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) and Brian's Books
(the other 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
The Amazing Spider-Man
#34 or 475
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott
a huge whupping at the hands of Morlun, Peter stumbles back to the safehouse
offered him by the mysterious Ezekiel. Much to his dismay, Ezekiel tells
him that it's too late. Now that Morlun has a taste of Peter, the "vampire"
will be able to find him anywhere. And so the hunter and the hunted
must play a game of cat and mouse, with Peter trying to find time to
contact his loved ones and say goodbye.
By contract, Straczynski
cannot actually kill Peter. And yet this threat really, really makes
it seem like that's a possibility. This month Peter still has the tendency
to spout spider-clichés, but again, the plot is so riveting that it's
The art team only
adds to the tension; Peter Parker looks beaten, and badly. Perhaps the
most evocative panels Romita has ever drawn consist simply of Spider-Man's
hand dialing a payphone. It looks like it hurts, and the sheer magnitude
of the punishment he has taken comes through more here than in the fight
Where can he go
Batman: Gotham Knights
Sons and Lovers
writer: Devin Grayson, artists: Roger Robinson and John Floyd
Don't be fooled
by the cover; the appearance by Superman here has nothing to do with
the overall plot. But once again, Grayson proves that she writes some
of the best characterization in comics. Can we just give her a Batman
comic called Batman: Friends And Lovers?
Bruce Wayne visits
Metropolis for a business meeting with Lexcorp. Of course, he really
wants to see Talia, who has become CEO since Luthor became President.
Superman checks in with him, a concerned friend who nonetheless believes
"…it's a wonder anyone's still talking to you, Bruce." Upon his return
to Gotham City, Bruce gets hit with the news that he cannot adopt Dick
because he still has a living grandfather. Or does he? That mystery
should keep us all talking for another month or so.
The art team makes
the whole thing look vaguely like Jae Lee drew it, but their storytelling
works very well. Their take on Superman looming over Metropolis (and
it is looming) rivals some of the best work in the Man of Steel's
This book does
exactly what DC said it would, which is shed light on the human relationships
of the Bat-family. In Grayson's hands, it stands out as the best in
an already strong line.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Steve Epting and Rick Magyar
Waid stops the
superheroic struggles for an elegiac issue. The Atlantean team sits
in the rubble of their city, wondering why they failed to revive their
failed citizens. Each member of the team ponders a particular coffin,
and remembers the people they left behind. No Negation, no violence,
just a touch of humanity (okay, so they're not technically human) that
makes this book one of the best this week.
inking looks different this month, but the effect remains strong. The
art team might not stand out as daringly different, but they provide
solid work page after page.
This month serves
as a good breather from the regular action, and helps to make the mystery
more poignant. If you see the CrossGen guys in Chicago, tell them Fanboy
Planet sent you.
Dead Again #3
writer: Steve Vance, artists: Leonard Kirk and Rick Burchett
This week things
get a little muddy. For some reason, Deadman cannot remember the events
of the previous two issues, and strong hints are dropped that his mission
may not be what it seemed.
The big problem,
though, is that, at least compared to Flash and Robin, Superman did
not really die. Yet Deadman leads him to that white light (which, interestingly,
Superman seems pretty cool about entering). Overall, this issue adds
little to the already existing Superman story, spending a lot of time
simply observing the sequence of events that led to his "death."
At least a surprise
villain shows up, and the groundwork may be getting laid out for the
ongoing series. Making this a weekly book, though, seems a cruel hit
on the wallet during an already overburdened summer.
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Chuck Austen
Maybe the best
thing about the book is its opening page. Dealing with a complex plot,
Bendis provides the reader with a neat re-cap leading right into the
action of this issue. If he keeps it up, he won't leave us behind, which
otherwise would be pretty easy to do.
Elektra, of course,
is a master of ninja tricks, so little that we see happen is actually
as it happened. Got that? Poor S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Stanley didn't. Convinced
that he shot her point blank, he suffers through all kinds of mind games
in a debriefing by Colonel Nick Fury. Meanwhile Elektra hides in the
shadows, deciding whether or not to aid Fury in his current fight against
As always, Bendis
writes a rich, complex, and dangerous world. Austen's art complements
him neatly, though every now and then a panel sneaks in that looks suspiciously
like something from King of the Hill. Give him time; you don't
get gritty all at once.
Like Elektra herself,
we couldn't stop this book if we wanted to.
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Ethan Van Sciver and Prentiss Rollins
Okay, this book
beats JLA for creepiest superhero comic of the month. In his
continuing (and successful) quest to make Keystone stand out as a fictional
city, Johns introduces us to its super-powered prison, known as Iron
Though it owes
a debt to Arkham, Iron Heights very quickly establishes an identity
of its own. The mysterious warden rules with an iron (and possibly meta-enhanced)
hand, with unique methods of punishment for the super-criminals under
his care. Possibly the worst of these villains is the previously unseen
Murmur, a serial killer compelled to cut out the tongues of his victims.
Barry Allen gave
the testimony that put Murmur away, but not as the Flash. For a change,
a rogue has no real beef with the scarlet speedster. But because he
cannot stand noise, Murmur has managed to unleash a deadly virus within
the walls of Iron Heights, and now Wally West and Jay Garrick must race
to cure it before all of Keystone gets infected.
Along the way,
Johns introduces a bevy of new/old villains, some remembered fondly,
and some not. In either case, he lays the groundwork for a lot of headaches
The creepy part
comes in the form of Double Down, a man who apparently has carved a
possessed deck of cards out of his own flesh. As drawn by Van Sciver
and Rollins, his debut panel stands out as particularly nightmarish.
And they keep the tone up through the whole book. It will be darker
days ahead for Wally than he has ever seen before.
In a month filled
with extra specials, Iron Heights may be the one worth the extra
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Rags Morales and Michael Bair
The lonely Hawkman
peers into his foreordained love's window, only to see her kissing Sand.
As a single bolt of lightning pierces the sky, Carter Hall flies away
in confusion. So does Sand.
And, as in Sand
and Kendra's clench, nothing is as it seems this month. Captain Marvel
seems headed for a fight with Black Adam, and Hawkman and Sand would
seem about to knock heads over JSA leadership. But Johns is a much savvier
writer than that, twisting things into unexpected directions. And just
when we have our footing, a new (and fun-looking) menace raises its
Those who loved
the late Hourman book know what great pencils Morales provides.
He is very welcome here, and Bair provides excellent inks. Together
their work crackles.
Though not as popular
as JLA, JSA has great team action, great team interaction,
and, though challenging, doesn't leave you scratching your head in confusion
Stan Lee With Jim Lee Creating Wonder Woman
writer: Stan Lee, artists: Jim Lee and Scott Williams
We almost passed
this one up. The Just Imagine…Batman book hurt so bad. The good
news is that Wonder Woman isn't nearly as bad as that. The bad news?
It still isn't good.
This time around
Lee turns to Incan legend, to tell the story of a sun god avatar. The
power of the avatar lies dormant for centuries, until Maria Mendoza,
seeker of justice, calls upon it. Donning a mystical armor with an uncomfortable
resemblance to the Witchblade, Maria becomes Wonder Woman.
Well, not at first.
First she has to spout a heck of a lot of expository dialogue. Somehow
captions are okay when describing ancient history, but not for
personal history. Lee has forgotten the beauty and the usefulness of
the thought balloon. The concept here is better, and moves further away
from the more traditional hero bearing the name. Lee himself has said
that he got a little nervous dealing with the big three, but got braver
as he went along. But the simple truth is that Stan Lee, giant genius
as he is, tells story in a style long gone by.
After two over-priced
issues, this stunt looks like nothing more than a stunt. We deserve
more than that.
New X-Men Annual
The Man From Room X
writer: Grant Morrison, artists: Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
Once again ingesting
something likely illegal before sitting down to write, Morrison introduces
us to Xorn, a mutant locked away in a Chinese prison. The secret to
his power? He has a star in his head. No, not a symbol. An actual miniature
The X-team gathers
in Hong Kong to investigate the murder of Risque, a mutant with the
power to implode objects and people. While they work on that, they cross
paths with an evangelistic huckster who has turned to trafficking in
mutant organs in order to turn ordinary humans into mutants. The results
he calls "The Third Species."
You just know they
all have to collide.
just enough to keep new readers from getting rebuffed by continuity,
and the whole book just races along. This probably takes place after
the current storyline in the regular book, as Emma Frost appears to
be quite comfortable as an X-Man…and too comfortable with Scott.
The bold experiment
with this book lies in its "wide-screen" approach. Yes, it's bound on
what would normally be its bottom. Curiously, it works. It might not
on a monthly basis, but Yu take good advantage of the cinematic effect,
giving a flow that an "upright" book doesn't have.
Maybe it's just
easier to flip past the ads.
Spider-Man #34 or 132
If Thine Eyes Offend Thee…
writer: Paul Jenkins, artists: Mark Buckingham and Wayne Foucher
As good as Amazing
Spider-Man is this week, Peter Parker: Spider-Man falters.
Young mutant William
escapes from a monastery to experience the outside world. He means no
harm. As long as he remains upright and opens his eyes, uncontrollable
energy lashes out at anything in his path. Do you see the flaw in this
really hot neighbor invites him to a street fair. Aunt May, stopping
by to drop off some salt and pepper shakers, thinks that's a good idea.
Step back. Aunt May encourages Peter to date. Aunt May who loved Mary
Jane. Aunt May who knows that (repeat after me) Mary Jane is not dead.
doesn't want to go out because he misses Mary Jane but because he apparently
doesn't want to make Jill Stacy jealous. Peter, you dawg, you. You refuse
to give up on Mary Jane being alive for six months, but once she leaves
to "clear her head," you immediately step out on her?
Anyway, the two
plot elements collide and a mawkish time is had by all. At least Buckingham
and Faucher draw so well you can almost forget the story.
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: Brent Anderson and Marlo Alquiza
Poet sits in Jerusalem
pondering the fate of the Specials, ready to confront the one he fears
the most, Laurel Darkhaven. She has the power to manipulate tiny objects,
like bloodclots, and has been used by the government as an assassin.
While other Specials
do what they can to change the world, Poet and Darkhaven debate how
to bring peace to the Middle East. Since this is a work of fiction,
they actually reach a solution.
Thank heavens Brent
Anderson came on to this book. Just like his work in Astro City
(sob, sob), he evokes great emotion. Anderson’s work may not be flashy,
but it breathes. And of course Straczynski gives him nothing less than
excellent story-telling to support the art.
“Selah” means to
pause and reflect. After reading this book, you should.
Echoes & Ashes
writers: Mike Searle & Pat McCallum, artists: Nelson and Greg Luzniak
this book so much that not even the return of Jack Kirby from the dead
could live up to it, not even if Alan Moore were dialoguing Kirby’s
plots. That out of the way, this book is no Kirby return from the dead.
Two writers join
forces with two artists to create cool-looking characters with personalities
from a catalog. Let’s see: there’s a hot-headed strong guy, a silent
strong guy, a mysterious white-haired stunner, oh, and Buffy is popular,
so we’ve got to have a teenager more interested in shopping than the
supernatural, upon whom the fate of the world depends.
Facing down our
heroes is a mysterious cabal so far known as “The Warlocks,” with individual
scary names like Fetor, Wail, and Vigil. It’s as if H.P. Lovecraft wrote
the Power Rangers.
The plot doesn’t
matter because the book bounces from scene to scene to introduce all
its players as hiply as possible, and anyway, you have seen it all before
in the works of Clive Barker, Stephen King, and Charles Schulz.
At Black Bull Comics,
a deep creative well has been struck. Unfortunately, Garth Ennis keeps
using it all up for Just A Pilgrim.
Man of Steel #117
writer: Mark Schultz, artists: Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
even stay dead a month.
To be fair, even
he doesn’t know how he resurrected, though my money is on Desaad. Now
John Henry Irons inhabits armor made from the essence of Imperiex itself,
so within six months it will likely go insane and wreak havoc on an
The Alliance turns
its forces against Brainiac 13, while Luthor tries to dissuade his daughter
from serving the super-computer menace. Interesting things are afoot.
Schultz does an
especially good job with Luthor; you can hear the silky menace in his
voice. And for my money, Mahnke is the best artist on the Superman books
today. Nguyen inks a little heavier and shadowier than Mahnke usually
gets, but it works. The situation is grim, and the art reflects that.
Even if Our
Worlds At War turns out to be not that long-lasting in its effects,
it did its job and drew us back to Superman.
Return to Weapon X, part two
writer: Mark Millar, artists: Adam Kubert and Art Thibert
Logan and Scott
free Piotr from the influence of a Russian mobster. While the two mutants
bond, the ultimate Ororo snuggles up to Hank McCoy. And Jean Grey has
doubts about rejecting Logan. Amidst the soap operas, SHIELD plans an
invasion of the academy, and all hell is about to break loose.
Though it still
doesn’t seem an appropriate book for kids, Millar does a great job of
starting over. After Xavier’s machiavellian machinations in the first
story-line, Scott’s worry over the lines Professor X won’t cross rings
false, but it’s a minor point in an otherwise ripping book.
Kubert and Thibert
mix up their styles a little bit, with a really nice softening for a
look inside a mind-meld. And of course, they draw really purty wimmin.
Many people still
hold out against these Ultimate books. Give in, guys. They’re money.
writer: Paul Jenkins, artists: Clayton Crain and Jonathan Glapion
It starts in 1901,
where two stuffy gentlemen visit a friend who has apparently raised
some sort of demon. After a horrible evisceration scene (but horrible
in a cool way), the action flashes forward to present day, to a disgraced
priest who spends his days drinking, coking, and whoring.
A mysterious woman
watches from across the street as he carouses, ready for some imminent
danger. After the guy finds a silver amulet hidden in the fireplace,
the danger arises. One of his whores turns out to be that same demon.
We hate it when that happens.
They fight, they
transform, they transfigure, and eventually it will all make sense and
tie the Top Cow Universe together. But we’ve got the nasty feeling that
you have to have already been into the Top Cow Universe to get into
It’s not going
to draw you in under its own power, no matter how many cool stretchy
demon homunculus things it has.
this and more in the Fanboy forums.