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!

Legends of the Dark Knight #156
Blink, part one
writer: Dwayne McDuffie, artists: Val Semeiks and Dan Green

Lee Hyland is a blind grifter with a great con. Gifted with a minor but effective superpower, Hyland can see through the eyes of the last person (or animal) that he touched. With this ability, he takes marks' bank account information and uses it to live a comfortable lifestyle. Not flashy, but comfortable.

Unfortunately for Hyland, he brushes up against a serial killer. What can a blind man do to stop a murder, when the eyes he's using are already miles ahead of him? Alone, nothing. But, of course, the caped crusader gets involved.

It's often, not always, fun to see Batman deal with actual metahumans, and such a story works better when they're not costumed, just regular people using their power for an edge. Gotham may be a city of grotesques, but they're still human. By minimizing the superpowered element, McDuffie can spend most of his time telling a basic crime story, and it's shaping up to be interesting.

Semeiks is far more consistent here than he was in the JLA: Incarnations mini-series. Complemented well by Green on inks, Semeiks gives us a Gotham City that is actually recognizable as a city - it's the hustle and bustle on the sidewalks, the ordinary citizens, that too often get skimped on.

By its nature, Legends of the Dark Knight is a crap-shoot. But this round looks to be a good one.


Midnight Nation #12
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal

After finally winning the battle for his soul in an unexpected manner, David Grey awakens back in the real world. Taken to a hospital, he's unsure if the last year of his life was real or just a dream.

JMS uses this final issue as an end piece, trying to make sense of his greater metaphysical themes. It feels rushed, as each previous issue dealt with an individual event on Grey's road to redemption. This finale covers at least fifteen years, and leaves as many questions as it answers.

It does not beg for a sequel (and with JMS' new exclusivity deal with Marvel, it's doubtful one would happen anyway), but Grey's new mission is either unclear, or way too literal. Still, it warrants re-reading, and that's a value.

Frank and Sibal age Grey effectively. It's worth noting because too many hot artists don't handle characters at different ages well. And their version of Lazarus will be the one I see next time I peruse the New Testament.


Mutant, Texas #1
writer: Paul Dini, artist: J. Bone

The subtitle of the book is a little misleading. Ida Red won't be sheriff of Mutant for at least another issue. But that's just semantics, and it doesn't take away from the fun of this book.

With Mutant, Dini has found a way to bring a Looney Tune landscape to a medium that demands just a little logic. Combining 1950's fears of the atom, the tall tales of the American West, and the myths and traditions of Native Americans, Mutant, Texas manages to be both familiar and fresh.

In the process, the story throws a couple of real-world concerns, as racism and ecological concerns run under the whimsical adventure. The book serves as the coolest Hanna-Barbera show you never saw, except that the duo never made shows this good. It doesn't matter that Ida Red is almost a superhero; if you don't like superhero comics in general, you won't notice. Much.

Dini has found a great collaborator with J. Bone. I've not been much of a fan of Jingle Belle; the artwork in her initial appearance seemed similar but out of sync with Dini's own work. Bone, however, looks like he could be storyboarding a Dini cartoon. And he draws a great Harry Knowles and company.


Nightwing #70
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: William Rosado, Rob Stull, and Jesse Delperdang

Dixon's swansong on the title takes care of a loose end, as we see former denizen of Bludhaven Lunchmeat Deever in his new life. The witness protection program has re-located him to Arizona, and despite the joke that several other mob guys are there, this isn't My Blue Heaven.

With Deever, Dixon proves that a creep is still a creep. Despite a near-death experience in Bludhaven, Lunchmeat hasn't learned a thing about kindness. And when Hella comes calling for vengeance, Nightwing only thinks he can save him.

It's a good, compact story, though Dixon assumes too much about our memories of Hella. Nightwing has too many enemies that are wronged women in bondage paraphernalia. At least it seems like he does.

Next issue, Devin Grayson takes over as writer, bringing Rick Leonardi as penciller with Delperdang on inks. As dependable as this title has been, the new team should be able to jolt some deserved new life into it.


The Punisher #13
A Good Clean Fight
writer: Garth Ennis, artist: Steve Dillon

Ennis and Dillon are back, and have lost nothing in their absence. This is Ennis at his best, with the touches of twisted humor and outrageousness serving the story, and not overwhelming it.

Castle gets placed in an odd situation, convinced by the hapless Detective Soap to rescue (not kill) a mob boss in order to bring peace to the New York families. Such an adventure combines both sides of The Punisher; the old soldier has to take on Columbian rebels to free the boss.

As for Soap, his little interlude reminds me of a page from Dillon's book How to Be a Superhero -- a trading card labeled "About To Be Buggered."

In short, boy, I missed these guys on this book.


Ultimate Spider-Man Super-Special #1
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: various

Though the second half of this book gets turned into an excuse for a lot of pin-up pages with narrative, this wrap-up to Ultimate Marvel Team-Up does exactly what Bendis said it would. It proves he had a point to the whole thing.

If anybody had any doubts, this is what Spider-Man is all about. Bendis and a variety of collaborators have captured the heart of the character without making him seem out of time. And along the way, a few others get stripped down to their essentials.

Highlights include a confrontation between Daredevil and Spider-Man that makes a lot of sense in their new context; please, Bendis, pick up on it in Ultimate Spider-Man. Re-visiting the Ultimate Fantastic Four makes me fear a Grant Morrison version; Bendis already nailed it.

Some of it is rushed; encounters with Blade and Elektra are clearly cut down from a longer story idea. But they're still cool.

Bendis apologizes at the end for becoming too busy to keep up Team-Up. If we're lucky, he'll at least be able to come back to it every six months or so. Heck, with Marvel's schedule, he could still claim it was monthly and no one would notice.


Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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