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Is It Wednesday Yet?
31 July 2007

31 July 2007 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always the comics you're about to read about won't be released until tomorrow (01 August 2007), so these reviews are free of spoilers and should help inform your purchases on new comic book day.

Our grading scale is simple:

Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.

Ms. Marvel #18
Writer: Brian Reed
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
Inker: Matt Ryan
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor
Cover: Greg Horn

Review: Tim Glancy
When Marvel's Civil War ended, the Initiative started, and soon dozens of titles were branded with the Initiative logo. Some books, such as Black Panther and Fantastic Four, were more about what was going on in their own universes than the actual Initiative, but Ms. Marvel was one of the books that really took place on the forefront of the Initiative. Since the end of the mega-event, we have seen Carol lead her own team of SHIELD agents and the Mighty Avengers. Yet we haven't seen anything but Initiative related stories in this book, and Brian Reed handles them all tremendously. Reed has managed to cement Carol's place as an important member of the Marvel Universe as not only a super-powerful individual, but also as one of the most important members of SHIELD. He's taken Carol from the confusing, hard to relate to character that she was in the past and turned her into, in my mind, the premier female super hero in comics. Here is a woman who is smart and tough as hell, but is so damn insecure in her ability to lead and whether or not she is "playing for the right team" (not in that sense, fanboy) after Civil War. Reed manages to tie Ms. Marvel into the larger universe while keeping it simple enough so that you don't feel obligated to buy an additional seven books just to understand what's going on. If anything, his writing persuades you to pick up books like Omega Flight and Mighty Avengers because you want to see what's happening elsewhere in Carol's life — not because you need to to understand the story.

Aaron Lopresti has been providing the art for this book since issue 13, and has really delivered a strong performance on pencils. His art really fits the action-packed stories, but he can slow down and pencil dramatic scenes as well. His attention to detail is tremendous, but I think he could use some work on his expressions. Often characters look the same, no matter if they're angry or happy. Matt Ryan's inks really compliment the pencils and help to add a lot of depth to the images. His lines are great, and add to the aforementioned details. Finally, colorist Chris Sotomayor is invaluable here, because if someone with a penchant for darker colors were on board here, the book would not work as well as it does. And of course Greg Horn always provides some striking covers. Aside from Horn, what you have here is a really unheralded art team doing some tremendous work, and hopefully they will be rewarded with more high-profile gigs (on an increase in sales).

This issue carries on my favorite thing about the Initiative: the focus on and return of lesser-known characters. As you can tell by the cover, Sleepwalker and Machine Man show up here, and do so in a way that is quite funny. We also get an appearance from a famous villain who is up to old and new tricks, and everyone's favorite newspaper publisher seems to have information on hand that will cost Ms. Marvel huge. With so many stories going on throughout the book, it would be easy to get lost and lose interest in the main plot — that being Ms. Marvel and her team — but that never happens. Hell, even the ongoing tension between Maria Hill and Carol is addressed, as is a blowup Carol had with a friend several issues back. All in all, Ms. Marvel #18 continues the story we've been following for five issues now, but also introduces new elements which will propel us into the next arc. The ending is a little obvious, but this is the first part of a new story and I have faith in this creative team.

Another strong buy for another great female hero in the Marvel Universe.

New Warriors #3
Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Penciler: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Marte Garcia
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Production: Rich Ginter
Cover: Nic Klein

Review: Desmond Reddick
This ain't your daddy's New Warriors comic magazine!

I followed the original New Warriors series well into the 30s or 40s as far as issue numbers go. I loved the combo of Nicieza and Bagley on the fun superhero comic that turned in an awesome "Days of Future..." storyline and then a great saga of Marvel Boy's trial for the murder of his father and the rise of a truly evil counterpart team.

I didn't pick up the revival due to its proximity to an idea I had plotted out about reality TV superheroes. So I'm unsure how that whole thing played out until Civil War. We all know how that ended for them.

With Night Thrasher and Namorita dead and an emo Speedball — sorry, Penance — could I still enjoy an issue of the new New Warriors? Well, yeah.

Grevioux turned in a script with enough intrigue to keep a young, virtually unknown team going. It has some nice character moments even though I really only have an idea of who one team member is. Jubilee is joined by a cast of unknowns and, maybe, Night Thrasher to combat the Superhuman Registration Act. It's interesting to see Jubilee in a leadership role as well. Paco Medina's art is cartoony but still has the edge the more serious character-driven moments require. That said, at times there seems to be some inconsistency between character designs and facial structures. Other than that, it serves its purpose.

While the issue is rather light in subject matter, it still opens with a corpse on an autopsy table which caught me by surprise. The rest of the issue is from an outside perspective looking in at the mysterious new team and is done well, if not clich้d. I wasn't bothered by it though.

What I dislike about the issue is that the team is introduced in a very clich้d manner. The fumbled training run is done everywhere, so it should come as no surprise that this new team faces the same problem — but I'm still a little tired of it all.

What I really like is that this team has seemingly become something different than its previous two incarnations. They have assembled a network of crimefighters who need to watch their back lest they get arrested. This is something I like about the current Marvel U. There is more of a danger in going out and being a vigilante. It used to be you could run away and the cops wouldn't bother breaking a sweat going after you. Now, the most powerful superheroes in the world are actively hunting you down. It makes sense that a team faced with this dilemma would have to have measures in place to bypass that.

It’s not the picture of perfection but its fun and accessible for the third issue in an opening arc, so for that I tell you to borrow it.

Shanna the She-Devil: Survival of the Fittest #1
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Penciler: Khari Evans
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorist: Paul Mounts with Christina Strain
Letterer: Art Monkeys' Dave Lanphear
Cover: Khari Evans

Review: drqshadow
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Khari Evans have come together this week to give us Shanna the She-Devil: Survival of the Fittest #1: "Pirates, Gangsters and Sea Monsters." Originally brought to the Marvel collective as the wife of Ka-Zar, Shanna was re-imagined and relaunched by Frank Cho just a few years ago, losing her association with the Lord of the Jungle and many of her inhibitions along the way.

This book looks, acts and reads like the kind of softcore porn that fills Cinemax's airwaves after 10:00 on any given weeknight. Some rudimentary thought is given to developing a very basic story, introducing a cluster of paper-thin characters and bringing them all together into a common locale, but that's not really the main order of business here. Shanna is designed to deliver two things: action and pin-ups, and it balks at neither mission.

The story wastes little time on introductions, throwing most of the lead characters into the fire on page two, which makes for some difficult initial reading. One second you're following a squad of nameless goons, the next an entirely different squad of nameless goons is being mowed down in a hail of gunfire. It took me a few minutes to realize that the entire cast hadn't been obliterated before the series had finished taking its baby steps. You'd think that some time would be devoted to further developing this team as the issue carries on, but no such insight is forthcoming. Since the entire story focuses on three main characters, it doesn't really mean anything when some of the aforementioned goons meet a grisly demise about 20 pages later.

Khari Evans's artwork is often interesting, and his paneling style gives the issue a unique, lighthearted flavor that sets a tone, presumably, for the entire series. It doesn't take itself too seriously, so the reader doesn't need to either. Evans shows flashes of brilliance here, especially when he's tasked with illustrating a crazy action scene, an extinct species of wildlife or a scantily clad lady, but he has some problems with consistency. His interest is obviously in the above subjects and little else, as the quality of his work suffers when there's nothing exploding, stripping or attacking on-panel. He seems to grow bored with the subject matter, and as I quickly found out, a bored Khari Evans makes for a dull visual.

In those instances, though, the work of colorists Paul Mounts and Christina Strain make up for the artist's shortcomings. They really do provide an excellent splash of life to the issue, and their work on the frequent splash pages is downright stunning.

So long as you know what you're getting into with this, it won't disappoint. Men fire guns. Women strike awkward poses that serve no purpose but to highlight certain aspects of their anatomy. Dinosaurs attack and blood flows freely. You're not going to get any philosophical insights into the human condition, but if you were really expecting that after a peek at the cover, maybe that reveals a little something about your own internal wiring. This would make for a great bachelor pad bathroom book, but if you anticipate company at any point in the next two years, you might want to settle for a flip through in the store. After 20 seconds with the issue, you'll have absorbed just about all it has to offer.

She-Hulk #20
Writers: Dan Slott and Ty Templeton
Penciler: Rich Burchett
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: John Watson

Review: Tim Glancy
There are only a handful of books I would recommend to someone looking to get into comics for the first time. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane leads the pack, but She-Hulk is a quick second and a book that I have loved since I bought the first TPB back in 2004. What isn't there to love? A crazy-strong superhero who spends half of her time fighting supervillains, and the other half defending them as a lawyer. Okay, so that doesn't sound like a recipe for a hit book, but Dan Slott has truly made She-Hulk a must-read, and it's thanks to the way he handles every aspect of the comic; from action to comedy to romance, every story is crafted with care and it shows. You really love not just She-Hulk, but all the supporting characters — and every character feels important. Awesome Andy, Two-Gun Kid and John Jameson were once third-string characters, but Slott has made them lead players in a great story.

Issue 20 is the culmination of several stories, and most of it is spent with characters revealing things to one another — things readers already knew. This makes for an interesting and awesome story, because even though we know who Artie Zix is, it is great to see how She-Hulk, Jameson and the rest of the characters involved react to this news. We get resolution to no less than three running stories, and by the last page Slott has us ready for the next adventure in the only comic that mixes courtroom drama, humor, sci-fi action and romance in one readable, awesome story.

Of course, a story in this medium means little without the proper artist to help move it along, and fortunately Rich Burchett is just that for this series. His pencils are fantastic, cartoon-like when needed but also very detailed. No matter what type of face they may have, Rich's characters emote. It's hard to get a werewolf to show the pain of a man struck by love, but Burchett does an awesome job of that here. The colors are fantastic as well, with Andy Troy contributing to the story with clean colors that are bright and always consistent with the panel before and after. And Rathburn contributes inks that never overpower the pencils and help draw the reader into the art. The art team always makes sure the tone of the story and emotions of the characters are represented well.

I guess the point is this: She-Hulk is a comic for fans of any genre. Like Starlin-esque space stories? Check out She-Hulk. Love romance comics? She-Hulk has romance by the boatload. Action, comedy, great art, great writing — no matter what you like, you can find some in this comic, and issue 20 is the perfect example. It's rare to find an issue that ties up all the loose ends in a series but is still accessible to new readers, but Slott and Co. manage to do so here. I can't recommend this series enough. Buy the trades, buy this issue and add it to your pull list going forward.

As you can see, this gets a huge buy from me. She-Hulk is one of the best comics you will read in 2007 — and in any year.

Spider-Man / Red Sonja #1
Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Penciler: Mel Rubi
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Michael Turner

Review: drqshadow
Spider-Man participates in his latest crossover book this week, randomly crossing paths with the chain mail-adorned, sword-wielding lady warrior Red Sonja. The two have actually met once before, way back in Marvel Team-Up #79, a notorious 1979 tale by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Now, nearly 30 years later, Michael Avon Oeming and Mel Rubi do their best to honor the work of that highly regarded duo in a five-issue mini-series featuring the same characters.

Michael Avon Oeming's story takes many of its cues from that Team-Up original — the villain, the diabolical means of his arrival, the uneasy air between the title characters — and the basic plot holds up surprisingly well. Oeming's little twists on that existing story, however, leave me wanting a bit more. For the first in a five-issue series, there doesn't seem to be a lot of substance here, and I'm not sure how he'll stretch the concept through the entire run. None of the major threads introduced here are substantial enough to require another four issues to wrap up, which makes me think that the following issues will be overflowing with filler — just like a lot of this one was.

I've read some of his writing before and enjoyed it, but Oeming seems to be out of his element here. He never adequately addresses the vast cultural differences between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, so there's a major hiccup when the two begin to intertwine. He shrinks the size of the city enormously: how were all of these major faces on the same block of Manhattan at the same time on the same night? He struggles with the identities of some of Spider-Man's most well-defined characters, reducing them to a minor supporting cast and eliminating their most interesting quirks and flaws. Somehow, I can't imagine J. Jonah Jameson saying something like, "Your sorcery is indeed strong."

Hiding behind a beautiful Michael Turner cover, you might be surprised to discover that Mel Rubi's interior artwork is fairly mundane. His style fits into the Marvel archetype but is inoffensive to a fault, lacking in personality and rarely taking any risks. It's also unflattering to the subject — there's a panel early in the book of Spidey standing upright in an alleyway that's just begging for a touch of creative liberty, but is instead rudimentary, painfully dull and surprisingly squat and pudgy. As the issue progresses, he loosens up a bit in this regard, but never seems entirely comfortable with the characters.

Rubi rarely takes an opportunity to allow the shadows to play a part in his rendering, and it really serves to flatten his style and erase a lot of the life from these panels. On the rare occasion that he's all but forced to stray from his habit of straightforward line work and introduce some dark blocks of shadow, he struggles. The last page is an especially bizarre example, as the two heroes meet on a rooftop and stand mere inches from one another. Spidey is utterly awash in strangely placed shadows while Sonja stands completely lit, not a dark spot on her body. It almost looks like the illustration is only partially finished.

He also opts to sketch Spider-Man with a variety of different expressions on the eyes of his mask from panel to panel, which is a major pet peeve of mine. The mask doesn't work that way. If you can't think of a way to establish that Peter is confused or angry through body language, maybe you should stay clear of masked characters in general.

This is a crossover for crossover's sake, really. There wasn't any need to bring these two characters together again, save to reignite interest in their original one-shot, and it doesn't look like they have any plans to reprint that issue in the near future. If you've read the Claremont / Byrne take on this clash, you can skip this without missing a thing, as it's basically a modernized version of the same story. If you're new to the experience... eh, skip it anyway and try to get your hands on the original. It's selling for three bucks on eBay at the moment, and you won't have to wade through four additional issues to get a resolution.

Uncanny X-Men #489
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Jason Keith
Cover: Salvador Larroca

Review: Tim Glancy
Some writers excel in one genre, but flounder in others. Such is the case with Ed Brubaker and his run on Uncanny X-Men. Ed's runs on Captain America, Iron Fist, Catwoman and Detective Comics are tremendous. The common thread between these books, however, is that they are character-driven solo titles. And I think that is where this series has failed for me recently. Brubaker is tremendous when it comes to taking one hero and telling a story around him / her. He is also great at crafting intrigue, but not so much when it comes to big action / team comics with a strong group dynamic... I also think that he chose a crap team. Warpath? Morlocks? I get that each writer wants to work with his favorite characters, as well as their own creations, but sometimes the dynamic of the book is truly hurt. Brubaker is at it again with his new storyline in Uncanny X-Men. As you can probably gather, I didn't bother with the first part, but Brubaker does a good job here at getting the reader filled in on what might have been missed. Basically, the Morlocks (another awful group of characters) are at it again, trying to cause a war with the surface folks. This is all built around some prophecy. Meanwhile, Professor X is searching for Magneto. See, if that were the only premise for this book, Xavier hunting for Magneto, it would be awesome. Those scenes are awesome.

The art compliments the story. Salvador Larroca is a fabulous artist when it comes to detail, and he flexes his muscles here. The characters have an almost photo-like quality to them, and while this isn't the best style when it comes to action, it is tremendous in an issue where the characters mostly sit around talking. The colors are great as well, because a title like this demands a dark tone, and Jason Keith hits that nail on the head. You never feel that someone is too bright or too colorful for this tale, and you're never pulled out of the story by the art. The only problem is that this might not be a story worth being pulled into.

I think Brubaker's attempt is solid, but I feel this type of story is more inline with Captain America than an X-Men comic book. Brubaker does handle the characters and dialogue well, but when you pick up an X-book, you should expect more than people sitting around watching TV and trying to solve a mystery. However, Uncanny is saved a bit by the next chapter in the "Endangered Species" story by Mike Carey and Mike Perkins. Again, I think this is the type of story Brubaker is perfect for, but Carey handles it awesomely. For those who don't know, this is about Beast leveraging his soul to try and reverse the effects of M-Day. By the end of this installment, his soul is not being leveraged anymore — it has been sold.

Thanks to "Endangered Species," this is a solid borrow. An okay read, but not what I want from a Uncanny X-Men.

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To hear reviews of Fantastic Four #548, The Irredeemable Ant-Man #11, New Avengers: Illuminati #4, Thor #2 and World War Hulk #3, download Earth-2.net: The Show, episode 131.


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Twice as Bright, Half as Long Special 0.01
Twice as Bright, Half as Long Special 0.01

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The Edge of Forever 36

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