DC Universe 0 (Morrison/Johns/A raft of artists):
...So I ... and that ... I mean ... what the hell was that hot mess, anyway? It was billed as a big status quo explanation that would be a perfect jumping-on spot for new readers, but it explained so little that unless you read one hell of a lot in the DC universe, you had no idea what was going on.

It was meant at least in part also to be marketing and a teaser for the upcoming Final Crisis and its many many many many many many many many tie-in stories, and it managed to persuade me to read ... nothing I wasn't already reading. I mean, I'll probably do Batman RIP, because I read Batman peripatetically and Detective consistently, and despite the fact that "The Resurrection of Ra's Al-Ghul" crossover, after a great first issue or two, sucked like a sucking thing of suckitude making a giant sucking sound of suckiness. (In other words, it was very very bad.) I'll read "Whom gods forsake", because I read Wonder Woman, and because I've been waiting for the choice she had to make to rescue her mother to have consequences -- although a raft of Spartans about to attack the world because she's a woman who couldn't save it in fact has absolutely nothing to do with that choice. (Don't ask me why they're Spartans, either.) I was already planning to read "Final Crisis: Revelations", because it's Rucka writing Renee Montoya, and it's going to be a teamup with Crispus Allen/the Spectre, and there's no way on EARTH I'd want to miss that. I could give a rat's ass about "Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds: Prime Evil" in which various and sundry Legions try to beat down Superboy ... er, pardon, SuperMAN Prime. (How many colons does a title need, anyway?) I could give a rat's ass about "Green Lantern: Blackest Night Prelude: The Dead Shall Rise". Which is apparently a prequel to their major DEAR GOD YES THIS IS THE END OF ALL CRISES TO BEAT ALL CRISES crossover for next year, anyway. And I could care less about "Final Crisis" itself.

The other thing that baffles me is why DC spent so much time planting information in the media about the Big Event That Happens in the story ... especially since it kind of doesn't really happen. I will note, however, that I was vastly amused that the multiverse literally precipitates fallen heroes when it needs them, just assembling them and raining them out of the sky when it wants them, like sentient magma, judging from what we do see. Granted, it makes a sort of sense, given how he died, but still, it was terribly funny to see them actually do something that silly. That said, the ending graphic is, just barely, subtle enough that if DC hadn't been clanging that anvil, dropping said anvil on the heads of anyone who'd stand still long enough, and then shouting from the rooftops after that, a lot of people would have missed it entirely. Or assumed that the multiverse was precipitating a stripper, which would have been kind of perfect, really.

Anyway, a story that managed to actually not be worth the 50 cents they charged for it. Who knew?

Devi 19 (Mohapatra/Chandrasekhar; Virgin): basically, an issue long fight between Devi and the abruptly resurrected and body-jumping Daanvi, although it also contains flashes to activity going on underneath Sitapur in the lost city of Candara. Some tourists/archaeologists have most unfortunately gotten themselves mixed up with the darinde, who have plans for them. Aside from Tara getting a forced, and thankfully brief, review of her sister's life, not a lot happens in the main storyline -- issue long fight sequences tend to have that effect. Chandrasekhar's artwork is very nice, as always. It turns out that reminding us that Candara exists is also relevant to...

Witchblade/Devi (Ron Marz/Eric Basaloua; Top Cow/Virgin): a profoundly unnecessary, but oddly interesting crossover. It starts with us watching the original team-up between a very early holder of the Witchblade and an early Devi incarnation, teeing off against Tama, Bala and Iyam. (Familiar names? Why, yes, they are!) The artwork for the earlier Devi incarnation is sincerely problematic; we're explicitly told that Tara is the first living human to contain the Devi goddess -- the first incarnation that we see in the original Devi series is actually blue, for heaven's sake -- and yet this person appears to be exactly that. She's also wearing nothing more than the Devi crown and strategically placed fire. Anyway, Sara Pezzini wakes up from her dream of the Witchblade/Devi teamup, gets guided about Sitapur by Rahul, who is helping to investigate a murder in which the murderers killed in New York and ran away to Sitapur, and then gets attacked by darinde when she tries to sleep. She drives them off, and then has a lovely meet-ugly with Tara/Devi. The story, as mentioned, is unnecessary but fun, although it's clear that it's going to get on an express train for the Devi/Witchblade issue from Virgin/Top Cow next month; it's got places to go, and it's nowhere near there yet. Basaloua's artwork, on the other hand, is wildly inconsistent. At times it's much too simply drawn -- Sara's face in particular suffers from a lack of detail and expression and she almost always has her mouth half-open -- and at times it's really well detailed -- Candara and the darinde in particular are very well done. An enjoyable read if you normally pick up Devi; I have no idea how this works for readers of Witchblade.

Abyss 4 of 4 for the first story arc (Rubio/Maragon; Red 5): in which the big fight to which we've been building up finally takes place! At a comics convention! And it's much much shorter than you were expecting! ... because it turns out that we only thought this issue was building up to the big fight. It was actually building up to what comes after that. (No, I'm not telling.) Artwork is very nice, and it's going to be interesting to see what they do with this setup, now that they've got it. Eric with a superteam is most unexpected, I have to say.

Proof 7 (Grecian/Rossmo/Staples; Image): In which the big guy unleashes a bit of whoopass -- if only a bit -- Ginger and Elvis find and try to rescue the baby brontosaurus, and all the traitors are revealed. And ... not a lot else happens, actually, but it happens very interestingly. Highly recommended.

Jack of Fables 22 (Willingham/Sturges/Akins/Pepoy; DC/Vertigo): In which we're introduced, quite abruptly and seemingly unattached to the current storyline, to Jack in his past. Unlike the present, in which he's a very self-involved criminal but still somehow charming, the Jack of 1883 is a brutal, vicious murderer. He's so bad that Fabletown decides something must be done, and sends Bigby out after him. It's going to be interesting to see how Willingham and Sturges manage to maintain this arc, and how long they take it. Jack really was a borderline sociopath already; pushing him into full-fledged serial killer/spree murderer/robber/thug may be a bit more than the audience can stand for too long.

Caliber: First Canon of Justice 1 (Sam Sarkar/Garrie Gastonny; Radical Comics): One of the first issues of a new title from a new company. I read the issue and then saw some publicity elsewhere; only then did I discover that Caliber is meant to be a revisioning of the King Arthur legend. It's incredibly easy to miss if you're not paying the right sort of attention. (Though paying the right sort of attention makes it a terribly puzzling story indeed.) In the role of Merlin stands Jean Michel, son of a French trader and a Nez Perce shaman's daughter. In what appears to be the conflated role of Morgaine and Nimue stands Morgan, Jean Michel's lover. Captain Pendergon, commander of the town fort, appears to be standing in for Uther Pendragon -- his wife, standing in for Ygraine, dies during the story. And, of course, there's Arthur, the captain's son. And standing in for Excalibur is ... well, it's the old west. What would you think Excaliber would be? Knowing what the story is meant to be helps you understand a bit of what's going on ... if only a bit. For example, Jean Michel makes a critical mistake, because the spirits that speak to him to tell him what to do -- and we do hear the spirits along with him -- are profoundly unspecific, even though it seems as though they're being responsive. In any event, it may be interesting to see how this story goes. (Against that is the fact that I kind of hate Westerns, although a western with fantastical elements is pretty much something I may be able to deal with.) The art work ... well. Part of me wants to say that Gastonny's artwork is magnificent, because what we can actually see is well drawn and very detailed. The rest of me wants to say that it's incredibly muddy and dark, and it desperately needs to be lightened so that we can see what's going on. A good and intriguing beginning, anyway.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars 1 of 5 (Steve Moore/ Admira Wijay; Radical): ...yeah. OK, take a bunch of heroes, most of whom seem fairly dislikeable anyway. Stick them in a situation where they get insulted and pushed and pushed and pushed. Add a quite dislikeable Hercules. Have the insulting Thracians insult some more. Set Herc to blenderize. You wind up with a quite quite gory story, with nothing about it making me want to pay any attention in the slightest to issue 2. Not recommended.

Helen Killer #1 (Andrew Kreisberg/Matthew JLD Rice; Arcana):

First, the title is NOT a typo.

Second, this story may be the most bizarrely awesome thing I've seen in a while.

In real life, Helen Keller was blind and deaf, and an incredibly accomplished woman. She met all sorts of luminaries of her day, including Frederick Douglass and Alexander Graham Bell.

In this story, her early life is the same, including meeting Anne Sullivan, who helps her retire her "Phantom", the personality she thought herself to be when she was locked into her dark and silent world. Anne and Helen are walking home from a college lecture when they're set upon by thugs. Cornered, and unsure where Anne is or if she might be hurt, Helen reaches up to touch a switch on her large, clunky dark glasses ... and suddenly she can see and hear. Moreover, it turns out that being able to see and hear allows her to tap into something that fills her with a wondrous rage and an awesome physical power. It turns out that Alexander Graham Bell has fashioned something in those glasses that uses a carrier wave into her brain that allows Helen to see and hear and to tap into that rage and power as an unintended side effect. It also turns out that she's being recruited by the secret service to ... well, that would be telling. Seriously, this is the sort of setup that's so audacious that it's clearly headed for either incredible success or awesome failure. Rice's black and white artwork is very very good, conveying character and expression very well. Kreisberg's and Rice's story ... works, so far, is all I can say. It's very good and very strange. Highly recommended.
So. Back over in my original review of Afterburn, I said: ... Peculiar geography aside, this is the sort of story that feels very much as though it should have been a movie in the first place -- not because it would have been better visually (I suspect it would have been nearly impossible to make, given the extensive CGI needed to represent the flooded planet), but because you can make this sort of film move fast enough that people don't have time to think about it. It's also the sort of story that's probably going to grab people better if if it's more dynamic and kinetic...

Cue dramatic music! And ...

Tobey Maguire in for 'Afterburn':
Tobey Maguire and Neal Moritz are teaming up for "Afterburn," an adaptation of a comic book published by newbie company Red 5 Comics. Rights to the film are being picked up by Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media.

Maguire would produce through his Maguire Entertainment banner and Moritz through his Original Films shingle.

The book, whose first issue hit stands in January, is a sci-fi adventure set against the backdrop of a postapocalyptic Earth, whose Eastern Hemisphere was destroyed by a massive solar flare, leaving what life remains mutated from radiation and fallout. The story revolves around a group of treasure hunters who for the right price extract such objects as the Mona Lisa, the Rosetta Stone and the Crown Jewels while facing rival hunters, mutants and pirates along the way.

Red 5 Comics was created by Paul Ens, former director of Lucasfilm's StarWars.com and Lucas Online, and Scott Chitwood, co-founder of TheForce.net and contributor to ComingSoon.net and SuperHeroHype.com. The company, based in Calgary, Alberta, began publishing its first books in the fall.

Chitwood and Ens wrote "Afterburn," which is drawn by Wayne Nichols.

Issue 2, one might point out, came out just last week. I declined to purchase. It didn't seem like it was going anywhere I really wanted to go. Maybe it'll play better in the trade as an intact whole.
I feel that I should mention that I really do like Broken Voice's Shades comic. It's sort of ... mysticism and magic and superheroes in the modern world. The story's really interesting -- the high tea featuring an armed attack that goes dreadfully wrong for the attackers is really kind of perfect, and earlier, they break the British Museum (but who doesn't?) -- and I like the artwork. Plus, the shaman's powers require him to be naked a lot. (... what? What? I never said I wasn't shallow! And it is established as necessary fairly early, so that it's not really gratuitous.) And honestly, in this, our year of the 2d Annual Alex Ross Heterosexual Male Groin Freakout Open (also known as Crotchgate 2008), it's kind of refreshing to see a series that undresses its men -- ok, its man -- with wild abandon and makes no apologies about it. (Seriously, who knew that people who have penises could get so freaked out by drawings of people with penises that actually acknowledge that the characters are supposed to have penises? Is it wrong of me to hope that at some point in the near future, Alex Ross -- who is, I believe, hopelessly heterosexual -- just says, "Oh, the hell with it" and does a cover image of Captain Steel and Alan Scott facing off against each other with absolutely unambiguous and unmistakeable raging erections visible under the spandex?) To be sure, Shades is aimed more or less at your standard superhero age audience, so it's not as if the shaman or his coreligionists actually wave weenie in your face, so to speak.

Which, it turns out, produces periodically problematic artwork.

In the most recent update, one of the shamans does a version of the superheroine twist. You know the twist -- you've all seen it. It's that very strange pose that women get drawn in so as to allow you to get nearly a full frontal shot of the cleavage and a full rear shot of the butt. You can see a version of the pose in the Madame Mirage cover to the left. Despite the severity of her pose (more about that in a sec), it's actually a comparatively mild twist; the butt just isn't that prominent. The shaman's pose in the latest update of Shades, seen to the right of this paragraph, is actually a more traditional Twist, if for somewhat different reasons. A more normal shot from the rear would keep you from being able to see the face, while a more normal shot from the front, even up high, would give you a lovely shot of shaman dingus. Problematic either way.

Now, I will say that for the purposes of journalistic completeness, I have, in fact, tried to get into both positions. (No, there are NOT any pictures.) And I can now say two things with authority:

1) Both positions are, shockingly enough, physically possible. (No, REALLY, they are! I know! Who knew!?)

2) Both positions ... Hurt. So. MUCH. The shaman isn't screaming because of the unexpected dragon appearing out of nowhere; he's screaming because his spine is in real and spectacular pain! Granted, my back isn't the most limber, but I can't believe that it wouldn't hurt even a younger and more athletic person. The shaman's position hurt my lower back, and Madame's position hurt everywhere. (Mind, she isn't precisely solid in the story, so she can get away with anatomical improbabilities. In fact, the only reason she's not screaming is that her spine is, quite literally, made of light.)

The other thing I can say with some authority is ... well ...

OK, I'll give 'em the first frame. In that position, with an apparent light source from above, the shadows make sense (... although, honestly? still kind of unusually wee. Most guys, that position, that sort of leap, there'd be danglage.). In the second ... no. Just ... no. The light source, to the extent that you can tell, is from above, his pelvis is aimed toward us, and yet, major shadows. That there is some bad planning and improbable anatomy, that is. (I am not campaigning for full frontal shaman dingus, let us be clear. Frankly, if the artist had just put his front leg up higher to figleaf him, it would have been perfectly reasonable.)

And now, on to actual reviews of hopefully one paragraph or less.

Reviews thisaway... )
Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma: Panchantra #1 (Samit Basu/Ashish Badelekar; Virgin)

Virgin has, it seems, signed up for this year's Free Comic Book Day. Due to the brouhaha with The Salon and apparently one or two other titles, the people in charge of FCBD have declared that all titles offered should be all-ages appropriate. Virgin has been, shall we say, notably lacking in all-ages titles until this year. "Tall Tales" would appear to be one of their two attempts -- Dan Dare being the other -- to do an actual all-ages title, and this is an attempt at an all-ages story doing what Virgin does, retelling and updating traditional Indian stories. That said ... I wouldn't recommend this for anyone under the age of 12 or so.

We start out inside the book of the Panchantra. Chapter 1, verse 18, apparently. An old man is arguing with two beautiful women, because he doesn't want to do what he's supposed to do. Eventually, they talk him into it, and he transforms into a tortoise while the women transform into swans. A magician leading a horde of orcs, or something like, comes over the hill, slaughter the geese and the tortoise, and eat them and drink their blood. This disrupts the narrative of the story, which is vitally important to the flow of things in the world.

Jump to modern day Mumbai. Vishnu, a teenager, is grousing to a friend over the phone because his grandfather died and all he got was a book, the Panchantra, a kid's book of tales. He opens the door to his home to discover a talking lion, ox, and monkey, trying to convince him to take up his grandfather's mantle as world-guardian. After a very bad start, they kind of convince him that they're real, that the stories are real (for certain values of "real"), and that they need to go to his grandfather's house to find the world-guardian's weapons. The orcs have followed. Mayhem in midtown Mumbai ensues, including orcs getting shot point-blank in the eyes and having throats slashed.

The artwork works for the sort of modern day fable that the story is aiming for, and the story itself is a fascinating blend of the traditional story and a modern tale, and gruesome fun. It's just not really an all-ages story. Recommended; just not for children.

Oddly enough, Tall Tales appears to be on a seriously compressed publication schedule. Either that, or Virgin's given Amazon a seriously mistaken publication date for the trade, which is also entirely possible.

76 (B. Clay Moore/Ed Tadem for "Jackie Karma"; Seth Peck/Tigh Walker for "Cool"; Image)

I don't know ... I just don't know.

"Jackie Karma": a man comes to New York to find Bobby Horner, a drugged out, burned out drunk living in an alley. Bobby doesn't remember the man, although they've met, but the man tells him that he's about to start something, and he doesn't want any interference from "you kung fu motherfuckers." Howler gets a message to John Carmichael, attorney at law, about what's happened. Somewhere in there, some guy gets his head cut off. Not knowing about that, John tells his wife that he's got to settle up some business from the old days. He hauls out the old leather jacket, puts on the lion's head belt and the extreme bell bottoms, and then goes out on to the street, causing everyone in a five-mile radius to curse and pray because Jackie Karma's back in town!

"Cool": a much more involved story so far. Pete and Leon work for Smitty the bail bondsman, and they're out pursuing Sheldon Abramowitz, wanted for mail fraud. (Sheldon happens to be the size of a small house. Smitty neglected to tell them that.) After a bit more trouble than they were expecting, Sheldon is subdued. Meanwhile, elsewhere in LA, Mark Reed brings his girlfriend cum stripper, Cherry Baum, along with him to make a drop, unwise though that is. Turns out that the person he was making the exchange with had instructions to kill Mark, which he does. Cherry, not wanting to become deceased herself, hits the murderer with the car and drives away. Meanwhile, back at the bail bondsman's office, Pete and Leon get their next assignment ... to find Cherry Baum. Meanwhile, back at the murderer's employer -- said employer happening to be a porn mogul, former porn star, and little person -- Logan is confessing that he killed Mark but didn't know about the person in the car until too late.

The idea behind "76" is that it's telling the same sorts of exploitation/action stories that you saw in movies in 1976. And, on the one hand, the authors and illustrators successfully evoke those sorts of stories -- including, unfortunately, the utter lack of sense to some parts. (Seriously, once you discover that the people you were worried about are either druggies or out of the vigilante business, why would you bother them? Why would you deliberately get their attention?) Thing is, these stories strike me as the type of thing that you're probably going to really like if you were actually around in 1976 and old enough to see and understand them, or else it completely sails over your head if you weren't. The black and white artwork is clean, distinctive, easy to distinguish characters and more or less works for the story. I just can't quite figure out who the audience is. As far as I can tell, it's meant to be an ongoing, rather than a mini, so I hope they can figure that out.

Afterburn 1 of 4 (Scott Chitwood, Paul Ens/Wayne Nichols; Red 5): The concept is that a massive solar flare blasts half the planet, to wit: "Scandinavia, Europe, Africa, Russia, the Middle East, Asia". (Scandinavia apparently not being part of Europe, and Russia and the Middle East being neither European nor Asian, apparently.) The Americas kinda sorta being the only surviving part, they quickly realize that the rest of the world is open to plunder, which is also kind of necessary, what with needing to reinvent industrial economies without much oil. We follow the main character Jake on a couple of the plunder runs, done for private clients; on the first, his team takes the Mona Lisa from the Louvre (because plundering the Louvre, once people realized that there was plunder to be had, wouldn't have been one of the first things done. Right.) On the second, they're doing something at the behest of "the Chinese embassy" -- apparently the embassies abroad cobbled together a government, though what it is that they're governing is entirely unclear, since China itself is a land of floods and mutants. Peculiar geography aside, this is the sort of story that feels very much as though it should have been a movie in the first place -- not because it would have been better visually (I suspect it would have been nearly impossible to make, given the extensive CGI needed to represent the flooded planet), but because you can make this sort of film move fast enough that people don't have time to think about it. It's also the sort of story that's probably going to grab people better if if it's more dynamic and kinetic. As it stands, we've got the situation, but we don't really have characters. Everyone is basically an action-adventure cipher right now. It might improve, but given how busy the story is already, I can't see where it's going to get the time.

Devi 16-17 (Mohapatra/Chandrasekhar; Virgin):
In which the second real story arc finally gets underway. Oddly, we get an (impressively brief but informative) recap from one of the villains, as though they expected a long publication gap that didn't happen. In any event, having told us what just happened, said villain and his gang are killed by person or persons unknown. Rahul, having recovered from his recent possession by a celestial enforcer, investigates, and finds signs that lead him to believe that Tara/Devi might have committed these murders. (Strangely, stray police have noproblems with finding darinde, supernatural creatures in the shape of men except for being very green, murdered on site. Anyway, Rahul questions Tara, who knows nothing about the murders. (Incidentally, Tara seems to have gotten back to living her non-goddess life. Not so incidentally, the writers appear to have clean forgot just exactly what that was, or how difficult it should be to just fit back in after being away for more than a month.) Tara also discovers that she may have a sister, who winds up staying with her while Tara tries to validate that claim. In the meantime, more murders make the local political situation go completely pear shaped, and Rahul's investigation to try to clear Tara winds up implicating her.

I have to admit, I wish I knew more about the source Devi legend. In Bombaby, the graphic novel version of the Devi tale done by Antony Mazzotta, her sister also winds up playing an important role, as a sort of tiger-avatar of the goddess. Anyway, this second arc looks like it's going to be less "world ending soon, pay attention" and more focused on how being Devi affects Tara's life, which looks to make an interesting change.
Between Virgin's Dan Dare and Marvel's The Twelve, apparently 'tis the season for dragging old characters into the modern/future world.

The Twelve 0 (J. Michael Straczynski/Chris Weston; Marvel)
The Twelve features characters resurrected from Marvel's pre-Marvel days, back in the Atlas and Timely Production pre-war years. Issue 0 isn't necessarily required for the series, from the look of it. Although it's entertaining to see the differences between what people were willing to accept then and now from their stories. I mean, if you think that the whole Batman/Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent/Superman secret identity thing is a bit strained, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Take the Phantom Reporter, who appears to have two different secret identities. There's Dick Jones, Cub Reporter; strangely, despite the fact that he never seems to bring back the story, every story to which he's assigned somehow miraculously gets resolved. Secret Identity 2 is Mr. Van Ergen, a Park Avenue playboy whose father left him $50 million. The hero -- entirely without powers of any sort -- is the Phantom Reporter. All three of them wear blue business suits. Van Ergen and the Reporter both wear bright red capes. The Reporter adds a glowing red domino mask; I'm guessing that the glow manages to distract people from anything important. (The clothing problem, by the by, is only going to get worse in the new series, if the triple identity remains, since, due to two characters with similar designs, Weston changed the color of the Phantom Reporter's suit to a lovely shade of magenta. Magenta business suits, then and now, being so overwhelmingly common as to pass without notice, of course.

Anyway, aside from the character designs, there's not a lot to comment on, as aside from those designs, issue 0 only contains three of the old Daring and USA Comics reprints. Fun stories, though, even with massive gaping plotholes. It's interesting to note that people of 60 years ago were willing to tolerate far more in the way of violence than we are now. Every single one of the heroes in those old stories kills someone, sometimes several people, and they get away with it, and it's seen as a good thing. I suspect that one of the things the heroes will have to deal with is the fact that killing with such impunity is no longer accepted.

The revised character designs are ... intriguing, let's say. Have a look at Captain Wonder, for example. Bare legs will certainly be an interesting thing to carry forward. (And I wonder how long it will be before Weston gets massively tired of doing the hairs on the legs like that). But ... well, thing about bare legs is, they draw your gaze down. And Captain Wonder ... kind of ain't so wonderful in certain areas, if you see what I mean. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that the character ought to be Captain Steel'd, so to speak --- wait, yes, I am saying that. Poor man has a negadick right now. The thing about bare legs is that it draws your attention to how the anatomy fits together, and really, there ought to be a bit more there there. Of course, as soon as you do that, the fanboy masses scream. I have to admit, I don't entirely get that, but I think that's a rant for another time. I'm also curious about the Blue Blade, especially given Weston's character notes on that page. And I'm really curious as to what Marvel lets Straczynski get away with for these characters. They let him pull Squadron Supreme over to Marvel MAX, allowing for more in the way of violence and boobies. This appears to be on themain Marvel label, judging from the announcements and issue 0, so I'm guessing not so much with the boobies this time.

Kind of recommended, for the fun if exceeding violent old stories, but not actually required.

Robin 169 (Milligan/Baldeon/Bird; DC): ... Eergh. I'm beginning to think that Milligan should never be allowed near regular superhero series, because his brand of weird just doesn't work for them. Infinity Inc. is well-nigh incomprehensible -- though it may work better as a collection when done -- and Tim Drake is savagely out of character for this story. (Though the graveyard story in Robin Annual that was the first part of this crossover now feels a bit more connected.) He's just not stupid enough to do this, especially after he's been kidnapped, dragged all over the world, threatened with death, etc. The only purpose this issue serves is to produce the Nightwing/Robin smackdown due in next week's Nightwing. I will say that this Bat-crossover is being handled with amazing dispatch -- all of the issues have been on time, at least -- but starting with the end of the last issue and continuing with this one, it's gone rather impressively off the rails. I'll probably keep reading -- or rather, I'll look at next week's Nightwing to see if there's anything other than a smackdown with a pre-ordained conclusion -- but I couldn't seriously recommend that anyone else even look at the thing.

Invincible 47 (Kirkman/Ottley; Image): Mostly marking time on the way to The Super! Spectacular! Smackdown! In Issue 50! (Yes, yes, we know, issue 50 is going to be The Epic to End All Epics.) It felt very much like a chess-piece issue -- people all being moved where they need to be either physically or emotionally for issue 50 -- but a surprisingly enjoyable chess piece issue.
An Open Plea to Comics Writers: Could we please please PLEASE confine the zombie thing to Marvel Zombies and Walking Dead? PLEASE?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9: No Future for You part 4 (Brian K. Vaughan/Georges Jeanty)
...Well, thank goodness that's over.

Look, it's not that it was badly written. And I understand that it was a means to an end; the slayers organization would need some way to go after rogue slayers. AFter all, not every single one of the thousands of girls who received superpowers on that day is going to be filled with the desire to save the world. It makes sense that Giles wants to protect Buffy from knowing what needs to be done or that he's doing it or from having to handle it herself, because he knows she really couldn't; it's consistent with what happened in "The Gift", when he killed Ben and never told Buffy what happened. Now that Buffy is really and truly the leader of thousands, she can't be seen to be sanctioning the murders of some of them. It even makes sense that Faith and Giles would be the ones to do what needs to be done; they're the two characters most likely to be able to live with it. However, to get there, Vaughan essentially ignored everything that happened with Faith in Angel and in the last season of Buffy. She grew up and changed in ways that just aren't reflected in "No future for you". (We will serenely ignore the sheer lunacy of Faith being trained to act as an English aristocrat, because the very concept is so absurd that you have to simply accept it as the story's "god point" to read the thing.)

If this were Faith right after the bodyswap episodes (which I can't remember the titles of), then yes, it works really well. That Faith was still bone-deep furious with and jealous of Buffy. If that's supposed to be Faith after she helped Buffy and the slayerettes save the world, then it simply doesn't work at all.

Atomic Robo #3 (Clevinger/Wegener/Pattison; Red 5): Man, that was just an unreasonable amount of fun. Intelligent robots, wandering attack pyramids in Egypt, stuff blowing up ... it's like BPRD as funneled through Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a way. It even manages to do the zombie thing in a not-at-all-annoying way. The sort of story that appeals to your inner kid. Plus one that you can give to your outer kid, if you happen to have one around. It doesn't stand alone; if you haven't read issue 2, you're going to be a bit lost, but only a bit. Highly recommended.

The Sword #3 (Luna Brothers; Image): In which the story moves forward incrementally, and a whole lotta people die. Lots and lots and LOTS of people. If you like sheer gory mayhem, this is your issue right here. In terms of story beats, mostly, it allows a lot of people to find out about Dara and the sword. Judging from the cover of issue 4, things are about to get very very sticky.

Dynamo 5 #9 (Faerber/Asrar/Riley): In which we discover new aspects to Scatterbrain's powers, and he gets intriguingly pissed off about something that happened while he was in a coma. I'm looking forward to seeing what exactly the explanation for his reaction is; it seems like the sort of thing that can only really go in one of three directions (with all of them carrying a certain element of "How dare you do that while you were pretending to be me!") and it's going to be interesting to see which of those directions Faerber picks.

Resurrection #1 (Marc Guggenheim/David Dumeer; Oni Press)

As Guggenheim says in the letters column, the base concept behind the story is "What happens next?" What happens after all the aliens have been killed in "Independence Day", for example? All the capitals and major cities of the world have been substantially destroyed; millions upon millions have been killed. In Guggenheim's case, he says he was inspired by "V: The Final Battle", which is essentially the same situation, except that in the V miniserieses, considerably more was left intact. In this case, it looks as though while V may have been a source of inspiration, Independence Day was a more direct antecedent. The aliens and the humans have been fighting across the surface of the world for over a decade, driving humans to live in underground bunkers the past few years. Oddly, later in the story, we discover that the aliens were here for considerably longer before fighting broke out, making one wonder why this all happened. (You also wnder how people have survived; it's clear that there can't have been any agriculture or manufacturing or transport during the worst of the wars, and this would have been the case world wide. So how did they manage to live?)

People are, depressingly, pretty much what you think they'd be after spending years underground. A gunfight nearly breaks out among some of the first to emerge. Sara, a youngish woman, gets disgusted by them all and sets out to walk to Washington DC, to see if anything is left. The government, it turns out, has been moved to, apparently, Berlin, New Hampshire, but Sara doesnt know that. On the way, she decides first to visit her son, and she happens to run into Ben, another refugee, and they decide to travel together.

I am, I must admit, very curious to see where this story goes. To see just how far "what happens next" can go. Dumeer's black and white art works really well most of the time, although there are places where he uses shadows in a way that make people faces look very eerie, in a way that the story doesn't quite seem to support. Are we meant to think of these people as creepy in that way? I guess we'll find out.

I do wonder how long this series is meant to run. Guggenheim's comments sound as though he's got a specific endpoint planned, and I suspect this may be more enjoyable as a whole than as a serial. Any road, recommended.

The Infinite Horizon #1 (Gerry Duggan/Phil Moto; Image)
Retelling the story of the Odyssey, updated to the modern day. In this story a soldier identified only as "The Captain" is in Syria, fighting what appears to be an ever expanding, never-ending war of the US versus the Middle East, when suddenly the entire world goes to hell in a handbasket. And through all of this, the Captain needs to get his men back home, through intractably hostile territory. Meanwhile, back at home, his wife Penelope tries to keep things going, standing between neighbors hostile to each other, but not to her. However far in the future this is, it appears that the water situation in this country has gotten peculiarly bad, perhaps due to some war-related cause we haven't yet seen or due to global warming; peculiar because absent major weather changes, the Catskills in New York shouldn't be experiencing the sorts of water shortages that would bring people to blows. (Then again, neither should Georgia in the here and now, and we all know how that's going, so maybe not so far fetched after all.)

Honestly, nothing about this story really grabbed me all that much. Part of it is just typical first-chapter expositionitis; we need to get at least a general idea of who people are and what's going on, and there's not a lot you can do to avoid exposition dumps for that. Part of it is that the art is so stylized that it doesn't quite feel like a good match to the story to me -- although, that said, I think the artist may be trying to faintly echo ancient Greek art, which makes sense.

I don't know if I'm curious enough to see what happens in issue 2, despite the fact that a lot more ought to be happening -- and it's not as though a lot didn't happen in issue 1, expositionitis or not. Just not my taste, I suspect.

Will Eisner's The Spirit #11, "Day of the Dead" (Cooke/Bone/Stewart; DC):
In which the interminable zombie plot finally comes to an end. And, to be fair, a very satisfying grand-guignol sort of end. And hey! there's a gay couple! This being a superhero story, they end about as well as you'd expect, especially given that they're one-shot supporting characters.

The story is a hard leadout from issue 10, starting with Ebony bandaging Denny's injuries from the beating he took at Montez' hands last issue. The story takes place on the night of November 2, el Dia de los Muertos, very appropriate to undead like Montez and Denny Colt, as Denny himself notes. Ellen goes to see a former fiancee, name of Argonaut Bones (...and, you know, after Ginger Coffee, the names in this series shouldn't get to me, but still, how can you not roll your eyes a little at that?). She's gone to see him because he's the most knowledgeable person she knows on the topic of folklore and zombies. He doesn't entirely believe her, but decides to go with her, and, of course, is rapidly made to believe by the zombie infestation spreading across the middle of Central City. It turns out that Argo and Ellen wind up being key elements of the story. (The nice thing about Ellen, overall, is that she's not merely a damsel to be distressed and rescued; in fact, she's been unusually UN-distressed, for a superhero's girlfriend, through the course of this series. She doesn't actually appear a lot, but when she dies, she's usually fairly important in the story.) This issue does form a reasonably satisfying ending to the Montez arc -- though perhaps it might leave Denny with a few psychological issues relating to his ongoing semi-zombiehood.

I am beginning to wonder if maybe I've just read the wrong stories in forming my opinion of what Eisner's Spirit actually was. This is the second time in four issues where you could reasonably approach Cooke's version by talking about the sheer overwhelming body count -- not just of the zombies, but of all the people they kill. Central City's police department, especially, has had the crap hammered out of it in those two issues; you wonder if anyone but Chief Dolan is even still alive. That, combined with the casual approach taken in the original issues of The Twelve (see above) to heroes killing off the bad guys makes me wonder if maybe there are a lot of issues that Eisner wrote where Denny does in the criminals then goes out singing a jaunty version of "Je ne regrette rien". And also makes me wonder if Frank Miller's approach to the film maybe isn't as wrongheaded as it sounds. Then I think, "Six villains! One movie!" and I get over that, at least. But I digress.

Dan Dare #1 (Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine; Virgin Comics)
Man, Ennis can be fun to read in a good old-fashioned comics way, when he decides to indulge himself.

"Dan Dare" resurrects an old British title, much as Ennis did last year with Battler Britton for DC/Wildstorm. Dan Dare himself was an international space pilot, back in the day. He fought the good fight, then retired (to a most surprising place) when Britain changed into something that he could no longer fight for. In the meantime, the rest of the world went to hell, with nuclear war bustin' out all over, and Britain surviving only because they had an effective SDI. The US is essentially a land of blasted craters where cities ought to be, as are Canada and Mexico. In any event, it turns out that the beings that Britain thought they'd defeated back in Dan Dare's day are still very much alive, and have retrenched to become more effective enemies. The British go to Dan Dare to recruit him to rejoin the fight, and of course he eventually agrees, because we wouldn't have any story if he didn't. Erskine's art is just perfect, matching that sort of old-time storytelling while being perfectly clean and modern. Looks like the story is going to be good old fashioned space-fighting fun. (So to speak.) Highly recommended.

Purchased but not reviewed: The Overman #1, Northlanders #1 -- I think I need to see issue 2 of both of those before I can express an opinion.


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