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Aquaman #5
writer: Rick Veitch
artists: Yvel Guichet, Mark Propst and Rob Leigh

This may be a world record for a superhero re-launch. We're five issues in, and not once has any of Aquaman's established Rogues' Gallery made an appearance, except maybe in a flashback. Black Manta must have been too busy over in South Park.

Instead, Veitch has been busy setting up a new enemy for a new Aquaman. It's called "The Thirst," an appropriately conceptual villain. For what may surprise new readers is that Aquaman has ventured into being a champion of the collective subconscious, an area that has fascinated Veitch for a couple of decades.

Though both heroic and foreboding, Guichet's artwork actually proves a hindrance to this issue. Even an alternate inker can't make Arthur and Garth's journey through mankind's memory anything other than bogus. It never achieves the ethereality that Veitch's dialogue is describing, especially when Aquaman claims that their younger selves look so happy.

No, sir, they don't. At best, they look troubled, an expression that is Guichet's specialty. At worst, they're constipated.

The Thirst itself look appropriately frightening, but if it is intended to be Arthur's evil doppelganger (a notion toyed with by Peter David in his run), we're lacking in visual cues.

It's still an interesting book, but desperately in need of some tighter editing to bring story and art together.


Astro City: Local Heroes #2
writer: Kurt Busiek
artists: Brent Anderson and Alex Ross

After a shaky start last issue, Busiek returns to doing what Astro City may do best. Taking a hoary staple of Silver Age comics stories, we get a glimpse of the relationship between nuclear hero Atomicus and the woman who loves him. She, of course, is determined to expose his secret identity as Adam Peterson.

The parallels between this and the classic Lois/Superman/Clark triangle are obvious, but Busiek at least has the decency to throw a few curves. Instead of reporters, both work for a politician. And Atomicus owes as much to Captain Atom and his Alan Moore clone Dr. Manhattan as he does to Superman.

Having a political base seems shaky, though. Granted, we see aldermen and mayors at the site of trouble, but usually after it's happened. To use this as an excuse for Adam Peterson to be (or to not be) at an incident is a stretch.

However, Busiek does expose the utter insanity of the Lois Lane type in risking her own life to prove a point. And we get a poignant view of how alien Atomicus or his Kryptonian brother might really feel.

It's all told in flashback, and the bookend sequences are meant to startle us with a patented Astro City twist. The story might have been better served if Busiek had just let it be. Instead, the twist fails to really add anything; it's too out of left field, and too hard, really, to empathize with Irene Merriweather.

Another hallmark of the series is taunting glimpses of other stories, and Busiek offers a couple. If this book hasn't impressed you yet, please give it a chance, if only so that the writer can explain whatever happened to The Silver Agent, and just what is up with Beautie, the hero who makes action figures redundant.


Batgirl: Year One #5
writers: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon
artists: Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez

Even with the events of Underworld Unleashed having turned Killer Moth into a real killer moth, this mini-series has done more with the character than any before. Aside from being the first villain Batgirl ever faced, he has become a recurring thorn, and it's no wonder that Oracle still has trouble with his memory in Birds of Prey.

All that, and he's still pretty much a loser, too.

But Beatty and Dixon make him more dangerous with the addition of Garfield Lynns, aka Firefly. Himself pretty much a one-note villain, Lynns becomes something more disturbing here. Both the writers' characterization and Martin and Lopez' art contribute to an uneasy sensation in a book that has so far been little more than lightweight fun.

It's not so much a risk as just good storytelling. If only Beatty could inject a little more of that skill into his other books, where he seems to still be laboring as apprentice, afraid to put too much of himself into his writing.

Oh, yeah, and Batgirl is here, too. But just barely. Barbara has, appropriately enough, occasional narration from her computer, providing an innocent counterpoint to the trouble that has begun brewing for her.

As a trade paperback, this mini-series is shaping up to be a keeper.


Blood and Water #2
writer: Judd Winick
artist: Tomm Coker

Last week, Fanboy Planet staffer Jordan Rosa was either complaining or joking that every modern vampire story has one awful moment in which a characters says to another, "forget what you've seen in movies…these are REAL vampires."

Shortly thereafter, I opened to the first page of this book to find exactly that scene happening. But Winick isn't after some sort of shock redefinition of vampires to make them more frightening. In fact, it seems to be pretty much the opposite.

The vampires of Blood and Water are more mundane than you might expect, their fashion sense being the most outré thing about them, but that's just because they're stuck in eternal youth.

Winick allows for something terrifying to be lurking in the darkness, but it isn't newbie vamp Adam. Nor is this issue much concerned with it. Instead, consider this a primer into the vampire's world, with such important warnings as to not freak out when you defecate food exactly the way you swallowed it. Luckily, I don't like pickles anyway.

As a plot, so far Blood and Water is more of a vibe and an exercise in the things that interest Winick. San Francisco (his home base since The Real World), disease, and acceptance all jostle for attention. But it's also clear that future issues won't be so simple.

Coker (any relation to Mad artist Paul Coker?) has a style vaguely reminiscent of Sean Phillips. It dances on the edge of moody, but never goes too far beyond a realistic edge.

So, should you pick this book up? Absolutely. Second issues tend to be under-ordered, so if you see it this week on the shelf, grab a copy. Blood and Water is a unique take on the vampire story, and yet familiar enough to satisfy fans of the genre.

But will they run into Vertigo's earlier Vamps?


Derek McCaw


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