The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 7/23/2008: X-Files, Superman, Joker’s Asylum 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: JLA, X-Files, Superman and more!

X-Files #0 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Frank Spotnitz
Artist – Brian Denham
Colors – Kelsey Shannon
Letters – Ed Dukeshire

So while all the well deserved hubbub about The Dark Knight has probably overshadowed what little hype Fox has created for The X-Files: I Want To Believe, there are legions of X-Philes (yeah, I used it) out there that are drooling. To tide them over, Wildstorm has given us a zero issue of the starting-soon X-Files comic series. Taking place roughly during the show's second through fifth seasons, this first (zero) issue sees Mulder and Scully in their heyday at the FBI investigating another strange chain of events.

Series writer Frank Spotnitz returns to familiar, but fun, territory in going back to the style of the series'  early episodes, with a "monster of the week" type of format. This is essential to letting new readers on board, and perhaps even to getting fanboys prepped for the film being released on Friday, as creator Chris Carter has repeatedly stated that moviegoers need not be familiar with the details of the show and its conspiracies, that the film will stand on its own, similar in manner to this issue. The writing, coming from a deeply involved writer of the show, is spot on with its characterizations of our beloved Mulder and Scully. However, die hard fans will no doubt get the feeling that they've seen this episode before.

That being said, this issue is a good introduction to this new series, and hopefully writers won't be afraid to tackle more complicated subjects. I'm definitely not wishing that they try to tie in the comic to  the overall series long conspiracy, but I think they could offer more in the way of Mulder and Scully.

Thankfully, this issue is drawn with perfection by Denham (it's too bad his variant cover has to be ten dollars), with likenesses of the actors being replicated almost flawlessly. Denham sucks you in immediately with his rendition of the classic X-Files credits in the first few panels of the issue. So for those of you that have been away from these characters for a while, these first panels will put that creepy theme song in your head and bring you back immediately.

As I said, this first issue is a good introductory title, offering fans a precursor of whats to come in the upcoming movie. I just hope that the series to follow will be daring enough to deliver us intense, complicated story arcs without feeling like that have to constantly tie into the TV series. The truth is out there!

4.0 out of 5. CC2K's Book of the Week!



ImageDaredevil #109 review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka
Artist –Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
Colors – Matt Hollingsworth
Letter – Vc’s Chris Eliopoulos
Cover – Marko Djurdjevic

Man, this series is getting really good. If you haven’t been following, three children have been murdered and decapitated.  Matt Murdock is trying to prove that the man who confessed to the murders and who’s on death row isn’t really the killer. The problem is this man, Ben Donovan wants to be executed. The government is involved, rotten FBI agents, king pin Slaughter is back, the assassination of Dakota North, and that’s just some of the good stuff. What’s a blind lawyer to do?

I said it last month: “Brubaker and Rucka have restored my faith in Daredevil comics. With Brubaker and Rucka’s amazing storylines and Lark and Gaudianos realistic artwork,” the comic just keeps getting bigger, better and crazier each issue. This arc has become such a great detective story that it really feels as if it would make a great episode of CSI.

The art direction in each scene feels like a different type of movie, one minute it’s total old school kung fu, next its buddy buddy, then it’s film noir. It’s amazing how many tones Daredevil can have. Brubaker and Rucka write their women characters to be smart and sassy, their villains to be all-powerful, and DD to be scarier than Batman in the streets and in the courtroom. If you aren’t picking this up, start with issue #107 and work your way up, because this is an arc to remember.

4.5 out of 5.0



ImageJustice League of America # 23 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Dwayne McDuffie
Artist – Ed Benes
Colors – Pete Pantazis
Lettering – Rob Leigh

A lot of action in this one folks. Benes’ art is intense and his battle scenes are kick ass to say the least. Story and dialogue fall short but if you’re like me, you need one good “clobber em up” comic a week and JLA delivers.

McDuffie writing last issue was top notch, this time around – can I return it?- not so much. He throws some entertaining ideas around but his dialogue feels like dribble. Poor writing alert: Last week McDuffie had Black Canary kick Vixen off the team, this week, Canary takes her back. Why even bother? If you’re going to kick Vixen off the team, kick her off! Let her prove herself for a few issues before bringing her back to the team, it’s almost a tease. I really have nothing good to say about the word bubbles, I was more fascinated with the battle scenes to truly care. The only real compliment is that McDuffie will introduce a new magical villain new issue and this new threat ties into Vixen and Animal Man’s powers. Pretty cool to see that their powers are intertwined with each other.

Last months issue had a lot more going for it and I was expecting McDuffie to really shake this team up. Instead, I got a really amazing Bene battle royal issue and though I love his stuff, I really wanted a great story to follow.  We’ll see what they do next month.

3.0 out of 5.0



ImageJoker's Asylum: Scarecrow Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Joe Harris
Artist – Juan Doe
Letters – Rob Leigh
Cover – Juan Doe

So far, the Joker's Asylum one shots have, for me at least, been at their worst, mildly entertaining. This issue devoted to the Scarecrow is pretty wild, and I was shocked by how effective the art was. Judging by the cover, and even upon opening the issue, the art basically looks like something from an animated television show. The Scarecrow himself definitely reminds me of the Scarecrow in Batman: The Animated Series, but the gruesome content is severely different, but strangely complements the rather simple art style. The animated feel of this issue gives it an artsier vibe than previous installments, and Harris' fractured storytelling corroborates that.

The tale is that of what seems to be Dr. Crane pre-psychosis, dealing with a teenage patient. Somewhat out of character to me, he seems to be a bit protective of this patient and opts to protect her and show her how to take revenge by stalking a teenage party. What results is a Halloween-like thriller with a little Batman thrown in. It sounds strange, but it works. Unfortunately the only thing that really throws off this tale, aside from a little bit of unclear plot development, is the bookends featuring Joker's Crypt Keeper style quips and morals. Tonally, none of it really fits into the story Harris and Doe are telling, but I'll be damned if Joker doesn't look sweet in Doe's animated style.

As the least straight forward tale of these one shots so far, Scarecrow succeeds fairly well in crafting a somewhat new look on a classic villain. Not quite the breakdown that Jason Aaron provided in his Penguin issue, but more of a fun romp through Crane's obsession with fear.

3.0 out of 5.



ImageNew Avengers # 43 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Artist – Billy Tan
Inks – Danny Miki
Colors – Jason Keith
Lettering – RS and Comicraft’s Albert Dechesne
Cover – Aleksi Briclot

It’s official, Captain America really is dead. It turns out that Secret Invasion Cap is made out of pea soup (he’s a skrull) and we get to learn all about it in this issue. Yay!  But, besides that giant discovery, we really don’t learn anything new in this comic. It’s pretty much Bendis filling in his plot holes and making Tan draw some pretty kick butt stuff.

First highlight of the issue: Skrull Cap uppercutting Ka-Zar’s saber tooth tiger sidekick Zabu. Pretty cool image thanks to Billy “the man” Tan. Second highlight of the issue: Shanna cutting open Skrull Cap’s throat. I gladly would give $2.99 to see that in any comic. Put Shanna cutting open any other characters throat in next week’s Amazing Spider-man and I’ll give it a great review. Besides that, Bendis dapples on the charm and he gives us a great view of his evil skrull cult and their inner workings.

Mostly if you’re following the Secret Invasion it is a great pick up, if you want some great Cap action it is a great pick up, but if you looking for a great story line, well, pick up this week’s Daredevil instead.

4.0 out of 5.0


ImageSuperman #678 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – James Robinson
Pencils – Renato Guedes
Inks – Wilson Magalhaes
Colors – Hi-Fi
Letters – John J. Hill
Cover – Alex Ross

I cannot express how happy I am that this book is back on track. I hate shorting Kurt Busiek, because he's done some great work, but come – his Superman run was awful. Sure, "Camelot Falls" was pretty good, but it also shipped so sporadically that I hardly remember why it was good. I know I mentioned this in my review for issue #678, but I almost always despise a Superman book that pretty much exclusively features the Man of Steel duking it out with someone or something. And yet, that is pretty much what occurs in this issue – but it's great.

It's not the action that makes this book good – there is plenty and it's greatly rendered by penciller Renate Guedes – it's quite simply the style. Robinson weaves the tale of how Atlas came upon Earth (plus lots more action) with the giant battle he is having with Superman that's been raging for the past issue and a half.  It is in these portions that Robinson truly brings intrigue into this book, providing us with a shady mastermind behind Atlas' removal from this own time, as well as suggesting all the things Atlas has seen while traveling in time. And let's face it – anytime there seems to be possibility of a Nazi villain, where can you go wrong?

My favorite part of this issue is obvious. The scenes featuring "backstory" on Atlas is drawn in an old school comics style with big panels and dotted coloring with a limited palette. The contrast between the modern and old school pages alone is enough to pay the three dollars, plus it shows off the immense talents of the art team that is on this book.

I'm thankful that DC has found a suitable team to whip this book into shape, and two issues in, I have faith again.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageTrinity #8 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Kurt Busiek
Aritst – Mark Bagley
Inks – Art Thibert
Colors – Pete Pantazis
Letters – Pat Brosseau
Cover – Andy Kubert with Edgar Delgado

Back-up feature:
Story – Kurt Busiek
Writer – Fabian Nicieza
Aritist(s) – Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens
Colors – Allen Passalaqua
Letters – Ken Lopez

After issue #7, I really though that things had turned around for this book. And, up until I reached the back-up feature portion of this issue, I continued thinking that. The main part of this book has the great Bagley art, as expected. But unexpected is some great moments of our namesake Trinity, mostly as their secret identity counterparts. Busiek really shines writing not the characters' heroic, iconic side, but their more human (or not as human, in Batman's case) sides. We get truly laugh out loud moments as Lois and Clark hold witty banter, Diana has some girl talk about Nemesis, and Bruce shows how much he hates his life as Bruce Wayne. It's unfortunate that these moments, the last of which we saw weeks ago in the debut issue, are going to be few and far between in this series.

Where the trouble begins and ends in issue #8 is the back-up feature. In short, it absolutely sucks. The last 8 pages or so of this issue are nothing more than exposition ridden lines one after another, featuring characters no one honestly gives a shit about, even if they appear to be the villains of the story. There is just nothing intriguing about their scheme or their personalities that makes me ever want to see them again. The trouble is, it's guaranteed that they will be back because unfortunately, they are the obligatory "bad guys".

This series already feels like its getting stretched out to last 52 entire issues. While I'm sure there are bound to be a couple of great issues, a series can't get by on a handful of great main features and a whole lot of crap back-ups. This series has four more issues to prove it's going to be worth the year long weekly investment.

2.5 out of 5.