12.27.06 Reviews

Astonishing X-Men #19 (Marvel): Boasts all the trappings of a Whedon script, with the smart dialogue, humor, and latent female adolescent power fantasy (Hello Kitty! I love you!). Cassaday's pencil's make the action intense and quiet character moments believable with facial expressions and emotive lines. The gang is really gearing up for a fight with the Breakworld and it looks to be a stunner for this creative team's swan song. Grade A.

Immortal Iron Fist #2 (Marvel): Brubaker and Fraction deliver another solid issue that walks the fine line between humor (not over the top camp), a detached CEO (but not ridiculously so), historical content (but not exposition), and action (but not too "comic booky"). Aja's pencils are still first rate and extremely strong, I'm still in love with the little bubbles/circles he uses to convey meaning. I recall the short story in Civil War: Choosing sides where a solid red circle meant a strike point, here an oblong, mis-shapen bubble over Danny's head means he's woozy and out of it. Very creative and very original. Grade B+.

Nextwave: Agents of HATE #11 (Marvel): Ok, so obviously the point of this issue was to poke fun at Civil War (loved the cover) and all other superficial "events" that are designed merely to take a consumer's money. That said, the interior 2-page splash pages poking fun at different Marvel events and characters, though essentially doing what the book is criticizing - which I know is the point - didn't sit very well with me. Not because I felt ripped off, but because they just weren't that funny. For me, this was the first big miss this book has had. And overall, if it's just one issue, I guess that's ok. When you're working in an experimental format like this, it can't always be funny I suppose. I'm willing to overlook this if it comes right back on track. Grade B-.

52: Week Thirty-Four (DC): Is the art actually getting worse or is it the same and just wearing on me as time goes by? Last time I checked, a chic's breasts weren't supposed to be level with her shoulders. These events are supposedly happening real time in terms of weeks, but last week the Titans wouldn't let Osiris in, yet this week he's already at Titans Tower and has a communicator(?). What happened in the last couple of days? Seems like the most interesting bits are happening off panel and in between issues - which is, you know... stupid. Only two minor bits that I liked, Zatanna's back-up story which looks really slick with Brian Bolland art, and the inclusion of Werner Vertigo who just looks kinda' cool visually to me. Grade D+.

I also picked up;

The Killer #2 (Archaia Studios Press): Was very impressed by the first ish and happy to see that a follow-up issue was promptly distributed. Can't wait to read it! I'm already hoping that this 10 issue series holds up for the long haul and that a collected edition will be forthcoming.

BPRD: The Universal Machine (Dark Horse): The BPRD storytelling juggernaut chugs another TPB out, #6 in the series. And like a fine wine, the series of mini-series is only getting better with age.


12.20.06 Reviews

Wasteland #5 (Oni Press): Johnston and Mitten offer up an all out action sequence in this issue that highlights the various complicated ways to eek out an existence in this bleak future. As the truth about the slavers comes to light, Michael's disclosure of what he really knows also comes into question. I enjoy the fact that the style of story the creators have put forth here remains true to itself, and the letters column only reinforces the creators strong belief in staying true to that vision. Johnston and Mitten know the big difference between giving the fans what they want, which is ultimately a futile, fickle struggle, and giving the fans your complete vision and allowing them to react positively to it. It's truly remarkable. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #3 (Dynamite Entertainment): Hot damn, Cassaday does up a nice cover here! It really captures the grounded sense of strength and nobility that a pulp character like The Lone Ranger has to convey in order to be even remotely plausible. Highly enjoyable script and pencils on the interior, but reads so fast! This creative team nails the essence of the characters and the story sticks to your memory with regretful, but purposeful lines like "I mean to kill a man." Grade A.

Criminal #3 (Marvel/ICON): What I appreciated about this issue was that Brubaker and Philips prove they can do the quiet little moments, even those with romantic overtones, just as well as they can do a noir heist sequence about bad, bad men. Really refreshing to see not only that the craftsmen are versatile, but that they're willing to explore it on the page. Grade A.

New Avengers #26 (Marvel): While the whole "House of M," Wanda Maximoff, "Death(s)" of Hawkeye, etc. might not make a whole heck of a lot of sense under even casual scrutiny, this is a really nice issue. If you can look past all the lead up, Bendis gives us a very interesting look at Clint, his interactions with Doctor Strange, how magic in the Marvel U supposedly works, and a man's difficult quest for closure. Alex Maleev renders the panels beautifully in a way that simultaneously feels both gritty and real, while being dream-like and ethereal. Grade A-.

Checkmate #9 (DC): Why would the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) need a Department of Metahuman Affairs (DMA)? I'm just saying. It sounds rather redundant. What kind of dialogue is "to protect Americans give a good goddamn what you or Checkmate thinks you can just pucker up and kiss my--?" I'm just saying. It sounds rather confusing. Why is King Faraday in Checkmate when he was killed in New Frontier? I'm just saying. It looks rather inconsistent. I like this book, and it's too bad, because I want to love it. Yet there's always these minor annoyances that swarm arround my brain like flies and prevent me from fully getting into it. The writing is smart thematically (politics, love, moral quandries, etc.), but damn those very minor recurring little pests that preclude greatness. Jesus Saiz's pencils are growing in their strength, here reminding me in places of Michael (Alias) Gaydos with some of the facial expressions and thick inks. All in all, it's fun to see Sasha flexing her muscles, standing up to Sarge Steel with lines like "I would, I can, and I will." Rucka puts an intricate plot in motion that makes nice use of the larger DCU in all its variety of places and people. Grade B+.

X-Men: First Class #4 (Marvel): Decided to try out this mini-series after hearing some positive things about it on the interwebs. Yeah, it's not bad. The art is simply charming in its clean ability to portray the original X-Men as fun loving kids who aren't sure of themselves and happen to be some of the most powerful mutants on the planet. The script itself is also fun, with magical dimensions and a very enjoyable cameo from Dr. Stephen Strange. The big conceit of this series is that all issues are single issue stories, which is a nice nod to the past. Overall, the story is *just* fun though, there's no other striking feature forcing me to return for more. Possible that I'll pick up the trade someday if I'm bored. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but in today's marketplace you can't be "ehh, pretty good," you have to really push it to stand above pleasant mediocrity, grab my hard-earned dollar, and survive in the long run. There's nothing wrong with it per se, just nothing grand either. Grade B.

52: Week Thirty-Three (DC): Right from page one, I got pushed out of the story with Ralph talking like he's on United 93; "let's roll" is shorthand to me for lazy dialogue and lack of creativity. On the plus side though, the credits list to Santa was ok, the banter between Nightwing and Batwoman was ok, and Joe Prado or Tom Derenick's pencils (not sure who's who) were not terribly offensive in the two opening sequences. There was some refined detail and dare I say it, some Frank Quitely-esque looks to some character poses and the elongated facial expressions. The latter half of the book though was the usual artistic crapfest that ruined what would otherwise have been a touching moment between Renee and Kate, since they looked like big-lipped Bratz dolls. Nice to see the dots *finally* connecting a bit, as we see how Count Werner Vertigo comes to be in the current incarnation of Checkmate under Amanda Waller's tutelage. Grade C.


Top 10 of 2006 - Part 5

"Worst/Best. Year. Ever."

Top 10 Hope Dashed, Hope Renewed Moments of 2006

Solo (DC): Cancelled. What a brilliant idea to get a rotating cast of creators and let them do whatever the hell they want with creator owned or company owned properties. Sadly, the very thing that made it cool was also what made it impossible to market and sustain an audience for. Solo, we will miss you. Here's to hoping there's an Absolute Edition book for you somewhere in the future. What a noble failure.

Queen & Country (Oni Press): This is like the proverbial girlfriend who cheats on you and then wants back into your life. Your friends tell you not to give in. You want to kick that bitch to the curb just out of spite. But, she's soooo good. Greg Rucka needs to get on the stick and commit some time to this property and not go galavanting with novels and movie deals. The publishing schedule is ridiculous. Bonus: Dusty Star (Image/Desperado): I loved the first issue! *Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, Chirp* Will we ever see this book again? What's up with creators abandoning their properties mid-swing?

Virgin Comics: This line came out with such a robust launch and then fell flat on its face with barely digestible content. Snakewoman (Zeb Wells & Michael Gaydos) almost made it home, but not quite. When will someone learn how to launch a successful line?

Wildstorm Relaunch: Basically every title in the line is ass. The one book I'm remotely interested in, Wildcats, due to an historical fondness for the characters, pencilled by the damn Editor of the company no less, the "flagship" property, "cornerstone" of the relaunch, comes charging out with one issue, only to promptly announce severe delays on all future issues, umm what? I thought we were going to publish some books here, guys?

Batman Books (DC): Namely, Batman by Morrison and Detective Comics by "Paul Dini & JH Williams." First off, Morrison's Batman is just plain awful, he's totally phoning it in. And the Detective Comics series with much ballyhooed "Paul Dini & JH Williams" didn't get very far. Paul Dini has scripted about half of them and JH only penciled one single issue. Nothing like misleading your fans. Jesus, kinda' sad times when I need to go to a Paul Pope "Elseworlds" type story (Batman: Year 100) to get a decent Batman story, lord knows it ain't happening in 52 either.

Jonah Hex (DC): I'm so on again, off again with this book. The overly photo-referenced art turned me away quickly with early issues. But then came Jordi Bernet to tell the origin story. Loved the first issue, was repulsed by the second. What to do, what to do...

Supreme Power (Marvel/MAX): Yes, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of a title called "Squadron Supreme" being published and set in the regular Marvel U. This is a clear example of business winning out over art. First Guy: "Ooh, I know! Let's bring the Supreme Power heroes into the regular Marvel U so we can cross them over with The Ultimates, the FF, etc." Second Guy: "Umm, won't that dilute the property and kill the very reason it's so critically acclaimed?" First Guy: "But, we'll make money!!!" PS - the second hardcover was ruined by the inclusion of the Hyperion Mini-Series which had little to do with Hyperion and more to do with setting up the regular Marvel U book. Man, how I wish I could just have the first 18 issues collected together in one spot unfettered by all this other horse shit.

DC Team Books: Namely, JLA and JSA, but you might as well toss in Outsiders, Titans, etc. They're just so spectaculary... Ehh. As Stephen Colbert says, "I'm passionately ambivalent!" about these books.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi Collections (Drawn & Quarterly): Love these collected editions... so far we've gotten The Push Man & Other Stories, along with Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and they included Adrian Tomine introduction pieces! Kudos to D&Q for pulling this off, look forward to this continuing!

Keep It Up!: Superman Confidential (DC), The Nightly News (Image), Criminal (Marvel/ICON), The Killer (Archaia Studios Press), Immortal Iron Fist (Marvel), and The Lone Ranger (Dynamite Entertainment). You guys came out swinging and renewed my faith in the future, we'll certainly be keeping our collective eye on you!

That's all folks! Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays!

Top 10 of 2006 - Part 4

"Worst. Comic. Ever."

Top 10 Worst Comics of 2006

American Way (DC/Wildstorm): So completely derivative that, well, I shouldn't even try to recall what I wrote. Standby... *Copy, Paste* Ahem... This book makes me feel like a caged zoo monkey that is so fed up and disgraced with repetition and boredom that he has to throw his own shit out from behind the bars to generate anything remotely entertaining in a doomed attempt to alter a crumbling artistic landscape and prevent severe depression. Grade F.

Truth, Justin, and The American Way (Image): Awkward scripting, tired humor, and story beats that are so long they qualify as cruel and unusual punishment.

Civil War: Frontline (Marvel): So darkly offensive to the memory of everyone who died on 9/11, as well as the Holocaust survivors. Damn, it managed to piss off everyone so bad that I actually gave it an F-. First ever. F-minus!

Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters (DC): I have no idea what happened in between the short story in the 80 Page Giant (which I thought showed promise) and the actual mini-series, but it turned out to be a train wreck.

The Next (DC): To use a tired analogy, as tired as this book made me feel, if you look up "expository" in the dictionary, there's a picture of this book.

Martian Manhunter (DC): Boo! Ok, not entirely the creative team's fault. I mean, MM is never that interesting unless he's eating Oreos in the Justice League. Too bad, so sad.

52 (DC): Cool idea, trying to publish a weekly book again. But do it like Action Comics, not like this. Bad, bad, bad execution. Lacks focus, a throughline, and you know, a cohesive, umm... what's the word I'm looking for, oh yeah, *story.*

Spider-Man: Reign (Marvel): Dark Knight Returns starring Peter Parker. Really blatantly. 'Nuff said.

Welcome to Tranquility (DC/Wildstorm): "Have we been cancelled yet? Are we still going? What issue are we on? It's not cancelled yet? Are you sure? Shit, get some more ideas in there! Hurry! Are we cancelled? Not yet? Fuck, put some more dialogue in there. Hurry! Get it all down! Go!" - Welcome to Tranquility Creative Team

Wonder Man (Marvel): Suffice it to say, not Peter David's best writing. Capped off with some ridiculous art that should never have passed the portfolio review hour at the Con.

So what's the damage? Who offered up the most stinkers, you ask? Well;

DC Comics: 60%
Marvel: 30%
Image: 10%

Check back soon for the last installment, Part 5, as our "Top 10 of 2006" continues with Hope Dashed, Hope Renewed!

Top 10 of 2006 - Part 3


Yes, after spending the last half hour typing up Part 3 of the Top 10 of 2006, I proofread, hit submit, and got an error message. And *EVEN THOUGH* I had hit save repeatedly throughout my session, the text is now nowhere to found. It was not saved. Not as a post. Not as a draft. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not even partial text. ZEE-RO. Apparently it's been happening to a lot of people, judging from the status board - not that that helps me very much, ya' buncha' hairy fucksticks. So, if this post seems a bit, short? Direct? You'll know why.

"Best. Graphic Novels. Ever."

Top 10 Graphic Novels/Trades of 2006

New Frontier: Absolute Edition (DC): Darwyn Cooke's love letter to the DCU, which chronicles the transition from 1940's pulp heroes to the 1960's superhero Silver Age.

Poor Sailor (Gingko Press): Sammy Harkham's first feature length book which will simultaneously break your heart and restore your faith in the human spirit.

Battle Hymn (Image): Yep, just buy it already. WWII era optimism juxtaposed with seedy backroom dealings by the US government. You'll not find a better examination of the superhero archetype since Watchmen. Yep, that good.

The Rabbi's Cat (Pantheon Books): Joann Sfar's strongest work to date, chronicling the crises of faith endured by a Rabbi, his daughter, and yes... their cat. We learn that life... well, I'll quote Maroon 5, "it's not always rainbows and butterflies, it's compromise that moves us along."

La Perdida (Pantheon Books): Jessica Abel's masterpiece about living in Mexico. You'd be hard pressed to find better autobiographical comics.

Iron Man: Extremis (Marvel): Warren Ellis and Adi Granov offer up a realistic, insightful look at what a rich industrialist with a robot suit would *really* be like. For my money, the best Iron Man story around.

Billy Hazelnuts (Fantagraphics): Yes! By far, my favorite Tony Millionaire book. Umm... That is all. Buy it. Buy it, now.

Alias: Omnibus Edition (Marvel): Bendis' best work. Proof that the Omnibus format is viable. Jessica Jones used to be a superhero. Now she's not. She's really all fucked up. Come find out why.

Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan (Marvel): Now this is what comic books are supposed to be like! Fun, irreverent, manic, weird, adventure.

The Five Fists of Science (Image): Matt Fraction takes the mold that Alan Moore invented with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and breaks it. Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla square off against JP Morgan, Guglielmo Marconi, and Thomas Edison in this retro-sci-fi romp!

Honorable Mentions

The Left Bank Gang (Fantagraphics): Jason is from Norway. He makes amazing comics. They look like funny animal books. But instead they're about the most basic human emotions and our need to connect with eachother in a meaningful way.

Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules (Marvel): Man, this was really a tough call. I love this book, but since we already had an FF book in the Top 10, I bumped it down here. Very nice commentary on the cohesive nature of familial bonds and their ability to stabilize otherwise chaotic components. What am I really saying? Your "weird Uncle Phil" or "crazy Auny Betty" are critical to ensuring your family functions as a whole. Without them, the balance would be thrown irreparably out of whack.

How we doing gang? Let me hear it! The breakdown for this section looks something like this;

Marvel: 30%
Pantheon Books: 20%
Image: 20%
Fantagraphics: 10%
DC Comics: 10%
Gingko Press: 10%

Check back soon for Part 4, as our "Top 10 of 2006" continues with the Worst Comics!

Top 10 of 2006 - Part 2

"Best. Mini-Series. Ever."

Top 10 Limited Series of 2006

The Escapists (Dark Horse): By far, the most unique creation of Brian K. Vaughan and it's beautifully rendered by a rotating cast of interior (and cover) artists. It deftly captures a duality between the story of the creators and their creations that showcases all the strengths of the medium.

Phonogram (Image): Upstart creators blending music, horror, and slice-of-life industry tropes which culminate with being the most unexpected premise of the year.

Supermarket (IDW): The "Year of Brian Wood" continues with this manic and entertaining story about a trendy hipster chic on the run (think Run Lola Run!) from the Yakuza and Swedish Porno Mob.

Local (Oni Press): Brian Wood *still* in the house! Taking his general approach from last year's Demo (AiT/PlanetLar) and pairing one-shots with recurring/overlapping characters on their home turf; where their turf, their "local" becomes another character. Paired with the beautiful pencils of Ryan Kelley, whose style is all the best bits of Paul Pope and Farel Dalrymple.

Batman: Year 100 (DC): One of the best Batman stories ever and certainly up there with Dark Knight Returns in its ability to capture a bleak dystopian future that emboldens the enduring strength of the urban myth of the Batman. And really, ya' know, just two words you need to know: Paul Pope.

Midnight Sun (Slave Labor Graphics): An adventurous little look at an Italian derigible exploration gone awry that's absolutely joyful to read.

BPRD: The Black Flame & The Universal Machine (Dark Horse): It's a two-fer! All of the BPRD stories continue to be exceptionally strong as they add to the overall Hellboy/BPRD mythos. Guy Davis' art is perfectly matched for this blender of paranormal investigative horror.

The Leading Man (Oni Press): Though it's not yet completed, I was impressed with B. Clay Moore and Jeremy Haun's sophomore offering together. After the strength of Battle Hymn, some accused them of a sophomoric slump with this title, but with the clean pencils, strong inking, and fun premise, I'm in for the ride.

Agents of Atlas (Marvel): Jeff Parker takes some old school Marvel heroes and brings them together one last time for a thoroughly fun romp, with occasional bursts of brilliance.

Doctor Strange: The Oath (Marvel): Brian K. Vaughan strikes again and attempts something that no other writer has been able to capture. The kooky, self-referential magical adventure goodness that appeals to hardcore Doc Strange fans and newcomers alike.

Honorable Mentions

Down (Image/Top Cow): Pretty damn close to making the cut, but between Cully Hamner filling in for Tony Harris (sorry Cully, you're good, but not *that* good) and crazy publishing delays, this Warren Ellis penned plot about a dangerously deep undercover cop was unwavering in its commitment to a "no such thing as good guys" vision, but excluded from the Top 10.

Civil War (Marvel): I tried to resist including it, but when I look at the books I really enjoyed and looked forward to reading, despite all the shipping delays and interweb kerfuffle, it's right up there.

Ok, how'd we do? Agree? Disagree? Let me know! Here's how the breakdown looks for this session;

Marvel: 20%
Dark Horse: 20%
Oni Press: 20%
DC Comics: 10%
Image: 10%
IDW: 10%
Slave Labor Graphics: 10%

Check back soon for Part 3, as our "Top 10 of 2006" continues with Graphic Novels/Trades!

Top 10 of 2006 - Part 1

"Best. Issues. Ever."

Top 10 Ongoing Series of 2006

Nextwave: Agents of HATE (Marvel): Few series equalled the offbeat action and diabolical humor that Ellis and Immonen were able to capture with this title and the eclectic mix of characters.

Ex Machina (DC/Wildstorm): In the tradition of Mamet, Sorkin, Bendis, and (insert your own cool reference here), Brian K. Vaughan nails the combination of political intrigue, staccato dialogue, and poignant commentary. Tony Harris pencils for 25 issues doesn't hurt a damn bit, either.

All-Star Superman (DC): Let me preface this by saying that I *hate* Superman. Ok, that sounded strong. I don't hate the character, but I hate most Superman comic books. I can never seem to get into the character. But leave it to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely to build a world that balances the zany sci-fi ideas from early Superman stories, with modern settings, layered meaning, and interesting character dynamics. PS - Frank Quitely can do no wrong artistically.

Desolation Jones (DC/Wildstorm): Ellis' second best creation; second only to Planetary. Secret Agent in forced retirement, bleak LA setting, quest for redemption, colorful supporting characters, and damn fine artistic contributions from JH Williams and Danijel Zezelj. This is the best book that nobody's reading.

DMZ (DC/Vertigo): It was certainly the year of Brian Wood (Supermarket, Local, etc.), but this bold and uniquely premised series from DC will be the one people remember as his "breakout" series when he's a superstar in a couple years. Riccardo Burchielli's pencils are a perfect pairing; a tonal match to compliment his gritty scripts.

Astonishing X-Men (Marvel): X-Men comics just don't get any better than they do with a Joss Whedon script and John Cassaday pencils. This will be one of those runs everyone wants to collect as a defining high point for the property in 20 years. Oh, and two words: Kitty Pryde.

X-Factor (Marvel): This is the *second* time that Peter David has handled X-Factor with aplomb, grace, dignity, intelligence, and humor. Somebody give this guy an Eisner already!

Fell (Image): Ellis nails these "done in one" set of stories with a quiet confidence that's made all the more creepy by Templesmith's clever art. Bravo to Image for pushing this $1.99 advert-free format. Can Image get an Eisner for format design?

Casanova (Image): Fraction nails this "meta-commentary remix" series with an offbeat sense of adventure that's made all the more enjoyable by Ba's two-tone art. Bravo to Image for pushing this $1.99 advert-free format. Can Image get an Eisner for form- whoa... deja vu.

Wasteland (Oni Press): Kudos to Oni for publishing only their *second* (anyone remember Queen & Country?) ongoing series and supporting Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten. These guys are really underrated and hopefully this tale about a post-apocalyptic future that's full of investigative clues as to what happened will bring them to prominence.

Honorable Mentions

Fear Agent (Image): This Indiana Jones meets Flash Gordon hybrid came close to making the grade, but the last couple of issues have left me wondering if I can still go "all in" or if Heath and Company have "missed their River card."

Shaolin Cowboy (Burlyman Entertainment): Suffice it to say, I love this book and thoroughly enjoy Geoff Darrow's pencil's and strange blend of Kung-Fu and Old West. However, 6 issues in like 2 years? Ouch. Some modicum of regularity would have been rewarded.

Well, how'd we do? Agree? Disagree? Let me know! The breakdown looks something like this for anyone interested in the "Top 10," which are in no particular order and voted on purely subjectively by my unique tastes;

DC (& Imprints): 40%
Marvel: 30%
Image: 20%
Oni Press: 10%

Check back soon for Part 2, as our "Top 10 of 2006" continues with Limited Series!


12.13.06 Reviews - Part 2

The Killer #1 (Archaia Studios Press): Loved it! Matz and Luc Jacamon bring this tale of an introspective hitman, originally published in France, to the US as a 10 issue series. Jacamon's art definitely has the European flair to it, with its Humanoids-style look, high quality production values, and meticulous eye for detail, where it's just as important to capture the nuances of an iron rail as it is to capture the intricacies of a facial expression. The opening monologue reminded me of Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, where essentially a bad man rationalizes, justifies, and moralizes his behavior so charmingly that you're suddenly convinced of their nobility and infatuated with the lifestyle. Matz's script builds tension so successfully by using deliberate patience as he weaves together a current assignment with previous hits and a brief origin story of the protagonist. First rate comics! Grade A+.

DMZ #14 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood's script is firing on all cylinders here as this issue focuses on a couple of really interesting ideas. One, terrorism is shaped a lot by perspective. If you were say... the English, the Boston Tea Party was not an act of patriotic revolutionaries, but rampant terrorism. Two, attempting to extract information from prisoners in captivity while being tortured is ultimately futile, because the prisoner can slowly build control. Burchielli has a real Eduardo Risso vibe in spots with his art, it's evolving artistically in a nice gritty way, it makes for a very visceral experience. And that's a perfect match for Wood's writing which offers equally challenging little vignettes that serve as basic morality plays. On a side note, the Scalped preview looks interesting. I was completely uninterested in writer Jason Aaron's last book The Other Side, but I'm curious about this one, R.M. Guera's art also looks intriguing. Guess the preview worked, as I'll probably give the first issue a shot. Grade A.

X-23: Target X #1 (Marvel): I have no familiarity with this property whatsoever other than reading her appearance in the original NYX run. So, why, oh why did I buy this? I guess I thought the variant cover was cool? I like Choi and Oback's art overall, it's very pretty in a homogenous Greg Land sort of way, though the photo references are far less obvious (which is a good thing), but was disappointed by their ugly rendition of Captain America and a very pretty boy manga-inspired look for Matt Murdock. I guess if you're in the mood for a slightly gothy, teen-angsty, sort of bad girl fight thang, then you'll be all over this. I just realized I'm not the right age demographic for this book though. Haha! It is what it is, and for being what it's supposed to be... Grade B.

Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason #1 (DC/Vertigo): In general, I'm happy to see any contributions towards the Sandman mythos, particularly the much lamented period piece that was Sandman Mystery Theatre. I also really enjoyed Eric Nguyen's art here, which gives a subtle nod to the sketchy style that Guy Davis employed on the original (and some Teddy Kristiansen thrown in for good measure), and takes it a step forward with kinetic energy and offbeat inking. Story-wise, I'm a little concerned though. The adventures of a deceased Wesley Dodds and long time flame Dian Belmont in *Afghanistan* certainly feels misplaced, and I'm not sure how or why in that setting Belmont would have been carrying a firearm. Those quibbles aside though, I was interested in their tale. Where I lost it was the abrupt jump-cut to the modern story. What does the modern story have to do with anything? Putting a gas mask in a couple of panels does not a Sandman story make. The only choice for a possible connection would be the reporter being an (arbitrary) choice to inherit the mantle, but doesn't Sand already occupy that space? This reminds me of the only other work I've read of his, John Ney Rieber's Captain America, where it starts out completely straightforward with no subtlety. And if you're in the mood for that, then ok. But then he hits you on the head with the "big stick of meaning" deeper in the issue. It's just not working for me. I'll give issue 2 the casual flip test in a couple weeks and think about buying it if it's a slow week just to enjoy the art... yeah, it's possible, but not likely. Grade C.

The Spirit #1 (DC): Sometimes you've just got to demonstrate a mastery of the King's English. If someone "literally disappeared," it doesn't mean they just simply left, like walked out of the room, it means they vanished like a ghost and ceased to be present in the blink of an eye, all phantasmic like. Sheesh. Anyway, there's no denying Darwyn Cooke's pencils are beautiful, but purely from the storytelling side? I gotta' admit, I was kinda' bored here man. It's just really straightforward superhero, innocuous adventure stuff with no real hook or angle other than being... ya' know, Will Eisner's The Spirit and everything. You still have to tell an engaging story and not rest on the laurels of the property you're dealing with. The "snack sized Nubian savior" and Ginger's insistent newspeak came close to fun, but repetition killed my enthusiasm. Most irritatingly, the convergence of Cooke's 1950's aesthetic and terms like "mystery men" juxtaposed against modern infusions of hip like "let's just chill here for a second," or "get up off my goodness," or "get your freak on," just don't play well together. The dichotomy is not pleasant. Grade C-.

Wonder Man #1 (Marvel): My, what a contrived premise for a story. We're clearly in LA because of the stock hollywood types and Avengers West Coast references, yet there's Carol Danvers and Hank McCoy... since when do they hang out in LA? Ladykiller just happens to stumble upon Wonder Man (random fight alert!) and conveniently fit into the director's vision of a TV show. *Yawn* *Sigh* Zzzzzzz.... And something about "anionic" energy.... ooookay. Peter David, you basically phoned this one in, bro. The dialogue is expository and there's nothing compelling about this in the slightest. I've been given no reason to be interested, much less return, except perhaps to mock the art, which is ridiculously cartoony to the point of caricature. The superhero spelling jokes and waiters as wannabe actors stereotypes illicit only blank stares, not the intended laughs. I swear the line "You die. Now." is from a movie, wish I could recall which. We all know this is just a series designed to drum up interest for Wonder Man's inclusion in the new Avengers book, so this is utterly pointless. By the way, your "superhero" who wants to commit random acts of kindness is illegally detaining a person and in no way qualified to reform her in the way proposed. Whatever-the-fuck-ever. Grade F.

I also picked up;

Breaking Up (Graphix): Regardless of the story by novelist Aimee Friedman, you can't go wrong with 190 pages of Christine Norrie art for a mere $8.99. This is truly a no-risk read.

Supreme Power: Volume 2 Hardcover (Marvel/MAX): I have really mixed emotions about the inclusion of the Hyperion mini-series in this, since I didn't read it, can't vouch for it's quality, it's from a different artist than the main series, and one that I'm not usually fond of at that (Dan Jurgens). But, it is nice to have the final issues (13-18) of the MAX run collected in one place before it turned to drivel in the regular Marvel U. My how I would have appreciated a more straightforward collection of issues 1-18 in one place. I mean, there were other mini-series associated with this property, why was this one singled out? Just doesn't make a lot of sense and shows the lack of long-term planning around the move to the regular Marvel U and the diminishing value of the MAX line to begin with.

12.13.06 Reviews - Part 1

The Escapists #6 (Dark Horse): The duality of the story threads (both the "real" story and the "made up, comic" story) are stronger than ever in terms of solo superficial entertainment, as well as their ability to riff off of eachother thematically. There's the usual embedded commentary about the industry which is both a sad commentary on the business side of the industry prevailing against the artistic side, as well as a strong statement for creator owned properties vs. the traditional work-for-hire arrangement. Vaughan basically tells us to remember our past, but transcend our past, which is a message that feels just right. "You think you know somebody, and all of a sudden they start acting like they're being written by a completely different person." Sad to see this series end, looking forward to the trade which has an editorial commitment of fall 2007. Grade A+.

Tales of the Unexpected #3 (DC): You can sort of hear Dave (Stray Bullets) Lapham's voice in here somewhere, with the interesting slice-of-life degenerate characters that harbor dark secrets. But they basically get lost in the DC shuffle by having to shoehorn in and focus on Crispus Allen/The Spectre. Toss in some awful art, with mis-shapen cars, bad use of perspective, and skewed anatomy, and the lead story is basically a mess. I've decided to grade The Spectre and Dr. 13 stories separately because there's such a divergence in quality. The Spectre is sooo bad, while Azzarello and Chiang's Dr. 13 is sooo good! Chiang's pencils are clean and fresh (I *love* the way Dr. 13's daughter Traci is portrayed). And Azz's script has it all. There are pirates, vampires, airships, yetis, Nazi gorillas, a hidden jungle in the Alps, the ghost of Jeb Stuart, and it all feels perfectly plausible and fun. I thoroughly enjoy the layered meaning and mastery of scripting that Azz displays. You can't beat Dr. 13 shaking a phallic banana at his daughter and talking about everything in the story being a "metaphor." I know that there are pseudo-incestuous overtones with all of this, but so long as it's played the way it is, it's not offensive and has just the right balance of... dare I say it, humor and weirdness that doesn't border on actions that would be sick if handled by a lesser craftsman. Please, oh please, let them collect Dr. 13 separately in a trade! The Spectre: Grade D. Dr. 13: Grade A+.

X-Factor #14 (Marvel): This issue is exactly why I like this series and Peter David's writing in general. We take some interesting X-Men characters, add some intelligent humor, witty dialogue, irreverent attitude (check out the "Previously in X-Factor" blurb, where David tells the history of the Universe, the dawn of Man, Stan & Jack creating the X-Men at Marvel, and the resurgence of the current incarnation of X-Factor in just one paragraph...), and strong characterization that's embedded in several interesting plot threads. We have Rictor as bisexual, which is handled in a completely organic way, not all "special issue," after-school-specialized, the return of Val Cooper, Jamie and his dupes, Jamie and Siryn, Jamie and Monet, Siryn and Monet, Jamie and SHIELD, Jamie and Doc Samson, Jamie and Rahne, Rahne and Guido, Guido and his guilt, Rictor and Quicksilver, Layla and everyone... it's just so dense with story goodness, I hope Peter David can keep this going for years. And Pablo Raimondi's art is good, will he be the regular artist now? Grade A.

Stormwatch: PHD #2 (DC/Wildstorm): Christos Gage's script crackles and pops with unexpected intelligence and smart narration about "walking ghosts" suffering from radiation sickness, Fahrenheit's powers, the analysis of bad guy's powers in order to take them down, and an undercover operation. The approach here reminds me very much of what Joe Casey and Sean Phillips did with their relaunch of Wildcats. Gage and Mahnke are taking seemingly used up C-list characters from the remnants of the Wildstorm U, and winding them up for a run in this worn out world, infusing them with charm and intellect, using where they came from as a mere reflection, a backdrop, for a new direction with a lot of potential momentum and attitude. "My loyalty's to one person in this world, Dino. And you're staring at her ass." A surprisingly strong Grade A.

Ex Machina #25 (DC/Wildstorm): We're treated to some really entertaining and illuminating flashbacks regarding the origins of Hundred and Bradbury. Oddly enough, I don't really have anything beyond that to say, except this book is fucking great! Why aren't you buying it? You should be buying it. Everyone should be buying it. It should be a TV show. It has all the staccato dialogue, political intrigue, and pseudo-hero trappings of Sorkin, Mamet, Bendis, The West Wing, and Heroes. This book should be in every home, selling millions of copies, effectively raising the level of public debate on social issues in this country. Grade A.

Fear Agent #9 (Image): What happened to the affable ease that made this book pop with a brisk, fun pace? It now seems to be trying a little too hard, those dire rhythms that came so naturally and organically now feel forced with Clemens quotes and an assemblage of nameless, faceless villains. The result is a flat feeling throughout, with a hint of hopefulness on the last page reveal. Jerome Opena's art is still awesome to behold, with his lean detailed figures. I'm all kinds of confused about the future of the book. The lettercol indicates that issue 11 is the last issue from Image, then it will move to Dark Horse. Fine. But, we're going to start over with a new #1. Ok, I guess. However, the overall sequential number in series will still be visible. Why? The next origin story will be a 4 issue arc. When does that start? Does that mean the arc will be broken up between 2 publishers? Whaaa? Grade B.

Justice League of America #4 (DC): There are little details here that tickle all my fanboy buttons just fine. Starro as "Star-Ro." Like a Kryptonian? Innnterrresssting. And there are still some enjoyable group dynamics that offer fun insight... like Hal's ruminations on Roy being on the team, which culminates in a nice visual display of 3 red arrows amid a stream of Green Lantern energy ring mojo. But those fun details aside, there are still some troubling larger issues. Meltzer's use of the Jeph Loeb-style narration boxes is proving unwieldy and difficult to discern. How many times do I have to ask "Hrmm, purple box, ok, is that Black Lightning or Batman, ok, who's talking to who here?" And some of the dialogue is extremely disjointed from a script standpoint. Black Lightning says "Hawkgirl," acknowledging her presence. She says "Kendra... and you are...?" And he never answers! Bats just continues the conversation! That just feels awkward, real people don't converse in that manner with dangling questions. Meltzer is good at weaving in past continuity references and adding treats like Geo-Force, but it's such a SLOW process overall. We're 5 issues in (counting the #0 issue) and the team still hasn't been formed, and there's been an endless string of red herring villains introduced. This is beyond decompressed, it just feels lazy and unfocused. Grade B-.

52: Week Thirty-Two (DC): Doesn't seem fair that the Titans would exclude Osiris because of things Black Adam did, how is holding him accountable fair? I hope that DC has an event like the Marvel Decimation one and kills off all of these stupid Luthor "Everyman" heroes. Pat Olliffe's art didn't suck! Served the story just fine. Actually amused by the banter between Animal Man and Adam Strange. "So let me get this straight... it's us against a genocidal alien war machine. We have a bounty on our heads and we have Lobo and the Emerald Head of Ekron on our side... May fortune favor the crazy." Sounds like something out of Whedon's Firefly/Serenity. "Yeo Fei, Accomplished Perfect Physician, a super-functionary of the Great Ten of the Chinese People's Republic?" Interesting. Cryptic clues about the Ambassador Hotel... interesting. I was thinking that it's really an art to be able to capture a person's origin story in barely two pages. DC should publish a 104 page (2 pages x 52 issues, right?) oversized hardcover collecting all of these origins. That would be infinitely more cool than the lead 52 "story" collages. Grade C.


12.06.06 Reviews O' Plenty!

Desolation Jones #8 (DC/Wildstorm): Jones has a great conversation with his younger self here in a dream sequence that deserves props alone for not insulting the reader's intelligence. I'm still really enjoying the detective work and colorful characters. Ellis' writing is firing on all cylinders here... "See, that's why he didn't care you were armed. Mr. Jones here probably knows eight ways to kill you without moving. That is so cool." His characters refuse to edit themselves. He offers us a nice review of Philip K. Dick's Fullerton Period, which was dubbed "2-3-74." It's coincidentally the address of the movie honcho and I also found it quite disturbing that it's also my birthday(!). Eewww! Nice commentary on living in a post-PKD, "science fictional" world, complete with Blade Runner-esque cloned sheep. There's even more priceless dialogue from Evers Chance, who ran a major movie studio, "lived the sixties, ran the seventies, and closed the eighties." The script is very dense but crisp, as Jones tells Chance's man Croker "Listen: holstering your gun there, it shows when you move and it makes you shift your weight. Put it on the back of your belt, base of your spine. Otherwise someone will turn up at the door and they'll know. And they'll shoot you first." Croker: "That's not how I learned it in the LAPD." Jones: "Thats why cops get shot and I'm still here. Take it easy, mate." And Emily Crowe is further proof that Zezelj's art is perfectly moody for this intriquing and unique title. Grade A+.

Superman: Confidential #2 (DC): Tim Sale's art feels stronger than ever, with a shout out to Dave Stewart for some absolutely brilliant coloring. The pages pop with the right tone and feel. I sensed real drama here, boys. Bravo! It was downright scary to see Supes in a fit of panic and freaking out, losing his way in the lava, forced to breath the flaming liquid in, "drowning in a sea of fire." We don't often see a truly vulnerable Superman. And for someone who can't get into the character and often cites this as a chief complaint, I don't say this lightly - this tale of his early career was extremely well done. Grade A.

Agents of Atlas #5 (Marvel): Really liked Namora's explanation of Venus' true self. "Merpeople rarely use the Roman names of mythology" is a true testament to the intelligence of Parker's writing potential. Plenty of old school Marvel continuity, action, and crafty dialogue. And I still dig SHIELD Agent and Wakandan extraordinaire Derek Khanata and the sumptuous and clean lines of Leonard Kirk. Grade A-.

Dr. Strange: The Oath #3 (Marvel): I read this book (and Jonah Hex) last night while hopped up on meds trying to fight off the onset of what feels like flu (achy body, insane headache behind the eyes, aversion to light, slight nausea, and the hint of a sore throat coupled with a dash of nasal congestion...), so you've been forewarned about possible crankiness or sketchy details. Marcos Martin's art still looks great with single forms, check out the cape swirl around Stephen... but I remember making a mental note that his background detail was really lacking in this issue. Overall though, the plot feels like it's coalescing nicely and Vaughan is taking stray bits (Night Nurse!) and weaving them all together with just the right balance of cool action, sorcery (poking fun at the implausibility of it all, I mean, Strange can weave an incantation together to save the universe, but can't seem to summon an aspirin for Wong because "science did it already?!"), humor, and general immersion in some kooky corners of the Marvel U. Grade A-.

NewUniversal #1 (Marvel): This title will probably never escape comparisons to TV's Heroes or Straczynski's Rising Stars for its use of an anomalous event that affects multiple (as yet) unrelated people. But since this is a reimaging of an old 1980's Marvel idea that came first, I can forgive a large amount of that. Larroca's art looks really clean, with some fine details (reminiscent of Travis Charest in spots), a photorealistic flair (reminiscent of Greg Land in spots), and some blocky, thickly inked charm (reminiscent of Sean Phillips - did Larroca ink himself here?)... so how's that for an artistic smoothie? The "White Event" is depicted beautifully and struck me as a tiny bit JH Williams inspired in spots. Though the Greg Landistic photo-refs were too thick, to the point of distraction, for my taste in spots (Gene Hackman, Tony Soprano, Sawyer from Lost, anyone?), overall this book has a charm and intelligence that has me interested. I liked the clues about an alternate timeline and the tutorial on Bronze Age civilizations in the Marvel U. Grade B+.

The Nightly News #2 (Image): Filled with tasty and rebellious truth-illuminating one-liners like "the essence of propaganda is not in variety... but in limiting choice." Enjoyed the "Errors in the News: Greatest Hits" collection, which highlights some classics with low visibility. Just when I thought the spelling and grammar errors were in check, they returned with a vengeance in the back half of the book. Yo, Jonathan Hickman! Stay with me! Eyes on me, bro... It's exaggeration, not "exageration." It's McDonnell Douglas, not "MacDonald Douglas." Your line "So, what are talking about here?" desperately needs a noun. As in "So, what are you talking about here?" And finally, Picasso's infamous quote is actually "good artists copy, great artists steal," not whatever shlock you wrote. In this case, "good comic book writers fact check their sources of inspiration for accuracy, great writers use spelling and grammar check tools, and editors should... you know, edit." Too bad that this was so distracting from what was otherwise a good time. It pushed me right out of the story; I was frequently sighing and getting upset, looking out for errors instead of enjoying the ride. I warned you with the first issue; if this continues I will begin deducting points, first to B-, then to C+, and on to C, so that by the end of your series, all other things being equal, you will not be where you want to be and this will be the very last... Grade B.

Irredeemable Ant-Man #3 (Marvel): The ant monologue recap won some points right off the bat. I'm starting to enjoy the inner conflict of the protagonist, as he's torn between trying do the right thing and dealing with the death of his best friend, with more base motivations like just being a guy with a cool stolen Ant-Man suit, and scoring chics. The dichotomy (are we supposed to root for this guy or despise him? root for him because he's so despicable?) makes for an interesting read. I'm still cautious with Kirkman, that he really needs to follow a throughline for the title character's arc to work, but cautiously optimistic nonetheless. Hester's art is clean and cool. Grade B.

Manhunter #26 (DC): Hrmm... this book goes on a multi-month hiatus, they attempt a "relaunch" to grab a wider audience for a title with critical buzz that doesn't sell and is in danger of cancellation, they bother to get Wonder Woman as a recurring guest star, continue to include fan favorite Cameron Chase, and have Art Adams do the cover... why the fuck *wouldn't* you start over with a #1 issue? That's just poor. Other than that marketing gaffe, this is a typically great issue of Manhunter that provides a nice intro to the principal characters, establishes who's who, and most importantly who Kate is motivationally as Manhunter. Loved the touch of Kate having Diana train her in exchange for a pro bono legal defense. Grade B.

Jonah Hex #14 (DC): While I liked the first issue of this origin revealing arc tremendously and still think Jordi Bernet's art is beautiful to behold, I can't escape the feeling that this issue is horribly overwrought. I was satisfied with Hex having a "regular" childhood and his slant toward the bizarre beginning with his Civil War days. But here, we see him being abused as a child, learning some strange lessons from his father, and being taken in all Dances With Wolves style (cliche alert! cliche alert!) as the sole "pale face" among an Indian tribe. I'm sad that such potential with a great Western character was squandered, and only one more issue to get it back on track. Grade B-.

Justice Society of America #1 (DC): Are acronyms out now? Instead of JLA, we get Justice League of America. Instead of JSA, we get Justice Society of America. Is that how it's going to be? Ok... Well, Eaglesham's art is serviceable. No more, no less. If I was being generous, I'd say he does a nice Liberty Belle, Stargirl, and Jack Knight. If I was being critical, I'd say what the hell is up with Superman's face, why on Earth would Liberty Belle and Hourman be posed that way, and why is the opening page so stiff (really, I've never seen a worse Wildcat or Flash)? So, we'll just leave it at "serviceable." Gathering the team issues are always fun (thank heavens, this is done in one issue, unlike JLA - paging Mr. Meltzer!), so there's some mileage to be had there, and in general, there are some interesting revelations to be had with Wildcat's family, a clinically schizophrenic Starman, and the sudden appearance of Mr. America on the last page. My biggest pet peeve is getting some consistency with the culture of the hero generations. In numerous other DC titles, we've been told (and I'm paraphrasing Dick Grayson here) that "the JSA teaches you how to be a hero, the JLA teaches you how to fight, but the Titans teach you how to be a family." Yet, here we have contradictory info... Batman says the JSA is a family, no, wait... Diana says the JSA teaches you a moral compass, no, wait... Wildcat teaches you how to fight, no, wait... the JLA is a strike force, umm.... what? Grade C+.

Midnighter #2 (DC/Wildstorm): Like much of Ennis' writing, I feel that this leans toward sensationlism merely for the sake of itself. It's intended to be a bit over the top and create a reaction solely to that end, instead of delivering an artistic voice that's framed in a point of view with a compelling moral or intellectual argument. Essentially, there's no position here except "check out what I can do with Hitler, mindless violence, and a smattering of gay jokes!" As evidenced by lines like "In summary... I'm going to come back and kill every single one of you" and "Watch the lip, trouser pilot." Lines intentionally designed to shock rarely do. Those strong reservations aside, we have some beautiful Chris Sprouse art; my how I'd love to be buying a book regularly that he's on. And just when I start to poke holes in this time travel story, the last page gets me thinking that maybe Ennis will address some of my concerns. I think I can hang on one more issue to see if this is worth pursuing further. A flimsy as hell plot (Hitler killed my parents so I'd like you to fuck up the space-time continuum and alter history so I can exact vengeance!) that's superficially entertaining if you don't think about it too hard. Grade C.

52: Week Thirty-One (DC): Oh, I don't know. It's the usual shotgun blast of ideas that never seem to congeal, like a tray of jello that's 15 degrees too warm. Green Lantern Thormon Tox is cool for a second. Why does it look like one of the "Glorifiers" is in a Darkstar uniform on the cover? Wouldn't a cooler, more in continuity, villain have been The Blight from Legion of Superheroes? Seems that they pretty much do the same thing as the "Believer Cubes" and "Glorifiers." I still can't get over the issue of too many characters being introduced and seemingly abandoned with no sign of any resolution (the only real resolution in this ish being that Supernova is not Superboy, but that introduces more questions as to who he really is...). Now we have Captain Comet. Was he meant to have sent a psi-projection to Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange? That wasn't quite clear. Kinda' sad how the cricket Green Lantern got denied aid; cold-hearted Guardians even turned his damn ring off. And I don't even want to get into the Freudian undercurrent of Sierra's comment "you don't think he was looking for something of mine to eat?" Nice Freddie E. Williams art on the Robin origin. Grade C-.

Marvel Holiday Special (Marvel): The only thing really amusing about this was Fin Fang Foom's generally detached attitude and his disdain for humans, culminating with "Death to the impostors!" in order to incite a riot between warring Hydra factions. Otherwise, the jokes fall pretty flat. I liked the idea and set-up of an Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) office party with its fresh art, but it never really got off the ground (and why did it have to be split up six ways to Sunday in between other pieces?). Jokes that center around punchlines including New Coke, Dot-Coms, and Tivo are a little too dated, folks. I kept hearing the "ba-dum-dum!" in my head when I failed to laugh. The alphabet game was excruciating to endure considering how so much work went into the piece just so it could lay there and get zero chuckles. Grade C-.

Spider-Man: Reign #1 (Marvel): First of all, isn't the artist's name Jean-Michel Basquiat? Never heard of "Basquiet." Well, you might as well call this "The Red Spider Returns." Or how about "The Arach-Knight Returns?" Oh, let's just cut right to it and call it "Spider-Man Returns." Because when you have an aging hero in retirement, a bleak, dystopian big-brother future, a government controlled media with staged talking heads, a plot full of 1986 style paranoia that stems from nuclear proliferation and civil rights issues from the Reagan/Gorbachev/Thatcher era, hint at psychosis by referring to the costume in the third person, and flirt with a repetitive grid for your panel layouts... WHAT DO YOU GET, EVERYONE? Yes! It's Marvel's version of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, starring Peter Parker! It's quite a shame too, because that outright act of duplication spoils some nice Kaare Andrews art (except for those CGI cars and cityscapes, why was *that* necessary?). If this wasn't so heavily derivative, it might actually be a cool story if it could stand on its own without the constant swipe chatter in my mind. It's not homage. It's not reference. It's not a jab at the Distinguished Competition. It's outright imitation and duplication, which = swipe. Grade D+.

Welcome to Tranquility #1 (DC/Wildstorm): There's a really cool premise lurking about here, that of a retirement community comprised of former heroes and villains, with a first arc kicked off by an unexpected closed room murder. And that's about as far as it gets because the execution is rather flawed. The "Mixy Motor Car" looks like Ace & Gary's car from The Ambiguously Gay Duo on SNL, which kinda' brings up the whole undercurrent of homophobia here that basically fetishizes gay women, but simultaneously demonizes gay men. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but it's embedded nonetheless. Sorry, but I can't tell who's talking or who's who in the first few pages or what those ants are supposed to be doing. It all feels pretty haphazard, like too much is being crammed in here and there's not time to explore any one single idea sufficiently. It's almost like this book is already afraid of being cancelled and is desperately trying to get all its ideas out on paper before the hammer drops. I know she has a loyal following, but I think I'm learning that I just don't like Gail Simone's writing. The art ranges from being ok, read that as "passable" and "almost kinda' cute," to just weird and misproportioned with wonged out head shapes and facial features. Really, why are there circles on everyone's nose? What's *that* about? All in all, feels kinda' gimmicky with the menus and recipes and mysteriously recurring chicken motif. Lastly, The Emoticon? Really? As a villain? Really? Umm, no. As the last of the Wildstorm relaunch titles hits, the whole line is pretty much shaping up to be ass. Grade D-.


Graphic Novel(s) Of The Month

The New Frontier: Absolute Edition (DC): Come on, you knew this was coming. This was an easy one! There's little left to say about Darwyn Cooke's grand opus that transitions us from the Golden Age (1950's and just prior) of DC heroes into the burgeoning creativity and mass appeal of the Silver Age (1960's) "superhero" archetype. In short, Cooke (who writes, draws, and inks this masterpiece) offers up a love letter to the DCU. The New Frontier pays its respects to the war-inspired, pulp and classic heroes of a bygone era and presents us with a difficult transition. This period of time was really a turning point for American culture as the optimism of the so called "Great Generation" of people who fought in World War II (hi Grandpa!) faded quietly into the night. The new generation sought to explore the aptly titled "new frontier." It's difficult to capture the qualities of that time, it is equal parts skepticism (Cold War paranoia, McCarthyism, Jack, Bobby, and Martin being assassinated, Kent State, etc.) and hope (scientific and technological advances, Civil Rights being raised to an unprecedented level of public debate, putting a man on the moon, etc.). But Cooke nails it. Those feelings are prevalent even in this fictitious superhero world. There is a sense of sorrow that one chapter, one significant era is being closed and responsibility is solemnly handed off to the next generation of reluctant heroes (Batman, Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, etc.) for safekeeping. It's appropriate that the Absolute Edition is oversized, it only underscores the sense that this work, this time period it represents, is weighty and important. There is a changing of the guard that hasn't been equalled. The $75 price tag is worth every nickel, containing extra sketches and detailed notes by Cooke on various design and story elements. It is a pure joy to peruse once again with this additional level of explanation. Grade A+.

New X-Men: Omnibus Edition (Marvel): I'm saddened this week by the passing of X-Men artist Dave Cockrum (Erik Larsen does a bang up job chronicling his life, career, and importance of his contributions in his column over at CBR this week, check it out!), which doesn't have a whole lot to do with this book. Well, it does kinda'. Cockrum is one of those names you hear associated with "that run of X-Men" that people often refer to. He came on with the "All New - All Different!" run that Chris Claremont penned in Giant Size X-Men #1 and Uncanny X-Men #94. John Byrne took over as artist on #108, Cockrum came back around #143 when Byrne eventually left and floated in and out as John Romita Jr. and ultimately Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee got their starts much later with the title. Claremont hung on as writer pretty much for that entire run, well into the 200's. And as we all know, that run from #94 on is basically what defined the X-Men for the generation just before me, my own generation, and the one that followed. We're talking like 15 years of creativity, a singular vision, that gave us Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, The Death of Thunderbird, The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, The Hellfire Club, Kitty Pryde & Emma Frost... the list goes on. Those stories became the canon that the movies and many other titles were based on in terms of tone, characterization, and plot threads... for decades.

Along comes superstar writer Grant Morrison, accompanied by a host of writers boasting their own critical and fan acclaim. There's Frank Quitely, Igor Kordey, Chris Bachalo, and Marc Silvestri, just to name a few. Morrison gives us villain Cassandra Nova and a plethora of re-imaging in the "All New - All Different!" tradition that came before. There's a great degree of historical significance to again, a singular vision like this, being employed for 42 issues of a book. It's all too rare in the creative marketplace of today's medium. Aside from the occasional Bone or Savage Dragon, you really never see that. And Morrison brings an equally ambitious vision to the table, sure it's hampered by the unintentional rotating artist stable, but worthy of note nonetheless. With these offerings this month, it definitely feels that it is a time to honor our comic book history and look hopefully to the future. Grade A.

And since I basically reviewed this book in my intro for the New X-Men Omnibus Edition, let's also throw in the Uncanny X-Men: Omnibus Edition (Marvel). Grade A+.