Title: A Comet’s Tale
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils: Geraldo Borges
Inks: Marlo Alquiza
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover Artist: Eduardo Pansica, Eber Ferreira
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
As the Legion Academy continues its training, Comet Queen shares her origin with Glorith. Where did she come from? Why isn’t this her first time at the Academy? And what’s her strange connection to Bouncing Boy?
Paul Levitz, once again, shows a real knack for coming up with intriguing characters. Comet Queen isn’t your usual Legionnaire by any stretch of the imagination. She’s one of these superheroes who comes from a culture that grew up with superheroes – the Legionnaires (particularly Bouncing Boy) were her childhood heroes, and the events that led up to her gaining her powers aren’t at all the sort of thing we see from most Legionnaires. Her motivations set her apart immediately, and what happened to put her back into the Academy immediately spins the story from somewhat comic to somewhat tragic in just a few panels.
Geraldo Borges does good work here on the future, running with the designs Phil Jimenez whipped up for these characters. I think he may be the first artist to really get across just how alien Comet Queen is – a non-human facial structure, a slightly different body type… other artists made it look like she was simply a human whose powers made her look the way she did. This issue makes it clear she was never human to begin with.
Very nice spotlight on a character who just got a lot more interesting.
Quick Rating: Very Good
It’s the Cold War – USA versus the Martian menace!
Writers: Matt Anderson & Eric Hutchins
Art: Micah Farritor
Letters: David Hedgecock
Editor: Kevin Freeman
Cover Art: Micah Farritor
Publisher: APE Entertainment
One of the best things about working for a site like
Comixtreme CX Pulp is that sometimes, when you’re not looking, someone slips you a preview of a great comic book that no one has heard of yet, and you get to be the one to tell people about it. White Picket Fences is just that book.
This bizarre little comic is a nice mixture of alternate history and retro-science fiction. Little Charlie Hobson is a typical kid in the town of Greenview. He goes to school, plays Army with his friends, and dreams of taking the fight to the horrific “Red Menace” – the aliens from Mars that pose an imminent threat to the American way of life. Anderson and Hutchins have done a wonderful job of taking what, on the surface, reads like an old-fashioned Cold War tale and turning the Soviet menace into one from the stars. The resulting tale reads like a comic book straight from the 1950s, but with an undeniably modern sensibility. This is the kind of story that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would mercilessly skewer, except the story is far too good for Mike and the bots to lampoon.
Building on a really inventive script by Anderson and Hutchins is some wonderful artwork by Micah Farritor. Farritor uses a light, textured style that gives the entire book a feeling of being done in pencil colors, which somehow is absolutely perfect for the story of an idyllic American town living under the threat of Martian extinction. This art is evocative of an animated style, but the gentle strokes of the coloring make it totally unique.
There were a few comics in APE Entertainment’s Free Comic Book Day special I hadn’t sampled before. White Picket Fences was definitely the most intriguing. Having read the first issue, I can happily confirm it’s just as clever and engaging as I had hoped.
Spider-Man Family #3 (Marvel Comics)
By Paul Tobin, Pierre Alary, Fred VanLente, Leonard Kirk, Roy Thomas, Jim Craig & Yamanaka Akira
This issue of Spider-Man Family is something of a mixed bag. The focus is on Spidey and the Fantastic Four, which is always an entertaining pairing, but the lead story is kind of weak. Spidey and the FF team up to fight a giant mummy (which is definitely fun), and then again against Electro. There’s a lot of the standard misunderstanding-then-team-up stuff, which is really somewhat out of place considering the relationship between these characters even relatively early in their careers. The personalities are off as well. While it’s true that many of the earliest FF stories made Sue subservient, this issue goes too far in the opposite direction, making her more aggressive than she’s ever been painted. We also see the Scorpion drawn into battle with her former namesake, Mag Gargan, the current Venom — a pretty good story, and certainly a logical one. Next is a reprint of What If? Vol. 1 #1, “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” This is one of my all-time favorite What If? stories, and it’s a welcome addition to this book. The story ends with a new “Spider-Man J” tale (does the “J” stand for “Japanese?”), a reprint of the Japanese Spidey title. This is the first of those titles I’ve read and, honestly, I wasn’t impressed with either the story or the artwork. This isn’t a bad issue, but except for the classic reprint, there’s really nothing to get excited about.
A lot of DC comic books last week. This week will probably be not so much…
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Marcio Takara
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Cover Artist: Garry Brown
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Max Damage has been captured by Coalville’s newest true villain. Alana and Safeword, meanwhile, seek out the help of Armadale – only to find he’s fallen himself in recent days. As Max struggles to free himself, Alana struggles to cope with the shocking secret Armadale reveals to her.
Both storylines in this issue hinge in large part on the worst crime Max committed in those days before he reformed. Bellamy, the man who’s torturing him, seems to have an interesting perspective on Max’s psyche, and while the man may be evil as anything, it’s hard to argue with his analysis of our would-be hero. The scars Max is left with this issue are deep and may be lasting. How do you come back from something like this? In a book like this, is that even possible? Very much to his credit, Mark Waid wastes no time trying to answer such unanswerable questions. He’s crafted a dark world, and he’s having a good time picking apart the characters even as he explores how dark the world can get. Marcio Takara tells the story well, putting some real horror on the character’s faces, and getting gruesome when necessary. Not too gruesome, fortunately, but just enough to get the point across. It’s appropriate that Garry Brown’s cover for this issue is pretty much just a puddle of blood with Max’s reflection in it – the issue is bloody enough to warrant it.
Harsh issue, but it’s a good one.
Quick Rating: Average
Ben Urich and Sally Floyd need a big scoop for their paper. Will the Hulk’s world war do the trick?
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Art: Ramon Bachs
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Cover Art: John Watson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s been a few months since Ben Urich and Sally Floyd launched their new alternative newspaper, and they’re struggling… until a mysterious benefactor gives them the funds to stay afloat. Now all they need is a story to make their mark. Then, on cue, the Hulk arrives on Earth with an ultimatum.
The big problem with this book is that the writer is trying to do too much in one comic. There are no less than five separate storylines going on at once. You start out with a newsroom drama about a struggling paper. You throw in a mystery about who would give them the money – anonymously – to help the newspaper succeed. Then the Hulk arrives and the story shifts to being about how a reporter will cover such an event. Then we have two additional, connected stories that seem totally out-of-place, a story about an envoy from the Hulk’s Warbound attempting to establish diplomatic relations with the city of New York (the city, mind you, that they just invaded), which is further compounded by a murder mystery. And unlike the previous Frontline miniseries, this isn’t divided up among various stories in a single issue, this is all ostensibly in one story.
Ramon Bach’s art looks good. He handles the talking head stuff at the beginning just as well as he does the sci-fi/alien encounters in the second half of the book. The problem, as I said, is that there’s simply too much going on here. The book feels like it’s trying to do everything at once, and as a result, it isn’t doing any of it as effectively as it could.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: A Cold Wind Blowing (Eyes of a Killer Part One)
Charles and Royal’s story continues in the sizzling 70s!
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Brent E. Anderson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: John Roshell of Comicraft
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover Art: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
After too long a break, Astro City: The Dark Age returns. Book Two (subtitled “Eyes of a Killer”) picks up a few years after the first ends. Charles Williams is still a police officer. His little brother Royal, still a crook. But things are changing in the world around them. Heroes are no longer the objects of trust they once were, things are becoming strained between Charles and his wife, and both Charles and Royal are facing real dangers on the job, as it were.
This series starts in 1976, and Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have done a fantastic job of emulating that 1970s comic book feel. Gleaming heroes like Samaritan, Silver Agent and the First Family are either absent or reduced to cameos, while characters in the kung-fu/pseudo-mystic vein take the forefront. We also see a lot from Street Angel, once a brighter character who has embraced a darker side (not unlike a popular JLA member who underwent a Bronze Age reinvention).
As always, though, Astro City isn’t about the superheroes as much as it is about life in a superhero universe, and the unique difficulties faced by Charles (a cop) and Royal (a criminal). Things feel very ominous for both of them, and you definitely get the feeling this issue that the current state of their relationship, not to mention their lives, will be drastically changed by the time this four-issue miniseries reaches its conclusion.
Brent Anderson, as usual, does a fine job on the artwork, and Alex Ross pulls off a particularly unique cover. While still using his regular linework and techniques, he’s dropped back to a muted color palette, doing the entire thing in shades of blue and pink. It makes for a very eye-popping cover, as well as a very unusual one for him.
This first issue is very promising, setting up a lot of things and showing us yet another invention of the Astro City universe.