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Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Thanks to BNAT travel and getting-out-of-town work deadlines, I’ve managed to fuck the League around once again, holding an article of theirs for several days. Sooner or later, I’m going to wake up to a knock on the door, and Lizzybeth’s going to be there to kick my girly ass around the block. Wait... that was a knock just now. Oh, god... it’s not her, is it? IT IS?! Hide me! Lizzybeth’s here! Sweet Jesus, Lizzybeth’s here!!

It’s another new week’s worth of comics, and neither freak snowstorms nor the lingering effects of tryptophan will keep the Talkback League of @$$holes from bringing you the best and the rest of the comics shelves. Now, you may be wondering how we can keep this up week in and week out. You may be wondering how a bunch of TalkBackers got to writing about comics on a site usually dedicated to other media. Quite possibly you may be wondering why we would put so much energy into comic books of all things. And you may be wondering where the heck you are and how you got here. Thanks, Google!

Well, in case you didn’t know, it’s a great time to be a comics fan. This site demonstrates it all the time. There’s X2 out on video, pretty much agreed to be the best comic-to-film adaptation yet, and there’s movies like HELLBOY and, dare I say, WATCHMEN on the way. There’s a very well-liked JUSTICE LEAGUE animated series on Cartoon Network, continuing the tradition of spiffy DC cartoons. But the movies and TV don’t reflect the state of the industry, they’re just the icing on the cake. Looking back at 2003, there’s been much to be thankful for. It’s been a big year for Alan Moore, who pocketed yet more bad-movie-adaptation money while putting out a staggering number of titles and re-releasing many more, and most notably bringing an entire universe of comics and characters to a startling end. Also a big year for Neil Gaiman, who started 2003 with a Hugo award, finished out with the SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS hardcover of a few weeks ago, and who's currently scripting, among other things, an It’s-Going-To-Happen-This-Time DEATH movie. Brian Michael Bendis wrote something like 800 pages of dialogue and actually brought a Marvel title to a respectable ending. Warren Ellis actually published a few issues of PLANETARY before the year was out, praise the lord, and released spiffy sci-fi hardcover ORBITER with Colleen Doran of A DISTANT SOIL. In fact, 2003 has seen some of the best graphic novels I’ve seen in years, books like Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS and Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS. Manga is crossing over more than ever before, and bringing with it new names, new genres, and new sensibilities. Meanwhile many of my favorite western titles are still going strong (FINDER) while for others the end is in sight (BONE). And, yeah, superhero comics are still hot and still everywhere. Marvel’s been more fully Optimized, or Ultracized, or something, and Jason Todd is alive, or maybe he’s still dead, is he still dead? .. uh.. ok, you’ll have to ask these other guys about that stuff.

My point being, there’s an immense variety to explore in comics right now and books of incredible quality being released. And if you want to know about comics, the TalkBack League of @$$holes is here for you. Gathered from the depths of the Ain't-It-Cool Talkbacks, we cover every corner of the comics universe, from DC to Dark Horse, TokyoPop to Top Cow. And if you’re looking for a good read, you might want to check out what we’ve got for you this week. EMPIRE gets two thumbs way up from Vroom Socko, and I’ll strongly recommend the super-noir CODEFLESH. Cormorant is here to tell you about CATWOMAN’s new look. Ambush Bug loves THE LOSERS, and Vroom Socko is crazy about THE FANTASTIC FOUR. And of course, we’ve got barrel full of CHEAP SHOTS to unload. But we’ll kick it off with the most familiar faces of all, the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. Take it away, gang.


-- Wait, not yet! Cormorant here, and I'm not just interrupting Liz's intro because I'm an egotistical bastard, but to announce that, hey - COOL! – AICN reviewer du jour, Alexandra DuPont, just dropped off some last minute reviews of both BONE #53 and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN Vol. 2! Smashing! Look for 'em below!


JLA #90

Written by Joe Kelly

Pencilled by Criss Cross

Inked by Tom Nguyen

Published by DC Comics

Reviewed by Superninja and Village Idiot

Hey everybody, Village Idiot here. If you're any kind of fan of this column, I'm sure you're familiar with all the solid, entertaining, and informative reviews that we bring you each week for you to casually skim with half attention. Well SKIM NO MORE! This week we've decided to try something new, something a little different, something that pushes the boundaries of internet comic reviewing and good taste. What is this innovation, you ask? Ain't-It-Cool News's very first He Said/She Said Review!. That's right, this week I, Village Idiot, and the lovely and talented Superninja will be bringing you our own gender-centric views of JLA #90. It's a Battle of the Sexes! Will we agree? Will we disagree? Will I resort to a PMS joke? Read on...

Village Idiot: JLA #90 is the issue that a lot of us have been waiting for, the one where Joe Kelly was supposed to deal with the Batman/Wonder Woman relationship head on.

Superninja: Kelly started hinting at the flirtation between the two characters in his "2 Minutes" story that kicked off his JLA run and culminated in the kiss they shared during the Obsidian Age storyline. However, the tension between the characters since has been relatively downplayed up until this issue.

Village Idiot: And now, in JLA #90, things have come to a head. Well, okay, they've kind of come to a head: Batman and Wonder Woman decide to "talk," but before they do, Wonder Woman decides to take a trip into Martian Manhunter's Brain-O-Tron, a big machine that's supposed to read her subconscious. It does, and Wonder Woman takes a trip through every fanfic scenario imaginable for the characters.

Superninja: These Elseworlds 101 scenarios are entertaining, but they're pretty superficial. Diana with Bruce in his old age, Diana in Bruce's world becoming Batwoman, Bruce and Diana hangin' with the Gods of Olympus, a Kingdom Come scenario with Diana and Bruce on the same side, Diana killing the Joker for murdering Batman, and lastly Diana not able to bear children but still having the love of Bruce for having brought him out of the darkness.

Village Idiot: At the end of the issue, she comes out of the Brain-O-Tron and tells Batman that it'd never work, that they're too good as friends. Batman affably agrees. The end. So Superninja, whadja think?

Superninja: The most problematic aspect of the story is, of course, J'onn's "Transconsciousness Articulator" device. I believe it was the same device used in the issue in which Superman envisions a world where Joe Kelly's political nightmares come true.

Village Idiot: "Brain-O-Tron," "Transconsciousness Articulator," whatever. And thanks for bringing back all those wonderful memories of JLA #83. Brr.

Superninja: For anyone who has been reading Wonder Woman for awhile (I hear crickets chirping), it will instantly remind you of the "Trinity" storyline that happened during Eric Luke's run. In that case, it was Wonder Woman imagining instead a relationship with Superman while Batman looked on, trapped within the sentient Wonderdome that was manipulating them.

Village Idiot: And let me guess, they spent the whole story trying to get Beyond Wonderdome. Heh-heh. Sorry. Okay, I'll be quiet. Go on.

Superninja: Everything that occurs in the Transconsciounees Articulator is imaginary, so there are no real consequences to any of the soul-searching. Personally, I consider this writing device a cop-out, but Kelly seems self-aware of this by having Batman choose not to use it and J'onn commenting to Diana that she could just talk to Bruce instead (which would've made for a more interesting issue).

Village Idiot: Are you sure that having them "just talk" would have been more interesting? I don't know about that. I think you're getting dangerously close to "Aunt May's Therapy Session" territory there. (Brr again.) And I think Kelly's whole point was to give everybody the story they wanted, if only briefly, and then return things to the status quo. How could they have explored all those different scenarios if they had merely talked about it?

Superninja: But Diana using a dream machine in the first place to determine whether or not she can have a relationship with Batman seems a sort of cowardly way to face your self-doubts. Especially when most of the dream sequences seem to confirm that she is in love with him and that she believes it could work, but she's troubled by the dark world he's immersed in.

Village Idiot: You know, I don't know what is going on with her at the end of the story. That last scene where she tells him they're better off as friends was executed really awkwardly. We should have had a better idea what she was thinking and why she was thinking it. I think a lot of the problem was that things were way too casual all of a sudden. This is Wonder Woman and Batman we're talking about here – this could have been a relationship to rock the Halls of Ragnarok. But at face value, you would have thought she was turning down Dave, the guy in the cubicle across from hers at work. All that coy smiling going on? I thought it was lame.

Superninja: For someone that was dreading this issue as much as I was, it really wasn't that bad. There were some really sweet and even touching moments. Batman's life is so dark and grim - that's part of the charm of the character. But because of that darkness, I enjoy all the more whatever moments of happiness he has, no matter how brief.

Village Idiot: Yeah, in fact way back when I reviewed one of the JLA issues where this whole Batman/Wonder Woman first thing came up, I commented on how that's what Wonder Woman could bring to his life, and how beautiful, not to mention thematically dynamic, that could be. It was fun to see that realized.

Superninja: I know there were some complaints with this issue of Batman acting out of character, but it's Diana seeing Bruce through her eyes. At the same time, telling the story from only one character's POV is sort of a cheat. We never get to understand Bruce's feelings for Diana, although he seems a little disappointed when she gives him the "let's be friends" shaft.

Village Idiot: He does? All I remember is that big stupid grin he has on his face when she talks about "not risking their friendship." Like I said, Dave from the cubicle across the way seemed to be fine with everything.

Superninja: As far as the art goes, that first page is SO WRONG!

Village Idiot: Yeah, tell me about it.

Superninja: Diana looks like Chyna (again), and it's the ugliest opening to a love story I've ever seen. However, he downplays her physique for most of the issue and his art does the story justice. But that first page...ewww!

Village Idiot: I just feel that Wonder Woman shouldn't have bigger guns than mine. On that first page, those things were freaking pythons.

Superninja: To sum it up, it's a shame to see this relationship put on hold before it really began. At least the door didn't get slammed shut.

Village Idiot: I don't know. It felt like good-natured closure to me. Nothing but smiles. Is that really how you wanted it to end?

Superninja: In retrospect, I wish that they had just continued a flirtation and that so much emphasis hadn't been placed on the question of "will they or won't they."

Village Idiot: You want to know what I think? Here's what I think: I don't think anyone should have used the Transconciousness Brain-O-Tron. I don't think they should have talked about it. I think they should have had a full-blown relationship, and I really think it should have been a mini-series. Failing that, I think they should have at least explored the relationship in the main title more than they did. The Batman and Wonder Woman pairing has all the potential of a grand, epic romance. Of course, it would have to end eventually, and even though that plays against my rooting interest, I can accept that. Barring a happy ending, I think we at least deserve a poignant, tragic one; one more poignant than what we got; one that would give Batman and Wonder Woman a little twinge of unspoken pain sometimes when they look over at each other while seated around the JLA meeting table. But apparently, we'll never have that. Thank you almighty Brain-O-Tron. Still though, on its own terms, I think the Brain-O-Tron vignettes were interesting and well-executed enough to be entertaining, which saves the issue from being a complete bomb, and makes it even mildly redeemable.

Village Idiot's Rating: **


THE LOSERS #6

Writer: Andy Diggle

Artist: Jock

Colors: Lee Loughridge

Publisher: DC/VERTIGO

Reviewer framed for a crime he DID commit: Ambush Bug

I was Murdock. My friends and I were always in the top five in our fourth grade class when it came to grades. So once a week, on Wednesdays, we got to take the bus to a special school where we would learn, and play, and do art, and take field trips, and do shit that the rest of the kids in the class were too hyperactive or slow to appreciate. Every Wednesday morning, the five of us would stand out in front of our school, waiting for a bus that was always late. We had plenty of time to shoot the shit and plenty of shit to shoot. The subjects varied. We would babble on about Star Wars or who kicked the snot out of who under the monkey bars or who pissed their pants during show and tell. Conversations flitted back and forth, but they always came back to THE A-TEAM. You see, for a majorly memorable portion of my young life, Tuesday nights were A-TEAM nights. I never missed the show and neither did my friends. The next morning when we all gathered together, THE A-TEAM was what we talked about and THE A-TEAM is what we played.

The big brain of our group was Hannibal, our erstwhile leader. My other friend was Face because he parted his hair to the side and was the only one of us who had a girlfriend. My other friend was B.A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus because we was the biggest of us all and the only black guy in the group. We even had an Amy who coincidentally was named Amy. And I was Murdock, the insane comic relief because…well…I was a special lad and I had a blue hat. Our teachers may have requested for us to go to the special program as a reward for our good grades and behavior, but we saw it as a chance for fun and adventure. So when that bus rolled in, we started singing that “Daaa-da-dat-daaaa!!! Dat-daaa-dat-duh!!!” theme song and the entire trip there and back was a chance for us to be that crack team of military experts framed by the government for a crime they didn’t commit. Our bus driver even looked a bit like Decker, the badguy general from the TV show.

You may be asking yourself, “Who gives a poopin’ crap, Ambush Bug? Why in the hell are you rambling about some TV show and a weekly short-bus trip you used to take when you were a kid?” Well, every time I read an issue of THE LOSERS, I am back in my living room; watching Murdock and BA argue, watching Face pick up all the ladies, watching Hannibal love it when a plan comes together, and waiting for the next morning when I can talk about it all to my friends. The similarities between THE LOSERS and THE A-TEAM lie in the core concept. Both center around a team of military experts, framed by the government and pissed as punch about it all. But where THE A-TEAM fell into routine plot scenarios and ratings-board-mandated all-ages violence, THE LOSERS are free to act, swear, maim, spit, and kill with reckless abandon towards the law, the government, the censors, and most action movie clichés. Using THE A-TEAM as a conceptual springboard, Andy Diggle has leapt into something new and interesting with this ragtag team of LOSERS.

THE LOSERS #6 wraps up the first major arc for this series. The Losers have been screwed over by one of their own. They’ve been beaten and put through the ringer. Last issue ended with a cliffhanger chase, ending in a fiery explosion. This issue picks up the action moments later as the bad guys sift through the remains of the Losers’ getaway boat. After a series of slow panels in the first few pages, the book charges up and pours out the action straight up until the very last page. More action occurred in this issue than in an entire years run on a normal Nu Marvel title. This is exactly what comic book action should be! There were fists, kicks, and blood. Bullets, swears, and body parts. Shotguns and explosions. Planes and plots. Chases, sacrifices, and standoffs. If this book had a wazoo, there’d be pure uncut action dripping straight out of it.

Comic book writers today forget that this is a medium where anything could happen. Sure, you can ground the book in reality (as this book surely is), but that doesn’t mean you have to make it as boring as reality (as this book most assuredly isn’t) with tedious exposition, needless deconstruction, and ENGLISH PATIENT-slow cinematic pacing. Andy Diggle has a full clip of action for every issue; action that crescendos into something bigger. Most comics these days have ssssllllowwwww builds toward a singular action. THE LOSERS has action throughout, and it benefits an interesting concept and story. I can’t wait to see these Losers get their revenge on the government baddies that wronged them, but until then, Diggle is supplying the goods and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

One complaint I’ve heard about this book is about the character of Jensen, the wiseass computer hacker on the team. Sure, he babbles a lot and may be a bit Jar Jar Binks-ish at times, but without that character, we’d have nothing but a bunch of Somber Sallys on our hands. Clay, the leader, is driven and quiet. Pooch is loyal and pretty quiet. Aisha is deadly and is pretty damn quiet. And Cougar rarely says a frikkin’ word. I’d babble a bit too if I had to hang around these guys. The book needs Jensen for comic and tension relief. For me, the character keeps the book from getting so morose that it is un-entertaining. But then again, I was Murdock. I may be biased.

Another plus for this book is the art. Jock’s pencils and inks give this book a feeling all its own. It’s dark and moody. The shadows reveal only what’s needed to convey the subtle look or general feel of the panel. Every character is distinct; a notable achievement since none of the characters wear costumes. The angles and directions with which the pages are put together only add to the intensity and cinematic appeal of this book. I have to mention colorist Lee Loughridge for his amazing use of tones throughout the book. The calm moments building up to the action are done in blues and grays, while the action itself is bathed in oranges, highlighting the edge-of-your-seatness of it all. Cover to cover. Page to page. Panel to panel. This art team is tops.

I recently saw some A-TEAM reruns and unfortunately they didn’t hold up so well. The acting. The stories. The action. It was all pretty tame, but back then, that show was my favorite. Although I may never again be able to harness those feelings of joy and innocent fascination that I experienced as I watched that show, reading THE LOSERS gives me a taste of that same feeling now that I had back then. The difference is that the writing and action are far superior. If you are like me and miss great action in comics, pick up THE LOSERS. You won’t be disappointed.


FANTASTIC FOUR # 507

Mark Waid: Writer

Howard Porter: Artist

Marvel Comics: Publisher

Vroom Socko: Suckered

I admit it; the last few issues of this book had me concerned. Reed’s erratic behavior, coupled with the final image of the last issue and the promo bits that describe the next arc as starring the Fantastic Three were throwing me for a loop. You see, I’m one of those comics’ readers with a long memory. I recall the mid-90’s story where Reed and Doom “died,” and Doom’s protégée Kristoff became the fourth member of the team. What dreck. The past four issues had me worried that Waid was doing some sort of mad rehash of this concept, and no sane person would want to see that. Hell, I’m even wary of rehashes of good stuff.

Waid, of course, also has a long comics memory. And he apparently delights in stringing readers like me along, because this issue is one big sucker punch.

You see, Reed has decided to ensure Doom never threatens his family again. To that end, he’s pulled Doom out of Hell, and dropped him into his own little pocket dimension. To be certain that he will remain a non-threat, Reed has decided to imprison himself alongside Victor. Naturally, he hasn’t told the rest of the team his plan. And naturally, they’re not going to let Reed do this without a fight. Also, as the UN invades Latveria, its citizens decide if they’re going to allow their country to be taken.

If there’s a flaw in this issue, it’s that it reads too damn fast. While I didn’t time myself, it certainly felt like I read the whole issue in less than three minutes. But that’s a minor complaint. What works here is the interaction between Reed and Doom, which does cover familiar territory, but is still riveting while conveying relevant information. I tell you, Reed is absolutely merciless here. I’ve never seen him this righteously pissed off. He and Doom have some verbal sparring here that’s simply brutal.

And then there’s the ending. Oh my god.

I’m not going to spoil this one. Nothing can make me spoil this one. But I’ll tell you this, that last panel is the emotional equivalent of a ten pound sledgehammer to the left testicle. It looks like when Waid was scheduled to leave this title, he planned on taking the soul of the book with him. I’ll say no more than that. This is easily the best cliffhanger of the year, and I honestly don’t know what to expect in a month’s time.

I want the next issue. I want it now. The only way I don’t want it is sexually. (Well…) The conclusion to this arc is going to be one big wad of pain, and I can’t wait to see it unfold.


BATMAN/SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN: TRINITY #3

Written and Drawn by Matt Wagner

Coloring by Dave Stewart

Published by DC Comics

Reviewed by Village Idiot

I had a hard time getting TRINITY #3 this week. I didn't have a hard time finding it or anything – I had a hard time talking myself into buying the sucker. At $5.95, it was expensive.

Sidebar: In a Talkback a couple of weeks ago, I brought up the fact that IRON WOK JAN looked expensive. And it was: according to Cormorant, it retails at $9.95. Corm went on to joke about the fact that if you're going to let a price like that stand in your way, you deserve to have Junior High School "You're so poor" jokes leveled at you. I'm going to respond to that right now and say that although I always love a good "You're so poor" joke, I think he's wrong. I'm not on food stamps, but I still think 10 bucks is a hefty chunk of change to casually lay down for a comic – more than the price of your average paperback. 6 bucks is also a big bite, especially when you're considering the fact that you're already laying down, say, $10 for your average assortment of 3 or 4 comics. There's a difference between paying $10 for the week, or paying $16: It's like you're pushing it up into a new spending bracket. And the thought that you're doing it for a single comic makes the purchase feel almost irresponsible. You'd better have at least some basis to know you're going to like it. For example, JLA/AVENGERS #3 was the same price, and I got it with a clear conscience.

INTERRUPTION TIME! Cormorant, here. Sorry to bust up the review, V.I., but I just caught the preceding paragraph as I was editing this column, and I'm compelled to note for the record that IRON WOK JAN isn't some 22-page stapled comic, or even a 48 or 64-page special. For your $9.95, you actually get a little trade paperback of some 200 pages+, and that ain't bad. Still, I'm right there with you when it comes to shaking one's head regarding the overpriced prestige format of TRINITY and similar projects, so your point's still taken. Let's get back to it…

But what made TRINITY such a toughie wasn't just the price, but the fact that because it had been so long since I read #2, all I could see was the price. I honestly couldn't remember what I liked about the first two issues. From that point, it's not too far until I say to myself, "If I can't remember why I liked it, maybe I really didn't like it so much in the first place." And then the next thing you know, I'm not buying it. Luckily for DC, brand loyalty won the day. But I wasn't too comfortable about things while I was getting rung up.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that all the delays, especially for the special projects and miniseries that I haven't developed a solid relationship with, are a real drag. I don't know whether DC and Marvel can really appreciate the fire they're playing with when they leave issues dangling for months on end while the creators or whoever get their act together. Like I said, TRINITY banked on the last shred of loyalty that I felt for the characters and my prior investment, and won. THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES BACK wasn't so fortunate.

Having said all that, it turns out I liked TRINITY #3 a good deal, and it didn't take long after reading this issue to remember why I liked the previous two too.

The story is about the first team-up of The Big Three, when Ra's al Ghul has decided to "cleanse the Earth" again, this time with nuclear missiles. Ra's has also enlisted the help of Bizarro, and of a punk rock rebel Amazon named Artemis (a recurring character for Wonder Woman if you're familiar with her storyline). TRINITY #3 picks up with Batman and Superman looking for Wonder Woman at her home on Paradise Island, where she fled after getting dunked in one of Ra's al Ghul's magical Lazarus Pits in the previous issue. Batman is the first to find Wonder Woman, and he's so overcome with her beauty, the relief from knowing she's okay, and something called "the enchantment of the island," he walks up and plants a big fat kiss on her right then and there.

Ironically, this comes the same week as JLA #90, where the story is all about a Batman/Wonder Woman romance. The relationship seemed to strike out in JLA, but what with this business in TRINITY #3 and the overtones on the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon, I'm beginning to wonder if the tectonic plates of the DC status quo may be slowly shifting after all.

On the other hand, in TRINITY, Wonder Woman seems to much more infatuated with Superman, even after her kiss with Batman. That may be because Superman makes himself a lot easier to like, especially for a straightforward girl like Wonder Woman, simply by being big, shiny, and beautiful; arguably the same qualities that attracts Batman to Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, Batman's flavor may simply require a more refined palette. (If Superman is hot chocolate, then Batman is coffee. Maybe even espresso.) Whatever the case, by the end of the issue, it's clear that Batman's moment with Wonder Woman still weighs on his mind, but not so much on hers.

Of course, the book wasn't all soap opera; in fact it was mostly action. After the trio regroups, they seek out Ra's and his Amazon assistant, but it's only in the nick of time that they discover that Artemis has convinced Ra's to stash his 2 remaining nukes on Paradise Island itself, and to launch a full scale invasion in order to get them there. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman alone defend the island against Ra's invading army, not to mention Artemis, a pissed off Bizarro, and Ra's himself. The battle actually gets a little tense, especially with Bizarro battling the armored Batman, who impressively holds his own.

Nice work from Matt Wagner on this book, and again, it's a shame that I almost passed it up. Despite how emotionally complicated the relationship dynamics sound, they're really not. In fact, Wagner's take on the characters and the situations seems so basic and uncomplicated compared to the regular titles, it's refreshing. In some ways, the vibe feels similar to the animated series. It could be argued that this comes from when the story is set, i.e., early in their careers, and that might be true. Then again, it may also be that Wagner has a firm grasp on who these people are.

Except for the fact that he puts Wonder Woman in bike shorts, I also really enjoyed Wagner's art on these books. The art is simple, but very expressive. I swear, the artwork has the energy and playfulness of something like TINTIN, but with enough realism to keep it from feeling like a cartoon. Great stuff. And hats off to colorist Dave Stewart for making it look pretty too.

So if, like me, you forgot what you liked about the first couple of issues of TRINITY, and if, unlike me, you decided to pass on it, go back and get it. It's good. And if you've missed out on the whole series up to now, you can either wait for DC to put out a collected edition of all three issues (someday), or you can try to pick up all three. Yeah, it's pricey, but I really enjoyed it; and if you like these characters, I think you will too.

Village Idiot's rating: ***1/2


CATWOMAN #25

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Paul Gulacy

Publisher: DC Comics

Reviewed by Cormorant

The big news this issue is the artistic switch-over from a host of animation-style artists (most notably Darwyn Cooke, Brad Rader, and Cameron Stewart) to a quasi-realist - Paul Gulacy. Gulacy's an artist who cut his teeth on MASTER OF KUNG FU for Marvel in the 70's, later doing many a stint on indie action/adventure books like SABRE, and a number of excellent Batman projects. His style's defined by a tightly-drawn and only slightly stylized brand of realism, elaborate lighting effects, beautiful women, and most especially, a gift for cinematic staging – especially in fight scenes. Gulacy's the guy whose fight scenes you can follow from punch to block to feint to counter-punch. Where most fight scenes in American comics just showcase a "highlight reel" of moves, Gulacy choreographs his dust-ups like comicdom's answer to Yuen Wo Ping.

What Gulacy is not is what readers have come to expect for the last 24 issues of CATWOMAN, and I've gathered that more than a few fans aren't happy. I can understand the discomfort. Animation style art in the Bruce Timm tradition is a little overexposed these days, but man did guys like Cooke, Radar, and Stewart make it shine on this book. Fuck, it looked good! Gave the series a vibe all its own and also stood as a line of demarcation between the T&A Catwoman of the 90's and the more serious direction Ed Brubaker has taken the character in. Alas, it wasn't a particularly commercial style. Critics and hipsters loved it, but many fans, perhaps finding the cartooniness too much in conflict with the flagrantly sexualized Catwoman they expected, did little to support the book. As a result, it sits on the lower end of the top hundred selling books.

Gulacy's arrival, then, is presumably an attempt to make the book more marketable, more sexy. That's a little strange, because Gulacy's not particularly popular these days, but damned if I'm not pleased with his opening issue. Catwoman shows a little skin, but y'know what? It's really no more than she'd occasionally show in past issues. Maybe it just seems "sexier" because Gulacy's a realist, drawing very defined anatomy on his characters, and his predecessors were all stylists. In any case I quite like his take on Selina Kyle, whose features he gives something of the mix of beauty and toughness of Carrie-Ann Moss from THE MATRIX. And I love his take on tough guy supporting character, Slam Bradley, whose realistic interpretation is clearly informed by ultimate Hollywood tough guy, Robert Mitchum. Gulacy's trademark action scenes are terrific too, though credit must also go to Brubaker, who's been giving great, cinematic action material to his artists from the get-go. The fight sequence in the boarded-up building particularly stands out, with beams of sunlight flashing through the boards as Catwoman kicks hapless thugs through 'em.

And speaking of Brubaker, he ain't goin' nowhere, thankfully. CATWOMAN fans should be pleased to see that he hasn't altered his writing style at all for the new artistic direction. The story involves Catwoman taking steps to stave off mob encroachment in Gotham's East End. The mob's looking to fill the power vacuum left when all-around scumbag, Black Mask, got offed a few issues back, and they're pissed as hell at Catwoman's resistance and the failure of associate, Oswald Cobblepot – aka The Penguin – to deal with her. Brubaker gets in some nice moments between the mob boys and The Penguin, as Penguin warns them that Catwoman doesn't fold easy, that the last guy to mess with her – Black Mask – ended up dead, and that if they actually kill her, Batman will probably dismantle their whole operation. They've got their plans, though…

All told, it's not a particularly remarkable issue, lacking some of the emotional content that's a trademark strength of the series, but it's solid as a rock and a good kick-off to a new storyline. If there's anyone out there who's passed this series over because you didn't like the animation-style art of the last two years, well first off, you're fuggin' nuts, but more to the point, this is absolutely the issue to give this series a try. It's also a good starting point for the Catwoman-curious in general. And as for you "lifers" – don't panic at the artistic switch. Gulacy's got his work cut out for him in living up to his predecessors, but let your brain shift gears a little and you'll see that he's far from a letdown. And Slam Bradley by way of Robert Mitchum is genius.


CODEFLESH

Joe Casey, Charlie Adlard, Richard Starkings/Comicraft

Ait/PlanetLar

reviewed by: Lizzybeth

You know that Conan O'Brian segment "WHAT IF THEY MATED?" where two familiar faces are put together to form a deranged mutant offspring? Well, CODEFLESH is what happens when SIN CITY knocks up THE PUNISHER. CODEFLESH looks like a crime comic, as sharp and acrid as 100 BULLETS, though not quite as grimly amusing as STRAY BULLETS. Cameron Daltrey is a bail bondsman-slash-bounty hunter with a run-down office, a rogues gallery of clients, and a dame on the side. Deep down in its secret heart, however, CODEFLESH is a superhero comic. See, when Cameron’s clients decide to skip town before their court dates, Cameron puts on a mask (a giant USB code - hero for hire?) and goes out to kick their asses incognito. They turn up bloody and repentant the next day, and Businessman Cameron can play good cop again. This arrangement has been very successful for him, because he takes on the clients no one else wants, the ones who are going to bolt every single time – the supervillians.

So what makes a superhero comic? Our hero has no superpowers, no supersmarts, and not much in the way of gadgets or expensive super-cars. He's just an adrenaline junkie who gets off on beating up superpowered criminals, the tougher the better. It’s good for business, but he’s doing it for pleasure. So Cameron may not match the profile, but CODEFLESH satisfies nearly all the standard elements of the genre: costumed hero, a secret identity, superpowerful villians, even an origin story (sort of). These components are mixed in with crime-comic elements like the rumbles in dirty city alleyways, the street-smart stripper girlfriend, and all the spotlights and shadows of the black-and-white noir art style. Adlard pulls off this style quite nicely, referencing a whole range of influences at once, a kind of unholy mass-marriage of Miller, Lieber, Lapham, all those great midnight-in-the-city artists. The short, pulpy episodes that make up this trade reinforce that hard-boiled flavor; CODEFLESH appeared as a backup story in Image titles like DOUBLE IMAGE and was the kind of attention grabber to make you hunt down each installment. The collection pulls everything together nicely, with an extra page of artwork and a typewritten bit of narration joining each segment.

The episodic nature of this volume is also a weakness, though. Things stay pretty small-scale and low-key. This is perfect for a backup story, and although the trade does build up a pretty good continuous read it never really becomes anything more. Nothing more than the core concept and look of the book is very memorable. It does make for a great setup for future work, though. Cameron, when not in costume, is an eerily regular guy who’s slowly becoming a slave to his second identity. He’s like the guy who leaves from his 9-to-5 to pick a fight at the bar (and I imagine Cameron did just that for awhile, before falling into his current line of work). It’s ruining his love life, since girlfriends don’t appreciate him running off at all hours and showing up a disheveled mess. But he can’t seem to give it up. It makes me wonder if eventually even this won’t be enough – what’s he going to turn to when a simple brawl doesn’t do it for him anymore? It’s a great genre-bend with a lot of potential. Recovering superhero addicts could use this as a step over to other genres if they’re looking to broaden their horizons.


EMPIRE #5 (of 6)

Mark Waid: Writer

Barry Kitson: Artist

DC Comics: Publisher

Vroom Socko: The Power Behind the Throne

Damn what an issue.

We have the initiation of hostilities from Greenland, the discovery of Delfi’s rather exuberant activities by her father, Lohkyn hunted down for a crime he didn’t commit, and Golgoth learning the identity of the man who murdered his wife.

Now I know that the idea of Greenland going to war is a bit ridiculous, but the second realization any Risk player learns is that Greenland can conquer all of Europe on its own. (The first is that whoever takes Australia, takes the planet.) Rasmussen, the leader of Greenland, is moved to the fore in much of this issue, and what we learn of him is sufficiently out of this world.

As for Delfi, we see an until-now hidden side to her personality. You know that whole sheltered, naïve little girl personality of hers? It’s a front, and I should have seen it coming. After all, damn near everyone in this book, from Lucullan to Lohkyn to Endymion, is not what he or she first seems to be. What hides behind that innocent face? I’m not saying.

And Golgoth’s confrontation with his wife’s killer? What a scene. At the end of the issue, after learning the whys and hows of her death (and I’m not saying who – you could threaten to smother me with a SARS infested buffalo hide mattress, and I still wouldn’t dare spoil this fabulous moment) Golgoth is forced to make a difficult decision. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes in this scene, and what he does is classically evil, but I can’t help feeling that he made the correct decision.

I want to say more, I really do. But this issue is full of moments that simply must be experienced first hand. Besides, when you check this out firsthand, you get the absolutely phenomenal work of Barry Kitson piercing your retinas. The final confrontation between Golgoth and the killer simply looks wondrous. Even if you haven’t been picking up this series, (and if you haven’t, shame on you) take a look at pages 17-20 in this issue.

As for Waid, well, if this week’s FF hit my left gonad with a sledge, then Empire has my right in a vice. This book is some of his best work ever. Between this book and what he’s doing with Reed, the man is on one hell of a hot streak.

If you haven’t been following Empire until now, start hitting Ebay. I know there’s only one issue left, and that a trade is inevitable, but you don’t want to wait that long. This book is quite possibly the best miniseries of the year. In a year that’s seen not only an Astro City mini, but JLA/Avengers, that’s saying a hell of a lot.


UNCANNY X-MEN #432 and 433

Writer: Chuck Austen

Artist: Philip Tan

Publisher: Marvel

Reviewer: Sleazy G

Comic book fans on the internet have a bad rep among creators. They say we’re too emotional, or that we nitpick and freak out over nothing, or that we over exaggerate, or that we don’t have a sense of humor, or that our criticism is misguided and juvenile at best. Hell, I’ve written some pretty nasty, flame-ish stuff myself. All of that said, I’ve never really hated Chuck Austen. Never liked him, either, truth be told—he struck me as fair to middling with some good ideas and some bad (like his irrational hatred of Lois Lane). Since I know Austen always laughs off angry online rants, though, I decided to take a little time to calmly, rationally break down the things that ruined the issue in question, followed by a list of the things I enjoyed — a pros and cons of UNCANNY, as it were.

I’ve been reading UNCANNY X-MEN for pretty much Austen’s entire run. While some people have been freaking out about his ruining the characters or it being too soap opera or whathaveyou, I’ve found it bearable (if not that exciting) and with a few interesting ideas. These two most recent issues, though, made me react pretty strongly. I’ve never been a huge X-fan; I read the titles on and off and don’t understand the whole “St. Claremont” fixation considering his half-assed “creations” like Gambit and the ‘Brood (how Marvel avoided a lawsuit on *that* one is still beyond me). This means I actually give the writers more leeway than the hardcore fans. Rather than get mired in the whole “this sucks cuz Marrow is my favrit and hes not Clearmonte” approach, I’m just gonna run a simple list of what didn’t work followed by what did and be done with it.

Things that I didn’t like about the last two issues of UNCANNY X-MEN:

1) “Angels” and “demons” are actually immortal mutants trapped in an otherworldly dimension. Why actively court trouble (and the possibility of making yourself look like an idiot) by bringing biblical history into the X-Men’s already convoluted history? An unnecessary concept, poorly executed.

2) The pointless assault by Juggernaut on Sammy’s family, leading to the death or crippling of the boy’s parents. Way to show the love, Juggy. Oh, and way to intervene and stop Cain, Northstar. Either you’re gonna reform a villain or not, but either way the scene doesn’t make sense.

3) The “revelation” that Kurt’s father is actually Satan, a several thousand year old mutant who also sired a bunch of characters in this storyline we’ve never heard of and don’t give a shit about.

4) The idea that Heaven was actually an island that was this guy’s Genosha? Uh huh. Deep, man. Or not.

5) Polaris’ continued abuse of an innocent nurse for no good reason. This whole thread has become increasingly obnoxious and dull. For a writer who hates Lois Lane for supposedly being a bitch, he seems awfully fond of the one he’s writing right now. He’s the only one.

6) Havok saying six people are scared when there are only five in the room (minor, but annoying).

7) The idea that Bobby Drake could survive when nothing’s left but his head.

8) The idea that Bobby is upset at Havok for “stealing” Annie and Carter.

9) Havok threatening from inside his atrocious new armor to help Bobby by pissing on the kid’s head so he can reform his body. Funny in a childish, Garth Ennis-lite kinda way? Maybe, but outta line in this book. Even in NYX or X-STATIX it might be acceptable, but this is a flagship book parents buy for their kids. It’s just bad business.

10) Alpha Flight: why are they wearing Japanese battle armor? For starters, it’s pretty obvious that it would interfere with the preexisting abilities of Aurora, Guardian and especially Sasquatch. I mean, why would a huge strong hairy dude wear a tin can? And what possible justification is there for *chain guns* on Aurora’s suit? I can’t imagine what the point is. Does anybody wanna see Cyclops and Storm dressed up like they’re guest-starring in Gundam?

11) One of Azazel/Satan’s henchmen loses his temper and slaughters a much-needed member of the group, ruining Azazel’s plan. Azazel leaves him unpunished. Riiight. Then he stands by while we see the henchman gut the guy, splayed out like a deer. Do you have any idea how long that takes? It’s not as fast as it looks on them huntin’ shows, y’know. The image is also a bit much for one of Marvel’s top titles.

12) So lemme get this straight: Nightcrawler’s dad has broken through to earth enough times to spawn a host of teleporters to help him return to earth? But, uh, wasn’t he already on earth? Why not just hang out, leave your minions (mental midgets all) in the alternate hell dimension and spend six thousand years spawning a new batch? I’m just sayin’, he coulda done it from here on earth, then opened the front door and let his peeps in. Why keep standing outside the servants’ entrance in the cold hoping somebody’ll open the door once every few hundred years?

Whew. I left a few minor annoyances out, but those are the biggies. And now for the things I liked about the last two issues of UNCANNY X-MEN:

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BONE #53 and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. 2 HARDCOVER

By Alexandra DuPont

Okay, so Jeff Smith now has two issues (and, if he sticks to stated plans, 96 pages) to wrap up his extraordinary 55-issue Bone saga. Given Smith's penchant for multi-issue action set pieces, I sort of expected No. 53 -- which hit stores a couple of weeks ago -- to kick off the series' final confrontations.

For the most part, I was wrong.

Clocking in at 31 pages, No. 53 is, until the last few pages, another "set-up" issue -- a perfectly lovely, tightly crafted, beautifully rendered set-up issue full of high stakes and sharp character moments, mind you, but a set-up issue nonetheless. But now I'm 99.9-percent sure that Smith finally, finally has all his narrative chess pieces in place: Thorn and Fone Bone are close to the Crown of Horns; Phoney and Grandma are heading off to face Briar; the two comic-relief Rat Creatures look like they're about to be Smiley Bone's prisoners; the gigantic cat Roque Ja is lurking about, refusing to take sides; and the Lord of the Locusts is approaching in a big fat cloud of lightning, wrapped up in the body of the crazy old Queen of the Dragons. So unless our heroes still need to set up a concession stand, tear tickets or consult a rabbi, I'm fairly sure all kinds of weird hell is breaking loose next time.

I know I sound impatient. There's a reason. Until these last few issues, I'd only read Bone in the trade-paperback collections -- and I only really started reading it after seven of those collections were in stores, with Vol. 8 close on their heels. So I was used to getting Smith's story in big meaty chunks, as quickly as I wanted to read it -- and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't itching to tear through these last few installments a heck of a lot faster than I'm allowed to.

Which is, of course, a compliment to the author.

Here's another compliment: All the above whinging isn't to say that 53 isn't full of juicy moments. Two of them are series standouts:

(1) There's this near-classic two-page bit where Phoney Bone, the unrepentant con man, throws away his sword, repulsed by his bloodlust. Grandma then tests him with a few choice words -- and, in a masterful combination of looks and well-chosen words, gets him to reveal that he loves family more than filthy lucre. These two pages contain exactly the sorts of character moments that comics are really, really good at, but nobody save Jeff Smith seems to have the patience to write and draw them these days.

(2) And then there's this moment where Thorn ... well ... I really don't want to spoil this ... but she has what you might call a "Matrix moment" as she faces off against a battalion of Pawan warriors in front of a gaping pit. It's beautiful and surprising and swooping and strange, and is just the total payoff for 12 years of dream sequences and mumbo-jumbo about "ghost circles." Another confession: Until now, I'd had a mild problem with the seeming vagueness of the whole "ghost-circle" concept -- spectral atom bombs that you can't even see? -- but the skill with which Smith juggles dream logic and narrative in the final pages of Bone 53 won me over. Feel free to discuss in Talk Back.

[Reprise of personal pimp note: Check out my three-part interview with Smith here, here, and here; in it, he talks about some of the weird Kubrickian notes he says he plans to hit in the final two issues.]

* * *

On to the League:

In a world where Jess Nevins is obsessively dedicating his life to breaking down the themes and references in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- and doing it with such skill and precision that it almost precludes further comment -- I'm not sure how much I want to get into the merits of League Vol. 2, which was just collected in a $24.95 hardback. And then there's my brother Maximillian, who argued with me in a recent e-mail:

"Someone lent me his individual copies [of Vol. 2]. I read it in about 25 minutes. The second set seemed to be much slighter and darker than the first series.... I am not suggesting that I won't buy it .... My reaction to the second story was that it wasn't really written. It takes only a few minutes to go through all six issues, and there is no sense of dialogue or 'writteness' as in the first one, or especially Watchmen."

To which I replied that Vol. 2 "seems a lot less slight if you actually try to read the 'World Traveller's Almanac' in the back -- in which Alan Moore apparently tried to work the entirety of vintage fantasy literature into a 30-odd-page travelogue of the entire planet. [It's actually 46 pages of illustrated text; I counted them later.] God. It's insane-making. How would you COMPILE something like this?" To which Max responded:

"[Moore] is always good at those prose things in the back, and I look forward to seeing that. Also, Moore seemed tired of the characters or the setting or maybe the fame of the series and so appeared to deliberately scatter, kill, or depress the characters -- imposing a weird triangle that I don't recall in the first series. The book ends on a sour, disgruntled note, which may not be inappropriate but it doesn't feel 'organic,' a natural outgrowth of the setting or situation; it feels imposed as if Moore had an agendum."

I don't disagree with Max, necessarily -- certainly Vol. 2's final act seems truncated and less epic than Vol. 1, even though we're dealing with a Martian invasion. But there are still so many sick, obsessively researched Victorian-pastiche thrills on hand that I loved the story. Sure, Hyde's tragic arc may traffic in hoary old "monster with a heart of gold" clichés, but because Alan Moore's at the wheel, everything's a bit skewed (you know, if raping an invisible man counts as "a bit skewed.")

Anyway. I paid for the damned Vol. 2 hardback. So I think instead, a la one of my DVD reviews, I'll try to break down the "bonus features" you get with the collection -- which is slowly trickling its way into stores around the world -- and let you judge whether you want to plunk down two dozen bucks for something that will eventually come out in a paperback and probably oversized "Ultimate" editions.

THE LEAGUE v.2 HARDBACK 'SPECIAL FEATURES':

(1) A new image on front dustcover, featuring a cramped group shot of our heroes in their British Museum HQ. I'm not going to pull my punches: I consider this the weakest League group shot, in terms of detail and composition and sick wit, that we've seen from artist Kevin O'Neill -- though it must be said that he's being held to skyscraper-high standards by yr. hmbl. reviewer. Back cover image is a repro of the Issue Two cover. Inside back dustcover has witty new O'Neill rendering of Moore (looking utterly barmy in pith helmet and torn "No House of Pain No Gain" t-shirt) and the artist (impaled, in top hat and Victorian black tie).

(2) Inside hardcovers with watercolor-toned renderings of Martian river weed (inside front) and Moreau and his monsters (inside back).

(3) Pre-story splash images similar to what we saw in the Vol. 1 collection: (a) League "question-mark" emblem with Mars/Earth detailing; (b) painting of Mars with script underneath (which I believe you can "decode" if you hold it up to a mirror); (c) groovy silhouette of Martian tripod; and (d) two-page spread of the Eastern-hued and obsessively detailed Issue One wraparound cover, sans title plate.

(4) A nice little bookmark ribbon. Of course.

(5) Continuous reprint of comics story, followed by collection of the five "character portrait" back covers from the serialized issues, followed by a page of twisted Victorian classifieds ("Anti-Stiff to Strengthen the Muscles"! "Spicy Books & Cards!" "hands-free Bawdy Browsing Mechanism"!), followed by complete "New Traveller's Almanac" with new front and back "covers" that make the thing look like a very worn-out, re-printed travel guide, complete with exotic "passport stamps," censorship stamps, and an opium-addled "Ex Libris" tag on inside "covers."

(6) A gatefold (!) containing the "Game of Extraordinary Gentlemen" -- a simple roll-your-dice-and-move game that is just wonderfully and obsessively detailed. Appearances on board squares from such classic-fantasy personalities as Cthulhu, Spring-Heeled Jack, Mr. Fogg, Rosa Coote, Ally Sloper, Raffles, the Harkaway boys, John Melmoth, Arsene Lupin, Jim Hawkins, Black Michael, Broad Arrow Jack, Professor Cavor, Kapitan Mors, Robur, Frank Reade Jr., McTeague, Sweeney Todd, Harry Flashman, The Beetle, Gunga Din, Mowgli, Pip, Moby Dick, the Time Traveler, Fan-Chu Fang, and many more.

(7) Cover gallery, including red bumper-edition covers.

(8) "A Colour and Save Page" (that might be an alternate Issue Five cover) depicting Quatermain about to tangle with the gruesome Rupert the Bear.

(9) A "Cautionary Fable" (illustrated with images of Little Lord Fauntleroy) that is in fact a poetic response to impatient League fans blistered by the creative team's erratic publication pace. I quote: "This is the tale of Teddy Teague who could not wait to read his 'League.' / With each new month he would complain 'Where's issue six? It's late again!' / Vexed and frustrated he would write disgruntled letters filled with spite / That called the authors work-shy fops and threatened them with riding crops. / Grown vain on cash from Tinsel Town, the pair won't take this lying down / And, finding out where Teddy lives, go round and do him in with shivs. / In summary, our tale makes clear that Patience is a virtue dear. / So, gentle reader, know your place, and don't get on our ****ing case."

(10) A page of ridiculous, mildly off-color origami instructions on "How to Make Nemo's Nautilus."

(11) A cool page of ersatz Martian hieroglyphs, with brief, edifying notes on the League history of Martian contact.

(12) A "find the hidden images" game with Doctor Moreau.

(13) A page containing a "saucy art" postcard of Quatermain and Mina in bed (complete with cut-out finger holes for Mina's legs; the authors suggest decorating your fingers with little stockings and garters), plus "Campion Bond's Moral Maze" and a wee ad for League Vol. 1.

(14) A "holiday card" depicting the H.G. Wells moon expedition stumbling across a dead, airless Santa corpse, with a bottle in his hand, still sitting in the ruin of his sleigh.

(15) And, finally, my favorite extra: the original art for Gullivar's magic carpet -- which I'm pretty sure was just drawn once and reproduced digitally on each panel of page 1 of the comic story. Lots of gorgeous iconography and Martian text to decrypt.

That's enough, isn't it?

-- Alexandra DuPont


CHEAP SHOTS

QUEEN & COUNTRY #21: New arc, new artist, heavy angle on the behind-the-scene politics of espionage as upper echelon Brit intelligence supervisors debate the choice of a new "C" (the equivalent of "M" in the Bond books and movies). And even as the old men make with the politics and backdoor deals, leading lady Tara and her immediate supervisor go and get piss-drunk as their way of dealing with the preceding storyline (mission gone bad). It's a strong start to the new arc, and I like the new artist, whose stuff looks like Jeff Smith gone hardboiled. - Cormorant

THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #7: Although Paul Jenkins totally missed the boat with Spidey's so-called titanic battles with Venom and the God-awful "final...once again" battle with the Green Goblin in the now defunct PETER PARKER series, he is surprising me with his rendition of the all-new, all-deadly Doctor Octopus. Doc is all Matrix-ed out to coincide with the upcoming movie images shown at this years comic book conventions – he's sporting a new slicked-back hairdo and a trenchcoat with a collar that covers his mouth. And yes, I do miss the classic Doc Ock look. But Jenkins has me hooked with Doc's scheme to expose Spidey's true identity and the deadly steps he is willing to take to reveal it. Humberto Ramos' art continues to annoy me. The cartoony feel doesn't jive with the tone of the story. The guy has true God-given talent, but he needs to be on a lighter-toned book for his stuff to shine. This story would also be of more relevance if there weren't two other titles presently on the shelves that pit the eight armed menace against the wall-crawler. Isn't Marvel afraid we're going to be sick of eating octopus by the time Spidey 2 hits the theaters? - Ambush Bug

BATMAN: I love Azzarello's Batman. It's hardboiled. Modern noir. The opening line: "Dawn. For an optimist, it's the start of a new day. For a pessimist? Same thing." I think this run is really strong. Azzarello's got a knack for colorful characters, smart dialogue, atmosphere - he owns it. It's not really Batman as I see him in continuity, but it's a fun take on the character. Screw continuity, I say. I don't have much more to say about it, except that the artist draws very sexy chicks. – Superninja

NEW X-MEN #149: Fun issue. Beak gets an ass-whuppin', my least favorite member of Magneto's new Brotherhood takes a dirt nap, Morrison finally remembers to create a throwaway excuse for the lack of other superheroes showing up as Magneto demolishes New York, the cavalry begins to gather, and Xorn makes a return appearance…sorta. Crazy as Morrison is, I'm gonna miss him when he's gone. – Cormorant

EVENFALL #5: This book continues to astonish me. Not just because of how offbeat it is, but how true to life the character of Phoebe is. And new character Don the bird-man is someone I enjoy straight out the gate. And for those of you who missed out on the first few issues, Evenfall's first TPB is being solicited in the Slave Labor section of this month's Previews. Order it. Hell, if you're feeling ambivalent, just look inside this month's cover and read about all the praise many intelligent, respected persons have heaped on this series. -- Vroom Socko.

LOVE AND ROCKETS #9: I keep thinking that I should wait for the trade on this title

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 11, 2003, 6:34 a.m. CST

    I'm first?

    by hulkdog

    Well, then fuck me up my stupid ass then . . .

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 6:34 a.m. CST

    Wadda fuh??!

    by Louis Cyphre

    Okay, haven't read the reviews yet, I'll admit - BECAUSE I SCANNED STRAIGHT DOWN TO FIND OUT WHAT YOU FINE GENTLEMEN MADE OF ULTIMATES #12, POSSIBLY THE MOST EAGERLY AWAITED COMIC SINCE X-MEN #1!! You HAVE read it haven't you? You've put me in a fine pickle and no mistake...

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 7:20 a.m. CST

    You want it, hulkdog? YOU GOT IT.

    by Dog Of Mystery

    Eh...too busy to beat you around. Sleazy...I'm with you, bud. I have officially dropped UNCANNY.

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 8:19 a.m. CST

    Empire and FF

    by dougmac

    Empire is outstanding! As happy as I am that Waid is staying on FF, I'd love to know how they were going to erase the power of this story to get down to the wacky sitcom hijinks of a dysfunctional super hero family.

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 2:01 p.m. CST

    Why must Chuck Austen fuck up my favorite X-Men? Ice Man becomes

    by Big Bad Clone

    The satnd alone issue about Mystique really really being Nightcrawler's mom was quite good. I'd go so far as to say "superb". That said, there has been way too much silly shit going on. The Angel/Demon thing is convuluted and unneccessary. Angel's change was interesting. I love Havok but I feel he has taken a backseat to his own comeback. The few action scenes suck (the raid on the church of humanity) and often quickly finish off a story in a few short and unsatisfying strokes a plotline that's been building for too many issues. I've had it. I'm out. I'm just fucking out of X-Men (both titles after Morrison leaves).

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 2:23 p.m. CST

    Sleazy

    by superninja

    That Uncanny review was beautiful. Thanks! My day's better already.

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 2:56 p.m. CST

    Empire/Fantastic Four

    by RenoNevada2000

    Was a great back to back, one-two punch read last week. Kudos to Waid for pulling out two great moments I did not see coming. I can't even remember what else I picked up that day...

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 3:21 p.m. CST

    A renewed request...

    by mbeemer

    I haven't read the whole column yet, but these look like reviews from comics that shipped November 26th. The reviews weren't posted until December 11th, so if I want to look up any of these comics I have to hunt down the right area of my dealer's shelves to find them. PLEASE consider noting the date the issue shipped in your review headers along with the publisher and staff information. Thank you kindly.

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 4:05 p.m. CST

    the Four

    by YankeeMan

    I'd love to read Waid's FF, but that fucking artist has GOT to go!

  • Dec. 11, 2003, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Thanks, Superninja.

    by SleazyG.

    I do what I can. And now, because I'm a jerk, I have to comment on your review and mention that I honestly think the Batman/Wonder Woman thing would be an absolutely godawful train wreck of a relationship--the greatest mistake they (or any writer) could make. I know you think it's a grand idea, and I have my theories, but honestly, it just couldn't ever work. Diana couldn't take Bruce's dark, brooding, pathetically self-involved and masochistic attitude. She's here to be a messenger of hope, light, peace, etc. and if she allowed him to have even the slightest influence it would completely defeat her ability to carry out her mission. Plus Bruce would tank it intentionally in under a month because he always does with women, which Diana also doesn't need ("I can't believe I slept with you!"--feh!). I thought JLA #90 stunk to high heck, and I'm really glad to see Kelly go. He took the easiest, lamest possible way out, and there wasn't even a damned story there. I think he just snuck into the office of whoever edits "Elseworlds" and borrowed stuff from all the rejected proposals (of which there weren't enough, BTW).

  • Dec. 13, 2003, 3:32 a.m. CST

    Sleazy, gotta disagree

    by superninja

    The Bats/WW thing doesn't work only if you think these characters should continually exist in their static hovering patterns. If that's the case, then Batman can never really have a relationship, because he will always follow a certain pattern. Why even introduce a romantic interest if the character will never really act on it? It's boring and predictable. As is the idea that Diana couldn't handle Batman. Bruce and Diana have the exact same mission, only their methods and scope differ. Batman doesn't need another Bad Girl or Lois Lane. WW doesn't need another Lois Lane or Superman. There is so much commonality between the two, despite their differences, that I am in favor of the idea just because I think it would have to be executed on a more sophisticated level. It's about shaking up the status-quo. They can still retain their iconic status, and you can always go back.

  • Dec. 14, 2003, 2:03 p.m. CST

    You think that was bad.

    by cookylamoo

    Say what you will, the previous issues of Uncanny X-Men were the "Hush" compared to the half-assed resolution in Uncanny 433. Suddenly, everyone is back to looking like a Christmas Elf. All the subpots go ka-blooee. The bad guys become total screw-ups. The art level goes back to early, early Barry Windsor Smith and Chuck says TA TA suckers, I'm off to write the Big Red S.

  • Dec. 24, 2003, 8:51 a.m. CST

    Thinking of dropping X-titles

    by ejcarter9

    I really hate all of the recent issues except for Ultimate. X-Men IS my collection, the reason I buy every week. Sure there are a few others that I've started collecting along with them, but if my core reason for collecting is going to suck THIS MUCH, then screw it. I may stop once 1602 is done.

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