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!

Alias #9
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Michael Gaydos

Still not sure if this book takes place in continuity, nor even if it matters. But, as any sharp Marvelite suspected, the Rick Jones that Jessica found is not the Rick Jones that lived and wrote Sidekick. (I still want that book to really exist someday.)

Bendis uses this revelation to explore the effect of fame on the so-called "little people." It's an effect that clearly reached Jessica herself, blind to the clues that her quarry was not the man he claimed to be. And even as she herself has become the object of a fan's obsession, she never put it together.

For all the potential action dreamed up by the Rick Jones-wannabe, this issue proves surprisingly quiet, meditative, and extremely powerful. One of the most fascinating mysteries of the overall book is why Jessica quit the superhero game. She offers up excuses, but more and more it seems like it's a mystery to her as well.

Gaydos surpasses himself this issue, with his usual excellent draftsmanship and some clever composition. He works in a reverse split-screen effect that really adds power to an otherwise low-key confrontation. It's cool.


Detective Comics #770
Purity, part 3
writer: Greg Rucka, artists: Steve Lieber and Mark McKenna

The Josie Mac storyline takes a dramatic leap forward, as (not unexpectedly) The Dark Knight takes a far more active role. But what makes it interesting is getting Josie's take on him, discovering the man behind the myth. Though this remains her story, having a familiar Gothamite encounter Batman for the first time gives him a fresh spin.

Chiang's clean lines are very reminiscent of the work of Alex Toth, giving the story a bit of a nostalgic feel without undermining Winick's very modern storytelling. Should DC decide a one-shot is in order, this team should stay together.

Of course, Josie Mac is actually the back-up in Detective, but one we've been giving short shrift to in the past few months. Actually headlining the book is Batman, still fighting to stop the bad heroin trade into Gotham City. One of his allies/opponents has been revealed to work for Checkmate, which came as a bit of a surprise even though it shouldn't have. Checkmate has been keeping quite a low profile in the DCU, and Rucka uses this return to springboard into a more political storyline, dove-tailing nicely with this week's Superman.

Seeing Batman get involved in national affairs has interesting potential, though it feels like this could have gotten started a month ago if the battle with the mutated Dai Lo had not been drawn out into three issues. And yet again, Rucka pays only cursory acknowledgment to this being part of the Bruce Wayne: Fugitive arc. He could have comfortably cut those two pages and furthered his own plot along instead.


Doom Patrol #8
But When I Wake…
writer: John Arcudi, artist: Tan Eng Huat

When the Doom Patrol went Vertigo many years ago, I dimly recall that they ended up on a parallel Earth of some kind. Are they still there? It's so hard to tell, and Arcudi really isn't in a hurry to answer that question.

The new original Robotman returns, in a pretty awkward and yet perfectly Soviet looking body. (Great design work by Huat.) He has a lot of questions, and few memories of what actually happened to him. Though Gar believes this is the real Cliff, and he believes it's really Gar, nobody can really say for sure. And that makes the book more maddening than enjoyable right now.

Such mysteries take a back seat while Ava's parasitical power source escapes her body, and while it's intriguing, it's still just an excuse to have us look away for another issue. No character within the book is asking the questions he should like, just who exactly was the fake Cliff, why did he fade away, and where did he go? How did Metamorpho come back to life? (The letter column glibly offers that that's for the guys doing JLA to figure out, but that sure seems like a cop-out to me.)

And really, why did the group decide so quickly that their original Cliff was fake? Other than his being declared dead, there really wasn't any evidence against him. Nor is there still.


Exiles #13
Another Rooster In The Henhouse
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Mike McKone and Jon Holdredge

Great. Now Marvel is putting critics quotes on the cover of this book. Another company to which I must pander. But actually, I have little of noteworthy pith to say. I buy this book. I read this book. I like this book.

Until Winick reminded us, I'd forgotten how beholden Blink was to her version of Sabertooth. This relationship reaches a modicum of poignancy, but not as much as it might have if Blink had mentioned "Mr. Creed" every issue. For writing an X-book and showing melodramatic restraint, Winick is to be lauded.

He's also managed to make this "What If --?" conceit work smoothly. The introduction of the interdimensional Weapon X takes on a dark dimension this issue, and it makes sense. Despite their sometimes grim and gritty exteriors, all of The Exiles are still superheroes barely past the "hey kids! Let's put on a show!" stage of their careers. When the powers that be need something nasty done on an alternate Earth, they call in Weapon X.

The only drawback I see is wanting to explore how these alternate assassins got to be the way they are. How did Peter Parker get to be ruthless? All we have for a clue is that his uniform looks more like Carnage than Spider-Man. It's a bit frustrating, but again, that makes the book a little more challenging to our imaginations.

Which should be the point of comics in the first place…


Hawkman #3
Lost In The Battlelands
writers: Geoff Johns and James Robinson; artists: Rags Morales and Michael Bair

If you go back into the original Golden Age Hawkman stories, you'll see that Johns and Robinson are really taking what was best about them and applying them here. Being as it's Johns and Robinson, of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise. But it does come as welcome, for this incarnation of Hawkman (and we mean that literally) certainly feels like he will last.

In many ways, the original Hawk stories were lurid pulp fiction brought to comics, discovering hidden cities and civilizations, and always fighting for an American brand of justice. It may be a more global notion now, but even the cover has that throwback feel.

The actual story is appropriately pulse-pounding. Hawkman takes on elephantine avatars from another dimension, only to be rescued by blue-skinned warriors who throw them a feast. Meanwhile, Shiera fights mercenaries in the real world, as befits a character who really has a hard time accepting the fantastic.

Morales and Bair's art is really cool, though a little splash heavy this issue. And yet, so detailed are the spreads that they seem worth the loss of storytelling panels. They certainly know how to buckle their swashes.


Superman #182
Dead Men
writer: Jeph Loeb, artists: Ed McGuinness and Cam Smith

Though it makes a good cover, Superman and Solomon Grundy don't actually meet inside. Instead, we abruptly get Grundy hurling Lois Lane off of a building, only to be rescued by Killer Frost, only to be imperiled by her, only to be rescued by Deadshot. It's a bizarre psychological game, one that Superman seems almost on the sidelines throughout.

Lois is working on the story of a lifetime, the one that could blow the lid off the entire Republican administration. Oh, I'm sorry, that should read Luthorian. (Did Lex even have a political party affiliation?) After snooping around quite a bit, she has discovered that Lex knew about the Imperiex attack on Kansas before it happened, because of his alliance with Brainiac 13. As Margot Kidder might have put it, "capital P…little u…little l…"

But many moons ago Lois made a deal with the devil. Lex would save the Daily Planet on the condition that he could make her kill one story. This one sure looks like that story.

Though Luthor himself barely appears, Loeb brings back an element of his character that has been missing for a while: the sheer joy Luthor takes in manipulating people for the hell of it. It was one of the best contributions of John Byrne's revamp back in the '80's, and it's good to see a writer remember and run with it.

As always, McGuinness provides some dynamic imagery, and I'm sure there will be a bidding war for that cover. Sorry, Doug.


For our opinions on this week's Ultimate Marvel releases, click here.

For alternate views and other books, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique Frequencies.

Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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