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Comics Today's Date:

Hey Kids! Comics!

I'm back from the trip to Los Angeles and ready to talk comics, which this week I picked up from DJ's Universal Comics, 11038 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. Thanks to store owner Catalin Jercan for taking the time to talk. If any of you happen to pass through the fabled La-La Land, it's one sweet store that's worth a visit.     

Alias #14
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Michael Gaydos

Tsk, tsk. Bendis keeps sneaking in actual cross-book continuity. Actually, when used in small doses like this, it's quite cool. For those of us whose heads easily fill with useless information (please don't ask me what color my wife's eyes are), continuity has never been a problem.

Jessica has found her missing girl, Rebecca Cross. Inspired by Matt Murdock's "outing" in the pages of his own book, Rebecca finally found the courage to leave her repressive small town and forge a new identity without having to lie about being a mutant. She also writes poetry; I'll let others decide if it's good or bad.

Much of the action of this issue happens off-panel, with the story itself serving as more of a mood piece. It's a somber ending to a thought-provoking arc, broken up by the funniest question asked in comics this week: "Ever been kicked in the nuts by a superhero?"


Detective #774
writer: Greg Rucka
artists: Steve Lieber and Mark McKenna

Not every comics writer has the right feel for government shenanigans necessary to pull off a Checkmate story. As a result, that organization has faded in importance over the last few years. But with Rucka at the helm, we should have seen the resurgence coming.

In fact, if you read this month's Detective lead story as a Checkmate story with Batman in it instead of vice versa, you may enjoy it more. That shadowy government operation is responsible for Sasha's faked death, as a recruitment tool. In Rucka's hands, Checkmate seems more formidable than it has in a long time, possibly garnering new interest in fans' minds.

Batman, on the other hand, pretty much behaves like the socially retarded golem he had been for most of the year, Devin Grayson's excellent Gotham Knights issue a couple of weeks back notwithstanding. Is it so hard to find dramatic conflict in the guy actually betraying an emotion or two to Alfred? Back in the Manor for only a couple of months, and it's clear we're headed for another walkout by the British butler.


Doom Patrol #12
writer: John Arcudi
artist: Tan Eng Huat

During the filming of Commando, or so legend has it, Schwarzenegger had to be talked out of doing a scene in which he ripped a guy's arm off and then beat some other bad guys with it. Arnie didn't understand why people might not think that was funny. (And you know, he probably had a point.) Arcudi clearly shares that sense of humor, as Robotman's chief weapon this issue is his own dismembered arm.

The Doom Patrol has descended into Hell, or at least a warehouse in Hell's industrial district. Caught up in the strange plot of a minor demon looking to move in on some greater action, they face their own fears and kick some devilish butt. Some of the ideas at play are handled fairly well, but the fight scenes tend to overwhelm the coolness of the plot, and the running gag of Negative Man's mom calling runs too long, with a punchline that's given too much weight and simply isn't funny.

Finally, artist Eng Huat betrays a strange weakness. He seems incapable of much variation in facial expressions. When everybody was supposed to be surprised or angry (as most of the run has required), it didn't stand out. But the opening page depicts an angel with the sweetest voice in all of heaven, singing his joy. He sure looks ticked to be belting out hosannas.


Green Arrow #16
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artists: Phil Hester & Ande Parks

Reviewed by Michael Goodson

This issue begins the Brad Meltzer era on Green Arrow. He has big shoes to fill, picking up where Kevin Smith left off and so far the transition seems seamless. Oliver is curious about his funeral and asks Superman to tell him about it. While reviewing photos, Oliver becomes even more curious about a man he does not recognize and thus, the mystery unfolds. Meltzer's writing seems right at home in Green Arrow, surprising since this is his first comic book ever. There are some funny bits along with the superhero (and villain) cameos we like to see. Clearly, Meltzer had time to study the DCU while waiting in the wings for Kevin Smith to wrap it up.

The transition is even less noticeable because Hester and Parks continue doing their excellent job as the art team. Like Powers, the cartoonish nature of the art doesn't distract at all from the grittiness of the story. It only makes it more charming.


Hawkman #7
writer: James Robinson
artists: Rags Morales and Timothy Truman

Following the pattern of Robinson's Starman book, Hawkman pays a little visit to Times Past. The result may be the best-looking book on the stands last week. Truman's inks over Morales' pencils make for a great effect.

The story is pretty good, too, setting up two old DC western heroes as part of the Hawkman mythos (tipped off in the Secret Files book). Yet it has a couple of missteps. The narrator seems to have a sort of twang to him, but that appears to only be so we won't guess who it is. (Truthfully, I'm still not sure.) And it all has a strange feeling of déjà vu to it, not just reminiscent of Starman but slavishly trying to follow it.

Opal City had its Western hero, too, occasionally allied with a likeable rogue whom we had previously known only as a supervillain in modern times. Instead of The Shade, we get Gentleman Jim Craddock, better known as The Gentleman Ghost, though appearing as a living human later than his previous origin stories would have us think possible. So all may not be what it seems, and surprises may be in store. But it's a shame to have that rehashed feeling permeating the book.


Liberty Meadows #27
story and art: Frank Cho

To celebrate the move to a new publisher, Cho has Brandy revealing a t-shirt with the Image logo on it. Breathtaking, perhaps; unfortunately, nobody seems to have told Cho they changed the logo on him. It's forgivable, because the old logo sure has its effect.

As usual, this book is fun from cover to cover. What's unusual is that Cho has altered the format somewhat, switching to the style Marvel employs for its "wide screen" books. For a title with its origin in the daily strip, this is not only sensible, but long overdue.

This month Brandy and the boys hit a comic book convention. Some of the strips appeared in newspapers, but Cho has expanded the adventures to fit his more mature (?) comics readers. Along the way, there's also a none-too-subtle crossover with Scott Kurtz' often brilliant strip PvP. Check it out to get the full effect of the comedy.


The Punisher #15
writer: Garth Ennis
artists: Darick Robertson and Nelson

By using crusading Bugle reporter Chuck Self, Ennis points out the flaw in the arrangement between Lt. Soap and Frank Castle. They don't really do a great job of covering up the fact that they work together. Luckily, the police don't really want to do a thorough job of tracking either man, so they shouldn't get caught. Until Chuck Self wants to get the story.

And he does, in a bleakly funny night in The Punisher's life. Along the way this tough-guy journalist gets sucked into more murder and mayhem than he ever thought possible. If only he'd remembered just how rigid and simple The Punisher's code of ethics actually is. Luckily, Ennis remembers, and delivers yet another excellent issue that skirts the line of taste and makes you beg for more.


Ultimate Spider-Man #26
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley & Art Thibert

Reviewed by Michael Goodson

If I ever lose all my money by betting on wrestling and I have to beg on street corners, my sign will say "Will Work for Brian Michael Bendis Comics."

Issue 26 is the same logical, fast-paced, enjoyable retelling of Peter Parker's early years that we've come to love from Ultimate Bendis. This issue in particular gives little winks and nods to the classic Green Goblin vs. Spider-Man confrontation on top of the bridge, with Mary Jane this time playing the role of Gwen Stacy. There are new twists and yet another cliffhanger ending to keep even the most jaded long time fan interested.

Seriously, if you are not reading this book, it's time to turn in your Spider-Man fan club card and move out of your parents' house.


Derek McCaw


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