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Alternate Cover - 6th September 2006

Alternate Cover

A second week with plenty of A-Grades. Am I just a fanboy or are comics really getting this good? It's something of a rushed column this week as, in the midst of a house move and an internet connection primed to deactivate at literally any moment, I attempt to keep things on-schedule. And here it is. The next couple of weeks are looking thin, and without an internet connection it'll be hard to post reviews, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. In the mean time, enjoy Supermarket #4, All Star Superman #5, American Virgin #6, X-Factor #10 and more!

Supermarket #4

Supermarket #4 (of 4)

Publisher IDW • Writer Brian Wood • Artist Kristian Donaldson

Brian Wood's latest action-gangster-pornstar ride wraps up, somewhat belatedly (and a week extra so in the UK, thanks to some bizarre IDW shipping problem.) It is, inevitably, worth the wait, and 4 issues in it occurs to me that this may be the first ever comic to deserve an A grade solely because of the paper stock it's printed on. You would not believe how good this stuff is.

The art remains as visually stunning as ever, between pencils and palette choices it's probably the best looking comic I've read this year. The plot resolution offers no huge surprises - well, maybe one, but I'll get to that - and resolves the character arcs and love-triangle sitation without being cliched.

The only major concern is that the resolution of the issue relies on the collapse of the Supermarket. With so many issues devoted to fleshing out the characters, it feels like the system has been neglected and so the twist at the end doesn't actually hold a lot of weight. It is, however, a pleasingly optimistic ending despite quite a dark setting, and should there ever be any more Supermarket stories to tell it'll be first on my list. Supermarket is in danger of being overlooked because of simultaneous scheduling with two of Wood's vastly more media-prominent titles, Local and DMZ, but the collection is already announced, so you've got plenty of time to go back and check it out.

All Star Superman #5

All Star Superman #5

Publisher DC • Writer Grant Morrison • Artist Frank Quitely

A fantastic issue as always. ASS is easily the best title being put out by DC at the moment. Astonishing, really, for it to be out of the a All-Star line, which initially seemed like an uninspired rip-off of Marvel's Ultimate line. Even more astonishing when you consider that Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (yes, that's the title) is shitting up the rest of the line.

Following the surprisingly camped-up Jimmy Olsen issue, Morrison takes things to the darker end of teh scale and showcases his versions of clark and lex. Clark is the clumsy, humble mask for Superman who nonetheless is still Superman beneath the surface, Lex is an arrogant mastermind too wrapped up in his own ego to see the mistakes he's making. This issue explains just why Lex hates Superman so much in a way that makes him sound, well, almost reasonable.

There's also plenty of material devoted to the ongoing plot set up at the start of the run. I'm very interested in that and hope to see it given a more prominent spotlight in forthcoming issues. Quitely's art once again remains completely without peer. There's just no other way to say it - if you're a fan of superhero comics, there's no excuse for not reading this series.

American Virgin #6

American Virgin #6

Publisher DC (Vertigo) • Writer Steven T. Seagle • Artist Becky Cloonan

American Virgin is still on the shock train (with an almost token graphic beheading on the final page) but at least this issue they're taking the plot into areas that it hasn't explored before.

It's good to see Adam interacting with people his own gender who aren't fundamentalists or tribesmen, and in doing this Seagle gets to show Adam's philosophy working in contrast to the prevailing philosophy of his peers. It's a brilliant way to make us understand Adam's situation if we don't, or the opposing view if that's the case. For a book that's not afraid to show plenty of violance and nudity, there's an almost surprising amount of nuance in the writing.

Seagle is doing an excellent job of making a religious character sympathetic to a militant atheist like myself. I don't agree with Adam, and because I'm a bastard, I want him to fail, but it's also great to watch the situations unfold and see whether he'll do what's right or wrong for himself. This plot definitely doesn't look like the retread I was worried it would be.

X-Factor #10

X-Factor #10

Publisher Marvel • Writer Peter David • Art Roy Allan Martinez

Fucking FINALLY. X-Factor suddenly lives up to the potential of the Madrox pilot-series. There's a classic scene in the making where a quirk of Jamie's self-duplication powers turns out to have accidentally manifesting his, er, inner-Casanova, and Jamie wakes up in the morning and discovers he's now got to deal with a surprisingly, ahem, satisfied pair of female employees. It makes me unsure that PAD "gets" Monet, because she's been acting very un-Monet-like the whole series. At least PAD is consistent with himself, I guess.

The material with Quicksilver and Rictor adds some unexpected spice into the formula. X-Factor really owes the most of all the X-Books to the House of M crossover event, so it's very appropriate to see the fallout of the event being dealt with on multiple levels, both with Layla Miller and Quicksilver in the cast.

However, none of this is anything without the plot. While I'm not too sure where the opening is going and whether that'll be any good (art aside, which is brilliant) the ending of the issue is easily the best cliffhanger the series has done. Singularity investigations seem less than threatening so far, and quite uninteresting, though I admit this issue has grabbed my attention and made them look far more credible.

Flick-Through Reviews

CABLE DEADPOOL #31 - Nicieza/Zircher
This is a Deadpool-heavy issue and has some hilarious stuff in it as a result. I was slightly concerned about how some of the events take place after the events of Civil War #4 and references spoilers that some people might wish to avoid. More annoyingly, in order to do this it had to use some really clunky dialogue so as not to spoil too much, and the scene suffers because of that. For the record, Cable's character makeover is a raging success.

The obligatory fight is followed by obligatory scenes of buddying up. It's confusing to me because I still can't figure out who's who and who's on which team. Referencing material from the parent titles is disorienting as hell to someone who hasn't read either and in the long run, if it doesn't get some proper exposition for the new readers, this may end up a missed opportunity to draw in a new audience. Nice art, though.

X-MEN #190 - Carey/Bachalo
The story is perhaps a little weaker than previous issues, but Carey is proving out a far better writer for the title than it' s had in years. Iceman gets the best material, and proves he's far more powerful than it may have initially seemed. With most of the principle cast now assembled, we can look forward to the remaining issues of the arc being brilliant. Bachalo's art is, and it pains me to say it, still the main problem with the series. It seems a shame to tarnish a good artist's name, but as I've said before, it seems like he's stopped caring about storytelling entirely.

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