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Is It Wednesday Yet?

25 August 2009 Hello and welcome to the 100th edition of the Is It Wednesday Yet? review series! Before we begin, I'd just like to thank everyone who's tirelessly contributed to the series thus far, and everyone who's taken the time to read our reviews even if this is your first time. It means a lot to me that IIWY? which started out as transcripts of Earth-2.net: The Show has blossomed into its own beast and has outlasted the audio segment of said podcast. So, again, thank you to everyone!

As always, the reviews are spoiler-free, so read on! Read on!

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.

Blackest Night: Batman #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 12 August 2009
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciler: Ardian Syaf
Inkers: John Dell and Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Andy Kubert
Cover price: $2.99

Review: drqshadow
If it's not exactly a zombie invasion, it's at least the next best thing. Inspired by the presence of Black Hand, nearly every fallen hero in the DC Universe has begun to rise from the dead, each wearing a shadowy imitation of a Green Lantern's ring. The plague seems almost universal, affecting everyone from Hawkman to the Martian Manhunter, and the heroes who still draw breath seem powerless to stop it. And what's perhaps the most disturbing revelation of all is the skull Black Hand has carried with him from the beginning might be that of the recently buried Bruce Wayne.

As an irregular DC reader, it's nice to see a major crossover that doesn't require a full encyclopedic knowledge to understand. Peter J. Tomasi's writing embraces that spirit and benefits from it. He keeps the cast very manageable, save a pair of pages near its midpoint, and focuses on character development and interaction, rather than explosive revelations and empty special effects. That makes this less of a generic tie-in and more of a unique perspective on a common series of events. There's no way Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne could have enjoyed this much time to themselves in the primary Blackest Night series, and Deadman may have been little more than a footnote, so it's great to see their unique vantage points a bit more fleshed out by someone with a feel for their quirks.

Ardian Syaf brings a rich, expressive sentiment to the issue's artwork. Although the tone is quite morose, as I'd expect given the subject, he still manages to convey a broad range of appropriate emotions without upsetting the mood. From the unsettled grief of Dick and Damian at the site of the Wayne family's disturbed graves to the power-mad giddiness of Black Hand himself, Syaf is asked to cover a lot of ground and he's mostly, if not entirely, successful. The sharp contrast of his shading and the dynamic nature of his splash pages give his work a look that's more in keeping with what I expect from a Marvel book, but after Andy Kubert and Mark Bagley's recent secessions, that isn't such an unusual thing to see. His work strikes a nice balance between crisp simplicity and incisive detail that's occasionally reminiscent of Jim Cheung, although Syaf's compositions aren't quite at that level.

If you're after instant action, this won't be your cup of tea. It's largely a setup issue, putting the right pieces in the right places and preparing for the moment the game really begin, but it does that job well and remains constantly relevant to the main story. It's easy to jump in and enjoy, even if you've never seen Deadman in action before, and keeps the lengthy monologues to a minimum. Though it moves a bit slower than I'd like for the first of a three-part tie-in, it turned out better than expected. This isn't essential to ensure your enjoyment of the crossover, but fans of Batman and Robin will want to stop in for the strong character development and strange personal trials they're about to endure. Borrow it.

Doom Patrol #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 05 August 2009
Writer: Keith Giffen
Penciler: Matthew Clark
Inker: Livesay
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Cover: Matthew Clark
Cover price: $3.99

Review: Dan Toland
The Doom Patrol that's Elasti-Woman, Robotman, and Negative Man are sent to the nation of Buena Suerte to investigate something or other. Said "something or other" goes horribly wrong, and the Patrol is left to deal with things or, more pointedly, not deal with things as they see fit.

What we have here is a fairly run-of-the-mill first issue, as we are introduced to the main characters. This makes sense; the Doom Patrol has been around for decades, but they've never enjoyed A- or even B-tier status. Along the way, we also meet up with Doctor Niles Caulder, the wheelchair-bound super-genius responsible for bringing them together, sending them out on missions, and generally behaving like an ass.

Keith Giffen manages to have everyone wallow in self-pity, but they're written in a way that humanizes them at the same time. The dialog is note-perfect, switching from banter to drama and back again effortlessly. Also, Negative Man is simply awesome.

The art is adequate, for lack of a better word. The story doesn't call for much action, but what little there is is well-handled. There's nothing here to blow your mind, but the art moves the story along perfectly well.

The other thing that should perk some interest is a very fun co-feature starring the Metal Men, brought to you by the Justice League International team of Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. Whenever these gentlemen get together, it's worth your time.

It's not the most exciting issue you'll ever read, but the story's well-written enough to make this not be a waste of your time. I'd definitely be interested in seeing where the creative team takes things from here. Coupled with the Metal Men story, this issue rates a solid borrow.

Incredible Hercules #132
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 12 August 2009
Writers: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Reilly Brown
Inker: Nelson DeCastro
Colorist: Guillem Mari
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Rafael Albuquerque
Cover price: $2.99

Review: drqshadow
Everywhere he goes, Hercules seems to provide his own special brand of trouble. This issue, for instance, he's merely driving along the interstate with the youthful, mind-wiped mortal body of Zeus in the passenger seat, when a slew of harpies descend on their Hummer, turning it into a convertible. Not 10 minutes later our hero's agreed to don the winged helmet, thigh-high boots, and famed hammer of Thor himself, filling in for the God of Thunder in opposition of a mysterious threat in the land of the Dark Elves. Life moves at the casual pace of roughly a mile a minute for this guy.

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have made Hercules one of Marvel's most entertaining characters lately. Since taking over the ongoing narrative of The Incredible Hulk over two years ago, the Lion of Olympus has led us on a raucous ride straddling the blurred line between Marvel's superheroes and the gods themselves. When opposition rears its head, Hercules doesn't take the time to ponder an appropriate response, or even plan at all. The man doesn't give that much of a damn; besides, why waste time with such nonsense when there's a perfectly good brawl brewing just around the corner?

This month's installment is a bit different, in that many of its best moments come from Herc's unexpected solo adventures in babysitting. Burdened with the task of looking after the blissfully confrontational child avatar of Zeus, Hercules approaches the situation the only way he knows how: head-on, chin-up, guns blazing. Although Herc and Amadeus Cho have sadly gone their separate ways, the young Zeus may prove to be an even better sidekick in the short-term. Pak and Van Lente might just be having more fun writing this series than Hercules is within it. They've thrown caution to the wind and completely embraced both the character and the often-hilarious results of his thoughtless leaps into action. I never know what kind of revelation might be hiding behind the next page, and I haven't yet been disappointed by what I find there.

Reilly Brown's artwork has a smooth, animated quality to it that furthers the light, jovial tone of the story. He nails the headstrong personalities of Hercules and Zeus, and never misses an opportunity to contrast the Olympians' unique choices in attire and interior decorating with the modern world they're occupying. Although his paneling habitually slips from time to time particularly on pages with a lot of story to tell Brown is usually able to strike a nice balance between cleanliness and detail. His best work is in the wide range of facial expressions and body language he brings to the page especially when Herc and Zeus really start to tear into each other and the sheer outlandishness of much of the issue's scenery also isn't lost on him. Perhaps most importantly, though, his work is a strong realization of the crazed enthusiasm intended by Pak and Van Lente's storytelling.

Incredible Hercules is a fine marriage between writer(s) and artist. The youthful exuberance of its storytelling is refreshing, full of surprises, and constantly engaging. And the accompanying artwork only serves to enhance that experience. This is far from the most stern-faced, dramatic series you'll ever read, but it wouldn't be nearly as successful if it were. Buy it, it's one of the few titles out there that knows exactly where it wants to be and actually arrives at that destination.

Titans #16
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 12 August 2009
Writer: Christopher Yost
Penciler: Angel Unzueta
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Angel Unzueta
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Dan Toland
Starfire's in therapy. Nothing else happens in this issue. Nothing. No things. Starfire whines to her therapist about how things are changing, and the therapist makes some "Hmm" noises and writes down notes, and 22 pages later I'm left wondering how else I could have spent my time. That'll be $2.99, kids!

I mean, it's not offensively bad, but nothing freaking happens. We're meant to care about everything Starfire is going through, and I'm sorry, but I don't. Maybe I'm just a bad person (that thought's occurred to me), but Yost can't seem to decide exactly what Starfire's issues are. Is she upset that the team is growing up and drifting apart, or is she reacting badly to the events of Final Crisis? Well, it depends what page you're looking at, quite frankly.

The art isn't too great, either. Anatomy is wonky, faces don't line up the way they're supposed to, and hair keeps changing length. It's an amateurish effort, to be honest. Everyone has a vacant look, regardless of the situation. And when the sole focus of a book is the emotional turmoil of one of its characters, you'd think that "mildly constipated" is not the right look.

Oh, I get it. This is my punishment for picking a Cable book for an upcoming Waiting for the Trade, isn't it? Skip.


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The Edge of Forever 37
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