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AICN COMICS! ASTONISHING X-MEN - Good! BATMAN: WAR GAMES - Not bad. DEEP SLEEPER - Exhilarating' Click to find out why!

Hey @$$holes, @CR editor-type-guy Gregory Scott here.

You know, over the years, this column has been accused of many things, among them, the fact that we have a bias against Mark Millar. And I'm here to tell you that that may in fact be true. Or at least it was...until we discovered how GORGEOUS he is!

Just look at that picture. Say what you will about his writing, the man definitely knows how to rock a Mr. T sweater. Dreamy.

Unfortunately, we're unable to demonstrate our newfound appreciation for Mr. Millar since we don't actually review any of his work in this week's column. On the other hand, we do have many fine other reviews for your perusal instead. For example:
  • Ali Knievel dares to give us his opinions on ASTONISHING X-MEN #4! Is it as astonishing as a jump over the fountains at Caesar's Palace? Find out!

  • Buzz Maverik reviews the Grant Morrison's animal-themed project WE3, and tries to determine if Morrison's writing has finally gone to the dogs! (I have no shame.)

  • Ambush Bug actually does some ambushing this week, and takes over Buzz Maverik's Book Club to review Steve Niles' GUNS, DRUGS, AND MONSTERS!

  • And as usual, Cheap Shots, indulgent uses of graphics, punchy prose stylings, and whole heck of a lot more!
And there you have it. Autobots, transform and roll out!

Table of Contents
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Ambush Bug's Book Club: GUNS, DRUGS, AND MONSTERS
WE3 #1
Comic Obituaries: LEGION #38
Cheap Shots!


Written by Joss Whedon
Illustrated by John Cassaday
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviews by Ali Knievel

Kids, before I get to the review, let me get one thing out of the way. Those of you who want to get down to the nitty-gritty on the impending return of the fastball special can simply Click Here.

Some of you reading this are probably wondering, "Who the hell is this Knievel idiot?" "How the heck did he get in the Talkback League of @$$holes or the Comic Book Reviewing @$$People or whatever they're calling themselves these days?" "I've been trying to bribe Cormorant with risqué sketches of Mary Marvel and Talkie-Talkie for 2 years, dammit!"

Well actually friends, I'm The Comedian …or I was. You see, recently two of my colleagues caused a bit of a stir in their decisions to abandon their Talkback handles and use their real names. Some have perceived this as some sort of ill-conceived attempt at respectability. I for one was inspired by Greg and Dave's bold move. So inspired, in fact, that I too have decided to abandon my silly, childish Talkback handle …FOR AN EVEN MORE FACILE, ATTENTION STARVED, GRANDSTANDING ONE!!!! Taking my inspiration from two of the greatest real superheroes of all time.

So True Believers, much to the complete disinterested stolidity of DC Comics' legal department, Alan Moore, and you the reading public, "The Comedian" is no more. Long live…

Yeah, that is my actual picture! You want a piece of this, chump!? I'll pop a wheelie, jump over Snake Canyon in my Sky Cycle and still find a hot minute to look o' so pretty KNOCKIN' YOU ON YOUR @$$!

Thought so.

So, they brought Colossus back. Don't look so surprised. You knew they were gonna bring Peter back eventually. Here's hoping they don't wait for X3 to come out before they decide to bring Jean back.

Overall, this issue was the beginning of the "Astonishment" for me. Not just because they brought Colossus back, but more so because this is the 1st issue of this series that didn't feel like Not-so-Nu Marvel-paced filler to me. Sure, the first 3 issues were well written with pitch perfect characterizations and plot twists. But other than infighting amongst the team, there weren't that many memorable set-ups for good action. I was beginning to think that Cassaday was just going to coast along on this series with his hyper-real schtick, and not draw any decent fight sequences other than the two seemingly identical "Wolverine gets pissed at one of his teammate" fights in #1 and #3. There's nothing all that "Astonishing" about how well one can draw a five o'clock shadow on Cyclops.

With that said I really enjoyed Cassaday's pencils in this issue. The fight with the force-field girl and Ord, the frog faced "big bad," was awesome even if it was only 3 panels. Also terrific was the scene where the Cyclops gets shot and Emma's about to open up a can of bling blingin' whupass. Of course the best moment is the reveal of Colossus at the end. Panel for panel it's classic visual storytelling. Kudos to Cassaday for stepping up his game.

Whedon is doing just what you'd expect from him on this book: Brilliant characterization. He makes you feel sorry for Emma Frost because you believe she actually loves Scott Summers, instead of her just being the tired, kinky, ice-bitch bit Morrison had played-out to death with her. While the scene with the kids and Ord is a bit cutesy at first, the dialogue between the kids beforehand feels like honest to goodness American teenagers, instead of the hipper-than-thou freakish special-class bit Morrison used to do. Kitty is the center of this book and I'm glad Joss is gonna put her and Peter back together - as long as he doesn't turn Peter evil when he and Kitty knock boots, turn him good again, and finally turn him into some chubby, half-assed detective surrounded by dopey sidekicks and gay karaoke demons.

My Hot Pocket prediction is that Ord is actually just some poor mutant who has been brainwashed and reprogrammed with all this Breakworld nonsense so he won't have any problems doing in his own kind. I bet that's the same thing they were trying to do to Peter too.

Either way, I'm finally exited about this book.


Written by Dennis O' Neil & Elliot S! Maggin
Art by Neal Adams, with Bernie Wrightson & Dick Giordano
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik

Confessions of a Former Marvel Zombie #2112: ...and I thought that Guy Gardner was created in the 1980s. It turns out, he first appeared in a 1968 GREEN LANTERN story and reappeared in an early '70s tale that featured the first appearance of John Stewart as Green Lantern. And Stewart was never called the awkward moniker "Black Green Lantern" in the issue. Weird as it sounds today, the book was ahead of its time by simply referring to him as "Green Lantern." The rest of the name must have been added by a writer less sensitive than O'Neil or an editor less aware than Julius Schwartz. It's funny, I know waaay too frikkin' much about Bronze Age Marvel, but almost nothing about DC of any era except maybe the late '80s.

This trade paperback is the second volume collecting the classic run on GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neil Adams. Under these two fantastic creators, GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW was one of those great series that everyone talks about but nobody does anything about.

Why are these stories classics?

Being a lazy @$$hole, I'll go with the easy answer first. One word: Neal Adams art.

Neal Adams is one of those artists, like his contemporary Jim Steranko, whose work was so startlingly good and different that it all had a serious impact on the comic book medium and turned every series he worked on into a masterpiece. The fact that Adams and Steranko were never very prolific in the comic industry helped the status of their work.

Adams is best known for his DC work on BATMAN and DEAD MAN, as well as GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW. At Marvel, he drew a number of their black and white magazines, did significant work on early '70s AVENGERS (particularly the Kree/Skrull War saga; I'm reading ESSENTIAL AVENGERS VOL. 4 right now for a future review, and I have to tell ya, until Adams took over, that book was in a long period of suckitude!), CONAN THE BARBARIAN and especially THE X-MEN. For my money, Adams did the definitive X-MEN. He worked with the original line up, not the ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT crew, and his stuff hasn't been matched for weirdness and grandeur (hell, not even Steranko's X-MEN matched Adams' version).

Another reason these stories stand out is that they were radical and relevant. They dealt with poverty, perspective, race and drugs (more on the drugs later). Many of the topics they touched on are still relevant. Unfortunately, many were relevant only at the time and some of the point of view was already starting to be passe before it made its way to the comic page. If these stories had come out about five years earlier, in the hippie Summer O' Love, they would have been more in touch with the times. But the fact that they came out at all is still amazing. The comic book industry used to be pretty conservative.

Today, it's a little annoying to have Green Lantern stop and debate with himself about whether he should interfere with some hoods attacking an old man ("The young may be in the right"), or have Green Arrow freak out and join a monastery because he accidentally killed a gun man who was trying to kill him. Okay, it's refreshing that characters weren't always so grim and gritty, but during the course of the story, Ollie never once considered turning himself in to the police. That never came up.

Probably the best story in the volume is also the most famous. We know it as "Speedy Shoots Up," but it was titled "Snowbirds Don't Fly." Yes, Green Arrow's sidekick, Oliver Queen's ward, Roy Harper, becomes addicted to heroin. The reason this two-parter is the best story is not for the reasons it is usually remembered. It's not the shock or the message. It is simply a good crime story, with Green Lantern and Green Arrow taking on the cop roles. There's some gawky dialogue in which Speedy's junkie friends discuss why they shoot up. Speedy's reason, that he's been ignored by Ollie, is too aware. Anyone with that much immediate insight wouldn't get into dope.

Visually, Adams really cut loose on the drug story. His most striking images are of Green Lantern's ring-created monsters when he's dosed with smack, and of one of Speedy's friends reacting to the death of another friend. But even in the ordinary panels, Adams moves in closer to his subjects, beautifully rendering the expressions of pain and anger. At times, this series was a little too earthbound for the scope of Adams abilities. We see too few panels of Green Lantern streaking through the night time city, or passing over the blocks of skyscrapers. Perhaps his greatest image in this story is the low angle on the open coffin at the funeral of Speedy's buddy.

Some of the weaknesses in this collection are the ones that were common in DC comics at the time, thus creating a generation of Marvel Zombies. Lip service was paid to continuity. In the only non-O'Neil-scripted tale, by Elliot S! Maggin, Oliver Queen decides to run for mayor of the City at the end of the issue. Not another word is said about that. Sure, John Stewart is on standby, but he disappears after his intro issue. After Speedy kicks with the help of Black Canary, that's the last we hear of Speedy (whom we haven't seen until he got on the junk). Ollie and Dinah's relationship makes no sense, even by comic book standards. Hal Jordan is outraged by the callous response of his girlfriend, heiress Carol Ferris, to the death of an eco-terrorist - so much so that he's moved to destroy millions of dollars worth of her aircraft. Yet there are no legal repercussions to Green Lantern and nothing is said of the state of his relationship with Carol in the next story.

Like many comics today, more at Marvel than DC, this book dispensed with supervillains and the like for "real world" stories. O'Neil pulled a similar boner with his de-powered but empowered karate WONDER WOMAN of the same era. It's just weird when you have a space cop with a magic ring and a guy dressed like Robin Hood for no reason.

The stories are classics. They are still topical in many ways. You can almost sense the editorial restraint placed on Adams and O'Neil...for such a topical series there's no mention of the Viet Nam war which was dividing the populace of the US at the time. The story with racial issues copped out by having a white villain and a black villain working together to create racial tension. They had to do that at the time. There's a similar story in an AVENGERS issue of that era.

You can still enjoy the truly exceptional art and fine writing of GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW VOL. 2. But I recommend that first you get into your hippie mindset. Just don't go as far as Speedy.

DEEP SLEEPER #3 (of 4)

Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Mike Huddleston
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by
Dave Farabee

"God, what is that?"
"It's the idea of a sword. The first sword. Dreamed by a Minoan shepherd before metal even existed. Used only in his imagination. It'll kill anything."
-Writer Cole Gibson learns you can still get your ass shanked living in an ephemeral dreamscape

The preceding is a favorite scene from DEEP SLEEPER #3, a book that weds the kind of high concepts Grant Morrison might dream up with an approachability Morrison hasn't had since the days of his masterful ANIMAL MAN. Modern Morrison is too detached for me, his characters undermined by his rapid-fire ideas and a sense of their own artificiality, but writer Phil Hester finds a more grounded balance that's nothing short of exhilarating.

In the first two issues of DEEP SLEEPER (review of #1 here), we met struggling African-American writer Cole Gibson. Through an increasingly eerie series of events, he found himself a potential pawn in a world almost impossible to accept as real – a world where godlike beings of a Lovecraftian otherness vie for power in an ethereal realm that sometimes intersects with human existence. As sci-fi ideas go, its familiar territory, but Hester's writing is truly unnerving. He makes it all seem new and frightening, as when Cole's visit to the dream realm in issue #2 ended with him gliding back toward his body...only to see his own eyes flicker open as another denizen of the dreamscape took possession of it just before he could.

Issue #3 opens with the terrifying revelation that the incorporeal Cole has watched this intruder throughout the day – feeding his children, laughing at Cole's writing notes, having sex with his wife... Even more bizarre, Cole learns that the person who's possessed his body can see him. The intruder regales Cole with a chilling tale that put me in the mind of the serial killer's convention from SANDMAN, but even creepier, he seems to exhibit a genuine need to be the father he was in another time – it almost humanizes him, but for the fact that he's fulfilling that need in such a horrific manner.

It's a deft bit of writing from Hester, best known to most as the GREEN ARROW artist of the last few years, but clearly a writer of astounding potential. He consistently bucks expectations, transforming scenes that could be predictable into something memorable. Just the fact that all the cosmic stuff works is testament to this. When I read most "cosmic" comics, there's no quicker way to put me to sleep than to start getting into bullshit theories of creation, universal balance...hell, anything to do with the Living Tribunal.

But Cole's celestial encounter with Ramman, smooth-talking, charismatic leader of the Black Hats, is actually a favorite scene in DEEP SLEEPER. Ramman, who appears as a monk, is like the otherworldly incarnation of Hannibal Lecter. He taunts Cole with a repressed memory dating back to when Cole was a kid and his father took a mill job in an all-white town. Ramman knows that Cole used to fake leg cramps to get his father to massage his legs, all in a desperate bid to simply talk to his father about how lonely he was in their new home.

"And when he didn't...when he told you he was too tired, and that maybe you were being a baby about your legs, you resented it, didn't you? You hated him with that sudden, short-lived, all consuming hate only a child can muster.
"You wished him away, Cole.
"And the next morning he was gone."

It's Ramman's bid to convince Cole of his great, untapped mystical power, even as he mocks him for his lack of control. He needs Cole's powers, but needs them from a broken man, not a willful one. As memory comes flooding back to Cole, he wonders where he wished his father to...

"Oh, I don't recall. The moon, maybe. That sounds like something a little boy would do, doesn't it? Wish someone onto the moon?"

That Hester combines such weighty issues as familial love with a dark, almost mythic level of adventure can't help but put me in the mind of Gaiman's SANDMAN. And like SANDMAN the end result isn't morose but exciting and truly moving. Cole is left in a horrible position - his family at the mercy of a stranger in his body, Ramman and his agents making a good case for submitting to their machinations, and the supposed White Hats of the dreamscape holding frickin' Minoan dream-swords to his throat. All this and his ethereal body is losing its anchor on reality – dissipating into nothingness.

What happens next is one of the most exciting comic book sequences I've read all year.

Check this book out, guys and gals. It's ridiculously good, and I haven't even mentioned how well Mike Huddleston's creepy black and white artwork supports Hester's story. I think the series will hit all the right notes for fans of SANDMAN, for fans of the non-superhero superhero movie, UNBREAKABLE, and anyone fascinated by Eastern religions and myth.

Your best bet: start by nabbing the DEEP SLEEPER OMNIBUS. It collects issues 1 and 2 of the series and just came out two weeks ago, so it should be readily available or easy for your retailer to order. This latest ish, #3, just came out last week, so it should still be on the shelves of finer shops everywhere. Then join me in anticipation of #4. If Hester and Huddleston pull this one off - and I have every reason to have confidence in them - DEEP SLEEPER will end up my top comic of 2004


Writers: Grayson, Gabrych, Lieberman, Willingham, Horrocks, and Brubaker
Artists: A whole crapload, but they're all good please, nobody get offended
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G

I know what I'm doing here might seem a little unorthodox. Usually you see a review for one issue, or maybe a couple if it's a single storyline. It might seem a bit excessive to go and review nine issues all at once. Honestly, though, anybody who's ever read a major crossover in comics knows better than to try and analyze a specific issue. If you tried to review only the seventh part of X-TINCTION AGENDA, for example, it just wouldn't make any damned sense to the casual reader. Same would be true of AGE OF APOCALYPSE's final issue (OMEGA, wasn't it?) or any issue whatsoever of OUR WORLDS AT WAR. No, there's just no point in trying to break these things down into their component parts.

These stories are clearly written with the intention of the whole being greater than the blahblahblah. In the end, the only way you can really judge these stories is by how well they work as a whole. Like a lot of you, I've gotten burned by these things. In the Batbooks, we've seen a really good crossover (NO MAN'S LAND, which I was skeptical as hell of initially) and some stinkers (JOKER'S LAST LAUGH? Couldn't even finish it, especially since I just knew they weren't gonna finally do us all a favor and kill the guy off).

So where does WAR GAMES fit in? Hard to say. I mean, we're only done with Chapter One out of Three (or is it Four?). It could end up being a huge waste of time, or it could turn out really well. So far, though, things look promising. Every single story thread running through Chapter One is firmly rooted in the events taking place in the Batbooks this year. Tim Drake quitting his night job as Robin and starting at a new school? Check. Spoiler flunking out at Robin? Check. Gang wars and the Penguin as a growing threat? In there. That freaky thrillkiller who whacked the brutally lame Blockbuster cuz Nightwing doesn't have the stones? You betcha. Hush once again being far more impressive in the hands of a new talent than those of his creator? Happily, yes. All that and a whole lot more.

What it all seems to come down to is this: For all his efforts, Bruce Wayne just flat-out sucks at the interpersonal stuff. Not surprisingly, this means that his little dysfunctional family sucks at it too. Dick, Tim, Stephanie, Selina, Alfred, Barbara, Leslie…these people all care about each other, but none of them can figure out how to act around each other. They're a mess, and when they're a mess, it makes it awfully hard to do their jobs. Due to a multi-gang meeting that goes desperately wrong, Gotham blows up. There are suddenly 8 or 10 different gangs, all well-armed, all angry and all aiming to protect their turf while snapping up a little extra territory. Batman and his posse have to scramble to try and get things under control with no idea what's going on or why. They're all exhausted, confused and on each other's last nerve. At this point, we've only got a slightly better idea than they do what's going on, but that little bit is enough to make the reader pretty nervous for a couple of supporting cast members (not to mention wondering where one is—she's rather conspicuous by her absence).

I have to credit the writers on this thing. Usually the crossover stories are fairly well coordinated once they get started, maintaining internal consistency and working well together. This one, though, is different. Editorial clearly started planning this crossover a long time ago. The events leading up to WAR GAMES didn't just start a month or two ago. There are threads here that have been running through the various books for a year now. Either the seeds were being laid intentionally by last fall, or they really busted their asses to come up with ways to tie it all together. Nothing here feels out of place or shoehorned in so far. By the time this first chapter is done, by the way, there really have been some surprising events that really are changing the status quo.

Like what, you ask? Well, without spoiling the how and why for you, there's a really, really big moment where Batman is finally seen. I mean, yeah, we see him all the time. This time, though, he walks out of a building, in broad daylight, in front of every single camera crew in Gotham, and gets caught on tape under less than ideal conditions. He's not alone, either—Nightwing and Batgirl are with him. It's official: Batman is no longer an "urban legend." Everybody's gonna know about him. There have always been those who wondered how he could be front and center in JLA yet remain shrouded in mystery back home in Gotham. Fair question, really, but as of now the point is moot. The Dark Knight's now been outed. Is this a good idea? Hell, I have no idea. I do know that it's definitely something new, something different, and something that will have lasting effects on his titles. This was the biggest surprise so far, but it was by no means the only one.

If there's any one concern I have about this crossover, it's the potential loss of talent. There were rumors recently that a writer or two was less than thrilled with having to participate in the crossover. My first thought upon hearing the rumor was that Ed Brubaker's done a hell of a job with CATWOMAN, but she's fairly well removed from the rest of the Batbooks, set up in her own little world. Most of the other writers, however, seemed much more closely linked to the goings-on. It has now been announced that Brubaker will be leaving CATWOMAN three issues from now — pretty much right around when WAR GAMES ends. I think it's unfortunate that one of DC's more unique books is going to lose its guiding voice. Brubaker took what had been a tacky T&A book and turned it into a gritty but heartfelt story unlike anything else DC is publishing right now, and I'm not convinced the book will be able to continue without Brubaker steering things. I'm also nervous about what this development means for GOTHAM CENTRAL, another one of the best books DC has.

Those issues aside, though, I have little problem recommending the storyline. Sure, a couple parts are a little better or worse. Taken as a whole, though, these first nine issues (the 12 cent intro and Parts 1-8) are telling a terse story with serious ramifications and no way of telling just how things will end up. I could be way off base here, and this could end up being another three-month waste of time. So far, though, it holds a lot of promise.


Writer: Steve Niles
Illustrations: Ashley Wood
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewing this innovation: Ambush Bug

I don't know if you all have heard about this or not, but apparently there are these things called "books." Not comic books, mind you. We all know what those things are. No, these things are just called "books." They are like comic books, but without panels or art or word balloons or captions. It's just words on paper, bound by a front cover and a back cover. It's kind of like a Bendis comic except with even more words than usual and less pictures (if you can fathom that!). You read it just like you do a comic book, from top to bottom and left to right (unless you're into that manga stuff), turning the page to the next one when you finish it until there are no more pages and you reach the end of the book. There are these things called "chapters," which are kind of like single comic book issues, and when these "chapters" are read in succession, it's not unlike reading a trade paperback collecting a bunch of singular issues in a row. This concept was so fresh and new to me that I had to I had to hijack Buzz's Book Club and tell you all about it. I saw it as my duty as a well-educated and worldly reviewer of graphic literature.

The "book," or "novel" if you will, that lead me to write this review was GUNS, DRUGS, & MONSTERS - A CAL MCDONALD MYSTERY by Steven Niles. I was no stranger to Steven Niles work. I've been a fan of his since I picked up the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT miniseries a few moons ago. I find Niles to be a true talent in comic-bookdom; someone who single-handedly brought horror back to the forefront in comics. I am also a huge fan of Niles' hard knocks supernatural detective, Cal McDonald. Out of all of Niles' horror properties, Cal is my favorite. He staggers through the world of the uncanny, nursing wounds and broken bones, and more often than not, is doped up on one kind of drug or another. McDonald is gruff, cocky, and one of the coolest characters to come along the pike in a long time. Needless to say, when I heard that Niles decided to use this new panel-less comic book angle, my interest was piqued.

Turns out, Niles doesn't need to have art accompany his words at all. In this "book," he writes with such description and depth, that pictures would prove to be overkill. I was amazed to find myself enthralled with the character of Cal McDonald and his stone faced, ghoul partner in crime, Mo'lock and I didn't need pictures to help illustrate that. The characters were fleshed out even more so than what I had read in the comics.

The story follows Cal and Mo'lock from Washington DC to Los Angeles. Cal receives a package in the mail containing the severed head of another supernatural detective. This is shocking enough, but when the head starts bitching for Cal to find the rest of his body, things officially go from weird to "freaky-deaky-all-the-damn-weeky" awfully quick. From there, Cal faces a pair of werewolves, some friendly vampires and a not so friendly one, and a menagerie of other spooks and weirdoes. One of the highlights of the book for me features an encounter with a TWILIGHT ZONE-like Gremlin as Cal flies on a plane from DC to LA. This is a world where monsters exist, and Cal either works with them or takes them out; all in the same half-assed, devil-may-care manner that he has become famous for.

This "book" is not completely without art. Ashley Wood provides some wicked illustrations that bookend each "chapter." This art is grainy and moody, which helps set the tone for each section well.

Now, this "book" business may just be another fad for the teenie-boppers like The Flintstone Flop and Penicillin. But if these "books" are as good as this one was, I might try to seek out a few more. GUNS, DRUGS, AND MONSTERS – A CAL MCDONALD MYSTERY was entertaining throughout. Niles handles this character better than any other in his stable of goblins and ghouls. He's developed an entire monstrous world for this lovable loser to trip around in. I plan on checking out more of the CAL MCDONALD MYSTERY "novels" and encourage you to do so as well. I doubt these "books" will ever catch on and go mainstream, so you should do yourself a favor and pick up one or two before its fifteen minutes are up. Reading stories without thought bubbles, splash pages, and giant BIFFs and BLAMs may take some getting used to, but if the story is as good as GUNS, DRUGS AND MONSTERS, you'll quickly forget you are not reading a comic book and enjoy this peculiar new medium for what it is.

WE3 #1

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik

Two buddies named Grant and Frank were hanging out one day. They did some mescaline and popped Disney's THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY into the VCR. What they saw was the story of WE3.

Okay, I made up the part about Grant and Frank doing mescaline and watching the classic story of three pets surviving alone in the wilderness (unless I'm psychic) but the description of their cool new book is pretty accurate. Yes, I mean all of this as compliments!

I read somewhere that this book was Westernized manga. If you're like me, you read Dave Cormorant's BIG EYE FOR THE CAPE GUY in this column, you think some things sound cool. You like the images and the motion of manga. You appreciate the strangeness and newness. They remind you of the way comics used to be before you knew everything about them. Then, you get into the manga section of Fortress O' Comics, and all those big eyes are staring at you and all that hair is standing straight up and there's these weird lines and skinny female characters and the next thing you know you're in Ward B.

If WE3 is manga storytelling, I'm glad they westernized it so I could read it. We didn't drop those bombs for nuthin'.

WE3 are a trio of cyborg animals - a dog, a cat and a bunny - who have been genetically and cybernetically altered to be assassins for the US government. I find this premise hard to accept. The current administration would skip the animal subjects and wire up people. Other than that, I'm completely with Morrison and Quitely here.

More realistically, the government is now out to destroy its loyal servants. Our non-human heroes escape and we can only guess what happens next.

The perspectives of the animals, used both in the narrative and visually, are striking and exciting. We're given a two-page splash of a spray of bullets ripping through a fat guy that does more than look cool. It helps us understand who or what we're seeing the scene through. Another double splash features the escaped animals bounding into the starry night. It was an interesting choice not use this scene to communicate joy, freedom or relief, but to maintain the grimness and the unnatural qualities of the characters.

Somebody tried to tell me that Morrison and Quitely had previously distinguished themselves on a X-MEN series. I know that's b.s. because there haven't been any X-Men comics since 1991. The same fool tried to tell me that Chris Claremont was back writing X-Men. Shuh-right. Like he wouldn't know better than that!

But you can feel these guys casting off the yolk of Marvel. Because, no way in hell would Marvel ever do WE3. It's great to be able to see two master craftsmen cut loose with their imaginations and talents.


Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

For those who haven't been following Byrne's DOOM PATROL relaunch/revamp/refit, the first two issues spun directly off his JLA collaboration with Chris Claremont. Seemed an inauspicious debut to me, muddying up what should've been a rip-roaring, stand-alone intro with leftover baggage from a less-than-stellar JLA storyline. Got me to thinking of an interview quote from Brian Vaughan (EX MACHINA, RUNAWAYS): "These days, readers and retailers will give you one issue to prove yourself, if that. First issues have to be masterpieces, or you're fucked."

Based on that first (and second) issue, I'm afraid Byrne looked fucked to me.

On the other hand, I'm not about to let the trends of the impersonal and itself fucked-up comic book market make my decisions for me, especially since I've got a soft spot for the Doom Patrol. When I saw that issue #3 was an Antarctic mystery with shades of John Carpenter's remake of THE THING, I decided to give the book another go. I'd imprinted strongly on Carpenter's flick as a nine-year-old, and recalled Byrne making similarly effective use of cold weather climes in a number of his own stories - the Sasquatch/Super-Skrull match-up in ALPHA FLIGHT, the discovery of Sathanas in NEXT MEN, and the finale to his futuristic graphic novel, 2112, to name a few.

As hoped, DOOM PATROL #3 opens strong and evocative. First panel is a lens-flare overlaid with radio chatter, and the second reveals the source as a helicopter making a night approach on an eerily still Antarctic military base. In rapid succession we see the investigation team discovering unusual damage to the base, ice-crusted corpses inside, and, quite suddenly (and disastrously), the inhuman source of the pinging their motion sensors have picked up. It's a boom-boom-boom three page teaser, rarely seen in today's superhero market (though I've noticed fan-favorite Dan Slott breaking it out in the excellent SHE-HULK on occasion). Personally I might've hoped for a bit more atmosphere in the build up, but Byrne's approach is to make the eeriness an aspect of a larger tale of exploration and adventure, not to tell a straight-up horror story. As such, I can appreciate the quick clip, too, reminiscent of his FANTASTIC FOUR work.

Of course, the Doom Patrol will be sent to investigate, but before that we get some downtime soap operatics at their headquarters, a teched-out Civil War island-prison that anyone would have to admit is a cool concept. The base scene kick off with a terrific splash page (pencil rough here) of Rita Farr, aka Elasti-Girl, breaking out the team's new uniform. I like its elegant simplicity, reminding me of 60's-era futurism, and appreciate the touch about it being based on Robotman's design since he's not the type to wear costumes himself. On the downside, teen Doom Patroller Nudge's redesign of her uniform bears the cruel '80s influence of Pat Benetar and FLASHDANCE. Alas, Byrne's just not cutting edge when it comes to the kiddies.

Which leads to the overly "comic booky" dialogue, perhaps the toughest pill to swallow. The comic convention of soliloquies has never seemed more outdated than when Nudge angsts to herself, "Why won't anyone listen to me? Why do they keep treating me like I'm some know-nothing kid?" Robotman and Negative Man's various "chums" and "kiddos" don't do much to help. I can't figure the target audience for Byrne's superhero work these days, imagining dialogue like this appealing only to the extreme ends of the comic age spectrum – pre-teen readers for whom realism is a distant concern, and those thirty and forty-something readers with nostalgia for it. I fall into the latter category, but even I know the dialogue could stand to lose its Silver Age vestiges in favor of contemporary makeover.

Dusty idioms aside, there are plenty of clever and imaginative moments that buoy the story. Nudge has a nifty little test of her telekinesis with unexpected results, and I like the brewing subplot of her seeing ghosts of Civil War soldiers at the base. The Antarctic stuff, as expected, steals the show, with lots of science (and pseudoscience) fun to be had in the makeshift CSI lab staged alongside the monstrous discovery from the book's teaser. The team gets to flex its powers in interesting ways, including grappling with some alien-like creatures whose point of origin is a lake a mile and a half below the Antarctic surface, but its the investigation/exploration that most interested me. It peaks with Elasti-Girl shrinking to miniature size to ride inside Robotman's head(!) in a trek to the mysterious lake. Quite a swanky idea – I just hope the follow-through lives up to the concept.

As for Byrne's art...going up against the Bryan Hitches and Greg Lands of the biz, it's not the pinnacle of realism we all thought it was in the '70s and '80s, but it carries a special kind of reality of its own. Byrne weds realism in body language with classic superhero designs, has his own iconography of high tech machinery and alien forms, and a confidence in creating structures and environments...all of which combines to create a sort of super-consistency that puts me in the mind of stop-motion animation. The end result doesn't look like the world I recognize, but it's wholly convincing according to its own laws of form and design. It's one of the things I've always dug about Byrne's art – being able to walk in his worlds.

Yep, this is definitely the story that should've opened the series. It was strong enough to put DOOM PATROL back on my radar, its endearing cool scenes and mysteries outweighing the hokey stuff by a considerable margin. That's a balance I can enjoy, and one I'd especially recommend to those DC fans put off by the darker twists and turns of DC's recent direction.

THE LEGION, Futuristic Superhero Comic Series, Dead at Issue #38

THE LEGION, the latest iteration of the perennial DC series LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, died this week at issue #38 in comic stores around the country.

First appearing in ADVENTURE COMICS #247 in 1958, "The Legion of Superheroes" told the story of a club of superpowered teenagers from the 30th century who traveled back in time to offer club membership to a young Superboy. After Superboy agreed and returned with them to the future, he was asked to perform several superhero duties as part of his initiation into the club; but he failed each task due to unforeseeable distractions. Brought to tears by the frustration and disappointment of the ordeal, Superboy was then notified by the Legion that the distractions were actually purposely caused by them in order to engage the real initiation process: coping with the defeat and abject humiliation; thus revealing the advancement of emotionally sadistic hazing techniques in the 30th century.

After their debut, the Legion of Superheroes appeared increasingly often and more prominently in ADVENTURE, eventually crowding out Superboy from the title. They later took over the SUPERBOY title as well, which was subsequently renamed THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the popularity of THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES grew. Along with Marv Wolfman and George Perez's TEEN TITANS, writer Paul Levitz and artist Keith Giffen's LEGION OF SUPERHEROES served as DC Comics' most popular and credible answer to Marvel Comics' market dominance. This continued up to the massive restructuring of the "DC Universe" brought by the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS limited series.

In the aftermath of CRISIS, Superboy was eliminated entirely from the Superman canon, creating a series of anomalies in Legion history, namely "If there was no Superboy, who the heck was that kid we went on all those adventures with?" Several attempts were made to answer this anomaly, including the creation of "pocket universes" and changing history itself with the ZERO HOUR crossover, but arguably, the title never completely recovered. THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES continued with varying success, spawning spin-offs such as L.E.G.I.O.N. and LEGIONNAIRES, and subsequently rebooting and restarting with different versions, of which the recently deceased series was the latest.

THE LEGION began in 2001, following the LEGION LOST and LEGION WORLDS limited/mini-series that significantly broke down and then reassembled the Legion team. Under the pen of writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, together known as "DnA," the Legion battled Ra's al Ghul, Universo, Darkseid, living robots, and the process of evolution.

Although supported by a loyal fan base, THE LEGION was never able to achieve the readership it had in its halcyon days, and in recent years, suffered from declining sales. Critics speculated that the greatest obstacle to LEGION's success was also one of its greatest strengths: Depth of cast. To fans, the numerous members of The Legion and their interactions provided a richness not found in other superhero comics. However, others have suggested that the sheer volume of Legion members was just too daunting and inaccessible for new readers.

Other factors that may have contributed to the book's decline include varying artists and basic market momentum.

"Every month, I bought THE LEGION with a bit of hesitation," said internet comic critic Gregory Scott. "It was like I forgot what I liked about the series in between the issues. But if I stop and think about, after I'd put down a LEGION issue, I felt satisfied more often than not. And yet I was never able to tell the difference between Cosmic Boy and Star Boy."

THE LEGION concluded its run with the storyarc "For No Better Reason," written by BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone, and drawn by Dan Jurgens. "For No Better Reason" followed the crisis of futuristic terrorists depowering a very technology-dependent Earth of all electricity, and the Legion's efforts to stem the carnage.

"This last storyarc seemed to have the potential for a much more ambitious story," said Scott. "At times, you could almost feel it chomping at the bit to head in a more ambitious direction. I mean, the villain had a chart on the wall of Legionnaires she was going to kill. But in the end, it ended fairly modestly. She only checked off two, and even those weren't really dead. I mean come on."

Scott went on to add that the art by Jurgens and Lanning was "pretty solid."

No services have been planned for THE LEGION at this time. However, DC is already planning yet another version of the LEGION OF SUPERHEROES for December 2004, this time written by onetime LEGION OF SUPERHEROES editor Mark Waid. In the interim will be a TEEN TITANS/LEGION SPECIAL, written by Waid and TEEN TITANS writer Geoff Johns.

THE LEGION is survived by CATWOMAN, HAWKMAN, and as of yet, ENGINEHEAD.

AQUAMAN #21 - There are some people who have suggested Pfeifer was dragging his feet a little over the last few issues. Those people are nuts. In under a year's time, John Ostrander and Will Pfeifer have taken the worst relaunch of AQUAMAN yet and turned it around 180 percent or 100 degrees or whatever. After he sank half of San Diego, Pfeifer took a few issues to slowly build the groundwork this book is going to rest on. Some of my compadres felt things weren't going anywhere. With issue 21, Pfeifer proves them wrong. There are three new plot threads initiated here, and they all have a lot of potential. We've got the first natural birth among the humans who had sprouted gills and stayed underwater—and that baby can't breathe water. We've got political drama as a city councilman from Sub Diego is in the mayor's office and threatens to split his new home off from San Diego, only to be overruled (at least for the time being) by Aquaman. We've got a brand new villain, the Eel, who is already staking his claim in Sub Diego and has some truly disturbing powers. Things happen all over the place here, they're all interesting, and they all set up the possibility for multiple storylines. Pfeifer is injecting new ideas and excitement into AQUAMAN, and he's doing it without more lame rehashed Atlantean mythology of the type that's bogged down the title in recent years. It's the kind of fresh approach this character has needed for a long time. If you haven't been reading this title lately because Rick Veitch stank the book up, or you've never been a regular reader, just pick up this one issue. It's an extremely strong issue that's a part of a strong new direction this title took six months or so ago. You'll find yourself reading a more interesting book than anybody would have guessed Aquaman was capable of carrying. - Sleazy G

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #10 - First off, any of you mooks dissin' on Stuart Immonen's artistic change of style for this book need to have you heads examined. He might not be doing his full-on realistic renderings, but the stunning draftsmanship is still there, and can you honestly argue that a slightly more exaggerated style is a poor fit...for the Fantastic Four?! But now that that's out of the way...disappointing issue. Ellis gets too talky-talky and his introduction of the "Ultimate Fantasticar" is actually somewhat painful. This is one of those cases where a writer jumping through hoops to explain and modernize a wild Silver Age concept actually comes across as sillier than the original creators. Reminds me of the ridiculousness of trying to explain Superman's powers. Is the flying telekinetic? Is it some kind of localized gravity-warping? Dude, he just flies! Give me stories over justifications any day. - Dave

SLEEPER- SEASON TWO #3 - Oh, it's still a fine series, still a prime example of doing an R-rated superhero story right, anyone else getting a little tired of Holden's woe-is-me first person narration? I understand that it's central to the book that we see this once-moral man wracked with the pain of working undercover for evil men, but...and I feel bad saying this about an oft-great book...his plight is starting to feel a little repetitive for me. On the other hand, Holden's on the verge of meeting with John Lynch again, who writer Ed Brubaker's turned into one of the great bastards since John Constantine, and if anything will shake the book out of its doldrums it's that. – Dave

WORLDWATCH #1 - Chuck Austen returns to his porn comic roots with this swearing and titty-bedecked original superhero series. someone who can acknowledge that Austen's writing has occasionally shown legitimate promise, I can tell you with conviction...this is awful stuff. And not awful in an amusingly tawdry way – just awful. Half-naked superhero analogs to familiar DC and Marvel characters lounge around their headquarters, swear at each other, and have sex. There's the barest veneer of media satire, ala Milligan's X-FORCE, but it doesn't take. The art and gray tones by Tom Derenick are actually quite nice, though. Sort of an "Alan Davis by way of PLAYBOY" style. Under a different writer, an explicit superhero sex romp could've been fun, but Austen's not that man. Just be thankful this bauble is distracting him from at least one Marvel or DC title... - Dave

CONAN #7 - Kurt Busiek's kind of considered a "safe" writer, I suppose. His superhero works lean toward old-fashioned, his ASTRO CITY stories have depth but rarely bite, and if you've never read his original graphic novel, A WIZARD'S TALE, you've missed out on a sweetheart of a story that would make great bedtime reading for fantasy-minded kids. Alright, so given that, who's this crazy-ass Kurt Busiek who's writing Dark Horse's blood-soaked CONAN?! I don't know if this jumping-on point issue adapts a Robert E. Howard story or is a Busiek original, but I know that it's the Cimmerian equivalent of a Richard Stark Parker novel, unforgiving and cruelly funny. Awesome stuff. I recognize Busiek's trademark wit here and there, too, but the guy who wrote Conan putting his sword through a some luckless bastard's mouth? That must be some other Kurt Busiek, and he's one bad mofo. Recommended reading. - Dave

HAWAIIAN DICK – THE LAST RESORT #1 (of 4) - I was quite the fan of the first HAWAIIAN DICK miniseries, as this enthusiastic review attests. For the uninitiated, it followed a supernatural-tinged mystery set in 1950's Hawaii, the "dick" in question being a private detective named Byrd. This time out, Byrd, along with gorgeous secretary, Kahami, and his roughneck cop pal, Mo Kalama, finds himself embroiled in a brewing gang war between rival resorts run by the locals and the Irish. What I love about HAWAIIAN DICK is that it doesn't go the ultra-hardboiled detective route. Oh, Byrd takes an ass-kicking from the Irish and Mo's no lightweight, but the overall tone is rife with lighter moments and an intoxicating tropical air. Fun, fun stuff for the reader looking for something unconventional (or an inexpensive trip to the islands). - Dave

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