Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Uncanny X-Men: Breaking Point (comics)

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Carlos Pacheco, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson
Collects: Uncanny X-Men #534.1, #535-539

I've been crapping on the modern X-Men books for a good while now. Not for no good reason, of course. The modern X books mostly suck. I'd actually said last time I delved into Uncanny I was taking a break from X books; obviously, that didn't happen, but I kept pretty clear of Uncanny X-Men.

Kieron Gillen's a good writer though, so I figured I'd take a look at one of the trades and see if he fares any better.

We've got three stories in the issues included. First one is Magneto getting some PR help so the X-Men don't have to dance around the fact that he's on the team. Look, this one is just never going to completely work logically - it's friggin Magneto - but Gillen does his level best. Hell, considering the public of the Marvel Universe are certified morons*, maybe it makes more sense than I'm giving credit for.

The second story - and the one encompassing the most issues - is the "Breaking Point" arc the trade is named after. It follows up on some loose threads from Joss Whedons Astonishing run and wraps that whole "Kitty's stuck as intangible" thing Fraction left behind. Probably won't mean as much if you haven't read Whedons run, but on it's own it makes a fairly decent story of the difficulty in breaking old ways and accepting new ones.

Last one's the best, in my opinion. It's a single issue story of the kidnapping of Hope - the mutant messiah - and Wolverines mission to rescue her. It hinges primarily on Wolverines avoidance of Hope and why. First instinct tells you it's because his best friend died for her, but it goes a bit deeper than that. It's an understandable one; we don't often think about Wolverines role when the tough decisions need to be made, much less what that must do to him inside.

Overall, what makes this whole exercise worthwhile is Gillens handle on the characters. Moments like the aforementioned bit with Wolverine show a better understanding of these characters than we've seen in a good long while. Even Cyclops manages to go without being insufferable and considering he's a massive prick these days that's saying something.

Still, it's far from essential reading. It doesn't really stand alone at all, even remotely; it plays almost entirely off the past few years of stories. If, like me, you're not at all invested in Cyclops, King of the Mutants and his rotting asteroid island, little of what you read will change your mind. Still, it's definitely a step up from before, so if you like the current X franchise, I suspect you'll love this.

Unfortunately for me, I may end up passing on anything further from Gillens run. It has nothing to do with quality. I believe there's one volume left after this before UXM hits Schism territory, so most of the interesting characters are leaving Gillens hands. What he's left with, I couldn't care less about, save Storm and Dr. Nemesis. I may check in, but I'll probably be on the Wolverine side of the X-verse in the future. It sounds more my speed.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

Ahh, much better. Probably the best I've seen from the core X title in years. Give it a look; Gillen makes it worth the read.

* I'm at the point where I just assume IQ's for most regular Joes in the Marvel Universe hover around room temperture. These are the guys who turned on Captain America like it wasn't a thing, after all. Turned on Iron Man too after Secret Invasion, for things that weren't even his fault. Then there's their adoration of known mass murdering psychopath Norman Osborn. So hey, Magneto as a hero? Why not, they'll buy it. I swear, they basically ask for the crap that happens to them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

War of Kings (comics)

Writers: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Collects: Secret Invasion: War of Kings, War of Kings #1-6, War of Kings: Who Will Rule?

While the long running cosmic saga penned by DnA is undoubtedly a critical darling, it's no secret that cosmic stories don't sell all that well. I personally like a good space story now and then, but I admit I've mostly passed up on Marvels cosmic books, despite the insistence from reviewers and a small number of folks on the internet that it's one of the best things going. I picked up War of Kings because, by all rights, it seemed like it it ran with elements from Uncanny X-Men: Rise & Fall of the Shi'ar Empire, which you may recall as one of the very few X-Men related arcs post-Morrison that I actually liked.

It's fairly good, but a bit tough to get into.

The story goes that Vulcan - the third Summers brother and current emperor of the Shi'ar - decides his kingdom is not big enough. Now, the Inhumans have returned to the Kree to lead them to greater glory. Vulcan, being an egotistical, impulsive shoot-first-shoot-again-and-shoot-some-more style imbecile, decides crashing an important Kree wedding and killing several of the guests would be a bitchin' idea. You can probably guess what the reaction was. If you need to be told war immediately followed, you probably weren't very good at connecting dots.

A fair bit of background is at least somewhat necessary. I got by all right with just Rise and Fall as my most recent foray into the realm of "cosmic", but unless you're familiar with that or just the general goings on in Marvel space, a lot of this comic is probably going to go over your head. It relies a lot on long established rivalries and interplanetary relationships introduced in countless other stories and while that's not necessarily a problem, they don't go far enough up front in summing up the important material up front to help the book read well on its own.

Despite the fact that this whole thing sort of picks up right after it, Secret Invasion is not at all necessary; and frankly you should avoid that story anyways, because it kind of sucks.

While we're on the subject of Secret Invasion, I'd like to say this event does what Secret Invasion never could; while both could be read sans tie-ins, War of Kings did it without cutting out the interesting bits and relegating them elsewhere, like, you know, Secret Invasion. Everything you need to know is in this book. On top of that, aside from a sequence involving the Guardians of the Galaxy, the characters from tie-ins are kept out of the proceedings. If it weren't for said cameo, you could have read this series without even knowing there were tie-ins. The rest of Marvel really ought to take notes.

Despite the backstory and history behind the cosmic side of Marvel, it's fairly easy to get swept up in this. DnA do a good job of selling the fact that this conflict, is a pretty big deal. Things escalate quickly and it doesn't have the tidy end many Shi-ar related stories do. For a bit, it seems like DnA is going down a familiar road before that notion is shattered. Some pretty big things happen here for most of the space faring races and it ably sets up some nasty consequences to play out in future stories. If nothing else, the Inhumans have certainly changed; I don't think I've ever seen Black Bolt - whose mere whisper can shatter mountains - use the full force of his voice as much as he has in this one story.

The art holds up rather well and does its job. There isn't much to really point out as particularly great or anything all that terrible. It won't blow you away, but it's not going to tear you out of the story either, so for all intents and purposes that can be classified as something of a win in itself.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

It can seem a bit tough to get into at first, but once you start rolling with the punches it will grab hold of you quickly. Probably best if you start earlier in the space timeline though, like somewhere around Annihilation. But even if you don't this is a good time in outer space.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Arkham Asylum: Madness (comics)

Writer/Artist: Sam Kieth
Original Graphic Novel

You'll notice there's no "Batman" in the book title. It's intentional. Arkham Asylum is the star of the show here. Batman doesn't even make an appearance.

It's nice when we get a comic about Arkham Asylum. That type of Batman story is one wisely kept to occasional stories, but when we do get to delve into the madness, it's often a treat. It's rare we get a look strictly at the asylum, however, even in its spotlight stories. This one bucks the trend; the high concept is that the reader spends twenty four hours with the staff of Arkham, seeing firsthand what the staff has to go through on a given day.

This is one of those comics that depicts Arkham as hell*. It's a working environment so harsh and difficult that staff tends to come and go with alarming frequency, frequently leaving the building short staffed. It's a take I've always found particularly interesting, as you have to wonder what a place like Arkham could do to a person. The personalities within go beyond extreme and into downright frightening territory. We even see some staff come and go within the book itself.

Sam Kieth writes and draws the book. He is professional in both aspects. He sells us on the characters within and the trials they go through. Some stick around for the pay or hours, having given up or resigned themselves to the job they hate. Others are there out of desperation, trying to claw their way out of a debt all too many in the world feel the weight of.

Our main character is one such nurse and I felt Kieth really sold her troubles. She's practically trapped there through an ever crazier day, first wanting to get out early, then being stuck with the full shift, then stuck with a double. I actually felt some tension from the book, wanting her to be able to leave the place before the other shoe drops. That's a very good sign.

Sam Kieth's art is even better. He does not draw in some sort of house style. He ranges from dirty to simple to painterly work, depending on what a scene needs. It doesn't look like typical comic art and that's a strength. He sometimes exaggerates the things he draws - and not every choice in how he draws certain characters work** - but it's in a way that serves the story in ways that similar styles just do not manage.

He is, frankly, perfect for this kind of book. His style easily renders itself to giving the sort of nightmarish pictures a book like this needs. This is, after all, something akin to a horror comic. Clocks drip blood, inmates torment the staff, flashbacks show someone losing a limb to Jokers madness. Under a normal sort of artist, it can be quite effective. Under a guy like Sam Kieth, it's twisted. Great work on his part.

In the afterword, he mentions the fanboys perhaps not being pleased with his art style. This is true, I suppose. Sam Kieth does not draw quite like anyone else. But that's a boon; pair him with the right project and it's clear he can really kick ass. I hope he's "let out of the cell" again fairly soon; I think I'd like to read more work like this.

The Score: 8 out of 10

A very well put together OGN that was well worth the time. It's not perfect and it won't change the comics world, but it's a very interesting project. Even if you're not really a fan of Sam Kieths style, I think this book is well worth tracking down, as this is the sort of story his work really meshes with. Give it a look.

* Boy, is it ever hell. By the end, some questions popped up in my mind. What happens if everyone, or at least the vast majority of the staff - were to quit? How the hell does the asylum go on? You'd think SOMEBODY would have to be moved there, or else the crazies would be loose or transferred somewhere else, basically starting the process over. But at that point, how much money would you have to offer someone to work Arkham of all places? Who really runs and keeps it in check? I know the Arkhams built it, but isn't there some kind of institution that would have to regulate it? This is the kind of crap I think about at night.

** I'm not a fan of his choice for Harleys look. For some reason, she has her hair in dreadlocks. It looks damn odd on her. Some give the Arkham games flak for their sexualized depiction of Harley, but even with the cosmetic changes she looks like herself. Here, she looks more like a used up junkie. But that's the thing about a style like this; you're going to find some things that don't work for you, even when the work is this good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Last Zombie: Dead New World (comics)

Writer: Brian Keene
Artist: Joseph Wight
Collects: The Last Zombie #1-5

I guess the lesson to be learned here is "don't judge a book by its publisher".

I almost gave this one a pass only because of who was putting it out. I know Antarctic Press mostly for their comics that take current political figures and throw them in ridiculous situations to capitalize on their notoriety. They're nowhere near Bluewater - who put out nothing but terrible comic biographies without permission and are to comics what "The Asylum" are to movies - but it's enough to send me looking elsewhere.

I realize that's not exactly fair - it's not like DC and Marvel don't put out shit nestled between two covers and I read a lot of their product - but come on; is Steampunk Palin really the kind of comic that's going to inspire my confidence? At least when Marvel pumps out a She-Hulk ongoing you know there's someone out there who wanted it.

The concept grabbed me though, so I gave it a read. I'm glad I did. Brian Keene decides to set his book after the zombie apocalypse - or at least it seems to be over; whether it is happens to be a mystery - which is an inspired move. Almost no one ever goes for the aftermath for obvious reasons, so it's a relatively untapped well to draw from.

Keene goes for it with gusto. The specter of zombies looms large - again, no one is a hundred percent sure they're really gone - but they're hardly the big threats. In the year humanity went underground, as it were, unmanned nuclear plants melted down, your typical roaming gangs formed, animals run free, wildfires raged unchecked and diseases ran rampant. It's a nightmare out there.

A nightmare our cast has to go out into. They lost contact with the Maine bunker, which housed not only most of the government that was left. Obviously, a rescue operation is needed, one that's venturing out into the unknown, to ascertain what happened and if necessary rescue whoever is left of the remnants of American government. No pressure, right?

Keene wisely grounds it all in human emotion. Of course, there's the overall purpose of the mission, but one of our main characters is on board for personal reasons. His fiancee was in the other bunker and he won't stop until he knows one way or another if she's still alive. He's also the center of the twist near the two thirds mark.

There is definitely suspense to the proceedings. Keene fakes us out from time to time and never lets us forget that the zombies could still be out there. But by the end, zombies seem like the least of their worries; they're not out of the bunker long before they're attacked by bandits after their equipment. Worse still, they're outnumbered. We close the book wondering what else might be out there; the apocalypse may be over, but even if the zombies are gone, it's clear humanity has a long way back.

The artwork is good as well. The comic is black and white, but it seems the artist went sans inker. Almost everything looks penciled in, including detail, giving it a unique look among comics. I can't think of many that just go with pencil drawings, with all the shading and such done that way. I like it. Wight has talent.

The Score: 8 out of 10

I had a good time with this one; if Antarctic Press is smart they'll keep this team around on other projects as well. It's pretty well written, well drawn and has a pretty good hook. I recommend it and I'll be keeping an eye out for more. Give it a shot; it's worth the time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Batman: The Widening Gyre vol. 1 (comics)

Writer: Kevin Smith
Artist: Walt Flanagan
Collects: Batman: The Widening Gyre #1-6

If at first you don't succeed...

Kevin Smiths second crack at the best Batman story he can tell was received as badly as the first. Maybe worse, in some ways. Some other blogs - and even comic websites - proclaimed it as the "worst comic ever". Now, I'm certainly a fan of hyperbole - when the Muppets guest starred on Monday Night Raw this past Halloween I declared it the best thing ever - but here the exaggeration is a bit unwarranted.

So, basically, story goes like this; Batmans in a particularly reflective mood of late, deciding to have copious amounts of flashbacks. The point of all of it is trying to face the fact that he needs to trust people more. This is compounded by the return of Silver St. Cloud - one of the best love interests Batman had that we've almost never seen since - into his life. Meanwhile, the new hero Goatman - okay, okay, Baphomet - shows up and starts kicking some ass. Soon, Batman is coming to grips with the idea of a replacement and retiring. That's when it all falls apart.

Alright, first, the sexual innuendo is still here. But thankfully, it's not nearly as bad as "Joker strips down for buttsex in gratitude for being broken out of Arkham". Still, it's there and as such, you can never really escape the fact that this is a book written by Kevin Smith. If, for some reason, you manage to come close, don't worry, the book will be damn sure to remind you. This is the one thing about Smith that really irks me; it seems like he cannot go long without piling on the sex jokes or really dirty humor and he is as subtle with it as an oncoming train.

Other than that, Smith's not a bad writer, from what I've seen. Last go around he stumbled, but by this point he seemed to have a better handle on what he was dealing with. His dialogue for Batman is a bit less ridiculous than last time and - sex jokes and out of place humor aside - he goes out of his way to try and tell a story about Batman coming to grips with feelings. He doesn't completely stick the landing - and the "can't I be happy, do I really have to do this" thing's been done better - but he puts honest effort into selling it through flashbacks, the people coming into Batmans life and the circumstances that surrounds him.

Something that didn't bother me as much as I expected were the references, which were derided elsewhere. I usually do not like this kind of thing, especially when it's overdone. Kevin Smith went to the well once too often in Cacophony. He doesn't exactly tone it down for Widening Gyre, but it's not as noticeable anymore. Part of it is that they don't stick out like a sore thumb as much as last time. I think the other side of the coin is that a good number didn't get quite as cutesy as they did in Cacophony.

Smith blows it in the last issue, however, where it feels like the writing just sort of goes off a cliff. This book has a portrayal of Catwoman that is... more jealous slut than sexy, independent woman, which is very unfortunate, but it reaches its nadir in the last issue. Then there's the Silver situation, where Batman gets the idea in his head that she's a robot and... roughly handles her. Then there's the complete and utterly baffling scene with the crossbow, where Deadshot can somehow feel that it's a crossbow pointed at his head - yeabuwha? - and a misunderstanding of, you know, the basic mechanics of a crossbow.

The ending is also a problem. Batman reveals his secret identity to someone right after he got done debating whether the villains should be killed or not with them. You can probably see the problem; even with the book trying its damndest to sell that Batman realizes he needs to trust others more, it's still a questionable decision, especially given the fact that this person isn't even a hundred percent sold on the principles Batman and his organization operate on. There's trust and then there's stupidity.

I've read worse, though. Damning with faint praise, I'm sure, but still. It's an improvement over Cacophony for sure. It's easiest to read this book when you just take it as its own thing and don't try and tie it to any one portrayal of Batman. Seems difficult, especially given the fact that he's picking up and using toys from the Englehart run, but it's the way to go.

Walt Flanagan has also improved, but he's still got a ways to go to be great. There are still noticeable gaffes, like an eye at the wrong angle or place. There's the occasional hideously drawn face, as well. Also, in one of the middle issues where she has her hair in pigtails, his Silver St. Cloud is a dead ringer for Harley Quinn, which I doubt was intentional. Regardless, DC regularly employs far worse artists.

The Score: 6 out of 10

It's an improvement over Cacophony, for sure, but I'd still say it was middle of the road. If the final issue hadn't gone off the rails it would probably be more like a seven. As it is, though, it's a flawed work that could have been better but is still readable.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants (comics)

Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Paco Medina
Collects: X-Men (vol. 3) #1-6, material from Curse of the Mutants Saga and Curse of the Mutants Spotlight

Alright, warning up front; there's going to be some spoilers in this here review. To talk about the problems the book has means I'm probably going to have to get into what happens a bit more than usual. So if you don't already know what happens - unlikely, but still - just look at the score and my closing comments.

To say I was looking forward to this one probably goes without saying. If you've read reviews from this place before, you may be aware of that time Batman and Superman totally whupped some vampire ass or the time Batman decided he didn't like zombies and how much I liked them. Though it's waned over the years, I like the X-Men, so taking them, throwing them at some vampires and watching what happens should be a slam dunk, right?

Should be is the key word. This book isn't a disaster or anything; if you turn your brain off you can find some dumb fun in here. The mechanics of the plot, however, fall apart if you ponder them for more than ten seconds.

The plot is, well, basic. Dracula is dead for reasons we're unaware of* aside from the fact that his son did it, said son takes over and has a good idea. Why not turn some mutants, adding their sheer power to the vampire ranks, and use it to carve a place for vampires out of the shadows? Sure, the X-Men may not care for that idea, but free will is over-rated, right?

The plan is to essentially hypnotize one of the mutants, get those that come after their own, then throw a full size assault at Utopia with said new recruits and take over. From there on the sky's the limit. It's not a bad plan, really; and Cyclops made things easier by conveniently locating the mutant buffet in one place.

Funnily enough, it's the mutants who don't have their shit together.

So, Cyclops realizes what is going down. Now, apparently there are enough vampires out there to make you drop a deuce in your drawers. So his plan is to essentially revive Dracula, persuade him to fight with them and slap around some vamps. The recovery of his body parts happens in the tie-ins and Drac is revived as early as issue three. This plan goes south, of course - probably because someone at Marvel suddenly realized "holy crap, we still have three issues to fill" - so, you know, by all rights they are kind of screwed.

Except they're not. See, Cyclops sent in Logan to retrieve Jubilee. Now, he had to assume Logan would be turned, so he had it made so Logans healing factor could be turned on and off. At the pivotal moment of the vampire assault, he turns it back on, Logan snaps back to his senses and the vampires asses are kicked.

Anyone else see the problem here?

First off, they continue to play Cyclops as knowing what he's doing and planning contingencies. But once again, he comes off like a nimrod. They first go to the Dracula option before trying anything else. That goes south. Then he has a nifty plan to have Logan turned when he goes to the vampires, then turned back. Then the X-Men alone wipe out the entire force that is sent to attack them once they bring Logan back and make it to the inner circle of the vampires. That Dracula came back and whupped his sons ass wasn't even necessary by that point, because they would have won anyways.

Which means they could have defeated the vampire army thrown at them at any time. Meaning the hand wringing about how there were too many of them to stop, Dracs revival and essentially everything that happened between mid issue 2 to mid issue 5 was completely unnecessary. There was never anything at stake; turns out the X-Men could fight off that many vampires all along, but figured it would be more prudent to do a bunch of other stupid crap and have Wolverine turned into a vampire and then reverted back because Cyclops is kind of a dick.

There's an entertaining story in here somewhere, but at least three issues worth of scenes would need to be excised, what was left would need slight reworking and the issue count would top out at three issues, with lingering subplots for later arcs or more stuff dealing with vampires. What we get is a bloated storyline that is the worst example of for-the-trade writing. It's six issues mainly because it would make a nice trade they could charge fifteen to twenty dollars SRP for.

Now, the plot problems aren't the only problems. Victor Gischler doesn't seem to have a great handle on some of his characters. Some dialogue exchanges read unnaturally. He seems to know how to write Dr. Nemesis and Dracula the best. Logan suffers; Gischler has him say "come get some". I don't think anyone has said "come get some" without laughter following in about three decades, much less Wolverine.

But hey, it has great art! Paco Medina draws the hell out of this flawed storyline and frankly it's the books saving grace. Clean, colorful work that's damn nice to work at. I just wish it was paired with a story that measured up.

The Score: 6 out of 10

A script with as many holes usually sinks a book. This one was blessed with some very nice artwork, though, which elevates it. It's worth a read as dumb "summer movie" level fun, but it's not something I'd really recommend buying for the old bookshelf. Skip it unless you really want to see some vampire beheadings performed by the X-Men.

Cyclops Douchebaggery Alert: Dude, sending in your best man and turning off his healing factor so he's turned into a vampire? Then turning it back on when you feel like it? With absolutely no tactical reason to do it? That's the kind of thing that would go on Superdickery if it were with Superman. And Cyke wonders why Wolverine wants to stab him.

* For some moronic reason the Death of Dracula one shot that is essentially the real part one of this story is not included. It wasn't included in the companion volume either. Thanks trade department for such a monumental screw up; thankfully, the story still reads... well, not fine, given the numerous problems, but it's not a glaring issue; you just won't know the specifics of what happened to Drac or the setup.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Batman: Haunted Gotham (comics)

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Kelley Jones
Collects: Batman: Haunted Gotham #1-4

Hey, you know what would have been bitchin'? A spiffy banner that says "Elseworlds" across the top letting me know that, you know, this is an Elseworlds tale. Yup, would have been great knowledge to have beforehand.

Now, don't take this to mean I would have avoided it if I'd known or anything. I like them and I kind of wish DC would just bring the damn tagline back. I guess the old "readers only want stories that matter" chestnut is what nixed that. The problem is that I had no idea it was one of said stories until I cracked it open. I figured it was a Halloween themed Batman collection, of which I know at least one exists*. There's no real indication until you start to realize "wait a minute, Bruce is an adult and his parents are still alive".

So, thanks for that clear branding, DC.

Now that we've established what it is, we'll get into the meat of it. This particular Elseworlds is based around the supernatural, with Gotham - or Haunted Gotham, as the city is oddly named - being essentially cut off from the rest of the world and constantly besieged by dark forces. Bruce Wayne has been training his whole life for some unforeseen destiny laid out for him by his father. Once his parents die by the hands of a werewolf, it finally becomes clear; he is to save Gotham from the devils that claim it as their playground as the Batman.

Doug Moench is a name that I don't see brought up a lot when it comes to Batman discussions. This is despite the fact that he's had a fairly lengthy history with the character; back in the 80's he was on board for three or four years - not all that impressive until you realize he wrote both Batman and Detective for all of that duration - and another multiple year stretch on just one in the 90's. Despite that, I don't think I've seen much of his work collected.

His writing style is... dense, I guess; this miniseries is pretty wordy. This is to its benefit and to its detriment. Sometimes he goes out of his way explaining things, while occasionally it can seem almost poetic, I suppose you could say. At any rate, it's a bit old fashioned and others might not have my level of tolerance for that.

As for the art, it's done by Kelley Jones, who Moench has worked with a good deal over the years. I'm not a fan of his style. I can certainly enjoy an exaggerated style, but Jones frequently goes to the point of absurd. For the cool aspects - his Batman is pretty Spawn like, with ridiculously long ears at times and a cape that seems to never end - there are plenty of moments of ridiculous anatomy, odd body contortion, cowl ears changing length between panels, a leg thrust out into a kick drawn way too long, etc. I want to say it's almost Liefeldian at times, but that doesn't feel fair, as Jones shows a much better grasp at other points.

It's hard to describe what I mean by this, but these issues I have are also offset by the type of story. Horror and the supernatural play to his strengths - where a nightmarish Batman seems right at home - and in that way, his style feels almost at home with the material. I don't know; it's one of those odd impressions you feel like you can never fully articulate. While I'm not a fan, I can see some ways where his style of art can be a strength.

These are, in all, fairly beefy issues contained within. Each is its own chapter, really, dealing with a new threat in this alternate world. Moench and Kelley also keep from going overboard with reacasting classic rogues in their alternate universe as well, leaving new, story specific threats to take their place. This is appreciated; as much as I like elseworlds, sometimes they seem just as preoccupied with showing off the rogues gallery in altered form - plot relevancy be damned - as they are with telling an actual story.

The Score: 6 out of 10

A bit below average, but not outright bad. It's fitting reading for this time of year, even as Halloween has passed and we move on to giving thanks. I wouldn't recommend anyone run out to get a copy, but it's not the comic equivalent of toxic sludge either.

* Turns out the Halloween themed collection I'm thinking of is "Haunted Knight". It was also by a completely different team, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Oops.