Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4 Color Cinema

Iron Man

In today's market, where the superhero has been thoroughly accepted by the masses as a great form of popcorn-munching entertainment, it's become not uncommon -- heck, almost commonplace -- for comic book fans to routinely be able to see the big screen adventures of their favorite 4 Color heroes. Even relatively minor characters like Blade (whose first film, I think, started this whole trend in the first place), Ghost Rider and Elektra have gotten in on the act, albeit not always with glowing success. But, in general, the output of the last decade or so of superhero films has been enjoyable, ranging from diverting entertainment to top-shelf blockbuster. So, when Marvel officially announced production of Iron Man, with an honest-to-God director and script, I was very happy. After all, it was my turn to see my favorite hero on the big screen.

After seeing the result, all I can say is that I should have been even more excited. By all that's holy in the realm of comics, this movie is excellent.

Now, admittedly, I am a little biased, being a dyed-in-the-wool Iron Fan. And admittedly, I was giddy just at the notion of seeing the film last night. But now, a little bit removed, I can sit down and objectively state that Iron Man is one of the best superhero films ever made, right up there with Superman: The Movie, Batman (1989), and X-Men 2 as shining examples of the superhero genre.

Before I go further, I should note that this review will contain minor SPOILERS. Nothing huge, but some general stuff, so you have been forewarned.

The film opens with Tony Stark in Afghanistan for a weapons demonstration, showing off his massively powerful Jericho missile system. Afterwards, his caravan is ambushed, and Tony finds himself a prisoner of an armed insurgent group, trapped in a cave with fellow prisoner Yinsen, who has saved Tony's life jury-rigging a magnet to keep pieces of shrapnel away from his heart. After the warlord demands that Stark build him a Jericho missile, Stark and Yinsen instead build a massive suit of armor, powerful enough to overcome their captors.

Tony eventually makes it back to the States, where having seen the results of his company's weapons, immediately announces that Stark Industries will no longer be in the munitions business. This seriously wrinkles his confidant, Obadiah Stane, a partner of Stark's late father, who manages the day-to-day operations of the company. Meanwhile, Stark, on a forced leave, tinkers in his garage with the armor, improving and expanding it, until he has a fully functional suit, making him capable of going into the world and doing some good for the benefit of all mankind. But such lofty goals never come easily.

One thing which strikes me about the film is it's maturity. The issues that are addressed -- mainly the socio-economic war machine (not War Machine) which profits from the continued existance of violence -- is a step of complexity above "Crime is bad" or "I'm Jesus from space." It's tackled in a pretty fair way, at that; Tony admonishes a reporter by asking her if she ever thought about the major advances in medical and agricultural technology brought about by military funding, but acknowledges that making the world safe is not the same as necessarily producing bigger and better guns. It's a central theme to the character of Iron Man, going back to the early 70s, and one which is brilliantly presented herein.

Helping that presentation is the delivery, and Robert Downey, Jr. owns the role of Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist playboy. He cracks wise, seems to always have a drink in his hand, and seduces women without even really trying (there's a scene on his private jet with Rhodey and some stewardesses which draws equal parts comedy and envy from the male audience). But beneath this grinning, unbuttoned-Armani skin is a conflicted man, one who has had his eyes opened to a painful reality in no small part of his own creation. There is a layered subtlety to Tony Stark which befits the complex nature of his character over the decades of his existance, and Downey delivers the goods.

The rest of the cast acquits themselves nicely as well. As Pepper Potts, I went in with doubts regarding Gweneth Paltrow: too tall, too pretty, too willowy to play the red-haired spitfire. But here I was proved dead wrong, as she brings a "gal Friday" attitude I have never seen from her before the role, really making Tony and Pepper's relationship seem believable. Similarly, Terence Howard's soft spoken Col. James Rhodes is equal parts Tony's conscience and best friend, and instantly credible. There's a scene with the two of them after Tony escapes the cave which nearly had me in tears, such was the strength of the fraternal bond between these men. And in a total throwaway role, director Jon Favreau plays a great Happy Hogan, scowling constantly, but with a familiar banter with Tony that rings true.

Jeff Bridges, nearly unrecognizable at first with his bald head and thick beard, is a different type of baddie than we typically get in such fare: smiling, charming, and slippery, he is not a cackling megalomaniac, but a calculating board room snake, lying right to Tony's face as he smiles at him and offers him a slice of pizza pie from New York. Bubbling beneath the surface is a boiling rage, but it is tempered by his intelligence and patience. And when he puts on his "power suit," he becomes a vision of pure mechanical terror, being equally CGI but utterly more realistic than the Decepticons in last year's Transformers. There's also a couple of little gags involving Stane's love of games and puzzles, a nice nod to the fanboys.

The effects which bring Shellhead and his world to life are breathtaking in their clarity. The armor, a mix of CGI and practical effects, has presence and mass, dominating the screen. But beyond the obvious, even the smaller touches like Stark's operating system and HOMER-esque rapid prototyping program are wonderfully designed, functional without sacrificing the needed sci-fi edge. And I am so happy to see, for once, a technical minded person in a Hollywood movie not using a Mac!

From top to bottom, Iron Man succeeds on all levels. It's exciting, it's funny, it's heart-rending, and even a little heart-warming. The star is magnetic, the action is compelling, and the effects are eye popping. What more could one ask from a superhero movie? Do yourself a favor and see this one. Even if you don't like Iron Man, you'll be glad you did.

What Looks Good?

Just because there are free comics coming out this weekend doesn't mean you can't spend actual money on new comics today!

DC Universe #0 -- DC has not really steered me wrong with their cheap, blanket-marketting comics yet, and this one sounds really good anyway.

Avengers: The Initiative #12 -- I'll admit, I'm a sucker for seeing Tony and Rhodey together.

Caliber #1 -- It's Arthurian Legend in the Old West! That's genius! Also, only a buck!

Glamourpuss #1 -- I'm usually willing to give Dave Sim a chance, and this weird mix of comics and fashion sounds too weird to overlook.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What I Got This Week, Continued

As you recall, yesterday I was talking about the swag my father picked up for me at NYCC, and I mentioned an ultimate prize. Well, imagine my surprise when what should appear on my doorstep last night but a box from my father, containing even more swag from the con!

Nothing too crazy here, but fun stuff nonetheless: A Skrull mask (which unfortunately I don't think I can wear to work), a Zuda minicomic sampler, catalogs from Amok Time and Gentle Giant, lots of free comics (including a few early FCBD samples), and the very cool NYCC Show Guide Book. ALl in a ll, some really nice souviners of a show I did not attend.

But now we have reached the ultimate score. Now, I am not one known for having lots of strings to pull, or networking connections, or the like. But on Friday afternoon, while I was in Fort Lauderdale, I got a call on my cell phone. From my comic book shop, Borderlands. Confused, I answered the phone to find Stan, the very cool owner of the very cool shop. He apologized for bothering me and said that he was only calling because he wouldn't see me until Wednesday, and that he had something for me which was time-sensitive.

Seems the shop had scored some passes to an exclusive advance screening of Iron Man, and since I am the biggest Iron Fan in his clientele, wanted to know if I was interested. Was I interested?! Holy crap! Needless to say I told him I was, and I popped into the sotre yesterday to pick up the pass. And the reason why this post is so late is because my wife and I just got back not too long ago from the screening.

That's right, your humble host scored tix to see the 4 Color Cinema event he has been waiting on for most of his life before it was released.

The film is, in a word, awesome. I'll have more on that later. But this has been a perfect storm week of Iron Fandom. And between the swag and the score, everything's come up roses right now in the Bunker. You'll have to excuse me if I am a little too excited at the moment, so let me sign off.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What I Got This Week!

True to my word, I did not end up buying any comics last week. But the fact that my pullbox was empty, coupled with being several hundred miles away from home, did NOT stop me from the natural inclination of man: to obtain stuff!

In this case, I managed to snag the swag my father and brother had picked up for my at NYCC. The pair was helping out over at the Blindwolf Studios table, and thus got access to all sorts of goodies. So when I met up with my father in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, he had dutifully transported the bag (of swag) for me.

Up first is this awesome mini one sheet for Iron Man. This is definitely going on the wall somewhere in my house. That is, once my wife decides where it "matches the decor," which I am betting may be the room which contains a bookshelf full of Iron Man toys. Just a hunch.

Second, this insanely cool Shellhead bust! I remain a big fan of the Bowen mini-busts, so adding this NYCC Exclusive is a major pick-up for me. The "horned" armor so rarely gets any love, so to see it in all this cold-cast glory was really sweet.

And that's not all! I also got a shirt from FearNet, as my father managed to win one of their contests and get a pile of merch. Anything featuring an evil clown is probably scary enough to wear to a comic con, so this works out nicely.

But wait... there's more! Tune in tomorrow for what may be the ultimate piece of swag I have ever scored. All I can say is that deals with a certain piece of 4 Color Cinema I have waited my whole life to see, and that I may have to wait... somewhat less than expected? Stay tuned, True Believers!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Looks Good?

As inevitable as the changing tides, Wednesdays always bring delight and joy to the unwashed masses of nerd-dom.

X-O Manowar: Birth HC -- You couldn't make a series like this nowadays. Time travelling barbarians wearing high-tech suits of alien armor are so passe.

Wow... I can't recall a week where there wasn't a single comic coming out that I intended to purchase. But, I guess it works out well, since I am leaving town tomorrow! I am travelling to sunny Florida for my cousin's wedding. I'd say that I'd be back on Monday with a recap of what I read, but looks like I won't be reading any weeklies! So I hope everyone has a good weekend and I'll see you back here next week!

And of course... what looks good to YOU?

Monday, April 21, 2008

What I Read This Week

Iron Man #28 -- The finale to the ongoing Mandarin story which has been brewing pretty much since Tony took over SHIELD, the Knaufs De La Torre deliver the goods in all the double-sized goodness the story demands. We see Tony on trial at the UN, the return of a beloved old armor, and the (final?) showdown between Western Technology and Eastern Mythology. If you haven't caught on by now, let me repeat: this title is simply amazing.

Batman And The Outsiders #6 -- Dixon keeps the pedal to the metal as the Outsiders move directly from their failed mission last time to trying to hijack a rocket of their own! The only problem? That would be the fact that the rocket in question is deep in Mongolia. One thing which I am really enjoying about this series is how Dixon is portraying each character -- everyone's voice is distinct and viable, from Geo-Force's slightly dim arrogance to Green Arrow's overconfidence to Grace's cynicism. It also helps that Batman's role in this series is not entirely different from his role in the old title: the taskmaster and general, directing his troops like a chessmaster. Rodriguez's art is a great fit for the action heavy crew, a mix of frentic dynamism and solid storytelling. This is not the most high profile title DC publishes, but I do very much look forward to it each month.

Iron Man: Legacy Of Doom #1 -- The dream-team working on this miniseries alone would be enough for most fans to pick it up, but the set-up is priceless as well: Doctor Doom summons Iron Man to help him storm Hell itself! Only things don't go so well for our hero, as the inevitable double-cross leaves him between a rock and a hot place. Way-cool retro action from Bob&Dave, with Ron Lim ably handling the pencils. As a final chapter to the Iron Man-Doctor. Doom trilogy, so far this is shaping up quite nicely. Bonus for Iron Fans: A variant version of the classic Space Armor, this time sporting a solid fuel rocket!

Flash #239 -- Flash must fight a public relations battle as Spin steps up his efforts to turn the good people of Central City against their hero. I like where Peyer is mining here; taking shots at fear-mongering "news entertainment," while addressing some questions we'd all probably be asking if we lived in Central City ourselves. I do have to wonder, though, is Wally simply in denial, or did some things not happen the way I remember them? Still, another good issue with a twist on the classic Flash-motif. I liked the cameo from Red Arrow, but I feel bad for him at the same time.

Annihilation Conquest #6 -- Or, the spit really hits the fan. As Ronan the Accuser prepares to rain death upon his homeworld up in the orbit around Hala, down on the planet, it's a desperate fight with Star Lord, Bug, Rocket Racoon, Adam Warlock, and Quasar (plus a few surprises) against the unending legions of Ultron. Everything just gels here, from the return of a few heroes who have been absent to the final showdown and quiet epilogue; this is grand space opera in the best sense. It's been a heck of a ride once again, and with Guardians of the Galaxy continuing it, it looks like the trend will continue for the time being.

Superman #675 -- Kurt Busiek's final outing on the title isn't exactly subtle, as Big Blue and power-siphoning baddie Paragon have to fight a trio of fanatical Daxamites clerics who want to capture the heretic Lar Gand. It's big and bombastic, as I imagine you pretty much have to be when you have a golem made of outer space show up. A bit too long, but otherwise a fine and fun story, which also acts as a nice capstone for Busiek's run, as he ties it back to the "growing darkness" predicted by Arion all those months ago. Super-Fans could do a lot worse than this one, and Robinson's upcoming run (coinciding with Johns' work on Action) looks like it's going to be quite cool as well, even if budgetary reasons are forcing me to drop the series.

Captain Action #0 -- When your world is being invaded from within by microscopic, mind-controlling alien parasites, who do you call? Captain Action! But with the invasion defeated, and the world grown complacent thanks to the emergence of the superheroes, what good is an anacrhonism like the Captain? That's the philosophical question Fabian Nicieza and Mark Sparacio ask here; at least, before the midway point when everything comes off the rails. The world, I mean, not the narrative! With the old ACTION Directorate destroyed, and Captain Action dead, everything now hinges on his son, heir to the title. As a setup, this is pretty standard, but it's done in a good way. The Captain seems to be played as a mix of 60s super-spy with a Nemesis-esque master of disguise, which works for me. I really like Sparacio's clean, smooth lines for this property. This preview was good enough to convince me to check out the upcoming "novella" First Mission, Last Day, and we'll go from there.

The Pick Of The Pile goes to Annihilation Conquest, just edging out Iron Man. Both are insane, double-sized, action-packed blowoffs to major stories, but AC eeks out a victory this time.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Adama shines the spotlight on Green Arrow's sidekick, err, I mean partner. Something I always wondered about Speedy/Arsenal: how does being a really good shot with a bow and arrow translate to being a good shot with a gun? Shouldn't he have split the difference and used a crossbow? Or would Huntress not allow it?

I'd like to see more fun stories like this one Rick has posted. Of course, the fact that both Aquaman and Hawkman seem unable to carry a title means it won't happen any time soon.

G Kendall talks about the time that Emma Frost starting going good, and I can recall being thoroughly annoyed at this development as a kid. And, sadly, I have yet to get over it.

Scipio makes me wish I played Heroclix everytime he posts one of his maps, like this LOSH HQ setting. Although, you know, there is that LOSH starter box...

Comics Blogger Extraordinaire rob! knows that with Aquaman, it's all about time. Seems to me that Aquaman's biggest problem in the "modern" era is the death of anthologies and backups.

BONUS GAME! Life At A Con. My brother is working a booth at NYCC, so I am sure this will be useful for him.

I totally missed out on the JL/JLI/JLE era, but Frank is nice enough to offer some thoughts. I've always wanted to check out this era because I like Beetle, Booster, and the Manhunter. Maybe I'll pick some up at some point.

Finally, check out the awesome Duck Family Tree!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Ah, the dangers of home tombing.  VAULT OF HORROR #2/13
The Vault Of Horror #2 (Russ Cochran 1993, reprinting VOH #13) -- How did they not see her when they were walking in? I mean, it's not that big of a tomb, is it?

I. "The Dead Will Return!" -- A woman and her lover kill her husband and dump the body at sea, so it will wash ashore and his death be thought accidental. While they search his lighthouse for the man's stashed loot, his body washes ashore right below them. The dump the rotting corpse again, and again it returns. As her lover drives the corpse far away, the wife continues to look for the cash, until she is cornered in the top of the lighthouse by some unseen spook. Her lover returns, discovers her, and then shares her fate. The police come by the next morning, find the two dead lovers, and a almost unrecognizable corpse on the shore. The Vaultkeeper informs us that the man's money was on his person the whole time, and now waterlogged and useless.

II. "The Curse of Harkley Heath" -- Three cousins are the last heirs of the Harkley estate (namely by killing their uncle with morphene), which has been cursed for generations. When the dominant one plans to kill off his two cousins to collect it all, things seem to be going well: he poisons his pretty cousin with morphene, and then threatens the wormy one. Well turns out that his cousin has a tolerance to morphene, and she ends up shooting him, which causes the wormy guy to accidentally start a fire and burn them all to death.

III. "The Diamond of Death!" -- Text story. A gem collector and exotic plant enthusiast dies, and his manservant finds a giant diamond, which supposedly curses whomever posseses it. Next thing you knw the guy is doing his best Little Shop of Horrors impression as he becomes plantfood.

IV. "Doctor of Horror" -- A 19th century surgery professor needs to provide bodies for his students, and thus gets into the graverobbing business. Spinning this acumen into success, he becomes the Chair of the Surgery department by murdering his rival and letting his students dissect him. Now aiming for the Deanship, the doctor hires hoodlums to murder riffraff and deliver the bodies to him, so he can impress the current Dean. Not one to trust his hirelings, he goes to check on their progress, and ends up laid out on the slab in his own classroom.

V. "Island of Death" -- A plane crash strands two men on a tropical island. Getting seperated, one man finds a giant castle, home to a mysterious Count, a big game hunter. Now interested in hunting the most dangerous game, the Count sends his guest into the jungle. The castaway is not helpless, though, as he manages to garrote the Count's manservant with a tripwire, and kill his hunting dogs in a pit trap. But before the Count can finish him off, the man's copilot finds him and plugs the Count in the back.

Yeah, I WISH I could afford the original one. This reprint is every bit as weird as the original, though, since it's a complete reprint, from the Johnny Craig cover right down the line (albeit with different letters to the Vaultkeeper, but the same letterhead -- which I intend to scan for Rick at some point). EC set the standard for weird comics with their line of "new look" horror mags from the 50s, and this early example is a fine one. Each artist brings a different quality to the table, from Harrison's gothic ghost story in "Curse" to Graham Ingels harsh lines on "Doctor." The tales themselves are just creepy and spooky, with the exception of the last one, although it has some gruesome elements which make up for it. Even the text piece is not bad, for this type. Either hunt down the reprints, or check out the handsome hardcovers, but if you like horror comics at all you MUST read EC.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not Blog Ex?

Wondering just what the heck this is? Head on over to Not Blog X and G Kendall will explain all. At least "all" in the context of 90s X-Men comics.

Excalibur #59
Enter... The Panther
Credits: Scott Lobdell (Script), Scott Kolins (Pencils), Jon Holdredge; Ray Kryssing (Inks), Mike Thomas; Dana Moreshead (Colors), Ul Higgins (Letters).

Kitty Pryde, along with Lockheed, is busy soaking up the sun in Wakanda, having stowed away on Brian's private jet. Brian, along with his "administrative assistant" Meggan, are representing Braddock Industries (formerly run by Jamie Braddock before he went nutzoid) in an internation coalition, which is meeting in Wakanda. Meggan is introduced to T'Challa, the Black Panther, and the technologically advanced people of Wakanda. Going deep inside the strange geological oddity known as the "cold mountain", the Panther introduces the other members of the group: Iron Man, representing Stark International, and Captain America, representing the United States government. As they sit down to a feast (pizza, bizarrely enough), the group is suddenly surrounded by bizarre full sized wooden creatures, with large heads resembling an African tribal carving. The leader of this group is Icon, who has transformed T'Challa's staff into his soldiers. Icon claims to represent the true nature of Wakanda, and the wishes of the Wakandan people to cast off technology and the West. Panther, Iron Man, and Cap spring to action, sealing Brian and Meggan inside a vibranium protection cylinder. Kitty, who had found one of Icon's victims earlier, phases in to get her teammates out. Facing down this "new" Excalibur, Icon bemoans that normally Africa has one superhero, but the day he makes his move, there's whole gaggle of them.

Meanwhile, Nightcrawler and Cerise are planning an evening at the opera, although Cerise still thinks lipstick tastes terrible. Their night out is interrupted when the Knight Errant, who rides on a mechanical flying steed, invades the opera house and shoots an energy blast at a known arms smuggler, and Nightcrawler has to save the man's date before the two heroes give chase.

Continuity Notes
A footnote tells us that Cerise arrived from "somewhere else" in issue #47.

Iron Man is James Rhodes, and is wearing the black and white "War Machine" style armor. Meggan greets him, thinking he is the Iron Man that they previously had adventured with; she takes his ignorance for playing "secret identity." Similarly, Cap notices him drinking a toast, and immediately knows it's not Tony Stark.

"Huh?” Moment
The last page has Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, Kitty, and some random, muscular Black woman in a white outfit. I guess it's Meggan or a disguised Brian, maybe? But as it stands the page makes no sense in the context of the issue.

Another Lobdell story, this continues into the next issue as well. It's not bad -- the subplot with Nightcrawler and Cerise is great fun, but I am biased -- and there is some funny bits here and there, but overall, this is a lesser issue. I'm not a real big fan of the Black Panther, so that hurts it, but even beyond that this is not really an Excalibur story. This really is something which would have been better played in Marvel Comics Presents or a Black Panther one-shot. Brian and Meggan are basically there to be reader identification (Lobdell makes a point about how even though they are Europe's premier superheroes, the sight of Cap and Iron Man fill them with awe), which is not really something I am looking for in an Excalibur book. Kollins' art is all over the place; his style has cleaned up significantly since this period. A significant step-down from the previous two parter with the Trolls.

As an aside, I remember seeing this cover for the first time and thinking that Marvel was actually changing the team to this roster, and being insanely angry about it (even as an Iron Fan). Looking back, I have to say: man, I was stupid.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Looks Good?

There comes a time, in every young person's life, where they say to themselves, "I am going to go out and do something for ME for a change." Typically, this happens every Wednesday (except sometimes around holidays).

Batman And The Outsiders #6 -- You know, I imagine that soon the main difference between this title and James Robinson's upcoming Justice League will be that one book has the ghosts of Ralph and Sue Dibney in it, and the other has Congorilla.

Flash #239 -- Continuing Tom Peyer's first arc for the Fastest Man Alive. It'll be interesting to see if the Internet turns on him, as well.

Superman #675 -- Busiek's swan song on Big Blue's junior title. I'm very annoyed that I cannot afford Trinity (though my bank account is breathing a sigh of relief).

Annihilation Conquest #6 -- You just know that everything is going to hit the fan in this one. I wonder, will we get the third chapter in the saga next year, or will Marvel time it out a bit?

Iron Man #28 -- This double-sized issue features the blowoff of the current (and insanely awesome) Mandarin storyline. Conspiracy theories abound: is this the Knauf's last issue for Shellhead? Is this title changing to Nick Fury: Director of SHIELD? I sincerely hope not, on both accounts.

Iron Man: Legacy Of Doom #1 -- Dave Michelinie! Bob Layton! Ron Lim! Doctor Doom! Camelot! What more could you want?

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- Batman And The Outsiders #21

Triple The Action -- One Low Price!  BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #21
This is another find from the Borderlands sale, one of only a handful of Outsiders comics I have ever found in the shop. It would seem that I am the main Outsiders fan for their clientele, and considering I only became an fan last year, well... let's just say I have first crack at all the slim pickings.

As far as a single issue to find in a discount bin, though, this is an excellent candidate. Not only is it entirely self-contained, but as promised on the cover, it's a trio of short tales, each with a different artist and focusing on a different member of the team -- Katana, Geo-Force, and Black Lightning. Amusingly, on the first page, Halo and Metamorpho complain that they don't get features, but remind the reader to come back next month for the third part of "The Truth About Halo." It's worth nothing that while Trevor von Eeden had done some work on this title, Outsiders co-creator Jim Aparo is not found here, nor would he work on this title any more in the future, replaced with Alan Davis (who draws the intro). I know he came back for the Baxter paper series, but that was a while away still, so I am not sure why he's not on board here. Still, the three artists here (Jerome Moore, von Eeden, and Ron Randall, respectively) all turn in some nice pages, each one different enough from the others to really stand out.

The first tale, "Silent Treatment," stars Katana, who is charged with transporting a rare vase to a museum and keep it from harm. The gimmick is that there is no spoken dialogue; instead, the "narration" is the radio play-by-play of Gotham's footbal team, which just so happens to match up with the action. Barr always seemed to like Katana, and this story shows off her strengths very well, as she is not only able to elude capture through her fighting skill, but her intelligence and guile as well. It's a fun short, and the football angle makes for some great puns, but if you don't like gridiron than this may not make a whole lot of sense.

Up next is a story with everyone's favorite Markovian prince, Geo-Force, called "Jaws, 4--Gotham, 0." Clearly inspired by Jaws 3-D, released about a year and a half earlier, we find Brion visiting a Sea World knock-off and meeting up with a pretty reporter who is unhappy to have "minor celeb" duty. Things take a turn, though, when the developer of a mechanical shark turns his creation on the park, and Geo-Force flies into action to save the day... and get a date. von Eeden's roughish pencils give this short a lot of energy, and Barr's satire is biting without sounding over-the-top or too silly. Stories like this, which show Geo-Force as a likeable sort of goof, really show off the character's strength. He's like Wonder Man in that respect, which is probably why I have grown to like him.

Finally, Black Lightning stars in the the last story, entitled "The Roar Of The Ghetto-Blaster." Barr and Randall slip a little "Created By" credit in for Isabella and von Eeden, though why von Eeden didn't just draw this one I don't know. Anyway, Jefferson Pierce is not having a good week. When trying to track down on of his dilenquient students, he runs into a violent, costumed anti-slum protestor named the Ghetto-Blaster, who is destroying the run down tenements in Gotham City by force. Black Lightning is less than impressed with his disregard for the safety of those arounf him, and stops him -- earning him the ire of the frustrated and angry crowd. Beating a retreat, it seems that Jefferson's more moderated views are rejected, even by his straying students. Lightning is able to win the day, though, when he finds out that the Ghetto-Blaster is not destroying the slums to help the neighborhood, but trying to find the money he stashed after a bank-job a decade earlier. It's worth nothing that this story reads like something which would not have been out of place in Black Lightning's mag in the 70s, and that BL figures out that Blaster is a criminal through his use of prison slang, not entirely unlike that one issue of World's Finest starring Green Arrow!

Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. Three short stories make it almost like a superhero anthology, especially with the three different artists and the vastly different tones in each feature. Barr still seems to really enjoy writing his characters, and gives each one a definite and distinctive voice (well, not Katana this time out, but you know what I mean!). This also serves as a good introduction to the Outsiders for someone who is not already familiar with them (similar to The Brave And The Bold #200, but in solo environments instead of as a team). If you happen across this issue for a good price, buy it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What I Read This Week

Justice Society of America #14 -- I find it hard to complain too loudly about a series as good as this one, and now I can add the fact that my main complaint -- far, far too many characters -- is an ongoing plot point, so really, in the words of Skeets, "I got nothing." Johns and Eaglesham pump it up here, with an extended cameo by Infinity Man of all people!

Steel Watch: Nathan gets a great scene here, as he saves two of his teammates from getting run over by a semi by shoulder blocking it, reminiscent of Ben Grimm's move from the first Fantastic Four.

Tiny Titans #3 -- The immortal question is asked: are the Titans heroes or sidekicks? Plus, witness the unending anguish of Dr. Light, Sidekick Elementary's long-suffering Science Teacher, Rose's turn at Show And Tell featuring her kid brother Jericho, and a visit to the Batcave, filled with rocket-powered penguins from "that movie." The activity page is a great pin-up of Aqualad in a "find the object" game. Luckily for us, rob! from The Aquaman Shrine was kind enough to scan this great piece for us. Great fun from Art and Franco, with the Jericho short being the funniest thing I have read in months.

The Pick Of The Pile is a tough call. Tiny Titans is just so much fun, I find myself actively pining for each new issue to come out. And by the same token, JSoA is just a phenomenal superhero comic, delivering the goods month in and mouth out. So, as the grand high poo-bah of the Bunker, I am calling this week a DRAW! The Titans and the Society are just going to have to share the honors this week.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Frank brings the ole Red State/Blue State argument to the World's Mightiest.

Rick shows off the letterhead of Marvel Two-In-One. Whatta revoltin' development!

BONUS GAME! Have some fun of the Worlds Finest variety!

DOUBLE BONUS GAME! Plas gets in on the action as well!

Scipio brings the culture with a Detroit League-era haiku.

And finally, rob! shows off both the awesome first issue of Time And Tide, but also the amazing pinup of Aqualad from this week's Tiny Titans!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

For the love of Pete, just look behind you already!
The Witching Hour #32 -- Look behind you lady! Jeez, they never listen!

I. Host Segment -- The Witches Three find that men are always just hanging around.

II. "What Evil Taunts This House?" -- An insurance agent who just sold a million dollar policy (double in case of "supernatural" causes) checks out the strange goins-on at his policy-holder's house. Things understandably take a turn for the worse when the guy turns out to be a vampire, and then the agent has to pay the double indemnity after killing him with a silver letter opener.

III. "Too Young To Die!" -- An eldery Japanese man finds the secret to restore his youth after killing the scientist who discovered it. He enjoys his newfound energy and vitality -- until the Japanese army drafts him, and he gets killed in an American ambush.

IV. "Witch-Ful Thinking" -- A collection of letters and weird news, including that crazy cat Sammy Davis Jr's run-in with Satanism.

V. "Name Your Poison" -- An aged farmer takes in a drifter to work his land; the farmer doesn't have long to live and has no money, so he offers the drifter heirship of the farm. The drifter, catching wind of the Interstate coming through, tries to kill the old man, first with rat poison, then with dynamite, then with dropping a pump on him, all to no avail. Lashing out, the drifter kills himself, only to realize that he suceeded the first time, and the old man was a ghost luring him to his own death.

Overall Weird Factor: 1 (out of 5).

Pretty mediocre all-around. The Witches don't offer much in the way of hosting duties -- they're not just a poor substitute for a GhouLunatic, but even for Cain or Abel. Nothing groundbreaking here, and the lack of anything truly unusual hurts the Weird Factor. At least all of the main features do stick to theme and use midnight, "the witching hour," as a plot point.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Special "No Content" Edition!

Sorry folks, my wife and I are going to see Spamalot! tonight, so no post for you. Hopefully, this awesome little bit of classic Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder, will suffice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What Looks Good?

As we move closer to spring, it's time for planting in our gardens, mowing and seeding our lawns, and gearing up for the lazy days of summer by buying lots of comic books. What?

Justice Society of America #14 -- Consistantly one of my favorite comics every month. Also consistantly the one that gives me a headache as I try to keep track of every character.

Showcase Presents: Superman Family v.2 -- I don't think I will be buying this at the moment (too many trades piled up as it is, plus normal back issues to boot!), but there is too much concentrated insanity in these pages not to mention it.

Tiny Titans #3 -- What have we learned? That's right, don't play Freeze Tag with Kid Flash. (Hopefully Borderlands will get it in!)

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Retro Review: Iron Man v.1:no.63-65

These comics are part of my haul back at Atlanta Comics Expo, which I have been slowly working my way through. They harken back to a simpler time, sort of, when Iron Man fought villians and didn't have to deal with socio-political malarkey all the time. Kinda.
IRON MAN #63Our story opens in Detroit, where Tony Stark has recently relocated (look out, Vibe!). Tony can't help but let his mind wander to the lovely Roxie Gilbert -- Firebrand's pacifist sister whom he has had more than one meeting with of late. But his thoughts have to wait as who should show up but Dr. Spectrum and his Power Prism! The bad doc knocks Tony from pillar to post, and it's only because he thinks Shellhead has kicked the bucket that the fight ends. Tony limps back to SE, where he tries to recover while comforting Pepper Hogan -- recently seperated from her sour-pussed hubby Happy. One thing leads to another, as it always does, and Hap walks in on Pepper and Tony locked in a kiss!

Trying to distract himself from the Pepper-Happy issue, Shellhead busies himself demolishing a condemned tenement in order to demonstrate a new modular construction system which Stark Enterprises has developed to ease urban renewal. But even that gets interrupted once again by Spectrum -- only this time, Tony is ready for his opponent, disabling him with a blast of UV light, the Power Prism's only weakness! Back at SE, Tony still has to deal with Happy. But that fight -- along with a visit by the mysterious African official Dr. Obatu and on-time Happy Hogan rival Eddie March -- are put on hold as the behemoth known as Rokk arrives to kill Obatu! Tony manages to drive him away when Rokk uses his powers to scan Tony's mind for the one he cares most about... Roxie Gilbert! Iron Man gives chase as the monster tracks Roxie to a grocery store, then nearly drains all of his power fighting him off. With Rokk defeated, and Shellhead on his last legs, we find out that Rokk was nothing more than a creation of the Power Prism, meant to soften Shellhead up for the killing blow!
IRON MAN #64Like a good bad guy, Spectrum and the Prism -- now actively arguing with one another -- reveal how they came to be. Namely, the Power Prism was an ambitious Skrull named Krimonn who was transformed into the gem as a punishment, but ended up on Earth thanks to the machinations of the Gamesmaster. There, he eventually bonded with the ruthless Obatu, needing a mind through which to channel his tremendous power! But now Krimonn has grown weary of Obatu, and seeks a new host -- namely, the Invincible Iron Man. Tricking Spectrum into doing his will, Krimonn transfers his consciousness into Iron Man -- who starts to wreak havoc. Luckily, someone makes a call to the Avengers, and who should show up to quell the possessed man-machine but Thor, god of thunder!

To Be Continued! WHAT?! Always a problem with stories like this, missing that one crucial issue.

Be that as it may, these three comics tell a really fun early Bronze Age Shellhead adventure, with a lot of representative characteristics of the era. Written by Mike Freidrich and drawn by George Tuska, these issues are better than one might expect given the way which this series is usually regarding. For whatever reason, Iron Man is one of those titles which is generally saddled with the "It sucked until -blank- came on board," in this case referring to Dave Michelinie and Bob Layton. And yeah, the title went through a lot of unremarkable phases in it's run. But that attitude is a disservice to these stories from the early-mid 70s, which are demonstrative of a lot of trends going on at Marvel and hold up nicely.
Case in point: Tony's ongoing struggle to move away from the Stark Enterprises munitions business (at one point telling Roxie that he won't make another dime off munitions) and into more socially-aware interests, such as space exploration and energy. Here we are, not a decade removed from his creation, and Tony is already changing in a fundamental way. This arc would continue for years, with Tony's "redemption" by pushing into more benign fields playing a major role into the 90s, and even as far as the Busiek relaunch.

Friedrich has a punchy writing style which easily evokes the era without being too dated. His Tony doesn't read all that much different from the later, more popular runs on the title, and he handles the narratives well, providing the necessary exposition and recap without making it painful or intrusive. Also impressive is his handling of the clearly-not-all-there Dr. Spectrum, who is constantly arguing with the Prism, and makes for a strong threat to our hero. Pepper and Happy's marital strife, the internal troubles of Roxie Gilbert, Eddie March's sudden re-appearance, and Dr. Obatu's shadowy motives are all handled well -- there's even a cameo appearance by none other than Luke Cage, hyping an upcoming Shellhead appearance in Power Man. Tuska is right in his element here as well, with a lot of action-shots of Iron Man and plenty of brawling to go around. The fashions on display are well-rendered, if bizarre -- not helped by a small handful of coloring mistakes that make things look even weirder. But those are minor touches, as overall these comics look amazing and dynamic -- the fact that some letter-writers were complaining about Tuska boggles my feeble mind.

I really enjoyed these issues. They're from an era which I just recently have gotten any significant amount of the title, and I think that they are much better than the reputation they currently hold. I think any Marvel fan who enjoys this period, when the Silver Age had given way to what I like to call "Social Surrealism," then this period of Iron Man, and these issues in specific (along with the next, which evidently turns this somewhat straightforward action-adventure tale on it's ear with a goofy plot twist), are worthy and worthwhile pick-ups.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What I Read This Week

Tiny Titans #2 -- Finally got this one, which is good, since the third issue comes out pretty soon. Like, this week. Anyway, it's more adorable adventures from the Tiny Titans, including meeting up with those bullies the Fearsome Five, "mean girl" Terra, and the hot-headed (literally speaking, of course) Kid Devil. Too cute for words, this is more good clean fun that is fun for kids and fanboys alike.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash #6 -- Got this one as well, apparently it was delayed by a week locally. Much like the film that this is a sequel to, the final setpieces are gruesome and over the top, with a crazy back and forth bloodbath of a fight between our three principles. Craig's art is good, but you can see the toll his health problems have had on his work. It's disappointing, but you can't do anything about it, and frankly it still looks good. As a follow-up to Freddy vs Jason, I think this satisfied everything I was looking for, so I am calling it a success.

Project Superpowers #3 -- Krueger and Paul's rendition of the return of the Golden Age takes a bit of a turn here, with a little action up front but then a more staid approach for the balance of the issue, which works pretty well. Black Terror's bloodlust is tempered a little bit, and then we get a peek inside, and things make a little more sense. We also get the return of the Death-Defying 'Devil, The Flame, and Samson, and nifty concepts such as the F-Troop and the modern hero the Scarab. There's a lot of interesting ideas kicking around in here, and things gel somewhat better this time out, but I am still waiting for this series to fire on all cylinders.

Trials of Shazam #12 -- The finale and blowoff to the long quest for knowledge and power plays out here, with Freddy Freeman facing down his rival Sabina for the power of Zeus. Cascioli's psuedo-painted style is put to good use here, as we get a large brawl between the Justice League and the Shadowpact and a legion of demons. And Winnick delivers the goods and ties up Freddy's new status quo nicely enough, leaving it open for whomever wants to take the reins from there. All in all I enjoyed this series, depite it's flaws. It's a different kind of Captain Marvel story, admittedly, but the vitriol directed at it is excessive. The DCU has a new magical protector, and his name is Shazam. Whether we see much more of him or not, however, remains to be seen.

The Pick Of The Pile is Tiny Titans, because it made me smile and laugh, and I really needed that. The other comics were good, but nothing was great.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Frank doesn't hate Iron Man. He has seen the light!

Rick shows us how only in America one can go from yap to rap in one year. Be sure to go check out Comic Book Letterheads, Rick's newest contribution to awesomeness!

Adama takes a break from Green Arrow to look at ... Who?

Scipio is at it again with the maps, this time showing off Apex City and Crime Alley.

And finally, we finally have the final installemnt of creator's commentary for the final issue of Freddy vs Jason vs Ash. Finally.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Weekly Dose of Weird!

It'll be dark soon... there is no escape... it'll be dark soon... HOUSE OF SECRETS #93
House of Secrets #93 -- Oh no! Someone's murdered Brother Power! Still, Wrightson is Wrightson...

I. "Lonely In Death!" -- A young woman living in the house her mother left to her is convinced that her mom's ghost is trying to kill her, since she is lonely in the afterlife. Her brother at first tries to soothe her, then is sure she's gone loco. Imagine her surprise when her brother turns out to be the cause of her near-death experiences, until her spectral mom makes the save. Right? Or was she just so nuts that she made her brother lose it as well? Abel's not telling.

II. "Abel's Fables From The House of Secrets" -- Abel has some interesting pests in the House, and an interesting taste in decor.

III. "The Curse Of The Cat's Cradle" -- The new jefe on a banana plantation in Gutamala finds a giant stuck in a quicksand bog, and the man he is replacing trying to steal the giant's horde of treasure. A convenient cave-in causes the treasure, quicksand, and giant all to vanish, but there's no time for that now; people are waiting for their bananas.

IV. "Nightmare" -- Dirk falls into darkness, unable to pierce the inky shroud with his flashlight. Sadly, that doesn't stop the beasties from finding him... until he wakes up, all a dream. Needless to say, when he goes to work, faking accidents to delay the construction of a building, one wrong step leaves him falling back into a familiar darkness all over again.

V. "The House of Secrets Speaks!" -- Letters from readers wherein Abel claims such correspondence is a fire hazard, and then asks "What's an 'EC'?"

VI. "The Beast From The Box" -- A botanist finds a strange box, and opens it, then is turned to stone by the green creature inside. The creature escapes, builds a new box for itself, then grows bigger. Repeating this process a couple of times, destroying whatever gets in its way each time, the botanist and his lovely assistant figure out that it's like an alien caterpillar, making coccons for it's metamorphasis. So like any good American, they blow the thing up when it's vulnerable and defensless.

VII. "Abel's Fables" -- More hijinks ensue, including a poor guy who's lost his head.

VIII. "Never Kill A Witch's Son!" -- Randy and Andria, married amateur murders, shove Andria's Uncle Ken out of a window to collect the insurance money. Ken's mother, who knows they did it, is played off as a senile old coot, and locked in her room where she chants strangely. But when strange things start to occur -- like Andria seeing Ken outside her window leaving a trail of blood, or his pipe being still lit, or hearing from a friend that she ate breakfast with him -- it's too much, and the woman has a breakdown. Which works out for Randy, who is planning on faking her suicide to collect her half of the money. In the latest of a series of badly planned steps, though, he ends up getting shoved out the same window; Andria is carted away to the nuthatch, and Ken's mom can't help but be amused how her "black magic" brought these morons the justice they deserved.

Overall Weird Factor: 4.5 (out of 5).

I'll try to explain this one rationally. Okay, I can't do that. One issue after the introduction of Swamp Thing, we've got a banana farmer in Guatamala caught in a giant's cat's cradle over a pit of quicksand and from there figuring out that the cat's cradle is actually a trail map. How can I rationalize that? Plus, the presence of Abel is always a nice touch, a callback to the old GhouLunatics. There's no denying it: this is one weird comic book.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

4 Color Cinema

Sadly, Anthrax's 'I Am The Law' is not on the soundtrack.  JUDGE DREDD
Judge Dredd

You have to like any comic book movie which starts with a disembodied hand actually flipping through the comic book. I think if something like Iron Man started that way today, we'd have a nerd-riot on our hands.

Anyway, we're treated to a nice prologue about the fall of traditional society and the rise of the Mega-Cities, the first and greatest of all of course being Mega-City One. Dumped into this spiraling urban sprawl is Fergie, a petty criminal who has served his sentence in the Aspen Penal Colony and earned his release. Things don't go so well for the wormy little guy, though, as he is assigned to the Heavenly Haven neighborhood, which just happens to be in the middle of a block war. And when you've got punks shooting each other in the streets, well, you know who comes rolling in: the Judges. Flanked by Judge Hersey and a rookie (who doesn't seem to have what it takes), the legendary lawman Judge Dredd "sentences" all involved (including Fergie, sent back to prison) and quells the riot.

But not all is well in Mega-City One. There's rumblings of corruption amongst the Justice Department, and reporters dog every step the street Judges take. The Department itslef, charged with maintaining both law and order in the city, is being stretched to the limit, as more and more criminals are arming themselves, and they cannot train Judges fast enough -- and those that do have a pretty high mortality rate. The solution seems to present itself with the long lost Janus Project, an experimental attempt to clone Judges from the best cloning stock, which would solve their problems. The High Council is split, but a series of events -- namely, the escape of the murderous ex-Judge Rico, and the murder of a prominent TV news reporter -- forces Dredd to not only clear his own name, but save the city and the Rule of Law.

As a film experience, Judge Dredd is a mixed bag. There's some really well-done aspects, and then some really poor ones. So it's hard to get a good feeling on it. Overall, though, after viewing I was more disappointed than anything else.

Stallone is not bad as Dredd, although we see way too much of his face. That's unavoidable, of course, but it's still pretty overt, at least to anyone who's ever read 2000 AD. Then again, I doubt most of the audience had read the magazine, so I guess that's fair. The cast in general is good, even whiny little Rob Schneider as Fergie -- he's annoying, yes, but that's the point. Max von Sydow is standout as Chief Justice Fargo, and though it's not exactly a role which requires him to really flex his muscles, it's a good performance. Same goes for Diane Lane as Hershey and Armand Asante (!) as Rico.

The production design is also pretty well executed. There's a couple of scenes where Mega-City One looks more like San Angeles from Demolition Man, but that is made up for by the care given elsewhere. The Judges' uniforms look excellent, the best way I can imagine adapting their over-the-top look. Same goes for the Lawgiver sidearms and the Lawmaster bikes, which are gloriously realized. Even little things like the set dressing for the Grand Hall of Justice or the Academy or Aspen Penal Colony is handled with care. And I'd be remiss not to mention the ABC Warrior (obviously meant to be Hammerstein), which lumbers it's way through the film with a ton of presence and menace. I even have a model kit of him (Thanks, Jon!).

But beyond that, the film falls flat. The script plods along, with a lot of setpieces but not a lot of drama or drive. There's tons of cliches, both from the sci-fi and action genres. And eventually the whole thing just comes off the rails and the result is just one big jumble. Fans, such as myself, wanted more Judge action, more of Dredd on the street doing his thing. Nonfans no doubt thought it was a lesser version of Demolition Man, which is funnier and more exciting, despite the smaller budget and lacking this movie's design sense. (The fact that it had Sandra Bullock back when she was hot doesn't hurt either.) I really wanted to like Judge Dredd, and have a good time watching it, but after about the first 25 minutes or so, I'm afraid I just couldn't do either.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What Looks Good?

You know, it seems that some comic book bloggers take the new releases each Wednesday as a sort of "What's Weak This Week" list, picking out everything that they just know is going to be "terrible." Me, I like to take a less cynical approach. What do you think?

Trials of Shazam #12 -- The Trials come to a close as Freddie Freeman must face his destiny! It's popular to bash this series, but hey, if you don't like it, don't read it!

Essential Iron Man v.3 -- Featuring Shellhead's early adventures in his own title, travel back to a time when Tony Stark truly was a cool exec with a heart of steel... and Millar, Bendis, JMS, and Slott were not around to vent their liberal nerd-rage.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What I Read This Week

Well, I managed to get the Weekly Dose and Links posted (early, even!) but a mix-up at work left this post unfufilled until today. What a revoltin' development.

Tiny Titans #2 -- Started to get annoyed now, as Borderlands still has not received copy one of this title.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash #6 -- This one was not on the Diamond list for last week, nor did I see it, but evidently it was released. Hopefully I can find it this week.

Batman And The Outsiders #5 -- Moving on to comics I actually did manage to purchase, we catch up with Batman's covert crew in the South American jungle, trying to prevent the mysterious Mr. Jardine from making his space shot. A lot of action this time out, as the Outsiders have to deal with Jardine's mercenaries, including the heavy hitter, Militia, and the trigger happy Gunhawk and Gunbunny -- luckily they get a timely assist from an unlikely duo. Dixon is working on his own pace here, and it's a pretty enjoyable read for it. Lopez's pencils remain eye-pleasing and solidly rendered for the action sequences, although Katana's torn costume -- revealing juuust a bit of cleavage -- was a little gratuitous. I do have to wonder how the team is going to get out of this cliffhanger, and that's a sign of a good team book, I think.

The Flash #238 -- New series writer Tom Peyer joins Freddie Williams II to introduce the newest member of Flash's Rogues Gallery -- Spin, who is able to amplify the public's fears into a mind-numbing paranoia and terror. And a slip of the tongue by Wally West is poised to make him Public Fear No. 1. Peyer impresses in his debut, both in his ability to pick up the strings of Waid's arc (Keystone City's infastructure is in danger due to the removal of water content thanks to the alien invaders, the kids' aging dilemma) and even Keith Champagne's fill-in (Wally is unemployed) as well as writing a true Flash story. I mean, there's a guy with a costume and a super-power stealing something! And then using his power to put the Flash in a bizarre bind! That's Flash comics, people! Williams' art shines; he's a really good fit on this title. And Spin himself is a very interesting villian, from his visual to his powers to his voice, he has the potential to cross over into the DCU at large in addition to giving the Scarlet Speedster headaches. If you were not thrilled with either The Fastest Man Alive or the Waid relaunch, then you should definitely pick up this series again. And if you liked them, well, then you are already reading.

Futurama Comics #36 -- The Planet Express crew travels to the planet of New England, populated entirely by robots (no, it doesn't have oceans of clam chowder, that's New New England!) and gets embroiled in the mystery of the notorious Jak The Deleter! Meanwhile, Amy, Hermes, and Dr. Zoidberg try to have an adventure of their own, without much luck, sadly. Silly and enjoyable Futurama-y goodness, although the art is a little iffy in places. The wide range of British jokes alone makes this worthy of pick-up.

The Phantom #22 -- Without time to mourn from the events last issue, the Ghost-Who-Walks throws himself headlong into the investigation of the terrorist attack on Bangalan soil. As the Phantom works on one end, we see the machinations on the other, as all sorts of bad people are involved in a scheme which threatens far more than the Deep Woods, or even the African continent. The pace slows down here as Mike Bullock sets up the big conflict, which draws on a lot of the last few years of Moonstone Phantom stories. It's a different place for this title, which normally goes pretty all-out -- due, in no small part, to the fact that this is the first 5-issue story for the title. As such, it's a bit of a letdown from the normal jaw-smashing action. There's just not that much for Szilagyi to draw. Still, it's a good read, and there is the always popular sense of impending doom hanging over the entire affair, which is good, and the cliffhanger promises more chin-checking next time out.

The Pick Of The Pile is a title which hasn't gotten that honor in some time, and that is The Flash. Peyer's debut is a fresh read, with script that manages to be clever without being cute (a rare trick indeed). Combined with Williams' continuing on pencils, the title has been given a shot in the arm, and, retroactively, "The Wild Wests" now looks more draggy than it was.