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Monday, June 30, 2008

Babe - From 2000

You've come a long way, Babe, but you can't go homage again.

Actually, you can, and have, and will continue to do so. After all, it’s not such a bad homage to return to... artist Jack Kirby, the old superhero team of the 1960's--the Fantastic Four, and a time when fun was part of funny books.

You're housewife Bernice O'Donnell, created by an alien science and wizardry that fused five women into one. You're beautiful, healthy, and super strong. You wear no uniform, grit no teeth, and clench no fists, a refreshing change from superhero stereotypes.

Your art is clean, direct, exciting and entertaining. It's that art that saves you from the campiness of the old Batman television show (and the third movie) despite much visual whimsy.

Your writing is tongue-in-cheek, full of plot twists and a love of an older style of comic books that could create super intelligent alligators ("Cyborgators", indeed!) under the city of New York and make it fun, not stupid.

For older readers who loved the work of artist Jack Kirby, your homage to the classic battle between the MoleMan and the Fantastic Four is delightful.

For new readers without those memories, your adventures still ring clear as a bell.

You're the one who makes the overuse of you in Babe tolerable. And what other super human could say "I don't have the slightest clue what's going on here, but I've got to do something! "

You're tops, Babe.

For you for whom homage is where the heart is, Babe is highly recommended.

Review by Michael Vance

Babe 2 #1 & 2 /24 pgs., $2.50 ea. from Dark Horse Comics/art and words by John Byrne/available in comics shops and by mail.

Aztek - From 2000

Back in 1996, D.C. Comics began a series called Aztek. Aztek was Curt Falconer, a man raised by monks and trained by an outfit called the "Q Foundation," to be their champion against the shadow god "Tezcatlipoca," who they believed would one day threaten Earth. He was also the latest in a line of "true believers," dating back centuries, to wear the Aztek costume, which was powered by a fourth-dimensional power source, making him a fairly powerful individual.

Aztek showed a lot of promise as a superhero book. The combination of an intriguing lead character with a solid supporting cast, set in a brand new city in D.C. lore (Vanity), gave the book the best foundation any new comic could have.

The creators also had Aztek encountering other popular D.C. heroes (Green Lantern, Batman, The JLA), and sparring with some of it's most threatening villains (Joker, Parasite, Amazo, and string-pulling by Lex Luthor). Of course, none of the above is surprising when you consider the creators of Aztek; Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, of JLA fame.

The art on the book was also very good. Penciler N. Steven Harris showed a dark, moody style which fit the series perfectly. He also penciled all ten issues of the book without a stand-in, which seems to be an unattainable ability to most new artists today.

And yet, despite having everything going for it, Aztek's sales figures deemed it unworthy of continued production, and it was given the ax by D.C. Of course, Aztek went on to join the JLA, but was hardly ever used in the book, and recently died in JLA #41, the culmination of the "Mageddon" storyline. Once again, given the ax.

All ten issues of Aztek can most likely be found in back-issue boxes at your local comic shop, for quite reasonable prices. They will entertain and mystify many who have never read them. Unfortunately, they will also leave those readers wishing for more. Alas, it is not to be.

Review by Mark Allen