Best Shots: DARK AVENGERS/X-MEN, ADVENTURE COMICS, tons more

Best Shots: AVENGERS/X-MEN, ADVENTURE

Best Shots 9-14-09

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BSEs?  Right here . . .

The Shield #1

Models Inc. #1

Incredible Hercules #134

The Rest?  Read on . . .

Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Mike Deodato, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson

Coloring by Justin Ponsor and Christina Strain

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

"The secrets will kill us."

Matt Fraction starts off the conclusion to his Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men crossover with these words, as the Beast warns the two leaders of the mutant movement -- Scott Summers and Emma Frost -- off the tensions in their midst.

It's a deep introduction, that holds a lot of promise... that unfortunately, aren't answered in this book, but in the upcoming Dark X-Men: The Confession. It's not to say that the conclusion to Utopia isn't hard-hitting, however, as Matt Fraction does his level best to replicate the sort of manic team-based action of Grant Morrison's JLA.

This issue, in a lot of ways, is everything I wanted to see with this crossover -- now that Fraction has built up the Dark X-Men, we finally get to see them cut loose against the X-Men. But Cyclops isn't without a plan -- some particularly nice match-ups include Bullseye versus Archangel, and the way that Emma Frost takes out one of Norman Osborn's big guns is particularly smooth. Of course, the highlight of the book is the way that Dani Moonstar finally gets her day in the sun -- out of all the X-Men, I'm most curious to see where she and Emma Frost end up.

Artwise, the wildly divergent styles of Mike Deodato and the Dodsons surprisingly don't take you out of the story. Bullseye especially pops off the page, as he rapidly drills arrows into the inexperienced New X-Men recruits. The only problem with Deodato, though, is the fact that there's so much action going on, a lot of the details -- and opportunities for iconic imagery -- are lost. The Dodsons, however, are pulling their best work in this arc, even in the relatively few pages they are allotted -- to be honest, I'm kind of sad they didn't do more.

But it's that introduction that most sticks with me, and it's absence of a conclusion really detracts from my enjoyment of this story as a whole. I don't mind seeing brilliant plans go off, but I would have loved to see the emotional victory -- that decision that forced Emma and Scott to be upfront and unite their efforts -- interspersed throughout the issue. Of course, I can empathize with Fraction's problem of page space, however -- even with this book being giant-sized, a lot of scenes feel extremely compressed, ending more out of necessity than through natural causes. But it's that lack of Fraction's fantastic characterization -- that human weight behind the conflict -- that takes some of the weight out of this finale, giving the miniseries a good ending that you're sad to know could have been so much more.

Adventure Comics #2

Written by Geoff Johns and Michael Shoemaker

Art by Francis Manapul and Clayton Henry

Coloring by Brian Buccellato and Brian Reber

Lettering by Steve Wands and Sal Cipriano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

It may be called Adventure Comics, but this issue is really all about romance.

And you know something? I really liked it.

Sure, there's some sci-fi influenced violence with Brainiac and Lex Luthor, but the real meat of this issue has to do with Superboy, having his long-awaited reunion with Wonder Girl. Considering all the ups and downs Wonder Girl has gone through the past few years, it's a low-key conversation -- but one that still satisfies, due to the innate grasp of character Geoff Johns possesses.

Even two issues in, the structure of this series utilizes the doubts of young adulthood, with the desire for heroism and self-determination that's been crucial to Superboy's story. What would Superman do? What would Lex Luthor do? It's a list Superboy has been compiling, and Johns uses it at the absolute perfect moments, whether it's about Lex's hair thinning, or Superman always telling the truth. But I think the most interesting part about all this is when Wonder Girl calls Superboy out on it: "I don't want to be your Lana Lang."

While I'm not going to give too much away, Johns also does his readers a service by touching upon all the hotspots you'd expect with both of these characters' tumultuous history, and wraps it up nicely for everyone involved -- especially with Krypto. If I had any complaint, I'd say that it almost wraps up too neatly -- the "Lana Lang" comment I thought was a particularly gutsy move on Johns' part, and I wish it could have had a little bit of a stronger impact on the story as a whole.

Artwise, artist Francis Manapul and colorist Brian Buccellato are hitting all the right notes on this book. It's a tribute to Manapul that he can make an issue of conversation seem so varied and compelling -- his expressions look great, as well, whether it's Superboy struggling to get something out, or Wonder Girl fighting back tears. Buccellato, meanwhile, does some great work adding some depth to Manapul's art -- his colors aren't eye-popping, but considering this is supposed to be a soulful night in Smallville, that's not a bad thing. The clarity is what matters, and in that Buccellato really shines.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the Legion of Superheroes second feature to the book. While I wasn't a fan of last month's debut, seeing the Legion in their natural habitat really was great this time around. Johns teams up with Michael Shoemaker and Clayton Henry to give Lightning Lad an interesting reunion: with his villainous brother, Lightning Lord. Henry really gives a sense of mood that I hadn't seen out of him before, as Johns and Shoemaker take the premise of Lightning Lad's people -- that everyone but Lightning Lord has a twin -- and turns on its ear, really giving this storyline a needed goal that was lacking last month.

With some fantastic art portraying some heartfelt characterization, Adventure Comics #2 shows that comics don't have to be about punching and smashing to bring in readers. The only thing that matters -- the ingredient that this book has in spades -- is having a hero or two to root for, no matter what. And while I'm sure Superboy will reunite with his villainous forebearer sooner or later, seeing these reunions with his fellow Teen Titans is a really rewarding experience for anyone who ever liked Johns' run on that series. Despite the title of this series, the low-key reunion may not be everyone's definition of "adventure" -- but it's certainly my definition of "excellent."

Blackest Night: Batman #2

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Art by Adrian Syaf & Vincente Cifuentes

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

"I should have realized things would go from bad to worse once a Green Lantern smashed into the damn light!" -- Commissioner Jim Gordon

The wide range of books currently featuring the Dynamic Duo (as we speak, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne) are really firing on all cylinders, and I find it amazing that the best of the bunch might be a spinoff of a company-wide crossover.  For real, Blackest Night: Batman is lighting it up, and I'm not even talking about the flamethrowers wielded by Dick and Damian in lieu of the conventional firearms that they won't use against the Black Lanterns in tribute to Bruce Wayne.  

Blackest Night: Batman #2 plays like any great zombie thriller with "of the Dead" in its title.  It's quite exciting to see how the not-so-superpowered heroes and supporting cast fare against the Black Lanterns who have invaded Gotham City.  One thing I wish editorial would've supplied throughout the book were some character tags like they've been using in the Legion of Super-Heroes stories to to let us know who everyone is.  Save for the Ventriloquist, the Bat-villains used aren't exactly household names, and I'd be lying if I told you that I recognized all of them.  But despite the lack of A-list villains, the threat is palpable, and writer Peter Tomasi and artist Adrian Syaf offer up a white-knuckle affair that's proven to be an outstanding supplement to the main series.  

Back in 1996, I was among the many who felt that Superman's "electric blue" look had no legs to it.  I thought it was funny then that the character was made awesome in a non-Superman title in Grant Morrison's JLA.  Not that Batman and Robin are going nowhere in their own titles -- HARDLY -- I was just reminded of that when I read this story and seeing how Dick and Damian get some fantastic character moments throughout Blackest Night: Batman #2.  A tit for tat shared between the two early on as they lock and load for zombie warfare is particularly entertaining.  Dick's attempts to razz Damian for a youth spent in assassins boot camp is met with an appropriate response that the original Robin spent his own formative years taking on the likes of Joker and Two-Face.  These two proteges are more alike than they ever imagined.  

The other prime storyline in this book is quite compelling, focusing on the DC Universe's best father/daughter union.  Picking up right after the Gotham City Police Department got an unexpected visit from Green Lantern Hal Jordan, things have only downgraded for the cops.  Completely outmatched by the likes of Blockbuster, Ventriloquist and the Trigger Twins, all in full Black Lantern mode, it only makes the situation more daunting when one of the characters fighting for their very survival is disabled from the waist down.  Go figure that Deadman's in the mix, I wasn't at all surprised how she managed to be so effective when her situation with Commissioner Gordon got especially dire.  Speaking of whom, getting to see the commish get to really unload on some zombified villains is a flippin' hoot.  When was the last time you got to say that Jim Gordon was a full on bad-ass?  The Dark Knight, maybe?  

And the art by Adrian Syaf is really proving to be a major factor in this series' effectiveness.  Definitely the guy who needs to be the go-to if Andy Kubert needs a breather on any of his assignments, Syaf brings tremendous, crackling energy to a story filled to the brim with murderous mayhem.  I'm almost bummed that there's only one more issue left, two issues of three already in the books, so to speak.  Timed well with the significant changes in the status quo in the Batman universe, Blackest Night: Batmanhas so far proven to be just a vital and relevant as any other title currently bearing a "Batman Reborn" banner.

Ultimate Avengers #2

Written by Mark Millar

Art by Carlos Pacheco, Danny Miki, Dexter Vines, Crime Lab Studios, Martinez & Olazaba, and Chism

Coloring by Justin Ponsor

Lettering by VC's Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Remember how I said last month that Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 felt less like a full story, and more of the opening sequence of a Bond film? Well, the second issue only reinforces the point -- but as I said last month, I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing.

Whereas the first issue was the first shot by the Red Skull, this issue goes into his origins, as well as the origins of the new team. If you look at is as you would a movie -- preferably with some classic rock, a la a Quentin Tarantino flick -- it may not be the most satisfying single issue, but it's continuing to build what I think will be a great story in total.

Mark Millar opens up with a very different look at his straight-laced, ultraconservative Captain America, as we see him have his one-night stand with his old flame, Gail, back in 1945. "You wanna help me with the buckles?" Cap asks, still in costume. "No," Gail says. "I want you to keep it on." It certainly has a seedy vibe to it all, but it's not a bad choice.

But where Millar and Pacheco really shine is the secret origin of the Red Skull. His motivations for evil are never really explained, but his training -- racing him on foot against a fleet of motorcycles was a nice touch -- proves just how formidable he is. Pacheco, as I said last month, has a nice flow of combat that's not too dissimilar from Bryan Hitch. Seeing him tear through literally hundreds of troops was great, again in that sort of Quentin Tarantino way, in allowing readers to not just see what Pacheco has drawn, but to fill in the gaps in your own imagination.

Still, other sequences don't quite work out as well -- namely the ones with Captain America in the present day. Part of it could be Pacheco too closely approximating Hitch's example, but I think the real problem is that it feels like Millar is retreading a lot of his previous work. These scenes just feel a little too similar to Civil War or Ultimates, and being placed so closely to the last issue it has the danger of coming off almost as self-parody. And artwise, considering the veritable army of inkers on this book, I would have liked to see more details in the settings -- as I said last month, that's what's detracting from the "realistic" blockbuster tone of this series.

All in all, this is a story that I don't necessarily think works as a single-issue format -- but that doesn't mean the story doesn't work. Millar has spent the last two issues building up a superior foe, and now we're going to see the all-new, all-ultimate Avengers in action. It's less a miniseries, and more of a full-length film that Millar is packing into a comic. It may make for a less-than-totally-satisfying 22 pages, but I think this series as a whole is one to watch.

The Marvels Project #2

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Steve Epting

Coloring by Dave Stewart

Lettering by VC's Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Have you ever felt that you were born just a decade or two later than you were supposed to?

Imagine that feeling, and shift it over to a comic. That's sort of how The Marvels Project feels. It's not a bad read by Ed Brubaker, and the art by Steve Epting is great, but considering the amount of times the history of the Marvel Universe has been examined in the past decade and a half, it takes a lot of the wind from these creators' sails.

It's a shame, because this series, more than any other I've read, is a worthy spiritual sequel to Kurt Busiek's Marvels. Brubaker certainly has the tone of the Marvel Universe down pat, as the world is, consciously or not, tensing up for the birth of the Golden Age, embodied by the as-yet-uncreated Captain America. Brubaker has an interesting look at Marvel's very first trinity -- Namor is, at this point, barely an urban legend, while the Human Torch is seen by the populace as more of a Boogeyman threat than a prospective hero.

This alone would have been some cool food for thought -- but it would have also seemed a bit too much like the aforementioned Marvels. So Brubaker certainly makes his best effort to mix things up. He puts his most original work into a great scene with Nick Fury and Abraham Erskine, which is well-paced and chock-full of WWII brutality, thanks to some stellar presentation by Steve Epting. It's almost reminscent of Mark Millar's Ultimates, but not in a bad way -- again, it's looking at the dirty secrets behind the birth of a heroic age.

Unfortunately, his other twist is probably the least interesting subplot in the series: his narrator, Dr. Thomas Halloway, aka the Angel. Right now his characterization and his struggles feel the thinnest to me -- even with adding a murder mystery to the mix -- and Brubaker's explanation of his codename was both jarring and unintentionally funny. Combine it with a less-than-compelling fight sequence with the Human Torch, and the last half of the book dragged.

Artwise, however, Steve Epting is -- mostly -- at the top of his game. The sequences with the Angel -- admittedly a character that isn't doing anything for me just yet -- look especially compelling, considering he's dealing with the oh-so-rare anomaly in a Marvel Comic: a caped crusader. And during the scenes with Erskine, the ominous-looking research for the Super Soldier had a desperate, claustrophobic feel that was only heightened by the eerie greens and maroons of colorist Dave Stewart. That said, I think the slowness of the Human Torch scene is mainly on Epting's head -- compositionally, I think the panels were a bit too cramped, at the expense of being iconic and compelling. On the other hand, however, one could argue that he is simply taking his cues from Alex Ross' undetailed sketches, or the smaller fireballs of the original comics.

All in all, I think Brubaker and Epting would have had a modern classic on their hands, if this book didn't come out after Marvels, Ultimates, Ultimate Origins, and even Brubaker's current run on Captain America. Heck, there's even shadows of Watchmen in here, with costumed crusading becoming a fad. It's not the most fair competition in the world, and their proximity to one another saps the story a bit. Great art and decent storytelling aside, why does The Marvels Project exist? How will it differentiate itself from its predecessors? If Brubaker and company can answer these questions, I think this issue will take on a whole new light. If not, it's still great art and an interesting look at the genesis of the modern Marvel Universe... even if this is a story that seems a little too familiar.

Thulsa Doom #1

Written by Luke Lieberman and Arvid Nelson

Art by Lui Antonio

Colors by Romulo Fajardo, jr.

Letters by Simon Bowland

Covers by Alex Ross

Based on the characters created by Robert E. Howard

Published by Dynamite

Review by Lan Pitts

Thulsa Doom is a pulp character from the Kull/Conan mythos and more often than not, perceived as the villain. He was even portrayed by James Earl Jones in the movie Conan the Barbarian, though his character was also amalgamated with a serpent God. Well now, Dynamite has a new series starring Doom as the protagonist. Lieberman and Nelson channel the old school stories of Howard's world of sword and sorcery well and fans of that world won't be disappointed with this title.  

Though that is sort of where the book backfires because it seems it was made for those fans alone. Thulsa doesn't have a backstory, though it is explained he does possess some magical powers as well as appearing to be chiseled out of stone. As much as I love books in this genre, I cannot emphasize enough that certain things like an index should be utilized. It opens the world up a bit more and makes things easier to understand. The plot is pretty straight forward with all the blood and scantily-clad women and magic that one would expect from this kind of character and background.

Antonio's art is pretty standard, easy to comprehend and isn't cluttered. The style is reminscent to John Buscema with the figure construction, but I'm not a fan of how it looks over-inked in some places. The coloring by Farjardo, jr doesn't take away from the pencils and inks and complements them. The coloring has a sort of pulp tone to it and fits the title accurately.

I've had fun with the Dynamite titles thus far and this was a pleasant surprise. I know little about the Thulsa Doom character (basically what I've mentioned in this review) and I had a good time with it. The market doesn't really have a lot of these titles out right now and I found it a nice change of scenery, but nothing ground-breaking.

Lillim #1-5

Written by Shaun Lapacek and Ian Keiser

Art by Matrix

Lettering by Rus Wooton

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

Gods and pantheons have been a time-honored trope in comics, ranging from JLA to the Trials of Shazam. The reason? Because archetypes can be smart shorthand for characterization, giving writers a leg-up to add their own interesting twist.

The problem: Lillim doesn't really do that. Despite having its main character be Loki -- yes, the trickster god of the Norse pantheon -- this series doesn't have its characters exhibit brains, just brawn. All the magic is gone, even with a mix of Norse, Greek, and Egyptian myth, and in its place is an over-the-top action/romance that feels more like a pale imitation of the Highlander franchise than an original story in its own right.

Looking at the storyline, I'll be honest in saying how surprised I was that not one, but two writers came up with this book. Ignoring my main quibble with the book -- that despite having a lot of instantly recognizable characters in this book, the protagonist could have been pretty much any god and not have a huge problem -- the mythology is so muddled that is loses any connectability with the readers. I can see the connection between Loki and Prometheus, but having your hero also be Gilgamesh and Samson? It didn't really click for me.

But the big problem with this series is that the romance -- and thus the reason for all this brawling -- feels contrived, making Bridget, the one woman in the story, an easy plot device (take that adjective however you'd like) rather than a fully-fledged character. The last page of the series says it all -- "Are you sure?" I don't think anyone was in plotting this book -- whether it's random punks showing up for a fight, or Odin trying to run his own militant country, all this just feels like thin connect-the-dots motivation to the next action scene. This formula makes the book progressively more and more frenetic, until you have a final issue where Loki barfs up a snake with no prior set-up, and then proceeds to blow a hole in someone's chest with a rocket launcher.

One of the problems I had with the book was the art, by Matrix. Everyone has a huge chest, whether it be male or female -- everyone's anatomy is just completely over-the-top, with head-sized six-packs, veins a-popping, and the occasional gratuitous butt-shot. If there was more design used in this series, it could be forgiven, but all the costumes are pretty cut-and-dry, with none of the designs exhibiting any sort of panache. But it's the manga-influenced expressions that were least exciting to me -- all parties in this book were responsible for giving the characters some personality, and unfortunately, half the characters look the same, with only differing styles of facial hair to tell them apart. In Matrix's defense, he is certainly trying his best to make the art pop with his colors -- and while some of it is just blinding, his backgrounds occasionally work, as the sunsets in the early issues look gorgeous.

Unfortunately, sunsets does not a good comic make. And I'll be honest in saying that I was so surprised that Image, the same company that hits home runs with Invincible, Chew, and Olympus -- that last book being a prime example of modernized mythology done right -- could have printed a book like Lillim. It has all of the confusion of the Highlander series, without the redeeming style. Chock full of swords and sex but lacking in basic characterization, this confusing mythological mish-mash is like a pile of icing with no cake underneath. But if you're a fanatic for violent comics or mythology, this is a book for you; for anyone else, though, buying Lillim may be tantamount to sequential art sacrilege.

Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic

Written by Mark Schultz, with Archie Goodwin, Larry Ivie, Al Williamson, Bruce Jones and Jim Keefe

Illustrated by Al Williamson

Published by Flesk

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

You take one of the great characters of romantic adventure fiction, arguably the greatest illustrator in the history of comics, and a company devoted to high-quality comic art books and frankly, it’s really a can’t-miss concept.  Al Williamson, from his early work for EC Comics through his astonishing runs on the Secret Agent Corrigan and Star Wars newspaper strips, and even into his later days as a regular inker at Marvel Comics, has always been blessed with the ability to find a palpable, living reality in any scene.  Add his talents to his adoration of the Flash Gordon character, as the Buster Crabbe serials and Alex Raymond strips went a long toward steering Williamson’s artistic ambitions toward the comics field, and you can be sure that Williamson brought his A-game to every opportunity he had to draw Flash’s adventures.

This book has three major Flash Gordon by Williamson oeuvres.  In the mid-1960s, Williamson “produced” and drew several issues of a Flash Gordon comic book series for King Comics.  In 1980, Williamson took on the job of illustrating the Flash Gordon film adaptation, and in the mid-90s, Marvel Comics obtained the rights to publish a miniseries starring the character, for the express purpose of having Williamson provide the artwork.

Each of the stories included (scripting for the King issues by Goodwin, Ivie and Williamson himself; Bruce Jones for the movie; and Mark Schultz handles the Marvel issues) is a blast.  These are Flash Gordon stories, so they’re not changing the world of adventure fiction.  They are, however, excellent examples of pulp adventure, with sharp plots and snappy dialogue, and superb artwork.  Even the movie script avoids sidesteps the worst of the camp that damned the film.

In addition to the comic book stories, the book is packed with preliminary and personal drawings of Flash that Williamson has done over his fifty-year career, as well as several strips done by the artist as an assist to the artists on the weekly and daily Flash newspaper serials. Mark Schultz, longtime Williamson family friend, provides several text essays, giving a brief biography and establishing where Williamson was personally and professionally during each of his visits to Mongo.

Flesk Publications adheres to their usual high production standards, giving readers a sturdy, over-size book that showcases the storytelling and illustrations within wonderfully.  Williamson’s artwork, highlighted by excellent use of blacks, bold illustrations, and superb ability to create the illusion of movement, has rarely looked better than in this impressive and caringly assembled compilation.  Complemented by Schultz’s insightful text, each of these comic stories and illustrations is an artistic showcase and, frankly, a hell of a good time.  Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic is one of the best comics of the year, and a must-have for any fan of Williamson’s illustrative prowess.

Talking Lines: The Graphic Stories of R. O. Blechman

Written & Illustrated by R.O. Blechman

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

Drawn & Quarterly’s new collection of cartoons by R.O. Blechman spans nearly the entire length of his career, with cartoons dating back to 1957 and others as recent as 2007.  They’ve appeared anywhere from The New York Times Book Review to independent magazines, and many were previously never published at all.  All told, this range of material makes Talking Lines a fine introduction to the career and work of Mr. Blechman.  So the question becomes, is his career worth looking into via this book or others?

The answer: Oh, yes, absolutely.  A lot of traditional comics fans may not enjoy Blechman’s art – it’s the very definition of rough, full of scratchy small lines that sort of suggest people and places rather than representing them fully.  But it’s that suggestion that makes the strips work, capturing people at their most exposed moments.  Each sequence captures the idea of people, the sum of us all, committing casual sins of oversight and taking-for-grantedness, and you really have to pay attention to understand what’s being conveyed.

Blechman’s work is somewhat reminiscent of Jules Feiffer’s Village Voice comics; they look rough and sloppy on the surface, but they’re ruthlessly sharp and scathing observations on the behavior of the world around the author.  These strips meander perhaps just a bit more than a Feiffer strip, but Blechman’s wit certainly exposes many fallacies of human life, both modern and ancient.

Collectibles (“Tolstoy’s Pen”), Goethe’s marriage proposal to a 17-year-old (“Changes”), nods to the writing of Virginia Woolf, and the ethics of earning a living (“Saturday Night Special”) and selling out (“Our Daily Bread”) are just a few of the topics Blechman tackles in Talking Lines.

Many current political and strip cartoonists owe a debt of gratitude and creative credit to R. O. Blechman’s work, and it’s excellent to see Drawn & Quarterly continue to bring us great comics from so many eras and cultures.  Blechman’s comics certainly belong alongside the works of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Seth and Guy Delisle, for being both provocative and engaging.  Smartly written, darkly humorous, and suggestively (that being the suggestion of a scene, rather than the typical titillation usually intended by the adjective) drawn, Talking Lines: The Graphic Stories of R.O. Blechman is a fine tribute and introduction to the cartooning of an important voice in the development of the field.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Superman: World of New Krypton #7 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) It speaks volumes when this lifelong fan of Superman II sees the Man of Steel comfortably inhabiting the role of General (in place of Zod) of the Kryptonian army, and not only was I not inclined to chuck the book in the trash, but actually embrace the series as a whole as the best of the bunch.  Despite one instance where I found Kal-El to be uncharacteristically harsh on someone who's been in his corner the better part of "New Krypton," the way he's handling the internal strife on his latest adopted homeworld has been inspired.  The pacing that James Robinson and Greg Rucka have employed has made this the most reliably entertaining book in what is now the "World AGAINST Superman."  Pete Woods art is as crisp and vibrant as ever, and I keep waiting for a fill-in to show up for a guy who does all of his own penciling and inking, and it has yet to happen.  Speaking of which, why has this book -- and Supergirl, for the most part -- been consistent with their art teams while Action Comics has had what seems like a different artist every issue?  For that reason alone, it doesn't sound like a coincidence to me that Superman: World of New Krypton is at the top of the heap.  Month in, month out, it's a pulse-pounding winner.

War Of Kings: Who Will Rule? One Shot (Marvel; Reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): The War of Kings is over. But to call what the Inhumans achieved a "victory" is inappropriate at best. Lilandra, Deposed empress of the Shi'Ar Empire has been assassinated. Black Bolt sacrificed himself to kill the usurping Gabriel Summers, AKA Vulcan, who had declared himself Emperor of the Shi'Ar. Gladiator, of the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard, stepped up and reluctantly allowed named himself Majestor of the Shi'ar until a new emperor can be found. However, not all is good in the universe, what with Black Bolt's sacrificial act also tearing a hole in time and space. 

Whoops... 

Civil unrest abounds on the Throne World, and many factions, including an amusingly addled Maximus, wish to take control of the Empire. Surprisingly not a filler issue, Who Will Rule? is an important chapter between War Of Kings and the upcoming Realm Of Kings. One thing continues to confuse me tho - How does Crystal keep the black circle in her hair in the same part of her head? Unless part of her power is that her hair does not grow, there's no reason for the mark to have stayed in the same place for so many years.

The Unwritten #5 (Review by Lan Pitts): This issue strays away from the ongoing arc and concentrates on some back story. It switches gears, featuring legendary author Rudyard Kipling and some of his notable works, yet the title still delivers what we have come to expect from The Unwritten thus far. Carey does an astounding job retconning history and weaves an intriguing story that answers very little about the questions hanging from issues one through four, but damn it is entertaining. More than half-way through it, I wouldn't have minded if the series now spotlights Kipling and the shadowy organization pursuing him. Spin-off idea, Mr. Carey? Carey's take on Kipling is a tragic one: a man in search of himself as a writer, but life spirals him down an unfortunate path. Cameos by Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde are enjoyable, and even if they are slightly inaccurate-- my theater major side enjoyed every page of this issue. In addition to Mike Carey's engrossing storytelling, Peter Gross' art style and page construction is simply wonderful and crisp. 

Once again, The Unwritten is keeping me baffled and this issue does a great job keeping me guessing and wanting more. While it departs from the arc, this has been my favorite issue so far. There's so much to take in, you might have to read it twice.

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