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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 10/1/8

New issues of Blue Beetle and Fables, new graphic novel Janes in Love, 90’s Supergirl, ‘Mazing Man, and Catwoman.

Employee’s Pick

Catwoman 43

[DC] Catwoman Vol. 3 #38-43

Writers: Scott Morse (issues 38-40), Matteo Casali (issues 41 & 42), Andersen Gabrych (issue 43)
Pencilers: Paul Gulacy (issue 38), Diego Olmos (issues 39 &40), Brad Walker (issues 41 & 42), Rick Burchett (issue 43)

I’m low on books to review, and I still have all this Catwoman I bought in bulk, so yeah, let’s do that. Rather, let me, as I can’t recommend any of these.

With Ed Brubaker’s run over, the book goes into filler mode, rotating creative teams for short story arcs. First, an assassin named Mr. Nickel comes gunning for Selina. He has a… a wooden nickel for an eye and… wooden arms that somehow work like cybernetic parts. It hurts. Selina sums him up well: "It’s like someone threw a grease monkey mechanic, a swiss army knife, and Pinocchio in a blender and made me a bad guy." I’d say redneck truck driver instread of mechanic, but however you look at him he’s a mess.

Gulacy thankfully leaves only one issue after Brubaker – twelve issues too late – but Olmos is only servicable, an upgrade by default. Brad Walker is wasted on the worst mystery ever. Casali’s two-parter about a dogfighter who kills women when he isn’t punching dogs to death has the killer revealed at the start, then clumsily tries to obscure the truth. Or does it? Maybe it’s not meant to be a mystery for the reader. That’d be nice, but it still makes the characters look dumb for taking so long to figure out that the only suspect is, in fact, guilty. I’m not prepared to give Casali the benefit of the doubt with how poorly the story is written as a whole. The guy who runs the dogfights talks like a bad ethnic stereotype ("Ooo zee Hell are zeese kids, eh?"). What is he supposed to be? French? Canadian? French Canadian? Romanian. Romanian? Romanian. Oy.

Issue forty-three’s decent, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to track it down. It’s lighter in tone and color than previous issues, hearkening back to when Cameron Stewart was on the book, when it was good. Burchett’s more animated style fits the book better, and Gabrych delivers a story that’s neither too serious nor too light. Would help if he explained who Onyx is, though. I didn’t know before, and I don’t know now. She teams with Catwoman to fight Killer Croc, then under Black Mask’s control. Good times.

New-Type Books

Blue Beetle 31

[DC] Blue Beetle Vol. 7 #31

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Andre Coelho

This is part three of Sturges’ opening six-part story, Boundaries. As middle chapters tend to be, it’s fairly ho-hum. There’s a bit more of the snappy dialogue that made last issue so enjoyable, and the plot inches forward. It’ll probably end up an issue or two too long, which is standard for six-issue story arcs. It’s a decent issue overall, dragged down by a painfully bad scene where a thug pulls the cliche "stop me or save my victim! muahahahahaha!" and guest star Dr. Mid-Nite gets an unlikely assist from Jaime’s mom. In theory, it’s fine, but the execution is terrible. The "victim" is trapped under a little rubble, not in serious danger. Mid-Nite could punch the thug and dig her out in plenty of time. It kinda works with the good doctor’s "help first" motto, but it’s a stretch. What little ground the scene had to stand on is obliterated by the cracktastic dialogue, which I hope was meant to be tongue in cheek.

It’s worth noting that the medical jargon used in this issue is, for the most part, accurate to reality. Medicine/Comics blog Polite Dissent explains the terminology for those who are curious.

Fables 76

[DC] Fables #76
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Mike Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred

The first post-war issue, and naturally it’s filler. Almost unfair to call it that – Fables has the best filler – but it’s a break for regular artist Mark Buckingham, and it’s not a new storyline, soooo… filler. The Adversary’s been captured and forced – or "allowed" – to sign the general amnesty that all fables sign, forgiving past crimes and allowing admission into Fabletown. One thing this issue addresses is the question of what happens to Fabletown now that the war’s over. Apparently, nothing. It’s here to stay, and I guess most or all of its residents are staying. Groovy.

count the cost

This issue reads like it wrote itself, as in it flows so naturally from established events and characterization that it seems less a story than an adaptation of reality. The aged Adversary reacts badly to his new surroundings and position in life, the fables he’s been trying to kill for centuries react badly to him, and a good time is had by all. All readers, that is. Without any physical violence, this issue is nonetheless rife with delicious conflict. Easily the best of this week’s books. The Adversary is so wonderfully deluded, secure in the knowledge that he was right all along. I love hating him.

Back Issues

'Mazing Man 2

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #2
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Stephen DeStefano

This issue, ‘Mazing Man’s friends try to find out where he gets his money and why he keeps telling people the bathroom’s occupied when everyone they know is accounted for. Also, shoe shopping! As before, ‘Maze is charming enough to be more eccentric than crazy, and eccentric enough to serve as the foundation for quality humor. His supporting cast are a likeable bunch who get along poorly and aren’t sure what to do with ‘Maze, who brings them together simply by being himself.

Supergirl 7

[DC] Supergirl Vol. 3 #7
Writers: Peter David (dialogue), Gary Frank (plot)
Penciler: Gary Frank

More of Linda’s sordid past with the evil Buzz. This issue makes Linda out to be more of a victim than before, though it’s still Buzz leading her astray rather than dragging her. She chose her path, coercion notwithstanding. We also see Buzz built up more as a serious threat to Supergirl. He can’t take her in a fistfight, but through magic and subtle manipulation, he may yet win the day. Scary.


Janes in Love

[DC] Janes in Love

Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Jim Rugg

Minx is dead. The imprint that brought us Kimmie66, Water Baby, and other graphic novels aimed, nominally, at teenage girls has been cancelled less than two years into its life. It officially ends January of ’09, so this shouldn’t be the last Minx title released. It will be the last in this series, whether or not a sequel was planned.

This is the second title in what could perhaps be called a series, a direct sequel to The Plain Janes. In the first book, Jane Beckles was caught in a terrorist bombing. Though not seriously hurt, Jane was traumatized, and her parents moved the family to the suburbs shortly after. Jane strikes up a friendship with three other girls named Jane at her new school, and together they form People Loving Art in Neighborhoods, or P.L.A.I.N., and launch "art attacks" on the town. It’s harmless, if messy, fun, but the police aren’t happy about it.

The second book, obviously, is about the four Janes falling in love. Beckles already had something of a romance going on with two different boys in book one. That continues here, along with two new suitors, while each of the minor Janes get a single beau. Romance shares the spotlight with the overarching storyline, as Beckles works to legitimize P.L.A.I.N. while helping her mother recover from a friend’s death, trying not to be grounded constantly, and juggling four potential romantic interests of varying importance.

I quite enjoyed it, and would buy a third book if it found some way out. It’s ten bucks for lighthearted fun and one hundred forty-eight pages of superlative Jim Rugg artwork. A couple scenes in particular stood out to me, for seeming wrong when they weren’t. Twice during the story, you see a group of people positioned a certain way in one panel, then differently the next. My first impulse was to assume the artist had goofed, but on a second look that’s far from true. One scene has three people approaching Beckles. She runs away, and we see them watch her go, with her the two people on the outside of the group now on opposite sides. How could that be? Because she had to run past them to get at the only door in the place. Same thing with a later scene in a conference room. We see four people seated a certain way, from a certain angle. We leave the room, and when we return scant minutes later, they’ve switched seats! Except they haven’t. There was only one door into the room, and bursting in through that door created a different vantage point than we’d seen before.

The problem is, these books are shallow. The art may be subtly brilliant, but the story is not. Conflict is rounded at the edges to dull the impact. The supporting cast, after two books, remain two-dimensional. There’s Theatre Jane, Brainy Jayne, and Sporty Jane, and that’s all they are. Only Main Jane gets to be real. Even Beckles’ boyfriend barely gets any screen time, though it’s more than the other Janes’ BFs combined. The comical police nemesis is, thankfully, downplayed this time, though he’s as flat as ever when he does appear. The only other character who’s at all complex is Cindy, who’s something of a mystery. Is she a spoiled brat? Is she Jane’s friend? Does she like Jane, or like like her? She’s too prideful to let us know for sure, and like most of the cast, isn’t around nearly enough.


Catwoman – Dreadful.
Blue Beetle – A bit off, but mostly good.
Fables – Delicious cream filling.
‘Mazing Man – Funny stuff.
Supergirl – Solid issue. Subtly creepy.
Janes in Love – Fun, though shallow. I hope the series continues somehow.

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