Monday, October 18, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Slap-Dash

I have a pile of comics to my right, a large cup of tea to my left and a keyboard in front of me. Sounds like the time for some quick reviews.

Aquaman #21

While I've never been one of his detractors ("He's useless. All he can do is talk to fish!), I've never been a big fan of Aquaman either. Will Pfeifer, in one story, not only shows Aquaman for the cool character that he is; he also creates a new villain for Aquaman who is, like him, underestimated by many but potentially deadly in the right environment. In this case, the villain is a psychic with the ability to mentally control large amounts of water. While a minor annoyance to Batman in the relatively land-locked downtown area of Gotham City, he proves quite the danger when armed with scuba gear and set upon the sunken California town of Sub Diego. Creating waterspouts at will and boiling the very water in a person's body are just a few of the tricks he uses. But Aquaman proves no weakling here, using his powers in equally creative ways, summoning a flock of poisonous lionfish (One spine can throw a healthy adult male into cardiac arrest) to corral a group of henchman. Shame he's leaving the title in 3 issues, as Aquaman hasn't been this well written since… well, ever!

Final Score: 7 out of 10.

Ex Machina #5

It's been neck-in-neck for a while, but this is, quite simply, my favorite book being published right now. Tony Harris does his finest work since the good ol' days on Starman and Brian Vaughan shows why he is one of the best writers working in comics today. The story of a man given a great power, who abandons superheroism for the greater responsibility of political office is one not often explored in comics and never to any great detail. This series promises to do just that and more.

Final Scote: 10 out of 10.

Hawkman #33

I wish I could say that this comic doesn't feel like a gratuitous plug for Jimmy Palmiotti's new series "The Monoloith"… but honestly, how else can you justify Batman, Mister "I Am The Lone Avenger Of The Knight" Himself, calling Hawkman and Hawkgirl into Gotham to help him track down a crime-fighting, giant stone golem? Still, the comic isn't a total wash. The scenes at the end with the two avian heroes going to a movie and talking about their relationship and where it stands is quite good and easily makes up for the cheap commercialism of the rest of the book.

Final Score: 5.5 out of 10.

JSA #66

There is nothing for me to explain in this issue after my profile of The Hourmen some weeks back. The tease we get of future issues here suggests I'll have quiet a lot to explain later about some other time-traveling characters. But since I don't have a time machine myself, we're all going to have to wait and see what I say about that. For now, go read this current issue and enjoy the here and now.

Final Score: 10 out of 10.

Knights of the Dinner Table #96

For once, the funniest parts of this magazine came not in the comics, but in the columns. This is not to say that the comics this time were not funny. Indeed, a new comic centering upon the self-devouring gamers of The Black Hands Gaming-Society and their latest attempt at a western-themed role-playing game is one of the best strips in recent memory. And another, parodying a recent gaming release (a gaming adventure titled "The World's Largest Dungeon", changed here to The Biggest Damn Dungeon Ever) promises a lot of humor in the next issue. But the funniest part of the magazine this time around came in a missive by Noah Antwiler, about why we can expect Star Wars, Episode 3 to do nothing to save the franchise by pointing out the numerous continuity problems that will have to be solved and the four ways in which Jar Jar Binks could be turned into a useful character.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Swamp Thing #8

It's funny how a writer can be so good on one book and so wrong for another. Case in point; while I loved his work on Aquaman, Pfeifer's two-part tale for Swamp Thing seems rather bland and lifeless. Mind you, it isn't an easy task following up the smashing introduction that Andy Diggle gave this book in its' first six issues. Still, after an epic battle with multiple elemental forces, a cameo by John Constantine and the announcement that his loyal wife was leaving Alec Holland/Swamp Thing, this issue demanded something special. This story, about a big game hunter hunting a mysterious swamp man, isn't it.

Final Score: 4 out of 10.

Ultimate Spider-Man #66

The cover title, "Even We Don't Believe This", says it all. Peter Parker and James "Logan" Howlett star in Freaky Friday. A grand story in the tradition of the old Lee/Ditko "The writer has gone insane and I don't want to draw this… help me" stories of the past, as Wolverine and Spider-Man trade more than spaces. It's hard to pick just one funny moment in this comic to share… so save us both the trouble and read it yourself.

Final Score: 10 out of 10.

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

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