Best Shots: Spider-Man, Cap, Invincible & More

Best Shots: Spider-Man, Cap, Invincible

Let’s open with this past week’s BSEs . . .

Scarlett Takes Manhattan; review by Sarah Jaffe

And some reviews from some of us at Blog@ . . .

Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 by Sarah Jaffe

Mysterius the Unfathomable series overview by Henry Chamberlain

Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles Vol. 3 by J. Caleb Mozzocco

Johnny Hiro and Remake by J. Caleb Mozzocco

Che by Michael C. Lorah

And the rest of this week’s books . . .

Ultimatum: Spider-Man: Requiem #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencillers: Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen

Inkers: Scott Hanna and Wade von Grawbadger

Colorists: Pete Pantazis, Justin Ponsor, and Edgar Delgado

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Requiem? I barely even know him!

Jokes aside, that's actually pretty much the point of this book -- J. Jonah Jameson learning just how much of a hero his most hated foe Spider-Man really was. But what this book really is is a nice little blast to the past, with a Spider-Man/Iron Man team-up by the original creative team of the book, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.

Now, one of the things I've always been fascinated with in comics is their portrayal of journalists, and Brian Michael Bendis' introduction to the book with Steve Immonen -- with Jonah, Robbie Robertson, and Ben Urich returning to the Bugle to examine the horror of post-flood Manhattan - - is an interesting, if perhaps not the most realistic, take on a newsroom. (Although Ben's reply to Jonah when the publisher said he should have been more fair -- "Then you would have folded two years ago" -- made me laugh.) The three quickly decide that the Bugle must live on in online form, as Ben shows Jonah a flash drive of all the positive Spider-Man stories that were ever killed.

This leads us into the main feature, with Tony Stark being assaulted by the forces of Hydra, only to have Spider-Man intercede. The first thing that needs commenting is the art -- it took me a bit to realize that the art had shifted from Immonen to Bagley, and a lot of that is due to smart pacing on Bendis' part, as well as some great color work by Pete Pantazis, Justin Ponsor, and Edgar Delgado. And again, while I think it strains belief that a high schooler could get a video interview with the Bill Gates of her time, Mary Jane's interview with Tony Stark shows some believable characterization from a character who, at least in his Ultimate incarnation, has been occasionally a two-dimensional playboy. But of course Bendis and Bagley's greatest strength is Spider-Man himself, with Bagley's kinetic artwork really playing well with Bendis' humor-by-free-association word balloons. "You ever need anything," Tony says after the battle. "You come to me." Peter's quick reply: "I could use free college tuition." After Tony smirks and leaves, Peter swings home, muttering to himself, "Wasn't actually joking."

All in all, it's not the most groundbreaking comic in the world -- and even calling it a "requiem" is probably pushing it a little hard. What this comic feels like is a fill-in single issue, which Bendis and company never really had need to use until now -- and before anyone gets upset, I mean that in the best possible way. This isn't revolutionary, or earth-shaking to Spider-Man's status quo -- it's the same sort of solid, dependable storytelling that Bendis and Bagley mastered for over 110 issues. If you were disappointed with how the "last" issue of Ultimate Spider-Man turned out, and need a reminder of what made you stick with this series for so long, look no further -- if you're looking for a grand meaning for Spider-Man's alleged (and obviously exaggerated) demise, you may have to wait for the next issue of Ultimatum: Spider-Man: Requiem.

Invincible #63

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Penciller: Ryan Ottley

Inker: Cliff Rathburn

Colorist: Fco Plascencia

Review by David Pepose

Jeez, remind me never to get on Robert Kirkman's bad side.

I've read a lot of interviews with him, and I always get the sense that as much as his characters have done for him, no matter how much he likes them, he likes torturing and toying with them more. Well, as you can see by the cover of this issue, Invincible is anything but, as Kirkman and company hurt him in ways that will seemingly extend far past the physical.

The very first page is interesting in and of itself, with Kirkman making a sly dig on the nature of newsgathering, with the press referring to new villain Conquest as Omni-Man, Invincible's now-AWOL father. Well, despite the beatdown that Omni-Man gave Invincible early on in the series, Conquest is about a million times worse -- even on the first page that you see Invincible, he looks like hamburger meat shoved into a costume. Ottley, Rathburn, and Plascencia really pull no punches with their art, as this seemingly invulnerable teen hero is really getting hammered.

Now, if you're new to this book, it's probably not a great place to jump in on. Atom Eve wakes up in the hospital, ready to fight again; Invinciboy intervenes to save his older brother; and Conquest thanks Invincible for angering the Viltrumite Empire enough to let his go scorched earth on our planet. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read the series in trade until you get to this point. But if you have an idea of what they're talking about, Kirkman is really going against the grain, with his writing being surprisingly dark against the more cartoony style of artist Ryan Ottley. When Invincible suffers a graphic compound fracture in his leg... oy. It's good, but it's hard to watch.

I think the only problem I've had with this book is, well... I'm kind of tired of seeing Invincible get whaled on. Granted, I have been a bit lax in my reading as of late, and I know a series of this nature has to show Mark getting beaten down before he can rise up, but sometimes I just want to see my hero succeed because of tactical reasoning, or creative uses of his powers or his environment. But that said, I'm hoping Kirkman will follow up the battle with Conquest with something as emotional as the last page of the book -- "I don't care how strong you are. I don't care how fast you are. I can see the future... you don't live to see tomorrow."

Invincible Iron Man #14

Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: Salvador Larocca

Colorist: Frank D'Armata

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Tony Stark may be systematically downgrading his own nervous system, but with Matt Fraction behind the wheel, Invincible Iron Man is still firing on all cylinders. And while there are people out there who want the arc to pick up the pace and take us to Tony's inevitable confrontation with Norman Osborn, I'm of the opinion that Fraction is actually doing the reader a great service: he is taking Iron Man's world and bringing it back for a new set of readers.

The issue opens with the latest of Tony's concerns -- as he deletes his brain to permanently erase the Superhuman Registry Database from existence, his nervous system can't take his contemporary Iron Man suit. And thus, he has to downgrade, back to his armor from the mid-1960s. But in a lot of ways, I think that's really interesting -- it's almost as if Matt Fraction is taking Tony Stark through his history in a way not unlike Batman R.I.P., showing us flashes of his entire life right before it ends, either through deletion or destruction by Osborn and company.

As you've probably seen in the previews of this comic, the Crimson Dynamo squares off against the fugitive Stark, seeing his obsolete armor and mistaking him for a thief. Fraction has a nice sense of humor with all this -- "I shaved my head I shaved my head Dmitri don't kill me," he stammers, as the armored Russian easily caves in his old suit. Yes, he does talk like Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle, but for me, it makes him come off as endearing, as the crusty old uncle who will defy the world to help a true hero in need. But Fraction also is doing some interesting work with Maria Hill, who cuts loose with her SHIELD training to continue to evade Norman's spy apparatus. And perhaps his best work is still with Norman Osborn, whose flip-out upon being denied access to Russian airspace was fantastic.

While I started off reading this series as not a big fan of Salvator Larocca's art, I have to say, I'm starting to get used to it. Frank D'Armata is part of the reasn, as his shading seems more painterly and less waxy, and the digital effects really give everything a nice sense of movement and motion. I loved the way that Larocca had the Dynamo and Tony in a bunker, both looking at a map with the exact same scientific curiosity -- it was a cute dynamic, and also subtly shows just how much Tony is slipping, that Dmitri could even look like a peer to him.

Now, this issue isn't perfect, of course -- if anything, I think Matt Fraction might be a bit too clever for his own good in some of this. He has Dmitri bring up an excellent question -- "Why not just jump into volcano?" And after reading that, I realized that was a really good idea, and unfortunately Tony just didn't give me a good enough reason why it was okay to give himself a lobotomy and/or slow death instead of taking all the information with a bullet to the brain. (Besides giving this series a nice sense of tension, of course.) And while I think Pepper Potts' new status quo as a pacifist version of the Iron Man, her new code name -- which I won't spoil for you here -- just did not work for me. But the real strength of this book is the sense of danger, the sense of haste going into the man in the iron mask -- and after seeing him bond with Extremis or take the reins of SHIELD, it's nice to see that even the smartest man in the world has cracks in his intellectual armor. So go ahead and read this book -- you won't be disappointed.

Punisher #6

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Tan Eng Huat

Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

It's difficult to review this book without some sense of disappointment in the dissolution of what I thought to be the Punisher Dream Team of Rick Remender and Jerome Opena. Opena was a master of composition, really selling every panel for as high as it could go. So it's bittersweet to read Punisher #6 to see that, well, even this good story just isn't up to the standard of the past five issues.

This issue really builds off the end of the last arc: with the Hood's forces in array, what does the crimson-cowled crook decide to do? Raise some villains from the dead to do his bidding. In this, Remender really takes a step back from Frank's deadpan roughneck humor, in exchange for giving us a better look at the supporting characters: the Hood, his Deadly Dozen, as well as Frank's new sidekick Henry. Now, Remender's timing and pacing are still as top-notch as they ever were, and I understand the need to give some characterization for these old-but-new villains, but I definitely found myself missing more of Frank's thoughts. (Although his exchange with Henry over his morning beer -- as well as a serendipitously timed crack about PETA -- was the exact sort of thing I loved about the first few issues.)

If there's anything I find a problem with this issue, it's getting used to the art of Tan Eng Huat. After seeing the shadows and iconic shots of his predecessor, Huat's distended, almost cartoony-by-way-of-Norm-Breyfogle-or-Kelley-Jones art is a little bit jarring. The main problem with Huat is the occasional lack of kineticism in some of the action sequences -- you have a major balance to hit between composition and energy to hit this sense of panache, and Huat is still getting the balance. His introduction with Frank swimming through the sewers looked really nice, but other images, like him breaking someone's neck, or him stalking through an Oscorp lobby, felt pretty bland. Colorist Lee Loughridge does all right by Huat's artwork, never overwhelming it, but never really making it pop, either.

All in all, if you're looking to hop on the Punisher train, this would definitely be a good issue, as the Hood smoothly gives all the exposition you'll need to get on board. As for the Punisher himself, well, this isn't his strongest issue, but I chalk that up to the necessary exposition of a first issue in a new arc. It's a shame -- Remender is still a crackshot on a keyboard, but his new partner-in-crime isn't quite as smooth or sublime as his predecessor. That said, if Huat's art style is up your alley, then get ready to rumble, because it looks like Frank Castle is going through his most interesting paces in years.

War of Kings: Ascension #3 of 4

From: Marvel

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art: Wellinton Alves, Scott Hanna, Nelson Pereira

Review by Mike Mullins

The third issue of this four-part mini-series is a great stepping on issue for

anyone who has not been following Ascension. Of course, a four-issue

mini-series shouldn’t need a stepping on point. For readers that have picked up

the previous two issues, all of the important plot points are covered with added

details and insight that may leave some readers wondering why they purchased the

first two issues. For new readers (such as those jumping in after the latest

issue of War of Kings), this issue fills in the plot line organically.

If you are not reading War of Kings, you may have heard about the assassination

in reviews or interviews and Ascension #3 covers the event in a manner that fits

for readers that are only picking up Ascension. The team on War of Kings should

be commended for the presentation of a shocking event for a second time, but

there are definitely a few things that shouldn’t still be such a mystery to the

reader. In null space, I do not understand why Chris Powell has tattoos and

glowing red diamonds. This visual departure from the Chris Powell we are used

to in normal space should at least be a little worrisome to Chris himself, but

even the self awareness isn’t depicted on the page.

The art is consistent with the previous issues and provides an adequate presentation of the story. I think the artist provides his best work in providing the subtle differences between Talon’s and Razor’s Darkhawk armor. The action sequences step off the page a bit more than in issue one, so the artist seems to be growing wither in his story telling or in his ability to match the intentions of the writers.

Power Girl #2

From: DC

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Art: Amanda Conner

Review by Brian Andersen

I love Power Girl. I love Amanda Conner; her cartoon-y style always speaks to me – it never comes off as pretentious, but for some reason I’m just not really loving this book yet. The potential is there, but it needs a bit of fine tuning. For me there’s too much exposition and too many (seemingly) pointless scenes.

While I’m happy Power Girl has a supporting cast (her co-workers at her tech firm) I’m not quite sure 2 pages devoted to them was really necessary. It’s too soon for the readers to really care about them enough to warrant the screen time to their overwrought discussion of all the mayhem going on around them. It kinda bored me (although I did love how Connor added the cat in the background reacting to the people jumping off the roof of the building, it’s details like these that make Connor’s art shine).

Aside from the chattiness of the supporting cast, I felt that the Ultra Humanite’s constant talking also drained the excitement from the comic. Most of his dialogue wasn’t much fun to read, it all played a little dully. What I did enjoy, however, was the big white gorilla’s origin. Satanna, the Humanite’s companion with her cheeky T-Shirt “C.U.Next.Tues” (another great flourish by Connor), is a fun character. Sure she hooked-up with a blood soaked gorilla, but hey, I say a little bestiality in comics every now and then never hurts, right? I suppose for me the thing that’s missing from the comic is, in fact, the fun. Conner art is lively, colorful, character-rich, totally fun. But the storyline? Not as much.

Maybe we can have more fun infused into the book along with the great art? Because right now the comic is reading like pretty much any other superhero comic out there, only with art that is different, fresh, unlike most of the books on the stand. I say, how about matching the story to the pencils? Then the comic will really become something that I can say I love.

Preview: Captain America #600
Preview: Captain America #600
Captain America #600

Written by Ed Brubaker, with Roger Stern, Mark Waid, Joe Simon, Stan Lee, and Paul Dini

Art by Butch Guice, Howard Chaykin, Rafael Albuquerque, David Aja and Mitch Breitweiser with Alex Ross, Kalman Andrasofszky, Dale Eaglesham and Al Avison

From Marvel Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Captain America #600 was a great comic, and a fitting celebration to the majesty of the Star Spangled Avenger.

But that's barely the point.

The thing that struck as most remarkable about Captain America #25 was that it made for a great comic despite all the surrounding hype. It was legitimately the best, most accessible superhero comic of the year, and for that, Marvel's marketing frenzy, and the savvy retailers who'd stocked up, were rewarded. It was a stunt, but it was an effective stunt, and it earned its success.

Fast forward to this issue. Marvel asked retailers to break from their customary habits, and release a single new issue on a Monday, a day when some retailers aren't even open. They did their best to generate a buzz around this issue, hinting strongly that this issue would be a game-changer, and let speculation run rampant.

Before without getting deeper into the frenzy surrounding this issue, let's discuss the story for what it was.

Unto itself, this was yet another solid brick of an effort in the wall of Brubaker/ Epting/ Guice/ D'Armata's Captain America run. It gave strong story beat moments to each of the book's supporting cast members, all of whom have been especially vital in the wake of Steve Rogers' assassination. Set at the first anniversary of Cap's death, the issue does well to reinforce exactly what the world's status quo is without him.

And then it starts screwing with everything.

My issue isn't that I found this chapter underwhelming. It does all the same things well that the book has done well for over 50 issues now. My problem is that I don't really understand what the hype was promoting. This is a milestone issue, sure, but nothing happens in-story that warrants any great attention. Yes, the multitude of beautifully illustrated spotlights on the friends and foes of the once-and-future- Living Legend deftly explore the void left by the man, but then, so has every other issue of this title since his passing. Instead, we're left teased at some monumental moment in this comic that never comes. The only real “moment,” of note is the closing promise that, hey, we're going to try and bring back Cap. Wait, what? That's not news. That's breaking a news story in April that “The Red Sox are going to try and win the Pennant this year.” In other words, it is the action, not the promise of impending action, that demands notice. And in any case, even if every devout comic reader in the country knows Marvel is going to bring back the original Captain America in Reborn, haven't you effectively spoiled the climax months in advance with this handling? Maybe it wasn't going to be a surprise, but this is a punch line without a joke.

My main issue is that this isn't a comic I would readily send to an uninitiated relative and say “Hey! This is a comic that will summarily excite you and illustrate that which I love about comics.” Cap #25 was. Where that issue was as accessible as a book could be, this one plays much more to the more insular aspects of the series. I enjoyed it, I'm not sure my grandmother would. That's the difference with the two milestone issues.

In many ways, Brubaker is a victim of his own success here. He's so effectively cast James Buchanan Barnes as Captain Buckmerica, and so compellingly deified Steve Rogers in death, that the onus is on him to craft a story that not only brings back the original Cap, but reminds readers that we want him back, too. He needs to make us want to believe in the resurrection of the American Dream, after getting us buy into the idea that it was the dream of a bygone era. He has dug himself a mighty deep ditch from which to climb out of, but then, he's excelled under those conditions before. I expect to be impressed.

Beyond the main story, there were some great celebratory back-up stories to he enjoyed in this issue as well. It was a reunion of old Cap vets. Roger Stern and Kalman Andrasofszky's tale touched on the continuity of the character, checking in on how a few former supporting cast members of the book were holding up in a world without Cap. It was a nice wink to one of the more fondly remembered eras of the title. Mark Waid and Dale Eaglesham's The Persistence of Memorabilia touched on the broader resonance of America's icon, mixing in aspects of comic fan-culture with a world where the costumed heroes are real. It's actually funny, because it is a bit reminiscent of a story written by Cap scribe Roger Stern, The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man, but that also likely reads as very close to Mark Waid's heart, considering that he's professed to reading every single Superman story published. It's heartfelt and poignant, while also providing a knowing wink at the longevity of the character. Alex Ross and Paul Dini's two-page origin sequence is reprinted here, very much in the style of the two's treasury-styled World's Greatest Superhero stories, and there is a great set of notes from the super-soldier-syrum's creator himself, Joe Simon, about the concept's earliest days. The last back-up is one of Stan Lee's earliest written works, a Captain America story from 1942. That is a true testament to the long history of Cap. Al Alvison's Red Skull imagery is actually pretty horrific. Finally, rounding out the package is a superb gallery of the many Captain America covers through the ages, from Timely , to Tales of Suspense , to today.

All told, this issue is more of a success than a failure. The biggest problem is that this issue is more of a promise of great stories to come than a great story itself. There are worse things to read on a Wednesday. Or a Monday, I guess.

All New Savage She-Hulk #3 of 4

Written by: Fred Van Lente

Art by: Peter Vale & Michael Ryan

Marvel Comics

Reviewed by: Brian Andersen

Yowza what a last page!! But before I get to that I must give many hearty congrats to writer Fred Van Lente for another surprisingly awesome issue for this wannabe She-Hulk title. Although this new Savage She-Hulk will never replace my love and devotion for the first, the best, and the original Sensational She-Hulk (Jen Walters - what what) I just can’t hate on the red-haired, lighter-green-hued Lyra. What could have been one huge waste of 22 pages instead turns out to be a fun, exciting comic with a fully developed character who has a well-thought out personal history, one that is rich enough and interesting enough to warrant the creation of this book- which that has quickly leaped to the top of my reading pile.

I was completely blown away by the huge twist at the end of this issue. Spoiler Alert All this time I assumed Lyra was gunning for Norman Osborn to either kill him or obtain some of his tech to save her future. Ah, nope! So wrong. That’s what I get for assuming. Turns out Lyra went back into the past to get herself knocked up by Osborn!! Whoa! You read that right. She’s trying to get herself some Osborn seed. I so did not see that coming, and by the looks of the tongue kiss at the end of the book neither did Norman Osborn. The final page of Lyra aggressively picking up Osborn was so hot and sexy I think I almost got pregnant just from reading it!

Aside from the totally great shock ending I am loving how Lyra is always so stoic, so calm and emotionless. Now that we know that the madder she gets the weaker she gets it, which adds a great new demension to one of the many gamma peeps running around the Marvel U, it allows the character to really stand on her own. The battle between Lyra and the new Captain Marvel, the constant flashbacks to Lyra’s past, the way, way, way cool “black bloom” that lies at the bottom of a great lake that eats all the men who try to enter her city – which turns out to be the Spider-Man/Vemon alien costume – all add up to a really, really, terrific read. There so much good stuff in this book it’s hard not to enjoy it.

Wonton Soup 2: Hyper Wonton Soup 2 Twonton Soup: The Quickening 2… Soup

By James Stokoe

From Oni Press

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Simply put, Wonton Soup 2: Hyper Wonton Soup 2 Twonton Soup: The Quickening 2… Soup is so potent it will give you the munchies. It may also cause forgetfulness.

In this latest installment, intergalactic delivery boy and ne’er do well with the skills of a sous chef Johnny Boyo and his bleary-eyed copilot Deac find themselves totally marooned on an excellently remote and exotic planet after a narcotically induced, hazy bender. The plot is a bit looser than the inaugural edition, trading in more conventional structure for vague excuses to draw less coherent but insanely wacky non-sequitur tales of booty and plunder. Needless to say, it is chalk full of bone-crushing adventure, sensuously conflicting intrigue, and sensory-overwhelming recipes of impossibly flavorful dishes of discontent. Sadly, unlike the previous go-round, there are no invisible space-ninjas. Alas.

James Stokoe has grown leaps and bounds artistically with this effort, incorporating almost Incan design sensibilities to his meticulously rendered work. He seems to rejoice in one-upping himself on each progressive page, and that joy seeps through for the reader. More absurdist than sci-fi, the world of Twonton Soup is one fraught with enslaved sex bears, bloodthirsty flora, inner-intestinal revolutions, and laughs upon laughs. If you’re anything like me, reading this volume in public areas will lead to fits of laughter that are sure to disturb the ignorant, uninitiated folks around you. You will take solace, though, in the secure knowledge that their world is bleaker having not experience this totally radical comic.

I guess I can imagine that there are those for which Wonton Soup wouldn’t be their cup of tea. Frenetic, manic, and teeming with idea-bombs, this book is an indictment of boredom, but it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and there are those who can’t appreciate that. It is markedly the work of a young man, with its restless sense of living in the now, and fervor for sex, (even with things more beast than man). The story doesn’t dwell in any one place for too long, skipping like a record between the ongoing narrative, irreverent flashbacks, and, well, even a couple blank pages at one point, (don’t worry, it totally makes sense). For irresponsible rogues like Boyo and Deac, everything that can be smoked, should be smoked, and everything that can be defiled, will be. When it’s drawn the way Stokoe does, that’s a 30 Minute Meal of for mighty powerful comics. That good ****, the kids might call it.

With a completely fearless showing in the arts of comicbookery, James Stokoe’s cartooning has made me a fan for life. I will be tracking anything and everything he does from now on. Something funny is drawn into each and every panel of this masterpiece. This book is an experimental experience, in that “I was experimenting… it was college,” sort of way.

Berserker #1 (sneak preview)

Created and Written by Rick Loverd

Art by Jeremy Haun

Colors by Dave McCaig

Letters by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

The first I remember hearing about this was at New York Comic Con this past year and it finally hits stands this coming Wednesday, June 24th.Beginning with a massive car wreck and going backwards in time to set the plot and characters, to call this book "intense" is almost an understatement. There a few clichés along the way but they don't hinder the book: a handful of individuals with devastating powers and secret organizations that want to help them or use them as weapons.

The first of these powered individuals we are introduced to is Aaron, a teenager who is kicked off his wrestling team. Not because he hits his opponent with a steel chair, but more like he snaps his arm off and almost decapitates the kid with a right hook to the face for talking trash about Aaron's girl. All the while he's being watched by a mysterious stranger that has some sort of symbol on the back of his neck that resembles pitchforks making a circle.

Elsewhere we meet our next character: Farris Jorn, waking up from a bad dream and throwing a lamp right through the wall of his bedroom. The girlfriend is annoyed and just adds it to the list of stuff to do around the house. Personally, I would have reacted a bit differently. And of course, there is another stranger outside the house. Cutting back to Aaron and his girlfriend, we learn that they've decided to skip town tomorrow after Aaron ties up some loose ends with his white trash mother.

When we get back to Farris we see he can't even stand up to his own boss. He needs his job, which is working at some sort of metal-works shop, and we find out he's seeing a therapist about his rage, but it's not working. Meanwhile, Aaron confronts his mother and he tells her the events about him getting kicked off the wrestling team and why. His mother is furious and insists he has his father's rage, "the Devil's temper" she calls it, and he storms out.

We eventually meet the stranger that was outside of Farris' place, Rowena. Apparently she is an agent of an organization called Migard, and she is confronted by an agent from what we assume is a rival organization called Asgaard, Ray. The two get into their, I guess, "berserker" mode and duke it out. Jeremy Haun's art leaves little to the imagination as it is seriously bloody and gory. It's sort of weird too since there's no dialogue during the fight, which is three pages long, it's just an all-out brawl with Rowena walking away to talk to Farris about his abilities and how she can help.

The next day at work, Farris' boss discovers that Farris has been dating a girl he's fancied for quite some time. And you know how Farris never stood up for himself? That changes mighty quick as Farris rips off his boss' arm, tossing him through a window and into a car! Needless to say, everybody runs the hell away from Farris, still holding his boss' torn arm.

We see Aaron and his girl, Courtney, on their way out of town and on to New York, however there is some trouble brewing as the friends of the guy Aaron almost killed cause Aaron and Courtney to have a car crash.

Now the ending I won't give away because it's THAT insane. Not necessarily negative, but it is a little too over the top for my tastes. I could have sworn I heard the Mortal Kombat theme play after I read the final splash page. If anything, it's a good set up for a series that will appeal to fans of the ultraviolence, I'm just not one of them.

Jeremy Haun's art is strong, I just wish Rick Loverd's dialogue had been on the level, though I'm confident things will pick up. I'm curious on where things will go from here. If you see it at your local comic shop, take a gander, just be sure not to show it to a youngster.

John Stanley Library: Melvin Monster

Written & Illustrated by John Stanley

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

First and foremost, credit must be given to Drawn & Quarterly for their splendid production on this edition; fans of John Stanley and all-ages comics are going to love having these beautiful hardcover editions in their libraries. Melvin Monster stars its titular monster boy, a good-hearted, little, green ogre, the son of a Frankenstein-creature called Baddy and an apron-clad Mummy. Melvin just wants to be a good guy, and that’s not exactly how things are done in Monster Town.

John Stanley is, of course, renowned for his beloved collaboration with Irving Tripp on Little Lulu (available in book form from Dark Horse), his work loses nothing when he flies solo. He’s a professional comics artist, a draughtsman who knows how to lay out a page, move the action quickly and pace out the jokes for maximum impact. For readers who’ve had the pleasure of reading Stanley’s work in other reprint projects will be quite satisfied to find that his cartooning is the equal of his writing prowess.

The visual gags are creative, and the storylines are a pleasant blend of whimsical childhood adventure and creepy monster logic. Stanley does a great job mixing the expectations of monsterhood against Melvin’s good-natured, childish enthusiasm. Melvin meets the most outlandish characters and partakes in bizarrely stream-of-conscious travels; it’s exactly the sort of thing that I would’ve devoured when I was eight years old, and two dozen years later, I’m still impressed by the quality of the storytelling and illustration.

Drawn & Quarterly’s John Stanley Library project is off to a stunning start, but that’s not terribly surprising when you have quality material like Stanley’s excellent Melvin Monster run to work with. The oversized hardcover, designed in understated, classicist fashion by cartoonist Seth, shows Stanley’s timeless work off for readers of all ages. The stories are young at heart, but clever enough and sufficiently well drawn to appeal to anybody who loves great comics.

T RUNT!

Written by Derek McCulloch

Illustrated by Jimmie Robinson

Published by Image

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

Derek McCulloch, writer of the award-winning (and superb) study of folk music and racism Stagger Lee, and Jimmie Robinson, the comics artist famous for his work on stylistically excessive Bomb Queen, don’t seem like the most natural pair to collaborate on a children’s book, but with T RUNT!, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Based on their previous work, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising to learn that McCulloch and Robinson are sufficiently talented and professional to make the gambit work for them. T RUNT! is the story of Vegrandis, the smallest of three baby Tyrannosaurs, as he discovers that being the smallest of his litter doesn’t mean that he’s the smallest creature around. It’s a simple moral, easily digested, but couched in a solid and well-crafted narrative.

Though there have been many wonderful all-ages comics, T RUNT! is truly a children’s book, with big single-image pages, minimal text and a basic lesson in behavior. Readers of all ages with likely enjoy the energetic and colorful illustrations Robinson provides, and readers with children of their own (or child readers themselves) will undoubtedly love McCulloch’s fun and precise narrative.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Cable #15 Messiah War #6 (Marvel Comics; review by Brendan): I haven't enjoyed an X-over this much since Operation: Zero Tolerance. Messiah War takes place on a stage grand enough to fit the hyperbolic nature of the X-characters of the future, like Cable, Bishop, and Stryfe. I can't stop being impressed, because really, these are (to my mind), some of the dumbest characters to ever grace an X-title. Their histories are all convoluted messes, but somehow this story makes all that irrelevant. The conflict created uniquely suits these time-traveling character. In the promised Messiah trilogy, this is the second movement, which explains the Empire Strikes Back vibe of it all. In fact, I would suggest that even Stryfe's expansive lair looks like the backdrop to Empire's climactic Jedi battle. In any case, the fate of mutantkind, not only of today, but for all of time, hangs in the balance, and with one issue to go, I can't wait to see how this thing wraps.

Groom Lake #3 (IDW; review by Brendan): I can't believe how much I'm enjoying Groom Lake. Ben Templesmith is in rare form here, and I think Archibald, the classically grey but unconventionally chain-smoking extraterrestrial, is my favorite alien since Alf. This book is just fun, no two ways about it. I though Templesmith had found his perfect project with Fell, but this book is, um, even more... perfecter. A romp about foreign invaders and our feeble attempts to regulate them, this is a high water mark for Chris Ryall and IDW.

Supergirl #42 (DC; by Brian Andersen): The Superwoman storyline wraps up in another terrific issue by writer Sterling Gates and artist Jamal Igle. I actually love these quieter stories after a long story arc the most. I love it when a character is given a moment to catch their breath, to see them live there everyday lives, to watch them interact with their supporting cast, and to provide time for both the reader and the character to decompress before the next big battle just over the horizon. The best moment of this issue was Lois Lane’s response to the death of her sister, inadvertently caused by Supergirl. Telling Supergirl that she needed to leave, to get out of her house so that she could have some time to process the death of her sister, was an all too true, very human moment by Lois. I’m so grateful Gates plays this scene as realistically as possible, I mean how else would someone act to the person who mistakenly killed her sister, even if that person was someone they deeply cared about? Super stuff, Supergirl team. Keep it up. I’m excited to see how Supergirl handles living on the New Krypton in the upcoming issues.

Batman: The Steets of Gotham #1 (by Brian Andersen): Darn you DC! You just had to bring the Manhunter character back as feature in a book I just don’t much care about. Not to say the main story by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen was good enough, it just didn’t really speak to me, the Batman comics don’t do much for me. No, the only reason I picked this new comic up was to read about Kate Spencer, aka Manhunter, and her triumphant return to comics. I’ve followed her through four cancellations and I’ll following her here. And I’m glad I did. This great 8 pages story has Manhunter moving to Gotham to take up the position as Gotham City D.A., interacting with Oracle, and following her first case in her new city. All excellent stuff. As usual writer Marc Andreyko has more wit in a handful of pages then most 22 page comics do. Also, welcome aboard new penciler Georges Jeantry, so far you’re off to a super start. Now if only they could move this feature over to the new Batwoman book, then I’d have a full comic book filled with stories that I would care about.

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