- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

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

Bullet Points, Nos. 1 through 5

(Marvel Comics, $2.99 each)

J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the sci-fi universe “Babylon Five” and current Amazing Spider-Man scribe, explores how a single projectile could change many lives in yet another comic-book miniseries that re-imagines the Marvel universe.

Within a story set in the silver age of comics, readers find an unfit Steve Rogers waiting shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor to take the Super Serum that would transform him into Captain America.

Unfortunately, a bullet from a Nazi assassin kills the scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine and an MP named Benjamin Parker (yes, Spider-Man’s famed uncle) and Rogers never receives the superpowered injection.

The ensuing domino effect finds Rogers in the Iron Man suit to fight in World War II, a hooligan named Peter Parker exposed to a nuclear blast (and turning into a green Goliath) and Reed Richards and his clan never taking the fateful space trip that turned them into the Fantastic Four.

Of course, Mr. Straczynski brings the story to a rousing Hollywood conclusion with the arrival of Galactus to consume Earth — and readers will enjoy a who’s who of heroes who try to stop the massive menace.

As much as I appreciate Mr. Straczynski’s writing style, it feels as if he is going through the motions here, with not enough room to explain certain events and not enough uniqueness to create a remarkable work — marvelous it is not.

Artist Tommy Lee Edwards offers a sketchy, watercolory style that coveys the tension of the series, but I am not sure Steve Rude or Godland illustrator Tom Scioli might not have been a better choice for the tone of the work.

‘Sgt Rock: The Prophecy’

(Trade paperback, DC Comics, $17.99)

A living legend of the sequential-art world, octogenarian Joe Kubert, gave readers a wonderful present back in 2006 when he brought back into battle a team of legendary soldiers he had helped create.

This trade compiles the six-issue series and finds Easy Company still entrenched in World War II in 1943. Now on a mission in Vilnius, Lithuania, a no man’s land between the German and Russian lines, they must find and deliver an important package back to America.

The package is a young rabbi who travels with the group through hostile territory as he attempts to get out the message about what is happening to his people.

Mr. Kubert’s art style defines grittiness, and his heroic characters — such as Sgt. Frank Rock, Curly, Bull Dozer, Wildman and Four Eyes — tell the story through their eyes as well as dramatic actions.

The creator paces the work with the perfect mix of compassionate moments, action-film firefights and dark humor balanced against the horror and savagery experienced by the foot soldier to remind readers of the atrocities of World War II.

Supposedly based on a true story, though the specifics are never revealed, Mr. Kubert’s “Prophecy” brilliantly revives an often forgotten genre of comics and brings a sobering part of history to the sequential-art medium, parts of which I will never forget.

Madman, No. 1

(Image Comics, $2.99)

One of my favorite heroes returns to the pop-art pages in a new series that reintroduces one of the ginchiest guys in the galaxy.

Mike Allred’s superhero Frank Einstein, aka Madman, is a masterful blend of costumed superhero types. He offers a hip sense of humor while on the strangest of science-fiction adventures.

The premiere issue puts Madman back in a Snap City filled with corpses and able only to spar verbally with Dr. Flem’s bulbous robotic pal, Warren, to try to find out what happened.

The plot leads to welcome flashbacks to Madman’s origins and his encounters with such famed characters as Dr. Egon Boiffard, Josephine Lombard, Tri-Eye agents, Astroman and a full complement of mutants and blobbed extraterrestrials.

Mr. Allred, supported by the coloring work of his wife, Laura, maintains the high visual and humorous traditions of the Madman sequential-art world, and his style will captivate the reader in need of a weird-hero fix.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nos. 1 through 3

(Dark Horse Comics, $2.99 each)

Joss Whedon, creator of the popular “Buffy” television series, continues the show in a sequential-art format to give fans of the female fighter of the undead reason to rejoice.

Picking up roughly a year after the point where the final season of the program left off, Hellmouth has consumed the city of Sunnydale, and now Buffy Summers and her slayers have organized in groups around the world to continue to battle the vampire and demon hordes.

The U.S. military is not hip with this level of vigilantism and has branded her group’s members terrorists. It also has sent the powerful witch Amy Madison to help wipe out the slayers.

Mr. Whedon’s writing and Georges Jeanty’s art style provide a comfortable re-entry point for fans, but those unfamiliar with Buffy will need an infusion of some television reruns to appreciate the story.

However, if names such as Dawn Summers, Willow Rosenberg, Rupert Giles, Warren Mears and Xander Harris make you weak in the knees, this comic-book series will be a very enjoyable experience.

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

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