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Is It Wednesday Yet?

26 October 2010 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.

Northlanders #33
Publisher: DC Comics / Vertigo
Released: 13 October 2010
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Riccardo Burchielli
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Massimo Carnevale
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Guest
Back when I was a regular member of the IIWY? crew, I feel like I reviewed about a dozen issues of Northlanders, so when I saw this in my pile, I became struck by a sudden combination of shock and worry. Shocked because I couldn't believe the series is only 33 issues in, and worried that I wouldn't be able to review it correctly.

Allow me to clarify.

I know that Northlanders is a very good series, and you'd be hard-pressed to find too many people that disagree. The problem is that I'm asked to review single issues, and they've been a mixed bag. Either they're simple, striking stories that stand on their own, or they're wordy supplements to a backstory I have little knowledge of. Despite my rather frequent habit of taking comic creators and putting their heads under the journalistic guillotine, I actually don't like to give bad grades to comics.

Perhaps you can see my dilemma here.

So there's an undead killer named Black Karl who's roaming the land. How or when the supernatural became a part of Northlanders, I haven't a clue. For all I know, it's been there all along and I've just read the issues that didn't involve Viking zombies. Granted, it's not overdone, and most of the issue is spent building up the concept of a draugr, before we get an all too brief cameo by said creature in preparation for a good old fashioned fifth-issue-so-let's-finish-up-the-trade showdown.

As is usually the case with this series, the art is great, though the coloring is mixed. The last few panels in particular are so gaudy that you may think someone threw your comic in the wash along with your Technicolor Dreamcoat.

There's really no reason to read this by itself. It's everything you'd expect from the fourth issue in a story arc. There may very well be some epic revelation at work here, but you're not going to get anything out of this story without some context. Skip it and buy a trade.

Superior #1
Publisher: Marvel / Icon
Released: 13 October 2010
Writer: Mark Millar
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover: Leinil Francis Yu
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Guest
I knew it. I just knew that there was no way for me to come back for a week of IIWY? without getting a book like this.

Yeah, I have to review a book written by one of the most overrated writers in comics, and drawn by the guy that only knows one face, which he puts on every man, woman, child, dog, robot, and automobile he draws.

I haven't even gotten to the first page and this book has already gotten my dander up. I mean, I'm using "got my dander up" in sentences now. That's how much the rage is blinding me.

Our story focuses on Simon, a young basketball prospect that became wheelchair-bound due to multiple sclerosis. All of his friends have slowly abandoned him but one, Chris, who meets him at the movies every weekend to take in a mindless action flick, usually starring the fictional superhero Superior. One night, a talking monkey in a spacesuit appears in his bedroom, transports him to a distant planet, and grants him a magic wish.

I'll type that for you to read again.

A talking monkey in a spacesuit appears in his bedroom, transports him to a distant planet, and grants him a magic wish.

His wish? To become The Plutonian. Wait no. To become The Sentry. Shit. The Homelander? Sorry, I keep getting my Supermen analogs mixed up. So, of course, instead of using his one wish to solve world hunger or stop Glenn Beck from ever working again, he uses it to become Superior. Hilarity (or something) ensues.

This is what we've been reduced to, using the plot of a shitty Tom Hanks movie to deconstruct superheroes. Again. Look, I understand that we haven't deconstructed superheroes since last week, but is this really something people want to read? I sure as hell don't, and if anything, this book just confirms my belief that for every one great book Mark Millar writes, there are a dozen bad ones. After reading the first issue, I honestly can't tell if this series is supposed to be funny, sad, inspirational, exciting, or what.

I do know that it's not supposed to annoy me or piss me off, but that's really all it managed to do. Fuck this book and fuck anyone that tries to convince you it's good.

Untold Tales of Blackest Night
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 13 October 2010
Writers: Peter Tomasi, Geoff Johns, Adam Schlagman, JT Krul, Jeremy Love, and Ethan Van Sciver
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Sandra Hope, Brian Buccellato, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Rod Reis, Jason Fabok, Ryan Winn, Alex Sinclair, Ed Benes, Brett Booth, Andrew Dalhouse, and Ethan Van Sciver
Letterers: Steve Wands, Nick J. Napolitano, Travis Lanham, Rob Clark Jr., Steve Wands, and John J. Hill
Cover: Tyler Kirkham
Cover price: $4.99

Review: Tom Hemmings
Recent comic book events have had such massive scope that it's become standard for one of these little anthologies to be released. After all, the big events are so huge and complex that there are always more stories to tell, even after the event is over. For this Green Lantern-centric event, that's where Lyssa Drak comes in. She's a sort of sexy Cryptkeeper figure whose own story is intertwined with the tales she is presenting. Just in case you're wondering why she has to be sexy, it's because there's almost nothing else to her and they wanted fans to at least remember what she looked like. Y'know, in contrast to all the rest of the women in comics.

But let's not start off on a down note. The list of creators is slightly daunting, but there are actually a couple of teams that are worth a look. For example, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis handled the actual Blackest Night series, and Johns has been the guiding force behind the success of Green Lantern since 2004. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are here as well, both are noted for their work on Green Lantern Corps. Many loyal Green Lantern readers would be tempted to buy this for them alone, even just a few pages by them would make it worthwhile. "Just a few" being the operative phrase. If you wanted to see four pages of Reis-drawn "deleted scenes," then this is absolutely worth your $4.99.

The problem here, as with any of these collections, is that for the most part the interesting stuff gets almost zero time and we get stuck with a pointless monologue. Something truly interesting happens with Ragman in one of the two-page deleted scenes, but of course I've no idea what happened after that. On the other hand, we have the two Wonder Girls recapping the main storyline without adding much at all, and that takes nearly a dozen pages. Now I'm not really going to complain about 10 pages of Ed Benes art, but the actual story and content really didn't add a lot to the Blackest Night experience. Similarly, the Animal Man and Scarecrow stories told me nothing new about these people or how this story impacted them beyond what we already know.

On the upside, the art is a step up from the usual fare for this sort of book. There are quibbles, however. Jason Fabok's style seems like a slightly exaggerated Ed Benes style, which is fine until you realize that the story immediately following is drawn by Benes, and maybe they could have changed the order around so the comparison wasn't so easy to draw. The Scarecrow story at the end is not to my taste artistically, but it's still tremendously detailed and the lighting effects surrounding the use of the yellow ring are some of the best I've ever seen. It conveys the almost unholy power it provides.

It would seem DC thinks they did just enough with this to guarantee a purchase from anyone who bought Blackest Night; it's easy for consumers to justify this as one last tie-in. However, I'm going to tell you it's not worth it. This is at best $2 of content with a $5 price tag, and if you bought and liked Blackest Night, this isn't going to add much of anything to it. You don't need this. Skip it.

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