- The Washington Times - Friday, November 26, 2004

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

Superman: Secret Identity, trade paperback compiling four-part series (DC Comics, $19.95).

In an age when cynicism and superhero angst run rampant, I find any chance to enjoy a comic book experience with a well-defined happy ending to be almost a relief. Such is the case with veteran sequential-art scribe Kurt Busiek’s (Marvels and Avengers) wonderfully crafted tale about an individual who lives a life of fictional coincidence that turns out to actually be a reality.

Parents can be cruel sometimes, and when David and Laura Kent think it’s a hoot to name their child after a famous comic book hero’s alternate identity, the young Clark Kent gets quite the ribbing from folks he lives with in a small town in Kansas.

Fortunately for Clark, some unexplained phenomenon actually triggers a change that gives him powers similar to his famous namesake, leading to an adventure in life that shows a gifted man growing into his powers and learning his place in the universe.

Of course, along the way readers are treated to his relationship with Lois Chaudhari, his success as a writer, the confrontations with a mistrusting government and the absolutely captivating art style of Stuart Immonen.

This creative page designer used a color pallet inspired by 1950s advertising art, adds a few classic Superman panels for ironic reference and brings Mr. Busiek’s prose to dynamic life.

• What’s it worth? Readers in love with the Superman mythology as well as readers looking for a complex take on the superhero won’t mind paying full price for this rich story of humanity and the responsibility associated with having power.

Hulk & Thing: Hard Knocks, Nos. 1 and 2 (Marvel Comics, $3.50 each).

Famed author Bruce Jones has had quite a run with the gamma-fueled monster over the last two years and, before moving on to write for DC Comics, leaves readers with a four-part miniseries featuring a classic confrontation between two bulking heroes.

To label the 40-year relationship between the Hulk and rocky icon of the Fantastic Four, the ever lovin’ Thing, strained would be a gross understatement as these two revel in pounding the pieces off of one another.

Mr. Jones further complicates the relationship by only allowing these two to not even talk to one another unless they juxtapose pummeling between words.

The first two issues have not entirely revealed the circumstances of these two meeting at the desolate Hard Rocks Cafe on old Route 66, but the Thing has a story to tell the Hulk about their first encounter and he better listen.

One of my favorite artists, Jae Lee, provides the quirky illustrations of the violent discussion, and he makes the pair look ugly enough to match their reputations as misunderstood monsters.

• What’s it worth? A great creative team and heavy cover stock makes for a high price point per punch. However, it’s the sequential-art version of Thomas Hearns versus Marvin Hagler. What self-respecting superhero fan would miss it?

Daredevil, No. 65 (Marvel Comics, $3.99).

Ol’ horn head celebrates his 40th anniversary as a comic book character and gets a party of illustrators to lend support to writer Brian Michael Bendis covering Matt Murdock’s most recent tales of woe.

The superstar penciling power of such veterans as Michael Golden, Greg Horn, P. Craig Russell, Chris Bachalo, Jae Lee, Frank Quietly and Alex Maleev fuel this retrospective as new readers can get caught up on his exploits over the last couple of years.

They see the death of Karen Page, the revealing of Daredevil’s secret identity by a tabloid newspaper, a confrontation with the Punisher, and Daredevil becoming the new Kingpin to take complete control of Hell’s Kitchen.

• What’s it worth? The book looks great but it would have been worth the price if Marvel had gotten some of the guys who first worked on Daredevil involved as well as have a bit more history of the character revealed in the pages.

The Originals, graphic novel, (DC Comics, $24.95).#

Legendary co-creator of The Watchmen, Dave Gibbons does a retro-futurist take on his teenage years in London when gangs of Mods and Rockers battled and ruled the streets.

Mr. Gibbons now labels them Originals and Dirt while giving them hovering Vespas and motorcycles to drive through town, although the hip Zoot suits and leather garb still remain essential.

Mature readers familiar with the Who’s album “Quadrophenia” and adapted 1979 film of the same name will find the sequential artwork nowhere close to as compelling or passionate in defining the reckless youth culture and lifestyle.

• What’s it worth?# Those not familiar with the terms Brighton, winklepicker and purple hearts will consider the black-and-white effort worth the cash, but I would spend my dough on a remastered DVD version of “Quadrophenia” (Rhino Home Video, $24.99) any day.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail

[email protected] times.com; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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