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Bee-Boys Killer Sting
Wednesday, 3 March 2004
Comic Reviews

WONDER WOMAN 178 <-> Jimenez & Martinez $2.25

Our woman of wonder goes on a date, and gets all fruity with potential new boyfriend Trevor Barnes, a man who never seems to smile. Meanwhile, Wonder Girl mopes over a letter from an estranged relative. I smell a sub plot.
New artist Roy Allan Martinez has a sedate, but expressive style, perfectly suited to Phil Jimenez's soap operatics.
But don't forget the Troia short. I did.

TS 6

THE TITANS 38 <+> Faerber & Kitson $2.50

Epsilon's dark secret is revealed (he washes with Head & Shoulders?), Nightwing declares he knew all along, and Argent gets to express herself. Oh boy.
Probably the best issue in some time, and a perfect example of a skilled artist lifting a mediocre writer. Barry Kitson's pacing has worked wonders for Jay Faerber's script.

TS 6

JLA 63 <-+> Kelly & Mahnke $2.25

The truth is out there, but Wonder Woman broke it!
While Diana is on a quest to mend her broken lasso, the JLA deal with the ramifications.
Joe Kelly's dialogue may be flip at times, but his narrative is compelling. The visuals are excellent and Doug Mahnke proves he was ideal for the job.
Isn't that the truth?

TS 7

DOOM PATROL 5 <-+> Arcudi & Eng Huat $2.50

The two competing Doom Patrols fight some mystic nasties, but it's not the plots that keep me returning each month. Rather, the ever-escalating mysteries, and this issue ends on a good one. Did Paul Kupperberg's Doom Patrol revival never happen?
Tan Eng Huat is a great find, and I wouldn't be surprised if Marvel are trying to poach him as I write.

TS 6

THE LEGION 5 <-+) Abnett/Lanning & Snejbjerg $2.50

A small band of Legionnaires return to the Galaxy of Legion Lost, to ostensibly lay a few ghosts to rest, and end up defending the Progeny against annihilation.
The Legion renaissance continues admirably under the guest pencils of Peter Snejbjerg, though I miss the regular artist Olivier Coipel.
If you were turned of by the Legion re-boot, then now is the time to get turned back on again. LLL.

TS 6

CODENAME:KNOCKOUT 10 Rodi & Paquette $2.50

I came to this through word of mouth, and was pleasantly surprised by the tongue in cheek, cheesecake spy spoof. Robert Rodi effortlessly characterises his protagonists-Angela and her gay chum Go Go Fiasco-as they switch sides from G.O.O.D. to E.V.I.L, and take a vacation in Paris. Yanick Paquette (with Juan Martin) gives good art, and I'll be back next month for more.

TS 6


BLOODSTONE 4 <-+> Abnett/Lanning & Lopez

Elsa and her gang get into a smack down with some vampires, and much merriment ensues.
This may be Buffyrivative, but it has a charm all its own and a likeable lead character. It's just plain, good, old-fashioned fun.
The visuals have grown on me, and have a very pleasing, chunky, straightforward quality. So bite me!

TS 6

THE ORDER 1 Busiek /Duffy & Haley $2.25

This is a strange kettle o'fish. Marvel fumbled the ball with The Defenders re-launch, but this doesn't quite work either. Kurt Busiek & Jo Duffy set up a status quo reminiscent of The Authority, but without that titles dubious panache. Matt Haley's pencils are pleasant enough and adequately convey the words, which are unfortunately lettered in hard to `read' lower case. This is not a good idea. At least favourites Nighthawk, Hellcat and Valkyrie have a home...for now.

TS 5

ACTION 789 Kelly & Rouleau $2.25

<--> Ok, I admit it. I bought this for Krypto, but I was hoping for a good read too. Unfortunately, whatever story there was, is lost amidst a welter of undefined protagonists and slip-shod storytelling. Joe Kelly inconveniently forgets to establish his characters (in favour of some trite dialogue), while the manga influenced Duncan Rouleau singularly fails to adequately move the plot from panel to panel in a coherent manner. On some pages it was impossible to decipher the action. He does, however, draw a cute Krypto.

TS 4

CATWOMAN 5 Brubaker & Rader $2.50

<+-> Catwoman investigates a drug smuggling operation that exploits children as mules and hooks up with Slam Bradley in the process. Replacement artist Brad Rader continues the animated/noir feel that Darwyn Cooke initiated, with a nice juxtaposition of an almost Kurt Schaffenberger sensibility with Ed Brubaker's mature tone. Brubaker has an assured understanding of Catwoman's many facets, purr-fectly blending crime with the need to wear black leather.

TS 7

TIGRA 1 Christina Z & Deodato Jr $2.99

< + > Tigra begins an investigation into a vigilante group, The Brethren of the Blue Fist, and discovers a connection to her long deceased husband. While not the most original of plots, Christina Z tells a compelling story, ably assisted by Mike Deodato's
luscious pencils and inks. The dialogue is taut and effective; the art is moody and evocative, and best of all, opens with a moonlit cemetery scene. That'll do me.

TS 7

THE TITANS 39 Faerber & Kitson $2.50

< + -> The Titans and the JSA gather at what was Titans Tower for a bit of a chin wag, and new baddies Dark Nemesis get taken down by the Titans while trying to steal some (plot development) files. Not much in the way of a plot, but some pleasant down time characterisation. Jay Faeber's dialogue is nicely played; while Barry Kitson continues to elevate this title above it's previous level of mediocrity.

TS 6

THE LEGION 6 Abnett + Lanning & Coipel $2.50

<++> The Legion investigate President McCauley and discover something rotten in the State of Denmark. Ra's Al Ghul stands revealed as the villain of the piece, and it all ends with yet another explosive climax. This title continues to build in intensity, as Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning invest the Legion with some much-needed excitement. However, the real joy is in Olivier Coipel's exquisite pencils. Look out for the small details, as when Chameleon gives the thumbs up to Quantum Kid, and his assured sense of pacing and design. I realised I was smiling when I put this comic down, and that doesn't happen often enough today.

TS 8

WONDER WOMAN 179 Jimenez & Martinez $2.25

<-> Wonder Woman and her damsel in distress, Trevor Barnes, begin their adventure in Skartaris; encountering dinosaurs, munchkins with dialogue impediments, and Giganta of the newly formed Villainy, Inc. Roy Allan Martinez's art is lovely to look at, though he isn't too assured on action sequences, working best in the quieter scenes. The real problem here is Phil Jimenez's pedestrian plotting and dull dialogue. Perhaps a stronger editorial presence would be of benefit to the overall quality of this title.

TS 6

DOOM PATROL 6 Arcudi & Eng Huat

<+> The all-new, all original team for dysfunctional heroes, slowly falls apart with the disappearance of Cliff Steele, and wrangling over ownership of the team name. `Negative Man' hits the bottle, Fever's temperature rises, Freak gets more, erm, freakish, and who is that in the hospitable bed? Phew! I'll be back next month for more of John Arcudi's smart dialogue, Tan Eng Huat's dynamic draughtsmanship, and to feast my eyes once more on Dave Stewart's sumptuous colours. I'm doomed!

TS 7

HAWKMAN 1 Johns + Robinson & Morales $2.50

After being revived through the power of love-cue Jennifer Rush-in the pages of JSA, Hawkman (he's the one with the mullet) wings his way into the fifth attempt at an ongoing title, with neurotic partner Hawkgirl. Geoff Johns and James Robinson write a fairly uninspired excuse for some two-fisted Hawk action, but thankfully Rags Morales draws some very pretty pictures. He has a fine feel for anatomy, which comes in very handy when dealing with a bare-chested, mace-wielding, wing bearing crime-fighter...and I'm not referring to Hawkgirl.

TS 6


WONDER WOMAN 178 Jimenez & Martinez $2.25

< -- > Oops! I think the plot fell out of my copy of this book. Anyway...Phil Jimenez strings together some Villainy Inc. Secret Files and laces them with tedious exposition. Roy Allan Martinez turns in some uneven art, and the most interesting thing around is Trevor Barnes new, erm, fey look. You go girl!

TS 4

SUPERGIRL 69 David & Kirk $2.25

<+-> That's more like it! This title has been meandering for a while now, but the final page promises an imminent resolution to Peter David's over-extended plot line. Leonard Kirk turns in his usual solid performance, as Supergirl picks a fight with the two lesser members of the Marvel family. While never essential, this book often rewards the faithful.

TS 6

CATWOMAN 6 Brubaker & Rader $2.50

<+> This title is consistently excellent, and this first part of four chapters focussing on Holly-Selina's eyes and ears on the street-is no exception. Ed Brubaker's characterisation is deft, as he delves into Holly's past, her recovery from drug addiction, and her romantic relationship with Jenni. Brad Rader's art is expressive, while remaining uncluttered with unnecessary detail-unlike some I could mention.
A treasure.

TS 8

DOOM PATROL 7 Arcudi & Eng Huat

<+> The team take a road trip in search of Robotman's, er, remains. What they find is his head, and presumably a brain. What a disturbing thought that is, poor Cliff's brain whirring away while buried for the last 4 years. Tan Eng Huat gets to design Robotman an imposing new body, and John Arcudi continues to impress with his sparkling dialogue and sublime characterisation.

TS 7

DOOM PATROL 9 Arcudi & Eng Huat $2.50

<+> It is vaguely disconcerting the way in which John Arcudi teases the eager reader with information, peeling away one mystery only to reveal another beneath. The fake Robotman is revealed to be an illusion of sorts, but the answer only necessitates further questions. Arcudi's pacing shudders & jolts, dispensing with seamless segues, but tantalising the reader with numerous concurrent plotlines. I cannot imagine this comic visualised by anyone other than Tan Eng Huat, whose unique style so elegantly captures the twitchy atmosphere Arcudi has crafted.

TS 8

JSA 37 Goyer + Johns & Kirk

<+-> The pay-off to "Stealing Thunder" is slightly disappointing-I am still unsure when the change was made to the Ultra Humanite only controlling Johnny's mind, instead of the old brain swapping routine. Issue 32 distinctly shows Johnny with bolts and stitches to the base of his cranium-are we in bait & switch territory here, or mid-plot revision? Nevertheless, the resolution to Johnny's death is quite unexpected and joyful. The numerous Super-Folks littering the pages serve as little more than panel filler, the usual consequence of multi character story lines-is it too much to ask that they do something rather than stand around gawping?

TS 7

SUPERGIRL 71 David + Igle

<+-> Sometimes I wish Peter David would quit with the flipping comedy routine. On an occasional basis it can be refreshing, but used regularly it becomes mundane and trite. I find it especially hard to relate to his characters and the presumably dire situations they encounter, when any tension is routinely dismissed with a jokey one liner. This is part 199 (or so it seems) of David's `search for the Earth Angel' plot, with a few pertinent plot dialogues thrown in to enliven the otherwise tired, old, Aztec sacrifice scenario. Jamal Igle's pencils are mostly competent, but lack any character.

TS 6

HAWKMAN 4 Johns + Robinson & Morales $2.50

<+-> Phew! There's so much testosterone floating around, that this title is beginning to reek. Quite why Geoff Johns & James Robinson write Hawkman as a bone crunching, grunting oaf of a barbarian is beyond me, and his constant pestering of Hawkgirl is getting creepy. Hawkman & companions hack their way out of the Battlelands, while Hawkgirl has another tussle with Tigress. Rag Morales is a credit to this title; I just wish the material he has to work with were more compelling.

TS 6

FANTASTIC FOUR 60 Waid & Wieringo 9cents

<+-> I don't know about the Kennedy clan, or the Addam's Family, on this showing the FF are Marvels answer to The Cosby Show; all that's missing is a canned reaction soundtrack. Perhaps I'm the wrong audience for this "jumping-on-point", but this re-hash of who the FF are, and their powers, seemed tired and jaded. Mike Wieringo's art is of the cute, wide eyed and Bigfoot sort, but serviceable...though if Johnny gets any younger, he'll be attending school with Franklin.

TS 6

WONDER WOMAN 184 Jimenez & Jimenez

<+> An absolutely stunning cover by Adam Hughes, that made me want to read the darned thing. After months of fill-in artists, Phil Jimenez returns to full art chores, and what a difference it makes. His pacing improves considerably, though the story itself is apparently a farce; that will account for Wonder Woman twirling into Miss America then. Yep, it's a time travel story, with all the usual fan boy nonsense about not interfering with the time stream, and a herd of comedy dinosaurs.

TS 7

DOOM PATROL 11 Aracudi & Eng Huat

<+> This book isn't for everyone, which is a pity. Criticism that could be applied, is that, though stylish, the story doesn't seem to be progressing anywhere. I disagree with that assessment, and intend to follow this title as long as it continues to focus on character development and plot building over standard fare super-hero slugfests. John Arcudi takes the Doom Patrol to hell, and gives us a peak at what makes the individuals tick, while Tan Eng Huat does what he does best, which is produce some of the best looking art on a monthly basis.

TS 8

JSA 39 Goyer + Johns & Gleason

<=> To parody an Image comic is a redundant exercise, yet Geoff Johns & David Goyer hand over a spotlight issue to Power Girl's ample assets...and fall flat on their respective arses. Bugger all happens here of consequence, but an extended punch `em up and some witless introspection on PG's part. Patrick Gleason's art is of the soulless manga variety, and he more than manages to perpetuate the locker room joke that is PG's chest. Puerile!

TS 3

ULTIMATE WAR 2 Millar & Bachalo

<-> War. What is it good for? Ultimately nothing! I shan't say it again. But I will berate this comic for Mark Millar's camp dialogue (is Magneto auditioning for the next Bond villain?), and the art. What you can make out of it, anyway. It's far too dark, with too many spotted blacks (with black borders yet), and some seriously slack storytelling. Consequently, what should have been a truly dramatic scene was lost to obscurity. Did Pietro die at Magneto's hands? Who knows, and ultimately, who cares.
Anyway, Magneto attacks the Ultimates in their base, the X Men talk shop, and the appalling cover reminds one of the shiny loo roll that one used to find in school bogs.

5 TS


<-> Just how many bloody Supergirls does the DC Universe need? Sheesh! Superman knocks around with the instantly forgettable Amok, while contorting himself into positions to make the Elongated Man proud. How the heck is his arse connected to his torso on page one? Buggered if I know. Touted as a jumping on point, I'm jumping back of. Steven T Seagle seems to have little of interest to say, and Scott McDaniel understands anatomy as much as I do quantum physics.

4 TS


Say what you like about John Byrne, and he's had his fair share of stinkers over the last decade or so, given his own little playground to play in, with recognisable characters, he can turn in a very enjoyable, light-hearted romp. This will particularly appeal to those of us of a certain age, but doesn't need an encyclopaedic knowledge of DC continuity to appreciate. This is the third part of Byrne's Generations Elseworld, that takes as a starting point the conceit that well loved characters age and die, marry and give birth, with a predominant focus on the Superman and Batman dynasties. The only niggle is that Byrne should really think about working with an inker that might help smooth out some of his rougher edges.

6 TS

WONDER WOMAN 188 Jimenez & Jimenez

<-> Did we really need this? For his final issue, Jimenez indulges himself by incorporating just about every naff costume the saintly Lynda Carter ever wore, in the TV show that will forever live on in the minds of certain fans. Anyone for a skateboarding Princess of Themyscira? When not satisfying this unnatural urge, Jimenez took some time to wrap up some dangling plotlines (but not all), and ends on a cheery high note to end another day in the life of Wonder Woman.

5 TS

WONDER WOMAN 189 Simonson & Ordway

<++> Hurrah! Walt Simonson takes over for a six-month story arc, and my interest increases ten fold. Simonson opens with an intriguing premise, with enough foreshadowing and plot to keep me guessing. Wonder Woman has vanished without a trace, but who is that woman dressed in white with a warriors heart? It was great to see Diana react instinctively and decisively for once, despite her apparent confusion, and Jerry Ordway's (with P Craig Russell on inks) pencils are fluid and dynamic without fussy attention to detail. Above all, this was just a rollicking good comic book.

7 TS


Bless `em, DC come to my rescue and release the first and second issues of the H.E.R.O series in a collected edition, otherwise I may not have discovered this little gem. A simple premise-what if your life is in the toilet and then you get super-powers? -written intelligently and engagingly, with some lovely evocative art that positively drips atmosphere. Based on the old Dial H for Hero strip, but examining the effects super-powers have on the life of the individual, slacker Jerry Feldon is working as a soda jerk, until one night he discovers a Hero dial amongst the dirty dishes. The consequences are both touching and tragic. Will Pfeifer writes with a refreshing honesty as the "hero" calls a crisis hotline on the brink of suicide, and we're made privy to the events that have led to his despair. Recommended!

8 TS

H.E.R.O 3 Pfeifer & KATO

<+ -> Not much more to say, really, being the penultimate chapter of a four issue story, but KANO's art is still terrific, and well complimented by the excellent colouring of Dave Stewart, whom I first noticed on early issues of Doom Patrol. In fact, if you like Doom Patrol (and everyone should-bah!) then this just may be the book for you.

7 TS


If you're expecting the loon in yellow pancake with the insidious laugh, then relax. Jason Hall writes a story encompassing the caf? society and art world of 1920's Paris, as two sisters -one a good time girl, the other not so-flirt and mingle with the Surrealist movement of the day. Unfortunately, despite the intriguing setting, Hall's script is a bit...ordinary. It lacks any real bite, and the characters are singularly un-involving. Cliff Chiang's art, on the other hand, is gorgeously lush, with a rich, fluid line. The Creeper only makes the barest of appearances, and therein lies the mystery to be played out over the next four issues, methinks.

6 TS

FANTASTIC FOUR 67 Waid & Weiringo

<+ -> Doom's back! Two words that would usually have me stifling a yawn, but to Waid's credit he actually made me care, with this story of an egotistical outsider who gave up true love, but then found a use for it in his own inimitable, and shocking, way. I still reckon Mike Weiringo is unsuited to this strip (I'd prefer a harder edge) and I hope Doom doesn't get laughed at too much in his new romper suit. The logo is as crappy as ever.

6 TS


<-> OK, I'm not about to give up on this series yet, but the narrative structure is seriously getting on my tits. With each successive issue focussing on a hundred year jump in continuity, Byrne has to contrive ways to keep a recognisable cast around, and I freely admit to being confused as to who some of them are. In this issue, Wonder Woman returns after her daughter falls in battle (a scene we're never shown, so there's no emotional involvement) and those rascally Parademons attack once more. This could get real old, real fast.

5 TS

JSA: ALL-STARS 1 Goyer & Johns + Velluto

Not much cop this! An excruciatingly underwritten (considering it involved the efforts of two writers-what do Johns and Goyer do? Meet up for lunch and write this stuff on the back of a napkin? I imagine the conversation goes something like; "..and then they, like, fight, OK, and it'll be really rocking, but...oh, don't forget to give Hawkgirl a smart one-liner, will you? Kewl!") set-up issue for a mini-series showcasing the talents of other writers and artists. The JSA are attacked and trounced by the Injustice Society, which is working for (you'll love this one) a demon called Legacy! And we all know that the JSA theme is legacy; how piss poor and contrived is that? Anyway, I got the impression that the next six issues are going to revolve around some of the JSA members getting in touch with their feelings, and maybe, if we're really lucky, they'll all have a lovely group hug for a finale. The art is merely pedestrian.

TS 3

JSA: ALL-STARS 2 Goyer & Johns + Winslade / Loeb + Sale

< -> In the words of Hawkgirl "That is so incredibly lame", as she visits her adopted daughter, and the Golden Age Hawkman is late for dinner. While the retro art on the GA Hawkman vignette has a certain charm, both stories were so slight I reckon they were suffering from a particularly virulent eating disorder.

TS 3


<+> Detective Montoya is outed at work, and her life turns to crap. Rucka writes an intelligent character study of a woman being pushed to her limits, while Lark draws like an absolute dream.

TS 8

H.E.R.O 4 Pfeifer + Kano

<+> A satisfying, though slight, conclusion to Jerry Feldon's story, which still managed to bring a lump to my throat. Bless. Kano's evocative art, and Dave Stewart's sumptious colours, are an absolute pleasure.

TS 7

GRADUATION DAY 1,2 & 3 Winick + Garza

<- -> A rotten example of comics by committee; Winick may have the writers credit, but editorial fiat seeps from every fibre of this cobbled together plot that really has no redeeming value other than to facilitate a couple of senseless deaths and a couple of new series. Ugly art, ugly words, and an ugly premise; don't wait for the inevitable trade paperback.

TS 2

AVENGERS 68 Johns + Coipel

<+-> Geoff Johns take on The Avengers is finally starting to gell, but the padding for future collection is noticeably prevalent; and though Olivier Coipel's art is distinctive, at times it is a little lacking in focus. The real villain of the peice is finally revealed, as previous red herrings are discarded, and "The Red Zone" draws towards to it's conclusion.
6 TS

NEW X MEN 142 Morrison + Bachalo

<+> Cyclops is in a strop over his love life and drowns in self pity at the Hellfire Club. Wolverine shows up to drink him under the table, while imparting some love lorn advice. Grant Morrison's words carry a character piece that would have been better served by an artist team capable of depicting true emotion, and less reliant on claustrophobic solid blacks.
7 TS

JLA 82 Kelly + Rouleau

<-> The White Rage 80-82: What started out as a mildly diverting comic book WACO analogy, finally descended into a miasma of incomprehensibility. Kelly loses the plot, amidst a welter of unexplained, and not terribly interesting, antagonists, and over eggs the pudding by tying in Faith's murky past. Thankfully the arc wasn't needlessly drawn out, and the pace was reasonably brisk. Rouleau's pencils are a little on the cartoony side, without the quirky, but solid, stylings of Mahnke, and lack clarity where some would be appreciated.

5 TS

FANTASTIC FOUR 500/71 Waid + Weiringo

<+-> Unthinkable 68-71: Eek! What the bloody hell is that abomination of a cover doing on the Anniversary issue? Surely the budget would have stretched to someone with a talent for paint? Unthinkable has been an enjoyable ride, with some nice character observations of Reed Richards and Dr Doom along the way; but Waid fumbles by providing Reed with an Ultimate Nullifier in the final stretch, and blows it in the finale. Doom falls foul of his ego (again), while Mr Fantastic (hello?) is left looking like a before advertisement for Botox injections.

7 TS

JSA 50 Goyer & Johns + Kirk

<-> Princes of Darkness 46-50: Remember when Anniversary issues told self contained stories, or tied up a long running plot? Goyer & Johns don't. Like a summer blockbuster, full of sound and fury, short on plot and substance, but a few "kewl" moments thrown in along the way, so has been Princes of Darkness; and it's not over yet. Goyer & Johns might think there was too much story to tell in five issues, but if they'd cut out all the redundant panels of the walk-on extras fighting ("Oh look, there's Iron Munro, and there's Uncle Sam...who cares?), improved the pacing, and refined the focus, this might have made a reasonably exciting three issues; but then it might not have been a natural fit for the obvious trade-paperback collection. Goyer and Johns have descended into laziness, too enamoured of their "kewl" factor to fully concentrate on turning out a well constructed and plotted story. Leonard Kirk, on the other hand, has been doing some of the best work of his career, and developed a real flair for interesting visuals (Power Girl's ample assets aside).

6 TS


<+> Like the 80's never ended, Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire return to one of the highlights in mainstream comics of that over-hyped decade. Though this motley collection of B & C grade characters wore out their welcome long before their first five years were up, the original spark is thankfully back. Giffen's irreverent take on the absurdities inherent in the super-hero medium still raises a smile and the occasional titter (I've never been one for BWA HA HA's), and Maguire's flair for capturing facial expressions hasn't diminished. Pity then, that the colours are muddy and dull when they should shine and sparkle.

7 TS

FALLEN ANGEL 1 David + Lopez

<+> An intriguing premise with a few nice hooks. Peter David invites us onto the streets of Bette Noire, a city without scruples, and a heroine equally suspect. David still has a light touch to his scripts, but here tempers it with a darker vein. The art by newcomer David Lopez is fine, but with some small room for improvement. A good start.

7 TS

BIRDS OF PREY 56 Simone and Benes

<+> New writer, new art team and a fresh approach. Hallelujah! This series was tired and listless for the longest time, But Gail Simone has rejuvenated the usual gimmicks with some smart dialogue and a fresh view, while Ed Benes gives the book a dose of pleasantly drawn cheesecake. Nothing extraordinary here, but if you're looking for an oestrogen driven action injection, you could do worse.

7 TS

CATWOMAN 21 Brubaker + Stewart

<+> Holly and Selina are on the road, and Captain Cold has a cool heist in mind. Can Catwoman help him lift a flashy artefact; and if she does, will he get to keep it? Brubaker & Stewart have a great synergy, easily crafting one of DC's more satisfying monthlies around a well-developed and engaging cast.

7 TS

H.E.R.O 6 Pfeifer + Kano

<+> Andrea is trying to fit in at her new school, and the HERO dial may just be what she needs to nurture those all important friendships. A touching tale that explores the bittersweet and difficult bonds between children, with Kano's wonderfully expressive line-work effortlessly capturing the emotions that Pfeifer conveys in a sparkling script.

THE FLASH 200 Johns + Kolins

<+-> Blitz 196-200: Geoff Johns seems more at home on The Flash than on any other title he writes. Blitz has generally been an involving emotional roller coaster for the assembled cast, as the new Zoom teaches Wally West what it takes to be a hero in his own inimitable reverse fashion. Unfortunately, the conclusion, as with many of Johns' arcs, falls a little flat in the telling. Johns had an agenda to change the status quo, which diminishes some of the more dramatic events, and sadly does away with the last 30 odd years of character development; all to satisfy his own vision of what (and where) The Flash should be.

6 TS

WONDER WOMAN 194 Simonson + Ordway

<+> The Game of the Gods 189-194: Always meant to be an interim period between creators, Walt Simonson focused on telling a story exploring who Wonder Woman is, her relationship to the gods, and to generally have fun with DC's, supposedly, premiere heroine. To that end, he stripped her of her powers, gave her a new `do (OH MY GOD, THEY CUT WONDER WOMAN'S HAIR!), instilled in her a sense of humour, and gave her a badass opponent in the form of The Shattered God. This generally played out well, but the first and last parts were definitely the strongest, while the middle was, sadly, a bit flabby. That said, the conclusion was more than satisfying, and laid to rest a supporting cast member who took more than his fair share of criticism. Jerry Orway's art invoked a time when storytelling was more important than over rendered panels, but never seemed to quite gel with the inks of P Craig Russell, a usually very sensitive inker.

6 TS

JLA-AVENGERS 1 Busiek + Perez

Well, it's no literary masterpiece, that's for sure, with plots lifted from countless similar comics before. All the usual boxes are ticked; Universe spanning threat? Check; a quest for various objects of power? Check; the teams controlled by a higher power? Check; misunderstandings and punch-ups? Check; which gives the whole thing a slightly shop worn feel. The most fun will come from future interaction between the two teams, but for now there are a few nice moments not to be sniffed at-Batman taking the Punisher to the cleaners between panels was priceless. The trick is to imagine that you're a 13 year old again (hard for some of us, I know), put aside any cynical reservations, and just go with the flow. George Perez does his usual thing, and certainly won't disappoint his many devoted fans.

7 TS

FANTASTIC FOUR 503 Waid + Porter

<-> Words fail me in trying to express just how execrable the art by Howard Porter is. He may be going for a wide-screen treatment, but his figure work and attention to detail is so clumsy and unconvincing, that any sense of scale and scope Mark Waid may be attempting is defeated. The Fantastic Four invade Latveria, facing opposition from both without and within, and do it looking like a quartet of malformed, butt-ugly buffoons. I thought it was only Reed that was supposed to be disfigured (apart from blue -eyed Benjamin)? Grudgingly, I'll concede that that there is a kind of kinetic energy present, but I'd rather tear my eyes from their sockets than experience this again.

5 (for Waid) TS

WONDER WOMAN 195 Rucka + Johnson

<+> Another new creative team, and another new direction; this time `Diana does The West Wing'-which is no bad thing when one remembers that it wasn't so long ago that it was `Diana does Sunset Beach'. This is an introductory, getting to know you, scene setter, and fulfils its obligations in a perfunctory, but entertaining, manner. There's a new cast, and a new status quo, and Rucka seems to have a firm grasp on his themes and direction; which hopefully will be bought into sharper focus when the main event begins. The biggest disappointment is Drew Johnson's art, which is not entirely up to professional standards. His anatomy and perspective are poor, and he doesn't exactly imbue his characters with any real sense of being. He may grow into the job, but I'd rather not pay to see someone learn on the go on such a high profile project.

6 TS

WONDER WOMAN 196 Rucka + Johnson

<+-> Oh dearie me! Perhaps in an effort to prove that the pen really is mightier than the sword, Wonder Woman publishes a book of her essays and pious thoughts, the local chapter of a kids WW club gets closed down as a result, and some Machiavellian scheming is undertaken to discredit Diana through her words. As if. It won't set any hearts racing with pulse-pounding action, but Rucka's deft words and Johnson's improving pencils are a start in the right direction.

7 TS

WONDER WOMAN 197 Rucka + Johnson

<-> Eek! Madame Ambassador, after risking repetitive strain injury during yet another book signing, has a friendly little chat with an agitated Bluebird, and rushes to the scene of a forest fire, presumably to save all his friends. Once there though, she doesn't do much of, erm, anything, apart from convince The Flash that it is best to do nowt but protect property. How ironic that this issue was released the same month that vast acres of California were devastated by wildfires. It's competently written, and adequately drawn, but just a tad worthy and dull.

6 TS

1602 3 Gaiman + Kubert

<+-> A dull, pompous, and lacklustre load of twaddle for the too cool for school kids. Step back in amazement as some overly familiar Marvel faces wander around in Elizabethan drag doing, erm, well not much of anything really. Nowt more than a trumped up What If?, with even an off panel cameo from The Watcher (did you miss it? Don't worry; I'm sure someone will annotate it). I'd recap the plot, but my mind wanders so much while reading this that I've redecorated the bathroom twice over. Buy it, if you must, for the rather fun covers.

2 TS

THE LEGION 25 Abnett & Lanning + various

<+-> It's 45 years of The Legion, so any excuse for an anniversary issue, yes? Unfortunately, this isn't much of one. Instead of a story, Abnett & Manning opt for a series of sub-plots drawn by their various collaborators, but only two really shine. Eric Wright draws and colours a lovely three pages that captures the na?ve early years of The Legion, and Paul Rivoche's deceptively simple style effortlessly evokes Element Lad's sad story. Dave Cockrum, a seminal Legion artist, has sadly seen better days, while the work of Harris & Feister is too darn clever for its' own good. Regular artist Chris Batista still suffers from some rather pedestrian character work and storytelling. Some of the sub-plots are intriguing, and if one is a Legion fan, one will be interested in following them. Otherwise, it's not a particularly satisfying read.

6 TS

AVENGERS 486 Johns + Sadowski

<-> Tacky. Yellowjacket gives the Wasp some oral relief (or perhaps he was doing something else down under those bed sheets) and Whirlwind beats up a call girl dressed as the Winsome Wasp. Geoff Johns takes full advantage of his lack of captions and scene shifts to lead the reader into believing that Hank has once more taken to beating his wife Jan, conveniently tying sex and marital abuse up into a sordid little package. Other than that, it's business as usual on the Geoff Johns decompressed storytelling gravy train. 22 pages to find out that Jan and Hank still love each other, but that she won't marry him.

5 TS

EMPIRE 4 Waid + Kitson

< + > So far, this series has been an exceptional roller coaster. Waid and Kitson have created a thoroughly stimulating scenario examining what would happen if one of those megalomaniac villains ever achieved their goal of world domination. Though all the main players are just plain nasty, and absolutely despicable, one can't help but be enthralled by their antics. What's more, as this issue proves, none of them are indispensable. Good stuff.

8 TS

SUPERMAN 200 Seagle + McDaniel & Various

<--> Huh???!!!

0 TS

NEW X MEN 150 Morrison + Jimenez

< + > Magneto, all but abandoned by his Brotherhood of Ugly Mutants while rushing on Kick, is finally despatched as Planet X draws to a brutal close. As promised, an X Man dies, but probably not for long, eh? Morrison has had fun with all the familiar X obsessions, greeting them head on with a fresh eye and producing (at times) a thoroughly gripping soap opera.

7 TS

EMPIRE 6 Waid + Kitson

< + > Waid & Kitson are producing some of their best work, as they draw Empire to a satisfying conclusion after six issues of shocking twists and turns. Golgoth once more stands triumphant, but the personal price paid was high, and one has just a smidgen of sympathy for the devil.

7 TS

THE ULTIMATES 12 Millar + Hitch

< -+ > Maybe the wide screen blockbuster, with `kewl' throwaway lines, approach to comics is getting a tad too last week. Cap battles it out with the Chitauri big wig, while the others do what they can to stem the invasion. But like a kebab from the dodgy shop opposite the all-night garage after a night on the bevy, reading The Ultimates can sometimes only seem like a good idea at the time. Hitch has a nice Joe Kubert thing going on in places, though.

6 TS

SUPREME POWER 5 Straczynski + Frank

< + > The pace has picked up somewhat, but where exactly is this series going? Is there a story unfolding as one character after another is slowly introduced? There's no denying it's written and drawn well, but a little impetus would be nice, otherwise it'll be 2006 before Lady Lark shows up.

7 TS

BIRDS OF PREY 62 Simone + Benes

< + > Black Canary travels to Hong Kong to visit her dieing Sensei, and crosses paths with Lady Shiva, the meanest, bestest, warrior in the whole wide world, who demonstrates her skill by biting a guy's finger off. BoP is a solid action comic, with some smart dialogue, and clean, sexy, art.

7 TS

AVENGERS 75 Johns + Kolins

< - > He and She Hulk get into a ruck, and kick the snot out of each other until Jack of Hearts does something with his radiation powers that sorts the whole mess out. Johns is probably not sure how, either.

5 TS

THE LEGION 28 Abnett & Lanning + Batista

< - > A total sprocking mess! Too many disparate threads clumsily explained by boringly expressed talking heads, interspersed with flaccid, ineffectual, fight scenes. Apparently, this is the greatest challenge the Legion has ever faced, but I'm buggered if I'm feeling it.

5 TS

HAWKMAN 22 Johns + Rags

< + > Johns is finally putting some energy into this title, as the Headhunter comes calling, and Hawkman goes a bit wack. Not sure what to make of Hawkgirl finding Buster Keaton films hilarious, though. Perhaps it illustrates what a humourless character she is generally. Rags continues to prove his worth as an artist with some lovely figure work.

6 TS

WONDER WOMAN 199 Rucka + Johnson

< + - > The penultimate issue before the, supposedly, grand conclusion to Down To Earth, and still the story is bogged down in ideology. Some great characterisation, and Rucka has succeeded in making the gods interesting at long last (no more moping about in togas), but there doesn't seem to be any real sense of drama. Johnson's pencils, when he's not drawing some ropey looking figure work, have a smooth, plastic quality that's not very endearing, nor interesting.

6 TS

HERO 11 Pfeifer + KANO

< - > Oot! Oot! Hurm! Oot! Hurm! Hurm! Oot! Well, if it was good enough for Pfeifer.....Nearly 22 pages of Neanderthal grunts before the Super Caveman meets his poor Future Shock ending. Nice art though.

5 TS

JLA 91 Dennis O'Neil + Tan Eng Huat

< - > If, as editor Mike Carlin believes, everyone has a great JLA story within them, Dennis probably wrote his around 30 odd years ago. There's nothing new here; a strange alien arrives and the JLA get involved. Tan Eng Huat's work is also a let down after his amazing stint on Doom Patrol. There is none of the incredible page layout work that really lifted that title out of the ordinary, and his figure work looks uncomfortable at best.

5 TS

THE LEGION 29 Abnett & Lanning + Batista

<-> So let me get this straight. As a result of 31st Century Darkseid transporting his younger self into the future for a punch-up, all time is now unravelling, and everything that is, will now be gone. In, like, a matter of minutes. So why are Violet, Kid Quantum and Superboy standing around grinning like a bunch of loons? Is Batista not being given the correct art direction for the scripts, or does he not know how to draw anything else but shit eating grins? This whole issue seriously lacks any element of tension, and I can't wait for the arc to be done.

4 TS

WONDER WOMAN 200 Rucka + Johnson & Various

<+-> Hey ho, so it's issue 200, and the old girl celebrates being 60 and a bit years old. But quite frankly, she hasn't got a great deal to celebrate at the moment. Rucka is a fine writer, but he's not suited to super-heroics (and no, Wonder Woman should not be an Ambassador) and seems to have a vague repulsion at the thought that she might actually have to hit someone, sometime, somewhere. Johnson is particularly bad this time around, with stiff, unnatural figure work, fluffed fight scenes (what exactly was happening during the fight with Silver Swan, eh?), lousy layouts and a splash page of Paradise (floating) Island crashing into the sea that looks like nowt more than a kiddies toy being knocked over in the bath. It would be incongruous to describe this as the conclusion to Down To Earth. It's nothing of the sort. The Golden Age and Silver Age pastiches are generally fun, but aren't really anything more than filler, and Wonder Girl narrating the story of Medusa is a snore. There are some text pages made up to look like pages from a Newspaper that purport to give some insight into that book that Diana's been writing, but I couldn't be arsed to read them.

5 TS

AVENGERS 77 Austen + Coipel

<+> A surprisingly good start to Chuck Austen's stint at the helm and a breath of fresh air after Geoff Johns' mediocre run. A good solid super-hero team book, some nice dialogue, and it's set in an England where not everyone talks like Dick Van Dyke. Surprisingly. Coipel's art is still not as good as it was on Legion, but pleasant enough. I'm enthused.

7 TS

Posted by terencestewart at 8:45 AM GMT

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