Greetings, Rama Readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, kicking off the week with some reviews from the Best Shots team! We've got books from Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and more, and we're not stopping yet — if you're interested in more reviews, check us out at the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, I take a look at the champion of last month, wondering how X-Men #2 stacks up...X-Men #2
Written by Victor Gischler
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Reading a book like this, X-Men is a comic that doesn't just deserve commentary — it demands it.
I'll be the first to admit — when I first heard about the X-Men versus vampires concept, it didn't immediately fire me up. And to say that the first issue of this run got some reserved reaction on the blogosphere is putting it mildly. But talking with industry insiders at the San Diego Comic-Con, I was stunned at just how confident those people seemed about this book.
And looking at last month's sales figures, it looks like Marvel backed the right horse — regardless of what people thought of the high concept, the book didn't just succeed, it was the top selling comic of July. With that in mind, the question remains: Is X-Men a critic-proof book?In a lot of ways, I think the appeal for this book stems from the broad high concept: It's not Asterios Polyp, and it certainly doesn't want to be — it's X-Men versus vampires, dammit! Writer Victor Gischler gets that point, and ultimately writes for the crowd who just wants to see their X-Men smashing and their undead monstruous — and while I wouldn't say lines like Jubilee saying she feels "pure desire coursing through my veins" are going to thrill you, Gischler also eliminates a lot of the extraneous continuity going on here. You know the X-Men enough to know what a Fastball Special is? Know Blade kills vampires? Know vampires want to take over the world? Then that's all you need to get on the ground floor for some vampire-slaying action. How about the art? While I think the color scheme from Marte Gracia is a little too dark and a little too washed out — there's tone, and then there's clouding up the art — I have to say that Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco have that inky, muscular superhero tone for the book. It's far from revolutionary, but at the same time, are you going to rock the boat for the book that Marvel hopes will bring in casual readers? When Medina goes for the pin-up shots, like Storm floating in the air with lightning in her eyes or Blade scowling at the vampires' sun-bending technology, it looks great. But the action sequences make you feel like Medina could have even gone farther — he packs together a lot of five, six, and seven-panel pages well — but there's no risk in the composition, which means that the punches that are the main draw of this book don't light up the page like they could.
Now, the question remains over whether or not this new status quo will continue to sell well — perhaps bringing in vampire fans from Gischler's work, perhaps bringing in people who just wanted to see some X-Men fight some stuff without the continuity scorecard, or maybe just people looking to see what all the marketing hubbub is about — or if fans will put a stake through this series' heart. The question here is an interesting one, particularly for a team that's been as much of a metaphor as the X-Men: Does the message matter? For me, it does, and without that logic of bringing together these two ideas together, the empty calories don't really hook me, even as the story inevitably telegraphs its return to the original status quo. It's not that I have an issue with the idea — I know a hot trend when I see one, and sparkles or not, there's gold in them thar vampires — but what gets me is that it feels like this story could have gone farther with both sides. But maybe that's the price for accessibility — maybe the greater fanbase wants their books to be more broad and less deep. It's just too bad that with the creators involved, X-Men #2 couldn't have a little bit more bite.Superman #702
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer and Rod Reis
Lettering by John J. Hill
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
First impressions mean everything in this business — and I'll be the first to admit, my first take on J. Michael Straczynski's run on Superman wasn't my cup of tea. But my first impression on Straczynski as a writer — when he took on Amazing Spider-Man — was even more important to me as a comics reader, and so I wanted to keep looking at the book everyone's been talking about.
The verdict: It's not my favorite read, but it is much better than the last issue. And I think a lot of that comes from, you guessed it, first impressions. J. Michael Straczynski gives Eddy Barrows a chance to strut his stuff by putting Superman in a milieu I don't think I've ever seen him in before. I'm not talking about Detroit — I'm talking about in a pick-up game of basketball. In certain ways, Straczynski's choice is almost reminiscent of those old issues of Uncanny X-Men where Chris Claremont had the team playing baseball — it's down-to-earth even with the powers, but it humanizes the characters and gives us a new angle to see them at. And Barrows — aided by colorist Rod Reis — really pours on the speed and enthusiasm, making what could have been a one-note joke into a surprisingly compelling little scene.
That said, just like there's a moment in this book that's surprisingly strong, there's another one that's a bit of an eyebrow raiser. I get what Straczynski is trying to do: he's trying to have Superman tell socially conscious stories, to go back to his roots as the champion of the common worker — the very person who is clawing at unemployment and financial catastrophe in not just Detroit, but St. Louis, Toledo, Chicago, and a host of other fallen urban giants. But the execution feels a little weird. Would you expect Superman to ask a group of aliens, "what are you giving back to your community?" It's a surprisingly conservative tack considering Superman himself is the ultimate illegal alien — and I think the reason is, we all see Superman as the ultimate authority figure. He shouldn't. The key to the guy's success is that he leads by example, not by demand.
But let's get back to Superman's walk. When Superman is stretching his Kryptonian muscles, Eddy Barrows brings the power, as he's really improved his layouts, giving Superman some real space to do what he does best (smashing giant robots, if you must know) — but what I thought was a little bit off-putting was how Barrows and Straczynski look at everybody else. There's plenty of anguish out there to plumb — plenty of hope for Superman to instill. Drawing an old security guard as pockmarked, gap-toothed vagrant doesn't feel like the best way to illustrate that story, though — in a lot of ways, I'm surprised that a writer like Straczynski, who really cracked the urban landscape with Midnight Nation and Supreme Power, can't quite give Detroit the life and character — and characters — that we've come to expect from him.
Still, with the cliffhanger page fresh in our minds, there looks like there will be some much needed friction that might give Superman some needed spark. I can't help but keep thinking of Superman hitting the basketball court — it's the personal touch that this book needs, not the Man of Tomorrow fixing America city by city. When you put down the comic, this book won't have fixed your problems — but what it should do is remind us why Superman is a symbol of hope, of resilience, of the heroism of everyday life that we have carried around with us for more than 70 years. I know that this is a storyline that Straczynski can nail — Superman isn't just the savior of America, he's the American Dream himself. This book is definitely getting better by the month, and I'm hoping it'll get even more compelling in the days to come. But until the road he walks look a little bit more like the ones outside our windows and down our streets, Superman will be overlooking his greatest strength: resonance.Morning Glories #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma, Alex Solazzo
Letters by Johnny Lowe
Published by Image Comics
Review by Amanda McDonald
There's been a fair amount of buzz circulating about this book's release, and even if there had not been, the cover by Rodin Esquejo would have drawn my attention. Depicting six characters, it's clear from the image that they are six very different characters. I love a good ensemble cast as well as school settings, as they provide the opportunity for a lot of character interactivity and teen angst.
Morning Glories provides just that. This extra large debut issue introduces us to the school itself as well as the six students on their way there. The school is an ominous place right from the start, with some deadly shenanigans afoot. Each character receives a few pages of introduction within their home setting, before we see them all meet up at the school. As soon as they do meet, we find there are indeed strange circumstances as we learn all students have the same birth date. The story progresses to a point that made me extremely uncomfortable, yet looking forward to finding out where this goes next.
I chose to save this book for the last read of the evening, settling into bed with it. Not the best idea. While on a flip through, this book appears to be light — there are select panels that burned into my mind and I couldn't stop thinking of as I closed my eyes and attempted to sleep. Who's to credit for this? The book is one of those where I can't decide which I like better, the art or the story telling. Nick Spencer gives each of our six teens a distinct voice, whereas Joe Eisma gives them each a distinct look. I think this is a case where one is not better than the other, they expertly mesh into a fairly flawless book. It is clear that the story is well thought out, and the collaboration with the visual side of things is strong. This is definitely a book to check out.Invincible Iron Man #29
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Patrick Hume
One of my favorite things about Matt Fraction's run on Invincible Iron Man to this point has been the new direction he's taken with Tony's relationship with Pepper. It's always been a minor oddity of the Iron Man mythos that, despite being the obvious choice for a recurring love interest among the main supporting cost, Pepper spent most of the last 40-odd years of real-world time involved with Happy Hogan, Tony's chauffeur and assistant. Following Happy's death during Civil War, Fraction has been free to explore Pepper and Tony's feelings for each other. While they have not embarked on a romantic relationship (yet), Fraction has done an excellent job with showing the depth of feeling between the characters, depicting them as those two old friends who have always been right for each other and whose long history shows through in every exchange and shared look.
It's comparatively rare to see such a well-developed, believable relationship in a mainstream superhero book, and it takes center stage in this issue, as Tony finishes reimplanting the repulsor technology in Pepper's body. Outside of their interactions, the issue remains fairly late on plot developments, basically just showing some more pieces moving into place in advance of the inevitable confrontation between Tony and the Hammers. Mother-daughter villains teams don't get a lot of play in any medium, so I'm enjoying that aspect of Justine and Sasha, but as characters they fall a bit flat. They don't just have any nuance or interest as written here, basically seeming like they just got dropped in because Tony needed some foils for this arc. I did like Tony's manipulation of them near issue's end, which coupled with an unforeseen consequence of Pepper's procedure should make for some intriguing new wrinkles in their relationship. My enjoyment of that, however, was almost negated by Justine's plan for recruiting pilots for her combat drones, which I'm virtually certain I've seen done better elsewhere.
I consistently admire Larroca's art on Iron Man, which has a certain warmth to it that I wouldn't have thought would work on a book with so many sci-fi elements, yet totally does. Larroca keeps the story moving and fluid, and even though we don't once get a glimpse of the titular character (in costume, anyway), he manages to make Tony trying to tie a tie just as interesting as any fight scene. Also, is it just me or does Larroca's Rhodey bear a strong resemblance to Terrence Howard, particularly at the bottom of Page 1? Someone may want to let him know that there's been a casting change.
Matt Fraction has made Invincible Iron Man one of the best superhero books on the stands, largely by taking the focus off the "super" and moving it to the "hero" — giving Tony Stark some added depth and really taking us inside his professional and personal lives. I love watching Tony suit up as much as the next guy, but I also appreciate an issue like this, where we see him on some different kinds of battlefields — working on vital projects under deadline, manipulating his rivals, and demonstrating his generosity and affection towards his friend. Tony might have started modifying his body more extensively, but Fraction has made him more human than ever.B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth - New World #1
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis and Dave Stewart
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Patrick Hume
As explained at the top of the letters column, B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth is the new title of the series previously known as B.P.R.D., which implies that Abe Sapien and friends are in for a less than happy time. As is often the case with the slow pace of books in the Hellboy-verse, however, we only see the first hints of that here. Mignola and Arcudi do a great job, as usual, of sowing the seeds for what's to come, taking their time to bring the reader along as they layer in the various narrative threads.
I've really enjoyed the evolution of Abe Sapien over the years from a supporting character in the original Hellboy books to a lead in his own right. Here, we see the burdens Abe has to deal with as both the outside world and other B.P.R.D. personnel have gotten suspicious of his amphibian nature following the plague of frog-creatures. His response, or lack thereof, is simply to continue doing his job the best way he knows how. Of course, his disregard for the niceties of procedure may only exacerbate the doubts he's currently facing.
This issue also gives us a good look at what the B.P.R.D. is like on a day-to-day basis, without a big crisis bringing all hands on deck — investigating, dealing with public perceptions, and intra-office politicking just like any other government agency. The action quotient may be low, but the set-up of the dynamics back at headquarters, particularly between Kate and Devon, will no doubt prove important later on.
As ever, atmosphere is a big element in this latest installment of B.P.R.D., and Guy Davis' art is a big part of that. A little cartoony but still grounded in a very mundane reality, it has just enough of an otherworldly edge to it to make it unsettling. Whether the setting is in a small-town laundromat or out in the middle of the woods, Davis leaves the reader just off-balance enough not to know what's coming or how it's going to get there, but in the best way possible.
B.P.R.D. has become a classic series in its own right, something you can't say for too many spinoffs, and Hell On Earth promises to deliver more of the bizarre supernatural action that has become a hallmark of Mignola's work. While I might have asked for a little more plot advancement, I know that ultimately the set-up we get here will pay off in the arc as a whole, and that Mignola and his team will not disappoint.The Thanos Imperative #3
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda and Jay David Ramos
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
It's big, it's loud, it's dense — but the moments of cool that light up The Thanos Imperative are definitely satisfying for longtime readers of the Marvel Cosmic line ... even if the Cthonic overtones to the mix might be a bit alienating for new recruits.
In a lot of ways, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning split up their book in three sections: one basically being a mini-issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, another being a tease of what could be an issue of Nova, and the last being a giant exposition bomb explaining the insidious origins of the Cancervese. Surprisingly, DnA actually plays against type in this book: the exposition is actually some of the more interesting parts of the book, as it gives some fresh meaning to one of the first big deaths in the Marvel Universe. I won't give too much away, but the injection of the Cthulhu mythos actually makes a whole lot of sense here, and if DnA can flesh it out with some more personality, it might turn this parallel universe into a Marvel Zombies-level threat.
Where the book stumbles, surprisingly, is with the Guardians of the Galaxy — not because they're not interesting characters, but you get the sense that DnA are struggling to figure out what to do with them. They feel a bit arbitrary to the story — they're not really doing too much besides babysitting the titular Thanos, and so the tension they bring to the table feels a little bit forced. Nova and his Cosmic Avengers fare much better — even though the lineup has been marketed heavily, there's still this sense of power that the team brings, this seething potential for more stories that just makes you want to read on. "You've come a long way, Richard Rider," Quasar tells him. "Yeah... all the way from Long Island."
Now about about the art? Miguel Sepulveda works his magic the best when he can think of movement, of iconic beats — so when the gloves come off, the pages look great, with some particularly interesting composition coming from the Silver Surfer as he weaves between sci-fi horrors. Where the book drags visually, though, is through the aforementioned exposition bomb — you get the sense that he's trying to work with different crowd compositions, but the faces feel a bit too weirdly shadowed, like a too-dark Jim Calafiore, and it throws you off. One place I'm particularly interested in seeing, however, is how Sepulveda looks at the Cancerverse — there's all sorts of drones we see glimpses of in the book, but I'd be curious to see a more, ahem, fully-fleshed look to take a peek at.
Ultimately, this book is playing to two niche markets — the Marvel Cosmic crowd, and the followers of Cthulu myth. If you don't have at least a passing knowledge of both, this issue may soar over your collective heads. But if you're the choir that Abnett and Lanning are preaching to, there's some surprisingly strong mythology being built at the outskirts of the Marvel Universe. It may need a little bit more rigidity as a structure, but the execution is magnetic. Not for beginners, but The Thanos Imperative #3 is definitely a fun read.The Unwritten #16
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross, Chris Chuckry
Letters by Todd Klein
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Amanda McDonald
My gut reaction was to say this issue was an end that readers have been waiting for. But in typical fashion, as one door closes in this story, several more open. This is suspenseful pacing at its best. Yuko Shimizu's cover artfully does not give anything away on first look, however after reading the issue, the reader realizes it is indeed a bit of a wink at the content of the book.
When we last left the story, Tom/Tommy and his father have reunited on the eve of the release of the latest Tom Taylor novel. Interestingly, the novel itself is a major player in this issue with a twist I didn't see coming. Knowing this book is full of twists and turns, you would think you'd begin to be able to anticipate what is coming next. The case is simply not so. We do get a bit of an update on Lizzie's plot line as well but this really is an issue dedicated to the insane relationship between father and son.
For longtime fans of the series, this issue is definitely one that satisfies. It also brings a bit of a new chapter to the plate, and I have a feeling issue #17 will be a good jumping-on point for those who have been interested, but haven't picked it up yet.Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years Vol. 6
Art by Jesse Marsh
Written by Gaylord DuBois
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Matt Seneca
At this point our Golden Age of Reprints has more or less exhausted its original function of reintroducing acknowledged masterpieces to today’s audiences. That isn’t to say the quality of the treasures being dug up from the bins and the paper shows is flagging, merely that after a good decade of gorgeously reconstructed hits from yesteryear, we’ve moved into Phase 2: equally important, and with greater potential to take readers by surprise. After all, no one who buys a Krazy Kat book expects it to be anything but stellar, but now that the Krazy Kats of the comics world are pretty much all nicely packaged and sitting on the comic shop shelves next to each other for the first time in decades, reprinting has become less of a public service and more of a tastemaker’s art. We’ve entered the realm of subjectivity, where all the obvious classics have been restored and the material now undergoing resurrection is more subjective, more esoteric, grittier with newsprint dust and its lack of place in any pantheons. Which is how we get six gorgeous volumes of Jesse Marsh Tarzan stories from Dark Horse in a year and a half.
Tarzan comics have a fairly high-class artistic lineage — inaugurated by Sir Hal Foster, inherited by Professor Burne Hogarth, arena for everyone from Joe Kubert to Russ Manning. Jesse Marsh, until recent years, was the forgotten man of the fraternity, soldiering in the trenches for a decade and a half of Dell pamphlets that lacked Foster’s once-in-a-medium lushness or Hogarth’s straining fury or Kubert’s off-the-cuff classicism. But in the light of history rediscovered, it’s precisely those subtractions that give the comics in this book their appeal. Marsh’s figures, outlined in thick, unerringly accurate inks and filled in with loose, spontaneous pen marks, are deliciously graceful and always pared down to the essentials. These are action comics streamlined right to the bone, art carrying the full weight of the stories and not an ounce more, moving the reader through the pages smoother and livelier than pretty much any adventure book before or since.
That isn’t to say there’s not a ridiculous amount of pure visual beauty to Marsh’s art, however. The man had an utterly masterful cartoonist’s shorthand, along with a keen awareness of how to draw for his medium (well showcased by Dark Horse’s reprinting, which holds onto plenty of the original benday dots that Marsh’s fat line blazed through so brilliantly). Desert scenes are reduced to single sheets of blue and yellow, one sensuous ink trail dividing them as figures marked out by a few perfectly-placed lines split the horizons. Jungle backgrounds blur into panels full of Caniffesque scrubbed blacks over deep, unwavering greens. Action shots present the characters flying out of stoic environments in great leaps, musculature clenched but perfectly still and impassive. The simplicity of form and color, the fully imagined, fully realized glow of it all is almost alien in its exotic glory, packed with foliage, stone, sand, hide — everything good Tarzan stories should have. Marsh’s art is highly accomplished minimalism, but it’s never formalist exercising or hackwork — rather, it’s comics as a string of iconographic images that tell the story with maximum speed and economy.
Gaylord DuBois was the perfect writer for Marsh: a similarly driven, efficient comics machine. Every word balloon in these stories advances the plot by leaps and bounds, and single issues cover massive amounts of territory (in this volume moving from desert wastelands to lost cities to dinosaur islands to jungle villages to Berber strongholds to … whew! to lots more). DuBois presents Tarzan as the epitome of the infallible hero, a strong, smart, capable guy who always knows the right thing to do and does it without fail. It’s character type that‘s clearly tied to its time, but an incredibly refreshing one to follow through the jungle depths of Marsh‘s inking; these are, after all, comics whose greatest virtue is their almost Zen simplicity. Of course, Tarzan himself is often nothing more than another story vehicle, a repository for all the dark fury of the primitive, romanticized Africa the comic presents. “GARR-OUGH” roar the leopards, “BAWW-UGH” grunt the buffalo, “URR-UMPH” squeal the rhinos, and the heavy-inked hero takes all comers with a “HA HA HA!” It’s a hypnotic, seductive mode of comics with as much grace to it as firepower — well worth the digging up and even better worth the time it takes to get sucked into the pages. Riveting.The Thin Black Line: Perspectives on Vince Colletta, Comics' Most Controversial Inker
Written by Robert L. Bryant
Published by TwoMorrows Publishing
Reviewed by Tim Janson
One of the things I love about TwoMorrows publishing is that they appeal to comic book fans rather than fanboys. The difference being the fans are concerned with the history of comics books while fanboys are only concerned with the present. No one else would publish a book like The Thin Black Line. If you’re a comic book fan under the age of 30 or 35, you likely are not familiar with the came of Vince Colletta. Vinnie was one of the early Marvel Bullpen artists, and inker who worked on just about every Marvel title during the 1960s. He had been with Marvel during the 1950s when it was known as Atlas Comics and then worked for DC during the 1970s.
Colletta (who passed away in 1991) has always been a polarizing figure in comics which is the theme behind Bryant’s book. Colletta is considered by many, including many professional comic artists, to be one of the worst inkers in history. At the same time, many defend Colletta as a guy who could be counted on to get the job done on time. Colletta was the guy that Stan Lee and other editors frequently called on to finish inking a book that was running late. Hence, this is where the controversy comes in … In order to get deadlines met, Colletta had to take certain shortcuts such as simplifying or even erasing backgrounds, often infuriating the book’s penciller. Colletta would also use assistants who had varying degrees of artistic skill.
Dozens of comic book professionals are called upon by Bryant to give their thoughts, negative or postive about Colleta’s work including Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella, Allan Kupperberg, Joe Sinnott, Jim Salicrup. Joe Kubert, Paul Levitz, Bob McLeod, Tom DeFalco, John Romita Sr., Carmine Infantino, and many more. Each has their own perspective on Colletta’s work. For editors like Lee and DeFalco, he was their “go to” guy. The one they could count on to pull an all-nighter and get the job done. Bryant points out an amusing story about Kubert coming into the DC offices in the morning and finding Vinnie asleep on the floor after working day and night.
On the other hand, many pencillers despised Vince and didn’t want him coming anywhere near their work. Artist Gil Kane once commented that Colletta was his second favorite inker. When asked who his favorite was he’d reply bluntly, “Anyone else!” Neal Adams was once so incensed over Colletta’s inks on a The Brave and The Bold story that he re-inked them himself. Bryant provides a multitude of samples of the original penciled pages and Colletta’s finished ink pages so you can see the difference. An elaborately drawn building in the background would simply be replaced by a rectangle with criss-crossed lines. Background characters would often be inked over completely to create a silhouette. Worse yet was Colletta’s penchant for complete erasing the background characters or details leaving them blank.
One thing that many agree on is that Colletta could be a fine inker when he wanted to be. His line work was very fine and detailed, but Colletta is regarded as being more concerned with working as much as possible and making money than doing a good job. Honestly though, who can blame him? Artists in the 1960s were not the rock stars they are today. Comic books, especially freelance work did not pay all that well and one can’t blame Colletta for doing what he had to do to survive. Blame the system, not the man.
Bryant provides a fascinating look at the life and work of one of the most colorful figures of the Silver Age of comic books. He doesn’t judge but rather offers up evidence provided on all fronts from those who are critical, supportive, and neutral on his career. The analysis is fair and balanced.
Pellet reviews!Titans #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): Sigh. Sometimes I just don't know what to make of this book. I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that this whole "Villains for Hire" premise has tons of storytelling potential as part of DC's big "Brightest Day" event, but for reasons I simply cannot fathom, writer Eric Wallace just hasn't found a way to tap into any of it so far. And, sure enough, that unfortunate (and rather frustrating) trend continues with Titans #26, Wallace's fourth issue with this desperate and deadly group of mercenaries. Indeed, like the writer's previous three outings on the title, this month's installment contains an agonizing array of ill-conceived plot points and contrived character beats that really just plague the story from beginning to end. To make matters worse, it's quite obvious that Wallace is doing his utmost to compel readers to empathize and/or sympathize with his more conflicted central characters, but his efforts here are, for the most part, both monotonous and off-putting. On the bright side of things, I have to say that Wallace's decision to have Red Arrow (uh, Arsenal) join this new Titans team this issue makes perfect sense on a number of different levels. After all, not only is Roy a cherished, fan-favorite character that has just enough star power to draw more avid DC readers to this book (albeit for all the wrong reasons), but he's also a character that has some extremely strong ties to the history and legacy of the Titans brand. Needless to say, however, Roy's debut on Deathstroke's new Titans team here isn't nearly enough to save this book from its various shortcomings. That being said, Titans #26 is just another disappointing and lackluster issue from a writer who should definitely be able to strike gold with these characters and this concept. In the end, one can only hope that Mr. Wallace can start turning things around next month. Shrapnel: Hubris #2 (Published by Radical; Review by Jeff Marsick): This is another misfire from Radical. Sure, it seems like a fantastic deal, fifty-two pages of story for $4.99, but the writing is tedious and the artwork is so dark that many panels are practically incomprehensible. The plodding plot about the free colony of Venus standing up against the onslaught of the big bad United Space Marine Corps is a cure for insomnia, with most panels packed to bursting with overly wordy dialogue. I can imagine a novelization of this series to weigh in at a thousand pages, and that'd be just part one of the trilogy. The covers are gorgeous, though, and that's about all the praise I can heap on this dud. Skip this series and pick up Hotwire or Driver For The Dead instead. What was your favorite book of the week?