Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Joe Eisma
Colorist: Alex Sollazzo
Letterer: Johnny Loew
Cover: Rodin Esquejo
Editor: Kristen Simon
Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline
In the first issue, Casey began her career at Morning Glory Academy, where families are encouraged to cut off all ties with their children… and those who don’t will pay the price. As she reels from seeing her parents murdered, she’s thrown into detention with the rest of our cast, all of whom have committed various crimes against the Academy already. As the group starts to bond in detention, they find themselves facing a punishment far worse than staying after school.
Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have come up with one of the most original comic books I’ve found in years. These characters are each intriguing in their own right, and they’ve all come with their own sets of backstories, insecurities, neuroses and talents that are combining to make for an intriguing storyline. This is the kind of story where the stuff that’s already happened is just as interesting as what hasn’t happened yet. That’s pretty rare, and it takes a skilled writer to pull it off in a satisfying manner. Spencer has proven himself to me in just two issues. He’s given us characters that I find intriguing and that I want to learn more about, and a situation that’s baffling and engrossing all at once. This is a fantastic comic, well worthy of all the acclaim it’s gotten.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Strike Zone (Take Me Out to the Ballgame Part Two)
Christopher Chance discovers the baseball player he’s been hired to protect has some dark secrets of his own.
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Javier Pulido
Colors: Javier Rodriguez
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Karen Berger
Cover Art: Javier Pulido
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
After reading just this two-issue story arc, you can officially color me a fan of this title. Peter Milligan has taken an obscure DC hero and made him an outlet to tell really good stories commenting on society without sounding preachy or straining to make his point.
Christopher Chance is a master of disguise who impersonates people marked for death in order to protect them. Last issue, Chance was hired to impersonate Larry McGee, a pro ball player fearing for his life after one of his teammates was murdered. Chance’s investigation turns up dirt not just on McGee, but on his late friend and on Major League Baseball as a whole.
This issue tells the usual gritty crime drama and infuses it with commentary on the problem of doping in professional sports. McGee becomes a template for any decent man in the game who feels forced into something he doesn’t believe in because he can’t compete any other way. Chance also gets to show off a little, demonstrating photographic motor skills that remind the reader of characters like the villain Taskmaster, who need only see an action to repeat it.
Puldio does better in this issue than in last issue, where he sacrificed some readability for the sake of creative panel layout. While he still plays with the layout somewhat in this issue, he does it without losing any comprehension of the story and is far more successful.
This title may not be getting much notice, but it’s one of the best books Vertigo is putting out these days. If you’re not reading it, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Jersey Devil!
The team from Bedlam faces a demon from the depths of New Jersey!
Writer: Todd Dezago
Art: Craig Rousseau
Colors: Rico Renzi
Cover Art: Craig Rousseau (Cover A); Michael & Laura Allred (Cover B)
Publisher: Image Comics
One of the coolest new concepts in recent years is back in this special annual, leading into the new ongoing series that’s coming out soon. If you’re new, the Perhapanauts are agents of Bedlam, a secret organization dedicated to policing those parts of the world where the fabric between dimensions is thin and stopping the monsters that bleed through. And with a team that includes a telepath, a ghost, a Sasquatch, a Chupacabra, and a guy who utterly defies description, they’re just the guys to do it.
In this annual, both teams of Perhapanauts are sent in to do combat with a dragonlike monster that has entered our world near New Jersey. The beast is committing brutal slayings, and the pattern of his kills may be pointing to something Apocalyptic. Although this story technically takes place in-between issues of the miniseries Perhapanauts: Second Chances, it really stands on its own as a self-contained story. What’s more, it works very well as a jumping-on point. Dezago does a great job reintroducing us to each of the main members of the cast, helping us understand who they are as characters, and showing off just what twists make them unique among a rash of similar comics. We even get to meet some of the supporting characters and find a clue about the mysterious MG’s big secret.
From a storytelling standpoint, the only real problem is the ending. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s rather abrupt – the story is going at a rocket pace and then it just stops. There wasn’t quite enough room for the falling action here.
Craig Rousseau’s art really works here. He’s got a knack for designing monsters that can be hideous or monsters that can be cute, and he nails the facial expressions of the many characters. Rico Renzi’s color work contributes just the right touch to finish off the package.
If you’ve read the Perhapanauts before, during their run at Dark Horse, then you already know how good this can be. If you’ve never read it before, this is a great place to sample a really unique comic book.
Title: Main Street Mangle & Different Drummers
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Pencils: Norm Breyfogle
Inks: Josef Rubinstein & Andrew Pepoy
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Jack Morelli & Janice Chiang
Cover: Norm Breyfogle
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Publisher: Archie Comics
The tales of two different Archies continues this issue. In the world where he married Veronica, the Andrews couple is facing a split over Mr. Lodge’s intention of taking down Pop Tate’s. Archie is angry at his father-in-law for using him as a pawn, while Veronica is convinced he’s just got business on the mind. Moose, meanwhile, gets his political career off to a rocky start.
In “Archie Marries Betty,” meanwhile, Archie is ready to surrender on his dreams of becoming a musician in New York, but Ambrose tries to convince him to stick with it. Back in Riverdale, Pop’s is in trouble (again), while Mr. Weatherbee and Ms. Grundy being the planning for their wedding.
Paul Kupperberg takes over the storytelling this issue from Michael Uslan, who initiated these two new looks at the world of Archie, and the transition is seamless. He picks right up on every idea and plot thread Uslan left dangling and runs with them, including the hints that the missing Dilton Doiley (missing in both realities, one should remember) is in fact straddling the two somehow. We might actually be looking at a multiverse/worlds collide scenario, one which would take both of these stories into a totally different direction. I love the angle this series is taken. It’s totally unexpected and totally entertaining, and those are the two most important things when you pick up a comic book.
Quick Rating: Great
What do you do with a long-lost hero’s secret lair?
Writer: D.J. Coffman
Art: D.J. Coffman
Colors: Jason Embury
Letters: D.J. Coffman
Editor: Paul Cibis & Jim McLauchlin
Cover Art: D.J. Coffman
Publisher: Platinum Studios Comics
The winner of the 2006 Comic Book Challenge takes flight in his own miniseries. D.J. Coffman’s Hero By Night is a clever, entertaining new take on the superhero genre, and one well worth the read for anyone who wants a superhero story that leaves room for some fun instead of miring in the grim and gritty.
Fifty years ago, the high-flying superhero called Hero By Night died in battle with his arch-enemy, the Iron Talon. Now, a young man named Jack King has taken a job as building superintendent of an apartment complex in his town. While doing some renovations in the basement, Jack finds a secret cache seemingly left behind by the lost hero – and what he does with it is unexpected, unique, and probably a lot more realistic than most such stories.
Jack is a pretty unique character, and he’s surrounded by a strong – if not entirely unique – cast. He’s got the overbearing father, the friend with the unrequited crush, the diner owner that turns out to be a handy source of information… right off the bat Coffman has established everything we need to grasp this world and the character in it. He also gives us a nice blend between the comedic and the serious superhero stuff, which is perfect for his art style. He’s got a lighter style, not hyperdetailed but instead fitting in with what you’d think of as being an “animated” style – and that’s a good thing. Somehow, using that style makes characters like the Iron Talon seem archetypal instead of derivative.
Real innovation in the superhero genre is hard to come by. It seems like every concept has been hit upon, every possible idea for a character has been covered. I think the future of superhero innovation, at least for the forseeable future, is going to come from books like this – creators who take familiar elements and characters that would seem like they’ve been done before and find whole new angles, new stories to tell that haven’t been done before. (Look at titles like Super*Teen Topia or Doctor Blink, Superhero Shrink.) Coffman gives us a really good addition to books like this. He may not be the first creator in recent years to try to tackle superheroes this way, but based on his first issue, he may indeed be one of the best. In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a superhero comic that isn’t caught up in enormous, world-altering storylines but just lets you enjoy it on its own merits, this is the one to pick up. Enjoy it you will.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: Goin’ Back to Texas in a Box
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art: Luke Ross
Colors: Rob Schwager
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: Brian Bolland
Publisher: DC Comics
This is one of DC’s strongest launches in the past year, so it’s with a heavy heart that I give it a mere “good” rating. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, it’s just not the knockout that earlier issues are. Still, you can’t hit a home run every time, and Jonah Hex #6 is at least a ground-rule double.
This issue, Hex rides into the lonely town of Salvation, a town riddled with plague and controlled under the grip of a nun, even as the territory is besieged by Apache. Things get even worse when Hex rides into town to discover that two of the nuns that run the show have a history with him… and at least one of them doesn’t have a forgiving nature.
Luke Ross returns to the art side of the book after a guest-shot by original Jonah Hex artist Tony DeZuniga. The two men have drastically different styles, but both are perfectly suited for this character. Ross is much cleaner, much more polished, and combined with Schwager’s colors he creates a really unique looking comic book.
Like I said, this is a good issue. In fact, when the only complaint I have is that the title has had better issues, without actually having anything bad to say, I think that says a lot for the quality of the title as a whole.
Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!
TITLE: Uncle Scrooge and the Money Champ
Writer: Carl Barks
Art: Carl Barks
Letters: Garé Barks
Publisher: Dell Comics
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Uncle Scrooge. Donald’s uncle. Richest duck in the world. We’ve all seen the cartoons, right?
IMPRESSIONS: In “Uncle Scrooge and the Money Champ,” Scrooge encounters another particularly wealthy duck, Flintheart Glomgold. Thanks to some handy expository dialogue from his nephews, we learn that Scrooge and Glomgold have gotten into it before, with a contest to see which of them had acquired more wealth, and Scrooge literally won by having more string. Well, both ducks have made more money since then, and Glomgold challenges him to a rematch, to be accomplished by converting everything they own into silver dollars and measuring the piles. (Why they don’t just have their personal belongings appraised by an impartial third party is beyond me.) As they begin to build the huge mountain of silver dollars, Scrooge and the boys are worried that Glomgold is going to cheat, which let’s face it, he almost certainly will. Great story – funny, with familiar characters, and even the tiny bit of prior knowledge necessary to understand this comic is given to us by the nephews. But that’s just the lead story, there are a few others…
TITLE: Gyro Gearloose and the Firefly Tracker
IMPRESSIONS: Gyro Gearloose, Scrooge’s wacky inventor friend (if my knowledge of the Ducktales cartoon holds true) decides to invent a machine that will track fireflies to as his entry in the Inventors’ Congress exposition. The invention works, but it’s a bust with the judges, until he finds an alternative use. It’s a short story, but a solid one that gives you everything you need.
TITLE: Uncle Scrooge and His Handy Andy
IMPRESSIONS: The next story brings us back to Scrooge, where the world’s richest duck is entering a yacht race. His fancy craft, the “Handy Andy,” is full of gadgets and gizmos to help him win. It’s a fun story, watching Scrooge whip out the right device for any given situation. He kind of comes across as a show-off at the end, though.
TITLE: Uncle Scrooge Crawls For Cash
IMPRESSIONS: The book ends with a half-page gag strip about Scrooge, laid up with a broken leg, showing just how greedy he can be.
Overall, this is really the perfect comic for a new reader. Every story is self-contained, except for the quick mention of the previous Glomgold story, but the script gives us more than enough information to know exactly what the history of that character is and why he’s significant to Scrooge and the nephews. If you’ve ever seen an Uncle Scrooge cartoon before, this comic book won’t present the slightest problem for the beginning reader.