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This Week on the Comic Racks


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In an effort to expand comics awareness as well as force myself to read more comics than I usually do, I'm going to rant on each week's selection of comics. I'm not going to spoiler too much ("OMFG! Superman is teh dead!"), but if you haven't read a title in a while, I'm going to be working on the assumption that you're caught up, so recent developments MAY be spoilered.

I will edit in more stuff as I read/review it, then post a new batch as new stuff comes in next week. Make sense?

If so, sit back, relax, and see if there's anything worth throwing a few sawbucks at for a quick, fun read...

Comics Releases for July 28, 2004:

Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes #1

Publisher: Devil's Due

Writer: Andy Hartnell

Pencils: Nick Bradshaw


As a fan of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and the Evil Dead franchise, I approached this book with certain skepticism. The first thing one notices upon casual observation is the art style, which is reminiscent of Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair, a kind of quirky, offbeat caricaturish brand of art that strangely fits the humorous and surreal subject matter.

The first third of the book is basically a big recap of the events of the film, with the new story picking up immediately afterward. Andy Hartnell does a good job of capturing Ash's dialogue, and you can almost hear Campbell's voice as you read it. Maybe I'm easily amused, but, while I didn't find myself lol-ing, the jokes are pretty good and fit Raimi's style. As per the films, there is a steady diet of cartoony gore as well, and fans of Ash's chainsaw tactics shouldn't be disappointed.

I recommend this book to fans of the films, Bruce Campbell, or schlocky horror/fantasy. :thumbsup:

Astonishing X-Men #3

Publisher: Marvel

Writer: Joss Whedon (yes, THAT Joss Whedon...)

Artist: John Cassaday


If you didn't know that Joss the Boss (Buffy, Angel, Firefly) got a gig writing Marvel's mutant franchise, then you need to catch up, and quick. Now, understand, I'm not the X-Men's biggest fan. In fact, most of the time, I find them to be an insufferable bunch of whining, overly angsty, self-pitying little whores, but Whedon clearly has a love of the characters that is certainly contagious.

If you like his television work or not, you have to admit that Joss knows how to juggle an ensemble cast, and he's up to snuff thus far on this series. Most notable is the return of Kitty Pryde, who Joss has clearly cast in the style of Willow from Buffy, still naively vulnerable but no longer the awkward adolescent she once was.

The story is fast-paced, with Whedon jumping between scenes of 2-4 pages or so with each ending on a dramatic pause that hooks the reader. The dialogue is predictably first-rate, with some lines making you wonder why no one has written it before (Cyclops to Nick Fury: "Even for a guy with one eye, your vision's incredibly narrow." Ironic, coming from someone nicknamed Cyclops...). Fury's cameo is great, and he comes off as a grizzled Malcom Reynolds from Firefly.

If there's one complaint I have about the series thus far, it is that fans of Joss will find some of his characterizations strangely familiar. Wolverine's noble roguishness and grief reeks of Spike, Kitty as Willow, Fury as Mal, Beast as Xander, and so on... It's not distracting thus far, and will probably feel like less of a crutch as he explores the characters' motivations (Beast gets the best handling by far given the story).

And the story is an intriguing one with lots of possibilities. If mutants can be "cured", should they be? Who decides? Parallels to genocide, supposed cures for homosexuality, and abortion are easy to make, but Joss never falls into the trap of afterschool special lecturing. Instead, he puts various characters at different points of the compass and allows us to see their points of view, resulting in a debate where everyone has a different perspective and no one is wholly right, as it should be.

I recommend this book to anyone who'd ever even touch a superhero comic. You don't need to actually know much about the X-Men other than the basics from the movies or cartoons or comics. They're mutants... They try to be heroes to a world that hates and fears them. Enjoy. :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Avengers #500

Publisher: Marvel

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Penciler: David Finch


Brian Michael Bendis is Marvel's golden boy of the moment, having made Ultimate Spider-Man one of the biggest surprise hits in recent comics memory. He's moved his creator-owned title Powers to Marvel and is now under exclusive contract to them, so it stands to reason that they'd tap him to reinvigorate "Earth's Mightiest Heroes."

I've been a big fan of the Avengers since my childhood, and it led to me finding joy in characters I'd never have checked out otherwise like Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Thor. Lately, the roster has been bolstered by the addition of some solid midcarders like The Falcon, She-Hulk, and Black Panther as well as some jobber fodder like Ant-Man and a brand spanking new female Captain Britain. This gives Bendis the daunting task of making a dozen characters interesting.

Sadly, it's hard to say whether or not he'll be able to pull that off, because his run on the title starts with a literal bang and doesn't let up to the final page. That's not to say that there isn't ANY character development, but this issue hits so fast and so hard that you'd swear the closing quiet moments would play out right before the opening theme in the sort of way that modern TV dramas try to hook you with a shocking teaser and then cut to the credits.

The story involves a mysterious foe absolutely blitzing The Avengers on some vendetta, using some of their own former and current members against them in unique and original ways. In particular, She-Hulk is handled in a way that keeps her from being just a sexier but more boring version of her namesake cousin.

The art is spectacular, and equal attention is paid to the big action sequences and the character's reactions to the events of the story. Emotion is painted on the faces of all of the members as they go from being concerned, to worried, to outright maddeningly scared at their own destruction. The running storyline is entitled "Avengers Disassembled," and they get decimated here in a way that hasn't been done since The Masters of Evil trashed the mansion and laid Hercules out on the lawn.

Now, while Avengers fans will be marking out all the way through, non-fans would be better off not bothering. There's sadly nothing in here that'll convert someone to Avengers fandom, and much of the emotional punch of the events will be lost on someone who doesn't already have an attachment to these characters. In that regard, the comic is only a mixed success, because big events like this are usually designed to get people to take notice of a title, while the best Bendis could really hope for is that fans who ditched the title during its seemingly interminable lameness will jump back on board.

I give this book the highest possible recommendation to anyone who's ever enjoyed The Avengers or any of the team's iconic characters such as Cap or Iron Man. To non-fans, the book might be a fun read, but might be a little too much action with not enough context.

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:, but with reservations.

Catwoman #33

Publisher: DC

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Diego Olmos & Jimmy Palmiotti


Those looking for Halle Berry should scroll down now. This isn't Warner Bros.' Catwoman... okay, well, since DC Comics is *owned* by Warner, and not in the pwned way but in the "We'll make the movies the way we want to, geeks be damned" sense, I guess it *is* their Catwoman, but you get the idea, I hope. This is the comics Catwoman, the thief with a conscience of sorts who has a love/hate relationship with the Dark Knight Detective.

Now, pencil me in under the column of folks who *loathe* the new, girl-friendly, art deco zippered jumpsuit for Catwoman. I understand the desire to take the character into a direction away from tits and ass, but seriously, what better character to peddle tits and ass than a chick who runs around in high-heeled leather boots wielding a whip? Come on, Susan B. Anthony she ain't...

But, assuming that DC's gambit to attract female readers who'd be scared away by camel toe and thigh-high stilettos, I'm willing to cut Catwoman some slack. The tagline on the cover, however, "Her Life, Her Town, Her Law!" just screams Smackdown theme song and promises a level of cheesiness I may be unable to prepare myself for.

The self-contained story unfolds out of sequence and with changing perspectives, almost like a Tarantino flick, and I'm hip to that. The art is kinda clunky and chunky, with heavy inks and sparse backgrounds, but tells the tale well enough.

And the tale, while a cliche little urban tale, has enough noir to fit what the title should be about. Catwoman shouldn't be running around dropkicking robots. She's a burglar and a vigilante, and Brubaker does a good job of portraying her as such and drawing the distinction between her brand of justice and that of Gotham's more infamous defender.

Looking for a hot chick in spandex? Look somewhere else. Looking for a fun little urban superhero book with potential? This might be your bag.


JLA #102

Publisher: DC

Writer: Chuck Austen (ewwwwww)

Artist: Ron Garney


Okay, I haven't read the first part of Austen's Justice League debut because I absolutely cannot stand his writing. That's going to make this difficult, but I've been following JLA on and off for over 100 issues now, and old habits die hard.

Austen, however, in all his hamhandedness sticks me in the gut with this absolutely atrocious effort. I loved Garney's art on Mark Waid's relaunch of Captain America a few years ago. His skills are wasted here in a morality tale about, of all things, smoke alarms. Seriously, this shit reads like a PSA from the 1970s, and it doesn't hold up well at all.

This issue is just a part of an overall story arc ("The Pain of the Gods") which seems to revolve around the notion of heroes not being able to save everyone. This isn't anything new and was handled much better in recent issues of Thor which had the Norse hero suddenly taking his supposed "god" status seriously. A fireman telling Flash "You *never* get used to finding dead kids." doesn't come off as so much dramatic as just cheezy, and Flash's reaction (giving everyone smoke detectors with his superspeed) is just flat-out lame. Seeing a full page of The Flash rapidly installing smoke alarms draws inappropriate laughter at best.

"It's a battery. Costs a dollar and it could save your kids' lives." Seriously. That's just weak.

Now, while this is part two of "The Pain of the Gods", and I get the impression that part one focused on a similar situation with a different hero (Wonder Woman?), we're "treated" to an epilogue with Superman coming to a similar realization that he can't save everyone and the teaser caption "Next: Green Lantern". Man, is this what I have to look forward to?

Up to this point, I was starting to wonder if I just liked comics too much because I was enjoying everything I had read, but this comic is simply deplorable. The Flash vs. Fire and Fire wins! Wow.

Not that I'm adverse to introspective stories of this nature, but this was just lazy and cheap, especially when we're given the panel of dead children followed by a page of discussion with the fireman. Worse, I can't see where this is going to pay off any time soon. The JLA trying to take responsibility for the state of the world? Grant Morrison did a much better job of showing the problems with that in the first four issues of this very series, and without trying to sell extra tissue along the way.

I recommend avoiding Austen's work entirely and this issue in particular.

:angry: :angry: :angry:

That's it... for now.

Edited by TheRaySays
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Well next week I am going comic shopping again and am picking up so far on my list:

Astonishing X-Men #1-3

The Pulse #1-4

and some others I see that I might like.

TheRaySays was wondering what your opinions on Astonishing X-Men, The Pulse, Wolverine (Current Series) and The Runaways are if you have read any of them.

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I demand you review more Marvel works, Mr.RaySays.

Make Mine Marvel :thumbsup:

In particular, some series (forgive me but I don't know if some of these are still running or not)

- Cable & Deadpool

- The Ultimates

That's about all I can think of..

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TheRaySays was wondering what your opinions on Astonishing X-Men... ...if you have read any of them.

See my review above, which is specifically for #3, but covers my general impressions of the series thus far. :thumbsup:

I'll try to fit in recommendations/review requests as stuff comes in. Thanks!

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Oh my god...I didn't know that the The Creator of My Religion wrote for X-Men...

*cries in shame*

Well, he just started with Astonishing X-Men #1 so you're not too late...

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Not nearly the event-filled week last week was, but here are the...

Comics Releases for August 6, 2004:

Batman & Catwoman: Trail of the Gun #1 of 2

Publisher: DC

Writer: Ann Nocenti

Artist: Ethan Van Sciver

$5.95 (prestige format)

This is the Catwoman I prefer... spandex so tight you can see her navel and a cocky attitude that makes men crumble. The story is a simple one, Catwoman is public enemy number one after supposedly committing mass murder with a coveted smartgun that never misses. The fact that this doesn't fit her M.O. doesn't seem to bother anyone in Gotham other than Batman.

The story opens with a tired debate over gun control that hits every cliche we've heard in the past twenty plus years on the matter. After that though, it's full steam ahead with a borderline campy caper story straight out of Ocean's Eleven or Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. Ethan Van Sciver (of New X-Men fame) really cuts loose on the dive bar Real McCoy's and the colorful characters Zipperface Malloy and Brickhead Pete.

But after that, it's all downhill fast into an anti-gun rant that's hard to enjoy. I'm no gun nut nor very right-wing, but I don't read comics to be preached to, and at $5.95, it's hard not to be angry at being treated like a moron. Whether or not you agree with the message, you'd struggle to find a better anti-gun advocate among the superhero populace than Batman, but a prestige format book is hardly the forum for a one-sided debate.

Sadly, I can't recommend this book. The art is gorgeous, but for the price, you can purchase two regular comics with a much greater chance of entertainment. Even if you're avidly anti-gun, there's little here you haven't already heard a thousand times over. :angry:

Detective Comics #797

Publisher: DC

Writer: Anderson Gabrych

Penciller: Pete Woods


Okay, this is billed as Act One: Part 1 of 8 of "War Games" a massive crossover running through all the Batman titles. Normally, this sort of thing is a trainwreck, especially with different writers going off in different directions, but with Marvel running Avengers Disassembled, I guess it's just natural for DC to retaliate with their crossover "big gun", Batman.

We begin "in media res" as they say, with an arranged shoot-out between Gotham's crime bosses that leaves most ventilated and done before things even get started. No big names drop, so no surprises there, but things definitely have an air of importance that an event storyline like this desperately needs.

Now, I don't know how this is going to resolve itself, but if this issue sets the tempo for the overall storyline, I'm in like MF'ing Flint! The art is solid without being overly flashy, but the true gem is the action scenes, including a piece with Batgirl pulling a "Kill Bill" stand-off against a Triad, Batman himself using Latino gangstas as literal stepping stones to get to their newly crowned boss, and a complex sequence involving a motorcycle, a LAW rocket, and innocent bystanders.

"I had nothing to do with your father's death. But that doesn't mean I won't have anything to do with yours." Great stuff.

The end of the issue has a clever twist that attentive readers will find puts a new spin on the events of the story and answers an important plot question in a surprisingly satisfactory fashion.

The back-up feature, by Shane McCarthy and Tommy Castillo, follows up on The Riddler's attempts to hide himself following the events of the awesome "Hush" storyline. Even with his wicked intellect, he finds himself at the mercy of a former ally who's powers are rapidly spiralling out of control.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book and, hopefully, the rest of the "War Games" storyline to any Bat-fans out there. Batman's been on a real roll of late, story-wise, and it's good to see that DC isn't just going to spin their wheels until the dream team of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee return to the fold. If you're not up on current storylines, it may take some getting used to, but the dialogue catches readers up right quick without resorting to dull exposition.

:thumbsup: :thumbsup:

X-Men: The End Book One

Publisher: Marvel

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciller: Sean Chen


Here's the deal. The premise is old school X-Men writer Chris Claremont gets to tell what would be the ultimate LAST X-Men story. By definition then, this isn't part of current continuity, but it isn't quite a "What If?" story. Somewhere in between, I guess. Regardless, it's highly anticipated, but that can set expectations pretty high...

We start with a quick history lesson on The X-Men, told from an unknown perspective, and with particular focus on their interactions with the alien Shi'ar Empire. Not my favorite X-lore as I think the whole alien thing strays away from their "hated heroes" schtick, but I'm willing to accept it as part of their backstory.

My big problem with this whole shindig is the expository writing. For example, "But even The Brood can be taken by surprise. For all their dread (and well-earned) reputation, there are some powers even they respect. The Starjammer is one of them." Sure, it tells you what you need to know, but the issue is so full of it that folks new to The X-Men will be hopelessly lost, while X-Fans will already know all this stuff. I appreciate that it's a fine line to tread, but for all his laurels, Claremont should be more adept at it than this.

Some of the best stuff in this issue are the little things that curiously go UNexplained. Things like Jamie Madrox as a tool of the alien Kree, Kitty Pryde running for office in Chicago, and Wolverine gently tending to a paralyzed Storm. Sadly, each of these examples is given just a single page and much of the issue deals with the daughter of Bishop and Deathbird and the return of Jean Grey's Phoenix persona. *YAAAAAWN*

I guess I can recommend this to die-hard X-Fans, but if you're one of those, you undoubtedly already grabbed this up. Otherwise, I'd just take a pass. I guess this makes this my first :thumbs-in-the-middle:. I didn't hate reading it, but I didn't come away eager for more, either. :ohwell:

Edited by TheRaySays
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I went out today and bought Astonishing X-Men # 1-3 for a the grand total of £5! :D

I read through them all, and really think they're great. One question though, because I haven't really been paying attention to comics for the past couple of years, but could somebody please explain how Jean Grey died?

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Ray, why not do the Twelve Cent Adventure before Detective #797?

Because they were only 12 freaking cents and sold out in a heartbeat... That, and I was too stupid to save one. :ohwell:

And Jean Grey died after going absofrigginglutely ballistic at finding Emma (White Queen) and Scott (Cyclops) making time together. She did the heel turn, Phoenix thing, and then got jacked up by Magneto in New X-Men #150.

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Well friday I went to 3 of my LCS and picked up three lots of comics...

1st LCS

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #2

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #3

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #4

2nd LCS

Daredevil: Father #1

Venom vs./and Carnage #1

3rd LCS

X-Force #1 (original series)

X-Force #2 (original series)

I must say that Marvel Knights Spider-Man is an awesome series so far and the Venom vs. Carnage #1 was also a good read.

On my next visit I am picking up Marvel Knights Spider-Man #5, X-Force #3, X-Force #4 and Spider-Man #16 ( 2nd part to the 3 part storyline with X-force #3 and 4.)

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