- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2003

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

Mr. Zad’s comic critique

Spider-Man/Wolverine, Nos. 1 through 4 (Marvel Comics, $2.99 each). Two characters pivotal in the Marvel universe find themselves stuck together in a four-part Marvel Knights miniseries that should have been offered as an annual issue at best.

Writer Brett Matthews meanders his way through 100 pages or so to relay the tale of Peter Parker being forced into saving an extremely covert government operation involving Wolverine’s biological makeup and a madman, and has gotten out of control.

Things start out OK as the pair of heroes are interviewed by a mysterious individual looking for just the facts of their encounter. Then it slowly develops into a fog of misbegotten subplots and lost trains of thought after Spidey saves his new pal from torturers in a Japanese forest.

The pair travel around the globe, getting to know each other, with Nick Fury occasionally threatening them, until a final showdown occurs in a Swiss fortress, revealing a lot of cool ideas that never are fully realized.

“Why did I need issues 2 and 3?” I asked myself after finally seeing the point of the entire story in issue No. 4. A Paris chase revealed nothing yet took up an entire issue. Parker’s encounter with a new female principal led nowhere, and having the pair talk to one another to give readers an idea of their strengths and aliases seemed a waste. Most readers know Spider-Man’s identity. Most know Wolverine has an adamantium skeleton, etc. I would much rather learn about Doctor Edward Brecker and his bizarre experiments.

Artist Vatche Mavlian does his best to fill the pages, but his mushy Berni Wrightson-meets-Sam Kieth art styles would seem to lend themselves to more of a horror comic than a wiseacre-loaded team-up book. Mr. Mavlian shows incredible promise, but give him a Dr. Strange or Blade series next time.

Bottom-line rhyme: Spidey and Wolvie make a great team in a story that painfully loses and then quickly gains steam.

To the point

A selected peek at titles that didn’t inspire a bloated evaluation:

• Wolverine, No. 1 through 6 (Marvel Comics, $2.99 each). X-Men’s feral fellow has a new series, and it gives him a chance to cause severe injuries to a variety of bad guys from the Brotherhood of the New World Order who did the unthinkable: hurt someone he was protecting. After the death of 17-year old Lucy Braddock, Wolverine wastes no time, in the series’ first story arc, methodically hunting down his prey in his best animal instinct and berserker rage. By the end of issue No. 6, the hairy little man has infiltrated the Brotherhood compound and terminated 27 henchmen and their leader, Cry, in 43 minutes while also finding time to have a drink with his blue buddy, Nightcrawler. Writer Greg Rucka files gritty prose on a mutant who packs the punch of Dirty Harry, Rambo and the Terminator combined, while Darick Robertson’s art perfectly permeates with the stench one might encounter from a wild beast on the prowl. Overall, the issues deliver a chilling and powerful statement about the man behind the claws.

• PUBO, trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics, $9.95).A three-issue tale of a misfit by Leland Purvis, Xeric Award-winning creator of the eclectic anthology series Vox, gets compiled in a trade paperback and includes the minicomic that started his bizarre journey. PUBO (physically unipolar biogenic organism), who has physical features directly proportional to the proximity of his nerve endings (e.g. oversized lips, feet and hands), finds himself in the Pacific Northwest being hunted by his human captors, a grizzly bear and an old man of the woods. At the same time, he is aggravated by a bunch of forest creatures and a butterfly named Poppie. With the sarcasm and crankiness of Evan Dorkin’s famous dairy products Milk & Cheese in place, Mr. Purvis creates a story only Harvey Pekar could love. I have no idea what the point to PUBO might be, nor am I willing to pay a psychiatrist to find out. However, Mr. Purvis’ skill with delivering amazing black-and-white illustrations makes the pages well worth a peek.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski @washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington D.C. 20002.

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