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Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 3/12/08: Booster Gold, Wonder Woman, Thunderbolts and More

Written by: The CinCitizens


Week after week, every Wednesday, there is a sudden influx of content in the comic book world. It's CC2K's job to sift through the garbage to find the gold. Every week we'll be bringing you reviews on the widest range of books possible. This week: Batman Confidential, Booster Gold, Wonder Woman, Fantastic Four, Thunderbolts and more! Enjoy!

Batman Confidential #14 Review by Erik Norris
Writer- Tony Bedard
Pencils – Rags Morales
Inks – Mark Farmer
Colors – I.L.L.
Letters – Travis Lanham

If I was approached by a mystic months prior to now and told I would find myself picking up Batman Confidential I would have laughed in his/her face. When the series was announced I brushed it off as an unnecessary, money grabbing experiment by DC to fill shelves with yet another Batman series when DC already has two, not counting mini series for the Bat that launch all the time. Then the series actually hit, and for two solid arcs it seems like Confidential was a breeding ground for sub par artists to tackle the character, and true to my word, stories that didn't need to be told/re-told. However, that little rant has become void, because not only am I picking up Batman Confidential right now, but I am actually enjoying it.

Finally the series has a solid creative team in Tony Bedard and Rags Morales who are submitting a Wraith story that can stand, head held high, next to its predecessor. Make no mistake, this is no modern retelling of "Player on the Other Side" from Batman Special #1, but instead a completely new tale set in Batman's past, in other words, a sequel to the original. Therefore, "Wraith Child", does an amazing job informing its readers of the past story while moving its own plot forward at lightning fast speeds. With this month's part two, Batman learns some interesting plot points that send shock waves through his career vibrating all the way back to his parent's murder. This "twist" makes the impact of "Wraith Child" even more prominent to Batman's mythos, making this Confidential arc give the illusion its actually extremely important, helping justify its purchase. Its also impressive that a story actually set in Gotham about corruption and cop killing can still be interesting. But I'm here to tell you that Tony Bedard has found a way, which is a true testament to the work he is turning in.

If the plot wasn't enough to hook people in, Rag Morales' art should do the trick. The man is en fuego! Not only is Morales' depiction of Batman is one of the best in the industry, but we get to see him draw old school Nightwing, blue, popped collar intact. Another plus to Morales' talent is his use of body language to really sell characters. Seeing Dick Grayson move differently than Bruce Wayne makes getting into these stories all the more rewarding because it seems like real life photos taken from real life events. The only place Rags falters this issue is the opening fight sequence with Batman using different martial arts techniques. The poses chosen render Batman looking like a wax model in some frames, very static.

With the only failing of Batman Confidential #14 coming from the opening fight, due to the art problem mentioned above and the annoying Wraith monologue boxes, I can safely recommend this comic. There are still two more segments to "Wraith Child" but I can't see the writing or art taking such a nose dive to not make the $12 invest in this story arc worth it.

4.5 out of 5.

ImageBooster Gold #7 Review by Erik Norris
Writer(s) – Geoff Johns & Jon Katz
Pencils – Dan Jurgens
Inks – Norm Rapmund
Colors – Hi-Fi
Letters – Randy Gentile
Cover – Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

"Blue and Gold" chugs on with issue #7 of Booster Gold. I can safely say its getting pretty hard to review this series month in and month out. The creative team behind this 52 spin-off has been turning in fantastic work since issue #1, and this month's adventure continues that trend. Chapter two of the current arc continues to tell the story of what happens to the time stream when you break all the rules applied to it. We still have Ted alive, but everything else in the DC Universe is in shambles. Issue #7 gives readers a pretty cool apocalyptic future where the O.M.A.C. Project actually worked, cleaning out the superhero community for humans to prosper once again.

One of the best aspects of this series is every plot thread carrying throughout, offering up one continual story. This creates a double edged sword scenario because on one hand, it makes picking up back issues pretty essential, making you drop about $20 to know exactly whats going on. However, if your willing to invest, rewards readers with characters that can actually show growth, along with a phenomenal plot that has been ratcheted up in scope since the beginning of the book. Geoff Johns and Jon Katz have produced some great stuff in this series making it one of DC's best books. Its a shame that come issue #1,000,000 (issue #12 in their run), the writing duo will be abandoning it's baby.

On the art side of the table, Dan Jurgens continues to pencil a great comic, as you can see his love for the character with every panel. I mean the man did create Booster after all! And while Jurgen's panel layouts are pretty standard fair, his facial expressions are top notch, and his action flows nicely. His colorist, Hi-Fi, also lends a hand to help up his pencils to level 11 by making every image shine with a refined finish. With the addition of Hi-Fi's colors, Jurgens otherwise flat art pops off the page instilling a great sense of depth to the pieces.

My only complaint with this issue is, besides one Skeets joke were he says, "Ass Clown", the comedy factor that was so prominent in the first few issues of the series has taken a back seat to the epic plot unfolding. This seems like a trivial complaint, but it is one of the reasons I love Booster Gold as a character, and what made it such a refreshing read when the series launched. However, I can still recommend this book over pretty much all superhero comics hitting the stands today. You get one of DC's most underrated characters meeting a Back to the Future-esque plot, and it really is gold on paper (pun intended).

4.0 out of 5.

ImageCountdown to Final Crisis #7 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer(s) – Paul Dini with Adam Beechen
Pencils – Tom Derenick
Inks – Wayne Faucher
Colors – Pete Pantazis
Letters – Travis Lanham
Cover – Scott Kolins

What an incredible way to completely blow a cliffhanger that could have had repercussions for years to come, a la the famous Zatanna mind-wipe of Identity Crisis. Last week left us with a seemingly perilous moment, requiring a game time decision of whether or not Karate Kid, carrying an Earth threatening virus from Apokolips, should live or die. Judging by the cliffhanger, naturally I assumed that issue #7 would pick up with the result. Instead, what we get is essentially nothing. In fact, the life/death issue of Karate Kid isn't picked up again until the end of this issue. What?

Although there is some interesting new developments in the plight of Ray Palmer and co., the anti-climactic result of last issue's cliffhanger is a serious misstep, resulting in an unforgivable pacing hiccup. Considering this series will most definitely be released as a trade paperback or all inclusive hardcore, this effectively means that readers would turn to the very next page expecting to see the decisions of the characters they've been following for hundreds of pages. Instead, they will be jaggedly led into a completely different plot development.

I've mentioned it before, but this story is on its last leg, and we are still getting new questions instead of answering old ones. The storytellers seem to be seriously mismanaging their page space, and inevitably what will result is not a separate mini-series tie in, like 52 had with WWIII, but instead one issue crammed with boring exposition in an attempt to wrap everything up. I have faith in head writer Paul Dini, but we're hitting crunch time, and when the back-up feature telling the origin of Bane is more compelling than the main book, there is something to be concerned about.

1.0 out of 5.

ImageFantastic Four #555 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Mark Millar
Pencils – Bryan Hitch
Inks – Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary
Colors – Paul Mounts
Letters – Rus Wooton
Cover – Bryan Hitch

I'll admit that my exposure to the main Fantastic Four series is limited. Certain issues, story arcs – sure. But a regular reader I was not. That all changed when Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch signed on for a stint on the book. It was highly anticipated, and as the issue before it, #555 delivers.

Laced with traces of environmental commentary, Millar presents the idea that a "Nu-World" is being built in exact replication of Earth, minus the degenerated environment, which is so far gone at this point, that the brains behind Nu-World estimate less than ten years left for our home. Combine this epic scenario with the bearer of bad news being Reed Richard's college sweetheart, as well as the recent problems he and Sue have had stemming from their disagreement in ethics during Civil War, and you have a whole world of problems brewing for our heroes.

Hitch's work here is incredibly detailed, and the large panel and splash pages featuring Nu-World and an under construction Manhattan are truly awesome. Everything about Hitch's work in this issue is commendable. The only fault with the issue is the couple of pages that take us away from Reed and Nu-World to see what Johnny Storm is up to. It's an amusing little detour with some action packed images, but overall it's unnecessary and detracts from the urgency presented earlier in the issue.

The "World's Greatest" arc is only four installments, so we are currently halfway through. If this issue is any indication, I'd say that Millar and Hitch have some huge plans for this title.

4.0 out of 5.

Image Gotham Underground
#6 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Frank Tieri
Pencils – J. Calafiore
Inks – Jack Purcell with Mark McKenna
Colors – Brian Reber
Letters – Sal Cipriano

I suspected from the first page when the Great White Shark was reading a copy of Jaws while sitting in his cell at Arkham that I would enjoy this issue. My suspicion continued when I was treated to some amusing Bane action. My suspicions were correct. I enjoyed this issue thoroughly from the beginning to the shocking cliffhanger ending, featuring the return of a character long since ostracized by the Bat-family.

Bruce Waynes other alter ego, Matches Malone, continues to be an amusing character to follow, and this issue in particular makes it evident that an on going series featuring either Matches Malone, the Gotham criminal underground, or both, would be a great read. Issue #6 continues this mini-series' tradition of slowly unraveling new mysteries that are sure to contribute not only to the whole Countdown and Salvation Run outcome, but to the Batman family of books as well. Characters seem to be returning left and right for Batman, Robin, and Nightwing, and the outcome can never be any good.

I will say that the Penguin/Tobias Whale confrontation is the weakest part of this story, even though the entire series is essentially based around it. Using the tired "all out brawl" as the next step in the confrontation isn't really what I expected from a series based firmly in the rotten underground of the dirtiest city in comics. Criminal dealings in Gotham, to me, were always much more underhanded. Then again, the Suicide Squad is in the midst of dumping baddies onto a prison planet, so what the hell do I know? Regardless, the book is a always a highlight of my week, and I hope that the editors at DC realize the potential here for an amazing on going monthly series.

3.5 out of 5.

ImageGrimm Fairy Tales #24 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Raven Gregory
Pencils/Inks – Kris Carter
Colors – Nei Ruffino, Gary Henderson, & Anne Pogoda
Letters – Thomas Mauer
Cover – Al Rio

Look at the gloss on those lips in the first panel. They’re so shiny, so elegant and yet somehow stunningly sensual. Just as I’m distracted by the beginning of the book, I’ve come to realize I’m distracted throughout because of the quality of the artwork. Something about well drawn female characters is always a plus in books, but there seems to be an extra level of care taken with the ones in Grimm. Sure, it’s over the top, and not physically possible, but on that level, the respect and care is certainly there. It’s certainly not due to any kind of personal frustrations. No, that can’t be it.

Sela and Belinda continue their clash of the ages, fighting for the life of Sela’s capture. The fairy tale retelling takes a back seat this issue to make way for a bigger step in the original story. However, that story is laced this time around with appearances from the versions of the fairy tales, with the likes of The Pied Piper and Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf fighting it out as the girls battle Pokémon-style. They make fun appearances, upping the ante and bringing the book to an epic level one never would think it could reach. However, the battle ends much bloodier and more violently than any fight from a Japanese fad would, and one of the girls goes down for the count.

The art is so entertainingly bright and well inked that even if the story were weak, it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s much like someone with a crush on Eva Longoria going to see Over Her Dead Body. At least a few, anyway, are well aware the story (and acting quality) is going to be garbage, but they like to look at her and she’s distracting enough to be entertaining. This book, luckily for itself, doesn’t have that problem. It’s refreshing in its’ retelling of classics with a semi-grown up twist, and works in a way that seems more inspired than possibly a few better known titles. That’s not even because of the women, either. As a male, I actually get bored as the melodrama is spoken, and I feel the book may be better suited for this day and ages’ self-comfortable and confidently thought processing woman, who is in the end, still a woman and still able to enjoy such a thing better than I could. If that’s you, than jump on in and enjoy a comic that’s unisexual in its mixture of aspects from both sides of the man/woman geeky intellect. Plus, next issue is Little Mermaid! Ooh!

3.5 out of 5.

ImageThe Last Defenders #1 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer(s) – Joe Casey and Keith Giffen
Pencils – Jim Muniz
Inks – Cam Smith
Colors – Antonio Fabela
Letters – Albert Deschesne
Cover – McNiven, Vines and Hollowell

Refreshing and campy, The Last Defenders is a limited, mini-series by Joe Casey that aims to create “the ultimate chapter in the history of The Defenders.” In response to the 50 State Initiative that sprung up in the wake of the Civil War, Nighthawk, She-Hulk, Colossus and Blazing Skull have been forced together by Mr. Stark to defend New Jersey.

Yup, the New Jersey Defenders are based in Hoboken. The Last Defenders is good for one huge reason; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The book isn’t going to explode brains all over walls, it isn’t going to set the pace for the Marvel universe… but it is going to entertain. That’s what it’s here to do and, so far, it’s spot on.

The 6 book series does have some high hopes as far as story goes… It looks like the Defenders are going to take on the Son of Satan and the Sons of the Serpent. Okay, maybe ‘high hopes’ was a little bit of an overstatement, but man, this book is funny. Blazing Skull is one of the original heroes created for Timely Comics (predecessor to Marvel). He makes Nazi jokes while beating the crap out of people in snake suits. To me, Blazing Skull is a winner.

As for the art and writing, well, both are good enough for the job at hand. The art looks good enough to move the pages and the dialogue is just brief enough to be witty. Neither aspects will lift you to new heights, but they won’t hold you down either.

If you’ve got 3 bucks and are looking for a breath of fresh air, pick up The Last Defenders. Just don’t go in expecting some earth shattering stuff and you won’t be disappointed.

4.0 out of 5.

ImageLocke & Key #2 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Joe Hill
Pencils/Inks – Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors – Jay Fotos
Letters – Robbie Robbins
Cover – Gabriel Rodriguez

A strong second issue for IDW’s supernatural musing surrounding the Locke family is a fantastic sign. Buyers wary of the 3.99 price tag needn’t fret any longer, as the book is a must at this point. With its’ unique art style being unlike much else in comics today, that aspect alone is enough to make the book a necessity. Very simple to look at and not falling into any sort of likeness too similar to any other book in general exhibition, the colors, deeply summery, sunset laden landscapes and human characters drawn with the sting of loss in their eyes makes it truly haunting. The breeze and warmth of the day can almost be felt as reading progresses.

Seemingly having no boundaries and yet carrying the reader full throttle into a ghostly world, the book progresses with the family’s youngest son, Bode, peeking through the halls of his house in an undead state. One feels as if they are haunting a house alongside Bode as he sees his family in their private states of grieving, thinking out loud cleverly with more knowledge than a living child his age would ever have. Things are fishy and open-ended enough for him at this point to keep from going too far out, and there’s still plenty of room left for development on part of all characters. The murderous Sam Lesser and his abnormal link to the Locke family is also well done, not falling into over explanation.

The comic is coming off of a fantastic first two issues. It’s painful to think what would happen if the next issue is disappointing, but it’s not too early to tell, as the book seems simply too good to falter so soon. Locke & Key is certainly the weeks best, and a must. It’s also still early enough to pick up the first issue and play catch up. $8.00 is not too often as worth it in the comic world as it is here.

5.0 out of 5!

ImageNew Exiles #3 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Chris Claremont
Pencils – Tom Grummet
Inks – Scott Hanna
Colors – Wilfredo Quintana
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Cover – Michael Golden

It’s official, I hate myself. My God, this is what I get for being the final person to jump on to the comic review train that is CC2K. This is what I get for leaving the world of comics for so long. I came back struggling for titles to read, titles to review. I looked over the shelves two weeks ago and saw New Exiles laying there, two issues deep. I didn’t really think much of the fact that there was a giant stack of both the first issue and the second. I didn’t even pay much attention to Claremont’s name sitting in the corner. I just saw that number 2.

I am such an idiot. Little did I know, but at the time I was purchasing what I am going to say is the worst series I have ever read. Yeah.

You remember when you decided to do your favorite hero some justice and pick up their “Essential” collection? You figured, “it’s high time I learned this dude’s roots.” Then you started reading. You knew the art wasn’t going to be what you were used to, but the exposition… Holy shit… It’s like reading War and Peace; except less rewarding. As if the pictures weren’t enough, you have to sit through inner monologues concerning exactly what’s being shown to you visually. Old comics, please don’t kill me, are repetitive as ass. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give the books a read; I’m just saying that it’s damned hard work. But the reward is more than enough to keep you going. You are reading a bit of modern mythology when you read old comics, it’s great stuff.

New Exiles is a series written like old comics; sans reward. When I pick up a comic, call me crazy, I expect fantastic visuals with exceptional writing. Comics are nothing to sneer at. They can and should be astounding literature. Reading comics should be a joy. Stay away from New Exiles. It’s like a trip to the dentist; one where the doctor stands over you drilling into your mouth while telling you that he’s drilling into your mouth and considering all of the infinite things that could be wrong with your teeth. New Exiles is like drilling teeth. There. I said it.

Oh, and the story is tired and asinine. Crusaders bound to save Earths in the Omniverse. Maybe I’d be more excited if it didn’t suck so much. The .5 this book is going to earn goes entirely to the artist… the book is pretty.

0.5 out of 5.

ImageScreamland #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Harold Sipe
Artist – Héctor Casanova

Monsters are a funny thing. They’ve certainly changed over time, from staples of the film industry to mockeries of themselves to attempts at rebooting and refreshing themselves that simply turn into the same thing over and over. Screamland is, in a sense, a refreshing take but somehow still manages to be something that’s been done before. It centers on a washed up crew of classic monsters, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the famed others having to deal with a life of burnt fame and useless, insulting roles.

Opening with a nod to cult filmmaker Ed Wood, Frankenstein and Wolfman work together on a nudie film for Wood as he attempts to get as much usage as possible out of his actors, only to have his female leads become disgusted and leave the set. Such is the frustrating life of Ed Wood, and the monsters’ lives grow even more frustrating as the book follows Frankenstein on his call to the office of his agent.

The book is drawn with a very tired, worn down look, perfectly fitting for the alcoholic depressive Frankenstein it portrays. The problem that can only cross ones’ thought process when seeing the art comes about as the book continues in future issues and the monsters ultimately enjoy their second wind and rise to more fame. The style will be difficultly portraying any kind of glitz or glamour, stuck in the boundaries of broken down, washed up celebrity.

While the book has its’ moments, including a hilarious look at Godzilla partaking in amateur endeavors at an adult website for monsters, it isn’t very funny. The jokes themselves are funny, but they are predictable, due to predictability on the side of development as well. The ex-celebrity Frankenstein has an aura that has been seen long before his appearance and is simply applied to the world of monsters with no change or affect due the fact that they are, well, monsters. Monsters eccentricities that they certainly would be having, living in a world of people and frightening creatures co-existing as one, are absent at this point and instead are in a state of general normalcy in terms of the once famous. The second issue seems promising, however, as the monsters go on a journey to collect the Mummy from Egypt, where he has exiled himself since leaving the business. The book, thus, can only improve, but is left with a mediocre first issue.

2.5 out of 5.

ImageSimon Dark #6 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Steve Niles
Pencils/Inks – Scott Hampton
Colors – Chris Chuckery
Letters – Todd Klein
Cover – Scott Hampton

The Simon Dark series credits Steve Niles and Scott Hampton as the "storytellers", and I think this issue showcases why. Issue #6 features pages on pages of little to no dialogue. Little to no dialogue means little to no exposition. Little to no exposition equals good storytelling. Comics is a visual medium, first and foremost, and Hampton gets to shine on this book because Steve Niles understands that storytelling isn't always about the words.

This issue doesn't really have too much happening in the way of character development, aside from some hint that Simon is on the road to remember where he came from. Issue #6 seems to be serving as the setup for a big siege on Gotham City via contaminated product – at least that's the impression that I got. But whereas usual issues that serve as a prologue to an upcoming story thread seem more like a waste of time than anything, Simon Dark #6 is much more intriguing because of its unique title character and the overall strangeness to the book.

I'm excited to see where this series heads, and this is issue is definitely the gateway into the larger world of Simon Dark. The character and his supporting cast are, for the most part, established, as is Simon's place inside the Gotham society. It'll be exciting to see where Niles brings this character, especially when he seems to be about one inch away from being just as big of a nutter as the crazies in Arkham Asylum.

3.5 out of 5.

ImageThunderbolts #119 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Warren Ellis
Pencils/Inks – Mike Deodato, Jr.
Colors – Rain Beredo
Letters – Albert Deschesne
Cover – Marko Djurdjevic

Thunderbolts continues to carry a cast of mostly secondary characters and ignore its’ characters with the most depth, at least for now. Venom has always been hugely overrated, and this book is no exception. The opposing, captured unlicensed heroes attempt to stop the group as a whole by attacking its’ most gigantic member. Led by Swordsman, the attack proves useless when two groups of soldiers only separated by a shade of purple destroy each other, irritating our bald headed friend most intensely.

Doc Samson brings his world of overconfidence to the book for a run as a psychologist trying to figure out how to further bring down the group the Thunderbolts so drastically need to defeat. Somehow, his outsmarting of a psychic powered being works wonders and proves to be one of the comics’ better moments.

Norman Osborn outshines the other characters of the book by far. Every time he shows up in this issue, gone is the timid waste of a character that appeared in Thunderbolts: International Incident and present is a maniacal villain, struggling to hold back his evil roots. Each panel showcasing his face with gleaming beads of sweat or screaming into a phone truly showcase the fantastic idea of a bad person in charge of a good idea. Realistic looks and detail to the folds of Osborn’s face make him look more menacing and a bigger threat than during any Spider-Man comic of recent memory. He leaves the book ready for action, taking matters into his own hands with the idea that only he can take care of the group.

Thunderbolts is moving nicely, ending with a great finish and setting up for a Green Goblin showcase in the next issue. It’s certainly written much better than its’ one shots, and that’s a great, great thing. If you’ve nothing else to get this week, it wouldn’t hurt to catch this issue if you’re curious.

3 out of 5.

ImageWonder Woman #18 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Gail Simone
Pencils/Inks – Bernard Chang
Colors – I.L.L.
Letters – Rob Leigh
Cover – Bernard Chang

I remember when I read the news that Gail Simone was going to take over Wonder Woman. I might have shed a tear. This week's issue #18 proves that she has saved this book completely by delivering the best installment of this troubled series yet, and quite possibly my favorite book of the week *gasp*.

Simone seems to have hit on all the notes about the setup of the WW relaunch that every other writer was missing: the potential of the Nemesis character and his relationship with Diana, her conflict of interest between her Amazon heritage and mankind, and god forbid – she actually has a personality. Simone successfully takes this issue from the very personal – a blooming love story (yes, even Amazon's can have feelings) – to the epic – a new adventure/conspiracy on the militaristic Khund homeworld. The story shifts effortlessly, all the while laced with amusing pop culture references and bits of humor.

The Dodsons have taken a time out in this story arc, entitled "Ex Patriate". Bernard Chang is a more than capable fill-in; my only complaints about his work are that he is less effective at conveying a large landscape with a mess of action going on than he is in more personal panels. On the flipside, Chang has a habit for odd panel layouts. It's nothing exotic, but he uses tall, skinny vertical panels that are often topped with smaller ones, which provides the reader with the feeling of an overall faster paced book that is easily slowed down when needed by simply flipping these panels horizontally.

The new start to this book is amazing, and hopefully there will be no end in sight.

4.5 out of 5.

If you are interested in becoming one of CC2K's comic geeks, please send along an e-mail with some relevant writing samples as well as your monthly pull lists to CC2K Comics Editor Joey Esposito at