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JLA #75
writer: Joe Kelly
artists: Doug Mahnke, Yvel Guichet,
Darryl Banks and Dietrich Smith

As dramatic conclusions go, this one could not help but be anti-climactic. Thanks to a dutiful marketing department, the surprise ending for Aquamn got telegraphed in preview pages three weeks ago. And of course, you knew the JLA couldn't really be dead. They still have endorsement deals.

Be that as it may, overall The Obsidian Age has proven itself a really solid JLA adventure. Kelly mixed the big idea elements so crucial to the book with the difficult task of tying up a company-wide crossover in a way that wouldn't seem forced.

In introducing Gamemnae, Kelly also paid homage to the rich background work done by Peter David on Atlantis. With this issue, he continues characterizing Aquaman in a way that makes the prospect of his own book interesting again. King Orin is noble, heroic, and definitely flawed, but then, so are his subjects.

A couple of interesting points get dropped, but hopefully will get explored in future issues. Maybe I didn't notice before, but Gamemnae alludes to The Golem having even more in common with Superman than vague appearance. And Plastic Man has extremely little to do, which should provide friction.

Surprisingly, there's no friction among the art team. Melding two teams together works seamlessly. This may not be the absolute best book on the stands, but it sure provides healthy competition, being both fun and dynamic to read.


New X-Men #134
writer: Grant Morrison
artists: Keron Grant and Norm Rapmund

While it's appreciated that Morrison has expanded the X-Universe to show us its impact on the world, this issue takes some time to really get into. (Consider it the curse of The Invisibles.) A hip and heretofore unknown mutant gets murdered on the streets of New York, specifically "Mutant Town," a case with the faintest echo of Matthew Shephard.

Students at the Academy grieve, but except for The Midwich Cuckoos and Martha the Brain, they're all strangers to us. That would be fine, except it's these unknown characters with whom we're supposed to identify.

At least Scott and Hank show up to investigate the murder, though Keron Grant draws the investigation with a strange edge. The detective assigned to the case seems too bright-eyed for things to be on the up and up.

Once you get past the dazzle of the ideas (and Mutant Town is not new; to give credit where credit is due, John Ostrander created a similar location for DC over a decade ago in his run on Hawkman), it's becoming uncomfortably clear that Morrison is laying out the same old soap opera style, just with new complications. How many issues must characters debate whether or not The Beast is gay? Commit to something.


Peter Parker: Spider-Man #50
writer: Paul Jenkins
artists: Mark Buckingham and Wayne Faucher

In the quieter, more sensitive Spider-Man book, Jenkins hasn't really done much with the bombshells dropped by JMS. Finally, on the eve of his leaving the title, Jenkins tackles them head on.

The biggest moment comes early, when May comes over after realizing that Peter failed to save the true love of his life. (And sorry, Mary Jane just doesn't deserve that title - it's Gwen.) Troubled by what she still doesn't know, the formerly frail aunt demands the whole truth. Slowly, and interspersed with his interfering with Hammerhead's mob operations, Peter opens up.

Eliminating the subplot of "protecting Aunt May" has been a wise move, and it's good to see another writer run with it. As characterizes the best of Jenkins' work, this issue shows sensitivity and depth. With Buckingham and Faucher as masters of expression, this quieter story may not quite resonate, but it does linger.

And they included The Mime as one of the master villains on the cover. Nice.


Supergirl #76
writer: Peter David
artists: Ed Benes and Alex Lei

Though every woman he draws looks like she's ready for a night on the town, it's quite possible that Benes is the best artist this book has had. Or he will be, if given enough time to really develop. It helps that David seems to be writing to the artist's strengths.

We still have no real explanation for the re-appearance of the girl calling herself Kara Zor-El. My money would be on the character from Superman vs. Aliens a few years back, but that's pure conjecture. Instead of answers, David explores the differences among the Superfamily's powers (Superboy guest-stars), and throws in dinosaurs and robots, too. (Once upon a time, you'd have known that from the cover.)

It's fun without being overly funny, yet more proof that David is one of the best writers in the business, if also one of the most strangely unsung.


The Truth: Red, White & Black #1
writer: Robert Morales
artist: Kyle Baker

If you want to see the black Captain America, you won't find him here. No, writer Robert Morales plans something a little more complex than that, at least from all appearances. Although he offers up three characters who may or not become prototype super-soldiers, this book really isn't about that.

What it is about is a slice of what life was like for African-Americans just before World War II. A couple of stereotypes get busted a bit, and more importantly, Morales sets the stage for why these men just might make the choice to be guinea pigs. (Though it remains to be seen if they actually have a choice.)

Though it veers into the cartoony, Kyle Baker's art is, as expected, excellent. There's a consistency to his caricaturization, so that somehow even in exaggeration, everybody looks real.

The only flaw to the artwork comes in some incorrect coloring, where a dramatic scene gets a little undercut by having two characters appear black at first. The Marvel Must-Have reprint edition probably corrects this. If not, try the Dotcomic, which Marvel just posted on-line in its entirety.

It's well worth the read. My only fear is that this series will work like Origin, raising more questions than it really answers. But at least in this case, we went in not knowing we wanted to ask.


Derek McCaw


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