Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!
Writer: Troy Hickman
Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver
Inks: Jon Holdredge, Roland Paris & Norm Rapmund
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Robin Spehar, Mark Roslan & Dennis Heisler
Cover: Rodolfo Migliari
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Never heard of it before. According to the blurb on the inside cover, it sounds like it’s about a coffee shop where superheroes and supervillains can grab a cup of joe and a donut under a sort of truce where they promise not to fight. Clever concept…
IMPRESSIONS: Two stories in this comic book. The first one is “Roles,” in which we see a young woman — Jenny — who works at Common Grounds getting off work, only to run afoul of a nasty customer with a knife. This is a really clever story – knowing the reputation this “Common Grounds” place must have gives our heroine an unusual way to get out of her predicament. The artwork is very good too. Jenny is a would-be actress, and the artist really manages to get it across on her face when she shifts into playing a role. The story is very good, but I don’t think it would have worked without a very good artist selling a bit of insanity on Jenny’s face when she needed it.
Let’s check out story #2…
Writer: Troy Hickman
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inks: Al Vey
Colors: Guy Major
IMPRESSIONS: “Elsewhere” is a sad little story about a sidekick, the Analog Kid, seeking his lost mentor, Digital Man. The Kid has built a device that traces Digital Man’s last whereabouts to a Common Grounds location, but nobody there has seen him. Meanwhile, we cut over to Digital Man himself, who is trapped on some horrific alien planet with no means of escape. The story packs a very nice emotional punch. It’s essentially about a father and son, separated, but refusing to give up on each other. Troy Hickman manages to mix up these emotional moments with a really great Twilight Zone-style twist at the end that elevates this way beyond the already-strong story that it was.
Amazing comic book – two short stories that are wholly captured in one comic. I loved it.
Quick Rating: Great
Title: Execution Day (Thicker Than Water Issue Four)
The final fate of the Silver Agent!
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Brent E. Anderson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: John Roshell
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover Art: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm Signature Series
The conclusion of the story Astro City fans have wanted to read for a decade is just the end of the first act of The Dark Age, and it’s a really good one. As the doomed Silver Agent sits on death row, on the day of his execution, an incredible threat from outer space prepares to destroy North America. But the real story is Charles and Royal Williams, the cop and the crook, brothers, who have carried a hatred for the Agent ever since their mother died during one of his battles. Now, as they await his execution, the chaos that engulfs Astro City sends a deadly warrior after Royal – and brings the brothers to a moment of truth.
Kurt Busiek told fans some time ago that the story that revealed the fate of the Silver Agent wasn’t actually the Silver Agent’s story, and he didn’t lie. Instead, it’s the backdrop for this intriguing character play starring two brothers who took the same tragedy and used it to forge very, very different paths in their lives. The story is set against one of those incredible superhero free-for-alls that make for multi-issue crossovers in this day and age, but the battle only exists to set up the confrontation of the brothers. The way the story ends is a clear turning point in their lives, and sets up the second book quite nicely even as it closes off the Silver Agent’s tale completely.
Brent Anderson has provided the artwork for every Astro City story to date, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine anyone else’s pencils telling these tales. He has an uncanny ability to contrast high-flying, even cosmic superhero adventures with down-to-earth stories and scenes of a couple of brothers just sitting in a bar. His pacing and choreography are absolutely remarkable, he knows just how to time a scene for maximum impact.
Alex Ross, as always, provides the cover art, and this has to be one of his best. The stark, black background with a single spotlight illuminating the ill-fated hero is a chilling image, and one that will jump right out at any fan who sees it sitting on the shelf.
This was a powerful Astro City yarn – not the best (that crown still goes to Confessions), but right up there. We’ll have a one-shot in a few months to tide us over, but Book Two can’t come soon enough.
Quick Rating: Great
Title: Conspicuous Invasion and Other Stories
Rating: All Ages
The Skrull invasion of Earth – Mini-Marvels style!
Writers: Chris Giarrusso, Marc Sumerak, Sean McKeever, Paul Tobin & Audrey Loeb
Pencils: Chris Giarrusso
Inks: Chris Giarrusso
Colors: Chris Giarrusso
Letters: Chris Giarrusso
Editors: Nathan Cosby & Warren Simons
Cover Art: Chris Giarrusso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
There are few things in comics right now that are more entertaining than Chris Giarusso’s Mini-Marvels. What began as a short newspaper-style strip that ran on the Bullpen page has become an eagerly-anticipated back-up feature that can show up in any Marvel comic at any time, lampooning current events or telling brand-new stories, and always stealing the show.
This second digest collection of Mini-Marvels adventures begins with Giarrusso’s parody of Secret Invasion. The Skrull invasion of Earth goes somewhat differently in this universe, as the Skrulls’ initial attempt to discredit the Fantastic Four doesn’t work as planned. Can even the amazing Super-Skrull turn the tide? And is he really more invisible than the Invisible Girl?
Mark Sumerak handled the writing on the Civil Wards storyline. Fired from the Daily Bugle after Iron Man got him to reveal his identity to the world, Spidey takes a job babysitting the Power Pack kids. The job turns dangerous, however, when he tries to find them a place to play, only to get caught up in a struggle between Iron Man and Captain America over whether kids should have to register to use the playground. The story is a great little parody, and the way Spidey gets his identity back under wraps in this issue is about a thousand and twelve times more logical – and more entertaining – than the way it happened in the real Marvel Universe.
We get a series of shorts by other writers next – a wonderful Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends story by Sean McKeever, a few Hulk/Power Pack gags by Paul Tobin, and the really funny “Green Hulk/Red Hulk/Blue Hulk” pages by Audrey Loeb. All of these have their moments, and fit just fine in Giarusso’s universe.
The next – and most recent – story in the book is “Welcome Back Thor,” a reprint from this week’s Thor #600. Giarusso gives his take on the resurrection of Thor, from the beginning of J. Michael Stracszynski’s run right up to the most recent developments, and he’s funny as heck as he does it. “World War Hulk : The Final Showdown” wraps up that storyline as well. This is the one slightly incongruous bit in the book – the rest of the World War Hulk parody appeared in the first digest, Rock, Paper Scissors. I’m not quite sure why they felt the need to break it up.
The last story in the book is “Hawkeye and the Beanstalk,” a great series of gags that begins with Hawkeye trying to borrow the weapons of his teammates and concludes with him trying to save Earth from the appetite of Galactus! Giarusso’s version of Hawkeye, is enormously entertaining, second only to his Spidey, so it’s great to see him get a starring role.
The digest wraps up with a series of one-page gags and older strips from the original run of this series. There’s a ton of great stuff here, all funny, all sweet, and all a lot of fun. This is that rare comic that kids will read and enjoy, and that adults will read and laugh for a whole different set of reasons. It’s an awesome, awesome series, and I hope Giarusso gets to keep doing it for a very long time.
Writer: Scott Tipton & David Tipton
Pencils: Gary Erskine
Colorist: Luis Antonio Delgado
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Cover: John K. Snyder III & Jason Wright
Editor: Tom Waltz
Publisher: IDW Publishing
We join second of four universes invaded by the creatures of Zombies Vs. Robots in this issue. Set in that little-explored time between the first and second original series Star Trek movies, Admiral Kirk is travelling with Spock and McCoy to a colony world where McCoy is being honored for curing a deadly disease. After the Enterprise drops them off and heads away on a supply run, Kirk and company discover that a much deadlier disease has gripped the planet – a plague of the living dead. Unlike the TransFormers chapter of this crossover, the Tiptons don’t actually spend any time this issue discussing the backstory of the plague. There’s no reference to the CVO or alternate dimensions at all. If you were to pick this issue up independently of the other books, you’d just get a classic Star Trek series where they find a planet that’s full of zombies. Which, c’mon, is a cool enough idea by itself, right? The works out, although it does smack a bit of fanfic to see the three greatest icons of the original series facing off against a swarm of the undead. But as I’ve noted elsewhere, most of these “expanded universe” stories have kind of a fanfic flavor to them anyway, so there’s not really any harm in that. It’s weird and incongruous to see Spock shooting a phaser at a zombie, but it’s also a lot of fun for all that. This crossover is working for me.
Once again, the mysterious storyteller named Sela is compelled to intercede in the lives of those around her. When a woman named Patricia begins fearing her daughter is getting too close to her coke-sniffing stepson, she looks for a way to remove him from the picture, but the tale of the Juniper Tree may just cause her to rethink her stance. For Sela, though, something just isn’t right. This book is starting to get kind of frustrating. If it were a simple anthology series about a storyteller with twisted fairy tales, it would be fine. If it were a story with a larger mythology about some sort of battle between opposing witches or something, it would still be fine. But instead, it’s an anthology series that keeps dropping hints that there’s a larger story, but after 17 issues, an annual and a spin-off miniseries, there’s still not enough pieces to begin assembling the puzzle. The artwork this issue is sort of weak too — Patricia, the mother, looks practically the same age as her teenage daughter, and a lot of the anatomy is funky. I do like this series, but Tedesco and Tyler have either got to start giving us meat or stop giving us appetizers. If you’ve got a larger story to tell, gentlemen, it’s time to get to it.
The economy of Horder is falling apart due to an influx of cheap goods imported from nearby Khitan. Groo, meanwhile, finds himself bouncing between armies doing what he does best — cause rampant, utter destruction. This issue is an improvement on the first two. While the political allegory is still obvious, the rhetoric is toned down a bit and we’re given more comedy beats, the sort that really only work for a character like Groo. Aragones‘ artwork is full of good visual bits, and the near-universal worry on the faces of the soliders (both those allied with Groo and those opposed to him) sells the legend the character has built up around himself. The last panel, in fact, is one of the funniest comic scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s hoping the last issue of this miniseries keeps the humor up and the preaching down.
Title: To Serve and Protect Part One
Writer: Victor Gishler
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend
Colorist: Chris Bachalo
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover: Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
Editors: Daniel Ketchum & Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The next arc of X-Men kicks off with the X-Men deciding to branch out and become more public in their roles as superheroes. To help facilitate this, as Angel, Iceman and Pixie are busy cleaning up San Francisco, Cyclops leads a team back to New York to hunt for a monster in the sewers – a monster that has previously run afoul of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Victor Gishler is giving me really the only thing I want in an X-Men comic. While most of the other books are spending their time in incestuous crossovers and plotlines that get so complicated that you pretty much need a PhD in X-Menology to understand what’s going on, this title is giving us a very straightforward superhero story with an unorthodox group of heroes, and he’s using the entire Marvel universe as his playground. Guest stars like Spider-Man in this arc, and Blade and Namor in the previous one, help us feel like the book is part of a greater community, while the avoidance of mutant enemies does the same thing. That’s not to say that this book will never touch on the greater X-Men universe, but as long as it remains largely self-contained, it’s giving me what I want.
It also helps that Gishler is a witty writer, one that can keep the book lighthearted while still exciting, and best of all, he writes Cyclops as a leader instead of a chump, something that even Wolverine has to accept in this issue. Hell, Gishler can even use Gambit in the story without making me hate him. Do you have any idea how rare that is?
The cover, by the Dodsons, is a great, clean rendition of our heroes, and Chris Bachalo’s interiors are a lot better than he did back in the 90s. It’s funny – he was the hot new thing back then, but I find I like his artwork a lot more now.
I’m really enjoying this title.