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Same Difference and Other Stories
By Derek Kirk Kim
Published by Top Shelf Productions; $12.95 USD

This personal and idiosyncratic collection of stories won me over with its extended lead story, a slice-of-life piece about friendships and relationships, and the tangles that can come up when they intersect (or not). Kim's accomplished drawing skills lend a naturalistic, relaxed feel to the story that allows for full immersion in the world he creates. Other stories demonstrate a wide variety of styles and tones, creating an altogether satisfying showcase for an emerging artcomix talent. Grade: 4/5


Eclipse and Vega Super Sized Special
By Chris Yambar, James Patrick, Bill Jankowski and others
Published by SSS Comics; $3.50 USD

I didn't like any of the previous issues of Eclipse and Vega I'd seen, writing the series off as pointless, unattractive and derivative of a thousand other bad superhero comics. Creator Saul Colt has apparently taken bad reviews to heart and called in the cavalry, with pros like Chris Yambar and others making this the most readable issue in the series yet. The full colour adds a lot to the mix, but it's the added professional touches and a firm tongue in cheek that renders most of the stories here fun. Most of the issue is suitable for younger readers, the only misfire being the Colt-written "Fantasy Camp," which is the turd in the punchbowl that spoils an otherwise entertaining issue. Its non-sequiter innuendos and amateurish attempts at "realistic" art are gravely at odds with the lighter, delightful tone set by the other pieces in the issue. At this point Colt needs to either surrender his book to other, stronger talents or reclaim it all for his own creative "vision." One way will make the book a creative success, the other makes it an ugly, unnecessary trainwreck like the previous issues I've seen. There's strong signs of hope in this issue, but the inclusion of "Fantasy Camp" shows Colt needs to get the blinders off and realize as a writer, he's a fine publisher. Grade: 3.5/5


Forsaken #1-2
By Carmen Treffiletti, Kristian Donaldson, and others
Published by Image Comics; $2.95 USD

Penciller Kristian Donaldson cites the uni-named artist Jock as an influence in the text piece accompanying the first issue's story, and given that this book is, shall we say, strongly reminiscent of Vertigo's Losers series, that's not a huge surprise. The good news is that Donaldson and inker Nick Zagami actually create a more viable storytelling style that is attractive to the eye. The bad news is Treffiletti's script, which is just a tad too cliched and a tad too too vague to cement my interest (Note: Saying the dialogue is cliched in the script does not excuse it from being cliched). The story itself is about a diverse group being blackmailed into forming a powerful investigative task force charged with policing Earth and an alien world that it is interacting with; one of the members of this proposed task force is actually from that alien planet, and all of the members seem to have their share of secrets. There's a load of potential here, really, and the book looks sharp, but unfortunately so far Forsaken shares the narrative vagueness of The Losers. It's too early to know if the book will sharpen its focus, but if the writing tightens up and provides a clearer idea of who these people are and what is at stake for them, I could see this being a good read. Grade: 3.5/5


The Bush Junta
Edited by Mack White and Gary Groth
Published by Fantagraphics Books; $18.95

Remember DC's Big Book Of... series? Think of this as The Big Book of Bush, a well-crafted, well-researched and informative guide to the thuggery, conspiracy and religious fundamentalism that has been the hallmark of the American Presidential administration since its illegal ascension in late 2000. Ted Rall, Peter Kuper, Seth Tobocman and many others contribute stories concentrating on such issues as the Nazi connections to the Bush Dynasty, September 11th, and profiles of a number of key Bush Administration conspirators like Condi, Dick, Rummy and the rest. Unlikely to change the mind of anyone who plans to vote Bush in November, this nonetheless is an entertaining and educational book that is a worthy addition to the library of any reader interested in the real world and how its people stood by and let the last four criminally disgraceful years happen. Grade: 4.5/5


Daredevil vs. Bullseye
By Marv Wolfman, Jim Shooter, Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Gil Kane and others
Published by Marvel Comics; $15.99 USD

This isn't a definitive collection of DD vs. Bullseye stories -- there's a lot of Miller stuff missing -- but it is a decent overview of the violent relationship between the two characters, beginning with three (two of which I believe have never before been reprinted) early Bullseye appearances of artistic interest thanks to the participation of Klaus Janson on inks in the first two and Gil Kane on pencils on the third. The Janson-inked stories are worthy of note for the mood and atmosphere Janson was bringing to the title even before Frank Miller arrived on the scene; a Visionaries volume of all the pre-Miller Janson-inked stories would definitely earn a place on my bookshelf, especially seeing how nicely Marvel was able to clean up and restore the look of these stories. Also included is a sampling of Frank Miller stories (all of them also available in the DD Visionaries: Frank Miller volumes), among them the landmark Daredevil #181, a double-sized narrative high point of the Miller years that saw Bullseye and Elektra fight to the death. The final story in the issue is another Miller-era high point, "Roulette," a standalone rumination on violence that I have written an essay about here. Marvel is to be given credit for including all of the key Bullseye moments in this collection, and ignoring the irrelevant recent appearances of the character. This is classic Marvel superhero stuff, and nicely designed and worthy of interest as both superhero comics history and energetic, occasionally exceptional superhero storytelling. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane



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