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The Amazing Spider-Man #44 (485)
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna

Eventually, every hero should make his way to L.A. It worked for Crocodile Dundee. Wait a minute - no, it didn't. Thankfully, it does work for Spider-Man. Once you get past the amazing coincidence that Peter Parker would be trying to reconcile with his wife in Hollywood just as one of his oldest foes seeks revenge nearby, it's a pretty good story. Aunt May knowing the truth at last has ended up being a surprisingly good shot in the arm for this Spider-book, adding a poignancy that makes up for Mary Jane's still odd behavior.

Matching the odd behavior is a strange pencilling shift for Romita, Jr. For some reason, MJ looks like a Minnie Driver bobblehead doll through most of the issue. But the two Dr. Octopi look dynamic and tough, making up for it.


Batman #606
writers: Ed Brubaker and Geoff Johns
artists: Scottt McDaniel and Andy Owens

There's a death warrant on the head of David Cain. Sure, that makes sense, as the assassin is awaiting trial for the murder of Vesper Fairchild. And a guy like that makes a lot of enemies. So why is Batman trying to keep him alive, when even Cain wants to die? The answer, as supplied by Brubaker and Johns, is a welcome return to the Batman we know and have missed for several months. Better still, they bring back a Deadshot with a death wish, and pitting him against Cain should make for a great climax. We just have to hope that nobody drops the ball on the implications for Batgirl.


The Flash #189
writer: Geoff Johns
artists: Rick Burchett and Dan Panosian

I'm a sucker for these breather issues, where we see people just living their lives without threat of some supervillain. (Well, actually, a threat does loom on the horizon, but it's not going to be that simple.) From the cover we know we're in for a bit of a throwback to the Silver Age, and the interior follows through. Guest-penciller Burchett does a subtle homage to Carmine Infantino, while Johns reminds us of why this book draws us in month after month: it's the characters. They live, they breathe, and so what if one has a gold face? It's a quiet issue, but a friendly one.


Hawkman: Secret Files & Origins #1

At $4.95 a pop, these books always make a tough decision to buy. But when spun off a title that has been uniformly excellent, you feel obligated. Thankfully, Geoff Johns furnishes a story that makes it fairly worth it, revisiting the Hawks' Egyptian days while setting a cool subplot into motion. And for Chase fans, a Secret File is always the best place to look for her continuing investigations. The Chase story here, involving a fragment of Nth Metal, is heartwarming without being sappy. But it does beg the question: does Hawkman shed Nth Metal shavings a lot?


Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back #2
writer: Dave Land
artists: Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia

The revelation of Jango Fett in the movies has now ruined the Boba Fett mystique. He appears more here without a helmet than with, and it's jarring. Once past that, though, this "What If?" tale does take a few unexpected turns. Unfortunately, this book still suffers the same thing the "A New Hope" version did; it's clear that things are being rushed so that a semblance of The Return of the Jedi can occur by issue #4. As is usually the case with Star Wars books, this is fairly fun, but not as daring as we're supposed to believe.


JLA #70
writer: Joe Kelly
artists: Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen

Last issue we got a new JLA to replace those thought dead. Putting a further spin on the concept, Kelly gives us an "original" Justice League, brought together 3,000 years in the past to protect Atlantis, and thus the world. Though we'd already met two of them, they still make an interesting new bunch. All of it plays into a mystery that just doesn't quite make sense…yet. The continent is risen, there is no dome, but there also don't seem to be any actual Atlanteans. The Mahnke and Nguyen art keeps the interest up, so we can give this storyline the time to develop. Or it's going to give us one heck of a time paradox headache.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 2, #2
writer: Alan Moore
artist: Kevin O'Neill

Just in case you'd forgotten, most of the League consists of downright bastards. So it's interesting to see how they fare against a foe clearly beyond their, ahem, league. Moore explores their psyches well this issue; of particular note is an exchange between Mina and Edward Hyde. Along the way he throws in a few more appearances by obscure literary characters. Thankfully, the book is so well-written and entertaining that we can forget that Moore constantly reminds us that he's better-read than anyone else alive. Worshipping a sock puppet must give a man some sort of time-warping abilities that allow him to read that much.


Out There #13
writer: Brian Augustyn
artists: Humberto Ramos and Sandra Hope

And so the new trade paperback…er, storyline, begins. The kids are now stuck within Draedalus' dimension, but at least they've found their families and friends. But they've come at a bad time; for some reason, the townsfolk are no longer being provided for. Could it be because of the injury the kids did to the dark lord? Just when you think you've got this book figured out, Augustyn and company throw an unexpected curve that still makes sense. And that should keep you coming back.


The Punisher #14
writer: Garth Ennis
artist: Steve Dillon

The page in which Detective Soap awakens in an unexpected bed makes this entire issue worthwhile. But of course, this is Ennis and Dillon on The Punisher, so it's kind of a given that this book is a good one. While Soap continues having odd romantic travails, Castle rescues a mafia kingpin from Central American rebels. With several betrayals and backstabbings, this issue never lets up. And in the end, Ennis proves himself a very twisted modern-day heir to Ray Bradbury. I don't know if either one of them would be pleased by that comparison, but there it is.


Wildcats version 3.0 #1
writer: Joe Casey
artists: Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend

While version 2.0 seemed pretty good to me, evidently the powers that be felt a new start was required. And so Casey gets his whack at an interesting proposition: not so much superheroes as a super-corporate social force. In a weird irony, the only Wildcat still wearing a mask is Cole Cash, Grifter. Any vestige of Spartan has left Jack Marlowe, and Maul and Voodoo are nowhere to be seen. Ladytron makes an odd appearance, but otherwise, this book is about the all-too-real evils that men are doing in the name of money. Despite artwork that reminds me of why I didn't buy much of version 1 after Jim Lee left, Casey has me hooked.


Don't forget that this week, comics in the U.S. won't reach their destinations until Thursday, September 5. And as your friendly neighborhood comics editor/whatever I am will be in Los Angeles following up on some Comic-Con stories, it's likely that I'll be even later with reviews. I apologize in advance, and hope that you'll still come back and read the site anyway.

Derek McCaw


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