Best Shots: Supergirl, X-Men, Ultimatum & More

Marvel Preview: Uncanny X-Men #507

Supergirl #39

Jumping right into it, then:

Supergirl #39

Writer by Sterling Gates

Art by Jamal Igle & Talent Caldwell

DC Comics

Reviewed by Brian Andersen

Each month I am consistently impressed by this fab writer/art team on Supergirl. The interesting, intriguing, and thoroughly enjoyable storyline currently playing out in the book is, perhaps, the best Supergirl story since, well, ever. In fact, all the Superman books have been reinvigorated as late thanks to all the Kryptonian madness going on across the DCU. What with the rise of all the new Kryptonians, the new Planet Krypton, Supergirl’s mother turning into a stern, mega-jerk, and the ongoing mystery of the identity behind the villainous Superwoman, this book is firing on all creative cylinders. And it’s about time!

I always enjoy a story that surprises me - there’s nothing worst them being able to guess what’s going to happen next - and the opening pages in this issue were an excellent example of a satisfying story catching me off guard. I loved how at first it appears Superwoman is heroically protecting the girlfriend of the villainous Reactron as he’s trying to blast her to bits (the a-hole!). But low and behold, Superwoman wasn’t trying to save the poor girls life, oh no, she just didn’t want to leave a trail that would lead back to Reactron. So instead of letting Reactron blast the girlfriend into next week Superwoman uses her heat vision and a gas stove to blow up the poor girl and her apartment (dastardly!). Superwoman’s orders were to make the girlfriend’s death look “accidental” and I’d say she succeeded. Good, twisty stuff. Aside from the continuing saga of this evil Superwoman, it’s also great to see Supergirl have some much needed character development. The Girl of Steel is not only struggling with her mother’s bossy, coldness but also with her own inner turmoil - Supergirl secretly wishes it was her mother who was killed and not her father! Whoa! Heavy, terrific stuff! It’s small, personal reveals like this that make the reader really feel for Supergirl.

I must give special, major props to artist Jamal Igle for his expressive, dynamic pencils. With each issue he only seems to get better and better, which is only more evident when Talent Caldwell steps in to cover a few pages. You know an artist is emotionally connecting with the story and the reader when you genuinely miss his art, despite how good Caldwell is. My only, small complaint? At times, with all the characters and numerous plotlines Supergirl seems to almost be a guest star in her own book. Don’t get me wrong, the developing storylines and new characters have given fresh, exciting life to the comic, but it would be nice to keep the spotlight always shining on the girl in question. Let’s keep the Girl in the Supergirl and make sure the secondary characters take the backseat. Otherwise, this issue, and this series, is a good, solid read!

Uncanny X-Men #507

Uncanny X-Men #507

Writer: Matt Fraction

Penciller: Terry Dodson

Inker: Rachel Dodson

Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

While the end of Matt Fraction's latest arc is more subdued than you'd expect, it's still a satisfying read that proves this flagship X-book is some of the best stuff Marvel has to offer.

Matt Fraction opens up the book with one of my favorite subplots for the series, a team of super-scientists called "The X-Club." Mixing some well-placed one-liners upon a foundation of surprising trivia (who'd've thought Charles Darwin had a dinner club of scientists called the X-Club?), the book immediately impresses. But Fraction is juggling more balls in the air than his pack of human-mutant polymaths, as he deftly weaves into his main story, teaming up Colossus with Emma Frost in their takedown of a mutant Russian gangster. The story is a testament to both Fraction and the artistic talents of Terry and Rachel Dodson, as it shifts back and forth and establishes a visual continuity between these seemingly unrelated scenes.

Of course, while I thoroughly enjoyed this issue, it isn't perfect. In many ways, I think the B-story may have overpowered the heart of the issue. By having Angel out himself as Archangel in front of Beast -- in addition to giving the winged mutant a hard-core display of warrior prowess -- it sort of steals the thunder of Peter Rasputin's emotional journey. (Then again, based on everything Fraction's written in the past, from Casanova to Iron Man, perhaps it’s not a surprise that his enthusiasm for a band of super-scientists might be so contagious it eclipses other subplots. I still liked it.) For me, the only point where this issue really stumbled was the punchline of Peter's story arc: having the villain of the piece suddenly sprout heart-shaped tattoos with Kitty Pryde all over it felt a little goofy, and certainly didn't seem to reflect Peter's intentions: "I want someone to hurt as bad as I do." This may be more a failing for the art, because the words ring truer than the action.

Now I'd be remiss if I didn't add that this book holds some farther-reaching implications for the band of merry mutants. Emma Frost's confrontation with Sebastian Shaw -- to protect him from the fury of Prince Namor as well as to punish him for his creation of the Sentinels -- used past and current continuity to its advantage. And while I won't spoil the last two pages, it looks like we'll be seeing an old X-villain make his triumphant return. All of the issues of Uncanny I've been reviewing have been spectacular in packing in so much story with such spectacular art -- art which the Dodsons have been making both stylish and kinetic for readers. With this team on Uncanny X-Men, I can't wait to see what happens next month.

Ultimatum #3

Ultimatum #3

From: Marvel Comics

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: David Finch

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

Eschewing any sense of humor or hope, Jeph Loeb and David Finch continue their journey of destroying the Ultimate Universe and thankfully both put their best foot forward. With a script overflowing with tension and some powerful art, Ultimatum is starting to become that one super-hero event where anything really can happen.

From the opening moments of this issue with Magneto to the end when the heroes start to band together, Loeb moves the story at a brisk pace. With key story moments happening in quick succession Loeb takes great care in constructing believable scenes that greatly impact the unfolding drama and smartly avoids any kind of off-hand humor as the carnage increases. Loeb’s handling of Hank Pym is especially noticeable not only in his reaction to the Wasp’s death but his handling of the multiple men of Jamie Madrox (brief note, the Madrox situation is dealt with in ,b>Ultimate X-Men #100). His emotional reaction to Jan’s death is palpable and really comes across as believable and sad.

Continuing to prove his worth as an artist David Finch provides some great art this issue. The contrast between the first two scenes this issue were nicely done and help to immerse the reader in the story. Finch puts a lot of work into his art and in this issue it really shows, background are given the same attention as characters and it really adds to the overall believability of the issue. Danny Miki provides some solid inks and does a masterful job of helping to define specific characters especially in mob scenes.

As Ultimatum hits its half-way point it becomes apparent that the phrase anything can happen really does apply to this title and the team of Loeb and Finch are up to the task. If anything the Ultimate Universe will never be the same again.

Ultimate X-Men #100

Ultimate X-Men #100

Writer: Aron E. Coleite

Penciler: Mark Brooks

Inker: Karl Story

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Publisher: Marvel

Review by David Pepose

I suppose it's ironic that while Ultimate X-Men started its 100-issue run as one of the highest-selling X-books on the stands, it ends its run on more of a whimper. That's not to say this is a terrible book, but after reading it, all I could say was: I've read this story before.

It's a surprising choice on the publisher's part to end a series on a character piece. But in the end, that's what Ultimate X-Men #100 is: it's told from the perspective of Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. While his mainstream rendition is leader of the mutant noir book X-Factor, Ultimate Jamie Madrox has been working as a suicide bomber in Magneto's acts of mass destruction (which you can read in Ultimatum). In that, I think Coleite succeeds -- he gives the Madri fairly interesting interior monologues that shows us that they are people, not automatons.

But unfortunately, the strengths of the story end there. If you didn't catch the Madri reference above, I feel like I've already read this story before -- in 1995, with Amazing X-Men #4, a story from the Age of Apocalypse. For those who don't remember, this was a story of how an alternate universe's X-Men finally shut down the Madri, a deadly band of Jamie Madrox clones utilized by a mad mutant dictator. Sound familiar? That is pretty much the gist of Ultimate X-Men #100, down to the morally ambiguous discovery of a surprisingly misunderstood mutant. And the conclusion of this story -- which I'm still not giving away -- is almost completely mirrored by how Wolverine had to deal with a young mutant in Ultimate X-Men #41. (And the scenes of terror seem ripped from scenes of Mark Millar's Ultimates 2 series, as well as his run on Ultimate X-Men's second arc, Weapon X.)

You can understand that when I've read this book -- and it seems way too similar to earlier arcs from the same series -- it just feels like a particularly undignified way for a once-great series to wrap up. It's a shame, too -- with Jeph Loeb's Ultimatum series, with the surprise death of a pillar of the X-Men group, this would have been a spectacular time for the X-Men to soul-search and really agonize about the moral lines they must cross. Instead, the tension and stakes really aren't there, and before you know it, the book merc

Black Lightning #6

ifully ends, telling you to go back to Ultimatum if you really want to know what happens next. It's a shame, because the art by Mark Brooks is usually pretty good with its action, if tonally wrong for how desperate and scary this book should have been. Rest in peace, Ultimate X-Men -- we forgive you of your sins, remember the good times of yesteryear, and pray for a resurrection.

Black Lightining: Year One #6

Written by Jen Van Meter

Art by Cully Hamner

Colors by Laura Martin; lettering by Sal Cipriano

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

In issue #6 of this six-issue miniseries, Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning, squares off against Tobias Whale and the 100. Jen Van Meter's characterization may have polarized readers (I have some friends that really dig this series, and I have friends who dropped it after the third issue.) Nonetheless, she did what the series was intended for: to update Black Lightning's origin and to make it a solid read. I say "mission accomplished" to both of those intentions.

Black Lightning's narration throughout the issue really helped me believe in the character. I compared this series to a sort of "Walking Tall"-like story: the "costumed superhero out to save the streets" sort of angle. Some may see that as a bit cliche, but it works here. As usual, Cully Hamner's artwork flows effortlessly, and the panel layout is easy to grasp. Nothing too shocking (pun INTENDED) occurs here, since we know that BL is still around in the modern day.

I have heard recently that DC is going to stop production on the "Year One" style of stories, and to me that is a damn shame. With these sort of stories, the creatives can have some serious fun and, at the same time, put their stamp on a given character (like Black Lightning here). I can only think of one at the top of my head, Eddy Newell. Then again, I'm not a Black Lightning aficionado. Van Meter and Hamner have definitely told a great story and put their collective stamp on this character.

If you missed it the first time around, you should check it out in trade format coming this fall. I really enjoyed how Van Meter shed some light on this character. To me, I was inspired to check out some earlier Black Lightning material. This early into 2009, I'm considering Black Lightning: Year One for my favorite miniseries of the year.

Wolverine #71

Wolverine #71

From: Marvel Comics

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Steve McNiven

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

The current storyline running through Wolverine is definitely a refreshing read that smartly relies on an appropriate dose of dark humor partnered with an entertaining concept that does not rely on continuity but rather works hard to entertain the reader. Venom T-Rex,alone should be reason enough for picking up this title but thanks to the skillful pen of Mark Millar and the even more skillful pencils of Steve McNiven the T-Rex is just scratching the surface of this action-packed, twist-filled, oh shit surprise ending issue of Wolverine.

There really are no words to describe what it is about this story arc that I enjoy so much. Whether it be Millar’s liberal abuse of Marvel continuity or his literal take on his newest Marvel locations, Pym Falls indeed, the story is told with reckless abandon as one idea flows into the next in an almost seamless narrative that keeps the story moving constantly forward. Millar’s introduction of Emma into the story was a nice twist and her explanation as to why she looks so young seemed completely in-character. Even if the revelation of the current president of the Marvel U next issue is a bit predictable this issue, the ending will have most readers on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next chapter.

One of the aspects of this storyline that I have been enjoying on Millar’s Wolverine arc is the slight homage “Old Man Logan” is to the classic Peter David/George Perez Hulk story, “Future Imperfect.” Throughout the story Millar landscape is desolate and vast reminiscent of “Future Imperfect;” and much like David’s reliance on Perez, Millar relies on Steve McNiven to convey the desolation in a visually believable manner.

McNiven has always been a talented artist, but with “Old Man Logan” he has really developed a more organic style. His artwork, while just as detailed, no longer feel like static images. The action moves freely and McNiven’s rendering of Black Bolt stopping the T-Rex perfectly captures his new found ability to create a believable action scene. If I had to point out one problem I had with the art it would be Emma’s neck, it looks way to long and certain scenes made it look as if her head was hovering over her body.

Dexter Vines continue to perfectly compliment McNiven’s pencils as his inks never overwhelms the art. Meanwhile Morry Hollowell continues to prove why he is one of the best colorists in the business and enhances the overall effectiveness of the story’s atmosphere with a natural color palette that shows vibrant splashes of color when necessary.

Stories that are out of continuity are legion so it is up to the creators to give the reader a concept that is not only entertaining but balances the reader’s familiarity with the characters in an understandable concept. For me, Millar and McNiven perfectly provide this balance while providing some solid entertainment in Wolverine.

Groom Lake #1

Groom Lake #1

Written by Chris Ryall

Art by Ben Templesmith

From IDW

Review by Brendan McGuirk

In comics, as in life, being called “funny,” can be a kiss of death. Sure, comedy is a great tool in holding one's attention, and is really the universe's most potent social lubricant. The problem is when something gets labeled “funny,” it sacrifices the ability to be taken seriously.

So I don't want to tell you that Chris Ryall and Ben Templesmith's Groom Lake is funny as hell. You understand.

Groom Lake, named for the location more commonly referred to as Area 51, is a book about little green men. It is a book that taps into the shared consciousness of what we expect otherworldly aliens to be, and how we believe we might interact with them. It is chalk-full of hick abductions, government spooks, giant killer robots, and anal probes.

Ben Templesmith is really on the top of his game. It is damn near impossible to find anyone else who is as effective in artistically conveying mood without sacrificing narrative clarity. His color choices are haunting when they need to be, and striking when the moment demands. His aliens, robots and monsters are iconic and stark, and his human actors are expressive and dramatic. It also seems that his work with Warren Ellis on Fell, where the book was explicitly set to a 9-panel grid, has matured Templesmith's sense of image economy. In this, there is style by the loads, but each panel is direct and substantive, and the work soars.

Ryall has a great sense of the familiarity of extraterrestrials. By utilizing the most vivid tropes of an alien experience he reveals that the strangest thing about aliens is our inability to wrap our minds around them. We can't imagine them as anything other than humanoid, and we can't think of anything better for them to want from us than our obviously succulent bodies. As a breed, we really are strange as hell.

In this first chapter, readers are introduced to a world of intrigue and abduction. We meet Karl Bauer, whose uncle was a victim of intergalactic kidnapping, Leticia Pope, the sullen, embittered leader of a secretive alien/ human agency, and Archibald the cigarette smoking alien. It's quite the gang. Before long, Bauer is sucked into a whirlpool of power and paranormalcy and our story is on its way.

Groom Lake is an exercise in paranoia and horror. It is lushly illustrated, with a punchy script. Truth be told, read this issue and you might laugh. Funny stuff goes down when humans meet the otherwise. But Chris Ryall and Ben Templesmith did better than make a funny comic, they made a damn good one.

Popeye vol 3

Popeye vol. 3: Let’s You and Him Fight!

Written & Illustrated by E.C. Segar

Published by Fantagraphics

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

The most recent edition of Fantagraphics gorgeous Popeye reprints compiles the daily strips from June 9, 1932 to Dec. 9, 1933, Sundays dated Oct. 9, 1932 to Nov. 26, 1933 (dailies and Sundays ran separate storylines, to the irregular break points are done to accommodate the storylines unfolding in each section), and a completely original two-week-long daily serial created to promote the World’s Fair in Chicago, which Segar somehow managed to complete in addition to the regular daily and Sunday strips.

As with previous volumes of Popeye, it’s a cornucopia of mangled English, slapstick, violence and hamburger soliciting. In the dailies, Segar continues to mix humor and adventure, beginning with Popeye’s first-ever encounter with Bluto en route to a hidden treasure. After bestowing the treasure to his friend King Blozo, Popeye elects to start his own kingdom, Popilania, on an island neighboring Blozo’s land.

The Sundays revolve almost entirely around Popeye and J. Wellington Wimpy’s friendship, with Wimpy’s frequent attempts to freeload hamburgers from Rough-House, or from Popeye himself after Popeye and Olive start up their own diner. Personally, I find the Wimpy strips hit and miss – later strips are better, after Segar has established Wimpy’s modus operandi and begins to spin creative variants on the portly one’s scrounging ways (such as Popeye snowballing Rough-House’s fill-in cook with stories about Wimpy’s royal lineage!). Early Wimpy strips seem to set up one of Wimpy’s three stock punchlines, and consequently become a little tiresome.

Fantagraphics continues to knock it out of the park with their work on the production of these books. The line art is strong and clear, rarely showing any of its seventy-plus years of age, and the Sunday’s coloring is appropriately flat, but crisp and clear. The immense pages show off the Sundays at their full intended size, and the towering pages allow an entire week of dailies to fit onto a single page. The sturdy cut-away covers are striking, leaping off bookshelves (if they’re turned face-out anyway).

With his fun designs and slapstick exaggeration, Segar’s art has always been a plus, and nothing about that changes here. His use of blacks during night sequences, as well as the kinetic lines adding bounce and energy to the fighting and dancing, is particularly striking.

E.C. Segar’s Popeye hasn’t been seen in over seventy years, since Segar’s too-early death in 1938, yet it remains one of the most revered and popular comic strips in history. Forget what you think you know about Popeye – cartoons, recent strips or movies – because Segar’s Popeye is a true originator. It’s packed with adventure and humor, strong art, inventive and complex stories, and features more slam-bang punching than any other ten comics. It is a true, to use a much abused word, classic.

Necronomicon

Necronomicon TPB

From: Boom!

Writer: William Messner-Loebs

Art: Andrew Richey

Review by Mike Mullins

Not being a diehard fan of Lovecraft, I cannot tell you how consistent this is with his works, but as someone who has read Lumley’s Dreamlands saga, seen a few Lovecraft-based movies, and played a few games such as Arkham Horror, this feels authentic.

The story is told as the protagonist, Abullad Said, Henry to his American friends, tries to make his way through school at Miskatonic University. Having trouble making ends meet, Henry ends up tutoring a football player, Maxey, who introduces him to the Theosophists and some familiar names such as Edward Pickman Derby and Randolph Carter.

The Theosophists eventually hire Henry to provide an accurate translation of the Necronomicon, and the story moves through his adventures, alongside Maxey and Maxey’s girlfriend, Rachel Schiff. Rachel also provides the romantic interest for Henry. Between his attraction to Rachel and the prevalence of alcohol at the Theosophist’s meetings, a background story of Henry striving to maintain his virtue in the eyes of his Islam heritage is a nice counterpoint to the growing horrors. Henry’s fall from the morality he clung to parallels the depths to which his investigation into the Necronomicon has taken him into the existence of elder things, ancient gods, and alien races such as the Mi-Go.

The story is paced reasonable well and the art does an adequate job of depicting the story and allowing the reader to distinguish between the characters. The dialogue and pacing keeps the reader interested and I enjoyed the use of the letter from Henry to his father as a means of kicking off the story, but also to tie-in how dangerous Henry’s enemies were.

I only found the book lacking at the end. Not the resolution of the story, that is well crafted and balances the outcome for the heroes with their dire circumstances, but I wish there had been a bit more time spent on the ending for Henry’s father.

My second point of contention with the graphic novel is the backup story, Arkham SVU. This story does not seem as consistent with Lovecraft’s mythos as the main story, and the elements of the story just didn’t work as well for me. This was primarily to the horror aspects of Lovecraft being part of everyday life rather than hidden behind veils of secrecy with only the very rare academic knowing about undead or elder things.

Overall, this should be a solid purchase for Lovecraft or horror fans.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Double-Shot Pellet: Uncanny X-Men #507 (Marvel: Reviewed by Brian Andersen): I am loving Matt Fraction on Uncanny so much that in the first time in ten plus years I actually look forward to the book each month. This issue rocked in many ways, but for me, I was won over just because I simply loved seeing Emma Frost and her diamondiness teaming up with the brooding Colossus to beat up a bunch of naughty Russians. What a smart team up! Colossus and Emma Frost! That could be a totally cool mini-series. It’s great to see Emma play with being the physical powerhouse and take pleasure in knocking around some very bad people. I also loved that Angel finally revealed his ability to shift into the deadly Archangel to the Beast. It’s great to see Beast’s reaction to the return of the blue-skinned badass: a mixture of shock, fear, and hurtfulness as to why Angel hid something like this from him. Betrayal comes in many forms and the Beast’s dismay adds a healthy level of reality to a series that is as far from real as you can go. Plus, the final reveal at the end: Magneto! He’s back (again!). The X-Men have always been more than just a superhero book, as the strength of the stories, the success of the writer, lies solely on how well the humanity of the characters is handled. Readers care for the X-Men because they’re well developed characters and we want equal parts fighting and soap opera drama. Thankfully, Fraction gets this. And nails it!

Tiny Titans #14 (DC: Reviewed by Brian Andersen): This always witty, humorous, beyond awesome issue had me from the cover alone. What’s not to love about Agualad and Lagoon Boy eating some cereal from a winking Aquaman’s very own cereal called “Aqua-Oh’s?” Not much. Flip open the cover and the one-panel gag inside is just as great: Wonder Girl uses the lasso/jump rope of truth to find out where her fellow Titans are hiding in their game of Hide n’ Seek. Hahah! Love it! Who comes up with this stuff? How can creators Art Baltazar and Franco be this clever? The entire issue is pure, multi-hued fun. From the wonder-woman-outfitted Matilda the Minotaur and Cecelia Cyclops (and her Titan hungry mother) to the Titan boys having to stand on a table while visiting Paradise Island - because boys can’t touch the ground of Paradise Island - this comic is a delightful romp. It’s a testament to the creative time that a kid’s comic can deliver more energy and vigor than most superhero comics on the stands now. Excellent stuff!

Amazing Spider-Man #588 (Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Richard): Marc Guggenheim does his best impression of a closing pitcher and tries to wrap up over a year’s worth of sub-plots with varying degrees of success. At this point the whole Spider-Tracer mystery seems completely pointless and comes across as a story point that conveniently puts Spidey at odds with his alter-egos roommate; which is a problem that multiplies when one realizes that every new character that was introduces at the start of Brand New Day was just basically a plot device with very little potential beyond said plot as their characters have never really been fleshed out beyond the need for their story involvement (the one exception being Menace). Adding to my overall disappointment with this wrap-up is the rushed artwork. While I am a fan of John Romita Jr’s, his art this issue felt unusually sloppy at various times, which probably had something to do with him animating and directing a sequence in the Kick-Ass movie.

Potter’s Field: Stone Cold #1 (From Boom!; review by Jeff Marsick): This issue should never have been written as a one-shot. The enigmatic John Doe discovers some of the Potter’s Field interred have been cherry-picked by members of the NYPD to exploit for purposes of identity fraud. It’s the infamous NYPD taxi service updated for the new millennium. But what might have made for a compelling mini-series is hyper-compressed into a laughable quagmire of forcibly contrived action (complete with it’s-New-York-therefore-add-obligatory-tie-in to 9/11) that reads more like a bad cop drama, something written by Donald Bellisario or Stephen J. Cannell. Getting through this issue demands not so much disbelief suspension as outright expulsion as the reader is whisked at ludicrous speed from scene to improbable scene, verisimilitude be damned. Paul Azaceta, a terrific artist who is going to crank the long ball on Marvel’s upcoming Punisher Noir, is the only real selling point to this issue, but even he cannot provide enough lift to overcome the weight of Mark Waid’s anchor. Mr. Waid is a very talented writer, but choosing to squeeze this story all into twenty-six pages was a poor choice. You are better off spending your money on the much better Potter’s Field TPB due out soon.

Stingers #1 (Zenescope; review by Jeff): Zenescope departs from their bread-and-butter lines of cheesecake-heavy horror to spring upon us a tale of sci-fi and terror. A bounty hunter named Hawk (who probably wouldn’t be as groan-inducing if he didn’t so closely resemble Avery Brooks’s Hawk from Spenser: For Hire), saddled with the tired and predictable plot of ‘just-one-more-gig-and-then-I’m done-forever’ agrees to take on a stereotypically ironic milk run to rassle in a pair of bail jumpers hiding out from the mob in Sea Isle, New Jersey. Problem is, some nasty refugees from a dying planet in the Andromeda Galaxy have gotten to the Jersey jumpers first, so when Hawk and Sea Isle’s hot sheriff enter the mix, staving off an alien invasion is all but guaranteed. Wagner Reis’s pencils are inconsistent throughout, especially devolving in action scenes, which when combined with the heavy inks and bold colors makes the book feel like something by Dagger Comics of yore. Mr. Reis’s clear weak spot is perspective, and is most noticeable on vehicles: on page 14, only red tail lights distinguish front from rear of the police cruiser and on 16, the door’s window frame actually bows outward. Even the cover lacks enticement, and the Al Rio option is a curious choice, given that Mark Sparacio’s version on the “Chase” version is far superior. Zenescope has credit with me, based on their other series which I’ve gushed about in the past, which is why I’m in this for at least another issue. But I’ll need to see something innovative and original in order to keep going, two qualities this first issue certainly lacked.

Dark Avengers #3 (Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Richard): Complimented by the moody art of Mike Deodato series writer Brian Bendis does his best impression of a psychiatrist as Norman Osborn comes to the aid of the Sentry and his battle with the Void. Has Lindsey Reynolds really been on that bed since her demise in the opening arc of Mighty Avengers? According to writer Brian Bendis, the answer would be yes, at least I think it’s yes because by the end of the scene I was still unsure. Regardless this issue does a lot to move the Sentry’s story forward for good or ill. Also of note this issue was Dr. Doom and his need to allow Osborn access to his armor’s schematics, while the scene is a quick one I can’t help but wonder if that scene will become important somewhere down the road. While Bendis continues to play his cards very close to the vest in terms of Dark Reign he does manage to tell an engaging superhero story, even if you the reader is rooting against this particular set of Avengers.

Double-Shot Pellet: Supergirl #39 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow): Man, this series is full of surprises. This third part of "Who Is Superwoman" has more twists and turns than one would expect from this series, a testament to the stellar work being turned in by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle. Just when you think you have an idea what Superwoman's mysterious agenda is, she goes and throws the reader another curveball. Her loyalties are unknown to all. There is a 4-page hiccup in this issue in the form of some underwhelming fill-in art by Talent Caldwell. I know Igle can't do every single page of every issue, but editorial should have tapped an artist who was capable of making the transition a little more seamless. So who is Superwoman anyway? Honestly? I haven't a clue. I do hope the revelation that's due next issue makes more sense than the one we got for Flamebird and Nightwing in Action Comics. Not to say that it was unsatisfying, but it hardly elicited an "Oh, yeah!" from me. I kind of gathered that I was not alone in that sentiment. But right now Supergirl is as strong a title as DC has in its lineup, and it's a highlight of my routine trips to the local comic shop.

Hell's Blood #1 (Guild Works Productions; Reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): Hector Rodriguez writes and draws this intriguing tale of witches and demons in modern day Holyoke, Massachusetts. The book starts with an old witch, Angela, meeting a very untimely, grisly death at the hands of a demon. Life for her grandson Hector, however, gets a little more complicated as he is hunted down by a rampaging horde of demons. The issue ends with quite an interesting revelation, which naturally I will not spoil. Having never been a fan of horror books, I have to admit I was impressed with this book. Rodriguez, Scott Sheaffer and Keith Murphey have produced a a nice black and white horror title, and I am interested in seeing where the story leads. A good first issue.

Outsiders #16 (DC Comics; Reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): For an issue that didn't really do a whole hell of a lot, Outsiders #16 managed to do a hell of a lot. Mostly setting up the next arc, writer Peter J. Tomasi was able to take what could have been a throw-away, filler issue, and made it pretty important. The first thing he did was deftly explain exactly why each member of the team was chosen. Penciller Lee Garbett's use of Metamorpho's shape-changing abilities brought the scene from mere exposition to something infinitely more fun than it had any right to be. The second part of the book is the lead-in to the next arc, as we are introduced to a seemingly random group of people, all of whom are about to be declared dead, and are perfectly OK with it. The people controlling them, The King Makers, don't seem to be the usual breed of evil criminal organizations. They are much more ruthless. Overall, as I said, an issue far better than could have been expected. If I have any complaints, it's that Metamorpho still wear's Shift's facial tattoos and swirly body designs. Based on why Shift let himself be reabsorbed into Rex, I'd think that he'd be a little reluctant to keep himself looking the same.

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