- The Washington Times - Friday, November 25, 2005

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

Shanna the She-Devil, Nos. 1 to 7

(Marvel Comics, $2.99 each)

The wife of Kazar gets some eye-gawking plastic surgery in a seven-issue series celebrating a well-endowed female form and some mighty ferocious dinosaurs.

This jungle babe had spent much of her time well hidden in the Marvel Comics universe, usually in the Savage Land or in the five-issue series from 1973. However, with illustrator-writer Frank Cho taking care of her, the girl has plenty of reason to be seen, even though she is still stuck in a plot skimpier than her wardrobe.

After a bunch of U.S. soldiers find themselves stuck on a prehistoric island, it leads to the discovery of a genetically modified uber-chick created by Nazi scientists. Well, that premise gives the newly released Shanna room to confront armies of raptors, a Tyrannosaurus rex and some male chauvinists.

The Shanna series will definitely impress the percolating pubescent male demographic, as the blood and ferocity found on the pages matches the cheesecake beauty.

Ghost Rider, No. 1

(Marvel Comics, $2.99)

Only one man could bring back to the sequential art world a fellow who transforms himself into a flaming skeleton to exact revenge on demons.

That’s writer Garth Ennis, of course, who explores the ghoulish plight of Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcycle driver who sold his soul to the devil so a friend could be cured of cancer. Who knew the pal would kill himself before he realized he was cured?

Anyway, the angels Daniel and Malachi are now conspiring to bring Blaze back to Earth to capture a demon before all hell breaks loose upon the mortals.

If this were a movie, it would be rated PG-13. It’s as dark as a cup of the blackest coffee as artist Clayton Crain does a masterful job of bringing the re-imagined Ghost Rider universe to the mature masses.

Godland, Nos. 1 to 5

(Image Comics, $2.99 each)

Jack Kirby — the mighty artist of such 1960s and 1970s heroic legends as Thor, Captain America, Silver Surfer and the New Gods — lives. Well, not exactly, but illustrator Tom Scioli perfectly channels his design spirit into pages of a new, monthly series that would either have the late influential creator smiling at the homage or suing at the stylistic similarities.

No matter what the case, readers get an eyeful of color and in-your-face fun through a story that Mr. Kirby loved to develop. Namely, one involving cosmic entities, superhuman beings and extraterrestrial activities loaded with military types trying to interfere, whenever possible.

Writer Joe Casey manages to weave quite the action-packed and soap-operatic tale about a NASA astronaut named Adam Archer whose tragic mission to Mars gives him God-like powers. He currently lives with his three sisters in a protective compound in Manhattan and plays the part of misunderstood hero ready to protect the world when called upon.

Older comic book fans will love the familiar art and the nostalgic feeling that they are reliving a 1960s Fantastic Four comic book (an introduction of the intelligent extraterrestrial being named Maxim oozes with memories of the Inhuman’s massive dog Lockjaw).

New readers will appreciate Mr. Casey’s wild imagination and the introduction of such demented arch enemies as Discordia, the self-declared Queen of Pain, and a living skull named Basil Cronus who hangs out in a glass helmet atop an exoskeleton while sucking the minds from his prisoners.

Aeon Flux, Nos. 1 and 2

(Dark Horse Comics, $2.99 each)

Fourteen years after it first appeared on MTV, a groundbreaking cartoon has been turned into a live-action movie and a four-issue, sequential-art miniseries that acts as an introduction to the new film’s story.

Animator Peter Chung’s sexy and violent female agent offered a very distinct look during her 1991 debut as she covertly tried to destroy the Orwellian society of Bregna and topple its corrupt government.

Writer Mike Kennedy still has her battling Bregna’s officials as they attempt to unleash a defoliating weapon on surrounding territories while she struggles with her allegiance to the Monican Rebellion that could ultimately seal her doom.

Although artist Timothy Green II has a handle on drawing sinister officials and capturing the spirit of the show, he does not have Mr. Chung’s flair for cleverly illustrating the long-legged legend.

Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide, hardcover

(DK Publishing, $24.99)

Fans of the Skywalker saga will find 144 colorful pages to gawk at as they learn nearly every nuance and detail of the movie franchise that has been a licensing bonanza for the past 30 years.

The book does not just concisely cover every plot point, Jedi, Sith, hero, rogue, villain and planet seen in the Star Wars universe but offers a wonderful mix of sequential art from the Dark Horse Comics’ books, photos from all of the movies, poster reproductions and behind the scenes images.

Fans learn about Count Dooku’s sculpture in the Jedi archives, the knobby white spiders on Dagobah and why C-3PO’s remains were delivered to Chewbacca’s holding cell on Bespin, After enjoying the indexed book, readers will gleefully know the difference between a Wat Tambor, a Ubrikkian DD-13, Bevel Lemelisk and Darth Tater.

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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