Leave Your Spandex @t the Door 24.07.06: Advance Reviews

Welcome to the 77th installment of the new Leave Your Spandex @t the Door! Wednesday is Comic Book Day in the U.S., and LYS@D is here again with this week’s Early Bird Reviews, so you can catch up on what rocks and what flops this week before you head to your local LCS! I’d like to thank Travelling Man Manchester for providing me with the advance look copies for review!

This week: Goth Wonder-Girls, evil Russians, plug-in-and-play mutant girls, full frontal male nudity, abducted cat-babies, tight leather costumes and the super-fast deterioration of a once-great character.

Panel of the week:

What the Big Three were doing while you were reading Giffen’s League

Birds of Prey #96
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Paulo Sequiera

Review Content: After the dust settles from the Onew Year Later upheaval, the new line-up of the Birds has returned to the more familiar Oracle-Huntress-black Canary dynamic with the new additions of the Detroit League’s Gupsy and Sin, the Canary’s newly adopted daughter, and the ever-present in the background Lady Blackhawk as the team’s pilot/driver.

Although Gupsy is an interesting addition to the team dynamics thanks to her relative innocence and awkardness towards the other Birds, it’s the young Sin that steals the show in the issue’s opening breakfast scene; Sin has spent her early years training to be an assassin at the hands of Shiva’s original teacher. Now Black Canary has taken her under her wing, teaching her the ways of the Western pampered civilization, and Gail handles the young girl’s awe with broad sentimentality, squeezing sympathy freely from the reader. I’ve never been moved to tears by maple syrup before, Gail is pushing all sorts of hidden buttons here.

This issue sees the return of Black Alice, the most memorable new character created by Simone during the Hero Hunters storyline; she is one of three new female characters created by simone when she realised there’s no worthwhilefemale villains to use out there (the other two are Mary Zero from Agent-X and the Queen of Fables from JLA/Superman)! Alice is able to ‘borrow’ the powers of any magical entity in the DC and Vertigo universe, allowing Simone and her artists to essentially create fun goth teenage girl versions of their favourite characters (in this issue the Spectre and Wonder-Woman). There’s an inherent appeal to a black leather goth Wonder-Girl (Wonder-Goth?) that makes even queer readers stand up and take notice! I’m sure Black Alice could make a very marketable solo heroine for DC, if they released manga-sized sotries with her in the same vein as the Death novels, and other related merchandise.

Back to the plot: Alice has enormous power in her hands, enough to topple even the Society of Supervillains, and they have finally taken notice of her potential threat, so they send three of their major players (Talia, Faust and a continuity-defying animalistic Cheetah) to deal with her. The birds of Prey intercept their plans and confront the society, with Black Alice trapped in the middle having to pick a side.

Grade: A

Exiles #84
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Jim Calafiore

Review Content: The Exiles visit Sasquatc’s native Earth to help Alpha Flight fight the Soviet Super-Soldiers in a reality where the Cold War never ended. While there they will learn about a devastating change in their status that is going to shake-up the book’s direction a mere two months after it finally managed to settle down!

Apart from Jim Calafiore’s creative re-imagining of the Alpha Flight costumes, the issue has nothing to offer apart from some weak Exiles interaction and a colour-by-numbers fight scene between the opposing teams. The Soviet Super-Soldiers were always a forced concept team made up of national stereotype heroes and Bedard doesn’t bother tweaking them here to make them any more interesting.

Grade: F

X-Men #189
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Chris Bachalo

Review Content: I’ll repeat myself from last week’s Uncanny X-Men review: It’s a good time to be an X-Fan! It’s the first time this decade/century that all x-titles are more or less equally entertaining reads, co-existing in a shared universe withot cannibalising each other in terms of story and cast.

And I’m guessing it’s a very good time to be a Rogue fan, now that Carey is making her the centerpiece of his X-Men game; Carey has consciously diminished her panel-time this issue, attempting to give the other characters equal spotlight (after the Rogue-fest that was the previous issue) but she still manages to steal the show with a single panel and line, during a brief exchange with Wolverine. That panel is enough to remind the readers what they have so foolishly forgotten: Rogue is just as cool as Wolverine could ever be. Be careful mr Carey or people will start talking; just see what happened to Bendis with Cage!

The above is not to say that the other X-Men are neglected. Cable doesn’t make an appearance until next issue, but Mystique is introduced to the team in a clever twist, Cannonball is no longer depicted as the rookie member and gets to call some of the shots around the mansion, while Iceman gets the more subtle characterisation of the pack, with a brief violent outburst that the reader can probably read more into with a closer examination.

The issue focuses on the aftermath of last issue’s cliffhangers: the X-Men have given Sabretooth asylum at the mansion which doesn’t go well with some, while Valerie Cooper questions Xavier about the catastrophy in Mexico which was framed on the X-Men. Meanwhile, Karima the Omega Sentinel wakes up and the Children make their next move against the mutants, by freeing Northstar and conditioning him and his sister against their former teammates. But you could have figured that out from last issue’s cover.

The Children are finally named this issue and Carey gives us a good glimpse of their powers. Although their agenda is reminiscent of Claremont’s aborted Neo ‘third’ race, Carey’s Children show greater promise and have an interesting mix of personalities and powers that seem to be mostly derived from various elemental forces. They speak in english sprinkled with spanish idioms and phrases, following the classic Claremont trend of defining nationality, but their names are a combination of portuguese and spanish words for blood, fire, iron…

Chris Bachalo has outdone himself in the Children’s costume designs, especially with the reluctant villain Serafina. He has refined his style and uncluttered his page designs. bringing him back to the top of his game; even when rendering characters like Mystique and Northstar in their classic costumes, he still manages to make them stand out on the page as if we were introduced to them for the very first time again.

Grade: A

Reviews from last week’s shipment:

Catwoman #57
Writer: Will Pfeiffer
Artists: David Lopez

Review Content: Will Pfeiffer is a sneaky little fox! I never expected this sort of intricate planning and plot twists in Catwoman after his somewhat average run till now.

Catwoman/Selina faces off against the Film Freak and Bend, who have uncovered her new civilian identiy and are holding baby Helena hostage in her flat. You’d think that Selina would be smart enough to not pick a new civilian name from a movie about cat-people after she’s gone through all the trouble of ging into hiding. After an impressive impromptu fight scene in a child-proofed room, Catwoman is faced with a familiar dilemma about how to deal with the two crooks who threaten to reveal her new identity to her enemies.

Meanwhile, Catwoman/Holly still hasn’t com to terms with her new superhero identity as she continues training with Wildcat and runs into another JSA alumni. By the end of the issue she will come to regret ever donning the black leathers as Selina’s past crimes come back to condemn her successor.

After the two cliff-hangers of this issue, Catwoman 58 is going to be the most anticipated book in August!

Grade: B

Casanova #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Gabriel Ba

Review Content: More bang for your (two) buck(s)!

Casanova is Image’s newest anti-capitalist experiment, offering 16 pages of comics story and 4 pages of bonus text material for just under 2 dollars!

Casanova Quinn is a cosmopolitan secret services double agent with a twist! He lived his life as a renegade agent fighting against his daddy’s E.M.P.I.R.E. espionage agency, but he has now been abducted into a parallel dimension where he has to replace himself as a double agent in the same agency he despises, while his twin sister provides counter-ntelligence THROUGH and tries to seduce him. After all, are they really related in this reality?

Casanova’s new mission takes him to Agua Pesada, a Pleasure island populated by sex-bots and fueled by Orgone, sex energy, where he must extract a sleeper agent and infect the sex-bots with digital HIV.

The second issue keeps in the same irreverent pop culture-fueled maelstorm of the first one. The action and narration is so densely packed that few readers will notice the pagecount drop in the issue. Gabriel Ba remains energetic as ever, and provides the readers with plenty of equal opportunity frontal nudity bringing forward the inherent homoeroticism in a bareknuckles fist fight, as Fraction himself explains in the text piece at the end of the issue. The back pages of the issue include a lengthy ‘writer’s commentary’ from Matt Fraction about the origin of the issue’s story, the hidden pop culture references in the characters, names, songs and locales of the issue and bonus art and extracts from a comic book that is mentioned in the story and credited to one of te characters.

I dare you to find a more entertaining and full-filling read on the stands!

Grade: A

Flash: the fastest man alive #2
Writer: Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo
Artist: Ken Lashley

Review Content: Flash, this is your life (and it’s sucking worse by the minute)!

After spending the entire first issue reminiscing through the Flashs that came before, Bart Allen gets the spotlight as the writers recount through his career as Impulse and Kid Flash. Meanwhile the actual plot of the issue crawls along slowly with the revelation that Bart isn’t the only speedster in town, as his generic buddy whatsisname has somehow gained superspeed.

The countdown clock is still running down the months before this creative team is crapped just like Nightwing’s as this title continues to be the worst read out of DC’s entire superhero line. Normally some people could put up with poor characterisation and slow plotting when a superstar artist is on the title, but Ken Lashley has steadily deteriorated from his glory days on Excalibur and doesn’t manage to convince he’s worth this second chance at the big leagues.

A character with such rich and diverse history as the Flash deserves better than this.

Grade: F

Civil War: X-Men #1
Writer: David Hine
Artist: Yanick Paquette

Review Content: The Marvel Civil War causes a rift between the X-Men. Kinda. Does it really count as a rift when there’s only one person (Bishop, the militaristic lapdog from the future) against the whole team?

Domino and Shatterstar stage an escape for the 198 who are camped outside the X-mansion and the original X-Men must track them down before Bishop (along with two former second-string Excalibur members and SHIELD) do. But not before they change into new leather-tight outfits for the occassion.

Bishop’s defection from the team is the emotional focus of the issue, but the reasons for it aren’t explained to my satisfaction. Bishop fears the opression of mutants that will lead to his apocalyptic feature, where mutants were branded and lived under Sentinel opression. So naturally, he leaves his fellow mutants and joins the governement and its Sentinel group to hunt down mutants, register them and brand them with tracking microchips.

David Hine is a capable writer, usually, with a knack for exploring the full potential of secondary characters and providing impressive new uses for some run-down mutant powers. I imagine he could carve his own niche in the X-Universe if he was given his own ongoing series and cast to play with. Instead, he’s been dragged around from one mini-series to the next, dragging as much of his cast along as he can afford. In the last years he’s moved from District-X to Mutopia-X to the 198 and now to Civil War: X-Men, trying to fit the stories he wants to say within the current month’s crossover plot.

Grade: F

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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