Best Shots: UNCANNY X-MEN, ACTION COMICS, Tons More
Best Shots: UNCANNY, ACTION, TONS more
Best Shots for 8-17-09
By The Best Shots Team, courtesy of ShotgunReviews.com
Your Host: Troy Brownfield
Greetings! Your BSEs from the past week were . . .
And the rest . . .
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Julián López & Bit
Co-feature written by James Robinson and G. Rucka; co-feature art by CAFU
Published by DC Comics
Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow
"I'm afraid to say what I'm thinking now. I'm afraid to say that I, Morgan Edge, told you so."
One of the more briskly paced chapters (not meant as a slight to previous offerings) so far is found here in "New Krypton/World Without Superman" and its storyline within a storyline, "Codename: Patriot." Right out of the gate, Action Comics #880 honors the book's title by having Superman, back in his familiar blue and red to make a better impression on the planet he seemingly abandoned, and his cousin, Supergirl, return to Earth in hot pursuit of the errant would-be assassin of General Zod, Ral-Dar. Managing to avoid recapture in a riveting sequence that also involves Mon-El, we find out early on where the story's title comes from, this rebellious Kryptonian assailant being the lynchpin of a major conflict in the making between Earth and the 100,000 survivors of the Man of Steel's long-destroyed birthplace.
Thanks to General Sam Lane, seeds are being planted for an interplanetary conflict that portends a bitter harvest. Have we, by chance, the makings of 2010's DC Universe event to follow Blackest Night??
The series' current leads, Nightwing and Flamebird, are occupied in Hollywood trying to track down the Kryptonian sleepers still on the loose. There's no doubt that Chris Kent and Thara Ak-Var have had some chemistry since operating as a team, not to mention the growing admiration of the general public, and that culminates in the inevitable public display of affection. What would've made this awesome was a little TV studio audience "Whoooooo..." like when Chachi Arcola planted one on Joanie Cunningham back in the day (Google that if you need to, younger ones).
And what I brought up last month in terms of the art is either finally getting addressed or still a matter that gives me pause. If the rarely accurate DC solicitations can be trusted for a change, editorial may have finally settled on Julián López to lend some consistency to Action Comics' visuals. If that's the case, the book is in very capable hands. López brings a dynamic energy reminiscent of Carlos Pacheco, and Bit's inking keeps things polished and tidy. For what it's worth, I would not mind taking a month off from introducing you fine readers to another artist on Action Comics. Of all the Superman books supporting the big "New Krypton" epic, it escapes me how this became the book with a revolving door of artistry.
The Captain Atom backup, like the debut previously, is a slight affair, but the reader is rewarded somewhat in that the titular protagonist regains his senses, if not his surroundings. It's some pretty stuff to look at, thanks to artist CAFU, though I need a lot more plot development to make a solid evaluation. There is an ever-so-slight hint that things may be connected to the goings on in the other Superman books, it remains to be seen if that's on the mark. I have to assume that it's why Captain Atom has his backup title here, being in a Superman book co-authored by Rucka and Robinson, and I hope they're working a compelling and logical angle.
Uncanny X-Men #514
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
It was all the materials needed for a comics explosion: Matt Fraction, the Dodsons, the X-Men versus the Dark Avengers. But when the dust settled, I was surprised that Uncanny X-Men #514 didn't go off like I thought it would. It's a nice-looking book, but considering it's the fourth issue in a six-issue crossover, it felt like too little, too late.
The premise of this issue is fairly simple: Emma Frost and her Dark X-Men take on a horde of Biosentinels in San Francisco, as Scott Summers and his X-Men watch from the sidelines. On the one hand, Fraction and the Dodsons choreograph everything nicely, in a manner not unlike the Chris Claremont/John Byrne issues of yesteryear -- showing character through action. The guy to watch, as always in Fraction's X-books, is Cyclops, as you can tell the writer is having a lot of fun showing how each "general" will position their troops.
The problem, though, is with all these myriad characters running around from three different teams, you can see Fraction start to drop the ball a bit, particularly in the dialogue department: for example, Dark Wolverine never really seems to have a singular voice, jumping from "see you 'round" to "do you abominations even understand English anymore?" Namor and Weapon Omega in particular get the short end of the stick -- the Prince of Atlantis doesn't get much more than a half-hearted "Imperius Rex!," while Weapon Omega acts Grim 'n Gritty by manhandling his own teammate, shouting about how "we're dead. We're dead and this is hell."
The artwork by the Dodsons and colorist Justin Ponsor, however, looks pretty slick, especially in a two-page sequence with Daken battling Hawkeye. Even little gestures, like Cyclops looking at Mindee Cuckoo and telling her "I need you to get arrested" are subtle but fun to watch. That said, as the book continues, it makes you wonder if there was a deadline crunch -- certain things like Wolverine popping out of the water doesn't really look very dynamic, and some of the various X-characters are a bit difficult to distinguish. But they win you over with the little details, including a big smirk on Cyclops' face when he's about to bring X-Force into play: "Who said you're the squad that needed to stop the Avengers, Bobby?"
All in all, I think Matt Fraction has a lot of kick-ass thoughts when it comes to this Dark Avengers/X-Men crossover, but I'm really thinking that a lot of it is either getting lost in translation, or eating up an inordinate amount of pages to discuss trivia. This sort of issue showcasing the Dark X-Men's teamwork would be fantastic as a second issue, but not as a fourth. With the dialogue being surprisingly shaky and the action starting to collapse under its own weight, it remains to be seen if this contest of generals will be as exciting on the page as I'm sure it is in the minds of Matt Fraction and company.
Double-Shot: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Lettering by VC's Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
When it comes to justifying comics reboots, one of the things people talk about is going "back to basics" -- but on the other hand, some will argue that a series has to evolve in order to survive. It's a Catch-22 for many writers, and it's no exception with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1. But whereas many books will hamstring themselves trying to reinvent the wheel, Brian Michael Bendis and David Lafuente give the Ultimate Spider-verse a dynamic new chapter that I am really excited to keep following.
The book opens up six months after the events of Ultimatum -- if you haven't read that, just know that (A) New York was flooded by Magneto, (B) Spidey was thought dead in the carnage, and (C) J. Jonah Jameson finally wrote a nice set of articles about the Webbed Wonder. It's all in the recap page, which is smartly placed after a great gag about Peter Parker and his new job. I won't give it away, but Bendis' portrayal of Peter Parker is still the heart and soul of this book, and the first page alone shows that Bendis knows how to make a splash page work -- even when it's just of Peter Parker's head.
That said, if you're looking for a huge beat-'em-up starring Spidey, this isn't the issue for you -- Bendis takes a lot of time sketching out Peter's world, ranging from Gwen Stacey to Kitty Pryde to Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. For a writer who can be fairly verbose with his work, Bendis really reins himself in, giving necessary exposition at a very measured pace. But Bendis' true talent is making you root for every single character, whether its a surprisingly happy Peter Parker, his confidante Gwen Stacy, the mysterious hooded vigilante introduced in this issue, or even the return of the Kingpin himself.
However, the real draw of the book (no pun intended) has to be the artwork of David Lafuente and colorist Justin Ponsor. Lafuente builds on the solid storytelling of his predecessors, and injects his own creative talent to great effect: he has the cute factor with a lot of his designs, but he never sacrifices energy or expressiveness in any of it -- one nice-looking sequence deals with an unknown hooded vigilante, as he brutally takes down a gang assaulting a convenience store. But don't think that Lafuente is just an action man -- he has a lot of range, especially with a tender-looking scene of Peter Parker and his girlfriend. My only quibble is Peter's hair -- to me, I occasionally got pulled out of the story, thinking that I was reading about Impulse or something. Still, it's gorgeous stuff, even if, as Troy wrote earlier in the week, Spidey does have a basketball head.
That said, I don't think that Lafuente's work would sing nearly as strongly if he didn't have as strong a colorist as Justin Ponsor. Ponsor really brings his A-game to this issue, just treating the reader to a visual smorgasbord of brightness that never feels garish or out of place. It's Ponsor that embues this book with a rare kind of energy that makes you want to reread it again and again.
Marvel has really done its due diligence with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1, giving the familiar humor of Brian Michael Bendis a fantastic creative partner to work with in the form of David Lafuente. It's the same Ultimate Spidey you've known and loved, but seen through a fresh set of eyes -- this really is a rebirth for a title that one could have argued was getting caught in a rut despite its own successes. With a spectular art team, the Ultimatum firmly behind us, and questions surrounding just what has happened to our hero in the intervening months, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is one reboot you don't want to miss.
G-Man – Cape Crisis #1 of 5
Everything by Chris Giarrusso
From: Image Comics
Review by Brian Andersen
Now this is a fun, great comic. Sometimes with all the gloom and doom in our modern superhero comics - what with zombie-ish heroes and villains returning from the grave and “dark” hero this and “dark” hero that - it’s easy to forget that good, well-written comics can also be about nothing more than fun characters having a goofy adventure. Comic books don’t always have to have life and death struggles, high-drama, and cosmic level stories to be worth picking up. Sometimes a comic can just be funny and clever, cute and smart. It's these terrific books that prove that a comic, like G-Man, can be equally enjoyed by both kids and adults. G-Man is the rare well-created “kids comics” that is worth it for an adult to plop down $2.99 to pick it up.
G-Man – Cape Crisis, by the mighty talented Chris Giarrusso (who does positively everything on this book, including, I think, staple it) is a book that is deserving of the causal comic buyer’s time. Though at first glance G-Man may appear to be solely geared toward the kiddie reader that isn't actually the case. Don’t be fooled by it's kid-like exterior because any adult who grew up on Looney Tunes will find plenty to smirk about here. I have to give major kudos to Image Comics for printing such a unapologetic “kids comic” in today’s market (as well as to Marvel and DC for their always enjoyable respective kid lines). Image runs of the gamut when it comes to comic printing and I find it rare for a smaller company to support such an unabashed non-violent, slash and bash comic book. All the comic companies should remember that the future of comics lie with the younger generation and the only way to cultivate our young-um’s interest in comic books is to create comics that kids will fully and totally enjoy that aren’t dumbed down, one's that are witty and entertaining enough to capture a child's fancy long enough to pull them away from their video games, TV shows and whatever else these kids now-a-days are into.
So for the uninitiated G-Man is young boy, with a bossy older brother, who discovered a magic blanket in his house that he decides to cut up and turned into a cape. The magic blanket/cape gives G-Man super-strength, flight and near invulnerability, and the boy become a superhero, of sorts. His jerky older brother, Great Man, uses the left over scrapes of said magic blanket and also becomes a hero, thus making it easier for him to annoy his younger brother G-Man. G-Man has many fellow kid hero friends where they don’t so much as fight crime and take on villains as they get into absurdly hilarious adventures, and more often than not, riff off each other, banter on the silliness of life, and the inherit humor of being a superhero, a kid, a brother, you name it.
What makes this comic so enjoyable isn’t so much the storyline, as this issue loosely follows a bunch of snotty kids who also want superpowers from the extra blanket scrapes, as the sheer amount of wit found in each panel and each character interaction. G-Man oozes charm. His gang of friends often find themselves in snappy one-liner-battles with each other as they discuss how a hero can possibly be “semi-invulnerable," whether a hero can actually be "semi" anything, because either you're “invulnerable or your not.” Right? Such is the philosophical conundrum the kids debate. It’s these short, playful, but surprisingly smart and clever interactions that make this comic take on a Bugs Bunny/Looney Tune-ish vibe where the dialogue and the back and forth between the characters make the book sing. The battle of the wits between the kids is really the hook that sells the comic and lifts it far above being a bland, empty, boring read. Plus, there's six, yes six, back-up strips here in this book that really make G-Man a star!
I also have to give major props to creator, writer, artist, inker, letter, everything-er Giarrusso for sticking to his guns and crafting his comics his own way. Sure his art may not be on par with Ivan Reis or Frank Quietly, but you know what? It doesn’t have to be. I applaud Giarusso for drawing comics in his own unique, lively style. I don’t believe all artists have to draw the same way to deliver a story of value, I believe that it’s the various forms of art that a comic delivers that makes our favorite medium so exciting. Not all artists are cut from the same cloth and they shouldn’t be. For some the art may be too simple, the colors very bright, the story lacking gravitas and drama, and to those poor people I will say you are sorely missing out on a terrific comic book that both you and your child, niece, cousin, or kid on the corner can enjoy!
Hercules: The Knives of Kush #1 of 5
Written by: Steve Moore
Art by: Cris Bolson
Lettering by: Todd Klein
Colors by: Doug Sirois
Published by Radical Comics
Review By: Jeff Marsick
Radical follows up its successful and gorgeous series Hercules: The Thracian Wars with this new five-issue series, where Hercules and his posse are Egypt bound, looking for mercenary work. Attacked by Lycian pirates, the Greek entourage swim for the nearest shore and quickly find themselves in the middle of a bandit attack on a caravan of Egyptian royalty. Squashing (and with Hercules’s massive war club, that word is to be taken literally) the attack, our ragtag ensemble are hailed as heroes for saving Twosret, the wife of the pharaoh, Seti the Second, and are escorted to the city of Memphis (the one with the cult of Ptah, not the one with the cult of Elvis). Once there, Seti hires Hercules and Company as bodyguards for one of his wives, which turns out to be simply a cover story. The pharoah’s true intent is to use the foreigners as a weapon in his quelling of a rising civil war and as a fist in a beatdown on the sorcerer named Khadis and his cult, the Knives of Kush. With Khadis and his army slaughtering their way to the doors of Memphis, Hercules might want to check Orbitz for the first junk leaving for Hong Kong.
It’s a Radical book, so of course it’s going to look great. Cris Bolson’s artwork is prettier and cleaner than Admira Wijaya’s from Thracian Wars. Because of that, while the latter’s painted effort gave the book a more realistic weight, Knives of Kush feels more like a collection of pop art panels. Thracian Wars read like a movie, with stills seemingly cut and pasted onto the page, whereas Knives of Kush actually feels more like a comic book. The artwork is by no means poor, it just suffers a little in comparison to what came before. Comparing the covers by Steranko, Langley, and Suydam, I can’t help but imagine how much better the issue would have been had one of these men done the whole issue.
Looking good is important, too, since Steve Moore is surely no Stuart Moore. While I applaud the fact that he doesn’t waste space trying to catch the reader up with what came before and plops us right onto a boat with our heroes five panels before a pirate attack, dialogue is clearly Mr. Moore’s weak suit. Such as when Hercules squares off against Black Caunus of Balbura: “Well amuse me, Greek…before you die!” “I’ll do more than that, you pirate scum…I’ll smash you! And we’ll see who’s the one to die!” Later, Hercules waxes intelligent, the switch from barbarian to sophisticate so sudden and glaring that it reminded me of that Saturday Night Live “Superman’s Funeral” skit where Chris Farley as the Hulk starts off monosyllabic at the podium, only to become articulate after donning glasses. Hercules is all “smash, bash, and grab some cash” for eight pages until he somehow swallows a thesaurus: “We need work as legitimate mercenaries. Better to drive off the bandits and establish our credentials.” Mr. Moore needs to find a way to make his conversations read more fluid and natural, rather than forced, especially between characters who should be comfortable and familiar with each other.
The biggest problem with Hercules (aside from the fact that he wears that lion headdress far too often; in the first series it was menacing and awe-inspiring, in this one it’s so prevalent as to render it mundane) is that I don’t think Mr. Moore completely gets the character. Hercules, son of Zeus, is on the prowl for action and adventure. He is proud and arrogant, as any kid with his pedigree ought to be. When presented before the pharaoh, Seti, Hercules is the only one not to kneel upon command, saying that he “bows only to his own father”, which makes sense. Yet we are forced to believe that Hercules will allow himself to be cooped up within Seti’s palace, a prisoner for all intents and purposes, waiting to be called upon to provide protection for the pharaoh’s wife? I don’t buy it. Just as nobody puts baby in a corner, no mortal puts Hercules in a cage. One doesn’t make Hercules await your command, Hercules does the commanding and good luck keeping up.
You may have noticed the emphasis points I put in my quotes from the book. It’s intentional and taken just as it’s written in the book. The lettering was probably the most annoying problem with this issue. It seems like every other word is in bold in the book, and if you read the dialogue and emphasize accordingly, quicker than rubbing a portkey your rhythm is broken and you’re pulled out of the story. I don’t know if blame goes to the letterer or to the writer, but the editor needs to step in and say enough already.
Hercules: The Knives of Kush may get better from here. I hope so, since the opening issue is merely okay. At a $2.99 cover, it’s still cheaper entertainment than the usual monthly floppy, but I recommend holding off on it and waiting for the collected trade edition.
Amazing Spider-Man #602
Written by Fred Van Lente
Pencils by Barry Kitson
Inks by Rick Ketcham & Barry Kitson
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Henry Chamberlain
Not much really happened in the last issue, aside from an awesome cover and a beautifully drawn scene of a woman scorned so it's good to see there's a lot going on in Amazing Spider-Man #602. A lot, although there could always be more considering all the possibilities going back to "One More Day" and what has happened since the obliteration of the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson which places them back at square one as two people who may become a couple.
We start off with another iconic cover. Last issue gave us poster print worthy art by J. Scott Campbell. And this issue does the same with Adi Granov. These last two covers have been an exceptionally good way to bring in new readers and directly relate to Marvel's goal to focus more on Peter Parker. Obviously, whoever our boy spends his most intimate time with is the key to knowing the real Peter Parker. So, MJ is back or is still in the process of getting back as far as the story is concerned. At this point, you could say she is more "back" on the covers than inside the covers.
With the relatively new format of a thrice monthly Amazing Spider-Man, we get the good and bad pace of a television show: a more steady plot but a good chance of filler. Last issue was filler. This issue not so much in certain respects. You could even say this is a not to be missed episode in the new Spidey show especially if you're more interested in the superhero aspects.
Considering everything that needs to be done to bring about a good story arc these days, the emergence of The Chameleon is spot on. The set up for his entrance evokes all the anxiety that is post 9/11. Here is a villain who can penetrate our fractured lives with ease. He can literally take over someone else's life and that is what he has done to Peter Parker. He's been doing this sort of thing since his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963). This places his first appearance prior to the real world of trauma of the JFK assassination but the world was already on edge over the Cold War.
And to satisfy the new focus on Peter Parker, Mary Jane is, no doubt, caught right in the middle. Of all the various recent depictions of Mary Jane, the one inside the covers of this issue does a pretty good job at capturing her personality. Given her name, obviously, she's suppose to have an earthy, bordering on flighty, vibe and that comes across very well. You almost feel like warning her as she slip slides her way into the arms of The Chameleon.
The way The Chameleon is matched up with Peter Parker is handled well too. No grudges to hold back since this Chameleon does not already know Parker. All he knows is that a certain Peter Parker now works for Mayor J. Jonah Jameson as a staff photographer. For reasons most convenient to the plot, Parker's job links him to the New York City security system. A bit of a leap there but so it goes. All in all, a well oiled Spidey tale for the telling.
It's tempting to say here that Mary Jane and whoever else is in Peter Parker's inner circle will never really get their proper due. Maybe a certain level of character development is not going to quite happen but there's room to appreciate what can be done within certain limits. The Chameleon story appears to be as good as it gets for now and the relatively near future. This is Spider-Man, after all, so "as good as it gets" is saying quite a lot. But we're always ready to see more.The Big Kahn
Written by Neil Kleid
Illustrated by Nicolas Cinquegrani
Published by NBM
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
Neil Kleid's latest book, The Big Kahn, is built on one of the beautifully simple premises: Rabbi David Kahn passes away, leaving a wife, two sons - one studying to follow him into religious life - and a daughter - who has no use at all for religious life. After his death, the entire family, the entire synagogue, discover that Rabbi David Kahn wasn't quite who he claimed to be. David Kahn was born Donald Dobbs, a decidedly non-Jewish grifter who spent most of his life living one elaborate con after meeting the girl of his dreams and figuring it was the best way to keep her.
Kleid's done some good comics work in the past, but The Big Kahn is his new gold standard. Kleid uses each of the rabbi's four surviving family members to examine how his lie affects and influences their lives and their place in the community. While younger son Eli looks at the cons of his
father's youth, Avi - rabbi in training - wanders through his own soul-twisting turmoil and finds himself with his own secrets that may need to be hidden. Daughter Lea, the family's black sheep, sees the cost on her family and is drawn back to their sides, while the widow Kahn can only wallow in the continual presence of memories made with a man who never told her the truth.
In the end, it all adds up to something that resembles a great American novel, a saga of a family coming apart and coming together, getting beyond a lie that shatters their faith in truths. Each character's flaws are exposed, yet Kleid prevents the narrative from bogging down in depression or sadness. Rage, confusion and love are all mixed in, swirling around to create an impressively realized family dynamic.
Illustrator Nicolas Cinquegrani does an effective job for the most part. His character designs could, at times, be crisper, as member of the Kahn clan are sometimes slightly difficult to differentiate and the line work itself lies flatly on the page. The quiet approach is the right tact for a book like this, but the figures sometimes need to reflect more life than their stiff anatomy allows. Fortunately, Cinquegrani's visual storytelling is good. Sticking to clear grids, he clearly moves the narrative forward and does a good job with backgrounds and layouts.
Neil Kleid's The Big Kahn is going to make some Best Of 2009 lists, and it deserves to do so. This book is a moving testament to family and faith, set in a Jewish backdrop but not requiring any knowledge of that religion. Kleid handles the complications of family with a caring and
intelligent touch, giving closure without providing easy or pat answers. The Big Kahn is a good, good comic, and you should read it.
Grimm Fairy Tales #41 (Zenescope Entertainment; review by Jeff Marsick): Mercy Dante has returned! The hitwoman with issues who debuted in issue #29 is back to her assassinating ways, except that she’s about to answer to a higher power: Sela. But what does our raven-tressed guide have planned for number-one-with-a-gun Mercy? Redemption is the carrot that Sela dangles, but the events on page twenty-one and the final panel portent from the babe with the bookworm specs (“You’re not the only one who has plans.”) make you almost feel sorry for what Mercy’s about to endure. Almost. I would have like to have seen a little more consistency in the sound effects: a gun in one panel goes “BAM BAMM” while the same gun in the same location two pages later goes “BANG!” A double-barreled shotgun to a priest’s chest (Two barrels at close range and he can still stagger about and call for help for a whole page? Vestments are apparently stronger than Kevlar.) goes “BOOM!” and yet two pages later whimpers off a “BANG!” Good issue, but a little long on the set-up which results in a rushed finish. Still, “Dante’s Inferno” should be a major event for the GFT series, so this makes a great jumping on point.
The Unwritten #4 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Lan Pitts): In this issue, Tom Taylor finally gets access to his father's old study and tries to piece together more of his father's life, while Pullman (Tom's father's quasi-assistant) goes on a killing spree in the house. This issue felt more of a horror movie than the previous ones, and is quite gory. Even the intro had me going "What the hell just happened?", though it was just a clever ruse by Mike Carey, but it went along with the rest of the story because it plays out like a torture porn/slasher flick. It's evident that Carey understands good horror and the issue pretty much stays the course as the previous three installments. Adding to Peter Gross' slick panel construction and riveting story-telling, this is a book that is not to be missed. I can only wish for a Tommy Taylor one-shot down the line that is actually based on the books Tom's dad wrote. The last page is simply wonderful and keeps me believing in magic.
Red Robin #3 (DC Comics, Review by Mike Mullins):Yost picks and fills in an important gap that was missing from the first two issues - he shows Tim finding a clue. Tim is primarily a detective and Red Robin’s focus on his martial abilities led to a comic that didn’t reflect the personality or skills of its lead character. This issue fixes that and reminds readers that Tim is following a trail of evidence, even though Yost provides nearly nothing to hint as to the nature of the chain of clues that Red Robin is following. On the art side, the art reverts to the form of issue #1. The inking is too heavy and does not enhance Bachs’ pencils resulting in odd facial expressions and overly shadowy board rooms. This title seems to be finding its voice from a story perspective which should help it keep its legs during this Batman Reborn period.
Fables #87 (Vertigo, Review by Mike Mullins):Buckingham is back. The exquisite side panels framing each page are back. Simply put, the art is top notch both in terms of storytelling and visual appeal. This issue kicks off a five part storyline that seems to be focused around the residents of Fabletown’s former 13th Floor, a flying monkey librarian, and the unleashed Baba Yaga. Internal strife appears to be brewing between Faru Totenkinder and Princess Ozma while Bufkin is trapped in offices of Fabletown’s government, which are sequestered in an unknown location and sealed tight, with a rather angry Baba Yaga. Willingham will delight his fans as jumps between locations and characters, quickly catching up the readers with the return of Bigby and Snow to Wolf Valley. This issue serves as a decent jumping on point for new readers, but I would recommend anyone thinking about venturing into Fables start with issue #86 to understand the new big-bad (Dark Man) troubling the Fables.
Booster Gold #23 (DC Comics, Review by Mike Mullins): In the penultimate issue of the Day of Death storyline, Booster Gold must try to undo the damage done to the timeline by the Black Beetle. At this point, the art comes in exactly as expected with Dan Jurgens’ unaltered style that provides a solid storytelling approach and a neutral visual appeal that rarely excites or incites fans. While providing recognizable voices for Booster, Zatanna, and Raven, Jurgens also manages to give a nod to inherent heroism of Kyle Rayner that is easy to forget given the method by which he acquired his Green Lantern ring.
In the co-feature, the story about the rampaging robots wraps up with the examination of whether an android would truly desire to possess feelings. It’s a nice contrast to the more common representation of a robot seeking feelings as in Millennium Man or Data in Start Trek: The Next Generation. The focus on feelings provides the window of opportunity for Sturges to delve into the friction in Paco and Brenda’s relationship. This glimpse into Brenda’s heart and Paco’s response is important character building for the new readers targeted by the co-feature approach. Most importantly, for this issue, is the link between Blue Beetle and the title feature, Booster Gold in the last two panels.
The Walking Dead #64 (Image; review by Troy): Robert Kirkman and company just keep mining new twists within the well-trod (well-shuffled?) ground of the zombie apocalypse. Granted, there have been “human vs. human” stories told is this framework before, notably in Kirkman’s favorite zombie film, Romero’s Day of the Dead. However, the wrinkles in this “Hunters” plot remind me more of elements of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road than your run-of-the-mill horror chase. As usual, the best part of Walking Dead is that it makes you question your own limits. We watch this cast with empathy, feeling their tragedies, triumphs, and occasionally marveling that, yeah, we could just as easily take measures as extreme as those of Rick and crew, depending.
Batman #689 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) Judd Winick seems to be just the right guy to tell the tale of Dick Grayson filling the role of Batman. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, the writer has an uncanny penchant for sentiment, near to impossible to get out of Bruce Wayne on his best day. Though in regards to the former Dark Knight, it would seem that Bruce was an imaginative, even artistic, young lad before he saw his innocence shattered with the murder of his parents all those years ago. This was a touching aspect of Bruce that Winick has relayed to the reader by way of Alfred Pennyworth to his new younger charge. Funny enough, it seems that Winick has been paired with just the right artistic talent to capture the spirit of the man now wearing the cowl. Mark Bagley, especially in his years on Ultimate Spider-Man, was terrific at rendering the youthful exuberance of superheroics, something not found in your garden variety Batman book. Having Bagley (well paired with inker Rob Hunter) on this assignment seems deathly appropriate, and it suits the story. It's still taking a little getting used to, a Batman that likes to give the crowd a show and smile while he works. I just hope his ass doesn't get burned, what with Two-Face getting wise to the idea of a status quo change in Gotham City. If I had one complaint about Batman #689, it's that the last page came up short in the wow factor. Sorry, but not that much jawdropping about Clayface and a big bad musclehead double-fisting firearms. Might want to consult one Mr. Geoff Johns on producing a "To Be Continued" page that has people talking. Otherwise, this was an enjoyable read and an increasingly interesting direction for the lead character.
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