- The Washington Times - Friday, April 22, 2005

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

Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals

Trade paperback (DC Comics, $12.95)

Writer Greg Rucka gave William Moulton Marston’s favorite superheroine a professional image lift last year by turning superpowered Princess Diana into a bureaucratic ambassador of her homeland of Themysrcia and having her write a best-selling book touting her peaceful teachings.

A smattering of his run is highlighted in this trade paperback as DC Comics gives readers issues Nos. 201 through 205 of a longer story that will frustrate, rather than delight, the occasional comic-book reader.

It’s not because of Mr. Rucka’s plot, which works in an education on Mount Olympus mythology, revives a Gorgon, establishes a vengeful female villain (who happens to be a respected businesswoman), introduces the return of Doctor Psycho and brings Batman aboard to solve a murder mystery.

It also is not because of the excellent artwork by Drew Johnson, Shane Davis, Stephen Sadowski, Ray Snyder and Andrew Currie, who celebrate the female form in numerous styles of illustration and by re-imagining some wicked Greek gods.

The problem lies in the length of the great story, which encompasses many more issues than the five offered in this book. Readers will be bummed out that they need to drop another $14.95 to read the trade paperback “Wonder Woman: Down to Earth” to get the back story and then wait for another trade paperback that compiles issues Nos. 206 through 210 to enjoy the story’s major conflict.

Words to buy by: I’m a greedy reder, and I want more resolution from my trade paperbacks. If DC Comics had offered issues 195 to 205 in one book, I bet fans would gladly pay a higher price for one of the better presentations of Wonder Woman to date.

B.P.R.D.: The Dead, Nos. 1 through 5

Dark Horse Comics, $2.99 each

I savor the chance to curl up in my favorite chair and appreciate the twisted stories of Mike Mignola as he chronicles the investigations of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

His latest keeps the famed member of the Bureau Hellboy, on the sidelines as Mr. Mignola, with help from co-scripter John Arcudi, involves other team members — fire-starter Liz Sheridan; the homunculus, Roger; and ectoplasmic medium Johann Kraus — as they confront a crazed Nazi scientist holed up in an abandoned military facility.

A subplot involves occult historian Dr. Kate Corrigan and the amphibious man Abe Sapien investigating his Rhode Island roots, only to discover a haunted secret. Abe must confront it but not become a part of it.

Mr. Mignola’s five-part saga offers a well-rounded share of Lovecraftian monstrosities, ghoulish apparitions and madmen, while artist Guy Davis adds an illustrative creep factor to keep mature readers giddily grossed out at the supernatural events.

Words to buy by: Fans of horror comics will appreciate the lack of zombies and vampires and embrace this Mignolian mythology with trembling arms.

X-Men: Phoenix Endsong, Nos. 1 through 3

Marvel Comics, $2.99 each

I really don’t care that Jean Grey, the deceased telepath of the famed Marvel mutant team, has been resurrected through the meddling of the Shi’Ar Empire and its unfortunate reawakening of the Phoenix Force.

I don’t even care that some dangerously disturbed telepath named Quentin Quire has awakened to find out that his true love, one of the Stepford Cuckoos quintuplets, has died.

I really care that one of my favorite artists, Greg Land, has been given the opportunity to work on this five-part series, which has him realistically illustrating some of my favorite Marvel superheroes.

It also does not hurt that writer Greg Pak offers an angst-ridden soap opera of a story that revolves around passion, sacrifice and confronting the past.

Words to buy by:

Mr. Land is the best of the best of the best. Any X-Men fan not allowing his or her eyes to feast on this masterpiece should pay penance by being forced to spend an evening at an all-you-can-eat buffet with the Blob.

The Art of Greg Horn

Coffee-table book (Image Comics, $24.95)

One of the most prolific comic-book cover illustrators in the industry puts together a colorful celebration of his work in 144 pages of eye-popping moments.

Displaying his magazine as well as sequential-art-specific pieces, the book also explains the meticulous technique of this young craftsman, who combines traditional penciling with digital painting to produce his popular, hyperrealistic art style.

Cheesecake looks at such females as Elektra, Emma Frost, Black Widow, Vampirella and video-game stalwart Lara Croft adorn the pages, which also feature tributes to such warriors as the Lord of the Rings’ elf Legolas Greenleaf, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Mortal Kombat’s Subzero.

Words to buy by:@ Mr. Horn’s illustrations are so realistic they literally jump off the page. Art connoisseurs who love the beauty of the sculpted human form will not be disappointed.

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

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