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#6 06/07/06 #5

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

JSA #86
Indie Jones presents…


Writer: Allan Heinberg
Artists: Terry &Rachel Dodson
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

"My name is Donna Troy...and I'm the new Wonder Woman."

Ok. It's a slow path toward redemption for DC, who came very close to completely losing me as a consumer after the crap called IDENTITY CRISIS followed by the even worser crap called INFINITE CRISIS. I know one thing here on out: if it's got "Crisis" in the title, I'm skipping over that purchase. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me—well, you get the picture. The bottom line is that SHADOWPACT #1 was great for me, but I went into that expecting greatness since it was by Bill Willingham and featured Blue Devil and a talking chimp! But WONDER WOMAN I went into with the lowest of low expectations. Yeah, I know Heinberg surprised the hell out of me with his work on YOUNG AVENGERS and yeah, I know that the Dodsons draw the best looking wimmens in comics, yeah yeah yeah. But we're talking about the "New" DC. You know? The one where Howard Stern is apparently the Executive Editor or something? So, of course, I was expecting to turn to page one and see Diana and, oh, I don't know, Artemis rolling like thunder under the covers or something while wearing thong underwear.

Instead, I was treated to a comic book that kicked my ass up one side of the street and kept kicking till we got down the other side. I absolutely loved everything about it. I don't think it's any big surprise that Donna has assumed the mantle of Wonder Woman. In fact, I've predicted it ever since the COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS special. But, I'm talking everything from the gorgeous coloring job on the cover to that final orgasmic page where we meet Agent Diana Prince in her best Emma Peel-like white leather secret agent suit giving me a total geek nostalgic flashback to the early 70s when Wondy tossed the flag suit and dressed in that white bellbottom pants suit. God those were the days, when the companies would try anything to squeeze every last quarter out of us little kiddies who had to make the difficult decision whether to spend our 50 cent allowance on two comics or on candy and a comic or just candy.

This comic is intelligent. More than that, it's also sharp, moves briskly, and establishes an entirely new feel for this WONDER WOMAN series than any previous version, and rightly so. After all, this natural progression of the Wonder Woman legacy is way too long in coming in my opinion. Look at how successful DC has been with Wally West as Flash? They got a solid twenty years of stories and marketing out of that simply because they embraced the change and never looked back, even in the face of a FLASH TV series that featured Barry Allen. So the upcoming WONDER WOMAN movie should not necessarily preclude Donna's transition into the role insofar as the comics are concerned.

I love how simplified Heinberg has made Wonder Woman's origin, both Diana and Donna. I love the appearances by Steve Trevor, Sarge Steel, and most especially Nemesis. I loved the classic Wonder Woman villains who appeared, including Dr. Psycho, Cheetah, and Giganta (who if I recall correctly, first appeared in a Hostess ad starring Wonder Woman). Sure, it may be something of a conceptual retread to come out of the starting block with a new person wearing the costume and having to face her insecurities at the magnitude of the heroic mantle she has taken on, but, under the writing of Heinberg and the sexy and solid pencils and inks of the Dodsons, I never once was disappointed.

If you love WONDER WOMAN, you'll like this comic. If you don't give a crap about WONDER WOMAN, I predict you'll love this comic! It's now on my personal "read first" list.


Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

If anything, this latest issue of THE WALKING DEAD is just an exhibition of just how true the statement "Anything Can Happen!" is in the context of this kind of comic book.

Sometime around the end of the last story arc I found myself starting to waver in my excitement with this book. Over a year of stories of our group of survivors making a new "home" out of an abandoned penitentiary left me feeling like the book, much like the characters inside of it, had started becoming a little complacent. Obviously, that was kind of the point Kirkman was/is going for and, given the book's determination to try its damndest to really tell a story that seems "realistic" in that this is the kind of thinking and actions you'd expect real humans to have if by some freak of nature something like a zombie infestation really did occur, I can't really blame him. But it doesn't exactly make for the most riveting of storytelling after a while. As much as I love great characterization, sometimes you really do need some shock value to mix things up.

And with this latest story arc, and this issue in particular, consider things officially shook.

Last issue, we saw an "away party" I guess you could say of our main protagonist Rick, Terminator-like badass and former lawyer Michonne, and loveable scamp Glenn captured by some sick bastard known as The Governor. The Governor is an evil piece of shit. That's what we learn this issue. He likes to keep his "citizens" entertained by putting straggling humans in death matches with hordes of zombies he likes to keep in tow. It keeps the people complacent he says. And as we learn with this issue, he also apparently really likes knives. I don't want to get into too much detail over what kinds of things he does to our group of homebodies so as to avoid spoilers, but I will say that in a scant twenty-two pages of comic book, Kirkman has done as fantastic a job of making me hate and wishing horrible, horrible things on a character as Garth Ennis has been making a living by doing over on his MAX version of THE PUNISHER.

I'm glad to see the story getting back up to speed a bit. Even if it's just for this arc, it's nice to see them cast getting out of the prison setting and having Kirkman flex some more creative muscle as he gives us a glance at just how much the world has degenerated since this zombie event has started. Every issue is a very tight introspective into the human mindset and it's absolutely riveting. How far are people willing to go to survive? How are their minds dealing with such a horrible environment around them? And just what kind of atrocities will someone commit now that they're sadly almost totally unaccountable for their actions as society itself is crumbling around them?

Who knew a comic book about zombies could make you re-evaluate your thoughts on human behavior so much...


Written by: Tom DeFalco and Pat Olliffe
Pencilled by: Pat Olliffe
Published by: Grim and Gritty Marvel Comics
Reviewed by superhero

Ahhh...old school Marvel, how I miss thee. There was a time when heroes were heroes and fought the good fight just to be doing the right thing. The Marvel U was simpler then. Gwen Stacy hadn’t done the nasty with Norman Osborne. Tony Stark hadn’t sold his brethren down the river for the sake of maintaining his government contracts (OK, I know that’s not really the case but there’s gotta be something of that in CIVIL WAR, right?). There were no gritty kick-super villains-in-the-teeth Ultimates. It was a more wholesome universe. It was a time when superheroes and their world weren’t so…skeevy.

If you remember those days of silly, grandiose adventure with a smile like I do then LAST PLANET STANDING may be for you. LAST PLANET is a Marvel comic series that harkens back to the good ol’ days. It’s a cosmic adventure the way they used to be done. It’s fast paced, simple, and action packed. In the span of three issues a universe is blinked out of existence, Asgard is nuked to oblivion, the moon gets blown up and takes The Watcher with it, and a gigantic tidal wave floods the island of Manhattan. Dammit, this is the way superhero comics should be written!

See, Galactus is back in town and this time he’s not satisfied with your average run of the mill planet sized happy meal. This time he’s going for the whole shebang. The original G is tired of having to cross the cosmos looking for his next snack and is looking to appease his hunger once and for all. The problem with this is that to stop his need to feed he must destroy the whole universe and create a second big bang. Now if that plot doesn’t take you back to the bygone days of Marvel then I don’t know what will.

That’s what’s great about this book and the alternate universe it takes place in. Sure, this book takes place in a Marvel futureverse that probably isn’t tied into the current Marvel Universe in any way, shape, or form but I get the sense that it’s a hell of a fun place to be. While I never picked up the book SPIDER-GIRL I did pick up the old A2 book that chronicled the adventures of the Avengers of this universe several years ago, so I wasn’t going into this book completely blind. Make no mistake, though, I was totally lost as to exactly what the current histories were of each of the characters in this book. But for some reason it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to know everything because I recognized this book for what it is and what it succeeded in being: a straightforward and fun adventure story. Quite honestly, that’s the kind of book there isn’t enough of these days.

While I recognize that this kind of book may not be popular with the current crop of fans out there I can’t for the life of me understand why. Yes, certain elements are simplistic and there’s a golden/silver-age outrageousness that permeates the books that the too cool for school comic fan set might scoff at, but to me all of that stuff translates into pure enjoyment. I mean seriously, isn’t everyone just getting sick of all of Marvel’s core books being so…serious? I know I am. That’s why I see LAST PLANET STANDING as one of the books out there that’s a perfect antidote to the doom and gloom that’s permeating both of the big two’s books as of late. Of course it’s silly. But superheroes are pretty much in and of themselves pretty silly aren’t they?

My only problem with the book may have been the art. While Pat Olliffe’s Ron Frenz-like art is certainly professional there are certain places where I found it to be a bit stiff and lacking energy. The storytelling is perfect but certain elements in the art look like they may have been a bit rushed or even slapped together. What I’d really love to see is one of these alternate universe titles illustrated by someone with a more modern artistic style. It’d be interesting to me to see how the story itself would translate with a visual palette that’s probably more popular with readers today. I get that the look of LAST PLANET STANDING is supposed to be a bit retro but I think it’d be an interesting experiment to see how an old-school type story might play with a modern look.

In any case, LAST PLANET STANDING is a fun read. I’ve read that this may be the last hurrah for this universe and it’s a bit of a shame, really. Either way I’ll be reading the next two issues to see how Tom DeFalco bids his own little pet universe adieu. It should be an interesting finale.


Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Published by Wildstorm / DC
Reviewed by Buzz Mainstream

@$$hole Clubhouse.

"Uh, Buzz..."

"No time to talk, Bug! I've got my final bargaining chip to get the bling package I'm demanding for taking Arad's job at Marvel."

"Do you think before you--"

"I've got another interested party. I'd never seriously consider their offer but Mort at Marvel doesn't know that."

"You've got a job offer?"

"There's an opening in upper management at al-Qaeda, what with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi getting blown up and all. Tough break there, heh, heh. When Marvel finds out that I'm being wooed, they are totally going to cave."

"Look, we've got a couple of talkbackers complaining because we're not reviewing enough mainstream material."

"And you want 'em taken care of ? Why didn't you say so? I got just the thing."

"Is that a garrote?"

"Yeah, it means getting in close but if I'm disguised and I've got some pyro to cover my escape..."

"No, no, I just want you to review--"

"You're right. It's beneath me. Check these out. I make 'em out of dishwasher tablets and ga--"

"Buzz, could you just review a mainstream comic?"

"Sure. Are you wearing a wire?"

"How did you know tha--"

"I read MANIFEST ETERNITY # 1, the new Wildstorm Comic written by Scott Lobdell with art by Dustin Nguyen. It's Science Fantasy. Not science fiction, not fantasy, science fantasy. See you combine the two. Scott Lobdell apparently wrote some X-MEN comics after they stopped mattering. Dustin Nguyen played Ioki on 21 JUMP STREET. Did you see the one where Depp and the boyz were undercover at the Youth Authority? Depp was given a hammer and--"

"Focus, Buzz."

"Focused, Bug. Right. MANIFEST ETERNITY. We're talking a murky comic here. Murky story, murky art. Even murkier than this review. We've got some aliens torturing a space hero, although you can't tell that from the story or the art. You just have to glean it. He's rescued by a guy coming out of the ceiling, a really blurry ceiling. Next thing we know, the Jedi Council is announcing him, he's now an old fart and he makes a speech to a bunch of aliens he's conquered. Turns out that he's on board the Authority's spaceship and his granddaughter is going to marry an alien from the species that tortured him. As if Nguyen's sci-fi art wasn't fuzzy enough, we move into Middle Narnia and find a bunch of gollywoggles who have been watching the space guy. They're attacking outer space. Science fiction's going down, bay-bee. As everything gets further and further out of focus, a tweaking Hobbit and Head Number One of Ghidarah the Three Headed Monster attack the Enterprise...And people wonder why I don't read many comics lately."

"Buzz, that's not a mainstream comic."

"Is it black and white?"


"Is it about ugly kids who can't get laid and have problems and talk too much?"

"Not really."

"Any non-lipstick lesbians?"

"Look, Buzz--"

"See that Wildstorm label? Nothing says DC like Wildstorm, but don't tell Alan Moore."

"Dammit, Buzz--"

"Mainstream at its' finest. Mainstream indeed."

JSA #86

Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciler(s): Jerry Ordway, Luke Ross, and Dave Meikis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

Okay, maybe it's the fact that I slept the better part of a day and am sore and somewhat cranky. Maybe it's the fact that I've spent the past six hours nursing a migraine that makes me wish World War 3 would start today and wipe all human life off the planet in a glorious, glorious inferno of atomic energy and mushroom clouds. Or maybe it's just the fact that I haven't had a beer in almost 20 hours now, but I will say this, comics like this particular issue of JSA that I have in front of me right now I just find insulting and I'm wondering how they even see print in the first place.

First off, this story is boring. And it's been pretty much boring since it started. It's been what? Four issues now of "Oh look, the Gentleman Ghost is being evil and mischievous!" followed by repetitive "action scenes" where we get to see whichever JSAer he happens to be taunting at the time fall flat on their face in some embarrassing fashion because "OMG! HE'S A GHOST AND I CAN'T TOUCH HIM!!!" The only interesting bits we're getting at all here are for Jim Craddock (the Gentleman Ghost's real name) as we see a page or two here and there showing him as his old human self back in Old Timey England on the road to becoming the entity that he is today. They make the character of the Ghost somewhat interesting as we see him in glimpses doing a little bit of "Robin Hoodery" I guess you could say, but then they end abruptly and in pretty much clichéd fashion as we get the old "Man is hanged but puts out a curse and now haunts the landscape for all his days" kind of twist that I actually find sad that it's been used so much that I can actually call it clichéd. The rest of the "story" doesn't fare so much better as mostly it's just a bunch of somewhat embarrassing dialogue that I'm not even sure would have read well if this book came out 30 years ago. There's a couple moments of Alan Scott being somewhat bad ass in this issue that are somewhat entertaining, but that's really just grasping at straws.

The art of this book fares a little bit better. We get some really great looking Luke Ross art for the Gentlemen Ghose flashbacks, and we get some very competent fill-in art by Jerry Ordway. Without Rags being able to handle the chores of finishing this issue/story arc (I'm guessing this is because of whatever "personal issues" he also cited for not being able to start his run on DETECTIVE COMICS with Paul Dini on time) that kind of really defeats the rest of the interest I even had in this final arc of the book before the re-launch we'll be getting later this year. Again, no slighting the guys who worked on this particular issue at all, both are definitely doing solid jobs with what they have to work with, but with the story itself being borderline unreadable, seeing a superstar artist of Rags' ability was the only thing that was keeping me excited about this book.

Really what upsets me is that I just don't see why stuff like this even comes out. There really was no reason for this story to be told. Last I checked there haven't been, like, H.E.A.T. levels of fan outcry to see The Gentleman Ghost take center stage in a story once again. I'm not even sure you could call this story arc filler, because there's nothing it's really filling out. This is just a sad sort of "limbo" story as this book is just winding down time to be cancelled so that Johns can revamp the book later this year with a new number one. I just don't see the point of telling a nothing story if you're just biding time anyway. After the FLASH ended so unceremoniously last year with four terrible and directionless issues after Johns' went to great lengths to end his run on the title with an emphatic BANG!, I'm just trying to figure out what kind of direction DC even has for half their books at any given time. This stuff is just a waste of time on their part, and a waste of money on mine, and it's really just sad to see happen to a book that has held a really high standard of quality since its inception


Editors: Eric Nolen-Weathington/Jon B. Cooke
Artist: John Byrne
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

"Why does everybody hate me?" - John Byrne (MM VOL. 7, Part 4)

For $14.95, this book is an excellent package with a long interview and tons of art spanning John Byrne's 30 plus years of comic book work. If you are, or have been, a fan of his work, this is as close to a must-have as I can imagine. If you are someone who occasionally wonders just what the big deal is about John Byrne, then this book might give you a small insight. I'm sure everyone who reads through this book will have some aspects of his career that did not get covered here (for me, I was hoping to read some details and see some of his character designs from the famously "never-happened" Claremont/Byrne WHAT IF: MAGNETO HAD FORMED THE X-MEN?). The content is smartly broken up into distinct sections kicked off by a praise-filled introduction by Byrne's friend and fellow comics legend, Walter Simonson, himself the target of the next MODERN MASTERS volume.

Part One focuses on Byrne's upbringing and his artistic efforts from age two (with a picture of a saved chalk drawing of a choo-choo train on a little chalkboard) through his college work (with a couple of samples including his DEATH'S HEAD KNIGHT comic strip). I thought this section to be the most insightful as to what drives Byrne the artist. The picture he presents is that he was a child who was constantly uprooted year after year as his family moved around. And we're not just talking about moving to a different part of town, but across continents even. This meant that during his formative years he was never given the time to develop close sets of peers as friends. As a defense mechanism to that, given that he was an only child, he essentially made the characters in the comics he loved into his friends. And while he did not necessarily realize it at that young age, the efforts he put into developing his drawing abilities were all geared towards an end that would inevitably bring him to draw those same comic book characters professionally.

Byrne points to his DEATH'S HEAD KNIGHT college comic strip, a sword-and-sorcery adventure strip, as perhaps the truest example of "pure" John Byrne art--that is, Byrne before he discovered Neal Adams and decided that he wanted to draw like that! I found that an interesting perspective from him given that he claims that fans rarely seem to see the Adams influence to his work and he thinks that in his early work that's all he sees. When I looked at the DEATH'S HEAD KNIGHT samples, I was struck by how much they reminded me of Bernie Wrightson's work. It’s very heavily textured without so much outlining but instead allowing the lighting, shading, and texturing to define the shapes. I'd like to see Byrne give a serious go at trying a special project, maybe a one-shot, where he made a serious attempt to toss his Adams influence and recapture some of that earlier look. I think it would be interesting to see what 30-35 years of professional experience could do with that more rough and organic style.

Part Two focuses on the beginnings of his professional career through his first term at Marvel Comics. Turns out Byrne made a trip to New York City when he was 21 years old and made the rounds of all the major comic book companies. He got turned down by all of them. They didn't tell him to hang it up, though. They told him to come back when he was good--an indication that they saw that he had at least some raw talent at that age. Again, this book makes for an insightful look into Byrne's psyche as he relates the circumstances that brought him to Charlton and Marvel so soon after he had been turned down. Byrne reveals that he battles massive insecurities that make him feel like he does not deserve the success he has had. It's almost like there is a battle going on his head all the time that points to all the coincidences and happenstances that opened doors of opportunity, all out of his control, and downplays the hard work that he put into his accomplishments. The truth of the matter is that, yes, there are plenty of artists, writers, singers, whatever, out there who never catch a break and, as a result, never reach the level of success that their talent should bring in a fair world. But the world's not fair. For an artist to be successful, it is not just a reflection of their talent. It is a combination of (1) talent, (2) opportunity, (3) right place at the right time, (4) professionalism, and (5) popularity. In my mind, only number (4) there is 100% controlled by the artist. A lot of these keys to success in a commercial art field fall more in line with divine providence than anything else - being seen by the right person at just the right moment. Byrne should rightly feel lucky. But he should also not diminish the fact that had he not demonstrated strong talent and a professional work ethic very early on, his career might have quickly gone the way of the "Whatever happened to's" like James Sherman or Dave Wenzel. Who? That's what I'm talking about. Sherman once drew the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and Wenzel once drew THE AVENGERS and I'd bet less than 5% of the readers of this column have ever heard of 'em.

One of the many fascinating items TwoMorrows includes in this section is a copy of some of Byrne's handwritten notes from one of his legendary contributions to comic book history, X-MEN #137 (death of Jean Grey/Phoenix). It is noteworthy simply because it provides the reader a small glimpse into the process Byrne would go through to pace the storytelling even before his pencil hit the board. Also noteworthy is that his handwriting naturally looks very much like comic book lettering; perhaps revealing a little O.C.D. in how each line is perfectly straight, and filling in around the margins and whitespaces there are numerous Byrne doodles. I see a Playboy bunny, what looks like a caricature of Ronald Reagan, a radio microphone, and a bunch of just abstract marks as well.

Part Three brings the reader along with Byrne as he bolts over to DC exclusively. Byrne's view of the scenario in which he left Marvel (a company he also states does not exist for him anymore), is that he walked out the door because of editor-in-chief Jim Shooter's habit of attempting to micro-manage only those Marvel series that were the most successful, of which FANTASTIC FOUR was one. At that point, Byrne was already working on SUPERMAN for DC and he was more than willing to take advantage of this opportunity to play with the DC stable of characters for awhile.

Now, I can remember quite clearly back to the days when Byrne hit the ground running with MAN OF STEEL, which I think sold something like a million copies of issue one, counting both newsstand and direct market copies. I personally did not know of anybody who was not thoroughly enjoying his run at the time. However, Byrne's perception (and as we all know, "perception is reality"), was that his efforts were not supported by the fans nor by DC/Warners. Mix that perception together with his own self-proclaimed massive insecurities (a trait shared by most artists) and I came away with a much better understanding of why he bolted from the SUPERMAN titles after 3 years. As a fan at the time, though, it was highly frustrating because a pattern was developing of Byrne disappearing off a title right in the middle of a long-term storyline (FANTASTIC FOUR, SUPERMAN, WEST COAST AVENGERS, DANGER UNLIMITED just to name a few).

"I'm really ignorant about what's going on in funny books these days, because they depress me so much. I don't look." - John Byrne (MM VOL. 7, Part 4)

Part Four tackles Byrne's foray into creator-owned properties and samples a bit about Byrne's decidedly negative view of the current state of comics and fandom. Byrne, Frank Miller, Art Adams, and Mike Mignola set out to establish their own imprint, LEGEND, that could jump from publisher to publisher. But the intention was that this imprint would be an indicator to the fans that the comics were going to be produced by professionals at the top of their game and they were going to be produced on a reliable schedule. Basically they attempted to do what IMAGE had claimed they set out to do but with more of the older workhorses rather than the youthful upstarts. It didn't last very long as an imprint, but Byrne stuck with it the longest, although Mignola's HELLBOY and Miller's SIN CITY properties continued publishing new material even through today--but without the LEGEND imprint.

Byrne created JOHN BYRNE'S NEXT MEN, which he fully admits here was a name intended to evoke a subconscious callback to X-MEN in the minds of the consumers. But his intention was to do a hard science-fiction serialized graphic novel with enough super-hero trappings that it would appeal to the mainstream comic buying public. The timing must have been right because NEXT MEN was the biggest selling comic book that Dark Horse had ever published. He followed on the heels of the success of NEXT MEN with BABE and DANGER UNLIMITED. But once the bottom dropped out on the direct market for most creator-owned stuff, he folded up shop and returned to the comfort zone of Marvel and DC.

A discussion about his GENERATIONS series reveals that that the original series spun out of an aborted JSA/INVADERS crossover special Byrne pitched to the Big Two after the success of his BATMAN/CAPT. AMERICA one-shot. Showing a bit of self-awareness, he remarks that the success of the first two GENERATIONS is mostly attributable to the aging fanbase that he's always complaining about. Likewise, he blames the lack of success of the third GENERATIONS series on that self-same aging fanbase, because it did not appeal to the Silver Age nostalgia that drove the first two series. Beyond that, he discusses a little bit about what he feels led to the demise of his recent run on DOOM PATROL and shares a bit about how BLOOD OF THE DEMON came about.

Part Five examines his creative process. The best part of this section is that it showcases a handful of unfinished work by Byrne. There are panel breakdowns from X-MEN #137, a partially inked pencil drawing, and a page demonstrating how he incorporates some computer graphics onto his comic book work. I got a kick out of these two Muppets comic strips he produced (one inked by Terry Austin) as a failed try-out for a proposed Muppets strip for Henson Productions. We also get a chance to see his original pencils for one of those FUNKY WINKERBEAN comic strips he ghosts occasionally and then we see the finished product after Tom Batiuk applied his inks. Nice stuff.

"Yeah, there are so many idiots online that my threshold is, like, zero." - John Byrne (MM VOL. 7, Part 6)

Part Six gives voice to some of Byrne's trademark blistering criticisms and honest opinions unfiltered. Note the quote above. My reason for including that quote is to illustrate the point that Byrne makes here in this section of the interview. And no, the point is not that there are idiots online. The point is that his obsessive aversion to the use of innocuous little things like the sideways smilies means that his tone of voice, facial expression, etc. is always missing. He laments that Walt Simonson can tell someone online to "F**k off" and nobody minds because he follows it with a winky smilie, but if he tells someone to "F**k off" everyone pitches a holy fit because he didn't follow it with a winky smilie. And you know what? He's right about that. But at the same time, he demonstrates a pointless stubbornness here that unfortunately just feeds the very problem he's decrying. If it's something as simple as throwing in an occasional wink or smile to be sure that people know his intent, then why not do it? Sure, it may seem idiotic, but is it any less idiotic to post harsh or abrasive comments with no malicious intent but expect others to mindread intent? As I say, it seems like behavior that if done repeatedly would demonstrate a desire to perpetuate it.

At least that's how it reads to me.

And I did find myself laughing out loud at one point in this section where Byrne starts railing on about how movies and TV always show comic book readers in the worst light (sounding much like Right-Wing Christian politicos complaining about how Christians are portrayed in the media) when he's quoted as saying: "And now, because there are so many fans running the industry, they can't see past it. 'Oh, I think they're great, and I think having these characters say "f*ck" is mature.' Well, no, we call it 'juvenile.'" Then I looked immediately to the right, at the near full-page illustration from Byrne's famously never published DC Comic, FREAKS, and the character is yelling: "Barker, you are out of your EFFING MIND, man!!"

I don't know if that was intentional, but it was funny.

The truth of the matter is that if you read through this section you will find that Byrne nails things sometimes, but more often than not, his perception of the current state of the industry sounds more like personal frustration over the fact that his star has fallen in recent years. Nostalgia is a common thing to drive those of us pushing forty, and even moreso those in their fifties and older, so it's understandable to look at the current state of affairs and wish for it to be more like it was when you were younger. But all of us have to face one certain fact: things change. Byrne may very well be Jeremiah crying in the wilderness or he may simply be a Pharisee bound to a set of arbitrary rules demanding that everyone else bend to his interpretation of those rules. Time will tell whether it's one or the other, or even more likely, a compromise of sorts between the two extremes.

My three favorite pieces of art in this book were (1) a commissioned drawing of Superman, Batman, and Capt. America that was originally intended to be a cover for TwoMorrows' now defunct COMIC BOOK ARTIST magazine, (2) a two-page spread, inked by Jerry Ordway, of Cap and Bucky fighting the Red Skull, and (3) the original pencils of a full-page splash from SUPERMAN #3 introducing the New Gods and the denizens of Apokolips for the first time post-MAN OF STEEL era. I got a big kick, also, out of seeing an illustration from the 80s for a failed pitch he made for a new METAL MEN series. I'm not sure his sensibilities right now are in tune enough with the current fanbase to support a current METAL MEN comic by him, but a Byrne METAL MEN series in the 80s would've likely been a real fan favorite. It's a shame that never came about.

I admit to being down on the man's work in the last couple of years, but even during that time I did find myself publishing a positive review for one of his DOOM PATROL issues. But this book was a great reminder of just how talented he really is and these lower tier DC books (his recent SUPERMAN work excepted) he's been working on have just not been the best showcases for that talent. It's something of a natural progression for commercial artists, but his style is currently out of favor with the vast majority of comic book fans. That's not a slam on him. It's just the ebb and flow of American pop culture. I'm looking forward to that future project where he is hit more by a creative instinct than a desire for technical precision in the mechanics of storytelling. That, I think, is what will attract an audience in the current climate that is more writer-driven than artist-driven. Byrne's strengths have always been strongest on the artistic side. His writing is fine, but definitely out of step with what the public goes for now. But looking at the art samples throughout the book and in the 33-page gallery demonstrate he's still got the artistic chops if he can get connected with a writer who challenges him the way, say, Claremont did during their tenure on X-MEN.

The bottom line is that his contributions to comic books over the last 30 years justify the title of Modern Master and that's just the God's honest truth. If you haven't bought this book yet, you should buy it now.

TAG #1
BOOM! Studios

Amother zombie book. This time, focusing on a zombie-like curse passed on from one person to the next like the old schoolyard game tag. If you pass along the curse to someone, you’re not “it.” “It” meaning a walking dead person who decays rapidly and doesn’t require things like heartbeats or breathing to survive. This is a more personal tale, focusing on one man who attains the curse just as his girlfriend is trying to break-up with him. I liked this story in that it’s one of those layered tales where the zombie curse can be read as a metaphor for the way one feels when you are the dumpee in a relationship. The fact that this curse causes the main character’s girlfriend to stick around a little while longer to help him out sustains the metaphor. This is an interesting and surprisingly adult take on relationships and the living dead. It’s a serious yarn by Keith Giffen, who I like best on more comical books like WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? and HERO SQUARED. But I’m finding his more serious stuff equally interesting these days. This more intimate look at the zombie genre is definitely worth checking out. - Ambush Bug

Silent Devil Publications

Those of you who like SIN CITY will want to take note of this comic book noir-ish tale of a gumshoe in search of his lost love. This book has some pretty nice dialog which uses the same Bogart-speak that made Frank Miller famous. The look if this book is pretty great as well. Artist Chris Moreno bathes each page in lights and darks, paying close attention to the significance and resonance of both in each well thought out panel. There are double crosses, a dame, and a whole lot of gunplay in store for anyone interested. According to Mark Grimm, he never misses and neither does this book in terms of entertainment. A fun read. - Ambush Bug

BOOM! Studios

I love this book because, more so than any of his other projects at BOOM!, it highlights what Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis do best. Sure, I’m digging his takes on sci fi in JEREMIAH HARM and more horrific projects like TAG show promise, but Giffen is best known for his conversational BWAHAHAHA’s and there’s a reason for that: he does it so well, especially when paired with DeMatteis. HERO SQUARED embraces all of the superhero clichés and makes a kooky sitcom out of the whole thing. Sure there are parallel universes, alter egos, alien invasions, tights and capes, and all forms of time-worn predicaments involving alter egos. Captain Valor is your typical all-powerful Superman archetype, it just so happens that his arch-nemesis is his ex-girlfriend and when their never ending battle destroys the universe they inhabited, they move to a parallel universe to continue to fisticuffs. They bicker like any ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend do, but in this case, it’s not a lamp or a picture frame that gets broken, but entire worlds. Milo is the Captain Valor of this universe, or he would have been, had he not blown off the museum trip where Valor received his powers. Due to his wanton slackery, Milo is powerless. With good intentions, Valor enters Milo’s life to make sure his arch-nemesis doesn’t destroy this world. It doesn’t help that Milo and his girlfriend are having problems of their own and all signs point to a big breakup after this issue. It’s all smartly written. Like CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM with tights and death rays. None of the characters get along and go off on tangential blatherings that are more entertaining than your typical slugfest. The tongue is firmly in cheek when the heroics do ensue and Giffen and DeMatteis do a great sequence towards the end of this issue that starts out kooky and ends up quite poignantly as Valor realizes that this world is very different from the one he left behind. Smartly written and rendered with deft linework by Joe Abraham who is growing artistically by leaps and bounds as this series progresses. - Ambush Bug >br>

Remember, if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.

DC Comics

This comic made me wince twice. First at the suggestion that it may have been team-shape changer Metamorpho who actually slept with the evil African dictator and not Black Lightning’s daughter, Thunder. And then the suggestion of the unrequited gorilla on brain in a bottle love that’s going on behind the scenes. Like Superman in this issue, I don’t know how I feel about the direction these Outsiders are going. I don’t like the extreme measures the team are taking in order to get the job done, but I am interested in seeing how far down this dark path Nightwing and Co. are willing to go. As long as Winick focuses on the action and maybe a little less on the image of an ape in a beret dry humping a brain in a glass jar, I’ll be sticking around to see what happens. - Bug

Marvel Comics

Another great issue. It’s a good time to be a Punisher fan, what with Ennis churning out great one-shots like THE CELL and THE TYGER all the while keeping the action intense and the insight into Frank’s character consistent in his ongoing series. This issue continues the trend as the Punisher matches fists and wits with the truly devious Barracuda. The humor is not so over the top as some of Ennis’ previous stuff in PREACHER, HITMAN, and the previous PUNISHER series, but this book still provided one of the biggest laughs I had from a comic last week involving a scared mobster reading what’s left of the words on Barracuda’s personalized gold teeth. Top this off with a great opening sequence involving a shark and a legless thug and you have yet another great Punisher action yarn from Ennis and co. - Bug

DC Vertigo

We're nearing the final year of one of the best books on the stands, and it's really starting to show. Tons of plot lines are finally starting to thread together as we start to countdown to the end and Y: THE LAST MAN is showing the same kind of flair for the dramatic that has made it such a terribly engrossing read for the past four years. Lots of conflicts are resolved and/or created here as lots of matters are completely dealt with, or we're given just that much more bit to chomp on as storylines that will be the focus of the book's final year are pushed ahead. The matter of reclaiming Ampersand, Yorick's and Agent 355's relationship, Doctor Mann future and her mother's involvement with the plague, and the little matter of the Israeli contingent coming after the first children born after the plague...all this and more and just a year to deal with it. It should be a hell of a ride. If you haven't tried it out by now, I really do feel sorry for you - Humphrey

Marvel Comics

I haven’t been a big fan of ANNIHILATION so far, although there have been moments of hope for this quiet crossover event. While all of the hubbub has directed towards this CIVIL WAR nonsense, this little event has been gaining steam as of late. Take this issue, for instance, as we are made privy to the fact that Galactus’ call to his side aches in the Silver Surfer like an alcoholic is temped when he passes a bar. This issue illustrates this struggle vividly in grainy panels by Renato Arlem. There are a few panels where I am clueless as to what is exactly happening, but the payoff at the end of this issue has me excited about this ANNIHILATION for the first time. Surfer and Galactus, together again. It may have been done before (don’t know, haven’t read a Surfer comic in a while), but it’s done really well this time. - Bug

DC Vertigo

Starting into the second arc of this comics' existence, and things are still moving along surprisingly well. What really gets me about this book is the kind of levels it's working on. There's obviously some sort of much broader scope and story moving along here that we just really don't know about at all, but at the same time you can feel it oozing between the more apparent plots. The upcoming and undeniable "war" with the "Uber-cockroaches" itself is a very unique and interesting kind of conflict for a comic book and I'm quite looking forward to it. As is the whole matter of the weird antique roach box that our main character Henry James found in the possession of his former exterminating partner AJ, a story point that is starting to be pushed into the forefront with this issue it seems, as Henry has now become acquainted with a lovely new gal that may just know something about the subject at hand. This issue also features another fun little battle between man and bug as Henry and his new partner/buddy Stretch have a little encounter with some black widow spiders in a rather, uh, "interesting" setting. Everything about this book so far has been pitch perfect, and this issue just continues the trend. The characters are terribly unique, as is the tone of the book in general. There's lots of humor, some genuine intrigue as the broader plot points develop, and it sports some amazing Tony Moore art to boot. I know the term "The Best Book You Aren't Reading" gets thrown around a lot, but in this case I can't think of any book out there on the market that fits the honor of that title more than THE EXTERMINATORS. - Humphrey

Marvel Comics

I guess this issue is supposed to be supplementary material focusing on how the press is involved in this CIVIL WAR crossover thingee. I never followed THE PULSE and if this issue is any indication as to how that book read, I’m glad I didn’t. First and foremost, one would think that, if you’re making an event book, you may want to make the art a little more poppy. We’re talking plain white toast interesting here, folks. It’s not that it is bad, per se. It’s that it just isn’t what I am expecting to see when I open a tie in to one of the most over hyped crossover books of the summer. It’s just…boring. And you know what’s more boring than boring art. Boring art depicting a bunch of people sitting around and moping and talking. Hell, writer Paul Jenkins is even so self-aware of how boring this all looks that he has a character mention how silly Spider-Man looks sitting in a chair. It’s the usual, Marvel 22 talkity-talk, followed by a few short stories that are equally drably rendered and overly written. This book may be on the Frontline, but there ain’t no action going on here. - Bug

DC Comics

This is the first issue of this series that I haven’t been fascinated with. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t get over the ridiculousness of the fact that Green Lantern Alan Scott now wears his trademark purple mask with an eye patch underneath. Maybe it’s the wonky and weird whammy the zeta beam mishap did to the heroes who were recovered and lost in space. Maybe it was the fact that the series has shifted its gears away from much more interesting storylines involving Renee Montoya, Black Adam, and Booster Gold, to focus on Alan Scott and the missing heroes who fought in the Rann-Thanagar War. Don’t know, but to me, this is the first misstep in an otherwise well written and well rendered series. I’ll stick with it, though, because the aforementioned storylines that weren’t in this issue will be sure to be back. And that’s what’s making this series kick all sorts of @$$. - Bug

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