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!

Batgirl #30
Legion of the Lost
writer: Chuck Dixon
artists: Damion Scott and Klaus Janson

Gotham City has a new killer loose on the streets, one who chooses specific, wealthy targets and assassinates them using an ancient weapon: the bow and arrow. Why, if we didn't know better, we'd think it was Green Arrow, and be sure that at least Batgirl will think so, too. And if we hadn't double-checked the front cover, we also might have thought this was last week's issue of Hawkman.

Somehow, the DC powers that be have allowed for nearly identical plots in the two books, though each uses a different Green Arrow. With Dixon nearing the end of his DC tenure, he seems bound and determined to make Connor Hawke as ubiquitous in his corner of the DCU as possible.

And Dixon has fit his story to Gotham City nicely. After a brief prologue involving a lost Roman Legion that ties into a Gotham secret society, Dixon sets the stage for a delusional villain. Batgirl is long overdue to have a whacko to call her own, and it looks the ivory-skinned Agrippina will fit the bill.

Unfortunately, the story-telling falters in comparison to Robinson and Johns' work in Hawkman. Granted, Batgirl has long favored action over characterization, but couldn't we take away something other than a reminder that Cassandra cannot read?

Regular penciller Scott gets a guesting pen from Janson this month, and the results are mixed. Spare with his thick-lined inking, Janson always lays bare the strengths and weaknesses of the pencils beneath, and Scott comes up wanting. Several poses look extremely awkward; while Scott's sense of perspective isn't as bad as Rob Liefeld's, it comes close in some panels. Perhaps that's a manga-style hallmark; if so, Janson is still not the inker for it.


Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #157
Blink, part two of three
writer: Dwayne McDuffie
artists: Val Semeiks and Dan Green

Breathe a sigh of relief. This is not the legend of a man who discovered Batman's identity and thus had to disappear. Last issue Lee Hyland, the blind con man, did manage to get inside Batman's head, but assures the Darknight Detective that all he knows is the name "Alfred." Luckily for him, he doesn't care to know more, either.

McDuffie has a social issue to tackle, as the killings that started last month turn out to be for the purpose of making snuff films. Thought to be an urban legend himself, Batman points out the possible legitimacy of the idea to Commissioner Gordon. It's a disgusting notion, but sadly perfect for a Batman story. Where it suffers a little is in the lack of a compelling mastermind; Hyland is clearly meant to be the focus of the story while snuff filmmaker Mr. Davies seems just pulled out of the crazed weasel stock that keep showing up in Gotham City. Only his taste in film defines him, but technically, The Joker would probably get off on the same thing.

Hyland, too, comes off a little bland, as if McDuffie couldn't really make anything of him beyond his gimmick. Gone is the slightly sharp narration that ran through the previous issue, replaced mostly by Batman's own voice-over. Granted, Hyland spends most of the issue just waiting around, but that makes for a dull protagonist.

The team of Semeiks and Green forces Semeiks into a smoother, more consistent look than he had on the recent JLA: Incarnations book. He still needs to learn some variation in his faces, though, because one crucial corrupt millionaire looks uncomfortably like Commissioner Gordon. And those of us who saw the first movie know that Gordon hobnobs with the cream of Gotham society on occasion, causing an unpleasant momentary confusion.


Trial By Fire
writer: Munier Sharief
artists: Alex Ross and Wilson Tortosa

reviewed by Mish'al Samman

Recalling G-Force makes me remember why I got in trouble for using my traditional garments for capes, and thinking that spinning fast enough would get me out of any situation. Alas, Princess never showed, and I always played Tiny anyway, and there's no sense in talking about setting our bikes on fire... On with Alex Ross' revival…

A city under siege by an unidentifiable technologically advanced mastermind has Brigadier General Tomak using old fashioned methods of military force to try and rid this world of this threat. Of course, all fails. Mr. Anderson heads a specialized team of "Teenaged Lab-Rats," as the General would call them, to prove their effectiveness against such a monstrous threat.

The General is not impressed with this special team, and pulls enough power to do things his way. Once the origins of this force are revealed, however, GATCHAMAN is approved by the president of the United Global Alliance, and they are called into duty after waiting impatiently for a chance to put their skills to the test in the real world. Armed with gadgets, technology, and slick tight wear, you wonder why the TV series didn't go longer. Although the target audience is a little more mature than it once was, it's clear that we have a lot to learn about G-Force.

Just like the good old days, this series bring the G-Force team back to life in today's age of comics, and with spectacular art to boot. Read it, and enjoy the blast from the past.


Bone #48
story and art by Jeff Smith

Not even an impending war with supernatural forces can stop Phoney Bone from trying to find a way to turn a profit. Though the very allies that have saved him time and time again may be attacked by religious zealots, all the greediest Bone of them all can think of is gold.

Good lord, he's like Bill Jemas in a Bone suit.

I kid because I love.

At any rate, the Venu Warriors controlling the city are closing in on Gran'ma Ben and Thorn. Phoney plans to run, and Smiley realizes that even though he misses his home, he has found a new life with the people of the Valley. And, of course, he's pretty much playing daddy to Bartleby.

Smith has an uncanny knack for blending the light-hearted fantasy that marked the series' beginnings with an ever darker storyline. The Venu are truly intimidating, though their leader, Lord Tarsil, is so purposely cloaked in shadow as to seem just a repetition of the Lord of Locusts. Are there any characters left to surprise us with as his secret identity?

We're closing in on the ending of Bone. According to Smith, there are just seven issues left. Either jump on now, or go back and get collections of the earlier issues, because when it's over, Bone will stand as a classic of comic book literature. Really.


The Call Of Duty: The Precinct #1
Another Day In Paradise
writer: Bruce Jones, artist: Tom Mandrake

By keeping this a PG book, Marvel proves that shows like NYPD Blue lost a little something when the network censors relaxed. Writer Jones manages to both keep the dialogue real and resort to creativity where he can't use actual street talk. The result could easily stand as one of the better episodes of TV's most beloved cop shows.

Another Day In Paradise introduces Frankie and Joey Gunzer, two brothers who followed their father into the blue uniform, until Joey felt compelled to become a priest. While it sounds like a bit of a clichéd situation, Jones provides Joey with just enough backstory to make it believable, and his hiding behind the cloth rather frustrating (in a good dramatic way). And yet, of the two, Joey is the one who manages to stay close to their father.

Frankie, also known as Gunz, is battling a heroin ring, and knows that somehow his brother's church is involved. Without rushing things, Jones answers enough questions in one issue to make this a satisfying stand-alone read, but drops enough hints to bring readers back. Yes, that strange little ghostly girl makes an appearance.

The supernatural elements don't take away from the grittiness of the drama. And though a character is shown wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt, this is pretty obviously meant to be a realistic book away from the Marvel Universe. If you think that doing cop and firefighter comics is a bit opportunistic, well, it may be. But it's also about time a major publisher dipped its toe in the water of a genre that dominates television and movies.

Thankfully, they've done it well.


Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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