Rapid-Fire Reviews: March Madness!!

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Or – “Named For The Roman God Martius, God Of War…”

 

Not to be confused with famed Martian general Marvin, whose computers are so complex and naughty… Traditionally, this month has signaled the beginning of the season of military campaigns, and also the time when college basketball generals lead their troops unto the field of battle. For me, working in small-market TV for as long as I did, it’s a month which signals mighty pains in the butt, which explains why this is technically the FEBRUARY edition of RFR. We apologize for the inconvenience… Better to just press on.

Previously, on Everything: Ronco is an American company that manufactures and sells a variety of items and devices, most commonly those used in the kitchen. Ron Popeil founded the company in 1964, and commercials for the company’s products soon Review_Bubble.jpgbecame pervasive and memorable, in part thanks to Popeil’s personal sales pitches. The names “Ronco,” Popeil,” and the suffix “-O-Matic” (used in many early product names) became icons of American popular culture and were often referred to by comedians introducing fictional gadgets. In the beginning, the company chiefly sold inventions developed by Popeil’s father, Samuel “S.J.” Popeil. Products include the Veg-O-Matic and the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, a product manufactured by S.J. Popeil’s company. During the 1970s, Ron Popeil began developing products on his own to sell through Ronco. Ronco became a household name with its commercials for kitchen products including the Ginsu knife, and Armorcote (and Armorcote II) non-stick saucepans and frying pans. Aired incessantly, especially during off-hour TV viewing times, these commercials became known for their catchphrases such as “…but wait, there’s more!” “50-year guarantee” (later expanded to a “lifetime guarantee”), and “…how much would you pay now?” In the 70’s Ronco created their own record label for compilations of popular tracks around the time of each album’s release. However, in fitting 10 to 12 tracks on each side of the albums, many tracks were edited by fading out from approximately 30-45 seconds before the actual end of the songs, much to the disappointment of listeners. When the infomercial, a program-length advertisement, was devised in the 1980s, it became one of the most popular forums for Ronco to sell its products; however, Ronco did not adopt the infomercial format for its products for several years.

AC1.gifAstro City – The Dark Age Book IV #1 (of 4): It really is great to see this title back on a monthly footing again, and I’m super-psyched to hear that Astro City will be returning as an ongoing regular series in 2010 or 2011. I’m also anticipating the denouement of Charles and Royal’s story (not that I haven’t been enjoying every issue of it thus far) as they spiral deeper and deeper into their pursuit of Aubrey Jason, the man who killed their parents. With their new arsenal of weapons and special vehicles, the Williams brothers are practically vigilantes themselves, and this issues brings back one of the plot points from the first book of this arc (one rather large one regarding Simon Magus, master of the mystic please-do-not-sue-for-I-am-not-Doctor-Strange arts) and the last (first?) appearance of the Silver Agent in his travels through the history of Astro City. For long-time fans of KBAC, there’s also the promise of a little backstory on the visually fascinating Honor Guard member called Mirage, who you may remember as looking like a living neon sign. Jason, for his part, wants to gain super-powers to finally rid himself of the men trailing him, and has collared a mad scientist called Ganss to get them… The question that remains unanswered is, who IS the supervillain in this particular piece? An excellent issue in a string thereof, but hey, it’s Astro City. Bottom line: It’s a whole world of awesome that comics fans should be in on. 4.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

AI1.gifAvengers – The Initiative #33: The Taskmaster is still dealing with the fallout of his ascension to the really big leagues in previous issues, as we join our Marvel U already in progress during Siege. With Thor fallen, the Dark Avengers have their big moment, but Norm-O is livid that Taskmaster went off-plan. Diamondback gets used as a political chip, Constrictor tries to prove his love for her, Night Thrasher debates turning on his team to return his dead brother to life using Blitzschlag’s cloning techniques, and the underground Avengers make their stand. As the fighting escalates in Oklahoma, the battle at Camp HAMMER turns really ugly as Tigra gets her claws into the man who tortured her months ago, and The Hood (ugh) tells Thrash that if he ever wants to see his brother again, he’ll kill Tigra… With this book exiting after Siege, the creative team seems to be ready to give nearly everyone a big moment to go out on. Even Penance shows off his badassery in an issue with strong art, but a few too many plot points in motion. I really want to see Constrictor and Diamondback make it as a couple, oddly enough. Bottom line: The Marvel Universe moves pretty fast, and I’m quite certain that if we don’t enjoy these characters quick, they’ll disappear for a year or three. 3.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

BNF1.gifBlackest Night – The Flash #3 (of 3): Now, granted, the Blue Lantern rings are a new component of the DCU, so it’s natural that some confusion would surround their operation, but I’m quite certain that Saint Walker said that they don’t work without the presence of a green ring, and I don’t believe that they’re just a different hue of the same thing Hal Jordan does. The writer of this book, however, does think so, which leads to my biggest issue with the book. Add to the problem Captain Boomerang Jr. keeping his father in a hole and feeding him innocents in the belief that it’s going to revive the Black Lantern to full human status. It’s pretty awful what happens here, and Cap Jr. takes some of the worst of it, and this issue ends with a pretty ham-fisted moment wherein Captain Cold and Barry Allen say the same thing from opposite sides of the emotional spectrum. The most fascinating thing about the issue is the appearance of the White Lantern symbol when Black Lanterns attempt to use their “emotional spectrum vision” on Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash. Much like Sinestro, apparently, Thawne represents all the colors of the wind, which makes me wonder exactly what we’re supposed to think about the heroes. Maybe the ability to focus on a single portion of the spectrum is considered the harder part? Either way, it’s pretty superfluous all around. Bottom line: You don’t read this, you ain’t missing anything much. 1.5 stars.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

BNQ1.gifBlackest Night – The Question #37: The dead coming home is the least of Renee Montoya’s problems, as Lady Shiva wants to test her the same way she tested Vic Sage back in the day. (That test, I might add, left Vic dead the first time.) Their battle is interrupted by the arrival of Vic himself, and the Black Lantern Question quickly takes advantage of his former friends. Once again, Renee and Shiva are shown to be locked into one portion of the spectrum (Compassion and will, respectively) which makes me think that we are to believe that emotional control is the mark of the hero. Professor Rodor gets involved, and is filled with avarice to find out the answer to the last question, the ultimate answer about life and death and the meaning of it all. Shiva manages to blind the revenant to her presence by quelling all her emotions, and Montoya realizes what they have to do. “Say goodbye to him!” she cries to the Professor, and the Vic Sage creature shambles away, all three of them imperceptible to his senses. The issue ends with Renee putting on her own mask and setting out to stop her predecessor. The art here (especially the implications of a skull behind Vic’s faceless mask) is very strong, and the presence of both Renee and Vic’s creative teams on this issue leads to a fascinating synthesis. Bottom line: It’s a good way to answer both Questions. 3.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

BAH1.gifBlackest Night – Atom & Hawkman #46: The original Silver Age Atom, Ray Palmer is one of those characters who is usually more important for what he represents than what he actually does. This issue takes that premise and stands it on it’s head, as Ray is forced to meet his shortcomings (no pun intended) head on in the form of his dead wife Jean and best friend Carter Hall. We learn (I think, I’m not sure on the timeline) that the Indigo power can be configured to duplicate the power structure of other portions of the emotional spectrum, compassion apparently allowing you to put yourself in the other man’s shoes. Ray is tortured by being forced to witness the murder of Sue Dibny, thanks to his soulless ex-wife (or a reasonable approximation thereof) and calls upon reserves even he didn’t expect to have to protect Indigo-1 and, essentially, save the entire universe. The issue ends with Ray tells Indigo that it’s time for her to return the favor by helping him bring the Hawks back to life. Ray’s threads resemble those from his ‘Sword Of The Atom’ days for a reason, folks, and the reason is that he’s got his mojo back. This issue is a nice showcase for an old-skool DCU mainstay, and proves that he’s still got some gas in the tank. As with Mera, I’m kind of hoping that DC doesn’t squander the goodwill I’m feeling about the character after his role in this big crossovery madness. Bottom line: The Atom doesn’t have to be torturing people’s sinus cavities to be interesting. 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Bo1.gifBoys Thirty-Nine: The other shoe finally drops in this issue, as Wee Hughie and Annie’s relationship continues apace and puts a hole in Butcher’s theory of the universe. Annie and Hughie enjoy the world of adult entertainment (which leads to a spat) Mother’s Milk engages the services of a lady of the evening (with unusual results) and The Frenchman tries to assuage the fury in the Female’s heart with a box full of classic 2000 A.D. comics. Butcher finally makes the connection between Hughie’s new girl and the Homelander’s new team member, and I believe we’re finally on the downward slope towards utter disaster. This book is weirdly moving, especially as regards Frenchie and Mother’s Milk, but we’ve had enough interlude for a while. It’s time to get back to what brung The Boys to the party: Swift and blinding violence. Bottom line: In my opinion, you can’t write this off as nothing but flash and no substance, but these last couple of issues seemed to be marking time. And while John McCrea is good, I still miss Darick. 3 stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BVS1.gifBuffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #32: Faster than a speeding bullet… More powerful than a locomotive… Able to angst angstily, like no one has angsted before. In the wake of the recent reveal *coughAngelcough* that is technically still in the future, at least at the time this comic came out (however than sentence began) it’s good to remember that Buffy has been, y’know, doing other stuff. Alexander Harris has a wonderful time this issue, geeking out mightily as Buffy tries to figure out the limits of her new super-powers. Xander goes down the list of things that a good superhero should be able to do (and he knows the difference between x-ray and penetra-vision) Dawn constantly reminds everyone of ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ and a clever reference to Buffy’s Kitty Pryde-ness should make Navarre happy. In other non-geekery news, Willow has finally realized that they’re missing Giles, Faith and Andrew, and goes looking for them. Her incantation isn’t specific, though, as she tries to find “the slayer who needs her most,” and finds not Faith, but a string of murdered Slayerettes. Worse still, she realizes the truth about Buffy’s new powers: She gains strength every time another slayer dies. Warren, Amy, and The General also show up, claiming to have turned on Twilight and offering to help Buff and company kick his ass. Bottom line: If she trusts Amy and Warren, Buffy’s even less circumspect than anyone would have suspected. It’s a pretty issue, though. 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

CA1.gifCaptain America #603: You may have heard a few things about this arc of Captain America, especially the part where it has enraged some right-wing types who think that they’re being mocked in it’s pages. There’s precious little actual mockery here, as the Commie-smashing Cap from the 50’s teams up with a group of Watchdogs to form his own militia, and Captain America IX tries to infiltrate his organization. Of course, this is the man who so ido0lized Captain America that he was willing to not only change HIS OWN face, but the face of an innocent kid , and he knows Bucky’s features by heart. The Falcon gets shanghaied for the vibranium in his wing harness, Bucky gets shut down hard, and I kinda hope that there’s more to their plan than meets the eye, because this makes them both look a bit amateurish. In the Nomad backup story, Rikki Barnes team up with Arana to face down the menace of Professor Power (isn’t he dead?) in the sewers under New York, but something sinister seems to be up with Arana. I don’t like this arc as much as previous ones, probably due to it’s overt political overtones, but it’s 0nly suffering in comparison with what has come before. Bottom line: This book isn’t about you, dear friends who have strong political views about how the world should operate, it’s a book about a a crazy man in star-spangled-underpants fighting against another man in star-spangled underpants. Take a deep breath, and come back in a month or three, and all will be well. 2 stars.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

DoW1.gifDoctor Who #8: The Tenth Doctor and his new companions, Matthew and Emily, have been left on a TARDIS trapped in temporal flux, with the control room lost and hostile aliens invading. Emily is sentenced to death, Matthew is strongly manipulated by the alien who has been trying to get the Doctor killed, and The Doctor finds himself trapped in echoes of his own past, quoting his previous incarnations before snapping back to reality. The world ends and the TARDIS explodes and they all dies horribly. No, really… That happens. Then, Emily manages to get away from her death sentence, return to reality and save the day, which retroactively happened all along. That’s what’s great about a Doctor Who story, folks, even the LITERAL end of the world isn’t the end of the world. Matthew gets his hands on the Journal of Vislor Turlough, and The Doctor gets a call from Martha Jones, requesting his assistance on Earth with a matter of UNIT importance. Al Davison’s art is a wonder, showing subtlety where necessary and capturing the rubber-faced nature of David Tennant’s performance, and Tony Lee turns in another lovely, nuanced, clever and reference-laden script. It’s good to see that somewhen or other, the tragic Doctor Ten is still going strong. Bottom line: It’s hard to do good Doctor Who, but IDW has captured a particular lightning in a strangely-shaped yet still pleasing bottle. 4.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

DP1.gifDoom Patrol #7: Last issue, we were given a glimpse into the mind of Larry Trainor, or at least the creature who is currently calling itself Larry. That look at the original Doom Patrol is balanced here with a strong emphasis on the Grant Morrison post-Crisis Doom Patrol, with appearances by Danny The Street/World, cameos by The Quiz and the Painting That Ate Paris, and the return of a lost member: Crazy Jane. In an attempt to take all the bizarre eras of the Doom Patrol and create one solid continuity out of them, we also see Conrad Jost, the money-man behind the early-90’s era Doom Patrol, albeit possessed by someone or something else. In a moment that makes me smile, we see the return of the Animal/Vegetable/Mineral Man, and the promise of a conflict with him in the near future. It’s an issue that’s all setup and tension, and one that oddly works as well as nearly any issue to date, given the difficulty in resolving all DP eras into one book. The Metal Men backup is funny, and a bit risque (Giganta’s top bursts open) with some old school JLI anticlimax built in (a foe who was building to be a major antagonist literally blows right up) and works better as a character piece than a story:. Bottom line: Giffen’s still got it, and the artists do some good stuff here. 3.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

EL1.gifElementals (Vol. 2) #1: So, everyone wants to know the answer to one important question: WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED TO THE ELEMENTALS? After defeating an Iron Golem, the team disappeared off the public’s radar, and no less than Ted Koppel wants some answers. While he interviews the team’s government backer and their caretaker, Lawrence, the answer is given to those of us lucky enough to be omniscient overseers: The Elementals are in an adjacent dimension, hanging out with Merlin Ambrose and enjoying some down time. Of course, that leaves rival super-team The Rapture very high in the public eye, and their backer, Reverend Skagg has harsh words concerning the fitness of the fearsome foursome to continue in the hero game. While Skagg denounces them as demons, Morningstar, Fathom, Vortex and Monolith fight off a horde of jet-powered sky-sharks in an explosion of awesome unseen since the Mooninites arrived in Jersey. It’s good to see Bill Willingham back on the book that got him started, especially after some of the lackluster stories that ended the Volume 1 run of this title, and Mike Chen and Mike Leeke really rock the visuals. Bottom line: The only thing that could destroy my goodwill for this title would be if the whole thing turned into a giant endless crossover and relaunched as a mindless series of miniseries without any of the point of view that makes the book so much fun. But what are the odds of that happening, anyway? 3.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

G101.gifGreat Ten #4 (of 10): The story behind the Immortal Man In Darkness is told, as we meet the young pilot who has been chosen to bond with the Durlan fightercraft to become the IMID. Of course, in a total subversion of most superhero cliches, we also meet the other men in his squadron, who will pick up the role when the symbiosis inevitably kills him in less than a year. Immortal Man In Darkness does what Thundermind couldn’t, scoring a clear win over one of the “gods” of ancient China that have been holding the country hostage, and they discover that the particular source of the faux-deities power is a familiar one, perhaps even the same one that empowers Immortal Man himself? Scott McDanie lis a welcome presence on any comic, as his unique stylings give the book a texture and a point-of-view that is at once striking and strangely foreign in it’s depictions. Bottom line: A book about China’s superhuman functionaries can’t be just the same old, same old, and this book delivers both an unconventional story and unconventional visuals, making both work in a new way. 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

GL1.gifGreen Lantern #50: Harold Jordan leads an interesting life. Once just a pilot, he’s now floating in space with his ex-girlfriend and the man whose job he usurped, wearing glowing color jewels, while trying to shoot a cosmic zombie innaface. That’s new and different. In the wake of the startling events of Blackest Night #6, Hal Jordan and the New Guardians (along with their new heralds) confront Nekron to try and stave off the endless wave of dead guys from space. The arrival of the Black Lantern Spectre creates a desperate situation, one which Hal Jordan reasons is worth risking bonding himself to the Parallax symbiote again. And, I’ll tell ya, I was there the first time and I had forgotten how butt-ugly that armor really was. Sinestro tries to get in the way of Hal’s ascension to the apex of HIS corps emotional spectrum, but the bonding still takes, and the hostless Spectre (not to be confused with the Hostess Ding Dong) faces down with Parallax for a second time. Aside from it being Green Lantern #50 (Volume 5, that is, sort of an anniversary of Hal’s original Parallax transformation in GL V.4 #50) I’m unsure of the reasoning behind this moment, undermining as it does most of the drama of the whole Parallax fooferaw in the first place. Bottom line: We have to fill the skip month somehow, and occasionally even a good story gets padded out to fill up a trade paperback. Doug Mahnke can draw his butt off, though… 3 stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

GL2.gifGreen Lantern #51: Picking up where the last issue left off, we find Larfleeze and Lex Luthor fighting for possession of the Orange Lantern, Parallax ostensibly fighting to free the Spectre from the influence of the Black Lantern ring, and the combination of yellow and green energy destroys the Black Lantern infestation. Of course, that leaves us with the problem like Parallax, and that ain’t solved as easily as Tony solved the problem like Maria… A skillful application of red ring leads us to an even scarier situation: A Red Lantern Spectre. Hal is freed from the parallax entity by his love for Carol (Star Sapphire) Ferris, and the Parallax creature is teleported away by someone or something unknown. But even a newly freed Spectre can’t judge Nekron, as the alien monster death thing has no soul to judge, and Nekron strides forward, ready to destroy the entirety of the universe. If you’ve read our review of Blackest Night #7, you know where this is going. bottom Line: I’m starting to get bothered by the ping-ponging about of rings possessing everyone willy-nilly, no matter how strong the crossover started out. 2.5 stars.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

GLC1.gifGreen Lantern Corps #45: Speaking of rings going ping-pong-ping, have you heard the one about Red Lantern Guy Gardner? After the riots on Oa, Kyle Rayner gave his life in battle to secure the lives of his best pal and girlfriend. (He got better, mind you…) Even though Kyle was saved, the anger that Guy Gardner felt made him a target for a red power ring, sent forth by Atrocitus to build his new Corps. As we kick off this issue, a raging Guy engages his former GLC partners full-on, with sheer malice and untempered rage, while they all handle the combat with kid gloves in the hopes of saving his life. Anybody remember Hal Jordan shaking off a red ring infestation not so long ago? It apparently won’t work anymore, as Guy’s life will be forfeit if he removes the crimson fingerband, leading Mogo to not only socialize, but provide a green transfusion to replace Guy’s blood. (They were, apparently, all out of Folger’s Crystals, the only coffee rich enough to replace human blood.) The entire GLC then powers up and meets with the Indigo Tribe to teleport to Earth for the big fighty-fighty, again seen in Blackest Night #7. Bottom line: Mogo is a strong concept as a planet who can’t socialize. Make him just another ring-bearer, and his needle swings from “high concept” to “dumb joke.” This one just doesn’t seem to get what makes the Corps, Guy Gardner or Mogo tick, and that’s a big weakness. 2 stars.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

GG1.gifGuardians Of The Galaxy #23: So, Adam Warlock is dead, right? And he killed half of the Guardians of the Galaxy to power his church, including Moondragon’s lover Phyla-Vell, now the avatar of death called Martyr. In an M.Night Shamalamadingdong “What a tweest!” moment, the lost Guardians aren’t dead at all, they’re just sleeping, but only Ard Adam Warlock can awaken them. The living Guardians, led by Star-Lord, end up working security for former Negative Zone bugaloo Blastaar, and end up saving his life, but the chaos causes Moondragon to mind-meld with the long-thought-dead Martyr, allowing her to bust free of the Universal Church’s dungeon. As we end the issue, Martyr, Major Victory, Mantis, Cosmo and Gamora stalk out of the wreckage looking highly ticked off. “Who wants to go save the universe?” asks Phyla as we fade to black. Wes Craig’s art has been the subject of much debate here at Major Spoilers, but this issue works for me, even in it’s semi-cartoony state. Abnett and Lanning continue to make Marvel’s space-faring books one of the strongest lines in comics (maybe even in comics history.) Bottom line: Cosmic adventure hasn’t rocked like this since Norrin Radd was drawn by John Buscema. 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

IN1.gifInvincible #70: The son of the super-powerful Omni-Man, a superhero who turned out to be the herald of an invasion force, Mark “Invincible” Grayson has been focused on other menaces recently. This focus on admittedly bigger things has made the sudden resurgence of the alien Sequids somewhat of a surprise, and the success with which their attempted takeover of Earth has met has surprised everyone. Teamed up with the Guardians of the Globe, he fights against the aliens, but when things seem lost, Mark has a familiar tantrum. “You will not enslave this planet. MY PLANET!” Mark is so stunned by the sudden invasion of his Viltrumite genes that the octopi from Mars manage to overcome him. Invincible strikes back though, punching the leader of the Sequids so hard that the hosts head is separated from its body. While the ramifications of this become clear, Mark’s brother Oliver (Kid Omni-Man) finds out that his aging is starting to slow, Robot and Monstergirl have a tender moment, and Invincible’s girlfriend Eve tries to make him feel better about his loss of control. Suddenly, a teleport door opens, and Mark’s former boss, Cecil steps out. “We really need to talk,” says the super-spy, as we fade to black. Invincible’s actions are eve more concerning since we know that his father and Allen the Alien are trying to gather forces to stop the Viltrumite empire once and for all. Bottom line: It’s hard to say which side Invincible will fall on in this war, and that makes for good comics. 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

INA1.gifInvincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode #3 (of 3): Speaking of “girlfriend Eve,” as Atom Eve, she has had a lengthy and respectable superhuman career of her own. After a miniseries explaining her origins a couple of years ago, this series has been telling the story of how her former boyfriend Rex Splode got his powers, how they met, and how they became a team. Rex and Eve have finally tracked down the mysterious Mr. Erickson, the man whose hand was felt in both their origins, and engaged him in combat. The battle gets dicey, but Rex saves the day by blowing up Erickson’s entire compound, and both kids escape in the confusion. The twosome get new uniforms, Eve sneaks him into her home, and Rex finally finds what HE has been lookin for: The father who essentially sold him into slavery for a fast buck. But before he can blow up his former family’s home, Rex is stunned to see that he has a little brother, and cannot bring himself to kill his family after all. We end the issue slightly before the Invincible series launched, with Rex and Eve a couple, and Mark Grayson in the wings waiting for his powers to bloom. This issue is a nice ending, though I’m not sure that this miniseries had to be three issues long. Bottom line: Atom Eve is a great character, and her interplay with Rex makes me sad that he’s dead. Black Lantern ring anyone? 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

IR1.gifIrredeemable #11: The story of the Plutonian is getting more and more complicated with each issue. Initially a straightforward tale of a hero gone wrong, each issue has added layers to the mystery, and depth to the man, until we come to the point where those who would oppose the Plutonian seem to be as menacing (if not more so) than Plutonian himself. After last issue’s revelation that Bette Noire had an affair with the Plutonian, the demon Orian has agreed to let her live in return for the real secret she is holding. Bette explains that, when she started dating her future husband Gilgamos, she was somewhat bothered by how safe, how comfortable with himself he really was. She began looking at Plutonian because he WASN’T so self-assured, because she felt he had a dangerous side. Blatantly attempting to seduce him, Bette was at first excited when he responded, and was stunned when he produced a magic artifact reputed to turn him mortal for a time. So transformed, Plutonian and Bette shared a night of passion, during which she was horrified to look into his eye and see a monstrous truth there. Bette had stolen a bit of the artifact (a candle, which made him mortal for as long as it burned) but Orian tells her that seven that isn’t the real secret… Before we find out what it is, though, we cut to Plutonian and the “resurrected” Samsara, visiting a couple who turn out to be his adoptive brother and sister, and learn the story of why he was returned to the orphanage by their family. It’s a chilling tale, but not as chilling as the look on the demon Orian’s face as he tells Bette he’s going to explain her real secret to her superhero partners. Bottom line: Mark Waid has made a game out of defying every expectation I have for this book, and this issue is no exception. 4.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

JH1.gifJonah Hex #52: The title of this story is €œToo Mean To Die.€ The story actually bears that feeling out, as Jonah shows up on a woman’s doorstep, wounded from a gunshot, and tells the story of being gutshot by a young boy in the bayou. Now hunted by the boy’s family, Jonah has put the woman and her son in danger, and she rages at him to leave. He doesn’t, of course, and in the course of events we find that the people on Jonah’s trail are actually her own cousins. Jonah kills them all to save his own life, until the last man threatens to kill her baby to save his life. Jonah ends up shooting the man (with a little help from the woman herself, struggling with him over a rifle) and leaves her alone to bury her kin. After recent issues of this book, especially the moving issue #50 with the story of his child with Tallulah Black, I had worried that Jonah might mellow. Apparently, I was worried for no reason. Bottom line: Jonah Hex’s stories are not at all for the squeamish or faint of heart, and he is by no means a hero, just a protagonist in a world full of ugly people. A fine story, told well. 4.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

JSA1.gifJustice Society Of America #36: One of the great difficulties in writing a book about the JSA comes when you realize that the Justice Society, like Captain America, are inextricably tied to the World War II theatre of operations. This issue starts puzzlingly, 20 years in the future, as an aging Mr. Terrific tells the story of how his friends and partners in the JSA died. Given that shocking bit of information, we cut back to the present, soon after the events of the last couple of issues. Having put the traitorous All-American Boy (a.k.a. Kid Karnevil) in their brig, the Justice Society is surprised when someone arrives to bust him out, and Alan Scott is immediately killed (!!) in the attempt. The Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick is taken down quickly, and Captain Nazi uses his magical strength to kill Wildcat. Fortunately, €˜Cat keeps his nine lives numbered for just such an emergency. Mr. Terrific’s tale is a harrowing one, particularly the bits wherein he is telling it, with the strong implication that he lives in a totalitarian Fourth Reich future, and even his titanic will has been broken. This all has the makings of some first-class apocalyptic storytelling, and Bill Willingham does apocalyptic like few others can. This is shaping up to be the best JSA tale in some time. Bottom line: Seeing the original Green Lantern die on panel is a lot more affecting than I thought it might be, and I am dying to see how this ends. With luck, we’ll get to see some Nazis punched into next week. I’ll bring popcorn… 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

KA1.gifKick-Ass #8: With Big Daddy dead, Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are facing a horde of gun-crazy capos all by themselves. Hit-Girl shoots herself up with a €œhealing factor€ (€œIs that cocaine?€ asks Kick-Ass) before the twosome leaps into action, and pulls a flamethrower out of her Hello, Kitty bag to wipe out dozens of their opponents at once. Kick-Ass faces down against the Red Mist with only a chair-leg to his credit, and bets his former friends face in soundly. €œYour old man was right about you,€ he snarls. €œYou are a #$&*ing $#&@.€ Strong words. True, but strong. Hit-Girl kills her way to the head man, but gets waylaid and beaten for her efforts, until Kick-Ass arrives to shoot him in the€¦ um€¦ the unmentionables. It is REALLY hard to review this book and remain family-friendly, I might add. Hit-Girl kills the mafiosa with a cleaver from his own kitchen, and the two superheroes are left to try and figure out what the hell comes next. Hit-Girl heads home to her mommy, while Kick-Ass finds the strength to tell the girl he loves of his feelings. She is, of course, furious, and her boyfriends stomps his face into the dirt. We end with another masked man sending Kick-Ass an email, ending with a familiar quote: €œWait til’ they get a load of ME!€ Bottom line: It’s a $&@*ing winner. 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

No1.gifNova #34: Poor Richard Ryder.. You’d think that fighting the Sphinx since his freshman year of high school would tell him something about the immutable nature of time itself. Alongside Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Namorita and Darkhawk, Rich is forced to face a number of stone-empowered foes (Bloodstone, Moonstone, Man-Wolf, Basilisk and Raptor) for the fate of the very universe. Unfortunately, the presence of Darkhawk is a variable in the battle between two-time-tossed versions of the Sphinx, and DH ends up being controlled by the young (and more evil) version, allowing him to combine the power of two Ka stones into one being€¦ Power enough to destroy the entire universe. Rich’s hopes of saving Black Bolt and his girlfriend are thus dashed by the realization that they’ve just killed the entire universe. Bottom line: Win some, lose some. Abnett and Lanning again, and the magic is still working. 4 stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

SW1.gifS.W.O.R.D. #4: It’s a quirky little comic, with a specific sensibility and an unusual art style. It was, in all probability, eventually doomed. That doesn’t change how much I hate the fact that this issue of S.W.O.R.D. is the best so far, and it’s building towards something that really seems like it has potential. The alien Metroliths arrive at Mount Rushmore, enraged that someone has decapitated the stone figures there, and the inevitable battle ensues. Agent Brand and the Beast play a smart game here, and it’s obvious that Henry Gyrich is out of his league. The mysterious alien Unit joins forces with the Drenx warlords, and their goal is the melt and destroy everyone on Earth and dance on our graves. Classy€¦ It’s really starting to rock with this title, making me sad that it’s nearly over. Same issue I had with Brother Voodoo. Bottom line: Somebody at Marvel needs to learn some frickin’ patience. 3.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

TB1.gifThunderbolts #141: So, there’s this Siege? In Oklahoma and/or Asgard? And everybody is, y’know, fighting in it and stuff? And there’s a lot of €œCRACKADOOOM€ and €œPEW! PEW! PEW!€ and €œCLANG!€ But Norm-O isn’t nearly as smart as he gives himself credit for, as his strategy depends on a team that’s fragmented, with one member murdered at the hand of another, and stuff. Still, the team’s mojo is strong enough to sneak/break their way into the vaults of Asgard, where they find a stockpile of mystical weapons, including the Spear of Odin. Their conflicting worldviews cause some strife, but the Thunderbolts don’t really have time to worry about it, as before they can escape, they’re attacked by Hank Pym’s Mighty Avengers. €œOh, $#!+,€ says Eric (Ant-Man) O’Grady, summing the whole thing up nicely. It’s a pretty good issue, and the art (by Miguel Sepulveda) is revelatory, clear, concise and striking. Bottom line: It’s nice to see character who have no business being in Asgard being in Asgard. 3 stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆