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Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Hey, look at me! I’m posting an @$$Holes column on time! I must be back in town and finally over that nasty case of SARS I caught on the plane. Mmmmm... recycled air...

In all seriousness, though, I want to go on the record as saying that BLANKETS, the graphic novel that is reviewed in today’s column, is a profound and spiritual piece of work that advances the idea of comics as real art the same way that Spiegelman’s MAUS did. I haven't even read Vroom's review yet, but I know he raves about it. He must. Anyone with any taste or common sense or love of the art form would have to rave when they read it. It's that good. It defies the general notion of what you can or can’t do in a “comic book,” and it’s both drawn and written with a keen sense of observational detail. I’ve read it three times since it was sent to me, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s survived the pain of a first love or anyone who still longs for it. It’s tremendous stuff, and I’m delighted to see the @$$Holes bring it some attention. Anyway... enough of me. On to the gang...

Cormorant here, and I've got a crazy idea! Since we occasionally get folks who can't discern from our erudite reviews whether we actually recommend buying a book or not – a criticism we happen to share with high-class magazine, THE NEW YORKER, I might note! – I thought I'd read the column for you and provide a quick and easy breakdown to help you interpret it. Let's try it!

JLA #83: Avoid! Shitty allegory issue!

FLASH #200: Buy! Big art, big fights, big changes! Now with 50% more running!

SILVER SURFER #1: Nu-Marvel fans, buy! Everyone else, read it at the shop! Warning: May not contain Silver Surfer.

BLANKETS: Buy or Vroom will stalk you, murder you, and wear your skin as a trophy!

CATWOMAN #21: Buy! Especially you FLASH fans!

THE LIBERTY PROJECT: Buy! Kurt Busiek might be looking over your shoulder, too!

ULTIMATES #11: You're on your own…

Aw, c'mon, six out of seven ain't bad.

JLA #83

Writer: Joe Kelly

Art: ChrisCross and Tom Nguyen

Publisher: DC Comics

Reviewer: Sleazy G

It’s enough to make you wonder, really: do comic book companies have editors any more? You know, those people who get paid to read a story and determine whether it’s good enough to print? To decide whether the story just needs some tweaking or whether it should be flushed?

I’m sure there’s a pretty good chance Joe Kelly thought he was saying something really important in this issue. The thing is, he’s not, and I’d have hoped an editor would have read this and known better than to actually publish it. The plot is painfully transparent, and it’s the kind of claptrap that gives liberals a bad name. This is the second story Kelly’s written recently that is a painfully obvious attempt to tell a story that is supposed to provide us some insight into the current situation in Iraq. He did it last spring in a two-part story featuring Kanjar Ro as a dictator on another planet as well. That story was bad, but it turns out it was just foreshadowing how badly the latest issue stinks.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Kelly has some gooey, ugly lava-slime by the name of “napalmettos” attack London. No, they’re not actually palmettos. There’s no plant life to be seen; they’re just shapeless and really hot (not like “the talky girl in ‘Real Genius’” hot, more like “inside the volcano in ‘Joe Vs. The Volcano’” hot). The JLA fights ‘em off. President Luthor decides it’s the work of Qurac, despite no actual evidence of same. The phrases “weapons of mass destruction,” “no evidence” and such are thrown around. Sprinkle all this with a generous helping of suck and a really lame ending where it’s revealed the whole thing was a dream, cap it with empty pontificating by Kelly speaking through Superman and Wonder Woman, and ask yourself, "What the hell happened?"

Here’s the thing comic book editors should realize, even if their writers don’t: comic books work far better when they’re at least one step removed from reality. When they try to speak too closely to actual current events, they just come off as shallow and clichéd. I know, I know, you’re all gonna tell me about Superman and Captain America being used for propaganda purposes to combat the Nazis in the 40’s and all that stuff. Fine, I know they did it, but they didn’t do it *well*. This, combined with the fact that readers are far more sophisticated than they were 60 years ago, should be reason enough to stay away. Apparently, though, somebody at DC decided they needed some stories as heavy-handed and half-baked as the ones Marvel’s been doing in CAPTAIN AMERICA, so we get this garbage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still buying JLA; it’s not enough (yet) to drive me away, but it’s enough for me to complain about it. It’s not even whether I agree or disagree with the politics - it’s the juvenile approach and the “it’s all a dream” crap and the blatant agenda-mongering that bugs me. Tell a good story and you’ll reach people; tell a bad story and you’ll lose readers. Somebody needs to step in and start actually editing some of the titles the Big Two have been pumping out; it’s like there’s no quality control in place right now. Stories like this one just shouldn’t ever have made it past the idea stage. Kelly’s obviously making JLA a very political book, but he keeps forgetting to tell a decent story along the way. The long and short of it is that regardless of politics or whatever message you think you’re trying to communicate, the story’s the thing. And in this case, the story’s a *bad* thing.


Geoff Johns – Writer

Scott Kolins – Penciller

Doug Hazlewood – Inker

James Sinclair – Colorist and Separator

Published by DC Comics

Reviewed by Village Idiot

Well, I tried to tell you.

I tried to tell you, over and over again: Read THE FLASH. THE FLASH is where it’s at. THE FLASH is flat-out one of the best comic books on the shelves.

And some of you listened, and right now your lives are probably a little better for it.

But others of you didn’t listen, and now look what’s happened: THE FLASH #200 is artist Scott Kolins’ last issue of the book, and now that party is over. And you missed it. You blew it!

Well, okay, you didn’t blow it completely. Not only can you catch up by picking up the back issues from your local comic store, you can also get the various TPB's that DC has put out from the Johns/Kolins run. And if you go to your store now, you still might be able to pick up a copy of THE FLASH #200. And your life will be a little better for it. (Not as much as it would have been if you’d taken my advice earlier, but hey.)

As I said, THE FLASH #200 is artist Scott Kolins’ last issue. Much has been written here and elsewhere about Kolins’ art. Suffice to say that the rich textures of Kolins’ work, brought out by Doug Hazlewood’s inks and James Sinclair’s somewhat muted colors provides one of the most unique and beautiful visual presentations in comics today. And since #200 is his swan song, Kolins has apparently decided to completely blow the doors off. Yeow.

From the moment you open the comic, you’re smacked with a full page of two very large faces raging at one another: The Flash, in anger and anguish over the death of his children at the hands of his yellow doppelganger, Zoom, and Zoom himself, who seems to be vibrating with pure hatred. What follows is a fight scene that refuses to stay on the page – especially the splash page on pages sixteen and seventeen, where The Flash, teeth-clenched in fierce determination, chases a huge Zoom, bloody-lipped and as malevolent as ever, running off the page and right towards the viewer's right arm. “YOUR WIFE MUST DIE!” spews Zoom. The way Kolins plays with perspective in this picture looks fairly simple, but at the same time it’s pretty amazing. The sheer size of Zoom, coming right at us, is almost violent in itself. Great stuff.

And, of course, there's a story in there too. This is not only Kolins' last book in the series, but also a #200 milestone issue, and the climax of the "Blitz" storyline, featuring the return of Zoom, the Reverse Flash. Kolins went all out, but writer Geoff Johns was no slouch either, throwing a few major curves in the story, and establishing major changes to the status quo of the title that will have repercussions across the DC Universe. Since there's already been so much talk around the web about this issue, I'm going to blab away about any SPOILERS this issue might have had, including the bizarre surprise ending.

In the end of the story, The Flash traces much of his misery to the fact that his identity is publicly known. The Spectre, as a sympathetic gesture, grants The Flash’s “wish,” wiping away the world’s knowledge that The Flash and Wally West are the same person, including – unexpectedly and totally inconveniently – from Wally West himself. As AICN’s Jon Quixote put it, it was if the Spectre said: "Haw Haw I totally monkey pawed you, dude!" Couldn’t the Spectre have granted this wish a little more conveniently? Disgruntlement over this seemingly contrived plot twist, mingled with a basic concern for the well-being of the character, left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. And if I wasn't feeling awkward enough, I discovered that the Spectre has the power to change the art style as well: the last two pages of the book are drawn by incoming FLASH artist Alberto Dose in a drastically (jarringly) different style than Kolins.

But after sitting with the idea for a while, the mindwipe, as well as the possibilities of Dose's art, began to grow on me. Yeah, I’m uncomfortable, but in a good way. At the end of the day, I realized that a series that I have enjoyed for a very long time has turned a corner, and I'm ready to follow it to see where it takes me.

And so, I’m highly recommending another issue of THE FLASH. For the art alone I would recommend this issue; really amazing stuff. Even if you’re not a superhero fan, on your next trip to the comic store, you owe it to yourself to check the art out, if only to register a self-satisfied “Eh” if you somehow disagree with me. I’m talking to YOU, indie fans.

Moreover, not just for the excitement of the story, but for the significance of it as well – what it means to the history of the character, and what it will mean to the history of the DCU – this is a comic that any self-respecting superhero fan needs to get. Kolins and Johns have had a terrific run on this title, and they’ve managed to end their partnership on a pretty high note. Pick it up while you have the chance.


Written by Dan Chariton & Stacy Weiss

Art by Milx

Published by Marvel

Free @$$ociations by Buzz Maverik

Remember, Buzz, review the comic you read and not the comic you wished you'd read. Or do both.

I'll start with the reality. SILVER SURFER #1. Because this is 2003, the book is very well done. The artist, billed as Milx (which I'm pronouncing as Milks and wondering if Milx is any relation to SOUTH PARK's Butters) is the real thing. Milx is not just a cartoonist doing superheroes, he or she (hard to tell gender with a name like "Milx") is an exciting representational artist. Whomever this Milx is, Milx apparently learned to draw from other sources than comic books because Milx can draw life. Whether it's a war-ravaged African village or a single Mom and her child walking down a hospital corridor, it all looks real, which is a compliment. I mean, over and over in modern comics we are told that the stories are more realistic than they used to be (they aren't but that's another matter) but the art looks like the Sunday funnies or Saturday morning cartoons or what I refuse to call anything except "Japanimation".

The characterization and approach by writers Dan Chariton and Stacy Weiss reminds me a little bit of Neil Gaiman on some SANDMAN arcs where the fantastic characters and events are seen through the eyes of interesting but normal people. In SILVER SURFER # 1, we meet Denise Waters, an impoverished New Orleans single mother of an autistic child. Denise is intelligent and devoted, but she makes her living pulling voodoo scams on tourists, giving what are known in skeptical circles as "cold readings," fake psychic insights in which the mark provides the information. But Denise's mother was a real voodoo priestess, although Denise rejected her mother's religion. So that's pretty cool.

The few hints we see of the Silver Surfer himself are presented SIGNS-style or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND-style. Markings around a Sudan village, from which a child is taken, resemble both the face of the Silver Surfer and those grey aliens that are supposed to go around giving people buttprobes. Denise's daughter Ellie draws a lot of Surfer pictures that also look like the face on Whitley Streiber's book, COMMUNION. When the Surfer later appears in full, briefly, it resembles an alien abduction scenario out of the X-FILES or the New Age section of your local bookstore.

I find this interesting. It's a new approach and you can't knock that. The Silver Surfer has always been a cool supporting character in the Marvel Universe, but whenever he got his own comic it never quite felt right. He worked better in THE FANTASTIC FOUR or THE DEFENDERS. In his first series, collected in THE ESSENTIAL SILVER SURFER - written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Buscema and later, SURFER creator Jack Kirby - the Surfer sort of floated around in a daze whining like a hippie about what we humans are doing to our planet and to each other until Mephisto or the Stranger or some character would launch an unprovoked attack on him (by the end of the volume, I was rooting for the villains because at least they were making the Surfer shut up). Then, in the 1980's THE SILVER SURFER was relaunched by writer Steve Engelhart and artist Marshall Rogers, and we had a dynamic, heroic Surfer which was at least more enjoyable to read but somehow seemed like a different character than the ponderous, pontificating Surfer we'd always known (I personally never loved Dr. Doom more than when he clamped that weird Kirby device on the Surfer's head that shocked all the Power Cosmic out of the Surfer and into himself). That series eventually ended up in the hands of Jim Starlin and the title might as well have been changed to THANOS COMICS by the time I dropped it.

My main problem with SILVER SURFER #1 is that it seems to follow Nu-Marvel's policy of not showing the super character and acting like neither the readers nor the other characters have any familiarity with the character. Maybe this is the way the creators have always wanted to tell a SILVER SURFER story. Or maybe this is editorial policy. Maybe the creators want to do something different, tell a Surfer story in a different way, and have something more to offer us than just super-characters fighting. Or maybe this is just Marvel's idea of "something different" which is the same "something different" they keep doing lately.

Yippie Abbie Hoffman asked "are you paranoid if they're really are out to get you?" Are you cynical if all comic books read like chapters in the inevitable trade (this one will be called SILVER SURFER: COMMUNION)? Actually, chapters in a trade aren't so bad. What's really bad is when the comics read like movie pitches, which is how the brass at Marvel view their characters and stories, let's face it! The problem with movie-style plot points in comics is that they suffers from all the limitations of film and all the limitations of comics. In a comic, you can see anything for the cost of publication plus the creators' paychecks. In movies, we have the limitation of technology and budget, as well as all those egos. But movies also have motion and sound going for them, which comics do not. You can build to a pay-off in a movie by not showing the shark for the first act or so. I guess you can do that in a comic, but if you do it to me, I don't come back for the next issue.

My criticism here may be valid or it may just be me. Hell, even I don't know. I do know that the writers and artist have done a great job, which is about all you can ask from them.

Okay, unreality check time. I both groaned and chuckled in admiration at the linking of the Silver Surfer to those gray aliens that we know from THE X-FILES, Whitley Streiber's COMMUNION, the books of Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs and others. Those blank eyed creatures, known to abduct human to take to their spaceships for sexual abuse do bear a resemblance to the Silver Surfer. UFO researcher Jacques Vallee, the basis for Francois Truffaut's character in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, has speculated that the reason this look has come to be identified as an alien is to created a belief system. See, most of the reports of contact with aliens prior to 1960 either involved encounters with beings much more or much less human looking than the skinny bodied, big teardrop-headed, lens-eyed, minimal-featured aliens who today regularly mate with our trailer park women. This has only become the agreed upon look for aliens since CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, although early in the 20th century beloved black magician Aleister Crowley encountered a similar looking mystic being called LAM (well, LAM did have little, shriveled, beady eyes but maybe he'd been up all night partying ). The new mug shot description started surfacing with the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case in the early 1960's. Aside from resembling the Surfer, it echoes the fetal Star Child of 2001: A SPACE ODYESSY, a film that influenced Jack Kirby. I'm sure true believers would say that Jack Kirby had been "visited".

It might have been interesting to see a more aware look at the link between the Surfer and this new folklore. But so far, this book just seems to buy into it. In addition to abduction, will we see the Surfer mutilating livestock, something the grey aliens are also fond of doing ?

Also, this is where ya get called an idiot today but I want to see some action in comics. Do I want comics to be all fighting? Sometimes, yeah. In general, most of the time, no. I don't think we're going to see any action in this book. Ever. Because when Nu Marvel puts a character in a Nu Marvel direction, that character damn well stays in that direction, apparently forever. But I'm hoping for mass-firings among the Marvel suits and editorial staff. Are you an idiot because you want to see Daredevil do more than fret, or you want to see the Hulk more than once every eight issues in his own comic? I don't think so. I think you're just a guy, and a freethinking guy at that, because right now everyone else is saying you're wrong.

So, what they've done is very good within the parameters of what's being done at Marvel Comics these days, but the parameters themselves are not very good. If I thought this was more than the first part of a story in which all the parts were going to be similar, and more than the first story in a series where all the stories were going to be similar, I could be more enthusiastic.


Craig Thompson: Creator

Top Shelf Productions: Publisher

Vroom Socko: In Awe

If you haven’t read the new graphic novel from Good-bye, Chunky Rice creator Craig Thompson, then I want you to stop reading this review right now and buy a copy while you still can.

You’re still reading? Go! Buy! NOW! This sucker is selling out fast, and you need to get your hands on one as soon as possible. Don’t worry; I’ll still be here when you get back.

Look, if you need a ride or something, I’ll loan you cab fare. Hell, I’ll loan you the cash to buy the book if that’s what it takes. Blankets is going to be referred to very quickly as a classic. I’m talking Catcher in the Rye classic. Hurry up and buy it.

Goddammit, you’re still sitting there.

Fine, you want some details about the book, I’ll give you details. This semi-autobiographical narrative follows the two formative relationships in Thompson’s early life, first with his brother Phil, then with Raina, his first girlfriend. Much like the aforementioned J. D. Salinger novel, this is a story that’s profoundly easy to relate to. Not that Craig is anything like Holden - far from it. The only factor they have in common is the one all adolescent males have, that uneasy sense of not knowing where your life is taking you. People write stories along these lines all the time, but the ability to do it well is rare. This book left “well” five miles back by the end of the first chapter.

Maybe it’s because Craig’s life mirrors my own in so many little ways. I too have a little brother who I’ve accompanied on afternoons tramping through the woods. I had the same sort of playground pastimes. My parents have the same sort of religious conviction, and my own faith developed along a similar path. Then again, there are elements that you’d probably relate to as well. Craig’s relationship with Raina, her parents' tumultuous relationship, her siblings’ idiosyncrasies - all are fleshed out to perfection.

Where the book really shines, however, is when Craig the creator and Craig the character escape into their art. There are moments of exceptional beauty here, especially when Craig and Raina are together. Each page is a delight to look at, a total delight. I’ve read the book twice so far, and the second time around I found myself lingering on one page or another for up to five minutes. If you’re looking for a book you can linger over for an entire day, this is the one.

Really though, this is a continuation of the themes and ideas Thompson first introduced in Chunky Rice. Friendship, loss, and finding your own way in the world are all addressed here. In fact, there’s one panel that shows Craig on what appears to be the boat from Chunky Rice. As great as that first effort is, Blankets is miles beyond in terms of storytelling ability.

This book is a masterpiece. By this time next year people will be discussing it in the same breath as A Contract with God, Maus, and Sandman. It will be remembered long after the last copy of New X-Men or The Ultimates has decomposed into mulch. It’s the first truly great graphic novel of the 21st century, and I assure you that my own words don’t do it any sort of justice.

Go. Buy. Read. You can thank me later.


Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Cameron Stewart

Publisher: DC Comics

Reviewed by Cormorant

The last time I reviewed CATWOMAN, some harsh words were said. Just click on the link. That issue was to be my departure point for the series, a street-level, pulp adventure title that I'd previously considered one of DC's best offerings. What turned me off was a now infamous torture scene that I just couldn't reconcile with the setting of the DC Universe. Downbeat superhero stories? Got no problem with 'em, per se – gimme that latest FLASH storyline. Nasty violence in non-superhero comics? I'm done wit' it – bring that SIN CITY on! But for the worlds of DC and Marvel – those all-ages landscapes that are home to our greatest superhero icons - I think there are certain lines you really shouldn't cross. Put simply, that issue crossed the line.

So what…just *what* in the name of Wussy, Backpedaling Comic Reviewers am I doing telling you that CATWOMAN #21 was actually my favorite read of the week?!! Well, don't tell anyone, but even though I did stop buying the series after issue 15, I sneakily continued to read friends' copies, and as I both expected and sorta feared…the quality remained very high. In fact, the quality was so high that when I heard about the current story arc – Catwoman and gal-pal, Holly, road-tripping through several of DC's fictional cities – I actually started to feel enthused for the book again. Hey, who doesn't wanna see what hijinks Catwoman will turn up in Hawkman's southwestern hometown of St. Roch, in Starman's art deco hangout, Opal City, and the Flash's own stomping grounds - Keystone City?

The latter locale's the subject of this issue, a completely angst and torture-free tale that actually had me laughing out loud throughout. That's what happens when you put together a refined, classy thief like Catwoman with a blue collar Flash villain like Captain Cold. In Cold's own words: "I'm more the smash and grab type…" FLASH fans know that Geoff Johns recently fleshed out Captain Cold, evolving him from "another schnook with a gimmick" to "bad ass who wouldn't hesitate to freeze a guy's arm and shatter it," but Brubaker goes for a more comedic approach. Oh, you still get the sense that Cold is effective at what he does, but played against Catwoman, he becomes one of the funniest, coolest foils of the year.

What first hooked me was the low-key origin of this particular villain team-up, a chance meeting in the stairwell of a cheap hotel between Catwoman and Captain Cold, each of 'em in non-costume mode. Catwoman's just following a lead on someone she's tracking at the dive, but this is where Captain Cold lives. So there's this total looker walking down the steps, and an ugly mug with a five o'clock shadow and a blue winter coat carrying his groceries past her. Their eyes catch, there's a double-take, and then…

Catwoman: It's Lenny, right? Lenny Snart…? You're Captain Cold.

Cold (squinting): Catwoman?

Catwoman (hint of a coy smile): Possibly.

Cold (entering his apartment and unloading his groceries): Yeah, I knew you looked familiar. I just…I couldn't place you at first.

Catwoman: We met in New York…

Cold: Yeah, you were getting' all chummy with the Trickster then, right?

Catwoman: I wouldn't go that far.

If it sounds boring, try flipping through the issue and taking it in with Cameron Stewart's beautiful BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES style meets Los Bros. Hernandez visual style. His depiction of a beer-swilling Captain Cold all but sells the issue, and the down-to-earth meeting of the villains is a charming break from the melodrama that usually typifies these things. And it's funny as hell, too. Turns out the guy Catwoman's after lived across the hall from Cold, and Cold actually forwarded him some mail a few times after he left. In response to Catwoman's shock at the seemingly out-of-character kindness, Cold pops a beer and retorts, "What? I can't be a decent neighbor?"

The bastard's a total scene stealer and I love it.

The rest of the issue's given over to a caper Catwoman reluctantly agrees to pull alongside Cold in exchange for the mystery man's forwarding address. The nature of the theft is best left a mystery, but rest assured that in the spirit of the Flash's crazy-ass rogues gallery, it's appropriately outrageous, a riotous Ocean's Eleven gone horribly, horribly wrong. I hope Brubaker had as much fun writing this oddball pair-up as I had reading about it, because it's a team well worth revisiting someday. Granted, CATWOMAN's one of those books, like most Bat-titles, that works best somewhat removed from the glitz of the larger DC Universe, but after an issue like this, there's no denying the occasional spice a shared universe can bring.

So I'm in a bind. I wanted to be able to put this book behind me and take a moral stand against the increasingly adult tones of some superhero titles, but that bum Brubaker won't let me. He's just too good. His mixture of emotional realism and pulp adventure is a heady brew, and it turns out that one gruelingly dark turn isn't quite enough to keep me away. Not when he can turn on a dime and cook up a romp like issue #21. What's more, his artistic collaborators have made CATWOMAN the best-looking superhero book in the industry, period, with this latest issue featuring my favorite comic art of the year thus far. Yes, of the whole year. And damn it all, Brubaker's characterization of Catwoman's best friend, Holly (including her Keystone City tourist antics this ish), cements her status as DC's cutest jailbait.

What, I can't indulge in a few prurient thoughts just because I take a stand against torture scenes? Buncha prudes.


Written by Mark Millar

Art by Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary

Published by Marvel

Expounded On In Vivid Detail by The Talking Villain

Ah, Talkbacker, we meet again! It is I, your old nemesis, Montaglia! Do not even try to feign unconsciousness. The sensors I've taped to your gonads tell me that your brain is at full wakefulness level. I'm sure by now you've tried the bonds on your wrists! They are high tinsel steel and the locks were designed by Okinawan puzzle smiths.

You are completely in my power and the only reason you are not dead is that it amuses me to share my plans and their obvious pitfalls with you, much like the head Skrull in ULTIMATES #11 spending most of the issue talking to the Wasp even though there is no real reason for him to do this except to provide exposition that a single caption could have done in the old days and to stall during the issue for the Ultimates to show up! Ah, was that a spoiler? You haven't read the issue? Did you really think the Ultimates were killed in that nuclear blast last issue? They would have been if this wonderful comic book were as realistic as everyone says. But we longtime comic book readers knew that Thor would teleport everybody away before the bomb went off. This isn't a criticism of the book itself so much as it is the Marvel staff and fans who keep telling us that THE ULTIMATES is realistic because most of them dress like bondage queens, while THE AVENGERS is old hat because the characters wear colorful, imaginative costumes.

But it's not the costumes or the last minute escape that makes this issue of THE ULTIMATES even less realistic than the much derided comic books of the recent past. It is the presence of The Talking Villain. You know, much like those megalomaniacs whom James Bond always encounters, the ones who have to tell Bond their plot instead of just putting two slugs in the back of his head? Well it makes even less sense for a Skrull, defined in THE ULTIMATES as a non-individual, and thus lacking the ego required to reveal his plot for world destruction to the Wasp. Also, as an alien who is part of the greater whole, would the Skrull not simply act logically and efficiently? Damned straight it would! Do not get me started on Talking Villains, Talkbacker! Why, one of my favorite action movies – THE LAST BOYSCOUT - written by perhaps my favorite modern screenwriter - Shane Black - slyly employs the talking villain over and over, allowing Bruce Willis to defeat them.

But I digress. If you will watch your view screen, you will see that I have commandeered all major communication satellites and using HAARP technology developed by Nikola Tesla, will activate hundreds of thousands of "bio-chips" planted in unsuspecting people all over the world. When the signal, which operates on frequency alpha-3-3-3-7-9-21-delta-tau-kai, is sent out, these innocent humans will be transformed into huge, raging mutants defying both the laws of physics and the principals of genetics. They will slaughter all around them, thus unleashing chaos, a chaos that I am prepared to use to my advantage. I will rule the survi -- what, you've slipped out of your bonds?! You're free! But of course, you're double jointed! I should have realized that from the report given to me by my operative Lady Leah Frigid, whom you weakly allowed to seduce you before you destroyed her with the Atomo-vibrator! GAAAH!...Strangling me...gaah... tunnel of clouds...gaah...bright light... Mommy and Jesus waiting for me...gaaah...


By Vroom Socko

So my flight out of San Diego is delayed by three hours, and I’m just sitting there reading some of my acquisitions from the Con. I’d just finished The Liberty Project and was about to start on the Powers Scriptbook, when I heard a voice boom out:

“So what’d you think?”

And standing before me was the book’s author, Kurt Busiek. Of course, I said I enjoyed it, and I mentioned some of the themes that I recognized from his other work. I’m pretty sure I also gave him my card, and mentioned that the book would get a review at some point, but I’d be choosing The Liberty Project as a Tale even if I hadn’t met the man.

Collecting the entire eight issue series run from Eclipse Comics, The Liberty Project is one of the earliest stories penned by Busiek to be published. The concept is one he’s used several times since (most notably in Thunderbolts and the Tarnished Angel storyline from Astro City) - that of the super-powered crook who somehow finds himself on the path to redemption. In this instance there are four baddies who’re serving time in federal prison. What with the exorbitant cost of keeping them under lock and key, not to mention the lack of rehabilitation among superpowered inmates, someone in the government came up with the idea of a super villain work release program.

That’s right, this is a book about bad guys doing community service. Of course, in the beginning these four felons aren’t exactly focused on the project, so at the end of the first issue they all end up escaping. Sure, they end up back in the Project in a few issues, but still. The book has several small bits like that, stuff that would end up becoming the hallmark of Busiek’s writing. There’s one scene in particular when a Project member is thrown out of a window. He immediately fires off a swing line and flies back into the window Batman-style. The assembled crowd watching the battle goes wild, while the man himself is thinking, “Oh God I almost died! Why am I going back in there?” I love stuff like that.

While the stories are quite good, the characters leave a bit to be desired. It’s not that they’re bad per se; it’s just that they’re not given much of a chance to grow beyond their basic archetypes. You have Burnout, the flame-throwing teenage girl who has abandonment issues. Cimarron is the super-strong wild chick with the flirtatious streak. Crackshot is the marksman/inventor who’s actually interested in going straight. And Slick is the charismatic thief who’s beginning to realize that he’s actually a pretty good leader. Not exactly revolutionary character work, but it serves its purpose.

I’m a big fan of redemption stories, and a huge fan of Busiek, so this particular purchase was a real no-brainer. If you’re a Busiek completist, or even if you just miss Thunderbolts, this is a book worth picking up. Besides, the final chapter has an appearance by the Heap. Who doesn’t love the Heap?

Question for Discussion

If a creator were to walk up and ask for your opinion on their work, what creator and what book would you want it to be?

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