Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil #1 (of 4) — Writer/Artist: Jeff Smith
Wow. Just…wow. The old guy in the park; the subway scene/seven deadly sins scene (probably the most faithful to the original that anyone’s ever done, and yet somehow brand-new); the ride to the Rock of Eternity; the expression on Billy’s face, lit from below as he peers out a window; the alligator bad-guys… who wouldn’t want this book? You could make a lot of kids into comics readers for life by giving them a book like this.
Ultimate Spider-Man #105 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Penciler: Mark Bagley; Inker: Drew Hennessy
Without Jeff Smith, this might have been the best book of the week — a satisfying conclusion to a long, ambitious story. All those cliffhangers, all resolved satisfactorily, and all the little character-interaction codas at the end: this has been a great arc, one of the best in the run, a last gift from this creative team before they break up the act. It turns out to be about family, too, with the orphaned Peter getting praise from both his father-figure Nick Fury and his mother-figure Aunt May in the end. Take some bows and come out for an encore, guys: it’s been a pleasure.
The Punisher #44 — Writer: Garth Ennis; Penciler: Lan Medina; Inker: Bill Reinhold
Second part of the current arc. The Harlem Chick still bugs me, but I suppose she isn’t any worse than the Illiterate Dyslexic Blond Bimbo. I do like the way we’re spending time with all these characters, watching them plan, forgetting that most of them will be dead in another three or four issues. Let’s see… 12 issues of the mini-series, plus 37 issues of the last one, plus 44 issues of this one, minus a few fill-ins, plus a few other mini-series and specials… we’re pretty close to 100 issues by Ennis, aren’t we? That’s an impressive run.
Jonah Hex #16 — Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti; Art: Phil Noto
This title has grown on me. Its characters and world-view are unblinkingly cynical, and yet we care about them; we see the stubborn honor at their core. That’s a classic western set-up, and it works especially well here because each issue provides a satisfying story, even when it’s continued like this one.
Detective Comics #828 — Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Don Kramer; Inker: Wayne Faucher
Dini’s been running the table on the Batman Rogue’s Gallery, giving us his versions of Poison Ivy, the Ventriloquist, and most memorably the Joker. Now it’s the Riddler’s turn, except that he’s not the villain — instead, he and the Batman try to out-Sherlock Holmes each other in using classic deductive techniques to solve a crime. Not quite as much oomph as some of the others, but still a good story.
Fell #7 — Writer: Warren Ellis; Illustrator: Ben Templesmith
Interesting new character introduced, as Fell gets what’s probably a necessary bringdown; the hero can’t always win. Nice balancer to the earlier interrogation issue, too. The Templesmith art is a perfect match to the writer and setting; this book is a dependable bargain, like sitting down to a good episode of a quirky little detective series on TV.
Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #2 — Writer: Kurt Busiek; Artist: Brent Anderson
As long as these two keep doing it, I’ll keep buying it.
Supergirl #14 — Writer: Joe Kelly; Penciller: Jan Churchill; Inker: Norm Rapmund
Unlike a lot of people, I kind of like this book. Kelly’s trying to pull a difficult trick in depicting the main character as angry without knowing why, wanting to do the right thing while flirting with dangerous habits, and walking a cautious tightrope strung between adolescence and sexual maturity. There are an awful lot of 16 and 17-year-old girls fitting that description out there. If he’d just get rid of the stupid my-father-programmed-me stuff (which here leads to even stupider I-have-an-apparently-undetectable-weapon-that-I can-now-pull-out-of-my-um-abdomen-any-time-I-need-it stuff), and ditch soap opera techniques like the stalker superboyfriend, and just concentrate on the regular characters’ relationships, he’d have a decent story here.