Friday, September 23, 2005

The Shrew eyeballs the Image solicits

(Yes, yes, going to the shop today, will have reviews this weekend)

DC's solicits brought out the snark, Marvel's just made my eyes cross, but Image has some stuff coming out in December that might be entertaining:

Written by Andrew Robinson and Joe Pruett, art and cover by Robinson.
It's a different time and a strange place. It's burlesque shows and all-night poker games, robots and flying ships, tattooed horses and new wave cowboys and cowgirls with bad attitudes. This is the world of Dusty Star, a tough-as-nails gunslinger with a steely-eyed gaze and a draw as fast as greased lighting! An appealing blend of western, science fiction, adventure and humor.

.... I liked Daisy Kutter, so I may give this a try.

Written by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier, art by Ben Templesmith.
Like a violent birth, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan explodes through a puddle on the Champs Elysées from his world in the year 1859, shockingly separated from the future Queen of Wonderland he had been entrusted to protect. Pursued by the police, taunted by nationalistic Frenchmen and challenged by an evil black magician, Hatter must evade the authorities while simultaneously searching for lost princess Alyss! The myth of Hatter M begins here.

... this is either going to be totally awesome or a hopeless mess.

Written and created by Jeff Amano, art by Craig Rousseau, colors by Giulia Brusco, cover by Amano.
Betrayed by all legs and even more curves, Sam Swede finds himself alone and in-between the mob and dirty cops. Having immense strength never gave Sam a reason to use his noggin' much, not even as a private dick. So no one was surprised that Sam got taken to the bank when he met a dame with the upstairs to match her downstairs. The real surprise was how Sam came back and made the whole stinkin' town pay. The critically acclaimed film noir take on the Samson & Delilah classic in one complete volume.

... It having been established that the Shrew will try almost anything with the word "noir" in the description....


.... Three series I am helplessly, hopelessly behind on and quite ashamed of the fact.


Before the ridiculous delays made it seem like this series would never get finished, I had made the choice to wait for the trade on this one -- the TPB for the Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise collection remains my gold standard for 'dvd extras' put into a TPB collection. I'm an either/or insectivore when it comes to floppies and trades, but it has taken years for Moore to finish this and I'm antsy and may not be able to wait.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Shrew ponders the December 2005 DC Solicits.

Overall, not much to look forward to since everyone's going to be playing the Crisis II game. A few swipes and suggestions:

Written by Frank Miller
Art and cover by Jim Lee & Scott Williams

ALL STAR excitement abounds as Frank Miller, Jim Lee & Scott Williams continue their adventurous retelling of the partnership between the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder! And when some Black Canary gets added to the mix, you can be sure something's going to explode!

... yes. I'm pretty sure it will be the brains of whoever is left reading this series after four issues.

Written by A.J. Lieberman
Art by Al Barrionuevo & Bit
Cover by Claudio Castellini

In a long-forgotten summer home that belonged to Thomas and Martha Wayne, a body turns up that will lead Bruce Wayne to a part of his parents' past he never imagined existed, forcing him to ask himself if his parents' marriage was nothing but a sham!

... Why not? They've already pished all over Dr. Leslie and Alfred's busy being the amnesiac murderer....

Written by Andersen Gabrych
Art by Pop Mhan & Jesse Delperdang
Cover by Tim Sale

In the aftermath of "Destruction's Daughter," Batgirl finds herself on the run with a small band of assassins as the quarry of the unbeatable strike team of Shrike, Alpha, Wam-Wam, Mad Dog and the deadliest woman on Earth - Lady Shiva! How long can they last?

... This is going to be the real test of my affection for Andersen Gabrych. If he can pull this off, he'll be bulletproof because I wouldn't even trust the big boys with a plot this bad.

Written by Andersen Gabrych
Art by Alé Garza, Pop Mhan & Jesse Delperdang
Cover by Garza & Delperdang

... The first trade collecting Gabrych's run on the title. Worth picking up.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Kano & Stefano Gaudiano
Cover by Sean Phillips

The story everyone's clamored for begins! Corrupt cop Jim Corrigan has crossed the line for the final time, and Allen and Montoya are going to bring him down. But is there any connection between Corrigan and the man who shared his name; the man once known as… the Spectre?

... Rucka is going to tie this into Infinite Crisis and Day of Vengeance. And the series will be lesser for it.

Written by Will Pfeifer
Art by Pete Woods
Cover by Adam Hughes

The acclaimed creative team of Will Pfeifer, Pete Woods and Adam Hughes reach a milestone issue, and if your name is Selina Kyle, get ready for your world to be rocked! Zatanna arrives with a revelation that causes Catwoman to question who she really is and all she's done in the East End! You heard it here first: This secret will lead Catwoman to a place she's never been before!

... Zatanna's going to confess that the reason Selina went straight is because she was mindwiped like The Top, isn't she.

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art and cover by Lee Bermejo

Arguably the best miniseries of the year. Pick. This. Up.

Written by Gardner Fox and John Broome
Art by Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson
Cover by Jerry Ordway

In these eight stories from the pinnacle of the Silver Age of DC Comics, thrill to the exploits of Green Lantern, Flash, Dr. Fate, Hourman, Black Canary and Starman as they oppose the Shade, Captain Cold, Solomon Grundy, and more! This volume collects THE FLASH #123, 129, 137, 151; GREEN LANTERN #40; SHOWCASE #55-56; THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #61.

I've greatly enjoyed these Crisis On Multiple Earths reprints. Far cheaper than the Archive Editions, they're a great way to get newer fans into older stories. Same goes for the SHOWCASE PRESENTS: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA collection out this month.

Written by Christopher Moeller
Art and cover by Moeller

Get ready for a thrilling 2-issue miniseries written and painted by Christopher Moeller (JLA: A LEAGUE OF ONE)! The JLA members find themselves caught between two warring factions in a deep space conflict that threatens to split the Earth's mightiest super-team down the middle! Time is of the essence, causing the group to quickly choose sides - which may be the heroes' first mistake! As the battle escalates, the team realizes that it must amp-up its collective powers and abilities - leading to the first use of the JLA's towering battle-ready armor!

... Moeller earns a look-see because of League of One, but this looks scarily like the first-ever JLA-Transformers crossover.

JSA #80
Written by Keith Champagne
Art by Don Kramer & Champagne
Cover by Alex Ross

The final battle between Mordru and Dr. Fate rages to its shocking conclusion through the worlds of Kingdom Come and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NAIL! Plus, the Thunderbolt vs. Jakeem to decide the ultimate fate of the Fifth Dimension! After this issue, two members of the JSA will never be seen again!

... Sadly, none of those disappearing members will be Mr. Terrific or Dr. Fate. In fact, it'll probably be Dr. Mid-Nite and someone else I actually like.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Tony S. Daniel & Marlo Alquiza

Unexpected allies rise from the dead to help the Titans overthrow Brother Blood's reign of terror!

... Memo to Kontinuity Kop Johns: Tula's been undead. I know, I know, you didn't read the Tempest mini and this must've sounded like a really good idea at the time. Especially since you've never heard of Tempest.


Considering I roasted the last Ellis book I read (Jack Cross #1), this came as a bit of a relief. It still felt like an Ellis book, but more like the Frank Ironwine entry into the Apparat stunt from last year rather than some fifth-generation Spider Jerusalem. The title character is not railing against The System, he's not Too Cool, and he doesn't seem to have any message or agenda.

Detective Richard Fell is both curiously naive as well has thoroughly hard-boiled. It's an interesting mix, one I'm willing to buy for the time being, because of the premise. Transferred to a beseiged city that is thoroughly rotted from the inside out, Fell somehow sees this as a chance for promotion instead of exile, which is how everyone he encounters sees it. Working alone both by choice (his last partner met with an unhappy fate) and by necessity (the precinct is woefully undermanned by the sane and sober), Fell manages to solve his first case despite the apathetic inertia that surrounds him.

Ben Templesmith's moody art serves the story well, coating everything in a mucky grime and ill-suited lighting that shows off the unfortunately named Snowtown as the cesspit it is.

Overall, the book is a success because it's a 16-page story that feels like it's a 22-page story. And for that, at $1.99 a pop, it's worth trying out.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Kris Kalenov's tale continues in this second issue of Brett Lewis's standout miniseries.

Kalenov, a former soldier, spy, superhero, and current policeman and erstwhile wastrel has come to America and gone undercover among the brutal toughs in Little Odessa, aka Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Kalenov is nominally there as a result of a joint operation between the CIA and his bosses to track gangsters and to recover a girl allegedly kidnapped by organ transplant black marketeers. Going undercover is easy -- in a country as corrupt as Russia, a policeman doesn't even need to pretend to fall from grace in order to join under one of the 'roofs' of the red mafiya. Keeping ahead of conflicting interests that are intent on throwing him to the wolves at the first sign of trouble... that's a bit harder.

The Shrew Catches Up

Go AWOL for a fortnight and things happen in your absence.

Books that weren't nearly as bad as feared and have the Shrew worrying that she's mellowing in old age

Outsiders #28... Take away the part with Jade and this actually wasn't a bad issue. Yeah, surprised me, too. Judd Winick once again draws on the 'superhero men express their frustration through hot sex' trope (which I didn't think was a trope outside fanfic), but that really didn't bother me much. Or at all. Rex and Shift and then Grace and Anissa (marking the first time Miss Pierce didn't annoy the heck out of me) all worked. Roy, who was the focus of the last Aftereffects and Consequences issue, didn't have much to do this time, but I thought this was a pretty good Everyone Is Unstrung story.

Colossus: Bloodline #1... I'm still cranky at David Hine for the way District X crashed and burned after a fascinating start, so I was expecting this to be dreadful. And, because I'm a Colossus fangirl, I expected to get very upset because the reason District X nosedived is because Hine managed to populate it with characters displaying disgusting personalities and Piotr's got enough going on without character assassination. I can't say that I was riveted by this and Jorge Lucas's art does nothing for me -- certainly not after that panel where Emma Frost looked like a midget wrestler. But despite the feeling of tired inevitability that comes along with tying Piotr Rasputin in to the Rasputin, this could be an interesting psychodrama.

Books that give the Shrew hope for the future because she's got absolutely nothing nice to say about any of them:

All-Star Batman & Robin #2... I read this because I promised a friend I would. And this is two-for-two in me being accomodating in this fashion and then wishing I could scrub my brain with steel wool. I get that this is supposed to be stylized and odd and there's no such thing as Out Of Character in this Ultimatization of the DCU. But it's terrible even within this context, syncopated and off-kilter because of it. I don't care "which" Bruce this is; he needs medication and fast.

JSA #77... Blech. An issue about Airwave and Hal Jordan? Podperson Alan Scott guest-stars in the issue, too -- Geoff Johns feeling completist needs in terms of controlling Green Lanterns. And there's Donna Troy and some platitudes and the rest of the JSA sitting around mute except for Michael Holt, whom we only wish were mute. And the art was unpleasant, too.

Wonder Woman #220... All-around good guy Jonah gets sacrificed to the altar of Infinite Crisis, going from awesome perspective voice to fanatically dedicated minion and all-around bastard. Ugh. Apparently I have missed the part of the Max Lord storyline where everyone in the world (superhero or otherwise) knows that Diana killed Max and chooses to look at it without mitigating circumstances or context. Because the grapevine works so well, you know -- that's why the Teen Titans were up-to-date on Dr. Light the other month (not) and why everyone is aware of the mindwiping thing (also not). The scene with Batman just disappointed me, even considering Bruce in general and Rucka's take on the Diana-Bruce relationship in particular.

Nightwing #112... When mediums collide. The various incarnations of Toon Titans Robin are brought to the funnybook as Red X and Slade's Apprentice get absorbed into a Dick Grayson who is really too stupid to survive childhood, let alone a superhero career. Dick's railing at Deathstroke rang hollow, the scenes with Rose were achingly ridiculous, and the less said about anything involving either Sophia Tevis or Helena, the better. It's a good thing rumor has Dick reprising his Prodigal role post-Crisis II because, wow, Devin Grayson is burning everything Nightwing straight down to the ground and salting the earth for good measure, ain't she.

Books that remind the Shrew that not everything is as bad as anything pertaining to Infinite Crisis:

Ex Machina #14... geek love. Mayor Hundred gets proactive, Kremlin and Bradbury get in and out of trouble and bail out their old buddy, Commissioner Agnotti is saved from making a spectacle of herself, and did I mention the pure geekdom on display? Like the Tag arc, yet another subtle reminder that Mitchell Hundred is very much not dealing with the ambient weirdness that surrounds his powers. Hundred isn't alone in his abilities, but he does seem to be the only one who is still sane and still alive.

Captain America #9... I still see no real good reason to keep Sharon Carter around, but this was a fun issue if only because I get glee any time the UN looks shady and corrupt. Nick Fury hates being had and he got had good here. Michael Lark's NYC scenes gives me hope for his upcoming run on Daredevil and I'm starting to suspect the Who Is The Winter Soldier question is going to go on longer than the Who Killed Laura Palmer one.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


While there were a few sneaky turns here, the final installment of Homelands felt a little rushed and abruptly ended.

Considering that most of the last two issues have been expository -- and most of those with Boy Blue in a birdcage -- Bill Willingham has been unusually deft (okay, so I'm apparently still smarting from Batman #644) in handling it. How the Adversary's empire was built and solidified, how to naturally explain Willingham's planned shift toward a more global scope of fables, and the introduction of a possibly important plot twist in Fabletown (the real Red Riding Hood after Baba Yaga's deception) have all been given lucid, reasonable purpose. Gepetto's slide from well-intentioned puppeteer to coldly efficient king maker has been a joy to read because it's completely logical and seamless. Especially when compared to Boy Blue's story arc, which depends fairly heavily on having read The Last Castle for it not to feel a little random.

The end, however, felt a little too neat. The reveal of Blue's mission being a covertly sanctioned one works well enough -- he is the sort of hardened veteran warrior who can handle the danger of the mission and the burden of returning to a world that doesn't understand it. It was just the returning part that bothered me. Blue's been doing nifty stuff with the cape and the sword all along, but his escape just felt too easily accomplished considering that he's in the den of the Adversary himself. Snicker-snack and home again, even if he left a very angry Gepetto behind... I didn't care for it.

Too-clean resolution aside, Homelands stands as one of the strongest Fables arcs in a while and gives fresh enthusiasm for what comes next. The trade paperback is out around Christmas, I think.


And so concludes one of the most delightful miniseries of the year.

A rollicking good time like the first two installments, this issue is the one that most clearly ties the book into the forthcoming video game. For the most part it's not really a problem and this never reads like a commercial; there's a bit of a shift of focus to a more actiony story, but it largely works. It certainly helps that writer Gary Whitta has decided not to treat the video game imperative with any seriousness, keeping it relevant without making it the primum mobile. Ted Naifeh handles the shift smoothly and with more dynamism than I expected he would.

Way back when I reviewed the first issue, I brought up how pleasingly subversive this story actually is. Like The Incredibles, Death Jr. is ultimately a wholesome, positive story about family, friends, and growing up. It just promotes ideals like family love, self-esteem, loyalty, friendship, and courage in a fashion that manages to be entertaining instead of corny, sneaking the good stuff past the post-modern and the cynical by simply being funny and smart and appealing to all ages groups.

Whitta and Naifeh have proven a fantastic team, the former's razor-sharp (and never mean spirited) wit being well matched with the latter's endless vocabulary of facial expressions and body posture. The result is a story that is clever both visually and textually. A little like when Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev are really cruising on Daredevil, except without the reliance on realism and that makes it a bit more of a challenge. Any future collaborations will be looked for most eagerly.

Image Comics being Image Comics, whether this will be collected into a trade paperback is anyone's guess. This is a series worth paying back issue markup to have, though.

As for the actual video game... The Shrew is among the video game inept and probably won't be picking it up because of that. Those of you who are gamers, I expect a report.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Yet another season finale that left me cold.

Supreme Power has been a supreme frustration for the duration of its run. This should have been so very, very good and it wasn't. It was JM Straczynski's chance to take what he learned from the similarly themed Rising Stars and make a second effort that was leaner, meaner, and had a more manageable cast. But in trimming the fat, Straczynski ended up cutting away the soul.

The individual characters reimagined from Squadron Supreme are, on the whole, fantastically rendered character sketches. Good Soldier Joe Ledger's oddly sweet pairing with Kingsley; Nighthawk's bitter, self-indulgent, self-deluding bigotry; Stan's strain to keep his moral grounding in the wake of commercial and governmental powers greater than he can understand; Mark Milton's race to absorb the truths he learns and his unwillingness to play to type.

The problem is that those sketches are never filled out past their utilitarian design. We don't especially empathize with anyone, certainly not in the way John or Randy or Chandra or Jason or anyone from Rising Stars. The characters here are merely extensions of their roles and remain enigmatic instead of drawing us in to their plight. The Specials in RS all had so-human strengths and weaknesses -- fear of parental disapproval, jealousy, self-esteem, shyness, ambition, anger, and forty different kinds of the loneliness that comes from being a geek in a group of freaks. Not enough of that comes through in Supreme Power, where nobody seems to either genuinely enjoy their abilities or mourn what makes them different. It all felt a little... businesslike. Paradigms that are interestingly painted, but are plastic action figures nonetheless.

The actual story of this first act -- Supreme Power returns after a miniseries-filled hiatus, but as a Marvel Knights title instead of a MAX book -- is an old Big Brother Gone Bad story done well... until JMS rolls off the rails at the end, which is pretty much what he did with RS, too.

All throughout this series, the scenes where Hyperion challenges his former masters crackle, the irresistable force slamming into the unmovable object. But they often got bogged down by distractions, mostly in the The Military Is Eeeeevil! style. Certainly in this last issue, which seemed almost as much about President Chimpy McHaliburton (featuring the sadly wronged Clintons (cough, retch) in a cameo) and mocking the War on Terror than it did about setting up the premise that will have the Squadron actually formed in the next series. Those jump-cut not-quite-reaction shots repeating the speech weren't enough to establish a solid idea of what is coming next. Which would also be true to form -- JMS loves leaving it to the miniseries to establish means, motive, opportunity after presenting the crime and going away. We finished this series not knowing much of anything about the characters or how they will spend the hiatus. And perhaps not caring. That is a failure, not a cliffhanger.

Gary Frank, who worked with JMS on the superb (and superior) Midnight Nation, has done a spectacular job on art for all of the issues and I would be remiss in not pointing that out.


I've been out of the loop for a bit, so is it all right to be a little underwhelmed by the season finale of Astonishing X-Men?

Overall, I'm of very mixed opinion about the issue and the season (borrowing the usage from American television and Ed Brubaker's Sleeper). There were some fantastic moments of characterization and human drama. Everything with Piotr and Kitty, separately and together, was superb. The sureness of Scott's tactical skills combined with his far more uneasy navigation of the personal. Hank's despair at a mutation gone one step too far and recollection of the joy he once took in it.

There were also plenty of whiskey-tango-foxtrot character moments -- for example, almost anything to do with Logan. Emma split the difference and the last-issue reveal of Charles Xavier's actions was deplorable even if you're sick of his pacifist-past-the-point-of-reason ways. And I am. But considering that the last issue took place in Genosha, that the memory of past travesties in Genosha was key to saving the day... go back one atrocity before the nuking and you are back with Jenny Ransom and the enslavement of the mutates and that jars incompatibly with Xavier's newfound pragmatism. Xavier's tolerance and idealism, however irritating, cannot be warped in this fashion.

The plot of both season and issue... was a mess. There were enough dropped threads here to knit a sweater and I don't care if they are all going to tie into things in Season Two. It felt sloppy, not generally a trait associated with Joss Whedon.

Whatever happened to Agent Brand and her case? What about the kids at the mansion? What about the other X-Men? What about the aliens? What about SHIELD being compromised? All of these things got forgotten in favor of Emma's cohort stepping out of the shadows. And while I'm all for a Hellfire Club plot that builds upon the real power someone like Sebastian Shaw would have, all this does is toss another chunk of unattached, unresolved plot onto the bonfire. Emma's place with the team dates back to the nuclear bombing of Genosha, so this is an arc that (either coopted from Grant Morrison or simply following through on his original intent) has been around for a long while. Why is the Hellfire Club deciding now to infiltrate the X-Men?

I'm not all disillusionment and disappointment here. Colossus fangirl or not, the return of Piotr Rasputin was arguably the best reanimation of a dead X-Man in a long time. Possibly ever. Buffy and Willow were only the test runs because Whedon did so much for Kitty Pryde that not even the forgettable current miniseries can dim her light. And, plot failures or not, this was the only readable X-Men core book for the duration of its existence. I look forward, without reservation, to the second season.

Whither the Shrew? A few days off turned into a fortnight and I apologize for going AWOL and thank those who expressed their concern. This is still a hobby and sometimes Real Life must come first and foremost and sometimes there are distractions both serious and frivolous that must be followed. The backlog will get attacked -- I'm so far behind on anything to do with Infinite Crisis that I don't want to contemplate it -- and the snark shall return.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Bottom line right at the top: Scott Chantler's historical action-drama is entertaining and mercifully steers clear of pedantry, politics, and PC preaching. Clearly and simply drawn, it's a near-perfect book for a younger teen reader.

This was cute, and I mean that in a positive way. Chantler's first big project is fantastic as far as debuts go. The narrative is clear, the story moves quickly and crisply, there is little abuse at the hands of the Exposition Fairy, and there's an actual plot made richer by historical detail of frontier Canada.

Charles Lord, reluctant governor of a trading colony, is eager to return to the adventuring of his younger days and looks upon his retirement and return to England as the first step in that direction. However, his plans to return to the Admiralty Office in London, procure funding and permission, and return to Canada to seek out the elusive Northwest Passage are quickly going awry. An old associate, a Cree shaman, shows up with both literal and spiritual harbingers of doom and Lord's old enemy is approaching... with Lord's nephew as an unwilling traveling partner. Meanwhile, Lord's sullen son is moping around the camp. It's no surprise that everyone went back to work the minute Lord left the party.

Chantler's art is simple and effective and very reminiscent of the hand-drawn animation of an old Disney movie. It's a style that probably skews more toward younger readers, but older ones will appreciate the little details that creep in.

What keeps me from adoring this book, as opposed to merely thinking it a successful debut, is that... for all the ways Chantler has invested the plot and characterizations with historical accuracy, there are no surprises, no complications, no grays in the black-and-white world. There are the good guys, the bad guys, the noble Indian, the innocent would-be adventurer, the conflicted son who must choose who he will become, the faithful sidekick who wants to retire and will probably get dragged back into things at cost of his life. It's all a bit too straightforward, which is why I think it's a better choice for a younger reader, someone who won't see as much coming and can simply enjoy the fast-paced adventure without knowing what's coming around the bend. Chantler hasn't quite mastered the dual-level storytelling that makes something appeal to both adults and children, the way a Shrek or an Owly can.

Oni Press rated the book, which is in digest format, T for 13-and-over. There are implications of violence and a reference to sex and if you take that one semi-oblique reference out, I think the book would work just as well and may get a broader acceptance from parents who are looking for reading material for their progeny.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Shrew Encourages Philanthropy Again

Yesterday's post.

Repeating the plea because the death toll is over 200 and rising. Give $5. Give $10. Give $3. Just give.

The Shrew is giving to the American Red Cross, but also recommends:
Catholic Charities
Samaritan's Purse
Solders' Angels' Operation: Katrina Soldier Relief Fund (think of the soldiers overseas who have no home to come home to; there are LA National Guards currently deployed to Iraq)
B'nai B'rith International (disaster relief link on upper left)

Bill Hennessy's Homes for Katrina page has more info for giving and receiving aid as well as news sources. Michelle Malkin is blogging comprehensively on the news.

The Shrew is taking part in the Hurricane Katrina blog-for-relief event.

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