Monday, April 28, 2003

Green Arrow #24 - A Review

Written by: Ben Raab
Penciled by: Charlie Adlard
Inked by: Charlie Adlard
Colored by: Titjana Wood
Lettered by: Jack Morelli
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m really starting to regret having asked the editorial team to let me review all six parts of this story line. If you read my complaints about the series so far what I have to say will probably sound familiar. For that, I apologize. But since Raab and Winick are recycling the same tired plot devices and running gags, I feel little need to think up new complaints.

Just kidding. There are new complaints! So, with a little nod to Nick Piers for the format…

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Green Arrow #24.

Synopsis (Skip if you want no Spoilers!)

Kyle and Jade are settling in for a night of romance, when he gets a call from Connor. Within minutes, Kyle has flown across the country and is introduced to Amon Sur. Amon, it turns out, is a major Green Lantern fanboy as well as son of Abin Sur (the GL who gave Hal Jordan his ring) and member of a new space cop force: The Ungaraian Elite “Light Brigade”. He explains that Earth is the latest target for an intergalactic crime syndicate called “The Black Circle” and that they are responsible for all the problems Ollie and Kyle have been investigating the last two issues. After thwarting an intergalactic assassin, Kyle and Amon head into space as Ollie does his conducts his own investigation on Earth.

The Good

As I’ve said before, the best parts of the series are the ones that don’t involve the increasingly forced team-up/conflict between Green Lantern and Green Arrow. The scenes with Kyle and Jade ring true. And the scenes with Ollie working alone in the urban environment, tracking down leads work very well. And I have go give Raab credit for some wonderful dialogue lines. Particularly…“I’ll be the first to admit when I’m out of my depth, but I’ll be damned if I’m not the last man standing when the smoke clears.” And the GL fan in me cheered when Kyle refered to The Book of Oa.

The Bad

More Ollie/Kyle fighting. More forced name-calling. Yawn. The characterization seems even more off this issue, with Ollie being unusually insecure regarding his image as a hero when his charges draw pictures of their favorite superheroes… and Green Arrow isn’t one of them.

Am I the only one who thinks it is odd that one of the kids drew Black Canary, but not ONE drew Green Arrow? Star City’s hero and local legend of over a decade? Especially since (more on this in a minute) the kids apparently know who Ollie is?

I’ve talked about the overshadowing in the artwork before, so I don’t need to say anything this time except that Adlard’s artwork is still over-inked. This time, I noticed that the colors are also far too muted. With the exception of the dark blue worn by Connor and the dark green of Kyle’s costume, everything is a light pastel and the whole book looks muted as washed out as an old pair of jeans. It looks horrible, especially Amon Sur’s uniform, which can’t seem to decide on being blue or green.

The Ugly

Would it be too much to ask for a definitive statement as to where Oliver Queen stands on his secret identity? In the Smith run, the soulless Ollie was trying to protect his ID but was informed by Batman that his being Green Arrow was public knowledge, thanks to the obituaries published after his heroic death. In the Meltzer run, Ollie was trying to track down items that could reveal his secret identity, presumably a non-issue according to Smith. And now, Raab has Ollie hosting alien entities in his place of business… and THINKS NOTHING OF THE KIDS WHO APPARENTLY DON’T KNOW HE IS A SUPERHERO PLAYING WITH HIM?

I mean, what are these kids saying when they got home? Suppose that one parent actually DOES believe it when their child tells a story about the odd red-skinned man at Mr. Queen’s place?

I’m just going to hope that this was a mistake on the part of the artist, since no reference is made to the kids in the dialogue. Adlard has very little sense as a visual storyteller, neglecting to draw anything around Kyle to show him being protected in deep space, though Amon Sur does get a nice spiffy space suit.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Your Cheating Heart...

Oliver Queen. The Green Arrow. Father. Hero. Lover. And looser than Rodney Dangerfield’s tie at the end of his set.

For a long while, it has been conventional wisdom among some of the more vocal members of the fanboy set that good ol’ Ollie has the same ability for strict monogamy as your average tomcat. That is to say none at all.

But are things really that cut and dry? It is true that Ollie has always been one of the more overtly sexual characters in comicdom, at least in terms of charisma and personality. But has he ever, as Kyle Rayner accused him of doing in a recent issue of Green Lantern “cheated on his woman”?

The Young Oliver Queen Chronicles

Not many stories have made specific reference to Oliver Queen’s life before becoming Green Arrow. Those that do were written after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and added on a great deal to his past life.

One such story was “Peacemakers” (Legends of the DC Universe 7-9) by Denny O’Neil. An untold tale of how the Oliver Queen and Green Lantern Hal Jordan truly first met before the formation of the Justice League, the story showed Queen as a spoiled playboy whose main motivation for heroism was wooing women. The story also showed a clueless Queen talking about the joys of heroism to an unidentified blonde woman, who was trying to get him to listen to some news about her visit to a doctor.

Chuck Dixon also portrayed Oliver as a womanizer, in various flashback scenes of Oliver and Connor speaking together during their time at the Ashram. Oliver told Connor about how he had been with a lot of women in his past as a playboy and the early days of heroism, but how he gladly would have risked his life for any of them.

Mike Grell, while not having written much about Oliver’s pre-heroism days, also made reference to Oliver having been quite the ladies man among the other hippies while he was in college in The Wonder Year miniseries.

Clearly Oliver has an eye for the ladies and is a man of the world in that regard. Still, the question remains: did he ever cheat on Black Canary once the two met and began dating?

The Early Years of Heroism: Hard-Traveling Heroes

Back in the ol’ Hard Traveling Hero days, as written by Denny O’Neil in his now legendary run, Oliver Queen was always depicted as steadfastly devout to his “Pretty Bird”. In fact, Dinah complained that he was too possessive. An example of this occurs in Green Arrow #85, where she cuts a date short after Oliver dumps his chili a man who was looking at her.

Even in the more recent “retro” JLA stories, (JLA: Year One) Oliver has always been shown as being faithful, if not down right territorial, towards the love of his life. So where did the ideal of his unfaithfulness come in?

Enter Shado

Shado, a Yakuza trained archer assassin, first entered Oliver’s life at a time of great change. (See the excellent Longbow Hunters TP for this story) Newly moved to Seattle with Dinah, the two vigilantes hadn’t even been given time to settle in before being drawn into a plot involving a serial killer stalking prostitutes, drugs and a fortune in stolen money.

Ollie would cross paths with Shado again in GA #10-12. Blackmailed into tracking down Shado by a corrupt CIA agent, Oliver was shot through the heart when he surprised Shado in the middle of her practicing. She would nurse him back to health over the next few weeks, the two parting ways after dealing with the agent. There was a suggestion of a strong attraction between the two archers, including one scene of the two together where it appears that at least Shado and possibly Oliver are both skinny-dipping.

Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean that anything happened. At the very least, nothing that Oliver was consciously aware of.

The Rising Son

Shado and Oliver would meet again over a year later (in DCU time and real life time) in GA #21-24. This time, Shado was trying to save her newborn son from the Yakuza, whom she had fled rather than serve further. Oliver helped her to rescue the boy and, as the two part ways again, asks about the boy’s father. Shado cryptically says that the father was unaware he had a son that his life was complicated enough without him knowing. Oliver comments that whoever he was, he was lucky to have known her that briefly and that he is a good-looking boy. Shado thanks him and says “He has his father’s eyes.” As Oliver leaves, we close in on the boy… and see that he has bright green eyes, the same shade as Oliver’s.

Rather damning evidence, except for the fact that Oliver does not ask specifically whether or not he is the father. This suggests that he does not believe it is possible that he is the baby’s father, further suggesting that he never had willing relations with Shado the second time they met. The key word here is “willing”.

About Last Year…

The next revelation in the Shado/Ollie/Dinah love triangle would come a year later, again. In GA #34, Oliver would be framed for treason and was forced to go into hiding after being freed enroute to prison by the same man who framed him: Eddie Fyers. Dinah, having the means to contact Shado somehow, called her and said Oliver needed her help. The two met for the first time in GA #36-37and Dinah quickly figured out who the father of the child by Shado’s side was. Shado confirmed what had only been suggested: that Oliver was the father of her baby. However, she would go on to explain two things…

1. That Oliver was totally unaware that the child was his.

2. That the child was conceived while Oliver was delirious with a fever while recovering from the shot to the heart.

Shado also notes that she did what she did out of a need to have a part of Oliver, knowing she could never steal him away from Dinah. Her reasoning behind this was that she saw Oliver become a killer for Dinah and that for him to change himself that much, he had to have a love for Dinah that could not be broken. Since she could not share his life, she decided to give him a legacy since at that point Oliver wanted to have children but Dinah refused on the grounds that with their lives as heroes they shouldn’t risk leaving behind orphans. Shado also notes that he was speaking Dinah’s name throughout his delirium, including the time she spent “lying with him”.

Dinah says nothing about what she finds out to Oliver. Of course, she sees little of him over the next year as he goes on a quest to find himself. But during his time in hiding, Oliver befriended another woman who would later have an effect on his relationship with Dinah; a homeless young woman named Marianne, who we will discuss in a moment.

On The Road Again

Oliver does get a chance to “let his shaft loose” while on his journey around the world. He is seduced from a distance by Laurel Jones (GA #44-45), but he turns her down. And while Oliver does flirt with Angela, part of a team of poacher hunters he joins in Africa (GA #46-48), he does nothing more than that. And it says something that he drops the entire journey when he finds that Dinah has been taken hostage in Seattle and rushes back to save her. (GA #50)


Before leaving on his journey, Oliver instructed Marianne (who gave him quite a bit of help during his time underground) to go and see Dinah about a place to stay and a job. Dinah does take Marianne on as a roommate and employee and she continues to live there, even after Oliver does return. It is immediately made obvious that Marianne has a major crush on Oliver and would love to drive Dinah and him apart. When a police officer starts calling on Dinah during the year Oliver is away, Marriane encourages Dinah to agree to go out with him.

Later, she not so subtly starts tries to seduce Oliver (undressing with the door open) and the tries to spend more time with him, becoming his link into the world of Seattle’s homeless population when Oliver needs a lead concerning a crime.

Still, Oliver does nothing to encourage her attraction other than being a good-looking, charming and heroic figure to a college-girl looking for Prince Charming. And so in GA #74, at a New Years costume part, she confesses her love to Oliver. He tires to talk with her about it, saying he has never done anything to lead her on. She agrees that he hasn’t, but that she has still fallen for him.

The artwork is unclear on the next page, but Marianne is definitely pressing her lips against Oliver’s as Dinah enters the room. What is unclear however is if she started the kiss or if he did…. Or to what degree Oliver is kissing back. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Dinah says she is unwilling to share Oliver and kicks him out at the end of GA #75.

Harsh? Perhaps, but from Dinah’s viewpoint, it is understandable.

1. She had to have known about his past as a ladies man and, like most people in love, been a little afraid of him finding someone else.

2. She knew that Oliver had a child with another woman but had only the word of “the other woman” that he was not aware of the child or that he was unaware that the two of them had ever “made babies” together.

3. Oliver disappeared for a year, during which time he never wrote or called Dinah.

4. Oliver let into their house a woman who was the spitting image of Dinah when they first met. (Dinah Lance was 19 at the time she joined the JLA and Marriane was about that age during the time she lived with Oliver and Dinah, since references were made to her taking college classes)

5. Said woman is very flirtatious toward Oliver and had, when he was gone, tried to get you to see other men.

Add all this up, and Dinah has more than enough reason to be suspicious about “just one kiss”.

On The Road Again

Oliver went back on the road in GA #81, his departure mirroring that of Grell from the regular Green Arrow title. Still, before he left Seattle forever Oliver did sleep with Marianne in the rooms they hid in several years before (GA #76). However, since Dinah at this point had already dumped him, this doesn’t technically count as cheating.

Any attempt that Oliver might have made at reconciliation was shot (no pun intended) in GA #81 when, while trying to stop a fight between superhero Nuklon and supervillain Shrapnel, he was grabbed and hugged by an affectionate passerby who wanted to “thank” him for saving her. Of course Dinah was in the crowd of passersby watching the fight and got enough of a look to be disgusted, never mind Oliver’s trying to push the woman off of him.

Oliver had two more “affairs” of note before his death in Green Arrow #101: a one-night stand with a nameless redhead who he hitchhiked with and, in one of the more controversial stories of the run, Catwoman in GA #86. Many Green Arrow fans can’t believe that Oliver, even if unattached, would ever sleep with a known thief like Catwoman. Of course there are many Catwoman fans that believe that Selina is too independent to ever have a one night stand with any man. Regardless, the story took place just before Zero Hour and is considered non-cannon by most fans of both characters.


So was Oliver Queen a flirt? Yes. Did Oliver Queen sleep around? Yes. Did he have children out of wedlock? Yes. Did he do some incredibly stupid things regarding his love life? Hell yes.

But as far as I can determine, when he was with Dinah Lance and they were “going steady” as it were, there was nothing short of blood-loss induced delirium that could get him to turn away from her. Still, with the possible exception of Matt Murdock, it can’t be denied that Oliver Queen has had the most turbulent romantic life of any man in the comic universe.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

Monday, April 21, 2003

JLA: Age Of Wonder #1 - A Review

Written by: Adisakdi Tantimedh
Penciled by: Galen Showman
Inked by: Galen Showman
Colored by: Dave McCaig
Lettered by: Bob Lappan
Editor: Andy Helfer
Publisher: DC Comics

There are generally two types of Elseworlds stories. The first, and rarer of these give us something unusual, with familiar characters rendered unrecognizable by the changes in the world. Stories where Hal Jordan is a Nazi or Superman is a bad guy, for example. The second, and more frequent type of Elseworlds, has the same characters being shown exactly as they have always been with the setting and time changed. Age of Wonder is one of the second type, but it is a very good alternate timeline story, if not one to change the course of comics like Kingdom Come or Dark Knight Returns.

The plot centers around Superman, who in this reality, came crashing to Earth in the late 1800’s and has come of age during the Age of Invention, when men like Thomas Edison were advancing science to new heights and the Industrial Revolution was just beginning. Along with Superman, other inventors form a “League of Science” dedicated toward helping Mankind with their inventions. Among the members of this League are Starman (called Ted Knight, but he has his son Jack’s goggles and cosmic rod), The Flash (Barry Allen, but he has Jay Garrick’s helmet) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, but he has a bit of Guy Gardner’s attitude).

Everybody is pretty much as they are character-wise in this story. Lex Luthor is still a greedy industrialist/scientist who is jealous of Superman. Superman is still a nice guy who wants to help everyone, although making him into something of an anarchist wanting to give away electric lamps is an interesting touch. And Lois Lane is the Nellie Bly of this world. Only cosmetic changes are made to the stories of the characters to better fit the setting, such as Luthor’s hairloss coming from his experiments with radium or Hal Jordan encountering his alien benefactor at Lot 51 in the Nevada desert, where the USA is conducting their first mechanical flight experiments.

The art, like the story, is good but nothing outstanding. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the designs for all the steampunk technology is excellent. I was fond of the airships in particular. And I must mention that the redesigns of all the character costumes, especially Hal Jordan’s more militaristic costume and Starman’s Doc Holiday outfit are among the best I have seen.

All in all, you couldn’t do much better than to spend your sheckles on this story. Not the best thing I’ve ever read. But it still left me filled with wonder.

Green Lantern #162 - A Review

Written by: Ben Raab
Penciled by: Charlie Adlard
Inked by: Charlie Adlard
Colored by: Tatjana Wood
Lettered by: Jack Morelli
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

Welcome back to the Steel Cage! This Steel Cage continues our new experimental format, where a book is discussed between two reviewers. This time, our own “Starman” Matt Morrison and Daron “The Editor” Kappauff will be trading words (and possibly blows) over Green Lantern #162. We encourage all our readers to let us know if they like this new format or the old one where two differing reviews were pieced together. But for now, enjoy a very surprising rumble!

Matt: Okay: our topic is Green Lantern # 162. Part Two of the highly-anticipated Black Circle: Urban Knights miniseries. I think the first question should be what did you think of the first part of this mini-series, Green Arrow #23?

Daron: To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled with it. I thought the dialogue… actually, the whole situation was forced.

Matt: You mean the scene with Ollie and Kyle toward the end or the whole book in general?

Daron: The whole crossover. It feels more like a hyped event than a real story.

Matt: I know. Its like the only reason for the story’s existence is to bring in the Nostalgia dollar. "Hey kids! Look! GL/GA together again!"

Daron: Pretty much.

Matt: Is there anything you did like about the first part of the story?

Daron: Not a lot. I think Kyle has grown a lot since he took the ring and the depiction of him getting pissed off because some back-from-the-dead-hero says he's not GL just didn't jive with how he is now.

Matt: *nods* Well, this may be a shock but I actually agree with most of that assessment.

Daron: Any other thoughts on the previous issue then?

Matt: I won't go into much detail over what I thought of the book (you can read that in my previous review) but I think the whole story derailed the minute they put Kyle and Ollie in the same room.

Daron: Agreed

Matt: Rabb did a good job depicting the two apart. The first half with Ollie was classic Mike Grell urban avenger material. The second half with Kyle felt lie a mix of the darker Winnick stories with more of the Ron Marz-style humor. But as soon as they put them in the room and try and try and make the two not like each other.... it just gets BAD.

Daron: And then goes from bad to worse very quickly.

Matt: Well, I did point out in my review that when you consider how badly Ollie treated Kyle a few issues back in the GA title, Kyle having a bit of attitude is understandable.

Daron: Yes, but I still think he over reacted and has shown he's normally above childish name calling.

Matt: Well, the key word is normally. I mean, he's a lot more capable than he was in the early Marz days. But Kyle is a fairly emotional guy.

Daron: I hear you, but I still think it was forced and thought it could be handled better.

Matt: I agree. And there's something I noticed in the rereading : Kyle actually does refer to that incident. There's no "See Issue 19” box or anything, but he does make a sarcastic reference to their "hanging out and talking on the JLA Watchtower". The only problem is that you have to have read that issue to get the reference.

Daron: Right.

Matt: Which brings us to Part 2 and the book we are actually supposed to be discussing..

Daron: Well with that in mind, what was your thought on the two of them at the beginning of the issue, with the "no, we weren't fighting”, “of course not" talk to the police?

Matt: You ever see a pair of five-year-olds fighting over the last cookie and then getting yelled at? Put them in costumes and that's what it looked like.

Daron: That's what I thought too. It annoyed me even more than the end of the last issue. I mean, how old are these guys?

Matt: Well, it isn't like either of them has ever been the poster boy for maturity

Daron: Well, they're definitely not making any headway either.

Matt: No. Of course immediately after the cops leave, they DO try to reconcile.

Daron: Kyle tries anyway.

Matt: Actually, Ollie apologizes first. He does it in a very rude manner, but he does apologize first.

Daron: An obligatory one, just to get Kyle to leave.

Matt: I suppose.

Daron: And then we get the usual Batman-esque scene where the "partner" states that they need to team up, and Batman says "NO! Get out of my town.", with Ollie in the Batman role.

Matt: And then Ollie gives the very forced "You aren't Hal Jordan" speech. Thankfully once Connor shows up and the name calling stops.

Daron: What are your thoughts on the issue in general?

Matt: I like parts of it. But in general, the whole thing does feel forced and the best moments come when the two characters they are trying to team up are working apart. Still, it got better as it went along.

Daron: Exactly. Personally, I thought this issue was a lot better than part one. But it would have been pretty hard for it to be worse.

Matt: The big problem is that there really is no reason (aside from my observation about the events of GA #19) for these two guys to not like each other. Connor even says as much, saying the two are a lot alike; they are both are stubborn and when they get ticked off, they do get insulting towards their friends to the point where they just deserve to get hit. And growth aside, that is true. Kyle got downright mean to The Flash and Batman during the whole incident with his friend Terry in GL a few months ago.

Daron: That's true, but hardly the basis for a conflict that is the basis of a six-part story.

Matt: Yeah. If they had built this up a bit and had them driving each other crazy over the middle of the journey, like the old Hal/Ollie stories... or even the more recent Kyle/Connor stories....

Daron: Well as you said, it seemed to pick up as the issue went along, though not till much later.

Matt: Yeah... the scene with Kyle shaking down the thugs was funny, although somewhat inappropriate considering the story a few issues ago where he nearly went over the line. But the scene with Ollie working with the kids.... and the final page..... ooh, that was good.

Daron: And I want to get to that scene with the kids in a second, but I want to talk about the thugs first.

Matt: What about them?

Daron: This is what we basically are told. When another hero insults Kyle he first pops said hero then he attacks random muggers and drug dealers. But when a group of mobsters all shoot at him and literally try to KILL him, he just says "Stop it", takes away their guns and goes on and has a nice sit down with them?

Matt: Yeah. And Jade chews him out for that.

Daron: Which was good, but him doing it was the unbelievable part.

Matt: So maybe he's trying a more reasoned approach? Or maybe he's hoping "Hey, if I don't go in looking for trouble, they'll be reasonable.” Heck, I'd even be willing to allow that Kyle is at the point in New York that when he shows up, a crook will just surrender rather than draw things out. It does happen in the Superman books in Metropolis.

Daron: Maybe, but it's hard to believe that he wouldn't be more upset about someone trying to kill him than insulting him

Matt: Well, it isn’t like he has much to fear from a bunch of gangsters with guns.

Daron: I guess, just something that annoyed me

Matt: I understand. And I have to stretch to find a way to justify it myself. I don’t know. I think one writer should have written this story.

Daron: I think so too, and I don't think it needed to be done as a "crossover"

Matt: It is weird that two good writers can’t make something together. I like Winnick usually. And I liked the solo story Rabb wrote for the GL Secret Files even more. It was one of the more thoughtful and mature stories in recent memory and showed a great respect for the past history that Winnick often ignores. Not much superheroics. Just pure talking heads and emotion.

Daron: I read that same story and liked it. That's the type of thing I was hoping we’d see here. Not some intergalctic bleach smuggling story where half the action is between the two “heroes” fighting.

Matt: Just action action action…

Daron: Have you noticed that both Ollie and Kyle try to be Batman throughout the story?

Matt: Well, Ollie has always been Batman lite.

Daron: True.

Matt: And Kyle? Well... he's been getting closer and closer to it.

Daron: Maybe that's their problem. They both want to be Batman and feel threatened by the competition?

Matt: Hmmm... not so much. I think perhaps they are both used to being the one in charge and don't like having another person pushing on the top of the pyramid. I mean, they DO work well with others. Ollie has his extended family and Kyle has his group of Lanterns and Darkstars....

Daron: Well as Jade says, what spandex wearing male doesn't?

Matt: True.

Daron: As you said earlier though in relation to the Kyle/Ollie situation, I think the whole thing with the children really came out of nowhere. I’ve read the title since issue #1, and it's been so long since they've mentioned that he works with children that I forgot about it entirely. I also have some problems with the continuity.

Matt: Yes, I remember you said that you were wondering about where this story fit in the timeline, considering Kyle's presence on Earth. For that matter, Connor says Ollie needs a vacation. What about the vacation he took last issue? The whole “finding his roots” trip he took back to the island where he first perfected his archery skills?

Daron: I don’t know.

Matt: Me either. I mean, this COULD be happening before Kyle went into space, but after the whole Archer's Quest story line. And the one-shot story COULD take place after this. But we don't want to nitpick the hows and whys of when this happens. We just want a decent story!

Daron: But that's what we do, as fans and readers.

Matt: Yes. I mean that we do this, but we shouldn’t have to.

Daron: Right. We want a cohesive linear story but we shouldn't have to fight tooth and nail to make sense of the different stories take place. Would it be so hard to throw in a little box saying these events take place before Kyle left for space or something?

Matt: True. But DC is trying to give their writers greater freedom to tell good stories and not be slaves to continuity. To give the best example of this right now, in JLA Batman and Wonder Woman are dating while in Batman, he's dealing with his feelings for Catwoman. And I heard there's yet another woman in one of the other Batman books....

The Art

Daron: What do you think of the art?

Matt: The constructs are gorgeous. I did laughed out loud at the sumo wrestlers and the one gangster yeling "Boss! He's throwing Big Japanese Guys at us! RUNNNNN!"

Daron: That was amusing.

Matt: The sumo. The demented elves. Ther’s the Kyle Rayner we know and love.

Daron: Oscar the Grouch too.

Matt: I missed that.

Daron: When one of the muggers was about to hit Kyle with a trash can? Oscar pops out and hits the mugger.

Matt: Oh yeah! I forgot that one.

Daron: That was a nice moment. The constructs were good.

Matt: Yeah, but most of the time the artwork seems a bit too heavily inked.

Daron: My thoughts exactly.

Matt: I mean, I know we're going for a darker atmosphere than usual.... but when the guy who has a glowing green chest emblem looks like he's lost in the shadows…

Daron: At first I wanted to rip into the penciler, but it's hard to tell what his original lines might have been.

Matt: The penciler and inker are one in the same, in this case. Art by Charlie Adlard.

Daron: So why this guy? I've never even heard of him before. You'd think they would want a big name on something like they've been hyping so much.

Matt: Yeah. I miss Phil Hester and Matt Wagner.

Daron: My original thought stands, then. The inks are far too heavy. I want to know what the pencils look liked before. I can't even honestly say I don't like them cause I can't see them for the inks.

Matt: Well, there are places where you can see the pencils, but even there they are too finely detailed. Like the scenes in the woods at the end with Ollie? Everything looks sketchy... like the pine trees where it looks like every individual needle was drawn.

Daron: It's funny how clean the constructs look in relation to everything else.

Matt: Yes. And aside from the overshadowing, there are some points where the proportions are weird too. Like the third panel on page 21? There is an Up-view shot of Ollie where his arms and head are freakishly tiny, but his torso and legs look like Chris Farley.

Daron: Nice!

Matt: I don't know. I don't mind some shadowy artists. Tony Harris, for example, is one of my favorites. But he usually keeps his lines simple. This is just too complex, except for when the constructs are done.

Daron: My thoughts exactly. Tony Harris is great with shadows, but his lines are cleaner.

Matt: See, at first I thought the art was intentionally like this. Like the shadows were to represent Ollie's world... and here comes Kyle, butting in with his big cartoony light shapes. Like they are trying to combine the art to fit both characters and creating something that doesn't work for either.

Daron: Yeah I thought that too, but Kyle's scenes are just as dark

Matt: In this issue, they are yes. Last issue that seemed like a valid idea but the whole thing is too shadowy this time.

Daron: Getting back to the plot for a second, earlier you mentioned Ollie and the kids on the mountain…I didn't get that scene at all. Who are these kids? I've been reading the series and I can't remember having ever seen them before. Who are they and why do they know he's GA?

Matt: Did you read the Kevin Smith GA series? Ollie's day job is running the Star City Youth Center. It wasn't touched on during the Meltzer run, but presumably he's still been working at that.

Daron: Okay, but do they know he's Green Arrow?

Matt: No. He just tells them to stay put while he takes a look at something. He never says anything about putting on his costume or anything. He just does the protective responsible elder thing: stay put, I'll check it out... call for help if I don't come back.

Daron: Looking back over the last few panels it's kind of funny how his bow just appears…

Matt: Tell you the truth, I thought it was odder that Ollie has a celphone than his suddenly having a bow. I mean, he could have put it together while on the run…

Daron: It's not a compound bow show in the art.

Matt: Well, I know (comic geek moment) Ollie does not like using compound bows.

Daron: I know. In fact he made fun of Arsenal in an earlier issue for using one.

Matt: Aha! So he DID pull a bow out of nowhere!

Daron: Exactly. To me that's bad story telling, plain and simple. It's the little things like that which make people take notice.

Matt: Yeah.

The Big Finish

Matt: I don't know anymore... I really want to like this story. There are parts that I love... and parts that I hate. And the whole thing is just kinda... blah. Last week I couldn't wait to see this issue to see what would happen next. This time, I can't wait for the whole mess to end.

Daron: My thoughts exactly, I wanted to like this story a lot, GL is one of my favorite characters, and I've always found GA to be interesting. I've liked their interaction before, but this just doesn't feel right in this story.

Matt: I still want to know what is going to happen next…especially with the final page cliffhanger.

Daron: The story line has a lot of potential, but we’ve basically learned nothing more than that these aliens are using bleach to make drugs in the two issues.

Matt: Yeah, it does feel like they are dragging it out a bit. Still, it has some good points. I’ll give this a solid 4.0. Not the best or worst thing ever written, but it should be a LOT better.

Daron: Agreed. 4.0 for me too.

Looking To The Stars: A Not So Typical Viewer Mail Column

When I first started writing for 411mania, I never anticipated the amount of feedback and support that I would get for my writing for it. Oh sure, I got the occasional fan letter during my time with Fanzing (long may ‘er archives stand!). But since taking up my metaphorical pen here, I have gotten twice the response that I did back in the good ol’ days. But never did I anticipate that I would be getting letters from professional writers regarding what I said about their work.

And yet, this is what happened to me about two weeks ago. Just after the publishing of my review of The Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer with Spider-Man #1, I got the following letter.


Just wanted to drop a note to say the reviews at 411 about Gus (even aside from being so kind!) were among the most insightful commentary the book has seen yet. Your opening paragraph was EXACTLY correct about what we were trying to do. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Thank you so much for the kind words. I'm certainly going to be keeping an eye on you and the site!



Gail Simone reading my work? I was floored! You see, I’ve been a big fan of Gail since she was writing You’ll All Be Sorry at Comic Book Resources and I’ve loved her work on Deadpool, Agent X and Killer Princess. So getting praise from her was a major ego boost.

I also have to thank Gail for having indirectly improved my image at work. As some of you may remember, Unca Stars does work for a comic book store. Last week, I came into the store that morning to find my boss with an odd grin on his face. Not that his grin is that odd, but having it directed at me is a somewhat rare occurrence. With few words, he showed me an e-mail sent in from his boss, concerning a “very good review” of the Gus Beezer series that should be used to help sell the comic in all our stores. The review began with a heading saying Written by “Starman” Matt Morrison.

It turns out my boss’s boss was one of several people Gail sent the review too, praising it and me. And the poor guy had no idea that this writer, whom he personally went on to talk about being very good, was working across the street from him.

Well, I hope you laughed as hard as I did at that. And yet there is even more. Just yesterday, I got another letter, though this one was not as complementary.

i was just sent your review of .... well, come on, me. not my work, but me. what a sad, bitter, tiny little man you must be inside. it must be awful to be you. please continue to hate me and my work. please don't buy it. please throw away any free copies you might recieve. it is not written for you. it is written ABOUT you. when you are allllllll grown up, ask your mommy what satire is. i wish you great success with your booming internet career and will make a point of reading all your reviews in the future as you seem to be a very entertaining humorless dolt.
ron zimmerman

Wow. Rawhide Kid was written about me? I thought it was about a gay cowboy.

In all seriousness, while I thank Mr. Zimmerman for his concern, I am not sad or bitter. I am quite happy, well satisfied with my job and have a diverse group of friends for whom I am very grateful. I am also not tiny or little, being above average height (5’10”) and weight. (180 lb), have the build of a linebacker and in good health. As such, I am as grown up as I think I am going to get.

As for my mother explaining satire to me, she has already done so. I was raised watching Monty Python and am well familiar with what satire is. I am also familiar with what is good satire and what is bad satire. And Ron? You write very bad satire.

For good satire, I highly recommend the new limited run YABS being put out by Gail Simone and some other writers (including Ron Zimmerman). You really should go and read all of her new and old work. I guarantee you’ll find some of the best satire about comics ever written as well as a critique of nuts on the Internet bad mouthing perfectly decent writers for no reason other than pure jealousy and certainly not because they are insecure hacks, with nothing better to do on Easter Sunday than insult their critics.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

PS238 #1 - A Review

Written by: Aaron Williams
Penciled by: Aaron Williams
Inked by: Aaron Williams
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: Aaron Williams
Editor: Aaron Williams
Publisher: Dorkstorm Press

I’ve been following all the books published by Dorkstorm Press for a while now and been impressed with most of them. PS238 is the latest in their line and it is done by Aaron Williams, most famous for his work on Nodwick, a humorous parody of fantasy comics. Like Nodwick, PS238 is a parody book; a superhero parody to be specific.

The book takes place in a public school, run by the government and a number of superheroic teachers underneath a real elementary school. Special technologies are used to hide the abilities of the “metaprodigy” charges as the superkids are give a basic education as well as training in the use of their powers. In other words, it’s the same basic concept behind the original X-Men but played for laughs.

Obviously this book will appeal mostly to the superhero loving crowd, since many of the characters and concepts parodied are taken from the major archtypes of that genre. There is Mo-Ron, son of this world’s Superman, who is afraid to fly and has the unlikely name of Captain Clarinet. There is Bernard, who looks like a younger and more hyper Incredible Hulk. There is the unusually pale Murphy, who claims to be a fragment of the psyche of an extra mentional being who rules the dream realms. (Awww… lil’ Dream all grown up to 10 years old!) And then there is Zodon, an evil genius in a mechanical flight chair whose chronic swearing is kept in check only by a “Barry Ween” chip that changes all his profanities to harmless friendly words and causes him to sing showtunes when he gets REALLY angry.

This kind of strict parody humor could get tiresome very quickly. Thankfully, the humor lies not only in the in-jokes for the fanboys but in the witty dialogue as well as some playing with how a school for younger superbeings might really function. To say nothing of the real humanism to the parents and children and how little superpowers really changes things. For example, Mo-Ron’s mom makes him a cape to grow into and he has a childish panic attack at the thought of having to tell her that he lost it.

The artwork by Williams is reminiscent of his style on Nodwick The characters are all distinctive and sport unique looks despite their costumes, so there is never any difficulty in telling who is who like in SOME superheroic books. My one complaint is that even though this book could really stand to be displayed in color. Some of the scenes just scream for some lush colors to bring them to life, such as all the scenes after “Ron” finally does conquer his fear of flying and plays his instrument in the clouds.

Still, this is one of the funniest reads I have had in recent memory and I have no quibbles with it aside from thinking it could be even better in full color. Pick a copy up, if only for the collectors value. This is one to watch, kids.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Green Arrow #23 - A Review

Written by: Ben Raab
Penciled by: Charlie Adlard
Inked by: Charlie Adlard
Colored by: Titjana Wood
Lettered by: Jack Morelli
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

A while back, I expressed some concerns about how this mini-series might turn out. I spoke of how a traditional Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up story would be folly since Kyle Rayner and Oliver Queen are too similar as personalities to have the same conflicts as Hal Jordan and Ollie or even Kyle and Connor Hawke during their many groupings. Silly me, being so unique myself, forgot that often times having to work with someone who is very much like you can be more annoying than dealing with your total opposite. And that is what happens at the very end of this story.

In two acts, in which we are introduced to Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) as they both discover something rotten in the state of Denmark. Oliver Queen is just about to confront the gang who made him look like foolish in front of the police earlier when he finds that a grinning Kyle Rayner has already captured them. Kyle then smugly asks if Ollie wants to do a team-up and “stick it to the fat-cats”.

Now, my first reaction was that Kyle was being a major jerk, sarcastic and flippant as he is. And then I remembered that the last time he and Ollie did meet that Ollie pranked him big time and stole something off the JLA Watchtower right under Kyle’s nose (See GA #19 for that tale) . More than that, he gave Kyle an apparently faked speech about respecting him, but being uncomfortable because he reminded him of his own advancing years.

Now when you consider that, its more than natural for Kyle to be a little ticked off about having to deal with Ollie and wanting to show him up in his own home town. It is just as natural for Ollie to be fiercely territorial, unlikely to put up with being called an “old-man” and ready to punch Kyle’s lights out the minute he gets any lip. Passable conflict achieved and the premise of this new Hard-Traveling Heroes story established.

The art lends to this feeling of things not belonging. Adlard’s style emphasizes shadows and detail, which lends itself well to the first part of the book where Green Arrow is tackling a group of drug dealers. It also serves to make the light generating Green Lantern look all the more powerful in the second act, where he glows in a dark nightclub and evening sky. Finally, in the third part, it makes Kyle look all the more out of place in Star City; so as he pushes into Oliver’s territory, so does he appear to have pushed his way into this book from the brighter pages of Dale Eaglesham.

Of course the book does have a few flaws. Devout a Green Arrow fan as I am, even I have trouble believing the chain of events in the first part where Oliver Queen manages to disable three cars fleeing the scene of a crime, while seemingly perusing on foot. And as nitpicky as this is, I can’t ever see Green Arrow saying “Uh-oh” after trying to anger someone enough into starting a fight. Still, this book hits the target more often than not (ah… sly archery humor) and I am looking forward to Part Two in Green Lantern #162 next week

411 #1 - A Review

Penciled by: David Mack, Phil Winslade, Frank Quitely and Tony Salmons
Inked by: Phil Winslade, Avalon Studios and Tony Salmons
Colored by: Chris Chuckry, Dan Brown and Rick J. Bryant
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Editor: Mike Raicht and Jennifer Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I can’t help but marvel at the irony in this book’s timing. The only way it could have been more fitting was if the 11th of April fell on Wednesday this year, so that this book could have been released on 4-11.

It came out on the same day when most of our nation’s media was trumpeting the glory of war and how joyous our victory is and how generally good things are now that “the great enemy” has been defeated. Hyper-Nationalism has shouted out the calls for peaceful resolution and to speak of reasoning with one’s enemies now will likely lead to scorn and ridicule. And this is the climate into which Marvel puts out this book, the first in a three-part series, about the heroism of those who realize that open arms do more good than closed fists.

Bill Jemas says as much in his introduction to this tome, and the theme is continued throughout the four pieces contained within. The first is a column by Dr. Arun Ghandi, grandson of Mohandas Ghandi, telling a story about how his Grandfather formed his philosophy, with art by David Mack accompanying. The second story tells of a pilot’s unique revenge upon the people he blames for the death of his daughter in a terrorist attack. The third story details a grandfather’s past and his dealings with discrimination and hatred. The final story, by David Reeds, is the story of a soldier searching for where he can truly do the most good… and what exactly “good” is. A team of all-star artists illustrate these stories and do each story service… although I can’t help but laugh at irony of the usually gritty Mark Millar & Frank Quietly working together on a story about non-violence.

The astute reader may have noticed that I did not mention any specific nations or races in the previous descriptions of the stories. I do this in the spirit of the book, which ultimately has one message: that at the end of the day, we are all people regardless of whatever boundaries we may build between ourselves.

Looking To The Stars: Dark Tomorrow, Bad Game

I’ve always kept on comic-based video games, even during the years I didn’t own a video game system. And though I may be dating myself a bit with this reference, I think the greatest Batman video game of all time was the movie tie-in made for old 8-bit NES. Everything I have seen since then was poorly made and it is with good reason that most of the gamers I know have been viewing Batman: Dark Tomorrow with a good deal of skepticism.

Before discussing Dark Tomorrow (hereafter DT), I think a little discussion of the last Batman game “Vengeance”. Released a few years ago for the Gamecube, X-Box and PS2, it was based on the Batman Animated series. The graphics were done in a style that emulated the artwork of Bruce Timm and the actors from the series returned to lend their voices to the game characters. As gorgeous as the game was though, it suffered from awkward perspective problems, a clunky control interface and the fact that you spent as much time watching movies than actually playing the game.

The first big problem that DT has is that it uses the same engine and unwieldy controls as “Vengeance”. The second big problem is that it has removed all the elements that made “Vengeance” enjoyable. The excellent voice acting has been replaced by a team that is competent but cannot replace Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. The graphics are gorgeous and as finely detailed as any Jim Lee cover but lack the flow and simple charm of the Bruce Tim style in gameplay.

In fairness, DT does improve upon two things from Vengeance. The first is the map feature, in the upper right screen corner, which does give you a slightly better idea of where you are and where you are heading. The second is the more realistic fighting system. In most of the Batman games to date, you either knocked a bad guy out once and had them fade away in the traditional video game manner or you had to fight them one-on-one, Mortal Kombat style, doing combos and such in an effort to beat up one simple thug. DT compromises with a more realistic compromise. That is, Batman can easily take down one thug with one or two focused blows and knock them out for a moment. Confront him with a whole army of gang members or mental patients at once, and he is going to get stomped.

This leads to a game that, in some respects, is the most realistic adaptation of the Batman mythos ever and the first to make the player have to simulate the mannerisms of Batman as a character while playing. Taking on the massive crowds of enemies requires planning and skilled item usage as well as stealth. On the other hand, this realism can also be somewhat aggravating. Like in Vengeance, knocked out thugs will recover and come chasing after you again once they wake up, unless restrained with a pair of handcuffs. Unlike Vengeance, the thugs are not spaced out as much and they recover much more quickly. This means that you can face two enemies, knock out one, start fighting the second and have the first one back up and fighting as you finish the second one. Thankfully, you have unlimited handcuffs as well as unlimited continues (Well, so much for the realism there…)

Still, there is the infamous awkward interface, which makes rooftop jumping difficult, movement annoying and grappling impossible. In fact, there are two different grappling hooks: one for straight up-down movement and one for swinging across roof gaps. Why you need two is beyond me.

Perhaps most annoying is that, like in Vengeance, you have to switch to a first person perspective to use all of Batman’s special weapons. Unlike Vengeance, DT does not allow you to move at all while you are in this first person perspective and getting hit by an enemy automatically knocks you back into third-person view. Yes, that’s right. No hit-and-dodge maneuvers here. Just go to first person, fire off a shot, switch back to third person and run. This means that your Batarangs are pretty much useless, unless you are knocking out an unaware enemy from a distance. And what with the timer on unconscious enemies coming to, they are likely to be awake and angry by the time you move in close enough to handcuff him. And that’s assuming the enemy is alone. If they have a buddy, he’ll be smart enough to see his companion fall down and will immediately turn upon you.

Overall, Dark Tomorrow is a big waste of time, lacking the entertainment value of the earlier game’s cinematic scenes and having even more difficult controls. Looks like the Batman game curse continues.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.

Monday, April 7, 2003

Hawkman #14 - A Review

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Don Kramer
Inked by: Prentis Rollins
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

This is one of my favorite books, and until this month I have had no idea why. I have never been a Hawkman fan. As far as powers go, there are a lot of heroes who can fly and a lot who are masters of ancient weapons. I never liked him as a personality, always having sided with Green Arrow in every argument the two ever had. And his costume is one of the most impractical in a business that has never boasted efficiency in dressing. In fact, on reflection I think I only picked it up because James Robinson had something to do with its’ creation. And even though Geoff Johns is the solo writer on the title now, at times, the book feels a lot like Robinson’s Starman.

Consider this issue which continues the plot from last time, with Hawkman and Hawkgirl having finally discovered the identity of the killers of Hawkgirl’s parents and their efforts to hunt him down, while arguing over whether or not it is proper for them to exact “eye-for-an-eye” justice. Without giving too much away, this issue ties the killer to another Hawkman villain from the past as well as tying him to a figure from the Hawks’ past life as featured in Issue Seven: Gentleman Jim Craddock, aka The Gentleman Ghost.

Okay, now I know the Gentleman Ghost is a silly villain from a lot of best-forgotten comics. And yet, in this issue, Johns remakes him into not only a formidable enemy but also a more sympathetic character than Carter Hall himself. He is a scoundrel and a thief and a killer but he does have a code of honor. In fact, he reminds me a lot of The Shade from Robinson’s “Starman” and indeed notes that he will be a friend and foe to the Hawks as it best amuses him. Still, corrupt as “Gentleman” was in life, you cannot fault him for his anger over his unjust execution and the curse that has made him a ghost ; an interesting change from the more typical slighted villain story where any wrong-doing the hero committed is all in the mind of the villain.

The guest art team of Kramer and Rollins do a fantastic job. Everything is marked in lush detail, with the Louisiana swamps vividly described. I also liked the way the Hawk helmets were drawn in this issue, clearly showing the class in the masks and the eyes of the heroes underneath. The character expressions are perfectly matched to the dialogue, the action scenes convey a real sense of motion and the shadows are just exquisite.

My one complaint with the book is that skillful as Johns is, I still cannot find myself sympathizing very Carter Hall. He has shown some surprising hypocrisy in the past, berating Oliver Queen for going after the younger Dinah Lance, but now he is chasing after the equally young Hawkgirl. He dates an employee at a museum purely in an effort to make Hawkgirl jealous. And in this issue, he very quickly drops his edicts about not killing and stops the “learning from his mistakes” talk he gives Hawkgirl once he is angry and has the killer cornered. His behavior is more childish than heroic and I don’t see much relating to that. Still, I find his trying to change even as he fights habit to be quite interesting and I think this title will be on my subscription list for a long time yet.

The Marvelous Adventures Of Gus Beezer With Spider-Man # 1 - A Review

Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Jason Letheco
Inked by: Jason Lethcoe
Colored by: Hi Fi
Lettered by: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Mike Raicht
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A common complaint I hear at the comic book store I work at is that there are no books for children anymore. And it is a valid complaint. With a few exceptions, there aren’t many books that are really written for kids. There are books devoid of offensive content (Archie), books based on cartoons (Cartoon Cartoon and Dexter’s Lab) and simpler comics based on an established superhero (Batman and Justice League Adventures, which I know are cartoons also, but lets not quibble)… but nothing that is actually written with kids in mind. Even the books that profess to be about children suffer from Peanuts syndrome, being about intelligent, wisecracking adults trapped in children’s bodies.

Complain no more, parents of all nations, for Gail Simone has surprised me with the perfect book for children of all ages! I should note that my surprise comes not from Simone’s writing something so perfect but from the fact that the same person who wrote such perfect twisted dark humor for Agent X and Deadpool can also write so perfectly for children.

Gus Beezer is a kid’s kid. He loves comics and superheroes and plays pretend that he is his favorite superheroes. He is on the edge of his seat waiting for the new Spider-Man movie. He’s even named his pet dog Zabu, after the faithful cat of KaZar. And this book lets us see the world through his eyes in a fashion not unlike that of the much missed “Calvin and Hobbes”.

The entire concept of the book can be summed up in the opening scene, where we see Spider-Man going out on a nightly patrol. He spots The Lizard, swings down to meet him and the Lizard yells… “Mom says it’s time for dinner! Hey… is that my jump rope? It is my jump rope!” Cut to a picture of a boy in boy with a Spider-Man shirt and Astro-Boy hair hanging upside down from a tree and insisting that he is using a web-line to a not-so understanding older sister.

The rest of the book continues in this fashion: Gus will be in the middle of a daydream, living out his fantasies playing pretend, when he is disturbed by the intrusion of other people. This continues, with the brave Spider-Gus facing menaces at a family reunion such as “Auntie Venom” and a Green Goblin who pelts him with over-cooked hamburgers. And don’t worry True Believers: The Real Spider-Man DOES make an appearance.

The artwork is perfect, being very childlike and sketchy without being overly cartoony. And I never would have thought it possible to make a grey bun look natural on Venom or to have a cartoonish Doctor Octopus look menacing wearing a chef’s hat and “Kiss The Cook” apron, but somehow Lethcoe manages. He also does a nice job with the comic strip “Amazing Tales of Mysteriousness”, written and drawn by “Grinning” Gus Beezer, which runs underneath the main story and is apparently drawn on lined notebook paper, like so many of the comics I made when I was a young lad.

All in all, this is a perfect book to give to the young ones you want to introduce to the joys of reading and comics in particular. Wherever Bill Jemas is right now, I hope he is kicking himself for letting Gail Simone go and I hope that DC snaps her up and gives her an exclusive contract ASAP.

Looking To The Stars: Thoughts On...

I hope everyone enjoyed Ema Nymton’s little column last week. Believe it or not, some people did take it seriously, as I found after getting e-mail from some asking where the news about Joey Q. being fired was. I also got mail from several people after the bit about Kevin Smith was reprinted on, wondering if Kevin was allright.

So just in case you missed it, let me assure you that…

Joe Quesada is still Editor in Chief at Marvel

Kevin Smith is alive and well and unharmed. There was no hostage situation.

Ema Nymton is not a real person. It is an oft-used alias that spells out “Not My Name” backwards.

There were a lot of other hints besides that last one that the whole news column was a joke, aside from some of the sillier or just plain weird stories. See if you can spot them all and send me an e-mail. The first five people to do so shall win my admiration of their having that much free time.

Finally, I’d like to thank two people. First, my friend Damon Swindall, an old-school Kevin Smith fan from before Mallrats, who agreed to play the stalker. Then, I’d like to thank my old editor Michael, who was the only one to spot the major “this isn’t right” hint in the article about his death; IE: I purposely misspelled his last name.

So now that that is over with and things are getting back to normal… or as normal as we get around here, I’d like to talk a bit about some of the books I read this week. Oh sure, I wrote a few reviews this week… but there has been so much comic goodness (and badness, though the bad outweighs the good this time) that I didn’t get a chance to write about, I thought I would do so now.

Amazing Spider-Man #51

Darn close to perfect. As far as the artwork goes Romita’s pencils have never looked finer and the cover by J. Scott Campbell’s, whose constant cheesecake style I can do without, doesn’t look TOO cheese-cakish, at least in that Mary Jane’s head is bigger than her breasts. The new villain concept seems to be a tribute to the classic stories of Stan Lee himself. And its good to see the detective that Peter befriended a few issues back again and his conversation with Peter about how the police view all super-powered people, heroic or evil, with the same amount of dread is a prize. So is the date between Peter and Mary Jane where Peter harasses a stiff waiter with some truly childish and truly funny joke orders. Or am I the only person who has ever asked for steak tartare well done as a joke? Regardless, well-done describes this book as well as my steak.

Batman #613

Jeph Loeb has done the impossible. He got me to put a Batman book back on my subscription list. Time was I had all the Bat titles and the associated books (Nightwing, Birds of Prey, etc) on my list…but about half-way through the “No Man’s Land” story-line, I gave up. I found nothing exciting or new being done with the characters with the exception of Ed Brubaker’s work on Batman. And even then, I was just picking up the individual issues that looked interesting.

A lot has been written about Loeb’s writing and Lee’s pencils revitalizing this book. It has been selling out around the country and become one of the most heavily hyped comics being published right now. Now, Unca Stars is not a person who gives in easily to hype. In fact, I am proud to note that to this day I have still not seen Titanic, Gladiator, Chicago or any other “you must see this” blockbuster Oscar contender. So I think it has some authority when I say that this book is worthy of all the praise it receives. It doesn’t just live up to the hype. It surpasses it. I won’t say anything about what happens because you must see it for yourself. Enjoy.

Daredevil #45

I take back every nasty thing I ever thought about Brian Michael Bendis on this title. I’ve complained in the past about the lack of superheroic action, wonderful though the legal thriller story lines of the past few issues have been. Well, damn if Bendis didn’t live up to his typical fashion and do something that I wasn’t expecting that has me thrilling for a major return to the status quo of superhero vs. super-villain action coupled with a few new twists to make things interesting. This is what comics is all about, folks. And this story, where Daredevil confronts longtime nemesis “The Owl” is a hoot… bad pun very much intended and apologized for.

Futurama #12

I loved this series during its’ brief and irregular showings on Fox. Forever pre-empted in its horrible time-slot by football, it usually managed only a half-season of shows at best and fell to cancellation this last year. Thankfully, the reruns live on in Cartoon Network broadcasts, the first DVD set just came out and the comic book version is still getting published.

Well, I wish that were a good thing… but sadly, the comic’s writing in this story is nowhere near the equal to that of the TV series. It is still funny, but more the type to inspire quiet smiles that loud guffaws. And the book suffers more depending on running character gags and one-liners than the situational humor the series ran on. For example, there are way too many jokes about the ever poor, hungry and clueless Dr. Zoidberg being… well, poor, hungry and clueless. I’ve enjoyed this book in the past and the promotion for the next issue where Bender becomes the ruler of Robot Hell looks promising… but unless you’re a devout fan, I’d give this month’s story a miss.

Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer: X-Men and Hulk

I had the chance the other two books of this series (check the Reviews section for my review of Gus Beezer with Spider-Man) and found them just as delightful as the first. Hopefully Gail Simone will be doing more of these in the future or a series like it, because I should hate to think that the finest children’s comic series in a decade would be stopped after only three issues…

Ultimate Spider-Man #39

A welcome relief after the somewhat slow and ponderous mini-series centering around the creation of Venom (who has still not been named as such), this issue has Peter dealing with his feelings and fears in the aftermath of his battle with Eddie Brock and “the suit”. The revelations regarding their eventual fate are frightening and a better conclusion to the story than the one given last time. Where this issue really shines, however, is in the conversations with Dr. Curt Connors and Nick Fury in which Peter truly sounds like what he is: a 15-year old stressed out with problems he doesn’t want and can’t deal with.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.