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AICN COMICS REVIEWS: FLASH, STAR TREK, SPIDER-MAN, SUPERMAN/BATMAN + the Return of an @$$Hole & the Coming of The Kid!!!

#47 4/1/09 #7

Well hello there! Ambush Bug here with another truckload of reviews to pile onto you. This week we have something special for you guys. This week it’s more like a wedding shower because there’s something old, something new, and aahh…something Humphrey wrote when he was drunk. As far as the “something old” part, we’ve got Baytor returning to the fold after a few years off from @$$Hole reviewing with a pair of reviews this week. It’s good to have the old so-and-so back. His insightful criticisms were solely missed. Welcome back, Baytor!
And filling the “something new” category is something I am really excited about. There are those who say that comic books is a dying art form—that the medium is full of grumpy old men and that it doesn’t speak to the kids of today. This week, AICN Comics proves them wrong with our new ongoing reviewer Liam The Kid. This 8-year old reads comics then talks to his father about them while he transcribes the reviews onto a blog. I got wind of the blog last week and asked if Liam The Kid would be interested in providing a fresh perspective to AICN Comics—a perspective we all once had back in the day, but may have lost it along the way somewhere. Both The Kid and his father were excited for the opportunity. You can check out Liam The Kid’s blog to read more reviews, but he’ll also be reviewing exclusive content here at AICN too. So let’s everyone welcome Liam The Kid to AICN Comics!
And now, on with the reviews!



Written by: John Byrne Art by: John Byrne Published by: IDW Publishing Reviewer: The Triumphant Return of Baytor!

It was the worst of comics; it was the best of comics.
Okay, maybe not the best of comics, but about half of this issue is a pretty damn good comic. Unfortunately, it’s not the half that features words. I am a fairly vicious critic of John Byrne’s artwork, as I feel that he has a bad habit of relying on stock poses and stock facial expressions. And CREW #2 does have some of those problems.
But Byrne has a particular affinity with pseudo-futuristic settings, with his techno-scribbles being among the best in the business, and his old-fashioned comic book art fits really well with the retro-60s aesthetic of a pre-TOS STAR TREK Universe. Flipping through the pages, you get the sense of a really cool STAR TREK story.
Then you read the words and a really cool retro experience transforms into a vapid, soulless affair.
Take, for instance, the exchange on the opening splash page, where one of the characters complains about the old fashioned space suits they’re wearing. Seems they were designed in the 20th Century, yet they’re sleeker and more advanced than anything we have in the 21st Century, and they’re sleeker than what appeared in the first STAR TREK motion picture. Turns out it’s a clumsy, ham-fisted in-joke to the space suit design Gold Key Comics cribbed from DAN DARE. The first page managed to knock me out of the story, which doesn’t happen very often.
But worse is to follow. After making their repairs, they go back inside, where they almost immediately encounter a hull breach. Now, try not to pay any attention to the character screaming “HELLLLP!” as he flies through space without a space suit (I know, it’s hard, but we accept sound effects in space). The sequence would appear to make perfect sense if we pay attention only to the pictures. A crew member gets sucked through the breach, it looks like there’s a force field trying to form around the breach, but too late for our hapless victim. Another panel shows the classic “it’s too late” moment as the hero is held back from a futile rescue attempt.
Then you read the words and we find out that the breach wasn’t sealed, and these characters are hanging around in an exposed section of space, arguing about whether or not there’s time to save the guy who is floating in space without a space suit. You know, space where your life expectancy without a space suit is measured in seconds. There’s even a panel in the middle of this, where they’re not even hanging on to anything for dear life. It’s almost like a brain-dead writer paid no attention to what the artist had actually drawn and created something that made no sense--but John Byrne managed this feat on his own, which is impressive in a bizarre sort of way.
If you’ve made it this far, I’m happy to say that the worst is over. What follows is what would be a fairly tense rescue mission by our unnamed heroine... that is, if John Byrne had managed to make a single character in this book the slightest bit memorable (including the lead character that, two issues into the mini-series, still doesn’t have a name). Characters die with absolutely zero impact, and we never do find out why they’re under attack, or what happened to the colonists on the planet below. STAR TREK fans with good memories will at least know who is behind the attack, but be only marginally less in the dark than newbies.
Had this been part of a serialized graphic novel (and not just a collection of one-shot adventures), this might have worked, even with the wonky science on display in the open sequence. But the first issue of this series suffered a lot of the same flaws as this one, in that there’s almost no characterization or personality being displayed by anyone, leaving them as wind-up plot devices. Roger Ebert loves to say that there is nothing as boring as a pointless action sequence, and this comic proves him right.
From an artistic viewpoint, it’s a technically proficient outing, and (opening sequence aside), the scripting is serviceable. But somewhere along the line, John Byrne forgot to include the fun and soul, which is the reason why STAR TREK continues to endure to this day.


Writer: James Robinson Art: Marcos Martin Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: BottleImp

Comic books have become ingrained in our country’s culture and consciousness—the four-color superheroes of the printed page now stand alongside America’s other heroes of folklore. Just as Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crockett and Paul Bunyan will live on forever through their legends, so too will there always be Superman, Batman, Spider-Man… and Captain America. And though the legends will be tinkered with in efforts to A. try something innovative with the character and B. boost sales (mostly B), it is the original, true vision of these American mythologies that will always speak clearest to the readers, and whatever else may occur in the editorial meetings, it is this vision which will endure. Or, as this one-shot phrases it, “The thing that makes Captain America great… is Steve Rogers!”
James Robinson spins a great story here about the man beneath the red, white and blue tights. We get to see the 98-pound weakling, pre-Super Soldier Serum Steve Rogers showing Captain America’s patriotism and strength of will without the benefit of a perfect physique or an indestructible shield. Just as the human fallibilities of Peter Parker determine the actions of his alter ego, so too does Roger’s strong moral center guide Cap’s path. It’s a terrific way to prepare readers for the original Cap’s inevitable return…and if I’m to believe the advertisement in this issue, it’s coming up very soon.
The artwork is clean and fluid; there’s a wonderful mix of dynamic action paired with expert pacing. Martin’s drawings remind me of Bernie Krigstein’s, slightly less-abstracted, but with the same expressive linework. It’s a perfect match for the story, evocative of the Golden Age comic art while at the same time contemporary. And can I just say how glad I am that Robinson still has it in him to write a damn good story? After the dreck of DC’s SUPERMAN, this comic gives me hope for his upcoming Justice League title.
This issue also includes a reprint of a goofy 1941 Cap comic—all you talkbackers who bitch about the West Coast Avengers barbecues in full costume will enjoy seeing Cap and Bucky playing professional baseball with baseball uniforms worn OVER their costumes, and realize that Marvel’s been playing the WCA barbecue game for 70 years now.
All in all, this comic is a nice reminder of the legend of Captain America—a legend which (unless I’m really misreading things here) will live again…just in time for his new movie, I’m willing to bet.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast. You can see some of his artwork athere. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.


Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Ethan Van Sciver Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche

Twenty plus years is a long time to stay dead—well, at least in comics. When Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, sacrificed his life aboard the great cosmic treadmill to save the multiverse during CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, it was certainly believed that he would return at some point prior to the new millennium. What no one expected, though, is the popularity his protégé Wally West would experience with the late Gen X and early Gen Y just starting to get into the DC Universe. I know I certainly fit that category. CRISIS was the first DC book I ever picked up off the spinner rack, and FLASH was one of the books I started with at issue 1. Wally West is and always has been the Flash for my generation. Barry Allen was always a specter, a voice from the past that served as Wally’s conscience when faced with a moral dilemma or to tell Wally when to man-up and lose his flip carefree attitude. In essence, Barry was a lost Father figure whose words were a moral compass long after his passing.
However, what one Crisis begets another obviously puts asunder. The opening issues of FINAL CRISIS saw the second scarlet speedster outrace death and the speed force to reappear in a world consumed by Darkseid, which in my opinion one of the more coherent and heartfelt moments of FINAL CONFUSION. Now that the dust of CRISIS and all of the offspring titles has settled I can say without reservation that Grant Morrison was handed the Omega duties of redefining the DC universe and Johns is the Alpha, rebuilding the entire DC universe with the voice of a new generation.
Immediately people will make the association with Johns’ GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH, but aside from the title the similarities are scarce. Like GREEN LANTERN Johns is once again handed the hefty chore of introducing a silver age character that has been out of commission for as long as most readers have been alive. Unlike GREEN LANTERN though, Barry Allen has been completely out of DC continuity. Hal Jordan was around, just in an evil state of being, plus Jordan’s hiatus to the dark side was an infinitely shorter time period than Barry Allen’s time spent in speed limbo. FLASH REBIRTH also veers into its own realm because Barry Allen is a throwback to an earlier time period of sensibilities, where Hal Jordan’s misogyny and laissez faire attitude towards life fits in perfectly with the slacker mentality often attributed to today’s under 40 crowd. Finally, Barry is not seeking salvation or forgiveness for his trespasses, he is a man trying to find his place in a world that has become virtually unrecognizable.
As Keystone City gets ready to honor the return of Barry Allen with parades and other such fanfare we are presented with a man who is quite simply lost. It wasn’t until I saw our modern world of cell phones, text messaging and other Web based trappings through Barry’s eyes that I realized how much our lives have changed over the past quarter century. The irony of a man who can travel faster than light grappling with the concept of instant messaging is just one of the subtle nuances Johns carries throughout this title. More importantly though, Johns brings to light how differently the world views good and evil today. For Barry and others that fit into the late Baby Boomer generation there are no hues of gray when looking at right and wrong. One is either guilty or not guilty, there are no excuses which today’s generation conveniently dub reasons for doing wrong. Even though Barry and Wally never meet in this issue, my mind was already flash forwarding ahead to future issues where I envision some major conflict between Barry and Wally specifically when it comes to the Flash’s cadre of rogues. Wally has always given the impression of almost feeling bad for these miscreants where I see Barry not tolerating even an ounce of super-villain guff.
This issue was void of action, but filled with superb moments of set-up for things to come. I’ll admit I could have done with a few less scenes of Wally baby sitting the incorrigible twins, but to hear Barry’s true thoughts on Hal Jordan is worth the price of admission alone. Another interesting (even though I’m not sure I agree with it) choice was to have Kid Flash almost resentful at the return of his grandfather for fear that he might usurp his mentor.
Speaking of Kid Flash I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the second editorial gaff of the month on the part of DC, the first being the Wonder Woman faux pas in last week’s JLA. Kid Flash is not supposed to return to the 21st century until the close of LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, which still hasn’t hit the shelves yet. Part of me has to believe that LEGION was in the bag way before REBIRTH was finished, so I have to ask DC, WTF? I don’t expect an answer, I was just wondering.
Finally, there was some genuine laugh out loud moments concerning the Rogues of new and old. Being a Wally guy by nature I will fully admit some of the faces were lost on me, but even in just one panel snippets Johns gave me all I needed to know about the shit storm these costume clad baddies will be raining down on Barry in issues to come.
Van Sciver of course was phenomenal. What I appreciate most about his work is the individuality he gives to each character. Too often these days we see the same head and face transcend all characters of similar age groups, relying solely on hair color or a costume to provide any differentiation. When Hal Jordan and Barry are talking in their civvies you don’t need the blonde/brunette difference to tell these men apart. Kudos to Ethan for actually caring about his craft.
It’s often said that the devil is in the details, but Johns and Van Sciver have proven yet again sometimes the details are the most delectable part of the story.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. "What if the whole world had superpowers? Find out in the pages of Optimous’ original book AVERAGE JOE. Read the first full issue on Optimous’ New Blog and see original sketches by fellow @$$hole Bottleimp. If you are a publisher or can help these guys get AVERAGE JOE up, up, and on the shelves in any way, drop Optimous a line."


Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Barry Kitson Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Liam ‘The Kid’

The comic book starts in a time several years ago. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four went to a strange planet. Spider-Man heard screaming and wanted to help even though Mr. Fantastic said they needed to stay out of it. Spider-Man said that he was going to help because it’s his job to help and then the Human Torch and Thing followed him. Then Mr. Fantastic said that they were outvoted.
Then the story goes back to regular time. Spider-Man captured this crazy looking guy in a purple suit. He has him webbed up and the guy tells Spider-Man that Norman Osborn runs things and he’s going to be let out of prison and everyone will blame Spider-Man. Spider-Man tells him that he’s going to have to get meaner so he gives the guy an atomic wedgie and pulls his underpants over his head and swings away.
The Fantastic Four show up and tell Spider-Man that they need his help back on the alien world they were on years ago. Spider-Man says that he doesn’t have enough money to go away for a long time but Mr. Fantastic gives him check for a lot of money so he can go. They all go to the Fantastic Four home and take a ship to the new planet. When they get to the planet they see a bunch of statues of all of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.
The Human Torch is very mad because the Spider-Man statue isn’t wearing a mask. Human Torch remembers that Spider-Man had a big adventure with the Fantastic Four and he wasn’t wearing his mask when they had the battle but he can’t remember who he is. They show pictures where the Fantastic Four are fighting with Spider-Man and his face is always blocked. Every time the Human Torch starts to ask Spider-Man what he did to make him forget, Spider-Man tells him to not worry about it. I think Spider-Man hypnotized people to make everyone forget that he’s Peter Parker because it’s weird that they would just forget it they already knew.
Then the alien people are attacking and they’re riding dinosaurs with laser guns attached to them. Mrs. Fantastic puts up a force field to keep the team and Spider-Man together and safe from the attackers and the Human Torch starts to argue with Spider-Man again. Spider-Man walks away and then Human Torch shoots some fire onto Spider-Man’s mask so it starts to burn and Spider-Man is saying ‘ow, ow, ow’ and he pulls off his mask. When he takes his mask off we can’t see what he looks like but the Human Torch is like, ‘no freakin way’.
One of my favorite parts was when Spider-Man gave the bad guy an atomic wedgie while he was webbed up to the side of the building. That was funny. I also liked the part where they get to the new world and all of the statues are up and Spider-Man’s face is messed up so no one can tell who he is. I like that on this world the Human Torch was blue and his flames were blue, too and the drawing of the blue looking Human Torch screaming at Spider-Man was really funny. The best part was when Human Torch shot fire at Spider-Man’s head to get him to take his mask off but since they didn’t show Peter Parker I bet that he doesn’t look like Peter Parker. Peter Parker did show the Avengers who he really was in the other comic so I don’t know why he doesn’t want to show the Human Torch who he really is unless he just trusts the Avengers more.
My Rating: 9.5
‘The Kid’ is 8 years old and has been doing reviews on his own site since August of 2008. He is very excited to be reaching new readers with his contributions to AICN and will be featuring a couple new reviews each and every week right here, along with one ‘exclusive’ review that you’ll only be able to read at AICN.


Writer: Mark Waid Art: Peter Krause Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewer: BottleImp

There’s a big blurb on the cover about Grant Morrison’s afterword to this comic, so I’ll start with that. Morrison talks about how comic writers tend to be categorized by fans in certain niches, with Mark Waid being the go-to guy for Silver Age nostalgia (although I’ve never really felt this; Waid just seems like an all-around capable writer to me… maybe there’s a different stigma attached to his name within the rabid fanboy community or within the comics publishers), and Morrison himself confesses “a horrible suspicion that no matter how watertight I might try to make my plots, no matter how well-structured my narratives became, no matter how conventionally I organized my ideas, I would always be regarded in comics fan circles as the madcap purveyor of free-form gibberish.”
I had to laugh at this. Because for me, ANIMAL MAN and DOOM PATROL are far more structured and watertight than Morrison’s recent masterpiece of free-form gibberish, FINAL CRISIS, yet the inference here is that his current writing is more structured than those earlier works which cemented Morrison’s reputation.
But I’m going to stop beating a dead horse (for a while, anyway) and talk about IRREDEEMABLE—one of the most intriguing, suspenseful, grab-you-by-the-throat comics I’ve ever read.
The basic idea is this: what if it didn’t take a magical spell or a mad scientist’s ray or a hunk of radioactive rock to turn Superman evil…what if it just took time?
As I said, I’ve always thought Waid is a capable writer, but this issue is much better than the work from your everyday comic scribe—there is a deliberate structuring of plot, character and backstory that simultaneously gives the reader exactly enough information to follow the story while leaving the reader tantalized for more information. There’s none of the narrative captions that are so in vogue these days that tend to slow the action down; the comic runs at a sprint. The artwork by Krause is good—nothing flashy, but nice page designs and facial expressions with just a hint of Howard Chaykin in the drawing style—but the star here is clearly Waid’s story.
It seems like there’s always another high-concept superhero deconstruction on the racks these days, but IRREDEEMABLE most definitely stands out as something new. I highly recommend picking it up—but if you read the afterword, be prepared to play the world’s smallest violin for Grant Morrison.


Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Jonathan Hickman Artist: Stefano Caselli Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

Handing it to Marvel, I would say I'm up something like a half dozen of their books right now since they led into DARK REIGN from SECRET INVASION. If anything, while I tend to find their events themselves somewhat lacking, they've typically set up a good to great (at times) framework for their universe and the majority of their line. It also helps that they've used the opportunity to allocate their newly signed or up-and-coming talent to these status quo related titles - which is really what I'm about when it comes to my funny books, the peeps that write them - like a Rick Remender PUNISHER series, or Andy Diggle on THUNDERBOLTS and the new FANTASTIC FOUR mini helmed by one of the two chaps involved with this book I'm reviewing here, and soon to be writer of the main series, Mr. Jonathan Hickman. Problem is though, while I'm more than willing to give these titles a try based off these teams, sadly I find myself waning on some of them already - hell, I've already ditched T-BOLTS - which brings me to this book here, SECRET WARRIORS.
The problem I'm finding here is that SW seems to be two sides of a coin to me. On the one side, we've got Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing which is one of the cooler things I'm reading right now. Nick Fury here is being written exactly as you would want him to be in a title featuring him. He's gruff, doesn't take any shit, has all these great gadgets and hideouts everywhere and is playing the role of the shit-kicker, the Elder Statesman, and the consummate spy all at the same time. And it's just fantastic. But, on the other side, you've got the Secret Warriors, and I'll be god damned if I can name any of them besides Phobos off the top of my head I find them so insignificant. All I know about the rest of them is that apparently one of them is named Yo-Yo and she just lost an arm this issue to the Gorgon (whom I easily recognize more than anyone else on the team despite being in almost nothing besides a WOLVERINE arc), and the only way this affected me at all is that I can't help but thick there's a good "Walking the Dog" joke in there somewhere. But I just don't care, again except for Phobos because he every once in a while gets in a great line or two, and this issue was no exception.
As for the direction of the book, I'm still definitely finding myself firmly in its grasp. I love the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. all these years being just another front for HYDRA. Anything that gets us the set up for another Fury vs. Von Strucker bout means everything is alright with the world. I guess there's something to Fury only really having a rag-tag group of nobodies to go about his mission and maybe even after Norman Osborn at the top of the heap (I doubt things are going to progress that far--there's only so much time between events, y'know?) but when I could care less about a member of the team losing a hand, that kind of means they're less "lovable miscreants" and more "cannon fodder". But hey, I guess I enjoy two-thirds of the plot and character goings-on of the book, and we got some motherfucking Dum Dum at the end, so for now this book still has me, but not as much as I'd like.
Now, when it comes to the art, I'm a bit less conflicted. Actually, I'm pretty downright content with what Caselli brings to the table. It took me a little to get used to his style when he was on THE INITIATIVE - don't ask me why, I really can't quantify it - but overall I think it's pretty aces. There's a lot of detail going into his characters, especially in the facial expressions which he really does seem to have a wide range with, and a great knack at making them feel very natural for the most part. The exception would be some of his "tense scowls" that you tend to see in his action sequences as everyone is all grit teeth, and his "stunned" or "surprised" looks are just a little over-exaggerated, especially in the eyes, but on the overall he does a very good job. And, god bless him, he's an artist that puts almost as much effort into his backgrounds as he does his figures, which really brings out the back and forth between the figures on "screen" that much more. There tends to be a little over-crowding in his action scenes, because the bodies of his figures are a little thicker than the norm, but that's superhero comics for you. So, aside from a nitpick here and there, really the art brings the goods, enough so that it factors pretty well into my Pros when it comes to keeping this title on my pull list.
And stay on it will, at least for the time being. Really, until the overall plot starts to drag down, I'll most likely stick with it just for the Fury goodness. He's my Dr. House to a cast of people that even after having watched lord knows how many episodes of the show I couldn't even tell you their names, but I do recognize one of them as Kumar, aka random goon who punked out Superman in “Returns”. As long as he's the focus of the book, and the fodder does well enough to make for some badass action sequences, then I'm still game. And god forbid the "reinforcements" we're being alluded to at the end happen to be some peeps I give a damn about. I guess we'll hopefully see in a month. Until then though, make mine Nick Fury: Agent of Making Even James Bond Look Like a Pussy.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


Written by: John Byrne Art by: John Byrne Published by: IDW Publishing Review by Baytor

Of late, I’ve gotten into the bad habit of licensed comics. I know they’re usually not very good, but my bookshelves are starting to groan under the weight of DOCTOR WHO comics, BUFFY comics, and ANGEL comics. The less said about my reading the DOCTOR WHO New Adventure novels, the better.
Then I find out John Byrne is writing an ANGEL book. This is not good news to me. Byrne and me went our separate ways during his WONDER WOMAN run and I check in on him from time to time to make sure nothing has changed, so I was not happy to see his name on a comic series I feel strangely compelled to buy. The first issue seemed to confirm my feelings. I didn’t like it at all, but like a masochist, I’m back for the second issue.
I like.
I like quite a bit, actually.
First off, Byrne’s artwork looks really frakkin’ amazing here. They’ve forgone traditional inks, sticking a lot closer to the pencils. Often, the moody, detailed artwork reminds me of horror master Gene Colan, which is high praise indeed. Another bonus is Byrne attempting to mimic the likeness of David Boreanaz. He never quite succeeds, but the attempt liberates him from the stock facial expressions that bring down a lot of his work. It’s probably not been since his OMAC mini-series (also in b&w) that I’ve enjoyed his artwork so much. This book proves he’s got some serious chops.
The writing is also quite good. Byrne still can’t capture the verbal style of Angel, but that doesn’t matter as we get into the heart of the plot. The first issue was fairly light on plot (and heavy on plot complications), but in this issue we finally start getting some answers to the questions raised in the opening pages of last issue. We learn why vampires are flying tri-pods over No Man’s Land & attacking soldiers, and get a glimpse at the villain behind this nefarious scheme. The answers to these questions aren’t exactly earth-shattering, but play out in an entertaining manner, while the plot-complication of the first issue seems ready to strike again in the next issue.
I probably wouldn’t recommend this comic if it weren’t a licensed comic, but does anyone expect a licensed comic to be truly great? It’s a lot of fun and it fits in pretty well with the ANGEL mythos, and is thus far proving to be a worthy addition to its dubious ranks.


Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (Mike Johnson, “Dialogue”) Pencils: Whilce Portacio Inker: Richard Friend Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: William

It’s good to see that in this current realm of DC and Marvel trying to outdo each other in terms of super-sized 50+ issue events (much to the chagrin and wallets of comic book fans), there are still a few titles out there that don’t bother with such gigantic ideas and instead focus on short and satisfying stories, such as the current SUPERMAN/BATMAN title.
I actually began reading this title a few issues ago when the “Super/Bat” storyline was just starting (and in retrospect through reading some of the TPB‘s from my local library). After reading the last issue of that story I found it to be a pretty satisfying experience. Here was a chance to finally get involved in a comic that didn’t need to have extra tie-in issues in order to understand what the heck was going on, or wasn’t part of some huge multi-crossover event, or wasn’t associated in any 20+ issue storyline that purposely dragged out the story for the sake of getting more out of you. As a previous reviewer in this column pointed out a few weeks ago with the BATMAN: CACOPHONY mini-series, it seems that nowadays the only way to get a simple three-part storyline is through a limited series. But after reading this title for a few months now, it’s good to see that the SUPERMAN/BATMAN title is simply mimicking the formula that was used during the comic book heyday of the 80’s/90’s, which is to use simple self-contained storylines that wrap up within four or five issues.
It always helps too that this title contains the two most popular superheroes of our time. Marvel may have something to boast with Spiderman, but in terms of global popularity and reconcilability, there’s no other comic book characters that can come even close to matching DC’s big two. Just go to any part of this planet and draw either the “S” or Bat emblem and people will automatically recognize who you mean, what their origin is, who their enemies are, and so on.
In any case what you see is what you get within the first part of this “Nanopolis” storyline. Still continuing to go outside of the post-FINAL CRISIS/BATMAN RIP continuity, in this issue Superman is shrunk to a microscopic level by the villain Prankster, and it’s up to Batman and John Henry Irons to save him before he dies. Before you start thinking that this is going to be “Honey I Shrunk the Superman”, it seems that a lot of good thinking went into this storyline as there’s no less than two writers on board, with a third used for “Dialogue” purposes. And so far there’s some pretty interesting scientific ideas thrown around with regards to items being on the microscopic level. The artwork by Whilce Portacio is pretty good too. As I was reading this issue I couldn’t help but remember that I’ve seen this artwork before, and it wasn’t until I saw the post-credits that I realized it was Whilce’s work. I’ve been a big fan of his work ever since his PUNISHER MAGAZINE days, and it’s good to see that he’s still on top of his game. Although it’s a little unnatural to see his interpretation of Superman as some huge steroid looking body-builder, his Batman definitely rivals Jim Lee’s as being one of the best out there (it’s too bad there’s no women in this issue because I remember him drawing some incredible looking women back then--Adam Hughes is still the best, though).
Anyways pick up this issue next time you’re at your comic book store. If you haven’t before it’ll be a good chance to start off on a satisfying title; if you have then it looks like you’re in for another interesting storyline featuring these two giants.


Writer: Daniel Way Artist: Paco Medina Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Liam ‘The Kid’

This is part three of the big story where Deadpool is fighting the Thunderbolts because he wants Norman Osborn to give him his money. He was fighting with the Black Widow and he likes her a lot and asked her if she has a boyfriend and if she likes his gun. So he then pulls out a big knife and asks if she likes knives better. Black Widow’s friends come after her and shoot Deadpool so he goes back to his base. Deadpool is still happy though, because she says that she doesn’t have a boyfriend.
Deadpool is taking the bullet out of his arm and the Taskmaster, this skull looking guy comes out and Deadpool tells him that he has to wear a Deadpool costume to help him out. The Thunderbolts are at their base and the girl is doing research on the computer and they see a plane outside of the building that has a banner that says Deadpool loves Black Widow and a number for her to call him. Black Widow calls the number and the Taskmaster Deadpool answers the phone. Him and Deadpool are playing games trying to trick all of the Thunderbolts.
I like how Deadpool was driving the plane with his feet and he crashes the plane into the water because he doesn’t know how to fly it right. Deadpool and Taskmaster keep calling the Thunderbolts telling them they’re at different places to keep them fooled and they start blowing up all their stuff. Deadpool and Black Widow have another fight and he kisses the Black Widow and she wants to know why he did that and he says it’s because he loves her.
I really liked when both Deadpools are together again at their base and one of them has to go fight the Thunderbolts and the other one is going to go on a safer mission. The Taskmaster says ‘not it’ and Deadpool says that the best way to pick who goes on the mission is to play a game of rock-paper-scissors. The real Deadpool is mad because he loses.
Black Widow and Deadpool get together again and he starts singing to her but she doesn’t like the song. Then he asks her to run off with him so they can be together and she says she will but when the two of them get on the plane together all the Thunderbolts are hiding. She tricked him and now he’s captured on the jet.
The only thing I didn’t like about the issue was that the cover showed Deadpool holding his head in his hands but there wasn’t any part like that in the comic.
My favorite parts were when Black Widow and Deadpool are fighting and she knees him in the crotch and then the part where Deadpool and Taskmaster play paper-scissors-rock to figure out who is going to battle all of the Thunderbolts alone. The part where he is cutting the bullet out of his arm is pretty good too. The fight parts were all really good and there were a lot of them. DEADPOOL is a really good book if you like reading about a silly assassin and characters who fight a lot. Deadpool talks like he’s really tough but a lot of the times he is a chicken and tries to get other people to do his work for him. He likes being sneaky and doing things without other people knowing so they can’t fight him face to face.
Deadpool is one of my favorite comics right now and this was one of the best issues I’ve read.
My Rating: 10 out of 10
The Kid is 8 years old and has been reviewing comics on his blog since August of 2008. Some of his favorite comics are AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, GREEN LANTERN, DEADPOOL, HULK, and ATOMIC ROBO. His favorite thing about reviewing comics has been getting to hear from all of the creators who work on the books and meeting many of them during the New York Comic Con this past February. You can find many other reviews and interviews at his own site.


By marginal and Syuji Takeya Released by CMX Manga Reviewer: Scott Green

ASTRAL PROJECT is sufficiently clever, intriguing, provocative and, most of all, convoluted, that I have no problem calling it the LOST of manga. In that vein, ASTRAL PROJECT starts with what looks like a familiar story, kicks out well worn supports from its framework, and replaces those pillars with less not quite oblique hints towards its intellectual underpinnings. I'm a sucker for a literate manga that tells an involving story while being engaged with philosophy and stranger than fiction reality. Like other favorites KURAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE and EDEN: IT'S AN ENDLESS WORLD, ASTRAL PROJECT fits the bill.
ASTRAL PROJECT weaves together references to artists like avant-garde jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler and figurative painter Francis Bacon with threads of pseudo-science in the context of a genre tale. Rather than simply name checking this esoteric knowledge the manga leverages it to build its own, unique mystery. The resulting heady exercise places its hero at the center of a mystery, surrounds him with people he probably can't trust, then forces him into a metaphysical confrontation with the limitations of his perception.
According to an invented anecdote in ASTRAL PROJECT, during the 20th century, westerners made contact with a tribe in New Guinea that had previously been isolated from the modern world. The head of the expedition pulled a cigar out of his breast pocket and gave it to the village elder. Later, a child from the now assimilated tribe commented "we didn't know what clothes were, so we all thought the leader of the expedition slipped his hand into his chest and pulled out a cigar." Rather than have an unreliable point of view, ASTRAL PROJECT fumbles into an investigation with a hero who soon discovers that all senses provide subjective, ambiguous information at best. This uncertainty proves to be a compelling operating model for a highly distinctive manga.
The credited marginal might be better known as Garon Tsuchiya, the writer of OLDBOY, a manga which won the prestigious Eisner Award, spawned the cult Park Chan-Wook movie, and is set to be adapted by Steven Spielberg. OLDBOY is equally famous for its twisted revelations and for its twisted premise: a man is kidnapped and locked away for ten years; in that time, he becomes the hard boiled force able to investigate his past for the truth behind whatever prompted his incarceration. Like OLDBOY, ASTRAL PROJECT starts with a genre style investigation. In this case, it's a ”seinen Get Carter." Masahiko has spent a few years estranged from his family, building a new life for himself as a driver for yakuza call girls. When he learns his elder sister died of "heart failure or something," he briefly returns to his family's home, taking a CD as a keepsake from his sister's room before hastily leaving. Given the title of the work, and given expectations of manga running in a relatively mainstream anthology (COMIC BEAM the home to manga like EMMA, DESERT PUNK/SUNABOZU BAMBI and HER PINK GUN), it should come as no surprise that the first step in investigating the truth behind his sister's death is a supernatural one. Listening to her CD, Masahiko finds his consciousness leaving his body, floating into the stratosphere.
OLDBOY turned the magnifying class of the investigation into a mirror as the protagonist inspected his own life and history. Similarly, ASTRAL PROJECT doesn't go in the direction that might be expected from either a claustrophobic yakuza tale or an exercise in supernatural world building. Like a prodigal son's investigatory plot, Masahiko makes the rounds, talking to people who seem disreputable and/or untrustworthy. Masahiko's sister's self-confessed "cold" college friend, the stiffly formal man she met on an internet suicide site, the duplicitous jazz guru, and the homeless man/astral projection veteran "Zampano" are all creepy, but these folks pale in comparison to the globular monstrosity "Slimy-kun" or the animated bit of modern art that introduces itself to Masahiko as "the part of you that is alienated."
A volume in, it seemed like Masahiko was in the deep water in managing the search for the truth behind his sisters death and the higher planes of astral projection. It also seemed like he had the assistance of knowledgeable guides. Two volumes in, Masahiko is being deluged with "help," promising to reveal the truth behind his sister's life, a secret history for his sister's CD that bleeds into war atrocities and government black projects, and even the nature of reality. Beyond the alarm bells set off by moodiness or manipulative actions, many of these guides are also warning Masahiko not to trust other guides. Yet, while Masahiko is out of his element, ASTRAL PROJECT's hero is a person who enters the venture already comfortable in the criminal element, and as such, seems prepared to deal with the challenge of unreliable, contradictory data in a measured, thoughtful manner.
Volume 2 of ASTRAL PROJECT didn't so much change my opinion of the manga as intensify by respect for it. I was pleasantly surprised for discover that the series has not settled down. It still has not solidified its landscape. It hasn't offered concrete clues about who might be an antagonist and who might be an ally, and with everything up in the air, distinctive action focuses on Masahiko testing out strands in his web of relationships. It also puts the reader in a similar position to the hero in that you can't really accept information at face value, even when the data concerns what the work is "about." Few manga offer ASTRAL PROJECT's level of thought provoking mind games.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.

Ambush Bug back again with more indie goodness. This week we have three more comic books that make the mainstream cringe and crawl back to their mommas. Take a peek below, if you dare…

SUBCULTURE TPB Ape Entertainment

The miniseries collected in this trade gives a slow passionate hug to geek culture, illustrating all of the good and most of the bad aspects of knowing a little too much about comics or Star Wars or both. Though the weakest moments of this trade come early on when entire scenes from CLERKS are aped, writer Kevin Freeman brings the story into its own after the first chapter. Soon we're treading through an original and fun story of changes one has to make (or most importantly thinks one has to make) in order to be in a relationship. The story sheds clichés and tells a heartfelt story of a geek who wants to love and takes a chance to do so, even when he might not be fully ready to. Comically rendered by the steady pencils and inks of Stan Yan, SUBCULTURE starts out rough, but ends on a soulful, meaningful note.

THE BIG NO-NO HC A Toon Book by Geoffrey Hayes

Here's another children's book from Toon Books, a company that has put out some nice product lately. Now, I know most of you aren't interested in this type of story where two mouse children break the rules and go over a fence to recover a toy stolen from them by a neighbor, but I'll bet some of you with younger kids might be interested. These little hardcovers from Toon Books are perfect bedtime reading for youngsters and a great gateway drug into reading real comics when they grow older.

REYNARD CITY #9 Reynard City/Polycomical

Another issue of REYNARD CITY means another issue of kooky narratives, odd characters, and just a buncha offbeat shit going on. This issue has what appears to be psychics dealing with long-nosed pop diva wannabes, a Mexican hero, and more than a few catastrophes. Although the art is somewhat crude by professional standards, it still carries a lot of craft and doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously. There’s something interesting going on with this story, but it’s a bit difficult to understand. This is one of those books that exists to make one question whether or not the creators are insane or genius. And better yet, the creators don’t seem to care what you think; they just keep chugging along with issue after issue of fox-creatures and super heroics.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out previews to his short comic book fiction here and here published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics. Look for more comics from Bug in 2009 from Bluewater Productions, including the just-announced sequel to THE TINGLER for their VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS ongoing series.


Y'know, this is the first Kirkman helmed Marvel book I actually enjoyed. I'm a huge fan of his WALKING DEAD series, but not so much on his other stuff--especially the stuff he's done for Marvel. It just didn't seem as if Kirkman's heart was into it when he did those MARVEL TEAM-UP issues and some of his other work. Although I'm a bit perplexed that Kirkman is back at Marvel with this miniseries after his well publicized break-up with mainstream comics last year (maybe this was written before he flipped them the bird, I dunno), if his return to Marvel means more issues like this, then I'd say a bit of backtracking is a good thing. Marvel historians will remember Destroyer as an @$$-kicker who used to hang with the Invaders and battle Ratzis during WWII. Newbs will think he's a Skrull because, well, he kind of looks like one. But he's not. He's just a cranky old guy who punches people's jaws off and skewers them with their own guns. This is a bloody comic. Not Garth Ennis bad taste bloody, but bloody in a fun EVIL DEAD sort of way, It's a Loony Tunes cartoon with tons of the red stuff. Basically, Destroyer is the Danny Glover of the Marvel Universe--he's too old for this shit and now has been given about a month to live. Some people would retire to some resort and sip Suffering Bastard tiki drinks all day, but not the Destroyer. He's going out with a bang and taking care of all of his loose ends before doing so. What plays out is not necessarily original, but it is certainly fun. Cory Walker's crisp pencils and light shading make for the aforementioned cartoony feel, but the intensity of the action is ever-present. This ain't no sittin' an' talkin' book. It's a refreshing take on the super hero genre--a genre that too often focuses on youthful inexperienced heroes. Here we see the flip side of that, focusing on a guy whose best days are behind him, and it's one of the best reads of last week. - Bug


Man, I’d really like to like McKeever’s TEEN TITANS. He’s tried to set up a team of interesting heroes, but I don’t know if it’s the bland art or the bland cast of characters, but reading this pair of books which appear to be essential to the upcoming storyline/crossover between TITANS and TEEN TITANS just left me with a…bland feeling. Sure it’s cool Blue Beetle and Static have a place to stay in this book, but this book lacks punch and flair. #69’s recruitment issue was kind of fun, but the only character with bite is killed off on the last page. Which leads one to ask, with so many dead Titans, why would someone want to join this team? The Annual, while a tad prettier in the art department, ties in with the storyline started in Winnick’s TITANS book with Jericho possessing members of that team, so of course that’s gotta be good. I’ve never really followed a McKeever book and when I heard he was taking TEEN TITANS, I thought, “Finally, I get to see what all the hubbub is about.” But alas, no hubbub. Sad, really, because like I said, I’d really like to like a TEEN TITANS book. - Bug


If this is a sign of things to come for the Fantastic Four then I, for one, can't goddamn wait. When I first saw the announcement at NYCC that Jonathan Hickman was writing it, I almost literally applauded the brilliance of that choice. And now that I've gotten a taste of how he can handle the First Family, I can't wait for the real show. Now, mind you, this mini isn't bad. It's actually pretty enjoyable because of the character moments within, surprisingly a lot of them coming from the two Fantastic Siblings, Valeria and Franklin, but there's a bit of shoehorning going on here with the plot. Basically, this is more a "What If?" themed story, with Reed hooking up a machine to see how the whole Superhero Registration and the Civil War that erupted from it could have been handled different. It's not a bad concept really, but it might be a little much to cram into just a mini-series. But the characterization of everyone is pretty damn spot on, and there's some great sci-fying going on here, just like I'd expect from the man who brought us PAX ROMANA and TRANSHUMAN. And Sean Chen's pencil work here ain't too shabby neither. So far this mini itself is pretty enjoyable with its fair share of moments, but as a sign of things to come, it's truly a beautiful sight. - Humphrey


This is another throwaway issue tying into the “Battle for the Cowl" mini-event. There's nothing particularly wrong with DC's version of the Lizard (not sure who came first), it's just there's not too much outstanding about it either. Joe Harris does his best to make this a done-in-one issue that somehow ties into Batman's dead-ness. The Outsiders show up for no apparent reason. Will Man-Bat be a part of this new Outsiders team? Not sure. I'm also not sure why they should care so much, since Kurt Langstrom was inducted in the aborted Frank Tieri Outsiders gathered by Batgirl and not Dixon's Outsiders (although they did have Langstrom's wife hanging around in those issues). There's a somewhat new dynamic to Man-Bat's powers here. His sonic scream is much more powerful than I remembered. Man-Bat is one of those fun characters that has been hanging around in the periphery for a while. I think he's waiting to be done right. Here, he's just kind of done mediocre, although Jim Calafiore's always fantastic art helps making this book a much more enjoying read. - Bug

G.I. JOE #4 IDW Publishing

Dixon tries to stir the pot here and bring on the action, but there's something off about this issue. I guess it's the slow start this series got off to and the fact that it hasn't really picked up much steam since issue one. The entire G.I.Joe team beaten to a standstill by a couple of tiny robot Transformer rejects doesn't really instill much confidence that this team is any match for a terrorist organization as powerful and evil as COBRA. Maybe that's the point Dixon is trying to make: that the Joe's weren't prepared for something the size of COBRA. I AM enjoying the freckling of obscure G.I.Joes throughout the story. Hearing Crank-Case say a few lines and having Barbecue save the day with a fireman's axe is just plain fun. But I doubt those who didn't buy the toys in the eighties will find it as amusing. I also think that something needs to happen with the art on this book. Robert Atkins is capable, but his work is way too clean and by the book. Either a more vivid inker or even some dynamic angles would do this book well. I'm rooting for this to succeed, but so far, it's the least favorite of the three new IDW G.I.JOE books. - Bug


Pete Tomasi and Keith Champagne's mystery/thriller set in a world with only one super hero continues to entertain. The mystery deepens as Alpha's original manager is killed and his successor is a guy who was once rescued by Alpha as a kid. The themes are mature and complex. The characterization is thick. The storytelling is intricate and deep. This isn't one of those books you sit down and read in two minutes. The writers are setting the mood, dimming the lights, and being patient. There's a looming sense of unease where things don't really seem to be what they appear. I like the hovering anxiety as Alpha gets to know his new manager and his family. Only hints of it are starting to pop up, but the confidence these guys show as writers and the way all of the pieces are falling into place point to this being a very memorable tragedy. Sure the art by Pete Snejberg is going to draw comparisons to STARMAN, but it's not just the art; it’s the quality of storytelling that is comparable to those classic tales of Jack Knight as well. Definitely a worthwhile detour from the rest of DC's convoluted offerings. - Bug


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