- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

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

One Year Later, monthly issues

(DC Comics, $2.50 to $2.99 each)

With the universe-altering events of the seven-issue miniseries Infinite Crisis still being revealed, DC Comics offers readers a look at what happened to the characters caught in the crisis by propelling their stories one year into the future.

All of the company’s core hero comic-book titles in March wear the “1 Year Later” logo and, using an impressive collection of creators, the company presents a marketing gimmick sure to aggravate loyal fans, confuse some new ones and get attention in the mainstream media.

Here’s a sampling of the issues on newsstands and the supposedly long-lasting and drastic changes occurring to the most beloved stable of DC characters during a time when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are nowhere to be found.

m Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, No. 40 ($2.99): How many times can DC re-imagine a character who has never justified his existence in sales? Apparently an unlimited number of times, as legendary comics scribe Kurt Busiek and illustrator Butch Guice offer another take on the man from the sea. A confused Arthur Curry finds himself rescuing the King of the Sharks, Nanaue, and trying to figure out why some guy with octopus tentacles popping out of his noggin wants to call him Aquaman.

m Hawkgirl, No. 50 ($2.50): Hawkman is missing in action, but his buxom sidekick is still around, and that gives two industry legends, writer Walter Simonson and artist Howard Chaykin, the chance to place her in St. Roch, La., and into the catacombs of the Stonechat Museum to tackle the horror mystery of Henri Bismuth.

m Catwoman, No. 53 ($2.50): Batman’s feline archnemesis and true love gives birth to a new identity and a child within a plot directed by Will Pfeifer and drawn by David Lopez. Can she manage to make mayhem in Gotham and have time to breast-feed?

m Detective Comics, No. 817 ($2.50): Gotham’s latest protector stops a secondary Batman villain, but the new vigilante is not what he used to be, literally. Writer James Robinson begins a tale that features the return of Jim Gordon as police commissioner and a lighter version of the Dark Knight.

X-Men: Colossus, Bloodlines, Nos. 1 through 5

(Marvel Comics, $2.99 each)

Marvel’s metallic mutant, Peter Rasputin, battles one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen as he discovers that a famous figure in Russian history was not only a member of the Homo Superior race, but his ancestor, in this five-issue miniseries.

An incredibly intriguing story line by David Hine needs 12 issues, not five, to really flesh out what starts as a murder mystery and turns into a tragic tale of a twisted geneticist looking for ultimate power as he destroys a family.

Basically, the mystery is exposed too quickly, and without enough resolution for the main character, it leaves too many unanswered questions.

Artist Jorge Lucas nearly pulls off a gem with plenty of well-drawn, heavily inked and moody illustrations, but the reactions on the characters’ faces to even the slightest emotional turmoil made me giggle when I should have been riveted to the page.

‘Battle Hymn: Farewell to the First Golden Age,’ trade paperback

(Image Comics, $14.99)

Anyone who has read Alan Moore’s 1986 superhero deconstruction opus, Watchmen, or the subsequent stream of comic books exposing every flaw a superpowered being ever could have, still will appreciate the craftsmanship and cynicism dripping from this book, which collects a five-part miniseries from 2005.

B. Clay Moore’s story gathers the archetypes of the genre, such as the speedster, superpatriot and aquatic alien together with a female groupie and a robotic terror to show just how nasty the golden age of superheroes could have been.

Not only do we get even the likes of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt directing unthinkable, underhanded shenanigans as they assemble a group of heroes to battle the Nazis in World War II, but the majority of the team members are just egotistical jerks out for their own glory.

Illustrator Jeremy Haun does a masterful job of bringing the proceedings to life with a realistic style that evokes the pencil of Tony Harris while still maintaining its own identity. Keep an eye on this guy.

Star Wars: The Comics Companion, softcover book

(Dark Horse Comics, $19.95)

Ryder Windham and Daniel Wallace cover 25,000 years of Star Wars history in 124 indexed pages that explore the sequential-art portion of pop culture’s most beloved space fantasy.

This massive undertaking chronologically delivers encyclopedic entries to give readers an extensive overview of Dark Horse Comics’ and Marvel Comics’ expansion of a galaxy far, far away. It includes listings of creators, principal characters involved and fact boxes with additional nuggets of knowledge.

From the golden age of the Sith to the extensive struggles of the Clone Wars to the marriage of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade, it’s all covered in the 9-by-12-inch full-color resource, which is backed up by some amazing artwork from the masters of the medium.

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

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