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From Box Four 10/11/10
brought to you by Illusive Comics and Games of Santa Clara

It's an incredibly rare week for me, having bought only one book from DC. So it's worth noting Marvel made it into my short stack twice, both times by appealing to my misguided youth. And I'm not referring to my son. Dark Horse did the same thing, except that I can't claim youth - they hit upon my misguided adulthood.

The Amazing Spider-Man:
Back in Quack

Stuart Moore has the unenviable task of reminding everybody that Howard the Duck still roams the Marvel Universe. So why not hearken back to his early days, team him up with Spider-Man, and maybe, just maybe people will notice. Already Nate Costa whispers in my ear "it's only a clone… the real Howard is with the Savage Dragon."

But Moore does a good job with the story, almost effectively blending the weirdness of Howard's world with the ongoing tribulations of the webslinger. One of Howard's old rogues gets a bit of an updating, but the years have not been kind; honestly, Howard the Duck worked best when being written by someone with a personal stake or at least a personal anger. Moore really has neither, settling for turning Howard into a feathered Harvey Pekar.

On that note, let's also add that the reason Howard does not look like himself was so that Marvel wouldn't run the risk of being sued by Disney. Would someone please remind editorial that Disney now owns Marvel? It's okay to return to that dichotomy of Howard being what Donald really wanted to be if not for that naval commission.

In the back-up slot, Moore also contributes a Man-Thing story, teaming with Joe Suitor to tell a muted tale of sadness and a little bit of fear. It serves as a slice of life, at least as much as one can have in the dark corners of the Marvel Universe. Inexplicably, it's set years ago, but in tone and content, it has no bearing on the main feature.

Worth $3.99? Curse me for buying Howard the Duck no matter how Marvel messes with him.

Brightest Day #11

DC Editorial, would you please, please stop putting the final page cliff-hanger as the cover image? This might have been a fine time to feature Deathstorm, instead of the couple of other times he's been on the cover and barely appeared, because this issue focuses on him.

In fact, the focus by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi really does what this big event was supposed to do - make Firestorm seem viable again. He has an opposite number for the first time, instead of letting his greatest enemy be his own incompetence.

The work on Aquaman doesn't seem to be going so well. If anything, it just continues the decades of abuse the character has suffered. A little arrogant, a little misinformed, and oh, yes, Arthur Curry, for at least the sixth time in your life, everything you thought you knew is wrong. At least the new Aqualad has some potential, and maybe the writers can sketch in enough motivation for Black Manta's hatred. Despite being an Aquaman defender, I've never seen Black Manta get beyond "because I'm a bad guy, that's why."

Still, Brightest Day is like a weekly Quarter Pounder. It's not really good for me, but I keep enjoying it. It's also evidence that too many are being sold - in addition to two writers, this book has four pencilers and four inkers, with styles that only occasionally mesh.

Worth $2.99? If a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is, so is Brightest Day. And it will taste the same the second time around.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #37

Spike commands an army of insectoids from the control center of a steampunk zeppelin. His rival Angel has developed super-powers and fights Lovecraftian menaces all over the world, complaining that now he stinks of fish. And though also empowered and the key to everything, Buffy really can't keep her mind on the game, because she finds herself attracted to Spike thanks to what must be supernatural testosterone coursing through her system.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

We're nearing the end of "Season Eight" of Buffy, which means that the world must be in grave danger again. Of course it is, and of course everything leads back to the ruins of Sunnydale. The Master has returned, and oh, how I can hear Mark Metcalf's voice in my head. It's fun, but still a little confusing, though for once that's not because of Georges Jeanty's vague faces.

It works for fans, probably won't bring in many new ones, and I can't shake a feeling of dread. If it's the apocalypse, somebody we like isn't going to make it.

Worth $2.99? Honestly, page for page, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been one of the best books on the stand since Joss Whedon launched this "season" plan.

Metalocalypse: Dethklok #1

It looks and reads just like an episode of the show, with the added bonus of being able to understand the lyrics to Dethklok's songs. Of course it does, because the show's creators took a direct hand in this book, and… if you like Metalocalypse, you absolutely need this book. It's sharp, satirical, painful and occasionally very, very gross.

Worth $3.99? You know who you are. I had you at Metalocalypse. They had me, too.

TRON: Betrayal #1

Here's a movie tie-in that does almost everything right. The characters are on model enough that you can recognize who they're supposed to be. The plot actually bridges the gap between the first movie and the sequel opening in just a month or so. Yet it feels like it's moving things forward, and filling in information you'll need.

In my heart of hearts, I get the strong feeling that it will end in a cliffhanger that will take me to the local movie theater - in 3-D and in IMAX as the good lord intended. Or is that the good Flynn? But this isn't just a cheap tie-in; it reads much more like the second book of a series, with TRON: Legacy being the third.

It's safe to say that you can forget about the Slave Labor book from a few years ago. This instead picks up with Flynn trying to juggle his responsibilities as CEO, imminent father and god to a new civilization as the internet gets more and more sophisticated. He's revived CLU and co-opted TRON, apparently leaving his friend Alan in the dark as to what's really going on in the mainframe, and why he disappears for days on end.

The only problem may be that really, you need to know who the characters were before for this to be accessible, and I still can't shake the fear planted in me by people post-Comic-Con that there aren't as many TRON fans as TRON fans want to believe.

Worth $4.99? The story is really interesting, the art quality is high, and it's got at least twice the usual page count of a $2.99 book. Don't make me do the math; just accept that it's a good deal from Marvel.

Derek McCaw


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