Comments on these books shipping March 8, 2017:

ACTION #975

ASSASSIN'S CREED: REFLECTIONS #1

BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #8

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI #1

CANNIBAL VOL 1

CHARMED #1

EARTH 2: SOCIETY #22

THE FLASH #18

HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #16

HARROW COUNTY #21

HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D. 1954 -- GHOST MOON #1

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #5

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #2

LADY KILLER 2 #4

MAN-THING #1

NANCY DREW/HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE #1

NEW SUPER-MAN #9

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #8

REGGIE AND ME #3

SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #11

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #3

SKY DOLL: SUDRA #1

STREET TIGER #1

WONDER WOMAN #18

Some  photo spoiler-1.gif involved. You are warned!

ACTION COMICS #975

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by DAN JURGENS

Backup story written by PAUL DINI

Art by DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA

Backup story art by IAN CHURCHILL

Cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY

Variant cover by GARY FRANK

48 pg • FC • $3.99 • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers each.

“SUPERMAN REBORN” part two! Celebrating our 975th issue with a supersize special as another layer of the Superman/Clark Kent mystery is exposed! And in a backup story written by  Paul Dini with art by Ian Churchill, learn what it all means for the Son of Superman, who is the prize in a deadly game!

* The covers by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray and the variant covers by Gary Frank for SUPERMAN #18-19 and ACTION COMICS #975-976 will connect to form a single vertical image.

Anyone else getting a Man of Steel vibe from that first cover? It's not an exact homage to John Byrne's 1986 miniseries, but the construction is similar (although flipped). Maybe not an homage so much as a call-back. But take a look at Man of Steel #1 (the variant cover, elsewhere in this item) and see what you think.

Anyway, I don't think I can really review this issue without giving away a pretty big plot point. The issue is all about who the faux Clark Kent is and how that came about. I enjoyed it, as I have Action's post-Rebirth layers of mystery, but it didn't advance the overall plot any.

So that's all I'm gonna say. I will give you this list from DC, which narrows down our suspects to six:

* Bizarro

* Eradicator

* Magog

* Martian Manhunter

* Mxyzptlk

* New-52 Superman

That's a pretty diverse list, made possible because we have virtually no clues. What we have is an absence of clues -- like Clark not varying in any way physically from Superman (except for super-powers), like Clark having all the memories he should have (except the Superman ones), and so forth.

Of course, DC could just be lying about the list above. What are your guesses, Legionnaires?

ASSASSIN'S CREED: REFLECTIONS #1 (of 4)

Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writer: IAN EDGINTON

Artist: VALERIA FAVOCCIA

Cover A: SUNSETAGAIN

Cover B: MASSIMILIANO VELTRI

Cover C: VALERIA FAVOCCIA

Cover D: NACHO ARRANZ

Cover E: GEORGES CALTSOUDAS

Cover F: POLYGON VARIANT

FC • 32pp • $3.99

In the debut issue of this celebratory series, Templar agent Otso Berg’s Animus research leads him to 15thCentury Florence, and the memories of the legendary figure Ezio Auditore da Firenze. In a final meeting with his good friend, Leonardo da Vinci, the Assassin shares a treasured moment from his past involving one of the Italian artist's most famous subjects ...

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I enjoyed this issue, despite not being all that familiar with the Assassin's Creed mythos. It's about Leonardo DaVinci and the secret origin of the Mona Lisa. It's all nonsense, of course, but I like history -- even faux history.

I like the art, with a few caveats. Favoccia's figure work is good; her people have bulk and her anatomy and faces are solid and attractive. She also does a good job on clothing folds and backgrounds. I have two complaints, both of which are more fads more than faults.  One is the trend these days of drawing the shape of a highlight on a person's nose, which just looks like they need to wash their face, because 2) there's no rendering or spot blacks. That's left to the colorist. As a result, that nose highlight really stands out, but worse, figures don't seem to have any weight or depth, being clearly two-dimensional and seeming to float instead of stand. Whoever the colorist is -- and it may be Favoccia -- they need to go outside at noon and see that, yes, everything has a shadow.

Those irritants weren't enough to ruin the issue for me. And I get the impression that this series will be vignettes from different time periods, so I will likely enjoy it more than the books set in the present -- especially if Favoccia stays on.

BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #8

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by JULIE BENSON and SHAWNA BENSON

Art by ROGE ANTONIO

Cover by YANICK PAQUETTE

Variant cover by KAMOME SHIRAHAMA

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“Blackbird” part one! There’s something strange afoot in Gotham City — someone’s making promises to the world’s deadliest killers, offering them things well beyond the powers of a mortal human to provide! Unfortunately, Nightwing’s been caught in the crossfire and is badly hurt…good thing he’s not the exact person whose presence is most likely to make things weird between Batgirl and Huntress, right?

The great thing for writers when a universe reboots is that they can re-tell old stories with new twists without coming up with anything original. It can -- emphasis on "can" -- be good for readers too, since a second bite at the apple can correct the flaws of the first one, or just be more adroit, since everyone knows where we're going.

This book is a case in point, where we get to see Barbara Gordon deal with ex-boyfriend Dick Grayson's other girlfriends -- again. In this case it's Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress. I don't think Grayson had a relationship with Huntress in the old DCU, and I'm uncertain what went on between them in this one, since I didn't read Grayson. But clearly all three parties are feeling some awkwardness.

So, despite the death matches with supervillains and such, there is a subtext of screwball comedy in this issue. Don't expect a catfight -- no real humans ever acted like Lois and Lana in the '60s, and Babs and Helena even joke about how silly it is to fight over a man. But there is situational humor, and that's very much appreciated.

I can't say as much for the art. By and large it's OK, but there are a couple of elements that are too distracting.

One is eyes. Antonio draws them too large and open, like those big-eyed orphan paintings of yore. The eyes are out of proportion, and give the characters an expression of perpetual surprise.

Another is how Antonio depicts Black Canary. I'm guessing he's trying to give different body types to the three female leads, and that's to be commended. But while he does an admirable job of making Babs look youngish and almost petite, while making Huntress more voluptuous, he renders Canary as broad-shouldered, flat-chested and with male hips. Given her "costume" is short-shorts and a bustier/corset, that says "female impersonator" to me. There's nothing wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say, but it's distracting and incorrect, so I'm throwing a flag on the play.

THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI #1 (of 2)

Publisher: AMIGO COMICS

Story and art by: DIEGO OLMOS

Mature Themes • 32pgs • B&W • $3. 99

Creator Diego Olmos (DC's Supernatural, Batman, Superman and The Question) presents a two-issues miniseries of his most personal work until now. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is based in the classic but still revolutionary silent movie.

Carnival has arrived to Holstenwall, and with it the mysterious sideshow of the Doctor Caligari and the sleepwalker Cesare, who can foresee the future... and a shocking wave of murders terrify the city and will take young fiancé Frances into a spiral of death and madness!

And, it also has received a "Spotlight On" from Previews!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

This story seems to dovetail pretty well with my 40-year-old memories of watching the movie, including the snotty clerk who gives Caligari a hard time (and pays for it). It's been so long, though, that if the comic book deviates slightly I might not remember enough to notice.

If you haven't seen the movie, it was a silent horror movie made in the 1920s, at the height of German Expressionism. Everything comes to points and sharp angles; there are dramatic shafts of light and shadow. Modern comics that were influenced by German Expressionism would be Mr. X, maybe some Grendel and virtually anything by Dean Motter and Ken Steacy.

The movie's plot was equally baroque. It was told entirely in flashback, as a man and a woman tell it to an older fellow on a park bench, but has twists and turns that would be surprising even if the movie were made today. It involves Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist who has a patient named Cesare who has been asleep for decades. This "somnambulist," as he is called, can predict the future when Caligari tells him to do so. But some of Cesare's predictions come true because Caligari orders his sleepwalking slave to make them come true -- including murder.

But is it true, or is the young man an unreliable narrator? Does the story really happen, or is it all in the older man's mind?

And some argue that it's all a metaphor for German militarism in World War I, with Caligari a crazed authority figure, who is dutifully followed by -- needed by -- the German people (Cesare). Given what followed in Germany after the '20s, it's worth thinking about.

The comic book, as noted, seems to follow the film note for note. And the artwork does its level best to ape German Expressionism. These are good things, to my mind, and I enjoyed part one.

CANNIBAL VOL 1 (TPB)

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Writers: BRIAN BUCCELLATO, JENNIFER YOUNG

Art/Cover: MATIAS BERGARA

104 pages • Full Color • M • $9.99

A category five hurricane sweeps through the Southeast, uprooting ancient mosquitoes carrying a virus that causes the infected to crave human flesh. One year later, with no cure in sight, the region has become split over what to do with the victims. For the Hansen family, the answer is simple: kill them. However, all of that changes when the virus infects people they love. CANNIBAL is about a small Everglades town that is just trying to hold onto their everyday lives at the dawn of a cannibal pandemic. Told through the eyes of the Hansen family, it’s an anti-apocalypse story about a community that is too damn stubborn to give in.

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I have an ambivalence about Southern Gothic that I feel renders my reviews suspect. On the one hand I resent the ugly stereotypes, and on the other I recognize they’re based on truth – a truth about the ignorance, poverty and violence endemic to the rural South that this Southern boy has been running from his entire life. When reading stories like Cannibal I tend to have my jaw set, while trying to imagine that to a Yankee or a foreigner that this culture might look exotic instead of toxic.

Cannibal focuses on the Hansen clan, a group of losers in a town full of losers in the Everglades, where evidently sawgrass and gators prevented the Enlightenment from arriving. The Hansens consist of the usual clutch of good ole boys with the usual thuggish patriarch, who own a bar around which the usual stew of redneck soap operas swirl.

That stew is spiced by the outbreak of a cannibal pandemic. We don’t get much of an idea how bad things are outside the Everglades – in fact, the reader learns of the virus somewhat obliquely – but it has arrived in the ‘Glades.

The virus is perfectly engineered to create paranoia in that the infected look and behave normally. They have an irresistible desire to consume human flesh, but can control their cravings until an opportunity presents itself. Then it’s all feral zombie behavior and goodnight nurse.

I have to say, I got more interested in some of the characters than I expected to. The romance between one good ole boy and his stripper girlfriend is rather sweet. Another Hansen, I suspect, is in the closet. A third “romance” balances this out with the usual domestic violence, but a murder mystery livens things up. Then there’s that pesky virus, which all too quickly transforms people we’ve come to root for.

The art is sort of a cross between Jock and Will Eisner, using chiaroscuro to good effect, but being rough and scratchy as sandpaper. It suits the story, although I generally prefer a more slick style.

Cannibal doesn't end here -- this collection is just the first four issues of a title which is probably ongoing. Be advised that Volume One is mostly set-up and ends in the middle of a storyline.

CHARMED #1

Publisher: DYNAMITE    

Writer: ERICA SCHULTZ

Art: MARIA SANAPO

Cover A: JOE CORRONEY

Cover B: MARIA SANAPO

Cover C: Group Photo Cover

Cover D: Paige Photo Cover

Cover E: Phoebe Photo Cover

Cover F: Piper Photo Cover

$3.99 • Teen+ • 32 Pages

Balancing work, witchcraft, and a life is never easy, and the Charmed Ones are stretched too thin. Meanwhile, a demon in the Underworld rallies the troops with a plan to take out the Charmed Ones forever.

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I confess I didn't watch this show when I was young and single, and I think I was pretty much the target market. It just seemed kinda silly, and one of the actresses looked way too much like a young Angela Lansbury, which kinda disturbed me. To tell you the truth, if I was going to watch a show in the late '90s showing young adults fighting evil with magic, it would have been Buffy, which I also didn't watch, but I could tell was a much smarter show.

So here's my first real introduction to the Charmedverse. I give it a "C."

The premise, if you don't know, is three sisters who are charmed -- that is to say, witches -- who use their powers to defeat EEEEvil that is literally from Hell. It's pretty standard superhero fare, to be honest, albeit so black and white as to be really mediocre superhero fare. And that's not leavened by the girls' personalities, because those don't seem to exist. All three are given to typical complaints of privileged twentysomethings and they all profess love for each other and that's pretty much it. Their dialogue seems interchangeable.

The art doesn't help; I could only distinguish between them by the color of their shirts. Also, weirdly, artist Maria Sanapo seems to have trouble with female anatomy, despite being (presumably) female herself. Perhaps in pursuit of "brokeback"-style fan service, waists in particular are unnaturally elongated and flexible. One panel, for example, showed one of the sisters on the ground on her elbows, while her hind quarters faced the camera an unnatural distance away. The effect isn't at all sexy. And "sexy" is pretty much Charmed's raison d'etre, so that's a pretty big flaw.

I had hoped that I'd like this series enough long enough to become relatively knowledgeable about Charmed. Alas, I think this is my first and last issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #952

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by JAMES TYNION IV

Art by CHRISTIAN DUCE

Cover by EDDY BARROWS and EBER FERREIRA

Variant cover by RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“League Of Shadows” part three! Batman’s team faces the League of Shadows, which believes in only one thing: complete and utter destruction! The League’s plan for the city is revealed … but can even that secret compare to the bombshell that is the identity of Cassandra Cain’s mother?

Here's our next entry into the "Re-Writing Pre-New 52 Stories" sweepstakes. And in both cases, the stories are improved (IMHO).

I can't really discuss them without spoiling the story's big reveal, but I will say that Orphan's new origin just keeps getting more horrifying. She's being kicked around so badly that even Batman feels the need to give her a hug.

Which is another thing I approve of. He can be unsocialized to the point of autism, but for God's sake, he's not bereft of human emotion. Or he shouldn't be (IMHO).

EARTH 2: SOCIETY #22

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by DAN ABNETT

Art by VICENTE CIFUENTES

Cover by BRUNO REDONDO

32 pg • FC, •  $3.99 U.S. • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE

In this series finale, a new dawn rises on Earth-2. After a terrible struggle, the Wonders have restored their world, better than ever. Can they become the new heroes and caretakers the reborn planet needs to protect it from future threats? And what of the price they paid for peace — what is the final fate of the Earth-2 Batman and his legacy?

And as if to slap me for having a theme this week, the universe gives me a re-write that I really don't care for.

That would be the long, strange journey of the New 52 version of the Justice Society. This is the last issue (even though last issue said it was the last issue), and it's basically a celebration of that long, strange journey. 

Which is something I used to enjoy back when a series ending was an event and continuity was unbroken going back to the beginning of the Silver Age. Now, with DC in its second line-wide reboot in six years, and Marvel re-launching virtually every series every 12 issues or so, a series ending doesn't leave a ripple. We're all just looking ahead to the next #1 in the series.  So a self-congratulatory celebration just seems like a waste of pages.

Or maybe I'm just cranky because I don't care about these characters. Look, I don't mind a black Superman, a gay Green Lantern or an incompetent Flash. But they are not the Justice Society. I know Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, Senator, and these guys are not Alan Scott and Jay Garrick. There's a great black Superman character out there, but Val-Zod isn't him. (That would be President Superman, who had a star turn in Multiversity.) So it's a double disappointment: These are not the characters whose names they carry, and they aren't characters I would care about even if they had different names.

And it's not like I don't want any sort of JSA reboot. I actually liked how they launched this series back in 2011, by killing off Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in a battle against Darkseid to launch the new team. That was pretty daring, and guaranteed this Justice Society would look like no other. Plus, it gave Green Lantern the opportunity to, um, shine as the Big Gun of the JSA -- as he was in the Golden Age. I was looking forward to how this experiment would play out.

But then they almost immediately replaced the Trinity with second-generation Xeroxes that nobody cared about. Well, except for Batman, who was Thomas Wayne, who was so cool in Flashpoint. But, of course, this wasn't that Thomas Wayne, he's just a lookalike. And speaking of Batman, the latest series seemed to become nothing more than a running gag to see how many Batmen they could kill. (The number of the counting is three, so far.) And the current Batman is, I am not kidding, a female -- who, inexplicably, still calls herself Batman. Weird. Anyway, she should check out the retirement plan before taking the gig.

Oh, and incidentally, they destroyed the Earth where all these folks are from. Which was a heckuva variation from the standard. But then they somehow terraformed and re-populated the Convergence planet so that it is pretty much identical to the old Earth.

So after all of the sturm und drang, we end up right where we started. We have a whole Justice Society again, with no Bat-, Super- or Wonder-sized holes. We have legacies again. And we have an Earth 2 that has a reason to be called Earth 2 (because the first Earth was destroyed, see), meaning we got six years of stories explaining something that didn't need explaining.

I sure hope that rumor is true and that the original JSA is going to make a comeback. I wouldn't weep at all if this version slipped off into Hypertime, never to be heard from again.

Well, until the next Crisis. :)

THE FLASH #18

Written by JOSHUA WILLIAMSON

Art by NEIL GOOGE

Cover by CARMINE DI GIANDOMENICO

Variant cover by DAVE JOHNSON

On sale MARCH 8 • 32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“SINS OF THE FATHER” part one! With his superhero career finally underway, Wally West must learn the truth about his father, Daniel West, the long-lost villain known as Reverse-Flash. To retrace his steps, Kid Flash and The Flash must travel to the most dangerous place in the DC Universe: Belle Reve Prison!

In case you missed it, the 2011 re-write of Kid Flash's origin not only made him black, but also the son of Zoom. Or at least "a" Zoom. I'm not very clear about that. But if this eliminates the time-traveling Zoom, I wouldn't be too upset. I didn't mind him constantly murdering and un-murdering Barry's mom, but the time-travel thing raised questions that were never answered. (Like, why anybody in the 64th century would be impressed with super-speed, and why nobody is minding the time stream if time travel is possible.)

HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #16

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI

Art and cover by RAFA SANDOVAL and JORDI TARRAGONA

Variant cover by KEVIN NOWLAN

On sale MARCH 8 • 32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“QUEST FOR THE BLUE LANTERNS” part three! Guy Gardner sets out on a one-man mission to take out the one Sinestro Corps ring slinger everyone’s afraid of: Arkillo! Can this Green Lantern with a grudge take down this monstrous alien and prove he’s still the toughest guy in the cosmos to carry a power battery? As Guy’s hope for a fair fight wanes, Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner streak across the galaxy in a last-ditch effort to find Saint Walker of the Blue Lanterns and ensure that the blue light of hope isn’t extinguished.

I always thought Guy Gardner was an idiot, and this issue proves it. Why on Earth does he want to fight Arkillo -- twice his size and strength -- without his ring? What possible gain can there be? He's going to get the crap beat out of him, because he wants to prove he's a tough guy? Idiot.

Fortunately, there are other reasons I'm enjoying this series:

* Lanterns are developing individual powers (this is happening in Green Lanterns, too). I don't want a Legion of Super-Heroes arrangement, but having 3,600 (or 7,200) characters with the exact same powers is a bit boring. Having minor variations on a theme, based on individual predispositions, could help alleviate that. Green Lanterns will still MOSTLY be identical in powers, except for some exaggerated specialties. I approve.

* Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan team up. Look, kids, you don't have to pick one or the other! They work together fine, especially since they have different power sets! Let their camaraderie be a lesson for us all!

* Conceptually, I like Blue Lanterns better than Green Lanterns. I know Geoff Johns was stuck with "will power" for the Greens when he developed his emotional spectrum, but will power is not altogether a good thing. Hitler and Mussolini had will power. Will power is Lawful Neutral. (Did I get that right, D&D fans?) Meanwhile, hope is nearly always a positive. (Lawful Good?) So, by all means, let's have Saint Walker stick around. (But ONLY Saint Walker. There are already too many Corps, thank you.) He can be the conscience of the Corps, which could easily veer into fascism (see: Sinestro). 

HARROW COUNTY #21

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writer: CULLEN BUNN

Art/Cover: TYLER CROOK

On sale Mar 8

FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • Ongoing

As the guardian of Harrow County, Emmy is not surprised that someone has come to ask for her help. But she is surprised that her visitor is a haint! Someone (or something) has been attacking Harrow County’s supernatural residents, and it’s up to Emmy to solve the mystery.

Featuring special backup stories exclusive to the single issues!

“Harrow County is one of the best and creepiest horror titles on the market.” — The Guardian

I don't miss many opportunities to say nice things about Harrow County, and this month I've got the best news I can have to report: My wife is reading it now. When she and I agree on a comic book, it must be good.

HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1954 — GHOST MOON #1 (OF 2)

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writers: MIKE MIGNOLA, CHRIS ROBERSON

Art: BRIAN CHURILLA

Colors: DAVE STEWART

Cover: MIKE HUDDLESTON

On sale Mar 8

FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • Miniseries

Hellboy hunts ancient Chinese demons in the Walled City of Hong Kong when an old friend of Bruttenholm’s calls in a favor.

A heavily researched look into the early days of the British spy network in the Far East, combined with Mignola’s unique brand of supernatural adventure.

Brian Churilla (The Secret History of D. B. Cooper) joins the Mignolaverse!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

DH doesn't dispense review copies of Hellboy Universe books, so I have to buy them like any other slob. Which I do, because I can slobber with the best of 'em! Anyway, here's a heads up on a first issue.

 

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #5

Publisher: ARCHIE COMICS

Script: MARGUERITE BENNETT, CAMERON DEORDIO

Art: AUDREY MOK, KELLY FITZPATRICK, JACK MORELLI

Cover: AUDREY MOK

Variant Covers: ASAMI MATSUMURA, JENN ST. ONGE

On Sale Date: 3/8

32-page • full color comic • $3.99 U.S.

Josie and the Pussycats play at a State Fair! Josie has her sights set on recording with famous country star Cheri Overwood — but a newcomer to the music scene, Felicity Mountain, has stolen the Pussycats’ spotlight. The girls might just miss their chance at the big time, unless Josie, Valerie and Melody can unearth the shocking truth about the Felicity!

I sometimes jokingly call this book "the Archie title that dares to be dirty!" But it's really "the comic book that dares to break all the rules!"

Take, for example, when Josie had sex with Alan M., the band manager that was always the love interest in the old DeCarlo-era Josie and the Pussycats. The two shared a kiss, there was a fadeout, and when we re-joined them it was the next morning and they were in bed together. So, yes, an Archie character had sex! But here's where it gets really shocking: It was -- oh, let's be generous -- a misunderstanding. Josie thought this was a prelude to a relationship. Alan thought it was a one-night stand.

Now we're really getting into unplowed ground! (Sorry!)

The two have it out, and Alan doesn't really deny that he's into "sharing" himself with a lot of different women. Josie has a good cry, learns a lesson, and ... that's it. Alan's still the manager, but now the two just don't talk much. Sort of like, I dunno ... real life.

Now that's radical! Here's why: 1) Josie and the Pussycats treated sex as ordinary. It's not a crisis, or a guarantee that the couple will get married, or a cunning supervillain scheme. It's just Something Grown-Ups Do that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Even Amazing Spider-Man wouldn't go there back in "Sins Past," where editorial insisted that Peter Parker be, implausibly, a virgin. 2) Archie Comics tossed aside a decades-long romantic relationship. While Josie used to pine for Alan endlessly back in the old days, that's done. They tried it, it didn't work, game over. Josie, for the first time in her published career, is a free agent -- and Bennett and Deordio had the guts to throw away a useful story crutch. 3) They allowed Alan M., a long-running, central character who is not going anywhere, to look bad. What he did to Josie wasn't evil, but it was shallow and selfish. It's hard to look at him the same way again. That, my friends, is daring.

And it's not the first time. They let Josie look bad, too. When this series began, the time-honored Josie-Alexandra feud was front and center. If you read the old Josie, you know that it was explained back then that Josie was, of course, a wonderful, talented and nearly-perfect person, and Alex was just jealous. Hence, her hateful hi-jinx.

But in the new series, that script has been flipped. It's now canon that Josie is career-oriented to the point that she uses and throws away her friends in pursuit of success. She did that with Alex, who felt betrayed and hurt. Now, I think we can agree that Alex's response was over the top. But it really all comes back to Josie's cruelty.

Sure, Josie has vowed to turn over a new leaf, which the hero must do. But, also against comics tradition, she can't do it overnight. She occasionally lapses, and Valerie and Melody are there to remind her (and us) that Josie has a serious character flaw that she's trying to correct. Again, this is a refreshing rejection of time-honored tropes.

It's only the fifth issue, and Josie and the Pussycats has already gone a lot of places I've never seen another series go. And I still don't have any idea where it's going to next. Or as Melody -- who seems aware she's in a comic book -- says, "It's the end of the first arc! Who knows what will happen?"

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #2

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by STEVE ORLANDO

Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO

Variant cover by MARK BROOKS

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“THE EXTREMISTS” part two! Believing heroes to be threats to the survival of any world, Lord Havok and the Extremists have already murdered the mightiest heroes from their home dimension. To save our Earth they’d kill thousands more, starting with the newly formed JLA. But eye to eye, are Havok’s and Batman’s goals that different? Billions of lives depend on the answer.

I've expressed my reservations about the Extremists before. For one thing, they're too obviously a collection of Marvel supervillains in thin disguise. For another, having Magneto, Dr. Doom and Dormammu on a single team makes them too powerful to be plausibly defeated by anything short of God (much less Batman and his collection of cast-offs).

This issue helps correct that by killing off one of the most powerful of the Extremists and also, happily, one with a really dopey name. That's not really plausible either -- Lord Havok is pretty foolish disposing so casually of so powerful a resource -- but maybe this means the Extremists will transform into something unique. Fingers crossed.

As the tagline above, "Are Havok’s and Batman’s goals that different?" Yes. Yes, they are. Also, importantly, their methods. The book is leveraging a false equivalency in lieu of story that I hope gets dropped soon.

LADY KILLER 2 #4

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writer/Art/Cover: JOELLE JONES

Colorist: MICHELLE MADSEN

FC • 32 pages • Miniseries • $3.99

“A tightly-knit melodrama rife with the blackest of humor, sharply tuned dialogue and an appropriately gripping cliffhanger.”—Doom Rocket

Josie’s new partnership begins to sour when an over-the-top gift brings trouble for Gene.

The return of the best-selling original series from Joelle Jones!

I somehow missed the third issue, which at the very least contained a heel turn by a character I did not see coming.

Maybe because I was briefly de-railed, or maybe because of the events of this issue, I'm suddenly having a crisis of conscience on this book. Suddenly I have to take Josie seriously. And that's death to satire.

Previously I have enjoyed this book as the blackest of humor, as it contrasted the complacency, hypocrisy and, most importantly, the fabulous design sense of the '50s with horrific murder. Picture a 1950s magazine ad with a white suburban housewife cheerfully scrubbing out blood from a white dress with some New! Improved! product that "gets the red out!" and you get the picture. It's what a couple of Double Take's titles tried to do, and failed. Lady Killer, by contrast, succeeded marvelously, mainly because of Joelle Jones' gorgeous re-creation of 1950s advertising sensibilities.

But it only works if it's satire, and with this issue, I'm being forced to take seriously what Josie is doing to real people. That's pours cold water on the satire, and leaves me not liking her very much.

But don't worry, the art is still terrific. Just look at that cover!

MAN-THING #1 (of 5)

Publisher: MARVEL COMICS

Writer: R.L. STINE

Art: GERMAN PERALTA & DANIEL JOHNSON

Cover by TYLER CROOK

Variant Cover by SIMON BISLEY

Variant Cover by BILLY MARTIN

Man-Thing and the Marvel Universe Variant by RON LIM

Action Figure Variant by JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER

Venomized Variant by STEPHANIE HANS

MARVEL WELCOMES R.L. STINE!

32 PGS. • Parental Advisory • $3.99

Beloved writer R.L. STINE (Goosebumps, Fear Street) brings his special brand of horror to MAN-THING!

After working for years, MAN-THING has regained his ability to speak and has taken Hollywood by storm…But when an ancient and mysterious danger threatens the swamp, Man-Thing is going to have to choose between his new life and celebrity, and the world he used to call home…

PLUS! A bone-chilling new horror story, written by the master himself, R.L. STINE and illustrated by the incomparable Daniel Warren Johnson!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

Marvel seems pretty high on this R.L. Stine fellow. I've never read any of his books, but if he can keep a Man-Thing series alive past the one-year mark, I'll be impressed!

NANCY DREW/HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE #1

Publisher: DYNAMITE    

Writer: ANTHONY DEL COL

Art: WERTHER DELL'EDERA

Cover A: FAYE DALTON

Cover B: EMMA VIECELI

Cover C Subscription: ROBERT HACK

$3.99 • Teen+ • 32 Pages

THE BIG LIE is a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery unlike any other you've ever read ...

When the teenage brothers Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of the murder of their father -- a detective in the small resort town of Bayport -- they must team up with the femme fatale Nancy Drew to prove their innocence (and find the real guilty party in the process) in a twisting, hard-boiled tale, complete with double-crosses, deceit and dames.

Inspired by new crime classics like Ed Brubaker's Fatale and Darwyn Cooke's Parker series, writer Anthony Del Col (Assassin's Creed, Kill Shakespeare) and artist Werther Dell'Edera (Batman: Detective Comics, House of Mystery) bring the iconic teen detectives into the modern age, and redefine noir for a new generation of readers!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I had intended to review this, but I never got around to it. Possibly because I had no interest in these characters as a kid, so I have no reservoir of affection for them now. But here's a heads up for those who do.

NEW SUPER-MAN #9

Written by GENE LUEN YANG

Art and cover by VIKTOR BOGDANOVIC

Variant cover by BERNARD CHANG

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“COMING TO AMERICA” part one! The New Super-Man is coming to Metropolis! Our young hero’s newfound fame has attracted the attention of the last person he would have wanted: Lex Luthor! Now, Lex is going to take Kenan on a mission to track down a mystery villain stalking Lexcorp—and if the pair want to find the culprit, they’ll have to go through the Chinese Triad gang! But trouble in Metropolis means catching the attention of the Man of Steel …

So the New Super-Man comes to Metropolis and has to deal with both resident Supermen (Lex and Kal). That should be interesting, but it's not the biggest takeaway for me.

What really fired me up was the revelation this issue (begun last issue) that the New Super-Man's powers can be activated by achieving mastery of the eight trigrams of the Chinese bagua. No, I've never heard of the bagua, either, so I had to ask Mr. Wikipedia. He said:

The Bagua (Chinese: 八卦; pinyin: bāguà; literally: "eight symbols"), or Pa Kua, are eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts.

I find this brilliant. It's specifically Chinese, as it should be, and it wasn't included in the experiment that created New Super-Man. This is simply I Ching's advice, based on his own philosophy. Which means the people who created the New Super-Man aren't masters of the fundamental principles of reality, which would be a bit much. No, it seems that this A path, but not necessarily THE path, for Super-Man to achieve his powers.

And it's an unknown path. How does, for example, Kenan master the "Foot" principle? And when he does, what super-power would that unleash? Amazing soccer abilities? Marathon running skills? Mastery over foot fungus?

This is full of power and mystery and not fully understood by mortal man (except maybe I Ching). I absolutely love it.

And if the bagua chart became Super-Man's chest symbol, the awesomeness would be complete. It would set him apart from his Western counterparts as a truly, uniquely Chinese superhero.

I shouldn't neglect the other excellent bits in this issue, like how well Yang writes Lex Luthor (Luthor thinks he's a good guy, but what really turns him on is power, not service) and the always terrific fat Bat-Man.

But really, the bagua stuff is just so cool.

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #8

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by SCOTT LOBDELL

Art and cover by guest artist KENNETH ROCAFORT

Variant cover by GUILLEM MARCH

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T+

This issue will ship with two covers.

“WHO IS ARTEMIS?” prologue! As Red Hood and the Outlaws gear up for their journey to Bana-Mighdall, shocking secrets from Artemis’ past come to light! Who is this mysterious Amazon warrior? What is her relation to Wonder Woman? And what makes her quest for the Bow of Ra so personal? Answers to all this and more in a thrilling new adventure with your favorite band of misfits!

Here's another pre-New 52 story re-written, this one the origin of Artemis. The Bana-Mighdall info is largely unchanged, but Artemis becomes a much more sympathetic character. For one thing, she wasn't the first Shim'tar of Bana-Mighdall -- instead, it was a heretofore unknown (at least to me) best friend, and there is tragedy involved. Also, a Wonder Woman cameo. Lobdell, frequently referred to on this board as "Scott Why Does He Still Have a Job Lobdell" is doing surprisingly good work without all the smug juvenalia that marred some of his previous work.

I wish I could say the same with the art, a hodge-podge of influences that don't hang together well. For example, there's a Carmine Infantino swipe on panel one of page two so noticeable that it took me out of the story\, and a Rob Liefeld swipe on page 15 that had me laughing out loud, where we see Wonder Woman for the first time. Who swipes from Liefeld? Someone who, evidently, wants Wonder Woman to strike an awkward combat pose on her tip-toes.

So Red Hood and the Outlaws doesn't always work. But then, given its premise, it shouldn't ever work. It does sometimes, so it's easy to root for.

REGGIE AND ME #3 (OF 5)

Publisher: ARCHIE COMICS

Script: TOM DEFALCO

Art: SANDY JARRELL, KELLY FITZPATRICK, JACK MORELLI

Cover: SANDY JARRELL, KELLY FITZPATRICK

Variant Covers: HOWARD CHAYKIN, THOMAS PITILLI

32-page • full color comic • $3.99 U.S.

In the third installment of this five-issue miniseries, everyone thinks they know Big Moose. They’re wrong. Determined to rid himself of both Moose and Archie, Reggie exploits his new “friendship” with the big guy to learn, “The Secret Life Of Moose Mason!”  Reggie uncovers surprising truths about Moose’s family and his troubled past. He discovers the real reason why Midge is so devoted to Moose. He exposes the big guy’s hopes, dreams and fears. Teamed with his beloved dog Vader, Reggie begins to plant the seeds that will eventually lead to Moose and Archie’s expulsion from Riverdale High.

I don't have much to say about this issue, because not a lot happened. Which is strange. How can you have 1/5 of a series where nothing much happens? Well, we do get the not-entirely-unexpected discovery that Moose has a family and interests outside of football. (Have we ever met Moose's family before? I think he's always been more plot device than character.) Other than that, though, we're still watching Reggie set up his master scheme, whatever it is.

Incidentally, is anyone else getting an homage vibe from that lead cover? I could swear I've seen it before. Only with, you know, different characters.

SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #11

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by KEITH GIFFEN and J.M. DeMATTEIS

Art and cover by HOWARD PORTER

Variant cover by YANICK PAQUETTE

32 pg • FC • $3.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers. This story was previously scheduled to run in issue #10.

Jinkies! Velma is gone! Can the gang put their feelings about her aside long enough to rescue her from the apocalyptic wasteland that she helped create? They better do so quickly, because a powerful puppy is right on their tail!

I don't have anything to add to my previous reviews of this book (I like it), but I should mention that I find it curious that Velma has blunked-out* eyes. If her glasses are so thick they're hard to see through, it wouldn't be the eyes alone that were blunked out. And if the glasses are transparent enough to see her face, you should see her eyes. Instead, her glasses seem to work like Batman's cowl or Spider-Man's mask. Very strange.

(*I don't remember where I got the expression "blunked-out" to describe characters whose pupils don't show. I seem to recall its use in a Little Orphan Annie parody, maybe in MAD or CRACKED. Heck, maybe it was in "Little Annie Fannie." It definitely smacks of Harvey Kurtzman. If anyone remembers, clue me in!)

SKY DOLL: SUDRA #1 (of 2)

Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writer: BARBARA CANEPA

Artist: ALESSANDRO BARBUCCI

Cover A: BARBUCCI & CANEPA

Cover B: BARBUCCI & CANEPA

Cover C: BARBUCCI & CANEPA

Cover D: BARBUCCI & CANEPA

Cover E: MATTEO DE LONGIS

FC • 32pp • $3.99

Noa and her band of followers have settled on the beautiful planet of peace, Sudra, where religions and people co-exist in harmony. As Noa secretly plays at being a priestess, she begins to learn things about Sudra that suggest all is not as it seems ...

Previously published in French by Soleil in 2014, Titan's brand-new Sky Doll series continues Titan Comics translating and publishing the Sky Doll line and bringing it to a new audience, which includes Sky Doll: Decade and Sky Doll: Spaceship.

In Sky Doll: Sudra, Noa and her band of followers have settled on the beautiful planet of peace, Sudra, where religions and people co-exist in harmony. As Noa secretly plays at being a priestess, she begins to learn things about Sudra that suggest all is not as it seems...

A gorgeous exploration of Artificial Intelligence, religion, love and what it means to be human, Sky Doll: Sudra will appeal to fans of the works of Jodorowsky and Moebius.

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I haven't read any previous Sky Doll, and this one has a backstory and continuity that it frequently refers to. Not only is that unusual for one of these art-driven European comics, but it left me scratching my head as to what was going on.

For one thing, Sky Doll is supposedly an android, right? She certainly doesn't look or act like one, so either that's a plot point, or somehow she's been turned into a human. Hard to say. Also, she has the ability to raise small animals from the dead, even those that are somewhat decomposed. Whaaaaat? That's a pretty impressive power! Does it extend to humans? What are its limits? And why isn't this considered more remarkable in-story?

Oh, well, it doesn't matter. This is a European GN, so the story isn't the star. The art is, and it's spectacular. I actually went back through the book a second time, ignoring the word balloons and just marveling at the background work. Evidently on Sudra a lot of objects are sentient that shouldn't be, and live in symbiosis with other objects that are sentient that shouldn't be. So this cart or that pillar might be alive, or that building with multiple faces might be multiple creatures living like Russian nesting dolls. Since there are faces everywhere -- some, presumably, just carved -- it's hard to know what's alive and what's not. But it's always fascinating to soak in the beautiful design.

Yes, kids, architecture can be fun!

STREET TIGER #1

Publisher: AMIGO COMICS

Story and art by: ERTITO MONTANA

Mature Themes • 32pgs • BW • one shot • $3. 99

Beating mobsters to a pulp, Street Tiger continues his weird and particular revenge. Meanwhile, Boni and Emmaniel, two detectives from the Nam City Police Department, are tracing his steps. This time, Street Tiger’s revenge leads him to the Oval Tower, where Ray “Egghead” Rachino, a local mob boss, is not particularly glad of meeting the callous vigilante.

With an original graphic style, Spanish creator Ertito Montana brings the action of every pulp, exploitation movie, plenty of martial arts, callous gangs and skull-breaking bats!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I was going to review this one, too, but my review copy kept locking up. I discovered too late that it was simply too big a file to open anywhere but my desktop. It's 32 pages, as advertised, so I'm guessing Amigo didn't reduce the dpi on each page to 72. I suspect they left it at print size (300 dpi), which is too big for my iPad or the Dropbox preview function to handle. So you'll just have to settle for a heads up.

WONDER WOMAN #18

Written by GREG RUCKA

Art and cover by BILQUIS EVELY

Variant covers by JENNY FRISON

On sale MARCH 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“GODWATCH” part two! Godwatch grows, and Diana has her first encounter with the ghost in the machine known as Dr. Cyber!

I tried to keep an open mind when Nicola Scott left this title (sob! sob!), but Evely just isn't in her league. The art on one-half of Wonder Woman comics is now pretty bland. (The other half, of course, is done by the ever-amazing Liam Sharp.) 

This has had the unexpected effect of making me pay more attention to the story -- which I now find lacking. It's clear to me now that Rucka is foot-dragging the Evely story to avoid spoiling big reveals in the Sharp story. It's sloooooow. And I wonder how long this has been going on, while I've been distracted by Scott's gorgeous artwork.

But it does have some highlights. For one, we have another re-write of a pre-New 52 story, this one Cheetah's origin. It still largely follows the path from the 1989 Uzkartaga story, but now it's revealed that the whole thing was engineered by Veronica Cale and her assistant. At the same time, her assistant becomes Doctor Cyber -- one that is a virtual, digital being, not just an unpleasant analog woman in a fetish mask. That's an improvement, I think -- for a major WW foe, the original Cyber was pretty lame.

Oh, and this story made me feel sympathy for Veronica Cale. Not a lot, and not for more than a second or two, but that's an achievement just the same.

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Astro City #42 - We meet Mister Manta, an aquatic villain who's been shipwrecked for decades.

Astro City rarely fails to deliver, and this is no exception. I particularly enjoy the series when it focuses on a villain, and this story--while maybe a tad predictable--is a lot of fun.

Jessica Jones #6 - Two subplots resolved, one isn't.

Meh. I'm done with this title. I understand that Jessica is supposed to be flawed, but in this title she comes across as someone I honestly could care less what happens to her. Plus, I'm very over Bendis. Maybe if another creative team takes over I'll be back.

Power Man and Iron Fist #14 - Luke and Danny--with the help of Senor Magico and Brother Voodoo--figure out what Alex's plan is.

Good fun. Despite the heavy presence of magic, everything is pretty easy to understand, and the story flows smoothly.

Silver Surfer #9 - Dawn and Norrin explore a world where nearly everyone is a hologram.

This was interesting and fun. Perhaps a bit Twilight Zone-ish, but in a good way.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #18 - Doreen's new benefactor shows her true colors.

This is actually exciting in it's way, which isn't something I really expected from a Squirrel Girl comic. Sure, it's a threat hat can likely be easily handled by New York's super heroes, but the stakes are reasonably high. Oh, and it's fun.

Regarding Man-Thing, I didn't read the first issue but I did see a preview. it's a new take on the monster 0Ted Sallis is now sentient and searching for work in Hollywood), but not one that feels right to me. So the entire character feels off to me.  Still, perhaps that's what's needed to make the character work in this day and age.

As near as I can tell, "blunked out eyes" originated with Pogo's parody, "Lulu Arfin' Annie".

Thanks, Dave! That's bugged me for years!



Dave Elyea said:

As near as I can tell, "blunked out eyes" originated with Pogo's parody, "Lulu Arfin' Annie".

...and so say all of us.

Randy Jackson said:

 Plus, I'm very over Bendis.

That doesn't sound like Man-Thing -- it sounds like a whole other character.

Randy Jackson said:

Regarding Man-Thing, I didn't read the first issue but I did see a preview. it's a new take on the monster 0Ted Sallis is now sentient and searching for work in Hollywood), but not one that feels right to me. So the entire character feels off to me.  Still, perhaps that's what's needed to make the character work in this day and age.

Yeah, he sounds more like Spider-Man than anything else. Lots of wisecracks. Not what anyone familiar with the character would expect.

Captain Comics said:

That doesn't sound like Man-Thing -- it sounds like a whole other character.

Randy Jackson said:

Regarding Man-Thing, I didn't read the first issue but I did see a preview. it's a new take on the monster 0Ted Sallis is now sentient and searching for work in Hollywood), but not one that feels right to me. So the entire character feels off to me.  Still, perhaps that's what's needed to make the character work in this day and age.

Hrm. Well, I won't be reading it. Maybe these youngsters today will think it's the bee's knees.

Wonder what's going on at the nexus of all realities now that the guardian is not there.

Guh...I read this. I was drawn in by the Tyler Crook cover, the new Man-Thing book, and curious of the writing by R.L. Stine. A kid I tutor is a huge Goosebumps fan (annoying after a point) and I figured if it wasn't good, I could hand it to him. I'll be giving it to him tomorrow. I didn't even make it all the way through.

Captain Comics said:

Hrm. Well, I won't be reading it. Maybe these youngsters today will think it's the bee's knees.

MAN-THING: I have read at least some of every iteration of Man-Thing, or I thought I had. I knew that this series was going to feature a Man-Thing with the mind of Ted Sallis, but I thought it would also explain how Sallis’s mind gained control of the Man-Thing’s body. No, this one starts with Man-thing/Sallis in Hollywood seeking a film career. I’m not familiar with Stine’s other work, but he’s not a very polished comic book writer. He misleads his audience with deceptive thought balloons for one thing, and his “witty banter” falls flat for another.

I’m also not buying the characterization, specifically Sallis’s seeming easy acceptance of his new status quo. Frankly, I’m having trouble with the entire premise. There is one scene that flashes back to the origin, but updates it with modern clothes and dialogue. I am mildly curious as to how Sallis came to be in control of the Man-Thing’s body, but I’m reluctant to follow this dog of a story any further in hope it might be revealed.

Can anyone tell me when/how this change came about, or even if it did happen prior to this series?

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