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Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 8) #1
Creators: Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US
**** 1/2 (out of 5)
Joss Whedon has never been one to follow the rules.
He took his shoddy 1992 film Buffy The Vampire Slayer and turned it into a hit TV show that lasted seven years (and produced a spinoff, Angel, that lasted five) and then took his cancelled sci-fi Western show Firefly and turned it into a moderately successful feature film called Serenity.
Now Whedon, rebuffed in his attempts to keep the adventures in the "Buffyverse" alive on TV has decided to take his characters onto the pages of a new comic book series for what he's calling Season 8 in the lives for Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow and the rest of his cult-favourite Sunnydale gang.
The first issue of this new Buffy comic series, in stores on Wednesday, picks up several months after the end of the TV series and sees the mystical heroine as the leader of a massive international organization of Slayers.
Filled with that breezy and sometimes brilliant dialogue fans of the show have come to expect, and marvelously illustrated by the art team of Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens, this new series - expected to publish monthly for at least two years with a rotating cast of all-star writers - opens with mysteries aplenty. There's a flying man, a government conspiracy and the shocking return of an old friend.
The in-continuity exploits of Buffy and the gang as written by Whedon - now this is what comic books are for!
Jack Of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape
Creators: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Atkins, Andrew Pepoy
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Price: $17.99/$14.99 US (Paperback)
Jack has had a very interesting existence.
He's been known by many names - Jack Horner, Jack B. Nimble, Jack The Giant Killer - and, in case you don't recognize any of those aliases, had some fantastic adventures.
It's safe to say he's a household name.
So it's no surprise that a man like Jack has got his share of enemies, people like the mysterious Mr. Revise, who captures the man of fables and locks him away at the Golden Boughs Retirement Home, where legends go to be forgotten.
Nobody's ever escaped from Golden Boughs, just the kind of challenge Jack loves.
Spinning out from the pages of the critically acclaimed Vertigo series Fables, this new book - written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges and illustrated by Tony Atkins and Andrew Pepoy - is sharp, quick-paced fun-to-read stuff that is sure to impress whether you're a Fables fan or not.
$12.50/$9.99 US (Paperback)
He was the king of thieves, a man of legends - until he took the wrong thing from the wrong person.
All he took from that evil old man was a book, but it was, or course, no ordinary book and its owner would stop at nothing to get it back.
They killed those the king of thieves loved dearest, burned his entire town to the ground and left him to die in a spectacularly unpleasant way.
But, of course, he didn't die.
Now the fallen king is looking for blood as he attempts to find those responsible and make them pay.
Writer/artist Dan Hipp (The Amazing Joy Buzzers) crafts a gruesome, yet compelling tale of revenge that will have readers on the edge of their seats and riding a tsunami of emotions.
DMZ: Body Of A Journalist
Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli
$15.99/12.99 US (Paperback)
First Matty Roth got sick and then he died.
And he's kind of pissed about both.
Roth is Liberty News' only journalist living in the DMZ, the former city of New York, after crash landing while he was an intern tagging along on a news gathering mission.
He's seen the shocking fallout of the second American civil war, between the U.S.A. and the so-called "Free States", and its repercussions on what once was the nation's greatest metropolis.
He is not prepared, however, for when after already contracting a nasty bug from drinking contaminated water, he is used as a pawn by both sides of the conflict - until his employers, in order to protect themselves from an embarrassing political defeat, announce he's been killed.
Now Roth's in a battle against time and two rival armies as he searches for anyone he can trust to get himself back among the land of the living.
Writer Brian Wood (Local) and artist Riccardo Burchielli continue their startlingly realistic vision of the a future where U.S. policies have lead the country to disaster with a jaw-dropping second volume packed with intrigue.
Teen Titans: Titans Around The World
Geoff Johns, Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad, Carlos Ferreira, Paco Diaz
$17.99/$14.99 US (Paperback)
Infinite Crisis hit the Teen Titans harder than any other team in the DC Universe.
Not only did it cost them one of their key members - Superboy - but it also sent the group into a tailspin that saw them go through over 20 different members in 12 months.
As part of DC's One Year Later event, where all series fast forwarded 365 days, readers find longtime team member Cyborg waking from a coma to find a very different team.
He learns of Superboy's demise (he died saving the world in the epic 2006 miniseries Infinite Crisis) and the departure of fixtures like Wonder Girl, Raven, Beast Boy and Speedy, along with the addition of new faces like Kid Devil and Ravager - a former enemy.
A mission to stop the evil Brotherhood Of Evil reunites the New Teen Titans with Wonder Girl and leads to the discovery of an unknown traitor among those 20 rotating Titans from the previous year. So it's Titans Around The World as the teen heroes search for the missing Raven and the enemy who walked among them.
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Tony Daniel add some fun new young faces to the DC Universe - including Miss Martain, Zatara, Kid Devil and more - and kick off an exciting new era for the Teen Titans.
Birds Of Prey: Perfect Pitch
Gail Simone, Paulo Siqueira, Robin Riggs
$21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback)
A wise comic book creator once told me that a superhero's greatness is defined by their nemeses.
If that's the case, then the Birds Of Prey have officially become heavyweights as this latest collection sees the DC Universe's elite female crime-fighting team go head-to-head with Deathstroke and the Society of Super-Villains.
Perfect Pitch - which collects the five issues leading up to 2006's mega-crossover event Infinite Crisis and the first four "One Year Later" stories that pick up the adventures of Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and their allies 365 days after the end of IC - opens with the Society's information broker, The Calculator, trying to figure out the ultimate riddle: Who is Oracle?
As the team goes all out to protect Barbara Gordon's identity and to save a captured ally being tortured to reveal the truth, lines are crossed that can never be uncrossed and Black Canary takes on Deathstroke and Batman - in very different ways.
One Year Later, the Canary has switched places with the notorious assassin Shiva and is battling for her life in the jungles of Southeast Asia, while the killer joins the Birds on a mission to save a defecting Society member.
With its first-class mix of action and emotion, thanks to the superior writing skills of Gail Simone, Birds Of Prey continues to be one of best team books around.
Testament: West Of Eden
Douglas Rushkoff, Liam Sharp
Author Douglas Rushkoff began his new Vertigo series Testament last year with much well deserved acclaim.
The mature-readers series took tales from the Bible and paralleled them with similar stories set in a near future with extremely compelling results.
The first collection, Akedah, was vivid and thought provoking, if a might trippy.
With West Of Eden, however, that trippiness has gotten pretty far out of control and the mass appeal of the series is dwindling down to the point where only those with a theology degree can enjoy.
Let's put it this way: Any five-issue collection that takes a 12 written pages to explain is abusing the art form.
Oh it's still thought provoking - there's some more keen parallels - but it's too easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of Biblical lore to be recommendable.
The Secret #1
Mike Richardson, Jason Shawn Alexander
Dark Horse Comics
Everybody's got something to hide, but a group of mischievous high school kids are about to find out just how far some people might go to protect their secrets.
It's all fun and games at Pam Sweeny's party as a group of teens play a game called The Secret. They randomly dial a number, utter the phrase "I know your secret" and tell the person on the other end to meet them at a local park at midnight. They then head off to the park to hide out and see if anyone shows up.
When Pam's turn comes around, she's much more interested in Tommy Morris, the new guy at school, then in what she's doing, but ends up with a very creepy sounding man on the other end who's response is a shudder-inducing "How do you know my secret?"
And when the teens all head off to the park, expecting no one to show, they are caught off guard when an ominous hooded figure appears.
After they beat a hasty retreat, all figure the game is over - until Pam's phone rings and a voice asks: "How do you know my secret?"
Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson and artist Jason Shawn Alexander (Damn Nation) deliver a perfect chill-inducing thriller that will have you sleeping with the lights on.
Usagi Yojimbo #100
Stan Sakai, Sergio Aragones, Guy Davis, Mark Evanier, Rick Geary, Frank Miller, Jamie S. Rich, Mike Richardson, Scott Shaw, Jeff Smith, Matt Wagner
Dark Horse Comics
It seems remarkable that a comic series about a samurai rabbit could last four issues, let alone 100.
Not only has Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo reached the 100-issue milestone (over 150 if you factor in previous books with different publishers) but it has become one of the most consistently enjoyable and enduring titles around.
To mark the occasion, Sakai and his rabbit creation are roasted by a who's who of fellow creators including Sergio Aragones (Groo), Guy Davis (B.P.R.D.), Frank Miller (Sin City), Jeff Smith (Bone) and Matt Wagner (Grendel).
The result is a fun, if mildly disjointed anniversary release that gives a truly deserving creator and series their due.
Steve Horton, David Ahn
Rob has just gotten his hands on the ultimate weapon.
Or has it just gotten him?
Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, this average 28-year-old delivery boy comes face-to-face with a hitman wielding two huge biomechanical arms. When Rob gets in a lucky swing while defending himself and takes the killer out, he is shocked when the arms crawl off the dead man's body and attach themselves onto him.
Can he control all that power? Or will the tools of a killer make him one, too?
Writer Steve Horton comes through with a fast-paced first issue, while artist David Ahn offers up some really impressive visuals in a debut worth checking out.