- The Washington Times - Friday, August 27, 2004

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

Mr. Zad’s comic critique

The Flash: Blitz trade paperback (DC Comics, $19.95). Compiling issues 192 through 200 of the monthly series devoted to the fastest man alive, the 224-page book features a story arc by artist Scott Kolins and writer Geoff Johns — who, at a frenetic pace, manages to squeeze an unbelievable amount of pain and angst from the current man behind the crimson mask, Wally West.

After Flash deals with an escape attempt by Gorilla Grodd from Iron Heights Penitentiary, in which the hairy brainiac releases all of Flash’s archenemies, things get even uglier as he confronts the reverse Flash, Zoom, who is out to make Wally a better hero by destroying his personal life. Fans will love seeing multiple Flash incarnations in the pages but may be a bit disappointed by Mr. Johns’ sober ending.

• What’s it worth? If it weren’t for guest artist Phil Winslade unleashing his amazing style in issue 196 and showing me how great the entire book could have looked, I easily would have recommended the full price of admission, but instead, the work gives back just 85 percent of my time and emotional investment.

• Tales From the Bully Pulpit, one-shot (Image Comics, $6.95). When President Theodore Roosevelt steals a time machine to enlist the help of a ghostly version of Thomas Edison, he gets more than he bargains for; he ends up on Mars battling Adolf Hitler. Did I forget to mention that Abraham Lincoln makes a guest appearance?

How can I not love 64 pages of hyperextended historical sci-fi action brought to twisted life by 22-year-old nerd writer Benito Cereno and artist Graeme MacDonald? It gives my peepers the same type of treat I could only get from reading Mike Allred’s Madman comic book.

• What’s it worth? Easily worth the full price of admission because of a truly bizarre story told with unabashed enthusiasm. I say, “Bully, Bully.”

Spaghetti Western, graphic novel (Oni Press, $11.95). Magical Pickle parent Scott Morse releases a tribute to the Hollywood Westerns, 1960s style, in this sparsely worded 134-page masterpiece. Presented in a widescreen format and in sepia and white tones, this cowboy epic tips a 10-gallon hat to the Sergio Leone style of movie design applied to the sequential-art medium.

The modern tale of two hospitalized desperadoes — in dire need of one last adventure, and robbing a bank while adorned in cowboy garb — takes Quentin Tarantino twists and John Ford turns. Visions of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, virtually, dance through the pages.

What’s it worth? The price may be a bit high for the typical comic-book fan, but aficionados of Mr. Morse’s work as well as readers looking for a more satisfying sequential-art experience will willingly pay the price.

Aria: The Enchanted Collection, trade paperback (Image Comics, $16.95). Compiling last year’s four-issue miniseries, Aria: The Uses of Enchantment, and the two-issue Aria: A Summer Spell, the 152-page book reveals the adventures of a fairy living in Greenwich Village and her eclectic circle of immortal friends.

The premise actually works. Writer Brian Holguin weaves a mature, Harry Potter-ish world around his protagonist, Kildare, who has outlived many a generation while visiting “Lord of the Rings”-type environments hidden to normal humans.

In this case, it’s a roadside theme park that’s actually a magical kingdom hidden away in the Catskills. It contains a dark secret Kildare will discover — to remind her that not all fairy tales have happy endings.

What’s it worth? I would have paid more than the price of admission if Jay Anacleto had drawn the series. Lan Medina’s imagery is still very pretty, but the words never quite match his intensity.

Witches, Nos. 1 and 2 (Marvel Comics, $2.99 each). After the rare sorcery book is opened accidentally to release a soul-sucking demon, male readers are forced to look at a team of scantily clad, magic-using heroines — Topaz, Jennifer Kale and Santana, the self-proclaimed good-will ambassador from hell. They’re all working under the command of Dr. Strange to restore sanity to the universe. It’s the occult version of “Charlie’s Angels,” with a depth of plot to match the 1970s TV series. I was not horrified by the premise but I wasn’t sure whether I was willing to commit my time to writer Brian Walsh when I easily could find better mystical-realm adventures from DC Comics.

What’s it worth? Artist Mike Deodato Jr. does a masterful job of accenting the female form, but great art alone doesn’t make a comic book. Wait for the trade paperback. Then begin your drooling.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail [email protected]; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002.

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