Best Shots 10-26-09

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Your Host: Troy Brownfield

Welcome back!  The in-between days that were . . .

Robot 13 #2 (Blacklist Studios), by Jeff Marsick

Invincible Iron Man #19 (Marvel Comics), by David Pepose

Justice League of America #38 (DC Comics), by Troy Brownfield

X-Men Legacy #228 (Marvel Comics), by Brian Andersen

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming (Del Rey), by Michael Lorah

Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), by Mike - It Came from the NYPL

Luba (Fantagraphics), by Mike

Dungeon: The Early Years Vol. 2: Innocence Lost (NBM), by Mike

That brings us to this week’s column, and the introduction of another new team member!  Please welcome Jessi Reid, whom you may know from here; you’ll meet her a little further down the column as she talks about a familiar webcomic.

DC's Halloween Special '09

Written by Various

Art by Various

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts and Amanda McDonald

This is another one of DC's sometimes spooky takes on Halloween. It's billed as containing "13 All-New Tales of Terror," and that's a bit of an understatement. Last year's was okay at best, but this year seems to have a bit more treats than tricks. There is a major assortment of talent going on here and a who's who from Billy Tucci to Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. So, let's see what this year's special has in store.

This year, the special is bookended by a Bizarro story by Jake Black (Ender's Game), and while it's difficult to understand the over use of the Bizarro language, I got the gist of the situation. Bizarro wants to make sure that everybody has a happy Halloween and at the end, we see DC editorial as Bizarro World citizens.

In the next story we see Guy Gardner trying to plan a massive Halloween party on Oa and inviting his fellow Corps members as well as his girlfriend, Ice. Though Ice originally tells Guy she has plans with Fire later, she surprises him at the party with an interesting choice for a costume. It's a fluff piece that really didn't need Guy's backstory about his abusive father. "Halloween the Guy Way" is written by Adam Schlagman (Strange Adventures, Supergirl) and the dialogue seems like it was written by a sixteen year old who trolls fanfic forums. For example, Guy telling Kyle that there will be a costume contest and how it'll be like a "Cowboy's cheerleader competition." Kyle's response? "Guy, I already have a woman." As a Kyle fan, those words just don't seem right coming out of his mouth. The art is done by Mark Bagley and I have to give him props for remembering that Kyle is part Mexican and is shown as much. I also loved the Halloween party splash page where you might spot Sorcerer Supreme and wall-crawler wannabes.

Duncan Rouleau (Ben 10, X-Men Unlimited) gives us a Creeper page in which I'm really not sure what is going on. I dig the art style though.

One of the longer stories in the issue is "Seeing is Believing," an Outsiders piece with the distinct art of Kelley Jones and craftily written by Michael Siglain. Filling in for Batman, the Outsiders are sent to disrupt a cult ceremony performed every three years to summon their queen from the dead. Having never read any Outsiders, I really enjoyed this story. The team dynamics are intriguing and they do a great job kicking ass. I may have to seek out some books at my shop. After the Outsiders depart, Deborah Dancer resurrects Andrew Bennett, from I. . . Vampire-- another series I wasn't familiar with. Thanks DC Halloween Special, now I have to go buy more books!

Leave it to Art Baltazar and Franco to write a story that makes me chuckle aloud. While I'm biased, and would have preferred to see this story in Tiny Titan's style (imagine-- a ballroom of grown ups in that style!), Sergio Carrera does a nice  job keeping the panels simple enough as not to distract from the heavy dialogue of the first couple pages. Having a charity ball at Wayne Manor, Bruce is upset that Alfred has allowed Dick to go out trick or treating. Killer Moth crashes the party, but makes an ill-fated decision to answer the door for a couple of trick or treaters. Critiquing their costume choices, he gets quite a surprise.

Derek Fridolfs comes out from behind of the inker's table, well sort of, to write Robin (Damian Wayne) in his first solo adventure. Fridolfs is teamed with his partner-in-art, Dustin Nguyen, and of course the art looks dynamite. After being bored, Robin goes after a new Gotham villain, Sugar Tooth, a former dentist who went mad after the Joker killed his two daughters. Fridolfs gets the right feel for Damian and the narration is spot-on. This is probably one of the stronger stories in this collection.

After we see Damian, next is another Robin story. This time, it's Tim Drake aka Red Robin. I think the art would have looked better as a black and white story because I wasn't feeling Michael Atiyeh's colors on Matt Triano's heavy-lined, chunky style. Ariel Thomas really dives deep into Drake's psyche, but it borderlines depressing. I do love the Dia de Muertos setting, though.

We are then treated to a short and sweet Ravager page. Great team up with Amy Wolfram and the art team of Pow Rodrix and Marlo Alquiza. Ravager gives a little a "peek" show to some trick-or-treaters that I don't think they were expecting.

After that, we get the best story in the assortment. Kid Flash (Bart Allen) goes up against Mirror Master that is a sort of a take on the old Bloody Mary myth. Very creepy. It's solid through and through with probably the scariest twist in the whole book. Joe Harris (Creepy) has a good feel for these characters as well as what Halloween is all about. Andrei Bressan and Marcelo Maiolo make a terrifyingly good team that really delivers.

Another one page by Amy Wolfram (though on the page itself, her name is misspelled as "Wolfman"), is a fun quick story that breaks up the book nicely. In "Never Too Old," we see Beast Boy experience that point that has pained us all-- being told he is too old for trick or treating.

Hanging out with her girlfriends and watching a spooky TV special on "The Forest Lady," Wonder Woman feels disturbed (though the ladies tease her that she's scared), and decides to head home. As she exits, she sees Wonder Girl, Miss Martian, and Aquagirl fly off to see if they can find out if the Forest Lady is real. Following them, she's creeped out by the forest and talking to herself. As she hears noises from a cave, she spies the girls. What she doesn't see, nor do they, is what we get to see in the last panel. Quite creepy, indeed. Ulises Arreola's colors are quite a delightful treat to balance the trick in this story.

Billy Tucci writes and provides the art for the next story that has a certain charm to it. What we think is another take on yet another Superman and Flash race, but is not what it really appears. It's a nice fluff story that is my second favorite of the issue. I don't consider myself a Flash fan, but both my favorites in this book are Flash-centric. Interesting.

So, if Lois and Clark were to choose Halloween costumes, what do you think they would choose? According to Joshua Williamson in "My Turn to be Scary," they would be Daphne and Fred of Scooby-Doo fame. Working at the Daily Planet's annual Grim Reaper Haunted Office Tour for kids, they encounter a group of spoil-sport hoodlums and decide to take them on a "private" tour. Using his superpowers to both lead the tour and appear as the grim reaper, Supes enjoys his chance to be scary for once. However, is he the only one enjoying scaring everyone? It appears not. . . . This story is a nice blend of fun and fright, leading into the end of the book itself.

The cost for this one is a bit heftier than other books, but for thirteen stories, and relatively few ads it is well worth it. DC's Halloween Special '09 was truly a treat to enjoy. As we sit here with our pumpkins waiting to be carved and a bowl of candy we keep sneaking our favorites from, reading this book was a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

Dark Wolverine #79

Written by Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu

Art by Stephen Segovia, Jay Leisten, and Cam Smith

Coloring by Marte Gracia

Lettering by VC's Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

What's the sound a great title makes when it drops like a rock? "Snikt."

I don't like saying that. I love the first arc of Dark Wolverine, but seeing Daken get the wind kicked out of him feels sadly more than a little metatextual. Whereas the first arc of this series focused on Dark Wolverine's character -- establishing him as a schemer, a foe who was underestimated at his peril -- this is a simple actioner that, sadly, the creative team just can't pull off.

The main issue I have is the protagonists in this story. It's understandable to try to give some characterization to your adversaries -- it's smart plotting, it raises the stakes -- but in this case, Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu go more than a little overboard, following a pack of Z-list crooks as they try to not get double-crossed by Norman Osborn.

Indeed, what gets me is the fact that Daken gets the short shrift in his own series -- this is a character that Way and Liu have made a poetic malevolent force -- why run away from the biggest strength of your premise? Occasionally Way and Liu do give us the goods -- such as Daken telling these crooks to make their final moments "epic, like poetry" -- but it just isn't enough. In particular I don't quite buy the "pride" angle that is being played in his two brief scenes of character work: this is the guy who let himself get blown up by Hawkeye and beaten up by the Thing to get his agenda rolling. Sometimes you've just got to take your lumps.

Artwise, Stephen Segovia has his moments, such as an unexpected splash page (improved immeasurably by colorist Marte Garcia) of Daken getting fried by an energy bolt. That said, the flaws are still more noticeable than the successes: a weird quirk that Segovia has is this tendency to use irregularly-shaped panels, yet for no discernable purpose -- if it was something that heightened the action or was used as a clever visual beat, a la J.H. Williams III or Mike McKone, I'd have no problem, but this adds nothing I can notice here.

There are other problems with the art, as well, that compounds some of the issues with the plot. Daken has been a character known for subtlety -- a slight smirk, relaxed body language, fluid movements -- and unfortunately, that doesn't come across in Segovia's work. His facial expressions are largely drowned in shadow (or by action), and there's just something about it that hobbles Daken's dialogue. The other problem is the focus of his images -- sometimes, like a panel of Daken getting punched in the face by two different villains, looks sharp, but other times, like an image of Daken leaping down on them, makes little to no sense -- wasn't he at ground level? Didn't he just slash someone standing right next to them? Why do an additional hop before battle?

I think the main problem with Dark Wolverine #79 is the fact that the writers -- who I know can produce quality work -- took the best things about this book, such as the plotting, the witty dialogue and characterization, and the slow set-up, and jettisoned those qualities completely to do a 180-degree turn. This change might have worked, if Giuseppe Camuncoli stuck on board -- his work on Daken on Incredible Hulk this week was certainly superb -- but Stephen Segovia just doesn't feel like a great fit for this book. At this point, I don't feel too confident about the finale of this arc -- here's hoping that when Camuncoli returns for issue #81, Daken returns to his roots as the stealthy predator we've come to love.

Supergirl #46

Written by Sterling Gates & Greg Rucka

Art by Jamal Igle & Jon Sibal and Eduardo Panisca & Julio Ferreira

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

While the book covers have been reading "World Against Superman" for a few weeks now, underscoring a certain truth in advertising, it was starting to grate a little to see the protagonists of all these books take hit after hit week in, week out.  Something coming out once a month can be a little more tolerable, so long as the story itself doesn't run too long, but when it's weekly output in following the assorted Superman books, it can feel like something one has to endure as a reader rather than enjoy.  So it's where Supergirl #46 succeeded for me in that there was a nice, gratifying feeling of conflict resolution, fully mindful that the overarching "New Krypton" epic still has a long ways to go.  Let's just say I fully expect to be reviewing an issue of Supergirl this time a year from now as it pertains to "New Krypton." 

The fourth and final chapter of "The Hunt For Reactron" is rewarding in many respects, not the least being an energetic script by the combined talents of Sterling Gates and Greg Rucka, and some equally lively art by Jamal Igle and the backup team who clearly helped the story get out the door on time.  As quick as I am to call out the pitfalls of fill-in assignments, whether it's seeing a few issues of a certain book derailed by an guest artist who fails to match the style, technique and mood of the regular artist, or a single issue not seamlessly play "back & forth" with a rotation of artists exchanging individual pages, I will gladly laud it if the situation is handled well.  It is here in this book that two art teams shared the assignment, and I failed to find a shortcoming in the overall production. 

And how did the creative team as a whole do on the conclusion to "Hunt For Reactron"?  Well, they only had the task of seeing Supergirl and her allies, Nightwing and Flamebird, get their super-abilities stripped of them (albeit temporarily) and then have to face their assailant in closed quarters after he's laid waste to General Lane's Squad K in the previous chapter.  Reactron may have been a wild card installed by General Lane to take care of Supergirl & Co. once and for all, but I can't imagine that the general was cool with seeing a specialized armory at his disposal incinerated in a psychotically evil bit of whimsy.  But even with the promise of this story being a "conclusion," it's not unheard of for the big publishers to strings things along.  This issue worked in that there was a tense feeling of desperation right from the first page, and some sense of finality could be felt by the book's end.  It's downright brutal at times among all involved, but never disheartening.  What surprised me most was that things came to light more than I'd expected (mainly regarding Lana Lang's mysterious ailment, at least more awareness about it by her friends), and I actually was beaming when the two sisters finally come to terms with how important they are to one another. 

Of course the highlight of Supergirl #46 is not even something to do really with the book's lead character, though she does figure well throughout the book.  No, the game M.V.P. award goes to Thara Ak-Var, and she lives up to her superhero alias in every way imaginable.  Hell hath no fury like a Flamebird scorned, and clearly Thara's abilities go way beyond those of all other Kryptonians under a yellow sun.  It's awesome when a cold-hearted bastard -- sorry, GOLD-hearted bastard -- gets his comeuppance, but it's safe to say that Reactron comes away from his encounter with Flamebird, Nightwing and the rest even more heartless than ever.  I can only imagine what happens to Martin Krull when he's finally brought face to face with Supergirl's mother!  The power and fury that Igle & Co. bring with the art is tremendous in every page, and the contributions by Eduardo Panisca and Julio Ferreira are solid in their ability to maintain narrative continuity every time they're needed.  Sometimes grand finales can be disappointing, but the one here for "The Hunt For Reactron" succeeds on virtually all levels.

Chew #5

Written and Lettering by John Layman

Art and Coloring by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

There's a lot to like about the fifth issue of Chew, which has proven itself to be the Little Indie That Could over at Image. Is it the high concept? Is it the tight pacing, the artwork that works in subtle, fluid, devious ways?

Without giving too much away, the fifth issue of Chew not only wraps up the mystery of who killed Senator Hamantaschen, but does so in a way that gives us only more questions for Layman and Guillory's next arc. Layman's story structure is an example of great planning, as he gives out little bits of information that only make sense when all is explained.

And of course, the trevails of Tony Chu are pretty amusing, in the fact that the guy couldn't get a peach assignment if he tried -- nope, it's terrorist blood and dead dog on today's menu, kids, and it's about as gross and funny as you might imagine. But probably the book's big strength is that you don't really need to read any of the previous issues to understand the plot -- you may wish to pick one issue up to get a better handle of Tony and Savoy as characters, but considering this is the last issue of a five-issue arc, it is pretty accessible for new readers.

But Layman's work -- which is heavy on the denouement, occasionally at the expense of the characterization -- would have fallen flat without the art of Rob Guillory. Guillory instills such a sense of emotion and character work with his designs -- for example, a panel of Chu going to sleep has a hilariously big grin that shows how glad he is to be done with work... that quickly turns to terror as he learns the truth. Even the way his characters move has personality -- Chu has this sort of rabbitlike quickness to him, while Savoy has a real weight to him as he leaps.

Of course, there are a few things that feel a little left out -- for example, the subplot with Tony and his brother felt a little too light, and I wish we would see more of food critic/public menace/love interest Amelia Mintz. Yet Chew-ies can rejoice -- while I read this book (and wrote most of this review) under the impression that Layman and Guillory were going on hiatus to work on the next arc, it was a relief to see on the back of the book a cover with the words "Next Month" on it. This is a book that's worth the gamble on the creators' and Image's part: between some stong characterization, some fluid artwork, all topped with a light glaze of humor and gore, this is definitely a series I love picking up -- like all good foodie products, when it comes to Chew, you can't have just one.

Invincible #67

Written by Robert Kirkman

Art by Cory Walker

Colors by Dave McCaig

Published by Image Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

And now for something markedly different.

There aren't many books that can forgo their titular character for a two-issue interlude without sacrificing any amount of urgency to the broader story, but there isn't an Invincible fan alive who would turn down a quick romp around the universe with Nolan- “I used to be the heroic Omni-Man,” Grayson and Allen “I'm everyone's favorite incidental character,” the Alien. Throw in the fact that this two-fer featured the triumphant return of original series artist Cory Walker to the book he helped make great, and you've got an all-new, all-awesome Invincible adventure.

The drums of war are beating steadily and exponentially across the universe, and the powers-that-be are consolidating and strategizing. The militant Viltrumites are so imposing a threat that the Coalition of Planets has gone into a full-bore recruiting drive, gathering every gun the universe has to offer to point at the league of supermen. They've even gone so far as to welcome to the ranks Invincible's father Nolan, a far-reviled murderer who, not long ago, was a lieutenant for the Viltrumite invasion. But after playing the role of benevolent hero for so long, Nolan found his allegiances at conflict; torn between the race that sired him and the cosmos that gave him two sons.

Nolan's quest for redemption once again proves that Invincible is an impossible book to pigeon-hole. His evil turn at the outset of the book was long the series' defining moment. It was the paradigm shift that made this superhero book unlike any other, and yet this latest development is perfectly organic. As with Kirkman's other ongoing, The Walking Dead, it is not the specific circumstances of the plot that define the title, but rather it is the commitment to always push the story onward and raise the stakes that make fans salivate for the latest twenty-two page installment.

Robert Kirkman consistently finds a reason for the next story to be the highest-stakes yet. Sometimes this is character-driven, as when Mark's personal life takes dramatic turn, sometimes it is plot driven, as when Mark is sent dimension-hoping, and sometimes it is a serendipitous meeting of both, as with the upcoming Viltrumite War. That threat was there at the book's inception, turning Mark's father against him, and in so doing setting Invincible's moral core. The entire series has been building towards that battle. It will be bloody. And it will be grand.

Far removed from Earth, this vignette plays to the book's greatest strength- its unbridled imagination. This means we get dinosaur brawlers, space-pistols, and interspecies Odd Coupling. The setting among the stars gives this story a refreshing science-fiction flavor, in contrast to familiar superheroics. The change of setting also serves the art well, since Cory Walker can do plenty of original character designs, throw in a ton of Easter eggs (is that the ST: TNG bridge?), and not tread or compete on the same grounds as the phenomenal Ryan Ottley.

Preparations for War serves its purpose in laying the groundwork for the biggest challenge Invincible has faced yet. A fun buddy story, it does just enough to show that there's some Omni-Man yet left in Nolan. Mark is a galaxy away, but there are repercussions that are sure to reverberate across light years. The entire Grayson family has committed itself to fighting the good fight, but given the magnitude of what's on the horizon, and the book's refusal of the predictable, there's a strong chance they won't all survive the war; Invincible, or not.

Justice League of America #38

Written by James Robinson

Art by Mark Bagley

Published by DC Comics

Review by Robert Repici

Well, where to begin? Without a doubt, the Justice League of America has been in a state of utter confusion and uncertainty since the beginning of the year, and it truly seems that the iconic superhero team is down for the count in the present-day DC Universe. And, believe it or not, the same thing can be said for the entire JLA comic book franchise right now. (Hey, it’s sad, but true.) After all, it’s certainly no secret that the Justice League franchise has been seriously struggling to find and establish a distinct sense of purpose in the DC Universe for the better part of the past two years. But now we have superstar writer James Robinson, the mastermind behind a bunch of modern-day comic book classics such as “Starman” and “The Golden Age”, at the helm of this floundering franchise. Indeed, with the first four issues of his long-awaited “Justice League: Cry for Justice” miniseries now on the stands, it truly seems that Robinson is doing everything in his power to really revitalize and redefine the Justice League franchise in the modern-day DC Universe. Unfortunately for avid Justice League fans, however, he’s pretty much failed to do that so far.

Nevertheless, with Justice League of America #38, Robinson finally makes his much-anticipated and heavily hyped debut as the new regular ongoing writer on the beleaguered Justice League of America book, DC’s former flagship superhero team title that’s been plagued by a bunch of pointless stories ever since “Final Crisis” wrapped up back in January. Without a doubt, legions of comic book fans have been hoping that Robinson has what it takes to save the declining Justice League franchise from the disappointing sales and directionless stories that have come to define the superhero team’s main series for the past few years. So, yeah, it’s probably safe to assume that Robinson will make every effort to shake up the status quo that has threatened to destroy the legacy of DC’s most iconic superhero team in the coming months. Above all, however, Robinson is faced with the daunting task of returning the Justice League franchise to its former glory. Unfortunately, he’s off to a pretty rough start here. Heck, to be completely honest, Justice League of America #38 can be considered a major letdown on a myriad of different levels for devoted fans of the Justice League franchise.

First off, the simple fact of the matter is that this issue basically lacks a real, meaningful plot. I mean, it just seems that the “story” told in this issue is almost completely devoid of substance and significance. In other words, nothing really happens here, folks. Sure, we get to witness the disheartening death of an obscure former Leaguer and the random return of one of the team’s most menacing villains, but it all seems pretty pointless and insignificant. It’s as simple as that.

Justice League of America #38 begins with the aforementioned fall of a relatively unknown former Leaguer, who seemingly bites the dust in the line of duty before he can warn the current Justice League team of a villainous threat that’s fast approaching. Of course, this apparent death scene is supposed to carry some sort of dramatic weight, but unfortunately, it just feels cheap and inconsequential. The issue then transitions to the small town of Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, where the majority of the current JLA team (which consists of the lackluster line-up of Vixen, Dr. Light, Plastic Man, and Red Tornado) is trying to decide whether or not they deserve to keep the Justice League’s legacy alive in the present-day DC Universe. This lasts for five frustrating pages, and it’s certainly way too much exposition for a standard 22-page comic book. To make matters worse, the team constantly references events that take place after Robinson’s “Justice League: Cry for Justice” miniseries, a seven-issue story that still hasn’t wrapped up yet. Consequently, we have no choice but to read about some of the repercussions from that miniseries before we’ve even read the three remaining issues of that miniseries. And that’s definitely not a good thing.

Anyway, after Vixen delivers a redundant “State of the League” address, a familiar Justice League foe shows up for no apparent reason other than to make way for a big, action-packed fight scene in the middle of the story. And, yes, such a plot point also seems utterly pointless here. Finally, in this issue’s closing pages, the Justice League sets out to battle some Black Lanterns as part of DC’s epic “Blackest Night” event, proving that it was just a matter of time before this troubled title would get pulled into yet another company-wide crossover.

And that’s that. Now, needless to say, this is a pretty disappointing comic book, and it definitely draws attention to everything that’s wrong with the Justice League franchise right now. At the same time, however, there were some notable bright spots in this issue as well. For example, Robinson does a pretty decent job of capturing the respective voices of his current cast, and his writing in general isn’t as awkward or artificial as it’s been in his “Cry for Justice” miniseries. In addition, Mark Bagley’s artwork is definitely serviceable to the story here, and he proves once again that he’s a proficient and talented storyteller when it comes to drawing action-packed superhero comic books.

Overall, however, the simple fact of the matter is that Justice League of America is still a pretty bad monthly comic book. But, hey, look on the bright side: This issue is way better than the first four issues of “Justice League: Cry for Justice”. And that, my fellow fans, is definitely a noteworthy sign of progress. Above all, however, it should also be noted that this troubled title still has tons of untapped potential. One can only hope that Robinson and Bagley have what it takes to unlock and unleash some of it in the near future.

Tiny Titans #23 

Written by Art Baltazar and Franco

Art by Art Baltazar

Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

Awwww, yeah All Pet Club Issue! Departing from the regular format of lots of little stories, this issue is dedicated to the Tiny Titans' Pet Club. Which I shouldn't even be telling you about, since Robin has previously declared and declares again at the start of this issue "the first rule of Pet Club is you don't talk about Pet Club."

All the Titans want in on the club, including Starfire and Blackfire-- sending their dad a note that they need pets. He sets aside his copy of Wednesday Comics to send them alien pets. Cyborg wants in, and creates robot pets. Robin introduces his new pet-- the Bat-cow. Ant and Blue Beetle bring their bug collections. Terra brings her pet rock. Even Hoppy and Captain Marvel, Jr. join the club. Here's the problem: with all these new members, they need a bigger space to meet. They are no longer allowed to use Wayne Manor or the Bat-cave after their many hijinks there. Visiting Superman in the Arctic, Mera in Atlantis, and even the JLA Watchtower they are repeatedly turned away. Green Lantern sends them to their new meeting place: the Moon. 

Art Baltazar and Franco have developed a series that has great appeal, both to adult comic fans who guffaw at the allusions and to kids just getting into comics who want to learn who all these characters of the DC universe are. We see more adult heroes in this book, but of course, only their bodies-- never their faces. Oh! And we get some continuity in this issue, with references to Beast Boy's previous struggle with the Bat-cow, as well as the ongoing crush he has on Terra. With two trade paperbacks available and a $2.50 price tag per issue, anyone who wants to introduce kids to comics needs to be picking up Tiny Titans.

Preview: STUFF OF LEGEND Issue 2
Preview: STUFF OF LEGEND Issue 2
The Stuff of Legend Volume 1, Book 2

Story by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith

Art by Charles Paul Wilson III

Design and Colors by Jon Conkling and Michael DeVito

Published by Th3rd World

Review by Lan Pitts

When we left off on "Stuff," the toys had fought a hard battle and continued to look for their boy. They are now constantly hunted by the forces of the Boogeyman and while on their adventure, stumble upon the town of Hopscotch (imagine a city-sized board game), where the games played are a matter of life and death. The town is run by a Mayor who may not be all that he appears to. The toys are flung into a sinister game, but once that is won, there is still something more insidious awaiting in the dark. I for one love how the main villain is hardly seen, but his influences are in every turn our heroes face.

This part of the story is so layered and deep, and us as readers really see how far the Boogyman's reach goes. It pains me to know that we won't have another part until spring of next year. Part two, isn't as violent as the first by any means, but as I mentioned there is plenty of story going on. You almost forget at times that you're dealing with a bear, a dog, a piggy bank, etc. because the dialogue is that good. In addition to uncanny storytelling, there's great character development, especially from Jester and Max. The panel layout is perfect and nothing is wasted. Every panel is another piece of a wonderful puzzle that is truly one of a kind. Some questions are answered and resolved, while others are will make you wonder on what will happen next.

The art is just as magnificent as the previous installment, and the sepia tones fit the story well. The volume of creativity that went into this project is unfathomable. It's smart, maybe a bit too smart for a younger crowd for them to read by themselves, but this isn't just a comic and I think should be read as a storybook should. This is a modern-day fairytale and should be shared with a younger generation. In a nutshell, this is a must-get and must-read. The first volume already went to second printing, so you might want to get on board with this book before it becomes hard to find.

In Case You Missed It...

28 Days Later #3

Written by Michael Alan Nelson

Art by Declan Shalvey

Coloring by Nick Filardi

Lettering by Ed Dukeshire

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by David Pepose

"You want me dead, bitch? Do you? Then have the guts to try to kill me to my face." ~ Selena

This line is the highlight of 28 Days Later #3, which really adds something to the film franchise's mythos. The original film dealt mainly with survival, with the final act showing how humanity's worst elements can survive even a holocaust of the Infected -- and in this issue, the same petty human instincts come to life after last issue's cliffhanger.

Writer Michael Alan Nelson opens the issue off with a bang -- or should I say a slash? -- as original series protagonist Selena dispatches a threat to herself and her charges, a crew of American journalists just too determined to give up. Of course, the tension lies in that latter group, as not everyone understands the severity of infection -- it's a smart way to give exposition, and sets up conflict between Selena and pretty much everyone else.

But it's when the Infected attack that the issue does begin to lose a bit of its focus -- there's a lot of hacking, slashing, and Molotoving, but among the frenetic action, there are a couple of great pages where Selena truly holds her own against the worst instincts humanity -- not the Infected -- has to offer. That said, when the group makes their way to their boat -- with "enough firepower to make Charlton Heston's corpse get up and dance" -- it makes me wonder why they're continuing on. Or more importantly, why Selena is continuing -- you'd think with her barely surviving the first film, another close incounter with the Infected would have her call it a day.

In terms of the art, Declan Shalvey is growing in some elements, and taking a step back in others. A page of the undead pounding against the door looks great, as does an image of reporter Trina, as you can tell she is slowly starting to lose it. That said, his facial expressions are getting less and less polished -- there's a scene where Selena slaps someone, and everyone's faces just look goofy. Shalvey's composition is also hit-and-miss -- there's a great sequence of Selena and Trina against the first wave of the Infected, but seeing the crew run for the boat just feels a little too swashbuckling for a project like this.

In short, 28 Days Later is certainly gaining ground, even if it is by inches. The same issues of establishing the Infected as a threat are still there, albeit in a less pronounced manner -- but with Nelson adding a new wrinkle to the high-stakes, no-time threat of infection, it gives this issue some much-needed meaning. But writing alone can't make this corpse walk --if the art can continue making strides in the right direction, it'll make this series a horror thriller to be reckoned with.

Screen Shots: Webcomics Review

Let’s Be Friends Again (Review by Jessi Reid): Back in July, Lucas Siegel directed us to a shiny new gem in the webcomics world. Just three short months later, Let’s Be Friends Again is a smash of superhero silliness racking up rave reviews from across the comics blogs. Creators Curt Franklin and Chris Haley, have just self-published their first full-color collection, containing the LBFA strips from September 2008 to July 2009.

I started reading Lets Be Friends Agan shortly after meeting artist Chris Haley at HeroesCon this summer. Chris's art is energetic and fun, which, coupled with writer Curt Franklin's witty banter and incessant nerdy references, had me hooked. This series is, without question, for superhero comics lovers, adoringly slamming storylines and characters from the Big Two.

Having already followed the strip for some time, I wasn't sure what to expect from the collected volume that'd add to my enjoyment of the material. I was pleasantly surprised to find commentary for each strip--a welcome DVD-extra-style feature. The additional text reveals a bit about the creators, their intentions, and their feelings about each strip. I could almost read a whole book of this stuff. "Curt and Chris Talk Comics Forever." (You're so very welcome for that idea, by the way, C & C.)

There's also a clever first page for autographs from the creators, a hilarious forward from Benito Cereno, and pinups and fan-art from friends of the series. This is a tome packed with awesome. So if you like that kinda thing, you can pick it up here.


Batman: Streets of Gotham #5 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow)  Regular writer Paul Dini is off for a couple issues, so enter Chris Yost on a tale of faith and how long one can sustain on it.  "Batman" may be in the title, but he's nowhere to be found, though the unlikely duo of Huntress and Man-Bat function nicely here.  As the two play a high-flying game of "bucking bronco" over Gotham City, a local priest, Father Mark, recounts the calamities that have befallen his parish and the city over the years, little things like "No Man's Land," the "Final Crisis" and the "Battle for the Cowl."  The "Leviathan" found in the story's title would appear to be the city itself, a harsh taskmaster that has put him through on trial after another, only to see him continue to serve those in need.  Heck, his first night alone in Gotham should've scared him off to another location.  But Huntress and Man-Bat's ordeal serves as the omen Father mark has been seeking, and the mystery may be if the message he's receiving is truly one from The Man Upstairs.  A serviceable tale aided all the more by the artistic talents of Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, tune in 30 days from now to see who might be responsible for Father Mark's dire new mission.  In the latest edition of "Manhunter," an old ally of Kate Spencer's may has apparently found himself back in Gotham, but on the wrong side of the building war between Spencer and Two-Face.  A gritty few pages, to be sure, with a dramatically interesting look at the craftsman behind many a malicious device wielded by Batman's greatest foes.  My only question is how the story, in regards to Harvey Dent, reconciles itself with Batman #691, as events in that issue suggested that Two-Face was going to have to disappear for a while, and this sort of flies in the face of that.  Anyone got any ideas on that?

Power Girl #6 (DC Comics; reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): Power Girl #6 picks up where issue 5 left off, with PG chasing down a trio of busty and beautiful alien women (And honestly, are there any other kinds? In the DCU the aliens are either very alien looking, or really really attractive by our Earthican standards.). Said alien beauties are on the run due to a silly misunderstanding – inadvertently vaporizing a police officer’s head. Whoops. Carl, also known as Agent 7, has followed the women under his care to Earth, where he promptly lost control of them. With his help, Power Girl is able to figure out how to save the girls, the city, and the day. As always, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do a great job as the writing team, making even the daughters of the Vegan Emperor have very distinct personalities instead of being stereotypical spoiled brat princesses, despite their only being in two issues of the book. And what can you say about Amanda Connor? Her artistic style is spot-on perfect for Power Girl. She is able to keep even the fight scenes upbeat and fun, without losing any of the action of the battles. If you enjoy fun comics, there is no excuse for not reading Power Girl. It’s very reminiscent of the early JLI; funny without being silly, and never at the cost of the story or drama. The issue and the series are both highly recommended. 

Blackest Night: Superman #3 (DC Comics; Reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): Smallville, Kansas. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. At least not now, while a group of Black Lanterns are wreaking havoc in town. Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-2, his lovely wife Lois, and Roger “Psycho Pirate” Hayden, all looking less than their best, are having a time to die for while in town. Kal-Lis focusing his destructive energy on Clark, who also has the formerly dead (but alive again, so not a Black Lantern) Connor Kent (Superboy to you and me) causing him grief. Psycho Pirate, while not busy tearing the hearts out of the Smallvillians, uses the Medusa Mask to not only enrage the afore-mentioned Smallvillians into attacking and killing each other, has used his power to force young Connor to attack his mentor. Meanwhile, back at the Kent farm, Ma Kent faces down her late other worldly daughter-in-law. As a brief aside, I want to say that one of the best decisions DC made was to allow the Kents to stay alive (well, except for Jon, but that’s recent) in the new Superman mythos. Their presence has allowed for much better character growth in their son, as well as much more interesting story lines. OK, back to the review – On New Krypton, the late Zor-El has risen, and is making life hell for his family. The only way Alura Zor-El can think of to permanently rid New Krypton of the Black Lantern menace is a method that will undoubtedly have serious repercussions in the Superman books. A good, action-filled finale to the series that will have effects not only in the Superman books, but in Blackest Night, too.

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