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#42 3/1/06 #4

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents DAZZLE V.1
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents MONSTER V.1


Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

This is a gorgeous book to look at. Butch Guice is already one of the best and most consistent artists working right now and the coloring by Dan Brown was a perfect compliment to his graphic storytelling. Brown's colors give each panel a painted look that makes every page a magnificent work of art. Brown contributes to the deeply mysterious mood and the underwater locale by his choice of colors and brush stroke texturing (don't know whether the strokes are real or digital). I also love the fact that it's got a "Created by Paul Norris" stamp in the credits. I'd love to see DC make a policy decision to do that for every headliner published. Not only is it "right," it also lends a bit of class their whole line of books.

There are three main characters to this introductory issue: the "new" Aquaman, King Shark, and the Dweller in the Depths. Guice gives the classic Aquaman costume some slight tweaks and not only improves it, but makes it look damn cool. Who would've thought that slightly deepening the shade of both the orange and the green coupled with ancient-looking armbands and matching sword was all it took to do that. King Shark is appropriately powerful-looking but the grass hula-hula skirt has got to go. The most impressive character-design, however, goes to Guice's design for the Dweller in the Depths. This character is tucked away in an underwater cavern dressed in a cloak, wielding a trident, and has a head-full and face-full of squid tentacles instead of hair. He also noticeably keeps one hand hidden from the reader until the final panel. More on that later.

Before even opening this comic I had already received feedback from some of my fellow @$$holes that the comic was "a bit confusing" and "disappointing." Well, hearing that and after my high level of disappointment over last week's WARLORD comic (an experience to which I compared getting a load of cow dung dropped on my head), my fingers trembled as I choked back my anxiety and turned to the first page.

Well, color me surprised. Anybody out there remember that piece of cinematic excrement called KANGAROO JACK? The entire marketing campaign made the movie appear to be a kid/family movie about an anthropomorphic talking kangaroo. Instead, as a bunch of horrified (and apparently internet-ignorant) parents plunked themselves and their kids down on Saturday afternoon to watch it, they discovered it was a miserably written, horribly over-acted, pile of adult garbage about a bunch of loathsome thieves and the entire "talking kangaroo" bit was just a single-scene hallucination by one of the characters. Or something like that. Turns out that DC kind of pulled a similar sort of marketing snafu here. Marketing it as "Conan Underwater" does this comic a terrible disservice. It builds the wrong kind of expectations among potential readers. Basically, when you have a "new" AQUAMAN series, you know you're never going to draw in the kneejerks who have no interest in anything concerning "Aquafag" unless it's making fun of him. There are some hardcore fans of the character out there, but I suspect most potential readers are either attracted or repulsed not by the character himself so much as whatever the high concept is behind the series. Peter David brought in a bunch of new readers for awhile back when he kicked off his new AQUAMAN series by having a school of piranha chew Aquaman's hand off. The shocking realization that DC might let David do just about anything with the character was enough to generate sales for awhile. But a new sort of stagnant status quo eventually set in and killed interest. This latest series has suffered from lack of interest primarily because of the Whack-A-Mole pattern of changing creative teams. With no sense of purpose or direction, a second-string character like Aquaman just simply is not resonant enough to draw in a devoted following that'll stick with him through good or bad.

This "new" AQUAMAN is not even close to "Conan," unless that means that a sword and magic as a part of the world of his adventures is enough to make that claim. By that standard, King Arthur is "Conan in Britain," and STAR WARS is "Conan in Space," and WITCHBLADE is "Conan the Policewoman," etc. No, this is pure DC superhero fantasy at its best. Busiek has not disregarded ANY of Aquaman's 50-some-odd years of continuity, but has set up a new beginning that could easily set a wildly creative future for the character.

So, what might lead to a claim of "confusion"? A superficial read of the comic will do that. I've read the issue three times. First time, superficially; second, slowly and thoroughly; third, for the art. First time I was a bit confused. Second, I was impressed by the complexity of the mystery. Third, I became a fan. The comic reads like an origin issue for Aquaman "as if" it were an in-continuity reboot. The "new" Aquaman is young 20-something Arthur Curry who believes himself to be the son of a human scientist who conducted an experiment on him as a newborn that mutated him into a primarily water-breather. One of the cleverest moments of his childhood flashback has Arthur proudly boasting to his father that he was able to breathe air "for a whole five minutes." As this story begins, a massive storm destroys Avalon Cay where he and his father live, and sends him down into the dark depths of the Atlantic Ocean where he meets the aforementioned Dweller in the Depths. The Dweller is readily confused by this Arthur Curry who knows nothing about Atlantis, Aquaman or the vast fantastic underwater world of the DC Universe. Communicating with Arthur telepathically, he thought he was Aquaman but he's not, so why does the Dweller think all this stuff has already happened to Arthur if it hasn't? It must be a prophecy! Yeah, that's the ticket. Not only is the Dweller confused, but King Shark is confused as well, since he also remembers Aquaman as the enemy who skewered him through the chest. Everyone in the comic is confused, so the readers must also be confused, right? So, what's going on?!?!?!

Take a deep breath. Sit back. Reread it. Everything you need to know to understand the set up to the mystery is right there. The Dweller is the storyteller. He is telepathic. He knows all about Aquaman's life, even including a cameo by frickin' Tusky from those lame 60s cartoons. But there are also clues buried in the visuals regarding the future life of Aquaman that he "remembers" as filtered through some messed up magical obfuscation. Take that shot of the Justice League where they all look like they are underwater creatures, for instance. Like John on the Isle of Patmos, The Dweller believes he is seeing murky and difficult to describe future events but perceiving it as if it were the past. The truth to this mystery is bound up in a line from King Shark and the last panel of the issue. King Shark mentions that Aquaman has not been seen in some time (read: One Year) and the final panel reveals that the hidden hand of The Dweller is that magical blue-y hand of the "old" Aquaman. In other words, The Dweller is the original Aquaman somehow magically transformed at the end of the "Crisis" to be the figurative Merlin to the new "King" Arthur. For me, the mysteries here are highly intriguing. I want to find out what happened to the original Aquaman, but I also want to find out who this new Aquaman is. I, of course, suspect that he is Arthur Jr. and I hope that he is. The idea of Aquaman as a legacy title is a stronger recipe for success than any other approach has been in the past.

There was no actual appearance by Atlantis in this issue, but the fate of Atlantis is the blurb for the next issue - as well as an appearance by Mera. My hope is that Busiek and Guice will give Atlantis a whacked-out original visual approach. I expect that they will based on the glimpses of underwater dwellers that they gave us in this issue. When King Shark came on the scene he was in a fight with a bunch of bug-eyed fish-face humanoids who looked more like the green-skin Martians in the WARLORD OF MARS than our usual DC Atlanteans. There were also a couple of mer-people swimming around. One of the things missing from every prior incarnation of Aquaman has been someone creating a truly alien society out of the world of Atlantis. Considering that this legendary city was supposed to have sunk tens of thousands of years ago, their society and even their physical bodies should have evolved dramatically to become alien to anything we air-breathers are used to. I would love to see that explored thoroughly as the landscape for adventure in grand Edgar Rice Burroughs-style more than Robert E. Howard.

It's true that this issue required a bit deeper reading than your average super-hero comic, but that's not a bad thing. Sometimes I want superficial fluff. But sometimes it is nice to read something that is high-concept, serious, and requires the reader to think a little. I am especially glad that Busiek was able to hook Guice into committing to this project because without his visuals, I can't tell if the writing was strong enough to overcome weaker graphics. But together, the team of Busiek and Guice created a new world of undersea adventure that has me looking forward to the next issue of AQUAMAN, and I don't think I've ever had that feeling before in my life. The naysayers can all sit down now for all I care 'cause I liked this comic.


Written by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes, Roger Stern, Scott Edelman, Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald
Art by Jim Mooney and Herb Trimpe
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by
Rico Maverik (aka Buzz Maverik; aka Johnny Morocco; known associates: The Talkback League of @$$holes; Schleppy the Defecating Monkey)

In my garage here a La Casa Del Maverik, I have dozens of long boxes filled with bronze age comics. I feel completely secure telling you this because I'm a member of the NRA and you'd have to get through my three pitbulls --Milius, Hill and Stone -- to get to them.

Only about 50% of the comics in those boxes were paid for.

It's not that I wanted to steal them. But I was between 10 and 14 years old when the comics were published and I had to have them. Sure, Pa Maverik's criminal empire was pulling in tons of the filthy green from various bunko enterprises that bilked the rich and stupid, but it's not like he was giving much of it to me. If I hadn't resorted to shoplifting, I wouldn't be able to brighten your days by popping up in the talkbacks and free associating about the time Mega Man captured Nova's best friend and tied him up in the sewer and Nova used alien spy equipment to find him.

My friends and I, who were known affectionately by the kids at our junior high school as "the dorks," had a foolproof shoplifting technique down. One or two at a time, we'd go into a convenience store about the time the high school kids were headed home. When the 11th and 12th grade girls came in for Diet Rites and cigarettes, and the clerk would go all horndog on them, we'd stuff our OPs full of the latest Marvels.

Sometimes, we'd run into problems. Like when my cousin, Fox Maverik, would come in with her friends. It was cool, because she had the Farrah cut and wore her cords like Valerie Bertinelli on ONE DAY AT A TIME, so she really attracted the clerk's attention. It was uncool because she also attracted my friends' attention which almost got us caught. And it was really uncool because she'd often shout back, "Hi, Buzz!" (Don't ask me for my cousin's number. She's now a 47 year old Amway dealer. Besides, she's still pissed at me for stealing her GOAT'S HEAD SOUP poster).

But I haven't shoplifted a comic book since the Carter administration...until Marvel published the bronze series OMEGA THE UNKNOWN in tpb for the insane price of $30. Buzz Maverik does not pay $30 for comics.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN was the creation of Marvel's Bronze Age mad genius Steve Gerber, co-creator of HOWARD THE DUCK, known for his work on THE DEFENDERS, MAN THING, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, DAREDEVIL, etc. He wrote OMEGA with a woman named Mary Skrenes, whom at the time I assumed was his girlfriend. Artist Jim Mooney was their co-creator. Omega was a mild-Wylie who could fire heat beams from Greek-letter shaped marks in his hands. At first, he never spoke and was linked to a 13 year old genius who'd landed in Hells Kitchen. The book was, at times, almost 100 BULLETS-level gritty, with the realistic outcome of violence portrayed before us (kids got bludgeoned to death by other kids, etc). Alan Moore has said that Vertigo was created because of a bad mood of his; Gerber's OMEGA was another kind of bad mood.

Best story: Electro steals a robot from Omega but can't make it work, so he captures our hero. This is early, and Omega won't speak so up until he's defeated, Electro shoots his mouth off. Nice touches include Omega learning our customs and charging for his heroism, as well as picking up a love of cocktails. The Foolkiller shows up, slaying the original Blockbuster and telling Omega that he has not yet been judged a fool. We get a Mary Jane Watson-type on a date with a guy who has a bad, seventies mustache, etc. Future fan fave Roger Stern contributes a sub-Bill Mantlo fill-in story, in which Nitro mistakes Omega for Mar-Vell and tries to blow him up. I thought that'd be the last we'd see of that writer.

You can see why I had to have this overpriced trade and why you must have it as well (although you'd better pay for your copy). But how could I rip it off? Only manga girls go into comic shops now and the clerks ignore them. I had to try, though. Bronze-age Buzz would have been disappointed if I hadn't. To be subtle, I put on my black raincoat and sunglasses, which only looked half-ridiculous because it was raining that day. I also brought along a $100 bill in bribe money in case I got caught, and an S&W .45 in case I had to shoot my way out. For my final preparatory act, I drank about six shots of Herradura because alcohol makes you better at things like sex, conversation, fighting, driving, joke telling and shoplifting.

It wasn't until I was going into the shop that I realized I looked like a school shooter gone geezer. Two kids coming out whispered, "Shotgun."

I went in and everybody ignored me because it's okay to look weird in a comic shop. The clerks were yelling at each other and mocking the comic related questions of a pair of sycophants. These were my people. I found the trade, and looked at the $30 price tag for motivation.

But where was my opening? Then, one of the clerks said, "I can't stand this shit Bendis is doing..."

You know what happened. Several Bendii in the shop dropped their human forms and advanced for a war of words. I rolled up the trade and stuffed it down the front of my Dockers. Then, I did something we always did on those Bronze raids: I bought something. I grabbed that copy of WIZARD with Kelsey Grammer in Beast drag on the cover. Up at the counter, everyone kept yelling at each other. Since I have all the patience of a nuclear bomb, I too shed my civilian identity and became Buzz Maverik by saying: "Awright, girls, anybody wanna stop talking about boys long enough to take my fucking money?"

I have an ethical dilemma about the book, though. Can I write if off my income tax even though I stole it? Would that be right? Probably not, since Harry doesn't pay me for this shit...


Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

I’m pretty damn excited about this book right now.

It’s part of the first wave of DC’s “One Year Later” titles, jumping their entire catalog of books one year forward to provide new directions and (hopefully) new approachability in the wake of the uber-complex INFINITE CRISIS miniseries. And DETECTIVE is certainly among the most noteworthy fresh starts. First off, it marks James Robinson’s return to the DC Universe – Robinson who you may remember for writing the best superhero comic of the 90s, STARMAN, and on the Batman front, for the moving story arc “Blades” in LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT. Second, it’s the first look at the post-CRISIS Batman. This is our first glimpse at how Batman’s likely to be portrayed for the next few years, and Batman being one of the pillars of DC’s mythology, it’s also our first indicator of the company’s overall direction.

It’s a very promising start.

In 22 pages, Batman returns free of ten years of assholish morbidity, Robin is back at his side, two mysteries kick off, two Gotham cops are introduced, one old villain dies, the Bat-signal flares, and two old colleagues return (I’ll be spoiling their names shortly, turn away if you’re faint of heart). Interesting thing is, if I were to look at the issue in a total vacuum, completely devoid of the context of Batman and DC’s direction for the past decade…I might not see anything remarkable beyond very solid craftsmanship. If it was the first Bat-book I’d read as a kid, I’d say, “Pretty cool, needs more action.” If it was the first Bat-book I’d read as an adult, I’d say, “Good writing, but it was mostly set-up.”

But the fact is, I read the issue as an adult who’s sick to death of a Batman who, for too long, has been defined by angst, betrayal, gloom, and failure. Reading DETECTIVE COMICS 817 in that light, bucking all those trends without losing Batman’s essential darkness…it’s something quite extraordinary.

The issue opens with Commissioner Jim Gordon – wait, did I say “Commissioner”? Bet yer ass I did, ‘cause he’s back in the role that returns a feeling of myth to Batman. Alfred, at least, has always remained as part of Batman’s core supporting cast, but Gordon’s more of a peer for Batman, especially since he was elevated to such a fine character in Miller’s groundbreaking YEAR ONE. Remember that great line at the end? Gordon’s investigating the madman who’s threatening to poison Gotham’s reservoir, and with supreme understatement and his first genuine smile in the entire story, he narrates, “I’ve got a friend coming who might be able to help.” Well Robinson’s re-establishment of Gordon as Batman’s confidante gave me the same chills that scene did. The specifics of his return are left something of a mystery (presumably DC’s “52” maxi-series will be filling in gaps), but just his presence is good enough right now. From Gordon’s narrative in DETECTIVE:
“Commissioner for the third time, settling back into the same, strange, wonderful terror of crime in this city, just as I’d left it.”
Is it a return to status quo? Yes. And if that’s not your thing, if you wanted to see Batman evolve into something new or were hoping he’d be replaced by Nightwing, Robinson’s story probably isn’t for you. But isn’t that a great description from Gordon of why we love the setting of Gotham City?

Along with Gordon, there’re appearances by Harvey Dent, Poison Ivy, and one second-tier 80s villain who I’ll miss after the events of this issue – he was gimmicky but memorably so. Second only to Gordon’s presence is the return of Harvey Bullock, the roughneck slob of a cop who’s often been a fun supporting player. His return’s a direct mystery, but I’m happy to have him back since the otherwise fine GOTHAM CENTRAL’s been playing his as a sad-sack loser whenever he’s shown over the last few years.

And as for Batman himself…well, I was initially disappointed that he took so long to show, but this is DETECTIVE COMICS, not BATMAN – we should probably allow for a bit more mystery and set-up. Tell you this, though: when he does show, it’s a truly great moment. Everything about the scene works and it bristles with the promise of what’s to come. He’s still dark, even pretty cold to one of the new cop supporting players, but you can tell: this is a guy who’s here to get shit done. With Robin back at Batman’s side (the tweaked costume looks good) and Jim Gordon covering his back, the issue even dares to kick off the mystery with a sense of empowerment for the heroes over the villains. I didn’t think they did that anymore!

The artist is Leonard Kirk, probably best known for his JSA work. I remember his detailed, realistic work having a softer look on JSA and the previous SUPERGIRL series, almost Adam Hughes-y, but here he’s actually reminding me of Brian Bolland on THE KILLING JOKE. Maybe it’s the tight inking of Andy Clarke that calls to mind Bolland’s dense hatching, maybe it’s the amped up shadows, or maybe it’s just the KILLING JOKE call-back image of Harvey Bullock smoking a cigar in his trenchcoat. It’s a treat in any case. Strong opening action sequence, too. I think Kirk and Robinson are gonna mesh well for this eight-part story.

So color this lapsed Batman fan very intrigued. Pretty much every move Robinson made with this kick-off was one I was in favor of, from returning old friends to setting up a true detective story to remembering that even a dark vigilante like Batman should still be a source of hope.

There’s a scene in the book that really sums it all up, too, when the Bat-signal switches on first the first time in a year and Gordon and the cops on the roof with him hear a commotion on the streets below.
Cop: What’s that noise?
Cop 2: Car horns n’ screams, sounds like. You think some supervillain is –
Gordon: It’s people in the street. They’ve seen it too. The signal.
Cop 3: Yeah. It’s not screams. They’re cheering.
As well they should.


Written by: Jeff Parker
Pencilled by: Javier Pulido
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: superhero

Wow. This sucked just as bad as most of the original New Universe did.

Exposition is the name of the game in this issue of STARBRAND and as bad as exposition usually is when it’s handled badly this issue of STARBRAND brings it to a new low.

Basically this comic was produced to bring any readers out there up to speed on what had occurred during most of the original run of this ill-fated New Universe comic. I get that Marvel is going to bring back some of the New Universe titles (or at least the New Universe setting) in the next several months and they of course would want to get a book out which would introduce new readers to the protagonists of the New U. What I don’t get is why they’d waste valuable comic space putting this useless book together. Not only that, but why Marvel would put this book out at all when they re-printed the first issue of the original STARBRAND and released it during the same week?

If you’re already going to the trouble of putting out a reprint to get folks interested in the New Universe what’s the point of then putting out a sub-par book which doesn’t actually add anything to the story? Why put out a new comic that uses a completely silly and uninspired device to bring readers up to speed which, in the end, is more than likely just going to alienate readers because of its stupidity?

What’s so lame about this book? In this issue of STARBRAND we are introduced to the New Universe’s version of THE WATCHER only she’s not even close to being as cool as the Marvel Universe’s resident voyeur. Instead what we get is a ditsy inter-dimensional traveler who has the brains of your average Valley Girl…which is fitting, I guess being that the New U is still stuck in the 1980’s. See, this cosmic Valley Girl has been charged with tracking down the Starbrand wielder of the New Universe to see what exactly they are accomplishing with their abilities. Apparently there is a Starbrand in every universe and all of them have used their power in a different way. Yep, you heard that one right. Apparently now the concept of the multiverse has been adopted by Marvel Comics. Not only that but this issue of STARBRAND blatantly rips off the tired concept that little bits of every reality seep through into others via the pages of comic books. While this concept was cheesy fun when originally introduced by the late, great Gardner Fox in issue # 123 of the FLASH in this issue of STARBRAND it just comes off as lame. It’s not even the concept of the multiverse I have problems with. It’s the absolutely pathetic re-treading of past ideas and the fact that it adds nothing to the core of the New U that I find offensive.

While I realize that the concept of other universes in Marvel Comics has been explored in the EXILES comic and the AGE OF APOCALYPSE series it always seemed like something that Marvel as a whole shied away from. Sure, alternate timelines were all the rage (especially in X-Men comics) but for the most part the silly concepts of characters leaking into other realities via stuff like comics/entertainment were left to the more lighthearted DC books. Now we have the concept introduced into the New Universe, a setting that was supposed to be as close to our reality as possible, and it just doesn’t fit with how I remember these books. Sure they’re trying to draw in new readership but if Marvel doesn’t think that it’s going to be the old school fans who are primarily interested in this newer New Universe then they’re kidding themselves. I realize that the new books aren’t going to be exactly in the same vein as the old ones but this issue takes the whole STARBRAND concept into a kooky direction it didn’t need to go in.

Look, I’ll admit I actually liked the old STARBRAND Run, especially the stuff that John Byrne put together toward the end of the series. It was a more serious take on superheroes, or at least STARBRAND was. I’m not looking for the new books to replicate what went before. Obviously that didn’t work. But I didn’t want a radical departure either. That’s what we get here and even on its own, as a completely separate story, it completely fails.

If this is a sign of where these New Universe books are headed then I’m pretty sure you’ll end up being able to find them where the originals probably are: in your local comic shop’s quarter bin.


Writer: Judd Winick
Penciler: Shane Davis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

You wanted it? Well here it is. The full (oh and is it full) and in-depth (and oh, there's some sort of depth) back-story on the return of formerly deceased Boy Wonder, Jason Todd. Everything is here. Details surrounding his death, his resurrection, and what exactly he has been up to since he came back until he decided to take on the former identity of the man that killed him and become the Red Hood. Everything is disclosed here. Is it a good return story? Well, it has its moments, let’s put it that way.

But let's start with some with one of those "not moments" and, sadly, it's the most important one, the details around his resurrection. See, we coulda kept this simple. Like Winick alluded to early into this story of Jason Todd's return, it could have been something like a resurrection from one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits. And right there, I honestly would have been fine with that. Ra's could always use an advantage over his greatest adversary, and I couldn't think of one better than his bringing his former sidekick back to life and then bringing him under his own wing, and the way of the League of Assassins. But nah, too simple. Instead what we needed was some sort of cosmic fracture caused by Superboy Prime's beating on the barrier between Parallel Earths which caused a splinter to come off of a reality where Jason Todd survived instead causing his corpse to become re-animated in a way.....


But all that did setup some very interesting segments of the missing time between then and now for the former sidekick. Rising to find himself buried alive was a very tense moment, as was his struggle to break free. Also, I did think that it was a nice twist that the mental trauma caused by all this caused him to sorta revert to his old self; living on the streets, stealing and fighting in order to survive. I liked how it showed just how important it was to his life that Batman intervened in it the way he did and gave him direction... despite how it ended.

And then there's some randomness. Eventually Jason does make his way into Ra's clutches in a sort of "hahaha I didn't take the easy route like you thought I would but then I kind of did anyway so I fooled you!!!" kind of moment. Also we get some sort of conclusion as to just how the gravesite was covered up in a "How the hell did that fool the World's Greatest Detective?" kind of moment, because we all know cemetery groundskeepers regularly outsmart the Batman. And then Jason hooks up with Hush and yadda yadda yadda... Really, it all went downhill after Jason got off the streets. But like I said there are some really nice dramatic bits that don't make this a total wash, but I thought a lot of the events that filled the gap between then and now were weak, and sometimes out of place. Also, DC's forcing this into another kind of Crisis tie-in felt shameless, and also confusing, but mostly shameless. Still though, I anticipated it so it wasn't like it was out of the blue. Just a missed opportunity.

Speaking of opportunity though, Shane Davis should be given more. If there's anything I can truly say was a highlight of this book, it's that Davis' art was absolutely lights out. Amazing detail, great emotional impact and storytelling, and some wonderful actions shots. This man needs to be drawing a shit-ton more books. Which, y'know, I figure he will be because of this issue, but dammit I can't wait to find out what they will be now. See? Not a total wash at all...


Creator: Minari Endoh
Publisher: Tokyopop
Reviewer: Dan Grendell

I will follow you anywhere.

Manga, more than any other comics I've read, have a chance to just randomly charm the hell out of you. I don't know what exactly it is - more female readership, more manga produced overall so more charming ones produced per capita, manga creators just more charming than other comics creators - but whatever it is, any given manga I randomly pick up regardless of subject has a chance of making me go "Awwww!" and giggle like an idiot. It happens to me all the time. And DAZZLE is a perfect example.

Young teenage sorceress Rahzel is kicked out of her house by her father to see the world. She immediately sees cute but cold Alzeid holding a gun to a boy's head, gets involved, and decides that she's going to travel with him until she can give him something to smile about. From being captured as a pampered noblewoman's pet, to busting a ghost who may not be in the wrong, to meeting some of Alzeid's old Army buddies, the two stick together and begin to rely on each other. Perhaps, even, a little something more starts to develop?

Rahzel is a feisty little smartass. She's lazy, and always itching for a fight. Her smart mouth tends to get her in trouble, but she is powerful both as a sorceress and a fighter, so she gets away with it. Alzeid, on the other hand, just says what he means. There is nothing hidden in his words, and he isn't afraid to say what he thinks, either. He doesn't care what most people think, and only rare people like Rahzel mean anything to him. Rahzel tries to bluster Alzeid, and he tries to give her the cold shoulder, but eventually, their normal tactics fail - both are too stubborn. They are forced to see each other as people, even if they don't admit it. This begins their real relationship.

Endoh's artwork really supports the characters, giving their neuroses life on the page and making it hard to resist their charms. Rahzel's tantrums especially are a delight, and her fights with Alzeid are always fun. You can tell that Endoh has a blast drawing Rahzel's costumes, as they change constantly and are always cute and fun to look at. Endoh draws people in the long and lanky style, which works well here, giving everyone a slightly bishonen look to them. This can take some getting used to, but looks good once you do. Overall, the art is strong, though the perspective in some panels seemed awkward.

I like the story and art of DAZZLE, but it was the interplay of the main characters that really sold me on the manga. Their growing relationship will keep me coming back for more.


Creator: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz
Reviewer: Dan Grendell

It all comes back to you in the end.

What is a doctor's duty? Saving lives, of course, but whose? Is everyone equal? If some man off the street needed surgery, and the mayor of the city did too, and only one doctor could operate, who should be saved? Is the mayor more valuable because of his job or social standing? What if the average man arrived at the hospital first? These seem like interesting if simple ethics questions, but they define the life of brilliant surgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma. In line for an important position at a hospital in Germany, engaged to the Head Director's daughter, his future is bright indeed. However, he is constantly ordered to leave patients to attend higher-profile ones, earning the hospital a great reputation at the cost of his soul. Finally, he can take no more, and refuses, saving the life of a mysterious boy at the cost of the mayor's life.

His life collapses before his eyes. The promised position disappears, his fiancée leaves him for another, more pliable doctor, and he is relegated to drudgery at the hospital - until the Head Director and several of his suck-ups are murdered. Suspicion falls on Tenma, and though he has an alibi, the police don't forget him. Years later, he has become Head of Surgery, and is needed to operate on a police witness. That witness leads him and the police back into the mystery of the original murders, a world of dark karma and twisted debts.

I was blown away by this story. From beginning to end, Urasawa had me captivated, unsure whether Tenma was going to actually have the moral fiber to give up the perks of his job to do the right thing and then, when the murders happened, unsure exactly what was going on or how it was going to play out. The cover claims Urasawa is Japan's Master of Suspense, and I am certainly not going to dispute it. The art is stark, separating you from the story just enough that you feel like it is unfolding before you on some hidden screen, yet the story is so engrossing that you never feel too detached. It is a perfect use of art to both engage and remove the reader.

The characterization is excellent as well. Tenma truly comes across as an earnest, well-intentioned nice guy in panel after panel, and you know there's something rotten with his fiancée before she ever does anything. The investigating detective is quite an interesting fellow, as is Tenma's colleague Dr. Becker, and both show their quirks in their character design. By far the most disturbing, however, is the titular monster himself. Though we only get one clear look at his face, it is a large panel, and he looks quite ordinary - but he creeped me the hell out. Seriously. Now that is some damn fine work.

The first in Viz's new Signature line, dealing with more sophisticated and artistic themes and ideas, MONSTER definitely nails those concepts. I'm looking forward to more of this series for sure.

Marvel Comics

It’ll be interesting to see how this comic does. As a vehicle for Peter David, it was pretty much hamstrung at the starting gates by mandatory inclusion in the crossover “Spider-Man: The Other” for four issues. On the other hand, readers turned out for that story in big numbers, so it probably sold better than it would have with just David’s name in the spotlight.

So how’s the first post-“The Other” story? How does the book define itself on its own? Very oddly, actually, and fairly gloomily. This is very much a Will Eisner SPIRIT story in the sense that it’s not so much about the hero but rather a story built around him (see also ASTRO CITY). Follows the tragic story of a woman who becomes convinced Spider-Man is stalking her in high school and goes on to let that fear rule her for the rest of her life. Is David trying to send a message to an obsessive fan or something? Couldn’t say, but considering that Paul Jenkins was notably working the Eisner approach on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN a few years ago (with some misses, but several stunning hits), I can’t say it feels particularly novel. Figure it’s just a buffer between “The Other” and wherever David intends to take the book, but one has to wonder if this kind of scattershot approach is worthy of an ongoing series. Certainly the book’s featured nothing that fits its upbeat title. - Dave

Marvel Comics

*This review inspired by a Bendis Board thread that was started by a sometime Talkbacker (he knows who he is)*
NEXTWAVE is so awesome, it beat the unholy hell out of my father and banged my mom on the kitchen table.
NEXTWAVE is so good, it has replaced Muhammed as the one true prophet.
NEXTWAVE is so good, I had to go to confession after reading it because it had to be a sin.
NEXTWAVE is so good that even Chuck Norris won't look it in the eyes.
NEXTWAVE is so smooth, it doesn't need lube. None at all. Not even some spit in the hand. And you can still walk after.... sorta.
NEXTWAVE is so good that I shit my pants when I read it... and then my shit shit its pants. Just an endless cycle of pants-shitting.
NEXTWAVE is so good that... okay, enough. NEXTWAVE is just damned good. BUY IT NOW! Because it knows where you live... - Humphrey

Top Cow

A few columns back, a TalkBacker asked if any of us were playing the online game CITY OF HEROES. I didn’t reply – hadn’t played it since being absorbed for a few months following its original release – but just thinking on the game again sort of gave me the bug, and with the new CITY OF VILLAINS expansion out there…d’oh, I reactivated my account! Son of a -- ! Anyway, it’s going cool, mostly just getting my feet wet to decide if I want to upgrade to VILLAINS. Meantime, I decided to take a risk and read some CITY OF HEROES comics…

Okay, as caveat I have to say that Top Cow has never produced artwork worthy of note, so visually…merely adequate…but lemme tell ya, I actually got a kick out of these stories! Mark Waid’s opening arc was pretty “bleh”, but the later stuff’s all had a good mixture of action and angst in the tradition of 70s/80s Marvel. And issue 11’s no exception. Hawkeye knock-off Manticore is infiltrating Lord Recluse’s organization and to prove his intent he’s got to take down one of his own while accompanied by a pair of Recluse’s agents. Later, he stages a coolly-executed ruse, pretending to take down ally Sister Psyche in the shower, but actually leaving her conscious to play possum. The agents scoop her up to take with them, and as they leave there’s some winning telepathic banter between Psyche and Manticore (they’ve kind of got a “thing”). Favorite bit: she telepathically asks him to go back to get her costume for her, and when he risks going “out of character” to protect her modesty, she informs him what’s running through the heads of Recluse’s agents: “They think you’re a loser.” Manticore: “Thanks.” Nothing brilliant, but for high-action superheroing with decent soap operatics and a minimum of pesky realism, CITY OF HEROES is actually a step above plenty of Marvel and DC titles. Helps if you’re a fan of the game’s setting, obviously. - Dave

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