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Batman: Gotham Knights #33
writer: Scott Beatty
artists: Mike Collins and Bill Sienkiewicz

How sharper than a serpent's tooth a sociopath scorned. After failing to measure up as heir to the al'Ghul line, Bane has decided to destroy all the Lazarus Pits, thus restoring mortality to the Demon's Head. (Ironically, possibly sanity, too.) What does this have to do with Batman? Far more than you'd think, and the family can only listen helplessly as this little psycho-drama plays out.

Beautifully rendered by Collins and Sienkiewicz, Beatty's story could have tremendous ramifications without violating the characters we know and love. What a novel concept. Along the way he also takes a shot at the trend of taking characters out of their costumes. Note to criminals with lame gimmicks: even without the costumes, they're still lame. There may not be a funnier moment this week in comics than a plainclothes Signalman pathetically whining, "I'm signaling! I'm signaling!"


Birds of Prey #47
writer: Terry Moore
artists: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti

Just in time for the TV show's premiere, Birds of Prey gets a new creative team. The good news is that they've hit the ground running. The bad news is that they won't be here long.

Writer Moore sets up a tale of political intrigue and scientific wonder. It's pretty timely, too, as there have been recent news reports on the effort to turn off our aging clocks. Though it may be opening up a continuity headache, he also gives a nod to Barbara's political past. Most importantly, in just 22 pages, the whole team effectively establishes a new focus (though not necessarily a new direction) for the book.

On a side note, Conner seems to have combined the best of all of Dinah's costumes into a new one. While it smacks of The Wasp, it still makes a good look. Probably ineffective for crime-fighting in real life, there's still just something about a vigilante in fishnets…


Captain Marvel #1
writer: Peter David
artists: Chriscross and Chris Sotomayor

If you want an honest and fair evaluation of the U-Decide books, I'm sorry, you're going to have to look elsewhere. Maybe it's wrong of me, but I've already written off Ultimate Adventures and Marville as publicity stunts, and frankly, I can't afford to waste my money on publicity stunts. Thankfully, the Captain Marvel relaunch is no stunt, Alex Ross sketch cover notwithstanding.

Without any need to know what's gone before, David deftly explains the ground rules for the book and begins a simple tale of Genis going slowly insane. The "what ifs…" (not What If…?) explored here provide a lot of food for thought. They might be ripping off Harlan Ellison a little bit, but hey, it's the sincerest form of flattery. The desperate need to boost sales has also caused David to get a little tighter with his writing. Gone are the bad puns and vaudeville humor that usually creep into his work. Instead, what little humor there is comes right out of the characters.

Gang, ignore the hype. Instead, just buy this very good book because that's what it is: a very good book.


Daredevil #37
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Alex Maleev

As Bendis aptly points out, Matt Murdock has had terrible taste in women. You'd think a blind guy would end up being more interested in personalities than he has been. In this issue, there's a slight clash between two of his exes, and Matt ends up saying all the dumb things that he knows he shouldn't to his first true love. It's a very human incident, handled well by both writer and artist. So, too, is the resolution to this issue. The things that have made this book exciting the last few issues have nothing to do with gritty street action or jumping around in tights. Instead, it's that everybody has become so real you can almost forget that there's any spandex involved.


JSA #40
writers: David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns
artists: Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne

The Shadower. Who knew that the Golden Age Dr. Mid-Nite even had an archenemy? We're going to have to see some reprints, and soon.

As his way, Johns has amped up the wattage on The Shadower (in the form of his meta grandson), and thrown the focus on Captain Marvel and The Star-Spangled Kid. While the new Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific labor over surgery, it's up to the two young JSAers to rescue a classroom full of kids. It's tense, and after a summer full of child abduction hysteria, Goyer and Johns' resolution really hits home.

Kirk and Champagne do a good job with the art, remembering little details such as Courtney still having braces. The only drawback is that Kirk's bad guys all seem to look vaguely similar, as if evil automatically makes them pinched.


Peter Parker: Spider-Man #48 (146)
writer: Paul Jenkins
artists: Mark Buckingham and Wayne Faucher

Like Peter Parker throughout most of this issue, I felt like I was missing something. To be fair, the antagonist is purposefully mysterious, but it feels more obtuse than exciting. On the flip side, Jenkins has a great handle on Peter's character, allowing him moments of sorrow without getting overly bathetic. And someone finally remembered the weird dog in the next apartment over. But we all know this book has an expiration date, and it feels like we're just marking time until the new one appears.

What makes the book work better than it should is great art. Finally, Buckingham and Faucher have been allowed to do the exterior, too. Art-wise, you can judge this book by its cover.


Supergirl #74
writer: Peter David
artists: Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs

The Captain Marvel struggles must have energized David. Again, he leaves behind his penchant for corny humor and brings his current Supergirl saga to a close. In the process he severely upsets the status quo for the book, but then, there may not be too many of us even aware of it. That's a shame, too, as Supergirl has been another consistently entertaining title, if not always a stand-out.

Pitting Supergirl against some of the forces of Hell does have its drawbacks in a mainstream superhero title. Kirk and Riggs have to cut away from some of the action, and in their efforts to be subtle they've left a couple of sequences a bit confusing.

For those who worried, Mary Marvel does get out of this one alive, her presence really does make a thematic point, and things will never be the same for Linda. I can't wait for the next arc.


Ultimate Spider-Man #27
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artists: Mark Bagley and Art Thibert

The original Marvel Universe was a place of wonder. The Ultimate one is a place of fear. It may be more fitting for these darker times, but it's also terribly sad. Yes, the adventures of Spider-Man have always had an edge of tragedy to them, but somehow he found a way to have fun in spite of that. This issue makes perfectly clear that the fun will come to an end sooner than later for Peter Parker.

Again, it may be more real, but even in all the battling with the Green Goblin, the consequences of being Spider-Man have never seemed more of a downer. Though still a good book, Bendis has steered it into a surprisingly melancholy area.

But at least Mary Jane didn't die.


Derek McCaw


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