Comics Ate My Brain

December 10, 2006

New comics 12/6/06

I’ve already talked a little about Justice Society of America #1 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham, inked by Art Thibert), but let’s begin there this week anyway. I like the idea of the Justice Society basically acting as keepers of the flame, charging the new legacy heroes with the social responsibilities of living up to their famous names. (It’s an idea similar to Kingdom Come, which explains Alex Ross’s involvement in the series.) I do like the last-page tease of upcoming storylines, and am looking forward to the JLA/JSA crossover in a few months. I like the fact that the Justice Society is positioning itself as being just as important as the Justice League, albeit for different reasons. Frankly, and I hate to sound horribly sycophantic by saying this, but Geoff Johns’ enthusiasm is pretty palpable, and you can tell he’s really putting a lot of love into this book.

However….

I thought the introduction of Mr. America came off a bit overblown, even considering the role he plays later in the issue. Maxine Hunkel’s enthusiasm was just a bit much, the secrets of the new Starman seem pretty obvious, as does the attitude of the new family member (not to mention his dad). The Rebel/Damage fight also went on a little long if the point it was making was just that Damage could stand to learn more manners. These are all personal reactions, of course, and I understand that you might feel the exact opposite. That’s fine. I suppose the hook for me buying this series would be its importance to DC-Earth as a whole, and not any investment in the characters — but if that’s my approach, it seems I’ll be missing out on about half the book every month. I’m still on the fence about #2, although I may pick up the eventual paperback.

Because the rest of the blogosphere would surely rise up as one and smite me if I didn’t, I picked up my first issue of Manhunter (#26, written by Mark Andreyko, pencilled by Javier Pina, inked by Robin Riggs), and it was pretty good. Basically Kate’s been hired to defend Wonder Woman against criminal charges brought by the federal government (for political reasons), so the whole issue is pretty much her and her staff freaking out around Wonder Woman. That’s always fun. Checking in with the book’s supporting cast requires more of a learning curve, though. Their scenes are interesting, just disconnected from everything else (or so it seems). Anyway, I’m getting #27, so you can put away the torches.

52 #31 (written by Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Rodney Ramos, Dan Green, and Dave Meikis) would have been a lot harder to take had DC not chosen to feature its main character in his own miniseries, now on sale. Still, any villain who eats Green Lantern rings is certainly one to watch. The interlude with Supernova and Ralph has me wanting to do some detective work of my own, which will probably turn out badly but at least should be fun. The origin of Robin (Tim Drake) somehow manages to omit Jason Todd, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Finally, the Infinity, Inc. scenes still don’t do a lot for me.

Detective Comics #826 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) was strangely uninvolving, considering that it featured the Joker torturing Robin by running over Christmas shoppers in a stolen SUV. It’s not a bad idea (for a story, that is), and it certainly fits with the Joker’s satire-til-it-hurts paradigm, but the best part of the issue was the brief flashback to Bruce, Dick, and Tim comparing Joker notes during their “One Year Later” sojourn. I think the problem for me might have been too much internal monologue from Tim competing with the blackly-comedic Joker monologue. Usually the Joker’s diarrhea of the mouth is up against Batman’s stoicism, and it may have been more effective, more suspenseful, and more entertaining to wonder how Tim planned to get out of trouble rather than to “hear” his play-by-play. Kramer and Faucher draw a fine Joker though, reminiscent of Michael Lark’s (right?) in Gotham Central.

Another Robin in trouble and another internal monologue are also the focus of Nightwing #127 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund). Dick gets buried alive and has to dig his way out the long way, with a busted shoulder to boot. It gives him, and us, a chance to go over the plot of the last couple of issues, which seems like it should be simple but I still can’t figure out why the battlesuit guy was killed or why we should care. Anyway, next issue should be the big finish, and maybe I’ll have gotten on board by then. As for this issue, while there wasn’t really much suspense, Wolfman does have a good handle on the internal monologue, and showed Dick getting appropriately beaten up and bloodied. Not that I’m into that, mind you — I’d like to see next issue treat our hero a little better.

I got last week’s Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #46 (written by Kurt Busiek and Karl Kesel, drawn by Butch Guice and Phil Winslade) this week. It’s a tale of Orin-Aquaman’s encounter with a younger King Shark, and while it features Mera and Vulko, it doesn’t quite feel like a classic Aquaman story. Not that a good Aquaman story requires the phrase “finny friends” or the concentric circles of marine telepathy, but I couldn’t quite connect the guy calling himself the King of Atlantis with someone probably carrying a Justice League signal device. The story itself isn’t that complicated, but it does require you to keep track of some unfamiliar names and their various motivations, and I may have to spend some more time with it.

The (All-New) Atom #6 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Trevor Scott) finishes the first storyline of Ryan vs. the Waiting and various other malignant forces in Ivy Town. However, while I’m sure Ryan’s solution makes sense, I still don’t understand it. Also, somebody (maybe Mr. Scott, the inker) makes everyone’s faces look awfully pinched towards the end of the issue, which results in some unfortunate near-caricatures of the Asian cast members. I didn’t dislike this issue, and I’m still on board for the future, but it wasn’t this team’s strongest effort.

Superman Confidential #2 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) was good, although I really don’t understand the appeal of drawing Superman as an overstuffed kid who looks like he’s flunked sixth grade a few too many times. That’s just a few panels, though, and Sale’s Lois Lane more than makes up for it. The sight of Superman vomiting up lava after thinking he might just die under a volcano is also pretty sobering.

I was looking forward to Batman Confidential #1 (written by Andy Diggle, pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Richard Friend) because I thought it would feature Batman fighting giant robots and Lex Luthor. That’s apparently next issue. This one opened with a fairly familiar scene of Batman fighting gritty urban violence with, yes, his internal monologue to keep him company. Portacio and Friend draw a serviceable Batman, and their Bruce Wayne looks sufficiently young and arrogant for the story’s setting, but every now and then characters sport big raccoon-eyeshadows and their heads change shape from panel to panel. Still, I like Diggle well enough to come back next issue for the giant robots.

I was also looking forward to Welcome To Tranquility #1 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) in part because its aging-superhero setting seemed like a good counterpoint to Justice Society. Instead, it’s more like Astro City, which obviously isn’t bad. Between them, Simone and Googe make the oldsters (and their younger selves) pretty endearing, like if your grandmother were a ’40s teen heroine who still thought she could fly the old plane. The issue did seem a bit scattered, though, with weird ads for the local chicken restaurant sprinkled throughout and a locked-room murder mystery that comes out of nowhere. It’s not a bad package, although it does try pretty strenuously to be quirky and that could get old (no pun intended).

Man, aging superheroes must be a motif this week, ’cause here’s Agents Of Atlas #5 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), in which one teammate turns rogue and another’s origins are questioned. This isn’t a grim ‘n’ gritty, realistic take on forgotten ’50s characters, though, so everything works out. It’s a credit to Parker and Kirk that they’ve gotten me invested in these characters despite my utter lack of familiarity with many of them.

The same applies to Beyond! #6 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins), the end of which relies upon the same kind of built-from-scratch emotional investment. I hate to sound too glib, but this was a good example of old-school Marvel crossover magic that might not Mean Something to the bigger picture, but used to be Marvel’s bread and butter. I’m glad McDuffie will be writing Fantastic Four before too long.

Stay with me, folks … just a couple more.

The message of Hero Squared #4 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham) is that superhero fights are messy, something that I thought we learned a few issues ago. Still, this issue works as a standalone story, with Milo’s own heroism contrasted against Valor’s.

Finally, Star Wars: Rebellion #5 (written by Rob Williams, drawn by Brandon Badeaux), finishes this book’s first arc, many months after it was originally scheduled. Lucky for me it’s just a lot of carnage involving who will turn against the Empire and save the Rebels. It turns out about like you’d expect, but there are a couple of points of bad execution. First, there’s not a lot of distinction between Luke’s old friend Tank and the ex-Imperial spy Jorin Sol. Second, the plot hinges on the Rebel flagship going into hyperspace, requiring somebody to Push The Hyperspace Button, and this makes me wonder why the Hyperspace Button is always so hard to push. Third, all the damage the ship takes apparently doesn’t make much of a difference to the whole hyperspace question, because the book never addresses it. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but you kind of have to expect Luke and Leia (still looking unreasonably hawt) to survive.

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September 13, 2006

New comics 8/30/06 and 9/7/06

… or, That’ll Teach Me To Go On Vacation….

This past week was noteworthy for being the first time in a loooong time that I bought more Marvel than DC books. Considering I’m not participating in the Civil War hubbub, that’s saying something.

Accordingly, let’s begin with a couple of books that expose my ignorance of Marvel Universe minutiae, Agents of Atlas #s 1 and 2 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), and Beyond! #3 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins). For AoA, I remember Jimmy Woo pretty much only from Marvel’s Godzilla book, and outside of Marvel Boy having his own Grant Morrison miniseries which, you guessed it, I never read, I hardly recognize any of these other characters. (Except for Dum Dum, but everybody knows him.) I’m intrigued by these issues, if only for the notion of Z-list characters somehow coming together into a formidable fighting force. I get the feeling that this is the attitude to which the Shadowpact aspires, but I like this book a lot more. Also, I’ve been a fan of Leonard Kirk’s since his days on DC’s Star Trek books.

I continue to enjoy Beyond! despite (again) no knowledge of Deathlok beyond the recent Dave Campbell profile. As far as the plot itself, I was a little disappointed by the big reveal at the end, and probably not as stunned as I would have been had I known who that Dobby-looking creature was.

Come to think of it, She-Hulk #11 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn) falls into this category too. I was heartbroken by the “fate” of Awesome Andy (he came and he gave without taking), and I always like Rick Burchett, but once things started flashing back to Man-Wolf’s weird alien connection, the little “??” balloons started popping up overhead. Is this how DC newbies feel all the time? Boy, I never knew you had it so bad….

And while we’re on the “it was good, but I’m too stupid” theme, don’t hold your breath waiting for me to extract deep profundities out of Solo #12 (by Brendan McCarthy et al.). I think I appreciated what he was trying to do, but I’ll be dipped if I can tell you how he did it, or much about what it was.

Everybody loved All-Star Superman #5 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Frank Quitely) and I did too, so if you’re not buying it, or waiting for the Absolute edition, or whatever, I don’t care — you shouldn’t deny yourself any longer. Maybe the best part of the fine Summer Of Superman ’06 is the rejuvenation of the regular books, at least as long as Kurt Busiek has anything to do with them. Action Comics #842 (written by Busiek and Fabien Nicieza, drawn by Pete Woods) presents Part 2 of the Manga Kha — er, Auctioneer storyline, with Supes assembling a rag-tag bunch of misfits, plus Nightwing and Firestorm, to bring him down. I’m not as excited about the prospect of Richard Donner and Geoff Johns as the regular Action writers, because while they’ll certainly bring the big events, I doubt they’ll do it with as much wit and style as Busiek. To be fair, Busiek and Johns collaborated on the excellent “Up, Up And Away!,” so I suppose the burden is on Johns to prove he wasn’t riding Busiek’s coattails.

End of digression. Mark Verheiden writes and Ethan Van Sciver draws Superman/Batman #29, Part 2 of a storyline which finds our heroes up against a shape-changing menace that tends to copy their friends. Green Lantern shows up too, which is a plus, although I got the feeling I was supposed to recognize the big pink bad guy. What is this, Beyond!? Anyway, Verheiden’s story has been tighter so far than Jeph Loeb’s epics, but he tends to rely on the kind of overheated exposition I thought Loeb would have taken with him.

JLA Classified #26 (written by Howard Chaykin, pencilled by Killian Plunkett, inked by Tom Nguyen) begins a new arc that finds the League embroiled in global politics, and didn’t we just go through this with Gail Simone a few issues ago? I’m only kidding a little — the plot is sufficiently different, focused more on the League’s keeping a low profile, and it reads enough like Chaykin and enough like the JLA to make me, a fan of both, happy. Nguyen inked much of the Joe Kelly run on JLA, and Kelly did some political storylines, so that adds to the familiarity.

1602: Fantastick Four #1 (written by Peter David, pencilled by Pascal Alixe, inked by Livesay) will probably turn out to be pretty inconsequential, but for now it’s kind of goofy fun. The Frightful Four are the villains, and a Doombot and some vulture-men show up too. A bit of initial misdirection works, but a later bit doesn’t. There’s a somewhat oblique reference to Ben Grimm’s Blackbeard impersonation as well. Art reminded me of Keith Giffen circa 1990, and for the most part it was good, although I had trouble trying to figure out if a couple of minor characters were supposed to remind me of familiar Marvel folk. I think David’s sense of humor is well-suited for this, so I’ll give it a chance.

Giffen himself is on display, of course, in Hero Squared #3 (plotted by Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham), another well-made issue that begins with a classic-Marvel parody and features an embarrassing fight between Milo and Valor at the funeral of the man Valor couldn’t save in #1 (or was it last issue? can’t remember). Abraham reminds me more and more of a cross between Kevin Maguire and Bart Sears, and given how Giffen and DeMatteis honed their comedy schtick, I wonder if that’s an accident. Looking forward to #4, which promises more hitting, although I don’t mind all the dialogue.

Detective Comics #823 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Joe Benitez, inked by Victor Llamas) presents a good, somewhat creepy, Poison Ivy story that positions itself as a fair-play mystery but really isn’t. However, the twist is right out of an old EC horror book, or maybe a “Twilight Zone,” and aside from my secret-identity-alert! radar going off whenever there’s a fight in the Batcave, it was handled pretty well. Benitez and Llamas do a fine job with the art, which is somewhat in the Image thin-line cheesecake style (at least as far as Ivy is concerned) and still manages to make Batman look imposing and Robin look like a kid.

The best part of The (All-New) Atom #3 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Trevor Scott) was, as many others have noted, the “Sanity roll!” exclamation. Not that this hasn’t been a fun book all along; and here it veers into the same kind of creepy territory as that Detective story. However, the presence of the big supervillain here makes me wonder about her timeline, given her prominence in another book’s current storyline. I can’t decide whether I like her better here or there, and I say that despite her being, shall we say, clothed in something less than unstable molecules.

Finally, we have 52 #s 17 and 18 (written by Jay, Barry, Wally, and Bart, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Chris Batista and Eddy Barrows, inked by Ruy Jose & Jack Jadson and Rob Stull). I still say reading this series is like keeping up with Time or Newsweek — every issue is an infodump, and occasionally you get a fairly cohesive issue like #18 that focuses almost entirely on one story. Therefore, I liked #18 better, but maybe that’s because it feels more like a “regular” comic. Also, #18 addresses the concerns I had about Montoya’s actions at the royal wedding, which was nice.

August 10, 2006

New comics 8/9/06

Well, I’ve got the time and the motivation, so let’s knock these out while they’re still fresh.

First up is 52 #14 (written by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Dale Eaglesham, inks by Art Thibert), which finds itself in a more familiar groove after last week’s near-exclusive focus on Ralph Dibny. This time the issue’s split between Montoya and the Question’s trip to Kahndaq, and Steel’s despair over his niece’s allegiance to Luthor. Will Magnus is visited by “men in black” (who don’t wear black, thus the quotes) and the capper is a two-page origin of Metamorpho. The Metamorpho origin makes him seem like an Indiana Jones-type adventurer before the accident that gave him his powers, and while I’m no Metamorpho scholar, I don’t seem to remember that kind of swashbuckling surviving to his superhero days. Maybe I just didn’t notice. Anyway, it’s a neat idea to emphasize, and by that I mean “hit me over the head with it so I don’t miss it again.” Back in the main book, the Kahndaq stuff is good, but the scene with Magnus got a little confusing during the prisoner takedown. The Steel scenes were effective, although that plot seems to be in a holding pattern.

I bought JSA Classified #15 (written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Mark Farmer) partly out of curiosity to see if Part 2 of … well, Part 2, counting the JLA Classified arc, would improve on a lackluster couple of installments. I suppose it depends on accepting a side of Gypsy’s powers I hadn’t seen before. Is this an astral form? Did she study with Doctor Strange? Anyway, the setup is pretty intriguing, as far as supervillain plots go — basically, the stronger Wildcat gets, the madder he gets, or the unluckier his foes get. It might not be plausible, but it’s effectively unbeatable, at least to my mind that hasn’t had time to consider it. Ultimately, not as bad as it could have been, and I’ll be back for Part 3.

Superman #655 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) was good from start to finish, including the pleasingly old-school cover. (Word balloons? How kicky!) Much of the issue is told in flashback as Clark brings us up to speed on two old double-L girlfriends, Callie Llewellyn and Lana Lang. The latter, in fact, is the new CEO of Lexcorp, which, considering all the trouble she’s been through ever since her ex-husband was elected VPOTUS, is a pleasantly surprising change in the status quo that I hope is long-lived. It sure is a good distance from her Chuck Austen “homewrecker” role, and Busiek gives her and Clark a more dignified airing of their old romance.

As for Callie, the big mystery centers around just what she knows of Clark and Superman, but her status as Clark’s post-Lana flame allows Clark a non-milquetoasty exchange with a fellow reporter interested in the nudge-nudge aspects. Indeed, Clark has apparently adopted the Jim Rockford blazer-no-tie style, and via Pacheco, makes it work. Also, Superman’s in this issue, fighting a Doomsday-type brute engineered by the USSR. Busiek uses Supes’ senses for exposition, putting in narrative captions information about the setting that Pacheco then doesn’t have to show. It works better than I can describe. Except for a few confusing pages with Arion in 17th-century France, that holds true for the entire book.

If it turns out I have correctly guessed the identity of the Mystery Villain glimpsed in Firestorm #28 (written by Stuart Moore, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne), I will be very impressed with myself and may well be even more insufferable. (The guess is at the bottom of the page.) This was another solid issue, moving things along nicely and bringing back a few familiar faces. Speaking of which, it feels like Moore is playing the single-dad angle with Jason as a counterpoint to Ronnie Raymond’s (widower?) father, only where Ronnie had to deal with a stepmother, Jason’s real mom is now back in the picture. Anyway, Mikhail Arkadin (one of Ostrander’s Firestorms) returns officially in this issue, everybody fights foot soldiers in battlesuits, Firestorm unloads a massive amount of power on a big blob-beast, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all good.

Beyond! #2 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins) is mostly a big fight between Medusa and Venom, during which Medusa is shown to be quite hardcore. Also, the group winds up on a mysterious planet, Hank Pym apparently pulls an Avengers Quinjet out of his pocket, and surprisingly, I remember that the one guy with the hair is the new Kraven. All in all, not a bad second issue, with enough happening to be entertaining. For #2 out of 8, that’s about right.

She-Hulk #10 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Nelson) also has a lot going on, from Jen’s role as Registration Act enforcer to Pug’s attempts to break Starfox’s love spell (and, therefore, destroy Shulkie’s new marriage), the repercussions of said marriage on the new hubby, both personally and with an old Spider-Man villain, and the revelation of another villain from the previous She-Hulk series who, quite honestly, I had forgotten. Sure, it’s fun, but it feels like we’ve been dealing with these issues for a while now and it’s time for some resolutions.

And speaking of resolutions, Fantastic Four: First Family #6 (written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Chris Weston, inked by Gary Erskine) wraps up the miniseries in a decent way. I wasn’t crazy about this issue, but it might improve once the whole thing is read in one setting. Mostly I kept waiting for Reed to get the crew out of those clunky unstable-molecule suits and into some more comfortable unstable-molecule duds. Also, this issue Reed tends to look like Peter Lorre, which I might have mentioned before. The power of love saves the day, too, but again that fits with another subplot, so it’s not so egregious. The whole thing is redeemed, though, by closing with the classic FF mission statement, so all is forgiven:

*** I think it’s Tokamak, Lorraine Reilly’s father, who tried to become a nuclear-powered supervillain a few years into the Fury of Firestorm series.

July 7, 2006

New comics 7/6/06

Filed under: 52, batman, beyond, fantastic four, secret six, spider-man, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:00 am
Sweet fancy Moses, I read some good comics today! Just when I thought I had things figured out, quite a few of these books surprised me. Hardly a clunker in the bunch!

We begin with Detective Comics #821 (drawn by J.H. Williams III), the first of what I hope are many consecutive issues written by Paul Dini. If JHW3 were sticking around longer, I might be calling this the next great Batman team … but then again, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert are on deck, so we’ll just have to see. Crikey, I’m negative, and for no good reason except being burned by so many Batman comics in the past several years. Anyway, buy this issue. Savor its done-in-oneness, and remember the years of line-wide crossovers. Notice the painted scene transitions, the deco-font captions, the fact that Robin (!) gets a dramatic reveal. Ponder whether the opening two-page spread, with its judicious use of white impact marks and sound effect, is an homage to the Adam West show. Everything about this comic feels right.

Secret Six #2 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) sports a cover that would send Sir Mix-A-Lot into orbit, but it’s actually kind of a fakeout. The Six spend much of the issue getting back on those that done them wrong, including a torture scene that ends unexpectedly. Art is still rather murky, and the colors this issue don’t help much. A flashback scene involving Scandal swimming uses much the same shade of orange for the water and land elements, making me wonder how long she could hold her breath. Also, one of the Six is the subject of a cliffhanger, but because it wasn’t telegraphed earlier in the book, it’s somehow not as suspenseful. I know that sounds fallacious, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Still, I thnk Deadshot makes a Batman Begins joke, and everything else seems to hold together, so I’m on board for another month.

52 #9 (written by Ace, Rocky, Prof, and Red, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Shawn Moll, inks by Tom Nguyen) tracks two main stories: Steel confronts Luthor over Natasha’s powering-up; and Buddy, Adam, and Starfire escape Devilance the Pursuer. Also, Montoya meets an unmasked Question, and her old girlfriend gets a costumed cameo. (“History of the DCU” covers Identity Crisis, so you can imagine how that goes.) It’s rather predictable to have Natasha and Steel fight, but I like Natasha so far, so I’m rooting for her to have a happy ending. However, the question for the other main story is, how blind is Adam Strange? At one point he can tell that Devilance is looking into the unfriendly end of Adam’s jetpack. Did I miss the part where Adam now has radar sense from the truck full of chemicals passing by the spatial anomaly? Maybe I did; but please, 52, have mercy on us slow folk.

Neck-and-neck with Detective #821 in for this week’s Why Aren’t All Comics Like This? award is The Thing #8 (written by Dan Slott, drawn by Kieron Dwyer), featuring Ben Grimm’s spectacular Marvel Universe-wide poker party, in celebration of a true milestone in his life. Yes, Alicia is involved, but it’s not what you might think. I thought it was a terrifically charming issue built around nothing more than colleagues gathering for a good time, and if I start to think about how much of Marvel and DC’s recent sales are based around blood, death, and artificial bids for relevance, while this title never found its audience, it will just make me madder. If you are enjoying “Civil War,” I can understand why; but if you have a spare $2.99 for this issue, or you want to splurge on the upcoming paperback, you could do worse. Dan Slott loves Marvel’s characters like family, and this series has been a great showcase for him and them.

I wanted Fantastic Four: First Family #5 (written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Chris Weston, inked by Gary Erskine) to step up the pace, and it did. As Sue struggles with her feelings for Reed and Johnny tries to save his mechanic buddies from burglars, Reed is called in to stop Evil Peter Lorre from irradiating upstate New York with cosmic rays. It’s all good setup for what could be a very satisfying conclusion.

Ever since seeing that Peter David was writing Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man (#17 pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Norman Lee), I had been meaning to get it. This issue features Spidey (still in high school) trying to cure Flash Thompson’s lycanthropy, with the help of special guest star Doctor Strange. I didn’t think David would dumb down an all-ages story, and I wasn’t disappointed. Predictable elements of the story are given good twists, and while David’s trademark sense of humor isn’t front and center, the story is very good-natured. Art is also simple and straightforward, but professional, in the mold of Paul Smith, Ty Templeton, or cover artist Cameron Stewart. If I were feeling more cynical, I’d say sure, Marvel, get the kids hooked on this, and in a few years they’ll be ready for civil liberties and ugly art. Next issue: Man-Thing!

Finally, an impulse buy: Beyond! #1 (drawn by Scott Kolins), bought on the strength of writer Dwayne McDuffie. It’s a sequel to Secret Wars, featuring Spider-Man, Venom, the Wasp, Gravity, Firebird, Hank Pym, a new Kraven, Medusa, and (unfamiliar to me) The Hood. The story is told from Gravity’s perspective, which is nice for someone like me who needs to be introduced to him and some of these others. Now, you might think that some of the big names involved here would be safe from death and carnage, but let me tell you, you would be wrong. While there might be a reset button at the end of issue #6, it looks like an entertaining ride nonetheless.

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