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!
writer: Mark Waid, artists: Steve Epting and Rick Magyar
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
Crux continues the
strong story from last month. The Atlanteans have discovered the fate
of the human race, but Capricia seems strangely agitated about it. The
explanations are not enough for her, and she seems jealous of Samaka,
the woman who tells them the tale.
time travel are tough to do well, but so far Mark Waid has done a great
job with this one. A new type of Negation warrior appears here, and
he seems much more formidable and interesting than the bugs that have
appeared so far in the series.
Geromi gets some
good moments, which is a change from normal when he would only dispense
information to the other characters. The ending is a bit surprising,
and leaves me wondering how permanent the change we've just seen will
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artist: Alex Maleev
In the wake of
the Kingpin's apparent execution, someone has put a bounty on Matt Murdock's
head. Of course, Murdock has two things going for him: super-senses
and a warning from someone (likely Elektra) that the bounty is out there.
Because this is
the Marvel Universe, he also doesn't have ordinary hitmen after him.
A plain-clothed but still masked Boomerang shows up and panics, and
Matt believes he catches a "glimpse" of Bullseye, the man who killed
two women Matt loved. Never mind that one came back.
the confines of 'Nuff Said month, Bendis delivers a story that stays
within his current arc without making us feel like we have to miss anything
for it. The real credit should go to Maleev, who demonstrates great
story-telling skill. Even though the story is action-packed, his panels
carry such richness that the absence of sound effects is welcome.
Within three weeks
we should get the other part of this cross-over with Elektra
(#6?), which will also be part of 'Nuff Said month. On this one you
cannot blame the creators; Bendis purposely put Elektra off-schedule
out of sensitivity for the events of September 11. And that's more important
than getting your funny books on time any day of the week.
The Devil You Know
writer: Devin Grayson, artists: Roger Robinson and John Floyd
Devin Grayson steps
into some dangerous story-telling territory with this issue. Many writers
have flirted with it, but this may be the first time the Dark Knight
manifests as a truly split-personality.
To be fair, it
could just be residue from that bizarre self-hypnosis stunt Wayne pulled
on himself, making him forget that he was Batman. Either way, he is
stunned to receive a phone call telling him that his gun purchase has
gone through, a purchase he cannot remember making. Nor does he want
to have made it.
His alter-ego confronts
him on the issue. It seems that though Batman understands Wayne's aversion
to guns, it must be confronted in order for them both to be more effective
This could go either
way, but we have to trust Grayson, an excellent writer, that she knows
what she's doing here. Things can't be as simple as Bruce Wayne really
is nuts. Right?
writer: Kevin Smith, artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks
And so Green Arrow's
whirlwind tour of the DC Universe comes to a close, in grand fashion.
About to be possessed by Stanley Dover (the first), the hollow Oliver
Queen gets a brief respite with the appearance of Connor Hawke. While
Connor struggles against hordes of demons, the hollow contacts his soul
in heaven, pleading with him to rejoin his body.
Smith takes advantage
of off-screen moments that must have happened somewhere. His Connor
seems a lot bolder than he was in his original run, but then it's also
not every day that you get a chance to bring your father back to life.
Running true, too, is Connor's friendship with Kyle Rayner, which has
been ignored for quite a while.
Just as Smith neatly
captured Hal Jordan's motivations, he cuts to the heart of Oliver Queen's.
For all his talk about social responsibility, Queen always evaded personal
responsibility, and that extends to the afterlife. His soul has not
achieved enlightenment so much as ultimate denial. It's a cool touch,
and we can only hope that whoever follows Smith (still unknown) on this
book will not drop that aspect.
and Hester have created a book that pays tribute to the best that superhero
comics can be. They have even managed to give Stanley and His Monster
a dark undercurrent without invalidating any of the silly stories that
appeared before. More writers should take a page from Smith's book and
remember that at heart, comics are fun.
writer: Geoff Johns, artist: Peter Snejbjerg
Sooner or later
every popular super-team in the DC Universe must be judged by Batman.
This month the "new" JSA gets the honor, as they investigate the murder
of Shakedown, a former member of the Masters of Disaster.
he and his partner New Wave had just kidnapped the daughter of a formerly
wealthy Gotham industrialist. (As if their being archenemies from the
pages of Batman and the Outsiders wasn't enough connection.)
with cold arrogance, Batman tries to warn the team away from the case.
But Mr. Terrific quickly shows him up, not something you see happen
to Bats every day. A grudging respect forges between the two men; it
would be nice to see that picked up on somewhere else. And Johns does
plant seeds for it.
Though the book
serves as a jumping on point, Johns also makes sure it doesn't exist
in a vacuum. Black Canary is clearly no longer enthused about her relationship
with Dr. Mid-Nite, and though she doesn't quite spell it out, the return
of Oliver Queen has to have thrown her for a loop romantically. (We'll
just ignore that whole dating R'as al Ghul thing, okay?)
This issue also
gets guest work from Peter Snejbjerg, who finished up James Robinson's
Starman series. His work shows an affinity for Golden Age heroes
while still having a modern feel. If JSA needs a new artist,
Snejbjerg would be a welcome choice.
New X-Men #120
Germ Free Generation, part three
writer: Grant Morrison, artist: Igor Kordey
As much as I enjoyed
Ethan Van Sciver's fill-in, Kordey makes a better fit as Frank Quitely's
alternate. His style may be a bit cleaner than Quitely, but its energy
and physicality makes a dead-on match. Maybe some of you didn't even
notice the difference.
But you will notice
the ugliness of the action (and that's not a criticism). With Cyclops
and the White Queen about to be eviscerated, and shock troops descending
on Westchester, how could things not be ugly?
Worse, they broke
the White Queen's nose. When that happens, you just know somebody
has to pay.
Morrison also throws
a new wrench into the proceedings, reviving a very dangerous concept.
How dangerous it will be now remains to be seen.
Make Mime Marvel
writer: Paul Jenkins, artists: Mark Buckingham and Wayne Faucher
This may be the
best of the 'Nuff Said efforts, because it embraces the built-in potential
A heretofore unseen
gang of evil mimes bemoans their various defeats at the hands, feet,
and webs of Spider-Man. Since they're mimes, this bemoaning comes mostly
in the form of charts and exaggerated facial expressions. And it works.
and Faucher cheat a little bit under the strictures of this month by
still supplying thought balloons with pictograms, but that doesn't get
in the way of a funny story. While Peter ends up chasing the sexy neighbor's
dog (who has stolen a clothesline full of her lingerie), the mimes hatch
a scheme to defeat the webslinger once and for all.
It involves trickery
right out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and Spider-Man falls for it. But
the mimes still don't count on his cleverness in the face of danger.
The whole thing
wraps up with a dose of poetic justice that gave me a good smile. This
was just fun. If you want to quibble, some of the mimes are rather grotesque
in shape, and it seems out of place. (One looks like a walking whale,
but not walking in the wind.)
writer: Ron Marz, artists: Jim Cheung and Don Hillsman II
reviewed by Charlie Wentling
getting better and better. Without a doubt, it is the best and most
consistent of CrossGen's original four titles. Issue #19 makes a good
case for this being the best book they publish.
The character development
is especially strong. Ethan's decision to stay out of the war with the
Ravens angers his brother Kai. Both of them feel like real people to
me. On the Raven side, there is tension between Bron and his brother
Kort. Family bonds are being tested, and parallels exist between the
Herons and the Ravens. Ashleigh and Ethan are stuck in the middle of
the whole mess.
A minor character
dies an unexpected death, and an interesting new character is introduced.
Nadia Thindi is a traveler from parts unknown that Ethan saves from
a wyvern. Her mechanical hand underscores the mixture or fantasy and
science fiction in the book.
I want to single
out colorist Justin Ponsor again for special praise. The colors add
so much to the art, which is already excellent to begin with. The first
page should be hanging on display somewhere.
Louder Than Words
writer: Peter David, artists: Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs
For the first four
pages, you might want to go back to the cover and check the publisher.
In either coincidence or acknowledgement to Marvel's special December
event, David writes a story that could have been told completely without
dialogue. Unlike more than a few of the Marvel books, he also gives
a logical reason for it.
a deaf boy from being hit by a truck, and much of the story is viewed
through his eyes. Luckily for Supergirl, Buzz knows ASL, and can communicate
with the boy. (Why not? The devil speaks all languages; a few demons
must share that ability.) Unfortunately for Supergirl, Buzz also tends
to add in a lot of editorial commentary.
A factory in town
has been leaking poisons into the environment that have caused many
defects in the local children. In fact, an entire school has been founded
to help these locals with different abilities. Though the school has
won a lawsuit against the factory, the findings have been tied up in
countersuits and legal delays.
Not for much longer,
though, for as Buzz comments, Supergirl does tend to act rashly and
try to force solutions.
Once again David
offers up a story that may shake up some opinions on the way our society
works. More importantly, he has Supergirl reach a solution that we would
do well to remember: heroes aren't really about force, they're about
Superman: The Man of Steel #121
Diamonds and Steel
Writer: Geoff Johns, Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker
Every big city has gang trouble. It's simply a fact of modern urban life. So when one moves into Metropolis (which has had problems with Intergang), it should come as no surprise. But Johns has taken an old DCU stalwart criminal gang and given it a chilling street twist.
The Royal Flush Gang has long had a rotating membership, at least for Jack, Ten and the android Ace. Now it seems that even the King and Queen are new, as the Royal Flushers have become a franchise. The costumes are badges of honor and leadership in a larger organization. Though fictional, this does echo with real-life gangs.
Told from the point of view of a Ten, the story itself ends up being a long chase and fight sequence. But in this case it's character that makes the difference, and Ten's desire to hurt Superman (and her eventual success) drives you to keep turning the pages.
How this diamond ends up cutting steel provides yet another great insight into the character of the greatest hero of all, all of it ably brought to life by Nauck and Stucker.
If an opening were to come up in the Super-stable, it would be great to see Johns get a regular berth, except that would mean the loss of some other title.
Ultimate X-Men #13
You Always Remember Your First Love
writer: Chuck Austen, artists: Essad Ribic and Livesay
As a character, Gambit has always seemed more a marketing decision than a believable hero. He showed up just as America's fascination with Cajun culture had started to wane (still, better timing than the Disco Dazzler), intended as a roguish mystery man whose background inexplicably got darker and darker, culminating in his being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Morlocks. This is a hero?
Thankfully, the Ultimate Marvel Universe has the freedom to drop the more uncomfortable elements of any character it wants. Lo and behold, the recreated Gambit looks to be a much better character. He still has the duster, but not the ridiculous blue and purple suit. And yes, he is still a rogue, but on a much smaller (and more forgivable) level than before.
In short, I like him.
No other X-Man shows up this month, but guest writer Austen does bring in the Ultimate Hammerhead, who has orphaned a little girl. The girl wanders the streets, crossing paths with Gambit, who gets by doing street magic and other minor cons. David Blaine should be so effective.
Austen gives him an inner decency that shines despite his best efforts to quell it. If he meets up with the X-Men, he would make a good addition to the team, but with Ultimate Rogue still being evil, it may not come to pass.
Still, this fill-in turns out to be just as entertaining and interesting as regular writer Mark Millar's work.
For alternate views
and more books, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique
were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.
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