Sunday, May 31, 2009

Green Lantern #41

Another month, another darn good issue of Green Lantern.

I'm not sure a new reader could follow the story that continues to focus on the different hues of emotion and the Lantern Corps that has built up around each one, but for the readers who have been following along, writer Geoff Johns is building up another epic conflict along the lines of last year's Sinestro Corps.

This issue tells the story behind the origin of the Orange Lanterns - which are apparently an army of one. At its heart is Larfleeze (who also goes by Agent Orange), and this issue should probably be titled "My Dinner with Larfleeze," as Hal Jordan has an interesting (and somewhat disgusting) dinner conversation with his host.

The art by Philip Tan and Eddy Barrows is good, although a bit dark and murky in places (of course, given the topic, one assumes it's intentional).

The story builds up to a rather shocking ending, which we won't give away here - but it'll be interesting to see what happens next, and how it all leads in to the upcoming Darkest Night story.

Grade: B+

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trinity #52

This issue of Trinity brings an end to the third of DC's recent weekly series.

I have to admit that I only read a few issues of 52, which the critics seemed to enjoy. I did follow Countdown, which was quite a letdown. The only reason I picked up Trinity was because of the creative team - I've been a fan of Kurt Busiek's writing and Mark Bagley's art for a long time. But could they handle a weekly comic? Thankfully, the answer ends up being: yes.

Still, this series has been a bit up-and-down. It featured a big, sprawling story, but at times it seemed to spin out of control, as there were just too many characters (heroes and villains) crowding into the scene.

It also suffered from "Alternate Reality-itis," a story device that has been worn out lately.

But the biggest sin was that, for too many issues, it didn't feature the title characters. They spent most of the run either absent or transformed into godlike versions of themselves. It comes down to expectations - I was looking forward to stories with the real McCoys.

On the upside, the story was clear and made sense (almost) every step of the way (which is more than you can say about Countdown). It also provided an interesting examination of DC's "Big Three" and what makes them special.

But the biggest plus for the series is Mark Bagley's art. Not only did he turn in 12 pages of excellent art for each issue, he also managed to do it once a week for a year! Not many artists could match that feat, and most would shoot themselves before trying. Kudos to Bagley and the other artists who filled out each issue on time.

This issue wraps things up rather neatly - in fact, the issue is almost too calm. But Lois' final words are almost funny, considering what's going on with Superman now. Not to mention Batman, who's dead, and Wonder Woman, who's also going through something serious (sorry, I haven't been reading that one).

So, a decent series, a serious achievement - and now we can look forward to the tantalizing Wednesday's Comics, which promises to be a lot of fun.

Grade: B+

Friday, May 29, 2009

The New Avengers #53

Writer Brian Bendis usually gets criticized for two things: too many scenes with characters standing around talking, and drawn-out stories that run for several issues without really getting anywhere.

Neither of those gripes fits this issue of The New Avengers.

Here we have a story that's loaded with surprising events, lots of action, and a story that's short and to the point.

This is the third part of (presumably) a four-part story that follows Dr. Strange as he searches the world for a new Sorcerer Supreme to take his place (basically, he's no longer worthy).

Luckily for him, the Avengers are along to help fight the demonic bad guy who's out to steal the title and the power that goes with it.

The issue features a guest star: Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, and he's used to great effect here.

The art by Billy Tan and Matt Banning is also excellent, with some stunning images (including one using the Amulet of Agamotto), some great action sequences (although the fight in the fog seems like cheating) and some grisly demonic battles.

And, oh, that last panel - it'll bring a smile to many long-time readers.

This is Bendis at his best - furious fights, funny dialogue, and surprising twists. Good stuff.

Grade: A-

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Comics for a Thursday

Here's what your pal Chuck picked up today:

- New Avengers #53 - Always nice when the Son of Satan drops by.

- Avengers / Invaders #11
- Almost over.

- Dark Reign: Elektra #3 (of 5) - This has been surprisingly good so far.

- Green Lantern #41 - The origin of Agent Orange - and a shocking finale. What more could anyone want?

- The Incredible Hercules #129 - What a fun concept of the afterlife!

- Justice League of America #33 - More Milestone crossover fun!

- Justice Society of America #27 - Some guest stars, including the original Infinity, Inc.

- Amazing Spider-Man #595
- Severe Norman Osborn overload kicking in.

- The Spirit #28 - According to rumors, this book is being cancelled soon. A shame that it wasn't better.

- Trinity #52 - At last, the finale!

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3 (of 5)

New Comic Day falls on Thursday this week, so here's one more review from last week's comics, and it's sort of a preview of what we can expect in the near future for the Fantastic Four.

That's because this issue is written by Jonathan Hickman, who's taking over the scripting chores on the regular title when Mark Millar moves on in a few months.

This comic, drawn ably by Sean Chen, has three stories running at the same time.

First we have Reed Richards exploring alternate realities to see how the creation of the Illuminati, the Civil War and the Secret Invasion might have played out if events had been different.

The second story follows Sue, Ben and Johnny as they also tumble through alternate realities, meeting their doubles on those worlds.

The third story focuses on the children, Franklin and Valeria, who find themselves alone in the Baxter Building and facing an invasion that relates directly to the Dark Reign.

So far, the first storyline is quite good, the second one is mostly silly, and the third one pretty entertaining.

So it's a fair mix so far, and reasonably encouraging for the future FF. But we'll reserve judgment until we see how it all plays out.

Grade: B

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Classics - Detective Comics #301

The Battle for the Cowl tells about a world without Batman - but that's nothing new.

One of the earliest issues of Detective Comics I can remember reading was this one from March 1962, and it was all about the end of Batman's career.

The lead story, credited only to "Bob Kane" (wink, wink), is titled "The Condemned Batman." While chasing some criminals through a factory that creates artificial gems, Batman is knocked out and left beneath the glow of mysterious rays.

He awakens to find his body is glowing red and radiating incredible heat. A quick examination shows he must spend the rest of his time in a capsule, breathing methane gas (which seems an odd choice since he's radiating intense heat, but let's not let science get in the way, kids).

Rather than ending his career, Batman devises a flying capsule that allows him to continue fighting crime until fate resolves the whole problem in a tidy and dramatic way.

The second part of the issue is devoted to John Jones, Manhunter From Mars. In a particularly delightful story, he finds himself facing several other Martians, and discovers they have teleported from Mars. He follows them back to his home planet, where we see a sweet family reunion with his parents, including wrinkly dad and white-haired mom.

Then he has to face the ultimate menace to Mars - a human with a box of matches! (Martians, of course, become powerless when confronted with fire. Yes, it's lame. What can I tell you - it was the '60s!)

So both stories in this issue are mostly silly - but I have nothing but fond memories of reading this comic over and over as a kid, and I maintain that any young reader would enjoy it just as much today.

The art is professional and clearly tells the story. The writing is crisp and efficient. Your mileage may vary, but for me - it's a classic!

Grade: B

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Amazing Spider-Man #594

So, the short version of this is: Spider-Man clashes with the latest version of The Vulture, discovers who has been looking after his apartment, and Aunt May makes a big decision.

In other words, it's just another issue of The Amazing Spider-Man: not bad at all, but nothing particularly memorable. The art by Barry Kitson and Mike McKone is good - professional, if not terribly flashy. Writer Mark Waid has a good touch for Spidey's dialogue, but this issue doesn't do much to advance the story. If anything, it feels like they're marking time until issue #600.

And as long as I'm griping, boy do I not understand the cover of this issue (or the one before it, for that matter). Both are by the talented Joe Quesada, but here he seems to be trying to obscure who the hero of the book is and which comic you're looking at. Last issue the logo was almost completely obscured, and this one stars Mr. Mattress, a billboard that an incredibly tiny Spider-Man s swinging past. Covers should catch your eye and urge you to buy that comic. Both of these covers fail in that job.

But is change in the wind for Spidey? It's interesting to note that the newspaper strip changed to match the "new" Spidey (namely, it moved to an earlier time period and put Peter Parker back in college, dating Mary Jane. But this Sunday, the strip reverted back to the "present," and has Peter once again married. According to the strip, the return was made in response to "hundreds of letters." Is it a preview of what's coming in the comic book?

We can only hope!

Grade: B-

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hulk #12

I haven't been a fan of the whole Red Hulk storyline, and this issue is a great example of why.

It picks up where the last issue left off - with the (Green) Hulk dead at the hands of the Red Hulk. Never mind that he died in a way that has failed to kill the Hulk dozens of times in the past.

Marvel continuity has no place in this story, which is a complete mish-mash of time traveling flummery, multiple murders, cosmic acts that seem to have no consequences, and a story that casts the Red Hulk as Bugs Bunny, a character for whom reality has no meaning.

As always, the art by Ed McGuinness is tremendous, powerful and larger than life. But the story is just way over the top and beyond silly. If we were just grading the art, this issue would get an "A."

We actually get a couple of tiny hints about the Red Hulk's true identity - but at this point, a year into his first appearance, I'm not sure if anyone actually cares. I don't.

Apparently the Hulk is getting ready to migrate back to his home in the Incredible Hulk comic, which sounds good to me.

The sooner we put this series behind us, the better.

Grade: D

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Captain America #50

I'm afraid our pal Captain America is suffering from a "special issue" overload.

This month we have issue #50, and next month, in Marvel's latest math-challenged move, Cap celebrates issue #600! (The idea, of course, is to get the comic back to its original numbering. I have no idea if the number is accurate or not, since there have been several first issues in recent years - but I'll take their word for it.)

In the battle of which issue is the most special (50 or 600), I suspect the next issue will be the winner. But that's not to say that this issue is a slouch.

Here the focus is on Bucky, and we flash back and forth from the present to his memories of working with the original Captain America during World War II.

It's a nice issue, it's a solid issue, the story by Ed Brubaker is fine, the art by Luke Ross is quite good, there are some touching moments, and a couple of good back-up features - but it's still a "quiet" issue.

But judging by the hints we're getting, we can expect all hell to break loose next time around.

Now, if I could just figure out how to file these issues with all the crazy numbers...

Grade: B

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fantastic Four #566

It's been a rough year for Dr. Doom, who is Marvel's greatest villain.

He's been captured by the New Defenders, defeated by the Avengers, imprisoned for some time, nearly killed by Morgaine Le Fay, and now finds himself embroiled in the Dark Reign.

Now, he's back where he belongs - in the pages of the Fantastic Four. But his troubles may just be beginning.

The latest story arc brings with it the never-before-mentioned instructor who taught Doom how to be... what he is. In previous issues, we've seen Doom's master and his (her? its?) new apprentice laying waste to alternate Earths - and now it looks like it's our turn.

It's funny that Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, who have enjoyed so much success on other books (most recently The Ultimates), have struggled with this book.

Perhaps it's the general fun family atmosphere that's so much a part of the FF. Millar seems more at hope with more reprehensible characters.

Hitch's art has been excellent as always - incredibly detailed and bigger than life. But his covers have been odd - he definitely seems to be experimenting with them, but they just don't grab the eye like a good cover should.

This story is almost entirely set-up for the conflict to come, and it looks promising. While the FF will certainly play a key role, I can't help but hope that Doom takes center stage here and reasserts himself as Marvel's ultimate baddie.

It's the role he was born to play.

Grade: B+

Friday, May 22, 2009

Uncanny X-Men #510

It's been interesting to read the Uncanny X-Men over the past several months.

Under writer Matt Fraction, there's been a move to bring the team back to its glory days, with a (somewhat) leaner cast, solid characterization, some unexpected plot twists and lots of big battles.

For the most part, he's been successful - the comic is a much better read than it's been in a long time, and a new reader probably wouldn't have much trouble picking up the general storyline - although he or she would probably struggle to keep all the villains straight. Long-time readers would probably struggle, too.

The bad guys this time around are all female - the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants, apparently. Thanks to a sneak attack on the X-Men, they have the advantage as they seek a very special prize.

The biggest controversy around this comic centers on the art of Greg Land. He draws in a realistic style, and his specialty is drawing beautiful women. With this story, he gets plenty of room to work his craft.

Yet for all its realism, the art feels stiff - we're getting a series of great-looking still shots, but comic art is all about storytelling - and that's what is in short supply.

For example, there are several panels showing Wolverine swinging into action - but we never get a sense of the actual fight. We see him posed to strike the enemy - and then the story cuts away to a different scene. When we return, he's again posed for the strike, and then we're gone again.

He's not the only artist to struggle with this problem. Perhaps he should do finishes over someone else's layouts?

At any rate, the comic continues its slow road to improvement, and big events are in the offing for next issue.

And just in time - we haven't had a good comic book resurrection in months!

Grade: B+

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 (of 3)

And with a final burst of brutality, bloodletting, death and destruction, we finally bring the Battle for the Cowl to a close, and a new Batman is rolled out.

And not a moment too soon, as far as I'm concerned. Tony Daniel provided both art and story for this mini-series, and while his pencils are solid, the plot leaves a lot to be desired.

The main problem is the massive cast on the stage here. There are so many players, including every member of the Batman family (except for Batman, of course) and virtually every Bat-villain, that there's not much room left for actual story advancement.

We just see lots of characters running around, getting into fights, being shot, stabbed, and blown up - it just makes it difficult to care.

Of course, the whole story just feels like it's treading water - marking time until the "real" Batman returns.

The Bat-books have been feeling very disjointed lately, and perhaps the long-range plan is to shake things up and establish a new status quo - and certainly something needs to be done, because right now Gotham City is crawling with super-heroes.

Rather than spark interest in the Batman line of comics, this series has left a bad taste. Hopefully the new Batman and Robin comic by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely will get things back on track.

Grade: C

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Comics Today!

Here's what your man Chuck picked up today at the comics shop:

- Agents of Atlas #5 - It's practically a weekly!

- Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 (of 3) - Who will be the new Batman (for a few months at least)? I'm guessing Bucky. I mean, Robin. Nightwing?

- The Brave and the Bold #23 - Now there's an unusual team-up: Booster Gold and Magog.

- Captain America #50
- A special day for Bucky - uh, Cap!

- Fantastic Four #566 - Dr. Doom had a super-villain instructor?

- Fantastic Four: Dark Reign #3 (of 5) - The last page is priceless.

- Hulk #12 - There's over the top, and then there's this comic, which takes the Red Hulk to Looney Toon levels.

- Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 - The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, together again!

- Amazing Spider-Man #594 - There's a new Vulture? How many is that now, three?

- Supergirl #41 - The final showdown with Superwoman.

- Trinity #51 - What happens after the Earth gets torn apart? The next issue, of course.

- Uncanny X-Men #510 - Building up to a big event. Maybe.

The Classics - Strange Tales #167

After more than 45 years of reading comics, it would be nearly impossible to pick a favorite single issue. But this one would be mighty close to the top of the list.

Strange Tales #167 carries a cover date of April 1967, but reading it again, it's still at the cutting edge of comic book art, and features writer / artist Jim Steranko schooling the rest of the industry.

Steranko exploded on the comics scene as one of the first artists to write his own comic. He took over the Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD half of Strange Tales (Dr. Strange was featured in the second half) and transformed it with his dynamic, complex writing. Each issue ended on a powerful cliffhanger, leaving you desperate to see the next installment.

Then there's the art - simply the best of its time, he spawned an army of imitators. Steranko combined the power of Jack Kirby, the energy and craft of Wally Wood, used cutting-edge design and printing techniques, and created an amazing body of work in the relatively short time he worked in comics.

This issue would be a legend just for its iconic cover, but the interiors are even more amazing. What other comic featured a four-page splash, as the armies of SHIELD fought the minions of the evil Yellow Claw? (Yep, you had to buy two comics to get the full effect.)

This issue was the final showdown between Fury and the Claw - a dramatic event with a shocking final page - and then an even more shocking revelation on the next page (the other final page), as the true depth of the story was finally revealed.

What can I tell you - it blew my 11-year-old mind!

The second half of the comic, with Dr. Strange, only suffers by comparison. With a story by Denny O'Neil and art by the vastly-underrated Dan Adkins, it was the next-to-the-last chapter in Strange's battle with the super-scientist Yandroth.

The story was just ok, but I loved Adkins' art during his short run in this comic. The only thing about it I didn't like was his use of swipes - they were obvious even to my young eyes.

Still, all together, this was a terrific comic, and it makes me wish again (for the zillionth time) that Steranko would do more comics.

Or at least finish his third volume of The History of Comics.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Unwritten #1

Here's a book that is both incredibly clever and annoyingly obvious in its "inspiration."

The Unwritten tells the story of a young man, Tommy Taylor, whose father wrote a series of wildly popular fantasy books. The hero of the books was apparently based on the writer's son, who is now grown and dealing with the price of fame.

There's a dark mystery swirling around his life, and several mysterious figures who may be friends... or lifelong enemies.

That's the good part - the writing is crisp, engrossing and deep. It's very well done. Except...'s also obvious that it's leaning on the Harry Potter series for inspiration - it even mentions it in the copy, as though that exonerates the author from any wrongdoing. It would have been better to develop a somewhat more original concept for the "story-within-a-story" - one can almost sense J.K. Rowling's attorneys sharpening their knives.

(Perhaps this is DC's way of getting back at that series for its resemblance to the Tim Hunter / Books of Magic series?)

But despite that glaring problem, this is otherwise an excellent series. Peter Gross' art is perfectly matched to the story - an excellent balance between the realistic and the fantastic.

I'd recommend giving this series a try - especially since the first issue is only a dollar. Your level of outrage may vary. (I'd give this book an "A" if not for the swipes.)

Grade: B

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos #1 (One Shot)

I really had high hopes for this comic.

I'm a huge fan of the original Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos, which was labeled "the war comic for people who hate war comics."

It earned the title because it was a peculiar mix of wartime heroics, colorful characters and comedy. It was about as realistic as an episode of the TV show Hogan's Heroes, but under the skillful hands of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers and John Severin (among many others), the original comic was tremendously entertaining and often surprisingly moving.

I picked up this new issue not knowing what to expect. Would it be realistic? Would it try to recapture the original feel of the comic? Would it be good?

The answers are: no, sorta, and sorta.

There's no doubt that John Paul Leon's art is excellent. It's dark, detailed and does a great job of showcasing the action and the Howlers, all of whom are easily identifiable.

It's the story by Jesse Alexander that stands on somewhat shaky ground. The story veers from (somewhat) realistic action to over-the-top stunts, raw violence to cartoon stunts, and even a brief sex romp for the Howlers! (Uh, not with each other - they apparently visit a brothel. Wait'll Dum-Dum's wife hears about this!)

That could all be forgiven, but the dialogue is where the issue really stumbles. Instead of the trademark give-and-take banter, Fury and the Howlers speak in terse statements - it just doesn't "sound" like Fury's men.

I'd be curious to hear if this book was written "Marvel" style - where the artist draws the book, and then the script is written to the art. That's what this feels like, with the writer trying to recapture the feel of the original book.

Sadly, it falls short - but I can't bring myself to be too harsh in judging this comic. I'm just so happy to see the Commandos back on the stands after so many years in comic book limbo, I can forgive the stumbles.

This team just needs more practice - that's the ticket! The answer is more Howlers, not less! Please?

Grade: B-

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6

Sadly, here we reach the end of the second series of stories about The Umbrella Academy - but at least it's a snapping good ending.

However, if you haven't been reading it up to now, don't start here - you'll be hopelessly confused. Instead, wait for the collected edition coming out in October.

This mini-series was titled "Dallas," which is the main setting for this final issue - the Dallas, Texas of 1963, as the time-traveling assassin known as Number Five must find a way to stop himself from preventing the assassination of President John Kennedy. Yep, you read that right.

Shocks, violence, mind-bending twists, saving the world - it's all part of the Umbrella Academy arsenal, and it's all used to good effect here.

Once again, a terrific story by Gerard Way and fantastic art by Gabriel Ba make this one of the best and freshest books around.

Who would have thought?

Grade: A-

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Secret Warriors #4

The Secret Warriors comic, without coming right out and saying so, has been asking its readers for one thing: patience.

This is a story that has been developing slowly. Spinning out of the Secret Invasion and the Secret Wars before it, this has been the story of what Nick Fury has done to get ready for the ultimate menace.

Once again, the creative team turns in a solid effort - from the story by Brian Bendis and Jonathan Hickman to the dark moody art by Stefano Caselli.

Fury has discovered that Hydra has been in control of SHIELD all along, and we've seen the true leaders of Hydra emerge - and a fearsome bunch they are.

Fury has assembled his own team of super-powered Secret Warriors, and in this issue he meets up with two of his oldest friends and we learn about other preparations for the upcoming war. (And how good it is to see those friends again!)

The good news is, all hell is about to break loose. The bad news is, this issue is more of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, so there's no real action on display. But be patient, readers - next issue is the payoff, and should tell the tale about this series - whether or not it lives up to the build-up.

Here's hoping!

Grade: B

Friday, May 15, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #36

This issue features three different stories that have all come to a boil at the same time, while continuing to lay hints about the upcoming Blackest Night series.

The first story features a not-so-tender reunion between Sinestro and his long-lost daughter, who just happens to be a Green Lantern. In some ways this is the most interesting part of the comic, as it lays the foundation for future stories.

The second story is an all-out battle between an army of Green Lantern Corps members and the countless prisoners who have escaped from the Guardian's prison cells (which are about as secure as Arkham Asylum). This part of the story is just a mess, with a series of panels depicting the chaotic battle, but delivering no clear idea of what's going on or who's winning.

The final part of the story takes us to the planet Daxam, where Mongul has taken control of the Yellow Lantern Corps and is establishing a home base. Can two Green Lanterns stand against Mongul?

This issue is a bit of a miss for me - both the art and story are pretty erratic. Artist Patrick Gleason provides some stunning images, but most of the battle scenes are too difficult to decipher.

And if you're buying it because it's a prelude to Blackest Night, you should know that a grand total of two panels hint at that series.

This has been a strong series up to now, and a great companion to Green Lantern, but this one never pulls it together long enough to matter. Hopefully the next issue will provide some resolution to one of the many stories running through the title.

Grade: C+

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ultimate Spider-Man #132

As Marvel's Ultimate Universe continues its slow stagger toward oblivion (or whatever happens to it after the Ultimatum series is finished), it's nice to know there's one bright spot in the proceedings.

Ultimate Spider-Man has been the class act of the bunch since the beginning - consistently very good and often the best comic of the month.

Under the hand of writer Brian Bendis and a few different artists - most recently the excellent Stuart Immonen - this comic has explored the joys and pains of adolescence, the heroism of a young man driven to do the right thing, a sweet love affair (or two), fun and interesting characters and some amazing adventures. In other words, it's been everything a Spider-Man comic should be.

The latest (and next-to-the-last) issue finds Spider-Man trying to save lives in a New York City devastated by a massive flood. He's "teaming up" (and I use the phrase loosely) with the Hulk, which is kind of a hit-and-miss proposition.

Together they're trying to stem the tide of monsters pouring out of Dr. Strange's home, which was also smashed in the disaster.

It's yet another excellent story in the series, with a bit of a horror twist that works really well.

If only the Ultimatum series were half as good as this one...

Grade: A-

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Comics for a Wednesday

Here's the weekly report on the comics picked up by your pal Chuck:

- Black Panther #4 - Interesting that, other than the cover, we've not seen the female Black Panther in the Panther costume.

- Booster Gold #20 - More time-traveling fun.

- Green Lantern Corps #36
- Big battle issue!

- Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commados #1 (One Shot) - Speaking of battles...

- Secret Warriors #4 - Speaking of the Howlers...

- Trinity #50 - Two to go!

- Ultimate Spider-Man #132 - One to go (sorta)!

- The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6 - Zero to go!

- The Unwritten #1
- For a buck, I figured, what the heck.

- Wonderful Wizard of Oz #6 (of 8) - One can only hope that they'll adapt the other Oz books as well.

And I picked up Alter Ego #85 - Superman vs. Capt. Marvel!

The Classics: The Destructor #1

Comic books stories about characters seeking revenge are pretty common, and that's the tale at the heart of today's "classic" comic - The Destructor.

But it's also the motivation behind Atlas Comics, the company that launched at the same time as this title - the cover date is February 1975.

Atlas was created by Marvel's founding father, Martin Goodman, shortly after he sold Marvel Comics. According to the story, part of the agreement for the sale was that Goodman's son Chip would be retained with the "new" Marvel - but the new owners fired him.

Seeking revenge, Martin Goodman set his son up with a brand-new comics company, using Marvel's former company name, Atlas. He also hired some of the industry's best talent to create those comics, including Howard Chaykin, Larry Hama, Micheal Fleisher, Ernie Colon, Al Milgrom and Mike Sekowsky.

This issue boasts the top creative team at the new company - writer Archie Goodwin, penciler Steve Ditko and inker Wally Wood.

The Destructor focuses on a young hood named Jay Hunter, whose inventor father is shot down along with his son during a gang hit. Jay's father survives long enough to give his son an experimental treatment that hones his strength and natural abilities to their peak.

Jay, natch, swears he'll get revenge on the gang that killed his father. It may sound like any other comics origin, but in the hands of these three giants of the industry, the quest for vengeance has rarely been better.

The Atlas line of comics didn't enjoy the same success as our hero does in this issue. After appearing on the scene in an explosion of more than 20 color comics - many of them quite good - within a few months the entire line had fallen apart.

The last month or so were particularly sad, as virtually every issue was completely changed in a desperate attempt to gain readers. For whatever reason, the Atlas line went away, never to be seen again, except in the discount boxes - but a few of those comics are well worth seeking out, including this one and the first two issues of Wulf the Barbarian and The Scorpion.

But for the Goodmans, revenge was apparently a dish that went cold quickly.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Astro City: The Dark Age: Book Three #1 (of 4)

Welcome back to the stands our good friends from Astro City!

Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson are talented creators in their own right, but together they've turned in their best work on this long-running series (although it's been a bit erractic in its publishing schedule).

After a bit of a hiatus, it's good to see this comic back, as it begins the third part of the Dark Age story, which focuses on two brothers who lost their parents in an encounter between superheroes and supervillains. The brothers have spent their lives trying to track down the man responsible, and they're getting close to their goal.

It's an interesting look at the changes in how superheroes were perceived in the 1980s, and along the way we see the birth of a "new" hero.

My only criticism of the issue, actually, is for the cover - a surprisingly average job by the usually-infallible Alex Ross, it offers an odd angle on Cleopatra. Its biggest sin is that it plays the "hide the title" game - the Astro City: Dark Ages is almost impossible to read. I almost missed this comic on the stands as a result.

This issue might be a little difficult for a new reader to dive into, since it's the third chapter in the story - but it's well worth picking up those collections to get up to speed.

It's also good to hear that future issues in this story will arrive on schedule. It's great to have Busiek and Anderson - and Astro City - back on tour again!

Grade: B+

Monday, May 11, 2009

Power Girl #1

Power Girl is yet another in a long line of DC heroines who has a confusing back story (along with Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Supergirl, Batgirl, the original Wonder Girl and the new Wonder Girl).

She was originally created to be the Earth-2 version of Superman's cousin Kara (Supergirl), but under Wally Wood's skillful pen, she was rendered in a much more, uh, pneumatic style than Supergirl ever was (not that I'm complaining).

Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths hit, and Earth-2 was written off - but no one had the heart to get rid of Power Girl, so her origin changed, and she became related to the magician Arion of Atlantis and... well, it never made much sense.

Finally, in a recent mini-series by Geoff Johns, it was explained that she was really... Superman's cousin from the Krypton of Earth-2, and an anomaly on our world who somehow survived the Crisis. It was as good an explanation as any.

So now, finally, Power Girl has her own ongoing series, and it's been placed in the creative hands of writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. They turn in a solid effort here, as they sorta kinda recap her origin and set her up with a new life in New York.

That gets interrupted during an attack by a bunch of aliens that seem to have stepped right out of the (excellent) Bioshock game. It's a fast-paced issue that's rolling out on a big stage - it's all very encouraging!

But the real star of the issue is the artwork by Amanda Conner, who I've raved about before. Her style is fresh, fun and energetic, and she handles the big action sequences and the quiet personal moments with equal skill. She's one of the best artists working in the field today, and personally, I'll follow her on any book. And her style is perfect for this kind of superhero adventure, as she adds loads of personality to each page.

It's great to see this book being handled by a team that seems to have a clear vision of who Power Girl is, and where she's going. The character has needed that for decades.

Grade: A-

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Links!

Hey, it's been a while since I updated the links over there in the right-hand column.

Here are the sites I've added (they were all nice enough to link to this site - it's only fair to return the favor):

* Comic Book Critics - This site gathers reviews from around the web and posts the average score for each issue. Great idea!

* Comic Related - a cool news site with lots of features about comic books and related stuff.

* Five Tunes - not comics related, but a fun site that lets you listen to new music and learn about some up-and-coming bands.

* Misconceiving Moments - a blog site that talks about all kinds of pop culture-type topics, but mostly it's about comics.

* Speed Force - lots of information and blogging about all things Flash-related!

* Steve Canyon - a daily reprint of one of the all-time greatest comic strips.

Chuck says check 'em out! (But don't forget to come back and visit us, too!)

Irredeemable #2

This title is getting strong word of mouth, so despite missing the first issue, I decided to give Irredeemable a try.

There are lots of reasons to like it. It's written by Mark Waid, who always turns in good work. The art is by Peter Krause, who does outstanding work here, with excellent characterization, some strong action shots and a great touch with quieter moments.

The plot is unusual for comics - it's about a powerful superhero who turns on humanity. The Plutonian is a hero obviously based on Superman, and in this issue we see other heroes working to find a way to stop his destructive rampage.

The only flaw with this comic is that it's a bit too obvious in its take on the Silver Age Superman - the parallels are evident, though of course there are some clever twists along the way.

Waid has covered the "bad guy as the central character" ground to better effect in Empire, but this story is still in its early stages, so we'll see where it goes from here.

So far, it's not bad - but the story needs to catch up to the art.

Grade: B

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Free Comic Book Day - Blackest Night, Avengers and Shatner Presents

OK, your ol' pal Chuck dropped the ball on Free Comic Book Day - but he'll try to make it up to you with a week-late bonus review of three Free Comics:

- The Avengers is almost a mini-comic - it's about an inch smaller than a regular-sized comic - but it's packed with a fun team-up (of sorts) between the New Avengers and the Dark Avengers.

Written by Brian Bendis with art by Jim Cheung, the story begins with Thor hurtling to the Earth, beaten by a monstrous opponent.

The story that follows is somewhat slim, but features the usual sharp dialogue and a fun story.

It's kind of a sidebar to the regular stories unfolding during the Dark Reign, but it's not bad, and worth reading.

Grade: B

- Blackest Night #0 may be the standout of the freebies. It features great art and story, and offers a solid set-up for this summer's Blackest Night story.

It's safe to say that several of the dead characters who will rise in that series are mentioned here, as two guys who know about rising from the dead - Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan and Barry (The Flash) Allen - talk about friends who have passed.

The issue also features a recap of the other colorful Corps out there, and it has an illuminating essay by Geoff Johns, which I enjoyed a lot. Recommended!

Grade: A-

- William Shatner Presents offers a preview of three different comics that feature stories by you-know-who, including The Tek War Chronicles, Man O' War and Quest for Tomorrow.

I really wanted to like these comics, because I'm a Shatner fan - but the fact is, these samples are just average at best. A few pages of story isn't enough to give the reader a good basis to judge the concept, and the art ranges from good to average to much less than average.

This comic is really just for the hard-core fans of Shatner.

Grade: C-

New Mutants #1

I always liked the idea of Professor Xavier's Academy being a "School for Gifted Students."

It set the X-Men apart from other team books, and established the same idea that the Harry Potter books used to such great effect. Not that I'm suggesting J.K. Rowling stole the idea from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - I'm sure the idea predates the original X-Men. (Right?)

At any rate, the original X-Men comic moved away from the idea early on, and many years later it was revived in the New Mutants comic, which told the story of a new group of young mutants who needed to be trained in the use of their powers. That comic enjoyed a long run and featured quite a few excellent stories - and a few stinkers.

So now that team is back, and the focus seems to be on "getting the band back together" - and that's fine, although there's some continuity sludge to be dealt with before the creative team can get around to telling their own stories.

This issue features a dramatic return by Magik, who's fresh from the X-Infernus series. She brings a warning for her old teammates, and they go in search of the rest of the team.

I've long since lost track of the original team members, although I remember that the shapeshifting alien Warlock and his friend Doug Ramsey were both killed at some point. But the creative team is on track to reintroduce us to the team members, so all these mysteries should be cleared up soon.

The writer on this comic is Zeb Walls, and he does a solid job of reintroducing the leads and laying clues to future events.

The art is by Diogenes Neves, with Cam Smith and Ed Tadeo inking, and it's quite good. I'd like to see some more variety in panel composition - there are too many medium-range shots. I'd like to see more dramatic shots like Magik's reappearance or the first shot of the team in their new uniforms. But those are minor quibbles.

For now, the book is off to something of a slow start, but the foundation is there for bigger and better things ahead. Here's hoping.

Grade: B-

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Flash Rebirth #2

While there seem to be quite a few fans who are mourning the "demotion" of Wally West, allow me to say how thrilled I am to have Barry Allen back from the comic book graveyard.

He was the Flash I grew up with, and I'm glad to have him back in his red-and-yellow uniform.

This issue finds Barry continuing to try to adjust to the modern world, and writer Geoff Johns provides a clever excuse for Barry's absence all these years (although I thought his identity was revealed to the world before he "died." Perhaps I'm misremembering).

As always, Ethan Van Sciver's art is terrific, and I like his method of visualizing super speed, as lightning crackles around the Flash. The artwork is detailed, but provides clean storytelling.

It's difficult to say much more without giving away the plot, but a mystery continues to gather around Barry as his return seems to be causing major problems for the super-speedsters of the world, including family and friends.

This series continues to build slowly (which is a bit ironic, I suppose), but I'm anxious to see where it's all going.

Grade: A-

Thursday, May 7, 2009

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910

This graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910, is another chapter in the adventures of the Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill-created team.

Like the preceding chapters, this edition is packed full of references to fictional characters, songs, historical incidents, prophecies and stories of all shapes and sizes.

It's stunning in its density, and capturing all the references herein would be a scholarly undertaking.

But that's not to say this book is in any way dull or boring. Rather, it works on many levels. At its base, it's a snapping good tale of a strongheaded girl who learns a tragic lesson and takes a terrible revenge; and of the remnants of a team assembled to deal with the problems normal men (and women) cannot.

But there's much more at work here. It brings the story into the 20th Century, as the world begins to change and dark forces move into play. This is Moore at his best, telling a complex story with incredible skill.

The LoEG stories also owe a lot to artist O'Neill. His style is unique and fascinating, loaded with detail, events and in-jokes, and he brings the time period to life. His art is somewhat unconventional (that's a good thing) - sometimes cartoony, sometimes realistic - but always in service of telling a great story.

If you've never read a LoEG book, this would be like jumping into the deep end of the pool - but it's a rewarding experience.

There's some violent material and adult situations in this book, so I can't recommend it for young readers, but if you're looking for a graphic novel that will challenge you while it entertains, there are few (if any) better books out there.

Grade: A

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Today's Comics

Today your pal Chuck picked up:

- Agents of Atlas #4 - Still not up to the mini-series, but getting there.

- Astro City: Dark Age: Book Three #1 (of 4) - So glad to see this series back.

- New Avengers: The Reunion #3 (of 4) - This has been pretty good so far.

- FarScape: Strange Detractors #2 (of 4) - Also good.

- Flash Rebirth #2 - I'm so happy to see Barry Allen back! I know, I'm a geek.

- Human Torch Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (One Shot)
- Hey, it really is his 70th Anniversary!

- Invincible Iron Man #13 - Pepper Potts is... Iron Woman!

- Irredeemable #2 - It's been getting great reviews, and it's written by Mark Waid, so I thought I'd check it out.

- Kull #6 (of 6) - Say it with me: Ka Nama Kaa Lajerama!

- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910 - This and Astro City in the same month - it's like Christmas!

- New Mutants #1 - Nice to see this comic back again.

- Power Girl #1 - To quote "The Critic" - Hatchi Matchi!

- Amazing Spider-Man #593 - That is one terrible cover.

- Superman - World of New Krypton #3 (of 12) - So far, I'm just not feelin it.

- Trinity #49 - It's the end of the world as we know it.

- The Warlord #2 - Putting the band back together.

As for Free Comic Book Day (four days late), I got:

- The Avengers, Blackest Night #0, and, in honor of Star Trek's release, William Shatner Presents!! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

The Classics - Wonder Woman #203

By popular demand (well, one reader asked - that's popular enough for me!), here's a review of an issue of the "New" Wonder Woman - this one is dated November - December 1972.

I picked up this issue not long ago at a convention for $2.50 - it's always great to find an old comic that costs less than today's comics (though admittedly that's a jump from the original cover price of 20 cents).

At this point in Wonder Woman's career, she had been changed from superhero to a non-powered adventuress - basically, she was Mrs. Peel (from the TV show The Avengers - no relation to the Marvel comic).

I picked it up mostly because I thought the cover was funny - above the title is a banner that proclaims this to be a "Special Women's Lib Issue" - and the bondage cover features a helpless blonde. Mixed messages, anyone?

I was surprised to realize the author of the issue was Samuel R. Delany, who had already made his name as a science fiction writer.

The story is something of a time capsule, focusing on Women's Liberation - an issue that was heating up at the time, and still exists today, though I'd like to think some progress has been made. The issue is a "small" adventure, with no costumed supervillains to deal with.

Instead, Diana Prince finds herself dealing with man's condescending behavior towards women - from "fresh" guys ogling her as she walks down the street to a businessman who hopes to take advantage of the "new" women's lib movement, and tries to exploit Diana and her image for his benefit.

Of course, there are several real fights along the way, and Diana gets to demonstrate her (relatively new) mastery of the martial arts (though her sensei, I Ching, is nowhere to be seen).

It's a "small" story, but an effective one. It's dated, of course, but it still has a message for today's audience.

The art for the issue is provided by the always-excellent Dick Giordano, and while he's always had a great reputation as an inker, this issue shows he's also among the best when it comes to penciling. Outstanding work, and he brings a realistic edge that the story needs. His fight scenes are also believable and efficient.

This was an amazing period for the Amazon Princess. It's not so rare today for characters to undergo some degree of "remodeling" - a new costume, new supporting cast, change in location, deals with the devil - they're all the norm these days, but in the '70s it was extremely rare.

I don't know if the move was made in desperation, or if it was just a spark of inspiration, but the idea of changing Wonder Woman's costume (and dressing her in glamourous fashions of the day), making her a normal woman (albeit one with incredible martial arts skills) and doing away with her supporting cast and putting her in a brand new setting - well, it was a courageous stunt.

The character was almost completely cut off from the DC Universe - I think she appeared in Brave and the Bold a couple of times, and in Justice League of America once - but otherwise, she didn't interact with the regular DC heroes.

Ultimately, it didn't work, and not long after this issue she was back in her red, blue and gold swimsuit (and repowered, of course), but for a while there, her comic was about a "real" woman, and not a mythological Amazon mish-mash.

It was fun while it lasted!

Grade: B

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dark Reign: The Cabal #1

It's difficult to write a good villain.

A good villain is one who's interesting, intelligent and driven. You can scarcely take your eye off them, because you can't wait to see what they do next. They can be somewhat sympathetic because of the events that made them into a villain, but you should never actually sympathize with them. But it's ok to understand what makes them the way they are.

So that's what this issue is all about - five interesting, driven villains (though at least two of them should be categorized as "hero / villains") and what makes them tick. And in Dark Reign: The Cabal, you get a look inside the mind of each member of that group.

So we see what dark plans Dr. Doom dreams about. You get a glimpse at the survival instincts of Emma Frost. A dark secret hidden under The Hood. The Sub-Mariner makes a fateful decision. And Loki sits down to a poisonous dinner.

The stories (each by a different writer) are all well-written and the art (each by a different artist) is quite good - dark and moody.

But even though all the pieces are well done, this isn't a comic for everyone. If you haven't been following the Dark Reign storyline, you probably won't care about the machinations of the five members of the Cabal.

However, if you're a fan of that series, then you'll probably want to pick this up for an interesting glimpse between the lines.

Or, as Stan Lee would say: "Bring on the Bad Guys!"

Grade: B-

Monday, May 4, 2009

Free Comic Book Day Reviews

Our man Kyle sent in his reviews of some of the freebies available on Free Comic Book Day, and with his permission I'll share his comments with you.

He writes:
Here's my attempt at some brief spoiler-free comments on what I picked up for FCBD...

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Dark Horse) - I liked the Clone Wars story, probably not enough to pick up the comics but enough to make me want to rent the movie.

Usagi Yojimbo was excellent as usual.

Emily the Strange was totally not my thing, I didn't like the artwork at all, and after getting through half of the second page I realized I liked the story even less and didn't even bother to finish, BLEH...

I thought Beanworld was okay, back in the Eclipse days, I was was a huge Airboy and Scout fan but never got into Beanworld.

Indiana Jones was nothing special, maybe I was expecting more when I saw Mark Evanier's name as the writer...

Wolverine (Marvel): I enjoyed this more than I thought I would... I must not have been paying attention at the beginning because the last two pages totally surprised me! I had to go back and, re-read the first two pages and yup, totally should have seen that coming. It was a good all ages Marvel Adventures-style story.

DC Kids Mega Sampler (DC): The Billy Batson and Magic of Shazam was a reprint of first issue, so nothing new there. The Batman Brave and Bold was good, I really enjoy the cartoon, it was nice to see it translate pretty well to print. Tiny Titans was as good as ever, although a couple of the strips I had seen before. Were they in last year's FCBD issue? Maybe I read a preview on-line... I just can't seem to fork out $2.50 an issue for this series, even though it is always a good (if brief) read.

Nancy/Melvin (Drawn & Quarterly): Didn't care for the Melvin Monster half and thought the Nancy half was just okay. Nancy seems to be pretty popular (popular enough to warrant some collected editions, I guess), but just doesn't seem to do anything for me. I really liked the faded yellow newsprint though, I thought that was a great touch.

Blackest Night (DC): I liked this a lot, I haven't read any Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps since long before the relaunch, but had no trouble following along. It really sucked me into wanting to buy the series, then I saw the last page... 24 issue checklist?!?! At least $2.99+tax each minimum probably, so no thanks... I wonder how many are really essential to the story? If anything I'll just wait for the trade of the "main series". I did get Sinestro Corps War Vol. 1 in the mail today (as well as the Diana Prince: Wonder Woman TPB... thanks for the recommendation Chuck!), so that will definitely influence whether I end up checking this out or not.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage): Wow! 25 years! This really brought me back, I loved this when it first came out... I think I started with issue 7 off the rack and quickly got the back issues... or at least whatever xth printing I could find! Man those first prints were expensive and rare... even back then! I really loved this series, at least the first dozen issues and one-shots or so... I sold all my Turtle issues a long while back so was nice to get this.
Great job - thanks, Kyle!

Uncanny X-Men #509

Any writer worth his (or her) salt knows it's a good idea to play to the strength of your artist.

That's exactly what Matt Fraction has done in his work on Uncanny X-Men.

Greg Land provides the pencil art here, and he's especially good at capturing expressions and drawing beautiful women.

To accommodate that skill, Fraction has provided a story that pits the X-Men - a team that already features a number of stunning females - against a team of bad guys that's entirely made up of beautiful women.

Leading the bad "guys" is Madeline Pryor, who's looking great for a dead woman. Her back story is way too complicated, but let's just say she's (basically) an evil clone of Jean Grey.

After several issues of set-up, this is the issue where the action takes over and the plot is revealed, and assuming I'm following it correctly, there should be a really controversial event happening in the next issue or two - so keep an eye out for that, X-fans.

After spending quite a few years turning out stories that didn't really grab the attention of the readers out there, the X-Men definitely seems to be back on the right track.

And, if you're a fan of good-girl art, it's a mighty attractive track, too. (Oh, you know what I mean.)

Grade: B+

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sherlock Holmes #1

There are lots of bad Sherlock Holmes adaptations and knock-offs out there in the literary world - and quite a few good ones, I should add - so I approached this series with no small amount of trepidation.

I've read and enjoyed all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Holmes stories, so I'm always hoping a new author can capture the real detective and provide us with a new story worthy of the originals.

It's too soon to say that this issue manages that difficult feat, but it's certainly a good start.

The cover by John Cassaday, for example, is outstanding. The interior art by Aaron Campbell is quite good, too. It's not flashy at all, but it captures the era well and sets the moody setting.

The story by Leah Moore and John Reppion is solid so far, although we just get the setup in this first issue.

The story follows the investigation into a massive explosion that destroyed a warehouse in the East End of London (located at the too-cute address at the corner of Doyle's Street and Challenger Lane).

Threats are made to the life of an elderly gentleman, so Holmes investigates, along with his friend Dr. Watson, and the result finds Holmes in unfamiliar territory.

There's still a lot of story to unfold, and some may quibble with the characterization of Holmes at the end of the story, but so far I'm enjoying this one. I do look forward to seeing more of Holmes' analytical side, though.

And I managed to get through the review without a single mention of the word "elementary!" Well, except for that one.

Grade: B+

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Free Comic Book Day!

Reader Kyle writes:
Hey Chuck, you headed to your LCS today for FCBD? Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on some of the selections...
Unfortunately, I completely dropped the ball on Free Comic Book Day - I just didn't have time to stop by my shop - although my shop owner assured me he'd have some on Wednesday for his usual customers. I'll share my thoughts once I get a look at 'em.

Readers (and I know you're out there), I'd love to hear what you picked up today and what was worth looking at. From past experience, those free comics run the gamut from fun... to lame.

To leave a comment, just click on the "Comments" link at the bottom of this entry.

Justice Society of America #26

And here we come to the end of an era (or at least a darn good run of comics) as Geoff Johns turns in his final issue of Justice Society of America.

Johns has done some terrific work on this series, crafting stories about big events that make you think and have emotional impact.

He's filled the book to the brim with fascinating characters, including original members of the first super-team in comics, members of the newest generation of heroes and some who fall in between.

Stories have run the gamut from big, cosmic battles for the fate of the Earth to small, personal stories that touch the heart. The story that returned Ma Hunkle to the team is one of my all-time favorite comics anywhere.

I like the fact that his final issue is another personal one - this one focuses on Stargirl and both her families - her real one and her super-family. It's loaded with sweet moments, although my favorite has to be a conversation Wildcat has with his son - it's not often a comic gives you a lump in your throat.

This issue is also Dale Eaglesham's last as penciler, and he's going out in style, with lots of stunning panels crowded with family members, and plenty of intimate personal moments, too. He's really grown on this comic, and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

It would be remiss not to mention the incredible family portrait on the cover by Alex Ross, although it's a bit of a pain to have it spread across three different covers. But it'll make a heckuva poster someday.

Here's hoping the next creative team can maintain the high standards this book has enjoyed for most of its run. It's a tall order, but the JSA, as DC's first family, deserves the best.

Grade: A-

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dark Avengers #4

I realize that writer Brian Bendis is the master of extended storylines - after all, he's the guy who took Spider-Man's 15-page origin and stretched it into the first eight (or more) issues of Ultimate Spider-Man.

But that's OK - it's his style, and he's very good at it. But it's starting to wear around the edges.

In Dark Avengers, for example, the first issue set up the premise - Norman Osborn recruits villains to disguise themselves as heroes and form a new Avengers team - and then the story launched into a battle between the Dark Avengers and Morgana Le Fay.

That battle has continued for three issues, as Avengers battle armies of demons, and actually manage to kill Le Fay - only she's not really dead, which gets an incomprehensible explanation. There's not a lot of plot going on here, just bad guys getting hammered by spells and demons over and over again - and since they're all villains, we root for no one.

So here we are, three issues later, and they're all still fighting. The story is finally resolved in this issue, but not in a particularly satisfying way.

And would someone please explain to comics writers that dinosaurs and humans did not exist side by side? Gah!

Despite my gripes, there are some nice moments - the final page is quite good - and the art is fabulous. Mike Deodato turns in some stunning pages here, and is really carrying the issue. He should be high up on the list of amazingly talented artists.

I think this series would be easier to handle if we knew how many issues we're in for. Right now, I find I'm losing patience with it - the art is the only reason to recommend it.

Oh, one more thing. The cover scene? Nowhere in the comic.

Grade: B+