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!

Amazing Spider-Man #43
Cold Arms
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna

In a tale ripped from the headlines, a high-tech corporation has been sliding money around various accounts trying to cover up massive losses. When the mastermind of the scheme gets close to being discovered, he does the only thing one can do in the Marvel Universe: concocts an evil scheme.

That scheme involves Dr. Octopus, who gets a far more sane treatment here than Jenkins gave him in Peter Parker: Spider-Man. JMS gets to the core of Octavius' arrogance, and reminds us that the guy would rather be renowned as a scientific genius than a criminal one. Unfortunately, for somebody who has plagued Spider-Man quite well over the years, Otto Octavius sure gets suckered by a lot of other bad guys.

As a result, you may find yourself getting drawn into a sympathetic stance toward Doc Ock, as somebody far less moral seems to be pulling the mantle around himself. Who you won't find much sympathy for is Mary Jane.

Yes, it provided dramatic conflict for the Parkers to separate, and there's something very heart-warming about May now using her knowledge of Peter's dual identity to try and make his life better. But the Mary Jane being written by JMS is someone you'd think May would want out of her nephew's life. The title of the story may be Cold Hands, but it's Mary Jane who has the cold heart.

Maybe it would be hard to deal with having a husband (or wife, for that matter) who is a superhero. But as Super-Chicken used to say, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred." There must be a way to depict marital conflicts without depicting the wife as a total bitch.

Mary Jane, don't hate Peter. Yes, a madman kidnapped you and made the world think you were dead, but that madman wasn't Peter. It was John Byrne. And one day you will be avenged. So get over it and love your husband again.


Batman #605
writer: Ed Brubaker
artists: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

The cover triumphantly blares what we already knew: NOT GUILTY!

It took them long enough.

At least somebody finally got around to showing a remorseful Batman/Bruce Wayne. In this issue, he spends a lot of time apologizing: to Vesper, to Dick, and to the rest of his "family." Brubaker almost makes it believable, especially in a few early panels in which the emotionally stunted Wayne finally admits to having loved Vesper.

Lest you think this issue should be subtitled The Dark Wimp Returns, the book does have its share of action, as the Bat-family goes after the man who did all the real dirty work. (And now I have to go back and re-read some back issues, as I didn't know or remember that the framer knew Batman's dual identity. But at least it proves that Lex Luthor doesn't know, which is a relief.)

McDaniel, soon to handle a Superman book, does a great job pacing and setting the story. The apologetic first section gets a lot of strength from his delicate handling of potentially maudlin moments.

Only two things stuck out as awkward this issue (if we can ignore the story arc as a whole): a pointless cameo by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and an odd exchange between the two Batgirls. Barbara kvetches to Cassandra about how Batman's sudden communication to her is just so Bruce. Cassandra replies, "I know," which just seems weird when until a couple of issues ago, she didn't know that Batman and Bruce Wayne were the same person.

Maybe I'm just holding vestigial resentment over the too-long wait for some real story movement.


Negation #8
writer: Tony Bedard
artists: Paul Pelletier and Dave Meikis
reviewed by Charlie Wentling

The Lawbringer Qztr catches up to Kaine and the other escaped prisoners. His objective is to study Evinlea, who he thinks is the most "powerful" member of the group.

Most of the other prisoners are beneath his interest, including Kaine himself. Charon, the ruler of the Negation universe, considers this a mistake, realizing that Kaine is the driving force behind the escape and the leader of the prisoners. But for now, Charon chooses to stay in the background.

Qztr has no such qualms. Ripping through the group with no mercy, he comes up with creative and gory ways of doing away with people. Clearly, Qztr is more powerful than Evinlea or anyone else, and they will have no chance against him unless they can discover some weakness. Even the usually cocky Evinlea is afraid.

My only complaint is that the battle is continued next month. This would have been a great time for a double-sized issue.


Sigil #26
writer: Chuck Dixon
artists: Scot Eaton and Andrew Hennessy
reviewed by Charlie Wentling

After launching the entire Planetary Union fleet for an assault on the Saurian Homeworld two issues back, setting up expectations that the war would be ending soon, Chuck Dixon backtracks by having the President recall the fleet back to Gaia. The planet Gaia seems doomed by the Saurian asteroid strike, and every available ship is needed to help evacuate as many people as possible.

Sam also returns to Gaia with hopes of saving the planet. This allows for another emotional separation from Zanniati. For two people in love, it is amazing how rarely they actually see each other. On the other hand it would be interesting if Sam actually does have the power to prevent a doomed planet from total destruction. Sam's sigil is different and more powerful than any of the other ones in CrossGen series, but nobody has explained the reason for this, or even the full extent of Sam's powers.

The pacing is still the main problem with this series. Dixon has been writing Sigil for six months now, and nothing has really changed. This issue also contains an eight-page back-up story with art by Rudy Nebres.


Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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