Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Come On And Get Digital

As you may or may not have noticed, I have posted more than a few links regarding Zuda Comics DC's new union of webcomics and American Idol. Well, the site went live this week, and the first batch of "contestants" (I can hear Kurtz bellyaching from here) is up for perusual, in addition to the first winner, Bayou. Hope on over there and check out the first batch, then come here for my thoughts. No, it's cool, I'll wait.


Alrighty. Now, there's been a pretty vocal set of critics of Zuda pretty much from the get-go. Initially, there was hew and cry about how the creators were selling their souls to DC and how they were going to be ripped off and exploited. Then the contracts went up on the site, and, well, that went away. The current round of complaints centers on the idea that artists are "creators, not contestants." Which is all well and good; I'm not a creator. I'm not a contestant, either, owing to a number of factors but not limited to the fact that I cannot draw. No, see, I'm a consumer. As such, I don't care about the ethical quandries these cartoonists either accuse of or participate in, I want a product. And hey, if that product is of good quality and value, then I'm a happy consumer. And happy consumers tend to consume more of the product, and begin to trust the brand, and develop loyalty when certain expectations of quality are consistantly met... not sleeping through Marketting and Economics helps out from time to time.

So all I'm looking for is good comics, which begs the obvious question of "Does Zuda deliver?" Let's take a look at both the "preview bites" as well a the ongoing.

Alpha Monkey would probably make a good one shot or OGN. Superhero parody is an easy field, and adding monkeys usually pays dividends. The art is snappy and fun, and reminds me of a few modern kid cartoons.

Battlefield Babysitter is another good premise, especially in this post-Incredibles mainstream landscape. I think that's something necesary for the reading. I liked the narration, too.

The first few pages... err, "screens" of Black Swan make it look like Kurosawa, but then it dives headlong into boobime, that dangerous combination of boobs and anime. Meh.

Similarly, Dead In The Now looks and reads like something a 16 year old did in the back of his notebook during Global Studies. This might have gone over better a few years earlier, before zombies were a pop culture phenomenon.

I might be biased -- I mean, a Western with werewolves -- but High Moon impressed me with it's dialogue and art, and used it's allotted space very well.

The premise of Leprenomicon cracked me up, and the strip itself delivered. As a gag comic, this could have some legs.

Raining Cats and Dogs surprised me and frustrated me at the same time. The narration really piqued my interest, and it's certainly a unique assemblage of characters, but there's very little indication of just how this would play as a larger work.

On the other hand, The Dead Seas does a great job of previewing how it would flow as a series. The art is too high-gloss anime-style for my tastes, but the Pirates of Dark Water-esque concept is intriguing.

The Enders didn't do much of anything for me. The countdown premise is a nice hook, but there's not much here which would make me stick around, conceptually or artisitcally.

This American Strife is the oddball of the bunch, a series of non sequitor strips all palling around together. Of all the contest strips, this one (along with Dead In The Now) is closest to what I expect from an indy comic. It's hit or miss, but mostly hit.

Jeremy Love's Bayou is the best strip on the site, no doubt partly because at 17 screens it is also the longest and has the most time to develop itself. As a Yankee by birth, but a Southerner by choice, I enjoy reading about Southern culture and history, warts and all, so this appeals to me right out of the gate. The art has a sort of whimsical quality to it with the right amount of haze overlayed. As an OGN or a miniseries, I would buy this, which is the best endorsement I think you can give to a series.

Overall it is a varied field, which I imagine is the point. I'm pretty sure most visitors will find at least one which they like enough to vote for it. Personally, I am undecided, but I have narrowed it down to a few choices.

There are some things I am not overly impressed with. The reader is a pain in the butt, because the default size is not always good for reading the different types of lettering. I get why they use it, but it's still frustrating -- opt for Full Screen mode instead. And as diverse as these selections are, they are still somewhat niche-y; 3 are Superheroes, 3 are manga/anime style, 1 Western, 2 indy strips, and 1 Comedy. Where's the Romance or High Adventure? Where's the kids comics in the vein of Richie Rich or Casper? Sure, these are niches too. It's just that nearly all of the contest strips could be put out by Wildstorm without much fretting. I guess that's just my take on it, though.

The verdict for Zuda's launch: a decent ribbon cutting, if not without a few problems. I'll continue to read Bayou, and I will read whomever wins if the strip appeals to me. But this is very much a "work in progress" and I imagine the kinks will be ironed out as we go on. But, I have to call it a successful launch, if for no other reason than the consumer inside me is screaming "Hey! Free comics!"

What Looks Good?

Happy Halloween everybody! Remember, hiding in a closet from a homicidal maniac is never a good idea!IT'S THE ULTIMATE EVIL!

Sometimes, I wish Halloween was a Federal holiday. But not when it falls on a Wednesday! Check out the shipping list for this week, dress up in your best costume, and head out to your local comic shop for some 4 Color Treats!

Countdown to Mystery #2 -- New Dr. Fate? Yay! Jeanclipso? Boo! Spectre being the star of the Jeanclipso story? Yay! Spectre having a goatee? BOO!

DC Infinite Halloween Special -- Infinite Holiday Special amused me to no end last year, even if the name stunk, plus this Aquaman II, so I'll probably buy into that big dollar asking price.

Justice Society of America #10 -- The big question on all DC fans minds: Will Johns take enough time in this story introducing the Kingdom Come Superman to New Earth to make sure we get more info about how my boy Citizen Steel's life sucks?

Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes #35 -- What I hope to see this issue: Wildfire and Timberwolf going to town on each other. What would make this issue the best: Lightning Lad laying somebody out. It can be one panel with absolutely no context. I want my Lightning Lad! (Tony Bedard is doing a great bridge job here... I'm still annoyed about him not writing Batman and the Outsiders!)

Trials of Shazam! #9 -- Freddie Freeman vs Apollo Creed! What? It's not Apollo Creed? Just Apollo. Oh. Well, that still sounds cool, but not as cool.

Annihilation: Conquest: Quasar #4 -- Things are always darkest before the dawn... but in the case of A:C, I think the darkest days have yet to come. I suspect that Quasar will be getting her own ongoing after the main series, ala Nova last year, so this should be something to see.

Essential Werewolf By Night v.2 -- The perfect trade paperback release for Halloween! Catch up with California teen Jack Russell (sigh) and his surprisingly complex cast as deals with a certain monthly mood swing.

Iron Man #23 -- The best Marvel mag you're not reading. Period.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fair Trade -- Showcase Presents: Batman And The Outsiders

Showcase Presents: Batman And The Outsiders
When I first got into superhero comics in the very early 90s, I was, for the most part, a Marvel Zombie. I read a couple of Image titles (ShadowHawk, woo!), but mostly I read X-books and other random stuff which the Big M was kicking out. I eventually started reading DCs, namely the Superman titles plus manstays like Green Lantern and Flash. It pretty much continued on this vein for many years, to the point that by the turn of the century the only DC I read was Flash, and Power Company, but that one didn't really last. It wasn't until I got out of college that I got more "into" the DCU as a whole and started to learn about it's history. Ironically, I owe that mostly to Identity Crisis and frequent poster Adama. I distinctly remember a conversation over AIM with him while I was at work one day, and he was complaining about what the first 2 issues of IdC was doing to Silver Age Villainy, and my awesome response of "What's IdC?" lead to me reading his copies and asking him who the heck people were, then picking up JSA and going from there, and at this point I would call myself a much bigger DC fan than Marvel. So, given this, it's needless to say, before a couple of years ago, I was not really sure just who the heck the Outsiders were.

I had heard the name from the second series, but never read it, so the history of this team with Batman and all that was new to me. I started reading Winnick's new Outsiders after "OYL," and liked what I read, so I sought out information on the history of the team, and was surprised at how long that name had been kicking around. This team sounded pretty interesting. I liked Katana from the current series, and had taken a shining to Black Lightning when I read a few issues of his series. Plus, Jim Aparo had become one of my favorite DC artists, so when DC announced this trade, I added it to my pull list.

The verdict? I'm glad I did.

Other bloggers have tackled BATO as well (The Comic Treadmill has a series of excellent critiques, starting here with the launch and early issues), and it does have it's fair share of shortcomings. The excuse for this team coming together is pretty flimsy, even by team book standards. And Mike Barr, that magnificent bastard, does have a tendency to create foes for his team which conveniently feature five members so everyone can pair off. No series is perfect, and this title is no exception to that rule. But despite these, and in some instances, certainly because of them, this collection is a delight and a success.
Doing battle with Agent Orange, BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #3
Yeah, the setup for the team is weak, but honestly, I didn't care about that too much because once things get rolling it really doesn't matter. This is superheroics in a broad sense, but Barr differentiates things from the more staid Justice League by peppering the stories with early-80s versions of social awareness and urban (sur)realism. When Agent Orange rails against the US government for using the chemical which scarred him in Viet Nam, or Black Lightning is targetted for causing a girl's death, or a supposedly benevolent doctor tortures his supervillain patient and covers it up, Barr shoots for something outside the traditional black-and-white contrast. Of course, it never really goes all the way into ambiguity, but it makes for fun reading in the same mold as the best issues of Power Man and Iron Fist. Another benefit is that Barr writes every issue (save for the crossover with New Teen Titans, which was a team-up with Wolfman), and his devotion to his characters is readily apparent. Everyone is not only consistant, but grows, insofar as one can grow in such a series. His Batman, especially, is a character I like to read: he's a tough boss, sure, but he's not so surly and edgy that we cannot relate to him. He's a teacher and a taskmaster and a counseller all rolled into one, molding his team into heroes he feels can carry on his fight when he's gone. Everyone gets a chance to be in the spotlight, too, as we get origins or features on Geo-Force, Black Lightning, Katana, Halo, and Metamorpho as well.

And it looks wonderful. There's not enough nice things to about Aparo's art, which looks as crisp and dynamic in black and white as it does in color. His Batman, always shrouded in shadows, is an ominous presence, and he makes even the strangest costumes (Halo) work. Given the nature of this series -- translation: there's a lot of fighting -- Aparo is right in his element. Everytime Black Lightning unloads his lightning punch on some poor sap, you feel it, and when Katana collapses some guy's lung, the cut is visceral. And it's not just the heroes, either -- each new enemy Barr throws against the Outsiders gets a unique visual style which helps round them out as baddies, from the Force of July's patriotic duds to the Master of Disaster's elemental looks to Agent Orange's militaristic uniform and gas mask. The villains themselves are of the "made up" variety, but that was the norm for this period. Not every issue has to feature Darkseid or Brainiac, ya know? The Force of July deserved a better fate than what they got, I say!

Fighting for true freedom, BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS ANNUAL #1There are some problems to go with all of this, as well. There's a handful of tales in here which seem to be somewhat rushed, as if Barr wrote himself into a corner and had to wrap things up quickly. It's not that bad, but it is there, and it can be disappointing to have a twist occur for what seems to be little more than the writer's whim. Also, some of the character moments fall flat, namely Metamorpho, who hardly has anything to do but pine for Sappire Stagg, at least until right near the end of the volume. Another complaint is the lack of the Bat-universe at large in this title, which I can understand even if I don't share the sentiment. The Outsiders run in their own circle in Gotham, and save for Maxie Zeus, we don't see any of the regular Bat-Rouges; I count that as a plus, personally, but it is a little unusual for a series with "Batman" in the title.

All in all, though, I would call these relatively minor problems with what is, at it's core, a solid action mag. Like all Showcase volumes, it's an attractive phonebook style trade, and you get more than 500 pages for your money, so its a good value. The stories are light and easy, great for reading before bed or when you're waiting for dinner to cook. I'd heartily recommend this book to any DC fan, or to a younger reader looking for a way to get into comics.

And, with any luck, we'll get a second volume. Think I'll go write a letter to DC's collections department.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What I Read This Week

Flash #233 -- First thing you'll notice here is that Acuna is gone, replaced by Freddie E. Williams II on interiors. And I for one couldn't be happier. I'm sure that the "blogosphere" will revoke my membership card for this, but Acuna's art on this title was static and eye-aching, with a water-color pallete which did nothing for the character. Things may look more "conventional" here but they also look substantially more like a series entitled Flash. Waid's alien invasion arc wraps up here in the typical Not-Finished-But-Done-For-Now method, and then we get a visit from the Justice League. The first arc since Wally's return sort of just peters out to an end, but the interaction with the League and the discussion of Jai and Iris sorta make up for it; Waid knows how to write Wally and Linda, and makes it look effortless in the process. Should be interesting where the series heads from this point. The backup, with Doug "You have to look up my last name every time you type it" Braithwaite on pencils, is a fun little Jay Garrick story, featuring some aliens who look vaguely like Afghan Hounds, which is not something you see every day.

Annihilation: Conquest: Wraith #4 -- With 'The Kree With No Name' and his new allies facing down some pretty poor odds, it's a last ditch effort to destroy the Phalanx's secret weapon before they can enslave the remaining Kree en masse. But, no one told the Wraith that along the way he'd have to embrace his new destiny, as well as face the Accuser as well! Things have definitely taken a sort of epic-y turn here as the second "A:C" prologue bows. What has impressed me about both the first "Annihilation" and now this one has been the use of the cosmic tropes in new and different scenarios and situations; to wit, how we see Super-Skrull (who, let's face it, rocks) and Ronan in this issue is a twist on their usual roles and produces interesting results. Though nominally about Wraith, this series has focused almost as much on Ronan, who rose from Silver Age Era Baddie to Widescreen Space Hero last year -- his righteous fury at expelling the House Fiyero remains a personal favorite moment in the last decade of comicdom -- but then was knocked off that perch back in the Prologue. The journey of these two Kree is compelling, and hopefully will continue to be one of the themes in the main series.

JLA Classified #45 -- First off, hot damn does this cover by Walter Simonson kick ass. Rick Leonardi's interior pencils aren't quite up to that level, but man, the use of negative space and the copy just mesh so nicely with the bodywork on J'Onn that even if I wasn't already buying it, I would have picked it up. And honestly, it's not a bad pick up -- Martian Manhunter (woo!) must fight his friends because of the machinations of the ghost of his brother. There's a lot of punching and taunting and guest stars, but all in all I think it comes together pretty well considering. Of note is that MM wears his classic costume the entire time, and it looks fantastic. Fans of the Manhunter from Mars could do a lot worse than this tale, which wraps up in the next issue. Plus, classic Aquaman! And Black Manta (sort of)!

Superman #669 -- Kurt Busiek: World Builder! Kurt gets busy fleshing out some previously-untold history of Krypton in this, the middle of act of "The Third Kryptonian." It's a very typically Busiekian story, in that while it treads carefully and doesn't step on any continuity toes (that I'm aware of), it is told in a style which one could see having been used in the late 60s or early 70s in a DC title. Between the attention Johns seems to have been paying to it and now this, Krypton has taken on a fairly significant role in Big Blue's stories since the "OYL" jump, which is fine by me, in all honesty. Leonardi's linework is clean and easy to look at, with a splash page which is perfect for a Superman story. A chunky read which takes it's time developing, but is rewardingly in depth for a single issue. Overall a very enjoyable read and a good second installment of what is shaping up to be a superlative arc.

X-Men: Die By The Sword #2 -- Oh boy, what a mess. Now, don't get me wrong. Y'all know that I like Excalibur, and that I know my Captain Britain-Excal continuity pretty well, and that I'll go along with just about anything involving Crosstime or what have you. But this issue, after the promising start in the debut, is a muddled, hurried jumble, and so packed with nonsense that even a second reading doesn't help. Claremont indulges himself -- check it out, Dazzler reveals her thoughts about Longshot in about 5 panels worth of inner monologue -- and we gets lots of scenes of people talking without any real point or resolution. There's a ton of characters (mostly because of the Exiles cast), and a lot don't have all that much to do. The last page almost makes up for it -- but given that last page, and the preceeding ones, I get the feeling that DBTS was supposed to be 4 parts, and it got stretched out to 5, and this was the issue which took the brunt. I hate it when you really want to like something and you just can't.

Wonder Woman #13 -- A Kipling quote opens the issue, and is probably the most eloquent piece of writing I have seen in this title since it was launched, but that's alright. It is Kipling, after all. Anyway, this is essentially a catch-up issue before Simone takes over next month, as Torres and Lopez put together a tale which follows up on Cassie Sandsmark and her mother, and gives a little glimpse of the title post-"Amazons Attack!" The art remains too over the top cheesecake for my tastes, but I think I'm probably in the minority of that opinion for those who purchase the title, sadly. I want my Diana to look heroic and powerful, dammit! Get me George Perez on the phone! Not all that much really happens here, but it's not really bad either, so it's a hard call. On the plus side, it does feature WW punching a hydra. Casual fans can skip it, though Amazon Enthusiasts should check it out.

The Pick of the Pile is Superman, which is a superior effort from what rightfully is one of DC's flagship titles. My feelings are no doubt influenced by my own personal background, but it's stories like this which remind me why I like Superman in the first place.

So what did YOU read this week?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

DC announces the official Zuda launch, and names the first 10 contestants. Plus, we get the first winner. Sounds like some interesting stuff.

The last Zuda link, I swear, here's an interview with Love regarding Bayou.

Don't touch Mike Sterling's gold!

Chris Sims is actually a SKELETON!

rob! gets is straight from Tad's mouth. Err, uhm... not like THAT!

Frank shows us true horror.

Werewolf By Night story engine.

Finally, G. Kendall sez Get-Into-The-Groove! Amazingly, I don't think I actually ever bought any of the Toy Biz X-Force toys. Plenty of the X-Men and Iron Man ones though! I still have my Kylun and Havok kicking around, and I have a box full of Shellhead toys.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And Now, Your Moment of Zen

In honor of the closing of the latest volume of Aquaman...

What the... ?  ADVENTURE COMICS #266

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Looks Good?

Everybody! Everybody! Everybody get going to your Local Comic Shop and buy some new comics! It's your duty as a capitalist!

Flash #233 -- Is it me or does it seem like it's been a while since this last came out? Or maybe I am just impatient? Probably the latter, when the Flash is involved.

JLA Classified #45 -- Just what is going on with J'Jonn and his brother on Mars? Hopefully this should answer our questions. (Woo, Martian Manhunter!)

Superman #669 -- "The Third Kryptonian," a story in THREE parts, get it? Busiek may be a "safe" writer, but he knows his way around The Big Blue Boyscout, and he's got a pretty good handle on his supporting cast and the Batman as well.

Annihilation: Conquest: Wraith #4 -- After the finale to Nova a few weeks back, I'm very eager to see how this book, as well as Quasar and Star Lord, set things up for the main series. The "Kree With No Name" could be a big player on the cosmic scene going forward.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #6 -- If there's any doubt that I'd buy an Iron Man mag, putting the Space Armor in it pretty much removes all of it. Plus: Living Laser!

X-Men: Die By The Sword -- I can see how the meeting went for this. "Chris, we can't let your write Uncanny right now since we've got Brubaker and Carey doing a little crossover, BUT we can offer you this miniseries with lots of CrossTime and the OmniVerse and British stuff!" Not that I'm complaining, but it's pretty plain just what this mini actually is.

So what looks good to YOU?

Monday, October 22, 2007

What I Read This Week

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #57 -- The undersea voyage is over. Not even two years and 18 issues since the debut of "Artie Joe" (or as I call him, AJ), the journey for Aquaman has ended once again. I'm very bummed out by this, but taken on it's own merits, this issue was quite enjoyable -- Tad and Shawn were really firing on all cylinders. We learn AJ's true origin, we find out a little bit more about Issitoq, possibly see the birth of a new Aqua-baddie (Clowfish? Too cute!), and the first steps towards the creation of a hero. Sure, there's a lot of threads left hanging -- what the heck happened to Tempest, what was the Deep Church's plot, what is the secret of the Hatches -- but all those things are out there waiting to be explored. It's unclear if AJ (well, maybe I should just call him Joseph now?) will be showing up anywhere any time soon with the creative shakeup over on Outsiders, but I sincerely hope this is not the last swim for this classic hero, whatever form he is in. Unfortunately, this would become a trend this week...

New Excalibur #24 -- ... in this title right here. The final showdown between Albion and his Shadow Captains against Excalibur and the surviving members of Shadow-X delivers, albeit in slightly abbreviated form. But then things transition, with Juggernaut having some personal business to take care of (namely, going back to being a villain over in the mainline X-books), Sage being wanted by the feds and MI-13, and things generally concluding. That's right -- according to the last page thank you's, New Excalibur has also come to a close. Now, whether the title is going to be relaunched in a few months, I don't know. But this is just another in a line of Marvel books I have supported only to go belly-up within 2 years of inception, and ironically reminds me exactly of how both Alpha Flight V.2 and New Invaders were handled. All three series were updates on old concepts that made them viable for the present, all three were never advertised or supported, and all three suffered premature deaths. And it looks like next month you can throw Heroes For Hire V.2 on that pile as well. Is it any wonder that Marvel's non-cosmic titles are holding so little interest for me at the moment? Ah well, it's not all doom and gloom, though, because of the next title...

X-Men: Die By The Sword #1 -- ... which is hyped on the last page of New Excalibur, and picks up exactly where that issue left off. Betsy Braddock shows up alive and well on Earth-616, and Brian couldn't be happier to see his sister again. But Bad Stuff (TM) is brewing in the Omniverse, and it looks like Roma and her Corps are going to be in for a fight... and so is the combined might of Exaclibur and the Exlies! Is this continuity-heavy? Oh yes. Non-Claremont fans need not apply. But it's more than that, really, because you need to know at least some of your old school "Alan & Alan" Captain Britain as well (Mad Jim Jaspers! The Fury!). But damn if I didn't like it. The art is more pleasing to me than the cool-but-stilted look over in New Excalibur. These teams mesh up well together and have a lot of history (Longshot and Dazzler, Nocturne and Thunderbird, Cap and Psylocke), and it's obvious that Claremont has something big in mind for the "second teir" X-Books while the others are involved in "Messiah Complex." Exiles and Excal fans should definitely check this out. (I still want Claremont to explain just who the heck the Courtney Ross on Earth is at this point, especially since Saturnyne just showed up. My money is on it being a HoM thing, since she first popped up when Claremont did the tie in over in Uncanny, but you know he'd bust out Sat-Yr-9 just to screw with us.)

Wonder Woman Annual #1 -- Finally got around to reading this one (still have not had a chance to read #13), but considering how long we had to wait to read this final part of the initial storyarc, what's a few more weeks? Anyway, Wonder Woman does battle with her entire rogues gallery, then takes care of Circe and Hercules before heading back to Man's World to proclaim herself their defender once more, even if she's not entirely trusted yet. The showdown with Circe is inconclusive, but we know that, yes? The main draw of this feature story is the first half, wherein Heiberg (re-)introduces Diana's line of baddies, including some characters who haven't seen print in decades, such as Minister Blizzard (which is the most awesome cold-related villain name ever), and revamps of old characters, such as The Mask (who seems to fit in very well with some of the themes of this new volume). There's a large depth of villains here, with different origins and motivations, and it doesn't take a super-nerd to see the potentials for a lot of conflict with Wonder Woman and these foes. Hopefully, Gail Simone will pick up on that and we can see some of those. Failing that, I may have to pitch a story to DC about Minister Blizzard trying to freze Washington DC. Still not thrilled with how cheesecakey Diana looks, all boobs and butt, but the villains all looked quite cool, plus Donna is back in her classic costume so I cannot complain too loudly. We also get a backup which serves primarily to flesh out everyone's origins for new readers (seriously, it's called "Backstories"), so we get some history on Sarge Steel, Diana, Donna, Cassie, and Nemesis. If not for the wait, this issue would have been somewhat enjoyable to me, as a new WW reader, but my enthusiasm for it has declined from the delays and the forced tie-in. I am hoping that the series really hits its stride when Simone takes over, and builds on the ideas of this initial arc (plus the plot of #5, which is still my favorite issue of this series) and utilizes Diana's history to really make a solid run.

Terror, Inc. #3 -- As if to demonstrate that, yes, this is a MAX title, this issue features enough unsavory elements to impress even the most jaded Tarantino fan. We get discussions about sex rings and torture, a panel containing randomly exposed boobs (the best kind of boobs!), a guy getting drugged and then ripped apart by mechanical tentacles, a movie theater showing Dr. Strangelove exploding, more four-letter-words than the previous two issues combined, and Terror himself literally tearing a man to pieces and then stomping his head into mush. It's fun for the whole family! The over-the-top aspect of this has to be intentional at this point, and I'm cool with that -- Terror is an over the top character. He doesn't work in a normal, main-line title (his power involves him having to eviscerate his enemies), so why not embrace the absurdity and go all out? The story here (the parts which are not blood-soaked) are primarily expositionary, as we learn a bit about just who had it in for Terror and why they seek his mystical arm. The ending is somewhat predictable, but it's not too much of a problem. I liked it, but if you don't like grue and naughtiness then pass on it; Terror is nowhere near the level of a guy like The Punisher, so I expect that this series is all we're going to see of him for the forseeable future.

Transformers: Beast Wars: The Ascension #1-2 -- Transformers is hot right now -- unsurprisingly -- so for guys like me who actually got back into TF back when it wasn't fashionable to do so (in like, oh, 1992 or so), it's a mixed blessing. Yeah the exposure is way up, but now it's also extremely mainstream -- everyone seems to have some memory of how much they loved Jazz as a kid. But at least I still have BEAST WARS!!!, that awesome phase of the line which not only produced the best series in the history of the property (Count it!), but also a lot of really cool, creative toys as well. Plus, most "norms" know absolutely nothing about, so it remains safely ensconced inside my inpregnable nerd-hold. This series, a followup to IDW's Beast Wars: The Gathering mini from a while back, is in spots little more than an excuse to cram as many toy-only characters into 22 pages while giving Furman an excuse to play with time travel and paint personalities. It's not exactly top of the heap quality, but it's fun in an action-oriented sort of way, especially if you are already a BW-era fan like me. Speaking of which, if you don't know your extended BW stuff -- namely, BWII and BWNeo -- you're in truhhhh-ble. Still, playing name-the-character and trying to figure out where this is going is worth the money to this TF fanboy. My only real complaint is the complete lack of Sky Shadow! He should be a star, dammit!

So what did YOU read this week?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Chuck Dixon replaces Tony Bedard on Batman And The Outsiders before it even launches, adds Batgirl (bleah) and Green Freakin' Arrow (BLEAH!) to roster.

rob! shows off Aquaman going a little Mad!

Frank busts out a Silver Age Martian Manhunter tale which makes absolutely no sense. Of course, now I want to own it.

For your viewing pleasure, Rick brings you a couple of classic Marvel cartoons. I miss fun Marvel. I really do.

Dynamite's upcoming Superpowers looks very, very cool.

Hey, don't be dissing on Skid Row, G. Kendall! They rock! (Seriously, one of my favorite bands.)

Finally, check out this link to the Wonder Woman Museum to see how you can bid on original art to benefit Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There's some great stuff in there!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Characters I Like -- Wonder Man

As I said in the first one of these, there's a decent number of superheroing characters I like who the "general populace" of the online comics community tends to dislike. Some of this comes from when I started reading comics, true, but a good part of it comes from my personality and background, too. I think that is where my fondness comes from for one of the seemingly most-maligned Avengers ever, Simon Williams, AKA Wonder Man.

AVENGERS #9, Wonder Man's First Appearance
Wonder Man hit the scene very early on in Avengers history, being created, pounding on the Assemblers, and then sacrificing himself to save them all in the span of 22 pages of Avengers #9. Initially created as a one-shot baddie, this would be his only real appearance until about four years down the road, when his connection to the Vision (via copied brainwaves) and the Grim Reaper (via brotherhood) started to play big parts in the series under Roy Thomas. But even then, Simon was little more than a stiff on a slab with a viewing window -- a pawn to blackmail Vizh or bulletin board material for the Reaper to attack the Avengers again. He would pop in '75 as the mind controlled slave of Immortus, but the following year he would return proper, re-animated by Black Talon as a psuedo-zombie, then controlled by the Living Laser until finally, some twelve years after the fact, regaining himself and becoming an Avenger. Sort of. Actually, he wouldn't officially join the team until 1980. Simon would be a fairly regular member of the team, paling around with the Beast, until he moved out west with Hawkeye as a founder and stalwart member of the West Coast Avengers, getting his own fairly successful series, and then Force Works in 1994, before he died. Again.

Wonder Man would make his comeback in the "Heroes Return" relaunch of Avengers, going all ionic in the process and once more serving on the team. Since then, he's been primarily seen in that title, although he pops up from place to place occassionally. Once Brian Micheal Bendis took over the Avengers' reins, Wondy has returned to a place of some minor prominence, and now has a pretty high profile in the post-CW Marvel Universe.

Simon has a rather unfortunate history when it comes to wardrobe. Starting with his classic red and greens, he cycled through a few questionable looks -- including the infamous safari jacket, and the Wacko-exclusive suit with the jetpack -- before settling on his current red and black look. Unless you read Mighty Avengers, of course. Personally, I like the original look, and the red and black uniforms. But as bizarre as some of these looks are, they seem to fit the slightly buffoonish Simon, and have become something of a running joke for the character (or at least, they used to be).

I was introduced to Wonder Man in Avengers v.3 when Busiek and Perez brought him back from the dead for the second time. From that intro, I don't think it is hard to like him. With his crazy ionic-energy look and powers, he was interesting from an action standpoint. But his connection to Scarlet witch interested me too. He obviosuly cared for her, but he wasn't pushy or a jerk about it, but it still brought him into conflict with Vision. Longtime readers bemoaned that it was the same-old triangle again, but when I started reading Avengers Simon was already dead, so this was fresh and cool to me. Later that year, when Wanda was able to bring Simon fully back to life, there's a great scene between Simon and Vizh, which nailed the character for me. His boundless enthusiasm and affection for his mechanical "brother" speaks to the heart of Wonder Man as a character, man who doesn't always make the best decisions but who always tries to do what is right, and is loyal to those he cares about. (There's also a great bit in #14 where the Beast discovers his old friend is alive.)

As of late, Simon has been popping up in big events like House of M and Civil War, as well as regular spots in Ms. Marvel and Mighty Avengers. I don't like Bendis' work in general, but one thing I do like is that he seems to share a similiar appreciation for Wonder Man. So it looks like the ionic powerhouse is, for the time being, here to stay.

This is Wonder Man, and he is a character I like.

(BIG props to Wonder Man: Cooler Than Superman, far and away the best Wonder Man site out there.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From The Awesome Files

I'm sorry, but this image from Bongo's Futurama Comics #33 cracked me up. I love any parody of "The Night Hawks," but this is too great.

Now if I could just find an image of that Cartoon Netwoork ad with the 2 Stupid Dogs and Johnny Bravo in this pose...

What Looks Good?

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #57 -- Let us hold a moment of silence for the death -- once again -- of Aquaman's solo series. Like Ookla the Mok told us in song form, "[His] comic book's been cancelled more than Dr. Fate!"

New Excalibur #24 -- The payoff to the "Battle For Eternity" storyline, which has been a solid world-bender, with plenty of action, heart, pathos, and intrigue in the Mighty Marvel Manner. Yes, I'm talking about New Excalibur. Yes, I'm serious.

Terror, Inc. #3 -- As I have read the first two issues of this MAX title, I thought to myself, 'Man, I would so like to see a Terror, Inc. ongoing.' But then I think 'Of course, I'm the only one who would like to see that.'

Transformers: Beast Wars: The Ascending #2 -- Man, I dig me some BEAST WARS!!! Then again, since my shop got shorted on #1, this may be a little hard to get into. Hopefully the reorder will be in!

What looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Discount Bin Finds

Weird Science #13/2

The kids these days, they don't know how good they got it.

As anyone reading this probably knows, back in the days of Newsstand distribution, there was a postage fee involved for publishers putting out a new #1 -- obviously, Marvel and DC as we know it would never be able to function in such an environment. But publishers at the time took this in stride, including Bill Gaines over at EC. See, Weird Science was one of the many horror, crime, and science fiction format mags which EC was starting to put out to an eager audience of boys in the early 1950s. Before transitioning into aliens and mad scientists, this series was known for it's first eleven issues as Saddle Romances (I think there is something to be said that WS replaced not just a Western book, but a Western Romance book). Well anyone expecting prarie love and heartache was in for a big shock with #12, and it continued in the next installment, which is what we are looking at today.

Now, obviously, I didn't find an original copy of Weird Science #13/2 in a discount bin. But my brother did happen to find a Russ Cochran/Gemstone reprint copy while at a comic book show, and he was kind enough to give it to me. I'm a big fan of the "Big Three" EC horror books -- Tales From The Crypt, The Haunt of Fear and personal favorite Vault of Horror -- but I unfortunately had never read much of their "weird" books, which also included Weird Fantasy. I like science fiction almost as much as I like horror, so I was eager to check out this blast from the past.

Like any good EC title, this is an anthology, with four main features, plus a pair of single-page text pieces to keep us entertained. Each is lettered in the classic EC all-caps block style, which, combined with the "house style" of the art (from the EC mainstays) and Al Feldstein's unstoppable brain, makes for a unique comic experience.

The first feature is titled, straight-forwardly enough, "The Flying Saucer Invasion," which is written and drawn by Feldstein. People all over the country start to see UFOs in the sky, and, like all good Americans, report them to the government. A federal investigator is called in to quell the "UFO panic," and using deductive reasoning, is able to dismiss the "wild" claims of the gullible dupes who have bought into this UFO stuff. So once can imagine the egg on his face a government space observation station spots a giant fleet of saucers heading straight for the unarmed and unprepared Earth! Read enough EC comic books and you will quickly get familiar with this type of character archetype: The Smug Smart Guy. Too smart for their own good, they inevitably "prove" something to be untrue, only to have that untruth come back to bite them where it hurts.

Next up is "The Meteor Monster," which reminds me of a mix between The Thing From Another World and The Beast With A Million Eyes. A small alien crashlands on Earth, and quickly dominates the mind of any human whom it looks in the eyes. Quickly taking over the entire town, our astro-fiend has designs to control the entire planet, but they don't really stick when the town's one blind guy manages to break everyone free from his control -- unleashing their righteous anger in the process. Needless to say there is a little nest of the aliens hiding out that the humans don't notice, but you knew that, right? Alliterative artists Wally Wood and Harry Harrison (who would later go on to pen the inspiration for Soylent Green) team up for this quirky little story.

The next installment is our first text peice, ominously entitled "The Experiment." Like most of these quickie stories from the period, it's not very good, but it's not entirely unreadable like some, either. Considering that a lot of these were done to get the content count up for postage purposes, it's usually a roll of the dice anyway. Essentially, scientists trying to observe the heavens end up sending the entire universe out of whack (as scientists will do).

Our third feature is entitled "The Micro Race," and if this Feldstein and Jack Kamen effort was not the inspiration for the classic Simpsons bit "The Genesis Tub," I'd be really surprised. A scientist (using RADIOACTIVITY!) creates a microscopic race of organisms who live at an accelerated rate in order to study the history of humanity. Needless to say, the tiny race is much more humanlike than the scientist initially predicts, and they begin not only to settle their internal conflicts violently, but also to aggressively defend their very existance against "higher powers." A story like this seems quaint now, but in 1950, this was pushing it. It's a familiar theme but a nice riff on it.

The second and last text story, "Sands of Time," is better than the first one. Dealing with a strange kind of sand which began in a farmer's yard in South Carolina, the silicate substance spreads to cover the entire East Coast. Told as a series of AP articles, everything is presented very matter-of-factly, with no embellishment or explanation beyond the facts. Pretty interesting considering the brevity, really.

Finally, the fourth feature, "The Man Who Raced Time," drawn by none other than Harvey Kurtzman (of Mad fame), stars a somewhat-mad scientist of the "Fools! I'll destroy them all!" school. Repeatedly spurned by the pretty young professor he lusts after, he uses his experimental machine on himself, speeding him up faster than the eye can see. This allows him to causes all sorts of trouble in a (failing) effort to win his lady love's affections. But when the gal decides to marry her handsome suiter, the scientist's attempts at engineered vehicular manslaughter go all sorts of wrong. The simple moral here -- chasing pretty girls will inevitably be the death of you -- is pretty universal. Seriously though, I really liked the ending to this one, which is pretty immediate in it's impact and also touches on the Smug Smart Guy archetype a bit too.

All in all, you get 31 pages of weird fun, a pretty good return on investment considering that this reprint cost $1.50 when it was published, and only put my brother back a buck or so. That's the value of anthology titles right there. None of the stories are really outstanding, but they make for diverting reading and are short enough that you can read one without getting too involved. The art is strong throughout, with the four artists each unique but thematically tied together. Of course, we all know what would befall EC a few years after this was initially published, but that doesn't mean we can't all enjoy the fruits of their labors some 50 years after the fact. With RC and Gemstone reprinting various EC titles in the early-to-mid 90s, plus the new hardcovers in stores now, it's a good time to go on a little hunt for something just to the left of center. And while the "glory days" of EC might have been short-lived, it makes me happy to know that we can still re-live them today to our strange little hearts' content.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I Read This Week

JLA Classified #44 -- You ever read a comic book, and, as you're reading it, you are saying to yourself 'Is this a retcon? Because that didn't happen that way... at least I don't think so,' and as you continue to read it, you get more annoyed because the writer "screwed everything up" and all of the references are wrong, but then you get to the end and there's a reason why everything is out of whack? Yeah, that's this mag right here. Featuring a cameo from the Detroit Justice League!

Graveslinger #1 -- The Old West was a strange place, with a mix of world-shaping technologies and just enough mystery left to make one cross themselves before passing a graveyard. So seeing Frank Timmons hunt down the escapees of Gila Flats prison across the desert is not unusual, and maybe, just maybe, it's not too unusual to realize that the men he hunts down have already been executed. Denton and Mariotte's newest spin on the "Weird Western" is an enjoyably low-key read -- something akin to Louis L'Amour mixed with Dean Koontz -- and John Cboins linework is just quirky enough to fit right in. Worth checking out if you like the genre.

Superman #668 -- Yeah, I know, another fill-in/content change from DC. But you know what? At least this time Busiek and company spell it out on the splash page, and, get this, apologize for it. So quitcher cryin' and just enjoy the first part of "The Third Kryptonian." I know I did! Between the interaction of Superman and Chris, Superman and Batman, and Robin and Chris, to the mysterious presence of Kryptonian molecules to the looming alien threat, this is a fun superheroing tale, with nary a trace of angst in sight... just the way I like Big Blue.

Nova #7 -- Annihilation: Conquest can't get here soon enough! It's like the antidote to the rest of the Marvel line. So it's no surprise that this series -- born of the first Annihilation -- is so enjoyable. Here, it's an internal battle as Richard Rider tries to escape the programming the Phalanx have subjected him to. The finale pretty neatly answers my question about what this title would be doing during A:C proper (and is a riff on a direction taken by the old Silver Surfer series about a decade ago). The Human Rocket keeps on shining.

Heroes for Hire #14 -- The Planet Hulk tie-in continues, and honestly has worn out it's welcome. It's hard to fault a tie-in to a one note "event" for being one note, but that's the problem here. Humbug is still all messed up, Col and Chula are in trouble, and the rest of the team is trying to figure out some way to save their friends, if not stop the invasion. It's still solid reading, but the for the love of Hashut let's move on, alright? Either that or bring in Devil Dinosaur again. This may or may not be the second to last issue of the title -- Marvel's certainly not telling us!

X-Men: Die By The Sword #1 -- Sure enough, this shipped before New Excalibur #24, and thus, I have not read it. I will say this, however -- the cover is sweet.

Star Trek Aliens Spotlight: Gorn -- Ahh the Gorn. Long my favorite of the Star Trek aliens, they get little to no attention from the show's lore. Why, I have no idea. But this one-shot is a step in the right direction, as we get to see them in a context besides trying to kill Captain Kirk. Of course, that's not totally absent, as it seems that "Arena" is in fact one of the defining moments for the entire race. Coincidence? Metatextual commentary? I'm not sure. What we have here is a nice enough story about Captain Terrell from Wrath of Khan and Chekov, along with some redshirts, getting stranded on a Gorn world. Overall, I liked it, but I had the same complaint I have with all IDW Trek stories -- 22 pages is good for adapting a half an hour show, not an hour show. Would have been much improved to be double-sized.

The Pick of the Pile is Superman, which holds off a very strong effort from Nova. Chalk it up to Busiek starting a new story as opposed to DnA wrapping one up.

So what did you read this week?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

From The Awesome Files -- Iron Man Trailer

A little busy today, so no, you know, actual content. But I bring you the awesome trailer to Iron Man instead! Woo, Shellhead!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Woo, Martian Manhunter!

Need more of Everyone's Favorite Martian? Nah, not Marvin (he sold out!), I'm talking about J'Onn J'Onzz! Check out a blog I stumbled across yesterday by a guy who knows a heck of a lot more abotu the Martian Manhunter than I do:


What Looks Good?

Like clockwork, each week your local comic book shop gets all sorts of goodies. Except when they don't -- make sure to check whether your shop got their shipments on Wednesday this week due to the Columbus Day holiday before heading out. Moving on...

Booster Gold #3 -- Old fashioned fun for folks my age. Booster Gold is like every one of us if we got superpowers.

Friday the 13th: What I Did on My Summer Vacation #2 -- Weird stuff going down at Camp Blood? Who'd have thunk?

JLA Classified #44 -- All Martian Manhunter, All The Time!

Superman #668 -- We're moving straight into "The Third Kryptonian," leaving the climax of "Camelot Falls" for the Annual... I'm annoyed but psyched at the same time.

Wonder Woman #13 -- WARNING: Not featuring Gail Simone. I "wonder" what this fill-in will entail.

Graveslinger #1 -- It's like Brimstone meets Briscoe County, Jr., so let's hope it lasts longer than either of those.

Heroes For Hire #14 -- Is World War Hulk still going on? I wish it would just finish already and leave this spiffy title alone.

Nova #7 -- Now, Annihilation: Conquest? Come on in and make yourself comfortable!

X-Men: Die By The Sword #1 -- Not really sure how this can come out before New Excalibur #24, but if it does, it'll go onto a "Waiting" pile.

EC Archives: Vault of Horror -- So... tempted... want... EC... *drool*

Southern Fried Comix #1 -- I have no idea what this is, or if I will find it, but that title is awesome.

Star Trek Aliens Spotlight: Gorn -- The single greatest race in the Trek universe finally gets some love.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Serious Interlude: 4 Color Charity

I know I have mentioned this a few times here, but today I want to call your attention to the just-finished "Invisible Children" arc in The Phantom, published by Moonstone. Now, normally, a story about The Ghost Who Walks bringing a cruel jungle warlord to justice is more than enough to get me excited. But this is something much more than just a 4 Color slugfest.

The country of Uganda has seen more than it's fair share of hardship and tragedy over the past few decades. Included in that is the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an insurgent group opposed to the government whose tactics include kidnapping and brainwashing children to become soldiers to their cause. War sucks no matter how you approach it, but the forced enlistment of children -- taking their childhood and replacing it with terror and murder -- sickens me.

And what sickens me more is that I didn't even really know about it.

Yeah, I think I was vaguely aware of the idea of the "child soldiers" fighting in the more unstable parts of Africa. But I never gave it any thought because, let's face it, me and everyone I love are a long way away from there, and I lead a comfortable life filled with convenience and privledge. It's terrible, but the challenges of day-to-day life encapsulates the vast majority of us in our own little world, with our own little sphere which we exist in. Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to think about the rest of the world. And sometimes, all it takes is a little whisper in your ear.

A few months back, I was reading The Phantom #16, a done-in-one story about a young woman who's father was befriended by the Phantom many years earlier who is now doing missionary work in Africa. It is through her that we are introduced to the tyrant Him, who believes himself to be a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, and who carries out a campaign of terror against all of the villages in his reach, kidnapping and enslaving the children. Needless to say, The Ghost Who Walks is not amused by this sort of behavior. So, upon reading it, I thought to myself that this was a great setup for a storyline, and that it would be fun to read. I went online to find out some info about #17, when I found a few interviews and articles, including this one, and then things changed.

The long and short of it: For every "B" cover purchased of The Phantom #17-19, Moonstone is going to make a donation to Invisivle Children, a group dedicated to improving the quality of life for children in war torn areas in Africa through education and economic opportunity. This is a grassroots, on-the-ground type of organization; they seem pretty up and up from what I have read about them.

So go to your local comics retailer and see if they have any of these issues in stock. If not, ask them to order it for you, and ask for the "B" cover like I did. Not only will you get a two-fisted jungle adventure story, but you'll get the chance to say that you did a little bit to help, which is more than most can attest to.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What I Read This Week

JLA Classified #43 -- Our favorite Martian flashes back to the formation of the Justice League as well as a quieter moment with Green Arrow before the purpose of this arc -- other than getting Martian Manhunter fans like me to purchase it -- is revealed. Pretty neat little side JLA story.

Iron Man #22 -- The Graviton mystery deepens as Tony Stark continues to be haunted by spectral images of those he has let down. We also see some interesting nuts-and-bolts details of the workings of The Initiative, and Mandarin schemes schemingly. Solid issue with a nice twist at the close.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin #2 -- Iron Man faces the might of the Mandarin, and finds his technlogy no match for his foe's mix of martial arts and alien artifice. Add another Tales of Suspense era baddie and some classic Tony-Happy interaction into the mix and you have a nice throwback Iron Man yarn.

The Phantom #19 -- The Ghost Who Walks enacts his final justice on the "divine" warlord named Him, freeing the jungle from his tyranny. This entire arc (along with the prologue back in #16) has been really a standout piece of work, and a good showcase not only of the talent on the title but the method of showcasing as real world problem in the 4 Color format.

Futurama Comics #33 -- When Amy Wong starts to get too big for her britches -- literally -- can Kif come to grips with his gigantic girlfriend? Containing one of the greatest sight gags ever to involve the painting The Nighthawks, fans of the show can't go wrong here.

Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes #34 -- On Lallor, the team of Timber Wolf, Atom Girl, and Shadow Lass wind up smack dab in the middle of a civil war, and must try to stave off an assassination attempt by E.R.G.-1 -- AKA the one time Legionraire Wildfire. Continues Bedard's set of mini-arcs, this is an action story with an engaging villain -- mostly because Wildfire really is a hero. Anyway, pretty cool.

Annihilation: Conquest: Star Lord #3 -- Down two members, Star Lord's crew is running out of time to take out their target. And this are only getting worse on Hala. The situation the team ends up in at the end is pretty dire, but I think we knew that going in, yes? The old school Avengers mark in me is in love with how Mantis is portrayed.

Captain America: The Chosen #2 -- The fighting continues in Afghanistan, while Captain America is laid up in a medical facility. What is the connection? Primarily a war story from Morrell, with a little Cap here and there, but it's interesting nonetheless.

The Pick of the Pile is Enter The Mandarin. Canete's linework is pleasingly retro with a sort of art deco filter, and Casey's handling of the characters makes this Iron Fan smile. Definitely a good read and a good pick up.

So what did you read this week?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fair Trade -- Superman: The Wedding And Beyond

Superman: The Wedding And Beyond
Sometimes, things just converge.

Now, two weeks ago my wife and I were still just engaged. We were dealing with our respective familes and trying to get everything in order for the wedding on the 22nd. Needless to say it was hectic and we had entirely too many people staying at our house and at a hotel literally half a mile up the road.

On the 22nd, my groomsmen and I got to the wedding site at around 1 in the afternoon to do some decorating and set up some chairs. Obviously my bride was sequestered away in her bride's room doing bridal things. But around 2:00, the photographer let me know that they were going to be taking pictures with the bridal party, and thus me and my gang had to make ourselves scarce for about an hour. So, like any good nerds would do, we went to a comic book store wearing our tuxedos.

Planet Comics is in Anderson, SC, which is about an hour from where I live. I used to frequent this shop about every two weeks or so back when I was in college, since it's only about a 20 minute drive from Clemson University. There's a good sized, full service comic shop who also carries a pretty large chunk of gaming and anime stock as well. And one thing which they have had for a while now is clearance bins for stuff which they just cannot move, including plenty of trade paperbacks. So I was perusing the titles, flipping through X-books I could neither identify nor comprehend, and indy press books which I had never heard of, and what do I find but this little gem, nestled snugly between a Batman "War Games" trade and a volume of Sojourn.

A Superman trade covering Lois and Clark's wedding and honeymoon, found in the clearance bin by me on my wedding day? Like I said, sometimes things just converge. Even my wife was amused by this coincidence.

An added bonus is that this story takes place squarely in a period of Super-history which I am familiar with. I read the four Superman titles at this time, but had to sell them off a few years back primarily for space concerns: reading one monthly for a year in the early 90's produced 12 or 13 issues (assuming an annual); reading four monthlies and a quaterly which functioned as a weekly produced 52. But having read these before, I knew some of the details which were not covered in the trade, including who some of supporting cast were, why Superman is powerless, and why Lois and Clark were fighting and estranged at the beginning. These are not minor quibbles, though, for a reader who is not familiar with this period, so I guess that's a bad mark there.

The stories themselves are pretty solid 90's fare, with each issue more-or-less telling it's own story but still adding to the overall direction (something the "Diamond Number" era Superbooks did quite well, generally). Starting off with Lois tracking down a story in subcontinental Asia, things segue quickly into a reconcilitation between our favorite couple, and a whirlwind wedding. The second issue collected is the Superman: The Wedding Album, a giant-sized special featuring no fewer than sixteen different artists from various periods in Superman's history, ranging from Curt Swan to Nick Cardy to Gil Kane to Dan Jurgens. It can be a little jarring to go from one artist to the other in the span of a few pages, but it's great fun trying to identify each new penciller. Following the (admittedly epic) wedding, it's off to Hawaii for the honeymoon, only to become embroiled in a little more adventure (and have a visit from Superboy in the process). It's a light read, with a lot of action but a good deal of heart, something which I think DC usually has a good balance with. Interesting to consider is that the issues contained herein (Superman #118, Wedding Album, Adventures of Superman #541, Action Comics #728, and Superman: MOS #63) represented one month of mainline Superman comics. To have this much happen nowadays you'd need 10 months, a few fill-ins, and an Annual.

It's hard for me to recommend this trade to a general readership: there's too much continuity to make much sense of some aspects, and the stories are just adventures, not the Internet-shattering, navel-gazing type of opus modern readers seem to enjoy. But I think DC fans will eat it up if they have a cursory knowledge of the era, and the nuptials of DC's oldest couple are certainly "Big Time" enough to warrant checking out. Superfans will definitely enjoy The Wedding Album for the bevy of artists and the Superboy appearance, and I think they will get a kick out of "Lois Lane, Black Ops Commando" -- I know I did.

So for your 4 Color fans about to tie the knot (or done so recently), see if you can find this volume at your local comic shop. It's a fun little diversion which can help keep you sane before the big day, and give you something to think about afterwards. Superman is someone you look up to, a role model, and if he can handle marriage, by gum, so can I.