Ghostbusters: The Other Side #3 (IDW Publishing)
By Keith Champagne & Tom Nguyen
In Purgatory, Venkman leads Egon and Ray in battle against the spirits of the dead. Venkman has uncovered an operation to sneak ghosts out of the other side and back to the land of the living, and he’s rounded up an impressive, untouchable squad of assistants to fight back. Winston, meanwhile, may not want to go back at all — he’s found something on the other side that he’s long missed. Back on Earth, the ghost inhabiting Venkman’s body is settling in nicely, and has no intention of going back. This miniseries has been really impressive to me. Champagne is doing a great job with the characters, and there’s some especially good stuff here with Winston (whom I’ve always felt doesn’t get quite the same respect as the other three members of the team). Nguyen‘s art compliments a great script, and the package as a whole is a lot of fun. I hope this is enough to lead to more Ghostbusters projects in the future. If they’re as high-quality as this, they’ll be well worth it.
Image United #1 (Image Comics)
By Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri & Jim Valentino
The long-awaited collaboration between the remaining six Image founders (or even all seven, if you got the Jim Lee variant cover) finally kicks off. The strange new hero, Fortress, is having visions of himself standing side-by-side with Youngblood, Spawn, Shadowhawk, Witchblade, Cyberforce, and the Savage Dragon, facing some terrible threat. As he tries to figure out what’s happening to him, Youngblood and the Dragon team up to face Spawn’s old sparring partner, Overt-Kill, on the streets of Chicago. To be honest, I wouldn’t have even considered getting this book if it weren’t scripted by Robert Kirkman, producer of most of Image’s best titles these days. Even with his stamp, this first issue was a disappointment. I expected things to be a bit cryptic, a bit of a puzzle as to why, exactly, all this disparate heroes are being drawn together, but the story in general and Fortress himself, as the narrator, are so cryptic that I quickly finding myself losing interest. It doesn’t help that, with the exception of Shadowhawk, none of these are characters I’ve ever had any deep affection for to begin with. On the plus side, the bizarre jam-style of the artwork actually succeeds pretty well. Each of the six creators is doing the artwork for their specific characters, meaning you can see up to all six of them working on one page if all the characters are there. The styles don’t clash as much as one would expect, and while you can certainly tell that the artists change frequently, it doesn’t really hurt the story. The trouble is, there isn’t really enough story here yet to be in danger. If that doesn’t change with issue #2, I doubt I’ll be back for issue #3.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Heedless Horseman and other stories
Uncle Scrooge decides to become King of Duckburg – by winning the year’s biggest derby!
Writers: Carl Barks; Pat & Carol McGreal; Gorm Transgaard, Paul Halas & Jack Sutter
Art: Carl Barks, Nunez & Vicar, Jose Colomer Fonts
Colors: Susan Daigle-Leach, Edgemont, Marie Javins, Scott Rockwell & Pam Rambo
Letters: Susie Lee, Willie Schubert & Travis Seitler
Editor: Arnold T. Blumberg
Cover Art: Daniel Branca
Publisher: Gemstone Comics
This month’s installment of Uncle Scrooge stands out by its averageness. There aren’t any really spectacular stories, but there aren’t any poor ones either. It’s a pretty good issue all around.
The issue starts with a lesser-known Carl Barks tale from 1966, “The Heedless Horseman.” In the hopes of raising his profile among the people of his hometown, Scrooge decides to enter the Great Crystal Orb Derby, the winner of which is named King of Duckburg’s social scene for a full year. Scrooge decides he’ll win the contest by purchasing the fastest horse in town, but a series of mysterious booms and the horse’s erratic reaction to water may prove to be his undoing.
It’s not one of Barks’s classics, but it’s an entertaining story in its own right. Scrooge seems a tad out of character, caring so much about his social standing, until it’s made clear that he wants that status so that he can parlay it into better business deals. Overall, it’s a cute little story.
In “Beagle Brain” by Pat and Carol McGreal, the infamous Beagle Boys stumble upon an invention by Gyro Gearloose that turns one of them into a genius. The greater intellect seems to be the perfect tool to aid their criminal careers, but such a thing can go too far. A fun story with a cute punchline.
In Gorm Transgaard’s “Golden Illusion,” perhaps the strongest story in the collection, a blow scrambles Donald Duck’s brain and makes him believe he’s the legendary “Robin Duck.” Hallucinating, he rounds up the Beagle Boys to help him steal a fortune from the evil “King of Blottingham” and give it to the poor – utterly unaware that the castle he’s preparing to storm is Scrooge’s money bin! This story is just plain fun, and works better than most.
In “The Hardware Hardener,” Scrooge gets fed up with his pilot, Launchpad McQuack, constantly destroying his planes. He refuses to give Launchpad another job until he gets his own aircraft. When he brings the only plane he can afford to Gyro to help fix it up, he finds that a new solution to keep the plane solid may prove more trouble than he thought.
Finally, in “Jumbled Ducks,” the level of the money bin has reached such a point that Scrooge has no more room to put his money. He goes to Gyro for help, and the inventor supplies him with a compressor that will condense his money to one-third the space. The machine causes trouble, however, when Huey, Dewey and Louie accidentally get fused into one duck. This is also one of the better stories in the collection, although it and the other really good story, “Golden Illusion,” both ignore a big part of the way Barks characterizes Scrooge – that the money in his bin is the money he earned personally by the sweat of his brow, the part of his fortune that he never spends.
This is a decent issue, and fun for the Scrooge fan, but it’s not a spectacular issue. It’s just a fun one..
Title: When Evil Calls
Writer: Paul Levitz
Art: Francis Portela
Colorist: Javier Mena
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Francis Portela
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
This issue serves as a nice little supplement to the ongoing Legion of Super-Heroes title, kicking things off with a bang. Takron-Galtos, the prison planet, goes insane when Saturn Queen manipulates her way into a breakout. In the midst of the riot, she grabs her old ally Lightning Lord, several other potential members for a new Legion of Super-Villains, and heads out into space. There we find out her real mission, and it’s a doozy.
This issue feels very much like a prologue. It’s setting up a lot of things for the main title, not the least of which is an army of villains planning to, y’know, blow up a few planets. And knowing what their endgame is, we definitely see how all of this can tie into everything Paul Levitz has done since the Legion relaunched last year. The pieces fit together very neatly. Levitz is also developing the characters in the LSV much more than they’ve been in the past. Saturn Queen has always been kind of a stereotypical villainess, Lightning Lord just “Lightning Lad’s evil brother.” They aren’t getting any major depth here, they’re not turning into Magneto or anything, but we do get to see her revel a little bit in her nastiness, we see him bristle at having to take orders from her… friction is remarkably effective at establishing who any given set of characters really is.
Francis Portela steps up with the artwork and gives us a really strong one-shot. The future timeline of the Legion is always a challenge for artists, and he gives us a tableau that feels futuristic, but still has a little variety – the stark, bleak landscape of Takron-Galtos vs. the clean, geometric lines of Colu being a perfect example.
Great one-shot that fits perfectly into the storyline.
Quick Rating: Great
Tyler leads his team into battle!
Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Aaron Williams
Cover Art: Aaron Williams
Publisher: Dork Storm/Henchman Publishing
Tyler and his team of kid superheroes has managed to track down Charles Brigman, the bully who’s been teleporting kids away from school and dropping them in a nearby lake. Now the young heroes of PS 238 take a stand against the bully that’s terrorizing their school.
If the setup sounds like a simplistic “kiddie” comic, think again. Granted, this a book that kids could read and enjoy quite easily, but Aaron Williams doesn’t flinch from the ramifications of Charles’ powers. Sure, right now he’s just teleporting kids relatively safely over an open lake, but suppose he teleported them somewhere else? Into traffic? A mile in the air? In the middle of the desert? His powers could be extremely dangerous, and he knows it. But the story really belongs to Tyler (a.k.a. “Moon Shadow”) and his crew. Williams accomplishes a brilliant balancing act in this issue, painting them as genuine children, but at the same time, showing the germs of heroism that many of them possess. Others may have the power, but not the drive, and those possibilities are addressed as well. In the end, he turns out a book that’s very, very funny, but at the same time, one of the best examinations of the super hero currently being published.
As Williams closes off Charles’ story, he begins laying groundwork for later storylines. Zodon, the would-be supervillain neutered by an automatic censoring device (one of the funniest running gags in the book) is plotting something. Zodon is one of the most interesting characters in the book – although he has at times flirted with standing on the side of the heroes, in his heart he’s still got that megalomaniacal urge that propels a would-be Dr. Doom. The resultant character is someone you want to see redeem himself, but at the same time, want to see really let loose to be bad.
All things considered, this is an absolutely magnificent comic book series, and this issue is one of the best yet.
Quick Rating: Surprisingly Good
Title: Hard Questions
The Hulk hunts Charles Xavier – but he’ll have to go through the New X-Men first!
Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Andrea DiVito
Colors: Laura Villari
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Andy Schmidt
Cover Art: Ed McGuinness
Publisher: Marvel Comics
When the Illuminati voted to blast the Hulk into space, one of their number was missing – Charles Xavier. Now that Xavier has returned to Earth, his powers and ability to walk both restored, the Hulk has a question for him. After issuing his ultimatum to New York, demanding Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Strange be turned over to him, he pays a visit to Xavier’s school, seeking Xavier, and as most of the instructors are absent, it’s up to the New X-Men to hold the line.
It doesn’t hurt that the Beast (my all-time favorite X-Man) is the defacto leader in this issue, but I was totally surprised. I was worried that we’d have another superfluous miniseries that doesn’t really matter or interest me at all, and while the ultimate impact on the overall WWH storyline remains to be seen, taken as a self-contained story, this is actually really good. Gage absolutely nails both Hank McCoy and the students at Xavier’s. In fact, by the time I put this book down, I was ready to start a letter-writing campaign to have him take over writing New X-Men full-time. The only real problem is the question the Hulk asks at the end of the issue. While it’s certainly a valid one, it’s hard to believe that it would be a top priority for him at this point. That doesn’t hurt the book much, though, just adds a nugget of disbelief.
Andrea DiVito’s artwork, naturally, is gorgeous. This is the sort of old-school “Hulk versus the X-Men” brawl that you’ve got to want to see if you bother picking up this issue at all.
This book was a total surprise, and for once, it was a good one.