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Is It Wednesday Yet?

03 March 2009 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!

Our grading scale is simple:

Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.

Dynamo 5 #0
Publisher: Image
Released: 18 February 2009
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Mahmud A. Asrar
Colorist: Ron Riley
Letterer: Charles Pritchett
Cover: Mahmud A. Asrar

Review: drqshadow
When you're a huge celebrity — whether it's on the basketball court, in the movies or up in the sky with a muscle-hugging wardrobe — that level of fame carries with it a certain number of, shall we say, temptations. Even the biggest, noblest superhero on the planet, Captain Dynamo, wasn't immune to some play on the side — as evidenced by the five children he bore with different women throughout his career. But now that he's dead and gone, the world needs protecting more than ever, and with each of his children inheriting just one of his fantastic powers, it doesn't seem like this can be a one-man job anymore.

I like this premise: a quintet of rookie heroes with a tenuous connection trying to keep the world safe at the same time they're still learning the ropes. But the execution feels a bit flat. While I'd imagine the murky circumstances around each kid's conception would lead to a bit of animosity and tension within the team, that isn't the case with any member of Dynamo 5. They get along swimmingly from the very first panel, like a flying, fighting, spandex-stretching Brady Bunch. They're either the most well-adjusted people, or the Captain blessed them with additional powers of super-tolerance and ultra-rationality. Even the group's leader, the widow dear ol' dad was cheating on, seems immune to any feelings of jealousy or anger. She's half-caretaker and half-business, like Aunt May and Nick Fury rolled into one.

Jay Faerber writes a story that's shockingly brief in this mini-sized zero issue, even taking its dollar price tag into consideration. It doesn't really feel like a fully finished plot, it's more like an outline with some rough dialog thrown in so the letterer has something to do. Although the teaser text on its back cover proclaims that Dynamo 5 #0 features a story that's slowed down enough to provide a "perfect jumping-on point" for new readers, I'd be more inclined to say it came to a screeching halt. The only lesson I learned here is that outside of their powers, each character is pretty much the same and they can instantly solve any problem through the use of the handy-dandy dimensional portal that's kept front and center within the team's HQ.

The issue's artwork, provided by series co-creator Mahmud A. Asrar, gets the job done. A garish red and blue color palette spoils his character designs for the primary team, but the more subdued scheme sported by the issue's villain is proof that he knows what he's doing. Asrar's action scenes are sometimes tough to follow, especially when he tries to get cute and strays from traditional paneling, but I only saw that once or twice this month. For the most part, he's a solid contributor with a healthy mix of realism and exaggeration that faintly reminded me of Alan Davis.

If you're looking for a lot of depth and substance, this won't hit the mark. It's the barest of introductions with a quick brawl thrown in for good measure, and gave me little reason to investigate the regular series. If the ongoing picks up on some of the juicier threads promised by the book's premise, it could be all right. But if it's just a lengthier dose of the same formula, I'll keep my distance. Flip through this and leave it on the shelf. It isn't bad at all, it's just quite generic.

The Warriors #1
Publisher: Dabel Brothers
Released: 18 February 2009
Writer: David Atchison
Artist: Chris Dibari
Colorist: Kieran Oats
Letterer: Bill Tortolini
Cover: Chris Dibari

Review: Preston Nelson
"Waaaarriors! Come out and plaaaay."

In 1979, Paramount released a nice little film that grew into a cult classic, because of how stylish and fun it was. It was by no means a good film, but it had a great sort of panache that lent itself to the kind of social rebels that the 1980s cultivated. It got a DVD rerelease about three years back, and a solid video game to go along with it. My question is, why is this comic coming out now? It's not as if this story hasn't been told — and recently. If this adaptation offered something new, maybe I could see it, but it's a straight adaptation.

The art is nothing special either; the faces are sometimes cartoony, yet hyper-realistic other times. And I have no idea why, but Ajax and Cowboy (the two Caucasian members of the Warriors) have the same face, and it's Bruce Campbell's. And for some reason, everything is shiny: faces, clothes, hair and trees. This is a weird decision, because the film's charm came from how dank and gritty it was. In short, these guys aren't adapting the film, they're just drawing the things they know.

And speaking of things that made the film good, all of the Warriors had a different voice, but in the same language. Cleon didn't talk like Ajax, Cowboy didn't talk like Swan, but they all had a similar manner of speech. In this incarnation, that's lost. Not only do the Warriors sound the same, but all the characters do. There's no difference in their voices, barring maybe Booker T — I mean, Cyrus.

This is a comic that doesn't need to exist. And if it's going to try and justify its existence, it had better do a nicer job than this. "Can you dig it?" Well, no. Skip it.

X-Factor #39
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 18 February 2009
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Valentine De Landro
Inker: Craig Yeung
Colorist: Jeremy Cox
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Cover: David Yardin

Review: drqshadow
It's the biggest day in the lives of Madrox and Siryn, as the arrival of this month's issue also marks the delivery of their child. Typically, that isn't the only cause for concern around the team's central hub, however. At the close of last month's issue, moments after Siryn had departed for the hospital, series mainstay and government watchdog Val Cooper took a bullet during a sudden firefight.

This month's chapter is noted as the beginning of writer Peter David's attempt to revitalize the book via a series of surprise twists and turns. Hey, I'm all about upping the ante a bit if it makes for better material, but does that mean he's conceding that the last few years' worth of X-Factor was crap? I'm not sure I agree, really. Either way, he's so convinced you're going to flip out over the shocking conclusion to this issue that it opens with a "personal plea" in which he begs his readers to resist the urge to go online and share, lest the moment be cheapened for subsequent readers. For what it's worth, he's right; the big twist in question is a major dramatic turn that shakes the book to its foundation.

Although it's a team book at heart, for obvious reasons the spotlight shines a little brighter on Madrox and Siryn than their peers. It couldn't ask for a better pair of leads; their connection is vibrant and emotional and they play off each other like a traveling act. Peter David spends much of the issue convincing us that they're just an average couple in love, before suddenly reminding us that in actuality they're anything but ordinary. A contraction causes Siryn to scream, the force of which shatters the hospital windows. When a nurse takes his child to the nursery, Madrox leaves a dupe behind to comfort the new mom. Little touches like these serve the issue well; they keep things from straying too far from the X-Men universe and, surprisingly enough, add a bit of humanity to both characters. David knows these guys inside and out and that pays dividends each month, but he's also not afraid to rattle the cage for dramatic effect.

Valentine De Landro's artwork is worthwhile, if not especially memorable. His backgrounds are often flat and his camera angles lack a real visual punch, but he mostly makes up for that with a firm grasp of facial expression and body language. Although he gets some pretty rich material to work with this month, I found his contributions to be universally bland and unmoving. Maybe he's more at home with lasers firing and mutant powers warming up, because while he's technically sound, emotionally he just doesn't bring anything to this issue. You won't remember this one for the artwork, but chances are that isn't why you were buying it in the first place.

As the first in a long line of proposed shakeups, X-Factor #39 gets things started on the right foot with a risky, unexpected twist. The issue switches to slow motion just afterwards, which serves to initially soften the blow, but a few minutes after I finished it, the weight of the situation really began to sink in. If the goal was to hook new readers, mission accomplished — I'll be tuning in next month to see where things go from here. This is a great, imaginative, character-driven drama from an old master, and I'm suggesting you buy it.

X-Men Origins: Sabretooth
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 18 February 2009
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Panosian
Colorist: Ian Hannin
Letterer: Todd Klien
Cover: Dan Panosian

Review: Preston Nelson
I'm going to get this out of the way: a more accurate title would have been X-Men Origins: Sabretooth Gets Eight Pages of Pretty Cool Character Development, Then Wolverine Shows Up and It Becomes a Retread of Shit You've Seen Hundreds of Times.

Why? Why does Wolverine have to ruin everything I'm enjoying? I've only ever liked him when he popped up in Deadpool and cut off Wade's head, allowing for Bob and Deadpool's head shenanigans. This book rolls along nicely, showing us some horrifying images from Victor Creed's childhood; his dad abused him for having "the beast" inside him, leaving us with the question of nurture versus nature? Was the Creed father correct, was his son born with an inner demon? Or did he make his son into the monster that he was trying to avoid? And while you're left with this great question, we cut to the Old West where Wolverine and Silver Fox show up.

Up until then the writing was strong, if a little clichιd. The art had a creepy, cartoony vibe going for it; the gore was unflinching and bloody, and this book was on track to becoming something solid. Then Wolverine showed up, and everyone stopped caring. The writing goes from a solid, linear story to a series of fractured vignettes about Sabretooth messing up Wolverine's birthday every year. The dialog stops being meaningful, 'Tooth and Wolvie just spout one-liners at each other. The art becomes laughable, with childish lines taking over the book.

I don't want to hate this one. The first eight pages are really good, but the magic is gone after that. I would love to see one story starring Sabretooth before he met Wolverine — one story where we don't even hear Logan's name.

Flip through this, but only the first vignette. You've seen the rest of it before, and you've seen it done better.

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