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Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 4/2/08: Secret Invasion, Detective Comics, Dark Tower and 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: Secret Invasion, Action Comics, Project Superpowers, Zorro, Nightwing, Scalped, Punisher: War Journal and more!

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #3 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Mike Mignola
Pencils – Jason Shawn Alexander
Inks – Jason Shawn Alexander
Colors – Dave Stewart
Letters – Clem Robins
Cover – Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart

I have no idea what’s going on… and I love it! Abe Sapien, even though it’s a short, five book run, is shaping up to be pretty much awesome. I still don’t know what weight, if any, this is going to add to the Hellboy world. But I do know the Abe fans will be grateful for the added depth to their main man.

Ah, but therein lies the problem with this series. It lacks depth. Weird, right? Well, this issue absolutely blazes by. Very few words and pretty much all action. We are even, somehow, treated to a pretty cool cliffhanger that will prove to make the fourth book that much more anticipated. But with all the intensity comes very little in terms of character progression. We get some hints at Abe’s desire to become a little less reliant on Hellboy, but other than that we are treated to an extremely confusing rush of action.

But the confusion is what does it for this book. Everything moves by so quickly that you find yourself rubbing the corners of the final page looking for more. There has to be more, right? Well… Mike Mignola has made sure that this fan will be picking up the next book with this one. What a ride.

4.0 out of 5.

ImageAction Comics #862 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Gary Frank
Inks – Jon Sibal
Colors – Dave McCaig and Hi-Fi
Letters – Rob Leigh

It’s here. The conclusion to Johns’ latest arc is upon us. How did it a fare?

This is one of the best Superman stories I have ever read. I’ll stack it so close to one of my favorite stories of all time even; Superman for all Seasons. Is it as good as the Loeb/Sale effort? This reviewer thinks it comes pretty damn close.

The arc felt incredibly epic while still keeping its distance from encroaching upon plenty of major books’ habit of always seeming to contain potentially universe ruining stories. You know… books always seem to impend certain doom until the last second… but in this arc with the Legion, I was never forced to roll my eyes at the faux “end-of-the-word” effort. There were, “oh my gosh, is he going to make it” moments, but they didn’t over power the story.

But the narrative doesn’t show up on my radar because of its ability to avoid clichés. Instead, this one serves a great deal up in terms of contemporary study. While it’s set in the future, the arc still manages to play on the contemporary notion of racism present in our own society. It inspects racism while not getting too close, and it shows acceptance on a level only Supes is capable of. I know it seems a bit lame to point this out as one of the arc’s incredible points, but you have to admit; Superman is the model citizen. Johns delivers that concept of Superman perfectly, and that is what makes this book such a great read. Supes never has to leave character for even a moment in order for the story to close up. Supes is himself, and it just works.

Oh, and Zoidberg is in the issue. Twice. Yea.

5.0 out of 5!

Image All New Atom #22 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Rick Remender
Pencils – Pat Olliffe
Inks – John Stanisci
Colors – Alex Bleyaert
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Ladronn

Eh. When I started picking up this series with issue #21, it was because it seemed like a good jump on point, with acclaimed writer Rick Remender taking the reigns. And it was. But this issue – it’s just stale. The all new Atom in question – Ryan Choi – is watching his friends and town-mates fall victim to a gigantic beast monster that has come from his own blood. What ensues is a goose chase filled with typical monologue boxes and rather generic pseudo-science babble and unimpressive beast battling.

Not that it’s not entirely enjoyable, it’s just…we’ve seen it before. Hundreds of times. I will say that Remender’s willingness to kill people off is exciting, but judging by the end of this issue I wouldn’t count on it being permanent. In all, this book delivers enough to keep me on for at least the remainder of the story arc, but contemplative of whether or not I’ll continue beyond that.

Pat Olliffe’s art is quite complementary to Remender’s writing: it’s standard. There isn’t much to get excited about; his strengths come in large panel action scenes, which are pretty complicated images – but really lacks in the skill of keeping things interesting during dialogue exchange or when things are simply low key. There is nothing particularly fascinating about this book – the new Atom isn’t as interesting as Ray Palmer, and unless Remender does something to remedy this, I’m not sure how long this book can stay afloat. If you are looking for some good Atom-action – I don’t think this issue is the way to go. I would recommend Countdown to Final Crisis, but, you know…

2.0 out of 5

ImageAmazing Spider-Man #555 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Zeb Wells
Pencils – Chris Bachalo
Inks – Tim Townsend
Colors – Antonio Fabela & Chris Bachalo
Letters – Cory Petit

Chris Bachalo is one of those polarizing artists. People either love him or hate him, lucky for me, I love his work and now he’s on Amazing Spider-Man. One of the first things that jumps out is the lack of panel borders. Instead it’s all white to reflect the mystery snow storm that has come into town. The opening sequence is very stylish in showing only bits of what’s going on, before time jumps back and shows how Spider-Man got to that point. While Bachalo’s characters are drawn well, his backgrounds leave much to be desired. One panel will have a super detailed background, and the next only the color red. It would be more interesting if it was used for storytelling, but the colors almost seem like they were picked at random. The coloring of the actual characters also seems off, most likely because of two colorists. If there was just one, maybe it would have a more constant look, but the book suffers a bit from it.

One would hope that the writing would take place of things like backgrounds or distract from these glitches, but instead there is hardly any dialogue. Not much banter at all and very minimal interaction between Spider-Man and Wolverine. No one seems out of character, but the early inclusion and exit of Dr. Strange just feels out of place and only used to push the plot along. It’s great that the art gets to speak for itself, but I expect more running monologues from Spider-Man than were given in this issue. And since a fight scene takes up a good part of the book I was hoping for more talking parts.

Another fun issue for Amazing Spider-Man is in the can, but I have yet to see the absolute break-out issue that makes this a must have book. This is worth the read, but the art is really the show here, not so much the story.

4.0 out of 5.

ImageCable #2 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Duane Swierczynski
Artist – Ariel Olivetti
Letters – Joe Caramanga
Variant Cover – David Finch and Morry Hollowell

Cable’s protection of the first mutant born since M-Day continues from the showdown it was last left at. A broken, battered Cable who has taken bullets and rolled around with an infant in his front pouch stands and contemplates his next move as Bishop aims a gun to his head, ready to take him out. This is, of course, perfect timing for recollection, and the issue begins with him wondering why Bishop is standing in front of him alive before the book becomes not Cable, but Bishop and enters into flashback.

Obviously, Bishop plays an important part in this story, but it’s certainly contrived for the focus to be shifting so quickly from the title character. Despite an interesting look at meeting Forge, a distant Cyclops and a look into something not easily noticed or recalled previously, it is, after all, only the second issue.

The inhabitants of the future world without mutants are the books’ solar flare. They appear rapidly, steal notice and the focus shifts away from them as quickly. Interesting to see how a group of men who look as if they run toll booths for city bridges or projectors in movie theaters now carry the guns and police the streets with their own unique brand of governmental force. Of course, the sea captains remain as they have since the beginning of their existence, full of helpful information and wide eyed common sense.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that Bishop became the book’s focus, it just seems far too soon. The steps could be further taken to move things along, but at this point with the stalemate of pointed guns and angry faces, one can only think the characters are suffering from Dragonball-Z syndrome far too soon. Cure them, Swierczynski, before it’s too late!

3.0 out of 5

ImageCountdown to Final Crisis #4 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer(s) – Paul Dini with Sean McKeever
Pencils – Jamal Igle
Inks – Keith Champagne
Colors – Tom Chu
Letters – Travis Lanham
Cover – Adam Kubert with Edgar Delgado

So THAT’s how they did it. It wasn’t even THEIR Earth! Ohhhhhhh. So that means the previous two issues of worthless monologues and the apocalyptic Great Disaster all took place on a different Earth! That was just six dollars worth of basically disregarded story. This issue appears to be just as worthless. I tired, I really did. But this book has no concept of pacing, character development, or hell, even plot. These characters bounce back and forth between temperaments that it’s impossible to determine which one is "real". For example – Mary Marvel, pretty much at a whim, decides to turn on her friends. Again. Who’s betting that within the last three issues she turns back? Exciting!

The only plus about this issue is the art. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s better than many previous installments. Igle’s pencils don’t appear rushed as is common in this book. There are some obvious shortcuts taken in the backgrounds, a certain lack of detail, but overall he is successful in making a terrible script look decent. Once again, the back-up feature to Countdown takes the cake, with superstar artist Cliff Chiang taking the art duties on the origin of Ra’s al Ghul. Chiang’s work is superb, giving everything he does a near animated feel. It’s unfortunate that Countdown wasn’t just 22 pages of sweet back-up features. It’d be much more enjoyable.

So with three issues left, I’m wishing that I had dropped this book way back in the #40’s. Although it had picked up for a few months, clearly nothing significant is going to come of this story, and it will long remain as a prolific failure in DC’s history.

0.5 out of 5.

ImageDetective Comics #843 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Paul Dini
Pencils – Dustin Nguyen
Inks – Derek Fridolfs
Colors – John Kalisz
Letters – Steve Wands

For an issue of Detective Comics with the new Scarface on the cover, it has very little Scarface. The first half of the book feels too much like setup, and for a run filled with one-shots from Paul Dini, you can feel that this is going to stretch into a second issue. Even so, nothing seems wasted. We get a bit of Batman, but much more of Bruce Wayne. Dini continues to show that Bruce is really the more interesting character. He needs to solve mysteries, mess dudes up, and still come across as the playboy billionaire. It’s an interesting dynamic that comes across beautifully throughout the book. The inclusion of Zatanna is great and her interaction with Bruce is priceless. Zatanna makes fun of Bruce’s lifestyle outside and inside of the mask and he seems to enjoy it. The playfulness between those two bring about another level to their conversations. Good news then, that neither are off panel for very long.

As for the actual panels, nothing really stands out. The art is very fun and fits certain parts of the story, but for the most part, Dustin’s cartoony style ends up being more of a detriment. People are getting shot and beat up and threatened and a more gritty artist would probably have been a better fit for this specific story. Even so, the art and coloring is very clean and there are a few parts that make cool use of negative space. Scarface does look exactly how he should. A goofy doll among all this carnage and mayhem with the new lady ventriloquist as the backdrop all provides for a great visual.

That being said, the story does take a little while to get moving along and it’s a shame that this had to be stretched into two issues. The art is very cool, but just not fitting for this type of book. It’s enjoyable, but not the best of Dini’s run.

3.0 out of 5.

ImageStephen King’s The Dark Tower: Long Road Home #2 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Peter David
Pencils – Jae Lee
Inks – Jae Lee
Colors – Richard Isanove
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Cover – Jae Lee

A fitting title for the second Dark Tower mini, The Long Road Home sees the strenuous journey Roland Deschain and his ka-tet have to make to get back to their home of Gilead. Pursued by a horde of evil men lead by John Farson, the trials and tribulations continue to build against Roland, Alain, and Cuthbert. However, the focal point of issue #2 stems back to the cliffhanger readers witnessed at the conclusion of issue #1. Poor little Sheemie has stumbled across an ancient evil and something has gone horribly wrong. If that isn’t vague enough, that’s too bad, go out and buy the book!

Peter David continues to write a solid script using narration boxes that actually fit thematically, all the while adding substance to the action unfolding. He has a great voice for all these characters that hasn’t faltered since the first miniseries. However issue #2 of The Long Road Home does bring one problem bubbling up to the surface. A lot of the dialogue between Roland’s posse goes out of its way to describe the art, and I mean a lot. Now it isn’t Chris Claremont bad, so don’t get out your suicide pistol yet, but its still upsetting because it makes you look at Jae Lee’s beautiful panels in a different light. David seems to have adjusted his writing style for the actual characters because if he didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to follow the action due to Lee’s pencils being so stiff. They look beautiful, for sure, but don’t do a great job portraying the action the script details. Therefore, there is a lot of exposition littered throughout each page between the narration boxes and character speech bubbles.

The issue also comes with the standard Dark Tower backup text piece, a great Q & A, and an article about the midnight release party in NYC. I, once again, found the backup story pretty boring, but that’s just because it isn’t my cup of tea. However, for everyone else, the piece is well written, providing a lot of informational nuggets littered throughout to enhance the overall story for Dark Tower purests. What I did appreciate was the Q & A, and midnight release article, making the $4 price tag seem justifiable in my eyes.

Issue #2 of The Long Road Home is the weakest issue of Marvel’s Dark Tower saga, but don’t fret, its still a solid read and worth the price of admission. The story is engaging, heading in an interesting direction which has me locked in for next month’s #3.

3.5 out of 5.

ImageDead Space #2 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Antony Johnston
Artist – Ben Templesmith
Letters – Rus Wooton

Not much on Earth is scarier than religious zealots. It could be questioned how one could make someone like President Bush who speaks to Jesus for advice on how to run a country devised of people who don’t all believe the same thing, or how someone like Jerry Falwell and his legion of followers could be any scarier. The answer is, send them to outer space, of course! Dead Space deliciously puts a non-believer (who’s Han Solo-ish attitude has of course come forth this time around) in the midst of a bunch of crazies bent on giving protection to an artifact it’s unclear whether or not any of them know anything about.

Despite space cliché’s, the book is very strong on unbelievable levels. The dialogue, surprisingly and excitingly, seems more natural than anything that has been said outside our planet’s atmosphere in the last twenty years, at least. Everything is fresh, nothing is boring, and it all seems to come from characters with living, thinking brains. Those turned on by the gory cover of the last issue are in for a disappointment here. Instead of gratuitous alien violence, we get build up. It seems strange to consider one human snuffing another with a clean head shot build up, but it’s so smooth and surprising that when the nasty alien stuff shows up, it will be with purpose and more meaning, in the midst of a society on the verge of tearing itself apart.

The men in charge of that same society are fat, Shakespearian assholes not to be trusted. A cliché for the ages, and a welcome one at that as it’s not used as often as an all powerful, evil being in control. It does, however, further point out just how lame the space cowboy is, and although Bram hasn’t fully turned into such, he is certainly on the verge. He speaks much more naturally, however, than his Star Wars counterpart, and that character’s legion of clones over the years, so it’s not unbearable.

Despite all the pluses, a feeling unable to be shaken is the fact that this book may just be made to sell a video game. No source material, novel, book, television show, or movie for Dead Space leaves it in its’ own pool of lucky breakthrough with so many ‘based on’ products in our current pop world. A torn thought of wondering if the game will be good, bad, or if the book itself will finish bad, or even good enough to leave no reason to buy the game is hard to have when trying to enjoy something that seems so unique. Don’t be afraid, it’s worthwhile thought at this point and a necessary read for those with superhero boredom.

4.0 out of 5.

ImageLogan #2 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils – Eduardo Risso
Inks – Eduardo Risso
Colors – Dean White
Letters – Joe Caramagna
Cover – Eduardo Risso

I take it back. Really… I’m sorry Brian, I didn’t mean it. The first issue of Logan earned nothing but a nod for future potential from me. I figured that Vaughan would have to pen something amazing in order to make this three part mini something worth picking up. I love Vaughan, and I knew that there are not many writers out there that could make a tiny, three issue spurt worth noticing.

Vaughan seems so close to making this one worthwhile. I know that at the end of the second issue of Logan, I find myself feeling riveted. That’s right, riveted.

Vaughan has taken a character that I never really liked and made him into something that seems so much more enjoyable. There are plenty who love Wolverine, and I can’t blame them… But I could never get over the ‘killing-machine’ sense that he brought to the show. Well, Logan has changed my opinion. While Logan himself seems incredibly powerful, this mini has managed to temper his rage into something much more merciful. And it works.

Risso’s art matches Vaughan’s mood. Everything is intense and simple. Lines are rough, but with meaning. White’s colors even do the series justice.

While I begged Vaughan to prove me wrong last time, this time I’m just asking for the final act to be as incredible as the second.

4.5 out of 5

ImageMoon Knight #17 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Mike Benson
Artist – Mark Texeira
Layouts – Javier Saltares
Colors – Dan Brown
Letters – Joe Caramagna
Cover – Arthur Suydam

First thing about this issue is the awesome homage cover to Bill Sienkiewicz, really great imagery. Sadly, the second thing about this issue, the recap page, isn’t quite as awesome. It’s like reading a mini novel. This is just part of the problem with this series becoming too complex to truly be understood and remembered from issue to issue. Thankfully, this issue is one of the good ones.

Mike Benson finally seems to understand the characters and is leading towards something with this issue. The interactions between Marlene and Marc are phenomenal. One minute they’re laughing and the next they’re arguing, much like a real broken relationship. In terms of Marc/Moon Knight, we get a real long look into how he sees himself, first as Moon Knight, and second as a very lonely man. This is the first issue where we really feel that he understands what he’s doing to everyone around him. In true Moon Knight fashion, he falls just short of showing any remorse before he is willing to yell at someone else. The whole book provides an interesting character study of Marc and his relationships around him.

None of this would come through nearly as well if it wasn’t for the perfect man to be on a Moon Knight book: Mark Texeira. His rough style and dark undertones really give the life to this book. He nails the acting from the characters and is able to play around with perspective and angles without making you lose contact with the story. Moon Knight is such a dark character and the world he inhabits is just inches short of insane, and the book would not be as powerful with another artist. Just one of those great mixes of the comic book team being a great fit together.

4.5 out of 5.

ImageNew Exiles #4 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Chris Claremont
Pencils – Tom Grummet
Inks – Scott Hanna
Colors – Wilfredo Quintana
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Cover – Michael Golden

Here it is, a few weeks after my first bout with New Exiles. At the conclusion of my stellar 0.5 review of the third New Exiles, I found myself praying that I would never receive the book as an assignment again. Well, thanks to our stupid editor, I earned a gigantic New Exiles disappointment right in my email inbox.

“Read New Exiles #4, review it. Love – Joey…” well fuck you Joey.

It may be a bit of a mistake on my part, but I did nothing to overcome the certain biases that were sure to accompany me on my second round with this book. Last time around, I got a taste of the genius (?) that is Chris Claremont. It was sour and old. Thought bubbles, ridiculous exposition, over explanation, bad writing. Don’t worry, nothing here has changed.

You guessed it… Claremont made sure that I wouldn’t enjoy the fourth issue either. I could blame the characters, I could blame the art or I could blame the premise. But I won’t. All that jazz flows just fine. The characters work, the art is relatively well polished and the premise is livable. It’s Claremont’s exposition and dialogue that absolutely destroys this book.

Erik and I were talking about exactly why it is that Claremont ruins comics… we came up with an interesting little theory. We decided that if you actually took a black marker to a few panels and covered everything but Claremont’s writing, you’d probably still get a comic book that made sense. I tried it. It made sense.

Take the scripting from 3 separate panels, for example: “How utterly impressive–you can throw a great, big rock! Unfortunately — you missed! My turn!” and later (as a thought bubble, mind you), “This Panther’s good. And this cave is murder. Hardly any light. And sound echoes so much…it’s hard to get a decent fix…”

The damn pictures should tell me about the dark cave, not a thought bubble. And did I really need to know that the rock missed, of course I didn’t. I’m sure the rock wielder knew he missed too. Unless he thought it was a direct hit… and even then, would Panther have wanted to give away her offender’s mistake?

Claremont has done it. Officially. Writing from Chris Claremont is so good, you don’t even need pictures; it’s like brail for comics. But have no fear Claremont fans… because of your deity’s consistency, he’s earned himself an extra 0.5 from last month’s score. If he sucks again next month, will he make it to 1.5? Stay tuned to find out!

1.0 out of 5.

Image Nightwing #143 by Tom Sanford
Writer – Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils – Don Kramer
Inks – Christian Alamay & Mark McKenna
Colors – Nathan Eyring
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Rags Morales & Michael Bair

Just as I’m about to start hoping that Dick Grayson and Tim Drake both blow up in their ship, they land it and stop talking like they’re on a WB show. Thank goodness. This also continues, as their sarcasm and wit seem to work much better as soon as they aren’t flying something or sitting still. Even better. The struggles with natural dialogue and silly smiling speech seem to have taken a turn for the better this issue, with faces actually portraying those sarcastic, witty emotions for a change, in ways that aren’t just smirks.

Nightwing is exciting because the title character has a fearlessness that you wouldn’t expect from someone trained under Batman himself. One would think that a grumbling, seriously humorless hero like Bruce Wayne would bring up a far worse version of himself, even more rebellious and introverted. Dick Grayson has taken that and turned it into confidence, moving with a swagger and using all of the great training he’s gotten to strike quickly and be gone just as fast, with no worry of a failed attempt at secrecy.

This is so enjoyable because Tim Drake is soaking up the situation like a little, impressionable sponge. He jokes with Dick, listens to his rules (he could never have faced Talia alone. A teenage boy with a looker like that?), and isn’t disappointed with himself for being kidnapped. In that same situation, Dick doesn’t scald him for being careless, as Bruce probably would have. A tranquil, level-headed mentor is exactly what Tim Drake needs, and if the day comes that he grows into a hero of his own and passes the Robin torch, he will benefit more than any before him, being smart enough to pluck the pluses from Dick and Bruce.

An adventurous issue, of course, can only leave open the place for more dramatic events. Once Bruce finds out that Tim got caught the way he did, and that they took away the ship without asking, he’s going to be pissed. This captures excitement that can only be akin to the ‘60’s Batman show, waiting to see what happens next with wide-eyed attentiveness. This isn’t a Bat channel, though, it’s something cooler and more youthful at this point, and hopefully it will continue to be broadcast just as well.

4.0 out of 5

Image Project Superpowers #2 Review by Joey Esposito
Plot – Alex Ross and Jim Krueger
Writer – Jim Krueger
Artist – Carlos Paul
Colors – Debora Carita
Letters – Simon Bowland
Cover and Art Direction – Alex Ross

Technically three issues in, and still the best value has been with the $1 zero issue preview. As with issue #1, issue #2 suffers from a lack of much happening. Well, that’s not entirely true, I guess…stuff happens, but it’s basically only to introduce characters. Throughout the issue, the Fighting Yank’s former allies are released from the urn that he trapped them in at the end of World War II. They pop up in different places throughout the world, and that’s basically the extent of this issue. It feels as though Krueger and Ross are still going on the instinct that people will chug along with them for this series based on their names alone. I’m sorry, but I’m gonna need a little more than that.

While meeting all these new characters is fairly interesting, I want more of the story that I was teased in issue #0. There is a hint to something sinister a-brewing in this issue though, so hopefully the next installment will pick up a bit. To their credit, a story that jumps around from place to place introducing new characters should, by all accounts, feel disjointed, but Krueger is able to tie it together well in a relatively tight script, so the pacing is fairly acceptable. To be sure, the same "plot" in lesser hands could be disastrous.

The artwork, as expected, remains superb. The layouts are still courtesy of Alex Ross, so expect plenty of tight, skinny panels brimming to the edge with action. Artist Carlos Paul basically does as he’s told by Ross and the result is nothing short of magnificent. This time around though, the artwork can’t save this issue from it’s lack of anything resembling true development.

2.5 out of 5.

ImagePunisher War Journal #18 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Matt Fraction
Pencils – Howard Chaykin
Colors- Edgar Delgado w/ Jesus Aburto
Letters – VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover – Alex Maleev

Well if you’re like me, and this is the first issue of Punisher War Journal you have picked up since its launch, then you will come away horribly disappointed. Issue #18 kicks off part one of "Jigsaw" where the Punisher is going to come face to face with his longtime rival……Jigsaw. However, part one is all over the place is terms of story, literally making me have no idea what was happening. The recap page, a staple in all Marvel books to help usher in new readers, just helped add to the confusion as the only "recap" it gives leads you to believe you are following a certain character, only to find out it’s someone entirely different. Why, oh why Marvel, did you make such a huge deal about "Ian" in the recap page. I understand this "Ian" makes his appearance near the issue’s conclusion, along with a mock female Punisher(very weird), but it just made me keep flipping back and forth between the recap and actual issue to see if I even read the recap correctly.

Then there is the art. My god, Howard Chaykin draws some ugly people. With every character awkwardly resembling Bruce Campbell, Chaykin’s pencils make for a completely unappetizing experience. What I find the hardest to digest in Chaykin’s art is the muddiness, and stray lines, that are so prominent in his pencils. I can’t stress this enough, Howard Chaykin’s art is not a book seller.

Finally, and probably the most absurd thing I have seen in a comic in some time, Punisher War Journal boasts the most asinine "Guitar Hero Mobile" add. This thing sticks out like a sore thumb next to Chaykin’s scratchy line work, as it is so clear and in focus. What makes it even more ridiculous is that it actually works. I sent my text message to the phone number presented and can now have a FREE Guitar Hero phone background…yay for unnecessary product placement!

I really can’t recommend Punisher War Journal #18 to anyone. The art is atrocious, the story lacks focus and accessibility, the character dialogue is painful to read, and there is a fake female Punisher. The only thing good about this comic is the cover by Alex Maleev, which unfortunately is partially covered by Marvel’s trade dress, butchering part of the piece. Save yourself three bucks by staying away from this comic.

0.5 out of 5.

Image Scalped #16 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Jason Aaron
Artist – R.M. Guera
Colors – Giulia Brasco
Letters – Steve Wands
Cover – Jock

is a series that is intense every single page you turn. The current arc, "Dead Mothers", is probably the most personal yet, involving the murder of Dash’s mother Gina, as well as a junkie living on the rez, whose son Dash soon befriends. As we’ve seen, Dash is a very tough, cold, human being and it’s been refreshing to see him take an interest in they young boy. Issue #16 doesn’t really move the actual plot forward all that much, but it provides yet another interesting look at the politics on and around the reservation, and at Red Crow’s regime.

Dash’s hunt for his mother’s killer takes him off rez to Nebraska, where he has an encounter with a dirtbag sheriff. The thing I really like about taking things off the reservation is we get to see the world around it, and just how not-so-in-control of things Red Crow just might be. Every time we meet someone new, like this sheriff, Aaron provides us with the thought that although Red Crow is the big man on the reservation, in light of the rest of the world, he’s still a small fish. There is no doubt that Red Crow is a bad guy, but his adamancy that he was not involved in Gina’s death is endearing, and culminated in an instance of sever abuse of a cheating gambler.

And just as Aaron provides intensity on every page of this issue, Guera likewise gives us the grit to match. As usual, the pages are filled with heavy lines and shadows, yet abstract enough to make the world these characters inhabit look grimy and dank. As usual the colors are very grim, filling in those places in the panels that aren’t already filled with shadow. The standout sequence in this issue is definitely Red Crow’s barrage of beat down on the unlucky gambler; Guera does so much with so little.

Scalped has thus far been a force of nature in the comics world: a nonstop, brutal ride through this corrupt reservation that currently shows zero signs of slowing down.

4.0 out of 5.

Image Secret Invasion #1 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils – Leinil Yu
Inks – Mark Morales
Colors – Laura Martin
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Cover – Gabriele Dell’Otto

The comic blockbuster season has arrived in full force with Marvel’s big event of the year, Secret Invasion. Since the start of New Avengers, Bendis has been laying the foundation of this event – a Skrull infiltration throughout the entire Marvel Universe. So with all this anticipation, does this first issue deliver? Yes. Well, for the most part.

By nature, the first issues of big events like this generally raise more questions than they answer. This provides intrigue to continue on with the series as well as just pure excitement. Secret Invasion #1 is no different. Basically, this issue contains the Marvel U falling to shit real fast, and the first steps of the last stage of the Skrull’s master plan. It’s most exciting to see the things that happen and wonder just how in the hell everything is going to pan out. There are some big reveals in this issue, and the cliffhanger is really the gateway into the rest of this event.

Bendis effortlessly provides a realistic Marvel Universe, one in which the characters all have their own distinct voices and relationships. As dire as this situation is, there is no lack of humor and cleverness as we have come to expect from Bendis. There is so much happening in this first issue that it’s a genuine feat for him to have accomplished everything he did without the book feeling uneven. All the events are expertly paced, the reader will never feel like things are rushed through for exposition purposes.

Of course, all of this would be for naught if Bendis didn’t have the supreme talent of artist Leinil Yu beside him every step of the way. The man can do anything. His action sequences are exciting, his faces are detailed, and his cityscapes and backgrounds are impressive. There is a precise roughness to his work that makes his pencils instantly distinctive and is really what draws me to his work so enthusiastically. The heavy use of lines is of course brought out by inker Mark Morales and colorist Laura Martin, but I honestly feel like Yu’s work could remain in the pencil stage and be equally impressive. His panel layouts are no less dynamic here than we have seen in his New Avengers work, and the style easily lends itself to Bendis’ cinematic writing style. Not to mention, Bendis provides Yu with a vast scope of variety, and no doubt this will only increase as the series moves on.

New readers are often intimidated by these large scale events, but I think Marvel has done a good job in providing this to be a good jump on point. No matter what your exposure to the Marvel U, you should not avoid this book. Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesdada even provides a nifty little step by step invasion guide as a back-up to this issue. Events are a dime a dozen, but finding one worth the investment is rare. Just jump on board.

4.0 out of 5.

ImageThe Twelve #4 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils – Chris Weston
Inks – Garry Leach
Colors – Chris Chuckry
Letters – Jimmy Betancourt

Chris Weston has found the book he was meant to do. His style fits perfectly in The Twelve by giving it that Golden Age feel. Everything is very detailed, and while those old comics were never ones to dwell on the details, this just feels right. The coloring on everything is amazing and helps to bring more pop to the art. This is a book that I almost wish I could see in black and white just to see the detail in Chris’s pencils. The only odd thing is the close-ups of faces, and there are a few. They kind of change the way the character looks and looks a bit odd after seeing someone from across the room for so long.

The book is very word heavy. If there isn’t dialogue in a panel, there’s most assuredly going to be some monologue boxes. JMS does a great job giving you a lot to read without it feeling like a lot to read. That may be odd to think about, but every word in the book makes sense where it is. Nothing is over stated and there’s so much going on with twelve different characters that it’s all needed in some way. The only drawback is that the art sometimes gets crushed in by the word balloons, but not enough to really harm the book.

The interaction between everyone is kind of rough to watch. It’s very well written, but you can see that besides the fact that they fought Nazis in WWII, they have almost nothing in common. It’s hard to see that all these people that thought they were friends long ago come to realize that they really weren’t and their lives are all but destroyed. A very heartbreaking type story with a little bit of happiness sprinkled in there to keep you from going insane. This has gone from being a book I enjoy to one that I have a hard time finding any fault with it.

5.0 out of 5!

ImageThe Vinyl Underground #7 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Si Spencer
Pencils – Simon Gane
Inks – Ryan Kelly
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Sean Phillips

This book is messed up. Seriously. Take all of the other Vertigo titles and you won’t find anything even close to the stuff you find in this series. And it’s only issue #7! I’ve said it a million times, but who knew that Scooby-Doo plus sex (lots of it), drugs (plenty of them) and rock and roll, minus a talking dog, is an equation for a great comic book. This issue continues the latest investigation in a series of very eerie deaths that the Vinyl Underground is currently undertaking. We get to see more of the culprits in question this time around, and there is definitely something wicked brewing. The creepiest part about it all is the authenticity in which Spencer is able to write these characters, with a divine sense of the occult. It makes me question some things…

The thing that is really charming about this issue is that Spencer pulls off all of this craziness, including a guys face getting melted off by WD-40 and a lighter, a car being blown up by tampons, and a ghost nearly seducing one of the main characters – and it doesn’t ever seem over the top. I know that sounds absurd, but these things just seem to fit in this bizarre world that Spencer and Gane have created.

And speaking of Gane, the art team on this book is bloody phenomenal. I can’t remember the last time I was so blown away by a flawless art team. Gane’s characters are distinct, and he always makes full use of the pages, hardly ever leaving any space for gutters. The inking of Ryan Kelly gives the book its distinctive heavy outlines, that are then gloriously colored by Guy Major in a style that strangely reminds me of a coloring book. The only way to understand is to just flip through the pages, even for a moment. With all of the large hype of some of the mainstream books coming out this week, it’s refreshing to see a freshman alternative book steal the week.

4.5 out of 5.

ImageThe Walking Dead #48 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Robert Kirkman
Pencils/Inks – Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones – Cliff Rathburn
Letters – Rus Wooton
Cover – Charlie Adlard

Wow, that’s really f*cked up.

That’s the only explanation for the events that take place in The Walking Dead #48. If you are tired of reading comics where nothing ever happens to main characters, where status quo is restored within months, then TWD is the perfect place for you. Kirkman has labeled these past six issues as "NO ONE IS SAFE" and he damn sure meant it. With a truly gut-wrenching finale to this arc, I think it’s safe to label this a new low for brutality in a series already filled to the brim with it. Now don’t get me wrong, issue #48 is fantastically written, making the final moments all the more painful to read. You will want to curse the heavens, and Robert Kirkman, for what happens, but won’t be able to shake the feeling the turnout was inevitable. I mean it had to happen at some point…..right? RIGHT?!

Charlie Adlard continues to turn in great work from the art side of the picture. The Series’ regular penciller since issue #7, Adlard’s heavy blacks match the tone of The Walking Dead perfectly, capturing the death that surrounds our cast at every moment. His panel layouts also make for easy to follow action, as this particular issue sees a lot of it. All around the art is top notch, which if you have been following the series for some time, isn’t anything new.

Now without dropping any spoilers, and ruining everything this issue achieves, I am giddy at the thought of where this series is headed post issue #48. It looks like Kirkman has some big, and exciting, plans for The Walking Dead, and I know I will be on board every step of the way. And while this issue read a little fast for my liking, it made up for it in spades with a certain douche-bag finally getting his due. Way to go Kirkman, keep it up.

5.0 out of 5!

ImageYoung X-Men #1 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Marc Guggenheim
Pencils – Yanick Paquette
Inks – Ray Snyder
Colors – Rob Schwager
Letters – Dave Sharpe
Cover – Terry and Rachel Dodson

Hooray, another new X-Men book. There’s only like 150 of them left anyway, why not cover every single one of them? In case you can’t catch the sarcasm coming off the screen, I’m not too happy with this one.

We get a bunch of disjointed and basically meaningless scenes. After each one, you begin to figure, these all must link up at the end, right? Wrong. Cyclops is out getting another team of X-Men together, even though he just disbanded them. I don’t really understand it myself. Practically no introductions are made for these characters and that’s a real bummer for a #1. Just about everyone talks in the same kind of tough guy tone and nothing is done to differentiate anybody from anybody else. Nothing really seems to make sense out of the book and nothing really happens.

The art is serviceable. While that may not be fair to Yanick, he makes use of the “shadow in the background” technique too much to show someone lurking behind. His style seems to jump around depending on the scene. It may come across as interesting, but in the end it really is just a distraction. After the issue is done, it’s pretty much immediately forgettable and the only real highlight is the Dodson’s cover.

2.0 out of 5.

ImageZorro #2 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer/Art Director – Matt Wagner
Artist – Francesco Francavilla
Colors – Adriano Lucas
Letters – Simon Bowland
Covers – Matt Wagner & Mike Mayhew

In my review of the debut issue of Zorro, I mentioned that the book had no trace of a typical superhero origin. Well, I lied. Issue #2 introduces us to just the thing that I thought I wouldn’t be seeing in this series. I know it’s not really a big deal, but it was refreshing, if only for a moment, to see this hero as someone without a horrific tragedy in his past; an icon for truth and justice based solely on his beliefs. Regardless, with or without this digression into this tragic portion of Zorro’s origin, the character still remains elusive in his own series.

Matt Wagner was the main draw for me in this book, and I have faith that he’ll deliver. Issue #2, while not as strong an outing as the previous issue, is still a success and has me on board for the next installment. Again, a majority of this book takes place in the past. While this was successful in issue #1, it grows a bit tiresome here. I don’t want to sound like a fanboy here, but I would eventually like to see some Zorro in my Zorro book. I think what we have in this issue is a case of the story being written for a trade, thus it doesn’t work as well as a single issue.

When this first arc is collected, I’m sure the story will flow together quite nicely. But by itself, issue #2 comes across as a retread of the first issue. More to the point, the $3.50 readers spend on this issue won’t get you much besides a great cover and a couple panels of the title character. Speaking of which – the art is still great, that’s one thing that I will welcome staying the same from issue to issue. But what I’m truly dying for is more advancement of the story in the present time, and not the past. I rather be hooked in by the heroics of the character first, followed by an "origin", if necessary, in later issues.

2.5 out of 5.