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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Tale of One Bad Rat - From 2000

Rules are made to be broken, but not all of them. To not review two titles from one publisher in the same month is an arbitrary rule, and now broken.

To molest a child is criminal. The Tale of One Bad Rat is the poignant, brilliantly told story of a rule criminally broken.

As a rule of thumb, it’s also unwise to review a series from a single issue, especially from its last. Call me foolish.

Bad Rat is a penetrating four-issue miniseries that explores child abuse and its terrible impact on a young woman, Helen. Especially powerful is its very real dialog and complicated family relationships. And Helen’s big imaginary rat.

In addition, Bad Rat also escapes the error of comics overflowing with hatred and self pity because the world just isn't fair. Writer Bryan Talbot balances the injustice of Helen's twisted, sick father and mother with the equally real love and respect of her 'adopted' family.

Talbot's art, between the big foot and realistic schools of illustration, is powerful in its simplicity. Ripe with facial expressions and diversity, the subtleties of body language, and the sweeping beauty of his country settings, art doesn't get much better than Talbot's.

Better still, Bad Rat is an adult comic book. An "adult" label on literature should promise mature insight and experience, not the mindless sex and violence that should exclude young children.

Easily one of the best comic books of 1995, ...Bad Rat fulfills that promise.

Highly recommended.

Review by Michael Vance

Superman VS The Terminator: Death to the Future #1 - From 2000

Look! Up in the sky!! It's a bird, it's a, it's a crossover of two characters co-published by competing companies!

Superman has been around for sixty-two years, and is unquestionably the most popular character in literature. Despite that, old Supes is like pork chops to me. I love pork chops, having eaten them for around forty-eight years, but there are days when I cannot stand to look at one.

This is an "I cannot stand to look at Superman" day. Terminators have also been around the block more than once. These androids never were the most popular characters in literature, and I grew weary of the murdering android concept years ago.

If you have gotten the creeping premonition that this title is not going to get a good review, bravo. You are very perceptive and have been around a block or two yourself.

There is nothing original in the plot. Naked androids keep arriving on the doorstep of a mother to kill her son who could change the future and eliminate them. That is the Terminator premise. Superman will stop them. That is the Superman premise. There are big fights.

There is nothing exciting or original in the art either, which is uneven. There are big, incorrectly drawn muscles. The artist could use a lesson or two in human anatomy.

The clever placement of smoke, rocks and other inanimate objects to hide the genitals on the incorrect anatomy of the androids is annoying.

Neither story nor art is terrible in Superman VS The Terminator. This is average, uninspired work meant to sell comic books on the strength of two popular characters.

Isn't it a shame they cannot sell more comics based on the strength of exceptional, inspired work?

Then again, maybe it just needs cheese sauce.

Superman VS The Terminator: Death to the Future is #1 of a 4-part series. It is 22 pages, priced at $2.95, and published by DC & Dark Horse Comics. Alan Grant did the writing and Steve Pugh penciled it. It is available in comics shops and by mail.

Review by Michael Vance

Superman/Gen 13 - From 2000

"Crossovers" are comics done in cooperation between two comic companies, "crossing over" popular characters from each company. The concept is popular with fans that like to see two or more of their favorite characters from different publishers interact. Unfortunately, these undertakings are rarely worth what is paid for them, as characters tend to be presented in very limited, two-dimensional ways, due to the limited format of the story (normally 1-4 issues). Superman/Gen 13 is one of the few that is definitely worth picking up.

On a field trip to Metropolis, the Gen 13 kids are witness to Superman battling a giant cyborg gorilla. Too close to the action, Caitlin (aka Fairchild) is knocked unconscious when Superman collides with her near-invulnerable body. Covering her with his cape, Supes returns to action. Caitlin soon regains consciousness, however, with a case of amnesiatic mistaken identity. As a result of her "crush" on Superman, and her finding the cape, she believes herself to be Supergirl. Superman and the kids must now team up to find Caitlin, and stop the damage she is doing with her "super" heroics.

Superman/Gen 13 has one of the most engaging storylines I have read in years. Writer Adam Hughes gives us a very significant insight into Superman's persona, examining the perception of him held by a younger generation. No two-dimensional characters here, as the Gen 13 kids, who first think of Superman as an uptight stiff, come to know and adore him for what he is; the first and the best of those who comprise the superhero scene.

Artist Lee Bermejo also shines in this story, with a penciling style that is as expressive as it is action-oriented. This is the first work of his that I have seen, although, after this project, I will be seeking out more.

Humor, action, characterization, and beautiful artwork; from all angles, Superman/Gen 13 delivers the goods to comic readers.

Review by Mark Allen

D.C. Comics and Wildstorm Productions jointly published Superman/Gen 13. It is 32 pages in length and priced at $2.50.

Sigil: Death Match

Sigil: Death Match V. 5 (containing the never-before-published issues 27-32)/198 pgs. & $17.95 from Checker Books/words: Chuck Dixon; principal art: Scot Eaton/sold at book stores, comics shops &

What is the value of seeing only the last ten minutes of a movie or reading the last five pages of a book? Well, one might learn that the movie or book wasn’t worth watching or reading. Sigil: Death Match publishes the last six, unpublished issues of an epic, SF comic book series released several years ago and cancelled before those issues made it to book and comics shops.

You might ask: “okay, Mr. Big Tease Comics Reviewer, are you hinting that this isn’t worth reading?”

I’m glad you asked.

You see, this tough mercenary soldier bears a powerful “sigil” or mark on his chest that allows him to save his home-world of Gaia while his soldier buds invade this weird world dominated by giant lizards that walk like men. There is lots and lots of fighting, monsters, giant space ships, huge planets, impossibly muscled heroes and beautiful babes, explosions, and dying in Sigil: Death Match.

I ask again, Mr. Reviewer, is it really worth reading?!?

There isn’t lots and lots of plot, or much characterization, or originality. Yes, the art is pretty good. But comics should be about art and story.

HEY!! ARE YOU DEAF, MR. REVIEWER!?! Should I buy this or what?!?

Yes, it is written by Chuck Dixon who owns a well-deserved reputation for writing solid adventure comic books. This really isn’t one of those, however.

Does this mean that Sigil: Death Match isn’t really worth the $17.95? Yep and yep, that’s what it means, and I’m as surprised as you. And that’s sort of unusual for a comics publisher who has otherwise always won high praise from this reviewer.

Michael Vance

Check out Dark Corridor #1 for two Michael Vance short stories at