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Detective Comics #786
writer: Ed Brubaker
artists: Patrick Zircher, Aaron Sowd and Steve Bird

Brubaker has fully confronted the dichotomy of both Alan Scott and Bruce Wayne being protectors of Gotham City, with uneven results. There's the slight implication that the "Made of Wood" killer marked the change between a bright city with a glowing guardian and the dark Gotham we now know, but it's not really developed.

At least we get a new status quo between Batman and Jim Gordon, a character whose retirement has been handled really poorly up until now. And the artwork by Zircher and company proves competent, if not particularly eye-catching. Some days, that's enough.

In the back-up slot, Rick Spears and Rob G. (yeah, time for artists to go hip-hop, yo) have set up a potentially amusing and macabre situation. "The Dogcatcher" is hoping against hope that his latest prisoner doesn't actually belong to The Joker. But beyond that one joke, nothing is really happening or memorable, though G's art has a unique look that could prove cool in the future.

Overall, Detective is stolid and diverting, but nothing spectacular -- except for Tim Sale's great cover. Man, I want a poster of that.


Exiles #33
writer: Judd Winick
artist: Tom Mandrake

It's been three weeks of Winick, back-catalogued writing by a man DC snapped up in a two-year exclusive. In these three consecutive issues, we've gotten the best and worst of him, the worst being a tie between the new pattern of Illyana being the solution to whatever problem the Exiles face but being such a bitch that they don't turn to her until the last minute and that horrible cliché of vampire stories: "that's movies, these are real vampires."


However, he's back on track with this issue, focusing on Morph and Sasquatch. Facing down a feral Weapon X in the Canadian wilderness, the two stretch their powers to the utmost. They don't want to kill or be killed, and in Sasquatch's case, we learn why. This is what Chuck Austen's run lacked: characterization that arises out of plotting.

Emotional moments don't happen off-panel, but neither do they bog down the action. Winick also offers up an actual explanation for Morph's potential immortality, and an intriguing layer to his stealth capabilities. (Oh, yeah, he's going to make one great HeroClix figure.)

In other words, when you get past the "gee, what a cool idea that is" part of Exiles, Winick actually has depth. And turning this issue over to Tom Mandrake to illustrate is cool, too. His vaguely unsettling art perfectly captures the tension of the issue, while still allowing for the melancholy that permeates it.


Formerly Known As The Justice League #3
writers: Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis
artists: Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein

Rumor has it that this mini-series has been bumped up to a regular ongoing. Then again, co-writer Giffen has also started the rumor that his old writing partner is dead. So you never really know what to expect with this book.

Which is how it should be.

Though its appearance could be the first step on the same path that nearly destroyed the League franchise a decade ago (Justice League Task Force, anyone?), this book has only gotten stronger with each issue. Finally, the creators have regained the balance between the sitcom interaction of the characters and the seriousness of what they do.

Since Geoff Johns hasn't done anything with her after her first appearance, it's good to see Roulette used. As long as it's sparingly - her set-up could get dangerously like Marvel's Arcade.

Otherwise, the book is full of great little touches, such as Roulette's assistant, who's somewhat of a Marvel buff - as in Captain Marvel. It allows for some keen commentary on the Marvel family, though how Giffen and DeMatteis could avoid ripping on CM3 is beyond me. Maybe next issue. For now, however, it contrasts nicely with their showing just how powerful Mary Marvel is.

In their original run, the creators lost Captain Marvel too soon. Hopefully, Mary will stick around, even if they portray her as almost too innocent. If somebody could firmly establish the Batson kids' ages, that would be great.


Derek McCaw


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