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!

Last week I ran out of time to cover everything we picked up (thank heavens for the help from Charlie Wentling), but I do want to recommend two first issues:

Fables #1 from Vertigo was interesting and worth a look. Despite its twisted sensibility, it seems to be lacking the usual Vertigo bleakness, and could be fun.

As for Spider-Man: Blue #1, run, don't walk, to pick up a copy. Why do long-time fans miss Gwen Stacy? Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale will give you an education.

The Authority #29
Brave New World
writer: Mark Millar, artist: Gary Erskine

We knew this was where the story was going to go. The true, original Authority had to regain their powers, and so of course they do. Perhaps because of this title's infrequency (and you shouldn't blame DC - you can if you really want to, but you shouldn't), Millar hurries through the process a bit.

Each re-awakening might have been long enough if I could remember what had happened in the issue before, so digging up #28 before reading #29 might be worthwhile.

Still, once The Authority officially returns, they have to take down uber-redneck Seth, and Millar proves his immense creativity with that character. The government has given Seth powers there aren't even names for yet, and the creature's poetic descriptions of them are quite vivid in their imagery. Suffice to say that the language of this book is worth savoring, though Millar might call me a wanker for writing such a statement.

In the end, Jack Hawksmoor tries to sum up the experience of The Authority, and his conclusion may spark debate. And any comic book capable of doing that is worth the time and effort.


Batman: Gotham Knights #29
Zombie Zero
writer: Devin Grayson, artist: Leonardo Manco

There's just a hint of the old DC horror books in Manco's style, and it helps make this issue creepier than the story actually is. Last issue The Mortician seemed well on his way to being a pretty terrifying enemy for Batman, but Grayson shifts gears away from the expected.

The Mortician turns out to be a twisted reflection of Batman's psyche; obsessed with the loss of his parents, he is determined to bring them back from the dead. While he may pop up again, Manco gives The Mortician enough real sorrow on his face to assume his illegal work is done. Instead, the real addition to Batman's archenemy list may be the titular Zombie Zero, though hopefully, nobody will call him that.

It's a solid race for Batman to figure out what's going on. Thank you, Devin Grayson, for taking a moment to remind us that Batman isn't just an obsessed juggernaut of vengeance, but also a detective with a keen scientific mind. Put that way, the whole obsessed juggernaut thing seems kind of at odds, doesn't it? But as long as no one tells Bruce to grow up, we'll deal with it.

In the back-up "Black and White" slot is a rare story that might actually fit into continuity. Paul Kupperberg and John Watkiss deliver a tale that ties into Batman's day of training. It's an interesting slice, and introduces a new character to his past.


Daredevil #33
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Alex Maleev

The secret is out. Or is it?

Luckily for Matt Murdock, the paper that has exposed him seems to be a bit of a rag, so he may have some plausible deniability. At least until some real reporter digs around. Of course, Ben Urich put it together once, so it looks like Daredevil is screwed.

Bendis throws in little details that make this story seem sadly human. The government agent who tipped off the Daily Globe seems to have done so out of a quiet envy; the betrayal doesn't happen until the agent sees the Black Widow swinging by just as he mulls over the state of his own relationship. And Matt's reaction to the exposure is classic. Foggy says it has to happen to one of "you guys;" without missing a beat Matt answers, "I just always thought it would be Spider-Man."

True, on the surface Peter Parker appears to be more impetuous, but as Bendis has been pointing out, it's Matt Murdock who has been indiscreet about his identity. When The Kingpin recovers, it will be interesting to understand just why he's kept the secret this long himself.

As usual, Maleev delivers a stellar job. If anything, the artwork looks tighter this issue than it has in months past.

Even if this ground has been covered before for Daredevil, this team makes it seem fresh, with real consequences waiting 'round the bend.


Harley Quinn #20
Wouldn't Be Caught Dead There
writer: Karl Kesel, artists: Brandon Badeaux and Dan Davis

After last issue seemed to have closed off the series (and DC had me convinced it was the end), Harley wakes up in Hell with a new art team. No, they're not hellish; in fact, Badeaux and Davis gel quite nicely. They're not a drastic change from the Dodsons, but they still manage to put their own stamp on the book.

It's a perfect time to do it, too, as the new team strikes a balance between the wackier elements of Harley's adventures and the fact that now she's surrounded by demons. Trapping Harley in a never-ending last stand for her gang, Kesel refuses to take the easy out for this insane queen of crime.

Were it her ex-boyfriend, it wouldn't be long before he was running the place. Instead, Harley has to devise a plan to free herself and, we'll assume, The Quinntets. All she has in her way is a now demonized Pettit (nice nod to old ancillary characters) and the formidable Etrigan. Which one of them will prove the more dangerous?

I was perfectly willing to write this book off when I thought it had come to a close. And now I'm hooked again. I'd damn Harley Quinn, but it's too late.


Midnight Nation #11
The Wheel
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal

This book seemed headed for a satisfying but obvious conclusion. And right on the brink of finishing up, JMS throws in a twist that sends David, the man searching for his soul, on a new path. It's not so much his actions that come as a surprise, but the meaning behind them.

Unlike the past couple of issues, "The Wheel" moves with an economy of action. A lot more happens here than has in a while. All of it gets support from dead on characterization by both JMS and his art team.

If this seems vague and terse, it's because I don't want to ruin what's going on for those who haven't yet read it. Suffice to say that Midnight Nation treads spiritual waters a little more deeply than expected. It's an interesting take on the nature of reality, and the jury's still out if this is an optimistic view of creation or not.

Despite the persuasiveness of the devil figure here, that optimism has a good chance of winning.


Mystic #24
writer: Tony Bedard, artists: Fabrizio Fiorentino and Matt Ryan
reviewed by Charlie Wentling

In many ways this 24th issue is a good bookend for Mystic's first two years. A storyline that has been running on and off since the beginning is tied up nicely. Animora and Darrow have been the link between this series and The First, culminating in the battle between Giselle and Ingra. So it isn't a surprise that Animora was behind a lot of Giselle's recent behavior.

Tony Bedard must have inherited most of this story from Ron Marz. I'm starting to wonder just how far ahead CrossGen has each of their titles mapped out. My guess is that this issue was planned before issue #1 was on sale. In spite of this, Bedard does a good job putting his own stamp on things. The next arc is well set up, promising good things for the next year.

The small bits of humor work well to offset the otherwise grim tone. The Eternal Spirits that have guided Giselle have become some of the best characters in this series, and they make a decision that will have major repercussions for quite some time.


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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