- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

Zadzooks presents some news and opinions based on the worlds of the pulp pages …

March’s dynamic duo

What follows is a synopsis provided by Diamond Comic Book Distributors, with the publisher offering reasons why you should buy the book. Remember the rules: I haven’t seen final versions of these comic books and cannot guarantee that they will be shipped on time … nor do I own stock in any of their parent companies.

So here are two reasons to walk into a comic-book store in March:

• 1. Swamp Thing, No. 1 (DC Comics, full color, 32 pages, $2.95). The Swamp Thing long ago made peace with his strange destiny. Formerly Alec Holland, a human scientist who died by fire, he was reborn as a “plant Elemental” — guardian and champion of the green — ultimately becoming one with the planet Earth itself. Suddenly, however, the time for peaceful co-existence has come to an end. Now stripped of Alec Holland’s human conscience, the Swamp Thing seeks to restore balance to the natural world — by destroying his own daughter, Tefe, and his loving wife, Abby.

Why should I (the consumer) care? I very much enjoyed the exploits of this foliated green giant back in the 1980s, when master scribe Alan Moore was behind his chronicles. After reading a finished copy of the new series’ first issue, I highly recommend jumping aboard the Swamp Thing’s monthly bandwagon, and not only because of the appearance of Hellblazer’s John Constantine to save Mr. Holland and family from his jaded alter ego. You’ll also enjoy Enrique Breccia’s Witching Hour/House of Mystery-type art and Andy Diggle’s script. — The series offers another fine option for the adult horror-comic fan.

• The Black Forest, graphic novel (Image Comics, black and white, 100 pages, $9.95). In 1916, World War I, the Germans are developing a mysterious weapon to break through the trenches. American pilot Jack Shannon and Britain’s greatest stage magician, Archie Caldwell, are sent behind enemy lines into the heart of the supernatural vortex that is the Black Forest. There, in a remote castle, they match wits with evil occultist Avery Dye, who aims to use Frankenstein’s monster as a template to create an army of the unstoppable reanimated dead.

Why should I (the consumer) care? Monster lovers intrigued by the premise for Hugh Jackman’s new movie, “Van Helsing,” will truly appreciate this ode to a classic team-up story, as illustrated by veteran artist Neil Vokes. As far as I’m concerned, any comic book featuring Mary Shelley’s creation — in addition to Nosferatu, werewolves, mad scientists and a world war — makes for some intriguing reading.

Pop-art points

• Jan Duuresema should be the only artist permitted to draw Star Wars comic books. Her efforts on such titles as the Count Dooku and Aayla Secura one-shots as well as the monthly series Star Wars: Republic are simply breathtaking.

• If Freddy ever takes on Jason again, Eric Powell must direct the movie and write the script. The creator of the Goon, published by Dark Horse Comics, easily walks the line between hilarious creativity and depravity each month.

• Because of George Lucas’ sad directorial abilities and woeful scripts, Genndy Tartakovsky of Cartoon Network’s “Samurai Jack” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars” fame needs to assume control of creative duties on any further “Star Wars” projects.

• One night last week, I had the digital cable choice of watching several movies, each adapted from comic books: “Daredevil,” “Spider-Man,” “Batman Forever,” “Blade II” and “The Crow.” Who says the comic book hasn’t permanently attached itself to popular mainstream culture?

Sequential-art moments

In Marvel Comics, Ultimates No. 12, a bloodstained battle between Captain America and the extraterrestrial Nazi named Kleiser culminates when the alien demands that the hero surrender, and a battered but furious Cap screamingly replies: “You think this letter on my head stands for France?”

Yep, makes me remember why I love the current age of comic books.

The passing of brilliance

Comic-book legend Julius Schwartz, better-known as Julie to friends and fans, died last month at age 88. This architect of the Silver Age of comics will be sorely missed, both as an ambassador to the sequential-art medium and an inspiration for his “nose to the grindstone” work ethic.

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, DC 20002.

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