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.
Action Comics #784
Whose Mind Is It Anyway?
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Rouleau, Alquiza, and Stucker
Rouleau makes a cameo appearance on page five, asking the plaintive
question: "Am I on drugs?" That's one of those in-joke questions that
just should never make it to print, because after reading this issue,
one can only hope.
The Joker's toxic
rain has fallen on Metropolis, leaving many (but not all - it's confusing,
or perhaps just not really well thought out) citizens as Jokers themselves.
Worst of all, somehow (and mercifully off-camera) Green Lantern has
been infected. Luckily, Batman has stopped by to help Superman. Never
mind that all three heroes had a different plan going on in JLA
These are the kind
of continuity collisions that cause aneurysms.
Joe Kelly has remembered
what many critics have mentioned about this event: hey, it hasn't been
that long since Emperor Joker. So naturally, even though
Superman has made it through three weeks of the crossover without thinking
about it, now he is completely plagued by the memory, and near-traumatized
in his fear of seeing Batman get mind-raped again.
When Batman finds
out that Superman took away his memory of the event, he gets ticked.
Except that neither one remembers that actually, Superman did not absorb
Batman's memories - he gave them to The Joker. Here comes another aneurysm…
The art, appropriately
enough, runs pretty inconsistently, though it shows a creative interpretation
of Kyle working the ring. Rouleau draws Batman way too much like The
Midnighter to be comfortable, so that even Batman complaining that Superman
does not have the "authority" seems like a bad joke.
Only one more week
of bad crossover…poit.
City On Fire
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Scott McDaniel and Aaron Sowd
In the midst of
madness, Brubaker makes the wisest choice. Sure, Batman would be distracted
by all of his most insane enemies running loose at once, but other criminals
wouldn't be. After all, Zeiss still has a mob contract to fulfill.
Luckily for Batman,
the crazies are everywhere and unwittingly run interference. In this
case, it's a potentially tasteless villain named Santa Klaus, a German
nutball in a Santa suit.
McDaniel and Sowd
do a bang-up job, and the whole thing moves quickly, cleanly, and entertainingly.
The only jarring moment in the book occurs on the last page, which feels
tacked on in the wake of September 11, and out of character for Santa
Blood Runs Thicker…
writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, artists: Michael Lopez and Scott Hanna
One can just imagine
the meeting on this one. "Hey, that Buffy show sure has a nice young
demographic. Who do we have like that?"
The answer, after
some twisting by Abnett and Lanning, comes up Bloodstone. Not
Ulysses Bloodstone, who lurked in the Marvel Universe in the seventies
(and looks like it, as gets pointed out), but his heretofore unknown
daughter Elsa Bloodstone.
Heir to the Bloodstone
fortune, Elsa has disturbing dreams in which she hunts vampires. Any
resemblance to characters living, dead, or in between on UPN is purely
coincidental. And actually, kind of petty to point out.
Despite its obvious
reason for existing, it's kind of fun in its own right. And Elsa will
be dipping into an already established mythology, supported by mysterious
characters that lurked in those same '70's Marvels that her father did.
As to what's actually going on (and how in the heck an immortal monster
fighter died in the first place), this book looks to be worth following
for a while.
And besides, as
drawn by Lopez and Hanna, Elsa looks far more like Britney than Buffy.
A very, very guilty one.
story and art by Jeff Smith
one of the most foreboding covers of the series, perfect for Halloween.
Vedu guards loom over the Bone cousins, as their presence haunts them
in the story within.
As usual, this
book walks the tightrope between high adventure and cartoony fun. New
players get introduced to the equation, and suddenly the Bones are faced
with a conspiracy inside a conspiracy. But there's still time for Phoney
Bone to start working an angle to be the richest Bone in town, while
Smiley pursues his forbidden friendship with Bartleby, the only smart
(and kind) rat creature.
The story feels
close to its ending, which I look forward to with anticipation and sadness.
But then, there's always whatever Smith will do next.
writers: Chuck Dixon & Scott Beatty, artists: Darryl Banks and Wayne
Of all the vaguely
frightening villains the DCU has, Dr. Polaris has always seemed to have
a lot of untapped potential. Fittingly for this book, Dixon and Beatty
reveal some of it, as Polaris starts changing the Earth's poles.
This looks like
a job for the JLA. It's just too bad that all this gets stuck as just
another chapter of The Joker: Last Laugh.
Okay, maybe that's
unfair. JLA has become a title of sweeping arcs, so it's jarring
to have a one-shot story that fits in as part of a company-wide cross-over.
The team interaction works well, and Dixon & Beatty play up Plasticman's
role, which is always a good thing.
But how do these
guys have time to team up when they're so busy fighting Jokers in their
writer: John Ostrander, artists: Val Semeiks and Prentis Rollins
At least this version
of the JLA had no choice but to be full-time. Ostrander sets his sights
on the post-Giffen era team; still funny, but starting to slide into
The leader of Bialya
has turned the country into a haven for super-criminals, so Booster
Gold and Blue Beetle decide to pose as villains, sneak in, and discredit
the government in a scheme that's just so crazy it might work. Except
it's the team once known as Blue and Gold. And they hardly ever do anything
right. (It's no accident that neither has an active career in the present-day
however, are pure. All they want to do is make Batman like them, and
who couldn't understand that?
the silly tone without sacrificing logic, and the art team actually
looks like a lot of what got done for the original book. Unfortunately,
it serves as a reminder that DC just has not given this era enough respect.
We need more reprint volumes.
The back-up story
relates the collapse of Extreme Justice, for better reasons than sudden
cancellation. In it Ostrander back-hands books like The Authority,
a theme that has run through DC's books of late. Don't they know that
technically DC publishes those books?
At any rate, this
issue provides a taste of two very different but still entertaining
eras in JLA history, and should clear your mind of that whole Detroit
Joker: Last Laugh
mad, mad world
writers: Chuck Dixon & Scott Beatty, artist: Ron Randall
Finally, this book
gets some decent art. The various Jokers have become distinguishable.
The story even gets a dramatic twist to it, even though again, little
inconsistencies pop up that will make your head go poit if you think
about them too hard.
Most of this issue
splits its focus between the Bat-cast (which is where it should have
stayed instead of spilling out into the rest of the DCU) and Shilo Norman.
Both provide tension, broken a little by the ridiculous and still disgusting
Mr. Mind. If the previous couple of issues had had this quality, the
cross-over might not have ticked me off so much.
But they didn't,
and worse, despite it being both last week's cliff-hanger and this week's
cover image, the book does not actually deal with the Joker Rain. The
most chilling aspect of the whole story, and Dixon and Beatty forget
That leaves you,
the reader who cares, to hunt down which books this week acknowledge
that such a problem exists. Assuming that you, the reader who cares,
It also leaves
me with a question: when did Guy Gardner come back from the dead and
become an inmate of Arkham? The first reader to explain it to me gets
a prize. Or at least my gratitude for the week.
writer: Barbara Kesel, artists: Steve McNiven and Tom Simmons
reviewed by Charlie Wentling.
more allies in her quest to create a new coalition of trading states.
She is finally reunited with Jad in a nice romantic moment. But the
future does not look like it will be quite so happy. There is a dangerous
love triangle that is sure to cause problems, and Ilahn seems willing
to let an island fall from the sky just to show his power.
art is getting better and better. Sometimes it reminds me of Todd McFarlane,
from back when he actually was drawing comic books for a living. The
story moves along nicely. My biggest complaint is that there are too
many supporting characters and none of them is getting much development.
New X-Men #118
Germ Free Generation
writer: Grant Morrison, artists: Ethan Van Sciver and Prentis Rollins
Morrison and his
art team open with a pretty stark image: a teenage nerd holds his school
assembly hostage, ready to get revenge for all the petty slights he
has endured. While we've unfortunately seen this many times in real
life, it's never had this twist: the boy buys into "The 3rd Species"
rhetoric introduced in the New X-Men annual, and plans to alter
himself into mutancy.
Though the boy
gets killed quickly, his dream does not, and Morrison sets the stage
for a long struggle between The 3rd Species, or U-Men, and the X-Men
Not much actually
happens; instead the book devotes its space to vignettes offering new
looks at how each character acts, and how their powers work. All of
it gets beautifully illustrated by Sciver and Rollins. Though Frank
Quitely still provides the covers, his work is not missed inside.
Last week Morrison
touted his getting rid of the classic superhero activity in this book.
Though still in transition, it is apparent that the New X-Men
is shifting. After almost four decades of talking about Xavier's dream,
somebody is finally talking about how it would actually happen.
it's exciting. And it's as worth $2.25 as anything else on the stand.
Sized Annual #1
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Reviewed by Michael Goodson
This is the first
ever Giant Sized Powers Annual but it should really be called "You Paid
for Giant Sized and We Gypped You on Art." The story opens in the interrogation
room with Walker and Pilgrim questioning a superhero about an unusual
death. That lasts for 13 pages and the rest of the book is all written
transcript of the court trial. If I wanted several pages of typed words
with the occasional picture thrown in, I'd read Maxim.
The story itself
is good, but not good enough to justify buying it. If you are a regular
Powers reader then you can skip this one shot and not miss much. Only
the true Powers enthusiast should go here. On a positive note, the Powers
mailbag is quite funny this month. Bendis asked some of his peers in
the comic world to send him their most entertaining pieces of hate mail.
Bob Gale, Paul Jenkins, Greg Horn, Jim Mahfood all deliver. If nothing
else, read that while standing in the comic book store.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Butch Guice and Michael Perkins
the city of Partington, which would look suspiciously like an idealized
Victorian London if not for one thing: all the gargoyles flying around.
Actually, the gargoyles
only serve as a touch of whimsy (so far). The real star is Simon Archard,
master detective. A little bit Holmesian, he has the most keen analytical
mind on the planet, at the expense of things like manners and personality.
Assisted by the beautiful Emma, Archard solves crimes when the police
All is well for
the two until a mysterious woman from the Eastern land of Kharibast,
Baroness Miranda Cross, sets her sights on Archard.
Except that that's
not really what this book is about. Oh, Waid has fun with Archard, but
tips his hand to the vague overall CrossGen arc too soon. Emma has been
specifically placed to watch over Archard by some mysterious powers
that be, and she demonstrates the orange glow that has appeared on many
It's a shame, because
he writes the master detective so well, though he cheats. The opening
mystery plays as farce, with unrelated clues that the readers would
have no hope of adding up and never get explained. It may just be a
joke, but why not really provide a mystery for Archard (and the readers)
to solve? Ah, yes, that whole techno-supernatural arc thing.
Guice builds a
beautiful convincing world here, peopled by a wide variety of types
and expressions. Strangely underrated by fandom, his work alone would
make this book worthwhile.
CrossGen has launched
another quality book. Go figure.
In the Heart of Battle
Writer: Kurt Busiek, Artist: Manuel Garcia, Inker: Bob Layton
Reviewer: Daryl Tay
I think I expected much more out of the Avengers book, and this is easily
the most disappointing of the issues. The story content was marginally
related to the story, and hardly interesting at all. To have a team
book focus on only 1 member of the team, is really... just not a good
idea, especially when the team is right smack in the middle of an all
out superhuman war against someone who's arguably one of their toughest
Manuel Garcia is still, in my view, a very capable and competent artist,
and he really handles the Avengers well, and his version of the Scarlet
Centurion is rather good. I'm gonna give Busiek credit for doing a character
driven story, but unfortunately it isn't as good as it tends to be on
his other stuff, mainly Astro City, which totally rocks balls.
Warbird is, at best, a 2-D character who used to be a drunk. Kang's
son is a non-introduced character. Put them together for a whole story
and what do you get? A book that reeks of boredom. There also isn't
much focus on the other Avengers this issue, and mainly on these 2 boring
Well. When a story drags on for about 10 issues, you just know some
issues are gonna be weak. This is one of them, but I hope future issues
will pick up the pace, and I'm sure it is, since Busiek looks to be
combining the Triune Understanding's evil with Kang, which should end
with a bang. This would be a bad jumping on issue for anyone, and I
don't recommend you get this.. though waiting for the TPB may be a bad
idea too.. but I think most readers could pick up next issue and still
understand what's going on here.
Reinstated! Part2 of 4
Writer: Josh Blaylock, Artist: Steve Kurth, Inker: John Larter
Reviewer: Daryl Tay
Summary of events:
Cobra continues acts of terrorism while under Destro, and a seemingly
insane Cobra Commander is in something somewhat like an asylum. Meanwhile,
the Old Joes meet the new Joes. During the interaction, it seems obvious
the new Joes are somewhat better than the cocky older Joes and they
realise they have lots to learn from each other. The Joes, both new
and old then storm CObra's base, but Scarlet and Snake-Eyes are captured,
raising the stakes exponentially for the remaining Joes under the command
of Gung Ho and Wild Bill.
It's great that this book was pushed from bi-monthly to monthly, 'cause
it really is good. Though I'd appreciate a little more detailed explantion
of what the individual characters do, so far Blaylock is doing a respectable
job. I personally prefer Cobra Commander to Destro, so I hope they put
him back in charge ASAP. The new Joes are a nice bunch, but I think
introducing them this early is a bad move. New readers like me just
barely can keep track of all the Joes and Cobras involved, and we have
to handle new recuits? No thanks.
While all these little details aren't very well explained, the general
flow of the story definitely is going well. Joes are back in action,
Cobra's back in action, it's shown the old-timers aren't all that great
as they themselves think, and even Snake Eyes and Scarlet can get captured.
Very quickly Jinx and Paige Adams, the girl who shot 6 bullets into
2 holes, are becomming my favourites, though I expected Snake Eyes to
be my favourite in the book. It's interesting how previously the Joes
didn't have much cannon fodder as CObra had, but that changed this issue,
and I think it makes it much more realistic than a handful of men and
women who can take down hundreds of Cobra troops, worthless as they
Jinx is a girl? Man I read the whole of last issue twice and I never
could tell she was a girl. I personally think Kurth's art isn't as suited
to the book as J. Scott Campbell's.. but if it means the book is gonna
ship on time.. okay. While I'd love to know what each Joe specialises
in, I'd like to know what the Cobras do as well.. like the twins, Zartan
and all, I don't know much about them at all.
Chances are, if you're someone who grew up on these characters in the
'80s, there's no way you'd be missing this book, unless you didn't know
it existed. For all the newcommers, I assure you, you won't be left
in the dark if you pick up this book. 'Reinstated!' looks to be the
typical 'gathering of the troops' line, but I'm sure it'll turn out
to be much more than that soon.
Swamp Thing #20
Writer: Brian Vaughan, Artist: Giuseppe Camunocoli, Inker: Cameron Stewart
Reviewer: Daryl Tay
Summary of events:
Tefe, Pilate and Wish head for the Tree of Knowledge, which apparently
is the same tree from which Eve ate from in the Bible. They meet a whole
bunch of ape men who render Wish and Pilate unconscious, and capture
Tefe and take her to the Garderner, the link between humans and animals,
just like Tefe is the link between plants and humans. She then is allowed
to bite the apple, which shows her two extreme versions of what would
happen if her life was used for good, or evil. She leaves deciding she
will choose neither.
Okay... I didn't expect Swamp Thing to go out with a bang... but definitely
not a whimper that this book went out on. Wish had the potential to
be a great character, but has been wasted. Pilate has hardly developed
from the story at all, and Tefe's father is hardly even mentioned.
I must say Camunocoli has captured the feel of the book well... tinges
of horror and humanity all together. Vaughan has managed to make the
main protaganist Tefe rather likable as she really wants to do what's
good for both the Green and humans, which of course, deep down is what
many of us want to do, make the world a better place.
Now basically this issue has Tefe with 2 possible decisions, and she
ends up chosing neither. Hasn't this been here before? Where Tefe had
to choose between the Green and humans, and she ended up doing things
her own way. Though the character herself has definitely grown along
the way, if the basic idea is still of that, I think the series has
If you want a series that ended with a bang, pick up Maverick from about
3 years ago from Marvel, great series. But I digress. Anyhow, Swamp
Thing has really been a story about the maturing of a character from
a confused one, to one that is really concerned about both humans and
the Green. This transition wasn't easy, and while by no means is Vaughan
a bad writer, but I suppose he just didn't have enough of a fan base
to get this book going, which really is a shame.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Butch Guice and Mike Perkins
reviewed by Charlie Wentling.
not exactly what I was expecting, but it does have a lot of potential.
My biggest concern is that the fantasy elements will overwhelm the detective
stories. I thought that since there were no sigils here, we would only
get regular people.
The main character
is Simon Archard, an investigator so good at what he does that he is
easily bored. Mark Waid obviously modeled Archard on Sherlock Holmes,
and that includes a Dr. Watson-style narrator, Emma Bishop. Bishop comes
with a hidden agenda and the power to stop the flow of time.
the murder of a retired sea captain. Despite attempts to throw him off
the trail, he quickly ties together seemingly unrelated clues and uncovers
a drug smuggling operation. But he hasn't yet made the connection to
Miranda Cross, a Baroness with whom he is destined to match wits. The
issue ends with a nice cliffhanger, but I hope this isn't something
that happens every month.
Guice's art is
gorgeous, and well-suited to this type of story. He marvelously captures
the look and feel of Victorian England with a few twists, including
gargoyles that are alive. The entire issue has the Victorian feel, including
the fake newspapers before and after the story, and the photographs
of the creative team in period costume.
This first issue
has ten extra pages without an increase in price, so if you are interested,
now is the time to check it out.
Tangled Web #7
writer: Bruce Jones, artists: Lee Weeks and Josef Rubinstein
New York Cabbie
Charlie Clemmens has a couple of dangerous secrets. First, he has been
diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, which apparently causes him
blinding seizures. Second, somehow, he knows who wears the mask of Spider-Man.
The wallcrawler has never come after Charlie about it, and in turn,
he apparently tips Spider-Man off to crimes in progress.
But when Charlie
Clemmens gets offered an expensive operation that could save his life
but cannot afford, the two secrets seem to be on a collision course.
Jones has begun
an intriguing and strangely quiet story here. It helps that Weeks and
Rubinstein provide quiet work. Though it looks vaguely like Romita,
Jr., the art serves the background people better. After all, that's
the stated focus of this book: the background people.
In Clemmens, we
have an ultimate background person who finds even his time in the foreground
cut short. Jones does not rush into the story; instead, as we might
ourselves, Clemmens agonizes. For a comic book devoted to him, he agonizes
for an awfully long time.
As he does, we
really get to feel his circumstances, his family, and his growing sense
of despair. It's almost cinematic. This looks to be an extremely moving
story, and I can't wait.
War Story: D-Day
writer: Garth Ennis, artist: John Higgins
Sure, we fall all
over ourselves for Garth Ennis stuff. But he's a good writer, dammit.
So when he turns toward something serious, how can we not love it?
When it comes on
the heels of hour upon hour of HBO's Band of Brothers, it can
get hard. Ennis tells the story of a platoon of British soldiers fighting
in Italy, and even though there's real wit and pathos, it has a feeling
of been there, done that.
The real twist
for American audiences, though, is that D-Day Dodgers is British
military history. We tend to make ourselves the heroes (and the victims);
it is good to see another perspective. And not an elephant mating with
a jeep in sight.
has some rough lines to it, but that makes the battle scenes strangely
Overall, this book
tells a worthy story and tells it well enough. But for $4.95, it would
be nice to have a little more.
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
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