Archive for October, 2004

Superman: True Brit

October 25, 2004 | Comics

Superman: True Brit Kim "Howard" Johnson, John Cleese, John Byrne, Mark Farmer, Alex Bleyaert DC Comics $37.95/$24.95 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) Superman used to fight for truth, justice and the American way, but now he’s just too proper for all that. True Brit, an Elseworlds tale co-written by comedy legend John Cleese along with Kim “Howard” Johnson, imagines that instead of Kansas, the Man Of Steel lands in rural England, where he receives a ‘veddy proper’ upbringing. Rather than being taught to right wrongs and help the helpless, Colin Clark, as he is named by his adoptive parents, is taught the most important of English credos: what would the neighbours think? This mentality keep young Colin from becoming a hero, but his nature still leads him to become a reporter. The only difference is that he signs on with a tasteless U.K. tabloid, called The Daily Smear, and proceeds to become part of the problem by using his super-powers to scoop the competition. But the desire to use his powers for good – in spite of the neighbour’s opinions — is too strong and Superman takes centre stage after swooping in to rescue a pair of celebrities in danger. The Man Of Steel quickly becomes embroiled in a hilarious circle of doing great things in costume — like getting the British rail system to run on time and speeding up the waiting times for hip-replacement surgery — and having to write innuendo about himself as Colin for the paper. True Brit is a scathing look at British culture and a riotous re-imagining of the Superman legend.

Coup D’Etat

October 25, 2004 | Trades

Coup D’Etat Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, Robbie Morrison, Micah Wright, Jim Lee, Carlos D'Anda, Ale Garza, Whilce Portacio Wildstorm/DC Comics $19.95/$12.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) The U.S. government is run by a bunch of power-hungry crooks and their latest attempt to prove they are the world’s supreme power backfired and cost the lives of millions of Americans. They must be stopped. That’s why there’s The Authority. After Florida is decimated following a U.S. attempt to gain access to the inter-dimensional realm The Authority live in, the group, which has always been dedicated to the betterment of humankind as opposed to battling super-villains, finally decide enough is enough — and stage a coup to take over control of the U.S. government. This action doesn’t sit well with some of the other heroes of the Wildstorm Universe, such as Stormwatch: Team Achilles and the WildC.A.T.s who try, futilely, to stop them. Of course, the real mastermind behind the disaster is Tao, the villain from Sleeper, who’s main occupation seems to be destabilizing the planet. This latest crossover in the Wildstorm Universe really shakes up the status quo. It sets the stage for The Authority: Revolution (debuting this Wednesday) and takes the idea of super-heroes fighting for the best interests of humanity to its most extreme — whether humanity likes it or not.

Star Wars: Empire Vol. 3 — The Imperial Perspective

October 25, 2004 | Trades

Star Wars: Empire Vol. 3 — The Imperial Perspective Welles Hartley, Paul Alden, Jeremy Barlow, Ron Marz, Davide Fabbri, Patrick Blaine Dark Horse Books $17.95 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Honour, courage and loyalty aren’t the usual words used in reference to the bad guys. But Star Wars: Empire takes the novel approach of looking at the Galactic Empire, and more importantly the soldiers of Imperial army, as people. The four stories in this third collection of Empire tales starts with a look at the deep friendship between an Imperial officer and his bodyguard; continues with how Darth Vader is the leader of the pack — literally —after crash landing on an alien world; moves on to career advancement in the Imperial army in a Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid scenario; and concludes with an exercise in why not to mess with Vader. You’ll be amazed at how easily you begin to empathize with the bad guys (well, maybe not Vader) and forget that they are the Empire.

Dead@17: Blood Of Saints

October 25, 2004 | Trades

Dead@17: Blood Of Saints Josh Howard Viper Comics $14.95 US (paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Nara Kilday was brought back from the dead to serve as an agent of evil. But when she turned down the job, evil went to plan B. Blood Of Saints, the sequel to last year’s smashing success Dead@17 by writer/artist Josh Howard, gives Nara her opposite number, the venomous Violet, who embraces the power offered to her by the monster Bolabogg and tries to lure Nara into a battle by kidnapping and torturing Nara’s best friend. An entertaining sequel that holds up well against the first book, Blood Of Saints continues to showcase Howard’s talents for developing great characters and drawing a lot of sexy women.

The Authority: Human On The Inside

October 4, 2004 | Comics

The Authority: Human On The Inside John Ridley, Ben Oliver Wildstorm/DC Comics $37.95/$24.95 US (Hardcover) *** 1/2 (out of five) Human On The Inside is the best Authority story to come along in quite a while — but that was easy. This original 96-page story by novelist and screenwriter John Ridley (Three Kings, Everybody Smokes In Hell) and up-and-coming artist Ben Oliver is a far cry better than the most-recent Authority monthly series that, frankly, stank. But compared to creator Warren Ellis’ original series — a group of heroes banding together for the betterment of humankind as opposed to fighting the villain-du-jour, which was edgy, smart, funny and groundbreaking in it’s use of violence and real-world sensibilities — Human On The Inside is still a long ways off. Ridley does have an original spin on The Authority — that their innate humanity can be a weakness that can be exploited. This makes for some interesting group tensions, which take the heroes’ eyes off their jobs and pushes reality to the brink of destruction. But while this is certainly an entertaining story, it is not much more. There is little of that dark sense of humour that made the early Authority stories so memorable (except for one scene that sees a manure bomb explode over Paris — ooh, la, la), and the use of openly gay characters, violence and swearing just isn’t the shocker it was five years ago. The best way to describe Human On The Inside is “better”. And with the much-anticipated The Authority: Revolution #1 coming later this month, featuring writer Ed Brubaker (Sleeper, Queen & Country), the best may be yet to come.

Challengers Of The Unknown Must Die!

October 4, 2004 | Trades

Challengers Of The Unknown Must Die! Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale DC Comics $30.95/$19.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) If you don’t know about Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, you don’t know much about comics. For over a decade, this writer/artist duo has combined to produce some unforgettable stories that have brought something new and fresh to established characters, such as Batman in The Long Halloween and Dark Victory and two of Marvel’s best in Daredevil: Yellow and Spider-Man: Blue. While most comic fans’ memories of Loeb and Sale’s partnership begins in 1993 with the first of three fantastic Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight Halloween Specials, it was actually two years earlier that they initially collaborated. It was a little known and widely ignored miniseries featuring 1950s heroes, The Challengers Of The Unknown. This eight-issue limited series, just released in collected form as Challengers Of The Unknown Must Die!, deals with the death of a team member, the destruction of the team’s headquarters and the consequences which lead to the team’s breakup. But on a deeper level, the story examines the price of fame, what the term “hero” really means and how hard it can be for people to let go of the past. While the art isn’t reflective of Sale’s future heights, there are flashes of brilliance especially in his use of design and inks. Challengers Of The Unknown Must Die! isn’t a modern classic. It’s not a must-read or an essential. It is simply an early prototype of what we’ve come to expect from Loeb and Sale: a well-told, smart-looking story. It’s up to you to decide if you want to start from the beginning.

JLA Vol. 14: Trial By Fire

October 4, 2004 | Trades

JLA Vol. 14: Trial By Fire Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, Tom Nguyen DC Comics $19.95/$12.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Now this is more like a JLA story should be. Faithful readers of this space will remember that the review of JLA Vol. 13: Rules Of Engagement was — in short — not exactly flattering. But the team of writer Joe Kelly and artists Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen have gotten out of the doghouse with Trial By Fire, an epic, globe-spanning six-part story which focuses on the Martian Manhunter’s fear of fire. After thousands of stories over the years where the Manhunter — an alien with the powers of flight, super-strength, invisibility, telepathy and metamorphosis — is felled by any goon with a Bic lighter, he finally decides to do something about it. But his therapy to conquer this fear, with the help of small-time super-villain Scorch, accidentally breaks a genetic block and unleashes Fernus, a creature of fire that corrupts the Manhunter’s body and decides to burn down the planet. In order to stop Fernus from destroying Earth with the help of hundreds of nuclear weapons, Batman calls upon the League’s most powerful reserve member: Plastic Man? The long-awaited return of Plas, a key member of the JLA while this series was under the pen of Grant Morrison, is most welcome. His levity mixed with his — pardon the pun — flexibility makes him an integral part of this super-team. In the end, Trial By Fire is about new beginnings. The Manhunter returns to the League, Plas is back as a hero and, with Fernus, the DC universe has a very interesting villain to play with in the future.

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Setting Sun

October 4, 2004 | Trades

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Setting Sun Warren Ellis, Frank Teran, Tim Bradstreet, Marcelo Frusin, Javier Pulido, James Romberger Vertigo/DC Comics $19.95/$12.95 US (Paperback) ** 1/2 (out of five) It’s just four and a half months until the release of the Constantine movie starring Keanu Reeves. Let the Hellblazer push begin. Setting Sun contains four issues — including five stories — all written by one of the best in the biz, Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Planetary). Five different artists — all with differing styles — draw these tales, ranging from Hellblazer veteran Marcelo Frusin to cover artist extraordinaire, Tim Bradstreet. Bradstreet’s tale, The Crib, is simply outstanding. After seeing so many covers to Hellblazer and Punisher issues in this artist’s gritty, shadowy ultra-realistic style, seeing a complete story by him borders on a religious experience. One can only hope he decides to do things like this more often. Now that the complimentary stuff is out of the way, here’s the reality: while these stories are all very good, this book is pricey and not up to the usual value readers are used to from Vertigo/DC. Only four issues for $19.95? The issues only cost $4 each new. And no bonus material, no forward, sketches or anything? Setting Sun is certainly an interesting read and there is a lot to like, but you may find yourself questioning whether you got your money’s worth when you finish it in 30 minutes.

Thundercats: Hammerhand’s Revenge

October 4, 2004 | Trades

Thundercats: Hammerhand’s Revenge Fiona Avery, Carlos D'Anda Wildstorm/DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 US (Paperback) * (out of five) Who says you can’t keep beating a dead horse? Thundercats: Hammerhand’s Revenge, the fourth collection of tales of the warrior felines from Wildstorm, starts out with a very plausible plot and quickly turns into one giant Snarf joke. For those not into Thundercats, which was a very popular afternoon cartoon series in the mid-1980s, Snarf used to be nursemaid to Lion-O, lord of the Thundercats. But after the king grew up, Snarf had a hard time letting go and continued to be the voice of caution, if occasionally cowardice in the group. He also has a strange habit of saying his name over and over again and referring to himself in the third person e.g. “Snarf thinks that if we do that, we’ll get Snarfed.” But anyone who has watched the show knows that the root of the character’s fears and annoyance is his love of his friends, not that he’s an obnoxious pain, like writer Fiona Avery would have you believe in this collection. While the plot is supposed to revolve around rescuing Thundercat ally Hachiman from old nemesis Hammerhand the pirate, it quickly becomes about bashing Snarf. There’s joke after joke about the way he talks, about his cowardice and, sadly, even about his flatulence. Resorting to fart jokes? That’s just sad. And worst of all is a one-page internal monologue by Lion-O where he keeps denigrating Snarf and thinking of him as “stupid”. Anyone who has watch this cartoon knows that while Lion-O thinks Snarf can be overbearing, that he loves him like an uncle and would never refer to him in such harsh terms. And one last note for Wildstorm: after three straight collections set after the Thundercats’ cartoon ends, this series appears to be set in the past. A timeline or explanation of continuity would be nice.

The Crow: Flesh & Blood

October 4, 2004 | Trades

The Crow: Flesh & Blood James Vance, Alex Maleev Dark Horse Books $9.95 US (Paperback) ** 1/2 (out of five) James O’Barr’s original story of The Crow was poignant and heartbreaking. A man is murdered, his girlfriend raped and killed and like in an ancient legend, a crow brings the man’s soul back to his body to exact vengeance on those responsible. Part brutal crime-noir, part touching love story, The Crow evoked a wide range of emotions and struck such a chord that it became a cult hit, and — thanks to Hollywood — a household name. Flesh & Blood takes the familiar concept — a brutal murder followed by a resurrection — and makes Iris Shaw into The Crow. But Iris hasn’t just come back to make the men who killed her pay for her death — she’ll make them pay for the life of her unborn child, too. While a female Crow is interesting, this tale follows the formula a little too closely and becomes predictable. Only the beautiful black-and-white art by Alex Maleev (Daredevil) makes it stand out, and in such a slim collection, that may not be enough.