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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spider-Man/Kingpin: To the Death - From 2000

Spider-Man has gone berserk, preying on the criminals of New York City.

The bullet-ridden corpses of both small-time crooks and "made men" are turning up, with witnesses screaming the same statement made by the evidence; Spider-Man has turned killer!

This is all news, however, to Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, as he finds himself hunted by the law and superheroes alike. Only one member of the super-powered community believes Spidey is innocent, and it is the man who may know him best of all; Daredevil. Together, the two masked adventurers go into action to prove the innocence of ol' Webhead, and uncover a diabolical scheme involving a "mad" scientist, a strength-enhancing, but deadly serum called "Death's Arrow," and the ever-dangerous Kingpin of Crime.

This is the premise of the 1997 Marvel work, Spider-Man/Kingpin: To the Death, which is worth a look by all long-time comic fans for two very good reasons; Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

Lee, co- creator of such memorable characters as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-men and Daredevil, writes this titanic tale. It is perfectly illustrated by Romita, the man whose notoriety as a Spider-Man artist among silver age fans may be surpassed only by Steve Ditko, Spidey's co-creator. Together, the two manage to weave a tale that is fresh, and yet possesses just the slightest bit of nostalgia.

One of the most enjoyable elements of this story is the character-switch that seems to take place as Daredevil, normally possessing a cooler head than the Web-slinger, has the Death's Arrow introduced into his system. Going after the Kingpin with a vengeance, D.D. must be found and calmed by Spidey, who must administer the antidote before the serum runs it's deadly course.

Masterful storytelling, and superior artwork that is definitive of these two characters, awaits the reader who finds this back-issue treasure at their local comic store.

Check it out.

Spiderman/Kingpin: To the Death, ©1997 Marvel Comics, priced at $5.99.

Review by Mark Allen

Sluggy Freelance #3: When Holidays Attack - From 2000

"Yeah," remarks Torg pointing to a newspaper story on the Y2K computer "bug", "they are fixing all the major systems, but some are low on the totem pole, like..."

"Beer distribution," finishes Riff.

"In the year 2000, beer may be impossible to get," adds Torg.

"We can't RISK being vague on this!" moans Riff, the inventor of their time machine. "We HAVE to know what the future holds!"

What it holds for readers is a bucketful of yucks based on wild parodies of movies in "When Holidays Attack", the third Sluggy Freelance comic strip collection from Plan Nine Publishing.

Torg and Riff are two twenty-something slackers who spend their days doing mundane chores. Battling demons from Hell. Slow-dancing with a mummy. Feeding Bun-Bun, the switchblade totting bunny rabbit. Flirting with Muffin, the Vampire Baker. You know; the usual stuff.

Not to be outdone by their supporting cast, they also tote. Their weapon is the human tongue, always firmly planted in the human cheek.

The adventures of Riff, Torg, Gwynn, Zoe and Aylee (Torg's alien secretary) are drawn in a scratchy style that lies somewhere between Peanuts and Archie Andrews. Just for variety, lots of ink washes occasionally are effectively applied to some strips for God-only-knows-what reason. It is probably to make Santa Claus more ominous looking as he sends a mechanical rabbit to destroy the Easter bunny.

"I present to you MECHA-EASTER-BUNNY!" screams Santa. "This unstoppable force has but one destroy Bun-Bun!"

An elf whispers in Santa's ear.

"Two goals!" adds Santa. "To destroy Bun-Bun and DELIVER EASTER EGGS!"

The elf whispers yet again.

"Three goals!! To destroy Bun- Bun, deliver Easter Eggs and DESTROY TOKYO!"

You get the idea.

Sluggy is sprinkled with infrequent profanity (which means this strip never ran in mainstream newspapers), but is still recommended for all but the youngest of readers.

Sluggy Freelance #3 "When Holidays Attack" is 159 pages and priced at $12.95. By cartoonist Pete Abrams, it is sold in book stores and at

Review by Michael Vance

The Simpsons Forever! - From 2000

You’ll go blind if you don’t stop doing that. That’s because the type in The Simpsons Forever! trade paperback is smaller than Homer Simpson’s brain.

But won't be able to stop... laughing. Tee-hee.

But why, mighty critic, are you reviewing an 89-page trade paperback ($12.95, published by Harper Perennial, sold in book stores) when Suspended Animation is dedicated to finding comic books that would appeal to adults?

Duuh. Because I want to. Because The Simpsons Forever is comic and a book, and because I got it free for Christmas.

And because of funny stuff from Moe the bartender, like: "Assault weapons have gotten a lot of bad press lately, but they're manufactured for a reason: to take out today's modern super animals, such as the flying squirrel and the electric eel."
The Simpsons Forever is an extremely comprehensive guide to the ninth and tenth seasons of the most popular animated television show in history. Each entry includes a plot summary, a character profile, "The Stuff You May Have Missed", hilarious quotes, and lots of art.

"The Stuff You May Have Missed" is a list of the tiny visual and verbal gags sprinkled throughout every episode. These include oddball signs (an airport sign reads, "Birthplace of Wind Shear"), strange cameo appearances by minor characters, and satiric theme music (a band plays the theme to the TV show "Sanford and Son" after reinstating the sanitation commissioner).

Trivia buffs receive added titters.

As an added bonus, the book ends with a tribute to the character Troy McClure, the visual gags on the Simpson couch that open each show, a listing of which actor supplies which voice, the songs sung by the Simpsons, and a collection of profane, er, profound sayings from Homer.

You still doubt the mighty reviewer's motives? Okay. The real reason this trade paperback was reviewed is that Marge Simpson's profound observation about critics needed airing.

Marge: "You know, Homer, it's very easy to criticize."

Homer: "Fun, too."


Buy it.

Review by Michael Vance

Shock Rockets - From 2000

Kurt Busiek is a more-than-competent writer as most comic readers who have indulged themselves in this medium for any substantial amount of time know. For that reason, it may come as no surprise to hear praise for his most recent creation, Shock Rockets.

Alejandro Cruz is a disenchanted young man, not content to be a treatment plant worker like his family members. Unfortunately, in a world recovering from a war with an alien race, some people get no choice about what they will do, or how they will fit in a society still being reconstructed. Alejandro does have a skill, however, he is gifted in mechanics and electronics, and daydreams of a life as part of the Shock Rockets.

The Rockets are a group of professional pilots in state-of-the-art aircraft, and on the frontline of Earth's defenses. But when one of the Shock Rockets is shot down during battle by one of Earth's most successful military men gone renegade, Cruz gets the chance to show what he can do as he commandeers the craft.

Shock Rockets is entertaining from start to finish. Busiek does a wonderful job setting up background information on the characters and the world in which they live. Indications from issue one are that Busiek is setting up a story that will be of great interest to science fiction and action fans alike.

At the same time, however, characterization is not sacrificed. Alejandro's frustration with his family's expectations for his future "shovelin' algae", makes the reader anxious to see him do something better, and more meaningful. Eliciting such feelings for a character in this day and age is worth more than a dozen different multiple covers.

Stuart Immonen's artwork is right on the money. He is a great action-oriented artist, and also has a talent for characterization.

With Immonen and Busiek at the helm, and fan word of mouth, Shock Rockets could be Gorilla Comics' first big hit.

Shock Rockets is 32 pages and priced at $2.50 from Gorilla Comics. Published by Image Comics.

Review by Mark Allen