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 #605
writer: Joe Casey, artist: Carlos Meglia

Just in time to sell the action figure as a real bad girl, Joe Casey gives us the true evil of Superwoman. Unlike Grant Morrison's rendition, this one doesn't have much humor about her. In fact, none of the Crime Syndicate is presented as anything other than evil, even though they have to team up with Superman against their universe's Brainiac (who, contrary to the rules of their Earth, is still evil).

Owlman, however, is still as cool as Batman.

Casey wraps things up in a satisfying and disturbing manner, with no plot holes to speak of. Along the way, he takes another step for the super-team toward the old status quo.

Meglia's art is still pretty much Meglia's art. It's more consistent this issue than in the last, but for a story with such tremendous violence, Meglia's cartooning (and that's what it is) struggles against the narrative. When wrapped in a cover by Carlos Pacheco, the art even feels like a cheat, as if DC were pulling a bait and switch.

With so many artists pulling the manga style, I'd be happier if DC would take the Marvel route and just have fun with a Manga-verse. Let the rest of us have Superman drawn as if he were a man, and not a Macy's Parade float.


Batgirl #29
writer: Kelley Puckett, artists: Damion Scott and Robert Campanella

While this chapter in the exciting (?) adventures of Bruce Wayne: Fugitive may not actually move things forward, it does do an interesting job of recreating just what the heck actually happened. In a nice touch, the cover isn't even a cheat; the scene does occur inside.

Puckett sums things up for those who still care, adding little details about the murder of Vesper Fairchild that only Batgirl would notice. This has really made the character more interesting and integral to the Bat-family. While the others all have their specialties, they still overlap in places. No one else, however, can read body language and actual violence as Cassandra does.

The inking in this issue looks a little different; I don't know if Campanella actually is mixing things up, or if it just looks a lot cleaner after the Superman book. At least it's consistent, though the manga style makes Nightwing look a lot younger than usually portrayed. Actually, all the cast looks younger than usual. Let's remember that Nightwing, at least, no longer fits the term "Teen Titan."


Fables #2
The Unusual Suspects
writer: Bill Willingham, artists: Lan Medina and Steve Leialoha

Some of you may have already written this book off as just a Vertigo version of Shrek. Well, you may be right, but you're also wrong. Though this is a sequel to a happily ever after that isn't, Willingham is very much shying away from the Disney version of things. Unlike Shrek, Fables lifts directly from the dark and dangerous early versions of beloved fairy tales - the kind that PC parents don't love at all.

For instance, when was the last time you met a kid who knew the story of Bluebeard, the black widower with a succession of dead wives? Not only does Willingham throw him into the mix, but he's still sleeping around. The jury is still out as to whether or not he has left his murderous ways.

Many well-known fairy tale characters show up in unexpected ways, led by a hard-boiled detective who used to be a big bad wolf, but now inexplicably has a human form. The whole thing is saved from drowning in its own cleverness by a fairly intriguing murder mystery, and the greater mystery of its concept: who kicked these "fables" out of their homeland, and will he still be coming after them?

Medina and Leialoha depict the fables with a sleekness that never wavers into the grotesque, though the temptation must be great. This is also the steadiest Leialoha's inking has been in a long time. As usual with the Vertigo books, it's a distinctive art team without being annoying.


Green Lantern #151
Back In The Saddle
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos

Kyle Rayner has rebirthed an alien civilization, restarted an ancient galactic tradition, and turned his back on the powers of a god. So what's next, after a quick redesign of his basic look? As Green Lantern, he tackles that most basic of comic book crimes, the bank robbery.

Clearly, Winick uses this to put Green Lantern amidst the people, to underscore public awareness of the ringslinger. Though we often see Kyle's private life, it is a good change of pace to see him interact with normal humans in his superhero guise. As a nice touch that unfortunately goes nowhere, Winick also names all his bystanders.

But a bank robbery alone rarely makes for a good comic; Kyle starts encountering people going insane in the streets of New York. It's isolated enough not to overly concern him, until it seeps into the offices of Feast Magazine. After his editor bares her breasts to Kyle, he figures something must be really wrong.

Granted, Kyle has never been the brightest of lanterns, but it feels like Winick is overcompensating for the omniscience he had as Ion. It takes way too long for him to figure out just who he is fighting against in the last half of the issue, when it's obvious from the first panel. This Green Lantern was learning to be more of a thinker before he became all-powerful; don't take that away.


Just A Pilgrim #4
Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?
writer: Garth Ennis, artist: Carlos Ezquerra

I don't hold it against Ennis that this issue offended me; I'm pretty sure that was part of his intent, and I knew that going in. If anything, I'm more impressed that he bugged me so much. While the first Pilgrim mini-series was bleak, it was still funny. This one, however, is just bleak.

In this last chapter of The Garden of Eden, everything pretty much literally comes to an end. The sliders prove themselves even more horrific than in earlier issues, and Ezquerra illustrates this in a very haunting manner.

But it seems that Ennis undercuts his own creation to make a point; Pilgrim loses his faith over the death of a child (with the implication, too, that she's dead because of him), when in the previous mini-series he willingly let a child die to serve his greater cause. It's an abrupt about face that just pisses away everything Ennis built. And I'm not saying that just because I don't agree with Ennis' opinions.

Like Fury, the promise of Just A Pilgrim peters out as it becomes more about an attitude than a story. Pose just cannot cover lack of substance.


For the rest of this week's comics, go to part two, posted 6-19-02

Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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