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Issue #35 Release Date: 1/26/11 Vol. #9

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Another look at FANTASTIC FOUR #587
Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents 7 BILLION NEEDLES Vol.2


Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Gabriel Walta, Carlo Barberi, Paco Diaz, Paul Davidson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche

A paraphrasing of Mike Carey’s letter at the end of AGE OF X ALPHA:“Our goal with the six monthly chapters of AGE OF X has been to throw the reader right in at the deep end: to present an incredible and inexplicable situation without really explaining it.”

Mission accomplished, for as much as every page felt like X-MEN, nothing in AGE OF X resonated with what I know about the X-MEN. And I know a lot. I have every damn issue to roll off the Marvel press, even in the dark, not-so-good times, the X-Men are my Huckleberry, and we never leave one another.

Given my wealth of knowledge, though, I truly had no idea what was happening here. AGE OF X is clearly trying to establish something new and wholly different; it’s as if we are merely wafting the vapors of the X-Men chemical composition.

Imagine if you will, the X-Men never existed and all of the dystopian futures we saw throughout the years were happening in the here and now. At least that’s what I walked away with, but as Mr. Carey points out in his letter, we have yet to see even a whisper of the end-game in this series.

Cyclops is here, but he is a mutant called Basilisk that executes other mutants under the hand of the villain (usually) Arcade. Cannonball and Husk never left their hee-haw roots, until exterminators try to take away their whole family. Namor for the first time is banging Storm instead of trying to hook up with every Marvel babe of Arian decent. And finally, all the steel in New York City is transformed by Magneto into some super compound from which Mutants can make their last stand against humanity.

Confused? Well, I think that’s the point. Carey is taking a “Memento” approach to this story, divulging the end at the beginning and vice-versa. I applaud this approach; linear thinking is almost a necessity in a genre where every story truly is the sum of its parts. So the question becomes, does it work? To which I say…sorta.

My first reaction was, “we’ve been here before.” Hell, we’re actually here right now in the main X Universe. The muties have had their backs against the wall over in UNCANNY, making a last desperate chance at survival on the island of Utopia. And of course I don’t need to remind stalwart fans about every dystopian future that has come out during each writer’s tenure on X-MEN. But this is not a future tale, it’s an alternate reality. Well, we’ve been there already as well, but never in the hands of Carey.

I promised I wouldn’t get myself all @$$ed-up over the revolving door artists. It’s not my favorite way to read a book, but as long as each chapter in the issue is compartmentalized and self-contained it becomes a significantly less jarring experience. It seems as though these issues have become sort of a testing ground for new artists and some of them are truly spectacular. Art is subjective, but for what it’s worth, Uncle Optimous was really digging on Walta’s dream-like pencils during Cyclops’ “origin.

So, will I be back? Of course I will, I’m a mutie zombie and Carey is a master tradesman of the comic genre. Will part of me wish that I trade waited? Perhaps, this story especially seems to be one where the whole will greatly outweigh the sum of its parts. Time will tell…

Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2011 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.


Writer: Eric Wallace
Artist: Cliff Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Lyzard

Ever since I got this gig, I knew that reviewing a classic DC or Marvel character would be difficult. Both have complicated universes and incredibly complex back-story for their characters. But I thought starting with an issue #1 would be an easy way for me to imbed myself into the world of an iconic character. SHAZAM #1 did not work like that. The references to past events threw me for a loop. But this allowed me to judge the comic not based on how it fits into the overarching storyline, but on how it stands alone. It also indicates whether or not it is a good jumping on point for readers who may not have been keeping up with the DC universe.

SHAZAM #1 has Billy and Mary Batson griping about losing their powers. Freddy Freeman, who has retained his superpowers, wishes he could change what happened in the past but does not know how to help them. Then, to make matters worse, Blaze pops in. Now Freddy Freeman/Shazam has to fight her all on his own, without the help of Mary Marvel or Captain Marvel. Or does he?

My introduction to those imbued with the powers by the wizard Shazam was in Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s mini-series KINGDOM COME. That was my first and only contact with Captain Marvel. So it took me awhile to understand a couple of things. Mary Batson had powers as well and that in addition to Shazam being the magical word said to transform them into superheroes, the old Captain Marvel Jr. is now known as Shazam.

This is why I usually avoid DC comics. There are so many parallel universes going on that casual readers, such as myself, get lost in the midst of it all. Now, luckily for me, the comic does point out that the events of this comic take place after JLA: CRY FOR JUSTICE, so at least I thought I had a direction to look for answers. After spending time on the Internet researching the Marvel Family I came back more confused. From all accounts I came across, Billy Batson is older than Freddy Freeman. Unless I missed some key issue where DC changed this, the drawings in SHAZAM #1 are quite misleading. Mary and Billy look about the same age, but I assumed she was his older sister. But Billy and Freddy seem to have several years between them, with Freddy appearing older.

Ignoring this confusion, there was one element of the story I truly enjoyed. In the comics and TV series for most superheroes, the cities in which they live (in this case Fawcett City) are wrecked, demolished, and destroyed. After the hero and villain have hashed it out, the citizens seem to go on as if nothing catastrophic has happened. But in SHAZAM #1, the toll of two super-beings fighting in an urban environment is actually pointed out. We see the effects of broken buildings and the risk they pose to innocent bystanders.

The tone of the dialogue was not consistent. Sometimes it was grandiose and at other moments humorous. But I did not feel that this inconsistency was a problem. There needs to be breaks in the action and the humor came at proper times. But the characters that said it, I felt were inappropriate at times. Freddy Freeman does not appear to be a casual talker, with his high and mighty banter towards Blaze. So to hear him say “ditto” seemed out of character. Billy, on the other hand, appeared to be a natural fit for cracking a joke. This is another reason I felt that Batson was younger, because he was the least mature out of all three of the Marvel family characters.

Making everything even more complicated for me is the continuation of this story. While I assumed picking up SHAZAM #2 would directly follow the events of SHAZAM #1, at the end of the book it says “to be continued in TITANS #32.” Now I’ve got to give it up for DC, they know how to make money. Having readers invested in various titles just to keep up with a single storyline is brilliant. But for those readers trying to jump into the DC pool, there appears to be no shallow end.

Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a film student at Chapman University. Lyz’s love for comics stems from an internship at Dark Horse Entertainment as a freshman, which may explain why some of her favorite comic book writers are Gerard Way and Steve Niles. You can find her on Facebook, but only if you follow her band: Castle Town Convicts (possibly a Zelda reference?).


Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
Inker: Magyar, Perkins and Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

Yes, I’m going to talk spoiler-y at some point in this review. If you don’t want to know who died, stop reading now, and skip to the next review.

Last chance.

Okay. I must say I appreciate death. Not like Thanos, not cosmically worshipful or any silly nonsense like that, but in the sense that it’s an inevitable part of life. For some of us, it looms more closely present than others. So I respect death. It’s not a matter of “if,” you know, and there are only three variables: the time, the circumstance, and the class with which one is allowed to pass.

So when it hits, even in a comic book, it should mean something. And this one does. I haven’t appreciated a moment like this since Skurge stood alone at Gjallerbru. Yes, I know that licensing and a host of other concerns will bring him back. But for now, let us live in The Moment.

I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again: Hickman is one excellent writer. He kept things up in the air about as long as possible. I knew who I didn’t want it to be, and for the most part, we really didn’t know until the very end. I never thought it was Reed. Without Reed, the FF is just a super team with an expansion limit, not the explorers of the unknown they have classically been. Without Ben, they lose the heart and pathos that each story can easily grasp. So in my mind, it always came down to Sue or Johnny.

And I really hoped it wasn’t Sue, one of the most traditionally underwritten characters in Marvel. If I ever write for Marvel, she’s the first person I would want to plead for a mini-series. And Hickman has gone out of his way to develop her during his run, so killing her off would REALLY have been a tragedy. BTW, my favorite part of this book: Namor’s barely disguised libido, “God, you’re magnificent,” and Sue rolling her eyes contemptuously.

So in the end, it had to be Johnny. (Or if/when he comes back, will it finally be John, much in the way that Sue finally became the Invisible Woman?) It’s sort of sad, really, that despite Hickman fleshing him out somewhat, Johnny still was the most disposable person on the team. If he had to go out, then I’m glad, man-to-imaginary-man, he could go out with some class, some dignity, some honor.

As for the rest of the book, Val and Franklin and the rest of the crew are far from B- or C-plot, but an integral part of the book. I hope to see them more and more. I love the geekspeak, the way they deliver the goods, and the way almost every member of the Future Foundation has a “voice” I can recognize.

Finally, the artwork. I do like me some Epting. While he’s not as flashy as some artists, he’s pretty consistent, unless he has to rush. The presence of three inkers and some of the finishes makes me think this might have been the case, but never did I look at a panel that took me out of the story. I thought it was great! Small note of interest: Epting is one of the few artists I’ve noticed who seems to make a conscious effort to make Val look like Sue. Appreciated.

Bottom line, this series continues to carry well the mantle of one of Marvel’s flagship titles.

Rock-Me Amodeo is a daytime computer guy and nighttime all kinds of things. He’s also probably the only guy ever to write a book and a movie still hoping he might someday break into comics.

Another look at FANTASTIC FOUR #587

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Steve Eptig (pencils) & Magyar, Perkins and Epting (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: deelzbub

“Sealed in a plastic bag…really?”

That was my first thought upon seeing FANTASTIC FOUR # 587. I mean, I caught on to that marketing gimmick many, many moons ago. So maybe, the bag is there to prevent anyone from discovering the big reveal without purchasing the comic. Well, someone should have clued in Marvel's PR department, because Yahoo news spilled the beans worldwide on Monday the 24th, without a spoiler warning!

Aside from that, Jonathan Hickman has been laying the groundwork for this tale for a while. One thing Marvel has been getting right of late, is laying out long-term plot lines such as this. He has breathed new life into Reed Richards, and shown us the scope of Reed's intellect. He has given Sue her own purpose, with the intriguing sub-plot involving her in Atlantean politics. With the Thing, his periodic transformation into his human self has added a new wrinkle to his rocky curse. And Johnny has stepped up with the Thing and become more involved in the lives of Franklin, Valeria, and the other children in the Future Foundation.

The kids of the Future Foundation, I thought initially, were a jump-the-shark addition to the team. Franklin and Valeria have been with us for quite some time, but now there are twelve children in the building, plus Dragon-Man-as-Alice-the-maid. It seemed across the board at Marvel there was a concerted effort to introduce kid versions of whatever the featured character or team was. The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Hulk all inserted junior heroes in some grand scheme to . . . what? To draw new readers? To give the kiddies someone to identify with? Just like on TV, that ploy usually reeks of desperation. But in this instance at least, the addition works.

The children are an integral part of the storyline, and their intelligence and education add a new facet to the FF. The danger when writing about the exploits of geniuses is that it would be very easy to paint oneself into a corner. But here, there is a depth of thoughtfulness, a well thought out tapestry that Hickman has obviously been weaving while we were looking at the pretty pictures.

As for the art, I am still missing Dale Eaglesham's work. Steve Epting's artwork is fine, but sometimes his character's faces over-emote to the point where it appears that everyone is either screaming or taking a painful shit. Plus, with three different inkers on this issue (including Epting), I was just a little underwhelmed. No slight on Epting, it's no easy task to do what he does (there are a lot of faces to draw). It is just personal preference, really., Eaglesham's characterizations are on par with the best of Alan Davis' and John Byrne's work, so I've been spoiled. It was surprising, to me at least, not to see his Rockwell-esque artwork on this pivotal and bag-worthy issue. The sacrifice of an integral character's life here could have been even more heart-wrenching had it been drawn by Dale Eaglesham.

Where do they go from here? I am eager to see what strange horizons Hickman can explore with the FF. It seems a perfect opportunity to bring a sentient H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot back into the fold, to round out the roster. But rumblings are foreshadowing other plans ahead. They already have plenty to work with: the aftermath of this traumatizing death, Nu-World, Doom, Galactus, the four cities, Queen Sue, Annihilus, the Future Foundation, and Reed's quest to solve everything while keeping his family together. If Marvel could only sign the team of Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham to a 50+ issue run on this book. . . man, how great would that be? Looking forward to see where they can take the FANTATIC THREE . . into the future.

deelzbub is a.k.a. Dee Claborn, an Atlanta artist who has been reading comics since Fantastic Four #165 in 1976. When not watching old Spider-Man cartoons with his two little kids, he can be found running Landing Strip Tattoo, near the Atlanta Airport. He has been writing and drawing Southside Comics since 1986. Visit him @ or


Writer: Vince Hernandez
Art: Khary Randolph
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty

I seem to have a thing for the presentation of Aspen Comics. I’ve really taken to the SCOURGE series and MINDFIELD is probably right behind it. Okay, so I wasn’t too high on LADY MECHANIKA but it still looked great. That seems to be a constant with Aspen in that sizzle or fizzle, you know you’re going to end up with a publication that looks terrific.

CHARISMAGIC is no exception. The name is kind of Moland Spring-ish but that’s not really a deal breaker if the writing and artwork are up to par and I’m happy to report that the forecast (so far) looks good. It’s always difficult to predict whether or not these things will have legs based solely on issue #0, but Vince Hernandez is clearly putting his best foot forward. I’m a fan of his contributions to DELLEC and while the pacing here is a little slow early on, the payoff is worth the wait.

The premise behind CHARISMAGIC is well, magic. But more importantly, a magical event that changes the world and leaves a Las Vegas magician (who is used to the world of make believe) running to catch up. Can a fake mage make the successful transition to a real one and still save the world? Do you want to see a hot protagonist that looks like FAITH from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER all grown up? There’s plenty to see and do here but uh-oh, beware of SAMSUN, the Dick Dastardly of the CHARISMAGIC universe. The powers-that-be tried to have him banished to the “void realm” but that’s like sending Barnaby to Boogeyland.

How this thing plays out is anybody’s guess but while you’re here you might as well look around and enjoy the view. Khary Randolph, who for my money still draws the best TEEN TITANS, is once again flawless in his execution. One thing that’s evident from his effort here is that Randolph clearly has a love for the female form. His big, bold and sometimes blocky style of art has been streamlined to fit within the context of the CHARISMAGIC narrative.

Fans of magic may or may not be overwhelmed with the direction this book takes but then again fans of magic have already watched, read or imagined every possible angle in existence. In the end, I still think they’ll be satisfied (as I was) with the handling of the material. Hernandez and Randolph are at the top of the food chain and CHARISMAGIC is a promising debut. Do yourselves a favor and check this one out.

Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.


Writer: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art: Khoi Pham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


With the end of CHAOS WAR, the latest Marvel crossover, the book is closed on INCREDIBLE HERCULES in it's current incarnation. And if you're going to end a direction of a series, no better way then this. Full of solid twists and turns, the book still manages to maintain its parent series' sense of fun and excitement, which is something that you can't really say about most event books. It stays true to the story it came from, while still having a defined and epic scope.

Writing: (5/5) CHAOS WAR itself, while an immensely enjoyable read throughout, has been at times a bit muddled. The question of where books fall in relation with others and what is truly important in the grand scheme of things has been a bit iffy. This issue manages to do a solid job combining all the various plot threads effortlessly, and makes use of some of the events happening elsewhere to effect. Galactus serves a major role in the climax, which is nice to see every once in a while. After setting him up as a safety net earlier in the story, it's a good touch to have him take front and center in the overarching plan. Having "end of the universe" stories and not utilizing characters such as him always bother me, and this plus THE THANOS IMPERATIVE have been good about remembering that. Yes, there are in fact some good characters left in comics, and it's nice every once in a while for them to serve a major role in the big events. That goes for the entire issue. So many crossovers try to sell a feeling of chaos and fear, but this one does it better then almost any I've read lately. This feels like the heroes last five minutes, and everything depends on a few choice actions. The threat is sold extraordinarily, with the remainder of the heroes doing their best with what they have. You get a true sense of panic. Same goes for the sense of pain and anguish you can feel as Amodeus and Herc are forced to look at the best case scenario; save a decent bit of the world, but millions will die in the process. Its heart wrenching to read Amodeus’ words to Herc that he can't possibly choose who shall live and who shall die. For a character that started out as little more then a bad Mary Sue companion to Hercules, Cho has had some magnificent growth in this series. Seeing him manage to pull off the impossible is, while expected, very welcome. Same goes for Hercules. The character has had an interesting growth this arc, and to have him hit a sort of middle ground between the two is brilliant. The run of this series and the adventure Herc has been on has been fantastic, and to see it come full circle (even with the eternal power of the god of gods, or in his simplest form, he's still undeniably Hercules) is a great read.

The Chaos King in question still proves to be more threatening than most villains, and here he’s given his full due. Everything he does has a perfect sense of malice, and the reader can actually buy him ending all things, not something you usually get from your average villain. How he's beaten and the twist afterwards also are pitch perfect signs that Pak and Van Lente are on their top game here, and it's simply amazing. If anything, the only flaw is that there's not enough dénouement (What of Hebe? What of some of the supporting cast?), but that's just another sign of the excellent writing here; I don't want this story to be done. I want more time with these characters, more chances to explore this world with them. That's the sign of a brilliant issue, and an utterly, utterly amazing series.

Art: (5/5) The art here is just...well, it's just what it is. I at first wasn't a huge fan, preferring the slightly more fluid feel of past stories. But the art here is perfect for the story. It's epic, simply epic. The fights are grand and bold, the colors are evocative, the sets are fantastic, the characters feel more real here than in almost any other book. Amodeus crying out looks perfect, and the looks of both pain and joy throughout the issue convey everything perfectly. The Chaos King is terrifying and extravagant in his simplicity, leaving room to go everywhere with him. The designs of the shots are fantastic, and so rarely has the end of all things looked like the end of all things. No flaws, no inherent consistency problems, no jilted shots, nothing. Perfect.

Best Moment: The plan to stop Chaos King, as well as the meeting at the end with an old character.

Worst Moment: I want more time with these people.

Overall: (5/5) One hell of a way to end an arc. I loved INCREDIBLE HERCULES, and maintain it's some of the best stuff to come out of Marvel in the past few years. Constantly enjoyable and entertaining, the book closes on an equal note.


Writer: Alex Simmons
Artist: Dan Parent, Jack Morelli, Digikore Studios
Publisher: Archie Comics
Reviewer: Lyzard

While I enjoyed the concepts and set up of the last issue for CAMPAIGN PAINS, I was disappointed by the payoff of the second book. A two-issue arc seemed to hurry the story along way too quickly, preventing any really interesting turns to arise. Instead, you have the first act in ARCHIE #616 and a rushed second and third act in ARCHIE #617. If Archie Comics had spread the storyline over three issues, I believe that there would have been room for improvement on the story front. Instead, ARCHIE #617 is filled with failed jokes and a rushed conclusion.

Angered Sarah Palin and President Barack Obama have come to Riverdale, along with a pissed off secret service. While the ex-governor of Alaska and the current Commander in Chief have arrived, Archie Andrews and Reggie Mantle are departing. With their campaign managers (whose fault this all is in the first place) in tow, Archie and Reggie try to figure out how to survive the nation-wide chaos created by their viral photos without landing in solitary confinement for fifty years.

There’s not much to say about the artwork. Archie has kept its style pretty consistent for the past few decades. I will say that the depictions of the political figures were not caricatures at all, a good decision in my view. Despite my own political leanings, I feel that for this story and its audience, any favoritism for either character would be out of place. Therefore, drawing both Palin and Obama in a good light is key in avoiding bias. If one wishes to see either of these politicians drawn to appease their own political agenda, this isn’t the comic for you.

As for the story, I wish I could speak of it as highly. The jokes fail for the most part, over and over again. But while the humor is lost a majority of the time, the dialogue does have a unique rhythm to it, keeping the story moving along at a fast pace. At least you can get through the issue quickly, so you do not feel that you wasted too much time reading it.

The problem when dealing with characters that have been around over fifty years is they become predictable. Change risks’ losing readership, but stagnation does as well. The characters all react in the exact way I expect them to. But some times I want Archie and the gang to exceed my expectations, not to play it safe. Reggie has so much room to be darker and more conniving, but it is never taken advantage of.

The comic ends on a typical note for an Archie story, one in which those who deserve to be punished are and everyone learns a lesson. If I were to compare ARCHIE #617 to any TV show it would be THE BRADY BUNCH, saccharine sweet and speeding along to a tidy moralistic conclusion. That show may be iconic, but it does not necessarily hold up for a modern viewer, which is my fear for Archie. If Riverdale’s teens don’t start adjusting to the times, I feel that in years to come they will be left behind. I know I have said before that I enjoy the consistency of the Archie universe and I do up to a point. But when constants begin to affect story, I feel that a change is necessary and I’m talking more than just adding a gay character to the cast, a matter that was long overdue. In the upcoming year I’m hoping to see a Riverdale that this current generation can relate to, not just their younger siblings and parents in for a stroll down memory lane.


Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Andy Kubert, Chris Sprouse, Frazier Irving, Yanick Paquette, Georges Jeanty, Cameron Stewart, Lee Garbett
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche

I love reviewing these deluxe editions; since I’m such a zealot collector and dedicated reviewer these compilations allow me the chance to go back and see if my pull quote prestidigitation on the individual issues came to fruition for the entire series…or if my crystal ball was more fraudulent than Dione Warwick and her legion of psychic friends.

So what did I have to say about issue one of Bruce Wayne’s “quantum leap” through time oh so many months ago?

“Choruses of angels are weeping right now over the radiant beauty emanating from the marriage of art and story in this book. “

Yeah, this one holds. Bruce’s first steps towards the twenty-first century after Darkseid’s Omega beam bitch slapped him back to the beginning of time at the end of FINAL CRISIS was a vision to behold. Why? Well, Sprouse crafts a glorious page…and Morrison developed a story that stripped Batman down to his essential elements as he battled the world’s first bad guy, Vandal Savage. This first issue led to me finish off my review with this quote:

“I’m not a betting man, but if this first issue is any indication, I would say that Morrison has a hit on his hands on par with ALL STAR SUPERMAN.”

Good thing I’m not a betting man, I would be one broke @$$ comic collector. I’m not saying RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE is a bad book in the slightest; it’s an amazing sci-fi silver age sojourn through time as a legend tries to find not only his world, but also himself. But ALL STAR SUPERMAN transcends greatness. I can see now though where I thought ROBW was on the same path. Like ALL STAR SUPERMAN, the first issue of ROBW was a brilliantly simplistic deconstruction of Batman’s mythos. You had Batman, a Robinesque figure, a dire situation, and most importantly the use of ingenuity to escape danger.

So, the question becomes what happened in issue 2 to make the series veer from my initial prediction? It’s simple; RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE had a job to do. ALL STAR SUPERMAN was a free-form romp that could revel in originality because it lived outside the strangleholds of modern continuity; it could move in its own direction because nothing rested on its shoulders. Given its mission, RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE should have been asphyxiated by continuity. When you think about the last issue of this book, this was the vertex of the entire DC hullabaloo from the past four years (outside of BLACKEST NIGHT of course). This was the final settling dust of all things CRISIS and R.I.P. RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE was truly more akin in spirit to the “Return of Superman” books from a generation ago than anything else. And not only did this series have to resurrect a legend, it also had to put to bed Batman’s dalliances with the mystical Barbatos Spirit and that pesky immortal Thomas Wayne. I think this quote of the 6th issue sums up what it all meant to me in the end…

“The death of the caped crusader has been one of the most intricately woven arcs in comics. Doomsday-schoomsday…that shit made us look like brutal cavemen compared to the mind weave Morrison has concocted during his time shepherding the Dark Knight.”

I don’t claim to understand it all, but you don’t really need to. Yes, everything ended with an homage to Kirby’s Fourth World and other Silver Age trappings, but RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE lives on two levels. Is Batman the new Orion? Can mere mortals understand the symbols Gods wield as weapons? If you don’t want to think too hard about these things, don’t. Personally, I think you lose some of the Morrison mystique if you don’t work a little to understand his books, but I don’t fault anyone who doesn’t want to work while reading comics. Instead, simply sit back and watch the fun Morrison has playing a game of “just the tip” with a slew of comic genres.

You can also revel in the pitch perfect artistic choices for each genre. After watching Bruce in puritanical Gotham, I tried to wish into existence a Frazier Irving graphic novel of THE CRUCIBLE. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of fun were Bruce’s days as a pirate as Paquette swash buckled across panels. My least favorite of the time periods, when Bruce ended up going eye to disfigured-eye with Jonah Hex was no fault of Morrison’s writing or Jeanty’s art. I simply hate Westerns. Redemption was just around the corner though with the noir 40’s setting in the fifth chapter and I give top props to artist Sook, who realized he could set a dark tone without shrouding the page in indiscernible shadows. Also, having Batman end up face-to-face with his maternal grandmother is one of those comic moments that seem to come along only at the closing of an age. The artists also pretty much own the extras accompanying this deluxe edition. To get insight from Morrison, we’ll all probably have to wait for a giant-sized absolute treatment.

A few months ago a friend asked me to join his podcast so he could unsnap my skullcap on all things BATMAN during Morrison’s tenure. Transformation is never an easy process. For every person that finds the metamorphosis of a moth into a butterfly one of nature’s most beautiful occurrences, there’s always the other half of the population that focuses on the icky brown carapace. And that’s really how people looked at BATMAN over the past few years, but in the end analysis, love it or hate it, everyone was talking about it. And not just the “death,” people were talking about this book for several years after Superman appeared at the end of FINAL CRISIS holding Batman’s withered bones. Again, whether you love or hate what transpired, RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE and Morrison’s entire run has irrevocably changed Batman’s status quo. The jury is still out on BATMAN INC., but as far as this reviewer is concerned the BATMAN universe is in a better state today than it was before. And I for one am stoked for the Bat-future.


Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artists: David Messina
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: KletusCasady

How the HELL is this gonna work? I haven’t even read it yet but when I saw the solicits for this my mind instantly turned to scrambled egg. I know GI JOE & TRANSFORMERS have crossed in paths in the past but STAR TREK & GHOSTBUSTERS too…? NO FRAGGIN’ WAY…no waaaay this is gonna work.

Nope…not even gonna give it a chance {crosses arms and makes pouty face}. Look it’s a great thought and I wish it the best but like Ol’ Kletus putting the toilet seat down to poop, it ain’t hapnin’. For this to work you need the original cast of GHOSTBUSTERS (Ernie Hudson included), Larry Hama, the soundtrack from the TRANSFORMERS animated movie, 6 Four Loko’s, Leonard Nemoy’s first album, Captain Kirk’s swagger, some Sonny’s BBQ sauce, Tony Hawk and the Bones Brigade pre Animal Chin, whatever drugs Grant Morrison’s taking, Gene Rodenberry, about 1000 Tribbles, Megaman’s boots and one rutabaga …

Wait…WAIT ONE DAMN SECOND. DNA you say…hmm...Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning the cunning duo helming all the magical mythos of the Marvel cosmos? The dudes that can make a talking raccoon one of the more badass characters to make a reemergence in the Marvel U all the while aligning the stars to make the multiple epic space sagas work smoothly and coherently. Shit….well scrap all that other stuff, this may work!

So I’ll just start off with the story, you already knew it had to be somewhat convoluted so I’m fine with that. The basic premise is that a “stargate” got comprised which lead to zombies from another dimension infecting our world and other worlds in the process. The team that was sent in is a government sanctioned team of Vampires (yeah I know I’m sick of ‘em too) that are probably from another IDW book. There were also elements from ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS, which I never read but I guess that series might explain why robots i.e. Transformers would give a flying flark about a zombie outbreak. I could explain how this works but if you care that much just read the damn book. I’ve been really thrilled with the Marvel cosmic stuff and enjoyed nearly everything I’ve read, so I have much respect for DNA…

BUT (and I hate to put a but after that but) for Christ’s sake….SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER…NOBODY and I mean NOBODY who you’d want to see in this comic is in this fucking comic. There’s not one mechanical thing that turns into another thing unbeknownst to the eye. There’s not one wise cracking parapsychologist with a nuclear devise strapped to his back used to stop apparitions to which they’re not afraid of no. There’s nary an elite team of armed forces with cool names and nonlethal blue laser guns. Hell, there’s not even one smidgen of a veteran space crew that includes (but not limited to) a pessimistic doctor with a hell of a catch phrase, no alien with pointy ears who thrives on logic who longs to gain and live an extended life, no slutty over acting captain who always comes through in the nick of time. NOTHING!!!!WHY!!!! WHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYY?!?!? I know, a little dramatic but dammit, the whole appeal of this book was to see how those worlds would interact together but nope…all we get is an inept covert group of vampires who gets thrashed by zombies (by the way if you are a vampire of ANY strength and you can’t beat or escape a hoard of zombies, please sign up as an extra on the next TWILIGHT movie cause you su..uhh...are a terrible wimpy vampire). I guess this group of vampires will tether these worlds together as they look for a solution but consider me duped.

The artwork wasn’t bad, I would have liked to see something that set a better mood and made me feel like I was in a dire situation but I’m also really particular about the art I like, so take that as you will.

The comic itself wasn’t bad if there weren’t any pictures on the cover of shit that I wasn’t going to see. I’m not talking about some of the superhero books where you a there’s seems to be a fight with a villain cover and he doesn’t show up in the book, I’m talking about the promise of an entire series that touts itself as being a “crossover” when in reality the only thing that’s crossing over are the damn zombies. If there isn’t a scene with Venkman, Optimus Prime, Kirk and Duke or Hawk on the same page, then I’m writing IDW a cease and desist letter.

In the back of the comic we find out that not only are DNA not writing the whole thing (MAJOR BUMMER), we also find out that each franchise (STAR TREK, TRANSFORMERS, GHOSTBUSTERS, GI JOE) all have their own books, artists and writers each labeled BLAHBLAHBLAH: INFESTATION. WHAT?!?!? THAT’S NOT A FUCKING CROSSOVER! That false advertising…alright I’m not really that pissed but to a guy like me that loves all these properties individually…this is a huge letdown (not the writing…I love you DNA : )

I double checked the back of the book cause I’d feel like a big rectum if I was wrong but I’m pretty sure there’s not going to be too much bleed over from the different worlds. There’s an INFESTATION #2 that comes out when everything’s about wrapped up which I’m guessing DNA will come back for…but shit, talk about a deflator. Allow me to illustrate (true story), I almost got to rent a house today for $1000, 4 bedroom, 1 bath AND A FUCKING HOT TUB AND SAUNA IN THE BACKYARD…but guess what…I have two dogs and the lady (obviously not a dog lover thus making her evil) doesn’t want dogs in the house and even though there’s a fenced in backyard…she won’t budge. So I can’t get the house with a hot tub…can you image that kind of disappointment? That’s how I feel about this comic and most likely this series as a whole…sorry DNA I love you guys, just not the way this “crossover” seems to be going.


Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Paul Pelletier (pencils) & Danny Miki (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: deelzbub

I was quite glad to see the Hulk's name on the cover of his flagship title again. Not Hercules, or Amadeus Cho, or even Red Hulk. Wait, there is an “s” at the end there. So, it is a Gaggle of Hulks. You know, I understand the need to periodically pad the Hulk's supporting cast. It seems that most writers treat old Jade Jaws as a one trick pony. So they focus on the other characters and let the Hulk play out his force of nature schtick. But too often, as the case has been of late, the focus has been so overwhelming on the guest stars, that I start to miss our main attraction. But thankfully, Hulk is back and ready to smash!

I have to admit, I haven't been following THE CHAOS WAR. I fully intend to pick up the trade to see what all has transpired. I have been reading the Hulk since the mid-70's, and have followed lots of his ups and downs. There have been times though, when either I didn't like the way the writer was handling the character, or I didn't like the direction the book was heading, so I dropped it for a few months. Later I would pick up an issue and resume following the tales of my favorite super-hero. That is where I'm at now. Picking it up again, and giving the strongest one there is another chance.

This was a good issue to start again with. Greg Pak turns what could have been a simple story into a great Hulk myth. I like his comparison of the jade giant to Perseus, Icarus, and Odysseus. Juxtaposing him with the giants of Greek mythology is right on target. The Hulk gets to kick @$$ once more, facing off against Greek Gods and monsters, and earning his place as a modern day legend. But alas, it is far too short. The back-up story cuts into his rampage by about eleven pages, plus two pages of next issue promos. What's up with that? (cue music) Also, it is refreshing to see Paul Pelletier and Danny Miki's linework in this age of over-photoshopped mood lighting that is supposed to pass for comic art.

What makes the Hulk a great character? Strength, wits, righteous anger, and determination in the face of adversity. When others underestimate the Hulk's intelligence, he proves he is as sly as a fox. He is his own character and not just a mindless beast. During Peter David's run on the book, he explored another view of the Hulk, by allowing Banner's persona to govern the Hulk. But how can you govern a tornado? I was always expecting the other shoe to drop, and often it didn't. Hulk being driven by Banner makes him little different from any other Strong Guy super-hero. What makes him special is his Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy. That's my problem with the Red Hulk and Skaar. What are they? Pale reflections of earth's mightiest mortal.

I like Banner's growth as of late. He is constantly proving himself to be as wily and smart as a scientist-turned-monster should be. This issue he even gets an assist from the Prince of Power to unleash the Hulk. And he does it on purpose. The days of Banner's grief stricken guilt over the Hulk may be gone.

Banner is not afraid to loose the reins of the Hulk, but is Marvel? Often it seems that they don't know what to do with him, focusing instead on others. And when you add a Red Hulk, three She-Hulks, Hulk Jr, and so forth, where does it end? Pink-and-Purple-Polka-Dotted-Hulk? Hulk Girl and Lil' Gamma, the Hulk Pup? He is just one of many now. These multiple Hulks just water down Marvel's most unique character. It is time to thin the herd, and allow the strongest there is survive! I think that is the direction we are heading. Here's hoping Zeus cleans house and brings Ol' Purplepants to the forefront once again.

By Nobuaki Tadano
Released by
Reviewer: Scott Green

In the manga's second volume, 7 BILLION NEEDLS comes into its own. Nobuaki Tadano took inspiration from Hal Clement's alien symbiosis/manhunt golden age sci-fi novel NEEDLE. Drawing in sci-fi spectacle and familiar to manga teenager concerns, the manga inspired reverse engineering. This element seems reminiscent of a sci-fi movie. That one seems like an effort to work something more natural to prose into manga. Factor in illustration with some tendency to be only as careful and well rendered as the scene called for and the artist brush strokes frequently became evident.

However, in its short-for-manga four volume run, 7 BILLION NEEDLES takes big steps quickly. And, this is a step and not a middle. Aiming to be consistently significant, it recognizes the ground that its covered, and pays attention to where it's moving, not just setting up for a third volume climax, but making volume two important in its own right.

Quickly, recapping the first, volume two opens with a dinosaur being crumpled into a ball (more dinosaur fighting). But, that's the extent of the big effects showiness. Having establish alien law enforcer and its xenocidal quarry Maelstrom, there's less pressure to strike the readers with what the two forces bring to bear.Similarly, the manga sheds or mutes its attention to how human host Hikaru relates to Horizon. The experience of sharing a body with an alien was core to NEEDLE, but the interior nature is an easier fit for prose than it is manga. The first volume made a valiant effort to show how Hikaru's relationship with her body shifted with Horizon present, but, that facet of the narrative did read like an effort to project an idea onto manga.

Volume one credibly established the idea that Hikaru's personal problems were a liability in the effort to locate Maelstrom and neutralize its threat. She'd have to stop shutting herself off from the world in order to peel back the alien's assumed identity. Volume two frames that find the guy, fight the monster conflict as done, and instead moves onto the next phase of unwinding Hikaru's issues, as they become entangled with the alien crisis.

In a manner that is a bit more literal than metaphoric, Hikaru's interior is projected outwards, revealing the roots of the character's troubles.

Especially considering that conceit of living with a symbiotic alien, 7 BILLION NEEDLES might have been more impactful if the circumstances around Hikaru's family tragedy weren't exceptional. What happens also gets stacked with all the anime and manga that uses the short hand of having a specific, identifiable event being the specific, identifiable cause for shaping a character's personality.

7 BILLION NEEDLES possibly could have been more effecting, but, like how GANTZ leverages what manga lends itself to build its sci-fi spectacles, NEEDLES leverages what sci-fi as a genre and manga as a medium and tradition lend themselves to. Beyond that is its own particularity. While it is reminiscent of plenty of other manga, it develops its own way. It's plot and its character don't proceed how you might expect. In that, it fosters consideration of its lead, and in that, 7 BILLION NEEDLES has to be called a success. Though I wouldn't put 7 BILLION NEEDLES on a list of favorite manga, rarely have I spent more time thinking about or anticipating a volume release than I have NEEDLES' third.

Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over nine years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column every week on AICN.

DC Comics

I’m not sure what it means when the hero’s arch-enemy is more interesting than the hero himself, but I’ve really enjoyed ACTION with Lex Luthor at the helm. Paul Cornell has done some deft character work, and Pete Woods’ art has been a pleasure to look at. So where’s it going? I don’t know. The robot Lois being sarcastically indestructible (last issue) has been probably the only corny note so far in a half dozen issues, but everything else has kept me interesting and occupied. Especially the presence of a magic singing pony, referenced in issue #894. It took me a while to remember what had happened, and now I’m more than curious where this is heading. The conversation between Joker and Luthor was riveting, with just the right about of knowledge and crazy, and when the Joker, of all people, tells Lex to be serious…well, not too many people could pull that off with such ironic resonance. Well played. There hasn’t been any big payoff since Death herself paid Lex a visit (though the Secret Six was a nice diversion), but clearly there’s a big picture here. Good stuff. -

Marvel Comics

Jeff Parker continues to take the Thunderbolts to great heights while highlighting some of the coolest lowlifes in the Marvel U. With a new recruit in tow, the team is sent to take on some rampaging monsters from Monster Island. The best part of this book is that Parker has assembled a fantastic cast of truly bad guys, sort of bad guys, and misguided heroes. Watching their varied personalities and powers bouncing into one another is a thrill each and every month. For example, having Songbird and Juggernaut mix their powers together is a thing of genius. As was the line, “Then I shall simply observe.” when Cage tells Ghost that he doesn’t know how his powers are going to be effective in this situation. The shockeroo at the end came a bit quick in my opinion. I thought they were going to let that subplot linger for a while, but apparently not. Parker’s doing rock solid writing here. Kev Walker’s art is the tits too.- Bug

R.E.B.E.L.S. #24
DC Comics

Another team book that mixes cool powers with twisted personalities effectively. I just had a chance to catch up on a bunch of issues of Tony Bedard’s L.E.G.I.O.N. (now called R.E.B.E.L.S.) this week and I almost forgot how good this title is. With the addition of Lobo, Adam Strange, and Captain Comet, this book has added enough flavor to make this book appealing to even the most dedicated of GL fans that refuse to check out DC’s space adventurers without emerald hued glasses. This is DC’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The return of Starro, I think happened a bit too soon (seems it was less than a year ago that he was defeated), but of course, they didn’t have Lobo and the rest back then, so this new battle will most likely read differently. Though some of the characters are getting shoved to the back of the line because of the addition of some of the more prominent space figures like Lobo, Comet, and Strange, I’m loving the hell out of every panel Vril Dox is in and will follow this team anywhere in the galaxy with Bedard at the writing helm. Plus it’s fun to see who else Bedard will recruit for the team. Is Space Ranger far behind? - Bug

Marvel Comics

CAPTAIN AMERICA may have hit a few speed bumps since Steve returned. For a while it didn’t seem like Brubaker’s heart was in this book anymore. But this new “Trial of Captain America” arc feels like Brubaker is back to form. With the return of the new Red Skull (the Skull’s daughter Sin), the addition of Master Man to the cast, as well as Steve Rogers lingering in the sidelines, Bru’s story of the man who inherited the shield is actually pretty intriguing again. Bru is treading familiar territory though (reminiscent of his DAREDEVIL run where DD is in prison), as Bucky is imprisoned and is forced to make hard decisions either to stay in prison and face the court or escape and thwart (love that word) the Skull’s plans. Great cliffhanger ending in this one. The only complaint I have is for the Marvel U as a whole; since Steve Rogers is in every other comic these days, it’s great to get his appearance here and there, but moments focusing on Steve Rogers’ character or inner thoughts are few and far between. Here’s hoping we can get inside Marvel’s Top Cop’s head sometime soon, in this book or some other. - Bug

DC Comics

Though I’m holding out until the end of this arc, I am liking Marc Guggenheim’s run on JSA far more than Bill Willingham’s previous run. Guggenheim is making the situation pretty dire with Alan Scott suffering a crippling injury, Flash running on empty, and Terrific going through a crisis of conscience. At least Guggenheim is making things interesting, even if the villain is a bit generic. I do like Dr. Chaos, who’s wit and confidence plays pretty fun against some of these more serious characters in the cast. Fun arc. Better than JSA ALL STARS and much better than JSA has been lately. - Bug

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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