking on seven swordsmen by himself. I'm not sure what
the point of this scene was, but for me it emphasized that the most
interesting character in the series was dead before the story began.
Back in the present,
Todosi's brother Obo-san is reminiscing with Ryuichi, an old friend
who inherited the position of Warlord when Todosi was killed. They debate
the sanity of the Emperor and the fate of the weapon that Obo-san gained
when members of The First fled. Then the funeral of Todosi begins.
attends the funeral, and triggers the real conflict. First, Obo-san
refuses to go along with the traditional funeral ceremony because he
has lost his faith in the gods. Then he refuses to turn his weapon over
to the emperor. Then the issue ends on a silly note of false suspense
that I won't spoil here.
The art is disappointing
as well. I am a fan of Bart Sears' work, but the style he's using here
doesn't appeal to me. Inker Mark Pennington is giving it a rougher look
than Andy Smith did. Sears is using the same annoying layout that Butch
Guice normally uses in Ruse, and it looks just as bad here as
it does there. The coloring is also (intentionally) very dark, which
doesn't work as well as it could.
Peter Parker: Spider-Man
#42 Fifteen Minutes of Shame
writer: Zeb Wells, artist: Jim Mahfood
For a book making
a total mockery of Spider-Man, this issue sure is a lot of fun. Wells
goes from giving us "Streetclothes Spidey" in Tangled Web to
the infamous "Beachfun Spidey" here. And it works.
A popular and puerile
music channel has set up its annual Spring Break special coverage at
Jones Beach in New York (yeah, like THAT would happen). Unfortunately,
it looks like this is no ordinary beach, but actually The Sandman. While
the network tries to cover up the disappearance of its talent, Wells
and artist Mahfood take a few shots at pop culture, and a feverish Peter
Parker tries to investigate without upsetting the broadcast. (Not his
choice, of course.)
It won't add up
to much in the end, and nothing here will change Spider-Man's life forever,
except perhaps for discovering that somebody has been making Spider-Man
Swim Trunks. But it does make a great change of tone from the sturm
und drang of Straczynski's work over in Amazing Spider-Man.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Jeff Johnson and Paul Neary
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
with another strong issue, one which would make a great template for
the series as a whole. The story is mostly self-contained, but it fills
in some background about Simon Archard and leaves a few plot threads
that will draw readers back next month. There is action and humor, but
none of Emma's time-freezing abilities.
Simon and Emma
are invited to see a magician. Simon thinks the whole thing is amateurish
and gets his kicks out of explaining how all of the tricks are done.
Soon, however, a member of the audience is murdered by the magician.
Of course nothing is as simple as it first appears. Simon is convinced
that his mysterious former partner Lightbourne is behind the murder.
Waid adds a lot
of nice bits, including Simon's anger at having to be rescued by Emma,
but my favorite has to be the villain's stereotypical curled mustache
that is only visible after his latex mask comes off.
The artwork is
by new CrossGen employee Jeff Johnson. It is by far the best work I've
seen from him, and his style works very well on Ruse. The
Way of the Rat will be worth a look in May for the art alone.
Superman #181 The Mirror Crack'd
writer: Jeph Loeb, artists: Ed McGuinness and Cam Smith
It's April 1st,
which traditionally causes headaches for The Man of Steel. Luckily for
the readers, this year proves no exception.
On said morning
Kal-El wakes up in Bizarro's body and vice-versa. A lot of wacky hijinks
ensue as the two try to straighten out the confusion, and surprise,
surprise, many of them are actually entertaining. As to who is responsible,
it's a last minute revelation handled well enough that even people not
deep in Superman continuity can accept and understand.
a good choice for a recurring menace, if handled properly. Superman
needs more enemies that can get take advantage of his not so obvious
A Bizarro story
can be a headache to wade through, but Loeb handles it well and keeps
the thought processes fairly easy to reverse. Best of all, despite its
overall ramifications, the story stays self-contained, just as I've
been complaining that too many of the Super-books have gotten too complex.
Nicely done, and once again, well, shave my poodle.
As always, McGuinness
delivers a great job, particularly well-suited to this more humorous
tale. Too many artists over-complicate Bizarro's look, but McGuinness
resists that temptation.
Author: Chris Sarracini, Pencils: Pat Lee, Inks: Rob Armsstrong.
Reviewed by Michael Goodson
When G.I. Joe came
back to comics a few months ago and sales took off like a rocket, you
knew it was only a matter of time before someone tried to resurrect
the other '80s cartoon icon, Transformers. Dreamwave has given us 20-something
fans what they really wanted, too, by bringing back the "Generation
1" robots in disguise.
Simply put, the
comic kicks booty. The art is incredible and the story is awesome. Issue
#1 picks up years after the Transformer movie. The Transformers are
thought to be extinct by the citizens of Earth. Even if you never watched
Transformers the cartoon or saw the movie, the book is easy enough to
jump into. There is also a quick back story explanation at the end.
If you were a fan
of the Transformers in the '80s then this book is well worth getting.
Like us however, the book has grown. Don't expect the G-rated Transformers
as the book has more of a PG-13 edge to it. If you were never a fan,
them pick up issue #1. It's worth the money to see if you like it.
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Mark Bagley and Art Thibert
All of that build-up,
all of that insensible acceptance of Kraven coming to town to hunt Spider-Man,
and Bendis gives us the perfect confrontation, and the only resolution
that really makes sense. Bear in mind that this version of Kraven
is a freak in the celebrity sense, not in the scary mutant sense.
Instead of a book-length
battle royale, Peter is given an unexpected chance to set the record
straight. Hopefully this means a different vibe for this Spider-Man
than that of misunderstood hero. In 1962 that played well; in 2002 it
only works as soap opera. And Bendis is better than that.
Once again, this
proves to be one of the best books on the stands.
#405 Ballroom Blitzkrieg
writer: Joe Casey, artist: Sean Phillips
A few months ago,
I dropped this book out of financial necessity and general lack of enthusiasm
for the work Casey was doing. Last week the title snuck its way back
into the pile, and made an impression.
Even though this
issue is part 3 of a 4 part story, Casey made it fairly easy to pick
up on what was going on. And he's made some interesting choices with
the characters. Because Banshee spent some time as an Interpol agent,
his trying to form a paramilitary mutant outfit almost makes sense,
though how he got to this from kindly teacher of Generation X is unclear.
But that's more Marvel's fault than Casey's; in a prior administration
Generation X had become unreadable and therefore highly droppable.
Casey has woven
in an arc of tragedy, too. How easily former X-Men become the very thing
they despise, without even knowing it. It's a very fertile idea.
in visual eloquence is Sean Phillips; had I known Marvel would finally
let him ink his own work, I might not have dropped the title. Now I
just may have to go back.
X-Force #126 As I Die Lying
writer: Peter Milligan, artist: Mike Allred
The team has been
forced into a public relations nightmare: go battle a group of federally-mutated
superbeings in space, and lose. That would be unsettling enough, but
the core of the team has got itself convinced that one of them is going
Not one of them
thinks that bringing an already dead teammate will take care of that
Milligan and Allred
do a great job with the pacing of this issue, nicely intercutting the
unfolding origin of Dead Girl with the battle on the space station.
Even a few personal revelations get dropped along the way (though, really,
could Billy-Bob be any more like Eminem?).
Once again, this
proves a book to look forward to reading.