The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 3/25/2009: The Muppet Show, Fantastic Four, Superman & more!

Written by: The CinCitizens

ImageWeek 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: Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon, Runaways, Thunderbolts, The Incredibles and more!

 Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon #1 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Royal McGraw
Art – Tom Mandrake
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Ladronn

First and foremost, the cover is the best part of this issue. Don't worry, I'm not about to completely tear apart this book (saved that for Runaways); as a matter of fact, I enjoyed it for the most part. At best, this one-shot is a decent, if rushed, look at the impact Batman had on the Gotham City Police Department, and the tough spot they are in now that he's "gone". At worst, it's a predictable story with some of the most cliche lines of dialog this side of Judd Winick. Seriously: "You'll never get away with this, Victor" and Mr. Freeze yelling "ICE!" when he fires his…ice gun. For a tale spinning out of something so incredibly un-cliched (Final Crisis/"Batman RIP", NOT Battle for the Cowl), this is a real tragedy. It makes the situation look silly, rather than dire, as I'm sure it is meant to be portrayed.

That said, it doesn't ruin the issue, it simply detracts. The plot places Gordon in the hands of Mr. Freeze after the mass jailbreak we saw in Battle for the Cowl #1, and his realization that Gotham is no longer protected by the Dark Knight, and that the GCPD needs to pick up the slack. Which is ironic, of course, as Bats was cleaning up after the police in the first place. The art in this issue outweighs the writing, as most of the panels are framed nicely with interesting character designs and decent body language. Mandrake's style works considerably well, and you can tell that doing his own ink work really adds to the effectiveness of his style. There are some miscellaneous panels – the final splash page, for example – that look slightly awkward in terms of depth, but for the most part, his smaller scale panels are great. Colorist Guy Major keeps things simple (and dark) in his colors, making the art team a great combination.

I'll give DC credit for keeping this a one-shot and not attempting to make it a three issue mini that doesn't really need three issues, opting instead for a series of one-shots featuring different characters. In the end, Commissioner Gordon feels like a Spark Notes version of what someone like Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker could do with a treatment like this, but it gets the job done at conveying the "oh, shit" attitude sweeping over the GCPD at the absence of Batman, realizing it's time to step up their game.

2.5 out of 5.



ImageCaped! #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writers – Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle
Artist – Yair Herrara
Colorist – Renato Faccini
Letterer – Johnny Lowe

“Caped” is the term that superhero assistants use when they’re getting shafted, burned, or screwed by their employers. I still haven’t decided whether or not I would feel caped if I were to pick up this book. It’s interesting and has an enjoyable premise, but head-shakingly rough jokes and a failed attempt to cover too much in one issue caused me to constantly second guess my decision.

Jimmy Lohman, a dweebie journalist finds himself staring down the blade of what could be a double edged sword as he is in the midst of a hostage situation as the story’s antagonist, a Two-Face clone named Gemini, threatens a massacre unless his twin brother is released from jail. Enter The Edge, a no nonsense hybrid of Superman’s dual identity juggling and Batman’s gruff and remorseless crime fighting style with a twist of self-aware humor floating beneath his disguise. He ends up taking Jimmy under his wing and he begins to serve as his personal assistant. The problems and positives both begin to protrude from the issue at this point.

It’s unfortunately never too clear as to who Jimmy is and how he comes into the position he’s in. He seems neither thrust against his will into the secret underworld of superheroes nor all that surprised to be there. Not only that both Edge and his alter-ego seem to have his entrance into that world planned from the start. It’s kind of bizarre for a situation that is boasting having had 27 previous employees all failing miserably at the job. Jimmy fits like a glove, but that being the case, a stack of high papers and a fellow assistant with an earpiece aren’t enough to make the job look difficult enough to have lost someone worse than Jimmy.

The jokes aren’t quite cringe worthy, most simply borderline lame and many sit firmly as being not funny. Edge and Jimmy have a good dynamic, but there’s not enough focus or development at this point in an issue where the writers have attempted to include plenty of supporting cast. Perhaps it’s too soon to introduce the hidden “Justice League” and the police force, and their moments are complete with too many name-drops and self-references for a first issue, not seeming like a natural mention of in-universe characters, but only a forced attempt at depth. Unfortunately, the bright spots are outweighed, including the aforementioned relationship of the main characters, the potential of a pompous character like Flex, and Jimmy’s hilarious, so-quick-you-could-miss-it impersonation. If the premise sounds interesting to you, it’s because it is, so supporting this issue could hopefully bring about some solid development in the future. I’ll be staying on board. For right now, though, I’ve decided I’m a bit caped.

2.5 out of 5.



ImageFantastic Four #565 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Mark Millar
Pencils – Bryan Hitch
Inks – Cam Smith, Andrew Currie & Bryan Hitch
Colors – Paul Mounts
Letters – VC's Rus Wooton

Millar and Hitch's Fantastic Four is the reason I love monthly comic books. The cliffhanger. Honestly, reading through this issue to its conclusion, while it was incredibly enjoyable, as every issue of their run has been, I was confused as to what the point of this brief two issue arc had been. Up until now, their whole run was so relevant and consequential. This story seemed like a bit of a side-note, until the genius ending. Millar advances the plot months in advance, and only in a seemingly average "thank you" letter from a FF-saved victim, does he unveil his plans for the next story, leaving an incredible feeling of mystery and excitement for the issues to come.

But, that's in the future, after all, and we should focus on the task at hand. The issue reveals the mystery behind Valeria's mysterious disappearance in the last issue, and it's not what you expect. In fact, it's completely absurd. However, it serves the greater purpose of the fact that the Fantastic Family can't take a single solitary moment to themselves without the superheroics following them, which judging by the hints given towards the end, is ultimately the downfall of the Fantastic Four. Encased within the front and back covers lies relatively generic giant monster superhero action, but laced with the clever quips and character moments that only Millar can provide: Franklin's success at finally getting to behave like a big brother, The Thing calling people "euro-trash", and Johnny egging him on as he is prone to do, even in extreme situations.

Hitch, of course, delivers more excellent work, with impressive splash pages and dynamic layouts alike. Can't no one draw The Thing like hitch, and one two page layout in particular proves it. Ben Grimm kisses his fiancee on the cheek, and proceeds to smash a VW Beetle into the face (trap?) of a giant plant monster alien thing, followed by the aforementioned "euro-trash" comment, all contained within a smoothly flowing horizontal double page spread.

Normally, I'd bash a book that featured a giant squid monster fighting the Fantastic Four. Somehow, though, when Millar and Hitch do it, it's irreverent and a clever way to weave upcoming plot threats into the narrative. For that, these men are geniuses. And did I mention that Ben Grimm hates euro-trash?

4.0 out of 5.




ImageThe Incredibles: Family Matters #1 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Mark Waid
Artist – Marcio Takara
Colors – Andrew Dalhouse
Letters – Jose Macasocal, JR
Covers – Michael Avon Deming, Mike Mignola

The Incredibles is a great movie by Disney Pixar; as a comic book, it shows a lot of promise – but issue #1, though fun, does not fully deliver the same excitement that was in the movie. Boom! is aiming this comic towards young children, ignoring the average comic book reader (male ages 14-35) and I bet a crucial amount of the movie’s adult audience. It is not a bad read, just a tad too goofy, which might work for some but not for this reader. However, I will say this is a great read for children learning how to read and a fun introduction to the world of comics.

The story is about how the Incredibles are struggling to function as a team. During the battle scene, the children are acting out towards their parents and Mr. Incredible is getting both ignored by his family and losing control of his powers. The villain is a robot from the future and lacks character depth. Of course, despite their problems the Incredibles beat the robot and come up on top.

Mark Waid has some experience with superhero families. He had a terrific arc with Marvel’s Fantastic Four a few years back, but the chemistry and heart Waid had with the FF, he surprisingly lacks with the Incredibles. The characters are already established thanks to the movie, and Waid’s dialog is fine, it’s just that the kiddy factor takes over the comic and it ends up becoming predictable and boring. Waid is a great writer, so it is a shame that this story feels so drab.

Luckily, the art of Marcio Takara perfectly suits this comic. It’s bright, cartoony, and light hearted. When I picked up this comic, I thought an artist like Scott Christian Sava (Spider-Man: Quality of Life), whom draws digitally would have been commissioned for this work, since his art tends to compliment the art of the movie. Nevertheless, Takara and colorist Andrew Dalhouse really surprised me with their simplicity and it made the illustrations fun. Good job Boom.

Overall, I’m glad I got to read another story about the Incredibles, I just wish this issue’s caliber was that of the movie. This issue is great for the kids (which is why I rated it a decent score) but the weekly comic reader should skip it.

3.0 out of 5.0.



ImageJustice League of America #31 Review by Kevin Hunter
Writer – Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils – Shane Davis
Inks – Sandra Hope
Letters – Rob Leigh
Colors – Pete Pantazis
Cover – Ed Benes with Brian Miller

It looks like Justice League leader Black Canary has a mutiny on her hands.

In the aftermath of Final Crisis, several members of the league have better things to do these days. In “Welcome to Sundown Town Interlude Crisis of Confidence,” the Martian Manhunter is dead, Batman is presumed dead, Superman is busy on New Krypton and Wonder Woman has her hands full with the goings on Themyscira. Other members like the Flash Wally West (I think he’s still waiting for Barry Allen’s return) and Red Arrow also seem to have better things to do. And to make matters worse, it looks like Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Green Arrow, who have been pals for years, have moved on to form their own splinter group for the 40 and over crowd. All this leaves Black Canary with a small group of loyal JLA members like Green Lantern John Stewart, Vixen, Zatanna and Dr. Light. They all must face the fact that others have moved on, or are thinking about moving on.

But come on. Haven’t we been down this road before with the Justice League of America?

Why, yes we have!

And another thing, I could swear I wrote a review on a similar story line about the Titans a couple of weeks ago.

The League always seems to be a mess after a great crisis. It happened 24 years ago in Crisis on Infinite Earth and most recently during after Infinite Crisis. Super heroes with super egos start questioning their worth and get tired and want to bail after saving the earth and the universe in another six to 12 issue mega disaster. And each time, the League comes back stronger than ever for at least another 50 to 200 issues. All it takes is an attack by someone like Eclipso to bring the League together again.

But, I’ve been a fan of this book since the days of Crisis and before, so I can't say that I hated this story, but I am starting to get tired of it. Remember eons ago when the league broke up and Aquaman took over with a new group of youngsters than included Vixen? Remember the post-Legends Justice League and Justice League International run by Max Lord and Amanda Waller?

This story appears to be no different from those, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good one. Black Canary is strong, but she has to admit that she’s in way over her head in keeping this group together and wonders if it is indeed the end. You end up feeling sorry for her. One wonders what would happen if Wonder Woman was running this current version of the league. Who would leave with her in charge? I would be afraid to and would never leave a job with a boss who looked like her or Black Canary for that matter.

This issue has a nice pace and is easy to follow. The cover by Ed Benes and Brian Miller is great. Members are left wondering what to do and is the League really dead for good? (Hey, I did write a review like this a couple of weeks ago!). But for crying out loud, can we please stop with the, they’re-breaking-up-that-old-gang-of-mine stories? We all know that all it takes is one good attack from Eclipso and everything will be fine.

3.5 out of 5


ImageThe Muppet Show #1 Review by Kevin Hunter
Writer and Artist – Roger Langridge
Colors – Digikore Studios
Letters – Deron Bennett

When I heard that The Muppets were returning after being off the air for more than 30 years with a new comic book, I had mixed emotions.

First, there was excitement. Who over 35 didn’t enjoy the irreverent variety television series The Muppet Show, which ran in syndication from 1976 to 1981? Jim Henson’s Muppets were made famous on Sesame Street and anchored by Kermit the Frog. The sketch comedy featured some of the biggest names in show business at the time from Elton John to Alice Cooper, and Bob Hope to Steve Martin.

The Muppet Show was able to succeed in an era where variety shows such as The Carol Burnet Show and The Flip Wilson Show were widely watched and part of the TV norm. They are also very funny. So it was only natural that the television viewing public would buy into a prime time show featuring characters from a children’s educational show on public television.

So now we fast forward 28 years later and the Muppets are back with a comic book. That’s when the pessimism started settling in. Ok. So we bought into a Muppets TV variety series, but who would buy into a comic book about the same show nearly three decades later? I began to wonder how the writers were going to be able to capture the same great humor, same great voices and same overall nuttiness, and present it to a whole new audience, as well as keeping us old fogies entertained at the same time.

I don’t know how they did it, but the folks at Boom! managed to recapture some of the Muppet Show madness and made me feel like a kid again with The Muppet Show #1. Even my four-year-old son was captivated the great artwork and instantly recognized Kermit and took a shining to characters he was seeing for the very first time.

The Muppet Show #1 doesn’t miss a step as we see the old characters return to entertain what hopefully will be a whole new generation of fans. Besides the return of Kermit there’s Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and my personal favorites The Swedish Chef and the crusty old hecklers in the balcony.

The Muppet Show #1 plays out like an episode of the TV show, complete with skits all tied in to a main story about a depressed Kermit. Some of the old favorites are back such as “Pigs in Space,” but the book really outdates itself with “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind.” The writers could have come up with something a little more recent and relevant for all the kids out there.

My favorite part is The Swedish Chef as he “prepares frogs’ leg goulash just like mama used to make.” Earlier I was a little concerned about not having any voices there, but all was forgotten as the chef is speaking in what looks to be full-blown Swedish in the comic book. I couldn’t understand what he was saying on TV 30 years ago and I couldn’t read a thing he was saying in the comic book.

Translation – hilarious!

From the opening “Muppet News Flash” to the very end, The Muppet Show #1 is a very funny and entertaining book that Muppet fans of all ages will enjoy.

4.5 out of 5.


ImageRunaways #8 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Terry Moore
Pencils – Takeshi Miyazawa
Inks – Miyazawa, Lee & Yueng
Colors – Christina Strain
Letters – VC's Joe Carmagna
Cover – Humberto Ramos & Christina Strain

Recap pages are a waste of space. DC has the right idea. Good storytelling means that the reader shouldn't have to read a page of text to remind them of what is happening. But Marvel, in every book, wastes a story page with a recap of the story thus far. And I never read them. I just don't. Most of the time, I'm perfectly capable of remembering. But guess what? In Terry Moore's Runaways, I read it every single time. Why? Because I don't give two shits about anything that is going on here. Issue #8 is no different. Moore has taken characters that I ranted and raved about having such emotional density and turned them into complete shlock. The only reason I'm still picking up this book is because it's like watching a car wreck; that, and I don't want my run to get broken up in my long box between Moore's end and the new team's beginning. It can't come soon enough.

Part Two of "Rock Zombies", where the evil supervillain, radio personality Val Rhymin (yes, a DJ), sees his evil plan coming to fruition. His plan? Turn all of LA into zombies via a secret enchantment played under a rock song. GET IT? HE'S A DJ SO HE HAS THE POWER! Please. I might be able to excuse the ridiculous plot if Moore at least provided some decent character work, building upon the character's we've come to love for the past, what, 7 years? But nothing. It's as if all of that history is gone. The closest thing we get in this issue to a character moment is a scene that is obviously thrown in to the book seemingly out of a realization that there needed to be some sort of emotion in this issue. It's an awkward two page scene between Molly and Karolina that, in truth, reflects nothing and contributes almost zero to either character's development.

To say this issue is bad is incorrect. It's utterly pointless. There is nothing here that contributes to these characters and the journey they've been on for dozens and dozens of issues. These are kids, for Christ's sake! There's so much there to tell, so many more places to go, are we really gonna stop and sulk in some lame story about an evil radio DJ and his zombie minions?

I don't mean to take anything away from Moore, he's a talented writer in every respect – I just think that perhaps he spoke too soon when accepting the Runaways job. It's quite obvious he didn't have as much story as he thought he did, and simply decided to throw us some garbage while we bide our time for the next team to take a stab at these characters. Please Jesus, make it stop.

0.5 out of 5. 



ImageSalem’s Daughter #0 Advanced Review Review by Tom Sanford (Book Releases April 1st)
Writer – Ralph Tedesco
Artist – Caio Menescal
Cover – Eric Basaldua

Zenescope, the company with the self-proclaimed “cheesecake covers” continue to branch out from their staple property, Grimm Fairy Tales, with Salem’s Daughter. Luckily, this books’ zero issue proves that, despite opening flaws, Zenescope books will continually remain pleasant surprises for anyone whose curiosity is piqued by what they see. In other words, ignore the fact that they may at first glance look like comic-geek fap material and turn the page.

Set in the 1890’s, Salem’s Daughter follows a gun-slinger’s misadventures with his protégé, Anna, who has unusual supernatural powers and uses them to correct what she views as “wrong” with the world. Not an origin book, this issue serves as a taste of what the series will entail, and for fans of supernatural action, there’s not much to disappoint. Starting off with a semi-mysterious murder and the strength of a hottie succubus, the protagonists investigate the bottom of the situation they’ve come across. Seeming rather tame at first in comparison to other Zenescope fare, the issue ends up springing a fist-fed succubae wrecking session, exploding off the page with a panel mixing uncomfortable male thoughts of pregnancy with subtle hints of lust I imagine only Ralph Tedesco could force into my brain.

Overall I am very picky with titles and this was, out of even every publisher’s new books’ list, something I was interested in. Most likely, after this issue, I’ll be picking up the series. Unfortunately this issue, being the preview that it is, there wasn’t much room for character development, and while Anna is as interesting as she can be with her few words and actions so far, the male lead, whose name I didn’t catch, seems like the everyday gunslinger at this point. His personality leaves a lot to be desired in that case and could most likely be brushed off by many as run of the mill. Caio Menescal’s work, while solid and acceptable, lacks inspiration. Growing up in Massachusetts, I know as well as anyone who may open up a book about the area or even step foot there that it’s rich with history and paints a hauntingly gorgeous picture of itself each and every year throughout the four seasons. I suppose I could be wrong at this point as to where the book takes place, and in that case I’m sure the characters will travel, but maybe a New England trip would help to solidify and showcase the talent those working for Zenescope and on this book certainly have. I look forward to the first issue and am happy to add some paranormal ass-kicking adventure to my pull list.

3.5 out of 5.


ImageSuperman #686 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – James Robinson
Pencils – Renato Guedes
Inks – Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colors – David Curiel
Letters – John J. Hill
Cover – Andrew Robinson

A world without Superman is a nice place to visit buy I'm not sure I'd want to live there. I'm genuine when I say that I'm really enjoying the current status quo of the Super-books, but having this last for at least a year is a bit intimidating. Issue #686 sees the Daxam explorer Mon-El finally free of the Phantom Zone and taking on the role of Metropolis' protector in the absence of Big Blue. The issue reads extremely quickly, and provides a quick but efficient introduction to the cast of characters that will be cradling this title, presumably until Superman's return. Oh, and there's a Bibbo cameo, which is always cause for celebration.

Robinson utilizes a clever device that never allows us to actually see the full form of Superman throughout the issue. We see his cape, his boots, the back of his head, his S-shield, but never his face or his full posture. Guedes gives an assist by doing things like showing Superman's fuzzed out facial features as a reflection in the helmet of The Guardian. It's a clever device because it reaffirms the fact that Superman is, in fact, leaving his own book, but that is presence will clearly be felt throughout the title in the months to come. One scene in particular that stands out is the scene with Superman saying farewell to Jimmy. It's only two pages, but it leaves a significant emotional residue that is interrupted only by a very annoying editor's note.

This issue very much lays the groundwork for plot threads that will surely be picked up in the future (just who WAS that mysterious diner patron?), but the engaging character moments that Robinson provides never make it seem like a waste of an issue, instead using character building to set up the next story. Hell, he's already given Jonathan Kent (Mon-El) a secret identity and a love interest in the space of about two pages. Oh, and a new haircut. Oh, and apparently Mon-El is the spitting image of Tom Welling. What a dreamboat.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageThunderbolts #130 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Andy Diggle
Artist – Bong Dazo
Colorist – Frank Martin
Letterer – Albert Deschesne
Cover – Francesco Mattina

One of Marvel’s most overrated characters of all time, second maybe only to Venom, makes his way into Thunderbolts and craps all over everything he sees. What was once a semi-politically motivated book with sci-fi treated as a developmental device has instead used that aspect to show off confusing and explosive panels and be a backdrop for Deadpool’s garbage quips.

The Norman Osborn showcase, through its’ good and bad times, has at least taken a backseat this issue as what was going on now is irrelevant and has become entirely confusing. Not only could I not figure out what was going on in one of my most enjoyed books, I found myself trying to go as fast as I could because I didn’t care and I just wanted it to be over. Have you ever been a member of a fan community for an extremely strong property and ventured into the world of its’ fan-writers? You’ll no doubt, then, find the poor folks wrapped up in their own world of terrible humor, unreadable, 50 page stories with no relatability whatsoever and self indulgent expansions that previous or professional writers of the property would write nothing like, drawn by amateurs who aren’t half bad but should be drawing something else? That’s what this month’s Thunderbolts felt like. Whether or not it was that, or will become that, remains to be seen. I award you no (1) points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

1.0 out of 5.