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From the Hoss’s Mouth 8/18/06

Hoss looks through his stack of comics for the week and tells you what he thinks. No BS, he shoots straight and doesn’t let a thing pass him by, good or bad.

So quit reading my babble, get to the good stuff and clink the link. Unless you’re afraid. Are you afraid? 

Sensational Spider-Man #29:
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Pencils: Angel Medina

Spider-Man Unmasked is where all the action is. With Sensational and Friendly Neighborhood, we’ve been treated to Spider-Man having to take on all sorts of baddies, some new, some old, some were even supposed to be dead. It’s all happening here in some very nice self-contained arcs. Yes, the books are Civil War tie-ins, but the stories they’re telling so far haven’t intersected back into the major Civil War plot, giving the audience a nice reprieve from all the hoopla and in the process some great Spidey stories.

This issue is set-up, there’s a bigger plot unfolding here led by the Chameleon. He’s recruited villains and former villains to strike back at Peter and his loved ones, and he does a thoroughly convincing job playing the evil mastermind. Despite years upon years of beatdowns, Peter’s unmasking has given them all more confidence, now they think they have an edge. Well Peter does too, the Iron Spidey suit, seems equipped to take on all comers and in this case that includes the Scarecrow and Will-O’-The-Wisp. These two are just the beginning of the villain onslaught though, and it would seem the plan isn’t so much to tackle Spider-man, but his family instead. That sound you hear is the internet screaming, “I told you so!”. Whatever the case, it looks exciting. Pete himself only sees action as Spider-man dishing out his usual banter that pisses off villains and makes the audience smile. For the nest foreseeable issues, Peter’s going to be tasked with rounding up every freak with a grudge, saving his family, and trying to get his life back all at the same time.

The book is quickly paced, there’s some brief yet funny interaction between MJ, Peter, and MJ’s theater group, and as mentioned above there’s a lot of action interspersed throughout. The art is Ok, I normally wouldn’t complain about art like this but the few past issues by Clayton Crain have spoiled me. Angel’s not bad, but I love Crain and would really love it if he could be the regular penciller for this series and not just a sub.

Verdict: An overall good story, some might call it filler, but I think Aguirre-Sacasa’s going to go somewhere with this arc. If you’re feeling generous and are looking for some comic excitement this one’s worth your time.

Robin #153
Writer: Adam Beechen
Pencils: Freddie E. Williams II

I’ve really enjoyed this book lately, even with the sudden and unexplained villainous turn of Cassandra; it still ranks near the top of my reading list every month. This month proves no exception. For this issue we get a very fun, almost in one-shot, that awkwardly pairs together two junior heroes: Robin and the new Captain Boomerang. This dynamic duo is pulled together not by coincidence so much as necessity on Boomerang’s part. If we can so fondly think back to Identity Crisis we’ll remember that Jean Loring, the evil ex-wife superbitch of the Atom, hired Captain Boomerang Junior’s dad, the original bearer of the Captain mantle, to kill Robin’s father, which backfired for everyone and both Tim’s father and Captain Boomerang died in the subsequent assassination attempt. But enough with the history.

What we’ve got now is Robin stuck with a mission of the most urgent scale. The Joker’s left a nuke in the city, an old back up plan, and has forgotten all about it. Fast forward in time and that old nuke is now ready to be remembered by exploding and killing everyone in Gotham. Boomerang, who is there to apologize on behalf of his father and to make sure Tim doesn’t try to say anything negative about him to Nightwing (the leader of Boomerang’s super group the Outsiders), also just so happens to have a map of old villain hideouts he jacked while serving in Luthor’s Society. When Owen sees Tim’s plight he’s more than eager to cut his teeth on such a large scale mission that may win him some favor with Tim. Tim on the other hand isn’t so eager to forgive and forget, but he doesn’t have a choice.

The rest of the book takes us on an amusing adventure through some comical yet very deadly old villain hideouts, and no villain’s nest is too obscure to checkout. You’ll see our team face dangers from the Hatter, Glassman, Dr. Phosphorous, Scarecrow and more. We also briefly see the “Dodge” story followed up upon from last week with Tim being a bit of a hypocrite, as well as his tutor Zoanne’s story. These two small plot lines are really just to tie the overall arc back together as well as to show the reader these plots haven’t been forgotten. The real meat of the story is still Tim and Owen reluctantly working together. The two make an interesting pair and Beechen’s dialogue as well as his narrative for Robin pieces the whole “Odd Couple” story together. Robin does his best Batman impersonation all the while putting up with a somewhat condescending sidekick. The resolution is nice, though not as satisfying as the quips between the two, but you’re not disappointed with either hero’s portrayal.

Williams pencils one very nice Robin and he has no trouble handling double duty with a second lead (it’ll make you wish we got a Williams Captain Boomerang figure instead of a Turner one). He also seamlessly handles all the necessary and numerous backdrops for the story, convincingly taking us from rooftops to school and even to the batcave. He also presents the dangers of each and every villain hideout in a believable yet fun way that still expresses the dangers these booby trapped lairs hold.

Verdict: A perfect jumping on point for new readers. See Robin at his best and also watch as a bit of history gets put to rest right before a new arc starts. An all around great book for new and old readers.

Civil War: X-Men #2:
Writer: David Hine
Pencils: Yanick Paquette

Four of the original X-Men have escaped their prison/home to track down the loathsome 198 escaped mutants. Our mutant hunting heroes are also being pursued themselves by the new Manga styled Sentinel. Meanwhile Bishop, Micromax, and Sabra are tracking the 198 independently using some unwitting help from one of the 198 themselves, Johnny Dee. General Lazer’s mutant hatred is further developed here as he uses Dee to locate both the 198 and our four heroes at the same time.

The plot like a lot comics today is only slowly advanced. There are only two issues left and with the amount of setup they’ve shown it seems that the X-Men will be staying quite squarely in their own universe far away from the actual events of Civil War. This book reads more like “198” part 2, and really just takes advantage of the convenient Civil War strife to get a quick cameo in by Captain America, rather than to actually affect any ground of the main Civil War title. With the exception of Wolverine, it seems like most of the mutants are going to be staying out of the main struggle, content to watch the rest of the Marvel U pass them by.

As the art goes, the X-Men here bust out their old leather duds and it’s nice to see them again. The Sentinel overhaul is less to my liking. I see what they’re getting it, mixing current Sentinel design with bit of Nimrod, but it’s the added elements like the Godzilla spikes and Manga styled mech look that bother me. Furthermore these new highfalutin robots haven’t shown any new abilities that would warrant the vast changes to their design. The rest of the panels run smoothly and Paquette covers all the expected bases well. I want to say he’s channeling a bit of Greg Land on his face close-ups of the women, but without all the tracing.

As a Civil War tie-in, it just barely ties in, but as an X-Men book it’s deeply connected to Decimation and the furthering story of the 198 and the recently mandated government protection/oppression.

Verdict: So far, completely unnecessary for the Civil War series, but as a mutant book big events could spill out of it. A definite must for the mutie lovers, everyone else should probably pass.

52 Week 15
Writers: Lots of big names
Pencils: Shawn Moll

This was one of my favorite issues of 52 so far. It’s a Booster Gold story nearly throughout that shows our “love him or hate him” hero trying to redeem himself from his most recent scandalous activities. I personally love Booster Gold. He’s an everyman sort of hero, not particularly gifted with anything, the least of which being common sense, yet behind the superficial selfish exterior you get the feeling that deep down inside there is a real selfless hero just waiting to be forcibly shoved out.

I’m also the sort of person that loves a good story of redemption, and this story almost does a perfect job of it. Booster desperately trying to salvage his pathetic career finally finds himself smack down in the big one. A gigantic hulking monster is on the loose in Metropolis…oh and it’s hauling a radioactive submarine with it. Booster realizes this is his big chance. The only problem being he’s not ready for something like this and he has to compete head-on with his usurper, Metropolis’s new favorite son, Supernova. The backup plot is the continuation of the Question/Montoya storyline. It’s handled briefly and there’s a lot less of Montoya’s annoying narrative talk, though her narrative does make up the majority of the text for this plot.

Overall the book does a pretty good job of allowing Booster to let it all out, and you will genuinely feel for the character by the time the story reaches its conclusion. The redemption itself happens all too quickly, as most of the finer moments of 52 have, and we’re not left with much closure.

For the art department, this book had the most consistent art of any 52 in recent memory. Mr. Moll does a very good job giving lots of detail and action in all the very small panels that permeate this book. The colors are bright, even though most of the story is set at night, and this added vibrancy really helps the characters stand out, especially for Booster as he bounds around in his bright yellow costume. There’s a few flubs here and there, minor nitpicky things like color changes on Montoya’s lips and such, but they’re honestly quite forgettable. In a series that’s necessitated below average art, it’s definitely nice to get a week with good art, so the art department for this week deserves big praise.

The backup story is a Mark Waid written Steel overview. It doesn’t bog itself down on too much history or skip over any good stuff either like the recent backups have. Waid finds the right ratio of past and present, and gives a very good yet succinct Steel history lesson. Probably the best backup to date.

Now for the bad: the cover. There’s a rather huge reveal, which I’ve avoided just blurting out as I try not to spoil too much. Now for those who’ve been following regularly, it’s not really shocking, yet nonetheless the cover for this week completely spoils it. It’s right there in big letters on the cover and impossible to miss if you even glance in its direction.

Verdict: A very good week for 52. Both the story and art are solid, as occurrence that’s rare for this series. The amount of past plotlines behind this issue will keep 52 newbies in the dark so I can’t recommend it as a jumping on point, but for the followers of the series, you won’t regret your $2.50 this week.

Ion #5
Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Tom Grindberg & Greg Tocchini

Kyle Rayner, once a source of great upheaval and criticism, now no longer the heir apparent to the throne he was intended for yet still a great hero in his own right. I can remember when he was new and unsure of himself, like most burgeoning heroes are, but those days are long gone as DC has a done a fairly reasonable job of late as establishing him as his own entity. Holder of both the traditional Green Lantern power and the Starheart of Alan Scott Lantern land, Kyle as Ion is a bit above the traditional Lantern. In his new miniseries, it would seem even bigger things are in store for him that would, one can only assume, add even more depth to a character seeking to separate himself from grounds so many others have tread.

In Ion #5, Hal, who recently discovered the fake Ion from last issue to be Alex Nero, has a nice little rogue change as Hal takes on Kyle’s version of Sinestro. Nero’s not an easy task to take on, think Sinestro power merged with the Joker’s imagination and you’ll get the idea. Kyle fresh on the trail of his imposter helps Hal double-team Nero in a fairly creative fight for 3 lantern powered men. Hal keeps to a traditional type of ring use, giant hammers and the like, Kyle gets a bit more creative, and Nero well he’s always gone batpoop crazy throwing almost every sort of real and imaginary creature and object into the mix. Kyle and Hal share some nice dialogue, showing you why Kyle was a worthy successor yet at the same time why Hal was just too good to go away. This is the real heart of the story—two kindred heroes, really of a father and son dimension—kicking villain ass and discussing the finer points of enforcing universal law. They also don’t skim on the past history of the two either.

The art chores are taken up by 2 pencillers and overall they’re not bad. The heroes themselves are drawn well and the backdrops are in space so expect a lot of stars and rocks. With any GL book though it’s always important to show creative, well defined use of the ring, and here’s where the art suffers. Nero is a great opportunity to go crazy as an artist and it’s just not well utilized. Too much of his yellow creations are blurred and merged, not really allowing for the clarity one would hope for with such an over the top use of powerful imagination.

I’ve really enjoyed Ion so far, and I really like that they’re giving all the different Lanterns so much individual time lately as well as further differentiating their characters, specifically Kyle. Kyle, or Ion, may not ever be able to take up the mantle from Hal, but with more great exposure like this book he may not need to. Now if DC could just get John Stewart into the limelight they’d have all their Lanterns lit. . . . Ouch that’s a bad pun.

Verdict: A good series so far. It’s a 12 issue maxiseries and has only started to take off, but so far things have run smoothly. I firmly recommend this book for any GL fan or just anyone who enjoys a good space adventure sci-fi hero. Though if you do pick it up, also grab the first 4, or better yet you might want to wait for the inevitable trade.

Quick Reviews:

Checkmate #5: I found this series to be very confusing at first. The checkmate structure doesn’t lend itself towards simplicity, but with each passing issue it gets easier and easier to keep track of who’s who and where they belong. This issue continues a very good story about political upheaval and the corresponding separation between two young lovers. It also has a very nice “boot camp” subplot that shows just what it takes to be a member of checkmate. Mr. Terrific and Sasha are written well and the events of this issue will set them up for what will hopefully be a fascinating story. I would have preferred a bit more Waller as she has the tendency to steal the show with this series and is always a great character. The art is merely okay, in a book with this many close ups and talking heads I like a bit more composition in the character faces.

Verdict: A good book, and one of a very few titles to tackle the government/political/spying/espionage genre, but it’s also a terrible choice for new readers. A lot of backstory, even past issue 1, from many different older books is required for the full enjoyment of this series.

The Invincible Iron Man #11: Part 5 of the “Execute Program” arc sees a blond Tony trying to clear his name. I hate to say it but the Sentry fight, the huge ending of the last issue, is handled all too quickly here. I guess there’s just too much hero vs. hero fighting lately to actually carry this one through to completion. So if you were pumped to watch two of the biggest power-houses in the Marvel U fight to the end, don’t be, it’s a disappointment. The rest of the story finally sees Tony confront his mysterious controller and clear his name, but the ending reveal shows that Tony’s quest to prove his innocence is the least of his worries. I really liked the art on this book. Zircher draws the myriad of faces very well and has a knack for framing his big shots that really showcases his talent.

Verdict: You’ll be lost if you haven’t gotten into this arc already, but for those who have it’s still a good book despite the big brawl they cop out on.

Green Lantern Corps #3: The end of the first arc, and we get a bit of decent ending twist too. So far this arc and in particular this issue hasn’t lived up to my expectations. I want my Guy Gardner to be…well more of a bum. That’s the Guy I know and love. His wisecracks are few and far between in this book, though there is an occasional snide remark here and there. A lot of other Lanterns, both new and old, share the limelight with Guy in this series. Natu receives more development and is shaping up to be a great character, who hopefully won’t follow down the path of her Lantern ancestor Sinestro. Salaak also has a nice yet brief role. He may seem like a dick, but by the end of the story you’ll understand he’s not. Instead he’s just a Lantern trying to do his job. The art continues to irk me though. It’s not bad per se, but I just don’t like this artist’s character proportions or use of shapes. They’re consistent but it’s more the general style that disagrees with me. Other readers may love it though.

Verdict: A decent book with a nice mystery and twist at the end. I still hold a lot of hope for future Corps issues and the book may turn out to be really good once the writer finds his legs. It’s still plenty early to jump on, though with this one you might want to wait to hear more about future arcs before investing yourself in it.

Thunderbolts #105: The most substantial story for Civil War this week. This one’s got a lot going for it. First, there seems to be some great treachery afoot. Second, Zemo and the Radioactive Man lay down some of the best written Civil War quotes yet. Last but not least, Zemo kicks all sorts of ass. He really makes some of the finer heroes Marvel can offer up look like newbies here and he’s not even trying. Nicieza’s really becoming one of my favorite writers as of late. Grummet’s pencils are nice but still average. He does good splash page work but doesn’t express an overall lot of detail in the characters.

Verdict: A good book on its own and a great book for those in need of a Civil War fix as this tie-in delivers on what will come to be rather significant developments for the huge crossover.

Catwoman #58: I haven’t really liked Catwoman OYL. I don’t like Holly as a replacement and I’ve felt they’ve drawn out the whole baby’s daddy drama way too long. Before, OYL Catwoman was fun and there were no unnecessary hiccups like now. This book concludes the first arc, which has been underwhelming. The Angle Man and Film Freak have been OK as villains, though there’s nothing spectacular about either of them. We get some decent resolution between Zatanna and Selina, but it really seems like too little too late. The art is nice and Lopez gives us nice transitions and great set-up shots and perspective. The covers are the best though, I’ve really enjoyed Catwoman’s covers lately and this issue has another great one.

Verdict: Just give us want we want to know and get back to business as usual with Catwoman. If you’re a fan of Selina or Bat family books, then I suggest this title, as in that context it is entertaining most of the time. If not, you’re not missing out on anything really huge.

Ghost Rider #2: Pretty much a filler issue. All the major concerns: What happened to Ketch, how did Blaze end up in hell in the first place, Zarathos who? Are completely unaddressed. Instead we get some build up to the eventual Ghost Rider/Lucifer showdown, but not a whole lot outside of that. On the positive side, Mark Texeira was made to draw Ghost Rider. The art’s nothing but beautiful on this book. This one’s still too new to call, I’m hoping Way can do a better job on this than his other book Wolverine: Origins and so far there’s just not enough here to really form an opinion…yet.

Verdict: I’m holding out to see where this goes, but for anyone else not invested in it, wait for the first trade to see if this book’s actually going to go somewhere.

Nightwing #123: I hate this book. This issue was better than the rest of the garbage spewed out since the OYL drop, but still it continues a story that has been terrible. The Dick and Babs breakup finally sees some mention, but it’s too short and handled terribly with no actual resolve. There’s a very good reason Marv Wolfman’s coming on as a new writer at #125. There’s not a lot of reason to discuss this book, it’s just plain bad. DC’s already managed to corrupt Batgirl and they’re very close to screwing up Nightwing too. It’s a good thing he’s still competent and capable over in Outsiders. The art, well it’s not pretty enough to put up with the plot so it doesn’t matter.

Verdict: Except for diehards like myself who possess no willpower in these matters, drop this book. Don’t pull it, don’t buy it, just skip it and wait for #125.

Street Fighter Legends: Sakura #1: This is my choice for the light-hearted fun read of the week. Dan Hibiki and Sakura unleash their combined comedic might, and give us a great book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Witness the mighty Ryu struggle to understand Sakura’s Instant Messenger “pwnage”, Rainbow Mika thoroughly take down Zangief, and Dan well….being Dan in all his Saikyuo-Ryuu greatness. Dogan’s art, like most of Udon’s stuff is beautiful. I liked it so much I grabbed the A cover variant, so I could get a total Dogan book.

Verdict: Hilarious. If you like Street Fighter, Udon, or just want a book you can laugh with. This one’s your best bet this week.

Shadowpact #4: An entire Blue Devil story. Honestly I don’t know a whole lot about this character, but there are some fun moments. We get to see what an all around average everyday guy Blue Devil is in his average everyday Metropolis neighborhood. This is rather odd once you consider he’s a demon. Blue Devil shrugs this off though and with the way the neighborhood reacts to him you’d think they’d never even noticed, leading to some comical moments that make this issue a nice little story. For the action part, his devil side does catch up with him as two of Hell’s bounty hunters, speaking in ridiculously funny pompous and proper English, are sent to apprehend and return Blue Devil back to hell. This book is a “done in one” story that any fan of Blue Devil, Shadowpact, or Days of Vengeance can appreciate. The art’s standard but not bad at all. We get nice city backdrops over demonic battles and one big monster.

Verdict: I happened to really enjoy this book and its many great moments. It’s not a bad story to just pick up for fun either, though those who favor the recent magical overhaul of the DCU will inevitably enjoy it more.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #223: This is a stand alone issue that ignores the empathy engine arc of past issues. We find John trying to help his old friend Map out of a tight jam. It seems London is no longer Maps best friend. The story’s sort of a wash out that jumps around a bit too much for my liking. I’ve liked Denise Mina’s recent past issues but this one just didn’t impress me. As a guest artist Cucina does a good job of holding down the somewhat traditional style of the book.

Verdict: Normally I wouldn’t recommend passing on a Hellblazer issue, but this one’s entirely skippable.

Deadman #1: No, there’s no Boston Brand here so settle down. Instead we get a new character and what look’s like a book that’s going to be a great series. A deliberately confusing stretch of memories shape our new protagonist Brandon as he struggles to deal with his own brother killing him in an airplane crash. That’s not all, it seems Brandon is unable to comprehend what’s happened to him as his murderous brother tries to coax him through the afterlife. Brandon’s final decision about life and his death places him in a quest for answers. The art of John Watkiss is not to be missed. He carries us through this book, craftily drawing the present and the past as one cohesive story that manages to keep up interest and lower the amount of confusion.

Verdict: Go ahead and get this one. It’s confusing at first but by the middle everything clears out, making a quick subsequent reading even more enjoyable than the first. A great start.

So What Now:
At the end of the week there’s definitely a lot of entertaining books here for you to grab. My top recommendations are Robin, Ion, Thunderbolts, and Deadman. For those with a firm grasp of the required history, go ahead and check out Checkmate and the bombshell dropping 52. If you’ve still got some change in your pockets, Sensational Spider-Man, Shadowpact, and Street Fighter Legends: Sakura are all fine choices and great reads. As for the rest, well they’re all quite passable except for Nightwing which should probably be ripped up, burned, or even peed on. Your choice of course. Next week’s going to see a format change for this column that’s going to make it more manageable and less intensive. The plan’s just to spotlight the best of the best and of course to rag on the one book that’s the worst. Thanks for reading.

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