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
Hey Kids! Comics!
Trial By Fire
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Kano and Marlo Alquiza
At last the war
comes to an end. Superman confronts Brainiac 13, aided on Earth by Luthor
and his daughter. And like all good cosmic events, the seeds get sown
for future villainous doings.
for wrapping this up may have only landed on Kelly by a quirk of the
calendar, but he (and, we must assume, the whole Superman team) has
come up with a clever resolution. Even Luthor comes across as more complex
than merely evil. His heroic (if Machiavellian) actions in this war
may stave off that inevitable impeachment after all.
Still, this book
suffers somewhat from a splintered narrative. Many characters get to
tell their piece of the story (and boy, could someone please hurry up
and tell Steel that Apokolips = Bad, end of story?). It has too much
scope to handle in 22 pages. If you want to understand all that leads
up to the climax, you have to buy this month's Wonder Woman.
But then, isn't
that just all part of DC's clever plan…?
Angel and the
Ape #1 of 4
writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman, artist: Philip Bond
If you fondly remember
the loopy series from the sixties, or at least Phil Foglio's attempt
to revive it a few years ago, brace yourself. Chaykin and Tischman have
largely "re-imagined" the setting, placing it firmly where Chaykin likes
it best: in sleazeville.
That said, it almost
works. For those who don't know, gorgeous and brainy clubgirl Angel
O'Day teams with gorilla cartoonist Sam Simeon in a detective agency.
The unlikely duo solve crimes and probably go where Mark Wahlberg and
Helena Bonham Carter dared not.
In a nod to the
original series, characters have outlandish names, such as Torso Van
Morso and supermodel Bambi Dextrous. And it's okay, because how realistic
can a comic be when your hero is a mute but talented gorilla?
The plot, such
as it is, deals with the disappearance of Bambi. But really, it serves
as an excuse to immerse us in a seamy but playful semi-porn atmosphere.
As usual, Chaykin even slips an alter ego in, in the form of a police
detective in love with Angel.
What really makes
this book work is Bond's art. Reminiscent of Evan Dorkin, Bond creates
a busy world with a legitimately diverse cast. Sam comes off as an apish
Silent Bob, but we call that homage.
If you like sex
and monkeys, this is your book.
Rising #1 of 5
writer: Alex Simmons, artists: Dwayne Turner and Danny Miki
Oh, those Gotham
vigilantes. Someone is killing cops, but doing them far enough apart
that the police have not really noticed the pattern. And neither has
The Batman, until William "Billy" Littlefield goes down on the steps
of City Hall. Littlefield survives, and shortly thereafter a mysterious
masked man stalks the city.
Sorry. Even if
we haven't seen it all before, it feels like we have. This kind of story
could have been told in one issue, but instead we have to get drawn
into an event.
On the upside,
the artwork is great. Turner and Miki have an interesting style that
leaps off of the page. For some reason, they draw a Batman closer to
the classic licensed look than usual, and it works. Or maybe they just
didn't bother to heavily stylize the whole thing. In this case, then,
less is more. Thanks for giving me back the Batman I grew up reading.
If you must know
where Orpheus comes from, so that you will not be left behind when he
starts popping up in other books, buy into this. Otherwise, stick to
the main books.
Sanctuary, Part Two
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Scott McDaniel and Karl Story
Give points to
Brubaker and company for creating a cross-over tale that makes Batman
believably co-exist with superheroic trappings. Unfortunately, they
also go for the "trust us, something important happened" school of narrative
to do it, while sacrificing much of the ongoing plotline.
alien has put two men into a coma, and hides in a Catholic church. The
citizens are in an uproar, and government forces are moving in to contain
or destroy the alien. Of course, The Batman cannot stand for that.
In the background,
the enforcer Zeiss tries to put himself back together, and really, that
makes for the more interesting story. The tale of the alien ultimately
gets left up in the air. Kudos to the first reader who can tell me why
his victims ended up in a coma, or how they recovered, or why we had
this story for any other reason besides a cross-over?
Maybe a Bat-book
just had to be sacrificed for the greater good.
writer: Bob Gale, artists: Phil Winslade & James Hodgkins
The Jester may
have the best post-criminal career yet. On the other hand, only in a
comic book could a guy "pretend" to rob a bank in order to serve a summons,
and only have to say he's sorry for the courts to let him go.
Gale also takes
the opportunity to introduce yet another potential love interest, in
the form of Daredevil's defense attorney. Despite the lightness of this
story, it does cover some interesting territory that may be best left
alone. Do we really want to see our heroes having to confront the icy
terror of insurance forms?
Though a fun enough
read, we're ready for Bendis.
Dead Again #4
writer: Steve Vance, artists: M.D. Bright and Rick Burchett
Stuck in Hell,
Deadman can only watch helplessly as arch-villain Caldera attempts to
possess the corpse of Superman. Except that he's not really stuck, as
when circumstance allows, he immediately steps out of the soul cage.
Of course, we also
all know that Superman has not been performing evil deeds since his
resurrection, so a lot of suspense got sapped out of this issue. We
do learn that Neron has a great plan at work, but for casual readers
this may all add up to a big yawn.
The overall plot
of the book keeps getting pushed aside to retell a story we either all
know or have moved past anyway. Perhaps the biggest revelation for new
readers will be that boy, Superman looked stupid with long hair.
It's too late,
though. We have to see how it ends. Thankfully, that's next week.
New X-Men #116
e is for extinction, part three
writer: Grant Morrison, artists: Frank Quitely, Mark Morales, and Dan
Emma Frost formally
joins the X-Men, and Frank Quitely gives her a physics-defying outfit
to celebrate the occasion.
After picking through
the horrifying rubble of Genosha, the X-Men analyze their new foe, and
discover something quite shocking. Even more shocking than their finally
acknowledging that she looks just like Professor X.
books that make the blood rush through your ears. You have no choice
but to race through them, because even if you don't quite get what's
going on, you have to know what happens next. I thought that would never
happen with the X-Men again.
Ably adding to
the excitement, Quitely shows he can draw something other than sneers,
as in a panel with Professor X absorbing the devastation in Genosha
stands out as strangely real. One panel. And yet it's as if Patrick
Stewart acted the whole thing out. It helps that Quitely has inkers
who soften him up a bit; his attractive women actually appear attractive
And boy, can the
White Queen pout or what?
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Bendis and Oeming
mix up the format beyond the cover. This really is the tabloid gossip
magazine that would exist in a world of superheroes. And Bendis runs
with the format.
Some of it whizzes
by; it's hard to register which feature stories may become important.
The interview with the recently deceased Olympia ends up being more
of a character study than an actual plot device, but the whole thing
does provide a cool breather from the main action. And then come the
last pages, in which the book becomes a comic again.
This book looks
like it should be so simple, and yet Bendis and Oeming always have a
curveball up their sleeve.
In Your Hands…
writer: Fiona Avery, artists: Aaron Lopresti and Randy Emberlin
As good as the
regular books have become, this mini-series stands as a throwback to
the "good old days" of The X-Men. By good old days, I mean the days
when Marvel knew we would buy anything that had the slightest
whiff of X about it.
Though not really
that bad of a story, this Rogue mini-series just has no point to exist
other than to take readers' money. It goes back to her early days with
the team, days about which new readers will have no clue or interest.
And it's just terribly melodramatic, trying to shoehorn information
given us by the filmmakers about Rogue into her regular continuity.
You don't need
Tangled Web #5
writer: Peter Milligan, artists: Duncan Fegredo
After a shaky (or
rather, more traditional) start, this book has finally justified its
continued existence. Focusing on those around Spider-Man rather than
on the wallcrawler himself, this comic can prove to be one of the most
surprisingly thoughtful on the shelves.
The Rhino is definitely
one of the dumber villains of the sixties, in all senses of the word.
Stuck in a rhino suit for the rest of his life, he does not have a lot
of career options. His situation becomes even more poignant when he
finally begins to yearn for something more.
Though the arc
title (Flowers For Rhino) provides a literary clue as to where
the story is headed, Milligan still tells it without contrivance. It
feels fresher than it could have been, and Fegredo's art pops it up
It just feels good
to have an "extra" title actually be worth it, even if it means another
monthly dent to the budget.
Star Wars #33
Darkness, part two
writer: John Ostrander, artists: Jan Duursema and Ray Kryssing
How can this be
the same Ostrander who writes so slavishly to continuity in Martian
Manhunter? Free to explore the Star Wars Universe, Ostrander's
work here has all the excitement and suspense that his DC work of late
Jedi Quinlan Vos continues his journey to recover his memory. Stuck
on a prison world (your standard wretched hive of scum and villainy),
he has to both break up an arms ring and confront his greatest fear,
lest he give in to the Dark Side.
Lucas seems to
have given Dark Horse a free hand in establishing all the corners of
the Universe in this time period between Episodes 1 and 2. All the creators
involved rise to the occasion, and tell a good solid story that has
no need of any movie character other than Mace Windu. Please, please,
please leave Anakin out of it, okay?
stories and a look at Zealot comprise the meat of this book,
existing to celebrate the anniversary of Gaijin Studios. Though you
may not have heard of the Studios, you will recognize the artists involved.
Still, does this
justify an extra book? Warren Ellis returns to The Authority
to write a character piece on Jack Hawksmoor. It feels good to have
him back. (Ellis, not Hawksmoor.) Paul Jenkins contributes a story of
sex and the single Engineer, which features several panels of The Midnighter
ironing. For those who wondered, the answer is boxers. For that image
alone, the book rocks.
The Zealot story
did not do much for me, but then, I really don't know enough about Zealot.
For me, the book scored well with a two out of three. But this summer
has been so heavily loaded with pricey volumes that September had better
writer and pencils: Phil Jimenez, inks: Andy Lanning
Poor Phil Jimenez.
Somehow, it has fallen onto him to re-cap and make sense of the goings
on over in Action Comics. With that pressure, he still has to
move forward his tale of the Amazons. Luckily, Jimenez can handle it
all. For a guy who only wanted to draw Wonder Woman, he sure turned
out to be a great storyteller.
Though the first
four pages do consist of "what has gone before" in Our Worlds At
War, they help clarify a few plot points. Did anybody else realize
that Atlantis got teleported to another dimension by Tempest instead
of being blown up by Imperiex? Thank you, Phil, for letting me know.
And now I have hope for Aquaman's return.
for Jimenez' plot, he gets to finally resolve that Amazons vs. Darkseid
thing, in a manner that proves that violence really isn't always the
answer. It's clever and appropriate, and I can only hope that other
writers in the DCU pick up on it.
Buy this one. You
can read it without having to read Action Comics, but not vice-versa.
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