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!
Could we do a scale of 1 to 10? No. That
would be too easy. Rather, we shall judge books this week by a sliding
scale based on the women of Archie Comics.
Big Ethel: The awkward, snaggle-toothed
woman with a crush on Jughead. If someone caught you on a date with
Big Ethel, you would try to hide. Same thing goes for a comic book rated
Midge: Moose's girlfriend. Sure,
she looks attractive, but you know better.
Betty: Nice, solid, dependable.
You can't go wrong with Betty, but you may wish you could.
Veronica: What's not to like? Hot,
smart, and wealthy, she'll hurt you and make you love every minute of
it. Sort of like most Warren Ellis books.
Cheryl Blossom: The tartiest woman
in Riverdale, and thus, the one you want the most. This will be Fanboy
Planet's highest honor.
No, that is not
Hitler's lost testicle.
Adventures In The Rifle Brigade: Operation
The Pearls of Arabia
writer: Garth Ennis, artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Describing the plot of this book would
be to miss the point. In a nutshell, the Rifle Brigade, a crack British
regiment most of whose members are little more than catchphrases, travel
to the Middle Eastern country of Semmen in search of Hitler's lost testicle.
The errant bollock has mystical powers, and whosoever controls it will
win the war. The Americans want it, the British want it, and of course,
The Nazis want it.
And of course, really, it's just an excuse
for a lot of bad sex jokes disguised as a war story. If you're a fan
of Ennis, it works. But really, this book is little better than what
used to run in the late Penthouse Comix, albeit with a little
more howzyerfather than Americans would normally read.
Ezquerra rises to the occasion. The setting
allows him to really go wild, and his work is both evocative and hilarious.
Admit it, Carlos, you've always wanted to draw an elephant mating with
a troop transport.
Rating: Veronica. A very, very
Smile and the world
smiles with you.
Batman: Gotham Knights #22
writer: Devin Grayson, artists: Roger Robinson and John Floyd
Grayson borrows heavily from the old Stephen
King movie Creepshow, in what may prove to be the most unique
tie-in to The Last Laugh. Cockroaches get Joker-ized, and infest
the body of one of the most prominent exterminators in Gotham. (How
the Joker Toxin teaches cockroaches about irony gets left unexplained.)
Soon the roaches move out into the city, shambling in the form of their
While Batman has his hands full with other
Joker-ized villains, he calls in The Spoiler to keep an eye on things,
and this turns into a very special episode of Batman, as Bruce and Stephanie
reach out to each other.
Pfeh. As enjoyable and spot-on as Grayson's
work has been here, this just doesn't cut it. It hinges upon Oracle's
assertion that Batman has alienated everyone in the Bat-family. That
just doesn't ring true, especially since Grayson herself has so carefully
been building Batman's awkward attempts to prevent alienation.
It seems, perhaps, that Stephanie Brown
has been included in the Bat-family by editorial fiat, leaving writers
scrambling to explain it. It's just a shame that Grayson needed to negate
her own work to do it.
Robinson and Floyd do a great job with
atmosphere, with just a hint of Aparo in their work. The back-up story,
though done in a cool style, ends up making no sense, either, though
it does involved The Joker.
Midge Fury #2
writer: Garth Ennis, artist: Darick Robertson and Jimmy Palmiotti
Picture a warrior in repose. Reduced to
taking his dorky, if not outright semi-retarded, godson to the zoo,
Nick Fury can only imagine acts of violence. And god, how he misses
Luckily a former Soviet agent of Hydra
has made good on his promise to stir up trouble. If Fury can wade through
the bureaucracy, he will be needed again.
Using only a few crumbs and cursory nods
to Marvel continuity, Ennis paints an intriguing picture of the Howling
Commandos long past the point where howling makes sense. He sacrifices
none of his twisted sense of humor to do it, either, adding up to an
unexpectedly great book.
Even if you do not particularly enjoy
stories of S.H.I.E.L.D., you should check out this offering from the
MAX line. Once again, Marvel has managed to deliver on the hype, and
How long can this go on?
Rating: Cheryl Blossom
Joker: Last Laugh #2
writers: Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, artists: Martin, Farmer, & Lopez
Oh, sure. We avoided this book like the
plague last week. Still, we're young and foolish here at Fanboy Planet
(foolish anyway), and took a look this week.
So here it is: as a cross-over, this stinks.
The set-up is still not done, while the rest of this month's books are
already having to deal with its repercussions. (And, as this month's
Superman proves, it's a stretch to fit those in.)
As a story on its own, however, Joker:
Last Laugh actually has turned out to be kind of interesting. Seeing
him interact with non-Batvillains and easily out-think them is something
that we haven't much seen happen, other than the occasional odd encounter
Dixon and Beatty have also used this to
throw a lot of attention on Shilo Norman, the boy who would have been
Mister Miracle. The staff of The Slab get to be real people, and their
efforts to deal with this crisis are compelling. It's the superworld
out there that just does not hold my interest.
Despite that, this story is built on a
false premise: The Joker thinks he's dying. I'll explain why that's
false in the next review…
Rating: surprisingly, Betty
Joker: Last Laugh Secret Files
A Clown At Midnight and others
writers: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon, artists: Pete Woods and Cameron
Victim of the vagaries of shipping, this
book should be the first Last Laugh one you read. Unfortunately,
it didn't come out until this week.
Instead of being filler, or broadening
the horizons of the event, this comic serves as the first full chapter.
Of course, if you read it first, you'll understand the flaws underlying
this whole event.
The Joker has been called in to The Slab's
medical facilities for a complete examination. Orderlies marvel at how
his brain structure is nothing like they have ever seen before. It's
physically wrong. (Is it possible? Eh, it's The Joker. It's a good bit
if nothing else.)
Examining the results, the medical chief
thinks he recognizes a tumor. Flawed Premise #1: The Joker's brain does
not look like a normal human brain. Why would a tumor be recognizably
a tumor? (When you see the art, you'll understand.)
Against security chief Shilo Norman's
orders, The Joker gets released into the general population, the theory
being that since he's dying, he may want to reach out to others in his
last days. Flawed Premise #2: They release him into genpop before
they tell him he's dying; he clearly begins orchestrating his escape
and his Jokerization of everyone before he receives his alleged motive
- the brain tumor.
As if it matters. You know DC will never
kill The Joker anyway.
One of the supplemental stories achieves
the rare state of not being a throw-away. Though tied in to the overall
cross-over, Touched by Johnson, Williams, and Gray, could easily
stand alone. If DC still reprinted their best stories of the year, this
would be a strong candidate.
Touched follows a DEO agent as
he interviews survivors of encounters with The Joker. They range from
innocent to criminal themselves (including Harley Quinn), and the interviews
form a particularly chilling study of the Clown Prince of Crime. Quiet
and quite frightening, this story sneaks up on you exactly as The Joker
wouldn't. And Williams and Gray put their own unique stamp on the character,
adding one thing I'm not sure I've ever seen on The Joker: scars. Of
course he would be scarred. Of course.
If only you could just buy the Secret
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Fabrizio Fiorentino and Matt Ryan
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Just like last week in The First, we have
a guest art team that will become the permanent art team a few months
from now. Fiorentino shows promise, but he is still several levels beneath
Brandon Peterson. His drawings of facial features seem slightly off
to me. On the whole though, the art still gets a passing grade.
The story focuses on Genevieve with only
a small appearance by Giselle. Gen faces an assassination attempt as
she meets with guild masters from three ancillary guilds. Ron Marz uses
a relatively quiet story for his last issue as writer. I get the feeling
that this will be the last self-contained issue for a while. The four
original CrossGen books are all starting to build up to climaxes for
their 25th issues.
Rating: C+ (guest-reviewers are
not bound to the Women of Archie Rating System)
writers: Chuck Dixon, artists: Staz Johnson and John Lowe
When last we left Nightwing, he was getting
ever closer to exposing the bad cops in Bludhaven. So naturally this
month he's…hang-gliding into The Slab. That's the problem with these
cross-overs; story arcs come to a dead stop.
This issue provides the flip-side to events
alluded to in Joker: Last Laugh #2. Dick fights his way in, but
ultimately fails because there are still four more weeks to the cross-over.
Since Dixon actually has a hand in the
big picture, this ends up being more interesting than it could have
been. And Johnson and Lowe deliver the best artwork Nightwing
has seen in months. All in all, the character comes off as cool as ever.
This just wouldn't give the casual reader
a true taste of what the book is like - yet another problem with cross-overs.
Why give a false picture?
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Returning to a straightforward comic book
style, Bendis and Oeming wrap up the mystery of who killed Olympia.
As usual, the answer, though making perfect sense, is unpredictable.
But then, if you're here to solve a mystery, you've come to the wrong
What makes Powers rock is the atmosphere
and the dialogue. Oeming's cartoony style feels more real than many
drawing more naturalistically. And Bendis may be the best dialogue writer
in the business.
The only complaint I have this month lies
in its letter column. Bendis stole my idea for this week's mail column,
and now I can't use it. Crap.
Rating: Cheryl Blossom
The Punisher #5
writer: Garth Ennis, artists: Steve Dillon and Jimmy Palmiotti
The timing probably could have been better
for this final chapter in Ennis' grand guignol satire. But you
have to hand it to Marvel for having the bravery to publish this anyway,
and the good sense to know that really at this point, the people reading
The Punisher get it.
What am I talking about? Well, last issue
Frank Castle foiled a plan to use a 747 as a terrorist weapon, and this
issue he has to stop a nuke with the same purpose. Putting that aside,
however, Ennis thinly veils the identity of the secret villain behind
the first five issues, and the revelation could prove controversial.
Thankfully, the guy doesn't read anything other than The Very Hungry
Caterpillar anyway. As usual, it's cool. It's harsh. It's Ennis.
Suicide Squad #2
writer: Keith Giffen, artists: Paco Medina and Sanchez
After last issue's non-stop slaughter,
Giffen slows things down to establish how this new Suicide Squad really
works. Sgt. Rock gathers a new Easy Company to form the core. All four
of them must figure out how to work together, and then figure out how
to live with themselves as they essentially set people up to die in
the service of liberty.
Though John Ostrander explored that topic
with the previous series, this promises to be more wrenching. As long
as we ignore the rest of DC, it's possible that we will see a lot of
death in this book. (Already, though, at least two of those killed in
the first issue have popped up again elsewhere.)
More importantly, Giffen promises to explore
such issues as how the heck Sgt. Rock and Bulldozer can still be vital
espionage agents in 2001. They both have to be (at least) in their eighties.
Please, please explain.
Time will tell if the Medina and Sanchez
team really work for this book. For such a grim premise, a cartoony
look seems inappropriate. But they may have surprises in store.
writer: Jeph Loeb, artists: Ed McGuinnes and Cam Smith
Can you believe it has been 100 issues
of Superman since Doomsday killed him? Why, this calls for a double-sized
issue as poorly structured and full of huge fight scene splash pages
as that first confrontation! Luckily, DC delivers.
Nominally a Last Laugh tie-in,
this issue revives Doomsday with Joker Toxin. How that actually affects
him remains unclear, except that maybe he never smiled before, and maybe
he's smiling now. But with that face, who can tell?
Doomsday invades a White House press conference,
and Superman goes toe to toe with him for page upon beautiful page of
McGuinness art. No, seriously, it's good; it just feels like a cheap
excuse for a lot of pin-ups.
Stuck with a double event (anniversary
and cross-over), Loeb does what he can. He continues using a narrative
speech, this time writing one of his own for Luthor to have delivered
in the wake of the war. And he does a better job of explaining how Doomsday
returned than any other writer the last few times the monster showed
up. Credit Loeb also for finally giving the thing an evolutionary step
that makes sense while also legitimately weakening him.
Maybe, just maybe, the next time Doomsday
appears, he can be an interesting villain, instead of an ugly Hulk.
Rating: Veronica (only because
the artwork really is cool, and I'll never admit that again.)
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
this and more in the Fanboy forums.