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Second chance to nab the Joker

<p>It all came down to money over matter. While Batman: The Man Who Laughs was an extremely well written, great looking stand-alone issue when it was released in February 2005, it was also pretty expensive ($10.75/$6.95 US) and that high price point seemed to scare off both retailers and fans.</p>







Batman: The Man Who Laughs

Creators: Ed Brubaker, Doug Mahnke, Patrick Zircher, Aaron Sowd, Steve Bird

DC Comics

$23.99/$19.99 US (Hardcover)

**** (out of five)





It all came down to money over matter.





While Batman: The Man Who Laughs was an extremely well written, great looking stand-alone issue when it was released in February 2005, it was also pretty expensive ($10.75/$6.95 US) and that high price point seemed to scare off both retailers and fans.





The result was that not many people read it, in spite of the fact that it was penned by rising star Ed Brubaker, who has gone on to award-winning work over the past few years on Captain America, Daredevil and the X-Men for Marvel Comics, and that it told a compelling story about Batman’s first case featuring his nemesis, the Joker.





The original Man Who Laughs routinely sells for $50 or more — if you can find a copy.





Now, as DC Comics gears up for the sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins, this summer’s The Dark Knight which prominently features the Caped Crusader’s initial run in with the Clown Prince of Crime (portrayed by the recently departed, Heath Ledger), comes the first-ever reprinting of The Man Who Laughs in a hardcover volume, packaged with a solid three-part story from Brubaker’s run on Detective Comics.





Here’s hoping fan won’t let money be the deciding factor again and take advantage of this second chance to grab The Man Who Laughs.








Manhunter Vol. 4: Unleashed

Marc Andreyko, Javier Pina, Fernando Blanco, Brad Walker

DC Comics

$17.99 US (Paperback)

*** ½





She’s kept the scum of the DC Universe from being sent to the chair before, but now Kate Spencer faces an even more daunting task: Keeping one of the greatest heroes in the world from death row.





Spencer, A.K.A. the L.A.-based vigilante Manhunter, is hand picked by Wonder Woman to lead her defence against charges that she murdered a federal officer — a man named Maxwell Lord.





Regular DC Comics readers know that Lord was actually a nefarious villain who murdered the hero, Blue Beetle, and took control of Superman, forcing the Man of Steel to nearly kill several of his Justice League brethren. In a shocking moment, Wonder Woman reasoned that killing Lord was the only way to stop him and so she snapped his neck.





Now Spencer must use all her legal guile to prove to a federal grand jury that Wonder Woman’s actions were justified and she shouldn’t face trial for murder, a case filled with delicious irony given that Manhunter has made the same decision herself a few times.





This fourth volume of Manhunter, enjoyably presented by the team of writer Marc Andreyko and artists Javier Pina, Fernando Blanco and Brad Walker, tends to be a bit heavier on the legal drama than the urban vigilante stuff, but it never seems too lopsided.





It also sets up the next story arc beginning in the long-awaited issue #31, which is hopefully coming sometime this year (although DC couldn’t tell me last week exactly when).








Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S.

Alan Moore, Travis Charest, Mat Broome, Ryan Benjamin

Wildstorm/DC Comics

$36.99/$29.99 US (Paperback)

****





They’ve been fighting a war on Earth for centuries that their people have been fighting halfway across the galaxy for millennia.





The Kherubim forces here, led in part by Lord Emp and his covert action team, the WildC.A.T.S., have been helping humanity survive the secret invasion attempts by the monstrous Daemonites for years. But when the squad inadvertently find themselves on a return trip to Khera, they are shocked to find out they’ve been fighting skirmishes in a war that’s been over for hundreds of years.





What’s left for a team of super-heroes to do when there are no battles to be waged and no more villains to stop? Is Khera now the perfect utopia they’ve always dreamed of?





Well, in a word, no. This book is written by Alan Moore, and while it’s much more populist than much of his more erudite work (Watchmen, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Lost Girls), it’s still a lot smarter than “Maul Smash! Grifter Shoot! Warblade Stab!”





This whopping nearly 400-page volume also sees a new team of WildC.A.T.S. rise from the ashes of what they believe to be the death of the former team, complete with a nastier attitude and a declaration of war against every bad guy in sight.





Featuring sublime art by the gifted Travis Charest, Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S. is smart and simply sensational.








Star Wars: Dark Times Vol. 1: The Path To Nowhere

Welles Hartley, Mick Harrison, Douglas Wheatley

Dark Horse Books

$17.95 CAN/US (Paperback)

****





The Republic is dead, now come the Dark Times.





The events of Star Wars: Episode III — The Revenge Of The Sith, in which Chancellor Palpatine declares himself Emperor and issues Order 66 to have all the Jedi killed, have had broad effects in the Star Wars universe, including on its comics.





The long-running Dark Horse Comics series, Star Wars: Republic, which told tales of life for the Jedi in the Clone Wars era, has been replaced with Star Wars: Dark Times, following the lives of a handful of survivors of Order 66.





Jedi Dass Jenir and his companion, Bomo Greenbark, managed to avoid being wiped out on New Plympto — but at a very high price.





Greenbark’s wife and daughter have been taken by the Imperial forces to be sold as slaves, leading the duo to make some unexpected allies and some rather shocking decisions as they search the galaxy to reunite the family.





Featuring exceptional art by Canadian Douglas Wheatley and story by Welles Hartley and Mick Harrison, The Path To Nowhere is definitely worth taking.








JSA Presents: Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. Vol. 2

Geoff Johns, Lee Moder, Scott Kollins, Dan Davis

DC Comics

$21.99$17.99 US (Paperback)

*** ½





She’s already faced down super-villains, monsters and aliens, but none of that could prepare the Star Spangled Kid for the new nemesis in her life: Her stepbrother, Mike.





Just as Courtney Whitmore is settling into her life as the teenage blonde half of the tandem of Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E., alongside her somewhat reluctant stepdad, Pat Dugan (who was once the original Star Spangled Kid’s sidekick, Stripsey, back in the day), she finds herself face to face with two mysteries. First, who’s behind the strange cult that keeps kidnapping teens from her high school and second, where did Mike Dugan come from and what does he want?





The answers to both are shockers.





The pre-Justice Society adventures of the hero who would go on to become Stargirl, penned by then-newbie comic book writer Geoff Johns in this second and final volume collecting this short-lived series, have a lightness and humour about them that is intermittently both refreshing and mildly cheesy. Still, there’s no denying the impact both Courtney and Johns would go on to have on the DC Universe and that’s definitely a fun thing to go back and read.








Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: To Be A Lantern

Dave Gibbons, Patrick Gleason, Prentis Rollins

DC Comics

$15.99/$12.99 US (Paperback)

*** ½





Green Lantern Myrrt has been murdered, his partner is blaming herself for his death and threatening to quit the corps and Guy Gardner… well, he just needs a vacation.





As Dave Gibbons and Patrick Gleason’s Green Lantern Corps’ monthly series kicks off (on the heels of a successful six-issue limited series called Recharge), this ancient intergalactic police force has got a lot going on.





Rookie Lantern Soranik Natu, already tortured by the fact that the greatest villain in Corps history, Sinestro, was one of her people, now has to deal with the fact that Myrrt died while she wasn’t around to save him.





Now it’s up to Natu and Gardner, the toughest and certainly loudest Lantern around, to return to the planet Betrassus and figure out just what could kill a weilder of a power ring.





And then Guy can have his well-earned shore leave.





To Be A Lantern is a reverent and quick-paced revival of a tremendous legacy.








Jonah Hex Vol. 3: Origins

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Jordi Bernet, Phil Noto, Val Semeiks

DC Comics

$12.99 US (Paperback)

*** ½





Jonah Hex is one heck of a gunfighter — and he might just be one of the ugliest men in the Old West.





With a nearly dead left eye and scars up and down that same cheek, Hex sure isn’t a pretty picture, but he does get the job done as a bounty hunter, hunting down both those who’ve broken the law and, as often as he can, those who’ve wronged him.





Now writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, ably aided by artists Jordi Bernet, Phil Noto, Val Semeiks and others, are ready to give readers a glimpse into Hex’s past and just how some of that damage to his face got done. Better still, it all ties together into his latest bounty hunt in a nice little bow.





All this and Hex finds the girl of his dreams: Scarred, savage and sexy.





Jonah Hex continues to be one of the better Western comics around, packed with emotion, intrigue and the sweet smell of gunpowder wafting in the wind.









Scud: The Disposable Assassin #21

Rob Schrab

Image Comics

$3.50 US

****





Every time I hear someone complain about the final issue of Planetary or some other long-delayed series, I drop Scud on them.





There’s no disputing how great it would be to see Planetary #27 after the over two years comic fans have been waiting, but it’s been a whopping 10 years since we last saw an issue of Rob Schrab’s indie classic, Scud: The Disposable Assassin — and it left off on a cliffhanger!





Now Schrab is a Hollywood bigwig — he co-wrote the CGI flick Monster House and is a writer, director and producer on The Sarah Silverman Program — but he’s committed to finishing what he started with four final issues.





The question is: Can the lovable robot hitman complete his last mission: Destroy the world in order to be reunited with his true love in heaven?





It’s simply awesome to see Schrab’s work again and the closure we’ve all been wanting is finally close at hand.








Tiny Titans #1

Art Baltazar & Franco

Johnny DC/DC Comics

$2.75/$2.25 US

****





It’s been said a million times over the past few years: There just aren’t enough good comic books for kids anymore.





Well if you’re tired of trying to figure out how old your child or sibling needs to be before they can handle reading The Authority, Tiny Titans is a perfect new book for getting kids interested in graphic storytelling.





Featuring colourful and highly visual mini-stories of two-to-four pages, a playful elementary school setting and lots of quirky characters — distilled versions of the Teen Titans — Tiny Titans has a lot to offer younger readers.





The only question is: How many adult comic fans will bite on the regular-issue cover price for something their kids will turn into mulch?





If you can get past that, you’re in for a treat and it might just pay off in the long run when you hear that little voice ask it they can go to the comic book store instead of you having to drag them there.








The End League #1

Rick Remender, Mat Broome, Sean Parsons

Dark Horse Comics

$2.99 CAN/US

****





Astonishman was the hero that everyone looked up to, that perfect symbol of honour, nobility and integrity — until the day he killed over half the people on Earth.





After being duped into delivering a nuclear missile into the heart of an underwater alien city, this paragon of heroism did everything he could to save the world from utter destruction and he succeeded.





Sort of.





While billions died in the blast and resulting fallout from the explosion, Astonishman managed to keep the planet from drifting off into space and inadvertently helped usher in a new era for humanity as cosmic radiation bombarded the Earth, given many people strange new abilities.





Now, in a world where even the brave heroes of the Squadron of Righteousness go hungry due to food shortages, endless battles rage between groups of powered beings over what little resources remain.





The question is: How long can the good guys last in such a terrible place?





Writer Rick Remender (Strange Girl, Sea Of Red) and artists Mat Broome (WildC.A.T.S.) and Sean Parsons examine how harsh a world full of powers might be in utterly gripping fashion.




jonathan.kuehlein@metronews.ca

 
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