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!
of Superman #603 Baby Talk
writer: Joe Casey, artist: Carlos Meglia
There's a big baby
with almost limitless power posing a problem for Superman. For once,
we're not talking about Lex Luthor, though he does make a quick appearance
upfront to remind us that he now knows Superman's secret identity. (And
where is the scene where he kicks himself for rejecting that explanation
back in 1985?)
Instead, it's an
actual baby with a suspiciously familiar "S" curl who floats in mid-air
and discharges ever more powerful blasts of energy. Wisely, however,
Casey and Meglia play this as an actual newborn (even has that weird
white slough that they never show you on ER) who, quite
naturally, has no control over his powers.
Though I've never
liked Meglia's style, it works here. Maybe it's his inking himself that
works, or perhaps we've all become accustomed to people drawing the
super-books in an exaggerated cartoony style. The only character that
doesn't really work is Luthor, drawn far too much like the Kingpin for
And just like last
week, there's a last page secret villain revelation that wins my applause.
writer: Kelley Puckett, artists: Phil Noto and Robert Campanella
Once again, movement
in the overall crossover happens here, and not in an actual book starring
Batman. Luckily, this issue proves pretty nifty, and worth the attention.
a vital, if gruesome, clue to the mystery, with Puckett laying the groundwork
from the opening pages. Whoever decided that Batgirl and The Spoiler
should hang together made a good call; they provide perfect foils for
each other in very real ways. So vocal in her conviction that Batgirl
broke her jaw, the chatty Spoiler earns a quiet plea from Oracle: "next
time, really break her jaw." Aside from wearing costumes, both girls
seem like real girls.
Throwing The Spoiler
in the mix allows Puckett to excel at characterization, and allows his
storytelling to stand out in relief. Appropriately for this title featuring
a girl with speech problems, much of the action occurs in silence, and
guest artist Noto rises to the occasion. His animation skills are welcome,
as this book often suffers from overkinetic and often incomprehensible
The only drawback
is in Campanella's inking; it's solid work, but it restricts Noto's
lush pencils (as demonstrated on Birds of Prey covers). Clearly,
editorial fiat has declared that all Bat-books must have a sameness
to them. Gee, too bad Vince Colletta isn't around today…(and that joke
just made me seem really, really old).
writer: Kevin Smith, artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks
Last month's love
fest between The Hawk and The Arrow was too good to be true. Angered
by Ollie's bedding of Black Canary, Carter Hall does his best to rip
Green Arrow a new one. Thankfully, he left his mace back in his quarters.
Smith shines to
the chance to use political epithets, and the heated exchange between
the two heroes is some of the best, if most infantile, dialogue he's
used in this series. Of course, all of this serves as an excuse to awaken
Dinah Lance and let Hester and Parks draw her in the altogether. ("Hee,
hee! Black Canary's nekkid!" drooled a Fanboy Planet editor who is not
And all of that
segues into Smith's real final arc, as the villainous Onomatopoeia continues
killing small-time masked vigilantes. From the second an off-camera
Regis Philbin fondly describes Green Arrow as such, you know he's bound
to become a target.
This touch has
also allowed Smith to create some clever throwaway heroes, throwaway
because they die within panels of their first appearances. A lot of
DC writers have been playing with this idea in recent months, that their
universe is chock full of small-timers no less appreciated by their
citizens even if we don't read about them. It makes sense.
it seems that Smith will be leaving with a bang. And perhaps a pfffffftttttt.
And maybe an a-OOO-gah.
#149 Hand of God, Day Four
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos
Things sure have
gotten quiet with Ion around. Too quiet. And though the cover of this
month's issue features a rather p.o'd Superman, Winick depicts him as
more saddened by Kyle's power surge than anything else.
It's not because
the JLA gets a kick out of beating up the bad guys. (Well, maybe Plastic
Man and Batman do…) It's because in both the comic book world and the
real world, heroes should be inspiring, but not necessarily inspirational.
As the title of the story suggest, in only four days Kyle Rayner has
become god to far too many people. (Oh, how I'd like to see Winick tackle
a story or two about these actual cults.)
No real action
takes place. Kyle even turns back an alien invasion without so much
as twitching an eyebrow. But Winick and company spend 22 pages in a
thought-provoking examination of the meaning of brightly-costumed heroes,
and what it might really mean to be one of them.
#150 promises one
heck of a ride.
#19 Going Out With A Bang
writer: Karl Kesel, artists: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
With all the signs
of a book axed with little notice, Harley Quinn comes to an end.
It still delivers everything we've come to expect from the book: wacky
(if psychotic) humor, fine-looking (if psychotic) women, and a psychotic
(if psy - er) sense of fun.
It just feels rushed.
In just a couple of panels, Poison Ivy gets dispatched by The Thorn,
with none of the exploration of either character that their confrontation
promised. Superman appears in an act of deus ex machina to wrap
things up. And we see far too little of the Bizarro Harley, though granted,
her character might have worn thin given more time.
But we'll never
know. Just two weeks ago Michael Goodson and I marveled that this book
had reached 18 issues. And now, with the 19th, it's gone.
Alas, Harley, we
hardly knew ye. But by now she'd tell me to shaddup already.
Just A Pilgrim
#2 To The Stars By Hard Ways
writer: Garth Ennis, artist: Carlos Ezquerra
From the beginning
of the first Pilgrim mini-series, we had reason to think that this post-apocalyptic
horror comic might impart a message of hope. We were younger then, more
trusting. After having seen the end of that, it's hard to read this
second series with anything other than a deep, deep sense of foreboding.
We know damned well that just because we're reading another character's
diaries, that doesn't mean that anybody's going to come out of this
alive. Or any body, for that matter.
Oh, Ennis might
throw us a curveball, but it doesn't look good. Even with a cobbled-together
space shuttle, it's doubtful that this Garden of Eden will spread new
life, unless you count the sliders.
But it's deliciously
grotesque and disturbing, so I'm stuck. The Pilgrim remains a great
character, little Maggy breaks my heart, and already, I'm afraid to
Lab Rats #1 Game Space
creator, writer, and artist: John Byrne
Once upon a time
writer/artist John Byrne was the hottest of the hot. Everything he touched
turned to gold. Few noticed the secret of his success: taking the best
of what worked in "classic" comics and turning it upside down. When
it became obvious, his star cooled while his ego remained big. (Head…still…reeling…from…Wonder
This time out,
Byrne seems to be stealing from his own Next Men concept, but
that seems too easy a comparison. Instead, Lab Rats is more likely
an updating of the old Simon and Kirby boy groups, with a couple of
girls thrown in for modernity's sake. So far, no one actually seems
to have any powers, they're all orphans, and they have a paternalistic
mentor who trusts them more than they yet trust themselves.
So why isn't it
better? Because they're not yet really characters; they're just odd
names randomly assigned to drawings. When Simon and Kirby handed out
names, it would be obvious why. Big Words used a lot of big words. Scrappy
was scrappy. But the Lab Rat Poe is…doomed to die of consumption? It's
hard to say.
These kids are
being trained in a virtual reality simulator for vague military purposes,
yet they're stuck in a scenario with dinosaurs because the computer
has run amuck. In the virtual world, they do seem to have great mental
abilities that don't translate to the real one, so how effective can
Those who want
to stick around for the next issue can find out as they face off against
a monster in the real world. Let me know how it turns out.
writer: Tony Bedard, artists: Paul Pelletier and Dave Meikis
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
Kaine and his companions
are stranded on an icy world. They sent the lizard lady into a city
to gather information. When she returns, her physical appearance has
changed as she takes on the characteristics of an alien that she ate.
(This strange aspect of Saurian biology was explained in the miniseries
Saurians: Unnatural Selection.) Meanwhile, Komptin has arrived
on the planet and taken over the search for the escaped prisoners.
The group sneaks
into a spaceport and tries to steal a ship. In an amusing twist, they
have trouble with the atmospheric controls and the ship fills with water.
When Negation troops arrive they cause Evinlea to lose control of her
powers with disastrous results. The strained relationship between Kaine
and Evinlea continues to deteriorate, and we get to see Matua use his
The pacing continues
to be very fast. This is one of the most creative comics on the market
today, both in terms of story and art, and it's worth reading.
Nightwing #68 Time & Motion
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Trevor McCarthy, Rob Stull, and Robert
Proof that Campanella
is a talented inker: he almost makes McCarthy palatable. Unfortunately,
he only inks three pages. The rest gets covered by Stull, and the combination
makes this book almost unbearable. Actually, the artwork would be fine
for a skateboard company, but not for a really well-written comic book.
Yes, Dixon once
again works hard to shame those of us who wrote him off after Last
Laugh. The pacing is tight, sensible, and Dick Grayson gets to prove
that he is a worthy son and heir to Bruce Wayne. With Alfred getting
to act like Alfred, instead of an offended old man, these two characters
are really coming back into their own.
Better yet, another
piece of the puzzle falls into place. It's almost as if DC would rather
we buy these books than Batman or Detective Comics. Storywise,
this was great. And thankfully, the controversial McCarthy is on his
way out. But it still rankles that he was here at all.
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Scot Eaton and Andrew Hennessy
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
The Saurians have
sent an asteroid plummeting though space on a collision course with
the planet Gaia, the homeworld of the Planetary Union. Even worse, Zanniati
is trapped on the asteroid. That is the simple setup for this issue.
Sam must stop the asteroid before it hits the planet and kills billions
The biggest problem
for me is that none of the people on Gaia are continuing characters
in the series, so the sense of suspense isn't there. The chain of events
is interesting enough, but it almost seems like it doesn't matter what
happens. Eaton and Hennessy try to add a cinematic feel to the art,
with mixed results. Character development takes a back seat to the action.
Despite these qualms,
this is still a quick, enjoyable read. The ending should affect things
for months to come.
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Greg Land and Drew Geraci
reviewed by: Charlie Wentling
Last month Arwyn
struck a deal with the dragon Shiara. Arwyn will turn over her magic
bow to Shiara, and in return the dragon will kill Mordath. The deal
seems simple and logical, but we all know that things can't be so easy.
Shiara begins her
assault on Mordath's castle, and she manages to do some serious damage.
Arwyn wants to see Mordath's dead body with her own eyes, so she and
Gareth return to the site of their first meeting. Mordath's trolls struggle
to stop the dragon, who stays safely out of reach in the skies.
Arwyn does find
Mordath again, but the confrontation doesn't go how she planned, and
it isn't resolved in this issue.
We also learn more
about the trolls and how Mordath is using them to keep the Five Lands
under his control. Greg Land gives each of the trolls a distinctive
look, and they all have their own personalities.
Land is the star
here, and he does excellent work, particularly on the dragon. Without
the intimidating and majestic dragon, the story would falter. The cover
is also excellent.
Team-Up #15 Spider-Man and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Rick Mays, Jason Martin, and
So here we are.
The penultimate Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. Framed by an alleged
Chinese folktale, this issue wastes little time in getting to the action.
Young sophisticated Leiko goes to Chinatown to visit a relative, only
to immediately be mugged. The toughs in turn are stopped by a young
grocery clerk who nobody on the street seems to want to acknowledge,
though his fighting skills are formidable.
Peter and Mary
Jane happen by as a Chinese gang returns to jump the clerk, but by the
time Peter can find a place to change into Spider-Man (yes, the suit
is still a little awkward to put on), the gangmembers have all been
beaten. Oh, sure, we know that this young man is Shang-Chi, but
for those unfamiliar with the character, Bendis builds a suitable aura
of mystery and fighting competence. And the folktale makes for a quieter
examination of Shang-Chi's motivations.
Mays and Martin's
work smacks strongly of manga, no doubt purposefully. Were this story
more humorous, it might fit a little better (and there are those who
no doubt strongly disagree with me), but for a tale of intrigue and
danger, it seems awkward. A lot of characters appear stunted and thus
too comical. Andy Lee's brushwork on the folktale sequences, however,
is beautiful, almost jarring against Mays and Martin, whose art is also
not really promised by the David Mack cover.
It seems an odd
storyline to purposely bring this series to a close, but we can give
Bendis the benefit of the doubt; he's never let us down before.
X-Factor #1 The Mountaintop, part one: The Player
writer: Jeff Jensen, artist: Arthur Ransom
A young man hangs
crucified from the Hollywood sign. On its own, that's an image wrought
with symbolism, but the corpse also has the word "mutant" carved into
his chest. News of the crime spurs the FBI into action, with its Mutant
Civil Rights Task Force.
And so a new/old
limited "X" title makes its debut. What makes this one worthwhile is
that it actually has something new to offer. Our heroes are two normal
humans, albeit "victims" of mutant violence. Catherine Gray apparently
had a mutant daughter whose power triggered in infancy, immolating the
child. Her partner, Aaron Kearse, had a run-in with mutants that withered
his arms. Though they appear to be healing, it's still a slightly gruesome
Both of them try
to shoulder past their grief and anger to do what's right, in this case
investigating the death of the mutant boy. Except it turns out that
he's not a mutant. If anything, he may have been a member of "The Third
Species," humans who accept transplants of mutant organs in the hopes
that powers will come with them.
It's an interesting
exploration of the human/mutant tension told from a perspective that
we don't often get. Though a couple of familiar faces pop up, they are
completely peripheral, and only add to the mystery facing the FBI agents.
Jensen has laid
the groundwork for an intriguing series; already his two protagonists
are complex people without being over-complicated. It's a tricky balance,
but Jensen maintains it. He's also thrown in some Biblical allusions,
and the conceit works without becoming too heavy-handed.
Ransom makes a spectacular debut here. His work blends Berni Wrightson
with Alfredo Alcala, to gritty effect. Teamed with a relatively new
writer, the result proves that sometimes Marvel is doing the
right thing by exposing new talent on high-profile projects.