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Friday, March 28, 2008

New Year's Evil

DC Comics celebrated the arrival of 1998 with a series entitled "New Year's Evil". Some may be worth collecting.

One problem is that "evil" is not always present, particularly in Mr. Mxyzptlk. The art is so cartoonish that it distracts from Alan Grant's script. There are some amusing parts, but the menace cannot be taken seriously. There are hints of an ongoing series for the imp, but the current premise is too thin.

Another entry is Darkseid. Sal Buscema's interpretation of this character is unlike any I've seen. The title is somewhat misleading in that Darkseid never appears. Since the script is by John Byrne, continuity with artist "Jack Kirby's Fourth World" is assured.

The most important issue of "New Year's Evil" is probably Prometheus. This new villain has appeared in two issues of JLA; they are much clearer if you read Prometheus. Grant Morrison's script and Arnie Jorgensen's art are effective.

The origin of Prometheus is parallel to Batman's. A young boy who accompanies his parents on their murderous crime spree witnesses their deaths in a shootout with police. As with Batman, there is a strong Asian influence. This villain could prove a popular sparring partner.

Gog will be of interest to readers of the "Elsewhere" series, Kingdom Come. Mark Waid's script implies that we have not seen the end to this story.

Dark Nemesis will appeal to Teen Titans followers, but some of the art seems rushed. Chris Cross's work is generally good, but faces, particularly the Atom's, often seem unfinished or distorted.

Body Doubles puzzles me. The art is a blend of cartoonish and realistic elements. My first impression was that the female assassins are a blend of the titles Katy Keene and Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This will appeal to those interested in "good girl art."

Distorted art works very well in Scarecrow. Duncan Fegredo's pencils and Peter Milligan's script probe the darkest corners of this villain's mind. Again, there are hints of continuations of the story.

Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter.

(Go here for a "New Year's Evil" cover gallery.)

The Twelve #1, published by Marvel Publishing, Inc., 32 pages, $2.99

Heroes from a bygone era are placed in suspended animation, only to awake in a time not their own. It’s become a cliche in the medium of comic books, but not so much so that it necessarily relegates a story to staleness. The first issue of Marvel’s The Twelve proves it.
Writer J. Michael Straczynski provides an intriguing look at a group of lesser-known heroes from the Marvel Universe’s W.W. II era, giving fans a surprising amount of information for a first issue. He does it all while keeping readers’ attention with an interesting plot and leaving them with a shocking twist on the final page.
The art of The Twelve is some of the best you’ll find in superhero comics, today. Chris Weston’s style is highly realistic, incredibly expressive, impressively detailed and amazingly dynamic. His characters have their own personalities and quirks, with no two bearing even a slight resemblance. His heroes are heroic (at least, to the point that they are meant to be) and his villains are villainous. In other words, “the good guys look like good guys, and the bad guys...,” well, you get the point. Gary Leach’s inks and Chris Chuckry’s colors just sweeten the deal.
If I were to compare Weston’s art with that of another well-known comic artist, it would be Dave Gibbons. And, Chris’ work may look a tad better than the last few offerings I’ve seen from his colleague. Long-time fans will recognize the lofty nature of such praise.
The first issue of The Twelve is recommended for older readers.

The Twelve, #0, by Marvel Comics.
This issue includes origin stories of Rockman, Laughing Mask and Phantom Reporter from comics’ Golden Age. At least one of the stories (Laughing Mask) is reprinted for the first time. Also included are character sketches and a preview of issue 1. Recommended for all readers, but most especially those who seek affordable Golden Age reprints.

Reviews by Mark Allen