Monday, March 31, 2003

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #54 - A Review

Written by: Zeb Wells
Penciled by: Machael O’Hare.
Inked by: Wayne Faucher
Colored by: Studio F
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Cover by: Fransisco Herrera
Editor: John Miesegaes
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I reviewed this same book last week. Not this same title. This same book.

Okay, a FEW things have changed. Instead of facing off against lame baddie Boomerang, Spidey faces off against the not-as-lame, but lamely done in recent years Scorpion. And writer Zeb Wells does provide us with wholly original bad jokes as he continues this rather uninspired storyline.

The plot thus far is that a bunch of rich jerks with more money than they’ll ever need decidde to make even more money by investing in a reality show/Fight Club concept that will have hired super-villains going after superheroes. And Spidey, having no legal endorsement or team affiliations, is the apparent perfect test subject.

As for the bad jokes, work with me on this one… along with The Scorpion, one of the millionaires (a software magnet by the name of Edwin Hills) complains of the US trying to split up his company and decides to test his new product against Spider-Man. His new product being a robot called the XP 2000…

Gee. A software magnet with too much money, problems with the government and a revamped product which turns out to be next to useless… I wonder who that is based on.

Sadly, that’s the high-watermark for the humor in the issue. Unless you’re a big fan of big, dumb loud Texan oil baron stereotypes. Then you might enjoy Buck Masterson: The Man Who Has No Neck!

A shame the story doesn’t work, because the artwork is as good as last issue. Nothing special, but the pencils are clean and crisp. I’ve seen better work on Spider-Man, but if I had my way I’d pick O’Hare over cover artist Herrera as the artist taking over the new Spectacular Spider-Man title when this book ends its run.

Oveall, I really can’t recommend this book. It’s not that bad, but it really isn’t that good either. It reads like what I think it is: filler until the last issue and the start of the new book. The only thing I can really say with enthusiasm is that I can’t wait for Paul Jenkins to come back.

Green Lantern #161 - A Review

Written by: Judd Winick
Penciled by: Dale Eaglesham
Inked by: Rodney Ramos
Colored by: Moose Baumann
Lettered by: Kurt Hathaway
Assistant Editor: Morgan Dontanville
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

I wanted to like this story, really I did. And I did like parts of it. I’ve liked most of Judd Winick’s run on Green Lantern and I really liked the way he expanded the characters. That said this entire issue (the last one of Winick’s run on the title that will not be part of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern crossover slated to begin next month) feels rushed… like a bartender with a hot date waiting for him at closing time.

There is a lot of plot that is not given much story-time to develop. In fact, there is one major revelation that was brought up in the previous issue is just as quickly dismissed. I presume this revelation, which involved Jade, has been dropped so that the status quo can be maintained for the new creative as well as the new Outsiders title that Jade will be part of and Winnick will be writing.

That still doesn’t excuse the “and with the turn of a page” major change in the status quo that happens at the end of the book where the Zamorans (the amazonian mates of the Guardians) return to aid Ganthet in raising the new Guardian children. Now, I’ll admit to not being as well versed in Silver Age Green Lantern history as many, but the Zamoran and Guardian races have a long and angry history between each other. And while I think the desire to see the first generation of children in an eternity would probably do much to ease the strife between the two, the discussion of the problems between them is a story in of itself. A story that cannot be dismissed as quickly as it is in Kyle and Ganthet’s conversation. Sadly, the story of how that would have come about is much more interesting than the main plot of the crisis Kyle and Jade face and the “no-surprise” behind the origins of the villain involved.

About Eaglesham’s artwork, I can say little. It doesn’t really stand out, but neither does it distract from the writing. The usual test of measure for a Green Lantern artist, the drawing of ring projections, is not shown much in this issue with Kyle and Jade on the sidelines for most of the story. Like the story itself, the art is just there: not bad by any means, but not eye-poppingly good either.

In the final analysis, this issue is merely okay. It does prove that Winick’s greatest strengths as a writer do occur in the quieter character scenes than in shaping epic space plots or writing fight scenes. All the good parts of this issue, and indeed the entirity of Winick’s run, have occurred in the moments when the characters are just talking about life and not worrying about the next big crisis. Not that Winnick cannot write such scenes; the “While Rome Burned…” arc proved that much. But his strength lies in his strong characters, not strong-armed action. I think he will flourish with Green Arrow, which lives and breathes off of such drama and that he had a good run… but as for right now, I’m glad he’s leaving the title before he gets completely burned out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Lucifer #36 - A Review

Written by: Mike Carey
Penciled by: Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly & Dean Ormston
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: Daniel Vozzo
Lettered by: Comicraft
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

My biggest complaint about this book in the past has been that it is very involved, has a huge cast of characters with complex relationships between one another and that it is very difficult for new readers to get started on “Lucifer” without reading all the back issues. Apparently someone at Vertigo is listening to me; the cover of this issue proudly says “New Storyline” and the very first page gives a list of some of the characters encountered in the series so far, their relationships to one another and a hint as to what is to come.

And what is to come, you ask? A heroic boat voyage on a scale beyond even that of The Odyssey and Jason’s quest on the Argo. Okay, granted the Naglfar (the ship of Norse Chaos God Loki) is a lot more impressive and temperamental than that famous ship, but what do you expect from a ship made of the fingernails of dead warriors?

Lucifer has gathered various misfits (including a half-breed angel, a ghost, two demonic cherubs and Loki’ half-brother) to take Narglfar and go on a quest of vaguely defined importance. Nothing is said outright, but the purpose of the quest and Lucifer’s reasons for sending others to act on his behalf instead of working alone is hinted at in a way that will tickle the suspicions of long time readers while still allowing a bit of mystery to the plot. And with the relationship tree on the first page, even the new readers may be able to guess at what is coming but is left unsaid.

The artwork, as usual, matches the grand and epic scale that this book sets the standard in defining. Each character is uniquely defined, be they human or monster or a mix of the two. I was particular fond of the scene in which Lucifer shows off his power in an impressive display which shows what he is capable of on a grand scale while showing why he usually works in more subtle ways.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is one of the best books on the market today. If you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”, you should be reading this book as it is the best child of that legendary series. And even if you aren’t, check this issue out. Like the quest of the crew of the Naglfar, this book promises one hell of a journey.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Looking To The Stars: State Of The State

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who wrote me in the previous week with their well-thought out criticism of my criticism of. I’d LIKE to do that, but for some odd reason only two people wrote to complain about my column and both of them seemed more interest in accusing me of having some sort of vendetta against Scott Kurtz. In one case, one even questioned my mother’s virtue and the legitimacy of my birth.

This theme continued through most of the mail I got regarding my review of “The Ultimates #9”, that I wrote two weeks ago Lots of comments regarding my sanity, my general intelligence, my eyesight and my sexual orientation were made. But I’m not upset or all that angry about any of this.

After all, most of us do live in a free country. And as such, we have the freedom to speak our minds and opinions. I have the right to say that I think that PVP and you have the right to call me names for my opinions. Of course I have the right to insult you back. But I also believe I have a right to remain silent… and a duty as a member of the media to hold myself to a higher standard. Great power means great responsibility, as a great man once wrote.

And it is that responsibility and duty that leads me to take a break from discussing the action-packed fantasy world of comics and make a statement about our action-packed real world.

Operation Shock and Awe is aptly named, as it has filled me with Shock and Awe. Shock at the apathy and ignorance of my fellow Americans and Awe at the wanton cruelty of the current administration.

I was shocked when I read a Newsweek survey that showed most Americans believe that Iraq was involved in the 9-11 attacks. This is far from the truth. Most of the terrorists who hijacked the planes involved were from Saudi Arabia, and the Al-Queda is known to hate Iraq (a secular regime in a mostly Muslim region) nearly as much as the United States. Osama bin Laden, in his most recent audio-taped announcement, even went so far as to call Saddam an infidel: not exactly a term used between close friends.

I was in awe this morning, as I read the on-line edition of my regular newspaper and saw the pictures of wounded Iraqi children, injured in the alleged “pin-point” bombing of Iraq that the network media said was only being used on soldiers and military bases. ( What, the government lying to us, Starman? Say it ain’t so! )

For more information about what you may not being hearing about the executive military action (It isn’t a war without an act of Congress), I recommend the following websites:

Sorry to keep it short this week folks, but I’m not in much mood to talk comics. It’s hard for me to talk about heroes that aren’t real when I’m thinking of all the real ones we are loosing to a pointless conflict.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

JSA: The Unholy Three #2 - A Review

Written by: Dan Jolley and Tony Harris
Penciled by: Tony Harris
Inked by: Ray Snyder
Colored by: J.D. Mettler
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Editor: Pete Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

DC Comics’ Elseworld tales tend to be a mixed bag at times. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Elseworlds stories take classic characters we all know and let us see how they are changed as they are placed into new settings, new times periods and alternate worlds. Half the fun of these stories is playing “spot the character” as the story progresses and fans of Elseworld stories will enjoy the second chapter of “The Unholy Three” if only for this reason. After the pervious chapter in which reference is made to an entire organization of covert costumed heroes, we finally get to see some of these heroes of the Golden Age of comics, though in altered costumes which are gorgeously rendered by Tony Harris’ exquisite pencils.

The plot is a seamless mesh of James Bond and mystery men heroics. It involves a rogue agent within the ranks of this secretive, 1940’s Justice Society and their efforts to recover a doomsday device known only as “The Trigger”. The agent’s surprising identity was revealed in the first part of this mini-series and their background and motivations are quickly explored in the introduction to this second and final part as the rest of the team is assembled to face off against the rogue.

The fight between the team and the rogue makes up the better portion of the book and makes up for the somewhat limited focus upon three heroes (The Bat, The Clock and The Super-Man) in the first chapter. Harris’ pencils are brilliant in conveying the action, leaving me to ask once again why he is not working on a monthly book right now. Jolley’s dialogue is wonderfully understated in the fight scenes, letting Harris’s art do the job of telling the story during the fights. And when there is not any fighting, the dialogue expands to flesh out all characters, giving us a bit of personality even in those members of the team that we only see for a few pages.

Both the writing and art mesh well to create a tale well worth its’ hefty 14 dollar total for both parts of the story; nearly the cost of most TP’s today! Still, fans of Harris’ work on Starman and the JSA could do much worse and cannot do much better than to give this story a try. I hope we can expect a third part to this series sometime in the near future.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II - A Review

Written by: Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones
Penciled by: M.D. Bright
Inked by: Romeo Tanghal
Colored by: Albert DeGuzman
Lettered by: Anthony Tollin
Editor: Andy Helfer
Publisher: DC Comics.

Most Green Lantern fans consider Emerald Dawn and Emerald Dawn II a low point in this history of the portrayal of Hal Jordan. This is because both stories were written at a time in the early 90’s when many characters were being made “darker” in order to compete with the growing number of anti-hero based books that were slowly consuming the market. This resulted in a few interesting stories (like Batman: Knightfall) but mostly resulted in angst and character flaws being hammered into characters who really did not or support such flaws. Hal was a key example of this, with Emerald Dawn turning the honest, fearless and all around nice guy into a whiny alcoholic loser who was given his ring after an accident he caused through drunk driving.

This doesn’t make Hal more relatable as a character: it makes you wonder what the hell the Guardians are thinking handing over the most powerful weapon in the universe to such a person.

Emerald Dawn II does nothing to help those thoughts, with Hal starting a jail sentence for his drunk driving and the Guardians deciding he must be trained, despite his incarceration. Call me crazy, but as keepers of order, don’t you think the Guardians would at least respect the local laws about Hal’s sentence and their own rules about interfering in local laws? But then we couldn’t have the oh so fun scenes where Hal is broken out of his cell on a nightly basis by the GL the Guardians picked to oversee his advanced training: Sinestro.

The plot balances between Hal’s training, his suspicions over his new mentor’s honesty and his meetings with his counselor, Guy Gardner. Yes, THAT Guy Gardner. PE Teacher from the mid-west is, for some reason, working as an advisor in the California prison system. Don’t ask- just smile and nod and remember that Guy is not as big a jerk as Hal in this story. No, seriously. And for all of you JLI and GL fans shaking your heads, trust me. I’m serious.

It’s a shame that the story is so bad because the artwork, while nothing special, is adequate and manages to convey the story and the action well. Sadly, this is not enough to save this miniseries. There have been worse Green Lantern stories but none of those have ever been collected in a trade paperback. If it were a fish, I’d throw it back.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Ultimates #9 - A Review

Written by: Mark Millar
Penciled by: Brian Hitch
Inked by: Paul Neary
Colored by: Paul Mounts
Lettered by: ChrisEliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I got into it after hearing about the concept for Thor and found myself enjoying the portrayals of Iron Man, Captain America and Bruce Banner as well. Then sometime about Issue 6… things got darker. And the books started running late. And now with Issue 9 in my warm little hands, I have to ask… how can two talented individuals create something this horrible?

Millar has done good work in the past. I greatly enjoyed his work on “The Flash”, alone and with Grant Morrison… but having read this and his work on Ultimate X-Men recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that he should not be writing team books. Most of his characters have a degree of sameness to their dialogue and cannot be told apart, except for the occasional injection word. The worst offenders are Tony Stark (who is slowly turning into Robert Redford in “The Great Gatsby” with all his “pussycats”, “old boys” and “sports”) and Black Widow (who reminds me of Natasha from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle show” with all the “Darlings” and “Comrades”).

Sadly, it is these injections that account for most of the characterization in the book. This would be bad enough if the book were pure action, but this month’s issue is supposed to be a character-building issue. Too bad we know little more about any of the characters personally or professionally at the end of this issue than we do at the beginning. Black Widow and Hawkeye suffer the most, being the newest additions to the team. Natasha is a total cypher As for Clint, all we find out about him is that he has a girlfriend and kids and even that little bit of information comes from someone else. Besides that, all we get are scenes affirming the Cap loves Wasp/Tony is an alcoholic subplots and the only real change seems to involve the relationship between Betty Ross and Bruce Banner.

Thematically, I’m not enjoying the book. It seems like Millar is trying to turn The Ultimates into a bastard child of The Avengers and The Authority and failing miserably in the crossbreeding. You can’t write about superheroes without the heroes. And I find it very hard to call most of the people in this story heroic. I also find it interesting that the least angsty and most purely heroic character in the series, Thor, has been given the least amount of screen time. His appearance in this issue is limited to three panels and he has been given relatively little to do or say since Issue 6.

As for the art, it’s as disappointing as the story. Hitch goes for a lot of detail in his artwork and I’m guessing that’s the reason why this book has been so chronically late, since Millar has had no trouble getting Ultimate X-Men out 3 times in the last 4 weeks. Now I have no problem with detail-driven artwork. Heck, Michael Zulli is one of my favorite artists. But Hitch is severely lacking as a visual storyteller and I was hard pressed to tell from the pictures just what was going on during the fight between Captain America and Giant Man. For instance, there is one panel where it is difficult to say whether Cap is trying to kick Giant Man or just jump away from his hand. Also, Hitch’s style is, for lack of a better word, dirty and a little hard on the eyes. Still, I will give him credit for doing some good images, like the close up of a smiling Bruce Banner.

All in all, I’ve been disappointed in this book and nearly every aspect of it. The three month wait between issues hasn’t helped matters. Ultimately, The Ultimates sucks and it is now off my subscription list.

Hellblazer Special: Lady Constantine #4 - A Review

Written by: Andy Diggle
Penciled by: Goran Sudzuka
Inked by: Goran Sudzuka
Colored by: Patricia Mulvihill
Lettered by: Robert Solanovic
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Maybe it’s because I had high hopes after the disappointing “Bast” mini-series that concluded last week. Maybe it’s because I’m a student of mythology. Maybe it’s because I love every other story featuring the main character, but ignoring the rather slow penultimate chapter (which I reviewed last month), I don’t really have any complaints about this series save that it mainly targeted at fans of Hellblazer, The Sandman and students of Mythology.

Diggle’s plot is simple: Johanna Constantine, ancestor of John Constantine, is a con-artist and magician of some note who has been promised a title and lands by the British government in exchange for retrieving a box of dark magical purpose. The box is also sought by Lady Blackwood, who has some magical powers of her own and an army of undead at her beck and call.

To tell more would be to tell the tale. But fans of Hellblazer and the Sandman will greatly enjoy this story, as common themes and subplots from both series are explored. Johanna’s results in her loosing friends as she strives for power and the plot threads are woven for a story that many Sandman fans will find familiar.

But just because I’m harping on the story, don’t think the artwork isn’t just as good. Sudzuka’s artwork IS very good. His style reminds me a bit of Tony Harris but not quite as heavily lined or shadowed. His characters all look unique and even his demons look different from one another; a welcome change from some Vertigo artists who just do one or two variations on Cthulu when asked to draw demons

All in all, this is the best Vertigo mini-series to come out in a while and I look forward to seeing more work by everyone involved.

Looking To The Stars: PVP? A POS!

Stock characters. Sub-par, unrealistic artwork with a poor grasp of anatomy. Badly written AND chronically late. Written by a man with an over-inflated opinion of his abilities who turned his back on the people who got him where he was for money and fame. Yeah. PVP and Scott Kurtz will fit right in at Image.

I’ve been aquatinted with PVP in the past. It’s hard not to be when you are, like me, a gamer and a comic book guy. It’s even harder when some of the comics you do like featured PVP as a back-up piece or are linked to it off their web site. And you’ve seen me write about “Knights of the Dinner Table” and “Dork Tower” and “Nodwick” and many other comics dealing with “gamer humor” in the past and praise those titles. I’ve written about a few net comics that I read every day and said good things about them as well. And yet, I had a few of you write me and ask “You forgot to mention PVP, didn’t you? It’s a gamer comic. It’s on the Net.”

Well, I’ll cop to being a wee bit forgetful. I have misplaced my keys only to find them in my other jacket pocket. I’ll occasionally leave the house and then run back to make sure I did lock the door. I’ve forgotten names, faces, directions and the answers to test questions I had down cold the night before. But I did not forget to mention PVP among the ranks of the web comics and gamer comics that I enjoy. I didn’t forget this because I do not enjoy it.

Why not, you ask? And by “you” I don’t mean the metaphorical you, the general audience. I mean both of YOU out there, who did ask why I don’t like PVP: Christine and Tony. To answer that, let’s start with a brief dissection of the brand new PVP #1.

My first beef with PVP #1 is that it is, in the purest sense, a scam. It is not, as it has been advertised, a brand new comic book about gamers. It is not a comic book. Most of it is not new. And it is barely about gamers.

I should explain why I don’t consider this issue a “comic book”. Strictly speaking, a comic book has a cohesive plot that carries on throughout the whole of the printed object. A comic strip is a few single panels conveying a single thought. All this issue does is collect several comic strips. It is as much a comic book as your average bound collection of Calvin and Hobbes is a comic book. The PVP title released by Dorkstorm Press was a comic book, with an ongoing story that lasted through the whole issue as well as some smaller strips in the back.

Secondly, PVP #1 is not brand new. With the exception of the strips on the inside cover and back cover, everything in the book has been previously released on the PVP website. In short, you are being charged three bucks for something you can easily get for free off the Internet. And the two original strips, which I will discuss later, are not quite worth a buck-fifty,.

Finally, PVP #1 is not really about gamers. Of the reprinted strips, only a few towards the end deal with gaming in even the most remote sense. Most of the book is taken up with an in-office Nerf-Gun fight and the tired sitcom clichĂ© of a mouse being loose in the office and various idiots destroying the office trying to kill the mouse. I’m not saying that every strip has to be popped-full of gags about Everquest dating and Lord of the Rings jokes. I’m saying that if you’re going to be plugged as a gamer comic, you should darn well mentioning gaming outside of the context of what the characters write about in their office.

And speaking of the characters, let us talk about them now that I’ve gotten all my complaints about PVP #1 out of the way and focus upon the many problems I have with PVP as a strip.

1. The Characters

The basic sitcom cast. Skull is the well-meaning dumb guy. Brent is the pretentious jerk with a heart of gold. Cole is the clueless boss who wants to join in on the wacky antics until he gets screwed over. (Come to think of it, he even LOOKS like Gordon Jump from WKRP with glasses). Francis is Bud Bundy, minus the moral code. And Jade is the standard Ally McBeal package ; “smart, but attractive, independent woman who is smarter than every man around her put together”. And speaking of Jade…

2. Strong, Smart... and damn sexy on a bearskin rug.

Scott Kurtz has no problem with whoring Jade out for the cheap sexual titillation of his male readers. Consider the cover of PVP #1, where all the other characters are pushed into the background so that attention can be played to the curvy posterior of the strip’s main female character, as rendered by Frank “My target audience is the guys too chicken to buy Betty Page comics” Cho.

It is also worth mentioning that Cho did a nude picture of Jade, naked on a bearskin rug as a “reward” for the patience of readers who sat through a week-long story involving a nude picture of Jade that turned out to be… a baby picture. (Hmm… think I saw that on WKRP too.) Now, this would have been pretty funny; a stab at those who were getting so worked-up over nude artwork of a cartoon character. Too bad all those people were rewarded in the end for their lewdness. And speaking of lewdness…

3. Toilet Humor

When sex fails, you can get a lot of mileage out of a story by mentioning bodily functions. There have been several strips based around the poor hygiene and gaseous discharge of Skull, Robby and Jase. In fact, the cast page lists Robby and Jase as having the special skill of “converting beer into pee”. And the back cover of the comic has Jade, who is briefly ensnared by the Witchblade in another cheesecake moment as her clothes are ripped off, wondering how she is supposed to go to the bathroom in her scanty armor.

Finally, there are the problems I have with the man, Scott Kurtz himself. Judging from the “rants” on his web site, I can only conclude that the man is incapable of taking criticism and that in his black and white world, to say that he is wrong is to suggest that the sky is orange and that birds swim north for the spring.

For example, consider the story arc built upon the concept that all “Furries” are deviants who want to have sex with animals.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit being uncomfortable with some people in the Furry community who do seem to be a little too into animals. But I realize that is just a section of the whole group. There are some whom feel a connection to a certain animal and dress like for totemistic reasons. There are some furries who just like dressing up in cat ears and a tail for the fun of it. That’s no odder than like the people who wear all black and like to pretend to be a vampire or put on a codpiece and pretend to be in medieval times. (And let’s not get into a discussion of the mental health of Vampire RPGers or Renaissance Festival attendees right now, as Unca Stars has dabbled in both.)

Kurtz ignores this distinction, however, and in this week long story portrayed all furries as animal-lovers in the physical sense. Moreover, with one exception, all the furries depicted in the strip are overweight and unattractive. Not a sight to be seen of any Playboy bunnies or Julie Newmar-types.

Interestingly enough, there seemed to be a “bug” in the PVP Archives that makes it “skip” over this strip where “equal time” is given to the Furries to defend themselves.

You could not originally reach this strip except by typing out the specific date. Trying to use the previous and next buttons will take you to the comic for Either September 30th or October 2nd. And while his daily news comments are not archived, I distinctly remember Kurtz telling the Furries who wrote in to complain that they should shut up and (I am paraphrasing a bit) “stay away from my dog”.

But the peak of insulting your fan base while ignoring their complaints came here, where Kurtz insults the independent comic industry as a whole, the fans of independent comics and, in an indirect but unsubtle way, all those who suggested that maybe he was a sellout after Wizard Magazine reviewed PVP and he started trying to capitalize on the exposure.

Now, I’m there’s nothing wrong with making money off your creative product. Lord knows I’m trying hard to find paying work with my writing. But just because you make it big and are recognized does not give you the right to act like an ass. It especially does not give you the right to try and shoot down those who don’t like your work. Of course that’s just my opinion for what it is worth. I’m sure Mr. Kurtz would disagree with me and that if he ever reads these words of mine, I will probably get a response like this one.

Oh, and incidentally… Mr. Kurtz? If you’re reading this, know three things.

1. Substituting “Comics Urinal” for “Comics Journal” is not that funny or clever. I knew Wizard-reading fanboys who made that joke five years ago and I doubt they were the first.

2. I also wouldn’t start talking trash about comics where “layout is poor”, “anatomy is way off” and the writing “isn’t very polished”. Sinless as you might be, some of those stones might bounce off your plexiglass wall and smite you upside the head.

3. For future reference, take a page from Brian Michael Bendis. It’s only funny to make jokes about being an artistic sellout when you AREN’T an artistic sellout. The other original strip in PVP #1, on the inside cover, where Cole talks about the artistic integrity and hard work being shoved aside for sucking up to Wizard and a contract with Image Comics? A slap in the face to everyone who has supported you since you were a small, self-published comic strip with no readers.

Final analysis? PVP is a P.O.S.

Special thanks to "Great" Scott Smith (The Last Reasearch Assisant From Krypton) and his son, “Beppo”, The Super Assistant Monkey for reading hundreds of PvP strips to find the links to my examples so I didn't have to suffer through reading them all again. You are both Supermen to me.

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

Note to Scott Kurtz and Image Comics: The Opinions of Matt Morrison do not necessarily reflect those of or the editorial staff. In fact, we can't stand the guy and don't know why he won't leave.

Looking To The Stars is a critique/satire published by, and is not intended maliciously. has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Ultimate Spider-Man #37 - A Review

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Mark Bagley
Inked by: Art Thibert
Colored by: Transparency Digital
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Do you remember the scene in “Monty Python And The Holy Grail” where the narrator yammers about the beauty of the scene we are about to watch, until a horde of knights yell “Get on with it!” and he keeps talking until someone hits him over the head? Picture Brian Michael Bendis as the narrator and me as the horde of knights and that sums up how I felt reading this issue.

You know why this story is titled “Still”? Because after five issues of featuring Venom on the cover and the promise of a smack-down against Spider-Man hanging in the air… we’re all STILL waiting for it to happen. (ba da bum!)

In all seriousness, I did like this issue but it hasn’t done anything to alter my opinion that this story arc has been stretched out a bit too much. There is one scene between Mary Jane and Peter in this issue that has as many long pauses (as represented by panels with no text) as your average Harold Pinter play. Thankfully, the pauses are not frequent to the point of making the dialogue sound like it is being delivered by William Shatner. And like Pinter, the dialogue is sharp when it is there.

When it is not, Bagley’s artwork is as sharp as ever. More than any artist I can think of, Bagley does a good job with the eyes and the soul of each character pours out through them. I particuarly enjoyed the painted nightmare scene the book opens with and the nightmarish appearance of Venom when he (finally!) shows up.

Still, despite the drama being played up a little bit too much as we build towards the magic moment, this is still one of the best books on the rack today. Pick it up. This one is definitely worth the swag spent on it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Knights Of The Dinner Table #76 - A Review

Written by: Jolly Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steve Johansson and David S. Kenzer
Penciled by: Jolly Blackburn
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: N/A
Editor: Jolly Blackburn
Publisher: Kenzer And Company

For those unfamiliar with the pedigree, “Knights of the Dinner Table” is a now legendary comic, the first to tackle the field of role-playing humor in the comic book realm. Centering around a group of gamers in the town of Muncie Indiana, the book has since inspired two spin-offs, a host of specials and tie-ins and more than a fair number of imitators. It has even inspired the creation of Hackmaster: a real role-playing game based upon the favored game of the players in “Knights”, which one the Best Game of the Year Award at last years Origins Awards (the gamers equivalent of the Eisners)

It is no surprise then that as the fame and reputation of the book has grown, the book itself has grown with it in terms of physicality and maturity. Once a collection of simple gag strips, the book has matured to having multiple-issue stories and subplots. It has also grown to a whopping 96-pages and been renamed “Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine.” Magazine? Oh yes. No mere comic, this one, though the comics are still here.

I can’t really discuss the plots or the artwork of the comic. The artwork is static and very rarely consists of more than a few talking heads… literally. And it would be hard for me to describe the inherit humor in a party of adventurers being accused of murder and taken before the King, in a party of adventurers creating a bank of questionable virtue to fleece one of their own or the humorous complexities of min/maxing a character. (Or what min/maxing is for that matter!) Suffice to say, anyone who has ever played an RPG on a computer of in a group will probably find much to chuckle at here.

There is more than gamer humor, though that is likely to be the major draw to this book. There are a number of sci-fi based humor strips. The humorous Spacehack, for example, which recently got a limited miniseries and will hopefully progress to a full series. And new to this issue is a strip called Heroes of The Hackleague, based upon the superheroic characters created by The Knights for a Superhero RPG campaign. All fans of superheroic action should buy this issue just for this strip, which deals with a nature goddess going amok and a third-rate hero team being called into action because “all the big name teams either have druids on them or are made up mostly of young Democrats.”
The magazine portion of the book has a number or articles on various topics of interest, including various articles about playing the real Hackmaster RPG and other games. There’s reviews of other games, novels, video games… and even other comics! There’s also a number of puzzles, debate forums that readers can write into… and occasional song parodies and joke ads. (My favorite to this day is the ad for Russian Role-Playing Mail-Order Brides.) All in all, you get a lot of bang for your four bucks

Monday, March 10, 2003

Looking To The Stars: To Fight The Unbeatable Foe!

We’re going to have a change of pace this week, kids. Now, I know how much you all love reading the Starman’s rantings ravings and ramblings about various things that concern him or outright annoy him. And as some of you have said in your e-mails, you really enjoyed watching him pick apart the Green Lantern series.

Sadly, that little bout of reviewing has left Uncle Stars tired and sick of moaning about “what’s wrong with comics today” for a while. Indeed, one of the comics that ol’ Unca Stars read this week has infuriated him so much that he was going to discuss the incompetence of the artist/writer involved and his work in general.

And he is still going to. Next week.

But right now, I want to share a happy story. Indeed, my very favorite comic story of all time. The one that I can point to and say “this is what it is all about.” With that in mind, let me recant the two-part story told in Amazing Spider-Man #229 and #230.

Part One: Nothing Stops The Juggernaut!

We open in a nightmare: a unseen giant destroys all in its’ path and all that stands in its’ path is a certain wise-cracking, red-and-blue-wearing hero. A certain hero who promptly gets his butt kicked nine ways to Sunday and fails to protect the dreamer. The hero is our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and the dreamer is the psychic (and sometime Spider-friend) Madame Web.

One phone-call later made through Madame Web’s unique life-support chair, and Peter Parker has been told about the vision and how he is the only one who can help save her. Of course she leaves out the little detail that she saw Peter failing miserably but as Peter notes, “She certainly doesn’t believe in wasting words!”

Meanwhile, on a yacht just coming into New York, perennial X-Men baddie Black Tom Cassidy is busily plotting. Seems he’s heard word of a powerful psychic in New York and thinks she’d be a fine edition to his partnership of villainy. A partnership consisting thus far of himself (the finest Irish stereotype that 1981 had to offer) and the slightly more menacing (in the same way that Iceland is slightly colder than Jamaica) Juggernaut.

Now, just in case you’re not familiar with old Juggie, he too is an X-Men villain. But unlike Black Tom, who has the somewhat limited ability to fire energy blasts out of any walking-stick-sized piece of wood, Juggernaut is a walking tank. A literal giant, wider across the shoulders than most men are tall and wearing a magical helmet that protects him from being psychicly manipulated. Throw in a protective force field that can take pretty much any kind of abuse and a bad attitude that doesn’t take abuse very well and you’ve got yourself a chap who isn’t the sort you’d want to have over for tea with Aunt Carol.

Anyway, Juggie doesn’t have the patience to wait 15 minutes for the boat to dock… so he just jumps over the side and starts WALKING ALONG THE OCEAN FLOOR to New York City!

Oh, did I mention that protective force field also keeps from suffocating? No? Well, it does.

Cut to The Daily Bugle where Peter is begging for any freelance photography jobs that might be available. Too bad all the jobs have been snatched up by Peter’s workplace rival, Lance Bannon. Throw in an awkward chance meeting with ex-girlfriend Betty Brant and the day is looking even more stressful than when Peter was woken up and informed he was one old lady’s only chance at safety. That would be the cue for the phone to ring with a call for Peter informing him that whoever is coming for Madame Web is coming ashore at Battery Park.

One quick change of clothing later and Peter is web-swinging his way downtown. Spidey has a pretty easy time finding Juggernaut all things considered. Ignoring the ever-helpful Spider-Sense, there’s a heavy trail of debris, stunned passersby shocked into disbelief and a building or two with holes in them that were apparently made by someone just WALKING THROUGH THE BUILDING!

It may have become apparent to the more perceptive of you out that Spidey is a little bit out-gunned here. On the one hand, we have a guy who is stronger, faster and more intelligent than your average man on the street who can stick to walls, spin webs and is pretty much impossible to sneak up on. On the other, we have a living tank who can WALK THROUGH A FREAKING BUILDING!

Still, brains over brawn, right? The bigger they are, the harder they fall? Right?

Well, that’s what Peter figures… up until his first attempt to make Juggie fall; A boot to the head launched in 50 mph free fall. This results in our favorite wall-crawler bouncing off of Juggernaut's force field, rebounding off a skyscraper window and nearly getting squashed like a bug on a windshield.

He tries a stand of webbing to stop the walking Behemoth. The force field doesn’t even let it come within five feet of Juggernaut! He spins a gigantic web, thin enough to see through in front of Juggernaut, hoping he’ll get stuck in the sticky mess and be unable to move. The text says it all here…

“A single strand is stronger than piano wire. A small mat of webbing can keep a high-speed car rooted in place! Yet the Juggernaut rumbles on, stretching Spider-Man’s webbing to the limit of its’ elasticity! And the webbing does not fail! It holds! It’s moorings, unfortunately, do not.”

One collapse of crumbling roof-ledge later and Peter is trying the more direct approach. Taking a cue from the spiders that build pits to trap their prey, Peter digs away at a pot hole and makes a good size pit. One distraction later and Juggie is falling into the pit. This does slow him down for a few seconds… until he finds a manhole and punches his way out of the sewer.

Left with no other options, Peter tries the good ol’ fashioned technique of “hit him til he’s down and then keep hitting until he’s crying for his mother”. And try he does… to no avail. Five minutes later he’s all worn out from dodging Juggernaut’s attempts to punch him and his own attempts to trip, pummel, subdue and just plain get the walking mountain into a hold. He doesn’t feel much better after Juggie, getting tired of playing around, runs through another building with Peter still firmly attached to his massive back!

One pile of rubble later, Peter is just dusting himself off in time to hear a phone ring. It is Madame Web with a clue: she has somehow picked up on the word “Cyttorak” and wonders if it might mean something. Spidey says he thinks it might and swings off after telling Madam Web to call in any reinforcements she can get a hold of. Sadly, it turns out that as she cannot locate either the Fantastic Four OR The Avengers, who are all apparently off planet or in another dimension. (Which happens a lot more often than you’d think!)

Peter swings his way off to Greenwich Village and the home of master magician and snappy dresser, Dr. Strange, having remembered the Doc once mentioning Cyttorak, a magician who made the magical armbands that created Juggernaut. It turns out the good Doctor is out dealing with many mystical matters but his assistant Wong helpfully tells Spidey everything he knows about the Juggernaut. In short order, that is a) he’s supposedly unstoppable and b) the X-Men have fought him. The phone rings and it turns out that Madme Web already sensed the connection but that The X-Men are also not available.

So just to recap… Spider-Man did everything he could to stop Juggernaut and couldn’t even phase the big lug. The most powerful magician on the planet and the three most powerful groups of super heroes on the planet are unavailable, including the one group with the most experience dealing with the guy and in fact, the only ones who have ever beaten him. You’d think most people would give up at this point. And indeed most people would. Even Madam Web says, “There is no hope.”

The heck there isn’t!

Peter rushes like mad to get to Madame Web’s hideaway, telling her to call out the cops. Thirty six of New York’s Finest SWAT officers armed with the finest assault rifles available try to pick Juggie off. All they do is tick him off.

Now on Madame Web’s front doorstep, Juggie starts picking his way through various webs Peter has spun in the doorways. And when he gets to the final doorway, he gets hit. An electrical attack conducted through the webbing, thanks to an emergency generator Peter hooked up to the steel doorframe. And finally, after one million volts jump through his body, the Juggernaut is… still standing.

Well, Peter wisely stays out of the way of the bigger man’s fists, but doesn’t quite manage to jump away when the wall Juggernaut punches collapses and the ceiling falls in on ol’ Spidey. Juggie pulls Madam Web out of her special chair before being informed by a pinned Spider-Man that she can’t be moved from the chair without dying. Saying that the trip was a total waste, Juggernaut drops Madam Web and leaves. Peter frantically pulls himself free and manages to perform CPR until the paramedics arrive.

With his pride wounded along with his skin, Madame Web at death’s door, no hope of back-up and no leads other than a police report that Juggernaut is heading toward the Hudson River, Peter says…

A) “I’m going to find a way to stop that “unstoppable” human tank--- or die trying!”

B) “I’m going to call Madame Web’s landlord and find out if that place is rent controlled!”

C) “I’m going to go home, take a hot bath, eat a bucket of Rocky Road and have myself a good cry!”

D) “I’m going to call the West Coast Avengers and the Defenders! Nah, that would never work….”

(Well, you didn’t expect me to not let a little sarcasm get into the writing, now did you? )

Part Two: To Fight The Unbeatable Foe!

Spidey tracks down Juggernaut and in short order tries to use everything he can find that isn’t nailed down to take down the powerhouse. This includes…

· the creation of a giant bow and arrow, using girders as arrows and webbing as the bowstring.

· Hitting ol’ Jughead right between the eyes with a wrecking ball.

· Accidentally collapsing a building onto himself and Juggernaut

And as if the pounding to his pride weren’t enough, Peter also get harassed by the local gentry in the form of one angry trucker who is a big fan of The Bugle and is quite intent on doing Spider-Man in. He’s no match for Peter though, who is really in no mood to tolerate any more trouble today and scares the trucker off after a) taking away his Tire Iron of Smiting +3 and b) returning it to him as a pretzel.

It is then that Peter has his most inspired idea ever: take the 18-wheeler full of gasoline the trucker had abandoned and drive it RIGHT into Juggernaut. He jumps out of the way just before the impact, which creates a fiery explosion big enough to clear a city block.

Of course Peter immediately panics as he sees the size of the fire and wonders what he was thinking. Juggernaut must have been vaporized instantly, right? No way even HIS force field could survive that, right?

The answer comes in the form of one massive Spider-Sense headache as Juggernaut strides out of the flames… a bit singed, but unharmed… and for the first time TRULY angry and out for blood. He closes in on Peter, who presses the two advantages he has: speed and maneuverability.

Spidey dodges the Juggernaut lunges and punches, eventually landing on the Juggernauts shoulders. He finds that the armor on his back is still steaming hot and is nearly too much for him to hold on to. He tries to yank off the Juggernaut’s helmet, trying to find a weak spot. For all the good it does him since (as Juggernaut boasts) he permanently welded his helmet on with a laser torch so that it could never be removed again, thus making him effectively immune to psychic attacks.

It is then that Peter, having been unable to attack Juggernaut directly or indirectly, unable to get any kind of help… unable to get one stinking thing right all day despite all his plans, has an idea. A cunning and brilliant plan?

Well, no. Actually, it’s nigh-suicidal. Spidey grabs hold of Juggernaut’s helmet and… covers the tiny eye-holes with his hands so the big giant can’t see where he is going! Naturally, Jughead isn’t too happy about this and he begins to pound the ever-loving tar out of Peter, who can do nothing but hold on for dear life and try to take the punches. The punches which can level buildings. The punches that can cold-cock Colossus. The punches that could give even The Hulk pause…

And this… this is when the good karma shifts into gear, and whatever gods make a habit of playing with Peter on a daily basis for their own amusement allow Peter a blessing for all his typical bad luck. Somehow, Juggy finds himself unable to move his legs. And as Peter looks up, he realizes that he has somehow steered the Juggernaut into the recently poured foundations of a new building and that not-so-gentle-giant is now stuck in a giant pool of wet cement, which he is rapidly sinking into like quicksand. Peter jumps clear of the sticky mess and notes that while it may not be able to hold Juggernaut forever, it will probably hold him long enough for the authorities to find some other way to hold him.

And the good luck continues. As he leaves, Peter is surprised to find the camera in his Spidey belt has been on the whole time during the fight, photographing through the thin red cloth of his costume. He rushes to develop the photos and take them to Robbie Robertson, who notes that the pictures are a bit grainy “like they were shot through gauze” but most are clear enough to print. Less promising is the news Peter finds when he gets to the hospital to check on Madame Web. She finds that she is suffering from shock and does not seem to remember him and may have lost her psychic abilities as well. Meanwhile, at the docks, Black Tom Cassidy (who was watching the fight between Spider-Man and Juggernaut earlier) is still watching the concrete pit through his binoculars from his boat and wonders if even the Juggernaut can dig his way through THAT much solid cement.

Why This Story Is Great

1. The Titles: “Nothing Stops the Juggernaut” is an okay title, merely a reference to one of the phrases that Juggie tends to shout at the heroes who do try to stop him. The more musically inclined of you might recognize the title “To Fight the Unbeatable Foe” as a line from the song “To Dream The Impossible Dream” from the famous (not to mention my favorite) musical, “Man of LaMacha”. I don’t know if this was intentional, but the spirit of the song matches the spirit of this story.

2. The Plot: For once, a little guy vs. the big guy story that actually DOES have a real fight. Most stories like this are massive cop outs with a bigger character (like the Hulk) being prodded into fighting a smaller character over some misunderstanding, with the little guy outsmarting or dodging most of the attacks until he can talk reason to the big guy.

3. Everything A Spider-Man Story Should Be: You see Peter worrying about paying the bills, dealing with problems at work and his social life. But more than that, you truly see the great responsibility he has and how sometimes great power isn’t enough to live up to that. That and a healthy dose of humor… the wisecracks AND the Wile E. Coyote-esque scenes in the second half where Spidey does everything and THEN some to try and stop the Roadrunner… make this a classic.

4. What Heroes Are About: Ultimately, this story is more than just a Spider-Man story. This is about what heroes and heroism are all about. Peter Parker faces an enemy who he has no chance of defeating. He is overpowered, outclassed and he knows it. There is no help… no cavalry riding to save him at the last possible second. He gets beaten several times and is left bruised and bleeding and not at all well.

And yet he comes back for more.

That is what a hero does, ladies and gentlemen. Even when they know they have no chance of winning outright. Even when all they can do is save one more life or delay the villain one more moment. Even when all they can do is take a stand despite a lack of power, just because it is right that someone stand up. That is heroism.

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

Friday, March 7, 2003

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #53 - A Review

Written by: Zeb Wells
Penciled by: Machael O’Hare.
Inked by: Wayne Faucher
Colored by: Studio F
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Cover by: Fransisco Herrera
Editor: John Miesegaes
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Long time fans of my writing will know that the esteemed Peter Parker, better known as the Amazing Spider-Man, is the favorite hero of yours truly since childhood. So naturally, with two of his three titles coming out this week, The Starman was in a state of bliss as he picked up his comics this week.

I read this title before Amazing Spider-Man #50 for two reasons. The first was that I wanted to check out artist O’Hare, having found the work of Francisco Herrera (who did the cover of this issue) distasteful and too abstract for my tastes. The second, is that I was afraid that Amazing, which I have been eagerly awaiting all month, would be so good that any other lesser Spider-Man story would be viewed more harshly by me when the time came to write the weekly reviews.

Having read the book twice, before and after sampling the latest work by JMS and Romita, I can’t say that it helped. This issue isn’t nearly as good as its’ more acclaimed sister-title. Which is a shame because until Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham left the title with issue #50, Peter Parker could easily stand up to any issue of Ultimate Spider-Man or Amazing.

This left Zeb Wells (mis)handling the writing chores with Francisco Herrera doing the (badly disjointed) artwork. And I honestly wish Marvel had shut the doors on this title with issue then, instead of waiting until issue #57.

Wells is probably best known for writing a number of Spider-Man stories based around best-forgotten super-villains take from Wizard Magazine’s “Mort Of The Month” column. (“I Was A Teenage Frogman” from Tangled Web, for example.) While not quite as grating as Ron Zimmerman, Wells does suffer from the same problem of trying to write a plot into a joke instead of the other way around.

Case in point: his first two-part story on this title spent the first part showing Peter doing whatever-a-spider-can interspersed with humorous scenes showing off the miserable lives of Z-list bad guys “The Shocker”and “Hydroman”. The second half of the story was spent trying to convince us that “Dumb and Dumber” were a credible threat to Spider-Man. It kind of defeats the point of trying to build a character up as a serious menace when you make fun of their inherit lameness in your previous breath.

The sad part is that Wells does present a lot of interesting ideas, but they are often not developed . The idea presented in the previous story of a major corporation secretly using their money to train super-villains is an interesting one and is well worth exploring, especially in the Post-Halliburton/Enron economy. But it is only used as a plot device to set up two men loosing their jobs and turning to desperate measures to survive.

This same concept (the rich and powerful funding supervillains) is explored in this issue as well, with a similar joke character: Boomerang. The scenes introducing us to him are intercut (without any sense of transition) among scenes of Peter stopping a fight at his school, a CNN news show with two people debating the place of the superhero, Peter holding detention, Peter reading “Lord of the Flies” to a comatose Flash Thompson. There is not much rhyme or reason to anything up until the ludicrously one-sided battle between Spider-Man and Boomerang and crashes into a cliffhanger that doesn’t really hang.

Thankfully, the artwork by Machael O’Hare is a big improvement over the over-exaggerated work of Herrera. (Just look at the cover and you’ll see what I mean.) Sadly, the good artwork cannot save the lame humor and poor plotting. Not that this book is all that bad, really. I can name worse Spider-Man stories written in the last year. But on a menu that includes steak and lobster, even the best hamburger in the world is going to look a little lackluster. And that’s what Peter Parker is right now. Not that bad, but it could and should be a lot better.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Dork Tower #22: A Review

This is one of my favorite books and yet I struggled for a bit as to how to describe this book, much less review it. Thankfully, this issue saved me the trouble, as one of the back-up strips in the anthology that is Dork Tower did it for me. In a sample strip of another Indie Comic called “The 3 Geeks”, one geek tries to explain to his comic-reading brethren…

“It’s about this group of gamers… well… yeah, dorks who play games. It’s whimsical! Light-hearted! It pokes fun, in a gentle way, at the quirkiness of a particular group of hobbyists! It’s really quite clever! And it’s got other neat stuff! Lethargic Lad! Wildlife! Something called Nodwick that looks good and PS 238! And more!”

Of course the other two geeks react by asking “No superheroes? And they call this a comic book!” and noting “(The artwork) doth resemble the rudimentary renderings of the comic strip Ziggy. I do not know if I can take it seriously.”

(Take it seriously? It’s a funny book, man! You can’t take any of this seriously!)

Still, this does sum up the basic gist of the book, the anthology status of said book and the attitude I fear most comic readers will have looking at it. Well, it is their loss as this is the most kind-hearted and consistently funny of the many comics based upon poking fun of those who take their hobbies too seriously. More than that, it is also the most accessible, lacking a rigid focus upon one genre (Knights of the Dinner Table) or “if you haven’t played it, you won’t get it” in-jokes (like the atrocious PVP).

There is an on-going plot to the book, though you wouldn’t know it from this issue. Things are taking a break from the rather complicated love triangle involving Matt (the gamemaster and King Dork of our characters), his ex-girlfriend Kayleigh (the prototypical girlfriend from hell, who mocks all of Matt’s hobbies and friends) and Gilly (a perky Goth geek grrrl and Matt’s obvious soulmate).

Instead, we get a focus on Carson; the abused innocent of the group and an anthropomorphic muskrat who has as much relation to the common rodent as Snoopy does the average dog. The plot is an even mix of humor and pathos, with scenes such as how a real talking animal might react to a convention of Furries. (If you don’t know what Furries are… ask your mother.) And Carson’s speech about fitting in and feeling out of place and alone is as stirring as any you are likely to find on the comic shelf this week.

And if this weren’t enough, there are many single-page Dork Tower strips about (among other things) “The Two Towers” movie, the history of gaming and the selective perfect memory of some hobbyists. Throw in sample strips for superhero parodies “Lethargic Lad” and “PS238” (about a school for young superheroes) as well as the aforementioned “The 3 Geeks” (which focuses on comic readers rather than gamers) and fantasy humor strip “Nodwick”, and you have a great value for $2.99.

Still not convinced? You can sample most of these strips for free on-line at , , and And if you still won’t read this book after that… well, I’ll feed you to gazebo!

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

JSA: The Unholy Three #1: A Review

Somehow, I missed JSA: The Liberty File. I can’t recall exactly why, though I suspect it may have been because at the time it came out, I was living in the sticks of Texas and going to a local comic store which did not do special orders or requests. Except for that fact, I can think of no reason why I would NOT have read it.

First of all, the artwork was done by Tony Harris who was also the original artist on Starman, which I have… more than a passing fondness for. I like the JSA and the Golden Age of comics in particular. Finally, I’m a sucker for any Elseworlds tale that creates a team of heroes in an interesting alternate reality.

So it was with no small amount of glee that I opened up a copy of “The Unholy Three”, hoping to see what I had missed. Missed is right! Harris’ gorgeous, shadowy artwork is as good as ever and I can only assume that the only reason he isn’t doing regular monthly duties on some book somewhere is because he’d rather be doing mini-series like this.

And the story matches the artwork in quality. It is full of intrigue, action and equal amounts of spy-thriller elements and two-fisted action. The plot involves two government agents, The Bat and The Clock (Bruce Wayne and Rex Tyler) who are sent to track down two Soviet agents who are killing down other government operatives (based on various other Golden Age heroes) in Europe. They are accompanied and put under the command of new agent Clark Kent (a.k.a. The Super-Man), much to the dismay of the two more experienced agents.

My one complaint though is that the story, at times, seems to assume you have read “The Liberty File”. A fair assumption, since this is a sequel to that story, but a little bit more back story might have helped ease those who are not as familiar with the general characters and history of the JSA as I am into the story.

Nonetheless, this is one of the best Elseworlds to come down the pike in quite a while and is well worth the high price of admission.