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Comics Catch for February 1, 2012

Comics Catch for February 1, 2012

Comics Catch compiles short reviews of a bunch of comics worth reading each week.

Action Comics #6: A group of villains called the Anti-Superman Squad has taken up residence inside Clark Kent's brain, and they plan to use Kryptonite to poison the Man of Steel in his younger days. Sound weird? You better believe it. This is a reality-warping tale like only evil genius Grant Morrison can deliver, and his run on the newly-relaunched Action Comics holds a lot of promise to really blow our freakin' minds. While mostly this title focuses on a young Clark Kent who just moved to Metropolis and has a serious chip on his shoulder, the last two books have been a bit of a flash-forward, as a more adult Superman deals with this villainous threat from his past. This issue's not totally friendly to new readers (or to people who've only read it once!), but once you start to piece things together, it's pretty darn cool. The best parts for people who aren't totally sold on Morrison's weirdness, though, will be those that show flashbacks to an even younger Clark Kent, growing up with his Ma and Pa in Kansas. It's in those scenes we learn why Clark becomes the man he does; they also show us why, in DC's new status quo, Superman is a bit angrier about injustice than past versions of the character. This certainly isn't a bad issue, but it'll be nice to get back to our story mid-20s Clark next month. B

Infestation 2: Transformers #1: Last week we told you about IDW's massive Infestation 2 crossover, which promises to set the monsters of HP Lovecraft's stories against a bunch of fictional worlds we love. First up they pay a visit to the Transformers, but not just regular Transformers—no sir, these here are steampunk Transformers of the 1880s. Instead of turning into cars and jets, they basically all turn into trains, because what else is there? In this book, the Lovecraft monsters awaken and start possessing any living things they find, whether they're from Earth or Cybetron. The Autobots take it upon themselves to stop this monstrous invasion, but to do that they need… ELECTRICITY. Why? To wake up their leader Optimus Prime, of course! And who has electricity? Why, Nikola Tesla, of course! This book is a cool mash-up of giant robots, evil monsters and actual history (bent, of course, to the whims of comic book storytelling). It is way, way fun and highly worth a read. A-

iZombie #22: Maybe y'all feel like zombies are played out. How much fiction these days just cashes in on the monster trend, right? But, you guys, iZombie is different. Here is a world where most monsters coexist… there are zombies (duh), vampires, werewolves, ghosts, talking chimps and whatever… and most of the things they worry about involve relationships. How can a ghost girl get a date when no one will touch her? Once my boyfriend finds out I'm a zombie, will he still like me? But instead of something melodramatic like Twilight, iZombie is kitschy, quirky fun brought to life excellently by the pencils of legendary comic artist Mike Allred (Madman). And if a zombie romcom doesn't do it for you, tucked behind all that is a more sinister plot about ancient evils, monster-hunting corporations and conspiracies involving dead presidents. In other words, there's plenty of plot to keep this book going, but enough fun stuff that it never gets too heavy. In the best part of this issue, our werewolf main character's grandpa (who's a talking chimp, you know?) goes on a date with a diner owner, because chimps get lonely too. iZombie is great at juggling lots of plots and characters, which means jumping on in the middle of a story arc isn't always super-friendly, but nevertheless this is a great read for people who like a little levity with their evil monsters. B+

Magic: The Gathering #1: Geeks, do you play this card game? If so, IDW Publishing wants you to know they have a comic just for you! This book is so connected to the popular CCG, in fact, that copies of the first issue come bagged with a pretty awesome rare game card. This series follows the adventures of Dack Fayden, who, yes, is based on a card you can get in the game. Dack's a shady but charming gent on the hunt for a villain who killed his family and friends, and he's going to put all his thieving and magic abilities to the test in the process. If you do play the game, you'll probably know a lot of the monsters and other characters he runs up against, the places he visits and the spells he uses while in them. If you don't play the game, this book's a pretty standard adventure story featuring a not-totally-heroic-but-still-likeable protagonist ala Firefly or something. Weirdly, the art looks a little unfinished, especially in the coloring department, so there probably isn't a lot here to hold the attention of non-Magic players. But, you guys, the card. Think of that exclusive card. C

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #0: This isn't strictly a comic, but more of an informational booklet in comic form. It acts as a preview/tease for the upcoming Dawn of the Jedi series, set tens of thousands of years before the Star Wars movies in a time when people were just starting to figure out how to manipulate the Force. If you're the kind of reader who devours all things Star Wars, then, this bad boy's for you; it'll give you a jump on the main characters, places, technology and most importantly the background story of this new series that promises to be pretty sweet. The book includes sketches, designs and more fully-realized pieces from series artist Jan Duursema, so you can get a feel for how the book might look as well—not a bad thing considering how far removed this story's going to be from the Star Wars universe we know. B

Stormwatch #6: Man, Stormwatch is crazy. Here is a book about a secret team of super-powered individuals put together by "Shadow Lords" for the express purpose of defeating secret, unseen threats to the Earth that heroes like the Justice League would only mess up. Stormwatch #6 marks the end of the book's first story arc, and after a tumultuous six issues the team's line-up is finally set. The best thing about this book is how inventive its characters super powers are, like Jenny Quantum, who can do anything 21st century physics allows—and since no one knows what that will be yet, she can basically do anything. There's de facto team leader the Engineer, who has a way with machines. There's Jack Hawksmoor, who can literally talk to cities. His power comes to the forefront in this issue, as the team struggles to put their headquarters (an alien city infused with artificial intelligence) back together after it's blown up by one of their own who's turned traitor. This book is always exciting and action-packed, though #6 is not a great place to start reading. However, next month's issue #7 will feature the finalized team in action for the first time, and you can also probably pick up copies of the first few issues at your current shop; after all, this book's not too old. Stormwatch is probably the most gleefully strange superhero book on the racks right now, and that's a good thing. A-

Swamp Thing #6: Hero Alec Holland is trying to save the world's vegetation (the Green) from an evil force (the Rot), but he's having a real tough time of it. Here, him and his lady get caught by the Rot's agents and something pretty unpleasant happens to his traveling companion. Swamp Thing, together with its sister series Animal Man (more on which below), push horror about as far as you can into mainstream superhero comics. These guys exist in the same universe as Superman and Batman, but the threats they battle are, for lack of a better word, much grosser, like people with backwards heads or animated animal corpses. Alec should be the champion of the Green, see, but unfortunately he's been trying to shirk his destiny for so long that now it may be too late to do anything. It's pretty bold of writer Scott Snyder to have not really shown us the dude named in this book's title after six months, but hey, it'll be cool when Swamp Thing himself eventually takes back his title. Recommended for people who like things a little grotesque, especially given this book's talented stable of artists (which in this issue means penciller Marco Rudy). B+

Sweet Tooth #30: One of the gems in Vertigo Comics' line is this post-apocalyptic series about a young boy born with deer antlers on his head. For some reason, his deformity makes him immune to the plague that's wiped out most of the human race. He, a few others like him and a couple surviving plain dudes have banded together to figure out why these "hybrids" can survive. Along the way they encounter some other refugees, many of whom don't exactly have noble intentions. That's what's happening here, in the second part of "Unnatural Habitats," as some of Gus' friends have ended up trapped in what they thought was a safehouse with a pretty wicked dude. Gus' protector Jepperd vows to save their lives, but he may be too late. Creator Jeff Lemire both writes and draws this book, and his art is unlike anything else on the stands today. At first glance you might think it's a little scratchy, but give it some time and you'll start to love it. His panel layout in particular is really impressive, as are the colors of Jose Villarubia. This series comes highly recommended for fans of stuff like Y the Last Man or The WarriorsA

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Animal Man #6: Another book from DC Comics' recent superhero relaunch, Animal Man is probably the most creative of the bunch. Writer Jeff Lemire (the dude from Sweet Tooth above) has recreated title character Buddy Baker, who most readers would be pretty unfamiliar with, as something of a part-time superhero-slash-celebrity who's trying to do well by his family. In this book's first issue we learned that Buddy had gained some notoriety not from his crime-fighting but by starring in an indie film by "Ryan Daranovsky" called Tights, which is about a washed-up superhero who attempts to get back into the crime-fighting game but finds himself no longer fit (clearly this film has a theme song by Spruce Bringsteen). In this issue, probably to give regular artist Travel Foreman a month off, Lemire and fill-in John Paul Leon actually give us that movie… in comic book form, of course. Put simply, Animal Man #6 is amazing. Except for a few pages at the end that bring us back to the "reality" of the ongoing story, almost this whole book is just Buddy acting as a character that could be uncomfortably similar to himself. The "movie" ends up playing out pretty similar to something like Kick-Ass or Super, but you've got to respect the attention Lemire pays to his story by letting us in on this part of its world—with an issue like this, a break from the main plot actually feels justified, because we go back to it with a better sense of who its stars are. Yet again Animal Man continues to be endlessly creative and unbelievably awesome. A

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