Leave Your Spandex At The Door 12.8.03

Welcome to the 21st installment of ‘Leave Your Spandex At the Door, tentatively labeled LYS@D because I like silly acronyms that sound funny. It’s been 3 weeks since the last column, and it’s time to once more go through that lovable 500-page solicitation fest – The PREVIEWS catalog for items shipping in February 2004.

Joining me once more is the incomparable Dave Graham, who apparently doesn’t sit around on his ass all month, like some people I see in the mirror, so he has new reviews on Lone #3 and Buffy #63 that you can peer through!

For reader convenience my insightful comments are in plain text, while Dave’s distilled wisdom is highlighted in bold text. I know how to treat my friends all special like…

On to the Previews!

DARK HORSE

CONAN #1: This has to be at least worth a mention. Kurt Busiek writing an adventure comic, full of fantasy action, swords, blood, and who knows what else. The artwork on show here looks pretty good also, with a decent amount of mindless gore. Not really my kind of comic, but like I said, worthy of a mention.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: A TAKE TO THE HEART TPB: This trade collects the last story arc of the BTVS monthly comic series. This story was dark, uncomfortable, and totally absorbing. Not really standard Buffy-fare, but this final story worked really well, and offered insight into a shady period of Buffy-history. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is certainly worth your time.

DC COMICS

DC FOCUS: A new line from DC looking at a world with superpowers, but without superheroes. It sounds like a neat idea, but isn’t exactly original. The most interesting part of it for me is that it’s not taking place inside the dull place that I find the DCU to be. Out of the title listed that don’t ship this month (KINETIC, TOUCH, and FRACTION), and based on the small blurbs that each receives here, it’s the oddly intriguing concept of FRACTION that catches my eye. The story of a Power-suit being fought over by petty hoods.

HARD TIME: The launch pad of the new DC FOCUS line of books, going by the motto ‘Super-Powers, not Super-Heroes’. Could have just called it ‘Nu Marvel’. I don’t see why this couldn’t have been part of Vertigo, or Eye of the Storm. The preview pages of Hard Time show two teenagers re-enacting Columbine, a taboo topic if I ever saw one, not an easy subject for a writer to tackle, (JMS showed the wrong way to go about it last year in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man). From what I read, future issues will feature one of the boys’ lives in jail, as he is haunted by the ghosts of his classmates and burdened by awakening super-powers. Steve Gerber (Howard –waugh- the Duck) is no stranger to injecting social issues in comics stories.

This comic really sparks my interest. And that’s saying a lot given that the solicit is lacking any sort of detail. The school shooting thing is something that could be really powerful if handled correctly, but it so very rarely is, so I’m eager to see how Gerber deals with it. The preview pages shown here are certainly enough to make me pick this up, but I’m not sure how the series will develop when the jail-time and superpowers are the focus for the comic

MAD ABOUT THE OSCARS TPB: MAD magazine’s movie spoofs were always my favourite part of each issue when I was growing up reading the Greek version (printed on paper grade often compared to toilet paper in the letters pages… Ah! The memories!). This trade collects a best ever compilation of movie spoofs, a great move from DC, but a release that should maybe have been pushed back a month to coincide with the Academy Awards Ceremony.

WONDER WOMAN: GODS AND MORTALS TPB: All these years, I’ve heard nothing but highest praise for George Perez’s relaunch of the Amazon, a run elevated to mythic status, along with Perez’s Teen Titans and Byrne’s WW. DC seems to have finally wised up and is starting to collect this material for the new comics-reading generation –that’s us, mate- to enjoy. Can I get a –hip hip hurray- for DC? Hip Hip HURRAY! Hip hip –

BIRDS OF PREY: OF LIKE MINDS TPB: “Simone’s grasp of characterisation, interplay and suspense is solid, which means the tension levels are kicked up pretty high”. Yeah, the hype quote in this month’s solicit comes from our site, Dave, do you know who this is from? I wonder if it will make it to the back of the actual TPB. –crosses fingers-.. Not much else left to say here, Gail Simone shows us that Girl Power is still alive and kicking around in fishnets, in the post-Spice Girls era. Certainly my pick for best new creative team for the upcoming 411comics Half-Year Awards (hype hype).

I believe that the quote comes from Mr Gary Day – pretty cool. And I couldn’t agree with more with you and Gary on this, I love what Ms Simone is doing with the Birds. If people haven’t read any of Gail Simone’s BOP then this is the perfect chance to get acquainted with it.

ARKHAM ASYLUM LIVING HELL TPB: And speaking of DC TPBs… Dan Slott and Ryan Sook took us inside the walls of the Gotham institute and told a dark, unpleasant, and really rather good story. Not only does the series deal with the stalwarts of Batman’s Rogues gallery, but it also introduces some new unsavoury characters as well. This trade is definitely worth checking out.

AQUAMAN #15: You know it’s a slow comics month, when Aquaman’s newest creative team change makes it to the Previews’ spotlight! Alan Davis on covers and Will Pfeiffer on the writing chores is reason enough for me to ignore the utter blandness of the fish-talking aquadope-sniffing title character and give this a shot. When San Diego goes undersea as the result of an earthquake, Aquaman is called to take a new role. Preview pages are purty haunting, can you really get away with showing fish nibbling at a decaying corpse’s flesh in a Code-Approved book?

SUPERMAN: GODFALL: After the Superman “event” that we were so unkind about in the last look through PREVIEWS, here we get another. It may just be me, but if you advertise that there will be a “shock” ending to a story, doesn’t it make sense not to show Kal-El riding a bike on Krypton in the next month’s solicits? On the plus side though, there are some back-up stories in the issues that make up this crossover, and these are quite interesting. There’s a story in ADVETURES OF SUPERMAN #625 by Greg Rucka about the ‘Metropolis Special Crimes Unit’, and in SUPERMAN #202 there’s a story previewing the upcoming LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL mini from Brian Azzarello. That’s what I like to see, stories in Superman comics that don’t necessarily concern Superman.

Superman riding a big bad-ass bike? What’s next? Is he getting a tattoo? I don’t get these crossovers. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to do this as an independent mini-series?

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #7: This series has really caught my attention in its first few issues. The writing is spot on, and the art is eye-catching. The interesting thing this issue though, is that it looks at a pairing of Superboy and Robin. What a good idea. And Pat Lee does the cover too!

He’s also doing inside art, you know! I don’t get this. Robin and Superboy have been featured together in the same title every month for over 4 years now, and now they hijack their mentors’ joint title to resolve a storyline set up in Teen Titans, also written by Geoff Johns. Cross-title continuity at its worst.

GREEN ARROW #35: Featuring the twisted genius of the Riddler! I LOVE this villain, and he has been terribly underused in recent years, but is now making his comeback it seems, after a recent high-profile gig we shall not hint more at. I always used to pick the Riddler when we played Batman with my f
riends growing up (lots of childhood memories in this month of Previews!), you know. Judd Winnick is just the guy I expect to do my Eddie justice. (NOTE: The Riddler is also featured in BATMAN ADVENTURES #11, way to go Nigma!)

BATMAN: ROOM FULL OF STRANGERS: I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a good detective story. And I’m also a sucker for a good Batman story. This has the potential to be both. Ex-commissioner Gordon heads off for some R&R but ends up embroiled a murder mystery. Add to this a kid constantly bombarding him with questions about the Batman, and you’ve got the potential for an Agatha Christie-style tale. Scott Morse writes and also does the amazing-looking art.

COUP D’ETAT: This is a crossover event. Yes I know, that means that it has disaster written all over it. But this one seems to have a nice little concept behind it. Set in the Wildstorm “Eye Of The Storm” universe, it encompasses SLEEPER, THE AUTHORITY, WILDCATS VERSION 3, and STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES. The idea is that Tao Tao (the bad guy form SLEEPER) gets the US to commit an “inter-dimensional atrocity”, leading to a confrontation with THE AUTHORITY. I’m a fan of the universe, and of the books involved – should be good. It also has Jim Lee drawing a story from Ed Brubaker, that’s pretty cool.

What caught me by surprise is that Jim Lee isn’t handling the art on the Wildcats issue, a property he created, but has since been evolved into a different, more mature, entity by Joe Casey. Instead he is being used on Sleeper, the book most deserving of a push from Wildstorm’s EotS line. Bravo!

THE SANDMAN PRESENTS: THESSALY – WITCH FOR HIRE #1 : The creative team that made the memorable first Thessaly mini reunites for this second outing, which I covered months ago in an interview with Bill Willingham. Peek through the column archives for it. Thessaly is the hella-bitchy Greek witch that used to fool around with Gaiman’s Morpheus. Now she has apparently taken the Buffy route, and from the cryptic solicit, I’m guessing her lovable ghost of a romantic interest, Fetch, is pulling the strings! And did you see that cover? Quirky, sweet and haunting, all wrapped into one!

Quite looking forward to this one. I’m not a great Sandman reader – not out of lack of interest though – but this one strikes me as worthy of a try. I’m a fan of Willingham anyway, and the *ahem* “Buffy vibe” does make this interesting to me. And yes, I did see that cover. And yes, it is quirky, sweet, and haunting.

Y: THE LAST MAN #19 On the flipside, this month’s Y cover, with a transvestite Dorothy merrily dancing along the yellow brick road, is just plain wrong. I’m having nightmares about this. Where the heck did that guy get size 12 red shoes anyway?
p.s. this issue also features a look inside Yorrick’s mind, and the revelation of his ‘darkest, deepest secret’. –intrigued-

THE LOSERS: ANTE UP TPB: collecting Losers #1-6, the best action movie I have never seen in cinema. I hear the property is already making the rounds in Hollywood, Vertigo is certainly on the up and up lately, innit?

Yes, it’s great. People need to be buying this – even if you don’t like it, buy it for me. I would hate to see this series be destroyed by bad sales. Diggle and Jock are putting out stellar work, and the Hollywood-hype is well deserved.

IMAGE COMICS

ALTERNATION: A world where all periods of history have come together to exist in the same time. It’s a concept with tons of potential, but also with a lot of scope for failure. It’s got dinos though, so I’m gonna give it a try!

I’m deathly allergic to the Huberto Ramos school of art. He was refreshing at first, but then he seemingly inspired a whole generation of new artists to copycat his style, since the companies just keep asking for more of the same… -sigh- I think I’ll pass, yeah…

BIG BANG COMICS: ROUND TABLE OF AMERICA (RTA) #1: huzzuh? This is a blatantly obvious blatant rip-off of the JLA, down to the title logo, and the Fish-clone’s costume color-scheme. Is this a spoof? The solicits don’t give that impression, although the bland attempts at costume redesigns and hokey title would suggest so. At least Supreme Power has a beloved writer on the helm and looks damn gorgeous, this title feels like overkill.

DODGE’S BULLETS: The concept here seems pretty solid, a rock musician who is a private investigator during the day. Written by Jay Faerber, this 80pg Graphic “Novella” involves a missing father, and a old crime that just keeps claiming new victims. I really like the sound of it, but the $10 price tag seems a bit excessive for a b&w comic.

JACK STAFF #6 : I’ve considered checking this title many times, since I’m currently England-bound. This issue starts a new storyline showcasing ‘Bramble & Son: Vampire Hunters’ –snicker- who have been out of business for years, until they discover the last remaining vampire, Becky Burdock: Vampire Reporter. Heh.

MARVEL COMICS

4 #1 & 2: The story behind this comic is widely known, with the creative pairing slated to take of the regular FF series, but being given their own when Waid & Wieringo were convinced to stay. I really like the FF as a concept but until Waid came onto the title I didn’t read the comic. Now this new comic has me excited, and the art certainly looks pretty. I just hope the writing is solid.

[rant]Who would have expected today’s hottest artists would all be stuck drawing Mr Fantastic? This is the fourth monthly comic to feature F characters (counting in the Human Torch, until it’s cancelled), and it really feels like overkill. Not as much as the three Doc Ock titles, but still overkill. At least there’s four of them, what’s Otto’s excuse? One title per tentacle? This new title is described as ‘edgy’, compared to the more ‘mainstream’ regular title. Since the mainstream title has spent 6 months now showing the FF’s hostile takeover of a foreign government, I’m left wondering if there’s going to be any FF title to cater to the younger (see under 18) when the movie comes out.[/rant]

SECRET WAR: BOOK ONE: This top secret story has finally been solicited, and bizarrely comes out quarterly. All I need to know though is that Bendis is writing and the preview art looks amazing`

Bendis writes Spiderman, DD, Black Widow, Cage and Jessica/Alias. Great, this occasion calls for a special format mini! I would have preferred to see a more varied selection of heroes, instead of Bendis’ little corner of the Marvel U.

THE PULSE #1: Spawning out of the ALIAS Max comic, this series has Jessica Jones as one of its main protagonists. It tells the story of three journalists, assigned to the superhero investigation section of the Daily Bugle. I love the sound of this, and with Bendis writing and Bagley art I’m on board all the way.

ULTIMATE X-MEN #42: Two words… ULTIMATE DAZZLER!!!

I always seem to be nagging during the Marvel Solicits, but is it SO hard to feature Ultimate Dazzler on the cover of the issue that spotlights her? Instead we get yet another generic cover of Storm floating around. At least it’s not Wolvie again…
p.s. Ultimate Dazzler: tres cool! I wonder if they’re going for Christina, Kylie or Mary J. Blige?

X-STATIX #19: A two-parter solo story with Vivisector, everyone’s favourite sarcastic queer Wolvie/spidey mix! Vivisector has discovered a cure for his condition. Which condition, though? The solicit teases around, but it’s confused me as to what it refers to – his lycanthropy or his homosexuality? The latter would make for an interesting story indeed! I’ve already ripped off the page from the solicits and hung it as a poster 😀

RUNAWAYS #11-12: Brian Vaughan will make a LOT of old-school marvel zombies happy with this storyline, as it features the return of cult-favourites CLOAK & DAGGER!! (-standing ovation-) I hope they join
the team permanently, or finally spin-off into a new series of their own. Meanwhile, the fill-in artist, Takeshi Miyazawa, looks a bit iffy, and I don’t really recall seeing him in Uncanny X-Men as his credits indicate.

EPIC ANTHOLOGY: Ah yes, THESE titles. I was actually looking forward to the Sleepwalker title, and was curious about Strange Magic, but I’m sure as heck not getting them in this format, since Marvel has pretty much forewarned that there’s not gonna be a second issue, and with these titles being based on the 6-for-trade storyline format, I don’t see the point.
(For those not up-to-date, these 3 titles were supposed to ship separately, but after the Epic initiative got canned, they were shoehorned into this quarterly anthology)

I’m not too thrilled with the way that EPIC has turned out, but this anthology has at least two stories that interest me – in particular STRANGE MAGIC, which sounds right up my street.

How do you even know what it’s about? Only info I see in the Catalog is 1/3 of the cover and two creators names I don’t recognize. Let’s buy!

X-MEN EVOLUTION DIGEST TPB Marvel publishing digest-sized trades! I never thought I’d live to see the day. Wisely following Crossgen and DC’s initiative, Marvel collects the first four issues of the I-can’t-believe-they-cancelled-it X-Men Evolution comic, the only x-men comic currently out actually suitable for kids! It’s good value too, better than Crossgen’s digests, with only a measly $6 for 4 issues.

INDIES

ROUTE 666 TRAVELER VOL.1: HIGHWAY TO HORROR [Crossgen]

Speaking of Crossgen’s digests… This collects the first 6 issues of Route 666 in digest size for under $10. Cassie Starkweather has a special gift. She can see the demons masquerading as humans around us. The demons consider her a threat to their plans and the law considers her a dangerous psychopath. But what is the truth? Perception is the key element utilised by Tony Bedard to build suspense and put doubt in the heroine’s (and the reader’s) mind about her mental health. Plus it’s 6 issues for $10, give it a try!

I’ve heard quite a bit about this series and to be honest it quite interests me. I’m also a fan of this digest size, and with a $10 price tag I may just have to check this out.

JEWISH HERO CORPS #1 [Judaica Press, $3.95, p. 308]

The Fobots prepare to launch a missile that will wipe all Jewish memories across the world (huh?) and only Menorah Man and his teammates can save the day!

Yeah, you heard me, Menorah Man. The Jewish equivalent of Christmas Tree Man. Heh, that would make a great comic book: The Christian Hero Corps, starring X-Mas Man, the Easter Bunny, Crucifix, Communion Girl and Blinky, the mutant Reindeer! Why should they hog all the fun?

You’re making this one up, right? *checks the catalogue*…Wow! This is just crazy enough to work.

TABLE FOR ONE GN [Mainspring Comics, $9.95, p. 236 and 309]

www.boschfaustin.com has a few preview pages online, from this very stylish noir story, set completely in an underground Manhattan restaurant. William Howland made a bet exactly one year ago with his boss that he wouldn’t last a year as a waiter in his place. On this final day of the bet everything will go astray, all because of her. ‘I walk into a crowded room… not a soul in sight… then she walks in.’ A well-served comic-noir in this day and age is a delicacy not to be missed!

TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS TPB [Oni Press, $11.95, p. 316]

Featuring early artwork by Mike Allred, an artist I have come to consider the ultimate comics auteur. His early art was darker and more –fleshy-, making a nice contradiction to the more Kirby-esque angle it has taken today. The story deals with a writer/psychologist who identifies too closely with his patients and is driven mad himself as a result. Very Lovecraftian in scope.

SPOOKED GN [Oni Press, $14.95, p. 316]

Continuing with Oni Press’ <> theme, that I frankly fail to see in any of their books this month, Emily Spook is an artist inspired by the ghosts that haunt her mind. When the visitations are abruptly interrupted, will that come as a relief to her? Like the previous trade, and Deep Sleeper, also solicited this month, these are stories best suited for a Halloween theme, as no ‘Love’ theme is evident at first glance.

LOVE FIGHTS T-SHIRTS [p.202]

Two T-shirts from OniPress this month, starring the lovable SuperCat, Guthrie. I especially like the white T-shirt with black-and-pink Guthrie and the tagline: ‘I want your Kittens’. Sexy beast!

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Tune back in 411comics and “Leave Your Spandex @t the Door” in 1 week for an interview with Andi Watson on Superhero Romance! As always, I’m waiting for your comments through email…

Manolis Vamvounis
a.k.a. Doc Dooplove