Best Shots: DOOM PATROL, SPIDEY, MAYHEM

Gibson Gets Into Comics with Mayhem

Best Shots for 8-10-09

By The Best Shots Team, courtesy of ShotgunReviews.com

Your Host: Troy Brownfield

Greetings!  Your BSEs from the past week were . . .

The Marvels Project #1

Incarnate #1

Invincible Iron Man #16

Days Missing #1

Irredeemable #5

And the rest . . .

Doom Patrol #1

Written by Keith Giffen (Backup by Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis)

Art by Matthew Clark and Livesay (Backup by Kevin Maguire)

Published by DC Comics

Review by Jamie Trecker

The latest incarnation of the Doom Patrol, a fitfully-published yet beloved DC super-hero team signals its intent from the cover. Bursting through a torn copy of #109, from the team’s original run in My Greatest Adventure, this new Doom Patrol is actually a return to the past, featuring the same trio of freaks and misfits Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani created back in 1963. 

Dark, desperate and diffident, the team of Elasti-Girl, Robotman and Negative Man were all thrown together — and created by — wheelchair bound genius Niles Caulder, who hopes to use them to inflict catastrophic change on the world.

If this sounds like another super-team or two, well, that’s because Doom Patrol was almost certainly a riff on Marvel’s Fantastic Four. And, while Drake claimed that DP were the inspiration for the X-Men, that claim has long since been disproved.

But the 1960s the DP was pretty remarkable: In contrast to the other books from DC, this group of “heroes” was argumentative, unhappy, and often mean. Their foils were just plain weird: Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Garguax, and the star-crossed cross-species duo Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. And then, the Doom Patrol did something unusual for mainstream comics. They died —for real — in their final issue of new material (#121) before lapsing into obscurity.

Revived twenty years later by a young Erik Larsen, the Doom Patrol were played as a straight super-hero team, with an almost all-new cast. The book wasn’t successful, and as a last-ditch gambit, DC decided to give a young Scotsman a shot at the book, with a whole new direction. The writer was Grant Morrison, and his Doom Patrol became for many fans “the” incarnation of the team. Deeply surreal, Morrison’s DP filtered the entire Silver Age of DC comics through a modern filter, even using the advertisements as source material. 

But, the Doom Patrol post-Morrison didn’t hold its audience. Two ill-considered reboots later (including a stunningly awful series at the hands of John Byrne), we come to volume five, and Giffen and Clarke’s take on the title.

Right from outset, it’s pretty clear what Giffen thought of Byrne’s run, as he wastes no time in killing off one of the “incidental” characters, a teen-aged girl. This also should clue you in to the fact that this comic isn’t for kids — teens, maybe, but not kids. The violence is graphic, and the attitude is bad.  It also feels a little flat.

Why? Perhaps because Giffen and Clarke feel the need to reintroduce the cast, and stress to us that, yep, they’re bitter. He does this by using a rather hoary device — the shrink hired on by the team’s leader. Now, there’s no question that this intro book is more gripping than the stuff pushed out by DC in those forgettable vols. 3 and 4, but when eight pages of it are spent on scenes of the shrink and the team demonstrating how “unheroic” they really are, you’re likely to feel you didn’t get your $3.99 worth.

Fortunately, Giffen and his Justice League cohorts return to give you the BWAH-HA-HA! Take on the Metal Men in the book’s second feature. It’s goofy, funny and even a little bit dirty. It’s worth the price of admission alone.

I have the feeling that Giffen and Co. will recall the Morrison-esque mayhem in future issues, and that’s a good thing. One thing I hope he keeps in mind, though: Doom Patrol works because its characters are weird, which is different from “acting weird.” Morrison managed to give real depth and soul to his charges. I hope Giffen can do the same.

Double-Shot

Doom Patrol #1

Writer: Keith Giffen  (with J. M. DeMatteis for Metal Men)

Pencils: Matthew Clark

Inks: Livesay

Metal Men Art: Kevin Maguire

From: DC Comics

Review by Henry Chamberlain

The much anticipated relaunch of Doom Patrol, with a Metal Men second feature, packs a lot of entertainment value. It's fun too compare these two stories of misfits with super powers: one dark, Doom Patrol; and one light, Metal Men. Each has a sort of mad scientist back at the lab who runs things: one cold and untrustworthy; and the other so lovable that one of his creations desperately wants to sleep with him. And to enhance that shift in moods, Doom Patrol's art is sharp and detailed while Kevin Maguire provides just the right lift for the whimsy of Metal Men.

The opening is full of tech, grit and gloom as a Doom Patrol team is let loose to take down yet another mad scientist creating some really bad monsters. The team leaves with their mission not nearly accomplished. Back at Oolong Island, the team must suffer through some counseling sessions with Father Leslie. This is a chance to get some psychological profiles and Giffen provides some of his best lines to Larry, a mass of energy and self-hatred wrapped up like a mummy. Larry mockingly confides in the father: "I have lusted in my heart. Right up until she peeled her skin off. Standards, father, you gotta have standards. I'm thinking skin is a big part of that."  

The opening to Metal Men is funny from the get-go with a meeting of neighbors strongly suggesting that Dr. Magnus relocate his Metal Men operations and allow them to return to suburban bliss. We then cut to the mission. Despite themselves, the Metal Men are suppose to bring back a precious gem ala Indiana Jones. Given enough jungle to trample through and ancient relics to destroy, they succeed. Once back at the lab, it's a chance for Mercury to hog the good doctor's time by unloading all of his neurotic complaints. Afterwards, Tina presents Dr. Magnus with a lovingly made but terrible meal as she proceeds to do everything she can to seduce him.

Keith Giffen has said many times that his goal is for the reader to have fun and not to be concerned with having to go back and try to catch up on back story. That is certainly true with Doom Patrol and Metal Men. This is a book with a double relaunch that famously includes the trio of Justice League talent, Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire, on Metal Men. This is definitely something special that happily lives up to its promise.

Exclusive Preview:AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 601
Exclusive Preview:AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 601
Amazing Spider-Man #601

Written by Mark Waid and Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Mario Alberti, Joe Quesada, and Danny Miki

Colored by Andres Mossa and Morry Hollowell

Lettering by Joe Caramagna and Chris Eliopolous

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Mary Jane Watson may be back in the Spider-Man universe, but does her return have any sizzle? While Amazing Spider-Man #600 was a four-course meal of sequential art, Amazing #601, even with the writing talents of Mark Waid, feels a bit light.

The opening gag, as you've probably seen in the previews here at Newsarama, is the hook of the book: Peter Parker, starring in the Hangover. While his post-drunken antics are nowhere near as out there as those of Bradley Cooper and company, Peter Parker does get the shock of his life when he wakes up next to a... we'll just say "surprise" bedmate. While it is humorous, it ultimately feels like a one-note joke. Combine that story with very little action -- a brief mugging and a fire rescue are kind of slim pickins when you have Spider-Man's Rogue's Gallery at your disposal -- and it's decent characterization that's all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Penciler Mario Alberti gives a refreshing kind of perspective to the artwork, a mix of Scott Kolins with a hint of Tim Sale. His sense of composition -- especially focusing on Spidey's back as he swings -- is probably an acquired taste, but his facial expressions aren't bad at all. But say what you want about him, he draws a fantastic Mary Jane -- when she sits in bed and turns on the TV to see a news report of Spider-Man in action, she looks positively adorable as she wiggles her toes and says, "nice work, Tiger." The color work by Andres Mossa certainly fits the artwork, but it doesn't always have the sort of "pop" Spidey can achieve.

But what about the much ballyhooed collaboration between Avengers mastermind Brian Michael Bendis and Marvel EiC Joe Quesada? It's a really strong back-up that shows the positive effects of Spider-Man's existence through the eyes of Jessica Jones, wife of Luke Cage and once the superheroine known as Jewel. Bendis uses a small bit of Spider-Man history and places Jessica right in it, giving a motivation for heroism that fits nicely for all those continuity sticklers. "With great power there must also come great responsibility," Spidey says. Jessica's reply just works: "I knew it in theory, but I didn't have the words," she says. "That's something to tell my kid. That's something you could live by."

Meanwhile, Quesada's pencils look really nice, especially with some fantastic color work by Morry Hollowell -- Spidey pops off the page, hanging from the ceiling with some nice looking poses, and Jessica's interaction with her baby is just adorable. The only part that doesn't work is a two-page spread of the Sandman -- between the amount of captions by Bendis, and a somewhat unclear image by Quesada, it weakens basically the key moment upon which the story hinges.

All in all, this may be a bit of a disappointing issue after the grand slam by Dan Slott and company from last issue, especially for Mary Jane fans who have been salivating to get her back into the series. Peter's new status quo with his roommate certainly has potential for some good conflict -- and MJ's characterization, while hearkening back to the more immature party-girl of yesteryear, is a highlight -- but standing on its own merits as a single issue, Amazing Spider-Man #601 feels a little washed out.

Justice League: Cry For Justice #2


Written by James Robinson


Art by Mauro Cascioli


Published by DC Comics


Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

"Cry for Justice"?  More like "Cry for action," man. 

I kid. 

Seriously, I could go for a little more doing and a little less saying, but I do like Justice League: Cry For Justice overall.  James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli are assembling a quality roster, and I appreciate the underused and unsung characters he's mixed with heavy-hitters Green Lantern and Green Arrow (speaking of these two, I did not read nearly as much into a exchange of dialogue between them that understandably rubbed other readers the wrong way).  Only thing that I'd like to see reconciled is where this story fits in with other overarching stories dominating the DC Universe right now (Blackest Night, "New Krypton," etc.).  Green Lantern and Supergirl in particular are quite busy elsewhere, so it seems odd that they so casually fit this new assignment into their schedules.

In this issue, much of the spotlight is on the Atom, Ray Palmer, and a subsequent entry in the author's notes along with a 2-page origin recap underscore the idea that Robinson wants to get him out of his doldrums and back to a confident, prominent tiny titan.  Sounds good to me.  I agree with his sentiment that Ray makes a good team member in light of the idea that he'll probably never carry a solo book.  Another veteran is a possibility to join the Justice League, and it was interesting, if not tragic, to see that the Flash, Jay Garrick, inspired to join the mix because of the senseless murder of Winky, Blinky and Noddy, supporting cast from decades past.  Robinson certainly knows his Golden Age history.

With the art, Mauro Cascioli is turning in some luscious graphics.  There are a small handful of instances where he could do a better job with distinctive facial characteristics, like in an exchange between Atom and Flash.  I know Jay aging has slowed down in recent years, but he practically looked the same age, 30-something, as Ray, and not that much older than Freddy Freeman who later enters the scene.



So I think once issue #3 of Justice League: Cry For Justice comes out, we'll have a good feel for the JL lineup going forward, and it will be nice to see the gang all together with a clear agenda.  Obviously the mission is clear (justice, that is), and the bad guys better watch out.

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Roland Boschi

Colors by Dan Brown

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

For fans of Jason Aaron's inaugural run on Ghost Rider, this comic will definitely make you happy. Me? I'm of two minds about Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire.

In a lot of ways, this story is less one of the Ghost Rider, and more a cramming together of all the occultists and demonic beings that Jason Aaron can put together. On a script level, the story is a decent start, even if it sacrifices time with Johnny Blaze in exchange for time with Hellstorm, the Anti-Christ, or Jaine Cutter, Occult Terrorist. The premise is simple: the angels are not as nice as they seem, and they're out to take down the Antichrist in order to rewrite the End Times for their own ends.

A lot of times, you can tell Aaron is having a blast, whether it's writing a fight scene where Johnny Blaze gets shot full of new age chakra crystals or just about any scene with the teenage Antichrist, who goes by the civilian name Anton Satan: "Actually, that's pronounced Shuh-tan," he constantly corrects. "It's Czechoslovakian." Other times, however, the jokes wear thin -- the humor of Johnny Blaze finding the Antichrist in Wall Street is somewhat flat-tired when earlier Aaron has a cultist talking about breeding "prostitutes, sexual deviants, serial killers, psychopaths, cannibals, [and] CEOs," to create the embodiment of evil.

But all in all, I think Aaron's script had a lot of promise that was just lost in translation by the artwork of Roland Boschi. Considering this book is supposed to be the magnum opus for Aaron's Ghost Rider run, the storytelling doesn't feel strong enough or engaging enough to really support all of Aaron's ideas. For example, a splash page of Hellstorm, the Son of Satan, doesn't really feel particularly dynamic -- and characters like Johnny Blaze and the Caretaker really become bit players in their own story during a fight scene with two angel-possessed gift shop employees. Based on earlier issues of Ghost Rider with Tony Moore, we know Aaron can choreograph the hell out of a fight scene -- but in terms of composition, posing, and even things like the largely omitted details of Ghost Rider's costume, it was really hard to follow.

If you've been a religious follower of Jason Aaron's smart run on Ghost Rider, or if you just simply dig the demonic side of the Marvel Universe, Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1 is definitely a book for you. But for me, I think this is a case of the artwork not being strong enough to support the crazy, awesome ideas that this series can reach for.

Dark Reign: Zodiac #2

Written by Joe Casey

Art by Nathan Fox

Colors by Jose Villarrubia

Lettering by Albert Deschesne

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Talk about the little tie-in that could!

Ordinarily, you'd probably think a Dark Reign tie-in series starring the Marvel syndicate known as the Zodiac would be passable. Especially if said syndicate had all their heads cut off and stuffed into a duffel by a lone successor. But with some fantastic art by Nathan Fox -- and superbly aimed like a unmarked handgun by writer Joe Casey -- Dark Reign: Zodiac #2 is a quirky, dark, and altogether awesome take on the unreformed underbelly of the Marvel Universe.

The issue opens up with a fairly grotesque sight -- Johnny Storm, better known by the world as the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four -- laid up in a hospital bed, beaten to a bloody pulp. Fox really pulls no punches with his details -- a set of stitches on Johnny's shoulder, while the other one bleeds through a patch of gauze -- it looks sick and great at the same time. And that's before the violent, visceral flashback of Zodiac beating him with literally anything he can find. Fox has a hyper-detailed, sometimes whimsical style that, in many ways, reminds me of Paul Pope -- it's fantastic for action, and it gives every character their own personality.

Yet the book really shines with Zodiac interacting with his girlfriend, Death Reaper. Joe Casey gives them a delightfully twisted relationship that really sticks in your mind long after you finish reading. "You should take more advantage of me..." Reaper says, as we then open to them in bed. The double-entendre is thin, and soon goes away altogether: "Hey. Put on the mask. For me." Fox makes this scene look raw, ending with Zodiac sticking -- and activating -- a detonator inside Reaper's cleavage. It all ties back to the heroes in a smart way that surprises you even as it should have been apparent from the beginning. As I said before: it's twisted, it's sick, and it's not for the faint of heart -- but boy, is it original.

Now, this issue isn't without its flaws. While Zodiac and Death Reaper are all clear-cut characters, other henchmen, like Manslauhter Marsdale and the Clown are fairly thin with their characterization and personalities. (That said, Marsdale, under Fox's pen, looks a lot like Mister T, and who could say no to having Mister T in your comic?) Meanwhile, while I love the feel of Fox's art, occasionally his detailed approach reaches the levels of sensory overload, such as the interior of Norman Osborn's office. Yet the artwork takes chances -- especially colorist Jose Villarrubia, whose bright palettes are so far removed from his more subdued work on Wednesday Comics, I could hardly believe it was done by the same person. Even the lettering by Albert Deschesne has personality! And more often than not, these risks pay off.

I'll be honest, I'm sure this comic isn't for everyone. If you don't like meticulously detailed, somewhat distorted images in the vein of Paul Pope, this is not for you. If you are looking for something to buy your child or easily-impressionable nieces and nephews, this is not for you. If you're content with the same old, same old, this is not for you. But if you looking for some work that really challenges itself, even as it plays on the absolute fringes of the Marvel Universe, give Dark Reign: Zodiac #2 a look.

The Black Coat #1-2

Written by Ben Lichuis and Adam Cogan

Art by Francesco Francavilla and Dean Kotz

Coloring by Ben Lichuis

Lettering by Chris Studabaker

Published by Ape Entertainment

Review by David Pepose

What do you get when you take Captain America and Batman, swirl them around together, and throw it into Revolutionary America? You have yourself The Black Coat, a series with a historical mileau that really elevates the story from what would otherwise be unavoidable cliche.

The first issue opens up with a nice twist on 1770s America, as the sunken body of the Black Coat is found by his deep-sea diving wife, Ursula. It's like Avengers #4 all over again, as the ebony-clad swashbuckler's corpse is found, and brought back from the dead by a twist of science: but instead of the Super-Soldier Serum (which would go on to break down Steve's body eventually after steroid use hit the popular media), this serum attacks our hero's mind. Put in the political paranoia of the Revolutionary War, it's a great set-up, that goes a little bit off the rails with the introduction of vampires and the supernatural.

But the real draw of this book (no pun intended) is the artwork of Francesco Francavilla, which gives a nice sense of mood to the book, using shadows and composition to really make a cinematic-looking book. One scene that particularly stands out is when Ursula stands over the dead body of the Black Coat, after administering the serum that may or may not save his life -- she is ready to kiss him, when suddenly, he jerks upwards, his dead heart beating once more!

The second issue is a little bit more of a mixed bag. Dean Kotz's work is a little bit more sketchy than his predecessor's, which unfortunately hurts the high production values set by the first issue. Additionally, having the Black Coat fighting supernatural beings really detracted from the political undertones of all this, such as members of the Black Coat's entourage actually being Torry spies. That said, as both books are being repackaged together -- 48 pages for $4.99 -- it's not a bad value for history buffs, indie aficionados, and people with a taste for swashbuckling.

Luke Cage Noir #1

Written by Mike Benson and Adam Glass

Art by Shawn Martinbrogh

Colors by Nick Filardi

Published by Marvel

Review by Brendan McGuirk

I'll expound, because quality demands attention, but all you really need to know about Luke Cage Noir is that it's Harlem Nights with Power Man. What more could a fair reader need?

Despite enjoying the increased influence of pulp and noir on superhero comics in the last few years, I haven't had much interest in Marvel's Noir line. I think it's precisely because noir has been woven so deftly into superhero adventures, like Captain America, that I haven't seen the need for the Elseworlds-like stylings of the brand. I read plenty of Spider-Man stories, but why do I really need to read about him in a morally ambiguous 1930's?

Luke Cage Noir caught my attention because, unlike the case with many of the other titles sharing the brand, there is actually a dearth of Luke Cage solo adventures in the current marketplace. He can be found in the pages of New Avengers and Iron Fist, sure, but he's a bit player in those titles, not a feature. And let's face it, Cage is too much of a bad@$$ to be anything less than a star.

The other thing that sparked my interest in this title was that there was a reason for this story to be told in the style and setting presented. Cage originated as a reaction by Marvel to the age of Blaxploitation, so, frankly, “blackness,” is central to the character. It's naive to suggest otherwise. Now, that isn't to say that race defines the character, but it certainly informs him.

That being the case, there is a salient reason to drop that character into a noir story set in and around the Harlem Renaissance. I mean, he's basically Harlem's knight, and since Harlem in that era was undergoing a revolution of African-American cultural empowerment, the Power Man fits right in. In fact, it's such a perfect fit that Cage himself barely even seems to be characterized any differently than he is today, (minus the impact both a wife and baby have on a man).

So the premise alone is either serendipity or a stroke of genius. What's more, Cage's relationship with his surrounding environment reads more authentically than any story of his I can recall. It's only natural that his first act upon release from prison, (which, though left unexplained, was most assuredly for a crime he didn't commit, given the character), is go to the barbershop, get a shave, and catch up on the news of the world. It's culturally apropos, and certainly feels `realer' for the character than Azzarello and Corben's hardcore gangsta but somewhat stilted Cage MAX series. The ease in which he moves about the environment enriches the character, as it is his connection community that shapes him as a hero.

It begins, of course, with the murder of a white woman in Harlem. From there, in accordance with the noir trappings, it descends into a dense mystery of dead dames, double-crossing ne'er do wells, and the return of a man to a place not quite as familiar as it should be. It's a mystery, but Cage isn't quite a detective. Instead, he's something of a handyman- a “for hire,” whose heroism could be called into question.

Benson and Glass deliver on a labyrinthine story full of hidden agendas, and Martinbrough perfectly  renders the story with heavy blacks (inks, I mean, settle down). Luke Cage Noir is a series with endless promise. Strip away the affected dialogue, the specific era, and the refined fashions, and what you're left with might be the definitive Luke Cage story.

Mayhem! #1

Written by Tyrese Gibson, Mike Le & William Wilson

Art by Tone Rodriguez

Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg

Published by Image Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

We've seen in recent years, that just because a prominent Hollywood-type is involved with a comic production, it doesn't necessarily make the comic itself bad. But then again, it doesn't make it good, either.

Mayhem! is probably exactly what you expected. It's a mindless action blockbuster filled to the brim with over-the-top violence, a bloody sense of justice, and a hero who bears a resemblance to a certain model/ VJ/ musician/ actor/ comics' frontman. It stars a masked hero named Dante, (who may be called “Mayhem,” when in costume, but so far we can't be sure) who, along with his enabling confidant, Felicia, makes hay brutally murdering drug-dealing criminals in non-ironic ways. So he's sort of like the Punisher, but without the resonance.

So it's bloody, and violent, but I have no problem with that. Some of my favorite comics are the bloodiest ones. But it has to serve some sort of purpose. Here, the savagery seems only to keep the pages and scenes moving, not really progressing plot or revealing more about the characters. And sure, it's cool to see a dude throwing knives through someone's cranium, but, call me crazy, I like subtext. Garth Ennis writes some of the most violent comics on the planet, but it is the way he tempers that violence with heart that makes it matter.

So drug dealers are bad, and Dante is there to punish them. He does it in a getup that, well, I suppose it's pretty cool. The design is pretty simple and direct, which allows one to envision it on a screen, or in real life. It covers his mug, but shows off the guns. And sure, Dante is a murderer, (but remember, they're all bad guys), but he tells God how he feels bad about it, so he's really a hero. Or something.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted this book to work. Gibson has done and said all the right things in promoting this book, and has seemed nothing short of genuine in his excitement over it. The problem is  that there just isn't any depth to the struggle here. And, like an M. Night Shyamalan, if confuses complexity with “a twist!”

There are a few shining moments to this issue. The one-liners make for some good action fare, with a notable one referencing Jackson Pollaok. Tone Rodriguez shows potential- I'm a big fan of his line work, but his storytelling is very cluttered at points. His work evokes that of Nelson, by which one could infer that his talents might better suited as an inker.

All told, this isn't the worst celebrity comic you'll ever find, but it's far from the best. If this comic was released by Image 15 years ago, it would be right at home. In today's market, though, this is one blockbuster not worth the bucks.

Nexus: Greatest Hits & Nexus 99-101/102: Space Opera

Written by Mike Baron

Penciled by Steve Rude
Inked by Gary Martin, Bob Wiacek, Al Milgrom & Rude

Colored by Glenn Whitmore

Lettered by Todd Klein

Published by Rude Dude Productions

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

There are many avenues down which we can walk while discussing Nexus: Space Opera: the first new Nexus comics in ten years, Steve Rude’s self-publishing venture (and the recent announcement that finances demand Rude focus on gallery art, shunting comics off to the his spare time), or the jubilation that readers such as I feel at Nexus’ return.

Rather than any of that, however, let’s just stick with what’s in the comics.  After all the excitement, do Baron and Rude deliver a story worthy of their best collaborations?  Greatest Hits, a FCBD release a few years ago, does a fine job giving readers a quick overview of the Nexus universe, co-opting pages from the original comics to immerse readers in the world that’s been built over the past twenty-eight years.  Horatio’s conflicted nature and his righteous anger, Dave’s compassion, the series’ playful nature despite its heady and morally complex themes, Horatio and Sundra’s love, and nods to all the other artists who’ve worked on the series over the years – it’s all packed in there, providing a nice groundwork so any new readers can step right into Space Opera proper with little hesitation.

As for the big return itself, four issues (condensed into three, with issues 101 and 102 combined as a double-sized finale, when deadlines left the series months upon months behind schedule) manages to feel both too short and too long.  It’s too short because there’s a lot of ground to cover, characters to check in on, and plenty of chaos unfolding during the storyline.  Space Opera may also feel just a tad too long when Tyrone, president of the Democratic refugee moon established by Nexus, and his forces battle repetitively against the Elvonic zealots.

For long-time fans, plenty of shocks abound, including the deaths of two long-standing characters, as well as Dave’s appointment to a surprising post and two offspring joining the cast (one expected, one less so).  And, perhaps best of all for established readers, there’s a subtle but clear parallel between Horatio’s civil war problems and the similar conflict faced by his father years ago, just as both men welcomed their sons into the world.  That previous conflict did not end well for Horatio’s father, which ratchets up the tension for the current crisis.

If you’re a new reader, still plenty of enjoy.  Baron and Rude develop a civil war on Ylum, uncover a plot to kill Horatio’s newborn son, showcase a ton of action, and explore the political undercurrent of the future galaxy.  The hallmarks of Nexus are here: spiritual and political conflicts, personal vendettas, upbeat humor, stylish action and snappy dialogue.  This is a series that tackles heavy subjects without forgetting to be a dizzying action-adventure fun ride.

Oh, it’s not perfect.  The ten-year lag between issues allowed for some rust to form; the issues are at times too jam-packed, particularly with the tiresome battles between Ylum’s security and the Elvonic zealots.  Maybe the Elvonics could’ve been developed a little more.  There’s a sequence where Sundra battles to save her child and gets help from an unexplained gelatinous blob that perplexed this reader.  But the classic run of Nexus is arguably the best superhero comic of all time, and if Space Opera doesn’t quite hit that standard, it still stacks up against some of the best titles today and lays groundwork for more great stories in the future.  Hopefully we’ll get to read them.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Iron Man: Armor Wars #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): I try not to judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately, that's exactly what happened with Iron Man: Armor Wars. Skottie Young has made such a good cover, and so it's jarring to see penciler Craig Rousseau on the inside. Rousseau's character designs -- especially the Iron Man armor -- are a little too boxy for my taste. Storywise, Joe Caramagna produces a fairly continuity-free story that ties into the Iron Man film, which is good for new readers -- that said, his hook is a little lame, pitting a doofy thief against a man wearing more or less a mobile tank. That said, if you like the art, this could be a good gateway for your younger readers.

Destroyer #5 (of 5) (Marvel; review by Brendan): After tying up his various loose ends over the previous four, finally, Keene Marlow, the Destroyer, concludes the fight for his life. And even against the most impossible of odds, Marlow is a ******* winner. I barely want to say anything about the conclusion of this great MAX series for fear of spoilers, but Kirkman and Walker have delivered one of the most unique, memorable stories in Marvel's illustrious history. From what was essentially a blank slate, they created a man who forged himself as a legend. They also placed a prominent wink and nod to the pair's previous collaborations, for the literate reader. One thing is for certain, rest, peace, or otherwise- once you put down this issue, after you see who he's decapitated this time, you'll say, “There goes The Destroyer, the baddest muther what ever lived.”

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