Leave Your Spandex @t the Door turns 75: Best Of and Advance Reviews

Welcome to the 75th installment of the new Leave Your Spandex @t the Door!

For those of you scratching your heads and reaching for calculators, there is no need to worry. I’ve decided to merge the numberings before and after our relaunch, Marvel-style, to celebrate the rich 4 year history of this column. You can visit our column archive to take a look at our past reviews, coverage and interviews!

Interviews

Interviews tend to be LYS@D’s most popular feature (and set to return sooner than you expect), especially due to the amount of “A name” creators I have managed to distract from their work the last few years. I have linked to all 15 interviews below:

the X-Statix interviews: X-Statix has been my favourite title from the first issue to the last, and beyond. Through the last 3 years I’ve interviewed almost everyone who has ever worked on the title:

Mike Allred, Pete Milligan, Warren Simons , Nick Derington, Philip Bond and a jam interview with Mike Allred, Nick Derington, Daniel Krall and Steve Weissman.

Mike Carey: Mike has been the most frequent interviewee in this column, counting 4 interviews and participations in all 3 x-mas roundtables so far! I have talked with him about his work on Lucifer, Ultimate Elektra , Spellbinders and of course most recently, X-Men !

Dave Crosland: I have done two interviews with Dave, and they are the most irreverent and fun entries in the column’s history. When he’s combined with his collaborator Wayne Chinsiang they’re a force to be reckoned with! The second interview is also the only mention of Baby Jesus buttplugs in 75 issue of LYS@D.

We’re not done yet! I’m an avid supported of mature readers titles and Indy publishers; these following writers and artists have made a great impression on me and have taken the time away from their schedule to contribute to our site:

Bill Willingham , Andi Watson , Chris Giarusso , Drew Melbourne, Jonathan and Josh Luna and Chuck Austen .

The X-Mas Roundtables: This is my proudest LYS@D tradition. Every year around Christmas, I get in touch with my favourite creators from the past year and ask some fun and relaxed questions in the spirit of the holidays, with always hilarious results!

2003 : Ed Brubaker, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Mike and Laura Allred, Rich Johnston, Jose Garibaldi, Mike Carey, Dave Crosland, Troy Hickman and Jamie S. Rich.
2004 : Dave Crosland, Neil Kleid, Peter David, Lee Ferguson, Mike Carey, Chris Moeller, Steven Weissman, Todd Nauck and Jose Garibaldi.
2005 : Mike Carey, Frank Cho, Tom Beland, Keith Giffen, Steve Niles, Ben Templesmith, Duncan Fegredo, Josh Luna, Kurt Busiek and Jamie Smart.

Other fond memories and LYS@D milestones:

The one that started it all! My first outing as a comics columnist, on the launching day of the Nexus’ predecessor, 411Comics. I’m still eternally thankful to my online buddy and former Nexus editor-in-chief Ben Morse (now living I up as a Wizard staffer) for giving me this opportunity!

Y the last man #7 review : The review that landed me a quote on the cover of my favourite Vertigo title, with issue 13! “Unless you don’t know to read there’s no excuse for not picking this title”. It’s still true!

Mirror of Love spotlight: When LYS@D turned 50, I got together with the lovely Will Cooling to do a review on Alan Moore’s and Jose Villarubia’s Mirror of Love. It is my most personal review so far on the site and the one I’m most proud for.

Interview with”¦ Lockheed? And it stands to reason this is my least proud moment: a mock-interview with the X-Men’s Lockheed for a review of Mekanix! Not as funny as you’d expect.

The Bendis-Doop petition : Finally, a bit of comic book activism. This was right before the launch of New Avengers. In a brave and pr whore-ish stroke of genius I decided to coerce Brian Bendis into featuring Doop in New Avengers by launching a petition and offering him”¦ my hair! The petition never got more than 54 signatures, and Bendis never replied to my board postings and emails. It was fun trying though.

That’s enough reminisce for one week, it’s time to move on with this week’s advance reviews. This week officially premieres the column’s new format. Since I’ve experience trouble in the past due to the site’s word limit on columns, I’ll be posting the advance reviews two days earlier on Monday morning, and the Indy News on Wednesdays.

I’d like to thank Travelling Man Manchester (and especially Haroon since he’s such a big baby) for providing me with the advance look copies for review!

In this week’s column: knife-chewing injuns, hulks-in-law, Technicolor dreamcoats, dollhouse gyms, iPod ninjas, homicidal uncles, caps-in-distress, fallen angels, Canadian butchers, kid monsters, rat-cha libre, Rat-erella, giant electrified popcorn, speedball buggery, freaky fantastic Fridays, and spider-man sees double! -oof-

Panel of the week:


My Science Teacher is Spider-Man!

Preview pages from Image Comics for 19/7:

Casanova #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Gabriel Ba

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Sidekick #2
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Chris Moreno

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Shipping on Wednesday 19/7:

Uncanny X-Men #476
Marvel Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Billy Tan

Review Content: That’s more like it! Brubaker really hits his stride this issue with an action-based issue that also explores the dynamics of his freshly-formed team.

The X-Men storm Eric the Red’s abandoned base (Brubaker obviously has a thing for Claremont’s first two years on the X-Men) in search of a spaceship to follow Vulcan’s rampage into Shi’ar territory. This issue is one big fight scene with a brief flashback to explain the inclusion of a new X-Man on the mission, who will come as no surprise to fans of Deadly Genesis. Brubaker uses the battle to highlight the different mindsets of the current x-men, especially between the two new recruits and the old guard, and to accentuate the rift between Xavier and his students. Warpath in particular is a revelation here, with an edge that reminded me of a very early Wolverine in his approach to battle and his rapport with Xavier. Due to his training with the Hellfire Club and Cable, Warpath walks a greyer moral line than his team-mates and he quickly clashes with Xavier who still can’t shake off his headmaster vibe and idealistically adheres to the often-broken ‘x-men don’t kill’ rule; I suspect it won’t be long before he realises these x-men have far outgrown him and he will need to rethink his leadership skills.

Billy Tan keeps improving exponentially with each issue! By now he bears no resemblance to the anatomically-blind rookie of Claremont’s run mere 3 months ago. His figures here are lean and well-proportioned, his faces are more distinctive and consistent, but not entirely still. The only glaring problem with the art this issue is the cover, which reminds me of the Billy Tan I was screaming about a few months back, using bad composition and not being able to proportion the eyes to the head to the body mass.

Grade: B

She-Hulk #9
Marvel Comics
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Paul Smith and Ron Frenz

Review Content: The issue is split into stories, one for each artist, which follow easily one after the other, plotwise, and both relating theme-wise to spiderman’s unmasking.

In ‘the Big Reveal’, with art by Paul Smith, Pug muses about the importance of big secrets and big reveals in the world of superheroes. When he discovers the secret behind She-Hulk’s love for John Jameson and Starfox’s manipulation of their feelings, will he decide to reveal what he knows to She-Hulk, and reveal his love for her, especially now that she’s a married woman? Yes, just as the cover suggests, this is Shulkie’s Big Day, but Slott manages to treat the actual wedding as side attraction, only referencing to it through a TV coverage and a hilarious page with the reactions of all the supporting characters and villains to the big news.

Ron Frenz is the guest-artist for the second story, ‘My Dinner with Jona’, where She-Hulk is invited to meet her new in-laws! A lot of titles have covered Jona’s reactions to the unmasking, but none have really captured Jona’s manic nature as well as this. Jonah has of course always hated superheroes, but ever since Civil War erupted and he discovered he can’t successfully sue Spider-man because of registration amnesty, lawyers haven’t been high on his Christmas list either. Imagine now how he well takes the sudden news that his only son has just been married to a Big Green Lawyer Superhero! Slott uses the characte’s old and recent continuity to re-familiarise readers with the Jameson family’s connection to Spider-man , establish Jameson’s prejudice against him, and rationalise what he does next (a laugh-out loud moment) to deal with his unwelcome daughter-in-law.

Civil War has been such a huge political, low action, melancholic mess so far, but some creators can still take an ugly situation and spin it into an entertaining and fun read.

Grade: A

Testament #8
Vertigo
Writer: Douglas Rushkoff
Artist: Liam Sharp

Review Content: Liam Sharp returns, along with the original cast of this series for “Down to Egypt”. Like the two previous arcs, Rushkoff bases this storyline on an adventure from the Old Testament, and uses the opposing forces of the Pagan Gods versus the Hebrew Deities who exist outside the panels influencing the story to provide the parallels between the future story and the Bible. The story still operates on a level of intelligence above other titles in the market, requiring extra attention to what is happening in the panels, behind the panel and around it, and combining the running stories to draw the necessary parallelisms between them.

Down to Egypt focuses on the story of Joseph (of the Technicolor coat fame), his betrayal by his brothers into slavery and how he rose to be the Pharao’s advisor. This story doesn’t feature any of the Bible parallels that were drawn in the first arc (Abraham, Lot, Isaac, etc), so Rushkoff recasts all the established future characters into their new roles in the ancient drama. Unlike the first arc, the parallels seem more forced now, and the intertwined story takes place in a flashback of the future scene, making an already intricate storytelling tool even more confusing.

Grade: C

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1
DC Comics
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Daniel Acuña

Review Content: Although the title of the series is ‘Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters’, the cover features Father Time and his S.H.A.D.E. team, the government superhuman agents; the title character and team don’t make an appearance here but are only referred to. Seeing what an utter bastard Father Time is in this issue, it will be no surprise to see the current S.H.A.D.E. team change allegiances within the next two issues.

The issue opens with the introduction of a new electoral race in the DCU, with the hot topic being superhuman anti-terrorist efforts, and a brief action scene featuring the SHADE team taking down an Intergang drug-runner with the most ingenious covert infiltration idea in superhero comics. After the first quick taste of the team in action, the rest of the issue focuses on three main team members individually showing them on their time off and using personal narrations to get the readers inside their mindset.

The new Ray is a Californian blond fitness freak with a womanising streak James Bond would be jealous of. The Doll Man is a clever twist at a miniature hero, who in this case is stuck at 6 inch height 24/7. The Phantom Lady is the unfortunately named Stormy Knight, the daughter of one of the presidential candidates, and DC’s answer to Paris Hilton.

Although my first reaction to the announcement of the new book was a hefty cringe, the amazing rendered art of Daniel Acuña convinced me to give the book a try, and the interesting mix of characters (which brings back fond memories of X-Statix) has convinced me to add this to my monthly pull list. Honestly, I would buy this book for the art alone, and I hope Acuña stays on board for the long run and doesn’t get whisked off to a higher profile job once word gets out about the insane amount of talent he packs.

Grade: B

Daughters of the Dragon #6
Marvel Comics
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Khari Evans and Jimmy Palmiotti

Review Content: This is Gray and Palmiotti’s week! Just as their new DC series premieres, their current Marvel mini wraps up and is set to relaunch next month as a monthly with Bill Tucci on art.

Although Bill Tucci is of course talented and a cult favourite, I can’t imagine a better fir for these characters than Khari Evans. This was Khari’s first professional work, and I hope Marvel realises the diamond in the rough they have in their hands and assign him on a new project soon. Evans a keen eye for drawing sexy characters, but not through stereotype airbrushed or photo-referenced good looks; instead, he uses body language and manipulates the facial expressions to make the Daughters of the Dragon veritable sex bombs!

The issue starts off with two recaps to get new readers (on the last issue of a mini?) up to speed as Colleen, Misty and Iron Fist are literally drowning in ninjas as they square off against Ricadonna. Misty and Ricadonna get their much-awaited rematch; the first time around Ricadonna had broken Misty’s bionic arm, and now it’s payback time, in a brutal catfight reminiscent of Kill Bill. I wish Hollywood action films were half as entertaining and masterful as what Palmiotti and company have created here.

Grade: A

Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #10
Marvel Comics
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Mike Wieringo

Review Content: It’s the reunion everyone was yearning for, noone expected to see, and noone could have predicted its outcome:

Uncle Ben versus Aunt May?

Hobgoblin 2211 has returned Spider-man’s uncle to him, from an alternate reality where the burglar had shot May instead. Now Uncle Ben has an awkward reunion with May when he crashed her first date with “Iron-Man’s Butler, Jarvis”, but May isn’t as naïve and accepting as she used to which complicates things for Ben. Meanwhile, Hobgoblin 2211 takes Peter on a trip down memory lane to his greatest ‘junction point’ continuity-wise: the death of Gwen Stacy and makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

The issue ends with a double twist, although the second twist ending is a bit hindered by an artistic hiccup on Wieringo’s part on the last page, concerning a ‘wardrobe’ change glitch, as confirmed privately by Peter David. You’ll know it when you see it, just keep an open mind, and pay attention to clues in those last two pages!

Peter David is the best writer the Spider-man franchise has *ever* seen since Stan Lee was writing the web crawler. He’s pushing the right emotional buttons to get Peter in turmoil, but always keep the book fun and interesting. While JMS has kept turning the tables on Spidey the last few years, it always took something out of the character, may it be the defilement of Gwen’s memory, the Iron-Man’s lackey angle, the whole mess with the mysterious illness and so on. I’m hoping the gears shift very soon and we see FNSM as the flagship title dictating the directions in the other two.

Grade: A

Marvel Adventures: Avengers #3
Marvel Comics
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Manuel Garcia

Review Content: Marvel has struck gold with this new line of ‘kids’ titles. They’re not dumbed down like previous efforts, and they feature work from serious artists and writers instead of the amateurish cartoon-style art in other titles. In the Avengers’ case, it’s Jeff Parker, the writer of the eagerly anticipated Agents of Atlas revival, and Manuel Garcia, a former X-Men artist.

This roster is what New Avengers was claiming to be: Marvel’s all-star team including Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-man, Storm and Giant Girl/Wasp. Since the book is out of continuity, the writer doesn’t need to conserve energy to explain how this roster would come about but takes it for granted that it’s always been this way: Storm and Captain America co-leading the true team of Marvel’s Mightiest heroes.

This issue focuses on Zemo, who hasn’t appeared yet in this continuity. The Avengers are watching a movie pitting Cap against his WWII nemesis, who then promptly crashes the cinema in a giant killer robot and abducts Cap. The team races to Caps rescue with a smart strategy twist.

The characters are well written, and importantly believable in their inter-dynamics. Manuel Garcia was one of favourite artists during Joe Kelly’s X-Men run and he has further improved here. His rendition of Storm and her costume are better than the current look she’s sporting, combining iconic elements from all her costumes into a cohesive number. Maybe it will rub off into 616 after the wedding, when Marvel’s newest couple will most likely join in either the Fantastic four or the Avengers.

Grade: C

New X-Men #28
Marvel Comics
Writers: Chris Yost and Craig Kyle
Artist: Paco Medina

Review Content: Will the bloodshed never stop?

Ms Marvel and Iron man review the site of the late Reverend Stryke’s headquarters and uncover the body of yet another New X-Men core cast member. Ms Marvel decides to pay her old team-mates a visit to announce the death of their student and also make a last attempt to get them to register before the Civil War erupts.

Within 6 months Yost and Kyle have exterminated more than 40 young mutants through Reverend Stryke’s bloody rampage through the School. Usually I would cry wolf at thoughtless cropping of character dynamic, but these writers have taken care to make all of the deaths important and use them to inflict change on the remaining cast by spending time to show their reactions to each coming wave of loss.

The latest death (the most significant one in terms of name recognition) and Ms Marvel’s visit will bring the building tension in the academy to a boil as Emma Frost takes centre stage and confronts Marvel about the mutants’ position in the conflict. Everything that has happened in this title since house of M (and including references to HoM itself) is significant in the evolution of this rift between the heroes and mutants and Emma references all these events to solidify the validity of the X-Men’s stance concerning the registration beyond any scrutiny. It’s an extended and emotional sequence that brings out Emma’s human centre, her love for her students and the only thing that can really hurt her, the recurring theme of losing them in tragic situations (the Hellions during Fitzroy’s introduction, Generation-X, the Genosha students, the Cuckoos and now the New Mutants).

Grade: A

X-Men Fairytales #3
Marvel Comics
Writer: C.B. Cebulski
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz

Review Content: For some reason this 4th solicited issue of X-Men Fairytales has shipped as #3, without any explanation given.

The fairytale, lavishly illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz who is in top form, features a blind tailor (Cyclops) with a sentient crystal ball (Professor X?) who uncovers a glass coffin containing a sleeping Princess (Jean). The Princess is awoken by a kiss and taken into town by the tailor, who will discover there’s a secret past between his amnesiac Princess and the town butcher (Logan).

Cebulski retells the Dark Phoenix saga in the form of a brothers Grimm fairytale, with nuances to Morrison’s New X-Men and the recent X-Men movie. The story contains a few interesting twists and turns, along with some slightly concealed in-jokes for loyal X-fans. It’s worth buying for Bill Sienkiewicz’s rendition of the classic characters, since it’s a rare pleasure to see new work from him with his erratic work patterns.

Grade: C

Last week’s shipment

Cryptics #1
Image Comics
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Benjamin Roman

Review Content: It’s the Goonies by way of the Munsters, as Steve Niles and Goth-art boy-wonder Benjamin roman write the adventures of the four kids of the most famous movie monsters: a boy vampire, a sea monster kid, the “schizo” son of Mr. Hyde and the furry son of Frankenstein’s Bride and a werewolf.

The issue contains 8 short stories with the same writer and artist, but different colourists. Each has a slightly different style, but they all work well on Roman’s illustrations, apart from (ironically enough) Roman’s own colouring of his work, which felt amateurish in comparison. Even though the concept is fun and the character designs are adorable in their creepy way, the stories didn’t offer good ground for the boys to shine apart from one or two cute chuckly gags. Like Roman’s previous project ‘I Luv Halloween’ at Tokyo pop, this is a title that could use the more relaxed Manga format to really breathe with more extended stories, since the characters don’t lend themselves to one-page gag strips.

Grade: F

Exterminators #7
Vertigo
Writer: Simon Oliver
Artist: Tony Moore

Review Content: Unlike most other books on the market with weird concept covers like this, Exterminators can proudly boast that all the crazy ass cover situations appear in every issue! So in this case, there is a Lucha Libre fighter squaring off against a legion of rodents in an arena.

This issue focuses on the creepy bug-eating exterminator Kevin and his night job, as well as developing the ongoing mutant roach revolt, and the mystery of the pharaoh bug box. Meanwhile, a recently deceased cast member is mysteriously resurrected?

Exterminators started off as a Six Feet Under take on bug-zappers, but Oliver has weaved in a hefty dose of occult and amped up the weirdness factor and splatter with each issue. I wouldn’t recommend the book to any queasy readers, but if you can look past (or actually enjoy) scenes of overweight men in masks and leather jocks squeezing live rats open, you will enjoy the rich characterisation and mysteries the title has to offer.

Grade: C

Fables #51
Vertigo
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Shawn McManus

Review Content: Cinderella stars in a self-contained story with art by Sandman and Thessaly artist Shawn McManus. Cinderella is Fabletown’s resident spy, but she’s now taken over a more diplomatic political role, as she must convince the giants of the cloud Kingdom (as in, over the Beanstalk) to sign a peace treaty with Fabletown. The problem is noone stays a King for long in the cloud Kingdom and the current King has an ear infection that won’t allow him to sign.

The issue reads more like the walkthrough to an adventure game than an actual story. Cinderella goes on a wild goose chase through various Fable locales, from the clouds, to Fabletown to the farm and even Lilipute. It’s an enjoyable one-off read but disappointing in its simplicity for long-time fans.

Grade: C

Superman #654
DC Comics
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Carlos Pacheco

Review Content: “Superman hates Mondays”

It’s a special anniversary for Lois and Clark, but Superman can’t get a break to do something special with his wife because Intergang has unleashed a plan to keep him distracted with various attacks through the day, and his editor is giving him a hard time to prove himself after a year of slack performance. How can even a Superman juggle giant exploding popcorn monsters, press conferences, interviews and lunch with his lady love?

Kurt Busiek takes Superman back to basics as he starts his new run with superstar artist Carlos Pacheco. He’s a superhero, a husband and a reporter, but now he has to prioritise if he’s ever going to get through the day alive. It was a joy seeing Superman’s powers being up to novel use as he fights super-robots while super-eavesdropping on a press conference. Busiek has also returned Lois to great character heights while Pacheco finally re-examines her look and changes her recent generic look to a stylish ‘powerbroke’ hairstyle. She is sexy, smart and manipulative in a special ‘Lois Lane’ way.

Grade: B

Civil War: Front Line #3
Marvel Comics
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: various

Review Content: All-depressing issue!

Sally Floyd interviews some generic superheroes, which bring the pacing and interest to new staggering lows, and a civil war superhero battle has a tragic ending that stretches disbelief. Would a hero really leave another hero in critical condition and walk away disappointed in himself without anyone intervening?

Speedball is reliving American History X in prison, while She-Hulk is trying to cut him a deal to admit guilt and get off free from prison. Speedball’s answer is ambiguous in terms of trueness to the character. Jenkins is writing his dialogue and mannerisms in a believable way, but I doubt Speedball has the strength of character that such a choice would require.

The third and fourth stories can both be completely neglected, as one has apparently no relation to the civil War and the last one is one more of those annoying parallelism stories Jenkins uses to fill the page quotient.

Grade: D

Ultimate Fantastic Four #31
Marvel Comics
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Greg Land

Review Content: The ultimate Frightful four finally make the move!

No, it’s not Paste Pot Pete, Sandman, the Wizard and filler member in this universe, but instead actual Frightful Four: the Zombie Fantastic four from a few storylines ago who have been imprisoned n the FF headquarters. When the remaining Fantastic Four seek out Dr Doom’s fault to cure a dying Human Torch, the zombies take over their base in a big bloody coup, while Dr Doom makes a satanic deal with Reed for his friend’s life, a deal that will be very familiar to fans of Claremont’s FF run.

Millar is a one-of-a-kind writer when left to his own devices and not forced into a company-wide crossover. I wish Civil War had half the insane energy and unpredictability that Milla’s Ultimate titles are brimming with every month.

Grade: B

Ultimate Spider-man #97
Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Mark Bagley

Review Content: As much as I loathe Bendis’ writing in the Marvel Universe titles, his work on Ultimate Spider-man has never been better! The love triangle he has built between Peter, MJ and Kitty is the strongest I’ve read in comics. Ultimate Spidey certainly has the advantage over 616 Spidey now; he has a rich supporting cast, the relationship with MJ is still interesting, he is single so it’s still ‘allowed’ to show him in a love triangle without him coming off as a cheating bastard or a divorcee and he still has secrets to protect from the world and his loved ones, unlike the bear-all exhibitionist Spidey in Civil War.

The issue focuses on the friction between Kitty and Peter, because of Pete’s friendship with MJ, and the ‘unfinished business’ sign looming over their breakup. It’s a riveting argument, in that the reader can’t decide whose side he’s on, as both are in the right, and both feelings are in the line. Peter and MJ are still awkwardly trying to keep their friendship while the new ultimate version of Scorpion attacks the School. The identity of the new villain is a big twist in the ending, but I’m sure you can take a wild guess as to the face under the mask.

Grade: B

Aaaaand that’s a wrap for this week! I’m waiting your comments and feedback through email to Manolis@gmail.com. If you self-publish your own comics or represent an indy comics company, add me to your press release list, and I will run your news in this space every week.

Manolis Vamvounis
a.k.a. Dr. Dooplove

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