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!
The Adventures of
Superman #604 Mirror, Mirror part two
writer: Joe Casey, artists: Carlos Meglia, Sanford Greene, Paco Herrera,
Walden Wong, and Carlos Cuevas
The Crime Syndicate
was long left out in the cold post-Crisis. (Their reality, and even
the possibility of their reality, was wiped out.) Even after Grant Morrison
kicked open the door for their return a few years ago in the graphic
Earth 2, nobody peeked through.
Until Casey dared
last month (no doubt at editorial mandate, but still). And the reason
for these evil alternate earthers venturing onto "our" world is a little
surprising. Story-wise, the adventure plays with our emotions and keeps
us guessing. We might even find ourselves rooting for Ultraman and his
cohorts. This would make a thrilling story arc, if the artwork were
not so terrible.
Take a look at
those credits. Five different pencilers and inkers worked on this, giving
the book a uniform look of chaos. It would be one thing if there was
a flashback or something to which a different style would fit, but here
everyone matches their style to Carlos Meglia. Poorly composed splash
pages dominate the count, and those with panels are so awkwardly laid
out that it's almost impossible to tell what's going on. (Although confusing
pages has been a hallmark of the Superman titles lately, so maybe there
is some other, more nefarious force at work.)
dangerous with two characters who may or may not look exactly alike
facially. Meglia and his imitators are so inconsistent that I can't
tell you if Superman and Ultraman are supposed to resemble each other.
They do, however, have emotional reactions lifted right out of old Don
Martin strips. While that does make me nostalgic for Captain Klutz,
it irritates me in the pages of Superman.
Spider-Man #40 Sensitive Issues
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott
Leave it to other
writers to try to make brightly colored costumed freaks work. Even as
the Sam Raimi film proves that audiences will buy into that, JMS take
Spidey in a different direction. A little grim, a little gritty, a little
darker. Other writers have tried it, but lost the heart of Spider-Man
in the process. So far, though, JMS has kept what makes Peter Parker
work as a character while pushing him into more realistic territory.
And by realistic,
that is to say it's relative. Somebody has been kidnapping homeless
teens, and they're still using superpowers to do it. Whoever it is eschews
costumes, though, and even after mixing it up with Spider-Man, wants
to keep a very low profile.
action, though, takes a back seat to the real struggle Peter the high
school teacher wages every day. Earning the trust of his students, trying
to save them through education, and discovering that sometimes that
isn't enough, even without super-villains on the streets.
There's fun to
be had, too. The more May Parker works her one-woman PR campaign for
Spider-Man, the more you figure she might just succeed. And thank heavens
the stage is set for Mary Jane to at least appear, if not completely
writer: Kelley Puckett, artists: Damion Scott and Robert Campanella
She's beaten Lady
Shiva. She's overcome her own guilt. What's left but a trip to Disneyland?
Actually, a mysterious enemy seems to have brought Disneyland to Batgirl,
in the form of three robots bent on her destruction as a test of her
said test, of course, but the real question remains as to who exactly
is testing her. It's not Batman, but a new player, one whose very presence
seems to be out of nowhere, though he hints that he has been behind
the scenes for a very long time. At any rate, this shakes the book up
a bit into a new direction that still carries the theme of the old one.
Even without the shadow of the bat hanging over her, Cassandra seems
fated to be a continual pawn in somebody else's game.
At least we had
the welcome addition of Stephanie Brown, The Spoiler, for a while, and
this issue does a fine job of developing and sharpening the friendship
between the two girls. And yes, by the time Puckett is done here, it
is a friendship, not just an awkward teaming. The transition has been
slow, but believable.
Also welcome is
Scott and Campanella's rendering of the girls as girls. When getting
caught up in all the butt-kicking, it's easy to forget how young these
characters are supposed to be, and the art seemed to be forgetting that,
With this new villain,
the book has piqued my interest anew. At least for a while.
#2 One Nation
writer: John Ney Rieber, artist: John Cassaday
After an intensely
moving first issue, Ney Rieber and Cassaday try to dish out more of
the same. This second issue is still somewhat affecting, but it also
falls prey to a lot of comic book conventions, starting with the idea
that terrorists in the Marvel Universe still behave just like every
other maniacal supervillain.
Al-tariq and his
followers have taken over a small town that might as well be called
Anywhere, U.S.A. Rather than demonstrate their power by simply wiping
out the town (as was implied at the end of the first issue), they've
set bombs both time and motion sensitive. Psychologically, it could
be pretty scary, but it's really all about luring Captain America into
For my next prediction,
I say it wouldn't be surprising if "Al-tariq" ended up being The Red
Skull (mercifully, one of the villains not shown weeping at the
World Trade Center).
On the plus side,
Ney Rieber delves into the psyche of Captain America, and what it means
to truly be a man made for war. It's an examination we certainly could
use, and if the writer overindulges himself on the issue a bit, there's
still some poetry to it. "Blood on your hands, they say" the Captain
thinks to himself, "as though it stops there. At your wrist. Like a
Matching and in
some cases overpowering Ney Rieber's words is the artwork of Cassaday.
Captain America may be superhuman, but he never looks less than human
here. There's grim determination in his face, but also pain behind his
eyes. Overall, this is still pretty good stuff.
The First #19
writer: Barbara Kesel, artists: Andrea Di Vito and Rob Hunter
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Last month, Ingra
was betrayed by Braag and Seahn. The two of them seized control of House
Sinister. We now learn that Orium was also involved in their plot. Ingra
has been turned over to Ervulsh, a new character with an arachnid look
to him. Braag is suspicious that his victory was too easy, but Seahn
seems oblivious to his concerns.
House Dexter is
in mourning for the death of Gracos. Persha uses her ability to find
where Ingra is being held. Rather than rescue him herself, she has other
ideas. Her goal is to reunite the two houses, and after meeting with
Altwaal she is starting to realize that she could be the one to do it.
Trenin the Hunter wants to start a new hunt to track down and execute
This issue returns
to the storytelling approach where ten or twelve separate plot threads
are advanced, but none of them takes center stage. Kesel and Di Vito
both do a solid job.
Groo: Death and
writers: Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, artist: Sergio Aragones
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Groo's latest miniseries
wraps up this month. If there is one thing to say about Groo, it would
have to be that it's consistent. After reading more than 150 issues
by the same creative team, I can't remember a single bad one. All of
the Groo fans out there will be getting this issue by default. If you've
never read Groo before, wait for the miniseries to be collected, or
pick up one of the other collections.
Groo resolves his
dilemma about killing. He had previously taken a vow to stop killing
people, with the goal of giving himself a better reputation. His plan
had backfired, and his pacifistic ways were actually causing more death.
Rather than making a black or white choice, Groo takes the middle ground.
The question of
whether it's possible for a person to truly change is answered, and
the answer given is an optimistic one. I'm always amazed at the level
of emotion Sergio can put into his art. Maybe it isn't for all tastes,
but when it works it really works.