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Weekly Comic Review for 4/23/08

Batman #675

W: Grant Morrison

A: Ryan Benjamin

Okay, I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of how Morrison writes Batman. He starts with a bunch of issues that don’t seem to make any sense whatsoever–including references to and appearances by characters who haven’t been seen or heard from in over two decades–and he somehow…somehow…ties it all together at the end. This leaves me with a book that, although still good as a whole, has months where it sits at the bottom of the “to read” pile.

This issue has something that I haven’t seen in quite some time: a Bruce Wayne babe with a brain. Jezebel Jet might look like all of the other brainless arm-candy that Bruce escorts around town in an attempt to foster his image as a billionaire playboy, but she’s intuitive enough to recognize that Bruce, the real Bruce, is a much darker soul than his public image might suggest. She senses his true face behind the mask of the bored billionaire. It’s possible that it could have ended there. Bruce would have just walked out and she’d never hear from him again. Of course, when Jezebel stumbles on Brucie beating some blindfolded ne’er-do-well into a thick, scarlet paste–rendered by Benjamin in an almost Frank Miller-esque fashion–she realizes just how right she was. Bruce Wayne is Batman. This revelation means, of course, that Ms. Jet will be dead within the year.

Just for shits and giggles, Morrison throws in a little Nightwing/Robin action, and for that I’m glad. I love the sibling vibe you get watching Dick and Tim work together (plus, they get to fight a bunch of thieves in dog masks…I shit you not). And, since it wouldn’t be a Morrison story without Damian, we get to see that little shit, too. Hey, was anyone else surprised to learn that Talia has some kind of weird spider-sense thing going on?

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Countdown to Final Crisis 1

W: Paul Dini

A: Tom Derenick

Ho-boy…

I guess now that Countdown to Final Crisis is officially over, we can look at the series as a whole and see if it worked or if it didn’t. I think it would be safe to say that some of what DC was attempting with Countdown worked. Some, not so much. Because of the size and scope of the series, there was a lot of padding to fill up 52 issues. And, since the various threads of the story were only slightly connected, there were moments when it felt disjointed (was that bit with Piper and Trickster–fun though it might have been–really necessary?). Also, what was all of that traipsing about the new Multiverse all about? Did that have anything to do with anything?

I think the major problem has to do with intent. 52 was about telling a story. Countdown was about setting up a story. Everything that happened in this series was just a means to get the characters where they needed to be for Final Crisis. I’m not saying that Countdown didn’t have its moments, in fact the last three months or so were quite good (this has a bit to do with the converging of the various plots). Unfortunately, I think it often dropped the ball on more than one occasion. What was the whole thing with Monarch all about? It looked to me to be little more than an excuse to play a big ol’ game of “What If…” (What if Donna Troy had to fight evil Donna Troy? What if Jason Todd came face to face with a good Joker?).

The final analysis: Countdown to Final Crisis had enough fun moments to make it a good read in a collected trade, but as a weekly series, it really couldn’t sustain enough thrills and/or momentum. Plus, what the hell is up with keeping Mary Marvel evil??!!??

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Justice League of America #20

W: Dwayne McDuffie

A: Ethan Van Sciver

I know what you’re saying: “What’s going on here, I thought you broke up with JLA.” Well, all I have to say to that is: “You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve, mister.”

It was a light week–only four books that I read came out–so, while standing in the comic shop, I picked up the new issue of JLA and gave it a quick flip-through. And, what did I find? Well, apparently it’s 1996 again. And I mean that in a good way.

McDuffie gives us a classic, stand-alone story about Flash and Wonder Woman teaming up to stop Queen Bee from stealing a fancy teleportation gizmo. This is it guys, it’s not rocket science. No company-wide, super-mega-final-ultimate tie-in bullshit. No unnecessary naval-gazing ( “Vixen, why are your powers different?”… “Roy, how dare you still care about the mother of your daughter when I’m standing here all sexy and winged?”). This was just a fun, balls-out old school super-hero story. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, all wrapped up between two covers. And, more importantly, it was satisfying.

I knew McDuffie could deliver a story like this–he did it on the Justice League cartoon constantly–all he needed was to get the go-ahead from DC.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #53

W: Mike Carey

A: Tyler Kirkham

The deus ex machina run rampant through this issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Ben was dead, but he really wasn’t. Reed was dead, but he really wasn’t. One was transported to another planet by Thanos’s pissed off daughter. The other simply altered his body into a form of living light. No points for guessing who did what. Then, Reed manages to get his hands on the Cosmic Cube and switch off the safety that prevents it from making people’s random thoughts a reality (don’t ask). That means that when Thanos takes the Cube and gets a giant hard-on thinking about Death, he dies. Neat, huh? Fortunately, that means that Reed can undo everything Thanos did in the last few issues, thereby saving the world. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: “It’s good to be Reed.”

There’s a little bit at the end that puts the episode of Quantum Leap when Sam saved the life of Jackie Kennedy–erasing the knowledge of her death from the memories of the viewers–to shame. Reed drops the Cosmic Cube he created into a rift in time and space. It falls through the heavens, eventually landing at the feet of past-Thanos. That’s right, kids. The Cosmic Cube that Thanos found all those ages ago was the very Cube that he forced Reed to make to replace the one he lost all of those ages ago. Trippy.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #121

W: Brian Michael Bendis

A: Stuart Immonen

I’ve come to realize that there are three kinds of Ultimate Spider-Man stories. There are the multiple-part super-villain smackdowns where Spider-Man fights a Goblin or Sandman or Doc Ock. There are the low-key, slice-of-life stories that look at Peter Parker’s civilian life. The third combines the first two, showing how Peter balances both sides of his dual life. This issue of Ultimate Spider-Man falls into the third category.

While explaining why the fake baby that he and Kitty Pryde were supposed to be taking care of is in about a ba-jillion pieces, Peter tells their teacher about the day he had. He was at the Bugle when Omega Red stops by. Omega Who? Don’t worry, I’m always surprised when he shows up in Ultimate Spider-Man. Anyways…Omega is pissed that J. Jonah Jameson ran an article about his defeat at the hands of Spider-Man. This article–and the insinuations it contained–has ruined Omega Red’s mercenary cred. Lucky for J.J., Peter happened to be in the newsroom that day, and Omega Red and Spidey meet for the second time.

There are numerous villains in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery who just couldn’t hold down an entire story on their own–Shocker, Rhino, Leap-Frog–so these kinds of issues are great places to showcase them. These stand-alone issues are also great ways to let readers catch their breaths between larger arcs. Overall, Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man never disappoints.

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Weekly Comic Review for 4/16/08–Now With 75% Less Controversy

Batman and the Outsiders #6

W: Chuck Dixon

A: Carlos Rodriguez

Batman and the Outsiders, in my very humble opinion, is what JLA should be.  Now, that might sound like a giant contradiction, especially if you remember that the reason that ol’ Bats took control of the Outsiders was to use the team for jobs that were just too nasty for the JLA–jobs that need to be done, but that would sully the League’s squeaky-clean image.  I’m not saying that the JLA should be like the Outsiders, I just wish that JLA was as much fun to read as BATO.

Unlike the better known title, BATO gives us a pretty action-packed story without the naval-gazing of JLA.  The plot might not be without a few drawbacks–personally, I’m more than a bit over the whole O.M.A.C. thing–but it’s easy enough to overlook them when you get drawn into Dixon’s globe-spanning (and beyond) action story.  Of course, it could just be that I’m a sucker for any book that stars Metamorpho.  And, in case you were worried, there’s plenty of levity in this issue, too.  From Batman dosing Salah with knock-out gas so he can take him to the Batcave and let him play with the Bat-computer (does Batman still refer to it as “the Bat-computer”?) to Ollie’s self-deprecating admission that he used to have a bit of Bat-envy (Arrowplane?  Arrowcave?  C’mon, Ollie!), this book has plenty of lighter moments to break up the back-to-back action pieces.

Rodriguez’s art is also worth noting.  A perfect example is how he can draw Ollie all smirky and cocksure on one page and then, a few pages later, be just as convincing when he draws him with that righteous fire in his eyes that we’ve come to expect from DC’s biggest bleeding heart.  I’m sure that’s the kind of thing that should be expected from an artist, but it must be uncommon enough that I noticed it.  I don’t make a habit of following artists as much as I follow writers, but I’m going to make an effort to keep track of what Rodriguez does in the future.

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Captain America #37

W: Ed Brubaker

A: Steve Epting

Poor Bucky.  His life has been far from easy–getting blowed-up as a teenager, being brainwashed by the Soviet Union–but things just don’t seem to be getting an easier for the new Captain America.

He had the shield strapped on for about a minute and a half, and some ticked-off civilian calls him an impostor.  He’s outed on TV, forcing Stark to pull any SHIELD backing he might have had (including the services of the sultry Black Widow as his sidekick/handler).  Now, in this issue, he has to deal with Clint “Hawkeye” Barton showing up and causing shit.  Clint’s all cheesed-off that Bucky’s the new Cap, going so far as taking a swing at him.  I get Clint’s beef.  He might not have always agreed with Steve Rogers, but he certainly respected Bucky’s predecessor, and doesn’t think Bucky’s good enough to call himself Captain America.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Clint offered the mantle of Captain America and turned it down?  Someone needs to be Cap, especially with the Red Skull trying to destroy the country from the inside.

As if all of that wasn’t enough for Bucky to have to deal with, now there’s another Steve Rogers floating around.  Marvel’s done a pretty good job at trying to convince us that Steve is dead.  Dead dead.  So, it would be wrong of us to think they’re pulling a fast one here.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Red Skull got his hands on a Rogers clone.  So, that’s what I’m going with here.  The Steve Rogers that Sharon discovers at the end of the issue is, in fact, just a clone.

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Catwoman #78

W: Will Pfeifer

A: David Lopez

Good news/bad news time, kids.  The good news is that, after this issue, it seems that Selina is finally getting back to Earth.  The bad news?  Well, she won’t have much time to enjoy it because her series is being canceled in the next few months (I believe #82 is going to be the last).  I understand that publishing is a business and, as such, you can not conceivably make everyone happy, but is Catwoman doing that poorly in sales?  And, if that’s the case, maybe DC should spend less money on insanely expansive “events” with more tie-in books than you can shake a stick at.

Anyway, I’ve only been reading Catwoman for a little while, but I’m going to miss it.  I might not have been happy with Selina getting caught up in that whole Salvation Run business, but you can’t fault the book for that.  At least Selina was able to finally get the upper claw in her ongoing feud with Cheetah, thanks in part to one of Joker’s exploding cigars.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 2

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Scott Kolins

I’m totally baffled by Countdown.  DC has claimed that “Final Crisis” will deal with a victorious Darkseid in control of the universe.  Okay, cool.  But…in this issue of Countdown to Final Crisis, Darkseid is pummeled to death by his son, Orion.  So, you can see where I might be confused.

Unfortunately, the confusion comes at the end of an issue that sees Darkseid and Jimmy Olsen (in giant tortoise boy form) have a smackdown in the middle of Metropolis and Darkseid and Orion going at it.  Jimmy’s also returned to the status quo when Ray Palmer finds the doo-hicky that Darkseid put in Jimmy’s head to contain the powers of the dead New Gods and destroys it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction based on something Dan Didio said in an interview a while back.  Yes, Darkseid is dead.  All of the New Gods of the Fourth World seem to be dead.  But, all of that power is floating around out there, and it has to go somewhere.  So, I’m sure the New Gods will return when this “Fifth World” that Darkseid was all hyped about comes into being.  A new Fifth World will have new, possibly resurrected New Gods of one kind or another.  And, where there are New Gods, there will be a Darkseid.

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The Flash #239

W: Tom Peyer

A: Freddie E. Williams, II

The people of Keystone City continue to mistrust Flash after new villain, Spin, forces him to use his super-speed to rob them.  Spin ups the ante by using his captured dwarf’s mind-whammy powers on Jay Garrick, pushing the original Flash to go after Wally.  To make matters worse, Jay uses Iris and Jai to get to Wally and then initiates a showdown in the middle of Wally’s block.

The whole “people afraid of the hero” thing is nothing new.  It’s one of the Five Basic Plots of Comics.  I’m serious, check it out…I’m sure there’s a copy in your local library or shady used book store.  (Okay, okay, there’s no such book.)  Anyways, it might be a basic plot, but sometimes it works better than others and, in the case of the Flash, it works pretty damned well.  Let’s look at the facts.  Sure, everyone in Metropolis loves Superman, but he’s a global hero.  Batman couldn’t care less what the good people of Gotham think about him.  But the Flash is Keystone City.  Every Flash has been inextricably linked to his hometown, whether it’s Keystone or Central City.  So, for the people of Keystone to suddenly turn their backs on their hometown hero has real resonance.

To further illustrate how highly regarded Wally is, we have a scene with the JLA.  Realizing how they dropped the ball the last time they stuck their noses in Wally’s life, DC’s big guns decide to sit this one out until Wally actually asks them for help.  However, Red Arrow isn’t about to let one of his oldest friends twist in the wind.  Hopefully Roy will be enough back-up when Wally has to face Gorilla Grodd next month.

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Gotham Underground #7 (of 9)

W: Frank Tieri

A: J. Calafiore

The cliffhanger from last issue involving the reappearance of Leslie Thompkins remains more or less hangery as Dick wakes up in an underground medical clinic with Riddler standing over him.  Tieri gives us just enough to make us think that Dick simply hallucinated seeing Leslie at the end of last issue (although some info in this week’s issue of Robin makes me think that Leslie really was there).  Riddler tells Dick to drop the whole fake name business, because Riddler’s too smart not to realize that he’s really talking to Nightwing.  Unfortunately, Riddler’s not smart enough to talk his way out of a little payback at the hands of Penguin.

Elsewhere, the war for Gotham’s underworld reaches a new plateau.  Penguin’s Rent-a-Rogue forces successfully wipe out Tobias Whale’s goons, leading to a partnership between Penguin and Whale against their mutual foe: Intergang.  While the two aquatically-themed crime bosses reach an agreement, Penguin’s forces are getting picked off by this Vigilante sumbitch.  Luckily, Bats has gotten himself out of Blackgate and is ready to rumble with this fool.  Now, is this new Vigilante connected to Intergang or is he (or she??) also tied to the return of Leslie and Steph Brown?

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Robin #173

W: Chuck Dixon

A: Chris Batista

Not unlike Bucky, Tim’s life has been pretty rough lately.  He’s been trying to chase down Violet–a morally ambiguous chick who’s taken it upon herself to rob from the scum to give to the poor.  He’s also managed to get himself saddled with two less than legit G.C.P.D. detectives who seem to think that Robin’s help will be their ticket to the big time.  And, all the while, someone in a Spoiler costume has been keeping tabs on our boy.

Robin’s investigation leads him to a counterfeit ring run by the Korean Mafia.  Now, this is a kid who’s been trained by Batman.  He can handle himself in a situation like this.  But, he also has to deal with Violet.  And Spoiler.  That’s right sports fans, after months of keeping her distance, Spoiler makes herself known to Tim.  She’s there to help, but Robin goes ape-shit and gives the girl with the nerve to wear his dead girlfriend’s costume the business.  It’s an understandable reaction.  But, suspecting what we’ve been led to suspect–that this really is Steph–you just can’t help but wish Tim would settle down for a minute and let this Spoiler explain.  I mean, Tim…c’mon, she used your real name!  In my book, that probably means something.

This could all be a big switcheroo.  We don’t know for sure that this is Stephanie Brown, as much as I really hope it is.  Is she the same mystery girl that Penguin gave the costume to a few months back in the pages of Gotham Underground?  It would certainly make sense that Steph would want a little bit of revenge on Gotham’s underworld after what happened with Black Mask.  Would she think that’s reason enough to strike some kind of deal with Cobblepot?

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Quote of the Week:

“Superman?  You should be so lucky.”–Green Arrow, after being blasted with a fire hose by a Chinese soldier and asked if he was going to be rescued by Big Blue and the JLA, in Batman and the Outsiders #6 (the implication is clear, right?).

Weekly Comic Review for 4/9/08

Booster Gold #8

W: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz

A: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

I’ve liked the new Booster Gold series from the first issue.  I thought it was a great concept: having a character traipse his way through the history of the DC Universe, “putting right what once went wrong.”  A perfect example of this was the earlier issues where Booster had a hand in making sure that Hal Jordan was chosen as the first Green Lantern, or where he had to save the ancestor of Jonathon Kent.  There was a truly twisted issue where Booster’s “boss”, Rip Hunter, had him try to save Barbara Gordon from getting shot by the Joker.  But, since certain things are meant to be, no matter how many times Booster tried to save her, Barbara still got shot.  Over and over.

Recent issues have dealt with Booster finally getting a chance to save Blue Beetle from getting murdered by Max Lord.  I’m happy that Ted is back and he and Booster are teaming up again.  Theirs is one of the greatest friendships in comics.  Plus, the premise of the series allows Blue Beetle to be alive again without negating the last two years of stories.

The only problem I’m having with this current storyline is the obvious and cliched use of the “evil, dystopian present.”  Let’s be fair, once it was used in Back to the Future II, it’s no longer clever (and I liked Back to the Future II).  Upon returning to the present, Booster and Beetle learn that Max Lord and his O.M.A.C.s have somehow managed to conquer the world.  They’ve eradicated most of the metahumans and forced others into hiding.  And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Max Lord has Superman working for him.  Ooooooo.  You know it’s an evil present when Superman is working for the bad guys–even if he’s just a victim of Max Lord’s mind-whammy powers.  Sure, it was fun to see Green Arrow and Hawkman trying to stop their bickering long enough to lead of resistance of third-tier characters.  But, for the most part, we’ve seen this kind of thing about a hundred times before.

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B.P.R.D.: 1946 #4

W: Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart

A: Paul Azaceta

The bulk of this issue provides background on the final days of the Nazi’s ill-conceived Vampir Sturm project.  Even though the vampire-hybrids were considered too dangerous for normal service–and immediately placed into cryogenic suspension–Hitler decided that they would be the perfect “occult A-bomb” in the event that the tide of war turned against him.  If the Allies managed to defeat the Nazis, upon retreating from Berlin, they would release the Vampir Sturm subjects into the city, unleashing these horrors upon the Earth.  This is a delightfully evil thing for Hitler to propose, and it works well.  What the Fuhrer didn’t count on was the man in charge of the project developing a conscience at the last minute and sealing the vampsicles away rather than unleashing them.

Of course, none of this explains why one hundred of the cryo-tanks have gone missing.  Bruttenholm, Vavara, the U.S. G.I.s, and the Red Army track down the missing tanks to a vault beneath a government building in Berlin.  Their search leads them to one of the greatest characters Mignola ever created–Von Klempt.  Nothing but an insane Nazi head in a jar, Von Klempt embodies Mignola’s gloriously twisted concept of Nazi steampunk science.  Oh, and he has steam-borg ape goons called kreigaffen.  If there’s one thing that embodies a Mike Mignola story, it’s a Nazi gorilla.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 3

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Freddie Williams, II

This issue of Countdown had two things going for it: (1) the prominent role of Darkseid and (2) the art by Freddie Williams.

Darkseid is ready to harvest the powers that he’s been hiding in Jimmy Olsen for the last year or so.  This, of course, leads to an all-out brawl between Darkseid and Superman.  I’ve always liked watching these two go at it.  Since Darkseid’s such a total bad-ass, Supes can really let loose on him–I mean, when was the last time you saw Clark blast someone in the face with his heat vision?  The clash of these titans benefits from Williams’ clean and stylized art.  Williams makes these guys so huge that you can almost feel the earth shake whenever one of them gets bodyslammed.

The one big downside of this issue (and the last few issues of Countdown) is the sudden re-evilization of Mary Marvel.  We had our sweet, little Mary back for a while and all was good.  Then, the Big D shows up and offers Mary her evil power again and, in about a second and a half, she accepts.  I just don’t get it.  I hate it.  But, if I understood it, I’d be able to accept it through the hatred.  It’s a shame, really.

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Gen13 #19

W: Simon Oliver

A: Carlo Barberi

I have to admit, I’m torn.  I’ve always liked the Gen13 kids.  For the most part, they were pretty good characters (even if some of them were tragically “Nineties”), and most of them had fairly straightforward powers–okay, maybe not Grunge, but the others.  Then it was announced that Gen13 would be rebooted under the guiding hand of Gail Simone.  A fairly good premise and an awesome writer.  What could be better?

Simone crafted a pretty cool origin for the “new and improved” Gen13.  She had the characters down pat.  She even made numerous tongue-in-cheek references to the cheesecake factor of the original series.

Then, the writing chores were handed off to Simon Oliver.  Oliver crafted a story involving a Gen vs. Gen Real World/Survivor-style reality show that works for two reasons: (1) it ties into the premise that Simone began the series with, that the subjects of the Gen program were being used in creepy-ass internet snuff porn, and (2) it reflects the sad fact that America is pathetically obsessed with Reality TV.  So, I don’t think that Oliver is doing a bad job.  It’s just not what I want from a comic book.  I’m sort of over the shadowy conspiracy pulling the strings kind of stories.  There’s enough of that in the real world.  I want to see the Gen13 kids wandering around and having wacky adventures, fighting super-villains or aliens or demons.  Maybe they could time travel.  Okay, okay…I know, I want Gen13 to be Runaways.

So, no offense to Simon Oliver (who is doing a good job), but if Gen13 doesn’t become more super-hero-y, I might have to call it a day.

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Green Lantern Corps. #23

W: Peter J. Tomasi

A: Patrick Gleason

The aftermath of the Sinestro War continues.  The Guardians are still all hell-bent on tracking down and collecting as many of the Yellow Rings as possible.  To that end, they send a squad of Lanterns, led by Kyle and Guy, into the forbidden Vega System.  The fact that those little blue bastards are willing to send what amounts to an invasion force into a forbidden region of space shows just how the recent War has affected them.  Like any group who claims to be interested in establishing and maintaining law and order, the Guardians seem to think that they, themselves, are completely above the law.

While the Lanterns are searching for the Yellow Rings, our old buddy Mongul is also hunting down Rings.  However, Mongul is collecting them for himself.  It’s funny, if you think about it.  When Hal Jordan went bat-shit and started collecting Lantern Rings to gain more power, it was so he could rebuild Coast City, which was destroyed by Mongul’s father.  So, now Mongul Jr. is tracking down Sinestros and asking them to join him–and, if they refuse, he stomps them into goo and takes their rings for his own.

The issue ends with Mongul capturing two of Kyle and Guy’s team and ensnaring them with the “Black Mercy” plants, that Mongul’s father once used on Superman.  These plants put folks into a coma and show them their greatest wish, which eventually goes horribly wrong.  They are the perfect tool for Mongul to, as he says, “turn hope into fear.”

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Justice Society of America #14

W: Geoff Johns

A: Dale Eaglesham

Once again, JSA–one of the greatest team books on the stands today–does not disappoint.

What begins with a scene in the Justice Society’s headquarters (basically a way to reintroduce all of the characters and re-establish all of the relationships in a book with a rapidly growing roster) quickly segues into an all-out slugfest in New York City when Gog teleports into their headquarters.  From there on, it’s pretty much just a huge battle.  Buildings crumble.  Cars get totaled.  Gog rages at Superman for letting Kansas burn on Kingdom Come Earth.  The issue ends with the arrival of Kingdom Come Green Lantern and Kingdom Come Obsidian, just as Gog is about to dispatch KC Superman and Amazing Man.

This crossover story with Kingdom Come still kicks as much ass as it did with the first issue.  It could have gone horribly wrong, but Johns is a pro and Eaglesham’s art never fails to please.  In addition to being a good story, I also feel like this is an homage to the early pre-Crisis crossovers between the Justice Society and the Justice League.  Since the JSA and JLA now inhabit the same Earth, there’s no reason for dimension-spanning team-ups.  But, with the return of the Multiverse, Johns was able to pay tribute to those earlier team-ups by having his JSA interact with the Kingdom Come heroes.

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Serenity: Better Days #2 (of 3)

W: Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews

A: Will Conrad

There’s a lot going on in Serenity: Better Days #2–and the mini-series as a whole–and, I don’t mean that in a bad way.  If there is one person alive who can ably handle layered storytelling, small character moments, cliffhangers, and big reveals, it’s Joss Whedon.

The small character moments come from the crew of Serenity discussing what they’re planning on doing with their share of the giant haul they scored in the last issue.  Jayne is going to become the captain of his own ship (the “Radiant Cobb”); Wash and Zoe would buy a luxury cruiser to raise a family on as they fly around the ‘Verse; Kaylee would open an aircraft design and restoration shop with her dad.  Then, they arrive on the resort world of Pelorum, where Jayne tries to hire a Companion and we get to see all of the Firefly gals in a giant hot tub (thanks, Joss…that meant a lot to me).

Of course it’s all not just fun and games here.  Better Days is adding to the overall Firefly mythos, particularly in the form of the “Dust Devils.”  After the Alliance crushed the Browncoats in the Unification War, some folk didn’t feel like laying down arms.  These rebels among the rebellious continued to use terrorist and guerrilla tactics against the Alliance, earning the name “Dust Devils.”  It’s been hinted that someone on Serenity was one of these Dust Devils.  Sure, the obvious suspects would be Mal or Zoe.  But, when has Joss ever been obvious?  Could it be Book?  Could we finally get to find out what his big secret is?  I really do hope so.

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Titans #1

W: Judd Winick

A: Ian Churchill

I’ve always liked the Teen Titans.  I don’t need much of an excuse to read a book with the Titans in it.  But, one of the things I do need is a group of characters I actually know and care about.  I liked the pre-52 roster: new kids like Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Superboy and seasoned pros like Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy.  That was fine.  Than, 52 and “One Year Later” happened and Kid Flash was now the Flash, Superboy was dead, Beast Boy was leading Doom Patrol and the new Teen Titans included Ravager, Kid Devil (seriously?  what the fuck was he about?), and Miss Martian (pretty hot as green chicks go, but still not for me).

That being said, I’m pretty excited about DC’s new Titans.  The basic premise: someone is offing Titans from past and present.  That brings together what I think might be the greatest characters to ever call themselves Teen Titans: Nightwing (Robin), Donna Troy (Wonder Girl), Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Flash (Kid Flash), and Red Arrow (Speedy).  Judging from the cover, it looks like Cyborg (who’s currently in drydock) will be joining their little party soon.

Churchill’s art is pretty decent.  Details like the shards of glass stuck in Nightwing’s costume for the entire issue after he’s blown out of a window by an explosion on page 2 or the numerous quivers that Red Arrow has strapped to his person show that Churchill’s got talent.  The only criticism I have is that all of his female characters look identical.  He has some got characterization on Starfire early in the issue, but for the most part all of the females in this book look like they came from Michael Turner-land.

I just hope that Winick can keep gay rights out of this book.  I’m all for gay rights, just not in my comics.  And Winick has a habit of beating people over the head with a hammer when it comes to this particular issue.  He did it back in Green Lantern, so I stopped reading Green Lantern.

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Quote of the Week:

“Say hello to incomparable pain, ya tub of crap!”–Guy Gardner to the new Sinestro of Sector 2828, in Green Lantern Corps. #23.

Weekly Comic Review for 4/2/08

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #3 (of 5)

W: Mike Mignola

A: Jason Shawn Alexander

As happens with nearly every book in the Hellboy universe, there comes a moment when a whole bunch of stuff happens and you find yourself not exactly sure what’s going on.  This has nothing to do with the talent of the writers or artists involved with the project.  It just seems to be a narrative decision made somewhere back in the murky, swirling miasma of time.  And, everything gets cleared up eventually.  (I say eventually, because it might not be in that mini-series…you might have to wait until the next mini to get a concrete answer.)

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #3 is the issue where I found myself (if you’ll pardon the sea metaphor) adrift.  Partly, I think, it has to do with the lack of dialogue.  Many of Mignola’s characters are rather laconic, so there’s always the possibility that you’ll run into an issue where someone is so focused on the job at hand that they just don’t have time to blather.  (Interesting factoid: that is one of the reasons that DC pushed for the creation of Robin.  To give Batman someone to talk to.)  The centerpiece of this issue is Abe’s street battle with a giant eel monster, however the main mystery of the book remains the corpse of Dutch warlock Epke Vrooman, and how his creepy little gobliny goons are going to remove the Tibetan dagger from his heart.

While Mignola continues to craft a delightfully complex pulp-style story, Alexander backs him up with more-than-capable art.  And, if you think it’s easy to draw facial features on a fish-man, you need to get out of the house more.

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Angel: After the Fall #6

W: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch

A: Tim Kane, David Messina, Stephen Mooney & John Byrne

Anyone who wants to find out what happens to the un-demony Fred who showed up on the last page of issue #5 had better settle down and grab a helmet.  In true Whedon fashion, the fans are made to suffer.

Starting with this issue, Lynch is delving into what happened the night that L.A. was sucked into hell.  Judging from the layout of this issue, it looks like Lynch will be using vignettes to show us what each of the main characters was up to immediately “after the fall.”  Issue #6 focuses on Connor, Spike and Lorne.  It’s funny, that spell that Wolfram and Hart used at the end of season four must have really worked, because I constantly forget all about Connor until he shows up again.

Of the three, Spike’s story is, in my opinion, the best.  The writing is good.  Messina’s art is beautiful.  And, it really captures where Spike is at the moment.  He’s survived two apocalypses and he’s pretty sure he’s earned some kind of reward by now.  But, until his reward arrives, he’s just as happy to beat the crap out of stuff.  Lynch even gives us a classic moment that could have come right out of an episode of Angel (actually, I think it might have): standing on a rooftop, surveying the city, Spike spots trouble on the street below.  Ready to jump into action, he turns, coat twirling.  We cut to the next panel, and Spike’s riding the elevator down while “The Girl from Ipanema” plays, lamenting that he should have just jumped off the roof.

Although not as good as the Spike story, Lorne’s story is befitting the character.  Told in Seussical verse and peppered with Lorne-isms, Lynch and Byrne tell us how Lorne went from killing Lindsey to being crowned lord of Silverlake.

Connor’s story has it’s moments, particularly when his memory starts coming back–did Wolfram and Hart do this on purpose or is it just something that happens in hell?–and he realizes that he banged his surrogate mother.  But, a lot of it is one long philosophical examination of the differences between Connor’s three fathers: Angel, Holtz, and Laurence Reilly.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13

W: Drew Goddard

A: Georges Jeanty

It’s funny.  Last month, the news was all a-buzz with the uproar surrounding Buffy’s night of intimacy with a girl.  However, this month there wasn’t a single story about the adorably awkward homosexual tension between Xander and his former “Master,” Dracula.  Why is that?  Was it just too goofy to be spun into anything other than a fictional story told with pretty pictures?  That must be it.  Anyone who tried to use this issue of Buffy in their agenda of swirling infernal asinine rage would have been laughed out of the Bund meeting, or whatever.

Personally, I was never a fan of the Dracula episode of Buffy.  I thought that throwing in that foppish, over-romanticized Euro-trash kind of vampire undermined everything the show had done to make vampires back into the scummy, scavenging bottom-feeders they’re supposed to be.  Yes, there were some good moments.  Xander becoming Drac’s thrall and later proclaiming that he no longer wants to eat insects, get the “funny syphilis,” or be everyone’s butt-monkey.  But, as a whole, I’ve always thought it was one of the show’s weaker episodes.

However, all of that aside, this was one of the funniest issues of any comic I’ve ever read.  The scenes between Xander and Dracula were one great line after another.  Dracula repeatedly referring to Renee as Xander’s Moor and cursing the “filthy yellow swine” who stole his powers leads Xander to note that he didn’t remember Dracula being so racist.  And, what would an issue with heavy homosexual undertones be without an extended cameo by Andrew?

The rest of the issue revolves around Buffy and the Slayers tracking down the trio of Japanese vampires who stole the Slayer’s Scythe.  The bad news: these vamps have found a way to reverse the spell that Willow performed on the scythe, essentially deactivating all of the new Slayers.  Now, the question remains: are these three working with Twilight or on their own?

The only problem I had with this issue of Buffy was that I thought Willow drilling Satsu for information on how Buffy was in bed was a little too crass for our dear, sweet redheaded Wicca.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 4

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Jamal Igle

Hey, remember how happy I was when Mary Marvel kicked Eclipso to the curb and became good again?  Well, you can forget all of that.  The Challengers are back on their Earth for about a minute and a half and Mary goes home to find Darkseid chilling on her couch watching Judge Judy.  Darkseid convinces Mary to take her Black Mary powers back and work for him.  Super.  I understand that the set-up for DC’s upcoming Final Crisis event requires the Big D to be victorious and that would probably involve him actually getting his hands on the souls within Jimmy Olsen, but does it also have to involve Mary being evil again?

The bad news: it’s obvious that DC had absolutely no idea what they were doing with this series.

The good news: it’s almost over.

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Detective Comics #843

W: Paul Dini

A: Dustin Nguyen

I really love the work that Dini is doing on Detective Comics–which is odd since his Countdown gets worse every week.  Yes, I’m pretty sure a lot of it comes from the fact that my first full-time exposure to Batman came in the form of Dini’s Batman: The Animated Series.  But, let’s not ignore the fact that Dini’s usually a pretty solid storyteller.  One of the best decisions DC ever made was in allowing Dini to write shorter, one- or two-part stories with great villains like Scarecrow, Mad Hatter and (in this case) Scarface.  I also find it hard to fault Dini’s preoccupation with Zatanna, who makes yet another appearance in his Detective run.

Hey, I don’t fault Dini for wanting to put Zee in as many issues as possible.  She’s a leggy brunette with magic powers and an amazing fashion sense.  Plus, when she’s with Bruce, the sparks are obvious.  They have a long history together, Zee’s life in the spotlight balances Bruce’s life in the shadows, and there’s the trust factor.  Bruce has serious trust issues.  Zee monkeyed with Bruce’s mind and he’s forgiven her.  He still hasn’t forgiven Booster Gold for borrowing a batarang and not returning it, but he’s forgiven Zee for invading his noodle.

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Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales #2

W: Barbara Randall Kesel

A: Renae De Liz

This issue of Teller of Tall Tales puts the narrative on hold to explain the back-story of Annja Creed.  I understand that the concept of a modern-day, skeptical archaeologist who also has a magical sword can be a bit to get a handle on.  Unfortunately, as someone who is familiar with the Rogue Angel novel series, this issue pretty much told me a story that I’ve already read.  Actually, I mean that quite literally, since the bulk of issue #2 retells the plot of Rogue Angel: Destiny.

And, while De Liz really captured how Annja is described in the books, the designs for other series regulars–like Roux, Braden, and Doug–don’t feel right.

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Quote of the Week:

“Oh balls.”–Dracula, upon remembering that he lost his powers to a trio of Japanese vampires while gambling on a motorcycle, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13.

The Big Red Monkey Is Back!

Yahoo has posted the new trailer for Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.  Take a gander:

I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, and this one looks just as good (if not better).  It looks like Mignola and the Powers That Be really let Del Torro make this his movie.

Weekly Comic Review for 3/26/08

Countdown to Final Crisis 5

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W: Paul Dini & Adam Beechen

A: Jim Starlin

Oh, Countdown…you really have no idea what you’re doing, do you? Sure, you seem like you do–you have since the start–but, with each weekly issue, it becomes clearer that there was never a clear plan for this series. Maybe this is punishment for when I walked away from the far-superior 52 after the first six issues (I had money troubles at the time, or else I wouldn’t have). Or, maybe this is another way for the gods to force me to question my unerring loyalty (a lot of what keeps me coming back is faith in Paul Dini). Fortunately, my realization that Countdown has been a pointless, meandering narrative comes with four issues remaining.

What went wrong? Maybe it’s my own mistake, but I got the impression that the Multiverse would be a much larger part of Countdown. It would almost make sense: 52 was about its return and Countdown would explore it. Which, to be fair, it did. A bit. But the build-up of tension between Monarch, the Monitors, and the Challengers just sort of fizzled, didn’t it? The whole “Search for Ray Palmer” thing was successful. But, it was also kind of anti-climactic. Then we got the last few issues, which basically told the story of how the post-apocalyptic Earth of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth came to be (hint: it has to do with that super-virus in Karate Kid). Now that’s over, and the series moves on to yet another story before everything wraps up.

A lot of people were giving DC a hard time about this series. I stood up for it. I didn’t think it was just a huge marketing ploy, an attempt to cash in on the success (and brilliance) of 52. But, now I’m starting to think that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

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Daredevil #106

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W: Ed Brubaker

A: Paul Azaceta

I’ve never been a huge fan of Michael Lark’s art in Daredevil. It was nice to look at, sure; but, sometimes it didn’t flow that well for me. That made the whole “visual narrative medium” thing a tad bit tricky. But, the work that Paul Azaceta (B.P.R.D.: 1946) did in issue #106 is incredible. Azaceta is quickly climbing towards the top of my list of favorite artists. His work on B.P.R.D. is amazing. The art he provided for this issue of Daredevil is twenty times better. It’s too bad that Azaceta is just a one-issue fill-in artist. I’d love to see him work on Daredevil full-time.

Now, as for the story itself, even though Brubaker does another smash-up job, I feel like he’s just walking down the same street that Daredevil has been down so many times before. So guilt-ridden that he’s let someone he loves down (in this case, it’s his wife Milla, who’s in an asylum after a run-in with Mister Fear), Matt goes off the rails. Hiding behind the red mask of Daredevil, Matt takes his frustrations out on the criminal element of Hell’s Kitchen. Seeing what’s happening, Matt’s friends (Foggie, Ben, Dakota) try to throw together an intervention–which, of course, has absolutely no effect. What saves this over-used plot is Brubaker’s writing, but it’s still something that we’ve all seen way too many times before.

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Green Lantern #29

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W: Geoff Johns

A: Ivan Reis

Under normal circumstances, I don’t like when comics take time out of their normal monthly circulation to retell a character’s origin. I dislike it even more when it’s a well-known character. We do not need whole issues devoted to retelling the origins of Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man. We get it, okay? That being said, this month’s Green Lantern–which promises to provide a “Secret Origin”–isn’t that bad.

Rather than wasting our time with telling us (for about the millionth time) how Hal gets his power ring, Johns starts from the beginning. He shows us Hal’s childhood and his father’s death. We see the dynamics at play between Hal’s widowed mother and her three sons. Johns focuses on Hal’s disregard for his mother’s fears when he joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday. We see how the three brothers were torn apart by Hal’s decision and the death of their mother some years later. And, because Geoff Johns loves us, he gives us a little scene where Hal’s fly-boy buddies get into a bar fight with a group of Marines, including John Stewart.

The last page provides (what I assume to be) a new tidbit of information. Abin Sur, the Lantern who will pass his ring on to Hal, is investigating the prophecy of “The Blackest Night”–the promised sequel to the Sinestro Corps. War storyline. If I’m not wrong, Johns is saying that his investigations into the prophecy are what led to Sur’s death. That, from where I sit, is new.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #52

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W: Mike Carey

A: Tyler Kirkham

I think there’s a problem when an issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four features more action involving the Ultimates than the Fantastic Four. Okay, maybe it was fun to watch Thanos and Thor trade barbs during battle–it seems that these two have met before in the distant past–but that was it. With Johnny and Sue gone all emo while under Thanos’s control and Reed supposedly turned to stone, you’d think that we would at least get a little Grimm action. Unfortunately, Ben is off with Thanos’s creepy daughter, a set-up that has a few moments, but not many.

Overall, Ultimate Fantastic Four is starting to drop the ball more often than not.

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Ultimate Human #3 (of 4)

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W: Warren Ellis

A: Cary Nord

And, this week’s award for the most misleading cover goes to…I hate these envelopes…they never open like they’re supposed…Ultimate Human #3! Sure, cover artists take a lot of liberties, and I’m okay with that. But, not only don’t Hulk and Iron Man slug it out in this issue, they aren’t even in the issue. Tony and Bruce show up on the last two pages, but no Hulk…no Iron Man.

What do we get? We get a slow, unnecessary narrative about Peter Wisdom (a.k.a. Ultimate Peter Wisdom, a.k.a. Ultimate Leader). Remember all that stuff we’d learned about Wisdom in the last two issues–about how he was a spook with British Intelligence; how he had his own ideas for creating enhanced humans for the UK; how his swollen noodle was a result of being forced to test his theories on himself–well, I hope you liked it, because this issue tells us about them all over again. Normally, I like stories about MI: 6. I’ve read Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, and can usually tell my D-Ops from my D-Int. Unfortunately, Ellis is no Rucka. And Ultimate Human is no Queen and Country.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #120

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W: Brian Michael Bendis

A: Stuart Immonen

In a week that saw the release of four Ultimate titles from Marvel (seriously, guys, well-frakkin-done!), it should come as no surprise that Ultimate Spider-Man blows them all away. After writing 120 issues, Bendis is showing no signs of slowing down. He understands the web-head as much as anyone (maybe even more than Stan Lee, himself). Combine that with Immonen’s clean and simple art, and you’ve got a winner (I still prefer Mark Bagley’s art, but Immonen was a good replacement).

With is friend Liz recently discovering her mutant powers, Peter Parker finds himself forced to not only deal with her understandable freak-out, but also the sudden arrival of Magneto. Of course, with Magneto popping up, it was only a matter of time before the X-Men stop by. Bendis’s X-Men team is the team that should always be in Ultimate X-Men–Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Iceman, and Wolverine (okay, I’d add Beast and Kitty Pryde, too)–and Immonen’s take on them is amazing. I especially dig how he draws Wolverine and Nightcrawler.

After Bendis throws a few curveballs at us–Liz’s uncle Frank (the mutant) isn’t actually her uncle, he’s her father (and, also, The Blob!)–Peter reveals his secret identity to Liz, showing that she’s not alone in this, she has friends and some of them really understand what she’s going through. Liz decides to head off to Xavier’s school to learn how to control her powers (because in Ultimate Spider-Man, the X-Men are still awesome).

Again, Bendis takes something from Spidey’s past that’s not that cool (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends) and turns it into an entertaining story.

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Ultimate X-Men #92

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W: Robert Kirkman

A: Salvador Larroca

Time travel. Apocalypse. Xavier’s “not dead.” Multi-character slugfests.

Yeah, it’s a lame as it sounds. As awesome as Bendis and Immonen made the X-Men in Ultimate Spider-Man, it all becomes moot in their own title. Kirkman’s “90s Love” has gone far enough. Apocalypse can be cool (I give you X-Men: Evolution), but too often writers–even good ones–don’t really know how to deal with him. Kirkman’s Apocalypse had potential. The key word here is “had.” What killed this potential? Well, that whole “I didn’t kill Xavier, I simply took him to the future” bullshit didn’t help. Neither did having Xavier return to the present wearing Onslaught-y armor. Hello 90s!

I find it ironic that the issue ends with the return of Phoenix. Phoenix–the engine behind one of the best storylines in X-Men history–appears to face an opponent who is synonymous with some of the worst X-Men storylines.

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Quote of the Week:

“Now you sound like a tool.”–Liz Allan to Peter Parker, after he gives her the “with great power comes great responsibility” speech, in Ultimate Spider-Man #120.

Weekly Comic Review for 3/19/08

Angel: After the Fall #5

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W: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch

A: Franco Urru

Before I talk about the actual issue, there’s something that’s been bugging me.  Who the hell is that white dude on the cover standing between Gwen and Gunn?  At first, it looked like Xander, except (a) no eye-patch and (b) what the hell would Xander be doing there?  Then, I thought maybe it was Lindsey…but, y’know, he’s dead.  So, any ideas?

This issue of Angel: After the Fall highlights exactly why I  love Joss Whedon (and, also, how well Brian Lynch understands the way things work in the Whedonverse).  Angel’s on his own, facing the champions of L.A.’s demon lords in an attempt to gain control of the recently damned city and protect its human population.  Even if Angel were still a vampire, it would have been a pretty hard battle, but he goes it alone.  There he is, knee-deep in demon champions, when the cavalry arrives unbidden.  That’s classic Joss.  I can’t count the number of times that Angel (or Buffy, or Mal) went off on their own because they felt a particular job was too dangerous for anyone else, only to find out that they’ve gotten themselves in too deep.  That’s when their friends swoop in and turn the tide.  And, so often, it’s not the bravest of them who rallies the reinforcements, but the one with the most heart–Willow or Wash or, in this case, Lorne.

And, lest you think Joss has given up on tormenting his fans, this issue ends with a doozie of a cliffhanger.  In the midst of terrifying demon warriors, crazy blue bitch-goddess Illyria suddenly and inexplicably reverts to Fred Burkle, in all of her awkward, willowy Texan glory.  Now, from a storytelling point, my guess is that the Senior Partners did it just to mess with Wesley, who received quite a talking to from his new paymasters.  However, for the readers, it’s a simple example of Joss messing with us.  Why?  Well, we’re not going to find out what the hell is going on for a bit, since the next few issues of Angel will be a flashback to what happened in L.A. the night it was sucked into hell.

I guess it’s true what they say: You have to be cruel to be kind.

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B.P.R.D.: 1946 #3

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W: Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart

A: Paul Azaceta

Zombies, demons, ghouls, vampires, shape-shifters, and Nazis.  Yup, just another day in the world of Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.

Professor Bruttenholm and his team (including pal Howard and the Dirty Half-Dozen) investigate the asylum, with the help of their Soviet counterparts.  We learn that, despite his purge of the mentally ill from Germany, Hitler actually kept this asylum fully-stocked with loonies so that he would have a herd of test subjects to choose from for his wacky vampire experiments.  The mystery of the Nazis’ plans for a vampire army deepen, as Bruttenholm discovers that one hundred of the one hundred and twenty frozen hybrids are missing.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much time to explore this mystery, since an army of pissed-off ghosts emerge from the shadows, J-Horror style, and fall upon the American and Russian soldiers, killing Howard in the process.

This issue also introduces Baron Konig, an albino chap who, most likely, is also a vampire.  He declares that “man” will pay for what happened to Giurescu and his wives.  He probably would have started his vengeance with Bruttenholm, if Varvara hadn’t stopped him with her creepy goat-headed demon mojo.  I’m curious to see if Konig will show up later in this series, or if he will simply be absorbed into the larger Hellboy mythos only to appear three or four years from now in a completely different storyline.

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Batman and the Outsiders #5

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W: Chuck Dixon

A: Julian Lopez

I’m going to be completely honest here, I totally forget about Batman and the Outsiders until I see the new issue at the comic shop (in my case, Cosmic Comics in NYC).  I don’t hate it.  But, it just doesn’t seem to make much of an impression on me in the long-run.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some pretty good things going on here.  Sure, there’s a pretty lame story involving some Euro-trash dude working with O.M.A.C.s to launch some kind of super bio-weapon into orbit.  But I get a kick out of watching Green Arrow trying to play with the Outsiders.  I mean, c’mon, Ollie, Captain Liberal himself, basically working with a black-ops military squad.  That’s hilarious.  Even better: Metamorpho giving Ollie a dressing down about referring to Batman as “Bats.”

But, what really got me jazzed about this issue is the long overdue return of the Dibnys.  We’ve all been waiting for Ralph and Sue Dibny, ghost detectives, to arrive on the scene since the end of 52.  If the Dibnys become a part of Bruce’s team, I just might lose my shit.  It would make sense, even though he hates the supernatural, Bruce does admire Ralph’s detective abilities.

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Captain America #36

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W: Ed Brubaker

A: Butch Guice & Mike Perkins

It doesn’t look like things are going to be getting any easier for the new Captain America any time soon.  Sure, Bucky regulates when he goes up against the Serpent Squad, led by Red Skull’s hot redheaded daughter, Syn, and her less-than-hot lover, Crossbones.  And, he’s got a pretty cool partnership going with the Black Widow.  But, it’s not all head-smashing and Russian she-spy goodness.

When Bucky appears before a crowd of rioters, imploring them to return to their homes and take care of their friends and loved-ones, how do they respond?  Well, if you said their hearts grow three sizes at the sight of America’s Sentinel of Liberty, you’d be wrong.  No, the crowd (based on their behavior, I can only assume that they were recently relocated from Springfield) throw beer cans and tell Bucky to “shut up” and that he “ain’t Captain America” because “Captain America’s dead!”  That would put anyone in a bad mood.  So, after slinking off into the night, Bucky gets a second piece of bad news.  Since his appearance on national TV, the Cap’s out of the bag, so to speak, and SHIELD has to distance themselves from Bucky’s actions.  That means that his really awesome partnership with Black Widow has to come to an end, but (fortunately for Buck) not before a little lip action.

And, for the “What the Hell?” moment of the week, we have to go to Red Skull’s top-secret underground lair.  Sharon Carter has managed to get herself free and is skulking about, despite the little voice in her head (which, I’m assuming, belongs to Doctor Faustus) telling her to quit it.  Sharon stumbles into a room and comes face-to-face with Steve Rogers.  Well, okay, not exactly.  He’s in some kind of suspended animation.  And, he’s probably another clone.

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Catwoman #77

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W: Will Pfeifer

A: David Lopez

I’m not really sure what the deal is with Adam Hughes’ cover for this issue.  With the exception of the Joker (who shows up on the final page) none of the characters “chasing” Selina are anywhere in the book.  Also, I’m not sure how accurate the tag-line “Run Catwoman Run” is.  Does she run in this issue?  I say: “Not really.”  In fact, not only doesn’t Catwoman run, but she’s almost tempted to stay in the crazy alien holodeck forever.

And, I’ll be honest, I don’t blame her.  Sure, the machine she’s in is killing her.  But, the alternate reality that it’s created for her is pretty sweet.  People fear her and give her free shit.  And, not only that, in this world, she can actually take out Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Flash.  You don’t see that every day.  But, then Martian Manhunter shows up and throws a huge wet blanket on everything.  (It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally learned to love J’onn’s new pointy-headed, all-business look.)  “You’re going to die,” he says,  “This world isn’t real.”  But wait, what’s J’onn doing there, you ask?  That is a very good question.  It seems that Bruce sent J’onn to the prison planet undercover in the guise of Blockbuster.  That Bruce, always thinking.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 6

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W: Paul Dini & Adam Beechen

A: Mike Norton

Told through the eyes of Buddy Blank, this issue of Countdown to Final Crisis seems to be a means to set up the reappearance of Kamandi into the DC Universe.  Sure, there have been countless hints and winks to Jack Kirby’s old DC series–from the return of the O.M.A.C.s and Brother Eye, to the Command-D bunker in Bludhaven–but this issue cranks things up to “11.”

We still don’t know if the Challengers are on a parallel Earth or if they’ve somehow been erased from the history of New Earth.  But, the answer might not matter.  Karate Kid is dead and the Morticoccus virus he’s been smuggling is loose.  It spreads across the planet, mutating due to Karate Kid’s advanced 31st Century biology.  This virus does something odd.  It not only infects man and beast equally, but it also alters the host’s DNA.  So, in other words, if the virus goes from a man to a dog, the dog’s DNA is made more man-like, and if it than jumps to another human, that human’s DNA becomes more dog-like.  A perfect way to explain the mutated animal-human hybrids seen in Kirby’s old Kamandi series.   So, is the “Great Disaster” that leads to Kamandi being the last boy on Earth the same “Great Disaster” that Ray Palmer just failed to stop?  Possible.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that, when Buddy Blank left Cadmus at the end of the issue (with Una in tow), he went home, grabbed his grandson, and headed off to the bunker in Bludhaven.

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The Flash #238

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W: Tom Peyer

A: Freddie E. Williams, II

What would happen if Scarecrow and Mysterio had a kid?  Most likely, that kid would be a little bit like the newest villain in The Flash: Spin, as in “media spin.”  All we know about this dude so far is that he works in television news, wears a TV screen on his head, and can somehow make the public’s biggest current fears come true.  Somehow he needs to use a naked dwarf trussed up in a multi-media gimp-suit to make his powers work right.  If I knew more about what was going on in Wonder Woman right now, I’d be able to make an educated guess about whether or not Spin’s prisoner is Doctor Psycho.

Spin is a pretty good villain for a hero like Flash, who happens to be one of the biggest media darlings in the DC Universe (probably second only to Superman).  So, when Wally is caught on camera telling a reporter that his biggest problem is that superheroes don’t get paid, the media machine runs with it.  And Spin “spins” it for his own purposes, somehow forcing Flash to rob a bunch of citizens.  Is Spin’s power simple mind-control or a mixture of mind-control, illusion, and/or reality manipulation?

This issue made me feel really bad for Wally.  He wants to be a good husband and father.  He wants to be a provider.  But it’s not easy finding a job, especially when you might be called on at any minute to zip off and save the world (although, in Wally’s defense, he could probably do that in the time it would take any of his potential co-workers to go to the can).  So, Wally’s at the end of his rope, financially speaking, and he snaps.  It’s just his bad luck that it’s caught on film.  And, Jay’s no help with that whole “the lightning bolt must never touch the dollar sign” speech.  Really, Jay?  How about a little understanding?  Wally’s got a wife and two kids to feed.

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Justice League of America #19

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W: Alan Burnett

A: Ed Benes

Hey, Justice League of America, what’s going on?  Umm…yeah…I really think we need to talk.

This is really hard for me, JLA.  I mean, we’ve had a lot of good times and all, but I think we need to break up.  No, no.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Well…actually, it is you.  We used to have so much fun together.  I used to look forward to our time together, but now…well, now I can barely stand to be in the same room as you.

I’m not sure what happened.  We’ve had some really good times in the past–“New World Order” and “Tower of Babel”, for example–and, I must admit, even in our recent rockier times, there’ve been some highlights.  You were there when Wally came back.  You let Roy put on his big-boy costume and become Red Arrow.  But that just isn’t enough for me anymore.  Maybe you’re going through some rough times, and I understand that.  I think we should both take some time to figure out what we both need.  And, who knows, maybe some time down the road, we can have something special again.

I’m sorry, JLA.  I never meant to hurt you, but it is for the best.

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Robin #172

robin.jpg

W: Chuck Dixon

A: David Baldeon

Robin’s life is never simple, is it?  He’s still tracking down Violet, a case that’s led him to Maxie Zeus’s casino.  On top of that, he’s been approached by Detectives Cavallo and Wise, two of the shadiest cops I’ve ever seen (and I’m a big James Ellroy fan), who want to from a partnership with the young crime-fighter.  Oh, and he’s having trouble with would-be girlfriend Zo.

Previous issues of Robin have hinted about the return of Stephanie Brown, and someone was hired by Penguin in the pages of Gotham Underground  to run around in the Spoiler costume.  The question has always been (at least to me) are they both the same person?  Well, according to the end of this issue, it looks very likely.  We finally see Spoiler with her mask off and it is Steph.  But, is she the same Spoiler who’s been working for Penguin?  And, if so, what the hell are you thinking, Steph?  Are you working undercover?  Is this all part of some weird super-plan dreamed up by Leslie Thompkins?  Was Leslie able to pull the wool over Bruce’s eyes for two years, or was he in on it?

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Quote of the Week:

“What the hell are you–?  Are you high?”–the tyrannosaurus demon to Angel, when asked if he was acting against his will, in Angel: After the Fall #5.