Each 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 to do.
Hey Kids! Comics!
Batman: Gotham Knights #21
writer: Devin Grayson, artists: Roger Robinson and John Floyd
Devin Grayson delves deeper into the psyches
of the original dynamic duo with this tale of Dick's grandfather re-appearing
in his life. Except, of course, that in a good Batman story, nothing
is as it seems.
In what appeared to be a low-key human
interest tale, a surprise villain appears, and the only other person
who has done this kind of justice to the relationship he has with Batman
is Mark Waid. More I will not say, except that Grayson really, really
has a great perspective on what makes Batman and Nightwing tick.
Robinson and Floyd do some great lay-outs;
however, Bruce and Dick appear to be the same man. Page 15 would make
one great pin-up.
In the Black & White story, Mike Carlin
tells a pretty vague tale of the original Batgirl fighting Poison Ivy.
To completely save it, however, former Archie artist Dan DeCarlo brings
his touch, with inks by Terry Austin. After reading it, you may miss
those cinnamon buns Barbara used to wear. Every now and then, it's nice
to remember that comics can be fun.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Paul Pelletier and Mark Farmer
Having left the ruins of Atlantis behind,
our heroes set about exploring the amusement park that was once Earth,
with the holographic help of the last man to leave the planet, Geromi.
While the others explore some pretty neat technology (including new
sci-fi favorite, the tesseract), Verityn attempts to use his second
sight to determine why mankind abandoned the planet in the first place,
with devastating results.
As far as the overall plot goes, Waid
has been moving this along glacially. We long ago discovered Galvan's
secret, though the others have not. But with the huge scope of the story's
setting, Waid continues doing a bang-up job of focusing on character.
Despite their occasionally obvious names (almost Kirbyesque, really),
the Atlanteans have grown, and clearly are struggling to be more than
Pelletier and Farmer continue their stellar
work, with some greatly poignant panels. Remember, kids, that artists
can tell the story, too, and not just provide great splash pages.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Paul Pelletier and Mark Farmer
Reviewed by CharlieWentling
Capricia gets the idea to use Verityn's
seer abilities to try to find out what happened to all of the humans.
This doesn't work out quite the way that she hoped. The stress finally
pushes her over the edge and she takes it out on Danik. She also believes
that the team has lost faith in her leadership abilities, and she may
This is a solid issue, but not quite up
to the high standard set by issue #5. I did like the use of the science
fictional bits of technology. We also get another clue in the mystery
of what happened to the humans. Hopefully this won't be something that
is dragged out for years and years. The art is excellent for a fill-in
issue. With someone like Pelletier around, there is no drop in quality
from Steve Epting.
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Jim Cheung and Don Hillsman II
Reviewed by CharlieWentling
Ethan clashes with Exeter again in the
Underground's hidden sanctuary. Things quickly settle down, then not
much else happens plotwise. There is plenty of character development
though, particularly for Exeter, who has gone through some changes since
his last appearance. Ethan also chooses a new path by deciding to help
Ashleigh in her quest, at least for the short-term.
The art here stands out, and much of the
credit must go to colorist Justin Ponsor. There is a six page flashback
sequence told from Exeter's point of view that makes stunning use of
grays and browns. The story ends with four pages taking place at sunset,
with beautiful red coloring. The last page would have made a good cover.
There is no status quo here, the characters
are changing and the story continues to move. Definitely worth reading.
Ruminations Over Manhattan
writer: Bob Gale, artists: Dave Ross and Mark Pennington
Bob Gale's storyline has one more issue
to go. It continues being fun, though without anything resembling a
super-hero battle. Instead, this is all Bochco-style law show, an aspect
of the book which does not often get its due.
It also gets a plot twist right out of
an old World's Finest story, leaving readers with the tantalizing
question: who is the mystery guest-star? In two weeks we get the answer,
and it's nice to be reminded that superheroes have friends, too.
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Chuck Austen
Without completely side-stepping continuity,
Bendis writes a believable modern SHIELD/Hydra skirmish, eschewing costumes
and unbelievable gadgetry for cool intrigue. It turns out that both
sides want Elektra to accomplish the same thing, leaving her with no
real way to satisfy her honor. The question hangs in the air: does she
even want to?
Austen turns in another gritty art-job,
perfect for the current storyline. Set in a middle-eastern country,
it feels sweaty (which also helps the unbelievable amount of sexual
tension that Bendis has injected). Inside the book Elektra wears far
less clothing than even Greg Horn's intentionally erotic covers suggest.
No wonder Maxim has chosen Elektra to be one of the world's sexiest
Thankfully, the story is good, too.
writer: various, artists: various
With all due respect to the tremendous
work our government has done this week, the name of our anti-terrorist
operation deserves this…
In this week's Marvel/DC cross-over, Osama
Bin Laden turns out to be Monarch after all, and then Adam Warlock absorbs
him into his soul gem.
Not enough of that
tatoo is showing.
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Stephen Sadowski, Christian Alamy, and Dave
A new villain (okay, she appeared in Secret
Files) with mysterious ties to the past has captured the JSA. Roulette's
scheme? Clearly nothing but commerce, done through the tried-and-true
method of bread and circuses. Individual members get pitted against
each other in clever contests, although the match-ups play conveniently
along the lines of tension Johns has been building up for months.
It still provides some excitement, and
may clear up that pesky Black Adam problem once and for all. Roulette's
arena features in its audience a who's who of second-rate villains,
sadly without a scorecard. (Though someone needs to explain why Deathstroke
The Terminator would be there - when did he get re-villainized?)
As usual, Johns' skill with characterization
shines. He is determined to make Mr. Terrific cool, and this issue may
finally tip the balance. Roulette seems pretty interesting, making a
lot of vague allusions to her past. But come on, who here thinks The
Gambler is her grandfather? Who here remembers The Gambler? Yet that's
too obvious for Johns. I think.
The only real problem with this book is
that it ends on a cliff-hanger that we know must be interrupted by the
annoying Last Laugh cross-over, so we have to wait two
months before we get to see how it ends.
Just Imagine Stan Lee's Superman
Just imagine all
the books released this week were good.
writer: Stan Lee, artists: John Buscema
This book may be the terminally ill John
Buscema's swan song. Ponder that for a moment, and decide whether or
not to buy the book on that merit alone.
Lee's "re-imagining" of Superman really
adds nothing new or different to the myth. Still an alien, his powers
work for much the same reason as the Golden Age Superman's did, and
he still ends up being Clark Kent. The biggest difference may be that
this version is kind of a jerk.
A cop with an inferiority complex, Squadman
Salden works out obsessively, being the only officer who has not been
genetically altered. Why? Because it provides a reason for him to have
an inferiority complex. Again, Lee writes like a really good parody
of himself, instead of providing the real magic touch he used to have.
Right before her death, a character actually
says, "Salden should be home any minute now. If only I could shake this
awful feeling of danger, of impending disaster." Wow. How did she know
the book would only get worse?
Worse still, Superman decides that no
one must know he's an alien, and that he needs to have a secret identity.
So not only does everyone in the book refer to him as Clark Kent
(because he never wears anything but his uniform), but in the back-up
story by Michael Uslan, a comic book company figures they can publish
his adventures because, as an alien, he has no rights. (And Lois Lane,
his agent, waits months to take legal action. Thank heavens she's
gorgeous, because as an agent, she sucks.)
Next month Lee tackles Green Lantern,
the first book in which he claims to have gotten away from the legends.
Let's hope. If not, these books still provide a laugh. A very expensive
Star Wars: Infinities #3
A New Hope, part 3
writer: Chris Warner, artists: Al Rio and Neil Nelson
This series has the luxury of using the
most beloved characters in the Star Wars Universe without having to
worry about anyone complaining about their fate. By altering key events
(okay, playing "What If?"), anything can happen.
Unfortunately, it has yet to actually
take advantage of it.
Instead, we get warped versions of events
as we know them, though drawn really nicely. Look - here's the cantina
scene! Look - it's the tree with the dark side! Look - it's Leia in
black leather! Okay, we haven't seen that before (officially).
It will be intriguing to see Luke and Leia face each other in battle,
but it's also clear that it will end up with family redemption. At least
there does not seem to be a way for the Ewoks to appear.
Knock on wood.
Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith #6
writer: Darko Macan, artists: Ramon F. Bachs and Raul Fernandez
Pretend for a moment that this isn't
a Star Wars book. Instead, look at it as a fantasy epic all its own.
Will it stand or fail on its own merits?
Clearly, Dark Horse asks this question,
because these "spin-off" books have yet to disappoint. Dealing with
characters that have no chance in hell of affecting "established" continuity,
Jedi vs. Sith explores the origins of that menacing phrase "there
are always two."
And who the two end up being may surprise
Macan has spun an engaging story that
may merit a sequel, writing believable kids and frightening alien menaces.
And the concept of the "thought bomb" makes perfect sense. Just wait
for Lucas to pick it up for Episode 3.
If you did not buy this series, we recommend
the inevitable trade paperback.
Two For The Show
writer: Peter David, artists: Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs
Back on track this month, Peter David
gives us further insight into the character of Buzz. Of course a demon
in human form would have spent time with DC's super-villains. And of
course his apparent betrayal by Supergirl would send him right back
over the edge.
On the side of justice, Supergirl gives
her opinion on The Batman, which does much to explain why she will venture
into Gotham looking for Buzz without contacting The Dark Knight.
And she also dresses up like a cheerleader, completely taking advantage
of the fact that deep in our animal hindbrains, a lot of us had hoped
that someday she would dress up as a cheerleader. The shame runs deep.
And yet David keeps it in context. It
works, even in our shame. Kirk and Riggs keep the cheesecake factor
low, focusing more on telling a good story.
It even leads naturally into the Last
Laugh cross-over, an amazing feat considering David's well-publicized
disdain for such events (he eventually left The Incredible Hulk
over Heroes Reborn). It may turn out to be one of the few issues
of the cross-over that even make sense. Nice going. If only David could
avoid the bad puns; his writing and his humor go best when unforced.
"Million Mime March." Geez.
Superman: The Man of Steel #118
just like being in one of those trippy lightning balls."
Time and Punishment
writer: Mark Schultz, artists: Doug Mahnke and Walden Wong
Doug Mahnke gets the pleasure of drawing
the new versions of The Linear Men, as they appear to call Kal-El on
trial for crimes against universality. And yes, they are now as grotesque
as they are consistently stupid.
This is one of those time-killing issues
in which mostly we are meant to nod our heads sagely at how great a
hero Superman is. Well, yes, he is. But the very same point was made
more movingly last week. And the week before that.
Schultz does what he can, but editorially
right now we have a lot of supposedly intelligent characters running
around just doing stupid things. Once again, say it with me so Steel
can hear it: Apokolips = BAD. NO GOOD CAN COME OF THAT STUPID AEGIS
THINGIE. You know it, I know it, The Linear Men know it (even Waverider,
a being of pure energy who agrees with the others that it's less taxing
to appear as a brain with hands than in a human form). Why doesn't Superman?
It all wraps up with semi-theological
mumbo jumbo so ill-conceived that even J.M. DeMatteis must be shaking
his head. "The age of predestination is OVER! Superman signals the coming
of an era of free will…" Hey, wasn't that predestined? So what's the
big deal? Head…hurt…must read…Archie comic…
Has it also occurred to anyone that if
the Big Three had just told The Linear Men about Hypertime, they wouldn't
be so anal about the timestream?
Okay, logic quibbles aside, the book looks
beautiful, and does have a last page that sets up a chilling subplot.
I almost never say this, but buy it for the art alone.
Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #7
Daredevil, The Punisher, Spider-Man
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
That sneaky Bendis. Spider-Man barely
appears in one panel. Instead, Bendis has used this book to shoehorn
in his interpretation of one of Marvel's most (in)famous characters,
while essentially just transplanting the regular Daredevil into the
In this telling, mobsters didn't kill
Castle's family. No, though still an accident, Frank was the intended
target all along. Let's just say that more than ever, The Punisher sees
himself as more moral (whether we agree or not) than in his other incarnation.
Matt Murdock does have some slight differences:
he seems older, does not appear to be partnered with Foggy, and he has
little love for Spider-Man. Oh, and Karen (so far) isn't a crack whore.
The story and art move along at a grim
pace, just like The Punisher, and it all heads toward a final show-down
next issue. Maybe, just maybe, Spider-Man will be involved.
And if he isn't, that's okay, too.
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
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