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.

The Adventures of Superman #598
Cult of Persuasion
writer: Joe Casey, artists: Mike Wieringo, Mauricet and Jose Marzan, Jr.

As Casey promised at the San Diego Comic-Con, Superman gets his own version of the 30th Century villain The Persuader. Whether or not it ends up being the same villain remains to be seen; I've lost track of revamped Legion continuity, so it could be.

It starts ominously enough, with a loop of Superman's recent hard-light battle with The Fatal Five broadcasting to all the television sets in Metropolis. Written off as a side effect of the B13 technology that essentially runs the city, most people ignore it.

But Cole Parker, a factory worker embittered by Perry White's anti-B13 campaign, finds inspiration in the broadcast. Instead of unionizing, he outfits his fellow workers like The Persuader and kidnaps Perry. Luckily for Superman, he doesn't yet have the atomic axe.

Casey has made a good choice with this villain. If he does power up to the level of the 30th century character, he will make a believable and challenging foe for Superman. He isn't there yet, but then, he isn't supposed to be. Wisely, this "origin" is taking its time.

Rating: Veronica

The Amazing Spider-Man #36
Stand Tall
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna

In interviews, Stracyznski has said that he initially didn't want to do this. After a week or so, inspiration struck him and he barreled through the story. He should have stuck with his first instinct.

Please, before you start sending hate mail, bear with me. The attack on the World Trade Center was horrible, frightening, and a great tragedy. But Marvel is already commenting upon it by putting out the noble-minded Heroes book. Using Marvel characters, however, to comment on the situation just rings false.

They had all the best intentions. But publishing being what it is, the shock and raw emotion faded by the time the book could be released, and unfortunately, we've been buffeted by a few more incidents since then. New York City, rightfully, understandably, is still reeling, but the rest of the country has turned to wondering what's next.

Having Marvel's major villains show up to cry is just a terribly melodramatic touch that cheapens those best intentions. These are guys that have leveled cities to get what they want; are we really to believe that they themselves have never killed Americans in pursuit of their goals? And just a few months ago in Peter Parker the villain blew up a New York building, killing hundreds, and such fictional tragedy only rated a few panels of Peter's introspection before the fighting resumed.

Still, John Romita, Jr. does an amazing job of portraying the wreckage, and when the book focuses on the real (or at least, realistic) people caught in the tragedy, it is moving.

So I'd have to be a real a**hole not to give it at least a Betty. This book has the best of intentions; it's just wrong.

Rating: Betty

For a different opinion, see Daryl Tay's reviews at Unique Frequencies.

Detective Comics #764
Writer: Greg Rucka, Artists: Shawn Martinbrough, Jesse Delperdang
Reviewed by: Michael Goodson

Batman has always had the best supporting cast in comics and since No Man's Land, that cast has been changing. First Commisioner Gordon retired. Then Spoiler joined the crew. Sasha was next when she became Batman's bodyguard. Now there is a new, yet very familiar character joining the mix. This issue welcome Maggie Sawyer to the Gotham City P.D. While she adjusts to her new position, we also gain more insight in to Sasha's relationship. Not to be left out, the Vesper Fairchild plotline advances. Absent from most of the issue is Batman.

There is nothing wrong with an issue that focuses on the supporting cast. It's a nice break from the usual action packed storylines, but I can't really say that the issue is terribly interesting.

For months now, we've seen Sasha struggle to understand Batman/Bruce Wayne. It's time for her plotline to get turned up a notch. Since she is a character that is mostly ignored or forgotten in the other Batman books, then Rucka must have a short story arc planned for her. Vesper recently returned from…wherever she was and came back into Bruce's life, but she has yet to do or say anything that we haven't seen from the other Bat-beards.

In short, fine story, but get to the point already.


writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Chuck Austen

By coincidence, this book does much to provide real debate on our current situation. Set in a fictionalized Iraq, Bendis presents a straight-forward slugfest between Elektra and The Silver Samurai. Framing the fight (literally) are talking heads, pundits and news reporters discussing the politics of our relationship with Iraq, and of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s incursion there.

It's a clever device, and makes the actual fight almost irrelevant. Along the way he includes some startling revelations that will make you go back and re-read earlier issues.

Austen's work grows more and more assured and interesting. Even the talking heads brim with emotion.

While I agree with Bendis' decision to delay this issue for a few weeks, it's good to have it here at last.

Rating: Veronica

Fury #3
Here Comes The Pain
writer: Garth Ennis, artists: Darick Robertson and Jimmy Palmiotti

Robertson and Palmiotti provide terrific artwork here. Nick Fury looks perfectly grim with just the slightest twinkle of excitement. Everything is richly detailed, and even the coloring holds the eye.

It's too bad that the story has become just a re-hash of other Ennis books.

Instead of giving us something new, Ennis puts Arseface and The Russian into a blender and comes up with F***face. He even calls attention to it, having Colonel Gagarin make reference to the real-life model for Arseface. But by becoming so blatant, it also calls attention to the familiarity of the situation -- didn't The Punisher just invade an island stronghold that was about to commit terrorist acts against the so-called free world? The politics may be different here, but the actions remain the same.

Except that Nick Fury makes G.I. Joe look like Ken. And that's enough to hold me until the end of the mini-series. Still, Ennis owes us for this one.

Rating: Betty

Green Lantern #144
The Battle of Fire and Light
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos

Last issue left us with everything coming to a head in terms of Kyle's power. Little did we realize how long ago the seeds had been planted.

Kyle has absorbed all the energy Parallax stole, re-absorbed Oblivion, and may now be the most powerful being in the galaxy. The price, however, is that he merely radiates energy, and has to exert willpower just to notice the world around him. Tapping the yin to his yang is Nero, already terribly disconnected from reality. (And even though Kyle has long been invulnerable to yellow, tradition dictates that Nero's energy be, of course, yellow.)

Most of this issue gets devoted to trying to explain what's actually happening. And after reading it a couple of times, it still makes little sense. Winick has created a situation so awesome that it seems even he doesn't quite understand it. Since this is a superhero comic, it's safe to say just have a fight scene already. Please.

On a cool sidenote, Martin Nodell and Bill Finger get credited for creating Sentinel. Maybe they've done that before, but it's the first time I noticed. And even though it's a little skewed (they did, after all, really create the Green Lantern concept), we should be made aware of whose imagination sparked something that's kept us reading sixty years later.

Rating: Betty

Harley Quinn #14
Welcome To Metropolis
writer: Karl Kesel, artists: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

Okay, maybe it's a little fetishistic. But it's fun to basically see Harley and Ivy as Biker Kittens. The two have gone on a road trip, and the only danger here is that Harley occasionally pays tribute to Thelma & Louise.

Despite a change in locale, the book still has its share of black humor. The girls get their new Metropolis penthouse by witnessing its owner commit suicide. And evidently Harley has taken a vow to kill Jimmy Olsen, but her running into him ends up being only incidental to pursuing her new calling as matchmaker.

Donning a pair of glasses, she uses Ivy's special talents to become the Daily Planet's love advice columnist. As a writer for a great metropolitan newspaper, it can only be a matter of time before the other writer with glasses runs afoul of Harley's wiles.

All you need to know about Harley you've probably already gathered from the animated series, so you can jump aboard any time.

Rating: Veronica

Justice League Adventures #1
writer: Ty Templeton, artists: Min S. Ku and Dan Davis

Want to know how to get kids interested in reading comics? Start right here.

No stranger to adapting animated series to comics, Templeton crafts a fast-paced story that neatly juggles the huge cast without giving short shrift to any. In a nutshell, the League has a limited amount of time to either defuse a gravity bomb or evacuate the Earth. Since this isn't The Authority, defusing will be the only real option.

Ku and Davis provide interiors consistent with the look of the actual animated series. On the cover, series creator Bruce Timm teams with Alex Ross to make this cover leap off the stand, just like in the old days of the spinner racks.

Not only does Templeton deliver a solid story that spans only one issue (gasp!), DC has offered this at $1.99. That's the least expensive book on the market, and one of the best this week. Give it to a kid. He'll thank you.

Rating: Cheryl Blossom

Nightwing #63
Red, Fright, and Blue
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Trevor McCarthy and Karl Kesel

Ted Kord comes out of semi-retirement to help Robin mop up a little more Joker trouble. Coincidentally, one of Ted's old enemies, Fleeter of The Madmen, has escaped being given the antidote and fled to Bludhaven.

Of course, Dick Grayson proves to be no help, as he's still brooding over having killed The Joker, even though Batman revived him. So Robin and The Blue Beetle stand alone against the stupidest villains to ever invade Nightwing's adopted town.

Okay, this story provides a necessary link, but if Grayson's guilt is so great, why does it only take an issue to get over it? Of course, the better question is why set it up at all? And inconsistently enough, the one character who truly does want The Joker dead ends up being the one who has to explain to Dick why he didn't cross the line.

The Last Laugh must have just burned Dixon out. He's better than this cheap melodrama.

The art does not help him out, either. It's not the manga-esque quality that hurts; it's the lack of consistent perspective. Somebody teach McCarthy proper use of foreshortening.

Rating: Midge

Origin #3
The Beast Within
writer: Paul Jenkins, artists: Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove

Isanove's digital painting technique enhances, rather than covers, Kubert's always sterling pencils. That alone may make this book worthwhile, as right now, it is legitimately one of the most beautiful on the stand, without a lot of airbrushed mammary glands leaping out from the cover.

But no matter how much hype and spin co-plotters Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada put on this book, the story still feels flat. Granted, with so much anticipation, it would be hard to deliver on the years of mystery.

Moving from a riff on The Secret Garden, this issue feels like the Rankin-Bass production of Wolverine Is Coming To Town. You can almost hear the child-like voice say, "so that's why he doesn't have any memory…"

The only real suspense left now comes from a cryptic utterance by James' insane mother on page 3. "Not AGAIN." Dare we hope this includes Sabertooth? From the looks of things, we'll be borrowing from Jack London next issue.

Could Wolf Larsen be…Sabertooth?

Rating: Veronica

Peter Parker: Spider-Man Annual 2001
It's Good To Be King
writer: Fiona Avery, artist: Juan Roman Cano

This book takes me back to a time when this is what annuals did on a regular basis. It's a quirky, cool story that has no effect on regular continuity. Call it Legends of the Arach-Knight.

Avery takes us to a time when a still teen-aged Peter planned to spend a summer in Peru. Once arriving in the country, his rescue of a bus attracts the attention of a tribe of spider-worshipping natives, who both accept and need him for his abilities. If we take this as being really early in his career, the characterization of being unsure how to handle actually being liked makes a lot of sense.

The artwork has a Corbenesque feel, and that may turn some people off. But the layouts are pretty dynamic. Cano draws Peter believably teen-aged and, as he should be, somewhat scrawny. The powers lie in the blood, not the muscles.

Priced at only $2.99, this book provides a surprising amount of bang for your buck.

Rating: Veronica

Sigil #18
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Scot Eaton and Andrew Hennessy
rating: C
reviewed by Charlie Wentling.

I was a bit disappointed with this month's issue. It seems like nothing is happening here. CrossGen often has slow-paced stories, but it normally doesn't bother me. The characters here spend too much time telling each other what has been happening in past months. This wouldn't be so bad if recent issues weren't already summarized inside the front cover.

I also don't like that the hero only appears on eight pages of the issue. The supporting cast isn't compelling enough to carry the story without Sam. Roiya and JeMerik continue to pretend that Sam is still leading the Union forces, and I think I will pretend right along with them. Sam's eight pages are interesting… his new barbarian friends are outnumbered five to one and about to get trounced.

The art here is decent but not exceptional. The "surprise" ending was not all that surprising. While not bad, I would describe the whole thing as pedestrian.

Sojourn #5
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Greg Land and Drew Geraci
rating: A-
reviewed by Charlie Wentling.

After six months, most of the exposition is out of the way and all three of the major characters get good development. Arwyn is skeptical of the quest she is being set up to do, and doubts that the bow she was given last month actually belonged to Ayden. Neven remains mysterious, but we get hints at the greater purpose that is driving her.

Perhaps the best part was Gareth. His character always struck me as cliched, but something clicks here, and he seems more like a real guy. I thought that one-eyed people didn't have depth perception, which would make it tough for them to be good with a bow and arrow, but maybe that's the point. His narration also worked well this time.

Plotwise, the trolls tracks down Arwyn and Gareth, who end up in a fight for their lives. Neven conveniently vanishes at the worst possible moment. And Arwyn first sees what Ayden's bow can do. The art is consistently excellent. It does amuse me, however, that everyone's clothing looks clean enough to be fresh from the washing machine.

Suicide Squad #3
Pest Control
writer: Keith Giffen, artists: Paco Medina and ? Sanchez

Far more than John Ostrander did in his version, Giffen will do nothing if not prove the premise of the title. The cost is that no matter how cool the situation, we really cannot get into the characters.

This month Sgt. Rock and his new Easy Company send a band of villains to an island resort overrun by super-intelligent ants. Recognizable among them are Killer Frost and Bolt, though neither of these characters would fall under the category of fully-developed elsewhere. Also with them lurks Larvanaut, a new one on me.

As they try to defeat the ants, the truth behind the mission goes to really prove that Sgt. Rock has become a complete bastard. So if any Rock fans actually read this book, they should be pretty pissed. It's revisionist, it's irreverent, and it's Giffen.

But so far it does not have Giffen's usual saving grace of being funny. Instead, it all just feels pointlessly mean, as if Giffen read some of Ennis' The Punisher and only thinks he gets what makes it work.

He had better improve it fast, or this Suicide Squad will just be a blip.

Rating: Midge

Wonder Woman #175
Girl Frenzy
writer: Phil Jimenez, artists: Jimenez, Badeaux, Lanning, Stucker, Marzan Jr., Conrad and Alquiza

Aaah! AAAAHHH! It's BACK! DC promised us Last Laugh was over!

Thankfully, secretly, Jimenez has provided us with only a tangential prequel. From the events here, The Joker gets an element that allows him to make his toxin on the grander (and money-devouring) scale seen this past month.

That out of the way, we can enjoy this book for what it is: a wild slug-fest with every superheroine and villainess in the DCU. It ends up being little more than a Who's Who, but it still provides some fun. With its incredibly densely packed line-up, this book rivals any of George Perez' fabled huge cast books. Call it Crisis On Infinite Estrogen.

To make the biggest slug-fest of all, Circe has transformed Superman into his own worst nightmare - Doomsday. And this beast can only focus his rage and hatred on Wonder Woman. Jimenez gives the fans what they want in the way of a fight, all without letting Diana lose her grip on her ideals. Without warning, in one page Jimenez does a better job of expressing Superman's grief than any of the man of steel's regular books did last month.

Rating: Cheryl Blossom

X-Force #121
Captain Coconut
writer: Peter Milligan, artist: Michael Allred

The overall new arc title is Lacuna, which Myles defines to the team as "a missing portion." To play along with this, as you read, you will notice several missing portions. Part of this can be chalked up to the character Lacuna herself, but part of it may just be Milligan being too hip for the room.

It ends up making the story rather disjointed. While weird things happen all around the Force, they all seem to be taking it way too much in stride. The "mysterious financial backer" encourages Phat and Myles to be more visible and start fights within the team. Despite their taking that to heart too easily, the other members fight back and don't question.

Yes, it does further satirize our game and image obsessed culture, and perhaps the emptiness of a lot of popular comics a few years ago (X-titles included), but it seems lazy for a book that has been so cool so far.

Luckily, Allred continues doing fantastic work. For such a simplistic style, his characters remain very distinct, and the art may be what carries us through until Milligan regains his footing.

Rating: Veronica


Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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