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Can't See the Forest #52-53
Reviewed by Alan J. Porter, © 2005

Format: Comics
Review Date:   November 28, 2005

All-Star Superman #1 (DC)
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Over the last few days I’ve encountered four different incarnations of the Man of Steel, from the Silver Age silliness of the recent Showcase collection, to the current DCU Superman, to television’s Smallville and even the brief glimpse seen of the new Superman Returns teaser. And now we get another one. It’s a fun read. Morrison makes his hero heroic and his villain villainous. His concepts have a typical Morrison sci-fi touch while retaining a degree of humanity. Quitely’s art is clear and dynamic, giving senses of both grandeur and intimacy. In fact for me the best part of the book is not the grand, high-concept opening but the quiet, effective, Lois & Clark moments at the end. As I said, a fun read; but once again I have to ask, just who is the All-Star line of books aimed at — and do we need yet another incarnation of Superman?

Batman and the Monster Men #1 (DC)
By Matt Wagner

Matt Wagner revisits the early days of the Batman mythos with this new mini-series. The first page firmly sets the series place in continuity after the recent “Man Who Laughs” special and the first appearance of the Joker. The Batman here is still a mistrusted vigilante trying to establish his place and role, not only as the Dark Avenger but also as Bruce Wayne. Wagner does an excellent job of weaving in characters from the 1940s, such as Wayne’s long-ignored first love interest, Julie Madison, alongside more recent creations such as the Falcone crime family. This promises to be a valuable addition to the Batman canon.

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #19 / Amazing Spider-Man #525 (Marvel)
By Peter David, Pat Lee and Mike Deodato Jr.

These two books make up Parts 2 and 3 of the current mega Spidey cross-over series “The Other.” Taken at first glance they just appear to retell the opening arc from the recent Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 from a different character perspective. Marvel Knights focuses on Mary Jane, while ASM gives Aunt May the focus. Yet when read together the evolution of new villain, Tracer, becomes clearer. This is a brave attempt by Peter David to make any one of the first three parts of the cross over accessible to someone who normally only buys one of the Spider-Man titles, and on the whole it works.

Nothing Better #1 (Dementian Comics)
By Tyler Page

This new black-and-white title by Eisner nominee Tyler Page takes a look at college life through the eyes of a a studious freshman named Jane and her party-animal roommate Katherine. The two have a less-than-ideal start and the book does and excellent job of establishing their characters and initial relationship. As long as it doesn’t veer off into cliched territory this book holds a lot of promise.

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Volume 1 (DC Comics)
Various writers and artists

Released to coincide with the start of the new Jonah Hex comics series, this excellent softcover trade paperback collection presents the first 23 Hex stories originally published in All-Star Western between 1972 and 1976. These stories represent some of the finest ever published in the Western comics genre and in many ways laid the foundation for the “grim and gritty,” realistic Westerns that were to follow both on the printed page and on screen. If you’ve never read modern Western comics before, you can do no better than to pick up this volume as a starting point.

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1 (Marvel)
By Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine

Opening with the chilling scene of a Sentinel hovering over Xavier Mansion, the script has Hank McCoy asking the obvious question that if close to a million mutants suddenly lost their powers, what happened to all the energy that was released. The answer is that the resulting energy surge woke SOMETHING out in space. Something that knows the X-Men and has been dormant for a number of years. What, or who, that something is will be the central mystery of this mini-series. I must admit I don’t have a clue at this stage, and I’m not sure many people beyond the hardcore X-fans will care. Brubaker tells a good story and sets up the mystery effectively and Hairsine’s art drives the story well enough, although he is occasionally “off model” with the characters out of costume.

As a total aside: The post-House of M reduction in the numbers of mutants in the Marvel Universe is being called “DeciMation,” yet a reduction from “over a million” (to quote The Beast) to the rumored surviving 189 seems a lot more than “one in ten” to me.

Picks of the Week

Jonah Hex #1, (DC Comics)
By Justin Gray, Jimmy Pamiotti and Luke Ross

They say that scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex has but two companions, death and the acrid smell of gunsmoke. His self-proclaimed mission: to dispatch as many sinners as Hell can accommodate and not look back. The first story in this new series centers on Hex’s search for the missing soon of a millionaire and soon leads him into the world of carnivals and dog-fighting. His own brand of retribution inevitably follows. The book does its job in introducing the lead character to new readers while reaffirming his motivations for those already familiar with his backstory. The art serves the story well in terms of pacing but is perhaps a little too lush and vibrant in execution given the settings and brutality of the subject matter. The fact that artist Ross has clearly modeled his Hex on Clint Eastwood is also a little distracting. Overall a reasonable start to what will hopefully be a new regular monthly Western title on the comic book racks.

Local #1 (Oni Press)
By Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly

Creator Brian Wood describes this project as “a series of short stories about people and the places they live in.” The stories are intended to be universal but for readers local to the setting of the story (Portland, Oregon in this first issue) the “stories will contain landmarks and references that will be instantly recognizable.” This first issue introduces us to Megan, who will be a constant throughout upcoming stories either as a lead or as a background character as we follow her from the age of 17 to 30. This issue deals with the incident that sets the teenager on the road. It is simply and effectively told, quickly establishing character and mood. This is a series worth watching as it develops.

Alan J. Porter is comics editor of RevolutionSF. Review books supplied by Austin Books & Comics.

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