Best Shots Comic Reviews: RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE, More

Best Shots Comic Reviews

Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here! Team Best Shots has been hard at work checking out last week's newest releases, with a ton of reviews for your reading enjoyment. We've got everything from time-traveling Batman to army gorillas to the B.R.P.D. finding Hell on Earth! Want to read more? We got your back — check out the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's check out the wise-guys of Gotham Noir in the latest issue of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne ...

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5

Written by Grant Morrison

Art by Ryan Sook, Mick Gray, Pere Perez and Jose Villarrubia

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher and Travis Lanham

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Is it too late to call Ryan Sook one of the hidden gems of the DC Universe?

I ask because yes, even with Seven Soldiers, even with Wednesday Comics, even with those Brightest Day covers, it feels like the guy isn't getting enough heat in this biz. Well, here's hoping it changes now, because just looking at his art style in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5, it's clear that Sook can draw anything, and make it look great.

Of course, Sook isn't alone in this venture — Pere Perez shows that he's more than capable of playing with the big boys, particularly with the last two pages — but even with Grant Morrison's overarching megastory beginning to bear fruit, I think that this issue is successful far more because of its visuals than necessarily the plot.

Allow me to explain. Ultimately, Grant Morrison has managed to put his structural cart before the horse, in the fact that I'm infinitely more interested in how Bruce makes his return — and why is it such a problem — than I necessarily am seeing him work as a P.I., digging into the accusations of satanism and drugs that have recently surfaced about Thomas and Martha Wayne. Thankfully, Morrison starts off with the importance first — within one page, we finally get why Bruce's return is suddenly a bad thing, and yeah, now we're sweating, too. The rest of the story is an interesting case: On the one hand, Morrison's entitled to stretch his (and Batman's) creative muscles, and he deserves credit for tying his story to the seedy allegations of Batman: R.I.P. as well as the time-travel box from Batman #700. On the other hand, however, you could argue that the "gangster" metaphor feels a little forced, that it's a little too much of a detour from the "real" story here.

But — then there's Ryan Sook. Think the dense shadows of Doug Mahnke mixed with a little Adam Hughes clarity and a little bit of the lushness of the Dodsons, and this book has got some genuine star power on its hands. While you might groan a little at Morrison saying "and it always started with a dame," but seeing Bruce sitting in a hospital bed in the dark immediately gets you into the "noir" mood Morrison's trying to set. Sook deserves a lot of credit for his expressiveness to his characters both in shadows and light — seeing Bruce smile is probably the biggest departure this series takes, but Sook gives it a real stylishness that makes you buy into this admittedly awkward status quo. I particularly enjoyed Sook's little explosion of action in this issue, where it's less seeing Bruce fight and more of seeing the aftermath of all his unseen strikes. "I don't much like jokers with guns," Morrison writes. And at that point, you've got me, hook, line and sinker.

And it would be a disservice to not mention Pere Perez, as well. He's not a perfect fit for Sook, but that's not to say that he isn't swinging for the fences with his pages. His character design on Bruce isn't quite as effortless as the previous pages, but he more than makes up for it with the beautiful Marsha, who brings the amnesiac Batman on his latest adventure. But when you see that last page — woo! Suddenly Bruce Wayne's return just got real, and I am fascinated to see what happens next. Ultimately, as a story I wouldn't necessarily call Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 a home run, but as a visual enterprise, this is absolutely the strongest issue of the run.

Amazing Spider-Man #645

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Paul Azaceta, Matt Southworth and Javier Rodriguez

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

What's the secret of Peter Parker's success as a character? It's not just resonance — it's also range. You put Peter in any situation, and he'll have a different, yet instantly recognizable emotional response — so seeing the infamous Parker rage explode in Amazing Spider-Man #645 continues to make "Origin of the Species" one of the most refreshing Spidey tales of this year.

A lot of this comes from a simple twist from Mark Waid: With all of Spider-Man's foes gunning for the child of the Green Goblin and Menace, what happens if Spidey rushes them head-on? In so doing, Waid gives our friendly neighborhood webslinger a tinge of horror to him, as there's more imagining of what he does to these hapless crooks than us actually seeing him rage on. That said, when we do see Peter really in action, it's a pretty shocking reminder of the "great power" that is lashing out for this great responsibility.

The artwork in this book also really sets the tone of Spider-Man not just being a jokey swashbuckler, but a downright scary force of retribution, as well. Colorist Javier Rodriguez washes much of the book in dark blues and browns, letting the reader drown in the same disturbing darkness as the villains. I have to say that tag-teaming Paul Azaceta with Stumptown's Matt Southworth is a smart move on the editors' parts — their scratchy, sharp-angled styles are very similar, and with Rodriguez on colors it can get tough to tell the two apart. That said, it's clear that the moodiness and composition of this book hasn't faltered — whether it's seeing Spider-Man burst into Kravinoff Mansion or watching him use a villain's weapon to take out the Sandman, there's some real panache to these images.

That said, this book isn't perfect. While Mark Waid manages to smoothly get into the supporting cast as they try to hide Menace from the mob, the artwork on those pages looks particularly rough around the edges, past the point of moodiness or adding character. For example, after watching Tombstone smash a man's head with a door, the hapless victim's body feels more like a rough sketch than a finished work, and I'd say that the heavy, blocky shadows can get a little too geometric as far as ordinary civilians. And I will say that Mark Waid's ending feels a little out of left field, a tacked-on complication that will add one more issue to a six-issue arc I think could easily have been wrapped up in five.

Still, even with some occasional shakiness in the visuals and a conclusion that doesn't quite hit you where it needs to, getting to see Spider-Man actually be affected by his work emotionally makes this issue a real change of pace from previous Spidey tales. A hero to his core, we've always known that Spider-Man could fight his way out of any situation with enough brains and heart — but with the gloves now off, we see that with great power comes some truly bad-ass ability.

Guerillas Vol. 1

Written and drawn by Brahm Revel

Additional design by Keith Wood

Published by Oni Press

Review by George Marston

To be honest, I usually avoid war comics. The real thing makes me uncomfortable enough, and I don't think the glorification of man's inhumanity to his own kind is very entertaining, but something about Guerillas struck me immediately. Maybe it's the honesty with which it approaches its subject matter, firmly establishing that war is, in fact, hell, before confronting the reader with a high concept premise so ripe with symbolism that its silliness almost belies the true message of the story. The layers of subtext, minute metaphors, and outright overtures are aided by creator Brahm Revel's clear, crisp storytelling, authentic dialogue, and simple, expressive linework. In the end, these elements all come together seamlessly to create a first volume collection of what is now to be published as a series of graphic novels that is both entertaining and powerful.

Guerillas tells the story of a young private, on his first patrol in Vietnam. We follow him through the jungles of the war-torn nation, as scenes of his past are interspersed with encounters with the VC, and his fellow soldiers, all of which he meets with meek reluctance, proving that he's not capable of being half the man his war-hero father wants him to be, and his duty requires him to be. Finally, after most of his platoon is killed in an ambush, he is taken in by a group of unlikely allies; a troupe of great apes trained and engineered to fight in the stead of human soldiers. The premise of "monkeys with guns," as expressed by Jackson Publick in the foreword, is definitely an entertaining one, but once the story begins to delve into the history of the ape soldiers, the story once again veers into some deeper issues, and questions of morality that always should accompany armed conflict. Questions of whether a man's judgment is essential on the battlefield, whether it's right to force any sentient being to it's death, and questions of the level of respect and understanding that's possible between humanity and the world it inhabits.

None of that is to say that this book is dour, dry, or even wholly serious. There is inherent comedy in gorillas running around with machine guns, and the tone of the art could not be described as "dark." It is to the benefit of Guerillas that Braham Revel makes all the right decisions, and has the chops to back it up. His dialogue is as expressive and touching as his art, and his strengths as both a writer and artist shine immensely. The plotting of the story never lags, and the pages are never full of words when pictures will suffice. Revel's art is spot on, combining elements of classic cartooning, and cinematic storyboarding that's comparable to cartoonists such as Darwyn Cooke, Jeff Smith, and Guy Davis. The stark black and whites combined with the added layer of half-tone greys underscores the morality at play in the story, and perfectly express the emotions of not just the human characters, but the apes as well.

It's not very often that a book impresses me this much, or that a creator shines this brightly on his first outing, but with Guerillas Braham Revel has created a lasting title that deserves far more attention than it has yet received. Perhaps with the switch from Image Comics to Oni Press, and the change in formats from serialized single issues to a series of graphic novels, Guerillas will reach the mainstream audience. I, at least, will be waiting with much anticipation for the next volume. I can't recommend this book enough.

B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth - New World #3

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

At its best, Mike Mignola's work is not about intricate plotting or snappy dialogue, but about mood, about tapping into an undercurrent of weird mythology and secret history and bringing it into the light of day. Mignola has made a name for himself by invoking the unheimlich, reminding his readers that there is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands, and that some of it might be inimical to our way of life. He makes these unsettling narratives palatable by wrapping them in a veneer of pulp adventure, but make no mistake: Mignola's strengths lie in tugging on some very dark threads of the human psyche.

So when I see a book like B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth - New World, I start to get a little concerned. Over the first two issues, I gave Mignola and his team the benefit of the doubt; after all, he's also known for a deliberate, idiosyncratic sense of pacing. But now that we've passed the halfway point with this particular mini, I feel comfortable voicing my concerns - specifically, that B.P.R.D. is starting to feel more like a generic supernatural-action book than I would like.

Not to say that it's bad! Far from it, of course. The British Columbia mystery continues to unfold as Abe Sapien and the newly returned Ben Daimio bite off a little more than they can chew. Meanwhile, an unprecedented disaster calls Kate Corrigan away from B.P.R.D. headquarters, leaving Johann in charge of the facility - including the inanimate body of Roger the homunculus. Abe and Ben's plot has some satisfyingly creepy moments and plenty of high-octane action, and while I'm still not sure where things are going with Johann, I appreciated the opportunity to take a breather from the explosions and chase scenes.

But there's something missing. There's a... weight, or perhaps a gravitas lacking in this latest tale of the B.P.R.D. that is keeping it from getting the unreserved recommendation that I would give almost any other Mignola book I've encountered. The atmosphere of mounting dread just isn't there. Is it the art? Maybe. Again, Davis and Stewart's work remains completely serviceable. It's got an appealing sketchiness to it that does help reinforce the sense of a world coming apart at the seams, and there's a nice couple of moments at a diner — a quiet one opening the book and a splash when Abe and Ben arrive later on — that stand out. Their straightforward drafting and adherence to realism, however, while well-executed and appropriate to the story as written, certainly don't add much in the way of tonal texture.

Perhaps I should adjust my expectations. After all, Mignola's been working in this universe for almost two decades. Maybe there's only so much existential fear that one can handle before you just want to write an effective horror-action story where things blow up and monsters fight monsters. Nothing wrong with that, and nothing wrong with this book. I just expect a little more when I see that name on a cover, and I'm not getting it.

Bruce Wayne - The Road Home: Batgirl #1 

Written by Bryan Q. Miller

Art by Pere Perez and Guy Major

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

As the return of Mr. Wayne approaches, DC has a number of one-shot books planned — each featuring a different character of Gotham. The story is not only from that character's point of view, but we also see excerpts from Bruce's own journal of thoughts on that person's characteristics. In this issue, Bruce observes Stephanie Brown as she goes on a fairly typical night prowl for her, complete with assistance from Barbara Gordon's newest protege, Wendy, a.k.a Proxy.

Admittedly, these journal excerpts irk me a tiny bit. Not in their content — the content is actually quite telling, and well executed. My problem focused more on the visual of these entries. Bruce Wayne writes like a girl. I'm talking about spot on perfect penmanship. On college-ruled notebook paper. I guess I see Bruce as more of a stylish Moleskine type user that would write in chicken scratches or in an architect's all caps style. An online acquaintance commented that she expected him to start dotting his 'I's with little bats. (Which, as an aside, is something I wish I had the patience to do.) In totality, this is really a minor gripe. Once I got over the notes not appearing as I expected them to (though understandably, that perfect writing makes for easy reading), I found them to be a real highlight of the book. Steph became Batgirl after Bruce was out of the picture, and I've been wondering how he's been feeling about her performance. There is undeniably a tone of surprise in his voice, but also a tone of pride.

This book doesn't just take a look at Batgirl, but also looks at Stephanie Brown's previous encounters with the cowl, from her time as Spoiler, her time as Robin, up through the current day. This actually would be a great jumping in point for anyone that didn't get on board with Steph as Batgirl just a bit over a year ago. As someone that hasn't been following the entirety of the Return of Bruce Wayne, I'm enjoying these one-shots as a way to ease myself into the storylines.

New Avengers #5

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Laura Martin

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

There are certain books that you love because of the intricate plotting, the stellar direction, the sheer importance of characterization and what it'll mean down the road for your favorite character. And there are other books that just make you feel the joy of having your favorite characters in the same room, just doing that they do for nothing more than you, the reader, absolutely digging it.

Guess which book New Avengers #5 is. Whether it's a guilty pleasure or just plain fun, this showdown with the Sorcerers Supreme has a real lightness to the storytelling that doesn't feel weak. There are just enough touches of characterization and magical context that this battle without rules suddenly feels like an untapped well of potential for Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen and the rest of the Marvel Universe.

If you recall books like The Immortal Iron Fist, where Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction would add in little touches for all of the martial arts moves, then you'll likely get a kick out of Brian Michael Bendis's take on magic — considering he as a writer has such a strength with the dialogue, the "sounds" of the comic, magic seems to be a good fit for him, giving the characters something to do while they're explaining the nature of this extradimensional assault. For new readers, the learning curve might be a wee bit too steep, but considering Marvel's been working hard to reinvigorate the magical corner of their universe, it's nice to see some stakes going along with all the mythology. And that's not to say that he forgets entirely about the Avengers — the last page teeters oh-so-close to the line of the characters becoming action figures rather than fully-fleshed protagonists, but Bendis's dialogue rings so true to Wolverine's character that you end up rolling with it regardless.

That all being said, the real strength of this book is the art team, that makes all this banter look visually interesting. I could watch Stuart Immonen draw characters like Doctor Voodoo or Agamatto all day — he's got such smooth lines, thanks to the work of inker Wade Von Grawbadger, and the sheer glow that colorist Laura Martin gives Immonen's work gives so much energy to the page, with electric blues and violets and greens. But what I think the big success here is that Immonen and company manage to contextualize the randomness of magic in the Marvel Universe: Yeah, one could get really turned off by the fact that every magician has the perfect tool in any situation in Bendis's hands, but seeing the weird insectoid creature come out of Doctor Voodoo's wand or the atomic-looking energy surrounding the Eye of Agamatto, you get drawn in. Magic doesn't have to always have rules in the script, if we can get our heads around them visually, and in that regard the art team makes this book the success that it is.

Of course, there are some flaws to this book — notably, the two pages that it takes for Bendis to let us know that, nah, Hawkeye isn't actually going to be in the book. (Although I'd argue that if the pages are wasted, at least it was only two wasted pages instead of more.) And those who aren't fans of Bendis's dialogue or loose plots will likely still have a conniption, as last month's cliffhanger is pretty much completely invalidated by nothing more than a "I am telling you I have not." I don't really know where this story is headed, and if you need that sort of cast-iron deliberateness, well, you need to be reading S.H.I.E.L.D. or Secret Warriors or anything else Jonathan Hickman is doing. But if you're looking for some fun for fun's sake that doesn't really take itself all that seriously, New Avengers is shaping up as a real treat.

Superior #1

Written by Mark Millar

Art by Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Dave McCaig

Lettering by Clayton Cowles

Published by Icon

Review by Jeff Marsick

Click here for preview

Remember the Just Imagine line of DC comics almost a decade ago, where Stan Lee riffed on characters in the competition's sandbox? It seems Mr. Millar is tacking along the same conceit with this follow-up to Nemesis, his uber-violent and twisted take on Batman. This time out it's a Miller-verse vision of Captain Marvel and Superman.

Simon Pooni's a teen afflicted with multiple sclerosis, a good kid whose body is failing him ("Some say it's like being buried alive in your own skin."), leaving behind memories of a life more active, more 'normal', in its destructive wake. He's a tough one, though, not afraid to stand up for himself and his pal in the face of bullying, even though wheelchair confined. Then one night a monkey comes (yes, a monkey), gussied in a G3 spacesuit and bearing a gift just for Simon. In the blink of an eye Simon is gone, replaced by summer tentpoler and Hollywood box-office titan, Superior. "Go back home and show me what you can do," Simon-now-Superior is told, and thus his adventure begins.

I like Nemesis. I see what Mr. Millar is shooting for and while I can appreciate the effort, I think the book is a little too gonzo for its own good. Superior, however, is much better (and yes, I would go so far as to say it is ... superior). Is this new ground being tread? Not really. Boy dreams of being free of afflictions, of being something bigger and better than the life sentence he's forced to carry out. Boy gets fulfilled, though not exactly as planned. Be careful what you wish for, land mines ahead. It's got some Prime and Supreme with its Superman and Captain Marvel, but Mr. Millar tones the violence down and invests more in the character this time around, which makes it a more enjoyable read. Simon is likeable, the portrayal of his disability devoid of situational slapstick (which is a groan-inducer in another brand new title just recently hitting shelves), and you're rooting for him to overcome. Throw in Leinil Yu's fabulous action scenes that leap off the page and you've got a book you'll want to read a couple times in a sitting.  

It's not Shakespeare, but it's a good start to this series. Anything with simian astronauts — TALKING simian astronauts, in fact — is a keeper in my book, but there lurks the possibility that this series could more, so much more, than people expect. Highly recommended.

Spacebound #1

Written by Mike Luoma and Matthew Grant

Art by Meisha and Matthew Grant

Published by Earthbound Comics

Review by George Marston

Spacebound is a sci-fi anthology title that draws from some of the previous work of publisher Earthbound Comics growing staple of talented creators. While the two stories present in this book add up to a mixed bag, there's some definite promise in the pages.

The first story, following title character "Alibi Jones" is basically something of a noir-tinged detective procedural in space. Alibi, an interstellar negotiator is hot off a successful negotiation when he's assigned to a diplomatic mission appearing at a governor's party. There, he encounters an old flame and gets drawn into a mystery surrounding a remote and paradisial colony in the far reaches of space. The art on this story, by Meisha, is top notch. Great storytelling, clear panel construction, and expressive inking all serve to elevate what might have been something of a flat and expected story to become the definite forerunner of this anthology. Writer Mike Luoma has a strong grasp of how a story should be told, and conveys his ideas clearly through the dialogue and plotting. If have one complaint, I wish that I had more knowledge of these characters, as very little personality comes through with the characters. While the story is well told, it almost feels like it could be told with any incidental characters. The story was enough to hold me long enough to get to know these characters over the course of future issues though, so it's not a total detriment.

The second half of this two-part anthology, "Mastorism," falls much flatter to me. Apparently continuing, in print, a webcomic that has "hundreds of pages" available on its website, it's almost impossible to pierce what's going on. Lots of words fall down the page attempting to explain the concept of :"Mastorism," and the apparently super-powered "Mastors," but without the hundreds of previous pages that this story calls back to heavily, it's an exercise in futility to follow the story. It almost feels as though every other page of this story was cut; characters appear without introduction, simply arriving on panel to confront threats that garner the same level of recognition. It's clear that the characters in the story know what's going on, but I'll be damned if they felt obliged to tell me. Matthew Grant's art doesn't exactly help, either. While his character design, and his illustration of said characters is quite good, the backgrounds often feel almost incidental, and the art rarely makes it clear what's happening, or where the story is taking place. It seems like a strange decision to launch an apparently ongoing title with a story that already suffers under the weight of rarely expressed continuity, and only those specifically looking for the continued saga of "Mastorism" will be drawn in.

Overall, Spacebound is a valiant effort in sci-fi from a smaller company, and if the right choices are made in future, the series will pick up steam. Unfortunately, the dross is here in equal measure to the worthy bits. I'd consider "Alibi Jones" a success, and "Mastorism" a pronounced failure, but "Alibi Jones" is strong enough to have gained in me a consistent reader.

Vision Machine #1

Written by Greg Pak

Art by R.B. Silva, Alexandre Palomaro, DYM, Jonas Trinidade and Java Tartaglia

Lettering by Charles Pritchett

Published by the Ford Foundation and Pak Man Productions

Review by David Pepose

Click here for the FULL ISSUE

Even though Greg Pak's name is on this book, I wouldn't group Vision Machine as the sort of slam-bam epics that he has on his Marvel books, like with Chaos War or Incredible Hulks. Even though there's a caped crusader in the background on the cover, this book is more of a speculative future, a "What If?" tale about human society, a story about privacy and art told by a professional filmmaker.

With that all aside, of course the main thrust to this book is the headliner himself, Greg Pak. I think he cheats the audience a little bit by playing up the superhero concept known as "The Visionary" — that said, he knows what'll get people reading, and that is typically capes — but he quickly ditches that red herring and gets back to his true passion: filmmaking. Instead of digging into the details and nitty-gritty of how movies get made, Pak instead taps into the creative spirit, the primal urge to make stories and tell them to a wide audience — and then hits it with a strong dose of wish-fulfillment.

It's when Pak introduces his mythical Vision Machine — a set of ultra-intuitive filmmaking glasses called the iEye — that the book becomes a bit more didactic, waxing utopian while foreshadowing some worse things to come. Some of Pak's ideas, like having a donation jar for what is essentially YouTube TV producers, is one that I'm surprised doesn't exist already — other things, like the government ignoring copyright concerns, feel a little more hand-waved. But the thing that I think Vision Machine excels in is that Pak is using his imagination not just to seed out personal arcs, but to really get a sense of what would the world look like if those boundaries between artist and "civilian" were eliminated — and how could it go wrong?

Meanwhile, seeing R.B. Silva on this book sets an interesting visual tone, considering Silva is white-hot from his first chapter on Jimmy Olsen. Seeing the plethora of inkers on Silva's work, the style seems to evoke artists ranging from Barry Kitson to Joe Eisma — sometimes on the same page. That said, the nature of this enterprise — the fact that anyone can create any sort of story, as long as they can imagine it — also gives Silva a lot of room to play with, whether he's drawing dragons or superheroes or idyllic forests filled with happy iEye customers.

Yet this book is missing some ingredients that I think would take it from a learning experience to something a little more intuitive, something that readers would really take to heart more than an intellectual exercise. I'd say the big issue of this book is that there's no one protagonist to really focus on, yet — yes, there's the three young filmmakers who have very different paths, but there isn't a whole lot of personal stakes to these people yet, outside of the faceless "greater society" that the iEye might negatively impact. And I think the lack of personal conflict keeps the book from firing on all cylinders — it's certainly Pak's universe to play with, but outside of "the government could be watching," I'm not getting a sense of tension yet.

Still, a lot of those issues come from the perceived format, rather than the more didactic platform that Greg Pak is attaining here. Books like Vision Machine oftentimes are more concerned about the "what if" rather than the individual players involved — it's a parable about security versus privacy coated with fiction. Now that the first issue set-up is complete, if Pak can keep digging into his characters as well as the consequences to his theoretical device, this story might go from telling you of the pros and cons of the iEye to selling you on it.

MAD’s Greatest Artists: Sergio Aragones  

Art by Sergio Aragones

Published by Running Press

Reviewed by Tim Janson

Cartoonist Sergio Aragones, often referred to as the “World’s Fastest Cartoonist” has been a mainstay in MAD Magazine for nearly fifty years. He’s contributed to every issue of the magazine since 1963, except one…when his work for an issue was lost by the post office. In those nearly 50 years Aragones has contributed some 15,000 cartoons, many of which are his famous “marginals”. These are the little cartoons that appear within the mag’s margins.

The best of Sergio’s five decades of work is collected in this beautiful, 272 page hardcover book. His wild cartoons, filled with sight gags and never requiring word balloons, is some of the most hilarious work ever seen in MAD or any other magazine for that matter. The book presents his work by decade with many of his greatest strips and yes, dozens of the great marginal cartoons as well.

Sergio’s work is timeless even when dealing with topical subjects such as his glorious remembrance of Woodstock. This was a two page spread with Sergio drawing literally hundreds of characters and accompanied by a poem written by Frank Jacobs, a MAD writer who has contributed even longer than Aragones, since 1957!!! You can literally spend hours looking at this meticulously crafted cartoon and you should…Aragones has each character doing something different. Even with his speed I can’t imagine how long this piece took to draw. He would do similar two-page spreads through the years like “A Peek behind the Scenes at a Comic Book Convention”, a look at a shopping mall at Christmas Time, and Behind the Scenes at a Terrorist Training Camp

Occasionally, even in the early days, Sergio got to work in color as he did with his strip “The Vampire”. Here a hungry vamp bites a barefoot hippie wearing a peace sign medallion and gets a hypnotic high from his blood. One of his most clever, reoccurring stripes was “The Shadow Knows”. These strips featured characters with shadows that showed what the character was truly thinking or imagining. Such as the fat woman’s shadow strangling the shadow of her much skinnier friend while they are dining at a restaurant. Sergio also lampooned what was hot in pop culture through the years such as his look at Star Wars, Disney World, The WWE, Spider-Man, and Harry Potter.  

Sergio has remained popular all these years because he is able to take on any modern topic…His strips in recent years have tackled airport security, cell phones, illegal immigration, dieting, video games, and religion. Few topics have managed to elude the biting wit of Sergio Aragones. If you’re a MAD magazine fan you have to have this book. If you’ve never read MAD you need this book even more as you don’t know what you’ve been missing out on all these years.

Pellet reviews!

Tiny Titans/Little Archie and His Pals #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): I'll bet you didn't know that the Archie gang and the Tiny Titans actually live in the same city. While there is no mention of Riverdale in the DCU, I can't say I mind this revelation one bit! When Robin and Archie's clothes get mixed up at the dry cleaners, confusion ensues as they are mistaken for each other. The highlight of this issue has to be the introduction of Riverdale teacher, Mrs. Grundy. Could it be...? No, that would just be... ridiculous. Did someone say ridiculous? We're talking about a book created by Art Baltazar and Franco. OF COURSE Mrs. Grundy has a very ...  special ...  significant other. With the consistently adorable art style of Art Baltazar, and the zany ideas of Franco — this book is sure to appeal to your kids that can't get enough of the regular TT series.

Executive Assistant Iris #6 (Published by Aspen Comics; Review by George Marston): It's hard to jump in on any title when you're already six issues in, especially one that doesn't have the recognition of an established character, so it's to Executive Assistant Iris's credit that it's concepts are established organically enough for me to jump in blind and understand what's going on. Unfortunately, the book fails to grip me, or make me want to delve into its first five issues. It's not that the book is poorly written or drawn; on the contrary, the art is far less "cheesecakey" than I expected, and the characters are expressive. If I have any complaint about the writing, it's that the dialogue is a little generic and plodding. No, the real culprit behind my disinterest is that the concept, while interesting when juxtaposed with the "Executive Assistant" title, is hardly groundbreaking or innovative, and moments that feel, even to a novice reader, like they should carry some weight tend to soar by at the mercy of the page count. Overall, while I can't decry this title, I also wouldn't recommend it off hand.

What was your favorite comic of the week?

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