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 Heroes (the other unofficial comic book store of FanboyPlanet.com,
in Campbell, California). 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!
The Adventures of
Borba Za Zhivuchest
writer: Joe Casey, artist: Derec Aucoin
I really wish I
could read Russian, so I could mention how poetically appropriate the
title of this story is. If anyone knows, please send e-mail.
Once again, a comic
book manages to be sadly timely. Perhaps you missed in the news that
in the past two months the Russians have been salvaging the nuclear
submarine that sunk, all hands onboard, over a year ago. A similar accident
occurs here, but of course, this is a world with a Superman.
As heroic as Superman's
rescue of the sub is, the Russian captain, Gussev, demonstrates the
true heroism. He shuts down the reactor, exposing himself to radiation
but allowing time for Superman to rescue the crew. But that really isn't
what this issue is about.
Gussev, you see,
only took to the sea as a job, but his real love is farming. Superman
visits him on his farm only to discover that the captain is dying. What
follows is a gentle meditation on the value of life, one every Superman
writer will be taking a crack at this season. Casey handles it beautifully.
Aucoin fills in great emotional shots, which is nice to see in an artist
for the Man of Steel. It could be too easy to just get lost in action.
Yes, we need to
see a confident Superman again, fighting the good fight. But these pauses,
when done right, have great value.
writer: Steve Vance, artists: Josep Beroy and Dan Green
After last summer's
near pointless mini-series, you might be skittish of this title. But
actually, it's pretty solid. Why bring Boston Brand back now? It's a
pretty canny move on DC's part, as TNT has been developing a pilot for
some time now.
To make things
easy, DC has recast Deadman as more than just a wandering spirit; in
a premise borrowed from shows like Time Trax and Brimstone,
the ghostly circus performer has to track down the now evil denizens
of a lost paradise.
Right out of the
gate, Vance acknowledges his conceit, and then shoves it aside. This
alone gives me hope for the title. After an interesting but still awkward
attempt to recap everything for new readers, Deadman and his mortal
partner get caught up in a smuggling ring through some of their friends
from their old freak show.
This makes everything
very TV friendly, and vice versa. If the pilot makes it to air, someone
can walk into a comic book store and pick up Deadman without
seeing something too different. For now, at least, the only supernatural
element is Deadman himself; in Hollywood they call that a high concept.
Beroy and Green deliver a slightly uneven look to the book, somewhere
between Adams and manga, but nothing too annoying. Give it a look; you
may be surprised.
writer: Greg Rucka, artists: Rick Burchett, Jesse Delperdang, and Rodney
Narrated by Sasha
(whom, naturally, Rucka has a great handle on), this issue covers
a Batman who is apparently losing it. As his bodyguard comments, "he's
going to hurt someone."
The likely candidate
would be a small-time hood who has cleaned out Jim Gordon's home, so
Batman's rage might be understandable. But Sasha's observation has merit,
too; Rucka has been building up tension in the Dark Knight, repressing
rage that has to explode. By the end of this story Sasha stops worrying,
but readers shouldn't.
And by now, can
we give Sasha a codename?
In the back-up
slot, Winick and Chiang contribute another chapter to their tale of
Josie Mac. She remains an intriguing heroine, and on the heels of Ed
Brubaker's great Slam Bradley story, it gets easier and easier to forget
all about The Jacobean, even if Mark Waid remembered him last week in
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Chuck Austen
Poor, poor Stanley.
Not only does he discover that he is a terrifically advanced Life Model
Decoy with a programmed crush on Elektra, but SHIELD has cut his power,
too. Literally. He has just enough juice to confess that he would have
liked to make out with her before shutting down.
Sure, every male
reader would like that, too, but it's just such a detail that makes
Bendis such a great writer. Not just good at plots, he adds very human
helps Elektra to escape from Iraq, and through a series of convoluted
events, avert World War III. In the process Nick Fury gets some nice
character motivations (echoed but not necessarily confirmed in Ennis'
take on Fury).
The only gripe
with the book is that Austen makes Fury way too young. Yes, he has taken
some sort of life-prolonging formula, but here he looks like he could
have his own show on the WB. David Hasselhoff didn't look this cute
in the TV movie.
art has grown on me. Occasionally his fighting figures look awkward,
but then, real fights often do. But they get the job done.
See You And Raise
writer: Garth Ennis, artists: Darick Robertson and Jimmy Palmiotti
a powerful motivational tool: mess up and he lets F***face sleep with
you. I still don't know if the panel depicting the aftermath strikes
me as funny or outright terrifying. And you can bet that Ennis likes
it that way.
Those wrapped up
in Gagarin's plan are starting to realize what pawns they are, but it
may be too late. Lest you think that Fury reflects that as Gagarin's
opposite number, Ennis takes great pains to prove otherwise. A part
of Fury may like the job, even knowing how dirty it is, but a part of
him knows that he shouldn't. And that part will always win.
Though it still
feels like a slightly more likeable Punisher, this book has a
lot to offer, and not just the intricate work of Robertson and Palmiotti.
If you need a reminder that underneath, Ennis has a strong sense of
morality, here it is.
Please don't hurt
us for revealing that information, Mister Ennis.
Battle of Fire and Light
writer: Judd Winick, artists: Dale Eagelsham and Rodney Ramos
Despite a somewhat
whimsical cover depicting Kyle surfing on a wave of his own creation,
the stakes within are pretty high. Having absorbed "the Parallax Power,"
"the Oblivion Force," and of course, the Lantern's abilities, Kyle should
be unstoppable. But somehow Nero taps into it, too, and the two fight
in space to determine just who exactly gets to be god.
That may sound
sacrilegious, and Winick never quite comes out and says it, but there
it is. Back on Earth every other survivor who has worn the ring sits
about helplessly, trying not to imagine how titanic the battle must
The artists give
us glimpses, and it's pretty terrific. Some may argue that Kyle spends
way too much energy on creating clever constructs, but it sure is fun
to look at them.
In the midst of
it all the Qwaardians pop up, with a strange new motivation. You may
have to read it over a couple of times to wrap your mind around it,
but Winick has taken a pretty good stab at re-defining these guys.
writer: Karl Kesel, artists: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
a pretty good legitimate career writing Chance@Love for the Daily Planet,
Harley cannot help but continue committing crimes. The reasons are two-fold:
she feels a strong responsibility to be the Cupid of Crime, and she
wants to work her way up to irritating Superman.
She'd like to warm
up on Thorn, but that heroine keeps a low profile this issue. It would
be a nice touch on Kesel's part, though, if Thorn does return. She deserves
more attention than she gets, even with at least one Metropolis-set
title a week.
Until a costumed
do-gooder pays attention to her, Harley will continue dispensing advice
and plotting the death of Jimmy Olsen. It's bad enough that Jimmy gets
fooled by Clark's glasses; having Harley fool him makes him look even
more stupid. Whatever happened to Mister Action? Or does that just make
me look old?
The last page of
this issue doesn't quite end on a cliff-hanger, but it does promise
a fun next month. DC has advertised Harley Quinn #15 as a perfect
jumping-on point for new readers; they're right. Check it out.
writer: J. Michael Straczynski, artists: Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal
Laurel has brought
the soulless David to the end of his journey. The two enter a New York
that looks close to being Hell on Earth, which Laurel hints may be the
city's true form.
Facing the master
of "The Men," David gets a little lesson in the history of life, the
universe, and everything, desperately refusing to believe that he will
pass on the return of his soul.
a compelling argument for the viewpoint of Satan (but writers have been
doing that for centuries), and now that we've literally reached the
end of the road, we still need to know more.
Frank and Sibal
really let loose with this issue, providing panel after panel of pure
creepiness. And that look of sad acceptance on Laurel's face…when will
a studio buy the movie rights?
writers: Tony Bedard and Mark Waid, artists: Paul Pelletier and Dave
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
This is a good
follow-up to last month's Prequel issue. The focus is on the bad guys
this time. We are given some interesting background about the CrossGen
universe, the sigils, the First, and the Negation. Each tidbit of information
raises more questions than it answers, but in a good way. Concepts from
many other CrossGen series are used here, so Negation could be confusing
to the casual reader.
Obregon Kaine is
still the only character to get much development. His future teammates
only get a few panels each, but the they do show potential. This is
a prison story that is obviously leading up to the jailbreak. It will
be interesting to see where things go once they group is off the prison
The art is excellent.
Pelletier does a good job setting up the one funny moment of the story.
I also liked a line from inside the front cover: "One ordinary man plots
the downfall of a god". This has a nice ring to it, similar to "With
great power comes great responsibility."
On A Christmas Evening
writer: Chuck Dixon, artists: Trevor McCarthy and Rob Leigh
After a few weeks
of space fillers from Dixon, he has to turn around and deliver this
heart-felt Christmas issue. Even with clichés liberally sprinkled throughout,
it hangs together in a compelling tale.
Each year the Bludhaven
cops read all the city's letters to Santa to try to do what they can
to make poor children's dreams come true. When rookie cop Dick Grayson
comes across a letter from a girl begging Santa to keep her dad from
committing a crime, his alter ego must race the clock to figure out
where the letter came from and fulfill her wish.
Along the way we
get to see how Nightwing fits in his adopted city (and how much of his
old Robin person he keeps in his heart). All the characterizations are
so believable that you can even forgive the stupid Joker angst Dick
has been saddled with. Even McCarthy's art gets a pass from me this
writer: Steve Dillon, artists: Steve Dillon and Jimmy Palmiotti
Dillon takes over
the reins entirely for "'Nuff Said" month, with mixed results. Of course
his layouts are great, and you can certainly follow along with what's
going on in the story. But instead of being silent, this story feels
more like Dillon simply left the captions out.
Castle as he tracks down a mob boss. Along the way his path keeps crossing
two teens. Plenty of gunfire abounds, flaming brightly but making no
sound. Maybe that more than anything else gives it the weird feel.
The writer Dillon
may also be trying to make a sharp point about violence in our society,
with seeming innocents suffering punishment while The Punisher goes
free, but it, too, feels forced.
sample script for the issue (a staple of 'Nuff Said) has a few unexpected
laughs. And the one-page preview of Heroes on the last page (is
it running in other books, too?) will knock you out.
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Scot Eaton and Andrew Hennessy
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Sam helps his new
barbarian friend Brath fight off an invading army. He also starts using
his brain. It doesn't make much sense for him to be attacking with a
sword when he has the seemingly limitless powers of his sigil. Sam also
learns to recognize members of the First. Now he needs to find a way
to stop them from teleporting him away to random destinations.
The Saurian War
subplot gets fewer pages this month, which is a good thing. I wouldn't
mind if it was dropped altogether. The art seemed better this month
as well. Sigil is still too aimless for my tastes though. Hopefully
this will change when Chuck Dixon takes over in February.
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Greg Land and Drew Geraci
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
This issue wraps
up Sojourn's initial storyline. Arwyn decides that, yeah, she'll
go on the quest to find the five arrow fragments. No big surprise here,
we all knew that this series would focus on her quest. She spends much
of her time this month crawling through sewers and posing like a centerfold.
between Arwyn and Gareth develops nicely. The narration by Gareth is
consistently better than I expect, and it does a lot to set a good tone
for the series. Greg Land's art looks wonderful as always.
The last four pages
are a bit surprising. One of the mysteries that I expected to be dragged
out for months or even years is revealed. The ties between Sojourn
and The First are laid out plainly for those who read both series.
Larry King Has The Flu
writer: Peter Milligan, artist: Michael Allred
Now that we understand
Lacuna's powers, this issue has a better flow. Give Milligan credit
for knowing when a trick has worn out its welcome.
The Force argues
whether or not to induct Lacuna and Spike, and the decision gives us
a chance to learn quite a bit about The Anarchist. Though these "heroes"
may not be very likeable, Milligan and Allred make them very, very human.
All except for
Doop; he remains maddeningly mysterious, though 'Nuff Said month (which
is next month for this book due to late shipping - 'Nuff Said might
last until summer at this rate) hints that Doop will be the focus.
This X-book provides
the best forum for social satire, and does it well. Those who stopped
reading in a huff might want to give it a try again; having shocked
you, the book now has room to provoke thought and in the end, entertain.
For alternate views
and more books, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
this and more in the Fanboy forums.