Each week we let you know about the comics we buy and tell you which ones you should buy. Trust us.

The Adventures of Superman #593

Prelude To War: Suicide Mission!
writer: Joe Casey, pencils: Mike Wieringo, inks: Jose Marzan, Jr.

Okay, kids, like it or not, we're knee-deep in summer cross-over madness, and it's only getting deeper. Last week someone (oh, heck, fine - Lex Luthor's grown-up daughter Lena) warned President Luthor that a huge war was coming to Earth, and he'd better prepare. Of course, this wasn't necessarily altruistic, as Lex realized that a victorious president gets remembered as an heroic one (as the last three presidents have all tried to be, and just give the Shrub a little more time). The first step in his preparations get revealed here.

Lois investigates a prison break at Stryker's Island, and discovers that someone has been transferring dangerous criminals out of the facilities. It's never quite explained to newcomers who actually broke out, and within pages, it doesn't matter. Mongul is one of the transferees, as are a couple of others that shock Lois. Worst of all, the man approving the transfers is General Sam Lane, Lois' own father and Luthor's Secretary of Defense. Why is he doing it?

Superman finds out first. Lured to an abandoned military base (kids, never, never trespass on these - they're ALWAYS dangerous), he finds himself under attack from Shrapnel. Just as he gets a handle on that, Plasmus tries to dissolve him from behind. And yet another villain (?) watches from the shadows as the melee intensifies.

For those who read DC's bulletins, you'll know that not only does Our Worlds At War lightly fleece us out of extra cash this summer, it also re-launches the cult favorite Suicide Squad. So put two-and-two together here.

Though the actual title will be written by Keith Giffen (and dammit, yes, he consistently gets at least $2.25 from FanboyPlanet), Casey does a good job laying the groundwork here. The issue suffers, however, as Superman titles often do, from being a time-filler until the real story-line gets going. Wieringo and Marzan provide manga-esque artwork, but it compliments nicely with Ed McGuinness' work over on Superman. And really, Shrapnel and the fourth mystery villain are the type of characters who look silly when drawn in a realistic style because, well, they just look silly. Please don't write in saying they're actually deadly; they just look silly.

The Bottom Line: It's fun, but can we please get to the earth-shaking events?

Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm #2 of 4

Story and Art: Mike Mignola

Hellboy awakens on the floor of the mysterious Hunte Castle, facing one of his arch-enemies, the disembodied head of Herman Von Klempte, now wearing a cyborg body. Somewhere on the mountain below him lies the unconscious homunculus Roger, who has been rescued by the fictional pulp hero Lobster Johnson. And they're all there to welcome the return of a Nazi Zombie From Space. Well, only Von Klempte and his hot granddaughter really welcome it.

To summarize a chapter in a Hellboy story is to tell you that really, you should be reading Hellboy. Each mini-series remains pretty complete unto itself, so there's not a lot of baggage if you think you're too late to the party. Mignola does a good job of remembering that every comic book is somebody's first one, and provides just enough prior information to keep it enjoyable for everyone without slowing things down. And from the above paragraph, clearly, things move pretty fast. Every issue reads like an old-time movie serial, except without the stupid parts. And, of course, a hero that looks like hell.

Fans complain that Mignola doesn't turn enough of these out, but really, quality should always win over quantity. And for what is ostensibly a horror comic, Hellboy is just plain fun. With Vin Diesel rumored to be circling around a movie adaptation, now is the time to get in on it.

Starman #80

Arrivederci, Bon Voyage, Goodbye
writer: James Robinson, artist: Peter Snejbjerg

This is the hardest review of the week. With this issue, Starman is over. And what an incredible ride it's been.

Never a huge seller, Starman has been one of the most consistently brilliant comic books DC has ever published. That may seem ridiculous praise for a -sniff- superhero book,, but it's true. The saga of Jack Knight and the mantle of Starman has always been only incidentally about superheroes. Instead, it is about family and friendships, and remembering the good things in the face of bad.

Though fans of the book have seen this coming, Robinson still ends it with a logical grace. The book will be missed, but the story is done, for that strangest of reasons in comic-book land: it's actually done. Though others may pick up threads from it (as was done with The Sandman), Jack Knight deserves the rest. If you haven't read Starman, start looking for the collections. And if you're Mike Goodson, keep bugging me to find the back issues. Eventually, I'll find them and the time to do justice to the overall series.

Amazing Spider-Man #32 or #473

The Long Dark Pizza of the Soul
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, pencils: John Romita, Jr., inks: Scott Hanna

What is it with these hot comic writers? Why do they have to be both good and prolific? With this latest chapter in the life of Peter Parker, Straczynski hits the mark again.

Peter has his first day as a science teacher, and nothing in particular goes wrong. No clones, no lab accidents, no attacks on the school, nothing except the fact that heís facing high school students. And some of them would rather be elsewhere. After class, however, Peter gets called to the principalís office to face the mysterious Ezekiel, the man with powers like Peterís own.

And finally, Ezekiel starts explaining a few things.

The answers he provides will make you slap your head and say, ďof course!Ē Not only that, Straczynski seems to have picked up on an obscure bit of continuity from, of all things, the days of Malibu Comics and the horrifically stupid Spider-Prime. Just as we get drawn into Ezekielís explanation, we also get reminded that Morlun hovers nearby. A deadly confrontation is coming.

Thereís a bias towards good writers at Fanboy Planet, and so it should come as no surprise that we say you should pick up this book. Spectacular Spider-Man is entertaining, but so far hasnít been all that exciting. Over here in AmazingÖ, things are happening that will really change Peterís character and his outlook, hopefully for the better. And John Romita, Jr. seems to be working hard to be worthy of the words.

Not a clone in sight. Marvel really is getting it right.

Batman: Our Worlds At War #1

Hidden Agenda
writer: Ed Brubaker, artist: Stefano Gaudiano

Two Gotham City construction workers arrive at their construction site twenty minutes earlier than everyone else, and pay for it with their lives. Someone (a terrorist?) blows up the site, and the Feds quickly swoop down and kick the police out of the investigation. Commissioner Akins (growing cooler with every appearance) does the only thing a police commissioner in Gotham City can do Ė call The Bat.

Using the identity of Bruce Wayne, he manages to uncover the reasons why the blast occurred, but it only leads to more trouble. Itís a trail that goes all the way up to the proverbial highest office in the land. Of course, in the DCU, all roads lead to Luthor these days. But it actually makes a lot of sense here.

Now this is what a cross-over chapter should be. We get a mystery that both gets neatly solved and leads to further mysteries. Batman encounters two major (and at this point, unexpected) elements of the upcoming story arc. Despite being a heavy-hitter, in a cosmic war, heís the least likely to be involved. And yet, with complete logic, here he is.

Credit must go to Brubaker. The two victims at the beginning are given three densely written pages to underscore (and essentially summarize) the conflict between Luthor and Bruce Wayne, getting newcomers up to speed. It also reminds fanboys that we were all idiots for not demanding that the two become arch-enemies before Grant Morrison thought of it. Brubaker and artist Gaudiano play with Bruce extremely well. Here, his two identities are less separate than usual, and itís interesting for him to behave Batman-like while not wearing the mask. More and more, we see the Dark Knight in a saner light than has been popular.

Our Worlds At War will be inescapable this summer. But so far, these larger specials (Green Lantern last week) have proven to be real values. If youíre going to buy books you donít normally, pick the specials.

Detective Comics #759

Unknowing, Part Two
writer: Greg Rucka, pencils: Shawn Martinbrough, Inks: Steve Mitchell

Detectives Montoya and Allen (who might as well be ďHardbackĒ Bock) have donned ski masks and held up a strip joint. Trying to help after having stumbled onto Bruce Wayneís secret, his bodyguard Sasha has only ended up a hostage. Luckily, Batman subdues them quickly, and deduces that this can only be the work of Ö The Mad Hatter. And the police department must try to squelch the fact that well over a third of the force could be under the villainís control. How does he do it? Well, a lot of people do say coffee is bad for youÖ

For some reason, no matter how you dress him, nor how cool the writer is, Jervis Tetch still seems like a refugee from the Ď60ís TV show. Oh, sure, heís evil, but he never quite comes across as all that dangerous once heís been exposed. Rucka does the best he can, which is, of course, quite good. And the growing tension between Sasha and Bruce finally comes to a head, which makes up for the fact that The Mad Hatter is a lame villain.

While the Martinbrough/Mitchell artwork is serviceable at best, the color scheme (that runs through the various Bat-books) still works. Itís cool; itís pop art, and even after months, it still seems daring.

In the back-up slot (what, no Jacobian?) Ed Brubaker uses one of DCís first characters, Slam Bradley, to follow the Trail of the Catwoman. Brubaker writes hard-boiled fiction, and even though the storyline will obviously skirt close to costumed heroics, you can forget that. Slam Bradley tends to speak with his fists, and itís fun. Even the artwork evokes an early noir feeling. This is the best of the new back-ups so far.

More on Page 2

Derek McCaw

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