- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2007

This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to:

Mr. Zad’s comic critique

“Fantastic Four: The End,” hardcover trade paperback (Marvel, $19.99)

Marvel’s reimagined universe of stories saw the possible demise of some of its greatest characters, such as the Punisher, Wolverine, X-Men and Hulk. It was extended to its famed comics family in a six-issue miniseries written and penciled by famed Excalibur co-creator Alan Davis.

This hardbound trade paperback collects the six-issue series and quickly establishes an estranged superhero family because of the death of Reed and Sue Richards‘ children Valeria and Franklin at the hands of Doctor Doom.

In this world, Ben has married his beloved Alicia Masters and has children, Johnny Storm is part of the Avengers, Sue has found an obsession in Kree archaeology and an emotionally shattered Reed is still a fanatic about keeping Earth at peace and safe from any galactic threats.

Of course, a threat does pop up, and it will require the family to reunite, not only to help save the planet, but to discover that when together, even the impossible can happen.

The older fan of the FF gets a very character-driven piece with a cavalcade of friends and enemies, including Moleman, Annilius, the Inhumans, Uatu the Watcher, the Sub Mariner, Super Skrull and She Hulk, and a special appearance by Galactus.

For the newer reader of the Four’s mythos, it is a stand-alone joy that offers Mr. Davis‘ characteristic and more traditional 1980s art style mixed with a universal story of loss and hope that underlines the importance of teamwork and friendship.

“Batman: Black and White, Vol. 3,” hardcover trade paperback (DC Comics, $24.99)

My Batman is the vigilante who lives in the shadows and is forced to fight crime in an effort to stop the pain caused by the death of his parents.

It is this Dark Knight who was part of a set of stories in an anthology miniseries hidden in back of the Gotham Knight’s monthly series that gave a wide range of creators the chance to explore the character’s intense personality not set in the continuity of the Batman universe.

The third, and final, compilation offers 33 more short sequential-art stories and, although the overall collection is a mixed-quality bag, smaller in size and not as solid as the first two volumes, it is still a great anthology for the Bat fan.

As with the other volumes, a who’s who of writers and artists contributes, so that readers get brilliant vignettes from teams such as Joe Kelly and Aron Weisenfeld, Don McGregor and Dick Giordano and Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis.

Some of the standouts include Judd Winick and Whilce Portacio’s study of Batman’s cerebral and physical duels with the Riddler, and Mark Schultz and Claudio Castellini’s look at the relationship between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Style.

Story Continues →