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Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 5/21/08: The End League, Dead She Said, Spider-Man, Catwoman!

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: Spider-Man, Catwoman, Mighty Avengers, and our book of the week: Dead, She Said #1! Plus, last week's leftovers!

Dead, She Said #1 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Steve Niles
Artist – Bernie Wrightson
Colors – Grant Goleash
Letters – Robbie Robbins
Cover – Bernie Wrightson

This book reads, looks, and flows like a noir movie from the 1940's. Except with gore and f-bombs. A hardboiled private detective wakes up one morning to find himself dead. Through monologue boxes and well written character relationships, we learn an immense amount about our main character, Joe, and what embarks is a hunt for his mystery killer.

I'm serious when I say this book looks like a noir film. From the opening splash panel,featuring an aerial shot above Joe in his bed, with a ceiling fan spinning slowly around, to the close ups of Joe's face half covered by the shadow cast by his fedora, this book screams noir. My favorite artists example of the style comes from colorist Grant Goleash, who uses the light from street lamps while Joe walks down the dark streets to illuminate the character. It's a very simple and obvious light source that adds so much to the tone of the book.

Niles is a gifted horror writer, and there is no shortage of terrifying thoughts and images here, but he is much more refined, and in very much a noir/private detective mode, with only traces of his usual demonic story elements. There is a short interlude within this issue that seems to be suggesting a bigger plot at hand, but the plot I'm excited to see conclude is the dead private detective trying to solve his own murder. Oh, and he tapes his intestines back inside his body. Sweet.

5.0 out of 5! CC2K's BOOK OF THE WEEK!



ImageAmazing Spider-Man #560 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Dan Slott
Artist – Marcos Martin
Colors -Javier Rodriguez
Letters -Cory Petit

Amazing Spider-Man is good again.  Make no mistake, "Brand New Day" or not, this book is totally worth reading.  Dan Slott and Marcos Martin continue their arc of Peter becoming a paparazzo.  The art is fantastic fun throughout the whole book.  Each page is colorful and pops really well.  The different camera angles and panel layouts work well with the action on the page and brings another level of energy to the story.  There are some great quiet moments where you can see how well Marcos can draw faces and expressions.  Even the cover is a powerful image and a great showcase to begin the issue.  He even found a fun way to work the title page into the book without breaking up the story.  It worked so well that I had to go back and do a double take just to see who the team was on this one. 

The dialogue and lettering are also top notch.  Characterizations and interactions are all fun to watch, even when the subject matter isn’t exactly the fun kind.  And the way the word balloons are arranged along with the thought bubbles helps keep your eye on the page and each scene and line flows nicely into the next.  There’s also some good plot development and the pace of the story really kicks up a bit from last issue, and that’s impressive.  And while you’re looking in one direction, the subplots that have been running along get their own little boost forward.  The supporting cast is great and it’s easy to stay interesting in every character, even when Peter Parker is no where to be found.  And to top it all off, a big reveal on the final page that is sure to have everyone going insane.  I enjoyed every moment of this issue and it’s going to be really hard for them to top this one.  At long last, I can give Amazing Spider-Man the best rating available, because at long last, it’s earned it.

5.0 out of 5!



ImageAvengers: The Initiative #13 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Christos Gage
Artist – Steve Uy
Letters – Joe Caramagna

After issue #12’s graduation of the former class, I was curious to see what direction this book would take.  And as it turns out, another class is being welcomed into Camp Hammond.  This is a bit of an odd issue because all the characters are new except for the instructors at the school (although that brings up some continuity issues with the Secret Invasion).  Each new student gets a quick intro and then the book really turns into the movie “Stripes.”  Not much plot or character development is happening, which just seems off since this is the beginning of a new team.  You’d figure that they would make sure you get to know everyone.  But it still is a fun read.  Nothing significant really happens, but there are some interesting moments that make this book worthwhile.

The art, while better than #12, is still not great.  It just looks like it’s partially unfinished.  The coloring has some nice shades and rendering to it, but the actual pencils and inks don’t work so well.  People’s faces and bodies seem very plain, but the style isn’t quite that animated look.  It’s an odd cross between animation and realistic and the cross just looks like unfinished realistic art.  It says something about the issue when the most excited I got was when I realized there was a preview of the new Moon Knight issue in the back.  When a three page preview is more exciting than the $2.99 book, something’s wrong.

3.0 out of 5.





ImageCatwoman #79 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Will Pfeifer
Pencils – David Lopez
Inks – Alvaro Lopez
Colors – Jeromy Cox
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Adam Hughes

It's hard not to read this book and just feel an immense sense of sorrow. Not that the book is sad, but it's horribly depressing when your favorite book is just three issues away from its finale. But that said, Pfeifer does a great job in this issue of starting to wrap up the running threads from his run on the series. Issue #79 sees a lot of threads come back into play after the brief arc that the book took to tie into Salvation Run. To his credit, it should be said that Pfeifer does a great job of making the tie-in arc not seem like an editorial necessity, but rather a fully planned beat to play into the impending finale of the series.

The Lopez's art is, as per usual, awesome. This issue particular captures the natural sexiness of Selina Kyle's Catwoman, not only physically, but also in her movement, facial expressions, and body language. They are able to bring her fluctuating morality (is she hero/criminal?) out as a physical feature through the things I mentioned. Catwoman is one of DC's deepest characters, and it's a shame to see her go. This week's DC Nation column promises there is something in store for Selina via Grant Morrison's "Batman RIP", but we will see.

I still maintain that if you aren't reading this book, you are stupid. Catwoman is one of the best adventure filled superhero books on the stands. Even though it's soon ending, there is no reason not to pick up the back issues or trades and catch up. You won't be disappointed.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageThe End League #3 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Rick Remender
Pencils – Mat Broome
Inks – Sean Parsons
Colors – Wendy Broome
Letters – Rus Wooton
Cover – Mat Broome

Everyone knows that late books often kill the momentum of a storyline, and unfortunately this is not an uncommon practice in today's comic industry. Granted, The End League is not late, but it does ship bimonthly, which can sometimes be just as bad. Most times, I won't even read issues that ship bimonthly. Instead, I'll buy the issues and wait until the series is done to read it. The problem being, End League is on going. The first two issues were great reads, but I'm sorry to say that the newest falters just a bit.

With the loss of what we thought was our main character, not to mention the fact that it's hard to remember this huge cast of characters after two months, it's difficult to jump back into a very complicated story with so many personalities. That said, the issue does manage to entertain for it's 22 pages, and Broome's art is, as usual, a sight to behold. His framing is typical of superhero books, but his attention to detail in faces and backgrounds is refreshing. Unfortunately, after this arc ends, Broome will be moving on making way for a new artist. The good news is that with this change over, the series will begin shipping monthly.

The market is filled with riffs on the mainstream hero genre, but I'm glad to report that although this issue is a bit of a misfire in comparison to its predecessors, The End League is still a top notch title with loads of potential.

3.0 out of 5.




ImageFantastic Four #557 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Mark Millar
Pencils – Bryan Hitch
Inks – Bryan Hitch & Andrew Currie
Colors – Paul Mounts
Letters – Rus Wooton
Cover – Bryan Hitch

And thus concludes Mark Millar and Bryan Hitches' introductory arc of their new stint on Fantastic Four. And well, it's a bit disappointing. It's disappointing in the sense that the superheroics in this book are immensely cliched and there is nothing here that we haven't seen before. What saves this issue is some great dialogue spurting from Ben Grimm's mouth as well as some really poignant moments between Reed and Sue – as human beings and lovers – and not as superheroes. Also a plus: Dub-ya and Condie make an appearance attempting to cover up a gigantic robot fight.

And speaking of which, although it comes about in an altogether expected way, Hitch's work on the fight between Reed's Anti-Galactus suit (a huge fucking Transformer) and C.A.P., is awesome. Granted, huge robots fighting has got to be difficult to screw up, but Hitch gives readers a mish mash of metal and explosions, and it's definitely all that you hope it will be.

"World's Greatest" started off really strongly with a great concept and veered off into something else entirely, bordering on hackneyed. I know Millar is capable of more – his sense of the characters knows no bounds, and his dialogue and action is spot on – but here's hoping that the team's next adventure is something with a little more variety from every other book.

3.0 out of 5.



ImageGrendel: Behold the Devil #7 Review by Tom Lynch

 Writer – Matt Wagner
Artist – Matt Wagner
Letters -Tom Orzechowski

This issue takes quite the turn for the confusing.  Grendel is finally able to confront what has been bothering him for six whole issues.  Then…I’m not really sure.  A significant number of pages are taken up with some bizarre stuff, and then it ends.  At least there is another issue after this, or I’d be pretty angry.  There’s essentially no plot movement or characterization, save the last page.  It’s hard to go further into it without bringing about spoilers, but what the hell man?

The actual art is great, as usual.  The red coloring is used in interesting ways, but not as effective ways as in past issues.  Because there are no real panels throughout the book, there’s nothing that stands out.  Most of the book is two page splashes with collages of stuff.  And I say stuff because none of it has any real meaning. 

It’s all super disappointing after all the build up to this.  You’ve got me for one more issue Mr. Wagner, I hope it is better.  Or at least helps this one make sense.

2.0 out of 5.



ImageThe Mighty Avengers #14 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer -Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils – Khoi Pahm
Inks – Danny Miki
Colors – Dean White
Letters – Dave Lanhpear

Hooray for crossovers.  With this issue, Mighty Avengers continues its connection with Secret Invasion and explaining some things.  Namely: “What is the Sentry doing running away…again?”  With some neat ideas shown and one heck of a cliffhanger, you’d figure I would have liked this issue more.  The real problem is how the story gets broken up by different cuts to different times and places, with none of which really having anything to do with the previous.  What little dialogue there is seems contrived and nothing really makes sense.  Although that could be a given knowing that the Sentry is involved.  His characterization is always so inconsistent that I don’t know if I can say that he is in or out of character.  Thankfully, the bits without the Sentry are interesting and add some depth to the actual Secret Invasion story.  But again, that doesn’t really pertain to what else is happening aside from a bit of dialogue.

The art is interesting.  It has a sort of Lenil Yu feel to it, perhaps to closer tie it in with the series proper.  The characters are drawn well, with the exception of a few facial expressions or camera angels that had me a bit confused.  The inking seems inconsistent and scratchy.  I’m not sure if that’s what they were going for, but it really makes the book look out of place and doesn’t suit the story well at all.  Although there is one page that stands out as a great moment, and most of the storytelling is really on that one page.  While it was an interesting issue, I’m tired of the Sentry and the ending of this issue only adds to that exhaustion.

3.0 out of 5.



Last Week's Leftovers:



ImageLocke & Key #4 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Joe Hill
Artist – Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors – Jay Fotos
Letters – Robbie Robbins

A gem, is the most simple description that can be given to Locke and Key. Still now, after four issues, with plenty of chances to falter, slip, or be not as good as it could, it has consistently remained a fantastic read. Where a regular comic might become boring or predictable, Joe Hill keeps the reader waiting, not only wanting more but feeling a connection and fear for the characters they have read about. Their rich personalities, from the tragic Locke family to the murderous Sam that their father once tried to help, create a book with depth and heart. What one might want from all books, they will find in this one.

Bode, running around as little kids do, is a strange boy, but something about him is so terribly realistic that his owl joke is hilarious as he tries to tell it to his sister. Paralleling past issues where he spied on his family as a ghost, he simply meets them now as a regular kid, showing just how far the book goes in terms of building realism and searching for something true in its’ characters. At this point, the book is beyond Hill and I’m sure as a writer, he has decided that it has a life of its’ own, and there’s no doubt about that when reading it.

The art is still a wholly different style, but not terribly unfamiliar when compared to similar books. It’s comfortable, easy to look at, and the characters faces carry loads and loads of emotions in every single panel. Seeing the maniacal Sam as a trouble high school kid getting picked on makes one sympathize with him despite having killed the central family’s patriarch. The Locke family is incredibly unique in their trouble and the tone of the book coupled with the excitement from reading it is what makes it a diamond in the rough of the world of comic books. This book is a must and despite its’ extra dollar expense, is completely worth it. Pick up as soon as you can!

5.0 out of 5!



ImageThe Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Hans Rodionoff
Pencils – Joel Gomez
Inks – Don Ho
Colors – Randy Mayor & Gabe Eltaeb
Letters – Steve Wands
Cover – Jonathan Wayshak & Randy Mayor

Anticipation is a terrible thing. It can cause bias, but in this case, I promise that my love for Lost Boys and bursting excitement for the upcoming Lost Boys: The Tribe will not get in the way of what I have to say about this book. All disclaimers aside, the book is incredible and far better than one would expect. There’s a reason that the Frog Brothers are such an amusing staple in vampire lore, and it is front and center in this mini-series leading up to the sequel’s DVD release this summer.

Edgar Frog immediately, paranoia still running through his veins, asks a young vampire-hunting wannabe to grab one of the hundreds of crosses strung around his house to touch it and douses him with holy water, just a Frog brother should. Immediately, he goes on a rant, giving the history of himself as a vampire hunter and the art of vampire hunting as a whole, going as far back as the Revolutionary War. He recounts some moments from the early ‘90’s that brings the brothers as far as Capitol Hill, fighting the plague across the country. Rejoice.

The humor that made the first Lost Boys so great is not just apparent, it’s everywhere. Hans Rodionoff really remembered that not only is the film funny, there’s a charm to the characters in that hilarity that makes them so incredibly likeable. They are completely and totally serious about everything they say, no matter how absurd the situation. Much like Corey Feldman in recent interviews for The Tribe, he takes himself so seriously that he has no room to realize the insanity of the situation he is involved with, and that’s what makes it so great.

Speaking of Corey Feldman, the modern day Edgar unfortunately does not look enough like him. He looks aged and a bit grizzled, while the Edgar in the trailers, and Feldman in real life, hasn’t changed. He’s similar in the flashbacks, though, but the fact that Feldman has and will always have such an interesting face isn’t taken advantage of. The only gripe amongst a book full of strengths, Reign of Frogs is the best piece of vampire pop since the original film. Far better than say, the massively boring and nerdy Buffy series, in only one issue, so anyone needing extra promise after the sequel’s trailer need look no further.

4.5 out of 5.



ImageScreamland #3 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Harold Sipe
Artist – Héctor Casanova
Additional Colors – Buster Moody
Letters – Sean Konot

The way Screamland works has become easy to figure out. Each issue has focused on a specific monster of the crew and where he is and what he’s doing when he gets news of the reunion. It’s on the third issue and has had ups and downs, stopping with a basic down this month. In unfortunately the most boring issue so far, the focus shifts to the best (or at least my favorite) “Universal Monster” in the Wolf Man. Having an amusing look which could easily be mistaken for a usual biker at any bar in the country, he is anything but exciting and interesting as he works a SuperMegaCon signing autographs and appealing to hordes of screaming nerds.

The issue is terribly predictable giving one exactly what they might expect from such a convention. Beginning with a Star Trek spoof show premiere and the usual nerd asking a question that an actor who knows the difference between fantasy and reality can’t answer, the Wolf Man meets that same actor for drinks. They are bland, they speak of life working a con, and while it may be just that boring in real life for Con-hounds like Lou Ferrigno, these are certainly interesting characters not being used to their full advantage. The idea of the celebrities at the ‘con is funny, albeit getting old, but it still has much more potential than how its’ portrayed here. The beginning of the book has some bizarre flashback to Wolf Man’s childhood that’s far too interesting to be followed up by he and his actor friend sleepwalking through the rest of the issue. Its’ boring tone in that sense, then, is basically simplistic. Left off with him receiving the phone call for the upcoming reunion and a panel advertising the next issue and it's gay Dracula, this issue fails to excite in any way other than segueing to the next which will no doubt be better.

2.0 out of 5.



ImageThunderbolts #120 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Warren Ellis
Artist – Mike Deodato, Jr.
Colors – Rain Beredo
Letters – Albert Deschesne
Cover – Marko Djurdjevic

Just in time for Secret Invasion and just in time to save a book that’s mostly had him sitting behind a desk and giving more screen time to lame characters like Radioactive Man, Norman Osborn puts on the Green Goblin suit and bursts back onto the pages of Thunderbolts to take care of business himself.  As he walks and complains heading for his costume in the beginning of the issue, it’s obvious exactly why Norman is such a great character, simply by what he has to say. Comparing himself to Hitler and going on about what changes he will make when he becomes president, his sick self-confidence is darkly delicious. Nothing about him is ever boring, every word out of his mouth is importantly insane, and his Goblin suit is just the touch of color needed to bring fantastic balance to the series.

The other characters are mostly absent, only appearing to try and face off against Norman. He is vastly overpowering, reminding everyone why someone like him was put in charge in the first place. The book needed a massive boost like this, and it doesn’t make the mistake of paying too much attention to anyone but the character it has brushed aside for so long. Even Venom is mostly completely absent, other than a single panel reminding that he’s lying on the floor, impaled.

The artwork but Mike Deodato is excellent. Spider-Man has had little new to show off Green Goblin for many, many years, with new looks not being as well drawn as old, and the old look becoming too stale. Deodato manages to put a spin on the Goblin that many have not been able to for years, making him look strangely realistic and not leaving out his maniacal demeanor in movements and speech. Even his look screams “psycho.”

While it has been said that this is to segue Norman back into the monthly Spider-Man books, hopefully that doesn’t last long. Here in Thunderbolts we can ignore the gigantic flopping mess that is the Mephisto retcon and those of us who have chosen not to read those books have an easier time pretending they don’t exist. There is no reason that Spider-Man’s most interesting antagonist shouldn’t have his own book to star in, anyway. He has turned back into something he has been struggling to control for so long, and now he will have to juggle his sanity and control himself and his team. That leaves plenty of room for development, let’s just hope they don’t pull a Spider-Man and ruin that.

4.5 out of 5.



ImageUnited Free Worlds #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Blake Leibel
Artist – Jason Raines
Colors – Jesse Aronson & Michael Montaine

The indy comic circuit gains a dinosaur epic with United Free Worlds, presented by Fantasy Prone. Anything one might need, including prehistoric monsters, dueling planets, bloodthirsty psychotic warriors, and bloodthirsty psychotic army men, are all present in the book. If any one of those factors is a negative in the eyes of the reader, however, reading the book is essentially in vain.

A new planet has appeared near Earth, and naturally it is immediately explored to inhabit and harvest resources. Unfortunately for the Earthlings, it is already inhabited by cave people who have been fighting with each other for years and years. The focus shifts from a pair of Earth brothers who are the usual military geniuses to warriors on Cretoria who are the usual masculine assholes. One must ignore the clichés to truly enjoy the book, which is a simple task. The book is in this sense, more fun anyway, as it doesn’t seem to worry about having to be different or new and exciting.

If Dino Riders, the awful ‘80’s cartoon made to simply to sell toys had a half step more depth and was R rated, it would almost be United Free Worlds. This book, however, still seems to have its’ own level of uniqueness despite being a bit of an obvious idea. The characters on Earth are interesting enough to be able to follow in a monthly book, and the violence is entertaining. Something about a hole that can be seen from one end to the other through the body of a person is always interesting, even though the art itself is a bit on the bland side. The colors are generally average, no real risks are taken and the people look less than cartoon.

Despite its’ flaws, the book is still about Earth fighting with a planet populated with dinosaurs. Not much negative could be said about such a concept, and it doesn’t seem as though the book will change for better or worse. If the idea is exciting to the reader, than he will either at least be entertained in reading it or not be interested at all.

On a final note, I asked Blake Leibel at NYCC if any dinosaurs will come from the water, along the lines of plesiosaurs or any other massive ocean dwelling prehistoric beasts because I’m a dweeb for that type of shit. With a smile, he told me that a bomb exploding pisses off those same dinosaurs I speak of, and they will certainly be making an appearance in future issues. I was sold at that point, and hope to see more of United Free Worlds in the future.

3.0 out of 5.