After two weeks experiencing a road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles, the editorial staff can once again purchase its comics in a timely manner. Thus returns the madness of Hey Kids! Comics! at its regularly scheduled timeslot. Did you miss us?

Dead Again #1

The Quick And The Dead

Writer: Steve Vance, artists: Leonard Kirk and Rick Burchett

Geoff Johns finally straightens out Hawkman, and along comes this mini-series to plunge us right smack into the event that messed everything up in the first place: Crisis On Infinite Earths. Do the heroes remember one earth, or five or more? Does it matter in Hypertime? Or am I just anal?

Probably the latter. Crisis merely serves as a backdrop for this opening chapter, as somebody remembered that way back in the eighties, Boston Brand had been given a new mission: to track down the refugees from Nanda Parbat, an earthly paradise where evil men would lose their desire for wrongdoing. One such refugee has reached the end of his mortal life, but hatched a scheme in which he can imprison the life-forces of dying heroes and conquer death itself. Over the next five weeks, Boston Brand will find himself drawn to crucial (meaning permanent) deaths in the DCU.

Vance has set up an interesting template here, with a chance to retell these famous deaths in the clear light of Hypertime. For those who had forgotten, Barry Allen gets one more chance (this year) to shine. Kudos to Vance or whoever assigned him to remember the more straightforward superheroic Deadman mini-series that got trashed when Kelley Jones brought a new look to the character. As cool as Jonesí approach was, itís good to see Kirk and Burchett render a hero not quite so disgusting looking.

Of course, DC has a vested interest in reviving Deadman and returning him to his traditional look. Turner Networks have announced plans to shoot a Deadman pilot, and its not so easy licensing a rotting corpse in a circus outfit. Our society still has some standards.

In short, Dead Again has an interesting enough premise that will be leading into a regular series. It has to be better than The Spectre.

Fray #3

Ready, Steady

Writer: Joss Whedon, artists: Karl Moline & Andy Owens

Our heroine Malaka Fray has a nightmare reliving the death of someone close to her. Whedon drops hints that the death came at the teeth of a vampire, but Fray wonít admit it. At any rate, at this point in a Slayerís calling, she should be having dreams that help her come to grips with her legacy, but itís just not happening. Could it have been so long since demons walked the Earth that the knowledge of Slayers is forever lost?

Whedon has taken a scenario familiar to his fans and turned it on its head. For those who watch the show but havenít read this comic, he also fills in some interesting information about the Slayersí origins, and teases us with a possible fate for the television show plotlines. More than ably supported by Moline and Owens, the Slayer creator has proven himself a great comic writer. Who does he think he is, Kevin Smith?

If youíre a Buffy fan and not buying this book, we call you fool. There. Iíve said it.

Martian Manhunter #35

In My Life, Part Three: Earthfall

Writer: John Ostrander, artists: Eduardo Barreto, Cliff Chiang, and Ray Kryssing

At last, we finish the origin of Malefic and the task of tying Jíonn Jíonnz into every event that ever happened in the DCU. Evidently, itís Darkseidís fault that Malefic enjoys piercings and tattoos. It does go a long way to explaining Young Justiceís supercycle. Jíonn, sainted Martian that he is, continues trying to reform his brother until finally settling on the solution depicted early in the bookís run. Things have come full circle, and Ostrander has one more issue to set the stage for the Manhunterís continued role in continuity.

Can...hang...on...one...more...month...

The art remains solid, with pencilling duties split between Barreto and Chiang. Itís a smooth transition, and barely noticeable.

One...more...month...

Planetary #15

Creation Songs

Writer:† Warren Ellis, artist: John Cassaday

What does Ellisí daily planner look like?

9:30 a.m.: Wake up with hangover.

9:45 a.m.: Sit down at computer

9:46 a.m.: Blow the minds of everyone who reads my comics.

10:01 a.m.: Start drinking.

Well, if you believe Garth Ennis, it must be something like that.

Anyway, the latest issue of Planetary continues the trend. Planetary races to stop the Four from entering the Dreamtime, and Ellis educates us with a lot of Australian aboriginal myth. Or maybe he made it up. Either way, itís cool. Having regained much (but not all) of his memory, Elijah Snow proves himself to be not just heroic but compassionate, which are not necessarily the same thing. Doc Brass makes a quick appearance, with hair not quite as skullcap-ish to lessen his resemblance to Doc Savage (wink, wink).

The more you understand about whatís going on in Planetary, the more you want to know. This is a rare book, indeed, and if you havenít caught up to it, most of the series has been made available in trade paperback. Go. Now.

Superman #173

The Red Badge of Courage

Writer: Jeph Loeb, artists: Ed McGuinnes, Cam Smith, and 2 pages by Bill Sienkewicz

Loeb continues underscoring his story with a famous historical speech, in this case, Kennedyís inaugural address. If nothing else, the writer has educated us in some great literature, but this month, the effect really works.

As Kennedy describes the best mankind has to offer, as well as the threat of the same, Superman and President Luthor finalize their uneasy alliance with what would once have been an unthinkable act for the Kryptonian. Left with no time to mourn in the midst of war, Superman does what he must. Loeb offers up a poignant reminder of what has been lost as Lois accepts Supermanís condolences for her father: a quiet ďI miss Clark.Ē Itís a small but stunning moment that brings the enormity of the Our Worlds At War event into sharp focus.

In the wake of her own loss, Wonder Woman tries to connect with Superman, but both know that they cannot until the war has ended. This is a grim, unstoppable Superman, and it sows seeds for a rich aftermath. Oh, please, let the Kents be alive. And for once during this big event, the cover does not betray the clever twist to this story.

And boy, that two-page spread by Sienkewicz is cool.

Batgirl #19

Nobody Dies Tonight
Writer: Kelly Puckett, artists: Damion Scott and Robert Campanella

On a night in Gotham City, Batgirl decides that no one will die of unnatural causes. Standing in the way of her goal is a scheduled federal execution at ďupstate Gotham.Ē (Wait a minute Ė Gotham is a state now?) Batgirl confronts the condemned man in the gas chamber, and the family of his victim, in what could have been an interesting examination of the death penalty.

Could have been, except that this book has become trapped in a mire of pseudo-noir. Issue after issue, Batgirl sets a goal for herself and finds out that things are more complicated than they seemed. And she has a tendency to flash back to the same murderous moment of her youth. For regular readers, the flashback has become tedious. For new readers, it has no explanation, though it holds the key to why Batgirl has chosen this night. Please, Mister Puckett, change up the style of story once in a while.

Scott and Campanella, however, deliver one of the strongest art jobs the book has seen in a while. The action scenes can actually be followed, and most of the characters look like different people. Best of all, they really convey the emotion of the masked girl in the all-black suit.

This book has a lot of potential, with a potentially interesting lead. Letís do something with it.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight

Bad, Part One

Writer: Doug Moench, artist: Barry Kitson

A beaten and torn up Batman stares into a fish tank, holding a conversation with a psychotherapist. That opening page alone has been long-awaited. Of course, the therapist isnít actually for him; he needs her help on a case. A child-like brute named Jordy has been wreaking havoc in Gotham City, bursting into homicidal rages that stop as quickly as they start. The dark knight needs answers as to what could possibly be going on inside Jordyís head. Is he bipolar, or is there a more sinister answer?

Weíve seen this kind of character before, though arguably, Batman has never faced one with such an overt split personality. Moench has managed to take a clichť and make it interesting enough to come back for another issue or two. His art partner Kitson does his usual journeyman work, and manages to add art touches that support the ambiguity of Jordyís condition.

This is a quieter Legends story, one you may want to just browse through.

Daredevil: Yellow #3

Stepping Into The Ring

Writer: Jeph Loeb, artist: Tim Sale

At this point in their history, blind lawyer Matt Murdock and his partner Foggy Nelson have officially opened for business. Their first clients? A certain fantastic foursome. While Matt still investigates the chain of command in his fatherís murder, this issue spends most of its time with his civilian life. Loeb focuses on a celebratory night out with the firm, as Matt faces bigotry and proves he shoots a mean nine-ball.

Even though this series seems to contradict the sainted Frank Millerís work, Loeb continues doing a great job painting a very human young hero. He reminds us that yes, it can be fun to be Daredevil, even in the grim pursuit of justice.

Saleís art just gets better and better, though his facial expressions do get repetitive. And though I usually donít mention this kind of thing, Matt Hollingsworthís coloring really raises the level of this book.

Marvel must be so glad that Loeb and Sale came their way.

Green Lantern #141

House On Fire, part one

Writer: Judd Winick, artists: Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos

The perpetually guilty (but wise) John Stewart visits the paraplegic Fatality in The Slab. Seemingly disinterested, Fatality drops hints about Stewartís own disabilities and has adopted a new life motto: if you canít kill Ďem, seduce Ďem.

Meanwhile, the foremost Green Lantern joins Jade in saving the victims of a fire. Once again, Kyle proves that he has more power than any Green Lantern before him, by creating duplicates of himself to perform the rescue. And he realizes what most of us have long before: if a semi-known cartoonist named Kyle Rayner publicly dates Jade, someone will eventually realize that Jadeís crime-fighting partner must be Green Lantern.

Winick has been doing a nice job of shifting the focus of the book around, acknowledging that the name Green Lantern has a legacy, not just a ring-bearer. And though itís probably building to an earth-shattering event in the life of Kyle Rayner (say, issue #150?), his lack of doubt is still new enough to be refreshing. On the other hand, Kyle has grown cocky, and believably so. He makes simple enough mistakes, but when one wields the green energy of Oa, simple mistakes can be huge.

The art team works in a style reminiscent of former G.L. artist M.D. Bright. Intentional or not, itís comforting. Month after month, you can be sure that Green Lantern will be an enjoyable book.

JLA #56

Terror Incognita, Part Two: The Harvest

Writer: Mark Waid, guest artists: Mike S. Miller and Dave Meikis

Superman makes a startling (and scientifically plausible?) discovery about Earthís atmosphere. Meanwhile, several Leaguers makes a stand in Russia, trying not to hurt civilians inexplicably driven into a murderous rage against them.† The Flash spots the only two citizens seeming to enjoy it, and Wonder Womanís golden lasso helps the JLA reach a chilling conclusion: the White Martians are back. Armed with this information, the Batman tries to beard them in their lair, and things just get disgusting.

Oh, Mark Waid, why must you be exclusive to CrossGen after this run? Youíve proven yet again that you can infuse the spirit of the classic Justice League stories with a cool new twist. If we think hard enough, we can actually pick up a little useless scientific information (and, as this issue proves, it would have been good if Firestorm had tried a little thinking hard enough) to boot.

If Miller and Meikis have worked together before, could somebody please write in? They easily step in for the regular art team, and Waid has rewarded them with some of the creepiest scenes JLA artists have ever had to render.

DC keeps putting nothing but quality into this main JLA book. Why do the mini-series always end up sucking so badly?

Ultimate Spider-Man #12

Untitled

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Mark Bagley and Art Thibert

Bendis writes the most believable teen-ager in comics. The Ultimate Peter Parker makes all kinds of mistakes in his costumed identity, but all of them for solid reasons. Yes, he goes off half-cocked with poor impulse control. And boy, does he try hard to be the coolest superhero around. But if you were fifteen and given those powers, youíd do the same thing.

This month Peter runs a gauntlet through The Enforcers and Electro before finally confronting The Kingpin directly. As usual, the battles arenít as easy as he thought they would be. Though Peter eventually figures out how to beat the bad guys, it takes him some time. And darned if it isnít fun.

It seems that Bendis has free reign to recreate most of Marvel in his image, and it works well. This Electro certainly looks more threatening than John Byrneís retcon a few years ago, and this Kingpin is nowhere near as cool-headed as the more familiar Wilson Fisk. But it all makes sense; superheroes (and super-villains) are relatively new in Bendisí Ultimate universe; when they meet, they donít know how to handle each other.

And suddenly, itís all interesting again.

Wildcats #26

Battery Park

Writer: Joe Casey, artist: Sean Phillips

Long-standing plot threads reach a conclusion this month, as the android formerly known as Spartan faces off against Noir. A re-tooled and mindless Maxine has Marlowe in her death grip, while Noir willingly falls victim to villainous folly: explaining his plan.

Somewhere in Florida, Voodoo and Maul (look, Iím just going to keep struggling to remind everyone that this was once a superhero book) go shopping, and Voodoo meets a man who knows too much about her. What could be next?

Well, this looks like the last issue of Wildcats as weíve known it. Casey and Phillips close the book but set the stage for another. In a couple of months Wildstorm will launch Wildcats as a mature readers only book, a move that has been long overdue. This probably wonít mean gratuitous sex and violence, but it will mean a continued genuinely mature look at how people with extraordinary abilities grapple with what they are, and their place in society.

We canít wait.

 

 

Derek McCaw

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