The Steel Cage 4.21.04

Hello, fans, and after a week’s hiatus, welcome back to your favorite no holds-barred comic book review bloodbath, where two reviewers tear each other to shreds in a dignified and grammatically astounding war of words.

Two weeks ago, Mike Maillaro in his rookie fight took out reigning champ Iain Burnside, with G.I. Joe Reloaded edging out Spectacular Spider-Man #12. This week, the punchy Italian Stallion faces the challenge of the resilient Chris Delloiacono, back for more after losing to Burnside in week one.

It’s the battle of the Jersey boys…let’s do it!
Introducing first, the challenger…hailing from Clark, New Jersey…he lives on the Jersey Shore but won’t touch the water (“eww”)…representingAction Comics #814, produced by DC Comics…“The Count of Montefisto” Chris Delloiacono!!!

Going into the big creative team switch on the Superman line of books, I looked at Action Comics as the third-stringer—Superman and Adventures featured two of my favorite writers, Brian Azzarello and Greg Rucka respectively. Chuck Austen is easily the most-maligned writer in the industry. Until recently, I have not read much of his work, so I have always stayed away from these debates. The more I read by Austen, it is obvious that he is the most unfairly treated creator in the industry.

I can’t believe that I’m writing about this comic for the second time this week (if you haven’t already, check out my >review of the issue), but it was just that damn good! Honestly, my pull-list has been trimmed quite a bit lately, and Action Comics was a book I’d have been willing to let go if this issue was underwhelming. The recent “Godfall” crossover that went through the Superman line really wasn’t my cup of tea, and left me ready to depart the line before the new creators even came on board. It certainly left me of a mind that I wouldn’t give the new team’s much leeway. Well, after this issue, I’ll just say that Chuck Austen, Ivan Reis, and Mark Campos have me for the foreseeable future. This was one of the best Superman stories in ages, easily the comic of the week, and one of the better comics this year, period.

Superman has been portrayed as a silly, overly nice goofball for far too long. Chuck Austen has brought Superman an aggressive side, and something of a mean streak—and it’s about damn time! Not even mentioning the other amazing feats he performs this issue, the showstopper features Superman beating back an invasion from Apokolips, including Darkseid, all by himself. He does it with a perfect sense of power and conviction. Austen plays it all out with Superman having the time of his life, and Clark Kent the lame-o that he should be. Chuck doesn’t let Clark steal the spotlight from Supes, and that’s much of the reason this issue rocked!

The art team of Ivan Reis and Mark Campos are a fabulous, and deserve this choice assignment with Chuck Austen. Together they have created a near perfect comic. When the news hit of these new creative teams, this was the one with the least amount of buzz, and I admit to falling in that category…until now! If those two books meet the original hype and are better than Action, we are in store for some utterly mind-blowing Superman stories in the next year. As it goes, I can’t even imagine those books meeting this level! Chuck Austen has set the bar impossibly high! Let’s see if the other teams can even come close!

And his opponent…from the mean streets of Jersey City, New Jersey…he doesn’t just hate clowns, he absolutely hates them…the reigning and defending champion of the Cage…representing Marvel Knights 4 #4, produced by Marvel Comics…Mike “Big Mikey Style” Maillaro!!!

I’ll be the first one to admit, when I saw Marvel was going to give the Fantastic Four multiple titles, I thought they were crazy. Over the years, FF has always been a solid Marvel book, but never a sales blockbuster like Spider-Man or X-Men. Now, there are at least four separate Fantastic Four titles on the shelf. And shockingly, each seems to be pretty good in their own way. But, Marvel Knights 4 is the best of the batch. It’s not only the best FF title, it is also are of my favorite comics right now.

One of the most amazing things about Marvel Knights 4 is that writer Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa turns seemingly familiar plot elements into something that at least seems completely revolutionary. In this comic, we get a cliché moment with Reed Richards rescuing someone from jumping off a building, and finding a sense of peace himself. Too many comic writers would have turned this into something dumb or corny, but Aquirre-Sacasa gave it a perfect balance. The result is one hell of a comic scene.

This issue also addresses a lot of the complaints people had about some seeming plotholes in the story. All of Aquirre-Sacasa’s answers make sense. Sure, if you try hard enough, you could find some small plot holes, but I’d argue that is true of any movie, comic, book, video game, etc. As for me, I’d rather just sit back and enjoy a good comic without trying to think about everything that’s wrong with it. And before I leave off, I have to talk about the gorgeous art! Steve McNiven has improved each issue, and this comic was absolutely perfect. Between the terrific cover and the flawless interiors, this book was by far the best looking comic I read this week.

I am glad that Marvel decided to give Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Steve McNiven their own shot at Fantastic Four. All of the Fantastic Four comics are pretty good, but I have to go with Marvel Knights as my favorite. And this comic was by far the best one to come out this week. I never thought I could enjoy Fantastic Four this much.

There you have it, now head on over to the poll on the bottom right hand corner of the main page to vote (remember, e-mail votes will not be counted).