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From the Hoss’ Mouth 03/28/07

This week I try out a little experiment as I compare Black Panther to Fantastic Four.  I also cover Action Comics, Silent War, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl as well as the usual roundup of other titles.  Also new to this week is a brand new segment called Trade Off that I have nothing to do with.  Instead I turn over the reins to Pendragon Concepts as he reviews a trade for Manhunter.  This will be an ongoing section with alternating DC and Marvel trades done by Pendragon and Simmo so get ready as these two are about to knock the dust off your local library shelves!

Comparison Full Reviews:

Black Panther #26
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Penciller: Francis Portela

Fantastic Four #544
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciller: Paul Pelletier

A first for “From the Hoss’ Mouth”.  This week I will be comparing and contrasting two books that overlap heavily.  First up is the “Black Panther”.  With the destruction of the Wakandan Embassy the Panther and Storm find themselves without a home in NYC.  This situation is easily rectified due to a meeting with Reed Richards where Reed and Sue make it clear that they need a break yet can’t leave the Fantastic Four family without someone stepping in to take the lead.  T’Challa and Ororo are more than happy to accept their offer because it also provides them and the entire Wakandan Embassy a new temporary home.  Voila, a fitting plot device to bring two groups together that also provides lots of untapped potential for all sorts of new stories.

Hudlin manages to cram not one, not two, but three subplots in here.  The first is rather unremarkable as its immediate effects on our main protagonists aren’t clear yet.  Some of the bug species of the Negative Zone have riled up to attack what they view as an affront to their lands with the construction of the Project 42 Prison.  The second subplot features on the increasing strife between Tony Stark and the U.S. Government (including the evil faceless politician motif that Hudlin sneaks in every issue) and Wakanda, new to this developing plot is the inclusion of T’Challa’s sister Shuri as forces within the Wakandan government are pressuring her to assume the throne in T’Challa’s absence.  The final and third subplot continues the focus on Brother Voodoo and his meditating studies.  It honestly just seems really out of place here and with so much going on… seriously there’s a hell of a lot of story shoved in this book, that I think the one page devoted to Brother Voodoo could have been put to better use on expanding the other plots.

For a Black Panther issue, Hudlin surprisingly tones down the usual condescending tone of T’Challa in regards to the other heroes present.  Here he makes large gains in being a part of the Marvel Universe as opposed to always trying to prove something by rising above it.  In regards to Storm, I find that Hudlin still can’t quite nail her character.  He gets very close sometimes yet will inevitably throw in a bit of dialogue that just doesn’t match up to her more established persona I’ve come to know over the years as a leader in the X-Men. Still these are minor nitpicks on what turns out to be an overall good issue.

Next up is Dwayne McDuffie’s Fantastic Four which chronologically follows the Black Panther issue.  This story spends a much larger amount of time focusing on the inclusion of Black Panther and Storm into the FF family.  The story itself jumps from the meeting point where Ben and Johnny get the news, to a bomb plot within the now destroyed Wakandan Embassy (I really think Hudlin should have approached this plot in his title), and back to the introduction of Black Panther and Storm via a press conference.  Finally the book settles on its objective, Michael Collins.  Collins, no longer the Deathlok cyborg, comes to the Four seeking help in solving the mystery of what happened to the recently deceased Gravity’s body, mysteriously missing from it’s grave and in its place lies the remnants of a black hole.  Some handy dialogue comes into play recapping the events of what happened in the “Beyond” mini and then the new Four are off to visit the Watcher.  Now at this point is where the real fun starts.  Being no stranger to the Watcher or his Moon House (which you can apparently just waltz right into) the Four use the Watcher’s vast stored knowledge to locate the source of their trouble and end up tangling with Epoch.  For the Annihilation fans out there, this book also has Stardust and the Silver Surfer in their first post-Annihilation appearance in a main Marvel Universe title.

McDuffie wastes no time with this issue.  The inclusion of both T’ Challa and Storm is seamless as the new team works together rather well even engaging in the usual familial banter we’d expect from an FF issue.  The Thing in particular gets the best lines out of everyone with quite a few wisecracks for both the Black Panther and the Watcher.  McDuffie also handles Storm a lot better than Hudlin and I find his portrayal of the character to be much more in tune with my own established perception of Storm.  I honestly have no complaints or nitpicks with this one as it’s just a solid all around issue.

Now taking a step back, let’s dissect how these two titles handled the overlap between them while trying to avoid making the editors look dumb.  Obviously the main point of connection is the introduction scene, which doesn’t match up so well.  In the Black Panther, the Thing and Johnny are introduced to their new teammates and the team-up idea is immediately accepted.  In the Fantastic Four this same introduction is not so easily introduced as a lengthy explanation is needed for the Thing and Johnny including the Embassy bomb plot which isn’t addressed at all in the Black Panther issue.  Further complicating matters is that in the Black Panther issue, Ben and Johnny are wearing their FF uniforms whereas in the Fantastic Four issue they are in civilian clothes.  Not to mention that Reed and Sue’s dress attire is different in both books as well.  Now leaping ahead to the first mission the Fantastic Four undertake, we notice that not only is Michael Collins completely left out of the Black Panther’s plot, but he’s also missing from their space flight panel.  In the Fantastic Four this is not the case as Michael is present.  Also they use a different space shuttle in both books.  Now these two scenes aside, the books do match up rather well in the panels that deal with the Wakandan Embassy moving in to the Baxter Building, showing that no matter how you look at it, Wakandans can make any place feel like home.  All in all these are minor nitpicks that would probably go unnoticed if these books came out in different weeks, but when read back to back it’s impossible to not notice these out of sync elements.  A little tighter editorial control would easily smooth these bumps over so that subsequent issues will hopefully not have these continuity gaffes.

On the art side, both pencillers due a decent enough job of handling their new characters, but if I have to choose which is better I’ll go with the more colorful and cleaner style of Portela with the Black Panther.

Verdict:  Both books are recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in these characters.  Also I highly recommend grabbing them to read as a pair so you can get the whole story on this new FF incarnation.  Fantastic Four gets my own personal nod as being the better of the two but don’t let that deter you from picking up Black Panther.

Quick Reviews:

Action Comics #847: Even the fill-ins for this book rock.  To buy some additional time for the Johns/Donner/Kubert group to play catch up, DC has enlisted Dwayne McDuffie, (who is 3 for 3 this week with Action Comics, Fantastic Four, and Firestorm) and Renato Guedes to provide a fill-in story.  The beauty of this fill-in is that it’s not a fill-in.  On top of his game as always, McDuffie provides a story of Pa Kent as he tries to console Martha as the news of Superman’s disappearance becomes too stressful for them.  McDuffie then uses this opportunity to weave a tale of father and son bonding that you’d only get out of a Superman comic.  Normally I loathe fill-ins, but if they continue to be of this caliber then I say by all means please go right ahead.

Verdict: Don’t let the lack of Johns fool you, this is a great story and sideplot for the current Zod arc that explores how tight a family the Kents are as well as how those closest to Superman struggle right along with him.

Silent War #3: The book that keeps on giving.  Every issue builds so perfectly off the last in subtle and not so subtle ways that also provide just enough payoff to make this my current favorite Marvel mini.  This issue’s focal point is Quicksilver, and I really find it odd that the architect of House of M is only followed up in X-Factor, Son of M, and the Silent War minis as opposed to a larger scale book like one of the main X-titles.  Quicksilver’s perversion of the Terrigen crystals is fully explored as well as his further mutation.  Meanwhile Madrox and Layla Miller make a guest appearance.  Writer David Hine uses this opportunity to write an excellent Layla Miller, so good and true to form, you’d swear it was PAD writing her in X-Factor.  The art was a bit shaky for me; it’s not badly drawn but I just don’t think Frazier Irving is the best fit for this story.

Verdict: So far this mini is just as good as Son of M and I love every issue.

Green Lantern #18: Not the best issue of Green Lantern, namely because the twist or lack thereof just doesn’t have any real payoff.  Johns has been setting up Cowgirl to be the next love interest and consequently the target for Star Sapphire and it all comes to fruition here.  Being able to see it from a mile away doesn’t add any excitement to it and the whole thing comes off as too much “been there, done that”.  The backup story is the first installment of the “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” and it is sweet.  This backup features on the villainous Despotellis.  I’m not going to spoil it because I really want you to check it out, but Despotellis is pure evil. Daniel Acuna, straight off Uncle Sam, does the fill-in art.  It’s good and I like his unique style but honestly I’d much rather have Ethan Van Sciver on his regular duties here.  Also if you’ve read the solicit for this issue, then you know that it advertises the Guardians interrogating the Cyborg Superman.  They lie.  That is nowhere to be found here.  So if you’re a big fan of mass murdering mechanical men like I am, don’t be fooled.  It’s a trap.

Verdict: Definitely check out the Sinestro Corps back-up feature.  The regular story however is hit or miss and should be individually judged at the racks.
 
Trade Off
By Pendragon Concepts:

Manhunter – The Special Edition

Plot:
Interpol agent Christine St. Clair is on the trail of a mysterious avenger, Paul Kirk, the Manhunter. As she digs deeper, Manhunter is more than what he seems. Once part of a secret organization known as the Council, it appears as if he both helping them and stopping them at the same time. A villain, at one moment. Hero next. Trained in ninjutsu and armed with exotic weapons, Manhunter leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. An unstoppable force. Christine is determined to find out the truth about Manhunter. And she’s not the only one, as Batman is hot on Manhunter’s trail as well. Will the hunter become the hunted?

Background:
This trade paperback collects the Manhunter short stories that appeared in Detective # 437 – 443. Written by Archie Goodwin & drawn by Walter Simonson. Goodwin passed away in ‘98, this is a great tribute to him. The Manhunter short stories won many comic awards for both story & art. This special collection also includes one of Goodwin’s last plotted work, with art by Simonson. This collection is great. Goodwin & Simonson take an extremely unknown Golden Age character & update him for the times. They flesh him out into a realistic character. The support cast is great as well. The action sequences are incredible. Visually stunning and dynamic.  Simonson created a unique look in Manhunter. One that can’t be copied or imitated.  You pick up this book, trust me, you won’t want to put it down. No storyline has come close to this series. It’s just an excellent read.

Pro’s & Con’s:

Pros: Archie Goodwin writing is flawless on this series. He takes a lesser know 40’s hero & re-creates him. The story is excellent. A story worth reading again & again.  Simonson art is cutting edge for its time. Introducing martial arts into comics. Showing ninjutsu, before it became popular culture.  The characters are flawed and the stories pacing is great. Nice mix of action & mystery.
Cons: This is the 3rd reprint of this trade paperback. It’s nice to honor someone, but where is the line between honoring someone & trying to make a buck.  DC could have done a better job on this reprint. The paper is cheap & makes the TPB flimsy.  It should have also been re-colored.

Hoss Note: This is a brand new section that will be touching on trades both new and old. Fwoosh’s very own DC guru Pendragon Concepts and our favorite Australian Son Simmo (yes there was a contest and Simmo won) will be alternating DC and Marvel trades.  This is their own section so all comments and compliments should be directed at them as well as any requests.  Next week Simmo will offer up his Marvel trade review of “The Essential Nova” which I’m sure any fan of Annihilation will not want to miss, plus I’ve already read his review and he does a great job so be sure to check it out in this very same place next week.

The Loser of the Week:

Hawkgirl #62: There’s a reason this book is getting cancelled in a couple of months and you need look no further than this issue to find out.  I’m a huge gigantic supernerd when it comes to New Gods and in this case the Female Furies, but they can’t even get Lashina to match up with her appearance in Firestorm this very same week.  After OYL this book could just never get itself going and my wallet paid the price.  You live, you learn.

 

Roundup (everything else):
Running behind this week so I’ll just throw up the shortened version, my apologies.

The Must Buys:
52
Catwoman
Daredevil

The Still Good:
Sensational Spider-Man
Wolverine
Spawn
Heroes for Hire
Firestorm
Wonder Woman
Wetworks
Blue Beetle
Batman (I expect better from you, Morrison!)

The Filler:
Ummm… Ponyhawks

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