Monday, March 13, 2006


Gotta start trying to get the pile back under control.

Written by Warren Ellis and Drawn by Ben Templesmith
Published by Image Comics

It’s a joy to see a new issue of FELL arrive, because the series not only started out strong (and made my top ten list in 2005) but it’s remained strong. In fact, in sixteen short pages, Ellis and Templesmith somehow seem to be able to present more character growth and nuance than many creators do in six-issue arcs. This issue finds Richard Fell investigating a random body dump in the river. Discovering that they are considered low-priority cases and never solved, he takes it upon himself to solve the current one, just to prove that it can be done. What makes the story excellent isn’t the resolution, which is sort of rote; instead, it’s the discovery that Fell is a man of ethics… but not necessarily an ethical man. That subtlety is what makes this book brilliant.

Written by Robert Kirkman and Drawn by Ryan Ottley
Published by Image Comics

Over the last few issues INVINCIBLE has ground to a seeming halt. If it hasn’t been the release schedule dragging at the book, it’s been the pace at which the story has moved (the tortoise has been kicking the book’s ass in a footrace). Issue twenty-nine begins to address at least one of those problems; after many issues, we finally get to the big battle we’ve been promised pitting Invincible and his estranged father against the finest killer warriors their home planet has to offer. It’s a violent, brutal slugfest that harkens back to the father/son fight that capped year one on the book. Fortunately, Kirkman delivers some emotional impact to go along with the battle, and the book feels like it works for the first time in ages. We’re still far away from what made the book great to begin with, particularly the supporting characters back on Earth, but on the surface it seems like maybe INVINCIBLE is ready to return to form.

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and Drawn by Various
Published by Boom Studios

BRIGADE is an amusing semi-prequel to the writers’ smash series HERO SQUARED. The common link is Captain Valor, something of a Captain Marvel/Superman pastiche who eventually makes his way into a different dimension where there are no super-powered beings at the beginning of SQUARED. However, this story takes us back earlier in his career to where he was aligned with his planet’s mightiest heroes, the Planetary Brigade. If you’re asking yourself if they resemble the Justice League a smidge, you get a gold star. The primary threat the team is facing is a poor guy whose body is being used by a nasty bunch of demons to invade the Earth, but the primary purpose of the story is for the dynamic writing duo to have a lot of fun, and they succeed. Nothing here will shock you with its originality, but like a comfy shoe, the work of Giffen and DeMatteis fits and brings on the smiles.

Written by Michael Alan Nelson and Drawn by Chee
Published by Boom Studios

On the flip side, this is precisely the sort of homerun I’ve come to expect from Boom’s publishing output. By turns scary, exhilarating, emotionally intense, and unpredictable, SECOND WAVE has more depth (and a much more interesting lead character) than the Tom Cruise vehicle that populated theatres in the summer of 2005. Miles is an everyday schmoe who loves his wife and lives a quiet suburban existence until one day aliens land and he makes a choice that destroys his life. And in the throes of his pain and guilt, he begins to find an inner-self that he didn’t know existed. All he lacks is the ability to redeem himself. Unfortunately, when the invaders are felled, he loses that chance. However, diverting from Wells’ classic novel, one simple question was always left unanswered: what if the Martians developed a vaccine for what brought down their first invasion? Miles and his prayers for revenge are about to find out. SECOND WAVE is uniformly excellent, a cold splash of water on a hot day. I’m fascinated to see where the series will go.