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The Weekly Comics Wrap-up: Jan. 23, 2008

Written by: Ron Bricker

Image The world of comics is complicated, with multiple companies (and universes) to keep track of. Luckily, CC2K has Joey Esposito, our resident expert on all things pulpy and good. Each week, Joey will break down what's happening in the world of comics, so you can pick up right where he left off. Today, offers some long overdue praise for the Marvel universe, and the work of Joss Whedon.

I find that comic books, although usually satisfying from week to week in one way or another, have its moments that range from awe inspiring "oh my god" satisfaction to "at least it wasn't rubbish" satisfaction. I'll be the first to admit that there are very few comics that I've read in my life time that were just complete garbage. There is almost always something redeeming about every book. It may be hard to find, it may be minuscule, but its very difficult for me to find a book that I simply despise. 

Faker #6, the conclusion of a miniseries written by Mike Carey with art by Jock, has come very close. I love Jock's artwork, which is this book's only saving grace – but even Jock isn't able to make up for Carey's lack of nearly everything. This includes interesting characters, a cohesive plot, any kind of interesting action. This mini started out well enough; I recall when it was announced at the '07 New York Comic Con at the Vertigo panel, and I was excited. I picked up the first issue, and it was wonderful. Every issue since then has descended into science fiction scribblings of an acid trip. Anything that has happened since about issue #3 has made zero sense. Someday I might try reading the entire thing through again in one sitting, but I'm pretty sure there is nothing more to be said about this book, aside from "don't touch it with a ten-foot pole." Don't let that first issue fool you.

On the bright side, this week did bring us the conclusion (finally!) of Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale's Superman: Confidential story arc, "Kryptonite", which detailed, from a new perspective, the origin of the only substance in existence that can harm the Man of Steel. The last issue of this story came out in issue #5, and this conclusion occurs in #11. Was it worth waiting six months for? No. Should you pick up the trade of this arc? I think so. Granted, it's definitely not Cooke's or Sale's greatest work, but even their worst efforts are levels beyond the average. My only complaint with this issue is the seeming sudden darkness that engulfs the story, it just felt out of place in the world that the storytellers had previously created. It was good, just strange.

DC's other offerings for me this week included Countdown #14, Gotham Underground #4, and Wonder Woman #16, all of which contributed better-than-adequate installments in their ongoing stories. I still assert that Gotham Underground is the best thing to come from the whole Countdown debacle. This issue proves to the weakest, but provides one of the best splash pages thus far in the year: Scarecrow hanged up on a cross, motionless like the straw creatures he imitates, with a note attached: "This is what happens to masks in Gotham." I am very excited for where this story is headed, and with five issues to go, who knows what's in store.

Surprisingly, the best book to be released this week has come from Marvel. My issue with Marvel was always their need for tie-ins. Whatever huge event is happening in the overall universe is always being tied to every other book that is ongoing. Granted, DC has become guilty of this as well in recent days, but in retrospect Marvel has ruined a great many of books by doing this. Which is why a book like Astonishing X-Men is so god damn good. 

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing exists somewhere outside the Marvel U. It is not an alternate universe, and the ramifications of what happens in this book are felt elsewhere, but it is almost standalone. In this book, there is no necessity of the godforsaken X-Men continuity, and there is no need to have to have ever even laid eyes on these characters before. Granted, it makes it better if you have, but even so – Whedon has created a book so rich with character and story that if I had to rid myself of every Marvel book forever, this is the only one I'd fight for keeping. Unfortunately, this week's #24 is the last. 

Whedon and company are packing up shop on this title, and they give us one last exciting cliffhanger here to be concluded in a Giant Sized issue coming soon. I'm not sure whether or not the book will be continuing with a new creative team, but you can rest assured that the characterizations and witty dialogue will be hard to match. It is difficult to master the "team book" in that it takes a lot of work to be able to make all of these different elements come together as a team, but make them individual personalities at the same time, yet Whedon does it with ease. At least he has taken over Runaways to provide us with a similar team situation, but I don't even remember when the last issue came out. 

All in all, it was a better than average week, but if there is only one book you want to pick up, make sure it's Astonishing #24.

This week's must read list:

Astonishing X-Men #24

Gotham Underground #4

Countdown to Final Crisis #14