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Justice Society of America #38

In the present day, the Darkness Engine activates, and every superhero and supervillain in the world gets depowered, leading to a bunch of deaths (Aquaman and everyone in Atlantis, plus all the Earth-based Green Lanterns) and a lot of injuries (Superman barely survives a steep fall). After that, all the world’s heroes are rounded up by the new Nazi regime. And in the future, Nazi media personalities are making small-talk before the special state execution of Batman to commemorate a visit by the Fuhrer. Mr. Terrific is pretending to collaborate with the Nazis in an attempt to acquire technology to knock out the Darkness Engine, and to complete the scheme, he needs to pay a visit to the infirmary to get medical supplies — and the easiest way there is to have someone beat him halfway into a coma. Are any of his ex-superhero friends willing to deliver the necessary beatdown?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a pretty grim story — okay, it’s a very, very grim story — but that’s to be expected from these kinds of time travel epics. There are several good surprises here and there, too. These Nazis are really unpleasant to have to read — I sure hope they pay us back by having a heck-of-a-lotta Nazi bludgeonings before this is all over.

The Guild #2

Cyd Sherman is on top of the world — her mostly-shallow punk rock boyfriend Trevor wants her to contribute more to his band, write some songs, help with marketing, you name it. No, wait, he’s gonna grab the credit for all that and continue to mostly ignore her. So it’s back to the fantasy world of “The Game,” where she meets some more friends, goes on some more quests, fights some zombies, and picks some bluebells. On one hand, playing the game is helping her stick up for herself more — on the other hand, she’s slacking off on some of her other duties… and her relationship with Trevor takes a surprise turn…

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. A bit more soap-opera than I’m interested in handling. I know that’s half the point of comic books, but I still have a hard time working up much enthusiasm for the evolution of Cyd’s neuroses.

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Spider-Man: Fever #1

It’s been quite a while since Brendan McCarthy had a new comic out, so this one has gotten quite a bit of interest. We start off with the Vulture attacking Spider-Man at the same time as Dr. Strange discovers that the new grimoire he just ordered was sabotaged with a magic signal from one of the more rotten corners of the magical multiverse. The trap creates a spectral spider that moves through New York City, snags Spidey, and actually steals his soul before Dr. Strange can stop it. The demon drags Spidey back through a hallucinatory fever-dream into the depths of the netherverse as an offering to its king, a horrific spider-monster who plans to enjoy a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Snack…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely weird book, somewhere between Steve Ditko, Vertigo Comics, and Richard Corben. The art and writing are simultaneously Silver-Age classic and acid-trip freaky. So far, it’s really interesting — go give it a look.

JSA All-Stars #5

While the JSA fights off the King of Tears with the timely assistance of a mysterious magic user named Anna Fortune, Stargirl and Atom-Smasher are stuck, powerless, in a magical sub-dimension called the Subtle Realms, trying to fight their way to freedom. Can they survive on their own? And if the rest of the JSA can follow them to the Subtle Realms, are they going to be any better off?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Still the worst art on any DC book. Just relentlessly distracting. It’s hard to focus on the story at all. I’m not real fond of the story either, but I really can’t tell if that’s because it’s not well done, or if it’s just absorbing some of the stink from the artwork. The second feature with Hourman and Liberty Belle is better illustrated, but it’s pretty spectacularly boring.

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Dead Baby Jokes

The Littlest Zombie #1

Okay, I think we’re quite aware by now that I’ve got a weak spot in my heart for zombies.

So it’s the end of the world, the dead have risen from their graves, and only a few survivors continue to struggle against the inevitable. Of course, we don’t care that much about them, ’cause our main character is an adorable little kid who ain’t exactly on the breathing side of things and who likes to nosh on cerebellum. All the little tyke wants is the occasional decapitated head, but the bigger and meaner zombies knock him around and take all the good bits for themselves. But things change when a bunch of human survivors get trapped inside a bank, stuck between a bunch of hungry zombies, including one of the zombie tyke’s tormentors, and their own greed, addictions, deceit, and weaknesses. Is the rotten little squirt going to be able to get some dinner out of all this chaos?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Simultaneously adorable and disgusting. Huzzah! It’s like Christmas came early! Writer/artist Fred Perry is best known for manga-esque cheesecake/furry art, like in his “Gold Digger” series, but this definitely shows he’s hidden talents for both pitch-black humor and nicely tense drama. Good fun — go pick it up.

Justice Society of America #37

Twenty years into the future, Mr. Terrific is a prisoner of an all-powerful Nazi army that’s on track to conquer the whole world. He’s recounting events from our present for the benefit of his captors — Alan Scott has been killed, Flash and Liberty Belle have been defeated, Obsidian has been kidnapped. Lightning and Mr. America take down a dragon-riding Nazi, Dr. Mid-Nite squashes Kid Karnevil, and Wildcat and Mr. Terrific take out three different super-Nazis. But the Nazis have a secret weapon — something called the Darkness Weapon that uses the kidnapped Obsidian as a power source. It’s a machine that drains superpowers, and it can be turned up high enough to kill anyone within its range. The JSA decides to surrender, hoping to rally back later… but that chance to rally never comes. And in the future, Mr. Terrific and a small number of remaining superheroes are held powerless and scheduled for eventual execution. Is there any hope for either the future or the past?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was generally unimpressed with the stuff set in the present, but the future-world gets points for being unusually depressing. Bruce Wayne is scheduled for a dawn execution, Clark Kent lost an eye, and they’re all trying to put some almost hopeless plan into effect to topple the entire Nazi empire. Of course, we know it’ll be successful, but how is it supposed to work, and what kind of monkey wrenches are going to get thrown in the way?

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No More Mr. Knife Guy

Detective Comics #862

We get a look at how the serial mutilator Cutter was created, courtesy of a flashback with Bruce Wayne. And we get a look at Cutter today — with knives imbedded into his skin to make it easier to cut superheroes like Batwoman when she comes after him. In the aftermath after Cutter get away, Kate Kane gives her college-going cousin Bette a call — Cutter’s attacks are making Bette consider putting on her old Flamebird costume again. And it might be a good idea, too, cause Cutter actually has Bette targeted. Our second feature sees the Question and Huntress turn to Oracle for help, head out to take down a high-tech computer hub for a bunch of human smugglers, and later find themselves on the biggest mad-science island in the world.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still enjoying the ongoing Batwoman story. I want someone to give Greg Rucka an ongoing “Batwoman” comic to write — this is all just too good to have to give up when Bruce Wayne eventually comes back. And the backup feature is incredible fun. Cully Hamner’s artwork is just so wonderful and expressive — it’s great to see comics starring three different women who all actually look distinctive from one another. And Babs Gordon plays wheelchair basketball. I want to say that feels weird… but of course Babs Gordon plays wheelchair basketball!

JSA All-Stars #4

Sand is back in action after a very, very long hiatus. And he’s got bad news for everyone — Johnny Sorrow has summoned the King of Tears, an eldritch monster-god, with the reluctant help of the Injustice Society. By the time the All-Stars make it out to where the Injustice Society is waiting, the King of Tears is still in the process of rising from the earth, and it’s a knock-down, drag-out fight from there. King Chimera apparently gets killed by Johnny Sorrow, who gives Stargirl an ultimatum — the King of Tears will kill everyone unless she surrenders and gives up her weapons. How bad are things about to get for Courtney?

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. The artwork on this one is entirely freaky, and not in any good way. Johnny Sorrow is probably one of my favorite DC villains, but his characterization seems a bit off, too.

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There's No Justice. There's Just Zombies.

Blackest Night: JSA #3

The bad news for everyone is that the Earth-2 Superman’s zombie is up and running again. The good news is… well, there’s not a lot of good news. Mr. Terrific has a plan to beat the Black Lantern, but it’ll require most of the Justice Society to charge into a hopeless battle against an undead demigod. Is everyone doomed or what?

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. I don’t mind a big slugfest sometimes, but this one just wasn’t entertaining enough to hold my interest.

Justice Society of America #36

We’ve got a tale told in flashback from 20 years in the future — Mr. Terrific is in prison and due to be executed soon, so the new Nazi masters of the world want him to record some of his history for their records. He remembers Liberty Belle getting taken down by a Nazi speedster, Green Lantern getting killed by a bomb in a wooden crate (the Golden Age Green Lantern has a vulnerability to anything made of wood, which is the type of thing that turns a bunch of high-velocity splinters into lethal shrapnel), and the rest of the team has to deal with a large team of evil Nazi supervillains.

Verdict: Thumbs up, at least for now. It’s been a while since the JSA had a good time-travel story to deal with, and frankly, it’s always fun to see superheroes stomp Nazis into puddles. Something about the story, however, is bugging me. I can’t really say for sure what the problem is, but it’s making me a bit nervous about how the rest of the story is going to play out.

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Monkey Business

Hit-Monkey #1

Marvel’s been talking this one up a lot. “Character creation of the year” and all that. It starts out focusing on a hitman, injured and on the run. He gets inexplicably taken in, cared for and healed by a small tribe of Japanese macaque monkeys — he is accepted by all of the monkeys but one. While the assassin heals up enough to be able to move about, he doesn’t have a lot of bullets and knows he’s still not well, so he starts training himself in unarmed combat, observed by the one untrusting monkey. In time, the people who tried to kill the hitman come after him, killing him and all the monkeys but the one outcast who didn’t trust the assassin — ironically, he’s learned enough about martial arts and gunplay by watching the hitman that he’s now able to take his revenge for the death of his tribe.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s actually a fairly dull story, and it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype that Marvel has given it. We never see the monkey in the snappy suit from the cover. We never get any indication that he’s actually smart enough to care about wearing a suit, much less figuring out how to use a handgun. Oh, I know, you should never ever expect too much logic from comics — especially not from comics about monkeys. Nevertheless, I was hoping for better.

JSA All-Stars #3

Hurray! It’s the happiest cover ever! Maybe DC really is figuring out that everyone hates Magog…

On the other hand, this is a pretty danged awkward issue. The JSA annual came out just last week, but this entire issue is set before the annual. So at this point, Magog is still a member in moderately good standing within the All-Stars. Most of the action in this issue takes place during a team training session, where Magog mainly tries to encourage everyone to kill their opponents, and Power Girl eventually clocks him a good one. But there’s some background stuff, too. Johnny Sorrow kills Killer Wasp mostly for grins, Atom-Smasher has been kidnapped by some evil magic user, and Sandman is waking up from his dreams with a mission. Oh, and Power Girl apparently has a new costume without the infamous/celebrated “boob window.” The backup story about Hourman and Liberty Belle is full of lots of good comedy, mainly stemming from Tigress and Icicle buying a plane ticket from Liberty Belle while she’s in civvies, giving the two married superheroes some extra cash to spend in Venice.

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs up, I guess. Nothing much to recommend it, but at least there’s nothing particularly bad either. The background elements are actually more interesting than the main storyline. And I do wonder why the decision was made to alter Power Girl’s costume, since I doubt her uniform will change in any of her other comic appearances.


Punisher #13

I missed an issue of this one a while back, but Frank Castle is still a stitched-together Frankensteinian killing machine, trying to save a bunch of monsters from cyber-samurai trying to destroy all monsters. That’s really the whole summary of the issue. There are some good fights with Morbius the Living Vampire, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, and lots of scenes with the Punisher shooting the heck out of samurai.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of good fights, lots of fun monsters. I heartily approve.

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Inhumane Society


Justice Society of America Annual #2

The JSA All-Stars get called out to a prison called Haven — a very unusual prison in that it looks like a small suburban town from the ’50s but actually houses the most dangerous mad scientists in the country. There’s been a report of a breakout, with Magog leading the prisoners. While it initially looks deserted, the prisoners soon show themselves and the fighting gets started. Dr. Sivana and a guy named Mind Czar are leading the prisoners, and Haven’s warden is also working against everyone — he’s secretly in cahoots with shady forces who want to kill the prisoners and superheroes and steal all the high-tech toys for themselves. The main JSA team eventually makes its appearance, and it’s not long before it’s everyone on both teams piling on Magog, who is more than willing to try to kill or cripple prisoners and to accidentally shoot his own teammates and then blame them for getting in his way. And by the time it’s all over, Haven’s been destroyed, Magog has gotten the boot from the JSA, and neither team is going to get back together.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is fine, and it’s good that Magog is out of the picture, because no one really liked the guy anyway. But it definitely does make me question the stated reasoning for breaking the JSA into two groups. The only reason the teams were ever split was because Magog wanted ’em split — why leave them split now, when most characters have already said they’d like the teams reconciled again? Okay, fine, it’s because DC Comics wants ’em to be on two teams, the better to sell more comics. But dang it, a little logic and decent storytelling wouldn’t hurt nobody.


Jonah Hex #52

Jonah has done got hisself shot, and he makes his way to a small house outside a swamp to try to get shelter and medical attention. The lady of the house is able to get the bullet out of him and his wounds stitched up, and he tells her how he got wounded — he was attacked in the swamp by a little kid hoping to rob his corpse, and he killed the kid in self-defense. Unfortunately, his rotten kinfolk are now after Hex for revenge — and his benefactor now wants him out as quick as possible, to keep from risking her baby’s life. When a trio of the swamp rat’s relatives show up at the door, is there any way for Hex to beat the odds and get away?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s another cruel, brutal, heartless Western, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wasn’t 100% thrilled with the art, but I gotta say, there’s one splash page of Hex, gut-shot, soaked in swamp water and blood, covered in leeches, that’s just plain fantastic.

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Wizards and Zombies

Justice Society of America #35

Last issue, the JSA was all set to take on the evil wizard Mordru. But this issue, they each find themselves trapped in pocket dimensions fighting off a variety of magical threats. Liberty Belle beats the stuffing out of a cat-man who keeps duplicating himself every time he gets defeated. Mr. Terrific changes the rules on a riddling sphinx. Wildcat meets up with a bunch of snuggly plushie toys. Mr. America gets chased by rat monsters. Dr. Mid-Nite has to contend with zombies desperate for medical attention. Lightning is gonna get eaten by giant electricity monsters. Flash has to deal with oversized superspeed bees. Green Lantern has to take on Mordru all by himself. Dr. Fate, meanwhile, is almost powerless and can’t figure out how he can help.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was actually prepared to dislike it, but it’s a good story, with lots of personality, good dialogue, a few interesting and elegant solutions, and a nice dose of humor.

Blackest Night: JSA #2

The Black Lantern zombies are attacking the JSA Brownstone, and while Mr. Terrific tries to pool some of the members’ powers to create a solution, the rest of the team tries to figure out how to stop the zombies. But there are an unusual number of zombies with personalities here. The zombified Earth-2 Lois Lane asks Power Girl to let her see the Earth-2 Superman’s body, then to help her die. Black Lantern Johnny Quick appeals to his daughter, Liberty Belle, to go for a run with him. Black Lantern Damage blows himself up to take out a bunch of the other zombies. But was it all a ruse? The Brownstone’s defenses are now all wrecked, and Lois severs her own connection to her ring… just so her late husband can get it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of weird stuff going on here — I still haven’t figured out if all those zombies were just faking it, or if they really were having some kind of personality break-through. But that point looks to be moot now, as the JSA gets to take on the Zombie of Steel in the next issue…

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High Society


JSA All-Stars #2

Stargirl has been kidnapped by Arthur Pemberton and his goons, but they’ve already tried to cheat the people who hired them to abduct her — Johnny Sorrow and the Injustice Society. Meanwhile, the JSA All-Stars try to figure out where to find Courtney, with the assistance of Roxy, Rex Tyler’s new AI assistant. When they’ve finally tracked the bad guys down, we get treated to a nice three-way battle, Stargirl manages to escape on her own, and eventually, the villains all take off. All that, plus we get a backup story starring Liberty Belle and Hourman, as the two married superheroes tangle with the Icicle and Tigress on the trail of a book that could reveal the location of a magic staff.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice story, dialogue, and action. Roxy is a fun character, and we even get a little more screen time for the usually absent Sandman. But wow, do I ever dislike the art on this one. I don’t know what Freddie Williams III has against drawing eyes, but he needs to get over it fast.


Justice Society of America #34

The main team of the Justice Society is moving into their new headquarters — the old mountain hideout of the Justice League in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. And Mordru has escaped his mystic confinement again, arriving invisibly and possessing the body of the new Dr. Fate as quickly as possible. Liberty Belle keeps getting angry that everyone assumes her marriage to Hourman is on the rocks because they decided to join different teams. Kid Karnevil is imprisoned but still insists on taunting everyone about his desire to escape and slaughter everyone. Mr. Terrific makes Mr. America a new whip that causes stuff to explode. Will Mordru be able to complete his evil plans while everyone else is distracted?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Unexpectedly enjoyable, considering that I’ve been less than happy with some of Bill Willingham’s previous “JSA” stories. Excellent dialogue and characterization nearly everywhere. Mordru trying and generally failing to act like a normal person while hiding out in Dr. Fate is good for some giggles, too.

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Join the Corps


Blackest Night #6

Nekron has managed to turn most of the resurrected DC heroes into Black Lanterns, including Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow. Hal Jordan and Barry Allen manage to escape the rings with their names on ’em, but there’s also a gigantic army of Black Lantern zombies on their way to Earth, including the entire planet of Xanshi. The power ring wielders on Earth realize that they’ll need every single one of their corps members to beam light at the Black Lantern power battery to destroy it, but it’s going to take a while to gather them all up. Ganthet rejoins the Green Lanterns — not as a Guardian, but as an actual ring-slinging Corps member. Then he duplicates each of the other ring-bearers’ rings (including Larfleeze’s, much to his greedy displeasure) and sends them out to find new members. No spoilers here, but this leads to a splash page that practically defines “Crowning Moment of Awesome.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. The whole comic is great, but that final splash page is just joyously cool. I hope they give out rings to every single DC character now. And yes, I’m pretty amazed that the core books of this crossover are still so blasted great. Sure, some of the secondary comics aren’t so hot (I’ve got two of ’em listed below), but the main “Blackest Night” is hitting on all cylinders.


Green Lantern #49

Half of this issue focuses on John Stewart running around on the resurrected zombie planet Xanshi. He runs into Driq, an old Green Lantern who was actually a zombie back before the Black Lanterns — he’s now half Black Lantern and half Green Lantern and looks even freakier than normal. He also runs into his late lover Katma Tui. There’s a great deal of military angst before Stewart wisely heads off to find backup. In the second half of the issue, Jean Loring miniaturizes the Atom and Mera and drags them into one of the Black Lantern rings to rant at them and reveal how Nekron was created.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Deadly dull.


Blackest Night: JSA #1

The Justice Society comes under attack from a bunch of Black Lanterns, including Wesley Dodds, Charles McNider (and his zombie owl, Hooty), Terry Sloane, Johnny Quick, the Earth-2 Lois Lane, and the recently-deceased Damage.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s a lot of hitting and yelling and angsting and dismemberment. It’s far too frantic, too chaotic to make any real sense.

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