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From the Hoss’ Mouth 02/07/07

In the calm before the Toy Fair storm, I’d like to take a minute of your time to talk about some comics.  This was busy week with a large amount of great books being published.  Action Comics Annual, 52, the New Avengers, Shazam, Welcome to Tranquility, The Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men all see some review action this week.

Action Comics Annual #10
Written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner
Art by: Art Adams, Eric Wight, Joe Kubert, Rags Morales and Mark Farmer, Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning, and finally Tony Daniel

Five stories plus two special features for $3.99.  Grab those DCU Encyclopedias fanboys we’re going on a trip back to the Silver Age.  The new reboot universe and its reality altering punches make this trip possible and even though there’s some gaps in the continuity big enough to drive Earth-2 through I’m willing to run with it because there’s a lot of potential magic here that will provide great stories for years to come.

Basically shoehorning in a new era of Action Comics, Johns and Donner are combining previously unseen elements of the Superman movies, a whole lot of the Silver Age, with the Pre/Post-Crisis and everything including Birthright and Man of Steel in between.  Basically they’re cherry picking a new Superman built from some of the better ideas of all eras. 

In “The Many Deaths of Superman” we find Luthor envisioning what may be a new Superman Revenge Squad with three different panels of Superman dying tragically at the hands of some of his greatest foes.  This whole section is done by the brilliant Art Adams and those three aforementioned death scenes are expertly drawn, in fact they’re the artistic high note of the book, which is saying a lot when you consider the other talent present. 

“Who is Clark Kent’s Big Brother?” is up next and reintroduces us to Mon El and also sets up his recent Legion appearance, a fun story that also gives more insight into the new retconned origin of Superman, including when he got his powers.

“Mystery of the Blue Sun” is the loser of the series being way too short but it does show one very important thing, the return of Htrea.

“The Criminals of Kyrpton” is probably the most relevant to the current Action run as it provides one very detailed and very nice origin for what can only be considered to be the introduction of movie Zod, Ursa, and Non.  It’s a great story that details Non in particular but also surprisingly shows that Zod, not Jor-El, was right all along.  Yes, Zod’s right, he’s even somewhat of a tragic figure as are the other two.  This is bound to develop into a really great story once Zod confronts Kal.  Rags’ art kicks a lot of ass too.

The last story “The Deadliest Forms of Kryptonite” reintroduces (though they’ve been seen previously very recently) the multicolor versions of Kryptonite.

Finally a pretty neat feature on the Fortress of Solitude as well as Superman’s Top 10 Most Wanted round out what is more or less a “Secret Files and Origins” Annual. 

Verdict: A lot of book with a ton of great art for a mere $3.99.  Easily one of the finer Annuals I’ve seen lately. 

Extra Quick Reviews:

52 Week 40:  An issue almost entirely devoted to Steel beating down Luthor.  It only took 40 weeks to get to…sigh…but this is the issue we’ve all been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint.  You know the saying “John Henry is a steel drivin’ man”?  This one will show you why.

The New Avengers #27:  For a Bendis book there’s a whole lot of action here and Leinhil Yu manages to squeeze every ounce of excitement out of it.  A great book, beautifully drawn, that for a brief shining moment actually made me care about Echo…just a little.

Shazam and The Monster Society of Evil #1:  A whopping $5.99 for this one but it’s basically a mini trade.  Lots of extra pages, no advertisements, and with both story and pencils by Jeff Smith.  A re-imagining of Shazam as well as Billy and it’s a whole lot of fun.  Don’t let the price tag scare you, it’s a great book.

Welcome to Tranquility #3:  Three issues in and I’m hooked.  A town populated by former maxi’s (superheroes) just trying to get on with their lives.  This one explores the kids of these former heroes, who themselves used to be a singing-mystery solving group.  It’s got Gail Simone’s patented wit but is surprisingly serious in tone for most of the story, well for the first 2 and half issues that is.  It’s hard to explain but you’ll like it, just trust me.

The Incredible Hulk #103:  I found Pak’s beginning to be much better than his end, but I’ve still really enjoyed this title.   For those of you who think this story is nothing more than an excuse to distract Hulk fans while CW can train-wreck itself without him, well I think you’ll be quite surprised by this issue.

X-Men Annual:  The return of Exodus as well as the Beaubier Twins in one grand extra-long story.  I’d actually dare say this is Carey’s best X-Men story yet.  I’ve found his regular run to be somewhat confusing and tattered but this one really shows what he can do and I like where he’s headed. 

The Loser(s) of the Week:

Ghost Rider “Trail of Tears” #1:  For my money it doesn’t get any better than Clayton Crain on art, but for $2.99 I expect the Ghost Rider to show up.  He doesn’t at all….in his own mini.  Pretty to look at but no Spirit of Vengeance means no sale.

Supergirl #14:  Annoyingly ignores continuity with Teen Titans published just last week, plus Supergirl grows crystal spikes out of her back randomly.  I’m not kidding.

Nightwing #129:  Even Nightwing’s bored…and it’s his book.

X-Men “Phoenix Warsong” #5:  Planet Hulk proves Greg Pak is a great writer.  This book proves he’s also capable of churning out pure schlock.  They can’t all be winners.

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