Hey Kids, Comics!: Two By Smith

We have a rare occurrence this week. A comic book syzygy, if you will. Kevin Smith leaves one book as he starts another for a different company, and both went on sale today, June 26.

While it may take me more than a day to get through the rest of this week's comics, it seemed appropriate to separate out the Smith books, and see just how they stack up against each other.

Green Arrow #14
The Sound of Violence, Part Two: Pitch
writer: Kevin Smith
artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks

Thankfully, it looks like Smith will leave this book without terribly shaking up the status quo he himself established. As this issue's serious wounding of Connor indicates, there's a lot of confusion to explore over having two Green Arrows, and Smith himself has barely tapped it. Moreover, this marks the first time since the '60's that Oliver Queen has had to look at himself as responsible.

Those two concepts alone are worth keeping for the character. As befits these more serious weights on Ollie's shoulders, the tone of the book is far grimmer than Smith has played before. Gone are the sometimes crude innuendos that have become a Smith hallmark. Instead, the characters have been stripped of all pretense by the shooting of Connor; for at least one issue, Green Arrow is about family.

It's cool to see Smith just tell his story without trying too hard to be clever. (Granted, he is clever, that's why he's popular.) Even without particularly glib dialogue (there's no room for it), he has a keen grasp of plotting and suspense.

Part of that, of course, comes from the sharp layouts of Hester and Parks. Though there's a blockiness to their combined style, it's clear from this issue that Hester, in particular, really knows how to tell a story. A simple page of Onomatopoeia discovering that he failed to kill Connor could have easily gone without the news broadcast. Hester captures the confusion, resignation, then determination to finish the job.

The only thing confusing about it is the true nature of the villain's abilities. Because he repeats every sound effect he hears, and all of his actual violence occurs off-camera, it isn't clear if the sound effects actually are a power. Does he really shoot a gun, or is the word enough to have the same effect?

Though I look forward to Brad Meltzer's run, Smith's revival has been a fun ride. And I thank him, too, for firmly establishing that the Green Arrows are not meta-humans. We have enough of them.


Spider-Man and the Black Cat:
The Evil That Men Do #1

What's New, Pussycat?
writer: Kevin Smith
artists: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

And so Smith takes on the challenge of making an obscure character popular. With a largely male fan base, picking a character that has the presumed sexual proclivities of a cat and getting the Dodsons to draw her really isn't that much of a challenge. (Try Thundra or something.) But then, as Smith's appearance on The Tonight Show proves, the real issue is whether or not you can get some guy's heads out of Maxim and into comics.

All that innuendo he dropped from Green Arrow? Smith shipped bucketfuls over here. After an opening page establishing that we will be reading a murder mystery, three pages get devoted to peeping tom shots of Felicia Hardy in the shower, with only strangely opaque water keeping us from seeing all her glory. (It's pretty amazing, really; I've always found water to be transparent, even in Playboy.)

From the get-go, this is not a book for parents to buy their kids after they saw that Spider-Man movie.

Once Spider-Man appears, we get that patented Kevin Smith witty banter, dripping with pop culture references that prove they still have AOL Time Warner in the Marvel Universe. At least he keeps the quips brief enough that they might just fit the action.

And it's pretty rousing action, too; for a guy whose films tend toward the static (granted, he's getting better), Smith writes a good fight and chase scene. He also shows Spider-Man using the average criminal's fear of him in an interesting way. It's almost Batmanesque, boding well for Smith's upcoming run on The Amazing Spider-Man and making me really miss the lost opportunity for The Brave And The Bold.

The cat and the spider soon cross paths, tracking down two different deaths with one factor in common. Their literal collision may seem forced for the sake of the plot, but it serves as a reminder that Felicia tends to leap before she looks, and hints that she may still have her bad luck power.

On the flipside, both heroes seem really slow to draw a connection between the villain's name and his abilities. It's pretty original, and too sadly fitting for Felicia's high-class world. She must not listen to Guns N Roses, even if Smith does.

It's a pretty good start for the series, though like too many of Marvel's female-centered books, the art makes it pretty hard to explain that you bought it for the story.


Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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