4.25.07 Reviews

Silent War #4 (Marvel): Wow. There is all kinds of shocking information coming out of this title! Medusa and Black Bolt have a son!? Medusa betrays Black Bolt and kisses Maximus!? Did Black Bolt just let an insane scream out into open space from the surface of the moon!? Medusa receives a... *note* from Black Bolt!? Terrigenesis is lethal to humans!? Black Bolt just ordered a full out Inhumans attack on the Pentagon!? Wow. Wow. Wow. This is some dramatic stuff, the best I've seen the Inhumans portrayed, both thematically and visually, in quite some time, maybe ever, at least since that nice Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee mini-series a few years ago. This is a real writing lesson in "put your characters where they'd least like to be" in order to get maximum drama. Frazer Irving's pencils (and the coloring!) have never looked better and are boiling over with the type of emotion that fuels this type of writing. This is like... the perfectly rendered book, where all aspects of the creative process, from writing, to penciling, to inking, to lettering and coloring, all unite to achieve the desired effect in perfect harmony. Grade A+.

Powers #24 (Marvel/Icon): I feel that my worst fear about this title is now being realized. Has it... jumped the shark? I feel like it's now bordering on Lost or X-Files territory, where instead of resolving any of the long-standing plot threads, we're just being strung along as Bendis continues to throw in every partial, random idea he's been collecting and can't work into a mainstream Marvel title. I sincerely hope that it hasn't jumped the shark, that Bendis has a clear end in mind, and that he wraps this up while he's still strong, like in the next arc or two. It's getting repetitive, losing its charm, and I want to see it go out on top, with clear, unfettered-by-the-ravages-of-time resolution around these characters I've invested years in. I think it's time to put Powers to bed. Grade B.

Wisdom #5 (Marvel/MAX): Hrmmm. I really enjoyed the first couple of issues of this mini-series about a fictitious MI-13 that deals with the mutant, paranormal stuff beyond the ability of real world MI-5 and MI-6. However... it's now starting to feel a little manic, like the creative team is wildly channeling their inner Morrison, Ellis, and Moore (martians, really? that's really where you want to take this? really?) and what started as an innovative, fresh, witty, unique concept, now feels a little too derivative of earlier/better work. Cautiously optimistic that they'll refocus and pull this out. Grade B-.

52: Week Fifty-One (DC): Surprisingly, this issue actually contains more of what I originally expected from the series. But, as this point - it's too little, too late. We get some reasonable explanations about Robin's new costume, Kid Devil's participation in one of the Titans incarnations, more appearances from Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, and Skeets, but this should have been happening all along, not as a sudden surge in the second to last issue. And sorry Joe Bennett, but your panel to panel storytelling ability just isn't up to par. I've reviewed the Starfire-at-the-Baker-residence scene about 5 times now and I still don't get what happened with Kory. Did she zap those bad guys who knocked on the door? Why would they (and by extension, the Lady Styx thing) have been included if they'd be dismissed so easily? Did she faint because she saw that Buddy was actually alive? Did Ellen react without thinking, hitting her because she thought she was an intergalactic stripper? Was she tired from her long bout of space travel, collapsing once she'd finally reached her destination? No idea; it was totally unclear. Mister Mind? Lobo? Some thoughts on that: who cares? It's also interesting to me that in the JLA backup feature, Geo-Force is called out as a full member of the JLA (not that I mind that per se, I quite like him in fact), but over in the JLA book, that hasn't been stated. He's just been lingering around 'cuz I guess his powers are acting up, and he's done little more than have throw-away lines with Mari, Black Lightning, and Sand from the JSA, let alone been offered full membership as I recall. And with all the hullabaloo about who's in and who's out (it did take Meltzer like 7 issues to settle, after all), wouldn't Clark and Diana have an issue with Batman stacking the deck and having 2 former Outsiders (assumably loyal to Bats) on the team? Once again, hello editorial department, what do you guys do for a living? Silly me for assuming it was coordinating the consistency of messaging in all the various lines and titles. Grade D+.

I also picked up;

Runaways: Volume 7 (Marvel): This digest sized trade collects issues 19-24, the final Brian K. Vaughan arc, leading up to the present Joss Whedon helmed issues. I've followed the series in trades alone, so I'm anxious to see what's happened since (my last) issue 18.

Agents of Atlas: Premiere Edition (Marvel): This was a very solid mini-series from Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk that I may not have picked up a "normal" collected edition of. But, when you cram it full of bonus material, behind the scenes goodness, *and* reprint a bunch of 1940's and 1950's first appearances of the characters, that is really something special. This is a unique package that transcends the trappings of the original mini-series. Definitely worth a look, and a steal for a $24.99 hardcover.


4.18.07 Reviews

DMZ #18 (DC/Vertigo): There's never an end to Brian Wood's ideas. And it's a pleasure to see what's next, what direction the new arc will take to further develop this harsh reality. This time we get a look at the pre-DMZ formation of the Free States of America, with the militia movement. I like how Matty appears to have "gone native" from the perspective of his dad. It's a huge departure from the brash, punky kid we saw in the first issue. The boy has grown up and entertained us along the way. I loved the framing device of interviewing a soldier at the center of a friendly fire incident. This provides some flashbacks that have a very gritty Paul Pope level of surrealism courtesy of artist Nathan Fox. Each successive arc of DMZ seems to be better than the previous. This title is unstoppable. Grade A+.

Ex Machina #27 (DC/Wildstorm): Another solid issue that highlights a good personal attack, hints at future threats (or is it threats from the future?), and a fun new character (one that I hope will be recurring) in the form of the Mayor's OEM (Office of Emergency Management) Representative. Grade A.

The Brave & The Bold #3 (DC): Not as overtly fun or focused as the previous two issues, mainly due to some attention being spent on a plethora of bad guys as much as any of the other threads. What we do see of the Batman/Blue Beetle team up is a fun continuity consistent note with La Dama in Houston. That's balanced with an in-tone Lobo/Supegirl riff. I just wished these two threads had been scripted separately in two issues, instead of hammered together here. Grade A-.

The Mighty Avengers #2 (Marvel): It's hard to escape the feeling that Frank Cho is here just so we could get a mostly naked female Ultron. Is that really the most efficient design for a brilliant killing machine(?). Why does it look like Janet? Giving the benefit of the doubt here and hoping those questions will be directly answered. I feel like the flashback sequences are now all too common, that disjointed out of sequence storytelling that seemed to permeate everything in a post-Pulp Fiction generation of storytellers. I'll just blame Tarantino, not Bendis, for this cheat that can sometimes be an exercise in style over substance. Was it really necessary to have Mole Man and Ultron? Two classic villains in the very same, first arc? I'm sort of conflicted with this title. For everything I find to like, there's something that nags at me. Ares is proving to be very fun, The Sentry is not. Black Widow is handled really cool here, The Wasp is not. I like Warbird, not Tony... it's pulling at itself like a scab, for me. Overall, it's harmless, and if you ignore the post-Civil War issues, it's pretty solid superheroics. Yes, Cho's art is cheesecakey, but still very effective from a panel to panel storytelling standpoint. Grade B+.

Justice League of America #8 (DC): It's nice to see Shane Davis (Mystery in Space/Captain Comet) getting some work; he feels right at home here. While some things still don't hold up to the logic test, and the juggling of multiple narrative threads is still confusing at times, the undeniable fun of the moments being woven together stands. Where else can you get Geo-Force, the LSH, the JSA, and the JLA, off on a old fashioned team up, complete with gratuitous splash pages and littered with little fanboy moments? The execution may be flawed, but it's clear Meltzer loves these character as much as we do. What more do you want from a JLA book? Grade B+.

X-Factor #18 (Marvel): Khoi Pham's art is painful at times, but by the end he settles into a fair amount of consistency. David's scripting is one of the most entertaining around, he has the fun ability to juggle a large cast, advance the main plot(s), and hit all the right interpersonal shit along the way. Grade B.

Manhunter #30 (DC): Kate Spencer's adventures are still well written and touch on more sophisticated issues than many other titles, but the book now feels listless. Is this the last issue? Will it continue monthly? Will it come out sporadically? Could it be a series of mini-series? There seems to be no direction or communication to the fans, which falls perfectly in line with the editorial retardation of things like, say... Wonder Woman. Here she is attempting to hide in plain sight, buying a Humvee and wearing shades, but still sporting the gold tiara. Huh? Too bad the intent of the creators is mired in poor editing. Grade B-.

52: Week Fifty (DC): We start with a very majestic and nicely rendered JG Jones cover, then jump right into some awful art. I guess Black Adam is supposed to look like a zombie(?). Like a rock skipping across a pond at the hand of a 12 year old, we jump all over the place here, from China to Australia, to some places we've never seen in 52 before, never staying in one place long enough to do anything. Booster Gold and Rip Hunter(?) appear for a second, which is a welcome return to something recognizable that needs to be resolved, but they leave just as quickly, funny they were the main players 50 weeks ago, haven't been seen since, and now have only two issues to resolve their story. Somehow I don't have faith in that happening. The only well paced scene was Black Adam, sans magic word, wandering through the Middle East. That had gravitas and was depicted nicely. Everything else is just random nonsense. Grade D.

World War III #1-4 (DC): Decided to review these all in one since they're all part of the same stupid debacle. In no particular order (much like the scenes in the books), here are some random thoughts I painfully dealt with while reading... Isn't it hard to believe that basically every single hero in the DCU can't stop Black Adam? That's just painfully unbelievable and lacks credibility, insulting the ability of many of the heroes present. Apparently, WWIII is a Martian Manhunter mini-series(?). That seems to be the only logical conclusion since it's told from his point of view and now seems to focus on his arc. Was *that* necessary? Were we just itching to seem more of him in spite of him never being popular enough to carry his own title for more than say, 20 issues? On the one hand, I give Dan DiDio credit on the DC Nation page for saying essentially "we fucked up" and didn't have enough room in 52 to tell these bits... on the other hand, he's admitting "we fucked up" and didn't have enough room. Isn't that like... umm, I don't know... basically his whole job as an editor? Martian Manhunter hasn't really been in 52 before, yet here he is, starring prominently. Huh? Since when were Firehawk and Firestorm such a big deal in 52? Huh? Who is this new Father Time? Huh? Doesn't this seem unnecessarily violent? Black Adam ripping people's faces off, pulling out their arms, killing Terra and Young Frankenstein? Killing millions of peole in Bialya wasn't enough to get the point across? The most interesting bit of these books were the recurring ads for Kirby's Fourth World collections, though I do wish they'd collect them by title - I just want the Mister Miracle stories. Since when is Jason Todd running around as Nightwing? Huh? Doom Patrol? Batgirl and Deathstroke? What? DC's era of "drive by comics" continues unchecked, like Orcs raping and pillaging the Westfold, these feel like I'm in Oz and a twister ravaged the DCU, random characters and story bits flying by haphazardly in no discernible order. There are a couple handy bits about Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange, but they don't belong here - they should be in the main 52 book. Harvey Dent and Killer Croc? When did this happen? Where did it happen? Why is it here, now? It's all just a collage of disparate parts, there's nothing to focus on and follow from start to finish, the majority of items have nothing to do with what's been presented in 52 to date, and the parts that are connected, by definition, should be in the main 52 book - like Booster popping in and out indiscriminantly. Good luck figuring out who Aquaman is in this book vis-a-vis anything going on in his own title. Hawk & Dove? Who? What? This does superficially address Martian Manhunter's new look in his own OYL book, but again, was that a burning question? And shouldn't it have been handled in 52? Amanda Waller & Bronze Tiger? Umm, yeah, that belongs in Checkmate, thanks. This is the worst bits of 52, intensified by a factor of 10. It's unwieldy, lacks a coherent thought, and has no focus or editorial guidance. More tangents are introduced which have no conclusion and will also go unresolved. In issue four, we have a close up on Wildcat's knuckles. Alan Scott's ring. Wonder Girl's lasso. Hawkgirl's mace. And... Power Girl's tits? I guess that's the key to her power? What? Halo? Why? Lightning strikes Martian Manhunter and that transforms him? What? Why? What a desperate attempt to try and explain something that could be relevant to what 52 was intended to do. We end with the Monitors saying "Some lived. Some died. And some... changed." Ummm, ok. Wouldn't that be the case at any random moment in the DCU? What does it have to do in terms of commentary on this event? What does that even refer to? Nothing happens. DC is quickly becoming the little boy who cried wolf. Ohmygod, it's going to be this crazy event! We all rush over. Nothing happens. Ohmygod, it's going to change things! We all rush over. Nothing happens. Ohmygod, it's going to be spectacular! We all rush over. Nothings happens. They're just teasing Countdown now. Countdown to what? Your story has to be about something to be classified as a story. Who cares? Countdown to the next fabricated event where, you guessed it, nothing happens. I'm done. Ohymygod, it's going to be this crazy event! Hey, we said it will be cool... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's pitiful to me that the "content" (using that word loosely here) of these 4 issues couldn't just be in 52, DiDio basically admits that when it started, they had no idea where it was going, what the plan was, or what was going to happen, they were literally making it up as they went along. Using proof by counter-example, isn't this like the very definition of his job, a lack of editorial control? Random ending thought, I like how Donna is in the Wonder Woman bracelets on a cover, and then she's not even in the friggin' book! That move is just totally emblematic of the nonsensical lack of coordination, attention to detail, no plan fuck-off that this whole train wreck was. Grade F-.


4.11.07 Reviews

Wasteland #8 (Oni Press): Another slick as hell issue. As our wayward refugees from Providence are uncomfortably settling into Newbegin, the tension is cranked up another 10 notches. This is like a ticking time bomb ready to go off, all of the plot threads are going to converge. It's going to be so crazy! Johnston is a real craftsman here, simultaneously advancing the plot, while filling in little holes in previously extablished material with clues about Michael, Golden Voice, and past residents of Providence. It all comes off seamless and entertaining to the reader. Mitten's art has come a long way and that's not intended to sound like a backhanded compliment. I loved his work on the Queen & Country: Declassified arc, but he seems to have grown so much as an artist here, varying his line weight, working harder at backgrounds. This guy is going to be a superstar one day - you saw it here first. It sounds overly simplistic, but this is just very professional storytelling from the creative team. Just like Michael's infiltration skills, do not underestimate this creative team. In some ways, Wasteland reminds me of Whedon's Firefly/Serenity universe, because it's so thoroughly worked out, so fully realized, you get the sense that the world extends forever, beyond the confines of the TV or the panel border. It feels real, which is the best compliment you can probably pay to a fiction writer. This title is brimming with politics, sex, religion, jealousy, and scandal. In short, it's full of what makes the world tick, making this that rare thing... even in a fantastical setting, it's become socially relevant. Grade A.

Fell #8 (Image): The style of the daily activity reports by Fell initially reads a little dense. But when you realize Ellis is going for a portrayal of a bleak, repetitive vibe, it works just fine. And hey, for $1.99, I'm up for any type of experimentation here. There are some priceless moments here, like the description of "death coffee" and its ingredients and effects. The tidbits about Fell's past across the bridge in the city are welcome as they help expand his persona and tolerance of different things (pimps beware!). Overall, a very effective issue that captures this bleak world, while offering just a small glimmer of hope in Fell's value of the human life. Grade A.

All-Star Superman #7 (DC): Can I just say that I love Quitely's Lois Lane? You can almost feel her shivering as she stands in the snow and her hair blows in that skimpy little dress. As not a huge fan of Bizarro, I dug this issue. I like the plausible (ok, not plausible, but finally explainable) explanation of the Bizarro world, the little treats like the Bizarro bits sometimes breaking the panel walls, and the random humor of viagra being the antidote to the Bizarro effects. The best part of this re-introduction had to be the twist at the end, a novel concept about one in x million copies being not so flawed. *That* is going to be an interesting showdown. You can't ask for a better Superman after Morrison & Quitely's version... because there isn't one. Grade A.

Tales of the Unexpected #7 (DC): The lead story achieves its goal (not in the way it intended) of horror by being totally horrible as usual. Grade F. As for the Dr. 13 back up feature, I can only quote the Puerto Rican Pirate guy: "Joo god me lob'sick baby." Azzarello swings for the fences again and delivers a hysterical, self-aware, meta-commentary adventure that belongs in that Pantheon of industry greats like Automatic Kafka and Flex Mentallo. We actually see a figurative and literal game of "52 pick up" as thinly disguised visages of the 52 architects, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and Greg Rucka are shown constructing the post-event DCU. I'm so impressed with Azz showing this side of his writing self and extending his skills beyond their typical comfort zone with this tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall-breaking surrealism. The commentary about "full stories dangerously close to being ignored" is a great plea against the multiversal events that end up nullifying previous continuity, which is balanced with the pressure to make the "universe current so people will believe." Smart not to choose sides in this battle, but simply present the conflict. All in all, a brilliant story. Please save Traci! I want to see more of her! The fact that I'm still paying $3.99 an issue to only enjoy a third of this book says it all. Long live Dr. 13 and his eclectic assemblage of cohorts. Grade A+.

BPRD: Garden of Souls #2 (Dark Horse): This issue walks a fine balance between fleshing out previously established bits like Abe Sapien's true origin and Captain Daimio's personality, while expanding the BPRD-verse and introducing some new robotic automaton characters and their master(?); the two threads on a seeming collision course. I'm starting to pick up a little Liz/Kate vibe too. Anyone see that? My only passive criticism is that since it's mid arc, it sorta' feels like "all middle" with not much happening. Grade A-.

New Avengers #29 (Marvel): I still don't know why the dual running narratives are necessary. All they do is create confusion as to where we are, both physically and in the timeline. Otherwise, this is entertaining enough. It's above average, but never quite acheives the level of greatness it's hoping for. My favorite bit was Rand attorney Jeryn Hogarth delivering some much needed bitch slapping to uber-dick Tony Stark/Iron Man, pointing out the ridiculous nature of enforcing this supposed "law." Yu's art now feels hurried, resulting in some sketchy and unifinished spots which don't live up to the usual level of refinement in earlier issues. It now seems clear that Ronin is neither Danny Rand, nor Matt Murdock. So who is it? Steve Rogers, perhaps? Would be a nice way to hide him in plain sight while he's supposedly "dead," making for a nice build toward an eventual showdown between Cap's hand chosen New Avengers and Tony's team of Mighty Avengers. Grade B.

The Nightly News #5 (Image): I'm starting to fear that this may ultimately be classified as a "noble failure." The savvy media critique is dead bang on, but as a narrative with a clear throughline, it's a bit obtuse and doesn't work as well as it needs to purely as a comic. I like the induction of terms like "culture of argument" and journalists thinking the public is overloaded with information as the public feels they are not told everything. It's a smart debate that highlights the fact that what the public actually wants is meaningful information. In that regard, that doesn't necessarily equate to more information. It's your standard quantity over quality debate. While the typos and factual errors have largely subsided, there is still the occasional gaffe like referncing Pachelbel's "Chaconne" as a wedding song. Isn't it Pachelbel's Canon? Sounds rude to say, but the most exciting bit of this for me was an ad for Ellis' Fell Limited Edition Hardcover collecting issues 1-8 due out in April. Grade B.

Stormwatch: PHD #6 (DC/Wildstorm): Not to over-caveat, but this is still a surprisingly strong and engaging read. The group dynamics are really handled nicely as we gear up for a showdown between alien baddies and a precinct full of regular Boys in Blue. I wish Gage and Mahnke were getting more credit for this overlooked title; Gage is quickly becoming one of my favorite new writers. Grade B.

52: Week Forty-Nine (DC): It's all Oolong Island, all the time this issue, which is really my least favorite thread of this mess. Man, if you thought Rob Liefeld couldn't draw feet, check out the disproportionate anatomical happenings of Eddy Barrows here, downright ugly. Not even the back up feature could save us this time around, as Don Kramer (the reason I stopped reading Dini's Detective Comics) gives us a JSA origin. Grade F.

I also picked up;

Wasteland: Volume 1: Cities in Dust (Oni Press): Do I really need to say anything more about this book? One of the best indy comics currenty on the stands. Buy it. Now. Buy more than one copy. It makes a great gift for anyone who likes comics, movies, TV, pop culture... hell, anyone that speaks the English language. Collects issues 1-6. Special thanks to Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, and the gang at Oni Press for using a pull quote right here from 13 Minutes to adorn the back of the trade! Thanks guys! Grade A+.

All-Star Superman: Volume 1 Hardcover (DC): Ok, everyone. Ready? It's the best Superman comic around. 'Nuff said. Grade A+.


4.04.07 Reviews

Scalped #4 (DC/Vertigo): Scalped continues its gritty, visceral depiction of a microcosm of society slowly crumbling away. Everyone here is trying to find a shred of honor or comfort, some way to build a life that shelters them from violence amid a world fraught with hidden motives, historical vendettas, sexual tension, and brutal honesty. This book serves as a shocking - and yes, entertaining - commentary on the plight of the few remaining indigenous people who inhabit third world like conditions, while residing simultaneously on US soil. Scalped deserves a much wider audience, and the weighty social commentary needs to be serialized in a forum like HBO. Yeah, it's that good. It could stand right up there with the pantheon of shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under that explore the societies within the society that compose the rich tapestry of American culture. Grade A.

Immortal Iron Fist #4 (Marvel): I really like how one of Danny's predecessors is portrayed as a Howard Hughes archetype with just a few early panels. I also think it was a wise move to create a foil for Danny, the K'un-Zi to the K'un-Lun. Something this character has been lacking in previous incarnations is a meaningful archnemesis, hopefully that'll set the title up for a nice long run by this creative team. One of the things I also enjoy about Brubaker and Fraction's script is the gravitas of the situations, it's matched perfectly by the dark and moody tone of Aja's art. This book walks a thin line effectively too; it isn't outright funny (which is a good thing), but is very witty (which is a great thing). Grade A.

Runaways #25 (Marvel): I haven't read this title since issue 18, as I've opted to pick up the digest sized trades. I was really curious to see how Whedon would handle his first issue and as expected it was a nice jumping on/transition point. He provided a great recap of what's happened to date, did some very straighforward character introductions (even the dead ones! even the gay ones!) right up front, and then plunged the kids into a cool story with Kingpin. It's got the trademark Whedon dialogue vibe and a really intense scene with Kingpin, proving that he doesn't need superpowers to be effective, only the will to do what his opponents won't. There's a really touching, but troubling scene between Karolina and Nico, and a surprise introduction of another "villain." Looks like we won't skip a beat between Vaughan and Whedon. Grade A-.

Justice League of America #7 (DC): I was wondering how this continuity gels with Wonder Woman? In the Wonder Woman book, she's not Wonder Woman, she's hunting Wonder Woman. But in JLA, Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman. Don't these titles occur at the same time in the same universe? Helloooooooo, DC Editorial... Hello? Anyway, it's a bit melodramatic with tears shed by both Hal and Dinah, but still a really cool touching moment as Hal and Roy embrace: "Welcome to the League, Red Arrow." There are also some nice nods to the original Outsiders continuity, with the friendship between Geo-Force and Black Lightning. Then we get the Superfriends Hall of Justice? Hrmm. That's either the coolest fanboy fan service moment, or utterly ridiculous. I'm still a bit undecided. It was interesting though that the facade is there for the public with immediate slide to the satellite. And, on the satellite? Meltzer throws in a sneaky "dangerous room," that Niles Caulder (Doom Patrol's old professor in a wheelchair) built. Sound familiar, anyone? The foldout was a little gimmicky, but it's a pretty cool, majestic shot nonetheless. Overall, there are some pretty fun moments here, but I got the sense there's no story per se, just a series of fun moments loosely strung together. I still have quite a few quibbles and reservations, but you can't really deny the mindless fun of this book. Grade B.

52: Week Forty-Eight (DC): The "twice named daughter of Cain." Katherine Kane. Kate Kane. Katherine "Kate" Kane. Batwoman. Bat-Woman. Kate "Batwoman" Kane. Umm, what the fuck are you talking about? They're trying really hard to make some byzantine distinction here that I just don't see, moreover, it's not really relevant to the plot anyway. This was so Retard-o Montalban and didn't make any sense. Darick Robertson's pencils are good (in that they're better than any other of the 52 artists we've seen so far), but bad (in that they're really rough and sketchy, hurried perhaps, compared to his usual work). And you're telling me that Nightwing, the second in command to Bats, Mr. Second-Best-Detective-In-The-World doesn't know who the fuck Renee Montoya is? He can't spot a former prominent GCPD officer? Whatever. That's almost as bad as Sarge Steel, Nemesis, and the entire Department of Metahuman Affairs not being able to tell that their 6 foot tall Amazon goddess named Diana Prince is not in fact, Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka: Wonder Woman. This book is like getting hit in the face with a shotgun blast. I am disoriented at everything happening, incredulous at nothing being resolved, don't know where to look or who to blame, what to focus on, and it feels totally violently random. This is "drive-by" comics. Yes! Can I coin a new term for haphazard and reckless storytelling? I thought that during the missing year, Bruce, Tim, and Dick went on a cruise or something? I'm so confused on the timeline. As usual, a decent backup story spotlighting the Birds of Prey. Grade D.

Painkiller Jane #0 (Dynamite Entertainment): Sure, I like to look at little hotties pulling their panties down and getting their asses tatted while licking phallic lollipops as much as the next cat. I just usually like a little more, I don't know... *story* while ogling such a mildly titillating set piece masquerading as a plot intersection point. Next time, let's spend less time on the myriad of alternate covers and put in a little more script time, boys. The dialogue is painfully deliberate in its construction, totally unnatural and laborious to sit through, has no sense of flow, and involves more about an unclearly motivated shootout than Jane herself per se. Is this really how we want to introduce a possible TV crossover audience to the character? Even for a 25 cent promo issue, this was pretty awful. Grade F.


Graphic Novel Of The Month

Batman: Snow (DC): Amid all the flurry of various ongoing Batman titles and assorted special projects, it's actually very difficult to find something of quality. This collection penned by Dan Curtis Johnson and JH Williams III, penciled by indy fave Seth Fisher, is one of those rare gems that's beautiful to behold and has some originality to the story.

Fisher's meticulously detailed panels are a joy to wander through. Sure, there's the delight of his uneven lines that add flair and style to people we've come to expect. Just look at the odd wisps of hair on Alfred's head or the creases in Batman's cowl. The real treat though, is how thorough and finished his panels are. Look at the strange things that can be found laying on the sidewalk in a city shot. Look at how the Batcave looks a mess and unfinished. Fisher's worlds are not perfect, they're perfectly lived in, and far more realistic in that sense than a lot of the so called "hot" artists working today. The hot artist's detail typically lies in perfection of the human form. Fisher's detail, and strength, lies in the perfection of the representation of the total world he's creating.

On the writing front, you could easily dismiss this as just another re-telling of Mr. Freeze's origin. Superficially, it is that, and if you stopped there you'd be missing something really unique. What DC Johnson and JH Williams show is here is a Batman early in his career. One who is still developing a relationship with James Gordon. One who is still relying on a pre-Two Face Harvey Dent. And yes, while interesting, we have seen those ideas explored before. What we haven't seen is Batman assembling a team of forensics, psychology, technology, tactical, and entry experts to aid him in his mission. Not Robin. Not Batgirl. And long before any of the other "assistants" we've come to expect in the Batman mythos. These are "regular" people that Bats teams together to extend his capabilities. It's such an intuitive, deceptively simple idea to explore. But, it's worthwhile and the ramifications and realizations around that take center stage here.

The initial success and ultimate fallout of that concept, coupled with Fisher's wonderful art style, are what sets this work apart from many Batman works, distinguishing itself as one of the best, and probably most overlooked, Batman stories in recent memory. Grade A-.