Saturday, November 8, 2008

Issue #38: Comic Book Books Part 2

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adventure Comics Special Guardian #1 (New Krypton #3) (DC)
Justice Society of America #20 (DC)
Sgt. Rock: The Lost Batallion #1 (DC)
Top 10 Season 2 #2 (of 4) (Wildstorm / DC)

I didn't have a chance to go to my local comic book store, Acme Comics, this week. We are budgeting for our vacation in about another week and a half, so I wasn't able to budget any money for comics this week. I'm not sure if I will be able to get to the comic store until after we get back from vacation.I hope it won't be that long, but we'll see. Until then I thought I would continue sharing nonfiction books about comic book history.

Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon, published by Chicago Review Press in 2003, looks at Stan's career. Despite what a casual glance may suggest, the book doesn't blame Stan for the fall of the American comic book. It is a thorough review of his many collaborations, and who created or co-created what. It does delve into Stan's various claims about the characters he co-created, which have not always been consistent over the years. It does take him to task over some of his claims about creating the Marvel Universe, but it does not paint him as a villain. It delves into the unique collaboration known as the "Marvel Method" and how sometimes it is not clear who did what. The book echos Mark Evanier, Kirby historian who has criticized Stan over some of his statements, yet does not paint him as another Mort Weisinger.

Will Eisner: A Spirited Life was written by Bob Andelman and published by M Press in 2005. I saw Andelman do a presentation about his biography at MegaCon in 2006. I finally bought it last year and was not disappointed. The book provides a window into the early years of the comic book industry. If you would like to learn about his creation The Spirit, the subject of Frank Miller's movie adaption due to be released in theaters on Christmas of this year, this is the book to check out. The book follows Eisner's varied career, both in and out of comics. Beginning just before the comic book scare of the 1950's, Eisner left comics to produce P. S., the Army maintenance magazine, which contained a comic book insert that would illustrate a different equipment maintenance procedure each month. And it explores Eisner's contribution to the evolution of the graphic novel. This book is a must for any library about comic book history.

Another book that features a comic book artist is Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear, published by Pantheon Books in 2003. this book is not a complete exploration of all of Ross' career, but his DC Comics work is prolific enough to fill this volue. There are some samples of his art growing up, as well as a brief review of the influence of his mother's own artistic career and a short biography of his life. The book explores the many projects Ross has produced for DC, with many samples of his development sketches. Some comic book readers may not be fans of his realistic style, thinking it is too posed and lacks a sense of action. For myself, his style adds to a story, not subtract from it. For an in-depth look at some of the best stories DC Comics has ever published, this is the book for you.

For an inside look of DC Comics through forty years, from the 1940's to the 1980's, check out Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics by Julius Schwartz with Brian M. Thomsen, with an Afterword by Harlan Ellison. It was published by Harper Collins in 2000. This book may not be in print. In fact, I bought my copy from an vendor. Another possibility may be to search used book stores. Schwartz had a full career, beginning with sci-fi fandom in its infancy of the 1930's, to becoming an agent for sci-fi writers and finally an editor at DC Comics. Readers interested in the history of DC Comics will be interested in Schwartz's reminisces, especially his observations about his friend and notorious DC editor Mort Weisinger. He also writes about the many characters and creators he worked with, and some of the conflicts he had. This book is an excellent window into another view of comic book history.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Issue #37: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Project SuperPowers #7 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment)
Legion Of Super-Heroes #47 (DC)
Superman #681 (DC)

Project Superpowers #7 (of 7) * * * *
This issue wraps up the first mini-series of obscure golden age super heroes. This issue, and the series it concludes, was a satisfying story. It did something other mini-series that lead into another mini-series don't always do, lead its story to a satisfying conclusion. All of the plot threads come together in this issue and are wrapped up in an action packed climax. The Fighting Yank finally faces the difficult choice that his life wasleading to. The heroes are trapped and the odds are not good for them. The ending leaves the door open for these characters, as in "What's Next?" but the questions asked in this story were answered. At the end are two more hero features, including The Owl, which caught my attention with the upcoming Watchmen movie. There will be a volume two of Project Superpowers, as well as spin-offs for Black Terror and The Death-Defying Devil. I'll be checking them out.

Legion Of Super-Heroes #47 (DC) * * * *
As the cover indicates, Brainiac 5 has a lot more than super science on his mind. And there is a suprising twist to the Princess Projectra plotline. The art is a little loose for my taste but it does remind me a little of Jon Bogdanove, so it's not bad. There are some action scenes in this issue, but the strong point is the character interaction and development in this issue, a Legion strength. I just read on some comic book news web sites that this series will end with issue #50, and Jim Shooter will not be writing any future Legion title. I would guess that the Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds mini-series will impact what a future Legion title continuity will be, but I hope that will be the last Legion "reboot" for a while. My only criticism of Legion stories of recent years are the frequent reboots, which seems to have the Legion spinning its wheels, so to speak. The stories have been good, but with the reboots the stories haven't been leading anywhere. That's what I hope the Legion Final Crisis tie-in will solve.

Superman #681 (New Krypton #2) (DC) * * * * *
The triangle numbers from the 1990's have returned. Superman introduces the Kandorians to the world. Some of Superman's friends have a few worlds of caution for him, and the issue concludes with a big surprise. And Ma Kent gets some surprising help in dealing with her grief. And another Alex Ross cover can't hurt, either! This has been the best Superman issue this year. James Robinson has written an excellent chapter, and Renato Guedes pencils and Wilson Margalhres inks make excellent art. The New Krypton story looks to take its place next to other excellent DC stories this year, like Green Lantern's Sinestro Corps War (which I didn't read but heard great things about it; plus it was written by Geoff Johns). It feels great to say that it's fun to read Superman again.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Issue #36: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Terry Moore's Echo #7 (Abstract Studios)
Invincible #54 (Image)
Superman: New Krypton Special #1 (of 1) (DC)

Now I'm back to my regular comic book collecting schedule at my new comic book store, Acme Comics Since I have not picked up Invincible #53 yet, Acme was shorted some copies of this issue, I will review issues 53 and 54 next week. As anxious as I am to read #54, I don't want to read any spoilers about the previous issue until I can read them in order. I had enough of spoilers when I read the ending of Action #870 on the internet. BAck to our regularly scheduled comic books.

Terry Moore's Echo #7 (Abstract Studios) * * * * *
Julie and Dillon are still on the run, and Ivy is hot on their trail. She is not the only one interested in them. Echo is the perfect example of a title that does not need super hero fisticuffs to be interesting. It has an interesting story full of character moments. And we'll have to wait until next issue to find out what happened at the end.

Superman: New Krypton Special #1 (of 1) (DC) * * * * *
There's a lot going on. Clark is dealing with his grief, as well as finally meeting a whole city full of people from his lost birth planet. We see what happened to Brainiac after his defeat by Superman. We also get the first few hints that the transition might not be a smooth one between humans and kryptonians. After the Jimmy Olsen special we get a follow up to the events from that issue. And the ending is a shocker. This looks to be setting up another great storyline for Superman, and the Man of Steel may not be the same at the end. It looks like the string of fantastic Superman stories will continue for 2008 and into 2009.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Issue #35: Catch Up Week #7: Comic Books For The Week Of October 15, 2008

Things did not work out with my old comic book store, to get my titles without driving an hour into Orlando or having them mailed to me, for reasons I won't go into here. So I set up a subscription at a comic book store in Longwood, Florida, Acme Comics, Cards and Collectibles It has been in business since 1980, and I have visited it in recent years. Some other comic stores in the Orlando area may have some higher end comic merchandise, like life size busts of Marvel characters, but Acme is the most fun. It has a huge collection of action figures and comic book memorabilia which covers many genres and TV shows. It will be fun to look around the store on a regular basis every week. It's still a 45 minute drive, but I take State Road 46 to I-4 outside of the Sanford Mall, and I only have to pass a few exits until I get to the S. R. 434 exit. From there it's a quick drive through the S.R. 425 intersection (Ronald Reagan Blvd.), and the store is one block from 17-92 on the left. The drive is not as tiring as it would be if I had to take I-4 into downtown Orlando, and get off on the U. S. 441 for stop and go traffic to other comic book stores. It's pretty steady driving with only a few traffic lights and usually light traffic for the half hour it takes to get to I-4, and then it's only 15 minutes from the time I get on the interstate to the store's parking lot. Acme's web site has some pictures of their store, so check it out. Now that I've caught up on my comic reading, let's get started with my reviews.

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, October 1, 2008:

Supergirl #34 (DC)

Tor #6 (of 6) (DC)

Top 10 Season 2 #1 (America's Best Comics / Wildstorm / DC)

Invincible #53 (Image)

Invincible issue #53 was not available, but Acme was waiting for more copies, which should arrive next week, Wednesday, October 29, 2008. So I will have to wait to blog about this issue, as well as issue #54, which I picked up today, Wednesday, October 22. In fact, I won't read #54 until I get issue #53. Invincible is one of those titles that I save to read last because I know it will usually be the best title of my stack for the week. I did peek at the inside back cover to see what was coming up, and it looks like writer co-creator Robert Kirkman has some major hard-core action coming up.

Supergirl #34 (DC) * * * * *

The cover posts a familiar yet slightly revised headline from Superman Returns. In the story we see Supergirl doing Super deeds, yet with not quite the ease of her super cousin. After reading some of the earliest Supergirl stories from the 1950's, I can see why the silver age Superman kept his super cousin's identity secret while he trained her how to use her super powers. The modern Kara Zor-El has to learn on the job, so to speak, but she knows who to go to for help. She also learns why having a secret identity can be a good thing, especially for your sanity. Lana has some questions about the direction of her life to answer, after her recent firing by LexCorp. The answer is a familiar one for older Superman readers like me. I'm picking this title up through the Krypton On Earth storyline, but I don't know if I'll continue it after that storyline is over. But this is an excellent story, with a great mix of action with character devvelopment. The art on the cover and in the story is great. I'm anxious to read the Krypton storyline through the super books. Judging from past stories of Kryptonians on Earth, even in "imaginary stories" relations between the two civilizations won't be smooth.

Top 10 Season 2 #1 (of 4) * * * *

Being another co-creation by Alan Moore is a good reason to pick up this next mini-series of the Top 10 title. Although Alan Moore is not involved in this four issue series, co-creator and artist Gene Ha is, and the results with new writers Zander and Kevin Cannon are not disappointing. This is the continuing story about the 10th Precinct Police Station of Neopolis, a city where all of the citizens, and their pets have super powers. A new Commissioner is introduced after a horrible murder happens in the reflecting pool outside the precinct. The new commissioner's orders are not making a smooth transition with the officers, and one the officers discovers her spouse "crossover dressing". One of the great things to do while reading any Top 10 issue is finding the "easter eggs" in the backgrounds of pop culture characters. Early pages of this issue inclued several characters from Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I've only read the last mini-series, drawn by Jerry Ordway, which was what attracted me to the title originally, but this issue promises to lead to another excellent story. Eventually I would like to get the trade paperback of the original Alan Moore stories.

Tor #6 (of 6) (DC) * * * *

This issue concludes this Joe Kubert created character. The 82 year old artist has not lost anything from his wealth of talent and experience. The only reason I did not give this issue 5 (*)'s is that last issue was the climax of the story and this issue is the denouement, as Tor and his unnamed woman begin his journey to return to his home, but not before he faces a few more dangers this secluded, dangerous land have to offer. The cover actually points to an incident Tor faces inside the issue. Told all in captions, with no word balloons or sound effects, this issue, like the rest of this mini-series, is a textbook on how words and pictures combine to tell the story, and how each contributes what the other cannot. I will be keeping my eye open for Kubert's next comic book project.

Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, October 8, 2008:

Action Comics #870 (DC) * * * * *

This issue is the finale to the Brainiac story. And before I could get a chance to read this concluding issue last week I read the major spoiler at the end of the issue (which I won't reveal here in case there is anyone who hasn't read this story yet) on a web site. Just like with the death of Steve Rogers Captain America, a major newspaper revealed the end of the story before most comic book readers could get to a comic book store. That did not take away from my enjoyment of this issue. Artist Gary Frank is on my short list of favorite Superman artists. He has an excellent grasp on showing subtle human emotion through facial expressions. Just when things seem hopeless for Superman and Supergirl, we see how hard core Superman can be when he needs to be. And a few words of comfort to Kara have far reaching effects. And the ending is jaw dropping, even when you know it's coming.

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, October 15, 2008:
Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen Special #1 (of 1) (DC)
Justice Society of America #19 (DC)
Ultimate Origins #5 (of 5) (Marvel)
Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 (of 5) (DC)

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 (of 1) (DC) * * * * *
The first thing I enjoyed about this issue was seeing Jimmy becoming an adventurer himslef, as he was in Jack Kirby's Jimmy Olsen issues and in the '90's with the Cadmus Project. Cadmus is involved in this issue as well. Someone is targeting anyone involved with Cadmus for assassination, and Jimmy is investigating the story. What he finds out points to a future storyline for Superman, and does not bode well for him. What I enjoyed most about this issue was Jimmy beginning to grow up. It seemed after Infinite Crisis DC de-aged Jimmy, as well as Pa Kent, who looked completely different. It's about time we see Jimmy begin to grow into the top notch journalist we know he can be.

Justice Society of America #19 (DC) * * * *
Jerry Ordway draws the first few pages about Power Girl's delimma, which is enough for me to pick up this issue. The full consequences of Gog's actions become apparent to the JSA, and both Gog and Magog force each JSA member to make difficult choices. I would have given this issue 5 (*)'s, but this issue points to next issue, when the fat hits the fire. This issue seems to be setting up the final conflict, maybe, starting next issue, which promises to be a 5 (*) story.

Ultimate Origins #5 (of 5) (Marvel) * * * * *
We learn the full story about the obelisks, and Nick Fury makes a disturbing discovery in the Canadian wilderness. We also learn how the Ultimate Professor Xavier is crippled, and a dark secret about the Ultimate Mutants. With the heading March To Ultimatum above the title I know Ultimate Origins would lead to another event series, but it did not leave me feeling empty. It fulfilled the purpose of the title and revealed the origins of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, and it was a dark and almost true to life story, deserving of the Ultimate title. It shows how the past of the Ultimate universe is going to impact the present in the Ultimate world.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 (of 5) (DC) * * * * *
The Legion of Super-Villains gets stronger while the Legion of Super-Heroes still seems splintered. But the Legion is beginning its counter-offensive, and, in Legion fashion, sending teams out to accomplish different parts of the plan. It will take more than one reading to soak in George Perez's detailed art, and detailed is an understatement. After Superman, I enjoy the Legion the most, and this mini-series does not disappoint, and I hope at its conclusion that all of the resent confusing reboots are laid to rest and a new continuity established which includes the classic Legion that Legion fans love, to move the Legion forward.

Next Week:
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, October 22, 2008:
Terry Moore's Echo #7 (Abstract Studios)
Invincible #54 (Image)
Superman: New Krypton (DC)
I won't be reviewing Invincible #54 because I have not received issue #53, and I don't want to get ahead of the story. I did peek at the inside back cover to see what was coming up, and it promises to ramp up the action and conflict for Invincible. So I will review #54 when I review the comics from next week, October 29.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Issue #34: Comic Book Books

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, October 8, 2008:
Action Comics #870 (DC)

Even though I haven't read this issue of Action Comics, I have read the huge spoiler on comic book news web sites. I won't post it here. If you haven't read it and can't wait to read it, you shouldn't have any trouble finding it on the comic book news web sites.

I haven't made final arrangements with the store manager of my old comic book store, to begin picking up my comic book titles from his home. He just got back from vacation, so within the next week I'm hoping to get back on schedule. Until then I will blog on general comic book topics to stay on schedule with new posts.

Since last week I blogged on my favorite comic book trade paperbacks, I thought I would blog on my favorite non-fiction book on comic books. Right now I'm reading Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk, published by Da Capo Press in 2007. It is a book on comic book theory and criticism. I'm only 75 pages into it so I will save a review of it for another post. While readers may not agree with every opinion of the author, he does present some interesting ideas. Part of the beginning of this book includes a little bit of comic book history.

For me, any non-fiction book about comic books begins with Curt Swan: A Life In Comics by Eddy Zeno, published by Vanguard Press in 2002. Curt Swan has always been my favorite comic book artist, of my favorite comic book character, Superman. His clean style in a conservative era, for a conservative publisher, was still able to show a full spectrum of emotions on the characters' faces he drew. I would call this book an "art" biography, because not only does the book explore Swan's life, but it covers the development of his art style, and the inkers he collaborated with. Zeno interviews colleagues, family and friends to gain a well rounded picture of Swan's life and personality.

If you are looking for a book that gives a good overview of the history of the comic book history, try Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book by Gerard Jones, published by Basic Books in 2004. the backbone of the book is the long, twisted and tragic history of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman. Growing up in working class families, they go from rags to riches to rags for most of their lives. While they were extremely taken advantage of, the book chronicles the mistakes they made in dealing with DC Comics, not being as business savy as their bosses. My favorite chapters are the early ones chronicling the various histories of Jewish immigration from Europe, Prohibition and the rise of organized crime, the pulp magazine industry and the New York garment industry and trade unions. Jones then shows how these diverse threads of American history combine to create the comic book history.

For further reading about Superman sepcifically, try Superman: The Complete History by Les Daniels, published by Chronicle Books, in 1998. He has written similar books about Batman and Wonder Woman, DC Comic's big three. Daniels explores Superman's history from his creation, his overnight sensation, branching out to other media and licensing. The book covers Superman's history into the 1990's. My only criticism is that Daniels gives a more sympathetic view of DC Comics' relationship to Siegel and Shuster than the company deserves. But for a full exploration of Superman through the decades in multiple media, complete with pictures, this book is one to add to your reading list.

A less DC-centric book to read is Excelsior! by Stan Lee and George Mair. This book is Stan Lee's memoir of his career, from his childhood through getting hired at his cousin by marriage's comic book company as a gofer and becoming the editor out of high school. Lee explores his decades in the wilderness of comic book publishing, editing a line of derivative comic books his publisher was content to produce. It is interesting reading to explore Lee's growing dissatisfaction with his job and his desire for something better, and how both played a part in the revolution that Lee would spearhead with a stable of experienced artists in the early 1960's. Stan Lee gives his side of the the creative differences he had with two of his best srtists, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but Lee is not stingy in his praise of any of the artists he collaborated with. Sometimes in interviews he has been more reluctant than necessary to call the original artists of the original Marvel characters co-creators, but Lee's contributions cannot be ignored. The best analogy about the 1960's Marvel staff was the Beatles. Like the Fab Four, Lee and the Marvel artists together were greater than they were seperately. That unique synergy of what became known as the "Marvel Method" toppled DC Comics from the pinnacle of the comic book industry.

I'll leave the list at these four for now. I hope I don't have to blog about the rest next week. I'm ready to get back into the flow of reading comic books weekly and blog about them. If so, I'll save the rest for a future post.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Issue #33: Six Star Comic Books

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, October 1, 2008:
Supergirl #34 (DC)
Invincible #53 (Image)

I've decided to add Supergirl to my pull list, at least through the New Krypton storyline through the Superman titles. I will have to wait at least until next week. Since the Leesburg location of Bad Apple Comics ( closed, until a new location is found by Spring 2009, the Leesburg mamager will be working out of the South Orlando store. However he does not start until next week. I guess he is taking a well deserved vacation. He has been generous enough to his Lake County customers by allowing them to pick up their books from his home, to save a long drive to South US Hwy 441 in Orlando, about an hour's drive.
In the meantime, with the recent publication several weeks ago of the final issue of All-Star Superman, which I reviewed in Superman Fan Podcast Episode #42,, and rated at six stars, I decided to use this blog issue to share other titles and Superman stories I rated at a perfect six stars.
What I look for to put a title on this elite list is if I wait anxiously for each issue, saving it to read last in my weekly stack, and never being disappointed.
At the top of this very elite list would have to be the mini-series Wathcmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I would rank this as a required text for learning how to create comic book stories, right up there with all of the how to books and texts by Will Eisner. From scene transitions to panel layout, the Watchmen trade paperback has a lot to teach by example. The first story telling tool I picked up on from Alan Moore was using a scene, word or situation in the last panel of one scene and comparing or contrasting to something in the first panel of the next scene. With the strict nine panel grid layout, when Moore and Gibbons stray from that layout, studying why that panel deserved to be larger is a good way to learn panel layout regardless of the number of panels per page. Not a plot line or character was wasted. Every character has a beginning and an end. Watchmen is the best crafted comic book ever created.
Published the same year as Watchmen was The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. This "last Batman story" crackles with energy. The panel layout changes page to page, and a lot of TV screen shaped panels are used for TV reporters or other TV personalities. The meta morphosis of Bruce Wayne from a retired caped crusader, to his traditional blue and gray costume, to a return to the original color scheme of black and gray, without the yellow circled bat symbol, is a guide to the inner change in Bruce Wayne. My only criticism of the story is the portrayal of Superman as a lackey of a senile President Reagan. But that does not take away from this apocalyptic Batman story.
A story at the other end of Batman's career is Batman: Year One. This revision of Batman's origin by Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli is an excellent origin story, showing a Bruce Wayne who has gathered all the knowledge he requires for his crusade but is missing the method. This story peels back all of the bat-gimmicks that have been such a part of Batman lore, enjoyable as they may be. Batman is not the polished crime fighter we are used to reading, after so many years on his crusade. His tools are simple by comparison in the beginning, and his methods are not as polished. Yet his tactical improvisation in every situation sees him through every peril. And the city of Gotham City that is portrayed, with the extreme of crime and corruption, is more frightening than the Caped Crusader himself.
Another limited series on this list is Planetary, written by Warren Ellis and art by John Cassaday. This series mined a century of popular culture to create a world of specially gifted people, all born in the first seconds of January 1, 1900, and how they effect the world. Planetary is an organization that labels itself "mystery archaelogists", uncovering the secret history of the world and using the knowledge and technology uncovered to help save civilization. Led by Elijah Snow, whose name hints at his ability, Planetary's biggest and only nemeses are The Four, an evil version of Marvel's Fantastic Four who use their powers and abilities keeping themselves the most powerful people on Earth, and finding the same secret knowledge and technology to keep themselves superior. Snow leads a field team of two other members who each have their own special abilities. Each issue is usually a contained story where the field team investigate a mystery. Only issues 19 and 20 are a continued story. Each issue moves along a larger story that leads to Snow's final showdown against the remaining members of The Four in issue #26. In a recent post by writer Warren Ellis he said that artist John Cassaday is about halfway done with epilogue issue #27. I'm sure it will be an excellent capstone to an excellent series.
There are two continuing series that are on this list. The first is Powers, published by Icon/Marvel, the story of a former super hero, who had lost his powers, and became a police detective. Christian Walker investigates crime involving super heroes, either as suspects or victims. We don't learn his origin until the series is several years old, and it is one of the most unique origins in comics. The series explores the good, the bad and the ugly about the super hero world. Det. Walker and his partner, Det. Deena Pilgrim see the dark underbelly of super hero life too often, as is the case with real police officers. It is as much a police procedural as it is a super hero comic book.
The other on-going series is Invincible, published by Image Comics. Created and written by Robert Kirkman, co-created by artist Cory Walker, and now drawn by Ryan Ottley, Invincible is Mark Grayson, the son of Earth's greatest super hero, Omni-Man. Mark's powers do not develop until he approaches puberty. After he becomes Invincible, Mark eventually learns that everything he knew about his ancestry was a lie, and his world is shattered. Somehow he continues as a super hero while he masters his super powers. One of the great things Kirkman does is introduce a page of minor plot in the middle of an issue, and then develop this brief plot a number of issues in the future. Sometimes a reader may even forget about the plot point and have to go back a number of issues. As he matures, Invincible has to make some major decisions about his super hero career, and the consequences continue to unfold. Kirkman is also very good at ending an issue with a shocking story development, leaving his audiance to eagerly anticipate the next issue.
All-Star Superman is not the only Superman story on this elite list. The recent story Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes from Action Comics is also on this list. Geoff Johns revises the Legion origin, restoring Superman, instead of Superboy (for legal reasons) as the inspiration of the 30th Century Legion. And we learn that the source of Superman's courage has nothing to do with his super powers. The current Brainiac story in Action Comics, depending on how it concludes, promises to be another addition to this special list.
Finally, there are a trio of Superman stories that are at the top of my list of favorite Superman stories, and are the only ones I would rate ahead of even All-Star Superman.
Number three on the list is Superman Annual #11, 1985, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, explores what Superman's fondest wish is, and what it costs him when he realizes he has to give it up.
Runner up on the list is the story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Curt Swan. Part I in Superman #423 is inked by George Perez and Part II, in Action Comics #583, was inked by Kurt Schaffenberger. Both issues were cover dated September 1986. This story was the end of the golden and silver age continuity of Superman, done as if Superman comics would no longer be printed. All of the plotlines that were used through almost fifty years was wrapped up as Superman faces all of his enemies, with fatal casualties among friend and foe alike. This was an epic Superman story, and his greatest super power turns out to be his mind, not one of his physical powers. A Ragnarok for Superman lore, it is a timeless story that is as fresh when read today as when it was published just before the Man Of Steel mini-series starts Superman lore all over again.
At the top of my list is The Luthor Brainiac Tean from Superman #167, the February 1963 issue. Superman is threatened by the twin heavyweights of Lex Luthor and Brainiac. In fact Superman requires the help of the Superman Emergency Squad from the bottle city of Kandor to defeat his enemies. What makes this story special is how Superman is challenged more than he had ever been before. With his great super powers Superman is a hard character to create challenges for in succeeding stories. This issue succeeded in doing just that.
Any of these titles can serve as learning tools on how to create comic book stories.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Issue #32: Comic Books For The Week of Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Project Superpowers #6 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment)
Legion of Super-Heroes #46 (DC)
Fantastic Four #560 (Marvel)
Superman #680 (DC)
Powers #30 (Icon/Marvel)

Sadly, my local comic book store, Bad Apple Comics, is closing its Leesburg location at the Lake Square Mall. The good news is that the closing is temporary, until early next year, when the company hopes to open a smaller location with cheaper rent on the US Hwy 441 corridor between Mount Dora and Leesburg. In the meantime, the store manager will be working out of the Orlando location, and has arranged for us Lake County customers to pick up our comics at his home. That is great, because the other options were to drive to the Orlando store (an hour's drive) or having them mailed (for a small fee). I will miss going to a comic store for some months. It made for a nice break in the middle of the week when I could take maybe fifteen minutes to just walk around the store and chill, look for titles I may have missed or eye a graphic novel that's on my wish list but out of my budget range.
My wife is planning a birthday party for me, and if I get any money or gift cards I might hit Bad Apple's clearance sale. First, however, I plan on ordering the DVD The Mindscape of Alan Moore, which will be released next Tuesday, September 30, wiht any birthday money I might get. Secondly is the upcoming book by Dave Gibbons, Who Watches The Watchmen, about the creation of the most well crafted comic book series ever created, in my opinion. Beyond the grim and dark tone of the story, Watchmen is a treasure trove of storytelling techniques and panel layout for any hopeful comic book creator. But enough digression, let's get to this week's comics.

Project Superpowers #6 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment) * * * * *
After setting up the story for most of this first mini-series, the action and plot are now rushing to a conclusion next issue. The good news is that the story is not rushed haphazardly. The fate of the Fighting Yank is coming to a head. We learn about the power behind the Dynamic Family and plans to counterattack the heroes. This issue finds the heroes cornered, setting up the final issue of this mini-series to end with gangbusters. I can't wait until the next issue comes out . After this first mini-series Black Terroris scheduled to begin publication next month, October 2008, with Project Superpowers Chapter Two to follow.

Legion of Super-Heroes #42 (DC) * * * *
Ultra Boy and Saturn Girl face some consequences from the situation Invisible Kid found them in at the end of last issue. Lightning Lad and Element Lad wrap up their meeting with the U. P. President, who admires the Legion, in contrast to her advisers. Phantom Girl helps Princess Projectra adjust to life without a home planet. There is another development in the Princess' life later in the issue. Ultra Boy cleans up Metropolis from some rowdy would be auditioners to the U. P.'s Young Heroes. And the Legion find out that the worst may not be over.
According to some comic book web site reports, Jim Shooter might have already left DC after turning in his scripts for this run on Legion. This storyline is measuring up to the best of past Legion stories. The plot is very dense, with plenty of character moments for many Legionnaires, and lots of super-powered Legion action. However Shooter ends this story I don't think I will be disappointed. It is a story any Legion fan will enjoy.

Fantastic Four #560 (Marvel) * * * * *
After the jaw dropping conclusion to last issue, after reading this issue I had to pick up my jaw off of the floor. The origin of the New Defenders is revealed, as well as the end of the world, as the cover headline suggests. We also learn the reason for nanny Tabitha Deneuve's unusual relationship with the Richards children, especially Valeria. And Ben's new girlfriend has some domestic problems of her own. Mark Millar and Brian Hitch are doing for the FF what Geoff Johns has done for Superman in Action Comics. This is the best FF story I have read in a long time, and I am so glad I decided to subscribe to this title when Millar and Hitch began theirrun on this title.

Superman #680 (DC) * * * * *
Alex Ross cover painting of Krypto the Super Dog is worth 5*'s by itself. What also puts an extra (*) for this issue is that Superman uses his brain. This is something that isn't used enough in Superman stories. He doesn't have to be portrayed as a super genius as in the silver age, but Superman should by shown having to use his brain, not just crashing through the latest villain of the month. He figures out the reason for Atlas' advantage over him, and finds a tactic to counterattack Atlas. And Lois has second thoughts about her past feelings toward Krypto. James Robinson is climbing up the pedestal for Superman to stand next to Action Comics as the best Superman stories of recent memory. I think Robinson is putting his unique stamp on Superman.

Powers #30 (Icon/Marvel) * * * * *
Even though Superman was published this week I knew that Powers would be the best read of this stack, as it always is, which is why I saved it to read last. I didn't know how great this story would be. The crisis of the powers virus is over except for burying the dead and healing the vistims. Deena faces the consequences of her months long life underground and awol from the police force. Things are settled quickly by the city in a manner true to life. Deena and Christian have a heart to heart that they have not often enough in the past. In their conversation we learn a dark aspect of being super powered heroes that the public isn't aware of enough in this Powers world. At the end of the issue a long standing question about Deena's past is finally answered. This storyline ends in a satisfying fashion, but in typical Powers fashion, not a happy one.
The next storyline, involving a Powers "Rat Pack", and involving Walker's super powered past, has me anxious for next month's (hopefully) issue. There are a few titles that I have known I would never be disappointed when the newest issue is published. Superman titles have gone up and down in quality, but Planetary and Powers have always been excellent titles with every issue.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Issue #31: Comic Books For The Week of Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, July 9, 2008:
Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (of 1) (DC)
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 17, 2008:
Terry Moore's Echo #6 (Abstract Studios)
Action Comics #869 (DC)
All-Star Superman #12 (of 12) (DC)

I know I'm a little late about Final Crisis: Requiem. The only Final Crisis tie-in I'm reading is Final Crisis:Legion of 3 Worlds, but after watching Blair Butler's Fresh Ink podcast recently, her review compelled me to check out Requiem. I wasn't disappointed.
What made this a great week for reading comic books were the latest chapter of the Brainiac story in Action Comics and the final issue of All-Star Superman. I was not disappointed about any of the titles I read this week. So you can imagine what my ratings will be this week.
this week I will be reviewing these titles a little differently. Even though Requiem is some weeks old, I will be reviewing them in the order I read them, not in order of release, saving my favorite read for last.

Terry Moore's Echo #6 (Abstract Studios) * * * * *
I was going to rate this issue 4*'s but I have to rate this at 5. Terry Moore is moving the story along, and filling in the gaps of the characters' histories. We learn a little about Dillon's late girlfriend Annie, and what she was working on at HeNRI, while he and Julie are on the run. The person on their trail, the very experienced "troubleshooter" Ivy is searching for clues about Julie's weherabouts. What secret of Julie's does she discover? There's more to this plot, and what HeNRI is up to, than what we've seen so far, and this is one of the mysteries that keep me waiting in anticipation for the next issue. I'm hooked on Julie and Dillon and their struggle, and look forward to the story of how, or if, they overcome the forces chasing them.

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (of 1) (DC) * * * * *
Martian Manhunter is a character I read in the back of Detective Comics as a boy in the 1960's and had a fondness for. I enjoyed him in Justice League: Europe as the hopeless voice of sanity in an embassy of crazy characters in costumes, and his craving for Choco cookies (Oreos). When I read that he was swiftly killed in Final Crisis #1 I didn't have the heart to read it, beyond the fact I'm burnt out on "event" books. I was more shocked at the murder of Sue Dibney in the older series Identity Crisis, but the story was too much to resist, and that was several "event" series ago. Sue and Ralph Dibney as the Elongated Man were other characters I enjoyed from my youth in the back of Detective. I've already posted my admiration for how Ralph Dibney's story ended in the final issue of 52, but I'm ready for a moratorium on superhero characters dying. It's become an overused plot device when creative teams and editors run out of ideas for some characters, I would rather see such characters put on a back burner, when possible, until a creative team can develop a fresh idea for the character. I would prefer that over once again turning death into a revolving door, another overused plot device that could use some rest.
Having said all that, I was very touched by this issue. We learn what John J'onzz meant to the DC heroes and how many of them were hit very hard by his death. His mental link to them in his final moments provides an original and effective platform to summarize his long history. Their final good-bye to their close firend, and the lenghts everyone goes to entomb Martian Manhunter with honor is excellent. I just hate that one of the best Martian Manhunter stories happened to be his last. Another thing I like about this one shot issue is that you do not need to read the main Final Crisis mini-series to understand what's happening, and I thank writer Peter J. Tomasi for that. Even if you feel the same way about "event" series as I do, and aren't reading Final Crisis, I would recommend Final Crisis: Requiem. Part of me would like to see Martian Manhunter return in great stories, but I have enough respect for the character to say good bye. Rest in peace, John J'onzz.

Action Comics #869 (DC) * * * * *
This fourth part of the five-part Brainiac story really backs Superman and Supergirl in a corner, before next issue's conclusion. We also see a fiesty and fearless Lois, which we haven't seen in a while. Superman is re-introduced to some familiar faces to silver age Superman lore, and Supergirl's escape from Argo City, first introduced in Superman/Batman #8, is filled in more. If Warner Bro's. movie executives are looking to make a "dark" Superman movie, they need look no farther than using Brainiac as a villain. They could make as dark of a Superman movie as they want without finding a reason to put Superman in a black costume and making him a character he isn't, a Batman without the cowl. And the next story about Kandorians on Earth promises to continue the excellent run of Action Comics issues, which is living up to its title thanks to Geoff Johns.

All-Star Superman #12 (of 12) * * * * *
When I saw that this concluding issue was finally being published I knew this would be the issue I would save for last because it would be the best story I would read this week. I was not disappointed in that regard. Superman has one final labor to perform. Grant Morrison has found a creative way to truly physically challenge Superman and show how Superman is willing to fight to his last breath to overcome the villain. This series has shown Superman using his brains as well as his brawn, and shows how he can match withs with Lex Luthor and not be found lacking. For all of Luthor's genius his greatest fault over the decades has always been his vanity and selfishness. Superman's greatest strength has always been his lack of vanity, his selflessness. I don't think I've spoiled the end of the story. Like most great Superman stories, this one has a touch of melancholy at the end. Now that I have the entire series I'll have to take these issues to work with me tomorrow to read the story as a whole. On my list of favorite Superman stories I would have to place the entire All-Star Superman series as my fourth favorite story. #3 is the Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything, #2 is Alan Moore's Whatever Happened To the Man of Tomorrow? My favorite Superman story is Superman #167 The Luthor Brainiac Team.

Comic books scheduled for the week of September 24, 2008:
(in the order I plan on reading them, saving the best for last as usual)
Legion of Super-Heroes #46 (DC)
Fantastic Four #560 (Marvel)
Powers #30 (Icon/Marvel)
After Diamond Comics Distributors updates its list next Monday, I'll know if there is anything else to add to my list.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Issue #30: Catch Up Week #6

Comic book for the week of Wednesday, August 27, 2008:
Justice Society of America #18 (DC)
Comic books for the week of Thursday, September 4, 2008:
Noble Causes #36 (Image)
Tor #5 (of 6) (DC)
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 10, 2008:
Ultimate Origins #4 (of 5) (Marvel)
Invincible #52 (Image)

Comic book for the week of Wednesday, August 27, 2008:
Justice Society of America #18 (DC) * * * * *
Somehow I missed seeing this issue on the rack that week, not having bothered to add it to my pull list, but better late than never. Like the cover suggests, we see the origin of Magog. First we see Gog continuing his quest against war in Africa, and in coming up with creative ways of dealing with the terrorists who have been committing atrocities in Congolese villiages. We also are given a window into the thoughts of Hawkman, as well as Power Girl's struggles on Earth-2. I wonder if this storyline is reaching its final phase. It seems to be setting up for quite a conclusion. I don;t see a way that Geoff Johns will disappoint.

Comic books for the week of Thursday, September 4, 2008:
Noble Causes #36 (Image) * * * * *
The fight against the imposter Amy Wells, girlfriend of Surge, reaches its apparent conclusion. The Nobles use some guile in their strategy, and Surge shows a different side of his otherwise impulsive personality to the still incapacitated Frost. The issue ends with Doc asking one member of the team a very pointed question. Even though the story has advanced five years from its original run, the family intrigues contine, and keep my interest in what happens in the next issue. The new relationships and new characters on the team also hold my interest, and my anticipation of how they will develop.
Tor #5 (of 6) * * * * *
Joe Kubert continues his textbook on how to create an excellent comic book story in this next to last issue. It is a bittersweet issue, as, like previous issues, Tor faces peril after peril with brief moments of peace. This issue is Tor's ultimate confrontation with the hairy tribe, and ends with what may be the most serious peril of all. The test is told through narration, without word balloons, ala Prince Valient. When the concluding issue is published next month, I'll have to read the story all together with an eye toward learning storytelling tips from its pages. Tor joins Watchmen on my very short list of comic books that also serve as textbooks on comic book storytelling.
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 10, 2008:
Ultimate Origins #4 (of 5) (Marvel) * * * * *
This issue continues the origin of Nick Fury and how he came to head the secret government organization that gave birth to the Ultimates team of heroes. We also see the origin of another Marvel Ultimate hero, and by the end of the issue we learn what the strange obelisks that are appearing everywhere. We even meet the Ultimate Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross, which is a nice treat, and brought me back to some issues of the 1970's Incredible Hulk series. This series will probably conclude with a plot that leads into a March On Ultimatum mini series of some kind. It promises to be an ominous story. While I don't know if I will pick up the next mini series, but however this one ends I don't think I will be disappointed. Seeing Fury's origin as well as the other hero is a satisfying enough reason to read this mini series. Brian Michael Bendis is another comic book writer, along with Geoff Johns and Robert Kirkman, who usually do not disappoint with their comic book scripts.
Invincible #52 (Image) * * * * *
The siezure of the missle silo plot reaches its apparent conclusion, and we learn the reasoning behind it.The Mauler Twins have defeated the Guardians of the Globe, but now face Invincible, with unwanted help from his brother Kid Omni-Man. The battle is particularly bloody as sometimes happens in Invincible. At the end of the issue Invincible makes a shocking admission to himself. I really can't say more than this without spoiling part of the plot. Even though there were not any short transition scenes that Kirkman usually puts in each issue, but the events in this issue will drive the plot for issues to come. The story of Invincible seems to be heading to a point from which there may be no return for him, depending on the decisions he makes ahead. Invincible is definitely a title to keep on your pull list.
Some Upcoming comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 17, 2008:
Action Comics #869 (DC) Continues the creepy and excellent Brainiac story, which is probably one of the best stories in Action along with the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes story.
All-Star Superman #12 (of 12) (DC) This is the final issue of one of the best Superman stories I have ever read. Sometime in October I plan to do a wrap-up episode on this mini series on Superman Fan Podcast.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Issue #29: Superman Red, Superman Blue, Superman Dark

Comic Books For the Week of thursday, September 4, 2008:

Tor #5 (of 6) (DC)

Noble Causes #36 (Image)

This week will be another week that I'll have to wait until next week to go to the comic store, so I will review these issues next week. Plus, I will look for Justice Society of America #18, which I missed last week.
This week I wanted to comment on the recent news from Warner Brothers that they will "reboot" the Superman movie franchise; mainly the comment by one studio executive that the studio will create movies with a "darker" tone ala The Dark Knight (as much as will be true to the character).
When I first read the latter comment on line, it raised a red flag with me. Superman is not a "dark" character. Some of the best Superman stories have placed Superman in dark situations that have vexed his soul. What has made Superman Superman is the power of his spirit when his posers may not be enough. To make him a "darker" brooding character full of angst would make him someone else, not Superman. Such a change for Superman would be putting Batman in Superman's costume.
Superman Returns had some "darker" aspects to Superman. The costume itself was not the classic bright hues of blue and red but darker, more muted hues. And Superman was not above what could be termed stalking when he used his x-ray vision to spy on Lois in her home with her fiance. Also, he was not above sneaking into Lois' son's bedroom at the end of the movie, even if the boy is his son.
It may not be a bad idea to "reboot" the Superman movie franchise. It certainly has worked for the Batman movie franchise. After Superman II and Batman Returns, both movie franchises sputtered and withered. And with Superman, as much as I enjoy watching Superman I and II, Ned Beatty's Otis, and Gene Hackman's campy portrayal of Lex Luthor are weak points of solid plots and stories. Kevin Spacey made a better. more evil and maniacal Lex, but could be less campy. Brandon Routh was a capable actor in the dual role of Clark / Superman, and I hope will get a chance to reprise his role in the next Superman movie.
A "darker" Superman movie will work if it pits Superman against "dark" and evil villains. I would like to see a more maniacal Lex Luthor that comic book readers are familiar with. And there is also Brainiac, who would be perfect for a "dark" Superman movie. Movie makers could really do a lot of things with Brainiac. He would be a great "toy" for them to play with.
The big question for studio executives is can they do it right? One thing that worries me is that it has taken WB executives a long time to decide on a plan to develop DC characters. For being perfectly positioned as a corporation with a comic book company as part of the corporate family, Time/Warner seems to have been slow to develop DC's big characters for a modern movie audiance. Marvel seems to have jumped ahead, at least before Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. And that was before Marvel created their own movie studio. The Dark Knight was a tremendous success, and is presently the #2 highest grossing movie in history. After Watchmen early next year (if it isn't derailed by a money grubbing lawsuit by 20th Century Fox), what's next, and when for WB? The longer it takes for the next DC movie to appear in theaters, the more momentum WB will lose. They run the risk of having to regroup once again and play catch up with Marvel Studios.
With the exception of the first Hulk movie, Spider-Man 3, both Fantastic Four movies and Ghost Rider, all Marvel properties, most super hero movies have been great ones. An ominous question is, after the big characters are used, will the next wave of super hero movies be good, or will we have a run of flops, and see the whole super hero movie train be derailed, like westerns in the past.

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Issue #28: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #45 (DC)
DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (One Shot) (DC)
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1 (of 2) (DC)
Superman #679 (DC)

Legion of Super-Heroes #45 (DC) * * * *
There are various scenes of individual Legionairres recuperating from their recent battles, but of course the universe rolls on, requiring the Legion's services. Brainiac, Light Lass and Star Boy deal with the rouge planet, seen only on monitor screens at the Spaceguard Command Center. Lightning Lad and Element Lad take down on rowdy oversized aliens who take their frustrations out on Science Police officers, after the U. P. Young Heroes tryouts are cancelled because of the tremors caused by the rogue planet. It's interesting to see the Legion prove themselves invaluable to the UP after being treated like unwanted orphans in recent issues. Overall it was a fun above average read.

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (One Shot) (DC) * * * * *
While I'm not reading Final Crisis (except for the Legion of 3 Worlds tie-in) but this issue was too intriguing to pass up. It did not disappoint. We see various DC heroes in very personal moments as they deal with the possible end of the world. Being a Superman fan, of course, my favorite was Clark having a man-to-man talk with Pa Kent. The main plot of the issue is Geo-Force going after Deathstroke for revenge after the death of his sister Terra. The battle is brutal , and the ending shocking. The heroes' idea of how it ended is slightly different from the actual events, and they are unaware of certain secrets revealed in the battle. I'm sure this particular plot point will lead to a future storyline. Brad Meltzers excellent script was embellished by the always gre4at artists, Adam and Joe Kubert.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1 (of 2) (DC) * * * *
Clark Kent is torn from Lois' bedside at Metropolis hospital by one of the Monitors to join other "Supermen" from other universes to battle a threat to Earth, winding up on the "nowhere" Earth. This issue is a typical Grant Morrison bizarre story, and is a promising first issue. The threat was not so cosmic that it was hard to wrap a reader's mind around it, as it was in Infinite Crisis. Morrison has created some "trippy" characters. Depending on how the second issue develops, this story may wind up a 5 * story.

Superman #679 (DC) * * * *
The issue is as advertised on the cover, and is reminiscent of the Death of Superman issue, although Superman isn't killed in this issue. There is a touching flashback scene between Clark and Lois, that has continued from the first issue of James Robinson's scripting. There is a big development with Lana at Lexcorp, and Jimmy spots a mysterious figure who keeps popping in and out on top of a nearby building. Action Comics still is a better Superman book, but with several plot developments in this issue, Superman might catch up. Robinson's story has the potential to be the best that has appeared in Superman for a long time.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Issue #27: Comic Books Fro The Week of Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 (of 5) (DC)
Back Issue Special:
Birds of Prey #75 (DC, December 2004)

This week I would not have had any comic books to review, except for the fact that I am reading Legion of 3 Worlds. This is the only Final Crisis mini-series that I am reading. I had gotten to the point over the last several years that I was burnt out on the big event mini-series coming out every year. It wouldn't matter what the plot would be, I wasn't interested. That was why I dropped Countdown near the end. But I am such a Legion of Super-Heroes fan that I could not pass up Legion of 3 Worlds. Plus, with Geoff Johns and George Perez creating the story, it was hard to be patient until issue 1 finally was published. Well, the waiting is finally over.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 (of 5) (DC) * * * * *
This story begins at the end of the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes story from Action Comics. Earth is still recovering from the xenophobia, as well as the rest of the United Planets. We also get a quick summary of Legion history, as well as Jimmy Olsen history, in a very clever way that advances the plot at the same time. The 31st century is definitely in their own crisis, and the odds are stacked against the Legion, as usual. The art is typical Geroge Perez, with multiple panels and minute details. It will take more than one reading to soak in all of the story details from the art. George Perez isn't getting older, he's getting better. And I can't wait to see where the Legion will be after the final issue #5.

Birds of Prey #75 (DC, December 2004) * * * * *
Wednesday, when I went to my local comic book store Bad Apple Comics (, I was going to look for this issue. After doing my episode on Gail Simone on Superman Fan Podcast (, I read the Lady Blackhawk script she had posted on a blog on her MySpace page. I had read a few issues of Blackhawk in the 1960's, and enjoyed the Blackhawk stories from Action Comics Weekly and the Blackhawk series of the 1990's. After reading the script I had to find the issue to read the comic book itself. I was not disappointed. This was a double sized issue, being #75. The first story involved the regular Birds of Prey cast. We are reprised of the catastrophic events of the previous issue, when the clocktower was destroyed. The team spends the issue picking up the pieces. This was the perfect issue after such an action packed story form #74. Just like in real life, we have to recuperate after big events, whether happy or tragic. The Lady Blackhawl story is the second story. Titled There Would Be No Spring, it was pencilled by the excellent Eduardo Barreto, who has a classic drawing style. It summarizes her history, and how she has stayed so young over the decades, and how she puts her life back together now. It's a great story for Blackhawk fans to add to their collection.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Issue #26: Cach Up Week #5

Comic Books for the week of Wednesday, July 30, 2008:
Project Superpowers #5 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment)
Justice Society of America Annual #1 (DC)

Comic Books for the week of Wednesday, August 6, 2008:
Ultimate Origins #3 (of 5) (Marvel)
Terry Moore's Echo #5 (Abstract Studios)
Joe Kubert's Tor #4 (of 6) (DC)

Comic Books for the week of Wednesday, August 13, 2008:
Fantastic Four #559 (Marvel)
Action Comics #868 (DC)

Real life reared its ugly head again, "Curse you arch fiend!" No family tragedies or the like occurred, it's just a lot of errands I had to take care of. After I catch up here, I have several episodes of Superman Fan Podcast to catch up on. It never ends, just like comic books, I hope.

Comic Books for the week of Wednesday, July 30, 2008:
Project Superpowers #5 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment) * * * *
The story has begun to progress from a series of vignettes of forgotten golden age super heroes to a story racing to a conclusion. The plots are staring to come together (there are only two more issues in this first mini series after all). The Fighting Yank and the ghost of his Revolutionary War ancestor face the concequences of their actions; Dynamic Boy's fight against Hydro, Pyroman and the Flame brings the conflict between the Dynamic Family and the escaped heroes to a new level; the Target is hunted by police; Black Terror, Samson and the Scarab continue their fight against the Frankenstein army; and we are introduced to the Arrow. This reintroduction of forgotten, and minor, golden age comic book characters continues to be interesting and educational. I can't wait to see these heroes more fleshed out individually in future story arcs. This first mini-series is a great introduction to the group, but it'll be great to see each character get more of a spotlight.

Justice Society of America Annual #1 (DC) * * * * *
What's not to like about this special issue? First of all there's the Alex Ross cover. Then there's the Jerry Ordway art. I was introduced to his work in the pages of The Adventures of Superman, which continued the numbering of the original Superman after John Byrne got a new #1 with his mid-1980's revamp of Superman. this story continues the story from JSA #17, when Gog sent Power Girl somewhere else. She winds up on Earth-2 from before the Crisis of Infinite Earths. Earth-2 is back, part of the new multiverse. Once again Huntress is the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman, and the children of the JSA, told in such comic book series as All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc., are now members of the renamed Justice Society Infinity. We meet the adult Earth-2 Robin as well as a very old Joker. There are several subplots which involve Huntress, and a very surprise ending involving Power Girl. At the end of the story is a great two page spread of a Norman Rockwell-esqe artist painting a group portrait of the JSA. It's a great contrast of the the group trying to sit for the artist, and the painting he is creating. And of course the story is continued in the next regular issue of JSA. Look for a few "easter eggs" in the scene with Power Girl in her bedroom, showing elements of Superman's inspiration, as well as a map of Krypton, originally from a Superman Annual.

Comic Books for the week of Wednesday, August 6, 2008:
Ultimate Origins #3 (of 5) (Marvel)
Terry Moore's Echo #5 (Abstract Studios)
Joe Kubert's Tor #4 (of 6) (DC)

It was another great week of comic book reading. It was tempered by the recent news of the death of Joe Kubert's wife from breast cancer. He credited her as his strong right arm in establishing his comic book school, with her education in Business Administration. My condolences go out to the Kubert family.

Ultimate Origins #3 (of 5) (Marvel) * * * *
The Ultimate Fantastic Four continue their investigation of the strange obelisk, and we are introduced to the beginnings of the Ultimate mutant universe. We are introduced to a young Magneto and Dr. Xavier before he became a paraplegic. Magneto has an interesting motive for his megalomaniacal personality, different from his past as a holocaust survivor in the regular Marvel universe. It's great reading the beginnings of the Ultimate Marvel universe and the different twists to familiar origins, told in an updated, more sophisticated way we've come to expect from the Ultimate universe.

Terry Moore's Echo #5 (Abstract Studios) * * * * *
Julie and Dillon are thrown together as they run from Henri, Inc., who want the remnants of their mysterious "suit" in the most desperate way. And Ivy is hot on Julie's trail, and seems to have learned her deductive skills from Batman. What she can learn from the trash from a vehicle is scary. Lucky for Julie, Dillon has some unique friends to help them out, we hope. Terry Moore continues to show he is a master storyteller. His realistic portrayal of people, especially women, is fantastic. He can also draw people with different shaped heads, facial features and body types. And the preview image of issue #6 is very ominous.

Joe Kubert's Tor #4 (of 6) (DC) * * * * *
Tor and his female companion face underground perils and find themselves hunted by the "ape" tribe. It was sad to read this issue, knowing Joe Kubert was a recent widower. But his mastery of portraying character emotions using only art and captions, with no word balloons, is amazing. And his panel layout continues to be a textbook for students of comic book art, like me. This series goes on that short list of series that can be used as a textbook for teaching comic book layout and storytelling. That would be a good topic for a future blog on a week that no comic books come out.

Comic Books for the week of Wednesday, August 13, 2008:
Fantastic Four #559 (Marvel) * * * * *
Mark Millar and Brian Hitch continue to create one of the best FF stories in a long time. Johnny finds his fat in the fire big time after his recent tryst with a female super villain. Sue meets with Alyssa, Reeds ex-girlfriend from his single days, and reveals a shocking secret (and it isn't that she and Reed were having an affair). And you won't believe the reveal that Millar/Hitch make at the end of this issue. Ben has a great scene to open the issue. What's up with Mrs. Deneuve and Valeria is left for a future issue.

Action Comics #868 (DC) * * * * *
Brainiac part 3: Greetings continues Geoff Johns run on the greatest run of Superman stories, other than All-Star Superman, in a long time. I'm still hopeful that James Robinson can do similar things for Superman. And from the news comic from the recent ComicCon in San Diego, it looks like we have a lot of great things to look forward to from Geoff Johns. This is definitely the best Brainiac story ever. The issue opens with a great scene between Cat Grant and Supergirl, especially one panel in particular. We learn a shocking new facet about Krypton's destruction. And Koko, Brainiac's pet from the first Brainiac story from the silver age, makes an appearance. Ma and Pa Kent make a brief appearance near the end of the issue, and in the next issue preview. And check out the panel with Steve Lombard, showing a dark secret about how a few sports reporters cover some sporting events. This is the most frightening Brainiac story ever.

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I hope to catch up on Superman Fan Podcast this next week. It can be found at Expanded show notes can be found at Send e-mail about my podcast to

If you haven't already, check out Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ross MacDonald. It is a young reader's biography of Jery Siegel and Joe Shuster during the years they were creating Superman. The book is getting rave reviews, and is avialable at your local bookstore or on Also check out the author's blog

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Issue #25: Comic Books For The Week of Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #44 (DC)
Superman #678 (DC)
Invincible #51 (Image)
Dan Dare #7 (of 7) (Virgin)

Last week I watched The Dark Knight at the theater. This Wednesday, before I went to my local comic book shop, Bad Apple Comics (, my sister and I went to see Wall-E. While The Incredibles is still my favorite Pixar movie, Wall-E is a close second. It's clear with each movie that Pixar Studios makes a quantum jump in their technological ability with computer animation, yet they have never fallen into the trap so many other studios have done with their CGI movies. Pixar has never forgotten the importance of story quality and well developed characters. The first part of Wall-E has very sparse dialogue, yet the visuals tell the story flawlessly, and develop emotion in the characters that draws us in. Add Wall-E to your list of must see summer movies.

Legion of Super-Heroes #44 (DC) * * * *
Everything comes to a head for the Legion on all fronts, HQ, Rimbor and Velmar V. The UP is about to close down the Legion and their various teams are inder fire from either space pirates of the Science Police. The cover is a cool design, with the logo diagonally with the figures in the foreground. Ultra-Boy is reaching to save a woman who is falling off a tall building. The art inside is different, a little cartoony. It's not my favorite but doesn't detract me from enjoying the story. And how the remaining Legionaires at HQ come up with an original and humorous way to solve their problems. But there is no time to catch their breath, as a new threat appears requiring the Legion's help. This was another fun issue, with lots of Legion action, and I enjoyed watching the Legion find a way out of impossible situations. The next issue looks like it will start a new storyline.

Superman #678 (DC) * * * *
This issue begins's Superman's fight with Atlas, but it's not the end of their battle. The story was more than just two capes tarding fists like I expected. We see a flashback of Clark and Lois at breakfast,a s well as the origin of Atlas himself, drawn in a Kirbyesque style. We also meet someone else who has plans for Superman's destruciton. It's a better than average issue, but Action Comics still feels like it has the best Superman stories, after the yet to be published last issue of All-Star Superman.

Invincible #50 (Image) * * * *
This latest issue of Invincible begins to set up the next storyline, after the life-changing events of the previous issue. Invincible's friends set up shop in the old Teen Team HQ, and the Guardians of the Globe regroup after their split. Things change for Mark also on the home front. Invincible and his half brother Oliver team up for the first time as super hero partners with mixed results. Atom Eve moves back to America and a surprising character makes an appearance at the end of the issue. This issue had some fun super hero action, but nothing really "big" happens. After the big 50th issue that's okay. After big issues like that an issue like this is just fine. It's important to have issues that are a little quieter to catch our breath as readers. The new plotlines started in this issue promise some great stories in future issues. The very back has a preview of the new FireBreather title, and the next issue teaser is a surprise.

Dan Dare #7 (of 7) (Virgin) * * * * *
This first mini-series of the Virgin Comics' edition of Dan Dare ends with all guns blazing, literally. Lt. Christian continues to show she has the starch in her back to command over the Admiral that Dare jumped her over to command the task force. We learn from Peabody, the Home Secretary and acting Prime Minister, why Dare lived in seclusion on an asteroid at the beginning of this mini-series, after the last great battle against the Mekon. Victory is not painless nor without casualties, especially deaths that hit close to home. Apparently the next Dan Dare mini-series will be published this fall, according to a teaser on the inside back cover. Dan Dare is among the best comics, lots of action that uses the action to advance character development as well as plot. I will definitely be picking up the next Dan Dare story this fall, and I fully expect it to remain among my favorites.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Issue #24: The Dark Knight Review

This is another rare week when nothing on my pull list was published, and so I didn't visit my local comic book shop Bad Apple Comics. I was one of those people who went to the 12:01 am showings of The Dark Knight. I took my daughter and one of her best friends. The movie itself wasn't the only thing I looked forward to seeing on the big screen. Comic book websites reported that the first Watchmen movie preview would be shown before The Dark Knight. Neither one disappointed me. Every scene shown in the preview I recognized from the Wathcmen trade paperback, and the characters were easily recognizable. Even the few snippets of dialogue seemed to be quotes from the graphic novel. If there is a midnight showing for Watchmen I'll be in line to see it then.

The Dark Knight  *  *  *  *  *
The movie was definitely dark. We see the many consequences of Batman's fight against crime and corruption. There is a personal cost to this battle as well. From the copycat Batmen who do more harm to themselves than they help, to the cost inflicted on Bruce Wayne's soul, Christian Bale perfectly shows the weight on his character's shoulders. There is a personal cost to those close to Bruce, from his childhood friend and former love Rachel Dawes to the new D. A. Harvey Dent, not to mention Jim Gordon, who may not be married when the next Batman movie opens.
Like when all the bugs scatter when you find a nest in your home, the corrupt officials and criminals scatter and make life chaos in Gotham. Gordon can't seem to find many honest cops on the police force and Harvey Dent has all he can handle to prosecute criminals in court.
Then the Joker shows up and shows Gotham City what chaos and anarchy really is. The late Heath Ledger is the definitive Joker. As much as I enjoyed the Jack Nicholson version, the Heath Ledger Joker is probably what the Joker would be if he actually existed. let's hope he stays on the comic book page or the movie screen. What makes the Joker the most frightening is that he is not motivated by revenge or greed. He just wants to create chaos and watch the city collapse on itself. He lives just to destroy.
The plot is very complex, and The Dark Knight succeeds where Spider Man 3 fails. TDK juggles the several plots and keeps all of them from falling to the floor. There is enough time and story to give depth to each plot and give all of the characters full development in the story. The closer to the climax of the movie, the more intertwined the main characters become.
Batman shows his dedication to freeing Gotham City from the grasp of corruption and crime by making impossible choices, no matter the risk to himself. The ending sets up the next Batman movie to be even darker for the Dark Knight than before.
I would even rate this movie even better than its predecessor Batman Begins which I felt previously was the best Batman movie. Now it's a close second. I can't wait until the DVD is released for the holidays.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Issue #23: Comic Books For the Week of Thursday, July 10, 2008

New comic books were delayed at Bad Apple Comics ( a day because of the Independence Day holiday, which meant one more day I had to wait for the latest issue of Powers, which was already 2 1/2 months late already. So, what was one more day, right? It was worth the wait, as always, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Todd Nauck's Wildguard Insider #3 (of 3) (Image)
Justice Society of America #17 (DC)
Ultimate Origins #2 (Marvel)
Action Comics #867 (DC)
Powers #29 (Icon / Marvel)

Todd Nauck's Wildguard Insider #3 (of 3) (Image) * * * *
This latest ini-series of the Wildguard heroes was a fun read. It was fun reading Todd Nauck create original versions of heroes that we have seen many copycats of over the years. Snapback is the latest in a long line of elastic heroes, but Todd presents him in an original story, and flashbacks to his past. Next are more strips from the web comic, and then two more installments of Where Are They Now?, starring Strong-Bot and Running Girl.

Justice Society of America #17 (DC) * * * *
We see Damage dealing with what happened to him at the end of the last issue, the entire DC pantheon almost meeting Gog for themselves, and heroes and religious institutions coming to grips with a god walking the Earth. And we get a lead-in to JSA Annual #1. Gog has cured famine and disease. That leaves what -- war? There might be trouble ahead.

Ultimate Origins #2 (Marvel) * * * * *
This issue is mostly a retelling of Captain America's origin. We enven get to meet the Ultimat's Dum Dum Dugan, although without the derby hat. Instead of being a boring rerun, we get pulled in to Steve Roger's anguish at his frail body keeping him from fulfilling his duty, and see how he becomes Captain America. The beginning of the issue takes place today, and the rest is a flashback, but we are left to wonder how Cap's origin ties into what Dr. Banner mentioned in the first issue.

Action Comics #867 (DC) * * * * *
Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Jon Sibal continue to excel with Brainiac: Part 2 Hide and Seek. We learn more about Brainiac through the eyes of Kara Zor-El, who lived on Krypton during Brainiac's attack there. Her memories add a sense of terror to Brainiac's menace. After a touching visit to the Kents in Smallville, Superman decides to take the fight to Brainiac, after a funny scene at the Daily Planet. That light moment is a nice break in a very grim issue. And the concluding scene is earth shattering.

Powers #29 (Icon / Marvel) * * * * *
I always save Powers for last because I always know it will be the best read of the week. This week is no different. It's just that once again there was a long wait between issues. On a comic book news web site (I forget which one) artist Michael Avon Oeming talked about the problems with the book, either he or Bendis would get behind as the other got caught up on the book. He also said they hopefully have figured out a way to keep the book on schedule. They've said that before, and I hope this time they can make it stick. Then, again, it's not like these men aren't busy. The issue begins with Calista (Retro Girl) captured by the powers virus villains, and Deena finally in police custody, in the aftermath of the night club attack. Detective Stone of Internal Affairs is circling for the kill, and we find out what exactly Deena has been doing since she went missing from the police force. That's all I can say without spoiling the rest of the story. All I can say is that the police put her information to good use. And Deena has one more shocking development (no pun intended) at the end of the story. I hope issue #30 comes out on time next month, so I can save it until last to read what happens next to Deena and Christian, and Calista as well.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Issue #22: Comic Books For The Week Of July 2, 2008

Joe Kubert's Tor #3 (of 6) (DC)
Echo #4 (Abstract Studios)
Legion of Super-Heroes #43 (DC)
Noble Causes #35 (Image)

Joe Kubert's Tor #3 (of 6) (DC) * * * * *
Joe Kubert continues to show his seventy years of experience and mastery of the comic book form. The story is done like an old fashioned adventure strip, with no word balloons. Instead captions narrate the story. Even though the characters do not speak they carry emotional weight, drawing me into caring what happens to them. We learn the secret of the four-armed giant and are introduced to another character that Tor is attracted to. And we learn of previously unknown dangers in this prehistoric land. When this mini-series is completed it will rank up there with Wathcmen as textbooks on how to create a comic book story.

Echo #4 (Abstract Studios) * * * * *
This story is really getting rolling now. We see the aftermath of the attack on the computer guy by the berserk old man with the metallic hand. Julie downloads the photographs she took in the first issue into her computer. They lead her to return to the desert area to investigate, drawing some unwanted attention. Annie's boyfriend visits the offices of the defense contractor to look for her. And we see a flashback of Annie with the mysterious alloy on her body. To tell any more would spoil the scene. In the back we also have some development sketches by Terry Moore. His realistic portrayal of people, especially women, and strong story development guarantees any comic book Terry Moore does will be an excellent issue.

Legion of Super-Heroes #43 (DC) * * * * *
The Legion team on Rimbor are on the run from the Science Police, and Legion HQ is searched by the SP as well. The Legion team in the Rigel system tries to rescue the SP and the UP'
s Young Heroes who have been captured by the planet's new tenants. It seems the whole universe is conspiring against the Legion, and there seems to be no way for the Legion to triumph. I can't wait to see how they do it, as well as how LSH leads into the Final Crisis tie-in Legion of Three Worlds. This is the only Final Crisis mini-series I will be reading; I'm not picking up the main event series itself, for budgetary reasons.

Noble Causes #35 (Image) * * * * *
The issue opens with a body found at the edge of a body of water. Olympia's visit with Gaia develops in a way I didn't expect (not that it's hard to do) butis very dramatic nonetheless. The Nobles discover the cause of their brief security blackout and leave to investigate. And at the end of the issue we find the real reason for the infiltration of Noble Island. The intrigues and story twists make Jay Faerber another must read every month.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Issue #21: Comic Books For The Week of Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wildguard Insider #2 (of 3) (Image)
Project Superpowers #4 (of7) (Dynamite Entertainment)
Mythos: Captain America #1 (Marvel)
Fantastic Four (#558) (Marvel)
Superman #677 (DC)

Wildguard #2 (of 3) * * * *
Lily Hammer sees strange apparitions that ask her very pointed questions during her appearance at a late night talk show, a woman who was attacked by a super villain explains her connetion to her attacker to Four, who then has a talk with Freezerburn. At the end are two "Where Are They Now?" features with Astro-Girl and Power Temp. There isn't a lot of immediate action, except in flashback, but seeing super heroes dealing with the aftermath of their heroics makes for interesting character development.

Project Superpowers #4 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment) * * * *
The Dynamic Family leave New York, overrun by vegetation at the hands of the Green Lama. The Flame and Hydro surrender to authorities in Hollywood. We learn more about the spirits that guided Fighting Yank, and Green Lama transports everyone from Shangri-La to New York, including Black Terror, calling it New Shangri-La. The Scarab and Samson find a horrific "hospital" with monstrous patients. The Dynamic Family has ties to something called the "F-Troop Squadron". We learn more about the Devil, and Pyroman comes to the aid of the Flame and Hydro. The story is really beginning to move along, as most of the character introductions are done. The story threads are beginning to appear, but judging by the back cover we aren't done with hero introductions yet. In the back are features on the heroes Pyroman and The Flame, as well as a two page spread of more Golden Age character sketches done by ALex Ross. I wonder how much of a climax issue seven will have room for with so many heroes introduced in the first four issues, plus a second mini-series to begin later this year. It still is fun to get a look at some of the obscure characters from the golden age of comics. I had no idea there had been so many.

Mythos: Captain America (#1) (Marvel) * * * * *
This is the second issue of Mythos. The first retold and expanded the origin of the Fantastic Four. This issue does the same for Captain America. Cap is about to slug someone, and in the reflection of his original triangular shield, we see the terrorized expression of Adolph Hitler. A very clever reprise of the cover of Captain America #1. The title page notes that Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Captain America's origin is expanded, showing Steve Rogers' family life before he volunteered for the super soldier experiment. It then highlights Cap's wartime adventures, his time in suspended animation, and his reawakening to become leader of the Avengers. The ending is especially touching, and hearkens back to the beginning of Steve Rogers story.

Fantastic Four #558 (Marvel) * * * *
The cover shows a battered Doctor Doom, and the ominous title, Starting This Issue: The Death of the Invisible Woman". Dr. Doom, in the Thing's arms, calls for Reed's help. They are immediately attacked by the group that apparently had originally attacked Dr. Doom. Ben is easily dispatched, and his girlfriend and the nanny candidate take Franklin and Valeria to a safe room. We learn who Johnny's bad girlfriend is working with. And Valeria and Mrs. Deneuve, the nanny candidate forge an unusual bond, which creates a mystery about Valeria. The Millar-Hitch story continues to rank among the best FF stories, right up there with Lee and Kirby.

Superman #677 (DC) * * *
This issue has an impressive Alex Ross cover of Superman lifting the Daily Planet globe, hinting at an actual event inside. And the story title, In The Shadow of Atlas, ties into the cover as well. The issue begins with Superman and Green Lantern talking in outer space while Superman plays catch with Krypto. It is a nice character scene between a man and his dog, and the tohoughts we are privy to of Hal Jordan. The scene shifts to Metropolis, presumably while Superman is in space, and the Metropolis Science Police battling a giant monster rampaging through Metropolis. We are introduced to the team through the thoughts of one of its members, Travis DuBarry. Then we are introduced to Atlas, who calls for Superman in a challenge. The battle takes up most of the issue. It's an introductory chapter of a new storyline, and is thus a light read. The best part of the story is the opening scene. The rest is an introduction to Superman's next antagonist. It wasn't a bad issue, just an average one. The opening scene shows promise for new writer James Robinson's handle on character development. I remain hopeful for the rest of the story, and hope that Atlas doesn't develop into just another villain of the month.

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