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 Big Ethel.

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.

Angel & The Ape #3
36DD For Death
writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman, artist: Philip Bond

With all the frenzy to turn comics into movie and television properties, it's amazing that nobody has bid on Angel and The Ape. What higher concept for a buddy movie could there be? Have Rick Baker make a cheap ape suit, and there's comedy gold in them thar hills.

If you go mining in the Catskills, anyway.

That's what Chaykin and Company are doing here. Though they work a little (okay a lot) bluer than you might have found in an old nightclub act, the level of humor is pretty obvious and pretty relentless. Some of it works; some of it doesn't, but mostly, the "murder mystery" never takes center stage. How could it, when the solution lies in taking Groucho glasses off of the actual killer? Without much of a plot, the jokes feel pointless.

Bond does make it fun to look at, though. He draws apes almost as expressively as cover artist Art Adams. Somehow he also manages to make the obligatory Chaykin stand-in, Detective Komykz, not look like an obvious Chaykin stand-in.

Rating: Midge

Crux #7
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Steve Epting and Rick Magyar

Waid plunges us into the action, starting with the Atlanteans facing off against a talking member of The Negation. Unfortunately in their zeal they kill it before they can actually get any answers as to what happened to the human race. Failed, morale weakened, and realizing that their only bond is their shared ancestry, the team starts falling apart.

They do the only thing they can: the Atlantean story-telling ritual.

Oh, that might sound kind of anti-climactic, but Waid makes it work. As each member of the team takes turns essentially improvising the history of Atlantis, they reveal their own psychologies, and unexpectedly find something to hold them together. It's a cool concept, and somebody is bound to steal it for a team-building business (if Waid hasn't started one already…)

Epting gets to return to his early Atlantean designs, and his imagination runs even further back in time. He's up to the task. This book remains a strong one, and one of the best buys of the week.

Rating: Veronica

Crux #7
reviewed by Charlie Wentling.

After an attempt to get information from a captured Negation bug fails, the team's morale is at an all-time low. Capricia is concerned that they have lost faith in her leadership. She initiates an Atlantean ceremony of bonding, in which one person starts telling a story, then the next one takes over, then the next, etc.

More than half of this issue is devoted to the story that the group comes up with. The story changes with the personality of the person telling it. Are we seeing the tale of the founding of Atlantis, or is this just another story? It can be taken either way.

The thing that I like the most about Crux is that I don't know where Mark Waid is going with things. The issue ends with a revelation that will drive the story for the next few months at least. More good character development here, and the art is very nice as well.

Rating: A-

The Flash #179
Smile For The Camera
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Scott Kolins and Doug Hazlewood

Even in the midst of a crossover clusterflub, Johns manages to move his own plans forward. Making lemonade, the intrusion of Joker Toxin kills two birds with one stone: marks the return of Captain Boomerang and reveals that all is less well with The Pied Piper than we'd dreamed. In addition, another villain gets killed (for now), so I guess that really makes three birds.

Wally and Linda confront the Piper in prison, where their friend confesses that he thinks he killed his parents, but cannot be sure. Elsewhere on the way to Iron Heights, Jokerized villains assault a transport carrying the horribly wounded (from months ago) Digger Harkness. (Kolins draws raw meat disturbingly well, by the way.)

The villains infect Harkness with toxin, revealing another slap in the head facet of the toxin: it immediately heals all wounds, which sure explains The Joker's own longevity. But when the madness spreads to The Pied Piper, Captain Boomerang gets more than he bargained for, and we get another clue as to just what the heck is happening with this long-reformed villain.

It's an exciting book that refuses to be derailed by editorially driven plot complications. Kolins continues turning out some of the most unique work in DC, almost as if Keith Giffen had struck a better balance between style and content. Even people who don't particularly like The Flash as a character should be buying this one.

Rating: Veronica

For another opinion, check out reviewer Daryl Tay's site here.

Green Arrow #9
The Weird World of Stanley And His Monster
writer: Kevin Smith, artists: Phil Hester and Andre Parks

Oh, us smug slaves of DC continuity. We think we know so much. We think we have it all figured out because we have locked so much DC trivia away in our brains. Yes, many of us sneered and acted shocked at the obviousness of Stanley and his monster holding the key to Kevin Smith's run.

And once again, the brilliant jerk completely blindsided us. Without negating or drastically re-thinking the work done in a kinder, gentler time, Smith has unveiled the dark side to a humorous strip, and made it fit perfectly within this storyline.

Though it's still bothersome to think of Green Arrow as a man without a soul (and I do not discount the possibility of getting jerked around again on that one), Smith has clearly re-positioned Oliver Queen as a major player. And the sometimes underrated Phil Hester even makes Connor Hawke look formidable. The last panel of this issue is simple, and provides one of the best cliff-hangers in months.

Rating: Cheryl Blossom

Green Lantern #143
I'm Here All Week, Make Sure To Take Care Of Your Waitresses
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos

Though side-tracked a bit by the crossover, Winick has taken advantage of it to make a quick point about a villain's overall personality. Grayven, the fairly recently discovered son of Darkseid, has been infected by Joker Toxin, but does not go on a mindless crime spree. No, that would be too simple. Winick has to give him a method to his madness.

When you come from a world without humor, what do you do when suddenly everything is funny? If you're a hyper-competitive child of Apokolips, you become a stand-up comic, but first you literally destroy all your competition. And of course, for Grayven, a few jokes get lost in the translation.

While a lot of other books have just been using Jokerized villains to commit random mayhem, it's nice to see a villain not lose sight of his own basic instincts. The art team comes through with a pretty good redesign of Grayven as a Joker, not just slapping Joker features on him.

And in the end, Winick manages to move things forward to what he has been building toward all along. The answer still is not clear, but there are hints of something pretty chilling.

Rating: Veronica

Joker: Last Laugh #4
Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere
writers: Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, artist: Andy Kuhn

As predicted, this book sets the stage for everything to return to the status quo, but not before remembering that it's as much about Shilo Norman as The Joker. That part makes it fairly cool, as the erstwhile Mister Miracle has to figure out a way to ally himself with a whole bunch of nasties in order to get out of the singular prison Black Mass created.

Unfortunately, there's still all this mess with The Joker himself. And though Kuhn's artwork gets less unpleasant under his own inking, he still draws a lot of villains pretty interchangeably. Part of that may be the fault of Dixon and Beatty, who have introduced quite a few with internalized powers. No matter how cool they are, Kuhn does not really have a lot to work with.

Overall, the series still feels like a mistake, but we paid for it. In so many ways.

Rating: Midge

Nightside #1
Hostile Takeover
writer: Robert Weinberg, artist: Tom Derenick

Marvel and DC should both be doing more books like this. Horror novelist Weinberg has brought one of his characters, Sydney Taine, into this title. Not necessarily an adaptation of his work, it still could bring new readers to comics without bogging them down in a lot of tangled continuity.

That said, Weinberg really has not brought anything else new. Though Taine is human, Weinberg's supernatural Others feel strangely like Vampirella's Unseelie Congress. Mix in a little old-fashioned mob warfare and a hint of Hong Kong Cinema (oh, it's coming - mark my words), and there's a lot of been there, done that.

Yet it has style. Derenick does some amazing layout work here, and his Taine really is as good-looking as Weinberg has other characters think she is. The dialogue has the feel of a good cop drama, if occasionally getting bogged down in trying to explain everybody.

We have no way of knowing who is behind the murders set up here, but the better, more intriguing mystery lies in how a normal human can navigate so easily through the Nightside. Sure, I could read one of Weinberg's books, but I think I'll stick around for the next few issues of the comic instead.

Rating: Veronica

For another opinion, check out reviewer Daryl Tay's site here.

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #36 or 134
The Big Score
writer: Paul Jenkins, artists: Staz Johnson and Wayne Faucher

Finally, Jenkins feels back on track. Even though neither Spider-Man nor Peter Parker makes much of an appearance here, he looms largely and effectively. Small time P.I. Billy Fender has stayed in NYC obsessed with the titular big score. What is it? Figuring out just who Spider-Man is, and how to make it pay.

Along the way Jenkins paints a portrait of a detective not too bright, just dogged. And the clues he puts together reveal how easy it should be to figure out who any public hero is, especially since some of them are things that Peter wouldn't know himself. Fender confronts his man, which will have some pretty big ramifications in the next couple of months.

It does feel weird not having Buckingham on this one. Faucher does the best he can to maintain the look over guest-penciller Staz Johnson, but a lot of it ends up looking like a Liefeld swipe. Not terrible, mind you, just sort of Xeroxed from somewhere else. This is a case where the story saves the day.

Rating: Betty

Scion #17
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Andrea Di Vito and Rob Hunter
reviewed by Charlie Wentling.

Ethan, Skink and Exeter join with Ashleigh to try and destroy a genetics facility that was involved in the creation of the lesser races. They battle some mutants, and Exeter meets his maker, literally. Ethan must deal with some tricky ethical issues, and he reaches a turning point that has been coming since the series began.

Andrea Di Vito (who penciled The First #12 three weeks ago) gets better and better with each issue. His style works even better here than it did in The First. Ethan is becoming a character with some serious divided loyalties, and this is going to cause him grief in the future. This marks another solid issue of one of CrossGen's most solid titles.

Rating: B+

Supergirl #63
The Best Medicine
writer: Peter David, artists: Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs

Another writer refuses to let a crossover get in the way of his overall plans. What is it with this week?

The weakened Supergirl loses out to her Bizarro duplicate, who for some reason has all the powers that Linda once had. Only the timely interference of Batgirl (well written here) saves her. That and the Bizarro's realization that she has a thing for high voltage.

While that goes on, the Jokerized Buzz and Two-Face (and of all Bat-villains only The Riddler could be more redundant as a Joker) attempt a crime spree. With their insanity, however, they end up acting more as Robin Hoods. And through it all, the former demon cannot help but feel that something is terribly, terribly wrong.

Credit Peter David for making a demon sympathetic without making him funny. It's impressive, and certainly not the direction anyone would have predicted in the early issues of this book. But hey kids, that's good writing, which means you should be reading it.

Rating: Veronica

Superman: The Man of Steel #119
Snowball's Chance
writer: Mark Schultz, artists: Yvel Guichet, Dexter Vines, and Walden Wong

This book wins the coveted "Ugliest of the Week" award. Guys, the secret to McGuinnes' success is the lightness of it. This book has been inked so darkly that instead of looking busy, it just looks cluttered. There's nowhere to let the eye rest and enjoy. Even Krypto looks like an angular, grim and gritty version of himself. It's a puppy, people.

Schultz does what he can, though even in the best of times, a lot of Superman books just feel like they're marking time until somebody comes up with the next best thing. This week The Eradicator gets Jokerized, sort of. His conflicting Kryptonian programming makes it difficult to tell. What does drive him crazy, though, is the revelation of the new alternate Krypton. Hey, Eradicator, it drives a lot of readers crazy as well. We just don't want to see it destroyed.

In the end, we get a re-designed Fortress. Now, if somebody could stop that stupid robot from being so painfully hip-hop (only early Teen Titans could be more ridiculous in terms of lingo), we could all rest easier.

Rating: Midge


Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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