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!
writer: Joe Kelly, artists: Duncan Rouleau and Marlo Alquiza
Which is more annoying
to translate: Bizarro's speech or Zatanna's spells? Actually, Joe Kelly
has raised the bar by writing an entire story backwards.
I lasted three
pages before finally risking looking stupid and just reading the book
from back to front. Thanks, Joe.
Inside lies the
story of a resurrected Bizarro, wandering the forests of Pokolistan
while General Zod hosts a global conference of unity. Reeling from Lois'
departure, Clark agrees to cover the conference, but quickly becomes
terrified that Zod will realize that Clark Kent and Superman are the
In other words,
war has made Superman into Superwuss. Afraid of his own rage? Moping
around because Lois took some time to travel with her mother? An interesting
story would involve Superman struggling to confront these things, not
doing everything he can to avoid them. It's a misfire from Kelly, almost
salvaged by a poignant return of Bizarro, convinced that Superman has
died and mourning as best he can.
Except that no
one can seem to agree on the rules of Bizarro-speak; not one character
does it consistently, including Bizarro himself. The highlight of the
issue lies in Rouleau and Alquiza's strangely consistent rendering of
Bizarro to resemble Bill Clinton in white-face; it explains so much.
Angel And The
Deus Ex Machina
writers: Chaykin & Tischman, artist: Philip Bond
In fine retro-seventies
style, the cover proudly blares: "Who Done It? WHO CARES!" At least
the book is honest. By the time you sort through all the cast of characters
and keep straight who knew him by what means, it really won't matter.
What Chaykin and
Tischman hope is that you had fun. But this odd mixture of revisionism
and burlesque has left a strange taste. Many of the characters have
a very tired feel to them, especially Angel and Sam's midget secretary.
And the resolution to the mystery may truly revolt you.
Still, Bond has
a light style that makes this book appear more readable than it actually
is. With his renderings, the two detectives' unlikely merging of naivete
and street smarts becomes believable. Should Vertigo bring back Angel
and the Ape (as the closing captions hint, in a nod to seventies
DC Comics), Bond had better be on board.
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
While fleeing from
Batman, a couple of thugs crash their car into a brick wall. Out of
that pops a carpet-swaddled corpse, and with that, of course, comes
The Dark Knight
must track the corpse's identity and unrecorded criminal career, and
Brubaker skillfully ties this into his ongoing storyline. Thankfully,
he also remembers that Bruce Wayne has Sasha watching over him, and
uses that to underscore the emotional climax that must be coming soon.
By using Sasha,
also, Brubaker has a chance to acknowledge that his book does not exist
in a vacuum. We don't need to get mired down in continuity to enjoy
it, but since each title comes with its own angst for Bruce, it is nice
to see his actions in one book color his reactions in another.
And as always,
McDaniel and Owens manage to give the book a distinctive look without
being distracting. It's solid, dependable art that has found a good
writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, artists: Michael Lopez and Scott
It's hard to read
this book and beat down that voice in your head screaming, "It's BUFFY!
It's BUFFY!" at the same time. (I know, I know: she's a monster hunter,
not a vampire slayer…)
And its shameless
pandering to those who just like the thought of young girls bouncing
around in skimpy skintight clothing doesn't help. A full-page shot of
Elsa trying on her new "uniform," pulling it tightly across her chest
while acknowledging "…this feels really pervy," does nothing to make
this seem above board. Nor does the Frankenstein Monster wringing his
hands in the background and repeating "Pervy? Pervy??" do it. At least
Abnett and Lanning clearly establish that Elsa has, um, reached her
Accept that Marvel
does not admit to understanding irony, and move on.
What Abnett and
Lanning are secretly doing is giving new readers a quick tour of the
supernatural status quo in the Marvel Universe. And really, isn't it
more fun through the eyes of young Elsa Bloodstone than that creepy
Dr. Strange guy?
It is. The dialogue
has snap, the Frankenstein Monster as mystical manservant is a great
idea, and if the art team has a tendency to draw Elsa in unlikely Playboy-like
poses, well, don't show the book to your girlfriend or wife and enjoy
Rating: a guilty
Anodyne, part one
writer: Ed Brubaker, artists: Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred
Spinning out of
Brubaker's Slam Bradley back-up in recent issues of Detective,
Selina Kyle gets a well-deserved re-launch of a book that had gotten
wildly out of control.
Here only a few
people in Gotham even know that Selina Kyle is still alive. She goes
to one, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, for therapy (Leslie seems to be an expert
in all fields of medicine). And, as she discovers, she may never get
too far away from the shadow of the bat.
Selina asks herself
the same questions that readers do about her. It has been a while since
she was really a villain, so what is a Catwoman to do?
This journey of
re-definition has begun in the capable mind of Brubaker. With the help
of penciller Cooke, Selina has cast off the purple-suited hottie that
Warner loves to license. The black leather outfit Cooke and Allred now
have her in seems more in tune with the cinematic vision of Catwoman,
but for the goggles. Somehow, it makes her look more like a throwback,
a roguish adventuress straight out of classic pulp fiction.
Which must be the
Brubaker has brought
her back down to the street. As Selina starts investigating the disappearance
of some of the girls she protected in her early days, it's clear that
this is where she belongs. If you're smart, you might not want to get
too close, but you will want to keep reading.
writer: Ron Marz, artists: George Perez and Pablo Marcos
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
The world of Mystic
is the focus of George Perez's final issue of CrossGen Chronicles.
Overall it makes
a good read if nothing spectacular. The story is set roughly 500 years
before the regular series, and deals with Animora's first attack on
Ciress. At that time there were eight major guilds rather than seven,
so we know right off the bat that the "lost" guild is going
to bite the dust here.
We also learn why
each guild has an eternal spirit that inhabits the current guild master.
A doomed love story between two of the guild masters works well. As
expected from Perez, the art is wonderful. This issue is worth buying
for the art alone, including the coloring.
This series is switching
from a quarterly schedule to bi-monthly with the next issue, which is
more good news for CrossGen fans.
The Flash #180
writer: Geoff Johns, artists: Scott Kolins and Doug Hazlewood
The revived and
amped-up Rogues' Gallery still lurk somewhere in the background. This
month, however, The Flash is more concerned with rescuing some of them,
from Fallout, seen powering Iron Heights in the special of the same
name, to a newcomer whose motivations give even the hotheaded Wally
Linda on campus, Wally and the newly transplanted Vic Stone encounter
Peek-a-Boo, a somewhat drably costumed young woman who teleports upon
contact. She makes off with a human kidney, and despite Brian Bolland's
eye-catching cover, Peek-a-Boo clearly does not enjoy either her crime
or her ability to commit it.
As always, Johns
does a great job of letting us into Wally's head. And few people have
mastered the art of the final page cliffhanger as well as he has. Johns
never cheats to keep us on the edge of our seat until next month.
Merry Christmas, Justice League - Now Die!
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Cliff Rathburn and Paul Neary
Waid, the master
of DC's Silver Age, appropriately leaves us with a story that blends
the best of those oftimes goofy tales of the sixties and seventies with
a modern sensibility. (Neron would never have bedeviled the League in
the olden days.)
A tale told by
Plastic Man to put Woozy's nephew to sleep on Christmas Eve, this adventure
inducts Santa Claus into the League. To reveal any detail would be to
ruin the surprises, but trust that this book is great. Mark Waid's run
has been full of suspense, mystery, action, and even horror, and now
he gives us fun.
Rathburn does a good job, especially with the Plastic Man cast. Somehow
the usual grotesquerie of the Winks family seems smooth here, and if
Plas himself looks out of perspective, well, he's the one hero who probably
And from page one,
isn't it nice to see that even the DC Universe has DC Direct?
writer: Barbara Kesel, artist: Derec Aucoin
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
This issue continues
the story from last month. Sephie raids another Cadadorian trader while
her friends test out some new gliders. The island of Torbel starts its
inevitable plunge from the sky. The good guys race to save as many people
as possible before impact with the ground. Sephie learns that she can
use her sigil to create wind, which is a useful talent when you have
a fleet of ships.
Events keep slowly
building but there is no real beginning or ending. Guest artist Derec
Aucoin is a good match stylistically for Steve McNiven. CrossGen continues
to get good work from their guest artists. Often with Marvel or DC the
guest artists suck, but not here.
New X-Men #119
Germ Free Generation, part two
writer: Grant Morrison, artist: Igor Kordey
Whether a year
and a half too late or a year too early, Morrison has made this book
into something that fans of the movie can relate to. Costumes have become
beside the point, and as Morrison has loftily claimed, this book really
is all about ideas.
idea that in a world of mutants, jealous humans would want to get in
on the act. If nature will not take its course, science will take over.
All this will not
be without a price. From the first page, you can see the soullessness
behind it. The leader of the third species presents a helpless Cyclops
and White Queen with the disembodied brain of his resident telepath.
To "Man Plus," mutants are just livestock, to be vivisected and harvested
for mutant organs.
in this year's annual, we only saw the results without thought to where
these organs came from. Now it has become horribly clear. Every page
of this book has me riveted.
Guest artist Kordey
gives it a great layout, too. Though his figure drawing looks a lot
like Bart Sears' work, they leap from panel to panel with a cinematic
feel. Wisely, Marvel will not let this book fall into hack hands.
writer: Chris Kipiniak, artists: Matthew Smith and Mark Morales
On the flip side,
this new "real" X-Men take has hurt Kurt Wagner. The character became
popular by being light-hearted despite his demonic appearance, charming
in a thirties kind of way, and overall being the most fun of the X-Men.
And now…he's positively
grim. Still capable of a wise crack or two, but as rendered by Smith
and Morales, he mostly broods.
Granted, the adventure
concocted by newcomer (to comics) Kipiniak would wipe the smile off
of anyone's face: modern-day slavery. Kurt and his priest/mentor dine
out at a Thai restaurant where a young woman throws herself in their
path. Though she speaks no English, her message is clear: she needs
Kipiniak also throws
in darker hints that a brisk slave trade is being consolidated under
one hand, and that hand belongs to a mutant. While Kurt struggles to
understand this new inhumanity, he may be running out of time to save
The touch that
rankles most, and it is not Kipiniak's fault, is that Kurt uses his
image inducer to walk among men. The happy-go-lucky Nightcrawler of
the early days discarded the device after deciding that he would not
hide his nature. As a reader who left the X-books for a few years, this
development bugs me.
should be lauded for having a Catholic character finding his mission
in his faith without glossing over it in vague terms. At times the dialogue
gets a little stagey, as befits such coming from a playwright, but that
will smooth out the more Kipiniak writes in this medium.
But as with the
other "Icon" mini-series Marvel has produced, the only thing this book
represents is a means of separating you from your $2.50.
Out There #6
Abandon All Hope
writer: Brian Augustyn, artists: Humberto Ramos and Sandra Hope
The good people
of El Dorado City have reached a crossroads. At last their bargain with
Draedalus has come due, and as is often the case with deals with the
devil, they really didn't understand the cost.
Standing in the
way of utter destruction (and a rather disgusting absorption and re-cycling
of the populace's flesh) are four blessed teens. Unsure of their abilities,
or why they have been chosen, they still demonstrate great courage against
the face of evil.
And it's not over
With this issue,
Ramos and company "end book one." A few strands have been left dangling,
but the subplots were introduced so skillfully that it doesn't feel
like a cheat. You could probably stop reading the book here and feel
satisfied, but chances are, you'll want to see where they go next. That's
good comic book work.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Butch Guice and Mike Perkins
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
I want to like this
series more, but I don't know if it is going to happen. All of the things
that I disliked about the first issue are present again. The story has
even less of a mystery than last month. The focus is still on Emma Bishop
rather than Archard. In fact Archard is MIA for half the issue, with
none of the confusion from last month cleared up.
That's not to say
that it's bad. The sense of place is very well developed. Archard is
an interesting character. He is the Bruce Wayne who never witnessed
his parents' deaths or started wearing a costume. The idea has a lot
The art is strong,
but I do have one complaint with it. Guice does unusual layouts on just
about every two-page spread. The panels spill across the middle of the
pages. This distracts me from the story and disrupts the flow. Maybe
it's just that I'm not used to what he is trying to do, but in any case
I wish he would stop it.
Tangled Web #8
Gentleman's Agreement, part two
writer: Bruce Jones, artists: Lee Weeks and Josef Rubinstein
Charlie's deal with
Spider-Man becomes clearer with this chapter, though Jones has wisely
left the mystery as to how exactly he knows Peter Parker's dual identity.
Up until the brain tumor hit, the cabdriver had always used the secret
for good, and has clearly been a little more than he seemed himself.
But now his agonizing
over how to make enough cash to save his life is over. Jones fills us
in on the little details of this man who has not been too good at life,
desperate for a second chance to be better. But what does it profit
a man to gain the world if he loses his soul?
In an already great
series, this arc has shaped up to be a moving, memorable story, especially
with the art of Lee Weeks, which recalls classic artists along the lines
of Alex Raymond. It's a beautiful book. Buy it and see if Charlie can
discover that life can be beautiful, too.
For alternate views
and more books including The Avengers #48, Captain Marvel #25, and Hellblazer
#168, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
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